Some time they sat around the board; and so unrestrained, so full of varied interest was their eager converse, that sunset came unheeded; and the silver lamps, fed with sweet incense, were placed upon the table. Julien then arose, and solemnly pronounced the usual blessing, or rather thanksgiving, after the bridal feast. Marie did not look up during its continuance; but as it concluded, she arose, and was about to retire with Donna Emilie, when her eye caught her father, and a cry of alarm broke from her. The burning flush had given place to a livid paleness—the glittering of the eye to a fixed and glassy gaze. The frame was, for a moment, rigid as stone, then fearfully convulsed; and Reuben, starting forward, caught his master as he fell. There was something so startling and unusual in the seizure, that even those accustomed to his periods of insensibility were alarmed; and vain was every effort of Ferdinand to awaken hope and comfort in the seemingly frozen spirit of his bride.
Henriquez was conveyed to his room, and every restorative applied; but even the skill of Julien, well versed as he was in the healing art, was without effect. More than an hour passed, and still he lay like death; and no sound, no sob, broke from the torn heart of his hapless child, who knelt beside his couch; her large dark eyes, distended to even more than their usual size, fixed upon his face; her hands clasped round one of his; but had she sought thus to give warmth she would have failed, for the hand of the living was cold and damp as that of the seeming dead.
A slight, almost imperceptible flush floated over that livid cheek—the eyes unclosed, but so quickly closed again that it was more like the convulsive quivering of the muscle than the effort of the will; and Marie alone had marked the change.
“Father!” she almost shrieked in agony, “in mercy speak to me again—say but you forgive—bless—”
“Forgive” feebly repeated the dying man; and the strong feeling of the father, for a brief interval, conquered even death—“Forgive?—my beautiful—my own!—the word is meaningless, applied to thee. Art thou not my Ferdinand’s bride, and hast thou not so taken the sting, the trial even from this dread moment? My precious one!—would I could see that face once more—but it is dark—all dark—kiss me, my child!”
She threw herself upon his bosom, and covered his cheek with kisses. He passed his hand feebly over her face, as if the touch could once more bring her features to his sight; and then extending his left hand, feebly called—“Ferdinand!”
His nephew caught the withered hand, and kneeling down, pressed it reverentially and fondly to his lips.
Henriquez’s lips moved, but there came no word.
“Doubt me not, my more than father! From boyhood to youth, from youth to manhood, I have doted on thy child. Shall I love and cherish her less now, that she has only me? Oh, trust me!—if devotion can give joy, she will know no grief, that man can avert, again!”