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Peg curtsied, and replied in modest tone-
THE WIDOW OF GALICIA. There lived in the Province of Galicia, a lady so perfectly beautiful, that she was called by all who beheld her, “ The Flower of Spain.” It too frequently happens that such handsome women are but as beautiful weeds, useless—or even noxious; whereas, with her excelling charms, she possessed all those virtues which should properly inhabit in so lovely a person. She had therefore many wooers, but especially a certain old knight of Castile,—bulky in person, and with hideously coarse features,—who, as he was exceedingly wealthy, made the most tempting offers to induce her to become his mistress,
and failing in that object, by reason of her strict virtue, he proposed to espouse her. But she, despising him as a bad and brutal man, which was his character, let fall the blessing of her affection on a young gentleman of small estate but good reputation in the province, and being speedily married, they lived together for three years very happily. Notwithstanding this, the abominable knight did not cease to persecute her, till being rudely checked by her husband, and threatened with his vengeance, he desisted for a season.
It happened at the end of the third year of their marriage, that her husband being unhappily murdered on his return from Madrid, whither he had been called by a lawsuit, she was left without protection; and, from the failure of the cause, much straitened, besides, in her means of living. This time, therefore, the knight thought favourable to renew his importunities; and, neither respecting the sacredness of her grief nor her forlorn state, he molested her so continually, that if it had not been for the love of her fatherless child, she would have been content to die. For if the knight was odious before, he was now thrice hateful from his undisguised brutality, and, above all, execrable in her eyes, from a suspicion that he had procured the assassination of her dear husband. She was obliged, however, to confine this belief to her own bosom, for her persecutor was rich and powerful, and wanted not the means, and scarcely the will, to crush her. Many families had thus suffered by his malignity, and therefore she only awaited the arrangement of certain private affairs, to withdraw secretly, with her scanty maintenance, into some remote village. There she hoped to be free from her inhuman suitor; but she was delivered from this trouble by his death, yet in so terrible a manner, as made it more grievous to her than his life had ever been.
It wanted, at this event, but a few days of the time when the lady proposed to remove to her country-lodging, taking with her a maid who was called Maria ; for, since the reduction of her fortune, she had retained but this one servant. Now it happened when the lady one day opened the closet in her bed-chamber, there tumbled forward the dead body of a man; and the police being summoned by her shrieks, soon recognised the corpse to be that of the old Castilian knight, though the countenance was so blackened and disfigured as to seem scarcely human. It was sufficiently evident that he had perished by poison; whereupon the unhappy lady being interrogated, was unable to give any account of the matter; and, in spite of her fair reputation, and although she appealed to God in behalf of her innocence, she was thrown into the common gaol, along with other reputed murderers.
The criminal addresses of the deceased knight being generally known, many persons who believed in her guilt still pitied her, and excused the cruelty of the deed on account of the persecution she had suffered from that wicked man: but these were the most charitable of her judges. The violent death of her husband, which before had been only attributed to robbers, was now assigned by scandalous persons to her own act; and the whole province was shocked that a lady of her fair seeming, and of such unblemished character, should have brought so heavy a disgrace upon her sex, and upon human nature.
At her trial, therefore, the court was crowded to excess; and some few generous persons were not without a hope of her acquittal; but the same facts, as before, being proved upon oath, and the lady still producing no justification, but only asserting her innocence, there remained no reasonable cause for doubting of her guilt. The Public Advocate then began to plead, as his painful duty commanded him, for her condemnation. He urged the facts of her acquaintance and bad terms with the murdered knight; and, moreover, certain expressions of hatred which she had been heard to utter against him. The very
scene and manner of his destruction, he said, spoke to her undoubted prejudice—the first, a private closet in her own bed-chamber-and the last, by poison, which was likely to be employed by a woman, rather than any weapon of violence. Afterwards, he interpreted to the same conclusion, the abrupt flight of the waiting-maid, who, like a guilty and fearful accomplice, had disappeared whenever her mistress was arrested; and, finally, he recalled the still mysterious fate of her late husband, so that all who heard him began to bend their brows solemnly, and some reproachfully, on the unhappy object of his discourse. Still she upheld herself firmly and calmly, only from time to time lifting her eyes towards heaven; but when she heard the death of her dear husband touched upon, and in a manner that laid his blood to her charge, she stood forward, and placing her right hand on the head of her son, cried :
“ So witness God, if ever I shed his father's blood, so may this, his dear child, shed mine in vengeance.”
Then sinking down from exhaustion, and the child weeping bitterly over her, the beholders were again touched with compassion, almost to the doubting of her guilt; but the evidence being so strong against her, she was immediately condemned by the court.
It was the custom in those days for a woman who had committed murder, to be first strangled by the hangman, and then burnt to ashes in the midst of the market-place; but before this horrible sentence could be pronounced on the lady, a fresh witness was moved by the grace of God to come forward in her behalf. This was the waitingwoman, Maria, who hitherto had remained disguised in the body of the court; but now being touched with remorse at her lady's unmerited distresses, she stood up on one of the benches, and called out earnestly to be allowed to make her confession.-She then related, that she herself had been prevailed upon, by several great sums of money, and still more by the artful and seducing promises
of the dead knight, to secrete him in a closet in her lady's chamber; but that of the cause of his death she knew nothing, except that upon a shelf she had placed some sweet cakes, mixed with arsenic, to poison the rats, and that the knight, being rather gluttonous, might have eaten of them in the dark, and so died.
At this probable explanation, the people all shouted one shout, and the lady's innocence being acknowledged, the sentence was ordered to be reversed; but she, reviving a little at the noise, and being told of this providence, only clasped her hands; and then, in a few words, commending her son to the guardianship of good men, and saying that she could never survive the shame of her unworthy reproach, she ended with a deep sigh, and expired upon the spot.
BY WILLIAM KENNEDY. It was not for the diamond ring, proud youth! upon thy hand; It was not for thy poble name; it was not for thy land :I saw no gem, no lordly name, no broad domain with thee, The day thy seeming fondness stole my peace of mind from me. You came; I knew not whence you came; we met; 'twas in the dance; There was honey in each word you spoke, and glamour in each glance ; Though many were around me then, I noted none but him Before whose brow of sunny sheen fresh fallen snow were dim. You went-it was a weary night we parted at the burn; You swore, by all the stars above, that you would soon return!That you would soon return, light love! and I your bride should be, But backward will the burnie roll ere you come back to me! They say that soon a smiling dame, of lineage like to thine, Will take thee by the fickle hand thy falsehood placed in mine : The music and the rose-red wine to greet her will appear, For wedding song a sigh I'll have—for wedding pledge, a tear! Why could'st thou not have passed me by in coldness or in pride, Nor wrought this deadly wrong to her who on thy truth relied ? It ill became a manly heart such poor return to make To one who would have perilled life with pleasure for its sake!