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

And who was there, the mere spectator of this glittering pageant, but would have pronounced that there, at least, all was joy, and good-will, and trust, and love?  Who, even did they acknowledge the theory that one human heart, unveiled, would disperse this vain dream of seeming unalloyed enjoyment, would yet have selected the right individual for the proof, or would not have shrunk back awed and saddened had the truth been told?  Surely it is well for the young, the hopeful, and the joyous, that in such scenes they see but life’s surface—­not its depths.

The festive scene lasted some time longer, nor did it conclude with the departure of the King and Queen:  many still lingered, wandering at their own will about the rooms and gardens, and dispersing gradually, as was then the custom, without any set farewell.

Her attendance no longer required by the Queen, and aware that her presence was not needed by her guests, Marie sought the gardens; her fevered spirit and aching head yearning to exchange the dazzling lights and close rooms for the darkness and refreshing breeze of night.  Almost unconsciously she had reached some distance from the house, and now stood beside a beautiful statue of a-water-nymph, overlooking a deep still pool, so clear and limpid, that when the moon cast her light upon it, it shone like a sheet of silver, reflecting every surrounding object.  There were many paths that led to it, concealed one from the other by gigantic trees and overhanging shrubs.  It was a favorite spot with.  Marie, and she now stood leaning against the statue, quite unconscious that tears were falling faster and faster from her eyes, and mingling with the waters at her feet.

“Marie!” exclaimed the voice of Stanley at that moment:  “Canst thou be Marie? so false, so—­” but his words were checked, for the terror, the tumult of feeling, while it impelled her to start from him, deprived her of all power; and a rapid movement on his part alone prevented her from falling in the deep pool beneath their feet.  It was but a moment:  she withdrew herself from his supporting arms, and stood erect before him, though words she had none.

“Speak to me!” reiterated Arthur, his voice sounding hollow and changed; “I ask but one word.  My very senses seem to play me false, and mock me with thy outward semblance to one I have so loved.  Her name, too, was Marie; her voice soft and thrilling as thine own:  and yet, yet, I feel that ’tis but semblance—­’tis but mockery—­the phantasy of a disordered brain.  Speak, in mercy!  Say that it is but semblance—­that thou art not the Marie I have so loved.”

“It is true—­I am that Marie.  I have wronged thee most cruelly, most falsely,” she answered, in a tone low and collected indeed, but expressive of intense suffering.  “It is too late now, either to atone or to explain.  Leave me, Senor Stanley:  I am another’s!”

“Too late to explain?  By heaven but thou shalt!” burst fiercely and wrathfully from Stanley.  “Is it not enough, that thou hast changed my whole nature into gall, made truth itself a lie, purity a meaningless word, but thou wilt shroud thyself under the specious hood of duty to another, when, before heaven, thou wast mine alone.  Speak!”

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