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Grace Aguilar
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 282 pages of information about The Vale of Cedars.
in the Divine Justice, which can as easily make manifest innocence as punish crime?  Ere we depute to others the solemn task of examination, and pronouncing sentence, we bid you speak, and answer as to the wherefore of this rash and contradictory determination—­persisting in words that you are guiltless, yet refusing the privilege of defence.  Is life so valueless, that you cast it degraded from you?  As Sovereign and Judge, we command you answer, lest by your own rash act the course of justice be impeded, and the sentence of the guilty awarded to the innocent.  As man to man, I charge thee speak; bring forward some proof of innocence.  Let me not condemn to death as a coward and a murderer, one whom I have loved and trusted as a friend!  Answer—­wherefore this strange callousness to life—­this utter disregard of thine honor and thy name?”

For a moment, while the King addressed him as man to man, the pallid cheek and brow of the prisoner flushed with painful emotion, and there was a scarcely audible tremulousness in his voice as he replied: 

“And how will defence avail me?  How may mere assertion deny proof, and so preserve life and redeem honor?  My liege, I had resolved to attempt no defence, because I would not unnecessarily prolong the torture of degradation.  Had I one proof, the slightest proof to produce, which might in the faintest degree avail me, I would not withhold it; justice to my father’s name would be of itself sufficient to command defence.  But I have none!  I cannot so perjure myself as to deny one word of the charges brought against me, save that of murder!  Of thoughts of hate and wrath, ay, and blood, but such blood as honorable men would shed, I am guilty, I now feel, unredeemably guilty, but not of murder!  I am not silent because conscious of enacted guilt.  I will not go down to the dishonored grave, now yawning for me, permitting, by silence, your Highness, and these your subjects, to believe me the monster of ingratitude, the treacherous coward which appearances pronounce me.  No!” he continued, raising his right hand as high as his fetters would permit, and speaking in a tone which fell with the eloquence of truth, on every heart—­“No:  here, as on the scaffold—­now, as with my dying breath, I will proclaim aloud my innocence; I call on the Almighty Judge himself, as on every Saint in heaven, to attest it—­ay, and I believe it WILL be attested, when nought but my memory is left to be cleared from shame—­I am not the murderer of Don Ferdinand Morales!  Had he been in every deed my foe—­had he given me cause for the indulgence of those ungovernable passions which I now feel were roused against him so causelessly and sinfully, I might have sought their gratification by honorable combat, but not by midnight murder!  I speak not, I repeat, to save my life:  it is justly forfeited for thoughts of crime!  I speak that, when in after years my innocence will be made evident by the discovery of the real assassin, you will all remember what I now say—­that I have not so basely requited the King and Country who so generously and trustingly befriended me—­that I am no murderer!”

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