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Historic Boys by Elbridge Streeter Brooks

Cacama and Ixtlil' both claimed the throne of Tezcuco


Placing

the triple crown of Tezcuco upon his head and taking in his hand the golden arrow of judgment, the 'tzin said to his son: "Ixtlil-o-chitl, cacique of Tezcuco, I charge you in the presence of the arrow and the skull to say, if you can, why sentence of death should not now be spoken against you for this, your wicked deed."

And the boy cacique, first prostrating himself before "the Tribunal of the Gods," rose and said: "O most dread Lord, my father and my king, I have in this matter done no more than is my right as a cacique of Tezcuco and as your son. For you have ever told me that to prepare for the life of a soldier is the best and noblest work befitting a son of Tezcuco and of Anahuac. You have said that this ambition was the only one worthy a cacique who, as I am, is the son and grandson of mighty kings. You have told me that a soldier is justified in defending his life, for that his life belongs to the state, and, more than this, that the life of a royal prince is doubly the state's. These your councillors, whom I have justly punished, have sought to turn your affection from me, your son, and only because I wished to prepare for a soldier's life, and to train my band of boys to deeds of daring and to love of war. They sought to take away my life, and I have acted but as you, my king and father, did counsel me. If they have suffered death, then have they only obtained what they had intended for me. I struck before they could seize the chance

to strike at me--even as in _totoloque_, O King most Just and Wise, the game was rightly mine, because my score was reached the quickest and my aim was surest."

And the old Tezcucan chronicler says that "the king found much force in these reasons." Removing his crown from his head and dropping the arrow of judgment from his hand, he stepped down from "the Tribunal of the Gods," and, taking his son's hand, said: "Hear, people of Tezcuco! I cannot, in justice or in right, sentence this lad for what was not malice, but simply the overflow of a boy's daring spirit--a spirit that may in after years do great deeds in your defence and for the state's security," and so with a lecture and a stern warning "not to do so again," the boy culprit was set free--an unjust and far too lenient judgment it seems to us at this distance for so foul a deed.

* * * * *

Years passed away. The words of the good 'tzin proved true enough, as the boy cacique grew to be so dashing and daring a warrior that, before the age of seventeen, he had won for himself the rank and insignia of a valorous and trusted captain in the armies of Tezcuco. Still the years passed, and now 'Hualpilli the 'tzin, the Wise and Just, was dead. Amid great pomp and the sacrifice of three hundred slaves his body was cremated on a funeral pile, rich in jewels and incense and precious stuffs, and his royal dust, sealed in a golden urn, was placed in the great _teocalli_, or temple of 'Huitzil. His sons, Cacama and Ixtlil' both claimed the throne of Tezcuco, and as in duty bound laid the question for settlement before Montezuma, the lord and sovereign of all Anahuac. The Mexican emperor decided in favor of the elder brother, and hot with rage and wrath the defeated Ixtlil' withdrew to his little mountain princedom among the Cordilleras, biding his time for revenge. For the vindictive spirit of the boy, you see, never disciplined, increased with his years. The day for revenge arrived all too soon, for in the year 1519 came the Conquest. The Spaniards, first hailed as gods by the Aztecs, because of their fair skins, their "canoes with wings," their armor, their horses, and their artillery, conquered the country, laid waste the fair cities of the lakes and the valley, and, with iron heel, stamped out the last vestiges of Aztec civilization--"a civilization that," as one historian says, "might have instructed Europe."


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