“Aye, I swear it by the Moon your mother, also that I will die with my soldiers.”
“Yet if I go I leave behind me that which I love,” here she glanced towards me, “and give myself to shame, which is worse than death. Is that your desire, my father?”
“That is not my desire. Remember, Daughter, that you were party to this plan, aye, that it sprang from your far-seeing mind. Still, now that your heart has changed, I would not hold you to your bargain, who desire most of all things to see you happy at my side. Choose, therefore, and I obey. On your head be it.”
“What shall I say, O Lord, whom I saved from the sea?” asked Quilla in a piercing whisper, but without turning her head towards me.
Now an agony took hold of me for I knew that what I bade her, that she would say, and that perchance upon my answer hung the fate of all this great Chanca people. If she went they would be saved, if she remained perchance she would be my wife if only for a while. For the Chancas I cared nothing and for the Quichuas I cared nothing, but Quilla was all that remained to me in the world and if she went, it was to another man. I would bid her bide. And yet—and yet if her case were mine and the fate of England hung upon my breath, what then?
“Be swift,” she whispered again.
Then I spoke, or something spoke through me, saying:
“Do what honour bids you, O Daughter of the Moon, for what is love without honour? Perchance both shall still be yours at last.”
“I thank you, Lord, whose heart speaks as my heart,” she whispered for the third time, then lifting her head and looking Huaracha in the eyes, said:
“Father, I go, but that I will wed this Urco I do not promise.”
THE RETURN OF KARI
So Quilla, seated in a golden litter and accompanied by maidens as became her rank, soon was borne away in the train of the Inca Upanqui, leaving me desolate. Before she went, under pretence of bidding me farewell, none denying her, she gained private speech with me for a little while.
“Lord and Lover,” she said, “I go to what fate I know not, leaving you to what fate I know not, and as your lips have said, it is right that I should go. Now I have something to ask of you—that you will not follow me as it is in your heart to do. But last night I prayed of you to dog my steps and wherever I might go to keep close to me, that the knowledge of your presence might be my comfort. Now my mind is different. If I must be married to this Urco, I would not have you see me in my shame. And if I escape marriage you cannot help me, since I may only do so by death or by taking refuge where you cannot come. Also I have another reason.”
“What reason, Quilla?” I asked.