“I will not!” burst impetuously from Arthur, as he suddenly flung himself at her feet. “Marie, I will not leave thee thus; say but that some unforeseen circumstances, not thine own will, made thee the wife of this proud Spaniard; say but that neither thy will nor thy affections were consulted, that no word of thine could give him hope he was beloved—that thou lovest me still; say but this, and I will bless thee!”
“Ask it not, Senor Stanley. The duty of a wife would be of itself sufficient to forbid such words; with me gratitude and reverence render that duty more sacred still. Wouldst thou indeed sink me so low as, even as a wife, to cease to respect me? Rise, Senor Stanley! such posture is unsuited to thee or me; rise, and leave me; we must never meet alone again.”
Almost overpowered with contending emotions, as he was, there was a dignity, the dignity of truth in that brief appeal, which Arthur vainly struggled to resist. She had not attempted a single word of exoneration, and yet his reproaches rushed back into his own heart as cruel and unjust, and answer he had none. He rose mechanically, and as he turned aside to conceal the weakness, a deep and fearful imprecation suddenly broke from him; and raising her head, Marie beheld her husband.
Every softened feeling fled from Stanley’s breast; the passionate anger which Marie’s words had calmed towards herself, now burst fourth unrestrained towards Morales. His sudden appearance bringing the conviction that he had played the spy upon their interview, roused his native irritation almost into madness. His sword flew from its scabbard, and in fearful passion he exclaimed—“Tyrant and coward! How durst thou play the spy? Is it not enough that thou hast robbed me of a treasure whose value thou canst never know? for her love was mine alone ere thou earnest between us, and by base arts and cruel force compelled her to be thine. Ha! wouldst thou avoid me? refuse to cross my sword! Draw, or I will proclaim thee coward in the face of the whole world!”
With a faint cry, Marie had thrown herself between them; but strength failed with the effort, and she would have fallen had not Morales upheld her with his left arm. But she had not fainted; every sense felt wrung into unnatural acuteness Except to support her, Morales had made no movement; his tall figure was raised to its fullest height, and his right arm calmly uplifted as his sole protection against Arthur. “Put up your sword,” he said firmly, and fixing his large dark eyes upon his irritated adversary, with a gaze far more of sorrow than of anger, “I will not fight thee. Proclaim me what thou wilt. I fear neither thy sword nor thee. Go hence, unhappy boy; when this chafed mood is past, thou wilt repent this rashness, and perchance find it harder to forgive thyself than I shall to forgive thee. Go; thou art overwrought. We are not equals now.”