‘She is vowed to you in marriage,’ she answered bitterly: ’why, then we are equal, for so am I, Teule. But there is this difference between us; you love her, and me you do not love. That is what you would make clear to me. Spare me more words, I understand all. Still it seems that if I have lost, she is also in the path of loss. Great seas roll between you and this love of yours, Teule, seas of water, and the altar of sacrifice, and the nothingness of death. Now let me go. Your wife I must be, for there is no escape, but I shall not trouble you over much, and it will soon be done with. Then you may seek your desire in the Houses of the Stars whither you must wander, and it is my prayer that you shall win it. All these months I have been planning to find hope for you, and I thought that I had found it. But it was built upon a false belief, and it is ended. Had you been able to say from your heart that you loved me, it might have been well for both of us; should you be able to say it before the end, it may still be well. But I do not ask you to say it, and beware how you tell me a lie. I leave you, Teule, but before I go I will say that I honour you more in this hour than I have honoured you before, because you have dared to speak the truth to me, Montezuma’s daughter, when a lie had been so easy and so safe. That woman beyond the seas should be grateful to you, but though I bear her no ill will, between me and her there is a struggle to the death. We are strangers to each other, and strangers we shall remain, but she has touched your hand as I touch it now; you link us together and are our bond of enmity. Farewell my husband that is to be. We shall meet no more till that sorry day when a “slut” shall be given to a “felon” in marriage. I use your own words, Teule!’
Then rising, Otomie cast her veil about her face and passed slowly from the chamber, leaving me much disturbed. It was a bold deed to have rejected the proffered love of this queen among women, and now that I had done so I was not altogether glad. Would Lily, I wondered, have offered to descend from such state, to cast off the purple of her royal rank that she might lie at my side on the red stone of sacrifice? Perhaps not, for this fierce fidelity is only to be found in women of another breed. These daughters of the Sun love wholly when they love at all, and as they love they hate. They ask no priest to consecrate their vows, nor if these become hateful, will they be bound by them for duty’s sake. Their own desire is their law, but while it rules them they follow it unflinchingly, and if need be, they seek its consummation in the gates of death, or failing that, forgetfulness.
THE FOUR GODDESSES