Great was the surprise and many the conjectures of the Queen’s female court, when rather more than six months after her strange disappearance, the widow of Morales re-appeared amongst them; not publicly indeed, for at the various fetes and amusements of the palace, and elsewhere, Marie was never seen. Her existence, however, and safety, under Isabella’s especial protection, were no longer kept secret; and her recent loss was in itself quite sufficient reason for her strict retirement. Her identity with brother Ernest, the supposed novice, never transpired; he was supposed to have returned with Perez to his guardian, Father Ambrose, who, though seen and questioned by Don Alonzo at the village, did not accompany his dying penitent to Segovia, nor, in fact, was ever seen in that city again.
The tender care and good nursing which had been lavished on Marie, had restored her sufficiently to health as to permit returning elasticity of mind. All morbid agony had passed, all too passionate emotions were gradually relaxing their fire-bands round her heart; and strength, the martyr strength, for which she unceasingly prayed, to give up all if called upon for her God, seemed dawning for her. That she was still under some restraint, a sort of prisoner in the palace, Marie herself was not aware; she had neither wish nor energy to leave the castle, and therefore knew not that her egress, save under watchful guardianship, would have been denied. She had no spirits to mingle with the light-hearted, happy girls, in her Sovereign’s train, and therefore was unconscious that, with the sole exception of Catherine whose passionate entreaties had obtained her this privilege, all intimacy with them would have been effectually prevented. It was enough, more than enough (for the foreboding dread was ever present, that such a blissful calm, such mental and bodily repose, were far, far too sweet for any long continuance) to be employed in little services for and about the person of the Queen, and to know that Arthur Stanley was restored to even more than former favor, and fast rising to eminence and honor.
Before the sovereigns quitted Segovia, Stanley left the court to march southward with Pedro Pas, to occupy a strong fortification on the barrier line, dividing the Spanish from the Moorish territories, and commanding a very important post, which Ferdinand was anxious to secure, and where he intended to commence his warlike operations, as speedily as he could settle affairs at Saragossa. Twice before Stanley’s departure did Isabella contrive an apparently accidental meeting between him and Marie, permitting them, though in her presence, ample opportunity for mutual explanation; but not with much evident success. Stanley, indeed, was painfully and visibly agitated, finding it difficult, almost impossible to speak the feelings which had so long filled heart and mind, and been in fancy so often thrown into eloquent words, that he could not understand why in her presence words were frozen up,