Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/35

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THE SUBJECT

discouragement, held back the eager steps with which he sprang into his boat, and beckoned his companions to follow him.

Cortés fulfilled his ambition, achieved his task, with what difficulties, through what straits and failures, we shall have later to see. He scaled the sides of Orizaba, reached the lofty plateau, and seized the ancient citadel of the Montezumas. Civilization has trodden smooth the rough path he first opened, and railroads now make it easy to climb the pass so arduous for him. If our journey lacks the element of constant discovery which belonged to his, we have gained that of wonder and amazement at the difficulties he surmounted. Moreover, he came in ignorance of what he was to find, with a blind desire for conquest, investing the region he approached with imaginary attractions. We know beforehand, as we begin to explore the country, that its legends and romances are as fascinating as its mines are deep; that its story is as picturesque as the lofty ranges and deep rolling valleys which make the charm of its scenery.

An inhospitable coast borders the treacherous, though beautiful, Gulf of Mexico. Its waters look smiling and placid, but at any season the furious "Norther" may break loose, sweeping with fearful suddenness over its surface, lashing its lately smiling waves into fury, threatening every vessel with destruction. Low sand-bars offer little shelter from the blast. Ships must stand off the coast until the tempest shall be past.

The country offers nothing better to its landed