THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
THEfollowing work was found in the library of an ancient Catholicfamily inthe north of England. It was printed at Naplesin theblackletterin the year 1529. How much sooner it was written doesnotappear. The principal incidents are such as were believed inthedarkestages of Christianity; but the language and conduct havenothingthat savours of barbarism. The style is the purest Italian.
If thestory was written near the time when it is supposed to havehappenedit must have been between 1095the era of the firstCrusadeand 1243the date of the lastor not long afterwards. There isno other circumstance in the work that can lead us to guessat theperiod in which the scene is laid: the names of the actors areevidentlyfictitiousand probably disguised on purpose: yet theSpanishnames of the domestics seem to indicate that this work was notcomposeduntil the establishment of the Arragonian Kings in Naples hadmadeSpanish appellations familiar in that country. The beauty ofthedictionand the zeal of the author (moderatedhoweverby singularjudgment)concur to make me think that the date of the composition waslittleantecedent to that of the impression. Letters were then intheir mostflourishing state in Italyand contributed to dispel theempire ofsuperstitionat that time so forcibly attacked by thereformers. It is not unlikely that an artful priest might endeavourto turntheir own arms on the innovatorsand might avail himself ofhisabilities as an author to confirm the populace in their ancienterrors andsuperstitions. If this was his viewhe has certainlyacted withsignal address. Such a work as the following would enslavea hundredvulgar minds beyond half the books of controversy that havebeenwritten from the days of Luther to the present hour.
Thissolution of the author's motives ishoweveroffered as a mereconjecture. Whatever his views wereor whatever effects theexecutionof them might havehis work can only be laid before thepublic atpresent as a matter of entertainment. Even as suchsomeapologyfor it is necessary. Miraclesvisionsnecromancydreamsand otherpreternatural eventsare exploded now even from romances. That wasnot the case when our author wrote; much less when the storyitself issupposed to have happened. Belief in every kind of prodigywas soestablished in those dark agesthat an author would not befaithfulto the manners of the timeswho should omit all mention ofthem. He is not bound to believe them himselfbut he must representhis actorsas believing them.
If thisair of the miraculous is excusedthe reader will find nothingelseunworthy of his perusal. Allow the possibility of the factsandall theactors comport themselves as persons would do in theirsituation. There is no bombastno similesflowersdigressionsorunnecessarydescriptions. Everything tends directly to thecatastrophe. Never is the reader's attention relaxed. The rules ofthe dramaare almost observed throughout the conduct of the piece. Thecharacters are well drawnand still better maintained. Terrortheauthor's principal engineprevents the story from everlanguishing;and it is so often contrasted by pitythat the mind iskept up ina constant vicissitude of interesting passions.
Somepersons may perhaps think the characters of the domestics toolittleserious for the general cast of the story; but besides theiroppositionto the principal personagesthe art of the author is veryobservablein his conduct of the subalterns. They discover manypassagesessential to the storywhich could not be well brought tolight butby their NAIVETE and simplicity. In particularthewomanishterror and foibles of Biancain the last chapterconduceessentiallytowards advancing the catastrophe.
It isnatural for a translator to be prejudiced in favour of hisadoptedwork. More impartial readers may not be so much struck withthebeauties of this piece as I was. Yet I am not blind to myauthor'sdefects. I could wish he had grounded his plan on a moreusefulmoral than this: that "the sins of fathers are visited ontheirchildren to the third and fourth generation." I doubtwhetherin histimeany more than at presentambition curbed its appetite ofdominionfrom the dread of so remote a punishment. And yet this moralisweakened by that less direct insinuationthat even such anathemamay bediverted by devotion to St. Nicholas. Here the interest of theMonkplainly gets the better of the judgment of the author. Howeverwith allits faultsI have no doubt but the English reader will bepleasedwith a sight of this performance. The piety that reignsthroughoutthe lessons of virtue that are inculcatedand the rigidpurity ofthe sentimentsexempt this work from the censure to whichromancesare but too liable. Should it meet with the success I hopeforI maybe encouraged to reprint the original Italianthough itwill tendto depreciate my own labour. Our language falls far shortof thecharms of the Italianboth for variety and harmony. Thelatter ispeculiarly excellent for simple narrative. It is difficultin Englishto relate without falling too low or rising too high; afaultobviously occasioned by the little care taken to speak purelanguagein common conversation. Every Italian or Frenchman of anyrankpiques himself on speaking his own tongue correctly and withchoice. I cannot flatter myself with having done justice to my authorin thisrespect: his style is as elegant as his conduct of thepassionsis masterly. It is a pity that he did not apply his talentsto whatthey were evidently proper for - the theatre.
I willdetain the reader no longerbut to make one short remark. Though themachinery is inventionand the names of the actorsimaginaryI cannot but believe that the groundwork of the story isfounded ontruth. The scene is undoubtedly laid in some real castle. The authorseems frequentlywithout designto describe particularparts. "The chamber" says he"on the right hand;" "thedoor on thelefthand;" "the distance from the chapel to Conrad'sapartment:"these andother passages are strong presumptions that the author hadsomecertain building in his eye. Curious personswho have leisureto employin such researchesmay possibly discover in the Italianwritersthe foundation on which our author has built. If acatastropheat all resembling that which he describesis believed tohave givenrise to this workit will contribute to interest thereaderand will make the "Castle of Otranto a still more movingstory.
SONNET TOTHE RIGHT HONOURABLE LADY MARY COKE
THEgentle maidwhose hapless tale
Thesemelancholy pages speak;
Saygracious ladyshall she fail
To drawthe tear adown thy cheek?
No;never was thy pitying breast
Insensibleto human woes;
Tendertho' firmit melts distrest
Forweaknesses it never knows.
Oh!guard the marvels I relate
Of fellambition scourg'd by fate
Fromreason's peevish blame.
Blestwith thy smilemy dauntless sail
I dareexpand to Fancy's gale
Forsure thy smiles are Fame.
MANFREDPrince of Otrantohad one son and one daughter: the lattera mostbeautiful virginaged eighteenwas called Matilda. Conradthe sonwas three years youngera homely youthsicklyand of nopromisingdisposition; yet he was the darling of his fatherwho nevershowed anysymptoms of affection to Matilda. Manfred had contracted amarriagefor his son with the Marquis of Vicenza's daughterIsabella;and shehad already been delivered by her guardians into the hands ofManfredthat he might celebrate the wedding as soon as Conrad'sinfirmstate of health would permit.
Manfred'simpatience for this ceremonial was remarked by his familyandneighbours. The formerindeedapprehending the severity oftheirPrince's dispositiondid not dare to utter their surmises onthisprecipitation. Hippolitahis wifean amiable ladydidsometimesventure to represent the danger of marrying their only sonso earlyconsidering his great youthand greater infirmities; butshe neverreceived any other answer than reflections on her ownsterilitywho had given him but one heir. His tenants and subjectswere lesscautious in their discourses. They attributed this hastywedding tothe Prince's dread of seeing accomplished an ancientprophecywhich was said to have pronounced that the castle andlordshipof Otranto "should pass from the present familywhenever thereal ownershould be grown too large to inhabit it." It was difficultto makeany sense of this prophecy; and still less easy to conceivewhat ithad to do with the marriage in question. Yet these mysteriesorcontradictionsdid not make the populace adhere the less to theiropinion.
YoungConrad's birthday was fixed for his espousals. The company wasassembledin the chapel of the Castleand everything ready forbeginningthe divine officewhen Conrad himself was missing. Manfredimpatient of the least delayand who had not observed hissonretiredespatched one of his attendants to summon the youngPrince. The servantwho had not stayed long enough to have crossedthe courtto Conrad's apartmentcame running back breathlessin afranticmannerhis eyes staringand foaming at the month. He saidnothingbut pointed to the court.
Thecompany were struck with terror and amazement. The PrincessHippolitawithout knowing what was the matterbut anxious for hersonswooned away. Manfredless apprehensive than enraged at theprocrastinationof the nuptialsand at the folly of his domesticaskedimperiously what was the matter? The fellow made no answerbutcontinuedpointing towards the court-yard; and at lastafter repeatedquestionsput to himcried out"Oh! the helmet! the helmet!"
In themeantimesome of the company had run into the courtfromwhence washeard a confused noise of shriekshorrorand surprise. Manfredwho began to be alarmed at not seeing his sonwent himselfto getinformation of what occasioned this strange confusion. Matildaremainedendeavouring to assist her motherand Isabella stayed forthe samepurposeand to avoid showing any impatience for thebridegroomfor whomin truthshe had conceived little affection.
The firstthing that struck Manfred's eyes was a group of his servantsendeavouringto raise something that appeared to him a mountain ofsableplumes. He gazed without believing his sight.
"Whatare ye doing?" cried Manfredwrathfully; "where is myson?"
A volleyof voices replied"Oh! my Lord! the Prince! the Prince! thehelmet!the helmet!"
Shockedwith these lamentable soundsand dreading he knew not whatheadvanced hastily- but what a sight for a father's eyes! - hebeheld hischild dashed to piecesand almost buried under an enormoushelmetanhundred times more large than any casque ever made forhumanbeingand shaded with a proportionable quantity of blackfeathers.
The horrorof the spectaclethe ignorance of all around how thismisfortunehad happenedand above allthe tremendous phenomenonbeforehimtook away the Prince's speech. Yet his silence lastedlongerthan even grief could occasion. He fixed his eyes on what hewished invain to believe a vision; and seemed less attentive to hislossthanburied in meditation on the stupendous object that hadoccasionedit. He touchedhe examined the fatal casque; nor couldeven thebleeding mangled remains of the young Prince divert the eyesof Manfredfrom the portent before him.
All whohad known his partial fondness for young Conradwere as muchsurprisedat their Prince's insensibilityas thunderstruck themselvesat themiracle of the helmet. They conveyed the disfigured corpseinto thehallwithout receiving the least direction from Manfred. Aslittle washe attentive to the ladies who remained in the chapel. Onthecontrarywithout mentioning the unhappy princesseshis wife anddaughterthe first sounds that dropped from Manfred's lips were"Takecare of the Lady Isabella."
Thedomesticswithout observing the singularity of this directionwereguided by their affection to their mistressto consider it aspeculiarlyaddressed to her situationand flew to her assistance. Theyconveyed her to her chamber more dead than aliveand indifferentto all thestrange circumstances she heardexcept the death of herson.
Matildawho doted on her mothersmothered her own grief andamazementand thought of nothing but assisting and comforting herafflictedparent. Isabellawho had been treated by Hippolita like adaughterand who returned that tenderness with equal duty andaffectionwas scarce less assiduous about the Princess; at the sametimeendeavouring to partake and lessen the weight of sorrow which shesawMatilda strove to suppressfor whom she had conceived the warmestsympathyof friendship. Yet her own situation could not help findingits placein her thoughts. She felt no concern for the death of youngConradexcept commiseration; and she was not sorry to be deliveredfrom amarriage which had promised her little felicityeither fromherdestined bridegroomor from the severe temper of Manfredwhothough hehad distinguished her by great indulgencehad imprinted hermind withterrorfrom his causeless rigour to such amiable princessesasHippolita and Matilda.
While theladies were conveying the wretched mother to her bedManfredremained in the courtgazing on the ominous casqueandregardlessof the crowd which the strangeness of the event had nowassembledaround him. The few words he articulatedtended solely toinquirieswhether any man knew from whence it could have come? Nobodycould give him the least information. Howeveras it seemed tobe thesole object of his curiosityit soon became so to the rest ofthespectatorswhose conjectures were as absurd and improbableasthecatastrophe itself was unprecedented. In the midst of theirsenselessguessesa young peasantwhom rumour had drawn thither fromaneighbouring villageobserved that the miraculous helmet wasexactlylike that on the figure in black marble of Alfonso the Goodone oftheir former princesin the church of St. Nicholas.
"Villain! What sayest thou?" cried Manfredstarting from his trancein atempest of rageand seizing the young man by the collar; "howdarestthou utter such treason? Thy life shall pay for it."
Thespectatorswho as little comprehended the cause of the Prince'sfury asall the rest they had seenwere at a loss to unravel this newcircumstance. The young peasant himself was still more astonishednotconceiving how he had offended the Prince. Yet recollectinghimselfwith a mixture of grace and humilityhe disengaged himselffromManfred's gripand then with an obeisancewhich discovered morejealousyof innocence than dismayhe askedwith respectof what hewasguilty? Manfredmore enraged at the vigourhowever decentlyexertedwith which the young man had shaken off his holdthanappeasedby his submissionordered his attendants to seize himandif he hadnot been withheld by his friends whom he had invited to thenuptialswould have poignarded the peasant in their arms.
Duringthis altercationsome of the vulgar spectators had run to thegreatchurchwhich stood near the castleand came back open-moutheddeclaringthat the helmet was missing from Alfonso's statue. Manfredat thisnewsgrew perfectly frantic; andas if he sought a subjecton whichto vent the tempest within himhe rushed again on the youngpeasantcrying -
"Villain!Monster! Sorcerer! 'tis thou hast done this! 'tis thou hastslain myson!"
The mobwho wanted some object within the scope of their capacitieson whomthey might discharge their bewildered reasoningcaught thewords fromthe mouth of their lordand re-echoed -
"Ayay; 'tis he'tis he: he has stolen the helmet from goodAlfonso'stomband dashed out the brains of our young Prince withit"never reflecting how enormous the disproportion was between themarblehelmet that had been in the churchand that of steel beforetheireyes; nor how impossible it was for a youth seemingly nottwentytowield a piece of armour of so prodigious a weight
The follyof these ejaculations brought Manfred to himself: yetwhetherprovoked at the peasant having observed the resemblancebetweenthe two helmetsand thereby led to the farther discovery oftheabsence of that in the churchor wishing to bury any such rumourunder soimpertinent a suppositionhe gravely pronounced that theyoung manwas certainly a necromancerand that till the Church couldtakecognisance of the affairhe would have the Magicianwhom theyhad thusdetectedkept prisoner under the helmet itselfwhich heorderedhis attendants to raiseand place the young man under it;declaringhe should be kept there without foodwith which his owninfernalart might furnish him.
It was invain for the youth to represent against this preposteroussentence: in vain did Manfred's friends endeavour to divert him fromthissavage and ill-grounded resolution. The generality were charmedwith theirlord's decisionwhichto their apprehensionscarriedgreatappearance of justiceas the Magician was to be punished by theveryinstrument with which he had offended: nor were they struckwiththe leastcompunction at the probability of the youth being starvedfor theyfirmly believed thatby his diabolic skillhe could easilysupplyhimself with nutriment.
Manfredthus saw his commands even cheerfully obeyed; and appointing aguard withstrict orders to prevent any food being conveyed to theprisonerhe dismissed his friends and attendantsand retired to hisownchamberafter locking the gates of the castlein which hesufferednone but his domestics to remain.
In themeantimethe care and zeal of the young Ladies had brought thePrincessHippolita to herselfwho amidst the transports of her ownsorrowfrequently demanded news of her lordwould have dismissed herattendantsto watch over himand at last enjoined Matilda to leaveherandvisit and comfort her father. Matildawho wanted noaffectionateduty to Manfredthough she trembled at his austerityobeyed theorders of Hippolitawhom she tenderly recommended toIsabella;and inquiring of the domestics for her fatherwas informedthat hewas retired to his chamberand had commanded that nobodyshouldhave admittance to him. Concluding that he was immersed insorrow forthe death of her brotherand fearing to renew his tears bythe sightof his sole remaining childshe hesitated whether sheshouldbreak in upon his affliction; yet solicitude for himbacked bythecommands of her motherencouraged her to venture disobeying theorders hehad given; a fault she had never been guilty of before.
The gentletimidity of her nature made her pause for some minutes athis door. She heard him traverse his chamber backwardsand forwardswithdisordered steps; a mood which increased her apprehensions. Shewashoweverjust going to beg admittancewhen Manfred suddenlyopened thedoor; and as it was now twilightconcurring with thedisorderof his mindhe did not distinguish the personbut askedangrilywho it was? Matilda repliedtrembling -
"Mydearest fatherit is Iyour daughter."
Manfredstepping back hastilycried"Begone! I do not want adaughter;"and flinging back abruptlyclapped the door against theterrifiedMatilda.
She wastoo well acquainted with her father's impetuosity to venture asecondintrusion. When she had a little recovered the shock of sobitter areceptionshe wiped away her tears to prevent the additionalstab thatthe knowledge of it would give to Hippolitawho questionedher in themost anxious terms on the health of Manfredand how hebore hisloss. Matilda assured her he was welland supported hismisfortunewith manly fortitude.
"Butwill he not let me see him?" said Hippolita mournfully; "willhenot permitme to blend my tears with hisand shed a mother's sorrowsin thebosom of her Lord? Or do you deceive meMatilda? I knowhowManfreddoted on his son: is not the stroke too heavy for him? has henot sunkunder it? You do not answer me - alas! I dread the worst! -Raise memy maidens; I willI will see my Lord. Bear me to himinstantly: he is dearer to me even than my children."
Matildamade signs to Isabella to prevent Hippolita's rising; and boththoselovely young women were using their gentle violence to stop andcalm thePrincesswhen a servanton the part of Manfredarrived andtoldIsabella that his Lord demanded to speak with her.
"Withme!" cried Isabella.
"Go"said Hippolitarelieved by a message from her Lord: "Manfredcannotsupport the sight of his own family. He thinks you lessdisorderedthan we areand dreads the shock of my grief. ConsolehimdearIsabellaand tell him I will smother my own anguish ratherthan addto his."
As it wasnow evening the servant who conducted Isabella bore a torchbeforeher. When they came to Manfredwho was walking impatientlyabout thegalleryhe startedand said hastily -
"Takeaway that lightand begone."
Thenshutting the door impetuouslyhe flung himself upon a benchagainstthe walland bade Isabella sit by him. She obeyed trembling.
"Isent for youLady" said he - and then stopped under greatappearanceof confusion.
"YesI sent for you on a matter of great moment" resumed he. "Dryyourtearsyoung Lady - you have lost your bridegroom. Yescruelfate! andI have lost the hopes of my race! But Conrad was not worthyof yourbeauty."
"Howmy Lord!" said Isabella; "sure you do not suspect me of notfeelingthe concern I ought: my duty and affection would have always- "
"Thinkno more of him" interrupted Manfred; "he was a sicklypunychildandHeaven has perhaps taken him awaythat I might not trustthehonours of my house on so frail a foundation. The line ofManfredcalls fornumerous supports. My foolish fondness for that boy blindedthe eyesof my prudence - but it is better as it is. I hopein a fewyearstohave reason to rejoice at the death of Conrad."
Wordscannot paint the astonishment of Isabella. At first sheapprehendedthat grief had disordered Manfred's understanding. Hernextthought suggested that this strange discourse was designed toensnareher: she feared that Manfred had perceived her indifferencefor hisson: and in consequence of that idea she replied -
"Goodmy Lorddo not doubt my tenderness: my heart would haveaccompaniedmy hand. Conrad would have engrossed all my care; andwhereverfate shall dispose of meI shall always cherish his memoryand regardyour Highness and the virtuous Hippolita as my parents."
"Curseon Hippolita!" cried Manfred. "Forget her from thismomentasI do. In shortLadyyou have missed a husband undeserving of yourcharms: they shall now be better disposed of. Instead of a sicklyboyyoushall have a husband in the prime of his agewho will knowhow tovalue your beautiesand who may expect a numerous offspring."
"Alasmy Lord!" said Isabella"my mind is too sadly engrossed bytherecentcatastrophe in your family to think of another marriage. Ifever myfather returnsand it shall be his pleasureI shall obeyasI did whenI consented to give my hand to your son: but until hisreturnpermit me to remain under your hospitable roofand employ themelancholyhours in assuaging yoursHippolita'sand the fairMatilda'saffliction."
"Idesired you once before" said Manfred angrily"not toname thatwoman: from this hour she must be a stranger to youas she must beto me. In shortIsabellasince I cannot give you my sonI offeryoumyself."
"Heavens!"cried Isabellawaking from her delusion"what do I hear? You! myLord! You! My father-in-law! the father of Conrad! thehusband ofthe virtuous and tender Hippolita!"
"Itell you" said Manfred imperiously"Hippolita is nolonger mywife; Idivorce her from this hour. Too long has she cursed me by herunfruitfulness. My fate depends on having sonsand this night Itrust willgive a new date to my hopes."
At thosewords he seized the cold hand of Isabellawho was half deadwithfright and horror. She shriekedand started from himManfredrose topursue herwhen the moonwhich was now upand gleamed in attheopposite casementpresented to his sight the plumes of the fatalhelmetwhich rose to the height of the windowswaving backwards andforwardsin a tempestuous mannerand accompanied with a hollow andrustlingsound. Isabellawho gathered courage from her situationand whodreaded nothing so much as Manfred's pursuit of hisdeclarationcried -
"Lookmy Lord! seeHeaven itself declares against your impiousintentions!"
"Heavennor Hell shall impede my designs" said Manfredadvancingagain toseize the Princess.
At thatinstant the portrait of his grandfatherwhich hung over thebenchwhere they had been sittinguttered a deep sighand heaved itsbreast.
Isabellawhose back was turned to the picturesaw not the motionnor knewwhence the sound camebut startedand said -
"Harkmy Lord! What sound was that?" and at the same time madetowardsthe door.
Manfreddistracted between the flight of Isabellawho had nowreachedthe stairsand yet unable to keep his eyes from the picturewhichbegan to movehadhoweveradvanced some steps after herstilllooking backwards on the portraitwhen he saw it quit itspanelanddescend on the floor with a grave and melancholy air.
"Do Idream?" cried Manfredreturning; "or are the devilsthemselvesin leagueagainst me? Speakinternal spectre! Orif thou art mygrandsirewhy dost thou too conspire against thy wretched descendantwho toodearly pays for - " Ere he could finish the sentencethevisionsighed againand made a sign to Manfred to follow him.
"Leadon!" cried Manfred; "I will follow thee to the gulf ofperdition."
Thespectre marched sedatelybut dejectedto the end of the galleryand turnedinto a chamber on the right hand. Manfred accompanied himat alittle distancefull of anxiety and horrorbut resolved. Ashewould haveentered the chamberthe door was clapped to with violenceby aninvisible hand. The Princecollecting courage from this delaywould haveforcibly burst open the door with his footbut found thatitresisted his utmost efforts.
"SinceHell will not satisfy my curiosity" said Manfred"I willusethe humanmeans in my power for preserving my race; Isabella shall notescapeme."
The ladywhose resolution had given way to terror the moment she hadquittedManfredcontinued her flight to the bottom of the principalstaircase. There she stoppednot knowing whither to direct herstepsnorhow to escape from the impetuosity of the Prince. Thegates ofthe castleshe knewwere lockedand guards placed in thecourt. Should sheas her heart prompted hergo and prepareHippolitafor the cruel destiny that awaited hershe did not doubtbutManfred would seek her thereand that his violence would incitehim todouble the injury he meditatedwithout leaving room for themto avoidthe impetuosity of his passions. Delay might give him timeto reflecton the horrid measures he had conceivedor produce somecircumstancein her favourif she could - for that nightat least -avoid hisodious purpose. Yet where conceal herself? How avoid thepursuit hewould infallibly make throughout the castle?
As thesethoughts passed rapidly through her mindshe recollected asubterraneouspassage which led from the vaults of the castle to thechurch ofSt. Nicholas. Could she reach the altar before she wasovertakenshe knew even Manfred's violence would not dare to profanethesacredness of the place; and she determinedif no other means ofdeliveranceofferedto shut herself up for ever among the holyvirginswhose convent was contiguous to the cathedral. In thisresolutionshe seized a lamp that burned at the foot of thestaircaseand hurried towards the secret passage.
The lowerpart of the castle was hollowed into several intricatecloisters;and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to findthe doorthat opened into the cavern. An awful silence reignedthroughoutthose subterraneous regionsexcept now and then someblasts ofwind that shook the doors she had passedand whichgratingon therusty hingeswere re-echoed through that long labyrinth ofdarkness. Every murmur struck her with new terror; yet more shedreaded tohear the wrathful voice of Manfred urging his domestics topursueher.
She trodas softly as impatience would give her leaveyet frequentlystoppedand listened to hear if she was followed. In one of thosemomentsshe thought she heard a sigh. She shudderedand recoiled afewpaces. In a moment she thought she heard the step of someperson. Her bloodcurdled; she concluded it was Manfred. Every suggestionthathorror could inspire rushed into her mind. She condemned herrashflightwhich had thus exposed her to his rage in a place whereher crieswere not likely to draw anybody to her assistance. Yet thesoundseemed not to come from behind. If Manfred knew where she washe musthave followed her. She was still in one of the cloistersandthe stepsshe had heard were too distinct to proceed from the way shehad come. Cheered with this reflectionand hoping to find a friendin whoeverwas not the Princeshe was going to advancewhen a doorthat stoodajarat some distance to the leftwas opened gently: butere herlampwhich she held upcould discover who opened itthepersonretreated precipitately on seeing the light.
Isabellawhom every incident was sufficient to dismayhesitatedwhethershe should proceed. Her dread of Manfred soon outweighedeveryother terror. The very circumstance of the person avoiding hergave her asort of courage. It could only beshe thoughtsomedomesticbelonging to the castle. Her gentleness had never raised heran enemyand conscious innocence made her hope thatunless sent bythePrince's order to seek herhis servants would rather assist thanpreventher flight. Fortifying herself with these reflectionsandbelievingby what she could observe that she was near the mouth of thesubterraneouscavernshe approached the door that had been opened;but asudden gust of wind that met her at the door extinguished herlampandleft her in total darkness.
Wordscannot paint the horror of the Princess's situation. Alone inso dismala placeher mind imprinted with all the terrible events ofthe dayhopeless of escapingexpecting every moment the arrival ofManfredand far from tranquil on knowing she was within reach ofsomebodyshe knew not whomwho for some cause seemed concealedthereabouts;all these thoughts crowded on her distracted mindandshe wasready to sink under her apprehensions. She addressed herselfto everysaint in heavenand inwardly implored their assistance. Foraconsiderable time she remained in an agony of despair.
At lastas softly as was possibleshe felt for the doorand havingfound itentered trembling into the vault from whence she had heardthe sighand steps. It gave her a kind of momentary joy to perceiveanimperfect ray of clouded moonshine gleam from the roof of thevaultwhich seemed to be fallen inand from whence hung a fragmentof earthor buildingshe could not distinguish whichthat appearedto havebeen crushed inwards. She advanced eagerly towards thischasmwhen she discerned a human form standing close against thewall.
Sheshriekedbelieving it the ghost of her betrothed Conrad. Thefigureadvancingsaidin a submissive voice -
"Benot alarmedLady; I will not injure you."
Isabellaa little encouraged by the words and tone of voice of thestrangerand recollecting that this must be the person who had openedthe doorrecovered her spirits enough to reply -
"Sirwhoever you aretake pity on a wretched Princessstanding onthe brinkof destruction. Assist me to escape from this fatal castleor in afew moments I may be made miserable for ever."
"Alas!"said the stranger"what can I do to assist you? I willdiein yourdefence; but I am unacquainted with the castleand want - "
"Oh!"said Isabellahastily interrupting him; "help me but to find atrap-doorthat must be hereaboutand it is the greatest service youcan do mefor I have not a minute to lose."
Saying athese wordsshe felt about on the pavementand directed thestrangerto search likewisefor a smooth piece of brass enclosed inone of thestones.
"That"said she"is the lockwhich opens with a springof which Iknow thesecret. If we can find thatI may escape - if notalas!courteousstrangerI fear I shall have involved you in mymisfortunes: Manfred will suspect you for the accomplice of myflightand you will fall a victim to his resentment."
"Ivalue not my life" said the stranger"and it will be somecomfortto lose itin trying to deliver you from his tyranny."
"Generousyouth" said Isabella"how shall I ever requite - "
As sheuttered those wordsa ray of moonshinestreaming through acranny ofthe ruin aboveshone directly on the lock they sought.
"Oh!transport!" said Isabella; "here is the trap-door!"andtakingout thekeyshe touched the springwhichstarting asidediscoveredan ironring. "Lift up the door" said the Princess.
Thestranger obeyedand beneath appeared some stone steps descendinginto avault totally dark.
"Wemust go down here" said Isabella. "Follow me; darkand dismal asit iswecannot miss our way; it leads directly to the church of St.Nicholas. Butperhaps" added the Princess modestly"you have noreason toleave the castlenor have I farther occasion for yourservice;in a few minutes I shall be safe from Manfred's rage - onlylet meknow to whom I am so much obliged."
"Iwill never quit you" said the stranger eagerly"until Ihaveplaced youin safety - nor think mePrincessmore generous than Iam; thoughyou are my principal care - "
Thestranger was interrupted by a sudden noise of voices that seemedapproachingand they soon distinguished these words -
"Talknot to me of necromancers; I tell you she must be in the castle;I willfind her in spite of enchantment."
"Ohheavens!" cried Isabella; "it is the voice of Manfred! Makehasteorwe are ruined! and shut the trap-door after you."
Sayingthisshe descended the steps precipitately; and as thestrangerhastened to follow herhe let the door slip out of hishands: it felland the spring closed over it. He tried in vain toopen itnot having observed Isabella's method of touching the spring;nor had hemany moments to make an essay. The noise of the fallingdoor hadbeen heard by Manfredwhodirected by the soundhastenedthitherattended by his servants with torches.
"Itmust be Isabella" cried Manfredbefore he entered the vault. "Sheis escaping by the subterraneous passagebut she cannot have gotfar."
What wasthe astonishment of the Prince wheninstead of Isabellathelight ofthe torches discovered to him the young peasant whom hethoughtconfined under the fatal helmet!
"Traitor!"said Manfred; "how camest thou here? I thought thee induranceabove in the court."
"I amno traitor" replied the young man boldly"nor am Ianswerablefor yourthoughts."
"Presumptuousvillain!" cried Manfred; "dost thou provoke my wrath? Tell mehow hast thou escaped from above? Thou hast corrupted thyguardsand their lives shall answer it."
"Mypoverty" said the peasant calmly"will disculpate them: thoughtheministers of a tyrant's wrathto thee they are faithfuland buttoowilling to execute the orders which you unjustly imposed uponthem."
"Artthou so hardy as to dare my vengeance?" said the Prince; "buttorturesshall force the truth from thee. Tell me; I will know thyaccomplices."
"Therewas my accomplice!" said the youthsmilingand pointing tothe roof.
Manfredordered the torches to be held upand perceived that one ofthe cheeksof the enchanted casque had forced its way through thepavementof the courtas his servants had let it fall over thepeasantand had broken through into the vaultleaving a gapthroughwhich thepeasant had pressed himself some minutes before he was foundbyIsabella.
"Wasthat the way by which thou didst descend?" said Manfred.
"Itwas" said the youth.
"Butwhat noise was that" said Manfred"which I heard as Ienteredthecloister?"
"Adoor clapped" said the peasant; "I heard it as well asyou."
"Whatdoor?" said Manfred hastily.
"I amnot acquainted with your castle" said the peasant; "thisis thefirst timeI ever entered itand this vault the only part of itwithinwhich I ever was."
"ButI tell thee" said Manfred (wishing to find out if the youth haddiscoveredthe trap-door)"it was this way I heard the noise. Myservantsheard it too."
"MyLord" interrupted one of them officiously"to be sure itwas thetrap-doorand he was going to make his escape."
"Peaceblockhead!" said the Prince angrily; "if he was going toescapehow should he come on this side? I will know from his ownmouth whatnoise it was I heard. Tell me truly; thy life depends onthyveracity."
"Myveracity is dearer to me than my life" said the peasant; "norwould Ipurchase the one by forfeiting the other."
"Indeedyoung philosopher!" said Manfred contemptuously; "tell methenwhatwas the noise I heard?"
"Askme what I can answer" said he"and put me to deathinstantly ifI tell youa lie."
Manfredgrowing impatient at the steady valour and indifference ofthe youthcried -
"Wellthenthou man of truthanswer! Was it the fall of the trap-door thatI heard?"
"Itwas" said the youth.
"Itwas!" said the Prince; "and how didst thou come to knowthere wasatrap-door here?"
"Isaw the plate of brass by a gleam of moonshine" replied he.
"Butwhat told thee it was a lock?" said Manfred. "Howdidst thoudiscoverthe secret of opening it?"
"Providencethat delivered me from the helmetwas able to direct meto thespring of a lock" said he.
"Providenceshould have gone a little fartherand have placed theeout of thereach of my resentment" said Manfred. "WhenProvidencehad taughtthee to open the lockit abandoned thee for a foolwhodid notknow how to make use of its favours. Why didst thou notpursue thepath pointed out for thy escape? Why didst thou shut thetrap-doorbefore thou hadst descended the steps?"
"Imight ask youmy Lord" said the peasant"how Itotallyunacquaintedwith your castlewas to know that those steps led to anyoutlet?but I scorn to evade your questions. Wherever those stepslead toperhaps I should have explored the way - I could not be in aworsesituation than I was. But the truth isI let the trap-doorfall: your immediate arrival followed. I had given the alarm - whatimportedit to me whether I was seized a minute sooner or a minutelater?"
"Thouart a resolute villain for thy years" said Manfred; "yetonreflectionI suspect thou dost but trifle with me. Thou hast not yettold mehow thou didst open the lock."
"ThatI will show youmy Lord" said the peasant; andtaking up afragmentof stone that had fallen from abovehe laid himself on thetrap-doorand began to beat on the piece of brass that covered itmeaning togain time for the escape of the Princess. This presence ofmindjoined to the frankness of the youthstaggered Manfred. Heeven felta disposition towards pardoning one who had been guilty ofno crime. Manfred was not one of those savage tyrants who wanton incrueltyunprovoked. The circumstances of his fortune had given anasperityto his temperwhich was naturally humane; and his virtueswerealways ready to operatewhen his passions did not obscure hisreason.
While thePrince was in this suspensea confused noise of voicesechoedthrough the distant vaults. As the sound approachedhedistinguishedthe clamours of some of his domesticswhom he haddispersedthrough the castle in search of Isabellacalling out -
"Whereis my Lord? where is the Prince?"
"HereI am" said Manfredas they came nearer; "have you foundthePrincess?"
The firstthat arrivedreplied"Ohmy Lord! I am glad we havefoundyou."
"Foundme!" said Manfred; "have you found the Princess?"
"Wethought we hadmy Lord" said the fellowlooking terrified"but- "
"Butwhat?" cried the Prince; "has she escaped?"
"Jaquezand Imy Lord - "
"YesI and Diego" interrupted the secondwho came up in stillgreaterconsternation.
"Speakone of you at a time" said Manfred; "I ask youwhere isthePrincess?"
"Wedo not know" said they both together; "but we arefrightened outof ourwits."
"So Ithinkblockheads" said Manfred; "what is it has scaredyouthus?"
"Oh!my Lord" said Jaquez"Diego has seen such a sight! yourHighnesswould not believe our eyes."
"Whatnew absurdity is this?" cried Manfred; "give me a directanswerorbyHeaven - "
"Whymy Lordif it please your Highness to hear me" said the poorfellow"Diego and I - "
"YesI and Jaquez - " cried his comrade.
"Didnot I forbid you to speak both at a time?" said the Prince: "youJaquezanswer; for the other fool seems more distracted thanthou art;what is the matter?"
"Mygracious Lord" said Jaquez"if it please your Highness tohearme; Diegoand Iaccording to your Highness's orderswent to searchfor theyoung Lady; but being comprehensive that we might meet theghost ofmy young Lordyour Highness's sonGod rest his soulas hehas notreceived Christian burial - "
"Sot!"cried Manfred in a rage; "is it only a ghostthenthat thouhastseen?"
"Oh!worse! worse! my Lord" cried Diego: "I had ratherhave seen tenwholeghosts."
"Grantme patience!" said Manfred; "these blockheads distract me. Outof mysightDiego! and thouJaqueztell me in one wordart thousober? artthou raving? thou wast wont to have some sense: has theother sotfrightened himself and thee too? Speak; what is it hefancies hehas seen?"
"Whymy Lord" replied Jaqueztrembling"I was going to tellyourHighnessthat since the calamitous misfortune of my young LordGodrest hisprecious soul! not one of us your Highness's faithfulservants -indeed we aremy Lordthough poor men - I saynot one ofus hasdared to set a foot about the castlebut two together: soDiego andIthinking that my young Lady might be in the greatgallerywent up there to look for herand tell her your Highnesswantedsomething to impart to her."
"Oblundering fools!" cried Manfred; "and in the meantimeshehasmade herescapebecause you were afraid of goblins! - Whythouknave! sheleft me in the gallery; I came from thence myself."
"Forall thatshe may be there still for aught I know" said Jaquez;"butthe devil shall have me before I seek her there again - poorDiego! I do not believe he will ever recover it."
"Recoverwhat?" said Manfred; "am I never to learn what it is hasterrifiedthese rascals? - but I lose my time; follow meslave; Iwill seeif she is in the gallery."
"ForHeaven's sakemy deargood Lord" cried Jaquez"do notgo tothegallery. Satan himself I believe is in the chamber next to thegallery."
Manfredwho hitherto had treated the terror of his servants as anidlepanicwas struck at this new circumstance. He recollected theapparitionof the portraitand the sudden closing of the door at theend of thegallery. His voice falteredand he asked with disorder -
"Whatis in the great chamber?"
"MyLord" said Jaquez"when Diego and I came into thegalleryhewentfirstfor he said he had more courage than I. So when we cameinto thegallery we found nobody. We looked under every bench andstool; andstill we found nobody."
"Wereall the pictures in their places?" said Manfred.
"Yesmy Lord" answered Jaquez; "but we did not think of lookingbehindthem."
"Wellwell!" said Manfred; "proceed."
"Whenwe came to the door of the great chamber" continued Jaquez"wefound itshut."
"Andcould not you open it?" said Manfred.
"Oh!yesmy Lord; would to Heaven we had not!" replied he - "nayitwas not Ineither; it was Diego: he was grown foolhardyand would goonthoughI advised him not - if ever I open a door that is shutagain - "
"Triflenot" said Manfredshuddering"but tell me what you sawinthe greatchamber on opening the door."
"I!my Lord!" said Jaquez; "I was behind Diego; but I heard thenoise."
"Jaquez"said Manfredin a solemn tone of voice; "tell meI adjurethee bythe souls of my ancestorswhat was it thou sawest? what wasit thouheardest?"
"Itwas Diego saw itmy Lordit was not I" replied Jaquez; "Ionlyheard thenoise. Diego had no sooner opened the doorthan he criedoutandran back. I ran back tooand said'Is it the ghost?' 'Theghost! nono' said Diegoand his hair stood on end - 'it is agiantIbelieve; he is all clad in armourfor I saw his foot andpart ofhis legand they are as large as the helmet below in thecourt.' As he said these wordsmy Lordwe heard a violent motionand therattling of armouras if the giant was risingfor Diego hastold mesince that he believes the giant was lying downfor the footand legwere stretched at length on the floor. Before we could get tothe end ofthe gallerywe heard the door of the great chamber clapbehind usbut we did not dare turn back to see if the giant wasfollowingus - yetnow I think on itwe must have heard him if hehadpursued us - but for Heaven's sakegood my Lordsend for thechaplainand have the castle exorcisedforfor certainit isenchanted."
"Aypray domy Lord" cried all the servants at once"or wemustleave yourHighness's service."
"Peacedotards!" said Manfred"and follow me; I will know whatallthismeans."
"We!my Lord!" cried they with one voice; "we would not go up tothegalleryfor your Highness's revenue." The young peasantwho hadstoodsilentnow spoke.
"Willyour Highness" said he"permit me to try this adventure? Mylife is ofconsequence to nobody; I fear no bad angeland haveoffendedno good one."
"Yourbehaviour is above your seeming" said Manfredviewing him withsurpriseand admiration - "hereafter I will reward your bravery - butnow"continued he with a sigh"I am so circumstancedthat I daretrust noeyes but my own. HoweverI give you leave to accompany me."
Manfredwhen he first followed Isabella from the galleryhad gonedirectlyto the apartment of his wifeconcluding the Princess hadretiredthither. Hippolitawho knew his steprose with anxiousfondnessto meet her Lordwhom she had not seen since the death oftheirson. She would have flown in a transport mixed of joy and griefto hisbosombut he pushed her rudely offand said -
"Isabella!my Lord!" said the astonished Hippolita.
"YesIsabella" cried Manfred imperiously; "I want Isabella."
"MyLord" replied Matildawho perceived how much his behaviour hadshockedher mother"she has not been with us since your Highnesssummonedher to your apartment."
"Tellme where she is" said the Prince; "I do not want to knowwhereshe hasbeen."
"Mygood Lord" says Hippolita"your daughter tells you thetruth: Isabellaleft us by your commandand has not returned since; - butmy goodLordcompose yourself: retire to your rest: this dismaldayhasdisordered you. Isabella shall wait your orders in themorning."
"Whatthenyou know where she is!" cried Manfred. "Tell medirectlyfor I will not lose an instant - and youwoman" speakingto hiswife"order your chaplain to attend me forthwith."
"Isabella"said Hippolita calmly"is retiredI supposeto herchamber: she is not accustomed to watch at this late hour. Graciousmy Lord"continued she"let me know what has disturbed you. HasIsabellaoffended you?"
"Troubleme not with questions" said Manfred"but tell me wheresheis."
"Matildashall call her" said the Princess. "Sit downmyLordandresumeyour wonted fortitude."
"Whatart thou jealous of Isabella?" replied he"that you wishto bepresent atour interview!"
"Goodheavens! my Lord" said Hippolita"what is it yourHighnessmeans?"
"Thouwilt know ere many minutes are passed" said the cruel Prince. "Sendyour chaplain to meand wait my pleasure here."
At thesewords he flung out of the room in search of Isabellaleavingthe amazedladies thunderstruck with his words and frantic deportmentand lostin vain conjectures on what he was meditating.
Manfredwas now returning from the vaultattended by the peasant anda few ofhis servants whom he had obliged to accompany him. Heascendedthe staircase without stopping till he arrived at thegalleryat the door of which he met Hippolita and her chaplain. WhenDiego hadbeen dismissed by Manfredhe had gone directly to thePrincess'sapartment with the alarm of what he had seen. ThatexcellentLadywho no more than Manfred doubted of the reality of thevisionyet affected to treat it as a delirium of the servant. Willinghoweverto save her Lord from any additional shockandpreparedby a series of griefs not to tremble at any accession to itshedetermined to make herself the first sacrificeif fate had markedthepresent hour for their destruction. Dismissing the reluctantMatilda toher restwho in vain sued for leave to accompany hermotherand attended only by her chaplainHippolita had visited thegalleryand great chamber; and now with more serenity of soul than shehad feltfor many hoursshe met her Lordand assured him that thevision ofthe gigantic leg and foot was all a fable; and no doubt animpressionmade by fearand the dark and dismal hour of the nightonthe mindsof his servants. She and the chaplain had examined thechamberand found everything in the usual order.
Manfredthough persuadedlike his wifethat the vision had been nowork offancyrecovered a little from the tempest of mind into whichso manystrange events had thrown him. Ashamedtooof his inhumantreatmentof a Princess who returned every injury with new marks oftendernessand dutyhe felt returning love forcing itself into hiseyes; butnot less ashamed of feeling remorse towards one against whomhe wasinwardly meditating a yet more bitter outragehe curbed theyearningsof his heartand did not dare to lean even towards pity. The nexttransition of his soul was to exquisite villainy.
Presumingon the unshaken submission of Hippolitahe flatteredhimselfthat she would not only acquiesce with patience to a divorcebut wouldobeyif it was his pleasurein endeavouring to persuadeIsabellato give him her hand - but ere he could indulge his horridhopehereflected that Isabella was not to be found. Coming tohimselfhe gave orders that every avenue to the castle should bestrictlyguardedand charged his domestics on pain of their lives tosuffernobody to pass out. The young peasantto whom he spokefavourablyhe ordered to remain in a small chamber on the stairsinwhichthere was a pallet-bedand the key of which he took awayhimselftelling the youth he would talk with him in the morning. Thendismissing his attendantsand bestowing a sullen kind of half-nod onHippolitahe retired to his own chamber.
MATILDAwho by Hippolita's order had retired to her apartmentwasill-disposedto take any rest. The shocking fate of her brother haddeeplyaffected her. She was surprised at not seeing Isabella; butthestrange words which had fallen from her fatherand his obscuremenace tothe Princess his wifeaccompanied by the most furiousbehaviourhad filled her gentle mind with terror and alarm. Shewaitedanxiously for the return of Biancaa young damsel thatattendedherwhom she had sent to learn what was become of Isabella. Biancasoon appearedand informed her mistress of what she hadgatheredfrom the servantsthat Isabella was nowhere to be found. Sherelated the adventure of the young peasant who had been discoveredin thevaultthough with many simple additions from the incoherentaccountsof the domestics; and she dwelt principally on the giganticleg andfoot which had been seen in the gallery-chamber. This lastcircumstancehad terrified Bianca so muchthat she was rejoiced whenMatildatold her that she would not go to restbut would watch tillthePrincess should rise.
The youngPrincess wearied herself in conjectures on the flight ofIsabellaand on the threats of Manfred to her mother. "But whatbusinesscould he have so urgent with the chaplain?" said Matilda"Doeshe intend to have my brother's body interred privately in thechapel?"
"OhMadam!" said Bianca"now I guess. As you are becomehisheiresshe is impatient to have you married: he has always beenraving formore sons; I warrant he is now impatient for grandsons. Assure as IliveMadamI shall see you a bride at last. - Good madamyou won'tcast off your faithful Bianca: you won't put Donna Rosaraover menow you are a great Princess."
"Mypoor Bianca" said Matilda"how fast your thoughts amble! I agreatprincess! What hast thou seen in Manfred's behaviour since mybrother'sdeath that bespeaks any increase of tenderness to me? NoBianca;his heart was ever a stranger to me - but he is my fatherandI must notcomplain. Nayif Heaven shuts my father's heart againstmeitoverpays my little merit in the tenderness of my mother - Othat dearmother! yesBianca'tis there I feel the rugged temper ofManfred. I can support his harshness to me with patience; but itwounds mysoul when I am witness to his causeless severity towardsher."
"Oh!Madam" said Bianca"all men use their wives sowhen theyareweary ofthem."
"Andyet you congratulated me but now" said Matilda"when youfancied myfather intended to dispose of me!"
"Iwould have you a great Lady" replied Bianca"come whatwill. Ido notwish to see you moped in a conventas you would be if you hadyour willand if my Ladyyour motherwho knows that a bad husbandis betterthan no husband at alldid not hinder you. - Bless me! whatnoise isthat! St. Nicholas forgive me! I was but in jest."
"Itis the wind" said Matilda"whistling through thebattlements inthe towerabove: you have heard it a thousand times."
"Nay"said Bianca"there was no harm neither in what I said: itisno sin totalk of matrimony - and soMadamas I was sayingif myLordManfred should offer you a handsome young Prince for abridegroomyou would drop him a curtseyand tell him you wouldrathertake the veil?"
"ThankHeaven! I am in no such danger" said Matilda: "youknow howmanyproposals for me he has rejected - "
"Andyou thank himlike a dutiful daughterdo youMadam? ButcomeMadam;supposeto-morrow morninghe was to send for you to the greatcouncilchamberand there you should find at his elbow a lovely youngPrincewith large black eyesa smooth white foreheadand manlycurlinglocks like jet; in shortMadama young hero resembling thepicture ofthe good Alfonso in the gallerywhich you sit and gaze atfor hourstogether - "
"Donot speak lightly of that picture" interrupted Matilda sighing;"Iknow the adoration with which I look at that picture is uncommon -but I amnot in love with a coloured panel. The character of thatvirtuousPrincethe veneration with which my mother has inspired mefor hismemorythe orisons whichI know not whyshe has enjoined meto pourforth at his tomball have concurred to persuade me thatsomehow orother my destiny is linked with something relating to him."
"LordMadam! how should that be?" said Bianca; "I have alwaysheardthat yourfamily was in no way related to his: and I am sure I cannotconceivewhy my Ladythe Princesssends you in a cold morning or adampevening to pray at his tomb: he is no saint by the almanack. Ifyou mustpraywhy does she not bid you address yourself to our greatSt.Nicholas? I am sure he is the saint I pray to for a husband."
"Perhapsmy mind would be less affected" said Matilda"if mymotherwouldexplain her reasons to me: but it is the mystery she observesthatinspires me with this - I know not what to call it. As sheneveracts fromcapriceI am sure there is some fatal secret at bottom -nayIknow there is: in her agony of grief for my brother's deathshedropped some words that intimated as much."
"Oh!dear Madam" cried Bianca"what were they?"
"No"said Matilda"if a parent lets fall a wordand wishes itrecalledit is not for a child to utter it."
"What!was she sorry for what she had said?" asked Bianca; "I amsureMadamyoumay trust me - "
"Withmy own little secrets when I have anyI may" said Matilda;"butnever with my mother's: a child ought to have no ears or eyesbut as aparent directs."
"Well!to be sureMadamyou were born to be a saint" said Bianca"andthere is no resisting one's vocation: you will end in a conventat last. But there is my Lady Isabella would not be so reserved tome: she will let me talk to her of young men: and when a handsomecavalierhas come to the castleshe has owned to me that she wishedyourbrother Conrad resembled him."
"Bianca"said the Princess"I do not allow you to mention my frienddisrespectfully. Isabella is of a cheerful dispositionbut her soulis pure asvirtue itself. She knows your idle babbling humourandperhapshas now and then encouraged itto divert melancholyandenliventhe solitude in which my father keeps us - "
"BlessedMary!" said Biancastarting"there it is again! DearMadamdoyou hear nothing? this castle is certainly haunted!"
"Peace!"said Matilda"and listen! I did think I heard a voice -butit must befancy: your terrorsI supposehave infected me."
"Indeed!indeed! Madam" said Biancahalf-weeping with agony"Iamsure Iheard a voice."
"Doesanybody lie in the chamber beneath?" said the Princess.
"Nobodyhas dared to lie there" answered Bianca"since the greatastrologerthat was your brother's tutordrowned himself. ForcertainMadamhis ghost and the young Prince's are now met in thechamberbelow - for Heaven's sake let us fly to your mother'sapartment!"
"Icharge you not to stir" said Matilda. "If they arespirits inpainwemay ease their sufferings by questioning them. They can meanno hurt tousfor we have not injured them - and if they shouldshall webe more safe in one chamber than in another? Reach me mybeads; wewill say a prayerand then speak to them."
"Oh!dear LadyI would not speak to a ghost for the world!" criedBianca. As she said those words they heard the casement of the littlechamberbelow Matilda's open. They listened attentivelyand in a fewminutesthought they heard a person singbut could not distinguishthe words.
"Thiscan be no evil spirit" said the Princessin a low voice; "itisundoubtedly one of the family - open the windowand we shall knowthevoice."
"Idare notindeedMadam" said Bianca.
"Thouart a very fool" said Matildaopening the window gentlyherself. The noise the Princess made washoweverheard by thepersonbeneathwho stopped; and they concluded had heard the casementopen.
"Isanybody below?" said the Princess; "if there isspeak."
"Yes"said an unknown voice.
"Whois it?" said Matilda.
"Astranger" replied the voice.
"Whatstranger?" said she; "and how didst thou come there at thisunusualhourwhen all the gates of the castle are locked?"
"I amnot here willingly" answered the voice. "But pardonmeLadyif I havedisturbed your rest; I knew not that I was overheard. Sleephadforsaken me; I left a restless couchand came to waste theirksomehours with gazing on the fair approach of morningimpatientto bedismissed from this castle."
"Thywords and accents" said Matilda"are of melancholy cast;ifthou artunhappyI pity thee. If poverty afflicts theelet me knowit; I willmention thee to the Princesswhose beneficent soul evermelts forthe distressedand she will relieve thee."
"I amindeed unhappy" said the stranger; "and I know not whatwealthis. But I do not complain of the lot which Heaven has cast for me; Iam youngand healthyand am not ashamed of owing my support to myself- yetthink me not proudor that I disdain your generous offers. Iwillremember you in my orisonsand will pray for blessings on yourgraciousself and your noble mistress - if I sighLadyit is forothersnot for myself."
"NowI have itMadam" said Biancawhispering the Princess; "thisiscertainlythe young peasant; andby my consciencehe is in love -Well! thisis a charming adventure! - doMadamlet us sift him. Hedoes notknow youbut takes you for one of my Lady Hippolita'swomen."
"Artthou not ashamedBianca!" said the Princess. "Whatright havewe to pryinto the secrets of this young man's heart? He seemsvirtuousand frankand tells us he is unhappy. Are thosecircumstancesthat authorise us to make a property of him? How are weentitledto his confidence?"
"LordMadam! how little you know of love!" replied Bianca; "whylovershave no pleasure equal to talking of their mistress."
"Andwould you have ME become a peasant's confidante?" said thePrincess.
"Wellthenlet me talk to him" said Bianca; "though I have thehonour ofbeing your Highness's maid of honourI was not always sogreat. Besidesif love levels ranksit raises them too; I have arespectfor any young man in love."
"Peacesimpleton!" said the Princess. "Though he said he wasunhappyit does not follow that he must be in love. Think of allthat hashappened to-dayand tell me if there are no misfortunes butwhat lovecauses. - Stranger" resumed the Princess"if thymisfortuneshave not been occasioned by thy own faultand are withinthecompass of the Princess Hippolita's power to redressI will takeupon me toanswer that she will be thy protectress. When thou artdismissedfrom this castlerepair to holy father Jeromeat theconventadjoining to the church of St. Nicholasand make thy storyknown tohimas far as thou thinkest meet. He will not fail toinform thePrincesswho is the mother of all that want herassistance. Farewell; it is not seemly for me to hold fartherconversewith a man at this unwonted hour."
"Maythe saints guard theegracious Lady!" replied the peasant; "butoh! if apoor and worthless stranger might presume to beg a minute'saudiencefarther; am I so happy? the casement is not shut; might Iventure toask - "
"Speakquickly" said Matilda; "the morning dawns apace: should thelabourerscome into the fields and perceive us - What wouldst thouask?"
"Iknow not howI know not if I dare" said the Young strangerfaltering;"yet the humanity with which you have spoken to meemboldens- Lady! dare I trust you?"
"Heavens!"said Matilda"what dost thou mean? With what wouldst thoutrust me? Speak boldlyif thy secret is fit to be entrusted to avirtuousbreast."
"Iwould ask" said the peasantrecollecting himself"whetherwhat Ihave heardfrom the domestics is truethat the Princess is missingfrom thecastle?"
"Whatimports it to thee to know?" replied Matilda. "Thyfirst wordsbespoke aprudent and becoming gravity. Dost thou come hither to pryinto thesecrets of Manfred? Adieu. I have been mistaken inthee." Sayingthese words she shut the casement hastilywithout giving theyoung mantime to reply.
"Ihad acted more wisely" said the Princess to Biancawith somesharpness"if I had let thee converse with this peasant; hisinquisitivenessseems of a piece with thy own."
"Itis not fit for me to argue with your Highness" replied Bianca;"butperhaps the questions I should have put to him would have beenmore tothe purpose than those you have been pleased to ask him."
"Oh!no doubt" said Matilda; "you are a very discreetpersonage! MayI knowwhat YOU would have asked him?"
"Abystander often sees more of the game than those that play"answeredBianca. "Does your Highness thinkMadamthat thisquestionabout myLady Isabella was the result of mere curiosity? NonoMadamthere is more in it than you great folks are aware of. Lopeztold methat all the servants believe this young fellow contrived myLadyIsabella's escape; nowprayMadamobserve you and I both knowthat myLady Isabella never much fancied the Prince your brother. Well! heis killed just in a critical minute - I accuse nobody. Ahelmetfalls from the moon - somy Lordyour father says; but Lopezand allthe servants say that this young spark is a magicianandstole itfrom Alfonso's tomb - "
"Havedone with this rhapsody of impertinence" said Matilda.
"NayMadamas you please" cried Bianca; "yet it is veryparticularthoughthat my Lady Isabella should be missing the very same dayandthat thisyoung sorcerer should be found at the mouth of the trap-door. I accuse nobody; but if my young Lord came honestly by hisdeath - "
"Darenot on thy duty" said Matilda"to breathe a suspicion onthepurity ofmy dear Isabella's fame."
"Purityor not purity" said Bianca"gone she is - a stranger isfound thatnobody knows; you question him yourself; he tells you he isin loveor unhappyit is the same thing - nayhe owned he wasunhappyabout others; and is anybody unhappy about anotherunlessthey arein love with them? and at the very next wordhe asksinnocentlypour soul! if my Lady Isabella is missing."
"Tobe sure" said Matilda"thy observations are not totallywithoutfoundation- Isabella's flight amazes me. The curiosity of thestrangeris very particular; yet Isabella never concealed a thoughtfrom me."
"Soshe told you" said Bianca"to fish out your secrets; butwhoknowsMadambut this stranger may be some Prince in disguise? DoMadamletme open the windowand ask him a few questions."
"No"replied Matilda"I will ask him myselfif he knows aught ofIsabella;he is not worthy I should converse farther with him." Shewas goingto open the casementwhen they heard the bell ring at thepostern-gateof the castlewhich is on the right hand of the towerwhereMatilda lay. This prevented the Princess from renewing theconversationwith the stranger.
Aftercontinuing silent for some time"I am persuaded" said shetoBianca"that whatever be the cause of Isabella's flight it had nounworthymotive. If this stranger was accessory to itshe must besatisfiedwith his fidelity and worth. I observeddid not youBianca?that his words were tinctured with an uncommon infusion ofpiety. It was no ruffian's speech; his phrases were becoming a man ofgentlebirth."
"Itold youMadam" said Bianca"that I was sure he was somePrinceindisguise."
"Yet"said Matilda"if he was privy to her escapehow will youaccountfor his not accompanying her in her flight? why expose himselfunnecessarilyand rashly to my father's resentment?"
"Asfor thatMadam" replied she"if he could get from underthehelmethewill find ways of eluding your father's anger. I do notdoubt buthe has some talisman or other about him."
"Youresolve everything into magic" said Matilda; "but a manwho hasanyintercourse with infernal spiritsdoes not dare to make use ofthosetremendous and holy words which he uttered. Didst thou notobservewith what fervour he vowed to remember ME to heaven in hisprayers? Yes; Isabella was undoubtedly convinced of his piety."
"Commendme to the piety of a young fellow and a damsel that consultto elope!"said Bianca. "NonoMadammy Lady Isabella is ofanotherguess mould than you take her for. She used indeed to sighand liftup her eyes in your companybecause she knows you are asaint; butwhen your back was turned - "
"Youwrong her" said Matilda; "Isabella is no hypocrite; shehas adue senseof devotionbut never affected a call she has not. On thecontraryshe always combated my inclination for the cloister; andthough Iown the mystery she has made to me of her flight confoundsme; thoughit seems inconsistent with the friendship between us; Icannotforget the disinterested warmth with which she always opposedmy takingthe veil. She wished to see me marriedthough my dowerwould havebeen a loss to her and my brother's children. For her sakeI willbelieve well of this young peasant."
"Thenyou do think there is some liking between them" said Bianca. While shewas speakinga servant came hastily into the chamber andtold thePrincess that the Lady Isabella was found.
"Shehas taken sanctuary in St. Nicholas's church" replied theservant;"Father Jerome has brought the news himself; he is below withhisHighness."
"Whereis my mother?" said Matilda.
"Sheis in her own chamberMadamand has asked for you."
Manfredhad risen at the first dawn of lightand gone to Hippolita'sapartmentto inquire if she knew aught of Isabella. While he wasquestioningherword was brought that Jerome demanded to speak withhim. Manfredlittle suspecting the cause of the Friar's arrivalandknowing hewas employed by Hippolita in her charitiesordered him tobeadmittedintending to leave them togetherwhile he pursued hissearchafter Isabella.
"Isyour business with me or the Princess?" said Manfred.
"Withboth" replied the holy man. "The Lady Isabella - "
"Whatof her?" interrupted Manfredeagerly.
"Isat St. Nicholas's altar" replied Jerome.
"Thatis no business of Hippolita" said Manfred with confusion; "letus retireto my chamberFatherand inform me how she came thither."
"Nomy Lord" replied the good manwith an air of firmness andauthoritythat daunted even the resolute Manfredwho could not helpreveringthe saint-like virtues of Jerome; "my commission is to bothand withyour Highness's good-likingin the presence of both I shalldeliverit; but firstmy LordI must interrogate the Princesswhethershe is acquainted with the cause of the Lady Isabella'sretirementfrom your castle."
"Noon my soul" said Hippolita; "does Isabella charge me withbeingprivy toit?"
"Father" interrupted Manfred"I pay due reverence to your holyprofession;but I am sovereign hereand will allow no meddling priesttointerfere in the affairs of my domestic. If you have aught tosayattend meto my chamber; I do not use to let my wife be acquaintedwith thesecret affairs of my state; they are not within a woman'sprovince."
"MyLord" said the holy man"I am no intruder into thesecrets offamilies. My office is to promote peaceto heal divisionsto preachrepentanceand teach mankind to curb their headstrong passions. Iforgiveyour Highness's uncharitable apostrophe; I know my dutyandam theminister of a mightier prince than Manfred. Hearken to him whospeaksthrough my organs."
Manfredtrembled with rage and shame. Hippolita's countenancedeclaredher astonishment and impatience to know where this would end. Hersilence more strongly spoke her observance of Manfred.
"TheLady Isabella" resumed Jerome"commends herself to bothyourHighnesses;she thanks both for the kindness with which she has beentreated inyour castle: she deplores the loss of your sonand herownmisfortune in not becoming the daughter of such wise and noblePrinceswhom she shall always respect as Parents; she prays foruninterruptedunion and felicity between you" [Manfred's colourchanged]: "but as it is no longer possible for her to be allied toyousheentreats your consent to remain in sanctuarytill she canlearn newsof her fatherorby the certainty of his deathbe atlibertywith the approbation of her guardiansto dispose of herselfinsuitable marriage."
"Ishall give no such consent" said the Prince"but insiston herreturn tothe castle without delay: I am answerable for her person toherguardiansand will not brook her being in any hands but my own."
"YourHighness will recollect whether that can any longer be proper"repliedthe Friar.
"Iwant no monitor" said Manfredcolouring; "Isabella'sconductleavesroom for strange suspicions - and that young villainwho wasat leastthe accomplice of her flightif not the cause of it - "
"Thecause!" interrupted Jerome; "was a YOUNG man the cause?"
"Thisis not to be borne!" cried Manfred. "Am I to bebearded in myown palaceby an insolent Monk? Thou art privyI guessto theiramours."
"Iwould pray to heaven to clear up your uncharitable surmises"saidJerome"if your Highness were not satisfied in your conscience howunjustlyyou accuse me. I do pray to heaven to pardon thatuncharitableness: and I implore your Highness to leave the Princessat peacein that holy placewhere she is not liable to be disturbedby suchvain and worldly fantasies as discourses of love from anyman."
"Cantnot to me" said Manfred"but return and bring thePrincess toher duty."
"Itis my duty to prevent her return hither" said Jerome. "She iswhereorphans and virgins are safest from the snares and wiles of thisworld; andnothing but a parent's authority shall take her thence."
"I amher parent" cried Manfred"and demand her."
"Shewished to have you for her parent" said the Friar; "butHeaventhatforbad that connection has for ever dissolved all ties betwixtyou: and I announce to your Highness - "
"Stop!audacious man" said Manfred"and dread my displeasure."
"Holyfarther" said Hippolita"it is your office to be norespecterofpersons: you must speak as your duty prescribes: but itis myduty tohear nothing that it pleases not my Lord I should hear. Attend thePrince to his chamber. I will retire to my oratoryandpray tothe blessed Virgin to inspire you with her holy counselsandto restorethe heart of my gracious Lord to its wonted peace andgentleness."
"Excellentwoman!" said the Friar. "My LordI attend yourpleasure."
Manfredaccompanied by the Friarpassed to his own apartmentwhereshuttingthe door"I perceiveFather" said he"thatIsabella hasacquaintedyou with my purpose. Now hear my resolveand obey. Reasons ofstatemost urgent reasonsmy own and the safety of mypeopledemand that I should have a son. It is in vain to expect anheir fromHippolita. I have made choice of Isabella. You must bringher back;and you must do more. I know the influence you have withHippolita: her conscience is in your hands. She isI allowafaultlesswoman: her soul is set on heavenand scorns the littlegrandeurof this world: you can withdraw her from it entirely. Persuadeher to consent to the dissolution of our marriageand toretireinto a monastery - she shall endow one if she will; and sheshall havethe means of being as liberal to your order as she or youcan wish. Thus you will divert the calamities that are hanging overour headsand have the merit of saying the principality of Otrantofromdestruction. You are a prudent manand though the warmth of mytemperbetrayed me into some unbecoming expressionsI honour yourvirtueand wish to be indebted to you for the repose of my life andthepreservation of my family."
"Thewill of heaven be done!" said the Friar. "I am butits worthlessinstrument. It makes use of my tongue to tell theePrinceof thyunwarrantabledesigns. The injuries of the virtuous Hippolita havemounted tothe throne of pity. By me thou art reprimanded for thyadulterousintention of repudiating her: by me thou art warned not topursue theincestuous design on thy contracted daughter. Heaven thatdeliveredher from thy furywhen the judgments so recently fallen onthy houseought to have inspired thee with other thoughtswillcontinueto watch over her. Even Ia poor and despised Friaramable toprotect her from thy violence - Isinner as I amanduncharitablyreviled by your Highness as an accomplice of I know notwhatamoursscorn the allurements with which it has pleased thee totempt minehonesty. I love my order; I honour devout souls; I respectthe pietyof thy Princess - but I will not betray the confidence shereposes inmenor serve even the cause of religion by foul and sinfulcompliances- but forsooth! the welfare of the state depends on yourHighnesshaving a son! Heaven mocks the short-sighted views of man. Butyester-mornwhose house was so greatso flourishing asManfred's?- where is young Conrad now? - My LordI respect yourtears -but I mean not to check them - let them flowPrince! Theywill weighmore with heaven toward the welfare of thy subjectsthan amarriagewhichfounded on lust or policycould never prosper. Thesceptrewhich passed from the race of Alfonso to thinecannot bepreservedby a match which the church will never allow. If it is thewill ofthe Most High that Manfred's name must perishresignyourselfmy Lordto its decrees; and thus deserve a crown that cannever passaway. Comemy Lord; I like this sorrow - let us return tothePrincess: she is not apprised of your cruel intentions; nor didImean morethan to alarm you. You saw with what gentle patiencewithwhatefforts of loveshe heardshe rejected hearingthe extent ofyourguilt. I know she longs to fold you in her armsand assure youof herunalterable affection."
"Father"said the Prince"you mistake my compunction: trueIhonourHippolita's virtues; I think her a Saint; and wish it were formy soul'shealth to tie faster the knot that has united us - but alas!Fatheryou know not the bitterest of my pangs! it is some time that Ihave hadscruples on the legality of our union: Hippolita is relatedto me inthe fourth degree - it is truewe had a dispensation: but Ihave beeninformed that she had also been contracted to another. Thisit is thatsits heavy at my heart: to this state of unlawful wedlockI imputethe visitation that has fallen on me in the death of Conrad!- ease myconscience of this burden: dissolve our marriageandaccomplishthe work of godliness - which your divine exhortations havecommencedin my soul."
Howcutting was the anguish which the good man feltwhen he perceivedthis turnin the wily Prince! He trembled for Hippolitawhose ruinhe saw wasdetermined; and he feared if Manfred had no hope ofrecoveringIsabellathat his impatience for a son would direct him tosome otherobjectwho might not be equally proof against thetemptationof Manfred's rank. For some time the holy man remainedabsorbedin thought. At lengthconceiving some hopes from delayhethoughtthe wisest conduct would be to prevent the Prince fromdespairingof recovering Isabella. Her the Friar knew he coulddisposefrom her affection to Hippolitaand from the aversion shehadexpressed to him for Manfred's addressesto second his viewstill thecensures of the church could be fulminated against a divorce. With thisintentionas if struck with the Prince's scrupleshe atlengthsaid:
"MyLordI have been pondering on what your Highness has said; and ifin truthit is delicacy of conscience that is the real motive of yourrepugnanceto your virtuous Ladyfar be it from me to endeavour tohardenyour heart. The church is an indulgent mother: unfoldyourgriefs toher: she alone can administer comfort to your souleitherbysatisfying your conscienceor upon examination of your scruplesby settingyou at libertyand indulging you in the lawful means ofcontinuingyour lineage. In the latter caseif the Lady Isabella canbe broughtto consent - "
Manfredwho concluded that he had either over-reached the good manor thathis first warmth had been but a tribute paid to appearancewasoverjoyed at this sudden turnand repeated the most magnificentpromisesif he should succeed by the Friar's mediation. The well-meaningpriest suffered him to deceive himselffully determined totraversehis viewsinstead of seconding them.
"Sincewe now understand one another" resumed the Prince"IexpectFatherthat you satisfy me in one point. Who is the youth that Ifound inthe vault? He must have been privy to Isabella's flight: tell metrulyis he her lover? or is he an agent for another'spassion? I have often suspected Isabella's indifference to my son: athousandcircumstances crowd on my mind that confirm that suspicion. Sheherself was so conscious of itthat while I discoursed her in thegalleryshe outran my suspiciousand endeavoured to justify herselffromcoolness to Conrad."
The Friarwho knew nothing of the youthbut what he had learntoccasionallyfrom the Princessignorant what was become of himandnotsufficiently reflecting on the impetuosity of Manfred's temperconceivedthat it might not be amiss to sow the seeds of jealousy inhis mind: they might be turned to some use hereaftereither byprejudicingthe Prince against Isabellaif he persisted in that unionor bydiverting his attention to a wrong scentand employing histhoughtson a visionary intrigueprevent his engaging in any newpursuit. With this unhappy policyhe answered in a manner to confirmManfred inthe belief of some connection between Isabella and theyouth. The Princewhose passions wanted little fuel to throw theminto ablazefell into a rage at the idea of what the Friarsuggested.
"Iwill fathom to the bottom of this intrigue" cried he; andquittingJerome abruptlywith a command to remain there till hisreturnhehastened to the great hall of the castleand ordered thepeasant tobe brought before him.
"Thouhardened young impostor!" said the Princeas soon as he saw theyouth;"what becomes of thy boasted veracity now? it was Providencewas itand the light of the moonthat discovered the lock of thetrap-doorto thee? Tell meaudacious boywho thou artand how longthou hastbeen acquainted with the Princess - and take care to answerwith lessequivocation than thou didst last nightor tortures shallwring thetruth from thee."
The youngmanperceiving that his share in the flight of the Princesswasdiscoveredand concluding that anything he should say could nolonger beof any service or detriment to herreplied -
"I amno impostormy Lordnor have I deserved opprobrious language. I answeredto every question your Highness put to me last night withthe sameveracity that I shall speak now: and that will not be fromfear ofyour torturesbut because my soul abhors a falsehood. Pleaseto repeatyour questionsmy Lord; I am ready to give you all thesatisfactionin my power."
"Youknow my questions" replied the Prince"and only want timetoprepare anevasion. Speak directly; who art thou? and how long hastthou beenknown to the Princess?"
"I ama labourer at the next village" said the peasant; "my nameisTheodore. The Princess found me in the vault last night: before thathour Inever was in her presence."
"Imay believe as much or as little as I please of this" saidManfred;"but I will hear thy own story before I examine into thetruth ofit. Tell mewhat reason did the Princess give thee formaking herescape? thy life depends on thy answer."
"Shetold me" replied Theodore"that she was on the brink ofdestructionand that if she could not escape from the castleshe wasin dangerin a few moments of being made miserable for ever."
"Andon this slight foundationon a silly girl's report" saidManfred"thou didst hazard my displeasure?"
"Ifear no man's displeasure" said Theodore"when a woman indistressputs herself under my protection."
Duringthis examinationMatilda was going to the apartment ofHippolita. At the upper end of the hallwhere Manfred satwas aboardedgallery with latticed windowsthrough which Matilda andBiancawere to pass. Hearing her father's voiceand seeing theservantsassembled round himshe stopped to learn the occasion. Theprisonersoon drew her attention: the steady and composed manner inwhich heansweredand the gallantry of his last replywhich were thefirstwords she heard distinctlyinterested her in his flavour. Hisperson wasnoblehandsomeand commandingeven in that situation: but hiscountenance soon engrossed her whole care.
"Heavens! Bianca" said the Princess softly"do I dream? or is notthat youththe exact resemblance of Alfonso's picture in the gallery?"
She couldsay no morefor her father's voice grew louder at everyword.
"Thisbravado" said he"surpasses all thy former insolence. Thoushaltexperience the wrath with which thou darest to trifle. Seizehim"continued Manfred"and 'bind him - the first news the Princesshears ofher champion shall bethat he has lost his head for hersake."
"Theinjustice of which thou art guilty towards me" said Theodore"convincesme that I have done a good deed in delivering the Princessfrom thytyranny. May she be happywhatever becomes of me!"
"Thisis a lover!" cried Manfred in a rage: "a peasantwithin sightof deathis not animated by such sentiments. Tell metell merashboywhothou artor the rack shall force thy secret from thee."
"Thouhast threatened me with death already" said the youth"forthetruth Ihave told thee: if that is all the encouragement I am toexpect forsincerityI am not tempted to indulge thy vain curiosityfarther."
"Thenthou wilt not speak?" said Manfred.
"Iwill not" replied he.
"Bearhim away into the courtyard" said Manfred; "I will see hisheadthisinstant severed from his body."
Matildafainted at hearing those words. Bianca shriekedand cried -
"Help!help! the Princess is dead!" Manfred started at thisejaculationand demanded what was the matter! The young peasantwhoheard ittoowas struck with horrorand asked eagerly the samequestion;but Manfred ordered him to be hurried into the courtandkept therefor executiontill he had informed himself of the cause ofBianca'sshrieks. When he learned the meaninghe treated it as awomanishpanicand ordering Matilda to be carried to her apartmenthe rushedinto the courtand calling for one of his guardsbadeTheodorekneel downand prepare to receive the fatal blow.
Theundaunted youth received the bitter sentence with a resignationthattouched every heart but Manfred's. He wished earnestly to knowthemeaning of the words he had heard relating to the Princess; butfearing toexasperate the tyrant more against herhe desisted. Theonly boonhe deigned to ask wasthat he might be permitted to have aconfessorand make his peace with heaven. Manfredwho hoped by theconfessor'smeans to come at the youth's historyreadily granted hisrequest;and being convinced that Father Jerome was now in hisinteresthe ordered him to be called and shrive the prisoner. Theholy manwho had little foreseen the catastrophe that his imprudenceoccasionedfell on his knees to the Princeand adjured him in themostsolemn manner not to shed innocent blood. He accused himself inthebitterest terms for his indiscretionendeavoured to disculpatethe youthand left no method untried to soften the tyrant's rage. Manfredmore incensed than appeased by Jerome's intercessionwhoseretractionnow made him suspect he had been imposed upon by bothcommandedthe Friar to do his dutytelling him he would not allow theprisonermany minutes for confession.
"Nordo I ask manymy Lord" said the unhappy young man. "Mysinsthankheavenhave not been numerous; nor exceed what might beexpectedat my years. Dry your tearsgood Fatherand let usdespatch. This is a bad world; nor have I had cause to leave it withregret."
"Ohwretched youth!" said Jerome; "how canst thou bear thesight of mewithpatience? I am thy murderer! it is I have brought this dismalhour uponthee!"
"Iforgive thee from my soul" said the youth"as I hopeheaven willpardonme. Hear my confessionFather; and give me thy blessing."
"Howcan I prepare thee for thy passage as I ought?" said Jerome. "Thoucanst not be saved without pardoning thy foes - and canst thouforgivethat impious man there?"
"Ican" said Theodore; "I do."
"Anddoes not this touch theecruel Prince?" said the Friar.
"Isent for thee to confess him" said Manfredsternly; "notto pleadfor him. Thou didst first incense me against him - his blood be uponthy head!"
"Itwill! it will!" said the good mainin an agony of sorrow. "Thouand I mustnever hope to go where this blessed youth is going!"
"Despatch!"said Manfred; "I am no more to be moved by the whining ofprieststhan by the shrieks of women."
"What!"said the youth; "is it possible that my fate could haveoccasionedwhat I heard! Is the Princess then again in thy power?"
"Thoudost but remember me of my wrath" said Manfred. "Preparetheefor thismoment is thy last."
The youthwho felt his indignation riseand who was touched with thesorrowwhich he saw he had infused into all the spectatorsas well asinto theFriarsuppressed his emotionsand putting off his doubletandunbuttoninghis collarknelt down to his prayers. As hestoopedhis shirt slipped down below his shoulderand discovered themark of abloody arrow.
"Graciousheaven!" cried the holy manstarting; "what do I see? Itis mychild! my Theodore!"
Thepassions that ensued must be conceived; they cannot be painted. The tearsof the assistants were suspended by wonderrather thanstopped byjoy. They seemed to inquire in the eyes of their Lord whatthey oughtto feel. Surprisedoubttendernessrespectsucceededeach otherin the countenance of the youth. He received with modestsubmissionthe effusion of the old man's tears and embraces. Yetafraid ofgiving a loose to hopeand suspecting from what had passedtheinflexibility of Manfred's temperhe cast a glance towards thePrinceasif to saycanst thou be unmoved at such a scene as this?
Manfred'sheart was capable of being touched. He forgot his anger inhisastonishment; yet his pride forbad his owning himself affected. He evendoubted whether this discovery was not a contrivance of theFriar tosave the youth.
"Whatmay this mean?" said he. "How can he be thy son? Is itconsistentwith thy profession or reputed sanctity to avow a peasant'soffspringfor the fruit of thy irregular amours!"
"OhGod!" said the holy man"dost thou question his beingmine? Could Ifeel the anguish I do if I were not his father? Spare him!goodPrince! spare him! and revile me as thou pleasest."
"Sparehim! spare him!" cried the attendants; "for this good man'ssake!"
"Peace!"said Manfredsternly. "I must know more ere I am disposedtopardon. A Saint's bastard may be no saint himself."
"InjuriousLord!" said Theodore"add not insult to cruelty. IfI amthisvenerable man's sonthough no Princeas thou artknow theblood thatflows in my veins - "
"Yes"said the Friarinterrupting him"his blood is noble; nor ishe thatabject thingmy Lordyou speak him. He is my lawful sonand Sicilycan boast of few houses more ancient than that ofFalconara. But alas! my Lordwhat is blood! what is nobility! Weare allreptilesmiserablesinful creatures. It is piety alone thatcandistinguish us from the dust whence we sprungand whither we mustreturn."
"Truceto your sermon" said Manfred; "you forget you are nolongerFriarJeromebut the Count of Falconara. Let me know your history;you willhave time to moralise hereafterif you should not happen toobtain thegrace of that sturdy criminal there."
"Motherof God!" said the Friar"is it possible my Lord can refuseafather thelife of his onlyhis long-lostchild! Trample memyLordscornafflict meaccept my life for hisbut spare my son!"
"Thoucanst feelthen" said Manfred"what it is to lose anonlyson! A little hour ago thou didst preach up resignation to me: MYhouseiffate so pleasedmust perish - but the Count of Falconara -"
"Alas!my Lord" said Jerome"I confess I have offended; butaggravatenot an old man's sufferings! I boast not of my familynorthink ofsuch vanities - it is naturethat pleads for this boy; it isthe memoryof the dear woman that bore him. Is sheTheodoreis shedead?"
"Hersoul has long been with the blessed" said Theodore.
"Oh!how?" cried Jerome"tell me - no - she is happy! Thou art allmy carenow! - Most dread Lord! will you - will you grant me my poorboy'slife?"
"Returnto thy convent" answered Manfred; "conduct the Princesshither;obey me in what else thou knowest; and I promise thee the lifeof thyson."
"Oh!my Lord" said Jerome"is my honesty the price I must payforthis dearyouth's safety?"
"Forme!" cried Theodore. "Let me die a thousand deathsrather thanstain thyconscience. What is it the tyrant would exact of thee? IsthePrincess still safe from his power? Protect herthou venerableold man;and let all the weight of his wrath fall on me."
Jeromeendeavoured to check the impetuosity of the youth; and ereManfredcould replythe trampling of horses was heardand a brazentrumpetwhich hung without the gate of the castlewas suddenlysounded. At the same instant the sable plumes on the enchantedhelmetwhich still remained at the other end of the courtweretempestuouslyagitatedand nodded thriceas if bowed by someinvisiblewearer.
MANFRED'Sheart misgave him when he beheld the plumage on themiraculouscasque shaken in concert with the sounding of the brazentrumpet.
"Father!"said he to Jeromewhom he now ceased to treat as Count ofFalconara"what mean these portents? If I have offended - " theplumeswere shaken with greater violence than before.
"UnhappyPrince that I am" cried Manfred. "Holy Father! willyou notassist mewith your prayers?"
"MyLord" replied Jerome"heaven is no doubt displeased withyourmockery ofits servants. Submit yourself to the church; and cease topersecuteher ministers. Dismiss this innocent youth; and learn torespectthe holy character I wear. Heaven will not be trifled with: you see -" the trumpet sounded again.
"Iacknowledge I have been too hasty" said Manfred. "Fatherdo yougo to thewicketand demand who is at the gate."
"Doyou grant me the life of Theodore?" replied the Friar.
"Ido" said Manfred; "but inquire who is without!"
Jeromefalling on the neck of his sondischarged a flood of tearsthat spokethe fulness of his soul.
"Youpromised to go to the gate" said Manfred.
"Ithought" replied the Friar"your Highness would excuse mythankingyou first in this tribute of my heart."
"Godearest Sir" said Theodore; "obey the Prince. I donot deservethat youshould delay his satisfaction for me."
Jeromeinquiring who was withoutwas answered"A Herald."
"Fromwhom?" said he.
"Fromthe Knight of the Gigantic Sabre" said the Herald; "and Imustspeak withthe usurper of Otranto."
Jeromereturned to the Princeand did not fail to repeat the messagein thevery words it had been uttered. The first sounds struckManfredwith terror; but when he heard himself styled usurperhisragerekindledand all his courage revived.
"Usurper!- insolent villain!" cried he; "who dares to question mytitle? RetireFather; this is no business for Monks: I will meetthispresumptuous man myself. Go to your convent and prepare thePrincess'sreturn. Your son shall be a hostage for your fidelity: his lifedepends on your obedience."
"Goodheaven! my Lord" cried Jerome"your Highness did but thisinstantfreely pardon my child - have you so soon forgot theinterpositionof heaven?"
"Heaven"replied Manfred"does not send Heralds to question thetitle of alawful Prince. I doubt whether it even notifies its willthroughFriars - but that is your affairnot mine. At present youknow mypleasure; and it is not a saucy Herald that shall save yoursonifyou do not return with the Princess."
It was invain for the holy man to reply. Manfred commanded him to beconductedto the postern-gateand shut out from the castle. And heorderedsome of his attendants to carry Theodore to the top of theblacktowerand guard him strictly; scarce permitting the father andson toexchange a hasty embrace at parting. He then withdrew to thehallandseating himself in princely stateordered the Herald to beadmittedto his presence.
"Well!thou insolent!" said the Prince"what wouldst thou withme?"
"Icome" replied he"to theeManfredusurper of theprincipalityofOtrantofrom the renowned and invincible Knightthe Knight of theGiganticSabre: in the name of his LordFredericMarquis ofVicenzahe demands the Lady Isabelladaughter of that Princewhomthou hastbasely and traitorously got into thy powerby bribing herfalseguardians during his absence; and he requires thee to resign theprincipalityof Otrantowhich thou hast usurped from the said LordFredericthe nearest of blood to the last rightful LordAlfonso theGood. If thou dost not instantly comply with these just demandshedefiesthee to single combat to the last extremity." And sosayingthe Heraldcast down his warder.
"Andwhere is this braggart who sends thee?" said Manfred.
"Atthe distance of a league" said the Herald: "he comesto makegood hisLord's claim against theeas he is a true knightand thouan usurperand ravisher."
Injuriousas this challenge wasManfred reflected that it was not hisinterestto provoke the Marquis. He knew how well founded the claimofFrederic was; nor was this the first time he had heard of it. Frederic'sancestors had assumed the style of Princes of Otrantofromthe deathof Alfonso the Good without issue; but Manfredhis fatherandgrandfatherhad been too powerful for the house of Vicenza todispossessthem. Frederica martial and amorous young Princehadmarried abeautiful young ladyof whom he was enamouredand who haddied inchildbed of Isabella. Her death affected him so much that hehad takenthe cross and gone to the Holy Landwhere he was wounded inanengagement against the infidelsmade prisonerand reported to bedead. When the news reached Manfred's earshe bribed the guardiansof theLady Isabella to deliver her up to him as a bride for his sonConradbywhich alliance he had proposed to unite the claims of thetwohouses. This motiveon Conrad's deathhad co-operated to makehim sosuddenly resolve on espousing her himself; and the samereflectiondetermined him now to endeavour at obtaining the consent ofFredericto this marriage. A like policy inspired him with thethought ofinviting Frederic's champion into the castlelest heshould beinformed of Isabella's flightwhich he strictly enjoinedhisdomestics not to disclose to any of the Knight's retinue.
"Herald"said Manfredas soon as he had digested these reflections"returnto thy masterand tell himere we liquidate our differencesby theswordManfred would hold some converse with him. Bid himwelcome tomy castlewhere by my faithas I am a true Knightheshall havecourteous receptionand full security for himself andfollowers. If we cannot adjust our quarrel by amicable meansI swearhe shalldepart in safetyand shall have full satisfaction accordingto thelaws of arms: So help me God and His holy Trinity!"
The Heraldmade three obeisances and retired.
Duringthis interview Jerome's mind was agitated by a thousandcontrarypassions. He trembled for the life of his sonand his firstthoughtwas to persuade Isabella to return to the castle. Yet he wasscarceless alarmed at the thought of her union with Manfred. HedreadedHippolita's unbounded submission to the will of her Lord; andthough hedid not doubt but he could alarm her piety not to consent toa divorceif he could get access to her; yet should Manfred discoverthat theobstruction came from himit might be equally fatal toTheodore. He was impatient to know whence came the Heraldwho withso littlemanagement had questioned the title of Manfred: yet he didnot dareabsent himself from the conventlest Isabella should leaveitandher flight be imputed to him. He returned disconsolately tothemonasteryuncertain on what conduct to resolve. A Monkwhomethim in theporch and observed his melancholy airsaid -
"Alas!brotheris it then true that we have lost our excellentPrincessHippolita?"
The holyman startedand cried"What meanest thoubrother? Icomethisinstant from the castleand left her in perfect health."
"Martelli"replied the other Friar"passed by the convent but aquarter ofan hour ago on his way from the castleand reported thatherHighness was dead. All our brethren are gone to the chapel topray forher happy transit to a better lifeand willed me to wait thyarrival. They know thy holy attachment to that good Ladyand areanxiousfor the affliction it will cause in thee - indeed we have allreason toweep; she was a mother to our house. But this life is but apilgrimage;we must not murmur - we shall all follow her! May our endbe likehers!"
"Goodbrotherthou dreamest" said Jerome. "I tell thee Icome fromthecastleand left the Princess well. Where is the LadyIsabella?"
"PoorGentlewoman!" replied the Friar; "I told her the sad newsandofferedher spiritual comfort. I reminded her of the transitoryconditionof mortalityand advised her to take the veil: I quotedtheexample of the holy Princess Sanchia of Arragon."
"Thyzeal was laudable" said Jeromeimpatiently; "but atpresent itwasunnecessary: Hippolita is well - at least I trust in the Lordsheis; Iheard nothing to the contrary - yetmethinksthe Prince'searnestness- Wellbrotherbut where is the Lady Isabella?"
"Iknow not" said the Friar; "she wept muchand said shewouldretire toher chamber."
Jeromeleft his comrade abruptlyand hastened to the Princessbutshe wasnot in her chamber. He inquired of the domestics of theconventbut could learn no news of her. He searched in vainthroughoutthe monastery and the churchand despatched messengersround theneighbourhoodto get intelligence if she had been seen; butto nopurpose. Nothing could equal the good man's perplexity. Hejudgedthat Isabellasuspecting Manfred of having precipitated hiswife'sdeathhad taken the alarmand withdrawn herself to some moresecretplace of concealment. This new flight would probably carry thePrince'sfury to the height. The report of Hippolita's deaththoughit seemedalmost incredibleincreased his consternation; and thoughIsabella'sescape bespoke her aversion of Manfred for a husbandJeromecould feel no comfort from itwhile it endangered the life ofhis son. He determined to return to the castleand made several ofhisbrethren accompany him to attest his innocence to Manfredandifnecessaryjoin their intercession with his for Theodore.
ThePrincein the meantimehad passed into the courtand orderedthe gatesof the castle to be flung open for the reception of thestrangerKnight and his train. In a few minutes the cavalcadearrived. First came two harbingers with wands. Next a heraldfollowedby two pages and two trumpets. Then a hundred foot-guards. These wereattended by as many horse. After them fifty footmenclothed inscarlet and blackthe colours of the Knight. Then a ledhorse. Two heralds on each side of a gentleman on horseback bearing abannerwith the arms of Vicenza and Otranto quarterly - a circumstancethat muchoffended Manfred - but he stifled his resentment. Two morepages. The Knight's confessor telling his beads. Fifty more footmenclad asbefore. Two Knights habited in complete armourtheir beaversdowncomrades to the principal Knight. The squires of the twoKnightscarrying their shields and devices. The Knight's own squire. A hundredgentlemen bearing an enormous swordand seeming to faintunder theweight of it. The Knight himself on a chestnut steedincompletearmourhis lance in the resthis face entirely concealed byhis vizorwhich was surmounted by a large plume of scarlet and blackfeathers. Fifty foot-guards with drums and trumpets closed theprocessionwhich wheeled off to the right and left to make room fortheprincipal Knight.
As soon ashe approached the gate he stopped; and the heraldadvancingread again the words of the challenge. Manfred's eyes werefixed onthe gigantic swordand he scarce seemed to attend to thecartel: but his attention was soon diverted by a tempest of wind thatrosebehind him. He turned and beheld the Plumes of the enchantedhelmetagitated in the same extraordinary manner as before. Itrequiredintrepidity like Manfred's not to sink under a concurrence ofcircumstancesthat seemed to announce his fate. Yet scorning in thepresenceof strangers to betray the courage he had always manifestedhe saidboldly -
"SirKnightwhoever thou artI bid thee welcome. If thou art ofmortalmouldthy valour shall meet its equal: and if thou art a trueKnightthou wilt scorn to employ sorcery to carry thy point. Betheseomens from heaven or hellManfred trusts to the righteousnessof hiscause and to the aid of St. Nicholaswho has ever protectedhishouse. AlightSir Knightand repose thyself. To-morrowthoushalt havea fair fieldand heaven befriend the juster side!"
The Knightmade no replybut dismountingwas conducted by Manfred tothe greathall of the castle. As they traversed the courtthe Knightstopped togaze on the miraculous casque; and kneeling downseemed toprayinwardly for some minutes. Risinghe made a sign to the Princeto leadon. As soon as they entered the hallManfred proposed to thestrangerto disarmbut the Knight shook his head in token of refusal.
"SirKnight" said Manfred"this is not courteousbut by mygoodfaith Iwill not cross theenor shalt thou have cause to complain ofthe Princeof Otranto. No treachery is designed on my part; I hopenone isintended on thine; here take my gage" (giving him his ring): "yourfriends and you shall enjoy the laws of hospitality. Rest hereuntilrefreshments are brought. I will but give orders for theaccommodationof your trainand return to you." The three Knightsbowed asaccepting his courtesy. Manfred directed the stranger'sretinue tobe conducted to an adjacent hospitalfounded by thePrincessHippolita for the reception of pilgrims. As they made thecircuit ofthe court to return towards the gatethe gigantic swordburst fromthe supportersand falling to the ground opposite to thehelmetremained immovable. Manfredalmost hardened to preternaturalappearancessurmounted the shock of this new prodigy; and returningto thehallwhere by this time the feast was readyhe invited hissilentguests to take their places. Manfredhowever ill his heartwas ateaseendeavoured to inspire the company with mirth. He putseveralquestions to thembut was answered only by signs. Theyraisedtheir vizors but sufficiently to feed themselvesand thatsparingly.
"Sirs"said the Prince"ye are the first guests I ever treated withinthesewalls who scorned to hold any intercourse with me: nor has itoft beencustomaryI weenfor princes to hazard their state anddignityagainst strangers and mutes. You say you come in the name ofFredericof Vicenza; I have ever heard that he was a gallant andcourteousKnight; nor would heI am bold to saythink it beneath himto mix insocial converse with a Prince that is his equaland notunknown bydeeds in arms. Still ye are silent - well! be it as it may- by thelaws of hospitality and chivalry ye are masters under thisroof: ye shall do your pleasure. But comegive me a goblet of wine;ye willnot refuse to pledge me to the healths of your fairmistresses."
Theprincipal Knight sighed and crossed himselfand was rising fromthe board.
"SirKnight" said Manfred"what I said was but in sport. I shallconstrainyou in nothing: use your good liking. Since mirth is notyour moodlet us be sad. Business may hit your fancies better. Letuswithdrawand hear if what I have to unfold may be better relishedthan thevain efforts I have made for your pastime."
Manfredthen conducting the three Knights into an inner chambershutthe doorand inviting them to be seatedbegan thusaddressinghimself tothe chief personage:-
"YoucomeSir Knightas I understandin the name of the Marquis ofVicenzato re-demand the Lady Isabellahis daughterwho has beencontractedin the face of Holy Church to my sonby the consent of herlegalguardians; and to require me to resign my dominions to yourLordwhogives himself for the nearest of blood to Prince Alfonsowhose soulGod rest! I shall speak to the latter article of yourdemandsfirst. You must knowyour Lord knowsthat I enjoy theprincipalityof Otranto from my fatherDon Manuelas he received itfrom hisfatherDon Ricardo. Alfonsotheir predecessordyingchildlessin the Holy Landbequeathed his estates to my grandfatherDonRicardoin consideration of his faithful services." Thestrangershook hishead.
"SirKnight" said Manfredwarmly"Ricardo was a valiant anduprightman; hewas a pious man; witness his munificent foundation of theadjoiningchurch and two converts. He was peculiarly patronised bySt.Nicholas - my grandfather was incapable - I saySirDon Ricardowasincapable - excuse meyour interruption has disordered me. Iveneratethe memory of my grandfather. WellSirshe held thisestate; heheld it by his good sword and by the favour of St. Nicholas- so didmy father; and soSirswill Icome what come will. ButFredericyour Lordis nearest in blood. I have consented to put mytitle tothe issue of the sword. Does that imply a vicious title? Imight haveaskedwhere is Frederic your Lord? Report speaks him deadincaptivity. You sayyour actions sayhe lives - I question itnot- I mightSirsI might - but I do not. Other Princes would bidFrederictake his inheritance by forceif he can: they would notstaketheir dignity on a single combat: they would not submit it tothedecision of unknown mutes! - pardon megentlemenI am too warm: butsuppose yourselves in my situation: as ye are stout Knightswould itnot move your choler to have your own and the honour of yourancestorscalled in question?"
"Butto the point. Ye require me to deliver up the Lady Isabella. SirsImust ask if ye are authorised to receive her?"
"Receiveher" continued Manfred; "wellyou are authorised toreceiveherbutgentle Knightmay I ask if you have full powers?"
"'Tiswell" said Manfred; "then hear what I have to offer. Ye seegentlemenbefore youthe most unhappy of men!" (he began to weep);"affordme your compassion; I am entitled to itindeed I am. KnowIhave lostmy only hopemy joythe support of my house - Conrad diedyestermorning."
TheKnights discovered signs of surprise.
"YesSirsfate has disposed of my son. Isabella is at liberty."
"Doyou then restore her?" cried the chief Knightbreaking silence.
"Affordme your patience" said Manfred. "I rejoice to findby thistestimonyof your goodwillthat this matter may be adjusted withoutblood. It is no interest of mine dictates what little I have fartherto say. Ye behold in me a man disgusted with the world: the loss ofmy son hasweaned me from earthly cares. Power and greatness have nolonger anycharms in my eyes. I wished to transmit the sceptre I hadreceivedfrom my ancestors with honour to my son - but that is over! Lifeitself is so indifferent to methat I accepted your defiancewith joy. A good Knight cannot go to the grave with more satisfactionthan whenfalling in his vocation: whatever is the will of heavenIsubmit;for alas! SirsI am a man of many sorrows. Manfred is noobject ofenvybut no doubt you are acquainted with my story."
The Knightmade signs of ignoranceand seemed curious to have Manfredproceed.
"Isit possibleSirs" continued the Prince"that my storyshould bea secretto you? Have you heard nothing relating to me and thePrincessHippolita?"
They shooktheir heads.
"No! ThusthenSirsit is. You think me ambitious: ambitionalas! iscomposed of more rugged materials. If I were ambitiousIshould notfor so many years have been a prey to all the hell ofconscientiousscruples. But I weary your patience: I will be brief. Knowthenthat I have long been troubled in mind on my union withthePrincess Hippolita. Oh! Sirsif ye were acquainted with thatexcellentwoman! if ye knew that I adore her like a mistressandcherishher as a friend - but man was not born for perfect happiness! She sharesmy scruplesand with her consent I have brought thismatterbefore the churchfor we are related within the forbiddendegrees. I expect every hour the definitive sentence that mustseparateus for ever - I am sure you feel for me - I see you do -pardonthese tears!"
TheKnights gazed on each otherwondering where this would end.
"Thedeath of my son betiding while my soul was under this anxietyIthought ofnothing but resigning my dominionsand retiring for everfrom thesight of mankind. My only difficulty was to fix on asuccessorwho would be tender of my peopleand to dispose of theLadyIsabellawho is dear to me as my own blood. I was willing torestorethe line of Alfonsoeven in his most distant kindred. Andthoughpardon meI am satisfied it was his will that Ricardo'slineageshould take place of his own relations; yet where was I tosearch forthose relations? I knew of none but Fredericyour Lord;he was acaptive to the infidelsor dead; and were he livingand athomewould he quit the flourishing State of Vicenza for theinconsiderableprincipality of Otranto? If he would notcould I bearthethought of seeing a hardunfeelingViceroy set over my poorfaithfulpeople? forSirsI love my peopleand thank heaven ambeloved bythem. But ye will ask whither tends this long discourse? BrieflythenthusSirs. Heaven in your arrival seems to point outa remedyfor these difficulties and my misfortunes. The Lady Isabellais atliberty; I shall soon be so. I would submit to anything for thegood of mypeople. Were it not the bestthe only way to extinguishthe feudsbetween our familiesif I was to take the Lady Isabella towife? You start. But though Hippolita's virtues will ever be dear tomeaPrince must not consider himself; he is born for his people." Aservant atthat instant entering the chamber apprised Manfred thatJerome andseveral of his brethren demanded immediate access to him.
ThePrinceprovoked at this interruptionand fearing that the Friarwoulddiscover to the strangers that Isabella had taken sanctuarywasgoing toforbid Jerome's entrance. But recollecting that he wascertainlyarrived to notify the Princess's returnManfred began toexcusehimself to the Knights for leaving them for a few momentsbutwasprevented by the arrival of the Friars. Manfred angrilyreprimandedthem for their intrusionand would have forced them backfrom thechamber; but Jerome was too much agitated to be repulsed. Hedeclaredaloud the flight of Isabellawith protestations of his owninnocence.
Manfreddistracted at the newsand not less at its coming to theknowledgeof the strangersuttered nothing but incoherent sentencesnowupbraiding the Friarnow apologising to the Knightsearnest toknow whatwas become of Isabellayet equally afraid of their knowing;impatientto pursue heryet dreading to have them join in thepursuit. He offered to despatch messengers in quest of herbut thechiefKnightno longer keeping silencereproached Manfred in bitterterms forhis dark and ambiguous dealingand demanded the cause ofIsabella'sfirst absence from the castle. Manfredcasting a sternlook atJeromeimplying a command of silencepretended that onConrad'sdeath he had placed her in sanctuary until he could determinehow todispose of her. Jeromewho trembled for his son's lifedidnot darecontradict this falsehoodbut one of his brethrennot underthe sameanxietydeclared frankly that she had fled to their churchin thepreceding night. The Prince in vain endeavoured to stop thisdiscoverywhich overwhelmed him with shame and confusion. Theprincipalstrangeramazed at the contradictions he heardand morethan halfpersuaded that Manfred had secreted the Princessnotwithstandingthe concern he expressed at her flightrushing to thedoorsaid-
"Thoutraitor Prince! Isabella shall be found."
Manfredendeavoured to hold himbut the other Knights assisting theircomradehe broke from the Princeand hastened into the courtdemandinghis attendants. Manfredfinding it vain to divert him fromthepursuitoffered to accompany him and summoning his attendantsand takingJerome and some of the Friars to guide themthey issuedfrom thecastle; Manfred privately giving orders to have the Knight'scompanysecuredwhile to the knight he affected to despatch amessengerto require their assistance.
Thecompany had no sooner quitted the castle than Matildawho feltherselfdeeply interested for the young peasantsince she had seenhimcondemned to death in the halland whose thoughts had been takenup withconcerting measures to save himwas informed by some of thefemaleattendants that Manfred had despatched all his men various waysin pursuitof Isabella. He had in his hurry given this order ingeneraltermsnot meaning to extend it to the guard he had set uponTheodorebut forgetting it. The domesticsofficious to obey soperemptorya Princeand urged by their own curiosity and love ofnovelty tojoin in any precipitate chasehad to a man left thecastle. Matilda disengaged herself from her womenstole up to theblacktowerand unbolting the doorpresented herself to theastonishedTheodore.
"Youngman" said she"though filial duty and womanly modestycondemnthe step Iam takingyet holy charitysurmounting all other tiesjustifiesthis act. Fly; the doors of thy prison are open: myfatherand hisdomestics are absent; but they may soon return. Be gone insafety;and may the angels of heaven direct thy course!"
"Thouart surely one of those angels!" said the enraptured Theodore: "nonebut a blessed saint could speakcould act - could look - likethee. May I not know the name of my divine protectress? Methoughtthounamedst thy father. Is it possible? Can Manfred's bloodfeelholypity! Lovely Ladythou answerest not. But how art thouherethyself? Why dost thou neglect thy own safetyand waste a thought ona wretchlike Theodore? Let us fly together: the life thoubestowestshall bededicated to thy defence."
"Alas!thou mistakest" said Matildasigning: "I amManfred'sdaughterbut no dangers await me."
"Amazement!"said Theodore; "but last night I blessed myself foryieldingthee the service thy gracious compassion so charitablyreturns menow."
"Stillthou art in an error" said the Princess; "but this is notimeforexplanation. Flyvirtuous youthwhile it is in my power tosavethee: should my father returnthou and I both should indeed havecause totremble."
"How!"said Theodore; "thinkest thoucharming maidthat I willaccept oflife at the hazard of aught calamitous to thee? Better Iendured athousand deaths."
"Irun no risk" said Matilda"but by thy delay. Depart; it cannotbe knownthat I have assisted thy flight."
"Swearby the saints above" said Theodore"that thou canst notbesuspected;else here I vow to await whatever can befall me."
"Oh!thou art too generous" said Matilda; "but rest assuredthat nosuspicioncan alight on me."
"Giveme thy beauteous hand in token that thou dost not deceive me"saidTheodore; "and let me bathe it with the warm tears ofgratitude."
"Forbear!"said the Princess; "this must not be."
"Alas!"said Theodore"I have never known but calamity until thishour -perhaps shall never know other fortune again: suffer thechasteraptures of holy gratitude: 'tis my soul would print itseffusionson thy hand."
"Forbearand be gone" said Matilda. "How would Isabellaapprove ofseeingthee at my feet?"
"Whois Isabella?" said the young man with surprise.
"Ahme! I fear" said the Princess"I am serving adeceitful one. Hast thouforgot thy curiosity this morning?"
"Thylooksthy actionsall thy beauteous self seem an emanation ofdivinity"said Theodore; "but thy words are dark and mysterious. SpeakLady; speak to thy servant's comprehension."
"Thouunderstandest but too well!" said Matilda; "but once more Icommandthee to be gone: thy bloodwhich I may preservewill be onmy headif I waste the time in vain discourse."
"IgoLady" said Theodore"because it is thy willandbecause Iwould notbring the grey hairs of my father with sorrow to the grave. Say butadored Ladythat I have thy gentle pity."
"Stay"said Matilda; "I will conduct thee to the subterraneous vaultby whichIsabella escaped; it will lead thee to the church of St.Nicholaswhere thou mayst take sanctuary."
"What!"said Theodore"was it anotherand not thy lovely self that Iassistedto find the subterraneous passage?"
"Itwas" said Matilda; "but ask no more; I tremble to see theestillabidehere; fly to the sanctuary."
"Tosanctuary" said Theodore; "noPrincess; sanctuaries areforhelplessdamselsor for criminals. Theodore's soul is free fromguiltnorwill wear the appearance of it. Give me a swordLadyandthy fathershall learn that Theodore scorns an ignominious flight."
"Rashyouth!" said Matilda; "thou wouldst not dare to lift thypresumptuousarm against the Prince of Otranto?"
"Notagainst thy father; indeedI dare not" said Theodore. "ExcusemeLady;I had forgotten. But could I gaze on theeand rememberthou artsprung from the tyrant Manfred! But he is thy fatherandfrom thismoment my injuries are buried in oblivion."
A deep andhollow groanwhich seemed to come from abovestartled thePrincessand Theodore.
"Goodheaven! we are overheard!" said the Princess. Theylistened;butperceiving no further noisethey both concluded it the effect ofpent-upvapours. And the Princesspreceding Theodore softlycarriedhim to herfather's armourywhereequipping him with a completesuithewas conducted by Matilda to the postern-gate.
"Avoidthe town" said the Princess"and all the western side ofthecastle. 'Tis there the search must be making by Manfred and thestrangers;but hie thee to the opposite quarter. Yonder behind thatforest tothe east is a chain of rockshollowed into a labyrinth ofcavernsthat reach to the sea coast. There thou mayst lie concealedtill thoucanst make signs to some vessel to put on shoreand takethee off. Go! heaven be thy guide! - and sometimes in thy prayersremember -Matilda!"
Theodoreflung himself at her feetand seizing her lily handwhichwithstruggles she suffered him to kisshe vowed on the earliestopportunityto get himself knightedand fervently entreated herpermissionto swear himself eternally her knight. Ere the Princesscouldreplya clap of thunder was suddenly heard that shook thebattlements. Theodoreregardless of the tempestwould have urgedhis suit: but the Princessdismayedretreated hastily into thecastleand commanded the youth to be gone with an air that would notbedisobeyed. He sighedand retiredbut with eyes fixed on thegateuntil Matildaclosing itput an end to an interviewin whichthe heartsof both had drunk so deeply of a passionwhich both nowtasted forthe first time.
Theodorewent pensively to the conventto acquaint his father withhisdeliverance. There he learned the absence of Jeromeand thepursuitthat was making after the Lady Isabellawith some particularsof whosestory he now first became acquainted. The generous gallantryof hisnature prompted him to wish to assist her; but the Monks couldlend himno lights to guess at the route she had taken. He was nottempted towander far in search of herfor the idea of Matilda hadimprinteditself so strongly on his heartthat he could not bear toabsenthimself at much distance from her abode. The tenderness Jeromehadexpressed for him concurred to confirm this reluctance; and heevenpersuaded himself that filial affection was the chief cause ofhishovering between the castle and monastery.
UntilJerome should return at nightTheodore at length determined torepair tothe forest that Matilda had pointed out to him. Arrivingtherehesought the gloomiest shadesas best suited to the pleasingmelancholythat reigned in his mind. In this mood he roved insensiblyto thecaves which had formerly served as a retreat to hermitsandwere nowreported round the country to be haunted by evil spirits. Herecollectedto have heard this tradition; and being of a brave andadventurousdispositionhe willingly indulged his curiosity inexploringthe secret recesses of this labyrinth. He had notpenetratedfar before he thought he heard the steps of some person whoseemed toretreat before him.
Theodorethough firmly grounded in all our holy faith enjoins to bebelievedhad no apprehension that good men were abandoned withoutcause tothe malice of the powers of darkness. He thought the placemorelikely to be infested by robbers than by those infernal agentswho arereported to molest and bewilder travellers. He had longburnedwith impatience to approve his valour. Drawing his sabrehemarchedsedately onwardsstill directing his steps as the imperfectrustlingsound before him led the way. The armour he wore was a likeindicationto the person who avoided him. Theodorenow convincedthat hewas not mistakenredoubled his paceand evidently gained onthe personthat fledwhose haste increasingTheodore came up just asa womanfell breathless before him. He hasted to raise herbut herterror wasso great that he apprehended she would faint in his arms. He usedevery gentle word to dispel her alarmsand assured her thatfar frominjuringhe would defend her at the peril of his life. TheLadyrecovering her spirits from his courteous demeanourand gazingon herprotectorsaid -
"SureI have heard that voice before!"
"Notto my knowledge" replied Theodore; "unlessas Iconjecturethou artthe Lady Isabella."
"Mercifulheaven!" cried she. "Thou art not sent in quest ofmeartthou?" And saying those wordsshe threw herself at his feetandbesoughthim not to deliver her up to Manfred.
"ToManfred!" cried Theodore - "noLady; I have once alreadydeliveredthee from his tyrannyand it shall fare hard with me nowbut I willplace thee out of the reach of his daring."
"Isit possible" said she"that thou shouldst be the generousunknownwhom I met last night in the vault of the castle? Sure thouart not amortalbut my guardian angel. On my kneeslet me thank -"
"Hold!gentle Princess" said Theodore"nor demean thyself beforeapoor andfriendless young man. If heaven has selected me for thydelivererit will accomplish its workand strengthen my arm in thycause. But comeLadywe are too near the mouth of the cavern; letus seekits inmost recesses. I can have no tranquillity till I haveplacedthee beyond the reach of danger."
"Alas!what mean yousir?" said she. "Though all youractions arenoblethough your sentiments speak the purity of your soulis itfittingthat I should accompany you alone into these perplexedretreats? Should we be found togetherwhat would a censorious worldthink ofmy conduct?"
"Irespect your virtuous delicacy" said Theodore; "nor do youharbourasuspicion that wounds my honour. I meant to conduct you intothemostprivate cavity of these rocksand then at the hazard of my lifeto guardtheir entrance against every living thing. BesidesLady"continuedhedrawing a deep sigh"beauteous and all perfect as yourform isand though my wishes are not guiltless of aspiringknowmysoul isdedicated to another; and although - " A sudden noisepreventedTheodore from proceeding. They soon distinguished thesesounds -
"Isabella!whatho! Isabella!" The trembling Princess relapsed intoher formeragony of fear. Theodore endeavoured to encourage herbutin vain. He assured her he would die rather than suffer her to returnunderManfred's power; and begging her to remain concealedhe wentforth toprevent the person in search of her from approaching.
At themouth of the cavern he found an armed Knightdiscoursing witha peasantwho assured him he had seen a lady enter the passes of therock. The Knight was preparing to seek herwhen Theodoreplacinghimself inhis waywith his sword drawnsternly forbad him at hisperil toadvance.
"Andwho art thouwho darest to cross my way?" said the Knighthaughtily.
"Onewho does not dare more than he will perform" said Theodore.
"Iseek the Lady Isabella" said the Knight"and understandshe hastakenrefuge among these rocks. Impede me notor thou wilt repenthavingprovoked my resentment."
"Thypurpose is as odious as thy resentment is contemptible" saidTheodore. "Return whence thou camestor we shall soon know whoseresentmentis most terrible."
Thestrangerwho was the principal Knight that had arrived from theMarquis ofVicenzahad galloped from Manfred as he was busied ingettinginformation of the Princessand giving various orders topreventher falling into the power of the three Knights. Their chiefhadsuspected Manfred of being privy to the Princess's abscondingandthisinsult from a manwho he concluded was stationed by that Princeto secreteherconfirming his suspicionshe made no replybutdischarginga blow with his sabre at Theodorewould soon have removedallobstructionif Theodorewho took him for one of Manfred'scaptainsand who had no sooner given the provocation than prepared tosupportithad not received the stroke on his shield. The valourthat hadso long been smothered in his breast broke forth at once; herushedimpetuously on the Knightwhose pride and wrath were not lesspowerfulincentives to hardy deeds. The combat was furiousbut notlong. Theodore wounded the Knight in three several placesand atlastdisarmed him as he fainted by the loss of blood.
Thepeasantwho had fled on the first onsethad given the alarm tosome ofManfred's domesticswhoby his orderswere dispersedthroughthe forest in pursuit of Isabella. They came up as the Knightfellwhomthey soon discovered to be the noble stranger. Theodorenotwithstandinghis hatred to Manfredcould not behold the victory hehad gainedwithout emotions of pity and generosity. But he was moretouchedwhen he learned the quality of his adversaryand was informedthat hewas no retainerbut an enemyof Manfred. He assisted theservantsof the latter in disarming the Knightand in endeavouring tostanch theblood that flowed from his wounds. The Knight recoveringhisspeechsaidin a faint and faltering voice -
"Generousfoewe have both been in an error. I took thee for aninstrumentof the tyrant; I perceive thou hast made the like mistake. It is toolate for excuses. I faint. If Isabella is at hand - callher - Ihave important secrets to - "
"Heis dying!" said one of the attendants; "has nobody acrucifixaboutthem? Andreado thou pray over him."
"Fetchsome water" said Theodore"and pour it down his throatwhileI hastento the Princess."
Sayingthishe flew to Isabellaand in few words told her modestlythat hehad been so unfortunate by mistake as to wound a gentlemanfrom herfather's courtwho wishedere he diedto impart somethingofconsequence to her.
ThePrincesswho had been transported at hearing the voice ofTheodoreas he called to her to come forthwas astonished at whatsheheard. Suffering herself to be conducted by Theodorethe newproof ofwhose valour recalled her dispersed spiritsshe came wherethebleeding Knight lay speechless on the ground. But her fearsreturnedwhen she beheld the domestics of Manfred. She would againhave fledif Theodore had not made her observe that they were unarmedand hadnot threatened them with instant death if they should dare toseize thePrincess.
Thestrangeropening his eyesand beholding a womansaid"Artthou- praytell me truly - art thou Isabella of Vicenza?"
"Iam" said she: "good heaven restore thee!"
"Thenthou - then thou" - said the Knightstruggling for utterance -"seest- thy father. Give me one - "
"Oh!amazement! horror! what do I hear! what do I see!" criedIsabella. "My father! You my father! How came you hereSir? Forheaven'ssakespeak! Oh! run for helpor he will expire!"
"'Tismost true" said the wounded Knightexerting all his force; "IamFrederic thy father. YesI came to deliver thee. It willnot be. Give me aparting kissand take - "
"Sir"said Theodore"do not exhaust yourself; suffer us to conveyyou to thecastle."
"Tothe castle!" said Isabella. "Is there no help nearerthan thecastle? Would you expose my father to the tyrant? If he goesthitherIdare not accompany him; and yetcan I leave him!"
"Mychild" said Frederic"it matters not for me whither I amcarried. A few minutes will place me beyond danger; but while I haveeyes todote on theeforsake me notdear Isabella! This braveKnight - Iknow not who he is - will protect thy innocence. Siryouwill notabandon my childwill you?"
Theodoreshedding tears over his victimand vowing to guard thePrincessat the expense of his lifepersuaded Frederic to sufferhimself tobe conducted to the castle. They placed him on a horsebelongingto one of the domesticsafter binding up his wounds as wellas theywere able. Theodore marched by his side; and the afflictedIsabellawho could not bear to quit himfollowed mournfully behind.
THEsorrowful troop no sooner arrived at the castlethan they weremet byHippolita and Matildawhom Isabella had sent one of thedomesticsbefore to advertise of their approach. The ladies causingFredericto be conveyed into the nearest chamberretiredwhile thesurgeonsexamined his wounds. Matilda blushed at seeing Theodore andIsabellatogether; but endeavoured to conceal it by embracing thelatterand condoling with her on her father's mischance. Thesurgeonssoon came to acquaint Hippolita that none of the Marquis'swoundswere dangerous; and that he was desirous of seeing his daughterand thePrincesses.
Theodoreunder pretence of expressing his joy at being freed from hisapprehensionsof the combat being fatal to Fredericcould not resisttheimpulse of following Matilda. Her eyes were so often cast downonmeetinghisthat Isabellawho regarded Theodore as attentively as hegazed onMatildasoon divined who the object was that he had told herin thecave engaged his affections. While this mute scene passedHippolitademanded of Frederic the cause of his having taken thatmysteriouscourse for reclaiming his daughter; and threw in variousapologiesto excuse her Lord for the match contracted between theirchildren.
Frederichowever incensed against Manfredwas not insensible to thecourtesyand benevolence of Hippolita: but he was still more struckwith thelovely form of Matilda. Wishing to detain them by hisbedsidehe informed Hippolita of his story. He told her thatwhileprisonerto the infidelshe had dreamed that his daughterof whom hehadlearned no news since his captivitywas detained in a castlewhere shewas in danger of the most dreadful misfortunes: and that ifheobtained his libertyand repaired to a wood near Joppahe wouldlearnmore. Alarmed at this dreamand incapable of obeying thedirectiongiven by ithis chains became more grievous than ever. Butwhile histhoughts were occupied on the means of obtaining hislibertyhe received the agreeable news that the confederate Princeswho werewarring in Palestine had paid his ransom. He instantly setout forthe wood that had been marked in his dream.
For threedays he and his attendants had wandered in the forestwithoutseeing a human form: but on the evening of the third theycame to acellin which they found a venerable hermit in the agoniesof death. Applying rich cordialsthey brought the fainting man tohisspeech.
"Mysons" said he"I am bounden to your charity - but it isin vain- I amgoing to my eternal rest - yet I die with the satisfaction ofperformingthe will of heaven. When first I repaired to thissolitudeafter seeing my country become a prey to unbelievers - it isalas!above fifty years since I was witness to that dreadful scene! St.Nicholas appeared to meand revealed a secretwhich he bade meneverdisclose to mortal manbut on my death-bed. This is thattremendoushourand ye are no doubt the chosen warriors to whom I wasordered toreveal my trust. As soon as ye have done the last officesto thiswretched corsedig under the seventh tree on the left hand ofthis poorcaveand your pains will - Oh! good heaven receive mysoul!" With those words the devout man breathed his last.
"Bybreak of day" continued Frederic"when we had committedthe holyrelics toearthwe dug according to direction. But what was ourastonishmentwhen about the depth of six feet we discovered anenormoussabre - the very weapon yonder in the court. On the bladewhich wasthen partly out of the scabbardthough since closed by ourefforts inremoving itwere written the following lines - no; excusemeMadam" added the Marquisturning to Hippolita; "if Iforbear torepeatthem: I respect your sex and rankand would not be guilty ofoffendingyour ear with sounds injurious to aught that is dear toyou."
Hepaused. Hippolita trembled. She did not doubt butFrederic wasdestinedby heaven to accomplish the fate that seemed to threaten herhouse. Looking with anxious fondness at Matildaa silent tear stoledown hercheek: but recollecting herselfshe said -
"Proceedmy Lord; heaven does nothing in vain; mortals must receiveits divinebehests with lowliness and submission. It is our part todeprecateits wrathor bow to its decrees. Repeat the sentencemyLord; welisten resigned."
Fredericwas grieved that he had proceeded so far. The dignity andpatientfirmness of Hippolita penetrated him with respectand thetendersilent affection with which the Princess and her daughterregardedeach othermelted him almost to tears. Yet apprehensivethat hisforbearance to obey would be more alarminghe repeated in afalteringand low voice the following lines:
"Where'era casque that suits this sword is found
Withperils is thy daughter compass'd round;
ALFONSO'Sblood alone can save the maid
Andquiet a long restless Prince's shade."
"Whatis there in these lines" said Theodore impatiently"thataffectsthese Princesses? Why were they to be shocked by a mysteriousdelicacythat has so little foundation?"
"Yourwords are rudeyoung man" said the Marquis; "and thoughfortunehas favoured you once - "
"Myhonoured Lord" said Isabellawho resented Theodore's warmthwhich sheperceived was dictated by his sentiments for Matilda"discomposenot yourself for the glosing of a peasant's son: heforgetsthe reverence he owes you; but he is not accustomed - "
Hippolitaconcerned at the heat that had arisenchecked Theodore forhisboldnessbut with an air acknowledging his zeal; and changing theconversationdemanded of Frederic where he had left her Lord? As theMarquiswas going to replythey heard a noise withoutand rising toinquirethe causeManfredJeromeand part of the troopwho had metanimperfect rumour of what had happenedentered the chamber. Manfredadvanced hastily towards Frederic's bed to condole with him onhismisfortuneand to learn the circumstances of the combatwhenstartingin an agony of terror and amazementhe cried -
"Ha!what art thou? thou dreadful spectre! is my hour come?"
"Mydearestgracious Lord" cried Hippolitaclasping him in herarms"what is it you see! Why do you fix your eye-balls thus?"
"What!"cried Manfred breathless; "dost thou see nothingHippolita? Is thisghastly phantom sent to me alone - to ruewho did not - "
"Formercy's sweetest selfmy Lord" said Hippolita"resumeyoursoulcommand your reason. There is none herebut usyour friends."
"Whatis not that Alfonso?" cried Manfred. "Dost thou notsee him?can it bemy brain's delirium?"
"This!my Lord" said Hippolita; "this is Theodorethe youth whohasbeen sounfortunate."
"Theodore!"said Manfred mournfullyand striking his forehead;"Theodoreor a phantomhe has unhinged the soul of Manfred. But howcomes hehere? and how comes he in armour?"
"Ibelieve he went in search of Isabella" said Hippolita.
"OfIsabella!" said Manfredrelapsing into rage; "yesyesthat isnotdoubtful -. But how did he escape from durance in which I lefthim? Was it Isabellaor this hypocritical old Friarthat procuredhisenlargement?"
"Andwould a parent be criminalmy Lord" said Theodore"if hemeditatedthe deliverance of his child?"
Jeromeamazed to hear himself in a manner accused by his sonandwithoutfoundationknew not what to think. He could not comprehendhowTheodore had escapedhow he came to be armedand to encounterFrederic. Still he would not venture to ask any questions that mighttend toinflame Manfred's wrath against his son. Jerome's silenceconvincedManfred that he had contrived Theodore's release.
"Andis it thusthou ungrateful old man" said the Princeaddressinghimself tothe Friar"that thou repayest mine and Hippolita'sbounties? And not content with traversing my heart's nearest wishesthouarmest thy bastardand bringest him into my own castle to insultme!"
"MyLord" said Theodore"you wrong my father: neitherhe nor I arecapable ofharbouring a thought against your peace. Is it insolencethus tosurrender myself to your Highness's pleasure?" added helaying hissword respectfully at Manfred's feet. "Behold my bosom;strikemyLordif you suspect that a disloyal thought is lodgedthere. There is not a sentiment engraven on my heart that does notvenerateyou and yours."
The graceand fervour with which Theodore uttered these wordsinterestedevery person present in his favour. Even Manfred wastouched -yet still possessed with his resemblance to Alfonsohisadmirationwas dashed with secret horror.
"Rise"said he; "thy life is not my present purpose. But tell methyhistoryand how thou camest connected with this old traitor here."
"MyLord" said Jerome eagerly.
"Peace!impostor!" said Manfred; "I will not have him prompted."
"MyLord" said Theodore"I want no assistance; my story isverybrief. I was carried at five years of age to Algiers with my motherwho hadbeen taken by corsairs from the coast of Sicily. She died ofgrief inless than a twelvemonth;" the tears gushed from Jerome'seyesonwhose countenance a thousand anxious passions stoodexpressed. "Before she died" continued Theodore"she bound awritingabout my arm under my garmentswhich told me I was the son ofthe CountFalconara."
"Itis most true" said Jerome; "I am that wretched father."
"AgainI enjoin thee silence" said Manfred: "proceed."
"Iremained in slavery" said Theodore"until within thesetwo yearswhenattending on my master in his cruisesI was delivered by aChristianvesselwhich overpowered the pirate; and discovering myselfto thecaptainhe generously put me on shore in Sicily; but alas!instead offinding a fatherI learned that his estatewhich wassituatedon the coasthadduring his absencebeen laid waste by theRover whohad carried my mother and me into captivity: that hiscastle hadbeen burnt to the groundand that my father on his returnhad soldwhat remainedand was retired into religion in the kingdomof Naplesbut where no man could inform me. Destitute andfriendlesshopeless almost of attaining the transport of a parent'sembraceItook the first opportunity of setting sail for Naplesfromwhencewithin these six daysI wandered into this provincestillsupportingmyself by the labour of my hands; nor until yester-morn didI believethat heaven had reserved any lot for me but peace of mindandcontented poverty. Thismy Lordis Theodore's story. Iamblessedbeyond my hope in finding a father; I am unfortunate beyond mydesert inhaving incurred your Highness's displeasure."
Heceased. A murmur of approbation gently arose from the audience.
"Thisis not all" said Frederic; "I am bound in honour to addwhat hesuppresses. Though he is modestI must be generous; he is one of thebravestyouths on Christian ground. He is warm too; and from theshortknowledge I have of himI will pledge myself for his veracity: if what hereports of himself were not truehe would not utter it -and formeyouthI honour a frankness which becomes thy birth; butnowandthou didst offend me: yet the noble blood which flows in thyveinsmaywell be allowed to boil outwhen it has so recently traceditself toits source. Comemy Lord" (turning to Manfred)"ifI canpardonhimsurely you may; it is not the youth's faultif you tookhim for aspectre."
Thisbitter taunt galled the soul of Manfred.
"Ifbeings from another world" replied he haughtily"havepower toimpress mymind with aweit is more than living man can do; nor couldastripling's arm."
"MyLord" interrupted Hippolita"your guest has occasion forrepose: shall wenot leave him to his rest?" Saying thisand takingManfredby thehandshe took leave of Fredericand led the company forth.
ThePrincenot sorry to quit a conversation which recalled to mindthediscovery he had made of his most secret sensationssufferedhimself tobe conducted to his own apartmentafter permittingTheodorethough under engagement to return to the castle on themorrow (acondition the young man gladly accepted)to retire with hisfather tothe convent. Matilda and Isabella were too much occupiedwith theirown reflectionsand too little content with each othertowish forfarther converse that night. They separated each to herchamberwith more expressions of ceremony and fewer of affection thouhad passedbetween them since their childhood.
If theyparted with small cordialitythey did but meet with greaterimpatienceas soon as the sun was risen. Their minds were in asituationthat excluded sleepand each recollected a thousandquestionswhich she wished she had put to the other overnight. Matildareflected that Isabella had been twice delivered by Theodorein verycritical situationswhich she could not believe accidental. His eyesit was truehad been fixed on her in Frederic's chamber;but thatmight have been to disguise his passion for Isabella from thefathers ofboth. It were better to clear this up. She wished to knowthe truthlest she should wrong her friend by entertaining a passionforIsabella's lover. Thus jealousy promptedand at the same timeborrowedan excuse from friendship to justify its curiosity.
Isabellanot less restlesshad better foundation for her suspicions. BothTheodore's tongue and eyes had told her his heart was engaged; itwas true -yetperhapsMatilda might not correspond to his passion;she hadever appeared insensible to love: all her thoughts were seton heaven.
"Whydid I dissuade her?" said Isabella to herself; "I ampunished formygenerosity; but when did they meet? where? It cannot be; I havedeceivedmyself; perhaps last night was the first time they everbeheldeach other; it must be some other object that has prepossessedhisaffections - if it isI am not so unhappy as I thought; if it isnot myfriend Matilda - how! Can I stoop to wish for the affection ofa manwhorudely and unnecessarily acquainted me with hisindifference?and that at the very moment in which common courtesydemandedat least expressions of civility. I will go to my dearMatildawho will confirm me in this becoming pride. Man is false - Iwilladvise with her on taking the veil: she will rejoice to find mein thisdisposition; and I will acquaint her that I no longer opposeherinclination for the cloister."
In thisframe of mindand determined to open her heart entirely toMatildashe went to that Princess's chamberwhom she found alreadydressedand leaning pensively on her arm. This attitudesocorrespondentto what she felt herselfrevived Isabella's suspicionsanddestroyed the confidence she had purposed to place in her friend. Theyblushed at meetingand were too much novices to disguise theirsensationswith address. After some unmeaning questions and repliesMatildademanded of Isabella the cause of her flight? The latterwhohad almostforgotten Manfred's passionso entirely was she occupiedby herownconcluding that Matilda referred to her last escape fromtheconventwhich had occasioned the events of the preceding eveningreplied -
"Martellibrought word to the convent that your mother was dead."
"Oh!"said Matildainterrupting her"Bianca has explained thatmistake tome: on seeing me faintshe cried out'The Princess isdead!' andMartelliwho had come for the usual dole to the castle - "
"Andwhat made you faint?" said Isabellaindifferent to the rest. Matildablushed and stammered -
"Myfather - he was sitting in judgment on a criminal - "
"Whatcriminal?" said Isabella eagerly.
"Ayoung man" said Matilda; "I believe - "
"Ithink it was that young man that - "
"WhatTheodore?" said Isabella.
"Yes"answered she; "I never saw him before; I do not know how he hadoffendedmy fatherbut as he has been of service to youI am glad myLord haspardoned him."
"Servedme!" replied Isabella; "do you term it serving meto woundmyfatherand almost occasion his death? Though it is but sinceyesterdaythat I am blessed with knowing a parentI hope Matilda doesnot thinkI am such a stranger to filial tenderness as not to resenttheboldness of that audacious youthand that it is impossible for meever tofeel any affection for one who dared to lift his arm againstthe authorof my being. NoMatildamy heart abhors him; and if youstillretain the friendship for me that you have vowed from yourinfancyyou will detest a man who has been on the point of making memiserablefor ever."
Matildaheld down her head and replied: "I hope my dearestIsabelladoes notdoubt her Matilda's friendship: I never beheld that youthuntilyesterday; he is almost a stranger to me: but as the surgeonshavepronounced your father out of dangeryou ought not to harbouruncharitableresentment against onewho I am persuaded did not knowtheMarquis was related to you."
"Youplead his cause very pathetically" said Isabella"consideringhe is somuch a stranger to you! I am mistakenor he returns yourcharity."
"Whatmean you?" said Matilda.
"Nothing"said Isabellarepenting that she had given Matilda a hintofTheodore's inclination for her. Then changing the discoursesheaskedMatilda what occasioned Manfred to take Theodore for a spectre?
"Blessme" said Matilda"did not you observe his extremeresemblanceto theportrait of Alfonso in the gallery? I took notice of it toBiancaeven before I saw him in armour; but with the helmet onhe isthe veryimage of that picture."
"I donot much observe pictures" said Isabella: "much lesshave Iexaminedthis young man so attentively as you seem to have done. Ah? Matildayour heart is in dangerbut let me warn you as a friendhehas ownedto me that he is in love; it cannot be with youforyesterdaywas the first time you ever met - was it not?"
"Certainly"replied Matilda; "but why does my dearest Isabellaconcludefrom anything I have saidthat" - she paused - thencontinuing: "he saw you firstand I am far from having the vanity tothink thatmy little portion of charms could engage a heart devoted toyou; mayyou be happyIsabellawhatever is the fate of Matilda!"
"Mylovely friend" said Isabellawhose heart was too honest toresist akind expression"it is you that Theodore admires; I saw it;I ampersuaded of it; nor shall a thought of my own happiness sufferme tointerfere with yours."
Thisfrankness drew tears from the gentle Matilda; and jealousy thatfor amoment had raised a coolness between these amiable maidens soongave wayto the natural sincerity and candour of their souls. Eachconfessedto the other the impression that Theodore had made on her;and thisconfidence was followed by a struggle of generosityeachinsistingon yielding her claim to her friend. At length the dignityofIsabella's virtue reminding her of the preference which Theodorehad almostdeclared for her rivalmade her determine to conquer herpassionand cede the beloved object to her friend.
Duringthis contest of amityHippolita entered her daughter'schamber.
"Madam"said she to Isabella"you have so much tenderness forMatildaand interest yourself so kindly in whatever affects ourwretchedhousethat I can have no secrets with my child which are notproper foryou to hear."
Theprincesses were all attention and anxiety.
"KnowthenMadam" continued Hippolita"and you my dearestMatildathat beingconvinced by all the events of these two last ominous daysthatheaven purposes the sceptre of Otranto should pass from Manfred'shands intothose of the Marquis FredericI have been perhaps inspiredwith thethought of averting our total destruction by the union of ourrivalhouses. With this view I have been proposing to Manfredmylordtotender this deardear child to Fredericyour father."
"Meto Lord Frederic!" cried Matilda; "good heavens! mygraciousmother -and have you named it to my father?"
"Ihave" said Hippolita; "he listened benignly to myproposaland isgone tobreak it to the Marquis."
"Ah!wretched princess!" cried Isabella; "what hast thou done!whatruin hasthy inadvertent goodness been preparing for thyselffor meand forMatilda!"
"Ruinfrom me to you and to my child!" said Hippolita "what canthismean?"
"Alas!"said Isabella"the purity of your own heart prevents yourseeing thedepravity of others. Manfredyour lordthat impious man- "
"Hold"said Hippolita; "you must not in my presenceyoung ladymentionManfred with disrespect: he is my lord and husbandand - "
"Willnot long be so" said Isabella"if his wicked purposes canbecarriedinto execution."
"Thislanguage amazes me" said Hippolita. "Your feelingIsabellais warm;but until this hour I never knew it betray you intointemperance. What deed of Manfred authorises you to treat him as amurdereran assassin?"
"Thouvirtuousand too credulous Princess!" replied Isabella; "itisnot thylife he aims at - it is to separate himself from thee! todivorcethee! to - "
"Todivorce me!" "To divorce my mother!" criedHippolita and Matildaat once.
"Yes"said Isabella; "and to complete his crimehe meditates - Icannotspeak it!"
"Whatcan surpass what thou hast already uttered?" said Matilda.
Hippolitawas silent. Grief choked her speech; and the recollectionofManfred's late ambiguous discourses confirmed what she heard.
"Excellentdear lady! madam! mother!" cried Isabellaflingingherself atHippolita's feet in a transport of passion; "trust mebelievemeI will die a thousand deaths sooner than consent to injureyouthanyield to so odious - oh! - "
"Thisis too much!" cried Hippolita: "What crimes does onecrimesuggest! Risedear Isabella; I do not doubt your virtue. Oh!Matildathis stroke is too heavy for thee! weep notmy child; andnot amurmurI charge thee. Rememberhe is thy father still!"
"Butyou are my mother too" said Matilda fervently; "and youarevirtuousyou are guiltless! - Oh! must not Imust not I complain?"
"Youmust not" said Hippolita - "comeall will yet be well. Manfredin the agony for the loss of thy brotherknew not what hesaid;perhaps Isabella misunderstood him; his heart is good - andmychildthou knowest not all! There is a destiny hangs over us; thehand ofProvidence is stretched out; oh! could I but save thee fromthewreck! Yes" continued she in a firmer tone"perhapsthesacrificeof myself may atone for all; I will go and offer myself tothisdivorce - it boots not what becomes of me. I will withdraw intotheneighbouring monasteryand waste the remainder of life in prayersand tearsfor my child and - the Prince!"
"Thouart as much too good for this world" said Isabella"asManfredisexecrable; but think notladythat thy weakness shall determinefor me. I swearhear me all ye angels - "
"StopI adjure thee" cried Hippolita: "remember thou dostnotdepend onthyself; thou hast a father."
"Myfather is too pioustoo noble" interrupted Isabella"tocommandan impiousdeed. But should he command it; can a father enjoin acursedact? I was contracted to the soncan I wed the father? Nomadamno;force should not drag me to Manfred's hated bed. I loathehimIabhor him: divine and human laws forbid - and my friendmydearestMatilda! would I wound her tender soul by injuring her adoredmother? myown mother - I never have known another" -
"Oh!she is the mother of both!" cried Matilda: "can wecan weIsabellaadore her too much?"
"Mylovely children" said the touched Hippolita"yourtendernessoverpowersme - but I must not give way to it. It is not ours to makeelectionfor ourselves: heavenour fathersand our husbands mustdecide forus. Have patience until you hear what Manfred and Frederichavedetermined. If the Marquis accepts Matilda's handI know shewillreadily obey. Heaven may interpose and prevent the rest. Whatmeans mychild?" continued sheseeing Matilda fall at her feet with aflood ofspeechless tears - "But no; answer me notmy daughter: Imust nothear a word against the pleasure of thy father."
"Oh!doubt not my obediencemy dreadful obedience to him and to you!"saidMatilda. "But can Imost respected of womencan Iexperienceall thistendernessthis world of goodnessand conceal a thoughtfrom thebest of mothers?"
"Whatart thou going to utter?" said Isabella trembling. "RecollectthyselfMatilda."
"NoIsabella" said the Princess"I should not deserve thisincomparableparentif the inmost recesses of my soul harboured athoughtwithout her permission - nayI have offended her; I havesuffered apassion to enter my heart without her avowal - but here Idisclaimit; here I vow to heaven and her - "
"Mychild! my child;" said Hippolita"what words are these!what newcalamitieshas fate in store for us! Thoua passion? Thouin thishour ofdestruction - "
"Oh!I see all my guilt!" said Matilda. "I abhor myselfif I cost mymother apang. She is the dearest thing I have on earth - Oh! I willnevernever behold him more!"
"Isabella"said Hippolita"thou art conscious to this unhappysecretwhatever it is. Speak!"
"What!"cried Matilda"have I so forfeited my mother's lovethat shewill notpermit me even to speak my own guilt? oh! wretchedwretchedMatilda!"
"Thouart too cruel" said Isabella to Hippolita: "canstthou beholdthisanguish of a virtuous mindand not commiserate it?"
"Notpity my child!" said Hippolitacatching Matilda in her arms -"Oh!I know she is goodshe is all virtueall tendernessand duty. I doforgive theemy excellentmy only hope!"
Theprincesses then revealed to Hippolita their mutual inclination forTheodoreand the purpose of Isabella to resign him to Matilda. Hippolitablamed their imprudenceand showed them the improbabilitythateither father would consent to bestow his heiress on so poor amanthough nobly born. Some comfort it gave her to find theirpassion ofso recent a dateand that Theodore had had but littlecause tosuspect it in either. She strictly enjoined them to avoidallcorrespondence with him. This Matilda fervently promised: butIsabellawho flattered herself that she meant no more than to promotehis unionwith her friendcould not determine to avoid him; and madeno reply.
"Iwill go to the convent" said Hippolita"and order newmasses tobe saidfor a deliverance from these calamities."
"Oh!my mother" said Matilda"you mean to quit us: youmean to takesanctuaryand to give my father an opportunity of pursuing his fatalintention. Alas! on my knees I supplicate you to forbear; will youleave me aprey to Frederic? I will follow you to the convent."
"Beat peacemy child" said Hippolita: "I will returninstantly. Iwill neverabandon theeuntil I know it is the will of heavenandfor thybenefit."
"Donot deceive me" said Matilda. "I will not marryFrederic untilthoucommandest it. Alas! what will become of me?"
"Whythat exclamation?" said Hippolita. "I have promisedthee toreturn - "
"Ah!my mother" replied Matilda"stay and save me frommyself. Afrown fromthee can do more than all my father's severity. I havegiven awaymy heartand you alone can make me recall it."
"Nomore" said Hippolita; "thou must not relapseMatilda."
"Ican quit Theodore" said she"but must I wed another? letmeattendthee to the altarand shut myself from the world for ever."
"Thyfate depends on thy father" said Hippolita; "I haveill-bestowedmytendernessif it has taught thee to revere aught beyond him. Adieu! mychild: I go to pray for thee."
Hippolita'sreal purpose was to demand of Jeromewhether inconscienceshe might not consent to the divorce. She had oft urgedManfred toresign the principalitywhich the delicacy of herconsciencerendered an hourly burthen to her. These scruplesconcurredto make the separation from her husband appear less dreadfulto herthan it would have seemed in any other situation.
Jeromeatquitting the castle overnighthad questioned Theodoreseverelywhy he had accused him to Manfred of being privy to hisescape. Theodore owned it had been with design to prevent Manfred'ssuspicionfrom alighting on Matilda; and addedthe holiness ofJerome'slife and character secured him from the tyrant's wrath. Jerome washeartily grieved to discover his son's inclination for thatprincess;and leaving him to his restpromised in the morning toacquainthim with important reasons for conquering his passion.
Theodorelike Isabellawas too recently acquainted with parentalauthorityto submit to its decisions against the impulse of his heart. He hadlittle curiosity to learn the Friar's reasonsand lessdispositionto obey them. The lovely Matilda had made strongerimpressionson him than filial affection. All night he pleasedhimselfwith visions of love; and it was not till late after themorning-officethat he recollected the Friar's commands to attend himatAlfonso's tomb.
"Youngman" said Jeromewhen he saw him"this tardiness doesnotpleaseme. Have a father's commands already so little weight?"
Theodoremade awkward excusesand attributed his delay to havingoverslepthimself.
"Andon whom were thy dreams employed?" said the Friar sternly. Hissonblushed. "Comecome" resumed the Friar"inconsiderate youththis mustnot be; eradicate this guilty passion from thy breast - "
"Guiltypassion!" cried Theodore: "Can guilt dwell withinnocentbeauty andvirtuous modesty?"
"Itis sinful" replied the Friar"to cherish those whomheaven hasdoomed todestruction. A tyrant's race must be swept from the earthto thethird and fourth generation."
"Willheaven visit the innocent for the crimes of the guilty?" saidTheodore. "The fair Matilda has virtues enough - "
"Toundo thee:" interrupted Jerome. "Hast thou so soonforgotten thattwice thesavage Manfred has pronounced thy sentence?"
"Norhave I forgottensir" said Theodore"that the charity ofhisdaughterdelivered me from his power. I can forget injuriesbutneverbenefits."
"Theinjuries thou hast received from Manfred's race" said theFriar"arebeyond what thou canst conceive. Reply notbut view this holyimage! Beneath this marble monument rest the ashes of the goodAlfonso; aprince adorned with every virtue: the father of hispeople!the delight of mankind! Kneelheadstrong boyand listwhile afather unfolds a tale of horror that will expel everysentimentfrom thy soulbut sensations of sacred vengeance - Alfonso!muchinjured prince! let thy unsatisfied shade sit awful on thetroubledairwhile these trembling lips - Ha! who comes there? - "
"Themost wretched of women!" said Hippolitaentering the choir. "GoodFatherart thou at leisure? - but why this kneeling youth? whatmeans thehorror imprinted on each countenance? why at this venerabletomb -alas! hast thou seen aught?"
"Wewere pouring forth our orisons to heaven" replied the Friarwithsomeconfusion"to put an end to the woes of this deplorableprovince. Join with usLady! thy spotless soul may obtain anexemptionfrom the judgments which the portents of these days but toospeakinglydenounce against thy house."
"Ipray fervently to heaven to divert them" said the piousPrincess. "Thouknowest it has been the occupation of my life to wrest ablessingfor my Lord and my harmless children. - One alas! is takenfrom me!would heaven but hear me for my poor Matilda! Father!intercedefor her!"
"Everyheart will bless her" cried Theodore with rapture.
"Bedumbrash youth!" said Jerome. "And thoufondPrincesscontendnot withthe Powers above! the Lord givethand the Lord taketh away: bless Hisholy nameand submit to his decrees."
"I domost devoutly" said Hippolita; "but will He not spare myonlycomfort?must Matilda perish too? - ah! FatherI came - but dismissthy son. No ear but thine must hear what I have to utter."
"Mayheaven grant thy every wishmost excellent Princess!" saidTheodoreretiring. Jerome frowned.
Hippolitathen acquainted the Friar with the proposal she hadsuggestedto Manfredhis approbation of itand the tender of Matildathat hewas gone to make to Frederic. Jerome could not conceal hisdislike ofthe notionwhich he covered under pretence of theimprobabilitythat Fredericthe nearest of blood to Alfonsoand whowas cometo claim his successionwould yield to an alliance with theusurper ofhis right. But nothing could equal the perplexity of theFriarwhen Hippolita confessed her readiness not to oppose theseparationand demanded his opinion on the legality of heracquiescence. The Friar caught eagerly at her request of his adviceandwithout explaining his aversion to the proposed marriage ofManfredand Isabellahe painted to Hippolita in the most alarmingcoloursthe sinfulness of her consentdenounced judgments against herif shecompliedand enjoined her in the severest terms to treat anysuchproposition with every mark of indignation and refusal.
Manfredin the meantimehad broken his purpose to Fredericandproposedthe double marriage. That weak Princewho had been struckwith thecharms of Matildalistened but too eagerly to the offer. Heforgot hisenmity to Manfredwhom he saw but little hope ofdispossessingby force; and flattering himself that no issue mightsucceedfrom the union of his daughter with the tyranthe looked uponhis ownsuccession to the principality as facilitated by weddingMatilda. He made faint opposition to the proposal; affectingforform onlynot to acquiesce unless Hippolita should consent to thedivorce. Manfred took that upon himself.
Transportedwith his successand impatient to see himself in asituationto expect sonshe hastened to his wife's apartmentdeterminedto extort her compliance. He learned with indignation thatshe wasabsent at the convent. His guilt suggested to him that shehadprobably been informed by Isabella of his purpose. He doubtedwhetherher retirement to the convent did not import an intention ofremainingthereuntil she could raise obstacles to their divorce; andthesuspicions he had already entertained of Jeromemade himapprehendthat the Friar would not only traverse his viewsbut mighthaveinspired Hippolita with the resolution of talking sanctuary. Impatientto unravel this clueand to defeat its successManfredhastenedto the conventand arrived there as the Friar was earnestlyexhortingthe Princess never to yield to the divorce.
"Madam"said Manfred"what business drew you hither? why did you notawait myreturn from the Marquis?"
"Icame to implore a blessing on your councils" replied Hippolita.
"Mycouncils do not need a Friar's intervention" said Manfred; "andof all menliving is that hoary traitor the only one whom you delightto conferwith?"
"ProfanePrince!" said Jerome; "is it at the altar that thouchoosestto insultthe servants of the altar? - butManfredthy impiousschemesare known. Heaven and this virtuous lady know them - nayfrown notPrince. The Church despises thy menaces. Her thunderswill beheard above thy wrath. Dare to proceed in thy cursed purposeof adivorceuntil her sentence be knownand here I lance heranathemaat thy head."
"Audaciousrebel!" said Manfredendeavouring to conceal the awe withwhich theFriar's words inspired him. "Dost thou presume to threatenthy lawfulPrince?"
"Thouart no lawful Prince" said Jerome; "thou art no Prince -godiscussthy claim with Frederic; and when that is done - "
"Itis done" replied Manfred; "Frederic accepts Matilda'shandandis contentto waive his claimunless I have no male issue" - as hespokethose words three drops of blood fell from the nose of Alfonso'sstatue. Manfred turned paleand the Princess sank on her knees.
"Behold!"said the Friar; "mark this miraculous indication that theblood ofAlfonso will never mix with that of Manfred!"
"Mygracious Lord" said Hippolita"let us submit ourselves toheaven. Think not thy ever obedient wife rebels against thyauthority. I have no will but that of my Lord and the Church. Tothatrevered tribunal let us appeal. It does not depend on us toburst thebonds that unite us. If the Church shall approve thedissolutionof our marriagebe it so - I have but few yearsandthose ofsorrowto pass. Where can they be worn away so well as atthe footof this altarin prayers for thine and Matilda's safety?"
"Butthou shalt not remain here until then" said Manfred. "Repairwith me tothe castleand there I will advise on the proper measuresfor adivorce; - but this meddling Friar comes not thither; myhospitableroof shall never more harbour a traitor - and for thyReverence'soff-spring" continued he"I banish him from mydominions. HeI weenis no sacred personagenor under theprotectionof the Church. Whoever weds Isabellait shall not beFatherFalconara's started-up son."
"Theystart up" said the Friar"who are suddenly beheld in theseatof lawfulPrinces; but they wither away like the grassand theirplaceknows them no more."
Manfredcasting a look of scorn at the Friarled Hippolita forth;but at thedoor of the church whispered one of his attendants toremainconcealed about the conventand bring him instant noticeifany onefrom the castle should repair thither.
EVERYreflection which Manfred made on the Friar's behaviourconspiredto persuade him that Jerome was privy to an amour betweenIsabellaand Theodore. But Jerome's new presumptionso dissonantfrom hisformer meeknesssuggested still deeper apprehensions. ThePrinceeven suspected that the Friar depended on some secret supportfromFredericwhose arrivalcoinciding with the novel appearance ofTheodoreseemed to bespeak a correspondence. Still more was hetroubledwith the resemblance of Theodore to Alfonso's portrait. Thelatter heknew had unquestionably died without issue. Frederic hadconsentedto bestow Isabella on him. These contradictions agitatedhis mindwith numberless pangs.
He saw buttwo methods of extricating himself from his difficulties. The onewas to resign his dominions to the Marquis - prideambitionand hisreliance on ancient prophecieswhich had pointed out apossibilityof his preserving them to his posteritycombated thatthought. The other was to press his marriage with Isabella. Afterlongruminating on these anxious thoughtsas he marched silently withHippolitato the castlehe at last discoursed with that Princess onthesubject of his disquietand used every insinuating and plausibleargumentto extract her consent toeven her promise of promoting thedivorce. Hippolita needed little persuasions to bend her to hispleasure. She endeavoured to win him over to the measure of resigninghisdominions; but finding her exhortations fruitlessshe assuredhimthatas far as her conscience would allowshe would raise nooppositionto a separationthough without better founded scruplesthan whathe yet allegedshe would not engage to be active indemandingit.
Thiscompliancethough inadequatewas sufficient to raise Manfred'shopes. He trusted that his power and wealth would easily advance hissuit atthe court of Romewhither he resolved to engage Frederic totake ajourney on purpose. That Prince had discovered so much passionforMatildathat Manfred hoped to obtain all he wished by holding outorwithdrawing his daughter's charmsaccording as the Marquis shouldappearmore or less disposed to co-operate in his views. Even theabsence ofFrederic would be a material point gaineduntil he couldtakefurther measures for his security.
DismissingHippolita to her apartmenthe repaired to that of theMarquis;but crossing the great hall through which he was to pass hemetBianca. The damsel he knew was in the confidence of both theyoungladies. It immediately occurred to him to sift her on thesubject ofIsabella and Theodore. Calling her aside into the recessof theoriel window of the halland soothing her with many fair wordsandpromiseshe demanded of her whether she knew aught of the stateofIsabella's affections.
"I!my Lord! no my Lord - yes my Lord - poor Lady! she is wonderfullyalarmedabout her father's wounds; but I tell her he will do well;don't yourHighness think so?"
"I donot ask you" replied Manfred"what she thinks about herfather;but you are in her secrets. Comebe a good girl and tell me;is thereany young man - ha! - you understand me."
"Lordbless me! understand your Highness? nonot I. I told her a fewvulneraryherbs and repose - "
"I amnot talking" replied the Princeimpatiently"about herfather; Iknow he will do well."
"BlessmeI rejoice to hear your Highness say so; for though Ithought itnot right to let my young Lady despondmethought hisgreatnesshad a wan lookand a something - I remember when youngFerdinandwas wounded by the Venetian - "
"Thouanswerest from the point" interrupted Manfred; "but heretakethisjewelperhaps that may fix thy attention - nayno reverences;my favourshall not stop here - cometell me truly; how standsIsabella'sheart?"
"Well!your Highness has such a way!" said Bianca"to be sure -butcan yourHighness keep a secret? if it should ever come out of yourlips - "
"Itshall notit shall not" cried Manfred.
"Naybut swearyour Highness."
"Bymy halidameif it should ever be known that I said it - "
"Whytruth is truthI do not think my Lady Isabella ever muchaffectionedmy young Lord your son; yet he was a sweet youth as oneshouldsee; I am sureif I had been a Princess - but bless me! Imustattend my Lady Matilda; she will marvel what is become of me."
"Stay"cried Manfred; "thou hast not satisfied my question. Hastthou evercarried any messageany letter?"
"I!good gracious!" cried Bianca; "I carry a letter? Iwould not tobe aQueen. I hope your Highness thinksthough I am poorI amhonest. Did your Highness never hear what Count Marsigli offered mewhen hecame a wooing to my Lady Matilda?"
"Ihave not leisure" said Manfred"to listen to thy tale. I do notquestionthy honesty. But it is thy duty to conceal nothing from me. How longhas Isabella been acquainted with Theodore?"
"Naythere is nothing can escape your Highness!" said Bianca; "notthat Iknow any thing of the matter. Theodoreto be sureis aproperyoung manandas my Lady Matilda saysthe very image of goodAlfonso. Has not your Highness remarked it?"
"Yesyes- No - thou torturest me" said Manfred. "Wheredid theymeet?when?"
"Who!my Lady Matilda?" said Bianca.
"Nononot Matilda: Isabella; when did Isabella first becomeacquaintedwith this Theodore!"
"VirginMary!" said Bianca"how should I know?"
"Thoudost know" said Manfred; "and I must know; I will - "
"Lord!your Highness is not jealous of young Theodore!" said Bianca.
"Jealous!nono. Why should I be jealous? perhaps I mean to unitethem - IfI were sure Isabella would have no repugnance."
"Repugnance!noI'll warrant her" said Bianca; "he is as comely ayouth asever trod on Christian ground. We are all in love with him;there isnot a soul in the castle but would be rejoiced to have himfor ourPrince - I meanwhen it shall please heaven to call yourHighnessto itself."
"Indeed!"said Manfred"has it gone so far! oh! this cursed Friar! -but I mustnot lose time - goBiancaattend Isabella; but I chargetheenota word of what has passed. Find out how she is affectedtowardsTheodore; bring me good newsand that ring has a companion. Wait atthe foot of the winding staircase: I am going to visit theMarquisand will talk further with thee at my return."
Manfredafter some general conversationdesired Frederic to dismissthe twoKnightshis companionshaving to talk with him on urgentaffairs.
As soon asthey were alonehe began in artful guise to sound theMarquis onthe subject of Matilda; and finding him disposed to hiswishhelet drop hints on the difficulties that would attend thecelebrationof their marriageunless - At that instant Bianca burstinto theroom with a wildness in her look and gestures that spoke theutmostterror.
"Oh!my Lordmy Lord!" cried she; "we are all undone! it iscomeagain! itis come again!"
"Whatis come again?" cried Manfred amazed.
"Oh!the hand! the Giant! the hand! - support me! I am terrified outof mysenses" cried Bianca. "I will not sleep in thecastle to-night. Where shall I go? my things may come after me to-morrow -would Ihad been content to wed Francesco! this comes of ambition!"
"Whathas terrified thee thusyoung woman?" said the Marquis. "Thouart safehere; be not alarmed."
"Oh!your Greatness is wonderfully good" said Bianca"but Idare not- nopraylet me go - I had rather leave everything behind methanstayanother hour under this roof."
"Gotothou hast lost thy senses" said Manfred. "Interruptus not;we werecommuning on important matters - My Lordthis wench issubject tofits - Come with meBianca."
"Oh!the Saints! No" said Bianca"for certain it comesto warn yourHighness;why should it appear to me else? I say my prayers morningandevening - oh! if your Highness had believed Diego! 'Tis thesamehand thathe saw the foot to in the gallery-chamber - Father Jeromehas oftentold us the prophecy would be out one of these days -'Bianca'said he'mark my words - '"
"Thouravest" said Manfredin a rage; "be goneand keep thesefooleriesto frighten thy companions."
"What!my Lord" cried Bianca"do you think I have seen nothing?goto thefoot of the great stairs yourself - as I live I saw it."
"Sawwhat? tell usfair maidwhat thou hast seen" said Frederic.
"Canyour Highness listen" said Manfred"to the delirium of asillywenchwhohas heard stories of apparitions until she believes them?"
"Thisis more than fancy" said the Marquis; "her terror is toonaturaland too strongly impressed to be the work of imagination. Tell usfair maidenwhat it is has moved thee thus?"
"Yesmy Lordthank your Greatness" said Bianca; "I believe Ilookvery pale;I shall be better when I have recovered myself - I wasgoing tomy Lady Isabella's chamberby his Highness's order - "
"Wedo not want the circumstances" interrupted Manfred. "Since hisHighnesswill have it soproceed; but be brief."
"Lord!your Highness thwarts one so!" replied Bianca; "I fear myhair- I amsure I never in my life - well! as I was telling yourGreatnessI was going by his Highness's order to my Lady Isabella'schamber;she lies in the watchet-coloured chamberon the right handone pairof stairs: so when I came to the great stairs - I waslooking onhis Highness's present here - "
"Grantme patience! " said Manfred"will this wench never come tothepoint?what imports it to the Marquisthat I gave thee a bauble forthyfaithful attendance on my daughter? we want to know what thousawest."
"Iwas going to tell your Highness" said Bianca"if youwould permitme. So as I was rubbing the ring - I am sure I had not gone up threestepsbutI heard the rattling of armour; for all the world such aclatter asDiego says he heard when the Giant turned him about in thegallery-chamber."
"WhatGiant is thismy Lord?" said the Marquis; "is your castlehaunted bygiants and goblins?"
"Lord!whathas not your Greatness heard the story of the Giant inthegallery-chamber?" cried Bianca. "I marvel hisHighness has nottold you;mayhap you do not know there is a prophecy - "
"Thistrifling is intolerable" interrupted Manfred. "Letus dismissthis sillywenchmy Lord! we have more important affairs to discuss."
"Byyour favour" said Frederic"these are no trifles. The enormoussabre Iwas directed to in the woodyon casqueits fellow - arethesevisions of this poor maiden's brain?"
"SoJaquez thinksmay it please your Greatness" said Bianca. "Hesays thismoon will not be out without our seeing some strangerevolution. For my partI should not be surprised if it was tohappento-morrow; foras I was sayingwhen I heard the clattering ofarmourIwas all in a cold sweat. I looked upandif yourGreatnesswill believe meI saw upon the uppermost banister of thegreatstairs a hand in armour as big as big. I thought I should haveswooned. I never stopped until I came hither - would I were well outof thiscastle. My Lady Matilda told me but yester-morning that herHighnessHippolita knows something."
"Thouart an insolent!" cried Manfred. "Lord Marquisitmuchmisgivesme that this scene is concerted to affront me. Are my owndomesticssuborned to spread tales injurious to my honour? Pursueyour claimby manly daring; or let us bury our feudsas was proposedby theintermarriage of our children. But trust meit ill becomes aPrince ofyour bearing to practise on mercenary wenches."
"Iscorn your imputation" said Frederic. "Until thishour I neverset eyeson this damsel: I have given her no jewel. My LordmyLordyourconscienceyour guilt accuses youand would throw thesuspicionon me; but keep your daughterand think no more ofIsabella. The judgments already fallen on your house forbid mematchinginto it."
Manfredalarmed at the resolute tone in which Frederic deliveredthesewordsendeavoured to pacify him. Dismissing Biancahe madesuchsubmissions to the Marquisand threw in such artful encomiums onMatildathat Frederic was once more staggered. Howeveras hispassionwas of so recent a dateit could not at once surmount thescrupleshe had conceived. He had gathered enough from Bianca'sdiscourseto persuade him that heaven declared itself against Manfred. Theproposed marriages too removed his claim to a distance; and theprincipalityof Otranto was a stronger temptation than the contingentreversionof it with Matilda. Still he would not absolutely recedefrom hisengagements; but purposing to gain timehe demanded ofManfred ifit was true in fact that Hippolita consented to thedivorce. The Princetransported to find no other obstacleanddependingon his influence over his wifeassured the Marquis it wassoandthat he might satisfy himself of the truth from her own mouth.
As theywere thus discoursingword was brought that the banquet wasprepared. Manfred conducted Frederic to the great hallwhere theywerereceived by Hippolita and the young Princesses. Manfred placedtheMarquis next to Matildaand seated himself between his wife andIsabella. Hippolita comported herself with an easy gravity; but theyoungladies were silent and melancholy. Manfredwho was determinedto pursuehis point with the Marquis in the remainder of the eveningpushed onthe feast until it waxed late; affecting unrestrainedgaietyand plying Frederic with repeated goblets of wine. Thelattermore upon his guard than Manfred wisheddeclined his frequentchallengeson pretence of his late loss of blood; while the Princeto raisehis own disordered spiritsand to counterfeit unconcernindulgedhimself in plentiful draughtsthough not to the intoxicationof hissenses.
Theevening being far advancedthe banquet concluded. Manfredwouldhavewithdrawn with Frederic; but the latter pleading weakness andwant ofreposeretired to his chambergallantly telling the Princethat hisdaughter should amuse his Highness until himself could attendhim. Manfred accepted the partyand to the no small grief ofIsabellaaccompanied her to her apartment. Matilda waited on hermother toenjoy the freshness of the evening on the ramparts of thecastle.
Soon asthe company were dispersed their several waysFredericquittinghis chamberinquired if Hippolita was aloneand was told byone of herattendantswho had not noticed her going forththat atthat hourshe generally withdrew to her oratorywhere he probablywould findher. The Marquisduring the repasthad beheld Matildawithincrease of passion. He now wished to find Hippolita in thedispositionher Lord had promised. The portents that had alarmed himwereforgotten in his desires. Stealing softly and unobserved to theapartmentof Hippolitahe entered it with a resolution to encourageheracquiescence to the divorcehaving perceived that Manfred wasresolvedto make the possession of Isabella an unalterable conditionbefore hewould grant Matilda to his wishes.
TheMarquis was not surprised at the silence that reigned in thePrincess'sapartment. Concluding heras he had been advertisedinheroratoryhe passed on. The door was ajar; the evening gloomyandovercast. Pushing open the door gentlyhe saw a person kneelingbefore thealtar. As he approached nearerit seemed not a womanbutone in along woollen weedwhose back was towards him. The personseemedabsorbed in prayer. The Marquis was about to returnwhen thefigurerisingstood some moments fixed in meditationwithoutregardinghim. The Marquisexpecting the holy person to come forthandmeaning to excuse his uncivil interruptionsaid
"ReverendFatherI sought the Lady Hippolita."
"Hippolita!"replied a hollow voice; "camest thou to this castle toseekHippolita?" and then the figureturning slowly rounddiscoveredtoFrederic the fleshless jaws and empty sockets of a skeletonwraptin ahermit's cowl.
"Angelsof grace protect me!" cried Fredericrecoiling.
"Deservetheir protection!" said the Spectre. Fredericfalling onhis kneesadjured the phantom to take pity on him.
"Dostthou not remember me?" said the apparition. "Rememberthe woodof Joppa!"
"Artthou that holy hermit?" cried Frederictrembling. "CanI doaught forthy eternal peace?"
"Wastthou delivered from bondage" said the spectre"to pursuecarnaldelights? Hast thou forgotten the buried sabreand the behestof Heavenengraven on it?"
"Ihave notI have not" said Frederic; "but sayblestspiritwhatis thyerrand to me? What remains to be done?"
"Toforget Matilda!" said the apparition; and vanished.
Frederic'sblood froze in his veins. For some minutes he remainedmotionless. Then falling prostrate on his face before the altarhebesoughtthe intercession of every saint for pardon. A flood of tearssucceededto this transport; and the image of the beauteous Matildarushing inspite of him on his thoughtshe lay on the ground in aconflictof penitence and passion. Ere he could recover from thisagony ofhis spiritsthe Princess Hippolita with a taper in her handenteredthe oratory alone. Seeing a man without motion on the floorshe gave ashriekconcluding him dead. Her fright brought Frederictohimself. Rising suddenlyhis face bedewed with tearshe wouldhaverushed from her presence; but Hippolita stopping himconjuredhim in themost plaintive accents to explain the cause of hisdisorderand by what strange chance she had found him there in thatposture.
"Ahvirtuous Princess!" said the Marquispenetrated with griefandstopped.
"Forthe love of Heavenmy Lord" said Hippolita"disclose thecauseof thistransport! What mean these doleful soundsthis alarmingexclamationon my name? What woes has heaven still in store for thewretchedHippolita? Yet silent! By every pitying angelI adjuretheenoble Prince" continued shefalling at his feet"todisclosethepurport of what lies at thy heart. I see thou feelest for me;thoufeelest the sharp pangs that thou inflictest - speakfor pity! Does aughtthou knowest concern my child?"
"Icannot speak" cried Fredericbursting from her. "OhMatilda!"
Quittingthe Princess thus abruptlyhe hastened to his own apartment. At thedoor of it he was accosted by Manfredwho flushed by wine andlove hadcome to seek himand to propose to waste some hours of thenight inmusic and revelling. Fredericoffended at an invitation sodissonantfrom the mood of his soulpushed him rudely asideandenteringhis chamberflung the door intemperately against Manfredand boltedit inwards. The haughty Princeenraged at thisunaccountablebehaviourwithdrew in a frame of mind capable of themost fatalexcesses. As he crossed the courthe was met by thedomesticwhom he had planted at the convent as a spy on Jerome andTheodore. This manalmost breathless with the haste he had madeinformedhis Lord that Theodoreand some lady from the castle wereat thatinstantin private conference at the tomb of Alfonso in St.Nicholas'schurch. He had dogged Theodore thitherbut the gloominessof thenight had prevented his discovering who the woman was.
Manfredwhose spirits were inflamedand whom Isabella had drivenfrom heron his urging his passion with too little reservedid notdoubt butthe inquietude she had expressed had been occasioned by herimpatienceto meet Theodore. Provoked by this conjectureand enragedat herfatherhe hastened secretly to the great church. Glidingsoftlybetween the aislesand guided by an imperfect gleam ofmoonshinethat shone faintly through the illuminated windowshe stoletowardsthe tomb of Alfonsoto which he was directed by indistinctwhispersof the persons he sought. The first sounds he coulddistinguishwere -
"Doesitalas! depend on me? Manfred will never permit our union."
"Nothis shall prevent it!" cried the tyrantdrawing his daggerandplungingit over her shoulder into the bosom of the person that spoke.
"AhmeI am slain!" cried Matildasinking. "Goodheavenreceivemy soul!"
"Savageinhuman monsterwhat hast thou done!" cried Theodorerushing onhimand wrenching his dagger from him.
"Stopstop thy impious hand!" cried Matilda; "it is my father!"
Manfredwaking as from a trancebeat his breasttwisted his handsin hislocksand endeavoured to recover his dagger from Theodore todespatchhimself. Theodorescarce less distractedand onlymasteringthe transports of his grief to assist Matildahad now byhis criesdrawn some of the monks to his aid. While part of themendeavouredin concert with the afflicted Theodoreto stop the bloodof thedying Princessthe rest prevented Manfred from laying violenthands onhimself.
Matildaresigning herself patiently to her fateacknowledged withlooks ofgrateful love the zeal of Theodore. Yet oft as her faintnesswouldpermit her speech its wayshe begged the assistants to comfortherfather. Jeromeby this timehad learnt the fatal newsandreachedthe church. His looks seemed to reproach Theodorebutturning toManfredhe said
"Nowtyrant! behold the completion of woe fulfilled on thy impiousanddevoted head! The blood of Alfonso cried to heaven forvengeance;and heavenhas permitted its altar to be polluted by assassinationthat thoumightest shed thy own blood at the foot of that Prince'ssepulchre!"
"Cruelman!" cried Matilda"to aggravate the woes of a parent;mayheavenbless my fatherand forgive him as I do! My Lordmy graciousSiredostthou forgive thy child? IndeedI came not hither to meetTheodore. I found him praying at this tombwhither my mother sent metointercede for theefor her - dearest fatherbless your childandsay youforgive her."
"Forgivethee! Murderous monster!" cried Manfred"canassassinsforgive? I took thee for Isabella; but heaven directed my bloody handto theheart of my child. OhMatilda! - I cannot utter it - canstthouforgive the blindness of my rage?"
"IcanI do; and may heaven confirm it!" said Matilda; "butwhile Ihave lifeto ask it - oh! my mother! what will she feel? Will youcomforthermy Lord? Will you not put her away? Indeed she lovesyou! OhI am faint! bear me to the castle. Can I live to have herclose myeyes?"
Theodoreand the monks besought her earnestly to suffer herself to beborne intothe convent; but her instances were so pressing to becarried tothe castlethat placing her on a litterthey conveyed herthither asshe requested. Theodoresupporting her head with his armandhanging over her in an agony of despairing lovestill endeavouredto inspireher with hopes of life. Jeromeon the other sidecomfortedher with discourses of heavenand holding a crucifix beforeherwhichshe bathed with innocent tearsprepared her for herpassage toimmortality. Manfredplunged in the deepest afflictionfollowedthe litter in despair.
Ere theyreached the castleHippolitainformed of the dreadfulcatastrophehad flown to meet her murdered child; but when she sawtheafflicted processionthe mightiness of her grief deprived her ofhersensesand she fell lifeless to the earth in a swoon. IsabellaandFredericwho attended herwere overwhelmed in almost equalsorrow. Matilda alone seemed insensible to her own situation: everythoughtwas lost in tenderness for her mother.
Orderingthe litter to stopas soon as Hippolita was brought toherselfshe asked for her father. He approachedunable to speak. Matildaseizing his hand and her mother'slocked them in her ownand thenclasped them to her heart. Manfred could not support thisact ofpathetic piety. He dashed himself on the groundand cursedthe day hewas born. Isabellaapprehensive that these struggles ofpassionwere more than Matilda could supporttook upon herself toorderManfred to be borne to his apartmentwhile she caused Matildato beconveyed to the nearest chamber. Hippolitascarce more alivethan herdaughterwas regardless of everything but her; but when thetenderIsabella's care would have likewise removed herwhile thesurgeonsexamined Matilda's woundshe cried
"Removeme! nevernever! I lived but in herand will expire withher."
Matildaraised her eyes at her mother's voicebut closed them againwithoutspeaking. Her sinking pulse and the damp coldness of her handsoondispelled all hopes of recovery. Theodore followed the surgeonsinto theouter chamberand heard them pronounce the fatal sentencewith atransport equal to frenzy.
"Sinceshe cannot live mine" cried he"at least she shall bemine indeath! Father! Jerome! will you not join our hands?" cried he totheFriarwhowith the Marquishad accompanied the surgeons.
"Whatmeans thy distracted rashness?" said Jerome. "Is thisan hourformarriage?"
"Itisit is" cried Theodore. "Alas! there is noother!"
"Youngmanthou art too unadvised" said Frederic. "Dostthou thinkwe are tolisten to thy fond transports in this hour of fate? Whatpretensionshast thou to the Princess?"
"Thoseof a Prince" said Theodore; "of the sovereign of Otranto. Thisreverend manmy fatherhas informed me who I am."
"Thouravest" said the Marquis. "There is no Prince ofOtranto butmyselfnow Manfredby murderby sacrilegious murderhas forfeitedallpretensions."
"MyLord" said Jeromeassuming an air of command"he tellsyoutrue. It was not my purpose the secret should have been divulged sosoonbutfate presses onward to its work. What his hot-headedpassionhas revealedmy tongue confirms. KnowPrincethat whenAlfonsoset sail for the Holy Land - "
"Isthis a season for explanations?" cried Theodore. "Fathercomeand uniteme to the Princess; she shall be mine! In every other thingI willdutifully obey you. My life! my adored Matilda!" continuedTheodorerushing back into the inner chamber"will you not be mine? Will younot bless your - "
Isabellamade signs to him to be silentapprehending the Princess wasnear herend.
"Whatis she dead?" cried Theodore; "is it possible!"
Theviolence of his exclamations brought Matilda to herself. Liftingup hereyesshe looked round for her mother.
"Lifeof my soulI am here!" cried Hippolita; "think not I willquitthee!"
"Oh!you are too good" said Matilda. "But weep not formemymother! I am going where sorrow never dwells - Isabellathou hastloved me;wouldst thou not supply my fondness to this deardearwoman? Indeed I am faint!"
"Oh!my child! my child!" said Hippolita in a flood of tears"canInotwithhold thee a moment?"
"Itwill not be" said Matilda; "commend me to heaven - Whereis myfather?forgive himdearest mother - forgive him my death; it was anerror. Oh! I had forgotten - dearest motherI vowed never to seeTheodoremore - perhaps that has drawn down this calamity - but it wasnotintentional - can you pardon me?"
"Oh!wound not my agonising soul!" said Hippolita; "thou nevercouldstoffend me- Alas! she faints! help! help!"
"Iwould say something more" said Matildastruggling"butit cannotbe -Isabella - Theodore - for my sake - Oh! - " she expired.
Isabellaand her women tore Hippolita from the corse; but Theodorethreateneddestruction to all who attempted to remove him from it. Heprinted athousand kisses on her clay-cold handsand uttered everyexpressionthat despairing love could dictate.
Isabellain the meantimewas accompanying the afflicted Hippolita toherapartment; butin the middle of the courtthey were met byManfredwhodistracted with his own thoughtsand anxious once moreto beholdhis daughterwas advancing to the chamber where she lay. As themoon was now at its heighthe read in the countenances of thisunhappycompany the event he dreaded.
"What!is she dead?" cried he in wild confusion. A clap ofthunder atthatinstant shook the castle to its foundations; the earth rockedand theclank of more than mortal armour was heard behind. Fredericand Jeromethought the last day was at hand. The latterforcingTheodorealong with themrushed into the court. The moment Theodoreappearedthe walls of the castle behind Manfred were thrown down witha mightyforceand the form of Alfonsodilated to an immensemagnitudeappeared in the centre of the ruins.
"Beholdin Theodore the true heir of Alfonso!" said the vision: Andhavingpronounced those wordsaccompanied by a clap of thunderitascendedsolemnly towards heavenwhere the clouds parting asunderthe formof St. Nicholas was seenand receiving Alfonso's shadetheywere soonwrapt from mortal eyes in a blaze of glory.
Thebeholders fell prostrate on their facesacknowledging the divinewill. The first that broke silence was Hippolita.
"MyLord" said she to the desponding Manfred"behold thevanity ofhumangreatness! Conrad is gone! Matilda is no more! InTheodore weview thetrue Prince of Otranto. By what miracle he is so I know not- sufficeit to usour doom is pronounced! shall we notcan we butdedicatethe few deplorable hours we have to livein deprecating thefurtherwrath of heaven? heaven ejects us - whither can we flybut toyon holycells that yet offer us a retreat."
"Thouguiltless but unhappy woman! unhappy by my crimes!" repliedManfred"my heart at last is open to thy devout admonitions. Oh!could -but it cannot be - ye are lost in wonder - let me at last dojustice onmyself! To heap shame on my own head is all thesatisfactionI have left to offer to offended heaven. My story hasdrawn downthese judgments: Let my confession atone - butah! whatcan atonefor usurpation and a murdered child? a child murdered in aconsecratedplace? Listsirsand may this bloody record be awarning tofuture tyrants!"
"Alfonsoye all knowdied in the Holy Land - ye would interrupt me;ye wouldsay he came not fairly to his end - it is most true - whyelse thisbitter cup which Manfred must drink to the dregs. Ricardomygrandfatherwas his chamberlain - I would draw a veil over myancestor'scrimes - but it is in vain! Alfonso died by poison. Afictitiouswill declared Ricardo his heir. His crimes pursued him -yet helost no Conradno Matilda! I pay the price of usurpation forall! A storm overtook him. Haunted by his guilt he vowed to St.Nicholasto found a church and two conventsif he lived to reachOtranto. The sacrifice was accepted: the saint appeared to him in adreamandpromised that Ricardo's posterity should reign in Otrantountil therightful owner should be grown too large to inhabit thecastleand as long as issue male from Ricardo's loins should remainto enjoyit - alas! alas! nor male nor femaleexcept myselfremainsof all hiswretched race! I have done - the woes of these three daysspeak therest. How this young man can be Alfonso's heir I know not -yet I donot doubt it. His are these dominions; I resign them - yet Iknew notAlfonso had an heir - I question not the will of heaven -povertyand prayer must fill up the woeful spaceuntil Manfred shallbesummoned to Ricardo."
"Whatremains is my part to declare" said Jerome. "WhenAlfonso setsail forthe Holy Land he was driven by a storm to the coast ofSicily. The other vesselwhich bore Ricardo and his trainas yourLordshipmust have heardwas separated from him."
"Itis most true" said Manfred; "and the title you give me ismorethan anoutcast can claim - well! be it so - proceed."
Jeromeblushedand continued. "For three months Lord Alfonso waswind-boundin Sicily. There he became enamoured of a fair virginnamedVictoria. He was too pious to tempt her to forbiddenpleasures. They weremarried. Yet deeming this amour incongruous with the holyvow ofarms by which he was boundhe determined to conceal theirnuptialsuntil his return from the Crusadewhen he purposed to seekandacknowledge her for his lawful wife. He left her pregnant. During hisabsence she was delivered of a daughter. But scarce hadshe felt amother's pangs ere she heard the fatal rumour of her Lord'sdeathandthe succession of Ricardo. What could a friendlesshelplesswoman do? Would her testimony avail? - yetmy lordI haveanauthentic writing - "
"Itneeds not" said Manfred; "the horrors of these daysthevisionwe havebut now seenall corroborate thy evidence beyond a thousandparchments. Matilda's death and my expulsion - "
"Becomposedmy Lord" said Hippolita; "this holy man did notmean torecallyour griefs." Jerome proceeded.
"Ishall not dwell on what is needless. The daughter of whichVictoriawas deliveredwas at her maturity bestowed in marriage onme. Victoria died; and the secret remained locked in my breast. Theodore'snarrative has told the rest."
The Friarceased. The disconsolate company retired to the remainingpart ofthe castle. In the morning Manfred signed his abdication oftheprincipalitywith the approbation of Hippolitaand each took onthem thehabit of religion in the neighbouring convents. Fredericofferedhis daughter to the new Princewhich Hippolita's tendernessforIsabella concurred to promote. But Theodore's grief was toofreshto admitthe thought of another love; and it was not until afterfrequentdiscourses with Isabella of his dear Matildathat he waspersuadedhe could know no happiness but in the society of one withwhom hecould for ever indulge the melancholy that had takenpossessionof his soul.