Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/206

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the land attack, mastered and sank the canoes of the enemy in great numbers. The temples were burned; the new images of the gods, put in place since the first sack of the teocalli, were thrown down and hustled into the lake; whole streets were demolished, and with their ruins the canals were filled up.

Cortés made various propositions of peace to Cuahtemoc, but the brave young monarch, in spite of the hunger which reigned in the besieged city, the multitude of corpses heaped in the streets, although he saw before him the inevitable ruin of his kingdom, was unwilling to surrender until the supreme moment came when further resistance was impossible. On the 13th of August, 1521, Cuahtemoc was concealed in a piragua, or boat, leaving the attack, in order to command elsewhere. His presence there was suspected and the boat followed. Just as the pursuers were aiming their cross-bows, a young warrior, fully armed, rose and said, "I am Cuahtemoc, lead me to your chief." On landing, he was escorted to the presence of Cortés, who was stationed on an azotea where he could survey the combat. Marina was by his side as interpreter. Cuahtemoc approached with a calm bearing and firm step, a noble, well-proportioned youth, it is said, with a complexion fair for one of his race. Without waiting to be addressed he said: "I have done my best to defend my people. Deal with me as you will," and touching the dagger in Cortes' belt, he added, "Despatch me at once, I beseech you."

The wife of the captive king was now sent for; she was one of the daughters of Montezuma, and of