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   Chapter 55 LA VIRUELA

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 1532

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

A long interval behind the rear-guard-indeed, the very last of the army, and quite two hours behind-came four Indian slaves, bringing a man stretched upon a litter.

And the litter was open, and the sun beat cruelly on the man's face; but plaint he made not, nor motion, except that his head rolled now right, now left, responsive to the cadenced steps of his hearers.

Was he sick or wounded?

Nathless, into the city they carried him.

And in front of the new palace of the king, they stopped, less wearied than overcome by curiosity. And as they stared at the great house, imagining vaguely the splendor within, a groan startled them. They looked at their charge; he was dead! Then they looked at each other, and fled.

And in less than twice seven days

they too died, and died horribly; and in dying recognized their disease as that of the stranger they had abandoned before the palace,-the small-pox, or, in the language which hath a matchless trick of melting everything, even the most ghastly, into music, la viruela of the Spaniard.

The sick man on the litter was a negro,-first of his race on the new continent!

And most singular, in dying, he gave his masters another servant stronger than himself, and deadlier to the infidels than swords of steel,-a servant that found way everywhere in the crowded city, and rested not. And everywhere its breath, like its touch, was mortal; insomuch that a score and ten died of it where one fell in battle.

Of the myriads who thus perished, one was a KING.

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