“It needs not, gracious Sovereign; my strength will not fail me,” replied Marie, her sweet voice falling distinctly on every ear, while Stanley started at its calmness; and she gracefully refused the seat Don Felix proffered. “Give no more thought to me than to any other witness; it is not a subject’s place to sit in presence of her Sovereign.”
But Ferdinand’s kindliest feelings were excited, and instead of permitting the Sub-Prior to give the necessary details, he himself, with characteristic brevity, but clearly and kindly, narrated the progress of the evidence for and against the prisoner, and how great the weight laid on the proofs, if there were any, of acknowledged enmity, and premeditated injury, on the part of the accused towards the deceased. The questions to which he was compelled to request her reply were simply, “Was she aware of any cause of hatred existing between the accused and the deceased?” “Had she ever heard opprobrious and insulting epithets used by the former or the latter?” “or any threat, implying that the death of Don Ferdinand Morales was desired by the prisoner?” “Had she ever seen the prisoner draw his sword upon the deceased?—and had she any reason to believe that Don Ferdinand had ever refused, or intended to refuse to meet the prisoner in honorable combat, and so urged the gratification of vengeance by a deed of murder? Reverend Father,” continued the King, “be pleased yourself to administer the customary oath.”
Father Francis instantly rose from his seat, and taking the large and richly embossed silver crucifix from the Monk, who had administered the oath to all the other witnesses, himself approached Marie. “Marie Henriquez Morales,” he said, as he reverentially held the solemn symbol of his religion before her, “art thou well advised of the solemnity of the words thou art called upon to speak? If so, swear to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Swear by the Holy Symbol which I support; by the unpronounceable name of the Father, by the flesh and blood, the resurrection and the life of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesu; by the Holy Spirit; by the saving and glorious Trinity; by the goodly army of Saints and Martyrs; daughter, swear, and the blessing or the curse be with you as you swear true or falsely.”
The fine countenance of the Sub-Prior glowed with the holy enthusiasm of his appeal; his form, as he stood, one hand clasping the crucifix, the other emphatically raised, seemed dilated to unusual height and majesty, and the deep solemnity of his accents so enhanced the awful responsibility of the oath, that it thrilled throughout the multitude as it had never done before. So deep was the stillness which followed, that not one of those vast crowds seemed to breathe. To the prisoner it was a moment of intense emotion: for if, indeed, Marie had once told him truth, that oath, to her, even in its solemnity, was as nought; but ere he could even think as to the wording of her answer, that answer came, and so distinct, so unfalteringly spoken, that there was not one person present who even strained his ear to catch the words.