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   Chapter 69 THE PURSUIT BEGINS.

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 6014

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


In the afternoon the king Cuitlahua, whose sickness had greatly increased, caused himself to be taken to Chapultepec, where he judged he would be safer from the enemy and better situated for treatment by his doctors and nurses. Before leaving, however, he appointed a deputation of ancients, and sent them, with his signet and a message, to Guatamozin.

The 'tzin, about the same time, changed his quarters from the teocallis, now but a bare pavement high in air, to the old C? of Quetzal'. That the strangers must shortly attempt to leave the city he knew; so giving up the assault on the palace, he took measures to destroy them, if possible, while in retreat. The road they would move by was the only point in the connection about which he was undecided. Anyhow, they must seek the land by one of the causeways. Those by Tlacopan and Tepejaca were the shortest; therefore, he believed one or the other of them would be selected. Upon that theory, he accommodated all his preparations to an attack from the lake, while the foe were outstretched on the narrow dike. As sufficient obstructions in their front, he relied upon the bridgeless canals; their rear he would himself assail with a force chosen from the matchless children of the capital, whose native valor was terribly inflamed by the ruin and suffering they had seen and endured. The old C? was well located for his part of the operation; and there, in the sanctuary, surrounded by a throng of armed caciques and lords, the deputies of the king Cuitlahua found him.

If the shade of Mualox lingered about the altar of the peaceful god, no doubt it thrilled to see the profanation of the holy place; if it sought refuge in the cells below, alas! they were filled by an army in concealment; and if it went further, down to what the paba, in his poetic madness, had lovingly called his World, alas again! the birds were dead, the shrubs withered, the angel gone; only the fountain lived, of Darkness a sweet voice singing in the ear of Silence.

So the 'tzin being found, this was the message delivered to him from the king Cuitlahua:-

"May the gods love you as I do! I am sick with the sickness of the strangers. Come not near me, lest you be taken also. I go to Chapultepec to get ready for death. If I die, the empire is yours. Meantime, I give you all power."

Guatamozin took the signet, and was once more master, if not king, in the city of his fathers. The deputies kissed his hand; the chiefs saluted him; and when the tidings reached the companies below, the cells rang as never before, not even with the hymns of their first tenants.

While yet the incense of the ovation sweetened the air about him, he looked up at the image of the god,-web of spider on its golden sceptre, dust on its painted shield, dust bending its plumes of fire; he looked up into the face, yet fair and benignant, and back to him rushed the speech of Mualox, clear as if freshly spoken,-"Anahuac, the beautiful,-her existence, and the glory and power

that make it a thing of worth, are linked to your action. O 'tzin, your fate and hers, and that of the many nations, is one and the same!" and the beating of his pulse quickened thrice; for now he could see that the words were prophetic of his country saved by him.

Then up the broad steps of the C?, into the sanctuary, and through the crowd, rushed Hualpa; the rain streamed from his quilted armor; and upon the floor in front of the 'tzin, with a noise like the fall of a heavy hammer, he dropped the butt of a lance to which was affixed a Christian sword-blade.

"At last, at last, O 'tzin!" he said, "the strangers are in the street, marching toward Tlacopan."

The company hushed their very breathing.

"All of them?" asked the 'tzin.

"All but the dead."

Then on the 'tzin's lip a smile, in his eyes a flash as of flame.

"Hear you, friends?" he said. "The time of vengeance has come. You know your places and duty. Go, each one. May the gods go with you!"

In a moment he and Hualpa were alone. The latter bent his head, and crossing his hands upon his breast said,-

"When the burthen of my griefs has been greatest, and I cried out continually, O 'tzin, you have held me back, promising that my time would come. I doubt not your better judgment, but-but I have no more patience. My enemy is abroad, and she, whom I cannot forget, goes with him. Is not the time come?"

Guatamozin laid his hand on Hualpa's:-

"Be glad, O comrade! The time has come; and as you have prepared for it like a warrior, go now, and get the revenge so long delayed. I give you more than permission,-I give you my prayers. Where are the people who are to go with you?"

"In the canoes, waiting."

They were silent awhile. Then the 'tzin took the lance, and looked at the long, straight blade admiringly; under its blue gleam lay the secret of its composition, by which the few were able to mock the many, and ravage the capital and country.

"Dread nothing; it will conquer," he said, handing the weapon back.

Hualpa kissed his hand, and replied, "I thought to make return for your preferments, O 'tzin, by serving you well when you were king; but the service need not be put off so long. I thank the gods for this night's opportunity. If I come not with the rising of the sun to-morrow, Nenetzin can tell you my story. Farewell!"

With his face to his benefactor, he moved away.

"Have a care for yourself!" said the 'tzin, regarding him earnestly; "and remember there must be no sign of attack until the strangers have advanced to the first causeway. I will look for you to-morrow. Farewell!"

While yet the 'tzin's thoughts went out compassionately after his unhappy friend, up from their irksome hiding in the cells came the companies he was to lead,-a long array in white tunics of quilted cotton. At their head, the uniform covering a Christian cuirass, and with Christian helm and battle-axe, he marched; and so, through the darkness and the storm, the pursuit began.

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