“Strange wayward being,” said Isabella, gazing doubtingly on the imploring face upturned to hers; “towards other than thyself such mystery would banish love for ever; but I will not doubt thee. Darkly as thou speakest, still I grant the boon. What can I hear of thee, to cast thee from me?”
“Thou wilt hear of deceit, my liege,” replied Marie, very slowly, and her eyes fell beneath the Queen’s gaze; “thou wilt hear of long years of deceit and fraud, and many—many tongues will speak their scorn and condemnation. Then wilt thou grant it—then?”
“Even then,” replied Isabella fearlessly; “an thou speakest truth at last, deceit itself I will forgive. But thou art overwrought and anxious, and so layest more stress on some trivial fault than even I would demand. Go to thy own chamber now, and in prayer and meditation gain strength for to-morrow’s trial. Whatever I may hear, so it be not meditated and unrepented guilt, (which I know it cannot be,) I will forgive, and love thee still. The holy saints bless and keep thee, my fair child!”
And as Marie bent to salute the kind hand extended to her, Isabella drew her towards her, and fondly kissed her cheek. The unexpected caress, or some other secret feeling, subdued the overwrought energy at once; and for the first time since her husband’s death, Marie burst into natural tears. But her purpose changed not; though Isabella’s gentle and affectionate soothing rendered it tenfold more painful to accomplish.
LEONTES.—These sessions, to
our great grief, we pronounce
Even pushes ’gainst our heart.
Let us be cleared
Of being tyrannous, since we openly
Proceed in justice—which shall have due course,
Even to the guilt, or the purgation.
Produce the prisoner!—SHAKSPEARE.
The day of trial dawned, bright, sunny, cloudless, as was usual in beautiful Spain—a joyous elasticity was in the atmosphere, a brilliance in the heavens, which thence reflected on the earth, so painfully contrasted with misery and death, that the bright sky seemed to strike a double chill on the hearts of those most deeply interested.
Never had the solemn proceedings of justice created so great an excitement; not only in Segovia itself, but the towns and villages, many miles round, sent eager citizens and rustic countrymen to learn the issue, and report it speedily to those compelled to stay at home. The universal mourning for Morales was one cause of the popular excitement; and the supposition of the young foreigner being his murderer another.
The hall of the castle was crowded at a very early hour, Isabella having signified not only permission, but her wish that as many of her citizen subjects as space would admit should be present, to witness the faithful course of justice. Nearest to the seat destined for the King, at the upper end of the hall, were ranged several fathers from an adjoining convent of Franciscans, by whom a special service had been impressively performed that morning in the cathedral, in which all who had been summoned to preside at the trial had solemnly joined.