The Fair God; or, The Last of the ‘Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico

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Transcriber’s Note

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From Mexico … a civilization that might have instructed Europe was crushed out…. It has been her [Spain’s] evil destiny to ruin two civilizations, Oriental and Occidental, and to be ruined thereby herself…. In America she destroyed races more civilized than herself.—Draper, Intellectual Development of Europe.



A personal experience, though ever so plainly told, is, generally speaking, more attractive to listeners and readers than fiction. A circumstance from the tongue or pen of one to whom it actually happened, or who was its hero or victim, or even its spectator, is always more interesting than if given second-hand. If the makers of history, contradistinguished from its writers, could teach it to us directly, one telling would suffice to secure our lasting remembrance. The reason is, that the narrative so proceeding derives a personality and reality not otherwise attainable, which assist in making way to our imagination and the sources of our sympathy.

With this theory or bit of philosophy in mind, when the annexed book was resolved upon, I judged best to assume the character of a translator, which would enable me to write in the style and spirit of one who not merely lived at the time of the occurrences woven in the text, but was acquainted with many of the historical personages who figure therein, and was a native of the beautiful valley in which the story is located. Thinking to make the descriptions yet more real, and therefore more impressive, I took the liberty of attributing the composition to a literator who, whatever may be thought of his works, was not himself a fiction. Without meaning to insinuate that The Fair God would have been the worse for creation by Don Fernando de Alva, the Tezcucan, I wish merely to say that it is not a translation. Having been so written, however, now that publication is at hand, change is impossible; hence, nothing is omitted,—title-page, introductory, and conclusion are given to the reader exactly as they were brought to the publisher by the author.


Boston Mass. August 8, 1873.


I.Our Mother has a Fortune waiting us Yonder1
II.Quetzal’, the Fair God7
III.A Challenge13
IV.Tenochtitlan at Night16
V.The Child of the Temple20
VI.The Cû of Quetzal’, and Mualox, the Paba25
VII.The Prophecy on the Wall30
VIII.A Business Man in Tenochtitlan39
IX.The Questioner of the Morning46
X.Going to the Combat50
XI.The Combat59
XII.Mualox, and his World68
XIII.The Search for Quetzal’74
I.Who are the Strangers?83
IIA Tezcucan Lover89
III.The Banishment of Guatamozin95
IV.Guatamozin at Home103
V.Night at the Chalcan’s112
VI.The Chinampa120
VII.Court Gossip126
VIII.Guatamozin and Mualox130
IX.A King’s Banquet135
X.The ’Tzin’s Love141
XI.The Chant150
I.The First Combat162
II.The Second Combat169
III.The Portrait180
IV.The Trial183
I.The King gives a Trust to Hualpa192
II.The King and the ’Tzin198
III.Love on the Lake207
IV.The King demands a Sign of Mualox214
V.The Massacre in Cholula220
VI.The Conqueror will come230
VII.Montezuma goes to meet Cortez239
VIII.The Entry246
I.Public Opinion257
II.A Message from the Gods261
III.How Ills of State become Ills of Society267
IV.Ennuyé in the Old Palace275
V.Alvarado finds the Light of the World282
VI.The Iron Cross291
VII.The Christians in the Toils299
VIII.The Iron Cross comes back to its Giver306
IX.Truly Wonderful—A Fortunate Man hath a Memory315
X.How the Iron Cross came back317
XI.The Christian takes care of his own325
I.The Lord Hualpa flees his Fortune339
II.Whom the Gods destroy they first make mad347
III.The Public Opinion makes Way357
IV.The ’Tzin’s Farewell to Quetzal’364
V.The Cells of Quetzal’ again374
VI.Lost in the Old Cû379
VII.How the Holy Mother helps her Children385
VIII.The Paba’s Angel392
IX.Life in the Paba’s World404
X.The Angel becomes a Beadswoman410
XI.The Public Opinion proclaims itself—Battle427
I.The Heart can be wiser than the Head438
II.The Conqueror on the Causeway again449
III.La Viruela454
IV.Montezuma a Prophet.—His Prophecy455
V.How to yield a Crown462
VI.In the Leaguer465
VII.In the Leaguer yet473
VIII.The Battle of the Mantas481
IX.Over the Wall,—Into the Palace489
X.The Way through the Wall499
XI.Battle in the Air510
XII.In the Interval of the Battle—Love524
XIII.The Beginning of the End527
XIV.The King before his People again532
XV.The Death of Montezuma544
XVI.Adieu to the Palace550
XVII.The Pursuit begins559
XVIII.La Noche Triste562


Over the Bridges, the Horsemen galloped (p. 427)Frontispiece
A Clang of Sandaled Feet30
The Fortunate Hero, standing so calmly before them70
The Monarch’s Face changed visibly158
“Out of the Way, Dog!” shouted Sandoval246
Looked gloomily into the Water358
She gave him the Signal462
Cortes drew Rein only at its Foot478



Fernando De Alva,[1] a noble Tezcucan, flourished, we are told, in the beginning of the sixteenth century. He was a man of great learning, familiar with the Mexican and Spanish languages, and the hieroglyphics of Anahuac. Ambitious to rescue his race from oblivion, and inspired by love of learning, he collected a library, availed himself of his knowledge of picture-writing, became master of the songs and traditions, and, in the Castilian language, composed books of merit.

It was scarcely possible that his labors should escape the researches of Mr. Prescott, who, with such incomparable genius, has given the world a history of the Conquest of Mexico. From him we have a criticism upon the labors of the learned Fernando, from which the following paragraph is extracted.

“Iztlilzochitl’s writings have many of the defects belonging to his age. He often crowds the page with incidents of a trivial and sometimes improbable character. The improbability increases with the distance of the period; for distance, which diminishes objects to the natural eye, exaggerates them to the mental. His chronology, as I have more than once noticed, is inextricably entangled. He has often lent a too willing ear to traditions and reports which would startle the more sceptical criticism of the present time. Yet there is an appearance of good faith and simplicity in his writings, which may convince the reader that, when he errs, it is from no worse cause than the national partiality. And surely such partiality is excusable in the descendant of a proud line, shorn of its ancient splendors, which it was soothing to his own feelings to revive again—though with something more than their legitimate lustre—on the canvas of history. It should also be considered that, if his narrative is sometimes startling, his researches penetrate into the mysterious depths of antiquity, where light and darkness meet and melt into each other; and where everything is still further liable to distortion, as seen through the misty medium of hieroglyphics.”

Besides his Relaciones and Historia Chichemeca, De Alva composed works of a lighter nature, though equally based upon history. Some were lost; others fell into the hands of persons ignorant of their value; a few only were rescued and given to the press. For a considerable period he served as interpreter to the Spanish Viceroy. His duties as such were trifling; he had ample time for literary pursuits; his enthusiasm as a scholar permitted him no relaxation or idleness. Thus favored, it is believed he composed the books now for the first time given to the world.

The MSS. were found among a heap of old despatches from the Viceroy Mendoza to the Emperor. It is quite probable that they became mixed with the State papers through accident; if, however, they were purposely addressed to His Majesty, it must have been to give him a completer idea of the Aztecan people and their civilization, or to lighten the burthens of royalty by an amusement to which, it is known, Charles V. was not averse. Besides, Mendoza, in his difficulty with the Marquess of the Valley (Cortes), failed not to avail himself of every means likely to propitiate his cause with the court, and especially with the Royal Council of the Indies. It is not altogether improbable, therefore, that the MSS. were forwarded for the entertainment of the members of the Council and the lordly personages of the Court, who not only devoured with avidity, but, as the wily Mendoza well knew, were vastly obliged for, everything relative to the New World, and particularly the dazzling conquest of Mexico.

In the translation, certain liberties have been taken, for which, if wrong has been done, pardon is besought both from the public and the shade of the author. Thus, The Books in the original are unbroken narratives; but, with infinite care and trouble, they have all been brought out of the confusion, and arranged into chapters. So, there were names, some of which have been altogether changed; while others, for the sake of euphony, have been abbreviated, though without sacrificing the identity of the heroes who wore them so proudly.

And thus beginneth the First Book.




The Spanish Calendar is simpler than the Aztecan. In fact, Christian methods, of whatever nature, are better than heathen.

So, then, by the Spanish Calendar, March, 1519, had about half spent itself in the valley of Anahuac, which was as yet untrodden by gold-seeker, with cross-hilted sword at his side, and on his lips a Catholic oath. Near noon of one of its fairest days a traveller came descending the western slope of the Sierra de Ahualco. Since the dawn his path had been amongst hills and crags; at times traversing bald rocks that towered to where the winds blew chill, then dipping into warm valleys, where were grass, flowers, and streamlets, and sometimes forests of cedar and fir,—labyrinths in which there reigned a perpetual twilight.

Toilsome as was the way, the traveller, young and strong, marched lightly. His dress, of the kind prevalent in his country, was provincial, and with few signs of rank. He had sandals of buffalo-hide, fitted for climbing rocks and threading pathless woods; a sort of white tunic, covering his body from the neck to the knees, leaving bare the arms from the shoulder; maxtlatl and tilmatli—sash and mantle—of cotton, blue tinted, and void of ornament; on the wrist of his left arm he wore a substantial golden bracelet, and in both ears jewelled pendants; while an ebony band, encircling his head, kept his straight black locks in place, and permitted a snow-white bird’s-wing for decoration. There was a shield on his left arm, framed of wood, and covered with padded cloth, and in the left hand a javelin barbed with ’itzli; at his back swung a maquahuitl, and a quiver filled with arrows; an unstrung bow in his right hand completed his equipments, and served him in lieu of staff. An ocelot, trudging stealthily behind him, was his sole companion.

In the course of his journey he came to a crag that sank bluffly down several hundred feet, commanding a fine prospect. Though the air was cold, he halted. Away to the northwest stretched the beautiful valley of Anahuac, dotted with hamlets and farm-houses, and marked with the silver tracery of streams. Far across the plain, he caught a view of the fresh waters of Lake Chalco, and beyond that, blue in the distance and faintly relieved against the sky, the royal hill of Chapultepec, with its palaces and cypress forests. In all the New World there was no scene comparable with that he looked upon,—none its rival for beauty, none where the heavens seemed so perfectly melted into earth. There were the most renowned cities of the Empire; from that plain went the armies whose marches were all triumphs; in that air hovered the gods awaiting sacrifices; into that sky rose the smoke of the inextinguishable fires; there shone the brightest suns, and lingered the longest summers; and yonder dwelt that king—in youth a priest, then a warrior, now the terror of all nations—whose signet on the hand of a slave could fill the land with rustling of banners.

No traveller, I ween, could look unmoved on the picture; ours sat down, and gazed with brimful eyes and a beating heart. For the first time he was beholding the matchless vale so overhung with loveliness and full of the monuments of a strange civilization. So rapt was he that he did not observe the ocelot come and lay its head in his lap, like a dog seeking caresses. “Come, boy!” he said, at last rousing himself; “let us on. Our Mother[2] has a fortune waiting us yonder.”

And they resumed the journey. Half an hour’s brisk walk brought them to the foot of the mountain. Suddenly they came upon company.

It was on the bank of a considerable stream, which, pouring in noisy torrent over a rocky bed, appeared to rush with a song forward into the valley. A clump of giant oaks shaded a level sward. Under them a crowd of tamanes,[3] tawny, half-clad, broad-shouldered men, devoured loaves of cold maize bread. Near the roots of the trees their masters reclined comfortably on petates, or mats, without which an Aztec trader’s outfit was incomplete. Our traveller understood at a glance the character of the strangers; so that, as his road led directly to them, he went on without hesitation. As he came near, some of them sat up to observe him.

“A warrior going to the city,” said one.

“Or rather a king’s courier,” suggested another.

“Is not that an ocelot at his heels?” asked a third.

“That it is. Bring me my javelin!”

“And mine! And mine!” cried several of them at once, all springing to their feet.

By the time the young man came up, the whole party stood ready to give him an armed welcome.

I am very sorry to have disturbed you,” he said, quietly finding himself obliged to stop.

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