> Hail, mildly-pleasing Solitude! Companion of the wise and good—
> This is the balmy breath of morn, Just as the dew-bent rose is born.
> But chief when evening scenes decay And the faint landscape swims away, Thine is the doubtful, soft decline, And that best hour of musing thine.
Emily's injunctions to Annette to be silent on the subject of her terror wer_neffectual, and the occurrence of the preceding night spread such alarm amon_he servants, who now all affirmed, that they had frequently hear_naccountable noises in the chateau, that a report soon reached the Count o_he north side of the castle being haunted. He treated this, at first, wit_idicule, but, perceiving, that it was productive of serious evil, in th_onfusion it occasioned among his household, he forbade any person to repea_t, on pain of punishment.
The arrival of a party of his friends soon withdrew his thoughts entirely fro_his subject, and his servants had now little leisure to brood over it, except, indeed, in the evenings after supper, when they all assembled in thei_all, and related stories of ghosts, till they feared to look round the room; started, if the echo of a closing door murmured along the passage, and refuse_o go singly to any part of the castle.
On these occasions Annette made a distinguished figure. When she told not onl_f all the wonders she had witnessed, but of all that she had imagined, in th_astle of Udolpho, with the story of the strange disappearance of Signor_aurentini, she made no trifling impression on the mind of her attentiv_uditors. Her suspicions, concerning Montoni, she would also have freel_isclosed, had not Ludovico, who was now in the service of the Count, prudently checked her loquacity, whenever it pointed to that subject.
Among the visitors at the chateau was the Baron de Saint Foix, an old frien_f the Count, and his son, the Chevalier St. Foix, a sensible and amiabl_oung man, who, having in the preceding year seen the Lady Blanche, at Paris, had become her declared admirer. The friendship, which the Count had lon_ntertained for his father, and the equality of their circumstances made hi_ecretly approve of the connection; but, thinking his daughter at this tim_oo young to fix her choice for life, and wishing to prove the sincerity an_trength of the Chevalier's attachment, he then rejected his suit, thoug_ithout forbidding his future hope. This young man now came, with the Baron, his father, to claim the reward of a steady affection, a claim, which th_ount admitted and which Blanche did not reject.
While these visitors were at the chateau, it became a scene of gaiety an_plendour. The pavilion in the woods was fitted up and frequented, in the fin_venings, as a supper-room, when the hour usually concluded with a concert, a_hich the Count and Countess, who were scientific performers, and th_hevaliers Henri and St. Foix, with the Lady Blanche and Emily, whose voice_nd fine taste compensated for the want of more skilful execution, usuall_ssisted. Several of the Count's servants performed on horns and othe_nstruments, some of which, placed at a little distance among the woods, spoke, in sweet response, to the harmony, that proceeded from the pavilion.
At any other period, these parties would have been delightful to Emily; bu_er spirits were now oppressed with a melancholy, which she perceived that n_ind of what is called amusement had power to dissipate, and which the tende_nd, frequently, pathetic, melody of these concerts sometimes increased to _ery painful degree.
She was particularly fond of walking in the woods, that hung on a promontory, overlooking the sea. Their luxuriant shade was soothing to her pensive mind, and, in the partial views, which they afforded of the Mediterranean, with it_inding shores and passing sails, tranquil beauty was united with grandeur.
The paths were rude and frequently overgrown with vegetation, but thei_asteful owner would suffer little to be done to them, and scarcely a singl_ranch to be lopped from the venerable trees. On an eminence, in one of th_ost sequestered parts of these woods, was a rustic seat, formed of the trun_f a decayed oak, which had once been a noble tree, and of which many loft_ranches still flourishing united with beech and pines to over-canopy th_pot. Beneath their deep umbrage, the eye passed over the tops of other woods, to the Mediterranean, and, to the left, through an opening, was seen a ruine_atch-tower, standing on a point of rock, near the sea, and rising from amon_he tufted foliage.
Hither Emily often came alone in the silence of evening, and, soothed by th_cenery and by the faint murmur, that rose from the waves, would sit, til_arkness obliged her to return to the chateau. Frequently, also, she visite_he watch-tower, which commanded the entire prospect, and, when she leane_gainst its broken walls, and thought of Valancourt, she not once imagined, what was so true, that this tower had been almost as frequently his resort, a_er own, since his estrangement from the neighbouring chateau.
One evening, she lingered here to a late hour. She had sat on the steps of th_uilding, watching, in tranquil melancholy, the gradual effect of evening ove_he extensive prospect, till the gray waters of the Mediterranean and th_assy woods were almost the only features of the scene, that remained visible; when, as she gazed alternately on these, and on the mild blue of the heavens, where the first pale star of evening appeared, she personified the hour in th_ollowing lines:—
**SONG OF THE EVENING HOUR**
Last of the Hours, that track the fading Day, I move along the realms o_wilight air, And hear, remote, the choral song decay Of sister-nymphs, wh_ance around his car.
Then, as I follow through the azure void, His partial splendour from m_training eye Sinks in the depth of space; my only guide His faint ray dawnin_n the farthest sky;
Save that sweet, lingering strain of gayer Hours, Whose close my voic_rolongs in dying notes, While mortals on the green earth own its pow'rs, A_ownward on the evening gale it floats.
When fades along the West the Sun's last beam, As, weary, to the nether worl_e goes, And mountain-summits catch the purple gleam, And slumbering ocea_aint and fainter glows,
Silent upon the globe's broad shade I steal, And o'er its dry turf shed th_ooling dews, And ev'ry fever'd herb and flow'ret heal, And all thei_ragrance on the air diffuse.
Where'er I move, a tranquil pleasure reigns; O'er all the scene the dusk_ints I send, That forests wild and mountains, stretching plains And people_owns, in soft confusion blend.
Wide o'er the world I waft the fresh'ning wind, Low breathing through th_oods and twilight vale, In whispers soft, that woo the pensive mind Of him, who loves my lonely steps to hail.
His tender oaten reed I watch to hear, Stealing its sweetness o'er som_laining rill, Or soothing ocean's wave, when storms are near, Or swelling i_he breeze from distant hill!
I wake the fairy elves, who shun the light; When, from their blossom'd beds, they slily peep, And spy my pale star, leading on the night,— Forth to thei_ames and revelry they leap;
Send all the prison'd sweets abroad in air, That with them slumber'd in th_low'ret's cell; Then to the shores and moon-light brooks repair, Till th_igh larks their matin-carol swell.
The wood-nymphs hail my airs and temper'd shade, With ditties soft and lightl_portive dance, On river margin of some bow'ry glade, And strew their fres_uds as my steps advance:
But, swift I pass, and distant regions trace, For moon-beams silver all th_astern cloud, And Day's last crimson vestige fades apace; Down the steep wes_ fly from Midnight's shroud.
The moon was now rising out of the sea. She watched its gradual progress, th_xtending line of radiance it threw upon the waters, the sparkling oars, th_ail faintly silvered, and the wood-tops and the battlements of the watch- tower, at whose foot she was sitting, just tinted with the rays. Emily'_pirits were in harmony with this scene. As she sat meditating, sounds stol_y her on the air, which she immediately knew to be the music and the voic_he had formerly heard at midnight, and the emotion of awe, which she felt, was not unmixed with terror, when she considered her remote and lonel_ituation. The sounds drew nearer. She would have risen to leave the place, but they seemed to come from the way she must have taken towards the chateau, and she awaited the event in trembling expectation. The sounds continued t_pproach, for some time, and then ceased. Emily sat listening, gazing an_nable to move, when she saw a figure emerge from the shade of the woods an_ass along the bank, at some little distance before her. It went swiftly, an_er spirits were so overcome with awe, that, though she saw, she did not muc_bserve it.
Having left the spot, with a resolution never again to visit it alone, at s_ate an hour, she began to approach the chateau, when she heard voices callin_er from the part of the wood, which was nearest to it. They were the shout_f the Count's servants, who were sent to search for her; and when she entere_he supper-room, where he sat with Henri and Blanche, he gently reproached he_ith a look, which she blushed to have deserved.
This little occurrence deeply impressed her mind, and, when she withdrew t_er own room, it recalled so forcibly the circumstances she had witnessed, _ew nights before, that she had scarcely courage to remain alone. She watche_o a late hour, when, no sound having renewed her fears, she, at length, sun_o repose. But this was of short continuance, for she was disturbed by a lou_nd unusual noise, that seemed to come from the gallery, into which he_hamber opened. Groans were distinctly heard, and, immediately after, a dea_eight fell against the door, with a violence, that threatened to burst i_pen. She called loudly to know who was there, but received no answer, though, at intervals, she still thought she heard something like a low moaning. Fea_eprived her of the power to move. Soon after, she heard footsteps in a remot_art of the gallery, and, as they approached, she called more loudly tha_efore, till the steps paused at her door. She then distinguished the voice_f several of the servants, who seemed too much engaged by some circumstanc_ithout, to attend to her calls; but, Annette soon after entering the room fo_ater, Emily understood, that one of the maids had fainted, whom sh_mmediately desired them to bring into her room, where she assisted to restor_er. When this girl had recovered her speech, she affirmed, that, as she wa_assing up the back stair-case, in the way to her chamber, she had seen a_pparition on the second landing- place; she held the lamp low, she said, tha_he might pick her way, several of the stairs being infirm and even decayed, and it was upon raising her eyes, that she saw this appearance. It stood for _oment in the corner of the landing-place, which she was approaching, an_hen, gliding up the stairs, vanished at the door of the apartment, that ha_een lately opened. She heard afterwards a hollow sound.
'Then the devil has got a key to that apartment,' said Dorothee, 'for it coul_e nobody but he; I locked the door myself!'
The girl, springing down the stairs and passing up the great stair- case, ha_un, with a faint scream, till she reached the gallery, where she fell, groaning, at Emily's door.
Gently chiding her for the alarm she had occasioned, Emily tried to make he_shamed of her fears; but the girl persisted in saying, that she had seen a_pparition, till she went to her own room, whither she was accompanied by al_he servants present, except Dorothee, who, at Emily's request, remained wit_er during the night. Emily was perplexed, and Dorothee was terrified, an_entioned many occurrences of former times, which had long since confirmed he_uperstitions; among these, according to her belief, she had once witnessed a_ppearance, like that just described, and on the very same spot, and it wa_he remembrance of it, that had made her pause, when she was going to ascen_he stairs with Emily, and which had increased her reluctance to open th_orth apartments. Whatever might be Emily's opinions, she did not disclos_hem, but listened attentively to all that Dorothee communicated, whic_ccasioned her much thought and perplexity.
From this night the terror of the servants increased to such an excess, tha_everal of them determined to leave the chateau, and requested their discharg_f the Count, who, if he had any faith in the subject of their alarm, though_roper to dissemble it, and, anxious to avoid the inconvenience tha_hreatened him, employed ridicule and then argument to convince them they ha_othing to apprehend from supernatural agency. But fear had rendered thei_inds inaccessible to reason; and it was now, that Ludovico proved at once hi_ourage and his gratitude for the kindness he had received from the Count, b_ffering to watch, during a night, in the suite of rooms, reputed to b_aunted. He feared, he said, no spirits, and, if any thing of human for_ppeared—he would prove that he dreaded that as little.
The Count paused upon the offer, while the servants, who heard it, looked upo_ne another in doubt and amazement, and Annette, terrified for the safety o_udovico, employed tears and entreaties to dissuade him from his purpose.
'You are a bold fellow,' said the Count, smiling, 'Think well of what you ar_oing to encounter, before you finally determine upon it. However, if yo_ersevere in your resolution, I will accept your offer, and your intrepidit_hall not go unrewarded.'
'I desire no reward, your excellenza,' replied Ludovico, 'but you_pprobation. Your excellenza has been sufficiently good to me already; but _ish to have arms, that I may be equal to my enemy, if he should appear.'
'Your sword cannot defend you against a ghost,' replied the Count, throwing _lance of irony upon the other servants, 'neither can bars, or bolts; for _pirit, you know, can glide through a keyhole as easily as through a door.'
'Give me a sword, my lord Count,' said Ludovico, 'and I will lay all th_pirits, that shall attack me, in the red sea.'
'Well,' said the Count, 'you shall have a sword, and good cheer, too; and you_rave comrades here will, perhaps, have courage enough to remain another nigh_n the chateau, since your boldness will certainly, for this night, at least, confine all the malice of the spectre to yourself.'
Curiosity now struggled with fear in the minds of several of his fello_ervants, and, at length, they resolved to await the event of Ludovico'_ashness.
Emily was surprised and concerned, when she heard of his intention, and wa_requently inclined to mention what she had witnessed in the north apartment_o the Count, for she could not entirely divest herself of fears fo_udovico's safety, though her reason represented these to be absurd. Th_ecessity, however, of concealing the secret, with which Dorothee ha_ntrusted her, and which must have been mentioned, with the late occurrence, in excuse for her having so privately visited the north apartments, kept he_ntirely silent on the subject of her apprehension; and she tried only t_ooth Annette, who held, that Ludovico was certainly to be destroyed; and wh_as much less affected by Emily's consolatory efforts, than by the manner o_ld Dorothee, who often, as she exclaimed Ludovico, sighed, and threw up he_yes to heaven.