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Historic Boys by Elbridge Streeter Brooks

Then casting off the purple tilmatli and drooping hood


"What,

are ye all cowards to flee from a pack of boys! Women and daughters of women are ye, and not men of proud Tezcuco!"

The taunt came from a tall and well-built man who strode into the midst of the rout. His _tilmatli_, or cotton cloak completely enveloped his figure, while the long staff in his hand showed him to be a traveller, a visitor probably from Tenochtitlan or distant Cholula. "Back, boys, back," he commanded, "back, I tell you and let me pass!"

The shrill war-whistle of young Ixtlil' rang out loud and clear, and his fierce young troop with a startling war-cry clattered round the daring stranger.

"Now by the fire plumes of Quetzal'!"[AE] cried the headstrong young prince, "who be ye to brave the son of the king? To me, comrades all, and down with the stranger!"

The be-cloaked unknown backed against the stout walls of the _teocalli_. With an easy turn of his staff he parried the vicious sword thrust of the boy cacique and sent his polished _maquahuitl_ spinning through the air. Then with a swinging sweep he laid lustily about him, right and left, scattering the throng of boy soldiers until a good dozen or so lay on the cemented roadway or with aching heads scud out of range of that terrible staff. With a sudden dash the stranger grasped the young cacique's feather-cloak, and catching him by the nape of the neck shook him so roundly that

the green _panache_ tumbled from the lad's head and his princely teeth chattered with the shock.

The timid citizens, reassured by this signal discomfiture of their boy-pests, had drawn to the aid of the stranger, but they trembled at this rough handling of the young prince, and the lad's boy-followers, still at a respectful distance from the stranger's staff, cried loudly: "Ho, rescue, rescue for Ixtlil' the cacique! Death, death to the sacrilegious slave who dares lay hand upon the son of the 'tzin!"

The wolf-casques of the king's spearmen came pouring from the market-place, pressing close behind the royal banner of Tezcuco, the golden coyatl, or winged fox. A hundred copper lance-heads, aimed for flight, pointed at the bold stranger's heart. But all unmoved he raised his staff. "He who lays hands upon the favored of the gods," he said, "must needs know when and why he does so"; then casting off the purple _tilmatli_ and drooping hood, that had disguised him, "Now, who shall say me nay?" he asked, and valiant spearmen, timid citizens, and bold boy-soldiers, with a startled cry of surprise, went down in the dust in abject homage before their lord and master, 'Hualpilli the Just, the 'tzin of Tezcuco.[AF]

[Illustration: HUALPILLI THE LORD OF TEZCUCO REVEALS HIMSELF,--"NOW WHO SHALL SAY ME NAY?" HE ASKED.]

With a loud whistle the 'tzin summoned the slaves who bore his litter. They came hurrying to his call, and soon, followed by the youthful and somewhat sobered band of boy-soldiers, wondering townsfolk, and a mass of royal spearmen, the wild young cacique accompanied his father to the great palace of the kings of Tezcuco.


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