“Could he send thee on such a rapid errand, my child, and suffering thus?” gently inquired Isabella.
“No, gracious madam,” was the unhesitating rejoinder, though a burning blush mounted to her very temples; “it was my own voluntary choice. It was my unhappy fate to have been the actual cause of his arraignment; it was but my duty to save him if I could.”
“And thou wouldst have returned with Perez had we not penetrated thy disguise?”
“Yes, gracious Sovereign.” And the flush faded into paleness, ashy as before; but the tone was calm and firm.
The Queen looked at her intently, but made no further observation; and speedily summoning her before trusted attendants, placed the widow of Morales once more in their charge; imparted to them as much of Marie’s tale as she deemed requisite, and the consequent necessity for her return to the Queen’s care; nay, her very existence was to be kept secret from all save those to whom she herself should choose to impart it. Gratified by her confidence, they were eager to obey; and so skilfully did they enter into her wishes, that their very companions suspected not the identity of the prisoner, in whom, they were told, their Sovereign was so much interested. Curiosity might have been busy with very many, but their vague conjectures fell far short of the truth; Catharine Pas was the only one of Isabella’s younger maidens to whom the real fact was imparted.
’Twas a dark tale of crime, and
awed and chilled
E’en indignation seeming horror still’d,
Men stood beside a murd’rer’s couch of death,
Watching-the glazing-eye and flickering-breath—
Speaking with look and hurried sign alone,
Their thoughts, too terror-fraught for word or tone.—MS.
The indignation excited in the Queen’s mind against Don Louis was destined, very speedily, to be increased. Ferdinand had had time to become half angry, and quite impatient, ere his messengers dispatched to the village returned. Stanley had been released—was regarded by all as innocent; but this was literally only from a peasant’s word and the half broken intelligence of an exhausted boy: he wanted proof, and a vague dread would take possession of him that his fate was but temporarily suspended. At an early hour the next day, however, Don Alonzo returned; and Ferdinand’s impatient anger was averted, when he found the delay had been occasioned by their determination, to convey the dying man to Segovia, and the caution necessary for its accomplishment. The Hermanos had already noted down his confession; but it was so fraught with extended and dangerous consequences, that they felt, they dared not act on their responsibility: all suppressing measures must proceed from the sovereigns themselves. Perez was again summoned, and at once swore to the identity of the dying man as the individual he had rescued from a deep pit, in a lonely mountain-pass, about twenty miles from his village; and the man, whose eagerness to speak was evident, though his voice was so faint, as scarcely to be intelligible, commenced his dark and terrible tale.