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ACT II, SCENE i
QUIC. You triumph, my prince. Mexus is finally discovering that his tricks have earned him their deserved result. Those architects of deceit whom he brought with him in his hot-headedness, by whose evidence he wished to oppress your mother, are each afraid to continue this unspeakable charade in the sight of the other. They voluntarily confess they were suborned by Mexus’ wiles. How the truth is wont to prevail in the presence of sovereigns! How easily it emerges from the mind’s secret hiding places. Both of these gentlemen wanted to destroy your mother, but now they have destroyed Mexus.
AX. I’m glad that my mother’s innocence is so clearly proven. But to speak my mind frankly, I don’t think any great faith is to be placed in these men. On the selfsame day they have been suborned by mother and my brother, but who can trust such low-down fellows in the face of Mexus’ many good deeds. He who admits to being a liar deserves no trust.
QUIC. I perceive you have a most noble mind. Axacus, and your concern for your brother is your glory, although he alone stands in the way of your greatness and your honor.
AX. Mexus is my rival for glory, but he is nonetheless always my brother, and I know him so well that I can’t believe he has undertaken such a crime.
QUIC. So I suppose you can believe that your mother has, instead. And she is sure to suffer punishment if Mexus does not fall.
AX. I neither wish nor dare to think anything else. My mother’s virtue and noble reputation are too well known to me than that I could imagine her to be capable of crime. So I don’t know what to think. But I will admit that one thing troubles me. Mexus is so insistent that the witnesses be tortured and put to the question, so that the truth might be squeezed out of them. Why does my mother assiduously exert herself from averting this very thing?
QUIC. Because those men revealed the truth and voluntarily confessed to Mexus’ scheming, they should be subjected to torture? What a wrong that would be!
AX. I for my part don’t care whether that would be right or wrong. I only know that, that this is the single thing that troubles our father’s mind. At the time he realized this was the queen’s aim, he had no idea whom to believe. But from that moment he appears to have inclined towards his son. Nor does he think that this thing which the prince demands and the queen forbids is unreasonable. I admit that I feel doubtful fear arising from this. I have a suspicion about how this doubtful matter is turning out. But the prince is here. [Enter Mexus and Taclaxus.]
ACT II, SCENE ii
MEXUS, AXACUS, QUICUXTLEMOCUS, TACLAXUS
AX. My brother, it’s reasonable to think that my company is burdensome to you now, so I’ll gladly leave, so as not trouble you. But before going I’ll tell you this, that up to now you seem to me to be innocent of any accusation made against you. (Exit.)
ACT II, SCENE iii
MEXUS, TACLAXUS, QUICUXTEMOCUS
MEX. [To himself.] Noble prince, how different your mind is from your mothers! I was too suspicious. I see that I was attributing to you something which belongs exclusively to your stepmother. Yes, she was the one architect of misrepresentation who has manufactured these unspeakable schemes against myself.
QUIC. Speak openly, prince, but in a less lofty way. The queen has not yet been convicted of the crime of which he stands accuse. You need to find other and less timid witnesses, before you can commit the wrong you have already planned to do.
MEX. You dare hurl these insults against me? You scurvy villain!
QUIC. Gently, prince, I pray you. Let it suffice for one day to have accused the queen of crime. P:ray don’t involve the entire court in your accusations.
MEX. Taclaxus, am I bidden to await my father here?
TAC. That was his command just now.
MEX. So why has Quicuxtemocus insolently intruded here?
QUIC. I too am bidden be present, and by your father’s command.
MEX. I should rather imagine by that of my stepmother.
QUIC. By hers, too, in caset Mexus has something to allege against her.
MEX. I have nothing. But please tell me why he requests your presence.
QUIC. You’ll find out the reason yourself soon enough. For the moment, let it be enough for you to know that it is an honorable one.
MEX. Whether it is or is not honorable is open to doubt. Perhaps you have come to plead my stepmother’s case.
QUIC. Nor would it embarrass me to admit that.
MEX. Oh, the noble cause! An advocate, as well! But so that fair justice might not be denied me, trust me, my friend, your burden will give you plenty of labor.
QUIC. Have no fear, prince. You’ll receive your justice. He’s your father, he’ll play the part of a fair judge. And whatever burden you impose on me, I shall try to make my shoulders equal to the task.
MEX. I must admit you have great strength in your shoulders. But what will become of that Atlas-like neck of yours, when it has soon been deprived of its head?
QUIC. You say that seriously, my prince? I think you’re joking.
MEX. Nemesis will have the last laugh. But the hinge is creaking. My father is finally coming. (Enter Montezuma, Taclaxus, Axacus.)
ACTUS II, SCENA iiij
MONTEZUMA, MEXUS, QUICUXTEMOCUS, TACLAXUS, TRUXELLUS, AXACUS
MONT. Go, son, and fetch the queen in my name. Console her in her sorrow and tell her to set aside her fears. Tell me that I am unwilling to punish the men. (Exit Axacus.) Cruel fate! Everything grievous that fortune’s wrath can heap on a husband, a king, and a father, it has heaped on myself alone. It was not enough to give our nation a strange enemy, and to threaten us with the disgrace of a foreign yoke. It had to rend our royal household with inner hatreds and all but dismember our realm. Now I must preside as judge in a squabble between my son and my consort, unwilling though I am. So it goes. My son, you come before your father acting as your own advocate. What an omen of your good hope! So that my consort might not be obliged to speak in opposition herself, Quicuxtemocus, the defense of the queen’s case is entrusted to you. It is fitting that you speak first.
QUIC. August prince, this witness has himself proven my case. These men testify that the queen is blameless. So they leave me no further room for speaking. This alone remains, that I beg you forgive your son for such a great transgression. So, king, pardon this single pillar of your realm, spare this bulwark of your realm. Pray spare such a great conqueror of nations. The queen herself requests this, as do we all. As a father, forgive your son.
MEX. Pray tell me, Quicuxtemocus, what is the crime which you allege against me, for which I require pardon? That by my new triumphs I have enlarged the royal dignity? That by the rapid advance of my arms I have added so many scepters to that of my father? That as a victor I raised the name of Mexico and the prestige of our nation as high as the stars? If I have need of pardon, Quicuxtemocus, pray name the transgressions that require forgiveness. Now I have said everything, you see the sum of the allegations. But if you add this new item to the bill of particulars, that I have readily believed low-down fellows hired to do evil work by the craft of another person, and was not able to see their shifty wiles, this ought to be accounted to my glory, not my discredit, for I have spent along time far away from the city, away from the brilliance and sunlight of the court, amidst the clash of arms, relying only on the illumination of my own ability to see things. Protected by my own virtue, I am unable to sniff out any trickery.
QUIC. I take back my words, great king. He has done no wrong. Mexus is free of guilt and blameless. And yet I am not surprised if he wished to brand the queen with eternal shame. The title of stepmother is indeed a heavy thing. He could tolerate or do nothing worse than what stepsons fancy they can do against a stepmother with the best right in the world. Whatever hatred he might harbor, he imputed to the queen. He imagines she is opposed to his dignity, that she envies him his glory, that she is setting schemes in motion, threatening his life so that she might create a way for Axacus to gain the throne. But I am unconcerned about these things, and I realize that the gist of this stepmother’s wrongdiong is that she is the queen, that she is your consort. For what other crimes could be objected against her than things for which another prince would heap her with praises? During the time he has been absent, managing his father’s wars for so many years, who has done better work in supplying him with arms, ågood fortune, and glory? Has anybody been more ready in supporting him, when the need arose? Soldiers, provisions, money, who has been more energetic in furnishing them? Look here, the prince himself is a witness, as is his father. And the ultimate thanks she has received for her favor is that she is all but overwhelmed by his unspeakable accusations. And yet, as I have already said, what impunity is not granted a stepson?
MONT. What do you have to say to these things, ingrate?
MEX. I can’t sufficiently admire these efforts of my stepmother, not to mention that she has so singlemindedly exerted herself on behalf of Axacus, and that it was her exclusive wish that this money, these arms and supplies which Quicuxtemocus claims she took care to send to me would be amassed, even with my help, to enhance the greatness of her son Axacus. But whatever her plan may have been I leave for the gods to decide, for the gods know the plans of us both. They also know my deserts, and perhaps will reward me in accordance with my merits. And as much as Quicuxtemocus shows that she is friendly to me, I must meanwhile display some gratitude to you and advise you not to be slow in inflicting punishment on either of them for their crimes. Command that they both be quickly produced as witnesses. Decorum, family honor, and the queen’s reputation demand this, for recently they both asserted this woman to be guilty. If once again they retract their testimony, and shift the blame onto your son, thus far they will have done nothing to help themselves, since neither will be any the less deserving of death. When someone has once dared mock a royal personage, it is a small thing to recant the aspersion he has cast, this is a crime for which he must atone with blood. So, father, this wrong will be atoned for with blood, unless you choose henceforth to expose this royal household to the bold enterprises of any rascal you choose to name. It would set a very dangerous example, if you allow this outrage to go unpunished.
QUIC. So should they be punished for being forthright, my king? Because they refuse to support the prince in his crime? Because they voluntarily confess his schemes? Because they serve your consort by distorting the truth? And would forestall a sentence of death all but pronounced? And all these things be said in the specious name of honor? This is for you to be over-cautious, my prince.
MONT. Don’t speak of witnesses, son, just purge yourself of the crime.
MEX. Me purge myself of crime? You yourself scarcely believe this of me, father. for you know that when men like me go astray, they are wont to protect their misdemeanor in another way. I could avenge myself or assert my right by winning the soldiers over to my side, openly defecting, and resorting to steel and armed threats, if I wished to break faith with you, father. Nobody but trifling men are wont to launch their attacks from ambush. This is a female artifice, men know nothing of it. So visit deserved punishment on these rascals. And, father, I pray you avenge both your consort and your son. For in the face of impending doom a guilty conscience is wont to become more honest. And it can be the case that, confronted with imminent death, these witnesses will recant their words one more and sing a palinode.
QUIC. August prince —
MEX. Indeed, pray tell us, Quicuxtemocus, the reason which forbids their punishment, or permit us henceforth rightly to believe that you are gripped by the fear that these men’s conscience, at the threshold of death, might reveal a secret which the queen and Quicuxtemocus himself would prefer to have buried in eternal silence.
MONT. Pray don’t press the matter any further, my son. I admit that this business saddens and disturbs me to no small degree. I cannot bring myself to think you guilty of whatever crime they accuse of you. And yet I don’t wish to press the case any further, nor am I willing to punish the witnesses. For it’s all too clear that either my son or my consort will stand convicted. And, ah, I pray this be hidden forever. My son, just as I am gripped by paternal love for you, so I am bound by conjugal affection. I would have you both be innocent. But since one of you is assuredly guilty, I prefer not to know on which side the guilt resides. For I desire to fulfil the obligations of both a good father and a good husband. And since I am conducting myself in such a kindly way, my son, I trust that you will exert yourself so that henceforth there will be no grounds for discord between yourself and your stepmother. Thus everything will cease, and if you regard the queen as unkind to yourself, strive to earn all her good offices. Your father asks and commands this. Meanwhile, my son, I am hastening to a conference requested by our new guest. I ought to meet with him this very day and learn what these unknown gentlemen actually want.
MEX. What are you doing, father? Will you unadvisedly expose your person to these men? As for myself, I shall desist from this quarrel, no matter how unfairly I may think I am being handled in this matter. I gladly forgive the queen, no matter what schemes she has devised against me. I shall value even my security less than I do your will. But I admit I cannot approve this new plan of yours, father. In this your honor, your prestige, and your safety are at stake. I think you need to treat these men in another way.
QUIC. So what do you think should be done, my prince?
MEX. Quicuxtemocus, I think they need to be quickly removed from our nation. For such guests need to be dealt with by means of war and the threat of arms. Indeed, father, now we have need of arms and war. So command that I return to the camp as soon as possible, in order to arm myself and free yourself and our nation from this plague.
MONT. Ah, you sly fellow! You desire the camp. I understand you well, you’re preparing to wage war against your father, for you think you have been mistreated by him, and that you can assert the right you have been denied. But I like the warning you give, my prince. Otherwise you could be held in suspicion. For your popularity with the people and the army have already made you a source of anxiety for myself, and if you chose to usurp the scepter while your father was still alive, I fear that the people would be very favorable towards you. But I have no idea what you are capable of doing at this critical moment. It is best to take precautions. So see to it, Taclaxus, that the prince remains, and that a constant guard be set at his side.
MEX. What has happened to holy piety? Ah, father, I see that my enemies have chosen to inspire you with excessive hatred of myself. I hope it will not be too late when you discover your error! (Exit Mexus, Taclaxus.)
MONTEZUMA, QUICUXTEMOCUS, TRUXELLUS
MONT. My friends, you see our state of affairs. Perils and fearful plots surround us on all sides. I want to placate the gods speedily and avert this doubtful evil with a bountiful blood-offering. Let it be your responsibility to alert the priest. Give the command that our altars must swim with human blood. Let the gods be sated with the guts of three thousand victims, and if they demand more, let this be supplied, let no sacrifice be denied. Inform the Spaniard, Truxellus, that the conference he requests will soon be granted. (Exit Montezuma.)
QUIC. Observe, Truxellus, how greatly fortune favor us! She could not be more friendly. We have arrived at our harbor.
TRUX. What are you saying, my prince? What grounds are there for new hope? As far as I’m concerned, I see no way in which it is so greatly favoring our cause or your affairs. I must confess that through all those things I was anxious and concerned for your sake, and most of all when the prince was so insistent that his father execute the witness. Although this was denied him, he nevertheless seemed to have proven his case and to have troubled his father’s mind enough that the king elected not to see his son’s innocence, rather than actually not seeing it. Thus far, at least, his love for his consort has prevailed. But suppose his paternal love take its turn in having the upper hand: in what condition would your cause be, and your hopes?
QUIC. I am unconcerned about those things. I am speaking of other hopes. The king’s unexpected command gives me a new one.
TRUX. What can you hope from this?
QUIC. All I could wish. You know that the priest of the gods favors us, to the point that he has a mind bold for every undertaking. This, my friend, is the source of my supreme optimism. Thanks to this I’ll discover how to put a limit on the public frenzy, and thanks to this I’ll find a way to arouse our commoners’ threats against the king. But time is pressing. You’ll learn the rest from the outcome.