Part 2 out of 5
Arthur's return to Spain--to still the throbbing pulse and quivering
lip, and, outwardly unmoved, meet his joyous glance once more.
"'Tis as I thought and hoped," he said, with animation: "the
sovereigns hold their court for some months in this city; coeval,
in antiquity, associations, and loyalty, with Valladolid and Leon,
Isabella, with her characteristic thought for all her subjects, has
decided on making it occasionally the seat of empire alternately with
them, and commissions me, under her royal seal, to see the castle
fittingly prepared. Listen, love, what her Grace writes further--'Take
heed, my good lord, and hide not in a casket the brightest gem which
we have heard adorns thy home. We would ourselves judge the value of
thy well-hoarded jewel--not that we doubt its worth; for it would be
strange, indeed, if he who hath ever borne off the laurel wreath from
the competitors for glory, should not in like manner seek and win
the prize of beauty. In simple language, let Donna Marie be in
attendance.' And so thou shalt, love; and by thy gentle virtues and
modest loveliness, add increase of honor to thy husband. Ha! what
says Gonzalo de Lara?" he added, as his eye glanced over another
paper--"'Tumults in Sicily--active measures--Senor Stanley--enough on
which to expend his chivalric ardor, and evince his devotedness to
Ferdinand; but Sicily quieted--supposed the king will still grant
his request--assign him some post about his person, be at hand for
military service against the Moors.' Good! then the war is resolved
on. We must bestir ourselves, dearest, to prepare fit reception for
our royal guests; there is but brief time."
He embraced and left her as he spoke; and for several minutes Marie
remained without the power even to rise from her seat: one pang
conquered, another came. Arthur's recall appeared determined; would
it be so soon that he would join this sovereigns before they reached
Segovia? She dared not think, save to pray, with wild and desperate
fervor, that such might not be.
Magnificent, indeed, were Don Ferdinand's preparations for the banquet
with which he intended to welcome his sovereigns to Segovia. The
castle was to be the seat of their residence, and the actual _locale_
of their court; but it was at his own private dwelling he resolved, by
a sumptuous entertainment, to evince how deeply and reverentially
he felt the favor with which he was regarded by both monarchs, more
especially by Isabella, his native Sovereign.
In the many struggles which were constantly occurring between the
Spaniards and Moors, the former had become acquainted with the light
yet beautiful architecture and varied skill in all the arts peculiar
to the latter, and displayed their improved taste in both public and
private buildings. Morales, in addition to natural taste, possessed
great affluence, which enabled him to evince yet greater splendor in
his establishment than was usual to his countrymen.
There was one octangular room, the large panels forming the walls of
which were painted, each forming a striking picture of the principal
events in the history of Spain, from the descent of Don Palayo, and
the mountaineers of Asturias, who struck the first blow for Spanish
freedom, to the accession of Ferdinand and Isabella. The paintings
were not detached pictures, but drawn and colored on the wall itself,
which had been previously prepared for the reception of the colors by
a curious process, still in use among the Orientals.[A] The colors,
when dry, were rubbed, till the utmost brilliancy was attained; and
this, combined as it was with a freedom and correctness of drawing,
produced an effect as striking then as it would be novel to modern
eyes. One side, divided into three compartments, contained in one a
touching likeness of the young Alfonso. His figure, rather larger than
life, was clothed in armor, which shone as inlaid with gold. His head
was bare, and his bright locks flowed over his shoulders as he wore
them in life. His brilliant eye, his lofty brow, and peculiarly sweet
expression of mouth, had been caught by the limner, and transferred to
his painting in all their original beauty. Round him were grouped
some of the celebrated cavaliers of his party; and the back-ground,
occupied by troops not in regular battalions, but as impelled by some
whelming feeling of national excitement, impossible to be restrained.
Answering to this was a full length of the infanta Isabella I., in
the act of refusing the crown offered by the confederates. The centre
compartment represented the union of Castile and Arragon by the
nuptials of their respective sovereigns in the cathedral church of
Valladolid. Over these pictures were suspended golden lamps, inlaid
with gems; so that, day or night, the effect should remain the same.
Opposite the dais, huge folding-doors opened on an extensive hall,
where the banquets were generally held, and down which Don Ferdinand
intended to range the tables for his guests of lesser rank, leaving
the octangular apartment for the royal tables, and those of the most
distinguished nobles; the one, however, so communicating with the
other, as to appear one lengthened chamber. On the right hand of the
dais, another large door opened on a withdrawing-room, the floor of
which was of marble, curiously tinted; and the walls hung with Genoa
velvet, ruby-colored, and bordered by a wide fringe of gold. Superb
vases of alternate crystal and frosted silver, on pedestals of
alabaster and of aqua-marine, were ranged along the walls, the
delicate beauty of their material and workmanship coming out well
against the rich coloring of the hangings behind. The roof, a lofty
dome, displayed the light Arabesque workmanship, peculiar to Moorish
architecture, as did the form and ornaments of the windows. This
apartment opened into another, much smaller, each side of which,
apparently formed of silver plate, reflected as mirrors every object;
and the pillars supporting the peculiarly light roof of the same
glittering material. Some parts of the extensive gardens Morales
intended to illuminate; and others, for the effect of contrast, to be
left in deepest shadow.
[Footnote A: See Art Union Journal, August, 1845.]
Nothing was omitted which could do honor to the royal guests, or
cast a reproach upon the magnificent hospitality of their hosts. The
preparations were but just completed, when an advance guard arrived at
Segovia with the tidings of the rapid approach of the sovereigns; and
Morales, with a gallant troop of his own retainers, and a procession
of the civil and military officers of Segovia, hastened to meet and
escort them to the town.
With an uncontrollable impulse, Marie had followed the example of
almost every female in Segovia, and, wrapt in her shrouding veil, had
stationed herself, with some attendants at a casement overlooking the
long line of march. The city itself presented one scene of gladsome
bustle and excitment: flags were suspended from every "turret, dome,
and tower," rich tapestries hung over balconies, which were filled
with females of every rank and grade, vying in the richness and
elegance of their apparel, and their coquettish use of the veil and
fan, so as to half-hide and half-display their features, more or less
beautiful--for beautiful as a nation, the Spanish women undoubtedly
are. Bells were ringing from every church; ever and anon came a burst
of warlike music, as detached troops galloped in the town, welcomed
with shouts as the officer at their head was recognized. Even the
priests themselves, with their sober dresses and solemn countenances,
seemed touched with the universal excitement, relaxing into smiles and
hearty greeting with the laymen they encountered. As the hours waned,
popular excitement increased. It was the first visit of Isabella to
the city; and already had her character been displayed in such actions
as to kindle the warmest love towards the woman, in addition to the
enthusiastic loyalty towards the Queen.
At length the rumor rose that the main body was approaching--in little
more than a hour the sovereigns would pass the gates, and excitement
waxed wilder and wilder, and impatience was only restrained by the
interest excited towards the gallant bodies of cavalry, which now in
slow and measured march approached, forming the commencement of a
line, which for three hours continued to pour within the city in one
Even Marie herself, pre-occupied as she was in the dread search for
one object, could not glance down on the moving multitude beneath her
without in some degree sharing the enthusiasm of her countrymen. There
were gallant warriors of every age, from the old man to the beardless
youth; chargers, superb in form and rich in decoration; a field of
spears glittering in the broad sunshine, some bearing the light gay
pennoncelle, others absolutely bending beneath the heavy folds of
banners, which the light breeze at times extended so as to display
their curious heraldic bearings, and then sunk heavily around their
staffs. Esquires bearing their masters' shields, whose spotless
fields flung back a hundred-fold the noonday sun--plumes so long and
drooping, as to fall from the gilded crest till they rested on the
shoulder--armor so bright as to dazzle the eyes of the beholders, save
when partly concealed under the magnificent surcoats and mantles,
amongst which the richest velvets, slashed with gold or silver,
distinguished the highest nobles. Pageantry like this mingled with
such stirring sounds as the tramp of the noble horse, curveting,
prancing, rearing, as if disdaining the slow order of march--the
thrilling blast of many trumpets, the long roll, or short, sharp call
of the drum; and the mingled notes of martial instruments, blending
together in wild yet stirring harmony, would be sufficient even
in this prosaic age to bid the heart throb and the cheek burn,
recognizing it, as perhaps we should, merely as the _symbol_, not the
_thing_. What, then, must it have been, when men felt such glittering
pageant and chivalric seeming, the _realities_ of life?
At length came the principal group; the pressure of the crowds
increased, and human hearts so throbbed, that it seemed as if they
could not breathe, save in the stunning shouts, bidding the very
welkin ring. Surrounded by a guard of honor, composed indiscriminately
of Castilians and Arragonese, mounted on a jet black steed, which
pawed the ground, and shook his graceful head, as conscious of his
princely burden, magnificently attired, but in the robes of peace,
with a circlet of gold and gems enwreathing his black velvet cap, his
countenance breathing this day but the kindly emotions of his more
youthful nature, unshadowed by the wile and intrigue of after-years,
King Ferdinand looked the mighty monarch, whose talents raised his
country from obscurity, and bade her stand forth among the first of
European nations. But tumultuary as were the shouts with which he was
recognized, they were faint in comparison to those which burst forth
at sight of the Princess at his side. Isabella had quitted her litter
on re-entering her own dominions, and now rode a cream-colored
charger, which she managed with the grace and dignity of one well
accustomed to the exercise, alike in processions of peace and scenes
The difference of age between the sovereigns was not perceivable,[A]
for the grave and thoughtful character of Ferdinand gave him rather
the appearance of seniority; while the unusual fairness of Isabella's
complexion, her slight and somewhat small stature, produced on her the
contrary effect. The dark gray eye, the rich brown hair and delicate
skin of the Queen of Castile deprived her, somewhat remarkably, of
all the characteristics of a Spaniard, but, from their very novelty
attracted the admiration of her subjects. Beautiful she was not; but
her charm lay in the variable expression of her features. Peculiarly
and sweetly feminine, infused, as Washington Irving observes, with "a
soft, tender melancholy," as was their general expression, they could
yet so kindle into indignant majesty, so flash with reproach or scorn,
that the very color of the eye became indistinguishable, and the
boldest and the strongest quailed beneath the mighty and the holy
spirit, which they could not but feel, that frail woman form
[Footnote A: Isabella was eight or ten years Ferdinand's senior.]
Round the sovereigns were grouped, in no regular order of march, but
forming a brilliant _cortege_, many of the celebrated characters of
their reign--men, not only of war, but of literature and wisdom, whom
both monarchs gloried in distinguishing above their fellows, seeking
to exalt the honor of their country, not only in extent of dominion,
but by the shining qualities of her sons. It was to this group the
strained gaze of Marie turned, and became riveted on the Queen,
feeling strangely and indefinably a degree of comfort as she gazed; to
explain wherefore, even to herself, was impossible; but she felt as if
she no longer stood alone in the wide world, whose gaze she dreaded;
a new impulse rose within her, urging her, instead of remaining
indifferent, as she thought she should, to seek and win Isabella's
regard. She gazed and gazed, till she could have fancied her
very destiny was in some way connected with the Queen's visit to
Segovia--that some mysterious influences were connecting her,
insignificant as she was, with Isabella's will. She strove with the
baseless vision; but it would gain ground, folding up her whole mind
in its formless imaginings. The sight of her husband, conversing
eagerly with the sovereign, in some degree startled her back to the
present scene. His cheek was flushed with exercise and excitement; his
large dark eyes glittering, and a sunny smile robbing his mouth of
its wonted expression of sternness. On passing his mansion he looked
eagerly up, and with proud and joyous greeting doffed his velvet cap,
and bowed with as earnest reverence as if he had still to _seek_ and
win her. The chivalry of Don Ferdinand Morales was proved, yet more
_after_ marriage than _before_.
It was over: the procession had at length passed: she had scanned
every face and form whose gallant bearing proclaimed him noble; but
Arthur Stanley was not amongst them, and inexpressibly relieved, Marie
Morales sunk down on a low seat, and covering her face with her hands,
lifted up her whole soul in one wild--yet how fervent!--burst of
"Yet was I calm. I knew the time
My breast would thrill before thy look;
But now, to tremble were a crime:
We met, and not a nerve was shook."
The excitement of the city did not subside with the close of the
procession. The quiet gravity and impressive appearance of age, which
had always marked Segovia, as a city more of the past than present,
gave place to all the bustling animation peculiar to a provincial
residence of royalty. Its central position gave it advantages over
Valladolid, the usual seat of the monarchs of Castile and Leon, to
sovereigns who were seeking the internal peace and prosperity of their
subjects, and were resolved on reforming abuses in every quarter of
their domains. The deputation from the city was graciously received;
their offering--a golden vase filled with precious stones--accepted,
and the seal put to their loyal excitement by receiving from
Isabella's own lips, the glad information that she had decided on
making Segovia her residence for the ensuing year, and that she
trusted the loyalty which the good citizens of Segovia had so warmly
proffered would be proved, by their endeavors in their own households
to reform the abuses which long years of misrule and misery had
engendered. She depended on them, her people, to aid her with heart
and hand, and bade them remember, no individual was so insignificant
as to remove his shoulder from the wheel on plea of uselessness. She
trusted to her citizen subjects to raise the internal glory of her
kingdom, as she did to her nobles to guard their safety, elevate her
chivalry, and by their untarnished honor and stainless valor, present
an invincible front to foreign foes. Isabella knew human nature well;
the citizens returned to their houses bound for ever to her service.
Don Luis Garcia had joined the train of Morales when he set forth to
meet the sovereigns. His extraordinary austerity and semblance of
lowly piety, combined as they were with universal talent, had been so
much noised abroad as to reach the ears of Ferdinand and Isabella; and
Morales, ever eager to promote the interests of a countryman, took
the earliest opportunity of presenting him to them. He was graciously
enough received: but, though neither spoke it, an indefinable feeling
of disappointment took possession of their minds, the wherefore they
knew not. Don Luis had conversed well, both as to the matter and
the manner; but neither Ferdinand nor Isabella felt the smallest
inclination to advance him to any post about themselves. In virtue
of his supposed rank, however, he of course mingled with the courtly
crowd, which on the appointed evening thronged the mansion of Don
Tremblingly as Marie looked forward to that evening, she spared no
pains to gratify her husband in the choice of her toilet. Sorrow had
never made her indifferent, and she sought to please him even in the
most trifling occurrences of life. Her beautiful hair still lay in
soft, glossy bands against the delicate cheeks, and was gathered up
behind in a massive plait, forming, as it were, a diadem at the back
of the exquisitely shaped head, from which fell a white veil--rather,
perhaps, a half mantle, as it shaded the shoulders, not the face--of
silver tissue, so delicately woven as to resemble lace, save in its
glittering material. A coronet of diamonds was wreathed in and out
the plait, removing all semblance of heaviness from the headgear, and
completely divesting it of gaudiness. Her robe, of blue brocade, so
closely woven with silver threads as to glisten in the light of a
hundred lamps almost like diamonds, had no ornament save the large
pearls which looped up the loose sleeves above the elbow, buttoned
the bodice or jacket down the front, and richly embroidered the wide
collar, which, thrown back, disclosed the wearer's delicate throat and
beautiful fall of the shoulders, more than her usual attire permitted
to be visible. The tiny white silk slipper, embroidered in pearl, a
collaret and bracelets of the same beautiful ornament, of very large
size, completed her costume.
Not even the presence of royalty could restrain the burst of
undisguised admiration which greeted Marie, as, led forward by her
eager husband, she was presented to the sovereigns, and knelt to do
them homage. Ferdinand himself gazed on her a moment astonished; then
with animated courtesy hastily raised her, and playfully chid the
movement as unmeet from a hostess to her guests.
A strange moisture had risen to the eyes of the Queen as she first
beheld Marie. It might have been that marvellous perfection of face
and form which caused the emotion; for if all perfection, even from
man's hand, is affecting even to tears, what must be the work of God?
It might have been that on that young, sweet face, to the Queen's
mental eye, a dim shadow from the formless realms of the future
hovered--that, stealing from that outward form of loveliness, she
beheld its twin sister, sorrow. Whatever it might have been, kind and
gentle as Isabella's manner ever was, especially to her own sex, to
Marie it was kinder and gentler still.
How false is the charge breathed from man's lips, that woman never
admires woman!--that we are incapable of the lofty feeling of
admiration of our own sex either for beautiful qualities or beauteous
form! There is no object in creation more lovely, more fraught with
intensest interest (if, indeed, we are not so wholly wrapt in the
petty world of self as to have none for such lofty sympathies) than a
young girl standing on the threshold of a new existence; beautiful,
innocent, and true; offspring as yet of joy and hope alone, but
before whom stretches the dim vista of graver years, and the yearning
thoughts, unspoken griefs, and buried feelings, which even in the
happiest career must still be woman's lot. There may be many who can
see no charm and feel no interest in girlhood's beauty: but not in
such is woman's best and holiest nature; and therefore not by such
should she be judged.
"We will not chide thee, Senor, for thy jealous care of this most
precious gem," said Isabella, addressing Don Ferdinand, while her eye
followed Marie, who, re-assured by the Queen's manner, had conquered
her painful timidity, and was receiving and returning with easy grace
and natural dignity the greetings and gallantries of her guests: "she
is too pure, too precious to meet the common eye, or breathe a courtly
Don Ferdinand's eye glistened. "And yet I fear her not," he rejoined:
"she is as true, as loving, as she is loved and lovely."
"I doubt it not: nay, 'tis the spotless purity of soul breathing in
that sweet face, which I would not behold tainted, by association with
those less pure. No: let her rest within the sanctuary of thy heart
and hearth, Don Ferdinand. We do not command her constant attendance
on our person, as we had intended."
Conscious of the inexpressible relief which this assurance would be to
his wife, Morales eagerly and gratefully expressed his thanks; and the
Queen passed on, rejoicing in the power of so easily conferring joy.
We may not linger on the splendor of this scene, or attempt
description of the varied and picturesque groups filling the gorgeous
suite of rooms, pausing at times to admire the decorations of the
domed chamber, or passing to and fro in the hall of mirrors, gayly
reflected from the walls and pillars. The brilliant appearance of the
extensive gardens; their sudden and dazzling illuminations as night
advanced; their curious temples, and sparkling fountains sending up
sheets of silver in the still air and darkening night, and falling in
myriads of diamonds on innumerable flowers, whose brilliant coloring,
illuminated by small lamps, concealed beneath their foliage, shone
forth like gems; the groups of Moorish slaves, still as statues in
their various attitudes; the wild, barbaric music, startling, yet
delighting all who listened, and causing many an eager warrior to
grasp his sword, longing even at such a moment to exchange that
splendid scene for the clash and stir of war--we must leave all to
the imagination of our readers, and bid them follow us to the banquet
hall, where, summoned by the sound of the gong, the numerous guests
sat down to tables, groaning beneath the profuse hospitality of their
host, and the refined magnificence of the display.
All the warrior stirred the soul of the King, as, on taking his seat
at the dais, he glanced round and beheld the glorious triumphs of his
country so strikingly portrayed. But Isabella saw but one picture,
felt but one thought; and Marie never forgot the look she fixed on the
breathing portrait of Alfonso, nor the tone with which she inquired--
"Hadst thou ever a brother, Marie?"
"Never, royal Madam."
"Then thou canst not enter into the deep love I bore yon princely boy,
nor the feeling that picture brings. Marie, I would cast aside my
crown, descend my throne without one regretful murmur, could I but
hold him to my heart once more, as I did the night he bade me his glad
farewell. It was for ever! Thy husband speaks of him sometimes?"
"Often, often, my gracious liege, till his lip has quivered and his
eye has glistened!"
Isabella pressed her hand, and with even more than her wonted
graciousness, turned to receive from the hand of her host the gemmed
goblet of wine, which, in accordance with established custom, Don
Ferdinand knelt down to present, having first drunk of it himself.
Inspiringly sounded the martial music during the continuance of the
banquet. Brightly sparkled the brimming goblets of the far-famed
Spanish wine. Lightly round the table ran the gay laugh and gayer
jest. Soft and sweet were the whispers of many a gallant cavalier
to his fair companion; for, in compliment to Isabella, the national
reserve of the daughters of Spain was in some degree laid aside and a
free intercourse with their male companions permitted. Each, indeed,
wore the veil, which could be thrown off, forming a mantle behind, or
drawn close to conceal every feature, as coquettish fancy willed; nor
were the large fans wanting, with which the Spanish woman is said to
hold as long and desperate a flirtation as the coquette of other lands
can do with the assistance of voice and eye. Isabella's example had,
however, already created reformation in her female train, and
the national levity and love of intrigue, had in a great degree
The animation of the scene was at its height when suddenly the music
ceased, a single gong was heard to sound, and Alberic, the senior
page, brought tidings of the arrival of new guests; and his master,
with native courtesy, hastened down the hall to give them welcome.
Marie had not heard, or, perhaps, had not heeded the interruption
in the music; for, fascinated by the manner and conversation of the
Queen, she had given herself up for the time wholly to its influence,
to the forgetfulness even of her inward self. The sound of many
footsteps and a rejoicing exclamation from the King, excited the
attention at once of Isabella and her hostess. Marie glanced down the
splendid hall; and well was it for her that she was standing behind
the Queen's seat, and somewhat deep in shadow. Momentary as was all
_visible_ emotion, its effect was such as must have caused remark and
wonder had it been perceived: on herself, that casual glance, was as
if she had received some invisibly dealt, yet fearful blow. Her brain
reeled, her eyes swam, a fearful, stunning sound awoke within her
ears, and such failing of bodily power as compelled her, spite of
herself, to grasp the Queen's chair for support. But how mighty--how
marvellous is the power of _will_ and _mind_! In less than a minute
every failing sense was recalled, every slackened nerve restrung, and,
save in the deadly paleness of lip, as well as cheek, not a trace of
that terrible conflict remained.
Aware that it was at a gay banquet he was to meet the King, Arthur
Stanley had arranged his dress with some care. We need only
particularize his sword, which was remarkable for its extreme
simplicity, the hilt being of the basket shape, and instead of being
inlaid with precious stones, as was the general custom of this day,
was composed merely of highly burnished steel. He had received it from
his dying father: and it was his pride to preserve it unsullied, as
it had descended to him. He heeded neither laughter at its uncouth
plainness, nor even the malicious sneer as to the poor Englishman's
incapacity to purchase a handsomer one; rejecting every offer of a
real Toledo, and declaring that he would prove both the strength and
brightness of English steel, so that none should gainsay it.
"Welcome, Don Arthur! welcome, Senor Stanley! By St. Francis, I shall
never learn thy native title, youth!" exclaimed the monarch, frankly,
as he extended his hand, which Stanley knelt to salute. "Returned with
fresher laurels, Stanley? Why, man, thou wilt make us thy debtor in
"Nay, my gracious liege: that can never be!" replied Stanley,
earnestly. "Grateful I am, indeed, when there is opportunity to evince
fidelity and valor in your Grace's service; but believe me, where so
much has been and is received, not a life's devotion on my part can
remove the impression, that I am the debtor still."
"I believe thee, boy! I do believe thee! I would mistrust myself ere I
mistrusted thee. We will hear of thy doings to-morrow. Enough now to
know we are well satisfied with thy government in Sicily, and trust
our native subject who succeeds thee will do his part as well. Away to
thy seat, and rejoice that thou hast arrived ere this gay scene has
closed. Yet stay: our lovely hostess hath not yet given thee welcome.
Where is the Senora? Isabella, hast thou spirited her hence? She was
here but now."
"Nay, good my Lord: she has vanished unwittingly," replied Isabella,
as she turned towards the spot where Marie had been standing. "Don
Ferdinand, we must entreat thee to recall her!"
"It needs not, royal Madam: I am here:" and Marie stepped forward from
the deep shade of the falling drapery behind the royal seats which
had concealed her, and stood calmly, almost proudly erect beside the
Queen, the full light falling on her face and form. But there was
little need for light to recognize her: the voice was sufficient; and
even the vivid consciousness of where he stood, the hundred curious
eyes upon him, could not restrain the sudden start--the bewildered
look. Could that be Marie? Could that be the wife of Ferdinand
Morales? If she were the one, how could she be the other, when
scarcely eighteen months previous, she had told him that which, if
it were true, must equally prevent her union with Morales as with
himself? In what were they different save in the vast superiority of
wealth and rank? And in the chaos of bewildering emotions, so trustful
was he in the truth of her he loved, that, against the very evidence
of his own senses, he for the moment disbelieved in the identity
of the wife of Morales with the Marie Henriquez of the Cedar Vale.
Perhaps it was well he did so, for it enabled him to still the
tumultuous throbbing of his every pulse as her voice again sounded in
his ear, saying he was welcome, most welcome as her husband's friend,
and to retire without any apparent emotion to his seat.
He had merely bowed reverentially in reply. In any other person the
silence itself would have caused remark: but for the last three years
Stanley's reserve and silence in the company of women had been such,
that a departure from his general rule even in the present case would
have been more noticed than his silence. Thoughts of painful, almost
chaotic bewilderment indeed, so chased each other across his mind as
to render the scene around him indistinct, the many faces and eager
voices like the phantasma of a dream. But the pride of manhood roused
him from the sickening trance, and urged him to enter into the
details, called for by his companions in arms, of the revolt of the
Sicilians, with even more than usual animation.
One timid glance Marie had hazarded towards her husband, and it was
met by such a look and smile of love and pride that she was re-assured
to perform the duties of the evening unfalteringly to the end. Alas!
she little knew that her momentary emotion and that of Arthur had
alike been seen, commented upon, and welcomed with fiend-like glee,
as the connecting link of an until then impalpable plot, by one
individual in that courtly crowd, whose presence, hateful as it was,
she had forgotten in the new and happier thoughts which Isabella's
presence and notice had occasioned.
And who was there, the mere spectator of this glittering pageant,
but would have pronounced that there, at least, all was joy, and
good-will, and trust, and love? Who, even did they acknowledge the
theory that one human heart, unveiled, would disperse this vain dream
of seeming unalloyed enjoyment, would yet have selected the right
individual for the proof, or would not have shrunk back awed and
saddened had the truth been told? Surely it is well for the young,
the hopeful, and the joyous, that in such scenes they see but life's
surface--not its depths.
The festive scene lasted some time longer, nor did it conclude with
the departure of the King and Queen: many still lingered, wandering at
their own will about the rooms and gardens, and dispersing gradually,
as was then the custom, without any set farewell.
Her attendance no longer required by the Queen, and aware that her
presence was not needed by her guests, Marie sought the gardens; her
fevered spirit and aching head yearning to exchange the dazzling
lights and close rooms for the darkness and refreshing breeze of
night. Almost unconsciously she had reached some distance from the
house, and now stood beside a beautiful statue of a-water-nymph,
overlooking a deep still pool, so clear and limpid, that when the moon
cast her light upon it, it shone like a sheet of silver, reflecting
every surrounding object. There were many paths that led to it,
concealed one from the other by gigantic trees and overhanging shrubs.
It was a favorite spot with. Marie, and she now stood leaning against
the statue, quite unconscious that tears were falling faster and
faster from her eyes, and mingling with the waters at her feet.
"Marie!" exclaimed the voice of Stanley at that moment: "Canst thou be
Marie? so false, so--" but his words were checked, for the terror, the
tumult of feeling, while it impelled her to start from him, deprived
her of all power; and a rapid movement on his part alone prevented her
from falling in the deep pool beneath their feet. It was but a moment:
she withdrew herself from his supporting arms, and stood erect before
him, though words she had none.
"Speak to me!" reiterated Arthur, his voice sounding hollow and
changed; "I ask but one word. My very senses seem to play me false,
and mock me with thy outward semblance to one I have so loved. Her
name, too, was Marie; her voice soft and thrilling as thine own:
and yet, yet, I feel that 'tis but semblance--'tis but mockery--the
phantasy of a disordered brain. Speak, in mercy! Say that it is but
semblance--that thou art not the Marie I have so loved."
"It is true--I am that Marie. I have wronged thee most cruelly, most
falsely," she answered, in a tone low and collected indeed, but
expressive of intense suffering. "It is too late now, either to atone
or to explain. Leave me, Senor Stanley: I am another's!"
"Too late to explain? By heaven but thou shalt!" burst fiercely and
wrathfully from Stanley. "Is it not enough, that thou hast changed my
whole nature into gall, made truth itself a lie, purity a meaningless
word, but thou wilt shroud thyself under the specious hood of duty to
another, when, before heaven, thou wast mine alone. Speak!"
"Ay, I will speak--implore thee by the love thou didst once bear me,
Arthur, leave me now! I can hear no more to-night."
"On condition thou wilt see me in private once again. Marie, thou
darest not refuse me this! Thou canst not have so fallen as to give no
reason for this most foul wrong--fancied weak, futile as it may be. We
part now, but we meet again!" And with a strong effort at control he
strode hastily from her.
The moon at that moment breaking from thick clouds, darted her full
light upon the pool, till it shone like an illuminated mirror amidst
the surrounding darkness; and though Arthur had disappeared, its clear
surface distinctly reflected the outline of another closely shrouded
figure. Marie turned in terror, and beheld, gleaming with the triumph
of a fiend, the hated countenance of Don Luis Garcia. One look told
her that he Lad seen all, heard all; but she had no power to speak or
move. Keeping his basilisk gaze fixed on her, he withdrew backwards
into the deep shade till he had entirely disappeared.
Summoning all her energy, Marie fled back towards the house, and at
the moment she reached it, Don Ferdinand crossed the deserted hall.
"Marie, dearest, here and alone? Pale, too, and trembling! In heaven's
name, what hath chanced?"
A moment more, and she would have flung herself at his feet and told
him all--all, and beseeching his forgiveness, conjure him to shield
her from Arthur, from herself; but as she looked up in his face,
and met its beaming animation, its manly reflection of the pure
gratification that evening had bestowed, how could she, how dared she
be the one to dash it with woe? And, overpowered with this fearful
contention of feeling, she threw her arms around him as he bent
tenderly over her, and burying her head in his bosom, burst into
"Thou art exhausted, mine own love! It has been too exciting, too
wearying a scene for thee. Why, what a poor, weak girl thou art! How
fortunate for thee that thy Queen demands not thy constant attendance,
and that thy husband is not ambitious to behold thee shining in the
court, as thy grace and beauty might! I am too glad to feel thee all,
all my own. Smile on me, love, and then to thy couch. A few hours'
quiet rest, and thou wilt be thyself again." And he bore her himself
with caressing gentleness to her apartment.
"Then Roderick from the Douglas broke,
As flashes flame through sable smoke,
Kindling its wreaths long, dark, and low.
To one broad blaze of ruddy glow;
So the deep anguish of despair
Burst in fierce jealousy to air."
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
"Sure, now, Pedro, the poor young Senor cannot be entirely in his
right mind; he does nothing but tramp, tramp, tramp, the whole night
long, and mutters so fiercely to himself, and such dark words, it
would make one tremble were they not belied by His sweet face and sad
smile," was the observation of old Juana Lopez to her husband some ten
days after Arthur Stanley had been domiciled in their dwelling. The
old man muttered something about his being a foreigner from the Wild
Island, where they had all been busy cutting one another's throats,
and what could she expect otherwise?"
"Expect? why that he must have become Spanish born and bred since he
has been in King Ferdinand's service so long, and was such a boy when
he left England."
"Stuff, woman; there's no taking the foreign blood out of him, try as
you will," growled the old man, who in common with many of his class,
was exceedingly annoyed that a foreigner should possess so much of
the King's confidence, and not a little displeased that his dwelling
should have been fixed on for the young officer's quarters. "It would
not have been Isabella, God bless her! to have chosen such a minion;
she tolerates him for Ferdinand's sake; but they will find him out one
day. Saint Iago forbid the evil don't fall first."
"Now that is all prejudice, Viego Pedro, and you know it. Bless his
beautiful face! there is no thought of evil there, I'd stake my
existence. He is tormented in his mind about something, poor youth;
but his eyes are too bright and his smile too sad for any thing evil."
"Hold your foolish tongue: you women think if a man is better looking
than his fellows, he is better in every respect--poor fools as ye are;
but as for this Englisher, with such a white skin and glossy
curls, and blue eyes--why I'd be ashamed to show myself amongst
men--pshaw--the woman's blind."
"Nay, Viego Pedro, prejudice has folded her kerchief round your eyes,
not mine," retorted the old dame; and their war of words concerning
the merits and demerits of their unconscious lodger continued, till
old Pedro grumbled himself off, and his more light-hearted helpmate
busied herself in preparing a tempting meal for her guest, which, to
her great disappointment, shared the fate of many others, and left his
table almost untouched.
To attempt description of Stanley's feelings would be as impossible as
tedious; yet some few words must be said. His peculiarly enthusiastic,
perhaps romantic disposition, had caused him to cling tenaciously to
the memory of Marie, even after the revelation of a secret which to
other men would have seemed to place an impassable barrier between
them. To Arthur, difficulties in pursuit of an object only rendered
its attainment the more intensely desired. Perhaps his hope rested
on the conviction not so much of his own faithful love as on the
unchangeable nature of hers. He might have doubted himself, but to
doubt her was impossible. Conscious himself that, wrong as it might
be, he could sacrifice every thing for her--country, rank, faith
itself, even the prejudice of centuries, every thing but honor--an
ideal stronger in the warrior's mind than even creed--he could not and
would not believe that her secret was to her sacred as his honor to
him, and that she could no more turn renegade from the fidelity which
that secret comprised, than he could from his honor. She had spoken
of but one relation, an aged father; and he felt in his strong
hopefulness, that it was only for that father's sake she had striven
to conquer her love, and had told him they might never wed, and that
when that link was broken he might win her yet.
Loving and believing thus, his anguish in beholding her the wife of
another may be imagined. The more he tried to think, the more confused
and mystifying his thoughts became. Every interview which he had with
her, and more especially that in the Vale of Cedars, was written in
indelible characters on his heart and brain; and while beholding her
as the wife of Morales contradicted their every word, still it could
not blot them from his memory; and he would think, and think, in the
vain search for but one imaginary reason, however faint, however
unsatisfactory, for her conduct, till his brain turned, and his senses
reeled. It was not the mere suffering of unrequited love; it was the
misery of having been deceived; and then, when racked and tortured
by the impossibility of discovering some cause for this deceit, her
secret would flash across him, and the wild thought arise that both he
and Don Ferdinand were victims to the magic and the sorcery, by means
of which alone her hated race could ever make themselves beloved.
Compelled as he was to mingle with the Court as usual, these powerful
emotions were of course always under strong restraint, except when in
the solitude of his own quarters. That when there he should give them
vent, neither conscious of, nor caring for the remarks they excited
from his host and hostess, was not very remarkable; perhaps he was
scarcely aware how powerfully dislike towards Don Ferdinand shared his
thoughts with his vain suggestions as to the cause of Marie's falsity.
The reason for this suddenly aroused dislike he could not indeed
have defined, except that Morales had obtained without difficulty a
treasure, to obtain which he had offered to sacrifice so much. So
fourteen days passed, and though firmly resolved to have one more
interview with Marie, no opportunity had presented itself, nor in fact
could he feel that he had as yet obtained the self-command necessary
for the cold, calm tone which he intended to assume. It happened that
once or twice the King had made Arthur his messenger to Don Ferdinand;
but since the night of the entertainment he had never penetrated
farther than the audience chamber, there performed his mission
briefly, and departed. Traversing the principal street of Segovia one
morning, he was accosted somewhat too courteously, he thought, for
their slight acquaintance, by Don Luis Garcia.
"And whither so early, Senor Stanley?" he inquired so courteously that
it could not give offence, particularly as it followed other queries
of a graceful greeting, and was not put forth abruptly.
"To the mansion of Don Ferdinand Morales," replied the young
"Indeed! from the King?"
Stanley answered in the affirmative, too deeply engrossed with his own
thoughts, to attend much to his companion, whose interrogations he
would undoubtedly in a more natural mood have felt inclined to resent.
"Don Ferdinand Morales ranks as high in the favor of the people as
of the King--a marvellous conjunction of qualities, is it not, Senor
Stanley?" continued Garcia, after walking by his side some minutes in
silence. "A Monarch's favorite is seldom that of his subjects; but
Morales is unusually deserving. I wonder not at the love he wins."
"Neither Ferdinand nor Isabella bestows favors on the undeserving,"
briefly, almost sternly answered Stanley, with an unconscious change
of tone and manner, which did not escape his companion.
"And he is so singularly fortunate, every thing he touches seems to
turn to gold--an universal idol, possessed too of such wealth and
splendor, and, above all, with such a being to share them with him.
Fortune has marked him favored in all things. Didst ever behold a
creature equal in loveliness to Donna Marie, Senor Stanley?"
A momentary, and to any other but Don Luis, incomprehensible emotion,
passed over the countenance of Stanley at these words; but though
it was instantly recalled, and indifference both in expression of
countenance and voice resumed, it passed not unobserved; and Don Luis,
rejoicing in the pain he saw he was inflicting, continued an eloquent
panegyric on the wife of Morales, the intense love she bore her
husband, and the beautiful unity and harmony of their wedded life,
until they parted within a short distance of the public entrance to
Don Ferdinand's mansion, towards which Stanley turned.
Don Luis looked after his retreating form, and folding his arms in his
mantle, bent down his head, assuming an attitude which to passers-by
expressed the meek humility of his supposed character. There was a
wild gleam of triumph, in his eyes which he knew, and therefore they
were thus bent down, and there were thoughts in his heart which might
thus be worded:--"I have it all, all. Waiting has done better for me
than acting; but now the watch is over, and the coil is laid. There
have been those who, standing on the loftiest pinnacle, have fallen
by a touch to earth; none knew the how or wherefore." And shrouding
himself closer in his wrapping mantle, he walked rapidly on till he
reached a side entrance into the gardens, which stretched for many
acres around Don Ferdinand's mansion. Here again he paused, looked
cautiously around him, then swiftly entered, and softly closed the
door behind him.
Already agitated by the effort to retain calmness during Garcia's
artful words, it was no light matter for Stanley to compose himself
for his interview with Morales. Vain was the gentle courtesy of the
latter, vain his kindly words, vain his confidential reception of the
young Englishman, to remove from Arthur's heart the wild torrent of
passion called forth by Garcia's allusion to Marie's intense love
for her husband. To any one but Morales, his abrupt and unconnected
replies, his strange and uncourteous manners, must have excited
irritation; but Don Ferdinand only saw that the young man was
disturbed and pained, and for this very reason exerted his utmost
kindliness of words and manner to draw him from, himself. They parted
after an interval of about half an hour, Morales to go to the castle
as requested; Arthur to proceed, as he thought, to the environs of the
city. But in vain did he strive with himself. The window of the room
in which he had met Don Ferdinand looked into the garden, and there,
slowly pacing a shaded path, he had recognized the figure of Marie.
The intense desire to speak with her once more, and so have the fatal
mystery solved, became too powerful for control. Every feeling of
honor and delicacy perished before it, and hardly knowing what he did,
he retraced his steps, entered unquestioned, passed through the hall
to the gardens beyond, and in less than ten minutes after he had
parted from her husband, stood in the presence of Marie.
"If she be false, oh, then Heaven mock itself!
I'll not believe it."
Don Ferdinand had scarcely quitted his mansion ere fleet steps
resounded behind him, and turning, he beheld Don Luis Garcia, who
greeted him with such a marked expression, both in voice and face,
of sadness, that Morales involuntarily paused, and with much
commiseration inquired what had chanced.
"Nothing of personal misfortune, my friend; but there are times when
the spirit is tortured by a doubtful duty. To preserve silence is
undoubtedly wrong, and may lead to wrong, yet greater; and yet, to
speak, is so painfully distressing to my peace-loving disposition,
that I am tossed for ever on conflicting impulses, and would gladly be
guided by another."
"If you would be guided by my counsel, my good friend, I must entreat
a clearer statement," replied Morales, half smiling. "You have spoken
so mysteriously, that I cannot even guess your meaning. I cannot
imagine one so straightforward and strong-minded as yourself
hesitating and doubtful as to duty, of whatever nature."
"Not if it concerned myself: but in this case I must either continue
to see wrong done, with the constant dread of its coming to light,
without my interference; or inflict anguish where I would gladly give
but joy; and very probably, in addition, have my tale disbelieved,
and myself condemned, though for that matter, personal pain is of no
consequence, could I but pursue the right."
"But how stands this important case, my good friend?"
"Thus: I have been so unfortunate as to discover that one is false,
whom her doting husband believes most true--that the lover of her
youth has returned, and still holds her imagination chained--that she
meets him in secret, and has appointed another clandestine interview,
from which who may tell the evil that may ensue? I would prevent this
interview--would recall her to her better nature, or put her husband
on his guard: but how dare I do this--how interfere thus closely
between man and wife? Counsel me, my friend, in pity!"
"If you have good foundation for this charge, Don Luis, it is your
duty to speak out," replied Morales, gravely.
"And to whom?"
"To the lawful guardian of this misguided one--her husband."
"But how can I excite his anguish--how turn his present heaven of joy
to a very hell of woe, distrust, suspicion?"
"Does the leech heed his patient's anguish when probing a painful
wound, or cutting away the mortified flesh? His office is not
enviable, but it is necessary, and; if feelingly performed, we love
him not the less. Speak out. Don Luis, openly, frankly, yet gently, to
the apparently injured husband. Do more: counsel him to act as openly,
as gently with his seemingly guilty wife; and that which now appears
so dark, may be proved clear, and joy dawn again for both, by a few
words of mutual explanation. But there must be no mystery on your
part--no either heightening or smoothing what you may have learnt.
Speak out the simple truth; insinuate nought, for that love is
worthless, that husband false to his sacred charge, if he believes in
guilt ere he questions the accused."
Don Luis looked on the open countenance before him for a few minutes
without reply, thinking, not if he should spare him, but if his plans
might not be foiled, did Morales himself act as he had said. But the
pause was not long: never had he read human countenance aright, if
Arthur Stanley were not at that moment with Marie. He laid his hand
on Don Ferdinand's arm, and so peculiar was the expression on his
countenance, so low and plaintively musical the tone in which be
said, "God give you strength, my poor friend," that the rich color
unconsciously forsook the cheek of the hardy warrior, leaving him
pallid as death; and so sharp a thrill passed through his heart, that
it was with difficulty he retained his feet; but Morales was not
merely physically, he was mentally brave. With a powerful, a mighty
effort of will, he called life, energy, courage back, and said,
sternly and unfalteringly, "Don Luis Garcia, again I say, speak out! I
understand you; it is I who am the apparently injured husband. Marie!
Great God of heaven! that man should dare couple her pure name with
ignominy! Marie! my Marie! the seemingly guilty wife! Well, put forth
your tale: I am not the man to shrink from my own words. Speak truth,
and I will hear you; and--and, if I can, not spurn you from me as a
liar! Speak out!"
Don Luis needed not a second bidding: he had remarked, seen, and
heard quite enough the evening of Don Ferdinand's banquet, to require
nothing more than the simple truth, to harrow the heart of his hearer,
even while Morales disbelieved his every word. Speciously, indeed,
he turned his own mere suspicions as to Marie's unhappiness, and her
early love for Arthur, into realities, founded on certain information,
but with this sole exception--he told but the truth. Without moving
a muscle, without change of countenance, or uttering a syllable of
rejoinder, Don Ferdinand listened to Garcia's recital, fixing his
large piercing eye on his face, with a gaze that none but one so
hardened in hypocrisy could have withstood. Once only Morales's
features contracted for a single instant, as convulsed by some spasm.
It was the recollection of Marie's passionate tears, the night of the
festival; and yet she had shed them on _his_ bosom. How could she be
guilty? And the spasm passed.
"I have heard you, Don Luis," he said, so calmly, as Garcia ceased,
that the latter started. "If there be truth in this strange tale, I
thank you for imparting it: if it be false--if you have dared pollute
my ears with one word that has no foundation, cross not my path
again, lest I be tempted to turn and crush you as I would a loathsome
reptile, who in very wantonness has stung me."
He turned from him rapidly, traversed the brief space, and disappeared
within his house. Don Luis looked after him with a low, fiendish
laugh, and plunged once more into the gardens.
"Is the Senora within?" Inquired Don Ferdinand, encountering his
wife's favorite attendant at the entrance of Marie's private suit of
rooms; and though his cheek was somewhat pale, his voice was firm as
usual. The reply was in the negative; the Senora was in the gardens.
"Alone? Why are you not with her as usual, Manuella?"
"I was with her, my Lord; she only dismissed me ten minutes ago."
Without rejoinder, Don Ferdinand turned in the direction she had
pointed out. It was a lovely walk, in the most shaded parts of the
extensive grounds, walled by alternate orange and lemon trees; some
with the blossom, germ, and fruit all on one tree; others full of
the paly fruit; and others, again, as wreathed with snow, from the
profusion of odoriferous flowers. An abrupt curve led to a grassy
plot, from which a sparkling fountain sent up its glistening showers,
before a luxurious bower, which Morales's tender care had formed of
large and healthy slips, cut from the trees of the Vale of Cedars, and
flowery shrubs and variegated moss from the same spot; and there he
had introduced his Marie, calling it by the fond name of "Home!" As he
neared the curve, voices struck on his ear--Marie's and another's. She
was not alone! and that other!--could it be?--nay, it was--there was
neither doubt nor hesitation--it was his--his--against whom Don Luis
had warned him. Was it for this Marie had dismissed her attendant?
It could not be; it was mere accident, and Don Ferdinand tried to go
forward to address them as usual; but the effort even for him was too
much, and he sunk down on a rustic bench near him, and burying his
head in his hands, tried to shut out sight and sound till power and
calmness would return. But though he could close his eyes on all
outward things, he could not deaden hearing; and words reached him
which, while he strove not to hear, seemed to be traced by a dagger's
point upon his heart, and from very physical agony deprived him of
strength to move.
"And thou wilt give me no reason--idle, weak as it must be--thou wilt
refuse me even an excuse for thy perjury?" rung on the still air, in
the excited tones of Arthur Stanley. "Wealth, beauty, power--ay, they
are said to be omnipotent with thy false sex; but little did I dream
that it could be so with thee; and in six short months--nay, less
time, thou couldst conquer love, forget past vows, leap over the
obstacle thou saidst must part us, and wed another! 'Twas short space
to do so much!" And he laughed a bitter, jibing laugh.
"It was short, indeed!" faintly articulated Marie; "but long enough to
"To bear!" he answered; "nay, what hadst thou to bear? The petted
minion of two mighty sovereigns, the idol of a nation--came, and
sought, and won--how couldst thou resist him? What were my claims to
his--an exile and a foreigner, with nought but my good sword, and a
love so deep, so faithful (his voice softened), that it formed my very
being? But what was love to thee before ambition? Oh, fool, fool that
I was, to believe a woman's tongue--to dream that truth could dwell in
those sweet-sounding words--those tears, that seemed to tell of grief
in parting, bitter as my own--fool, to believe thy specious tale!
There could be no cause to part us, else wherefore art thou Morales's
wife? Thou didst never love me! From the first deceived, thou calledst
forth affection, to triumph in thy power, and wreck the slender joys
left to an exile! And yet I love thee--oh, God, how deeply!"
"Arthur!" answered Marie, and her bloodless lips so quivered, they
could scarcely frame the word--"wrong I have done thee, grievous
wrong; but oh! blast not my memory with injuries I have not inflicted.
Look back; recall our every interview. Had I intended to deceive, to
call forth the holiest feelings of the human heart, to make them a
mock and scorn, to triumph in a power, of whose very existence till
thou breathed love I was unconscious--should I have said our love
was vain--was so utterly hopeless, we could never be other than
strangers--should I have conjured thee to leave--aye, and to forget
me, had I not felt that I loved too well, and trembled for myself yet
more than for thee? Oh, Arthur, Arthur, do not add to the bitterness
of this moment by unjust reproaches! I have injured thee enough by my
ill-fated beauty, and too readily acknowledged love: but more I have
not done. From the first I said that there was a fate around us--thine
I might never be!"
"Then wherefore wed Morales? Is he not as I am, and therefore equally
unmeet mate for thee--if, indeed, thy tale be true? Didst thou not
tell me, when I implored thee to say if thy hand was pledged unto
another, that such misery was spared thee--thou wert free, and free
wouldst remain while thy heart was mine?"
"Ay," faltered Marie, "thou rememberest all too well."
"Then didst thou not deceive? Art thou not as perjured now as I once
believed thee true--as false as thou art lovely? How couldst thou
love, if so soon it was as nought?"
"Then believe me all thou sayest," replied Marie, more
firmly--"believe me thus false and perjured, and forget me, Senor
Stanley; crush even my memory from thy heart, and give not a thought
to one so worthless! Mystery as there was around me when we first met,
there is a double veil around me now, which I may not lift even to
clear myself with thee. Turn thy love into the scorn which my perjury
deserves, and leave me."
"I will not!" burst impetuously from Arthur, as he suddenly flung
himself at her feet. "Marie, I will not leave thee thus; say but that
some unforeseen circumstances, not thine own will, made thee the
wife of this proud Spaniard; say but that neither thy will nor thy
affections were consulted, that no word of thine could give him hope
he was beloved--that thou lovest me still; say but this, and I will
"Ask it not, Senor Stanley. The duty of a wife would be of itself
sufficient to forbid such words; with me gratitude and reverence
render that duty more sacred still. Wouldst thou indeed sink me so low
as, even as a wife, to cease to respect me? Rise, Senor Stanley! such
posture is unsuited to thee or me; rise, and leave me; we must never
meet alone again."
Almost overpowered with contending emotions, as he was, there was
a dignity, the dignity of truth in that brief appeal, which Arthur
vainly struggled to resist. She had not attempted a single word of
exoneration, and yet his reproaches rushed back into his own heart as
cruel and unjust, and answer he had none. He rose mechanically, and
as he turned aside to conceal the weakness, a deep and fearful
imprecation suddenly broke from him; and raising her head, Marie
beheld her husband.
Every softened feeling fled from Stanley's breast; the passionate
anger which Marie's words had calmed towards herself, now burst fourth
unrestrained towards Morales. His sudden appearance bringing the
conviction that he had played the spy upon their interview, roused
his native irritation almost into madness. His sword flew from its
scabbard, and in fearful passion he exclaimed--"Tyrant and coward! How
durst thou play the spy? Is it not enough that thou hast robbed me of
a treasure whose value thou canst never know? for her love was mine
alone ere thou earnest between us, and by base arts and cruel force
compelled her to be thine. Ha! wouldst thou avoid me? refuse to cross
my sword! Draw, or I will proclaim thee coward in the face of the
With a faint cry, Marie had thrown herself between them; but strength
failed with the effort, and she would have fallen had not Morales
upheld her with his left arm. But she had not fainted; every sense
felt wrung into unnatural acuteness Except to support her, Morales had
made no movement; his tall figure was raised to its fullest height,
and his right arm calmly uplifted as his sole protection against
Arthur. "Put up your sword," he said firmly, and fixing his large dark
eyes upon his irritated adversary, with a gaze far more of sorrow than
of anger, "I will not fight thee. Proclaim me what thou wilt. I fear
neither thy sword nor thee. Go hence, unhappy boy; when this chafed
mood is past, thou wilt repent this rashness, and perchance find it
harder to forgive thyself than I shall to forgive thee. Go; thou art
overwrought. We are not equals now."
Stanley involuntarily dropped the point of his sword. "I obey thee,"
he said, in that deep concentrated tone, which, betrays strong passion
yet more than violent words; "obey thee, because I would not strike an
undefended foe; but we shall meet again in a more fitting place and
season. Till then, hear me, Don Ferdinand! We have hitherto been as
companions in arms, and as friends, absent or together; from this
moment the tie is broken, and for ever. I am thy foe! one who hath
sworn to take thy life, or lose his own. I will compel thee to meet
me! Ay, shouldst thou shun me, to the confines of the world I will
track and find thee. Coward and spy! And yet men think thee noble!"
A bitter laugh of scorn concluded these fatal words. He returned his
sword violently to its sheath; the tread of his armed heel was heard
for a few seconds, and then all was silent.
Morales neither moved nor spoke, and Marie lifted her head to look on
his face in terror. The angry words of Arthur had evidently fallen
either wholly unheeded, or perhaps unheard. There was but one feeling
expressed on those chiseled features, but one thought, but one
conviction; a low, convulsive sob broke from her, and she fainted in
"Why, when my life on that one hope, cast,
Why didst thou chain my future to her past?
Why not a breath to say she loved before?"
"Oh leave me not! or know
Before thou goest, the heart that wronged thee so
But wrongs no more."
In the first painful moments of awakening sense, Marie was only
conscious of an undefined yet heavy weight on heart and brain; but as
strength returned she started up with a faint cry, and looked wildly
round her. The absence of Morales, the conviction that he had left her
to the care of others, that for the first time he had deserted her
couch of pain, lighted up as by an electric flash the marvellous links
of memory, and the whole of that morning's anguish, every word spoken,
every feeling endured, rushed back upon her with such overwhelming
force as for the moment to deprive her of the little strength she
had regained. Why could she not die? was the despairing thought that
followed. What had she to live for, when it was her ill fate to wreck
the happiness of all who loved her? and yet in that moment of agony
she never seemed to have loved her husband more. It was of him she
thought far more than of Arthur, whose angry words and fatal threat
rung again and again in her ears.
"My Lord had only just left when you recovered consciousness, Senora,"
gently remarked her principal attendant, whose penetration had
discovered the meaning of Marie's imploring look and passive silence,
so far at least that it was Don Ferdinand she sought, and that his
absence pained her. "He tarried till life seemed returning, and then
reluctantly departed for the castle, where he had been summoned, he
said, above an hour before."
"To the castle!" repeated Marie internally. "Ay, he will do his duty,
though his heart be breaking. He will take his place and act his part,
and men will report him calm, wise, collected, active as his wont, and
little dream his wife, his treasured wife, has bowed his lofty spirit
to the dust, and laid low his light of home. Tell me when he returns,"
she said aloud, "and bid all leave me but yourself."
Two hours passed, and Marie lay outwardly still and calm, neither
speaking nor employed. But at the end of that time she started up
hastily, resumed the robe which had been cast aside, and remained
standing, as intently listening to some distant sound. Several minutes
elapsed, and though she had sunk almost unconsciously on the seat
Manuella proffered, it was not till full half an hour that she spoke.
"The Senor has returned," she said calmly; "bid Alberic hither."
The page came, and she quietly inquired if any strangers had entered
with his master.
"No, Senora, he is alone."
"Has he long returned?"
"Almost half an hour, Senora. He went directly to his closet, desiring
that he might not be disturbed."
Ten minutes more, and Marie was standing in her husband's presence,
but unobserved. For the first time in his whole life had her light
step approached him unheard. For two hours he had borne a degree of
mental suffering which would either have crushed or roused any other
man into wildest fury--borne it with such an unflinching spirit, that
in neither look nor manner, nor even tone, had he departed from his
usual self, or given the slightest occasion for remark. But the
privacy of his closet obtained, the mighty will gave way, and the
stormy waves rolled over him, deadening every sense and thought and
feeling, save the one absorbing truth, that he had never been beloved.
Father and child had deceived him; for now every little word, every
trifling occurrence before his marriage in the Vale of Cedars
rushed back on his mind, and Henriquez imploring entreaty under all
circumstances to love and cherish her was explained.
"Ferdinand!" exclaimed a voice almost inarticulate from sobs; and
starting, he beheld his wife kneeling by his side. "Oh! my husband, do
not turn from me, do not hate me. I have none but thee."
He tried to withdraw his hand, but the words, the tone, unmanned him,
and throwing his arm round her, he clasped her convulsively to his
heart, and she felt his slow scalding tears fall one by one, as wrung
from the heart's innermost depths, upon her cheek.
For several minutes there was silence. The strong man's emotion is as
terrible to witness as terrible to feel. Marie was the first to regain
voice; and in low beseeching accents she implored him to listen to
her--to hear ere he condemned.
"Not thus," was his sole reply, as he tried to raise her from her
kneeling posture to the cushion by his side.
"Yes, thus my husband. I will not rise till thou say'st thou canst
forgive; wilt take the loving and the weak back to thy heart, if not
to love as thou hast loved, to strengthen and forgive. I have not
wronged thee. Were I false in word or thought I would not kneel to ask
forgiveness, but crawl to thy feet and die! If thou couldst but know
the many, many times I have longed to confess all; the agony to
receive thy fond caress, thy trusting confidence, and know myself
deceiving; the terror lest thou shouldst discover aught from other
than myself; oh! were it not for thy deep woe, I could bless this
moment, bidding me speak Truth once more!"
"And say thou hast never loved me? Wert true from duty, not from love?
Marie, can I bear this?"
"Yes--for I do love thee. Oh! my husband, I turn to thee alone, under
my God, for rest and peace. If I might not give thee the wild passions
of my youth, when my heart was sought, and won ere I was myself
conscious of the precipice I neared, I cling to thee now alone--I
would be thine alone. Oh, take me to thy heart, and let me lie there.
Ferdinand, Ferdinand! forgive me!--love--save me from myself!"
"Ay, now and ever! Come to my heart, beloved one!" answered her
husband, rousing himself from all of personal suffering to comfort
her; and he drew her to him till her head rested on his bosom. "Now
tell me thy sorrowing tale, to me so wrapt in mystery. Fear not
from me. It is enough thou clingest to me in such sweet guileless
She obeyed him; and the heavy weight of suffering years seemed
lightening as she spoke. From her first meeting Arthur, to that
morning's harrowing interview, every feeling, every incident, every
throb of reproach and dread were revealed with such touching and
childlike truth, that even in his suffering, Morales unconsciously
clasped his wife closer and closer to him, as if her very confidence
and truth, rendered her yet dearer than before, and inexpressibly
soothed at the very moment that they pained. Their interview was long,
but fraught with mutual comfort. Morales had believed, when he entered
his closet that day, that a dense cloud was folded round him, sapping
the very elements of life; but though he still felt as if he had
received some heavy physical blow, the darkness had fled from his
spirit, and light dawned anew for both, beneath the heavenly rays of
openness and Truth.
"And Arthur?" Marie said, as that long commune came to a close; and
she looked up with the fearless gaze of integrity in her husband's
face. "Thou wilt forgive him, Ferdinand? he knew not what he said."
"Trust me, beloved one. I pity and forgive him. He shall learn to love
me, despite himself."
Great was the astonishment and terrible the disappointment of Don Luis
Garcia at the visible failure of one portion of his nefarious schemes.
Though seldom in Don Ferdinand's actual presence, he was perfectly
aware that instead of diminishing, Morales' confidence in and love
for his wife had both increased, and that Marie was happier and more
quietly at rest than she had been since her marriage. But though
baffled, Garcia was not foiled. The calm, haughty dignity which,
whenever they did chance to meet, now characterized Don Ferdinand's
manner towards him; the brief, stern reply, if words were actually
needed; or complete silence, betraying as it did tire utter contempt
and scorn with which his crafty design was regarded, heightened his
every revengeful feeling, and hastened on his plans.
Two or three weeks passed: a calm security and peaceful happiness had
taken the place of storm and dread in Marie's heart. She felt that
it had been a secret consciousness of wrong towards her husband, the
dread of discovery occasioning estrangement, the constant fear of
encountering Stanley, which had weighed on her heart far more than
former feelings; and now that the ordeal was past, that all was known,
and she could meet her husband's eye without one thought concealed;
now that despite of all he could love and cherish, aye, trust her
still, she clung to him with love as pure and fond and true as ever
wife might feel; and her only thought of Stanley was prayer that peace
might also dawn for him. It was pain indeed to feel that the real
reason of her wedding Ferdinand must for ever remain concealed. Could
that have been spoken, one little sentence said, all would have been
explained, and Stanley's bitter feelings soothed.
It was the custom of Ferdinand and Isabella to gather around
them, about once a month, the wisest and the ablest of their
realm--sometimes to hold council on public matters, at others merely
in friendly discussion on various subjects connected with, politics,
the church, or war. In these meetings merit constituted rank, and mind
nobility. They commenced late, and continued several hours through the
night. To one of these meetings Don Ferdinand Morales had received a
summons as usual. As the day neared, he became conscious of a strange,
indefinable sensation taking possession of heart and mind, as
impossible to be explained as to be dismissed. It was as if some
impassable and invisible, but closely-hovering evil were connected
with the day, blinding him--as by a heavy pall--to all beyond. He
succeeded in subduing the ascendency of the sensation, in some
measure, till the day itself; when, as the hours waned, it became more
and more overpowering. As he entered his wife's apartment, to bid her
farewell ere he departed for the castle, it rose almost to suffocation
in his throat, and he put his arm round her as she stood by the
widely-opened casement, and remained by her side several minutes
"Thou art not going to the castle yet, dearest?" she inquired. "Is it
not much earlier than usual?"
"Yes, love; but I shall not ride to-night. I feel so strangely
oppressed, that I think a quiet walk in the night air will recover me
far more effectually than riding."
Marie looked up anxiously in his face. He was very pale, and his hair
was damp with the moisture on his forehead. "Thou art unwell," she
exclaimed; "do not go to-night, dearest Ferdinand,--stay with me. Thy
presence is not so imperatively needed."
He shook his head with a faint smile. "I must go, love, for I have no
excuse to stay away. I wish it were any other night, indeed, for I
would so gladly remain with thee; but the very wish is folly. I never
shrunk from the call of duty before, and cannot imagine what has come
over me to-night; but I would sacrifice much for permission to stay
within. Do not look so alarmed, love, the fresh air will remove this
vague oppression, and give me back myself."
"Fresh air there is none," replied his young wife, "the stillness is
actually awful--not a leaf moves, nor a breeze stirs. It seems too,
more than twilight darkness; as if a heavy storm were brooding."
"It may be; oppression in the air is often the sole cause of
oppression in the mind. I should be almost glad if it came, to explain
"But if thou must go, thou wilt not loiter, Ferdinand."
"Why--fearest thou the storm will harm me, love? Nay, I have
frightened thee into foreboding. Banish it, or I shall be still more
loth to say farewell!"
He kissed her, as if to depart, but still he lingered though neither
spoke; and then, as with an irresistible and passionate impulse, he
clasped her convulsively to his heart, and murmuring hoarsely, "God
for ever and ever bless thee, my own beloved!" released her, and was
On quitting his mansion and entering the street, the dense weight
of the atmosphere became more and more apparent. The heat was so
oppressive that the streets were actually deserted--even the artisans
had closed their stores; darkness had fallen suddenly, shrouding
the beautiful twilight peculiar to Spain as with a pall. Morales
unconsciously glanced towards the west, where, scarcely half-an-hour
before, the sun had sunk gloriously to rest; and there all was not
black. Resting on the edge of the hill, was a far-spreading crimson
cloud, not the rosy glow of sunset, but the color of blood. So
remarkable was its appearance, that Don Ferdinand paused in
involuntary awe. The blackness closed gradually round it; but
much decreased, and still decreasing in size, it floated
onwards--preserving its blood-red hue, in appalling contrast with
the murky sky. Slowly Morales turned in the direction of the castle,
glancing up at times, and unable to suppress a thrill of supernatural
horror, as he observed this remarkable appearance floating just before
him wherever he turned. Denser and denser became the atmosphere, and
blacker the sky, till he could not see a single yard before him;
thunder growled in the distance, and a few vivid flashes of lightning
momentarily illumined the gloom, but still the cloud remained. Its
course became swifter; but it decreased in size, floating onwards,
till, to Morales' strained gaze, it appeared to remain stationary over
one particularly lonely part of the road, known by the name of the
Calle Soledad, which he was compelled to pass; becoming smaller and
smaller, till, as he reached the spot, it faded into utter darkness,
and all around was black.
That same evening, about an hour before sunset, Arthur Stanley,
overpowered by the heat, and exhausted with some fatiguing military
duties, hastily unbuckled his sword, flung it carelessly from him,
and, drinking off a large goblet of wine, which, as usual, stood ready
for him on his table, threw himself on his couch, and sunk into a
slumber so profound that he scarcely seemed to breathe. How he had
passed the interval which had elapsed since his interview with Marie
and her husband, he scarcely knew himself. His military duties were
performed mechanically, a mission for the king to Toledo successfully
accomplished; but he himself was conscious only of one engrossing
thought, which no cooling and gentler temper had yet come to subdue.
It was a relief to acquit Marie of intentional falsehood--a relief to
have some imaginary object on which to vent bitterness and anger; and
headstrong and violent without control or guide, when his passions
were concerned, he encouraged every angry feeling against Morales,
caring neither to define nor subdue them, till the longing to meet him
in deadly combat, and the how to do so, became the sole and dangerous
occupation of heart and mind.
Stanley's heavy and unnatural sleep had lasted some hours, when he was
suddenly and painfully awakened by so loud and long a peal of thunder
that the very house seemed to rock and shake with the vibration. He
started up on his couch; but darkness was around him so dense that
he could not distinguish a single object. This sleep had been
unrefreshing, and so heavy an oppression rested on his chest, that he
felt as if confined in a close cage of iron. He waved his arms to feel
if he were indeed at liberty. He moved in free air, but the darkness
seemed to suffocate him; and springing up, he groped his way to the
window, and flung it open. Feverish and restless, the very excitement
of the night seemed to urge him forth, thus to disperse the oppressive
weight within. A flash of lightning playing on the polished sheath of
his sword, he secured it to his side, and threw his mantle over his
shoulders. As he did so his hand came in contact with the upper part
of the sheath, from which the hilt should have projected; but, to his
astonishment and alarm, no hilt was there--the sheath was empty.
In vain he racked his memory to ascertain whether he had left his
sword in its scabbard, or had laid the naked blade, as was his custom,
by him while he slept. The more he tried to think the more confused
his thoughts became. His forehead felt circled with burning iron,
his lips were dry and parched, his step faltering as if under the
influence of some potent spell. He called for a light, but his voice
sounded in his own ears thick and unnatural, and no one answered. His
aged hosts had retired to rest an hour before, and though they had
noticed and drew their own conclusions from his agitated movements,
his call was unregarded. In five minutes more they heard him rush from
the house; and anxious as she was to justify all the ways and doings
of her handsome lodger, old Juanna was this night compelled to lean
to her husband's ominously expressed belief, that no one would
voluntarily go forth on such an awful night, save for deeds of evil.
His rapid pace and open path were illumined every alternate minute
with, the vivid lightning, and the very excitement of the storm
partially removed the incomprehensible sensations under which Stanley
labored. He turned in the direction of the castle, perhaps with the
unconfessed hope of meeting some of his companions in arms returning
from the royal meeting, and in their society to shake off the spell
which chained him. As he neared the Calle Soledad the ground suddenly
became slippery, as with some thick fluid, of what nature the dense
darkness prevented his discovering, his foot came in contact with some
heavy substance lying right across his path. He stumbled and fell, and
his dress and hands became literrally dyed with the same hue as the
ground. He started up in terror; a long vivid flash lingering more
than a minute in the air, disclosed the object against which he had
fallen; and paralyzed with horror, pale, ghastly, as if suddenly
turned to stone, he remained. He uttered no word nor cry; but flash
after flash played around him, and still beheld him gazing in
stupefied and motionless horror on the appalling sight before him.
1st MONK.--The storm increases; hark! how dismally
It sounds along the cloisters!
BERNARD.--As on I hastened, bearing thus my light,
Across my path, not fifty paces off,
I saw a murdered corse, stretched on its back,
Smeared with new blood, as though but freshly slain.
The apartment adjoining the council-room of the castle, and selected
this night as the scene of King Ferdinand's banquet, was at the
commencement of the storm filled with the expected guests. From forty
to fifty were there assembled, chosen indiscriminately from the
Castilians and Arragonese, the first statesmen and bravest warriors
of the age. But the usual animated discussion, the easy converse, and
eager council, had strangely, and almost unconsciously, sunk into a
gloomy depression, so universal and profound, that every effort
to break from it, and resume the general topics of interest, was
fruitless. The King himself was grave almost to melancholy, though
more than once he endeavored to shake it off, and speak as usual. Men
found themselves whispering to each other as if they feared to speak
aloud--as if some impalpable and invisible horror were hovering round
them. It might have been that the raging storm without affected all
within, with a species of awe, to which even the wisest and the
bravest are liable when the Almighty utters His voice in the tempest,
and the utter nothingness of men comes home to the proudest heart.
But there was another cause. One was missing from the council and the
board; the seat of Don Ferdinand Morales was vacant, and unuttered but
absorbing anxiety occupied every mind. It was full two hours, rather
more, from the given hour of meeting; the council itself had been
delayed, and was at length held without him, but so unsatisfactory did
it prove, that many subjects were postponed. They adjourned to the
banquet-room; but the wine circled but slowly, and the King leant back
on his chair, disinclined apparently for either food or drink.
"The storm increases fearfully," observed the aged Duke of Murcia,
a kinsman of the King, as a flash of lightning blazed through the
casements, of such extraordinary length and brilliance, that even the
numerous lustres, with which the room was lighted, looked dark when
it disappeared. It was followed by a peal of thunder, loud as if a
hundred cannons had been discharged above their heads, and causing
several glasses to be shivered on the board. "Unhappy those compelled
to brave it."
"Nay, better out than in," observed another. "There is excitement in
witnessing its fury, and gloom most depressing in listening to it
"Perchance 'tis the shadow of the coming evil," rejoined Don Felix
d'Estaban. "Old legends say, there is never a storm like this, without
bringing some national evil on its wings."
"Ha! say they so?" demanded the King, suddenly, that his guests
started. "And is there truth in it?"
"The lovers of such marvels would bring your Grace many proofs that,
some calamity always followed such a tempest," replied Don Felix. "It
may or may not be. For my own part, I credit not such things. We are
ourselves the workers of evil--no fatality lurking in storms."
"Fated or casual, if evil has occurred to Don Ferdinand Morales,
monarch and subject will alike have cause to associate this tempest
with national calamity," answered the King, betraying at once the
unspoken, but engrossing subject of his thoughts. "Who saw him last?"
Don Felix d'Estaban replied that he had seen him that day two hours
"And where, my Lord--at home or abroad?"
"In his own mansion, which he said he had not quitted that day," was
"And how seemed he? In health as usual?"
"Ay, my liege, save that he complained of a strange oppressiveness,
disinclining him for all exertion."
"Did he allude to the council of to-night?"
"He did, my Lord, rejoicing that he should be compelled to rouse
himself from his most unwonted mood of idleness."
"Then some evil has befallen him," rejoined the King; and the
contraction of his brow denied the calmness, implied by his unmoved
tone. "We have done wrong in losing all this time, Don Alonzo," he
added, turning to the Senor of Aguilar, "give orders that a band of
picked men scour every path leading hence to Morales' mansion: head
them thyself, an thou wilt, we shall the more speedily receive
tidings. Thine eyes have been more fixed on Don Ferdinand's vacant
seat, than on the board this last hour; so hence, and speed thee, man.
It may be he is ill: we have seen men stricken unto death from one
hour to the other. If there be no trace of him in either path, hie
thee to his mansion; but return not without news. Impalpable evil is
ever worse than the tangible and real."
Don Alonzo scarcely waited the conclusion of the King's speech, so
eager was he to depart; and the longing looks cast after him betrayed
how many would have willingly joined him in his search.
"His wife?" repeated the King, in answer to some suggestions of his
kinsman's. "Nay, man; hast thou yet to learn, that Morales' heart
would break ere he would neglect his duty? No: physical incapacity
would alone have sufficient power to keep him from us--no mental ill."
If the effort to continue indifferent conversation had been difficult
before, it now became impossible. The very silence felt ominous. What
evil could have befallen? was asked internally by each individual; but
the vague dread, the undefined horror of something terrible impending,
prevented all reply; and so nearly an hour passed, when, far removed
as was the council-room from the main body of the castle, a confusion
as of the entrance of many feet, and the tumultuary sound of eager
voices, was distinguished, seeming to proceed from the great hall.
"It cannot be Don Alonzo so soon returned," remarked the Duke of
Murcia; but even as he spoke, and before the King had time to make an
impatient sign for silence, so intently was he listening, the Lord of
Aguilar himself re-entered the apartment.
"Saints of heaven!" ejaculated the King, and his exclamation was
echoed involuntarily by all around. The cheek of the warrior, never
known to blanch before, was white as death; his eye haggard and wild;
his step so faltering, that his whole frame reeled. He sunk on the
nearest seat, and, with a shuddering groan, pressed both hands before
"Wine! wine! give him wine!" cried Ferdinand impetuously, pushing a
brimming goblet towards him. "Drink, man, and speak, in Heaven's name.
What frightful object hast thou seen, to bid thee quail, who never
quailed before? Where is Morales? Hast thou found him?"
"Ay," muttered Don Alonzo, evidently struggling to recall his
energies, while the peculiar tone of the single monosyllable caused
every heart to shudder.
"And where is he? Why came he not hither? Why neglect our royal
summons?" continued the King, hurrying question after question with
such an utter disregard of his usual calm, imperturbable cautiousness,
that it betrayed far more than words how much he dreaded the Senor's
reply. "Speak, man; what has detained him?"
"_Death_!" answered the warrior, his suppressed grief and horror
breathing in his hollow voice; and rising, he approached the King's
seat, and kneeling down, said in that low, concentrated tone, which
reaches every ear, though scarce louder than a whisper, "Sire, he is
"Murdered!" reiterated the King, as the word was echoed in all the
various intonations of horror, grief, and indignation from all around;
and he laid his hand heavily on Aguilar's shoulder--"Man, man, how can
this be? Who would dare lift up the assassin's hand against him--him,
the favorite of our subjects as of ourselves? Who had cause of
enmity--of even rivalship with him? Thou art mistaken, man; it
_cannot_ be! Thou art scared with the sight of murder, and no marvel;
but it cannot be Morales thou hast seen."
"Alas! my liege, I too believed it not; but the murdered corpse now
lying in the hall will be too bloody witness of my truth."
The King released his hold, and without a word of rejoinder, strode
from the apartment, and hastily traversing the long galleries, and
many stairs, neither paused nor spoke, till, followed by all his
nobles, he reached the hall. It was filled with soldiers, who, with
loud and furious voices, mingled execrations deep and fearful on
the murderer, with bitter lamentations on the victim. A sudden
and respectful hush acknowledged the presence of the Sovereign;
Ferdinand's brows were darkly knit, his lip compressed, his eyes
flashing sternly over the dense crowd; but he asked no question, nor
relaxed his hasty stride till he stood beside the litter on which,
covered with a mantle, the murdered One was lying. For a single minute
he evidently paused, and his countenance, usually so controlled as
never to betray emotion, visibly worked with some strong feeling,
which seemed to prevent the confirmation of his fears, by the trifling
movement of lifting up the mantle. But at length, and with a hurried
movement, it was cast aside; and there lay that noble form, cold,
rigid in death! The King pushed the long, jetty hair, now clotted with
gore, from the cheek on which it had fallen; and he recognized, too
well, the high, thoughtful brow, now white, cold as marble; the large,
dark eye, whose fixed and glassy stare had so horribly replaced the
bright intelligence, the sparkling lustre so lately there. The
clayey, sluggish white of death was already on his cheek; his lip,
convulsively compressed, and the left hand tightly clenched, as if the
soul had not been thus violently reft from the body, without a strong:
pang of mortal agony. His right hand had stiffened round the hilt
of his unsheathed sword, for the murderous blow had been dealt from
behind, and with such fatal aim, that death must have been almost
instantaneous, and the tight grasp of his sword the mere instinctive
movement of expiring nature. Awe-struck, chilled to the heart, did the
noble friends of the departed gather round him. On the first removal
of the mantle, an irresistible yell of curses on the murderer burst
forth from the soldiery, wrought into fury at thus beholding their
almost idolized commander; but the stern woe on the Sovereign's face
hushed them into silence; and the groan of grief and horror which
escaped involuntarily from Ferdinand's lips, was heard throughout the
"The murderer?" at length demanded many of the nobles at the same
moment. "Who has dared do this awful deed? Don Alonzo, is there no
clue to his person--no trace of his path?"
"There is trace and clue enough," was the brief and stern reply. "The
murderer is secured!"
"Ha!" exclaimed the King, roused at once; "secured, sayest thou? In
our bitter grief we had well-nigh forgotten justice. Bring forth the
dastardly craven; we would demand the reason of this cowardly blow ere
we condemn him to the death of torture which his crime demands. Let
him confront his victim. Why do you pause, my Lord? Produce the
Still Don Alonzo stood irresolute, and a full minute passed ere he
signed to the men who had accompanied him. A figure was instantly led
forward, his arms strongly secured in his own mantle, and his hat so
slouched over his face, that not a feature could be distinguished.
Still there was something in his appearance that struck a cold chill
of doubt to the heart of the King, and in a voice strangely expressive
of emotion, he commanded--"Remove his hat and mantle: we should know
He was obeyed, for there was no resistance on the part of the
prisoner, whose inner dress was also stained with blood, as were his
hands. His cheek was ashy pale; his eye bloodshot and pale; and his
whole appearance denoting such excessive agitation, that it would have
gone far to condemn him, even had there been no other proof.
"Stanley!" burst from the astonished King, as a wild cry ran round
the hall, and "Death to the ungrateful foreigner!"--"Death to the
base-born Englishman!"--"Tortures and death!" escaped, in every
variety of intonation, from the fierce soldiery, who, regardless even
of their Sovereign's presence, drew closer and closer round, clashing
their weapons, and with difficulty restrained from tearing him to
pieces where he stood.
"He was my foe," muttered the prisoner, almost unconscious of the
import of his words, or how far they would confirm the suspicions
against him. "He robbed me of happiness--he destined me to misery. I
hated him; but I did not murder him. I swore to take his life or lose
my own; but not thus--not thus. Great God! to see him lying there, and
feel it might have been my hand. Men, men! would ye quench hatred,
behold its object stricken before you by a dastard blow like this, and
ye will feel its enormity and horror. I did not slay him; I would
give my life to the murderer's dagger to call him back, and ask his
forgiveness for the thoughts of blood I entertained against him; but I
touched him not--my sword is stainless."
"Thou liest, false traitor!" exclaimed Don Felix, fiercely, and he
held up the hilt and about four inches of a sword, the remainder of
which was still in the body. "Behold the evidence to thy black lie!
My liege, this fragment was found beside the body deluged in gore.
We know the hilt too well to doubt, one moment, the name of its
possessor; there is not another like it throughout Spain. It snapt in
the blow, as if more honorable than its master, it could not survive
so foul a stain. What arm should wield it save his own?"
A universal murmur of execration, acknowledged this convincing
evidence; doubly confirmed, as it seemed to be by the fearful start
and muttered exclamation, on the part of the prisoner the moment it
was produced. The nobles thronged round the King, some entreating him
to sentence the midnight assassin to instant execution; others, to
retain him in severest imprisonment till the proofs of his guilt could
be legally examined, and the whole European World hear of the crime,
and its chastisement; lest they should say that as a foreigner,
justice was refused to him. To this opinion the King leaned.
"Ye counsel well and wisely, my lords," he said. "It shall not be
said, because the murdered was our subject, and the murderer an alien,
that he was condemned without examination of proofs against him, or
being heard in his own defence. Seven suns hence we will ourselves
examine every evidence for or against him, which, your penetration, my
lords, can collect. Till then, Don Felix, the prisoner is your
charge, to be produced when summoned; and now away with the midnight
assassin--he has polluted our presence too long. Away with the base
ingrate, who has thus requited our trust and love; we would look on
him no more."
With, a rapid movement the unfortunate young man broke from the guard,
which, at Don Felix's sign, closed round and sought to drag him from
the hall, and flung himself impetuously at Ferdinand's feet.
"I am no murderer!" he exclaimed, in a tone of such passionate agony,
that to any less prejudiced than those around, it must at least have
raised doubt as to his guilt. "I am not the base ingrate you would
deem me. Condemn me to death an thou wilt, I kneel not to sue for
life; for, dishonored and suspected, I would not accept it were it
offered. Let them bring forward what they will, I am innocent. Here,
before ye all, in presence of the murdered victim, by all held sacred
in Heaven or on Earth, I swear I slew him not! If I am guilty I call
upon the dead himself to rise, and blast me with his gaze!"
Involuntarily every eye turned towards the corpse; for, vague as such
an appeal might seem now, the age was then but barely past, when the
assistance of the murdered was often required in the discovery of the
murderer. Many a brave heart grew chill, and brown cheeks blanched, in
anticipation of the unearthly sign, so fully were they convinced of
Stanley's guilt, but none came. The stagnated blood did not flow forth
again--the eye did not glare with more consciousness than before--the
cold hand did not move to point its finger at the prisoner; and Don
Felix, fearing the effect of Stanley's appeal upon the King, signed to
the guards, who rudely raised and bore him from the hall.
The tumults of these events had naturally spread far and wide over the
castle, reaching the apartments of the Queen who, perceiving the awe
and terror which the raging tempest had excited in her attendants,
though incapable of aught like fear herself, had refrained from
dismissing them as usual. The confusion below seeming to increase with
every moment, naturally excited her surprise; and she commanded one
of her attendants to learn its cause. Already terrified, none seemed
inclined to obey, till a young girl, high spirited, and dauntless
almost as Isabella herself, departed of her own free will, and in a
few minutes returned, pale and trembling, with the dread intelligence,
that Don Ferdinand Morales lay murdered in the hall, and that Arthur
Stanley was his murderer.
Isabella paused not a moment, though the shock was so terrible that
for the minute she became faint and sick, and hastily quitting her
apartments, she entered the great hall at the moment the prisoner was
being borne from it. Stupefied with contending feelings. Ferdinand did
not perceive her entrance. The nobles, drawn together in little knots,
were conversing in low eager tones, or endeavoring to reduce the
tumultuary soldiery to more order; and the Queen moved on unperceived,
till she stood beside the corpse. She neither shrunk from it, nor
paled; but bending over him, murmured in a tone, that from its
startling indication of her unexpected presence, readied the ear of
all--"His poor, _poor_ Marie!"
The effect was electric. Until that moment horror and indignation had
been the predominant feeling; but with those words came the thought
of his young, his beautiful, his treasured wife--the utter, utter
desolation which that fearful death would bring to her; the contrast
between her present position, and that in which they had so lately
beheld her; and there was scarcely a manly spirit there, that did not
feel unwonted moisture gather in his eyes, or his heart swell with an
emotion never felt before.
"Now blessings on thy true woman's heart, my Isabel!" exclaimed the
King, tenderly drawing her from the couch of the dead. "I dare vouch
not one of us, mourning the noble dead, has, till now, cast a thought
upon the living. And who shall breathe these fearful tidings? Who
prepare the unfortunate Marie for the loss awaiting her, and yet tarry
to behold and soothe her anguish?"
"That will I do," replied the Queen, instantly. "None else will
prepare her so gently, so kindly; for none knew her husband's worth so
well, or can mourn his loss more deeply. She shall come hither. And
the murderer," she continued after a brief pause, and the change
was almost startling from the tender sympathy of the Woman to the
indignant majesty of the Queen--"Ferdinand, have they told me true as
to his person--is he secured?"
"Ay," answered the King, briefly and bitterly: and from respect to his
feelings, Isabella asked no more. Orders were issued for the body to
be laid in one of the state apartments; a guard to be stationed at the
entrance of the chamber, and measures taken to keep the events of that
fatal night profoundly secret, lest confusion should be aroused in the
easily excited populace, or her terrible loss too rudely reach the
ears of the most painfully bereaved. These orders were punctually
"Yet again methinks
Some unknown sorrow, ripe in Future's womb,
Is coming towards me; and my inward soul
With nothing trembles. At something it grieves
More than the parting with my lord."
Long did Marie Morales linger where her husband had left her after his
strangely passionate farewell. His tone, his look, his embrace haunted
her almost to pain--all were so unlike his wonted calmness: her full
heart so yearned towards him that she would have given worlds, if she
had had them, to call him to her side once more--to conjure him again
to forgive and assure her of his continued trust--to tell him she was
happy, and asked no other love than his. Why had he left her so early?
when she felt as if she had so much to say--so much to confide. And
then her eye caught the same ominous cloud which had so strangely
riveted Don Ferdinand's gaze, and a sensation of awe stole over her,
retaining her by the casement as by some spell which she vainly strove
to resist; until the forked lightnings began to illumine the murky
gloom, and the thunder rolled awfully along. Determined not to give
way to the heavy depression creeping over her, Marie summoned her
attendants, and strenuously sought to keep up an animated conversation
as they worked. Not expecting to see her husband till the ensuing
morning, she retired to rest at the first partial lull of the storm,
and slept calmly for many hours. A morning of transcendent loveliness
followed the awful horrors of the night. The sun seemed higher in the
heavens than usual, when Marie started from a profound sleep, with a
vague sensation that something terrible had occurred; every pulse
was throbbing, though, her heart felt stagnant within her. For some
minutes she could not frame a distinct thought, and then her husband's
fond farewell flashed back; but what had that to do with gloom?
Ringing a little silver bell beside her, Manuella answered the
summons, and Marie anxiously inquired for Don Ferdinand. Had he
not yet returned? A sensation of sickness--the deadly sickness of
indefinable dread--seemed to stupefy every faculty, as Manuella
answered in the negative, adding, it was much beyond his usual hour.
"Send to the castle, and inquire if aught has detained him," she
exclaimed; hastily rising as she spoke, and commencing a rapid toilet.
She was scarcely attired before Alberic, with a pale cheek and voice
of alarm, brought information that a messenger and litter from the
palace were in the court, bringing the Queen's mandate for the instant
attendance of Donna Marie.
"Oh! lady, dearest lady, let me go with thee," continued the boy,
suddenly clasping her robe and bursting into tears. "My master--my
good, noble master--something horrible has occurred, and they will not
tell me what. Every face I see is full of horror--every voice seems
"Hush!" angrily interposed Manuella, as she beheld Marie's very lips
lose their glowing tint, and her eyes gaze on vacancy. "For God's
sake, still thine impudent tongue; thou'lt kill her with thy
"Kill! who is killed?" gasped Marie. "What did he say? Where is my
"Detained at the palace, dearest lady," readily answered Manuella.
"This foolish boy is terrified at shadows. My lord is detained, and
her Grace has sent a litter requiring thine attendance. We must haste,
for she wills no delay. Carlotta, my lady's mantilla; quick, girl!
Alberic, go if thou wilt: my Lord may be glad of thee! Ay, go," she
continued some little time afterwards, as her rapid movements speedily
placed her passive, almost senseless mistress, in the litter; and she
caught hold of the page's hand with a sudden change of tone, "go; and
return speedily, in mercy, Alberic. Some horror is impending; better
know it than this terrible suspense."
How long an interval elapsed ere she stood in Isabella's presence,
Marie knew not. The most incongruous thoughts floated, one after
another, through her bewildered brain--most vivid amongst them all,
hers and her husband's fatal secret: had it transpired? Was he
sentenced, and she thus summoned to share his fate? And then, when
partially relieved by the thought, that such a discovery had
never taken place in Spanish annals--why should she dread an
impossibility?--flashed back, clear, ringing, as if that moment
spoken, Stanley's fatal threat; and the cold shuddering of every limb
betrayed the aggravated agony of the thought. With her husband she
could speak of Arthur calmly; to herself she would not even think his
name: not merely lest he should unwittingly deceive again, but that
the recollection of _his_ suffering--and caused by her--ever created
anew, thoughts and feelings which she had vowed unto herself to bury,
and for ever.
Gloom was on every face she encountered in the castle. The very
soldiers, as they saluted her as the wife of their general, appeared
to gaze upon her with rude, yet earnest commiseration; but neither
word nor rumor reached her ear. Several times she essayed to ask of
her husband, but the words died in a soundless quiver on her lip. Yet
if it were what she dreaded, that Stanley had fulfilled his threat,
and they had fought, and one had fallen--why was she thus summoned?
And had not Morales resolved to avoid him; for her sake not to avenge
Arthur's insulting words? And again the thought of their fatal secret
obtained ascendency. Five minutes more, and she stood alone in the
presence of her Sovereign.
* * * * *
It was told; and with such deep sympathy, so gently, so cautiously,
that all of rude and stunning shock was averted; but, alas! who could
breathe of consolation at such a moment? Isabella did not attempt it;
but permitted the burst of agony full vent. She had so completely
merged all of dignity, all of the Sovereign into the woman and the
friend, that Marie neither felt nor exercised restraint; and words
mingled with her broken sobs and wild lament, utterly incomprehensible
to the noble heart that heard. The awful nature of Don Ferdinand's
death, Isabella had still in some measure concealed; but it seemed as
if Marie had strangely connected it with violence and blood, and, in
fearful and disjointed words, accused herself as its miserable cause.
"Why did not death come to me?" she reiterated; "why take him, my
husband--my noble husband? Oh, Ferdinand, Ferdinand! to go now, when I
have so learnt to love thee! now, when I looked to years of faithful
devotion to prove how wholly the past was banished--how wholly I was
thine alone! to atone for hours of suffering by years of love! Oh, how
couldst thou leave me friendless--desolate?"
"Not friendless, not desolate, whilst Isabella lives," replied the
Queen, painfully affected, and drawing Marie closer to her, till her
throbbing brow rested on her bosom. "Weep, my poor girl, tears must
flow for a loss like this; and long, long weeks must pass ere we may
hope for resignation; but harrow not thyself by thoughts of more
fearful ill than the reality, my child. Do not look on what might be,
but what has been; on the comfort, the treasure, thou wert to the
beloved one we have lost. How devotedly he loved thee, and thou--"
"And I so treasured, so loved. Oh, gracious Sovereign!" And Marie sunk
down at her feet, clasping her robe in supplication. "Say but I may
see him in life once more; that life still lingers, if it be but to
tell me once more he forgives me. Oh, let me but hear his voice; but
once, only once, and I will be calm--quite calm; I will try to bear
this bitter agony. Only let me see him, hear him speak again. Thou
knowest not, thou canst not know, how my heart yearns for this."
"See him thou shalt, my poor girl, if it will give thee aught of
comfort; but hear him, alas! alas! my child, would that it might be!
Would for Spain and her Sovereign's sake, then how much more for
thine, that voice could be recalled; and life, if but for the briefest
space, return! Alas! the blow was but too well aimed."
"The blow! what blow? How did he die? Who slew him?" gasped Marie; her
look of wild and tearless agony terrifying Isabella, whose last words
had escaped unintentionally. "Speak, speak, in mercy; let me know the
"Hast thou not thyself alluded to violence, and wrath, and hatred,
Marie? Answer me, my child; didst thou know any one, regarding the
generous Morales with such feelings? Could there be one to regard him
as his foe?"
Crouching lower and lower at Isabella's feet, her face half burled in
her robe, Marie's reply was scarcely audible; but the Queen's brow
"None?" she repeated almost sternly; "wouldst thou deceive at such a
moment? contradict thyself? And yet I am wrong to be thus harsh. Poor
sufferer!" she added, tenderly, as she vainly tried to raise Marie
from the ground; "thou hast all enough to bear; and if, indeed, the
base wretch who has dared thus to trample on the laws alike of God
and man, and stain his own soul with the foul blot of midnight
assassination, be him whom we have secured, thou couldst not know him
as thy husband's foe. It is all mystery--thine own words not least;
but his murder shall be avenged. Ay, had my own kinsman's been the
hand to do the dastard deed."
"Murder! who was his murderer?" repeated Marie, the horror of such a
fate apparently lost in other and more terrible emotion; "who could
have raised his sword against my husband? Said I he had no foe? Had he
not one, and I, oh, God! did not I create that enmity? But he would
not have murdered him; oh, no--no: my liege, my gracious liege, tell
me in mercy--my brain feels reeling--who was the murderer?"
"One thou hast known but little space, poor sufferer," replied the
Queen, soothingly; "one whom of all others we could not suspect of
such a deed. And even now, though appearances are strong against him,
we can scarce believe it; that young foreign favorite of my royal
husband, Arthur Stanley."
"STANLEY!" repeated Marie, in a tone so shrill, so piercing, that the
wild shriek which it formed rung for many and many a day in the ears
of the Queen. And as the word passed her lips she started to her feet,
stood for a second erect, gazing madly on her royal mistress, and
then, without one groan or struggle, dropped perfectly lifeless at her