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

CHAPTER XXX.

                “Oh, bear me up
  Against the unutterable tenderness
  Of earthly love, my God!  In the sick hour
  Of dying human hope, forsake me not!”

  MRS. HEMANS.

For some months all was gayety and rejoicing in Segovia, not a little heightened by the exciting preparations for the much desired war.  The time had now come when Ferdinand could, with safety to the internal state of his kingdom, commence the struggle for which he had so impatiently waited, since the very first hour of the union of Arragon and Castile.  Troops were marshalling secretly all over Spain; the armorers and smiths were in constant requisition.  The nobles were constantly flitting from their hereditary domains to the court, eager and active to combine all the pomp and valor of a splendid chivalry with the more regular force; standing armies, which in almost every European land were now beginning to take the place of the feudal soldiery, so long their sole resource.  It was necessary for Ferdinand, ere he commenced operations, to visit his own dominions; a measure he did not regret, as it effectually concealed his ulterior plans from the Moors, who were also at that time too much disturbed by internal dissensions, to give more than a cursory glance on the movements and appearances of their Christian foes.

In the festivals of the palace the young Englishman was naturally the hero of the day; the best feelings of the Spanish character had been called into play towards him:  he had been unjustly accused and seriously injured; been subject to dishonor and shame; and many might say it had all sprung from prejudice against him as a foreigner.  The very failing of the Spaniards in this case also operated in his favor; their national jealousy called upon them to make publicly manifest the falsity of such a supposition, and he was courted and feted by all, brought forward on every occasion, and raised and promoted both to civil and military distinction, by those very men who, before the late events, would have been the first to keep him back, yielding him but the bare and formal courtesy, which, however prejudiced, no true-born Spaniard could refuse.

Amongst Isabella’s female train, Arthur Stanley was ever gladly welcomed, and his presence might have proved dangerous to more than one of Isabella’s younger attendants, had not his manner been such as to preclude even the boldest and most presuming from any thought of love.  One alone he certainly singled out to talk with, and treat with more attention than any other; and that one was the maiden we have more than once had occasion to mention, Catherine Pas.  Rallied as she was by her companions, the young girl herself imagined there could be no danger to her peace in associating thus with the handsome young Englishman; for she knew, though her companions did not, the real reason of his preference for her society.  Isabella had once slightly hinted from which of her attendants Stanley might hear of Marie, and giving them permission to answer his queries.  It was a dangerous ordeal for Catherine, but she laughed at the idea of permitting her heart to pass into the possession of one who cared nothing for her, save as she could speak of Marie.

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