Page:Romance of History, Mexico.djvu/167

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Day and night the Spanish general studied with anxious care the possibilities and dangers of his strange position. Well he knew that on his action depended the lives of all his men. While in Cholula bad news had come to him from the settlement on the coast, but fearing to dishearten the soldiers on the very eve of their entrance into Mexico, he had until now concealed the painful story.

Juan de Escalante, whom he had left as commandant of the garrison at Vera Cruz, had received, soon after the departure of Cortés, a message from an Aztec chief named Quauhpopoca, begging that four Spaniards might be sent to escort him to the Spanish settlement. He wished to give in his allegiance to the white men, but feared to venture to their town without protection. The four soldiers were despatched, and found to their horror that the request was but a treacherous ruse. Two of them were murdered in cold blood, but the other two managed to escape to Vera Cruz.

With fifty of his men and several thousand Totonac allies, Escalante marched at once to take