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my dears. Do you not see that reddish white band of vapour just above the horizon? It announces Aurora's coming, and a very hot day; and I fear the solano will blow with the greater violence at night on the banks of the river, when it goes down."
The Governor observed, "I trust not, Count. Its ravages have been terrible, this season; and much crime attributed to its influence on the human mind. It appears impossible to check this scourge; and I feel it extremely difficult to punish men who answer at the bar of justice-I am criminal, but I did not wish to become so. I knew not what I was doing."
The party had now reached the great entrance court of the palace, and was proceeding along its gallery, enclosed by elegantly open-worked pilastres. It was sombre beneath these antique arches; a damp and chill air struck cold upon the feelings. Don Alphonzo approached nearer to Maria, and pressing her arm gently, felt it tremble.
"We will hasten forward, dearest," said she. "I feel chilled in the gallery, after having been so extremely warm with dancing."
"See, dear Maria, our journey is nearly at an end; yonder shine the torches, at the end of the gallery, where the servants are in waiting."
A piercing cry—a cry of death, broke through the silence of night, and was faintly echoed through the old arches of the gallery. It was a female's voice --the voice of Niévés. Maria sprang from between her supporters, who vainly attempted to detain her, and rushed to the spot from whence the sound proceeded. It was indeed her cousin! It was she, who had been struck by an assassin's hand. There she lay, extended on the pavement, bathed in a pool of blood, which still continued to flow from a wound beneath her left breast. "Holy mother! help! help!"
The old Count was kneeling close to the fallen body, in speechless agony. He contemplated the tender flower thus untimely cut off by a murderous hand, even while it clung to him for support. Maria, with a haggard eye, bent over the sister of her adoption—the friend of her heart, the sole confidant of her pleasures or her pain-extended before her, dead,―assassinated: Falling on her knees, in the purple stream of life, as it yet continued to flow, she seized Niévés' hand; it was warm and soft. She kissed it, and kissed her pale lips-thought a faint breath was perceptible,-placed her hand upon the bleeding bosom-imagined it pulsated slowly. "Help! for the mercy of Heaven, help! She is not dead."
Then springing up, restored to more than ordinary strength by the momentary excitation, Maria raised the body partly forward, stimulating all around to give assistance by her heroic example. No effort was left untried to restore life, but all in vain. The last spark of existence had fled. Already
the rigid chill of death spread over that lovely frame, but so lately radiant in innocent beauty, and the glow of health. "Oh! she is dead. Niévés, my sister, thou art no more."
A surgeon, who was examining the wound, observed, as he mournfully shook his head, "The blow has unhappily been given by too sure a hand for any hope to exist: the unfortunate sennhora could not have survived a single minute."
Donna Maria suddenly raised her head. "And the assassin ?" cried she, in a voice of firmness. "Where is he? Has no one sought him? Are you all afraid of his poignard? My sister, my beloved lost sister, I will myself avenge thee!" And springing forward, attempted to pass her father and lover, as they rushed towards her, to stay her steps.
My poor child, the murderer is pursued. Endeavour to compose yourself. Let us quit this scene of horror. Come, Maria, with thy father, and thy affianced husband, in whose arms thy tears will meet with kindred sympathy, and flow less bitterly. Come, my love."
Gently placing his arm round her waist, her father would have led her away, but Maria looked with sternness at him, withdrew from his grasp, and crossing her arms on her bosom, in a resolute voice, replied"My father, I remain here. I shall not quit this body until the murderer is found. I call upon Heaven for justice. Oh! my Niévés, what other hands than mine should close those eyes ?-what other voice than mine declare to the assassin, 'Thou shalt die !'"
Again kneeling beside the gory corpse, she kissed its cold lips, and with trembling hands, closed the still open eyes; then clasped her hands, and with uplifted countenance, seemed to offer an inward prayer for the departed friend of her heart.
A distant sound was now heard. It soon became more distinct. The rush of many steps now approached. Don Alphonso was the first who appeared, exclaiming," Maria, the murderer is taken!” Servants, soldiers, officers of justice, and a crowd of persons quickly followed, in the midst of whom was led-the "POOR CHILD!"
His attitude was calm and haughty. He did not appear embarrassed at his situation. His paleness alone seemed more deathlike; and a furrow above his eyebrows, more deeply marked, rendered his look ferocious. A bitter smile sat upon his thin lips. His whole appearance seemed to brave his judges, rather than ask their mercy.
At the words, "The murderer is taken!" Maria awoke from her lethargy of grief. Rising from the pavement, with her ball-dress saturated in blood, she stood erect before the assassin, and addressed him in a
voice of deep emotion,-" Miscreant! why hast thou struck this maiden ?"
A savage hoarse cry escaped the lips of Hernandez. His eyes, unusually deep sunk, now started from their orbits; his hands were thrust forward, as if by an instinctive movement to put aside or seize some object before him; he panted with painful heaving of the breast, and in a voice scarcely human, uttered, "Oh! hell! whom then have I struck?"
His look was bloodthirsty, he scowled with rage,―his eyes flashed fire, like the tiger disappointed of his prey.-from the dead he looked at the living, his hand rapidly searched his bosom for the fatal knife,—he bit his lips at finding it gone, and shook his clenched fist at Donna Maria. "Have I then been deceived? It was not her I would have killed, it was you." Turning to the persons that surrounded him. "Conduct me to prison, I am ready to meet my fate. Lead the "poor child" to his dungeon. Is he not a man now? has he not taken his rank in society by the commission of a crime? You will now judge him capable by that act of forming a portion of the social body of society. Although you, proud woman, refused him the favour of a dance, considering him a boy,—a mere child."
"Monster!" exclaimed Donna Maria, as she shuddered at his words.
He spoke no more, but placing himself directly opposite Maria, crossed his arms, and with the magic force of a serpent's fascination, fixed his eyes upon her pallid face. She remained mute,-transfixed with horror, and like a motionless statue.
Don Alphonso and the ladies in attendance carried her away in their arms, —she was rigid and cold as marble, yet her heart quickly palpitated. Her trance was long and dangerous; it at length yielded to medical treatment, but great doubt existed if Maria's mind had not received an incurable shock. For many days nothing presented itself to her imagination but the phantom of Hernandez, with a bloody knife aimed at her breast; by night and day her anguish was intolerable. Extreme quiet and care at length softened these paroxysms, and she sank into a death-like sleep. The physician pronounced it to be the crisis of her disorder.
Hernandez was closely imprisoned ;-a day appointed for his trial. Donna Maria, now restored to health, was compelled to attend the trial; it was in vain she supplicated to be spared that pain-the law was imperative. But she had now a protector-a support, that gave her strength and courage,she had a husband.
Every one knows how slow justice is in Spain; how it is retarded by unnecessary forms, and how many tribunals of appeal are open to the criminal if he has gold to plead his cause.
Seven months had elapsed since the murder was committed, before the final day of trial was appointed.
Hernandez was proved to be the natural son of the Duke of Villaflor, by whom a large fortune was bestowed upon him. He had been educated from infancy by a corrupt tutor, who pandered to all his youthful vices. His education was consequently grossly neglected; and his violent passions unsubdued by example or precept, exhibited themselves in a thousand frightful shapes, giving evidence of a wretched career through after life. On the death of his father, the guardians appointed over him, perceiving the danger of his position, placed him at the College of Salamanca, under the strictest surveillance of prudent masters. This restraint poured fire upon the flame, and he had not been many months so situated before a fellow student, who had given him some offence, either real or imaginary, was killed in a duel by him. The matter being duly investigated, nothing was brought home to Hernandez that could implicate him in any unfair act or premeditated malice towards his dead companion, and the only punishment was expulsion from the college.
"For what purpose did you come to Seville, prisoner ?" asked the judge. "To amuse myself to seek for pleasure, and to spend my fortune. I merely proposed staying a few days on my road to Madrid."
"What induced you to remain longer than you at first proposed?"
"A pretty woman,"
"How old are you?"
"I shall be fifteen in two months."
"What determined your stay after you had seen the person you allude to ?"
"I shall not answer that question."
"What is the female's name?"
"Donna Maria de Ribeira," replied Hernandez, in a firm voice, and looking upon her with his basilisk's eyes.
"Speak of that lady, prisoner, with becoming respect, as the wife of the Count de Benevente," observed the judge.
"My respect for the noble countess has already been proved; but I pray the court to decide my fate, and that quickly; for if you have the right of putting me to death, you have not that of imposing a greater torture than I have experienced during seven months. Decide, therefore, quickly, either life or death."
He refused the assistance of counsel. His defence, if it could be so called, was simple and laconic, he never denied the act of murder, merely stating that it was not his wish to have injured Donna Niévés. As to his intentions
towards Donna Maria, they were clearly expressed-it was her death he had contemplated.
The tribunal, after a long consideration of the prisoner's age, and some extenuating circumstances, pronounced the sentence of seven years imprisonment in the Castle of Xativa, and banishment from Spain should the prisoner survive that period. The expenses attending his trial and consequent incarceration to be defrayed out of Hernandez's property on his attaining his majority, and one half of the remaining amount to be given to the religious houses of Seville, under trust of such guardians as the king might be pleased to appoint for the execution of the said sentence; Hernandez being no longer amenable to any guardianship but that of the law of condemned criminals.
"I should have much preferred death," said Hernandez, as he unmoved heard this judgment delivered; there is, however, some consolation in it, for when the gates of the tomb are closed, they form an eternal barrier between its inmates and the world. But when the doors of a prison are shut, Time and Hope are keys that can unlock them. Countess of Benavente, if I live, we shall meet again, under circumstances which may induce you to grant the favour of dancing El Rey don Morso with a man, though you have refused to do so with a child. Remember well the 15th of September, seven years hence. I shall not forget my promise-If I live we shall meet again." This was rapidly spoken in an under tone as he was passing near to where the count and his wife were seated, amongst other witnesses.
"What is the wretch saying to you, my love, that you turn so pale ?"
She pressed Alphonso's hands, and answered with an agitated voice, “The murderer says we shall meet again this time seven years. Oh! Holy Mother forbid it."
"It is an idle threat, my beloved Maria, banish it for ever from your remembrance. The monster never more can disturb your happiness." "Heaven in its mercy grant your words may prove true, Alphonso." (To be concluded.)
If hitherto we have not said we loved,