H. Rider Haggard
Part 5 out of 6
and rubbing his brow. Presently his eyes lit upon Betty, seated stern
and upright in her high chair. She rose and, coming to him, kissed him
and called him "Husband," and, still half-asleep, he kissed her back.
Then she sat down again in her chair and watched his face.
It changed, and changed again. Wonder, fear, amaze, bewilderment,
flitted over it, till at last he said in English:
"Betty, where is my wife?"
"Here," answered Betty.
He stared at her. "Nay, I mean the Dona Margaret, your cousin and my
lady, whom I wed last night. And how come you here? I thought that you
had left Granada."
Betty looked astonished.
"I do not understand you," she answered. "It was my cousin Margaret who
left Granada. I stayed here to be married to you, as you arranged with
me through Inez."
His jaw dropped.
"Arranged with you through Inez! Mother of Heaven! what do you mean?"
"Mean?" she answered--"I mean what I say. Surely"--and she rose in
indignation--"you have never dared to try to play some new trick
"Trick!" muttered Morella. "What says the woman? Is all this a dream, or
am I mad?"
"A dream, I think. Yes, it must be a dream, since certainly it was to no
madman that I was wed last night. Look," and she held before him that
writing of marriage signed by the priest, by him, and by herself, which
stated that Carlos, Marquis of Morella, was on such a date, at Granada,
duly married to the Seņora Elizabeth Dene of London in England.
He read it twice, then sank back gasping; while Betty hid away the
parchment in her bosom.
Then presently he seemed to go mad indeed. He raved, he cursed, he
ground his teeth, he looked round for a sword to kill her or himself,
but could find none. And all the while Betty sat still and gazed at him
like some living fate.
At length he was weary, and her turn came.
"Listen," she said. "Yonder in London you promised to marry me; I have
it hidden away, and in your own writing. By agreement I fled with you to
Spain. By the mouth of your messenger and former love this marriage was
arranged between us, I receiving your messages to me, and sending back
mine to you, since you explained that for reasons of your own you did
not wish to speak of these matters before my cousin Margaret, and could
not wed me until she and her father and her lover were gone from
Granada. So I bade them farewell, and stayed here alone for love of you,
as I fled from London for love of you, and last night we were united, as
all your household know, for but now I have eaten with them and received
their good wishes. And now you dare--you dare to tell me, that I, your
wife--I, who have sacrificed everything for you, I, the Marchioness of
Morella, am _not_ your wife. Well, go, say it outside this chamber, and
hear your very slaves cry 'Shame' upon you. Go, say it to your king and
your bishops, aye, and to his Holiness the Pope himself, and listen to
their answer. Why, great as you are, and rich as you are, they will
hale you to a mad-house or a prison."
Morella listened, rocking himself to and fro upon the bed, then with an
oath sprang towards her, to be met by a dagger-point glinting in
"Hear me again," she said as he shrank back from that cold steel. "I am
no slave and no weakling; you shall not murder me or thrust me away. I
am your wife and your equal, aye, and stronger than you in body and in
mind, and I will have my rights in the face of God and man."
"Certainly," he said with a kind of unwilling admiration--"certainly you
are no weakling. Certainly, also, you have paid back all you owe me with
a Jew's interest. Or, mayhap, you are not so clever as I think, but just
a strong-minded fool, and it is that accursed Inez who has settled her
debts. Oh! to think of it," and he shook his fist in the air, "to think
that I believed myself married to the Dona Margaret, and find you in her
"Be silent," she said, "you man without shame, who first fly at the
throat of your new-wedded wife and then insult her by saying that you
wish you were wedded to another woman. Be silent, or I will unlock the
door and call your own people and repeat your monstrous talk to them."
And she drew herself to her full height and stood over him on the bed.
Morella, his first rage spent, looked at her reflectively, and not
without a certain measure of homage.
"I think," he remarked, "that if he did not happen to be in love with
another woman and to believe that he had married her, you, my good
Betty, would make a useful wife to any man who wished to get on in the
world. I understood you to say that the door is locked, and if I might
hazard a guess, you have the key, as also you happen to have a dagger.
Well, I find the air in this place close, and I want to go _out_."
"Where to?" asked Betty.
"Let us say, to join Inez."
"What," she asked, "would you already be running after that woman
again? Do you already forget that you are married?"
"It seems that I am not to be allowed to forget it. Now, let us bargain.
I wish to leave Granada for a while, and without scandal. What are your
terms? Remember that there are two to which I will not consent. I will
not stop here with you, and you shall not accompany me. Remember also,
that, although you hold the dagger at present, it is not wise of you to
try to push this jest too far."
"As you did when you decoyed me on board the _San Antonio_," said Betty.
"Well, our honeymoon has not begun too sweetly, and I do not mind if you
go away for a while--to look for Inez. Swear now that you mean me no
harm, and that you will not plot my death or disgrace, or in any way
interfere with my liberty or position here in Granada. Swear it on the
Rood." And she took down a silver crucifix that hung upon the wall over
the bed and handed it to him. For she knew Morella's superstitions, and
that if once he swore upon this symbol he dare not break his oath.
"And if I will not swear?" he asked sullenly.
"Then," she answered, "you stop here until you do, you who are anxious
to be gone. I have eaten food this morning, you have not; I have a
dagger, you have none; and, being as we are, I am sure that no one will
venture to disturb us until Inez and your friend the priest have gone
further than you can follow."
"Very well, I will swear," he said, and he kissed the crucifix and threw
it down, "You can stop here and rule my house in Granada, and I will do
you no mischief, nor trouble you in any way. But if you come out of
Granada, then we cross swords."
"You mean that you intend to leave this city? Then, here is paper and
ink. Be so good as to sign an order to the stewards of your estates,
within the territories of the Moorish king, to pay all their revenue to
me during your absence, and to your servants to obey me in everything."
"It is easy to see that you were brought up in the house of a Jew
merchant," said Morella, biting the pen and considering this woman who,
whether she were hawk or pigeon, knew so well how to feather her nest.
"Well, if I grant you this position and these revenues, will you leave
me alone and cease to press other claims upon me?"
Now Betty, bethinking her of those papers that Inez had carried away
with her, and that Castell and Margaret would know well how to use them
if there were need, bethinking her also that if she pushed him too far
at the beginning she might die suddenly as folk sometimes did in
"It is much to ask of a deluded woman, but I still have some pride, and
will not thrust myself in where it seems I am not wanted. Therefore, so
be it. Till you seek me or send for me, I will not seek you so long as
you keep your bargain. Now write the paper, sign it, and call in your
secretaries to witness the signature."
"In whose favour must I word it?" he asked.
"In that of the Marquessa of Morella," she answered, and he, seeing a
loophole in the words, obeyed her, since if she were not his wife this
writing would have no value.
Somehow he must be rid of this woman. Of course he might cause her to be
killed; but even in Granada people could not kill one to whom they had
seemed to be just married without questions being asked. Moreover, Betty
had friends, and he had enemies who would certainly ask them if she
vanished away. No, he would sign the paper and fight the case
afterwards, for he had no time to lose. Margaret had slipped away from
him, and if once she escaped from Spain he knew that he would never see
her more. For aught he knew, she might already have escaped or be
married to Peter Brome. The very thought of it filled him with madness.
There had been a conspiracy against him; he was outwitted, robbed,
befooled. Well, hope still remained--and vengeance. He could still fight
Peter, and perhaps kill him. He could hand over Castell, the Jew, to the
Inquisition. He could find a way to deal with the priest Henriques and
the woman Inez, and, perhaps, if fortune favoured him he could get
Margaret back into his power.
Oh! yes, he would sign anything if only thereby he was set at liberty
and freed for a while from this servant who called herself his wife,
this strong-minded, strong-bodied, clever Englishwoman, of whom he had
thought to make a tool, and who had made a tool of him.
So Betty dictated and he wrote: yes, it had come to this--she dictated
and he wrote, and signed too. The order was comprehensive. It gave power
to the most honourable Marquessa of Morella to act for him, her husband,
in all things during his absence from Granada. It commanded that all
rents and profits due to him should be paid to her, and that all his
servants and dependants should obey her as though she were himself, and
that her receipt should be as good as his receipt.
When the paper was written, and Betty had spelt it over carefully to see
that there was no omission or mistake, she unlocked the door, struck
upon the gong, and summoned the secretaries to witness their lord's
signature to a settlement. Presently they came, bowing, and offering
many felicitations, which to himself Morella vowed he would remember
"I have to go a journey," he said. "Witness my signature to this
document, which provides for the carrying on of my household and the
disposal of my property during my absence."
They stared and bowed.
"Read it aloud first," said Betty, "so that my lord and husband may be
sure that there is no mistake."
One of them obeyed, but before ever he had finished the furious Morella
shouted to them from the bed:
"Have done and witness, then go, order me horses and an escort, for I
ride at once."
So they witnessed in a great hurry, and left the room. Betty left with
them, holding the paper in her hand, and when she reached the large hall
where the household were gathered waiting to greet their lord, she
commanded one of the secretaries to read it out to all of them, also to
translate it into the Moorish tongue that every one might understand.
Then she hid it away with the marriage lines, and, seating herself in
the midst of the household, ordered them to prepare to receive the most
They had not long to wait, for presently he came out of the room like a
bull into the arena, whereon Betty rose and curtseyed to him, and at her
word all his servants bowed themselves down in the Eastern fashion. For
a moment he paused, again like the bull when he sees the picadors and is
about to charge. Then he thought better of it, and, with a muttered
curse, strode past them.
Ten minutes later, for the third time within twenty-four hours, horses
galloped from the palace and through the Seville gate.
"Friends," said Betty in her awkward Spanish, when she knew that he had
gone, "a sad thing has happened to my husband, the marquis. The woman
Inez, whom it seems he trusted very much, has departed, stealing a
treasure that he valued above everything on earth, and so I, his
new-made wife, am left desolate while he tries to find her."
ISABELLA OF SPAIN
On the afternoon following his first visit, Castell's agent, Bernaldez,
arrived again at the prison of the Hermandad at Seville accompanied by a
tailor, a woman, and a chest full of clothes. The governor ordered these
two persons to wait while the garments were searched under his own eye,
but Bernaldez he permitted to be led at once to the prisoners. As soon
as he was with them he said:
"Your marquis has been married fast enough."
"How do you know that?" asked Castell.
"From the woman Inez, who arrived with the priest last night, and gave
me the certificates of his union with Betty Dene signed by himself. I
have not brought them with me lest I should be searched, when they might
have been taken away; but Inez has come disguised as a sempstress, so
show no surprise when you see her, if she is admitted. Perhaps she will
be able to tell the Dona Margaret something of what passed if she is
allowed to fit her robes alone. After that she must lie hidden for fear
of the vengeance of Morella; but I shall know where to put my hand upon
her if she is wanted. You will all of you be brought before the queen
to-morrow, and then I, who shall be there, will produce the writings."
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the governor appeared, and
with him the tailor and Inez, who curtseyed and glanced at Margaret out
of the corners of her soft eyes, looking at them all as though with
curiosity, like one who had never seen or heard of them before.
When the dresses had been produced, Margaret asked whether she might be
allowed to try them on with the woman in her own chamber, as she had not
been measured for them.
The governor answered that as both the sempstress and the robes had been
searched, there was no objection, so the two of them retired--Inez, with
her arms full of garments.
"Tell me all about it," whispered Margaret as soon as the door was
closed. "I die to hear your story."
So, while she fitted the clothes, since in that place they could never
be sure but that they were watched through some secret loophole, Inez,
with her mouth full of aloe thorns, which those of the trade used as
pins, told her everything down to the time of her escape from Granada.
When she came to that part of the tale where the false bride had lifted
her veil and kissed the bridegroom, Margaret gasped in her amaze.
"Oh! how could she do it?" she said, "I should have fainted first."
"She has a good courage, that Betty--turn to the light, please,
Seņora--I could not have acted better myself--I think it is a little
high on the left shoulder. He never guessed a thing, the besotted fool,
and that was before I gave him the wine, for he wasn't likely to guess
much afterwards. Did the seņora say it was tight under the arm? Well,
perhaps a little, but this stuff stretches. What I want to know is, what
happened afterwards? Your cousin is the bull that I put my money on: I
believe she will clear the ring. A woman with a nerve of steel; had I as
much I should have been the Marchioness of Morella long ago, or there
would be another marquis by now. There, the sit of the skirt is perfect;
the seņora's beautiful figure looks more beautiful in it than ever.
Well, whoever lives will learn all about it, and it is no use worrying.
Meanwhile, Bernaldez has paid me the money--and a handsome sum too--so
you needn't thank me. I only worked for hire--and hate. Now I am going
to lie low, as I don't want to get my throat cut, but he can find me if
I am really needed.
"The priest? Oh, he is safe enough. We made him sign a receipt for his
cash. Also, I believe that he has got his post as a secretary to the
Inquisition, and began his duties at once as they were short-handed,
torturing Jews and heretics, you know, and stealing their goods, both of
which occupations will exactly suit him. I rode with him all the way to
Seville, and he tried to make love to me, the slimy knave, but I paid
him out," and Inez smiled at some pleasant recollection. Still, I did
not quarrel with him outright, as he may come in useful. Who knows?
There's the governor calling me. One moment, Excellency, only
"Yes, Seņora, with those few alterations the dress will be perfect. You
shall have it back tonight without fail, and I can cut the others that
you have been pleased to order from the same pattern. Oh! I thank you,
Seņora, you are too good to a poor girl, and," in a whisper, "the
Mother of God have you in her guard, and send that Peter has improved in
his love making!" and, half hidden in garments, Inez bowed herself out
of the room through the door which the governor had already opened.
About nine o'clock on the following morning one of the jailers came to
summon Margaret and her father to be led before the court. Margaret
asked anxiously if the Seņor Brome was coming too, but the man replied
that he knew nothing of the Seņor Brome, as he was in one of the cells
for dangerous criminals, which he did not serve.
So forth they went, dressed in their new clothes, which were as fine as
money could buy, and in the latest Seville fashion, and were conducted
to the courtyard. Here, to her joy, Margaret saw Peter waiting for them
under guard, and dressed also in the Christian garments which they had
begged might be supplied to him at their cost. She sprang to his side,
none hindering her, and, forgetting her bash fulness, suffered him to
embrace her before them all, asking him how he had fared since they
"None too well," answered Peter gloomily, "who did not know if we should
ever meet again; also, my prison is underground, where but little light
comes through a grating, and there are rats in it which will not let a
man sleep, so I must lie awake the most of the night thinking of you.
But where go we now?"
"To be put upon our trial before the queen, I think. Hold my hand and
walk close beside me, but do not stare at me so hard. Is aught wrong
with my dress?"
"Nothing," answered Peter. "I stare because you look so beautiful in
it. Could you not have worn a veil? Doubtless there are more marquises
about this court."
"Only the Moors wear veils, Peter, and now we are Christians again.
Listen--I think that none of them understand English. I have seen Inez,
who asked after you very tenderly--nay, do not blush, it is unseemly in
a man. Have you seen her also? No--well, she escaped from Granada as she
planned, and Betty is married to the marquis."
"It will never hold good," answered Peter shaking his head, "being but a
trick, and I fear that she will pay for it, poor woman! Still, she gave
us a start, though, so far as prisons go, I was better off in Granada
than in that rat-trap."
"Yes," answered Margaret innocently, "you had a garden to walk in there,
had you not? No, don't be angry with me. Do you know what Betty did?"
And she told him of how she had lifted her veil and kissed Morella
without being discovered.
"That isn't so wonderful," said Peter, "since if they are painted up
young women look very much alike in a half-lit room----"
"Or garden?" suggested Margaret.
"What is wonderful," went on Peter, scorning to take note of this
interruption, "is that she could consent to kiss the man at all. The
double-dealing scoundrel! Has Inez told you how he treated her? The very
thought of it makes me ill."
"Well, Peter, he didn't ask you to kiss him, did he? And as for the
wrongs of Inez, though doubtless you know more about them than I do, I
think she has given him an orange for his pomegranate. But look, there
is the Alcazar in front of us. Is it not a splendid castle? You know, it
was built by the Moors."
"I don't care who it was built by," said Peter, "and it looks to me like
any other castle, only larger. All I know about it is that I am to be
tried there for knocking that ruffian on the head--and that perhaps this
is the last we shall see of each other, as probably they will send me to
the galleys, if they don't do worse."
"Oh! say no such thing. I never thought of it; it is not possible!"
answered Margaret, her dark eyes filling with tears.
"Wait till your marquis appears, pleading the case against us, and you
will see what is or is not possible," replied Peter with conviction.
"Still, we have come through some storms, so let us hope for the best."
At that moment they reached the gate of the Alcazar, which they had
approached from their prison through gardens of orange-trees, and
soldiers came up and separated them. Next they were led across a court,
where many people hurried to and fro, into a great marble-columned room
glittering with gold, which was called the Hall of Justice. At the far
end of this place, seated on a throne set upon a richly carpeted dais
and surrounded by lords and counsellors, sat a magnificently attired
lady of middle age. She was blue-eyed and red-haired, with a
fair-skinned, open countenance, but very reserved and quiet in her
"The Queen," muttered the guard, saluting, as did Castell and Peter,
while Margaret curtseyed.
A case had just been tried, and the queen Isabella, after consultation
with her assessors, was delivering judgment in few words and a gentle
voice. As she spoke, her mild blue eyes fell upon Margaret, and, held
it would seem by her beauty, rested on her till they wandered off to the
tall form of Peter and the dark, Jewish-looking Castell by him, at the
sight of whom she frowned a little.
That case was finished, and other suitors stood up in their turn, but
the queen, waving her hand and still looking at Margaret, bent down and
asked a question of one of the officers of the court, then gave an
order, whereon the officer rising, summoned "John Castell, Margaret
Castell, and Peter Brome, all of England," to appear at the bar and
answer to the charge of murder of one Luiz of Basa, a soldier of the
At once they were brought forward, and stood in a line in front of the
dais, while the officer began to read the charge against them.
"Stay, friend," interposed the queen, "these accused are the subjects
of our good brother, Henry of England, and may not understand our
language, though one of them, I think"--and she glanced at Castell--"was
not born in England, or at any rate of English blood. Ask them if they
need an interpreter."
The question was put, and all of them answered that they could speak
Spanish, though Peter added that he did so but indifferently.
"You are the knight, I think, who is charged with the commission of this
crime," said Isabella, looking at him.
"Your Majesty, I am not a knight, only a plain esquire, Peter Brome of
Dedham in England. My father was a knight, Sir Peter Brome, but he fell
at my side, fighting for Richard, on Bosworth Field, where I had this
wound," and he pointed to the scar upon his face, "but was not knighted
for my pains."
Isabella smiled a little, then asked:
"And how came you to Spain, Seņor Peter Brome?"
"Your Majesty," answered Peter, Margaret helping from time to time when
he did not know the Spanish words, "this lady at my side, the daughter
of the merchant John Castell who stands by her, is my affianced----"
"Then you have won the love of a very beautiful maiden, Seņor,"
interrupted the queen; "but proceed."
"She and her cousin, the Seņora Dene, were kidnapped in London by one
who I understand is the nephew of the King Ferdinand, and an envoy to
the English court, who passed there as the Seņor d'Aguilar, but who in
Spain is the Marquis of Morella."
"Kidnapped! and by Morella!" exclaimed the queen.
"Yes, your Majesty, cozened on board his ship and kidnapped. The Seņor
Castell and I followed them, and, boarding their vessel, tried to rescue
them, but were shipwrecked at Motril. The marquis carried them away to
Granada, whither we followed also, I being sorely hurt in the shipwreck.
There, in the palace of the marquis, we have lain prisoners many weeks,
but at length escaped, purposing to come to Seville and seek the
protection of your Majesties. On the road, while we were dressed as
Moors, in which garb we compassed our escape, we were attacked by men
that we thought were bandits, for we had been warned against such evil
people. One of them rudely molested the Dona Margaret, and I cut him
down, and by misfortune killed him, for which manslaughter I am here
before you to-day. Your Majesty, I did not know that he was a soldier of
the Holy Hermandad, and I pray you pardon my offence, which was done in
ignorance, fear, and anger, for we are willing to pay compensation for
this unhappy death."
Now some in the court exclaimed:
"Well spoken, Englishman!"
Then the queen said:
"If all this tale be true, I am not sure that we should blame you over
much, Seņor Brome; but how know we that it is true? For instance, you
said that the noble marquis stole two ladies, a deed of which I can
scarcely think him capable. Where then is the other?"
"I believe," answered Peter, "that she is now the wife of the Marquis of
"The wife! Who bears witness that she is the wife? He has not advised us
that he was about to marry, as is usual."
Then Bernaldez stood forward, stating his name and occupation, and that
he was a correspondent of the English merchant, John Castell, and
producing the certificate of marriage signed by Morella, Betty, and the
priest Henriques, handed it up to the queen saying that he had received
them in duplicate by a messenger from Granada, and had delivered the
other to the Archbishop of Seville.
The queen, having looked at the paper, passed it to her assessors, who
examined it very carefully, one of them saying that the form was not
usual, and that it might be forged.
The queen thought a little while, then said:
"That is so, and in one way only can we know the truth. Let our warrant
issue summoning before us our cousin, the noble Marquis of Morella, the
Seņora Dene, who is said to be his wife, and the priest Henriques of
Motril, who is said to have married them. When they have arrived, all of
them, the king my husband and I will examine into the matter, and, until
then, we will not suffer our minds to be prejudiced by hearing any more
of this cause."
Now the governor of the prison stood forward, and asked what was to be
done with the captives until the witnesses could be brought from
Granada. The queen answered that they must remain in his charge, and be
well treated, whereon Peter prayed that he might be given a better cell
with fewer rats and more light. The queen smiled, and said that it
should be so, but added that it would be proper that he should still be
kept apart from the lady to whom he was affianced, who could dwell with
her father. Then, noting the sadness on their faces, she added:
"Yet I think they may meet daily in the garden of the prison."
Margaret curtseyed and thanked her, whereon she said very graciously:
"Come here, Seņora, and sit by me a little," and she pointed to a
footstool at her side. "When I have done this business I desire a few
words with you."
So Margaret was brought up upon the dais, and sat down at her Majesty's
left hand upon the broidered footstool, and very fair indeed she looked
placed thus above the crowd, she whose beauty and whose bearing were so
royal; but Castell and Peter were led away back to the prison, though,
seeing so many gay lords about, the latter went unwillingly enough. A
while later, when the cases were finished, the queen dismissed the court
save for certain officers, who stood at a distance, and, turning to
"Now, fair maiden, tell me your story, as one woman to another, and do
not fear that anything you say will be made use of at the trial of your
lover, since against you, at any rate at present, no charge is laid.
Say, first, are you really the affianced of that tall gentleman, and has
he really your heart?"
"All of it, your Majesty," answered Margaret, "and we have suffered much
for each other's sake." Then in as few words as she could she told their
tale, while the queen listened earnestly.
"A strange story indeed, and if it be all true, a shameful," she said
when Margaret had finished. "But how comes it that if Morella desired to
force you into marriage, he is now wed to your companion and cousin?
What are you keeping back from me?" and she glanced at her shrewdly.
"Your Majesty," answered Margaret, "I was ashamed to speak the rest, yet
I will trust you and do so, praying your royal forgiveness if you hold
that we, who were in desperate straits, have done what is wrong. My
cousin, Betty Dene, has paid back Morella in his own false gold. He won
her heart and promised to marry her, and at the risk of her own life she
took my place at the altar, thereby securing our escape."
"A brave deed, if a doubtful," said the queen, "though I question
whether such a marriage will be upheld. But that is a matter for the
Church to judge of, and I must speak of it no more. Certainly it is hard
to be angry with any of you. What did you say that Morella promised you
when he asked you to marry him in London?"
"Your Majesty, he promised that he would lift me high, perhaps
even"--and she hesitated--"to that seat in which you sit."
Isabella frowned, then laughed, and said, as she looked her up and down:
"You would fit it well, better than I do in truth. But what else did he
"Your Majesty, he said that not every one loves the king, his uncle;
that he had many friends who remembered that his father was poisoned by
the father of the king, who was Morella's grandfather; also, that his
mother was a princess of the Moors, and that he might throw in his lot
with theirs, or that there were other ways in which he could gain
"So, so," said the queen. "Well, though he is such a good son of the
Church, and my lord is so fond of him, I never loved Morella, and I
thank you for your warning. But I must not speak to you of such high
matters, though it seems that some have thought otherwise. Fair
Margaret, have you aught to ask of me?"
"Yes, your Majesty--that you will deal gently with my true love when he
comes before you for trial, remembering that he is hot of head and
strong of arm, and that such knights as he--for knightly is his blood--
cannot brook to see their ladies mishandled by rough men, and the
wrappings that shield them torn from off their bosoms. Also, I pray that
I may be protected from Morella, that he may not be allowed to touch or
even to speak to me, who, for all his rank and splendour, hate him as
though he were some poisoned snake."
"I have said that I must not prejudge your case, you beautiful English
Margaret," the queen answered with a smile, "yet I think that neither of
those things you ask will cause justice to slip the bandage that is
about her eyes. Go, and be at peace. If you have spoken truth to me, as
I am sure you have, and Isabella of Spain can prevent it, the Seņor
Brome's punishment shall not be heavy, nor shall the shadow of the
Marquis of Morella, the base-born son of a prince and of some royal
infidel"--these words she spoke with much bitterness--"so much as fall
upon you, though I warn you that my lord the king loves the man, as is
but natural, and will not condemn him lightly. Tell me one thing. This
lover of yours is brave, is he not?"
"Very brave," answered Margaret, smiling.
"And he can ride a horse and hold a lance, can he not, at any rate in
"Aye, your Majesty, and wield a sword too, as well as most knights,
though he has been but lately sick. Some learned that on
"Good. Now farewell," and she gave Margaret her hand to kiss. Then,
calling two of her officers, she bade them conduct her back to the
prison, and say that she should have liberty to send messages or to
write to her, the queen, if she should so desire.
On the night of that same day Morella galloped into Seville. Indeed he
should have been there long before, but misled by the story of the Moors
who had escorted Peter, Margaret, and her father out of Granada and seen
them take the Malaga road, he travelled thither first, only to find no
trace of them in that city. Then he returned and tracked them to
Seville, where he was soon made acquainted with all that had happened.
Amongst other things, he discovered that ten hours before swift
messengers had been despatched to Granada, commanding his attendance and
that of Betty, with whom he had gone through the form of marriage.
On the following morning he asked an audience with the queen, but it was
refused to him, and the king, his uncle, was away. Next he tried to win
admission into the prison and see Margaret, only to find that neither
his high rank and authority nor any bribe would suffice to unlock its
doors. The queen had commanded otherwise, he was informed, and knew
therefrom that in this matter he must reckon with Isabella as an enemy.
Then he bethought him of revenge, and began a search for Inez and the
priest Henriques of Motril, only to find that the former had vanished,
none knew whither, and the holy father was safe within the walls of the
Inquisition, whence he was careful not to emerge, and where no layman,
however highly placed, could enter to lay a hand upon one of its
officers. So, full of rage and disappointment, he took counsel of
lawyers and friends, and prepared to defend the suit which he saw would
be brought against him, hoping that chance might yet deliver Margaret
into his hands. One good card he held, which now he determined to play.
Castell, as he knew, was a Jew who for years had posed as a Christian,
and for such there was no mercy in Seville. Perhaps for her father's
sake he might yet be able to work upon Margaret, whom now he desired to
win more fiercely than ever before.
At least it was certain that he would try this, or any other means,
however base, rather than see her married to his rival, Peter Brome.
Also there was the chance that this Peter might be condemned to
imprisonment, or even to death, for the killing of a soldier of the
So Morella made him ready for the great struggle as best he could, and,
since he could not stop her coming, awaited the arrival of Betty
BETTY STATES HER CASE
Seven days had passed, during which time Margaret and her father had
rested quietly in the prison, where, indeed, they dwelt more as guests
than as captives. Thus they were allowed to receive what visitors they
would, and among them Juan Bernaldez, Castell's connection and agent,
who told them of all that passed without. Through him they sent
messengers to meet Betty on her road and apprise her of how things
stood, and of the trial in which her cause would be judged.
Soon the messengers returned, stating that the "Marchioness of Morella"
was travelling in state, accompanied by a great retinue, that she
thanked them for their tidings, and hoped to be able to defend herself
at all points.
At this news Castell stared and Margaret laughed, for, although she did
not know all the story, she was sure that in some way Betty had the
mastery of Morella, and would not be easily defeated, though how she
came to be travelling with a great retinue she could not imagine. Still,
fearing lest she should be attacked or otherwise injured, she wrote a
humble letter to the queen, praying that her cousin might be defended
from all danger at the hands of any one whomsoever until she had an
opportunity of giving evidence before their Majesties.
Within an hour came the answer that the lady was under the royal
protection, and that a guard had been sent to escort her and her party
and to keep her safe from interference of any sort; also, that for her
greater comfort, quarters had been prepared for her in a fortress
outside of Seville, which would be watched night and day, and whence she
would be brought to the court.
Peter was still kept apart from them, but each day at noon they were
allowed to meet him in the walled garden of the prison, where they
talked together to their heart's content. Here, too, he exercised
himself daily at all manly games, and especially at sword-play with some
of the other prisoners, using sticks for swords. Further, he was allowed
the use of his horse that he had ridden from Granada, on which he
jousted in the yard of the castle with the governor and certain other
gentlemen, proving himself better at that play than any of them. These
things he did vigorously and with ardour, for Margaret had told him of
the hint which the queen gave her, and he desired to get back his full
strength, and to perfect himself in the handling of every arm which was
used in Spain.
So the time went by, until one afternoon the governor informed them that
Peter's trial was fixed for the morrow, and that they must accompany him
to the court to be examined also upon all these matters. A little later
came Bernaldez, who said that the king had returned and would sit with
the queen, and that already this affair had made much stir in Seville,
where there was much curiosity as to the story of Morella's marriage, of
which many different tales were told. That Margaret and her father would
be discharged he had little doubt, in which case their ship was ready
for them; but of Peter's chances he could say nothing, for they depended
upon what view the king took of his offence, and, though unacknowledged,
Morella was the king's nephew and had his ear.
Afterwards they went down into the garden, and there found Peter, who
had just returned from his jousting, flushed with exercise, and looking
very manly and handsome. Margaret took his hand and, walking aside, told
him the news.
"I am glad," he answered, "for the sooner this business is begun the
sooner it will be done. But, Sweet," and here his face grew very
earnest, "Morella has much power in this land, and I have broken its
law, so none know what the end will be. I may be condemned to death or
imprisoned, or perhaps, if I am given the chance, with better luck I may
fall fighting, in any of which cases we shall be separated for a while,
or altogether. Should this be so, I pray that you will not stay here,
either in the hope of rescuing me, or for other reasons; since, while
you are in Spain, Morella will not cease from his attempts to get hold
of you, whereas in England you will be safe from him."
When Margaret heard these words she sobbed aloud, for the thought that
harm might come to Peter seemed to choke her.
"In all things I will do your bidding," she said, "yet how can I leave
you, dear, while you are alive, and if, perchance, you should die, which
may God prevent, how can I live on without you? Rather shall I seek to
follow you very swiftly."
"I do not desire that," said Peter. "I desire that you should endure
your days till the end, and come to meet me where I am in due season,
and not before. I will add this, that if in after-years you should meet
any worthy man, and have a mind to marry him, you should do so, for I
know well that you will never forget me, your first love, and that
beyond this world lie others where there are no marryings or giving in
marriage. Let not my dead hand lie heavy upon you, Margaret."
"Yet," she replied in gentle indignation, "heavy must it always lie,
since it is about my heart. Be sure of this, Peter, that if such
dreadful ill should fall upon us, as you left me so shall you find me,
here or hereafter."
"So be it," he said with a sigh of relief, for he could not bear to
think of Margaret as the wife of some other man, even after he was gone,
although his honest, simple nature, and fear lest her life might be made
empty of all joy, caused him to say what he had said.
Then behind the shelter of a flowering bush they embraced each other as
do those who know not whether they will ever kiss again, and, the hour
of sunset having come, parted as they must.
On the following morning once more Castell and Margaret were led to the
Hall of Justice in the Alcazar; but this time Peter did not go with
them. The great court was already full of counsellors, officers,
gentlemen, and ladies who had come from curiosity, and other folk
connected with or interested in the case. As yet, however, Margaret
could not see Morella or Betty, nor had the king and queen taken their
seats upon the throne. Peter was already there, standing before the bar
with guards on either side of him, and greeted them with a smile and a
nod as they were ushered to their chairs near by. Just as they reached
them also trumpets were blown, and from the back of the hall, walking
hand in hand, appeared their Majesties of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella,
whereat all the audience rose and bowed, remaining standing till they
were seated on the thrones.
The king, whom they now saw for the first time, was a thickset, active
man with pleasant eyes, a fair skin, and a broad forehead, but, as
Margaret thought, somewhat sly-faced--the face of a man who never forgot
his own interests in those of another. Like the queen, he was
magnificently attired in garments broidered with gold and the arms of
Aragon, while in his hand he held a golden sceptre surmounted by a
jewel, and about his waist, to show that he was a warlike king, he wore
his long, cross-handled sword. Smilingly he acknowledged the homage of
his subjects by lifting his hand to his cap and bowing. Then his eye
fell upon the beautiful Margaret, and, turning, he put a question to the
queen in a light, sharp voice, asking if that were the lady whom Morella
had married, and, if so, why in the name of heaven he wished to be
rid of her.
Isabella answered that she understood that this was the seņora whom he
had desired to marry when he married some one else, as he alleged by
mistake, but who was in fact affianced to the prisoner before them; a
reply at which all who heard it laughed.
At this moment the Marquis of Morella, accompanied by his gentlemen and
some long-gowned lawyers, appeared walking up the court, dressed in the
black velvet that he always wore, and glittering with orders. Upon his
head was a cap, also of black velvet, from which hung a great pearl, and
this cap he did not remove even when he bowed to the king and queen, for
he was one of the few grandees of Spain who had the right to remain
covered before their Majesties. They acknowledged his salutation,
Ferdinand with a friendly nod and Isabella with a cold bow, and he, too,
took the seat that had been prepared for him. Just then there was a
disturbance at the far end of the court, where one of its officers could
be heard calling:
"Way! Make way for the Marchioness of Morella!" At the sound of this
name the marquis, whose eyes were fixed on Margaret, frowned fiercely,
rising from his seat as though to protest, then, at some whispered word
from a lawyer behind him, sat down again.
Now the crowd of spectators separated, and Margaret, turning to look
down the long hall, saw a procession advancing up the lane between them,
some clad in armour and some in white Moorish robes blazoned with the
scarlet eagle, the cognisance of Morella. In the midst of them, her
train supported by two Moorish women, walked a tall and beautiful lady,
a coronet upon her brow, her fair hair outspread, a purple cloak hanging
from her shoulders, half hiding that same splendid robe sewn with pearls
which had been Morella's gift to Margaret, and about her white bosom the
chain of pearls which he had presented to Betty in compensation for
Margaret stared and stared again, and her father at her side murmured:
"It is our Betty! Truly fine feathers make fine birds." Yes, Betty it
was without a doubt, though, remembering her in her humble woollen dress
at the old house in Holborn, it was hard to recognise the poor companion
in this proud and magnificent lady, who looked as though all her life
she had trodden the marble floors of courts, and consorted with nobles
and with queens. Up the great hall she came, stately, imperturbable,
looking neither to the right nor to the left, taking no note of the
whisperings about her, no, nor even of Morella or of Margaret, till she
reached the open space in front of the bar where Peter and his guards,
gazing with all their eyes, hastened to make place for her. There she
curtseyed thrice, twice to the queen, and once to the king, her consort;
then, turning, bowed to the marquis, who fixed his eyes upon the ground
and took no note, bowed to Castell and Peter, and lastly, advancing to
Margaret, gave her her cheek to kiss. This Margaret did with becoming
humility, whispering in her ear:
"How fares your Grace?"
"Better than you would in my shoes," whispered Betty back with ever so
slight a trembling of her left eyelid; while Margaret heard the king
mutter to the queen:
"A fine peacock of a woman. Look at her figure and those big eyes.
Morella must be hard to please."
"Perhaps he prefers swans to peacocks," answered the queen in the same
voice with a glance at Margaret, whose quieter and more refined beauty
seemed to gain by contrast with that of her nobly built and
dazzling-skinned cousin. Then she motioned to Betty to take the seat
prepared for her, which she did, with her suite standing behind her and
an interpreter at her side.
"I am somewhat bewildered," said the king, glancing from Morella to
Betty and from Margaret to Peter, for evidently the humour of the
situation did not escape him. "What is the exact case that we have
Then one of the legal assessors, or alcaldes, rose and said that the
matter before their Majesties was a charge against the Englishman at the
bar of killing a certain soldier of the Holy Hermandad, but that there
seemed to be other matters mixed up with it.
"So I gather," answered the king; "for instance, an accusation of the
carrying off of subjects of a friendly Power out of the territory of
that Power; a suit for nullity of a marriage, and a cross-suit for the
declaration of the validity of the said marriage--and the holy saints
know what besides. Well, one thing at a time. Let us try this tall
So the case was opened against Peter by a public prosecutor, who
restated it as it had been laid before the queen. The Captain Arrano
gave his evidence as to the killing of the soldier, but, in
cross-examination by Peter's advocate, admitted, for evidently he bore
no malice against the prisoner, that the said soldier had roughly
handled the Dona Margaret, and that the said Peter, being a stranger to
the country, might very well have taken them for a troop of bandits or
even Moors. Also, he added, that he could not say that the Englishman
had intended to kill the soldier.
Then Castell and Margaret gave their evidence, the latter with much
modest sweetness. Indeed, when she explained that Peter was her
affianced husband, to whom she was to have been wed on the day after she
had been stolen away from England, and that she had cried out to him
for help when the dead soldier caught hold of her and rent away her
veil, there was a murmur of sympathy, and the king and queen began to
talk with each other without paying much heed to her further words.
Next they spoke to two of the judges who sat with them, after which the
king held up his hand and announced that they had come to a decision on
the case. It was, that, under the circumstances, the Englishman was
justified in cutting down the soldier, especially as there was nothing
to show that he meant to kill him, or that he knew that he belonged to
the Holy Hermandad. He would, therefore, be discharged on the condition
that he paid a sum of money, which, indeed, it appeared had already been
paid to the man's widow, in compensation for the man's death, and a
further small sum for Masses to be said for the welfare of his soul.
Peter began to give thanks for this judgment; but while he was still
speaking the king asked if any of those present wished to proceed in
further suits. Instantly Betty rose and said that she did. Then, through
her interpreter, she stated that she had received the royal commands to
attend before their Majesties, and was now prepared to answer any
questions or charges that might be laid against her.
"What is your name, Seņora?" asked the king.
"Elizabeth, Marchioness of Morella, born Elizabeth Dene, of the ancient
and gentle family of Dene, a native of England," answered Betty in a
clear and decided voice.
The king bowed, then asked:
"Does any one dispute this title and description?"
"I do," answered the Marquis of Morella, speaking for the first time.
"On what grounds, Marquis?"
"On every ground," he answered. "She is not the Marchioness of Morella,
inasmuch as I went through the ceremony of marriage with her believing
her to be another woman. She is not of ancient and gentle family, since
she was a servant in the house of the merchant Castell yonder,
"That proves nothing, Marquis," interrupted the king. "My family may, I
think, be called ancient and gentle, which you will be the last to deny,
yet I have played the part of a servant on an occasion which I think the
queen here will remember"--an allusion at which the audience, who knew
well enough to what it referred, laughed audibly, as did her Majesty.
"The marriage and rank are matters for proof," went on the king, "if
they are questioned; but is it alleged that this lady has committed any
crime which prevents her from pleading?"
"None," answered Betty quickly, "except that of being poor, and the
crime, if it is one, as it may be, of having married that man, the
Marquis of Morella," whereat the audience laughed again.
"Well, Madam, you do not seem to be poor now," remarked the king,
looking at her gorgeous and bejewelled apparel; "and here we are more
apt to think marriage a folly than a crime," a light saying at which the
queen frowned a little. "But," he added quickly, "set out your case,
Madam, and forgive me if, until you have done so, I do not call you
[Footnote 1: When travelling from Saragossa to Valladolid to be married
to Isabella, Ferdinand was obliged to pass himself off as a valet.
Prescott says: "The greatest circumspection, therefore, was necessary.
The party journeyed chiefly in the night; Ferdinand assumed the disguise
of a servant and, when they halted on the road, took care of the mules
and served his companions at table."]
"Here is my case, Sire," said Betty, producing the certificate of
marriage and handing it up for inspection.
The judges and their Majesties inspected it, the queen remarking that a
duplicate of this document had already been submitted to her and passed
on to the proper authorities.
"Is the priest who solemnised the marriage present?" asked the king;
whereon Bernaldez, Castell's agent, rose and said that he was, though he
neglected to add that his presence had been secured for no mean sum.
One of the judges ordered that he should be called, and presently the
foxy-faced Father Henriques, at whom the marquis glared angrily,
appeared bowing, and was sworn in the usual form, and, on being
questioned, stated that he had been priest at Motril, and chaplain to
the Marquis of Morella, but was now a secretary of the Holy Office at
Seville. In answer to further questions he said that, apparently by the
bridegroom's own wish, and with his full consent, on a certain date at
Granada, he had married the marquis to the lady who stood before them,
and whom he knew to be named Betty Dene; also, that at her request,
since she was anxious that proper record should be kept of her marriage,
he had written the certificates which the court had seen, which
certificates the marquis and others had signed immediately after the
ceremony in his private chapel at Granada. Subsequently he had left
Granada to take up his appointment as a secretary to the Inquisition at
Seville, which had been conferred on him by the ecclesiastical
authorities in reward of a treatise which he had written upon heresy.
That was all he knew about the affair.
Now Morella's advocate rose to cross-examine, asking him who had made
the arrangements for the marriage. He answered that the marquis had
never spoken to him directly on the subject--at least he had never
mentioned to him the name of the lady; the Seņora Inez arranged
Now the queen broke in, asking where was the Seņora Inez, and who she
was. The priest replied that the Seņora Inez was a Spanish woman, one of
the marquis's household at Granada, whom he made use of in all
confidential affairs. She was young and beautiful, but he could say no
more about her. As to where she was now he did not know, although they
had ridden together to Seville. Perhaps the marquis knew.
Now the priest was ordered to stand down, and Betty tendered herself as
a witness, and through her interpreter told the court the story of her
connection with Morella. She said that she had met him in London when
she was a member of the household of the Seņor Castell, and that at once
he began to make love to her and won her heart. Subsequently he
suggested that she should elope with him to Spain, promising to marry
her at once, in proof of which she produced the letter he had written,
which was translated and handed up for the inspection of the court--a
very awkward letter, as they evidently thought, although it was not
signed with the writer's real name. Next Betty explained the trick by
which she and her cousin Margaret were brought on board his ship, and
that when they arrived there the marquis refused to marry her, alleging
that he was in love with her cousin and not with her--a statement which
she took to be an excuse to avoid the fulfilment of his promise. She
could not say why he had carried off her cousin Margaret also, but
supposed that it was because, having once brought her upon the ship, he
did not know how to be rid of her.
Then she described the voyage to Spain, saying that during that voyage
she kept the marquis at a distance, since there was no priest to marry
them; also, she was sick and much ashamed, who had involved her cousin
and mistress in this trouble. She told how the Seņors Castell and Brome
had followed in another vessel, and boarded the caravel in a storm; also
of the shipwreck and their journey to Granada as prisoners, and of their
subsequent life there. Finally she described how Inez came to her with
proposals of marriage, and how she bargained that if she consented, her
cousin, the Seņor Castell, and the Seņor Brome should go free. They went
accordingly, and the marriage took place as arranged, the marquis first
embracing her publicly in the presence of various people--namely, Inez
and his two secretaries, who, except Inez, were present, and could bear
witness to the truth of what she said.
After the marriage and the signing of the certificates she had
accompanied him to his own apartments, which she had never entered
before, and there, to her astonishment, in the morning, he announced
that he must go a journey upon their Majesties' business. Before he
went, however, he gave her a written authority, which she produced, to
receive his rents and manage his matters in Granada during his absence,
which authority she read to the gathered household before he left. She
had obeyed him accordingly until she had received the royal command,
receiving moneys, giving her receipt for the same, and generally
occupying the unquestioned position of mistress of his house.
"We can well believe it," said the king drily. "And now, Marquis, what
have you to answer to all this?"
"I will answer presently," replied Morella, who trembled with rage.
"First suffer that my advocate cross-examine this woman."
So the advocate cross-examined, though it cannot be said that he had the
better of Betty. First he questioned her as to her statement that she
was of ancient and gentle family, whereon Betty overwhelmed the court
with a list of her ancestors, the first of whom, a certain Sieur Dene de
Dene, had come to England with the Norman Duke, William the Conqueror.
After him, so she still swore, the said Denes de Dene had risen to great
rank and power, having been the favourites of the kings of England, and
fought for them generation after generation.
By slow degrees she came down to the Wars of the Roses, in which she
said her grandfather had been attainted for his loyalty, and lost his
land and titles, so that her father, whose only child she was--being now
the representative of the noble family, Dene de Dene--fell into poverty
and a humble place in life. However, he married a lady of even more
distinguished race than his own, a direct descendant of a noble Saxon
family, far more ancient in blood than the upstart Normans. At this
point, while Peter and Margaret listened amazed, at a hint from the
queen, the bewildered court interfered through the head alcalde, praying
her to cease from the history of her descent, which they took for
granted was as noble as any in England.
Next she was examined as to her relations with Morella in London, and
told the tale of his wooing with so much detail and imaginative power
that in the end that also was left unfinished. So it was with
everything. Clever as Morella's advocate might be, sometimes in English
and sometimes in the Spanish tongue, Betty overwhelmed him with words
and apt answers, until, able to make nothing of her, the poor man sat
down wiping his brow and cursing her beneath his breath.
Then the secretaries were sworn, and after them various members of
Morella's household, who, although somewhat unwillingly, confirmed all
that Betty had said as to his embracing her with lifted veil and the
rest. So at length Betty closed her case, reserving the right to address
the court after she had heard that of the marquis.
Now the king, queen, and their assessors consulted for a little while,
for evidently there was a division of opinion among them, some thinking
that the case should be stopped at once and referred to another
tribunal, and others that it should go on. At length the queen was heard
to say that at least the Marquis of Morella should be allowed to make
his statement, as he might be able to prove that all this story was a
fabrication, and that he was not even at Granada at the time when the
marriage was alleged to have taken place.
The king and the alcaldes assenting, the marquis was sworn and told his
story, admitting that it was not one which he was proud to repeat in
public. He narrated how he had first met Margaret, Betty, and Peter at a
public ceremony in London, and had then and there fallen in love with
Margaret, and accompanied her home to the house of her father, the
merchant John Castell.
Subsequently he discovered that this Castell, who had fled from Spain
with his father in childhood, was that lowest of mankind, an unconverted
Jew who posed as a Christian (at this statement there was a great
sensation in court, and the queen's face hardened), although it is true
that he had married a Christian lady, and that his daughter had been
baptized and brought up as a Christian, of which faith she was a loyal
member. Nor did she know--as he believed--that her father remained a
Jew, since, otherwise, he would not have continued to seek her as his
wife. Their Majesties would be aware, he went on, that, owing to reasons
with which they were acquainted, he had means of getting at the truth of
these matters concerning the Jews in England, as to which, indeed, he
had already written to them, although, owing to his shipwreck and to the
pressure of his private affairs, he had not yet made his report on his
embassy in person.
Continuing, he said that he admitted that he had made love to the
serving-woman, Betty, in order to gain access to Margaret, whose father
mistrusted him, knowing something of his mission. She was a person of no
Here Betty rose and said in a clear voice:
"I declare the Marquis of Morella to be a knave and a liar. There is
more good character in my little finger than in his whole body, and,"
she added, "than in that of his mother before him"--an allusion at which
the marquis flushed, while, satisfied for the present with this
home-thrust, Betty sat down.
He had proposed to Margaret, but she was not willing to marry him, as he
found that she was affianced to a distant cousin of hers, the Seņor
Peter Brome, a swashbuckler who was in trouble for the killing of a man
in London, as he had killed the soldier of the Holy Hermandad in Spain.
Therefore, in his despair, being deeply enamoured of her, and knowing
that he could offer her great place and fortune, he conceived the idea
of carrying her off, and to do so was obliged, much against his will, to
abduct Betty also.
So after many adventures they came to Granada, where he was able to show
the Dona Margaret that the Seņor Peter Brome was employing his
imprisonment in making love to that member of his household, Inez, who
had been spoken of, but now could not be found.
Here Peter, who could bear this no longer, also rose and called him a
liar to his face, saying that if he had the opportunity he would prove
it on his body, but was ordered by the king to sit down and be silent.
Having been convinced of her lover's unfaithfulness, the marquis went
on, the Dona Margaret had at length consented to become his wife on
condition that her father, the Seņor Brome, and her servant, Betty Dene,
were allowed to escape from Granada----
"Where," remarked the queen, "you had no right to detain them, Marquis.
Except, perhaps, the father, John Castell," she added significantly.
Where, he admitted with sorrow, he had no right to detain them.
"Therefore," went on the queen acutely, "there was no legal or moral
consideration for this alleged promise of marriage,"--a point at which
the lawyers nodded approvingly.
The marquis submitted that there was a consideration; that at any rate
the Dona Margaret wished it. On the day arranged for the wedding the
prisoners were let go, disguised as Moors, but he now knew that through
the trickery of the woman Inez, whom he believed had been bribed by
Castell and his fellow-Jews, the Dona Margaret escaped in place of her
servant, Betty, with whom he subsequently went through the form of
marriage, believing her to be Margaret.
As regards the embrace before the ceremony, it took place in a shadowed
room, and he thought that Betty's face and hair must have been painted
and dyed to resemble those of Margaret. For the rest, he was certain
that the ceremonial cup of wine that he drank before he led the woman to
the altar was drugged, since he only remembered the marriage itself very
dimly, and after that nothing at all until he woke upon the following
morning with an aching brow to see Betty sitting by him. As for the
power of administration which she produced, being perfectly mad at the
time with rage and disappointment, and sure that if he stopped there any
longer he should commit the crime of killing this woman who had deceived
him so cruelly, he gave it that he might escape from her. Their
Majesties would notice also that it was in favour of the Marchioness of
Morella. As this marriage was null and void, there was no Marchioness of
Morella. Therefore, the document was null and void also. That was the
truth, and all he had to say.
THE DOOM OF JOHN CASTELL
His evidence finished, the Marquis of Morella sat down, whereon, the
king and queen having whispered together, the head alcalde asked Betty
if she had any questions to put to him. She rose with much dignity, and
through her interpreter said in a quiet voice:
"Yes, a great many. Yet she would not debase herself by asking a single
one until the stain which he had cast upon her was washed away, which
she thought could only be done in blood. He had alleged that she was a
woman of no character, and he had further alleged that their marriage
was null and void. Being of the sex she was, she could not ask him to
make good his assertions at the sword's point, therefore, as she
believed she had the right to do according to all the laws of honour,
she asked leave to seek a champion--if an unfriended woman could find
one in a strange land--to uphold her fair name against this base and
Now, in the silence that followed her speech, Peter rose and said:
"I ask the permission of your Majesties to be that champion. Your
Majesties will note that according to his own story I have suffered from
this marquis the bitterest wrong that one man can receive at the hands
of another. Also, he has lied in saying that I am not true to my
affianced lady, the Dona Margaret, and surely I have a right to avenge
the lie upon him. Lastly, I declare that I believe the Seņora Betty to
be a good and upright woman, upon whom no shadow of shame has ever
fallen, and, as her countryman and relative, I desire to uphold her good
name before all the world. I am a foreigner here with few friends, or
none, yet I cannot believe that your Majesties will withhold from me the
right of battle which all over the world in such a case one gentleman
may demand of another. I challenge the Marquis of Morella to mortal
combat without mercy to the fallen, and here is the proof of it."
Then, stepping across the open space before the bar, he drew the
leathern gauntlet off his hand and threw it straight into Morella's
face, thinking that after such an insult he could not choose but fight.
With an oath Morella snatched at his sword; but, before he could draw
it, officers of the court threw themselves on him, and the king's stern
voice was heard commanding them to cease their brawling in the royal
"I ask your pardon, Sire," gasped Morella, "but you have seen what this
Englishman did to me, a grandee of Spain."
"Yes," broke in the queen, "but we have also heard what you, a grandee
of Spain, did to this gentleman of England, and the charge you brought
against him, which, it seems, the Dona Margaret does not believe."
"In truth, no, your Majesty," said Margaret. "Let me be sworn also, and
I can explain much of what the marquis has told to you. I never wished
to marry him or any man, save this one," and she touched Peter on the
arm, "and anything that he or I may have done, we did to escape the evil
net in which we were snared."
"We believe it," answered the queen with a smile, then fell to
consulting with the king and the alcaldes.
For a long time they debated in voices so low that none could hear what
they said, looking now at one and now at another of the parties to this
strange suit. Also, some priest was called into their council, which
Margaret thought a bad omen. At length they made up their minds, and in
a low, quiet voice and measured words her Majesty, as Queen of Castile,
gave the judgment of them all. Addressing herself first to Morella,
"My lord Marquis, you have brought very grave charges against the lady
who claims to be your wife, and the Englishman whose affianced bride you
admit you snatched away by fraud and force. This gentleman, on his own
behalf and on behalf of these ladies, has challenged you to a combat to
the death in a fashion that none can mistake. Do you accept his
"I would accept it readily enough, your Majesty," answered Morella in
sullen tones, "since heretofore none have doubted my courage; but I must
remember that I am"--and he paused, then added--"what your Majesties
know me to be, a grandee of Spain, and something more, wherefore it is
scarcely lawful for me to cross swords with a Jew-merchant's clerk, for
that was this man's high rank and office in England."
"You could cross them with me on your ship, the _San Antonio_,"
exclaimed Peter bitterly, "why then are you ashamed to finish what you
were not ashamed to begin? Moreover, I tell you that in love or war I
hold myself the equal of any woman-thief and bastard in this kingdom,
who am one of a name that has been honoured in my own."
Now again the king and queen spoke together of this question of rank--no
small one in that age and country. Then Isabella said:
"It is true that a grandee of Spain cannot be asked to meet a simple
foreign gentleman in single combat. Therefore, since he has thought fit
to raise it, we uphold the objection of the Marquis of Morella, and
declare that this challenge is not binding on his honour. Yet we note
his willingness to accept the same, and are prepared to do what we can
to make the matter easy, so that it may not be said that a Spaniard, who
has wrought wrong to an Englishman, and been asked openly to make the
amend of arms in the presence of his sovereigns, was debarred from so
doing by the accident of his rank. Seņor Peter Brome, if you will
receive it at our hands, as others of your nation have been proud to do,
we propose, believing you to be a brave and loyal man of gentle birth,
to confer upon you the knighthood of the Order of St. James, and thereby
and therein the right to consort with as equal, or to fight as equal,
any noble of Spain, unless he should be of the right blood-royal, to
which place we think the most puissant and excellent Marquis of Morella
lays no claim."
"I thank your Majesties," said Peter, astonished, "for the honour that
you would do to me, which, had it not been for the fact that my father
chose the wrong side on Bosworth Field, being of a race somewhat
obstinate in the matter of loyalty, I should not have needed to accept
from your Majesties. As it is I am very grateful, since now the noble
marquis need not feel debased in settling our long quarrel as he would
desire to do."
"Come hither and kneel down, Seņor Peter Brome," said the queen when he
had finished speaking.
He obeyed, and Isabella, borrowing his sword from the king, gave him the
accolade by striking him thrice upon the right shoulder and saying:
"Rise, Sir Peter Brome, Knight of the most noble Order of Saint Iago,
and by creation a Don of Spain."
He rose, he bowed, retreating backwards as was the custom, and thereby
nearly falling off the dais, which some people thought a good omen for
Morella. As he went the king said:
"Our Marshal, Sir Peter, will arrange the time and manner of your combat
with the marquis as shall be most convenient to you both. Meanwhile, we
command you both that no unseemly word or deed should pass between you,
who must soon meet face to face to abide the judgment of God in battle
_ā l'outrance_. Rather, since one of you must die so shortly, do we
entreat you to prepare your souls to appear before His judgment-seat. We
Now the audience appeared to think that the court was ended, for many of
them began to rise; but the queen held up her hand and said:
"There remain other matters on which we must give judgment. The seņora
here," and she pointed to Betty, "asks that her marriage should be
declared valid, or so we understand, and the Marquis of Morella asks
that his marriage with the said seņora should be declared void, or so
we understand. Now this is a question over which we claim no power, it
having to do with a sacrament of the Church. Therefore we leave it to
his Holiness the Pope in person, or by his legate, to decide according
to his wisdom in such manner as may seem best to him, if the parties
concerned should choose to lay their suit before him. Meanwhile, we
declare and decree that the seņora, born Elizabeth Dene, shall
everywhere throughout our dominions, until or unless his Holiness the
Pope shall decide to the contrary, be received and acknowledged as the
Marchioness of Morella, and that during his lifetime her reputed husband
shall make due provision for her maintenance, and that after his death,
should no decision have been come to by the court of Rome upon her suit,
she shall inherit and enjoy that proportion of his lands and property
which belongs to a wife under the laws of this realm."
Now, while Betty bowed her thanks to their Majesties till the jewels on
her bodice rattled, and Morella scowled till his face looked as black as
a thunder-cloud above the mountains, the audience, whispering to each
other, once more rose to disperse. Again the queen held up her hand, for
the judgment was not yet finished.
"We have a question to ask of the gallant Sir Peter Brome and the Dona
Margaret, his affianced. Is it still their desire to take each other in
Now Peter looked at Margaret, and Margaret looked at Peter, and there
was that in their eyes which both of them understood, for he answered in
a clear voice:
"Your Majesty, that is the dearest wish of both of us."
The queen smiled a little, then asked: "And do you, Seņor John
Castell, consent and allow your daughter's marriage to this knight?"
"I do, indeed," he answered gravely. "Had it not been for this man
here," and he glanced with bitter hatred at Morella, "they would have
been united long ago, and to that end," he added with meaning, "such
little property as I possessed has been made over to trustees in England
for their benefit and that of their children. Therefore I am
henceforward dependent upon their charity."
"Good," said the queen. "Then one question remains to be put, and only
one. Is it your wish, both of you, that you should be wed before the
single combat between the Marquis of Morella and Sir Peter Brome?
Remember, Dona Margaret, before you answer, that in this event you may
soon be made a widow, and that if you postpone the ceremony you may
never be a wife."
Now Margaret and Peter spoke a few words together, then the former
answered for them both.
"Should my lord fall," she said in her sweet voice that trembled as she
uttered the words, "in either case my heart will be widowed and broken.
Let me live out my days, therefore, bearing his name, that, knowing my
deathless grief, none may thenceforth trouble me with their love, who
desire to remain his bride in heaven."
"Well spoken," said the queen. "We decree that here in our cathedral of
Seville you twain shall be wed on the same day, but before the Marquis
of Morella and you, Sir Peter Brome, meet in single combat. Further,
lest harm should be attempted against either of you," and she looked
sideways at Morella, "you, Seņora Margaret, shall be my guest until you
leave my care to become a bride, and you, Sir Peter, shall return to
lodge in the prison whence you came, but with liberty to see whom you
will, and to go when and where you will, but under our protection, lest
some attempt should be made on you."
She ceased, whereon suddenly the king began speaking in his sharp, thin
"Having settled these matters of chivalry and marriage," he said, "there
remains another, which I will not leave to the gentle lips of our
sovereign Lady, that has to do with something higher than either of
them--namely, the eternal welfare of men's souls, and of the Church of
Christ on earth. It has been declared to us that the man yonder, John
Castell, merchant of London, is that accursed thing, a Jew, who for the
sake of gain has all his life feigned to be a Christian, and, as such,
deceived a Christian woman into marriage; that he is, moreover, of our
subjects, having been born in Spain, and therefore amenable to the civil
and spiritual jurisdiction of this realm."
He paused, while Margaret and Peter stared at each other affrighted.
Only Castell stood silent and unmoved, though he guessed what must
follow better than either of them.
"We judge him not," went on the king, "who claim no authority in such
high matters, but we do what we must do--we commit him to the Holy
Inquisition, there to take his trial!"
Now Margaret cried aloud. Peter stared about him as though for help,
which he knew could never come, feeling more afraid than ever he had
been in all his life, and for the first time that day Morella smiled.
At least he would be rid of one enemy. But Castell went to Margaret and
kissed her tenderly. Then he shook Peter by the hand, saying:
"Kill that thief," and he looked at Morella, "as I know you will, and
would if there were ten as bad at his back. And be a good husband to my
girl, as I know you will also, for I shall ask an account of you of
these matters when we meet where there is neither Jew nor Christian,
priest nor king. Now be silent, and bear what must be borne as I do, for
I have a word to say before I leave you and the world.
"Your Majesties, I make no plea for myself, and when I am questioned
before your Inquisition the task will be easy, for I desire to hide
nothing, and will tell the truth, though not from fear or because I
shrink from pain. Your Majesties, you have told us that these two, who,
at least, are good enough Christians from their birth, shall be wed. I
would ask you if any spiritual crime, or supposed crime, of mine will be
allowed to work their separation, or to their detriment in any way
"On that point," answered the queen quickly, as though she wished to get
in her words before the king or any one else could speak, "you have our
royal word, John Castell. Your case is apart from their case, and
nothing of which you may be convicted shall affect them in person or,"
she added slowly, "in property."
"A large promise," muttered the king.
"It is my promise," she answered decidedly, "and it shall be kept at any
cost. These two shall marry, and if Sir Peter lives through the fray
they shall depart from Spain unharmed, nor shall any fresh charge be
brought against them in any court of the realm, nor shall they be
persecuted or proceeded against in any other realm or on the high seas
at our instance or that of our officers. Let my words be written down,
and one copy of them signed and filed and another copy given to the Dona
"Your Majesty," said Castell, "I thank you, and now, if die I must, I
shall die happy. Yet I make bold to tell you that had you not spoken
them it was my purpose to kill myself, here before your eyes, since that
is a sin for which none can be asked to suffer save the sinner. Also, I
say that this Inquisition which you have set up shall eat out the heart
of Spain and bring her greatness to the dust of death. The torture and
the misery of those Jews, than whom you have no better or more faithful
subjects, shall be avenged on the heads of your children's children for
so long as their blood endures."
He finished speaking, and, while something that sounded like a gasp of
fear rose from that crowded court as the meaning of Castell's bold words
came home to his auditors, the crowd behind him separated, and there
appeared, walking two by two, a file of masked and hooded monks and a
guard of soldiers, all of whom doubtless were in waiting. They came to
John Castell, they touched him on the shoulder, they closed around him,
hiding him as it were from the world, and in the midst of them he
Peter's memories of that strange day in the Alcazar at Seville always
remained somewhat dim and blurred. It was not wonderful. Within the
space of a few hours he had been tried for his life and acquitted. He
had seen Betty, transformed from a humble companion into a magnificent
and glittering marchioness, as a chrysalis is transformed into a
butterfly, urge her strange suit against the husband who had tricked
her, and whom she had tricked, and, for the while at any rate, more than
hold her own, thanks to her ready wit and native strength of character.
As her champion, and that of Margaret, he had challenged Morella to a
single combat, and when his defiance was refused on the ground of his
lack of rank, by the favour of the great Isabella, who wished to use him
as her instrument, doubtless because of those secret ambitions of
Morella's which Margaret had revealed to her, he had been suddenly
advanced to the high station of a Knight of the Order of St. James of
Spain, to which, although he cared little for it, otherwise he might
vainly have striven to come.
More, and better far, the desire of his heart would at length be
attained, for now it was granted to him to meet his enemy, the man whom
he hated with just cause, upon a fair field, without favour shown to one
or the other, and to fight him to the death. He had been promised,
further, that within some few days Margaret should be given to him as
wife, although it well might be that she would keep that name but for a
single hour, and that until then they both should dwell safe from
Morella's violence and treachery; also that, whatever chanced, no suit
should lie against them in any land for aught that they did or had
done in Spain.
Lastly, when all seemed safe save for that chance of war, whereof,
having been bred to such things, he took but little count; when his cup,
emptied at length of mire and sand, was brimming full with the good red
wine of battle and of love, when it was at his very lips indeed, Fate
had turned it to poison and to gall. Castell, his bride's father, and
the man he loved, had been haled to the vaults of the Inquisition,
whence he knew well he would come forth but once more, dressed in a
yellow robe "relaxed to the civil arm," to perish slowly in the fires of
the Quemadero, the place of burning of heretics.
What would his conquest over Morella avail if Heaven should give him
power to conquer? What kind of a bridal would that be which was sealed
and consecrated by the death of the bride's father in the torturing
fires of the Inquisition? How would they ever get the smell of the smoke
of that sacrifice out of their nostrils? Castell was a brave man; no
torments would make him recant. It was doubtful even if he would be at
the pains to deny his faith, he who had only been baptized a Christian
by his father for the sake of policy, and suffered the fraud to continue
for the purposes of his business, and that he might win and keep a
Christian wife. No, Castell was doomed, and he could no more protect him
from priest and king than a dove can protect its nest from a pair of
Oh that last scene! Never could Peter forget it while he lived--the
vast, fretted hall with its painted arches and marble columns; the rays
of the afternoon sun piercing the window-places, and streaming like
blood on to the black robes of the monks as, with their prey, they
vanished back into the arcade where they had lurked; Margaret's wild cry
and ashen face as her father was torn away from her, and she sank
fainting on to Betty's bejewelled bosom; the cruel sneer on Morella's
lips; the king's hard smile; the pity in the queen's eye; the excited
murmurings of the crowd; the quick, brief comments of the lawyers; the
scratching of the clerk's quill as, careless of everything save his
work, he recorded the various decrees; and above it all as it were,
upright, defiant, unmoved, Castell, surrounded by the ministers of
death, vanishing into the blackness of the arcade, vanishing into the
jaws of the tomb.
FATHER HENRIQUES AND THE BAKER'S OVEN
A week had gone by. Margaret was in the palace, where Peter had been to
see her twice, and found her broken-hearted. Even the fact that they
were to be wed upon the following Saturday, the day fixed also for the
combat between Peter and Morella, brought her no joy or consolation. For
on the next day, the Sunday, there was to be an "Act of Faith," an
_auto-da-fé_ in Seville, when wicked heretics, such as Jews, Moors, and
persons who had spoken blasphemy, were to suffer for their crimes--some
by fire on the Quemadero, or place of burning, outside the city; some by
making public confession of their grievous sin before they were carried
off to perpetual and solitary imprisonment; some by being garotted
before their bodies were given to the flames, and so forth. In this
ceremony it was known that John Castell had been doomed to play a
On her knees, with tears and beseechings, Margaret had prayed the queen
for mercy. But in this matter those tears produced no more effect upon
the heart of Isabella than does water dripping on a diamond. Gentle
enough in other ways, where questions of the Faith were concerned she
had the craft of a fox and the cruelty of a tiger. She was even
indignant with Margaret. Had not enough been done for her? she asked.
Had she not even passed her royal word that no steps should be taken to
deprive the accused of such property as he might own in Spain if he were
found guilty, and that none of those penalties which, according to law
and custom fell upon the children of such infamous persons, should
attach to her, Margaret? Was she not to be publicly married to her
lover, and, should he survive the combat, allowed to depart with him in
honour without even being asked to see her father expiate his iniquity?
Surely, as a good Christian she should rejoice that he was given this
opportunity of reconciling his soul with God and be made an example to
others of his accursed faith. Was she then a heretic also?
So she stormed on, till Margaret crept from her presence wondering
whether this creed could be right that would force the child to inform
against and bring the parent to torment. Where were such things written
in the sayings of the Saviour and His Apostles? And if they were not
written, who had invented them?
"Save him!--save him!" Margaret had gasped to Peter in despair. "Save
him, or I swear to you, however much I may love you, however much we may
seem to be married, never shall you be a husband to me."
"That seems hard," replied Peter, shaking his head mournfully, "since it
was not I who gave him over to these devils, and probably the end of it
would be that I should share his fate. Still, I will do what a man can."
"No, no," she cried in despair; "do nothing that will bring you into
danger." But he had gone without waiting for her answer.
It was night, and Peter sat in a secret room in a certain baker's shop
in Seville. There were present there besides himself the Fray
Henriques--now a secretary to the Holy Inquisition, but disguised as a
layman--the woman Inez, the agent Bernaldez, and the old Jew, Israel
"I have brought him here, never mind how," Inez was saying, pointing to
Henriques. "A risky and disagreeable business enough. And now what is
the use of it?"
"No use at all," answered the Fray coolly, "except to me who pocket my
ten gold pieces."
"A thousand doubloons if our friend escapes safe and sound," put in the
old Jew Israel. "God in Heaven! think of it, a thousand doubloons."
The secretary's eyes gleamed hungrily.
"I could do with them well enough," he answered, "and hell could spare
one filthy Jew for ten years or so, but I see no way. What I do see, is
that probably all of you will join him. It is a great crime to try to
tamper with a servant of the Holy Office."
Bernaldez turned white, and the old Jew bit his nails; but Inez tapped
the priest upon the shoulder.
"Are you thinking of betraying us?" she asked in her gentle voice.
"Look here, friend, I have some knowledge of poisons, and I swear to you
that if you attempt it, you shall die within a week, tied in a double
knot, and never know whence the dose came. Or I can bewitch you, I, who
have not lived a dozen years among the Moors for nothing, so that your
head swells and your body wastes, and you utter blasphemies, not
knowing what you say, until for very shame's sake they toast you among
the faggots also."
"Bewitch me!" answered Henriques with a shiver. "You have done that
already, or I should not be here."
"Then, if you do not wish to be in another place before your time," went
on Inez, still tapping his shoulder gently, "think, think! and find a
way, worthy servant of the Holy Office."
"A thousand doubloons!--a thousand gold doubloons!" croaked old Israel,
"or if you fail, sooner or later, this month or next, this year or next,
death--death as slow and cruel as we can make it. There are two
Inquisitions in Spain, holy Father; but one of them does its business in
the dark, and your name is on its ledger."
Now Henriques was very frightened, as well he might be with all those
eyes glaring at him.
"You need fear nothing," he said, "I know the devilish power of your
league too well, and that, if I kill you all, a hundred others I have
never seen or heard of would dog me to my death, who have taken your
"I am glad that you understand at last, dear friend," said the soft,
mocking voice of Inez, who stood behind the monk like an evil genius,
and again tapped him affectionately on the shoulder, this time with the
bare blade of a poniard. "Now be quick with that plan of yours. It grows
late, and all holy people should be abed."
"I have none. I defy you," he answered furiously.
"Very well, friend--very well; then I will say good night, or rather
farewell, since I am not likely to meet you again in this world."
"Where are you going?" he asked anxiously.
"Oh! to the palace to meet the Marquis of Morella and a friend of his, a
relation indeed. Look you here. I have had an offer of pardon for my
part in that marriage if I can prove that a certain base priest knew
that he was perpetrating a fraud. Well, I _can_ prove it--you may
remember that you wrote me a note--and, if I do, what happens to such a
priest who chances to have incurred the hatred of a grandee of Spain and
of his noble relation?"
"I am an officer of the Holy Inquisition; no one dare touch me," he
"Oh! I think that there are some who would take the risk. For
Fray Henriques sank back in his chair. Now he understood whom Inez meant
by the noble relative of Morella, understood also that he had been
trapped. "On Sunday morning," he began in a hollow whisper, "the
procession will be formed, and wind through the streets of the city to
the theatre, where the sermon will be preached before those who are
relaxed proceed to the Quemadero. About eight o'clock it turns on to the
quay for a little way only, and here will be but few spectators, since
the view of the pageant is bad, nor is the road guarded there. Now, if a
dozen determined men were waiting disguised as peasants with a boat at
hand, perhaps they might----" and he paused.
Then Peter, who had been watching and listening to all this play, spoke
for the first time, asking:
"In such an event, reverend Sir, how would those determined men know
which was the victim that they sought?"
"The heretic John Castell," he answered, "will be seated on an ass,
clad in a _zamarra_ of sheepskin painted with fiends and a likeness of
his own head burning--very well done, for I, who can draw, had a hand in
it. Also, he alone will have a rope round his neck, by which he may
"Why will he be seated on an ass?" asked Peter savagely. "Because you
have tortured him so that he cannot walk?"
"Not so--not so," said the Dominican, shrinking from those fierce eyes.
"He has never been questioned at all, not a single turn of the
_mancuerda_, I swear to you, Sir Knight. What was the use, since he
openly avows himself an accursed Jew?"
"Be more gentle in your talk, friend," broke in Inez, with her familiar
tap upon the shoulder. "There are those here who do not think so ill of
Jews as you do in your Holy House, but who understand how to apply the
_mancuerda_, and can make a very serviceable rack out of a plank and a
pulley or two such as lie in the next room. Cultivate courtesy, most
learned priest, lest before you leave this place you should add a cubit
to your stature."
"Go on," growled Peter.
"Moreover," added Fray Henriques shakily, "orders came that it was not
to be done. The Inquisitors thought otherwise, as they believed
--doubtless in error--that he might have accomplices whose names
he would give up; but the orders said that as he had lived so long in
England, and only recently travelled to Spain, he could have none.
Therefore he is sound--sound as a bell; never before, I am told, has an
impenitent Jew gone to the stake in such good case, however worthy and
worshipful he might be."
"So much the better for you, if you do not lie," answered Peter.
"There is nothing more to say, except that I shall be walking near to
him with the two guards, and, of course, if he were snatched away from
us, and there were no boats handy in which to pursue, we could not help
it, could we? Indeed, we priests, who are men of peace, might even fly
at the sight of cruel violence."
"I should advise you to fly fast and far," said Peter. "But, Inez, what
hold have you on this friend of yours? He will trick everybody."
"A thousand doubloons--a thousand doubloons!" muttered old Israel like a
"He may think to screw more than that out of the carcases of some of us,
old man. Come, Inez, you are quick at this game. How can we best hold
him to his word?"
"Dead, I think," broke in Bernaldez, who knew his danger as the partner
and relative of Castell, and the nominal owner of the ship _Margaret_ in
which it was purposed that he should escape. "We know all that he can
tell, and if we let him go he will betray us soon or late. Kill him out
of the way, I say, and burn his body in the oven."
Now Henriques fell upon his knees, and with groans and tears began to
"Why do you complain so?" asked Inez, watching him with reflective eyes.
"The end would be much gentler than that which you righteous folk mete
out to many more honest men, yes, and women too. For my part, I think
that the Seņor Bernaldez gives good counsel. Better that you should
die, who are but one, than all of us and others, for you will understand
that we cannot trust you. Has any one got a rope?"
Now Henriques grovelled on the ground before her, kissing the hem of her
robe, and praying her in the name of all the saints to show pity on one
who had been betrayed into this danger by love of her.
"Of money you mean, Toad," she answered, kicking him with her slippered
foot. "I had to listen to your talk of love while we journeyed together,
and before, but here I need not, and if you speak of it again you shall
go living into that baker's oven. Oh! you have forgotten it, but I have
a long score to settle with you. You were a familiar of the Holy Office
here at Seville--were you not?--before Morella promoted you to Motril
for your zeal, and made you one of his chaplains? Well, I had a sister,"
And she knelt down and whispered a name into his ear.
He uttered a sound--it was more of a scream than a gasp.
"I had nothing to do with her death," he protested. "She was brought
within the walls of the Holy House by some one who had a grudge against
her and bore false witness."
"Yes, I know. It was you who had the grudge, you snake-souled rogue, and
it was you who gave the false witness. It was you, also, who but the
other day volunteered the corroborative evidence that was necessary
against Castell, saying that he had passed the Rood at your house in
Motril without doing it reverence, and other things. It was you, too,
who urged your superiors to put him to the question, because you said he
was rich and had rich friends, and much money could be wrung out of him
and them, whereof you were to get your share. Oh! yes, my information is
good, is it not? Even what passes in the dungeons of the Holy House
comes to the ears of the woman Inez. Well, do you still think that
baker's oven too hot for you?"
By this time Henriques was speechless with terror. There he knelt upon
the floor, glaring at this soft-voiced, remorseless woman who had made a
tool and a fool of him; who had beguiled him there that night, and who
hated him so bitterly and with so just a cause. Peter was speaking now.
"It would be better not to stain our hands with the creature's blood,"
he said. "Caged rats give little sport, and he might be tracked. For my
part, I would leave his judgment to God. Have you no other way, Inez?"
She thought a while, then prodded the Fray Henriques with her foot,
"Get up, sainted secretary to the Holy Office, and do a little writing,
which will be easy to you. See, here are pens and paper. Now
"'Most Adorable Inez,
"'Your dear message has reached me safely here in this accursed Holy
House, where we lighten heretics of their sins to the benefit of their
souls, and of their goods to the benefit of our own bodies----'"
"I cannot write it," groaned Henriques; "it is rank heresy."
"No, only the truth," answered Inez.
"Heresy and the truth--well, they are often the same thing. They would
burn me for it."
"That is just what many heretics have urged. They have died gloriously
for what they hold to be the truth, why should not you? Listen," she
went on more sternly. "Will you take your chance of burning on the
Quemadero, which you will not do unless you betray us, or will you
certainly burn more privately, but better, in a baker's oven, and within
half an hour? Ah! I thought you would not hesitate. Continue your
letter, most learned scribe. Are those words down? Yes. Now add these:
"'I note all you tell me about the trial at the Alcazar before their
Majesties. I believe that the Englishwoman will win her case. That was a
very pretty trick that I played on the most noble marquis at Granada.
Nothing neater was ever done, even in this place. Well, I owed him a
long score, and I have paid him off in full. I should like to have seen
his exalted countenance when he surveyed the features of his bride, the
waiting-woman, and knew that the mistress was safe away with another
man. The nephew of the king, who would like himself to be king some day,
married to an English waiting-woman! Good, very good, dear Inez.
"'Now, as regards the Jew, John Castell. I think that the matter may
possibly be managed, provided that the money is all right, for, as you
know, I do not work for nothing. Thus----'" And Inez dictated with
admirable lucidity those suggestions as to the rescue of Castell, with
which the reader is already acquainted, ending the letter as follows:
"'These Inquisitors here are cruel beasts, though fonder of money than
of blood; for all their talk about zeal for the Faith is so much wind
behind the mountains. They care as much for the Faith as the mountain
cares for the wind, or, let us say, as I do. They wanted to torture the
poor devil, thinking that he would rain maravedis; but I gave a hint in
the right quarter, and their fun was stopped. Carissima, I must stop
also; it is my hour for duty, but I hope to meet you as arranged, and we
will have a merry evening. Love to the newly married marquis, if you
meet him, and to yourself you know how much.
"'POSTSCRIPTUM.--This position will scarcely be as remunerative as I
hoped, so I am glad to be able to earn a little outside, enough to buy
you a present that will make your pretty eyes shine.'
"There!" said Inez mildly, "I think that covers everything, and would
burn you three or four times over. Let me read it to see that it is
plainly written and properly signed, for in such matters a good deal
turns on handwriting. Yes, that will do. Now you understand, don't you,
if anything goes wrong about the matter we have been talking of--that
is, if the worthy John Castell is not rescued, or a smell of our little
plot should get into the wind--this letter goes at once to the right
quarter, and a certain secretary will wish that he had never been born.
Man!" she added in a hissing whisper, "you shall die by inches as my
"A thousand doubloons if the thing succeeds, and you live to claim
them," croaked old Israel. "I do not go back upon my word. Death and
shame and torture or a thousand doubloons. Now he knows our terms,
blindfold him again, Seņor Bernaldez, and away with him, for he poisons
the air. But first you, Inez, be gone and lodge that letter where
* * * * *
That same night two cloaked figures, Peter and Bernaldez, were rowed in
a little boat out to where the _Margaret_ lay in the river, and, making
her fast, slipped up the ship's side into the cabin. Here the stout
English captain, Smith, was waiting for them, and so glad was the honest
fellow to see Peter that he cast his arms about him and hugged him, for
they had not met since that desperate adventure of the boarding of the
"Is your ship fit for sea, Captain?" asked Peter.
"She will never be fitter," he answered. "When shall I get sailing
"When the owner comes aboard," answered Peter.
"Then we shall stop here until we rot; they have trapped him in their
Inquisition. What is in your mind, Peter Brome?--what is in your mind?
Is there a chance?"
"Aye, Captain, I think so, if you have a dozen fellows of the right
English stuff between decks."
"We have got that number, and one or two more. But what's the plan?"
Peter told him.
"Not so bad," said Smith, slapping his heavy hand upon his knee; "but
risky--very risky. That Inez must be a good girl. I should like to marry
her, notwithstanding her bygones."
Peter laughed, thinking what an odd couple they would make. "Hear the
rest, then talk," he said. "See now! On Saturday next Mistress Margaret
and I are to be married in the cathedral; then, towards sunset, the
Marquis of Morella and I run our course in the great bull-ring yonder,
and you and half a dozen of your men will be present. Now, I may conquer
or I may fail----"
"Never!--never!" said the captain. "I wouldn't give a pair of old boots
for that fine Spaniard's chance when you get at him. Why, you will crimp
him like a cod-fish!"
"God knows!" answered Peter. "If I win, my wife and I make our adieux to
their Majesties, and ride away to the quay, where the boat will be
waiting, and you will row us on board the _Margaret_. If I fail, you
will take up my body, and, accompanied by my widow, bring it in the same
fashion on board the _Margaret_, for I shall give it out that in this
case I wish to be embalmed in wine and taken back to England for burial.
In either event, you will drop your ship a little way down the river
round the bend, so that folk may think that you have sailed. In the
darkness you must work her back with the tide and lay her behind those
old hulks, and if any ask you why, say that three of your men have not
yet come aboard, and that you have dropped back for them, and whatever
else you like. Then, in case I should not be alive to guide you, you and
ten or twelve of the best sailors will land at the spot that this
gentleman will show you to-morrow, wearing Spanish cloaks so as not to
attract attention, but being well armed underneath them, like idlers
from some ship who had come ashore to see the show. I have told you how
you may know Master Castell. When you see him make a rush for him, cut
down any that try to stop you, tumble him into the boat, and row for
your lives to the ship, which will slip her moorings and get up her
canvas as soon as she sees you coming, and begin to drop down the river
with the tide and wind, if there is one. That is the plot, but God alone
knows the end of it! which depends upon Him and the sailors. Will you
play this game for the love of a good man and the rest of us? If you
succeed, you shall be rich for life, all of you."
"Aye," answered the captain, "and there's my hand on it. So sure as my
name is Smith, we will hook him out of that hell if men can do it, and
not for the money either. Why, Peter, we have sat here idle so long,
waiting for you and our lady, that we shall be glad of the fun. At any
rate, there will be some dead Spaniards before they have done with us,
and, if we are worsted, I'll leave the mate and enough hands upon the
ship to bring her safe to Tilbury. But we won't be--we won't be. By this
day week we will all be rolling homewards across the Bay with never a
Spaniard within three hundred miles, you and your lady and Master
Castell, too. I know it! I tell you, lad, I know it!"
"How do you know it?" asked Peter curiously.
"Because I dreamed it last night. I saw you and Mistress Margaret
sitting sweet as sugar, with your arms around each other's middles,
while I talked to the master, and the sun went down with the wind
blowing stiff from sou-sou-west, and a gale threatening. I tell you that
I dreamed it--I who am not given to dreams."
THE FALCON STOOPS
It was the marriage day of Margaret and Peter. Clad in white armour that
had been sent to him as a present from the queen, a sign and a token of
her good wishes for his success in his combat with Morella, wearing the
insignia of a Knight of St. James hanging by a ribbon from his neck, his
shield emblazoned with his coat of the stooping falcon, which appeared
Back to Full Books