‘I do not know,’ I answered. ’Years ago, when the Aztec emperor gave me my life and this princess my wife in marriage, I swore to be faithful to him and his cause, and to fight for them till Popo ceased to vomit smoke, till there was no king in Tenoctitlan, and the people of Anahuac were no more a people.’
’Then you are quit of your oath, friend, for all these things have come about, and there has been no smoke on Popo for these two years. Now, if you will be advised by me, you will turn Christian again and enter the service of Spain. But come, let us to supper, we can talk of these matters afterwards.’
So we sat down to eat by the light of torches in the banqueting hall with Bernal Diaz and some other of the Spaniards. Otomie would have left us, and though the captain bade her stay she ate nothing, and presently slipped away from the chamber.
During that meal Bernal Diaz spoke of our first meeting on the causeway, and of how I had gone near to killing him in error, thinking that he was Sarceda, and then he asked me what was my quarrel with Sarceda.
In as few words as possible I told him the story of my life, of all the evil that de Garcia or Sarceda had worked upon me and mine, and of how it was through him that I was in this land that day. He listened amazed.
‘Holy Mother!’ he said at length, ’I always knew him for a villain, but that, if you do not lie, friend Wingfield, he could be such a man as this, I did not know. Now by my word, had I heard this tale an hour ago, Sarceda should not have left this camp till he had answered it or cleared himself by combat with you. But I fear it is too late; he was to leave for Mexico at the rising of the moon, to stir up mischief against me because I granted you terms—not that I fear him there, where his repute is small.’
‘I do not lie indeed,’ I answered. ’Much of this tale I can prove if need be, and I tell you that I would give half the life that is left to me to stand face to face in open fight with him again. Ever he has escaped me, and the score between us is long.’
Now as I spoke thus it seemed to me that a cold and dreadful air played upon my hands and brow and a warning sense of present evil crept into my soul, overcoming me so that I could not stir or speak for a while.
‘Let us go and see if he has gone,’ said Diaz presently, and summoning a guard, he was about to leave the chamber. It was at this moment that I chanced to look up and see a woman standing in the doorway. Her hand rested on the doorpost; her head, from which the long hair streamed, was thrown back, and on her face was a look of such anguish that at first, so much was she changed, I did not know her for Otomie. When I knew her, I knew all; one thing only could conjure up the terror and agony that shone in her deep eyes.