One night—she knew not how long after she had been remanded to her cell, but, counting by suffering, it felt many weary nights and days—she sunk into a sleep or trance, which transported her to her early home in the Vale of Cedars. Her mother seemed again to stand before her; and she thought, as she heard her caressing voice, and met the glance of her dove-like eyes, she laid her head on her bosom, as she was wont to do in her happy childhood; and peace seemed to sink into her heart so blessedly, so deeply, that the very fever of her frame departed. A voice aroused her with a start; it was so like her mother’s, that the dream seemed lingering still.
“Marie, my beloved one,” murmured the voice, and a breath fanned her cheek, as if some one were leaning over her. She unclosed her eyes—the words, the voice, still so kept up the illusion, though the tones were deeper than a woman’s, that even the hated dress of a familiar of the Inquisition could not create alarm. “Hast thou forgotten me, my child? But it matters not now. Say only thou wilt trust me, and safety lies before us. The fiends hold not their hellish court to-night; and the arch-fiend himself is far distant, on a sudden summons from the King, which, though the grand Inquisitor might scorn, Don Luis will obey. Wilt come with me, my child?”
“Ay, any where! That voice could not deceive: but ’tis all vain,” she continued, the first accents of awakened hope lost in despondency—“I cannot rise.”
“It needs not. Do thou hold the lantern, Marie; utter not a word—check even thy breath—and the God of thy fathers shall save thee yet.”
He raised her gently in his arms; and the hope of liberty, of rescue from Don Luis, gave her strength to grasp the light to guide them. She could not trace their way, but she felt they left the dungeon, and traversed many long, damp, and narrow passages, seemingly excavated in the solid earth. All was silent, and dark as the tomb; now and then her guide paused, as if to listen; but there was no sound. He knew well the secret paths he trod.
The rapid motion, even the sudden change, almost deprived Marie of consciousness. She was only sensible, by a sudden change from the close, damp, passages to the free breezes of night, that she was in the open air, and apparently a much freer path; that still her guide pressed swiftly onwards, apparently scarcely feeling her light weight; that, after a lengthened interval, she was laid tenderly on a soft, luxurious couch—at least, so it seemed, compared with the cold floor of her cell; that the blessed words of thanksgiving that she was safe broke from that strangely familiar voice; and she asked no more—seemed even to wish no more—so completely was all physical power prostrated. She lay calm and still, conscious only that she was saved. Her guide himself for some time disturbed her not; but after changing his dress, and preparing a draught of cooling herbs, he knelt down, raised her head on his knee with almost woman’s tenderness, and, holding the draught to her lips, said, gently—