Page:Romance of History, Mexico.djvu/249

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



Within the city of Mexico the Spaniards had an ally on whose aid Cortés, in his deepest calculations, had never counted, yet more deadly far than sword-thrust or gunshot. Strength, wealth, rank, and skill were powerless against the new foe, which swept through the island city with death always in its train. It attacked the king in his palace and the beggar in the street. Where three or four had fallen in battle a hundred perished at the touch of this dread fiend—la viruela, the smallpox.

A negro slave had come over in one of the ships of Narvaez. He was a sick man when the fleet reached the coasts of Mexico, but his fellows had carried him ashore on a litter. He was the first negro on the continent of America, and he was dying of smallpox, until now unknown in Mexico. He died, and left behind a horrible legacy. All those who had gathered to gaze on this man of a strange race were stricken by the dire disease, always fatal, for in their ignorance they sought to cool the fever by bathing in cold water. Through all the land of Anahuac the smallpox spread with lightning