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The Vale of Cedars
by Grace Aguilar
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And her lips moved in the wordless utterance of the prayer for which she had asked, forgetting it had some time before been said; and then her head sunk lower and lower on Arthur's bosom, and there was no sound. Twilight lingered, as loth to disappear, then deepened into night, and the silver lamps within the tents brighter and more brightly illumined the gloom; but Arthur moved not, suppressing even his breath, lest he should disturb that deep and still repose. It was more than an hour ere Julien Morales could realize the truth, and then he gently endeavored to unclasp Arthur's almost convulsive hold, and with, kindly force to lead him from the couch. The light of the lamp fell full upon that sweet, sweet face; and, oh! never had it seemed so lovely. The awful stillness of sculptured repose was indeed there; the breath of life and its disturbing emotions had passed away, and nought but the shrine remained. But like marble sculptured by God's hand, that sweet face gleamed—seeming, in its perfect tracery, its heavenly repose, to whisper even to the waves of agony, "Be still—my spirit is with God!"

* * * * *

Julien Morales and Arthur Stanley—the aged and the young—the Jewish recluse and Christian warrior—knelt side by side on the cold earth, which concealed the remains of one to both so inexpressibly dear. The moonlit shrubs and spangled heaven alone beheld their mutual sorrow, and the pale moon waned, and the stars gleamed paler and paler in the first gray of dawn ere that vigil was concluded. And then both arose and advanced to the barrier wall; the spring answered to the touch, and the concealed door flew back. The young Christian turned, and was folded to the heart of the Jew. The blessing of the Hebrew was breathed in the ear of the Englishman, and Stanley disappeared.

Oh, love! thou fairest, brightest, most imperishable type of heaven! what to thee are earth's distinctions? Alone in thy pure essence thou standest, and every mere earthly feeling crouches at thy feet. And art thou but this world's blessing? Oh! they have never loved who thus believe. Love is the voice of God, Love is the rule of Heaven! As one grain to the uncounted sands, as one drop to the unfathomed depths—is the love of earth to that of heaven; but when the mortal shrine is shivered, the minute particle will re-unite itself with its kindred essence, to exist unshadowed and for ever.



CHAPTER XXXV.

"Why then a final note prolong, Or lengthen out a closing song, Unless to bid the gentles speed Who long have listened to my rede?"

SIR WALTER SCOTT.

The fickle sun of "merrie England" shone forth in unusual splendor; and, as if resolved to bless the august ceremony on which it gazed, permitted not a cloud to shadow the lustrous beams, which, darted their floods of light through the gorgeous casements of Westminster Abbey, in whose sacred precincts was then celebrating the bridal of the young heir of England, with a fair and gentle daughter of Spain. It was a scene to interest the coldest heart—not for the state and splendor of the accoutrements, nor the high rank of the parties principally concerned, nor for the many renowned characters of church, state, and chivalry there assembled; it was the extreme youth and touching expression, impressed on the features, of both bride and bridegroom.

Neither Arthur, Prince of Wales, nor Catherine, Infanta of Arragon, had yet numbered eighteen years, the first fresh season of joyous life; but on neither countenance could be traced the hilarity and thoughtlessness, natural to their age. The fair, transparent brow of the young Prince, under which the blue veins could be clearly seen, till lost beneath the rich chesnut curls, that parted on his brow, fell loosely on either shoulder; the large and deep blue eye, which was ever half concealed beneath the long, dark lash, as if some untold languor caused the eyelid to droop so heavily; the delicate pink of his downless cheek, the brilliant hue on his lips, even his peculiar smile, all seemed to whisper the coming ill, that one so dear to Englishmen would not linger with them to fulfil the sweet promise of his youth.

Beauty is, perhaps, too strong a word to apply to the youthful bride. It was the pensive sadness of her mild and pleasing features that so attracted—natural enough to her position in a strange land, and the thoughts of early severance from a mother she idolized, but recalled some twenty years afterwards as the dim shadow of the sorrowing future, glooming through the gay promise of the present. And there, too, was Prince Henry, then only in his twelfth year, bearing in his flashing eye and constantly varying expression of brow and mouth, true index of those passions which were one day to shake Europe to the centre; and presenting in his whole appearance a striking contrast to his brother, and drawing around him, even while yet so young, the hottest and wildest spirits of his father's court, who, while they loved the person, scorned the gentle amusements of the Prince of Wales.

Henry the Seventh and his hapless consort, Elizabeth of York, were, of course, present—the one rejoicing in the conclusion of a marriage for which he had been in treaty the last seven years, and which was at last purchased at the cost of innocent blood; the other beholding only her precious son, whose gentle and peculiarly domestic virtues, were her sweetest solace for conjugal neglect and ill-concealed dislike.

Amongst the many noble Spaniards forming the immediate attendants of the Infanta, had been one so different in aspect to his companions as to attract universal notice; and not a few of the senior noblemen of England had been observed to crowd round him whenever he appeared, and evince towards him the most marked and pleasurable cordiality. His thickly silvered hair and somewhat furrowed brow bore the impress of some five-and-fifty years; but a nearer examination might have betrayed, that sorrow more than years, had aged him, and full six, or even ten years might very well be subtracted from the age which a first glance supposed him. Why the fancy was taken that he was not a Spaniard could not have been very easily explained; for his wife was the daughter of the famous Pedro Pas, whose beauty, wit, and high spirits were essentially Spanish, and was the Infanta's nearest and most favored attendant; and he himself was constantly near her person, and looked up to by the usually jealous Spaniards as even higher in rank and importance that many of themselves. How, then, could he be a foreigner? And marvel merged into the most tormenting curiosity, when, on the bridal day of the Prince of Wales, though he still adhered to the immediate train of the Princess, he appeared in the rich and full costume of an English Peer. The impatience of several young gallants could hardly by restrained even during the ceremony; at the conclusion of which they tumultuously surrounded Lord Scales, declaring they would not let him go, till he had told them who and what was this mysterious friend: Lord Scales had headed a gallant band of English knights in the Moorish war, and was therefore supposed to know every thing concerning Spain, and certainly of this Anglo-Spaniard, as ever since his arrival in England they had constantly been seen together. He smiled good-humoredly at their importunity, and replied—

"I am afraid my friend's history has nothing very marvellous or mysterious in it. His family were all staunch Lancastrians, and perished either on the field or scaffold; he escaped almost miraculously, and after a brief interval of restless wandering, went to Spain and was treated with such consideration and kindness by Ferdinand and Isabella, that he has lived there ever since, honored and treated in all things as a child of the soil. On my arrival, I was struck by his extraordinary courage and rash disregard of danger, and gladly hailed in him a countryman. I learned afterwards that this reckless bravery had been incited by a wish for death, and that events had occurred in his previous life, which would supply matter for many a minstrel tale."

"Let us hear it, let us hear it!" interrupted many eager voices, but Lord Seales laughingly shook his head.

"Excuse me, my young friends: at present I have neither time nor inclination for a long story. Enough that he loved, and loved unhappily; not from its being unreturned, but from a concatenation of circumstances and sorrows which may not be detailed."

"But he is married; and he is as devoted to Donna Catherine as she is to him. I heard they were proverbial for their mutual affection and domestic happiness. How could he so have loved before?" demanded, somewhat skeptically, a very young man.

"My good friend, when you get a little older, you will cease to marvel at such things, or imagine, because a man has been very wretched, he is to be for ever. My friend once felt as you do (Lord Seales changed his tone to one of impressive seriousness); but he was wise enough to abide by the counsels of the beloved one he had lost, struggle to shake off the sluggish misery which was crushing him, cease to wish for death, and welcome life as a solemn path of usefulness and good, still to be trodden, though its flowers might have faded. Gradually as he awoke to outward things, and sought the companionship of her whom his lost one had loved, he became sensible that, spiritless as he had thought himself, he could yet, did he see fit, win and rivet regard; and so he married, loving less than he was loved, perchance at the time but scarcely so now. His marriage, and his present happiness, are far less mysterious than his extraordinary interference in the event which followed the conquest of the Moors—I mean the expulsion of the Jews."

"By the way, what caused that remarkable edict?" demanded one of the circle more interested in politics than in individuals. "It is a good thing indeed to rid a land of such vermin; but in Spain they had so much to do with the successful commerce of the country, that it appears as impolitic as unnecessary."

"Impolitic it was, so far as concerned the temporal interests of the kingdom; but the sovereigns of Spain decided on it, from the religious light in which it was placed before them, by Torquemada. It is whispered that Isabella would never have consented to a decree, sentencing so many thousands of her innocent subjects to misery and expulsion, had not her confessor worked on her conscience in an unusual manner; alluding to some unprecedented favor shown to one of that hated race, occasioned, he declared, by those arts of magic which might occur again and yet again, and do most fatal evil to the land. Isabella had, it appears, when reproached by Torquemada for her act of mercy, which he termed weakness, pledged herself, not to interfere with his measures for the extermination of the unbelief, and on this promise of course he worked, till the edict was proclaimed."

"But this stranger, what had he to do with it?" demanded many of the group, impatient at the interruption.

"What he had to do with it I really cannot tell you, but his zeal to avert the edict lost him, in a great measure the confidence of Ferdinand. When he found to prevent their expulsion was impossible, he did all in his power to lessen their misfortune, if such it may be called, by relieving every unbeliever that crossed his path."

An exclamation of horrified astonishment escaped his auditors. "What could such conduct mean? did he lean towards unbelief himself—"

"That could hardly be," replied Lord Scales. "Unless he had been a Catholic, earnest and zealous as herself, Isabella would never have so esteemed him, as to give him as wife her especial favorite, Catherine Pas, and place him so near the person of her child. When I left Spain, I entreated my friend to accompany me, and resume his hereditary title and estate, but I pleaded in vain. Some more than common tie seemed to devote him to the interests of the Queen of Castile, whom he declared he would never leave unless in England he could serve her better than in Spain. At that time there was no chance of such an event. He now tells me, that it was Isabella's earnest request that he should attend the Princess; be always near her, and so decrease the difficulties, which in a foreign land must for a time surround her. The Queen is broken in health, and dispirited, from many domestic afflictions; and it was with tears, she besought him to devote his remaining years, to the service of her child, and be to the future Queen of England true, faithful, and upright, as he had ever been to the Queen of Spain. Need I say the honorable charge was instantly accepted, and while he resumes his rank and duties as a Peer of his native land, the grateful service of an adopted son of Spain will ever be remembered and performed."

"But his name, his name?" cried many eager voices.

"ARTHUR STANLEY, EARL OF DERBY."

THE END

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