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Grace Aguilar
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 282 pages of information about The Vale of Cedars.

“Not my own will.  Oh, no—­no, gracious Sovereign; I would have remained a contented prisoner with thee, but they bore me away to such scenes and sounds of horror that their very memory burns my brain.  Oh, madam! do with me what thou wilt, but condemn me not to return to that fearful place again.  Death, death itself—­ay, even such a death as Arthur has escaped—­were mercy in its stead!”

“Of what speakest thou, Marie?  Who could have dared bear thee from our protection without thine own free will?  Thy mind has been overwrought and is bewildered still; we have been harsh, perchance, to urge thee to speak now:  repose may—­“.

“Repose!  Oh, no—­no; let me remain with thee!” she sobbed, as forgetful of either state or form, her head sunk on Isabella’s knee.  “He has borne me from your highness’ power once; he can, he may, I know he will again.  Oh, save me from him!  It was not because of my faith he bore me there, and tempted and tortured and laughed at my agony; he taunted me with his power to wreak the vengeance of a baffled passion upon me—­for, as a Jewess, who would protect me?  Oh, mighty Sovereign! send me not from thy presence.  Don Luis will take me from thy very roof again.”

“Don Luis!” repeated Isabella, more and more convinced that Marie’s sufferings had injured her brain.  “What power can he have, so secret and so terrible?  Marie, thou ravest!”

“Do I rave?” replied the unhappy girl, raising her right hand to her throbbing brow.  “It may be so; perhaps it has all been a dream—­a wild and fearful dream!—­and I am awakened from it now; and yet—­yet how can it be; how came my arm thus if it had not been reality—­horrible, agonizing reality!” And as she spoke she removed the covering from her left arm.  Painfully Isabella started:  the beautiful limb hung powerless from wrist to shoulder, a dry and scorched and shrievelled bone.

“And couldst thou think thy Sovereign would ordain, or even permit, such suffering?” she exclaimed, after a moment’s pause, passing her arm fondly round Marie, whom she had raised from the ground to a cushion by her side.  “My poor unhappy child, what is this dark mystery?  Who can have dared to injure thee, and call it justice, zeal—­religion, perchance!  Mother of Mercy! pardon the profanation of the word!  Try and collect thy thoughts, and tell me all.  Who has dared thus insult our power?”

“Don Luis!—­Don Luis!” repeated Marie, clinging like an infant to the Queen, and shuddering with terror at the very recollection of a power which she had faced so calmly.  “Oh, save me from him! torture itself I could bear, but not his words.”

“Don Luis!” reiterated the astonished Queen.  “What has he to do with torture?  Who is he—­what is he, my poor child, that his very name should thus appal thee?  He may indeed have dared speak insulting words, but what power has he thus fearfully to wreak his vengeance?”

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