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.

              “His unaltering-cheek
  Still vividly doth hold its natural hue,
  And his eye quails not.  Is this innocence?”

MRS. HEMANS.

During the examination of Don Alonzo of Aguilar, and of old Pedro and Juana, the prisoner remained with his arms calmly folded and head erect, without the smallest variation of feature or position denoting either anxiety or agitation.  Don Alonzo’s statement was very simple.  He described the exact spot where he had found the body, and the position in which it lay; the intense agitation of Stanley, the bloody appearance of his clothes, hands, and face, urging them to secure his person even before they discovered the broken fragment of his sword lying beside the corse.  His account was corroborated, in the very minutest points, by the men who had accompanied him, even though cross-questioned with unusual particularity by Father Francis.  Old Pedro’s statement, though less circumstantial, was, to the soldiers and citizens especially, quite as convincing.  He gave a wordy narrative of Senor Stanley’s unnatural state of excitement from the very evening he had become his lodger—­that he had frequently heard him muttering to himself such words as “blood” and “vengeance.”  He constantly appeared longing for something; never eat half the meals provided for him—­a sure proof, in old Pedro’s imagination, of a disordered mind, and that the night of the murder he had heard him leave the house, with every symptom of agitation.  Old Juana, with very evident reluctance, confirmed this account; but Father Francis was evidently not satisfied.  “Amongst these incoherent ravings of the prisoner, did you ever distinguish the word ‘murder?’” he demanded—­a question which would be strange, indeed, in the court of justice of the present day, but of importance in an age when such words as blood and vengeance, amongst warriors, simply signified a determination to fight out their quarrel in (so-called) honorable combat.  The answer, after some hesitation, was in the negative.  “Did you ever distinguish any name, as the object of Senor Stanley’s desired vengeance?”

Pedro immediately answered “No;” but there was a simper of hesitation in old Juana, that caused the Sub-Prior to appeal to her.  “Please your Reverence, I only chanced to hear the poor young man say, ’Oh, Marie!  Marie!’ one day when I brought him his dinner, which he put away untouched, though I put my best cooking in it.”

A slight, scarcely perceptible flush passed over the prisoner’s cheek and brow.  The King muttered an exclamation; Father Francis’s brow contracted, and several of the nobles looked uneasily from one to the other.

“At what time did the prisoner leave his apartments the night of the murder?” continued the Sub-Prior.

“Exactly as the great bell of the cathedral chimed eleven,” was the ready reply from Pedro and Juana at the same moment.

“Did you hear nothing but his hasty movements, as you describe?  Did he not call for attendance, or a light?  Remember, you are on oath,” he continued sternly, as he observed the hesitation with which old Pedro muttered “No;” and that Juana was silent.  “The church punishes false swearers.  Did he speak or not?”

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The Vale of Cedars from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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