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 he.’
‘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.