H. Rider Haggard
Part 4 out of 6
Then, while he followed dubiously, she led him down the length of the
great room to a door with a spy-hole in the top of it, that was set in a
Moorish archway at the corner.
This door she opened, and there beyond it, a drawn scimitar in his hand,
stood a tall Moor on guard. Inez spoke a word to him, whereon he saluted
with his scimitar and let them pass across the landing to a turret stair
that lay beyond, which they descended. At its foot was another door,
whereon she knocked four times. Bolts shot back, keys turned, and it was
opened by a black porter, beyond whom stood a second Moor, also with
drawn sword. They passed him as they had passed the first, turned down a
little passage to the right, ending in some steps, and came to a third
door, in front of which she halted.
"Now," she said, "nerve yourself for the trial."
"What trial?" he asked, supporting himself against the wall, for he
found his legs still weak.
"This," she answered, pointing to her waist, "and these," and she
touched her rich, red lips with her taper finger-points. "Would you
like to practise a little, my innocent English knight, before we go out?
You look as though you might seem awkward and unconvincing."
"I think," answered Peter drily, for the humour of the situation moved
him, "that such practice is somewhat dangerous for me. It might annoy
you before I had done. I will postpone my happiness until we are in
"I thought so," she answered; "but look now, you must play the part, or
I shall suffer, who am bearing much for you."
"I think that I may suffer also," he murmured, but not so low that she
did not catch his words.
"No, friend Pedro," she said, turning on him, "it is the woman who
suffers in this kind of farce. She pays; the man rides away to play
another," and without more ado she opened the door, which proved to be
unlocked and unguarded.
Beyond the foot of some steps lay a most lovely garden. Great, tapering
cypresses grew about it, with many orange-trees and flowering shrubs
that filled the soft, southern air with odours. Also there were marble
fountains into which water splashed from the mouths of carven lions, and
here and there arbours with stone seats, whereon were laid soft cushions
of many colours. It was a veritable place of Eastern delight and
dreams, such as Peter had never known before he looked upon it on that
languorous eve--he who had not seen the sky or flowers for so many weary
weeks of sickness. It was secluded also, being surrounded by a high
wall, but at one place the tall, windowless tower of some other building
of red stone soared up between and beyond two lofty cypress-trees.
"This is the harem garden," Inez whispered, "where many a painted
favourite has flitted for a few happy, summer hours, till winter came
and the butterfly was broken," and, as she spoke, she dropped her veil
over her face and began to descend the stairs.
PETER PLAYS A PART
"Stop," said Peter from the shadow of the doorway, "I fear this
business, Inez, and I do not understand why it is needful. Why cannot
you say what you have to say here?"
"Are you mad?" she answered almost fiercely through her veil. "Do you
think that it can be any pleasure for me to seem to make love to a stone
shaped like a man, for whom I care nothing at all--except as a friend?"
she added quickly "I tell you, Seņor Peter, that if you do not do as I
tell you, you will never hear what I have to say, for I shall be held to
have failed in my business, and within a few minutes shall vanish from
you for ever--to my death perhaps; but what does that matter to you?
Choose now, and quickly, for I cannot stand thus for long."
"I obey you, God forgive me!" said the distraught Peter from the
darkness of the doorway; "but must I really----?"
"Yes, you must," she answered with energy, "and some would not think
that so great a penance."
Then she lifted the corner of her veil coyly and, peeping out beneath
it, called in a soft, clear voice, "Oh! forgive me, dear friend, if I
have run too fast for you, forgetting that you are still so very weak.
Here, lean upon me; I am frail, but it may serve." And she passed up the
steps again, to reappear in another moment with Peter's hand resting on
"Be careful of these steps," she said, "they are so slippery"--a
statement to which Peter, whose pale face had grown suddenly red,
murmured a hearty assent. "Do not be afraid," she went on in her
flute-like voice; "this is the secret garden, where none can hear words,
however sweet, and none can see even a caress, no, not the most jealous
woman. That is why in old days it was called the Sultana's Chamber, for
there at the end of it was where she bathed in the summer season. What
say you of spies? Oh! yes, in the palace there are many, but to look
towards this place, even for the Guardian of the Women, was always
death. Here there are no witnesses, save the flowers and the birds."
As she spoke thus they reached the central path, and passed up it
slowly, Peter's hand still upon the shoulder of Inez, and her white arm
about him, while she looked up into his eyes.
"Bend closer over me," she whispered, "for truly your face is like that
of a wooden saint," and he bent. "Now," she went on, "listen. Your lady
lives, and is well--kiss me on the lips, please, that news is worth it.
If you shut your eyes you can imagine that I am she."
Again Peter obeyed, and with a better grace than might have been
"She is a prisoner in this same palace," she went on, "and the marquis,
who is mad for love of her, seeks by all means, fair or foul, to make
her his wife!"
"Curse him!" exclaimed Peter with another embrace.
"Till a few days ago she thought you dead; but now she knows that you
are alive and recovering. Her father, Castell, escaped from the place
where he was put, and is in hiding among his friends, the Jews, where
even Morella cannot find him; indeed, he believes him fled from the
city. But he is not fled, and, having much gold, has opened a door
between himself and his daughter."
Here she stopped to return the embrace with much warmth. Then they
passed under some trees, and came to the marble baths where the sultanas
were supposed to have bathed in summer, for this place had been one of
the palaces of the Kings of Granada before they lived in the Alhambra.
Here Inez sat down upon a seat and loosened some garment about her
throat, for the evening was very hot.
"What are you doing?" Peter asked doubtfully, for he was filled with
"Cooling myself," she answered; "your arm was warm, and we may sit here
for a few minutes."
"Well, go on with your tale," he said.
"I have little more to say, friend, except that if you wish to send any
message, I might perhaps be able to take it."
"You are an angel," he exclaimed.
"That is another word for messenger, is it not? Continue."
"Tell her--that if she hears anything of all this business, it isn't
"On that point she may form her own opinion," replied Inez demurely. "If
I were in her place I know what mine would be. Don't waste time; we
must soon begin to walk again."
Peter stared at her, for he could understand nothing of all this play.
Apparently she read his look, for she answered it in a quiet,
"You are wondering what everything means, and why I am doing what I do.
I will tell you, Seņor, and you can believe me or not as you like.
Perhaps you think that I am in love with you. It would not be wonderful,
would it? Besides, in the old tales, that always happens--the lady who
nurses the Christian knight and worships him and so forth."
"I don't think anything of the sort; I am not so vain."
"I know it, Seņor, you are too good a man to be vain. Well, I do all
these things, not for love of you, or any one, but for hate--for hate.
Yes, for hate of Morella," and she clenched her little hand, hissing the
words out between her teeth.
"I understand the feeling," said Peter. "But--but what has he done to
"Do not ask me, Seņor. Enough that once I loved him--that accursed
priest Henriques sold me into his power--oh! a long while ago, and he
ruined me, making me what I am, and--I bore his child, and--and it is
dead. Oh! Mother of God, my boy is dead, and since then I have been an
outcast and his slave--they have slaves here in Granada, Seņor--
dependent on him for my bread, forced to do his bidding, forced to wait
upon his other loves; I, who once was the sultana; I, of whom he has
wearied. Only to-day--but why should I tell you of it? Well, he has
driven me even to this, that I must kiss an unwilling stranger in a
garden," and she sobbed aloud.
"Poor girl!--poor girl!" said Peter, patting her hand kindly with his
thin fingers. "Henceforth I have another score against Morella, and I
will pay it too."
"Will you?" she asked quickly. "Ah! if so, I would die for you, who now
live only to be revenged upon him. And it shall be my first vengeance to
rob him of that noble-looking mistress of yours, whom he has stolen away
and has set his heart upon wholly, because she is the first woman who
ever resisted him--him, who thinks that he is invincible."
"Have you any plan?" asked Peter.
"As yet, none. The thing is very difficult. I go in danger of my life,
for if he thought that I betrayed him he would kill me like a rat, and
think no harm of it. Such things can be done in Granada without sin,
Seņor, and no questions asked--at least if the victim be a woman of the
murderer's household. I have told you already that if I had refused to
do what I have done this evening I should certainly have been got rid of
in this way or that, and another set on at the work. No, I have no plan
yet, only it is I through whom the Seņor Castell communicates with his
daughter, and I will see him again, and see her, and we will make some
plan. No, do not thank me. He pays me for my services, and I am glad to
take his money, who hope to escape from this hell and live on it
elsewhere. Yet, not for all the money in the world would I risk what I
am risking, though in truth it matters not to me whether I live or die.
Seņor, I will not disguise it from you, all this scene will come to the
Dona Margaret's ears, but I will explain it to her."
"I pray you, do," said Peter earnestly--"explain it fully."
"I will--I will. I will work for you and her and her father, and if I
cease to work, know that I am dead or in a dungeon, and fend for
yourselves as best you may. One thing I can tell you for your
comfort--no harm has been done to this lady of yours. Morella loves her
too well for that. He wishes to make her his wife. Or perhaps he has
sworn some oath, as I know that he has sworn that he will not murder
you--which he might have done a score of times while you have lain a
prisoner in his power. Why, once when you were senseless he came and
stood over you, a dagger in his hand, and reasoned out the case with me.
I said, 'Why do you not kill him?' knowing that thus I could best help
to save your life. He answered, 'Because I will not take my wife with
her lover's blood upon my hands, unless I slay him in fair fight. I
swore it yonder in London. It was the offering which I made to God and
to my patron saint that so I might win her fairly, and if I break that
oath, God will be avenged upon me here and hereafter. Do my bidding,
Inez. Nurse him well, so that if he dies, he dies without sin of mine,'
No, he will not murder you or harm her. Friend Pedro, he dare not."
"Can you think of nothing?" asked Peter.
"Nothing--as yet nothing. These walls are high, guards watch them day
and night, and outside is the great city of Granada where Morella has
much power, and whence no Christian may escape. But he would marry her.
And there is that handsome fool-woman, her servant, who is in love with
him--oh! she told me all about it in the worst Spanish I ever heard, but
the story is too long to repeat; and the priest, Father Henriques--he
who wished that you might be killed at the inn, and who loves money so
much. Ah! now I think I see some light. But we have no more time to
talk, and I must have time to think. Friend Pedro, make ready your
kisses, we must go on with our game, and, in truth, you play but badly.
Come now, your arm. There is a seat prepared for us yonder. Smile and
look loving. I have not art enough for both. Come!--come!" And together
they walked out of the dense shadow of the trees and past the marble
bath of the sultanas to a certain seat beneath a bower on which were
cushions, and lying among them a lute.
"Seat yourself at my feet," she said, as she sank on to the bench. "Can
"No more than a crow," he answered.
"Then I must sing to you. Well, it will be better than the love-making."
Then in a very sweet voice she began to warble amorous Moorish ditties
that she accompanied upon the lute, whilst Peter, who was weary in body
and disturbed in mind, played a lover's part to the best of his ability,
and by degrees the darkness gathered.
At length, when they could no longer see across the garden, Inez ceased
singing and rose with a sigh.
"The play is finished and the curtain down," she said; "also it is time
that you went in out of this damp. Seņor Pedro, you are a very bad
actor; but let us pray that the audience was compassionate, and took the
will for the deed."
"I did not see any audience," answered Peter.
"But it saw you, as I dare say you will find out by-and-by. Follow me
now back to your room, for I must be going about your business--and my
own. Have you any message for the Seņor Castell?"
"None, save my love and duty. Tell him that, thanks to you, although
still somewhat feeble, I am recovered of my hurt upon the ship and the
fever which I took from the sun, and that if he can make any plan to get
us all out of this accursed city and the grip of Morella I will bless
his name and yours."
"Good, I will not forget. Now be silent. Tomorrow we will walk here
again; but be not afraid, then there will be no more need for
Margaret sat by the open window-place of her beautiful chamber in
Morella's palace. She was splendidly arrayed in a rich, Spanish dress,
whereof the collar was stiff with pearls, she who must wear what it
pleased her captor to give her. Her long tresses, fastened with a
jewelled band, flowed down about her shoulders, and, her hand resting on
her knee, from her high tower prison she gazed out across the valley at
the dim and mighty mass of the Alhambra and the ten thousand lights of
Granada which sparkled far below. Near to her, seated beneath a silver
hanging-lamp, and also clad in rich array, was Betty.
"What is it, Cousin?" asked the girl, looking at her anxiously. "At
least you should be happier than you were, for now you know that Peter
is not dead, but almost recovered from his sickness and in this very
palace; also, that your father is well and hidden away, plotting for our
escape. Why, then, are you so sad, who should be more joyful than
"Would you learn, Betty? Then I will tell you. I am betrayed. Peter
Brome, the man whom I looked upon almost as my husband, is false
"Master Peter false!" exclaimed Betty, staring at her open-mouthed. "No,
it is not possible. I know him; he could not be, who will not even look
at another woman, if that is what you mean."
"You say so. Then, Betty, listen and judge. You remember this afternoon,
when the marquis took us to see the wonders of this palace, and I went
thinking that perhaps I might find some path by which afterwards we
"Of course I remember, Margaret. We do not leave this cage so often that
I am likely to forget."
"Then you will remember also that high-walled garden in which we walked,
where the great tower is, and how the marquis and that hateful priest
Father Henriques and I went up the tower to study the prospect from its
roof, I thinking that you were following me."
"The waiting-women would not let me," said Betty. "So soon as you had
passed in they shut the door and told me to bide where I was till you
returned. I went near to pulling the hair out of the head of one of them
over it, since I was afraid for you alone with those two men. But she
drew her knife, the cat, and I had none."
"You must be careful, Betty," said Margaret, "lest some of these heathen
folk should do you a mischief."
"Not they," she answered; "they are afraid of me. Why, the other day I
bundled one of them, whom I found listening at the door, head first down
the stairs. She complained to the marquis, but he only laughed at her,
and now she lies abed with a plaster on her nose. But tell me
"We climbed the tower," said Margaret, "and from its topmost room looked
out through the windows that face south at all the mountains and the
plain over which they dragged us from Motril. Presently the priest, who
had gone to the north wall, in which there are no windows, and entered
some recess there, came out with an evil smile upon his face, and
whispered something to the marquis, who turned to me and said:
"'The father tells me of an even prettier scene which we can view
yonder. Come, Seņora, and look.'
"So I went, who wished to learn all that I could of the building. They
led me into a little chamber cut in the thickness of the stone-work, in
the wall of which are slits like loop-holes for the shooting of arrows,
wide within, but very narrow without, so that I think they cannot be
seen from below, hidden as they are between the rough stones of
"'This is the place,' said the marquis, 'where in the old days the kings
of Granada, who were always jealous, used to sit to watch their women in
the secret garden. It is told that thus one of them discovered his
sultana making love to an astrologer, and drowned them both in the
marble bath at the end of the garden. Look now, beneath us walk a couple
who do not guess that we are the witnesses of their vows.'
"So I looked idly enough to pass the time, and there I saw a tall man in
a Moorish dress, and with him, for their arms were about each other, a
woman. As I was turning my head away who did not wish to spy upon them
thus, the woman lifted her face to kiss the man, and I knew her for that
beautiful Inez who has visited us here at times, as a spy I think.
Presently, too, the man, after paying her back her embrace, glanced
about him guiltily, and I saw his face also, and knew it."
"Who was it?" asked Betty, for this gossip of lovers interested her.
"Peter Brome, no other," Margaret answered calmly, but with a note of
despair in her voice. "Peter Brome, pale with recent sickness, but no
"The saints save us! I did not think he had it in him!" gasped Betty
"They would not let me go," went on Margaret; "they forced me to see it
all. The pair tarried for a while beneath some trees by the bath and
were hidden there. Then they came out again and sat them down upon a
marble seat, while the woman sang songs and the man leaned against her
lovingly. So it went on until the darkness fell, and we went, leaving
them there. Now," she added, with a little sob, "what say you?"
"I say," answered Betty, "that it was not Master Peter, who has no
liking for strange ladies and secret gardens."
"It was he, and no other man, Betty."
"Then, Cousin, he was drugged or drunk or bewitched, not the Peter whom
"Bewitched, perchance, by that bad woman, which is no excuse for him."
Betty thought a while. She could not doubt the evidence, but from her
face it was clear that she took no severe view of the offence.
"Well, at the worst," she said, "men, as I have known them, are men. He
has been shut up for a long while with that minx, who is very fair and
witching, and it was scarcely right to watch him through a slit in a
tower. If he were my lover, I should say nothing about it."
"I will say nothing to him about that or any other matter," replied
Margaret sternly. "I have done with Peter Brome."
Again Betty thought, and spoke.
"I seem to see a trick. Cousin Margaret, they told you he was dead, did
they not? And then that news came to us that he was not dead, only sick,
and here. So the lie failed. Now they tell you, and seem to show you,
that he is faithless. May not all this have been some part played for a
purpose by the woman?"
"It takes two to play such parts, Betty. If you had seen----"
"If I had seen, _I_ should have known whether it was but a part or love
made in good earnest; but you are too innocent to judge. What said the
marquis all this while, and the priest?"
"Little or nothing, only smiled at each other, and at length, when it
grew dark and we could see no more, asked me if I did not think that it
was time to go--me! whom they had kept there all that while to be the
witness of my own shame."
"Yes, they kept you there--did they not?--and brought you there just at
the right time--did they not?--and shut me out of the tower so that I
might not be with you--oh! and all the rest. Now, if you have any
justice in you, Cousin, you will hear Peter's side of this story before
you judge him."
"I have judged him," answered Margaret coldly, "and, oh! I wish that I
Margaret rose from her seat and, stepping to the window-place in the
tower which was built upon the edge of a hill, searched the giddy depth
beneath with her eyes, where, two hundred feet below, the white line of
a roadway showed faintly in the moonlight.
"It would be easy, would it not," she said, with a strained laugh, "just
to lean out a little too far upon this stone, and then one swift rush
and darkness--or light--for ever--which, I wonder?"
"Light, I think," said Betty, jerking her back from the window--"the
light of hell fire, and plenty of it, for that would be self-murder,
nothing else, and besides, what would one look like on that road?
Cousin, don't be a fool. If you are right, it isn't you who ought to go
out of that window; and if you are wrong, then you would only make a bad
business worse. Time enough to die when one must, say I--which, perhaps,
will be soon enough. Meanwhile, if I were you, I would try to speak to
Master Peter first, if only to let him know what I thought of him."
"Mayhap," answered Margaret, sinking back into a chair, "but I
suffer--how can you know what I suffer?"
"Why should I not know?" asked Betty. "Are you the only woman in the
world who has been fool enough to fall in love? Can I not be as much in
love as you are? You smile, and think to yourself that the poor
relation, Betty, cannot feel like her rich cousin. But I do--I do. I
know that he is a villain, but I love this marquis as much as you hate
him, or as much as you love Peter, because I can't help myself; it is my
luck, that's all. But I am not going to throw myself out of a window; I
would rather throw him out and square our reckoning, and that I swear
I'll do, in this way or the other, even if it should cost me what I
don't want to lose--my life," And Betty drew herself up beneath the
silver lamp with a look upon her handsome, determined face, which was so
like Margaret's and yet so different, that, could he have seen it, might
well have made Morella regret that he had chosen this woman for a tool.
While Margaret studied her wonderingly she heard a sound, and glanced up
to see, standing before them, none other than the beautiful Spaniard, or
Moor, for she knew not which she was, Inez, that same woman whom, from
her hiding-place in the tower, she had watched with Peter in the garden.
"How did you come here?" she asked coldly.
"Through the door, Seņora, that was left unlocked, which is not wise of
those who wish to talk privately in such a place as this," she answered
with a humble curtsey.
"The door is still unlocked," said Margaret, pointing towards it.
"Nay, Seņora, you are mistaken; here is its key in my hand. I pray you
do not tell your lady to put me out, which, being so strong, she well
can do, for I have words to say to you, and if you are wise you will
listen to them."
Margaret thought a moment, then answered:
"Say on, and be brief."
BETTY SHOWS HER TEETH
"Seņora," said Inez, "you think that you have something against me."
"No," answered Margaret, "you are--what you are; why should I blame
"Well, against the Seņor Brome then?"
"Perhaps, but that is between me and him. I will not discuss it with
"Seņora," went on Inez, with a slow smile, "we are both innocent of what
you thought you saw."
"Indeed; then who is guilty?"
"The Marquis of Morella."
Margaret made no answer, but her eyes said much.
"Seņora, you do not believe me, nor is it wonderful. Yet I speak the
truth. What you saw from the tower was a play in which the Seņor Brome
took his part badly enough, as you may have noticed, because I told him
that my life hung on it. I have nursed him through a sore sickness,
Seņora, and he is not ungrateful."
"So I judged; but I do not understand you."
"Seņora, I am a slave in this house, a discarded slave. Perhaps you can
guess the rest, it is a common story here. I was offered my freedom at a
price, that I should weave myself into this man's heart, I who am held
fair, and make him my lover. If I failed, then perhaps I should be sold
as a slave--perhaps worse. I accepted--why should I not? It was a small
thing to me. On the one hand, life, freedom, and wealth, an hidalgo of
good blood and a gallant friend for a little while, and, on the other,
the last shame or blackness which doubtless await me now--if I am found
out. Seņora, I failed, who in truth did not try hard to succeed. The man
looked on me as his nurse, no more, and to me he was one very sick, no
more. Also, we grew to be true friends, and in this way or in that I
learned all his story, learned also why the trap was baited thus--that
you might be deceived and fall into a deeper trap. Seņora, I could not
explain it all to him, indeed, in that chamber where we were spied on, I
had but little chance. Still, it was necessary that he should seem to be
what he is not, so I took him into the garden and, knowing well who
watched us, made him act his part, well enough to deceive you it
"Still I do not understand," said Margaret more softly. "You say that
your life or welfare hung on this shameful business. Then why do you
reveal it to me now?"
"To save you from yourself, Seņora, to save my friend the Seņor Brome,
and to pay back Morella in his own coin."
"How will you do these things?"
"The first two are done, I think, but the third is difficult. It is of
that I come to speak with you, at great risk. Indeed, had not my master
been summoned to the court of the Moorish king I could not have come,
and he may return at any time."
"Have you some plan?" asked Margaret, leaning towards her eagerly.
"No plan as yet, only an idea." She turned and looked at Betty, adding,
"This lady is your cousin, is she not, though of a different station,
and somewhat far away?"
"You are not unlike," went on Inez, "of much the same height and shape,
although the Seņora Betty is stronger built, and her eyes are blue and
her hair golden, whereas your eyes are black and your hair chestnut.
Beneath a veil, or at night, it would not be easy to tell you apart if
your hands were gloved and neither of you spoke above a whisper."
"Yes," said Margaret, "what then?"
"Now the Seņora Betty comes into the play," replied Inez. "Seņora Betty,
have you understood our talk?"
"Something, not quite all," answered Betty.
"Then what you do not understand your lady must interpret, and be not
angry with me, I pray you, if I seem to know more of you and your
affairs than you have ever told me. Render my words now, Dona Margaret."
Then, after this was done, and she had thought awhile, Inez continued
slowly, Margaret translating from Spanish into English whenever Betty
could not understand:
"Morella made love to you in England, Seņora Betty--did he not?--and won
your heart as he has won that of many another woman, so that you came to
believe that he was carrying you off to marry you, and not your cousin?"
"What affair is that of yours, woman?" asked Betty, flushing angrily.
"None at all, save that I could tell much such another story, if you
cared to listen. But hear me out, and then answer me a question, or
rather, answer the question first. Would you like to be avenged upon
this high-born knave?"
"Avenged?" answered Betty, clenching her hands and hissing the words
through her firm, white teeth. "I would risk my life for it."
"As I do. It seems that we are of one mind there. Then I think that
perhaps I can show you a way. Look now, your cousin has seen certain
things which women placed as she is do not like to see. She is jealous,
she is angry--or was until I told her the truth. Well, to-night or
to-morrow, Morella will come to her and say, 'Are you satisfied? Do you
still refuse me in favour of a man who yields his heart to the first
light-of-love who tempts him? Will you not be my wife?' What if she
answer, 'Yes, I will,' Nay, be silent both of you, and hear me out. What
if then there should be a secret marriage, _and the Seņora Betty should
chance to wear the bride's veil_, while the Dona Margaret, in the robe
of Betty, was let go with the Seņor Brome and her father?"
Inez paused, watching them both, and playing with the fan she held,
while, the rendering of her words finished, Margaret and Betty stared at
her and at each other, for the audacity and tearfulness of this plot
took their breath away. It was Margaret who spoke the first.
"You must not do it, Betty," she said. "Why, when the man found you out,
he would kill you." But Betty took no heed of her, and thought on. At
length she looked up and answered:
"Cousin, it was my vain folly that brought you all into this trouble,
therefore I owe something to you, do I not? I am not afraid of the
man--he is afraid of me; and if it came to killing--why, let Inez lend
me that knife of hers, and I think that perhaps I should give the first
blow. And--well, I think I love him, rascal though he is, and,
afterwards, perhaps we might make it up, who can say?--while, if not----
But tell me, you, Inez, should I be his legal wife according to the law
of this land?"
"Assuredly," answered Inez, "if a priest married you and he placed the
ring upon your hand and named you wife. Then, when once the words of
blessing have been said, the Pope alone can loose that knot, which may
be risked, for there would be much to explain, and is this a tale that
Morella, a good servant of the Church, would care to take to Rome?"
"It would be a trick," broke in Margaret--"a very ugly trick."
"And what was it he played on me and you?" asked Betty. "Nay, I'll
chance it, and his rage, if only I can be sure that you and Peter will
go free, and your father with you."
"But what of this Inez?" asked Margaret, bewildered.
"She will look after herself," answered Inez. "Perchance, if all goes
well, you will let me ride with you. And now I dare stop no longer, I go
to see your father, the Seņor Castell, and if anything can be arranged,
we will talk again. Meanwhile, Dona Margaret, your affianced is nearly
well again at last and sends his heart's love to you, and, I counsel
you, when Morella speaks turn a gentle ear to him."
Then with another deep curtsey she glided to the door, unlocked it, and
left the room.
* * * * *
An hour later Inez was being led by an old Jew, dressed in a Moslem robe
and turban, through one of the most tortuous and crowded parts of
Granada. It would seem that this Jew was known there, for his
appearance, accompanied by a veiled woman, apparently caused no surprise
to those followers of the Prophet that he met, some of whom, indeed,
saluted him with humility.
"These children of Mahomet seem to love you, Father Israel," said Inez.
"Yes, yes, my dear," answered the old fellow with a chuckle; "they owe
me money, that is why, and I am getting it in before the great war comes
with the Spaniards, so they would sweep the streets for me with their
beards--all of which is very good for the plans of our friend yonder.
Ah! he who has crowns in his pocket can put a crown upon his head; there
is nothing that money will not do in Granada. Give me enough of it, and
I will buy his sultana from the king."
"This Castell has plenty?" asked Inez shortly.
"Plenty, and more credit. He is one of the richest men in England. But
why do you ask? He would not think of you, who is too troubled about
Inez only laughed bitterly, but did not resent the words. Why should
she? It was not worth while.
"I know," she answered, "but I mean to earn some of it all the same,
and I want to be sure that there is enough for all of us."
"There is enough, I have told you there is enough and to spare,"
answered the Hebrew Israel as he tapped on a door in a
It opened as though by magic, and they crossed a paved patio, or
courtyard, to a house beyond, a tumble-down place of Moorish
"Our friend Castell, being in seclusion just now, has hired the cellar
floor," said Israel with a chuckle to Inez, "so be pleased to follow me,
and take care of the rats and beetles."
Then he led her down a rickety stair which opened out of the courtyard
into vaults filled with vats of wine, and, having lit a taper, through
these, shutting and locking sundry doors behind him, to what appeared to
be a very damp wall covered with cobwebs, and situated in a dark corner
of a wine-cave. Here he stopped and tapped again in his peculiar
fashion, whereon a portion of the wall turned outwards on a pivot,
leaving an opening through which they could pass.
"Well managed, isn't it?" chuckled Israel. "Who would think of looking
for an entrance here, especially if he owed the old Jew money? Come in,
my pretty, come in."
Inez followed him into this darksome hole, and the wall closed behind
them. Then, taking her by the arm, he turned first to the right, next to
the left, opened a door with a key which he carried, and, behold, they
stood in a beautifully furnished room well lighted with lamps, for it
seemed to have no windows. "Wait here," he said to Inez, pointing to a
couch on which she sat herself down, "while I fetch my lodger," and he
vanished through some curtains at the end of the room.
Presently these opened again, and Israel reappeared through them with
Castell, dressed now in Moorish robes, and looking somewhat pale from
his confinement underground, but otherwise well enough. Inez rose and
stood before him, throwing back her veil that he might see her face.
Castell searched her for a while with his keen eyes that noted
everything, then said:
"You are the lady with whom I have been in communication through our
friend here, are you not? Prove it to me now by repeating my messages."
Inez obeyed, telling him everything.
"That is right," he said, "but how do I know that I can trust you? I
understand you are, or have been, the lover of this man Morella, and
such an one he might well employ as a spy to bring us all to ruin."
"Is it not too late to ask such questions, Seņor? If I am not to be
trusted, already you and your people are in the hollow of my hand?"
"Not at all, not at all, my dear," said Israel. "If we see the slightest
cause to doubt you, why, there are many great vats in this place, one of
which, at a pinch, would serve you as a coffin, though it would be a
pity to spoil the good wine."
Inez laughed as she answered:
"Save your wine, and your time too. Morella has cast me off, and I hate
him, and wish to escape from him and rob him of his prize. Also, I
desire money to live on afterwards, and this you must give to me or I
do not stir, or rather the promise of it, for you Jews keep your word,
and I do not ask a maravedi from you until I have played my part."
"And then how many maravedis do you ask, young woman?"
Inez named a sum, at the mention of which both of them opened their
eyes, and old Israel exclaimed drily:
"Surely--surely you must be one of us."
"No," she answered, "but I try to follow your example, and, if I am to
live at all, it shall be in comfort."
"Quite so," said Castell, "we understand. But now tell us, what do you
propose to do for this money?"
"I propose to set you, your daughter, the Dona Margaret, and her lover,
the Seņor Brome, safe and free outside the walls of Granada, and to
leave the Marquis of Morella married to another woman."
"What other woman? Yourself?" asked Castell, fixing on this last point
in the programme.
"No, Seņor, not for all the wealth of both of you. To your dependent and
your daughter's relative, the handsome Betty."
"How will you manage that?" exclaimed Castell, amazed.
"These cousins are not unlike, Seņor, although the link of blood between
them is so thin. Listen now, I will tell you." And she explained the
outlines of her plan.
"A bold scheme enough," said Castell, when she had finished, "but even
if it can be done, would that marriage hold?"
"I think so," answered Inez, "if the priest knew--and he could be
bribed--and the bride knows. But if not, what would it matter, since
Rome alone can decide the question, and long before that is done the
fates of all of us will be settled."
"Rome--or death," said Castell; and Inez read what he was afraid of in
"Your Betty takes her chance," she replied slowly, "as many a one has
done before her with less cause. She is a woman with a mind as strong as
her body. Morella made her love him and promised to marry her. Then he
used her to steal your daughter, and she learned that she had been no
more than a stalking-heifer, from behind which he would net the white
swan. Do you not think, therefore, that she has something to pay him
back, she through whom her beloved mistress and cousin has been brought
into all this trouble? If she wins, she becomes the wife of a grandee of
Spain, a marchioness; and if she loses, well, she has had her fling for
a high stake, and perhaps her revenge. At least she is willing to take
her chance, and, meanwhile, all of you can be gone."
Castell looked doubtfully at the Jew Israel, who stroked his white beard
"Let the woman set out her scheme. At any rate she is no fool, and it is
worth our hearing, though I fear that at the best it must be costly."
"I can pay," said Castell, and motioned to Inez to proceed.
As yet, however, she had not much more to say, save that they must have
good horses at hand, and send a messenger to Seville, whither the
_Margaret_ had been ordered to proceed, bidding her captain hold his
ship ready to sail at any hour, should they succeed in reaching him.
These things, then, they arranged, and a while later Inez and Israel
departed, the former carrying with her a bag of gold.
That same night Inez sought the priest, Henriques of Motril, in that
hall of Morella's palace which was used as a private chapel, saying that
she desired to speak with him under pretence of making confession, for
they were old friends--or rather enemies.
As it chanced she found the holy father in a very ill humour. It
appeared that Morella also was in a bad humour with Henriques, having
heard that it was he who had possessed himself of the jewels in his
strong-box on the _San Antonio_. Now he insisted upon his surrendering
everything, and swore, moreover, that he would hold him responsible for
all that his people had stolen from the ship, and this because he said
that it was his fault that Peter Brome had escaped the sea and come on
"So, Father," said Inez, "you, who thought yourself rich, are poor
"Yes, my daughter, and that is what chances to those who put their faith
in princes. I have served this marquis well for many years--to my soul's
hurt, I fear me--hoping that he who stands so high in the favour of the
Church would advance me to some great preferment. But instead, what does
he do? He robs me of a few trinkets that, had I not found them, the sea
would have swallowed or some thief would have taken, and declares me his
debtor for the rest, of which I know nothing."
"What preferment did you want, Father? I see that you have one in your
"Daughter, a friend had written to me from Seville that if I have a
hundred gold doubloons to pay for it, he can secure me the place of a
secretary in the Holy Office where I served before as a familiar until
the marquis made me his chaplain, and gave the benefice of Motril, which
proved worth nothing, and many promises that are worth less. Now those
trinkets would fetch thirty, and I have saved twenty, and came here to
borrow the other fifty from the marquis, to whom I have done so many
good turns--as _you_ know well, Inez. You see the end of that quest,"
and he groaned angrily.
"It is a pity," said Inez thoughtfully, "since those who serve the
Inquisition save many souls, do they not, including their own? For
instance," she added, and the priest winced at the words, "I remember
that they saved the soul of my own sister and would have saved mine, had
I been--what shall I say?--more--more prejudiced. Also, they get a
percentage of the goods of wicked heretics, and so become rich and able
to advance themselves."
"That is so, Inez. It was the chance of a lifetime, especially to one
who, like myself, hates heretics. But why speak of it now when that
cursed, dissolute marquis----" and he checked himself.
Inez looked at him.
"Father," she asked, "if I happen to be able to find you those hundred
gold doubloons, would you do something for me?"
The priest's foxy face lit up.
"I wonder what there is that I would not do, my daughter!"
"Even if it brought you into a quarrel with the marquis?
"Once I was a secretary to the Inquisition of Seville, he would have
more reason to fear me than I him. Aye, and fear me he should, who bear
him no love," answered the priest with a snarl.
"Then listen, Father. I have not made my confession yet; I have not told
you, for instance, that I also hate this marquis, and with good
cause--though perhaps you know that already. But remember that if you
betray me, you will never see those hundred gold doubloons, and some
other holy priest will be appointed secretary at Seville. Also worse
things may happen to you."
"Proceed, my daughter," he said unctuously; "are we not in the
confessional--or near it?"
So she told him all the plot, trusting to the man's avarice and other
matters to protect her, for Inez hated Fray Henriques bitterly, and knew
him from the crown of his shaven head to the soles of his erring feet,
as she had good cause to do. Only she did not tell him whence the money
was to come.
"That does not seem a very difficult matter," he said, when she had
finished. "If a man and a woman, unwed and outside the prohibited
degrees, appear before me to be married, I marry them, and once the ring
has passed and the office is said, married they are till death or the
Pope part them."
"And suppose that the man thinks he is marrying another woman, Father?"
The priest shrugged his shoulders.
"He should know whom he is marrying; that is his affair, not the
Church's or mine. The names need not be spoken too loudly, my daughter."
"But you would give me a writing of the marriage with them set out
"Certainly. To you or to anybody else; why should I not?--that is, if I
were sure of this wedding fee."
Inez lifted her hand, and showed beneath it a little pile of ten
"Take them, Father," she said; "they will not be counted in the
contract. There are others where they came from, whereof twenty will be
paid before the marriage, and eighty when I have that writing
He swept up the coins and pocketed them, saying:
"I will trust you, Inez."
"Yes," she answered as she left him, "we must trust each other now--must
we not?--seeing that you have the money, and both our necks are in the
same noose. Be here, Father, to-morrow at the same time, in case I have
more confessions to make, for, alas! this is a sinful world, as you
should know very well."
On the morning following these conversations, just after Margaret and
Betty had breakfasted, Inez appeared, and, as before, locked the door
"Seņoras," she said calmly, "I have arranged that little business of
which I spoke to you yesterday, or at least the first act of the play,
since it remains for you to write the rest. Now I am sent to say that
the noble Marquis of Morella craves leave to see you, Dona Margaret, and
within an hour. So there is no time to lose."
"Tell us what you have done, Inez?" said Margaret.
"I have seen your worshipful father, Dona Margaret; here is the token of
it, which you will do well to destroy when you have read." And she
handed her a slip of paper, whereon was written in her father's writing,
and in English:
"This messenger, who I think may be trusted by you, has made
arrangements with me which she will explain. I approve, though the risk
is great. Your cousin is a brave girl, but, understand, I do not force
her to this dangerous enterprise. She must choose her own road, only I
promise that if she escapes and we live I will not forget her deed. The
messenger will bring me your answer. God be with us all, and farewell.
Margaret read this letter first to herself and then aloud to Betty, and,
having read, tore it into tiny fragments and threw them from the
"Speak now," she said; and Inez told her everything.
"Can you trust the priest?" asked Margaret, when she had finished.
"He is a great villain, as I have reason to know; still, I think I can,"
she answered, "while the cabbage is in front of the donkey's nose--I
mean until he has got all the money. Also, he has committed himself by
taking some on account. But before we go further, the question is--does
this lady play?" and she pointed to Betty.
"Yes, I play," said Betty, when she understood everything. "I won't go
back upon my word; there is too much at stake. It is an ugly business
for me, I know well enough, but," she added slowly, setting her firm
mouth, "I have debts to pay all round, and I am no Spanish putty to be
squeezed flat--like some people," and she glanced at the humble-looking
Inez. "So, before all is done, it may be uglier for him."
When she had mastered the meaning of this speech the soft-voiced Inez
lifted her gentle eyes in admiration, and murmured a Spanish proverb as
to what is supposed to occur when Satan encounters Beelzebub in a
high-walled lane. Then, being a lady of resource and experience, the
plot having been finally decided upon, not altogether with Margaret's
approval, who feared for Betty's fate when it should be discovered, Inez
began to instruct them both in various practical expedients, by means of
which the undoubted general resemblance of these cousins might be
heightened and their differences toned down. To this end she promised to
furnish them with certain hair-washes, pigments, and articles
"It is of small use," said Betty, glancing first at herself and then at
the lovely Margaret, "for even if they change skins, who can make the
calf look like the fawn, though they chance to feed in the same meadow?
Still, bring your stuffs and I will do my best; but I think that a thick
veil and a shut mouth will help me more than any of them, also a long
gown to hide my feet."
"Surely they are charming feet," said Inez politely, adding to herself,
"to carry you whither you wish to go." Then she turned to Margaret and
reminded her that the marquis desired to see her, and waited for
"I will not meet him alone," said Margaret decidedly.
"That is awkward," answered Inez, "as I think he has words to say to you
which he does not wish others to hear, especially the seņora yonder,"
and she nodded towards Betty.
"I will not meet him alone," repeated Margaret.
"Yet, if things are to go forward as we have arranged, you must meet
him, Dona Margaret, and give him that answer which he desires. Well, I
think it can be arranged. The court below is large. Now, while you and
the marquis talk at one end of it, the Seņora Betty and I might walk out
of earshot at the other. She needs more instruction in our Spanish
tongue; it would be a good opportunity to begin our lessons."
"But what am I to say to him?" asked Margaret nervously.
"I think," answered Inez, "that you must copy the example of that
wonderful actor, the Seņor Peter, and play a part as well as you saw him
do, or even better, if possible."
"It must be a very different part then," replied Margaret, stiffening
visibly at certain recollections.
The gentle Inez smiled as she said:
"Yes, but surely you can seem jealous, for that is natural to us all,
and you can yield by degrees, and you can make a bargain as the price of
yourself in marriage."
"What exact bargain should I make?"
"I think that you shall be securely wed by a priest of your own Church,
and that letters, signed by that priest and announcing the marriage,
shall be delivered to the Archbishop of Seville, and to their Majesties
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Also, of course, you must arrange
that the Seņor Brome and your father, the Seņor Castell, and your cousin
Betty here shall be escorted safe out of Granada before your marriage,
and that you shall see them pass through the gate beneath your turret
window, swearing that thereafter, at nightfall of the same day, you will
suffer the priest to do his office and make you Morella's wife. By that
time they should be well upon their road, and, after the rite is
celebrated, I will receive the signed papers from the priest and follow
them, leaving the false bride to play her part as best she can."
Again Margaret hesitated; the thing seemed too complicated and full of
danger. But while she thought, a knock came on the door.
"That is to tell me that Morella awaits your answer in the court," said
Inez. "Now, which is it to be? Remember that there is no other chance of
escape for you, or the others, from this guarded town--at least I can
"I accept," said Margaret hurriedly, "and God help us all, for we shall
"And you, Seņora Betty?"
"Oh! I made up my mind long ago," answered Betty coolly. "We can only
fail, when we shall be no worse off than before."
"Good. Then play your parts well, both of you. After all, they should
not be so difficult, for the priest is safe, and the marquis will never
scent such a trick as this. Fix the marriage for this day week, as I
have much to think of and make ready," and she went.
* * * * *
Half an hour later Margaret sat under the cool arcade of the marble
court, and with her, Morella, while upon the further side of its
splashing fountain and out of earshot, Betty and Inez walked to and fro
in the shadow.
"You sent for me, Marquis," said Margaret presently, "and, being your
prisoner, I have come because I must. What is your pleasure with me?"
"Dona Margaret," he answered gravely, "can you not guess? Well, I will
tell you, lest you should guess wrong. First, it is to ask your
forgiveness as I have done before, for the many crimes to which my love,
my true love, for you has driven me. This time yesterday I knew well
that I could expect none. To-day I dare to hope that it may be
"Why so, Marquis?"
"Last evening you looked into a certain garden and saw two people
walking there--yonder is one of them," and he nodded towards Inez.
"Shall I go on?"
"No," she answered in a low voice, and passing her hands before her
face. "Only tell me who and what is that woman?" and in her turn she
looked towards Inez.
"Is it necessary?" he asked. "Well, if you wish to know, she is a
Spaniard of good blood who with her sister was taken captive by the
Moors. A certain priest, who took an interest in the sister, brought her
to my notice and I bought her from them; so, as her parents were dead
and she had nowhere else to go, she elected to stay in my house. You
must not judge such things too harshly; they are common here. Also, she
has been very useful to me, being clever, for through her I have
intelligence of many things. Of late, however, she has grown tired of
this life, and wishes to earn her freedom, which I have promised her in
return for certain services, and to leave Granada."
"Was the nursing of my betrothed one of those services, Marquis?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"As you will, Seņora. Certainly I forgive her this indiscretion, if at
last she has shown you the truth about that man for whose sake you have
endured so much. Margaret, now that you know him for what he is, say, do
you still cling to him?"
She rose and walked a few steps down the arcade, then came back and
"Are you any better than this fallen man?"
"I think so, Margaret, for since I knew you I am a risen man; all my old
self is left behind me, I am a new creature, and my sins have been for
you, not against you. Hear me, I beseech you. I stole you away, it is
true, but I have done you no harm, and will do you none. For your sake
also I have spared your father when I had but to make a sign to remove
him from my path. I suffered him to escape from the prison where he was
confined, and I know the place where he thinks himself hidden to-day
among the Jews of Granada. Also, I nursed Peter Brome back to life, when
at any hour I could have let him die, lest afterwards I might have it on
my conscience that, but for my love for you, he might perhaps still be
living. Well, you have seen him as he is, and what say you now? Will you
still reject me? Look on me," and he drew up his tall and stately shape,
"and tell me, am I such a man as a woman should be ashamed to own as
husband? Remember, too, that I have much to give you in this land of
Spain, whereof you shall become one of the greatest ladies, or perhaps
in the future," he added significantly, "even more. War draws near,
Margaret; this city and all its rich territories will fall into the
hands of Spain, and afterwards I shall be their governor, almost
"And if I refuse?" asked Margaret.
"Then," he answered sternly, "you bide here, and that false lover of
yours bides here, and your father bides here to take the chance of war
as Christian captives with a thousand others who languish in the
dungeons of the Alhambra, while, my mission ended, I go hence to play my
part in battle amongst my peers, as one of the first captains of their
Most Catholic Majesties. Yet it is not to your fears that I would
appeal, but to your heart, for I seek your love and your dear
companionship through life, and, if I can help it, desire to work you
and yours no harm."
"You desire to work them no harm. Then, if I were to fall in with your
humour, would you let them go in safety?--I mean my father and the Seņor
Brome and my cousin Betty, whom, if you were as honest as you pretend to
be, you should ask to bide with you as your wife, and not myself."
"The last I cannot do," he answered, flushing. "God knows I meant her no
hurt, and only used her to keep near to and win news of you, thinking
her, to tell truth, somewhat other than she is."
"Are no women honest here in Spain, then, my lord Marquis?"
"A few, a very few, Dona Margaret. But I erred about Betty, whom I took
for a simple serving-girl, and to whom, if need be, I am ready to make
"Except that which is due to a woman you have asked to be your wife, and
who in our country could claim the fulfilment of your promise, or
declare you shamed. But you have not answered. Would they go free?"
"As free as air--especially the Seņora Betty," he added with a little
smile, "for to speak truth, there is something in that woman's eyes
which frightens me at times. I think that she has a long memory. Within
an hour of our marriage you shall look down from your window and see
them depart under escort, every one, to go whither they will."
"Nay," answered Margaret, "it is not enough. I should need to see them
go before, and then, if I consented, not till the sun had set would I
pay the price of their ransom."
"Then do you consent? he asked eagerly.
"My lord Marquis, it would seem that I must. My betrothed has played me
false. For a month or more I have been prisoner in your palace, which I
understand has no good name, and, if I refuse, you tell me that all of
us will be cast into yonder dungeons to be sold as slaves or die
prisoners of the Moors. My lord Marquis, fate and you leave me but
little choice. On this day week I will marry you, but blame me not if
you find me other than you think, as you have found my cousin whom you
befooled. Till then, also, I pray you that you will leave me quite
untroubled. If you have arrangements to make or commands to send, the
woman Inez yonder will serve as messenger, for of her I know the worst."
"I will obey you in all things, Dona Margaret," he answered humbly. "Do
you desire to see your father or--" and he paused.
"Neither of them," she answered. "I will write to them and send my
letters by this Inez. Why should I see them," she added passionately,
"who have done with the old days when I was free and happy, and am about
to become the wife of the most noble Marquis of Morella, that honourable
grandee of Spain, who tricked a poor girl by a false promise of
marriage, and used her blind and loving folly to trap and steal me from
my home? My lord, till this day week I bid you farewell," and, walking
from the arcade to the fountain, she called aloud to Betty to accompany
her to their rooms.
The week for which Margaret had bargained had gone by. All was prepared.
Inez had shown to Morella the letters that his bride to be wrote to her
father and to Peter Brome; also the answers, imploring and passionate,
to the same. But there were other letters and other answers which she
had not shown. It was afternoon, swift horses were ready in the
courtyard, and with them an escort, while, disguised as Moors, Castell
and Peter waited under guard in a chamber close at hand. Betty, dressed
in the robes of a Moorish woman, and thickly veiled, stood before
Morella, to whom Inez had led her.
"I come to tell you," she said, "that at sundown, three hours after we
have passed beneath her window, my cousin and mistress will wait to be
made your wife, but if you try to disturb her before then she will be no
wife of yours, or any man's."
"I obey," answered Morella; "and, Seņora Betty, I pray your pardon, and
that you will accept this gift from me in token of your forgiveness."
And with a low bow he handed to her a beautiful necklace of pearls.
"I take them," said Betty, with a bitter laugh, "as they may serve to
buy me a passage back to England. But forgive you I do not, Marquis of
Morella, and I warn you that there is a score between us which I may
yet live to settle. You seem to have won, but God in Heaven takes note
of the wickedness of men, and in this way or in that He always pays His
debts. Now I go to bid farewell to my cousin Margaret, but to you I do
not bid farewell, for I think that we shall meet again," and with a sob
she let fall the veil which she had lifted above her lips to speak and
departed with Inez, to whom she whispered as they went, "He will not
linger for any more good-byes with Betty Dene."
They entered Margaret's room and locked the door behind them. She was
seated on a low divan wrapped in a loose robe, and by her side,
glittering with silver and with gems, lay her bridal veil and garments.
"Be swift," said Inez to Betty, who stripped off her Moorish dress and
the long, flowing veil that was wrapped about her head, whereon it was
seen that her hair had changed greatly in colour, from yellow to dark
chestnut indeed, while her eyes, ringed about with pigments, and made
lustrous by drugs dropped into them, looked no longer blue, but black
like Margaret's. Yes, and wonder of wonders, on the right side of the
chin and on the back of the neck were moles, or beauty-spots, just such
as Margaret had borne there from her birth! In short, their stature
being much the same, though Betty was more thickly built, except in the
strongest light it would not have been easy to distinguish them apart,
even unveiled, for at all such arts of the altering of the looks of
women, Inez was an adept, and she had done her best.
Now Margaret clothed herself in the white robes and the thick head-dress
that hid her face, all except a little crack left for the eyes to peep
through, whilst Betty, with the help of Inez, arrayed herself in the
wondrous wedding robe beset with jewels that was Morella's bridal gift,
and hid her dyed tresses beneath the pearl-sewn veil. Within ten minutes
all was finished, even to the dagger that Betty had tied about her
beneath her robe, and the two transformed women stood staring at
"It is time to go," said Inez.
Then Margaret broke out:
"I do not like this business; I never did. When he discovers all, that
man's rage will be terrible, and he will kill her. I repent that I have
consented to the plot."
"It is too late to repent now, Seņora," said Inez.
"Cannot Betty be got away also?" asked Margaret desperately.
"It is just possible," answered Inez; "thus, before the marriage,
according to the old custom here, I hand the cups of wine to the
bridegroom and the bride. That for the marquis will be drugged, since he
must not see too clear to-night. Well, I might brew it stronger so that
within half an hour he would not know whether he were married or single,
and then, perhaps, she might escape with me and come to join you. But it
is very risky, and, of course, if we were discovered--the stitch would
be out of the wineskin, and the cellar floor might be stained!"
Now Betty interrupted:
"Keep your stitches whole, Cousin; if any skins are to be pricked it
can't be helped, and at least you won't have to wipe up the mess. I am
not going to run away from the man, more likely he will run away from
me. I look well in this fine dress of yours, and I mean to wear it out.
Now begone--begone, before some of them come to seek me. Don't you
grieve for me; I'll lie in the bed that I have made, and if the worst
comes to the worst, I have money in my pocket--or its worth--and we will
meet again in England. Come, give my love and duty to Master Peter and
your father, and if I should see them no more, bid them think kindly of
Betty Dene, who was such a plague to them."
Then, taking Margaret in her strong arms, she kissed her again and
again, and fairly thrust her from the room.
But when they were gone, poor Betty sat down and cried a little, till
she remembered that hot tears might melt the paint upon her face, and,
drying them, went to the window and watched.
A while later, from her lofty niche, she saw six Moorish horsemen riding
along the white road to the embattled gate. After them came two men and
a woman, all splendidly mounted, also dressed as Moors, and then six
other horsemen. They passed the gate which was opened for them and began
to mount the slope beyond. At the crest of it the woman halted and,
turning, waved a handkerchief. Betty answered the signal, and in another
minute they had vanished, and she was alone.
Never did she spend a more weary afternoon. Two hours later, still
watching at her window, she saw the Moorish escort return, and knew that
all was well, and that by now, Margaret, her lover, and her father were
safely started on their journey. So she had not risked her life in vain.
THE HOLY HERMANDAD
Down the long passages, through the great, fretted halls, across the
cool marble courts, flitted Inez and Margaret. It was like a dream. They
went through a room where women, idling or working at tapestries, looked
at them curiously. Margaret heard one of them say to another:
"Why does the Dona Margaret's cousin leave her?" And the answer,
"Because she is in love with the marquis herself, and cannot bear
"What a fool!" said the first woman. "She is good looking, and would
only have had to wait a few weeks."
They passed an open door, that of Morella's own chambers. Within it he
stood and watched them go by. When they were opposite to him some doubt
or idea seemed to strike his mind, for he looked at them keenly, stepped
forward, then, thinking better of it, or perhaps remembering Betty's
bitter tongue, halted and turned aside. That danger had gone by!
At length, none hindering them, they reached the yard where the escort
and the horses waited. Here, standing under an archway, were Castell and
Peter. Castell greeted Margaret in English and kissed her through her
veil, while Peter, who had not seen her close since months before he
rode away to Dedham, stared at her with all his eyes, and began to draw
near to her, designing to find out, as he was sure he could do if once
he touched her, whether indeed this were Margaret, or only Betty after
all. Guessing what was in his mind, and that he might reveal everything,
Inez, who held a long pin in her hand with which she was fastening her
veil that had come loose, pretended to knock against him, and ran the
point deep into his arm, muttering, "Fool!" as she did so. He sprang
back with an oath, the guard smiled, and she began to pray his pardon.
Castell helped Margaret on to her horse, then mounted his own, as did
Peter, still rubbing his arm, but not daring to look towards Margaret,
whose hand Inez shook familiarly in farewell as though she were her
equal, addressing her the while in terms of endearment such as Spanish
women use to each other. An officer of Morella's household came and
counted them, saying:
"Two men and a woman. That is right, though I cannot see the woman's
For a moment he seemed to be about to order her to unveil, but Inez
called to him that it was not decent before all these Moors, whereon he
nodded and ordered the captain to proceed.
They rode through the arch of the castle along the roadway, through the
great gate of the wall also, where the guard questioned their escort,
stared at them, and, after receiving a present from Castell, let them
go, telling them they were lucky Christians to get alive out of Granada,
as indeed they were.
At the brow of the rise Margaret turned and waved her handkerchief
towards that high window which she knew so well. Another handkerchief
was waved in answer, and, thinking of the lonely Betty watching them
there while she awaited the issue of her desperate venture, Margaret
went on, weeping beneath her veil. For an hour they rode forward,
speaking few words to each other, till at length they came to the
cross-roads, one of which ran to Malaga, and the other towards Seville.
Here the escort halted, saying that their orders were to leave them at
this point, and asking which road they intended to take. Castell
answered that to Malaga, whereon the captain replied that they were
wise, as they were less likely to meet bands of marauding thieves who
called themselves Christian soldiers, and murdered or robbed all
travellers who fell into their hands. Then Castell offered him a
present, which he accepted gravely, as though he did him a great favour,
and, after bows and salutations, they departed.
As soon as the Moors were gone the three rode a little way towards
Malaga. Then, when there was nobody in sight, they turned across country
and gained the Seville road. At last they were alone and, halting
beneath the walls of a house that had been burnt in some Christian raid,
they spoke together freely for the first time, and oh! what a moment was
that for all of them!
Peter pushed his horse alongside that of Margaret, crying:
"Speak, beloved. Is it truly you?"
But Margaret, taking no heed of him, leant over and, throwing her arm
around her father's neck, kissed him again and again through her veil,
blessing God that they had lived to meet in safety. Peter tried to kiss
her also; but she caused her horse to move so that he nearly fell from
"Have a care, Peter," she said to him, "or your love of kissing will
lead you into more trouble." Whereon, guessing of what she spoke, he
coloured furiously, and began to explain at length.
"Cease," she said--"cease. I know all that story, for I saw you," then,
relenting, with some brief, sweet words of greeting and gratitude, gave
him her hand, which he kissed often enough.
"Come," said Castell, "we must push on, who have twenty miles to cover
before we reach that inn where Israel has arranged that we should sleep
to-night. We will talk as we go." And talk they did, as well as the
roughness of the road and the speed at which they must travel
Riding as hard as they were able, at length they came to the _venta_, or
rough hostelry, just as the darkness closed in. At the sight of it they
thanked God aloud, for this place was across the Moorish border, and now
they had little to fear from Granada. The host, a half-bred Spaniard and
a Christian, expected them, having received a message from Israel, with
whom he had had dealings, and gave them two rooms, rude enough, but
sufficient, and good food and wine, also stabling and barley for their
horses, bidding them sleep well and have no fear, as he and his people
would watch and warn them of any danger.
Yet it was late before they slept, who had so much to say to each
other--especially Peter and Margaret--and were so happy at their escape,
if only for a little while. Yet across their joy, like the sound of a
funeral bell at a merry feast, came the thought of Betty and that
fateful marriage in which ere now she must have played her part. Indeed,
at last Margaret knelt down and offered up prayers to Heaven that the
saints might protect her cousin in the great peril which she had
incurred for them, nor was Peter ashamed to join her in that prayer.
Then they embraced--especially Peter and Margaret--and laid them down,
Castell and his daughter in one room, and Peter in the other, and slept
as best they could.
Half an hour before dawn Peter was up seeing to the horses while the
others breakfasted and packed the food that the landlord had made ready
for their journey. Then he also swallowed some meat and wine, and at the
first break of day, having discharged their reckoning and taken a letter
from their host to those of other inns upon the road, they pressed on
towards Seville, very thankful to find that as yet there were no signs
of their being pursued.
All that day, with short pauses to rest themselves and their horses,
they rode on without accident, for the most part over a fertile plain
watered by several rivers which they crossed at fords or over bridges.
As night fell they reached the old town of Oxuna, which for many hours
they had seen set upon its hill before them, and, notwithstanding their
Moorish dress, made their way almost unobserved in the darkness to that
inn to which they had been recommended. Here, although he stared at
their garments, on finding that they had plenty of money, the landlord
received them well enough, and again they were fortunate in securing
rooms to themselves. It had been their purpose to buy Spanish clothes in
this town, but, as it happened, it was a feast day, and at night every
shop in the place was closed, so they could get none. Now, as they
greatly desired to reach Seville by the following nightfall, hoping
under cover of the darkness to find and come aboard of their ship, the
_Margaret_, which they knew lay safely in the river, and had been
advised by messenger of their intended journey, it was necessary for
them to leave Oxuna before the dawn. So, unfortunately enough as it
proved, it was impossible for them to put off their Moorish robes and
clothe themselves as Christians.
They had hoped, too, that here at Oxuna Inez might overtake them, as she
had promised to do if she could, and give them tidings of what had
happened since they left Granada. But no Inez came. So, comforting
themselves with the thought that however hard she rode it would be
difficult for her to reach them, who had some hours' start, they left
Oxuna in the darkness before any one was astir.
Having crossed some miles of plain, they passed up through olive groves
into hills where cork-trees grew, and here stopped to eat and let the
horses feed. Just as they were starting on again, Peter, looking round,
saw mounted men--a dozen or more of them of very wild aspect--cantering
through the trees evidently with the object of cutting them off.
"Thieves!" he said shortly. "Ride for it."
So they began to gallop, and their horses, although somewhat jaded,
being very swift, passed in front of these men before they could regain
the road. The band shouted to them to surrender, and, as they did not
stop, loosed a few arrows and pursued them, while they galloped down the
hillside on to a plain which separated them from more hills also clothed
with cork-trees. This plain was about three miles wide and boggy in
places. Still they kept well ahead of the brigands, as they took them to
be, hoping that they would give up the pursuit or lose sight of them
amongst the trees. As they entered these, however, to their dismay they
saw, drawn up in front of them and right across the road, another band
of rough-looking men, perhaps twelve in all.
"Trap!" said Peter. "We must ride through them--it is our only chance,"
at the same time spurring his horse to the front and drawing his sword.
Choosing the spot where their line was weakest he dashed through it
easily enough but next second heard a cry from Margaret, and pulled his
horse round to see that her mare had fallen, and that she and Castell
were in the hands of the thieves. Indeed, already rough men had hold of
her, and one of them was trying to tear the veil from her face. With a
shout of rage Peter charged them, and struck so fierce a blow that his
sword cut through the fellow's helmet into his skull, so that he fell
down, dying or dead, Margaret's veil still in his hand.
Then they rushed at him, five or six of them, and, although he wounded
another man, dragged him from his horse, and, as he lay upon his back,
sprang at him to finish him before he could rise. Already their knives
and swords were over him, and he was making his farewells to life, when
he heard a voice command them to desist and bind his arms. This was
quickly done, and he was suffered to rise from the ground to see before
him, not Morella, as he half expected, but a man clad in fine armour
beneath his rough cloak, evidently an officer of rank. "What kind of a
Moor are you," he asked, "who dare to kill the soldiers of the Holy
Hermandad in the heart of the King's country?" and he pointed to
the dead man.
"I am not a Moor," answered Peter in his rough Spanish. "I am a
Christian escaped from Granada, and I cut down that man because he was
trying to insult my betrothed, as you would have done, Seņor. I did not
know that he was a soldier of the Hermandad; I thought him a common
thief of the hills."
This speech, or as much as he could understand of it, seemed to please
the officer, but before he could answer, Castell said:
"Sir Officer, the seņor is an Englishman, and does not speak your
"He uses his sword well, anyhow," interrupted the captain, glancing at
the dead soldier's cloven helm and head.
"Yes, Sir, he is of your trade and, as the scar upon his face shows, has
fought in many wars. Sir, what he tells you is true. We are Christian
captives escaped from Granada and flying to Seville with my daughter, to
whom I pray you to do no harm, to ask for the protection of their
gracious Majesties, and to find a passage back to England."
"You do not look like an Englishman," answered the captain; "you look
like a Marano."
"Sir, I cannot help my looks. I am a merchant of London, Castell by
name. It is one well known in Seville and throughout this land, where I
have large dealings, as, if I can but see him, your king himself will
acknowledge. Be not deceived by our dress, which we had to put on in
order to escape from Granada, but, I beseech you, let us go on
"Seņor Castell," answered the officer, "I am the Captain Arrano of
Puebla, and, since you would not stop when we called to you, and have
killed one of my best soldiers, to Seville you must certainly go, but
with me, not by yourselves. You are my prisoners, but have no fear. No
violence shall be done to you or the lady, who must take your trials for
your deeds before the King's court, and there tell your story, true
So, having been disarmed of their swords, they were allowed to remount
their horses and taken on towards Seville as prisoners.
"At least," said Margaret to Peter, "we have nothing more to fear from
highwaymen, and have escaped these soldiers' swords unhurt."
"Yes," answered Peter with a groan, "but I hoped that to-night we should
have slept upon the _Margaret_ while she slipped down the river towards
the open sea, and not in a Spanish jail. Now, as fate will have it, for
the second time I have killed a man on your behalf, and all the business
will begin again. Truly our luck is bad!"
"I think it might be worse, and I cannot blame you for that deed,"
answered Margaret, remembering the rough hands of the dead soldier, whom
some of his comrades had stopped behind to bury.
During all the remainder of that long day they rode on through the
burning heat, across the rich, cultivated plain, towards the great city
of Seville, whereof the Giralda, which once had been the minaret of a
Moorish mosque, towered hundreds of feet into the air before them. At
length, towards evening, they entered the eastern suburbs of the vast
city and, passing through them and a great gate beyond, began to thread
its tortuous streets.
"Whither go we, Captain Arrano?" asked Castell presently.
"To the prison of the Holy Hermandad to await your trial for the slaying
of one of its soldiers," answered the officer.
"I pray that we may get there soon then," said Peter, looking at
Margaret, who, overcome with fatigue, swayed upon her saddle like a
flower in the wind.
"So do I," muttered Castell, glancing round at the dark faces of the
people, who, having discovered that they had killed a Spanish soldier,
and taking them to be Moors, were marching alongside of them in great
numbers, staring sullenly, or cursing them for infidels. Indeed, once
when they passed a square, a priest in the mob cried out, "Kill them!"
whereon a number of rough fellows made a rush to pull them off their
horses, and were with difficulty beaten back by the soldiers.
Foiled in this attempt they began to pelt them with garbage, so that
soon their white robes were stained and filthy. One fellow, too, threw a
stone which struck Margaret on the wrist, causing her to cry out and
drop her rein. This was too much for the hot-blooded Peter, who,
spurring his horse alongside of him, before the soldiers could
interfere, hit him such a buffet in the face that the man rolled upon
the ground. Now Castell thought that they would certainly be killed, but
to his surprise the mob only laughed and shouted such things as "Well
hit, Moor!" "That infidel has a strong arm," and so forth.
Nor was the officer angry, for when the man rose, a knife in his hand,
he drew his sword and struck him down again with the flat of it,
saying to Peter:
"Do not sully your hand with such street swine, Seņor."
Then he turned and commanded his men to charge the crowd ahead of them.
So they got through these people and, after many twists and turns down
side streets to avoid the main avenues, came to a great and gloomy
building and into a courtyard through barred gates that were opened at
their approach and shut after them. Here they were ordered to dismount
and their horses led away, while the officer, Arrano, entered into
conversation with the governor of the prison, a man with a stern but not
unkindly face, who surveyed them with much curiosity. Presently he
approached and asked them if they could pay for good rooms, as if not he
must put them in the common cells.
Castell answered, "Yes," and, by way of earnest of it, produced five
pieces of gold, and giving them to the Captain Arrano, begged him to
distribute them among his soldiers as a thankoffering for their
protection of them through the streets. Also, he said loudly enough for
every one to hear, that he would be willing to compensate the relatives
of the man whom Peter had killed by accident--an announcement that
evidently impressed his comrades very favourably. Indeed one of them
said he would bear the message to his widow, and, on behalf of the rest,
thanked him for his gift. Then having bade farewell to the officer, who
told them that they would meet again before the judges, they were led
through the various passages of the prison to two rooms, one small and
one of a fair size with heavily barred windows, given water to wash in,
and told that food would be brought to them.
In due course it came, carried by jailers--meat, eggs, and wine, and
glad enough were they to see it. While they ate, also the governor
appeared with a notary, and, having waited till their meal was finished,
began to question them.
"Our story is long," said Castell, "but with your leave I will tell it
you, only, I pray you, suffer my daughter, the Dona Margaret, to go to
rest, for she is quite outworn, and if you will you can question her
The governor assenting, Margaret threw off her veil to embrace her
father, thus showing her beauty for the first time, whereat the governor
and the notary stared amazed. Then having given Peter her hand to kiss,
and curtseyed to the governor and the notary, she went to her bed in the
next room, which opened out of that in which they were.
When she had gone, Castell told his story of how his daughter had been
kidnapped by the Marquis of Morella, a name that caused the governor to
open his eyes very wide, and brought from London to Granada, whither
they, her father and her betrothed, had followed her and escaped. But of
Betty and all the business of the changed bride he said nothing. Also,
knowing that these must come out in any case, he told them his name and
business, and those of his partners and correspondents in Seville, the
firm of Bernaldez, which was one that the governor knew well enough,
and prayed that the head of that firm, the Seņor Juan Bernaldez, might
be communicated with and allowed to visit them on the next morning.
Lastly, he explained that they were no thieves or adventurers, but
English subjects in misfortune, and again hinted that they were both
able and willing to pay for any kindness or consideration that was shown
to them, of all of which sayings the governor took note.
Also this officer said that he would communicate with his superiors,
and, if no objection were made, send a messenger to ask the Seņor
Bernaldez to attend at the prison on the following day. Then at length
he and the notary departed, and, the jailers having cleared away the
food and locked the door, Castell and Peter lay down on the beds that
they had made ready for them, thankful enough to find themselves at
Seville, even though in a prison, where indeed they slept very well
On the following morning they woke much refreshed, and, after they had
breakfasted, the governor appeared, and with him none other than the
Seņor Juan Bernaldez, Castell's secret correspondent and Spanish
partner, whom he had last seen some years before in England, a stout man
with a quiet, clever face, not over given to words.
Greeting them with a deference that was not lost upon the governor, he
asked whether he had leave to speak with them alone. The governor
assented and went, saying he would return within an hour. As soon as the
door was closed behind him, Bernaldez said:
"This is a strange place to meet you in, John Castell, yet I am not
altogether surprised, since some of your messages reached me through
our friends the Jews; also your ship, the _Margaret_, lies refitted in
the river, and to avoid suspicion I have been lading her slowly with a
cargo for England, though how you will come aboard that ship is more
than I can say. But we have no time to waste. Tell me all your story,
keeping nothing back."
So they told him everything as quickly as they could, while he listened
silently. When they had done, he said, addressing Peter:
"It is a thousand pities, young sir, that you could not keep your hands
off that soldier, for now the trouble that was nearly done with has
begun anew, and in a worse shape. The Marquis of Morella is a very
powerful man in this kingdom, as you may know from the fact that he was
sent to London by their Majesties to negotiate a treaty with your
English King Henry as to the Jews and their treatment, should any of
them escape thither after they have been expelled from Spain. For
nothing less is in the wind, and I would have you know that their
Majesties hate the Jews, and especially the Maranos, whom already they
burn by dozens here in Seville," and he glanced meaningly at Castell.
"I am very sorry," said Peter, "but the fellow handled her roughly, and
I was maddened at the sight and could not help myself. This is the
second time that I have come into trouble from the same cause. Also, I
thought that he was but a bandit."
"Love is a bad diplomatist," replied Bernaldez, with a little smile,
"and who can count last year's clouds? What is done, is done. Now I will
try to arrange that the three of you shall be brought straight before
their Majesties when they sit to hear cases on the day after to-morrow.
With the Queen you will have a better chance than at the hands of any
alcalde. She has a heart, if only one can get at it--that is, except
where Jews and Maranos are concerned," and again he glanced at Castell.
"Meanwhile, there is money in plenty, and in Spain we ride to heaven on
gold angels," he added, alluding to that coin and the national
Before they could say more the governor returned, saying that the Seņor
Bernaldez' time was up, and asking if they had finished their talk.
"Not altogether," said Margaret. "Noble Governor, is it permitted that
the Seņor Bernaldez should send me some Christian clothes to wear, for I
would not appear before your judges in this soiled heathen garb, nor, I
think, would my father or the Seņor Brome?"
The governor laughed, and said he thought that might be arranged, and
even allowed them another five minutes, while they talked of what these
clothes should be. Then he departed with Bernaldez, leaving them alone.
It was not until the latter had gone, however, that they remembered that
they had forgotten to ask him whether he had heard anything of the woman
Inez, who had been furnished with his address, but, as he had said
nothing of her, they felt sure that she could not have arrived in
Seville, and once more were much afraid as to what might have happened
after they had left Granada.
That night, to their grief and alarm, a new trouble fell on them. Just
as they finished their supper the governor appeared and said that, by
order of the Court before which they must be tried, the Seņor Brome,
who was accused of murder, must be separated from them. So, in spite of
all they could say or do, Peter was led away to a separate cell, leaving
BETTY PAYS HER DEBTS
Betty Dene was not a woman afflicted with fears or apprehensions. Born
of good parents, but in poverty, for six-and-twenty years she had fought
her own way in a rough world and made the best of circumstances.
Healthy, full-blooded, tough, affectionate, romantic, but honest in her
way, she was well fitted to meet the ups and downs of life, to keep her
head above the waters of a turbulent age, and to pay back as much as she
received from man or woman.
Yet those long hours which she passed alone in the high turret chamber,
waiting till they summoned her to play the part of a false bride, were
the worst that she had ever spent. She knew that her position was, in a
sense, shameful, and like to end in tragedy, and, now that she faced it
in cold blood, began to wonder why she had chosen so to do. She had
fallen in love with the Spaniard almost at first sight, though it is
true that something like this had happened to her before with other men.
Then he had played his part with her, till, quite deceived, she gave all
her heart to him in good earnest, believing in her infatuation that,
notwithstanding the difference of their place and rank, he desired to
make her his wife for her own sake.
Afterwards came that bitter day of disillusion when she learned, as
Inez had said to Castell, that she was but a stalking heifer used for
the taking of the white swan, her cousin and mistress--that day when she
had been beguiled by the letter which was still hid in her garments, and
for her pains heard herself called a fool to her face. In her heart she
had sworn to be avenged upon Morella then, and now the hour had come in
which to fulfil her oath and play him back trick for cruel trick.
Did she still love the man? She could not say. He was pleasing to her as
he had always been, and when that is so women forgive much. This was
certain, however--love was not her guide to-night. Was it vengeance then
that led her on? Perhaps; at least she longed to be able to say to him,
"See what craft lies hid even in the bosom of an outwitted fool."
Yet she would not have done it for vengeance' sake alone, or rather she
would have paid herself in some other fashion. No, her real reason was
that she must discharge the debt due to Margaret and Peter, and to
Castell who had sheltered her for years. She it was who had brought them
into all this woe, and it seemed but just that she should bring them out
again, even at the cost of her own life and womanly dignity. Or,
perchance, all three of these powers drove her on,--love for the man if
it still lingered, the desire to be avenged upon him, and the desire to
snatch his prey from out his maw. At least she had set the game, and she
would play it out to its end, however awful that might be.
The sun sank, the darkness closed about her, and she wondered whether
ever again she would see the dawn. Her brave heart quailed a little, and
she gripped the dagger hilt beneath her splendid, borrowed robe,
thinking to herself that perhaps it might be wisest to drive it into her
own breast, and not wait until a balked madman did that office for her.
Yet not so, for it is always time to die when one must.
A knock came at the door, and her courage, which had sunk so low, burned
up again within her. Oh! she would teach this Spaniard that the
Englishwoman, whom he had made believe was his desired mistress, could
be his master. At any rate, he should hear the truth before the end.
She unlocked the door, and Inez entered bearing a lamp, by the light of
which she scanned her with her quiet eyes.
"The bridegroom is ready," she said slowly that Betty might understand,
"and sends me to lead you to him. Are you afraid?"
"Not I," answered Betty. "But tell me, how will the thing be done?"
"The marquis meets us in the ante-room to that hall which is used as a
chapel, and there on behalf of the household I, as the first of the
women, give you both the cups of wine. Be sure that you drink of that
which I hold in my left hand, passing the cup up beneath your veil so as
not to show your face, and speak no word, lest he should recognise your
voice. Then we shall go into the chapel, where the priest Henriques
waits, also all the household. But that hall is great, and the lamps are
feeble, so none will know you there. By this time also the drugged wine
will have begun to work upon Morella's brain, wherefore, provided that
you use a low voice, you may safely say, 'I, Betty, wed thee, Carlos,'
not 'I, Margaret, wed thee.' Then, when it is over, he will lead you
away to the chambers prepared for you, where, if there is any virtue in
my wine, he will sleep sound to-night, that is, as soon as the priest
has given me the marriage-lines, whereof I will hand you one copy and
keep the others. Afterwards----" and she shrugged her shoulders.
"What becomes of you?" asked Betty, when she had fully mastered these
"Oh! I and the priest start to-night for a ride together to Seville,
where his money awaits him; ill company for a woman who means henceforth
to be honest and rich, but better than none. Perhaps we shall meet again
there, or perhaps we shall not; at least, you know where to seek me and
the others, at the house of the Seņor Bernaldez. Now it is time. Are you
ready to be made a marchioness of Spain?"
"Of course," answered Betty coolly, and they started.
Through the empty halls and corridors they went, and oh! surely no
Eastern plot that had been conceived in them was quite so bold and
desperate as theirs. They reached the ante-chamber to the chapel, and
took their stand outside of the circle of light that fell from its
hanging lamps. Presently a door opened, and through it came Morella,
attended by two of his secretaries. He was splendidly arrayed in his
usual garb of black velvet, and about his neck hung chains of gold and
jewels, and to his breast were fastened the glittering stars and orders
pertaining to his rank. Never, or so thought Betty, had Morella seemed
more magnificent and handsome. He was happy also, who was about to drink
of that cup of joy which he so earnestly desired. Yes, his face showed
that he was happy, and Betty, noting it, felt remorse stirring in her
breast. Low he bowed before her, while she curtseyed to him, bending her
tall and graceful form till her knee almost touched the ground. Then he
came to her and whispered in her ear:
"Most sweet, most beloved," he said, "I thank heaven that has led me to
this joyous hour by many a rough and dangerous path. Most dear, again I
beseech you to forgive all the sorrow and the ill that I have brought
upon you, remembering that it was clone for your adored sake, that I
love you as woman has been seldom loved, you and you only, and that to
you, and you only, will I cling until my death's day. Oh! do not tremble
and shrink, for I swear that no woman in Spain shall have a better or a
more loyal lord. You I will cherish alone, for you I will strive by
night and day to lift you to great honour and satisfy your every wish.
Many and pleasant may the years be that we shall spend side by side, and
peaceful our ends when at last we lay us down side by side to sleep
awhile and wake again in heaven, whereof the shadow lies on me to-night.
Remembering the past, I do not ask much of you--as yet; still, if you
are minded to give me a bridal gift that I shall prize above crowns or
empires, say that you forgive me all that I have done amiss, and in
token, lift that veil of yours and kiss me on the lips."
Betty heard this speech, whereof she only fully understood the end, and
trembled. This was a trial that she had not foreseen. Yet it must be
faced, for speak she dared not. Therefore, gathering up her courage, and
remembering that the light was at her back, after a little pause, as
though of modesty and reluctance, she raised the pearl-embroidered
veil, and, bending forward beneath its shadow, suffered Morella to kiss
her on the lips.
It was over, the veil had fallen again, and the man suspected nothing.
"I am a good artist," thought Inez to herself, "and that woman acts
better than the wooden Peter. Scarcely could I have done it so
Then, the jealousy and hate that she could not control glittering in her
soft eyes, for she too had loved this man, and well, Inez lifted the
golden cups that had been prepared, and, gliding forward, beautiful in
her broidered, Eastern robe, fell upon her knee and held them to the
bridegroom and the bride. Morella took that from her right hand, and
Betty that from her left, nor, intoxicated as he was already with that
first kiss of love, did he pause to note the evil purpose which was
written on the face of his discarded slave. Betty, passing the cup
beneath her veil, touched it with her lips and returned it to Inez; but
Morella, exclaiming, "I drink to you, sweet bride, most fair and adored
of women," drained his to the dregs, and cast it back to Inez as a gift
in such fashion that the red wine which clung to its rim stained her
white robes like a splash of blood.
Humbly she bowed, humbly she gathered the precious vessel from the
floor; but when she rose again there was triumph in her eyes--not hate.
Now Morella took his bride's hand and, followed by his gentlemen and
Inez, walked to the curtains that were drawn as they came into the great
hall beyond, where had mustered all his household, perhaps a hundred of
them. Between their bowing ranks they passed, a stately pair, and,
whilst sweet voices sang behind some hidden screen, walked onward to the
altar, where stood the waiting priest. They kneeled down upon the
gold-embroidered cushions while the office of the Church was read over
them. The ring was set upon Betty's hand--scarce, it would seem, could
he find her finger--the man took the woman to wife, the woman took the
man for husband. His voice was thick, and hers was very low; of all that
listening crowd none could hear the names they spoke.
It was over. The priest bowed and blessed them. They signed some papers,
there by the light of the altar candles. Father Henriques filled in
certain names and signed them also, then, casting sand upon them, placed
them in the outstretched hand of Inez, who, although Morella never
seemed to notice, gave one to the bride, and thrust the other two into
the bosom of her robe. Then both she and the priest kissed the hands of
the marquis and his wife, and asked his leave to be gone. He bowed his
head vaguely, and--if any had been there to listen--within ten short
minutes they might have heard two horses galloping hard towards the
Now, escorted by pages and torch-bearers, the new-wed pair repassed
those dim and stately halls, the bride, veiled, mysterious, fateful; the
bridegroom, empty-eyed, like one who wanders in his sleep. Thus they
reached their chamber, and its carved doors shut behind them.
* * * * *
It was early morning, and the serving-women who waited without that room
were summoned to it by the sound of a silver gong. Two of them entered
and were met by Betty, no longer veiled, but wrapped in a loose robe,
who said to them:
"My lord the marquis still sleeps. Come, help me dress and make ready
his bath and food."
The women stared at her, for now that she had washed the paint from her
face they knew well that this was the Seņora Betty and not the Dona
Margaret, whom, they had understood, the marquis was to marry. But she
chid them sharply in her bad Spanish, bidding them be swift, as she
would be robed before her husband should awake. So they obeyed her, and
when she was ready she went with them into the great hall where many of
the household were gathered, waiting to do homage to the new-wed pair,
and greeted them all, blushing and smiling, saying that doubtless the
marquis would be among them soon, and commanding them meanwhile to go
about their several tasks.
So well did Betty play her part indeed, that, although they also were
bewildered, none questioned her place or authority, who remembered that
after all they had not been told by their lord himself which of these
two English ladies he meant to marry. Also, she distributed among the
meaner of them a present of money on her husband's behalf and her own,
and then ate food and drank some wine before them all, pledging them,
and receiving their salutations and good wishes.
When all this was done, still smiling, Betty returned to the
marriage-chamber, closing its door behind her, sat her down on a chair
near the bed, and waited for the worst struggle of all--that struggle on
which hung her life. See! Morella stirred. He sat up, gazing about him
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