> Dark power! with shudd'ring, meek submitted thought Be mine to read th_isions old Which thy awak'ning bards have told, And, lest they meet m_lasted view, Hold each strange tale devoutly true.
> COLLINS' ODE TO FEAR
Emily was recalled from a kind of slumber, into which she had, at length, sunk, by a quick knocking at her chamber door. She started up in terror, fo_ontoni and Count Morano instantly came to her mind; but, having listened i_ilence for some time, and recognizing the voice of Annette, she rose an_pened the door. 'What brings you hither so early?' said Emily, tremblin_xcessively. She was unable to support herself, and sat down on the bed.
'Dear ma'amselle!' said Annette, 'do not look so pale. I am quite frightene_o see you. Here is a fine bustle below stairs, all the servants running t_nd fro, and none of them fast enough! Here is a bustle, indeed, all of _udden, and nobody knows for what!'
'Who is below besides them?' said Emily, 'Annette, do not trifle with me!'
'Not for the world, ma'amselle, I would not trifle for the world; but on_annot help making one's remarks, and there is the Signor in such a bustle, a_ never saw him before; and he has sent me to tell you, ma'am, to get read_mmediately.'
'Good God support me!' cried Emily, almost fainting, 'Count Morano is below, then!'
'No, ma'amselle, he is not below that I know of,' replied Annette, 'only hi_xcellenza sent me to desire you would get ready directly to leave Venice, fo_hat the gondolas would be at the steps of the canal in a few minutes: but _ust hurry back to my lady, who is just at her wits end, and knows not whic_ay to turn for haste.'
'Explain, Annette, explain the meaning of all this before you go,' said Emily, so overcome with surprise and timid hope, that she had scarcely breath t_peak.
'Nay, ma'amselle, that is more than I can do. I only know that the Signor i_ust come home in a very ill humour, that he has had us all called out of ou_eds, and tells us we are all to leave Venice immediately.'
'Is Count Morano to go with the signor?' said Emily, 'and whither are w_oing?'
'I know neither, ma'am, for certain; but I heard Ludovico say something abou_oing, after we get to terra-firma, to the signor's castle among som_ountains, that he talked of.'
'The Apennines!' said Emily, eagerly, 'O! then I have little to hope!'
'That is the very place, ma'am. But cheer up, and do not take it so much t_eart, and think what a little time you have to get ready in, and ho_mpatient the Signor is. Holy St. Mark! I hear the oars on the canal; and no_hey come nearer, and now they are dashing at the steps below; it is th_ondola, sure enough.'
Annette hastened from the room; and Emily prepared for this unexpected flight, as fast as her trembling hands would permit, not perceiving, that any chang_n her situation could possibly be for the worse. She had scarcely thrown he_ooks and clothes into her travelling trunk, when, receiving a second summons, she went down to her aunt's dressing-room, where she found Montoni impatientl_eproving his wife for delay. He went out, soon after, to give some furthe_rders to his people, and Emily then enquired the occasion of this hast_ourney; but her aunt appeared to be as ignorant as herself, and to undertak_he journey with more reluctance.
The family at length embarked, but neither Count Morano, nor Cavigni, was o_he party. Somewhat revived by observing this, Emily, when the gondolier_ashed their oars in the water, and put off from the steps of the portico, felt like a criminal, who receives a short reprieve. Her heart beat ye_ighter, when they emerged from the canal into the ocean, and lighter still, when they skimmed past the walls of St. Mark, without having stopped to tak_p Count Morano.
The dawn now began to tint the horizon, and to break upon the shores of th_driatic. Emily did not venture to ask any questions of Montoni, who sat, fo_ome time, in gloomy silence, and then rolled himself up in his cloak, as i_o sleep, while Madame Montoni did the same; but Emily, who could not sleep, undrew one of the little curtains of the gondola, and looked out upon the sea.
The rising dawn now enlightened the mountain-tops of Friuli, but their lowe_ides, and the distant waves, that rolled at their feet, were still in dee_hadow. Emily, sunk in tranquil melancholy, watched the strengthening ligh_preading upon the ocean, shewing successively Venice and her islets, and th_hores of Italy, along which boats, with their pointed latin sails, began t_ove.
The gondolieri were frequently hailed, at this early hour, by the market- people, as they glided by towards Venice, and the lagune soon displayed a ga_cene of innumerable little barks, passing from terra-firma with provisions.
Emily gave a last look to that splendid city, but her mind was then occupie_y considering the probable events, that awaited her, in the scenes, to whic_he was removing, and with conjectures, concerning the motive of this sudde_ourney. It appeared, upon calmer consideration, that Montoni was removing he_o his secluded castle, because he could there, with more probability o_uccess, attempt to terrify her into obedience; or, that, should its gloom_nd sequestered scenes fail of this effect, her forced marriage with the Coun_ould there be solemnized with the secrecy, which was necessary to the honou_f Montoni. The little spirit, which this reprieve had recalled, now began t_ail, and, when Emily reached the shore, her mind had sunk into all its forme_epression.
Montoni did not embark on the Brenta, but pursued his way in carriages acros_he country, towards the Apennine; during which journey, his manner to Emil_as so particularly severe, that this alone would have confirmed her lat_onjecture, had any such confirmation been necessary. Her senses were now dea_o the beautiful country, through which she travelled. Sometimes she wa_ompelled to smile at the naivete of Annette, in her remarks on what she saw, and sometimes to sigh, as a scene of peculiar beauty recalled Valancourt t_er thoughts, who was indeed seldom absent from them, and of whom she coul_ever hope to hear in the solitude, to which she was hastening.
At length, the travellers began to ascend among the Apennines. The immens_ine-forests, which, at that period, overhung these mountains, and betwee_hich the road wound, excluded all view but of the cliffs aspiring above, except, that, now and then, an opening through the dark woods allowed the ey_ momentary glimpse of the country below. The gloom of these shades, thei_olitary silence, except when the breeze swept over their summits, th_remendous precipices of the mountains, that came partially to the eye, eac_ssisted to raise the solemnity of Emily's feelings into awe; she saw onl_mages of gloomy grandeur, or of dreadful sublimity, around her; other images, equally gloomy and equally terrible, gleamed on her imagination. She was goin_he scarcely knew whither, under the dominion of a person, from whos_rbitrary disposition she had already suffered so much, to marry, perhaps, _an who possessed neither her affection, or esteem; or to endure, beyond th_ope of succour, whatever punishment revenge, and that Italian revenge, migh_ictate.—The more she considered what might be the motive of the journey, th_ore she became convinced, that it was for the purpose of concluding he_uptials with Count Morano, with that secrecy, which her resolute resistanc_ad made necessary to the honour, if not to the safety, of Montoni. From th_eep solitudes, into which she was immerging, and from the gloomy castle, o_hich she had heard some mysterious hints, her sick heart recoiled in despair, and she experienced, that, though her mind was already occupied by peculia_istress, it was still alive to the influence of new and local circumstance; why else did she shudder at the idea of this desolate castle?
As the travellers still ascended among the pine forests, steep rose ove_teep, the mountains seemed to multiply, as they went, and what was the summi_f one eminence proved to be only the base of another. At length, they reache_ little plain, where the drivers stopped to rest the mules, whence a scene o_uch extent and magnificence opened below, as drew even from Madame Montoni _ote of admiration. Emily lost, for a moment, her sorrows, in the immensity o_ature. Beyond the amphitheatre of mountains, that stretched below, whose top_ppeared as numerous almost, as the waves of the sea, and whose feet wer_oncealed by the forests—extended the campagna of Italy, where cities an_ivers, and woods and all the glow of cultivation were mingled in ga_onfusion. The Adriatic bounded the horizon, into which the Po and the Brenta, after winding through the whole extent of the landscape, poured their fruitfu_aves. Emily gazed long on the splendours of the world she was quitting, o_hich the whole magnificence seemed thus given to her sight only to increas_er regret on leaving it; for her, Valancourt alone was in that world; to hi_lone her heart turned, and for him alone fell her bitter tears.
From this sublime scene the travellers continued to ascend among the pines, till they entered a narrow pass of the mountains, which shut out every featur_f the distant country, and, in its stead, exhibited only tremendous crags, impending over the road, where no vestige of humanity, or even of vegetation, appeared, except here and there the trunk and scathed branches of an oak, tha_ung nearly headlong from the rock, into which its strong roots had fastened.
This pass, which led into the heart of the Apennine, at length opened to day, and a scene of mountains stretched in long perspective, as wild as any th_ravellers had yet passed. Still vast pine-forests hung upon their base, an_rowned the ridgy precipice, that rose perpendicularly from the vale, while, above, the rolling mists caught the sun-beams, and touched their cliffs wit_ll the magical colouring of light and shade. The scene seemed perpetuall_hanging, and its features to assume new forms, as the winding road brough_hem to the eye in different attitudes; while the shifting vapours, no_artially concealing their minuter beauties and now illuminating them wit_plendid tints, assisted the illusions of the sight.
Though the deep vallies between these mountains were, for the most part, clothed with pines, sometimes an abrupt opening presented a perspective o_nly barren rocks, with a cataract flashing from their summit among broke_liffs, till its waters, reaching the bottom, foamed along with unceasin_ury; and sometimes pastoral scenes exhibited their 'green delights' in th_arrow vales, smiling amid surrounding horror. There herds and flocks of goat_nd sheep, browsing under the shade of hanging woods, and the shepherd'_ittle cabin, reared on the margin of a clear stream, presented a swee_icture of repose.
Wild and romantic as were these scenes, their character had far less of th_ublime, that had those of the Alps, which guard the entrance of Italy. Emil_as often elevated, but seldom felt those emotions of indescribable awe whic_he had so continually experienced, in her passage over the Alps.
Towards the close of day, the road wound into a deep valley. Mountains, whos_haggy steeps appeared to be inaccessible, almost surrounded it. To the east, a vista opened, that exhibited the Apennines in their darkest horrors; and th_ong perspective of retiring summits, rising over each other, their ridge_lothed with pines, exhibited a stronger image of grandeur, than any tha_mily had yet seen. The sun had just sunk below the top of the mountains sh_as descending, whose long shadow stretched athwart the valley, but hi_loping rays, shooting through an opening of the cliffs, touched with a yello_leam the summits of the forest, that hung upon the opposite steeps, an_treamed in full splendour upon the towers and battlements of a castle, tha_pread its extensive ramparts along the brow of a precipice above. Th_plendour of these illumined objects was heightened by the contrasted shade, which involved the valley below.
'There,' said Montoni, speaking for the first time in several hours, 'i_dolpho.'
Emily gazed with melancholy awe upon the castle, which she understood to b_ontoni's; for, though it was now lighted up by the setting sun, the gothi_reatness of its features, and its mouldering walls of dark grey stone, rendered it a gloomy and sublime object. As she gazed, the light died away o_ts walls, leaving a melancholy purple tint, which spread deeper and deeper, as the thin vapour crept up the mountain, while the battlements above wer_till tipped with splendour. From those, too, the rays soon faded, and th_hole edifice was invested with the solemn duskiness of evening. Silent, lonely, and sublime, it seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and t_rown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign. As the twiligh_eepened, its features became more awful in obscurity, and Emily continued t_aze, till its clustering towers were alone seen, rising over the tops of th_oods, beneath whose thick shade the carriages soon after began to ascend.
The extent and darkness of these tall woods awakened terrific images in he_ind, and she almost expected to see banditti start up from under the trees.
At length, the carriages emerged upon a heathy rock, and, soon after, reache_he castle gates, where the deep tone of the portal bell, which was struc_pon to give notice of their arrival, increased the fearful emotions, that ha_ssailed Emily. While they waited till the servant within should come to ope_he gates, she anxiously surveyed the edifice: but the gloom, that oversprea_t, allowed her to distinguish little more than a part of its outline, wit_he massy walls of the ramparts, and to know, that it was vast, ancient an_reary. From the parts she saw, she judged of the heavy strength and extent o_he whole. The gateway before her, leading into the courts, was of giganti_ize, and was defended by two round towers, crowned by overhanging turrets, embattled, where, instead of banners, now waved long grass and wild plants, that had taken root among the mouldering stones, and which seemed to sigh, a_he breeze rolled past, over the desolation around them. The towers wer_nited by a curtain, pierced and embattled also, below which appeared th_ointed arch of a huge portcullis, surmounting the gates: from these, th_alls of the ramparts extended to other towers, overlooking the precipice, whose shattered outline, appearing on a gleam, that lingered in the west, tol_f the ravages of war.— Beyond these all was lost in the obscurity of evening.
While Emily gazed with awe upon the scene, footsteps were heard within th_ates, and the undrawing of bolts; after which an ancient servant of th_astle appeared, forcing back the huge folds of the portal, to admit his lord.
As the carriage-wheels rolled heavily under the portcullis, Emily's hear_unk, and she seemed, as if she was going into her prison; the gloomy court, into which she passed, served to confirm the idea, and her imagination, eve_wake to circumstance, suggested even more terrors, than her reason coul_ustify.
Another gate delivered them into the second court, grass-grown, and more wil_han the first, where, as she surveyed through the twilight its desolation—it_ofty walls, overtopt with briony, moss and nightshade, and the embattle_owers that rose above,—long-suffering and murder came to her thoughts. One o_hose instantaneous and unaccountable convictions, which sometimes conque_ven strong minds, impressed her with its horror. The sentiment was no_iminished, when she entered an extensive gothic hall, obscured by the gloo_f evening, which a light, glimmering at a distance through a long perspectiv_f arches, only rendered more striking. As a servant brought the lamp neare_artial gleams fell upon the pillars and the pointed arches, forming a stron_ontrast with their shadows, that stretched along the pavement and the walls.
The sudden journey of Montoni had prevented his people from making any othe_reparations for his reception, than could be had in the short interval, sinc_he arrival of the servant, who had been sent forward from Venice; and this, in some measure, may account for the air of extreme desolation, tha_verywhere appeared.
The servant, who came to light Montoni, bowed in silence, and the muscles o_is countenance relaxed with no symptom of joy.—Montoni noticed the salutatio_y a slight motion of his hand, and passed on, while his lady, following, an_ooking round with a degree of surprise and discontent, which she seeme_earful of expressing, and Emily, surveying the extent and grandeur of th_all in timid wonder, approached a marble stair-case. The arches here opene_o a lofty vault, from the centre of which hung a tripod lamp, which a servan_as hastily lighting; and the rich fret-work of the roof, a corridor, leadin_nto several upper apartments, and a painted window, stretching nearly fro_he pavement to the ceiling of the hall, became gradually visible.
Having crossed the foot of the stair-case, and passed through an ante-room, they entered a spacious apartment, whose walls, wainscoted with black larch- wood, the growth of the neighbouring mountains, were scarcely distinguishabl_rom darkness itself. 'Bring more light,' said Montoni, as he entered. Th_ervant, setting down his lamp, was withdrawing to obey him, when Madam_ontoni observing, that the evening air of this mountainous region was cold, and that she should like a fire, Montoni ordered that wood might be brought.
While he paced the room with thoughtful steps, and Madame Montoni sat silentl_n a couch, at the upper end of it, waiting till the servant returned, Emil_as observing the singular solemnity and desolation of the apartment, viewed, as it now was, by the glimmer of the single lamp, placed near a large Venetia_irror, that duskily reflected the scene, with the tall figure of Monton_assing slowly along, his arms folded, and his countenance shaded by th_lume, that waved in his hat.
From the contemplation of this scene, Emily's mind proceeded to th_pprehension of what she might suffer in it, till the remembrance o_alancourt, far, far distant! came to her heart, and softened it into sorrow.
A heavy sigh escaped her: but, trying to conceal her tears, she walked away t_ne of the high windows, that opened upon the ramparts, below which, sprea_he woods she had passed in her approach to the castle. But the night-shad_at deeply on the mountains beyond, and their indented outline alone could b_aintly traced on the horizon, where a red streak yet glimmered in the west.
The valley between was sunk in darkness.
The scene within, upon which Emily turned on the opening of the door, wa_carcely less gloomy. The old servant, who had received them at the gates, no_ntered, bending under a load of pine-branches, while two of Montoni'_enetian servants followed with lights.
'Your excellenza is welcome to the castle,' said the old man, as he raise_imself from the hearth, where he had laid the wood: 'it has been a lonel_lace a long while; but you will excuse it, Signor, knowing we had but shor_otice. It is near two years, come next feast of St. Mark, since you_xcellenza was within these walls.'
'You have a good memory, old Carlo,' said Montoni: 'it is there- about; an_ow hast thou contrived to live so long?'
'A-well-a-day, sir, with much ado; the cold winds, that blow through th_astle in winter, are almost too much for me; and I thought sometimes o_sking your excellenza to let me leave the mountains, and go down into th_owlands. But I don't know how it is—I am loth to quit these old walls I hav_ived in so long.'
'Well, how have you gone on in the castle, since I left it?' said Montoni.
'Why much as usual, Signor, only it wants a good deal of repairing. There i_he north tower—some of the battlements have tumbled down, and had liked on_ay to have knocked my poor wife (God rest her soul!) on the head. You_xcellenza must know'—
'Well, but the repairs,' interrupted Montoni.
'Aye, the repairs,' said Carlo: 'a part of the roof of the great hall ha_allen in, and all the winds from the mountains rushed through it last winter, and whistled through the whole castle so, that there was no keeping one's sel_arm, be where one would. There, my wife and I used to sit shivering over _reat fire in one corner of the little hall, ready to die with cold, and'—
'But there are no more repairs wanted,' said Montoni, impatiently.
'O Lord! Your excellenza, yes—the wall of the rampart has tumbled down i_hree places; then, the stairs, that lead to the west gallery, have been _ong time so bad, that it is dangerous to go up them; and the passage leadin_o the great oak chamber, that overhangs the north rampart—one night las_inter I ventured to go there by myself, and your excellenza'—
'Well, well, enough of this,' said Montoni, with quickness: 'I will talk mor_ith thee to-morrow.'
The fire was now lighted; Carlo swept the hearth, placed chairs, wiped th_ust from a large marble table that stood near it, and then left the room.
Montoni and his family drew round the fire. Madame Montoni made severa_ttempts at conversation, but his sullen answers repulsed her, while Emily sa_ndeavouring to acquire courage enough to speak to him. At length, in _remulous voice, she said, 'May I ask, sir, the motive of this sudde_ourney?'—After a long pause, she recovered sufficient courage to repeat th_uestion.
'It does not suit me to answer enquiries,' said Montoni, 'nor does it becom_ou to make them; time may unfold them all: but I desire I may be no furthe_arassed, and I recommend it to you to retire to your chamber, and t_ndeavour to adopt a more rational conduct, than that of yielding to fancies, and to a sensibility, which, to call it by the gentlest name, is only _eakness.'
Emily rose to withdraw. 'Good night, madam,' said she to her aunt, with a_ssumed composure, that could not disguise her emotion.
'Good night, my dear,' said Madame Montoni, in a tone of kindness, which he_iece had never before heard from her; and the unexpected endearment brough_ears to Emily's eyes. She curtsied to Montoni, and was retiring; 'But you d_ot know the way to your chamber,' said her aunt. Montoni called the servant, who waited in the ante-room, and bade him send Madame Montoni's woman, wit_hom, in a few minutes, Emily withdrew.
'Do you know which is my room?' said she to Annette, as they crossed the hall.
'Yes, I believe I do, ma'amselle; but this is such a strange rambling place! _ave been lost in it already: they call it the double chamber, over the sout_ampart, and I went up this great stair-case to it. My lady's room is at th_ther end of the castle.'
Emily ascended the marble staircase, and came to the corridor, as they passe_hrough which, Annette resumed her chat—'What a wild lonely place this is, ma'am! I shall be quite frightened to live in it. How often, and often have _ished myself in France again! I little thought, when I came with my lady t_ee the world, that I should ever be shut up in such a place as this, or _ould never have left my own country! This way, ma'amselle, down this turning.
I can almost believe in giants again, and such like, for this is just like on_f their castles; and, some night or other, I suppose I shall see fairies too, hopping about in that great old hall, that looks more like a church, with it_uge pillars, than any thing else.'
'Yes,' said Emily, smiling, and glad to escape from more serious thought, 'i_e come to the corridor, about midnight, and look down into the hall, we shal_ertainly see it illuminated with a thousand lamps, and the fairies trippin_n gay circles to the sound of delicious music; for it is in such places a_his, you know, that they come to hold their revels. But I am afraid, Annette, you will not be able to pay the necessary penance for such a sight: and, i_nce they hear your voice, the whole scene will vanish in an instant.'
'O! if you will bear me company, ma'amselle, I will come to the corridor, thi_ery night, and I promise you I will hold my tongue; it shall not be my faul_f the show vanishes.—But do you think they will come?'
'I cannot promise that with certainty, but I will venture to say, it will no_e your fault if the enchantment should vanish.'
'Well, ma'amselle, that is saying more than I expected of you: but I am not s_uch afraid of fairies, as of ghosts, and they say there are a plentiful man_f them about the castle: now I should be frightened to death, if I shoul_hance to see any of them. But hush! ma'amselle, walk softly! I have thought, several times, something passed by me.'
'Ridiculous!' said Emily, 'you must not indulge such fancies.'
'O ma'am! they are not fancies, for aught I know; Benedetto says these disma_alleries and halls are fit for nothing but ghosts to live in; and I veril_elieve, if I LIVE long in them I shall turn to one myself!'
'I hope,' said Emily, 'you will not suffer Signor Montoni to hear of thes_eak fears; they would highly displease him.'
'What, you know then, ma'amselle, all about it!' rejoined Annette. 'No, no, _o know better than to do so; though, if the Signor can sleep sound, nobod_lse in the castle has any right to lie awake, I am sure.' Emily did no_ppear to notice this remark.
'Down this passage, ma'amselle; this leads to a back stair-case. O! if I se_ny thing, I shall be frightened out of my wits!'
'That will scarcely be possible,' said Emily smiling, as she followed th_inding of the passage, which opened into another gallery: and then Annette, perceiving that she had missed her way, while she had been so eloquentl_aranguing on ghosts and fairies, wandered about through other passages an_alleries, till, at length, frightened by their intricacies and desolation, she called aloud for assistance: but they were beyond the hearing of th_ervants, who were on the other side of the castle, and Emily now opened th_oor of a chamber on the left.
'O! do not go in there, ma'amselle,' said Annette, 'you will only los_ourself further.'
'Bring the light forward,' said Emily, 'we may possibly find our way throug_hese rooms.'
Annette stood at the door, in an attitude of hesitation, with the light hel_p to shew the chamber, but the feeble rays spread through not half of it.
'Why do you hesitate?' said Emily, 'let me see whither this room leads.'
Annette advanced reluctantly. It opened into a suite of spacious and ancien_partments, some of which were hung with tapestry, and others wainscoted wit_edar and black larch-wood. What furniture there was, seemed to be almost a_ld as the rooms, and retained an appearance of grandeur, though covered wit_ust, and dropping to pieces with the damps, and with age.
'How cold these rooms are, ma'amselle!' said Annette: 'nobody has lived i_hem for many, many years, they say. Do let us go.'
'They may open upon the great stair-case, perhaps,' said Emily, passing o_ill she came to a chamber, hung with pictures, and took the light to examin_hat of a soldier on horseback in a field of battle.—He was darting his spea_pon a man, who lay under the feet of the horse, and who held up one hand in _upplicating attitude. The soldier, whose beaver was up, regarded him with _ook of vengeance, and the countenance, with that expression, struck Emily a_esembling Montoni. She shuddered, and turned from it. Passing the ligh_astily over several other pictures, she came to one concealed by a veil o_lack silk. The singularity of the circumstance struck her, and she stoppe_efore it, wishing to remove the veil, and examine what could thus carefull_e concealed, but somewhat wanting courage. 'Holy Virgin! what can this mean?'
exclaimed Annette. 'This is surely the picture they told me of at Venice.'
'What picture?' said Emily. 'Why a picture—a picture,' replied Annette, hesitatingly—'but I never could make out exactly what it was about, either.'
'Remove the veil, Annette.'
'What! I, ma'amselle!—I! not for the world!' Emily, turning round, sa_nnette's countenance grow pale. 'And pray, what have you heard of thi_icture, to terrify you so, my good girl?' said she. 'Nothing, ma'amselle: _ave heard nothing, only let us find our way out.'
'Certainly: but I wish first to examine the picture; take the light, Annette, while I lift the veil.' Annette took the light, and immediately walked awa_ith it, disregarding Emily's call to stay, who, not choosing to be left alon_n the dark chamber, at length followed her. 'What is the reason of this, Annette?' said Emily, when she overtook her, 'what have you heard concernin_hat picture, which makes you so unwilling to stay when I bid you?'
'I don't know what is the reason, ma'amselle, replied Annette, 'nor any thin_bout the picture, only I have heard there is something very dreadfu_elonging to it—and that it has been covered up in black EVER SINCE—and tha_obody has looked at it for a great many years—and it somehow has to do wit_he owner of this castle before Signor Montoni came to the possession o_t—and'—
'Well, Annette,' said Emily, smiling, 'I perceive it is as you say— that yo_now nothing about the picture.'
'No, nothing, indeed, ma'amselle, for they made me promise never t_ell:—but'—
'Well,' rejoined Emily, who observed that she was struggling between he_nclination to reveal a secret, and her apprehension for the consequence, '_ill enquire no further'—
'No, pray, ma'am, do not.'
'Lest you should tell all,' interrupted Emily.
Annette blushed, and Emily smiled, and they passed on to the extremity of thi_uite of apartments, and found themselves, after some further perplexity, onc_ore at the top of the marble stair- case, where Annette left Emily, while sh_ent to call one of the servants of the castle to shew them to the chamber, for which they had been seeking.
While she was absent, Emily's thoughts returned to the picture; a_nwillingness to tamper with the integrity of a servant, had checked he_nquiries on this subject, as well as concerning some alarming hints, whic_nnette had dropped respecting Montoni; though her curiosity was entirel_wakened, and she had perceived, that her questions might easily be answered.
She was now, however, inclined to go back to the apartment and examine th_icture; but the loneliness of the hour and of the place, with the melanchol_ilence that reigned around her, conspired with a certain degree of awe, excited by the mystery attending this picture, to prevent her. She determined, however, when day-light should have re-animated her spirits, to go thither an_emove the veil. As she leaned from the corridor, over the stair-case, and he_yes wandered round, she again observed, with wonder, the vast strength of th_alls, now somewhat decayed, and the pillars of solid marble, that rose fro_he hall, and supported the roof.
A servant now appeared with Annette, and conducted Emily to her chamber, whic_as in a remote part of the castle, and at the very end of the corridor, fro_hence the suite of apartments opened, through which they had been wandering.
The lonely aspect of her room made Emily unwilling that Annette should leav_er immediately, and the dampness of it chilled her with more than fear. Sh_egged Caterina, the servant of the castle, to bring some wood and light _ire.
'Aye, lady, it's many a year since a fire was lighted here,' said Caterina.
'You need not tell us that, good woman,' said Annette; 'every room in th_astle feels like a well. I wonder how you contrive to live here; for my part, I wish myself at Venice again.' Emily waved her hand for Caterina to fetch th_ood.
'I wonder, ma'am, why they call this the double chamber?' said Annette, whil_mily surveyed it in silence and saw that it was lofty and spacious, like th_thers she had seen, and, like many of them, too, had its walls lined wit_ark larch-wood. The bed and other furniture was very ancient, and had an ai_f gloomy grandeur, like all that she had seen in the castle. One of the hig_asements, which she opened, overlooked a rampart, but the view beyond was hi_n darkness.
In the presence of Annette, Emily tried to support her spirits, and t_estrain the tears, which, every now and then, came to her eyes. She wishe_uch to enquire when Count Morano was expected at the castle, but a_nwillingness to ask unnecessary questions, and to mention family concerns t_ servant, withheld her. Meanwhile, Annette's thoughts were engaged upo_nother subject: she dearly loved the marvellous, and had heard of _ircumstance, connected with the castle, that highly gratified this taste.
Having been enjoined not to mention it, her inclination to tell it was s_trong, that she was every instant on the point of speaking what she ha_eard. Such a strange circumstance, too, and to be obliged to conceal it, wa_ severe punishment; but she knew, that Montoni might impose one much severer, and she feared to incur it by offending him.
Caterina now brought the wood, and its bright blaze dispelled, for a while, the gloom of the chamber. She told Annette, that her lady had enquired fo_er, and Emily was once again left to her own sad reflections. Her heart wa_ot yet hardened against the stern manners of Montoni, and she was nearly a_uch shocked now, as she had been when she first witnessed them. Th_enderness and affection, to which she had been accustomed, till she lost he_arents, had made her particularly sensible to any degree of unkindness, an_uch a reverse as this no apprehension had prepared her to support.
To call off her attention from subjects, that pressed heavily on her spirits, she rose and again examined her room and its furniture. As she walked roun_t, she passed a door, that was not quite shut, and, perceiving, that it wa_ot the one, through which she entered, she brought the light forward t_iscover whither it led. She opened it, and, going forward, had nearly falle_own a steep, narrow stair-case that wound from it, between two stone walls.
She wished to know to what it led, and was the more anxious, since i_ommunicated so immediately with her apartment; but, in the present state o_er spirits, she wanted courage to venture into the darkness alone. Closin_he door, therefore, she endeavoured to fasten it, but, upon furthe_xamination, perceived, that it had no bolts on the chamber side, though i_ad two on the other. By placing a heavy chair against it, she in some measur_emedied the defect; yet she was still alarmed at the thought of sleeping i_his remote room alone, with a door opening she knew not whither, and whic_ould not be perfectly fastened on the inside. Sometimes she wished to entrea_f Madame Montoni, that Annette might have leave to remain with her all night, but was deterred by an apprehension of betraying what would be though_hildish fears, and by an unwillingness to increase the apt terrors o_nnette.
Her gloomy reflections were, soon after, interrupted by a footstep in th_orridor, and she was glad to see Annette enter with some supper, sent b_adame Montoni. Having a table near the fire, she made the good girl sit dow_nd sup with her; and, when their little repast was over, Annette, encourage_y her kindness and stirring the wood into a blaze, drew her chair upon th_earth, nearer to Emily, and said—'Did you ever hear, ma'amselle, of th_trange accident, that made the Signor lord of this castle?'
'What wonderful story have you now to tell?' said Emily, concealing th_uriosity, occasioned by the mysterious hints she had formerly heard on tha_ubject.
'I have heard all about it, ma'amselle,' said Annette, looking round th_hamber and drawing closer to Emily; 'Benedetto told it me as we travelle_ogether: says he, "Annette, you don't know about this castle here, that w_re going to?" No, says I, Mr. Benedetto, pray what do you know? But, ma'amselle, you can keep a secret, or I would not tell it you for the world; for I promised never to tell, and they say, that the Signor does not like t_ave it talked of.'
'If you promised to keep this secret,' said Emily, 'you do right not t_ention it.'
Annette paused a moment, and then said, 'O, but to you, ma'amselle, to you _ay tell it safely, I know.'
Emily smiled, 'I certainly shall keep it as faithful as yourself, Annette.'
Annette replied very gravely, that would do, and proceeded—'This castle, yo_ust know, ma'amselle, is very old, and very strong, and has stood out man_ieges as they say. Now it was not Signor Montoni's always, nor his father's; no; but, by some law or other, it was to come to the Signor, if the lady die_nmarried.'
'What lady?' said Emily.
'I am not come to that yet,' replied Annette, 'it is the lady I am going t_ell you about, ma'amselle: but, as I was saying, this lady lived in th_astle, and had everything very grand about her, as you may suppose, ma'amselle. The Signor used often to come to see her, and was in love wit_er, and offered to marry her; for, though he was somehow related, that di_ot signify. But she was in love with somebody else, and would not have him, which made him very angry, as they say, and you know, ma'amselle, what an ill- looking gentleman he is, when he is angry. Perhaps she saw him in a passion, and therefore would not have him. But, as I was saying, she was ver_elancholy and unhappy, and all that, for a long while, and—Holy Virgin! wha_oise is that? did not you hear a sound, ma'amselle?'
'It was only the wind,' said Emily, 'but do come to the end of your story.'
'As I was saying—O, where was I?—as I was saying—she was very melancholy an_nhappy a long while, and used to walk about upon the terrace, there, unde_he windows, by herself, and cry so! it would have done your heart good t_ear her. That is—I don't mean good, but it would have made you cry too, a_hey tell me.'
'Well, but, Annette, do tell me the substance of your tale.'
'All in good time, ma'am; all this I heard before at Venice, but what is t_ome I never heard till to-day. This happened a great many years ago, whe_ignor Montoni was quite a young man. The lady—they called her Signor_aurentini, was very handsome, but she used to be in great passions, too, sometimes, as well as the Signor. Finding he could not make her listen t_im—what does he do, but leave the castle, and never comes near it for a lon_ime! but it was all one to her; she was just as unhappy whether he was her_r not, till one evening, Holy St. Peter! ma'amselle,' cried Annette, 'look a_hat lamp, see how blue it burns!' She looked fearfully round the chamber.
'Ridiculous girl!' said Emily, 'why will you indulge those fancies? Pray le_e hear the end of your story, I am weary.'
Annette still kept her eyes on the lamp, and proceeded in a lower voice. 'I_as one evening, they say, at the latter end of the year, it might be abou_he middle of September, I suppose, or the beginning of October; nay, for tha_atter, it might be November, for that, too, is the latter end of the year, but that I cannot say for certain, because they did not tell me for certai_hemselves. However, it was at the latter end of the year, this grand lad_alked out of the castle into the woods below, as she had often done before, all alone, only her maid was with her. The wind blew cold, and strewed th_eaves about, and whistled dismally among those great old chesnut trees, tha_e passed, ma'amselle, as we came to the castle— for Benedetto shewed me th_rees as he was talking—the wind blew cold, and her woman would have persuade_er to return: but all would not do, for she was fond of walking in the woods, at evening time, and, if the leaves were falling about her, so much th_etter.
'Well, they saw her go down among the woods, but night came, and she did no_eturn: ten o'clock, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock came, and no lady! Well, the servants thought to be sure, some accident had befallen her, and they wen_ut to seek her. They searched all night long, but could not find her, or an_race of her; and, from that day to this, ma'amselle, she has never been hear_f.'
'Is this true, Annette?' said Emily, in much surprise.
'True, ma'am!' said Annette, with a look of horror, 'yes, it is true, indeed.
But they do say,' she added, lowering her voice, 'they do say, that th_ignora has been seen, several times since, walking in the woods and about th_astle in the night: several of the old servants, who remained here some tim_fter, declare they saw her; and, since then, she has been seen by some of th_assals, who have happened to be in the castle, at night. Carlo, the ol_teward, could tell such things, they say, if he would.'
'How contradictory is this, Annette!' said Emily, 'you say nothing has bee_ince known of her, and yet she has been seen!'
'But all this was told me for a great secret,' rejoined Annette, withou_oticing the remark, 'and I am sure, ma'am, you would not hurt either me o_enedetto, so much as to go and tell it again.' Emily remained silent, an_nnette repeated her last sentence.
'You have nothing to fear from my indiscretion,' replied Emily, 'and let m_dvise you, my good Annette, be discreet yourself, and never mention what yo_ave just told me to any other person. Signor Montoni, as you say, may b_ngry if he hears of it. But what inquiries were made concerning the lady?'
'O! a great deal, indeed, ma'amselle, for the Signor laid claim to the castl_irectly, as being the next heir, and they said, that is, the judges, or th_enators, or somebody of that sort, said, he could not take possession of i_ill so many years were gone by, and then, if, after all, the lady could no_e found, why she would be as good as dead, and the castle would be his own; and so it is his own. But the story went round, and many strange reports wer_pread, so very strange, ma'amselle, that I shall not tell them.'
'That is stranger still, Annette,' said Emily, smiling, and rousing hersel_rom her reverie. 'But, when Signora Laurentini was afterwards seen in th_astle, did nobody speak to her?'
'Speak—speak to her!' cried Annette, with a look of terror; 'no, to be sure.'
'And why not?' rejoined Emily, willing to hear further.
'Holy Mother! speak to a spirit!'
'But what reason had they to conclude it was a spirit, unless they ha_pproached, and spoken to it?' 'O ma'amselle, I cannot tell. How can you as_uch shocking questions? But nobody ever saw it come in, or go out of th_astle; and it was in one place now, and then the next minute in quite anothe_art of the castle; and then it never spoke, and, if it was alive, what shoul_t do in the castle if it never spoke? Several parts of the castle have neve_een gone into since, they say, for that very reason.'
'What, because it never spoke?' said Emily, trying to laugh away the fear_hat began to steal upon her.—'No, ma'amselle, no;' replied Annette, rathe_ngrily 'but because something has been seen there. They say, too, there is a_ld chapel adjoining the west side of the castle, where, any time at midnight, you may hear such groans!—it makes one shudder to think of them!—and strang_ights have been seen there—'
'Pr'ythee, Annette, no more of these silly tales,' said Emily.
'Silly tales, ma'amselle! O, but I will tell you one story about this, if yo_lease, that Caterina told me. It was one cold winter's night that Caterina (she often came to the castle then, she says, to keep old Carlo and his wif_ompany, and so he recommended her afterwards to the Signor, and she has live_ere ever since) Caterina was sitting with them in the little hall, say_arlo, "I wish we had some of those figs to roast, that lie in the store- closet, but it is a long way off, and I am loath to fetch them; do, Caterina,"
says he, "for you are young and nimble, do bring us some, the fire is in nic_rim for roasting them; they lie," says he, "in such a corner of the store- room, at the end of the north-gallery; here, take the lamp," says he, "an_ind, as you go up the great stair-case, that the wind, through the roof, doe_ot blow it out." So, with that, Caterina took the lamp—Hush! ma'amselle, _urely heard a noise!'
Emily, whom Annette had now infected with her own terrors, listene_ttentively; but every thing was still, and Annette proceeded:
'Caterina went to the north-gallery, that is the wide gallery we passed, ma'am, before we came to the corridor, here. As she went with the lamp in he_and, thinking of nothing at all—There, again!' cried Annette suddenly—'_eard it again!—it was not fancy, ma'amselle!'
'Hush!' said Emily, trembling. They listened, and, continuing to sit quit_till, Emily heard a low knocking against the wall. It came repeatedly.
Annette then screamed loudly, and the chamber door slowly opened.—It wa_aterina, come to tell Annette, that her lady wanted her. Emily, though sh_ow perceived who it was, could not immediately overcome her terror; whil_nnette, half laughing, half crying, scolded Caterina heartily for thu_larming them; and was also terrified lest what she had told had bee_verheard.—Emily, whose mind was deeply impressed by the chief circumstance o_nnette's relation, was unwilling to be left alone, in the present state o_er spirits; but, to avoid offending Madame Montoni, and betraying her ow_eakness, she struggled to overcome the illusions of fear, and dismisse_nnette for the night.
When she was alone, her thoughts recurred to the strange history of Signor_aurentini and then to her own strange situation, in the wild and solitar_ountains of a foreign country, in the castle, and the power of a man, t_hom, only a few preceding months, she was an entire stranger; who had alread_xercised an usurped authority over her, and whose character she now regarded, with a degree of terror, apparently justified by the fears of others. Sh_new, that he had invention equal to the conception and talents to th_xecution of any project, and she greatly feared he had a heart too void o_eeling to oppose the perpetration of whatever his interest might suggest. Sh_ad long observed the unhappiness of Madame Montoni, and had often bee_itness to the stern and contemptuous behaviour she received from her husband.
To these circumstances, which conspired to give her just cause for alarm, wer_ow added those thousand nameless terrors, which exist only in activ_maginations, and which set reason and examination equally at defiance.
Emily remembered all that Valancourt had told her, on the eve of her departur_rom Languedoc, respecting Montoni, and all that he had said to dissuade he_rom venturing on the journey. His fears had often since appeared to he_rophetic—now they seemed confirmed. Her heart, as it gave her back the imag_f Valancourt, mourned in vain regret, but reason soon came with a consolatio_hich, though feeble at first, acquired vigour from reflection. Sh_onsidered, that, whatever might be her sufferings, she had withheld fro_nvolving him in misfortune, and that, whatever her future sorrows could be, she was, at least, free from self-reproach.
Her melancholy was assisted by the hollow sighings of the wind along th_orridor and round the castle. The cheerful blaze of the wood had long bee_xtinguished, and she sat with her eyes fixed on the dying embers, till a lou_ust, that swept through the corridor, and shook the doors and casements, alarmed her, for its violence had moved the chair she had placed as _astening, and the door, leading to the private stair-case stood half open.
Her curiosity and her fears were again awakened. She took the lamp to the to_f the steps, and stood hesitating whether to go down; but again the profoun_tillness and the gloom of the place awed her, and, determining to enquir_urther, when day-light might assist the search, she closed the door, an_laced against it a stronger guard.
She now retired to her bed, leaving the lamp burning on the table; but it_loomy light, instead of dispelling her fear, assisted it; for, by it_ncertain rays, she almost fancied she saw shapes flit past her curtains an_lide into the remote obscurity of her chamber.—The castle clock struck on_efore she closed her eyes to sleep.