Involuntarily every eye turned towards the corpse; for, vague as such an appeal might seem now, the age was then but barely past, when the assistance of the murdered was often required in the discovery of the murderer. Many a brave heart grew chill, and brown cheeks blanched, in anticipation of the unearthly sign, so fully were they convinced of Stanley’s guilt, but none came. The stagnated blood did not flow forth again—the eye did not glare with more consciousness than before—the cold hand did not move to point its finger at the prisoner; and Don Felix, fearing the effect of Stanley’s appeal upon the King, signed to the guards, who rudely raised and bore him from the hall.
The tumults of these events had naturally spread far and wide over the castle, reaching the apartments of the Queen who, perceiving the awe and terror which the raging tempest had excited in her attendants, though incapable of aught like fear herself, had refrained from dismissing them as usual. The confusion below seeming to increase with every moment, naturally excited her surprise; and she commanded one of her attendants to learn its cause. Already terrified, none seemed inclined to obey, till a young girl, high spirited, and dauntless almost as Isabella herself, departed of her own free will, and in a few minutes returned, pale and trembling, with the dread intelligence, that Don Ferdinand Morales lay murdered in the hall, and that Arthur Stanley was his murderer.
Isabella paused not a moment, though the shock was so terrible that for the minute she became faint and sick, and hastily quitting her apartments, she entered the great hall at the moment the prisoner was being borne from it. Stupefied with contending feelings. Ferdinand did not perceive her entrance. The nobles, drawn together in little knots, were conversing in low eager tones, or endeavoring to reduce the tumultuary soldiery to more order; and the Queen moved on unperceived, till she stood beside the corpse. She neither shrunk from it, nor paled; but bending over him, murmured in a tone, that from its startling indication of her unexpected presence, readied the ear of all—“His poor, poor Marie!”
The effect was electric. Until that moment horror and indignation had been the predominant feeling; but with those words came the thought of his young, his beautiful, his treasured wife—the utter, utter desolation which that fearful death would bring to her; the contrast between her present position, and that in which they had so lately beheld her; and there was scarcely a manly spirit there, that did not feel unwonted moisture gather in his eyes, or his heart swell with an emotion never felt before.
“Now blessings on thy true woman’s heart, my Isabel!” exclaimed the King, tenderly drawing her from the couch of the dead. “I dare vouch not one of us, mourning the noble dead, has, till now, cast a thought upon the living. And who shall breathe these fearful tidings? Who prepare the unfortunate Marie for the loss awaiting her, and yet tarry to behold and soothe her anguish?”