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

   Chapter 25 THE PORTRAIT

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 5317

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Next day, after the removal of the noon comfitures, and when the princess Tula had gone to the hammock for the usual siesta, Nenetzin rushed into her apartment unusually excited.

"O, I have something so strange to tell you,-something so strange!" she cried, throwing herself upon the hammock.

Her face was bright and very beautiful. Tula looked at her a moment, then put her lips lovingly to the smooth forehead.

"By the Sun! as our royal father sometimes swears, my sister seems in earnest."

"Indeed I am; and you will go with me, will you not?"

"Ah! you want to take me to the garden to see the dead tiger, or, perhaps, the warrior who slew it, or-now I have it-you have seen another minstrel."

Tula expected the girl to laugh, but was surprised to see her eyes fill with tears. She changed her manner instantly, and bade the slave who had been sitting by the hammock fanning her, to retire. Then she said,-

"You jest so much, Nenetzin, that I do not know when you are serious. I love you: now tell me what has happened."

The answer was given in a low voice.

"You will think me foolish, and so I am, but I cannot help it. Do you recollect the dream I told you the night on the chinampa?"

"The night Yeteve came to us? I recollect."

"You know I saw a man come and sit down in our father's palace,-a stranger with blue eyes and fair face, and hair and beard like the silk of the ripening maize. I told you I loved him, and would have none but him; and you laughed at me, and said he was the god Quetzal'. O Tula, the dream has come back to me many times since; so often that it seems, when I am awake, to have been a reality. I am childish, you think, and very weak; you may even pity me; but I have grown to look upon the blue-eyed as something lovable and great, and thought of him is a part of my mind; so much so that it is useless for me to say he is not, or that I am loving a shadow. And now, O dear Tula, now comes the strange part of my story. Yesterday, you know, a courier from Cempoalla brought our father some pictures of the strangers lately landed from the sea. This morning I heard there were portraits among them, and could not resist a curiosity to see them; so I went, and almost the first one I came to,-do not laugh,-almost the first one I came to was the picture of him who comes to me so often in my dreams. I looked and trembled. There indeed he was; there were the blue eyes, the yellow hair, the white face, even the dress, shining as silver, and the plumed crest. I did not stay to look at anything else, but hurried here, scarcely knowing whether to be glad or afraid. I thought if you went with m

e I would not be afraid. Go you must; we will look at the portrait together." And she hid her face, sobbing like a child.

"It is too wonderful for belief. I will go," said Tula.

She arose, and the slave brought and threw over her shoulders the long white scarf so invariably a part of an Aztec woman's costume. Then the sisters took their way to the chamber where the pictures were kept,-the same into which Hualpa had been led the night before. The king was elsewhere giving audience, and his clerks and attendants were with him. So the two were allowed to indulge their curiosity undisturbed.

Nenetzin went to a pile of manuscripts lying on the floor. The elder sister was startled by the first picture exposed; for she recognized the handiwork, long since familiar to her, of the 'tzin. Nor was she less surprised by the subject, which was a horse, apparently a nobler instrument for a god's revenge than man himself.

Next she saw pictured a horse, its rider mounted, and in Christian armor, and bearing shield, lance, and sword. Then came a cannon, the gunner by the carriage, his match lighted, while a volume of flame and smoke was bursting from the throat of the piece. A portrait followed; she lifted it up, and trembled to see the hero of Nenetzin's dream!

"Did I not tell you so, O Tula?" said the girl, in a whisper.

"The face is pleasant and noble," the other answered, thoughtfully; "but I am afraid. There is evil in the smile, evil in the blue eyes."

The rest of the manuscripts they left untouched. The one absorbed them; but with what different feelings! Nenetzin was a-flutter with pleasure, restrained by awe. Impressed by the singularity of the vision, as thus realized, a passionate wish to see the man or god, whichever he was, and hear his voice, may be called her nearest semblance to reflection. Like a lover in the presence of the beloved, she was glad and contented, and asked nothing of the future. But with Tula, older and wiser, it was different. She was conscious of the novelty of the incident; at the same time a presentiment, a gloomy foreboding, filled her soul. In slumber we sometimes see spectres, and they sit by us and smile; yet we shrink, and cannot keep down anticipations of ill. So Tula was affected by what she beheld.

She laid the portrait softly down, and turned to Nenetzin, who had now no need to deprecate her laugh.

"The ways of the gods are most strange. Something tells me this is their work. I am afraid; let us go."

And they retired, and the rest of the day, swinging in the hammock, they talked of the dream and the portrait, and wondered what would come of them.

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