‘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