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were allowed for the daily consumption of these tyrants of the feathered race.
Adjoining this aviary was a menagerie of wild animals, gathered from the mountain forests, and even from the remote swamps of the tierra caliente, or hot region. The collection was still further swelled by a great number of reptiles and serpents remarkable for their size and venomous qualities, among which the Spaniards beheld the fiery little animal "with the castanets in his tail," the terror of the American wilderness. The serpents were confined in long cages lined with down or feathers, or in troughs of mud and water. The beasts and birds of prey were provided with apartments large enough to allow of their moving about, and secured by a strong lattice-work, through which light and air were freely admitted. The whole was placed under the charge of numerous keepers, who acquainted themselves with the habits of their prisoners, and provided for their comfort and cleanliness.
I must not omit to notice a strange collection of human monsters, dwarfs, and other unfortunate persons, in whose organization Nature had capriciously deviated from her regular laws. Such hideous anomalies were regarded by the Aztecs as a suitable appendage of state. It is even said they were in some cases the result of artificial means employed by unnatural parents desirous to secure a provision for their offspring by thus qualifying them for a place in the royal museum.
Extensive gardens were spread out around these buildings, filled with fragrant shrubs and flowers, and especially with medicinal plants. No country has afforded more numerous species of these last than New Spain; and their virtues were perfectly understood by the Aztecs, with whom medical botany may be said to have been studied as a science. Amidst this labyrinth of sweet-scented groves and shrubberies, fountains of pure water might be seen throwing up their sparkling jets, and scattering refreshing dews over the blossoms. Ten large tanks, well stocked with fish, afforded a retreat on their margins to various tribes of water-fowl, whose habits were so carefully consulted, that some of these ponds were of salt water, as that which they most loved to frqeuent. A tesselated pavement of marble inclosed the ample basins, which were overhung by light and fanciful pavilions, that admitted the perfumed breezes of the gardens and offered a grateful shelter to the monarch in the sultry heats of summer.
The domestic establishment of Montezuma was on the same scale of barbaric splendor as every thing else about him. He could boast as many wives as are found in the harem of an eastern sultan. They were lodged in their own apartments and provided with every accommodation, according to their ideas, for personal comfort and cleanliness. They passed their hours in the usual feminine employments of weaying and embroidery, especially in the graceful feather-work, for which such rich materials were furnished by the royal aviaries. The palace was supplied with numerous baths, and Montezuma set the example in his own person, of frequent ablutions. He bathed at least once, and changed his dress four times, it is said, every day. He never put on the same apparel a second time, but gave it away to his attendants.
Besides his numerous female retinue, the halls and antechambers were filled with nobles in constant attendance on his person, who served also as a sort of body-guard. It had been usual for plebeians of merit to fill certain offices in the palace. But the haughty Montezuma refused to be waited upon by any but men of noble birth. They were not unfrequently the sons of the great chiefs, and remained as hostages in the absence of their fathers; thus serving the double purpose of security and state.
His meals the emperor took alone.
The well-matted floor of a large saloon was covered with hundreds of dishes. Sometimes Montezuma himself, but more frequently his steward, indicated those which he preferred, and which were kept hot by means of chafing dishes. The royal bill of fare comprehended, besides domestic animals, game from the distant forests, and fish which the day before were swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. They were dressed in manifold ways, for the Aztec artistes had penetrated deep into the mysteries of culinary science.
The meats were served by the attendant nobles, who then resigned the office of waiting on the monarch to maidens selected for their personal grace and beauty. A screen of richly gilt and carved wood was drawn around him so as to conceal him from vulgar eyes during the repast. He was seated on a cushion, and the dinner was served on a low table, covered with a delicate cotton cloth. The dishes were of the finest ware of Cholula. He had a service of gold, which was reserved for religious celebrations. Indeed, it would scarcely have comported with even his princely revenues to have used
it on ordinary occasions, when his table equipage was not allowed to appear a second time, but was given away to his attendants. The saloon was lighted by torches made of resinous wood, which sent forth a sweet odor, and, probably, not a little smoke, as they burned. At his meal, he was attended by five or six of his ancient counsellors, who stood at a respectful distance, answering his questions, and occasionally rejoiced by some of the viands with which he complimented them from his table.
This course of solid dishes was succeeded by another of sweetmeats and pastry, for which the Aztec cooks, provided with the important requisites of maize-flour, eggs, and rich sugar of the alvi, were famous. The emperor took no other beverage than the chocolatl, a potation of chocolate, flavored with vanilla and other spices, and so prepared as to be reduced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which gradually dissolved in the mouth. This beverage, if so it could be called, was served in golden goblets, with spoons of the same metal or of tortoise-shell finely wrought. The emperor was exceedingly fond of it, to judge from the quantity, no less than fifty jars or pitchers being prepared for his own daily consumption! Two thousand more were allowed for that of his household.
The general arrangement of the meals seems to have been not very unlike that of Europeans. But no prince in Europe could boast a dessert which could compare with that of the Aztec emperor. For it was gathered fresh from the most opposite elimes; and his board displayed the products of his own temperate region, and the luscious fruits of the tropics, plucked the day previous from the green groves of the tierra caliente, and transmitted with the speed of steam, by means of couriers, to the capital. It was as if some kind fairy should crown our banquets with the spicy products that but yesterday were growing in a sunny isle of the far-off Indian seas.
After the royal appetite was appeased, water was handed to him by the female attendants in a silver basin, in the same manner as had been done before commencing his meal; for the Aztecs were as constant in their ablutions at these times as any nation of the East. Pipes were then brought, made of a varnished and richly gilt wood, from which he inhaled, sometimes through the nose, at others through the mouth, the fumes of an intoxicating weed, "called tobacco," mingled with liquid amber. While this soothing process of fumigation was going
on, the emperor enjoyed the exhibitions of his mountebanks and jugglers, of whom a regular corps was attached to the palace. No people, not even those of China and Hindostan, surpassed the Aztecs in feats of agility and legerdemain.
Sometimes he amused himself with his jester; for the Indian monarch had his jesters as well as his more refined brethren of Europe, at that day. Indeed, he used to say, that more instruction was to be gathered from them than from wiser men, for they dared to tell the truth. At other times, he witnessed the graceful dances of his women, or took delight in listening to music,-if the rude minstrelsy of the Mexicans deserve that name,-accompanied by a chant in slow and solemn cadence, celebrating the heroic deeds of great Aztec warriors, or of his own princely life.
When he had sufficiently refreshed his spirits with these diversions, he composed himself to sleep, for in his siesta he was as regular as a Spaniard. On awaking he gave audience to ambassadors from foreign states or his own tributary cities, or to such caciques as had suits to prefer to him. They were introduced by the young nobles in attendance, and, whatever might be their rank, unless of the blood royal, they were obliged to submit to the humiliation of shrouding their rich dresses under the coarse mantle of nequen, and entering barefooted, with downcast eyes, into the presence. The emperor addressed few and brief remarks to the suitors, answering them generally by his secretaries; and the parties retired with the same reverential obeisance, taking care to keep their faces turned towards the monarch. Well might Cortés exclaim, that no court, whether of the Grand Seignior or any other infidel, ever displayed so pompous and elaborate a ceremonial. PRESCOTT.
WHEN the day dawned, De Soto set out with a hundred infantry, and a hundred horse, to reconnoitre the village.Arrived on the opposite bank, Juan Ortiz, and Pedro, the Indian boy, shouted to the natives to come over, and receive a message for their cacique.
The Indians, terrified at the strange sight of the Spaniards, and their horses, ran back to the village to spread the news.In a little while a large canoe was launched, and came directly across the river, managed by several rowers. Six Indians, of
noble from it.
appearance, all about forty or fifty years of age, landed
The governor, perceiving that they were persons of consequence, received them with much ceremony, seated in a kind of chair of state, which he always carried with him for occasions of the kind. As they advanced they made three profound reverences, one to the sun, with their faces to the eastward, the second to the moon, turning to the west, the third to the governor. They then made him the usual demand, whether he came for peace or war?" He replied, Peace; and a free passage through their lands. He moreover requested provisions for his people, and assistance with canoes or rafts in passing the river.
The Indians replied that their supplies were small, the country having been ravaged by pestilence in the preceding year, so that most of the people had abandoned their houses and villages, and taken refuge in the woods, neglecting to sow their corn. They added that they were governed by a young female, just of marriageable age, who had recently inherited the sway. They would return and repeat to her the circumstances of their interview, and made no doubt, from her discreet and generous nature, she would do every thing in her power to serve the strangers. With these words they departed.
They had not long returned to the village when the Spaniards perceived movements of preparation, and observed a kind of litter borne by four men to the water's side. From this alighted the female cacique, and entered a highly decorated canoe. A kind of aquatic procession was then formed; a grand canoe, containing the six ambassadors, and paddled by a large number of Indians, led the van, towing after it the state bark of the princess, who reclined on cushions in the stern, under a canopy supported by a lance. She was accompanied by eight fenale attendants. A number of canoes filled with warriors closed the procession.
The young princess stepped on shore, and as she approached the Spaniards, they were struck with her appearance. She was finely formed, with great beauty of countenance, and native grace and dignity. Having made her obeisance to the governor, she took her seat in a kind of stool placed by her attendants, and entered into conversation with him, all her subjects preserving a most respectful silence.
Her conversation confirmed what had been said by the ambassadors. The province had been ravaged by pestilence du