PORTRAIT OF CORTEZ.
RECKLESS courage and the power of endurance have a fascination even for the weak and timid, and in these
qualities the dare-devil Spanish adventurers who conquered the mighty empire of Mexico have never
been surpassed. Gold-greedy and cruel they were, and many a dark deed dims the glory of their great
achievement, but they bore through all an unswerving faith in the justice of their cause, and an
indomitable self-confidence which no peril, no disaster could entirely destroy. Thus armoured they
were indeed wellnigh invincible.
In the pages of the old chronicler, Bernal Diaz, this spirit breathes in every line, for was he not
himself one of the conquerors? And did he not know by grim experience the dangers braved, the toils
endured, the cost of victory? "Let the wise and learned read my history from beginning to end," he
says with quaint frankness, "and they will then confess that there never existed in the world men
who by bold achievements have gained more for their Lord and King than we the brave conquerors;
amongst the most gallant of whom I was considered as one, and am the most ancient of all. I say
again that I,—I myself,—I am a true conqueror and the most ancient of all."