Spaniards Put Moctezuma under House Arrest

From Díaz del Castillo, Vol. 2, Chapter 95

Since we decided the evening before to seize Moctezuma, we prayed all night to Our Father of Mercy, to God, that it would turn out in a manner favorable to His Holy service. The next morning the way it should be carried out was settled.

Cortés took with him five captains who were Pedro de Alvarado, Gonzalo de Sandoval, Juan Velasquez de Leon, Francisco de Lugo and Alonzo de Avila, and he took me and our interpreters Doña Marina and Aguilar, and he told us all to stay alert, and the horsemen to have their horses saddled and bridled. As for our arms I need not call them to mind, for by day or night we always went armed and with our sandals on our feet, for at that time such was our footgear, and Moctezuma had always seen us armed in that way when we went to speak to him. I mention this because although Cortés and those who went with him to seize Moctezuma were all armed, Moctezuma did not take it as anything new, nor was he disturbed at all.

When we were all ready, our Captain sent a messenger to tell Moctezuma that we were coming to his Palace, for this had always been our custom, and so that he should not be alarmed by our arriving suddenly. Moctezuma understood more or less that Cortés was coming because he was annoyed about the Almeria incident [explained in the next paragraph], and he was afraid of him, but sent word for him to come and that he would be welcome.

When Cortés entered, after having made his usual salutations, he said to him through our interpreters " Señor Moctezuma, I am very much astonished that you, who are such a valiant Prince, after having declared that you are our friend, should order your Captains, whom you have stationed on the coast near to Tuzapan, to take arms against my Spaniards, and that they should dare to rob the towns which are in the keeping and under the protection of our King and master and to demand of them Indian men and women for sacrifice, and should kill a Spaniard, one of my brothers, and a horse." He did not wish to speak of the Captain nor of the six soldiers who died as soon as they arrived at Villa Rica, for Moctezuma did not know about it, nor did the Indian Captains who had attacked them, and Cortés went on to say: "being such a friend of yours I ordered my Captains to do all that was possible to help and serve you, and you have done exactly the contrary to us. Also in the affair at Cholula your Captains and a large force of warriors had received your own commands to kill us. I forgave it at the time out of my great regard for you, and now again your vassals and Captains have become insolent, and hold secret consultations stating that you wish us to be killed. I do not wish to begin a war on this account nor to destroy this city, I am willing to forgive it all, if silently and without raising any disturbance you will come with us to our quarters, where you will be as well served and attended to as though you were in your own house, but if you cry out or make any disturbance you will immediately be killed by these my Captains, whom I brought solely for this purpose."

When Moctezuma heard this he was terrified and dumfounded, and replied that he had never ordered his people to take arms against us, and that he would at once summon his Captains so that the truth should be known, and he would chastise them, and at that very moment he took from his arm and wrist the sign and seal of Huitzilopochtli, which was only done when he gave an important and weighty command which was to be carried out at once. With regard to being taken prisoner and leaving his Palace against his will, he said that he was not the person to whom such an order could be given, and that it was not his wish to go.

Cortés replied to him with very good arguments and Moctezuma answered him with even better, showing that he ought not to leave his house. In this way more than half an hour was spent talking, and when Juan Velásquez de Leon and the other Captains saw that they were wasting time over it and could no longer await the moment when they should take him from his house and hold him a prisoner, they spoke to Cortés not without emotion and said, "what is the good of your making so many words, let us either take him prisoner, or stab him, tell him once more that if he cries out or makes an uproar we will kill him, for it is better at once to save out lives or to lose them," and as Juan Velásquez said this with a loud and rather terrifying voice, for such was his way of speaking, Moctezuma, who saw that our Captains were angered, asked Doña Marina what they were saying in such loud tones.

As Doña Marina was very clever, she said, "Señor Moctezuma, what I counsel you is to go at once to their quarters without any disturbance at all, for I know that they will pay you much honor as a great Prince such as you are, otherwise you will remain here a dead man, but in their quarters you will learn the truth."

Then Moctezuma said to Cortés "Señor Malinche, if this is what you desire, I have a son and two legitimate daughters, take them as hostages, and do not put this affront on me, what will my chieftains say if they see me taken off as a prisoner?"

Cortés replied to him that he must come with them himself, and there was no alternative. At the end of much more discussion, Moctezuma said that he would go willingly, and then Cortés and our Captains bestowed many caresses on him and told him that they begged him not to be annoyed, and to tell his captains and the men of his guard that he was going of his own free will, because he had spoken to his Idol Huitzilopochtli and the priests who attended him, and that it was beneficial for his health and the safety of his life that he should be with us.

His rich litter, in which he was used to go out with all the Captains who accompanied him was promptly brought, and he went to our quarters where we placed guards and watchmen over him.

All the attentions and amusements which it was possible for him to have, both Cortés and all of us did our best to give him, and he was not put under any personal restraint, and soon all the principal Mexican Chieftains, and his nephews came to talk with him, and to learn the news of his seizure, and whether he wished them to attack us. Moctezuma answered them by saying that he was delighted to be here some days with us of his own free will and not by force, and that when he wished for anything he would tell them so, and that they must not excite themselves nor the city, nor were they to take it to heart, for what had happened about his being there was agreeable to Huitzilopochtli, and certain priests who knew had told him so, for they had spoken to the Idol about it.

There, where he remained, he had his servants and his women and his baths in which he bathed himself, and twenty great chiefs always stayed in his company holding their ancient offices, as well as his councilors and captains, and he stayed there a prisoner without showing any anger at it, and Ambassadors from distant lands came there with their suites, and brought him his tribute, and he carried on his important business.