Once or twice they halted to give their horses rest and refresh themselves; but so absorbed were the senses of Marie, that she was unconscious of fatigue. Every mile they traversed seemed bearing a heavy load from her chest, and enabling her to breathe more freely; while the fresh breeze and exciting exercise seemed actually to revive her. It wanted rather more than an hour for noon when they reached the hostellerie mentioned by Perez. Two fleet and beautiful horses were speedily provided for them, bread and fruit partaken, and Perez, ready mounted, was tasting the stirrup cup, when his friend demanded—
“Is it to Segovia ye are bound?”
“Yes, man, on an important errand, charged by his reverence Father Ambrose himself.”
“His reverence should have sent you two hours earlier, and you would have been in time for one of the finest sights seen since Isabella—God bless her!—begun to reign. They were common enough a few years back.”
“What sight? and why am I not in time?”
“Now, art thou not the veriest rustic to be so entirely ignorant of the world’s doings? Why, to-day is the solemn execution of the young foreigner whom they believe we have murdered Don Ferdinand Morales—the saints preserve him! He is so brave a fellow, they say, that had it not been for this confounded hostellerie I would have made an effort to be present: I love to see how a brave man meets death. It was to have been two hours after day-break this morning, but Juan here tells me it was postponed till noon. The King—”
He was proceeding, when he was startled by a sharp cry, and Perez, hastily turning, caught the novice as he was in the act of falling from his horse. In an instant, however, he recovered, and exclaiming, in a thrilling tone of excitement—
“Father Ambrose said life or death hung upon our speed and promptness; he knew not the short interval allowed us. This young foreigner is innocent—the real murderer is discovered. On—, on, for mercy, or we shall be too late!”—gave his horse the rein, and the animal started off at full speed. Perez was at his side in an instant, leaving his friend open-mouthed with astonishment, and retailing the marvellous news into twenty different quarters in as many seconds.