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The Vale of Cedars eBook

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

“Better for him, as for thee, to wed another, Marie!  Would’st thou wed the stranger, wert thou free?”

She buried her face in his bosom, and murmured, “Never!”

“Then in what can this passion end, but in misery for both?  In constant temptation to perjure thy soul, in forsaking all for him.  And if thou didst, would it bring happiness?  My child, thou art absolved, even had aught of promise passed between you.  Knowest thou not that a maiden of herself hath no power to vow?  Her father’s will alone absolves it or confirms.  Thou doest him no wrong.  Be Ferdinand’s bride, and all shall be forgiven, all forgotten—­thou art my child, my Miriam’s child once more!”

He pressed her again fondly to him; but though she made no reply, his arguments could not convince her.  She had indeed told Arthur that she never could be his, but yet avowed that she loved him; and if he did meet her as the wife of another, what must he believe her?  And Ferdinand, if he did so love her, that preoccupied heart was indeed a sad requital.  She had, however, that evening but little time to think, for ere either spoke again, the branches at the entrance of the tent were hastily pushed aside, and a tall manly form stood upon the threshold.  Marie sprang to her feet with a faint cry—­could it be that the vow of an hour was already called upon to be fulfilled?—­but the intruder attributed her alarm to a different cause, and hastily flinging off his wrapping mantle and deep plumed morion, he exclaimed, “What! alarmed by me, my gentle cousin? dearest Marie! am I forgotten?” And Henriquez, forgetting all of bodily exhaustion, all of mental suffering, in the deep joy his sudden appearance caused, could only fold the warrior in his feeble arms, and drooping his head on his shoulder, sob forth expressively, “My son! my son!”

CHAPTER VII.

  “And thus how oft do life and death
    Twine hand in hand together;
  And the funeral shroud, and bridal wreath,
    How small a space may sever!”

  MS.

One little week did Ferdinand spend within the home of his boyhood; and in that brief interval the earthly fate of Marie Henriquez was decided.  He had deferred his visit till such peace and prosperity had dawned for Spain, that he could offer his bride not only a home suited to his rank, but the comfort of his presence and protection for an indeterminate time.  He had come there purposely to reveal his long-cherished love; to conjure Marie to bless him with the promise of her hand; and, if successful, to return, in two short months, for the celebration of their marriage, according to their own secret rites, ere the ceremony was performed in the sight of the whole Catholic world.  The intermarriages of first cousins had been so common an occurrence in his family, that Ferdinand, in spite of some tremblings, as a lover, had regarded his final union with Marie with almost as much certainty, and as a thing of course, as his uncle himself.

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