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specimens of humanity, the Aztėc Liliputians, now exhibited to the public. The following is the introductory paragraph :
"Our latitude and longitude were now about 17 deg. north, and 90 deg, 45 min. west; so that the grand amphitheatre of hills, forming three-fourths of an oval outline of jagged summits, a few leagues before us, most probably inclosed the mysterious object of our anxious and uncertain labors. The small groups of Indians through which we had passed, in the course of the day, had evidently been startled, by sheer astonishment, into a sort of passive and involuntary hospitality, but maintained a stark, apprehensive reserve, in most of their answers to our questions. They spoke a peculiar dialect of the Maya, which I had never heard before, and had great difficulty in comprehending, although several of the Maya Indians of our party understood it familiarly and spoke fluently. From them we learned that they had never seen men of our race before, but that a man of the same race as Senor Hammond, who was of a bright florid complexion, with light hair and red whiskers, had been sacrificed and eaten by the Macbenachs, or priests of Iximaya, the great city among the hills, about thirty moons ago. Our interpreters stated that the word 'Iximaya' meant the Great Centre,' and that • Macbenach' meant the “Great Son of the Sun.' I at once resolved to make the most of my time in learning as much as possible of this dialect from these men, because they said it was the tongue spoken by the people of Iximaya, and the surrounding region. It appeared to me to be merely a provincial corruption, or local peculiarism of the great body of the Maya language, with which I was already acquainted ; and in the course of the next day's conversation, I found that I could acquire it with much facility.”
To this circumstance, the writer, if the account be authentic, is probably indebted for his life. Another day's journey, and the determined explorers had come within the circuit of the alpine district in which Iximaya is situated. They found it reposing in massive grandeur, in the centre of a perfectly level plain, about five leagues in diameter, at a distance of scarcely two from the spot that they had reached. At the base of all the mountains, rising upon their sides, and extending nearly a mile inward upon the plain, was a dark-green forest of heavy trees and florid shrubbery ; whilst the even valley itself exhibited large tracts of uncultivated fields, fenced in with palisades, and regular, even to monotony, both in size and form. “Large herds of deer, cattle, and horses, were seen in the openings of the forests, and dispersed over the plain, which was also studded with low, flat-roofed dwellings of stone, in small detached clusters, or hamlets. Rich patches of forest, of irregular forms, bordered with gigantic aloes, diversified the landscape, in effective contrast with bright lakes of water, which glowed among them.”
gage, were gazing upon the scene, two horsemen, in bright blue and yellow tunics, and wearing turbans, decorated with three large plumes of the squezal, dashed by them from the forest, at a distance of about two hundred yards, on steeds of the highest Spanish mould, followed by a long retinue of athletic Indians, equally well mounted, clothed in brilliant red tunics, with coronals of gay feathers, closely arranged within a band of blue cloth. Each horseman carried a long spear, pointed with polished metal, and each held, in a leash, a brace of powerful bloodhounds, which were also of the purest Spanish breed. The two leaders of this troop, who were Indians of commanding air and stature, suddenly wheeled their horses, and glared upon the large party of intruders with fixed amazement. Their followers evinced equal surprise, but forgot not to draw up in good military array, while the bloodhounds leaped and raged in their thongs.
“While the leaders,” says Senor Velasquez, “seemed to be intently scrutinizing every individual of our company, as if silently debating the policy of an immediate attack, one of the Maya Indians, of whom I had been learning the dialect, stepped forward and informed us that they were a detachment of rural guards, a very numerous, military force, which had been appointed from time immemorial, or, at least, from the time of the Spanish invasion, to hunt down and capture all strangers of a foreign race that should be found within a circle of twelve leagues of the city ; and he repeated the statement made to us from the beginning, that no white man had hitherto eluded their vigilance, or left their city alive. He said there was a tradition that many of the pioneers of Alvarado's arıny had been cut off in this manner, and never heard of more, while their skulls and weapons are to this day suspended around the altar of the pagan gods. He added, finally, that if we wished to escape the same fate, now was our only chance ; that, as we numbered thirty-five, all armed with repeating rifles, we could easily destroy the present detachment, which amounted to but fifty, and secure our retreat before another could come up; but that, in order to do this, it was necessary first to shoot the dogs, which all our Indians regarded with the utmost dread and horror.
"I instantly felt the force of this advice, in which also I was sustained by Šenor Hammond ; but Senor Huertis, whom, as the leader of the expedition, we were all bound and solemnly pledged to obey, utterly rejected the proposition. He had come so far to see the city, and see it he would, whether taken thither as a captive or
contract originally proposed, and to which I had assented ; that the fine troop before us was evidently not a gang of savages, but a body of civilized men and good soldiers ; and as to the dogs, they were noble animals of the highest blood he ever saw. If, however, I and his friend Hammond, who seemed afraid of being eaten, in preference to the fine beef and venison which he had seen in such profusion on the plain, really felt alarmed at the bug-' bear legends of our vagabond Indians, before any demonstration
of hostility had been made, we were welcome to take two-thirds of the men and mules and make our retreat as best we could, while he would advance with Antonio and the remainder of the party to the gates of the city, and demand a peaceable admission. I could not but admire the romantic intrepidity of this resolve, though I doubted its discretion, and assured him I was ready to follow his example and share his fate.
“While this conversation was passing among us, the Indian commanders held a conference, apparently as grave and important, But just as Senor Huertis and myself had agreed to advance towards them for a parley, they separated without deigning a reply to our salutation—the elder and more highly-decorated galloped off towards the city with a small escort, while the other briskly crossed our front at the head of his squadron, and entered the forest nearer the entrance of the valley. This opening in the hills was scarcely a quarter of a mile wide, and but a few minutes elapsed before we saw a single horseman cross it toward the wood on the opposite side. Presently another troop of horse, of the same uniform appearance as the first, were seen passing a glade of the wood which the single horseman had penetrated, and it thus became evident that a manœuvre had already been effected to cut off our retreat. The mountains surrounding the whole area of the plain were absolutely perpendicular for three-fourths of their altitude, which was nowhere less than a thousand feet; and from many parts of their wildly-piled outline, huge crags projected in monstrous mammoth forms, as if to plunge to the billows of forest beneath. At no point of this vast, impassable, boundary was there a chasm or declivity discernible, by which we could make our exit, except the one thus formidably intercepted. •
“To retire into the forest and water our mules at a copious stream which rushed forth from its recesses, and recruit our own exhausted strength with food and rest, was our first necessary resource. In tracing the rocky course of the current, for a convenient watering-place, Antonio discovered that it issued from a cavern, which, though a mere fissure exteriorly, was, within, of cathedral dimensions and solemnity. We all entered it and drank eagerly from a foaming basin, which it immediately presented to our fevered lips. Our first sensations were those of freedom and independence, and of that perfect security which is the basis of both. It was long since we had slept under a roof of any kind, while here a few men could defend our repose against an assault from thousands ; but it was horribly evident to my mind that a few watchful assailants would suffice to reduce us to starvation, or destroy us in detail. Our security was that of a prison, and our freedom was limited to its walls. Happily, however, for the present hour, this reflection seemed to trouble no one. Objccts of wonder and veneration grew numerous to our gaze. Gigantic statues of ancient warriors, with round shields, arched helmets, and square breast-plates, curiously latticed aid adorned, stood
sculptured in high relief, with grave faces and massive limbs, and in the regular order of columns round the walls of this grand mausoleum. Many of them stood arrayed in the crimson of the setting sun, which then flamed through the tall fissure into the cavern; and the deep gloom into which long rows of others utterly retired from our view, presented a scene at once of mingled mystery and splendor. It was evidently a place of great and recent resort, both for men and horses, for plentiful supplies of fresh fodder for the latter were heaped in stone recesses, while the ashes of numerous fires, mingled with discarded moccasins and broken pipes and pottery, attested a domi. ciliarly occupation by the former. Further into the interior were found seats and sleeping couches of fine cane work; and in a spa. cious recess, near the entrance, a large collection of the bones both of the ox and the deer, with hides also of both, but newly flayed and suspended on pegs by the horns. These last evidences of good living had more effect upon our hungry Indians than all the rest, and within an hour after dark, while we were seeking our first sleep, four fine deer were brought in by about a dozen of our party, whom we supposed to have been faithfully guarding our citadel. It is unnecessary to say that we gladly arose to the rich repast that ensued, for we had eaten nothing but our scanty allowance of tortillas for many days, and were in the lassitude of
In the morning about the break of day, the infernal yells of a pack of bloodhounds suddenly rang through the cavern, and the party could scarcely seize their rifles before many of the dogs, who had driven in the affrighted Indians on guard, were springing at their throats. Mr. Huertis, however, the American leader of the expedition, with that presence of mind which seems always to have distinguished him, told the men that rifles were useless in such a contest, and that the hounds must be dispatched with their long knives as fast as they came in, while the fire-arms were to be reserved for their masters. This canine butchery was accomplished with but little difficulty, none of the party received any serious injury from their fangs; and the Indians were exhilarated with a victory which was chiefly a conquest of their fears. These unfortunate dogs, it appears, were the advanced guard of a pack, or perhaps merely a few unleashed as scouts, to others held in reserve, for no more were seen or heard for some time. Meanwhile, Mr. Huertis seems to have struck out a brilliant scheme. He collected his whole party into that obscure branch of the cavern near its entrance which has been described as a depository of animal bones, and ordering them to sling their rifles at their backs, bade them stand ready with their knives. Almost instantly they observed a party of ten dismounted natives, in scarlet tunics, and armed with spears, enter the cavern in single file; and, it would seem, from seeing the dogs slain, and no enemy in sight, they rushed out again, without venturing on further search. In a few
minutes, however, they returned with forty or fifty more, in the same uniform, headed by the younger of the two personages whom they had seen in command the previous evening. As soon as they were well advanced into the cavern, and heard disturbing the tired mules, Mr. Huertis and his party marched quietly out and seized their horses, which were picketed close by, in charge of two or three men, whom they disarmed. At a short distance, however, drawn up in good order, was another squadron of horses, which Mr. Huertis determined instantly to charge. Ordering his whole party to mount the noble animals they had captured, and reserve their fire until he gave the word, he, Velasquez, and Hammond, drew the short sabres they had worn on their march, and led the attack. The uniformed natives, however, did not wait the encounter, but scattered in wonderment and consternation; doubtless under the impression that all their comrades had been slain. But the rapid approach of a much larger force, which was found, eventually, to have consisted of two detachments of fifty cach, being just twice their number, speedily reassured them, and falling in line with this powerful reinforcement, the whole hundred and fifty charged upon our comparative handful of travelers, at a rapid pace. Huertis promptly ordered his little party to halt, and form in line, two deep, with presented arms; and doubtless feeling that, notwithstanding the disparity of numbers, the enemy, armed only with spears and small side hatchets, held but a slender chance of victory over a party of thirty-eight-most of them old campaigners in the sanguinary expeditions of the terrible Carreraarmed with new "six-shooting” rifles and long knives, generously commanded them to keep aim upon the horses only, until further orders. In the mean time, most of their plumed opponents, instead of using their long spears as in lance practice, threw them through the air from so great a distance that nearly all fell short of the mark—an infallible indication both of timidity and inexperience in action. The unfortunate Mr. Hammond,
the party was killed by being transfixed through the abdomen. At this instant, Huertis gave the word to fire; and, at the next, no small number of the enemy were rolling upon the sod, amid their plunging horses. A second rapid but well-delivered volley brought down as many more, when the rest, in attitudes of frantic wonder and terror, unconsciously dropped their weapons, and fled like affrighted fowls under the sudden swoop of the kite.. Their dispersion was so outrageously wild and complete, that no two of them could be seen together as they radiated over the plain. The men and horses seemed impelled alike by a preternatural panic; and neither Cortez in Mexico, nor Pizarro in Peru, eyer witnessed greater consternation at fire-arms-among a people who, for the first time, beheld their phenomena and effects when mere hundreds of invaders easily subjugated millions of natives, chiefly by this appalling influence-than was manifested