“Reverend Father! We will ourselves take charge of this poor child. There are some questions we would fain inquire, ere we can permit his return to his guardian: if satisfactorily answered, a munificent gift to his patron saint shall demonstrate, how deeply we feel the exertions he has made; and if we can serve him better than merely allowing his return to his monastery, trust me we shall not fail. Follow me, youth!” she continued, as the Sub-Prior and the King, though surprised at her words, acquiesced. The novice shrunk back and clung to the side of Perez, as if most unwilling to comply; but neither the command, nor the look, with which it was enforced could be disobeyed, and slowly and falteringly he followed Isabella from the hall.
’Tis done! and so she droops.
How bold and brave to do thy destined part!
Thro’ sorrow’s waves press firmly, calmly on,
And pause not, sink not, till the goal is won!
Not a word passed between them, until they had reached Isabella’s private cabinet; and even then the Queen—though she seated herself and signed to the boy to stand before her, as desirous of addressing him—asked not a question, but fixed her penetrating eyes on his pallid features, with a look in which severity was very evidently struggling, with commiseration and regard. To attempt to retain disguise was useless; Marie flung aside the shrouding hood, and sinking down at the Queen’s feet, buried her face in her robe, and murmured in strong emotion—
“Again wouldst thou deceive, again impose upon me, Marie? What am I to think of conduct mysterious as thine? Wherefore fly from my protection—reject with ingratitude the kindness I would have proffered—mistrust the interest which thou hadst already proved, and then return as now? I promised forgiveness, and continuation of regard, if the truth were revealed and mystery banished, and darker than ever has thy conduct drawn the veil around thee. What urged thy flight, and wherefore this disguise? Speak out, and truthfully; we will be tampered with no longer!”
But Marie vainly tried to obey; her brain was burning; the rapid ride, the sudden transition, from the sickening horror of being too late, to the assurance of Stanley’s safety, the thought that she had indeed parted from him for ever, and now Isabella’s evident anger, when her woman-heart turned to her as a child’s to its mother’s, yearning for that gentle sympathy which, at such a moment, could alone have soothed. Words seemed choked within her, and the effort to speak produced only sobs. Isabella’s eyes filled with tears.
“Speak,” she said, more gently; “Marie—say only why thou didst fly me, when I had given no evidence, that the boon thou didst implore me to grant, had become, by thy strange confession, null and void. What urged thy flight?”