The Vale of Cedars eBook

Grace Aguilar
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 347 pages of information about The Vale of Cedars.
exaggerated the horrors, which the partial light disclosed.  Instruments of torture of any and every kind—­the rack, the wheel, the screw, the cord, and fire—­groups of unearthly-looking figures, all clad in the coarse black serge and hempen belt; some with their faces concealed by hideous masks, and others enveloped in the cowls, through which only the eyes could be distinguished, the figure of the cross upon the breast, and under that emblem, of divine peace, inflicting such horrible tortures on their fellow-men that the pen shrinks from their delineation.  Nor was it the mere instruments of torture Marie beheld:  she saw them in actual use; she heard the shrieks and groans of the hapless victims, at times mingled with the brutal leers and jests of their fiendish tormentors; she seemed to take in at one view, every species of torture that could be inflicted, every pain that could be endured; and yet, comparatively, but a few of the actual sufferers were visible.  The shrillest sounds of agony came from the gloomy arches, in which no object could be distinguished.

Whatever suffering meets the sight, it does not so exquisitely affect the brain as that which reaches it through the ear.  At the former the heart may bleed and turn sick; but at the latter the brain seems, for the moment, wrought into frenzy; and, even though personally in safety, it is scarcely possible to restrain the same sounds from bursting forth.  How then must those shrill sounds of human agony have fallen on the hapless Marie, recognizing as she did with the rapidity of thought, in the awful scene around her, the main hall of that mysterious and terrible tribunal, whose existence from her earliest infancy had been impressed upon her mind, as a double incentive to guard the secret of her faith; that very Inquisition, from which her own grandfather, Julien Heuriquez, had fled, and in which the less fortunate grandfather of her slaughtered husband, had been tortured and burnt.

For a second she stood mute and motionless, as turned to stone; then, pressing both hands tightly on her temples, she sunk down at the feet of her conductor, and sought in words to beseech his mercy; but her white lips gave vent to no sound save a shriek, so wild that it seemed, for the moment, to drown all other sorrows, and startle even the human fiends around her.  Her conductor himself started back; but quickly recovering—­

“Fool!” he muttered, as he rudely raised her.  “I have no power to aid thee; come before the Superior—­we must all obey—­ask him, implore him, for mercy, not me.”

He bore her roughly to a recess, divided off at the upper end of the hall, by a thick black drapery, in which sat the Grand Inquisitor and his two colleagues.  One or two familiars were behind them, and a secretary sat near a table covered with black cloth, and on which were several writing implements.  All wore masks of black crape, so thick that not a feature could be discerned with sufficient clearness for recognition

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The Vale of Cedars from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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