Stanley involuntarily dropped the point of his sword. “I obey thee,” he said, in that deep concentrated tone, which, betrays strong passion yet more than violent words; “obey thee, because I would not strike an undefended foe; but we shall meet again in a more fitting place and season. Till then, hear me, Don Ferdinand! We have hitherto been as companions in arms, and as friends, absent or together; from this moment the tie is broken, and for ever. I am thy foe! one who hath sworn to take thy life, or lose his own. I will compel thee to meet me! Ay, shouldst thou shun me, to the confines of the world I will track and find thee. Coward and spy! And yet men think thee noble!”
A bitter laugh of scorn concluded these fatal words. He returned his sword violently to its sheath; the tread of his armed heel was heard for a few seconds, and then all was silent.
Morales neither moved nor spoke, and Marie lifted her head to look on his face in terror. The angry words of Arthur had evidently fallen either wholly unheeded, or perhaps unheard. There was but one feeling expressed on those chiseled features, but one thought, but one conviction; a low, convulsive sob broke from her, and she fainted in his arms.
“Why, when my life on that
one hope, cast,
Why didst thou chain my future to her past?
Why not a breath to say she loved before?”
leave me not! or know
Before thou goest, the heart that wronged thee so
But wrongs no more.”
In the first painful moments of awakening sense, Marie was only conscious of an undefined yet heavy weight on heart and brain; but as strength returned she started up with a faint cry, and looked wildly round her. The absence of Morales, the conviction that he had left her to the care of others, that for the first time he had deserted her couch of pain, lighted up as by an electric flash the marvellous links of memory, and the whole of that morning’s anguish, every word spoken, every feeling endured, rushed back upon her with such overwhelming force as for the moment to deprive her of the little strength she had regained. Why could she not die? was the despairing thought that followed. What had she to live for, when it was her ill fate to wreck the happiness of all who loved her? and yet in that moment of agony she never seemed to have loved her husband more. It was of him she thought far more than of Arthur, whose angry words and fatal threat rung again and again in her ears.
“My Lord had only just left when you recovered consciousness, Senora,” gently remarked her principal attendant, whose penetration had discovered the meaning of Marie’s imploring look and passive silence, so far at least that it was Don Ferdinand she sought, and that his absence pained her. “He tarried till life seemed returning, and then reluctantly departed for the castle, where he had been summoned, he said, above an hour before.”