Page:Romance of History, Mexico.djvu/235

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CHAPTER XX

RECOVERY

Only one day did the Spaniards rest in the temple on the hill, which lay too near to Mexico for safety. At midnight they set out once more, leaving their fires burning to deceive the enemy. Through the darkness they travelled safely, bearing the sick and wounded in the centre of the company, but when daylight came bands of Indians were seen gathering on the hills.

With stones and darts and arrows these skirmishers, who were not Aztec warriors, but natives of the valley, harassed the retreating Teules, not venturing, however, to attack them at close range. At night the little army encamped in the wayside villages, which they found always deserted and destitute of food. Even in the cornfields nothing had been left but stalks, and the fugitives soon began to suffer terribly from hunger. They lived chiefly on the wild cherry, and once when a horse had to be killed Cortés himself describes how appetising seemed its flesh, and in fact even its hide!

Some of the soldiers dropped dead on the roadside; others, too weak to keep up, fell behind and

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