The Vale of Cedars eBook

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

Masses for the soul of the Catholic warrior, were of course sung for many succeeding days.  It was at midnight, a very short time after this public interment, that a strange group were assembled within the cathedral vaults, at the very hour that mass for the departed was being chanted in the church above their heads; it consisted of monks and travelling friars, accompanied by five or six of the highest nobility; their persons concealed in coarse mantles and shrouding hoods; they had borne with them, through the subterranean passages of the crypt, leading to the vaults, a coffin so exactly similar in workmanship and inscription to that which contained the remains of their late companion, that to distinguish the one from the other was impossible.  The real one, moved with awe and solemnity, was conveyed to a secret recess close to the entrance of the crypt, and replaced in the vault by the one they had brought with them.  As silently, as voicelessly as they had entered and done their work, so they departed.  The following night, at the same hour, the coffin of Morales, over which had been nailed a thick black pall, so that neither name, inscription, nor ornament could be perceived, was conveyed from Segovia in a covered cart, belonging, it appeared, to the monastery of St. Francis, situated some leagues southward, and attended by one or two monks and friars of the same order.  The party proceeded leisurely, travelling more by night than by day, diminishing gradually in number till, at the entrance of a broad and desolate plain, only four remained with the cart.  Over this plain they hastened, then wound through a circuitous path concealed in prickly brushwood, and paused before a huge, misshapen crag, seemingly half buried in the earth:  in this a door, formed of one solid stone, flew back at their touch; the coffin, taken with reverence from the cart, was borne on their shoulders through the dark and narrow passage, and down the winding stair, till they stood in safety in the vale; in the secret entrance by which they entered, the lock closed as they passed, and was apparently lost in the solid wall.  Three or four awaited them—­nobles, who had craved leave of absence for a brief interval from the court, and who had come by different paths to the secret retreat (no doubt already recognized by our readers as the Vale of Cedars), to lay Morales with his fathers, with the simple form, yet solemn service peculiar to the burials of their darkly hidden race.  The grave was already dug beside that of Manuel Henriquez; the coffin, resting during the continuance of a brief prayer and psalm in the little temple, was then borne to the ground marked out, which, concealed by a thick hedge of cypress and cedar, lay some little distance from the temple; for, in their secret race, it was not permitted for the house destined to the worship of the Most High, to be surrounded by the homes of the dead.  A slow and solemn hymn accompanied the lowering of the coffin; a prayer in the same unknown

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The Vale of Cedars from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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