“Ay, so let it be,” muttered the King as a loud murmur of assent ran through the hall. “We have two witnesses for this; and, by heaven, if the one differ from the other in the smallest point, the prisoner may still be reprieved!”
Whether the royal observation was heard or not, there was no rejoinder, for at the summoning of the chief Hermano, Don Luis Garcia stood before the assemblage. His appearance excited surprise in many present, and in none more than the prisoner himself. He raised his head, which had been resting on his hand during the address of the Sub-Prior, and the reply of the Hermano, and looked at the new witness with bewildered astonishment. As Don Luis continued his relation of the stormy interview between the deceased and the accused, and the words of threatening used by the latter, astonishment itself, changed into an indignation and loathing impossible to be restrained.
“Thou base dishonored villain!” he exclaimed, so suddenly and wrathfully that it startled more by its strange contrast with his former calmness than by its irreverent interruption to the formula of the examination; “where wert thou during this interview? Hearing so well, and so invisibly concealed, none but the voluntary spy could have heard all this; so skilfully detailed that thou wouldst seem in very truth witness as well as hearer. What accident could have led thee to the most retired part of Don Ferdinand’s garden, and, being there, detained thee? Thou treacherous villain! and on thy evidence—evidence so honorably, so truthfully obtained, my life or death depends! Well, be it so.”
“But so it shall not be,” interposed the King himself, ere either Sub-Prior or the Hermano could reply; “even as the prisoner, we ourselves hold evidence dishonestly obtained of little moment—nay, of no weight whatever. Be pleased, Don Luis Garcia, to explain the casualty which led you, at such an important moment, to Don Ferdinand’s grounds; or name some other witness. The voluntary listener is, in our mind, dishonorable as the liar, and demanding no more account.”
With a mien and voice of the deepest humility, Don Luis replied; grieving that his earnest love of justice should expose him to the royal displeasure; submitting meekly to unjust suspicion as concerned himself, but still upholding the truth and correctness of his statement. The other witness to the same, he added mysteriously, he had already named to his Royal Highness.