THE ORACLE OF RIMAC
In this town of Quismancu I remained for seven days, going abroad but little, for when I did so the people pressed about me and stared me out of countenance. There was a garden at the back of the hose surrounded by a wall built of mud bricks. Here for the most part I sat and here the great ones of the place came to visit me, bringing me offerings of robes and golden vessels and I know not what besides. To all of them I told the same story—or, rather, Kari told it for me—namely, that I had risen out of the sea and found him a hermit, named Zapana, on the desert island. What is more, they believed it and, indeed, it was true, for had I not risen out of the sea?
From time to time Quilla came to see me also in this garden, bearing gifts of flowers, and with her I talked alone. She would sit upon a low stool, considering me with her beautiful eyes, as though she would search out my soul. One day she said to me:
“Tell me, Lord, are you a god or a man?”
“What is a god?” I asked.
“A god is that which is adored and loved.”
“And is a man never adored and loved, Quilla? For instance, I understand that you are to be married, and doubtless you adore and love him who will be your husband.”
She shivered a little and answered:
“It is not so. I hate him.”
“Then why are you going to marry him? Are you forced to do so, Quilla?”
“No, Lord. I marry him for my people’s sake. He desires me for my inheritance and my beauty, and by my beauty I may lead him down that road on which my people wish that he should go.”
“An old story, Quilla, but will you be happy thus?”
“No, Lord, I shall be very unhappy. But what does it matter? I am only a woman, and such is the lot of women.”
“Women, like gods and men, are also sometimes loved and adored, Quilla.”
She flushed at the words and answered:
“Ah! if that were so life might be different. But even if it were so and I found the man who could love and adore even for a year, for me it is now too late. I am sworn away by an oath that may not be broken, for to break it might bring death upon my people.”
“To whom are you sworn?”
“To the Child of the Sun, no less a man; to the god who will be Inca of all this land.”
“And what is this god like?”
“They say that he is huge and swarthy, with a large mouth, and I know that he has the heart of a brute. He is cruel and false also, and he counts his women by the score. Yet his father, the Inca, loves him more than any of his children, and ere long he will be king after him.”
“And would you, who are sweet and lovely as the moon after which you are named, give yourself body and soul to such a one?”
Again she flushed.
“Do my own ears hear the White-God-from-the-Sea call me sweet and lovely as the moon? If so, I thank him, and pray him to remember that the perfect and lovely are always chosen to be the sacrifice of gods.”