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"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
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