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Historic Boys by Elbridge Streeter Brooks

Ixtlil' of tezcuco the boy cacique




(_Afterward King of Tezcuco, the last of the ruling Aztec princes._)

[A.D. 1515.]

A dusky courier, fleet-footed and wary-eyed, dashed swiftly along the roadway that, three spear-lengths wide, spanned the green plain and led from the royal city to the Palace of the Hill, the wonderful rural retreat of the good 'Hualpilli, the 'tzin[Z] or lord of Tezcuco. Through the sculptured gate-way he sped, past the terraced gardens and the five hundred porphyry steps, past the three reservoirs of the Marble Women, past the Winged Lion and the Rock of the Great 'Tzin to where, in the midst of a grove of giant cedars, rose the fairy-like walls of the beautiful summer palace of the king.

"At the baths," said a watchful guardsman, upon whose quilted suit of cotton mail and on whose wooden wolf's-head helmet glistened the feather badge of the 'tzin. Scarcely slackening his speed the courier turned from the palace door-way and plunged into the thick shadows of the cypress forest. He followed the course of the foaming cascade which came rushing and tumbling over the rocks through a mass of flowers and odorous shrubs, and stopped suddenly before the marble portico of an airy pavilion, where a flight of steps cut in the solid porphyry and polished like mirrors, led down to the baths of the 'tzin. For an instant the courier stood erect and motionless as a statue, then, swiftly stooping to the earth, he laid the open palm of his right hand on the ground and next raised it slowly to his head, offering with downcast eyes the scroll he had carried in the folds of his maxtlatl[AA] to the inmate of the marble pavilion--'Hualpilli the Just, the 'tzin of Tezcuco.

"From the Council?" asked the 'tzin, as he took the scroll.

"From the Council, O King," replied the courier, falling prostrate on the ground as he heard the voice of his lord.

The face of the 'tzin wore a perplexed and troubled expression as he unrolled the scroll. "Again?" he said; "Is the boy at his tricks again? How shall hot young blood be tamed for soberer duties?"

And what is it on the soft and polished surface of the maguey[AB] paper that so disturbs the worthy 'tzin? It seems a series of comic pictures painted in vivid green and red. First, a blazing sun; then a boy with a big head and a boy with a small head topped with two flags; then a misshapen-looking man with a short cloak and a long staff and above his head a plume; then a low-roofed house, a footprint under a blazing sun; and, lastly, a man sitting on the ground. What do you make of all this, as, especially privileged, you peep over the shoulder of 'Hualpilli the 'tzin, in the portico of his porphyry baths? Nothing, of course. But to the dusky king, skilled in the reading of Aztec hieroglyphics, the message from his Council is plain enough. And this is what he reads: "Most dread and mighty lord, the sun of the world! This is to inform you that the noble young cacique, Ixtlil', at the head of forty of his wild boy-followers is raiding the streets of Tezcuco, and has already assaulted and wofully distressed full four hundred of the townspeople. Hasten, then, we pray you, your royal feet, that you may see and believe our statement, lest if we may not stop the noble young cacique in this his dangerous sport, your royal city of Tezcuco shall be disturbed and overturned as if by an earthquake."

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