Our Little Aztec Cousin of Long Ago - C. V. Winlow

The Market at Azcapozalco

The warnings of the men began to tell on Coyotl the next day. His back, arms, and legs were very weary as the merchant's train saw in the distance along the road the green gardens and pink walls of Azcapozalco. The sun was hot and it was midday. Down his back, under his cotton robe, Coyotl felt a drip of perspiration, and little beads stood out along his upper lip.

Coyotl walked more slowly. Little by little he fell behind, as they marched. He dropped behind the front ranks that walked in front of Amotl's litter. Then for a time, he walked alongside Amotl's litter, inside which the old man lay on one elbow smoking.

Then, as the sun reached midday, he was near the end of the line.

The men were talking among themselves.

"I hear that we will pitch camp here and rest. The Uncle Amotl wishes to attend the slave markets. He can't want to buy. It must be to sell."

Coyotl's throat stiffened, and he felt unbearably sad. It couldn't be! It couldn't be that this—even though it was hot and wearisome—was to end so soon.

But before they entered the city, the front ranks of the line stopped, and so, of course, did all the rest of the line then. Amotl was considering. He puffed and swallowed the smoke from his pipe quickly. Then he sent someone to bring Coyotl to him.

"We come now to Azcapozalco," he said to the boy, looking at him gravely. "I have planned to offer you for sale there in the market. What can you do?"

Coyotl pleaded with his eyes, but he answered quickly and brightly.

"I am strong to carry a pack, as you see. And I can figure and write. My calculations are accurate. I would be a good boy for some other merchant, since you do not like me."

Amotl smiled a little, secretly, inside his eyes, but Coyotl saw it.

"I doubt if there will be merchants there," he said. "Most of those who come to buy slaves want them for household entertainers, or servants."

Coyotl answered proudly.

"I am of good family, and even though I did wrong at the temple school, I do not deserve to dance and sing to entertain banqueters, or to live out my life as a house servant's boy."

Amotl was silent and thoughtful. He considered Coyotl gravely. Then he lay back on the feather-stuffed cushions in his litter, and gave the order for the march to continue. Silently, Coyotl let the whole train pass by him, and then began to trudge along behind it. His heart and brain burned with resentment at what was coming, and he felt hurt that Amotl should refuse to see what a good merchant's helper he would make.

The party entered the city and began weaving its way down the quiet streets, past simple stone houses and gardens. It took only about fifteen minutes to come within the sound of business, music, singing and clapping. Punctuating the music there were shouts, as of bids, and Coyotl felt himself freezing with anger and resentment.

They came into the square. There were crowds filling the square so full that it was difficult to pass. The front men in Amotl's line had to shout for passage-way for every step that they took. Out in the center of the market-square, on a raised platform, a little boy of ten, dressed in brightly-dyed cotton, with colored cords woven into his hair, was singing and playing the drum. The bids were spirited. The child seemed to enjoy what he was doing, and at each bid that was higher his eyes flashed and his white teeth showed with pleasure, that he was so much admired.

But! Coyotl did not understand. Amotl's train was not stopping in the square. Slowly but surely they were passing through it and beyond. He was not going to stop! He was not going to sell Coyotl now!

When they had passed through the city on the other side, and were bound out for the plain again, Coyotl relaxed. The evil hour was past. With new energy he gathered his breath for a run, and then he sprinted until he came abreast of Amotl's litter.

"Thank you!" he said, and Amotl turned and smiled at him kindly, and dropped his hand across his shoulder. So they walked on, the old man in the litter, and the proud boy beside him breathing freely for the moment, for he knew that he would not be sold until they returned. And that might be months away.