The Castle of Otranto

par Horace Walpole

 
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
 
The following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic
family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the
black letter, in the year 1529. How much sooner it was written does
not appear. The principal incidents are such as were believed in the
darkest ages of Christianity; but the language and conduct have
nothing that savours of barbarism. The style is the purest Italian.
 
If the story was written near the time when it is supposed to have
happened, it must have been between 1095, the era of the first
Crusade, and 1243, the date of the last, or not long afterwards.
There is no other circumstance in the work that can lead us to guess
at the period in which the scene is laid: the names of the actors are
evidently fictitious, and probably disguised on purpose: yet the
Spanish names of the domestics seem to indicate that this work was not
composed until the establishment of the Arragonian Kings in Naples had
made Spanish appellations familiar in that country. The beauty of the
diction, and the zeal of the author (moderated, however, by singular
judgment) concur to make me think that the date of the composition was
little antecedent to that of the impression. Letters were then in
their most flourishing state in Italy, and contributed to dispel the
empire of superstition, at that time so forcibly attacked by the
reformers. It is not unlikely that an artful priest might endeavour
to turn their own arms on the innovators, and might avail himself of
his abilities as an author to confirm the populace in their ancient
errors and superstitions. If this was his view, he has certainly
acted with signal address. Such a work as the following would enslave
a hundred vulgar minds beyond half the books of controversy that have
been written from the days of Luther to the present hour.
 
This solution of the author's motives is, however, offered as a mere
conjecture. Whatever his views were, or whatever effects the
execution of them might have, his work can only be laid before the
public at present as a matter of entertainment. Even as such, some
apology for it is necessary. Miracles, visions, necromancy, dreams,
and other preternatural events, are exploded now even from romances.
That was not the case when our author wrote; much less when the story
itself is supposed to have happened. Belief in every kind of prodigy
was so established in those dark ages, that an author would not be
faithful to the manners of the times, who should omit all mention of
them. He is not bound to believe them himself, but he must represent
his actors as believing them.
 
If this air of the miraculous is excused, the reader will find nothing
else unworthy of his perusal. Allow the possibility of the facts, and
all the actors comport themselves as persons would do in their
situation. There is no bombast, no similes, flowers, digressions, or
unnecessary descriptions. Everything tends directly to the
catastrophe. Never is the reader's attention relaxed. The rules of
the drama are almost observed throughout the conduct of the piece.
The characters are well drawn, and still better maintained. Terror,
the author's principal engine, prevents the story from ever
languishing; and it is so often contrasted by pity, that the mind is
kept up in a constant vicissitude of interesting passions.
 
Some persons may perhaps think the characters of the domestics too
little serious for the general cast of the story; but besides their
opposition to the principal personages, the art of the author is very
observable in his conduct of the subalterns. They discover many
passages essential to the story, which could not be well brought to
light but by their NAIVETE and simplicity. In particular, the
womanish terror and foibles of Bianca, in the last chapter, conduce
essentially towards advancing the catastrophe.
 
It is natural for a translator to be prejudiced in favour of his
adopted work. More impartial readers may not be so much struck with
the beauties of this piece as I was. Yet I am not blind to my
author's defects. I could wish he had grounded his plan on a more
useful moral than this: that "the sins of fathers are visited on
their children to the third and fourth generation."  I doubt whether,
in his time, any more than at present, ambition curbed its appetite of
dominion from the dread of so remote a punishment. And yet this moral
is weakened by that less direct insinuation, that even such anathema
may be diverted by devotion to St. Nicholas. Here the interest of the
Monk plainly gets the better of the judgment of the author. However,
with all its faults, I have no doubt but the English reader will be
pleased with a sight of this performance. The piety that reigns
throughout, the lessons of virtue that are inculcated, and the rigid
purity of the sentiments, exempt this work from the censure to which
romances are but too liable. Should it meet with the success I hope
for, I may be encouraged to reprint the original Italian, though it
will tend to depreciate my own labour. Our language falls far short
of the charms of the Italian, both for variety and harmony. The
latter is peculiarly excellent for simple narrative. It is difficult
in English to relate without falling too low or rising too high; a
fault obviously occasioned by the little care taken to speak pure
language in common conversation. Every Italian or Frenchman of any
rank piques himself on speaking his own tongue correctly and with
choice. I cannot flatter myself with having done justice to my author
in this respect: his style is as elegant as his conduct of the
passions is masterly. It is a pity that he did not apply his talents
to what they were evidently proper for - the theatre.
 
I will detain the reader no longer, but to make one short remark.
Though the machinery is invention, and the names of the actors
imaginary, I cannot but believe that the groundwork of the story is
founded on truth. The scene is undoubtedly laid in some real castle.
The author seems frequently, without design, to describe particular
parts. "The chamber," says he, "on the right hand;" "the door on the
left hand;" "the distance from the chapel to Conrad's apartment:"
these and other passages are strong presumptions that the author had
some certain building in his eye. Curious persons, who have leisure
to employ in such researches, may possibly discover in the Italian
writers the foundation on which our author has built. If a
catastrophe, at all resembling that which he describes, is believed to
have given rise to this work, it will contribute to interest the
reader, and will make the "Castle of Otranto a still more moving
story.
 
SONNET TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LADY MARY COKE.
 
THE gentle maid, whose hapless tale
These melancholy pages speak;
Say, gracious lady, shall she fail
To draw the tear adown thy cheek?
 
No; never was thy pitying breast
Insensible to human woes;
Tender, tho' firm, it melts distrest
For weaknesses it never knows.
 
Oh! guard the marvels I relate
Of fell ambition scourg'd by fate,
From reason's peevish blame.
Blest with thy smile, my dauntless sail
I dare expand to Fancy's gale,
For sure thy smiles are Fame.
 
H. W.
 
CHAPTER I.
 
MANFRED, Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the latter,
a most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda. Conrad,
the son, was three years younger, a homely youth, sickly, and of no
promising disposition; yet he was the darling of his father, who never
showed any symptoms of affection to Matilda. Manfred had contracted a
marriage for his son with the Marquis of Vicenza's daughter, Isabella;
and she had already been delivered by her guardians into the hands of
Manfred, that he might celebrate the wedding as soon as Conrad's
infirm state of health would permit.
 
Manfred's impatience for this ceremonial was remarked by his family
and neighbours. The former, indeed, apprehending the severity of
their Prince's disposition, did not dare to utter their surmises on
this precipitation. Hippolita, his wife, an amiable lady, did
sometimes venture to represent the danger of marrying their only son
so early, considering his great youth, and greater infirmities; but
she never received any other answer than reflections on her own
sterility, who had given him but one heir. His tenants and subjects
were less cautious in their discourses. They attributed this hasty
wedding to the Prince's dread of seeing accomplished an ancient
prophecy, which was said to have pronounced that the castle and
lordship of Otranto "should pass from the present family, whenever the
real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it."  It was difficult
to make any sense of this prophecy; and still less easy to conceive
what it had to do with the marriage in question. Yet these mysteries,
or contradictions, did not make the populace adhere the less to their
opinion.
 
Young Conrad's birthday was fixed for his espousals. The company was
assembled in the chapel of the Castle, and everything ready for
beginning the divine office, when Conrad himself was missing.
Manfred, impatient of the least delay, and who had not observed his
son retire, despatched one of his attendants to summon the young
Prince. The servant, who had not stayed long enough to have crossed
the court to Conrad's apartment, came running back breathless, in a
frantic manner, his eyes staring, and foaming at the month. He said
nothing, but pointed to the court.
 
The company were struck with terror and amazement. The Princess
Hippolita, without knowing what was the matter, but anxious for her
son, swooned away. Manfred, less apprehensive than enraged at the
procrastination of the nuptials, and at the folly of his domestic,
asked imperiously what was the matter? The fellow made no answer, but
continued pointing towards the court-yard; and at last, after repeated
questions put to him, cried out, "Oh! the helmet! the helmet!"
 
In the meantime, some of the company had run into the court, from
whence was heard a confused noise of shrieks, horror, and surprise.
Manfred, who began to be alarmed at not seeing his son, went himself
to get information of what occasioned this strange confusion. Matilda
remained endeavouring to assist her mother, and Isabella stayed for
the same purpose, and to avoid showing any impatience for the
bridegroom, for whom, in truth, she had conceived little affection.
 
The first thing that struck Manfred's eyes was a group of his servants
endeavouring to raise something that appeared to him a mountain of
sable plumes. He gazed without believing his sight.
 
"What are ye doing?" cried Manfred, wrathfully; "where is my son?"
 
A volley of voices replied, "Oh! my Lord! the Prince! the Prince! the
helmet! the helmet!"
 
Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what,
he advanced hastily, - but what a sight for a father's eyes! - he
beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous
helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for
human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of black
feathers.
 
The horror of the spectacle, the ignorance of all around how this
misfortune had happened, and above all, the tremendous phenomenon
before him, took away the Prince's speech. Yet his silence lasted
longer than even grief could occasion. He fixed his eyes on what he
wished in vain to believe a vision; and seemed less attentive to his
loss, than buried in meditation on the stupendous object that had
occasioned it. He touched, he examined the fatal casque; nor could
even the bleeding mangled remains of the young Prince divert the eyes
of Manfred from the portent before him.
 
All who had known his partial fondness for young Conrad, were as much
surprised at their Prince's insensibility, as thunderstruck themselves
at the miracle of the helmet. They conveyed the disfigured corpse
into the hall, without receiving the least direction from Manfred. As
little was he attentive to the ladies who remained in the chapel. On
the contrary, without mentioning the unhappy princesses, his wife and
daughter, the first sounds that dropped from Manfred's lips were,
"Take care of the Lady Isabella."
 
The domestics, without observing the singularity of this direction,
were guided by their affection to their mistress, to consider it as
peculiarly addressed to her situation, and flew to her assistance.
They conveyed her to her chamber more dead than alive, and indifferent
to all the strange circumstances she heard, except the death of her
son.
 
Matilda, who doted on her mother, smothered her own grief and
amazement, and thought of nothing but assisting and comforting her
afflicted parent. Isabella, who had been treated by Hippolita like a
daughter, and who returned that tenderness with equal duty and
affection, was scarce less assiduous about the Princess; at the same
time endeavouring to partake and lessen the weight of sorrow which she
saw Matilda strove to suppress, for whom she had conceived the warmest
sympathy of friendship. Yet her own situation could not help finding
its place in her thoughts. She felt no concern for the death of young
Conrad, except commiseration; and she was not sorry to be delivered
from a marriage which had promised her little felicity, either from
her destined bridegroom, or from the severe temper of Manfred, who,
though he had distinguished her by great indulgence, had imprinted her
mind with terror, from his causeless rigour to such amiable princesses
as Hippolita and Matilda.
 
While the ladies were conveying the wretched mother to her bed,
Manfred remained in the court, gazing on the ominous casque, and
regardless of the crowd which the strangeness of the event had now
assembled around him. The few words he articulated, tended solely to
inquiries, whether any man knew from whence it could have come?
Nobody could give him the least information. However, as it seemed to
be the sole object of his curiosity, it soon became so to the rest of
the spectators, whose conjectures were as absurd and improbable, as
the catastrophe itself was unprecedented. In the midst of their
senseless guesses, a young peasant, whom rumour had drawn thither from
a neighbouring village, observed that the miraculous helmet was
exactly like that on the figure in black marble of Alfonso the Good,
one of their former princes, in the church of St. Nicholas.
 
"Villain! What sayest thou?" cried Manfred, starting from his trance
in a tempest of rage, and seizing the young man by the collar; "how
darest thou utter such treason? Thy life shall pay for it."
 
The spectators, who as little comprehended the cause of the Prince's
fury as all the rest they had seen, were at a loss to unravel this new
circumstance. The young peasant himself was still more astonished,
not conceiving how he had offended the Prince. Yet recollecting
himself, with a mixture of grace and humility, he disengaged himself
from Manfred's grip, and then with an obeisance, which discovered more
jealousy of innocence than dismay, he asked, with respect, of what he
was guilty? Manfred, more enraged at the vigour, however decently
exerted, with which the young man had shaken off his hold, than
appeased by his submission, ordered his attendants to seize him, and,
if he had not been withheld by his friends whom he had invited to the
nuptials, would have poignarded the peasant in their arms.
 
During this altercation, some of the vulgar spectators had run to the
great church, which stood near the castle, and came back open-mouthed,
declaring that the helmet was missing from Alfonso's statue. Manfred,
at this news, grew perfectly frantic; and, as if he sought a subject
on which to vent the tempest within him, he rushed again on the young
peasant, crying -
 
"Villain! Monster! Sorcerer! 'tis thou hast done this! 'tis thou hast
slain my son!"
 
The mob, who wanted some object within the scope of their capacities,
on whom they might discharge their bewildered reasoning, caught the
words from the mouth of their lord, and re-echoed -
 
"Ay, ay; 'tis he, 'tis he: he has stolen the helmet from good
Alfonso's tomb, and dashed out the brains of our young Prince with
it," never reflecting how enormous the disproportion was between the
marble helmet that had been in the church, and that of steel before
their eyes; nor how impossible it was for a youth seemingly not
twenty, to wield a piece of armour of so prodigious a weight
 
The folly of these ejaculations brought Manfred to himself: yet
whether provoked at the peasant having observed the resemblance
between the two helmets, and thereby led to the farther discovery of
the absence of that in the church, or wishing to bury any such rumour
under so impertinent a supposition, he gravely pronounced that the
young man was certainly a necromancer, and that till the Church could
take cognisance of the affair, he would have the Magician, whom they
had thus detected, kept prisoner under the helmet itself, which he
ordered his attendants to raise, and place the young man under it;
declaring he should be kept there without food, with which his own
infernal art might furnish him.
 
It was in vain for the youth to represent against this preposterous
sentence: in vain did Manfred's friends endeavour to divert him from
this savage and ill-grounded resolution. The generality were charmed
with their lord's decision, which, to their apprehensions, carried
great appearance of justice, as the Magician was to be punished by the
very instrument with which he had offended: nor were they struck with
the least compunction at the probability of the youth being starved,
for they firmly believed that, by his diabolic skill, he could easily
supply himself with nutriment.
 
Manfred thus saw his commands even cheerfully obeyed; and appointing a
guard with strict orders to prevent any food being conveyed to the
prisoner, he dismissed his friends and attendants, and retired to his
own chamber, after locking the gates of the castle, in which he
suffered none but his domestics to remain.
 
In the meantime, the care and zeal of the young Ladies had brought the
Princess Hippolita to herself, who amidst the transports of her own
sorrow frequently demanded news of her lord, would have dismissed her
attendants to watch over him, and at last enjoined Matilda to leave
her, and visit and comfort her father. Matilda, who wanted no
affectionate duty to Manfred, though she trembled at his austerity,
obeyed the orders of Hippolita, whom she tenderly recommended to
Isabella; and inquiring of the domestics for her father, was informed
that he was retired to his chamber, and had commanded that nobody
should have admittance to him. Concluding that he was immersed in
sorrow for the death of her brother, and fearing to renew his tears by
the sight of his sole remaining child, she hesitated whether she
should break in upon his affliction; yet solicitude for him, backed by
the commands of her mother, encouraged her to venture disobeying the
orders he had given; a fault she had never been guilty of before.
 
The gentle timidity of her nature made her pause for some minutes at
his door. She heard him traverse his chamber backwards, and forwards
with disordered steps; a mood which increased her apprehensions. She
was, however, just going to beg admittance, when Manfred suddenly
opened the door; and as it was now twilight, concurring with the
disorder of his mind, he did not distinguish the person, but asked
angrily, who it was? Matilda replied, trembling -
 
"My dearest father, it is I, your daughter."
 
Manfred, stepping back hastily, cried, "Begone! I do not want a
daughter;" and flinging back abruptly, clapped the door against the
terrified Matilda.
 
She was too well acquainted with her father's impetuosity to venture a
second intrusion. When she had a little recovered the shock of so
bitter a reception, she wiped away her tears to prevent the additional
stab that the knowledge of it would give to Hippolita, who questioned
her in the most anxious terms on the health of Manfred, and how he
bore his loss. Matilda assured her he was well, and supported his
misfortune with manly fortitude.
 
"But will he not let me see him?" said Hippolita mournfully; "will he
not permit me to blend my tears with his, and shed a mother's sorrows
in the bosom of her Lord? Or do you deceive me, Matilda? I know how
Manfred doted on his son: is not the stroke too heavy for him? has he
not sunk under it? You do not answer me - alas! I dread the worst! -
Raise me, my maidens; I will, I will see my Lord. Bear me to him
instantly: he is dearer to me even than my children."
 
Matilda made signs to Isabella to prevent Hippolita's rising; and both
those lovely young women were using their gentle violence to stop and
calm the Princess, when a servant, on the part of Manfred, arrived and
told Isabella that his Lord demanded to speak with her.
 
"With me!" cried Isabella.
 
"Go," said Hippolita, relieved by a message from her Lord: "Manfred
cannot support the sight of his own family. He thinks you less
disordered than we are, and dreads the shock of my grief. Console
him, dear Isabella, and tell him I will smother my own anguish rather
than add to his."
 
As it was now evening the servant who conducted Isabella bore a torch
before her. When they came to Manfred, who was walking impatiently
about the gallery, he started, and said hastily -
 
"Take away that light, and begone."
 
Then shutting the door impetuously, he flung himself upon a bench
against the wall, and bade Isabella sit by him. She obeyed trembling.
 
"I sent for you, Lady," said he - and then stopped under great
appearance of confusion.
 
"My Lord!"
 
"Yes, I sent for you on a matter of great moment," resumed he. "Dry
your tears, young Lady - you have lost your bridegroom. Yes, cruel
fate! and I have lost the hopes of my race! But Conrad was not worthy
of your beauty."
 
"How, my Lord!" said Isabella; "sure you do not suspect me of not
feeling the concern I ought: my duty and affection would have always
- "
 
"Think no more of him," interrupted Manfred; "he was a sickly, puny
child, and Heaven has perhaps taken him away, that I might not trust
the honours of my house on so frail a foundation. The line of Manfred
calls for numerous supports. My foolish fondness for that boy blinded
the eyes of my prudence - but it is better as it is. I hope, in a few
years, to have reason to rejoice at the death of Conrad."
 
Words cannot paint the astonishment of Isabella. At first she
apprehended that grief had disordered Manfred's understanding. Her
next thought suggested that this strange discourse was designed to
ensnare her: she feared that Manfred had perceived her indifference
for his son: and in consequence of that idea she replied -
 
"Good my Lord, do not doubt my tenderness: my heart would have
accompanied my hand. Conrad would have engrossed all my care; and
wherever fate shall dispose of me, I shall always cherish his memory,
and regard your Highness and the virtuous Hippolita as my parents."
 
"Curse on Hippolita!" cried Manfred. "Forget her from this moment, as
I do. In short, Lady, you have missed a husband undeserving of your
charms: they shall now be better disposed of. Instead of a sickly
boy, you shall have a husband in the prime of his age, who will know
how to value your beauties, and who may expect a numerous offspring."
 
"Alas, my Lord!" said Isabella, "my mind is too sadly engrossed by the
recent catastrophe in your family to think of another marriage. If
ever my father returns, and it shall be his pleasure, I shall obey, as
I did when I consented to give my hand to your son: but until his
return, permit me to remain under your hospitable roof, and employ the
melancholy hours in assuaging yours, Hippolita's, and the fair
Matilda's affliction."
 
"I desired you once before," said Manfred angrily, "not to name that
woman: from this hour she must be a stranger to you, as she must be
to me. In short, Isabella, since I cannot give you my son, I offer
you myself."
 
"Heavens!" cried Isabella, waking from her delusion, "what do I hear?
You! my Lord! You! My father-in-law! the father of Conrad! the
husband of the virtuous and tender Hippolita!"
 
"I tell you," said Manfred imperiously, "Hippolita is no longer my
wife; I divorce her from this hour. Too long has she cursed me by her
unfruitfulness. My fate depends on having sons, and this night I
trust will give a new date to my hopes."
 
At those words he seized the cold hand of Isabella, who was half dead
with fright and horror. She shrieked, and started from him, Manfred
rose to pursue her, when the moon, which was now up, and gleamed in at
the opposite casement, presented to his sight the plumes of the fatal
helmet, which rose to the height of the windows, waving backwards and
forwards in a tempestuous manner, and accompanied with a hollow and
rustling sound. Isabella, who gathered courage from her situation,
and who dreaded nothing so much as Manfred's pursuit of his
declaration, cried -
 
"Look, my Lord! see, Heaven itself declares against your impious
intentions!"
 
"Heaven nor Hell shall impede my designs," said Manfred, advancing
again to seize the Princess.
 
At that instant the portrait of his grandfather, which hung over the
bench where they had been sitting, uttered a deep sigh, and heaved its
breast.
 
Isabella, whose back was turned to the picture, saw not the motion,
nor knew whence the sound came, but started, and said -
 
"Hark, my Lord! What sound was that?" and at the same time made
towards the door.
 
Manfred, distracted between the flight of Isabella, who had now
reached the stairs, and yet unable to keep his eyes from the picture,
which began to move, had, however, advanced some steps after her,
still looking backwards on the portrait, when he saw it quit its
panel, and descend on the floor with a grave and melancholy air.
 
"Do I dream?" cried Manfred, returning; "or are the devils themselves
in league against me? Speak, internal spectre! Or, if thou art my
grandsire, why dost thou too conspire against thy wretched descendant,
who too dearly pays for - "  Ere he could finish the sentence, the
vision sighed again, and made a sign to Manfred to follow him.
 
"Lead on!" cried Manfred; "I will follow thee to the gulf of
perdition."
 
The spectre marched sedately, but dejected, to the end of the gallery,
and turned into a chamber on the right hand. Manfred accompanied him
at a little distance, full of anxiety and horror, but resolved. As he
would have entered the chamber, the door was clapped to with violence
by an invisible hand. The Prince, collecting courage from this delay,
would have forcibly burst open the door with his foot, but found that
it resisted his utmost efforts.
 
"Since Hell will not satisfy my curiosity," said Manfred, "I will use
the human means in my power for preserving my race; Isabella shall not
escape me."
 
The lady, whose resolution had given way to terror the moment she had
quitted Manfred, continued her flight to the bottom of the principal
staircase. There she stopped, not knowing whither to direct her
steps, nor how to escape from the impetuosity of the Prince. The
gates of the castle, she knew, were locked, and guards placed in the
court. Should she, as her heart prompted her, go and prepare
Hippolita for the cruel destiny that awaited her, she did not doubt
but Manfred would seek her there, and that his violence would incite
him to double the injury he meditated, without leaving room for them
to avoid the impetuosity of his passions. Delay might give him time
to reflect on the horrid measures he had conceived, or produce some
circumstance in her favour, if she could - for that night, at least -
avoid his odious purpose. Yet where conceal herself? How avoid the
pursuit he would infallibly make throughout the castle?
 
As these thoughts passed rapidly through her mind, she recollected a
subterraneous passage which led from the vaults of the castle to the
church of St. Nicholas. Could she reach the altar before she was
overtaken, she knew even Manfred's violence would not dare to profane
the sacredness of the place; and she determined, if no other means of
deliverance offered, to shut herself up for ever among the holy
virgins whose convent was contiguous to the cathedral. In this
resolution, she seized a lamp that burned at the foot of the
staircase, and hurried towards the secret passage.
 
The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate
cloisters; and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find
the door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence reigned
throughout those subterraneous regions, except now and then some
blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed, and which, grating
on the rusty hinges, were re-echoed through that long labyrinth of
darkness. Every murmur struck her with new terror; yet more she
dreaded to hear the wrathful voice of Manfred urging his domestics to
pursue her.
 
She trod as softly as impatience would give her leave, yet frequently
stopped and listened to hear if she was followed. In one of those
moments she thought she heard a sigh. She shuddered, and recoiled a
few paces. In a moment she thought she heard the step of some person.
Her blood curdled; she concluded it was Manfred. Every suggestion
that horror could inspire rushed into her mind. She condemned her
rash flight, which had thus exposed her to his rage in a place where
her cries were not likely to draw anybody to her assistance. Yet the
sound seemed not to come from behind. If Manfred knew where she was,
he must have followed her. She was still in one of the cloisters, and
the steps she had heard were too distinct to proceed from the way she
had come. Cheered with this reflection, and hoping to find a friend
in whoever was not the Prince, she was going to advance, when a door
that stood ajar, at some distance to the left, was opened gently: but
ere her lamp, which she held up, could discover who opened it, the
person retreated precipitately on seeing the light.
 
Isabella, whom every incident was sufficient to dismay, hesitated
whether she should proceed. Her dread of Manfred soon outweighed
every other terror. The very circumstance of the person avoiding her
gave her a sort of courage. It could only be, she thought, some
domestic belonging to the castle. Her gentleness had never raised her
an enemy, and conscious innocence made her hope that, unless sent by
the Prince's order to seek her, his servants would rather assist than
prevent her flight. Fortifying herself with these reflections, and
believing by what she could observe that she was near the mouth of the
subterraneous cavern, she approached the door that had been opened;
but a sudden gust of wind that met her at the door extinguished her
lamp, and left her in total darkness.
 
Words cannot paint the horror of the Princess's situation. Alone in
so dismal a place, her mind imprinted with all the terrible events of
the day, hopeless of escaping, expecting every moment the arrival of
Manfred, and far from tranquil on knowing she was within reach of
somebody, she knew not whom, who for some cause seemed concealed
thereabouts; all these thoughts crowded on her distracted mind, and
she was ready to sink under her apprehensions. She addressed herself
to every saint in heaven, and inwardly implored their assistance. For
a considerable time she remained in an agony of despair.
 
At last, as softly as was possible, she felt for the door, and having
found it, entered trembling into the vault from whence she had heard
the sigh and steps. It gave her a kind of momentary joy to perceive
an imperfect ray of clouded moonshine gleam from the roof of the
vault, which seemed to be fallen in, and from whence hung a fragment
of earth or building, she could not distinguish which, that appeared
to have been crushed inwards. She advanced eagerly towards this
chasm, when she discerned a human form standing close against the
wall.
 
She shrieked, believing it the ghost of her betrothed Conrad. The
figure, advancing, said, in a submissive voice -
 
"Be not alarmed, Lady; I will not injure you."
 
Isabella, a little encouraged by the words and tone of voice of the
stranger, and recollecting that this must be the person who had opened
the door, recovered her spirits enough to reply -
 
"Sir, whoever you are, take pity on a wretched Princess, standing on
the brink of destruction. Assist me to escape from this fatal castle,
or in a few moments I may be made miserable for ever."
 
"Alas!" said the stranger, "what can I do to assist you? I will die
in your defence; but I am unacquainted with the castle, and want - "
 
"Oh!" said Isabella, hastily interrupting him; "help me but to find a
trap-door that must be hereabout, and it is the greatest service you
can do me, for I have not a minute to lose."
 
Saying a these words, she felt about on the pavement, and directed the
stranger to search likewise, for a smooth piece of brass enclosed in
one of the stones.
 
"That," said she, "is the lock, which opens with a spring, of which I
know the secret. If we can find that, I may escape - if not, alas!
courteous stranger, I fear I shall have involved you in my
misfortunes: Manfred will suspect you for the accomplice of my
flight, and you will fall a victim to his resentment."
 
"I value not my life," said the stranger, "and it will be some comfort
to lose it in trying to deliver you from his tyranny."
 
"Generous youth," said Isabella, "how shall I ever requite - "
 
As she uttered those words, a ray of moonshine, streaming through a
cranny of the ruin above, shone directly on the lock they sought.
 
"Oh! transport!" said Isabella; "here is the trap-door!" and, taking
out the key, she touched the spring, which, starting aside, discovered
an iron ring. "Lift up the door," said the Princess.
 
The stranger obeyed, and beneath appeared some stone steps descending
into a vault totally dark.
 
"We must go down here," said Isabella. "Follow me; dark and dismal as
it is, we cannot miss our way; it leads directly to the church of St.
Nicholas. But, perhaps," added the Princess modestly, "you have no
reason to leave the castle, nor have I farther occasion for your
service; in a few minutes I shall be safe from Manfred's rage - only
let me know to whom I am so much obliged."
 
"I will never quit you," said the stranger eagerly, "until I have
placed you in safety - nor think me, Princess, more generous than I
am; though you are my principal care - "
 
The stranger was interrupted by a sudden noise of voices that seemed
approaching, and they soon distinguished these words -
 
"Talk not to me of necromancers; I tell you she must be in the castle;
I will find her in spite of enchantment."
 
"Oh, heavens!" cried Isabella; "it is the voice of Manfred! Make
haste, or we are ruined! and shut the trap-door after you."
 
Saying this, she descended the steps precipitately; and as the
stranger hastened to follow her, he let the door slip out of his
hands: it fell, and the spring closed over it. He tried in vain to
open it, not having observed Isabella's method of touching the spring;
nor had he many moments to make an essay. The noise of the falling
door had been heard by Manfred, who, directed by the sound, hastened
thither, attended by his servants with torches.
 
"It must be Isabella," cried Manfred, before he entered the vault.
"She is escaping by the subterraneous passage, but she cannot have got
far."
 
What was the astonishment of the Prince when, instead of Isabella, the
light of the torches discovered to him the young peasant whom he
thought confined under the fatal helmet!
 
"Traitor!" said Manfred; "how camest thou here? I thought thee in
durance above in the court."
 
"I am no traitor," replied the young man boldly, "nor am I answerable
for your thoughts."
 
"Presumptuous villain!" cried Manfred; "dost thou provoke my wrath?
Tell me, how hast thou escaped from above? Thou hast corrupted thy
guards, and their lives shall answer it."
 
"My poverty," said the peasant calmly, "will disculpate them: though
the ministers of a tyrant's wrath, to thee they are faithful, and but
too willing to execute the orders which you unjustly imposed upon
them."
 
"Art thou so hardy as to dare my vengeance?" said the Prince; "but
tortures shall force the truth from thee. Tell me; I will know thy
accomplices."
 
"There was my accomplice!" said the youth, smiling, and pointing to
the roof.
 
Manfred ordered the torches to be held up, and perceived that one of
the cheeks of the enchanted casque had forced its way through the
pavement of the court, as his servants had let it fall over the
peasant, and had broken through into the vault, leaving a gap, through
which the peasant had pressed himself some minutes before he was found
by Isabella.
 
"Was that the way by which thou didst descend?" said Manfred.
 
"It was," said the youth.
 
"But what noise was that," said Manfred, "which I heard as I entered
the cloister?"
 
"A door clapped," said the peasant; "I heard it as well as you."
 
"What door?" said Manfred hastily.
 
"I am not acquainted with your castle," said the peasant; "this is the
first time I ever entered it, and this vault the only part of it
within which I ever was."
 
"But I tell thee," said Manfred (wishing to find out if the youth had
discovered the trap-door), "it was this way I heard the noise. My
servants heard it too."
 
"My Lord," interrupted one of them officiously, "to be sure it was the
trap-door, and he was going to make his escape."
 
"Peace, blockhead!" said the Prince angrily; "if he was going to
escape, how should he come on this side? I will know from his own
mouth what noise it was I heard. Tell me truly; thy life depends on
thy veracity."
 
"My veracity is dearer to me than my life," said the peasant; "nor
would I purchase the one by forfeiting the other."
 
"Indeed, young philosopher!" said Manfred contemptuously; "tell me,
then, what was the noise I heard?"
 
"Ask me what I can answer," said he, "and put me to death instantly if
I tell you a lie."
 
Manfred, growing impatient at the steady valour and indifference of
the youth, cried -
 
"Well, then, thou man of truth, answer! Was it the fall of the trap-
door that I heard?"
 
"It was," said the youth.
 
"It was!" said the Prince; "and how didst thou come to know there was
a trap-door here?"
 
"I saw the plate of brass by a gleam of moonshine," replied he.
 
"But what told thee it was a lock?" said Manfred. "How didst thou
discover the secret of opening it?"
 
"Providence, that delivered me from the helmet, was able to direct me
to the spring of a lock," said he.
 
"Providence should have gone a little farther, and have placed thee
out of the reach of my resentment," said Manfred. "When Providence
had taught thee to open the lock, it abandoned thee for a fool, who
did not know how to make use of its favours. Why didst thou not
pursue the path pointed out for thy escape? Why didst thou shut the
trap-door before thou hadst descended the steps?"
 
"I might ask you, my Lord," said the peasant, "how I, totally
unacquainted with your castle, was to know that those steps led to any
outlet? but I scorn to evade your questions. Wherever those steps
lead to, perhaps I should have explored the way - I could not be in a
worse situation than I was. But the truth is, I let the trap-door
fall: your immediate arrival followed. I had given the alarm - what
imported it to me whether I was seized a minute sooner or a minute
later?"
 
"Thou art a resolute villain for thy years," said Manfred; "yet on
reflection I suspect thou dost but trifle with me. Thou hast not yet
told me how thou didst open the lock."
 
"That I will show you, my Lord," said the peasant; and, taking up a
fragment of stone that had fallen from above, he laid himself on the
trap-door, and began to beat on the piece of brass that covered it,
meaning to gain time for the escape of the Princess. This presence of
mind, joined to the frankness of the youth, staggered Manfred. He
even felt a disposition towards pardoning one who had been guilty of
no crime. Manfred was not one of those savage tyrants who wanton in
cruelty unprovoked. The circumstances of his fortune had given an
asperity to his temper, which was naturally humane; and his virtues
were always ready to operate, when his passions did not obscure his
reason.
 
While the Prince was in this suspense, a confused noise of voices
echoed through the distant vaults. As the sound approached, he
distinguished the clamours of some of his domestics, whom he had
dispersed through the castle in search of Isabella, calling out -
 
"Where is my Lord? where is the Prince?"
 
"Here I am," said Manfred, as they came nearer; "have you found the
Princess?"
 
The first that arrived, replied, "Oh, my Lord! I am glad we have
found you."
 
"Found me!" said Manfred; "have you found the Princess?"
 
"We thought we had, my Lord," said the fellow, looking terrified, "but
- "
 
"But, what?" cried the Prince; "has she escaped?"
 
"Jaquez and I, my Lord - "
 
"Yes, I and Diego," interrupted the second, who came up in still
greater consternation.
 
"Speak one of you at a time," said Manfred; "I ask you, where is the
Princess?"
 
"We do not know," said they both together; "but we are frightened out
of our wits."
 
"So I think, blockheads," said Manfred; "what is it has scared you
thus?"
 
"Oh! my Lord," said Jaquez, "Diego has seen such a sight! your
Highness would not believe our eyes."
 
"What new absurdity is this?" cried Manfred; "give me a direct answer,
or, by Heaven - "
 
"Why, my Lord, if it please your Highness to hear me," said the poor
fellow, "Diego and I - "
 
"Yes, I and Jaquez - " cried his comrade.
 
"Did not I forbid you to speak both at a time?" said the Prince:
"you, Jaquez, answer; for the other fool seems more distracted than
thou art; what is the matter?"
 
"My gracious Lord," said Jaquez, "if it please your Highness to hear
me; Diego and I, according to your Highness's orders, went to search
for the young Lady; but being comprehensive that we might meet the
ghost of my young Lord, your Highness's son, God rest his soul, as he
has not received Christian burial - "
 
"Sot!" cried Manfred in a rage; "is it only a ghost, then, that thou
hast seen?"
 
"Oh! worse! worse! my Lord," cried Diego: "I had rather have seen ten
whole ghosts."
 
"Grant me patience!" said Manfred; "these blockheads distract me. Out
of my sight, Diego! and thou, Jaquez, tell me in one word, art thou
sober? art thou raving? thou wast wont to have some sense: has the
other sot frightened himself and thee too? Speak; what is it he
fancies he has seen?"
 
"Why, my Lord," replied Jaquez, trembling, "I was going to tell your
Highness, that since the calamitous misfortune of my young Lord, God
rest his precious soul! not one of us your Highness's faithful
servants - indeed we are, my Lord, though poor men - I say, not one of
us has dared to set a foot about the castle, but two together: so
Diego and I, thinking that my young Lady might be in the great
gallery, went up there to look for her, and tell her your Highness
wanted something to impart to her."
 
"O blundering fools!" cried Manfred; "and in the meantime, she has
made her escape, because you were afraid of goblins! - Why, thou
knave! she left me in the gallery; I came from thence myself."
 
"For all that, she may be there still for aught I know," said Jaquez;
"but the devil shall have me before I seek her there again - poor
Diego! I do not believe he will ever recover it."
 
"Recover what?" said Manfred; "am I never to learn what it is has
terrified these rascals? - but I lose my time; follow me, slave; I
will see if she is in the gallery."
 
"For Heaven's sake, my dear, good Lord," cried Jaquez, "do not go to
the gallery. Satan himself I believe is in the chamber next to the
gallery."
 
Manfred, who hitherto had treated the terror of his servants as an
idle panic, was struck at this new circumstance. He recollected the
apparition of the portrait, and the sudden closing of the door at the
end of the gallery. His voice faltered, and he asked with disorder -
 
"What is in the great chamber?"
 
"My Lord," said Jaquez, "when Diego and I came into the gallery, he
went first, for he said he had more courage than I. So when we came
into the gallery we found nobody. We looked under every bench and
stool; and still we found nobody."
 
"Were all the pictures in their places?" said Manfred.
 
"Yes, my Lord," answered Jaquez; "but we did not think of looking
behind them."
 
"Well, well!" said Manfred; "proceed."
 
"When we came to the door of the great chamber," continued Jaquez, "we
found it shut."
 
"And could not you open it?" said Manfred.
 
"Oh! yes, my Lord; would to Heaven we had not!" replied he - "nay, it
was not I neither; it was Diego: he was grown foolhardy, and would go
on, though I advised him not - if ever I open a door that is shut
again - "
 
"Trifle not," said Manfred, shuddering, "but tell me what you saw in
the great chamber on opening the door."
 
"I! my Lord!" said Jaquez; "I was behind Diego; but I heard the
noise."
 
"Jaquez," said Manfred, in a solemn tone of voice; "tell me, I adjure
thee by the souls of my ancestors, what was it thou sawest? what was
it thou heardest?"
 
"It was Diego saw it, my Lord, it was not I," replied Jaquez; "I only
heard the noise. Diego had no sooner opened the door, than he cried
out, and ran back. I ran back too, and said, 'Is it the ghost?'  'The
ghost! no, no,' said Diego, and his hair stood on end - 'it is a
giant, I believe; he is all clad in armour, for I saw his foot and
part of his leg, and they are as large as the helmet below in the
court.'  As he said these words, my Lord, we heard a violent motion
and the rattling of armour, as if the giant was rising, for Diego has
told me since that he believes the giant was lying down, for the foot
and leg were stretched at length on the floor. Before we could get to
the end of the gallery, we heard the door of the great chamber clap
behind us, but we did not dare turn back to see if the giant was
following us - yet, now I think on it, we must have heard him if he
had pursued us - but for Heaven's sake, good my Lord, send for the
chaplain, and have the castle exorcised, for, for certain, it is
enchanted."
 
"Ay, pray do, my Lord," cried all the servants at once, "or we must
leave your Highness's service."
 
"Peace, dotards!" said Manfred, "and follow me; I will know what all
this means."
 
"We! my Lord!" cried they with one voice; "we would not go up to the
gallery for your Highness's revenue."  The young peasant, who had
stood silent, now spoke.
 
"Will your Highness," said he, "permit me to try this adventure? My
life is of consequence to nobody; I fear no bad angel, and have
offended no good one."
 
"Your behaviour is above your seeming," said Manfred, viewing him with
surprise and admiration - "hereafter I will reward your bravery - but
now," continued he with a sigh, "I am so circumstanced, that I dare
trust no eyes but my own. However, I give you leave to accompany me."
 
Manfred, when he first followed Isabella from the gallery, had gone
directly to the apartment of his wife, concluding the Princess had
retired thither. Hippolita, who knew his step, rose with anxious
fondness to meet her Lord, whom she had not seen since the death of
their son. She would have flown in a transport mixed of joy and grief
to his bosom, but he pushed her rudely off, and said -
 
"Where is Isabella?"
 
"Isabella! my Lord!" said the astonished Hippolita.
 
"Yes, Isabella," cried Manfred imperiously; "I want Isabella."
 
"My Lord," replied Matilda, who perceived how much his behaviour had
shocked her mother, "she has not been with us since your Highness
summoned her to your apartment."
 
"Tell me where she is," said the Prince; "I do not want to know where
she has been."
 
"My good Lord," says Hippolita, "your daughter tells you the truth:
Isabella left us by your command, and has not returned since; - but,
my good Lord, compose yourself: retire to your rest: this dismal day
has disordered you. Isabella shall wait your orders in the morning."
 
"What, then, you know where she is!" cried Manfred. "Tell me
directly, for I will not lose an instant - and you, woman," speaking
to his wife, "order your chaplain to attend me forthwith."
 
"Isabella," said Hippolita calmly, "is retired, I suppose, to her
chamber: she is not accustomed to watch at this late hour. Gracious
my Lord," continued she, "let me know what has disturbed you. Has
Isabella offended you?"
 
"Trouble me not with questions," said Manfred, "but tell me where she
is."
 
"Matilda shall call her," said the Princess. "Sit down, my Lord, and
resume your wonted fortitude."
 
"What, art thou jealous of Isabella?" replied he, "that you wish to be
present at our interview!"
 
"Good heavens! my Lord," said Hippolita, "what is it your Highness
means?"
 
"Thou wilt know ere many minutes are passed," said the cruel Prince.
"Send your chaplain to me, and wait my pleasure here."
 
At these words he flung out of the room in search of Isabella, leaving
the amazed ladies thunderstruck with his words and frantic deportment,
and lost in vain conjectures on what he was meditating.
 
Manfred was now returning from the vault, attended by the peasant and
a few of his servants whom he had obliged to accompany him. He
ascended the staircase without stopping till he arrived at the
gallery, at the door of which he met Hippolita and her chaplain. When
Diego had been dismissed by Manfred, he had gone directly to the
Princess's apartment with the alarm of what he had seen. That
excellent Lady, who no more than Manfred doubted of the reality of the
vision, yet affected to treat it as a delirium of the servant.
Willing, however, to save her Lord from any additional shock, and
prepared by a series of griefs not to tremble at any accession to it,
she determined to make herself the first sacrifice, if fate had marked
the present hour for their destruction. Dismissing the reluctant
Matilda to her rest, who in vain sued for leave to accompany her
mother, and attended only by her chaplain, Hippolita had visited the
gallery and great chamber; and now with more serenity of soul than she
had felt for many hours, she met her Lord, and assured him that the
vision of the gigantic leg and foot was all a fable; and no doubt an
impression made by fear, and the dark and dismal hour of the night, on
the minds of his servants. She and the chaplain had examined the
chamber, and found everything in the usual order.
 
Manfred, though persuaded, like his wife, that the vision had been no
work of fancy, recovered a little from the tempest of mind into which
so many strange events had thrown him. Ashamed, too, of his inhuman
treatment of a Princess who returned every injury with new marks of
tenderness and duty, he felt returning love forcing itself into his
eyes; but not less ashamed of feeling remorse towards one against whom
he was inwardly meditating a yet more bitter outrage, he curbed the
yearnings of his heart, and did not dare to lean even towards pity.
The next transition of his soul was to exquisite villainy.
 
Presuming on the unshaken submission of Hippolita, he flattered
himself that she would not only acquiesce with patience to a divorce,
but would obey, if it was his pleasure, in endeavouring to persuade
Isabella to give him her hand - but ere he could indulge his horrid
hope, he reflected that Isabella was not to be found. Coming to
himself, he gave orders that every avenue to the castle should be
strictly guarded, and charged his domestics on pain of their lives to
suffer nobody to pass out. The young peasant, to whom he spoke
favourably, he ordered to remain in a small chamber on the stairs, in
which there was a pallet-bed, and the key of which he took away
himself, telling the youth he would talk with him in the morning.
Then dismissing his attendants, and bestowing a sullen kind of half-
nod on Hippolita, he retired to his own chamber.
 
CHAPTER II.
 
MATILDA, who by Hippolita's order had retired to her apartment, was
ill-disposed to take any rest. The shocking fate of her brother had
deeply affected her. She was surprised at not seeing Isabella; but
the strange words which had fallen from her father, and his obscure
menace to the Princess his wife, accompanied by the most furious
behaviour, had filled her gentle mind with terror and alarm. She
waited anxiously for the return of Bianca, a young damsel that
attended her, whom she had sent to learn what was become of Isabella.
Bianca soon appeared, and informed her mistress of what she had
gathered from the servants, that Isabella was nowhere to be found.
She related the adventure of the young peasant who had been discovered
in the vault, though with many simple additions from the incoherent
accounts of the domestics; and she dwelt principally on the gigantic
leg and foot which had been seen in the gallery-chamber. This last
circumstance had terrified Bianca so much, that she was rejoiced when
Matilda told her that she would not go to rest, but would watch till
the Princess should rise.
 
The young Princess wearied herself in conjectures on the flight of
Isabella, and on the threats of Manfred to her mother. "But what
business could he have so urgent with the chaplain?" said Matilda,
"Does he intend to have my brother's body interred privately in the
chapel?"
 
"Oh, Madam!" said Bianca, "now I guess. As you are become his
heiress, he is impatient to have you married: he has always been
raving for more sons; I warrant he is now impatient for grandsons. As
sure as I live, Madam, I shall see you a bride at last. - Good madam,
you won't cast off your faithful Bianca: you won't put Donna Rosara
over me now you are a great Princess."
 
"My poor Bianca," said Matilda, "how fast your thoughts amble! I a
great princess! What hast thou seen in Manfred's behaviour since my
brother's death that bespeaks any increase of tenderness to me? No,
Bianca; his heart was ever a stranger to me - but he is my father, and
I must not complain. Nay, if Heaven shuts my father's heart against
me, it overpays my little merit in the tenderness of my mother - O
that dear mother! yes, Bianca, 'tis there I feel the rugged temper of
Manfred. I can support his harshness to me with patience; but it
wounds my soul when I am witness to his causeless severity towards
her."
 
"Oh! Madam," said Bianca, "all men use their wives so, when they are
weary of them."
 
"And yet you congratulated me but now," said Matilda, "when you
fancied my father intended to dispose of me!"
 
"I would have you a great Lady," replied Bianca, "come what will. I
do not wish to see you moped in a convent, as you would be if you had
your will, and if my Lady, your mother, who knows that a bad husband
is better than no husband at all, did not hinder you. - Bless me! what
noise is that! St. Nicholas forgive me! I was but in jest."
 
"It is the wind," said Matilda, "whistling through the battlements in
the tower above: you have heard it a thousand times."
 
"Nay," said Bianca, "there was no harm neither in what I said: it is
no sin to talk of matrimony - and so, Madam, as I was saying, if my
Lord Manfred should offer you a handsome young Prince for a
bridegroom, you would drop him a curtsey, and tell him you would
rather take the veil?"
 
"Thank Heaven! I am in no such danger," said Matilda: "you know how
many proposals for me he has rejected - "
 
"And you thank him, like a dutiful daughter, do you, Madam? But come,
Madam; suppose, to-morrow morning, he was to send for you to the great
council chamber, and there you should find at his elbow a lovely young
Prince, with large black eyes, a smooth white forehead, and manly
curling locks like jet; in short, Madam, a young hero resembling the
picture of the good Alfonso in the gallery, which you sit and gaze at
for hours together - "
 
"Do not speak lightly of that picture," interrupted Matilda sighing;
"I know the adoration with which I look at that picture is uncommon -
but I am not in love with a coloured panel. The character of that
virtuous Prince, the veneration with which my mother has inspired me
for his memory, the orisons which, I know not why, she has enjoined me
to pour forth at his tomb, all have concurred to persuade me that
somehow or other my destiny is linked with something relating to him."
 
"Lord, Madam! how should that be?" said Bianca; "I have always heard
that your family was in no way related to his: and I am sure I cannot
conceive why my Lady, the Princess, sends you in a cold morning or a
damp evening to pray at his tomb: he is no saint by the almanack. If
you must pray, why does she not bid you address yourself to our great
St. Nicholas? I am sure he is the saint I pray to for a husband."
 
"Perhaps my mind would be less affected," said Matilda, "if my mother
would explain her reasons to me: but it is the mystery she observes,
that inspires me with this - I know not what to call it. As she never
acts from caprice, I am sure there is some fatal secret at bottom -
nay, I know there is: in her agony of grief for my brother's death
she dropped some words that intimated as much."
 
"Oh! dear Madam," cried Bianca, "what were they?"
 
"No," said Matilda, "if a parent lets fall a word, and wishes it
recalled, it is not for a child to utter it."
 
"What! was she sorry for what she had said?" asked Bianca; "I am sure,
Madam, you may trust me - "
 
"With my own little secrets when I have any, I may," said Matilda;
"but never with my mother's: a child ought to have no ears or eyes
but as a parent directs."
 
"Well! to be sure, Madam, you were born to be a saint," said Bianca,
"and there is no resisting one's vocation: you will end in a convent
at last. But there is my Lady Isabella would not be so reserved to
me: she will let me talk to her of young men: and when a handsome
cavalier has come to the castle, she has owned to me that she wished
your brother Conrad resembled him."
 
"Bianca," said the Princess, "I do not allow you to mention my friend
disrespectfully. Isabella is of a cheerful disposition, but her soul
is pure as virtue itself. She knows your idle babbling humour, and
perhaps has now and then encouraged it, to divert melancholy, and
enliven the solitude in which my father keeps us - "
 
"Blessed Mary!" said Bianca, starting, "there it is again! Dear
Madam, do you hear nothing? this castle is certainly haunted!"
 
"Peace!" said Matilda, "and listen! I did think I heard a voice - but
it must be fancy: your terrors, I suppose, have infected me."
 
"Indeed! indeed! Madam," said Bianca, half-weeping with agony, "I am
sure I heard a voice."
 
"Does anybody lie in the chamber beneath?" said the Princess.
 
"Nobody has dared to lie there," answered Bianca, "since the great
astrologer, that was your brother's tutor, drowned himself. For
certain, Madam, his ghost and the young Prince's are now met in the
chamber below - for Heaven's sake let us fly to your mother's
apartment!"
 
"I charge you not to stir," said Matilda. "If they are spirits in
pain, we may ease their sufferings by questioning them. They can mean
no hurt to us, for we have not injured them - and if they should,
shall we be more safe in one chamber than in another? Reach me my
beads; we will say a prayer, and then speak to them."
 
"Oh! dear Lady, I would not speak to a ghost for the world!" cried
Bianca. As she said those words they heard the casement of the little
chamber below Matilda's open. They listened attentively, and in a few
minutes thought they heard a person sing, but could not distinguish
the words.
 
"This can be no evil spirit," said the Princess, in a low voice; "it
is undoubtedly one of the family - open the window, and we shall know
the voice."
 
"I dare not, indeed, Madam," said Bianca.
 
"Thou art a very fool," said Matilda, opening the window gently
herself. The noise the Princess made was, however, heard by the
person beneath, who stopped; and they concluded had heard the casement
open.
 
"Is anybody below?" said the Princess; "if there is, speak."
 
"Yes," said an unknown voice.
 
"Who is it?" said Matilda.
 
"A stranger," replied the voice.
 
"What stranger?" said she; "and how didst thou come there at this
unusual hour, when all the gates of the castle are locked?"
 
"I am not here willingly," answered the voice. "But pardon me, Lady,
if I have disturbed your rest; I knew not that I was overheard. Sleep
had forsaken me; I left a restless couch, and came to waste the
irksome hours with gazing on the fair approach of morning, impatient
to be dismissed from this castle."
 
"Thy words and accents," said Matilda, "are of melancholy cast; if
thou art unhappy, I pity thee. If poverty afflicts thee, let me know
it; I will mention thee to the Princess, whose beneficent soul ever
melts for the distressed, and she will relieve thee."
 
"I am indeed unhappy," said the stranger; "and I know not what wealth
is. But I do not complain of the lot which Heaven has cast for me; I
am young and healthy, and am not ashamed of owing my support to myself
- yet think me not proud, or that I disdain your generous offers. I
will remember you in my orisons, and will pray for blessings on your
gracious self and your noble mistress - if I sigh, Lady, it is for
others, not for myself."
 
"Now I have it, Madam," said Bianca, whispering the Princess; "this is
certainly the young peasant; and, by my conscience, he is in love -
Well! this is a charming adventure! - do, Madam, let us sift him. He
does not know you, but takes you for one of my Lady Hippolita's
women."
 
"Art thou not ashamed, Bianca!" said the Princess.  "What right have
we to pry into the secrets of this young man's heart? He seems
virtuous and frank, and tells us he is unhappy. Are those
circumstances that authorise us to make a property of him? How are we
entitled to his confidence?"
 
"Lord, Madam! how little you know of love!" replied Bianca; "why,
lovers have no pleasure equal to talking of their mistress."
 
"And would you have ME become a peasant's confidante?" said the
Princess.
 
"Well, then, let me talk to him," said Bianca; "though I have the
honour of being your Highness's maid of honour, I was not always so
great. Besides, if love levels ranks, it raises them too; I have a
respect for any young man in love."
 
"Peace, simpleton!" said the Princess. "Though he said he was
unhappy, it does not follow that he must be in love. Think of all
that has happened to-day, and tell me if there are no misfortunes but
what love causes. - Stranger," resumed the Princess, "if thy
misfortunes have not been occasioned by thy own fault, and are within
the compass of the Princess Hippolita's power to redress, I will take
upon me to answer that she will be thy protectress. When thou art
dismissed from this castle, repair to holy father Jerome, at the
convent adjoining to the church of St. Nicholas, and make thy story
known to him, as far as thou thinkest meet. He will not fail to
inform the Princess, who is the mother of all that want her
assistance. Farewell; it is not seemly for me to hold farther
converse with a man at this unwonted hour."
 
"May the saints guard thee, gracious Lady!" replied the peasant; "but
oh! if a poor and worthless stranger might presume to beg a minute's
audience farther; am I so happy? the casement is not shut; might I
venture to ask - "
 
"Speak quickly," said Matilda; "the morning dawns apace: should the
labourers come into the fields and perceive us - What wouldst thou
ask?"
 
"I know not how, I know not if I dare," said the Young stranger,
faltering; "yet the humanity with which you have spoken to me
emboldens - Lady! dare I trust you?"
 
"Heavens!" said Matilda, "what dost thou mean? With what wouldst thou
trust me? Speak boldly, if thy secret is fit to be entrusted to a
virtuous breast."
 
"I would ask," said the peasant, recollecting himself, "whether what I
have heard from the domestics is true, that the Princess is missing
from the castle?"
 
"What imports it to thee to know?" replied Matilda. "Thy first words
bespoke a prudent and becoming gravity. Dost thou come hither to pry
into the secrets of Manfred? Adieu. I have been mistaken in thee."  
Saying these words she shut the casement hastily, without giving the
young man time to reply.
 
"I had acted more wisely," said the Princess to Bianca, with some
sharpness, "if I had let thee converse with this peasant; his
inquisitiveness seems of a piece with thy own."
 
"It is not fit for me to argue with your Highness," replied Bianca;
"but perhaps the questions I should have put to him would have been
more to the purpose than those you have been pleased to ask him."
 
"Oh! no doubt," said Matilda; "you are a very discreet personage! May
I know what YOU would have asked him?"
 
"A bystander often sees more of the game than those that play,"
answered Bianca. "Does your Highness think, Madam, that this question
about my Lady Isabella was the result of mere curiosity? No, no,
Madam, there is more in it than you great folks are aware of. Lopez
told me that all the servants believe this young fellow contrived my
Lady Isabella's escape; now, pray, Madam, observe you and I both know
that my Lady Isabella never much fancied the Prince your brother.
Well! he is killed just in a critical minute - I accuse nobody. A
helmet falls from the moon - so, my Lord, your father says; but Lopez
and all the servants say that this young spark is a magician, and
stole it from Alfonso's tomb - "
 
"Have done with this rhapsody of impertinence," said Matilda.
 
"Nay, Madam, as you please," cried Bianca; "yet it is very particular
though, that my Lady Isabella should be missing the very same day, and
that this young sorcerer should be found at the mouth of the trap-
door. I accuse nobody; but if my young Lord came honestly by his
death - "
 
"Dare not on thy duty," said Matilda, "to breathe a suspicion on the
purity of my dear Isabella's fame."
 
"Purity, or not purity," said Bianca, "gone she is - a stranger is
found that nobody knows; you question him yourself; he tells you he is
in love, or unhappy, it is the same thing - nay, he owned he was
unhappy about others; and is anybody unhappy about another, unless
they are in love with them? and at the very next word, he asks
innocently, pour soul! if my Lady Isabella is missing."
 
"To be sure," said Matilda, "thy observations are not totally without
foundation - Isabella's flight amazes me. The curiosity of the
stranger is very particular; yet Isabella never concealed a thought
from me."
 
"So she told you," said Bianca, "to fish out your secrets; but who
knows, Madam, but this stranger may be some Prince in disguise? Do,
Madam, let me open the window, and ask him a few questions."
 
"No," replied Matilda, "I will ask him myself, if he knows aught of
Isabella; he is not worthy I should converse farther with him."  She
was going to open the casement, when they heard the bell ring at the
postern-gate of the castle, which is on the right hand of the tower,
where Matilda lay. This prevented the Princess from renewing the
conversation with the stranger.
 
After continuing silent for some time, "I am persuaded," said she to
Bianca, "that whatever be the cause of Isabella's flight it had no
unworthy motive. If this stranger was accessory to it, she must be
satisfied with his fidelity and worth. I observed, did not you,
Bianca? that his words were tinctured with an uncommon infusion of
piety. It was no ruffian's speech; his phrases were becoming a man of
gentle birth."
 
"I told you, Madam," said Bianca, "that I was sure he was some Prince
in disguise."
 
"Yet," said Matilda, "if he was privy to her escape, how will you
account for his not accompanying her in her flight? why expose himself
unnecessarily and rashly to my father's resentment?"
 
"As for that, Madam," replied she, "if he could get from under the
helmet, he will find ways of eluding your father's anger. I do not
doubt but he has some talisman or other about him."
 
"You resolve everything into magic," said Matilda; "but a man who has
any intercourse with infernal spirits, does not dare to make use of
those tremendous and holy words which he uttered. Didst thou not
observe with what fervour he vowed to remember ME to heaven in his
prayers? Yes; Isabella was undoubtedly convinced of his piety."
 
"Commend me to the piety of a young fellow and a damsel that consult
to elope!" said Bianca. "No, no, Madam, my Lady Isabella is of
another guess mould than you take her for. She used indeed to sigh
and lift up her eyes in your company, because she knows you are a
saint; but when your back was turned - "
 
"You wrong her," said Matilda; "Isabella is no hypocrite; she has a
due sense of devotion, but never affected a call she has not. On the
contrary, she always combated my inclination for the cloister; and
though I own the mystery she has made to me of her flight confounds
me; though it seems inconsistent with the friendship between us; I
cannot forget the disinterested warmth with which she always opposed
my taking the veil. She wished to see me married, though my dower
would have been a loss to her and my brother's children. For her sake
I will believe well of this young peasant."
 
"Then you do think there is some liking between them," said Bianca.
While she was speaking, a servant came hastily into the chamber and
told the Princess that the Lady Isabella was found.
 
"Where?" said Matilda.
 
"She has taken sanctuary in St. Nicholas's church," replied the
servant; "Father Jerome has brought the news himself; he is below with
his Highness."
 
"Where is my mother?" said Matilda.
 
"She is in her own chamber, Madam, and has asked for you."
 
Manfred had risen at the first dawn of light, and gone to Hippolita's
apartment, to inquire if she knew aught of Isabella. While he was
questioning her, word was brought that Jerome demanded to speak with
him. Manfred, little suspecting the cause of the Friar's arrival, and
knowing he was employed by Hippolita in her charities, ordered him to
be admitted, intending to leave them together, while he pursued his
search after Isabella.
 
"Is your business with me or the Princess?" said Manfred.
 
"With both," replied the holy man. "The Lady Isabella - "
 
"What of her?" interrupted Manfred, eagerly.
 
"Is at St. Nicholas's altar," replied Jerome.
 
"That is no business of Hippolita," said Manfred with confusion; "let
us retire to my chamber, Father, and inform me how she came thither."
 
"No, my Lord," replied the good man, with an air of firmness and
authority, that daunted even the resolute Manfred, who could not help
revering the saint-like virtues of Jerome; "my commission is to both,
and with your Highness's good-liking, in the presence of both I shall
deliver it; but first, my Lord, I must interrogate the Princess,
whether she is acquainted with the cause of the Lady Isabella's
retirement from your castle."
 
"No, on my soul," said Hippolita; "does Isabella charge me with being
privy to it?"
 
"Father,"  interrupted Manfred, "I pay due reverence to your holy
profession; but I am sovereign here, and will allow no meddling priest
to interfere in the affairs of my domestic. If you have aught to say
attend me to my chamber; I do not use to let my wife be acquainted
with the secret affairs of my state; they are not within a woman's
province."
 
"My Lord," said the holy man, "I am no intruder into the secrets of
families. My office is to promote peace, to heal divisions, to preach
repentance, and teach mankind to curb their headstrong passions. I
forgive your Highness's uncharitable apostrophe; I know my duty, and
am the minister of a mightier prince than Manfred. Hearken to him who
speaks through my organs."
 
Manfred trembled with rage and shame. Hippolita's countenance
declared her astonishment and impatience to know where this would end.
Her silence more strongly spoke her observance of Manfred.
 
"The Lady Isabella," resumed Jerome, "commends herself to both your
Highnesses; she thanks both for the kindness with which she has been
treated in your castle: she deplores the loss of your son, and her
own misfortune in not becoming the daughter of such wise and noble
Princes, whom she shall always respect as Parents; she prays for
uninterrupted union and felicity between you" [Manfred's colour
changed]: "but as it is no longer possible for her to be allied to
you, she entreats your consent to remain in sanctuary, till she can
learn news of her father, or, by the certainty of his death, be at
liberty, with the approbation of her guardians, to dispose of herself
in suitable marriage."
 
"I shall give no such consent," said the Prince, "but insist on her
return to the castle without delay: I am answerable for her person to
her guardians, and will not brook her being in any hands but my own."
 
"Your Highness will recollect whether that can any longer be proper,"
replied the Friar.
 
"I want no monitor," said Manfred, colouring; "Isabella's conduct
leaves room for strange suspicions - and that young villain, who was
at least the accomplice of her flight, if not the cause of it - "
 
"The cause!" interrupted Jerome; "was a YOUNG man the cause?"
 
"This is not to be borne!" cried Manfred. "Am I to be bearded in my
own palace by an insolent Monk? Thou art privy, I guess, to their
amours."
 
"I would pray to heaven to clear up your uncharitable surmises," said
Jerome, "if your Highness were not satisfied in your conscience how
unjustly you accuse me. I do pray to heaven to pardon that
uncharitableness: and I implore your Highness to leave the Princess
at peace in that holy place, where she is not liable to be disturbed
by such vain and worldly fantasies as discourses of love from any
man."
 
"Cant not to me," said Manfred, "but return and bring the Princess to
her duty."
 
"It is my duty to prevent her return hither," said Jerome. "She is
where orphans and virgins are safest from the snares and wiles of this
world; and nothing but a parent's authority shall take her thence."
 
"I am her parent," cried Manfred, "and demand her."
 
"She wished to have you for her parent," said the Friar; "but Heaven
that forbad that connection has for ever dissolved all ties betwixt
you: and I announce to your Highness - "
 
"Stop! audacious man," said Manfred, "and dread my displeasure."
 
"Holy farther," said Hippolita, "it is your office to be no respecter
of persons: you must speak as your duty prescribes: but it is my
duty to hear nothing that it pleases not my Lord I should hear.
Attend the Prince to his chamber. I will retire to my oratory, and
pray to the blessed Virgin to inspire you with her holy counsels, and
to restore the heart of my gracious Lord to its wonted peace and
gentleness."
 
"Excellent woman!" said the Friar. "My Lord, I attend your pleasure."
 
Manfred, accompanied by the Friar, passed to his own apartment, where
shutting the door, "I perceive, Father," said he, "that Isabella has
acquainted you with my purpose. Now hear my resolve, and obey.
Reasons of state, most urgent reasons, my own and the safety of my
people, demand that I should have a son. It is in vain to expect an
heir from Hippolita. I have made choice of Isabella. You must bring
her back; and you must do more. I know the influence you have with
Hippolita: her conscience is in your hands. She is, I allow, a
faultless woman: her soul is set on heaven, and scorns the little
grandeur of this world: you can withdraw her from it entirely.
Persuade her to consent to the dissolution of our marriage, and to
retire into a monastery - she shall endow one if she will; and she
shall have the means of being as liberal to your order as she or you
can wish. Thus you will divert the calamities that are hanging over
our heads, and have the merit of saying the principality of Otranto
from destruction. You are a prudent man, and though the warmth of my
temper betrayed me into some unbecoming expressions, I honour your
virtue, and wish to be indebted to you for the repose of my life and
the preservation of my family."
 
"The will of heaven be done!" said the Friar. "I am but its worthless
instrument. It makes use of my tongue to tell thee, Prince, of thy
unwarrantable designs. The injuries of the virtuous Hippolita have
mounted to the throne of pity. By me thou art reprimanded for thy
adulterous intention of repudiating her: by me thou art warned not to
pursue the incestuous design on thy contracted daughter. Heaven that
delivered her from thy fury, when the judgments so recently fallen on
thy house ought to have inspired thee with other thoughts, will
continue to watch over her. Even I, a poor and despised Friar, am
able to protect her from thy violence - I, sinner as I am, and
uncharitably reviled by your Highness as an accomplice of I know not
what amours, scorn the allurements with which it has pleased thee to
tempt mine honesty. I love my order; I honour devout souls; I respect
the piety of thy Princess - but I will not betray the confidence she
reposes in me, nor serve even the cause of religion by foul and sinful
compliances - but forsooth! the welfare of the state depends on your
Highness having a son! Heaven mocks the short-sighted views of man.
But yester-morn, whose house was so great, so flourishing as
Manfred's? - where is young Conrad now? - My Lord, I respect your
tears - but I mean not to check them - let them flow, Prince! They
will weigh more with heaven toward the welfare of thy subjects, than a
marriage, which, founded on lust or policy, could never prosper. The
sceptre, which passed from the race of Alfonso to thine, cannot be
preserved by a match which the church will never allow. If it is the
will of the Most High that Manfred's name must perish, resign
yourself, my Lord, to its decrees; and thus deserve a crown that can
never pass away. Come, my Lord; I like this sorrow - let us return to
the Princess: she is not apprised of your cruel intentions; nor did I
mean more than to alarm you. You saw with what gentle patience, with
what efforts of love, she heard, she rejected hearing, the extent of
your guilt. I know she longs to fold you in her arms, and assure you
of her unalterable affection."
 
"Father," said the Prince, "you mistake my compunction: true, I
honour Hippolita's virtues; I think her a Saint; and wish it were for
my soul's health to tie faster the knot that has united us - but alas!
Father, you know not the bitterest of my pangs! it is some time that I
have had scruples on the legality of our union: Hippolita is related
to me in the fourth degree - it is true, we had a dispensation: but I
have been informed that she had also been contracted to another. This
it is that sits heavy at my heart: to this state of unlawful wedlock
I impute the visitation that has fallen on me in the death of Conrad!
- ease my conscience of this burden: dissolve our marriage, and
accomplish the work of godliness - which your divine exhortations have
commenced in my soul."
 
How cutting was the anguish which the good man felt, when he perceived
this turn in the wily Prince! He trembled for Hippolita, whose ruin
he saw was determined; and he feared if Manfred had no hope of
recovering Isabella, that his impatience for a son would direct him to
some other object, who might not be equally proof against the
temptation of Manfred's rank. For some time the holy man remained
absorbed in thought. At length, conceiving some hopes from delay, he
thought the wisest conduct would be to prevent the Prince from
despairing of recovering Isabella. Her the Friar knew he could
dispose, from her affection to Hippolita, and from the aversion she
had expressed to him for Manfred's addresses, to second his views,
till the censures of the church could be fulminated against a divorce.
With this intention, as if struck with the Prince's scruples, he at
length said:
 
"My Lord, I have been pondering on what your Highness has said; and if
in truth it is delicacy of conscience that is the real motive of your
repugnance to your virtuous Lady, far be it from me to endeavour to
harden your heart. The church is an indulgent mother: unfold your
griefs to her: she alone can administer comfort to your soul, either
by satisfying your conscience, or upon examination of your scruples,
by setting you at liberty, and indulging you in the lawful means of
continuing your lineage. In the latter case, if the Lady Isabella can
be brought to consent - "
 
Manfred, who concluded that he had either over-reached the good man,
or that his first warmth had been but a tribute paid to appearance,
was overjoyed at this sudden turn, and repeated the most magnificent
promises, if he should succeed by the Friar's mediation. The well-
meaning priest suffered him to deceive himself, fully determined to
traverse his views, instead of seconding them.
 
"Since we now understand one another," resumed the Prince, "I expect,
Father, that you satisfy me in one point. Who is the youth that I
found in the vault? He must have been privy to Isabella's flight:
tell me truly, is he her lover? or is he an agent for another's
passion? I have often suspected Isabella's indifference to my son: a
thousand circumstances crowd on my mind that confirm that suspicion.
She herself was so conscious of it, that while I discoursed her in the
gallery, she outran my suspicious, and endeavoured to justify herself
from coolness to Conrad."
 
The Friar, who knew nothing of the youth, but what he had learnt
occasionally from the Princess, ignorant what was become of him, and
not sufficiently reflecting on the impetuosity of Manfred's temper,
conceived that it might not be amiss to sow the seeds of jealousy in
his mind: they might be turned to some use hereafter, either by
prejudicing the Prince against Isabella, if he persisted in that union
or by diverting his attention to a wrong scent, and employing his
thoughts on a visionary intrigue, prevent his engaging in any new
pursuit. With this unhappy policy, he answered in a manner to confirm
Manfred in the belief of some connection between Isabella and the
youth. The Prince, whose passions wanted little fuel to throw them
into a blaze, fell into a rage at the idea of what the Friar
suggested.
 
"I will fathom to the bottom of this intrigue," cried he; and
quitting Jerome abruptly, with a command to remain there till his
return, he hastened to the great hall of the castle, and ordered the
peasant to be brought before him.
 
"Thou hardened young impostor!" said the Prince, as soon as he saw the
youth; "what becomes of thy boasted veracity now? it was Providence,
was it, and the light of the moon, that discovered the lock of the
trap-door to thee? Tell me, audacious boy, who thou art, and how long
thou hast been acquainted with the Princess - and take care to answer
with less equivocation than thou didst last night, or tortures shall
wring the truth from thee."
 
The young man, perceiving that his share in the flight of the Princess
was discovered, and concluding that anything he should say could no
longer be of any service or detriment to her, replied -
 
"I am no impostor, my Lord, nor have I deserved opprobrious language.
I answered to every question your Highness put to me last night with
the same veracity that I shall speak now: and that will not be from
fear of your tortures, but because my soul abhors a falsehood. Please
to repeat your questions, my Lord; I am ready to give you all the
satisfaction in my power."
 
"You know my questions," replied the Prince, "and only want time to
prepare an evasion. Speak directly; who art thou? and how long hast
thou been known to the Princess?"
 
"I am a labourer at the next village," said the peasant; "my name is
Theodore. The Princess found me in the vault last night: before that
hour I never was in her presence."

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