Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/44

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II.

SHADOWY TRIBES.

Anahuac means "by the water." It is the ancient name for the great tract of land surrounding the lakes in the lofty valley of Mexico,—Chalco and Xochimilco, which are but one lake, properly speaking, the large Lake of Texcuco, and the smaller ones Zumpango and San Christobal. At first the name Anahuac was applied only to the neighborhood of the lakes, but later it came to be applied to the whole plateau.

The Conquistadores, according to their own glowing account, found upon the shores of these lakes a busy population, with all the evidences of industry and prosperity. Temples, erected for worship, containing the images of strange gods, stood in the lofty places. Their monarch lived in a palace of luxury, surrounded by his guards; he controlled a large army, which did battle for him against his enemies. His swift-footed messengers, without steam, without even horses, did his bidding even to the shores of the distant sea. Without printing, or telegraph, he received prompt information of distant events by pictures made on the spot by his special artist. Here was a civilization which had re-

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