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

   Chapter 57 HOW TO YIELD A CROWN

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 6167

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


As the guard passed the old lord and the princess out of the gate opposite the teocallis, the latter looked up to the azoteas of the sacred pile, and saw the 'tzin standing near the verge; taking off the white scarf that covered her head, and fell from her shoulders, after passing once around her neck, she gave him the signal. He waved his hand in reply, and disappeared.

The lord Cuitlahua, just released from imprisonment and ignorant of the situation, scarcely knowing whither to turn yet impatient to set his revenge in motion, accepted the suggestion of Tula, and accompanied her to the temple. The ascent was laborious, especially to him; at the top, however, they were received by Io' and Hualpa, and with every show of respect conducted to the 'tzin. He saluted them gravely, yet affectionately. Cuitlahua told him the circumstances of his release from imprisonment.

"So," said the 'tzin, "Malinche expects you to open the market, and forbid the war; but the king,-what of him?"

"To Tula he gave his will; hear her."

SHE GAVE HIM THE SIGNAL

And she repeated the message of her father. At the end, the calm of the 'tzin's temper was much disturbed. At his instance she again and again recited the prophecy. The words "Freedom and God" were as dark to him as to the king, and he wondered at them. But that was not all. Clearly, Montezuma approved the war; that he intended its continuance was equally certain; unhappily, there was no designation of a commander. And in thought of the omission, the young chief hesitated; never did ambition appeal to him more strongly; but he brushed the allurement away, and said to Cuitlahua,-

"The king has been pleased to be silent as to which of us should govern in his absence; but we are both of one mind: the right is yours naturally, and your coming at this time, good uncle, looks as if the gods sent you. Take the government, therefore, and give me your orders. Malinche is stronger than ever." He turned thoughtfully to the palace below, over which the flag of Spain and that of Cortes were now displayed. "He will require of us days of toil and fighting, and many assaults. In conquering him there will be great glory, which I pray you will let me divide with you."

The lord Cuitlahua heard the patriotic speech with glistening eyes. Undoubtedly he appreciated the self-denial that made it beautiful; for he said, with emotion, "I accept the government, and, as its cares demand, will take my brother's place in the palace; do you take what else would be my place under him in the field. And may the gods help us each to do his duty!"

He held out his hand, which the 'tzin kissed in token of fealty, and so yielded the crown; and as if the great act were already out of mind, he said, --

"Come, now, good uncle,-and you, also, Tula,-come both of you, and I will show what use I made of the kingly power."

He led them closer to the verge of the azoteas, so close that they saw below them the whole western side of the city, and beyond that the lake and its shore, clear to the sierra bounding the vall

ey in that direction.

"There," said he, in the same strain of simplicity, "there, in the shadow of the hills, I gathered the people of the valley, and the flower of all the tribes that pay us tribute. They make an army the like of which was never seen. The chiefs are chosen; you may depend upon them, uncle. The whole great host will die for you."

"Say, rather, for us," said the lord Cuitlahua.

"No, you are now Anahuac"; and, as deeming the point settled, the 'tzin turned to Tula. "O good heart," he said, "you have been a witness to all the preparation. At your signal, given there by the palace gate, I kindled the piles which yet burn, as you see, at the four corners of the temple. Through them I spoke to the chiefs and armies waiting on the lake-shore. Look now, and see their answers."

They looked, and from the shore and from each pretentious summit of the sierra, saw columns of smoke rising and melting into the sky.

"In that way the chiefs tell me, 'We are ready,' or 'We are coming.' And we cannot doubt them; for see, a dark line on the white face of the causeway to Cojohuacan, its head nearly touching the gates at Xoloc; and another from Tlacopan; and from the north a third; and yonder on the lake, in the shadow of Chapultepec, a yet deeper shadow."

"I see them," said Cuitlahua.

"And I," said Tula. "What are they?"

For the first time the 'tzin acknowledged a passing sentiment; he raised his head and swept the air with a haughty gesture.

"What are they? Wait a little, and you shall see the lines on the causeways grow into ordered companies, and the shadows under Chapultepec become a multitude of canoes; wait a little longer, and you shall see the companies fill all the great streets, and the canoes girdle the city round about; wait a little longer, and you may see the battle."

And silence fell upon the three,-the silence, however, in which hearts beat like drums. From point to point they turned their eager eyes,-from the causeways to the lake, from the lake to the palace.

Slowly the converging lines crawled toward the city; slowly the dark mass under the royal hill, sweeping out on the lake, broke into divisions; slowly the banners came into view, of every color and form, and then the shields and uniforms, until, at last, each host on its separate way looked like an endless unrolling ribbon.

When the column approaching by the causeway from Tlacopan touched the city with its advance, it halted, waiting for the others, which, having farther to march, were yet some distance out. Then the three on the teocallis separated; the princess retired to her chinampa; the lord Cuitlahua, with some nobles of the 'tzin's train, betook himself to the new palace, there to choose a household; the 'tzin, for purposes of observation, remained on the azoteas.

And all the time the threatened palace was a picture of peace; the flags hung idly down; only the sentinels were in motion, and they gossiped with each other, or lingered lazily at places where a wall or a battlement flung them a friendly shade.

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