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.
presence as if I were a loathsome reptile, unworthy even of thy tread, I bade thee beware, and to myself swore vengeance.  And knowest thou how that was accomplished?  Who led thy doting husband where he might hear thine own lips proclaim thy falsity?  Who poisoned the chalice of life, which had been so sweet, ere it was dashed from his lips by death?  Who commanded the murderer’s blow, and the weapon with which it was accomplished?  Who laid the charge of his murder on the foreign minion, and brought thee in evidence against him?  Who but I—­even I!  And if I have done all this, thinkest thou to elude my further vengeance?  I tell thee, if thou refuse the grace I proffer, Arthur Stanley dies; accept it, and he lives!”

“And not at such a price would Arthur Stanley wish, to live,” replied Marie calmly.  “He would spurn existence purchased thus.”

“Ay, perchance, if he knew it; but be it as thou wilt, he shall know thou couldst have saved him and refused.”

“And thinkest thou he will believe thee?  As little as I believed him my husband’s murderer.  How little knowest thou the trust of love!  He will not die,” she continued emphatically; “his innocence shall save him—­thy crime be known.”

“Ay!” replied Garcia, with a sneering laugh.  “Give thyself wings as a bird, and still stone walls will encircle thee; dwindle into thin air, and gain the outer world, and tell thy tale, and charge Don Luis Garcia with the deed, and who will believe thee?  Thinkest thou I would have boasted of my triumphant vengeance to aught who could betray me?  Why my very tool, the willing minister of my vengeance—­who slew Morales merely because I bade him—­might not live, lest he should be tempted to betray me; I slew him with my own hand.  What sayest thou now—­shall Stanley live, if I say Let him die?”

There was no reply, but he looked in vain for any diminution in the undaunted resolution which still sustained her.

“I go,” he continued, after a pause.  “Yet, once more, I charge thee choose; accept the terms I proffer—­be mine—­and thou art saved from all further torture thyself, and Stanley lives.  Refuse, and the English minion dies; and when thou and I next meet, it will be where torture and executioners wait but my nod to inflict such suffering that thou wilt die a thousand deaths in every pang.  And, Jewess—­unbeliever as thou art—­who will dare believe it more than public justice, or accuse me of other than the zeal, which the service of Christ demands?  Choose, and quickly—­wilt thou accept my proffers, and be mine?  Thou must, at last.  What avails this idle folly of tempting torture first?”

“Thou mayest kill my body, but thou canst not pollute my soul,” was the instant reply, and its tones were unchanged.  “And as for Stanley, his life or death is not in thine hands; but if it were, I could not—­nay, thus I would not—­save him.  I reject thy proffers, as I scorn thyself.  Now leave me—­I have chosen!”

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The Vale of Cedars from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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