Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/158

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Surrounding nations sought their friendship for the sake of peace. The great house of Texcuco had allied itself with their king in marriage. Mingled in the veins of Montezuma with the savage blood of the worshippers of Huitzilopochtli, the terrible god of war, was a gentler strain of the delicate culture of the family of Nezahualcoyotl. The career of the young monarch seemed clear before him; it was to be a life of stirring excitement in battle,—a warfare not for conquest or slaughter on the field, but a holy enterprise to bring back the necessary material for sacrifice to the gods, in whom he believed so firmly that the horror of such wholesale destruction of life made not the slightest impression. In the Aztec wars their enemies were seldom killed in battle; the great object was to save prisoners alive, in order to lay them upon their altars.

But these fearful raids upon surrounding populations were only episodes in the life he proposed to himself. He inherited a splendid palace in a great city; for although we are now taught to consider the accounts of Tenochtitlan given by the Spaniards as grossly exaggerated, we must accept the assumption that in the estimation of himself and his people his palace was splendid, and that the city was great, and upon this foundation, since the Spanish statements are unreliable, and accurate information is lacking, we may draw upon fancy to fill up the picture.

All splendor is comparative; the halls of the Montezumas, never in contact with the palaces of the Old World, were to be judged upon a scale of