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


The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 16496

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Inside the hall, scarcely a step from the curtain, the monarch stopped bewildered; half amazed, half alarmed, he surveyed the chamber, now glowing as with day. Flowers blooming, birds singing, shrubbery, thick and green as in his own garden. Whence came they? how were they nurtured down so far? And the countless subjects painted on the ceiling and walls, and woven in colors on the tapestry,-surely they were the work of the same master who had wrought so marvellously in the golden chamber. The extent of the hall, exaggerated by the light, impressed him. Filled with the presence of what seemed impossibilities, he cried out,-

"The abode of Quetzal'!"

"No," answered Mualox, "not his abode, only his temple,-the temple of his own building."

And from that time it was with the king as if the god were actually present.

The paba read the effect in the monarch's manner,-in his attitude, in the softness of his tread, in the cloudy, saddened expression of his countenance, in the whisper with which he spoke; he read it, and was assured.

"This way, O king! Though your servant cannot let you see into the Sun, or give you the sign required, follow him, and he will bring you to hear of events in Cholula even as they transpire. Remember, however, he says now that the Cholulans and the twenty thousand warriors will fail, and the night bring you but sorrow and repentance."

Along the aisles he conducted him, until they came to the fountain, where the monarch stopped again. The light there was brighter than in the rest of the hall. A number of birds flew up, scared by the stranger; in the space around the marble basin stood vases crowned with flowers; the floor was strewn with wreaths and garlands; the water sparkled with silvery lustre; yet all were lost on the wondering guest, who saw only Tecetl,-a vision, once seen, to be looked at again and again.

Upon a couch, a little apart from the fountain, she sat, leaning against a pile of cushions, which was covered by a mantle of plumaje. Her garments were white, and wholly without ornament; her hair strayed lightly from a wreath upon her head; the childish hands lay clasped in her lap; upon the soft mattress rested the delicate limbs, covered, but not concealed, the soles of the small feet tinted with warmth and life, like the pink and rose lining of certain shells. So fragile, innocent, and beautiful looked she, and so hushed and motionless withal,-so like a spirituality,-that the monarch's quick sensation of sympathy shot through his heart an absolute pain.

"Disturb her not; let her sleep," he whispered, waving his hand.

Mualox smiled.

"Nay, the full battle-cry of your armies would not waken her."

The influence of the Will was upon her, stronger than slumber. Not yet was she to see a human being other than the paba,-not even the great king. A little longer was she to be happy in ignorance of the actual world. Ah, many, many are the victims of affection unwise in its very fulness!

Again and again the monarch scanned the girl's face, charmed, yet awed. The paba had said the sleep was wakeless; and that was a mystery unreported by tradition, unknown to his philosophy, and rarer, if not greater, than death. If life at all, what kind was it? The longer he looked and reflected, the lovelier she grew. So completely was his credulity gained that he thought not once of questioning Mualox about her; he was content with believing.

The paba, meantime, had been holding one of her hands, and gazing intently in her face. When he looked up, the monarch was startled by his appearance; his air was imposing, his eyes lighted with the mesmeric force.

"Sit, O king, and give ear. Through the lips of his child, Quetzal' will speak, and tell you of the day in Cholula."

He spoke imperiously, and the monarch obeyed. Then, disturbed only by the chiming of the fountain, and sometimes by the whistling of the birds, Tecetl began, and softly, brokenly, unconsciously told of the massacre in the holy city of Cholula. Not a question was asked her. There was little prompting aloud. Much did the king marvel, never once doubted he.

"The sky is very clear," said Tecetl. "I rise into the air; I leave the city in the lake, and the lake itself; now the mountains are below me. Lo, another city! I descend again; the azoteas of a temple receives me; around are great houses. Who are these I see? There, in front of the temple, they stand, in lines; even in the shade their garments glisten. They have shields; some bear long lances, some sit on strange animals that have eyes of fire and ring the pavement with their stamping."

"Does the king understand?" asked Mualox.

"She describes the strangers," was the reply.

And Tecetl resumed. "There is one standing in the midst of a throng; he speaks, they listen. I cannot repeat his words, or understand them, for they are not like ours. Now I see his face, and it is white; his eyes are black, and his cheeks bearded; he is angry; he points to the city around the temple, and his voice grows harsh, and his face dark."

The king approached a step, and whispered, "Malinche!"

But Mualox replied with flashing eyes, "The servant knows his god; it is Quetzal'!"

"He speaks, I listen," Tecetl continued, after a rest, and thenceforth her sentences were given at longer intervals. "Now he is through; he waves his hand, and the listeners retire, and go to different quarters; in places they kindle fires; the gates are open, and some station themselves there."

"Named she where this is happening?" asked Montezuma.

"She describes the strangers; and are they not in Cholula, O king? She also spoke of the azoteas of a temple-"

"True, true," replied the king, moodily. "The preparations must be going on in the square of the temple in which Malinche was lodged last night."

Tecetl continued. "And now I look down the street; a crowd approaches from the city-"

"Speak of them," said Mualox. "I would know who they are."

"Most of them wear long beards and robes, like yours, father,-robes white and reaching to their feet; in front a few come, swinging censers-"

"They are pabas from the temples," said Mualox.

"Behind them I see a greater crowd," she continued. "How stately their step! how beautiful their plumes!"

"The twenty thousand! the army!" said Mualox.

"No, she speaks of them as plumed. They must be lords and caciques going to the temple." While speaking, the monarch's eyes wandered restlessly, and he sighed, saying, "Where can the companies be? It is time they were in the city."

So his anxiety betrayed itself.

Then Mualox said, grimly, "Hope not, O king. The priests and caciques go to death; the army would but swell the flow of blood."

Montezuma clapped his hands, and drooped his head.

"Yet more," said Tecetl, almost immediately; "another crowd comes on, a band reaching far down the street; they are naked, and come without order, bringing-"

"The tamanes," said Mualox, without looking from her face.

"And now," she said, "the city begins to stir. I look, and on the house-tops and temples hosts collect; from all the towers the smoke goes up in bluer columns: yet all is still. Those who carry the censers come near the gate below me; now they are within it; the plumed train follows them, and the square begins to fill. Back by the great door, on one of the animals, the god-"

"Quetzal'," muttered Mualox.

"A company, glistening, surrounds him; his face seems whiter than before, his eyes darker; a shield is on his arm, white plumes toss above his head. The censer-bearers cross the square, and the air thickens with a sweet perfume. Now he speaks to them; his voice is harsh and high; they are frightened; some kneel, and begin to pray as to a god; others turn and start quickly for the gate."

"Take heed, take heed, O king!" said Mualox, his eyes aflame.

And Montezuma answered, trembling with fear and rage, "Has Anahuac no gods to care for her children?"

"What can they against the Supreme Quetzal'? It is a trial of power. The end is at hand!"

Never man spoke more confidently than the paba.

By this time Tecetl's face was flushed, and her voice faint. Mualox filled the hollow of hi

s hand with water, and laved her forehead. And she sighed wearily and continued,-

"The fair-faced god-"

"Mark the words, O king,-mark the words!" said the paba.

"The fair-faced god quits speaking; he waves his hand, and one of his company on the steps of the temple answers with a shout. Lo! a stream of fire, and a noise like the bursting of a cloud! a rising, rolling cloud of smoke veils the whole front of the house. How the smoke thickens! How the strangers rush into the square! The square itself trembles! I do not understand it, father-"

"It is battle! On, child! a king waits to see a god in battle."

"In my pictures there is nothing like this, nor have you told me of anything like it. O, it is fearful!" she said. "The crowd in the middle of the square, those who came from the city, are broken, and rush here and there; at the gates they are beaten back; some, climbing the walls, are struck by arrows, and fall down screaming. Hark! how they call on the gods,-Huitzil', Tezca', Quetzal'. And why are they not heard? Where, father, where is the good Quetzal'?"

Flashed the paba's eyes with the superhuman light,-other answer he deigned not; and she proceeded.

"What a change has come over the square! Where are they that awhile ago filled it with white robes and dancing plumes?"

She shuddered visibly.

"I look again. The pavement is covered with heaps of the fallen, and among them I see some with plumes and some with robes; even the censer-bearers lie still. What can it mean? And all the time the horror grows. When the thunder and fire and smoke burst from near the temple-steps, how the helpless in the square shriek with terror and run blindly about! How many are torn to pieces! Down they go; I cannot count them, they fall so fast, and in such heaps! Then-ah, the pavement looks red! O father, it is blood!"

She stopped. Montezuma covered his face with his hands; the good heart that so loved his people sickened at their slaughter.

Again Mualox bathed her face. Joy flamed in his eyes; Quetzal' was consummating his vengeance, and confirming the prophecies of his servant.

"Go on; stay not!" he said, sternly. "The story is not told."

"Still the running to and fro, and the screaming; still the fire flashing, and the smoke rising, and the hissing of arrows and sound of blows; still the prayers to Huitzil'!" said Tecetl. "I look down, and under the smoke, which has a choking smell, I see the fallen. Red pools gather in the hollow places, plumes are broken, and robes are no longer white. O, the piteous looks I see, the moans I hear, the many faces, brown like oak-leaves faded, turned stilly up to the sun!"

"The people of the god,-tell of them," said Mualox.

"I search for them,-I see them on the steps and out by the walls and the gates. They are all in their places yet; not one of them is down; theirs the arrows, and the fire and thunder."

"Does the king hear?" asked Mualox. "Only the pabas and caciques perish. Who may presume to oppose Quetzal'? Look further, child. Tell us of the city."

"Gladly, most gladly! Now, abroad over the city. The people quit the house-tops; they run from all directions to the troubled temple; they crowd the streets; about the gates, where the gods are, they struggle to get into the square, and the air thickens with their arrows. The god-"

"What god?" asked Mualox.

"The white-plumed one."

"Quetzal'! Go on!"

"He has-" She faltered.


"In my pictures, father, there is nothing like them. Fire leaps from their mouths, and smoke, and the air and earth tremble when they speak; and see-ah, how the crowds in the streets go down before them!"

Again she shuddered, and faltered.

"Hear, O king!" said Mualox, who not only recognized the cannon of the Spaniards in the description, but saw their weight at that moment as an argument. "What can the slingers, and the spearmen of Chinantla, and the swords-men of Tenochtitlan, against warriors of the Sun, with their lightning and thunder!"

And he looked at the monarch, sitting with his face covered, and was satisfied. With faculties sharpened by a zeal too fervid for sympathy, he saw the fears of the proud but kindly soul, and rejoiced in them. Yet he permitted no delay.

"Go on, child! Look for the fair-faced god; he holds the battle in his hand."

"I see him,-I see his white plumes nodding in a group of spears. Now he is at the main gate of the temple, and speaks. Hark! The earth is shaken by another roar,-from the street another great cry; and through the smoke, out of the gate, he leads his band. And the animals,-what shall I call them?"

"Tell us of the god!" replied the enthusiast, himself ignorant of the name and nature of the horse.

"Well, well,-they run like deer; on them the god and his comrades plunge into the masses in the street; beating back and pursuing, striking with their spears, and trampling down all in their way. Stones and arrows are flung from the houses, but they avail nothing. The god shouts joyously, he plunges on; and the blood flows faster than before; it reddens the shields, it drips from the spear-points-"

"Enough, Mualox!" said Montezuma, starting from his seat, and speaking firmly. "I want no more. Guide me hence!"

The paba was surprised; rising slowly, he asked,-

"Will not the king stay to the end?"

"Stay!" repeated the monarch, with curling lip. "Are my people of Cholula wolves that I should be glad at their slaughter? It is murder, massacre, not battle! Show me to the roof again. Come!"

Mualox turned to Tecetl; touching her hand, he found it cold; the sunken eyes, and the lips, vermeil no longer, admonished him of the delicacy of her spirit and body. He filled a vase at the fountain, and laved her face, the while soothingly repeating, "Tecetl, Tecetl, child!" Some minutes were thus devoted; then kissing her, and replacing the hand tenderly in the other lying in her lap, he said to the monarch,-

"Until to-day, O king, this sacredness has been sealed from the generations that forsook the religion of Quetzal'. Eye of mocker has not seen, nor foot of unbeliever trod this purlieu, the last to receive his blessing. You alone-I am of the god-you alone can go abroad knowing what is here. Never before were you so nearly face to face with the Ruler of the Winds! And now, with what force a servant may, I charge you, by the glory of the Sun, respect this house; and when you think of it, or of what here you have seen, be it as friend, lover, and worshipper. If the king will follow me, I am ready."

"I am neither mocker nor unbeliever. Lead on," replied Montezuma.

And after that, the king paid no attention to the chamber; he moved along the aisles too unhappy to be curious. The twenty thousand warriors had not been mentioned by Tecetl; they had not, it would seem, entered the city or the battle, so there was a chance of the victory; yet was he hopeless, for never a doubt had he of her story. Wherefore, his lamentation was twofold,-for his people and for himself.

And Mualox was silent as the king, though for a different cause. To him, suddenly, the object of his life put on the garb of quick possibility. Quetzal', he was sure, would fill the streets of Cholula with the dead, and crown his wrath amid the ruins of the city. In the face of example so dreadful, none would dare oppose him, not even Montezuma, whose pride broken was next to his faith gained. And around the new-born hope, as cherubs around the Madonna, rustled the wings of fancies most exalted. He saw the supremacy of Quetzal' acknowledged above all others, the C? restored to its first glory, and the silent cells repeopled. O happy day! Already he heard the court-yard resounding with solemn chants as of old; and before the altar, in the presence-chamber, from morn till night he stood, receiving offerings, and dispensing blessings to the worshippers who, with a faith equal to his own, believed the ancient image the One Supreme God.

At the head of the eastern steps of the temple, as the king began the descent, the holy man knelt, and said,-

"For peace to his people let the wise Montezuma look to Quetzal'. Mualox gives him his blessing. Farewell."

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