“Then, if so convinced of innocence, young man, wherefore not attempt defence?” demanded the Sub-Prior of St. Francis. “Knowest thou not that wilfully to throw away the life intrusted to you, for some wise purpose, is amenable before the throne of the Most High as self-committed murder? Proofs of this strongly asserted innocence, thou must have.”
“I have none,” calmly answered the prisoner, “I have but words, and who will believe them? Who, here present, will credit the strange tale, that, tortured and restless from mental suffering, I courted the fury of the elements, and rushed from my quarters on the night of the murder without my sword?—that, in securing the belt, I missed the weapon, but still sought not for it as I ought?—who will believe that it was accident, not design, which took me to the Calle Soledad? and that it was a fall over the murdered body of Don Ferdinand which deluged my hands and dress with the blood that dyed the ground? Who will credit that it was seeing him thus which chained me, paralyzed, horror-stricken, to the spot? In the wild fury of my passions I had believed him my enemy, and sworn his death; then was it marvel that thus beholding him turned me well-nigh to stone, and that, in my horror, I had no power to call for aid, or raise the shout after the murderer, for my own thoughts arose as fiends, to whisper, such might have been nay work—that I had wished his death? Great God! the awful wakening from the delusion of weeks—the dread recognition in that murdered corse of my own thoughts of sin!” He paused involuntarily, for his strong agitation completely choked his voice, and shook his whole frame. After a brief silence, which none in the hall had heart to break, he continued calmly, “Let the trial proceed, gracious Sovereign. Your Highness’s generous interest in one accused of a crime so awful, comprising the death, not of a subject only, but of a friend, does but add to the heavy weight of obligation already mine, and would of itself excite the wish to live, to prove that I am not so utterly unworthy; but I feel that not to such as I, may the Divine mercy be so shown, as to bring forward the real murderer. The misery of the last fortnight has shown me how deeply I have sinned in thought, though not in deed; and how dare I, then, indulge the wild dream that my innocence will be proved, until too late, save for mine honor? My liege, I have trespassed too long on the time of this assemblage; let the trial proceed.”
So powerful was the effect of his tone and words, that the impulse was strong in every heart to strike off his fetters, and give him life and freedom. The countenance of the Sub-Prior of St. Francis alone retained its unmoved calmness, and its tone, its imperturbable gravity, as he commanded Don Felix d’Estaban to produce the witnesses; and on their appearance, desired one of the fathers to administer the oath.