It was not till the conclusion of this momentous narration, that the King permitted any questions to be asked; and those he then demanded were so concise and clear, that but few words were needed in which to couch the reply.
“And the designer of this hellish plot, the real murderer—through thy hand, of one brave friend, and almost another—is the same who has murdered thee!” he inquired, after learning the exact sites of these mysterious halls; information which caused some of the bravest hearts to shudder, from their close vicinity.
The man answered at once in the affirmative.
“And he dares assume, in this illegal tribunal, the rank of Grand Inquisitor?”
“Ay, gracious liege.”
“And his name?—that by which he is known to man? Speak! And as thy true confession may be the means of bringing a very fiend to justice, so may thy share in his deeds be pardoned.”
An indescribable expression passed over the fast stiffening features of the dying. He half raised himself, and, laying his clammy hand on Ferdinand’s robe, whispered, in clear and thrilling tones—
“Bend low, my liege; even at this moment I dare not speak it loud; but, oh! beware of those who affect superior sanctity to their fellows: there is one who in the sunshine stands forth wisest, and purest, and strictest; and at midnight rules arch-fiend—men call him DON LUIS GARCIA. He is Don Ferdinand’s murderer! He sought Senor Stanley’s death and mine; but instead of a victim, he has found an accuser! His web has coiled round himself—flee him! avoid him as ye would a walking pestilence, or visible demon! Minister as he may be of our holy father, the Pope, he is a villain—his death alone can bring safety to Spain. Ha! what is this? Mother of mercy! save me! The cross! the cross! Absolution! The flames of hell! Father, bid them avaunt! I—a true confession.” The words were lost in a fearful gurgling sound, and the convulsion which ensued was so terrible, that some of the very bravest involuntarily turned away; but Stanley, who had listened to the tale with emotions too varied and intense for speech, now sprung forward, wildly exclaiming—
“Three victims for one! Where is that one? Speak—speak in mercy! Oh, God! he dies and says no word!”
The eyes of the dying man glared on him, but there was no meaning in their gaze; they rolled in their sockets, glazed, and in another minute all was stiff in death.
Woo the free spirit for dishonored breath
To sell its birthright? Doth Heaven set a price
On the clear jewel of unsullied faith
And the bright calm of conscience?”