MoboReader> Literature > The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico

   Chapter 20 GUATAMOZIN AND MUALOX

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 8597

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Up the steps of the old C? of Quetzal', early in the evening of the banquet, went Guatamozin unattended. As the royal interdiction rested upon his coming to the capital, he was muffled in a priestly garb, which hid his face and person, but could not all disguise the stately bearing that so distinguished him. Climbing the steps slowly, and without halting at the top to note the signs of the city, all astir with life, he crossed the azoteas, entered the chamber most sanctified by the presence of the god, and before the image bowed awhile in prayer. Soon Mualox came in.

"Ask anything that is not evil, O best beloved of Quetzal', and it shall be granted," said the paba, solemnly, laying a hand upon the visitor's shoulder. "I knew you were coming; I saw you on the lake. Arise, my son."

Guatamozin stood up, and flung back his hood.

"The house is holy, Mualox, and I have come to speak of the things of life that have little to do with religion."

"That is not possible. Everything has to do with life, which has all to do with heaven. Speak out. This presence will keep you wise; if your thoughts be of wrong, it is not likely you will give them speech in the very ear of Quetzal'."

Slowly the 'tzin then said,-

"Thanks, father. In what I have to say, I will be brief, and endeavor not to forget the presence. You love me, and I am come for counsel. You know how often those most discreet in the affairs of others are foolish in what concerns themselves. Long time ago you taught me the importance of knowledge; how it was the divine secret of happiness, and stronger than a spear to win victories, and better in danger than a shield seven times quilted. Now I have come to say that my habits of study have brought evil upon me; out of the solitude in which I was toiling to lay up a great knowledge, a misfortune has arisen, father to my ruin. My stay at home has been misconstrued. Enemies have said I loved books less than power; they charge that in the quiet of my gardens I have been taking council of my ambition, which nothing satisfies but the throne; and so they have estranged from me the love of the king. Here against his order, forbidden the city,"-and as he spoke he raised his head proudly,-"forbidden the city, behold me, paba, a banished man!"

Mualox smiled, and grim satisfaction was in the smile.

"If you seek sympathy," he said, "the errand is fruitless. I have no sorrow for what you call your misfortune."

"Let me understand you, father."

"I repeat, I have no sorrow for you. Why should I? I see you as you should see yourself. You confirm the lessons of which you complain. Not vainly that you wrought in solitude for knowledge, which, while I knew it would make you a mark for even kingly envy, I also intended should make you superior to misfortunes and kings. Understand you now? What matters that you are maligned? What is banishment? They only liken you the more to Quetzal', whose coming triumph,-heed me well, O 'tzin,-whose coming triumph shall be your triumph."

The look and voice of the holy man were those of one with authority.

"For this time," he continued, "and others like it, yet to come, I thought to arm your soul with a strong intelligence. Your life is to be a battle against evil; fail not yourself in the beginning. Success will be equal to your wisdom and courage. But your story was not all told."

The 'tzin's face flushed, and he replied, with some faltering,-

"You have known and encouraged the love I bear the princess Tula, and counted on it as the means of some great fortune in store for me. Yet, in part at least, I am banished on that account. O Mualox, the banquet which the king holds to-night is to make public the betrothal of Tula to Iztlil', the Tezcucan!"

"Well, what do you intend?"

"Nothing. Had the trouble been a friend's, I might have advised him; but being my own, I have no confidence in myself. I repose on your discretion and friendship."

Mualox softened his manner, and said, pleasantly at first, "O 'tzin, is humanity all frailty? Must chief and philosopher bow to the passion, like a slave or a dealer in wares?" Suddenly he became serious; his eyes shone full of the magnetism he used so often and so well. "Can Guatamozin find nothing higher to occupy his mind than

a trouble born of a silly love? Unmanned by such a trifle? Arouse! Ponder the mightier interests in peril! What is a woman, with all a lover's gild about her, to the nation?"

"The nation?" repeated the 'tzin, slowly.

The paba looked reverently up to the idol. "I have withdrawn from the world, I live but for Quetzal' and Anahuac. O, generously has the god repaid me! He has given me to look out upon the future; all that is to come affecting my country he has shown me." Turning to the 'tzin again, he said with emphasis, "I could tell marvels,-let this content you: words cannot paint the danger impending over our country, over Anahuac, the beautiful and beloved; her existence, and the glory and power that make her so worthy love like ours, are linked to your action. Your fate, O 'tzin, and hers, and that of the many nations, are one and the same. Accept the words as a prophecy; wear them in memory; and when, as now, you are moved by a trifling fear or anger, they should and will keep you from shame and folly."

Both then became silent. The paba might have been observing the events of the future, as, one by one, they rose and passed before his abstracted vision. Certain it was, with the thoughts of the warrior there mixed an ambition no longer selfish, but all his country's.

Mualox finally concluded. "The future belongs to the gods; only the present is ours. Of that let us think. Admit your troubles worthy vengeance: dare you tell me what you thought of doing? My son, why are you here?"

"Does my father seek to mortify me?"

"Would the 'tzin have me encourage folly, if not worse? And that in the presence of my god and his?"

"Speak plainly, Mualox."

"So I will. Obey the king. Go not to the palace to-night. If the thought of giving the woman to another is so hard, could you endure the sight? Think: if present, what could you do to prevent the betrothal?"

A savage anger flashed from the 'tzin's face, and he answered, "What could I? Slay the Tezcucan on the step of the throne, though I died!"

"It would come to that. And Anahuac! What then of her?" said Mualox, in a voice of exceeding sorrow.

The love the warrior bore his country at that moment surpassed all others, and his rage passed away.

"True, most true! If it should be as you say, that my destiny-"

"If! O 'tzin, if you live! If Anahuac lives! If there are gods!-"

"Enough, Mualox! I know what you would say. Content you; I give you all faith. The wrong that tortures me is not altogether that the woman is to be given to another; her memory I could pluck from my heart as a feather from my helm. If that were all, I could curse the fate, and submit; but there is more: for the sake of a cowardly policy I have been put to shame; treachery and treason have been crowned, loyalty and blood disgraced. Hear me, father! After the decree of interdiction was served upon me, I ventured to send a messenger to the king, and he was spurned from the palace. Next went the lord Cuitlahua, uncle of mine, and true lover of Anahuac; he was forbidden the mention of my name. I am not withdrawn from the world; my pride will not down at a word; so wronged, I cannot reason; therefore I am here."

"And the coming is a breach of duty; the risk is great. Return to Iztapalapan before the midnight is out. And I,-but you do not know, my son, what a fortune has befallen me." The paba smiled faintly. "I have been promoted to the palace; I am a councillor at the royal table."

"A councillor! You, father?"

The good man's face grew serious again. "I accepted the appointment, thinking good might result. But, alas! the hope was vain. Montezuma, once so wise, is past counsel. He will take no guidance. And what a vanity! O 'tzin, the asking me to the palace was itself a crime, since it was to make me a weapon in his hand with which to resist the holy Quetzal'. As though I could not see the design!"

He laughed scornfully, and then said, "But be not detained, my son. What I can, I will do for you; at the council-table, and elsewhere, as opportunity may offer, I will exert my influence for your restoration to the city and palace. Go now. Farewell; peace be with you. To-morrow I will send you tidings."

Thereupon he went out of the tower, and down into the temple.

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