Part 6 out of 8
Now shortly after Christmas, having marched from the coast with a
great array of Spaniards, for many had joined his banner from over
sea, and tens of thousands of native allies, Cortes took up his
head quarters at Tezcuco in the valley of Mexico. This town is
situated near the borders of the lake, at a distance of several
leagues from Tenoctitlan, and being on the edge of the territory of
the Tlascalans his allies, it was most suitable to Cortes as a base
of action. And then began one of the most terrible wars that the
world has seen. For eight months it raged, and when it ceased at
length, Tenoctitlan, and with it many other beautiful and populous
towns, were blackened ruins, the most of the Aztecs were dead by
sword and famine, and their nation was crushed for ever. Of all
the details of this war I do not purpose to write, for were I to do
so, there would be no end to this book, and I have my own tale to
tell. These, therefore, I leave to the maker of histories. Let it
be enough to say that the plan of Cortes was to destroy all her
vassal and allied cities and peoples before he grappled with
Mexico, queen of the valley, and this he set himself to do with a
skill, a valour, and a straightness of purpose, such as have
scarcely been shown by a general since the days of Caesar.
Iztapalapan was the first to fall, and here ten thousand men,
women, and children were put to the sword or burned alive. Then
came the turn of the others; one by one Cortes reduced the cities
till the whole girdle of them was in his hand, and Tenoctitlan
alone remained untouched. Many indeed surrendered, for the nations
of Anahuac being of various blood were but as a bundle of reeds and
not as a tree. Thus when the power of Spain cut the band of empire
that bound them together, they fell this way and that, having no
unity. So it came about that as the power of Guatemoc weakened
that of Cortes increased, for he garnered these loosened reeds into
his basket. And, indeed, now that the people saw that Mexico had
met her match, many an ancient hate and smouldering rivalry broke
into flame, and they fell upon her and tore her, like half-tamed
wolves upon their master when his scourge is broken. It was this
that brought about the fall of Anahuac. Had she remained true to
herself, had she forgotten her feuds and jealousies and stood
against the Spaniards as one man, then Tenoctitlan would never have
fallen, and Cortes with every Teule in his company had been
stretched upon the stone of sacrifice.
Did I not say when I took up my pen to write this book that every
wrong revenges itself at last upon the man or the people that
wrought it? So it was now. Mexico was destroyed because of the
abomination of the worship of her gods. These feuds between the
allied peoples had their root in the horrible rites of human
sacrifice. At some time in the past, from all these cities
captives have been dragged to the altars of the gods of Mexico,
there to be slaughtered and devoured by the cannibal worshippers.
Now these outrages were remembered, now when the arm of the queen
of the valley was withered, the children of those whom she had
slain rose up to slay her and to drag HER children to their altars.
By the month of May, strive as we would, and never was a more
gallant fight made, all our allies were crushed or had deserted us,
and the siege of the city began. It began by land and by water,
for with incredible resource Cortes caused thirteen brigantines of
war to be constructed in Tlascala, and conveyed in pieces for
twenty leagues across the mountains to his camp, whence they were
floated into the lake through a canal, which was hollowed out by
the labour of ten thousand Indians, who worked at it without cease
for two months. The bearers of these brigantines were escorted by
an army of twenty thousand Tlascalans, and if I could have had my
way that army should have been attacked in the mountain passes. So
thought Guatemoc also, but there were few troops to spare, for the
most of our force had been despatched to threaten a city named
Chalco, that, though its people were of the Aztec blood, had not
been ashamed to desert the Aztec cause. Still I offered to lead
the twenty thousand Otomies whom I commanded against the Tlascalan
convoy, and the matter was debated hotly at a council of war. But
the most of the council were against the risking of an engagement
with the Spaniards and their allies so far from the city, and thus
the opportunity went by to return no more. It was an evil fortune
like the rest, for in the end these brigantines brought about the
fall of Tenoctitlan by cutting off the supply of food, which was
carried in canoes across the lake. Alas! the bravest can do
nothing against the power of famine. Hunger is a very great man,
as the Indians say.
Now the Aztecs fighting alone were face to face with their foes and
the last struggle began. First the Spaniards cut the aqueduct
which supplied the city with water from the springs at the royal
house of Chapoltepec, whither I was taken on being brought to
Mexico. Henceforth till the end of the siege, the only water that
we found to drink was the brackish and muddy fluid furnished by the
lake and wells sunk in the soil. Although it might be drunk after
boiling to free it of the salt, it was unwholesome and filthy to
the taste, breeding various painful sicknesses and fevers. It was
on this day of the cutting of the aqueduct that Otomie bore me a
son, our first-born. Already the hardships of the siege were so
great and nourishing food so scarce, that had she been less strong,
or had I possessed less skill in medicine, I think that she would
have died. Still she recovered to my great thankfulness and joy,
and though I am no clerk I baptized the boy into the Christian
Church with my own hand, naming him Thomas after me.
Now day by day and week by week the fighting went on with varying
success, sometimes in the suburbs of the city, sometimes on the
lake, and sometimes in the very streets. Time on time the
Spaniards were driven back with loss, time on time they advanced
again from their different camps. Once we captured sixty of them
and more than a thousand of their allies. All these were
sacrificed on the altar of Huitzel, and given over to be devoured
by the Aztecs according to the beastlike custom which in Anahuac
enjoined the eating of the bodies of those who were offered to the
gods, not because the Indians love such meat but for a secret
In vain did I pray Guatemoc to forego this horror.
'Is this a time for gentleness?' he answered fiercely. 'I cannot
save them from the altar, and I would not if I could. Let the dogs
die according to the custom of the land, and to you, Teule my
brother, I say presume not too far.'
Alas! the heart of Guatemoc grew ever fiercer as the struggle wore
on, and indeed it was little to be wondered at.
This was the dreadful plan of Cortes: to destroy the city piecemeal
as he advanced towards its heart, and it was carried out without
mercy. So soon as the Spaniards got footing in a quarter,
thousands of the Tlascalans were set to work to fire the houses and
burn all in them alive. Before the siege was done Tenoctitlan,
queen of the valley, was but a heap of blackened ruins. Cortes
might have cried over Mexico with Isaiah the prophet: 'Thy pomp is
brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is
spread under thee and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen
from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down
to the ground which didst weaken the nations!'
In all these fights I took my part, though it does not become me to
boast my prowess. Still the Spaniards knew me well and they had
good reason. Whenever they saw me they would greet me with
revilings, calling me 'traitor and renegade,' and 'Guatemoc's white
dog,' and moreover, Cortes set a price upon my head, for he knew
through his spies that some of Guatemoc's most successful attacks
and stratagems had been of my devising. But I took no heed even
when their insults pierced me like arrows, for though many of the
Aztecs were my friends and I hated the Spaniards, it was a shameful
thing that a Christian man should be warring on the side of
cannibals who made human sacrifice. I took no heed, since always I
was seeking for my foe de Garcia. He was there I knew, for I saw
him many times, but I could never come at him. Indeed, if I
watched for him he also watched for me, but with another purpose,
to avoid me. For now as of old de Garcia feared me, now as of old
he believed that I should bring his death upon him.
It was the custom of warriors in the opposing armies to send
challenges to single combat, one to another, and many such duels
were fought in the sight of all, safe conduct being given to the
combatants and their seconds. Upon a day, despairing of meeting
him face to face in battle, I sent a challenge to de Garcia by a
herald, under his false name of Sarceda. In an hour the herald
returned with this message written on paper in Spanish:
'Christian men do not fight duels with renegade heathen dogs, white
worshippers of devils and eaters of human flesh. There is but one
weapon which such cannot defile, a rope, and it waits for you,
I tore the writing to pieces and stamped upon it in my rage, for
now, to all his other crimes against me, de Garcia had added the
blackest insult. But wrath availed me nothing, for I could never
come near him, though once, with ten of my Otomies, I charged into
the heart of the Spanish column after him.
From that rush I alone escaped alive, the ten Otomies were
sacrificed to my hate.
How shall I paint the horrors that day by day were heaped upon the
doomed city? Soon all the food was gone, and men, ay, and worse
still, tender women and children, must eat such meat as swine would
have turned from, striving to keep life in them for a little
longer. Grass, the bark of trees, slugs and insects, washed down
with brackish water from the lake, these were their best food,
these and the flesh of captives offered in sacrifice. Now they
began to die by hundreds and by thousands, they died so fast that
none could bury them. Where they perished, there they lay, till at
length their bodies bred a plague, a black and horrible fever that
swept off thousands more, who in turn became the root of
pestilence. For one who was killed by the Spaniards and their
allies, two were swept off by hunger and plague. Think then what
was the number of dead when not less than seventy thousand perished
beneath the sword and by fire alone. Indeed, it is said that forty
thousand died in this manner in a single day, the day before the
last of the siege.
One night I came back to the lodging where Otomie dwelt with her
royal sister Tecuichpo, the wife of Guatemoc, for now all the
palaces had been burnt down. I was starving, for I had scarcely
tasted food for forty hours, but all that my wife could set before
me were three little meal cakes, or tortillas, mixed with bark.
She kissed me and bade me eat them, but I discovered that she
herself had touched no food that day, so I would not till she
shared them. Then I noted that she could scarcely swallow the
bitter morsels, and also that she strove to hide tears which ran
down her face.
'What is it, wife?' I asked.
Then Otomie broke out into a great and bitter crying and said:
'This, my beloved: for two days the milk has been dry in my breast--
hunger has dried it--and our babe is dead! Look, he lies dead!'
and she drew aside a cloth and showed me the tiny body.
'Hush,' I said, 'he is spared much. Can we then desire that a
child should live to see such days as we have seen, and after all,
to die at last?'
'He was our son, our first-born,' she cried again. 'Oh! why must
we suffer thus?'
'We must suffer, Otomie, because we are born to it. Just so much
happiness is given to us as shall save us from madness and no more.
Ask me not why, for I cannot answer you! There is no answer in my
faith or in any other.'
And then, looking on that dead babe, I wept also. Every hour in
those terrible months it was my lot to see a thousand sights more
awful, and yet this sight of a dead infant moved me the most of all
of them. The child was mine, my firstborn, its mother wept beside
me, and its stiff and tiny fingers seemed to drag at my heart
strings. Seek not the cause, for the Almighty Who gave the heart
its infinite power of pain alone can answer, and to our ears He is
Then I took a mattock and dug a hole outside the house till I came
to water, which in Tenoctitlan is found at a depth of two feet or
so. And, having muttered a prayer over him, there in the water I
laid the body of our child, burying it out of sight. At the least
he was not left for the zapilotes, as the Aztecs call the vultures,
like the rest of them.
After that we wept ourselves to sleep in each other's arms, Otomie
murmuring from time to time, 'Oh! my husband, I would that we were
asleep and forgotten, we and the babe together.'
'Rest now,' I answered, 'for death is very near to us.'
The morrow came, and with it a deadlier fray than any that had gone
before, and after it more morrows and more deaths, but still we
lived on, for Guatemoc gave us of his food. Then Cortes sent has
heralds demanding our surrender, and now three-fourths of the city
was a ruin, and three-fourths of its defenders were dead. The dead
were heaped in the houses like bees stifled in a hive, and in the
streets they lay so thick that we walked upon them.
The council was summoned--fierce men, haggard with hunger and with
war, and they considered the offer of Cortes.
'What is your word, Guatemoc?' said their spokesman at last.
'Am I Montezuma, that you ask me? I swore to defend this city to
the last,' he answered hoarsely, 'and, for my part, I will defend
it. Better that we should all die, than that we should fall living
into the hands of the Teules.'
'So say we,' they replied, and the war went on.
At length there came a day when the Spaniards made a new attack and
gained another portion of the city. There the people were huddled
together like sheep in a pen. We strove to defend them, but our
arms were weak with famine. They fired into us with their pieces,
mowing us down like corn before the sickle. Then the Tlascalans
were loosed upon us, like fierce hounds upon a defenceless buck,
and on this day it is said that there died forty thousand people,
for none were spared. On the morrow, it was the last day of the
siege, came a fresh embassy from Cortes, asking that Guatemoc
should meet him. The answer was the same, for nothing could
conquer that noble spirit.
'Tell him,' said Guatemoc, 'that I will die where I am, but that I
will hold no parley with him. We are helpless, let Cortes work his
pleasure on us.'
By now all the city was destroyed, and we who remained alive within
its bounds were gathered on the causeways and behind the ruins of
walls; men, women, and children together.
Here they attacked us again. The great drum on the teocalli beat
for the last time, and for the last time the wild scream of the
Aztec warriors went up to heaven. We fought our best; I killed
four men that day with my arrows which Otomie, who was at my side,
handed me as I shot. But the most of us had not the strength of a
child, and what could we do? They came among us like seamen among
a flock of seals, and slaughtered us by hundreds. They drove us
into the canals and trod us to death there, till bridges were made
of our bodies. How we escaped I do not know.
At length a party of us, among whom was Guatemoc with his wife
Tecuichpo, were driven to the shores of the lake where lay canoes,
and into these we entered, scarcely knowing what we did, but
thinking that we might escape, for now all the city was taken. The
brigantines saw us and sailed after us with a favouring wind--the
wind always favoured the foe in that war--and row as we would, one
of them came up with us and began to fire into us. Then Guatemoc
stood up and spoke, saying:
'I am Guatemoc. Bring me to Malinche. But spare those of my
people who remain alive.'
'Now,' I said to Otomie at my side, 'my hour has come, for the
Spaniards will surely hang me, and it is in my mind, wife, that I
should do well to kill myself, so that I may be saved from a death
'Nay, husband,' she answered sadly, 'as I said in bygone days,
while you live there is hope, but the dead come back no more.
Fortune may favour us yet; still, if you think otherwise, I am
ready to die.'
'That I will not suffer, Otomie.'
'Then you must hold your hand, husband, for now as always, where
you go, I follow.'
'Listen,' I whispered; 'do not let it be known that you are my
wife; pass yourself as one of the ladies of Tecuichpo, the queen,
your sister. If we are separated, and if by any chance I escape, I
will try to make my way to the City of Pines. There, among your
own people, we may find refuge.'
'So be it, beloved,' she answered, smiling sadly. 'But I do not
know how the Otomie will receive me, who have led twenty thousand
of their bravest men to a dreadful death.'
Now we were on the deck of the brigantine and must stop talking,
and thence, after the Spaniards had quarrelled over us a while, we
were taken ashore and led to the top of a house which still stood,
where Cortes had made ready hurriedly to receive his royal
prisoner. Surrounded by his escort, the Spanish general stood, cap
in hand, and by his side was Marina, grown more lovely than before,
whom I now met for the first time since we had parted in Tobasco.
Our eyes met and she started, thereby showing that she knew me
again, though it must have been hard for Marina to recognise her
friend Teule in the blood-stained, starving, and tattered wretch
who could scarcely find strength to climb the azotea. But at that
time no words passed between us, for all eyes were bent on the
meeting between Cortes and Guatemoc, between the conqueror and the
Still proud and defiant, though he seemed but a living skeleton,
Guatemoc walked straight to where the Spaniard stood, and spoke,
Marina translating his words.
'I am Guatemoc, the emperor, Malinche,' he said. 'What a man might
do to defend his people, I have done. Look on the fruits of my
labour,' and he pointed to the blackened ruins of Tenoctitlan that
stretched on every side far as the eye could reach. 'Now I have
come to this pass, for the gods themselves have been against me.
Deal with me as you will, but it will be best that you kill me
now,' and he touched the dagger of Cortes with his hand, 'and thus
rid me swiftly of the misery of life.'
'Fear not, Guatemoc,' answered Cortes. 'You have fought like a
brave man, and such I honour. With me you are safe, for we
Spaniards love a gallant foe. See, here is food,' and he pointed
to a table spread with such viands as we had not seen for many a
week; 'eat, you and your companions together, for you must need it.
Afterwards we will talk.'
So we ate, and heartily, I for my part thinking that it would be
well to die upon a full stomach, having faced death so long upon an
empty one, and while we devoured the meat the Spaniards stood on
one side scanning us, not without pity. Presently, Tecuichpo was
brought before Cortes, and with her Otomie and some six other
ladies. He greeted her graciously, and they also were given to
eat. Now, one of the Spaniards who had been watching me whispered
something into the ear of Cortes, and I saw his face darken.
'Say,' he said to me in Castilian, 'are you that renegade, that
traitor who has aided these Aztecs against us?'
'I am no renegade and no traitor, general,' I answered boldly, for
the food and wine had put new life into me. 'I am an Englishman,
and I have fought with the Aztecs because I have good cause to hate
'You shall soon have better, traitor,' he said furiously. 'Here,
lead this man away and hang him on the mast of yonder ship.'
Now I saw that it was finished, and made ready to go to my death,
when Marina spoke into the ear of Cortes. All she said I could not
catch, but I heard the words 'hidden gold.' He listened, then
hesitated, and spoke aloud: 'Do not hang this man to-day. Let him
be safely guarded. Tomorrow I will inquire into his case.'
THOMAS IS DOOMED
At the words of Cortes two Spaniards came forward, and seizing me
one by either arm, they led me across the roof of the house towards
the stairway. Otomie had heard also, and though she did not
understand the words, she read the face of Cortes, and knew well
that I was being taken to imprisonment or death. As I passed her,
she started forward, a terror shining in her eyes. Fearing that
she was about to throw herself upon my breast, and thus to reveal
herself as my wife, and bring my fate upon her, I glanced at her
warningly, then making pretence to stumble, as though with fear and
exhaustion, I fell at her feet. The soldiers who led me laughed
brutally, and one of them kicked me with his heavy boot. But
Otomie stooped down and held her hand to me to help me rise, and as
I did so, we spoke low and swiftly.
'Farewell, wife,' I said; 'whatever happens, keep silent.'
'Farewell,' she answered; 'if you must die, await me in the gates
of death, for I will join you there.'
'Nay, live on. Time shall bring comfort.'
'You are my life, beloved. With you time ends for me.' Now I was
on my feet again, and I think that none noted our whispered words,
for all were listening to Cortes, who rated the man that had kicked
'I bade you guard this traitor, not to kick him,' he said angrily
in Castilian. 'Will you put us to open shame before these savages?
Do so once more, and you shall pay for it smartly. Learn a lesson
in gentleness from that woman; she is starving, yet she leaves her
food to help your prisoner to his feet. Now take him away to the
camp, and see that he comes to no harm, for he can tell me much.'
Then the soldiers led me away, grumbling as they went, and the last
thing that I saw was the despairing face of Otomie my wife, as she
gazed after me, faint with the secret agony of our parting. But
when I came to the head of the stairway, Guatemoc, who stood near,
took my hand and shook it.
'Farewell, my brother,' he said with a heavy smile; 'the game we
played together is finished, and now it is time for us to rest. I
thank you for your valour and your aid.'
'Farewell, Guatemoc,' I answered. 'You are fallen, but let this
comfort you, in your fall you have found immortal fame.'
'On, on!' growled the soldiers, and I went, little thinking how
Guatemoc and I should meet again.
They took me to a canoe, and we were paddled across the lake by
Tlascalans, till at length we came to the Spanish camp. All the
journey through, my guards, though they laid no hand on me, fearing
the anger of Cortes, mocked and taunted me, asking me how I liked
the ways of the heathen, and whether I ate the flesh of the
sacrifices raw or cooked; and many another such brutal jest they
made at my expense. For a while I bore it, for I had learned to be
patient from the Indians, but at last I answered them in few words
'Peace, cowards,' I said; 'remember that I am helpless, and that
were I before you strong and armed, either I should not live to
listen to such words, or you would not live to repeat them.'
Then they were silent, and I also was silent.
When we reached their camp I was led through it, followed by a
throng of fierce Tlascalans and others, who would have torn me limb
from limb had they not feared to do so. I saw some Spaniards also,
but the most of these were so drunk with mescal, and with joy at
the tidings that Tenoctitlan had fallen, and their labours were
ended at last, that they took no heed of me. Never did I see such
madness as possessed them, for these poor fools believed that
henceforth they should eat their very bread off plates of gold. It
was for gold that they had followed Cortes; for gold they had
braved the altar of sacrifice and fought in a hundred fights, and
now, as they thought, they had won it.
The room of the stone house where they prisoned me had a window
secured by bars of wood, and through these bars I could see and
hear the revellings of the soldiers during the time of my
confinement. All day long, when they were not on duty, and most of
the night also, they gambled and drank, staking tens of pesos on a
single throw, which the loser must pay out of his share of the
countless treasures of the Aztecs. Little did they care if they
won or lost, they were so sure of plunder, but played on till drink
overpowered them, and they rolled senseless beneath the tables, or
till they sprang up and danced wildly to and fro, catching at the
sunbeams and screaming 'Gold! gold! gold!'
Listening at this window also I gathered some of the tidings of the
camp. I learned that Cortes had come back, bringing Guatemoc and
several of the princes with him, together with many of the noble
Aztec ladies. Indeed I saw and heard the soldiers gambling for
these women when they were weary of their play for money, a
description of each of them being written on a piece of paper. One
of these ladies answered well to Otomie, my wife, and she was put
up to auction by the brute who won her in the gamble, and sold to a
common soldier for a hundred pesos. For these men never doubted
but that the women and the gold would be handed over to them.
Thus things went for several days, during which I sat and slept in
my prison untroubled by any, except the native woman who waited on
me and brought me food in plenty. During those days I ate as I
have never eaten before or since, and I slept much, for my sorrows
could not rid my body of its appetites and commanding need for food
and rest. Indeed I verily believe that at the end of a week, I had
increased in weight by a full half; also my weariness was conquered
at length, and I was strong again.
But when I was neither sleeping nor eating I watched at my window,
hoping, though in vain, to catch some sight of Otomie or of
Guatemoc. If I might not see my friends, however, at least I saw
my foe, for one evening de Garcia came and stared at my prison. He
could not see me, but I saw him, and the devilish smile that
flickered on his face as he went away like a wolf, made me shiver
with a presage of woes to come. For ten minutes or more he stood
gazing at my window hungrily, as a cat gazes at a caged bird, and I
felt that he was waiting for the door to be opened, and KNEW that
it would soon be opened.
This happened on the eve of the day upon which I was put to
Meanwhile, as time went on, I noticed that a change came over the
temper of the camp. The soldiers ceased to gamble for untold
wealth, they even ceased from drinking to excess and from their
riotous joy, but took to hanging together in knots discussing
fiercely I could not learn of what. On the day when de Garcia came
to look at my prison there was a great gathering in the square
opposite my prison, to which I saw Cortes ride up on a white horse
and richly dressed. The meeting was too far away for me to
overhear what passed, but I noted that several officers addressed
Cortes angrily, and that their speeches were loudly cheered by the
soldiers. At length the great captain answered them at some
length, and they broke up in silence. Next morning after I had
breakfasted, four soldiers came into my prison and ordered me to
'Whither?' I asked.
'To the captain, traitor,' their leader answered.
'It has come at last,' I thought to myself, but I said only:
'It is well. Any change from this hole is one for the better.'
'Certainly,' he replied; 'and it is your last shift.'
Then I knew that the man believed that I was going to my death. In
five minutes I was standing before Cortes in his private house. At
his side was Marina and around him were several of his companions
in arms. The great man looked at me for a while, then spoke.
'Your name is Wingfield; you are of mixed blood, half English and
half Spanish. You were cast away in the Tobasco River and taken to
Tenoctitlan. There you were doomed to personate the Aztec god
Tezcat, and were rescued by us when we captured the great teocalli.
Subsequently you joined the Aztecs and took part in the attack and
slaughter of the noche triste. You were afterwards the friend and
counsellor of Guatemoc, and assisted him in his defence of
Tenoctitlan. Is this true, prisoner?'
'It is all true, general,' I answered.
'Good. You are now our prisoner, and had you a thousand lives, you
have forfeited them all because of your treachery to your race and
blood. Into the circumstances that led you to commit this horrible
treason I cannot enter; the fact remains. You have slain many of
the Spaniards and their allies; that is, being in a state of
treason you have murdered them. Wingfield, your life is forfeit
and I condemn you to die by hanging as a traitor and an apostate.'
'Then there is nothing more to be said,' I answered quietly, though
a cold fear froze my blood.
'There is something,' answered Cortes. 'Though your crimes have
been so many, I am ready to give you your life and freedom upon a
condition. I am ready to do more, to find you a passage to Europe
on the first occasion, where you may perchance escape the echoes of
your infamy if God is good to you. The condition is this. We have
reason to believe that you are acquainted with the hiding place of
the gold of Montezuma, which was unlawfully stolen from us on the
night of the noche triste. Nay, we know that this is so, for you
were seen to go with the canoes that were laden with it. Choose
now, apostate, between a shameful death and the revealing to us of
the secret of this treasure.'
For a moment I wavered. On the one hand was the loss of honour
with life and liberty and the hope of home, on the other a dreadful
end. Then I remembered my oath and Otomie, and what she would
think of me living or dead, if I did this thing, and I wavered no
'I know nothing of the treasure, general,' I answered coldly.
'Send me to my death.'
'You mean that you will say nothing of it, traitor. Think again.
If you have sworn any oaths they are broken by God. The empire of
the Aztecs is at an end, their king is my prisoner, their great
city is a ruin. The true God has triumphed over these devils by my
hand. Their wealth is my lawful spoil, and I must have it to pay
my gallant comrades who cannot grow rich on desolation. Think
'I know nothing of this treasure, general.'
'Yet memory sometimes wakens, traitor. I have said that you shall
die if yours should fail you, and so you shall to be sure. But
death is not always swift. There are means, doubtless you who have
lived in Spain have heard of them,' and he arched his brows and
glared at me meaningly, 'by which a man may die and yet live for
many weeks. Now, loth as I am to do it, it seems that if your
memory still sleeps, I must find some such means to rouse it--
before you die.'
'I am in your power, general,' I answered. 'You call me traitor
again and again. I am no traitor. I am a subject of the King of
England, not of the King of Spain. I came hither following a
villain who has wrought me and mine bitter wrong, one of your
company named de Garcia or Sarceda. To find him and for other
reasons I joined the Aztecs. They are conquered and I am your
prisoner. At the least deal with me as a brave man deals with a
fallen enemy. I know nothing of the treasure; kill me and make an
'As a man I might wish to do this, Wingfield, but I am more than a
man, I am the hand of the Church here in Anahuac. You have
partaken with the worshippers of idols, you have seen your fellow
Christians sacrificed and devoured by your brute comrades. For
this alone you deserve to be tortured eternally, and doubtless that
will be so after we have done with you. As for the hidalgo Don
Sarceda, I know him only as a brave companion in arms, and
certainly I shall not listen to tales told against him by a
wandering apostate. It is, however, unlucky for you,' and here a
gleam of light shot across the face of Cortes, 'that there should
be any old feud between you, seeing that it is to his charge that I
am about to confide you. Now for the last time I say choose. Will
you reveal the hiding place of the treasure and go free, or will
you be handed over to the care of Don Sarceda till such time as he
shall find means to make you speak?'
Now a great faintness seized me, for I knew that I was condemned to
be tortured, and that de Garcia was to be the torturer. What mercy
had I to expect from his cruel heart when I, his deadliest foe, lay
in his power to wreak his vengeance on? But still my will and my
honour prevailed against my terrors, and I answered:
'I have told you, general, that I know nothing of this treasure.
Do your worst, and may God forgive you for your cruelty.'
'Dare not to speak that holy Name, apostate and worshipper of
idols, eater of human flesh. Let Sarceda be summoned.'
A messenger went out, and for a while there was silence. I caught
Marina's glance and saw pity in her gentle eyes. But she could not
help me here, for Cortes was mad because no gold had been found,
and the clamour of the soldiers for reward had worn him out and
brought him to this shameful remedy, he who was not cruel by
nature. Still she strove to plead for me with him, whispering
earnestly in his ear. For a while Cortes listened, then he pushed
her from him roughly.
'Peace, Marina,' he said. 'What, shall I spare this English dog
some pangs, when my command, and perchance my very life, hangs upon
the finding of the gold? Nay, he knows well where it lies hid; you
said it yourself when I would have hung him for a traitor, and
certainly he was one of those whom the spy saw go out with it upon
the lake. Our friend was with them also, but he came back no more;
doubtless they murdered him. What is this man to you that you
should plead for him? Cease to trouble me, Marina, am I not
troubled enough already?' and Cortes put his hands to his face and
remained lost in thought. As for Marina, she looked at me sadly
and sighed as though to say, 'I have done my best,' and I thanked
her with my eyes.
Presently there was a sound of footsteps and I looked up to see de
Garcia standing before me. Time and hardship had touched him
lightly, and the lines of silver in his curling hair and peaked
beard did but add dignity to his noble presence. Indeed, when I
looked at him in his dark Spanish beauty, his rich garments decked
with chains of gold, as he bowed before Cortes hat in hand, I was
fain to confess that I had never seen a more gallant cavalier, or
one whose aspect gave the lie so wholly to the black heart within.
But knowing him for what he was, my very blood quivered with hate
at the sight of him, and when I thought of my own impotence and of
the errand on which he had come, I ground my teeth and cursed the
day that I was born. As for de Garcia, he greeted me with a little
cruel smile, then spoke to Cortes.
'Your pleasure, general?'
'Greeting to you, comrade,' answered Cortes. 'You know this
'But too well, general. Three times he has striven to murder me.'
'Well, you have escaped and it is your hour now, Sarceda. He says
that he has a quarrel with you; what is it?'
De Garcia hesitated, stroking his peaked beard, then answered: 'I
am loth to tell it because it is a tale of error for which I have
often sorrowed and done penance. Yet I will speak for fear you
should think worse of me than I deserve. This man has some cause
to mislike me, since to be frank, when I was younger than I am to-
day and given to the follies of youth, it chanced that in England I
met his mother, a beautiful Spanish lady who by ill fortune was
wedded to an Englishman, this man's father and a clown of clowns,
who maltreated her. I will be short; the lady learned to love me
and I worsted her husband in a duel. Hence this traitor's hate of
I heard and thought that my heart must burst with fury. To all his
wickedness and offences against me, de Garcia now had added slander
of my dead mother's honour.
'You lie, murderer,' I gasped, tearing at the ropes that bound me.
'I must ask you to protect me from such insult, general,' de Garcia
answered coldly. 'Were the prisoner worthy of my sword, I would
ask further that his bonds should be loosed for a little space, but
my honour would be tarnished for ever were I to fight with such as
'Dare to speak thus once more to a gentleman of Spain,' said Cortes
coldly, 'and, you heathen dog, your tongue shall be dragged from
you with red-hot pincers. For you, Sarceda, I thank you for your
confidence. If you have no worse crime than a love affair upon
your soul, I think that our good chaplain Olmedo will frank you
through the purgatorial fires. But we waste words and time. This
man has the secret of the treasure of Guatemoc and of Montezuma.
If Guatemoc and his nobles will not tell it, he at least may be
forced to speak, for the torments that an Indian can endure without
a groan will soon bring truth bubbling from the lips of this white
heathen. Take him, Sarceda, and hearken, let him be your especial
care. First let him suffer with the others, and afterwards, should
he prove obdurate, alone. The method I leave to you. Should he
confess, summon me.'
'Pardon me, general, but this is no task for an hidalgo of Spain.
I have been more wont to pierce my enemies with the sword than to
tear them with pincers,' said de Garcia, but as he spoke I saw a
gleam of triumph shine in his black eyes, and heard the ring of
triumph through the mock anger of his voice.
'I know it, comrade. But this must be done; though I hate it, it
must be done, there is no other way. The gold is necessary to me--
by the Mother of God! the knaves say that I have stolen it!--and I
doubt these stubborn Indian dogs will ever speak, however great
their agony. This man knows and I give him over to you because you
are acquainted with his wickedness, and that knowledge will steel
your heart against all pity. Spare not, comrade; remember that he
must be forced to speak.'
'It is your command, Cortes, and I will obey it, though I love the
task little; with one proviso, however, that you give me your
warrant in writing.'
'It shall be made out at once,' answered the general. 'And now
away with him.'
'To the prison that he has left. All is ready and there he will
find his comrades.'
Then a guard was summoned and I was dragged back to my own place,
de Garcia saying as I went that he would be with me presently.
DE GARCIA SPEAKS HIS MIND
At first I was not taken into the chamber that I had left, but
placed in a little room opening out of it where the guard slept.
Here I waited a while, bound hand and foot and watched by two
soldiers with drawn swords. As I waited, torn by rage and fear, I
heard the noise of hammering through the wall, followed by a sound
of groans. At length the suspense came to an end; a door was
opened, and two fierce Tlascalan Indians came through it and seized
me by the hair and ears, dragging me thus into my own chamber.
'Poor devil!' I heard one of the Spanish soldiers say as I went.
'Apostate or no, I am sorry for him; this is bloody work.'
Then the door closed and I was in the place of torment. The room
was darkened, for a cloth had been hung in front of the window
bars, but its gloom was relieved by certain fires that burned in
braziers. It was by the light of these fires chiefly that I saw
the sight. On the floor of the chamber were placed three solid
chairs, one of them empty. The other two were filled by none other
than Guatemoc, Emperor of the Aztecs, and by his friend and mine
the cacique of Tacuba. They were bound in the chairs, the burning
braziers were placed at their feet, behind them stood a clerk with
paper and an inkhorn, and around them Indians were busy at some
dreadful task, directed to it by two Spanish soldiers. Near the
third chair stood another Spaniard who as yet took no part in the
play; it was de Garcia. As I looked, an Indian lifted one of the
braziers and seizing the naked foot of the Tacuban prince, thrust
it down upon the glowing coals. For a while there was silence,
then the Tacuban broke into groans. Guatemoc turned his head
towards him and spoke, and as he spoke I saw that his foot also was
resting in the flames of a brazier. 'Why do you complain, friend,'
he said, in a steady voice, 'when I keep silence? Am I then taking
my pleasure in a bed? Follow me now as always, friend, and be
silent beneath your sufferings.'
The clerk wrote down his words, for I heard the quill scratching on
the paper, and as he wrote, Guatemoc turned his head and saw me.
His face was grey with pain, still he spoke as a hundred times I
had heard him speak at council, slowly and clearly. 'Alas! are you
also here, my friend Teule?' he said; 'I hoped that they had spared
you. See how these Spaniards keep faith. Malinche swore to treat
me with all honour; behold how he honours me, with hot coals for my
feet and pincers for my flesh. They think that we have buried
treasure, Teule, and would wring its secret from us. You know that
it is a lie. If we had treasure would we not give it gladly to our
conquerors, the god-born sons of Quetzal? You know that there is
nothing left except the ruins of our cities and the bones of our
Here he ceased suddenly, for the demon who tormented him struck him
across the mouth saying, 'Silence, dog.'
But I understood, and I swore in my heart that I would die ere I
revealed my brother's secret. This was the last triumph that
Guatemoc could win, to keep his gold from the grasp of the greedy
Spaniard, and that victory at least he should not lose through me.
So I swore, and very soon my oath must be put to the test, for at a
motion from de Garcia the Tlascalans seized me and bound me to the
Then he spoke into my ear in Castilian: 'Strange are the ways of
Providence, Cousin Wingfield. You have hunted me across the world,
and several times we have met, always to your sorrow. I thought I
had you in the slave ship, I thought that the sharks had you in the
water, but somehow you escaped me whom you came to hunt. When I
knew it I grieved, but now I grieve no more, for I see that you
were reserved for this moment. Cousin Wingfield, it shall go hard
if you escape me this time, and yet I think that we shall spend
some days together before we part. Now I will be courteous with
you. You may have a choice of evils. How shall we begin? The
resources at my command are not all that we could wish, alas! the
Holy Office is not yet here with its unholy armoury, but still I
have done my best. These fellows do not understand their art: hot
coals are their only inspiration. I, you see, have several,' and
he pointed to various instruments of torture. 'Which will you
I made no answer, for I had determined that I would speak no word
and utter no cry, do what they might with me.
'Let me think, let me think,' went on de Garcia, smoothing his
beard. 'Ah, I have it. Here, slaves.'
Now I will not renew my own agonies, or awake the horror of any who
may chance to read what I have written by describing what befell me
after this. Suffice it to say that for two hours and more this
devil, helped in his task by the Tlascalans, worked his wicked will
upon me. One by one torments were administered to me with a skill
and ingenuity that cannot often have been surpassed, and when at
times I fainted I was recovered by cold water being dashed upon me
and spirits poured down my throat. And yet, I say it with some
pride, during those two dreadful hours I uttered no groan however
great my sufferings, and spoke no word good or bad.
Nor was it only bodily pain that I must bear, for all this while my
enemy mocked me with bitter words, which tormented my soul as his
instruments and hot coals tormented my body. At length he paused
exhausted, and cursed me for an obstinate pig of an Englishman, and
at that moment Cortes entered the shambles and with him Marina.
'How goes it?' he said lightly, though his face turned pale at the
sight of horror.
'The cacique of Tacuba has confessed that gold is buried in his
garden, the other two have said nothing, general,' the clerk
answered, glancing down his paper.
'Brave men, indeed!' I heard Cortes mutter to himself; then said
aloud, 'Let the cacique be carried to-morrow to the garden of which
he speaks, that he may point out the gold. As for the other two,
cease tormenting them for this day. Perhaps they may find another
mind before to-morrow. I trust so, for their own sakes I trust
Then he drew to the corner of the room and consulted with Sarceda
and the other torturers, leaving Marina face to face with Guatemoc
and with me. For a while she stared at the prince as though in
horror, then a strange light came into her beautiful eyes, and she
spoke to him in a low voice, saying in the Aztec tongue:
'Do you remember how once you rejected me down yonder in Tobasco,
Guatemoc, and what I told you then?--that I should grow great in
spite of you? You see it has all come true and more than true, and
you are brought to this. Are you not sorry, Guatemoc? I am sorry,
though were I as some women are, perchance I might rejoice to see
'Woman,' the prince answered in a thick voice, 'you have betrayed
your country and you have brought me to shame and torment. Yes,
had it not been for you, these things had never been. I am sorry,
indeed I am sorry--that I did not kill you. For the rest, may your
name be shameful for ever in the ears of honest men and your soul
be everlastingly accursed, and may you yourself, even before you
die, know the bitterness of dishonour and betrayal! Your words
were fulfilled, and so shall mine be also.'
She heard and turned away trembling, and for a while was silent.
Then her glance fell upon me and she began to weep.
'Alas! poor man,' she said; 'alas! my friend.'
'Weep not over me, Marina,' I answered, speaking in Aztec, 'for our
tears are of no worth, but help me if you may.'
'Ah that I could!' she sobbed, and turning fled from the place,
followed presently by Cortes.
Now the Spaniards came in again and removed Guatemoc and the
cacique of Tacuba, carrying them in their arms, for they could not
walk, and indeed the cacique was in a swoon.
'Farewell, Teule,' said Guatemoc as he passed me; 'you are indeed a
true son of Quetzal and a gallant man. May the gods reward you in
times to come for all that you have suffered for me and mine, since
Then he was borne out and these were the last words that I ever
heard him utter.
Now I was left alone with the Tlascalans and de Garcia, who mocked
me as before.
'A little tired, eh, friend Wingfield?' he said sneering. 'Well,
the play is rough till you get used to it. A night's sleep will
refresh you, and to-morrow you will be a new man. Perhaps you
believe that I have done my worst. Fool, this is but a beginning.
Also you think doubtless that your obstinacy angers me? Wrong
again, my friend, I only pray that you may keep your lips sealed to
the last. Gladly would I give my share of this hidden gold in
payment for two more such days with you. I have still much to pay
you back, and look you, I have found a way to do it. There are
more ways of hurting a man than through his own flesh--for
instance, when I wished to be revenged upon your father, I struck
him through her whom he loved. Now I have touched you and you
wonder what I mean. Well, I will tell you. Perhaps you may know
an Aztec lady of royal blood who is named Otomie?'
'Otomie, what of her?' I cried, speaking for the first time, since
fear for her stirred me more than all the torments I had borne.
'A triumph indeed; I have found a way to make you speak at last;
why, then, to-morrow you will be full of words. Only this, Cousin
Wingfield; Otomie, Montezuma's daughter, a very lovely woman by the
way, is your wife according to the Indian customs. Well, I know
all the story and--she is in my power. I will prove it to you, for
she shall be brought here presently and then you can console each
other. For listen, dog, to-morrow she will sit where you are
sitting, and before your eyes she shall be dealt with as you have
been dealt with. Ah! then you will talk fast enough, but perhaps
it will be too late.'
And now for the first time I broke down and prayed for mercy even
of my foe.
'Spare her,' I groaned; 'do what you will with me, but spare her!
Surely you must have a heart, even you, for you are human. You can
never do this thing, and Cortes would not suffer it.'
'As for Cortes,' he answered, 'he will know nothing of it--till it
is done. I have my warrant that charges me to use every means in
my power to force the truth from you. Torture has failed; this
alone is left. And for the rest, you must read me ill. You know
what it is to hate, for you hate me; multiply your hate by ten and
you may find the sum of mine for you. I hate you for your blood, I
hate you because you have your mother's eyes, but much more do I
hate you for yourself, for did you not beat me, a gentleman of
Spain, with a stick as though I were a hound? Shall I then shrink
from such a deed when I can satisfy my hate by it? Also perhaps,
though you are a brave man, at this moment you know what it is to
fear, and are tasting of its agony. Now I will be open with you;
Thomas Wingfield, I fear you. When first I saw you I feared you as
I had reason to do, and that is why I tried to kill you, and as
time has gone by I have feared you more and more, so much indeed,
that at times I cannot rest because of a nameless terror that dogs
me and which has to do with you. Because of you I fled from Spain,
because of you I have played the coward in more frays than one.
The luck has always been mine in this duel between us, and yet I
tell you that even as you are, I fear you still. If I dared I
would kill you at once, only then you would haunt me as your mother
haunts me, and also I must answer for it to Cortes. Fear, Cousin
Wingfield, is the father of cruelty, and mine makes me cruel to
you. Living or dead, I know that you will triumph over me at the
last, but it is my turn now, and while you breathe, or while one
breathes who is dear to you, I will spend my life to bring you and
them to shame and misery and death, as I brought your mother, my
cousin, though she forced me to it to save myself. Why not? There
is no forgiveness for me, I cannot undo the past. You came to take
vengeance on me, and soon or late by you, or through you, it will
be glutted, but till then I triumph, ay, even when I must sink to
this butcher's work to do it,' and suddenly he turned and left the
Then weakness and suffering overcame me and I swooned away. When I
awoke it was to find that my bonds had been loosed and that I lay
on some sort of bed, while a woman bent over me, tending me with
murmured words of pity and love. The night had fallen, but there
was light in the chamber, and by it I saw that the woman was none
other than Otomie, no longer starved and wretched, but almost as
lovely as before the days of siege and hunger.
'Otomie! you here!' I gasped through my wounded lips, for with my
senses came the memory of de Garcia's threats.
'Yes, beloved, it is I,' she murmured; 'they have suffered that I
nurse you, devils though they are. Oh! that I must see you thus
and yet be helpless to avenge you,' and she burst into weeping.
'Hush,' I said, 'hush. Have we food?'
'In plenty. A woman brought it from Marina.'
'Give me to eat, Otomie.'
Now for a while she fed me and the deadly sickness passed from me,
though my poor flesh burned with a hundred agonies.
'Listen, Otomie: have you seen de Garcia?'
'No, husband. Two days since I was separated from my sister
Tecuichpo and the other ladies, but I have been well treated and
have seen no Spaniard except the soldiers who led me here, telling
me that you were sick. Alas! I knew not from what cause,' and
again she began to weep.
'Still some have seen you and it is reported that you are my wife.'
'It is likely enough,' she answered, 'for it was known throughout
the Aztec hosts, and such secrets cannot be kept. But why have
they treated you thus? Because you fought against them?'
'Are we alone?' I asked.
'The guard is without, but there are none else in the chamber.'
'Then bend down your head and I will tell you,' and I told her all.
When I had done so she sprang up with flashing eyes and her hand
pressed upon her breast, and said:
'Oh! if I loved you before, now I love you more if that is
possible, who could suffer thus horribly and yet be faithful to the
fallen and your oath. Blessed be the day when first I looked upon
your face, O my husband, most true of men. But they who could do
this--what of them? Still it is done with and I will nurse you
back to health. Surely it is done with, or they had not suffered
me to come to you?'
'Alas! Otomie, I must tell all--it is NOT done with,' and with
faltering voice I went on with the tale, yes, and since I must, I
told her for what purpose she had been brought here. She listened
without a word, though her lips turned pale.
'Truly,' she said when I had done, 'these Teules far surpass the
pabas of our people, for if the priests torture and sacrifice, it
is to the gods and not for gold and secret hate. Now, husband,
what is your counsel? Surely you have some counsel.'
'I have none that I dare offer, wife,' I groaned.
'You are timid as a girl who will not utter the love she burns to
tell,' Otomie answered with a proud and bitter laugh. 'Well, I
will speak it for you. It is in your mind that we must die to-
'It is,' I said; 'death now, or shame and agony to-morrow and then
death at last, that is our choice. Since God will not protect us,
we must protect ourselves if we can find the means.'
'God! there is no God. At times I have doubted the gods of my
people and turned to yours; now I renounce and reject Him. If
there were a God of mercy such as you cling to, could He suffer
that such things be? You are my god, husband, to you and for you I
pray, and you alone. Let us have done now with pleading to those
who are not, or who, if they live, are deaf to our cries and blind
to our misery, and befriend ourselves. Yonder lies rope, that
window has bars, very soon we can be beyond the sun and the cruelty
of Teules, or sound asleep. But there is time yet; let us talk a
while, they will scarcely begin their torments before the dawn, and
ere dawn we shall be far.'
So we talked as well as my sufferings would allow. We talked of
how we first had met, of how Otomie had been vowed to me as the
wife of Tezcat, Soul of the World, of that day when we had lain
side by side upon the stone of sacrifice, of our true marriage
thereafter, of the siege of Tenoctitlan and the death of our first-
born. Thus we talked till midnight was two hours gone. Then there
came a silence.
'Husband,' said Otomie at last in a hushed and solemn voice, 'you
are worn with suffering, and I am weary. It is time to do that
which must be done. Sad is our fate, but at least rest is before
us. I thank you, husband, for your gentleness, I thank you more
for your faithfulness to my house and people. Shall I make ready
for our last journey?'
'Make ready!' I answered.
Then she rose and soon was busy with the ropes. At length all was
prepared and the moment of death was at hand.
'You must aid me, Otomie,' I said; 'I cannot walk by myself.'
She came and lifted me with her strong and tender arms, till I
stood upon a stool beneath the window bars. There she placed the
rope about my throat, then taking her stand by me she fitted the
second rope upon her own. Now we kissed in solemn silence, for
there was nothing more to say. Yet Otomie said something, asking:
'Of whom do you think in this moment, husband? Of me and of my
dead child, or of that lady who lives far across the sea? Nay, I
will not ask. I have been happy in my love, it is enough. Now
love and life must end together, and it is well for me, but for you
I grieve. Say, shall I thrust away the stool?'
'Yes, Otomie, since there is no hope but death. I cannot break my
faith with Guatemoc, nor can I live to see you shamed and
'Then kiss me first and for the last time.'
We kissed again and then, as she was in the very act of pushing the
stool from beneath us, the door opened and shut, and a veiled woman
stood before us, bearing a torch in one hand and a bundle in the
other. She looked, and seeing us and our dreadful purpose, ran to
'What do you?' she cried, and I knew the voice for that of Marina.
'Are you then mad, Teule?'
'Who is this who knows you so well, husband, and will not even
suffer that we die in peace?' asked Otomie.
'I am Marina,' answered the veiled woman, 'and I come to save you
if I can.'
Now Otomie put the rope off her neck, and descending from the
stool, stood before Marina.
'You are Marina,' she said coldly and proudly, 'and you come to
save us, you who have brought ruin on the land that bore you, and
have given thousands of her children to death, and shame, and
torment. Now, if I had my way, I would have none of your
salvation, nay, I would rather save myself as I was about to do.'
Thus Otomie spoke, and never had she looked more royal than in this
moment, when she risked her last chance of life that she might pour
out her scorn upon one whom she deemed a traitress, no, one who was
a traitress, for had it not been for Marina's wit and aid, Cortes
would never have conquered Anahuac. I trembled as I heard her
angry words, for, all I suffered notwithstanding, life still seemed
sweet to me, who, ten seconds ago, had stood upon the verge of
death. Surely Marina would depart and leave us to our doom. But
it was not so. Indeed, she shrank and trembled before Otomie's
contempt. They were a strange contrast in their different
loveliness as they stood face to face in the torture den, and it
was strange also to see the spirit of the lady of royal blood,
threatened as she was with a shameful death, or still more shameful
life, triumph over the Indian girl whom to-day fortune had set as
far above her as the stars.
'Say, royal lady,' asked Marina in her gentle voice, 'for what
cause did you, if tales are true, lie by the side of yonder white
man upon the stone of sacrifice?'
'Because I love him, Marina.'
'And for this same cause have I, Marina, laid my honour upon a
different altar, for this same cause I have striven against the
children of my people, because I love another such as he. It is
for love of Cortes that I have aided Cortes, therefore despise me
not, but let your love plead for mine, seeing that, to us women,
love is all. I have sinned, I know, but doubtless in its season my
sin shall find a fitting punishment.'
'It had need be sharp,' answered Otomie. 'My love has harmed none,
see before you but one grain of the countless harvest of your own.
In yonder chair Guatemoc your king was this day tortured by your
master Cortes, who swore to treat him with all honour. By his side
sat Teule, my husband and your friend; him Cortes gave over to has
private enemy, de Garcia, whom you name Sarceda. See how he has
left him. Nay, do not shudder, gentle lady; look now at his
wounds! Consider to what a pass we are driven when you find us
about to die thus like dogs, he, my husband, that he may not live
to see me handled as he has been, and I with him, because a
princess of the Otomie and of Montezuma's blood cannot submit to
such a shame while death has one door through which to creep. It
is but a single grain of your harvest, outcast and traitress, the
harvest of misery and death that is stored yonder in the ruins of
Tenoctitlan. Had I my will, I tell you that I had sooner die a
score of times than take help from a hand so stained with the blood
of my people and of yours--I--'
'Oh! cease, lady, cease,' groaned Marina, covering her eyes with
her hand, as though the sight of Otomie were dreadful to her.
'What is done is done; do not add to my remorse. What did you say,
that you, the lady Otomie, were brought here to be tortured?'
'Even so, and before my husband's eyes. Why should Montezuma's
daughter and the princess of the Otomie escape the fate of the
emperor of the Aztecs? If her womanhood does not protect her, has
she anything to hope of her lost rank?'
'Cortes knows nothing of this, I swear it,' said Marina. 'To the
rest he has been driven by the clamour of the soldiers, who taunt
him with stealing treasure that he has never found. But of this
last wickedness he is innocent.'
'Then let him ask his tool Sarceda of it.'
'As for Sarceda, I promise you, princess, that if I can I will
avenge this threat upon him. But time is short, I am come here
with the knowledge of Cortes, to see if I can win the secret of the
treasure from Teule, your husband, and for my friendship's sake I
am about to betray my trust and help him and you to fly. Do you
refuse my aid?'
Otomie said nothing, but I spoke for the first time.
'Nay, Marina, I have no love for this thief's fate if I can escape
it, but how is it to be done?'
'The chance is poor enough, Teule, but I bethought me that once out
of this prison you might slip away disguised. Few will be stirring
at dawn, and of them the most will not be keen to notice men or
things. See, I have brought you the dress of a Spanish soldier;
your skin is dark, and in the half light you might pass as one; and
for the princess your wife, I have brought another dress, indeed I
am ashamed to offer it, but it is the only one that will not be
noted at this hour; also, Teule, I bring you a sword, that which
was taken from you, though I think that once it had another owner.'
Now while she spoke Marina undid her bundle, and there in it were
the dresses and the sword, the same that I had taken from the
Spaniard Diaz in the massacre of the noche triste. First she drew
out the woman's robe and handed it to Otomie, and I saw that it was
such a robe as among the Indians is worn by the women who follow
camps, a robe with red and yellow in it. Otomie saw it also and
'Surely, girl, you have brought a garment of your own in error,'
she said quietly, but in such a fashion as showed more of the
savage heart that is native to her race than she often suffered to
be seen; 'at the least I cannot wear such robes.'
'It seems that I must bear too much,' answered Marina, growing
wroth at last, and striving to keep back the tears that started to
her eyes. 'I will away and leave you;' and she began to roll up
'Forgive her, Marina,' I said hastily, for the desire to escape
grew on me every minute; 'sorrow has set an edge upon her tongue.'
Then turning to Otomie I added, 'I pray you be more gentle, wife,
for my sake if not for your own. Marina is our only hope.'
'Would that she had left us to die in peace, husband. Well, so be
it, for your sake I will put on these garments of a drab. But how
shall we escape out of this place and the camp? Will the door be
opened to us, and the guards removed, and if we pass them, can you
'The doors will not be opened, lady,' said Marina, 'for those wait
without, who will see that they are locked when I have passed them.
But there will be nothing to fear from the guard, trust to me for
it. See, the bars of this window are but of wood, that sword will
soon sever them, and if you are seen you must play the part of a
drunken soldier being guided to his quarters by a woman. For the
rest I know nothing, save that I run great risk for your sakes,
since if it is discovered that I have aided you, then I shall find
it hard to soften the rage of Cortes, who, the war being won,' and
she sighed, 'does not need me now so much as once he did.'
'I can make shift to hop on my right foot,' I said, 'and for the
rest we must trust to fortune. It can give us no worse gifts than
those we have already.'
'So be it, Teule, and now farewell, for I dare stay no longer. I
can do nothing more. May your good star shine on you and lead you
hence in safety; and Teule, if we never meet again, I pray you
think of me kindly, for there are many in the world who will do
otherwise in the days to come.'
'Farewell, Marina,' I said, and she was gone.
We heard the doors close behind her, and the distant voices of
those who bore her litter, then all was silence. Otomie listened
at the window for a while, but the guards seemed to be gone, where
or why I do not know to this hour, and the only sound was that of
distant revelry from the camp.
'And now to the work,' I said to Otomie.
'As you wish, husband, but I fear it will be profitless. I do not
trust that woman. Faithless in all, without doubt she betrays us.
Still at the worst you have the sword, and can use it.'
'It matters little,' I answered. 'Our plight cannot be worse than
it is now; life has no greater evils than torment and death, and
they are with us already.'
Then I sat upon the stool, and my arms being left sound and strong,
I hacked with the sharp sword at the wooden bars of the window,
severing them one by one till there was a space big enough for us
to creep through. This being done and no one having appeared to
disturb us, Otomie clad me in the clothes of a Spanish soldier
which Marina had brought, for I could not dress myself. What I
suffered in the donning of those garments, and more especially in
the pulling of the long boot on to my burnt foot, can never be
told, but more than once I stopped, pondering whether it would not
be better to die rather than to endure such agonies. At last it
was done, and Otomie must put on the red and yellow robe, a garb of
shame such as many honest Indian women would die sooner than be
seen in, and I think that as she did this, her agony was greater
than mine, though of another sort, for to her proud heart, that
dress was a very shirt of Nessus. Presently she was clad, and
minced before me with savage mockery, saying:
'Prithee, soldier, do I look my part?'
'A peace to such fooling,' I answered; 'our lives are at stake,
what does it matter how we disguise ourselves?'
'It matters much, husband, but how can you understand, who are a
man and a foreigner? Now I will clamber through the window, and
you must follow me if you can, if not I will return to you and we
will end this masquerade.'
Then she passed through the hole swiftly, for Otomie was agile and
strong as an ocelot, and mounting the stool I made shift to follow
her as well as my hurts would allow. In the end I was able to
throw myself upon the sill of the window, and there I was stretched
out like a dead cat till she drew me across it, and I fell with her
to the ground on the further side, and lay groaning. She lifted me
to my feet, or rather to my foot, for I could use but one of them,
and we stared round us. No one was to be seen, and the sound of
revelry had died away, for the crest of Popo was already red with
the sunlight and the dawn grew in the valley.
'Where to?' I said.
Now Otomie had been allowed to walk in the camp with her sister,
the wife of Guatemoc, and other Aztec ladies, and she had this gift
in common with most Indians, that where she had once passed there
she could pass again, even in the darkest night.
'To the south gate,' she whispered; 'perhaps it is unguarded now
that the war is done, at the least I know the road thither.'
So we started, I leaning on her shoulder and hopping on my right
foot, and thus very painfully we traversed some three hundred yards
meeting nobody. But now our good luck failed us, for passing round
the corner of some buildings, we came face to face with three
soldiers returning to their huts from a midnight revel, and with
them some native servants.
'Whom have we here?' said the first of these. 'Your name,
'Good-night, brother, good-night,' I answered in Spanish, speaking
with the thick voice of drunkenness.
'Good morning, you mean,' he said, for the dawn was breaking.
'Your name. I don't know your face, though it seems that you have
been in the wars,' and he laughed.
'You mustn't ask a comrade his name,' I said solemnly and swinging
to and fro. 'The captain might send for me and he's a temperate
man. Your arm, girl; it is time to go to sleep, the sun sets.'
They laughed, but one of them addressed Otomie, saying:
'Leave the sot, my pretty, and come and walk with us,' and he
caught her by the arm. But she turned on him with so fierce a look
that he let her go again astonished, and we staggered on till the
corner of another house hid us from their view. Here I sank to the
ground overcome with pain, for while the soldiers were in sight, I
was obliged to use my wounded foot lest they should suspect. But
Otomie pulled me up, saying:
'Alas! beloved, we must pass on or perish.'
I rose groaning, and by what efforts I reached the south gate I
cannot describe, though I thought that I must die before I came
there. At last it was before us, and as chance would have it, the
Spanish guard were asleep in the guardhouse. Three Tlascalans only
were crouched over a little fire, their zerapes or blankets about
their heads, for the dawn was chilly.
'Open the gates, dogs!' I said in a proud voice.
Seeing a Spanish soldier one of them rose to obey, then paused and
'Why, and by whose orders?'
I could not see the man's face because of the blanket, but his
voice sounded familiar to me and I grew afraid. Still I must
'Why?--because I am drunk and wish to lie without till I grow
sober. By whose orders? By mine, I am an officer of the day, and
if you disobey I'll have you flogged till you never ask another
'Shall I call the Teules within?' said the man sulkily to his
'No,' he answered; 'the lord Sarceda is weary and gave orders that
he should not be awakened without good cause. Keep them in or let
them through as you will, but do not wake him.'
I trembled in every limb; de Garcia was in the guardhouse! What if
he awoke, what if he came out and saw me? More--now I guessed
whose voice it was that I knew again; it was that of one of those
Tlascalans who had aided in tormenting me. What if he should see
my face? He could scarcely fail to know that on which he had left
his mark so recently. I was dumb with fear and could say nothing,
and had it not been for the wit of Otomie, there my story would
have ended. But now she played her part and played it well, plying
the man with the coarse raillery of the camp, till at length she
put him in a good humour, and he opened the gate, bidding her
begone and me with her. Already we had passed the gate when a
sudden faintness seized me, and I stumbled and fell, rolling over
on to my back as I touched the earth.
'Up, friend, up!' said Otomie, with a harsh laugh. 'If you must
sleep, wait till you find some friendly bush,' and she dragged at
me to lift me. The Tlascalan, still laughing, came forward to help
her, and between them I gained my feet again, but as I rose, my
cap, which fitted me but ill, fell off. He picked it up and gave
it to me and our eyes met, my face being somewhat in the shadow.
Next instant I was hobbling on, but looking back, I saw the
Tlascalan staring after us with a puzzled air, like that of a man
who is not sure of the witness of his senses.
'He knows me,' I said to Otomie, 'and presently when he has found
his wits, he will follow us.'
'On, on!' answered Otomie; 'round yonder corner are aloe bushes
where we may hide.'
'I am spent, I can no more;' and again I began to fall.
Then Otomie caught me as I fell, and of a sudden she put out her
strength, and lifting me from the ground, as a mother lifts her
child, staggered forward holding me to her breast. For fifty paces
or more she carried me thus, love and despair giving her strength,
till at last we reached the edge of the aloe plants and there we
sank together to the earth. I cast my eyes back over the path
which we had travelled. Round the corner came the Tlascalan, a
spiked club in his hand, seeking us to solve his doubts.
'It is finished,' I gasped; 'the man comes.'
For answer Otomie drew my sword from its scabbard and hid it in the
grass. 'Now feign sleep,' she said; 'it is our last chance.'
I cast my arm over my face and pretended to be asleep. Presently I
heard the sound of a man passing through the bushes, and the
Tlascalan stood over me.
'What would you?' asked Otomie. 'Can you not see that he sleeps?
Let him sleep.'
'I must look on his face first, woman,' he answered, dragging aside
my arm. 'By the gods, I thought so! This is that Teule whom we
dealt with yesterday and who escapes.'
'You are mad,' she said laughing. 'He has escaped from nowhere,
save from a brawl and a drinking bout.'
'You lie, woman, or if you do not lie, you know nothing. This man
has the secret of Montezuma's treasure, and is worth a king's
ransom,' and he lifted his club.
'And yet you wish to slay him! Well, I know nothing of him. Take
him back whence he came. He is but a drunken sot and I shall be
well rid of him.'
'Well said. It would be foolish to kill him, but by bearing him
alive to the lord Sarceda, I shall win honour and reward. Come,
'Help yourself,' she answered sullenly. 'But first search his
pouch; there may be some trifle there which we can divide.'
'Well said, again,' he answered, and kneeling down he bent over me
and began to fumble at the fastenings of the pouch.
Otomie was behind him. I saw her face change and a terrible light
came into her eyes, such a light as shines in the eyes of the
priest at sacrifice. Quick as thought she drew the sword from the
grass and smote with all her strength upon the man's bent neck.
Down he fell, making no sound, and she also fell beside him. In a
moment she was on her feet again, staring at him wildly--the naked
sword in her hand.
'Up,' she said, 'before others come to seek him. Nay, you must.'
Now, again we were struggling forward through the bushes, my mind
filled with a great wonder that grew slowly to a whirling
nothingness. For a while it seemed to me as though I were lost in
an evil dream and walking on red hot irons in my dream. Then came
a vision of armed men with lifted spears, and of Otomie running
towards them with outstretched arms.
I knew no more.
OTOMIE PLEADS WITH HER PEOPLE
When I awoke it was to find myself in a cave, where the light shone
very dimly. Otomie leant over me, and not far away a man was
cooking a pot over a fire made of dry aloe leaves.
'Where am I and what has happened?' I asked.
'You are safe, beloved,' she answered, 'at least for awhile. When
you have eaten I will tell you more.'
She brought me broth and food and I ate eagerly, and when I was
satisfied she spoke.
'You remember how the Tlascalan followed us and how--I was rid of
'I remember, Otomie, though how you found strength to kill him I do
'Love and despair gave it to me, and I pray that I may never have
such another need. Do not speak of it, husband, for this is more
horrible to me than all that has been before. One thing comforts
me, however; I did not kill him, the sword twisted in my hand and I
believe that he was but stunned. Then we fled a little way, and
looking back I saw that two other Tlascalans, companions of the
senseless man, were following us and him. Presently, they came up
to where he lay and stared at him. Then they started on our
tracks, running hard, and very soon they must have caught us, for
now you could scarcely stir, your mind was gone, and I had no more
strength to carry you. Still we stumbled on till presently, when
the pursuers were within fifty paces of us, I saw armed men, eight
of them, rushing at us from the bushes. They were of my own
people, the Otomies, soldiers that had served under you, who
watched the Spanish camp, and seeing a Spaniard alone they came to
slay him. They very nearly did so indeed, for at first I was so
breathless that I could scarcely speak, but at last in few words I
made shift to declare my name and rank, and your sad plight. By
now the two Tlascalans were upon us, and I called to the men of the
Otomie to protect us, and falling on the Tlascalans before they
knew that enemies were there, they killed one of them and took the
other prisoner. Then they made a litter, and placing you on it,
bore you without rest twenty leagues into the mountains, till they
reached this secret hiding place, and here you have lain three days
and nights. The Teules have searched for you far and wide, but
they have searched in vain. Only yesterday two of them with ten
Tlascalans, passed within a hundred paces of this cave and I had
much ado to prevent our people from attacking them. Now they are
gone whence they came, and I think that we are safe for a time.
Soon you will be better and we can go hence.'
'Where can we go to, Otomie? We are birds without a nest.'
'We must seek shelter in the City of Pines, or fly across the
water; there is no other choice, husband.'
'We cannot try the sea, Otomie, for all the ships that come here
are Spanish, and I do not know how they will greet us in the City
of Pines now that our cause is lost, and with it so many thousands
of their warriors.'
'We must take the risk, husband. There are still true hearts in
Anahuac, who will stand by us in our sorrow and their own. At the
least we have escaped from greater dangers. Now let me dress your
wounds and rest awhile.'
So for three more days I lay in the cave of the mountains and
Otomie tended me, and at the end of that time my state was such
that I could travel in a litter, though for some weeks I was unable
to set foot to the ground. On the fourth day we started by night,
and I was carried on men's shoulders till at length we passed up
the gorge that leads to the City of Pines. Here we were stopped by
sentries to whom Otomie told our tale, bidding some of them go
forward and repeat it to the captains of the city. We followed the
messengers slowly, for my bearers were weary, and came to the gates
of the beautiful town just as the red rays of sunset struck upon
the snowy pinnacle of Xaca that towers behind it, turning her cap
of smoke to a sullen red, like that of molten iron.
The news of our coming had spread about, and here and there knots
of people were gathered to watch us pass. For the most part they
stood silent, but now and again some woman whose husband or son had
perished in the siege, would hiss a curse at us.
Alas! how different was our state this day to what it had been when
not a year before we entered the City of Pines for the first time.
Then we were escorted by an army ten thousand strong, then
musicians had sung before us and our path was strewn with flowers.
And now! Now we came two fugitives from the vengeance of the
Teules, I borne in a litter by four tired soldiers, while Otomie,
the princess of this people, still clad in her wanton's robe, at
which the women mocked, for she had been able to come by no other,
tramped at my side, since there were none to carry her, and the
inhabitants of the place cursed us as the authors of their woes.
Nor did we know if they would stop at words.
At length we crossed the square beneath the shadow of the teocalli,
and reached the ancient and sculptured palace as the light failed,
and the smoke on Xaca, the holy hill, began to glow with the fire
in its heart. Here small preparation had been made to receive us,
and that night we supped by the light of a torch upon tortillas or
meal cakes and water, like the humblest in the land. Then we crept
to our rest, and as I lay awake because of the pain of my hurts, I
heard Otomie, who thought that I slept, break into low sobbing at
my side. Her proud spirit was humbled at last, and she, whom I had
never known to weep except once, when our firstborn died in the
siege, wept bitterly.
'Why do you sorrow thus, Otomie?' I asked at length.
'I did not know that you were awake, husband,' she sobbed in
answer, 'or I would have checked my grief. Husband, I sorrow over
all that has befallen us and my people--also, though these are but
little things, because you are brought low and treated as a man of
no estate, and of the cold comfort that we find here.'
'You have cause, wife,' I answered. 'Say, what will these Otomies
do with us--kill us, or give us up to the Teules?'
'I do not know; to-morrow we shall learn, but for my part I will
not be surrendered living.'
'Nor I, wife. Death is better than the tender mercies of Cortes
and his minister, de Garcia. Is there any hope?'
'Yes, there is hope, beloved. Now the Otomie are cast down and
they remember that we led the flower of their land to death. But
they are brave and generous at heart, and if I can touch them
there, all may yet be well. Weariness, pain and memory make us
weak, who should be full of courage, having escaped so many ills.
Sleep, my husband, and leave me to think. All shall yet go well,
for even misfortune has an end.'
So I slept, and woke in the morning somewhat refreshed and with a
happier mind, for who is there that is not bolder when the light
shines on him and he is renewed by rest?
When I opened my eyes the sun was already high, but Otomie had
risen with the dawn and she had not been idle during those three
hours. For one thing she had contrived to obtain food and fresh
raiment more befitting to our rank than the rags in which we were
clothed. Also she had brought together certain men of condition
who were friendly and loyal to her in misfortune, and these she
sent about the city, letting it be known that she would address the
people at mid-day from the steps of the palace, for as Otomie knew
well, the heartstrings of a crowd are touched more easily than
those of cold and ancient counsellors.
'Will they come to listen?' I asked.
'Have no fear,' she answered. 'The desire to look upon us who have
survived the siege, and to know the truth of what has happened,
will bring them. Moreover, some will be there seeking vengeance on
Otomie was right, for as the morning drew on towards mid-day, I saw
the dwellers in the City of Pines gathering in thousands, till the
space between the steps of the palace and the face of the pyramid
was black with them. Now Otomie combed her curling hair and placed
flowers in it, and set a gleaming feather cloak about her
shoulders, so that it hung down over her white robes, and on her
breast that splendid necklace of emeralds which Guatemoc had given
to me in the treasure chamber, and which she had preserved safely
through all our evil fortune, and a golden girdle about her waist.
In her hand also she took a little sceptre of ebony tipped with
gold, that was in the palace, with other ornaments and emblems of
rank, and thus attired, though she was worn with travel and
suffering, and grief had dimmed her beauty for a while, she seemed
the queenliest woman that my eyes have seen. Next she caused me to
be laid upon my rude litter, and when the hour of noon was come,
she commanded those soldiers who had borne me across the mountains
to carry me by her side. Thus we issued from the wide doorway of
the palace and took our stand upon the platform at the head of the
steps. As we came a great cry rose from the thousands of the
people, a fierce cry like that of wild beasts howling for their
prey. Higher and higher it rose, a sound to strike terror into the
bravest heart, and by degrees I caught its purport.
'Kill them!' said the cry. 'Give the liars to the Teules.'
Otomie stepped forward to the edge of the platform, and lifting the
ebony sceptre she stood silent, the sunlight beating on her lovely
face and form. But the multitude screamed a thousand taunts and
threats at us, and still the tumult grew. Once they rushed towards
her as though to tear her to pieces, but fell back at the last
stair, as a wave falls from a rock, and once a spear was thrown
that passed between her neck and shoulder.
Now the soldiers who had carried me, making certain that our death
was at hand, and having no wish to share it, set my litter down
upon the stones and slipped back into the palace, but all this
while Otomie never so much as moved, no, not even when the spear
hissed past her. She stood before them stately and scornful, a
very queen among women, and little by little the majesty of her
presence and the greatness of her courage hushed them to silence.
When there was quiet at length, she spoke in a clear voice that
'Am I among my own people of the Otomie?' she asked bitterly, 'or
have we lost our path and wandered perchance among some savage
Tlascalan tribe? Listen, people of the Otomie. I have but one
voice and none can reason with a multitude. Choose you a tongue to
speak for you, and let him set out the desire of your hearts.'
Now the tumult began again, for some shouted one name and some
another, but in the end a priest and noble named Maxtla stepped
forward, a man of great power among the Otomie, who, above all had
favoured an alliance with the Spaniards and opposed the sending of
an army to aid Guatemoc in the defence of Tenoctitlan. Nor did he
come alone, for with him were four chiefs, whom by their dress I
knew to be Tlascalans and envoys from Cortes. Then my heart sank,
for it was not difficult to guess the object of their coming.
'Speak on, Maxtla,' said Otomie, 'for we must hear what there is
for us to answer, and you, people of the Otomie, I pray you keep
silence, that you may judge between us when there is an end of
Now a great silence fell upon the multitude, who pressed together
like sheep in a pen, and strained their ears to catch the words of
'My speech with you, princess, and the Teule your outlawed husband,
shall be short and sharp,' he began roughly. 'A while hence you
came hither to seek an army to aid Cuitlahua, Emperor of the
Aztecs, in his struggle with the Teules, the sons of Quetzal. That
army was given you, against the wishes of many of us, for you won
over the council by the honey of your words, and we who urged
caution, or even an alliance with the white men, the children of
god, were overruled. You went hence, and twenty thousand men, the
flower of our people, followed you to Tenoctitlan. Where are they
now? I will tell you. Some two hundred of them have crept back
home, the rest fly to and fro through the air in the gizzards of
the zaphilotes, or crouch on the earth in the bellies of jackals.
Death has them all, and you led them to their deaths. Is it then
much that we should seek the lives of you two in payment for those
of twenty thousand of our sons, our husbands, and our fathers? But
we do not even ask this. Here beside me stand ambassadors from
Malinche, the captain of the Teules, who reached our city but an
hour ago. This is the demand that they bring from Malinche, and in
his own words:
'"Deliver back to me Otomie, the daughter of Montezuma, and the
renegade her paramour, who is known as Teule, and who has fled from
the justice due to his crimes, and it shall be well with you,
people of the Otomie. Hide them or refuse to deliver them, and the
fate of the City of Pines shall be as the fate of Tenoctitlan,
queen of the valley. Choose then between my love and my wrath,
people of the Otomie. If you obey, the past shall be forgiven and
my yoke will be light upon you; if you refuse, your city shall be
stamped flat and your very name wiped out of the records of the
'Say, messengers of Malinche, are not these the words of Malinche?'
'They are his very words, Maxtla,' said the spokesman of the
Now again there was a tumult among the people, and voices cried,
'Give them up, give them to Malinche as a peace offering.' Otomie
stood forward to speak and it died away, for all desired to hear
her words. Then she spoke:
'It seems, people of the Otomie, that I am on my trial before my
own vassals, and my husband with me. Well, I will plead our cause
as well as a woman may, and having the power, you shall judge
between us and Maxtla and his allies, Malinche and the Tlascalans.
What is our offence? It is that we came hither by the command of
Cuitlahua to seek your aid in his war with the Teules. What did I
tell you then? I told you that if the people of Anahuac would not
stand together against the white men, they must be broken one by
one like the sticks of an unbound faggot, and cast into the flames.
Did I speak lies? Nay, I spoke truth, for through the treason of
her tribes, and chiefly through the treason of the Tlascalans,
Anahuac is fallen, and Tenoctitlan is a ruin sown with dead like a
field with corn.'
'It is true,' cried a voice.
'Yes, people of the Otomie, it is true, but I say that had all the
warriors of the nations of Anahuac played the part that your sons
played, the tale had run otherwise. They are dead, and because of
their death you would deliver us to our foes and yours, but I for
one do not mourn them, though among their number are many of my
kin. Nay, be not wroth, but listen. It is better that they should
lie dead in honour, having earned for themselves a wreath of fame,
and an immortal dwelling in the Houses of the Sun, than that they
should live to be slaves, which it seems is your desire, people of
the Otomie. There is no false word in what I said to you. Now the
sticks that Malinche has used to beat out the brains of Guatemoc
shall be broken and burnt to cook the pot of the Teules. Already
these false children are his slaves. Have you not heard his
command, that the tribes his allies shall labour in the quarries
and the streets till the glorious city which he has burned rises
afresh upon the face of the waters? Will you not hasten to take
your share in the work, people of the Otomie, the work that knows
no rest and no reward except the lash of the overseer and the curse
of the Teule? Surely you will hasten, people of the mountains!
Your hands are shaped to the spade and the trowel, not to the bow
and the spear, and it will be sweeter to toil to do the will and
swell the wealth of Malinche in the sun of the valley or the shadow
of the mine, than to bide here free upon your hills where as yet no
foe has set his foot!'
Again she paused, and a murmur of doubt and unrest went through the
thousands who listened. Maxtla stepped forward and would have
spoken, but the people shouted him down, crying: 'Otomie, Otomie!
Let us hear the words of Otomie.'
'I thank you, my people,' she said, 'for I have still much to tell
you. Our crime is then, that we drew an army after us to fight
against the Teules. And how did we draw this army? Did I command
you to muster your array? Nay, I set out my case and I said "Now
choose." You chose, and of your own free will you despatched those
glorious companies that now are dead. My crime is therefore that
you chose wrongly as you say, but as I still hold, most rightly,
and because of this crime I and my husband are to be given as a
peace offering to the Teules. Listen: let me tell you something of
those wars in which we have fought before you give us to the Teules
and our mouths are silent for ever. Where shall I begin? I know
not. Stay, I bore a child--had he lived he would have been your
prince to-day. That child I saw starve to death before my eyes,
inch by inch and day by day I saw him starve. But it is nothing;
who am I that I should complain because I have lost my son, when so
many of your sons are dead and their blood is required at my hands?
Listen again:' and she went on to tell in burning words of the
horrors of the siege, of the cruelties of the Spaniards, and of the
bravery of the men of the Otomie whom I had commanded. For a full
hour she spoke thus, while all that vast audience hung upon her
words. Also she told of the part that I played in the struggle,
and of the deeds which I had done, and now and again some soldier
in the crowd who served under me, and who had escaped the famine
and the massacre, cried out:
'It is true; we saw it with our eyes.'
'And so,' she said, 'at last it was finished, at last Tenoctitlan
was a ruin and my cousin and my king, the glorious Guatemoc, lay a
prisoner in the hands of Malinche, and with him my husband Teule,
my sister, I myself, and many another. Malinche swore that he
would treat Guatemoc and his following with all honour. Do you
know how he treated him? Within a few days Guatemoc our king was
seated in the chair of torment, while slaves burned him with hot
irons to cause him to declare the hiding place of the treasure of
Montezuma! Ay, you may well cry "Shame upon him," you shall cry it
yet more loudly before I have done, for know that Guatemoc did not
suffer alone, one lies there who suffered with him and spoke no
word, and I also, your princess, was doomed to torment. We escaped
when death was at our door, for I told my husband that the people
of the Otomie had true hearts, and would shelter us in our sorrow,
and for his sake I, Otomie, disguised myself in the robe of a
wanton and fled with him hither. Could I have known what I should
live to see and hear, could I have dreamed that you would receive
us thus, I had died a hundred deaths before I came to stand and
plead for pity at your hands.
'Oh! my people, my people, I beseech of you, make no terms with the
false Teule, but remain bold and free. Your necks are not fitted
to the yoke of the slave, your sons and daughters are of too high a
blood to serve the foreigner in his needs and pleasures. Defy
Malinche. Some of our race are dead, but many thousands remain.
Here in your mountain nest you can beat back every Teule in
Anahuac, as in bygone years the false Tlascalans beat back the
Aztecs. Then the Tlascalans were free, now they are a race of
serfs. Say, will you share their serfdom? My people, my people,
think not that I plead for myself, or even for the husband who is
more dear to me than aught save honour. Do you indeed dream that
we will suffer you to hand us living to these dogs of Tlascalans,
whom Malinche insults you by sending as his messengers? Look,' and
she walked to where the spear that had been hurled at her lay upon
the pavement and lifted it, 'here is a means of death that some
friend has sent us, and if you will not listen to my pleading you
shall see it used before your eyes. Then, if you will, you may
send our bodies to Malinche as a peace offering. But for your own
sakes I plead with you. Defy Malinche, and if you must die at
last, die as free men and not as the slaves of the Teule. Behold
now his tender mercies, and see the lot that shall be yours if you
take another counsel, the counsel of Maxtla;' and coming to the
litter on which I lay, swiftly Otomie rent my robes from me leaving
me almost naked to the waist, and unwound the bandages from my
wounded limb, then lifted me up so that I rested upon my sound
'Look!' she cried in a piercing voice, and pointing to the scars
and unhealed wounds upon my face and leg; 'look on the work of the
Teule and the Tlascalan, see how the foe is dealt with who
surrenders to them. Yield if you will, desert us if you will, but
I say that then your own bodies shall be marked in a like fashion,
till not an ounce of gold is left that can minister to the greed of
the Teule, or a man or a maiden who can labour to satisfy his
Then she ceased, and letting me sink gently to the ground, for I
could not stand alone, she stood over me, the spear in her hand, as
though waiting to plunge it to my heart should the people still
demand our surrender to the messengers of Cortes.
For one instant there was silence, then of a sudden the clamour and
the tumult broke out again ten times more furiously than at first.
But it was no longer aimed at us. Otomie had conquered. Her noble
words, her beauty, the tale of our sorrows and the sight of my
torments, had done their work, and the heart of the people was
filled with fury against the Teules who had destroyed their army,
and the Tlascalans that had aided them. Never did the wit and
eloquence of a woman cause a swifter change. They screamed and
tore their robes and shook their weapons in the air. Maxtla strove
to speak, but they pulled him down and presently he was flying for
his life. Then they turned upon the Tlascalan envoys and beat them
with sticks, crying:
'This is our answer to Malinche. Run, you dogs, and take it!' till
they were driven from the town.
Now at length the turmoil ceased, and some of the great chiefs came
forward and, kissing the hand of Otomie, said:
'Princess, we your children will guard you to the death, for you
have put another heart into us. You are right; it is better to die
free than to live as slaves.'
'See, my husband,' said Otomie, 'I was not mistaken when I told you
that my people were loyal and true. But now we must make ready for
war, for they have gone too far to turn back, and when this tidings
comes to the ears of Malinche he will be like a puma robbed of her
young. Now, let us rest, I am very weary.'
'Otomie,' I answered, 'there has lived no greater woman than you
upon this earth.'
'I cannot tell, husband,' she said, smiling; 'if I have won your
praise and safety, it is enough for me.'
THE END OF GUATEMOC
Now for a while we dwelt in quiet at the City of Pines, and by slow
degrees and with much suffering I recovered from the wounds that
the cruel hand of de Garcia had inflicted upon me. But we knew
that this peace could not last, and the people of the Otomie knew
it also, for had they not scourged the envoys of Malinche out of
the gates of their city? Many of them were now sorry that this had
been done, but it was done, and they must reap as they had sown.
So they made ready for war, and Otomie was the president of their
councils, in which I shared. At length came news that a force of
fifty Spaniards with five thousand Tlascalan allies were advancing
on the city to destroy us. Then I took command of the tribesmen of
the Otomie--there were ten thousand or more of them, all well-armed
after their own fashion--and advanced out of the city till I was
two-thirds of the way down the gorge which leads to it. But I did
not bring all my army down this gorge, since there was no room for
them to fight there, and I had another plan. I sent some seven
thousand men round the mountains, of which the secret paths were
well known to them, bidding them climb to the crest of the
precipices that bordered either side of the gorge, and there, at
certain places where the cliff is sheer and more than one thousand
feet in height, to make a great provision of stones.
The rest of my army, excepting five hundred whom I kept with me, I
armed with bows and throwing spears, and stationed them in ambush