Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/119

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87
AZTECS.

combined array of Chichimecs and other tribes dispossessed them of the Grasshopper Hill. They betook themselves to a group of low islands in the lake, and there led a miserable existence for many years, covered with rags, living on such fishes and insects as they could lay hold of from the lake, and dwelling in wretched huts made out of reeds and rushes. They were nothing more than the slaves of the Tepanecs and Culhuas, surrounding tribes, and it is extraordinary that from such a life they roused themselves to any thing better. In the course of a battle between two of their tyrant tribes, they, the miserable slaves, the despised eaters of insects, gave such proof of unconquerable valor on the side of their masters, that these were terrified and gave them their liberty. This was nearly one hundred years after they had been driven from Chapultepec. They now shook off the yoke of their oppressors, gathered themselves together, and leaving the wretched island where they had languished so long, set forth once more in search of a permanent dwelling-place.

The story has often been told of the way in which they fixed upon its position. The priests declared that their great god, Huitzilopochtli, had decreed for the situation of their abiding city, a nopal growing from a rock, upon which should be sitting an eagle with a snake in his beak. The nopal is one kind of cactus. When they suddenly came upon this very combination of objects, the priests declared it to be the preordained spot, and there they settled themselves after all the long wanderings of their race, far from the shadowy Aztlan. The situation is low, and too