Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/192

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off to join his own troops the forces sent against him from Cuba, a very timely addition, especially the horses, of which he was greatly in need.

This despatched, he returned in all haste to Mexico, which he had left in the hands of Don Pedro de Alvarado, whose unflinching bravery was spoiled by his cruel and sanguinary temper. Entirely lacking the good judgment of Cortés, he had in his absence involved the Spaniards in ruin. The month of May had arrived, in which the Mexicans were accustomed to hold a great festival in honor of Huitzilopochtli. By this time, the supremacy of the Spaniards had become so established, through the weakness of Montezuma that they asked the permission of Alvarado to have it. He consented, but in the middle of the night, when they were all assembled in the temple, unarmed and carelessly engaged in dancing and the festive ceremonies of the occasion, Alvarado entered with fifty Spaniards and in wholesale destruction killed them all. The population arose, and when Cortés came back he found Alvarado and the army besieged in their quarters and at the point of being overcome by the enraged populace.

Cortés, in dismay, disgusted with the folly of his lieutenant, knew not how to escape from its result. For several days the Mexicans attacked the Spaniards in their head-quarters. Cortés made several sallies and engaged in terrible combats with compact masses of the natives, but always had to retreat to his quarters, with losses that daily diminished his small army.

At last he persuaded Montezuma to ascend to the azotea, a flat roof of the palace, in order there to ad-