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   Chapter 35 HOW ILLS OF STATE BECOME ILLS OF SOCIETY

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 12520

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


By this time, Io', the prince, had acquired somewhat of the importance of a man. Thanks to Hualpa, and his own industry, he could hurl a javelin, strike stoutly with a maquahuitl, and boast of skill with the bow. As well he might, he smiled at thought of the maternal care, and from his sisters demanded a treatment due to one of his accomplishments and dignity.

The day after the incidents narrated in the preceding chapter, he entered Tula's apartment, and requested her to dismiss her attendants.

"Sit down, my brother," she said, when they were alone. "You look vexed. What has happened?"

Going to a table close by, he commenced despoiling a vase of flowers. She repeated the question.

"I am glad," he answered, "to find one whom the coming of the strangers has not changed."

"What now?"

"I have been again and again to see Nenetzin, but she refuses me. Is she sick?"

"Not that I know."

"Then why is she so provoking?"

"My brother, you know not what it is for a girl to find her lover. Nenetzin has found hers."

"It is to talk about him I want to see her."

"You know him! How? when?"

"Do I not see him every day? Is he not my comrade?"

"Your comrade!"

"The lord Hualpa! He came to you once with a message from the 'tzin."

To a woman, the most interesting stories are those that have to do with the gentle passion. Seeing his mistake, she encouraged it.

"Yes, I remember him. He is both brave and handsome."

Io' left the vase, and came to her side. His curiosity was piqued.

"How came you to know he was her lover? He would hardly confess it to me."

"Yet he did tell you?" she answered, evasively.

"Yes. One day, tired of practising with our slings, we lay down in the shade of a ceiba-tree. We talked about what I should do when I became a man. I should be a warrior, and command armies, and conquer Tlascala; he should be a warrior also, and in my command. That should not be, I told him, as he would always be the most skilful. He laughed, but not as merrily as I have heard him. Then he said, 'There are many things you will have learned by that time; such as what rank is, and especially what it is to be of the king's blood.' I asked him why he spoke so. He said he would tell me some day, but not then. And I thought of the time we went to meet you at the chinampa, and of how he gave you a vase from the 'tzin, and one to Nenetzin from himself. Then I thought I understood him, but insisted on his telling. He put me off; at last he said he was a foolish fellow, and in his lonely haunts in Tihuanco had acquired a habit of dreaming, which was not broken as he would like. He had first seen Nenetzin at the Quetzal' combat, and thought her handsomer than any one he had ever met. The day on the lake he ventured to speak to her; she smiled, and took his gift; and since that he had not been strong enough to quit thinking about her. It was great folly, he said. 'Why so?' I asked him. He hid his face in the grass, and answered, 'I am the son of a merchant; she is of the king's blood, and would mock me.' 'But,' said I, 'you are now noble, and owner of a palace.' He raised his head, and looked at me; had she been there, she would not have mocked him. 'Ah,' he said, 'if I could only get her to cease thinking of me as the trader's son!' 'Now you are foolish,' I told him. 'Did you not win your rank by fighting? Why not fight for'-Nenetzin, I was about to say, but he sprang up and ran off, and it was long before I could get him to speak of her again. The other day, however, he consented to let me try and find out what she thought of him. To-morrow I rejoin him; and if he asks me about her, what can I say?"

"So you wished to help your poor comrade. Tell me what you intended saying to her."

"I intended to tell her how I was passing the time, and then to praise him for his courage and skill, his desire to be great, his gentleness-O, there are a thousand things to say!"

Tula smiled sorrowfully. "Did you imagine she would learn to love him from that?"

"Why not?" asked Io', innocently.

"I cannot explain now; time will teach you. My brother, long will an Aztec woo before he wins our wayward sister!"

"Well," he said, taking her hand, "what I wanted to say to her will come better from you. Ah, if you but knew him as I and the 'tzin do!"

"Does the 'tzin so love him?"

"Was he not a chosen messenger to you?"

She shook her head doubtfully. "I fear she is beyond our little arts. Fine speeches alone will not do. Though we painted him fair as Quetzal', and set the picture before her every hour in the day, still it would not be enough. Does he come often to the city?"

"Never, except for the 'tzin."

"We must get them together. Let me see,-ah, yes; the chinampa! We have not been there for a long time, and that will be an excuse for going to-morrow. You can bring the lord Hualpa, and I will take a minstrel, and have him sing, and tell stories of love and lovers."

She stopped, and sighed, thinking, doubtless, how the 'tzin's presence would add to the pleasure of the meeting. At that moment the curtain of the door was flung aside, and Nenetzin herself came in, looking vexed and pouting.

"Yesterday was too much for my sister," said Tula, pleasantly. "I hope she is well again."

"I slept poorly," was the reply.

"If you are sick, we will send to the temples-"

"No, I hate the herb-dealers."

"What ails you, Nenetzin?" asked Io', irritated.

"Who would not be ailing, afflicted as I have been? One graceless fellow after another calling to see me, until I am out of patience!"

Io' colored, and turned away.

"But what if they had news," said Tula; "something from the strangers?"

Nenetzin's face brightened. "What of them? Have they waited on our father?"

"Have they, Io'?" Tula asked.

He made no answer; he was angry.

"Well, well! what folly! You, Io', I shall have to send back to the 'tzin; and, Nenetzin, fie! the young lords would be afraid to see you now."

"The monkeys!"

Io', without a word, left the room.

"You are too hard, Nenetzin. Our brother wants to be treated like a man. Many of the young lords are his friends. When you came in, he was telling me of the fine fellow who saved our

father's life."

Nenetzin appeared uninterested.

"From Io's account, he must be equal to the 'tzin. Have you forgotten him?"

"I have his vase somewhere."

"Somewhere! I hope you have not lost it. I received one at the same time; there mine is,-that one filled with flowers."

Nenetzin did not look.

"When he made you the gift, I think he meant more than a compliment. He is a lover to be proud of, and, sister, a smile might win him."

"I do not care for lovers."

"Not care to be loved?"

Nenetzin turned to her with tearful eyes. "Just now you said Io' wanted to be treated as a man; for the same reason, O Tula, I want to be treated as a woman. I do want to be loved, but not as children are."

Tula put her arm around her, lovingly. "Never mind. I will learn better afterwhile. I treat you as a child from habit, and because of the warm, sweet love of our childhood. O that the love would last always!"

They were silent then, each intent upon her separate thought, both unconscious that the path theretofore so peacefully travelled together was now divergent, and that the fates were leading them apart forever. Of all the evil angels of humanity, that one is the most cruel whose mission it is to sunder the loves of the household.

"Nenetzin, you have been crying,-over what? Lean on me, confide in me!"

"You will make light of what I say."

"When was I a jester? You have had ills before, childish ills; if I did not mock them, am I likely to laugh at your woman's troubles?"

"But this is something you cannot help."

"The gods can."

"A god is the trouble. I saw him, and love him better than any our father worships."

Bold confirmation that of the elder sister's fears. "You saw him?" she asked, musingly.

"And know him by name. Tonatiah, Tonatiah: is it not pretty?"

"Are you not afraid?"

"Of what? Him? Yes, but he is so handsome! You saw him also. Did you not notice his white forehead, and the brightness of his blue eyes, the sunshine of his face? As against him, ah, Tula! what are the lords you would have me love?"

"He is our father's enemy."

"His guest; he came by invitation."

"All the gods of our race threaten him."

"Yet I love him, and would quit everything to follow him."

"Gods ask not the love we give each other."

"You mean he would despise me. Never! I am the daughter of a king."

"You are mad, Nenetzin."

"Then love is madness, and I am very mad. O, I was so happy yesterday! Once I thought he saw me. It was when he was passing the coatapantli. The base artisan was shouting, and he heard him, or seemed to, for he raised his glance to the azoteas. My heart stood still; the air brightened around me; if I had been set down in the Sun itself, I could not have been happier."

"Have you mentioned this to the queen Acatlan?"

"Why should I? I will choose my own love. No one, not even my mother, would object to the king Cacama: why should she when my choice is nobler, handsomer, mightier than he?"

"What do you know of the strangers?"

"Nothing. He is one of them; that is enough."

"I meant of their customs; marriage, for instance."

"The thought is new."

"Tell me, Nenetzin: would you go with him, except as his wife?"

She turned away her glowing eyes, confused. "I know not what I would do. If I went with him except as his wife, our father would curse me, and my mother would die. I shudder; yet I remember how his look from a distance made me tremble with strange delight."

"It was magic, like Mualox's."

"I do not know. I was about to say, if such was his power over me at a distance, what may it be near by? Could I refuse to follow him, if he should ask me face to face, as we now are?"

"Avoid him, then."

"Stay here, as in a prison! Never look out of doors for fear of seeing him whom I confess I so love! And then, the music, marching, banquets: shall I lose them, and for such a cause?"

"Nenetzin, the strangers will not abide here in peace. War there will be. The gods have so declared, and in every temple preparation is now going on."

"Who told you so?" the girl asked, tremulously.

"This morning I was in the garden, culling flowers. I met Mualox. He seemed sad. I saluted him, and gave him the sweetest of my collection, and said something about them as a cure for ills of the mind. 'Thank you, daughter,' he said, 'the ills I mourn are your father's. If you can get him to forego his thoughts of war against Malinche, do so at any price. If flowers influence him, come yourself, and bring your maidens, and gather them all for him. Leave not a bud in the garden.' 'Is he so bent on war?' I asked. 'That is he. In the temples every hand is making ready.' 'But my father counsels otherwise.' The old man shook his head. 'I know every purpose of his soul.'"

"And is that all?" asked Nenetzin.

"No. Have you not heard what took place in the tianguez this morning?"

And Tula told of the appearance of the horse and the stranger's head; how nobody knew who placed them there; how they were thought to have come from Huitzil', and with what design; and how the wish for war was spread, until the beggars in the street were clamoring. "War there will be, O my sister, right around us. Our father will lead the companies against Malinche. The 'tzin, Cuitlahua, Io', and all we love best of our countrymen will take part. O Nenetzin, of the children of the Sun, will you alone side with the strangers? Tonatiah may slay our great father."

"And yet I would go with him," the girl said, slowly, and with sobs.

"Then you are not an Aztec," cried Tula, pushing her away.

Nenetzin stepped back speechless, and throwing her scarf over her head, turned to go.

The elder sister sprang up, conscience-struck, and caught her. "Pardon, Nenetzin. I did not know what I was saying. Stay-"

"Not now. I cannot help loving the stranger."

"The love shall not divide us; we are sisters!" And Tula clung to her passionately.

"Too late, too late!" sobbed Nenetzin.

And she passed out the door; the curtain dropped behind her; and Tula went to the couch, and wept as if her heart were breaking.

Not yet have all the modes in which ills of state become ills of society been written.

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