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Margaret curtseyed and thanked her, whereon she said very graciously:
"Come here, Senora, 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:
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