Don Luis did not reply, but Marie beheld his cheek grow livid, and the foam actually gather on his lip; but the calm and holy gaze she had fixed upon him, as he spoke, quailed not, nor changed. The invisible door of her cell closed with a deep, sullen sound, as if her tormentor had thus, in some measure, given vent to the unutterable fury shaking his soul to its centre; and Marie was alone. She stood for many, many minutes, in the fearful dread of his return; and then she raised her hand to her brow, and her lip blanched and quivered, and, with a long, gasping breath, she sunk down upon the cold floor—all the heroine lost in an agonized burst of tears.
“Hovers the steel above his head,
Suspended by a spider thread:
On, on! a life hangs on thy speed;
With lightning wing the gallant steed!
Buoy the full heart up! It will sink
If it but pause to feel and think.
There is no time to dread his fate:
No thought but one—too late, too late!”
Too soon did Marie realize the power of Don Luis to exercise his threatened vengeance! Two days after that terrible interview, she was again dragged to the hall of judgment: the same questions were proposed as before, whether or not she would denounce the secret followers of her own creed, and confess her late husband’s real belief; and the same firm answers given. We shrink in loathing from the delineation of horrible tortures applied to that frail and gentle being—shrink, for we know that such things actually have been; and women—young, lovely, inoffensive as Marie Morales—have endured the same exquisite agony for the same iniquitous purpose! In public, charged to denounce innocent fellow-beings, or suffer; in private—in those dark and fearful cells—exposed to all the horror and terror of such persecution as we have faintly endeavored to describe. It is no picture of the imagination, delighting to dwell on horrors. Would that it were! Its parallel will be found, again and again repeated, in the annals—not of the Inquisition alone—but of every European state where the Romanists held sway.
But Marie’s prayer for superhuman strength had been heard. No cry, scarcely a groan, escaped her. She saw Don Luis at her side; she heard his hissing whisper that there was yet time to retract and be released; but she deigned him no reply whatever. It was not his purpose to try her endurance to the utmost in the first, second, or third trial; though, so enraged at her calmness, as scarcely to be able to restrain it even before his colleagues, and with difficulty controlling his fiendish desire to increase the torture to its utmost at once, he remanded her to her dungeon till his further pleasure should be known. She had fainted under the intolerable pain, and lay for many successive hours, too exhausted even to raise to her parched lips the pitcher of water lying near her. And even the gradual cessation of suffering, the sensation of returning power, brought with them the agonized thought, that they did but herald increased and increasing torture.