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Title: The Monk: A Romance
Author: Lewis, M. G. (Matthew Gregory)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Monk: A Romance" ***

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The Monk:
A Romance

by M. G. Lewis, Esq. M.P.


Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
Nocturnos lemures, portentaque.

HORAT.

Dreams, magic terrors, spells of mighty power,
Witches, and ghosts who rove at midnight hour.


Contents

 PREFACE
 CHAPTER I.
 CHAPTER II.
 CHAPTER III.
 CHAPTER IV.
 CHAPTER V.
 CHAPTER VI.
 CHAPTER VII.
 CHAPTER VIII.
 CHAPTER IX.
 CHAPTER X.
 CHAPTER XI.
 CHAPTER XII.



PREFACE


IMITATION OF HORACE
Ep. 20.—B. 1.

Methinks, Oh! vain ill-judging Book,
I see thee cast a wishful look,
Where reputations won and lost are
In famous row called Paternoster.
Incensed to find your precious olio
Buried in unexplored port-folio,
You scorn the prudent lock and key,
And pant well bound and gilt to see
Your Volume in the window set
Of Stockdale, Hookham, or Debrett.

Go then, and pass that dangerous bourn
Whence never Book can back return:
And when you find, condemned, despised,
Neglected, blamed, and criticised,
Abuse from All who read you fall,
(If haply you be read at all
Sorely will you your folly sigh at,
And wish for me, and home, and quiet.

Assuming now a conjuror’s office, I
Thus on your future Fortune prophesy:—
Soon as your novelty is o’er,
And you are young and new no more,
In some dark dirty corner thrown,
Mouldy with damps, with cobwebs strown,
Your leaves shall be the Book-worm’s prey;
Or sent to Chandler-Shop away,
And doomed to suffer public scandal,
Shall line the trunk, or wrap the candle!

But should you meet with approbation,
And some one find an inclination
To ask, by natural transition
Respecting me and my condition;
That I am one, the enquirer teach,
Nor very poor, nor very rich;
Of passions strong, of hasty nature,
Of graceless form and dwarfish stature;
By few approved, and few approving;
Extreme in hating and in loving;

Abhorring all whom I dislike,
Adoring who my fancy strike;
In forming judgements never long,
And for the most part judging wrong;
In friendship firm, but still believing
Others are treacherous and deceiving,
And thinking in the present aera
That Friendship is a pure chimaera:
More passionate no creature living,
Proud, obstinate, and unforgiving,
But yet for those who kindness show,
Ready through fire and smoke to go.

Again, should it be asked your page,
“Pray, what may be the author’s age?”
Your faults, no doubt, will make it clear,
I scarce have seen my twentieth year,
Which passed, kind Reader, on my word,
While England’s Throne held George the Third.

Now then your venturous course pursue:
Go, my delight! Dear Book, adieu!

M. G. L.

Hague,
Oct. 28, 1794.



ADVERTISEMENT


The first idea of this Romance was suggested by the story of the
_Santon Barsisa_, related in The Guardian.—The _Bleeding Nun_ is a
tradition still credited in many parts of Germany; and I have been told
that the ruins of the Castle of _Lauenstein_, which She is supposed to
haunt, may yet be seen upon the borders of _Thuringia.—The Water-King_,
from the third to the twelfth stanza, is the fragment of an original
Danish Ballad—And _Belerma and Durandarte_ is translated from some
stanzas to be found in a collection of old Spanish poetry, which
contains also the popular song of _Gayferos and Melesindra_, mentioned
in Don Quixote.—I have now made a full avowal of all the plagiarisms of
which I am aware myself; but I doubt not, many more may be found, of
which I am at present totally unconscious.



CHAPTER I.


——Lord Angelo is precise;
Stands at a guard with envy; Scarce confesses
That his blood flows, or that his appetite
Is more to bread than stone.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE.

Scarcely had the Abbey Bell tolled for five minutes, and already was
the Church of the Capuchins thronged with Auditors. Do not encourage
the idea that the Crowd was assembled either from motives of piety or
thirst of information. But very few were influenced by those reasons;
and in a city where superstition reigns with such despotic sway as in
Madrid, to seek for true devotion would be a fruitless attempt. The
Audience now assembled in the Capuchin Church was collected by various
causes, but all of them were foreign to the ostensible motive. The
Women came to show themselves, the Men to see the Women: Some were
attracted by curiosity to hear an Orator so celebrated; Some came
because they had no better means of employing their time till the play
began; Some, from being assured that it would be impossible to find
places in the Church; and one half of Madrid was brought thither by
expecting to meet the other half. The only persons truly anxious to
hear the Preacher were a few antiquated devotees, and half a dozen
rival Orators, determined to find fault with and ridicule the
discourse. As to the remainder of the Audience, the Sermon might have
been omitted altogether, certainly without their being disappointed,
and very probably without their perceiving the omission.

Whatever was the occasion, it is at least certain that the Capuchin
Church had never witnessed a more numerous assembly. Every corner was
filled, every seat was occupied. The very Statues which ornamented the
long aisles were pressed into the service. Boys suspended themselves
upon the wings of Cherubims; St. Francis and St. Mark bore each a
spectator on his shoulders; and St. Agatha found herself under the
necessity of carrying double. The consequence was, that in spite of all
their hurry and expedition, our two newcomers, on entering the Church,
looked round in vain for places.

However, the old Woman continued to move forwards. In vain were
exclamations of displeasure vented against her from all sides: In vain
was She addressed with—“I assure you, Segnora, there are no places
here.”—“I beg, Segnora, that you will not crowd me so
intolerably!”—“Segnora, you cannot pass this way. Bless me! How can
people be so troublesome!”—The old Woman was obstinate, and on She
went. By dint of perseverance and two brawny arms She made a passage
through the Crowd, and managed to bustle herself into the very body of
the Church, at no great distance from the Pulpit. Her companion had
followed her with timidity and in silence, profiting by the exertions
of her conductress.

“Holy Virgin!” exclaimed the old Woman in a tone of disappointment,
while She threw a glance of enquiry round her; “Holy Virgin! What heat!
What a Crowd! I wonder what can be the meaning of all this. I believe
we must return: There is no such thing as a seat to be had, and nobody
seems kind enough to accommodate us with theirs.”

This broad hint attracted the notice of two Cavaliers, who occupied
stools on the right hand, and were leaning their backs against the
seventh column from the Pulpit. Both were young, and richly habited.
Hearing this appeal to their politeness pronounced in a female voice,
they interrupted their conversation to look at the speaker. She had
thrown up her veil in order to take a clearer look round the Cathedral.
Her hair was red, and She squinted. The Cavaliers turned round, and
renewed their conversation.

“By all means,” replied the old Woman’s companion; “By all means,
Leonella, let us return home immediately; The heat is excessive, and I
am terrified at such a crowd.”

These words were pronounced in a tone of unexampled sweetness. The
Cavaliers again broke off their discourse, but for this time they were
not contented with looking up: Both started involuntarily from their
seats, and turned themselves towards the Speaker.

The voice came from a female, the delicacy and elegance of whose figure
inspired the Youths with the most lively curiosity to view the face to
which it belonged. This satisfaction was denied them. Her features were
hidden by a thick veil; But struggling through the crowd had deranged
it sufficiently to discover a neck which for symmetry and beauty might
have vied with the Medicean Venus. It was of the most dazzling
whiteness, and received additional charms from being shaded by the
tresses of her long fair hair, which descended in ringlets to her
waist. Her figure was rather below than above the middle size: It was
light and airy as that of an Hamadryad. Her bosom was carefully veiled.
Her dress was white; it was fastened by a blue sash, and just permitted
to peep out from under it a little foot of the most delicate
proportions. A chaplet of large grains hung upon her arm, and her face
was covered with a veil of thick black gauze. Such was the female, to
whom the youngest of the Cavaliers now offered his seat, while the
other thought it necessary to pay the same attention to her companion.

The old Lady with many expressions of gratitude, but without much
difficulty, accepted the offer, and seated herself: The young one
followed her example, but made no other compliment than a simple and
graceful reverence. Don Lorenzo (such was the Cavalier’s name, whose
seat She had accepted) placed himself near her; But first He whispered
a few words in his Friend’s ear, who immediately took the hint, and
endeavoured to draw off the old Woman’s attention from her lovely
charge.

“You are doubtless lately arrived at Madrid,” said Lorenzo to his fair
Neighbour; “It is impossible that such charms should have long remained
unobserved; and had not this been your first public appearance, the
envy of the Women and adoration of the Men would have rendered you
already sufficiently remarkable.”

He paused, in expectation of an answer. As his speech did not
absolutely require one, the Lady did not open her lips: After a few
moments He resumed his discourse:

“Am I wrong in supposing you to be a Stranger to Madrid?”

The Lady hesitated; and at last, in so low a voice as to be scarcely
intelligible, She made shift to answer,—“No, Segnor.”

“Do you intend making a stay of any length?”

“Yes, Segnor.”

“I should esteem myself fortunate, were it in my power to contribute to
making your abode agreeable. I am well known at Madrid, and my Family
has some interest at Court. If I can be of any service, you cannot
honour or oblige me more than by permitting me to be of use to
you.”—“Surely,” said He to himself, “She cannot answer that by a
monosyllable; now She must say something to me.”

Lorenzo was deceived, for the Lady answered only by a bow.

By this time He had discovered that his Neighbour was not very
conversible; But whether her silence proceeded from pride, discretion,
timidity, or idiotism, He was still unable to decide.

After a pause of some minutes—“It is certainly from your being a
Stranger,” said He, “and as yet unacquainted with our customs, that you
continue to wear your veil. Permit me to remove it.”

At the same time He advanced his hand towards the Gauze: The Lady
raised hers to prevent him.

“I never unveil in public, Segnor.”

“And where is the harm, I pray you?” interrupted her Companion somewhat
sharply; “Do not you see that the other Ladies have all laid their
veils aside, to do honour no doubt to the holy place in which we are? I
have taken off mine already; and surely if I expose my features to
general observation, you have no cause to put yourself in such a
wonderful alarm! Blessed Maria! Here is a fuss and a bustle about a
chit’s face! Come, come, Child! Uncover it; I warrant you that nobody
will run away with it from you—”

“Dear aunt, it is not the custom in Murcia.”

“Murcia, indeed! Holy St. Barbara, what does that signify? You are
always putting me in mind of that villainous Province. If it is the
custom in Madrid, that is all that we ought to mind, and therefore I
desire you to take off your veil immediately. Obey me this moment
Antonia, for you know that I cannot bear contradiction—”

Her niece was silent, but made no further opposition to Don Lorenzo’s
efforts, who, armed with the Aunt’s sanction hastened to remove the
Gauze. What a Seraph’s head presented itself to his admiration! Yet it
was rather bewitching than beautiful; It was not so lovely from
regularity of features as from sweetness and sensibility of
Countenance. The several parts of her face considered separately, many
of them were far from handsome; but when examined together, the whole
was adorable. Her skin though fair was not entirely without freckles;
Her eyes were not very large, nor their lashes particularly long. But
then her lips were of the most rosy freshness; Her fair and undulating
hair, confined by a simple ribband, poured itself below her waist in a
profusion of ringlets; Her throat was full and beautiful in the
extreme; Her hand and arm were formed with the most perfect symmetry;
Her mild blue eyes seemed an heaven of sweetness, and the crystal in
which they moved sparkled with all the brilliance of Diamonds: She
appeared to be scarcely fifteen; An arch smile, playing round her
mouth, declared her to be possessed of liveliness, which excess of
timidity at present represt; She looked round her with a bashful
glance; and whenever her eyes accidentally met Lorenzo’s, She dropt
them hastily upon her Rosary; Her cheek was immediately suffused with
blushes, and She began to tell her beads; though her manner evidently
showed that She knew not what She was about.

Lorenzo gazed upon her with mingled surprise and admiration; but the
Aunt thought it necessary to apologize for Antonia’s mauvaise honte.

“’Tis a young Creature,” said She, “who is totally ignorant of the
world. She has been brought up in an old Castle in Murcia; with no
other Society than her Mother’s, who, God help her! has no more sense,
good Soul, than is necessary to carry her Soup to her mouth. Yet She is
my own Sister, both by Father and Mother.”

“And has so little sense?” said Don Christoval with feigned
astonishment; “How very Extraordinary!”

“Very true, Segnor; Is it not strange? However, such is the fact; and
yet only to see the luck of some people! A young Nobleman, of the very
first quality, took it into his head that Elvira had some pretensions
to Beauty—As to pretensions, in truth, She had always enough of THEM;
But as to Beauty....! If I had only taken half the pains to set myself
off which She did....! But this is neither here nor there. As I was
saying, Segnor, a young Nobleman fell in love with her, and married her
unknown to his Father. Their union remained a secret near three years,
But at last it came to the ears of the old Marquis, who, as you may
well suppose, was not much pleased with the intelligence. Away He
posted in all haste to Cordova, determined to seize Elvira, and send
her away to some place or other, where She would never be heard of
more. Holy St. Paul! How He stormed on finding that She had escaped
him, had joined her Husband, and that they had embarked together for
the Indies. He swore at us all, as if the Evil Spirit had possessed
him; He threw my Father into prison, as honest a painstaking Shoe-maker
as any in Cordova; and when He went away, He had the cruelty to take
from us my Sister’s little Boy, then scarcely two years old, and whom
in the abruptness of her flight, She had been obliged to leave behind
her. I suppose, that the poor little Wretch met with bitter bad
treatment from him, for in a few months after, we received intelligence
of his death.”

“Why, this was a most terrible old Fellow, Segnora!”

“Oh! shocking! and a Man so totally devoid of taste! Why, would you
believe it, Segnor? When I attempted to pacify him, He cursed me for a
Witch, and wished that to punish the Count, my Sister might become as
ugly as myself! Ugly indeed! I like him for that.”

“Ridiculous”, cried Don Christoval; “Doubtless the Count would have
thought himself fortunate, had he been permitted to exchange the one
Sister for the other.”

“Oh! Christ! Segnor, you are really too polite. However, I am heartily
glad that the Condé was of a different way of thinking. A mighty pretty
piece of business, to be sure, Elvira has made of it! After broiling
and stewing in the Indies for thirteen long years, her Husband dies,
and She returns to Spain, without an House to hide her head, or money
to procure her one! This Antonia was then but an Infant, and her only
remaining Child. She found that her Father-in-Law had married again,
that he was irreconcileable to the Condé, and that his second Wife had
produced him a Son, who is reported to be a very fine young Man. The
old Marquis refused to see my Sister or her Child; But sent her word
that on condition of never hearing any more of her, He would assign her
a small pension, and She might live in an old Castle which He possessed
in Murcia; This had been the favourite habitation of his eldest Son;
But since his flight from Spain, the old Marquis could not bear the
place, but let it fall to ruin and confusion—My Sister accepted the
proposal; She retired to Murcia, and has remained there till within the
last Month.”

“And what brings her now to Madrid?” enquired Don Lorenzo, whom
admiration of the young Antonia compelled to take a lively interest in
the talkative old Woman’s narration.

“Alas! Segnor, her Father-in-Law being lately dead, the Steward of his
Murcian Estates has refused to pay her pension any longer.

With the design of supplicating his Son to renew it, She is now come to
Madrid; But I doubt, that She might have saved herself the trouble! You
young Noblemen have always enough to do with your money, and are not
very often disposed to throw it away upon old Women. I advised my
Sister to send Antonia with her petition; But She would not hear of
such a thing. She is so obstinate! Well! She will find herself the
worse for not following my counsels: the Girl has a good pretty face,
and possibly might have done much.”

“Ah! Segnora,” interrupted Don Christoval, counterfeiting a passionate
air; “If a pretty face will do the business, why has not your Sister
recourse to you?”

“Oh! Jesus! my Lord, I swear you quite overpower me with your
gallantry! But I promise you that I am too well aware of the danger of
such Expeditions to trust myself in a young Nobleman’s power! No, no; I
have as yet preserved my reputation without blemish or reproach, and I
always knew how to keep the Men at a proper distance.”

“Of that, Segnora, I have not the least doubt. But permit me to ask
you; Have you then any aversion to Matrimony?”

“That is an home question. I cannot but confess, that if an amiable
Cavalier was to present himself....”

Here She intended to throw a tender and significant look upon Don
Christoval; But, as She unluckily happened to squint most abominably,
the glance fell directly upon his Companion: Lorenzo took the
compliment to himself, and answered it by a profound bow.

“May I enquire,” said He, “the name of the Marquis?”

“The Marquis de las Cisternas.”

“I know him intimately well. He is not at present in Madrid, but is
expected here daily. He is one of the best of Men; and if the lovely
Antonia will permit me to be her Advocate with him, I doubt not my
being able to make a favourable report of her cause.”

Antonia raised her blue eyes, and silently thanked him for the offer by
a smile of inexpressible sweetness. Leonella’s satisfaction was much
more loud and audible: Indeed, as her Niece was generally silent in her
company, She thought it incumbent upon her to talk enough for both:
This She managed without difficulty, for She very seldom found herself
deficient in words.

“Oh! Segnor!” She cried; “You will lay our whole family under the most
signal obligations! I accept your offer with all possible gratitude,
and return you a thousand thanks for the generosity of your proposal.
Antonia, why do not you speak, Child? While the Cavalier says all sorts
of civil things to you, you sit like a Statue, and never utter a
syllable of thanks, either bad, good, or indifferent!”

“My dear Aunt, I am very sensible that....”

“Fye, Niece! How often have I told you, that you never should interrupt
a Person who is speaking!? When did you ever know me do such a thing?
Are these your Murcian manners? Mercy on me! I shall never be able to
make this Girl any thing like a Person of good breeding. But pray,
Segnor,” She continued, addressing herself to Don Christoval, “inform
me, why such a Crowd is assembled today in this Cathedral?”

“Can you possibly be ignorant, that Ambrosio, Abbot of this Monastery,
pronounces a Sermon in this Church every Thursday? All Madrid rings
with his praises. As yet He has preached but thrice; But all who have
heard him are so delighted with his eloquence, that it is as difficult
to obtain a place at Church, as at the first representation of a new
Comedy. His fame certainly must have reached your ears—”

“Alas! Segnor, till yesterday I never had the good fortune to see
Madrid; and at Cordova we are so little informed of what is passing in
the rest of the world, that the name of Ambrosio has never been
mentioned in its precincts.”

“You will find it in every one’s mouth at Madrid. He seems to have
fascinated the Inhabitants; and not having attended his Sermons myself,
I am astonished at the Enthusiasm which He has excited. The adoration
paid him both by Young and Old, by Man and Woman is unexampled. The
Grandees load him with presents; Their Wives refuse to have any other
Confessor, and he is known through all the city by the name of the ‘Man
of Holiness’.”

“Undoubtedly, Segnor, He is of noble origin—”

“That point still remains undecided. The late Superior of the Capuchins
found him while yet an Infant at the Abbey door. All attempts to
discover who had left him there were vain, and the Child himself could
give no account of his Parents. He was educated in the Monastery, where
He has remained ever since. He early showed a strong inclination for
study and retirement, and as soon as He was of a proper age, He
pronounced his vows. No one has ever appeared to claim him, or clear up
the mystery which conceals his birth; and the Monks, who find their
account in the favour which is shewn to their establishment from
respect to him, have not hesitated to publish that He is a present to
them from the Virgin. In truth the singular austerity of his life gives
some countenance to the report. He is now thirty years old, every hour
of which period has been passed in study, total seclusion from the
world, and mortification of the flesh. Till these last three weeks,
when He was chosen superior of the Society to which He belongs, He had
never been on the outside of the Abbey walls: Even now He never quits
them except on Thursdays, when He delivers a discourse in this
Cathedral which all Madrid assembles to hear. His knowledge is said to
be the most profound, his eloquence the most persuasive. In the whole
course of his life He has never been known to transgress a single rule
of his order; The smallest stain is not to be discovered upon his
character; and He is reported to be so strict an observer of Chastity,
that He knows not in what consists the difference of Man and Woman. The
common People therefore esteem him to be a Saint.”

“Does that make a Saint?” enquired Antonia; “Bless me! Then am I one?”

“Holy St. Barbara!” exclaimed Leonella; “What a question! Fye, Child,
Fye! These are not fit subjects for young Women to handle. You should
not seem to remember that there is such a thing as a Man in the world,
and you ought to imagine every body to be of the same sex with
yourself. I should like to see you give people to understand, that you
know that a Man has no breasts, and no hips, and no ...”.

Luckily for Antonia’s ignorance which her Aunt’s lecture would soon
have dispelled, an universal murmur through the Church announced the
Preacher’s arrival. Donna Leonella rose from her seat to take a better
view of him, and Antonia followed her example.

He was a Man of noble port and commanding presence. His stature was
lofty, and his features uncommonly handsome. His Nose was aquiline, his
eyes large black and sparkling, and his dark brows almost joined
together. His complexion was of a deep but clear Brown; Study and
watching had entirely deprived his cheek of colour. Tranquillity
reigned upon his smooth unwrinkled forehead; and Content, expressed
upon every feature, seemed to announce the Man equally unacquainted
with cares and crimes. He bowed himself with humility to the audience:
Still there was a certain severity in his look and manner that inspired
universal awe, and few could sustain the glance of his eye at once
fiery and penetrating. Such was Ambrosio, Abbot of the Capuchins, and
surnamed, “The Man of Holiness”.

Antonia, while She gazed upon him eagerly, felt a pleasure fluttering
in her bosom which till then had been unknown to her, and for which She
in vain endeavoured to account. She waited with impatience till the
Sermon should begin; and when at length the Friar spoke, the sound of
his voice seemed to penetrate into her very soul. Though no other of
the Spectators felt such violent sensations as did the young Antonia,
yet every one listened with interest and emotion. They who were
insensible to Religion’s merits, were still enchanted with Ambrosio’s
oratory. All found their attention irresistibly attracted while He
spoke, and the most profound silence reigned through the crowded
Aisles.

Even Lorenzo could not resist the charm: He forgot that Antonia was
seated near him, and listened to the Preacher with undivided attention.

In language nervous, clear, and simple, the Monk expatiated on the
beauties of Religion. He explained some abstruse parts of the sacred
writings in a style that carried with it universal conviction. His
voice at once distinct and deep was fraught with all the terrors of the
Tempest, while He inveighed against the vices of humanity, and
described the punishments reserved for them in a future state. Every
Hearer looked back upon his past offences, and trembled: The Thunder
seemed to roll, whose bolt was destined to crush him, and the abyss of
eternal destruction to open before his feet. But when Ambrosio,
changing his theme, spoke of the excellence of an unsullied conscience,
of the glorious prospect which Eternity presented to the Soul untainted
with reproach, and of the recompense which awaited it in the regions of
everlasting glory, His Auditors felt their scattered spirits insensibly
return. They threw themselves with confidence upon the mercy of their
Judge; They hung with delight upon the consoling words of the Preacher;
and while his full voice swelled into melody, They were transported to
those happy regions which He painted to their imaginations in colours
so brilliant and glowing.

The discourse was of considerable length; Yet when it concluded, the
Audience grieved that it had not lasted longer. Though the Monk had
ceased to speak, enthusiastic silence still prevailed through the
Church: At length the charm gradually dissolving, the general
admiration was expressed in audible terms. As Ambrosio descended from
the Pulpit, His Auditors crowded round him, loaded him with blessings,
threw themselves at his feet, and kissed the hem of his Garment. He
passed on slowly with his hands crossed devoutly upon his bosom, to the
door opening into the Abbey Chapel, at which his Monks waited to
receive him. He ascended the Steps, and then turning towards his
Followers, addressed to them a few words of gratitude, and exhortation.
While He spoke, his Rosary, composed of large grains of amber, fell
from his hand, and dropped among the surrounding multitude. It was
seized eagerly, and immediately divided amidst the Spectators. Whoever
became possessor of a Bead, preserved it as a sacred relique; and had
it been the Chaplet of thrice-blessed St. Francis himself, it could not
have been disputed with greater vivacity. The Abbot, smiling at their
eagerness, pronounced his benediction, and quitted the Church, while
humility dwelt upon every feature. Dwelt She also in his heart?

Antonia’s eyes followed him with anxiety. As the Door closed after him,
it seemed to her as had she lost some one essential to her happiness. A
tear stole in silence down her cheek.

“He is separated from the world!” said She to herself; “Perhaps, I
shall never see him more!”

As she wiped away the tear, Lorenzo observed her action.

“Are you satisfied with our Orator?” said He; “Or do you think that
Madrid overrates his talents?”

Antonia’s heart was so filled with admiration for the Monk, that She
eagerly seized the opportunity of speaking of him: Besides, as She now
no longer considered Lorenzo as an absolute Stranger, She was less
embarrassed by her excessive timidity.

“Oh! He far exceeds all my expectations,” answered She; “Till this
moment I had no idea of the powers of eloquence. But when He spoke, his
voice inspired me with such interest, such esteem, I might almost say
such affection for him, that I am myself astonished at the acuteness of
my feelings.”

Lorenzo smiled at the strength of her expressions.

“You are young and just entering into life,” said He; “Your heart, new
to the world and full of warmth and sensibility, receives its first
impressions with eagerness. Artless yourself, you suspect not others of
deceit; and viewing the world through the medium of your own truth and
innocence, you fancy all who surround you to deserve your confidence
and esteem. What pity, that these gay visions must soon be dissipated!
What pity, that you must soon discover the baseness of mankind, and
guard against your fellow-creatures as against your Foes!”

“Alas! Segnor,” replied Antonia; “The misfortunes of my Parents have
already placed before me but too many sad examples of the perfidy of
the world! Yet surely in the present instance the warmth of sympathy
cannot have deceived me.”

“In the present instance, I allow that it has not. Ambrosio’s character
is perfectly without reproach; and a Man who has passed the whole of
his life within the walls of a Convent cannot have found the
opportunity to be guilty, even were He possessed of the inclination.
But now, when, obliged by the duties of his situation, He must enter
occasionally into the world, and be thrown into the way of temptation,
it is now that it behoves him to show the brilliance of his virtue. The
trial is dangerous; He is just at that period of life when the passions
are most vigorous, unbridled, and despotic; His established reputation
will mark him out to Seduction as an illustrious Victim; Novelty will
give additional charms to the allurements of pleasure; and even the
Talents with which Nature has endowed him will contribute to his ruin,
by facilitating the means of obtaining his object. Very few would
return victorious from a contest so severe.”

“Ah! surely Ambrosio will be one of those few.”

“Of that I have myself no doubt: By all accounts He is an exception to
mankind in general, and Envy would seek in vain for a blot upon his
character.”

“Segnor, you delight me by this assurance! It encourages me to indulge
my prepossession in his favour; and you know not with what pain I
should have repressed the sentiment! Ah! dearest Aunt, entreat my
Mother to choose him for our Confessor.”

“I entreat her?” replied Leonella; “I promise you that I shall do no
such thing. I do not like this same Ambrosio in the least; He has a
look of severity about him that made me tremble from head to foot: Were
He my Confessor, I should never have the courage to avow one half of my
peccadilloes, and then I should be in a rare condition! I never saw
such a stern-looking Mortal, and hope that I never shall see such
another. His description of the Devil, God bless us! almost terrified
me out of my wits, and when He spoke about Sinners He seemed as if He
was ready to eat them.”

“You are right, Segnora,” answered Don Christoval; “Too great severity
is said to be Ambrosio’s only fault. Exempted himself from human
failings, He is not sufficiently indulgent to those of others; and
though strictly just and disinterested in his decisions, his government
of the Monks has already shown some proofs of his inflexibility. But
the crowd is nearly dissipated: Will you permit us to attend you home?”

“Oh! Christ! Segnor,” exclaimed Leonella affecting to blush; “I would
not suffer such a thing for the Universe! If I came home attended by so
gallant a Cavalier, My Sister is so scrupulous that She would read me
an hour’s lecture, and I should never hear the last of it. Besides, I
rather wish you not to make your proposals just at present.”

“My proposals? I assure you, Segnora....”

“Oh! Segnor, I believe that your assurances of impatience are all very
true; But really I must desire a little respite. It would not be quite
so delicate in me to accept your hand at first sight.”

“Accept my hand? As I hope to live and breathe....”

“Oh! dear Segnor, press me no further, if you love me! I shall consider
your obedience as a proof of your affection; You shall hear from me
tomorrow, and so farewell. But pray, Cavaliers, may I not enquire your
names?”

“My Friend’s,” replied Lorenzo, “is the Condé d’Ossorio, and mine
Lorenzo de Medina.”

“’Tis sufficient. Well, Don Lorenzo, I shall acquaint my Sister with
your obliging offer, and let you know the result with all expedition.
Where may I send to you?”

“I am always to be found at the Medina Palace.”

“You may depend upon hearing from me. Farewell, Cavaliers. Segnor
Condé, let me entreat you to moderate the excessive ardour of your
passion: However, to prove to you that I am not displeased with you,
and prevent your abandoning yourself to despair, receive this mark of
my affection, and sometimes bestow a thought upon the absent Leonella.”

As She said this, She extended a lean and wrinkled hand; which her
supposed Admirer kissed with such sorry grace and constraint so
evident, that Lorenzo with difficulty repressed his inclination to
laugh. Leonella then hastened to quit the Church; The lovely Antonia
followed her in silence; but when She reached the Porch, She turned
involuntarily, and cast back her eyes towards Lorenzo. He bowed to her,
as bidding her farewell; She returned the compliment, and hastily
withdrew.

“So, Lorenzo!” said Don Christoval as soon as they were alone, “You
have procured me an agreeable Intrigue! To favour your designs upon
Antonia, I obligingly make a few civil speeches which mean nothing to
the Aunt, and at the end of an hour I find myself upon the brink of
Matrimony! How will you reward me for having suffered so grievously for
your sake? What can repay me for having kissed the leathern paw of that
confounded old Witch? Diavolo! She has left such a scent upon my lips
that I shall smell of garlick for this month to come! As I pass along
the Prado, I shall be taken for a walking Omelet, or some large Onion
running to seed!”

“I confess, my poor Count,” replied Lorenzo, “that your service has
been attended with danger; Yet am I so far from supposing it be past
all endurance that I shall probably solicit you to carry on your amours
still further.”

“From that petition I conclude that the little Antonia has made some
impression upon you.”

“I cannot express to you how much I am charmed with her. Since my
Father’s death, My Uncle the Duke de Medina, has signified to me his
wishes to see me married; I have till now eluded his hints, and refused
to understand them; But what I have seen this Evening....”

“Well? What have you seen this Evening? Why surely, Don Lorenzo, You
cannot be mad enough to think of making a Wife out of this
Grand-daughter of ‘as honest a painstaking Shoe-maker as any in
Cordova’?”

“You forget, that She is also the Grand-daughter of the late Marquis de
las Cisternas; But without disputing about birth and titles, I must
assure you, that I never beheld a Woman so interesting as Antonia.”

“Very possibly; But you cannot mean to marry her?”

“Why not, my dear Condé? I shall have wealth enough for both of us, and
you know that my Uncle thinks liberally upon the subject.

From what I have seen of Raymond de las Cisternas, I am certain that he
will readily acknowledge Antonia for his Niece. Her birth therefore
will be no objection to my offering her my hand. I should be a Villain
could I think of her on any other terms than marriage; and in truth She
seems possessed of every quality requisite to make me happy in a Wife.
Young, lovely, gentle, sensible....”

“Sensible? Why, She said nothing but ‘Yes,’ and ‘No’.”

“She did not say much more, I must confess—But then She always said
‘Yes,’ or ‘No,’ in the right place.”

“Did She so? Oh! your most obedient! That is using a right Lover’s
argument, and I dare dispute no longer with so profound a Casuist.
Suppose we adjourn to the Comedy?”

“It is out of my power. I only arrived last night at Madrid, and have
not yet had an opportunity of seeing my Sister; You know that her
Convent is in this Street, and I was going thither when the Crowd which
I saw thronging into this Church excited my curiosity to know what was
the matter. I shall now pursue my first intention, and probably pass
the Evening with my Sister at the Parlour grate.”

“Your Sister in a Convent, say you? Oh! very true, I had forgotten. And
how does Donna Agnes? I am amazed, Don Lorenzo, how you could possibly
think of immuring so charming a Girl within the walls of a Cloister!”

“I think of it, Don Christoval? How can you suspect me of such
barbarity? You are conscious that She took the veil by her own desire,
and that particular circumstances made her wish for a seclusion from
the World. I used every means in my power to induce her to change her
resolution; The endeavour was fruitless, and I lost a Sister!”

“The luckier fellow you; I think, Lorenzo, you were a considerable
gainer by that loss: If I remember right, Donna Agnes had a portion of
ten thousand pistoles, half of which reverted to your Lordship. By St.
Jago! I wish that I had fifty Sisters in the same predicament. I should
consent to losing them every soul without much heart-burning—”

“How, Condé?” said Lorenzo in an angry voice; “Do you suppose me base
enough to have influenced my Sister’s retirement? Do you suppose that
the despicable wish to make myself Master of her fortune could....”

“Admirable! Courage, Don Lorenzo! Now the Man is all in a blaze. God
grant that Antonia may soften that fiery temper, or we shall certainly
cut each other’s throat before the Month is over! However, to prevent
such a tragical Catastrophe for the present, I shall make a retreat,
and leave you Master of the field. Farewell, my Knight of Mount Aetna!
Moderate that inflammable disposition, and remember that whenever it is
necessary to make love to yonder Harridan, you may reckon upon my
services.”

He said, and darted out of the Cathedral.

“How wild-brained!” said Lorenzo; “With so excellent an heart, what
pity that He possesses so little solidity of judgment!”

The night was now fast advancing. The Lamps were not yet lighted. The
faint beams of the rising Moon scarcely could pierce through the gothic
obscurity of the Church. Lorenzo found himself unable to quit the Spot.
The void left in his bosom by Antonia’s absence, and his Sister’s
sacrifice which Don Christoval had just recalled to his imagination,
created that melancholy of mind which accorded but too well with the
religious gloom surrounding him. He was still leaning against the
seventh column from the Pulpit. A soft and cooling air breathed along
the solitary Aisles: The Moonbeams darting into the Church through
painted windows tinged the fretted roofs and massy pillars with a
thousand various tints of light and colours:

Universal silence prevailed around, only interrupted by the occasional
closing of Doors in the adjoining Abbey.

The calm of the hour and solitude of the place contributed to nourish
Lorenzo’s disposition to melancholy. He threw himself upon a seat which
stood near him, and abandoned himself to the delusions of his fancy. He
thought of his union with Antonia; He thought of the obstacles which
might oppose his wishes; and a thousand changing visions floated before
his fancy, sad ’tis true, but not unpleasing. Sleep insensibly stole
over him, and the tranquil solemnity of his mind when awake for a while
continued to influence his slumbers.

He still fancied himself to be in the Church of the Capuchins; but it
was no longer dark and solitary. Multitudes of silver Lamps shed
splendour from the vaulted Roof; Accompanied by the captivating chaunt
of distant choristers, the Organ’s melody swelled through the Church;
The Altar seemed decorated as for some distinguished feast; It was
surrounded by a brilliant Company; and near it stood Antonia arrayed in
bridal white, and blushing with all the charms of Virgin Modesty.

Half hoping, half fearing, Lorenzo gazed upon the scene before him.
Suddenly the door leading to the Abbey unclosed, and He saw, attended
by a long train of Monks, the Preacher advance to whom He had just
listened with so much admiration. He drew near Antonia.

“And where is the Bridegroom?” said the imaginary Friar.

Antonia seemed to look round the Church with anxiety. Involuntarily the
Youth advanced a few steps from his concealment. She saw him; The blush
of pleasure glowed upon her cheek; With a graceful motion of her hand
She beckoned to him to advance. He disobeyed not the command; He flew
towards her, and threw himself at her feet.

She retreated for a moment; Then gazing upon him with unutterable
delight;—“Yes!” She exclaimed, “My Bridegroom! My destined Bridegroom!”
She said, and hastened to throw herself into his arms; But before He
had time to receive her, an Unknown rushed between them. His form was
gigantic; His complexion was swarthy, His eyes fierce and terrible; his
Mouth breathed out volumes of fire; and on his forehead was written in
legible characters—“Pride! Lust! Inhumanity!”

Antonia shrieked. The Monster clasped her in his arms, and springing
with her upon the Altar, tortured her with his odious caresses. She
endeavoured in vain to escape from his embrace. Lorenzo flew to her
succour, but ere He had time to reach her, a loud burst of thunder was
heard. Instantly the Cathedral seemed crumbling into pieces; The Monks
betook themselves to flight, shrieking fearfully; The Lamps were
extinguished, the Altar sank down, and in its place appeared an abyss
vomiting forth clouds of flame. Uttering a loud and terrible cry the
Monster plunged into the Gulph, and in his fall attempted to drag
Antonia with him. He strove in vain. Animated by supernatural powers
She disengaged herself from his embrace; But her white Robe was left in
his possession. Instantly a wing of brilliant splendour spread itself
from either of Antonia’s arms. She darted upwards, and while ascending
cried to Lorenzo,

“Friend! we shall meet above!”

At the same moment the Roof of the Cathedral opened; Harmonious voices
pealed along the Vaults; and the glory into which Antonia was received
was composed of rays of such dazzling brightness, that Lorenzo was
unable to sustain the gaze. His sight failed, and He sank upon the
ground.

When He woke, He found himself extended upon the pavement of the
Church: It was Illuminated, and the chaunt of Hymns sounded from a
distance. For a while Lorenzo could not persuade himself that what He
had just witnessed had been a dream, so strong an impression had it
made upon his fancy. A little recollection convinced him of its
fallacy: The Lamps had been lighted during his sleep, and the music
which he heard was occasioned by the Monks, who were celebrating their
Vespers in the Abbey Chapel.

Lorenzo rose, and prepared to bend his steps towards his Sister’s
Convent. His mind fully occupied by the singularity of his dream, He
already drew near the Porch, when his attention was attracted by
perceiving a Shadow moving upon the opposite wall. He looked curiously
round, and soon descried a Man wrapped up in his Cloak, who seemed
carefully examining whether his actions were observed. Very few people
are exempt from the influence of curiosity. The Unknown seemed anxious
to conceal his business in the Cathedral, and it was this very
circumstance, which made Lorenzo wish to discover what He was about.

Our Hero was conscious that He had no right to pry into the secrets of
this unknown Cavalier.

“I will go,” said Lorenzo. And Lorenzo stayed, where He was.

The shadow thrown by the Column, effectually concealed him from the
Stranger, who continued to advance with caution. At length He drew a
letter from beneath his cloak, and hastily placed it beneath a Colossal
Statue of St. Francis. Then retiring with precipitation, He concealed
himself in a part of the Church at a considerable distance from that in
which the Image stood.

“So!” said Lorenzo to himself; “This is only some foolish love affair.
I believe, I may as well be gone, for I can do no good in it.”

In truth till that moment it never came into his head that He could do
any good in it; But He thought it necessary to make some little excuse
to himself for having indulged his curiosity. He now made a second
attempt to retire from the Church: For this time He gained the Porch
without meeting with any impediment; But it was destined that He should
pay it another visit that night. As He descended the steps leading into
the Street, a Cavalier rushed against him with such violence, that Both
were nearly overturned by the concussion. Lorenzo put his hand to his
sword.

“How now, Segnor?” said He; “What mean you by this rudeness?”

“Ha! Is it you, Medina?” replied the Newcomer, whom Lorenzo by his
voice now recognized for Don Christoval; “You are the luckiest Fellow
in the Universe, not to have left the Church before my return. In, in!
my dear Lad! They will be here immediately!”

“Who will be here?”

“The old Hen and all her pretty little Chickens! In, I say, and then
you shall know the whole History.”

Lorenzo followed him into the Cathedral, and they concealed themselves
behind the Statue of St. Francis.

“And now,” said our Hero, “may I take the liberty of asking, what is
the meaning of all this haste and rapture?”

“Oh! Lorenzo, we shall see such a glorious sight! The Prioress of St.
Clare and her whole train of Nuns are coming hither. You are to know,
that the pious Father Ambrosio (The Lord reward him for it!) will upon
no account move out of his own precincts: It being absolutely necessary
for every fashionable Convent to have him for its Confessor, the Nuns
are in consequence obliged to visit him at the Abbey; since when the
Mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must needs go to the
Mountain. Now the Prioress of St. Clare, the better to escape the gaze
of such impure eyes as belong to yourself and your humble Servant,
thinks proper to bring her holy flock to confession in the Dusk: She is
to be admitted into the Abbey Chapel by yon private door. The Porteress
of St. Clare, who is a worthy old Soul and a particular Friend of mine,
has just assured me of their being here in a few moments. There is news
for you, you Rogue! We shall see some of the prettiest faces in
Madrid!”

“In truth, Christoval, we shall do no such thing. The Nuns are always
veiled.”

“No! No! I know better. On entering a place of worship, they ever take
off their veils from respect to the Saint to whom ’tis dedicated. But
Hark! They are coming! Silence, silence! Observe, and be convinced.”

“Good!” said Lorenzo to himself; “I may possibly discover to whom the
vows are addressed of this mysterious Stranger.”

Scarcely had Don Christoval ceased to speak, when the Domina of St.
Clare appeared, followed by a long procession of Nuns. Each upon
entering the Church took off her veil. The Prioress crossed her hands
upon her bosom, and made a profound reverence as She passed the Statue
of St. Francis, the Patron of this Cathedral. The Nuns followed her
example, and several moved onwards without having satisfied Lorenzo’s
curiosity. He almost began to despair of seeing the mystery cleared up,
when in paying her respects to St. Francis, one of the Nuns happened to
drop her Rosary. As She stooped to pick it up, the light flashed full
upon her face. At the same moment She dexterously removed the letter
from beneath the Image, placed it in her bosom, and hastened to resume
her rank in the procession.

“Ha!” said Christoval in a low voice; “Here we have some little
Intrigue, no doubt.”

“Agnes, by heaven!” cried Lorenzo.

“What, your Sister? Diavolo! Then somebody, I suppose, will have to pay
for our peeping.”

“And shall pay for it without delay,” replied the incensed Brother.

The pious procession had now entered the Abbey; The Door was already
closed upon it. The Unknown immediately quitted his concealment and
hastened to leave the Church: Ere He could effect his intention, He
descried Medina stationed in his passage. The Stranger hastily
retreated, and drew his Hat over his eyes.

“Attempt not to fly me!” exclaimed Lorenzo; “I will know who you are,
and what were the contents of that Letter.”

“Of that Letter?” repeated the Unknown. “And by what title do you ask
the question?”

“By a title of which I am now ashamed; But it becomes not you to
question me. Either reply circumstantially to my demands, or answer me
with your Sword.”

“The latter method will be the shortest,” rejoined the Other, drawing
his Rapier; “Come on, Segnor Bravo! I am ready!”

Burning with rage, Lorenzo hastened to the attack: The Antagonists had
already exchanged several passes before Christoval, who at that moment
had more sense than either of them, could throw himself between their
weapons.

“Hold! Hold! Medina!” He exclaimed; “Remember the consequences of
shedding blood on consecrated ground!”

The Stranger immediately dropped his Sword.

“Medina?” He cried; “Great God, is it possible! Lorenzo, have you quite
forgotten Raymond de las Cisternas?”

Lorenzo’s astonishment increased with every succeeding moment. Raymond
advanced towards him, but with a look of suspicion He drew back his
hand, which the Other was preparing to take.

“You here, Marquis? What is the meaning of all this? You engaged in a
clandestine correspondence with my Sister, whose affections....”

“Have ever been, and still are mine. But this is no fit place for an
explanation. Accompany me to my Hotel, and you shall know every thing.
Who is that with you?”

“One whom I believe you to have seen before,” replied Don Christoval,
“though probably not at Church.”

“The Condé d’Ossorio?”

“Exactly so, Marquis.”

“I have no objection to entrusting you with my secret, for I am sure
that I may depend upon your silence.”

“Then your opinion of me is better than my own, and therefore I must
beg leave to decline your confidence. Do you go your own way, and I
shall go mine. Marquis, where are you to be found?”

“As usual, at the Hotel de las Cisternas; But remember, that I am
incognito, and that if you wish to see me, you must ask for Alphonso
d’Alvarada.”

“Good! Good! Farewell, Cavaliers!” said Don Christoval, and instantly
departed.

“You, Marquis,” said Lorenzo in the accent of surprise; “You, Alphonso
d’Alvarada?”

“Even so, Lorenzo: But unless you have already heard my story from your
Sister, I have much to relate that will astonish you. Follow me,
therefore, to my Hotel without delay.”

At this moment the Porter of the Capuchins entered the Cathedral to
lock up the doors for the night. The two Noblemen instantly withdrew,
and hastened with all speed to the Palace de las Cisternas.


“Well, Antonia!” said the Aunt, as soon as She had quitted the Church;
“What think you of our Gallants? Don Lorenzo really seems a very
obliging good sort of young Man: He paid you some attention, and nobody
knows what may come of it. But as to Don Christoval, I protest to you,
He is the very Phoenix of politeness. So gallant! so well-bred! So
sensible, and so pathetic! Well! If ever Man can prevail upon me to
break my vow never to marry, it will be that Don Christoval. You see,
Niece, that every thing turns out exactly as I told you: The very
moment that I produced myself in Madrid, I knew that I should be
surrounded by Admirers. When I took off my veil, did you see, Antonia,
what an effect the action had upon the Condé? And when I presented him
my hand, did you observe the air of passion with which He kissed it? If
ever I witnessed real love, I then saw it impressed upon Don
Christoval’s countenance!”

Now Antonia had observed the air, with which Don Christoval had kissed
this same hand; But as She drew conclusions from it somewhat different
from her Aunt’s, She was wise enough to hold her tongue. As this is the
only instance known of a Woman’s ever having done so, it was judged
worthy to be recorded here.

The old Lady continued her discourse to Antonia in the same strain,
till they gained the Street in which was their Lodging. Here a Crowd
collected before their door permitted them not to approach it; and
placing themselves on the opposite side of the Street, they endeavoured
to make out what had drawn all these people together. After some
minutes the Crowd formed itself into a Circle; And now Antonia
perceived in the midst of it a Woman of extraordinary height, who
whirled herself repeatedly round and round, using all sorts of
extravagant gestures. Her dress was composed of shreds of
various-coloured silks and Linens fantastically arranged, yet not
entirely without taste. Her head was covered with a kind of Turban,
ornamented with vine leaves and wild flowers. She seemed much
sun-burnt, and her complexion was of a deep olive: Her eyes looked
fiery and strange; and in her hand She bore a long black Rod, with
which She at intervals traced a variety of singular figures upon the
ground, round about which She danced in all the eccentric attitudes of
folly and delirium. Suddenly She broke off her dance, whirled herself
round thrice with rapidity, and after a moment’s pause She sang the
following Ballad.

THE GYPSY’S SONG


Come, cross my hand! My art surpasses
    All that did ever Mortal know;
Come, Maidens, come! My magic glasses
    Your future Husband’s form can show:

For ’tis to me the power is given
    Unclosed the book of Fate to see;
To read the fixed resolves of heaven,
    And dive into futurity.

I guide the pale Moon’s silver waggon;
    The winds in magic bonds I hold;
I charm to sleep the crimson Dragon,
    Who loves to watch o’er buried gold:

Fenced round with spells, unhurt I venture
    Their sabbath strange where Witches keep;
Fearless the Sorcerer’s circle enter,
    And woundless tread on snakes asleep.

Lo! Here are charms of mighty power!
    This makes secure an Husband’s truth
And this composed at midnight hour
    Will force to love the coldest Youth:

If any Maid too much has granted,
    Her loss this Philtre will repair;
This blooms a cheek where red is wanted,
    And this will make a brown girl fair!

Then silent hear, while I discover
    What I in Fortune’s mirror view;
And each, when many a year is over,
    Shall own the Gypsy’s sayings true.


“Dear Aunt!” said Antonia when the Stranger had finished, “Is She not
mad?”

“Mad? Not She, Child; She is only wicked. She is a Gypsy, a sort of
Vagabond, whose sole occupation is to run about the country telling
lyes, and pilfering from those who come by their money honestly. Out
upon such Vermin! If I were King of Spain, every one of them should be
burnt alive who was found in my dominions after the next three weeks.”

These words were pronounced so audibly that they reached the Gypsy’s
ears. She immediately pierced through the Crowd and made towards the
Ladies. She saluted them thrice in the Eastern fashion, and then
addressed herself to Antonia.

THE GYPSY


“Lady! gentle Lady! Know,
I your future fate can show;
Give your hand, and do not fear;
Lady! gentle Lady! hear!”


“Dearest Aunt!” said Antonia, “Indulge me this once! Let me have my
fortune told me!”

“Nonsense, Child! She will tell you nothing but falsehoods.”

“No matter; Let me at least hear what She has to say. Do, my dear Aunt!
Oblige me, I beseech you!”

“Well, well! Antonia, since you are so bent upon the thing, ... Here,
good Woman, you shall see the hands of both of us. There is money for
you, and now let me hear my fortune.”

As She said this, She drew off her glove, and presented her hand; The
Gypsy looked at it for a moment, and then made this reply.

THE GYPSY


“Your fortune? You are now so old,
Good Dame, that ’tis already told:
Yet for your money, in a trice
I will repay you in advice.
Astonished at your childish vanity,
Your Friends all tax you with insanity,
And grieve to see you use your art
To catch some youthful Lover’s heart.
Believe me, Dame, when all is done,
Your age will still be fifty one;
And Men will rarely take an hint
Of love, from two grey eyes that squint.
Take then my counsels; Lay aside
Your paint and patches, lust and pride,
And on the Poor those sums bestow,
Which now are spent on useless show.
Think on your Maker, not a Suitor;
Think on your past faults, not on future;
And think Time’s Scythe will quickly mow
The few red hairs, which deck your brow.


The audience rang with laughter during the Gypsy’s address; and—“fifty
one,”—“squinting eyes,” “red hair,”—“paint and patches,” &c. were
bandied from mouth to mouth. Leonella was almost choaked with passion,
and loaded her malicious Adviser with the bitterest reproaches. The
swarthy Prophetess for some time listened to her with a contemptuous
smile: at length She made her a short answer, and then turned to
Antonia.

THE GYPSY


“Peace, Lady! What I said was true;
And now, my lovely Maid, to you;
Give me your hand, and let me see
Your future doom, and heaven’s decree.”


In imitation of Leonella, Antonia drew off her glove, and presented her
white hand to the Gypsy, who having gazed upon it for some time with a
mingled expression of pity and astonishment, pronounced her Oracle in
the following words.

THE GYPSY


“Jesus! what a palm is there!
Chaste, and gentle, young and fair,
Perfect mind and form possessing,
You would be some good Man’s blessing:
But Alas! This line discovers,
That destruction o’er you hovers;
Lustful Man and crafty Devil
Will combine to work your evil;
And from earth by sorrows driven,
Soon your Soul must speed to heaven.
Yet your sufferings to delay,
Well remember what I say.
When you One more virtuous see
Than belongs to Man to be,
One, whose self no crimes assailing,
Pities not his Neighbour’s Failing,
Call the Gypsy’s words to mind:
Though He seem so good and kind,
Fair Exteriors oft will hide
Hearts, that swell with lust and pride!
Lovely Maid, with tears I leave you!
Let not my prediction grieve you;
Rather with submission bending
Calmly wait distress impending,
And expect eternal bliss
In a better world than this.


Having said this, the Gypsy again whirled herself round thrice, and
then hastened out of the Street with frantic gesture. The Crowd
followed her; and Elvira’s door being now unembarrassed Leonella
entered the House out of humour with the Gypsy, with her Niece, and
with the People; In short with every body, but herself and her charming
Cavalier. The Gypsy’s predictions had also considerably affected
Antonia; But the impression soon wore off, and in a few hours She had
forgotten the adventure as totally as had it never taken place.



CHAPTER II.


Forse se tu gustassi una sol volta
La millesima parte delle gioje,
Che gusta un cor amato riamando,
Diresti ripentita sospirando,
Perduto e tutto il tempo
Che in amar non si sponde.

TASSO.

Hadst Thou but tasted once the thousandth part
Of joys, which bless the loved and loving heart,
Your words repentant and your sighs would prove,
Lost is the time which is not past in love.

The monks having attended their Abbot to the door of his Cell, He
dismissed them with an air of conscious superiority in which Humility’s
semblance combated with the reality of pride.

He was no sooner alone, than He gave free loose to the indulgence of
his vanity. When He remembered the Enthusiasm which his discourse had
excited, his heart swelled with rapture, and his imagination presented
him with splendid visions of aggrandizement. He looked round him with
exultation, and Pride told him loudly that He was superior to the rest
of his fellow-Creatures.

“Who,” thought He; “Who but myself has passed the ordeal of Youth, yet
sees no single stain upon his conscience? Who else has subdued the
violence of strong passions and an impetuous temperament, and submitted
even from the dawn of life to voluntary retirement? I seek for such a
Man in vain. I see no one but myself possessed of such resolution.
Religion cannot boast Ambrosio’s equal! How powerful an effect did my
discourse produce upon its Auditors! How they crowded round me! How
they loaded me with benedictions, and pronounced me the sole
uncorrupted Pillar of the Church! What then now is left for me to do?
Nothing, but to watch as carefully over the conduct of my Brothers as I
have hitherto watched over my own. Yet hold! May I not be tempted from
those paths which till now I have pursued without one moment’s
wandering? Am I not a Man, whose nature is frail, and prone to error? I
must now abandon the solitude of my retreat; The fairest and noblest
Dames of Madrid continually present themselves at the Abbey, and will
use no other Confessor.

I must accustom my eyes to Objects of temptation, and expose myself to
the seduction of luxury and desire. Should I meet in that world which I
am constrained to enter some lovely Female, lovely ... as yon
Madona....!”

As He said this, He fixed his eyes upon a picture of the Virgin, which
was suspended opposite to him: This for two years had been the Object
of his increasing wonder and adoration. He paused, and gazed upon it
with delight.

“What Beauty in that countenance!” He continued after a silence of some
minutes; “How graceful is the turn of that head! What sweetness, yet
what majesty in her divine eyes! How softly her cheek reclines upon her
hand! Can the Rose vie with the blush of that cheek? Can the Lily rival
the whiteness of that hand? Oh! if such a Creature existed, and existed
but for me! Were I permitted to twine round my fingers those golden
ringlets, and press with my lips the treasures of that snowy bosom!
Gracious God, should I then resist the temptation? Should I not barter
for a single embrace the reward of my sufferings for thirty years?
Should I not abandon.... Fool that I am! Whither do I suffer my
admiration of this picture to hurry me? Away, impure ideas! Let me
remember that Woman is for ever lost to me. Never was Mortal formed so
perfect as this picture. But even did such exist, the trial might be
too mighty for a common virtue, but Ambrosio’s is proof against
temptation. Temptation, did I say? To me it would be none. What charms
me, when ideal and considered as a superior Being, would disgust me,
become Woman and tainted with all the failings of Mortality. It is not
the Woman’s beauty that fills me with such enthusiasm; It is the
Painter’s skill that I admire, it is the Divinity that I adore! Are not
the passions dead in my bosom? Have I not freed myself from the frailty
of Mankind? Fear not, Ambrosio! Take confidence in the strength of your
virtue. Enter boldly into a world to whose failings you are superior;
Reflect that you are now exempted from Humanity’s defects, and defy all
the arts of the Spirits of Darkness. They shall know you for what you
are!”

Here his Reverie was interrupted by three soft knocks at the door of
his Cell. With difficulty did the Abbot awake from his delirium. The
knocking was repeated.

“Who is there?” said Ambrosio at length.

“It is only Rosario,” replied a gentle voice.

“Enter! Enter, my Son!”

The Door was immediately opened, and Rosario appeared with a small
basket in his hand.

Rosario was a young Novice belonging to the Monastery, who in three
Months intended to make his profession. A sort of mystery enveloped
this Youth which rendered him at once an object of interest and
curiosity. His hatred of society, his profound melancholy, his rigid
observation of the duties of his order, and his voluntary seclusion
from the world at his age so unusual, attracted the notice of the whole
fraternity. He seemed fearful of being recognised, and no one had ever
seen his face. His head was continually muffled up in his Cowl; Yet
such of his features as accident discovered, appeared the most
beautiful and noble. Rosario was the only name by which He was known in
the Monastery.

No one knew from whence He came, and when questioned in the subject He
preserved a profound silence. A Stranger, whose rich habit and
magnificent equipage declared him to be of distinguished rank, had
engaged the Monks to receive a Novice, and had deposited the necessary
sums. The next day He returned with Rosario, and from that time no more
had been heard of him.

The Youth had carefully avoided the company of the Monks: He answered
their civilities with sweetness, but reserve, and evidently showed that
his inclination led him to solitude. To this general rule the Superior
was the only exception. To him He looked up with a respect approaching
idolatry: He sought his company with the most attentive assiduity, and
eagerly seized every means to ingratiate himself in his favour. In the
Abbot’s society his Heart seemed to be at ease, and an air of gaiety
pervaded his whole manners and discourse. Ambrosio on his side did not
feel less attracted towards the Youth; With him alone did He lay aside
his habitual severity. When He spoke to him, He insensibly assumed a
tone milder than was usual to him; and no voice sounded so sweet to him
as did Rosario’s. He repayed the Youth’s attentions by instructing him
in various sciences; The Novice received his lessons with docility;
Ambrosio was every day more charmed with the vivacity of his Genius,
the simplicity of his manners, and the rectitude of his heart: In short
He loved him with all the affection of a Father. He could not help
sometimes indulging a desire secretly to see the face of his Pupil; But
his rule of self-denial extended even to curiosity, and prevented him
from communicating his wishes to the Youth.

“Pardon my intrusion, Father,” said Rosario, while He placed his basket
upon the Table; “I come to you a Suppliant. Hearing that a dear Friend
is dangerously ill, I entreat your prayers for his recovery. If
supplications can prevail upon heaven to spare him, surely yours must
be efficacious.”

“Whatever depends upon me, my Son, you know that you may command.

What is your Friend’s name?”

“Vincentio della Ronda.”

“’Tis sufficient. I will not forget him in my prayers, and may our
thrice-blessed St. Francis deign to listen to my intercession!—What
have you in your basket, Rosario?”

“A few of those flowers, reverend Father, which I have observed to be
most acceptable to you. Will you permit my arranging them in your
chamber?”

“Your attentions charm me, my Son.”

While Rosario dispersed the contents of his Basket in small Vases
placed for that purpose in various parts of the room, the Abbot thus
continued the conversation.

“I saw you not in the Church this evening, Rosario.”

“Yet I was present, Father. I am too grateful for your protection to
lose an opportunity of witnessing your Triumph.”

“Alas! Rosario, I have but little cause to triumph: The Saint spoke by
my mouth; To him belongs all the merit. It seems then you were
contented with my discourse?”

“Contented, say you? Oh! you surpassed yourself! Never did I hear such
eloquence ... save once!”

Here the Novice heaved an involuntary sigh.

“When was that once?” demanded the Abbot.

“When you preached upon the sudden indisposition of our late Superior.”

“I remember it: That is more than two years ago. And were you present?
I knew you not at that time, Rosario.”

“’Tis true, Father; and would to God! I had expired, ere I beheld that
day! What sufferings, what sorrows should I have escaped!”

“Sufferings at your age, Rosario?”

“Aye, Father; Sufferings, which if known to you, would equally raise
your anger and compassion! Sufferings, which form at once the torment
and pleasure of my existence! Yet in this retreat my bosom would feel
tranquil, were it not for the tortures of apprehension. Oh God! Oh God!
how cruel is a life of fear!—Father! I have given up all; I have
abandoned the world and its delights for ever: Nothing now remains,
Nothing now has charms for me, but your friendship, but your affection.
If I lose that, Father! Oh! if I lose that, tremble at the effects of
my despair!”

“You apprehend the loss of my friendship? How has my conduct justified
this fear? Know me better, Rosario, and think me worthy of your
confidence. What are your sufferings? Reveal them to me, and believe
that if ’tis in my power to relieve them....”

“Ah! ’tis in no one’s power but yours. Yet I must not let you know
them. You would hate me for my avowal! You would drive me from your
presence with scorn and ignominy!”

“My Son, I conjure you! I entreat you!”

“For pity’s sake, enquire no further! I must not ... I dare not...
Hark! The Bell rings for Vespers! Father, your benediction, and I leave
you!”

As He said this, He threw himself upon his knees and received the
blessing which He demanded. Then pressing the Abbot’s hand to his lips,
He started from the ground and hastily quitted the apartment. Soon
after Ambrosio descended to Vespers (which were celebrated in a small
chapel belonging to the Abbey), filled with surprise at the singularity
of the Youth’s behaviour.

Vespers being over, the Monks retired to their respective Cells. The
Abbot alone remained in the Chapel to receive the Nuns of St. Clare. He
had not been long seated in the confessional chair before the Prioress
made her appearance. Each of the Nuns was heard in her turn, while the
Others waited with the Domina in the adjoining Vestry. Ambrosio
listened to the confessions with attention, made many exhortations,
enjoined penance proportioned to each offence, and for some time every
thing went on as usual: till at last one of the Nuns, conspicuous from
the nobleness of her air and elegance of her figure, carelessly
permitted a letter to fall from her bosom. She was retiring,
unconscious of her loss. Ambrosio supposed it to have been written by
some one of her Relations, and picked it up intending to restore it to
her.

“Stay, Daughter,” said He; “You have let fall....”

At this moment, the paper being already open, his eye involuntarily
read the first words. He started back with surprise! The Nun had turned
round on hearing his voice: She perceived her letter in his hand, and
uttering a shriek of terror, flew hastily to regain it.

“Hold!” said the Friar in a tone of severity; “Daughter, I must read
this letter.”

“Then I am lost!” She exclaimed clasping her hands together wildly.

All colour instantly faded from her face; she trembled with agitation,
and was obliged to fold her arms round a Pillar of the Chapel to save
herself from sinking upon the floor. In the meanwhile the Abbot read
the following lines:

“All is ready for your escape, my dearest Agnes. At twelve tomorrow
night I shall expect to find you at the Garden door: I have obtained
the Key, and a few hours will suffice to place you in a secure asylum.
Let no mistaken scruples induce you to reject the certain means of
preserving yourself and the innocent Creature whom you nourish in your
bosom. Remember that you had promised to be mine, long ere you engaged
yourself to the church; that your situation will soon be evident to the
prying eyes of your Companions; and that flight is the only means of
avoiding the effects of their malevolent resentment. Farewell, my
Agnes! my dear and destined Wife! Fail not to be at the Garden door at
twelve!”


As soon as He had finished, Ambrosio bent an eye stern and angry upon
the imprudent Nun.

“This letter must to the Prioress!” said He, and passed her.

His words sounded like thunder to her ears: She awoke from her
torpidity only to be sensible of the dangers of her situation. She
followed him hastily, and detained him by his garment.

“Stay! Oh! stay!” She cried in the accents of despair, while She threw
herself at the Friar’s feet, and bathed them with her tears. “Father,
compassionate my youth! Look with indulgence on a Woman’s weakness, and
deign to conceal my frailty! The remainder of my life shall be employed
in expiating this single fault, and your lenity will bring back a soul
to heaven!”

“Amazing confidence! What! Shall St. Clare’s Convent become the retreat
of Prostitutes? Shall I suffer the Church of Christ to cherish in its
bosom debauchery and shame? Unworthy Wretch! such lenity would make me
your accomplice. Mercy would here be criminal. You have abandoned
yourself to a Seducer’s lust; You have defiled the sacred habit by your
impurity; and still dare you think yourself deserving my compassion?
Hence, nor detain me longer! Where is the Lady Prioress?” He added,
raising his voice.

“Hold! Father, Hold! Hear me but for one moment! Tax me not with
impurity, nor think that I have erred from the warmth of temperament.
Long before I took the veil, Raymond was Master of my heart: He
inspired me with the purest, the most irreproachable passion, and was
on the point of becoming my lawful husband. An horrible adventure, and
the treachery of a Relation, separated us from each other: I believed
him for ever lost to me, and threw myself into a Convent from motives
of despair. Accident again united us; I could not refuse myself the
melancholy pleasure of mingling my tears with his: We met nightly in
the Gardens of St. Clare, and in an unguarded moment I violated my vows
of Chastity. I shall soon become a Mother: Reverend Ambrosio, take
compassion on me; take compassion on the innocent Being whose existence
is attached to mine. If you discover my imprudence to the Domina, both
of us are lost: The punishment which the laws of St. Clare assign to
Unfortunates like myself is most severe and cruel. Worthy, worthy
Father! Let not your own untainted conscience render you unfeeling
towards those less able to withstand temptation! Let not mercy be the
only virtue of which your heart is unsusceptible! Pity me, most
reverend! Restore my letter, nor doom me to inevitable destruction!”

“Your boldness confounds me! Shall _I_ conceal your crime, _I_ whom you
have deceived by your feigned confession? No, Daughter, no! I will
render you a more essential service. I will rescue you from perdition
in spite of yourself; Penance and mortification shall expiate your
offence, and Severity force you back to the paths of holiness. What;
Ho! Mother St. Agatha!”

“Father! By all that is sacred, by all that is most dear to you, I
supplicate, I entreat....”

“Release me! I will not hear you. Where is the Domina? Mother St.
Agatha, where are you?”

The door of the Vestry opened, and the Prioress entered the Chapel,
followed by her Nuns.

“Cruel! Cruel!” exclaimed Agnes, relinquishing her hold.

Wild and desperate, She threw herself upon the ground, beating her
bosom and rending her veil in all the delirium of despair. The Nuns
gazed with astonishment upon the scene before them. The Friar now
presented the fatal paper to the Prioress, informed her of the manner
in which he had found it, and added, that it was her business to
decide, what penance the delinquent merited.

While She perused the letter, the Domina’s countenance grew inflamed
with passion. What! Such a crime committed in her Convent, and made
known to Ambrosio, to the Idol of Madrid, to the Man whom She was most
anxious to impress with the opinion of the strictness and regularity of
her House! Words were inadequate to express her fury. She was silent,
and darted upon the prostrate Nun looks of menace and malignity.

“Away with her to the Convent!” said She at length to some of her
Attendants.

Two of the oldest Nuns now approaching Agnes, raised her forcibly from
the ground, and prepared to conduct her from the Chapel.

“What!” She exclaimed suddenly shaking off their hold with distracted
gestures; “Is all hope then lost? Already do you drag me to punishment?
Where are you, Raymond? Oh! save me! save me!”

Then casting upon the Abbot a frantic look, “Hear me!” She continued;
“Man of an hard heart! Hear me, Proud, Stern, and Cruel! You could have
saved me; you could have restored me to happiness and virtue, but would
not! You are the destroyer of my Soul; You are my Murderer, and on you
fall the curse of my death and my unborn Infant’s! Insolent in your
yet-unshaken virtue, you disdained the prayers of a Penitent; But God
will show mercy, though you show none. And where is the merit of your
boasted virtue? What temptations have you vanquished? Coward! you have
fled from it, not opposed seduction. But the day of Trial will arrive!
Oh! then when you yield to impetuous passions! when you feel that Man
is weak, and born to err; When shuddering you look back upon your
crimes, and solicit with terror the mercy of your God, Oh! in that
fearful moment think upon me! Think upon your Cruelty! Think upon
Agnes, and despair of pardon!”

As She uttered these last words, her strength was exhausted, and She
sank inanimate upon the bosom of a Nun who stood near her. She was
immediately conveyed from the Chapel, and her Companions followed her.

Ambrosio had not listened to her reproaches without emotion. A secret
pang at his heart made him feel, that He had treated this Unfortunate
with too great severity. He therefore detained the Prioress and
ventured to pronounce some words in favour of the Delinquent.

“The violence of her despair,” said He, “proves, that at least Vice is
not become familiar to her. Perhaps by treating her with somewhat less
rigour than is generally practised, and mitigating in some degree the
accustomed penance....”

“Mitigate it, Father?” interrupted the Lady Prioress; “Not I, believe
me. The laws of our order are strict and severe; they have fallen into
disuse of late, But the crime of Agnes shows me the necessity of their
revival. I go to signify my intention to the Convent, and Agnes shall
be the first to feel the rigour of those laws, which shall be obeyed to
the very letter. Father, Farewell.”

Thus saying, She hastened out of the Chapel.

“I have done my duty,” said Ambrosio to himself.

Still did He not feel perfectly satisfied by this reflection. To
dissipate the unpleasant ideas which this scene had excited in him,
upon quitting the Chapel He descended into the Abbey Garden.

In all Madrid there was no spot more beautiful or better regulated. It
was laid out with the most exquisite taste. The choicest flowers
adorned it in the height of luxuriance, and though artfully arranged,
seemed only planted by the hand of Nature: Fountains, springing from
basons of white Marble, cooled the air with perpetual showers; and the
Walls were entirely covered by Jessamine, vines, and Honeysuckles. The
hour now added to the beauty of the scene. The full Moon, ranging
through a blue and cloudless sky, shed upon the trees a trembling
lustre, and the waters of the fountains sparkled in the silver beam: A
gentle breeze breathed the fragrance of Orange-blossoms along the
Alleys; and the Nightingale poured forth her melodious murmur from the
shelter of an artificial wilderness. Thither the Abbot bent his steps.

In the bosom of this little Grove stood a rustic Grotto, formed in
imitation of an Hermitage. The walls were constructed of roots of
trees, and the interstices filled up with Moss and Ivy. Seats of Turf
were placed on either side, and a natural Cascade fell from the Rock
above. Buried in himself the Monk approached the spot. The universal
calm had communicated itself to his bosom, and a voluptuous
tranquillity spread languor through his soul.

He reached the Hermitage, and was entering to repose himself, when He
stopped on perceiving it to be already occupied. Extended upon one of
the Banks lay a man in a melancholy posture.

His head was supported upon his arm, and He seemed lost in mediation.
The Monk drew nearer, and recognised Rosario: He watched him in
silence, and entered not the Hermitage. After some minutes the Youth
raised his eyes, and fixed them mournfully upon the opposite Wall.

“Yes!” said He with a deep and plaintive sigh; “I feel all the
happiness of thy situation, all the misery of my own! Happy were I,
could I think like Thee! Could I look like Thee with disgust upon
Mankind, could bury myself for ever in some impenetrable solitude, and
forget that the world holds Beings deserving to be loved! Oh God! What
a blessing would Misanthropy be to me!”

“That is a singular thought, Rosario,” said the Abbot, entering the
Grotto.

“You here, reverend Father?” cried the Novice.

At the same time starting from his place in confusion, He drew his Cowl
hastily over his face. Ambrosio seated himself upon the Bank, and
obliged the Youth to place himself by him.

“You must not indulge this disposition to melancholy,” said He; “What
can possibly have made you view in so desirable a light, Misanthropy,
of all sentiments the most hateful?”

“The perusal of these Verses, Father, which till now had escaped my
observation. The Brightness of the Moonbeams permitted my reading them;
and Oh! how I envy the feelings of the Writer!”

As He said this, He pointed to a marble Tablet fixed against the
opposite Wall: On it were engraved the following lines.

INSCRIPTION IN AN HERMITAGE


Whoe’er Thou art these lines now reading,
Think not, though from the world receding
I joy my lonely days to lead in
        This Desart drear,
That with remorse a conscience bleeding
        Hath led me here.

No thought of guilt my bosom sowrs:
Free-willed I fled from courtly bowers;
For well I saw in Halls and Towers
        That Lust and Pride,
The Arch-Fiend’s dearest darkest Powers,
        In state preside.

I saw Mankind with vice incrusted;
I saw that Honour’s sword was rusted;
That few for aught but folly lusted;
That He was still deceiv’d, who trusted
        In Love or Friend;
And hither came with Men disgusted
        My life to end.

In this lone Cave, in garments lowly,
Alike a Foe to noisy folly,
And brow-bent gloomy melancholy
        I wear away
My life, and in my office holy
        Consume the day.

Content and comfort bless me more in
This Grot, than e’er I felt before in
A Palace, and with thoughts still soaring
        To God on high,
Each night and morn with voice imploring
        This wish I sigh.

“Let me, Oh! Lord! from life retire,
Unknown each guilty worldly fire,
Remorseful throb, or loose desire;
        And when I die,
Let me in this belief expire,
        ‘To God I fly’!”

Stranger, if full of youth and riot
As yet no grief has marred thy quiet,
Thou haply throw’st a scornful eye at
        The Hermit’s prayer:
But if Thou hast a cause to sigh at
        Thy fault, or care;

If Thou hast known false Love’s vexation,
Or hast been exil’d from thy Nation,
Or guilt affrights thy contemplation,
        And makes thee pine,
Oh! how must Thou lament thy station,
        And envy mine!


“Were it possible” said the Friar, “for Man to be so totally wrapped up
in himself as to live in absolute seclusion from human nature, and
could yet feel the contented tranquillity which these lines express, I
allow that the situation would be more desirable, than to live in a
world so pregnant with every vice and every folly. But this never can
be the case. This inscription was merely placed here for the ornament
of the Grotto, and the sentiments and the Hermit are equally imaginary.
Man was born for society. However little He may be attached to the
World, He never can wholly forget it, or bear to be wholly forgotten by
it. Disgusted at the guilt or absurdity of Mankind, the Misanthrope
flies from it: He resolves to become an Hermit, and buries himself in
the Cavern of some gloomy Rock. While Hate inflames his bosom, possibly
He may feel contented with his situation: But when his passions begin
to cool; when Time has mellowed his sorrows, and healed those wounds
which He bore with him to his solitude, think you that Content becomes
his Companion? Ah! no, Rosario. No longer sustained by the violence of
his passions, He feels all the monotony of his way of living, and his
heart becomes the prey of Ennui and weariness. He looks round, and
finds himself alone in the Universe: The love of society revives in his
bosom, and He pants to return to that world which He has abandoned.
Nature loses all her charms in his eyes: No one is near him to point
out her beauties, or share in his admiration of her excellence and
variety. Propped upon the fragment of some Rock, He gazes upon the
tumbling waterfall with a vacant eye, He views without emotion the
glory of the setting Sun. Slowly He returns to his Cell at Evening, for
no one there is anxious for his arrival; He has no comfort in his
solitary unsavoury meal: He throws himself upon his couch of Moss
despondent and dissatisfied, and wakes only to pass a day as joyless,
as monotonous as the former.”

“You amaze me, Father! Suppose that circumstances condemned you to
solitude; Would not the duties of Religion and the consciousness of a
life well spent communicate to your heart that calm which....”

“I should deceive myself, did I fancy that they could. I am convinced
of the contrary, and that all my fortitude would not prevent me from
yielding to melancholy and disgust. After consuming the day in study,
if you knew my pleasure at meeting my Brethren in the Evening! After
passing many a long hour in solitude, if I could express to you the joy
which I feel at once more beholding a fellow-Creature! ’Tis in this
particular that I place the principal merit of a Monastic Institution.
It secludes Man from the temptations of Vice; It procures that leisure
necessary for the proper service of the Supreme; It spares him the
mortification of witnessing the crimes of the worldly, and yet permits
him to enjoy the blessings of society. And do you, Rosario, do _you_
envy an Hermit’s life? Can you be thus blind to the happiness of your
situation? Reflect upon it for a moment. This Abbey is become your
Asylum: Your regularity, your gentleness, your talents have rendered
you the object of universal esteem: You are secluded from the world
which you profess to hate; yet you remain in possession of the benefits
of society, and that a society composed of the most estimable of
Mankind.”

“Father! Father! ’tis that which causes my Torment! Happy had it been
for me, had my life been passed among the vicious and abandoned! Had I
never heard pronounced the name of Virtue! ’Tis my unbounded adoration
of religion; ’Tis my soul’s exquisite sensibility of the beauty of fair
and good, that loads me with shame! that hurries me to perdition! Oh!
that I had never seen these Abbey walls!”

“How, Rosario? When we last conversed, you spoke in a different tone.
Is my friendship then become of such little consequence? Had you never
seen these Abbey walls, you never had seen me: Can that really be your
wish?”

“Had never seen you?” repeated the Novice, starting from the Bank, and
grasping the Friar’s hand with a frantic air; “You? You? Would to God,
that lightning had blasted them, before you ever met my eyes! Would to
God! that I were never to see you more, and could forget that I had
ever seen you!”

With these words He flew hastily from the Grotto. Ambrosio remained in
his former attitude, reflecting on the Youth’s unaccountable behaviour.
He was inclined to suspect the derangement of his senses: yet the
general tenor of his conduct, the connexion of his ideas, and calmness
of his demeanour till the moment of his quitting the Grotto, seemed to
discountenance this conjecture. After a few minutes Rosario returned.
He again seated himself upon the Bank: He reclined his cheek upon one
hand, and with the other wiped away the tears which trickled from his
eyes at intervals.

The Monk looked upon him with compassion, and forbore to interrupt his
meditations. Both observed for some time a profound silence. The
Nightingale had now taken her station upon an Orange Tree fronting the
Hermitage, and poured forth a strain the most melancholy and melodious.
Rosario raised his head, and listened to her with attention.

“It was thus,” said He, with a deep-drawn sigh; “It was thus, that
during the last month of her unhappy life, my Sister used to sit
listening to the Nightingale. Poor Matilda! She sleeps in the Grave,
and her broken heart throbs no more with passion.”

“You had a Sister?”

“You say right, that I HAD; Alas! I have one no longer. She sunk
beneath the weight of her sorrows in the very spring of life.”

“What were those sorrows?”

“They will not excite _your_ pity: _you_ know not the power of those
irresistible, those fatal sentiments, to which her Heart was a prey.
Father, She loved unfortunately. A passion for One endowed with every
virtue, for a Man, Oh! rather let me say, for a divinity, proved the
bane of her existence. His noble form, his spotless character, his
various talents, his wisdom solid, wonderful, and glorious, might have
warmed the bosom of the most insensible. My Sister saw him, and dared
to love though She never dared to hope.”

“If her love was so well bestowed, what forbad her to hope the
obtaining of its object?”

“Father, before He knew her, Julian had already plighted his vows to a
Bride most fair, most heavenly! Yet still my Sister loved, and for the
Husband’s sake She doted upon the Wife. One morning She found means to
escape from our Father’s House: Arrayed in humble weeds She offered
herself as a Domestic to the Consort of her Beloved, and was accepted.
She was now continually in his presence: She strove to ingratiate
herself into his favour: She succeeded. Her attentions attracted
Julian’s notice; The virtuous are ever grateful, and He distinguished
Matilda above the rest of her Companions.”

“And did not your Parents seek for her? Did they submit tamely to their
loss, nor attempt to recover their wandering Daughter?”

“Ere they could find her, She discovered herself. Her love grew too
violent for concealment; Yet She wished not for Julian’s person, She
ambitioned but a share of his heart. In an unguarded moment She
confessed her affection. What was the return? Doating upon his Wife,
and believing that a look of pity bestowed upon another was a theft
from what He owed to her, He drove Matilda from his presence. He forbad
her ever again appearing before him. His severity broke her heart: She
returned to her Father’s, and in a few Months after was carried to her
Grave.”

“Unhappy Girl! Surely her fate was too severe, and Julian was too
cruel.”

“Do you think so, Father?” cried the Novice with vivacity; “Do you
think that He was cruel?”

“Doubtless I do, and pity her most sincerely.”

“You pity her? You pity her? Oh! Father! Father! Then pity me!”

The Friar started; when after a moment’s pause Rosario added with a
faltering voice,—“for my sufferings are still greater. My Sister had a
Friend, a real Friend, who pitied the acuteness of her feelings, nor
reproached her with her inability to repress them. I ...! I have no
Friend! The whole wide world cannot furnish an heart that is willing to
participate in the sorrows of mine!”

As He uttered these words, He sobbed audibly. The Friar was affected.
He took Rosario’s hand, and pressed it with tenderness.

“You have no Friend, say you? What then am I? Why will you not confide
in me, and what can you fear? My severity? Have I ever used it with
you? The dignity of my habit? Rosario, I lay aside the Monk, and bid
you consider me as no other than your Friend, your Father. Well may I
assume that title, for never did Parent watch over a Child more fondly
than I have watched over you. From the moment in which I first beheld
you, I perceived sensations in my bosom till then unknown to me; I
found a delight in your society which no one’s else could afford; and
when I witnessed the extent of your genius and information, I rejoiced
as does a Father in the perfections of his Son. Then lay aside your
fears; Speak to me with openness: Speak to me, Rosario, and say that
you will confide in me. If my aid or my pity can alleviate your
distress....”

“Yours can! Yours only can! Ah! Father, how willingly would I unveil to
you my heart! How willingly would I declare the secret which bows me
down with its weight! But Oh! I fear! I fear!”

“What, my Son?”

“That you should abhor me for my weakness; That the reward of my
confidence should be the loss of your esteem.”

“How shall I reassure you? Reflect upon the whole of my past conduct,
upon the paternal tenderness which I have ever shown you. Abhor you,
Rosario? It is no longer in my power. To give up your society would be
to deprive myself of the greatest pleasure of my life. Then reveal to
me what afflicts you, and believe me while I solemnly swear....”

“Hold!” interrupted the Novice; “Swear, that whatever be my secret, you
will not oblige me to quit the Monastery till my Noviciate shall
expire.”

“I promise it faithfully, and as I keep my vows to you, may Christ keep
his to Mankind. Now then explain this mystery, and rely upon my
indulgence.”

“I obey you. Know then.... Oh! how I tremble to name the word! Listen
to me with pity, revered Ambrosio! Call up every latent spark of human
weakness that may teach you compassion for mine! Father!” continued He
throwing himself at the Friar’s feet, and pressing his hand to his lips
with eagerness, while agitation for a moment choaked his voice;
“Father!” continued He in faltering accents, “I am a Woman!”

The Abbot started at this unexpected avowal. Prostrate on the ground
lay the feigned Rosario, as if waiting in silence the decision of his
Judge. Astonishment on the one part, apprehension on the other, for
some minutes chained them in the same attitudes, as had they been
touched by the Rod of some Magician. At length recovering from his
confusion, the Monk quitted the Grotto, and sped with precipitation
towards the Abbey. His action did not escape the Suppliant. She sprang
from the ground; She hastened to follow him, overtook him, threw
herself in his passage, and embraced his knees. Ambrosio strove in vain
to disengage himself from her grasp.

“Do not fly me!” She cried; “Leave me not abandoned to the impulse of
despair! Listen, while I excuse my imprudence; while I acknowledge my
Sister’s story to be my own! I am Matilda; You are her Beloved.”

If Ambrosio’s surprise was great at her first avowal, upon hearing her
second it exceeded all bounds. Amazed, embarrassed, and irresolute He
found himself incapable of pronouncing a syllable, and remained in
silence gazing upon Matilda: This gave her opportunity to continue her
explanation as follows.

“Think not, Ambrosio, that I come to rob your Bride of your affections.
No, believe me: Religion alone deserves you; and far is it from
Matilda’s wish to draw you from the paths of virtue. What I feel for
you is love, not licentiousness; I sigh to be possessor of your heart,
not lust for the enjoyment of your person. Deign to listen to my
vindication: A few moments will convince you that this holy retreat is
not polluted by my presence, and that you may grant me your compassion
without trespassing against your vows.”—She seated herself: Ambrosio,
scarcely conscious of what He did, followed her example, and She
proceeded in her discourse.

“I spring from a distinguished family: My Father was Chief of the noble
House of Villanegas. He died while I was still an Infant, and left me
sole Heiress of his immense possessions. Young and wealthy, I was
sought in marriage by the noblest Youths of Madrid; But no one
succeeded in gaining my affections. I had been brought up under the
care of an Uncle possessed of the most solid judgment and extensive
erudition. He took pleasure in communicating to me some portion of his
knowledge. Under his instructions my understanding acquired more
strength and justness than generally falls to the lot of my sex: The
ability of my Preceptor being aided by natural curiosity, I not only
made a considerable progress in sciences universally studied, but in
others, revealed but to few, and lying under censure from the blindness
of superstition. But while my Guardian laboured to enlarge the sphere
of my knowledge, He carefully inculcated every moral precept: He
relieved me from the shackles of vulgar prejudice; He pointed out the
beauty of Religion; He taught me to look with adoration upon the pure
and virtuous, and, woe is me! I have obeyed him but too well!

“With such dispositions, Judge whether I could observe with any other
sentiment than disgust the vice, dissipation, and ignorance, which
disgrace our Spanish Youth. I rejected every offer with disdain. My
heart remained without a Master till chance conducted me to the
Cathedral of the Capuchins. Oh! surely on that day my Guardian Angel
slumbered neglectful of his charge! Then was it that I first beheld
you: You supplied the Superior’s place, absent from illness. You cannot
but remember the lively enthusiasm which your discourse created. Oh!
how I drank your words! How your eloquence seemed to steal me from
myself! I scarcely dared to breathe, fearing to lose a syllable; and
while you spoke, Methought a radiant glory beamed round your head, and
your countenance shone with the majesty of a God. I retired from the
Church, glowing with admiration. From that moment you became the idol
of my heart, the never-changing object of my Meditations. I enquired
respecting you. The reports which were made me of your mode of life, of
your knowledge, piety, and self-denial riveted the chains imposed on me
by your eloquence. I was conscious that there was no longer a void in
my heart; That I had found the Man whom I had sought till then in vain.
In expectation of hearing you again, every day I visited your
Cathedral: You remained secluded within the Abbey walls, and I always
withdrew, wretched and disappointed. The Night was more propitious to
me, for then you stood before me in my dreams; You vowed to me eternal
friendship; You led me through the paths of virtue, and assisted me to
support the vexations of life. The Morning dispelled these pleasing
visions; I woke, and found myself separated from you by Barriers which
appeared insurmountable. Time seemed only to increase the strength of
my passion: I grew melancholy and despondent; I fled from society, and
my health declined daily. At length no longer able to exist in this
state of torture, I resolved to assume the disguise in which you see
me. My artifice was fortunate: I was received into the Monastery, and
succeeded in gaining your esteem.

“Now then I should have felt compleatly happy, had not my quiet been
disturbed by the fear of detection. The pleasure which I received from
your society, was embittered by the idea that perhaps I should soon be
deprived of it: and my heart throbbed so rapturously at obtaining the
marks of your friendship, as to convince me that I never should survive
its loss. I resolved, therefore, not to leave the discovery of my sex
to chance, to confess the whole to you, and throw myself entirely on
your mercy and indulgence. Ah! Ambrosio, can I have been deceived? Can
you be less generous than I thought you? I will not suspect it. You
will not drive a Wretch to despair; I shall still be permitted to see
you, to converse with you, to adore you! Your virtues shall be my
example through life; and when we expire, our bodies shall rest in the
same Grave.”

She ceased. While She spoke, a thousand opposing sentiments combated in
Ambrosio’s bosom. Surprise at the singularity of this adventure,
Confusion at her abrupt declaration, Resentment at her boldness in
entering the Monastery, and Consciousness of the austerity with which
it behoved him to reply, such were the sentiments of which He was
aware; But there were others also which did not obtain his notice. He
perceived not, that his vanity was flattered by the praises bestowed
upon his eloquence and virtue; that He felt a secret pleasure in
reflecting that a young and seemingly lovely Woman had for his sake
abandoned the world, and sacrificed every other passion to that which
He had inspired: Still less did He perceive that his heart throbbed
with desire, while his hand was pressed gently by Matilda’s ivory
fingers.

By degrees He recovered from his confusion. His ideas became less
bewildered: He was immediately sensible of the extreme impropriety,
should Matilda be permitted to remain in the Abbey after this avowal of
her sex. He assumed an air of severity, and drew away his hand.

“How, Lady!” said He; “Can you really hope for my permission to remain
amongst us? Even were I to grant your request, what good could you
derive from it? Think you that I ever can reply to an affection,
which...”

“No, Father, No! I expect not to inspire you with a love like mine. I
only wish for the liberty to be near you, to pass some hours of the day
in your society; to obtain your compassion, your friendship and esteem.
Surely my request is not unreasonable.”

“But reflect, Lady! Reflect only for a moment on the impropriety of my
harbouring a Woman in the Abbey; and that too a Woman, who confesses
that She loves me. It must not be. The risque of your being discovered
is too great, and I will not expose myself to so dangerous a
temptation.”

“Temptation, say you? Forget that I am a Woman, and it no longer
exists: Consider me only as a Friend, as an Unfortunate, whose
happiness, whose life depends upon your protection. Fear not lest I
should ever call to your remembrance that love the most impetuous, the
most unbounded, has induced me to disguise my sex; or that instigated
by desires, offensive to _your_ vows and my own honour, I should
endeavour to seduce you from the path of rectitude. No, Ambrosio, learn
to know me better. I love you for your virtues: Lose them, and with
them you lose my affections. I look upon you as a Saint; Prove to me
that you are no more than Man, and I quit you with disgust. Is it then
from me that you fear temptation? From me, in whom the world’s dazzling
pleasures created no other sentiment than contempt? From me, whose
attachment is grounded on your exemption from human frailty? Oh!
dismiss such injurious apprehensions! Think nobler of me, think nobler
of yourself. I am incapable of seducing you to error; and surely your
Virtue is established on a basis too firm to be shaken by unwarranted
desires. Ambrosio, dearest Ambrosio! drive me not from your presence;
Remember your promise, and authorize my stay!”

“Impossible, Matilda; _your_ interest commands me to refuse your
prayer, since I tremble for you, not for myself. After vanquishing the
impetuous ebullitions of Youth; After passing thirty years in
mortification and penance, I might safely permit your stay, nor fear
your inspiring me with warmer sentiments than pity. But to yourself,
remaining in the Abbey can produce none but fatal consequences. You
will misconstrue my every word and action; You will seize every
circumstance with avidity, which encourages you to hope the return of
your affection; Insensibly your passions will gain a superiority over
your reason; and far from these being repressed by my presence, every
moment which we pass together, will only serve to irritate and excite
them. Believe me, unhappy Woman! you possess my sincere compassion. I
am convinced that you have hitherto acted upon the purest motives; But
though you are blind to the imprudence of your conduct, in me it would
be culpable not to open your eyes. I feel that Duty obliges my treating
you with harshness: I must reject your prayer, and remove every shadow
of hope which may aid to nourish sentiments so pernicious to your
repose. Matilda, you must from hence tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow, Ambrosio? Tomorrow? Oh! surely you cannot mean it!

You cannot resolve on driving me to despair! You cannot have the
cruelty....”

“You have heard my decision, and it must be obeyed. The Laws of our
Order forbid your stay: It would be perjury to conceal that a Woman is
within these Walls, and my vows will oblige me to declare your story to
the Community. You must from hence!—I pity you, but can do no more!”

He pronounced these words in a faint and trembling voice: Then rising
from his seat, He would have hastened towards the Monastery. Uttering a
loud shriek, Matilda followed, and detained him.

“Stay yet one moment, Ambrosio! Hear me yet speak one word!”

“I dare not listen! Release me! You know my resolution!”

“But one word! But one last word, and I have done!”

“Leave me! Your entreaties are in vain! You must from hence tomorrow!”

“Go then, Barbarian! But this resource is still left me.”

As She said this, She suddenly drew a poignard: She rent open her
garment, and placed the weapon’s point against her bosom.

“Father, I will never quit these Walls alive!”

“Hold! Hold, Matilda! What would you do?”

“You are determined, so am I: The Moment that you leave me, I plunge
this Steel in my heart.”

“Holy St. Francis! Matilda, have you your senses? Do you know the
consequences of your action? That Suicide is the greatest of crimes?
That you destroy your Soul? That you lose your claim to salvation? That
you prepare for yourself everlasting torments?”

“I care not! I care not!” She replied passionately; “Either your hand
guides me to Paradise, or my own dooms me to perdition! Speak to me,
Ambrosio! Tell me that you will conceal my story, that I shall remain
your Friend and your Companion, or this poignard drinks my blood!”

As She uttered these last words, She lifted her arm, and made a motion
as if to stab herself. The Friar’s eyes followed with dread the course
of the dagger. She had torn open her habit, and her bosom was half
exposed. The weapon’s point rested upon her left breast: And Oh! that
was such a breast! The Moonbeams darting full upon it enabled the Monk
to observe its dazzling whiteness. His eye dwelt with insatiable
avidity upon the beauteous Orb. A sensation till then unknown filled
his heart with a mixture of anxiety and delight: A raging fire shot
through every limb; The blood boiled in his veins, and a thousand wild
wishes bewildered his imagination.

“Hold!” He cried in an hurried faultering voice; “I can resist no
longer! Stay, then, Enchantress; Stay for my destruction!”

He said, and rushing from the place, hastened towards the Monastery: He
regained his Cell and threw himself upon his Couch, distracted
irresolute and confused.

He found it impossible for some time to arrange his ideas. The scene in
which He had been engaged had excited such a variety of sentiments in
his bosom, that He was incapable of deciding which was predominant. He
was irresolute what conduct He ought to hold with the disturber of his
repose. He was conscious that prudence, religion, and propriety
necessitated his obliging her to quit the Abbey: But on the other hand
such powerful reasons authorized her stay that He was but too much
inclined to consent to her remaining. He could not avoid being
flattered by Matilda’s declaration, and at reflecting that He had
unconsciously vanquished an heart which had resisted the attacks of
Spain’s noblest Cavaliers: The manner in which He had gained her
affections was also the most satisfactory to his vanity: He remembered
the many happy hours which He had passed in Rosario’s society, and
dreaded that void in his heart which parting with him would occasion.
Besides all this, He considered, that as Matilda was wealthy, her
favour might be of essential benefit to the Abbey.

“And what do I risque,” said He to himself, “by authorizing her stay?
May I not safely credit her assertions? Will it not be easy for me to
forget her sex, and still consider her as my Friend and my disciple?
Surely her love is as pure as She describes. Had it been the offspring
of mere licentiousness, would She so long have concealed it in her own
bosom? Would She not have employed some means to procure its
gratification? She has done quite the contrary: She strove to keep me
in ignorance of her sex; and nothing but the fear of detection, and my
instances, would have compelled her to reveal the secret. She has
observed the duties of religion not less strictly than myself. She has
made no attempts to rouze my slumbering passions, nor has She ever
conversed with me till this night on the subject of Love. Had She been
desirous to gain my affections, not my esteem, She would not have
concealed from me her charms so carefully: At this very moment I have
never seen her face: Yet certainly that face must be lovely, and her
person beautiful, to judge by her ... by what I have seen.”

As this last idea passed through his imagination, a blush spread itself
over his cheek. Alarmed at the sentiments which He was indulging, He
betook himself to prayer; He started from his Couch, knelt before the
beautiful Madona, and entreated her assistance in stifling such
culpable emotions. He then returned to his Bed, and resigned himself to
slumber.

He awoke, heated and unrefreshed. During his sleep his inflamed
imagination had presented him with none but the most voluptuous
objects. Matilda stood before him in his dreams, and his eyes again
dwelt upon her naked breast. She repeated her protestations of eternal
love, threw her arms round his neck, and loaded him with kisses: He
returned them; He clasped her passionately to his bosom, and ... the
vision was dissolved. Sometimes his dreams presented the image of his
favourite Madona, and He fancied that He was kneeling before her: As He
offered up his vows to her, the eyes of the Figure seemed to beam on
him with inexpressible sweetness. He pressed his lips to hers, and
found them warm: The animated form started from the Canvas, embraced
him affectionately, and his senses were unable to support delight so
exquisite. Such were the scenes, on which his thoughts were employed
while sleeping: His unsatisfied Desires placed before him the most
lustful and provoking Images, and he rioted in joys till then unknown
to him.

He started from his Couch, filled with confusion at the remembrance of
his dreams. Scarcely was He less ashamed, when He reflected on his
reasons of the former night which induced him to authorize Matilda’s
stay. The cloud was now dissipated which had obscured his judgment: He
shuddered when He beheld his arguments blazoned in their proper
colours, and found that He had been a slave to flattery, to avarice,
and self-love. If in one hour’s conversation Matilda had produced a
change so remarkable in his sentiments, what had He not to dread from
her remaining in the Abbey? Become sensible of his danger, awakened
from his dream of confidence, He resolved to insist on her departing
without delay. He began to feel that He was not proof against
temptation; and that however Matilda might restrain herself within the
bounds of modesty, He was unable to contend with those passions, from
which He falsely thought himself exempted.

“Agnes! Agnes!” He exclaimed, while reflecting on his embarrassments,
“I already feel thy curse!”

He quitted his Cell, determined upon dismissing the feigned Rosario. He
appeared at Matins; But his thoughts were absent, and He paid them but
little attention. His heart and brain were both of them filled with
worldly objects, and He prayed without devotion. The service over, He
descended into the Garden. He bent his steps towards the same spot
where, on the preceding night, He had made this embarrassing discovery.
He doubted not but that Matilda would seek him there: He was not
deceived. She soon entered the Hermitage, and approached the Monk with
a timid air. After a few minutes during which both were silent, She
appeared as if on the point of speaking; But the Abbot, who during this
time had been summoning up all his resolution, hastily interrupted her.
Though still unconscious how extensive was its influence, He dreaded
the melodious seduction of her voice.

“Seat yourself by my side, Matilda,” said He, assuming a look of
firmness, though carefully avoiding the least mixture of severity;
“Listen to me patiently, and believe, that in what I shall say, I am
not more influenced by my own interest than by yours: Believe, that I
feel for you the warmest friendship, the truest compassion, and that
you cannot feel more grieved than I do, when I declare to you that we
must never meet again.”

“Ambrosio!” She cried, in a voice at once expressive of surprise and
sorrow.

“Be calm, my Friend! My Rosario! Still let me call you by that name so
dear to me! Our separation is unavoidable; I blush to own, how sensibly
it affects me.— But yet it must be so. I feel myself incapable of
treating you with indifference, and that very conviction obliges me to
insist upon your departure. Matilda, you must stay here no longer.”

“Oh! where shall I now seek for probity? Disgusted with a perfidious
world, in what happy region does Truth conceal herself? Father, I hoped
that She resided here; I thought that your bosom had been her favourite
shrine. And you too prove false? Oh God! And you too can betray me?”

“Matilda!”

“Yes, Father, Yes! ’Tis with justice that I reproach you. Oh! where are
your promises? My Noviciate is not expired, and yet will you compell me
to quit the Monastery? Can you have the heart to drive me from you? And
have I not received your solemn oath to the contrary?”

“I will not compell you to quit the Monastery: You have received my
solemn oath to the contrary. But yet when I throw myself upon your
generosity, when I declare to you the embarrassments in which your
presence involves me, will you not release me from that oath? Reflect
upon the danger of a discovery, upon the opprobrium in which such an
event would plunge me: Reflect that my honour and reputation are at
stake, and that my peace of mind depends on your compliance. As yet my
heart is free; I shall separate from you with regret, but not with
despair. Stay here, and a few weeks will sacrifice my happiness on the
altar of your charms. You are but too interesting, too amiable! I
should love you, I should doat on you! My bosom would become the prey
of desires which Honour and my profession forbid me to gratify. If I
resisted them, the impetuosity of my wishes unsatisfied would drive me
to madness: If I yielded to the temptation, I should sacrifice to one
moment of guilty pleasure my reputation in this world, my salvation in
the next. To you then I fly for defence against myself. Preserve me
from losing the reward of thirty years of sufferings! Preserve me from
becoming the Victim of Remorse! _your_ heart has already felt the
anguish of hopeless love; Oh! then if you really value me, spare mine
that anguish! Give me back my promise; Fly from these walls. Go, and
you bear with you my warmest prayers for your happiness, my friendship,
my esteem and admiration: Stay, and you become to me the source of
danger, of sufferings, of despair! Answer me, Matilda; What is your
resolve?”—She was silent—“Will you not speak, Matilda? Will you not
name your choice?”

“Cruel! Cruel!” She exclaimed, wringing her hands in agony; “You know
too well that you offer me no choice! You know too well that I can have
no will but yours!”

“I was not then deceived! Matilda’s generosity equals my expectations.”

“Yes; I will prove the truth of my affection by submitting to a decree
which cuts me to the very heart. Take back your promise. I will quit
the Monastery this very day. I have a Relation, Abbess of a Covent in
Estramadura: To her will I bend my steps, and shut myself from the
world for ever. Yet tell me, Father, shall I bear your good wishes with
me to my solitude? Will you sometimes abstract your attention from
heavenly objects to bestow a thought upon me?”

“Ah! Matilda, I fear that I shall think on you but too often for my
repose!”

“Then I have nothing more to wish for, save that we may meet in heaven.
Farewell, my Friend! my Ambrosio!— And yet methinks, I would fain bear
with me some token of your regard!”

“What shall I give you?”

“Something.—Any thing.—One of those flowers will be sufficient.” (Here
She pointed to a bush of Roses, planted at the door of the Grotto.) “I
will hide it in my bosom, and when I am dead, the Nuns shall find it
withered upon my heart.”

The Friar was unable to reply: With slow steps, and a soul heavy with
affliction, He quitted the Hermitage. He approached the Bush, and
stooped to pluck one of the Roses. Suddenly He uttered a piercing cry,
started back hastily, and let the flower, which He already held, fall
from his hand. Matilda heard the shriek, and flew anxiously towards
him.

“What is the matter?” She cried; “Answer me, for God’s sake! What has
happened?”

“I have received my death!” He replied in a faint voice; “Concealed
among the Roses ... A Serpent....”

Here the pain of his wound became so exquisite, that Nature was unable
to bear it: His senses abandoned him, and He sank inanimate into
Matilda’s arms.

Her distress was beyond the power of description. She rent her hair,
beat her bosom, and not daring to quit Ambrosio, endeavoured by loud
cries to summon the Monks to her assistance. She at length succeeded.
Alarmed by her shrieks, Several of the Brothers hastened to the spot,
and the Superior was conveyed back to the Abbey. He was immediately put
to bed, and the Monk who officiated as Surgeon to the Fraternity
prepared to examine the wound. By this time Ambrosio’s hand had swelled
to an extraordinary size; The remedies which had been administered to
him, ’tis true, restored him to life, but not to his senses; He raved
in all the horrors of delirium, foamed at the mouth, and four of the
strongest Monks were scarcely able to hold him in his bed.

Father Pablos, such was the Surgeon’s name, hastened to examine the
wounded hand. The Monks surrounded the Bed, anxiously waiting for the
decision: Among these the feigned Rosario appeared not the most
insensible to the Friar’s calamity. He gazed upon the Sufferer with
inexpressible anguish; and the groans which every moment escaped from
his bosom sufficiently betrayed the violence of his affliction.

Father Pablos probed the wound. As He drew out his Lancet, its point
was tinged with a greenish hue. He shook his head mournfully, and
quitted the bedside.

“’Tis as I feared!” said He; “There is no hope.”

“No hope?” exclaimed the Monks with one voice; “Say you, no hope?”

“From the sudden effects, I suspected that the Abbot was stung by a
Cientipedoro: The venom which you see upon my Lancet confirms my idea:
He cannot live three days.”

“And can no possible remedy be found?” enquired Rosario.

“Without extracting the poison, He cannot recover; and how to extract
it is to me still a secret. All that I can do is to apply such herbs to
the wound as will relieve the anguish: The Patient will be restored to
his senses; But the venom will corrupt the whole mass of his blood, and
in three days He will exist no longer.”

Excessive was the universal grief at hearing this decision. Pablos, as
He had promised, dressed the wound, and then retired, followed by his
Companions: Rosario alone remained in the Cell, the Abbot at his urgent
entreaty having been committed to his care. Ambrosio’s strength worn
out by the violence of his exertions, He had by this time fallen into a
profound sleep. So totally was He overcome by weariness, that He
scarcely gave any signs of life; He was still in this situation, when
the Monks returned to enquire whether any change had taken place.
Pablos loosened the bandage which concealed the wound, more from a
principle of curiosity than from indulging the hope of discovering any
favourable symptoms. What was his astonishment at finding, that the
inflammation had totally subsided! He probed the hand; His Lancet came
out pure and unsullied; No traces of the venom were perceptible; and
had not the orifice still been visible, Pablos might have doubted that
there had ever been a wound.

He communicated this intelligence to his Brethren; their delight was
only equalled by their surprize. From the latter sentiment, however,
they were soon released by explaining the circumstance according to
their own ideas: They were perfectly convinced that their Superior was
a Saint, and thought, that nothing could be more natural than for St.
Francis to have operated a miracle in his favour. This opinion was
adopted unanimously: They declared it so loudly, and vociferated,—“A
miracle! a miracle!”—with such fervour, that they soon interrupted
Ambrosio’s slumbers.

The Monks immediately crowded round his Bed, and expressed their
satisfaction at his wonderful recovery. He was perfectly in his senses,
and free from every complaint except feeling weak and languid. Pablos
gave him a strengthening medicine, and advised his keeping his bed for
the two succeeding days: He then retired, having desired his Patient
not to exhaust himself by conversation, but rather to endeavour at
taking some repose. The other Monks followed his example, and the Abbot
and Rosario were left without Observers.

For some minutes Ambrosio regarded his Attendant with a look of mingled
pleasure and apprehension. She was seated upon the side of the Bed, her
head bending down, and as usual enveloped in the Cowl of her Habit.

“And you are still here, Matilda?” said the Friar at length. “Are you
not satisfied with having so nearly effected my destruction, that
nothing but a miracle could have saved me from the Grave? Ah! surely
Heaven sent that Serpent to punish....”

Matilda interrupted him by putting her hand before his lips with an air
of gaiety.

“Hush! Father, Hush! You must not talk!”

“He who imposed that order, knew not how interesting are the subjects
on which I wish to speak.”

“But I know it, and yet issue the same positive command. I am appointed
your Nurse, and you must not disobey my orders.”

“You are in spirits, Matilda!”

“Well may I be so: I have just received a pleasure unexampled through
my whole life.”

“What was that pleasure?”

“What I must conceal from all, but most from you.”

“But most from me? Nay then, I entreat you, Matilda....”

“Hush, Father! Hush! You must not talk. But as you do not seem inclined
to sleep, shall I endeavour to amuse you with my Harp?”

“How? I knew not that you understood Music.”

“Oh! I am a sorry Performer! Yet as silence is prescribed you for eight
and forty hours, I may possibly entertain you, when wearied of your own
reflections. I go to fetch my Harp.”

She soon returned with it.

“Now, Father; What shall I sing? Will you hear the Ballad which treats
of the gallant Durandarte, who died in the famous battle of
Roncevalles?”

“What you please, Matilda.”

“Oh! call me not Matilda! Call me Rosario, call me your Friend! Those
are the names, which I love to hear from your lips. Now listen!”

She then tuned her harp, and afterwards preluded for some moments with
such exquisite taste as to prove her a perfect Mistress of the
Instrument. The air which She played was soft and plaintive:

Ambrosio, while He listened, felt his uneasiness subside, and a
pleasing melancholy spread itself into his bosom. Suddenly Matilda
changed the strain: With an hand bold and rapid She struck a few loud
martial chords, and then chaunted the following Ballad to an air at
once simple and melodious.

DURANDARTE AND BELERMA


Sad and fearful is the story
Of the Roncevalles fight;
On those fatal plains of glory
Perished many a gallant Knight.

There fell Durandarte; Never
Verse a nobler Chieftain named:
He, before his lips for ever
Closed in silence thus exclaimed.

“Oh! Belerma! Oh! my dear-one!
For my pain and pleasure born!
Seven long years I served thee, fair-one,
Seven long years my fee was scorn:

“And when now thy heart replying
To my wishes, burns like mine,
Cruel Fate my bliss denying
Bids me every hope resign.

“Ah! Though young I fall, believe me,
Death would never claim a sigh;
’Tis to lose thee, ’tis to leave thee,
Makes me think it hard to die!

“Oh! my Cousin Montesinos,
By that friendship firm and dear
Which from Youth has lived between us,
Now my last petition hear!

“When my Soul these limbs forsaking
Eager seeks a purer air,
From my breast the cold heart taking,
Give it to Belerma’s care.

Say, I of my lands Possessor
Named her with my dying breath:
Say, my lips I op’d to bless her,
Ere they closed for aye in death:

“Twice a week too how sincerely
I adored her, Cousin, say;
Twice a week for one who dearly
Loved her, Cousin, bid her pray.

“Montesinos, now the hour
Marked by fate is near at hand:
Lo! my arm has lost its power!
Lo! I drop my trusty brand!

“Eyes, which forth beheld me going,
Homewards ne’er shall see me hie!
Cousin, stop those tears o’er-flowing,
Let me on thy bosom die!

“Thy kind hand my eyelids closing,
Yet one favour I implore:
Pray Thou for my Soul’s reposing,
When my heart shall throb no more;

“So shall Jesus, still attending
Gracious to a Christian’s vow,
Pleased accept my Ghost ascending,
And a seat in heaven allow.”

Thus spoke gallant Durandarte;
Soon his brave heart broke in twain.
Greatly joyed the Moorish party,
That the gallant Knight was slain.

Bitter weeping Montesinos
Took from him his helm and glaive;
Bitter weeping Montesinos
Dug his gallant Cousin’s grave.

To perform his promise made, He
Cut the heart from out the breast,
That Belerma, wretched Lady!
Might receive the last bequest.

Sad was Montesinos’ heart, He
Felt distress his bosom rend.
“Oh! my Cousin Durandarte,
Woe is me to view thy end!

“Sweet in manners, fair in favour,
Mild in temper, fierce in fight,
Warrior, nobler, gentler, braver,
Never shall behold the light!

“Cousin, Lo! my tears bedew thee!
How shall I thy loss survive!
Durandarte, He who slew thee,
Wherefore left He me alive!”


While She sung, Ambrosio listened with delight: Never had He heard a
voice more harmonious; and He wondered how such heavenly sounds could
be produced by any but Angels. But though He indulged the sense of
hearing, a single look convinced him that He must not trust to that of
sight. The Songstress sat at a little distance from his Bed. The
attitude in which She bent over her harp, was easy and graceful: Her
Cowl had fallen backwarder than usual: Two coral lips were visible,
ripe, fresh, and melting, and a Chin in whose dimples seemed to lurk a
thousand Cupids. Her Habit’s long sleeve would have swept along the
Chords of the Instrument: To prevent this inconvenience She had drawn
it above her elbow, and by this means an arm was discovered formed in
the most perfect symmetry, the delicacy of whose skin might have
contended with snow in whiteness. Ambrosio dared to look on her but
once: That glance sufficed to convince him, how dangerous was the
presence of this seducing Object. He closed his eyes, but strove in
vain to banish her from his thoughts. There She still moved before him,
adorned with all those charms which his heated imagination could
supply: Every beauty which He had seen, appeared embellished, and those
still concealed Fancy represented to him in glowing colours. Still,
however, his vows and the necessity of keeping to them were present to
his memory. He struggled with desire, and shuddered when He beheld how
deep was the precipice before him.

Matilda ceased to sing. Dreading the influence of her charms, Ambrosio
remained with his eyes closed, and offered up his prayers to St.
Francis to assist him in this dangerous trial! Matilda believed that He
was sleeping. She rose from her seat, approached the Bed softly, and
for some minutes gazed upon him attentively.

“He sleeps!” said She at length in a low voice, but whose accents the
Abbot distinguished perfectly; “Now then I may gaze upon him without
offence! I may mix my breath with his; I may doat upon his features,
and He cannot suspect me of impurity and deceit!—He fears my seducing
him to the violation of his vows! Oh! the Unjust! Were it my wish to
excite desire, should I conceal my features from him so carefully?
Those features, of which I daily hear him....”

She stopped, and was lost in her reflections.

“It was but yesterday!” She continued; “But a few short hours have
past, since I was dear to him! He esteemed me, and my heart was
satisfied! Now!... Oh! now how cruelly is my situation changed! He
looks on me with suspicion! He bids me leave him, leave him for ever!
Oh! You, my Saint! my Idol! You, holding the next place to God in my
breast! Yet two days, and my heart will be unveiled to you.—Could you
know my feelings, when I beheld your agony! Could you know, how much
your sufferings have endeared you to me! But the time will come, when
you will be convinced that my passion is pure and disinterested. Then
you will pity me, and feel the whole weight of these sorrows!”

As She said this, her voice was choaked by weeping. While She bent over
Ambrosio, a tear fell upon his cheek.

“Ah! I have disturbed him!” cried Matilda, and retreated hastily.

Her alarm was ungrounded. None sleep so profoundly, as those who are
determined not to wake. The Friar was in this predicament: He still
seemed buried in a repose, which every succeeding minute rendered him
less capable of enjoying. The burning tear had communicated its warmth
to his heart.

“What affection! What purity!” said He internally; “Ah! since my bosom
is thus sensible of pity, what would it be if agitated by love?”

Matilda again quitted her seat, and retired to some distance from the
Bed. Ambrosio ventured to open his eyes, and to cast them upon her
fearfully. Her face was turned from him. She rested her head in a
melancholy posture upon her Harp, and gazed on the picture which hung
opposite to the Bed.

“Happy, happy Image!” Thus did She address the beautiful Madona; “’Tis
to you that He offers his prayers! ’Tis on you that He gazes with
admiration! I thought you would have lightened my sorrows; You have
only served to increase their weight: You have made me feel that had I
known him ere his vows were pronounced, Ambrosio and happiness might
have been mine. With what pleasure He views this picture! With what
fervour He addresses his prayers to the insensible Image! Ah! may not
his sentiments be inspired by some kind and secret Genius, Friend to my
affection? May it not be Man’s natural instinct which informs him... Be
silent, idle hopes! Let me not encourage an idea which takes from the
brilliance of Ambrosio’s virtue. ’Tis Religion, not Beauty which
attracts his admiration; ’Tis not to the Woman, but the Divinity that
He kneels. Would He but address to me the least tender expression which
He pours forth to this Madona! Would He but say that were He not
already affianced to the Church, He would not have despised Matilda!
Oh! let me nourish that fond idea! Perhaps He may yet acknowledge that
He feels for me more than pity, and that affection like mine might well
have deserved a return; Perhaps, He may own thus much when I lye on my
deathbed! He then need not fear to infringe his vows, and the
confession of his regard will soften the pangs of dying. Would I were
sure of this! Oh! how earnestly should I sigh for the moment of
dissolution!”

Of this discourse the Abbot lost not a syllable; and the tone in which
She pronounced these last words pierced to his heart. Involuntarily He
raised himself from his pillow.

“Matilda!” He said in a troubled voice; “Oh! my Matilda!”

She started at the sound, and turned towards him hastily. The
suddenness of her movement made her Cowl fall back from her head; Her
features became visible to the Monk’s enquiring eye. What was his
amazement at beholding the exact resemblance of his admired Madona? The
same exquisite proportion of features, the same profusion of golden
hair, the same rosy lips, heavenly eyes, and majesty of countenance
adorned Matilda! Uttering an exclamation of surprize, Ambrosio sank
back upon his pillow, and doubted whether the Object before him was
mortal or divine.

Matilda seemed penetrated with confusion. She remained motionless in
her place, and supported herself upon her Instrument. Her eyes were
bent upon the earth, and her fair cheeks overspread with blushes. On
recovering herself, her first action was to conceal her features. She
then in an unsteady and troubled voice ventured to address these words
to the Friar.

“Accident has made you Master of a secret, which I never would have
revealed but on the Bed of death. Yes, Ambrosio; In Matilda de
Villanegas you see the original of your beloved Madona. Soon after I
conceived my unfortunate passion, I formed the project of conveying to
you my Picture: Crowds of Admirers had persuaded me that I possessed
some beauty, and I was anxious to know what effect it would produce
upon you. I caused my Portrait to be drawn by Martin Galuppi, a
celebrated Venetian at that time resident in Madrid. The resemblance
was striking: I sent it to the Capuchin Abbey as if for sale, and the
Jew from whom you bought it was one of my Emissaries. You purchased it.
Judge of my rapture, when informed that you had gazed upon it with
delight, or rather with adoration; that you had suspended it in your
Cell, and that you addressed your supplications to no other Saint. Will
this discovery make me still more regarded as an object of suspicion?
Rather should it convince you how pure is my affection, and engage you
to suffer me in your society and esteem. I heard you daily extol the
praises of my Portrait: I was an eyewitness of the transports, which
its beauty excited in you: Yet I forbore to use against your virtue
those arms, with which yourself had furnished me. I concealed those
features from your sight, which you loved unconsciously. I strove not
to excite desire by displaying my charms, or to make myself Mistress of
your heart through the medium of your senses. To attract your notice by
studiously attending to religious duties, to endear myself to you by
convincing you that my mind was virtuous and my attachment sincere,
such was my only aim. I succeeded; I became your companion and your
Friend. I concealed my sex from your knowledge; and had you not pressed
me to reveal my secret, had I not been tormented by the fear of a
discovery, never had you known me for any other than Rosario. And still
are you resolved to drive me from you? The few hours of life which yet
remain for me, may I not pass them in your presence? Oh! speak,
Ambrosio, and tell me that I may stay!”

This speech gave the Abbot an opportunity of recollecting himself. He
was conscious that in the present disposition of his mind, avoiding her
society was his only refuge from the power of this enchanting Woman.

“You declaration has so much astonished me,” said He, “that I am at
present incapable of answering you. Do not insist upon a reply,
Matilda; Leave me to myself; I have need to be alone.”

“I obey you—But before I go, promise not to insist upon my quitting the
Abbey immediately.”

“Matilda, reflect upon your situation; Reflect upon the consequences of
your stay. Our separation is indispensable, and we must part.”

“But not to-day, Father! Oh! in pity not today!”

“You press me too hard, but I cannot resist that tone of supplication.
Since you insist upon it, I yield to your prayer: I consent to your
remaining here a sufficient time to prepare in some measure the
Brethren for your departure. Stay yet two days; But on the third,” ...
(He sighed involuntarily)—“Remember, that on the third we must part for
ever!”

She caught his hand eagerly, and pressed it to her lips.

“On the third?” She exclaimed with an air of wild solemnity; “You are
right, Father! You are right! On the third we must part for ever!”

There was a dreadful expression in her eye as She uttered these words,
which penetrated the Friar’s soul with horror: Again She kissed his
hand, and then fled with rapidity from the chamber.

Anxious to authorise the presence of his dangerous Guest, yet conscious
that her stay was infringing the laws of his order, Ambrosio’s bosom
became the Theatre of a thousand contending passions. At length his
attachment to the feigned Rosario, aided by the natural warmth of his
temperament, seemed likely to obtain the victory: The success was
assured, when that presumption which formed the groundwork of his
character came to Matilda’s assistance. The Monk reflected that to
vanquish temptation was an infinitely greater merit than to avoid it:
He thought that He ought rather to rejoice in the opportunity given him
of proving the firmness of his virtue. St. Anthony had withstood all
seductions to lust; Then why should not He? Besides, St. Anthony was
tempted by the Devil, who put every art into practice to excite his
passions: Whereas, Ambrosio’s danger proceeded from a mere mortal
Woman, fearful and modest, whose apprehensions of his yielding were not
less violent than his own.

“Yes,” said He; “The Unfortunate shall stay; I have nothing to fear
from her presence. Even should my own prove too weak to resist the
temptation, I am secured from danger by the innocence of Matilda.”

Ambrosio was yet to learn, that to an heart unacquainted with her, Vice
is ever most dangerous when lurking behind the Mask of Virtue.

He found himself so perfectly recovered, that when Father Pablos
visited him again at night, He entreated permission to quit his chamber
on the day following. His request was granted. Matilda appeared no more
that evening, except in company with the Monks when they came in a body
to enquire after the Abbot’s health. She seemed fearful of conversing
with him in private, and stayed but a few minutes in his room. The
Friar slept well; But the dreams of the former night were repeated, and
his sensations of voluptuousness were yet more keen and exquisite. The
same lust-exciting visions floated before his eyes: Matilda, in all the
pomp of beauty, warm, tender, and luxurious, clasped him to her bosom,
and lavished upon him the most ardent caresses. He returned them as
eagerly, and already was on the point of satisfying his desires, when
the faithless form disappeared, and left him to all the horrors of
shame and disappointment.

The Morning dawned. Fatigued, harassed, and exhausted by his provoking
dreams, He was not disposed to quit his Bed. He excused himself from
appearing at Matins: It was the first morning in his life that He had
ever missed them. He rose late. During the whole of the day He had no
opportunity of speaking to Matilda without witnesses. His Cell was
thronged by the Monks, anxious to express their concern at his illness;
And He was still occupied in receiving their compliments on his
recovery, when the Bell summoned them to the Refectory.

After dinner the Monks separated, and dispersed themselves in various
parts of the Garden, where the shade of trees or retirement of some
Grotto presented the most agreeable means of enjoying the Siesta. The
Abbot bent his steps towards the Hermitage: A glance of his eye invited
Matilda to accompany him.

She obeyed, and followed him thither in silence. They entered the
Grotto, and seated themselves. Both seemed unwilling to begin the
conversation, and to labour under the influence of mutual
embarrassment. At length the Abbot spoke: He conversed only on
indifferent topics, and Matilda answered him in the same tone. She
seemed anxious to make him forget that the Person who sat by him was
any other than Rosario. Neither of them dared, or indeed wished to make
an allusion, to the subject which was most at the hearts of both.

Matilda’s efforts to appear gay were evidently forced: Her spirits were
oppressed by the weight of anxiety, and when She spoke her voice was
low and feeble. She seemed desirous of finishing a conversation which
embarrassed her; and complaining that She was unwell, She requested
Ambrosio’s permission to return to the Abbey. He accompanied her to the
door of her cell; and when arrived there, He stopped her to declare his
consent to her continuing the Partner of his solitude so long as should
be agreeable to herself.

She discovered no marks of pleasure at receiving this intelligence,
though on the preceding day She had been so anxious to obtain the
permission.

“Alas! Father,” She said, waving her head mournfully; “Your kindness
comes too late! My doom is fixed. We must separate for ever. Yet
believe, that I am grateful for your generosity, for your compassion of
an Unfortunate who is but too little deserving of it!”

She put her handkerchief to her eyes. Her Cowl was only half drawn over
her face. Ambrosio observed that She was pale, and her eyes sunk and
heavy.

“Good God!” He cried; “You are very ill, Matilda! I shall send Father
Pablos to you instantly.”

“No; Do not. I am ill, ’tis true; But He cannot cure my malady.
Farewell, Father! Remember me in your prayers tomorrow, while I shall
remember you in heaven!”

She entered her cell, and closed the door.

The Abbot dispatched to her the Physician without losing a moment, and
waited his report impatiently. But Father Pablos soon returned, and
declared that his errand had been fruitless. Rosario refused to admit
him, and had positively rejected his offers of assistance. The
uneasiness which this account gave Ambrosio was not trifling: Yet He
determined that Matilda should have her own way for that night: But
that if her situation did not mend by the morning, he would insist upon
her taking the advice of Father Pablos.

He did not find himself inclined to sleep. He opened his casement, and
gazed upon the moonbeams as they played upon the small stream whose
waters bathed the walls of the Monastery. The coolness of the night
breeze and tranquillity of the hour inspired the Friar’s mind with
sadness. He thought upon Matilda’s beauty and affection; Upon the
pleasures which He might have shared with her, had He not been
restrained by monastic fetters. He reflected, that unsustained by hope
her love for him could not long exist; That doubtless She would succeed
in extinguishing her passion, and seek for happiness in the arms of One
more fortunate. He shuddered at the void which her absence would leave
in his bosom. He looked with disgust on the monotony of a Convent, and
breathed a sigh towards that world from which He was for ever
separated. Such were the reflections which a loud knocking at his door
interrupted. The Bell of the Church had already struck Two. The Abbot
hastened to enquire the cause of this disturbance. He opened the door
of his Cell, and a Lay-Brother entered, whose looks declared his hurry
and confusion.

“Hasten, reverend Father!” said He; “Hasten to the young Rosario.

He earnestly requests to see you; He lies at the point of death.”

“Gracious God! Where is Father Pablos? Why is He not with him? Oh! I
fear! I fear!”

“Father Pablos has seen him, but his art can do nothing. He says that
He suspects the Youth to be poisoned.”

“Poisoned? Oh! The Unfortunate! It is then as I suspected! But let me
not lose a moment; Perhaps it may yet be time to save her!”

He said, and flew towards the Cell of the Novice. Several Monks were
already in the chamber. Father Pablos was one of them, and held a
medicine in his hand which He was endeavouring to persuade Rosario to
swallow. The Others were employed in admiring the Patient’s divine
countenance, which They now saw for the first time. She looked lovelier
than ever. She was no longer pale or languid; A bright glow had spread
itself over her cheeks; her eyes sparkled with a serene delight, and
her countenance was expressive of confidence and resignation.

“Oh! torment me no more!” was She saying to Pablos, when the terrified
Abbot rushed hastily into the Cell; “My disease is far beyond the reach
of your skill, and I wish not to be cured of it”—Then perceiving
Ambrosio,— “Ah! ’tis He!” She cried; “I see him once again, before we
part for ever! Leave me, my Brethren; Much have I to tell this holy Man
in private.”

The Monks retired immediately, and Matilda and the Abbot remained
together.

“What have you done, imprudent Woman!” exclaimed the Latter, as soon as
they were left alone; “Tell me; Are my suspicions just? Am I indeed to
lose you? Has your own hand been the instrument of your destruction?”

She smiled, and grasped his hand.

“In what have I been imprudent, Father? I have sacrificed a pebble, and
saved a diamond: My death preserves a life valuable to the world, and
more dear to me than my own. Yes, Father; I am poisoned; But know that
the poison once circulated in your veins.”

“Matilda!”

“What I tell you I resolved never to discover to you but on the bed of
death: That moment is now arrived. You cannot have forgotten the day
already, when your life was endangered by the bite of a Cientipedoro.
The Physician gave you over, declaring himself ignorant how to extract
the venom: I knew but of one means, and hesitated not a moment to
employ it. I was left alone with you: You slept; I loosened the bandage
from your hand; I kissed the wound, and drew out the poison with my
lips. The effect has been more sudden than I expected. I feel death at
my heart; Yet an hour, and I shall be in a better world.”

“Almighty God!” exclaimed the Abbot, and sank almost lifeless upon the
Bed.

After a few minutes He again raised himself up suddenly, and gazed upon
Matilda with all the wildness of despair.

“And you have sacrificed yourself for me! You die, and die to preserve
Ambrosio! And is there indeed no remedy, Matilda? And is there indeed
no hope? Speak to me, Oh! speak to me! Tell me, that you have still the
means of life!”

“Be comforted, my only Friend! Yes, I have still the means of life in
my power: But ’tis a means which I dare not employ. It is dangerous! It
is dreadful! Life would be purchased at too dear a rate, ... unless it
were permitted me to live for you.”

“Then live for me, Matilda, for me and gratitude!”— (He caught her
hand, and pressed it rapturously to his lips.)—“Remember our late
conversations; I now consent to every thing: Remember in what lively
colours you described the union of souls; Be it ours to realize those
ideas. Let us forget the distinctions of sex, despise the world’s
prejudices, and only consider each other as Brother and Friend. Live
then, Matilda! Oh! live for me!”

“Ambrosio, it must not be. When I thought thus, I deceived both you and
myself. Either I must die at present, or expire by the lingering
torments of unsatisfied desire. Oh! since we last conversed together, a
dreadful veil has been rent from before my eyes. I love you no longer
with the devotion which is paid to a Saint: I prize you no more for the
virtues of your soul; I lust for the enjoyment of your person. The
Woman reigns in my bosom, and I am become a prey to the wildest of
passions. Away with friendship! ’tis a cold unfeeling word. My bosom
burns with love, with unutterable love, and love must be its return.
Tremble then, Ambrosio, tremble to succeed in your prayers. If I live,
your truth, your reputation, your reward of a life past in sufferings,
all that you value is irretrievably lost. I shall no longer be able to
combat my passions, shall seize every opportunity to excite your
desires, and labour to effect your dishonour and my own. No, no,
Ambrosio; I must not live! I am convinced with every moment, that I
have but one alternative; I feel with every heart-throb, that I must
enjoy you, or die.”

“Amazement!—Matilda! Can it be you who speak to me?”

He made a movement as if to quit his seat. She uttered a loud shriek,
and raising herself half out of the Bed, threw her arms round the Friar
to detain him.

“Oh! do not leave me! Listen to my errors with compassion! In a few
hours I shall be no more; Yet a little, and I am free from this
disgraceful passion.”

“Wretched Woman, what can I say to you! I cannot ... I must not ... But
live, Matilda! Oh! live!”

“You do not reflect on what you ask. What? Live to plunge myself in
infamy? To become the Agent of Hell? To work the destruction both of
you and of Myself? Feel this heart, Father!”

She took his hand: Confused, embarrassed, and fascinated, He withdrew
it not, and felt her heart throb under it.

“Feel this heart, Father! It is yet the seat of honour, truth, and
chastity: If it beats tomorrow, it must fall a prey to the blackest
crimes. Oh! let me then die today! Let me die, while I yet deserve the
tears of the virtuous! Thus will expire!”—(She reclined her head upon
his shoulder; Her golden Hair poured itself over his Chest.)— “Folded
in your arms, I shall sink to sleep; Your hand shall close my eyes for
ever, and your lips receive my dying breath. And will you not sometimes
think of me? Will you not sometimes shed a tear upon my Tomb? Oh! Yes!
Yes! Yes! That kiss is my assurance!”

The hour was night. All was silence around. The faint beams of a
solitary Lamp darted upon Matilda’s figure, and shed through the
chamber a dim mysterious light. No prying eye, or curious ear was near
the Lovers: Nothing was heard but Matilda’s melodious accents. Ambrosio
was in the full vigour of Manhood. He saw before him a young and
beautiful Woman, the preserver of his life, the Adorer of his person,
and whom affection for him had reduced to the brink of the Grave. He
sat upon her Bed; His hand rested upon her bosom; Her head reclined
voluptuously upon his breast. Who then can wonder, if He yielded to the
temptation? Drunk with desire, He pressed his lips to those which
sought them: His kisses vied with Matilda’s in warmth and passion. He
clasped her rapturously in his arms; He forgot his vows, his sanctity,
and his fame: He remembered nothing but the pleasure and opportunity.

“Ambrosio! Oh! my Ambrosio!” sighed Matilda.

“Thine, ever thine!” murmured the Friar, and sank upon her bosom.



CHAPTER III


——These are the Villains
Whom all the Travellers do fear so much.
————Some of them are Gentlemen
Such as the fury of ungoverned Youth
Thrust from the company of awful Men.

TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.

The Marquis and Lorenzo proceeded to the Hotel in silence. The Former
employed himself in calling every circumstance to his mind, which
related might give Lorenzo’s the most favourable idea of his connexion
with Agnes. The Latter, justly alarmed for the honour of his family,
felt embarrassed by the presence of the Marquis: The adventure which He
had just witnessed forbad his treating him as a Friend; and Antonia’s
interests being entrusted to his mediation, He saw the impolicy of
treating him as a Foe. He concluded from these reflections, that
profound silence would be the wisest plan, and waited with impatience
for Don Raymond’s explanation.

They arrived at the Hotel de las Cisternas. The Marquis immediately
conducted him to his apartment, and began to express his satisfaction
at finding him at Madrid. Lorenzo interrupted him.

“Excuse me, my Lord,” said He with a distant air, “if I reply somewhat
coldly to your expressions of regard. A Sister’s honour is involved in
this affair: Till that is established, and the purport of your
correspondence with Agnes cleared up, I cannot consider you as my
Friend. I am anxious to hear the meaning of your conduct, and hope that
you will not delay the promised explanation.”

“First give me your word, that you will listen with patience and
indulgence.”

“I love my Sister too well to judge her harshly; and till this moment I
possessed no Friend so dear to me as yourself. I will also confess,
that your having it in your power to oblige me in a business which I
have much at heart, makes me very anxious to find you still deserving
my esteem.”

“Lorenzo, you transport me! No greater pleasure can be given me, than
an opportunity of serving the Brother of Agnes.”

“Convince me that I can accept your favours without dishonour, and
there is no Man in the world to whom I am more willing to be obliged.”

“Probably, you have already heard your Sister mention the name of
Alphonso d’Alvarada?”

“Never. Though I feel for Agnes an affection truly fraternal,
circumstances have prevented us from being much together. While yet a
Child She was consigned to the care of her Aunt, who had married a
German Nobleman. At his Castle She remained till two years since, when
She returned to Spain, determined upon secluding herself from the
world.”

“Good God! Lorenzo, you knew of her intention, and yet strove not to
make her change it?”

“Marquis, you wrong me. The intelligence, which I received at Naples,
shocked me extremely, and I hastened my return to Madrid for the
express purpose of preventing the sacrifice. The moment that I arrived,
I flew to the Convent of St. Clare, in which Agnes had chosen to
perform her Noviciate. I requested to see my Sister. Conceive my
surprise when She sent me a refusal; She declared positively, that
apprehending my influence over her mind, She would not trust herself in
my society till the day before that on which She was to receive the
Veil. I supplicated the Nuns; I insisted upon seeing Agnes, and
hesitated not to avow my suspicions that her being kept from me was
against her own inclinations. To free herself from the imputation of
violence, the Prioress brought me a few lines written in my Sister’s
well-known hand, repeating the message already delivered. All future
attempts to obtain a moment’s conversation with her were as fruitless
as the first. She was inflexible, and I was not permitted to see her
till the day preceding that on which She entered the Cloister never to
quit it more. This interview took place in the presence of our
principal Relations. It was for the first time since her childhood that
I saw her, and the scene was most affecting. She threw herself upon my
bosom, kissed me, and wept bitterly. By every possible argument, by
tears, by prayers, by kneeling, I strove to make her abandon her
intention. I represented to her all the hardships of a religious life;
I painted to her imagination all the pleasures which She was going to
quit, and besought her to disclose to me, what occasioned her disgust
to the world. At this last question She turned pale, and her tears
flowed yet faster. She entreated me not to press her on that subject;
That it sufficed me to know that her resolution was taken, and that a
Convent was the only place where She could now hope for tranquillity.
She persevered in her design, and made her profession. I visited her
frequently at the Grate, and every moment that I passed with her, made
me feel more affliction at her loss. I was shortly after obliged to
quit Madrid; I returned but yesterday evening, and since then have not
had time to call at St. Clare’s Convent.”

“Then till I mentioned it, you never heard the name of Alphonso
d’Alvarada?”

“Pardon me: my Aunt wrote me word that an Adventurer so called had
found means to get introduced into the Castle of Lindenberg; That He
had insinuated himself into my Sister’s good graces, and that She had
even consented to elope with him. However, before the plan could be
executed, the Cavalier discovered that the estates which He believed
Agnes to possess in Hispaniola, in reality belonged to me. This
intelligence made him change his intention; He disappeared on the day
that the elopement was to have taken place, and Agnes, in despair at
his perfidy and meanness, had resolved upon seclusion in a Convent. She
added, that as this adventurer had given himself out to be a Friend of
mine, She wished to know whether I had any knowledge of him. I replied
in the negative. I had then very little idea, that Alphonso d’Alvarada
and the Marquis de las Cisternas were one and the same person: The
description given me of the first by no means tallied with what I knew
of the latter.”

“In this I easily recognize Donna Rodolpha’s perfidious character.
Every word of this account is stamped with marks of her malice, of her
falsehood, of her talents for misrepresenting those whom She wishes to
injure. Forgive me, Medina, for speaking so freely of your Relation.
The mischief which She has done me authorises my resentment, and when
you have heard my story, you will be convinced that my expressions have
not been too severe.”

He then began his narrative in the following manner:—

HISTORY OF DON RAYMOND,
MARQUIS DE LAS CISTERNAS

Long experience, my dear Lorenzo, has convinced me how generous is your
nature: I waited not for your declaration of ignorance respecting your
Sister’s adventures to suppose that they had been purposely concealed
from you. Had they reached your knowledge, from what misfortunes should
both Agnes and myself have escaped! Fate had ordained it otherwise! You
were on your Travels when I first became acquainted with your Sister;
and as our Enemies took care to conceal from her your direction, it was
impossible for her to implore by letter your protection and advice.

On leaving Salamanca, at which University as I have since heard, you
remained a year after I quitted it, I immediately set out upon my
Travels. My Father supplied me liberally with money; But He insisted
upon my concealing my rank, and presenting myself as no more than a
private Gentleman. This command was issued by the counsels of his
Friend, the Duke of Villa Hermosa, a Nobleman for whose abilities and
knowledge of the world I have ever entertained the most profound
veneration.

“Believe me,” said He, “my dear Raymond, you will hereafter feel the
benefits of this temporary degradation. ’Tis true, that as the Condé de
las Cisternas you would have been received with open arms; and your
youthful vanity might have felt gratified by the attentions showered
upon you from all sides. At present, much will depend upon yourself:
You have excellent recommendations, but it must be your own business to
make them of use to you. You must lay yourself out to please; You must
labour to gain the approbation of those, to whom you are presented:
They who would have courted the friendship of the Condé de las
Cisternas will have no interest in finding out the merits, or bearing
patiently with the faults, of Alphonso d’Alvarada. Consequently, when
you find yourself really liked, you may safely ascribe it to your good
qualities, not your rank, and the distinction shown you will be
infinitely more flattering. Besides, your exalted birth would not
permit your mixing with the lower classes of society, which will now be
in your power, and from which, in my opinion, you will derive
considerable benefit. Do not confine yourself to the Illustrious of
those Countries through which you pass. Examine the manners and customs
of the multitude: Enter into the Cottages; and by observing how the
Vassals of Foreigners are treated, learn to diminish the burthens and
augment the comforts of your own. According to my ideas, of those
advantages which a Youth destined to the possession of power and wealth
may reap from travel, He should not consider as the least essential,
the opportunity of mixing with the classes below him, and becoming an
eyewitness of the sufferings of the People.”

Forgive me, Lorenzo, if I seem tedious in my narration. The close
connexion which now exists between us, makes me anxious that you should
know every particular respecting me; and in my fear of omitting the
least circumstance which may induce you to think favourably of your
Sister and myself, I may possibly relate many which you may think
uninteresting.

I followed the Duke’s advice; I was soon convinced of its wisdom.

I quitted Spain, calling myself by the assumed title of Don Alphonso
d’Alvarada, and attended by a single Domestic of approved fidelity.
Paris was my first station. For some time I was enchanted with it, as
indeed must be every Man who is young, rich, and fond of pleasure. Yet
among all its gaieties, I felt that something was wanting to my heart.
I grew sick of dissipation: I discovered, that the People among whom I
lived, and whose exterior was so polished and seducing, were at bottom
frivolous, unfeeling and insincere. I turned from the Inhabitants of
Paris with disgust, and quitted that Theatre of Luxury without heaving
one sigh of regret.

I now bent my course towards Germany, intending to visit most of the
principal courts: Prior to this expedition, I meant to make some little
stay at Strasbourg. On quitting my Chaise at Luneville to take some
refreshment, I observed a splendid Equipage, attended by four Domestics
in rich liveries, waiting at the door of the Silver Lion. Soon after as
I looked out of the window, I saw a Lady of noble presence, followed by
two female Attendants, step into the Carriage, which drove off
immediately.

I enquired of the Host, who the Lady was, that had just departed.

“A German Baroness, Monsieur, of great rank and fortune. She has been
upon a visit to the Duchess of Longueville, as her Servants informed
me; She is going to Strasbourg, where She will find her Husband, and
then both return to their Castle in Germany.”

I resumed my journey, intending to reach Strasbourg that night. My
hopes, however were frustrated by the breaking down of my Chaise. The
accident happened in the middle of a thick Forest, and I was not a
little embarrassed as to the means of proceeding.

It was the depth of winter: The night was already closing round us; and
Strasbourg, which was the nearest Town, was still distant from us
several leagues. It seemed to me that my only alternative to passing
the night in the Forest, was to take my Servant’s Horse and ride on to
Strasbourg, an undertaking at that season very far from agreeable.
However, seeing no other resource, I was obliged to make up my mind to
it. Accordingly I communicated my design to the Postillion, telling him
that I would send People to assist him as soon as I reached Strasbourg.
I had not much confidence in his honesty; But Stephano being
well-armed, and the Driver to all appearance considerably advanced in
years, I believed I ran no danger of losing my Baggage.

Luckily, as I then thought, an opportunity presented itself of passing
the night more agreeably than I expected. On mentioning my design of
proceeding by myself to Strasbourg, the Postillion shook his head in
disapprobation.

“It is a long way,” said He; “You will find it a difficult matter to
arrive there without a Guide. Besides, Monsieur seems unaccustomed to
the season’s severity, and ’tis possible that unable to sustain the
excessive cold....”

“What use is there to present me with all these objections?” said I,
impatiently interrupting him; “I have no other resource: I run still
greater risque of perishing with cold by passing the night in the
Forest.”

“Passing the night in the Forest?” He replied; “Oh! by St. Denis! We
are not in quite so bad a plight as that comes to yet. If I am not
mistaken, we are scarcely five minutes walk from the Cottage of my old
Friend, Baptiste. He is a Wood-cutter, and a very honest Fellow. I
doubt not but He will shelter you for the night with pleasure. In the
meantime I can take the saddle-Horse, ride to Strasbourg, and be back
with proper people to mend your Carriage by break of day.”

“And in the name of God,” said I, “How could you leave me so long in
suspense? Why did you not tell me of this Cottage sooner? What
excessive stupidity!”

“I thought that perhaps Monsieur would not deign to accept....”

“Absurd! Come, come! Say no more, but conduct us without delay to the
Wood-man’s Cottage.”

He obeyed, and we moved onwards: The Horses contrived with some
difficulty to drag the shattered vehicle after us. My Servant was
become almost speechless, and I began to feel the effects of the cold
myself, before we reached the wished-for Cottage. It was a small but
neat Building: As we drew near it, I rejoiced at observing through the
window the blaze of a comfortable fire. Our Conductor knocked at the
door: It was some time before any one answered; The People within
seemed in doubt whether we should be admitted.

“Come! Come, Friend Baptiste!” cried the Driver with impatience; “What
are you about? Are you asleep? Or will you refuse a night’s lodging to
a Gentleman, whose Chaise has just broken down in the Forest?”

“Ah! is it you, honest Claude?” replied a Man’s voice from within;
“Wait a moment, and the door shall be opened.”

Soon after the bolts were drawn back. The door was unclosed, and a Man
presented himself to us with a Lamp in his hand. He gave the Guide an
hearty reception, and then addressed himself to me.

“Walk in, Monsieur; Walk in, and welcome! Excuse me for not admitting
you at first: But there are so many Rogues about this place, that
saving your presence, I suspected you to be one.”

Thus saying, He ushered me into the room, where I had observed the
fire: I was immediately placed in an Easy Chair, which stood close to
the Hearth. A Female, whom I supposed to be the Wife of my Host, rose
from her seat upon my entrance, and received me with a slight and
distant reverence. She made no answer to my compliment, but immediately
re-seating herself, continued the work on which She had been employed.
Her Husband’s manners were as friendly as hers were harsh and
repulsive.

“I wish, I could lodge you more conveniently, Monsieur,” said He; “But
we cannot boast of much spare room in this hovel. However, a chamber
for yourself, and another for your Servant, I think, we can make shift
to supply. You must content yourself with sorry fare; But to what we
have, believe me, you are heartily welcome.” ——Then turning to his
wife—“Why, how you sit there, Marguerite, with as much tranquillity as
if you had nothing better to do! Stir about, Dame! Stir about! Get some
supper; Look out some sheets; Here, here; throw some logs upon the
fire, for the Gentleman seems perished with cold.”

The Wife threw her work hastily upon the Table, and proceeded to
execute his commands with every mark of unwillingness. Her countenance
had displeased me on the first moment of my examining it. Yet upon the
whole her features were handsome unquestionably; But her skin was
sallow, and her person thin and meagre; A louring gloom over-spread her
countenance; and it bore such visible marks of rancour and ill-will, as
could not escape being noticed by the most inattentive Observer. Her
every look and action expressed discontent and impatience, and the
answers which She gave Baptiste, when He reproached her good-humouredly
for her dissatisfied air, were tart, short, and cutting. In tine, I
conceived at first sight equal disgust for her, and prepossession in
favour of her Husband, whose appearance was calculated to inspire
esteem and confidence. His countenance was open, sincere, and friendly;
his manners had all the Peasant’s honesty unaccompanied by his
rudeness; His cheeks were broad, full, and ruddy; and in the solidity
of his person He seemed to offer an ample apology for the leanness of
his Wife’s. From the wrinkles on his brow I judged him to be turned of
sixty; But He bore his years well, and seemed still hearty and strong:
The Wife could not be more than thirty, but in spirits and vivacity She
was infinitely older than the Husband.

However, in spite of her unwillingness, Marguerite began to prepare the
supper, while the Wood-man conversed gaily on different subjects. The
Postillion, who had been furnished with a bottle of spirits, was now
ready to set out for Strasbourg, and enquired, whether I had any
further commands.

“For Strasbourg?” interrupted Baptiste; “You are not going thither
tonight?”

“I beg your pardon: If I do not fetch Workmen to mend the Chaise, How
is Monsieur to proceed tomorrow?”

“That is true, as you say; I had forgotten the Chaise. Well, but
Claude; You may at least eat your supper here? That can make you lose
very little time, and Monsieur looks too kind-hearted to send you out
with an empty stomach on such a bitter cold night as this is.”

To this I readily assented, telling the Postillion that my reaching
Strasbourg the next day an hour or two later would be perfectly
immaterial. He thanked me, and then leaving the Cottage with Stephano,
put up his Horses in the Wood-man’s Stable. Baptiste followed them to
the door, and looked out with anxiety.

“’Tis a sharp biting wind!” said He; “I wonder, what detains my Boys so
long! Monsieur, I shall show you two of the finest Lads, that ever
stept in shoe of leather. The eldest is three and twenty, the second a
year younger: Their Equals for sense, courage, and activity, are not to
be found within fifty miles of Strasbourg. Would They were back again!
I begin to feel uneasy about them.”

Marguerite was at this time employed in laying the cloth.

“And are you equally anxious for the return of your Sons?” said I to
her.

“Not I!” She replied peevishly; “They are no children of mine.”

“Come! Come, Marguerite!” said the Husband; “Do not be out of humour
with the Gentleman for asking a simple question. Had you not looked so
cross, He would never have thought you old enough to have a Son of
three and twenty: But you see how many years ill-temper adds to
you!—Excuse my Wife’s rudeness, Monsieur. A little thing puts her out,
and She is somewhat displeased at your not thinking her to be under
thirty. That is the truth, is it not, Marguerite? You know, Monsieur,
that Age is always a ticklish subject with a Woman. Come! come!
Marguerite, clear up a little. If you have not Sons as old, you will
some twenty years hence, and I hope, that we shall live to see them
just such Lads as Jacques and Robert.”

Marguerite clasped her hands together passionately.

“God forbid!” said She; “God forbid! If I thought it, I would strangle
them with my own hands!”

She quitted the room hastily, and went up stairs.

I could not help expressing to the Wood-man how much I pitied him for
being chained for life to a Partner of such ill-humour.

“Ah! Lord! Monsieur, Every one has his share of grievances, and
Marguerite has fallen to mine. Besides, after all She is only cross,
and not malicious. The worst is, that her affection for two children by
a former Husband makes her play the Step-mother with my two Sons. She
cannot bear the sight of them, and by her good-will they would never
set a foot within my door. But on this point I always stand firm, and
never will consent to abandon the poor Lads to the world’s mercy, as
She has often solicited me to do. In every thing else I let her have
her own way; and truly She manages a family rarely, that I must say for
her.”

We were conversing in this manner, when our discourse was interrupted
by a loud halloo, which rang through the Forest.

“My Sons, I hope!” exclaimed the Wood-man, and ran to open the door.

The halloo was repeated: We now distinguished the trampling of Horses,
and soon after a Carriage, attended by several Cavaliers stopped at the
Cottage door. One of the Horsemen enquired how far they were still from
Strasbourg. As He addressed himself to me, I answered in the number of
miles which Claude had told me; Upon which a volley of curses was
vented against the Drivers for having lost their way. The Persons in
the Coach were now informed of the distance of Strasbourg, and also
that the Horses were so fatigued as to be incapable of proceeding
further. A Lady, who appeared to be the principal, expressed much
chagrin at this intelligence; But as there was no remedy, one of the
Attendants asked the Wood-man, whether He could furnish them with
lodging for the night.

He seemed much embarrassed, and replied in the negative; Adding that a
Spanish Gentleman and his Servant were already in possession of the
only spare apartments in his House. On hearing this, the gallantry of
my nation would not permit me to retain those accommodations, of which
a Female was in want. I instantly signified to the Wood-man, that I
transferred my right to the Lady; He made some objections; But I
overruled them, and hastening to the Carriage, opened the door, and
assisted the Lady to descend. I immediately recognized her for the same
person whom I had seen at the Inn at Luneville. I took an opportunity
of asking one of her Attendants, what was her name?

“The Baroness Lindenberg,” was the answer.

I could not but remark how different a reception our Host had given
these newcomers and myself. His reluctance to admit them was visibly
expressed on his countenance, and He prevailed on himself with
difficulty to tell the Lady that She was welcome. I conducted her into
the House, and placed her in the armed-chair, which I had just quitted.
She thanked me very graciously; and made a thousand apologies for
putting me to an inconvenience. Suddenly the Wood-man’s countenance
cleared up.

“At last I have arranged it!” said He, interrupting her excuses; “I can
lodge you and your suite, Madam, and you will not be under the
necessity of making this Gentleman suffer for his politeness.

We have two spare chambers, one for the Lady, the other, Monsieur, for
you: My Wife shall give up hers to the two Waiting-women; As for the
Men-servants, they must content themselves with passing the night in a
large Barn, which stands at a few yards distance from the House. There
they shall have a blazing fire, and as good a supper as we can make
shift to give them.”

After several expressions of gratitude on the Lady’s part, and
opposition on mine to Marguerite’s giving up her bed, this arrangement
was agreed to. As the Room was small, the Baroness immediately
dismissed her Male Domestics: Baptiste was on the point of conducting
them to the Barn which He had mentioned when two young Men appeared at
the door of the Cottage.

“Hell and Furies!” exclaimed the first starting back; “Robert, the
House is filled with Strangers!”

“Ha! There are my Sons!” cried our Host. “Why, Jacques! Robert! whither
are you running, Boys? There is room enough still for you.”

Upon this assurance the Youths returned. The Father presented them to
the Baroness and myself: After which He withdrew with our Domestics,
while at the request of the two Waiting-women, Marguerite conducted
them to the room designed for their Mistress.

The two new-comers were tall, stout, well-made young Men,
hard-featured, and very much sun-burnt. They paid their compliments to
us in few words, and acknowledged Claude, who now entered the room, as
an old acquaintance. They then threw aside their cloaks in which they
were wrapped up, took off a leathern belt to which a large Cutlass was
suspended, and each drawing a brace of pistols from his girdle laid
them upon a shelf.

“You travel well-armed,” said I.

“True, Monsieur;” replied Robert. “We left Strasbourg late this
Evening, and ’tis necessary to take precautions at passing through this
Forest after dark. It does not bear a good repute, I promise you.”

“How?” said the Baroness; “Are there Robbers hereabout?”

“So it is said, Madame; For my own part, I have travelled through the
wood at all hours, and never met with one of them.”

Here Marguerite returned. Her Stepsons drew her to the other end of the
room, and whispered her for some minutes. By the looks which they cast
towards us at intervals, I conjectured them to be enquiring our
business in the Cottage.

In the meanwhile the Baroness expressed her apprehensions, that her
Husband would be suffering much anxiety upon her account. She had
intended to send on one of her Servants to inform the Baron of her
delay; But the account which the young Men gave of the Forest rendered
this plan impracticable. Claude relieved her from her embarrassment. He
informed her that He was under the necessity of reaching Strasbourg
that night, and that would She trust him with a letter, She might
depend upon its being safely delivered.

“And how comes it,” said I, “that you are under no apprehension of
meeting these Robbers?”

“Alas! Monsieur, a poor Man with a large family must not lose certain
profit because ’tis attended with a little danger, and perhaps my Lord
the Baron may give me a trifle for my pains. Besides, I have nothing to
lose except my life, and that will not be worth the Robbers taking.”

I thought his arguments bad, and advised his waiting till the Morning;
But as the Baroness did not second me, I was obliged to give up the
point. The Baroness Lindenberg, as I found afterwards, had long been
accustomed to sacrifice the interests of others to her own, and her
wish to send Claude to Strasbourg blinded her to the danger of the
undertaking. Accordingly, it was resolved that He should set out
without delay. The Baroness wrote her letter to her Husband, and I sent
a few lines to my Banker, apprising him that I should not be at
Strasbourg till the next day. Claude took our letters, and left the
Cottage.

The Lady declared herself much fatigued by her journey: Besides having
come from some distance, the Drivers had contrived to lose their way in
the Forest. She now addressed herself to Marguerite, desiring to be
shown to her chamber, and permitted to take half an hour’s repose. One
of the Waiting-women was immediately summoned; She appeared with a
light, and the Baroness followed her up stairs. The cloth was spreading
in the chamber where I was, and Marguerite soon gave me to understand
that I was in her way. Her hints were too broad to be easily mistaken;
I therefore desired one of the young Men to conduct me to the chamber
where I was to sleep, and where I could remain till supper was ready.

“Which chamber is it, Mother?” said Robert.

“The One with green hangings,” She replied; “I have just been at the
trouble of getting it ready, and have put fresh sheets upon the Bed; If
the Gentleman chooses to lollop and lounge upon it, He may make it
again himself for me.”

“You are out of humour, Mother, but that is no novelty. Have the
goodness to follow me, Monsieur.”

He opened the door, and advanced towards a narrow staircase.

“You have got no light!” said Marguerite; “Is it your own neck or the
Gentleman’s that you have a mind to break?”

She crossed by me, and put a candle into Robert’s hand, having received
which, He began to ascend the staircase. Jacques was employed in laying
the cloth, and his back was turned towards me.

Marguerite seized the moment, when we were unobserved. She caught my
hand, and pressed it strongly.

“Look at the Sheets!” said She as She passed me, and immediately
resumed her former occupation.

Startled by the abruptness of her action, I remained as if petrified.
Robert’s voice, desiring me to follow him, recalled me to myself. I
ascended the staircase. My conductor ushered me into a chamber, where
an excellent wood-fire was blazing upon the hearth. He placed the light
upon the Table, enquired whether I had any further commands, and on my
replying in the negative, He left me to myself. You may be certain that
the moment when I found myself alone was that on which I complied with
Marguerite’s injunction. I took the candle, hastily approached the Bed,
and turned down the Coverture. What was my astonishment, my horror, at
finding the sheets crimsoned with blood!

At that moment a thousand confused ideas passed before my imagination.
The Robbers who infested the Wood, Marguerite’s exclamation respecting
her Children, the arms and appearance of the two young Men, and the
various Anecdotes which I had heard related, respecting the secret
correspondence which frequently exists between Banditti and
Postillions, all these circumstances flashed upon my mind, and inspired
me with doubt and apprehension. I ruminated on the most probable means
of ascertaining the truth of my conjectures. Suddenly I was aware of
Someone below pacing hastily backwards and forwards. Every thing now
appeared to me an object of suspicion. With precaution I drew near the
window, which, as the room had been long shut up, was left open in
spite of the cold. I ventured to look out. The beams of the Moon
permitted me to distinguish a Man, whom I had no difficulty to
recognize for my Host. I watched his movements.

He walked swiftly, then stopped, and seemed to listen: He stamped upon
the ground, and beat his stomach with his arms as if to guard himself
from the inclemency of the season. At the least noise, if a voice was
heard in the lower part of the House, if a Bat flitted past him, or the
wind rattled amidst the leafless boughs, He started, and looked round
with anxiety.

“Plague take him!” said He at length with impatience; “What can He be
about!”

He spoke in a low voice; but as He was just below my window, I had no
difficulty to distinguish his words.

I now heard the steps of one approaching. Baptiste went towards the
sound; He joined a man, whom his low stature and the Horn suspended
from his neck, declared to be no other than my faithful Claude, whom I
had supposed to be already on his way to Strasbourg. Expecting their
discourse to throw some light upon my situation, I hastened to put
myself in a condition to hear it with safety. For this purpose I
extinguished the candle, which stood upon a table near the Bed: The
flame of the fire was not strong enough to betray me, and I immediately
resumed my place at the window.

The objects of my curiosity had stationed themselves directly under it.
I suppose that during my momentary absence the Wood-man had been
blaming Claude for tardiness, since when I returned to the window, the
latter was endeavouring to excuse his fault.

“However,” added He, “my diligence at present shall make up for my past
delay.”

“On that condition,” answered Baptiste, “I shall readily forgive you.
But in truth as you share equally with us in our prizes, your own
interest will make you use all possible diligence. ’Twould be a shame
to let such a noble booty escape us! You say, that this Spaniard is
rich?”

“His Servant boasted at the Inn, that the effects in his Chaise were
worth above two thousand Pistoles.”

Oh! how I cursed Stephano’s imprudent vanity!

“And I have been told,” continued the Postillion, “that this Baroness
carries about her a casket of jewels of immense value.”

“May be so, but I had rather She had stayed away. The Spaniard was a
secure prey. The Boys and myself could easily have mastered him and his
Servant, and then the two thousand Pistoles would have been shared
between us four. Now we must let in the Band for a share, and perhaps
the whole Covey may escape us. Should our Friends have betaken
themselves to their different posts before you reach the Cavern, all
will be lost. The Lady’s Attendants are too numerous for us to
overpower them: Unless our Associates arrive in time, we must needs let
these Travellers set out tomorrow without damage or hurt.”

“’Tis plaguy unlucky that my Comrades who drove the Coach should be
those unacquainted with our Confederacy! But never fear, Friend
Baptiste. An hour will bring me to the Cavern; It is now but ten
o’clock, and by twelve you may expect the arrival of the Band. By the
bye, take care of your Wife: You know how strong is her repugnance to
our mode of life, and She may find means to give information to the
Lady’s Servants of our design.”

“Oh! I am secure of her silence; She is too much afraid of me, and fond
of her children, to dare to betray my secret. Besides, Jacques and
Robert keep a strict eye over her, and She is not permitted to set a
foot out of the Cottage. The Servants are safely lodged in the Barn; I
shall endeavour to keep all quiet till the arrival of our Friends. Were
I assured of your finding them, the Strangers should be dispatched this
instant; But as it is possible for you to miss the Banditti, I am
fearful of being summoned to produce them by their Domestics in the
Morning.”

“And suppose either of the Travellers should discover your design?”

“Then we must poignard those in our power, and take our chance about
mastering the rest. However, to avoid running such a risque, hasten to
the Cavern: The Banditti never leave it before eleven, and if you use
diligence, you may reach it in time to stop them.”

“Tell Robert that I have taken his Horse: My own has broken his bridle,
and escaped into the Wood. What is the watch-word?”

“The reward of Courage.”

“’Tis sufficient. I hasten to the Cavern.”

“And I to rejoin my Guests, lest my absence should create suspicion.
Farewell, and be diligent.”

These worthy Associates now separated: The One bent his course towards
the Stable, while the Other returned to the House.

You may judge, what must have been my feelings during this
conversation, of which I lost not a single syllable. I dared not trust
myself to my reflections, nor did any means present itself to escape
the dangers which threatened me. Resistance, I knew to be vain; I was
unarmed, and a single Man against Three: However, I resolved at least
to sell my life as dearly as I could. Dreading lest Baptiste should
perceive my absence, and suspect me to have overheard the message with
which Claude was dispatched, I hastily relighted my candle and quitted
the chamber. On descending, I found the Table spread for six Persons.
The Baroness sat by the fireside: Marguerite was employed in dressing a
sallad, and her Step-sons were whispering together at the further end
of the room. Baptiste having the round of the Garden to make, ere He
could reach the Cottage door, was not yet arrived. I seated myself
quietly opposite to the Baroness.

A glance upon Marguerite told her that her hint had not been thrown
away upon me. How different did She now appear to me! What before
seemed gloom and sullenness, I now found to be disgust at her
Associates, and compassion for my danger. I looked up to her as to my
only resource; Yet knowing her to be watched by her Husband with a
suspicious eye, I could place but little reliance on the exertions of
her good-will.

In spite of all my endeavours to conceal it, my agitation was but too
visibly expressed upon my countenance. I was pale, and both my words
and actions were disordered and embarrassed. The young Men observed
this, and enquired the cause. I attributed it to excess of fatigue, and
the violent effect produced on me by the severity of the season.
Whether they believed me or not, I will not pretend to say: They at
least ceased to embarrass me with their questions. I strove to divert
my attention from the perils which surrounded me, by conversing on
different subjects with the Baroness. I talked of Germany, declaring my
intention of visiting it immediately: God knows, that I little thought
at that moment of ever seeing it! She replied to me with great ease and
politeness, professed that the pleasure of making my acquaintance amply
compensated for the delay in her journey, and gave me a pressing
invitation to make some stay at the Castle of Lindenberg. As She spoke
thus, the Youths exchanged a malicious smile, which declared that She
would be fortunate if She ever reached that Castle herself. This action
did not escape me; But I concealed the emotion which it excited in my
breast. I continued to converse with the Lady; But my discourse was so
frequently incoherent, that as She has since informed me, She began to
doubt whether I was in my right senses. The fact was, that while my
conversation turned upon one subject, my thoughts were entirely
occupied by another. I meditated upon the means of quitting the
Cottage, finding my way to the Barn, and giving the Domestics
information of our Host’s designs. I was soon convinced, how
impracticable was the attempt. Jacques and Robert watched my every
movement with an attentive eye, and I was obliged to abandon the idea.
All my hopes now rested upon Claude’s not finding the Banditti: In that
case, according to what I had overheard, we should be permitted to
depart unhurt.

I shuddered involuntarily as Baptiste entered the room. He made many
apologies for his long absence, but “He had been detained by affairs
impossible to be delayed.” He then entreated permission for his family
to sup at the same table with us, without which, respect would not
authorize his taking such a liberty. Oh! how in my heart I cursed the
Hypocrite! How I loathed his presence, who was on the point of
depriving me of an existence, at that time infinitely dear! I had every
reason to be satisfied with life; I had youth, wealth, rank, and
education; and the fairest prospects presented themselves before me. I
saw those prospects on the point of closing in the most horrible
manner: Yet was I obliged to dissimulate, and to receive with a
semblance of gratitude the false civilities of him who held the dagger
to my bosom.

The permission which our Host demanded, was easily obtained. We seated
ourselves at the Table. The Baroness and myself occupied one side: The
Sons were opposite to us with their backs to the door. Baptiste took
his seat by the Baroness at the upper end, and the place next to him
was left for his Wife. She soon entered the room, and placed before us
a plain but comfortable Peasant’s repast. Our Host thought it necessary
to apologize for the poorness of the supper: “He had not been apprized
of our coming; He could only offer us such fare as had been intended
for his own family:”

“But,” added He, “should any accident detain my noble Guests longer
than they at present intend, I hope to give them a better treatment.”

The Villain! I well knew the accident to which He alluded; I shuddered
at the treatment which He taught us to expect!

My Companion in danger seemed entirely to have got rid of her chagrin
at being delayed. She laughed, and conversed with the family with
infinite gaiety. I strove but in vain to follow her example. My spirits
were evidently forced, and the constraint which I put upon myself
escaped not Baptiste’s observation.

“Come, come, Monsieur, cheer up!” said He; “You seem not quite
recovered from your fatigue. To raise your spirits, what say you to a
glass of excellent old wine which was left me by my Father? God rest
his soul, He is in a better world! I seldom produce this wine; But as I
am not honoured with such Guests every day, this is an occasion which
deserves a Bottle.”

He then gave his Wife a Key, and instructed her where to find the wine
of which He spoke. She seemed by no means pleased with the commission;
She took the Key with an embarrassed air, and hesitated to quit the
Table.

“Did you hear me?” said Baptiste in an angry tone.

Marguerite darted upon him a look of mingled anger and fear, and left
the chamber. His eyes followed her suspiciously, till She had closed
the door.

She soon returned with a bottle sealed with yellow wax. She placed it
upon the table, and gave the Key back to her Husband. I suspected that
this liquor was not presented to us without design, and I watched
Marguerite’s movements with inquietude. She was employed in rinsing
some small horn Goblets. As She placed them before Baptiste, She saw
that my eye was fixed upon her; and at the moment when She thought
herself unobserved by the Banditti, She motioned to me with her head
not to taste the liquor, She then resumed her place.

In the mean while our Host had drawn the Cork, and filling two of the
Goblets, offered them to the Lady and myself. She at first made some
objections, but the instances of Baptiste were so urgent, that She was
obliged to comply. Fearing to excite suspicion, I hesitated not to take
the Goblet presented to me. By its smell and colour I guessed it to be
Champagne; But some grains of powder floating upon the top convinced me
that it was not unadulterated. However, I dared not to express my
repugnance to drinking it; I lifted it to my lips, and seemed to be
swallowing it: Suddenly starting from my chair, I made the best of my
way towards a Vase of water at some distance, in which Marguerite had
been rinsing the Goblets. I pretended to spit out the wine with
disgust, and took an opportunity unperceived of emptying the liquor
into the Vase.

The Banditti seemed alarmed at my action. Jacques half rose from his
chair, put his hand into his bosom, and I discovered the haft of a
dagger. I returned to my seat with tranquillity, and affected not to
have observed their confusion.

“You have not suited my taste, honest Friend,” said I, addressing
myself to Baptiste. “I never can drink Champagne without its producing
a violent illness. I swallowed a few mouthfuls ere I was aware of its
quality, and fear that I shall suffer for my imprudence.”

Baptiste and Jacques exchanged looks of distrust.

“Perhaps,” said Robert, “the smell may be disagreeable to you.”

He quitted his chair, and removed the Goblet. I observed, that He
examined, whether it was nearly empty.

“He must have drank sufficient,” said He to his Brother in a low voice,
while He reseated himself.

Marguerite looked apprehensive, that I had tasted the liquor: A glance
from my eye reassured her.

I waited with anxiety for the effects which the Beverage would produce
upon the Lady. I doubted not but the grains which I had observed were
poisonous, and lamented that it had been impossible for me to warn her
of the danger. But a few minutes had elapsed before I perceived her
eyes grow heavy; Her head sank upon her shoulder, and She fell into a
deep sleep. I affected not to attend to this circumstance, and
continued my conversation with Baptiste, with all the outward gaiety in
my power to assume. But He no longer answered me without constraint. He
eyed me with distrust and astonishment, and I saw that the Banditti
were frequently whispering among themselves. My situation became every
moment more painful; I sustained the character of confidence with a
worse grace than ever. Equally afraid of the arrival of their
Accomplices and of their suspecting my knowledge of their designs, I
knew not how to dissipate the distrust which the Banditti evidently
entertained for me. In this new dilemma the friendly Marguerite again
assisted me. She passed behind the Chairs of her Stepsons, stopped for
a moment opposite to me, closed her eyes, and reclined her head upon
her shoulder. This hint immediately dispelled my incertitude. It told
me, that I ought to imitate the Baroness, and pretend that the liquor
had taken its full effect upon me. I did so, and in a few minutes
seemed perfectly overcome with slumber.

“So!” cried Baptiste, as I fell back in my chair; “At last He sleeps! I
began to think that He had scented our design, and that we should have
been forced to dispatch him at all events.”

“And why not dispatch him at all events?” enquired the ferocious
Jacques. “Why leave him the possibility of betraying our secret?
Marguerite, give me one of my Pistols: A single touch of the trigger
will finish him at once.”

“And supposing,” rejoined the Father, “Supposing that our Friends
should not arrive tonight, a pretty figure we should make when the
Servants enquire for him in the Morning! No, no, Jacques; We must wait
for our Associates. If they join us, we are strong enough to dispatch
the Domestics as well as their Masters, and the booty is our own; If
Claude does not find the Troop, we must take patience, and suffer the
prey to slip through our fingers. Ah! Boys, Boys, had you arrived but
five minutes sooner, the Spaniard would have been done for, and two
thousand Pistoles our own. But you are always out of the way when you
are most wanted.

You are the most unlucky Rogues!”

“Well, well, Father!” answered Jacques; “Had you been of my mind, all
would have been over by this time. You, Robert, Claude, and myself, why
the Strangers were but double the number, and I warrant you we might
have mastered them. However, Claude is gone; ’Tis too late to think of
it now. We must wait patiently for the arrival of the Gang; and if the
Travellers escape us tonight, we must take care to waylay them
tomorrow.”

“True! True!” said Baptiste; “Marguerite, have you given the
sleeping-draught to the Waiting-women?”

She replied in the affirmative.

“All then is safe. Come, come, Boys; Whatever falls out, we have no
reason to complain of this adventure. We run no danger, may gain much,
and can lose nothing.”

At this moment I heard a trampling of Horses. Oh! how dreadful was the
sound to my ears. A cold sweat flowed down my forehead, and I felt all
the terrors of impending death. I was by no means reassured by hearing
the compassionate Marguerite exclaim in the accents of despair,

“Almighty God! They are lost!”

Luckily the Wood-man and his Sons were too much occupied by the arrival
of their Associates to attend to me, or the violence of my agitation
would have convinced them that my sleep was feigned.

“Open! Open!” exclaimed several voices on the outside of the Cottage.

“Yes! Yes!” cried Baptiste joyfully; “They are our Friends sure enough!
Now then our booty is certain. Away! Lads, Away! Lead them to the Barn;
You know what is to be done there.”

Robert hastened to open the door of the Cottage.

“But first,” said Jacques, taking up his arms; “first let me dispatch
these Sleepers.”

“No, no, no!” replied his Father; “Go you to the Barn, where your
presence is wanted. Leave me to take care of these and the Women
above.”

Jacques obeyed, and followed his Brother. They seemed to converse with
the New-Comers for a few minutes: After which I heard the Robbers
dismount, and as I conjectured, bend their course towards the Barn.

“So! That is wisely done!” muttered Baptiste; “They have quitted their
Horses, that They may fall upon the Strangers by surprise. Good! Good!
and now to business.”

I heard him approach a small Cupboard which was fixed up in a distant
part of the room, and unlock it. At this moment I felt myself shaken
gently.

“Now! Now!” whispered Marguerite.

I opened my eyes. Baptiste stood with his back towards me. No one else
was in the room save Marguerite and the sleeping Lady. The Villain had
taken a dagger from the Cupboard and seemed examining whether it was
sufficiently sharp. I had neglected to furnish myself with arms; But I
perceived this to be my only chance of escaping, and resolved not to
lose the opportunity. I sprang from my seat, darted suddenly upon
Baptiste, and clasping my hands round his throat, pressed it so
forcibly as to prevent his uttering a single cry. You may remember that
I was remarkable at Salamanca for the power of my arm: It now rendered
me an essential service. Surprised, terrified, and breathless, the
Villain was by no means an equal Antagonist. I threw him upon the
ground; I grasped him still tighter; and while I fixed him without
motion upon the floor, Marguerite, wresting the dagger from his hand,
plunged it repeatedly in his heart till He expired.

No sooner was this horrible but necessary act perpetrated than
Marguerite called on me to follow her.

“Flight is our only refuge!” said She; “Quick! Quick! Away!”

I hesitated not to obey her: but unwilling to leave the Baroness a
victim to the vengeance of the Robbers, I raised her in my arms still
sleeping, and hastened after Marguerite. The Horses of the Banditti
were fastened near the door: My Conductress sprang upon one of them. I
followed her example, placed the Baroness before me, and spurred on my
Horse. Our only hope was to reach Strasbourg, which was much nearer
than the perfidious Claude had assured me. Marguerite was well
acquainted with the road, and galloped on before me. We were obliged to
pass by the Barn, where the Robbers were slaughtering our Domestics.
The door was open: We distinguished the shrieks of the dying and
imprecations of the Murderers! What I felt at that moment language is
unable to describe!

Jacques heard the trampling of our Horses as we rushed by the Barn. He
flew to the Door with a burning Torch in his hand, and easily
recognised the Fugitives.

“Betrayed! Betrayed!” He shouted to his Companions.

Instantly they left their bloody work, and hastened to regain their
Horses. We heard no more. I buried my spurs in the sides of my Courser,
and Marguerite goaded on hers with the poignard, which had already
rendered us such good service. We flew like lightning, and gained the
open plains. Already was Strasbourg’s Steeple in sight, when we heard
the Robbers pursuing us. Marguerite looked back, and distinguished our
followers descending a small Hill at no great distance. It was in vain
that we urged on our Horses; The noise approached nearer with every
moment.

“We are lost!” She exclaimed; “The Villains gain upon us!”

“On! On!” replied I; “I hear the trampling of Horses coming from the
Town.”

We redoubled our exertions, and were soon aware of a numerous band of
Cavaliers, who came towards us at full speed. They were on the point of
passing us.

“Stay! Stay!” shrieked Marguerite; “Save us! For God’s sake, save us!”

The Foremost, who seemed to act as Guide, immediately reined in his
Steed.

“’Tis She! ’Tis She!” exclaimed He, springing upon the ground; “Stop,
my Lord, stop! They are safe! ’Tis my Mother!”

At the same moment Marguerite threw herself from her Horse, clasped him
in her arms, and covered him with Kisses. The other Cavaliers stopped
at the exclamation.

“The Baroness Lindenberg?” cried another of the Strangers eagerly;
“Where is She? Is She not with you?”

He stopped on beholding her lying senseless in my arms. Hastily He
caught her from me. The profound sleep in which She was plunged made
him at first tremble for her life; but the beating of her heart soon
reassured him.

“God be thanked!” said He; “She has escaped unhurt.”

I interrupted his joy by pointing out the Brigands, who continued to
approach. No sooner had I mentioned them than the greatest part of the
Company, which appeared to be chiefly composed of soldiers, hastened
forward to meet them. The Villains stayed not to receive their attack:
Perceiving their danger they turned the heads of their Horses, and fled
into the wood, whither they were followed by our Preservers. In the
mean while the Stranger, whom I guessed to be the Baron Lindenberg,
after thanking me for my care of his Lady, proposed our returning with
all speed to the Town. The Baroness, on whom the effects of the opiate
had not ceased to operate, was placed before him; Marguerite and her
Son remounted their Horses; the Baron’s Domestics followed, and we soon
arrived at the Inn, where He had taken his apartments.

This was at the Austrian Eagle, where my Banker, whom before my
quitting Paris I had apprised of my intention to visit Strasbourg, had
prepared Lodgings for me. I rejoiced at this circumstance. It gave me
an opportunity of cultivating the Baron’s acquaintance, which I foresaw
would be of use to me in Germany. Immediately upon our arrival the Lady
was conveyed to bed; A Physician was sent for, who prescribed a
medicine likely to counteract the effects of the sleepy potion, and
after it had been poured down her throat, She was committed to the care
of the Hostess. The Baron then addressed himself to me, and entreated
me to recount the particulars of this adventure. I complied with his
request instantaneously; for in pain respecting Stephano’s fate, whom I
had been compelled to abandon to the cruelty of the Banditti, I found
it impossible for me to repose, till I had some news of him. I received
but too soon the intelligence, that my trusty Servant had perished. The
Soldiers who had pursued the Brigands returned while I was employed in
relating my adventure to the Baron. By their account I found that the
Robbers had been overtaken: Guilt and true courage are incompatible;
They had thrown themselves at the feet of their Pursuers, had
surrendered themselves without striking a blow, had discovered their
secret retreat, made known their signals by which the rest of the Gang
might be seized, and in short had betrayed ever mark of cowardice and
baseness. By this means the whole of the Band, consisting of near sixty
persons, had been made Prisoners, bound, and conducted to Strasbourg.
Some of the Soldiers hastened to the Cottage, One of the Banditti
serving them as Guide. Their first visit was to the fatal Barn, where
they were fortunate enough to find two of the Baron’s Servants still
alive, though desperately wounded. The rest had expired beneath the
swords of the Robbers, and of these my unhappy Stephano was one.

Alarmed at our escape, the Robbers in their haste to overtake us, had
neglected to visit the Cottage. In consequence, the Soldiers found the
two Waiting-women unhurt, and buried in the same death-like slumber
which had overpowered their Mistress. There was nobody else found in
the Cottage, except a child not above four years old, which the
Soldiers brought away with them. We were busying ourselves with
conjectures respecting the birth of this little unfortunate, when
Marguerite rushed into the room with the Baby in her arms. She fell at
the feet of the Officer who was making us this report, and blessed him
a thousand times for the preservation of her Child.

When the first burst of maternal tenderness was over, I besought her to
declare, by what means She had been united to a Man whose principles
seemed so totally discordant with her own. She bent her eyes downwards,
and wiped a few tears from her cheek.

“Gentlemen,” said She after a silence of some minutes, “I would request
a favour of you: You have a right to know on whom you confer an
obligation. I will not therefore stifle a confession which covers me
with shame; But permit me to comprise it in as few words as possible.

“I was born in Strasbourg of respectable Parents; Their names I must at
present conceal: My Father still lives, and deserves not to be involved
in my infamy; If you grant my request, you shall be informed of my
family name. A Villain made himself Master of my affections, and to
follow him I quitted my Father’s House. Yet though my passions
overpowered my virtue, I sank not into that degeneracy of vice, but too
commonly the lot of Women who make the first false step. I loved my
Seducer; dearly loved him! I was true to his Bed; this Baby, and the
Youth who warned you, my Lord Baron, of your Lady’s danger, are the
pledges of our affection. Even at this moment I lament his loss, though
’tis to him that I owe all the miseries of my existence.

“He was of noble birth, but He had squandered away his paternal
inheritance. His Relations considered him as a disgrace to their name,
and utterly discarded him. His excesses drew upon him the indignation
of the Police. He was obliged to fly from Strasbourg, and saw no other
resource from beggary than an union with the Banditti who infested the
neighbouring Forest, and whose Troop was chiefly composed of Young Men
of family in the same predicament with himself. I was determined not to
forsake him. I followed him to the Cavern of the Brigands, and shared
with him the misery inseparable from a life of pillage. But though I
was aware that our existence was supported by plunder, I knew not all
the horrible circumstances attached to my Lover’s profession. These He
concealed from me with the utmost care; He was conscious that my
sentiments were not sufficiently depraved to look without horror upon
assassination: He supposed, and with justice, that I should fly with
detestation from the embraces of a Murderer. Eight years of possession
had not abated his love for me; and He cautiously removed from my
knowledge every circumstance, which might lead me to suspect the crimes
in which He but too often participated. He succeeded perfectly: It was
not till after my Seducer’s death, that I discovered his hands to have
been stained with the blood of innocence.

“One fatal night He was brought back to the Cavern covered with wounds:
He received them in attacking an English Traveller, whom his Companions
immediately sacrificed to their resentment. He had only time to entreat
my pardon for all the sorrows which He had caused me: He pressed my
hand to his lips, and expired. My grief was inexpressible. As soon as
its violence abated, I resolved to return to Strasbourg, to throw
myself with my two Children at my Father’s feet, and implore his
forgiveness, though I little hoped to obtain it. What was my
consternation when informed that no one entrusted with the secret of
their retreat was ever permitted to quit the troop of the Banditti;
That I must give up all hopes of ever rejoining society, and consent
instantly to accepting one of their Band for my Husband! My prayers and
remonstrances were vain. They cast lots to decide to whose possession I
should fall; I became the property of the infamous Baptiste. A Robber,
who had once been a Monk, pronounced over us a burlesque rather than a
religious Ceremony: I and my Children were delivered into the hands of
my new Husband, and He conveyed us immediately to his home.

“He assured me that He had long entertained for me the most ardent
regard; But that Friendship for my deceased Lover had obliged him to
stifle his desires. He endeavoured to reconcile me to my fate, and for
some time treated me with respect and gentleness: At length finding
that my aversion rather increased than diminished, He obtained those
favours by violence, which I persisted to refuse him. No resource
remained for me but to bear my sorrows with patience; I was conscious
that I deserved them but too well. Flight was forbidden: My Children
were in the power of Baptiste, and He had sworn that if I attempted to
escape, their lives should pay for it. I had had too many opportunities
of witnessing the barbarity of his nature to doubt his fulfilling his
oath to the very letter. Sad experience had convinced me of the horrors
of my situation: My first Lover had carefully concealed them from me;
Baptiste rather rejoiced in opening my eyes to the cruelties of his
profession, and strove to familiarise me with blood and slaughter.

“My nature was licentious and warm, but not cruel: My conduct had been
imprudent, but my heart was not unprincipled. Judge then what I must
have felt at being a continual witness of crimes the most horrible and
revolting! Judge how I must have grieved at being united to a Man who
received the unsuspecting Guest with an air of openness and
hospitality, at the very moment that He meditated his destruction.
Chagrin and discontent preyed upon my constitution: The few charms
bestowed on me by nature withered away, and the dejection of my
countenance denoted the sufferings of my heart. I was tempted a
thousand times to put an end to my existence; But the remembrance of my
Children held my hand. I trembled to leave my dear Boys in my Tyrant’s
power, and trembled yet more for their virtue than their lives. The
Second was still too young to benefit by my instructions; But in the
heart of my Eldest I laboured unceasingly to plant those principles,
which might enable him to avoid the crimes of his Parents. He listened
to me with docility, or rather with eagerness. Even at his early age,
He showed that He was not calculated for the society of Villains; and
the only comfort which I enjoyed among my sorrows, was to witness the
dawning virtues of my Theodore.

“Such was my situation, when the perfidy of Don Alphonso’s postillion
conducted him to the Cottage. His youth, air, and manners interested me
most forcibly in his behalf. The absence of my Husband’s Sons gave me
an opportunity which I had long wished to find, and I resolved to
risque every thing to preserve the Stranger. The vigilance of Baptiste
prevented me from warning Don Alphonso of his danger: I knew that my
betraying the secret would be immediately punished with death; and
however embittered was my life by calamities, I wanted courage to
sacrifice it for the sake of preserving that of another Person. My only
hope rested upon procuring succour from Strasbourg: At this I resolved
to try; and should an opportunity offer of warning Don Alphonso of his
danger unobserved, I was determined to seize it with avidity. By
Baptiste’s orders I went upstairs to make the Stranger’s Bed: I spread
upon it Sheets in which a Traveller had been murdered but a few nights
before, and which still were stained with blood. I hoped that these
marks would not escape the vigilance of our Guest, and that He would
collect from them the designs of my perfidious Husband. Neither was
this the only step which I took to preserve the Stranger. Theodore was
confined to his bed by illness. I stole into his room unobserved by my
Tyrant, communicated to him my project, and He entered into it with
eagerness. He rose in spite of his malady, and dressed himself with all
speed. I fastened one of the Sheets round his arms, and lowered him
from the Window. He flew to the Stable, took Claude’s Horse, and
hastened to Strasbourg. Had He been accosted by the Banditti, He was to
have declared himself sent upon a message by Baptiste, but fortunately
He reached the Town without meeting any obstacle. Immediately upon his
arrival at Strasbourg, He entreated assistance from the Magistrature:
His Story passed from mouth to mouth, and at length came to the
knowledge of my Lord the Baron. Anxious for the safety of his Lady,
whom He knew would be upon the road that Evening, it struck him that
She might have fallen into the power of the Robbers. He accompanied
Theodore who guided the Soldiers towards the Cottage, and arrived just
in time to save us from falling once more into the hands of our
Enemies.”

Here I interrupted Marguerite to enquire why the sleepy potion had been
presented to me. She said that Baptiste supposed me to have arms about
me, and wished to incapacitate me from making resistance: It was a
precaution which He always took, since as the Travellers had no hopes
of escaping, Despair would have incited them to sell their lives
dearly.

The Baron then desired Marguerite to inform him, what were her present
plans. I joined him in declaring my readiness to show my gratitude to
her for the preservation of my life.

“Disgusted with a world,” She replied, “in which I have met with
nothing but misfortunes, my only wish is to retire into a Convent. But
first I must provide for my Children. I find that my Mother is no more,
probably driven to an untimely grave by my desertion! My Father is
still living; He is not an hard Man; Perhaps, Gentlemen, in spite of my
ingratitude and imprudence, your intercessions may induce him to
forgive me, and to take charge of his unfortunate Grand-sons. If you
obtain this boon for me, you will repay my services a thousand-fold!”

Both the Baron and myself assured Marguerite, that we would spare no
pains to obtain her pardon: and that even should her Father be
inflexible, She need be under no apprehensions respecting the fate of
her Children. I engaged myself to provide for Theodore, and the Baron
promised to take the youngest under his protection.

The grateful Mother thanked us with tears for what She called
generosity, but which in fact was no more than a proper sense of our
obligations to her. She then left the room to put her little Boy to
bed, whom fatigue and sleep had compleatly overpowered.

The Baroness, on recovering and being informed from what dangers I had
rescued her, set no bounds to the expressions of her gratitude. She was
joined so warmly by her Husband in pressing me to accompany them to
their Castle in Bavaria, that I found it impossible to resist their
entreaties. During a week which we passed at Strasbourg, the interests
of Marguerite were not forgotten: In our application to her Father we
succeeded as amply as we could wish. The good old Man had lost his
Wife: He had no Children but this unfortunate Daughter, of whom He had
received no news for almost fourteen years. He was surrounded by
distant Relations, who waited with impatience for his decease in order
to get possession of his money. When therefore Marguerite appeared
again so unexpectedly, He considered her as a gift from heaven: He
received her and her Children with open arms, and insisted upon their
establishing themselves in his House without delay. The disappointed
Cousins were obliged to give place. The old Man would not hear of his
Daughter’s retiring into a Convent: He said that She was too necessary
to his happiness, and She was easily persuaded to relinquish her
design. But no persuasions could induce Theodore to give up the plan
which I had at first marked out for him. He had attached himself to me
most sincerely during my stay at Strasbourg; and when I was on the
point of leaving it, He besought me with tears to take him into my
service: He set forth all his little talents in the most favourable
colours, and tried to convince me that I should find him of infinite
use to me upon the road. I was unwilling to charge myself with a Lad
but scarcely turned of thirteen, whom I knew could only be a burthen to
me: However, I could not resist the entreaties of this affectionate
Youth, who in fact possessed a thousand estimable qualities. With some
difficulty He persuaded his relations to let him follow me, and that
permission once obtained, He was dubbed with the title of my Page.
Having passed a week at Strasbourg, Theodore and myself set out for
Bavaria in company with the Baron and his Lady. These Latter as well as
myself had forced Marguerite to accept several presents of value, both
for herself, and her youngest Son: On leaving her, I promised his
Mother faithfully that I would restore Theodore to her within the year.

I have related this adventure at length, Lorenzo, that you might
understand the means by which “The Adventurer, Alphonso d’Alvarada got
introduced into the Castle of Lindenberg.” Judge from this specimen how
much faith should be given to your Aunt’s assertions!



CHAPTER IV.


Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the Earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold!
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which Thou dost glare with! Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery hence!

MACBETH.

Continuation of the History of Don Raymond.

My journey was uncommonly agreeable: I found the Baron a Man of some
sense, but little knowledge of the world. He had past a great part of
his life without stirring beyond the precincts of his own domains, and
consequently his manners were far from being the most polished: But He
was hearty, good-humoured, and friendly. His attention to me was all
that I could wish, and I had every reason to be satisfied with his
behaviour. His ruling passion was Hunting, which He had brought himself
to consider as a serious occupation; and when talking over some
remarkable chace, He treated the subject with as much gravity as it had
been a Battle on which the fate of two kingdoms was depending. I
happened to be a tolerable Sportsman: Soon after my arrival at
Lindenberg I gave some proofs of my dexterity. The Baron immediately
marked me down for a Man of Genius, and vowed to me an eternal
friendship.

That friendship was become to me by no means indifferent. At the Castle
of Lindenberg I beheld for the first time your Sister, the lovely
Agnes. For me whose heart was unoccupied, and who grieved at the void,
to see her and to love her were the same. I found in Agnes all that was
requisite to secure my affection. She was then scarcely sixteen; Her
person light and elegant was already formed; She possessed several
talents in perfection, particularly those of Music and drawing: Her
character was gay, open, and good-humoured; and the graceful simplicity
of her dress and manners formed an advantageous contrast to the art and
studied Coquetry of the Parisian Dames, whom I had just quitted. From
the moment that I beheld her, I felt the most lively interest in her
fate. I made many enquiries respecting her of the Baroness.

“She is my Niece,” replied that Lady; “You are still ignorant, Don
Alphonso, that I am your Countrywoman. I am Sister to the Duke of
Medina Celi: Agnes is the Daughter of my second Brother, Don Gaston:
She has been destined to the Convent from her cradle, and will soon
make her profession at Madrid.”

(Here Lorenzo interrupted the Marquis by an exclamation of surprise.

“Intended for the Convent from her cradle?” said He; “By heaven, this
is the first word that I ever heard of such a design!”

“I believe it, my dear Lorenzo,” answered Don Raymond; “But you must
listen to me with patience. You will not be less surprised, when I
relate some particulars of your family still unknown to you, and which
I have learnt from the mouth of Agnes herself.”

He then resumed his narrative as follows.)

You cannot but be aware that your Parents were unfortunately Slaves to
the grossest superstition: When this foible was called into play, their
every other sentiment, their every other passion yielded to its
irresistible strength. While She was big with Agnes, your Mother was
seized by a dangerous illness, and given over by her Physicians. In
this situation, Donna Inesilla vowed, that if She recovered from her
malady, the Child then living in her bosom if a Girl should be
dedicated to St. Clare, if a Boy to St. Benedict. Her prayers were
heard; She got rid of her complaint; Agnes entered the world alive, and
was immediately destined to the service of St. Clare.

Don Gaston readily chimed in with his Lady’s wishes: But knowing the
sentiments of the Duke, his Brother, respecting a Monastic life, it was
determined that your Sister’s destination should be carefully concealed
from him. The better to guard the secret, it was resolved that Agnes
should accompany her Aunt, Donna Rodolpha into Germany, whither that
Lady was on the point of following her new-married Husband, Baron
Lindenberg. On her arrival at that Estate, the young Agnes was put into
a Convent, situated but a few miles from the Castle. The Nuns to whom
her education was confided performed their charge with exactitude: They
made her a perfect Mistress of many talents, and strove to infuse into
her mind a taste for the retirement and tranquil pleasures of a
Convent. But a secret instinct made the young Recluse sensible that She
was not born for solitude: In all the freedom of youth and gaiety, She
scrupled not to treat as ridiculous many ceremonies which the Nuns
regarded with awe; and She was never more happy than when her lively
imagination inspired her with some scheme to plague the stiff Lady
Abbess, or the ugly ill-tempered old Porteress. She looked with disgust
upon the prospect before her: However no alternative was offered to
her, and She submitted to the decree of her Parents, though not without
secret repining.

That repugnance She had not art enough to conceal long: Don Gaston was
informed of it. Alarmed, Lorenzo, lest your affection for her should
oppose itself to his projects, and lest you should positively object to
your Sister’s misery, He resolved to keep the whole affair from _your_
knowledge as well as the Duke’s, till the sacrifice should be
consummated. The season of her taking the veil was fixed for the time
when you should be upon your travels: In the meanwhile no hint was
dropped of Donna Inesilla’s fatal vow. Your Sister was never permitted
to know your direction. All your letters were read before She received
them, and those parts effaced, which were likely to nourish her
inclination for the world: Her answers were dictated either by her
Aunt, or by Dame Cunegonda, her Governess. These particulars I learnt
partly from Agnes, partly from the Baroness herself.

I immediately determined upon rescuing this lovely Girl from a fate so
contrary to her inclinations, and ill-suited to her merit. I
endeavoured to ingratiate myself into her favour: I boasted of my
friendship and intimacy with you. She listened to me with avidity; She
seemed to devour my words while I spoke in your praise, and her eyes
thanked me for my affection to her Brother. My constant and unremitted
attention at length gained me her heart, and with difficulty I obliged
her to confess that She loved me. When however, I proposed her quitting
the Castle of Lindenberg, She rejected the idea in positive terms.

“Be generous, Alphonso,” She said; “You possess my heart, but use not
the gift ignobly. Employ not your ascendancy over me in persuading me
to take a step, at which I should hereafter have to blush. I am young
and deserted: My Brother, my only Friend, is separated from me, and my
other Relations act with me as my Enemies. Take pity on my unprotected
situation. Instead of seducing me to an action which would cover me
with shame, strive rather to gain the affections of those who govern
me. The Baron esteems you. My Aunt, to others ever harsh proud and
contemptuous, remembers that you rescued her from the hands of
Murderers, and wears with you alone the appearance of kindness and
benignity. Try then your influence over my Guardians. If they consent
to our union my hand is yours: From your account of my Brother, I
cannot doubt your obtaining his approbation: And when they find the
impossibility of executing their design, I trust that my Parents will
excuse my disobedience, and expiate by some other sacrifice my Mother’s
fatal vow.”

From the first moment that I beheld Agnes, I had endeavoured to
conciliate the favour of her Relations. Authorised by the confession of
her regard, I redoubled my exertions. My principal Battery was directed
against the Baroness; It was easy to discover that her word was law in
the Castle: Her Husband paid her the most absolute submission, and
considered her as a superior Being. She was about forty: In her youth
She had been a Beauty; But her charms had been upon that large scale
which can but ill sustain the shock of years: However She still
possessed some remains of them. Her understanding was strong and
excellent when not obscured by prejudice, which unluckily was but
seldom the case. Her passions were violent: She spared no pains to
gratify them, and pursued with unremitting vengeance those who opposed
themselves to her wishes. The warmest of Friends, the most inveterate
of Enemies, such was the Baroness Lindenberg.

I laboured incessantly to please her: Unluckily I succeeded but too
well. She seemed gratified by my attention, and treated me with a
distinction accorded by her to no one else. One of my daily occupations
was reading to her for several hours: Those hours I should much rather
have past with Agnes; But as I was conscious that complaisance for her
Aunt would advance our union, I submitted with a good grace to the
penance imposed upon me. Donna Rodolpha’s Library was principally
composed of old Spanish Romances: These were her favourite studies, and
once a day one of these unmerciful Volumes was put regularly into my
hands. I read the wearisome adventures of “_Perceforest_,” “_Tirante
the White_,” “_Palmerin of England_,” and “_the Knight of the Sun_,”
till the Book was on the point of falling from my hands through Ennui.
However, the increasing pleasure which the Baroness seemed to take in
my society, encouraged me to persevere; and latterly She showed for me
a partiality so marked, that Agnes advised me to seize the first
opportunity of declaring our mutual passion to her Aunt.

One Evening, I was alone with Donna Rodolpha in her own apartment. As
our readings generally treated of love, Agnes was never permitted to
assist at them. I was just congratulating myself on having finished
“_The Loves of Tristan and the Queen Iseult_——”

“Ah! The Unfortunates!” cried the Baroness; “How say you, Segnor? Do
you think it possible for Man to feel an attachment so disinterested
and sincere?”

“I cannot doubt it,” replied I; “My own heart furnishes me with the
certainty. Ah! Donna Rodolpha, might I but hope for your approbation of
my love! Might I but confess the name of my Mistress without incurring
your resentment!”

She interrupted me.

“Suppose, I were to spare you that confession? Suppose I were to
acknowledge that the object of your desires is not unknown to me?
Suppose I were to say that She returns your affection, and laments not
less sincerely than yourself the unhappy vows which separate her from
you?”

“Ah! Donna Rodolpha!” I exclaimed, throwing myself upon my knees before
her, and pressing her hand to my lips, “You have discovered my secret!
What is your decision? Must I despair, or may I reckon upon your
favour?”

She withdrew not the hand which I held; But She turned from me, and
covered her face with the other.

“How can I refuse it you?” She replied; “Ah! Don Alphonso, I have long
perceived to whom your attentions were directed, but till now I
perceived not the impression which they made upon my heart.

At length I can no longer hide my weakness either from myself or from
you. I yield to the violence of my passion, and own that I adore you!
For three long months I stifled my desires; But grown stronger by
resistance, I submit to their impetuosity. Pride, fear, and honour,
respect for myself, and my engagements to the Baron, all are
vanquished. I sacrifice them to my love for you, and it still seems to
me that I pay too mean a price for your possession.”

She paused for an answer.—Judge, my Lorenzo, what must have been my
confusion at this discovery. I at once saw all the magnitude of this
obstacle, which I had raised myself to my happiness. The Baroness had
placed those attentions to her own account, which I had merely paid her
for the sake of Agnes: And the strength of her expressions, the looks
which accompanied them, and my knowledge of her revengeful disposition
made me tremble for myself and my Beloved. I was silent for some
minutes. I knew not how to reply to her declaration: I could only
resolve to clear up the mistake without delay, and for the present to
conceal from her knowledge the name of my Mistress. No sooner had She
avowed her passion than the transports which before were evident in my
features gave place to consternation and constraint. I dropped her
hand, and rose from my knees. The change in my countenance did not
escape her observation.

“What means this silence?” said She in a trembling voice; “Where is
that joy which you led me to expect?”

“Forgive me, Segnora,” I answered, “if what necessity forces from me
should seem harsh and ungrateful: To encourage you in an error, which,
however it may flatter myself, must prove to you the source of
disappointment, would make me appear criminal in every eye. Honour
obliges me to inform you that you have mistaken for the solicitude of
Love what was only the attention of Friendship. The latter sentiment is
that which I wished to excite in your bosom: To entertain a warmer,
respect for you forbids me, and gratitude for the Baron’s generous
treatment. Perhaps these reasons would not be sufficient to shield me
from your attractions, were it not that my affections are already
bestowed upon another. You have charms, Segnora, which might captivate
the most insensible; No heart unoccupied could resist them. Happy is it
for me that mine is no longer in my possession; or I should have to
reproach myself for ever with having violated the Laws of Hospitality.
Recollect yourself, noble Lady; Recollect what is owed by you to
honour, by me to the Baron, and replace by esteem and friendship those
sentiments which I never can return.”

The Baroness turned pale at this unexpected and positive declaration:
She doubted whether She slept or woke. At length recovering from her
surprise, consternation gave place to rage, and the blood rushed back
into her cheeks with violence.

“Villain!” She cried; “Monster of deceit! Thus is the avowal of my love
received? Is it thus that.... But no, no! It cannot, it shall not be!
Alphonso, behold me at your feet! Be witness of my despair! Look with
pity on a Woman who loves you with sincere affection! She who possesses
your heart, how has She merited such a treasure? What sacrifice has She
made to you?

What raises her above Rodolpha?”

I endeavoured to lift her from her Knees.

“For God’s sake, Segnora, restrain these transports: They disgrace
yourself and me. Your exclamations may be heard, and your secret
divulged to your Attendants. I see that my presence only irritates you:
permit me to retire.”

I prepared to quit the apartment: The Baroness caught me suddenly by
the arm.

“And who is this happy Rival?” said She in a menacing tone; “I will
know her name, and _when_ I know it.... ! She is someone in my power;
You entreated my favour, my protection! Let me but find her, let me but
know who dares to rob me of your heart, and She shall suffer every
torment which jealousy and disappointment can inflict! Who is She?
Answer me this moment. Hope not to conceal her from my vengeance! Spies
shall be set over you; every step, every look shall be watched; Your
eyes will discover my Rival; I shall know her, and when She is found,
tremble, Alphonso for her and for yourself!”

As She uttered these last words her fury mounted to such a pitch as to
stop her powers of respiration. She panted, groaned, and at length
fainted away. As She was falling I caught her in my arms, and placed
her upon a Sopha. Then hastening to the door, I summoned her Women to
her assistance; I committed her to their care, and seized the
opportunity of escaping.

Agitated and confused beyond expression I bent my steps towards the
Garden. The benignity with which the Baroness had listened to me at
first raised my hopes to the highest pitch: I imagined her to have
perceived my attachment for her Niece, and to approve of it. Extreme
was my disappointment at understanding the true purport of her
discourse. I knew not what course to take: The superstition of the
Parents of Agnes, aided by her Aunt’s unfortunate passion, seemed to
oppose such obstacles to our union as were almost insurmountable.

As I past by a low parlour, whose windows looked into the Garden,
through the door which stood half open I observed Agnes seated at a
Table. She was occupied in drawing, and several unfinished sketches
were scattered round her. I entered, still undetermined whether I
should acquaint her with the declaration of the Baroness.

“Oh! is it only you?” said She, raising her head; “You are no Stranger,
and I shall continue my occupation without ceremony. Take a Chair, and
seat yourself by me.”

I obeyed, and placed myself near the Table. Unconscious what I was
doing, and totally occupied by the scene which had just passed, I took
up some of the drawings, and cast my eye over them. One of the subjects
struck me from its singularity. It represented the great Hall of the
Castle of Lindenberg. A door conducting to a narrow staircase stood
half open. In the foreground appeared a Groupe of figures, placed in
the most grotesque attitudes; Terror was expressed upon every
countenance.

Here was One upon his knees with his eyes cast up to heaven, and
praying most devoutly; There Another was creeping away upon all fours.
Some hid their faces in their cloaks or the laps of their Companions;
Some had concealed themselves beneath a Table, on which the remnants of
a feast were visible; While Others with gaping mouths and eyes
wide-stretched pointed to a Figure, supposed to have created this
disturbance. It represented a Female of more than human stature,
clothed in the habit of some religious order. Her face was veiled; On
her arm hung a chaplet of beads; Her dress was in several places
stained with the blood which trickled from a wound upon her bosom. In
one hand She held a Lamp, in the other a large Knife, and She seemed
advancing towards the iron gates of the Hall.

“What does this mean, Agnes?” said I; “Is this some invention of your
own?”

She cast her eye upon the drawing.

“Oh! no,” She replied; “’Tis the invention of much wiser heads than
mine. But can you possibly have lived at Lindenberg for three whole
Months without hearing of the Bleeding Nun?”

“You are the first, who ever mentioned the name to me. Pray, who may
the Lady be?”

“That is more than I can pretend to tell you. All my knowledge of her
History comes from an old tradition in this family, which has been
handed down from Father to Son, and is firmly credited throughout the
Baron’s domains. Nay, the Baron believes it himself; and as for my Aunt
who has a natural turn for the marvellous, She would sooner doubt the
veracity of the Bible, than of the Bleeding Nun. Shall I tell you this
History?”

I answered that She would oblige me much by relating it: She resumed
her drawing, and then proceeded as follows in a tone of burlesqued
gravity.

“It is surprising that in all the Chronicles of past times, this
remarkable Personage is never once mentioned. Fain would I recount to
you her life; But unluckily till after her death She was never known to
have existed. Then first did She think it necessary to make some noise
in the world, and with that intention She made bold to seize upon the
Castle of Lindenberg. Having a good taste, She took up her abode in the
best room of the House: and once established there, She began to amuse
herself by knocking about the tables and chairs in the middle of the
night. Perhaps She was a bad Sleeper, but this I have never been able
to ascertain. According to the tradition, this entertainment commenced
about a Century ago. It was accompanied with shrieking, howling,
groaning, swearing, and many other agreeable noises of the same kind.
But though one particular room was more especially honoured with her
visits, She did not entirely confine herself to it. She occasionally
ventured into the old Galleries, paced up and down the spacious Halls,
or sometimes stopping at the doors of the Chambers, She wept and wailed
there to the universal terror of the Inhabitants. In these nocturnal
excursions She was seen by different People, who all describe her
appearance as you behold it here, traced by the hand of her unworthy
Historian.”

The singularity of this account insensibly engaged my attention.

“Did She never speak to those who met her?” said I.

“Not She. The specimens indeed, which She gave nightly of her talents
for conversation, were by no means inviting. Sometimes the Castle rung
with oaths and execrations: A Moment after She repeated her
Paternoster: Now She howled out the most horrible blasphemies, and then
chaunted De Profundis, as orderly as if still in the Choir. In short
She seemed a mighty capricious Being: But whether She prayed or cursed,
whether She was impious or devout, She always contrived to terrify her
Auditors out of their senses. The Castle became scarcely habitable; and
its Lord was so frightened by these midnight Revels, that one fine
morning He was found dead in his bed. This success seemed to please the
Nun mightily, for now She made more noise than ever. But the next Baron
proved too cunning for her. He made his appearance with a celebrated
Exorciser in his hand, who feared not to shut himself up for a night in
the haunted Chamber. There it seems that He had an hard battle with the
Ghost, before She would promise to be quiet. She was obstinate, but He
was more so, and at length She consented to let the Inhabitants of the
Castle take a good night’s rest. For some time after no news was heard
of her. But at the end of five years the Exorciser died, and then the
Nun ventured to peep abroad again. However, She was now grown much more
tractable and well-behaved. She walked about in silence, and never made
her appearance above once in five years. This custom, if you will
believe the Baron, She still continues. He is fully persuaded, that on
the fifth of May of every fifth year, as soon as the Clock strikes One,
the Door of the haunted Chamber opens. (Observe, that this room has
been shut up for near a Century.) Then out walks the Ghostly Nun with
her Lamp and dagger: She descends the staircase of the Eastern Tower;
and crosses the great Hall! On that night the Porter always leaves the
Gates of the Castle open, out of respect to the Apparition: Not that
this is thought by any means necessary, since She could easily whip
through the Keyhole if She chose it; But merely out of politeness, and
to prevent her from making her exit in a way so derogatory to the
dignity of her Ghost-ship.”

“And whither does She go on quitting the Castle?”

“To Heaven, I hope; But if She does, the place certainly is not to her
taste, for She always returns after an hour’s absence. The Lady then
retires to her chamber, and is quiet for another five years.”

“And you believe this, Agnes?”

“How can you ask such a question? No, no, Alphonso! I have too much
reason to lament superstition’s influence to be its Victim myself.
However I must not avow my incredulity to the Baroness: She entertains
not a doubt of the truth of this History. As to Dame Cunegonda, my
Governess, She protests that fifteen years ago She saw the Spectre with
her own eyes. She related to me one evening how She and several other
Domestics had been terrified while at Supper by the appearance of the
Bleeding Nun, as the Ghost is called in the Castle: ’Tis from her
account that I drew this sketch, and you may be certain that Cunegonda
was not omitted. There She is! I shall never forget what a passion She
was in, and how ugly She looked while She scolded me for having made
her picture so like herself!”

Here She pointed to a burlesque figure of an old Woman in an attitude
of terror.

In spite of the melancholy which oppressed me, I could not help smiling
at the playful imagination of Agnes: She had perfectly preserved Dame
Cunegonda’s resemblance, but had so much exaggerated every fault, and
rendered every feature so irresistibly laughable, that I could easily
conceive the Duenna’s anger.

“The figure is admirable, my dear Agnes! I knew not that you possessed
such talents for the ridiculous.”

“Stay a moment,” She replied; “I will show you a figure still more
ridiculous than Dame Cunegonda’s. If it pleases you, you may dispose of
it as seems best to yourself.”

She rose, and went to a Cabinet at some little distance. Unlocking a
drawer, She took out a small case, which She opened, and presented to
me.

“Do you know the resemblance?” said She smiling.

It was her own.

Transported at the gift, I pressed the portrait to my lips with
passion: I threw myself at her feet, and declared my gratitude in the
warmest and most affectionate terms. She listened to me with
complaisance, and assured me that She shared my sentiments: When
suddenly She uttered a loud shriek, disengaged the hand which I held,
and flew from the room by a door which opened to the Garden. Amazed at
this abrupt departure, I rose hastily from my knees. I beheld with
confusion the Baroness standing near me glowing with jealousy, and
almost choaked with rage. On recovering from her swoon, She had
tortured her imagination to discover her concealed Rival. No one
appeared to deserve her suspicions more than Agnes. She immediately
hastened to find her Niece, tax her with encouraging my addresses, and
assure herself whether her conjectures were well-grounded.
Unfortunately She had already seen enough to need no other
confirmation. She arrived at the door of the room at the precise
moment, when Agnes gave me her Portrait. She heard me profess an
everlasting attachment to her Rival, and saw me kneeling at her feet.
She advanced to separate us; We were too much occupied by each other to
perceive her approach, and were not aware of it, till Agnes beheld her
standing by my side.

Rage on the part of Donna Rodolpha, embarrassment on mine, for some
time kept us both silent. The Lady recovered herself first.

“My suspicions then were just,” said She; “The Coquetry of my Niece has
triumphed, and ’tis to her that I am sacrificed. In one respect however
I am fortunate: I shall not be the only one who laments a disappointed
passion. You too shall know, what it is to love without hope! I daily
expect orders for restoring Agnes to her Parents. Immediately upon her
arrival in Spain, She will take the veil, and place an insuperable
barrier to your union. You may spare your supplications.” She
continued, perceiving me on the point of speaking; “My resolution is
fixed and immoveable. Your Mistress shall remain a close Prisoner in
her chamber till She exchanges this Castle for the Cloister. Solitude
will perhaps recall her to a sense of her duty: But to prevent your
opposing that wished event, I must inform you, Don Alphonso, that your
presence here is no longer agreeable either to the Baron or Myself. It
was not to talk nonsense to my Niece that your Relations sent you to
Germany: Your business was to travel, and I should be sorry to impede
any longer so excellent a design. Farewell, Segnor; Remember, that
tomorrow morning we meet for the last time.”

Having said this, She darted upon me a look of pride, contempt, and
malice, and quitted the apartment. I also retired to mine, and consumed
the night in planning the means of rescuing Agnes from the power of her
tyrannical Aunt.

After the positive declaration of its Mistress, it was impossible for
me to make a longer stay at the Castle of Lindenberg. Accordingly I the
next day announced my immediate departure. The Baron declared that it
gave him sincere pain; and He expressed himself in my favour so warmly,
that I endeavoured to win him over to my interest. Scarcely had I
mentioned the name of Agnes when He stopped me short, and said, that it
was totally out of his power to interfere in the business. I saw that
it was in vain to argue; The Baroness governed her Husband with
despotic sway, and I easily perceived that She had prejudiced him
against the match. Agnes did not appear: I entreated permission to take
leave of her, but my prayer was rejected. I was obliged to depart
without seeing her.

At quitting him the Baron shook my hand affectionately, and assured me
that as soon as his Niece was gone, I might consider his House as my
own.

“Farewell, Don Alphonso!” said the Baroness, and stretched out her hand
to me.

I took it, and offered to carry it to my lips. She prevented me.

Her Husband was at the other end of the room, and out of hearing.

“Take care of yourself,” She continued; “My love is become hatred, and
my wounded pride shall not be unatoned. Go where you will, my vengeance
shall follow you!”

She accompanied these words with a look sufficient to make me tremble.
I answered not, but hastened to quit the Castle.

As my Chaise drove out of the Court, I looked up to the windows of your
Sister’s chamber. Nobody was to be seen there: I threw myself back
despondent in my Carriage. I was attended by no other servants than a
Frenchman whom I had hired at Strasbourg in Stephano’s room, and my
little Page whom I before mentioned to you. The fidelity, intelligence,
and good temper of Theodore had already made him dear to me; But He now
prepared to lay an obligation on me, which made me look upon him as a
Guardian Genius. Scarcely had we proceeded half a mile from the Castle,
when He rode up to the Chaise-door.

“Take courage, Segnor!” said He in Spanish, which He had already learnt
to speak with fluency and correctness. “While you were with the Baron,
I watched the moment when Dame Cunegonda was below stairs, and mounted
into the chamber over that of Donna Agnes. I sang as loud as I could a
little German air well-known to her, hoping that She would recollect my
voice. I was not disappointed, for I soon heard her window open. I
hastened to let down a string with which I had provided myself: Upon
hearing the casement closed again, I drew up the string, and fastened
to it I found this scrap of paper.”

He then presented me with a small note addressed to me. I opened it
with impatience: It contained the following words written in pencil:

“Conceal yourself for the next fortnight in some neighbouring Village.
My Aunt will believe you to have quitted Lindenberg, and I shall be
restored to liberty. I will be in the West Pavilion at twelve on the
night of the thirtieth. Fail not to be there, and we shall have an
opportunity of concerting our future plans. Adieu.


“AGNES.”


At perusing these lines my transports exceeded all bounds; Neither did
I set any to the expressions of gratitude which I heaped upon Theodore.
In fact his address and attention merited my warmest praise. You will
readily believe that I had not entrusted him with my passion for Agnes;
But the arch Youth had too much discernment not to discover my secret,
and too much discretion not to conceal his knowledge of it. He observed
in silence what was going on, nor strove to make himself an Agent in
the business till my interests required his interference. I equally
admired his judgment, his penetration, his address, and his fidelity.
This was not the first occasion in which I had found him of infinite
use, and I was every day more convinced of his quickness and capacity.
During my short stay at Strasbourg, He had applied himself diligently
to learning the rudiments of Spanish: He continued to study it, and
with so much success that He spoke it with the same facility as his
native language. He past the greatest part of his time in reading; He
had acquired much information for his Age; and united the advantages of
a lively countenance and prepossessing figure to an excellent
understanding and the very best of hearts. He is now fifteen; He is
still in my service, and when you see him, I am sure that He will
please you. But excuse this digression: I return to the subject which I
quitted.

I obeyed the instructions of Agnes. I proceeded to Munich. There I left
my Chaise under the care of Lucas, my French Servant, and then returned
on Horseback to a small Village about four miles distant from the
Castle of Lindenberg. Upon arriving there a story was related to the
Host at whose Inn I descended, which prevented his wondering at my
making so long a stay in his House. The old Man fortunately was
credulous and incurious: He believed all I said, and sought to know no
more than what I thought proper to tell him. Nobody was with me but
Theodore; Both were disguised, and as we kept ourselves close, we were
not suspected to be other than what we seemed. In this manner the
fortnight passed away. During that time I had the pleasing conviction
that Agnes was once more at liberty. She past through the Village with
Dame Cunegonda: She seemed in health and spirits, and talked to her
Companion without any appearance of constraint.

“Who are those Ladies?” said I to my Host, as the Carriage past.

“Baron Lindenberg’s Niece with her Governess,” He replied; “She goes
regularly every Friday to the Convent of St. Catharine, in which She
was brought up, and which is situated about a mile from hence.”

You may be certain that I waited with impatience for the ensuing
Friday. I again beheld my lovely Mistress. She cast her eyes upon me,
as She passed the Inn-door. A blush which overspread her cheek told me
that in spite of my disguise I had been recognised. I bowed profoundly.
She returned the compliment by a slight inclination of the head as if
made to one inferior, and looked another way till the Carriage was out
of sight.

The long-expected, long-wished for night arrived. It was calm, and the
Moon was at the full. As soon as the Clock struck eleven I hastened to
my appointment, determined not to be too late. Theodore had provided a
Ladder; I ascended the Garden wall without difficulty; The Page
followed me, and drew the Ladder after us. I posted myself in the West
Pavilion, and waited impatiently for the approach of Agnes. Every
breeze that whispered, every leaf that fell, I believed to be her
footstep, and hastened to meet her. Thus was I obliged to pass a full
hour, every minute of which appeared to me an age. The Castle Bell at
length tolled twelve, and scarcely could I believe the night to be no
further advanced. Another quarter of an hour elapsed, and I heard the
light foot of my Mistress approaching the Pavilion with precaution. I
flew to receive her, and conducted her to a seat. I threw myself at her
feet, and was expressing my joy at seeing her, when She thus
interrupted me.

“We have no time to lose, Alphonso: The moments are precious, for
though no more a Prisoner, Cunegonda watches my every step. An express
is arrived from my Father; I must depart immediately for Madrid, and
’tis with difficulty that I have obtained a week’s delay. The
superstition of my Parents, supported by the representations of my
cruel Aunt, leaves me no hope of softening them to compassion. In this
dilemma I have resolved to commit myself to your honour: God grant that
you may never give me cause to repent my resolution! Flight is my only
resource from the horrors of a Convent, and my imprudence must be
excused by the urgency of the danger. Now listen to the plan by which I
hope to effect my escape.

“We are now at the thirtieth of April. On the fifth day from this the
Visionary Nun is expected to appear. In my last visit to the Convent I
provided myself with a dress proper for the character: A Friend, whom I
have left there and to whom I made no scruple to confide my secret,
readily consented to supply me with a religious habit. Provide a
carriage, and be with it at a little distance from the great Gate of
the Castle. As soon as the Clock strikes “one,” I shall quit my
chamber, drest in the same apparel as the Ghost is supposed to wear.
Whoever meets me will be too much terrified to oppose my escape. I
shall easily reach the door, and throw myself under your protection.
Thus far success is certain: But Oh! Alphonso, should you deceive me!
Should you despise my imprudence and reward it with ingratitude, the
World will not hold a Being more wretched than myself! I feel all the
dangers to which I shall be exposed. I feel that I am giving you a
right to treat me with levity: But I rely upon your love, upon your
honour! The step which I am on the point of taking, will incense my
Relations against me: Should you desert me, should you betray the trust
reposed in you, I shall have no friend to punish your insult, or
support my cause. On yourself alone rests all my hope, and if your own
heart does not plead in my behalf, I am undone for ever!”

The tone in which She pronounced these words was so touching, that in
spite of my joy at receiving her promise to follow me, I could not help
being affected. I also repined in secret at not having taken the
precaution to provide a Carriage at the Village, in which case I might
have carried off Agnes that very night. Such an attempt was now
impracticable: Neither Carriage or Horses were to be procured nearer
than Munich, which was distant from Lindenberg two good days journey. I
was therefore obliged to chime in with her plan, which in truth seemed
well arranged: Her disguise would secure her from being stopped in
quitting the Castle, and would enable her to step into the Carriage at
the very Gate without difficulty or losing time.

Agnes reclined her head mournfully upon my shoulder, and by the light
of the Moon I saw tears flowing down her cheek. I strove to dissipate
her melancholy, and encouraged her to look forward to the prospect of
happiness. I protested in the most solemn terms that her virtue and
innocence would be safe in my keeping, and that till the church had
made her my lawful Wife, her honour should be held by me as sacred as a
Sister’s. I told her that my first care should be to find you out,
Lorenzo, and reconcile you to our union; and I was continuing to speak
in the same strain, when a noise without alarmed me. Suddenly the door
of the Pavilion was thrown open, and Cunegonda stood before us. She had
heard Agnes steal out of her chamber, followed her into the Garden, and
perceived her entering the Pavilion. Favoured by the Trees which shaded
it, and unperceived by Theodore who waited at a little distance, She
had approached in silence, and overheard our whole conversation.

“Admirable!” cried Cunegonda in a voice shrill with passion, while
Agnes uttered a loud shriek; “By St. Barbara, young Lady, you have an
excellent invention! You must personate the Bleeding Nun, truly? What
impiety! What incredulity! Marry, I have a good mind to let you pursue
your plan: When the real Ghost met you, I warrant, you would be in a
pretty condition! Don Alphonso, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for
seducing a young ignorant Creature to leave her family and Friends:
However, for this time at least I shall mar your wicked designs. The
noble Lady shall be informed of the whole affair, and Agnes must defer
playing the Spectre till a better opportunity. Farewell, Segnor— Donna
Agnes, let me have the honour of conducting your Ghost-ship back to
your apartment.”

She approached the Sopha on which her trembling Pupil was seated, took
her by the hand, and prepared to lead her from the Pavilion.

I detained her, and strove by entreaties, soothing, promises, and
flattery to win her to my party: But finding all that I could say of no
avail, I abandoned the vain attempt.

“Your obstinacy must be its own punishment,” said I; “But one resource
remains to save Agnes and myself, and I shall not hesitate to employ
it.”

Terrified at this menace, She again endeavoured to quit the Pavilion;
But I seized her by the wrist, and detained her forcibly. At the same
moment Theodore, who had followed her into the room, closed the door,
and prevented her escape. I took the veil of Agnes: I threw it round
the Duenna’s head, who uttered such piercing shrieks that in spite of
our distance from the Castle, I dreaded their being heard. At length I
succeeded in gagging her so compleatly that She could not produce a
single sound. Theodore and myself with some difficulty next contrived
to bind her hands and feet with our handkerchiefs; And I advised Agnes
to regain her chamber with all diligence. I promised that no harm
should happen to Cunegonda, bad her remember that on the fifth of May I
should be in waiting at the Great Gate of the Castle, and took of her
an affectionate farewell. Trembling and uneasy She had scarce power
enough to signify her consent to my plans, and fled back to her
apartment in disorder and confusion.

In the meanwhile Theodore assisted me in carrying off my antiquated
Prize. She was hoisted over the wall, placed before me upon my Horse
like a Portmanteau, and I galloped away with her from the Castle of
Lindenberg. The unlucky Duenna never had made a more disagreeable
journey in her life: She was jolted and shaken till She was become
little more than an animated Mummy; not to mention her fright when we
waded through a small River through which it was necessary to pass in
order to regain the Village. Before we reached the Inn, I had already
determined how to dispose of the troublesome Cunegonda. We entered the
Street in which the Inn stood, and while the page knocked, I waited at
a little distance. The Landlord opened the door with a Lamp in his
hand.

“Give me the light!” said Theodore; “My Master is coming.”

He snatched the Lamp hastily, and purposely let it fall upon the
ground: The Landlord returned to the Kitchen to re-light the Lamp,
leaving the door open. I profited by the obscurity, sprang from my
Horse with Cunegonda in my arms, darted up stairs, reached my chamber
unperceived, and unlocking the door of a spacious Closet, stowed her
within it, and then turned the Key. The Landlord and Theodore soon
after appeared with lights: The Former expressed himself a little
surprised at my returning so late, but asked no impertinent questions.
He soon quitted the room, and left me to exult in the success of my
undertaking.

I immediately paid a visit to my Prisoner. I strove to persuade her
submitting with patience to her temporary confinement. My attempt was
unsuccessful. Unable to speak or move, She expressed her fury by her
looks, and except at meals I never dared to unbind her, or release her
from the Gag. At such times I stood over her with a drawn sword, and
protested, that if She uttered a single cry, I would plunge it in her
bosom. As soon as She had done eating, the Gag was replaced. I was
conscious that this proceeding was cruel, and could only be justified
by the urgency of circumstances: As to Theodore, He had no scruples
upon the subject. Cunegonda’s captivity entertained him beyond measure.
During his abode in the Castle, a continual warfare had been carried on
between him and the Duenna; and now that He found his Enemy so
absolutely in his power, He triumphed without mercy. He seemed to think
of nothing but how to find out new means of plaguing her: Sometimes He
affected to pity her misfortune, then laughed at, abused, and mimicked
her; He played her a thousand tricks, each more provoking than the
other, and amused himself by telling her that her elopement must have
occasioned much surprise at the Baron’s. This was in fact the case. No
one except Agnes could imagine what was become of Dame Cunegonda: Every
hole and corner was searched for her; The Ponds were dragged, and the
Woods underwent a thorough examination. Still no Dame Cunegonda made
her appearance. Agnes kept the secret, and I kept the Duenna: The
Baroness, therefore, remained in total ignorance respecting the old
Woman’s fate, but suspected her to have perished by suicide. Thus past
away five days, during which I had prepared every thing necessary for
my enterprise. On quitting Agnes, I had made it my first business to
dispatch a Peasant with a letter to Lucas at Munich, ordering him to
take care that a Coach and four should arrive about ten o’clock on the
fifth of May at the Village of Rosenwald. He obeyed my instructions
punctually: The Equipage arrived at the time appointed. As the period
of her Lady’s elopement drew nearer, Cunegonda’s rage increased. I
verily believe that spight and passion would have killed her, had I not
luckily discovered her prepossession in favour of Cherry Brandy. With
this favourite liquor She was plentifully supplied, and Theodore always
remaining to guard her, the Gag was occasionally removed. The liquor
seemed to have a wonderful effect in softening the acrimony of her
nature; and her confinement not admitting of any other amusement, She
got drunk regularly once a day just by way of passing the time.

The fifth of May arrived, a period by me never to be forgotten! Before
the Clock struck twelve, I betook myself to the scene of action.
Theodore followed me on horseback. I concealed the Carriage in a
spacious Cavern of the Hill, on whose brow the Castle was situated:
This Cavern was of considerable depth, and among the peasants was known
by the name of Lindenberg Hole. The night was calm and beautiful: The
Moonbeams fell upon the antient Towers of the Castle, and shed upon
their summits a silver light. All was still around me: Nothing was to
be heard except the night breeze sighing among the leaves, the distant
barking of Village Dogs, or the Owl who had established herself in a
nook of the deserted Eastern Turret. I heard her melancholy shriek, and
looked upwards. She sat upon the ride of a window, which I recognized
to be that of the haunted Room. This brought to my remembrance the
story of the Bleeding Nun, and I sighed while I reflected on the
influence of superstition and weakness of human reason. Suddenly I
heard a faint chorus steal upon the silence of the night.

“What can occasion that noise, Theodore?”

“A Stranger of distinction,” replied He, “passed through the Village
today in his way to the Castle: He is reported to be the Father of
Donna Agnes. Doubtless, the Baron has given an entertainment to
celebrate his arrival.”

The Castle Bell announced the hour of midnight: This was the usual
signal for the family to retire to Bed. Soon after I perceived lights
in the Castle moving backwards and forwards in different directions. I
conjectured the company to be separating. I could hear the heavy doors
grate as they opened with difficulty, and as they closed again the
rotten Casements rattled in their frames. The chamber of Agnes was on
the other side of the Castle. I trembled lest She should have failed in
obtaining the Key of the haunted Room: Through this it was necessary
for her to pass in order to reach the narrow Staircase by which the
Ghost was supposed to descend into the great Hall. Agitated by this
apprehension, I kept my eyes constantly fixed upon the window, where I
hoped to perceive the friendly glare of a Lamp borne by Agnes. I now
heard the massy Gates unbarred. By the candle in his hand I
distinguished old Conrad, the Porter. He set the Portal doors wide
open, and retired. The lights in the Castle gradually disappeared, and
at length the whole Building was wrapt in darkness.

While I sat upon a broken ridge of the hill, the stillness of the scene
inspired me with melancholy ideas not altogether unpleasing. The Castle
which stood full in my sight, formed an object equally awful and
picturesque. Its ponderous Walls tinged by the moon with solemn
brightness, its old and partly-ruined Towers lifting themselves into
the clouds and seeming to frown on the plains around them, its lofty
battlements overgrown with ivy, and folding Gates expanding in honour
of the Visionary Inhabitant, made me sensible of a sad and reverential
horror. Yet did not these sensations occupy me so fully, as to prevent
me from witnessing with impatience the slow progress of time. I
approached the Castle, and ventured to walk round it. A few rays of
light still glimmered in the chamber of Agnes. I observed them with
joy. I was still gazing upon them, when I perceived a figure draw near
the window, and the Curtain was carefully closed to conceal the Lamp
which burned there. Convinced by this observation that Agnes had not
abandoned our plan, I returned with a light heart to my former station.

The half-hour struck! The three-quarters struck! My bosom beat high
with hope and expectation. At length the wished-for sound was heard.
The Bell tolled “One,” and the Mansion echoed with the noise loud and
solemn. I looked up to the Casement of the haunted Chamber. Scarcely
had five minutes elapsed, when the expected light appeared. I was now
close to the Tower. The window was not so far from the Ground but that
I fancied I perceived a female figure with a Lamp in her hand moving
slowly along the Apartment. The light soon faded away, and all was
again dark and gloomy.

Occasional gleams of brightness darted from the Staircase windows as
the lovely Ghost past by them. I traced the light through the Hall: It
reached the Portal, and at length I beheld Agnes pass through the
folding gates. She was habited exactly as She had described the
Spectre. A chaplet of Beads hung upon her arm; her head was enveloped
in a long white veil; Her Nun’s dress was stained with blood, and She
had taken care to provide herself with a Lamp and dagger. She advanced
towards the spot where I stood. I flew to meet her, and clasped her in
my arms.

“Agnes!” said I while I pressed her to my bosom,

Agnes! Agnes! Thou art mine!
Agnes! Agnes! I am thine!
In my veins while blood shall roll,
Thou art mine!
I am thine!
Thine my body! Thine my soul!


Terrified and breathless She was unable to speak: She dropt her Lamp
and dagger, and sank upon my bosom in silence. I raised her in my arms,
and conveyed her to the Carriage. Theodore remained behind in order to
release Dame Cunegonda. I also charged him with a letter to the
Baroness explaining the whole affair, and entreating her good offices
in reconciling Don Gaston to my union with his Daughter. I discovered
to her my real name: I proved to her that my birth and expectations
justified my pretending to her Niece, and assured her, though it was
out of my power to return her love, that I would strive unceasingly to
obtain her esteem and friendship.

I stepped into the Carriage, where Agnes was already seated. Theodore
closed the door, and the Postillions drove away. At first I was
delighted with the rapidity of our progress; But as soon as we were in
no danger of pursuit, I called to the Drivers, and bad them moderate
their pace. They strove in vain to obey me. The Horses refused to
answer the rein, and continued to rush on with astonishing swiftness.
The Postillions redoubled their efforts to stop them, but by kicking
and plunging the Beasts soon released themselves from this restraint.
Uttering a loud shriek, the Drivers were hurled upon the ground.
Immediately thick clouds obscured the sky: The winds howled around us,
the lightning flashed, and the Thunder roared tremendously. Never did I
behold so frightful a Tempest! Terrified by the jar of contending
elements, the Horses seemed every moment to increase their speed.
Nothing could interrupt their career; They dragged the Carriage through
Hedges and Ditches, dashed down the most dangerous precipices, and
seemed to vye in swiftness with the rapidity of the winds.

All this while my Companion lay motionless in my arms. Truly alarmed by
the magnitude of the danger, I was in vain attempting to recall her to
her senses; when a loud crash announced, that a stop was put to our
progress in the most disagreeable manner. The Carriage was shattered to
pieces. In falling I struck my temple against a flint. The pain of the
wound, the violence of the shock, and apprehension for the safety of
Agnes combined to overpower me so compleatly, that my senses forsook
me, and I lay without animation on the ground.

I probably remained for some time in this situation, since when I
opened my eyes, it was broad daylight. Several Peasants were standing
round me, and seemed disputing whether my recovery was possible. I
spoke German tolerably well. As soon as I could utter an articulate
sound, I enquired after Agnes. What was my surprise and distress, when
assured by the Peasants, that nobody had been seen answering the
description which I gave of her! They told me that in going to their
daily labour they had been alarmed by observing the fragments of my
Carriage, and by hearing the groans of an Horse, the only one of the
four which remained alive: The other Three lay dead by my side. Nobody
was near me when they came up, and much time had been lost, before they
succeeded in recovering me. Uneasy beyond expression respecting the
fate of my Companion, I besought the Peasants to disperse themselves in
search of her: I described her dress, and promised immense rewards to
whoever brought me any intelligence. As for myself, it was impossible
for me to join in the pursuit: I had broken two of my ribs in the fall:
My arm being dislocated hung useless by my side; and my left leg was
shattered so terribly, that I never expected to recover its use.

The Peasants complied with my request: All left me except Four, who
made a litter of boughs and prepared to convey me to the neighbouring
Town. I enquired its name. It proved to be Ratisbon, and I could
scarcely persuade myself that I had travelled to such a distance in a
single night. I told the Countrymen that at one o’clock that morning I
had past through the Village of Rosenwald. They shook their heads
wistfully, and made signs to each other that I must certainly be
delirious. I was conveyed to a decent Inn and immediately put to bed. A
Physician was sent for, who set my arm with success. He then examined
my other hurts, and told me that I need be under no apprehension of the
consequences of any of them; But ordered me to keep myself quiet, and
be prepared for a tedious and painful cure. I answered him that if He
hoped to keep me quiet, He must first endeavour to procure me some news
of a Lady who had quitted Rosenwald in my company the night before, and
had been with me at the moment when the Coach broke down. He smiled,
and only replied by advising me to make myself easy, for that all
proper care should be taken of me. As He quitted me, the Hostess met
him at the door of the room.

“The Gentleman is not quite in his right senses;” I heard him say to
her in a low voice; “’Tis the natural consequence of his fall, but that
will soon be over.”

One after another the Peasants returned to the Inn, and informed me
that no traces had been discovered of my unfortunate Mistress.

Uneasiness now became despair. I entreated them to renew their search
in the most urgent terms, doubling the promises which I had already
made them. My wild and frantic manner confirmed the bye-standers in the
idea of my being delirious. No signs of the Lady having appeared, they
believed her to be a creature fabricated by my over-heated brain, and
paid no attention to my entreaties. However, the Hostess assured me
that a fresh enquiry should be made, but I found afterwards that her
promise was only given to quiet me. No further steps were taken in the
business.

Though my Baggage was left at Munich under the care of my French
Servant, having prepared myself for a long journey, my purse was amply
furnished: Besides my equipage proved me to be of distinction, and in
consequence all possible attention was paid me at the Inn. The day
passed away: Still no news arrived of Agnes. The anxiety of fear now
gave place to despondency. I ceased to rave about her and was plunged
in the depth of melancholy reflections. Perceiving me to be silent and
tranquil, my Attendants believed my delirium to have abated, and that
my malady had taken a favourable turn. According to the Physician’s
order I swallowed a composing medicine; and as soon as the night shut
in, my attendants withdrew and left me to repose.

That repose I wooed in vain. The agitation of my bosom chased away
sleep. Restless in my mind, in spite of the fatigue of my body, I
continued to toss about from side to side, till the Clock in a
neighbouring Steeple struck “One.” As I listened to the mournful hollow
sound, and heard it die away in the wind, I felt a sudden chillness
spread itself over my body. I shuddered without knowing wherefore; Cold
dews poured down my forehead, and my hair stood bristling with alarm.
Suddenly I heard slow and heavy steps ascending the staircase. By an
involuntary movement I started up in my bed, and drew back the curtain.
A single rush-light which glimmered upon the hearth shed a faint gleam
through the apartment, which was hung with tapestry. The door was
thrown open with violence. A figure entered, and drew near my Bed with
solemn measured steps. With trembling apprehension I examined this
midnight Visitor. God Almighty! It was the Bleeding Nun! It was my lost
Companion! Her face was still veiled, but She no longer held her Lamp
and dagger. She lifted up her veil slowly. What a sight presented
itself to my startled eyes! I beheld before me an animated Corse. Her
countenance was long and haggard; Her cheeks and lips were bloodless;
The paleness of death was spread over her features, and her eyeballs
fixed stedfastly upon me were lustreless and hollow.

I gazed upon the Spectre with horror too great to be described. My
blood was frozen in my veins. I would have called for aid, but the
sound expired ere it could pass my lips. My nerves were bound up in
impotence, and I remained in the same attitude inanimate as a Statue.

The visionary Nun looked upon me for some minutes in silence: There was
something petrifying in her regard. At length in a low sepulchral voice
She pronounced the following words:

‘Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine!
Raymond! Raymond! I am thine!
In thy veins while blood shall roll,
I am thine!
Thou art mine!
Mine thy body! Mine thy soul!——’


Breathless with fear, I listened while She repeated my own expressions.
The Apparition seated herself opposite to me at the foot of the Bed,
and was silent. Her eyes were fixed earnestly upon mine: They seemed
endowed with the property of the Rattlesnake’s, for I strove in vain to
look off her. My eyes were fascinated, and I had not the power of
withdrawing them from the Spectre’s.

In this attitude She remained for a whole long hour without speaking or
moving; nor was I able to do either. At length the Clock struck two.
The Apparition rose from her seat, and approached the side of the bed.
She grasped with her icy fingers my hand which hung lifeless upon the
Coverture, and pressing her cold lips to mine, again repeated,

‘Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine!
Raymond! Raymond! I am thine! &c.—’


She then dropped my hand, quitted the chamber with slow steps, and the
Door closed after her. Till that moment the faculties of my body had
been all suspended; Those of my mind had alone been waking. The charm
now ceased to operate: The blood which had been frozen in my veins
rushed back to my heart with violence: I uttered a deep groan, and sank
lifeless upon my pillow.

The adjoining room was only separated from mine by a thin partition: It
was occupied by the Host and his Wife: The Former was rouzed by my
groan, and immediately hastened to my chamber: The Hostess soon
followed him. With some difficulty they succeeded in restoring me to my
senses, and immediately sent for the Physician, who arrived in all
diligence. He declared my fever to be very much increased, and that if
I continued to suffer such violent agitation, He would not take upon
him to ensure my life. Some medicines which He gave me in some degree
tranquillized my spirits. I fell into a sort of slumber towards
daybreak; But fearful dreams prevented me from deriving any benefit
from my repose. Agnes and the Bleeding Nun presented themselves by
turns to my fancy, and combined to harass and torment me. I awoke
fatigued and unrefreshed. My fever seemed rather augmented than
diminished; The agitation of my mind impeded my fractured bones from
knitting: I had frequent fainting fits, and during the whole day the
Physician judged it expedient not to quit me for two hours together.

The singularity of my adventure made me determine to conceal it from
every one, since I could not expect that a circumstance so strange
should gain credit. I was very uneasy about Agnes. I knew not what She
would think at not finding me at the rendezvous, and dreaded her
entertaining suspicions of my fidelity. However, I depended upon
Theodore’s discretion, and trusted that my letter to the Baroness would
convince her of the rectitude of my intentions. These considerations
somewhat lightened my inquietude upon her account: But the impression
left upon my mind by my nocturnal Visitor grew stronger with every
succeeding moment. The night drew near; I dreaded its arrival. Yet I
strove to persuade myself that the Ghost would appear no more, and at
all events I desired that a Servant might sit up in my chamber.

The fatigue of my body from not having slept on the former night,
co-operating with the strong opiates administered to me in profusion,
at length procured me that repose of which I was so much in need. I
sank into a profound and tranquil slumber, and had already slept for
some hours, when the neighbouring Clock rouzed me by striking “One”.
Its sound brought with it to my memory all the horrors of the night
before. The same cold shivering seized me. I started up in my bed, and
perceived the Servant fast asleep in an armed-Chair near me. I called
him by his name: He made no answer. I shook him forcibly by the arm,
and strove in vain to wake him. He was perfectly insensible to my
efforts. I now heard the heavy steps ascending the staircase; The Door
was thrown open, and again the Bleeding Nun stood before me. Once more
my limbs were chained in second infancy. Once more I heard those fatal
words repeated,

‘Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine!
Raymond! Raymond! I am thine! &c.——’


The scene which had shocked me so sensibly on the former night, was
again presented. The Spectre again pressed her lips to mine, again
touched me with her rotting fingers, and as on her first appearance,
quitted the chamber as soon as the Clock told “Two.”

Even night was this repeated. Far from growing accustomed to the Ghost,
every succeeding visit inspired me with greater horror. Her idea
pursued me continually, and I became the prey of habitual melancholy.
The constant agitation of my mind naturally retarded the
re-establishment of my health. Several months elapsed before I was able
to quit my bed; and when at length I was moved to a Sopha, I was so
faint, spiritless, and emaciated, that I could not cross the room
without assistance. The looks of my Attendants sufficiently denoted the
little hope, which they entertained of my recovery. The profound
sadness, which oppressed me without remission made the Physician
consider me to be an Hypochondriac. The cause of my distress I
carefully concealed in my own bosom, for I knew that no one could give
me relief: The Ghost was not even visible to any eye but mine. I had
frequently caused Attendants to sit up in my room: But the moment that
the Clock struck “One,” irresistible slumber seized them, nor left them
till the departure of the Ghost.

You may be surprized that during this time I made no enquiries after
your Sister. Theodore, who with difficulty had discovered my abode, had
quieted my apprehensions for her safety: At the same time He convinced
me that all attempts to release her from captivity must be fruitless
till I should be in a condition to return to Spain. The particulars of
her adventure which I shall now relate to you, were partly communicated
to me by Theodore, and partly by Agnes herself.

On the fatal night when her elopement was to have taken place, accident
had not permitted her to quit her chamber at the appointed time. At
length She ventured into the haunted room, descended the staircase
leading into the Hall, found the Gates open as She expected, and left
the Castle unobserved. What was her surprize at not finding me ready to
receive her! She examined the Cavern, ranged through every Alley of the
neighbouring wood, and passed two full hours in this fruitless enquiry.
She could discover no traces either of me or of the Carriage. Alarmed
and disappointed, her only resource was to return to the Castle before
the Baroness missed her: But here She found herself in a fresh
embarrassment. The Bell had already tolled “Two:” The Ghostly hour was
past, and the careful Porter had locked the folding gates. After much
irresolution She ventured to knock softly. Luckily for her, Conrad was
still awake: He heard the noise and rose, murmuring at being called up
a second time. No sooner had He opened one of the Doors, and beheld the
supposed Apparition waiting there for admittance, than He uttered a
loud cry, and sank upon his knees. Agnes profited by his terror. She
glided by him, flew to her own apartment, and having thrown off her
Spectre’s trappings, retired to bed endeavouring in vain to account for
my disappearing.

In the mean while Theodore having seen my Carriage drive off with the
false Agnes, returned joyfully to the Village. The next morning He
released Cunegonda from her confinement, and accompanied her to the
Castle. There He found the Baron, his Lady, and Don Gaston, disputing
together upon the Porter’s relation. All of them agreed in believing
the existence of Spectres: But the Latter contended, that for a Ghost
to knock for admittance was a proceeding till then unwitnessed, and
totally incompatible with the immaterial nature of a Spirit. They were
still discussing this subject when the Page appeared with Cunegonda and
cleared up the mystery. On hearing his deposition, it was agreed
unanimously that the Agnes whom Theodore had seen step into my Carriage
must have been the Bleeding Nun, and that the Ghost who had terrified
Conrad was no other than Don Gaston’s Daughter.

The first surprize which this discovery occasioned being over, the
Baroness resolved to make it of use in persuading her Niece to take the
veil. Fearing lest so advantageous an establishment for his Daughter
should induce Don Gaston to renounce his resolution, She suppressed my
letter, and continued to represent me as a needy unknown Adventurer. A
childish vanity had led me to conceal my real name even from my
Mistress; I wished to be loved for myself, not for being the Son and
Heir of the Marquis de las Cisternas. The consequence was that my rank
was known to no one in the Castle except the Baroness, and She took
good care to confine the knowledge to her own breast. Don Gaston having
approved his Sister’s design, Agnes was summoned to appear before them.
She was taxed with having meditated an elopement, obliged to make a
full confession, and was amazed at the gentleness with which it was
received: But what was her affliction, when informed that the failure
of her project must be attributed to me! Cunegonda, tutored by the
Baroness, told her that when I released her, I had desired her to
inform her Lady that our connexion was at an end, that the whole affair
was occasioned by a false report, and that it by no means suited my
circumstances to marry a Woman without fortune or expectations.

To this account my sudden disappearing gave but too great an air of
probability. Theodore, who could have contradicted the story, by Donna
Rodolpha’s order was kept out of her sight: What proved a still greater
confirmation of my being an Impostor, was the arrival of a letter from
yourself declaring that you had no sort of acquaintance with Alphonso
d’Alvarada. These seeming proofs of my perfidy, aided by the artful
insinuations of her Aunt, by Cunegonda’s flattery, and her Father’s
threats and anger, entirely conquered your Sister’s repugnance to a
Convent. Incensed at my behaviour, and disgusted with the world in
general, She consented to receive the veil. She past another Month at
the Castle of Lindenberg, during which my non-appearance confirmed her
in her resolution, and then accompanied Don Gaston into Spain. Theodore
was now set at liberty. He hastened to Munich, where I had promised to
let him hear from me; But finding from Lucas that I had never arrived
there, He pursued his search with indefatigable perseverance, and at
length succeeded in rejoining me at Ratisbon.

So much was I altered, that scarcely could He recollect my features:
The distress visible upon his sufficiently testified how lively was the
interest which He felt for me. The society of this amiable Boy, whom I
had always considered rather as a Companion than a Servant, was now my
only comfort. His conversation was gay yet sensible, and his
observations shrewd and entertaining: He had picked up much more
knowledge than is usual at his Age: But what rendered him most
agreeable to me, was his having a delightful voice, and some skill in
Music. He had also acquired some taste in poetry, and even ventured
sometimes to write verses himself. He occasionally composed little
Ballads in Spanish, his compositions were but indifferent, I must
confess; yet they were pleasing to me from their novelty, and hearing
him sing them to his guitar was the only amusement, which I was capable
of receiving. Theodore perceived well enough that something preyed upon
my mind; But as I concealed the cause of my grief even from him,
Respect would not permit him to pry into my secrets.

One Evening I was lying upon my Sopha, plunged in reflections very far
from agreeable: Theodore amused himself by observing from the window a
Battle between two Postillions, who were quarrelling in the Inn-yard.

“Ha! Ha!” cried He suddenly; “Yonder is the Great Mogul.”

“Who?” said I.

“Only a Man who made me a strange speech at Munich.”

“What was the purport of it?”

“Now you put me in mind of it, Segnor, it was a kind of message to you;
but truly it was not worth delivering. I believe the Fellow to be mad,
for my part. When I came to Munich in search of you, I found him living
at “The King of the Romans,” and the Host gave me an odd account of
him. By his accent He is supposed to be a Foreigner, but of what
Country nobody can tell. He seemed to have no acquaintance in the Town,
spoke very seldom, and never was seen to smile. He had neither Servants
or Baggage; But his Purse seemed well-furnished, and He did much good
in the Town. Some supposed him to be an Arabian Astrologer, Others to
be a Travelling Mountebank, and many declared that He was Doctor
Faustus, whom the Devil had sent back to Germany. The Landlord, however
told me, that He had the best reasons to believe him to be the Great
Mogul incognito.”

“But the strange speech, Theodore.”

“True, I had almost forgotten the speech: Indeed for that matter, it
would not have been a great loss if I had forgotten it altogether. You
are to know, Segnor, that while I was enquiring about you of the
Landlord, this Stranger passed by. He stopped, and looked at me
earnestly. “Youth!” said He in a solemn voice, “He whom you seek, has
found that which He would fain lose. My hand alone can dry up the
blood: Bid your Master wish for me when the Clock strikes, “One.”

“How?” cried I, starting from my Sopha. (The words which Theodore had
repeated, seemed to imply the Stranger’s knowledge of my secret) “Fly
to him, my Boy! Entreat him to grant me one moment’s conversation!”

Theodore was surprised at the vivacity of my manner: However, He asked
no questions, but hastened to obey me. I waited his return impatiently.
But a short space of time had elapsed when He again appeared and
ushered the expected Guest into my chamber. He was a Man of majestic
presence: His countenance was strongly marked, and his eyes were large,
black, and sparkling: Yet there was a something in his look which, the
moment that I saw him, inspired me with a secret awe, not to say
horror. He was drest plainly, his hair was unpowdered, and a band of
black velvet which encircled his forehead spread over his features an
additional gloom. His countenance wore the marks of profound
melancholy; his step was slow, and his manner grave, stately, and
solemn.

He saluted me with politeness; and having replied to the usual
compliments of introduction, He motioned to Theodore to quit the
chamber. The Page instantly withdrew.

“I know your business,” said He, without giving me time to speak.

“I have the power of releasing you from your nightly Visitor; But this
cannot be done before Sunday. On the hour when the Sabbath Morning
breaks, Spirits of darkness have least influence over Mortals. After
Saturday the Nun shall visit you no more.”

“May I not enquire,” said I, “by what means you are in possession of a
secret which I have carefully concealed from the knowledge of
everyone?”

“How can I be ignorant of your distress, when their cause at this
moment stands beside you?”

I started. The Stranger continued.

“Though to you only visible for one hour in the twenty-four, neither
day or night does She ever quit you; Nor will She ever quit you till
you have granted her request.”

“And what is that request?”

“That She must herself explain: It lies not in my knowledge. Wait with
patience for the night of Saturday: All shall be then cleared up.”

I dared not press him further. He soon after changed the conversation
and talked of various matters. He named People who had ceased to exist
for many Centuries, and yet with whom He appeared to have been
personally acquainted. I could not mention a Country however distant
which He had not visited, nor could I sufficiently admire the extent
and variety of his information. I remarked to him that having
travelled, seen, and known so much, must have given him infinite
pleasure. He shook his head mournfully.

“No one,” He replied, “is adequate to comprehending the misery of my
lot! Fate obliges me to be constantly in movement: I am not permitted
to pass more than a fortnight in the same place. I have no Friend in
the world, and from the restlessness of my destiny I never can acquire
one. Fain would I lay down my miserable life, for I envy those who
enjoy the quiet of the Grave: But Death eludes me, and flies from my
embrace. In vain do I throw myself in the way of danger. I plunge into
the Ocean; The Waves throw me back with abhorrence upon the shore: I
rush into fire; The flames recoil at my approach: I oppose myself to
the fury of Banditti; Their swords become blunted, and break against my
breast: The hungry Tiger shudders at my approach, and the Alligator
flies from a Monster more horrible than itself. God has set his seal
upon me, and all his Creatures respect this fatal mark!”

He put his hand to the velvet, which was bound round his forehead.
There was in his eyes an expression of fury, despair, and malevolence,
that struck horror to my very soul. An involuntary convulsion made me
shudder. The Stranger perceived it.

“Such is the curse imposed on me,” he continued: “I am doomed to
inspire all who look on me with terror and detestation. You already
feel the influence of the charm, and with every succeeding moment will
feel it more. I will not add to your sufferings by my presence.
Farewell till Saturday. As soon as the Clock strikes twelve, expect me
at your chamber door.”

Having said this He departed, leaving me in astonishment at the
mysterious turn of his manner and conversation.

His assurances that I should soon be relieved from the Apparition’s
visits produced a good effect upon my constitution. Theodore, whom I
rather treated as an adopted Child than a Domestic, was surprized at
his return to observe the amendment in my looks. He congratulated me on
this symptom of returning health, and declared himself delighted at my
having received so much benefit from my conference with the Great
Mogul. Upon enquiry I found that the Stranger had already past eight
days in Ratisbon: According to his own account, therefore, He was only
to remain there six days longer. Saturday was still at the distance of
Three. Oh! with what impatience did I expect its arrival! In the
interim, the Bleeding Nun continued her nocturnal visits; But hoping
soon to be released from them altogether, the effects which they
produced on me became less violent than before.

The wished-for night arrived. To avoid creating suspicion I retired to
bed at my usual hour: But as soon as my Attendants had left me, I
dressed myself again, and prepared for the Stranger’s reception. He
entered my room upon the turn of midnight. A small Chest was in his
hand, which He placed near the Stove. He saluted me without speaking; I
returned the compliment, observing an equal silence. He then opened his
Chest. The first thing which He produced was a small wooden Crucifix:
He sank upon his knees, gazed upon it mournfully, and cast his eyes
towards heaven. He seemed to be praying devoutly. At length He bowed
his head respectfully, kissed the Crucifix thrice, and quitted his
kneeling posture. He next drew from the Chest a covered Goblet: With
the liquor which it contained, and which appeared to be blood, He
sprinkled the floor, and then dipping in it one end of the Crucifix, He
described a circle in the middle of the room. Round about this He
placed various reliques, sculls, thigh-bones &c; I observed, that He
disposed them all in the forms of Crosses. Lastly He took out a large
Bible, and beckoned me to follow him into the Circle. I obeyed.

“Be cautious not to utter a syllable!” whispered the Stranger; “Step
not out of the circle, and as you love yourself, dare not to look upon
my face!”

Holding the Crucifix in one hand, the Bible in the other, He seemed to
read with profound attention. The Clock struck “One”! As usual I heard
the Spectre’s steps upon the Staircase: But I was not seized with the
accustomed shivering. I waited her approach with confidence. She
entered the room, drew near the Circle, and stopped. The Stranger
muttered some words, to me unintelligible. Then raising his head from
the Book, and extending the Crucifix towards the Ghost, He pronounced
in a voice distinct and solemn,

“Beatrice! Beatrice! Beatrice!”

“What wouldst Thou?” replied the Apparition in a hollow faltering tone.

“What disturbs thy sleep? Why dost thou afflict and torture this Youth?
How can rest be restored to thy unquiet Spirit?”

“I dare not tell!—I must not tell!—Fain would I repose in my Grave, but
stern commands force me to prolong my punishment!”

“Knowest Thou this blood? Knowest Thou in whose veins it flowed?

Beatrice! Beatrice! In his name I charge thee to answer me!”

“I dare not disobey my taskers.”

“Darest Thou disobey Me?”

He spoke in a commanding tone, and drew the sable band from his
forehead. In spite of his injunctions to the contrary, Curiosity would
not suffer me to keep my eyes off his face: I raised them, and beheld a
burning Cross impressed upon his brow. For the horror with which this
object inspired me I cannot account, but I never felt its equal! My
senses left me for some moments; A mysterious dread overcame my
courage, and had not the Exorciser caught my hand, I should have fallen
out of the Circle.

When I recovered myself, I perceived that the burning Cross had
produced an effect no less violent upon the Spectre. Her countenance
expressed reverence, and horror, and her visionary limbs were shaken by
fear.

“Yes!” She said at length; “I tremble at that mark!—respect it!—I obey
you! Know then, that my bones lie still unburied: They rot in the
obscurity of Lindenberg Hole. None but this Youth has the right of
consigning them to the Grave. His own lips have made over to me his
body and his soul: Never will I give back his promise, never shall He
know a night devoid of terror, unless He engages to collect my
mouldering bones, and deposit them in the family vault of his
Andalusian Castle. Then let thirty Masses be said for the repose of my
Spirit, and I trouble this world no more. Now let me depart! Those
flames are scorching!”

He let the hand drop slowly which held the Crucifix, and which till
then He had pointed towards her. The apparition bowed her head, and her
form melted into air. The Exorciser led me out of the Circle. He
replaced the Bible &c. in the Chest, and then addressed himself to me,
who stood near him speechless from astonishment.

“Don Raymond, you have heard the conditions on which repose is promised
you. Be it your business to fulfil them to the letter. For me nothing
more remains than to clear up the darkness still spread over the
Spectre’s History, and inform you that when living, Beatrice bore the
name of las Cisternas. She was the great Aunt of your Grandfather: In
quality of your relation, her ashes demand respect from you, though the
enormity of her crimes must excite your abhorrence. The nature of those
crimes no one is more capable of explaining to you than myself: I was
personally acquainted with the holy Man who proscribed her nocturnal
riots in the Castle of Lindenberg, and I hold this narrative from his
own lips.

“Beatrice de las Cisternas took the veil at an early age, not by her
own choice, but at the express command of her Parents. She was then too
young to regret the pleasures of which her profession deprived her: But
no sooner did her warm and voluptuous character begin to be developed
than She abandoned herself freely to the impulse of her passions, and
seized the first opportunity to procure their gratification. This
opportunity was at length presented, after many obstacles which only
added new force to her desires. She contrived to elope from the
Convent, and fled to Germany with the Baron Lindenberg. She lived at
his Castle several months as his avowed Concubine: All Bavaria was
scandalized by her impudent and abandoned conduct. Her feasts vied in
luxury with Cleopatra’s, and Lindenberg became the Theatre of the most
unbridled debauchery. Not satisfied with displaying the incontinence of
a Prostitute, She professed herself an Atheist: She took every
opportunity to scoff at her monastic vows, and loaded with ridicule the
most sacred ceremonies of Religion.

“Possessed of a character so depraved, She did not long confine her
affections to one object. Soon after her arrival at the Castle, the
Baron’s younger Brother attracted her notice by his strong-marked
features, gigantic Stature, and Herculean limbs. She was not of an
humour to keep her inclinations long unknown; But She found in Otto von
Lindenberg her equal in depravity. He returned her passion just
sufficiently to increase it; and when He had worked it up to the
desired pitch, He fixed the price of his love at his Brother’s murder.
The Wretch consented to this horrible agreement. A night was pitched
upon for perpetrating the deed. Otto, who resided on a small Estate a
few miles distant from the Castle, promised that at One in the morning
He would be waiting for her at Lindenberg Hole; that He would bring
with him a party of chosen Friends, by whose aid He doubted not being
able to make himself Master of the Castle; and that his next step
should be the uniting her hand to his. It was this last promise, which
overruled every scruple of Beatrice, since in spite of his affection
for her, the Baron had declared positively that He never would make her
his Wife.

“The fatal night arrived. The Baron slept in the arms of his perfidious
Mistress, when the Castle-Bell struck “One.” Immediately Beatrice drew
a dagger from underneath the pillow, and plunged it in her Paramour’s
heart. The Baron uttered a single dreadful groan, and expired. The
Murderess quitted her bed hastily, took a Lamp in one hand, in the
other the bloody dagger, and bent her course towards the cavern. The
Porter dared not to refuse opening the Gates to one more dreaded in the
Castle than its Master. Beatrice reached Lindenberg Hole unopposed,
where according to promise She found Otto waiting for her. He received
and listened to her narrative with transport: But ere She had time to
ask why He came unaccompanied, He convinced her that He wished for no
witnesses to their interview. Anxious to conceal his share in the
murder, and to free himself from a Woman, whose violent and atrocious
character made him tremble with reason for his own safety, He had
resolved on the destruction of his wretched Agent. Rushing upon her
suddenly, He wrested the dagger from her hand: He plunged it still
reeking with his Brother’s blood in her bosom, and put an end to her
existence by repeated blows.

“Otto now succeeded to the Barony of Lindenberg. The murder was
attributed solely to the fugitive Nun, and no one suspected him to have
persuaded her to the action. But though his crime was unpunished by
Man, God’s justice permitted him not to enjoy in peace his
blood-stained honours. Her bones lying still unburied in the Cave, the
restless soul of Beatrice continued to inhabit the Castle. Drest in her
religious habit in memory of her vows broken to heaven, furnished with
the dagger which had drank the blood of her Paramour, and holding the
Lamp which had guided her flying steps, every night did She stand
before the Bed of Otto. The most dreadful confusion reigned through the
Castle; The vaulted chambers resounded with shrieks and groans; And the
Spectre, as She ranged along the antique Galleries, uttered an
incoherent mixture of prayers and blasphemies. Otto was unable to
withstand the shock which He felt at this fearful Vision: Its horror
increased with every succeeding appearance: His alarm at length became
so insupportable that his heart burst, and one morning He was found in
his bed totally deprived of warmth and animation. His death did not put
an end to the nocturnal riots. The bones of Beatrice continued to lie
unburied, and her Ghost continued to haunt the Castle.

“The domains of Lindenberg now fell to a distant Relation. But
terrified by the accounts given him of the Bleeding Nun (So was the
Spectre called by the multitude), the new Baron called to his
assistance a celebrated Exorciser. This holy Man succeeded in obliging
her to temporary repose; But though She discovered to him her history,
He was not permitted to reveal it to others, or cause her skeleton to
be removed to hallowed ground. That Office was reserved for you, and
till your coming, her Ghost was doomed to wander about the Castle and
lament the crime which She had there committed. However, the Exorciser
obliged her to silence during his lifetime. So long as He existed, the
haunted chamber was shut up, and the Spectre was invisible. At his
death which happened in five years after, She again appeared, but only
once on every fifth year, on the same day and at the same hour when She
plunged her Knife in the heart of her sleeping Lover: She then visited
the Cavern which held her mouldering skeleton, returned to the Castle
as soon as the Clock struck “Two,” and was seen no more till the next
five years had elapsed.

“She was doomed to suffer during the space of a Century. That period is
past. Nothing now remains but to consign to the Grave the ashes of
Beatrice. I have been the means of releasing you from your visionary
Tormentor; and amidst all the sorrows which oppress me, to think that I
have been of use to you, is some consolation. Youth, farewell! May the
Ghost of your Relation enjoy that rest in the Tomb, which the
Almighty’s vengeance has denied to me for ever!”

Here the Stranger prepared to quit the apartment.

“Stay yet one moment!” said I; “You have satisfied my curiosity with
regard to the Spectre, but you leave me in prey to yet greater
respecting yourself. Deign to inform me, to whom I am under such real
obligations. You mention circumstances long past, and persons long
dead: You were personally acquainted with the Exorciser, who by your
own account has been deceased near a Century. How am I to account for
this? What means that burning Cross upon your forehead, and why did the
sight of it strike such horror to my soul?”

On these points He for some time refused to satisfy me. At length
overcome by my entreaties, He consented to clear up the whole, on
condition that I would defer his explanation till the next day. With
this request I was obliged to comply, and He left me. In the Morning my
first care was to enquire after the mysterious Stranger. Conceive my
disappointment when informed that He had already quitted Ratisbon. I
dispatched messengers in pursuit of him but in vain. No traces of the
Fugitive were discovered. Since that moment I never have heard any more
of him, and ’tis most probable that I never shall.”

(Lorenzo here interrupted his Friend’s narrative.

“How?” said He; “You have never discovered who He was, or even formed a
guess?”

“Pardon me,” replied the Marquis; “When I related this adventure to my
Uncle, the Cardinal-Duke, He told me that He had no doubt of this
singular Man’s being the celebrated Character known universally by the
name of “the wandering Jew.” His not being permitted to pass more than
fourteen days on the same spot, the burning Cross impressed upon his
forehead, the effect which it produced upon the Beholders, and many
other circumstances give this supposition the colour of truth. The
Cardinal is fully persuaded of it; and for my own part I am inclined to
adopt the only solution which offers itself to this riddle. I return to
the narrative from which I have digressed.”)

From this period I recovered my health so rapidly as to astonish my
Physicians. The Bleeding Nun appeared no more, and I was soon able to
set out for Lindenberg. The Baron received me with open arms. I
confided to him the sequel of my adventure; and He was not a little
pleased to find that his Mansion would be no longer troubled with the
Phantom’s quiennial visits. I was sorry to perceive that absence had
not weakened Donna Rodolpha’s imprudent passion. In a private
conversation which I had with her during my short stay at the Castle,
She renewed her attempts to persuade me to return her affection.
Regarding her as the primary cause of all my sufferings, I entertained
for her no other sentiment than disgust. The Skeleton of Beatrice was
found in the place which She had mentioned. This being all that I
sought at Lindenberg, I hastened to quit the Baron’s domains, equally
anxious to perform the obsequies of the murdered Nun, and escape the
importunity of a Woman whom I detested. I departed, followed by Donna
Rodolpha’s menaces that my contempt should not be long unpunished.

I now bent my course towards Spain with all diligence. Lucas with my
Baggage had joined me during my abode at Lindenberg. I arrived in my
native Country without any accident, and immediately proceeded to my
Father’s Castle in Andalusia. The remains of Beatrice were deposited in
the family vault, all due ceremonies performed, and the number of
Masses said which She had required. Nothing now hindered me from
employing all my endeavours to discover the retreat of Agnes. The
Baroness had assured me that her Niece had already taken the veil: This
intelligence I suspected to have been forged by jealousy, and hoped to
find my Mistress still at liberty to accept my hand. I enquired after
her family; I found that before her Daughter could reach Madrid, Donna
Inesilla was no more: You, my dear Lorenzo, were said to be abroad, but
where I could not discover: Your Father was in a distant Province on a
visit to the Duke de Medina, and as to Agnes, no one could or would
inform me what was become of her. Theodore, according to promise, had
returned to Strasbourg, where He found his Grandfather dead, and
Marguerite in possession of his fortune. All her persuasions to remain
with her were fruitless: He quitted her a second time, and followed me
to Madrid. He exerted himself to the utmost in forwarding my search:
But our united endeavours were unattended by success. The retreat which
concealed Agnes remained an impenetrable mystery, and I began to
abandon all hopes of recovering her.

About eight months ago I was returning to my Hotel in a melancholy
humour, having past the evening at the Play-House. The Night was dark,
and I was unaccompanied. Plunged in reflections which were far from
being agreeable, I perceived not that three Men had followed me from
the Theatre; till, on turning into an unfrequented Street, they all
attacked me at the same time with the utmost fury. I sprang back a few
paces, drew my sword, and threw my cloak over my left arm. The
obscurity of the night was in my favour. For the most part the blows of
the Assassins, being aimed at random, failed to touch me. I at length
was fortunate enough to lay one of my Adversaries at my feet; But
before this I had already received so many wounds, and was so warmly
pressed, that my destruction would have been inevitable, had not the
clashing of swords called a Cavalier to my assistance. He ran towards
me with his sword drawn: Several Domestics followed him with torches.
His arrival made the combat equal: Yet would not the Bravoes abandon
their design till the Servants were on the point of joining us. They
then fled away, and we lost them in the obscurity.

The Stranger now addressed himself to me with politeness, and enquired
whether I was wounded. Faint with the loss of blood, I could scarcely
thank him for his seasonable aid, and entreat him to let some of his
Servants convey me to the Hotel de las Cisternas. I no sooner mentioned
the name than He profest himself an acquaintance of my Father’s, and
declared that He would not permit my being transported to such a
distance before my wounds had been examined. He added that his House
was hard by, and begged me to accompany him thither. His manner was so
earnest, that I could not reject his offer, and leaning upon his arm, a
few minutes brought me to the Porch of a magnificent Hotel.

On entering the House, an old grey-headed Domestic came to welcome my
Conductor: He enquired when the Duke, his Master, meant to quit the
Country, and was answered that He would remain there yet some months.
My Deliverer then desired the family Surgeon to be summoned without
delay. His orders were obeyed. I was seated upon a Sopha in a noble
apartment; and my wounds being examined, they were declared to be very
slight. The Surgeon, however, advised me not to expose myself to the
night air; and the Stranger pressed me so earnestly to take a bed in
his House, that I consented to remain where I was for the present.

Being now left alone with my Deliverer, I took the opportunity of
thanking him in more express terms, than I had done hitherto: But He
begged me to be silent upon the subject.

“I esteem myself happy,” said He, “in having had it in my power to
render you this little service; and I shall think myself eternally
obliged to my Daughter for detaining me so late at the Convent of St.
Clare. The high esteem in which I have ever held the Marquis de las
Cisternas, though accident has not permitted our being so intimate as I
could wish, makes me rejoice in the opportunity of making his Son’s
acquaintance. I am certain that my Brother in whose House you now are,
will lament his not being at Madrid to receive you himself: But in the
Duke’s absence I am Master of the family, and may assure you in his
name, that every thing in the Hotel de Medina is perfectly at your
disposal.”

Conceive my surprize, Lorenzo, at discovering in the person of my
Preserver Don Gaston de Medina: It was only to be equalled by my secret
satisfaction at the assurance that Agnes inhabited the Convent of St.
Clare. This latter sensation was not a little weakened, when in answer
to my seemingly indifferent questions He told me that his Daughter had
really taken the veil. I suffered not my grief at this circumstance to
take root in my mind: I flattered myself with the idea that my Uncle’s
credit at the Court of Rome would remove this obstacle, and that
without difficulty I should obtain for my Mistress a dispensation from
her vows. Buoyed up with this hope I calmed the uneasiness of my bosom;
and I redoubled my endeavours to appear grateful for the attention and
pleased with the society of Don Gaston.

A Domestic now entered the room, and informed me that the Bravo whom I
had wounded discovered some signs of life. I desired that He might be
carried to my Father’s Hotel, and that as soon as He recovered his
voice, I would examine him respecting his reasons for attempting my
life. I was answered that He was already able to speak, though with
difficulty: Don Gaston’s curiosity made him press me to interrogate the
Assassin in his presence, but this curiosity I was by no means inclined
to gratify. One reason was, that doubting from whence the blow came, I
was unwilling to place before Don Gaston’s eyes the guilt of a Sister:
Another was, that I feared to be recognized for Alphonso d’Alvarada,
and precautions taken in consequence to keep me from the sight of
Agnes. To avow my passion for his Daughter, and endeavour to make him
enter into my schemes, what I knew of Don Gaston’s character convinced
me would be an imprudent step: and considering it to be essential that
He should know me for no other than the Condé de las Cisternas, I was
determined not to let him hear the Bravo’s confession. I insinuated to
him, that as I suspected a Lady to be concerned in the Business, whose
name might accidentally escape from the Assassin, it was necessary for
me to examine the Man in private. Don Gaston’s delicacy would not
permit his urging the point any longer, and in consequence the Bravo
was conveyed to my Hotel.

The next Morning I took leave of my Host, who was to return to the Duke
on the same day. My wounds had been so trifling that, except being
obliged to wear my arm in a sling for a short time, I felt no
inconvenience from the night’s adventure. The Surgeon who examined the
Bravo’s wound declared it to be mortal: He had just time to confess
that He had been instigated to murder me by the revengeful Donna
Rodolpha, and expired in a few minutes after.

All my thoughts were now bent upon getting to the speech of my lovely
Nun. Theodore set himself to work, and for this time with better
success. He attacked the Gardener of St. Clare so forcibly with bribes
and promises that the Old Man was entirely gained over to my interests;
and it was settled that I should be introduced into the Convent in the
character of his Assistant. The plan was put into execution without
delay. Disguised in a common habit, and a black patch covering one of
my eyes, I was presented to the Lady Prioress, who condescended to
approve of the Gardener’s choice. I immediately entered upon my
employment. Botany having been a favourite study with me, I was by no
means at a loss in my new station. For some days I continued to work in
the Convent Garden without meeting the Object of my disguise: On the
fourth Morning I was more successful. I heard the voice of Agnes, and
was speeding towards the sound, when the sight of the Domina stopped
me. I drew back with caution, and concealed myself behind a thick clump
of Trees.

The Prioress advanced and seated herself with Agnes on a Bench at no
great distance. I heard her in an angry tone blame her Companion’s
continual melancholy: She told her that to weep the loss of any Lover
in her situation was a crime; But that to weep the loss of a faithless
one was folly and absurdity in the extreme. Agnes replied in so low a
voice that I could not distinguish her words, but I perceived that She
used terms of gentleness and submission. The conversation was
interrupted by the arrival of a young Pensioner who informed the Domina
that She was waited for in the Parlour. The old Lady rose, kissed the
cheek of Agnes, and retired. The newcomer remained. Agnes spoke much to
her in praise of somebody whom I could not make out, but her Auditor
seemed highly delighted, and interested by the conversation. The Nun
showed her several letters; the Other perused them with evident
pleasure, obtained permission to copy them, and withdrew for that
purpose to my great satisfaction.

No sooner was She out of sight, than I quitted my concealment. Fearing
to alarm my lovely Mistress, I drew near her gently, intending to
discover myself by degrees. But who for a moment can deceive the eyes
of love? She raised her head at my approach, and recognised me in spite
of my disguise at a single glance. She rose hastily from her seat with
an exclamation of surprize, and attempted to retire; But I followed
her, detained her, and entreated to be heard. Persuaded of my falsehood
She refused to listen to me, and ordered me positively to quit the
Garden. It was now my turn to refuse. I protested that however
dangerous might be the consequences, I would not leave her till She had
heard my justification. I assured her that She had been deceived by the
artifices of her Relations; that I could convince her beyond the power
of doubt that my passion had been pure and disinterested; and I asked
her what should induce me to seek her in the Convent, were I influenced
by the selfish motives which my Enemies had ascribed to me.

My prayers, my arguments, and vows not to quit her, till She had
promised to listen to me, united to her fears lest the Nuns should see
me with her, to her natural curiosity, and to the affection which She
still felt for me in spite of my supposed desertion, at length
prevailed. She told me that to grant my request at that moment was
impossible; But She engaged to be in the same spot at eleven that
night, and to converse with me for the last time. Having obtained this
promise I released her hand, and She fled back with rapidity towards
the Convent.

I communicated my success to my Ally, the old Gardener: He pointed out
an hiding place where I might shelter myself till night without fear of
a discovery. Thither I betook myself at the hour when I ought to have
retired with my supposed Master, and waited impatiently for the
appointed time. The chillness of the night was in my favour, since it
kept the other Nuns confined to their Cells. Agnes alone was insensible
of the inclemency of the Air, and before eleven joined me at the spot
which had witnessed our former interview. Secure from interruption, I
related to her the true cause of my disappearing on the fatal fifth of
May. She was evidently much affected by my narrative: When it was
concluded, She confessed the injustice of her suspicions, and blamed
herself for having taken the veil through despair at my ingratitude.

“But now it is too late to repine!” She added; “The die is thrown: I
have pronounced my vows, and dedicated myself to the service of heaven.
I am sensible, how ill I am calculated for a Convent. My disgust at a
monastic life increases daily: Ennui and discontent are my constant
Companions; and I will not conceal from you that the passion which I
formerly felt for one so near being my Husband is not yet extinguished
in my bosom. But we must part! Insuperable Barriers divide us from each
other, and on this side the Grave we must never meet again!”

I now exerted myself to prove that our union was not so impossible as
She seemed to think it. I vaunted to her the Cardinal-Duke of Lerma’s
influence at the Court of Rome: I assured her that I should easily
obtain a dispensation from her vows; and I doubted not but Don Gaston
would coincide with my views, when informed of my real name and long
attachment. Agnes replied that since I encouraged such an hope, I could
know but little of her Father. Liberal and kind in every other respect,
Superstition formed the only stain upon his character. Upon this head
He was inflexible; He sacrificed his dearest interests to his scruples,
and would consider it an insult to suppose him capable of authorising
his daughter to break her vows to heaven.

“But suppose,” said I interrupting her; “Suppose that He should
disapprove of our union; Let him remain ignorant of my proceedings,
till I have rescued you from the prison in which you are now confined.
Once my Wife, you are free from his authority: I need from him no
pecuniary assistance; and when He sees his resentment to be unavailing,
He will doubtless restore you to his favour. But let the worst happen;
Should Don Gaston be irreconcileable, my Relations will vie with each
other in making you forget his loss: and you will find in my Father a
substitute for the Parent of whom I shall deprive you.”

“Don Raymond,” replied Agnes in a firm and resolute voice, “I love my
Father: He has treated me harshly in this one instance; but I have
received from him in every other so many proofs of love that his
affection is become necessary to my existence. Were I to quit the
Convent, He never would forgive me; nor can I think that on his
deathbed He would leave me his curse, without shuddering at the very
idea. Besides, I am conscious myself, that my vows are binding:
Wilfully did I contract my engagement with heaven; I cannot break it
without a crime. Then banish from your mind the idea of our being ever
united. I am devoted to religion; and however I may grieve at our
separation, I would oppose obstacles myself, to what I feel would
render me guilty.”

I strove to overrule these ill-grounded scruples: We were still
disputing upon the subject, when the Convent Bell summoned the Nuns to
Matins. Agnes was obliged to attend them; But She left me not till I
had compelled her to promise that on the following night She would be
at the same place at the same hour. These meetings continued for
several Weeks uninterrupted; and ’tis now, Lorenzo, that I must implore
your indulgence. Reflect upon our situation, our youth, our long
attachment: Weigh all the circumstances which attended our
assignations, and you will confess the temptation to have been
irresistible; you will even pardon me when I acknowledge, that in an
unguarded moment, the honour of Agnes was sacrificed to my passion.”

(Lorenzo’s eyes sparkled with fury: A deep crimson spread itself over
his face. He started from his seat, and attempted to draw his sword.
The Marquis was aware of his movement, and caught his hand: He pressed
it affectionately.

“My Friend! My Brother! Hear me to the conclusion! Till then restrain
your passion, and be at least convinced, that if what I have related is
criminal, the blame must fall upon me, and not upon your Sister.”

Lorenzo suffered himself to be prevailed upon by Don Raymond’s
entreaties. He resumed his place, and listened to the rest of the
narrative with a gloomy and impatient countenance. The Marquis thus
continued.)

“Scarcely was the first burst of passion past when Agnes, recovering
herself, started from my arms with horror. She called me infamous
Seducer, loaded me with the bitterest reproaches, and beat her bosom in
all the wildness of delirium. Ashamed of my imprudence, I with
difficulty found words to excuse myself. I endeavoured to console her;
I threw myself at her feet, and entreated her forgiveness. She forced
her hand from me, which I had taken, and would have prest to my lips.

“Touch me not!” She cried with a violence which terrified me; “Monster
of perfidy and ingratitude, how have I been deceived in you! I looked
upon you as my Friend, my Protector: I trusted myself in your hands
with confidence, and relying upon your honour, thought that mine ran no
risque. And ’tis by you, whom I adored, that I am covered with infamy!
’Tis by you that I have been seduced into breaking my vows to God, that
I am reduced to a level with the basest of my sex! Shame upon you,
Villain, you shall never see me more!”

She started from the Bank on which She was seated. I endeavoured to
detain her; But She disengaged herself from me with violence, and took
refuge in the Convent.

I retired, filled with confusion and inquietude. The next morning I
failed not as usual to appear in the Garden; but Agnes was no where to
be seen. At night I waited for her at the place where we generally met;
I found no better success. Several days and nights passed away in the
same manner. At length I saw my offended Mistress cross the walk on
whose borders I was working: She was accompanied by the same young
Pensioner, on whose arm She seemed from weakness obliged to support
herself. She looked upon me for a moment, but instantly turned her head
away. I waited her return; But She passed on to the Convent without
paying any attention to me, or the penitent looks with which I implored
her forgiveness.

As soon as the Nuns were retired, the old Gardener joined me with a
sorrowful air.

“Segnor,” said He, “it grieves me to say, that I can be no longer of
use to you. The Lady whom you used to meet has just assured me that if
I admitted you again into the Garden, She would discover the whole
business to the Lady Prioress. She bade me tell you also, that your
presence was an insult, and that if you still possess the least respect
for her, you will never attempt to see her more. Excuse me then for
informing you that I can favour your disguise no longer. Should the
Prioress be acquainted with my conduct, She might not be contented with
dismissing me her service: Out of revenge She might accuse me of having
profaned the Convent, and cause me to be thrown into the Prisons of the
Inquisition.”

Fruitless were my attempts to conquer his resolution. He denied me all
future entrance into the Garden, and Agnes persevered in neither
letting me see or hear from her. In about a fortnight after, a violent
illness which had seized my Father obliged me to set out for Andalusia.
I hastened thither, and as I imagined, found the Marquis at the point
of death. Though on its first appearance his complaint was declared
mortal, He lingered out several Months; during which my attendance upon
him during his malady, and the occupation of settling his affairs after
his decease, permitted not my quitting Andalusia. Within these four
days I returned to Madrid, and on arriving at my Hotel, I there found
this letter waiting for me.

(Here the Marquis unlocked the drawer of a Cabinet: He took out a
folded paper, which He presented to his Auditor. Lorenzo opened it, and
recognised his Sister’s hand. The contents were as follows:

“Into what an abyss of misery have you plunged me! Raymond, you force
me to become as criminal as yourself. I had resolved never to see you
more; if possible, to forget you; If not, only to remember you with
hate. A Being for whom I already feel a Mother’s tenderness, solicits
me to pardon my Seducer, and apply to his love for the means of
preservation. Raymond, your child lives in my bosom. I tremble at the
vengeance of the Prioress; I tremble much for myself, yet more for the
innocent Creature whose existence depends upon mine. Both of us are
lost, should my situation be discovered. Advise me then what steps to
take, but seek not to see me. The Gardener, who undertakes to deliver
this, is dismissed, and we have nothing to hope from that quarter: The
Man engaged in his place is of incorruptible fidelity. The best means
of conveying to me your answer, is by concealing it under the great
Statue of St. Francis, which stands in the Capuchin Cathedral. Thither
I go every Thursday to confession, and shall easily have an opportunity
of securing your letter. I hear that you are now absent from Madrid;
Need I entreat you to write the very moment of your return? I will not
think it. Ah! Raymond! Mine is a cruel situation! Deceived by my
nearest Relations, compelled to embrace a profession the duties of
which I am ill-calculated to perform, conscious of the sanctity of
those duties, and seduced into violating them by One whom I least
suspected of perfidy, I am now obliged by circumstances to chuse
between death and perjury. Woman’s timidity, and maternal affection,
permit me not to balance in the choice. I feel all the guilt into which
I plunge myself, when I yield to the plan which you before proposed to
me. My poor Father’s death which has taken place since we met, has
removed one obstacle. He sleeps in his grave, and I no longer dread his
anger. But from the anger of God, Oh! Raymond! who shall shield me? Who
can protect me against my conscience, against myself? I dare not dwell
upon these thoughts; They will drive me mad. I have taken my
resolution: Procure a dispensation from my vows; I am ready to fly with
you. Write to me, my Husband! Tell me, that absence has not abated your
love, tell me that you will rescue from death your unborn Child, and
its unhappy Mother. I live in all the agonies of terror: Every eye
which is fixed upon me seems to read my secret and my shame. And you
are the cause of those agonies! Oh! When my heart first loved you, how
little did it suspect you of making it feel such pangs!


“AGNES.”


Having perused the letter, Lorenzo restored it in silence. The Marquis
replaced it in the Cabinet, and then proceeded.)

“Excessive was my joy at reading this intelligence so
earnestly-desired, so little expected. My plan was soon arranged. When
Don Gaston discovered to me his Daughter’s retreat, I entertained no
doubt of her readiness to quit the Convent: I had, therefore, entrusted
the Cardinal-Duke of Lerma with the whole affair, who immediately
busied himself in obtaining the necessary Bull. Fortunately I had
afterwards neglected to stop his proceedings. Not long since I received
a letter from him, stating that He expected daily to receive the order
from the Court of Rome. Upon this I would willingly have relyed: But
the Cardinal wrote me word, that I must find some means of conveying
Agnes out of the Convent, unknown to the Prioress. He doubted not but
this Latter would be much incensed by losing a Person of such high rank
from her society, and consider the renunciation of Agnes as an insult
to her House. He represented her as a Woman of a violent and revengeful
character, capable of proceeding to the greatest extremities. It was
therefore to be feared, lest by confining Agnes in the Convent She
should frustrate my hopes, and render the Pope’s mandate unavailing.
Influenced by this consideration, I resolved to carry off my Mistress,
and conceal her till the arrival of the expected Bull in the
Cardinal-Duke’s Estate. He approved of my design, and profest himself
ready to give a shelter to the Fugitive. I next caused the new Gardener
of St. Clare to be seized privately, and confined in my Hotel. By this
means I became Master of the Key to the Garden door, and I had now
nothing more to do than prepare Agnes for the elopement. This was done
by the letter, which you saw me deliver this Evening. I told her in it,
that I should be ready to receive her at twelve tomorrow night, that I
had secured the Key of the Garden, and that She might depend upon a
speedy release.

You have now, Lorenzo, heard the whole of my long narrative. I have
nothing to say in my excuse, save that my intentions towards your
Sister have been ever the most honourable: That it has always been, and
still is my design to make her my Wife: And that I trust, when you
consider these circumstances, our youth, and our attachment, you will
not only forgive our momentary lapse from virtue, but will aid me in
repairing my faults to Agnes, and securing a lawful title to her person
and her heart.



CHAPTER V.


O You! whom Vanity’s light bark conveys
On Fame’s mad voyage by the wind of praise,
With what a shifting gale your course you ply,
For ever sunk too low, or borne too high!
Who pants for glory finds but short repose,
A breath revives him, and a breath o’er-throws.

POPE.

Here the Marquis concluded his adventures. Lorenzo, before He could
determine on his reply, past some moments in reflection. At length He
broke silence.

“Raymond,” said He taking his hand, “strict honour would oblige me to
wash off in your blood the stain thrown upon my family; But the
circumstances of your case forbid me to consider you as an Enemy. The
temptation was too great to be resisted. ’Tis the superstition of my
Relations which has occasioned these misfortunes, and they are more the
Offenders than yourself and Agnes. What has past between you cannot be
recalled, but may yet be repaired by uniting you to my Sister. You have
ever been, you still continue to be, my dearest and indeed my only
Friend. I feel for Agnes the truest affection, and there is no one on
whom I would bestow her more willingly than on yourself. Pursue then
your design. I will accompany you tomorrow night, and conduct her
myself to the House of the Cardinal. My presence will be a sanction for
her conduct, and prevent her incurring blame by her flight from the
Convent.”

The Marquis thanked him in terms by no means deficient in gratitude.
Lorenzo then informed him that He had nothing more to apprehend from
Donna Rodolpha’s enmity. Five Months had already elapsed since, in an
excess of passion, She broke a blood-vessel and expired in the course
of a few hours. He then proceeded to mention the interests of Antonia.
The Marquis was much surprized at hearing of this new Relation: His
Father had carried his hatred of Elvira to the Grave, and had never
given the least hint that He knew what was become of his eldest Son’s
Widow. Don Raymond assured his friend that He was not mistaken in
supposing him ready to acknowledge his Sister-in-law and her amiable
Daughter. The preparations for the elopement would not permit his
visiting them the next day; But in the meanwhile He desired Lorenzo to
assure them of his friendship, and to supply Elvira upon his account
with any sums which She might want. This the Youth promised to do, as
soon as her abode should be known to him: He then took leave of his
future Brother, and returned to the Palace de Medina.

The day was already on the point of breaking when the Marquis retired
to his chamber. Conscious that his narrative would take up some hours,
and wishing to secure himself from interruption on returning to the
Hotel, He ordered his Attendants not to sit up for him. Consequently,
He was somewhat surprised on entering his Antiroom, to find Theodore
established there. The Page sat near a Table with a pen in his hand,
and was so totally occupied by his employment that He perceived not his
Lord’s approach. The Marquis stopped to observe him. Theodore wrote a
few lines, then paused, and scratched out a part of the writing: Then
wrote again, smiled, and seemed highly pleased with what He had been
about. At last He threw down his pen, sprang from his chair, and
clapped his hands together joyfully.

“There it is!” cried He aloud: “Now they are charming!”

His transports were interrupted by a laugh from the Marquis, who
suspected the nature of his employment.

“What is so charming, Theodore?”

The Youth started, and looked round. He blushed, ran to the Table,
seized the paper on which He had been writing, and concealed it in
confusion.

“Oh! my Lord, I knew not that you were so near me. Can I be of use to
you? Lucas is already gone to bed.”

“I shall follow his example when I have given my opinion of your
verses.”

“My verses, my Lord?”

“Nay, I am sure that you have been writing some, for nothing else could
have kept you awake till this time of the morning. Where are they,
Theodore? I shall like to see your composition.”

Theodore’s cheeks glowed with still deeper crimson: He longed to show
his poetry, but first chose to be pressed for it.

“Indeed, my Lord, they are not worthy your attention.”

“Not these verses, which you just now declared to be so charming?

Come, come, let me see whether our opinions are the same. I promise
that you shall find in me an indulgent Critic.”

The Boy produced his paper with seeming reluctance; but the
satisfaction which sparkled in his dark expressive eyes betrayed the
vanity of his little bosom. The Marquis smiled while He observed the
emotions of an heart as yet but little skilled in veiling its
sentiments. He seated himself upon a Sopha: Theodore, while Hope and
fear contended on his anxious countenance, waited with inquietude for
his Master’s decision, while the Marquis read the following lines.

LOVE AND AGE


    The night was dark; The wind blew cold;
    Anacreon, grown morose and old,
Sat by his fire, and fed the chearful flame:
    Suddenly the Cottage-door expands,
    And lo! before him Cupid stands,
Casts round a friendly glance, and greets him by his name.

    “What is it Thou?” the startled Sire
    In sullen tone exclaimed, while ire
With crimson flushed his pale and wrinkled cheek:
    “Wouldst Thou again with amorous rage
    Inflame my bosom? Steeled by age,
Vain Boy, to pierce my breast thine arrows are too weak.

    “What seek You in this desart drear?
    No smiles or sports inhabit here;
Ne’er did these vallies witness dalliance sweet:
    Eternal winter binds the plains;
    Age in my house despotic reigns,
My Garden boasts no flower, my bosom boasts no heat.

    “Begone, and seek the blooming bower,
    Where some ripe Virgin courts thy power,
Or bid provoking dreams flit round her bed;
    On Damon’s amorous breast repose;
    Wanton—on Chloe’s lip of rose,
Or make her blushing cheek a pillow for thy head.

    “Be such thy haunts; These regions cold
    Avoid! Nor think grown wise and old
This hoary head again thy yoke shall bear:
    Remembering that my fairest years
    By Thee were marked with sighs and tears,
I think thy friendship false, and shun the guileful snare.

    “I have not yet forgot the pains
    I felt, while bound in Julia’s chains;
The ardent flames with which my bosom burned;
    The nights I passed deprived of rest;
    The jealous pangs which racked my breast;
My disappointed hopes, and passion unreturned.

    “Then fly, and curse mine eyes no more!
    Fly from my peaceful Cottage-door!
No day, no hour, no moment shalt Thou stay.
    I know thy falsehood, scorn thy arts,
    Distrust thy smiles, and fear thy darts;
Traitor, begone, and seek some other to betray!”

    “Does Age, old Man, your wits confound?”
    Replied the offended God, and frowned;
(His frown was sweet as is the Virgin’s smile!)
    “Do You to Me these words address?
    To Me, who do not love you less,
Though You my friendship scorn, and pleasures past revile!

    “If one proud Fair you chanced to find,
    An hundred other Nymphs were kind,
Whose smiles might well for Julia’s frowns atone:
    But such is Man! His partial hand
    Unnumbered favours writes on sand,
But stamps one little fault on solid lasting stone.

    “Ingrate! Who led Thee to the wave,
    At noon where Lesbia loved to lave?
Who named the bower alone where Daphne lay?
    And who, when Caelia shrieked for aid,
    Bad you with kisses hush the Maid?
What other was’t than Love, Oh! false Anacreon, say!

    “Then You could call me—‘Gentle Boy!
    ‘My only bliss! my source of joy!’—
Then You could prize me dearer than your soul!
    Could kiss, and dance me on your knees;
    And swear, not wine itself would please,
Had not the lip of Love first touched the flowing bowl!

    “Must those sweet days return no more?
    Must I for aye your loss deplore,
Banished your heart, and from your favour driven?
    Ah! no; My fears that smile denies;
    That heaving breast, those sparkling eyes
Declare me ever dear and all my faults forgiven.

    “Again beloved, esteemed, carest,
    Cupid shall in thine arms be prest,
Sport on thy knees, or on thy bosom sleep:
    My Torch thine age-struck heart shall warm;
    My Hand pale Winter’s rage disarm,
And Youth and Spring shall here once more their revels keep.”—

    A feather now of golden hue
    He smiling from his pinion drew;
This to the Poet’s hand the Boy commits;
    And straight before Anacreon’s eyes
    The fairest dreams of fancy rise,
And round his favoured head wild inspiration flits.

    His bosom glows with amorous fire
    Eager He grasps the magic lyre;
Swift o’er the tuneful chords his fingers move:
    The Feather plucked from Cupid’s wing
    Sweeps the too-long-neglected string,
While soft Anacreon sings the power and praise of Love.

    Soon as that name was heard, the Woods
    Shook off their snows; The melting floods
Broke their cold chains, and Winter fled away.
    Once more the earth was deckt with flowers;
    Mild Zephyrs breathed through blooming bowers;
High towered the glorious Sun, and poured the blaze of day.

    Attracted by the harmonious sound,
    Sylvans and Fauns the Cot surround,
And curious crowd the Minstrel to behold:
    The Wood-nymphs haste the spell to prove;
    Eager They run; They list, they love,
And while They hear the strain, forget the Man is old.

    Cupid, to nothing constant long,
    Perched on the Harp attends the song,
Or stifles with a kiss the dulcet notes:
    Now on the Poet’s breast reposes,
    Now twines his hoary locks with roses,
Or borne on wings of gold in wanton circle floats.

    Then thus Anacreon—“I no more
    At other shrine my vows will pour,
Since Cupid deigns my numbers to inspire:
    From Phœbus or the blue-eyed Maid
    Now shall my verse request no aid,
For Love alone shall be the Patron of my Lyre.

    “In lofty strain, of earlier days,
    I spread the King’s or Hero’s praise,
And struck the martial Chords with epic fire:
    But farewell, Hero! farewell, King!
    Your deeds my lips no more shall sing,
For Love alone shall be the subject of my Lyre.


The Marquis returned the paper with a smile of encouragement.

“Your little poem pleases me much,” said He; “However, you must not
count my opinion for anything. I am no judge of verses, and for my own
part, never composed more than six lines in my life: Those six produced
so unlucky an effect that I am fully resolved never to compose another.
But I wander from my subject. I was going to say that you cannot employ
your time worse than in making verses. An Author, whether good or bad,
or between both, is an Animal whom everybody is privileged to attack;
For though All are not able to write books, all conceive themselves
able to judge them. A bad composition carries with it its own
punishment, contempt and ridicule. A good one excites envy, and entails
upon its Author a thousand mortifications. He finds himself assailed by
partial and ill-humoured Criticism: One Man finds fault with the plan,
Another with the style, a Third with the precept, which it strives to
inculcate; and they who cannot succeed in finding fault with the Book,
employ themselves in stigmatizing its Author. They maliciously rake out
from obscurity every little circumstance which may throw ridicule upon
his private character or conduct, and aim at wounding the Man, since
They cannot hurt the Writer. In short, to enter the lists of literature
is wilfully to expose yourself to the arrows of neglect, ridicule,
envy, and disappointment. Whether you write well or ill, be assured
that you will not escape from blame; Indeed this circumstance contains
a young Author’s chief consolation: He remembers that Lope de Vega and
Calderona had unjust and envious Critics, and He modestly conceives
himself to be exactly in their predicament. But I am conscious that all
these sage observations are thrown away upon you. Authorship is a mania
to conquer which no reasons are sufficiently strong; and you might as
easily persuade me not to love, as I persuade you not to write.
However, if you cannot help being occasionally seized with a poetical
paroxysm, take at least the precaution of communicating your verses to
none but those whose partiality for you secures their approbation.”

“Then, my Lord, you do not think these lines tolerable?” said Theodore
with an humble and dejected air.

“You mistake my meaning. As I said before, they have pleased me much;
But my regard for you makes me partial, and Others might judge them
less favourably. I must still remark that even my prejudice in your
favour does not blind me so much as to prevent my observing several
faults. For instance, you make a terrible confusion of metaphors; You
are too apt to make the strength of your lines consist more in the
words than sense; Some of the verses only seem introduced in order to
rhyme with others; and most of the best ideas are borrowed from other
Poets, though possibly you are unconscious of the theft yourself. These
faults may occasionally be excused in a work of length; But a short
Poem must be correct and perfect.”

“All this is true, Segnor; But you should consider that I only write
for pleasure.”

“Your defects are the less excusable. Their incorrectness may be
forgiven in those who work for money, who are obliged to compleat a
given task in a given time, and are paid according to the bulk, not
value of their productions. But in those whom no necessity forces to
turn Author, who merely write for fame, and have full leisure to polish
their compositions, faults are impardonable, and merit the sharpest
arrows of criticism.”

The Marquis rose from the Sopha; the Page looked discouraged and
melancholy, and this did not escape his Master’s observation.

“However” added He smiling, “I think that these lines do you no
discredit. Your versification is tolerably easy, and your ear seems to
be just. The perusal of your little poem upon the whole gave me much
pleasure; and if it is not asking too great a favour, I shall be highly
obliged to you for a Copy.”

The Youth’s countenance immediately cleared up. He perceived not the
smile, half approving, half ironical, which accompanied the request,
and He promised the Copy with great readiness. The Marquis withdrew to
his chamber, much amused by the instantaneous effect produced upon
Theodore’s vanity by the conclusion of his Criticism. He threw himself
upon his Couch; Sleep soon stole over him, and his dreams presented him
with the most flattering pictures of happiness with Agnes.

On reaching the Hotel de Medina, Lorenzo’s first care was to enquire
for Letters. He found several waiting for him; but that which He sought
was not amongst them. Leonella had found it impossible to write that
evening. However, her impatience to secure Don Christoval’s heart, on
which She flattered herself with having made no slight impression,
permitted her not to pass another day without informing him where She
was to be found. On her return from the Capuchin Church, She had
related to her Sister with exultation how attentive an handsome
Cavalier had been to her; as also how his Companion had undertaken to
plead Antonia’s cause with the Marquis de las Cisternas. Elvira
received this intelligence with sensations very different from those
with which it was communicated. She blamed her Sister’s imprudence in
confiding her history to an absolute Stranger, and expressed her fears
lest this inconsiderate step should prejudice the Marquis against her.
The greatest of her apprehensions She concealed in her own breast. She
had observed with inquietude that at the mention of Lorenzo, a deep
blush spread itself over her Daughter’s cheek. The timid Antonia dared
not to pronounce his name: Without knowing wherefore, She felt
embarrassed when He was made the subject of discourse, and endeavoured
to change the conversation to Ambrosio. Elvira perceived the emotions
of this young bosom: In consequence, She insisted upon Leonella’s
breaking her promise to the Cavaliers. A sigh, which on hearing this
order escaped from Antonia, confirmed the wary Mother in her
resolution.

Through this resolution Leonella was determined to break: She conceived
it to be inspired by envy, and that her Sister dreaded her being
elevated above her. Without imparting her design to anyone, She took an
opportunity of dispatching the following note to Lorenzo; It was
delivered to him as soon as he woke:

“Doubtless, Segnor Don Lorenzo, you have frequently accused me of
ingratitude and forgetfulness: But on the word of a Virgin, it was out
of my power to perform my promise yesterday. I know not in what words
to inform you how strange a reception my Sister gave your kind wish to
visit her. She is an odd Woman, with many good points about her; But
her jealousy of me frequently makes her conceive notions quite
unaccountable. On hearing that your Friend had paid some little
attention to me, She immediately took the alarm: She blamed my conduct,
and has absolutely forbidden me to let you know our abode. My strong
sense of gratitude for your kind offers of service, and ... Shall I
confess it? my desire to behold once more the too amiable Don
Christoval, will not permit my obeying her injunctions. I have
therefore stolen a moment to inform you, that we lodge in the Strada di
San Iago, four doors from the Palace d’Albornos, and nearly opposite to
the Barber’s Miguel Coello. Enquire for Donna Elvira Dalfa, since in
compliance with her Father-in-law’s order, my Sister continues to be
called by her maiden name. At eight this evening you will be sure of
finding us: But let not a word drop which may raise a suspicion of my
having written this letter. Should you see the Condé d’Ossorio, tell
him ... I blush while I declare it ... Tell him that his presence will
be but too acceptable to the sympathetic


LEONELLA.


The latter sentences were written in red ink, to express the blushes of
her cheek, while She committed an outrage upon her virgin modesty.

Lorenzo had no sooner perused this note than He set out in search of
Don Christoval. Not being able to find him in the course of the day, He
proceeded to Donna Elvira’s alone, to Leonella’s infinite
disappointment. The Domestic by whom He sent up his name, having
already declared his Lady to be at home, She had no excuse for refusing
his visit: Yet She consented to receive it with much reluctance. That
reluctance was increased by the changes which his approach produced in
Antonia’s countenance; nor was it by any means abated when the Youth
himself appeared. The symmetry of his person, animation of his
features, and natural elegance of his manners and address, convinced
Elvira that such a Guest must be dangerous for her Daughter. She
resolved to treat him with distant politeness, to decline his services
with gratitude for the tender of them, and to make him feel, without
offence, that his future visits would be far from acceptable.

On his entrance He found Elvira, who was indisposed, reclining upon a
Sopha: Antonia sat by her embroidery frame, and Leonella, in a pastoral
dress, held “_Montemayor’s Diana_.” In spite of her being the Mother of
Antonia, Lorenzo could not help expecting to find in Elvira Leonella’s
true Sister, and the Daughter of “as honest a painstaking Shoe-maker,
as any in Cordova.” A single glance was sufficient to undeceive him. He
beheld a Woman whose features, though impaired by time and sorrow,
still bore the marks of distinguished beauty: A serious dignity reigned
upon her countenance, but was tempered by a grace and sweetness which
rendered her truly enchanting. Lorenzo fancied that She must have
resembled her Daughter in her youth, and readily excused the imprudence
of the late Condé de las Cisternas. She desired him to be seated, and
immediately resumed her place upon the Sopha.

Antonia received him with a simple reverence, and continued her work:
Her cheeks were suffused with crimson, and She strove to conceal her
emotion by leaning over her embroidery frame. Her Aunt also chose to
play off her airs of modesty; She affected to blush and tremble, and
waited with her eyes cast down to receive, as She expected, the
compliments of Don Christoval. Finding after some time that no sign of
his approach was given, She ventured to look round the room, and
perceived with vexation that Medina was unaccompanied. Impatience would
not permit her waiting for an explanation: Interrupting Lorenzo, who
was delivering Raymond’s message, She desired to know what was become
of his Friend.

He, who thought it necessary to maintain himself in her good graces,
strove to console her under her disappointment by committing a little
violence upon truth.

“Ah! Segnora,” He replied in a melancholy voice “How grieved will He be
at losing this opportunity of paying you his respects! A Relation’s
illness has obliged him to quit Madrid in haste: But on his return, He
will doubtless seize the first moment with transport to throw himself
at your feet!”

As He said this, his eyes met those of Elvira: She punished his
falsehood sufficiently by darting at him a look expressive of
displeasure and reproach. Neither did the deceit answer his intention.
Vexed and disappointed Leonella rose from her seat, and retired in
dudgeon to her own apartment.

Lorenzo hastened to repair the fault, which had injured him in Elvira’s
opinion. He related his conversation with the Marquis respecting her:
He assured her that Raymond was prepared to acknowledge her for his
Brother’s Widow; and that till it was in his power to pay his
compliments to her in person, Lorenzo was commissioned to supply his
place. This intelligence relieved Elvira from an heavy weight of
uneasiness: She had now found a Protector for the fatherless Antonia,
for whose future fortunes She had suffered the greatest apprehensions.
She was not sparing of her thanks to him who had interfered so
generously in her behalf; But still She gave him no invitation to
repeat his visit.

However, when upon rising to depart He requested permission to enquire
after her health occasionally, the polite earnestness of his manner,
gratitude for his services, and respect for his Friend the Marquis,
would not admit of a refusal. She consented reluctantly to receive him:
He promised not to abuse her goodness, and quitted the House.

Antonia was now left alone with her Mother: A temporary silence ensued.
Both wished to speak upon the same subject, but Neither knew how to
introduce it. The one felt a bashfulness which sealed up her lips, and
for which She could not account: The other feared to find her
apprehensions true, or to inspire her Daughter with notions to which
She might be still a Stranger. At length Elvira began the conversation.

“That is a charming young Man, Antonia; I am much pleased with him. Was
He long near you yesterday in the Cathedral?”

“He quitted me not for a moment while I staid in the Church: He gave me
his seat, and was very obliging and attentive.”

“Indeed? Why then have you never mentioned his name to me? Your Aunt
lanched out in praise of his Friend, and you vaunted Ambrosio’s
eloquence: But Neither said a word of Don Lorenzo’s person and
accomplishments. Had not Leonella spoken of his readiness to undertake
our cause, I should not have known him to be in existence.”

She paused. Antonia coloured, but was silent.

“Perhaps you judge him less favourably than I do. In my opinion his
figure is pleasing, his conversation sensible, and manners engaging.
Still He may have struck you differently: You may think him
disagreeable, and ...”.

“Disagreeable? Oh! dear Mother, how should I possibly think him so? I
should be very ungrateful were I not sensible of his kindness
yesterday, and very blind if his merits had escaped me. His figure is
so graceful, so noble! His manners so gentle, yet so manly! I never yet
saw so many accomplishments united in one person, and I doubt whether
Madrid can produce his equal.”

“Why then were you so silent in praise of this Phoenix of Madrid?

Why was it concealed from me that his society had afforded you
pleasure?”

“In truth, I know not: You ask me a question which I cannot resolve
myself. I was on the point of mentioning him a thousand times: His name
was constantly upon my lips, but when I would have pronounced it, I
wanted courage to execute my design. However, if I did not speak of
him, it was not that I thought of him the less.”

“That I believe; But shall I tell you why you wanted courage? It was
because, accustomed to confide to me your most secret thoughts, you
knew not how to conceal, yet feared to acknowledge, that your heart
nourished a sentiment which you were conscious I should disapprove.
Come hither to me, my Child.”

Antonia quitted her embroidery frame, threw herself upon her knees by
the Sopha, and hid her face in her Mother’s lap.

“Fear not, my sweet Girl! Consider me equally as your Friend and
Parent, and apprehend no reproof from me. I have read the emotions of
your bosom; you are yet ill-skilled in concealing them, and they could
not escape my attentive eye. This Lorenzo is dangerous to your repose;
He has already made an impression upon your heart. ’Tis true that I
perceive easily that your affection is returned; But what can be the
consequences of this attachment? You are poor and friendless, my
Antonia; Lorenzo is the Heir of the Duke of Medina Celi. Even should
Himself mean honourably, his Uncle never will consent to your union;
Nor without that Uncle’s consent, will I. By sad experience I know what
sorrows She must endure, who marries into a family unwilling to receive
her. Then struggle with your affection: Whatever pains it may cost you,
strive to conquer it. Your heart is tender and susceptible: It has
already received a strong impression; But when once convinced that you
should not encourage such sentiments, I trust, that you have sufficient
fortitude to drive them from your bosom.”

Antonia kissed her hand, and promised implicit obedience. Elvira then
continued.

“To prevent your passion from growing stronger, it will be needful to
prohibit Lorenzo’s visits. The service which He has rendered me permits
not my forbidding them positively; But unless I judge too favourably of
his character, He will discontinue them without taking offence, if I
confess to him my reasons, and throw myself entirely on his generosity.
The next time that I see him, I will honestly avow to him the
embarrassment which his presence occasions. How say you, my Child? Is
not this measure necessary?”

Antonia subscribed to every thing without hesitation, though not
without regret. Her Mother kissed her affectionately, and retired to
bed. Antonia followed her example, and vowed so frequently never more
to think of Lorenzo, that till Sleep closed her eyes She thought of
nothing else.

While this was passing at Elvira’s, Lorenzo hastened to rejoin the
Marquis. Every thing was ready for the second elopement of Agnes; and
at twelve the two Friends with a Coach and four were at the Garden wall
of the Convent. Don Raymond drew out his Key, and unlocked the door.
They entered, and waited for some time in expectation of being joined
by Agnes. At length the Marquis grew impatient: Beginning to fear that
his second attempt would succeed no better than the first, He proposed
to reconnoitre the Convent. The Friends advanced towards it. Every
thing was still and dark. The Prioress was anxious to keep the story a
secret, fearing lest the crime of one of its members should bring
disgrace upon the whole community, or that the interposition of
powerful Relations should deprive her vengeance of its intended victim.
She took care therefore to give the Lover of Agnes no cause to suppose
that his design was discovered, and his Mistress on the point of
suffering the punishment of her fault. The same reason made her reject
the idea of arresting the unknown Seducer in the Garden; Such a
proceeding would have created much disturbance, and the disgrace of her
Convent would have been noised about Madrid. She contented herself with
confining Agnes closely; As to the Lover, She left him at liberty to
pursue his designs. What She had expected was the result. The Marquis
and Lorenzo waited in vain till the break of day: They then retired
without noise, alarmed at the failure of their plan, and ignorant of
the cause of its ill-success.

The next morning Lorenzo went to the Convent, and requested to see his
Sister. The Prioress appeared at the Grate with a melancholy
countenance: She informed him that for several days Agnes had appeared
much agitated; That She had been prest by the Nuns in vain to reveal
the cause, and apply to their tenderness for advice and consolation;
That She had obstinately persisted in concealing the cause of her
distress; But that on Thursday Evening it had produced so violent an
effect upon her constitution, that She had fallen ill, and was actually
confined to her bed. Lorenzo did not credit a syllable of this account:
He insisted upon seeing his Sister; If She was unable to come to the
Grate, He desired to be admitted to her Cell. The Prioress crossed
herself! She was shocked at the very idea of a Man’s profane eye
pervading the interior of her holy Mansion, and professed herself
astonished that Lorenzo could think of such a thing. She told him that
his request could not be granted; But that if He returned the next day,
She hoped that her beloved Daughter would then be sufficiently
recovered to join him at the Parlour grate.

With this answer Lorenzo was obliged to retire, unsatisfied and
trembling for his Sister’s safety.

He returned the next morning at an early hour. “Agnes was worse; The
Physician had pronounced her to be in imminent danger; She was ordered
to remain quiet, and it was utterly impossible for her to receive her
Brother’s visit.” Lorenzo stormed at this answer, but there was no
resource. He raved, He entreated, He threatened: No means were left
untried to obtain a sight of Agnes. His endeavours were as fruitless as
those of the day before, and He returned in despair to the Marquis. On
his side, the Latter had spared no pains to discover what had
occasioned his plot to fail: Don Christoval, to whom the affair was now
entrusted, endeavoured to worm out the secret from the Old Porteress of
St. Clare, with whom He had formed an acquaintance; But She was too
much upon her guard, and He gained from her no intelligence. The
Marquis was almost distracted, and Lorenzo felt scarcely less
inquietude. Both were convinced that the purposed elopement must have
been discovered: They doubted not but the malady of Agnes was a
pretence, But they knew not by what means to rescue her from the hands
of the Prioress.

Regularly every day did Lorenzo visit the Convent: As regularly was He
informed that his Sister rather grew worse than better. Certain that
her indisposition was feigned, these accounts did not alarm him: But
his ignorance of her fate, and of the motives which induced the
Prioress to keep her from him, excited the most serious uneasiness. He
was still uncertain what steps He ought to take, when the Marquis
received a letter from the Cardinal-Duke of Lerma. It inclosed the
Pope’s expected Bull, ordering that Agnes should be released from her
vows, and restored to her Relations. This essential paper decided at
once the proceedings of her Friends: They resolved that Lorenzo should
carry it to the Domina without delay, and demand that his Sister should
be instantly given up to him. Against this mandate illness could not be
pleaded: It gave her Brother the power of removing her instantly to the
Palace de Medina, and He determined to use that power on the following
day.

His mind relieved from inquietude respecting his Sister, and his
Spirits raised by the hope of soon restoring her to freedom, He now had
time to give a few moments to love and to Antonia. At the same hour as
on his former visit He repaired to Donna Elvira’s: She had given orders
for his admission. As soon as He was announced, her Daughter retired
with Leonella, and when He entered the chamber, He found the Lady of
the House alone. She received him with less distance than before, and
desired him to place himself near her upon the Sopha. She then without
losing time opened her business, as had been agreed between herself and
Antonia.

“You must not think me ungrateful, Don Lorenzo, or forgetful how
essential are the services which you have rendered me with the Marquis.
I feel the weight of my obligations; Nothing under the Sun should
induce my taking the step to which I am now compelled but the interest
of my Child, of my beloved Antonia. My health is declining; God only
knows how soon I may be summoned before his Throne. My Daughter will be
left without Parents, and should She lose the protection of the
Cisternas family, without Friends.

She is young and artless, uninstructed in the world’s perfidy, and with
charms sufficient to render her an object of seduction. Judge then, how
I must tremble at the prospect before her! Judge how anxious I must be
to keep her from their society who may excite the yet dormant passions
of her bosom. You are amiable, Don Lorenzo: Antonia has a susceptible,
a loving heart, and is grateful for the favours conferred upon us by
your interference with the Marquis. Your presence makes me tremble: I
fear lest it should inspire her with sentiments which may embitter the
remainder of her life, or encourage her to cherish hopes in her
situation unjustifiable and futile. Pardon me when I avow my terrors,
and let my frankness plead in my excuse. I cannot forbid you my House,
for gratitude restrains me; I can only throw myself upon your
generosity, and entreat you to spare the feelings of an anxious, of a
doting Mother. Believe me when I assure you that I lament the necessity
of rejecting your acquaintance; But there is no remedy, and Antonia’s
interest obliges me to beg you to forbear your visits. By complying
with my request, you will increase the esteem which I already feel for
you, and of which everything convinces me that you are truly
deserving.”

“Your frankness charms me,” replied Lorenzo; “You shall find that in
your favourable opinion of me you were not deceived. Yet I hope that
the reasons, now in my power to allege, will persuade you to withdraw a
request which I cannot obey without infinite reluctance. I love your
Daughter, love her most sincerely: I wish for no greater happiness than
to inspire her with the same sentiments, and receive her hand at the
Altar as her Husband. ’Tis true, I am not rich myself; My Father’s
death has left me but little in my own possession; But my expectations
justify my pretending to the Condé de las Cisternas’ Daughter.”

He was proceeding, but Elvira interrupted him.

“Ah! Don Lorenzo, you forget in that pompous title the meanness of my
origin. You forget that I have now past fourteen years in Spain,
disavowed by my Husband’s family, and existing upon a stipend barely
sufficient for the support and education of my Daughter. Nay, I have
even been neglected by most of my own Relations, who out of envy affect
to doubt the reality of my marriage. My allowance being discontinued at
my Father-in-law’s death, I was reduced to the very brink of want. In
this situation I was found by my Sister, who amongst all her foibles
possesses a warm, generous, and affectionate heart. She aided me with
the little fortune which my Father left her, persuaded me to visit
Madrid, and has supported my Child and myself since our quitting
Murcia. Then consider not Antonia as descended from the Condé de la
Cisternas: Consider her as a poor and unprotected Orphan, as the
Grand-child of the Tradesman Torribio Dalfa, as the needy Pensioner of
that Tradesman’s Daughter. Reflect upon the difference between such a
situation, and that of the Nephew and Heir of the potent Duke of
Medina. I believe your intentions to be honourable; But as there are no
hopes that your Uncle will approve of the union, I foresee that the
consequences of your attachment must be fatal to my Child’s repose.”

“Pardon me, Segnora; You are misinformed if you suppose the Duke of
Medina to resemble the generality of Men. His sentiments are liberal
and disinterested: He loves me well; and I have no reason to dread his
forbidding the marriage when He perceives that my happiness depends
upon Antonia. But supposing him to refuse his sanction, what have I
still to fear? My Parents are no more; My little fortune is in my own
possession: It will be sufficient to support Antonia, and I shall
exchange for her hand Medina’s Dukedom without one sigh of regret.”

“You are young and eager; It is natural for you to entertain such
ideas. But Experience has taught me to my cost that curses accompany an
unequal alliance. I married the Condé de las Cisternas in opposition to
the will of his Relations; Many an heart-pang has punished me for the
imprudent step. Whereever we bent our course, a Father’s execration
pursued Gonzalvo. Poverty overtook us, and no Friend was near to
relieve our wants. Still our mutual affection existed, but alas! not
without interruption.

Accustomed to wealth and ease, ill could my Husband support the
transition to distress and indigence. He looked back with repining to
the comforts which He once enjoyed. He regretted the situation which
for my sake He had quitted; and in moments when Despair possessed his
mind, has reproached me with having made him the Companion of want and
wretchedness! He has called me his bane! The source of his sorrows, the
cause of his destruction! Ah God! He little knew how much keener were
my own heart’s reproaches! He was ignorant that I suffered trebly, for
myself, for my Children, and for him! ’Tis true that his anger seldom
lasted long: His sincere affection for me soon revived in his heart;
and then his repentance for the tears which He had made me shed
tortured me even more than his reproaches. He would throw himself on
the ground, implore my forgiveness in the most frantic terms, and load
himself with curses for being the Murderer of my repose. Taught by
experience that an union contracted against the inclinations of
families on either side must be unfortunate, I will save my Daughter
from those miseries which I have suffered. Without your Uncle’s
consent, while I live, She never shall be yours. Undoubtedly He will
disapprove of the union; His power is immense, and Antonia shall not be
exposed to his anger and persecution.”

“His persecution? How easily may that be avoided! Let the worst happen,
it is but quitting Spain. My wealth may easily be realised; The Indian
Islands will offer us a secure retreat; I have an estate, though not of
value, in Hispaniola: Thither will we fly, and I shall consider it to
be my native Country, if it gives me Antonia’s undisturbed possession.”

“Ah! Youth, this is a fond romantic vision. Gonzalvo thought the same.
He fancied that He could leave Spain without regret; But the moment of
parting undeceived him. You know not yet what it is to quit your native
land; to quit it, never to behold it more!

You know not, what it is to exchange the scenes where you have passed
your infancy, for unknown realms and barbarous climates! To be
forgotten, utterly eternally forgotten, by the Companions of your
Youth! To see your dearest Friends, the fondest objects of your
affection, perishing with diseases incidental to Indian atmospheres,
and find yourself unable to procure for them necessary assistance! I
have felt all this! My Husband and two sweet Babes found their Graves
in Cuba: Nothing would have saved my young Antonia but my sudden return
to Spain. Ah! Don Lorenzo, could you conceive what I suffered during my
absence! Could you know how sorely I regretted all that I left behind,
and how dear to me was the very name of Spain! I envied the winds which
blew towards it: And when the Spanish Sailor chaunted some well-known
air as He past my window, tears filled my eyes while I thought upon my
native land. Gonzalvo too ... My Husband ...”.

Elvira paused. Her voice faltered, and She concealed her face with her
handkerchief. After a short silence She rose from the Sopha, and
proceeded.

“Excuse my quitting you for a few moments: The remembrance of what I
have suffered has much agitated me, and I need to be alone. Till I
return peruse these lines. After my Husband’s death I found them among
his papers; Had I known sooner that He entertained such sentiments,
Grief would have killed me. He wrote these verses on his voyage to
Cuba, when his mind was clouded by sorrow, and He forgot that He had a
Wife and Children.

What we are losing, ever seems to us the most precious: Gonzalvo was
quitting Spain for ever, and therefore was Spain dearer to his eyes
than all else which the World contained. Read them, Don Lorenzo; They
will give you some idea of the feelings of a banished Man!”

Elvira put a paper into Lorenzo’s hand, and retired from the chamber.
The Youth examined the contents, and found them to be as follows.

THE EXILE


Farewell, Oh! native Spain! Farewell for ever!
    These banished eyes shall view thy coasts no more;
A mournful presage tells my heart, that never
    Gonzalvo’s steps again shall press thy shore.

Hushed are the winds; While soft the Vessel sailing
    With gentle motion plows the unruffled Main,
I feel my bosom’s boasted courage failing,
    And curse the waves which bear me far from Spain.

I see it yet! Beneath yon blue clear Heaven
    Still do the Spires, so well beloved, appear;
From yonder craggy point the gale of Even
    Still wafts my native accents to mine ear:

Propped on some moss-crowned Rock, and gaily singing,
    There in the Sun his nets the Fisher dries;
Oft have I heard the plaintive Ballad, bringing
    Scenes of past joys before my sorrowing eyes.

Ah! Happy Swain! He waits the accustomed hour,
    When twilight-gloom obscures the closing sky;
Then gladly seeks his loved paternal bower,
    And shares the feast his native fields supply:

Friendship and Love, his Cottage Guests, receive him
    With honest welcome and with smile sincere;
No threatening woes of present joys bereave him,
    No sigh his bosom owns, his cheek no tear.

Ah! Happy Swain! Such bliss to me denying,
    Fortune thy lot with envy bids me view;
Me, who from home and Spain an Exile flying,
    Bid all I value, all I love, adieu.

No more mine ear shall list the well-known ditty
    Sung by some Mountain-Girl, who tends her Goats,
Some Village-Swain imploring amorous pity,
    Or Shepherd chaunting wild his rustic notes:

No more my arms a Parent’s fond embraces,
    No more my heart domestic calm, must know;
Far from these joys, with sighs which Memory traces,
    To sultry skies, and distant climes I go.

Where Indian Suns engender new diseases,
    Where snakes and tigers breed, I bend my way
To brave the feverish thirst no art appeases,
    The yellow plague, and madding blaze of day:

But not to feel slow pangs consume my liver,
    To die by piece-meal in the bloom of age,
My boiling blood drank by insatiate fever,
    And brain delirious with the day-star’s rage,

Can make me know such grief, as thus to sever
    With many a bitter sigh, Dear Land, from Thee;
To feel this heart must doat on thee for ever,
    And feel, that all thy joys are torn from me!

Ah me! How oft will Fancy’s spells in slumber
    Recall my native Country to my mind!
How oft regret will bid me sadly number
    Each lost delight and dear Friend left behind!

Wild Murcia’s Vales, and loved romantic bowers,
    The River on whose banks a Child I played,
My Castle’s antient Halls, its frowning Towers,
    Each much-regretted wood, and well-known Glade,

Dreams of the land where all my wishes centre,
    Thy scenes, which I am doomed no more to know,
Full oft shall Memory trace, my soul’s Tormentor,
    And turn each pleasure past to present woe.

But Lo! The Sun beneath the waves retires;
    Night speeds apace her empire to restore:
Clouds from my sight obscure the village-spires,
    Now seen but faintly, and now seen no more.

Oh! breathe not, Winds! Still be the Water’s motion!
    Sleep, sleep, my Bark, in silence on the Main!
So when to-morrow’s light shall gild the Ocean,
    Once more mine eyes shall see the coast of Spain.

Vain is the wish! My last petition scorning,
    Fresh blows the Gale, and high the Billows swell:
Far shall we be before the break of Morning;
    Oh! then for ever, native Spain, farewell!


Lorenzo had scarcely time to read these lines, when Elvira returned to
him: The giving a free course to her tears had relieved her, and her
spirits had regained their usual composure.

“I have nothing more to say, my Lord,” said She; “You have heard my
apprehensions, and my reasons for begging you not to repeat your
visits. I have thrown myself in full confidence upon your honour: I am
certain that you will not prove my opinion of you to have been too
favourable.”

“But one question more, Segnora, and I leave you. Should the Duke of
Medina approve my love, would my addresses be unacceptable to yourself
and the fair Antonia?”

“I will be open with you, Don Lorenzo: There being little probability
of such an union taking place, I fear that it is desired but too
ardently by my Daughter. You have made an impression upon her young
heart, which gives me the most serious alarm: To prevent that
impression from growing stronger, I am obliged to decline your
acquaintance. For me, you may be sure that I should rejoice at
establishing my Child so advantageously. Conscious that my
constitution, impaired by grief and illness, forbids me to expect a
long continuance in this world, I tremble at the thought of leaving her
under the protection of a perfect Stranger. The Marquis de las
Cisternas is totally unknown to me:

He will marry; His Lady may look upon Antonia with an eye of
displeasure, and deprive her of her only Friend. Should the Duke, your
Uncle, give his consent, you need not doubt obtaining mine, and my
Daughter’s: But without his, hope not for ours. At all events, what
ever steps you may take, what ever may be the Duke’s decision, till you
know it let me beg your forbearing to strengthen by your presence
Antonia’s prepossession. If the sanction of your Relations authorises
your addressing her as your Wife, my Doors fly open to you: If that
sanction is refused, be satisfied to possess my esteem and gratitude,
but remember, that we must meet no more.”

Lorenzo promised reluctantly to conform to this decree: But He added
that He hoped soon to obtain that consent which would give him a claim
to the renewal of their acquaintance. He then explained to her why the
Marquis had not called in person, and made no scruple of confiding to
her his Sister’s History. He concluded by saying that He hoped to set
Agnes at liberty the next day; and that as soon as Don Raymond’s fears
were quieted upon this subject, He would lose no time in assuring Donna
Elvira of his friendship and protection.

The Lady shook her head.

“I tremble for your Sister,” said She; “I have heard many traits of the
Domina of St. Clare’s character, from a Friend who was educated in the
same Convent with her. She reported her to be haughty, inflexible,
superstitious, and revengeful. I have since heard that She is
infatuated with the idea of rendering her Convent the most regular in
Madrid, and never forgave those whose imprudence threw upon it the
slightest stain. Though naturally violent and severe, when her
interests require it, She well knows how to assume an appearance of
benignity. She leaves no means untried to persuade young Women of rank
to become Members of her Community: She is implacable when once
incensed, and has too much intrepidity to shrink at taking the most
rigorous measures for punishing the Offender. Doubtless, She will
consider your Sister’s quitting the Convent as a disgrace thrown upon
it: She will use every artifice to avoid obeying the mandate of his
Holiness, and I shudder to think that Donna Agnes is in the hands of
this dangerous Woman.”

Lorenzo now rose to take leave. Elvira gave him her hand at parting,
which He kissed respectfully; and telling her that He soon hoped for
the permission to salute that of Antonia, He returned to his Hotel. The
Lady was perfectly satisfied with the conversation which had past
between them. She looked forward with satisfaction to the prospect of
his becoming her Son-in-law; But Prudence bad her conceal from her
Daughter’s knowledge the flattering hopes which Herself now ventured to
entertain.

Scarcely was it day, and already Lorenzo was at the Convent of St.
Clare, furnished with the necessary mandate. The Nuns were at Matins.
He waited impatiently for the conclusion of the service, and at length
the Prioress appeared at the Parlour Grate. Agnes was demanded. The old
Lady replied, with a melancholy air, that the dear Child’s situation
grew hourly more dangerous; That the Physicians despaired of her life;
But that they had declared the only chance for her recovery to consist
in keeping her quiet, and not to permit those to approach her whose
presence was likely to agitate her. Not a word of all this was believed
by Lorenzo, any more than He credited the expressions of grief and
affection for Agnes, with which this account was interlarded. To end
the business, He put the Pope’s Bull into the hands of the Domina, and
insisted that, ill or in health, his Sister should be delivered to him
without delay.

The Prioress received the paper with an air of humility: But no sooner
had her eye glanced over the contents, than her resentment baffled all
the efforts of Hypocrisy. A deep crimson spread itself over her face,
and She darted upon Lorenzo looks of rage and menace.

“This order is positive,” said She in a voice of anger, which She in
vain strove to disguise; “Willingly would I obey it; But unfortunately
it is out of my power.”

Lorenzo interrupted her by an exclamation of surprize.

“I repeat it, Segnor; to obey this order is totally out of my power.
From tenderness to a Brother’s feelings, I would have communicated the
sad event to you by degrees, and have prepared you to hear it with
fortitude. My measures are broken through: This order commands me to
deliver up to you the Sister Agnes without delay; I am therefore
obliged to inform you without circumlocution, that on Friday last, She
expired.”

Lorenzo started back with horror, and turned pale. A moment’s
recollection convinced him that this assertion must be false, and it
restored him to himself.

“You deceive me!” said He passionately; “But five minutes past since
you assured me that though ill She was still alive. Produce her this
instant! See her I must and will, and every attempt to keep her from me
will be unavailing.”

“You forget yourself, Segnor; You owe respect to my age as well as my
profession. Your Sister is no more. If I at first concealed her death,
it was from dreading lest an event so unexpected should produce on you
too violent an effect. In truth, I am but ill repaid for my attention.
And what interest, I pray you, should I have in detaining her? To know
her wish of quitting our society is a sufficient reason for me to wish
her absence, and think her a disgrace to the Sisterhood of St. Clare:
But She has forfeited my affection in a manner yet more culpable. Her
crimes were great, and when you know the cause of her death, you will
doubtless rejoice, Don Lorenzo, that such a Wretch is no longer in
existence. She was taken ill on Thursday last on returning from
confession in the Capuchin Chapel. Her malady seemed attended with
strange circumstances; But She persisted in concealing its cause:
Thanks to the Virgin, we were too ignorant to suspect it! Judge then
what must have been our consternation, our horror, when She was
delivered the next day of a stillborn Child, whom She immediately
followed to the Grave. How, Segnor? Is it possible that your
countenance expresses no surprize, no indignation? Is it possible that
your Sister’s infamy was known to you, and that still She possessed
your affection? In that case, you have no need of my compassion. I can
say nothing more, except repeat my inability of obeying the orders of
his Holiness. Agnes is no more, and to convince you that what I say is
true, I swear by our blessed Saviour, that three days have past since
She was buried.”

Here She kissed a small crucifix which hung at her girdle. She then
rose from her chair, and quitted the Parlour. As She withdrew, She cast
upon Lorenzo a scornful smile.

“Farewell, Segnor,” said She; “I know no remedy for this accident: I
fear that even a second Bull from the Pope will not procure your
Sister’s resurrection.”

Lorenzo also retired, penetrated with affliction: But Don Raymond’s at
the news of this event amounted to Madness. He would not be convinced
that Agnes was really dead, and continued to insist that the Walls of
St. Clare still confined her. No arguments could make him abandon his
hopes of regaining her: Every day some fresh scheme was invented for
procuring intelligence of her, and all of them were attended with the
same success.

On his part, Medina gave up the idea of ever seeing his Sister more:
Yet He believed that She had been taken off by unfair means. Under this
persuasion, He encouraged Don Raymond’s researches, determined, should
He discover the least warrant for his suspicions, to take a severe
vengeance upon the unfeeling Prioress. The loss of his Sister affected
him sincerely; Nor was it the least cause of his distress that
propriety obliged him for some time to defer mentioning Antonia to the
Duke. In the meanwhile his emissaries constantly surrounded Elvira’s
Door. He had intelligence of all the movements of his Mistress: As She
never failed every Thursday to attend the Sermon in the Capuchin
Cathedral, He was secure of seeing her once a week, though in
compliance with his promise, He carefully shunned her observation. Thus
two long Months passed away. Still no information was procured of
Agnes: All but the Marquis credited her death; and now Lorenzo
determined to disclose his sentiments to his Uncle. He had already
dropt some hints of his intention to marry; They had been as favourably
received as He could expect, and He harboured no doubt of the success
of his application.



CHAPTER VI.


While in each other’s arms entranced They lay,
They blessed the night, and curst the coming day.

LEE.

The burst of transport was past: Ambrosio’s lust was satisfied;
Pleasure fled, and Shame usurped her seat in his bosom. Confused and
terrified at his weakness, He drew himself from Matilda’s arms. His
perjury presented itself before him: He reflected on the scene which
had just been acted, and trembled at the consequences of a discovery.
He looked forward with horror; His heart was despondent, and became the
abode of satiety and disgust. He avoided the eyes of his Partner in
frailty; A melancholy silence prevailed, during which Both seemed
busied with disagreeable reflections.

Matilda was the first to break it. She took his hand gently, and
pressed it to her burning lips.

“Ambrosio!” She murmured in a soft and trembling voice.

The Abbot started at the sound. He turned his eyes upon Matilda’s: They
were filled with tears; Her cheeks were covered with blushes, and her
supplicating looks seemed to solicit his compassion.

“Dangerous Woman!” said He; “Into what an abyss of misery have you
plunged me! Should your sex be discovered, my honour, nay my life, must
pay for the pleasure of a few moments. Fool that I was, to trust myself
to your seductions! What can now be done? How can my offence be
expiated? What atonement can purchase the pardon of my crime? Wretched
Matilda, you have destroyed my quiet for ever!”

“To me these reproaches, Ambrosio? To me, who have sacrificed for you
the world’s pleasures, the luxury of wealth, the delicacy of sex, my
Friends, my fortune, and my fame? What have you lost, which I
preserved? Have _I_ not shared in _your_ guilt? Have _you_ not shared
in _my_ pleasure? Guilt, did I say? In what consists ours, unless in
the opinion of an ill-judging World? Let that World be ignorant of
them, and our joys become divine and blameless! Unnatural were your
vows of Celibacy; Man was not created for such a state; And were Love a
crime, God never would have made it so sweet, so irresistible! Then
banish those clouds from your brow, my Ambrosio! Indulge in those
pleasures freely, without which life is a worthless gift: Cease to
reproach me with having taught you what is bliss, and feel equal
transports with the Woman who adores you!”

As She spoke, her eyes were filled with a delicious languor. Her bosom
panted: She twined her arms voluptuously round him, drew him towards
her, and glewed her lips to his. Ambrosio again raged with desire: The
die was thrown: His vows were already broken; He had already committed
the crime, and why should He refrain from enjoying its reward? He
clasped her to his breast with redoubled ardour. No longer repressed by
the sense of shame, He gave a loose to his intemperate appetites. While
the fair Wanton put every invention of lust in practice, every
refinement in the art of pleasure which might heighten the bliss of her
possession, and render her Lover’s transports still more exquisite,
Ambrosio rioted in delights till then unknown to him: Swift fled the
night, and the Morning blushed to behold him still clasped in the
embraces of Matilda.

Intoxicated with pleasure, the Monk rose from the Syren’s luxurious
Couch. He no longer reflected with shame upon his incontinence, or
dreaded the vengeance of offended heaven. His only fear was lest Death
should rob him of enjoyments, for which his long Fast had only given a
keener edge to his appetite. Matilda was still under the influence of
poison, and the voluptuous Monk trembled less for his Preserver’s life
than his Concubine’s. Deprived of her, He would not easily find another
Mistress with whom He could indulge his passions so fully, and so
safely. He therefore pressed her with earnestness to use the means of
preservation which She had declared to be in her possession.

“Yes!” replied Matilda; “Since you have made me feel that Life is
valuable, I will rescue mine at any rate. No dangers shall appall me: I
will look upon the consequences of my action boldly, nor shudder at the
horrors which they present. I will think my sacrifice scarcely worthy
to purchase your possession, and remember that a moment past in your
arms in this world o’er-pays an age of punishment in the next. But
before I take this step, Ambrosio, give me your solemn oath never to
enquire by what means I shall preserve myself.”

He did so in a manner the most binding.

“I thank you, my Beloved. This precaution is necessary, for though you
know it not, you are under the command of vulgar prejudices: The
Business on which I must be employed this night, might startle you from
its singularity, and lower me in your opinion. Tell me; Are you
possessed of the Key of the low door on the western side of the
Garden?”

“The Door which opens into the burying-ground common to us and the
Sisterhood of St. Clare? I have not the Key, but can easily procure
it.”

“You have only this to do. Admit me into the burying-ground at
midnight; Watch while I descend into the vaults of St. Clare, lest some
prying eye should observe my actions; Leave me there alone for an hour,
and that life is safe which I dedicate to your pleasures. To prevent
creating suspicion, do not visit me during the day. Remember the Key,
and that I expect you before twelve. Hark! I hear steps approaching!
Leave me; I will pretend to sleep.”

The Friar obeyed, and left the Cell. As He opened the door, Father
Pablos made his appearance.

“I come,” said the Latter, “to enquire after the health of my young
Patient.”

“Hush!” replied Ambrosio, laying his finger upon his lip; “Speak
softly; I am just come from him. He has fallen into a profound slumber,
which doubtless will be of service to him. Do not disturb him at
present, for He wishes to repose.”

Father Pablos obeyed, and hearing the Bell ring, accompanied the Abbot
to Matins. Ambrosio felt embarrassed as He entered the Chapel. Guilt
was new to him, and He fancied that every eye could read the
transactions of the night upon his countenance. He strove to pray; His
bosom no longer glowed with devotion; His thoughts insensibly wandered
to Matilda’s secret charms. But what He wanted in purity of heart, He
supplied by exterior sanctity. The better to cloak his transgression,
He redoubled his pretensions to the semblance of virtue, and never
appeared more devoted to Heaven as since He had broken through his
engagements. Thus did He unconsciously add Hypocrisy to perjury and
incontinence; He had fallen into the latter errors from yielding to
seduction almost irresistible; But he was now guilty of a voluntary
fault by endeavouring to conceal those into which Another had betrayed
him.

The Matins concluded, Ambrosio retired to his Cell. The pleasures which
He had just tasted for the first time were still impressed upon his
mind. His brain was bewildered, and presented a confused Chaos of
remorse, voluptuousness, inquietude, and fear. He looked back with
regret to that peace of soul, that security of virtue, which till then
had been his portion. He had indulged in excesses whose very idea but
four and twenty hours before He had recoiled at with horror. He
shuddered at reflecting that a trifling indiscretion on his part, or on
Matilda’s, would overturn that fabric of reputation which it had cost
him thirty years to erect, and render him the abhorrence of that People
of whom He was then the Idol. Conscience painted to him in glaring
colours his perjury and weakness; Apprehension magnified to him the
horrors of punishment, and He already fancied himself in the prisons of
the Inquisition. To these tormenting ideas succeeded Matilda’s beauty,
and those delicious lessons which, once learnt, can never be forgotten.
A single glance thrown upon these reconciled him with himself. He
considered the pleasures of the former night to have been purchased at
an easy price by the sacrifice of innocence and honour. Their very
remembrance filled his soul with ecstacy; He cursed his foolish vanity,
which had induced him to waste in obscurity the bloom of life, ignorant
of the blessings of Love and Woman. He determined at all events to
continue his commerce with Matilda, and called every argument to his
aid which might confirm his resolution. He asked himself, provided his
irregularity was unknown, in what would his fault consist, and what
consequences He had to apprehend? By adhering strictly to every rule of
his order save Chastity, He doubted not to retain the esteem of Men,
and even the protection of heaven. He trusted easily to be forgiven so
slight and natural a deviation from his vows: But He forgot that having
pronounced those vows, Incontinence, in Laymen the most venial of
errors, became in his person the most heinous of crimes.

Once decided upon his future conduct, his mind became more easy. He
threw himself upon his bed, and strove by sleeping to recruit his
strength exhausted by his nocturnal excesses. He awoke refreshed, and
eager for a repetition of his pleasures. Obedient to Matilda’s order,
He visited not her Cell during the day. Father Pablos mentioned in the
Refectory that Rosario had at length been prevailed upon to follow his
prescription; But that the medicine had not produced the slightest
effect, and that He believed no mortal skill could rescue him from the
Grave. With this opinion the Abbot agreed, and affected to lament the
untimely fate of a Youth, whose talents had appeared so promising.

The night arrived. Ambrosio had taken care to procure from the Porter
the Key of the low door opening into the Cemetery. Furnished with this,
when all was silent in the Monastery, He quitted his Cell, and hastened
to Matilda’s. She had left her bed, and was drest before his arrival.

“I have been expecting you with impatience,” said She; “My life depends
upon these moments. Have you the Key?”

“I have.”

“Away then to the garden. We have no time to lose. Follow me!”

She took a small covered Basket from the Table. Bearing this in one
hand, and the Lamp, which was flaming upon the Hearth, in the other,
She hastened from the Cell. Ambrosio followed her. Both maintained a
profound silence. She moved on with quick but cautious steps, passed
through the Cloisters, and reached the Western side of the Garden. Her
eyes flashed with a fire and wildness which impressed the Monk at once
with awe and horror. A determined desperate courage reigned upon her
brow. She gave the Lamp to Ambrosio; Then taking from him the Key, She
unlocked the low Door, and entered the Cemetery. It was a vast and
spacious Square planted with yew trees: Half of it belonged to the
Abbey; The other half was the property of the Sisterhood of St. Clare,
and was protected by a roof of Stone. The Division was marked by an
iron railing, the wicket of which was generally left unlocked.

Thither Matilda bent her course. She opened the wicket and sought for
the door leading to the subterraneous Vaults, where reposed the
mouldering Bodies of the Votaries of St. Clare. The night was perfectly
dark; Neither Moon or Stars were visible. Luckily there was not a
breath of Wind, and the Friar bore his Lamp in full security: By the
assistance of its beams, the door of the Sepulchre was soon discovered.
It was sunk within the hollow of a wall, and almost concealed by thick
festoons of ivy hanging over it. Three steps of rough-hewn Stone
conducted to it, and Matilda was on the point of descending them when
She suddenly started back.

“There are People in the Vaults!” She whispered to the Monk; “Conceal
yourself till they are past.

She took refuge behind a lofty and magnificent Tomb, erected in honour
of the Convent’s Foundress. Ambrosio followed her example, carefully
hiding his Lamp lest its beams should betray them. But a few moments
had elapsed when the Door was pushed open leading to the subterraneous
Caverns. Rays of light proceeded up the Staircase: They enabled the
concealed Spectators to observe two Females drest in religious habits,
who seemed engaged in earnest conversation. The Abbot had no difficulty
to recognize the Prioress of St. Clare in the first, and one of the
elder Nuns in her Companion.

“Every thing is prepared,” said the Prioress; “Her fate shall be
decided tomorrow. All her tears and sighs will be unavailing. No! In
five and twenty years that I have been Superior of this Convent, never
did I witness a transaction more infamous!”

“You must expect much opposition to your will;” the Other replied in a
milder voice; “Agnes has many Friends in the Convent, and in particular
the Mother St. Ursula will espouse her cause most warmly. In truth, She
merits to have Friends; and I wish I could prevail upon you to consider
her youth, and her peculiar situation. She seems sensible of her fault;
The excess of her grief proves her penitence, and I am convinced that
her tears flow more from contrition than fear of punishment. Reverend
Mother, would you be persuaded to mitigate the severity of your
sentence, would you but deign to overlook this first transgression, I
offer myself as the pledge of her future conduct.”

“Overlook it, say you? Mother Camilla, you amaze me! What? After
disgracing me in the presence of Madrid’s Idol, of the very Man on whom
I most wished to impress an idea of the strictness of my discipline?
How despicable must I have appeared to the reverend Abbot! No, Mother,
No! I never can forgive the insult. I cannot better convince Ambrosio
that I abhor such crimes, than by punishing that of Agnes with all the
rigour of which our severe laws admit. Cease then your supplications;
They will all be unavailing. My resolution is taken: Tomorrow Agnes
shall be made a terrible example of my justice and resentment.”

The Mother Camilla seemed not to give up the point, but by this time
the Nuns were out of hearing. The Prioress unlocked the door which
communicated with St. Clare’s Chapel, and having entered with her
Companion, closed it again after them.

Matilda now asked, who was this Agnes with whom the Prioress was thus
incensed, and what connexion She could have with Ambrosio. He related
her adventure; and He added, that since that time his ideas having
undergone a thorough revolution, He now felt much compassion for the
unfortunate Nun.

“I design,” said He, “to request an audience of the Domina tomorrow,
and use every means of obtaining a mitigation of her sentence.”

“Beware of what you do!” interrupted Matilda; “Your sudden change of
sentiment may naturally create surprize, and may give birth to
suspicions which it is most our interest to avoid. Rather, redouble
your outward austerity, and thunder out menaces against the errors of
others, the better to conceal your own. Abandon the Nun to her fate.
Your interfering might be dangerous, and her imprudence merits to be
punished: She is unworthy to enjoy Love’s pleasures, who has not wit
enough to conceal them. But in discussing this trifling subject I waste
moments which are precious. The night flies apace, and much must be
done before morning. The Nuns are retired; All is safe. Give me the
Lamp, Ambrosio. I must descend alone into these Caverns: Wait here, and
if any one approaches, warn me by your voice; But as you value your
existence, presume not to follow me. Your life would fall a victim to
your imprudent curiosity.”

Thus saying She advanced towards the Sepulchre, still holding her Lamp
in one hand, and her little Basket in the other. She touched the door:
It turned slowly upon its grating hinges, and a narrow winding
staircase of black marble presented itself to her eyes. She descended
it. Ambrosio remained above, watching the faint beams of the Lamp as
they still proceeded up the stairs. They disappeared, and He found
himself in total darkness.

Left to himself He could not reflect without surprize on the sudden
change in Matilda’s character and sentiments. But a few days had past
since She appeared the mildest and softest of her sex, devoted to his
will, and looking up to him as to a superior Being. Now She assumed a
sort of courage and manliness in her manners and discourse but
ill-calculated to please him. She spoke no longer to insinuate, but
command: He found himself unable to cope with her in argument, and was
unwillingly obliged to confess the superiority of her judgment. Every
moment convinced him of the astonishing powers of her mind: But what
She gained in the opinion of the Man, She lost with interest in the
affection of the Lover. He regretted Rosario, the fond, the gentle, and
submissive: He grieved that Matilda preferred the virtues of his sex to
those of her own; and when He thought of her expressions respecting the
devoted Nun, He could not help blaming them as cruel and unfeminine.
Pity is a sentiment so natural, so appropriate to the female character,
that it is scarcely a merit for a Woman to possess it, but to be
without it is a grievous crime. Ambrosio could not easily forgive his
Mistress for being deficient in this amiable quality. However, though
he blamed her insensibility, He felt the truth of her observations; and
though He pitied sincerely the unfortunate Agnes, He resolved to drop
the idea of interposing in her behalf.

Near an hour had elapsed, since Matilda descended into the Caverns;
Still She returned not. Ambrosio’s curiosity was excited. He drew near
the Staircase. He listened. All was silent, except that at intervals He
caught the sound of Matilda’s voice, as it wound along the
subterraneous passages, and was re-echoed by the Sepulchre’s vaulted
roofs. She was at too great a distance for him to distinguish her
words, and ere they reached him they were deadened into a low murmur.
He longed to penetrate into this mystery. He resolved to disobey her
injunctions and follow her into the Cavern. He advanced to the
Staircase; He had already descended some steps when his courage failed
him. He remembered Matilda’s menaces if He infringed her orders, and
his bosom was filled with a secret unaccountable awe. He returned up
the stairs, resumed his former station, and waited impatiently for the
conclusion of this adventure.

Suddenly He was sensible of a violent shock: An earthquake rocked the
ground. The Columns which supported the roof under which He stood were
so strongly shaken, that every moment menaced him with its fall, and at
the same moment He heard a loud and tremendous burst of thunder. It
ceased, and his eyes being fixed upon the Staircase, He saw a bright
column of light flash along the Caverns beneath. It was seen but for an
instant. No sooner did it disappear, than all was once more quiet and
obscure. Profound Darkness again surrounded him, and the silence of
night was only broken by the whirring Bat, as She flitted slowly by
him.

With every instant Ambrosio’s amazement increased. Another hour
elapsed, after which the same light again appeared and was lost again
as suddenly. It was accompanied by a strain of sweet but solemn Music,
which as it stole through the Vaults below, inspired the Monk with
mingled delight and terror. It had not long been hushed, when He heard
Matilda’s steps upon the Staircase. She ascended from the Cavern; The
most lively joy animated her beautiful features.

“Did you see any thing?” She asked.

“Twice I saw a column of light flash up the Staircase.”

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing.”

“The Morning is on the point of breaking. Let us retire to the Abbey,
lest daylight should betray us.”

With a light step She hastened from the burying-ground. She regained
her Cell, and the curious Abbot still accompanied her. She closed the
door, and disembarrassed herself of her Lamp and Basket.

“I have succeeded!” She cried, throwing herself upon his bosom:
“Succeeded beyond my fondest hopes! I shall live, Ambrosio, shall live
for you! The step which I shuddered at taking proves to me a source of
joys inexpressible! Oh! that I dared communicate those joys to you! Oh!
that I were permitted to share with you my power, and raise you as high
above the level of your sex, as one bold deed has exalted me above
mine!”

“And what prevents you, Matilda?” interrupted the Friar; “Why is your
business in the Cavern made a secret? Do you think me undeserving of
your confidence? Matilda, I must doubt the truth of your affection,
while you have joys in which I am forbidden to share.”

“You reproach me with injustice. I grieve sincerely that I am obliged
to conceal from you my happiness. But I am not to blame: The fault lies
not in me, but in yourself, my Ambrosio! You are still too much the
Monk. Your mind is enslaved by the prejudices of Education; And
Superstition might make you shudder at the idea of that which
experience has taught me to prize and value. At present you are unfit
to be trusted with a secret of such importance: But the strength of
your judgment; and the curiosity which I rejoice to see sparkling in
your eyes, makes me hope that you will one day deserve my confidence.
Till that period arrives, restrain your impatience. Remember that you
have given me your solemn oath never to enquire into this night’s
adventures. I insist upon your keeping this oath: For though” She added
smiling, while She sealed his lips with a wanton kiss; “Though I
forgive your breaking your vows to heaven, I expect you to keep your
vows to me.”

The Friar returned the embrace which had set his blood on fire. The
luxurious and unbounded excesses of the former night were renewed, and
they separated not till the Bell rang for Matins.

The same pleasures were frequently repeated. The Monks rejoiced in the
feigned Rosario’s unexpected recovery, and none of them suspected his
real sex. The Abbot possessed his Mistress in tranquillity, and
perceiving his frailty unsuspected, abandoned himself to his passions
in full security. Shame and remorse no longer tormented him. Frequent
repetitions made him familiar with sin, and his bosom became proof
against the stings of Conscience. In these sentiments He was encouraged
by Matilda; But She soon was aware that She had satiated her Lover by
the unbounded freedom of her caresses. Her charms becoming accustomed
to him, they ceased to excite the same desires which at first they had
inspired. The delirium of passion being past, He had leisure to observe
every trifling defect: Where none were to be found, Satiety made him
fancy them. The Monk was glutted with the fullness of pleasure: A Week
had scarcely elapsed before He was wearied of his Paramour: His warm
constitution still made him seek in her arms the gratification of his
lust: But when the moment of passion was over, He quitted her with
disgust, and his humour, naturally inconstant, made him sigh
impatiently for variety.

Possession, which cloys Man, only increases the affection of Woman.
Matilda with every succeeding day grew more attached to the Friar.
Since He had obtained her favours, He was become dearer to her than
ever, and She felt grateful to him for the pleasures in which they had
equally been Sharers. Unfortunately as her passion grew ardent,
Ambrosio’s grew cold; The very marks of her fondness excited his
disgust, and its excess served to extinguish the flame which already
burned but feebly in his bosom. Matilda could not but remark that her
society seemed to him daily less agreeable: He was inattentive while
She spoke: her musical talents, which She possessed in perfection, had
lost the power of amusing him; Or if He deigned to praise them, his
compliments were evidently forced and cold. He no longer gazed upon her
with affection, or applauded her sentiments with a Lover’s partiality.
This Matilda well perceived, and redoubled her efforts to revive those
sentiments which He once had felt. She could not but fail, since He
considered as importunities the pains which She took to please him, and
was disgusted by the very means which She used to recall the Wanderer.
Still, however, their illicit Commerce continued: But it was clear that
He was led to her arms, not by love, but the cravings of brutal
appetite. His constitution made a Woman necessary to him, and Matilda
was the only one with whom He could indulge his passions safely: In
spite of her beauty, He gazed upon every other Female with more desire;
But fearing that his Hypocrisy should be made public, He confined his
inclinations to his own breast.

It was by no means his nature to be timid: But his education had
impressed his mind with fear so strongly, that apprehension was now
become part of his character. Had his Youth been passed in the world,
He would have shown himself possessed of many brilliant and manly
qualities. He was naturally enterprizing, firm, and fearless: He had a
Warrior’s heart, and He might have shone with splendour at the head of
an Army. There was no want of generosity in his nature: The Wretched
never failed to find in him a compassionate Auditor: His abilities were
quick and shining, and his judgment, vast, solid, and decisive. With
such qualifications He would have been an ornament to his Country: That
He possessed them, He had given proofs in his earliest infancy, and his
Parents had beheld his dawning virtues with the fondest delight and
admiration. Unfortunately, while yet a Child He was deprived of those
Parents. He fell into the power of a Relation whose only wish about him
was never to hear of him more; For that purpose He gave him in charge
to his Friend, the former Superior of the Capuchins. The Abbot, a very
Monk, used all his endeavours to persuade the Boy that happiness
existed not without the walls of a Convent. He succeeded fully. To
deserve admittance into the order of St. Francis was Ambrosio’s highest
ambition. His Instructors carefully repressed those virtues whose
grandeur and disinterestedness were ill-suited to the Cloister. Instead
of universal benevolence, He adopted a selfish partiality for his own
particular establishment: He was taught to consider compassion for the
errors of Others as a crime of the blackest dye: The noble frankness of
his temper was exchanged for servile humility; and in order to break
his natural spirit, the Monks terrified his young mind by placing
before him all the horrors with which Superstition could furnish them:
They painted to him the torments of the Damned in colours the most
dark, terrible, and fantastic, and threatened him at the slightest
fault with eternal perdition. No wonder that his imagination constantly
dwelling upon these fearful objects should have rendered his character
timid and apprehensive. Add to this, that his long absence from the
great world, and total unacquaintance with the common dangers of life,
made him form of them an idea far more dismal than the reality. While
the Monks were busied in rooting out his virtues and narrowing his
sentiments, they allowed every vice which had fallen to his share to
arrive at full perfection. He was suffered to be proud, vain,
ambitious, and disdainful: He was jealous of his Equals, and despised
all merit but his own: He was implacable when offended, and cruel in
his revenge. Still in spite of the pains taken to pervert them, his
natural good qualities would occasionally break through the gloom cast
over them so carefully:

At such times the contest for superiority between his real and acquired
character was striking and unaccountable to those unacquainted with his
original disposition. He pronounced the most severe sentences upon
Offenders, which, the moment after, Compassion induced him to mitigate:
He undertook the most daring enterprizes, which the fear of their
consequences soon obliged him to abandon: His inborn genius darted a
brilliant light upon subjects the most obscure; and almost
instantaneously his Superstition replunged them in darkness more
profound than that from which they had just been rescued. His Brother
Monks, regarding him as a Superior Being, remarked not this
contradiction in their Idol’s conduct. They were persuaded that what He
did must be right, and supposed him to have good reasons for changing
his resolutions. The fact was, that the different sentiments with which
Education and Nature had inspired him were combating in his bosom: It
remained for his passions, which as yet no opportunity had called into
play, to decide the victory. Unfortunately his passions were the very
worst Judges, to whom He could possibly have applied. His monastic
seclusion had till now been in his favour, since it gave him no room
for discovering his bad qualities. The superiority of his talents
raised him too far above his Companions to permit his being jealous of
them: His exemplary piety, persuasive eloquence, and pleasing manners
had secured him universal Esteem, and consequently He had no injuries
to revenge: His Ambition was justified by his acknowledged merit, and
his pride considered as no more than proper confidence. He never saw,
much less conversed with, the other sex: He was ignorant of the
pleasures in Woman’s power to bestow, and if He read in the course of
his studies

“That men were fond, he smiled, and wondered how!”


For a time, spare diet, frequent watching, and severe penance cooled
and represt the natural warmth of his constitution: But no sooner did
opportunity present itself, no sooner did He catch a glimpse of joys to
which He was still a Stranger, than Religion’s barriers were too feeble
to resist the overwhelming torrent of his desires. All impediments
yielded before the force of his temperament, warm, sanguine, and
voluptuous in the excess.

As yet his other passions lay dormant; But they only needed to be once
awakened, to display themselves with violence as great and
irresistible.

He continued to be the admiration of Madrid. The Enthusiasm created by
his eloquence seemed rather to increase than diminish.

Every Thursday, which was the only day when He appeared in public, the
Capuchin Cathedral was crowded with Auditors, and his discourse was
always received with the same approbation. He was named Confessor to
all the chief families in Madrid; and no one was counted fashionable
who was injoined penance by any other than Ambrosio. In his resolution
of never stirring out of his Convent, He still persisted. This
circumstance created a still greater opinion of his sanctity and
self-denial. Above all, the Women sang forth his praises loudly, less
influenced by devotion than by his noble countenance, majestic air, and
well-turned, graceful figure. The Abbey door was thronged with
Carriages from morning to night; and the noblest and fairest Dames of
Madrid confessed to the Abbot their secret peccadilloes.

The eyes of the luxurious Friar devoured their charms: Had his
Penitents consulted those Interpreters, He would have needed no other
means of expressing his desires. For his misfortune, they were so
strongly persuaded of his continence, that the possibility of his
harbouring indecent thoughts never once entered their imaginations. The
climate’s heat, ’tis well known, operates with no small influence upon
the constitutions of the Spanish Ladies: But the most abandoned would
have thought it an easier task to inspire with passion the marble
Statue of St. Francis than the cold and rigid heart of the immaculate
Ambrosio.

On his part, the Friar was little acquainted with the depravity of the
world; He suspected not that but few of his Penitents would have
rejected his addresses. Yet had He been better instructed on this head,
the danger attending such an attempt would have sealed up his lips in
silence. He knew that it would be difficult for a Woman to keep a
secret so strange and so important as his frailty; and He even trembled
lest Matilda should betray him. Anxious to preserve a reputation which
was infinitely dear to him, He saw all the risque of committing it to
the power of some vain giddy Female; and as the Beauties of Madrid
affected only his senses without touching his heart, He forgot them as
soon as they were out of his sight. The danger of discovery, the fear
of being repulsed, the loss of reputation, all these considerations
counselled him to stifle his desires: And though He now felt for it the
most perfect indifference, He was necessitated to confine himself to
Matilda’s person.

One morning, the confluence of Penitents was greater than usual. He was
detained in the Confessional Chair till a late hour. At length the
crowd was dispatched, and He prepared to quit the Chapel, when two
Females entered and drew near him with humility. They threw up their
veils, and the youngest entreated him to listen to her for a few
moments. The melody of her voice, of that voice to which no Man ever
listened without interest, immediately caught Ambrosio’s attention. He
stopped. The Petitioner seemed bowed down with affliction: Her cheeks
were pale, her eyes dimmed with tears, and her hair fell in disorder
over her face and bosom. Still her countenance was so sweet, so
innocent, so heavenly, as might have charmed an heart less susceptible,
than that which panted in the Abbot’s breast. With more than usual
softness of manner He desired her to proceed, and heard her speak as
follows with an emotion which increased every moment.

“Reverend Father, you see an Unfortunate, threatened with the loss of
her dearest, of almost her only Friend! My Mother, my excellent Mother
lies upon the bed of sickness. A sudden and dreadful malady seized her
last night; and so rapid has been its progress, that the Physicians
despair of her life. Human aid fails me; Nothing remains for me but to
implore the mercy of Heaven. Father, all Madrid rings with the report
of your piety and virtue. Deign to remember my Mother in your prayers:
Perhaps they may prevail on the Almighty to spare her; and should that
be the case, I engage myself every Thursday in the next three Months to
illuminate the Shrine of St. Francis in his honour.”

“So!” thought the Monk; “Here we have a second Vincentio della Ronda.
Rosario’s adventure began thus,” and He wished secretly that this might
have the same conclusion.

He acceded to the request. The Petitioner returned him thanks with
every mark of gratitude, and then continued.

“I have yet another favour to ask. We are Strangers in Madrid; My
Mother needs a Confessor, and knows not to whom She should apply. We
understand that you never quit the Abbey, and Alas! my poor Mother is
unable to come hither! If you would have the goodness, reverend Father,
to name a proper person, whose wise and pious consolations may soften
the agonies of my Parent’s deathbed, you will confer an everlasting
favour upon hearts not ungrateful.”

With this petition also the Monk complied. Indeed, what petition would
He have refused, if urged in such enchanting accents? The suppliant was
so interesting! Her voice was so sweet, so harmonious! Her very tears
became her, and her affliction seemed to add new lustre to her charms.
He promised to send to her a Confessor that same Evening, and begged
her to leave her address. The Companion presented him with a Card on
which it was written, and then withdrew with the fair Petitioner, who
pronounced before her departure a thousand benedictions on the Abbot’s
goodness. His eyes followed her out of the Chapel. It was not till She
was out of sight that He examined the Card, on which He read the
following words.

“Donna Elvira Dalfa, Strada di San Iago, four doors from the Palace
d’Albornos.”

The Suppliant was no other than Antonia, and Leonella was her
Companion. The Latter had not consented without difficulty to accompany
her Niece to the Abbey: Ambrosio had inspired her with such awe that
She trembled at the very sight of him. Her fears had conquered even her
natural loquacity, and while in his presence She uttered not a single
syllable.

The Monk retired to his Cell, whither He was pursued by Antonia’s
image. He felt a thousand new emotions springing in his bosom, and He
trembled to examine into the cause which gave them birth. They were
totally different from those inspired by Matilda, when She first
declared her sex and her affection. He felt not the provocation of
lust; No voluptuous desires rioted in his bosom; Nor did a burning
imagination picture to him the charms which Modesty had veiled from his
eyes. On the contrary, what He now felt was a mingled sentiment of
tenderness, admiration, and respect. A soft and delicious melancholy
infused itself into his soul, and He would not have exchanged it for
the most lively transports of joy. Society now disgusted him: He
delighted in solitude, which permitted his indulging the visions of
Fancy: His thoughts were all gentle, sad, and soothing, and the whole
wide world presented him with no other object than Antonia.

“Happy Man!” He exclaimed in his romantic enthusiasm; “Happy Man, who
is destined to possess the heart of that lovely Girl! What delicacy in
her features! What elegance in her form! How enchanting was the timid
innocence of her eyes, and how different from the wanton expression,
the wild luxurious fire which sparkles in Matilda’s! Oh! sweeter must
one kiss be snatched from the rosy lips of the First, than all the full
and lustful favours bestowed so freely by the Second. Matilda gluts me
with enjoyment even to loathing, forces me to her arms, apes the
Harlot, and glories in her prostitution. Disgusting! Did She know the
inexpressible charm of Modesty, how irresistibly it enthralls the heart
of Man, how firmly it chains him to the Throne of Beauty, She never
would have thrown it off. What would be too dear a price for this
lovely Girl’s affections? What would I refuse to sacrifice, could I be
released from my vows, and permitted to declare my love in the sight of
earth and heaven? While I strove to inspire her with tenderness, with
friendship and esteem, how tranquil and undisturbed would the hours
roll away! Gracious God! To see her blue downcast eyes beam upon mine
with timid fondness! To sit for days, for years listening to that
gentle voice! To acquire the right of obliging her, and hear the
artless expressions of her gratitude! To watch the emotions of her
spotless heart! To encourage each dawning virtue! To share in her joy
when happy, to kiss away her tears when distrest, and to see her fly to
my arms for comfort and support! Yes; If there is perfect bliss on
earth, ’tis his lot alone, who becomes that Angel’s Husband.”

While his fancy coined these ideas, He paced his Cell with a disordered
air. His eyes were fixed upon vacancy: His head reclined upon his
shoulder; A tear rolled down his cheek, while He reflected that the
vision of happiness for him could never be realized.

“She is lost to me!” He continued; “By marriage She cannot be mine: And
to seduce such innocence, to use the confidence reposed in me to work
her ruin.... Oh! it would be a crime, blacker than yet the world ever
witnessed! Fear not, lovely Girl! Your virtue runs no risque from me.
Not for Indies would I make that gentle bosom know the tortures of
remorse.”

Again He paced his chamber hastily. Then stopping, his eye fell upon
the picture of his once-admired Madona. He tore it with indignation
from the wall: He threw it on the ground, and spurned it from him with
his foot.

“The Prostitute!”

Unfortunate Matilda! Her Paramour forgot that for his sake alone She
had forfeited her claim to virtue; and his only reason for despising
her was that She had loved him much too well.

He threw himself into a Chair which stood near the Table. He saw the
card with Elvira’s address. He took it up, and it brought to his
recollection his promise respecting a Confessor. He passed a few
minutes in doubt: But Antonia’s Empire over him was already too much
decided to permit his making a long resistance to the idea which struck
him. He resolved to be the Confessor himself. He could leave the Abbey
unobserved without difficulty: By wrapping up his head in his Cowl He
hoped to pass through the Streets without being recognised: By taking
these precautions, and by recommending secrecy to Elvira’s family, He
doubted not to keep Madrid in ignorance that He had broken his vow
never to see the outside of the Abbey walls. Matilda was the only
person whose vigilance He dreaded: But by informing her at the
Refectory that during the whole of that day, Business would confine him
to his Cell, He thought himself secure from her wakeful jealousy.
Accordingly, at the hours when the Spaniards are generally taking their
Siesta, He ventured to quit the Abbey by a private door, the Key of
which was in his possession. The Cowl of his habit was thrown over his
face: From the heat of the weather the Streets were almost totally
deserted: The Monk met with few people, found the Strada di San Iago,
and arrived without accident at Donna Elvira’s door. He rang, was
admitted, and immediately ushered into an upper apartment.

It was here that He ran the greatest risque of a discovery. Had
Leonella been at home, She would have recognized him directly: Her
communicative disposition would never have permitted her to rest till
all Madrid was informed that Ambrosio had ventured out of the Abbey,
and visited her Sister. Fortune here stood the Monk’s Friend. On
Leonella’s return home, She found a letter instructing her that a
Cousin was just dead, who had left what little He possessed between
Herself and Elvira. To secure this bequest She was obliged to set out
for Cordova without losing a moment. Amidst all her foibles her heart
was truly warm and affectionate, and She was unwilling to quit her
Sister in so dangerous a state. But Elvira insisted upon her taking the
journey, conscious that in her Daughter’s forlorn situation no increase
of fortune, however trifling, ought to be neglected. Accordingly,
Leonella left Madrid, sincerely grieved at her Sister’s illness, and
giving some few sighs to the memory of the amiable but inconstant Don
Christoval. She was fully persuaded that at first She had made a
terrible breach in his heart: But hearing nothing more of him, She
supposed that He had quitted the pursuit, disgusted by the lowness of
her origin, and knowing upon other terms than marriage He had nothing
to hope from such a Dragon of Virtue as She professed herself; Or else,
that being naturally capricious and changeable, the remembrance of her
charms had been effaced from the Condé’s heart by those of some newer
Beauty. Whatever was the cause of her losing him, She lamented it
sorely. She strove in vain, as She assured every body who was kind
enough to listen to her, to tear his image from her too susceptible
heart. She affected the airs of a lovesick Virgin, and carried them all
to the most ridiculous excess. She heaved lamentable sighs, walked with
her arms folded, uttered long soliloquies, and her discourse generally
turned upon some forsaken Maid who expired of a broken heart! Her fiery
locks were always ornamented with a garland of willow; Every evening
She was seen straying upon the Banks of a rivulet by Moonlight; and She
declared herself a violent Admirer of murmuring Streams and
Nightingales;

“Of lonely haunts, and twilight Groves,
“Places which pale Passion loves!”


Such was the state of Leonella’s mind, when obliged to quit Madrid.
Elvira was out of patience at all these follies, and endeavoured at
persuading her to act like a reasonable Woman. Her advice was thrown
away: Leonella assured her at parting that nothing could make her
forget the perfidious Don Christoval. In this point She was fortunately
mistaken. An honest Youth of Cordova, Journeyman to an Apothecary,
found that her fortune would be sufficient to set him up in a genteel
Shop of his own: In consequence of this reflection He avowed himself
her Admirer. Leonella was not inflexible. The ardour of his sighs
melted her heart, and She soon consented to make him the happiest of
Mankind. She wrote to inform her Sister of her marriage; But, for
reasons which will be explained hereafter, Elvira never answered her
letter.

Ambrosio was conducted into the Antichamber to that where Elvira was
reposing. The Female Domestic who had admitted him left him alone while
She announced his arrival to her Mistress. Antonia, who had been by her
Mother’s Bedside, immediately came to him.

“Pardon me, Father,” said She, advancing towards him; when recognizing
his features, She stopped suddenly, and uttered a cry of joy. “Is it
possible!” She continued;

“Do not my eyes deceive me? Has the worthy Ambrosio broken through his
resolution, that He may soften the agonies of the best of Women? What
pleasure will this visit give my Mother! Let me not delay for a moment
the comfort which your piety and wisdom will afford her.”

Thus saying, She opened the chamber door, presented to her Mother her
distinguished Visitor, and having placed an armed-chair by the side of
the Bed, withdrew into another department.

Elvira was highly gratified by this visit: Her expectations had been
raised high by general report, but She found them far exceeded.
Ambrosio, endowed by nature with powers of pleasing, exerted them to
the utmost while conversing with Antonia’s Mother. With persuasive
eloquence He calmed every fear, and dissipated every scruple: He bad
her reflect on the infinite mercy of her Judge, despoiled Death of his
darts and terrors, and taught her to view without shrinking the abyss
of eternity, on whose brink She then stood. Elvira was absorbed in
attention and delight: While She listened to his exhortations,
confidence and comfort stole insensibly into her mind. She unbosomed to
him without hesitation her cares and apprehensions. The latter
respecting a future life He had already quieted: And He now removed the
former, which She felt for the concerns of this. She trembled for
Antonia. She had none to whose care She could recommend her, save to
the Marquis de las Cisternas and her Sister Leonella. The protection of
the One was very uncertain; and as to the Other, though fond of her
Niece, Leonella was so thoughtless and vain as to make her an improper
person to have the sole direction of a Girl so young and ignorant of
the World. The Friar no sooner learnt the cause of her alarms than He
begged her to make herself easy upon that head. He doubted not being
able to secure for Antonia a safe refuge in the House of one of his
Penitents, the Marchioness of Villa-Franca: This was a Lady of
acknowledged virtue, remarkable for strict principles and extensive
charity. Should accident deprive her of this resource, He engaged to
procure Antonia a reception in some respectable Convent: That is to
say, in quality of boarder; for Elvira had declared herself no Friend
to a monastic life, and the Monk was either candid or complaisant
enough to allow that her disapprobation was not unfounded.

These proofs of the interest which He felt for her completely won
Elvira’s heart. In thanking him She exhausted every expression which
Gratitude could furnish, and protested that now She should resign
herself with tranquillity to the Grave. Ambrosio rose to take leave: He
promised to return the next day at the same hour, but requested that
his visits might be kept secret.

“I am unwilling” said He, “that my breaking through a rule imposed by
necessity should be generally known. Had I not resolved never to quit
my Convent, except upon circumstances as urgent as that which has
conducted me to your door, I should be frequently summoned upon
insignificant occasions: That time would be engrossed by the Curious,
the Unoccupied, and the fanciful, which I now pass at the Bedside of
the Sick, in comforting the expiring Penitent, and clearing the passage
to Eternity from Thorns.”

Elvira commended equally his prudence and compassion, promising to
conceal carefully the honour of his visits. The Monk then gave her his
benediction, and retired from the chamber.

In the Antiroom He found Antonia: He could not refuse himself the
pleasure of passing a few moments in her society. He bad her take
comfort, for that her Mother seemed composed and tranquil, and He hoped
that She might yet do well. He enquired who attended her, and engaged
to send the Physician of his Convent to see her, one of the most
skilful in Madrid. He then launched out in Elvira’s commendation,
praised her purity and fortitude of mind, and declared that She had
inspired him with the highest esteem and reverence. Antonia’s innocent
heart swelled with gratitude: Joy danced in her eyes, where a tear
still sparkled. The hopes which He gave her of her Mother’s recovery,
the lively interest which He seemed to feel for her, and the flattering
way in which She was mentioned by him, added to the report of his
judgment and virtue, and to the impression made upon her by his
eloquence, confirmed the favourable opinion with which his first
appearance had inspired Antonia. She replied with diffidence, but
without restraint: She feared not to relate to him all her little
sorrows, all her little fears and anxieties; and She thanked him for
his goodness with all the genuine warmth which favours kindle in a
young and innocent heart. Such alone know how to estimate benefits at
their full value. They who are conscious of Mankind’s perfidy and
selfishness, ever receive an obligation with apprehension and distrust:
They suspect that some secret motive must lurk behind it: They express
their thanks with restraint and caution, and fear to praise a kind
action to its full extent, aware that some future day a return may be
required. Not so Antonia; She thought the world was composed only of
those who resembled her, and that vice existed, was to her still a
secret. The Monk had been of service to her; He said that He wished her
well; She was grateful for his kindness, and thought that no terms were
strong enough to be the vehicle of her thanks. With what delight did
Ambrosio listen to the declaration of her artless gratitude! The
natural grace of her manners, the unequalled sweetness of her voice,
her modest vivacity, her unstudied elegance, her expressive
countenance, and intelligent eyes united to inspire him with pleasure
and admiration, While the solidity and correctness of her remarks
received additional beauty from the unaffected simplicity of the
language in which they were conveyed.

Ambrosio was at length obliged to tear himself from this conversation
which possessed for him but too many charms. He repeated to Antonia his
wishes that his visits should not be made known, which desire She
promised to observe. He then quitted the House, while his Enchantress
hastened to her Mother, ignorant of the mischief which her Beauty had
caused. She was eager to know Elvira’s opinion of the Man whom She had
praised in such enthusiastic terms, and was delighted to find it
equally favourable, if not even more so, than her own.

“Even before He spoke,” said Elvira, “I was prejudiced in his favour:
The fervour of his exhortations, dignity of his manner, and closeness
of his reasoning, were very far from inducing me to alter my opinion.
His fine and full-toned voice struck me particularly; But surely,
Antonia, I have heard it before. It seemed perfectly familiar to my
ear. Either I must have known the Abbot in former times, or his voice
bears a wonderful resemblance to that of some other, to whom I have
often listened.

There were certain tones which touched my very heart, and made me feel
sensations so singular, that I strive in vain to account for them.”

“My dearest Mother, it produced the same effect upon me: Yet certainly
neither of us ever heard his voice till we came to Madrid. I suspect
that what we attribute to his voice, really proceeds from his pleasant
manners, which forbid our considering him as a Stranger. I know not
why, but I feel more at my ease while conversing with him than I
usually do with people who are unknown to me. I feared not to repeat to
him all my childish thoughts; and somehow I felt confident that He
would hear my folly with indulgence. Oh! I was not deceived in him! He
listened to me with such an air of kindness and attention! He answered
me with such gentleness, such condescension! He did not call me an
Infant, and treat me with contempt, as our cross old Confessor at the
Castle used to do. I verily believe that if I had lived in Murcia a
thousand years, I never should have liked that fat old Father Dominic!”

“I confess that Father Dominic had not the most pleasing manners in the
world; But He was honest, friendly, and well-meaning.”

“Ah! my dear Mother, those qualities are so common!”

“God grant, my Child, that Experience may not teach you to think them
rare and precious: I have found them but too much so! But tell me,
Antonia; Why is it impossible for me to have seen the Abbot before?”

“Because since the moment when He entered the Abbey, He has never been
on the outside of its walls. He told me just now, that from his
ignorance of the Streets, He had some difficulty to find the Strada di
San Iago, though so near the Abbey.”

“All this is possible, and still I may have seen him BEFORE He entered
the Abbey: In order to come out, it was rather necessary that He should
first go in.”

“Holy Virgin! As you say, that is very true.—Oh! But might He not have
been born in the Abbey?”

Elvira smiled.

“Why, not very easily.”

“Stay, Stay! Now I recollect how it was. He was put into the Abbey
quite a Child; The common People say that He fell from heaven, and was
sent as a present to the Capuchins by the Virgin.”

“That was very kind of her. And so He fell from heaven, Antonia?

He must have had a terrible tumble.”

“Many do not credit this, and I fancy, my dear Mother, that I must
number you among the Unbelievers. Indeed, as our Landlady told my Aunt,
the general idea is that his Parents, being poor and unable to maintain
him, left him just born at the Abbey door. The late Superior from pure
charity had him educated in the Convent, and He proved to be a model of
virtue, and piety, and learning, and I know not what else besides: In
consequence, He was first received as a Brother of the order, and not
long ago was chosen Abbot. However, whether this account or the other
is the true one, at least all agree that when the Monks took him under
their care, He could not speak: Therefore, you could not have heard his
voice before He entered the Monastery, because at that time He had no
voice at all.”

“Upon my word, Antonia, you argue very closely! Your conclusions are
infallible! I did not suspect you of being so able a Logician.”

“Ah! You are mocking me! But so much the better. It delights me to see
you in spirits: Besides you seem tranquil and easy, and I hope that you
will have no more convulsions. Oh! I was sure the Abbot’s visit would
do you good!”

“It has indeed done me good, my Child. He has quieted my mind upon some
points which agitated me, and I already feel the effects of his
attention. My eyes grow heavy, and I think I can sleep a little. Draw
the curtains, my Antonia: But if I should not wake before midnight, do
not sit up with me, I charge you.”

Antonia promised to obey her, and having received her blessing drew the
curtains of the Bed. She then seated herself in silence at her
embroidery frame, and beguiled the hours with building Castles in the
air. Her spirits were enlivened by the evident change for the better in
Elvira, and her fancy presented her with visions bright and pleasing.
In these dreams Ambrosio made no despicable figure. She thought of him
with joy and gratitude; But for every idea which fell to the Friar’s
share, at least two were unconsciously bestowed upon Lorenzo. Thus
passed the time, till the Bell in the neighbouring Steeple of the
Capuchin Cathedral announced the hour of midnight: Antonia remembered
her Mother’s injunctions, and obeyed them, though with reluctance. She
undrew the curtains with caution. Elvira was enjoying a profound and
quiet slumber; Her cheek glowed with health’s returning colours: A
smile declared that her dreams were pleasant, and as Antonia bent over
her, She fancied that She heard her name pronounced. She kissed her
Mother’s forehead softly, and retired to her chamber. There She knelt
before a Statue of St. Rosolia, her Patroness; She recommended herself
to the protection of heaven, and as had been her custom from infancy,
concluded her devotions by chaunting the following Stanzas.

MIDNIGHT HYMN


Now all is hushed; The solemn chime
No longer swells the nightly gale:
Thy awful presence, Hour sublime,
With spotless heart once more I hail.

’Tis now the moment still and dread,
When Sorcerers use their baleful power;
When Graves give up their buried dead
To profit by the sanctioned hour:

From guilt and guilty thoughts secure,
To duty and devotion true,
With bosom light and conscience pure,
Repose, thy gentle aid I woo.

Good Angels, take my thanks, that still
The snares of vice I view with scorn;
Thanks, that to-night as free from ill
I sleep, as when I woke at morn.

Yet may not my unconscious breast
Harbour some guilt to me unknown?
Some wish impure, which unreprest
You blush to see, and I to own?

If such there be, in gentle dream
Instruct my feet to shun the snare;
Bid truth upon my errors beam,
And deign to make me still your care.

Chase from my peaceful bed away
The witching Spell, a foe to rest,
The nightly Goblin, wanton Fay,
The Ghost in pain, and Fiend unblest:

Let not the Tempter in mine ear
Pour lessons of unhallowed joy;
Let not the Night-mare, wandering near
My Couch, the calm of sleep destroy;

Let not some horrid dream affright
With strange fantastic forms mine eyes;
But rather bid some vision bright
Display the bliss of yonder skies.

Show me the crystal Domes of Heaven,
The worlds of light where Angels lie;
Shew me the lot to Mortals given,
Who guiltless live, who guiltless die.

Then show me how a seat to gain
Amidst those blissful realms of
Air; Teach me to shun each guilty stain,
And guide me to the good and fair.

So every morn and night, my Voice
To heaven the grateful strain shall raise;
In You as Guardian Powers rejoice,
Good Angels, and exalt your praise:

So will I strive with zealous fire
Each vice to shun, each fault correct;
Will love the lessons you inspire,
And Prize the virtues you protect.

Then when at length by high command
My body seeks the Grave’s repose,
When Death draws nigh with friendly hand
My failing Pilgrim eyes to close;

Pleased that my soul has ’scaped the wreck,
Sighless will I my life resign,
And yield to God my Spirit back,
As pure as when it first was mine.


Having finished her usual devotions, Antonia retired to bed. Sleep soon
stole over her senses; and for several hours She enjoyed that calm
repose which innocence alone can know, and for which many a Monarch
with pleasure would exchange his Crown.



CHAPTER VII.


——Ah! how dark
These long-extended realms and rueful wastes;
Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
Dark as was Chaos ere the Infant Sun
Was rolled together, or had tried its beams
Athwart the gloom profound!
The sickly Taper
By glimmering through thy low-browed misty vaults,
Furred round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime,
Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
And only serves to make
Thy night more irksome!

BLAIR.

Returned undiscovered to the Abbey, Ambrosio’s mind was filled with the
most pleasing images. He was wilfully blind to the danger of exposing
himself to Antonia’s charms: He only remembered the pleasure which her
society had afforded him, and rejoiced in the prospect of that pleasure
being repeated. He failed not to profit by Elvira’s indisposition to
obtain a sight of her Daughter every day. At first He bounded his
wishes to inspire Antonia with friendship: But no sooner was He
convinced that She felt that sentiment in its fullest extent, than his
aim became more decided, and his attentions assumed a warmer colour.
The innocent familiarity with which She treated him, encouraged his
desires: Grown used to her modesty, it no longer commanded the same
respect and awe: He still admired it, but it only made him more anxious
to deprive her of that quality which formed her principal charm. Warmth
of passion, and natural penetration, of which latter unfortunately both
for himself and Antonia He possessed an ample share, supplied a
knowledge of the arts of seduction. He easily distinguished the
emotions which were favourable to his designs, and seized every means
with avidity of infusing corruption into Antonia’s bosom. This He found
no easy matter. Extreme simplicity prevented her from perceiving the
aim to which the Monk’s insinuations tended; But the excellent morals
which She owed to Elvira’s care, the solidity and correctness of her
understanding, and a strong sense of what was right implanted in her
heart by Nature, made her feel that his precepts must be faulty. By a
few simple words She frequently overthrew the whole bulk of his
sophistical arguments, and made him conscious how weak they were when
opposed to Virtue and Truth. On such occasion He took refuge in his
eloquence; He overpowered her with a torrent of Philosophical
paradoxes, to which, not understanding them, it was impossible for her
to reply; And thus though He did not convince her that his reasoning
was just, He at least prevented her from discovering it to be false. He
perceived that her respect for his judgment augmented daily, and
doubted not with time to bring her to the point desired.

He was not unconscious that his attempts were highly criminal: He saw
clearly the baseness of seducing the innocent Girl: But his passion was
too violent to permit his abandoning his design. He resolved to pursue
it, let the consequences be what they might. He depended upon finding
Antonia in some unguarded moment; And seeing no other Man admitted into
her society, nor hearing any mentioned either by her or by Elvira, He
imagined that her young heart was still unoccupied. While He waited for
the opportunity of satisfying his unwarrantable lust, every day
increased his coldness for Matilda. Not a little was this occasioned by
the consciousness of his faults to her. To hide them from her He was
not sufficiently master of himself: Yet He dreaded lest, in a transport
of jealous rage, She should betray the secret on which his character
and even his life depended. Matilda could not but remark his
indifference: He was conscious that She remarked it, and fearing her
reproaches, shunned her studiously. Yet when He could not avoid her,
her mildness might have convinced him that He had nothing to dread from
her resentment. She had resumed the character of the gentle interesting
Rosario: She taxed him not with ingratitude; But her eyes filled with
involuntary tears, and the soft melancholy of her countenance and voice
uttered complaints far more touching than words could have conveyed.
Ambrosio was not unmoved by her sorrow; But unable to remove its cause,
He forbore to show that it affected him. As her conduct convinced him
that He needed not fear her vengeance, He continued to neglect her, and
avoided her company with care. Matilda saw that She in vain attempted
to regain his affections: Yet She stifled the impulse of resentment,
and continued to treat her inconstant Lover with her former fondness
and attention.

By degrees Elvira’s constitution recovered itself. She was no longer
troubled with convulsions, and Antonia ceased to tremble for her
Mother. Ambrosio beheld this reestablishment with displeasure. He saw
that Elvira’s knowledge of the world would not be the Dupe of his
sanctified demeanour, and that She would easily perceive his views upon
her Daughter. He resolved therefore, before She quitted her chamber, to
try the extent of his influence over the innocent Antonia.

One evening, when He had found Elvira almost perfectly restored to
health, He quitted her earlier than was his usual custom. Not finding
Antonia in the Antichamber, He ventured to follow her to her own. It
was only separated from her Mother’s by a Closet, in which Flora, the
Waiting-Woman, generally slept. Antonia sat upon a Sopha with her back
towards the door, and read attentively. She heard not his approach,
till He had seated himself by her. She started, and welcomed him with a
look of pleasure: Then rising, She would have conducted him to the
sitting-room; But Ambrosio taking her hand, obliged her by gentle
violence to resume her place. She complied without difficulty: She knew
not that there was more impropriety in conversing with him in one room
than another. She thought herself equally secure of his principles and
her own, and having replaced herself upon the Sopha, She began to
prattle to him with her usual ease and vivacity.

He examined the Book which She had been reading, and had now placed
upon the Table. It was the Bible.

“How!” said the Friar to himself; “Antonia reads the Bible, and is
still so ignorant?”

But, upon a further inspection, He found that Elvira had made exactly
the same remark. That prudent Mother, while She admired the beauties of
the sacred writings, was convinced that, unrestricted, no reading more
improper could be permitted a young Woman. Many of the narratives can
only tend to excite ideas the worst calculated for a female breast:
Every thing is called plainly and roundly by its name; and the annals
of a Brothel would scarcely furnish a greater choice of indecent
expressions. Yet this is the Book which young Women are recommended to
study; which is put into the hands of Children, able to comprehend
little more than those passages of which they had better remain
ignorant; and which but too frequently inculcates the first rudiments
of vice, and gives the first alarm to the still sleeping passions. Of
this was Elvira so fully convinced, that She would have preferred
putting into her Daughter’s hands “_Amadis de Gaul_,” or “_The Valiant
Champion, Tirante the White;_” and would sooner have authorised her
studying the lewd exploits of “_Don Galaor_,” or the lascivious jokes
of the “_Damsel Plazer di mi vida_.” She had in consequence made two
resolutions respecting the Bible. The first was that Antonia should not
read it till She was of an age to feel its beauties, and profit by its
morality: The second, that it should be copied out with her own hand,
and all improper passages either altered or omitted. She had adhered to
this determination, and such was the Bible which Antonia was reading:
It had been lately delivered to her, and She perused it with an
avidity, with a delight that was inexpressible. Ambrosio perceived his
mistake, and replaced the Book upon the Table.

Antonia spoke of her Mother’s health with all the enthusiastic joy of a
youthful heart.

“I admire your filial affection,” said the Abbot; “It proves the
excellence and sensibility of your character; It promises a treasure to
him whom Heaven has destined to possess your affections. The Breast, so
capable of fondness for a Parent, what will it feel for a Lover? Nay,
perhaps, what feels it for one even now? Tell me, my lovely Daughter;
Have you known what it is to love? Answer me with sincerity: Forget my
habit, and consider me only as a Friend.”

“What it is to love?” said She, repeating his question; “Oh! yes,
undoubtedly; I have loved many, many People.”

“That is not what I mean. The love of which I speak can be felt only
for one. Have you never seen the Man whom you wished to be your
Husband?”

“Oh! No, indeed!”

This was an untruth, but She was unconscious of its falsehood: She knew
not the nature of her sentiments for Lorenzo; and never having seen him
since his first visit to Elvira, with every day his Image grew less
feebly impressed upon her bosom. Besides, She thought of an Husband
with all a Virgin’s terror, and negatived the Friar’s demand without a
moment’s hesitation.

“And do you not long to see that Man, Antonia? Do you feel no void in
your heart which you fain would have filled up? Do you heave no sighs
for the absence of some one dear to you, but who that some one is, you
know not? Perceive you not that what formerly could please, has charms
for you no longer? That a thousand new wishes, new ideas, new
sensations, have sprang in your bosom, only to be felt, never to be
described? Or while you fill every other heart with passion, is it
possible that your own remains insensible and cold? It cannot be! That
melting eye, that blushing cheek, that enchanting voluptuous melancholy
which at times overspreads your features, all these marks belye your
words. You love, Antonia, and in vain would hide it from me.”

“Father, you amaze me! What is this love of which you speak? I neither
know its nature, nor if I felt it, why I should conceal the sentiment.”

“Have you seen no Man, Antonia, whom though never seen before, you
seemed long to have sought? Whose form, though a Stranger’s, was
familiar to your eyes? The sound of whose voice soothed you, pleased
you, penetrated to your very soul? In whose presence you rejoiced, for
whose absence you lamented? With whom your heart seemed to expand, and
in whose bosom with confidence unbounded you reposed the cares of your
own? Have you not felt all this, Antonia?”

“Certainly I have: The first time that I saw you, I felt it.”

Ambrosio started. Scarcely dared He credit his hearing.

“Me, Antonia?” He cried, his eyes sparkling with delight and
impatience, while He seized her hand, and pressed it rapturously to his
lips. “Me, Antonia? You felt these sentiments for me?”

“Even with more strength than you have described. The very moment that
I beheld you, I felt so pleased, so interested! I waited so eagerly to
catch the sound of your voice, and when I heard it, it seemed so sweet!
It spoke to me a language till then so unknown! Methought, it told me a
thousand things which I wished to hear! It seemed as if I had long
known you; as if I had a right to your friendship, your advice, and
your protection.

I wept when you departed, and longed for the time which should restore
you to my sight.”

“Antonia! my charming Antonia!” exclaimed the Monk, and caught her to
his bosom; “Can I believe my senses? Repeat it to me, my sweet Girl!
Tell me again that you love me, that you love me truly and tenderly!”

“Indeed, I do: Let my Mother be excepted, and the world holds no one
more dear to me!”

At this frank avowal Ambrosio no longer possessed himself; Wild with
desire, He clasped the blushing Trembler in his arms. He fastened his
lips greedily upon hers, sucked in her pure delicious breath, violated
with his bold hand the treasures of her bosom, and wound around him her
soft and yielding limbs. Startled, alarmed, and confused at his action,
surprize at first deprived her of the power of resistance. At length
recovering herself, She strove to escape from his embrace.

“Father! .... Ambrosio!” She cried; “Release me, for God’s sake!”

But the licentious Monk heeded not her prayers: He persisted in his
design, and proceeded to take still greater liberties. Antonia prayed,
wept, and struggled: Terrified to the extreme, though at what She knew
not, She exerted all her strength to repulse the Friar, and was on the
point of shrieking for assistance when the chamber door was suddenly
thrown open. Ambrosio had just sufficient presence of mind to be
sensible of his danger. Reluctantly He quitted his prey, and started
hastily from the Couch. Antonia uttered an exclamation of joy, flew
towards the door, and found herself clasped in the arms of her Mother.

Alarmed at some of the Abbot’s speeches, which Antonia had innocently
repeated, Elvira resolved to ascertain the truth of her suspicions. She
had known enough of Mankind not to be imposed upon by the Monk’s
reputed virtue. She reflected on several circumstances, which though
trifling, on being put together seemed to authorize her fears. His
frequent visits, which as far as She could see, were confined to her
family; His evident emotion, whenever She spoke of Antonia; His being
in the full prime and heat of Manhood; and above all, his pernicious
philosophy communicated to her by Antonia, and which accorded but ill
with his conversation in her presence, all these circumstances inspired
her with doubts respecting the purity of Ambrosio’s friendship. In
consequence, She resolved, when He should next be alone with Antonia,
to endeavour at surprizing him. Her plan had succeeded. ’Tis true, that
when She entered the room, He had already abandoned his prey; But the
disorder of her Daughter’s dress, and the shame and confusion stamped
upon the Friar’s countenance, sufficed to prove that her suspicions
were but too well-founded. However, She was too prudent to make those
suspicions known. She judged that to unmask the Imposter would be no
easy matter, the public being so much prejudiced in his favour: and
having but few Friends, She thought it dangerous to make herself so
powerful an Enemy. She affected therefore not to remark his agitation,
seated herself tranquilly upon the Sopha, assigned some trifling reason
for having quitted her room unexpectedly, and conversed on various
subjects with seeming confidence and ease.

Reassured by her behaviour, the Monk began to recover himself. He
strove to answer Elvira without appearing embarrassed: But He was still
too great a novice in dissimulation, and He felt that He must look
confused and awkward. He soon broke off the conversation, and rose to
depart. What was his vexation, when on taking leave, Elvira told him in
polite terms, that being now perfectly reestablished, She thought it an
injustice to deprive Others of his company, who might be more in need
of it! She assured him of her eternal gratitude, for the benefit which
during her illness She had derived from his society and exhortations:
And She lamented that her domestic affairs, as well as the multitude of
business which his situation must of necessity impose upon him, would
in future deprive her of the pleasure of his visits. Though delivered
in the mildest language this hint was too plain to be mistaken. Still,
He was preparing to put in a remonstrance when an expressive look from
Elvira stopped him short. He dared not press her to receive him, for
her manner convinced him that He was discovered: He submitted without
reply, took an hasty leave, and retired to the Abbey, his heart filled
with rage and shame, with bitterness and disappointment.

Antonia’s mind felt relieved by his departure; Yet She could not help
lamenting that She was never to see him more. Elvira also felt a secret
sorrow; She had received too much pleasure from thinking him her
Friend, not to regret the necessity of changing her opinion: But her
mind was too much accustomed to the fallacy of worldly friendships to
permit her present disappointment to weigh upon it long. She now
endeavoured to make her Daughter aware of the risque which She had ran:
But She was obliged to treat the subject with caution, lest in removing
the bandage of ignorance, the veil of innocence should be rent away.
She therefore contented herself with warning Antonia to be upon her
guard, and ordering her, should the Abbot persist in his visits, never
to receive them but in company. With this injunction Antonia promised
to comply.

Ambrosio hastened to his Cell. He closed the door after him, and threw
himself upon the bed in despair. The impulse of desire, the stings of
disappointment, the shame of detection, and the fear of being publicly
unmasked, rendered his bosom a scene of the most horrible confusion. He
knew not what course to pursue. Debarred the presence of Antonia, He
had no hopes of satisfying that passion which was now become a part of
his existence. He reflected that his secret was in a Woman’s power: He
trembled with apprehension when He beheld the precipice before him, and
with rage, when He thought that had it not been for Elvira, He should
now have possessed the object of his desires. With the direct
imprecations He vowed vengeance against her; He swore that, cost what
it would, He still would possess Antonia. Starting from the Bed, He
paced the chamber with disordered steps, howled with impotent fury,
dashed himself violently against the walls, and indulged all the
transports of rage and madness.

He was still under the influence of this storm of passions when He
heard a gentle knock at the door of his Cell. Conscious that his voice
must have been heard, He dared not refuse admittance to the Importuner:
He strove to compose himself, and to hide his agitation. Having in some
degree succeeded, He drew back the bolt: The door opened, and Matilda
appeared.

At this precise moment there was no one with whose presence He could
better have dispensed. He had not sufficient command over himself to
conceal his vexation. He started back, and frowned.

“I am busy,” said He in a stern and hasty tone; “Leave me!”

Matilda heeded him not: She again fastened the door, and then advanced
towards him with an air gentle and supplicating.

“Forgive me, Ambrosio,” said She; “For your own sake I must not obey
you. Fear no complaints from me; I come not to reproach you with your
ingratitude. I pardon you from my heart, and since your love can no
longer be mine, I request the next best gift, your confidence and
friendship. We cannot force our inclinations; The little beauty which
you once saw in me has perished with its novelty, and if it can no
longer excite desire, mine is the fault, not yours. But why persist in
shunning me? Why such anxiety to fly my presence? You have sorrows, but
will not permit me to share them; You have disappointments, but will
not accept my comfort; You have wishes, but forbid my aiding your
pursuits. ’Tis of this which I complain, not of your indifference to my
person. I have given up the claims of the Mistress, but nothing shall
prevail on me to give up those of the Friend.”

Her mildness had an instantaneous effect upon Ambrosio’s feelings.

“Generous Matilda!” He replied, taking her hand, “How far do you rise
superior to the foibles of your sex! Yes, I accept your offer. I have
need of an adviser, and a Confident: In you I find every needful
quality united. But to aid my pursuits .... Ah! Matilda, it lies not in
your power!”

“It lies in no one’s power but mine. Ambrosio, your secret is none to
me; Your every step, your every action has been observed by my
attentive eye. You love.”

“Matilda!”

“Why conceal it from me? Fear not the little jealousy which taints the
generality of Women: My soul disdains so despicable a passion. You
love, Ambrosio; Antonia Dalfa is the object of your flame. I know every
circumstance respecting your passion: Every conversation has been
repeated to me. I have been informed of your attempt to enjoy Antonia’s
person, your disappointment, and dismission from Elvira’s House. You
now despair of possessing your Mistress; But I come to revive your
hopes, and point out the road to success.”

“To success? Oh! impossible!”

“To them who dare nothing is impossible. Rely upon me, and you may yet
be happy. The time is come, Ambrosio, when regard for your comfort and
tranquillity compels me to reveal a part of my History, with which you
are still unacquainted. Listen, and do not interrupt me: Should my
confession disgust you, remember that in making it my sole aim is to
satisfy your wishes, and restore that peace to your heart which at
present has abandoned it. I formerly mentioned that my Guardian was a
Man of uncommon knowledge: He took pains to instil that knowledge into
my infant mind. Among the various sciences which curiosity had induced
him to explore, He neglected not that which by most is esteemed
impious, and by many chimerical. I speak of those arts which relate to
the world of Spirits. His deep researches into causes and effects, his
unwearied application to the study of natural philosophy, his profound
and unlimited knowledge of the properties and virtues of every gem
which enriches the deep, of every herb which the earth produces, at
length procured him the distinction which He had sought so long, so
earnestly. His curiosity was fully slaked, his ambition amply
gratified. He gave laws to the elements; He could reverse the order of
nature; His eye read the mandates of futurity, and the infernal Spirits
were submissive to his commands. Why shrink you from me? I understand
that enquiring look. Your suspicions are right, though your terrors are
unfounded. My Guardian concealed not from me his most precious
acquisition. Yet, had I never seen _you_, I should never have exerted
my power. Like you I shuddered at the thoughts of Magic: Like you I had
formed a terrible idea of the consequences of raising a daemon. To
preserve that life which your love had taught me to prize, I had
recourse to means which I trembled at employing. You remember that
night which I past in St. Clare’s Sepulchre? Then was it that,
surrounded by mouldering bodies, I dared to perform those mystic rites
which summoned to my aid a fallen Angel. Judge what must have been my
joy at discovering that my terrors were imaginary: I saw the Dæmon
obedient to my orders, I saw him trembling at my frown, and found that,
instead of selling my soul to a Master, my courage had purchased for
myself a slave.”

“Rash Matilda! What have you done? You have doomed yourself to endless
perdition; You have bartered for momentary power eternal happiness! If
on witchcraft depends the fruition of my desires, I renounce your aid
most absolutely. The consequences are too horrible: I doat upon
Antonia, but am not so blinded by lust as to sacrifice for her
enjoyment my existence both in this world and the next.”

“Ridiculous prejudices! Oh! blush, Ambrosio, blush at being subjected
to their dominion. Where is the risque of accepting my offers? What
should induce my persuading you to this step, except the wish of
restoring you to happiness and quiet. If there is danger, it must fall
upon me: It is I who invoke the ministry of the Spirits; Mine therefore
will be the crime, and yours the profit. But danger there is none: The
Enemy of Mankind is my Slave, not my Sovereign. Is there no difference
between giving and receiving laws, between serving and commanding?
Awake from your idle dreams, Ambrosio! Throw from you these terrors so
ill-suited to a soul like yours; Leave them for common Men, and dare to
be happy! Accompany me this night to St. Clare’s Sepulchre, witness my
incantations, and Antonia is your own.”

“To obtain her by such means I neither can, or will. Cease then to
persuade me, for I dare not employ Hell’s agency.

“You DARE not? How have you deceived me! That mind which I esteemed so
great and valiant, proves to be feeble, puerile, and grovelling, a
slave to vulgar errors, and weaker than a Woman’s.”

“What? Though conscious of the danger, wilfully shall I expose myself
to the Seducer’s arts? Shall I renounce for ever my title to salvation?
Shall my eyes seek a sight which I know will blast them? No, no,
Matilda; I will not ally myself with God’s Enemy.”

“Are you then God’s Friend at present? Have you not broken your
engagements with him, renounced his service, and abandoned yourself to
the impulse of your passions? Are you not planning the destruction of
innocence, the ruin of a Creature whom He formed in the mould of
Angels? If not of Dæmons, whose aid would you invoke to forward this
laudable design? Will the Seraphims protect it, conduct Antonia to your
arms, and sanction with their ministry your illicit pleasures? Absurd!
But I am not deceived, Ambrosio! It is not virtue which makes you
reject my offer: You WOULD accept it, but you dare not. ’Tis not the
crime which holds your hand, but the punishment; ’Tis not respect for
God which restrains you, but the terror of his vengeance! Fain would
you offend him in secret, but you tremble to profess yourself his Foe.
Now shame on the coward soul, which wants the courage either to be a
firm Friend or open Enemy!”

“To look upon guilt with horror, Matilda, is in itself a merit: In this
respect I glory to confess myself a Coward. Though my passions have
made me deviate from her laws, I still feel in my heart an innate love
of virtue. But it ill becomes you to tax me with my perjury: You, who
first seduced me to violate my vows; You, who first rouzed my sleeping
vices, made me feel the weight of Religion’s chains, and bad me be
convinced that guilt had pleasures. Yet though my principles have
yielded to the force of temperament, I still have sufficient grace to
shudder at Sorcery, and avoid a crime so monstrous, so unpardonable!”

“Unpardonable, say you? Where then is your constant boast of the
Almighty’s infinite mercy? Has He of late set bounds to it? Receives He
no longer a Sinner with joy? You injure him, Ambrosio; You will always
have time to repent, and He have goodness to forgive. Afford him a
glorious opportunity to exert that goodness: The greater your crime,
the greater his merit in pardoning. Away then with these childish
scruples: Be persuaded to your good, and follow me to the Sepulchre.”

“Oh! cease, Matilda! That scoffing tone, that bold and impious
language, is horrible in every mouth, but most so in a Woman’s. Let us
drop a conversation which excites no other sentiments than horror and
disgust. I will not follow you to the Sepulchre, or accept the services
of your infernal Agents. Antonia shall be mine, but mine by human
means.”

“Then yours She will never be! You are banished her presence; Her
Mother has opened her eyes to your designs, and She is now upon her
guard against them. Nay more, She loves another. A Youth of
distinguished merit possesses her heart, and unless you interfere, a
few days will make her his Bride. This intelligence was brought me by
my invisible Servants, to whom I had recourse on first perceiving your
indifference. They watched your every action, related to me all that
past at Elvira’s, and inspired me with the idea of favouring your
designs. Their reports have been my only comfort. Though you shunned my
presence, all your proceedings were known to me: Nay, I was constantly
with you in some degree, thanks to this precious gift!”

With these words She drew from beneath her habit a mirror of polished
steel, the borders of which were marked with various strange and
unknown characters.

“Amidst all my sorrows, amidst all my regrets for your coldness, I was
sustained from despair by the virtues of this Talisman. On pronouncing
certain words, the Person appears in it on whom the Observer’s thoughts
are bent: thus though _I_ was exiled from _your_ sight, you, Ambrosio,
were ever present to mine.”

The Friar’s curiosity was excited strongly.

“What you relate is incredible! Matilda, are you not amusing yourself
with my credulity?”

“Be your own eyes the Judge.”

She put the Mirror into his hand. Curiosity induced him to take it, and
Love, to wish that Antonia might appear. Matilda pronounced the magic
words. Immediately, a thick smoke rose from the characters traced upon
the borders, and spread itself over the surface. It dispersed again
gradually; A confused mixture of colours and images presented
themselves to the Friar’s eyes, which at length arranging themselves in
their proper places, He beheld in miniature Antonia’s lovely form.

The scene was a small closet belonging to her apartment. She was
undressing to bathe herself. The long tresses of her hair were already
bound up. The amorous Monk had full opportunity to observe the
voluptuous contours and admirable symmetry of her person. She threw off
her last garment, and advancing to the Bath prepared for her, She put
her foot into the water. It struck cold, and She drew it back again.
Though unconscious of being observed, an inbred sense of modesty
induced her to veil her charms; and She stood hesitating upon the
brink, in the attitude of the Venus de Medicis. At this moment a tame
Linnet flew towards her, nestled its head between her breasts, and
nibbled them in wanton play. The smiling Antonia strove in vain to
shake off the Bird, and at length raised her hands to drive it from its
delightful harbour. Ambrosio could bear no more: His desires were
worked up to phrenzy.

“I yield!” He cried, dashing the mirror upon the ground: “Matilda, I
follow you! Do with me what you will!”

She waited not to hear his consent repeated. It was already midnight.
She flew to her Cell, and soon returned with her little basket and the
Key of the Cemetery, which had remained in her possession since her
first visit to the Vaults. She gave the Monk no time for reflection.

“Come!” She said, and took his hand; “Follow me, and witness the
effects of your resolve!”

This said, She drew him hastily along. They passed into the
Burying-ground unobserved, opened the door of the Sepulchre, and found
themselves at the head of the subterraneous Staircase. As yet the beams
of the full Moon had guided their steps, but that resource now failed
them. Matilda had neglected to provide herself with a Lamp. Still
holding Ambrosio’s hand She descended the marble steps; But the
profound obscurity with which they were overspread obliged them to walk
slow and cautiously.

“You tremble!” said Matilda to her Companion; “Fear not; The destined
spot is near.”

They reached the foot of the Staircase, and continued to proceed,
feeling their way along the Walls. On turning a corner suddenly, they
descried faint gleams of light which seemed burning at a distance.
Thither they bent their steps: The rays proceeded from a small
sepulchral Lamp which flamed unceasingly before the Statue of St.
Clare. It tinged with dim and cheerless beams the massy Columns which
supported the Roof, but was too feeble to dissipate the thick gloom in
which the Vaults above were buried.

Matilda took the Lamp.

“Wait for me!” said She to the Friar; “In a few moments I am here
again.”

With these words She hastened into one of the passages which branched
in various directions from this spot, and formed a sort of Labyrinth.
Ambrosio was now left alone: Darkness the most profound surrounded him,
and encouraged the doubts which began to revive in his bosom. He had
been hurried away by the delirium of the moment: The shame of betraying
his terrors, while in Matilda’s presence, had induced him to repress
them; But now that he was abandoned to himself, they resumed their
former ascendancy. He trembled at the scene which He was soon to
witness. He knew not how far the delusions of Magic might operate upon
his mind, and possibly might force him to some deed whose commission
would make the breach between himself and Heaven irreparable. In this
fearful dilemma, He would have implored God’s assistance, but was
conscious that He had forfeited all claim to such protection. Gladly
would He have returned to the Abbey; But as He had past through
innumerable Caverns and winding passages, the attempt of regaining the
Stairs was hopeless. His fate was determined: No possibility of escape
presented itself: He therefore combated his apprehensions, and called
every argument to his succour, which might enable him to support the
trying scene with fortitude. He reflected that Antonia would be the
reward of his daring: He inflamed his imagination by enumerating her
charms. He persuaded himself that (as Matilda had observed), He always
should have time sufficient for repentance, and that as He employed
_her_ assistance, not that of the Dæmons, the crime of Sorcery could
not be laid to his charge. He had read much respecting witchcraft: He
understood that unless a formal Act was signed renouncing his claim to
salvation, Satan would have no power over him. He was fully determined
not to execute any such act, whatever threats might be used, or
advantages held out to him.

Such were his meditations while waiting for Matilda. They were
interrupted by a low murmur which seemed at no great distance from him.
He was startled. He listened. Some minutes past in silence, after which
the murmur was repeated. It appeared to be the groaning of one in pain.
In any other situation, this circumstance would only have excited his
attention and curiosity:

In the present, his predominant sensation was that of terror. His
imagination totally engrossed by the ideas of sorcery and Spirits, He
fancied that some unquiet Ghost was wandering near him; or else that
Matilda had fallen a Victim to her presumption, and was perishing under
the cruel fangs of the Dæmons. The noise seemed not to approach, but
continued to be heard at intervals. Sometimes it became more audible,
doubtless as the sufferings of the person who uttered the groans became
more acute and insupportable. Ambrosio now and then thought that He
could distinguish accents; and once in particular He was almost
convinced that He heard a faint voice exclaim,

“God! Oh! God! No hope! No succour!”

Yet deeper groans followed these words. They died away gradually, and
universal silence again prevailed.

“What can this mean?” thought the bewildered Monk.

At that moment an idea which flashed into his mind, almost petrified
him with horror. He started, and shuddered at himself.

“Should it be possible!” He groaned involuntarily; “Should it but be
possible, Oh! what a Monster am I!”

He wished to resolve his doubts, and to repair his fault, if it were
not too late already: But these generous and compassionate sentiments
were soon put to flight by the return of Matilda. He forgot the
groaning Sufferer, and remembered nothing but the danger and
embarrassment of his own situation. The light of the returning Lamp
gilded the walls, and in a few moments after Matilda stood beside him.
She had quitted her religious habit: She was now cloathed in a long
sable Robe, on which was traced in gold embroidery a variety of unknown
characters: It was fastened by a girdle of precious stones, in which
was fixed a poignard. Her neck and arms were uncovered. In her hand She
bore a golden wand. Her hair was loose and flowed wildly upon her
shoulders; Her eyes sparkled with terrific expression; and her whole
Demeanour was calculated to inspire the beholder with awe and
admiration.

“Follow me!” She said to the Monk in a low and solemn voice; “All is
ready!”

His limbs trembled, while He obeyed her. She led him through various
narrow passages; and on every side as they past along, the beams of the
Lamp displayed none but the most revolting objects; Skulls, Bones,
Graves, and Images whose eyes seemed to glare on them with horror and
surprize. At length they reached a spacious Cavern, whose lofty roof
the eye sought in vain to discover. A profound obscurity hovered
through the void. Damp vapours struck cold to the Friar’s heart; and He
listened sadly to the blast while it howled along the lonely Vaults.
Here Matilda stopped. She turned to Ambrosio. His cheeks and lips were
pale with apprehension. By a glance of mingled scorn and anger She
reproved his pusillanimity, but She spoke not. She placed the Lamp upon
the ground, near the Basket. She motioned that Ambrosio should be
silent, and began the mysterious rites. She drew a circle round him,
another round herself, and then taking a small Phial from the Basket,
poured a few drops upon the ground before her. She bent over the place,
muttered some indistinct sentences, and immediately a pale sulphurous
flame arose from the ground. It increased by degrees, and at length
spread its waves over the whole surface, the circles alone excepted in
which stood Matilda and the Monk. It then ascended the huge Columns of
unhewn stone, glided along the roof, and formed the Cavern into an
immense chamber totally covered with blue trembling fire. It emitted no
heat: On the contrary, the extreme chillness of the place seemed to
augment with every moment. Matilda continued her incantations: At
intervals She took various articles from the Basket, the nature and
name of most of which were unknown to the Friar: But among the few
which He distinguished, He particularly observed three human fingers,
and an Agnus Dei which She broke in pieces. She threw them all into the
flames which burned before her, and they were instantly consumed.

The Monk beheld her with anxious curiosity. Suddenly She uttered a loud
and piercing shriek. She appeared to be seized with an access of
delirium; She tore her hair, beat her bosom, used the most frantic
gestures, and drawing the poignard from her girdle plunged it into her
left arm. The blood gushed out plentifully, and as She stood on the
brink of the circle, She took care that it should fall on the outside.
The flames retired from the spot on which the blood was pouring. A
volume of dark clouds rose slowly from the ensanguined earth, and
ascended gradually, till it reached the vault of the Cavern. At the
same time a clap of thunder was heard: The echo pealed fearfully along
the subterraneous passages, and the ground shook beneath the feet of
the Enchantress.

It was now that Ambrosio repented of his rashness. The solemn
singularity of the charm had prepared him for something strange and
horrible. He waited with fear for the Spirit’s appearance, whose coming
was announced by thunder and earthquakes. He looked wildly round him,
expecting that some dreadful Apparition would meet his eyes, the sight
of which would drive him mad. A cold shivering seized his body, and He
sank upon one knee, unable to support himself.

“He comes!” exclaimed Matilda in a joyful accent.

Ambrosio started, and expected the Dæmon with terror. What was his
surprize, when the Thunder ceasing to roll, a full strain of melodious
Music sounded in the air. At the same time the cloud dispersed, and He
beheld a Figure more beautiful than Fancy’s pencil ever drew. It was a
Youth seemingly scarce eighteen, the perfection of whose form and face
was unrivalled. He was perfectly naked: A bright Star sparkled upon his
forehead; Two crimson wings extended themselves from his shoulders; and
his silken locks were confined by a band of many-coloured fires, which
played round his head, formed themselves into a variety of figures, and
shone with a brilliance far surpassing that of precious Stones.
Circlets of Diamonds were fastened round his arms and ankles, and in
his right hand He bore a silver branch, imitating Myrtle. His form
shone with dazzling glory: He was surrounded by clouds of rose-coloured
light, and at the moment that He appeared, a refreshing air breathed
perfumes through the Cavern. Enchanted at a vision so contrary to his
expectations, Ambrosio gazed upon the Spirit with delight and wonder:
Yet however beautiful the Figure, He could not but remark a wildness in
the Dæmon’s eyes, and a mysterious melancholy impressed upon his
features, betraying the Fallen Angel, and inspiring the Spectators with
secret awe.

The Music ceased. Matilda addressed herself to the Spirit: She spoke in
a language unintelligible to the Monk, and was answered in the same.
She seemed to insist upon something which the Dæmon was unwilling to
grant. He frequently darted upon Ambrosio angry glances, and at such
times the Friar’s heart sank within him. Matilda appeared to grow
incensed. She spoke in a loud and commanding tone, and her gestures
declared that She was threatening him with her vengeance. Her menaces
had the desired effect: The Spirit sank upon his knee, and with a
submissive air presented to her the branch of Myrtle. No sooner had She
received it, than the Music was again heard; A thick cloud spread
itself over the Apparition; The blue flames disappeared, and total
obscurity reigned through the Cave. The Abbot moved not from his place:
His faculties were all bound up in pleasure, anxiety, and surprize. At
length the darkness dispersing, He perceived Matilda standing near him
in her religious habit, with the Myrtle in her hand. No traces of the
incantation, and the Vaults were only illuminated by the faint rays of
the sepulchral Lamp.

“I have succeeded,” said Matilda, “though with more difficulty than I
expected. Lucifer, whom I summoned to my assistance, was at first
unwilling to obey my commands: To enforce his compliance I was
constrained to have recourse to my strongest charms. They have produced
the desired effect, but I have engaged never more to invoke his agency
in your favour. Beware then, how you employ an opportunity which never
will return. My magic arts will now be of no use to you: In future you
can only hope for supernatural aid by invoking the Dæmons yourself, and
accepting the conditions of their service. This you will never do: You
want strength of mind to force them to obedience, and unless you pay
their established price, they will not be your voluntary Servants. In
this one instance they consent to obey you: I offer you the means of
enjoying your Mistress, and be careful not to lose the opportunity.
Receive this constellated Myrtle: While you bear this in your hand,
every door will fly open to you. It will procure you access tomorrow
night to Antonia’s chamber: Then breathe upon it thrice, pronounce her
name, and place it upon her pillow. A death-like slumber will
immediately seize upon her, and deprive her of the power of resisting
your attempts. Sleep will hold her till break of Morning. In this state
you may satisfy your desires without danger of being discovered; since
when daylight shall dispel the effects of the enchantment, Antonia will
perceive her dishonour, but be ignorant of the Ravisher. Be happy then,
my Ambrosio, and let this service convince you that my friendship is
disinterested and pure. The night must be near expiring: Let us return
to the Abbey, lest our absence should create surprize.”

The Abbot received the talisman with silent gratitude. His ideas were
too much bewildered by the adventures of the night to permit his
expressing his thanks audibly, or indeed as yet to feel the whole value
of her present. Matilda took up her Lamp and Basket, and guided her
Companion from the mysterious Cavern. She restored the Lamp to its
former place, and continued her route in darkness, till She reached the
foot of the Staircase. The first beams of the rising Sun darting down
it facilitated the ascent. Matilda and the Abbot hastened out of the
Sepulchre, closed the door after them, and soon regained the Abbey’s
western Cloister. No one met them, and they retired unobserved to their
respective Cells.

The confusion of Ambrosio’s mind now began to appease. He rejoiced in
the fortunate issue of his adventure, and reflecting upon the virtues
of the Myrtle, looked upon Antonia as already in his power. Imagination
retraced to him those secret charms betrayed to him by the Enchanted
Mirror, and He waited with impatience for the approach of midnight.



CHAPTER VIII.


The crickets sing, and Man’s o’er-laboured sense
Repairs itself by rest: Our Tarquin thus
Did softly press the rushes, ere He wakened
The chastity He wounded—Cytherea,
How bravely thou becom’st thy bed! Fresh Lily!
And whiter than the sheets!

CYMBELINE.

All the researches of the Marquis de las Cisternas proved vain: Agnes
was lost to him for ever. Despair produced so violent an effect upon
his constitution, that the consequence was a long and severe illness.
This prevented him from visiting Elvira as He had intended; and She
being ignorant of the cause of his neglect, it gave her no trifling
uneasiness. His Sister’s death had prevented Lorenzo from communicating
to his Uncle his designs respecting Antonia: The injunctions of her
Mother forbad his presenting himself to her without the Duke’s consent;
and as She heard no more of him or his proposals, Elvira conjectured
that He had either met with a better match, or had been commanded to
give up all thoughts of her Daughter. Every day made her more uneasy
respecting Antonia’s fate: While She retained the Abbot’s protection,
She bore with fortitude the disappointment of her hopes with regard to
Lorenzo and the Marquis. That resource now failed her. She was
convinced that Ambrosio had meditated her Daughter’s ruin: And when She
reflected that her death would leave Antonia friendless and unprotected
in a world so base, so perfidious and depraved, her heart swelled with
the bitterness of apprehension. At such times She would sit for hours
gazing upon the lovely Girl; and seeming to listen to her innocent
prattle, while in reality her thoughts dwelt upon the sorrows into
which a moment would suffice to plunge her. Then She would clasp her in
her arms suddenly, lean her head upon her Daughter’s bosom, and bedew
it with her tears.

An event was in preparation which, had She known it, would have
relieved her from her inquietude. Lorenzo now waited only for a
favourable opportunity to inform the Duke of his intended marriage:
However, a circumstance which occurred at this period, obliged him to
delay his explanation for a few days longer.

Don Raymond’s malady seemed to gain ground. Lorenzo was constantly at
his bedside, and treated him with a tenderness truly fraternal. Both
the cause and effects of the disorder were highly afflicting to the
Brother of Agnes: yet Theodore’s grief was scarcely less sincere. That
amiable Boy quitted not his Master for a moment, and put every means in
practice to console and alleviate his sufferings. The Marquis had
conceived so rooted an affection for his deceased Mistress, that it was
evident to all that He never could survive her loss: Nothing could have
prevented him from sinking under his grief but the persuasion of her
being still alive, and in need of his assistance. Though convinced of
its falsehood, his Attendants encouraged him in a belief which formed
his only comfort. He was assured daily that fresh perquisitions were
making respecting the fate of Agnes: Stories were invented recounting
the various attempts made to get admittance into the Convent; and
circumstances were related which, though they did not promise her
absolute recovery, at least were sufficient to keep his hopes alive.
The Marquis constantly fell into the most terrible excess of passion
when informed of the failure of these supposed attempts. Still He would
not credit that the succeeding ones would have the same fate, but
flattered himself that the next would prove more fortunate.

Theodore was the only one who exerted himself to realize his Master’s
Chimoeras. He was eternally busied in planning schemes for entering the
Convent, or at least of obtaining from the Nuns some intelligence of
Agnes. To execute these schemes was the only inducement which could
prevail on him to quit Don Raymond. He became a very Proteus, changing
his shape every day; but all his metamorphoses were to very little
purpose: He regularly returned to the Palace de las Cisternas without
any intelligence to confirm his Master’s hopes. One day He took it into
his head to disguise himself as a Beggar. He put a patch over his left
eye, took his Guitar in hand, and posted himself at the Gate of the
Convent.

“If Agnes is really confined in the Convent,” thought He, “and hears my
voice, She will recollect it, and possibly may find means to let me
know that She is here.”

With this idea He mingled with a crowd of Beggars who assembled daily
at the Gate of St. Clare to receive Soup, which the Nuns were
accustomed to distribute at twelve o’clock. All were provided with jugs
or bowls to carry it away; But as Theodore had no utensil of this kind,
He begged leave to eat his portion at the Convent door. This was
granted without difficulty: His sweet voice, and in spite of his
patched eye, his engaging countenance, won the heart of the good old
Porteress, who, aided by a Lay-Sister, was busied in serving to each
his Mess. Theodore was bad to stay till the Others should depart, and
promised that his request should then be granted. The Youth desired no
better, since it was not to eat Soup that He presented himself at the
Convent. He thanked the Porteress for her permission, retired from the
Door, and seating himself upon a large stone, amused himself in tuning
his Guitar while the Beggars were served.

As soon as the Crowd was gone, Theodore was beckoned to the Gate, and
desired to come in. He obeyed with infinite readiness, but affected
great respect at passing the hallowed Threshold, and to be much daunted
by the presence of the Reverend Ladies. His feigned timidity flattered
the vanity of the Nuns, who endeavoured to reassure him. The Porteress
took him into her awn little Parlour: In the meanwhile, the Lay-Sister
went to the Kitchen, and soon returned with a double portion of Soup,
of better quality than what was given to the Beggars. His Hostess added
some fruits and confections from her own private store, and Both
encouraged the Youth to dine heartily. To all these attentions He
replied with much seeming gratitude, and abundance of blessings upon
his benefactresses. While He ate, the Nuns admired the delicacy of his
features, the beauty of his hair, and the sweetness and grace which
accompanied all his actions. They lamented to each other in whispers,
that so charming a Youth should be exposed to the seductions of the
World, and agreed, that He would be a worthy Pillar of the Catholic
Church. They concluded their conference by resolving that Heaven would
be rendered a real service if they entreated the Prioress to intercede
with Ambrosio for the Beggar’s admission into the order of Capuchins.

This being determined, the Porteress, who was a person of great
influence in the Convent, posted away in all haste to the Domina’s
Cell. Here She made so flaming a narrative of Theodore’s merits that
the old Lady grew curious to see him. Accordingly, the Porteress was
commissioned to convey him to the Parlour grate. In the interim, the
supposed Beggar was sifting the Lay-Sister with respect to the fate of
Agnes: Her evidence only corroborated the Domina’s assertions. She said
that Agnes had been taken ill on returning from confession, had never
quitted her bed from that moment, and that She had herself been present
at the Funeral. She even attested having seen her dead body, and
assisted with her own hands in adjusting it upon the Bier. This account
discouraged Theodore: Yet as He had pushed the adventure so far, He
resolved to witness its conclusion.

The Porteress now returned, and ordered him to follow her. He obeyed,
and was conducted into the Parlour, where the Lady Prioress was already
posted at the Grate. The Nuns surrounded her, who all flocked with
eagerness to a scene which promised some diversion. Theodore saluted
them with profound respect, and his presence had the power to smooth
for a moment even the stern brow of the Superior. She asked several
questions respecting his Parents, his religion, and what had reduced
him to a state of Beggary. To these demands his answers were perfectly
satisfactory and perfectly false. He was then asked his opinion of a
monastic life: He replied in terms of high estimation and respect for
it. Upon this, the Prioress told him that his obtaining an entrance
into a religious order was not impossible; that her recommendation
would not permit his poverty to be an obstacle, and that if She found
him deserving it, He might depend in future upon her protection.
Theodore assured her that to merit her favour would be his highest
ambition; and having ordered him to return next day, when She would
talk with him further, the Domina quitted the Parlour.

The Nuns, whom respect for the Superior had till then kept silent, now
crowded all together to the Grate, and assailed the Youth with a
multitude of questions. He had already examined each with attention:
Alas! Agnes was not amongst them. The Nuns heaped question upon
question so thickly that it was scarcely possible for him to reply. One
asked where He was born, since his accent declared him to be a
Foreigner: Another wanted to know, why He wore a patch upon his left
eye: Sister Helena enquired whether He had not a Sister like him,
because She should like such a Companion; and Sister Rachael was fully
persuaded that the Brother would be the pleasanter Companion of the
Two. Theodore amused himself with retailing to the credulous Nuns for
truths all the strange stories which his imagination could invent. He
related to them his supposed adventures, and penetrated every Auditor
with astonishment, while He talked of Giants, Savages, Ship-wrecks, and
Islands inhabited

“By anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders,”


with many other circumstances to the full as remarkable. He said, that
He was born in Terra Incognita, was educated at an Hottentot
University, and had past two years among the Americans of Silesia.

“For what regards the loss of my eye” said He, “it was a just
punishment upon me for disrespect to the Virgin, when I made my second
pilgrimage to Loretto. I stood near the Altar in the miraculous Chapel:
The Monks were proceeding to array the Statue in her best apparel. The
Pilgrims were ordered to close their eyes during this ceremony: But
though by nature extremely religious, curiosity was too powerful. At
the moment ..... I shall penetrate you with horror, reverend Ladies,
when I reveal my crime! .... At the moment that the Monks were changing
her shift, I ventured to open my left eye, and gave a little peep
towards the Statue. That look was my last! The Glory which surrounded
the Virgin was too great to be supported. I hastily shut my
sacrilegious eye, and never have been able to unclose it since!”

At the relation of this miracle the Nuns all crossed themselves, and
promised to intercede with the blessed Virgin for the recovery of his
sight. They expressed their wonder at the extent of his travels, and at
the strange adventures which He had met with at so early an age. They
now remarked his Guitar, and enquired whether he was an adept in Music.
He replied with modesty that it was not for him to decide upon his
talents, but requested permission to appeal to them as Judges. This was
granted without difficulty.

“But at least,” said the old Porteress, “take care not to sing any
thing profane.”

“You may depend upon my discretion,” replied Theodore: “You shall hear
how dangerous it is for young Women to abandon themselves to their
passions, illustrated by the adventure of a Damsel who fell suddenly in
love with an unknown Knight.”

“But is the adventure true?” enquired the Porteress.

“Every word of it. It happened in Denmark, and the Heroine was thought
so beautiful that She was known by no other name but that of ‘the
lovely Maid’.”

“In Denmark, say you?” mumbled an old Nun; “Are not the People all
Blacks in Denmark?”

“By no means, reverend Lady; They are of a delicate pea-green with
flame-coloured hair and whiskers.”

“Mother of God! Pea-green?” exclaimed Sister Helena; “Oh! ’tis
impossible!”

“Impossible?” said the Porteress with a look of contempt and
exultation: “Not at all: When I was a young Woman, I remember seeing
several of them myself.”

Theodore now put his instrument in proper order. He had read the story
of a King of England whose prison was discovered by a Minstrel; and He
hoped that the same scheme would enable him to discover Agnes, should
She be in the Convent. He chose a Ballad which She had taught him
herself in the Castle of Lindenberg: She might possibly catch the
sound, and He hoped to hear her replying to some of the Stanzas. His
Guitar was now in tune, and He prepared to strike it.

“But before I begin,” said He “it is necessary to inform you, Ladies,
that this same Denmark is terribly infested by Sorcerers, Witches, and
Evil Spirits. Every element possesses its appropriate Dæmons. The Woods
are haunted by a malignant power, called ‘the Erl- or Oak-King:’ He it
is who blights the Trees, spoils the Harvest, and commands the Imps and
Goblins: He appears in the form of an old Man of majestic figure, with
a golden Crown and long white beard: His principal amusement is to
entice young Children from their Parents, and as soon as He gets them
into his Cave, He tears them into a thousand pieces—The Rivers are
governed by another Fiend, called ‘the Water-King:’ His province is to
agitate the deep, occasion ship-wrecks, and drag the drowning Sailors
beneath the waves: He wears the appearance of a Warrior, and employs
himself in luring young Virgins into his snare: What He does with them,
when He catches them in the water, Reverend Ladies, I leave for you to
imagine—‘The Fire-King’ seems to be a Man all formed of flames: He
raises the Meteors and wandering lights which beguile Travellers into
ponds and marshes, and He directs the lightning where it may do most
mischief—The last of these elementary Dæmons is called ‘the
Cloud-King;’ His figure is that of a beautiful Youth, and He is
distinguished by two large sable Wings: Though his outside is so
enchanting, He is not a bit better disposed than the Others: He is
continually employed in raising Storms, tearing up Forests by the
roots, and blowing Castles and Convents about the ears of their
Inhabitants. The First has a Daughter, who is Queen of the Elves and
Fairies; The Second has a Mother, who is a powerful Enchantress:
Neither of these Ladies are worth more than the Gentlemen: I do not
remember to have heard any family assigned to the two other Dæmons, but
at present I have no business with any of them except the Fiend of the
Waters. He is the Hero of my Ballad; but I thought it necessary before
I began, to give you some account of his proceedings—”

Theodore then played a short symphony; After which, stretching his
voice to its utmost extent to facilitate its reaching the ear of Agnes,
He sang the following Stanzas.

THE WATER-KING
A DANISH BALLAD


With gentle murmur flowed the tide,
While by the fragrant flowery side
The lovely Maid with carols gay
To Mary’s church pursued her way.

The Water-Fiend’s malignant eye
Along the Banks beheld her hie;
Straight to his Mother-witch he sped,
And thus in suppliant accents said:

“Oh! Mother! Mother! now advise,
How I may yonder Maid surprize:
Oh! Mother! Mother! Now explain,
How I may yonder Maid obtain.”

The Witch She gave him armour white;
She formed him like a gallant Knight;
Of water clear next made her hand
A Steed, whose housings were of sand.

The Water-King then swift He went;
To Mary’s Church his steps He bent:
He bound his Courser to the Door,
And paced the Church-yard three times four.

His Courser to the door bound He,
And paced the Church-yard four time three:
Then hastened up the Aisle, where all
The People flocked, both great and small.

The Priest said, as the Knight drew near,
“And wherefore comes the white Chief here?”
The lovely Maid She smiled aside;
“Oh! would I were the white Chief’s Bride!”

He stept o’er Benches one and two;
“Oh! lovely Maid, I die for You!”
He stept o’er Benches two and three;
“Oh! lovely Maiden, go with me!”

Then sweet She smiled, the lovely Maid,
And while She gave her hand, She said,
“Betide me joy, betide me woe,
O’er Hill, o’er dale, with thee I go.”

The Priest their hands together joins:
They dance, while clear the moon-beam shines;
And little thinks the Maiden bright,
Her Partner is the Water-spright.

Oh! had some spirit deigned to sing,
“Your Partner is the Water-King!”
The Maid had fear and hate confest,
And cursed the hand which then She prest.

But nothing giving cause to think,
How near She strayed to danger’s brink,
Still on She went, and hand in hand
The Lovers reached the yellow sand.

“Ascend this Steed with me, my Dear;
We needs must cross the streamlet here;
Ride boldly in; It is not deep;
The winds are hushed, the billows sleep.”

Thus spoke the Water-King. The Maid
Her Traitor-Bride-groom’s wish obeyed:
And soon She saw the Courser lave
Delighted in his parent wave.

“Stop! Stop! my Love! The waters blue
E’en now my shrinking foot bedew!”
“Oh! lay aside your fears, sweet Heart!
We now have reached the deepest part.”

“Stop! Stop! my Love! For now I see
The waters rise above my knee.”
“Oh! lay aside your fears, sweet Heart!
We now have reached the deepest part.”

“Stop! Stop! for God’s sake, stop! For Oh!
The waters o’er my bosom flow!”—
Scarce was the word pronounced, when Knight
And Courser vanished from her sight.

She shrieks, but shrieks in vain; for high
The wild winds rising dull the cry;
The Fiend exults; The Billows dash,
And o’er their hapless Victim wash.

Three times while struggling with the stream,
The lovely Maid was heard to scream;
But when the Tempest’s rage was o’er,
The lovely Maid was seen no more.

Warned by this Tale, ye Damsels fair,
To whom you give your love beware!
Believe not every handsome Knight,
And dance not with the Water-Spright!


The Youth ceased to sing. The Nuns were delighted with the sweetness of
his voice and masterly manner of touching the Instrument: But however
acceptable this applause would have been at any other time, at present
it was insipid to Theodore. His artifice had not succeeded. He paused
in vain between the Stanzas: No voice replied to his, and He abandoned
the hope of equalling Blondel.

The Convent Bell now warned the Nuns that it was time to assemble in
the Refectory. They were obliged to quit the Grate; They thanked the
Youth for the entertainment which his Music had afforded them, and
charged him to return the next day. This He promised: The Nuns, to give
him the greater inclination to keep his word, told him that He might
always depend upon the Convent for his meals, and each of them made him
some little present. One gave him a box of sweetmeats; Another, an
Agnus Dei; Some brought reliques of Saints, waxen Images, and
consecrated Crosses; and Others presented him with pieces of those
works in which the Religious excel, such as embroidery, artificial
flowers, lace, and needlework. All these He was advised to sell, in
order to put himself into better case; and He was assured that it would
be easy to dispose of them, since the Spaniards hold the performances
of the Nuns in high estimation. Having received these gifts with
seeming respect and gratitude, He remarked that, having no Basket, He
knew not how to convey them away. Several of the Nuns were hastening in
search of one, when they were stopped by the return of an elderly
Woman, whom Theodore had not till then observed: Her mild countenance,
and respectable air prejudiced him immediately in her favour.

“Hah!” said the Porteress; “Here comes the Mother St. Ursula with a
Basket.”

The Nun approached the Grate, and presented the Basket to Theodore: It
was of willow, lined with blue satin, and upon the four sides were
painted scenes from the legend of St. Genevieve.

“Here is my gift,” said She, as She gave it into his hand; “Good Youth,
despise it not; Though its value seems insignificant, it has many
hidden virtues.”

She accompanied these words with an expressive look. It was not lost
upon Theodore; In receiving the present, He drew as near the Grate as
possible.

“Agnes!” She whispered in a voice scarcely intelligible. Theodore,
however, caught the sound: He concluded that some mystery was concealed
in the Basket, and his heart beat with impatience and joy. At this
moment the Domina returned. Her air was gloomy and frowning, and She
looked if possible more stern than ever.

“Mother St. Ursula, I would speak with you in private.”

The Nun changed colour, and was evidently disconcerted.

“With me?” She replied in a faltering voice.

The Domina motioned that She must follow her, and retired. The Mother
St. Ursula obeyed her; Soon after, the Refectory Bell ringing a second
time, the Nuns quitted the Grate, and Theodore was left at liberty to
carry off his prize. Delighted that at length He had obtained some
intelligence for the Marquis, He flew rather than ran, till He reached
the Hotel de las Cisternas. In a few minutes He stood by his Master’s
Bed with the Basket in his hand. Lorenzo was in the chamber,
endeavouring to reconcile his Friend to a misfortune which He felt
himself but too severely. Theodore related his adventure, and the hopes
which had been created by the Mother St. Ursula’s gift. The Marquis
started from his pillow: That fire which since the death of Agnes had
been extinguished, now revived in his bosom, and his eyes sparkled with
the eagerness of expectation. The emotions which Lorenzo’s countenance
betrayed, were scarcely weaker, and He waited with inexpressible
impatience for the solution of this mystery. Raymond caught the basket
from the hands of his Page: He emptied the contents upon the bed, and
examined them with minute attention. He hoped that a letter would be
found at the bottom; Nothing of the kind appeared. The search was
resumed, and still with no better success. At length Don Raymond
observed that one corner of the blue satin lining was unripped; He tore
it open hastily, and drew forth a small scrap of paper neither folded
or sealed. It was addressed to the Marquis de las Cisternas, and the
contents were as follows:

“Having recognised your Page, I venture to send these few lines.
Procure an order from the Cardinal-Duke for seizing my Person, and that
of the Domina; But let it not be executed till Friday at midnight. It
is the Festival of St. Clare: There will be a procession of Nuns by
torch-light, and I shall be among them. Beware not to let your
intention be known: Should a syllable be dropt to excite the Domina’s
suspicions, you will never hear of me more. Be cautious, if you prize
the memory of Agnes, and wish to punish her Assassins. I have that to
tell, will freeze your blood with horror.


“ST. URSULA.”


No sooner had the Marquis read the note than He fell back upon his
pillow deprived of sense or motion. The hope failed him which till now
had supported his existence; and these lines convinced him but too
positively that Agnes was indeed no more. Lorenzo felt this
circumstance less forcibly, since it had always been his idea that his
Sister had perished by unfair means. When He found by the Mother St.
Ursula’s letter how true were his suspicions, the confirmation excited
no other sentiment in his bosom than a wish to punish the Murderers as
they deserved. It was no easy task to recall the Marquis to himself. As
soon as He recovered his speech, He broke out into execrations against
the Assassins of his Beloved, and vowed to take upon them a signal
vengeance. He continued to rave and torment himself with impotent
passion till his constitution, enfeebled by grief and illness, could
support itself no longer, and He relapsed into insensibility. His
melancholy situation sincerely affected Lorenzo, who would willingly
have remained in the apartment of his Friend; But other cares now
demanded his presence. It was necessary to procure the order for
seizing the Prioress of St. Clare. For this purpose, having committed
Raymond to the care of the best Physicians in Madrid, He quitted the
Hotel de las Cisternas, and bent his course towards the Palace of the
Cardinal-Duke.

His disappointment was excessive, when He found that affairs of State
had obliged the Cardinal to set out for a distant Province.

It wanted but five to Friday: Yet by travelling day and night, He hoped
to return in time for the Pilgrimage of St. Clare. In this He
succeeded. He found the Cardinal-Duke; and represented to him the
supposed culpability of the Prioress, as also the violent effects which
it had produced upon Don Raymond. He could have used no argument so
forcible as this last. Of all his Nephews, the Marquis was the only one
to whom the Cardinal-Duke was sincerely attached: He perfectly doated
upon him, and the Prioress could have committed no greater crime in his
eyes than to have endangered the life of the Marquis. Consequently, He
granted the order of arrest without difficulty: He also gave Lorenzo a
letter to a principal Officer of the Inquisition, desiring him to see
his mandate executed. Furnished with these papers, Medina hastened back
to Madrid, which He reached on the Friday a few hours before dark. He
found the Marquis somewhat easier, but so weak and exhausted that
without great exertion He could neither speak or more. Having past an
hour by his Bedside, Lorenzo left him to communicate his design to his
Uncle, as also to give Don Ramirez de Mello the Cardinal’s letter. The
First was petrified with horror when He learnt the fate of his unhappy
Niece: He encouraged Lorenzo to punish her Assassins, and engaged to
accompany him at night to St. Clare’s Convent. Don Ramirez promised his
firmest support, and selected a band of trusty Archers to prevent
opposition on the part of the Populace.

But while Lorenzo was anxious to unmask one religious Hypocrite, He was
unconscious of the sorrows prepared for him by Another. Aided by
Matilda’s infernal Agents, Ambrosio had resolved upon the innocent
Antonia’s ruin. The moment destined to be so fatal to her arrived. She
had taken leave of her Mother for the night.

As She kissed her, She felt an unusual despondency infuse itself into
her bosom. She left her, and returned to her instantly, threw herself
into her maternal arms, and bathed her cheek with tears: She felt
uneasy at quitting her, and a secret presentiment assured her that
never must they meet again. Elvira observed, and tried to laugh her out
of this childish prejudice: She chid her mildly for encouraging such
ungrounded sadness, and warned her how dangerous it was to encourage
such ideas.

To all her remonstrances She received no other answer than,

“Mother! Dear Mother! Oh! would to God, it were Morning!”

Elvira, whose inquietude respecting her Daughter was a great obstacle
to her perfect reestablishment, was still labouring under the effects
of her late severe illness. She was this Evening more than usually
indisposed, and retired to bed before her accustomed hour. Antonia
withdrew from her Mother’s chamber with regret, and till the Door
closed, kept her eyes fixed upon her with melancholy expression. She
retired to her own apartment; Her heart was filled with bitterness: It
seemed to her that all her prospects were blasted, and the world
contained nothing for which it was worth existing. She sank into a
Chair, reclined her head upon her arm, and gazed upon the floor with a
vacant stare, while the most gloomy images floated before her fancy.
She was still in this state of insensibility when She was disturbed by
hearing a strain of soft Music breathed beneath her window. She rose,
drew near the Casement, and opened it to hear it more distinctly.
Having thrown her veil over her face, She ventured to look out. By the
light of the Moon She perceived several Men below with Guitars and
Lutes in their hands; and at a little distance from them stood Another
wrapped in his cloak, whose stature and appearance bore a strong
resemblance to Lorenzo’s. She was not deceived in this conjecture. It
was indeed Lorenzo himself, who bound by his word not to present
himself to Antonia without his Uncle’s consent, endeavoured by
occasional Serenades, to convince his Mistress that his attachment
still existed. His stratagem had not the desired effect. Antonia was
far from supposing that this nightly music was intended as a compliment
to her: She was too modest to think herself worthy such attentions; and
concluding them to be addressed to some neighbouring Lady, She grieved
to find that they were offered by Lorenzo.

The air which was played, was plaintive and melodious. It accorded with
the state of Antonia’s mind, and She listened with pleasure. After a
symphony of some length, it was succeeded by the sound of voices, and
Antonia distinguished the following words.

SERENADE


Chorus


Oh! Breathe in gentle strain, my Lyre!
’Tis here that Beauty loves to rest:
Describe the pangs of fond desire,
Which rend a faithful Lover’s breast.


Song


In every heart to find a Slave,
In every Soul to fix his reign,
In bonds to lead the wise and brave,
And make the Captives kiss his chain,
Such is the power of Love, and Oh!
I grieve so well Love’s power to know.

In sighs to pass the live-long day,
To taste a short and broken sleep,
For one dear Object far away,
All others scorned, to watch and weep,
Such are the pains of Love, and Oh!
I grieve so well Love’s pains to know!

To read consent in virgin eyes,
To press the lip ne’er prest till then
To hear the sigh of transport rise,
And kiss, and kiss, and kiss again,
Such are thy pleasures, Love, But Oh!
When shall my heart thy pleasures know?


Chorus


Now hush, my Lyre! My voice be still!
Sleep, gentle Maid! May fond desire
With amorous thoughts thy visions fill,
Though still my voice, and hushed my Lyre.


The Music ceased: The Performers dispersed, and silence prevailed
through the Street. Antonia quitted the window with regret: She as
usual recommended herself to the protection of St. Rosolia, said her
accustomed prayers, and retired to bed. Sleep was not long absent, and
his presence relieved her from her terrors and inquietude.

It was almost two o’clock before the lustful Monk ventured to bend his
steps towards Antonia’s dwelling. It has been already mentioned that
the Abbey was at no great distance from the Strada di San Iago. He
reached the House unobserved. Here He stopped, and hesitated for a
moment. He reflected on the enormity of the crime, the consequences of
a discovery, and the probability, after what had passed, of Elvira’s
suspecting him to be her Daughter’s Ravisher: On the other hand it was
suggested that She could do no more than suspect; that no proofs of his
guilt could be produced; that it would seem impossible for the rape to
have been committed without Antonia’s knowing when, where, or by whom;
and finally, He believed that his fame was too firmly established to be
shaken by the unsupported accusations of two unknown Women. This latter
argument was perfectly false: He knew not how uncertain is the air of
popular applause, and that a moment suffices to make him today the
detestation of the world, who yesterday was its Idol. The result of the
Monk’s deliberations was that He should proceed in his enterprize. He
ascended the steps leading to the House. No sooner did He touch the
door with the silver Myrtle, than it flew open, and presented him with
a free passage. He entered, and the door closed after him of its own
accord.

Guided by the moonbeams, He proceeded up the Staircase with slow and
cautious steps. He looked round him every moment with apprehension and
anxiety. He saw a Spy in every shadow, and heard a voice in every
murmur of the night breeze. Consciousness of the guilty business on
which He was employed appalled his heart, and rendered it more timid
than a Woman’s. Yet still He proceeded. He reached the door of
Antonia’s chamber. He stopped, and listened. All was hushed within. The
total silence persuaded him that his intended Victim was retired to
rest, and He ventured to lift up the Latch. The door was fastened, and
resisted his efforts: But no sooner was it touched by the Talisman,
than the Bolt flew back. The Ravisher stept on, and found himself in
the chamber, where slept the innocent Girl, unconscious how dangerous a
Visitor was drawing near her Couch. The door closed after him, and the
Bolt shot again into its fastening.

Ambrosio advanced with precaution. He took care that not a board should
creak under his foot, and held in his breath as He approached the Bed.
His first attention was to perform the magic ceremony, as Matilda had
charged him: He breathed thrice upon the silver Myrtle, pronounced over
it Antonia’s name, and laid it upon her pillow. The effects which it
had already produced permitted not his doubting its success in
prolonging the slumbers of his devoted Mistress. No sooner was the
enchantment performed than He considered her to be absolutely in his
power, and his eyes flamed with lust and impatience. He now ventured to
cast a glance upon the sleeping Beauty. A single Lamp, burning before
the Statue of St. Rosolia, shed a faint light through the room, and
permitted him to examine all the charms of the lovely Object before
him. The heat of the weather had obliged her to throw off part of the
Bed-cloathes: Those which still covered her, Ambrosio’s insolent hand
hastened to remove. She lay with her cheek reclining upon one ivory
arm; The Other rested on the side of the Bed with graceful indolence. A
few tresses of her hair had escaped from beneath the Muslin which
confined the rest, and fell carelessly over her bosom, as it heaved
with slow and regular suspiration. The warm air had spread her cheek
with higher colour than usual. A smile inexpressibly sweet played round
her ripe and coral lips, from which every now and then escaped a gentle
sigh or an half-pronounced sentence. An air of enchanting innocence and
candour pervaded her whole form; and there was a sort of modesty in her
very nakedness which added fresh stings to the desires of the lustful
Monk.

He remained for some moments devouring those charms with his eyes which
soon were to be subjected to his ill-regulated passions. Her mouth
half-opened seemed to solicit a kiss: He bent over her; he joined his
lips to hers, and drew in the fragrance of her breath with rapture.
This momentary pleasure increased his longing for still greater. His
desires were raised to that frantic height by which Brutes are
agitated. He resolved not to delay for one instant longer the
accomplishment of his wishes, and hastily proceeded to tear off those
garments which impeded the gratification of his lust.

“Gracious God!” exclaimed a voice behind him; “Am I not deceived?

Is not this an illusion?”

Terror, confusion, and disappointment accompanied these words, as they
struck Ambrosio’s hearing. He started, and turned towards it. Elvira
stood at the door of the chamber, and regarded the Monk with looks of
surprize and detestation.

A frightful dream had represented to her Antonia on the verge of a
precipice. She saw her trembling on the brink: Every moment seemed to
threaten her fall, and She heard her exclaim with shrieks, “Save me,
Mother! Save me!—Yet a moment, and it will be too late!” Elvira woke in
terror. The vision had made too strong an impression upon her mind, to
permit her resting till assured of her Daughter’s safety. She hastily
started from her Bed, threw on a loose night-gown, and passing through
the Closet in which slept the Waiting-woman, She reached Antonia’s
chamber just in time to rescue her from the grasp of the Ravisher.

His shame and her amazement seemed to have petrified into Statues both
Elvira and the Monk: They remained gazing upon each other in silence.
The Lady was the first to recover herself.

“It is no dream!” She cried; “It is really Ambrosio, who stands before
me! It is the Man whom Madrid esteems a Saint, that I find at this late
hour near the Couch of my unhappy Child! Monster of Hypocrisy! I
already suspected your designs, but forbore your accusation in pity to
human frailty. Silence would now be criminal: The whole City shall be
informed of your incontinence. I will unmask you, Villain, and convince
the Church what a Viper She cherishes in her bosom.”

Pale and confused the baffled Culprit stood trembling before her.

He would fain have extenuated his offence, but could find no apology
for his conduct: He could produce nothing but broken sentences, and
excuses which contradicted each other. Elvira was too justly incensed
to grant the pardon which He requested. She protested that She would
raise the neighbourhood, and make him an example to all future
Hypocrites. Then hastening to the Bed, She called to Antonia to wake;
and finding that her voice had no effect, She took her arm, and raised
her forcibly from the pillow. The charm operated too powerfully.
Antonia remained insensible, and on being released by her Mother, sank
back upon the pillow.

“This slumber cannot be natural!” cried the amazed Elvira, whose
indignation increased with every moment. “Some mystery is concealed in
it; But tremble, Hypocrite; all your villainy shall soon be unravelled!
Help! Help!” She exclaimed aloud; “Within there! Flora! Flora!”

“Hear me for one moment, Lady!” cried the Monk, restored to himself by
the urgency of the danger; “By all that is sacred and holy, I swear
that your Daughter’s honour is still unviolated. Forgive my
transgression! Spare me the shame of a discovery, and permit me to
regain the Abbey undisturbed. Grant me this request in mercy! I promise
not only that Antonia shall be secure from me in future, but that the
rest of my life shall prove .....”

Elvira interrupted him abruptly.

“Antonia secure from you? _I_ will secure her! You shall betray no
longer the confidence of Parents! Your iniquity shall be unveiled to
the public eye: All Madrid shall shudder at your perfidy, your
hypocrisy and incontinence. What Ho! there! Flora! Flora, I say!”

While She spoke thus, the remembrance of Agnes struck upon his mind.
Thus had She sued to him for mercy, and thus had He refused her prayer!
It was now his turn to suffer, and He could not but acknowledge that
his punishment was just. In the meanwhile Elvira continued to call
Flora to her assistance; but her voice was so choaked with passion that
the Servant, who was buried in profound slumber, was insensible to all
her cries: Elvira dared not go towards the Closet in which Flora slept,
lest the Monk should take that opportunity to escape. Such indeed was
his intention: He trusted that could He reach the Abbey unobserved by
any other than Elvira, her single testimony would not suffice to ruin a
reputation so well established as his was in Madrid. With this idea He
gathered up such garments as He had already thrown off, and hastened
towards the Door. Elvira was aware of his design; She followed him, and
ere He could draw back the bolt, seized him by the arm, and detained
him.

“Attempt not to fly!” said She; “You quit not this room without
Witnesses of your guilt.”

Ambrosio struggled in vain to disengage himself. Elvira quitted not her
hold, but redoubled her cries for succour. The Friar’s danger grew more
urgent. He expected every moment to hear people assembling at her
voice; And worked up to madness by the approach of ruin, He adopted a
resolution equally desperate and savage. Turning round suddenly, with
one hand He grasped Elvira’s throat so as to prevent her continuing her
clamour, and with the other, dashing her violently upon the ground, He
dragged her towards the Bed. Confused by this unexpected attack, She
scarcely had power to strive at forcing herself from his grasp: While
the Monk, snatching the pillow from beneath her Daughter’s head,
covering with it Elvira’s face, and pressing his knee upon her stomach
with all his strength, endeavoured to put an end to her existence. He
succeeded but too well. Her natural strength increased by the excess of
anguish, long did the Sufferer struggle to disengage herself, but in
vain. The Monk continued to kneel upon her breast, witnessed without
mercy the convulsive trembling of her limbs beneath him, and sustained
with inhuman firmness the spectacle of her agonies, when soul and body
were on the point of separating. Those agonies at length were over. She
ceased to struggle for life. The Monk took off the pillow, and gazed
upon her. Her face was covered with a frightful blackness:

Her limbs moved no more; The blood was chilled in her veins; Her heart
had forgotten to beat, and her hands were stiff and frozen.

Ambrosio beheld before him that once noble and majestic form, now
become a Corse, cold, senseless and disgusting.

This horrible act was no sooner perpetrated, than the Friar beheld the
enormity of his crime. A cold dew flowed over his limbs; his eyes
closed; He staggered to a chair, and sank into it almost as lifeless as
the Unfortunate who lay extended at his feet. From this state He was
rouzed by the necessity of flight, and the danger of being found in
Antonia’s apartment. He had no desire to profit by the execution of his
crime. Antonia now appeared to him an object of disgust. A deadly cold
had usurped the place of that warmth which glowed in his bosom: No
ideas offered themselves to his mind but those of death and guilt, of
present shame and future punishment. Agitated by remorse and fear He
prepared for flight: Yet his terrors did not so compleatly master his
recollection, as to prevent his taking the precautions necessary for
his safety. He replaced the pillow upon the bed, gathered up his
garments, and with the fatal Talisman in his hand, bent his unsteady
steps towards the door. Bewildered by fear, He fancied that his flight
was opposed by Legions of Phantoms; Whereever He turned, the disfigured
Corse seemed to lie in his passage, and it was long before He succeeded
in reaching the door. The enchanted Myrtle produced its former effect.
The door opened, and He hastened down the staircase. He entered the
Abbey unobserved, and having shut himself into his Cell, He abandoned
his soul to the tortures of unavailing remorse, and terrors of
impending detection.



CHAPTER IX.


Tell us, ye Dead, will none of you in pity
To those you left behind disclose the secret?
O! That some courteous Ghost would blab it out,
What ’tis you are, and we must shortly be.
I’ve heard that Souls departed have sometimes
Fore-warned Men of their deaths:
’Twas kindly done
To knock, and give the alarum.

BLAIR.

Ambrosio shuddered at himself, when He reflected on his rapid advances
in iniquity. The enormous crime which He had just committed filled him
with real horror. The murdered Elvira was continually before his eyes,
and his guilt was already punished by the agonies of his conscience.
Time, however, considerably weakened these impressions: One day passed
away, another followed it, and still not the least suspicion was thrown
upon him. Impunity reconciled him to his guilt: He began to resume his
spirits; and as his fears of detection died away, He paid less
attention to the reproaches of remorse. Matilda exerted herself to
quiet his alarms. At the first intelligence of Elvira’s death, She
seemed greatly affected, and joined the Monk in deploring the unhappy
catastrophe of his adventure: But when She found his agitation to be
somewhat calmed, and himself better disposed to listen to her
arguments, She proceeded to mention his offence in milder terms, and
convince him that He was not so highly culpable as He appeared to
consider himself. She represented that He had only availed himself of
the rights which Nature allows to every one, those of
self-preservation: That either Elvira or himself must have perished,
and that her inflexibility and resolution to ruin him had deservedly
marked her out for the Victim. She next stated, that as He had before
rendered himself suspected to Elvira, it was a fortunate event for him
that her lips were closed by death; since without this last adventure,
her suspicions if made public might have produced very disagreeable
consequences. He had therefore freed himself from an Enemy, to whom the
errors of his conduct were sufficiently known to make her dangerous,
and who was the greatest obstacle to his designs upon Antonia. Those
designs She encouraged him not to abandon. She assured him that, no
longer protected by her Mother’s watchful eye, the Daughter would fall
an easy conquest; and by praising and enumerating Antonia’s charms, She
strove to rekindle the desires of the Monk. In this endeavour She
succeeded but too well.

As if the crimes into which his passion had seduced him had only
increased its violence, He longed more eagerly than ever to enjoy
Antonia. The same success in concealing his present guilt, He trusted
would attend his future. He was deaf to the murmurs of conscience, and
resolved to satisfy his desires at any price. He waited only for an
opportunity of repeating his former enterprize; But to procure that
opportunity by the same means was now impracticable. In the first
transports of despair He had dashed the enchanted Myrtle into a
thousand pieces: Matilda told him plainly that He must expect no
further assistance from the infernal Powers unless He was willing to
subscribe to their established conditions. This Ambrosio was determined
not to do: He persuaded himself that however great might be his
iniquity, so long as he preserved his claim to salvation, He need not
despair of pardon. He therefore resolutely refused to enter into any
bond or compact with the Fiends; and Matilda finding him obstinate upon
this point, forbore to press him further. She exerted her invention to
discover some means of putting Antonia into the Abbot’s power: Nor was
it long before that means presented itself.

While her ruin was thus meditating, the unhappy Girl herself suffered
severely from the loss of her Mother. Every morning on waking, it was
her first care to hasten to Elvira’s chamber. On that which followed
Ambrosio’s fatal visit, She woke later than was her usual custom: Of
this She was convinced by the Abbey Chimes. She started from her bed,
threw on a few loose garments hastily, and was speeding to enquire how
her Mother had passed the night, when her foot struck against something
which lay in her passage. She looked down. What was her horror at
recognizing Elvira’s livid Corse! She uttered a loud shriek, and threw
herself upon the floor. She clasped the inanimate form to her bosom,
felt that it was dead-cold, and with a movement of disgust, of which
She was not the Mistress, let it fall again from her arms. The cry had
alarmed Flora, who hastened to her assistance. The sight which She
beheld penetrated her with horror; but her alarm was more audible than
Antonia’s. She made the House ring with her lamentations, while her
Mistress, almost suffocated with grief, could only mark her distress by
sobs and groans. Flora’s shrieks soon reached the ears of the Hostess,
whose terror and surprize were excessive on learning the cause of this
disturbance. A Physician was immediately sent for: But on the first
moment of beholding the Corse, He declared that Elvira’s recovery was
beyond the power of art. He proceeded therefore to give his assistance
to Antonia, who by this time was truly in need of it. She was conveyed
to bed, while the Landlady busied herself in giving orders for Elvira’s
Burial. Dame Jacintha was a plain good kind of Woman, charitable,
generous, and devout: But her intellects were weak, and She was a
Miserable Slave to fear and superstition. She shuddered at the idea of
passing the night in the same House with a dead Body: She was persuaded
that Elvira’s Ghost would appear to her, and no less certain that such
a visit would kill her with fright. From this persuasion, She resolved
to pass the night at a Neighbour’s, and insisted that the Funeral
should take place the next day. St. Clare’s Cemetery being the nearest,
it was determined that Elvira should be buried there. Dame Jacintha
engaged to defray every expence attending the burial. She knew not in
what circumstances Antonia was left, but from the sparing manner in
which the Family had lived, She concluded them to be indifferent.

Consequently, She entertained very little hope of ever being
recompensed; But this consideration prevented her not from taking care
that the Interment was performed with decency, and from showing the
unfortunate Antonia all possible respect.

Nobody dies of mere grief; Of this Antonia was an instance. Aided by
her youth and healthy constitution, She shook off the malady which her
Mother’s death had occasioned; But it was not so easy to remove the
disease of her mind. Her eyes were constantly filled with tears: Every
trifle affected her, and She evidently nourished in her bosom a
profound and rooted melancholy. The slightest mention of Elvira, the
most trivial circumstance recalling that beloved Parent to her memory,
was sufficient to throw her into serious agitation. How much would her
grief have been increased, had She known the agonies which terminated
her Mother’s existence! But of this no one entertained the least
suspicion. Elvira was subject to strong convulsions: It was supposed
that, aware of their approach, She had dragged herself to her
Daughter’s chamber in hopes of assistance; that a sudden access of her
fits had seized her, too violent to be resisted by her already
enfeebled state of health; and that She had expired ere She had time to
reach the medicine which generally relieved her, and which stood upon a
shelf in Antonia’s room. This idea was firmly credited by the few
people, who interested themselves about Elvira: Her Death was esteemed
a natural event, and soon forgotten by all save by her, who had but too
much reason to deplore her loss.

In truth Antonia’s situation was sufficiently embarrassing and
unpleasant. She was alone in the midst of a dissipated and expensive
City; She was ill provided with money, and worse with Friends. Her aunt
Leonella was still at Cordova, and She knew not her direction. Of the
Marquis de las Cisternas She heard no news: As to Lorenzo, She had long
given up the idea of possessing any interest in his bosom. She knew not
to whom She could address herself in her present dilemma. She wished to
consult Ambrosio; But She remembered her Mother’s injunctions to shun
him as much as possible, and the last conversation which Elvira had
held with her upon the subject had given her sufficient lights
respecting his designs to put her upon her guard against him in future.
Still all her Mother’s warnings could not make her change her good
opinion of the Friar. She continued to feel that his friendship and
society were requisite to her happiness: She looked upon his failings
with a partial eye, and could not persuade herself that He really had
intended her ruin. However, Elvira had positively commanded her to drop
his acquaintance, and She had too much respect for her orders to
disobey them.

At length She resolved to address herself for advice and protection to
the Marquis de las Cisternas, as being her nearest Relation. She wrote
to him, briefly stating her desolate situation; She besought him to
compassionate his Brother’s Child, to continue to her Elvira’s pension,
and to authorise her retiring to his old Castle in Murcia, which till
now had been her retreat. Having sealed her letter, She gave it to the
trusty Flora, who immediately set out to execute her commission. But
Antonia was born under an unlucky Star. Had She made her application to
the Marquis but one day sooner, received as his Niece and placed at the
head of his Family, She would have escaped all the misfortunes with
which She was now threatened. Raymond had always intended to execute
this plan: But first, his hopes of making the proposal to Elvira
through the lips of Agnes, and afterwards, his disappointment at losing
his intended Bride, as well as the severe illness which for some time
had confined him to his Bed, made him defer from day to day the giving
an Asylum in his House to his Brother’s Widow. He had commissioned
Lorenzo to supply her liberally with money: But Elvira, unwilling to
receive obligations from that Nobleman, had assured him that She needed
no immediate pecuniary assistance. Consequently, the Marquis did not
imagine that a trifling delay on his part could create any
embarrassment; and the distress and agitation of his mind might well
excuse his negligence.

Had He been informed that Elvira’s death had left her Daughter
Friendless and unprotected, He would doubtless have taken such
measures, as would have ensured her from every danger: But Antonia was
not destined to be so fortunate. The day on which She sent her letter
to the Palace de las Cisternas was that following Lorenzo’s departure
from Madrid. The Marquis was in the first paroxysms of despair at the
conviction that Agnes was indeed no more: He was delirious, and his
life being in danger, no one was suffered to approach him. Flora was
informed that He was incapable of attending to Letters, and that
probably a few hours would decide his fate. With this unsatisfactory
answer She was obliged to return to her Mistress, who now found herself
plunged into greater difficulties than ever.

Flora and Dame Jacintha exerted themselves to console her. The Latter
begged her to make herself easy, for that as long as She chose to stay
with her, She would treat her like her own Child. Antonia, finding that
the good Woman had taken a real affection for her, was somewhat
comforted by thinking that She had at least one Friend in the World. A
Letter was now brought to her, directed to Elvira. She recognized
Leonella’s writing, and opening it with joy, found a detailed account
of her Aunt’s adventures at Cordova. She informed her Sister that She
had recovered her Legacy, had lost her heart, and had received in
exchange that of the most amiable of Apothecaries, past, present, and
to come. She added that She should be at Madrid on the Tuesday night,
and meant to have the pleasure of presenting her Caro Sposo in form.
Though her nuptials were far from pleasing Antonia, Leonella’s speedy
return gave her Niece much delight. She rejoiced in thinking that She
should once more be under a Relation’s care. She could not but judge it
to be highly improper, for a young Woman to be living among absolute
Strangers, with no one to regulate her conduct, or protect her from the
insults to which, in her defenceless situation, She was exposed. She
therefore looked forward with impatience to the Tuesday night.

It arrived. Antonia listened anxiously to the Carriages, as they rolled
along the Street. None of them stopped, and it grew late without
Leonella’s appearing. Still, Antonia resolved to sit up till her Aunt’s
arrival, and in spite of all her remonstrances, Dame Jacintha and Flora
insisted upon doing the same. The hours passed on slow and tediously.
Lorenzo’s departure from Madrid had put a stop to the nightly
Serenades: She hoped in vain to hear the usual sound of Guitars beneath
her window. She took up her own, and struck a few chords: But Music
that evening had lost its charms for her, and She soon replaced the
Instrument in its case. She seated herself at her embroidery frame, but
nothing went right: The silks were missing, the thread snapped every
moment, and the needles were so expert at falling that they seemed to
be animated. At length a flake of wax fell from the Taper which stood
near her upon a favourite wreath of Violets: This compleatly
discomposed her; She threw down her needle, and quitted the frame. It
was decreed that for that night nothing should have the power of
amusing her. She was the prey of Ennui, and employed herself in making
fruitless wishes for the arrival of her Aunt.

As She walked with a listless air up and down the chamber, the Door
caught her eye conducting to that which had been her Mother’s. She
remembered that Elvira’s little Library was arranged there, and thought
that She might possibly find in it some Book to amuse her till Leonella
should arrive. Accordingly She took her Taper from the table, passed
through the little Closet, and entered the adjoining apartment. As She
looked around her, the sight of this room brought to her recollection a
thousand painful ideas. It was the first time of her entering it since
her Mother’s death. The total silence prevailing through the chamber,
the Bed despoiled of its furniture, the cheerless hearth where stood an
extinguished Lamp, and a few dying Plants in the window which, since
Elvira’s loss, had been neglected, inspired Antonia with a melancholy
awe. The gloom of night gave strength to this sensation. She placed her
light upon the Table, and sank into a large chair, in which She had
seen her Mother seated a thousand and a thousand times. She was never
to see her seated there again! Tears unbidden streamed down her cheek,
and She abandoned herself to the sadness which grew deeper with every
moment.

Ashamed of her weakness, She at length rose from her seat: She
proceeded to seek for what had brought her to this melancholy scene.
The small collection of Books was arranged upon several shelves in
order. Antonia examined them without finding any thing likely to
interest her, till She put her hand upon a volume of old Spanish
Ballads. She read a few Stanzas of one of them: They excited her
curiosity. She took down the Book, and seated herself to peruse it with
more ease. She trimmed the Taper, which now drew towards its end, and
then read the following Ballad.

ALONZO THE BRAVE, AND FAIR IMOGINE


A Warrior so bold, and a Virgin so bright
    Conversed, as They sat on the green:
They gazed on each other with tender delight;
Alonzo the Brave was the name of the Knight,
    The Maid’s was the Fair Imogine.

“And Oh!” said the Youth, “since to-morrow I go
    To fight in a far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon leaving to flow,
Some Other will court you, and you will bestow
    On a wealthier Suitor your hand.”

“Oh! hush these suspicions,” Fair Imogine said,
    “Offensive to Love and to me!
For if ye be living, or if ye be dead,
I swear by the Virgin, that none in your stead
    Shall Husband of Imogine be.

“If e’er I by lust or by wealth led aside
    Forget my Alonzo the Brave,
God grant, that to punish my falsehood and pride
Your Ghost at the Marriage may sit by my side,
May tax me with perjury, claim me as Bride,
    And bear me away to the Grave!”

To Palestine hastened the Hero so bold;
    His Love, She lamented him sore:
But scarce had a twelve-month elapsed, when behold,
A Baron all covered with jewels and gold
    Arrived at Fair Imogine’s door.

His treasure, his presents, his spacious domain
    Soon made her untrue to her vows:
He dazzled her eyes; He bewildered her brain;
He caught her affections so light and so vain,
    And carried her home as his Spouse.

And now had the Marriage been blest by the Priest;
    The revelry now was begun:
The Tables, they groaned with the weight of the Feast;
Nor yet had the laughter and merriment ceased,
    When the Bell of the Castle told,—“One!”

Then first with amazement Fair Imogine found
    That a Stranger was placed by her side: His air was terrific;
He uttered no sound; He spoke not, He moved not,
He looked not around,
    But earnestly gazed on the Bride.

His vizor was closed, and gigantic his height;
    His armour was sable to view:
All pleasure and laughter were hushed at his sight;
The Dogs as They eyed him drew back in affright,
    The Lights in the chamber burned blue!

His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay;
    The Guests sat in silence and fear.
At length spoke the Bride, while She trembled;
“I pray, Sir Knight, that your Helmet aside you would lay,
    And deign to partake of our chear.”

The Lady is silent: The Stranger complies.
    His vizor lie slowly unclosed:
Oh! God! what a sight met Fair Imogine’s eyes!
What words can express her dismay and surprize,
    When a Skeleton’s head was exposed.

All present then uttered a terrified shout;
    All turned with disgust from the scene.
The worms, They crept in, and the worms, They crept out,
And sported his eyes and his temples about,
    While the Spectre addressed Imogine.

“Behold me, Thou false one! Behold me!” He cried;
    “Remember Alonzo the Brave!
God grants, that to punish thy falsehood and pride
My Ghost at thy marriage should sit by thy side,
Should tax thee with perjury, claim thee as Bride
    And bear thee away to the Grave!”

Thus saying, his arms round the Lady He wound,
    While loudly She shrieked in dismay;
Then sank with his prey through the wide-yawning ground:
Nor ever again was Fair Imogine found,
    Or the Spectre who bore her away.

Not long lived the Baron; and none since that time
    To inhabit the Castle presume:
For Chronicles tell, that by order sublime
There Imogine suffers the pain of her crime,
    And mourns her deplorable doom.

At midnight four times in each year does her Spright
    When Mortals in slumber are bound,
Arrayed in her bridal apparel of white,
Appear in the Hall with the Skeleton-Knight,
    And shriek, as He whirls her around.

While They drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave,
    Dancing round them the Spectres are seen:
Their liquor is blood, and this horrible Stave
They howl.—“To the health of Alonzo the Brave,
    And his Consort, the False Imogine!”


The perusal of this story was ill-calculated to dispel Antonia’s
melancholy. She had naturally a strong inclination to the marvellous;
and her Nurse, who believed firmly in Apparitions, had related to her
when an Infant so many horrible adventures of this kind, that all
Elvira’s attempts had failed to eradicate their impressions from her
Daughter’s mind. Antonia still nourished a superstitious prejudice in
her bosom: She was often susceptible of terrors which, when She
discovered their natural and insignificant cause, made her blush at her
own weakness. With such a turn of mind, the adventure which She had
just been reading sufficed to give her apprehensions the alarm. The
hour and the scene combined to authorize them. It was the dead of
night: She was alone, and in the chamber once occupied by her deceased
Mother. The weather was comfortless and stormy: The wind howled around
the House, the doors rattled in their frames, and the heavy rain
pattered against the windows. No other sound was heard. The Taper, now
burnt down to the socket, sometimes flaring upwards shot a gleam of
light through the room, then sinking again seemed upon the point of
expiring. Antonia’s heart throbbed with agitation: Her eyes wandered
fearfully over the objects around her, as the trembling flame
illuminated them at intervals. She attempted to rise from her seat; But
her limbs trembled so violently that She was unable to proceed. She
then called Flora, who was in a room at no great distance: But
agitation choaked her voice, and her cries died away in hollow murmurs.

She passed some minutes in this situation, after which her terrors
began to diminish. She strove to recover herself, and acquire strength
enough to quit the room: Suddenly She fancied, that She heard a low
sigh drawn near her. This idea brought back her former weakness. She
had already raised herself from her seat, and was on the point of
taking the Lamp from the Table. The imaginary noise stopped her: She
drew back her hand, and supported herself upon the back of a Chair. She
listened anxiously, but nothing more was heard.

“Gracious God!” She said to herself; “What could be that sound? Was I
deceived, or did I really hear it?”

Her reflections were interrupted by a noise at the door scarcely
audible: It seemed as if somebody was whispering. Antonia’s alarm
increased: Yet the Bolt She knew to be fastened, and this idea in some
degree reassured her. Presently the Latch was lifted up softly, and the
Door moved with caution backwards and forwards. Excess of terror now
supplied Antonia with that strength, of which She had till then been
deprived. She started from her place and made towards the Closet door,
whence She might soon have reached the chamber where She expected to
find Flora and Dame Jacintha. Scarcely had She reached the middle of
the room when the Latch was lifted up a second time. An involuntary
movement obliged her to turn her head. Slowly and gradually the Door
turned upon its hinges, and standing upon the Threshold She beheld a
tall thin Figure, wrapped in a white shroud which covered it from head
to foot.

This vision arrested her feet: She remained as if petrified in the
middle of the apartment. The Stranger with measured and solemn steps
drew near the Table. The dying Taper darted a blue and melancholy flame
as the Figure advanced towards it. Over the Table was fixed a small
Clock; The hand of it was upon the stroke of three. The Figure stopped
opposite to the Clock: It raised its right arm, and pointed to the
hour, at the same time looking earnestly upon Antonia, who waited for
the conclusion of this scene, motionless and silent.

The figure remained in this posture for some moments. The clock struck.
When the sound had ceased, the Stranger advanced yet a few steps nearer
Antonia.

“Yet three days,” said a voice faint, hollow, and sepulchral; “Yet
three days, and we meet again!”

Antonia shuddered at the words.

“We meet again?” She pronounced at length with difficulty: “Where shall
we meet? Whom shall I meet?”

The figure pointed to the ground with one hand, and with the other
raised the Linen which covered its face.

“Almighty God! My Mother!”

Antonia shrieked, and fell lifeless upon the floor.

Dame Jacintha who was at work in a neighbouring chamber, was alarmed by
the cry: Flora was just gone down stairs to fetch fresh oil for the
Lamp, by which they had been sitting. Jacintha therefore hastened alone
to Antonia’s assistance, and great was her amazement to find her
extended upon the floor. She raised her in her arms, conveyed her to
her apartment, and placed her upon the Bed still senseless. She then
proceeded to bathe her temples, chafe her hands, and use all possible
means of bringing her to herself. With some difficulty She succeeded.
Antonia opened her eyes, and looked round her wildly.

“Where is She?” She cried in a trembling voice; “Is She gone? Am I
safe? Speak to me! Comfort me! Oh! speak to me for God’s sake!”

“Safe from whom, my Child?” replied the astonished Jacintha; “What
alarms you? Of whom are you afraid?”

“In three days! She told me that we should meet in three days! I heard
her say it! I saw her, Jacintha, I saw her but this moment!”

She threw herself upon Jacintha’s bosom.

“You saw her? Saw whom?”

“My Mother’s Ghost!”

“Christ Jesus!” cried Jacintha, and starting from the Bed, let fall
Antonia upon the pillow, and fled in consternation out of the room.

As She hastened down stairs, She met Flora ascending them.

“Go to your Mistress, Flora,” said She; “Here are rare doings! Oh! I am
the most unfortunate Woman alive! My House is filled with Ghosts and
dead Bodies, and the Lord knows what besides; Yet I am sure, nobody
likes such company less than I do. But go your way to Donna Antonia,
Flora, and let me go mine.”

Thus saying, She continued her course to the Street door, which She
opened, and without allowing herself time to throw on her veil, She
made the best of her way to the Capuchin Abbey. In the meanwhile, Flora
hastened to her Lady’s chamber, equally surprized and alarmed at
Jacintha’s consternation. She found Antonia lying upon the bed
insensible. She used the same means for her recovery that Jacintha had
already employed; But finding that her Mistress only recovered from one
fit to fall into another, She sent in all haste for a Physician. While
expecting his arrival, She undrest Antonia, and conveyed her to Bed.

Heedless of the storm, terrified almost out of her senses, Jacintha ran
through the Streets, and stopped not till She reached the Gate of the
Abbey. She rang loudly at the bell, and as soon as the Porter appeared,
She desired permission to speak to the Superior. Ambrosio was then
conferring with Matilda upon the means of procuring access to Antonia.
The cause of Elvira’s death remaining unknown, He was convinced that
crimes were not so swiftly followed by punishment, as his Instructors
the Monks had taught him, and as till then He had himself believed.
This persuasion made him resolve upon Antonia’s ruin, for the enjoyment
of whose person dangers and difficulties only seemed to have increased
his passion. The Monk had already made one attempt to gain admission to
her presence; But Flora had refused him in such a manner as to convince
him that all future endeavours must be vain. Elvira had confided her
suspicions to that trusty Servant: She had desired her never to leave
Ambrosio alone with her Daughter, and if possible to prevent their
meeting altogether. Flora promised to obey her, and had executed her
orders to the very letter. Ambrosio’s visit had been rejected that
morning, though Antonia was ignorant of it. He saw that to obtain a
sight of his Mistress by open means was out of the question; and both
Himself and Matilda had consumed the night, in endeavouring to invent
some plan, whose event might be more successful. Such was their
employment, when a Lay-Brother entered the Abbot’s Cell, and informed
him that a Woman calling herself Jacintha Zuniga requested audience for
a few minutes.

Ambrosio was by no means disposed to grant the petition of his Visitor.
He refused it positively, and bad the Lay-Brother tell the Stranger to
return the next day. Matilda interrupted him.

“See this Woman,” said She in a low voice; “I have my reasons.”

The Abbot obeyed her, and signified that He would go to the Parlour
immediately. With this answer the Lay-Brother withdrew. As soon as they
were alone Ambrosio enquired why Matilda wished him to see this
Jacintha.

“She is Antonia’s Hostess,” replied Matilda; “She may possibly be of
use to you: but let us examine her, and learn what brings her hither.”

They proceeded together to the Parlour, where Jacintha was already
waiting for the Abbot. She had conceived a great opinion of his piety
and virtue; and supposing him to have much influence over the Devil,
thought that it must be an easy matter for him to lay Elvira’s Ghost in
the Red Sea. Filled with this persuasion She had hastened to the Abbey.
As soon as She saw the Monk enter the Parlour, She dropped upon her
knees, and began her story as follows.

“Oh! Reverend Father! Such an accident! Such an adventure! I know not
what course to take, and unless you can help me, I shall certainly go
distracted. Well, to be sure, never was Woman so unfortunate, as
myself! All in my power to keep clear of such abomination have I done,
and yet that all is too little. What signifies my telling my beads four
times a day, and observing every fast prescribed by the Calendar? What
signifies my having made three Pilgrimages to St. James of Compostella,
and purchased as many pardons from the Pope as would buy off Cain’s
punishment? Nothing prospers with me! All goes wrong, and God only
knows, whether any thing will ever go right again! Why now, be your
Holiness the Judge. My Lodger dies in convulsions; Out of pure kindness
I bury her at my own expence; (Not that she is any relation of mine, or
that I shall be benefited a single pistole by her death: I got nothing
by it, and therefore you know, reverend Father, that her living or
dying was just the same to me. But that is nothing to the purpose; To
return to what I was saying,) I took care of her funeral, had every
thing performed decently and properly, and put myself to expence
enough, God knows! And how do you think the Lady repays me for my
kindness? Why truly by refusing to sleep quietly in her comfortable
deal Coffin, as a peaceable well-disposed Spirit ought to do, and
coming to plague me, who never wish to set eyes on her again. Forsooth,
it well becomes her to go racketing about my House at midnight, popping
into her Daughter’s room through the Keyhole, and frightening the poor
Child out of her wits! Though She be a Ghost, She might be more civil
than to bolt into a Person’s House, who likes her company so little.
But as for me, reverend Father, the plain state of the case is this: If
She walks into my House, I must walk out of it, for I cannot abide such
Visitors, not I! Thus you see, your Sanctity, that without your
assistance I am ruined and undone for ever. I shall be obliged to quit
my House; Nobody will take it, when ’tis known that She haunts it, and
then I shall find myself in a fine situation! Miserable Woman that I
am! What shall I do! What will become of me!”

Here She wept bitterly, wrung her hands, and begged to know the Abbot’s
opinion of her case.

“In truth, good Woman,” replied He, “It will be difficult for me to
relieve you without knowing what is the matter with you. You have
forgotten to tell me what has happened, and what it is you want.”

“Let me die” cried Jacintha, “but your Sanctity is in the right! This
then is the fact stated briefly. A lodger of mine is lately dead, a
very good sort of Woman that I must needs say for her as far as my
knowledge of her went, though that was not a great way:

She kept me too much at a distance; for indeed She was given to be upon
the high ropes, and whenever I ventured to speak to her, She had a look
with her which always made me feel a little queerish, God forgive me
for saying so. However, though She was more stately than needful, and
affected to look down upon me (Though if I am well informed, I come of
as good Parents as She could do for her ears, for her Father was a
Shoe-maker at Cordova, and Mine was an Hatter at Madrid, aye, and a
very creditable Hatter too, let me tell you,) Yet for all her pride,
She was a quiet well-behaved Body, and I never wish to have a better
Lodger. This makes me wonder the more at her not sleeping quietly in
her Grave: But there is no trusting to people in this world! For my
part, I never saw her do amiss, except on the Friday before her death.
To be sure, I was then much scandalized by seeing her eat the wing of a
Chicken! ‘How, Madona Flora!’ quoth I; (Flora, may it please your
Reverence, is the name of the waiting Maid)—‘How, Madona Flora!’ quoth
I; ‘Does your Mistress eat flesh upon Fridays? Well! Well! See the
event, and then remember that Dame Jacintha warned you of it!’ These
were my very words, but Alas! I might as well have held my tongue!
Nobody minded me; and Flora, who is somewhat pert and snappish, (More
is the pity, say I) told me that there was no more harm in eating a
Chicken than the egg from which it came. Nay, She even declared that if
her Lady added a slice of bacon, She would not be an inch nearer
Damnation, God protect us! A poor ignorant sinful soul! I protest to
your Holiness, I trembled to hear her utter such blasphemies, and
expected every moment to see the ground open and swallow her up,
Chicken and all! For you must know, worshipful Father, that while She
talked thus, She held the plate in her hand, on which lay the identical
roast Fowl. And a fine Bird it was, that I must say for it! Done to a
turn, for I superintended the cooking of it myself: It was a little
Gallician of my own raising, may it please your Holiness, and the flesh
was as white as an egg-shell, as indeed Donna Elvira told me herself.
‘Dame Jacintha,’ said She, very good-humouredly, though to say the
truth, She was always very polite to me .....”

Here Ambrosio’s patience failed him. Eager to know Jacintha’s business
in which Antonia seemed to be concerned, He was almost distracted while
listening to the rambling of this prosing old Woman. He interrupted
her, and protested that if She did not immediately tell her story and
have done with it, He should quit the Parlour, and leave her to get out
of her difficulties by herself. This threat had the desired effect.
Jacintha related her business in as few words as She could manage; But
her account was still so prolix that Ambrosio had need of his patience
to bear him to the conclusion.

“And so, your Reverence,” said She, after relating Elvira’s death and
burial, with all their circumstances; “And so, your Reverence, upon
hearing the shriek, I put away my work, and away posted I to Donna
Antonia’s chamber. Finding nobody there, I past on to the next; But I
must own, I was a little timorous at going in, for this was the very
room where Donna Elvira used to sleep. However, in I went, and sure
enough, there lay the young Lady at full length upon the floor, as cold
as a stone, and as white as a sheet. I was surprized at this, as your
Holiness may well suppose; But Oh me! how I shook when I saw a great
tall figure at my elbow whose head touched the ceiling! The face was
Donna Elvira’s, I must confess; But out of its mouth came clouds of
fire, its arms were loaded with heavy chains which it rattled
piteously, and every hair on its head was a Serpent as big as my arm!
At this I was frightened enough, and began to say my Ave-Maria: But the
Ghost interrupting me uttered three loud groans, and roared out in a
terrible voice, ‘Oh! That Chicken’s wing! My poor soul suffers for it!’
As soon as She had said this, the Ground opened, the Spectre sank down,
I heard a clap of thunder, and the room was filled with a smell of
brimstone. When I recovered from my fright, and had brought Donna
Antonia to herself, who told me that She had cried out upon seeing her
Mother’s Ghost, (And well might She cry, poor Soul! Had I been in her
place, I should have cried ten times louder) it directly came into my
head, that if any one had power to quiet this Spectre, it must be your
Reverence. So hither I came in all diligence, to beg that you will
sprinkle my House with holy water, and lay the Apparition in the Red
Sea.”

Ambrosio stared at this strange story, which He could not credit.

“Did Donna Antonia also see the Ghost?” said He.

“As plain as I see you, Reverend Father!”

Ambrosio paused for a moment. Here was an opportunity offered him of
gaining access to Antonia, but He hesitated to employ it. The
reputation which He enjoyed in Madrid was still dear to him; and since
He had lost the reality of virtue, it appeared as if its semblance was
become more valuable. He was conscious that publicly to break through
the rule never to quit the Abbey precincts, would derogate much from
his supposed austerity. In visiting Elvira, He had always taken care to
keep his features concealed from the Domestics. Except by the Lady, her
Daughter, and the faithful Flora, He was known in the Family by no
other name than that of Father Jerome. Should He comply with Jacintha’s
request, and accompany her to her House, He knew that the violation of
his rule could not be kept a secret. However, his eagerness to see
Antonia obtained the victory: He even hoped, that the singularity of
this adventure would justify him in the eyes of Madrid: But whatever
might be the consequences, He resolved to profit by the opportunity
which chance had presented to him. An expressive look from Matilda
confirmed him in this resolution.

“Good Woman,” said He to Jacintha, “what you tell me is so
extraordinary that I can scarcely credit your assertions. However, I
will comply with your request. Tomorrow after Matins you may expect me
at your House: I will then examine into what I can do for you, and if
it is in my power, will free you from this unwelcome Visitor. Now then
go home, and peace be with you!”

“Home?” exclaimed Jacintha; “I go home? Not I by my troth! except under
your protection, I set no foot of mine within the threshold. God help
me, the Ghost may meet me upon the Stairs, and whisk me away with her
to the devil! Oh! That I had accepted young Melchior Basco’s offer!
Then I should have had somebody to protect me; But now I am a lone
Woman, and meet with nothing but crosses and misfortunes! Thank Heaven,
it is not yet too late to repent! There is Simon Gonzalez will have me
any day of the week, and if I live till daybreak, I will marry him out
of hand: An Husband I will have, that is determined, for now this Ghost
is once in my House, I shall be frightened out of my wits to sleep
alone. But for God’s sake, reverend Father, come with me now. I shall
have no rest till the House is purified, or the poor young Lady either.
The dear Girl! She is in a piteous taking: I left her in strong
convulsions, and I doubt, She will not easily recover her fright.”

The Friar started, and interrupted her hastily.

“In convulsions, say you? Antonia in convulsions? Lead on, good Woman!
I follow you this moment!”

Jacintha insisted upon his stopping to furnish himself with the vessel
of holy water: With this request He complied. Thinking herself safe
under his protection should a Legion of Ghosts attack her, the old
Woman returned the Monk a profusion of thanks, and they departed
together for the Strada di San Iago.

So strong an impression had the Spectre made upon Antonia, that for the
first two or three hours the Physician declared her life to be in
danger. The fits at length becoming less frequent induced him to alter
his opinion. He said that to keep her quiet was all that was necessary;
and He ordered a medicine to be prepared which would tranquillize her
nerves, and procure her that repose which at present She much wanted.
The sight of Ambrosio, who now appeared with Jacintha at her Bedside,
contributed essentially to compose her ruffled spirits. Elvira had not
sufficiently explained herself upon the nature of his designs, to make
a Girl so ignorant of the world as her Daughter aware how dangerous was
his acquaintance. At this moment, when penetrated with horror at the
scene which had just past, and dreading to contemplate the Ghost’s
prediction, her mind had need of all the succours of friendship and
religion, Antonia regarded the Abbot with an eye doubly partial. That
strong prepossession in his favour still existed which She had felt for
him at first sight: She fancied, yet knew not wherefore, that his
presence was a safeguard to her from every danger, insult, or
misfortune.

She thanked him gratefully for his visit, and related to him the
adventure, which had alarmed her so seriously.

The Abbot strove to reassure her, and convince her that the whole had
been a deception of her overheated fancy. The solitude in which She had
passed the Evening, the gloom of night, the Book which She had been
reading, and the Room in which She sat, were all calculated to place
before her such a vision. He treated the idea of Ghosts with ridicule,
and produced strong arguments to prove the fallacy of such a system.
His conversation tranquillized and comforted her, but did not convince
her. She could not believe that the Spectre had been a mere creature of
her imagination; Every circumstance was impressed upon her mind too
forcibly, to permit her flattering herself with such an idea. She
persisted in asserting that She had really seen her Mother’s Ghost, had
heard the period of her dissolution announced and declared that She
never should quit her bed alive. Ambrosio advised her against
encouraging these sentiments, and then quitted her chamber, having
promised to repeat his visit on the morrow. Antonia received this
assurance with every mark of joy: But the Monk easily perceived that He
was not equally acceptable to her Attendant. Flora obeyed Elvira’s
injunctions with the most scrupulous observance. She examined every
circumstance with an anxious eye likely in the least to prejudice her
young Mistress, to whom She had been attached for many years. She was a
Native of Cuba, had followed Elvira to Spain, and loved the young
Antonia with a Mother’s affection. Flora quitted not the room for a
moment while the Abbot remained there: She watched his every word, his
every look, his every action. He saw that her suspicious eye was always
fixed upon him, and conscious that his designs would not bear
inspection so minute, He felt frequently confused and disconcerted. He
was aware that She doubted the purity of his intentions; that She would
never leave him alone with Antonia, and his Mistress defended by the
presence of this vigilant Observer, He despaired of finding the means
to gratify his passion.

As He quitted the House, Jacintha met him, and begged that some Masses
might be sung for the repose of Elvira’s soul, which She doubted not
was suffering in Purgatory. He promised not to forget her request; But
He perfectly gained the old Woman’s heart by engaging to watch during
the whole of the approaching night in the haunted chamber. Jacintha
could find no terms sufficiently strong to express her gratitude, and
the Monk departed loaded with her benedictions.

It was broad day when He returned to the Abbey. His first care was to
communicate what had past to his Confident. He felt too sincere a
passion for Antonia to have heard unmoved the prediction of her speedy
death, and He shuddered at the idea of losing an object so dear to him.
Upon this head Matilda reassured him. She confirmed the arguments which
Himself had already used: She declared Antonia to have been deceived by
the wandering of her brain, by the Spleen which opprest her at the
moment, and by the natural turn of her mind to superstition, and the
marvellous. As to Jacintha’s account, the absurdity refuted itself; The
Abbot hesitated not to believe that She had fabricated the whole story,
either confused by terror, or hoping to make him comply more readily
with her request. Having overruled the Monk’s apprehensions, Matilda
continued thus.

“The prediction and the Ghost are equally false; But it must be your
care, Ambrosio, to verify the first. Antonia within three days must
indeed be dead to the world; But She must live for you.

Her present illness, and this fancy which She has taken into her head,
will colour a plan which I have long meditated, but which was
impracticable without your procuring access to Antonia. She shall be
yours, not for a single night, but for ever. All the vigilance of her
Duenna shall not avail her: You shall riot unrestrained in the charms
of your Mistress. This very day must the scheme be put in execution,
for you have no time to lose. The Nephew of the Duke of Medina Celi
prepares to demand Antonia for his Bride: In a few days She will be
removed to the Palace of her Relation, the Marquis de las Cisternas,
and there She will be secure from your attempts. Thus during your
absence have I been informed by my Spies, who are ever employed in
bringing me intelligence for your service. Now then listen to me. There
is a juice extracted from certain herbs, known but to few, which brings
on the Person who drinks it the exact image of Death. Let this be
administered to Antonia: You may easily find means to pour a few drops
into her medicine. The effect will be throwing her into strong
convulsions for an hour: After which her blood will gradually cease to
flow, and heart to beat; A mortal paleness will spread itself over her
features, and She will appear a Corse to every eye. She has no Friends
about her: You may charge yourself unsuspected with the superintendence
of her funeral, and cause her to be buried in the Vaults of St. Clare.
Their solitude and easy access render these Caverns favourable to your
designs. Give Antonia the soporific draught this Evening: Eight and
forty hours after She has drank it, Life will revive to her bosom. She
will then be absolutely in your power: She will find all resistance
unavailing, and necessity will compel her to receive you in her arms.”

“Antonia will be in my power!” exclaimed the Monk; “Matilda, you
transport me! At length then, happiness will be mine, and that
happiness will be Matilda’s gift, will be the gift of friendship!

I shall clasp Antonia in my arms, far from every prying eye, from every
tormenting Intruder! I shall sigh out my soul upon her bosom; Shall
teach her young heart the first rudiments of pleasure, and revel
uncontrouled in the endless variety of her charms! And shall this
delight indeed by mine? Shall I give the reins to my desires, and
gratify every wild tumultuous wish? Oh! Matilda, how can I express to
you my gratitude?”

“By profiting by my counsels. Ambrosio, I live but to serve you:

Your interest and happiness are equally mine. Be your person Antonia’s,
but to your friendship and your heart I still assert my claim.
Contributing to yours forms now my only pleasure. Should my exertions
procure the gratification of your wishes, I shall consider my trouble
to be amply repaid. But let us lose no time. The liquor of which I
spoke is only to be found in St. Clare’s Laboratory. Hasten then to the
Prioress; Request of her admission to the Laboratory, and it will not
be denied. There is a Closet at the lower end of the great Room, filled
with liquids of different colours and qualities. The Bottle in question
stands by itself upon the third shelf on the left. It contains a
greenish liquor: Fill a small phial with it when you are unobserved,
and Antonia is your own.”

The Monk hesitated not to adopt this infamous plan. His desires, but
too violent before, had acquired fresh vigour from the sight of
Antonia. As He sat by her bedside, accident had discovered to him some
of those charms which till then had been concealed from him: He found
them even more perfect, than his ardent imagination had pictured them.
Sometimes her white and polished arm was displayed in arranging the
pillow: Sometimes a sudden movement discovered part of her swelling
bosom: But whereever the new-found charm presented itself, there rested
the Friar’s gloting eyes. Scarcely could He master himself sufficiently
to conceal his desires from Antonia and her vigilant Duenna. Inflamed
by the remembrance of these beauties, He entered into Matilda’s scheme
without hesitation.

No sooner were Matins over than He bent his course towards the Convent
of St. Clare: His arrival threw the whole Sisterhood into the utmost
amazement. The Prioress was sensible of the honour done her Convent by
his paying it his first visit, and strove to express her gratitude by
every possible attention. He was paraded through the Garden, shown all
the reliques of Saints and Martyrs, and treated with as much respect
and distinction as had He been the Pope himself. On his part, Ambrosio
received the Domina’s civilities very graciously, and strove to remove
her surprize at his having broken through his resolution. He stated,
that among his penitents, illness prevented many from quitting their
Houses. These were exactly the People who most needed his advice and
the comforts of Religion: Many representations had been made to him
upon this account, and though highly repugnant to his own wishes, He
had found it absolutely necessary for the service of heaven to change
his determination, and quit his beloved retirement. The Prioress
applauded his zeal in his profession and his charity towards Mankind:
She declared that Madrid was happy in possessing a Man so perfect and
irreproachable. In such discourse, the Friar at length reached the
Laboratory. He found the Closet: The Bottle stood in the place which
Matilda had described, and the Monk seized an opportunity to fill his
phial unobserved with the soporific liquor. Then having partaken of a
Collation in the Refectory, He retired from the Convent pleased with
the success of his visit, and leaving the Nuns delighted by the honour
conferred upon them.

He waited till Evening before He took the road to Antonia’s dwelling.
Jacintha welcomed him with transport, and besought him not to forget
his promise to pass the night in the haunted Chamber: That promise He
now repeated. He found Antonia tolerably well, but still harping upon
the Ghost’s prediction. Flora moved not from her Lady’s Bed, and by
symptoms yet stronger than on the former night testified her dislike to
the Abbot’s presence. Still Ambrosio affected not to observe them. The
Physician arrived, while He was conversing with Antonia. It was dark
already; Lights were called for, and Flora was compelled to descend for
them herself. However, as She left a third Person in the room, and
expected to be absent but a few minutes, She believed that She risqued
nothing in quitting her post. No sooner had She left the room, than
Ambrosio moved towards the Table, on which stood Antonia’s medicine: It
was placed in a recess of the window. The Physician seated in an
armed-chair, and employed in questioning his Patient, paid no attention
to the proceedings of the Monk. Ambrosio seized the opportunity: He
drew out the fatal Phial, and let a few drops fall into the medicine.
He then hastily left the Table, and returned to the seat which He had
quitted. When Flora made her appearance with lights, every thing seemed
to be exactly as She had left it.

The Physician declared that Antonia might quit her chamber the next day
with perfect safety. He recommended her following the same prescription
which, on the night before, had procured her a refreshing sleep: Flora
replied that the draught stood ready upon the Table: He advised the
Patient to take it without delay, and then retired. Flora poured the
medicine into a Cup and presented it to her Mistress. At that moment
Ambrosio’s courage failed him. Might not Matilda have deceived him?
Might not Jealousy have persuaded her to destroy her Rival, and
substitute poison in the room of an opiate? This idea appeared so
reasonable that He was on the point of preventing her from swallowing
the medicine. His resolution was adopted too late: The Cup was already
emptied, and Antonia restored it into Flora’s hands. No remedy was now
to be found: Ambrosio could only expect the moment impatiently,
destined to decide upon Antonia’s life or death, upon his own happiness
or despair.

Dreading to create suspicion by his stay, or betray himself by his
mind’s agitation, He took leave of his Victim, and withdrew from the
room. Antonia parted from him with less cordiality than on the former
night. Flora had represented to her Mistress that to admit his visits
was to disobey her Mother’s orders: She described to her his emotion on
entering the room, and the fire which sparkled in his eyes while He
gazed upon her. This had escaped Antonia’s observation, but not her
Attendant’s; Who explaining the Monk’s designs and their probable
consequences in terms much clearer than Elvira’s, though not quite so
delicate, had succeeded in alarming her young Lady, and persuading her
to treat him more distantly than She had done hitherto. The idea of
obeying her Mother’s will at once determined Antonia. Though She
grieved at losing his society, She conquered herself sufficiently to
receive the Monk with some degree of reserve and coldness. She thanked
him with respect and gratitude for his former visits, but did not
invite his repeating them in future. It now was not the Friar’s
interest to solicit admission to her presence, and He took leave of her
as if not designing to return. Fully persuaded that the acquaintance
which She dreaded was now at an end, Flora was so much worked upon by
his easy compliance that She began to doubt the justice of her
suspicions. As She lighted him down Stairs, She thanked him for having
endeavoured to root out from Antonia’s mind her superstitious terrors
of the Spectre’s prediction: She added, that as He seemed interested in
Donna Antonia’s welfare, should any change take place in her situation,
She would be careful to let him know it. The Monk in replying took
pains to raise his voice, hoping that Jacintha would hear it. In this
He succeeded; As He reached the foot of the Stairs with his
Conductress, the Landlady failed not to make her appearance.

“Why surely you are not going away, reverend Father?” cried She; “Did
you not promise to pass the night in the haunted Chamber? Christ Jesus!
I shall be left alone with the Ghost, and a fine pickle I shall be in
by morning! Do all I could, say all I could, that obstinate old Brute,
Simon Gonzalez, refused to marry me today; And before tomorrow comes, I
suppose, I shall be torn to pieces, by the Ghosts, and Goblins, and
Devils, and what not! For God’s sake, your Holiness, do not leave me in
such a woeful condition! On my bended knees I beseech you to keep your
promise: Watch this night in the haunted chamber; Lay the Apparition in
the Red Sea, and Jacintha remembers you in her prayers to the last day
of her existence!”

This request Ambrosio expected and desired; Yet He affected to raise
objections, and to seem unwilling to keep his word. He told Jacintha
that the Ghost existed nowhere but in her own brain, and that her
insisting upon his staying all night in the House was ridiculous and
useless. Jacintha was obstinate: She was not to be convinced, and
pressed him so urgently not to leave her a prey to the Devil, that at
length He granted her request. All this show of resistance imposed not
upon Flora, who was naturally of a suspicious temper. She suspected the
Monk to be acting a part very contrary to his own inclinations, and
that He wished for no better than to remain where He was. She even went
so far as to believe that Jacintha was in his interest; and the poor
old Woman was immediately set down, as no better than a Procuress.
While She applauded herself for having penetrated into this plot
against her Lady’s honour, She resolved in secret to render it
fruitless.

“So then,” said She to the Abbot with a look half-satirical and half
indignant; “So then you mean to stay here tonight? Do so, in God’s
name! Nobody will prevent you. Sit up to watch for the Ghost’s arrival:
I shall sit up too, and the Lord grant that I may see nothing worse
than a Ghost! I quit not Donna Antonia’s Bedside during this blessed
night: Let me see any one dare to enter the room, and be He mortal or
immortal, be He Ghost, Devil, or Man, I warrant his repenting that ever
He crossed the threshold!”

This hint was sufficiently strong, and Ambrosio understood its meaning.
But instead of showing that He perceived her suspicions; He replied
mildly that He approved the Duenna’s precautions, and advised her to
persevere in her intention. This, She assured him faithfully that He
might depend upon her doing. Jacintha then conducted him into the
chamber where the Ghost had appeared, and Flora returned to her Lady’s.

Jacintha opened the door of the haunted room with a trembling hand: She
ventured to peep in; But the wealth of India would not have tempted her
to cross the threshold. She gave the Taper to the Monk, wished him well
through the adventure, and hastened to be gone. Ambrosio entered. He
bolted the door, placed the light upon the Table, and seated himself in
the Chair which on the former night had sustained Antonia. In spite of
Matilda’s assurances that the Spectre was a mere creation of fancy, his
mind was impressed with a certain mysterious horror. He in vain
endeavoured to shake it off. The silence of the night, the story of the
Apparition, the chamber wainscotted with dark oak pannells, the
recollection which it brought with it of the murdered Elvira, and his
incertitude respecting the nature of the drops given by him to Antonia,
made him feel uneasy at his present situation. But He thought much less
of the Spectre, than of the poison. Should He have destroyed the only
object which rendered life dear to him; Should the Ghost’s prediction
prove true; Should Antonia in three days be no more, and He the
wretched cause of her death ...... The supposition was too horrible to
dwell upon. He drove away these dreadful images, and as often they
presented themselves again before him. Matilda had assured him that the
effects of the Opiate would be speedy. He listened with fear, yet with
eagerness, expecting to hear some disturbance in the adjoining chamber.
All was still silent. He concluded that the drops had not begun to
operate. Great was the stake, for which He now played: A moment would
suffice to decide upon his misery or happiness. Matilda had taught him
the means of ascertaining that life was not extinct for ever: Upon this
assay depended all his hopes. With every instant his impatience
redoubled; His terrors grew more lively, his anxiety more awake. Unable
to bear this state of incertitude, He endeavoured to divert it by
substituting the thoughts of Others to his own. The Books, as was
before mentioned, were ranged upon shelves near the Table: This stood
exactly opposite to the Bed, which was placed in an Alcove near the
Closet door. Ambrosio took down a Volume, and seated himself by the
Table: But his attention wandered from the Pages before him. Antonia’s
image and that of the murdered Elvira persisted to force themselves
before his imagination. Still He continued to read, though his eyes ran
over the characters without his mind being conscious of their import.
Such was his occupation, when He fancied that He heard a footstep. He
turned his head, but nobody was to be seen.

He resumed his Book; But in a few minutes after the same sound was
repeated, and followed by a rustling noise close behind him. He now
started from his seat, and looking round him, perceived the Closet door
standing half-unclosed. On his first entering the room He had tried to
open it, but found it bolted on the inside.

“How is this?” said He to himself; “How comes this door unfastened?”

He advanced towards it: He pushed it open, and looked into the closet:
No one was there. While He stood irresolute, He thought that He
distinguished a groaning in the adjacent chamber: It was Antonia’s, and
He supposed that the drops began to take effect: But upon listening
more attentively, He found the noise to be caused by Jacintha, who had
fallen asleep by the Lady’s Bedside, and was snoring most lustily.
Ambrosio drew back, and returned to the other room, musing upon the
sudden opening of the Closet door, for which He strove in vain to
account.

He paced the chamber up and down in silence. At length He stopped, and
the Bed attracted his attention. The curtain of the Recess was but
half-drawn. He sighed involuntarily.

“That Bed,” said He in a low voice, “That Bed was Elvira’s! There has
She past many a quiet night, for She was good and innocent. How sound
must have been her sleep! And yet now She sleeps sounder! Does She
indeed sleep? Oh! God grant that She may! What if She rose from her
Grave at this sad and silent hour? What if She broke the bonds of the
Tomb, and glided angrily before my blasted eyes? Oh! I never could
support the sight! Again to see her form distorted by dying agonies,
her blood-swollen veins, her livid countenance, her eyes bursting from
their sockets with pain! To hear her speak of future punishment, menace
me with Heaven’s vengeance, tax me with the crimes I have committed,
with those I am going to commit ..... Great God! What is that?”

As He uttered these words, his eyes which were fixed upon the Bed, saw
the curtain shaken gently backwards and forwards. The Apparition was
recalled to his mind, and He almost fancied that He beheld Elvira’s
visionary form reclining upon the Bed. A few moments consideration
sufficed to reassure him.

“It was only the wind,” said He, recovering himself.

Again He paced the chamber; But an involuntary movement of awe and
inquietude constantly led his eye towards the Alcove. He drew near it
with irresolution. He paused before He ascended the few steps which led
to it. He put out his hand thrice to remove the curtain, and as often
drew it back.

“Absurd terrors!” He cried at length, ashamed of his own weakness——

Hastily he mounted the steps; When a Figure drest in white started from
the Alcove, and gliding by him, made with precipitation towards the
Closet. Madness and despair now supplied the Monk with that courage, of
which He had till then been destitute. He flew down the steps, pursued
the Apparition, and attempted to grasp it.

“Ghost, or Devil, I hold you!” He exclaimed, and seized the Spectre by
the arm.

“Oh! Christ Jesus!” cried a shrill voice; “Holy Father, how you gripe
me! I protest that I meant no harm!”

This address, as well as the arm which He held, convinced the Abbot
that the supposed Ghost was substantial flesh and blood. He drew the
Intruder towards the Table, and holding up the light, discovered the
features of ...... Madona Flora!

Incensed at having been betrayed by this trifling cause into fears so
ridiculous, He asked her sternly, what business had brought her to that
chamber. Flora, ashamed at being found out, and terrified at the
severity of Ambrosio’s looks, fell upon her knees, and promised to make
a full confession.

“I protest, reverend Father,” said She, “that I am quite grieved at
having disturbed you: Nothing was further from my intention. I meant to
get out of the room as quietly as I got in; and had you been ignorant
that I watched you, you know, it would have been the same thing as if I
had not watched you at all. To be sure, I did very wrong in being a Spy
upon you, that I cannot deny; But Lord! your Reverence, how can a poor
weak Woman resist curiosity? Mine was so strong to know what you were
doing, that I could not but try to get a little peep, without any body
knowing any thing about it. So with that I left old Dame Jacintha
sitting by my Lady’s Bed, and I ventured to steal into the Closet.
Being unwilling to interrupt you, I contented myself at first with
putting my eye to the Keyhole; But as I could see nothing by this
means, I undrew the bolt, and while your back was turned to the Alcove,
I whipt me in softly and silently. Here I lay snug behind the curtain,
till your Reverence found me out, and seized me ere I had time to
regain the Closet door. This is the whole truth, I assure you, Holy
Father, and I beg your pardon a thousand times for my impertinence.”

During this speech the Abbot had time to recollect himself: He was
satisfied with reading the penitent Spy a lecture upon the dangers of
curiosity, and the meanness of the action in which She had been just
discovered. Flora declared herself fully persuaded that She had done
wrong; She promised never to be guilty of the same fault again, and was
retiring very humble and contrite to Antonia’s chamber, when the Closet
door was suddenly thrown open, and in rushed Jacintha pale and out of
breath.

“Oh! Father! Father!” She cried in a voice almost choaked with terror;
“What shall I do! What shall I do! Here is a fine piece of work!
Nothing but misfortunes! Nothing but dead people, and dying people! Oh!
I shall go distracted! I shall go distracted!”

“Speak! Speak!” cried Flora and the Monk at the same time; “What has
happened? What is the matter?”

“Oh! I shall have another Corse in my House! Some Witch has certainly
cast a spell upon it, upon me, and upon all about me! Poor Donna
Antonia! There She lies in just such convulsions, as killed her Mother!
The Ghost told her true! I am sure, the Ghost has told her true!”

Flora ran, or rather flew to her Lady’s chamber: Ambrosio followed her,
his bosom trembling with hope and apprehension. They found Antonia as
Jacintha had described, torn by racking convulsions from which they in
vain endeavoured to relieve her. The Monk dispatched Jacintha to the
Abbey in all haste, and commissioned her to bring Father Pablos back
with her, without losing a moment.

“I will go for him,” replied Jacintha, “and tell him to come hither;
But as to bringing him myself, I shall do no such thing. I am sure that
the House is bewitched, and burn me if ever I set foot in it again.”

With this resolution She set out for the Monastery, and delivered to
Father Pablos the Abbot’s orders. She then betook herself to the House
of old Simon Gonzalez, whom She resolved never to quit, till She had
made him her Husband, and his dwelling her own.

Father Pablos had no sooner beheld Antonia, than He pronounced her
incurable. The convulsions continued for an hour: During that time her
agonies were much milder than those which her groans created in the
Abbot’s heart. Her every pang seemed a dagger in his bosom, and He
cursed himself a thousand times for having adopted so barbarous a
project. The hour being expired, by degrees the Fits became less
frequent, and Antonia less agitated. She felt that her dissolution was
approaching, and that nothing could save her.

“Worthy Ambrosio,” She said in a feeble voice, while She pressed his
hand to her lips; “I am now at liberty to express, how grateful is my
heart for your attention and kindness. I am upon the bed of death; Yet
an hour, and I shall be no more. I may therefore acknowledge without
restraint, that to relinquish your society was very painful to me: But
such was the will of a Parent, and I dared not disobey. I die without
repugnance: There are few, who will lament my leaving them; There are
few, whom I lament to leave. Among those few, I lament for none more
than for yourself; But we shall meet again, Ambrosio! We shall one day
meet in heaven: There shall our friendship be renewed, and my Mother
shall view it with pleasure!”

She paused. The Abbot shuddered when She mentioned Elvira: Antonia
imputed his emotion to pity and concern for her.

“You are grieved for me, Father,” She continued; “Ah! sigh not for my
loss. I have no crimes to repent, at least none of which I am
conscious, and I restore my soul without fear to him from whom I
received it. I have but few requests to make: Yet let me hope that what
few I have shall be granted. Let a solemn Mass be said for my soul’s
repose, and another for that of my beloved Mother. Not that I doubt her
resting in her Grave: I am now convinced that my reason wandered, and
the falsehood of the Ghost’s prediction is sufficient to prove my
error. But every one has some failing: My Mother may have had hers,
though I knew them not: I therefore wish a Mass to be celebrated for
her repose, and the expence may be defrayed by the little wealth of
which I am possessed. Whatever may then remain, I bequeath to my Aunt
Leonella. When I am dead, let the Marquis de las Cisternas know that
his Brother’s unhappy family can no longer importune him. But
disappointment makes me unjust: They tell me that He is ill, and
perhaps had it been in his power, He wished to have protected me. Tell
him then, Father, only that I am dead, and that if He had any faults to
me, I forgave him from my heart. This done, I have nothing more to ask
for, than your prayers: Promise to remember my requests, and I shall
resign my life without a pang or sorrow.”

Ambrosio engaged to comply with her desires, and proceeded to give her
absolution. Every moment announced the approach of Antonia’s fate: Her
sight failed; Her heart beat sluggishly; Her fingers stiffened, and
grew cold, and at two in the morning She expired without a groan. As
soon as the breath had forsaken her body, Father Pablos retired,
sincerely affected at the melancholy scene. On her part, Flora gave way
to the most unbridled sorrow.

Far different concerns employed Ambrosio: He sought for the pulse whose
throbbing, so Matilda had assured him, would prove Antonia’s death but
temporal. He found it; He pressed it; It palpitated beneath his hand,
and his heart was filled with ecstacy. However, He carefully concealed
his satisfaction at the success of his plan. He assumed a melancholy
air, and addressing himself to Flora, warned her against abandoning
herself to fruitless sorrow. Her tears were too sincere to permit her
listening to his counsels, and She continued to weep unceasingly.

The Friar withdrew, first promising to give orders himself about the
Funeral, which, out of consideration for Jacintha as He pretended,
should take place with all expedition. Plunged in grief for the loss of
her beloved Mistress, Flora scarcely attended to what He said. Ambrosio
hastened to command the Burial. He obtained permission from the
Prioress, that the Corse should be deposited in St. Clare’s Sepulchre:
and on the Friday Morning, every proper and needful ceremony being
performed, Antonia’s body was committed to the Tomb.

On the same day Leonella arrived at Madrid, intending to present her
young Husband to Elvira. Various circumstances had obliged her to defer
her journey from Tuesday to Friday, and She had no opportunity of
making this alteration in her plans known to her Sister. As her heart
was truly affectionate, and as She had ever entertained a sincere
regard for Elvira and her Daughter, her surprize at hearing of their
sudden and melancholy fate was fully equalled by her sorrow and
disappointment. Ambrosio sent to inform her of Antonia’s bequest: At
her solication, He promised, as soon as Elvira’s trifling debts were
discharged, to transmit to her the remainder. This being settled, no
other business detained Leonella in Madrid, and She returned to Cordova
with all diligence.



CHAPTER X.


Oh! could I worship aught beneath the skies
That earth hath seen or fancy could devise,
Thine altar, sacred Liberty, should stand,
Built by no mercenary vulgar hand,
With fragrant turf, and flowers as wild and fair,
As ever dressed a bank, or scented summer air.

COWPER.

His whole attention bent upon bringing to justice the Assassins of his
Sister, Lorenzo little thought how severely his interest was suffering
in another quarter. As was before mentioned, He returned not to Madrid
till the evening of that day on which Antonia was buried. Signifying to
the Grand Inquisitor the order of the Cardinal-Duke (a ceremony not to
be neglected, when a Member of the Church was to be arrested publicly)
communicating his design to his Uncle and Don Ramirez, and assembling a
troop of Attendants sufficiently to prevent opposition, furnished him
with full occupation during the few hours preceding midnight.
Consequently, He had no opportunity to enquire about his Mistress, and
was perfectly ignorant both of her death and her Mother’s.

The Marquis was by no means out of danger: His delirium was gone, but
had left him so much exhausted that the Physicians declined pronouncing
upon the consequences likely to ensue. As for Raymond himself, He
wished for nothing more earnestly than to join Agnes in the grave.
Existence was hateful to him: He saw nothing in the world deserving his
attention; and He hoped to hear that Agnes was revenged, and himself
given over in the same moment.

Followed by Raymond’s ardent prayers for success, Lorenzo was at the
Gates of St. Clare a full hour before the time appointed by the Mother
St. Ursula. He was accompanied by his Uncle, by Don Ramirez de Mello,
and a party of chosen Archers. Though in considerable numbers their
appearance created no surprize: A great Crowd was already assembled
before the Convent doors, in order to witness the Procession. It was
naturally supposed that Lorenzo and his Attendants were conducted
thither by the same design. The Duke of Medina being recognised, the
People drew back, and made way for his party to advance. Lorenzo placed
himself opposite to the great Gate, through which the Pilgrims were to
pass. Convinced that the Prioress could not escape him, He waited
patiently for her appearance, which She was expected to make exactly at
Midnight.

The Nuns were employed in religious duties established in honour of St.
Clare, and to which no Prophane was ever admitted. The Chapel windows
were illuminated. As they stood on the outside, the Auditors heard the
full swell of the organ, accompanied by a chorus of female voices, rise
upon the stillness of the night. This died away, and was succeeded by a
single strain of harmony: It was the voice of her who was destined to
sustain in the procession the character of St. Clare. For this office
the most beautiful Virgin of Madrid was always selected, and She upon
whom the choice fell esteemed it as the highest of honours. While
listening to the Music, whose melody distance only seemed to render
sweeter, the Audience was wrapped up in profound attention. Universal
silence prevailed through the Crowd, and every heart was filled with
reverence for religion. Every heart but Lorenzo’s. Conscious that among
those who chaunted the praises of their God so sweetly, there were some
who cloaked with devotion the foulest sins, their hymns inspired him
with detestation at their Hypocrisy. He had long observed with
disapprobation and contempt the superstition which governed Madrid’s
Inhabitants. His good sense had pointed out to him the artifices of the
Monks, and the gross absurdity of their miracles, wonders, and
supposititious reliques. He blushed to see his Countrymen the Dupes of
deceptions so ridiculous, and only wished for an opportunity to free
them from their monkish fetters. That opportunity, so long desired in
vain, was at length presented to him. He resolved not to let it slip,
but to set before the People in glaring colours how enormous were the
abuses but too frequently practised in Monasteries, and how unjustly
public esteem was bestowed indiscriminately upon all who wore a
religious habit. He longed for the moment destined to unmask the
Hypocrites, and convince his Countrymen that a sanctified exterior does
not always hide a virtuous heart.

The service lasted, till Midnight was announced by the Convent Bell.
That sound being heard, the Music ceased: The voices died away softly,
and soon after the lights disappeared from the Chapel windows.
Lorenzo’s heart beat high, when He found the execution of his plan to
be at hand. From the natural superstition of the People He had prepared
himself for some resistance. But He trusted that the Mother St. Ursula
would bring good reasons to justify his proceeding. He had force with
him to repel the first impulse of the Populace, till his arguments
should be heard: His only fear was lest the Domina, suspecting his
design, should have spirited away the Nun on whose deposition every
thing depended. Unless the Mother St. Ursula should be present, He
could only accuse the Prioress upon suspicion; and this reflection gave
him some little apprehension for the success of his enterprize. The
tranquillity which seemed to reign through the Convent in some degree
re-assured him: Still He expected the moment eagerly, when the presence
of his Ally should deprive him of the power of doubting.

The Abbey of Capuchins was only separated from the Convent by the
Garden and Cemetery. The Monks had been invited to assist at the
Pilgrimage. They now arrived, marching two by two with lighted Torches
in their hands, and chaunting Hymns in honour of St. Clare. Father
Pablos was at their head, the Abbot having excused himself from
attending. The people made way for the holy Train, and the Friars
placed themselves in ranks on either side of the great Gates. A few
minutes sufficed to arrange the order of the Procession. This being
settled, the Convent doors were thrown open, and again the female
Chorus sounded in full melody. First appeared a Band of Choristers: As
soon as they had passed, the Monks fell in two by two, and followed
with steps slow and measured. Next came the Novices; They bore no
Tapers, as did the Professed, but moved on with eyes bent downwards,
and seemed to be occupied by telling their Beads. To them succeeded a
young and lovely Girl, who represented St. Lucia: She held a golden
bason in which were two eyes: Her own were covered by a velvet bandage,
and She was conducted by another Nun habited as an Angel. She was
followed by St. Catherine, a palm-branch in one hand, a flaming Sword
in the other: She was robed in white, and her brow was ornamented with
a sparkling Diadem. After her appeared St. Genevieve, surrounded by a
number of Imps, who putting themselves into grotesque attitudes,
drawing her by the robe, and sporting round her with antic gestures,
endeavoured to distract her attention from the Book, on which her eyes
were constantly fixed. These merry Devils greatly entertained the
Spectators, who testified their pleasure by repeated bursts of
Laughter. The Prioress had been careful to select a Nun whose
disposition was naturally solemn and saturnine. She had every reason to
be satisfied with her choice: The drolleries of the Imps were entirely
thrown away, and St. Genevieve moved on without discomposing a muscle.

Each of these Saints was separated from the Other by a band of
Choristers, exalting her praise in their Hymns, but declaring her to be
very much inferior to St. Clare, the Convent’s avowed Patroness. These
having passed, a long train of Nuns appeared, bearing like the
Choristers each a burning Taper. Next came the reliques of St. Clare,
inclosed in vases equally precious for their materials and workmanship:
But they attracted not Lorenzo’s attention. The Nun who bore the heart
occupied him entirely. According to Theodore’s description, He doubted
not her being the Mother St. Ursula. She seemed to look round with
anxiety. As He stood foremost in the rank by which the procession past,
her eye caught Lorenzo’s. A flush of joy overspread her till then
pallid cheek. She turned to her Companion eagerly.

“We are safe!” He heard her whisper; “’tis her Brother!”

His heart being now at ease, Lorenzo gazed with tranquillity upon the
remainder of the show. Now appeared its most brilliant ornament. It was
a Machine fashioned like a throne, rich with jewels and dazzling with
light. It rolled onwards upon concealed wheels, and was guided by
several lovely Children, dressed as Seraphs. The summit was covered
with silver clouds, upon which reclined the most beautiful form that
eyes ever witnessed. It was a Damsel representing St. Clare: Her dress
was of inestimable price, and round her head a wreath of Diamonds
formed an artificial glory: But all these ornaments yielded to the
lustre of her charms. As She advanced, a murmur of delight ran through
the Crowd. Even Lorenzo confessed secretly, that He never beheld more
perfect beauty, and had not his heart been Antonia’s, it must have
fallen a sacrifice to this enchanting Girl. As it was, He considered
her only as a fine Statue: She obtained from him no tribute save cold
admiration, and when She had passed him, He thought of her no more.

“Who is She?” asked a By-stander in Lorenzo’s hearing.

“One whose beauty you must often have heard celebrated. Her name is
Virginia de Villa-Franca: She is a Pensioner of St. Clare’s Convent, a
Relation of the Prioress, and has been selected with justice as the
ornament of the Procession.”

The Throne moved onwards. It was followed by the Prioress herself: She
marched at the head of the remaining Nuns with a devout and sanctified
air, and closed the procession. She moved on slowly: Her eyes were
raised to heaven: Her countenance calm and tranquil seemed abstracted
from all sublunary things, and no feature betrayed her secret pride at
displaying the pomp and opulence of her Convent. She passed along,
accompanied by the prayers and benedictions of the Populace: But how
great was the general confusion and surprize, when Don Ramirez starting
forward, challenged her as his Prisoner.

For a moment amazement held the Domina silent and immoveable: But no
sooner did She recover herself, than She exclaimed against sacrilege
and impiety, and called the People to rescue a Daughter of the Church.
They were eagerly preparing to obey her; when Don Ramirez, protected by
the Archers from their rage, commanded them to forbear, and threatened
them with the severest vengeance of the Inquisition. At that dreaded
word every arm fell, every sword shrunk back into its scabbard. The
Prioress herself turned pale, and trembled. The general silence
convinced her that She had nothing to hope but from innocence, and She
besought Don Ramirez in a faultering voice, to inform her of what crime
She was accused.

“That you shall know in time,” replied He; “But first I must secure the
Mother St. Ursula.”

“The Mother St. Ursula?” repeated the Domina faintly.

At this moment casting her eyes round, She saw near her Lorenzo and the
Duke, who had followed Don Ramirez.

“Ah! great God!” She cried, clasping her hands together with a frantic
air; “I am betrayed!”

“Betrayed?” replied St. Ursula, who now arrived conducted by some of
the Archers, and followed by the Nun her Companion in the procession:
“Not betrayed, but discovered. In me recognise your Accuser: You know
not how well I am instructed in your guilt!—Segnor!” She continued,
turning to Don Ramirez; “I commit myself to your custody. I charge the
Prioress of St. Clare with murder, and stake my life for the justice of
my accusation.”

A general cry of surprize was uttered by the whole Audience, and an
explanation was demanded loudly. The trembling Nuns, terrified at the
noise and universal confusion, had dispersed, and fled different ways.
Some regained the Convent; Others sought refuge in the dwellings of
their Relations; and Many, only sensible of their present danger, and
anxious to escape from the tumult, ran through the Streets, and
wandered, they knew not whither. The lovely Virginia was one of the
first to fly: And in order that She might be better seen and heard, the
People desired that St. Ursula should harangue them from the vacant
Throne. The Nun complied; She ascended the glittering Machine, and then
addressed the surrounding multitude as follows.

“However strange and unseemly may appear my conduct, when considered to
be adopted by a Female and a Nun, necessity will justify it most fully.
A secret, an horrible secret weighs heavy upon my soul: No rest can be
mine till I have revealed it to the world, and satisfied that innocent
blood which calls from the Grave for vengeance. Much have I dared to
gain this opportunity of lightening my conscience. Had I failed in my
attempt to reveal the crime, had the Domina but suspected that the
mystery was none to me, my ruin was inevitable. Angels who watch
unceasingly over those who deserve their favour, have enabled me to
escape detection: I am now at liberty to relate a Tale, whose
circumstances will freeze every honest soul with horror. Mine is the
task to rend the veil from Hypocrisy, and show misguided Parents to
what dangers the Woman is exposed, who falls under the sway of a
monastic Tyrant.

“Among the Votaries of St. Clare, none was more lovely, none more
gentle, than Agnes de Medina. I knew her well; She entrusted to me
every secret of her heart; I was her Friend and Confident, and I loved
her with sincere affection. Nor was I singular in my attachment. Her
piety unfeigned, her willingness to oblige, and her angelic
disposition, rendered her the Darling of all that was estimable in the
Convent. The Prioress herself, proud, scrupulous and forbidding, could
not refuse Agnes that tribute of approbation which She bestowed upon no
one else. Every one has some fault: Alas! Agnes had her weakness! She
violated the laws of our order, and incurred the inveterate hate of the
unforgiving Domina. St. Clare’s rules are severe: But grown antiquated
and neglected, many of late years have either been forgotten, or
changed by universal consent into milder punishments. The penance,
adjudged to the crime of Agnes, was most cruel, most inhuman! The law
had been long exploded: Alas! It still existed, and the revengeful
Prioress now determined to revive it.

This law decreed that the Offender should be plunged into a private
dungeon, expressly constituted to hide from the world for ever the
Victim of Cruelty and tyrannic superstition. In this dreadful abode She
was to lead a perpetual solitude, deprived of all society, and believed
to be dead by those whom affection might have prompted to attempt her
rescue. Thus was She to languish out the remainder of her days, with no
other food than bread and water, and no other comfort than the free
indulgence of her tears.”

The indignation created by this account was so violent, as for some
moments to interrupt St. Ursula’s narrative. When the disturbance
ceased, and silence again prevailed through the Assembly, She continued
her discourse, while at every word the Domina’s countenance betrayed
her increasing terrors.

“A council of the twelve elder nuns was called: I was of the number.
The Prioress in exaggerated colours described the offence of Agnes, and
scrupled not to propose the revival of this almost forgotten law. To
the shame of our sex be it spoken, that either so absolute was the
Domina’s will in the Convent, or so much had disappointment, solitude,
and self-denial hardened their hearts and soured their tempers that
this barbarous proposal was assented to by nine voices out of the
twelve. I was not one of the nine. Frequent opportunities had convinced
me of the virtues of Agnes, and I loved and pitied her most sincerely.
The Mothers Bertha and Cornelia joined my party: We made the strongest
opposition possible, and the Superior found herself compelled to change
her intention. In spite of the majority in her favour, She feared to
break with us openly. She knew that supported by the Medina family, our
forces would be too strong for her to cope with: And She also knew that
after being once imprisoned and supposed dead, should Agnes be
discovered, her ruin would be inevitable. She therefore gave up her
design, though which much reluctance. She demanded some days to reflect
upon a mode of punishment which might be agreeable to the whole
Community; and She promised, that as soon as her resolution was fixed,
the same Council should be again summoned. Two days passed away: On the
Evening of the Third it was announced that on the next day Agnes should
be examined; and that according to her behaviour on that occasion, her
punishment should be either strengthened or mitigated.

“On the night preceding this examination, I stole to the Cell of Agnes
at an hour when I supposed the other Nuns to be buried in sleep. I
comforted her to the best of my power: I bad her take courage, told her
to rely upon the support of her friends, and taught her certain signs,
by which I might instruct her to answer the Domina’s questions by an
assent or negative. Conscious that her Enemy would strive to confuse,
embarrass, and daunt her, I feared her being ensnared into some
confession prejudicial to her interests. Being anxious to keep my visit
secret, I stayed with Agnes but a short time. I bad her not let her
spirits be cast down; I mingled my tears with those which streamed down
her cheek, embraced her fondly, and was on the point of retiring, when
I heard the sound of steps approaching the Cell. I started back. A
Curtain which veiled a large Crucifix offered me a retreat, and I
hastened to place myself behind it. The door opened. The Prioress
entered, followed by four other Nuns. They advanced towards the bed of
Agnes. The Superior reproached her with her errors in the bitterest
terms: She told her that She was a disgrace to the Convent, that She
was resolved to deliver the world and herself from such a Monster, and
commanded her to drink the contents of a Goblet now presented to her by
one of the Nuns. Aware of the fatal properties of the liquor, and
trembling to find herself upon the brink of Eternity, the unhappy Girl
strove to excite the Domina’s pity by the most affecting prayers.

She sued for life in terms which might have melted the heart of a
Fiend: She promised to submit patiently to any punishment, to shame,
imprisonment, and torture, might She but be permitted to live! Oh!
might She but live another month, or week, or day! Her merciless Enemy
listened to her complaints unmoved: She told her that at first She
meant to have spared her life, and that if She had altered her
intention, She had to thank the opposition of her Friends. She
continued to insist upon her swallowing the poison: She bad her
recommend herself to the Almighty’s mercy, not to hers, and assured her
that in an hour She would be numbered with the Dead. Perceiving that it
was vain to implore this unfeeling Woman, She attempted to spring from
her bed, and call for assistance: She hoped, if She could not escape
the fate announced to her, at least to have witnesses of the violence
committed. The Prioress guessed her design. She seized her forcibly by
the arm, and pushed her back upon her pillow. At the same time drawing
a dagger, and placing it at the breast of the unfortunate Agnes, She
protested that if She uttered a single cry, or hesitated a single
moment to drink the poison, She would pierce her heart that instant.
Already half-dead with fear, She could make no further resistance. The
Nun approached with the fatal Goblet. The Domina obliged her to take
it, and swallow the contents. She drank, and the horrid deed was
accomplished. The Nuns then seated themselves round the Bed. They
answered her groans with reproaches; They interrupted with sarcasms the
prayers in which She recommended her parting soul to mercy: They
threatened her with heaven’s vengeance and eternal perdition: They bad
her despair of pardon, and strowed with yet sharper thorns Death’s
painful pillow. Such were the sufferings of this young Unfortunate,
till released by fate from the malice of her Tormentors. She expired in
horror of the past, in fears for the future; and her agonies were such
as must have amply gratified the hate and vengeance of her Enemies. As
soon as her Victim ceased to breathe, the Domina retired, and was
followed by her Accomplices.

“It was now that I ventured from my concealment. I dared not to assist
my unhappy Friend, aware that without preserving her, I should only
have brought on myself the same destruction. Shocked and terrified
beyond expression at this horrid scene, scarcely had I sufficient
strength to regain my Cell. As I reached the door of that of Agnes, I
ventured to look towards the bed, on which lay her lifeless body, once
so lovely and so sweet! I breathed a prayer for her departed Spirit,
and vowed to revenge her death by the shame and punishment of her
Assassins. With danger and difficulty have I kept my oath. I unwarily
dropped some words at the funeral of Agnes, while thrown off my guard
by excessive grief, which alarmed the guilty conscience of the
Prioress. My every action was observed; My every step was traced. I was
constantly surrounded by the Superior’s spies. It was long before I
could find the means of conveying to the unhappy Girl’s Relations an
intimation of my secret. It was given out that Agnes had expired
suddenly: This account was credited not only by her Friends in Madrid,
but even by those within the Convent. The poison had left no marks upon
her body: No one suspected the true cause of her death, and it remained
unknown to all, save the Assassins and Myself.

“I have no more to say: for what I have already said, I will answer
with my life. I repeat that the Prioress is a Murderess; that she has
driven from the world, perhaps from heaven, an Unfortunate whose
offence was light and venial; that She has abused the power intrusted
to her hands, and has been a Tyrant, a Barbarian, and an Hypocrite. I
also accuse the four Nuns, Violante, Camilla, Alix, and Mariana, as
being her Accomplices, and equally criminal.”

Here St. Ursula ended her narrative. It created horror and surprize
throughout: But when She related the inhuman murder of Agnes, the
indignation of the Mob was so audibly testified, that it was scarcely
possible to hear the conclusion. This confusion increased with every
moment: At length a multitude of voices exclaimed that the Prioress
should be given up to their fury. To this Don Ramirez refused to
consent positively. Even Lorenzo bad the People remember that She had
undergone no trial, and advised them to leave her punishment to the
Inquisition. All representations were fruitless: The disturbance grew
still more violent, and the Populace more exasperated. In vain did
Ramirez attempt to convey his Prisoner out of the Throng. Wherever He
turned, a band of Rioters barred his passage, and demanded her being
delivered over to them more loudly than before. Ramirez ordered his
Attendants to cut their way through the multitude: Oppressed by
numbers, it was impossible for them to draw their swords. He threatened
the Mob with the vengeance of the Inquisition: But in this moment of
popular phrenzy even this dreadful name had lost its effect. Though
regret for his Sister made him look upon the Prioress with abhorrence,
Lorenzo could not help pitying a Woman in a situation so terrible: But
in spite of all his exertions, and those of the Duke, of Don Ramirez,
and the Archers, the People continued to press onwards. They forced a
passage through the Guards who protected their destined Victim, dragged
her from her shelter, and proceeded to take upon her a most summary and
cruel vengeance. Wild with terror, and scarcely knowing what She said,
the wretched Woman shrieked for a moment’s mercy: She protested that
She was innocent of the death of Agnes, and could clear herself from
the suspicion beyond the power of doubt. The Rioters heeded nothing but
the gratification of their barbarous vengeance. They refused to listen
to her: They showed her every sort of insult, loaded her with mud and
filth, and called her by the most opprobrious appellations. They tore
her one from another, and each new Tormentor was more savage than the
former. They stifled with howls and execrations her shrill cries for
mercy; and dragged her through the Streets, spurning her, trampling
her, and treating her with every species of cruelty which hate or
vindictive fury could invent. At length a Flint, aimed by some
well-directing hand, struck her full upon the temple. She sank upon the
ground bathed in blood, and in a few minutes terminated her miserable
existence. Yet though She no longer felt their insults, the Rioters
still exercised their impotent rage upon her lifeless body. They beat
it, trod upon it, and ill-used it, till it became no more than a mass
of flesh, unsightly, shapeless, and disgusting.

Unable to prevent this shocking event, Lorenzo and his Friends had
beheld it with the utmost horror: But they were rouzed from their
compelled inactivity, on hearing that the Mob was attacking the Convent
of St. Clare. The incensed Populace, confounding the innocent with the
guilty, had resolved to sacrifice all the Nuns of that order to their
rage, and not to leave one stone of the building upon another. Alarmed
at this intelligence, they hastened to the Convent, resolved to defend
it if possible, or at least to rescue the Inhabitants from the fury of
the Rioters. Most of the Nuns had fled, but a few still remained in
their habitation. Their situation was truly dangerous. However, as they
had taken the precaution of fastening the inner Gates, with this
assistance Lorenzo hoped to repel the Mob, till Don Ramirez should
return to him with a more sufficient force.

Having been conducted by the former disturbance to the distance of some
Streets from the Convent, He did not immediately reach it: When He
arrived, the throng surrounding it was so excessive as to prevent his
approaching the Gates. In the interim, the Populace besieged the
Building with persevering rage: They battered the walls, threw lighted
torches in at the windows, and swore that by break of day not a Nun of
St. Clare’s order should be left alive. Lorenzo had just succeeded in
piercing his way through the Crowd, when one of the Gates was forced
open. The Rioters poured into the interior part of the Building, where
they exercised their vengeance upon every thing which found itself in
their passage. They broke the furniture into pieces, tore down the
pictures, destroyed the reliques, and in their hatred of her Servant
forgot all respect to the Saint. Some employed themselves in searching
out the Nuns, Others in pulling down parts of the Convent, and Others
again in setting fire to the pictures and valuable furniture which it
contained. These Latter produced the most decisive desolation: Indeed
the consequences of their action were more sudden than themselves had
expected or wished. The Flames rising from the burning piles caught
part of the Building, which being old and dry, the conflagration spread
with rapidity from room to room. The Walls were soon shaken by the
devouring element: The Columns gave way: The Roofs came tumbling down
upon the Rioters, and crushed many of them beneath their weight.
Nothing was to be heard but shrieks and groans; The Convent was wrapped
in flames, and the whole presented a scene of devastation and horror.

Lorenzo was shocked at having been the cause, however innocent, of this
frightful disturbance: He endeavoured to repair his fault by protecting
the helpless Inhabitants of the Convent. He entered it with the Mob,
and exerted himself to repress the prevailing Fury, till the sudden and
alarming progress of the flames compelled him to provide for his own
safety. The People now hurried out, as eagerly as they had before
thronged in; But their numbers clogging up the doorway, and the fire
gaining upon them rapidly, many of them perished ere they had time to
effect their escape. Lorenzo’s good fortune directed him to a small
door in a farther Aisle of the Chapel. The bolt was already undrawn: He
opened the door, and found himself at the foot of St. Clare’s
Sepulchre.

Here he stopped to breathe. The Duke and some of his Attendants had
followed him, and thus were in security for the present. They now
consulted, what steps they should take to escape from this scene of
disturbance: But their deliberations were considerably interrupted by
the sight of volumes of fire rising from amidst the Convent’s massy
walls, by the noise of some heavy Arch tumbling down in ruins, or by
the mingled shrieks of the Nuns and Rioters, either suffocating in the
press, perishing in the flames, or crushed beneath the weight of the
falling Mansion.

Lorenzo enquired, whither the Wicket led? He was answered, to the
Garden of the Capuchins, and it was resolved to explore an outlet upon
that side. Accordingly the Duke raised the Latch, and passed into the
adjoining Cemetery. The Attendants followed without ceremony. Lorenzo,
being the last, was also on the point of quitting the Colonnade, when
He saw the door of the Sepulchre opened softly. Someone looked out, but
on perceiving Strangers uttered a loud shriek, started back again, and
flew down the marble Stairs.

“What can this mean?” cried Lorenzo; “Here is some mystery concealed.
Follow me without delay!”

Thus saying, He hastened into the Sepulchre, and pursued the person who
continued to fly before him. The Duke knew not the cause of his
exclamation, but supposing that He had good reasons for it, he followed
him without hesitation. The Others did the same, and the whole Party
soon arrived at the foot of the Stairs.

The upper door having been left open, the neighbouring flames darted
from above a sufficient light to enable Lorenzo’s catching a glance of
the Fugitive running through the long passages and distant Vaults: But
when a sudden turn deprived him of this assistance, total darkness
succeeded, and He could only trace the object of his enquiry by the
faint echo of retiring feet. The Pursuers were now compelled to proceed
with caution: As well as they could judge, the Fugitive also seemed to
slacken pace, for they heard the steps follow each other at longer
intervals. They at length were bewildered by the Labyrinth of passages,
and dispersed in various directions. Carried away by his eagerness to
clear up this mystery, and to penetrate into which He was impelled by a
movement secret and unaccountable, Lorenzo heeded not this circumstance
till He found himself in total solitude. The noise of footsteps had
ceased. All was silent around, and no clue offered itself to guide him
to the flying Person. He stopped to reflect on the means most likely to
aid his pursuit. He was persuaded that no common cause would have
induced the Fugitive to seek that dreary place at an hour so unusual:
The cry which He had heard, seemed uttered in a voice of terror, and He
was convinced that some mystery was attached to this event. After some
minutes past in hesitation He continued to proceed, feeling his way
along the walls of the passage. He had already past some time in this
slow progress, when He descried a spark of light glimmering at a
distance. Guided by this observation, and having drawn his sword, He
bent his steps towards the place, whence the beam seemed to be emitted.

It proceeded from the Lamp which flamed before St. Clare’s Statue.
Before it stood several Females, their white Garments streaming in the
blast, as it howled along the vaulted dungeons. Curious to know what
had brought them together in this melancholy spot, Lorenzo drew near
with precaution. The Strangers seemed earnestly engaged in
conversation. They heard not Lorenzo’s steps, and He approached
unobserved, till He could hear their voices distinctly.

“I protest,” continued She who was speaking when He arrived, and to
whom the rest were listening with great attention; “I protest, that I
saw them with my own eyes. I flew down the steps; They pursued me, and
I escaped falling into their hands with difficulty. Had it not been for
the Lamp, I should never have found you.”

“And what could bring them hither?” said another in a trembling voice;
“Do you think that they were looking for us?”

“God grant that my fears may be false,” rejoined the First; “But I
doubt they are Murderers! If they discover us, we are lost! As for me,
my fate is certain: My affinity to the Prioress will be a sufficient
crime to condemn me; and though till now these Vaults have afforded me
a retreat.......”

Here looking up, her eye fell upon Lorenzo, who had continued to
approach softly.

“The Murderers!” She cried—

She started away from the Statue’s Pedestal on which She had been
seated, and attempted to escape by flight. Her Companions at the same
moment uttered a terrified scream, while Lorenzo arrested the Fugitive
by the arm. Frightened and desperate She sank upon her knees before
him.

“Spare me!” She exclaimed; “For Christ’s sake, spare me! I am innocent,
indeed, I am!”

While She spoke, her voice was almost choaked with fear. The beams of
the Lamp darting full upon her face which was unveiled, Lorenzo
recognized the beautiful Virginia de Villa-Franca. He hastened to raise
her from the ground, and besought her to take courage. He promised to
protect her from the Rioters, assured her that her retreat was still a
secret, and that She might depend upon his readiness to defend her to
the last drop of his blood. During this conversation, the Nuns had
thrown themselves into various attitudes: One knelt, and addressed
herself to heaven; Another hid her face in the lap of her Neighbour;
Some listened motionless with fear to the discourse of the supposed
Assassin; while Others embraced the Statue of St. Clare, and implored
her protection with frantic cries. On perceiving their mistake, they
crowded round Lorenzo and heaped benedictions on him by dozens. He
found that, on hearing the threats of the Mob, and terrified by the
cruelties which from the Convent Towers they had seen inflicted on the
Superior, many of the Pensioners and Nuns had taken refuge in the
Sepulchre. Among the former was to be reckoned the lovely Virginia.
Nearly related to the Prioress, She had more reason than the rest to
dread the Rioters, and now besought Lorenzo earnestly not to abandon
her to their rage. Her Companions, most of whom were Women of noble
family, made the same request, which He readily granted. He promised
not to quit them, till He had seen each of them safe in the arms of her
Relations: But He advised their deferring to quit the Sepulchre for
some time longer, when the popular fury should be somewhat calmed, and
the arrival of military force have dispersed the multitude.

“Would to God!” cried Virginia, “That I were already safe in my
Mother’s embraces! How say you, Segnor; Will it be long, ere we may
leave this place? Every moment that I pass here, I pass in torture!”

“I hope, not long,” said He; “But till you can proceed with security,
this Sepulchre will prove an impenetrable asylum. Here you run no
risque of a discovery, and I would advise your remaining quiet for the
next two or three hours.”

“Two or three hours?” exclaimed Sister Helena; “If I stay another hour
in these vaults, I shall expire with fear! Not the wealth of worlds
should bribe me to undergo again what I have suffered since my coming
hither. Blessed Virgin! To be in this melancholy place in the middle of
night, surrounded by the mouldering bodies of my deceased Companions,
and expecting every moment to be torn in pieces by their Ghosts who
wander about me, and complain, and groan, and wail in accents that make
my blood run cold, ..... Christ Jesus! It is enough to drive me to
madness!”

“Excuse me,” replied Lorenzo, “if I am surprized that while menaced by
real woes you are capable of yielding to imaginary dangers. These
terrors are puerile and groundless: Combat them, holy Sister; I have
promised to guard you from the Rioters, but against the attacks of
superstition you must depend for protection upon yourself. The idea of
Ghosts is ridiculous in the extreme; And if you continue to be swayed
by ideal terrors ...”

“Ideal?” exclaimed the Nuns with one voice; “Why we heard it ourselves,
Segnor! Every one of us heard it! It was frequently repeated, and it
sounded every time more melancholy and deep. You will never persuade me
that we could all have been deceived. Not we, indeed; No, no; Had the
noise been merely created by fancy ....”

“Hark! Hark!” interrupted Virginia in a voice of terror; “God preserve
us! There it is again!”

The Nuns clasped their hands together, and sank upon their knees.

Lorenzo looked round him eagerly, and was on the point of yielding to
the fears which already had possessed the Women. Universal silence
prevailed. He examined the Vault, but nothing was to be seen. He now
prepared to address the Nuns, and ridicule their childish
apprehensions, when his attention was arrested by a deep and long-drawn
groan.

“What was that?” He cried, and started.

“There, Segnor!” said Helena; “Now you must be convinced! You have
heard the noise yourself! Now judge, whether our terrors are imaginary.
Since we have been here, that groaning has been repeated almost every
five minutes. Doubtless, it proceeds from some Soul in pain, who wishes
to be prayed out of purgatory: But none of us here dares ask it the
question. As for me, were I to see an Apparition, the fright, I am very
certain, would kill me out of hand.”

As She said this, a second groan was heard yet more distinctly. The
Nuns crossed themselves, and hastened to repeat their prayers against
evil Spirits. Lorenzo listened attentively. He even thought that He
could distinguish sounds, as of one speaking in complaint; But distance
rendered them inarticulate. The noise seemed to come from the midst of
the small Vault in which He and the Nuns then were, and which a
multitude of passages branching out in various directions, formed into
a sort of Star. Lorenzo’s curiosity which was ever awake, made him
anxious to solve this mystery. He desired that silence might be kept.
The Nuns obeyed him. All was hushed, till the general stillness was
again disturbed by the groaning, which was repeated several times
successively. He perceived it to be most audible, when upon following
the sound He was conducted close to the shrine of St. Clare:

“The noise comes from hence,” said He; “Whose is this Statue?”

Helena, to whom He addressed the question, paused for a moment.
Suddenly She clapped her hands together.

“Aye!” cried she, “it must be so. I have discovered the meaning of
these groans.”

The nuns crowded round her, and besought her eagerly to explain
herself. She gravely replied that for time immemorial the Statue had
been famous for performing miracles: From this She inferred that the
Saint was concerned at the conflagration of a Convent which She
protected, and expressed her grief by audible lamentations. Not having
equal faith in the miraculous Saint, Lorenzo did not think this
solution of the mystery quite so satisfactory, as the Nuns, who
subscribed to it without hesitation. In one point, ’tis true, that He
agreed with Helena.

He suspected that the groans proceeded from the Statue: The more He
listened, the more was He confirmed in this idea. He drew nearer to the
Image, designing to inspect it more closely: But perceiving his
intention, the Nuns besought him for God’s sake to desist, since if He
touched the Statue, his death was inevitable.

“And in what consists the danger?” said He.

“Mother of God! In what?” replied Helena, ever eager to relate a
miraculous adventure; “If you had only heard the hundredth part of
those marvellous Stories about this Statue which the Domina used to
recount! She assured us often and often, that if we only dared to lay a
finger upon it, we might expect the most fatal consequences. Among
other things She told us that a Robber having entered these Vaults by
night, He observed yonder Ruby, whose value is inestimable. Do you see
it, Segnor? It sparkles upon the third finger of the hand, in which She
holds a crown of Thorns. This Jewel naturally excited the Villain’s
cupidity. He resolved to make himself Master of it. For this purpose He
ascended the Pedestal: He supported himself by grasping the Saint’s
right arm, and extended his own towards the Ring. What was his
surprize, when He saw the Statue’s hand raised in a posture of menace,
and heard her lips pronounce his eternal perdition! Penetrated with awe
and consternation, He desisted from his attempt, and prepared to quit
the Sepulchre. In this He also failed. Flight was denied him. He found
it impossible to disengage the hand, which rested upon the right arm of
the Statue. In vain did He struggle: He remained fixed to the Image,
till the insupportable and fiery anguish which darted itself through
his veins, compelled his shrieking for assistance.

The Sepulchre was now filled with Spectators. The Villain confessed his
sacrilege, and was only released by the separation of his hand from his
body. It has remained ever since fastened to the Image. The Robber
turned Hermit, and led ever after an exemplary life: But yet the
Saint’s decree was performed, and Tradition says that He continues to
haunt this Sepulchre, and implore St. Clare’s pardon with groans and
lamentations. Now I think of it, those which we have just heard, may
very possibly have been uttered by the Ghost of this Sinner: But of
this I will not be positive. All that I can say is, that since that
time no one has ever dared to touch the Statue: Then do not be
foolhardy, good Segnor! For the love of heaven, give up your design,
nor expose yourself unnecessarily to certain destruction.”

Not being convinced that his destruction would be so certain as Helena
seemed to think it, Lorenzo persisted in his resolution. The Nuns
besought him to desist in piteous terms, and even pointed out the
Robber’s hand, which in effect was still visible upon the arm of the
Statue. This proof, as they imagined, must convince him. It was very
far from doing so; and they were greatly scandalized when he declared
his suspicion that the dried and shrivelled fingers had been placed
there by order of the Prioress. In spite of their prayers and threats
He approached the Statue. He sprang over the iron Rails which defended
it, and the Saint underwent a thorough examination. The Image at first
appeared to be of Stone, but proved on further inspection to be formed
of no more solid materials than coloured Wood. He shook it, and
attempted to move it; But it appeared to be of a piece with the Base
which it stood upon. He examined it over and over: Still no clue guided
him to the solution of this mystery, for which the Nuns were become
equally solicitous, when they saw that He touched the Statue with
impunity. He paused, and listened: The groans were repeated at
intervals, and He was convinced of being in the spot nearest to them.
He mused upon this singular event, and ran over the Statue with
enquiring eyes. Suddenly they rested upon the shrivelled hand. It
struck him, that so particular an injunction was not given without
cause, not to touch the arm of the Image. He again ascended the
Pedestal; He examined the object of his attention, and discovered a
small knob of iron concealed between the Saint’s shoulder and what was
supposed to have been the hand of the Robber. This observation
delighted him. He applied his fingers to the knob, and pressed it down
forcibly. Immediately a rumbling noise was heard within the Statue, as
if a chain tightly stretched was flying back. Startled at the sound the
timid Nuns started away, prepared to hasten from the Vault at the first
appearance of danger. All remaining quiet and still, they again
gathered round Lorenzo, and beheld his proceedings with anxious
curiosity.

Finding that nothing followed this discovery, He descended. As He took
his hand from the Saint, She trembled beneath his touch. This created
new terrors in the Spectators, who believed the Statue to be animated.
Lorenzo’s ideas upon the subject were widely different. He easily
comprehended that the noise which He had heard, was occasioned by his
having loosened a chain which attached the Image to its Pedestal. He
once more attempted to move it, and succeeded without much exertion. He
placed it upon the ground, and then perceived the Pedestal to be
hollow, and covered at the opening with an heavy iron grate.

This excited such general curiosity that the Sisters forgot both their
real and imaginary dangers. Lorenzo proceeded to raise the Grate, in
which the Nuns assisted him to the utmost of their strength. The
attempt was accomplished with little difficulty. A deep abyss now
presented itself before them, whose thick obscurity the eye strove in
vain to pierce. The rays of the Lamp were too feeble to be of much
assistance. Nothing was discernible, save a flight of rough unshapen
steps which sank into the yawning Gulph and were soon lost in darkness.
The groans were heard no more; But All believed them to have ascended
from this Cavern. As He bent over it, Lorenzo fancied that He
distinguished something bright twinkling through the gloom. He gazed
attentively upon the spot where it showed itself, and was convinced
that He saw a small spark of light, now visible, now disappearing. He
communicated this circumstance to the Nuns: They also perceived the
spark; But when He declared his intention to descend into the Cave,
they united to oppose his resolution. All their remonstrances could not
prevail on him to alter it. None of them had courage enough to
accompany him; neither could He think of depriving them of the Lamp.
Alone therefore, and in darkness, He prepared to pursue his design,
while the Nuns were contented to offer up prayers for his success and
safety.

The steps were so narrow and uneven, that to descend them was like
walking down the side of a precipice. The obscurity by which He was
surrounded rendered his footing insecure. He was obliged to proceed
with great caution, lest He should miss the steps and fall into the
Gulph below him. This He was several times on the point of doing.
However, He arrived sooner upon solid ground than He had expected: He
now found that the thick darkness and impenetrable mists which reigned
through the Cavern had deceived him into the belief of its being much
more profound than it proved upon inspection. He reached the foot of
the Stairs unhurt: He now stopped, and looked round for the spark which
had before caught his attention. He sought it in vain: All was dark and
gloomy. He listened for the groans; But his ear caught no sound, except
the distant murmur of the Nuns above, as in low voices they repeated
their Ave-Marias. He stood irresolute to which side He should address
his steps. At all events He determined to proceed: He did so, but
slowly, fearing lest instead of approaching, He should be retiring from
the object of his search. The groans seemed to announce one in pain, or
at least in sorrow, and He hoped to have the power of relieving the
Mourner’s calamities. A plaintive tone, sounding at no great distance,
at length reached his hearing; He bent his course joyfully towards it.
It became more audible as He advanced; and He soon beheld again the
spark of light, which a low projecting Wall had hitherto concealed from
him.

It proceeded from a small lamp which was placed upon an heap of stones,
and whose faint and melancholy rays served rather to point out, than
dispell the horrors of a narrow gloomy dungeon formed in one side of
the Cavern; It also showed several other recesses of similar
construction, but whose depth was buried in obscurity. Coldly played
the light upon the damp walls, whose dew-stained surface gave back a
feeble reflection. A thick and pestilential fog clouded the height of
the vaulted dungeon. As Lorenzo advanced, He felt a piercing chillness
spread itself through his veins. The frequent groans still engaged him
to move forwards. He turned towards them, and by the Lamp’s glimmering
beams beheld in a corner of this loathsome abode, a Creature stretched
upon a bed of straw, so wretched, so emaciated, so pale, that He
doubted to think her Woman. She was half-naked: Her long dishevelled
hair fell in disorder over her face, and almost entirely concealed it.
One wasted Arm hung listlessly upon a tattered rug which covered her
convulsed and shivering limbs: The Other was wrapped round a small
bundle, and held it closely to her bosom. A large Rosary lay near her:
Opposite to her was a Crucifix, on which She bent her sunk eyes
fixedly, and by her side stood a Basket and a small Earthen Pitcher.

Lorenzo stopped: He was petrified with horror. He gazed upon the
miserable Object with disgust and pity. He trembled at the spectacle;
He grew sick at heart: His strength failed him, and his limbs were
unable to support his weight. He was obliged to lean against the low
Wall which was near him, unable to go forward, or to address the
Sufferer. She cast her eyes towards the Staircase: The Wall concealed
Lorenzo, and She observed him not.

“No one comes!” She at length murmured.

As She spoke, her voice was hollow, and rattled in her throat: She
sighed bitterly.

“No one comes!” She repeated; “No! They have forgotten me! They will
come no more!”

She paused for a moment: Then continued mournfully.

“Two days! Two long, long days, and yet no food! And yet no hope, no
comfort! Foolish Woman! How can I wish to lengthen a life so wretched!
Yet such a death! O! God! To perish by such a death! To linger out such
ages in torture! Till now, I knew not what it was to hunger! Hark! No.
No one comes! They will come no more!”

She was silent. She shivered, and drew the rug over her naked
shoulders.

“I am very cold! I am still unused to the damps of this dungeon!

’Tis strange: But no matter. Colder shall I soon be, and yet not feel
it—I shall be cold, cold as Thou art!”

She looked at the bundle which lay upon her breast. She bent over it,
and kissed it: Then drew back hastily, and shuddered with disgust.

“It was once so sweet! It would have been so lovely, so like him! I
have lost it for ever! How a few days have changed it! I should not
know it again myself! Yet it is dear to me! God! how dear! I will
forget what it is: I will only remember what it was, and love it as
well, as when it was so sweet! so lovely! so like him! I thought that I
had wept away all my tears, but here is one still lingering.”

She wiped her eyes with a tress of her hair. She put out her hand for
the Pitcher, and reached it with difficulty. She cast into it a look of
hopeless enquiry. She sighed, and replaced it upon the ground.

“Quite a void! Not a drop! Not one drop left to cool my scorched-up
burning palate! Now would I give treasures for a draught of water! And
they are God’s Servants, who make me suffer thus! They think themselves
holy, while they torture me like Fiends! They are cruel and unfeeling;
And ’tis they who bid me repent; And ’tis they, who threaten me with
eternal perdition! Saviour, Saviour! You think not so!”

She again fixed her eyes upon the Crucifix, took her Rosary, and while
She told her beads, the quick motion of her lips declared her to be
praying with fervency.

While He listened to her melancholy accents, Lorenzo’s sensibility
became yet more violently affected. The first sight of such misery had
given a sensible shock to his feelings: But that being past, He now
advanced towards the Captive. She heard his steps, and uttering a cry
of joy, dropped the Rosary.

“Hark! Hark! Hark!” She cried: “Some one comes!”

She strove to raise herself, but her strength was unequal to the
attempt: She fell back, and as She sank again upon the bed of straw,
Lorenzo heard the rattling of heavy chains. He still approached, while
the Prisoner thus continued.

“Is it you, Camilla? You are come then at last? Oh! it was time! I
thought that you had forsaken me; that I was doomed to perish of
hunger. Give me to drink, Camilla, for pity’s sake! I am faint with
long fasting, and grown so weak that I cannot raise myself from the
ground. Good Camilla, give me to drink, lest I expire before you!”

Fearing that surprize in her enfeebled state might be fatal, Lorenzo
was at a loss how to address her.

“It is not Camilla,” said He at length, speaking in a slow and gentle
voice.

“Who is it then?” replied the Sufferer: “Alix, perhaps, or Violante. My
eyes are grown so dim and feeble that I cannot distinguish your
features. But whichever it is, if your breast is sensible of the least
compassion, if you are not more cruel than Wolves and Tigers, take pity
on my sufferings. You know that I am dying for want of sustenance. This
is the third day, since these lips have received nourishment. Do you
bring me food? Or come you only to announce my death, and learn how
long I have yet to exist in agony?”

“You mistake my business,” replied Lorenzo; “I am no Emissary of the
cruel Prioress. I pity your sorrows, and come hither to relieve them.”

“To relieve them?” repeated the Captive; “Said you, to relieve them?”

At the same time starting from the ground, and supporting herself upon
her hands, She gazed upon the Stranger earnestly.

“Great God! It is no illusion! A Man! Speak! Who are you? What brings
you hither? Come you to save me, to restore me to liberty, to life and
light? Oh! speak, speak quickly, lest I encourage an hope whose
disappointment will destroy me.”

“Be calm!” replied Lorenzo in a voice soothing and compassionate; “The
Domina of whose cruelty you complain, has already paid the forfeit of
her offences: You have nothing more to fear from her.

A few minutes will restore you to liberty, and the embraces of your
Friends from whom you have been secluded. You may rely upon my
protection. Give me your hand, and be not fearful. Let me conduct you
where you may receive those attentions which your feeble state
requires.”

“Oh! Yes! Yes! Yes!” cried the Prisoner with an exulting shriek; “There
is a God then, and a just one! Joy! Joy! I shall once more breath the
fresh air, and view the light of the glorious sunbeams! I will go with
you! Stranger, I will go with you! Oh! Heaven will bless you for
pitying an Unfortunate! But this too must go with me,” She added
pointing to the small bundle which She still clasped to her bosom; “I
cannot part with this. I will bear it away: It shall convince the world
how dreadful are the abodes so falsely termed religious. Good Stranger,
lend me your hand to rise: I am faint with want, and sorrow, and
sickness, and my forces have quite forsaken me! So, that is well!”

As Lorenzo stooped to raise her, the beams of the Lamp struck full upon
his face.

“Almighty God!” She exclaimed; “Is it possible! That look! Those
features! Oh! Yes, it is, it is .....”

She extended her arms to throw them round him; But her enfeebled frame
was unable to sustain the emotions which agitated her bosom. She
fainted, and again sank upon the bed of straw.

Lorenzo was surprized at her last exclamation. He thought that He had
before heard such accents as her hollow voice had just formed, but
where He could not remember. He saw that in her dangerous situation
immediate physical aid was absolutely necessary, and He hastened to
convey her from the dungeon. He was at first prevented from doing so by
a strong chain fastened round the prisoner’s body, and fixing her to
the neighbouring Wall. However, his natural strength being aided by
anxiety to relieve the Unfortunate, He soon forced out the Staple to
which one end of the Chain was attached. Then taking the Captive in his
arms, He bent his course towards the Staircase. The rays of the Lamp
above, as well as the murmur of female voices, guided his steps. He
gained the Stairs, and in a few minutes after arrived at the
iron-grate.

The nuns during his absence had been terribly tormented by curiosity
and apprehension: They were equally surprized and delighted on seeing
him suddenly emerge from the Cave. Every heart was filled with
compassion for the miserable Creature whom He bore in his arms. While
the Nuns, and Virginia in particular, employed themselves in striving
to recall her to her senses, Lorenzo related in few words the manner of
his finding her. He then observed to them that by this time the tumult
must have been quelled, and that He could now conduct them to their
Friends without danger. All were eager to quit the Sepulchre: Still to
prevent all possibility of ill-usage, they besought Lorenzo to venture
out first alone, and examine whether the Coast was clear. With this
request He complied. Helena offered to conduct him to the Staircase,
and they were on the point of departing, when a strong light flashed
from several passages upon the adjacent walls. At the same time Steps
were heard of people approaching hastily, and whose number seemed to be
considerable. The Nuns were greatly alarmed at this circumstance: They
supposed their retreat to be discovered, and the Rioters to be
advancing in pursuit of them. Hastily quitting the Prisoner who
remained insensible, they crowded round Lorenzo, and claimed his
promise to protect them. Virginia alone forgot her own danger by
striving to relieve the sorrows of Another. She supported the
Sufferer’s head upon her knees, bathing her temples with rose-water,
chafing her cold hands, and sprinkling her face with tears which were
drawn from her by compassion. The Strangers approaching nearer, Lorenzo
was enabled to dispel the fears of the Suppliants. His name, pronounced
by a number of voices among which He distinguished the Duke’s, pealed
along the Vaults, and convinced him that He was the object of their
search. He communicated this intelligence to the Nuns, who received it
with rapture. A few moments after confirmed his idea. Don Ramirez, as
well as the Duke, appeared, followed by Attendants with Torches. They
had been seeking him through the Vaults, in order to let him know that
the Mob was dispersed, and the riot entirely over. Lorenzo recounted
briefly his adventure in the Cavern, and explained how much the Unknown
was in want of medical assistance. He besought the Duke to take charge
of her, as well as of the Nuns and Pensioners.

“As for me,” said He, “Other cares demand my attention. While you with
one half of the Archers convey these Ladies to their respective homes,
I wish the other half to be left with me. I will examine the Cavern
below, and pervade the most secret recesses of the Sepulchre. I cannot
rest till convinced that yonder wretched Victim was the only one
confined by Superstition in these vaults.”

The Duke applauded his intention. Don Ramirez offered to assist him in
his enquiry, and his proposal was accepted with gratitude.

The Nuns having made their acknowledgments to Lorenzo, committed
themselves to the care of his Uncle, and were conducted from the
Sepulchre. Virginia requested that the Unknown might be given to her in
charge, and promised to let Lorenzo know whenever She was sufficiently
recovered to accept his visits. In truth, She made this promise more
from consideration for herself than for either Lorenzo or the Captive.
She had witnessed his politeness, gentleness, and intrepidity with
sensible emotion. She wished earnestly to preserve his acquaintance;
and in addition to the sentiments of pity which the Prisoner excited,
She hoped that her attention to this Unfortunate would raise her a
degree in the esteem of Lorenzo. She had no occasion to trouble herself
upon this head. The kindness already displayed by her and the tender
concern which She had shown for the Sufferer had gained her an exalted
place in his good graces. While occupied in alleviating the Captive’s
sorrows, the nature of her employment adorned her with new charms, and
rendered her beauty a thousand times more interesting. Lorenzo viewed
her with admiration and delight: He considered her as a ministering
Angel descended to the aid of afflicted innocence; nor could his heart
have resisted her attractions, had it not been steeled by the
remembrance of Antonia.

The duke now conveyed the nuns in safety to the dwellings of their
respective friends. The rescued Prisoner was still insensible and gave
no signs of life, except by occasional groans. She was borne upon a
sort of litter; Virginia, who was constantly by the side of it, was
apprehensive that exhausted by long abstinence, and shaken by the
sudden change from bonds and darkness to liberty and light, her frame
would never get the better of the shock. Lorenzo and Don Ramirez still
remained in the Sepulchre. After deliberating upon their proceedings,
it was resolved that to prevent losing time, the Archers should be
divided into two Bodies: That with one Don Ramirez should examine the
cavern, while Lorenzo with the other might penetrate into the further
Vaults. This being arranged, and his Followers being provided with
Torches, Don Ramirez advanced to the Cavern. He had already descended
some steps when He heard People approaching hastily from the interior
part of the Sepulchre. This surprized him, and He quitted the Cave
precipitately.

“Do you hear footsteps?” said Lorenzo; “Let us bend our course towards
them. ’Tis from this side that they seem to proceed.”

At that moment a loud and piercing shriek induced him to quicken his
steps.

“Help! Help, for God’s sake! cried a voice, whose melodious tone
penetrated Lorenzo’s heart with terror.

He flew towards the cry with the rapidity of lightning, and was
followed by Don Ramirez with equal swiftness.



CHAPTER XI.


Great Heaven! How frail thy creature Man is made!
How by himself insensibly betrayed!
In our own strength unhappily secure,
Too little cautious of the adverse power,
On pleasure’s flowery brink we idly stray,
Masters as yet of our returning way:
Till the strong gusts of raging passion rise,
Till the dire Tempest mingles earth and skies,
And swift into the boundless Ocean borne,
Our foolish confidence too late we mourn:
Round our devoted heads the billows beat,
And from our troubled view the lessening lands retreat.

PRIOR.

All this while, Ambrosio was unconscious of the dreadful scenes which
were passing so near. The execution of his designs upon Antonia
employed his every thought. Hitherto, He was satisfied with the success
of his plans. Antonia had drank the opiate, was buried in the vaults of
St. Clare, and absolutely in his disposal. Matilda, who was well
acquainted with the nature and effects of the soporific medicine, had
computed that it would not cease to operate till one in the Morning.
For that hour He waited with impatience. The Festival of St. Clare
presented him with a favourable opportunity of consummating his crime.
He was certain that the Friars and Nuns would be engaged in the
Procession, and that He had no cause to dread an interruption: From
appearing himself at the head of his Monks, He had desired to be
excused. He doubted not, that being beyond the reach of help, cut off
from all the world, and totally in his power, Antonia would comply with
his desires. The affection which She had ever exprest for him,
warranted this persuasion: But He resolved that should She prove
obstinate, no consideration whatever should prevent him from enjoying
her. Secure from a discovery, He shuddered not at the idea of employing
force: If He felt any repugnance, it arose not from a principle of
shame or compassion, but from his feeling for Antonia the most sincere
and ardent affection, and wishing to owe her favours to no one but
herself.

The Monks quitted the Abbey at midnight. Matilda was among the
Choristers, and led the chaunt. Ambrosio was left by himself, and at
liberty to pursue his own inclinations. Convinced that no one remained
behind to watch his motions, or disturb his pleasures, He now hastened
to the Western Aisles. His heart beating with hope not unmingled with
anxiety, He crossed the Garden, unlocked the door which admitted him
into the Cemetery, and in a few minutes He stood before the Vaults.
Here He paused.

He looked round him with suspicion, conscious that his business was
unfit for any other eye. As He stood in hesitation, He heard the
melancholy shriek of the screech-Owl: The wind rattled loudly against
the windows of the adjacent Convent, and as the current swept by him,
bore with it the faint notes of the chaunt of Choristers. He opened the
door cautiously, as if fearing to be overheard: He entered; and closed
it again after him. Guided by his Lamp, He threaded the long passages,
in whose windings Matilda had instructed him, and reached the private
Vault which contained his sleeping Mistress.

Its entrance was by no means easy to discover: But this was no obstacle
to Ambrosio, who at the time of Antonia’s Funeral had observed it too
carefully to be deceived. He found the door, which was unfastened,
pushed it open, and descended into the dungeon. He approached the
humble Tomb in which Antonia reposed. He had provided himself with an
iron crow and a pick-axe; But this precaution was unnecessary. The
Grate was slightly fastened on the outside: He raised it, and placing
the Lamp upon its ridge, bent silently over the Tomb. By the side of
three putrid half-corrupted Bodies lay the sleeping Beauty. A lively
red, the forerunner of returning animation, had already spread itself
over her cheek; and as wrapped in her shroud She reclined upon her
funeral Bier, She seemed to smile at the Images of Death around her.
While He gazed upon their rotting bones and disgusting figures, who
perhaps were once as sweet and lovely, Ambrosio thought upon Elvira, by
him reduced to the same state. As the memory of that horrid act glanced
upon his mind, it was clouded with a gloomy horror. Yet it served but
to strengthen his resolution to destroy Antonia’s honour.

“For your sake, Fatal Beauty!” murmured the Monk, while gazing on his
devoted prey; “For your sake, have I committed this murder, and sold
myself to eternal tortures. Now you are in my power: The produce of my
guilt will at least be mine. Hope not that your prayers breathed in
tones of unequalled melody, your bright eyes filled with tears, and
your hands lifted in supplication, as when seeking in penitence the
Virgin’s pardon; Hope not that your moving innocence, your beauteous
grief, or all your suppliant arts shall ransom you from my embraces.
Before the break of day, mine you must, and mine you shall be!”

He lifted her still motionless from the Tomb: He seated himself upon a
bank of Stone, and supporting her in his arms, watched impatiently for
the symptoms of returning animation. Scarcely could He command his
passions sufficiently, to restrain himself from enjoying her while yet
insensible. His natural lust was increased in ardour by the
difficulties which had opposed his satisfying it: As also by his long
abstinence from Woman, since from the moment of resigning her claim to
his love, Matilda had exiled him from her arms for ever.

“I am no Prostitute, Ambrosio;” Had She told him, when in the fullness
of his lust He demanded her favours with more than usual earnestness;
“I am now no more than your Friend, and will not be your Mistress.
Cease then to solicit my complying with desires, which insult me. While
your heart was mine, I gloried in your embraces: Those happy times are
past: My person is become indifferent to you, and ’tis necessity, not
love, which makes you seek my enjoyment. I cannot yield to a request so
humiliating to my pride.”

Suddenly deprived of pleasures, the use of which had made them an
absolute want, the Monk felt this restraint severely. Naturally
addicted to the gratification of the senses, in the full vigour of
manhood, and heat of blood, He had suffered his temperament to acquire
such ascendency that his lust was become madness. Of his fondness for
Antonia, none but the grosser particles remained: He longed for the
possession of her person; and even the gloom of the vault, the
surrounding silence, and the resistance which He expected from her,
seemed to give a fresh edge to his fierce and unbridled desires.

Gradually He felt the bosom which rested against his, glow with
returning warmth. Her heart throbbed again; Her blood flowed swifter,
and her lips moved. At length She opened her eyes, but still opprest
and bewildered by the effects of the strong opiate, She closed them
again immediately. Ambrosio watched her narrowly, nor permitted a
movement to escape him. Perceiving that She was fully restored to
existence, He caught her in rapture to his bosom, and closely pressed
his lips to hers. The suddenness of his action sufficed to dissipate
the fumes which obscured Antonia’s reason. She hastily raised herself,
and cast a wild look round her. The strange Images which presented
themselves on every side contributed to confuse her. She put her hand
to her head, as if to settle her disordered imagination. At length She
took it away, and threw her eyes through the dungeon a second time.
They fixed upon the Abbot’s face.

“Where am I?” She said abruptly. “How came I here? Where is my Mother?
Methought, I saw her! Oh! a dream, a dreadful dreadful dream told me
...... But where am I? Let me go! I cannot stay here!”

She attempted to rise, but the Monk prevented her.

“Be calm, lovely Antonia!” He replied; “No danger is near you: Confide
in my protection. Why do you gaze on me so earnestly? Do you not know
me? Not know your Friend? Ambrosio?”

“Ambrosio? My Friend? Oh! yes, yes; I remember ...... But why am I
here? Who has brought me? Why are you with me? Oh! Flora bad me beware
.....! Here are nothing but Graves, and Tombs, and Skeletons! This
place frightens me! Good Ambrosio take me away from it, for it recalls
my fearful dream! Methought I was dead, and laid in my grave! Good
Ambrosio, take me from hence. Will you not? Oh! will you not? Do not
look on me thus!

Your flaming eyes terrify me! Spare me, Father! Oh! spare me for God’s
sake!”

“Why these terrors, Antonia?” rejoined the Abbot, folding her in his
arms, and covering her bosom with kisses which She in vain struggled to
avoid: “What fear you from me, from one who adores you? What matters it
where you are? This Sepulchre seems to me Love’s bower; This gloom is
the friendly night of mystery which He spreads over our delights! Such
do I think it, and such must my Antonia. Yes, my sweet Girl! Yes! Your
veins shall glow with fire which circles in mine, and my transports
shall be doubled by your sharing them!”

While He spoke thus, He repeated his embraces, and permitted himself
the most indecent liberties. Even Antonia’s ignorance was not proof
against the freedom of his behaviour. She was sensible of her danger,
forced herself from his arms, and her shroud being her only garment,
She wrapped it closely round her.

“Unhand me, Father!” She cried, her honest indignation tempered by
alarm at her unprotected position; “Why have you brought me to this
place? Its appearance freezes me with horror! Convey me from hence, if
you have the least sense of pity and humanity! Let me return to the
House which I have quitted I know not how; But stay here one moment
longer, I neither will, or ought.”

Though the Monk was somewhat startled by the resolute tone in which
this speech was delivered, it produced upon him no other effect than
surprize. He caught her hand, forced her upon his knee, and gazing upon
her with gloting eyes, He thus replied to her.

“Compose yourself, Antonia. Resistance is unavailing, and I need
disavow my passion for you no longer. You are imagined dead: Society is
for ever lost to you. I possess you here alone; You are absolutely in
my power, and I burn with desires which I must either gratify or die:
But I would owe my happiness to yourself. My lovely Girl! My adorable
Antonia! Let me instruct you in joys to which you are still a Stranger,
and teach you to feel those pleasures in my arms which I must soon
enjoy in yours. Nay, this struggling is childish,” He continued, seeing
her repell his caresses, and endeavour to escape from his grasp; “No
aid is near: Neither heaven or earth shall save you from my embraces.
Yet why reject pleasures so sweet, so rapturous? No one observes us:
Our loves will be a secret to all the world: Love and opportunity
invite your giving loose to your passions. Yield to them, my Antonia!
Yield to them, my lovely Girl! Throw your arms thus fondly round me;
Join your lips thus closely to mine! Amidst all her gifts, has Nature
denied her most precious, the sensibility of Pleasure? Oh! impossible!
Every feature, look, and motion declares you formed to bless, and to be
blessed yourself! Turn not on me those supplicating eyes: Consult your
own charms; They will tell you that I am proof against entreaty. Can I
relinquish these limbs so white, so soft, so delicate; These swelling
breasts, round, full, and elastic! These lips fraught with such
inexhaustible sweetness? Can I relinquish these treasures, and leave
them to another’s enjoyment? No, Antonia; never, never! I swear it by
this kiss, and this! and this!”

With every moment the Friar’s passion became more ardent, and Antonia’s
terror more intense. She struggled to disengage herself from his arms:
Her exertions were unsuccessful; and finding that Ambrosio’s conduct
became still freer, She shrieked for assistance with all her strength.
The aspect of the Vault, the pale glimmering of the Lamp, the
surrounding obscurity, the sight of the Tomb, and the objects of
mortality which met her eyes on either side, were ill-calculated to
inspire her with those emotions by which the Friar was agitated. Even
his caresses terrified her from their fury, and created no other
sentiment than fear. On the contrary, her alarm, her evident disgust,
and incessant opposition, seemed only to inflame the Monk’s desires,
and supply his brutality with additional strength. Antonia’s shrieks
were unheard: Yet She continued them, nor abandoned her endeavours to
escape, till exhausted and out of breath She sank from his arms upon
her knees, and once more had recourse to prayers and supplications.
This attempt had no better success than the former. On the contrary,
taking advantage of her situation, the Ravisher threw himself by her
side: He clasped her to his bosom almost lifeless with terror, and
faint with struggling. He stifled her cries with kisses, treated her
with the rudeness of an unprincipled Barbarian, proceeded from freedom
to freedom, and in the violence of his lustful delirium, wounded and
bruised her tender limbs. Heedless of her tears, cries and entreaties,
He gradually made himself Master of her person, and desisted not from
his prey, till He had accomplished his crime and the dishonour of
Antonia.

Scarcely had He succeeded in his design than He shuddered at himself
and the means by which it was effected. The very excess of his former
eagerness to possess Antonia now contributed to inspire him with
disgust; and a secret impulse made him feel how base and unmanly was
the crime which He had just committed. He started hastily from her
arms. She, who so lately had been the object of his adoration, now
raised no other sentiment in his heart than aversion and rage. He
turned away from her; or if his eyes rested upon her figure
involuntarily, it was only to dart upon her looks of hate. The
Unfortunate had fainted ere the completion of her disgrace: She only
recovered life to be sensible of her misfortune. She remained stretched
upon the earth in silent despair: The tears chased each other slowly
down her cheeks, and her bosom heaved with frequent sobs. Oppressed
with grief, She continued for some time in this state of torpidity. At
length She rose with difficulty, and dragging her feeble steps towards
the door, prepared to quit the dungeon.

The sound of her footsteps rouzed the Monk from his sullen apathy.
Starting from the Tomb against which He reclined, while his eyes
wandered over the images of corruption contained in it, He pursued the
Victim of his brutality, and soon overtook her. He seized her by the
arm, and violently forced her back into the dungeon.

“Whither go you?” He cried in a stern voice; “Return this instant!”

Antonia trembled at the fury of his countenance.

“What, would you more?” She said with timidity: “Is not my ruin
compleated? Am I not undone, undone for ever? Is not your cruelty
contented, or have I yet more to suffer? Let me depart. Let me return
to my home, and weep unrestrained my shame and my affliction!”

“Return to your home?” repeated the Monk, with bitter and contemptuous
mockery; Then suddenly his eyes flaming with passion, “What? That you
may denounce me to the world? That you may proclaim me an Hypocrite, a
Ravisher, a Betrayer, a Monster of cruelty, lust, and ingratitude? No,
no, no! I know well the whole weight of my offences; Well that your
complaints would be too just, and my crimes too notorious! You shall
not from hence to tell Madrid that I am a Villain; that my conscience
is loaded with sins which make me despair of Heaven’s pardon. Wretched
Girl, you must stay here with me! Here amidst these lonely Tombs, these
images of Death, these rotting loathsome corrupted bodies! Here shall
you stay, and witness my sufferings; witness what it is to die in the
horrors of despondency, and breathe the last groan in blasphemy and
curses! And who am I to thank for this? What seduced me into crimes,
whose bare remembrance makes me shudder? Fatal Witch! was it not thy
beauty? Have you not plunged my soul into infamy? Have you not made me
a perjured Hypocrite, a Ravisher, an Assassin! Nay, at this moment,
does not that angel look bid me despair of God’s forgiveness? Oh! when
I stand before his judgment-throne, that look will suffice to damn me!
You will tell my Judge that you were happy, till _I_ saw you; that you
were innocent, till _I_ polluted you! You will come with those tearful
eyes, those cheeks pale and ghastly, those hands lifted in
supplication, as when you sought from me that mercy which I gave not!
Then will my perdition be certain! Then will come your Mother’s Ghost,
and hurl me down into the dwellings of Fiends, and flames, and Furies,
and everlasting torments! And ’tis you, who will accuse me! ’Tis you,
who will cause my eternal anguish! You, wretched Girl! You! You!”

As He thundered out these words, He violently grasped Antonia’s arm,
and spurned the earth with delirious fury.

Supposing his brain to be turned, Antonia sank in terror upon her
knees: She lifted up her hands, and her voice almost died away, ere She
could give it utterance.

“Spare me! Spare me!” She murmured with difficulty.

“Silence!” cried the Friar madly, and dashed her upon the ground——

He quitted her, and paced the dungeon with a wild and disordered air.
His eyes rolled fearfully: Antonia trembled whenever She met their
gaze. He seemed to meditate on something horrible, and She gave up all
hopes of escaping from the Sepulchre with life. Yet in harbouring this
idea, She did him injustice. Amidst the horror and disgust to which his
soul was a prey, pity for his Victim still held a place in it. The
storm of passion once over, He would have given worlds had He possest
them, to have restored to her that innocence of which his unbridled
lust had deprived her. Of the desires which had urged him to the crime,
no trace was left in his bosom: The wealth of India would not have
tempted him to a second enjoyment of her person. His nature seemed to
revolt at the very idea, and fain would He have wiped from his memory
the scene which had just past. As his gloomy rage abated, in proportion
did his compassion augment for Antonia. He stopped, and would have
spoken to her words of comfort; But He knew not from whence to draw
them, and remained gazing upon her with mournful wildness. Her
situation seemed so hopeless, so woebegone, as to baffle mortal power
to relieve her. What could He do for her? Her peace of mind was lost,
her honour irreparably ruined. She was cut off for ever from society,
nor dared He give her back to it. He was conscious that were She to
appear in the world again, his guilt would be revealed, and his
punishment inevitable. To one so laden with crimes, Death came armed
with double terrors. Yet should He restore Antonia to light, and stand
the chance of her betraying him, how miserable a prospect would present
itself before her. She could never hope to be creditably established;
She would be marked with infamy, and condemned to sorrow and solitude
for the remainder of her existence. What was the alternative? A
resolution far more terrible for Antonia, but which at least would
insure the Abbot’s safety. He determined to leave the world persuaded
of her death, and to retain her a captive in this gloomy prison: There
He proposed to visit her every night, to bring her food, to profess his
penitence, and mingle his tears with hers. The Monk felt that this
resolution was unjust and cruel; but it was his only means to prevent
Antonia from publishing his guilt and her own infamy. Should He release
her, He could not depend upon her silence: His offence was too flagrant
to permit his hoping for her forgiveness. Besides, her reappearing
would excite universal curiosity, and the violence of her affliction
would prevent her from concealing its cause. He determined therefore,
that Antonia should remain a Prisoner in the dungeon.

He approached her with confusion painted on his countenance. He raised
her from the ground. Her hand trembled, as He took it, and He dropped
it again as if He had touched a Serpent. Nature seemed to recoil at the
touch. He felt himself at once repulsed from and attracted towards her,
yet could account for neither sentiment. There was something in her
look which penetrated him with horror; and though his understanding was
still ignorant of it, Conscience pointed out to him the whole extent of
his crime. In hurried accents yet the gentlest He could find, while his
eye was averted, and his voice scarcely audible, He strove to console
her under a misfortune which now could not be avoided. He declared
himself sincerely penitent, and that He would gladly shed a drop of his
blood, for every tear which his barbarity had forced from her. Wretched
and hopeless, Antonia listened to him in silent grief: But when He
announced her confinement in the Sepulchre, that dreadful doom to which
even death seemed preferable roused her from her insensibility at once.
To linger out a life of misery in a narrow loathsome Cell, known to
exist by no human Being save her Ravisher, surrounded by mouldering
Corses, breathing the pestilential air of corruption, never more to
behold the light, or drink the pure gale of heaven, the idea was more
terrible than She could support. It conquered even her abhorrence of
the Friar. Again She sank upon her knees: She besought his compassion
in terms the most pathetic and urgent. She promised, would He but
restore her to liberty, to conceal her injuries from the world; to
assign any reason for her reappearance which He might judge proper; and
in order to prevent the least suspicion from falling upon him, She
offered to quit Madrid immediately. Her entreaties were so urgent as to
make a considerable impression upon the Monk. He reflected that as her
person no longer excited his desires, He had no interest in keeping her
concealed as He had at first intended; that He was adding a fresh
injury to those which She had already suffered; and that if She adhered
to her promises, whether She was confined or at liberty, his life and
reputation were equally secure. On the other hand, He trembled lest in
her affliction Antonia should unintentionally break her engagement; or
that her excessive simplicity and ignorance of deceit should permit
some one more artful to surprize her secret. However well-founded were
these apprehensions, compassion, and a sincere wish to repair his fault
as much as possible solicited his complying with the prayers of his
Suppliant. The difficulty of colouring Antonia’s unexpected return to
life, after her supposed death and public interment, was the only point
which kept him irresolute. He was still pondering on the means of
removing this obstacle, when He heard the sound of feet approaching
with precipitation. The door of the Vault was thrown open, and Matilda
rushed in, evidently much confused and terrified.

On seeing a Stranger enter, Antonia uttered a cry of joy: But her hopes
of receiving succour from him were soon dissipated. The supposed
Novice, without expressing the least surprize at finding a Woman alone
with the Monk, in so strange a place, and at so late an hour, addressed
him thus without losing a moment.

“What is to be done, Ambrosio? We are lost, unless some speedy means is
found of dispelling the Rioters. Ambrosio, the Convent of St. Clare is
on fire; The Prioress has fallen a victim to the fury of the Mob.
Already is the Abbey menaced with a similar fate. Alarmed at the
threats of the People, the Monks seek for you everywhere. They imagine
that your authority alone will suffice to calm this disturbance. No one
knows what is become of you, and your absence creates universal
astonishment and despair. I profited by the confusion, and fled hither
to warn you of the danger.”

“This will soon be remedied,” answered the Abbot; “I will hasten back
to my Cell: a trivial reason will account for my having been missed.”

“Impossible!” rejoined Matilda: “The Sepulchre is filled with Archers.
Lorenzo de Medina, with several Officers of the Inquisition, searches
through the Vaults, and pervades every passage. You will be intercepted
in your flight; Your reasons for being at this late hour in the
Sepulchre will be examined; Antonia will be found, and then you are
undone for ever!”

“Lorenzo de Medina? Officers of the Inquisition? What brings them here?
Seek they for me? Am I then suspected? Oh! speak, Matilda! Answer me,
in pity!”

“As yet they do not think of you, but I fear that they will ere long.
Your only chance of escaping their notice rests upon the difficulty of
exploring this Vault. The door is artfully hidden:

Haply it may not be observed, and we may remain concealed till the
search is over.”

“But Antonia ..... Should the Inquisitors draw near, and her cries be
heard ....”

“Thus I remove that danger!” interrupted Matilda.

At the same time drawing a poignard, She rushed upon her devoted prey.

“Hold! Hold!” cried Ambrosio, seizing her hand, and wresting from it
the already lifted weapon. “What would you do, cruel Woman? The
Unfortunate has already suffered but too much, thanks to your
pernicious consels! Would to God that I had never followed them! Would
to God that I had never seen your face!”

Matilda darted upon him a look of scorn.

“Absurd!” She exclaimed with an air of passion and majesty which
impressed the Monk with awe. “After robbing her of all that made it
dear, can you fear to deprive her of a life so miserable? But ’tis
well! Let her live to convince you of your folly. I abandon you to your
evil destiny! I disclaim your alliance! Who trembles to commit so
insignificant a crime, deserves not my protection. Hark! Hark!
Ambrosio; Hear you not the Archers? They come, and your destruction is
inevitable!”

At this moment the Abbot heard the sound of distant voices. He flew to
close the door on whose concealment his safety depended, and which
Matilda had neglected to fasten. Ere He could reach it, He saw Antonia
glide suddenly by him, rush through the door, and fly towards the noise
with the swiftness of an arrow. She had listened attentively to
Matilda: She heard Lorenzo’s name mentioned, and resolved to risque
every thing to throw herself under his protection. The door was open.
The sounds convinced her that the Archers could be at no great
distance. She mustered up her little remaining strength, rushed by the
Monk ere He perceived her design, and bent her course rapidly towards
the voices. As soon as He recovered from his first surprize, the Abbot
failed not to pursue her. In vain did Antonia redouble her speed, and
stretch every nerve to the utmost. Her Enemy gained upon her every
moment: She heard his steps close after her, and felt the heat of his
breath glow upon her neck. He overtook her; He twisted his hand in the
ringlets of her streaming hair, and attempted to drag her back with him
to the dungeon. Antonia resisted with all her strength: She folded her
arms round a Pillar which supported the roof, and shrieked loudly for
assistance. In vain did the Monk strive to threaten her to silence.

“Help!” She continued to exclaim; “Help! Help! for God’s sake!”

Quickened by her cries, the sound of footsteps was heard approaching.
The Abbot expected every moment to see the Inquisitors arrive. Antonia
still resisted, and He now enforced her silence by means the most
horrible and inhuman. He still grasped Matilda’s dagger: Without
allowing himself a moment’s reflection, He raised it, and plunged it
twice in the bosom of Antonia! She shrieked, and sank upon the ground.
The Monk endeavoured to bear her away with him, but She still embraced
the Pillar firmly. At that instant the light of approaching Torches
flashed upon the Walls. Dreading a discovery, Ambrosio was compelled to
abandon his Victim, and hastily fled back to the Vault, where He had
left Matilda.

He fled not unobserved. Don Ramirez happening to arrive the first,
perceived a Female bleeding upon the ground, and a Man flying from the
spot, whose confusion betrayed him for the Murderer. He instantly
pursued the Fugitive with some part of the Archers, while the Others
remained with Lorenzo to protect the wounded Stranger. They raised her,
and supported her in their arms. She had fainted from excess of pain,
but soon gave signs of returning life. She opened her eyes, and on
lifting up her head, the quantity of fair hair fell back which till
then had obscured her features.

“God Almighty! It is Antonia!”

Such was Lorenzo’s exclamation, while He snatched her from the
Attendant’s arms, and clasped her in his own.

Though aimed by an uncertain hand, the poignard had answered but too
well the purpose of its Employer. The wounds were mortal, and Antonia
was conscious that She never could recover. Yet the few moments which
remained for her were moments of happiness. The concern exprest upon
Lorenzo’s countenance, the frantic fondness of his complaints, and his
earnest enquiries respecting her wounds, convinced her beyond a doubt
that his affections were her own. She would not be removed from the
Vaults, fearing lest motion should only hasten her death; and She was
unwilling to lose those moments which She past in receiving proofs of
Lorenzo’s love, and assuring him of her own. She told him that had She
still been undefiled She might have lamented the loss of life; But that
deprived of honour and branded with shame, Death was to her a blessing:
She could not have been his Wife, and that hope being denied her, She
resigned herself to the Grave without one sigh of regret. She bad him
take courage, conjured him not to abandon himself to fruitless sorrow,
and declared that She mourned to leave nothing in the whole world but
him. While every sweet accent increased rather than lightened Lorenzo’s
grief, She continued to converse with him till the moment of
dissolution. Her voice grew faint and scarcely audible; A thick cloud
spread itself over her eyes; Her heart beat slow and irregular, and
every instant seemed to announce that her fate was near at hand.

She lay, her head reclining upon Lorenzo’s bosom, and her lips still
murmuring to him words of comfort. She was interrupted by the Convent
Bell, as tolling at a distance, it struck the hour. Suddenly Antonia’s
eyes sparkled with celestial brightness: Her frame seemed to have
received new strength and animation. She started from her Lover’s arms.

“Three o’clock!” She cried; “Mother, I come!”

She clasped her hands, and sank lifeless upon the ground. Lorenzo in
agony threw himself beside her: He tore his hair, beat his breast, and
refused to be separated from the Corse. At length his force being
exhausted, He suffered himself to be led from the Vault, and was
conveyed to the Palace de Medina scarcely more alive than the
unfortunate Antonia.

In the meanwhile, though closely pursued, Ambrosio succeeded in
regaining the Vault. The Door was already fastened when Don Ramirez
arrived, and much time elapsed, ere the Fugitive’s retreat was
discovered. But nothing can resist perseverance. Though so artfully
concealed, the Door could not escape the vigilance of the Archers. They
forced it open, and entered the Vault to the infinite dismay of
Ambrosio and his Companion. The Monk’s confusion, his attempt to hide
himself, his rapid flight, and the blood sprinkled upon his cloaths,
left no room to doubt his being Antonia’s Murderer. But when He was
recognized for the immaculate Ambrosio, “The Man of Holiness,” the Idol
of Madrid, the faculties of the Spectators were chained up in surprize,
and scarcely could they persuade themselves that what they saw was no
vision. The Abbot strove not to vindicate himself, but preserved a
sullen silence. He was secured and bound. The same precaution was taken
with Matilda: Her Cowl being removed, the delicacy of her features and
profusion of her golden hair betrayed her sex, and this incident
created fresh amazement. The dagger was also found in the Tomb, where
the Monk had thrown it; and the dungeon having undergone a thorough
search, the two Culprits were conveyed to the prisons of the
Inquisition.

Don Ramirez took care that the populace should remain ignorant both of
the crimes and profession of the Captives. He feared a repetition of
the riots which had followed the apprehending the Prioress of St.
Clare. He contented himself with stating to the Capuchins the guilt of
their Superior. To avoid the shame of a public accusation, and dreading
the popular fury from which they had already saved their Abbey with
much difficulty, the Monks readily permitted the Inquisitors to search
their Mansion without noise. No fresh discoveries were made. The
effects found in the Abbot’s and Matilda’s Cells were seized, and
carried to the Inquisition to be produced in evidence. Every thing else
remained in its former position, and order and tranquillity once more
prevailed through Madrid.

St. Clare’s Convent was completely ruined by the united ravages of the
Mob and conflagration. Nothing remained of it but the principal Walls,
whose thickness and solidity had preserved them from the flames. The
Nuns who had belonged to it were obliged in consequence to disperse
themselves into other Societies: But the prejudice against them ran
high, and the Superiors were very unwilling to admit them. However,
most of them being related to Families the most distinguished for their
riches, birth and power, the several Convents were compelled to receive
them, though they did it with a very ill grace. This prejudice was
extremely false and unjustifiable: After a close investigation, it was
proved that All in the Convent were persuaded of the death of Agnes,
except the four Nuns whom St. Ursula had pointed out. These had fallen
Victims to the popular fury; as had also several who were perfectly
innocent and unconscious of the whole affair. Blinded by resentment,
the Mob had sacrificed every Nun who fell into their hands: They who
escaped were entirely indebted to the Duke de Medina’s prudence and
moderation. Of this they were conscious, and felt for that Nobleman a
proper sense of gratitude.

Virginia was not the most sparing of her thanks: She wished equally to
make a proper return for his attentions, and to obtain the good graces
of Lorenzo’s Uncle. In this She easily succeeded.

The Duke beheld her beauty with wonder and admiration; and while his
eyes were enchanted with her Form, the sweetness of her manners and her
tender concern for the suffering Nun prepossessed his heart in her
favour. This Virginia had discernment enough to perceive, and She
redoubled her attention to the Invalid. When He parted from her at the
door of her Father’s Palace, the Duke entreated permission to enquire
occasionally after her health. His request was readily granted:
Virginia assured him that the Marquis de Villa-Franca would be proud of
an opportunity to thank him in person for the protection afforded to
her. They now separated, He enchanted with her beauty and gentleness,
and She much pleased with him and more with his Nephew.

On entering the Palace, Virginia’s first care was to summon the family
Physician, and take care of her unknown charge. Her Mother hastened to
share with her the charitable office. Alarmed by the riots, and
trembling for his Daughter’s safety, who was his only child, the
Marquis had flown to St. Clare’s Convent, and was still employed in
seeking her. Messengers were now dispatched on all sides to inform him
that He would find her safe at his Hotel, and desire him to hasten
thither immediately. His absence gave Virginia liberty to bestow her
whole attention upon her Patient; and though much disordered herself by
the adventures of the night, no persuasion could induce her to quit the
bedside of the Sufferer. Her constitution being much enfeebled by want
and sorrow, it was some time before the Stranger was restored to her
senses. She found great difficulty in swallowing the medicines
prescribed to her: But this obstacle being removed, She easily
conquered her disease which proceeded from nothing but weakness. The
attention which was paid her, the wholesome food to which She had been
long a Stranger, and her joy at being restored to liberty, to society,
and, as She dared to hope, to Love, all this combined to her speedy
re-establishment.

From the first moment of knowing her, her melancholy situation, her
sufferings almost unparalleled had engaged the affections of her
amiable Hostess: Virginia felt for her the most lively interest; But
how was She delighted, when her Guest being sufficiently recovered to
relate her History, She recognized in the captive Nun the Sister of
Lorenzo!

This victim of monastic cruelty was indeed no other than the
unfortunate Agnes. During her abode in the Convent, She had been well
known to Virginia: But her emaciated form, her features altered by
affliction, her death universally credited, and her overgrown and
matted hair which hung over her face and bosom in disorder at first had
prevented her being recollected. The Prioress had put every artifice in
practice to induce Virginia to take the veil; for the Heiress of
Villa-Franca would have been no despicable acquisition. Her seeming
kindness and unremitted attention so far succeeded that her young
Relation began to think seriously upon compliance. Better instructed in
the disgust and ennui of a monastic life, Agnes had penetrated the
designs of the Domina: She trembled for the innocent Girl, and
endeavoured to make her sensible of her error. She painted in their
true colours the numerous inconveniencies attached to a Convent, the
continued restraint, the low jealousies, the petty intrigues, the
servile court and gross flattery expected by the Superior. She then bad
Virginia reflect on the brilliant prospect which presented itself
before her: The Idol of her Parents, the admiration of Madrid, endowed
by nature and education with every perfection of person and mind, She
might look forward to an establishment the most fortunate. Her riches
furnished her with the means of exercising in their fullest extent,
charity and benevolence, those virtues so dear to her; and her stay in
the world would enable her discovering Objects worthy her protection,
which could not be done in the seclusion of a Convent.

Her persuasions induced Virginia to lay aside all thoughts of the Veil:
But another argument, not used by Agnes, had more weight with her than
all the others put together. She had seen Lorenzo, when He visited his
Sister at the Grate. His Person pleased her, and her conversations with
Agnes generally used to terminate in some question about her Brother.
She, who doted upon Lorenzo, wished for no better than an opportunity
to trumpet out his praise. She spoke of him in terms of rapture; and to
convince her Auditor how just were his sentiments, how cultivated his
mind, and elegant his expressions, She showed her at different times
the letters which She received from him. She soon perceived that from
these communications the heart of her young Friend had imbibed
impressions, which She was far from intending to give, but was truly
happy to discover. She could not have wished her Brother a more
desirable union: Heiress of Villa-Franca, virtuous, affectionate,
beautiful, and accomplished, Virginia seemed calculated to make him
happy. She sounded her Brother upon the subject, though without
mentioning names or circumstances. He assured her in his answers that
his heart and hand were totally disengaged, and She thought that upon
these grounds She might proceed without danger. She in consequence
endeavoured to strengthen the dawning passion of her Friend. Lorenzo
was made the constant topic of her discourse; and the avidity with
which her Auditor listened, the sighs which frequently escaped from her
bosom, and the eagerness with which upon any digression She brought
back the conversation to the subject whence it had wandered, sufficed
to convince Agnes that her Brother’s addresses would be far from
disagreeable. She at length ventured to mention her wishes to the Duke:
Though a Stranger to the Lady herself, He knew enough of her situation
to think her worthy his Nephew’s hand. It was agreed between him and
his Niece, that She should insinuate the idea to Lorenzo, and She only
waited his return to Madrid to propose her Friend to him as his Bride.
The unfortunate events which took place in the interim, prevented her
from executing her design. Virginia wept her loss sincerely, both as a
Companion, and as the only Person to whom She could speak of Lorenzo.
Her passion continued to prey upon her heart in secret, and She had
almost determined to confess her sentiments to her Mother, when
accident once more threw their object in her way. The sight of him so
near her, his politeness, his compassion, his intrepidity, had combined
to give new ardour to her affection. When She now found her Friend and
Advocate restored to her, She looked upon her as a Gift from Heaven;
She ventured to cherish the hope of being united to Lorenzo, and
resolved to use with him his Sister’s influence.

Supposing that before her death Agnes might possibly have made the
proposal, the Duke had placed all his Nephew’s hints of marriage to
Virginia’s account: Consequently, He gave them the most favourable
reception. On returning to his Hotel, the relation given him of
Antonia’s death, and Lorenzo’s behaviour on the occasion, made evident
his mistake. He lamented the circumstances; But the unhappy Girl being
effectually out of the way, He trusted that his designs would yet be
executed. ’Tis true that Lorenzo’s situation just then ill-suited him
for a Bridegroom. His hopes disappointed at the moment when He expected
to realize them, and the dreadful and sudden death of his Mistress had
affected him very severely. The Duke found him upon the Bed of
sickness. His Attendants expressed serious apprehensions for his life;
But the Uncle entertained not the same fears. He was of opinion, and
not unwisely, that “Men have died, and worms have eat them; but not for
Love!” He therefore flattered himself that however deep might be the
impression made upon his Nephew’s heart, Time and Virginia would be
able to efface it. He now hastened to the afflicted Youth, and
endeavoured to console him: He sympathised in his distress, but
encouraged him to resist the encroachments of despair. He allowed that
He could not but feel shocked at an event so terrible, nor could He
blame his sensibility; But He besought him not to torment himself with
vain regrets, and rather to struggle with affliction, and preserve his
life, if not for his own sake, at least for the sake of those who were
fondly attached to him. While He laboured thus to make Lorenzo forget
Antonia’s loss, the Duke paid his court assiduously to Virginia, and
seized every opportunity to advance his Nephew’s interest in her heart.

It may easily be expected that Agnes was not long without enquiring
after Don Raymond. She was shocked to hear the wretched situation to
which grief had reduced him; Yet She could not help exulting secretly,
when She reflected, that his illness proved the sincerity of his love.
The Duke undertook the office himself, of announcing to the Invalid the
happiness which awaited him. Though He omitted no precaution to prepare
him for such an event, at this sudden change from despair to happiness
Raymond’s transports were so violent, as nearly to have proved fatal to
him. These once passed, the tranquillity of his mind, the assurance of
felicity, and above all the presence of Agnes, (Who was no sooner
reestablished by the care of Virginia and the Marchioness, than She
hastened to attend her Lover) soon enabled him to overcome the effects
of his late dreadful malady. The calm of his soul communicated itself
to his body, and He recovered with such rapidity as to create universal
surprize.

No so Lorenzo. Antonia’s death accompanied with such terrible
circumstances weighed upon his mind heavily. He was worn down to a
shadow. Nothing could give him pleasure. He was persuaded with
difficulty to swallow nourishment sufficient for the support of life,
and a consumption was apprehended. The society of Agnes formed his only
comfort. Though accident had never permitted their being much together,
He entertained for her a sincere friendship and attachment. Perceiving
how necessary She was to him, She seldom quitted his chamber. She
listened to his complaints with unwearied attention, and soothed him by
the gentleness of her manners, and by sympathising with his distress.
She still inhabited the Palace de Villa-Franca, the Possessors of which
treated her with marked affection. The Duke had intimated to the
Marquis his wishes respecting Virginia. The match was unexceptionable:
Lorenzo was Heir to his Uncle’s immense property, and was distinguished
in Madrid for his agreeable person, extensive knowledge, and propriety
of conduct: Add to this, that the Marchioness had discovered how strong
was her Daughter’s prepossession in his favour.

In consequence the Duke’s proposal was accepted without hesitation:
Every precaution was taken to induce Lorenzo’s seeing the Lady with
those sentiments which She so well merited to excite. In her visits to
her Brother Agnes was frequently accompanied by the Marchioness; and as
soon as He was able to move into his Antichamber, Virginia under her
mother’s protection was sometimes permitted to express her wishes for
his recovery. This She did with such delicacy, the manner in which She
mentioned Antonia was so tender and soothing, and when She lamented her
Rival’s melancholy fate, her bright eyes shone so beautiful through her
tears, that Lorenzo could not behold, or listen to her without emotion.
His Relations, as well as the Lady, perceived that with every day her
society seemed to give him fresh pleasure, and that He spoke of her in
terms of stronger admiration. However, they prudently kept their
observations to themselves. No word was dropped which might lead him to
suspect their designs. They continued their former conduct and
attention, and left Time to ripen into a warmer sentiment the
friendship which He already felt for Virginia.

In the mean while, her visits became more frequent; and latterly there
was scarce a day, of which She did not pass some part by the side of
Lorenzo’s Couch. He gradually regained his strength, but the progress
of his recovery was slow and doubtful. One evening He seemed to be in
better spirits than usual: Agnes and her Lover, the Duke, Virginia, and
her Parents were sitting round him. He now for the first time entreated
his Sister to inform him how She had escaped the effects of the poison
which St. Ursula had seen her swallow. Fearful of recalling those
scenes to his mind in which Antonia had perished, She had hitherto
concealed from him the history of her sufferings. As He now started the
subject himself, and thinking that perhaps the narrative of her sorrows
might draw him from the contemplation of those on which He dwelt too
constantly, She immediately complied with his request. The rest of the
company had already heard her story; But the interest which all present
felt for its Heroine made them anxious to hear it repeated. The whole
society seconding Lorenzo’s entreaties, Agnes obeyed. She first
recounted the discovery which had taken place in the Abbey Chapel, the
Domina’s resentment, and the midnight scene of which St. Ursula had
been a concealed witness. Though the Nun had already described this
latter event, Agnes now related it more circumstantially and at large:
After which She proceeded in her narrative as follows.

Conclusion of the History of Agnes de Medina

My supposed death was attended with the greatest agonies. Those moments
which I believed my last, were embittered by the Domina’s assurances
that I could not escape perdition; and as my eyes closed, I heard her
rage exhale itself in curses on my offence. The horror of this
situation, of a death-bed from which hope was banished, of a sleep from
which I was only to wake to find myself the prey of flames and Furies,
was more dreadful than I can describe. When animation revived in me, my
soul was still impressed with these terrible ideas: I looked round with
fear, expecting to behold the Ministers of divine vengeance. For the
first hour, my senses were so bewildered, and my brain so dizzy, that I
strove in vain to arrange the strange images which floated in wild
confusion before me. If I endeavoured to raise myself from the ground,
the wandering of my head deceived me. Every thing around me seemed to
rock, and I sank once more upon the earth. My weak and dazzled eyes
were unable to bear a nearer approach to a gleam of light which I saw
trembling above me. I was compelled to close them again, and remain
motionless in the same posture.

A full hour elapsed, before I was sufficiently myself to examine the
surrounding Objects. When I did examine them, what terror filled my
bosom I found myself extended upon a sort of wicker Couch: It had six
handles to it, which doubtless had served the Nuns to convey me to my
grave. I was covered with a linen cloth:

Several faded flowers were strown over me: On one side lay a small
wooden Crucifix; On the other, a Rosary of large Beads. Four low narrow
walls confined me. The top was also covered, and in it was practised a
small grated Door: Through this was admitted the little air which
circulated in this miserable place. A faint glimmering of light which
streamed through the Bars, permitted me to distinguish the surrounding
horrors. I was opprest by a noisome suffocating smell; and perceiving
that the grated door was unfastened, I thought that I might possibly
effect my escape. As I raised myself with this design, my hand rested
upon something soft: I grasped it, and advanced it towards the light.
Almighty God! What was my disgust, my consternation! In spite of its
putridity, and the worms which preyed upon it, I perceived a corrupted
human head, and recognised the features of a Nun who had died some
months before!

I threw it from me, and sank almost lifeless upon my Bier.

When my strength returned, this circumstance, and the consciousness of
being surrounded by the loathsome and mouldering Bodies of my
Companions, increased my desire to escape from my fearful prison. I
again moved towards the light. The grated door was within my reach: I
lifted it without difficulty; Probably it had been left unclosed to
facilitate my quitting the dungeon. Aiding myself by the irregularity
of the Walls some of whose stones projected beyond the rest, I
contrived to ascend them, and drag myself out of my prison. I now found
Myself in a Vault tolerably spacious. Several Tombs, similar in
appearance to that whence I had just escaped, were ranged along the
sides in order, and seemed to be considerably sunk within the earth. A
sepulchral Lamp was suspended from the roof by an iron chain, and shed
a gloomy light through the dungeon. Emblems of Death were seen on every
side: Skulls, shoulder-blades, thigh-bones, and other leavings of
Mortality were scattered upon the dewy ground. Each Tomb was ornamented
with a large Crucifix, and in one corner stood a wooden Statue of St.
Clare. To these objects I at first paid no attention: A Door, the only
outlet from the Vault, had attracted my eyes. I hastened towards it,
having wrapped my winding-sheet closely round me. I pushed against the
door, and to my inexpressible terror found that it was fastened on the
outside.

I guessed immediately that the Prioress, mistaking the nature of the
liquor which She had compelled me to drink, instead of poison had
administered a strong Opiate. From this I concluded that being to all
appearance dead I had received the rites of burial; and that deprived
of the power of making my existence known, it would be my fate to
expire of hunger. This idea penetrated me with horror, not merely for
my own sake, but that of the innocent Creature, who still lived within
my bosom. I again endeavoured to open the door, but it resisted all my
efforts. I stretched my voice to the extent of its compass, and
shrieked for aid: I was remote from the hearing of every one: No
friendly voice replied to mine. A profound and melancholy silence
prevailed through the Vault, and I despaired of liberty. My long
abstinence from food now began to torment me. The tortures which hunger
inflicted on me, were the most painful and insupportable: Yet they
seemed to increase with every hour which past over my head. Sometimes I
threw myself upon the ground, and rolled upon it wild and desperate:
Sometimes starting up, I returned to the door, again strove to force it
open, and repeated my fruitless cries for succour. Often was I on the
point of striking my temple against the sharp corner of some Monument,
dashing out my brains, and thus terminating my woes at once; But still
the remembrance of my Baby vanquished my resolution: I trembled at a
deed which equally endangered my Child’s existence and my own. Then
would I vent my anguish in loud exclamations and passionate complaints;
and then again my strength failing me, silent and hopeless I would sit
me down upon the base of St. Clare’s Statue, fold my arms, and abandon
myself to sullen despair. Thus passed several wretched hours. Death
advanced towards me with rapid strides, and I expected that every
succeeding moment would be that of my dissolution. Suddenly a
neighbouring Tomb caught my eye: A Basket stood upon it, which till
then I had not observed. I started from my seat: I made towards it as
swiftly as my exhausted frame would permit. How eagerly did I seize the
Basket, on finding it to contain a loaf of coarse bread and a small
bottle of water.

I threw myself with avidity upon these humble aliments. They had to all
appearance been placed in the Vault for several days; The bread was
hard, and the water tainted; Yet never did I taste food to me so
delicious. When the cravings of appetite were satisfied, I busied
myself with conjectures upon this new circumstance: I debated whether
the Basket had been placed there with a view to my necessity. Hope
answered my doubts in the affirmative. Yet who could guess me to be in
need of such assistance? If my existence was known, why was I detained
in this gloomy Vault? If I was kept a Prisoner, what meant the ceremony
of committing me to the Tomb? Or if I was doomed to perish with hunger,
to whose pity was I indebted for provisions placed within my reach? A
Friend would not have kept my dreadful punishment a secret; Neither did
it seem probable that an Enemy would have taken pains to supply me with
the means of existence. Upon the whole I was inclined to think that the
Domina’s designs upon my life had been discovered by some one of my
Partizans in the Convent, who had found means to substitute an opiate
for poison: That She had furnished me with food to support me, till She
could effect my delivery: And that She was then employed in giving
intelligence to my Relations of my danger, and pointing out a way to
release me from captivity. Yet why then was the quality of my
provisions so coarse? How could my Friend have entered the Vault
without the Domina’s knowledge? And if She had entered, why was the
Door fastened so carefully? These reflections staggered me: Yet still
this idea was the most favourable to my hopes, and I dwelt upon it in
preference.

My meditations were interrupted by the sound of distant footsteps. They
approached, but slowly. Rays of light now darted through the crevices
of the Door. Uncertain whether the Persons who advanced came to relieve
me, or were conducted by some other motive to the Vault, I failed not
to attract their notice by loud cries for help. Still the sounds drew
near: The light grew stronger: At length with inexpressible pleasure I
heard the Key turning in the Lock. Persuaded that my deliverance was at
hand, I flew towards the Door with a shriek of joy. It opened: But all
my hopes of escape died away, when the Prioress appeared followed by
the same four Nuns, who had been witnesses of my supposed death. They
bore torches in their hands, and gazed upon me in fearful silence.

I started back in terror. The Domina descended into the Vault, as did
also her Companions. She bent upon me a stern resentful eye, but
expressed no surprize at finding me still living. She took the seat
which I had just quitted: The door was again closed, and the Nuns
ranged themselves behind their Superior, while the glare of their
torches, dimmed by the vapours and dampness of the Vault, gilded with
cold beams the surrounding Monuments. For some moments all preserved a
dead and solemn silence. I stood at some distance from the Prioress. At
length She beckoned me to advance. Trembling at the severity of her
aspect my strength scarce sufficed me to obey her. I drew near, but my
limbs were unable to support their burthen. I sank upon my knees; I
clasped my hands, and lifted them up to her for mercy, but had no power
to articulate a syllable.

She gazed upon me with angry eyes.

“Do I see a Penitent, or a Criminal?” She said at length; “Are those
hands raised in contrition for your crimes, or in fear of meeting their
punishment? Do those tears acknowledge the justice of your doom, or
only solicit mitigation of your sufferings? I fear me, ’tis the
latter!”

She paused, but kept her eye still fixt upon mine.

“Take courage;” She continued: “I wish not for your death, but your
repentance. The draught which I administered, was no poison, but an
opiate. My intention in deceiving you was to make you feel the agonies
of a guilty conscience, had Death overtaken you suddenly while your
crimes were still unrepented. You have suffered those agonies: I have
brought you to be familiar with the sharpness of death, and I trust
that your momentary anguish will prove to you an eternal benefit. It is
not my design to destroy your immortal soul; or bid you seek the grave,
burthened with the weight of sins unexpiated. No, Daughter, far from
it: I will purify you with wholesome chastisement, and furnish you with
full leisure for contrition and remorse. Hear then my sentence; The
ill-judged zeal of your Friends delayed its execution, but cannot now
prevent it. All Madrid believes you to be no more; Your Relations are
thoroughly persuaded of your death, and the Nuns your Partizans have
assisted at your funeral. Your existence can never be suspected; I have
taken such precautions, as must render it an impenetrable mystery. Then
abandon all thoughts of a World from which you are eternally separated,
and employ the few hours which are allowed you, in preparing for the
next.”

This exordium led me to expect something terrible. I trembled, and
would have spoken to deprecate her wrath: but a motion of the Domina
commanded me to be silent. She proceeded.

“Though of late years unjustly neglected, and now opposed by many of
our misguided Sisters, (whom Heaven convert!) it is my intention to
revive the laws of our order in their full force. That against
incontinence is severe, but no more than so monstrous an offence
demands: Submit to it, Daughter, without resistance; You will find the
benefit of patience and resignation in a better life than this. Listen
then to the sentence of St. Clare. Beneath these Vaults there exist
Prisons, intended to receive such criminals as yourself: Artfully is
their entrance concealed, and She who enters them, must resign all
hopes of liberty. Thither must you now be conveyed. Food shall be
supplied you, but not sufficient for the indulgence of appetite: You
shall have just enough to keep together body and soul, and its quality
shall be the simplest and coarsest. Weep, Daughter, weep, and moisten
your bread with your tears: God knows that you have ample cause for
sorrow! Chained down in one of these secret dungeons, shut out from the
world and light for ever, with no comfort but religion, no society but
repentance, thus must you groan away the remainder of your days. Such
are St. Clare’s orders; Submit to them without repining. Follow me!”

Thunderstruck at this barbarous decree, my little remaining strength
abandoned me. I answered only by falling at her feet, and bathing them
with tears. The Domina, unmoved by my affliction, rose from her seat
with a stately air. She repeated her commands in an absolute tone: But
my excessive faintness made me unable to obey her. Mariana and Alix
raised me from the ground, and carried me forwards in their arms. The
Prioress moved on, leaning upon Violante, and Camilla preceded her with
a Torch. Thus passed our sad procession along the passages, in silence
only broken by my sighs and groans. We stopped before the principal
shrine of St. Clare. The Statue was removed from its Pedestal, though
how I knew not. The Nuns afterwards raised an iron grate till then
concealed by the Image, and let it fall on the other side with a loud
crash. The awful sound, repeated by the vaults above, and Caverns below
me, rouzed me from the despondent apathy in which I had been plunged. I
looked before me: An abyss presented itself to my affrighted eyes, and
a steep and narrow Staircase, whither my Conductors were leading me. I
shrieked, and started back. I implored compassion, rent the air with my
cries, and summoned both heaven and earth to my assistance. In vain! I
was hurried down the Staircase, and forced into one of the Cells which
lined the Cavern’s sides.

My blood ran cold, as I gazed upon this melancholy abode. The cold
vapours hovering in the air, the walls green with damp, the bed of
Straw so forlorn and comfortless, the Chain destined to bind me for
ever to my prison, and the Reptiles of every description which as the
torches advanced towards them, I descried hurrying to their retreats,
struck my heart with terrors almost too exquisite for nature to bear.
Driven by despair to madness, I burst suddenly from the Nuns who held
me: I threw myself upon my knees before the Prioress, and besought her
mercy in the most passionate and frantic terms.

“If not on me,” said I, “look at least with pity on that innocent
Being, whose life is attached to mine! Great is my crime, but let not
my Child suffer for it! My Baby has committed no fault: Oh! spare me
for the sake of my unborn Offspring, whom ere it tastes life your
severity dooms to destruction!”

The Prioress drew back haughtily: She forced her habit from my grasp,
as if my touch had been contagious.

“What?” She exclaimed with an exasperated air; “What? Dare you plead
for the produce of your shame? Shall a Creature be permitted to live,
conceived in guilt so monstrous? Abandoned Woman, speak for him no
more! Better that the Wretch should perish than live: Begotten in
perjury, incontinence, and pollution, It cannot fail to prove a Prodigy
of vice. Hear me, thou Guilty! Expect no mercy from me either for
yourself, or Brat. Rather pray that Death may seize you before you
produce it; Or if it must see the light, that its eyes may immediately
be closed again for ever! No aid shall be given you in your labour;
Bring your Offspring into the world yourself, Feed it yourself, Nurse
it yourself, Bury it yourself: God grant that the latter may happen
soon, lest you receive comfort from the fruit of your iniquity!”

This inhuman speech, the threats which it contained, the dreadful
sufferings foretold to me by the Domina, and her prayers for my
Infant’s death, on whom though unborn I already doated, were more than
my exhausted frame could support. Uttering a deep groan, I fell
senseless at the feet of my unrelenting Enemy. I know not how long I
remained in this situation; But I imagine that some time must have
elapsed before my recovery, since it sufficed the Prioress and her Nuns
to quit the Cavern. When my senses returned, I found myself in silence
and solitude. I heard not even the retiring footsteps of my
Persecutors. All was hushed, and all was dreadful! I had been thrown
upon the bed of Straw: The heavy Chain which I had already eyed with
terror, was wound around my waist, and fastened me to the Wall. A Lamp
glimmering with dull, melancholy rays through my dungeon, permitted my
distinguishing all its horrors: It was separated from the Cavern by a
low and irregular Wall of Stone: A large Chasm was left open in it
which formed the entrance, for door there was none. A leaden Crucifix
was in front of my straw Couch. A tattered rug lay near me, as did also
a Chaplet of Beads; and not far from me stood a pitcher of water, and a
wicker Basket containing a small loaf, and a bottle of oil to supply my
Lamp.

With a despondent eye did I examine this scene of suffering: When I
reflected that I was doomed to pass in it the remainder of my days, my
heart was rent with bitter anguish. I had once been taught to look
forward to a lot so different! At one time my prospects had appeared so
bright, so flattering! Now all was lost to me. Friends, comfort,
society, happiness, in one moment I was deprived of all! Dead to the
world, Dead to pleasure, I lived to nothing but the sense of misery.
How fair did that world seem to me, from which I was for ever excluded!
How many loved objects did it contain, whom I never should behold
again! As I threw a look of terror round my prison, as I shrunk from
the cutting wind which howled through my subterraneous dwelling, the
change seemed so striking, so abrupt, that I doubted its reality.

That the Duke de Medina’s Niece, that the destined Bride of the Marquis
de las Cisternas, One bred up in affluence, related to the noblest
families in Spain, and rich in a multitude of affectionate Friends,
that She should in one moment become a Captive, separated from the
world for ever, weighed down with chains, and reduced to support life
with the coarsest aliments, appeared a change so sudden and incredible,
that I believed myself the sport of some frightful vision. Its
continuance convinced me of my mistake with but too much certainty.
Every morning my hopes were disappointed. At length I abandoned all
idea of escaping: I resigned myself to my fate, and only expected
Liberty when She came the Companion of Death.

My mental anguish, and the dreadful scenes in which I had been an
Actress, advanced the period of my labour. In solitude and misery,
abandoned by all, unassisted by Art, uncomforted by Friendship, with
pangs which if witnessed would have touched the hardest heart, was I
delivered of my wretched burthen. It came alive into the world; But I
knew not how to treat it, or by what means to preserve its existence. I
could only bathe it with tears, warm it in my bosom, and offer up
prayers for its safety. I was soon deprived of this mournful
employment: The want of proper attendance, my ignorance how to nurse
it, the bitter cold of the dungeon, and the unwholesome air which
inflated its lungs, terminated my sweet Babe’s short and painful
existence. It expired in a few hours after its birth, and I witnessed
its death with agonies which beggar all description.

But my grief was unavailing. My Infant was no more; nor could all my
sighs impart to its little tender frame the breath of a moment. I rent
my winding-sheet, and wrapped in it my lovely Child. I placed it on my
bosom, its soft arm folded round my neck, and its pale cold cheek
resting upon mine. Thus did its lifeless limbs repose, while I covered
it with kisses, talked to it, wept, and moaned over it without
remission, day or night. Camilla entered my prison regularly once every
twenty-four hours, to bring me food. In spite of her flinty nature, She
could not behold this spectacle unmoved. She feared that grief so
excessive would at length turn my brain, and in truth I was not always
in my proper senses. From a principle of compassion She urged me to
permit the Corse to be buried: But to this I never would consent. I
vowed not to part with it while I had life: Its presence was my only
comfort, and no persuasion could induce me to give it up. It soon
became a mass of putridity, and to every eye was a loathsome and
disgusting Object; To every eye but a Mother’s. In vain did human
feelings bid me recoil from this emblem of mortality with repugnance: I
withstood, and vanquished that repugnance. I persisted in holding my
Infant to my bosom, in lamenting it, loving it, adoring it! Hour after
hour have I passed upon my sorry Couch, contemplating what had once
been my Child: I endeavoured to retrace its features through the livid
corruption, with which they were overspread: During my confinement this
sad occupation was my only delight; and at that time Worlds should not
have bribed me to give it up. Even when released from my prison, I
brought away my Child in my arms. The representations of my two kind
Friends,‘—(Here She took the hands of the Marchioness and Virginia, and
pressed them alternately to her lips)—’at length persuaded me to resign
my unhappy Infant to the Grave. Yet I parted from it with reluctance:
However, reason at length prevailed; I suffered it to be taken from me,
and it now reposes in consecrated ground.

I before mentioned that regularly once a day Camilla brought me food.
She sought not to embitter my sorrows with reproach: She bad me, ’tis
true, resign all hopes of liberty and worldly happiness; But She
encouraged me to bear with patience my temporary distress, and advised
me to draw comfort from religion.

My situation evidently affected her more than She ventured to express:
But She believed that to extenuate my fault would make me less anxious
to repent it. Often while her lips painted the enormity of my guilt in
glaring colours, her eyes betrayed, how sensible She was to my
sufferings. In fact I am certain that none of my Tormentors, (for the
three other Nuns entered my prison occasionally) were so much actuated
by the spirit of oppressive cruelty as by the idea that to afflict my
body was the only way to preserve my soul. Nay, even this persuasion
might not have had such weight with them, and they might have thought
my punishment too severe, had not their good dispositions been represt
by blind obedience to their Superior. Her resentment existed in full
force. My project of elopement having been discovered by the Abbot of
the Capuchins, She supposed herself lowered in his opinion by my
disgrace, and in consequence her hate was inveterate. She told the Nuns
to whose custody I was committed that my fault was of the most heinous
nature, that no sufferings could equal the offence, and that nothing
could save me from eternal perdition but punishing my guilt with the
utmost severity. The Superior’s word is an oracle to but too many of a
Convent’s Inhabitants. The Nuns believed whatever the Prioress chose to
assert: Though contradicted by reason and charity, they hesitated not
to admit the truth of her arguments. They followed her injunctions to
the very letter, and were fully persuaded that to treat me with lenity,
or to show the least pity for my woes, would be a direct means to
destroy my chance for salvation.

Camilla, being most employed about me, was particularly charged by the
Prioress to treat me with harshness. In compliance with these orders,
She frequently strove to convince me, how just was my punishment, and
how enormous was my crime: She bad me think myself too happy in saving
my soul by mortifying my body, and even threatened me sometimes with
eternal perdition. Yet as I before observed, She always concluded by
words of encouragement and comfort; and though uttered by Camilla’s
lips, I easily recognised the Domina’s expressions. Once, and once
only, the Prioress visited me in my dungeon. She then treated me with
the most unrelenting cruelty: She loaded me with reproaches, taunted me
with my frailty, and when I implored her mercy, told me to ask it of
heaven, since I deserved none on earth. She even gazed upon my lifeless
Infant without emotion; and when She left me, I heard her charge
Camilla to increase the hardships of my Captivity. Unfeeling Woman! But
let me check my resentment: She has expiated her errors by her sad and
unexpected death. Peace be with her; and may her crimes be forgiven in
heaven, as I forgive her my sufferings on earth!

Thus did I drag on a miserable existence. Far from growing familiar
with my prison, I beheld it every moment with new horror. The cold
seemed more piercing and bitter, the air more thick and pestilential.
My frame became weak, feverish, and emaciated. I was unable to rise
from the bed of Straw, and exercise my limbs in the narrow limits, to
which the length of my chain permitted me to move. Though exhausted,
faint, and weary, I trembled to profit by the approach of Sleep: My
slumbers were constantly interrupted by some obnoxious Insect crawling
over me.

Sometimes I felt the bloated Toad, hideous and pampered with the
poisonous vapours of the dungeon, dragging his loathsome length along
my bosom: Sometimes the quick cold Lizard rouzed me leaving his slimy
track upon my face, and entangling itself in the tresses of my wild and
matted hair: Often have I at waking found my fingers ringed with the
long worms which bred in the corrupted flesh of my Infant. At such
times I shrieked with terror and disgust, and while I shook off the
reptile, trembled with all a Woman’s weakness.

Such was my situation, when Camilla was suddenly taken ill. A dangerous
fever, supposed to be infectious, confined her to her bed. Every one
except the Lay-Sister appointed to nurse her, avoided her with caution,
and feared to catch the disease. She was perfectly delirious, and by no
means capable of attending to me. The Domina and the Nuns admitted to
the mystery, had latterly given me over entirely to Camilla’s care: In
consequence, they busied themselves no more about me; and occupied by
preparing for the approaching Festival, it is more than probable that I
never once entered into their thoughts. Of the reason of Camilla’s
negligence, I have been informed since my release by the Mother St.
Ursula; At that time I was very far from suspecting its cause. On the
contrary, I waited for my Gaoler’s appearance at first with impatience,
and afterwards with despair. One day passed away; Another followed it;
The Third arrived. Still no Camilla! Still no food! I knew the lapse of
time by the wasting of my Lamp, to supply which fortunately a week’s
supply of Oil had been left me. I supposed, either that the Nuns had
forgotten me, or that the Domina had ordered them to let me perish. The
latter idea seemed the most probable; Yet so natural is the love of
life, that I trembled to find it true. Though embittered by every
species of misery, my existence was still dear to me, and I dreaded to
lose it. Every succeeding minute proved to me that I must abandon all
hopes of relief. I was become an absolute skeleton: My eyes already
failed me, and my limbs were beginning to stiffen. I could only express
my anguish, and the pangs of that hunger which gnawed my heart-strings,
by frequent groans, whose melancholy sound the vaulted roof of the
dungeon re-echoed. I resigned myself to my fate: I already expected the
moment of dissolution, when my Guardian Angel, when my beloved Brother
arrived in time to save me. My sight grown dim and feeble at first
refused to recognize him; and when I did distinguish his features, the
sudden burst of rapture was too much for me to bear. I was overpowered
by the swell of joy at once more beholding a Friend, and that a Friend
so dear to me. Nature could not support my emotions, and took her
refuge in insensibility.

You already know, what are my obligations to the Family of
Villa-Franca: But what you cannot know is the extent of my gratitude,
boundless as the excellence of my Benefactors. Lorenzo! Raymond! Names
so dear to me! Teach me to bear with fortitude this sudden transition
from misery to bliss. So lately a Captive, opprest with chains,
perishing with hunger, suffering every inconvenience of cold and want,
hidden from the light, excluded from society, hopeless, neglected, and
as I feared, forgotten; Now restored to life and liberty, enjoying all
the comforts of affluence and ease, surrounded by those who are most
loved by me, and on the point of becoming his Bride who has long been
wedded to my heart, my happiness is so exquisite, so perfect, that
scarcely can my brain sustain the weight. One only wish remains
ungratified: It is to see my Brother in his former health, and to know
that Antonia’s memory is buried in her grave.

Granted this prayer, I have nothing more to desire. I trust, that my
past sufferings have purchased from heaven the pardon of my momentary
weakness. That I have offended, offended greatly and grievously, I am
fully conscious; But let not my Husband, because He once conquered my
virtue, doubt the propriety of my future conduct. I have been frail and
full of error: But I yielded not to the warmth of constitution;
Raymond, affection for you betrayed me. I was too confident of my
strength; But I depended no less on your honour than my own. I had
vowed never to see you more: Had it not been for the consequences of
that unguarded moment, my resolution had been kept. Fate willed it
otherwise, and I cannot but rejoice at its decree. Still my conduct has
been highly blameable, and while I attempt to justify myself, I blush
at recollecting my imprudence. Let me then dismiss the ungrateful
subject; First assuring you, Raymond, that you shall have no cause to
repent our union, and that the more culpable have been the errors of
your Mistress, the more exemplary shall be the conduct of your Wife.


Here Agnes ceased, and the Marquis replied to her address in terms
equally sincere and affectionate. Lorenzo expressed his satisfaction at
the prospect of being so closely connected with a Man for whom He had
ever entertained the highest esteem. The Pope’s Bull had fully and
effectually released Agnes from her religious engagements: The marriage
was therefore celebrated as soon as the needful preparations had been
made, for the Marquis wished to have the ceremony performed with all
possible splendour and publicity. This being over, and the Bride having
received the compliments of Madrid, She departed with Don Raymond for
his Castle in Andalusia: Lorenzo accompanied them, as did also the
Marchioness de Villa-Franca and her lovely Daughter. It is needless to
say that Theodore was of the party, and would be impossible to describe
his joy at his Master’s marriage. Previous to his departure, the
Marquis, to atone in some measure for his past neglect, made some
enquiries relative to Elvira. Finding that She as well as her Daughter
had received many services from Leonella and Jacintha, He showed his
respect to the memory of his Sister-in-law by making the two Women
handsome presents. Lorenzo followed his example—Leonella was highly
flattered by the attentions of Noblemen so distinguished, and Jacintha
blessed the hour on which her House was bewitched.

On her side, Agnes failed not to reward her Convent Friends. The worthy
Mother St. Ursula, to whom She owed her liberty, was named at her
request Superintendent of “The Ladies of Charity:” This was one of the
best and most opulent Societies throughout Spain. Bertha and Cornelia
not choosing to quit their Friend, were appointed to principal charges
in the same establishment. As to the Nuns who had aided the Domina in
persecuting Agnes, Camilla being confined by illness to her bed, had
perished in the flames which consumed St. Clare’s Convent. Mariana,
Alix, and Violante, as well as two more, had fallen victims to the
popular rage. The three Others who in Council had supported the
Domina’s sentence, were severely reprimanded, and banished to religious
Houses in obscure and distant Provinces: Here they languished away a
few years, ashamed of their former weakness, and shunned by their
Companions with aversion and contempt.

Nor was the fidelity of Flora permitted to go unrewarded. Her wishes
being consulted, She declared herself impatient to revisit her native
land. In consequence, a passage was procured for her to Cuba, where She
arrived in safety, loaded with the presents of Raymond and Lorenzo.

The debts of gratitude discharged, Agnes was at liberty to pursue her
favourite plan. Lodged in the same House, Lorenzo and Virginia were
eternally together. The more He saw of her, the more was He convinced
of her merit. On her part, She laid herself out to please, and not to
succeed was for her impossible.

Lorenzo witnessed with admiration her beautiful person, elegant
manners, innumerable talents, and sweet disposition: He was also much
flattered by her prejudice in his favour, which She had not sufficient
art to conceal. However, his sentiments partook not of that ardent
character which had marked his affection for Antonia. The image of that
lovely and unfortunate Girl still lived in his heart, and baffled all
Virginia’s efforts to displace it. Still when the Duke proposed to him
the match, which He wished to earnestly to take place, his Nephew did
not reject the offer. The urgent supplications of his Friends, and the
Lady’s merit conquered his repugnance to entering into new engagements.
He proposed himself to the Marquis de Villa-Franca, and was accepted
with joy and gratitude. Virginia became his Wife, nor did She ever give
him cause to repent his choice. His esteem increased for her daily. Her
unremitted endeavours to please him could not but succeed. His
affection assumed stronger and warmer colours. Antonia’s image was
gradually effaced from his bosom; and Virginia became sole Mistress of
that heart, which She well deserved to possess without a Partner.

The remaining years of Raymond and Agnes, of Lorenzo and Virginia, were
happy as can be those allotted to Mortals, born to be the prey of
grief, and sport of disappointment. The exquisite sorrows with which
they had been afflicted, made them think lightly of every succeeding
woe. They had felt the sharpest darts in misfortune’s quiver; Those
which remained appeared blunt in comparison. Having weathered Fate’s
heaviest Storms, they looked calmly upon its terrors: or if ever they
felt Affliction’s casual gales, they seemed to them gentle as Zephyrs
which breathe over summer-seas.



CHAPTER XII.


——He was a fell despightful Fiend:
Hell holds none worse in baleful bower below:
By pride, and wit, and rage, and rancor keened;
Of Man alike, if good or bad the Foe.

THOMSON.

On the day following Antonia’s death, all Madrid was a scene of
consternation and amazement. An Archer who had witnessed the adventure
in the Sepulchre had indiscreetly related the circumstances of the
murder: He had also named the Perpetrator. The confusion was without
example which this intelligence raised among the Devotees. Most of them
disbelieved it, and went themselves to the Abbey to ascertain the fact.
Anxious to avoid the shame to which their Superior’s ill-conduct
exposed the whole Brotherhood, the Monks assured the Visitors that
Ambrosio was prevented from receiving them as usual by nothing but
illness. This attempt was unsuccessful: The same excuse being repeated
day after day, the Archer’s story gradually obtained confidence. His
Partizans abandoned him: No one entertained a doubt of his guilt; and
they who before had been the warmest in his praise were now the most
vociferous in his condemnation.

While his innocence or guilt was debated in Madrid with the utmost
acrimony, Ambrosio was a prey to the pangs of conscious villainy, and
the terrors of punishment impending over him. When He looked back to
the eminence on which He had lately stood, universally honoured and
respected, at peace with the world and with himself, scarcely could He
believe that He was indeed the culprit whose crimes and whose fate He
trembled to envisage. But a few weeks had elapsed, since He was pure
and virtuous, courted by the wisest and noblest in Madrid, and regarded
by the People with a reverence that approached idolatry: He now saw
himself stained with the most loathed and monstrous sins, the object of
universal execration, a Prisoner of the Holy Office, and probably
doomed to perish in tortures the most severe. He could not hope to
deceive his Judges: The proofs of his guilt were too strong. His being
in the Sepulchre at so late an hour, his confusion at the discovery,
the dagger which in his first alarm He owned had been concealed by him,
and the blood which had spirted upon his habit from Antonia’s wound,
sufficiently marked him out for the Assassin. He waited with agony for
the day of examination: He had no resource to comfort him in his
distress. Religion could not inspire him with fortitude: If He read the
Books of morality which were put into his hands, He saw in them nothing
but the enormity of his offences; If he attempted to pray, He
recollected that He deserved not heaven’s protection, and believed his
crimes so monstrous as to baffle even God’s infinite goodness. For
every other Sinner He thought there might be hope, but for him there
could be none. Shuddering at the past, anguished by the present, and
dreading the future, thus passed He the few days preceding that which
was marked for his Trial.

That day arrived. At nine in the morning his prison door was unlocked,
and his Gaoler entering, commanded him to follow him. He obeyed with
trembling. He was conducted into a spacious Hall, hung with black
cloth. At the Table sat three grave, stern-looking Men, also habited in
black: One was the Grand Inquisitor, whom the importance of this cause
had induced to examine into it himself. At a smaller table at a little
distance sat the Secretary, provided with all necessary implements for
writing. Ambrosio was beckoned to advance, and take his station at the
lower end of the Table. As his eye glanced downwards, He perceived
various iron instruments lying scattered upon the floor. Their forms
were unknown to him, but apprehension immediately guessed them to be
engines of torture. He turned pale, and with difficulty prevented
himself from sinking upon the ground.

Profound silence prevailed, except when the Inquisitors whispered a few
words among themselves mysteriously. Near an hour past away, and with
every second of it Ambrosio’s fears grew more poignant. At length a
small Door, opposite to that by which He had entered the Hall, grated
heavily upon its hinges. An Officer appeared, and was immediately
followed by the beautiful Matilda. Her hair hung about her face wildly;
Her cheeks were pale, and her eyes sunk and hollow. She threw a
melancholy look upon Ambrosio: He replied by one of aversion and
reproach. She was placed opposite to him. A Bell then sounded thrice.
It was the signal for opening the Court, and the Inquisitors entered
upon their office.

In these trials neither the accusation is mentioned, or the name of the
Accuser. The Prisoners are only asked, whether they will confess: If
they reply that having no crime they can make no confession, they are
put to the torture without delay. This is repeated at intervals, either
till the suspected avow themselves culpable, or the perseverance of the
examinants is worn out and exhausted: But without a direct
acknowledgment of their guilt, the Inquisition never pronounces the
final doom of its Prisoners.

In general much time is suffered to elapse without their being
questioned: But Ambrosio’s trial had been hastened, on account of a
solemn Auto da Fe which would take place in a few days, and in which
the Inquisitors meant this distinguished Culprit to perform a part, and
give a striking testimony of their vigilance.

The Abbot was not merely accused of rape and murder: The crime of
Sorcery was laid to his charge, as well as to Matilda’s. She had been
seized as an Accomplice in Antonia’s assassination. On searching her
Cell, various suspicious books and instruments were found which
justified the accusation brought against her. To criminate the Monk,
the constellated Mirror was produced, which Matilda had accidentally
left in his chamber. The strange figures engraved upon it caught the
attention of Don Ramirez, while searching the Abbot’s Cell: In
consequence, He carried it away with him. It was shown to the Grand
Inquisitor, who having considered it for some time, took off a small
golden Cross which hung at his girdle, and laid it upon the Mirror.
Instantly a loud noise was heard, resembling a clap of thunder, and the
steel shivered into a thousand pieces. This circumstance confirmed the
suspicion of the Monk’s having dealt in Magic: It was even supposed
that his former influence over the minds of the People was entirely to
be ascribed to witchcraft.

Determined to make him confess not only the crimes which He had
committed, but those also of which He was innocent, the Inquisitors
began their examination. Though dreading the tortures, as He dreaded
death still more which would consign him to eternal torments, the Abbot
asserted his purity in a voice bold and resolute. Matilda followed his
example, but spoke with fear and trembling. Having in vain exhorted him
to confess, the Inquisitors ordered the Monk to be put to the question.
The Decree was immediately executed. Ambrosio suffered the most
excruciating pangs that ever were invented by human cruelty: Yet so
dreadful is Death when guilt accompanies it, that He had sufficient
fortitude to persist in his disavowal. His agonies were redoubled in
consequence: Nor was He released till fainting from excess of pain,
insensibility rescued him from the hands of his Tormentors.

Matilda was next ordered to the torture: But terrified by the sight of
the Friar’s sufferings, her courage totally deserted her. She sank upon
her knees, acknowledged her corresponding with infernal Spirits, and
that She had witnessed the Monk’s assassination of Antonia: But as to
the crime of Sorcery, She declared herself the sole criminal, and
Ambrosio perfectly innocent. The latter assertion met with no credit.
The Abbot had recovered his senses in time to hear the confession of
his Accomplice: But He was too much enfeebled by what He had already
undergone to be capable at that time of sustaining new torments.

He was commanded back to his Cell, but first informed that as soon as
He had gained strength sufficient, He must prepare himself for a second
examination. The Inquisitors hoped that He would then be less hardened
and obstinate. To Matilda it was announced that She must expiate her
crime in fire on the approaching Auto da Fe. All her tears and
entreaties could procure no mitigation of her doom, and She was dragged
by force from the Hall of Trial.

Returned to his dungeon, the sufferings of Ambrosio’s body were far
more supportable than those of his mind. His dislocated limbs, the
nails torn from his hands and feet, and his fingers mashed and broken
by the pressure of screws, were far surpassed in anguish by the
agitation of his soul and vehemence of his terrors. He saw that, guilty
or innocent, his Judges were bent upon condemning him: The remembrance
of what his denial had already cost him terrified him at the idea of
being again applied to the question, and almost engaged him to confess
his crimes. Then again the consequences of his confession flashed
before him, and rendered him once more irresolute. His death would be
inevitable, and that a death the most dreadful: He had listened to
Matilda’s doom, and doubted not that a similar was reserved for him. He
shuddered at the approaching Auto da Fe, at the idea of perishing in
flames, and only escaping from indurable torments to pass into others
more subtile and ever-lasting! With affright did He bend his mind’s eye
on the space beyond the grave; nor could hide from himself how justly
he ought to dread Heaven’s vengeance. In this Labyrinth of terrors,
fain would He have taken his refuge in the gloom of Atheism: Fain would
He have denied the soul’s immortality; have persuaded himself that when
his eyes once closed, they would never more open, and that the same
moment would annihilate his soul and body. Even this resource was
refused to him. To permit his being blind to the fallacy of this
belief, his knowledge was too extensive, his understanding too solid
and just. He could not help feeling the existence of a God. Those
truths, once his comfort, now presented themselves before him in the
clearest light; But they only served to drive him to distraction. They
destroyed his ill-grounded hopes of escaping punishment; and dispelled
by the irresistible brightness of Truth and convinction, Philosophy’s
deceitful vapours faded away like a dream.

In anguish almost too great for mortal frame to bear, He expected the
time when He was again to be examined. He busied himself in planning
ineffectual schemes for escaping both present and future punishment. Of
the first there was no possibility; Of the second Despair made him
neglect the only means. While Reason forced him to acknowledge a God’s
existence, Conscience made him doubt the infinity of his goodness. He
disbelieved that a Sinner like him could find mercy. He had not been
deceived into error: Ignorance could furnish him with no excuse. He had
seen vice in her true colours; Before He committed his crimes, He had
computed every scruple of their weight; and yet he had committed them.

“Pardon?” He would cry in an access of phrenzy “Oh! there can be none
for me!”

Persuaded of this, instead of humbling himself in penitence, of
deploring his guilt, and employing his few remaining hours in
deprecating Heaven’s wrath, He abandoned himself to the transports of
desperate rage; He sorrowed for the punishment of his crimes, not their
commission; and exhaled his bosom’s anguish in idle sighs, in vain
lamentations, in blasphemy and despair. As the few beams of day which
pierced through the bars of his prison window gradually disappeared,
and their place was supplied by the pale and glimmering Lamp, He felt
his terrors redouble, and his ideas become more gloomy, more solemn,
more despondent. He dreaded the approach of sleep: No sooner did his
eyes close, wearied with tears and watching, than the dreadful visions
seemed to be realised on which his mind had dwelt during the day. He
found himself in sulphurous realms and burning Caverns, surrounded by
Fiends appointed his Tormentors, and who drove him through a variety of
tortures, each of which was more dreadful than the former. Amidst these
dismal scenes wandered the Ghosts of Elvira and her Daughter. They
reproached him with their deaths, recounted his crimes to the Dæmons,
and urged them to inflict torments of cruelty yet more refined. Such
were the pictures which floated before his eyes in sleep: They vanished
not till his repose was disturbed by excess of agony. Then would He
start from the ground on which He had stretched himself, his brows
running down with cold sweat, his eyes wild and phrenzied; and He only
exchanged the terrible certainty for surmizes scarcely more
supportable. He paced his dungeon with disordered steps; He gazed with
terror upon the surrounding darkness, and often did He cry,

“Oh! fearful is night to the Guilty!”

The day of his second examination was at hand. He had been compelled to
swallow cordials, whose virtues were calculated to restore his bodily
strength, and enable him to support the question longer. On the night
preceding this dreaded day, his fears for the morrow permitted him not
to sleep. His terrors were so violent, as nearly to annihilate his
mental powers. He sat like one stupefied near the Table on which his
Lamp was burning dimly. Despair chained up his faculties in Idiotism,
and He remained for some hours, unable to speak or move, or indeed to
think.

“Look up, Ambrosio!” said a Voice in accents well-known to him—

The Monk started, and raised his melancholy eyes. Matilda stood before
him. She had quitted her religious habit. She now wore a female dress,
at once elegant and splendid: A profusion of diamonds blazed upon her
robes, and her hair was confined by a coronet of Roses. In her right
hand She held a small Book: A lively expression of pleasure beamed upon
her countenance; But still it was mingled with a wild imperious majesty
which inspired the Monk with awe, and represt in some measure his
transports at seeing her.

“You here, Matilda?” He at length exclaimed; “How have you gained
entrance? Where are your Chains? What means this magnificence, and the
joy which sparkles in your eyes? Have our Judges relented? Is there a
chance of my escaping? Answer me for pity, and tell me, what I have to
hope, or fear.”

“Ambrosio!” She replied with an air of commanding dignity; “I have
baffled the Inquisition’s fury. I am free: A few moments will place
kingdoms between these dungeons and me. Yet I purchase my liberty at a
dear, at a dreadful price! Dare you pay the same, Ambrosio? Dare you
spring without fear over the bounds which separate Men from Angels?—You
are silent.—You look upon me with eyes of suspicion and alarm—I read
your thoughts and confess their justice. Yes, Ambrosio; I have
sacrificed all for life and liberty. I am no longer a candidate for
heaven! I have renounced God’s service, and am enlisted beneath the
banners of his Foes. The deed is past recall: Yet were it in my power
to go back, I would not. Oh! my Friend, to expire in such torments! To
die amidst curses and execrations! To bear the insults of an
exasperated Mob! To be exposed to all the mortifications of shame and
infamy! Who can reflect without horror on such a doom? Let me then
exult in my exchange. I have sold distant and uncertain happiness for
present and secure: I have preserved a life which otherwise I had lost
in torture; and I have obtained the power of procuring every bliss
which can make that life delicious! The Infernal Spirits obey me as
their Sovereign: By their aid shall my days be past in every refinement
of luxury and voluptuousness. I will enjoy unrestrained the
gratification of my senses: Every passion shall be indulged, even to
satiety; Then will I bid my Servants invent new pleasures, to revive
and stimulate my glutted appetites! I go impatient to exercise my
newly-gained dominion. I pant to be at liberty. Nothing should hold me
one moment longer in this abhorred abode, but the hope of persuading
you to follow my example. Ambrosio, I still love you: Our mutual guilt
and danger have rendered you dearer to me than ever, and I would fain
save you from impending destruction. Summon then your resolution to
your aid; and renounce for immediate and certain benefits the hopes of
a salvation, difficult to obtain, and perhaps altogether erroneous.
Shake off the prejudice of vulgar souls; Abandon a God who has
abandoned you, and raise yourself to the level of superior Beings!”

She paused for the Monk’s reply: He shuddered, while He gave it.

“Matilda!” He said after a long silence in a low and unsteady voice;
“What price gave you for liberty?”

She answered him firm and dauntless.

“Ambrosio, it was my Soul!”

“Wretched Woman, what have you done? Pass but a few years, and how
dreadful will be your sufferings!”

“Weak Man, pass but this night, and how dreadful will be your own! Do
you remember what you have already endured? Tomorrow you must bear
torments doubly exquisite. Do you remember the horrors of a fiery
punishment? In two days you must be led a Victim to the Stake! What
then will become of you? Still dare you hope for pardon? Still are you
beguiled with visions of salvation? Think upon your crimes! Think upon
your lust, your perjury, inhumanity, and hypocrisy! Think upon the
innocent blood which cries to the Throne of God for vengeance, and then
hope for mercy! Then dream of heaven, and sigh for worlds of light, and
realms of peace and pleasure! Absurd! Open your eyes, Ambrosio, and be
prudent. Hell is your lot; You are doomed to eternal perdition; Nought
lies beyond your grave but a gulph of devouring flames. And will you
then speed towards that Hell? Will you clasp that perdition in your
arms, ere ’tis needful? Will you plunge into those flames while you
still have the power to shun them? ’Tis a Madman’s action. No, no,
Ambrosio: Let us for awhile fly from divine vengeance. Be advised by
me; Purchase by one moment’s courage the bliss of years; Enjoy the
present, and forget that a future lags behind.”

“Matilda, your counsels are dangerous: I dare not, I will not follow
them. I must not give up my claim to salvation. Monstrous are my
crimes; But God is merciful, and I will not despair of pardon.”

“Is such your resolution? I have no more to say. I speed to joy and
liberty, and abandon you to death and eternal torments.”

“Yet stay one moment, Matilda! You command the infernal Dæmons:

You can force open these prison doors; You can release me from these
chains which weigh me down. Save me, I conjure you, and bear me from
these fearful abodes!”

“You ask the only boon beyond my power to bestow. I am forbidden to
assist a Churchman and a Partizan of God: Renounce those titles, and
command me.”

“I will not sell my soul to perdition.”

“Persist in your obstinacy, till you find yourself at the Stake: Then
will you repent your error, and sigh for escape when the moment is gone
by. I quit you. Yet ere the hour of death arrives should wisdom
enlighten you, listen to the means of repairing your present fault. I
leave with you this Book. Read the four first lines of the seventh page
backwards: The Spirit whom you have already once beheld will
immediately appear to you. If you are wise, we shall meet again: If
not, farewell for ever!”

She let the Book fall upon the ground. A cloud of blue fire wrapped
itself round her: She waved her hand to Ambrosio, and disappeared. The
momentary glare which the flames poured through the dungeon, on
dissipating suddenly, seemed to have increased its natural gloom. The
solitary Lamp scarcely gave light sufficient to guide the Monk to a
Chair. He threw himself into his seat, folded his arms, and leaning his
head upon the table, sank into reflections perplexing and unconnected.

He was still in this attitude when the opening of the prison door
rouzed him from his stupor. He was summoned to appear before the Grand
Inquisitor. He rose, and followed his Gaoler with painful steps. He was
led into the same Hall, placed before the same Examiners, and was again
interrogated whether He would confess. He replied as before, that
having no crimes, He could acknowledge none: But when the Executioners
prepared to put him to the question, when He saw the engines of
torture, and remembered the pangs which they had already inflicted, his
resolution failed him entirely. Forgetting the consequences, and only
anxious to escape the terrors of the present moment, He made an ample
confession. He disclosed every circumstance of his guilt, and owned not
merely the crimes with which He was charged, but those of which He had
never been suspected. Being interrogated as to Matilda’s flight which
had created much confusion, He confessed that She had sold herself to
Satan, and that She was indebted to Sorcery for her escape. He still
assured his Judges that for his own part He had never entered into any
compact with the infernal Spirits; But the threat of being tortured
made him declare himself to be a Sorcerer, and Heretic, and whatever
other title the Inquisitors chose to fix upon him. In consequence of
this avowal, his sentence was immediately pronounced. He was ordered to
prepare himself to perish in the Auto da Fe, which was to be solemnized
at twelve o’clock that night. This hour was chosen from the idea that
the horror of the flames being heightened by the gloom of midnight, the
execution would have a greater effect upon the mind of the People.

Ambrosio rather dead than alive was left alone in his dungeon. The
moment in which this terrible decree was pronounced had nearly proved
that of his dissolution. He looked forward to the morrow with despair,
and his terrors increased with the approach of midnight. Sometimes He
was buried in gloomy silence: At others He raved with delirious
passion, wrung his hands, and cursed the hour when He first beheld the
light. In one of these moments his eye rested upon Matilda’s mysterious
gift. His transports of rage were instantly suspended. He looked
earnestly at the Book; He took it up, but immediately threw it from him
with horror. He walked rapidly up and down his dungeon: Then stopped,
and again fixed his eyes on the spot where the Book had fallen. He
reflected that here at least was a resource from the fate which He
dreaded. He stooped, and took it up a second time.

He remained for some time trembling and irresolute: He longed to try
the charm, yet feared its consequences. The recollection of his
sentence at length fixed his indecision. He opened the Volume; but his
agitation was so great that He at first sought in vain for the page
mentioned by Matilda. Ashamed of himself, He called all his courage to
his aid. He turned to the seventh leaf. He began to read it aloud; But
his eyes frequently wandered from the Book, while He anxiously cast
them round in search of the Spirit, whom He wished, yet dreaded to
behold. Still He persisted in his design; and with a voice unassured
and frequent interruptions, He contrived to finish the four first lines
of the page.

They were in a language, whose import was totally unknown to him.

Scarce had He pronounced the last word when the effects of the charm
were evident. A loud burst of Thunder was heard; The prison shook to
its very foundations; A blaze of lightning flashed through the Cell;
and in the next moment, borne upon sulphurous whirl-winds, Lucifer
stood before him a second time. But He came not as when at Matilda’s
summons He borrowed the Seraph’s form to deceive Ambrosio. He appeared
in all that ugliness which since his fall from heaven had been his
portion: His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty’s thunder:
A swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands and
feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes, which might
have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his huge shoulders
waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was supplied by living
snakes, which twined themselves round his brows with frightful
hissings. In one hand He held a roll of parchment, and in the other an
iron pen. Still the lightning flashed around him, and the Thunder with
repeated bursts, seemed to announce the dissolution of Nature.

Terrified at an Apparition so different from what He had expected,
Ambrosio remained gazing upon the Fiend, deprived of the power of
utterance. The Thunder had ceased to roll: Universal silence reigned
through the dungeon.

“For what am I summoned hither?” said the dæmon, in a voice which
_sulphurous fogs had damped to hoarseness_.

At the sound Nature seemed to tremble: A violent earthquake rocked the
ground, accompanied by a fresh burst of Thunder, louder and more
appalling than the first.

Ambrosio was long unable to answer the Dæmon’s demand.

“I am condemned to die;” He said with a faint voice, his blood running
cold, while He gazed upon his dreadful Visitor. “Save me! Bear me from
hence!”

“Shall the reward of my services be paid me? Dare you embrace my cause?
Will you be mine, body and soul? Are you prepared to renounce him who
made you, and him who died for you? Answer but ‘Yes’ and Lucifer is
your Slave.”

“Will no less price content you? Can nothing satisfy you but my eternal
ruin? Spirit, you ask too much. Yet convey me from this dungeon: Be my
Servant for one hour, and I will be yours for a thousand years. Will
not this offer suffice?”

“It will not. I must have your soul; must have it mine, and mine for
ever.”

“Insatiate Dæmon, I will not doom myself to endless torments. I will
not give up my hopes of being one day pardoned.”

“You will not? On what Chimaera rest then your hopes? Short-sighted
Mortal! Miserable Wretch! Are you not guilty? Are you not infamous in
the eyes of Men and Angels. Can such enormous sins be forgiven? Hope
you to escape my power? Your fate is already pronounced. The Eternal
has abandoned you; Mine you are marked in the book of destiny, and mine
you must and shall be!”

“Fiend, ’tis false! Infinite is the Almighty’s mercy, and the Penitent
shall meet his forgiveness. My crimes are monstrous, but I will not
despair of pardon: Haply, when they have received due chastisement....”

“Chastisement? Was Purgatory meant for guilt like yours? Hope you that
your offences shall be bought off by prayers of superstitious dotards
and droning Monks? Ambrosio, be wise! Mine you must be: You are doomed
to flames, but may shun them for the present. Sign this parchment: I
will bear you from hence, and you may pass your remaining years in
bliss and liberty. Enjoy your existence: Indulge in every pleasure to
which appetite may lead you: But from the moment that it quits your
body, remember that your soul belongs to me, and that I will not be
defrauded of my right.”

The Monk was silent; But his looks declared that the Tempter’s words
were not thrown away. He reflected on the conditions proposed with
horror: On the other hand, He believed himself doomed to perdition and
that, by refusing the Dæmon’s succour, He only hastened tortures which
He never could escape. The Fiend saw that his resolution was shaken: He
renewed his instances, and endeavoured to fix the Abbot’s indecision.
He described the agonies of death in the most terrific colours; and He
worked so powerfully upon Ambrosio’s despair and fears that He
prevailed upon him to receive the Parchment. He then struck the iron
Pen which He held into a vein of the Monk’s left hand. It pierced deep,
and was instantly filled with blood; Yet Ambrosio felt no pain from the
wound. The Pen was put into his hand: It trembled. The Wretch placed
the Parchment on the Table before him, and prepared to sign it.
Suddenly He held his hand: He started away hastily, and threw the Pen
upon the table.

“What am I doing?” He cried—Then turning to the Fiend with a desperate
air, “Leave me! Begone! I will not sign the Parchment.”

“Fool!” exclaimed the disappointed Dæmon, darting looks so furious as
penetrated the Friar’s soul with horror; “Thus am I trifled with? Go
then! Rave in agony, expire in tortures, and then learn the extent of
the Eternal’s mercy! But beware how you make me again your mock! Call
me no more till resolved to accept my offers! Summon me a second time
to dismiss me thus idly, and these Talons shall rend you into a
thousand pieces! Speak yet again; Will you sign the Parchment?”

“I will not! Leave me! Away!”

Instantly the Thunder was heard to roll horribly: Once more the earth
trembled with violence: The Dungeon resounded with loud shrieks, and
the Dæmon fled with blasphemy and curses.

At first, the Monk rejoiced at having resisted the Seducer’s arts, and
obtained a triumph over Mankind’s Enemy: But as the hour of punishment
drew near, his former terrors revived in his heart. Their momentary
repose seemed to have given them fresh vigour. The nearer that the time
approached, the more did He dread appearing before the Throne of God.
He shuddered to think how soon He must be plunged into eternity; How
soon meet the eyes of his Creator, whom He had so grievously offended.
The Bell announced midnight: It was the signal for being led to the
Stake! As He listened to the first stroke, the blood ceased to
circulate in the Abbot’s veins: He heard death and torture murmured in
each succeeding sound. He expected to see the Archers entering his
prison; and as the Bell forbore to toll, he seized the magic volume in
a fit of despair. He opened it, turned hastily to the seventh page, and
as if fearing to allow himself a moment’s thought ran over the fatal
lines with rapidity. Accompanied by his former terrors, Lucifer again
stood before the Trembler.

“You have summoned me,” said the Fiend; “Are you determined to be wise?
Will you accept my conditions? You know them already. Renounce your
claim to salvation, make over to me your soul, and I bear you from this
dungeon instantly. Yet is it time. Resolve, or it will be too late.
Will you sign the Parchment?”

“I must!—Fate urges me! I accept your conditions.”

“Sign the Parchment!” replied the Dæmon in an exulting tone.

The Contract and the bloody Pen still lay upon the Table. Ambrosio drew
near it. He prepared to sign his name. A moment’s reflection made him
hesitate.

“Hark!” cried the Tempter; “They come! Be quick! Sign the Parchment,
and I bear you from hence this moment.”

In effect, the Archers were heard approaching, appointed to lead
Ambrosio to the Stake. The sound encouraged the Monk in his resolution.

“What is the import of this writing?” said He.

“It makes your soul over to me for ever, and without reserve.”

“What am I to receive in exchange?”

“My protection, and release from this dungeon. Sign it, and this
instant I bear you away.”

Ambrosio took up the Pen; He set it to the Parchment. Again his courage
failed him: He felt a pang of terror at his heart, and once more threw
the Pen upon the Table.

“Weak and Puerile!” cried the exasperated Fiend: “Away with this folly!
Sign the writing this instant, or I sacrifice you to my rage!”

At this moment the bolt of the outward Door was drawn back. The
Prisoner heard the rattling of Chains; The heavy Bar fell; The Archers
were on the point of entering. Worked up to phrenzy by the urgent
danger, shrinking from the approach of death, terrified by the Dæmon’s
threats, and seeing no other means to escape destruction, the wretched
Monk complied. He signed the fatal contract, and gave it hastily into
the evil Spirit’s hands, whose eyes, as He received the gift, glared
with malicious rapture.

“Take it!” said the God-abandoned; “Now then save me! Snatch me from
hence!”

“Hold! Do you freely and absolutely renounce your Creator and his Son?”

“I do! I do!”

“Do you make over your soul to me for ever?”

“For ever!”

“Without reserve or subterfuge? Without future appeal to the divine
mercy?”

The last Chain fell from the door of the prison: The key was heard
turning in the Lock: Already the iron door grated heavily upon its
rusty hinges.

“I am yours for ever and irrevocably!” cried the Monk wild with terror:
“I abandon all claim to salvation! I own no power but yours! Hark!
Hark! They come! Oh! save me! Bear me away!”

“I have triumphed! You are mine past reprieve, and I fulfil my
promise.”

While He spoke, the Door unclosed. Instantly the Dæmon grasped one of
Ambrosio’s arms, spread his broad pinions, and sprang with him into the
air. The roof opened as they soared upwards, and closed again when they
had quitted the Dungeon.

In the meanwhile, the Gaoler was thrown into the utmost surprize by the
disappearance of his Prisoner. Though neither He nor the Archers were
in time to witness the Monk’s escape, a sulphurous smell prevailing
through the prison sufficiently informed them by whose aid He had been
liberated. They hastened to make their report to the Grand Inquisitor.
The story, how a Sorcerer had been carried away by the Devil, was soon
noised about Madrid; and for some days the whole City was employed in
discussing the subject. Gradually it ceased to be the topic of
conversation: Other adventures arose whose novelty engaged universal
attention; and Ambrosio was soon forgotten as totally, as if He never
had existed. While this was passing, the Monk supported by his infernal
guide, traversed the air with the rapidity of an arrow, and a few
moments placed him upon a Precipice’s brink, the steepest in Sierra
Morena.

Though rescued from the Inquisition, Ambrosio as yet was insensible of
the blessings of liberty. The damning contract weighed heavy upon his
mind; and the scenes in which He had been a principal actor had left
behind them such impressions as rendered his heart the seat of anarchy
and confusion. The Objects now before his eyes, and which the full Moon
sailing through clouds permitted him to examine, were ill-calculated to
inspire that calm, of which He stood so much in need. The disorder of
his imagination was increased by the wildness of the surrounding
scenery; By the gloomy Caverns and steep rocks, rising above each
other, and dividing the passing clouds; solitary clusters of Trees
scattered here and there, among whose thick-twined branches the wind of
night sighed hoarsely and mournfully; the shrill cry of mountain
Eagles, who had built their nests among these lonely Desarts; the
stunning roar of torrents, as swelled by late rains they rushed
violently down tremendous precipices; and the dark waters of a silent
sluggish stream which faintly reflected the moonbeams, and bathed the
Rock’s base on which Ambrosio stood. The Abbot cast round him a look of
terror. His infernal Conductor was still by his side, and eyed him with
a look of mingled malice, exultation, and contempt.

“Whither have you brought me?” said the Monk at length in an hollow
trembling voice: “Why am I placed in this melancholy scene? Bear me
from it quickly! Carry me to Matilda!”

The Fiend replied not, but continued to gaze upon him in silence.

Ambrosio could not sustain his glance; He turned away his eyes, while
thus spoke the Dæmon:

“I have him then in my power! This model of piety! This being without
reproach! This Mortal who placed his puny virtues on a level with those
of Angels. He is mine! Irrevocably, eternally mine! Companions of my
sufferings! Denizens of hell! How grateful will be my present!”

He paused; then addressed himself to the Monk——

“Carry you to Matilda?” He continued, repeating Ambrosio’s words:

“Wretch! you shall soon be with her! You well deserve a place near her,
for hell boasts no miscreant more guilty than yourself.

Hark, Ambrosio, while I unveil your crimes! You have shed the blood of
two innocents; Antonia and Elvira perished by your hand. That Antonia
whom you violated, was your Sister! That Elvira whom you murdered, gave
you birth! Tremble, abandoned Hypocrite! Inhuman Parricide! Incestuous
Ravisher! Tremble at the extent of your offences! And you it was who
thought yourself proof against temptation, absolved from human
frailties, and free from error and vice! Is pride then a virtue? Is
inhumanity no fault? Know, vain Man! That I long have marked you for my
prey: I watched the movements of your heart; I saw that you were
virtuous from vanity, not principle, and I seized the fit moment of
seduction. I observed your blind idolatry of the Madona’s picture. I
bad a subordinate but crafty spirit assume a similar form, and you
eagerly yielded to the blandishments of Matilda. Your pride was
gratified by her flattery; Your lust only needed an opportunity to
break forth; You ran into the snare blindly, and scrupled not to commit
a crime which you blamed in another with unfeeling severity. It was I
who threw Matilda in your way; It was I who gave you entrance to
Antonia’s chamber; It was I who caused the dagger to be given you which
pierced your Sister’s bosom; and it was I who warned Elvira in dreams
of your designs upon her Daughter, and thus, by preventing your
profiting by her sleep, compelled you to add rape as well as incest to
the catalogue of your crimes. Hear, hear, Ambrosio! Had you resisted me
one minute longer, you had saved your body and soul. The guards whom
you heard at your prison door came to signify your pardon. But I had
already triumphed: My plots had already succeeded. Scarcely could I
propose crimes so quick as you performed them. You are mine, and Heaven
itself cannot rescue you from my power. Hope not that your penitence
will make void our contract. Here is your bond signed with your blood;
You have given up your claim to mercy, and nothing can restore to you
the rights which you have foolishly resigned. Believe you that your
secret thoughts escaped me? No, no, I read them all! You trusted that
you should still have time for repentance. I saw your artifice, knew
its falsity, and rejoiced in deceiving the deceiver! You are mine
beyond reprieve: I burn to possess my right, and alive you quit not
these mountains.”

During the Dæmon’s speech, Ambrosio had been stupefied by terror and
surprize. This last declaration rouzed him.

“Not quit these mountains alive?” He exclaimed: “Perfidious, what mean
you? Have you forgotten our contract?”

The Fiend answered by a malicious laugh:

“Our contract? Have I not performed my part? What more did I promise
than to save you from your prison? Have I not done so? Are you not safe
from the Inquisition—safe from all but from me? Fool that you were to
confide yourself to a Devil! Why did you not stipulate for life, and
power, and pleasure? Then all would have been granted: Now, your
reflections come too late. Miscreant, prepare for death; You have not
many hours to live!”

On hearing this sentence, dreadful were the feelings of the devoted
Wretch! He sank upon his knees, and raised his hands towards heaven.
The Fiend read his intention and prevented it—

“What?” He cried, darting at him a look of fury: “Dare you still
implore the Eternal’s mercy? Would you feign penitence, and again act
an Hypocrite’s part? Villain, resign your hopes of pardon. Thus I
secure my prey!”

As he said this, darting his talons into the monk’s shaven crown, he
sprang with him from the rock. The caves and mountains rang with
Ambrosio’s shrieks. The dæmon continued to soar aloft, till reaching a
dreadful height, He released the sufferer. Headlong fell the Monk
through the airy waste; The sharp point of a rock received him; and He
rolled from precipice to precipice, till bruised and mangled He rested
on the river’s banks. Life still existed in his miserable frame: He
attempted in vain to raise himself; His broken and dislocated limbs
refused to perform their office, nor was He able to quit the spot where
He had first fallen. The Sun now rose above the horizon; Its scorching
beams darted full upon the head of the expiring Sinner. Myriads of
insects were called forth by the warmth; They drank the blood which
trickled from Ambrosio’s wounds; He had no power to drive them from
him, and they fastened upon his sores, darted their stings into his
body, covered him with their multitudes, and inflicted on him tortures
the most exquisite and insupportable. The Eagles of the rock tore his
flesh piecemeal, and dug out his eyeballs with their crooked beaks. A
burning thirst tormented him; He heard the river’s murmur as it rolled
beside him, but strove in vain to drag himself towards the sound.
Blind, maimed, helpless, and despairing, venting his rage in blasphemy
and curses, execrating his existence, yet dreading the arrival of death
destined to yield him up to greater torments, six miserable days did
the Villain languish. On the Seventh a violent storm arose: The winds
in fury rent up rocks and forests: The sky was now black with clouds,
now sheeted with fire: The rain fell in torrents; It swelled the
stream; The waves overflowed their banks; They reached the spot where
Ambrosio lay, and when they abated carried with them into the river the
corse of the despairing monk.


Haughty Lady, why shrunk you back when yon poor frail-one drew near?
Was the air infected by her errors? Was your purity soiled by her
passing breath? Ah! Lady, smooth that insulting brow: stifle the
reproach just bursting from your scornful lip: wound not a soul, that
bleeds already! She has suffered, suffers still. Her air is gay, but
her heart is broken; her dress sparkles, but her bosom groans.

Lady, to look with mercy on the conduct of others, is a virtue no less
than to look with severity on your own.

FINIS.





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