Friday, November 9, 2007



Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
Nocturnos lemures, portentaque.
Dreams, magic terrors, spells of mighty power,
Witches, and ghosts who rove at midnight hour.
Ep. 20.--B. 1.
Methinks, Oh! vain ill-judging Book,
I see thee cast a wishful look,
Where reputations won and lost are
In famous row called Paternoster.
Incensed to find your precious olio
Buried in unexplored port-folio,
You scorn the prudent lock and key,
And pant well bound and gilt to see
Your Volume in the window set
Of Stockdale, Hookham, or Debrett.
Go then, and pass that dangerous bourn
Whence never Book can back return:
And when you find, condemned, despised,
Neglected, blamed, and criticised,
Abuse from All who read you fall,
(If haply you be read at all
Sorely will you your folly sigh at,
And wish for me, and home, and quiet.
Assuming now a conjuror's office, I
Thus on your future Fortune prophesy:--
Soon as your novelty is o'er,
And you are young and new no more,
In some dark dirty corner thrown,
Mouldy with damps, with cobwebs strown,
Your leaves shall be the Book-worm's prey;
Or sent to Chandler-Shop away,
And doomed to suffer public scandal,
Shall line the trunk, or wrap the candle!
But should you meet with approbation,
And some one find an inclination
To ask, by natural transition
Respecting me and my condition;
That I am one, the enquirer teach,
Nor very poor, nor very rich;
Of passions strong, of hasty nature,
Of graceless form and dwarfish stature;
By few approved, and few approving;
Extreme in hating and in loving;
Abhorring all whom I dislike,
Adoring who my fancy strike;
In forming judgements never long,
And for the most part judging wrong;
In friendship firm, but still believing
Others are treacherous and deceiving,
And thinking in the present aera
That Friendship is a pure chimaera:
More passionate no creature living,
Proud, obstinate, and unforgiving,
But yet for those who kindness show,
Ready through fire and smoke to go.
Again, should it be asked your page,
'Pray, what may be the author's age?'
Your faults, no doubt, will make it clear,
I scarce have seen my twentieth year,
Which passed, kind Reader, on my word,
While England's Throne held George the Third.
Now then your venturous course pursue:
Go, my delight! Dear Book, adieu!
Oct. 28, 1794. M. G. L.
The first idea of this Romance was suggested by the story of the
Santon Barsisa, related in The Guardian.--The Bleeding Nun is a
tradition still credited in many parts of Germany; and I have
been told that the ruins of the Castle of Lauenstein, which She
is supposed to haunt, may yet be seen upon the borders of
Thuringia.--The Water-King, from the third to the twelfth stanza,
is the fragment of an original Danish Ballad--And Belerma and
Durandarte is translated from some stanzas to be found in a
collection of old Spanish poetry, which contains also the popular
song of Gayferos and Melesindra, mentioned in Don Quixote.--I
have now made a full avowal of all the plagiarisms of which I am
aware myself; but I doubt not, many more may be found, of which I
am at present totally unconscious.
----Lord Angelo is precise;
Stands at a guard with envy; Scarce confesses
That his blood flows, or that his appetite
Is more to bread than stone.
Measure for Measure.
Scarcely had the Abbey Bell tolled for five minutes,and already
was the Church of the Capuchins thronged with Auditors. Do not
encourage the idea that the Crowd was assembled either from
motives of piety or thirst of information. But very few were
influenced by those reasons; and in a city where superstition
reigns with such despotic sway as in Madrid, to seek for true
devotion would be a fruitless attempt. The Audience now
assembled in the Capuchin Church was collected by various causes,
but all of them were foreign to the ostensible motive. The Women
came to show themselves, the Men to see the Women: Some were
attracted by curiosity to hear an Orator so celebrated; Some came
because they had no better means of employing their time till the
play began; Some, from being assured that it would be impossible
to find places in the Church; and one half of Madrid was brought
thither by expecting to meet the other half. The only persons
truly anxious to hear the Preacher were a few antiquated
devotees, and half a dozen rival Orators, determined to find
fault with and ridicule the discourse. As to the remainder of
the Audience, the Sermon might have been omitted altogether,
certainly without their being disappointed, and very probably
without their perceiving the omission.
Whatever was the occasion, it is at least certain that the
Capuchin Church had never witnessed a more numerous assembly.
Every corner was filled, every seat was occupied. The very
Statues which ornamented the long aisles were pressed into the
service. Boys suspended themselves upon the wings of Cherubims;
St. Francis and St. Mark bore each a spectator on his shoulders;
and St. Agatha found herself under the necessity of carrying
double. The consequence was, that in spite of all their hurry
and expedition, our two newcomers, on entering the Church, looked
round in vain for places.
However, the old Woman continued to move forwards. In vain were
exclamations of displeasure vented against her from all sides:
In vain was She addressed with--'I assure you, Segnora, there are
no places here.'-- 'I beg, Segnora, that you will not crowd me so
intolerably!'--'Segnora, you cannot pass this way. Bless me!
How can people be so troublesome!'--The old Woman was obstinate,
and on She went. By dint of perseverance and two brawny arms She
made a passage through the Crowd, and managed to bustle herself
into the very body of the Church, at no great distance from the
Pulpit. Her companion had followed her with timidity and in
silence, profiting by the exertions of her conductress.
'Holy Virgin!' exclaimed the old Woman in a tone of
disappointment, while She threw a glance of enquiry round her;
'Holy Virgin! What heat! What a Crowd! I wonder what can be the
meaning of all this. I believe we must return: There is no such
thing as a seat to be had, and nobody seems kind enough to
accommodate us with theirs.'
This broad hint attracted the notice of two Cavaliers, who
occupied stools on the right hand, and were leaning their backs
against the seventh column from the Pulpit. Both were young, and
richly habited. Hearing this appeal to their politeness
pronounced in a female voice, they interrupted their conversation
to look at the speaker. She had thrown up her veil in order to
take a clearer look round the Cathedral. Her hair was red, and
She squinted. The Cavaliers turned round, and renewed their
'By all means,' replied the old Woman's companion; 'By all means,
Leonella, let us return home immediately; The heat is excessive,
and I am terrified at such a crowd.'
These words were pronounced in a tone of unexampled sweetness.
The Cavaliers again broke off their discourse, but for this time
they were not contented with looking up: Both started
involuntarily from their seats, and turned themselves towards the
The voice came from a female, the delicacy and elegance of whose
figure inspired the Youths with the most lively curiosity to view
the face to which it belonged. This satisfaction was denied
them. Her features were hidden by a thick veil; But struggling
through the crowd had deranged it sufficiently to discover a neck
which for symmetry and beauty might have vied with the Medicean
Venus. It was of the most dazzling whiteness, and received
additional charms from being shaded by the tresses of her long
fair hair, which descended in ringlets to her waist. Her figure
was rather below than above the middle size: It was light and
airy as that of an Hamadryad. Her bosom was carefully veiled.
Her dress was white; it was fastened by a blue sash, and just
permitted to peep out from under it a little foot of the most
delicate proportions. A chaplet of large grains hung upon her
arm, and her face was covered with a veil of thick black gauze.
Such was the female, to whom the youngest of the Cavaliers now
offered his seat, while the other thought it necessary to pay the
same attention to her companion.
The old Lady with many expressions of gratitude, but without much
difficulty, accepted the offer, and seated herself: The young
one followed her example, but made no other compliment than a
simple and graceful reverence. Don Lorenzo (such was the
Cavalier's name, whose seat She had accepted) placed himself near
her; But first He whispered a few words in his Friend's ear, who
immediately took the hint, and endeavoured to draw off the old
Woman's attention from her lovely charge.
'You are doubtless lately arrived at Madrid,' said Lorenzo to his
fair Neighbour; 'It is impossible that such charms should have
long remained unobserved; and had not this been your first public
appearance, the envy of the Women and adoration of the Men would
have rendered you already sufficiently remarkable.'
He paused, in expectation of an answer. As his speech did not
absolutely require one, the Lady did not open her lips: After a
few moments He resumed his discourse:
'Am I wrong in supposing you to be a Stranger to Madrid?'
The Lady hesitated; and at last, in so low a voice as to be
scarcely intelligible, She made shift to answer,-- 'No, Segnor.'
'Do you intend making a stay of any length?'
'Yes, Segnor.'
'I should esteem myself fortunate, were it in my power to
contribute to making your abode agreeable. I am well known at
Madrid, and my Family has some interest at Court. If I can be of
any service, you cannot honour or oblige me more than by
permitting me to be of use to you.'--'Surely,' said He to
himself, 'She cannot answer that by a monosyllable; now She must
say something to me.'
Lorenzo was deceived, for the Lady answered only by a bow.
By this time He had discovered that his Neighbour was not very
conversible; But whether her silence proceeded from pride,
discretion, timidity, or idiotism, He was still unable to decide.
After a pause of some minutes--'It is certainly from your being a
Stranger,' said He, 'and as yet unacquainted with our customs,
that you continue to wear your veil. Permit me to remove it.'
At the same time He advanced his hand towards the Gauze: The
Lady raised hers to prevent him.
'I never unveil in public, Segnor.'
'And where is the harm, I pray you?' interrupted her Companion
somewhat sharply; 'Do not you see that the other Ladies have all
laid their veils aside, to do honour no doubt to the holy place
in which we are? I have taken off mine already; and surely if I
expose my features to general observation, you have no cause to
put yourself in such a wonderful alarm! Blessed Maria! Here is a
fuss and a bustle about a chit's face! Come, come, Child!
Uncover it; I warrant you that nobody will run away with it from
'Dear aunt, it is not the custom in Murcia.'
'Murcia, indeed! Holy St. Barbara, what does that signify? You
are always putting me in mind of that villainous Province. If it
is the custom in Madrid, that is all that we ought to mind, and
therefore I desire you to take off your veil immediately. Obey
me this moment Antonia, for you know that I cannot bear
Her niece was silent, but made no further opposition to Don
Lorenzo's efforts, who, armed with the Aunt's sanction hastened
to remove the Gauze. What a Seraph's head presented itself to
his admiration! Yet it was rather bewitching than beautiful; It
wasnot so lovely from regularity of features as from sweetness
and sensibility of Countenance. The several parts of her face
considered separately, many of them were far from handsome; but
when examined together, the whole was adorable. Her skin though
fair was not entirely without freckles; Her eyes were not very
large, nor their lashes particularly long. But then her lips
were of the most rosy freshness; Her fair and undulating hair,
confined by a simple ribband, poured itself below her waist in a
profusion of ringlets; Her throat was full and beautiful in the
extreme; Her hand and arm were formed with the most perfect
symmetry; Her mild blue eyes seemed an heaven of sweetness, and
the crystal in which they moved sparkled with all the brilliance
of Diamonds: She appeared to be scarcely fifteen; An arch smile,
playing round her mouth, declared her to be possessed of
liveliness, which excess of timidity at present represt; She
looked round her with a bashful glance; and whenever her eyes
accidentally met Lorenzo's, She dropt them hastily upon her
Rosary; Her cheek was immediately suffused with blushes, and She
began to tell her beads; though her manner evidently showed that
She knew not what She was about.
Lorenzo gazed upon her with mingled surprise and admiration; but
the Aunt thought it necessary to apologize for Antonia's
mauvaise honte.
' 'Tis a young Creature,' said She, 'who is totally ignorant of
the world. She has been brought up in an old Castle in Murcia;
with no other Society than her Mother's, who, God help her! has
no more sense, good Soul, than is necessary to carry her Soup to
her mouth. Yet She is my own Sister, both by Father and Mother.'
'And has so little sense?' said Don Christoval with feigned
astonishment; 'How very Extraordinary!'
'Very true, Segnor; Is it not strange? However, such is the
fact; and yet only to see the luck of some people! A young
Nobleman, of the very first quality, took it into his head that
Elvira had some pretensions to Beauty--As to pretensions, in
truth, She had always enough of THEM; But as to Beauty. . . .!
If I had only taken half the pains to set myself off which She
did. . . .! But this is neither here nor there. As I was
saying, Segnor, a young Nobleman fell in love with her, and
married her unknown to his Father. Their union remained a secret
near three years, But at last it came to the ears of the old
Marquis, who, as you may well suppose, was not much pleased with
the intelligence. Away He posted in all haste to Cordova,
determined to seize Elvira, and send her away to some place or
other, where She would never be heard of more. Holy St. Paul!
How He stormed on finding that She had escaped him, had joined
her Husband, and that they had embarked together for the Indies.
He swore at us all, as if the Evil Spirit had possessed him; He
threw my Father into prison, as honest a painstaking Shoe-maker
as any in Cordova; and when He went away, He had the cruelty to
take from us my Sister's little Boy, then scarcely two years old,
and whom in the abruptness of her flight, She had been obliged to
leave behind her. I suppose, that the poor little Wretch met
with bitter bad treatment from him, for in a few months after, we
received intelligence of his death.'
'Why, this was a most terrible old Fellow, Segnora!'
'Oh! shocking! and a Man so totally devoid of taste! Why, would
you believe it, Segnor? When I attempted to pacify him, He
cursed me for a Witch, and wished that to punish the Count, my
Sister might become as ugly as myself! Ugly indeed! I like him
for that.'
'Ridiculous', cried Don Christoval; 'Doubtless the Count would
have thought himself fortunate, had he been permitted to exchange
the one Sister for the other.'
'Oh! Christ! Segnor, you are really too polite. However, I am
heartily glad that the Conde was of a different way of thinking.
A mighty pretty piece of business, to be sure, Elvira has made of
it! After broiling and stewing in the Indies for thirteen long
years, her Husband dies, and She returns to Spain, without an
House to hide her head, or money to procure her one! This
Antonia was then but an Infant, and her only remaining Child.
She found that her Father-in-Law had married again, that he was
irreconcileable to the Conde, and that his second Wife had
produced him a Son, who is reported to be a very fine young Man.
The old Marquis refused to see my Sister or her Child; But sent
her word that on condition of never hearing any more of her, He
would assign her a small pension, and She might live in an old
Castle which He possessed in Murcia; This had been the favourite
habitation of his eldest Son; But since his flight from Spain,
the old Marquis could not bear the place, but let it fall to ruin
and confusion--My Sister accepted the proposal; She retired to
Murcia, and has remained there till within the last Month.'
'And what brings her now to Madrid?' enquired Don Lorenzo, whom
admiration of the young Antonia compelled to take a lively
interest in the talkative old Woman's narration.
'Alas! Segnor, her Father-in-Law being lately dead, the Steward
of his Murcian Estates has refused to pay her pension any longer.
With the design of supplicating his Son to renew it, She is now
come to Madrid; But I doubt, that She might have saved herself
the trouble! You young Noblemen have always enough to do with
your money, and are not very often disposed to throw it away upon
old Women. I advised my Sister to send Antonia with her
petition; But She would not hear of such a thing. She is so
obstinate! Well! She will find herself the worse for not
following my counsels: the Girl has a good pretty face, and
possibly might have done much.'
'Ah! Segnora,' interrupted Don Christoval, counterfeiting a
passionate air; 'If a pretty face will do the business, why has
not your Sister recourse to you?'
'Oh! Jesus! my Lord, I swear you quite overpower me with your
gallantry! But I promise you that I am too well aware of the
danger of such Expeditions to trust myself in a young Nobleman's
power! No, no; I have as yet preserved my reputation without
blemish or reproach, and I always knew how to keep the Men at a
proper distance.'
'Of that, Segnora, I have not the least doubt. But permit me to
ask you; Have you then any aversion to Matrimony?'
'That is an home question. I cannot but confess, that if an
amiable Cavalier was to present himself. . . .'
Here She intended to throw a tender and significant look upon Don
Christoval; But, as She unluckily happened to squint most
abominably, the glance fell directly upon his Companion: Lorenzo
took the compliment to himself, and answered it by a profound
'May I enquire,' said He, 'the name of the Marquis?'
'The Marquis de las Cisternas.'
'I know him intimately well. He is not at present in Madrid, but
is expected here daily. He is one of the best of Men; and if the
lovely Antonia will permit me to be her Advocate with him, I
doubt not my being able to make a favourable report of her
Antonia raised her blue eyes, and silently thanked him for the
offer by a smile of inexpressible sweetness. Leonella's
satisfaction was much more loud and audible: Indeed, as her Niece
was generally silent in her company, She thought it incumbent
upon her to talk enough for both: This She managed without
difficulty, for She very seldom found herself deficient in words.
'Oh! Segnor!' She cried; 'You will lay our whole family under the
most signal obligations! I accept your offer with all possible
gratitude, and return you a thousand thanks for the generosity of
your proposal. Antonia, why do not you speak, Child? While the
Cavalier says all sorts of civil things to you, you sit like a
Statue, and never utter a syllable of thanks, either bad, good,
or indifferent!'
'My dear Aunt, I am very sensible that. . . .'
'Fye, Niece! How often have I told you, that you never should
interrupt a Person who is speaking!? When did you ever know me
do such a thing? Are these your Murcian manners? Mercy on me!
I shall never be able to make this Girl any thing like a Person
of good breeding. But pray, Segnor,' She continued, addressing
herself to Don Christoval, 'inform me, why such a Crowd is
assembled today in this Cathedral?'
'Can you possibly be ignorant, that Ambrosio, Abbot of this
Monastery, pronounces a Sermon in this Church every Thursday?
All Madrid rings with his praises. As yet He has preached but
thrice; But all who have heard him are so delighted with his
eloquence, that it is as difficult to obtain a place at Church,
as at the first representation of a new Comedy. His fame
certainly must have reached your ears--'
'Alas! Segnor, till yesterday I never had the good fortune to see
Madrid; and at Cordova we are so little informed of what is
passing in the rest of the world, that the name of Ambrosio has
never been mentioned in its precincts.'
'You will find it in every one's mouth at Madrid. He seems to
have fascinated the Inhabitants; and not having attended his
Sermons myself, I am astonished at the Enthusiasm which He has
excited. The adoration paid him both by Young and Old, by Man
and Woman is unexampled. The Grandees load him with presents;
Their Wives refuse to have any other Confessor, and he is known
through all the city by the name of the ''Man of Holiness''.'
'Undoubtedly, Segnor, He is of noble origin--'
'That point still remains undecided. The late Superior of the
Capuchins found him while yet an Infant at the Abbey door. All
attempts to discover who had left him there were vain, and the
Child himself could give no account of his Parents. He was
educated in the Monastery, where He has remained ever since. He
early showed a strong inclination for study and retirement, and
as soon as He was of a proper age, He pronounced his vows. No
one has ever appeared to claim him, or clear up the mystery which
conceals his birth; and the Monks, who find their account in the
favour which is shewn to their establishment from respect to him,
have not hesitated to publish that He is a present to them from
the Virgin. In truth the singular austerity of his life gives
some countenance to the report. He is now thirty years old,
every hour of which period has been passed in study, total
seclusion from the world, and mortification of the flesh. Till
these last three weeks, when He was chosen superior of the
Society to which He belongs, He had never been on the outside of
the Abbey walls: Even now He never quits them except on
Thursdays, when He delivers a discourse in this Cathedral which
all Madrid assembles to hear. His knowledge is said to be the
most profound, his eloquence the most persuasive. In the whole
course of his life He has never been known to transgress a single
rule of his order; The smallest stain is not to be discovered
upon his character; and He is reported to be so strict an
observer of Chastity, that He knows not in what consists the
difference of Man and Woman. The common People therefore esteem
him to be a Saint.'
'Does that make a Saint?' enquired Antonia; 'Bless me! Then am I
'Holy St. Barbara!' exclaimed Leonella; 'What a question! Fye,
Child, Fye! These are not fit subjects for young Women to
handle. You should not seem to remember that there is such a
thing as a Man in the world, and you ought to imagine every body
to be of the same sex with yourself. I should like to see you
give people to understand, that you know that a Man has no
breasts, and no hips, and no . . .'.
Luckily for Antonia's ignorance which her Aunt's lecture would
soon have dispelled, an universal murmur through the Church
announced the Preacher's arrival. Donna Leonella rose from her
seat to take a better view of him, and Antonia followed her
He was a Man of noble port and commanding presence. His stature
was lofty, and his features uncommonly handsome. His Nose was
aquiline, his eyes large black and sparkling, and his dark brows
almost joined together. His complexion was of a deep but clear
Brown; Study and watching had entirely deprived his cheek of
colour. Tranquillity reigned upon his smooth unwrinkled
forehead; and Content, expressed upon every feature, seemed to
announce the Man equally unacquainted with cares and crimes. He
bowed himself with humility to the audience: Still there was a
certain severity in his look and manner that inspired universal
awe, and few could sustain the glance of his eye at once fiery
and penetrating. Such was Ambrosio, Abbot of the Capuchins, and
surnamed, 'The Man of Holiness'.
Antonia, while She gazed upon him eagerly, felt a pleasure
fluttering in her bosom which till then had been unknown to her,
and for which She in vain endeavoured to account. She waited
with impatience till the Sermon should begin; and when at length
the Friar spoke, the sound of his voice seemed to penetrate into
her very soul. Though no other of the Spectators felt such
violent sensations as did the young Antonia, yet every one
listened with interest and emotion. They who were insensible to
Religion's merits, were still enchanted with Ambrosio's oratory.
All found their attention irresistibly attracted while He spoke,
and the most profound silence reigned through the crowded Aisles.
Even Lorenzo could not resist the charm: He forgot that Antonia
was seated near him, and listened to the Preacher with undivided
In language nervous, clear, and simple, the Monk expatiated on
the beauties of Religion. He explained some abstruse parts of
the sacred writings in a style that carried with it universal
conviction. His voice at once distinct and deep was fraught with
all the terrors of the Tempest, while He inveighed against the
vices of humanity, and described the punishments reserved for
them in a future state. Every Hearer looked back upon his past
offences, and trembled: The Thunder seemed to roll, whose bolt
was destined to crush him, and the abyss of eternal destruction
to open before his feet. But when Ambrosio, changing his theme,
spoke of the excellence of an unsullied conscience, of the
glorious prospect which Eternity presented to the Soul untainted
with reproach, and of the recompense which awaited it in the
regions of everlasting glory, His Auditors felt their scattered
spirits insensibly return. They threw themselves with confidence
upon the mercy of their Judge; They hung with delight upon the
consoling words of the Preacher; and while his full voice swelled
into melody, They were transported to those happy regions which
He painted to their imaginations in colours so brilliant and
The discourse was of considerable length; Yet when it concluded,
the Audience grieved that it had not lasted longer. Though the
Monk had ceased to speak, enthusiastic silence still prevailed
through the Church: At length the charm gradually dissolving,
the general admiration was expressed in audible terms. As
Ambrosio descended from the Pulpit, His Auditors crowded round
him, loaded him with blessings, threw themselves at his feet, and
kissed the hem of his Garment. He passed on slowly with his
hands crossed devoutly upon his bosom, to the door opening into
the Abbey Chapel, at which his Monks waited to receive him. He
ascended the Steps, and then turning towards his Followers,
addressed to them a few words of gratitude, and exhortation.
While He spoke, his Rosary, composed of large grains of amber,
fell from his hand, and dropped among the surrounding multitude.
It was seized eagerly, and immediately divided amidst the
Spectators. Whoever became possessor of a Bead, preserved it as
a sacred relique; and had it been the Chaplet of thrice-blessed
St. Francis himself, it could not have been disputed with greater
vivacity. The Abbot, smiling at their eagerness, pronounced his
benediction, and quitted the Church, while humility dwelt upon
every feature. Dwelt She also in his heart?
Antonia's eyes followed him with anxiety. As the Door closed
after him, it seemed to her as had she lost some one essential to
her happiness. A tear stole in silence down her cheek.
'He is separated from the world!' said She to herself; 'Perhaps,
I shall never see him more!'
As she wiped away the tear, Lorenzo observed her action.
'Are you satisfied with our Orator?' said He; 'Or do you think
that Madrid overrates his talents?'
Antonia's heart was so filled with admiration for the Monk, that
She eagerly seized the opportunity of speaking of him: Besides,
as She now no longer considered Lorenzo as an absolute Stranger,
She was less embarrassed by her excessive timidity.
'Oh! He far exceeds all my expectations,' answered She; 'Till
this moment I had no idea of the powers of eloquence. But when
He spoke, his voice inspired me with such interest, such esteem,
I might almost say such affection for him, that I am myself
astonished at the acuteness of my feelings.'
Lorenzo smiled at the strength of her expressions.
'You are young and just entering into life,' said He; 'Your
heart, new to the world and full of warmth and sensibility,
receives its first impressions with eagerness. Artless yourself,
you suspect not others of deceit; and viewing the world through
the medium of your own truth and innocence, you fancy all who
surround you to deserve your confidence and esteem. What pity,
that these gay visions must soon be dissipated! What pity, that
you must soon discover the baseness of mankind, and guard against
your fellow-creatures as against your Foes!'
'Alas! Segnor,' replied Antonia; 'The misfortunes of my Parents
have already placed before me but too many sad examples of the
perfidy of the world! Yet surely in the present instance the
warmth of sympathy cannot have deceived me.'
'In the present instance, I allow that it has not. Ambrosio's
character is perfectly without reproach; and a Man who has passed
the whole of his life within the walls of a Convent cannot have
found the opportunity to be guilty, even were He possessed of the
inclination. But now, when, obliged by the duties of his
situation, He must enter occasionally into the world, and be
thrown into the way of temptation, it is now that it behoves him
to show the brilliance of his virtue. The trial is dangerous; He
is just at that period of life when the passions are most
vigorous, unbridled, and despotic; His established reputation
will mark him out to Seduction as an illustrious Victim; Novelty
will give additional charms to the allurements of pleasure; and
even the Talents with which Nature has endowed him will
contribute to his ruin, by facilitating the means of obtaining
his object. Very few would return victorious from a contest so
'Ah! surely Ambrosio will be one of those few.'
'Of that I have myself no doubt: By all accounts He is an
exception to mankind in general, and Envy would seek in vain for
a blot upon his character.'
'Segnor, you delight me by this assurance! It encourages me to
indulge my prepossession in his favour; and you know not with
what pain I should have repressed the sentiment! Ah! dearest
Aunt, entreat my Mother to choose him for our Confessor.'
'I entreat her?' replied Leonella; 'I promise you that I shall do
no such thing. I do not like this same Ambrosio in the least; He
has a look of severity about him that made me tremble from head
to foot: Were He my Confessor, I should never have the courage
to avow one half of my peccadilloes, and then I should be in a
rare condition! I never saw such a stern-looking Mortal, and
hope that I never shall see such another. His description of the
Devil, God bless us! almost terrified me out of my wits, and when
He spoke about Sinners He seemed as if He was ready to eat them.'
'You are right, Segnora,' answered Don Christoval; 'Too great
severity is said to be Ambrosio's only fault. Exempted himself
from human failings, He is not sufficiently indulgent to those of
others; and though strictly just and disinterested in his
decisions, his government of the Monks has already shown some
proofs of his inflexibility. But the crowd is nearly dissipated:
Will you permit us to attend you home?'
'Oh! Christ! Segnor,' exclaimed Leonella affecting to blush; 'I
would not suffer such a thing for the Universe! If I came home
attended by so gallant a Cavalier, My Sister is so scrupulous
that She would read me an hour's lecture, and I should never hear
the last of it. Besides, I rather wish you not to make your
proposals just at present.'
'My proposals? I assure you, Segnora. . . .'
'Oh! Segnor, I believe that your assurances of impatience are all
very true; But really I must desire a little respite. It would
not be quite so delicate in me to accept your hand at first
'Accept my hand? As I hope to live and breathe. . . .'
'Oh! dear Segnor, press me no further, if you love me! I shall
consider your obedience as a proof of your affection; You shall
hear from me tomorrow, and so farewell. But pray, Cavaliers,
may I not enquire your names?'
'My Friend's,' replied Lorenzo, 'is the Conde d'Ossorio, and mine
Lorenzo de Medina.'
' 'Tis sufficient. Well, Don Lorenzo, I shall acquaint my Sister
with your obliging offer, and let you know the result with all
expedition. Where may I send to you?'
'I am always to be found at the Medina Palace.'
'You may depend upon hearing from me. Farewell, Cavaliers.
Segnor Conde, let me entreat you to moderate the excessive ardour
of your passion: However, to prove to you that I am not
displeased with you, and prevent your abandoning yourself to
despair, receive this mark of my affection, and sometimes bestow
a thought upon the absent Leonella.'
As She said this, She extended a lean and wrinkled hand; which
her supposed Admirer kissed with such sorry grace and constraint
so evident, that Lorenzo with difficulty repressed his
inclination to laugh. Leonella then hastened to quit the Church;
The lovely Antonia followed her in silence; but when She reached
the Porch, She turned involuntarily, and cast back her eyes
towards Lorenzo. He bowed to her, as bidding her farewell; She
returned the compliment, and hastily withdrew.
'So, Lorenzo!' said Don Christoval as soon as they were alone,
'You have procured me an agreeable Intrigue! To favour your
designs upon Antonia, I obligingly make a few civil speeches
which mean nothing to the Aunt, and at the end of an hour I find
myself upon the brink of Matrimony! How will you reward me for
having suffered so grievously for your sake? What can repay me
for having kissed the leathern paw of that confounded old Witch?
Diavolo! She has left such a scent upon my lips that I shall
smell of garlick for this month to come! As I pass along the
Prado, I shall be taken for a walking Omelet, or some large Onion
running to seed!'
'I confess, my poor Count,' replied Lorenzo, 'that your service
has been attended with danger; Yet am I so far from supposing it
be past all endurance that I shall probably solicit you to carry
on your amours still further.'
'From that petition I conclude that the little Antonia has made
some impression upon you.'
'I cannot express to you how much I am charmed with her. Since
my Father's death, My Uncle the Duke de Medina, has signified to
me his wishes to see me married; I have till now eluded his
hints, and refused to understand them; But what I have seen this
Evening. . . .'
'Well? What have you seen this Evening? Why surely, Don
Lorenzo, You cannot be mad enough to think of making a Wife out
of this Grand-daughter of ''as honest a painstaking Shoe-maker
as any in Cordova''?'
'You forget, that She is also the Grand-daughter of the late
Marquis de las Cisternas; But without disputing about birth and
titles, I must assure you, that I never beheld a Woman so
interesting as Antonia.'
'Very possibly; But you cannot mean to marry her?'
'Why not, my dear Conde? I shall have wealth enough for both of
us, and you know that my Uncle thinks liberally upon the subject.
From what I have seen of Raymond de las Cisternas, I am certain
that he will readily acknowledge Antonia for his Niece. Her
birth therefore will be no objection to my offering her my hand.
I should be a Villain could I think of her on any other terms
than marriage; and in truth She seems possessed of every quality
requisite to make me happy in a Wife. Young, lovely, gentle,
sensible. . . .'
'Sensible? Why, She said nothing but ''Yes,'' and ''No''.'
'She did not say much more, I must confess--But then She always
said ''Yes,'' or ''No,'' in the right place.'
'Did She so? Oh! your most obedient! That is using a right
Lover's argument, and I dare dispute no longer with so profound a
Casuist. Suppose we adjourn to the Comedy?'
'It is out of my power. I only arrived last night at Madrid, and
have not yet had an opportunity of seeing my Sister; You know
that her Convent is in this Street, and I was going thither when
the Crowd which I saw thronging into this Church excited my
curiosity to know what was the matter. I shall now pursue my
first intention, and probably pass the Evening with my Sister at
the Parlour grate.'
'Your Sister in a Convent, say you? Oh! very true, I had
forgotten. And how does Donna Agnes? I am amazed, Don Lorenzo,
how you could possibly think of immuring so charming a Girl
within the walls of a Cloister!'
'I think of it, Don Christoval? How can you suspect me of such
barbarity? You are conscious that She took the veil by her own
desire, and that particular circumstances made her wish for a
seclusion from the World. I used every means in my power to
induce her to change her resolution; The endeavour was fruitless,
and I lost a Sister!'
'The luckier fellow you; I think, Lorenzo, you were a
considerable gainer by that loss: If I remember right, Donna
Agnes had a portion of ten thousand pistoles, half of which
reverted to your Lordship. By St. Jago! I wish that I had fifty
Sisters in the same predicament. I should consent to losing them
every soul without much heart-burning--'
'How, Conde?' said Lorenzo in an angry voice; 'Do you suppose me
base enough to have influenced my Sister's retirement? Do you
suppose that the despicable wish to make myself Master of her
fortune could. . . .'
'Admirable! Courage, Don Lorenzo! Now the Man is all in a
blaze. God grant that Antonia may soften that fiery temper, or
we shall certainly cut each other's throat before the Month is
over! However, to prevent such a tragical Catastrophe for the
present, I shall make a retreat, and leave you Master of the
field. Farewell, my Knight of Mount Aetna! Moderate that
inflammable disposition, and remember that whenever it is
necessary to make love to yonder Harridan, you may reckon upon my
He said, and darted out of the Cathedral.
'How wild-brained!' said Lorenzo; 'With so excellent an heart,
what pity that He possesses so little solidity of judgment!'
The night was now fast advancing. The Lamps were not yet
lighted. The faint beams of the rising Moon scarcely could
pierce through the gothic obscurity of the Church. Lorenzo found
himself unable to quit the Spot. The void left in his bosom by
Antonia's absence, and his Sister's sacrifice which Don
Christoval had just recalled to his imagination, created that
melancholy of mind which accorded but too well with the
religious gloom surrounding him. He was still leaning against
the seventh column from the Pulpit. A soft and cooling air
breathed along the solitary Aisles: The Moonbeams darting into
the Church through painted windows tinged the fretted roofs and
massy pillars with a thousand various tints of light and colours:
Universal silence prevailed around, only interrupted by the
occasional closing of Doors in the adjoining Abbey.
The calm of the hour and solitude of the place contributed to
nourish Lorenzo's disposition to melancholy. He threw himself
upon a seat which stood near him, and abandoned himself to the
delusions of his fancy. He thought of his union with Antonia; He
thought of the obstacles which might oppose his wishes; and a
thousand changing visions floated before his fancy, sad 'tis
true, but not unpleasing. Sleep insensibly stole over him, and
the tranquil solemnity of his mind when awake for a while
continued to influence his slumbers.
He still fancied himself to be in the Church of the Capuchins;
but it was no longer dark and solitary. Multitudes of silver
Lamps shed splendour from the vaulted Roof; Accompanied by the
captivating chaunt of distant choristers, the Organ's melody
swelled through the Church; The Altar seemed decorated as for
some distinguished feast; It was surrounded by a brilliant
Company; and near it stood Antonia arrayed in bridal white, and
blushing with all the charms of Virgin Modesty.
Half hoping, half fearing, Lorenzo gazed upon the scene before
him. Sudden the door leading to the Abbey unclosed, and He saw,
attended by a long train of Monks, the Preacher advance to whom
He had just listened with so much admiration. He drew near
'And where is the Bridegroom?' said the imaginary Friar.
Antonia seemed to look round the Church with anxiety.
Involuntarily the Youth advanced a few steps from his
concealment. She saw him; The blush of pleasure glowed upon her
cheek; With a graceful motion of her hand She beckoned to him to
advance. He disobeyed not the command; He flew towards her, and
threw himself at her feet.
She retreated for a moment; Then gazing upon him with unutterable
delight;--'Yes!' She exclaimed, 'My Bridegroom! My destined
Bridegroom!' She said, and hastened to throw herself into his
arms; But before He had time to receive her, an Unknown rushed
between them. His form was gigantic; His complexion was swarthy,
His eyes fierce and terrible; his Mouth breathed out volumes of
fire; and on his forehead was written in legible
characters--'Pride! Lust! Inhumanity!'
Antonia shrieked. The Monster clasped her in his arms, and
springing with her upon the Altar, tortured her with his odious
caresses. She endeavoured in vain to escape from his embrace.
Lorenzo flew to her succour, but ere He had time to reach her, a
loud burst of thunder was heard. Instantly the Cathedral seemed
crumbling into pieces; The Monks betook themselves to flight,
shrieking fearfully; The Lamps were extinguished, the Altar sank
down, and in its place appeared an abyss vomiting forth clouds of
flame. Uttering a loud and terrible cry the Monster plunged into
the Gulph, and in his fall attempted to drag Antonia with him.
He strove in vain. Animated by supernatural powers She
disengaged herself from his embrace; But her white Robe was left
in his possession. Instantly a wing of brilliant splendour
spread itself from either of Antonia's arms. She darted upwards,
and while ascending cried to Lorenzo,
'Friend! we shall meet above!'
At the same moment the Roof of the Cathedral opened; Harmonious
voices pealed along the Vaults; and the glory into which Antonia
was received was composed of rays of such dazzling brightness,
that Lorenzo was unable to sustain the gaze. His sight failed,
and He sank upon the ground.
When He woke, He found himself extended upon the pavement of the
Church: It was Illuminated, and the chaunt of Hymns sounded from
a distance. For a while Lorenzo could not persuade himself that
what He had just witnessed had been a dream, so strong an
impression had it made upon his fancy. A little recollection
convinced him of its fallacy: The Lamps had been lighted during
his sleep, and the music which he heard was occasioned by the
Monks, who were celebrating their Vespers in the Abbey Chapel.
Lorenzo rose, and prepared to bend his steps towards his Sister's
Convent. His mind fully occupied by the singularity of his
dream, He already drew near the Porch, when his attention was
attracted by perceiving a Shadow moving upon the opposite wall.
He looked curiously round, and soon descried a Man wrapped up in
his Cloak, who seemed carefully examining whether his actions
were observed. Very few people are exempt from the influence of
curiosity. The Unknown seemed anxious to conceal his business in
the Cathedral, and it was this very circumstance, which made
Lorenzo wish to discover what He was about.
Our Hero was conscious that He had no right to pry into the
secrets of this unknown Cavalier.
'I will go,' said Lorenzo. And Lorenzo stayed, where He was.
The shadow thrown by the Column, effectually concealed him from
the Stranger, who continued to advance with caution. At length
He drew a letter from beneath his cloak, and hastily placed it
beneath a Colossal Statue of St. Francis. Then retiring with
precipitation, He concealed himself in a part of the Church at a
considerable distance from that in which the Image stood.
'So!' said Lorenzo to himself; 'This is only some foolish love
affair. I believe, I may as well be gone, for I can do no good
in it.'
In truth till that moment it never came into his head that He
could do any good in it; But He thought it necessary to make some
little excuse to himself for having indulged his curiosity. He
now made a second attempt to retire from the Church: For this
time He gained the Porch without meeting with any impediment; But
it was destined that He should pay it another visit that night.
As He descended the steps leading into the Street, a Cavalier
rushed against him with such violence, that Both were nearly
overturned by the concussion. Lorenzo put his hand to his sword.
'How now, Segnor?' said He; 'What mean you by this rudeness?'
'Ha! Is it you, Medina?' replied the Newcomer, whom Lorenzo by
his voice now recognized for Don Christoval; 'You are the
luckiest Fellow in the Universe, not to have left the Church
before my return. In, in! my dear Lad! They will be here
'Who will be here?'
'The old Hen and all her pretty little Chickens! In, I say, and
then you shall know the whole History.'
Lorenzo followed him into the Cathedral, and they concealed
themselves behind the Statue of St. Francis.
'And now,' said our Hero, 'may I take the liberty of asking, what
is the meaning of all this haste and rapture?'
'Oh! Lorenzo, we shall see such a glorious sight! The Prioress
of St. Clare and her whole train of Nuns are coming hither. You
are to know, that the pious Father Ambrosio (The Lord reward him
for it!) will upon no account move out of his own precincts: It
being absolutely necessary for every fashionable Convent to have
him for its Confessor, the Nuns are in consequence obliged to
visit him at the Abbey; since when the Mountain will not come to
Mahomet, Mahomet must needs go to the Mountain. Now the Prioress
of St. Clare, the better to escape the gaze of such impure eyes
as belong to yourself and your humble Servant, thinks proper to
bring her holy flock to confession in the Dusk: She is to be
admitted into the Abbey Chapel by yon private door. The
Porteress of St. Clare, who is a worthy old Soul and a particular
Friend of mine, has just assured me of their being here in a few
moments. There is news for you, you Rogue! We shall see some of
the prettiest faces in Madrid!'
'In truth, Christoval, we shall do no such thing. The Nuns are
always veiled.'
'No! No! I know better. On entering a place of worship, they
ever take off their veils from respect to the Saint to whom 'tis
dedicated. But Hark! They are coming! Silence, silence!
Observe, and be convinced.'
'Good!' said Lorenzo to himself; 'I may possibly discover to whom
the vows are addressed of this mysterious Stranger.'
Scarcely had Don Christoval ceased to speak, when the Domina of
St. Clare appeared, followed by a long procession of Nuns. Each
upon entering the Church took off her veil. The Prioress crossed
her hands upon her bosom, and made a profound reverence as She
passed the Statue of St. Francis, the Patron of this Cathedral.
The Nuns followed her example, and several moved onwards without
having satisfied Lorenzo's curiosity. He almost began to despair
of seeing the mystery cleared up, when in paying her respects to
St. Francis, one of the Nuns happened to drop her Rosary. As She
stooped to pick it up, the light flashed full upon her face. At
the same moment She dexterously removed the letter from beneath
the Image, placed it in her bosom, and hastened to resume her
rank in the procession.
'Ha!' said Christoval in a low voice; 'Here we have some little
Intrigue, no doubt.'
'Agnes, by heaven!' cried Lorenzo.
'What, your Sister? Diavolo! Then somebody, I suppose, will
have to pay for our peeping.'
'And shall pay for it without delay,' replied the incensed
The pious procession had now entered the Abbey; The Door was
already closed upon it. The Unknown immediately quitted his
concealment and hastened to leave the Church: Ere He could
effect his intention, He descried Medina stationed in his
passage. The Stranger hastily retreated, and drew his Hat over
his eyes.
'Attempt not to fly me!' exclaimed Lorenzo; 'I will know who you
are, and what were the contents of that Letter.'
'Of that Letter?' repeated the Unknown. 'And by what title do
you ask the question?'
'By a title of which I am now ashamed; But it becomes not you to
question me. Either reply circumstantially to my demands, or
answer me with your Sword.'
'The latter method will be the shortest,' rejoined the Other,
drawing his Rapier; 'Come on, Segnor Bravo! I am ready!'
Burning with rage, Lorenzo hastened to the attack: The
Antagonists had already exchanged several passes before
Christoval, who at that moment had more sense than either of
them, could throw himself between their weapons.
'Hold! Hold! Medina!' He exclaimed; 'Remember the consequences
of shedding blood on consecrated ground!'
The Stranger immediately dropped his Sword.
'Medina?' He cried; 'Great God, is it possible! Lorenzo, have you
quite forgotten Raymond de las Cisternas?'
Lorenzo's astonishment increased with every succeeding moment.
Raymond advanced towards him, but with a look of suspicion He
drew back his hand, which the Other was preparing to take.
'You here, Marquis? What is the meaning of all this? You
engaged in a clandestine correspondence with my Sister, whose
affections. . . .'
'Have ever been, and still are mine. But this is no fit place
for an explanation. Accompany me to my Hotel, and you shall know
every thing. Who is that with you?'
'One whom I believe you to have seen before,' replied Don
Christoval, 'though probably not at Church.'
'The Conde d'Ossorio?'
'Exactly so, Marquis.'
'I have no objection to entrusting you with my secret, for I am
sure that I may depend upon your silence.'
'Then your opinion of me is better than my own, and therefore I
must beg leave to decline your confidence. Do you go your own
way, and I shall go mine. Marquis, where are you to be found?'
'As usual, at the Hotel de las Cisternas; But remember, that I am
incognito, and that if you wish to see me, you must ask for
Alphonso d'Alvarada.'
'Good! Good! Farewell, Cavaliers!' said Don Christoval, and
instantly departed.
'You, Marquis,' said Lorenzo in the accent of surprise; 'You,
Alphonso d'Alvarada?'
'Even so, Lorenzo: But unless you have already heard my story
from your Sister, I have much to relate that will astonish you.
Follow me, therefore, to my Hotel without delay.'
At this moment the Porter of the Capuchins entered the Cathedral
to lock up the doors for the night. The two Noblemen instantly
withdrew, and hastened with all speed to the Palace de las
'Well, Antonia!' said the Aunt, as soon as She had quitted the
Church; 'What think you of our Gallants? Don Lorenzo really
seems a very obliging good sort of young Man: He paid you some
attention, and nobody knows what may come of it. But as to Don
Christoval, I protest to you, He is the very Phoenix of
politeness. So gallant! so well-bred! So sensible, and so
pathetic! Well! If ever Man can prevail upon me to break my vow
never to marry, it will be that Don Christoval. You see, Niece,
that every thing turns out exactly as I told you: The very
moment that I produced myself in Madrid, I knew that I should be
surrounded by Admirers. When I took off my veil, did you see,
Antonia, what an effect the action had upon the Conde? And when
I presented him my hand, did you observe the air of passion with
which He kissed it? If ever I witnessed real love, I then saw it
impressed upon Don Christoval's countenance!'
Now Antonia had observed the air, with which Don Christoval had
kissed this same hand; But as She drew conclusions from it
somewhat different from her Aunt's, She was wise enough to hold
her tongue. As this is the only instance known of a Woman's ever
having done so, it was judged worthy to be recorded here.
The old Lady continued her discourse to Antonia in the same
strain, till they gained the Street in which was their Lodging.
Here a Crowd collected before their door permitted them not to
approach it; and placing themselves on the opposite side of the
Street, they endeavoured to make out what had drawn all these
people together. After some minutes the Crowd formed itself into
a Circle; And now Antonia perceived in the midst of it a Woman of
extraordinary height, who whirled herself repeatedly round and
round, using all sorts of extravagant gestures. Her dress was
composed of shreds of various-coloured silks and Linens
fantastically arranged, yet not entirely without taste. Her head
was covered with a kind of Turban, ornamented with vine leaves
and wild flowers. She seemed much sun-burnt, and her complexion
was of a deep olive: Her eyes looked fiery and strange; and in
her hand She bore a long black Rod, with which She at intervals
traced a variety of singular figures upon the ground, round about
which She danced in all the eccentric attitudes of folly and
delirium. Suddenly She broke off her dance, whirled herself
round thrice with rapidity, and after a moment's pause She sang
the following Ballad.
Come, cross my hand! My art surpasses
All that did ever Mortal know;
Come, Maidens, come! My magic glasses
Your future Husband's form can show:
For 'tis to me the power is given
Unclosed the book of Fate to see;
To read the fixed resolves of heaven,
And dive into futurity.
I guide the pale Moon's silver waggon;
The winds in magic bonds I hold;
I charm to sleep the crimson Dragon,
Who loves to watch o'er buried gold:
Fenced round with spells, unhurt I venture
Their sabbath strange where Witches keep;
Fearless the Sorcerer's circle enter,
And woundless tread on snakes asleep.
Lo! Here are charms of mighty power!
This makes secure an Husband's truth
And this composed at midnight hour
Will force to love the coldest Youth:
If any Maid too much has granted,
Her loss this Philtre will repair;
This blooms a cheek where red is wanted,
And this will make a brown girl fair!
Then silent hear, while I discover
What I in Fortune's mirror view;
And each, when many a year is over,
Shall own the Gypsy's sayings true.
'Dear Aunt!' said Antonia when the Stranger had finished, 'Is She
not mad?'
'Mad? Not She, Child; She is only wicked. She is a Gypsy, a
sort of Vagabond, whose sole occupation is to run about the
country telling lyes, and pilfering from those who come by their
money honestly. Out upon such Vermin! If I were King of Spain,
every one of them should be burnt alive who was found in my
dominions after the next three weeks.'
These words were pronounced so audibly that they reached the
Gypsy's ears. She immediately pierced through the Crowd and
made towards the Ladies. She saluted them thrice in the Eastern
fashion, and then addressed herself to Antonia.
'Lady! gentle Lady! Know,
I your future fate can show;
Give your hand, and do not fear;
Lady! gentle Lady! hear!'
'Dearest Aunt!' said Antonia, 'Indulge me this once! Let me have
my fortune told me!'
'Nonsense, Child! She will tell you nothing but falsehoods.'
'No matter; Let me at least hear what She has to say. Do, my dear
Aunt! Oblige me, I beseech you!'
'Well, well! Antonia, since you are so bent upon the thing, . . .
Here, good Woman, you shall see the hands of both of us. There
is money for you, and now let me hear my fortune.'
As She said this, She drew off her glove, and presented her hand;
The Gypsy looked at it for a moment, and then made this reply.
'Your fortune? You are now so old,
Good Dame, that 'tis already told:
Yet for your money, in a trice
I will repay you in advice.
Astonished at your childish vanity,
Your Friends alltax you with insanity,
And grieve to see you use your art
To catch some youthful Lover's heart.
Believe me, Dame, when all is done,
Your age will still be fifty one;
And Men will rarely take an hint
Of love, from two grey eyes that squint.
Take then my counsels; Lay aside
Your paint and patches, lust and pride,
And on the Poor those sums bestow,
Which now are spent on useless show.
Think on your Maker, not a Suitor;
Think on your past faults, not on future;
And think Time's Scythe will quickly mow
The few red hairs, which deck your brow.
The audience rang with laughter during the Gypsy's address;
and--'fifty one,'--'squinting eyes,' 'red hair,' --'paint and
patches,' &c. were bandied from mouth to mouth. Leonella was
almost choaked with passion, and loaded her malicious Adviser
with the bitterest reproaches. The swarthy Prophetess for some
time listened to her with a contemptuous smile: at length She
made her a short answer, and then turned to Antonia.
'Peace, Lady! What I said was true;
And now, my lovely Maid, to you;
Give me your hand, and let me see
Your future doom, and heaven's decree.'
In imitation of Leonella, Antonia drew off her glove, and
presented her white hand to the Gypsy, who having gazed upon it
for some time with a mingled expression of pity and astonishment,
pronounced her Oracle in the following words.
'Jesus! what a palm is there!
Chaste, and gentle, young and fair,
Perfect mind and form possessing,
You would be some good Man's blessing:
But Alas! This line discovers,
That destruction o'er you hovers;
Lustful Man and crafty Devil
Will combine to work your evil;
And from earth by sorrows driven,
Soon your Soul must speed to heaven.
Yet your sufferings to delay,
Well remember what I say.
When you One more virtuous see
Than belongs to Man to be,
One, whose self no crimes assailing,
Pities not his Neighbour's Failing,
Call the Gypsy's words to mind:
Though He seem so good and kind,
Fair Exteriors oft will hide
Hearts, that swell with lust and pride!
Lovely Maid, with tears I leave you!
Let not my prediction grieve you;
Rather with submission bending
Calmly wait distress impending,
And expect eternal bliss
In a better world than this.
Having said this, the Gypsy again whirled herself round thrice,
and then hastened out of the Street with frantic gesture. The
Crowd followed her; and Elvira's door being now unembarrassed
Leonella entered the House out of honour with the Gypsy, with her
Niece, and with the People; In short with every body, but herself
and her charming Cavalier. The Gypsy's predictions had also
considerably affected Antonia; But the impression soon wore off,
and in a few hours She had forgotten the adventure as totally as
had it never taken place.
Forse se tu gustassi una sol volta
La millesima parte delle gioje,
Che gusta un cor amato riamando,
Diresti ripentita sospirando,
Perduto e tutto il tempo
Che in amar non si sponde.
Hadst Thou but tasted once the thousandth part
Of joys, which bless the loved and loving heart,
Your words repentant and your sighs would prove,
Lost is the time which is not past in love.
The monks having attended their Abbot to the door of his Cell, He
dismissed them with an air of conscious superiority in which
Humility's semblance combated with the reality of pride.
He was no sooner alone, than He gave free loose to the indulgence
of his vanity. When He remembered the Enthusiasm which his
discourse had excited, his heart swelled with rapture, and his
imagination presented him with splendid visions of
aggrandizement. He looked round him with exultation, and Pride
told him loudly that He was superior to the rest of his
'Who,' thought He; 'Who but myself has passed the ordeal of
Youth, yet sees no single stain upon his conscience? Who else
has subdued the violence of strong passions and an impetuous
temperament, and submitted even from the dawn of life to
voluntary retirement? I seek for such a Man in vain. I see no
one but myself possessed of such resolution. Religion cannot
boast Ambrosio's equal! How powerful an effect did my discourse
produce upon its Auditors! How they crowded round me! How they
loaded me with benedictions, and pronounced me the sole
uncorrupted Pillar of the Church! What then now is left for me
to do? Nothing, but to watch as carefully over the conduct of my
Brothers as I have hitherto watched over my own. Yet hold! May
I not be tempted from those paths which till now I have pursued
without one moment's wandering? Am I not a Man, whose nature is
frail, and prone to error? I must now abandon the solitude of my
retreat; The fairest and noblest Dames of Madrid continually
present themselves at the Abbey, and will use no other Confessor.
I must accustom my eyes to Objects of temptation, and expose
myself to the seduction of luxury and desire. Should I meet in
that world which I am constrained to enter some lovely Female,
lovely . . . as you, Madona. . . .!'
As He said this, He fixed his eyes upon a picture of the Virgin,
which was suspended opposite to him: This for two years had been
the Object of his increasing wonder and adoration. He paused,
and gazed upon it with delight.
'What Beauty in that countenance!' He continued after a silence
of some minutes; 'How graceful is the turn of that head! What
sweetness, yet what majesty in her divine eyes! How softly her
cheek reclines upon her hand! Can the Rose vie with the blush of
that cheek? Can the Lily rival the whiteness of that hand? Oh!
if such a Creature existed, and existed but for me! Were I
permitted to twine round my fingers those golden ringlets, and
press with my lips the treasures of that snowy bosom! Gracious
God, should I then resist the temptation? Should I not barter
for a single embrace the reward of my sufferings for thirty
years? Should I not abandon. . . . Fool that I am! Whither do
I suffer my admiration of this picture to hurry me? Away, impure
ideas! Let me remember that Woman is for ever lost to me.
Never was Mortal formed so perfect as this picture. But even did
such exist, the trial might be too mighty for a common virtue,
but Ambrosio's is proof against temptation. Temptation, did I
say? To me it would be none. What charms me, when ideal and
considered as a superior Being, would disgust me, become Woman
and tainted with all the failings of Mortality. It is not the
Woman's beauty that fills me with such enthusiasm; It is the
Painter's skill that I admire, it is the Divinity that I adore!
Are not the passions dead in my bosom? Have I not freed myself
from the frailty of Mankind? Fear not, Ambrosio! Take
confidence in the strength of your virtue. Enter boldly into a
world to whose failings you are superior; Reflect that you are
now exempted from Humanity's defects, and defy all the arts of
the Spirits of Darkness. They shall know you for what you are!'
Here his Reverie was interrupted by three soft knocks at the door
of his Cell. With difficulty did the Abbot awake from his
delirium. The knocking was repeated.
'Who is there?' said Ambrosio at length.
'It is only Rosario,' replied a gentle voice.
'Enter! Enter, my Son!'
The Door was immediately opened, and Rosario appeared with a
small basket in his hand.
Rosario was a young Novice belonging to the Monastery, who in
three Months intended to make his profession. A sort of mystery
enveloped this Youth which rendered him at once an object of
interest and curiosity. His hatred of society, his profound
melancholy, his rigid observation of the duties of his order, and
his voluntary seclusion from the world at his age so unusual,
attracted the notice of the whole fraternity. He seemed fearful
of being recognised, and no one had ever seen his face. His head
was continually muffled up in his Cowl; Yet such of his features
as accident discovered, appeared the most beautiful and noble.
Rosario was the only name by which He was known in the Monastery.
No one knew from whence He came, and when questioned in the
subject He preserved a profound silence. A Stranger, whose rich
habit and magnificent equipage declared him to be of
distinguished rank, had engaged the Monks to receive a Novice,
and had deposited the necessary sums. The next day He returned
with Rosario, and from that time no more had been heard of him.
The Youth had carefully avoided the company of the Monks: He
answered their civilities with sweetness, but reserve, and
evidently showed that his inclination led him to solitude. To
this general rule the Superior was the only exception. To him He
looked up with a respect approaching idolatry: He sought his
company with the most attentive assiduity, and eagerly seized
every means to ingratiate himself in his favour. In the Abbot's
society his Heart seemed to be at ease, and an air of gaiety
pervaded his whole manners and discourse. Ambrosio on his side
did not feel less attracted towards the Youth; With him alone did
He lay aside his habitual severity. When He spoke to him, He
insensibly assumed a tone milder than was usual to him; and no
voice sounded so sweet to him as did Rosario's. He repayed the
Youth's attentions by instructing him in various sciences; The
Novice received his lessons with docility; Ambrosio was every day
more charmed with the vivacity of his Genius, the simplicity of
his manners, and the rectitude of his heart: In short He loved
him with all the affection of a Father. He could not help
sometimes indulging a desire secretly to see the face of his
Pupil; But his rule of self-denial extended even to curiosity,
and prevented him from communicating his wishes to the Youth.
'Pardon my intrusion, Father,' said Rosario, while He placed his
basket upon the Table; 'I come to you a Suppliant. Hearing that
a dear Friend is dangerously ill, I entreat your prayers for his
recovery. If supplications can prevail upon heaven to spare him,
surely yours must be efficacious.'
'Whatever depends upon me, my Son, you know that you may command.
What is your Friend's name?'
'Vincentio della Ronda.'
' 'Tis sufficient. I will not forget him in my prayers, and may
our thrice-blessed St. Francis deign to listen to my
intercession!--What have you in your basket, Rosario?'
'A few of those flowers, reverend Father, which I have observed
to be most acceptable to you. Will you permit my arranging them
in your chamber?'
'Your attentions charm me, my Son.'
While Rosario dispersed the contents of his Basket in small
Vases placed for that purpose in various parts of the room, the
Abbot thus continued the conversation.
'I saw you not in the Church this evening, Rosario.'
'Yet I was present, Father. I am too grateful for your
protection to lose an opportunity of witnessing your Triumph.'
'Alas! Rosario, I have but little cause to triumph: The Saint
spoke by my mouth; To him belongs all the merit. It seems then
you were contented with my discourse?'
'Contented, say you? Oh! you surpassed yourself! Never did I
hear such eloquence . . . save once!'
Here the Novice heaved an involuntary sigh.
'When was that once?' demanded the Abbot.
'When you preached upon the sudden indisposition of our late
'I remember it: That is more than two years ago. And were you
present? I knew you not at that time, Rosario.'
' 'Tis true, Father; and would to God! I had expired, ere I
beheld that day! What sufferings, what sorrows should I have
'Sufferings at your age, Rosario?'
'Aye, Father; Sufferings, which if known to you, would equally
raise your anger and compassion! Sufferings, which form at once
the torment and pleasure of my existence! Yet in this retreat my
bosom would feel tranquil, were it not for the tortures of
apprehension. Oh God! Oh God! how cruel is a life of
fear!--Father! I have given up all; I have abandoned the world
and its delights for ever: Nothing now remains, Nothing now has
charms for me, but your friendship, but your affection. If I
lose that, Father! Oh! if I lose that, tremble at the effects of
my despair!'
'You apprehend the loss of my friendship? How has my conduct
justified this fear? Know me better, Rosario, and think me
worthy of your confidence. What are your sufferings? Reveal
them to me, and believe that if 'tis in my power to relieve them.
. . .'
'Ah! 'tis in no one's power but yours. Yet I must not let you
know them. You would hate me for my avowal! You would drive me
from your presence with scorn and ignominy!'
'My Son, I conjure you! I entreat you!'
'For pity's sake, enquire no further! I must not . . . I dare
not . . . Hark! The Bell rings for Vespers! Father, your
benediction, and I leave you!'
As He said this, He threw himself upon his knees and received
the blessing which He demanded. Then pressing the Abbot's hand
to his lips, He started from the ground and hastily quitted the
apartment. Soon after Ambrosio descended to Vespers (which were
celebrated in a small chapel belonging to the Abbey), filled with
surprise at the singularity of the Youth's behaviour.
Vespers being over, the Monks retired to their respective Cells.
The Abbot alone remained in the Chapel to receive the Nuns of St.
Clare. He had not been long seated in the confessional chair
before the Prioress made her appearance. Each of the Nuns was
heard in her turn, while the Others waited with the Domina in the
adjoining Vestry. Ambrosio listened to the confessions with
attention, made many exhortations, enjoined penance proportioned
to each offence, and for some time every thing went on as usual:
till at last one of the Nuns, conspicuous from the nobleness of
her air and elegance of her figure, carelessly permitted a letter
to fall from her bosom. She was retiring, unconscious of her
loss. Ambrosio supposed it to have been written by some one of
her Relations, and picked it up intending to restore it to her.
'Stay, Daughter,' said He; 'You have let fall. . . .'
At this moment, the paper being already open, his eye
involuntarily read the first words. He started back with
surprise! The Nun had turned round on hearing his voice: She
perceived her letter in his hand, and uttering a shriek of
terror, flew hastily to regain it.
'Hold!' said the Friar in a tone of severity; 'Daughter, I must
read this letter.'
'Then I am lost!' She exclaimed clasping her hands together
All colour instantly faded from her face; she trembled with
agitation, and was obliged to fold her arms round a Pillar of the
Chapel to save herself from sinking upon the floor. In the
meanwhile the Abbot read the following lines.
'All is ready for your escape, my dearest Agnes. At twelve
tomorrow night I shall expect to find you at the Garden door: I
have obtained the Key, and a few hours will suffice to place you
in a secure asylum. Let no mistaken scruples induce you to
reject the certain means of preserving yourself and the innocent
Creature whom you nourish in your bosom. Remember that you had
promised to be mine, long ere you engaged yourself to the church;
that your situation will soon be evident to the prying eyes of
your Companions; and that flight is the only means of avoiding
the effects of their malevolent resentment. Farewell, my Agnes!
my dear and destined Wife! Fail not to be at the Garden door at
As soon as He had finished, Ambrosio bent an eye stern and angry
upon the imprudent Nun.
'This letter must to the Prioress!' said He, and passed her.
His words sounded like thunder to her ears: She awoke from her
torpidity only to be sensible of the dangers of her situation.
She followed him hastily, and detained him by his garment.
'Stay! Oh! stay!' She cried in the accents of despair, while She
threw herself at the Friar's feet, and bathed them with her
tears. 'Father, compassionate my youth! Look with indulgence on
a Woman's weakness, and deign to conceal my frailty! The
remainder of my life shall be employed in expiating this single
fault, and your lenity will bring back a soul to heaven!'
'Amazing confidence! What! Shall St. Clare's Convent become the
retreat of Prostitutes? Shall I suffer the Church of Christ to
cherish in its bosom debauchery and shame? Unworthy Wretch! such
lenity would make me your accomplice. Mercy would here be
criminal. You have abandoned yourself to a Seducer's lust; You
have defiled the sacred habit by your impurity; and still dare
you think yourself deserving my compassion? Hence, nor detain me
longer! Where is the Lady Prioress?' He added, raising his
'Hold! Father, Hold! Hear me but for one moment! Tax me not with
impurity, nor think that I have erred from the warmth of
temperament. Long before I took the veil, Raymond was Master of
my heart: He inspired me with the purest, the most
irreproachable passion, and was on the point of becoming my
lawful husband. An horrible adventure, and the treachery of a
Relation, separated us from each other: I believed him for ever
lost to me, and threw myself into a Convent from motives of
despair. Accident again united us; I could not refuse myself the
melancholy pleasure of mingling my tears with his: We met
nightly in the Gardens of St. Clare, and in an unguarded moment I
violated my vows of Chastity. I shall soon become a Mother:
Reverend Ambrosio, take compassion on me; take compassion on the
innocent Being whose existence is attached to mine. If you
discover my imprudence to the Domina, both of us are lost: The
punishment which the laws of St. Clare assign to Unfortunates
like myself is most severe and cruel. Worthy, worthy Father!
Let not your own untainted conscience render you unfeeling
towards those less able to withstand temptation! Let not mercy
be the only virtue of which your heart is unsusceptible! Pity
me, most reverend! Restore my letter, nor doom me to inevitable
'Your boldness confounds me! Shall I conceal your crime, I whom
you have deceived by your feigned confession? No, Daughter, no!
I will render you a more essential service. I will rescue you
from perdition in spite of yourself; Penance and mortification
shall expiate your offence, and Severity force you back to the
paths of holiness. What; Ho! Mother St. Agatha!'
'Father! By all that is sacred, by all that is most dear to you,
I supplicate, I entreat. . . .'
'Release me! I will not hear you. Where is the Domina? Mother
St. Agatha, where are you?'
The door of the Vestry opened, and the Prioress entered the
Chapel, followed by her Nuns.
'Cruel! Cruel!' exclaimed Agnes, relinquishing her hold.
Wild and desperate, She threw herself upon the ground, beating
her bosom and rending her veil in all the delirium of despair.
The Nuns gazed with astonishment upon the scene before them. The
Friar now presented the fatal paper to the Prioress, informed her
of the manner in which he had found it, and added, that it was
her business to decide, what penance the delinquent merited.
While She perused the letter, the Domina's countenance grew
inflamed with passion. What! Such a crime committed in her
Convent, and made known to Ambrosio, to the Idol of Madrid, to
the Man whom She was most anxious to impress with the opinion of
the strictness and regularity of her House! Words were
inadequate to express her fury. She was silent, and darted upon
the prostrate Nun looks of menace and malignity.
'Away with her to the Convent!' said She at length to some of her
Two of the oldest Nuns now approaching Agnes, raised her forcibly
from the ground, and prepared to conduct her from the Chapel.
'What!' She exclaimed suddenly shaking off their hold with
distracted gestures; 'Is all hope then lost? Already do you drag
me to punishment? Where are you, Raymond? Oh! save me! save
Then casting upon the Abbot a frantic look, 'Hear me!' She
continued; 'Man of an hard heart! Hear me, Proud, Stern, and
Cruel! You could have saved me; you could have restored me to
happiness and virtue, but would not! You are the destroyer of my
Soul; You are my Murderer, and on you fall the curse of my death
and my unborn Infant's! Insolent in your yet-unshaken virtue,
you disdained the prayers of a Penitent; But God will show mercy,
though you show none. And where is the merit of your boasted
virtue? What temptations have you vanquished? Coward! you have
fled from it, not opposed seduction. But the day of Trial will
arrive! Oh! then when you yield to impetuous passions! when you
feel that Man is weak, and born to err; When shuddering you look
back upon your crimes, and solicit with terror the mercy of your
God, Oh! in that fearful moment think upon me! Think upon your
Cruelty! Think upon Agnes, and despair of pardon!'
As She uttered these last words, her strength was exhausted, and
She sank inanimate upon the bosom of a Nun who stood near her.
She was immediately conveyed from the Chapel, and her Companions
followed her.
Ambrosio had not listened to her reproaches without emotion. A
secret pang at his heart made him feel, that He had treated this
Unfortunate with too great severity. He therefore detained the
Prioress and ventured to pronounce some words in favour of the
'The violence of her despair,' said He, 'proves, that at least
Vice is not become familiar to her. Perhaps by treating her with
somewhat less rigour than is generally practised, and mitigating
in some degree the accustomed penance. . . .'
'Mitigate it, Father?' interrupted the Lady Prioress; 'Not I,
believe me. The laws of our order are strict and severe; they
have fallen into disuse of late, But the crime of Agnes shows me
the necessity of their revival. I go to signify my intention to
the Convent, and Agnes shall be the first to feel the rigour of
those laws, which shall be obeyed to the very letter. Father,
Thus saying, She hastened out of the Chapel.
'I have done my duty,' said Ambrosio to himself.
Still did He not feel perfectly satisfied by this reflection. To
dissipate the unpleasant ideas which this scene had excited in
him, upon quitting the Chapel He descended into the Abbey Garden.
In all Madrid there was no spot more beautiful or better
regulated. It was laid out with the most exquisite taste; The
choicest flowers adorned it in the height of luxuriance, and
though artfully arranged, seemed only planted by the hand of
Nature: Fountains, springing from basons of white Marble, cooled
the air with perpetual showers; and the Walls were entirely
covered by Jessamine, vines, and Honeysuckles. The hour now
added to the beauty of the scene. The full Moon, ranging through
a blue and cloudless sky, shed upon the trees a trembling lustre,
and the waters of the fountains sparkled in the silver beam: A
gentle breeze breathed the fragrance of Orange-blossoms along the
Alleys; and the Nightingale poured forth her melodious murmur
from the shelter of an artificial wilderness. Thither the Abbot
bent his steps.
In the bosom of this little Grove stood a rustic Grotto, formed
in imitation of an Hermitage. The walls were constructed of
roots of trees, and the interstices filled up with Moss and Ivy.
Seats of Turf were placed on either side, and a natural Cascade
fell from the Rock above. Buried in himself the Monk approached
the spot. The universal calm had communicated itself to his
bosom, and a voluptuous tranquillity spread languor through his
He reached the Hermitage, and was entering to repose himself,
when He stopped on perceiving it to be already occupied.
Extended upon one of the Banks lay a man in a melancholy posture.
His head was supported upon his arm, and He seemed lost in
mediation. The Monk drew nearer, and recognised Rosario: He
watched him in silence, and entered not the Hermitage. After
some minutes the Youth raised his eyes, and fixed them mournfully
upon the opposite Wall.
'Yes!' said He with a deep and plaintive sigh; 'I feel all the
happiness of thy situation, all the misery of my own! Happy were
I, could I think like Thee! Could I look like Thee with disgust
upon Mankind, could bury myself for ever in some impenetrable
solitude, and forget that the world holds Beings deserving to be
loved! Oh God! What a blessing would Misanthropy be to me!'
'That is a singular thought, Rosario,' said the Abbot, entering
the Grotto.
'You here, reverend Father?' cried the Novice.
At the same time starting from his place in confusion, He drew
his Cowl hastily over his face. Ambrosio seated himself upon the
Bank, and obliged the Youth to place himself by him.
'You must not indulge this disposition to melancholy,' said He;
'What can possibly have made you view in so desirable a light,
Misanthropy, of all sentiments the most hateful?'
'The perusal of these Verses, Father, which till now had escaped
my observation. The Brightness of the Moonbeams permitted my
reading them; and Oh! how I envy the feelings of the Writer!'
As He said this, He pointed to a marble Tablet fixed against the
opposite Wall: On it were engraved the following lines.
Who-e'er Thou art these lines now reading,
Think not, though from the world receding
I joy my lonely days to lead in
This Desart drear,
That with remorse aconscience bleeding
Hath led me here.
No thought of guilt my bosom sowrs:
Free-willed I fled from courtly bowers;
For well I saw in Halls and Towers
That Lust and Pride,
The Arch-Fiend's dearest darkest Powers,
In state preside.
I saw Mankind with vice incrusted;
I saw that Honour's sword was rusted;
That few for aught but folly lusted;
That He was still deceiv'd, who trusted
In Love or Friend;
And hither came with Men disgusted
My life to end.
In this lone Cave, in garments lowly,
Alike a Foe to noisy folly,
And brow-bent gloomy melancholy
I wear away
My life, and in my office holy
Consume the day.
Content and comfort bless me more in
This Grot, than e'er I felt before in
A Palace, and with thoughts still soaring
To God on high,
Each night and morn with voice imploring
This wish I sigh.
'Let me, Oh! Lord! from life retire,
Unknown each guilty worldly fire,
Remorseful throb, or loose desire;
And when I die,
Let me in this belief expire,
''To God I fly''!'
Stranger, if full of youth and riot
As yet no grief has marred thy quiet,
Thou haply throw'st a scornful eye at
The Hermit's prayer:
But if Thou hast a cause to sigh at
Thy fault, or care;
If Thou hast known false Love's vexation,
Or hast been exil'd from thy Nation,
Or guilt affrights thy contemplation,
And makes thee pine,
Oh! how must Thou lament thy station,
And envy mine!
'Were it possible' said the Friar, 'for Man to be so totally
wrapped up in himself as to live in absolute seclusion from human
nature, and could yet feel the contented tranquillity which these
lines express, I allow that the situation would be more
desirable, than to live in a world so pregnant with every vice
and every folly. But this never can be the case. This
inscription was merely placed here for the ornament of the
Grotto, and the sentiments and the Hermit are equally imaginary.
Man was born for society. However little He may be attached to
the World, He never can wholly forget it, or bear to be wholly
forgotten by it. Disgusted at the guilt or absurdity of Mankind,
the Misanthrope flies from it: He resolves to become an Hermit,
and buries himself in the Cavern of some gloomy Rock. While Hate
inflames his bosom, possibly He may feel contented with his
situation: But when his passions begin to cool; when Time has
mellowed his sorrows, and healed those wounds which He bore with
him to his solitude, think you that Content becomes his
Companion? Ah! no, Rosario. No longer sustained by the violence
of his passions, He feels all the monotony of his way of living,
and his heart becomes the prey of Ennui and weariness. He looks
round, and finds himself alone in the Universe: The love of
society revives in his bosom, and He pants to return to that
world which He has abandoned. Nature loses all her charms in his
eyes: No one is near him to point out her beauties, or share in
his admiration of her excellence and variety. Propped upon the
fragment of some Rock, He gazes upon the tumbling waterfall with
a vacant eye, He views without emotion the glory of the setting
Sun. Slowly He returns to his Cell at Evening, for no one there
is anxious for his arrival; He has no comfort in his solitary
unsavoury meal: He throws himself upon his couch of Moss
despondent and dissatisfied, and wakes only to pass a day as
joyless, as monotonous as the former.'
'You amaze me, Father! Suppose that circumstances condemned you
to solitude; Would not the duties of Religion and the
consciousness of a life well spent communicate to your heart that
calm which. . . .'
'I should deceive myself, did I fancy that they could. I am
convinced of the contrary, and that all my fortitude would not
prevent me from yielding to melancholy and disgust. After
consuming the day in study, if you knew my pleasure at meeting my
Brethren in the Evening! After passing many a long hour in
solitude, if I could express to you the joy which I feel at once
more beholding a fellow-Creature! 'Tis in this particular that I
place the principal merit of a Monastic Institution. It secludes
Man from the temptations of Vice; It procures that leisure
necessary for the proper service of the Supreme; It spares him
the mortification of witnessing the crimes of the worldly, and
yet permits him to enjoy the blessings of society. And do you,
Rosario, do YOU envy an Hermit's life? Can you be thus blind to
the happiness of your situation? Reflect upon it for a moment.
This Abbey is become your Asylum: Your regularity, your
gentleness, your talents have rendered you the object of
universal esteem: You are secluded from the world which you
profess to hate; yet you remain in possession of the benefits of
society, and that a society composed of the most estimable of
'Father! Father! 'tis that which causes my Torment! Happy had
it been for me, had my life been passed among the vicious and
abandoned! Had I never heard pronounced the name of Virtue! 'Tis
my unbounded adoration of religion; 'Tis my soul's exquisite
sensibility of the beauty of fair and good, that loads me with
shame! that hurries me to perdition! Oh! that I had never seen
these Abbey walls!'
'How, Rosario? When we last conversed, you spoke in a different
tone. Is my friendship then become of such little consequence?
Had you never seen these Abbey walls, you never had seen me:
Can that really be your wish?'
'Had never seen you?' repeated the Novice, starting from the
Bank, and grasping the Friar's hand with a frantic air; 'You?
You? Would to God, that lightning had blasted them, before you
ever met my eyes! Would to God! that I were never to see you
more, and could forget that I had ever seen you!'
With these words He flew hastily from the Grotto. Ambrosio
remained in his former attitude, reflecting on the Youth's
unaccountable behaviour. He was inclined to suspect the
derangement of his senses: yet the general tenor of his conduct,
the connexion of his ideas, and calmness of his demeanour till
the moment of his quitting the Grotto, seemed to discountenance
this conjecture. After a few minutes Rosario returned. He again
seated himself upon the Bank: He reclined his cheek upon one
hand, and with the other wiped away the tears which trickled from
his eyes at intervals.
The Monk looked upon him with compassion, and forbore to
interrupt his meditations. Both observed for some time a
profound silence. The Nightingale had now taken her station upon
an Orange Tree fronting the Hermitage, and poured forth a strain
the most melancholy and melodious. Rosario raised his head, and
listened to her with attention.
'It was thus,' said He, with a deep-drawn sigh; 'It was thus,
that during the last month of her unhappy life, my Sister used to
sit listening to the Nightingale. Poor Matilda! She sleeps in
the Grave, and her broken heart throbs no more with passion.'
'You had a Sister?'
'You say right, that I HAD; Alas! I have one no longer. She
sunk beneath the weight of her sorrows in the very spring of
'What were those sorrows?'
'They will not excite YOUR pity: YOU know not the power of those
irresistible, those fatal sentiments, to which her Heart was a
prey. Father, She loved unfortunately. A passion for One
endowed with every virtue, for a Man, Oh! rather let me say, for
a divinity, proved the bane of her existence. His noble form,
his spotless character, his various talents, his wisdom solid,
wonderful, and glorious, might have warmed the bosom of the most
insensible. My Sister saw him, and dared to love though She
never dared to hope.'
'If her love was so well bestowed, what forbad her to hope the
obtaining of its object?'
'Father, before He knew her, Julian had already plighted his vows
to a Bride most fair, most heavenly! Yet still my Sister loved,
and for the Husband's sake She doted upon the Wife. One morning
She found means to escape from our Father's House: Arrayed in
humble weeds She offered herself as a Domestic to the Consort of
her Beloved, and was accepted. She was now continually in his
presence: She strove to ingratiate herself into his favour: She
succeeded. Her attentions attracted Julian's notice; The
virtuous are ever grateful, and He distinguished Matilda above
the rest of her Companions.'
'And did not your Parents seek for her? Did they submit tamely
to their loss, nor attempt to recover their wandering Daughter?'
'Ere they could find her, She discovered herself. Her love grew
too violent for concealment; Yet She wished not for Julian's
person, She ambitioned but a share of his heart. In an unguarded
moment She confessed her affection. What was the return?
Doating upon his Wife, and believing that a look of pity bestowed
upon another was a theft from what He owed to her, He drove
Matilda from his presence. He forbad her ever again appearing
before him. His severity broke her heart: She returned to her
Father's, and in a few Months after was carried to her Grave.'
'Unhappy Girl! Surely her fate was too severe, and Julian was
too cruel.'
'Do you think so, Father?' cried the Novice with vivacity; 'Do
you think that He was cruel?'
'Doubtless I do, and pity her most sincerely.'
'You pity her? You pity her? Oh! Father! Father! Then pity
The Friar started; when after a moment's pause Rosario added with
a faltering voice,--'for my sufferings are still greater. My
Sister had a Friend, a real Friend, who pitied the acuteness of
her feelings, nor reproached her with her inability to repress
them. I . . .! I have no Friend! The whole wide world cannot
furnish an heart that is willing to participate in the sorrows
of mine!'
As He uttered these words, He sobbed audibly. The Friar was
affected. He took Rosario's hand, and pressed it with
'You have no Friend, say you? What then am I? Why will you not
confide in me, and what can you fear? My severity? Have I ever
used it with you? The dignity of my habit? Rosario, I lay aside
the Monk, and bid you consider me as no other than your Friend,
your Father. Well may I assume that title, for never did Parent
watch over a Child more fondly than I have watched over you.
From the moment in which I first beheld you, I perceived
sensations in my bosom till then unknown to me; I found a
delight in your society which no one's else could afford; and
when I witnessed the extent of your genius and information, I
rejoiced as does a Father in the perfections of his Son. Then
lay aside your fears; Speak to me with openness: Speak to me,
Rosario, and say that you will confide in me. If my aid or my
pity can alleviate your distress. . . .'
'Yours can! Yours only can! Ah! Father, how willingly would I
unveil to you my heart! How willingly would I declare the
secret which bows me down with its weight! But Oh! I fear! I
'What, my Son?'
'That you should abhor me for my weakness; That the reward of my
confidence should be the loss of your esteem.'
'How shall I reassure you? Reflect upon the whole of my past
conduct, upon the paternal tenderness which I have ever shown
you. Abhor you, Rosario? It is no longer in my power. To give
up your society would be to deprive myself of the greatest
pleasure of my life. Then reveal to me what afflicts you, and
believe me while I solemnly swear. . . .'
'Hold!' interrupted the Novice; 'Swear, that whatever be my
secret, you will not oblige me to quit the Monastery till my
Noviciate shall expire.'
'I promise it faithfully, and as I keep my vows to you, may
Christ keep his to Mankind. Now then explain this mystery, and
rely upon my indulgence.'
'I obey you. Know then. . . . Oh! how I tremble to name the
word! Listen to me with pity, revered Ambrosio! Call up every
latent spark of human weakness that may teach you compassion for
mine! Father!' continued He throwing himself at the Friar's
feet, and pressing his hand to his lips with eagerness, while
agitation for a moment choaked his voice; 'Father!' continued He
in faltering accents, 'I am a Woman!'
The Abbot started at this unexpected avowal. Prostrate on the
ground lay the feigned Rosario, as if waiting in silence the
decision of his Judge. Astonishment on the one part,
apprehension on the other, for some minutes chained them in the
same attitudes, as had they been touched by the Rod of some
Magician. At length recovering from his confusion, the Monk
quitted the Grotto, and sped with precipitation towards the
Abbey. His action did not escape the Suppliant. She sprang from
the ground; She hastened to follow him, overtook him, threw
herself in his passage, and embraced his knees. Ambrosio strove
in vain to disengage himself from her grasp.
'Do not fly me!' She cried; 'Leave me not abandoned to the
impulse of despair! Listen, while I excuse my imprudence; while
I acknowledge my Sister's story to be my own! I am Matilda; You
are her Beloved.'
If Ambrosio's surprise was great at her first avowal, upon
hearing her second it exceeded all bounds. Amazed, embarrassed,
and irresolute He found himself incapable of pronouncing a
syllable, and remained in silence gazing upon Matilda: This gave
her opportunity to continue her explanation as follows.
'Think not, Ambrosio, that I come to rob your Bride of your
affections. No, believe me: Religion alone deserves you; and
far is it from Matilda's wish to draw you from the paths of
virtue. What I feel for you is love, not licentiousness; I sigh
to be possessor of your heart, not lust for the enjoyment of your
person. Deign to listen to my vindication: A few moments will
convince you that this holy retreat is not polluted by my
presence, and that you may grant me your compassion without
trespassing against your vows.'--She seated herself: Ambrosio,
scarcely conscious of what He did, followed her example, and She
proceeded in her discourse.
'I spring from a distinguished family: My Father was Chief of
the noble House of Villanegas. He died while I was still an
Infant, and left me sole Heiress of his immense possessions.
Young and wealthy, I was sought in marriage by the noblest Youths
of Madrid; But no one succeeded in gaining my affections. I had
been brought up under the care of an Uncle possessed of the most
solid judgment and extensive erudition. He took pleasure in
communicating to me some portion of his knowledge. Under his
instructions my understanding acquired more strength and
justness than generally falls to the lot of my sex: The ability
of my Preceptor being aided by natural curiosity, I not only made
a considerable progress in sciences universally studied, but in
others, revealed but to few, and lying under censure from the
blindness of superstition. But while my Guardian laboured to
enlarge the sphere of my knowledge, He carefully inculcated every
moral precept: He relieved me from the shackles of vulgar
prejudice; He pointed out the beauty of Religion; He taught me to
look with adoration upon the pure and virtuous, and, woe is me!
I have obeyed him but too well!
'With such dispositions, Judge whether I could observe with any
other sentiment than disgust the vice, dissipation, and
ignorance, which disgrace our Spanish Youth. I rejected every
offer with disdain. My heart remained without a Master till
chance conducted me to the Cathedral of the Capuchins. Oh!
surely on that day my Guardian Angel slumbered neglectful of his
charge! Then was it that I first beheld you: You supplied the
Superior's place, absent from illness. You cannot but remember
the lively enthusiasm which your discourse created. Oh! how I
drank your words! How your eloquence seemed to steal me from
myself! I scarcely dared to breathe, fearing to lose a syllable;
and while you spoke, Methought a radiant glory beamed round your
head, and your countenance shone with the majesty of a God. I
retired from the Church, glowing with admiration. From that
moment you became the idol of my heart, the never-changing object
of my Meditations. I enquired respecting you. The reports which
were made me of your mode of life, of your knowledge, piety, and
self-denial riveted the chains imposed on me by your eloquence.
I was conscious that there was no longer a void in my heart; That
I had found the Man whom I had sought till then in vain. In
expectation of hearing you again, every day I visited your
Cathedral: You remained secluded within the Abbey walls, and I
always withdrew, wretched and disappointed. The Night was more
propitious to me, for then you stood before me in my dreams; You
vowed to me eternal friendship; You led me through the paths of
virtue, and assisted me to support the vexations of life. The
Morning dispelled these pleasing visions; I woke, and found
myself separated from you by Barriers which appeared
insurmountable. Time seemed only to increase the strength of my
passion: I grew melancholy and despondent; I fled from society,
and my health declined daily. At length no longer able to exist
in this state of torture, I resolved to assume the disguise in
which you see me. My artifice was fortunate: I was received
into the Monastery, and succeeded in gaining your esteem.
'Now then I should have felt compleatly happy, had not my quiet
been disturbed by the fear of detection. The pleasure which I
received from your society, was embittered by the idea that
perhaps I should soon be deprived of it: and my heart throbbed so
rapturously at obtaining the marks of your friendship, as to
convince me that I never should survive its loss. I resolved,
therefore, not to leave the discovery of my sex to chance, to
confess the whole to you, and throw myself entirely on your mercy
and indulgence. Ah! Ambrosio, can I have been deceived? Can you
be less generous than I thought you? I will not suspect it. You
will not drive a Wretch to despair; I shall still be permitted to
see you, to converse with you, to adore you! Your virtues shall
be my example through life; and when we expire, our bodies shall
rest in the same Grave.'
She ceased. While She spoke, a thousand opposing sentiments
combated in Ambrosio's bosom. Surprise at the singularity of
this adventure, Confusion at her abrupt declaration, Resentment
at her boldness in entering the Monastery, and Consciousness of
the austerity with which it behoved him to reply, such were the
sentiments of which He was aware; But there were others also
which did not obtain his notice. He perceived not, that his
vanity was flattered by the praises bestowed upon his eloquence
and virtue; that He felt a secret pleasure in reflecting that a
young and seemingly lovely Woman had for his sake abandoned the
world, and sacrificed every other passion to that which He had
inspired: Still less did He perceive that his heart throbbed
with desire, while his hand was pressed gently by Matilda's ivory
By degrees He recovered from his confusion. His ideas became
less bewildered: He was immediately sensible of the extreme
impropriety, should Matilda be permitted to remain in the Abbey
after this avowal of her sex. He assumed an air of severity, and
drew away his hand.
'How, Lady!' said He; 'Can you really hope for my permission to
remain amongst us? Even were I to grant your request, what good
could you derive from it? Think you that I ever can reply to an
affection, which . . .'.
'No, Father, No! I expect not to inspire you with a love like
mine. I only wish for the liberty to be near you, to pass some
hours of the day in your society; to obtain your compassion, your
friendship and esteem. Surely my request is not unreasonable.'
'But reflect, Lady! Reflect only for a moment on the impropriety
of my harbouring a Woman in the Abbey; and that too a Woman, who
confesses that She loves me. It must not be. The risque of your
being discovered is too great, and I will not expose myself to so
dangerous a temptation.'
'Temptation, say you? Forget that I am a Woman, and it no
longer exists: Consider me only as a Friend, as an Unfortunate,
whose happiness, whose life depends upon your protection. Fear
not lest I should ever call to your remembrance that love the
most impetuous, the most unbounded, has induced me to disguise my
sex; or that instigated by desires, offensive to YOUR vows and my
own honour, I should endeavour to seduce you from the path of
rectitude. No, Ambrosio, learn to know me better. I love you
for your virtues: Lose them, and with them you lose my
affections. I look upon you as a Saint; Prove to me that you are
no more than Man, and I quit you with disgust. Is it then from
me that you fear temptation? From me, in whom the world's
dazzling pleasures created no other sentiment than contempt?
From me, whose attachment is grounded on your exemption from
human frailty? Oh! dismiss such injurious apprehensions! Think
nobler of me, think nobler of yourself. I am incapable of
seducing you to error; and surely your Virtue is established on a
basis too firm to be shaken by unwarranted desires. Ambrosio,
dearest Ambrosio! drive me not from your presence; Remember your
promise, and authorize my stay!'
'Impossible, Matilda; YOUR interest commands me to refuse your
prayer, since I tremble for you, not for myself. After
vanquishing the impetuous ebullitions of Youth; After passing
thirty years in mortification and penance, I might safely permit
your stay, nor fear your inspiring me with warmer sentiments than
pity. But to yourself, remaining in the Abbey can produce none
but fatal consequences. You will misconstrue my every word and
action; You will seize every circumstance with avidity, which
encourages you to hope the return of your affection; Insensibly
your passions will gain a superiority over your reason; and far
from these being repressed by my presence, every moment which we
pass together, will only serve to irritate and excite them.
Believe me, unhappy Woman! you possess my sincere compassion. I
am convinced that you have hitherto acted upon the purest
motives; But though you are blind to the imprudence of your
conduct, in me it would be culpable not to open your eyes. I
feel that Duty obliges my treating you with harshness: I must
reject your prayer, and remove every shadow of hope which may
aid to nourish sentiments so pernicious to your repose. Matilda,
you must from hence tomorrow.'
'Tomorrow, Ambrosio? Tomorrow? Oh! surely you cannot mean it!
You cannot resolve on driving me to despair! You cannot have the
cruelty. . . .'
'You have heard my decision, and it must be obeyed. The Laws of
our Order forbid your stay: It would be perjury to conceal that
a Woman is within these Walls, and my vows will oblige me to
declare your story to the Community. You must from hence!--I
pity you, but can do no more!'
He pronounced these words in a faint and trembling voice: Then
rising from his seat, He would have hastened towards the
Monastery. Uttering a loud shriek, Matilda followed, and
detained him.
'Stay yet one moment, Ambrosio! Hear me yet speak one word!'
'I dare not listen! Release me! You know my resolution!'
'But one word! But one last word, and I have done!'
'Leave me! Your entreaties are in vain! You must from hence
'Go then, Barbarian! But this resource is still left me.'
As She said this, She suddenly drew a poignard: She rent open
her garment, and placed the weapon's point against her bosom.
'Father, I will never quit these Walls alive!'
'Hold! Hold, Matilda! What would you do?'
'You are determined, so am I: The Moment that you leave me, I
plunge this Steel in my heart.'
'Holy St. Francis! Matilda, have you your senses? Do you know
the consequences of your action? That Suicide is the greatest of
crimes? That you destroy your Soul? That you lose your claim to
salvation? That you prepare for yourself everlasting torments?'
'I care not! I care not!' She replied passionately; 'Either your
hand guides me to Paradise, or my own dooms me to perdition!
Speak to me, Ambrosio! Tell me that you will conceal my story,
that I shall remain your Friend and your Companion, or this
poignard drinks my blood!'
As She uttered these last words, She lifted her arm, and made a
motion as if to stab herself. The Friar's eyes followed with
dread the course of the dagger. She had torn open her habit, and
her bosom was half exposed. The weapon's point rested upon her
left breast: And Oh! that was such a breast! The Moonbeams
darting full upon it enabled the Monk to observe its dazzling
whiteness. His eye dwelt with insatiable avidity upon the
beauteous Orb. A sensation till then unknown filled his heart
with a mixture of anxiety and delight: A raging fire shot
through every limb; The blood boiled in his veins, and a thousand
wild wishes bewildered his imagination.
'Hold!' He cried in an hurried faultering voice; 'I can resist no
longer! Stay, then, Enchantress; Stay for my destruction!'
He said, and rushing from the place, hastened towards the
Monastery: He regained his Cell and threw himself upon his
Couch, distracted irresolute and confused.
He found it impossible for some time to arrange his ideas. The
scene in which He had been engaged had excited such a variety of
sentiments in his bosom, that He was incapable of deciding which
was predominant. He was irresolute what conduct He ought to hold
with the disturber of his repose. He was conscious that
religion, and propriety necessitated his obliging her to quit the
Abbey: But on the other hand such powerful reasons authorized
her stay that He was but too much inclined to consent to her
remaining. He could not avoid being flattered by Matilda's
declaration, and at reflecting that He had unconsciously
vanquished an heart which had resisted the attacks of Spain's
noblest Cavaliers: The manner in which He had gained her
affections was also the most satisfactory to his vanity: He
remembered the many happy hours which He had passed in Rosario's
society, and dreaded that void in his heart which parting with
him would occasion. Besides all this, He considered, that as
Matilda was wealthy, her favour might be of essential benefit to
the Abbey.
'And what do I risque,' said He to himself, 'by authorizing her
stay? May I not safely credit her assertions? Will it not be
easy for me to forget her sex, and still consider her as my
Friend and my disciple? Surely her love is as pure as She
describes. Had it been the offspring of mere licentiousness,
would She so long have concealed it in her own bosom? Would She
not have employed some means to procure its gratification? She
has done quite the contrary: She strove to keep me in ignorance
of her sex; and nothing but the fear of detection, and my
instances, would have compelled her to reveal the secret. She
has observed the duties of religion not less strictly than
myself. She has made no attempts to rouze my slumbering
passions, nor has She ever conversed with me till this night on
the subject of Love. Had She been desirous to gain my
affections, not my esteem, She would not have concealed from me
her charms so carefully: At this very moment I have never seen
her face: Yet certainly that face must be lovely, and her person
beautiful, to judge by her . . . by what I have seen.'
As this last idea passed through his imagination, a blush spread
itself over his cheek. Alarmed at the sentiments which He was
indulging, He betook himself to prayer; He started from his
Couch, knelt before the beautiful Madona, and entreated her
assistance in stifling such culpable emotions. He then returned
to his Bed, and resigned himself to slumber.
He awoke, heated and unrefreshed. During his sleep his inflamed
imagination had presented him with none but the most voluptuous
objects. Matilda stood before him in his dreams, and his eyes
again dwelt upon her naked breast. She repeated her
protestations of eternal love, threw her arms round his neck, and
loaded him with kisses: He returned them; He clasped her
passionately to his bosom, and . . . the vision was dissolved.
Sometimes his dreams presented the image of his favourite Madona,
and He fancied that He was kneeling before her: As He offered up
his vows to her, the eyes of the Figure seemed to beam on him
with inexpressible sweetness. He pressed his lips to hers, and
found them warm: The animated form started from the Canvas,
embraced him affectionately, and his senses were unable to
support delight so exquisite. Such were the scenes, on which his
thoughts were employed while sleeping: His unsatisfied Desires
placed before him the most lustful and provoking Images, and he
rioted in joys till then unknown to him.
He started from his Couch, filled with confusion at the
remembrance of his dreams. Scarcely was He less ashamed, when He
reflected on his reasons of the former night which induced him
to authorize Matilda's stay. The cloud was now dissipated which
had obscured his judgment: He shuddered when He beheld his
arguments blazoned in their proper colours, and found that He had
been a slave to flattery, to avarice, and self-love. If in one
hour's conversation Matilda had produced a change so remarkable
in his sentiments, what had He not to dread from her remaining in
the Abbey? Become sensible of his danger, awakened from his
dream of confidence, He resolved to insist on her departing
without delay. He began to feel that He was not proof against
temptation; and that however Matilda might restrain herself
within the bounds of modesty, He was unable to contend with those
passions, from which He falsely thought himself exempted.
'Agnes! Agnes!' He exclaimed, while reflecting on his
embarrassments, 'I already feel thy curse!'
He quitted his Cell, determined upon dismissing the feigned
Rosario. He appeared at Matins; But his thoughts were absent,
and He paid them but little attention. His heart and brain were
both of them filled with worldly objects, and He prayed without
devotion. The service over, He descended into the Garden. He
bent his steps towards the same spot where, on the preceding
night, He had made this embarrassing discovery. He doubted not
but that Matilda would seek him there: He was not deceived. She
soon entered the Hermitage, and approached the Monk with a timid
air. After a few minutes during which both were silent, She
appeared as if on the point of speaking; But the Abbot, who
during this time had been summoning up all his resolution,
hastily interrupted her. Though still unconscious how extensive
was its influence, He dreaded the melodious seduction of her
'Seat yourself by my side, Matilda,' said He, assuming a look of
firmness, though carefully avoiding the least mixture of
severity; 'Listen to me patiently, and believe, that in what I
shall say, I am not more influenced by my own interest than by
yours: Believe, that I feel for you the warmest friendship, the
truest compassion, and that you cannot feel more grieved than I
do, when I declare to you that we must never meet again.'
'Ambrosio!' She cried, in a voice at once expressive of surprise
and sorrow.
'Be calm, my Friend! My Rosario! Still let me call you by that
name so dear to me! Our separation is unavoidable; I blush to
own, how sensibly it affects me.-- But yet it must be so. I feel
myself incapable of treating you with indifference, and that very
conviction obliges me to insist upon your departure. Matilda,
you must stay here no longer.'
'Oh! where shall I now seek for probity? Disgusted with a
perfidious world, in what happy region does Truth conceal
herself? Father, I hoped that She resided here; I thought that
your bosom had been her favourite shrine. And you too prove
false? Oh God! And you too can betray me?'
'Yes, Father, Yes! 'Tis with justice that I reproach you. Oh!
where are your promises? My Noviciate is not expired, and yet
will you compell me to quit the Monastery? Can you have the
heart to drive me from you? And have I not received your solemn
oath to the contrary?'
'I will not compell you to quit the Monastery: You have received
my solemn oath to the contrary. But yet when I throw myself upon
your generosity, when I declare to you the embarrassments in
which your presence involves me, will you not release me from
that oath? Reflect upon the danger of a discovery, upon the
opprobrium in which such an event would plunge me: Reflect that
my honour and reputation are at stake, and that my peace of mind
depends on your compliance. As yet my heart is free; I shall
separate from you with regret, but not with despair. Stay here,
and a few weeks will sacrifice my happiness on the altar of your
charms. You are but too interesting, too amiable! I should love
you, I should doat on you! My bosom would become the prey of
desires which Honour and my profession forbid me to gratify. If
I resisted them, the impetuosity of my wishes unsatisfied would
drive me to madness: If I yielded to the temptation, I should
sacrifice to one moment of guilty pleasure my reputation in this
world, my salvation in the next. To you then I fly for defence
against myself. Preserve me from losing the reward of thirty
years of sufferings! Preserve me from becoming the Victim of
Remorse! YOUR heart has already felt the anguish of hopeless
love; Oh! then if you really value me, spare mine that anguish!
Give me back my promise; Fly from these walls. Go, and you bear
with you my warmest prayers for your happiness, my friendship, my
esteem and admiration: Stay, and you become to me the source of
danger, of sufferings, of despair! Answer me, Matilda; What is
your resolve?'--She was silent--'Will you not speak, Matilda?
Will you not name your choice?'
'Cruel! Cruel!' She exclaimed, wringing her hands in agony; 'You
know too well that you offer me no choice! You know too well that
I can have no will but yours!'
'I was not then deceived! Matilda's generosity equals my
'Yes; I will prove the truth of my affection by submitting to a
decree which cuts me to the very heart. Take back your promise.
I will quit the Monastery this very day. I have a Relation,
Abbess of a Covent in Estramadura: To her will I bend my steps,
and shut myself from the world for ever. Yet tell me, Father;
Shall I bear your good wishes with me to my solitude? Will you
sometimes abstract your attention from heavenly objects to bestow
a thought upon me?'
'Ah! Matilda, I fear that I shall think on you but too often for
my repose!'
'Then I have nothing more to wish for, save that we may meet in
heaven. Farewell, my Friend! my Ambrosio!-- And yet methinks, I
would fain bear with me some token of your regard!'
'What shall I give you?'
'Something.--Any thing.--One of those flowers will be
sufficient.' (Here She pointed to a bush of Roses, planted at the
door of the Grotto.) 'I will hide it in my bosom, and when I am
dead, the Nuns shall find it withered upon my heart.'
The Friar was unable to reply: With slow steps, and a soul heavy
with affliction, He quitted the Hermitage. He approached the
Bush, and stooped to pluck one of the Roses. Suddenly He uttered
a piercing cry, started back hastily, and let the flower, which
He already held, fall from his hand. Matilda heard the shriek,
and flew anxiously towards him.
'What is the matter?' She cried; 'Answer me, for God's sake!
What has happened?'
'I have received my death!' He replied in a faint voice;
'Concealed among the Roses . . . A Serpent. . . .'
Here the pain of his wound became so exquisite, that Nature was
unable to bear it: His senses abandoned him, and He sank
inanimate into Matilda's arms.
Her distress was beyond the power of description. She rent her
hair, beat her bosom, and not daring to quit Ambrosio,
endeavoured by loud cries to summon the Monks to her assistance.
She at length succeeded. Alarmed by her shrieks, Several of the
Brothers hastened to the spot, and the Superior was conveyed back
to the Abbey. He was immediately put to bed, and the Monk who
officiated as Surgeon to the Fraternity prepared to examine the
wound. By this time Ambrosio's hand had swelled to an
extraordinary size; The remedies which had been administered to
him, 'tis true, restored him to life, but not to his senses; He
raved in all the horrors of delirium, foamed at the mouth, and
four of the strongest Monks were scarcely able to hold him in his
Father Pablos, such was the Surgeon's name, hastened to examine
the wounded hand. The Monks surrounded the Bed, anxiously
waiting for the decision: Among these the feigned Rosario
appeared not the most insensible to the Friar's calamity. He
gazed upon the Sufferer with inexpressible anguish; and the
groans which every moment escaped from his bosom sufficiently
betrayed the violence of his affliction.
Father Pablos probed the wound. As He drew out his Lancet, its
point was tinged with a greenish hue. He shook his head
mournfully, and quitted the bedside.
' 'Tis as I feared!' said He; 'There is no hope.'
'No hope?' exclaimed the Monks with one voice; 'Say you, no
'From the sudden effects, I suspected that the Abbot was stung by
a Cientipedoro: The venom which you see upon my Lancet
confirms my idea: He cannot live three days.'
'And can no possible remedy be found?' enquired Rosario.
'Without extracting the poison, He cannot recover; and how to
extract it is to me still a secret. All that I can do is to
apply such herbs to the wound as will relieve the anguish: The
Patient will be restored to his senses; But the venom will
corrupt the whole mass of his blood, and in three days He will
exist no longer.'
Excessive was the universal grief at hearing this decision.
Pablos, as He had promised, dressed the wound, and then retired,
followed by his Companions: Rosario alone remained in the Cell,
the Abbot at his urgent entreaty having been committed to his
care. Ambrosio's strength worn out by the violence of his
exertions, He had by this time fallen into a profound sleep. So
totally was He overcome by weariness, that He scarcely gave any
signs of life; He was still in this situation, when the Monks
returned to enquire whether any change had taken place. Pablos
loosened the bandage which concealed the wound, more from a
principle of curiosity than from indulging the hope of
discovering any favourable symptoms. What was his astonishment
at finding, that the inflammation had totally subsided! He
probed the hand; His Lancet came out pure and unsullied; No
traces of the venom were perceptible; and had not the orifice
still been visible, Pablos might have doubted that there had ever
been a wound.
He communicated this intelligence to his Brethren; their delight
was only equalled by their surprize. From the latter sentiment,
however, they were soon released by explaining the circumstance
according to their own ideas: They were perfectly convinced that
their Superior was a Saint, and thought, that nothing could be
more natural than for St. Francis to have operated a miracle in
his favour. This opinion was adopted unanimously: They declared
it so loudly, and vociferated,--'A miracle! a miracle!'--with
such fervour, that they soon interrupted Ambrosio's slumbers.
The Monks immediately crowded round his Bed, and expressed their
satisfaction at his wonderful recovery. He was perfectly in his
senses, and free from every complaint except feeling weak and
languid. Pablos gave him a strengthening medicine, and advised
his keeping his bed for the two succeeding days: He then
retired, having desired his Patient not to exhaust himself by
conversation, but rather to endeavour at taking some repose. The
other Monks followed his example, and the Abbot and Rosario were
left without Observers.
For some minutes Ambrosio regarded his Attendant with a look of
mingled pleasure and apprehension. She was seated upon the side
of the Bed, her head bending down, and as usual enveloped in the
Cowl of her Habit.
'And you are still here, Matilda?' said the Friar at length.
'Are you not satisfied with having so nearly effected my
destruction, that nothing but a miracle could have saved me from
the Grave? Ah! surely Heaven sent that Serpent to punish. . . .'
Matilda interrupted him by putting her hand before his lips with
an air of gaiety.
'Hush! Father, Hush! You must not talk!'
'He who imposed that order, knew not how interesting are the
subjects on which I wish to speak.'
'But I know it, and yet issue the same positive command. I am
appointed your Nurse, and you must not disobey my orders.'
'You are in spirits, Matilda!'
'Well may I be so: I have just received a pleasure unexampled
through my whole life.'
'What was that pleasure?'
'What I must conceal from all, but most from you.'
'But most from me? Nay then, I entreat you, Matilda. . . .'
'Hush, Father! Hush! You must not talk. But as you do not seem
inclined to sleep, shall I endeavour to amuse you with my Harp?'
'How? I knew not that you understood Music.'
'Oh! I am a sorry Performer! Yet as silence is prescribed you
for eight and forty hours, I may possibly entertain you, when
wearied of your own reflections. I go to fetch my Harp.'
She soon returned with it.
'Now, Father; What shall I sing? Will you hear the Ballad which
treats of the gallant Durandarte, who died in the famous battle
of Roncevalles?'
'What you please, Matilda.'
'Oh! call me not Matilda! Call me Rosario, call me your Friend!
Those are the names, which I love to hear from your lips. Now
She then tuned her harp, and afterwards preluded for some moments
with such exquisite taste as to prove her a perfect Mistress of
the Instrument. The air which She played was soft and plaintive:
Ambrosio, while He listened, felt his uneasiness subside, and a
pleasing melancholy spread itself into his bosom. Suddenly
Matilda changed the strain: With an hand bold and rapid She
struck a few loud martial chords, and then chaunted the following
Ballad to an air at once simple and melodious.
Sad and fearful is the story
Of the Roncevalles fight;
On those fatal plains of glory
Perished many a gallant Knight.
There fell Durandarte; Never
Verse a nobler Chieftain named:
He, before his lips for ever
Closed in silence thus exclaimed.
'Oh! Belerma! Oh! my dear-one!
For my pain and pleasure born!
Seven long years I served thee, fair-one,
Seven long years my fee was scorn:
'And when now thy heart replying
To my wishes, burns like mine,
Cruel Fate my bliss denying
Bids me every hope resign.
'Ah! Though young I fall, believe me,
Death would never claim a sigh;
'Tis to lose thee, 'tis to leave thee,
Makes me think it hard to die!
'Oh! my Cousin Montesinos,
By that friendship firm and dear
Which from Youth has lived between us,
Now my last petition hear!
'When my Soul these limbs forsaking
Eager seeks a purer air,
From my breast the cold heart taking,
Give it to Belerma's care.
Say, I of my lands Possessor
Named her with my dying breath:
Say, my lips I op'd to bless her,
Ere they closed for aye in death:
'Twice a week too how sincerely
I adored her, Cousin, say;
Twice a week for one who dearly
Loved her, Cousin, bid her pray.
'Montesinos, now the hour
Marked by fate is near at hand:
Lo! my arm has lost its power!
Lo! I drop my trusty brand!
'Eyes, which forth beheld me going,
Homewards ne'er shall see me hie!
Cousin, stop those tears o'er-flowing,
Let me on thy bosom die!
'Thy kind hand my eyelids closing,
Yet one favour I implore:
Pray Thou for my Soul's reposing,
When my heart shall throb no more;
'So shall Jesus, still attending
Gracious to a Christian's vow,
Pleased accept my Ghost ascending,
And a seat in heaven allow.'
Thus spoke gallant Durandarte;
Soon his brave heart broke in twain.
Greatly joyed the Moorish party,
That the gallant Knight was slain.
Bitter weeping Montesinos
Took from him his helm and glaive;
Bitter weeping Montesinos
Dug his gallant Cousin's grave.
To perform his promise made, He
Cut the heart from out the breast,
That Belerma, wretched Lady!
Might receive the last bequest.
Sad was Montesinos' heart, He
Felt distress his bosom rend.
'Oh! my Cousin Durandarte,
Woe is me to view thy end!
'Sweet in manners, fair in favour,
Mild in temper, fierce in fight,
Warrior, nobler, gentler, braver,
Never shall behold the light!
'Cousin, Lo! my tears bedew thee!
How shall I thy loss survive!
Durandarte, He who slew thee,
Wherefore left He me alive!'
While She sung, Ambrosio listened with delight: Never had He
heard a voice more harmonious; and He wondered how such heavenly
sounds could be produced by any but Angels. But though He
indulged the sense of hearing, a single look convinced him that
He must not trust to that of sight. The Songstress sat at a
little distance from his Bed. The attitude in which She bent
over her harp, was easy and graceful: Her Cowl had fallen backwarder
than usual: Two coral lips were visible, ripe, fresh, and
melting, and a Chin in whose dimples seemed to lurk a thousand
Cupids. Her Habit's long sleeve would have swept along the
Chords of the Instrument: To prevent this inconvenience She had
drawn it above her elbow, and by this means an arm was discovered
formed in the most perfect symmetry, the delicacy of whose skin
might have contended with snow in whiteness. Ambrosio dared to
look on her but once: That glance sufficed to convince him, how
dangerous was the presence of this seducing Object. He closed
his eyes, but strove in vain to banish her from his thoughts.
There She still moved before him, adorned with all those charms
which his heated imagination could supply: Every beauty which He
had seen, appeared embellished, and those still concealed Fancy
represented to him in glowing colours. Still, however, his vows
and the necessity of keeping to them were present to his memory.
He struggled with desire, and shuddered when He beheld how deep
was the precipice before him.
Matilda ceased to sing. Dreading the influence of her charms,
Ambrosio remained with his eyes closed, and offered up his
prayers to St. Francis to assist him in this dangerous trial!
Matilda believed that He was sleeping. She rose from her seat,
approached the Bed softly, and for some minutes gazed upon him
'He sleeps!' said She at length in a low voice, but whose accents
the Abbot distinguished perfectly; 'Now then I may gaze upon him
without offence! I may mix my breath with his; I may doat upon
his features, and He cannot suspect me of impurity and
deceit!--He fears my seducing him to the violation of his vows!
Oh! the Unjust! Were it my wish to excite desire, should I
conceal my features from him so carefully? Those features, of
which I daily hear him. . . .'
She stopped, and was lost in her reflections.
'It was but yesterday!' She continued; 'But a few short hours
have past, since I was dear to him! He esteemed me, and my heart
was satisfied! Now!. . . Oh! now how cruelly is my situation
changed! He looks on me with suspicion! He bids me leave him,
leave him for ever! Oh! You, my Saint! my Idol! You, holding
the next place to God in my breast! Yet two days, and my heart
will be unveiled to you.--Could you know my feelings, when I
beheld your agony! Could you know, how much your sufferings have
endeared you to me! But the time will come, when you will be
convinced that my passion is pure and disinterested. Then you
will pity me, and feel the whole weight of these sorrows!'
As She said this, her voice was choaked by weeping. While She
bent over Ambrosio, a tear fell upon his cheek.
'Ah! I have disturbed him!' cried Matilda, and retreated
Her alarm was ungrounded. None sleep so profoundly, as those who
are determined not to wake. The Friar was in this predicament:
He still seemed buried in a repose, which every succeeding minute
rendered him less capable of enjoying. The burning tear had
communicated its warmth to his heart.
'What affection! What purity!' said He internally; 'Ah! since
my bosom is thus sensible of pity, what would it be if agitated
by love?'
Matilda again quitted her seat, and retired to some distance from
the Bed. Ambrosio ventured to open his eyes, and to cast them
upon her fearfully. Her face was turned from him. She rested
her head in a melancholy posture upon her Harp, and gazed on the
picture which hung opposite to the Bed.
'Happy, happy Image!' Thus did She address the beautiful Madona;
' 'Tis to you that He offers his prayers! 'Tis on you that He
gazes with admiration! I thought you would have lightened my
sorrows; You have only served to increase their weight: You have
made me feel that had I known him ere his vows were pronounced,
Ambrosio and happiness might have been mine. With what pleasure
He views this picture! With what fervour He addresses his
prayers to the insensible Image! Ah! may not his sentiments be
inspired by some kind and secret Genius, Friend to my affection?
May it not be Man's natural instinct which informs him. . . Be
silent, idle hopes! Let me not encourage an idea which takes
from the brilliance of Ambrosio's virtue. 'Tis Religion, not
Beauty which attracts his admiration; 'Tis not to the Woman, but
the Divinity that He kneels. Would He but address to me the
least tender expression which He pours forth to this Madona!
Would He but say that were He not already affianced to the
Church, He would not have despised Matilda! Oh! let me nourish
that fond idea! Perhaps He may yet acknowledge that He feels for
me more than pity, and that affection like mine might well have
deserved a return; Perhaps, He may own thus much when I lye on my
deathbed! He then need not fear to infringe his vows, and the
confession of his regard will soften the pangs of dying. Would I
were sure of this! Oh! how earnestly should I sigh for the
moment of dissolution!'
Of this discourse the Abbot lost not a syllable; and the tone in
which She pronounced these last words pierced to his heart.
Involuntarily He raised himself from his pillow.
'Matilda!' He said in a troubled voice; 'Oh! my Matilda!'
She started at the sound, and turned towards him hastily. The
suddenness of her movement made her Cowl fall back from her head;
Her features became visible to the Monk's enquiring eye. What
was his amazement at beholding the exact resemblance of his
admired Madona? The same exquisite proportion of features, the
same profusion of golden hair, the same rosy lips, heavenly eyes,
and majesty of countenance adorned Matilda! Uttering an
exclamation of surprize, Ambrosio sank back upon his pillow, and
doubted whether the Object before him was mortal or divine.
Matilda seemed penetrated with confusion. She remained
motionless in her place, and supported herself upon her
Instrument. Her eyes were bent upon the earth, and her fair
cheeks overspread with blushes. On recovering herself, her
first action was to conceal her features. She then in an
unsteady and troubled voice ventured to address these words to
the Friar.
'Accident has made you Master of a secret, which I never would
have revealed but on the Bed of death. Yes, Ambrosio; In Matilda
de Villanegas you see the original of your beloved Madona. Soon
after I conceived my unfortunate passion, I formed the project of
conveying to you my Picture: Crowds of Admirers had persuaded me
that I possessed some beauty, and I was anxious to know what
effect it would produce upon you. I caused my Portrait to be
drawn by Martin Galuppi, a celebrated Venetian at that time
resident in Madrid. The resemblance was striking: I sent it to
the Capuchin Abbey as if for sale, and the Jew from whom you
bought it was one of my Emissaries. You purchased it. Judge of
my rapture, when informed that you had gazed upon it with
delight, or rather with adoration; that you had suspended it in
your Cell, and that you addressed your supplications to no other
Saint. Will this discovery make me still more regarded as an
object of suspicion? Rather should it convince you how pure is
my affection, and engage you to suffer me in your society and
esteem. I heard you daily extol the praises of my Portrait: I
was an eyewitness of the transports, which its beauty excited
in you: Yet I forbore to use against your virtue those arms, with
which yourself had furnished me. I concealed those features from
your sight, which you loved unconsciously. I strove not to
excite desire by displaying my charms, or to make myself Mistress
of your heart through the medium of your senses. To attract your
notice by studiously attending to religious duties, to endear
myself to you by convincing you that my mind was virtuous and my
attachment sincere, such was my only aim. I succeeded; I became
your companion and your Friend. I concealed my sex from your
knowledge; and had you not pressed me to reveal my secret, had I
not been tormented by the fear of a discovery, never had you
known me for any other than Rosario. And still are you resolved
to drive me from you? The few hours of life which yet remain for
me, may I not pass them in your presence? Oh! speak, Ambrosio,
and tell me that I may stay!'
This speech gave the Abbot an opportunity of recollecting
himself. He was conscious that in the present disposition of his
mind, avoiding her society was his only refuge from the power of
this enchanting Woman.
'You declaration has so much astonished me,' said He, 'that I am
at present incapable of answering you. Do not insist upon a
reply, Matilda; Leave me to myself; I have need to be alone.'
'I obey you--But before I go, promise not to insist upon my
quitting the Abbey immediately.'
'Matilda, reflect upon your situation; Reflect upon the
consequences of your stay. Our separation is indispensable, and
we must part.'
'But not to-day, Father! Oh! in pity not today!'
'You press me too hard, but I cannot resist that tone of
supplication. Since you insist upon it, I yield to your prayer:
I consent to your remaining here a sufficient time to prepare in
some measure the Brethren for your departure. Stay yet two days;
But on the third,' . . . (He sighed involuntarily)--'Remember,
that on the third we must part for ever!'
She caught his hand eagerly, and pressed it to her lips.
'On the third?' She exclaimed with an air of wild solemnity; 'You
are right, Father! You are right! On the third we must part for
There was a dreadful expression in her eye as She uttered these
words, which penetrated the Friar's soul with horror: Again She
kissed his hand, and then fled with rapidity from the chamber.
Anxious to authorise the presence of his dangerous Guest, yet
conscious that her stay was infringing the laws of his order,
Ambrosio's bosom became the Theatre of a thousand contending
passions. At length his attachment to the feigned Rosario, aided
by the natural warmth of his temperament, seemed likely to obtain
the victory: The success was assured, when that presumption which
formed the groundwork of his character came to Matilda's
assistance. The Monk reflected that to vanquish temptation was
an infinitely greater merit than to avoid it: He thought that
He ought rather to rejoice in the opportunity given him of
proving the firmness of his virtue. St. Anthony had withstood
all seductions to lust; Then why should not He? Besides, St.
Anthony was tempted by the Devil, who put every art into practice
to excite his passions: Whereas, Ambrosio's danger proceeded
from a mere mortal Woman, fearful and modest, whose apprehensions
of his yielding were not less violent than his own.
'Yes,' said He; 'The Unfortunate shall stay; I have nothing to
fear from her presence. Even should my own prove too weak to
resist the temptation, I am secured from danger by the innocence
of Matilda.'
Ambrosio was yet to learn, that to an heart unacquainted with
her, Vice is ever most dangerous when lurking behind the Mask of
He found himself so perfectly recovered, that when Father Pablos
visited him again at night, He entreated permission to quit his
chamber on the day following. His request was granted. Matilda
appeared no more that evening, except in company with the Monks
when they came in a body to enquire after the Abbot's health.
She seemed fearful of conversing with him in private, and stayed
but a few minutes in his room. The Friar slept well; But the
dreams of the former night were repeated, and his sensations of
voluptuousness were yet more keen and exquisite. The same
lust-exciting visions floated before his eyes: Matilda, in all
the pomp of beauty, warm, tender, and luxurious, clasped him to
her bosom, and lavished upon him the most ardent caresses. He
returned them as eagerly, and already was on the point of
satisfying his desires, when the faithless form disappeared, and
left him to all the horrors of shame and disappointment.
The Morning dawned. Fatigued, harassed, and exhausted by his
provoking dreams, He was not disposed to quit his Bed. He
excused himself from appearing at Matins: It was the first
morning in his life that He had ever missed them. He rose late.
During the whole of the day He had no opportunity of speaking to
Matilda without witnesses. His Cell was thronged by the Monks,
anxious to express their concern at his illness; And He was still
occupied in receiving their compliments on his recovery, when the
Bell summoned them to the Refectory.
After dinner the Monks separated, and dispersed themselves in
various parts of the Garden, where the shade of trees or
retirement of some Grotto presented the most agreeable means of
enjoying the Siesta. The Abbot bent his steps towards the
Hermitage: A glance of his eye invited Matilda to accompany him.
She obeyed, and followed him thither in silence. They entered
the Grotto, and seated themselves. Both seemed unwilling to
begin the conversation, and to labour under the influence of
mutual embarrassment. At length the Abbot spoke: He conversed
only on indifferent topics, and Matilda answered him in the same
tone. She seemed anxious to make him forget that the Person who
sat by him was any other than Rosario. Neither of them dared, or
indeed wished to make an allusion, to the subject which was most
at the hearts of both.
Matilda's efforts to appear gay were evidently forced: Her
spirits were oppressed by the weight of anxiety, and when She
spoke her voice was low and feeble. She seemed desirous of
finishing a conversation which embarrassed her; and complaining
that She was unwell, She requested Ambrosio's permission to
return to the Abbey. He accompanied her to the door of her cell;
and when arrived there, He stopped her to declare his consent to
her continuing the Partner of his solitude so long as should be
agreeable to herself.
She discovered no marks of pleasure at receiving this
intelligence, though on the preceding day She had been so anxious
to obtain the permission.
'Alas! Father,' She said, waving her head mournfully; 'Your
kindness comes too late! My doom is fixed. We must separate for
ever. Yet believe, that I am grateful for your generosity, for
your compassion of an Unfortunate who is but too little deserving
of it!'
She put her handkerchief to her eyes. Her Cowl was only half
drawn over her face. Ambrosio observed that She was pale, and
her eyes sunk and heavy.
'Good God!' He cried; 'You are very ill, Matilda! I shall send
Father Pablos to you instantly.'
'No; Do not. I am ill, 'tis true; But He cannot cure my malady.
Farewell, Father! Remember me in your prayers tomorrow, while I
shall remember you in heaven!'
She entered her cell, and closed the door.
The Abbot dispatched to her the Physician without losing a
moment, and waited his report impatiently. But Father Pablos
soon returned, and declared that his errand had been fruitless.
Rosario refused to admit him, and had positively rejected his
offers of assistance. The uneasiness which this account gave
Ambrosio was not trifling: Yet He determined that Matilda should
have her own way for that night: But that if her situation did
not mend by the morning, he would insist upon her taking the
advice of Father Pablos.
He did not find himself inclined to sleep. He opened his
casement, and gazed upon the moonbeams as they played upon the
small stream whose waters bathed the walls of the Monastery. The
coolness of the night breeze and tranquillity of the hour
inspired the Friar's mind with sadness. He thought upon
Matilda's beauty and affection; Upon the pleasures which He might
have shared with her, had He not been restrained by monastic
fetters. He reflected, that unsustained by hope her love for him
could not long exist; That doubtless She would succeed in
extinguishing her passion, and seek for happiness in the arms of
One more fortunate. He shuddered at the void which her absence
would leave in his bosom. He looked with disgust on the monotony
of a Convent, and breathed a sigh towards that world from which
He was for ever separated. Such were the reflections which a
loud knocking at his door interrupted. The Bell of the Church
had already struck Two. The Abbot hastened to enquire the cause
of this disturbance. He opened the door of his Cell, and a
Lay-Brother entered, whose looks declared his hurry and
'Hasten, reverend Father!' said He; 'Hasten to the young Rosario.
He earnestly requests to see you; He lies at the point of death.'
'Gracious God! Where is Father Pablos? Why is He not with him?
Oh! I fear! I fear!'
'Father Pablos has seen him, but his art can do nothing. He
says that He suspects the Youth to be poisoned.'
'Poisoned? Oh! The Unfortunate! It is then as I suspected!
But let me not lose a moment; Perhaps it may yet be time to save
He said, and flew towards the Cell of the Novice. Several Monks
were already in the chamber. Father Pablos was one of them, and
held a medicine in his hand which He was endeavouring to
persuade Rosario to swallow. The Others were employed in
admiring the Patient's divine countenance, which They now saw for
the first time. She looked lovelier than ever. She was no
longer pale or languid; A bright glow had spread itself over her
cheeks; her eyes sparkled with a serene delight, and her
countenance was expressive of confidence and resignation.
'Oh! torment me no more!' was She saying to Pablos, when the
terrified Abbot rushed hastily into the Cell; 'My disease is far
beyond the reach of your skill, and I wish not to be cured of
it'--Then perceiving Ambrosio,-- 'Ah! 'tis He!' She cried; 'I see
him once again, before we part for ever! Leave me, my Brethren;
Much have I to tell this holy Man in private.'
The Monks retired immediately, and Matilda and the Abbot remained
'What have you done, imprudent Woman!' exclaimed the Latter, as
soon as they were left alone; 'Tell me; Are my suspicions just?
Am I indeed to lose you? Has your own hand been the instrument
of your destruction?'
She smiled, and grasped his hand.
'In what have I been imprudent, Father? I have sacrificed a
pebble, and saved a diamond: My death preserves a life valuable
to the world, and more dear to me than my own. Yes, Father; I am
poisoned; But know that the poison once circulated in your
'What I tell you I resolved never to discover to you but on the
bed of death: That moment is now arrived. You cannot have
forgotten the day already, when your life was endangered by the
bite of a Cientipedoro. The Physician gave you over, declaring
himself ignorant how to extract the venom: I knew but of one
means, and hesitated not a moment to employ it. I was left alone
with you: You slept; I loosened the bandage from your hand; I
kissed the wound, and drew out the poison with my lips. The
effect has been more sudden than I expected. I feel death at my
heart; Yet an hour, and I shall be in a better world.'
'Almighty God!' exclaimed the Abbot, and sank almost lifeless
upon the Bed.
After a few minutes He again raised himself up suddenly, and
gazed upon Matilda with all the wildness of despair.
'And you have sacrificed yourself for me! You die, and die to
preserve Ambrosio! And is there indeed no remedy, Matilda? And
is there indeed no hope? Speak to me, Oh! speak to me! Tell
me, that you have still the means of life!'
'Be comforted, my only Friend! Yes, I have still the means of
life in my power: But 'tis a means which I dare not employ. It
is dangerous! It is dreadful! Life would be purchased at too
dear a rate, . . . unless it were permitted me to live for you.'
'Then live for me, Matilda, for me and gratitude!'-- (He caught
her hand, and pressed it rapturously to his lips.)--'Remember our
late conversations; I now consent to every thing: Remember in
what lively colours you described the union of souls; Be it ours
to realize those ideas. Let us forget the distinctions of sex,
despise the world's prejudices, and only consider each other as
Brother and Friend. Live then, Matilda! Oh! live for me!'
'Ambrosio, it must not be. When I thought thus, I deceived both
you and myself. Either I must die at present, or expire by the
lingering torments of unsatisfied desire. Oh! since we last
conversed together, a dreadful veil has been rent from before my
eyes. I love you no longer with the devotion which is paid to a
Saint: I prize you no more for the virtues of your soul; I lust
for the enjoyment of your person. The Woman reigns in my bosom,
and I am become a prey to the wildest of passions. Away with
friendship! 'tis a cold unfeeling word. My bosom burns with
love, with unutterable love, and love must be its return.
Tremble then, Ambrosio, tremble to succeed in your prayers. If I
live, your truth, your reputation, your reward of a life past in
sufferings, all that you value is irretrievably lost. I shall no
longer be able to combat my passions, shall seize every
opportunity to excite your desires, and labour to effect your
dishonour and my own. No, no, Ambrosio; I must not live! I am
convinced with every moment, that I have but one alternative; I
feel with every heart-throb, that I must enjoy you, or die.'
'Amazement!--Matilda! Can it be you who speak to me?'
He made a movement as if to quit his seat. She uttered a loud
shriek, and raising herself half out of the Bed, threw her arms
round the Friar to detain him.
'Oh! do not leave me! Listen to my errors with compassion! In a
few hours I shall be no more; Yet a little, and I am free from
this disgraceful passion.'
'Wretched Woman, what can I say to you! I cannot . . . I must
not . . . But live, Matilda! Oh! live!'
'You do not reflect on what you ask. What? Live to plunge
myself in infamy? To become the Agent of Hell? To work the
destruction both of you and of Myself? Feel this heart, Father!'
She took his hand: Confused, embarrassed, and fascinated, He
withdrew it not, and felt her heart throb under it.
'Feel this heart, Father! It is yet the seat of honour, truth,
and chastity: If it beats tomorrow, it must fall a prey to the
blackest crimes. Oh! let me then die today! Let me die, while
I yet deserve the tears of the virtuous! Thus will
expire!'--(She reclined her head upon his shoulder; Her golden
Hair poured itself over his Chest.)-- 'Folded in your arms, I
shall sink to sleep; Your hand shall close my eyes for ever, and
your lips receive my dying breath. And will you not sometimes
think of me? Will you not sometimes shed a tear upon my Tomb?
Oh! Yes! Yes! Yes! That kiss is my assurance!'
The hour was night. All was silence around. The faint beams of
a solitary Lamp darted upon Matilda's figure, and shed through
the chamber a dim mysterious light. No prying eye, or curious
ear was near the Lovers: Nothing was heard but Matilda's
melodious accents. Ambrosio was in the full vigour of Manhood.
He saw before him a young and beautiful Woman, the preserver of
his life, the Adorer of his person, and whom affection for him
had reduced to the brink of the Grave. He sat upon her Bed; His
hand rested upon her bosom; Her head reclined voluptuously upon
his breast. Who then can wonder, if He yielded to the
temptation? Drunk with desire, He pressed his lips to those
which sought them: His kisses vied with Matilda's in warmth and
passion. He clasped her rapturously in his arms; He forgot his
vows, his sanctity, and his fame: He remembered nothing but the
pleasure and opportunity.
'Ambrosio! Oh! my Ambrosio!' sighed Matilda.
'Thine, ever thine!' murmured the Friar, and sank upon her bosom.
----These are the Villains
Whom all the Travellers do fear so much.
--------Some of them are Gentlemen
Such as the fury of ungoverned Youth
Thrust from the company of awful Men.
Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The Marquis and Lorenzo proceeded to the Hotel in silence. The
Former employed himself in calling every circumstance to his
mind, which related might give Lorenzo's the most favourable idea
of his connexion with Agnes. The Latter, justly alarmed for the
honour of his family, felt embarrassed by the presence of the
Marquis: The adventure which He had just witnessed forbad his
treating him as a Friend; and Antonia's interests being entrusted
to his mediation, He saw the impolicy of treating him as a Foe.
He concluded from these reflections, that profound silence would
be the wisest plan, and waited with impatience for Don Raymond's
They arrived at the Hotel de las Cisternas. The Marquis
immediately conducted him to his apartment, and began to express
his satisfaction at finding him at Madrid. Lorenzo interrupted
'Excuse me, my Lord,' said He with a distant air, 'if I reply
somewhat coldly to your expressions of regard. A Sister's honour
is involved in this affair: Till that is established, and the
purport of your correspondence with Agnes cleared up, I cannot
consider you as my Friend. I am anxious to hear the meaning of
your conduct, and hope that you will not delay the promised
'First give me your word, that you will listen with patience and
'I love my Sister too well to judge her harshly; and till this
moment I possessed no Friend so dear to me as yourself. I will
also confess, that your having it in your power to oblige me in a
business which I have much at heart, makes me very anxious to
find you still deserving my esteem.'
'Lorenzo, you transport me! No greater pleasure can be given me,
than an opportunity of serving the Brother of Agnes.'
'Convince me that I can accept your favours without dishonour,
and there is no Man in the world to whom I am more willing to be
'Probably, you have already heard your Sister mention the name of
Alphonso d'Alvarada?'
'Never. Though I feel for Agnes an affection truly fraternal,
circumstances have prevented us from being much together. While
yet a Child She was consigned to the care of her Aunt, who had
married a German Nobleman. At his Castle She remained till two
years since, when She returned to Spain, determined upon
secluding herself from the world.'
'Good God! Lorenzo, you knew of her intention, and yet strove
not to make her change it?'
'Marquis, you wrong me. The intelligence, which I received at
Naples, shocked me extremely, and I hastened my return to Madrid
for the express purpose of preventing the sacrifice. The moment
that I arrived, I flew to the Convent of St. Clare, in which
Agnes had chosen to perform her Noviciate. I requested to see my
Sister. Conceive my surprise when She sent me a refusal; She
declared positively, that apprehending my influence over her
mind, She would not trust herself in my society till the day
before that on which She was to receive the Veil. I supplicated
the Nuns; I insisted upon seeing Agnes, and hesitated not to avow
my suspicions that her being kept from me was against her own
inclinations. To free herself from the imputation of violence,
the Prioress brought me a few lines written in my Sister's
well-known hand, repeating the message already delivered. All
future attempts to obtain a moment's conversation with her were
as fruitless as the first. She was inflexible, and I was not
permitted to see her till the day preceding that on which She
entered the Cloister never to quit it more. This interview took
place in the presence of our principal Relations. It was for the
first time since her childhood that I saw her, and the scene was
most affecting. She threw herself upon my bosom, kissed me, and
wept bitterly. By every possible argument, by tears, by prayers,
by kneeling, I strove to make her abandon her intention. I
represented to her all the hardships of a religious life; I
painted to her imagination all the pleasures which She was going
to quit, and besought her to disclose to me, what occasioned her
disgust to the world. At this last question She turned pale, and
her tears flowed yet faster. She entreated me not to press her
on that subject; That it sufficed me to know that her resolution
was taken, and that a Convent was the only place where She could
now hope for tranquillity. She persevered in her design, and
made her profession. I visited her frequently at the Grate, and
every moment that I passed with her, made me feel more affliction
at her loss. I was shortly after obliged to quit Madrid; I
returned but yesterday evening, and since then have not had time
to call at St. Clare's Convent.'
'Then till I mentioned it, you never heard the name of Alphonso
'Pardon me: my Aunt wrote me word that an Adventurer so called
had found means to get introduced into the Castle of Lindenberg;
That He had insinuated himself into my Sister's good graces, and
that She had even consented to elope with him. However, before
the plan could be executed, the Cavalier discovered that the
estates which He believed Agnes to possess in Hispaniola, in
reality belonged to me. This intelligence made him change his
intention; He disappeared on the day that the elopement was to
have taken place, and Agnes, in despair at his perfidy and
meanness, had resolved upon seclusion in a Convent. She added,
that as this adventurer had given himself out to be a Friend of
mine, She wished to know whether I had any knowledge of him. I
replied in the negative. I had then very little idea, that
Alphonso d'Alvarada and the Marquis de las Cisternas were one and
the same person: The description given me of the first by no
means tallied with what I knew of the latter.'
'In this I easily recognize Donna Rodolpha's perfidious
character. Every word of this account is stamped with marks of
her malice, of her falsehood, of her talents for misrepresenting
those whom She wishes to injure. Forgive me, Medina, for
speaking so freely of your Relation. The mischief which She has
done me authorises my resentment, and when you have heard my
story, you will be convinced that my expressions have not been
too severe.'
He then began his narrative in the following manner.
Long experience, my dear Lorenzo, has convinced me how generous
is your nature: I waited not for your declaration of ignorance
respecting your Sister's adventures to suppose that they had
been purposely concealed from you. Had they reached your
knowledge, from what misfortunes should both Agnes and myself
have escaped! Fate had ordained it otherwise! You were on your
Travels when I first became acquainted with your Sister; and as
our Enemies took care to conceal from her your direction, it was
impossible for her to implore by letter your protection and
On leaving Salamanca, at which University as I have since heard,
you remained a year after I quitted it, I immediately set out
upon my Travels. My Father supplied me liberally with money; But
He insisted upon my concealing my rank, and presenting myself as
no more than a private Gentleman. This command was issued by the
counsels of his Friend, the Duke of Villa Hermosa, a Nobleman for
whose abilities and knowledge of the world I have ever
entertained the most profound veneration.
'Believe me,' said He, 'my dear Raymond, you will hereafter feel
the benefits of this temporary degradation. 'Tis true, that as
the Conde de las Cisternas you would have been received with open
arms; and your youthful vanity might have felt gratified by the
attentions showered upon you from all sides. At present, much
will depend upon yourself: You have excellent recommendations,
but it must be your own business to make them of use to you. You
must lay yourself out to please; You must labour to gain the
approbation of those, to whom you are presented: They who would
have courted the friendship of the Conde de las Cisternas will
have no interest in finding out the merits, or bearing patiently
with the faults, of Alphonso d'Alvarada. Consequently, when you
find yourself really liked, you may safely ascribe it to your
good qualities, not your rank, and the distinction shown you will
be infinitely more flattering. Besides, your exalted birth would
not permit your mixing with the lower classes of society, which
will now be in your power, and from which, in my opinion, you
will derive considerable benefit. Do not confine yourself to the
Illustrious of those Countries through which you pass. Examine
the manners and customs of the multitude: Enter into the
Cottages; and by observing how the Vassals of Foreigners are
treated, learn to diminish the burthens and augment the comforts
of your own. According to my ideas, of those advantages which a
Youth destined to the possession of power and wealth may reap
from travel, He should not consider as the least essential, the
opportunity of mixing with the classes below him, and becoming an
eyewitness of the sufferings of the People.'
Forgive me, Lorenzo, if I seem tedious in my narration. The close
connexion which now exists between us, makes me anxious that you
should know every particular respecting me; and in my fear of
omitting the least circumstance which may induce you to think
favourably of your Sister and myself, I may possibly relate many
which you may think uninteresting.
I followed the Duke's advice; I was soon convinced of its wisdom.
I quitted Spain, calling myself by the assumed title of Don
Alphonso d'Alvarada, and attended by a single Domestic of
approved fidelity. Paris was my first station. For some time I
was enchanted with it, as indeed must be every Man who is young,
rich, and fond of pleasure. Yet among all its gaieties, I felt
that something was wanting to my heart. I grew sick of
dissipation: I discovered, that the People among whom I lived,
and whose exterior was so polished and seducing, were at bottom
frivolous, unfeeling and insincere. I turned from the
Inhabitants of Paris with disgust, and quitted that Theatre of
Luxury without heaving one sigh of regret.
I now bent my course towards Germany, intending to visit most of
the principal courts: Prior to this expedition, I meant to make
some little stay at Strasbourg. On quitting my Chaise at
Luneville to take some refreshment, I observed a splendid
Equipage, attended by four Domestics in rich liveries, waiting at
the door of the Silver Lion. Soon after as I looked out of the
window, I saw a Lady of noble presence, followed by two female
Attendants, step into the Carriage, which drove off immediately.
I enquired of the Host, who the Lady was, that had just departed.
'A German Baroness, Monsieur, of great rank and fortune. She has
been upon a visit to the Duchess of Longueville, as her Servants
informed me; She is going to Strasbourg, where She will find her
Husband, and then both return to their Castle in Germany.'
I resumed my journey, intending to reach Strasbourg that night.
My hopes, however were frustrated by the breaking down of my
Chaise. The accident happened in the middle of a thick Forest,
and I was not a little embarrassed as to the means of proceeding.
It was the depth of winter: The night was already closing round
us; and Strasbourg, which was the nearest Town, was still distant
from us several leagues. It seemed to me that my only
alternative to passing the night in the Forest, was to take my
Servant's Horse and ride on to Strasbourg, an undertaking at
that season very far from agreeable. However, seeing no other
resource, I was obliged to make up my mind to it. Accordingly I
communicated my design to the Postillion, telling him that I
would send People to assist him as soon as I reached Strasbourg.
I had not much confidence in his honesty; But Stephano being
well-armed, and the Driver to all appearance considerably
advanced in years, I believed I ran no danger of losing my
Luckily, as I then thought, an opportunity presented itself of
passing the night more agreeably than I expected. On mentioning
my design of proceeding by myself to Strasbourg, the Postillion
shook his head in disapprobation.
'It is a long way,' said He; 'You will find it a difficult matter
to arrive there without a Guide. Besides, Monsieur seems
unaccustomed to the season's severity, and 'tis possible that
unable to sustain the excessive cold. . . .'
'What use is there to present me with all these objections?' said
I, impatiently interrupting him; 'I have no other resource: I
run still greater risque of perishing with cold by passing the
night in the Forest.'
'Passing the night in the Forest?' He replied; 'Oh! by St. Denis!
We are not in quite so bad a plight as that comes to yet. If I
am not mistaken, we are scarcely five minutes walk from the
Cottage of my old Friend, Baptiste. He is a Wood-cutter, and a
very honest Fellow. I doubt not but He will shelter you for the
night with pleasure. In the meantime I can take the
saddle-Horse, ride to Strasbourg, and be back with proper people
to mend your Carriage by break of day.'
'And in the name of God,' said I, 'How could you leave me so long
in suspense? Why did you not tell me of this Cottage sooner?
What excessive stupidity!'
'I thought that perhaps Monsieur would not deign to accept. . .
'Absurd! Come, come! Say no more, but conduct us without delay
to the Wood-man's Cottage.'
He obeyed, and we moved onwards: The Horses contrived with some
difficulty to drag the shattered vehicle after us. My Servant
was become almost speechless, and I began to feel the effects of
the cold myself, before we reached the wished-for Cottage. It
was a small but neat Building: As we drew near it, I rejoiced at
observing through the window the blaze of a comfortable fire.
Our Conductor knocked at the door: It was some time before any
one answered; The People within seemed in doubt whether we should
be admitted.
'Come! Come, Friend Baptiste!' cried the Driver with impatience;
'What are you about? Are you asleep? Or will you refuse a
night's lodging to a Gentleman, whose Chaise has just broken down
in the Forest?'
'Ah! is it you, honest Claude?' replied a Man's voice from
within; 'Wait a moment, and the door shall be opened.'
Soon after the bolts were drawn back. The door was unclosed, and
a Man presented himself to us with a Lamp in his hand. He gave
the Guide an hearty reception, and then addressed himself to me.
'Walk in, Monsieur; Walk in, and welcome! Excuse me for not
admitting you at first: But there are so many Rogues about this
place, that saving your presence, I suspected you to be one.'
Thus saying, He ushered me into the room, where I had observed
the fire: I was immediately placed in an Easy Chair, which stood
close to the Hearth. A Female, whom I supposed to be the Wife of
my Host, rose from her seat upon my entrance, and received me
with a slight and distant reverence. She made no answer to my
compliment, but immediately re-seating herself, continued the
work on which She had been employed. Her Husband's manners were
as friendly as hers were harsh and repulsive.
'I wish, I could lodge you more conveniently, Monsieur,' said He;
'But we cannot boast of much spare room in this hovel. However,
a chamber for yourself, and another for your Servant, I think, we
can make shift to supply. You must content yourself with sorry
fare; But to what we have, believe me, you are heartily welcome.'
----Then turning to his wife--'Why, how you sit there,
Marguerite, with as much tranquillity as if you had nothing
better to do! Stir about, Dame! Stir about! Get some supper;
Look out some sheets; Here, here; throw some logs upon the fire,
for the Gentleman seems perished with cold.'
The Wife threw her work hastily upon the Table, and proceeded to
execute his commands with every mark of unwillingness. Her
countenance had displeased me on the first moment of my examining
it. Yet upon the whole her features were handsome
unquestionably; But her skin was sallow, and her person thin and
meagre; A louring gloom over-spread her countenance; and it bore
such visible marks of rancour and ill-will, as could not escape
being noticed by the most inattentive Observer. Her every look
and action expressed discontent and impatience, and the answers
which She gave Baptiste, when He reproached her good-humouredly
for her dissatisfied air, were tart, short, and cutting. In
fine, I conceived at first sight equal disgust for her, and
prepossession in favour of her Husband, whose appearance was
calculated to inspire esteem and confidence. His countenance was
open, sincere, and friendly; his manners had all the Peasant's
honesty unaccompanied by his rudeness; His cheeks were broad,
full, and ruddy; and in the solidity of his person He seemed to
offer an ample apology for the leanness of his Wife's. From the
wrinkles on his brow I judged him to be turned of sixty; But He
bore his years well, and seemed still hearty and strong: The Wife
could not be more than thirty, but in spirits and vivacity She
was infinitely older than the Husband.
However, in spite of her unwillingness, Marguerite began to
prepare the supper, while the Wood-man conversed gaily on
different subjects. The Postillion, who had been furnished with
a bottle of spirits, was now ready to set out for Strasbourg, and
enquired, whether I had any further commands.
'For Strasbourg?' interrupted Baptiste; 'You are not going
thither tonight?'
'I beg your pardon: If I do not fetch Workmen to mend the
Chaise, How is Monsieur to proceed tomorrow?'
'That is true, as you say; I had forgotten the Chaise. Well, but
Claude; You may at least eat your supper here? That can make you
lose very little time, and Monsieur looks too kind-hearted to
send you out with an empty stomach on such a bitter cold night as
this is.'
To this I readily assented, telling the Postillion that my
reaching Strasbourg the next day an hour or two later would be
perfectly immaterial. He thanked me, and then leaving the
Cottage with Stephano, put up his Horses in the Wood-man's
Stable. Baptiste followed them to the door, and looked out with
' 'Tis a sharp biting wind!' said He; 'I wonder, what detains my
Boys so long! Monsieur, I shall show you two of the finest Lads,
that ever stept in shoe of leather. The eldest is three and
twenty, the second a year younger: Their Equals for sense,
courage, and activity, are not to be found within fifty miles of
Strasbourg. Would They were back again! I begin to feel uneasy
about them.'
Marguerite was at this time employed in laying the cloth.
'And are you equally anxious for the return of your Sons?' said I
to her.
'Not I!' She replied peevishly; 'They are no children of mine.'
'Come! Come, Marguerite!' said the Husband; 'Do not be out of
humour with the Gentleman for asking a simple question. Had you
not looked so cross, He would never have thought you old enough
to have a Son of three and twenty: But you see how many years
ill-temper adds to you!--Excuse my Wife's rudeness, Monsieur. A
little thing puts her out, and She is somewhat displeased at
your not thinking her to be under thirty. That is the truth, is
it not, Marguerite? You know, Monsieur, that Age is always a
ticklish subject with a Woman. Come! come! Marguerite, clear up
a little. If you have not Sons as old, you will some twenty
years hence, and I hope, that we shall live to see them just such
Lads as Jacques and Robert.'
Marguerite clasped her hands together passionately.
'God forbid!' said She; 'God forbid! If I thought it, I would
strangle them with my own hands!'
She quitted the room hastily, and went up stairs.
I could not help expressing to the Wood-man how much I pitied
him for being chained for life to a Partner of such ill-humour.
'Ah! Lord! Monsieur, Every one has his share of grievances, and
Marguerite has fallen to mine. Besides, after all She is only
cross, and not malicious. The worst is, that her affection for
two children by a former Husband makes her play the Step-mother
with my two Sons. She cannot bear the sight of them, and by her
good-will they would never set a foot within my door. But on
this point I always stand firm, and never will consent to abandon
the poor Lads to the world's mercy, as She has often solicited me
to do. In every thing else I let her have her own way; and truly
She manages a family rarely, that I must say for her.'
We were conversing in this manner, when our discourse was
interrupted by a loud halloo, which rang through the Forest.
'My Sons, I hope!' exclaimed the Wood-man, and ran to open the
The halloo was repeated: We now distinguished the trampling of
Horses, and soon after a Carriage, attended by several Cavaliers
stopped at the Cottage door. One of the Horsemen enquired how
far they were still from Strasbourg. As He addressed himself to
me, I answered in the number of miles which Claude had told me;
Upon which a volley of curses was vented against the Drivers for
having lost their way. The Persons in the Coach were now
informed of the distance of Strasbourg, and also that the Horses
were so fatigued as to be incapable of proceeding further. A
Lady, who appeared to be the principal, expressed much chagrin at
this intelligence; But as there was no remedy, one of the
Attendants asked the Wood-man, whether He could furnish them with
lodging for the night.
He seemed much embarrassed, and replied in the negative; Adding
that a Spanish Gentleman and his Servant were already in
possession of the only spare apartments in his House. On hearing
this, the gallantry of my nation would not permit me to retain
those accommodations, of which a Female was in want. I instantly
signified to the Wood-man, that I transferred my right to the
Lady; He made some objections; But I overruled them, and
hastening to the Carriage, opened the door, and assisted the Lady
to descend. I immediately recognized her for the same person
whom I had seen at the Inn at Luneville. I took an opportunity
of asking one of her Attendants, what was her name?
'The Baroness Lindenberg,' was the answer.
I could not but remark how different a reception our Host had
given these newcomers and myself. His reluctance to admit them
was visibly expressed on his countenance, and He prevailed on
himself with difficulty to tell the Lady that She was welcome.
I conducted her into the House, and placed her in the
armed-chair, which I had just quitted. She thanked me very
graciously; and made a thousand apologies for putting me to an
inconvenience. Suddenly the Wood-man's countenance cleared up.
'At last I have arranged it!' said He, interrupting her excuses;
'I can lodge you and your suite, Madam, and you will not be under
the necessity of making this Gentleman suffer for his politeness.
We have two spare chambers, one for the Lady, the other,
Monsieur, for you: My Wife shall give up hers to the two
Waiting-women; As for the Men-servants, they must content
themselves with passing the night in a large Barn, which stands
at a few yards distance from the House. There they shall have a
blazing fire, and as good a supper as we can make shift to give
After several expressions of gratitude on the Lady's part, and
opposition on mine to Marguerite's giving up her bed, this
arrangement was agreed to. As the Room was small, the Baroness
immediately dismissed her Male Domestics: Baptiste was on the
point of conducting them to the Barn which He had mentioned when
two young Men appeared at the door of the Cottage.
'Hell and Furies!' exclaimed the first starting back; 'Robert,
the House is filled with Strangers!'
'Ha! There are my Sons!' cried our Host. 'Why, Jacques! Robert!
whither are you running, Boys? There is room enough still for
Upon this assurance the Youths returned. The Father presented
them to the Baroness and myself: After which He withdrew with
our Domestics, while at the request of the two Waiting-women,
Marguerite conducted them to the room designed for their
The two new-comers were tall, stout, well-made young Men,
hard-featured, and very much sun-burnt. They paid their
compliments to us in few words, and acknowledged Claude, who now
entered the room, as an old acquaintance. They then threw aside
their cloaks in which they were wrapped up, took off a leathern
belt to which a large Cutlass was suspended, and each drawing a
brace of pistols from his girdle laid them upon a shelf.
'You travel well-armed,' said I.
'True, Monsieur;' replied Robert. 'We left Strasbourg late this
Evening, and 'tis necessary to take precautions at passing
through this Forest after dark. It does not bear a good repute,
I promise you.'
'How?' said the Baroness; 'Are there Robbers hereabout?'
'So it is said, Madame; For my own part, I have travelled through
the wood at all hours, and never met with one of them.'
Here Marguerite returned. Her Stepsons drew her to the other
end of the room, and whispered her for some minutes. By the
looks which they cast towards us at intervals, I conjectured them
to be enquiring our business in the Cottage.
In the meanwhile the Baroness expressed her apprehensions, that
her Husband would be suffering much anxiety upon her account.
She had intended to send on one of her Servants to inform the
Baron of her delay; But the account which the young Men gave of
the Forest rendered this plan impracticable. Claude relieved
her from her embarrassment. He informed her that He was under
the necessity of reaching Strasbourg that night, and that would
She trust him with a letter, She might depend upon its being
safely delivered.
'And how comes it,' said I, 'that you are under no apprehension
of meeting these Robbers?'
'Alas! Monsieur, a poor Man with a large family must not lose
certain profit because 'tis attended with a little danger, and
perhaps my Lord the Baron may give me a trifle for my pains.
Besides, I have nothing to lose except my life, and that will not
be worth the Robbers taking.'
I thought his arguments bad, and advised his waiting till the
Morning; But as the Baroness did not second me, I was obliged to
give up the point. The Baroness Lindenberg, as I found
afterwards, had long been accustomed to sacrifice the interests
of others to her own, and her wish to send Claude to Strasbourg
blinded her to the danger of the undertaking. Accordingly, it
was resolved that He should set out without delay. The Baroness
wrote her letter to her Husband, and I sent a few lines to my
Banker, apprising him that I should not be at Strasbourg till the
next day. Claude took our letters, and left the Cottage.
The Lady declared herself much fatigued by her journey: Besides
having come from some distance, the Drivers had contrived to lose
their way in the Forest. She now addressed herself to
Marguerite, desiring to be shown to her chamber, and permitted to
take half an hour's repose. One of the Waiting-women was
immediately summoned; She appeared with a light, and the Baroness
followed her up stairs. The cloth was spreading in the chamber
where I was, and Marguerite soon gave me to understand that I
was in her way. Her hints were too broad to be easily mistaken;
I therefore desired one of the young Men to conduct me to the
chamber where I was to sleep, and where I could remain till
supper was ready.
'Which chamber is it, Mother?' said Robert.
'The One with green hangings,' She replied; 'I have just been at
the trouble of getting it ready, and have put fresh sheets upon
the Bed; If the Gentleman chooses to lollop and lounge upon it,
He may make it again himself for me.'
'You are out of humour, Mother, but that is no novelty. Have the
goodness to follow me, Monsieur.'
He opened the door, and advanced towards a narrow staircase.
'You have got no light!' said Marguerite; 'Is it your own neck or
the Gentleman's that you have a mind to break?'
She crossed by me, and put a candle into Robert's hand, having
received which, He began to ascend the staircase. Jacques was
employed in laying the cloth, and his back was turned towards me.
Marguerite seized the moment, when we were unobserved. She
caught my hand, and pressed it strongly.
'Look at the Sheets!' said She as She passed me, and immediately
resumed her former occupation.
Startled by the abruptness of her action, I remained as if
petrified. Robert's voice, desiring me to follow him, recalled
me to myself. I ascended the staircase. My conductor ushered
me into a chamber, where an excellent wood-fire was blazing upon
the hearth. He placed the light upon the Table, enquired whether
I had any further commands, and on my replying in the negative,
He left me to myself. You may be certain that the moment when I
found myself alone was that on which I complied with Marguerite's
injunction. I took the candle, hastily approached the Bed, and
turned down the Coverture. What was my astonishment, my horror,
at finding the sheets crimsoned with blood!
At that moment a thousand confused ideas passed before my
imagination. The Robbers who infested the Wood, Marguerite's
exclamation respecting her Children, the arms and appearance of
the two young Men, and the various Anecdotes which I had heard
related, respecting the secret correspondence which frequently
exists between Banditti and Postillions, all these circumstances
flashed upon my mind, and inspired me with doubt and
apprehension. I ruminated on the most probable means of
ascertaining the truth of my conjectures. Suddenly I was aware
of Someone below pacing hastily backwards and forwards. Every
thing now appeared to me an object of suspicion. With precaution
I drew near the window, which, as the room had been long shut up,
was left open in spite of the cold. I ventured to look out. The
beams of the Moon permitted me to distinguish a Man, whom I had
no difficulty to recognize for my Host. I watched his movements.
He walked swiftly, then stopped, and seemed to listen: He
stamped upon the ground, and beat his stomach with his arms as if
to guard himself from the inclemency of the season. At the least
noise, if a voice was heard in the lower part of the House, if a
Bat flitted past him, or the wind rattled amidst the leafless
boughs, He started, and looked round with anxiety.
'Plague take him!' said He at length with impatience; 'What can
He be about!'
He spoke in a low voice; but as He was just below my window, I
had no difficulty to distinguish his words.
I now heard the steps of one approaching. Baptiste went towards
the sound; He joined a man, whom his low stature and the Horn
suspended from his neck, declared to be no other than my faithful
Claude, whom I had supposed to be already on his way to
Strasbourg. Expecting their discourse to throw some light upon
my situation, I hastened to put myself in a condition to hear it
with safety. For this purpose I extinguished the candle, which
stood upon a table near the Bed: The flame of the fire was not
strong enough to betray me, and I immediately resumed my place at
the window.
The objects of my curiosity had stationed themselves directly
under it. I suppose that during my momentary absence the
Wood-man had been blaming Claude for tardiness, since when I
returned to the window, the latter was endeavouring to excuse his
'However,' added He, 'my diligence at present shall make up for
my past delay.'
'On that condition,' answered Baptiste, 'I shall readily forgive
you. But in truth as you share equally with us in our prizes,
your own interest will make you use all possible diligence.
'Twould be a shame to let such a noble booty escape us! You say,
that this Spaniard is rich?'
'His Servant boasted at the Inn, that the effects in his Chaise
were worth above two thousand Pistoles.'
Oh! how I cursed Stephano's imprudent vanity!
'And I have been told,' continued the Postillion, 'that this
Baroness carries about her a casket of jewels of immense value.'
'May be so, but I had rather She had stayed away. The Spaniard
was a secure prey. The Boys and myself could easily have
mastered him and his Servant, and then the two thousand Pistoles
would have been shared between us four. Now we must let in the
Band for a share, and perhaps the whole Covey may escape us.
Should our Friends have betaken themselves to their different
posts before you reach the Cavern, all will be lost. The Lady's
Attendants are too numerous for us to overpower them: Unless
our Associates arrive in time, we must needs let these Travellers
set out tomorrow without damage or hurt.'
' 'Tis plaguy unlucky that my Comrades who drove the Coach
should be those unacquainted with our Confederacy! But never
fear, Friend Baptiste. An hour will bring me to the Cavern; It
is now but ten o'clock, and by twelve you may expect the arrival
of the Band. By the bye, take care of your Wife: You know how
strong is her repugnance to our mode of life, and She may find
means to give information to the Lady's Servants of our design.'
'Oh! I am secure of her silence; She is too much afraid of me,
and fond of her children, to dare to betray my secret. Besides,
Jacques and Robert keep a strict eye over her, and She is not
permitted to set a foot out of the Cottage. The Servants are
safely lodged in the Barn; I shall endeavour to keep all quiet
till the arrival of our Friends. Were I assured of your finding
them, the Strangers should be dispatched this instant; But as it
is possible for you to miss the Banditti, I am fearful of being
summoned to produce them by their Domestics in the Morning.'
'And suppose either of the Travellers should discover your
'Then we must poignard those in our power, and take our chance
about mastering the rest. However, to avoid running such a
risque, hasten to the Cavern: The Banditti never leave it before
eleven, and if you use diligence, you may reach it in time to
stop them.'
'Tell Robert that I have taken his Horse: My own has broken his
bridle, and escaped into the Wood. What is the watch-word?'
'The reward of Courage.'
' 'Tis sufficient. I hasten to the Cavern.'
'And I to rejoin my Guests, lest my absence should create
suspicion. Farewell, and be diligent.'
These worthy Associates now separated: The One bent his course
towards the Stable, while the Other returned to the House.
You may judge, what must have been my feelings during this
conversation, of which I lost not a single syllable. I dared not
trust myself to my reflections, nor did any means present itself
to escape the dangers which threatened me. Resistance, I knew to
be vain; I was unarmed, and a single Man against Three: However,
I resolved at least to sell my life as dearly as I could.
Dreading lest Baptiste should perceive my absence, and suspect me
to have overheard the message with which Claude was dispatched, I
hastily relighted my candle and quitted the chamber. On
descending, I found the Table spread for six Persons. The
Baroness sat by the fireside: Marguerite was employed in
dressing a sallad, and her Step-sons were whispering together at
the further end of the room. Baptiste having the round of the
Garden to make, ere He could reach the Cottage door, was not yet
arrived. I seated myself quietly opposite to the Baroness.
A glance upon Marguerite told her that her hint had not been
thrown away upon me. How different did She now appear to me!
What before seemed gloom and sullenness, I now found to be
disgust at her Associates, and compassion for my danger. I
looked up to her as to my only resource; Yet knowing her to be
watched by her Husband with a suspicious eye, I could place but
little reliance on the exertions of her good-will.
In spite of all my endeavours to conceal it, my agitation was but
too visibly expressed upon my countenance. I was pale, and both
my words and actions were disordered and embarrassed. The young
Men observed this, and enquired the cause. I attributed it to
excess of fatigue, and the violent effect produced on me by the
severity of the season. Whether they believed me or not, I will
not pretend to say: They at least ceased to embarrass me with
their questions. I strove to divert my attention from the perils
which surrounded me, by conversing on different subjects with the
Baroness. I talked of Germany, declaring my intention of
visiting it immediately: God knows, that I little thought at
that moment of ever seeing it! She replied to me with great ease
and politeness, professed that the pleasure of making my
acquaintance amply compensated for the delay in her journey, and
gave me a pressing invitation to make some stay at the Castle of
Lindenberg. As She spoke thus, the Youths exchanged a malicious
smile, which declared that She would be fortunate if She ever
reached that Castle herself. This action did not escape me; But
I concealed the emotion which it excited in my breast. I
continued to converse with the Lady; But my discourse was so
frequently incoherent, that as She has since informed me, She
began to doubt whether I was in my right senses. The fact was,
that while my conversation turned upon one subject, my thoughts
were entirely occupied by another. I meditated upon the means of
quitting the Cottage, finding my way to the Barn, and giving the
Domestics information of our Host's designs. I was soon
convinced, how impracticable was the attempt. Jacques and Robert
watched my every movement with an attentive eye, and I was
obliged to abandon the idea. All my hopes now rested upon
Claude's not finding the Banditti: In that case, according to
what I had overheard, we should be permitted to depart unhurt.
I shuddered involuntarily as Baptiste entered the room. He made
many apologies for his long absence, but 'He had been detained by
affairs impossible to be delayed.' He then entreated permission
for his family to sup at the same table with us, without which,
respect would not authorize his taking such a liberty. Oh! how
in my heart I cursed the Hypocrite! How I loathed his presence,
who was on the point of depriving me of an existence, at that
time infinitely dear! I had every reason to be satisfied with
life; I had youth, wealth, rank, and education; and the fairest
prospects presented themselves before me. I saw those prospects
on the point of closing in the most horrible manner: Yet was I
obliged to dissimulate, and to receive with a semblance of
gratitude the false civilities of him who held the dagger to my
The permission which our Host demanded, was easily obtained. We
seated ourselves at the Table. The Baroness and myself occupied
one side: The Sons were opposite to us with their backs to the
door. Baptiste took his seat by the Baroness at the upper end,
and the place next to him was left for his Wife. She soon
entered the room, and placed before us a plain but comfortable
Peasant's repast. Our Host thought it necessary to apologize for
the poorness of the supper: 'He had not been apprized of our
coming; He could only offer us such fare as had been intended for
his own family:'
'But,' added He, 'should any accident detain my noble Guests
longer than they at present intend, I hope to give them a better
The Villain! I well knew the accident to which He alluded; I
shuddered at the treatment which He taught us to expect!
My Companion in danger seemed entirely to have got rid of her
chagrin at being delayed. She laughed, and conversed with the
family with infinite gaiety. I strove but in vain to follow her
example. My spirits were evidently forced, and the constraint
which I put upon myself escaped not Baptiste's observation.
'Come, come, Monsieur, cheer up!' said He; 'You seem not quite
recovered from your fatigue. To raise your spirits, what say you
to a glass of excellent old wine which was left me by my Father?
God rest his soul, He is in a better world! I seldom produce
this wine; But as I am not honoured with such Guests every day,
this is an occasion which deserves a Bottle.'
He then gave his Wife a Key, and instructed her where to find the
wine of which He spoke. She seemed by no means pleased with the
commission; She took the Key with an embarrassed air, and
hesitated to quit the Table.
'Did you hear me?' said Baptiste in an angry tone.
Marguerite darted upon him a look of mingled anger and fear, and
left the chamber. His eyes followed her suspiciously, till She
had closed the door.
She soon returned with a bottle sealed with yellow wax. She
placed it upon the table, and gave the Key back to her Husband.
I suspected that this liquor was not presented to us without
design, and I watched Marguerite's movements with inquietude.
She was employed in rinsing some small horn Goblets. As She
placed them before Baptiste, She saw that my eye was fixed upon
her; and at the moment when She thought herself unobserved by the
Banditti, She motioned to me with her head not to taste the
liquor, She then resumed her place.
In the mean while our Host had drawn the Cork, and filling two of
the Goblets, offered them to the Lady and myself. She at first
made some objections, but the instances of Baptiste were so
urgent, that She was obliged to comply. Fearing to excite
suspicion, I hesitated not to take the Goblet presented to me.
By its smell and colour I guessed it to be Champagne; But some
grains of powder floating upon the top convinced me that it was
not unadulterated. However, I dared not to express my repugnance
to drinking it; I lifted it to my lips, and seemed to be
swallowing it: Suddenly starting from my chair, I made the best
of my way towards a Vase of water at some distance, in which
Marguerite had been rinsing the Goblets. I pretended to spit out
the wine with disgust, and took an opportunity unperceived of
emptying the liquor into the Vase.
The Banditti seemed alarmed at my action. Jacques half rose from
his chair, put his hand into his bosom, and I discovered the haft
of a dagger. I returned to my seat with tranquillity, and
affected not to have observed their confusion.
'You have not suited my taste, honest Friend,' said I, addressing
myself to Baptiste. 'I never can drink Champagne without its
producing a violent illness. I swallowed a few mouthfuls ere I
was aware of its quality, and fear that I shall suffer for my
Baptiste and Jacques exchanged looks of distrust.
'Perhaps,' said Robert, 'the smell may be disagreeable to you.'
He quitted his chair, and removed the Goblet. I observed, that
He examined, whether it was nearly empty.
'He must have drank sufficient,' said He to his Brother in a low
voice, while He reseated himself.
Marguerite looked apprehensive, that I had tasted the liquor: A
glance from my eye reassured her.
I waited with anxiety for the effects which the Beverage would
produce upon the Lady. I doubted not but the grains which I had
observed were poisonous, and lamented that it had been
impossible for me to warn her of the danger. But a few minutes
had elapsed before I perceived her eyes grow heavy; Her head
sank upon her shoulder, and She fell into a deep sleep. I
affected not to attend to this circumstance, and continued my
conversation with Baptiste, with all the outward gaiety in my
power to assume. But He no longer answered me without
constraint. He eyed me with distrust and astonishment, and I saw
that the Banditti were frequently whispering among themselves.
My situation became every moment more painful; I sustained the
character of confidence with a worse grace than ever. Equally
afraid of the arrival of their Accomplices and of their
suspecting my knowledge of their designs, I knew not how to
dissipate the distrust which the Banditti evidently entertained
for me. In this new dilemma the friendly Marguerite again
assisted me. She passed behind the Chairs of her Stepsons,
stopped for a moment opposite to me, closed her eyes, and
reclined her head upon her shoulder. This hint immediately
dispelled my incertitude. It told me, that I ought to imitate
the Baroness, and pretend that the liquor had taken its full
effect upon me. I did so, and in a few minutes seemed perfectly
overcome with slumber.
'So!' cried Baptiste, as I fell back in my chair; 'At last He
sleeps! I began to think that He had scented our design, and
that we should have been forced to dispatch him at all events.'
'And why not dispatch him at all events?' enquired the ferocious
Jacques. 'Why leave him the possibility of betraying our secret?
Marguerite, give me one of my Pistols: A single touch of the
trigger will finish him at once.'
'And supposing,' rejoined the Father, 'Supposing that our Friends
should not arrive tonight, a pretty figure we should make when
the Servants enquire for him in the Morning! No, no, Jacques; We
must wait for our Associates. If they join us, we are strong
enough to dispatch the Domestics as well as their Masters, and
the booty is our own; If Claude does not find the Troop, we must
take patience, and suffer the prey to slip through our fingers.
Ah! Boys, Boys, had you arrived but five minutes sooner, the
Spaniard would have been done for, and two thousand Pistoles our
own. But you are always out of the way when you are most wanted.
You are the most unlucky Rogues!'
'Well, well, Father!' answered Jacques; 'Had you been of my mind,
all would have been over by this time. You, Robert, Claude, and
myself, why the Strangers were but double the number, and I
warrant you we might have mastered them. However, Claude is
gone; 'Tis too late to think of it now. We must wait patiently
for the arrival of the Gang; and if the Travellers escape us
tonight, we must take care to waylay them tomorrow.'
'True! True!' said Baptiste; 'Marguerite, have you given the
sleeping-draught to the Waiting-women?'
She replied in the affirmative.
'All then is safe. Come, come, Boys; Whatever falls out, we have
no reason to complain of this adventure. We run no danger, may
gain much, and can lose nothing.'
At this moment I heard a trampling of Horses. Oh! how dreadful
was the sound to my ears. A cold sweat flowed down my forehead,
and I felt all the terrors of impending death. I was by no means
reassured by hearing the compassionate Marguerite exclaim in the
accents of despair,
'Almighty God! They are lost!'
Luckily the Wood-man and his Sons were too much occupied by the
arrival of their Associates to attend to me, or the violence of
my agitation would have convinced them that my sleep was
'Open! Open!' exclaimed several voices on the outside of the
'Yes! Yes!' cried Baptiste joyfully; 'They are our Friends sure
enough! Now then our booty is certain. Away! Lads, Away! Lead
them to the Barn; You know what is to be done there.'
Robert hastened to open the door of the Cottage.
'But first,' said Jacques, taking up his arms; 'first let me
dispatch these Sleepers.'
'No, no, no!' replied his Father; 'Go you to the Barn, where your
presence is wanted. Leave me to take care of these and the Women
Jacques obeyed, and followed his Brother. They seemed to
converse with the New-Comers for a few minutes: After which I
heard the Robbers dismount, and as I conjectured, bend their
course towards the Barn.
'So! That is wisely done!' muttered Baptiste; 'They have quitted
their Horses, that They may fall upon the Strangers by surprise.
Good! Good! and now to business.'
I heard him approach a small Cupboard which was fixed up in a
distant part of the room, and unlock it. At this moment I felt
myself shaken gently.
'Now! Now!' whispered Marguerite.
I opened my eyes. Baptiste stood with his back towards me. No
one else was in the room save Marguerite and the sleeping Lady.
The Villain had taken a dagger from the Cupboard and seemed
examining whether it was sufficiently sharp. I had neglected to
furnish myself with arms; But I perceived this to be my only
chance of escaping, and resolved not to lose the opportunity. I
sprang from my seat, darted suddenly upon Baptiste, and clasping
my hands round his throat, pressed it so forcibly as to prevent
his uttering a single cry. You may remember that I was
remarkable at Salamanca for the power of my arm: It now rendered
me an essential service. Surprised, terrified, and breathless,
the Villain was by no means an equal Antagonist. I threw him
upon the ground; I grasped him still tighter; and while I fixed
him without motion upon the floor, Marguerite, wresting the
dagger from his hand, plunged it repeatedly in his heart till He
No sooner was this horrible but necessary act perpetrated than
Marguerite called on me to follow her.
'Flight is our only refuge!' said She; 'Quick! Quick! Away!'
I hesitated not to obey her: but unwilling to leave the Baroness
a victim to the vengeance of the Robbers, I raised her in my arms
still sleeping, and hastened after Marguerite. The Horses of the
Banditti were fastened near the door: My Conductress sprang upon
one of them. I followed her example, placed the Baroness before
me, and spurred on my Horse. Our only hope was to reach
Strasbourg, which was much nearer than the perfidious Claude had
assured me. Marguerite was well acquainted with the road, and
galloped on before me. We were obliged to pass by the Barn,
where the Robbers were slaughtering our Domestics. The door was
open: We distinguished the shrieks of the dying and imprecations
of the Murderers! What I felt at that moment language is unable
to describe!
Jacques heard the trampling of our Horses as we rushed by the
Barn. He flew to the Door with a burning Torch in his hand, and
easily recognised the Fugitives.
'Betrayed! Betrayed!' He shouted to his Companions.
Instantly they left their bloody work, and hastened to regain
their Horses. We heard no more. I buried my spurs in the sides
of my Courser, and Marguerite goaded on hers with the poignard,
which had already rendered us such good service. We flew like
lightning, and gained the open plains. Already was Strasbourg's
Steeple in sight, when we heard the Robbers pursuing us.
Marguerite looked back, and distinguished our followers
descending a small Hill at no great distance. It was in vain
that we urged on our Horses; The noise approached nearer with
every moment.
'We are lost!' She exclaimed; 'The Villains gain upon us!'
'On! On!' replied I; 'I hear the trampling of Horses coming from
the Town.'
We redoubled our exertions, and were soon aware of a numerous
band of Cavaliers, who came towards us at full speed. They were
on the point of passing us.
'Stay! Stay!' shrieked Marguerite; 'Save us! For God's sake,
save us!'
The Foremost, who seemed to act as Guide, immediately reined in
his Steed.
' 'Tis She! 'Tis She!' exclaimed He, springing upon the ground;
'Stop, my Lord, stop! They are safe! 'Tis my Mother!'
At the same moment Marguerite threw herself from her Horse,
clasped him in her arms, and covered him with Kisses. The other
Cavaliers stopped at the exclamation.
'The Baroness Lindenberg?' cried another of the Strangers
eagerly; 'Where is She? Is She not with you?'
He stopped on beholding her lying senseless in my arms. Hastily
He caught her from me. The profound sleep in which She was
plunged made him at first tremble for her life; but the beating
of her heart soon reassured him.
'God be thanked!' said He; 'She has escaped unhurt.'
I interrupted his joy by pointing out the Brigands, who continued
to approach. No sooner had I mentioned them than the greatest
part of the Company, which appeared to be chiefly composed of
soldiers, hastened forward to meet them. The Villains stayed not
to receive their attack: Perceiving their danger they turned the
heads of their Horses, and fled into the wood, whither they were
followed by our Preservers. In the mean while the Stranger, whom
I guessed to be the Baron Lindenberg, after thanking me for my
care of his Lady, proposed our returning with all speed to the
Town. The Baroness, on whom the effects of the opiate had not
ceased to operate, was placed before him; Marguerite and her Son
remounted their Horses; the Baron's Domestics followed, and we
soon arrived at the Inn, where He had taken his apartments.
This was at the Austrian Eagle, where my Banker, whom before my
quitting Paris I had apprised of my intention to visit
Strasbourg, had prepared Lodgings for me. I rejoiced at this
circumstance. It gave me an opportunity of cultivating the
Baron's acquaintance, which I foresaw would be of use to me in
Germany. Immediately upon our arrival the Lady was conveyed to
bed; A Physician was sent for, who prescribed a medicine likely
to counteract the effects of the sleepy potion, and after it had
been poured down her throat, She was committed to the care of the
Hostess. The Baron then addressed himself to me, and entreated
me to recount the particulars of this adventure. I complied with
his request instantaneously; for in pain respecting Stephano's
fate, whom I had been compelled to abandon to the cruelty of the
Banditti, I found it impossible for me to repose, till I had some
news of him. I received but too soon the intelligence, that my
trusty Servant had perished. The Soldiers who had pursued the
Brigands returned while I was employed in relating my adventure
to the Baron. By their account I found that the Robbers had been
overtaken: Guilt and true courage are incompatible; They had
thrown themselves at the feet of their Pursuers, had surrendered
themselves without striking a blow, had discovered their secret
retreat, made known their signals by which the rest of the Gang
might be seized, and in short had betrayed ever mark of cowardice
and baseness. By this means the whole of the Band, consisting of
near sixty persons, had been made Prisoners, bound, and conducted
to Strasbourg. Some of the Soldiers hastened to the Cottage, One
of the Banditti serving them as Guide. Their first visit was to
the fatal Barn, where they were fortunate enough to find two of
the Baron's Servants still alive, though desperately wounded.
The rest had expired beneath the swords of the Robbers, and of
these my unhappy Stephano was one.
Alarmed at our escape, the Robbers in their haste to overtake
us, had neglected to visit the Cottage. In consequence, the
Soldiers found the two Waiting-women unhurt, and buried in the
same death-like slumber which had overpowered their Mistress.
There was nobody else found in the Cottage, except a child not
above four years old, which the Soldiers brought away with them.
We were busying ourselves with conjectures respecting the birth
of this little unfortunate, when Marguerite rushed into the room
with the Baby in her arms. She fell at the feet of the Officer
who was making us this report, and blessed him a thousand times
for the preservation of her Child.
When the first burst of maternal tenderness was over, I besought
her to declare, by what means She had been united to a Man whose
principles seemed so totally discordant with her own. She bent
her eyes downwards, and wiped a few tears from her cheek.
'Gentlemen,' said She after a silence of some minutes, 'I would
request a favour of you: You have a right to know on whom you
confer an obligation. I will not therefore stifle a confession
which covers me with shame; But permit me to comprise it in as
few words as possible.
'I was born in Strasbourg of respectable Parents; Their names I
must at present conceal: My Father still lives, and deserves not
to be involved in my infamy; If you grant my request, you shall
be informed of my family name. A Villain made himself Master of
my affections, and to follow him I quitted my Father's House.
Yet though my passions overpowered my virtue, I sank not into
that degeneracy of vice, but too commonly the lot of Women who
make the first false step. I loved my Seducer; dearly loved him!
I was true to his Bed; this Baby, and the Youth who warned you,
my Lord Baron, of your Lady's danger, are the pledges of our
affection. Even at this moment I lament his loss, though 'tis to
him that I owe all the miseries of my existence.
'He was of noble birth, but He had squandered away his paternal
inheritance. His Relations considered him as a disgrace to their
name, and utterly discarded him. His excesses drew upon him the
indignation of the Police. He was obliged to fly from
Strasbourg, and saw no other resource from beggary than an union
with the Banditti who infested the neighbouring Forest, and
whose Troop was chiefly composed of Young Men of family in the
same predicament with himself. I was determined not to forsake
him. I followed him to the Cavern of the Brigands, and shared
with him the misery inseparable from a life of pillage. But
though I was aware that our existence was supported by plunder, I
knew not all the horrible circumstances attached to my Lover's
profession. These He concealed from me with the utmost care; He
was conscious that my sentiments were not sufficiently depraved
to look without horror upon assassination: He supposed, and with
justice, that I should fly with detestation from the embraces of
a Murderer. Eight years of possession had not abated his love
for me; and He cautiously removed from my knowledge every
circumstance, which might lead me to suspect the crimes in which
He but too often participated. He succeeded perfectly: It was
not till after my Seducer's death, that I discovered his hands to
have been stained with the blood of innocence.
'One fatal night He was brought back to the Cavern covered with
wounds: He received them in attacking an English Traveller, whom
his Companions immediately sacrificed to their resentment. He
had only time to entreat my pardon for all the sorrows which He
had caused me: He pressed my hand to his lips, and expired. My
grief was inexpressible. As soon as its violence abated, I
resolved to return to Strasbourg, to throw myself with my two
Children at my Father's feet, and implore his forgiveness, though
I little hoped to obtain it. What was my consternation when
informed that no one entrusted with the secret of their retreat
was ever permitted to quit the troop of the Banditti; That I must
give up all hopes of ever rejoining society, and consent
instantly to accepting one of their Band for my Husband! My
prayers and remonstrances were vain. They cast lots to decide to
whose possession I should fall; I became the property of the
infamous Baptiste. A Robber, who had once been a Monk,
pronounced over us a burlesque rather than a religious Ceremony:
I and my Children were delivered into the hands of my new
Husband, and He conveyed us immediately to his home.
'He assured me that He had long entertained for me the most
ardent regard; But that Friendship for my deceased Lover had
obliged him to stifle his desires. He endeavoured to reconcile
me to my fate, and for some time treated me with respect and
gentleness: At length finding that my aversion rather increased
than diminished, He obtained those favours by violence, which I
persisted to refuse him. No resource remained for me but to bear
my sorrows with patience; I was conscious that I deserved them
but too well. Flight was forbidden: My Children were in the
power of Baptiste, and He had sworn that if I attempted to
escape, their lives should pay for it. I had had too many
opportunities of witnessing the barbarity of his nature to doubt
his fulfilling his oath to the very letter. Sad experience had
convinced me of the horrors of my situation: My first Lover had
carefully concealed them from me; Baptiste rather rejoiced in
opening my eyes to the cruelties of his profession, and strove to
familiarise me with blood and slaughter.
'My nature was licentious and warm, but not cruel: My conduct had
been imprudent, but my heart was not unprincipled. Judge then
what I must have felt at being a continual witness of crimes the
most horrible and revolting! Judge how I must have grieved at
being united to a Man who received the unsuspecting Guest with
an air of openness and hospitality, at the very moment that He
meditated his destruction. Chagrin and discontent preyed upon my
constitution: The few charms bestowed on me by nature withered
away, and the dejection of my countenance denoted the sufferings
of my heart. I was tempted a thousand times to put an end to my
existence; But the remembrance of my Children held my hand. I
trembled to leave my dear Boys in my Tyrant's power, and trembled
yet more for their virtue than their lives. The Second was still
too young to benefit by my instructions; But in the heart of my
Eldest I laboured unceasingly to plant those principles, which
might enable him to avoid the crimes of his Parents. He listened
to me with docility, or rather with eagerness. Even at his early
age, He showed that He was not calculated for the society of
Villains; and the only comfort which I enjoyed among my sorrows,
was to witness the dawning virtues of my Theodore.
'Such was my situation, when the perfidy of Don Alphonso's
postillion conducted him to the Cottage. His youth, air, and
manners interested me most forcibly in his behalf. The absence
of my Husband's Sons gave me an opportunity which I had long
wished to find, and I resolved to risque every thing to preserve
the Stranger. The vigilance of Baptiste prevented me from
warning Don Alphonso of his danger: I knew that my betraying the
secret would be immediately punished with death; and however
embittered was my life by calamities, I wanted courage to
sacrifice it for the sake of preserving that of another Person.
My only hope rested upon procuring succour from Strasbourg: At
this I resolved to try; and should an opportunity offer of
warning Don Alphonso of his danger unobserved, I was determined
to seize it with avidity. By Baptiste's orders I went upstairs
to make the Stranger's Bed: I spread upon it Sheets in which a
Traveller had been murdered but a few nights before, and which
still were stained with blood. I hoped that these marks would
not escape the vigilance of our Guest, and that He would collect
from them the designs of my perfidious Husband. Neither was this
the only step which I took to preserve the Stranger. Theodore
was confined to his bed by illness. I stole into his room
unobserved by my Tyrant, communicated to him my project, and He
entered into it with eagerness. He rose in spite of his malady,
and dressed himself with all speed. I fastened one of the Sheets
round his arms, and lowered him from the Window. He flew to the
Stable, took Claude's Horse, and hastened to Strasbourg. Had He
been accosted by the Banditti, He was to have declared himself
sent upon a message by Baptiste, but fortunately He reached the
Town without meeting any obstacle. Immediately upon his arrival
at Strasbourg, He entreated assistance from the Magistrature:
His Story passed from mouth to mouth, and at length came to the
knowledge of my Lord the Baron. Anxious for the safety of his
Lady, whom He knew would be upon the road that Evening, it struck
him that She might have fallen into the power of the Robbers. He
accompanied Theodore who guided the Soldiers towards the Cottage,
and arrived just in time to save us from falling once more into
the hands of our Enemies.'
Here I interrupted Marguerite to enquire why the sleepy potion
had been presented to me. She said that Baptiste supposed me to
have arms about me, and wished to incapacitate me from making
resistance: It was a precaution which He always took, since as
the Travellers had no hopes of escaping, Despair would have
incited them to sell their lives dearly.
The Baron then desired Marguerite to inform him, what were her
present plans. I joined him in declaring my readiness to show my
gratitude to her for the preservation of my life.
'Disgusted with a world,' She replied, 'in which I have met with
nothing but misfortunes, my only wish is to retire into a
Convent. But first I must provide for my Children. I find that
my Mother is no more, probably driven to an untimely grave by my
desertion! My Father is still living; He is not an hard Man;
Perhaps, Gentlemen, in spite of my ingratitude and imprudence,
your intercessions may induce him to forgive me, and to take
charge of his unfortunate Grand-sons. If you obtain this boon
for me, you will repay my services a thousand-fold!'
Both the Baron and myself assured Marguerite, that we would spare
no pains to obtain her pardon: and that even should her Father be
inflexible, She need be under no apprehensions respecting the
fate of her Children. I engaged myself to provide for Theodore,
and the Baron promised to take the youngest under his protection.
The grateful Mother thanked us with tears for what She called
generosity, but which in fact was no more than a proper sense of
our obligations to her. She then left the room to put her little
Boy to bed, whom fatigue and sleep had compleatly overpowered.
The Baroness, on recovering and being informed from what dangers
I had rescued her, set no bounds to the expressions of her
gratitude. She was joined so warmly by her Husband in pressing
me to accompany them to their Castle in Bavaria, that I found it
impossible to resist their entreaties. During a week which we
passed at Strasbourg, the interests of Marguerite were not
forgotten: In our application to her Father we succeeded as amply
as we could wish. The good old Man had lost his Wife: He had no
Children but this unfortunate Daughter, of whom He had received
no news for almost fourteen years. He was surrounded by distant
Relations, who waited with impatience for his decease in order to
get possession of his money. When therefore Marguerite appeared
again so unexpectedly, He considered her as a gift from heaven:
He received her and her Children with open arms, and insisted
upon their establishing themselves in his House without delay.
The disappointed Cousins were obliged to give place. The old Man
would not hear of his Daughter's retiring into a Convent: He
said that She was too necessary to his happiness, and She was
easily persuaded to relinquish her design. But no persuasions
could induce Theodore to give up the plan which I had at first
marked out for him. He had attached himself to me most
sincerely during my stay at Strasbourg; and when I was on the
point of leaving it, He besought me with tears to take him into
my service: He set forth all his little talents in the most
favourable colours, and tried to convince me that I should find
him of infinite use to me upon the road. I was unwilling to
charge myself with a Lad but scarcely turned of thirteen, whom I
knew could only be a burthen to me: However, I could not resist
the entreaties of this affectionate Youth, who in fact possessed
a thousand estimable qualities. With some difficulty He
persuaded his relations to let him follow me, and that permission
once obtained, He was dubbed with the title of my Page. Having
passed a week at Strasbourg, Theodore and myself set out for
Bavaria in company with the Baron and his Lady. These Latter as
well as myself had forced Marguerite to accept several presents
of value, both for herself, and her youngest Son: On leaving
her, I promised his Mother faithfully that I would restore
Theodore to her within the year.
I have related this adventure at length, Lorenzo, that you might
understand the means by which 'The Adventurer, Alphonso
d'Alvarada got introduced into the Castle of Lindenberg.' Judge
from this specimen how much faith should be given to your Aunt's
Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the Earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold!
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which Thou dost glare with! Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery hence!
Continuation of the History of Don Raymond.
My journey was uncommonly agreeable: I found the Baron a Man of
some sense, but little knowledge of the world. He had past a
great part of his life without stirring beyond the precincts of
his own domains, and consequently his manners were far from being
the most polished: But He was hearty, good-humoured, and
friendly. His attention to me was all that I could wish, and I
had every reason to be satisfied with his behaviour. His ruling
passion was Hunting, which He had brought himself to consider as
a serious occupation; and when talking over some remarkable
chace, He treated the subject with as much gravity as it had
been a Battle on which the fate of two kingdoms was depending. I
happened to be a tolerable Sportsman: Soon after my arrival at
Lindenberg I gave some proofs of my dexterity. The Baron
immediately marked me down for a Man of Genius, and vowed to me
an eternal friendship.
That friendship was become to me by no means indifferent. At the
Castle of Lindenberg I beheld for the first time your Sister, the
lovely Agnes. For me whose heart was unoccupied, and who grieved
at the void, to see her and to love her were the same. I found
in Agnes all that was requisite to secure my affection. She was
then scarcely sixteen; Her person light and elegant was already
formed; She possessed several talents in perfection, particularly
those of Music and drawing: Her character was gay, open, and
good-humoured; and the graceful simplicity of her dress and
manners formed an advantageous contrast to the art and studied
Coquetry of the Parisian Dames, whom I had just quitted. From
the moment that I beheld her, I felt the most lively interest in
her fate. I made many enquiries respecting her of the Baroness.
'She is my Niece,' replied that Lady; 'You are still ignorant,
Don Alphonso, that I am your Countrywoman. I am Sister to the
Duke of Medina Celi: Agnes is the Daughter of my second Brother,
Don Gaston: She has been destined to the Convent from her
cradle, and will soon make her profession at Madrid.'
(Here Lorenzo interrupted the Marquis by an exclamation of
'Intended for the Convent from her cradle?' said He; 'By heaven,
this is the first word that I ever heard of such a design!'
'I believe it, my dear Lorenzo,' answered Don Raymond; 'But you
must listen to me with patience. You will not be less surprised,
when I relate some particulars of your family still unknown to
you, and which I have learnt from the mouth of Agnes herself.'
He then resumed his narrative as follows.)
You cannot but be aware that your Parents were unfortunately
Slaves to the grossest superstition: When this foible was called
into play, their every other sentiment, their every other passion
yielded to its irresistible strength. While She was big with
Agnes, your Mother was seized by a dangerous illness, and given
over by her Physicians. In this situation, Donna Inesilla vowed,
that if She recovered from her malady, the Child then living in
her bosom if a Girl should be dedicated to St. Clare, if a Boy to
St. Benedict. Her prayers were heard; She got rid of her
complaint; Agnes entered the world alive, and was immediately
destined to the service of St. Clare.
Don Gaston readily chimed in with his Lady's wishes: But knowing
the sentiments of the Duke, his Brother, respecting a Monastic
life, it was determined that your Sister's destination should be
carefully concealed from him. The better to guard the secret, it
was resolved that Agnes should accompany her Aunt, Donna Rodolpha
into Germany, whither that Lady was on the point of following her
new-married Husband, Baron Lindenberg. On her arrival at that
Estate, the young Agnes was put into a Convent, situated but a
few miles from the Castle. The Nuns to whom her education was
confided performed their charge with exactitude: They made her
a perfect Mistress of many talents, and strove to infuse into her
mind a taste for the retirement and tranquil pleasures of a
Convent. But a secret instinct made the young Recluse sensible
that She was not born for solitude: In all the freedom of youth
and gaiety, She scrupled not to treat as ridiculous many
ceremonies which the Nuns regarded with awe; and She was never
more happy than when her lively imagination inspired her with
some scheme to plague the stiff Lady Abbess, or the ugly illtempered
old Porteress. She looked with disgust upon the
prospect before her: However no alternative was offered to her,
and She submitted to the decree of her Parents, though not
without secret repining.
That repugnance She had not art enough to conceal long: Don
Gaston was informed of it. Alarmed, Lorenzo, lest your affection
for her should oppose itself to his projects, and lest you should
positively object to your Sister's misery, He resolved to keep
the whole affair from YOUR knowledge as well as the Duke's, till
the sacrifice should be consummated. The season of her taking
the veil was fixed for the time when you should be upon your
travels: In the meanwhile no hint was dropped of Donna
Inesilla's fatal vow. Your Sister was never permitted to know
your direction. All your letters were read before She received
them, and those parts effaced, which were likely to nourish her
inclination for the world: Her answers were dictated either by
her Aunt, or by Dame Cunegonda, her Governess. These particulars
I learnt partly from Agnes, partly from the Baroness herself.
I immediately determined upon rescuing this lovely Girl from a
fate so contrary to her inclinations, and ill-suited to her
merit. I endeavoured to ingratiate myself into her favour: I
boasted of my friendship and intimacy with you. She listened to
me with avidity; She seemed to devour my words while I spoke in
your praise, and her eyes thanked me for my affection to her
Brother. My constant and unremitted attention at length gained
me her heart, and with difficulty I obliged her to confess that
She loved me. When however, I proposed her quitting the Castle
of Lindenberg, She rejected the idea in positive terms.
'Be generous, Alphonso,' She said; 'You possess my heart, but use
not the gift ignobly. Employ not your ascendancy over me in
persuading me to take a step, at which I should hereafter have
to blush. I am young and deserted: My Brother, my only Friend,
is separated from me, and my other Relations act with me as my
Enemies. Take pity on my unprotected situation. Instead of
seducing me to an action which would cover me with shame, strive
rather to gain the affections of those who govern me. The Baron
esteems you. My Aunt, to others ever harsh proud and
contemptuous, remembers that you rescued her from the hands of
Murderers, and wears with you alone the appearance of kindness
and benignity. Try then your influence over my Guardians. If
they consent to our union my hand is yours: From your account of
my Brother, I cannot doubt your obtaining his approbation: And
when they find the impossibility of executing their design, I
trust that my Parents will excuse my disobedience, and expiate by
some other sacrifice my Mother's fatal vow.'
From the first moment that I beheld Agnes, I had endeavoured to
conciliate the favour of her Relations. Authorised by the
confession of her regard, I redoubled my exertions. My principal
Battery was directed against the Baroness; It was easy to
discover that her word was law in the Castle: Her Husband paid
her the most absolute submission, and considered her as a
superior Being. She was about forty: In her youth She had been
a Beauty; But her charms had been upon that large scale which can
but ill sustain the shock of years: However She still possessed
some remains of them. Her understanding was strong and excellent
when not obscured by prejudice, which unluckily was but seldom
the case. Her passions were violent: She spared no pains to
gratify them, and pursued with unremitting vengeance those who
opposed themselves to her wishes. The warmest of Friends, the
most inveterate of Enemies, such was the Baroness Lindenberg.
I laboured incessantly to please her: Unluckily I succeeded but
too well. She seemed gratified by my attention, and treated me
with a distinction accorded by her to no one else. One of my
daily occupations was reading to her for several hours: Those
hours I should much rather have past with Agnes; But as I was
conscious that complaisance for her Aunt would advance our
union, I submitted with a good grace to the penance imposed upon
me. Donna Rodolpha's Library was principally composed of old
Spanish Romances: These were her favourite studies, and once a
day one of these unmerciful Volumes was put regularly into my
hands. I read the wearisome adventures of 'Perceforest,'
'Tirante the White,' 'Palmerin of England,' and 'the Knight of
the Sun,' till the Book was on the point of falling from my hands
through Ennui. However, the increasing pleasure which the
Baroness seemed to take in my society, encouraged me to
persevere; and latterly She showed for me a partiality so marked,
that Agnes advised me to seize the first opportunity of declaring
our mutual passion to her Aunt.
One Evening, I was alone with Donna Rodolpha in her own
apartment. As our readings generally treated of love, Agnes was
never permitted to assist at them. I was just congratulating
myself on having finished 'The Loves of Tristan and the Queen
'Ah! The Unfortunates!' cried the Baroness; 'How say you,
Segnor? Do you think it possible for Man to feel an attachment
so disinterested and sincere?'
'I cannot doubt it,' replied I; 'My own heart furnishes me with
the certainty. Ah! Donna Rodolpha, might I but hope for your
approbation of my love! Might I but confess the name of my
Mistress without incurring your resentment!'
She interrupted me.
'Suppose, I were to spare you that confession? Suppose I were
to acknowledge that the object of your desires is not unknown to
me? Suppose I were to say that She returns your affection, and
laments not less sincerely than yourself the unhappy vows which
separate her from you?'
'Ah! Donna Rodolpha!' I exclaimed, throwing myself upon my knees
before her, and pressing her hand to my lips, 'You have
discovered my secret! What is your decision? Must I despair, or
may I reckon upon your favour?'
She withdrew not the hand which I held; But She turned from me,
and covered her face with the other.
'How can I refuse it you?' She replied; 'Ah! Don Alphonso, I have
long perceived to whom your attentions were directed, but till
now I perceived not the impression which they made upon my heart.
At length I can no longer hide my weakness either from myself or
from you. I yield to the violence of my passion, and own that I
adore you! For three long months I stifled my desires; But grown
stronger by resistance, I submit to their impetuosity. Pride,
fear, and honour, respect for myself, and my engagements to the
Baron, all are vanquished. I sacrifice them to my love for you,
and it still seems to me that I pay too mean a price for your
She paused for an answer.--Judge, my Lorenzo, what must have been
my confusion at this discovery. I at once saw all the magnitude
of this obstacle, which I had raised myself to my happiness. The
Baroness had placed those attentions to her own account, which I
had merely paid her for the sake of Agnes: And the strength of
her expressions, the looks which accompanied them, and my
knowledge of her revengeful disposition made me tremble for
myself and my Beloved. I was silent for some minutes. I knew
not how to reply to her declaration: I could only resolve to
clear up the mistake without delay, and for the present to
conceal from her knowledge the name of my Mistress. No sooner
had She avowed her passion than the transports which before were
evident in my features gave place to consternation and
constraint. I dropped her hand, and rose from my knees. The
change in my countenance did not escape her observation.
'What means this silence?' said She in a trembling voice; 'Where
is that joy which you led me to expect?'
'Forgive me, Segnora,' I answered, 'if what necessity forces from
me should seem harsh and ungrateful: To encourage you in an
error, which, however it may flatter myself, must prove to you
the source of disappointment, would make me appear criminal in
every eye. Honour obliges me to inform you that you have
mistaken for the solicitude of Love what was only the attention
of Friendship. The latter sentiment is that which I wished to
excite in your bosom: To entertain a warmer, respect for you
forbids me, and gratitude for the Baron's generous treatment.
Perhaps these reasons would not be sufficient to shield me from
your attractions, were it not that my affections are already
bestowed upon another. You have charms, Segnora, which might
captivate the most insensible; No heart unoccupied could resist
them. Happy is it for me that mine is no longer in my
possession; or I should have to reproach myself for ever with
having violated the Laws of Hospitality. Recollect yourself,
noble Lady; Recollect what is owed by you to honour, by me to the
Baron, and replace by esteem and friendship those sentiments
which I never can return.'
The Baroness turned pale at this unexpected and positive
declaration: She doubted whether She slept or woke. At length
recovering from her surprise, consternation gave place to rage,
and the blood rushed back into her cheeks with violence.
'Villain!' She cried; 'Monster of deceit! Thus is the avowal of
my love received? Is it thus that. . . . But no, no! It
cannot, it shall not be! Alphonso, behold me at your feet! Be
witness of my despair! Look with pity on a Woman who loves you
with sincere affection! She who possesses your heart, how has
She merited such a treasure? What sacrifice has She made to you?
What raises her above Rodolpha?'
I endeavoured to lift her from her Knees.
'For God's sake, Segnora, restrain these transports: They
disgrace yourself and me. Your exclamations may be heard, and
your secret divulged to your Attendants. I see that my presence
only irritates you: permit me to retire.'
I prepared to quit the apartment: The Baroness caught me
suddenly by the arm.
'And who is this happy Rival?' said She in a menacing tone; 'I
will know her name, and WHEN I know it. . . . ! She is someone
in my power; You entreated my favour, my protection! Let me but
find her, let me but know who dares to rob me of your heart, and
She shall suffer every torment which jealousy and disappointment
can inflict! Who is She? Answer me this moment. Hope not to
conceal her from my vengeance! Spies shall be set over you;
every step, every look shall be watched; Your eyes will discover
my Rival; I shall know her, and when She is found, tremble,
Alphonso for her and for yourself!'
As She uttered these last words her fury mounted to such a pitch
as to stop her powers of respiration. She panted, groaned, and
at length fainted away. As She was falling I caught her in my
arms, and placed her upon a Sopha. Then hastening to the door, I
summoned her Women to her assistance; I committed her to their
care, and seized the opportunity of escaping.
Agitated and confused beyond expression I bent my steps towards
the Garden. The benignity with which the Baroness had listened
to me at first raised my hopes to the highest pitch: I imagined
her to have perceived my attachment for her Niece, and to approve
of it. Extreme was my disappointment at understanding the true
purport of her discourse. I knew not what course to take: The
superstition of the Parents of Agnes, aided by her Aunt's
unfortunate passion, seemed to oppose such obstacles to our union
as were almost insurmountable.
As I past by a low parlour, whose windows looked into the Garden,
through the door which stood half open I observed Agnes seated at
a Table. She was occupied in drawing, and several unfinished
sketches were scattered round her. I entered, still undetermined
whether I should acquaint her with the declaration of the
'Oh! is it only you?' said She, raising her head; 'You are no
Stranger, and I shall continue my occupation without ceremony.
Take a Chair, and seat yourself by me.'
I obeyed, and placed myself near the Table. Unconscious what I
was doing, and totally occupied by the scene which had just
passed, I took up some of the drawings, and cast my eye over
them. One of the subjects struck me from its singularity. It
represented the great Hall of the Castle of Lindenberg. A door
conducting to a narrow staircase stood half open. In the
foreground appeared a Groupe of figures, placed in the most
grotesque attitudes; Terror was expressed upon every countenance.
Here was One upon his knees with his eyes cast up to heaven, and
praying most devoutly; There Another was creeping away upon all
fours. Some hid their faces in their cloaks or the laps of their
Companions; Some had concealed themselves beneath a Table, on
which the remnants of a feast were visible; While Others with
gaping mouths and eyes wide-stretched pointed to a Figure,
supposed to have created this disturbance. It represented a
Female of more than human stature, clothed in the habit of some
religious order. Her face was veiled; On her arm hung a chaplet
of beads; Her dress was in several places stained with the blood
which trickled from a wound upon her bosom. In one hand She held
a Lamp, in the other a large Knife, and She seemed advancing
towards the iron gates of the Hall.
'What does this mean, Agnes?' said I; 'Is this some invention of
your own?'
She cast her eye upon the drawing.
'Oh! no,' She replied; ' 'Tis the invention of much wiser heads
than mine. But can you possibly have lived at Lindenberg for
three whole Months without hearing of the Bleeding Nun?'
'You are the first, who ever mentioned the name to me. Pray, who
may the Lady be?'
'That is more than I can pretend to tell you. All my knowledge
of her History comes from an old tradition in this family, which
has been handed down from Father to Son, and is firmly credited
throughout the Baron's domains. Nay, the Baron believes it
himself; and as for my Aunt who has a natural turn for the
marvellous, She would sooner doubt the veracity of the Bible,
than of the Bleeding Nun. Shall I tell you this History?'
I answered that She would oblige me much by relating it: She
resumed her drawing, and then proceeded as follows in a tone of
burlesqued gravity.
'It is surprising that in all the Chronicles of past times, this
remarkable Personage is never once mentioned. Fain would I
recount to you her life; But unluckily till after her death She
was never known to have existed. Then first did She think it
necessary to make some noise in the world, and with that
intention She made bold to seize upon the Castle of Lindenberg.
Having a good taste, She took up her abode in the best room of
the House: and once established there, She began to amuse
herself by knocking about the tables and chairs in the middle of
the night. Perhaps She was a bad Sleeper, but this I have never
been able to ascertain. According to the tradition, this
entertainment commenced about a Century ago. It was accompanied
with shrieking, howling, groaning, swearing, and many other
agreeable noises of the same kind. But though one particular
room was more especially honoured with her visits, She did not
entirely confine herself to it. She occasionally ventured into
the old Galleries, paced up and down the spacious Halls, or
sometimes stopping at the doors of the Chambers, She wept and
wailed there to the universal terror of the Inhabitants. In
these nocturnal excursions She was seen by different People, who
all describe her appearance as you behold it here, traced by the
hand of her unworthy Historian.'
The singularity of this account insensibly engaged my attention.
'Did She never speak to those who met her?' said I.
'Not She. The specimens indeed, which She gave nightly of her
talents for conversation, were by no means inviting. Sometimes
the Castle rung with oaths and execrations: A Moment after She
repeated her Paternoster: Now She howled out the most horrible
blasphemies, and then chaunted De Profundis, as orderly as if
still in the Choir. In short She seemed a mighty capricious
Being: But whether She prayed or cursed, whether She was impious
or devout, She always contrived to terrify her Auditors out of
their senses. The Castle became scarcely habitable; and its Lord
was so frightened by these midnight Revels, that one fine morning
He was found dead in his bed. This success seemed to please the
Nun mightily, for now She made more noise than ever. But the
next Baron proved too cunning for her. He made his appearance
with a celebrated Exorciser in his hand, who feared not to shut
himself up for a night in the haunted Chamber. There it seems
that He had an hard battle with the Ghost, before She would
promise to be quiet. She was obstinate, but He was more so, and
at length She consented to let the Inhabitants of the Castle take
a good night's rest. For some time after no news was heard of
her. But at the end of five years the Exorciser died, and then
the Nun ventured to peep abroad again. However, She was now
grown much more tractable and well-behaved. She walked about in
silence, and never made her appearance above once in five years.
This custom, if you will believe the Baron, She still continues.
He is fully persuaded, that on the fifth of May of every fifth
year, as soon as the Clock strikes One, the Door of the haunted
Chamber opens. (Observe, that this room has been shut up for
near a Century.) Then out walks the Ghostly Nun with her Lamp
and dagger: She descends the staircase of the Eastern Tower;
and crosses the great Hall! On that night the Porter always
leaves the Gates of the Castle open, out of respect to the
Apparition: Not that this is thought by any means necessary,
since She could easily whip through the Keyhole if She chose it;
But merely out of politeness, and to prevent her from making her
exit in a way so derogatory to the dignity of her Ghost-ship.'
'And whither does She go on quitting the Castle?'
'To Heaven, I hope; But if She does, the place certainly is not
to her taste, for She always returns after an hour's absence.
The Lady then retires to her chamber, and is quiet for another
five years.'
'And you believe this, Agnes?'
'How can you ask such a question? No, no, Alphonso! I have too
much reason to lament superstition's influence to be its Victim
myself. However I must not avow my incredulity to the Baroness:
She entertains not a doubt of the truth of this History. As to
Dame Cunegonda, my Governess, She protests that fifteen years ago
She saw the Spectre with her own eyes. She related to me one
evening how She and several other Domestics had been terrified
while at Supper by the appearance of the Bleeding Nun, as the
Ghost is called in the Castle: 'Tis from her account that I drew
this sketch, and you may be certain that Cunegonda was not
omitted. There She is! I shall never forget what a passion She
was in, and how ugly She looked while She scolded me for having
made her picture so like herself!'
Here She pointed to a burlesque figure of an old Woman in an
attitude of terror.
In spite of the melancholy which oppressed me, I could not help
smiling at the playful imagination of Agnes: She had perfectly
preserved Dame Cunegonda's resemblance, but had so much
exaggerated every fault, and rendered every feature so
irresistibly laughable, that I could easily conceive the Duenna's
'The figure is admirable, my dear Agnes! I knew not that you
possessed such talents for the ridiculous.'
'Stay a moment,' She replied; 'I will show you a figure still
more ridiculous than Dame Cunegonda's. If it pleases you, you
may dispose of it as seems best to yourself.'
She rose, and went to a Cabinet at some little distance.
Unlocking a drawer, She took out a small case, which She opened,
and presented to me.
'Do you know the resemblance?' said She smiling.
It was her own.
Transported at the gift, I pressed the portrait to my lips with
passion: I threw myself at her feet, and declared my gratitude
in the warmest and most affectionate terms. She listened to me
with complaisance, and assured me that She shared my sentiments:
When suddenly She uttered a loud shriek, disengaged the hand
which I held, and flew from the room by a door which opened to
the Garden. Amazed at this abrupt departure, I rose hastily from
my knees. I beheld with confusion the Baroness standing near me
glowing with jealousy, and almost choaked with rage. On
recovering from her swoon, She had tortured her imagination to
discover her concealed Rival. No one appeared to deserve her
suspicions more than Agnes. She immediately hastened to find her
Niece, tax her with encouraging my addresses, and assure herself
whether her conjectures were well-grounded. Unfortunately She
had already seen enough to need no other confirmation. She
arrived at the door of the room at the precise moment, when Agnes
gave me her Portrait. She heard me profess an everlasting
attachment to her Rival, and saw me kneeling at her feet. She
advanced to separate us; We were too much occupied by each other
to perceive her approach, and were not aware of it, till Agnes
beheld her standing by my side.
Rage on the part of Donna Rodolpha, embarrassment on mine, for
some time kept us both silent. The Lady recovered herself first.
'My suspicions then were just,' said She; 'The Coquetry of my
Niece has triumphed, and 'tis to her that I am sacrificed. In
one respect however I am fortunate: I shall not be the only one
who laments a disappointed passion. You too shall know, what it
is to love without hope! I daily expect orders for restoring
Agnes to her Parents. Immediately upon her arrival in Spain, She
will take the veil, and place an insuperable barrier to your
union. You may spare your supplications.' She continued,
perceiving me on the point of speaking; 'My resolution is fixed
and immoveable. Your Mistress shall remain a close Prisoner in
her chamber till She exchanges this Castle for the Cloister.
Solitude will perhaps recall her to a sense of her duty: But to
prevent your opposing that wished event, I must inform you, Don
Alphonso, that your presence here is no longer agreeable either
to the Baron or Myself. It was not to talk nonsense to my Niece
that your Relations sent you to Germany: Your business was to
travel, and I should be sorry to impede any longer so excellent a
design. Farewell, Segnor; Remember, that tomorrow morning we
meet for the last time.'
Having said this, She darted upon me a look of pride, contempt,
and malice, and quitted the apartment. I also retired to mine,
and consumed the night in planning the means of rescuing Agnes
from the power of her tyrannical Aunt.
After the positive declaration of its Mistress, it was impossible
for me to make a longer stay at the Castle of Lindenberg.
Accordingly I the next day announced my immediate departure. The
Baron declared that it gave him sincere pain; and He expressed
himself in my favour so warmly, that I endeavoured to win him
over to my interest. Scarcely had I mentioned the name of Agnes
when He stopped me short, and said, that it was totally out of
his power to interfere in the business. I saw that it was in
vain to argue; The Baroness governed her Husband with despotic
sway, and I easily perceived that She had prejudiced him against
the match. Agnes did not appear: I entreated permission to take
leave of her, but my prayer was rejected. I was obliged to
depart without seeing her.
At quitting him the Baron shook my hand affectionately, and
assured me that as soon as his Niece was gone, I might consider
his House as my own.
'Farewell, Don Alphonso!' said the Baroness, and stretched out
her hand to me.
I took it, and offered to carry it to my lips. She prevented me.
Her Husband was at the other end of the room, and out of hearing.
'Take care of yourself,' She continued; 'My love is become
hatred, and my wounded pride shall not be unatoned. Go where
you will, my vengeance shall follow you!'
She accompanied these words with a look sufficient to make me
tremble. I answered not, but hastened to quit the Castle.
As my Chaise drove out of the Court, I looked up to the windows
of your Sister's chamber. Nobody was to be seen there: I threw
myself back despondent in my Carriage. I was attended by no
other servants than a Frenchman whom I had hired at Strasbourg
in Stephano's room, and my little Page whom I before mentioned to
you. The fidelity, intelligence, and good temper of Theodore had
already made him dear to me; But He now prepared to lay an
obligation on me, which made me look upon him as a Guardian
Genius. Scarcely had we proceeded half a mile from the Castle,
when He rode up to the Chaise-door.
'Take courage, Segnor!' said He in Spanish, which He had already
learnt to speak with fluency and correctness. 'While you were
with the Baron, I watched the moment when Dame Cunegonda was
below stairs, and mounted into the chamber over that of Donna
Agnes. I sang as loud as I could a little German air well-known
to her, hoping that She would recollect my voice. I was not
disappointed, for I soon heard her window open. I hastened to
let down a string with which I had provided myself: Upon hearing
the casement closed again, I drew up the string, and fastened to
it I found this scrap of paper.'
He then presented me with a small note addressed to me. I opened
it with impatience: It contained the following words written in
Conceal yourself for the next fortnight in some neighbouring
Village. My Aunt will believe you to have quitted Lindenberg,
and I shall be restored to liberty. I will be in the West
Pavilion at twelve on the night of the thirtieth. Fail not to be
there, and we shall have an opportunity of concerting our future
plans. Adieu. Agnes.
At perusing these lines my transports exceeded all bounds;
Neither did I set any to the expressions of gratitude which I
heaped upon Theodore. In fact his address and attention merited
my warmest praise. You will readily believe that I had not
entrusted him with my passion for Agnes; But the arch Youth had
too much discernment not to discover my secret, and too much
discretion not to conceal his knowledge of it. He observed in
silence what was going on, nor strove to make himself an Agent in
the business till my interests required his interference. I
equally admired his judgment, his penetration, his address, and
his fidelity. This was not the first occasion in which I had
found him of infinite use, and I was every day more convinced of
his quickness and capacity. During my short stay at Strasbourg,
He had applied himself diligently to learning the rudiments of
Spanish: He continued to study it, and with so much success that
He spoke it with the same facility as his native language. He
past the greatest part of his time in reading; He had acquired
much information for his Age; and united the advantages of a
lively countenance and prepossessing figure to an excellent
understanding and the very best of hearts. He is now fifteen; He
is still in my service, and when you see him, I am sure that He
will please you. But excuse this digression: I return to the
subject which I quitted.
I obeyed the instructions of Agnes. I proceeded to Munich.
There I left my Chaise under the care of Lucas, my French
Servant, and then returned on Horseback to a small Village about
four miles distant from the Castle of Lindenberg. Upon arriving
there a story was related to the Host at whose Inn I descended,
which prevented his wondering at my making so long a stay in his
House. The old Man fortunately was credulous and incurious: He
believed all I said, and sought to know no more than what I
thought proper to tell him. Nobody was with me but Theodore;
Both were disguised, and as we kept ourselves close, we were not
suspected to be other than what we seemed. In this manner the
fortnight passed away. During that time I had the pleasing
conviction that Agnes was once more at liberty. She past through
the Village with Dame Cunegonda: She seemed in health and
spirits, and talked to her Companion without any appearance of
'Who are those Ladies?' said I to my Host, as the Carriage past.
'Baron Lindenberg's Niece with her Governess,' He replied; 'She
goes regularly every Friday to the Convent of St. Catharine, in
which She was brought up, and which is situated about a mile from
You may be certain that I waited with impatience for the ensuing
Friday. I again beheld my lovely Mistress. She cast her eyes
upon me, as She passed the Inn-door. A blush which overspread
her cheek told me that in spite of my disguise I had been
recognised. I bowed profoundly. She returned the compliment by
a slight inclination of the head as if made to one inferior, and
looked another way till the Carriage was out of sight.
The long-expected, long-wished for night arrived. It was calm,
and the Moon was at the full. As soon as the Clock struck eleven
I hastened to my appointment, determined not to be too late.
Theodore had provided a Ladder; I ascended the Garden wall
without difficulty; The Page followed me, and drew the Ladder
after us. I posted myself in the West Pavilion, and waited
impatiently for the approach of Agnes. Every breeze that
whispered, every leaf that fell, I believed to be her footstep,
and hastened to meet her. Thus was I obliged to pass a full
hour, every minute of which appeared to me an age. The
Castle Bell at length tolled twelve, and scarcely could I believe
the night to be no further advanced. Another quarter of an hour
elapsed, and I heard the light foot of my Mistress approaching
the Pavilion with precaution. I flew to receive her, and
conducted her to a seat. I threw myself at her feet, and was
expressing my joy at seeing her, when She thus interrupted me.
'We have no time to lose, Alphonso: The moments are precious,
for though no more a Prisoner, Cunegonda watches my every step.
An express is arrived from my Father; I must depart immediately
for Madrid, and 'tis with difficulty that I have obtained a
week's delay. The superstition of my Parents, supported by the
representations of my cruel Aunt, leaves me no hope of softening
them to compassion. In this dilemma I have resolved to commit
myself to your honour: God grant that you may never give me
cause to repent my resolution! Flight is my only resource from
the horrors of a Convent, and my imprudence must be excused by
the urgency of the danger. Now listen to the plan by which I
hope to effect my escape.
'We are now at the thirtieth of April. On the fifth day from
this the Visionary Nun is expected to appear. In my last visit
to the Convent I provided myself with a dress proper for the
character: A Friend, whom I have left there and to whom I made
no scruple to confide my secret, readily consented to supply me
with a religious habit. Provide a carriage, and be with it at a
little distance from the great Gate of the Castle. As soon as
the Clock strikes 'one,' I shall quit my chamber, drest in the
same apparel as the Ghost is supposed to wear. Whoever meets me
will be too much terrified to oppose my escape. I shall easily
reach the door, and throw myself under your protection. Thus far
success is certain: But Oh! Alphonso, should you deceive me!
Should you despise my imprudence and reward it with ingratitude,
the World will not hold a Being more wretched than myself! I
feel all the dangers to which I shall be exposed. I feel that I
am giving you a right to treat me with levity: But I rely upon
your love, upon your honour! The step which I am on the point of
taking, will incense my Relations against me: Should you desert
me, should you betray the trust reposed in you, I shall have no
friend to punish your insult, or support my cause. On yourself
alone rests all my hope, and if your own heart does not plead in
my behalf, I am undone for ever!'
The tone in which She pronounced these words was so touching,
that in spite of my joy at receiving her promise to follow me, I
could not help being affected. I also repined in secret at not
having taken the precaution to provide a Carriage at the Village,
in which case I might have carried off Agnes that very night.
Such an attempt was now impracticable: Neither Carriage or
Horses were to be procured nearer than Munich, which was distant
from Lindenberg two good days journey. I was therefore obliged
to chime in with her plan, which in truth seemed well arranged:
Her disguise would secure her from being stopped in quitting the
Castle, and would enable her to step into the Carriage at the
very Gate without difficulty or losing time.
Agnes reclined her head mournfully upon my shoulder, and by the
light of the Moon I saw tears flowing down her cheek. I strove
to dissipate her melancholy, and encouraged her to look forward
to the prospect of happiness. I protested in the most solemn
terms that her virtue and innocence would be safe in my keeping,
and that till the church had made her my lawful Wife, her honour
should be held by me as sacred as a Sister's. I told her that
my first care should be to find you out, Lorenzo, and reconcile
you to our union; and I was continuing to speak in the same
strain, when a noise without alarmed me. Suddenly the door of
the Pavilion was thrown open, and Cunegonda stood before us. She
had heard Agnes steal out of her chamber, followed her into the
Garden, and perceived her entering the Pavilion. Favoured by the
Trees which shaded it, and unperceived by Theodore who waited at
a little distance, She had approached in silence, and overheard
our whole conversation.
'Admirable!' cried Cunegonda in a voice shrill with passion,
while Agnes uttered a loud shriek; 'By St. Barbara, young Lady,
you have an excellent invention! You must personate the Bleeding
Nun, truly? What impiety! What incredulity! Marry, I have a
good mind to let you pursue your plan: When the real Ghost met
you, I warrant, you would be in a pretty condition! Don
Alphonso, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for seducing a
young ignorant Creature to leave her family and Friends:
However, for this time at least I shall mar your wicked designs.
The noble Lady shall be informed of the whole affair, and Agnes
must defer playing the Spectre till a better opportunity.
Farewell, Segnor-- Donna Agnes, let me have the honour of
conducting your Ghost-ship back to your apartment.'
She approached the Sopha on which her trembling Pupil was seated,
took her by the hand, and prepared to lead her from the Pavilion.
I detained her, and strove by entreaties, soothing, promises, and
flattery to win her to my party: But finding all that I could
say of no avail, I abandoned the vain attempt.
'Your obstinacy must be its own punishment,' said I; 'But one
resource remains to save Agnes and myself, and I shall not
hesitate to employ it.'
Terrified at this menace, She again endeavoured to quit the
Pavilion; But I seized her by the wrist, and detained her
forcibly. At the same moment Theodore, who had followed her into
the room, closed the door, and prevented her escape. I took the
veil of Agnes: I threw it round the Duenna's head, who uttered
such piercing shrieks that in spite of our distance from the
Castle, I dreaded their being heard. At length I succeeded in
gagging her so compleatly that She could not produce a single
sound. Theodore and myself with some difficulty next contrived
to bind her hands and feet with our handkerchiefs; And I advised
Agnes to regain her chamber with all diligence. I promised that
no harm should happen to Cunegonda, bad her remember that on the
fifth of May I should be in waiting at the Great Gate of the
Castle, and took of her an affectionate farewell. Trembling and
uneasy She had scarce power enough to signify her consent to my
plans, and fled back to her apartment in disorder and confusion.
In the meanwhile Theodore assisted me in carrying off my
antiquated Prize. She was hoisted over the wall, placed before
me upon my Horse like a Portmanteau, and I galloped away with her
from the Castle of Lindenberg. The unlucky Duenna never had made
a more disagreeable journey in her life: She was jolted and
shaken till She was become little more than an animated Mummy;
not to mention her fright when we waded through a small River
through which it was necessary to pass in order to regain the
Village. Before we reached the Inn, I had already determined how
to dispose of the troublesome Cunegonda. We entered the Street
in which the Inn stood, and while the page knocked, I waited at a
little distance. The Landlord opened the door with a Lamp in his
'Give me the light!' said Theodore; 'My Master is coming.'
He snatched the Lamp hastily, and purposely let it fall upon the
ground: The Landlord returned to the Kitchen to re-light the
Lamp, leaving the door open. I profited by the obscurity, sprang
from my Horse with Cunegonda in my arms, darted up stairs,
reached my chamber unperceived, and unlocking the door of a
spacious Closet, stowed her within it, and then turned the Key.
The Landlord and Theodore soon after appeared with lights: The
Former expressed himself a little surprised at my returning so
late, but asked no impertinent questions. He soon quitted the
room, and left me to exult in the success of my undertaking.
I immediately paid a visit to my Prisoner. I strove to persuade
her submitting with patience to her temporary confinement. My
attempt was unsuccessful. Unable to speak or move, She expressed
her fury by her looks, and except at meals I never dared to
unbind her, or release her from the Gag. At such times I stood
over her with a drawn sword, and protested, that if She uttered a
single cry, I would plunge it in her bosom. As soon as She had
done eating, the Gag was replaced. I was conscious that this
proceeding was cruel, and could only be justified by the urgency
of circumstances: As to Theodore, He had no scruples upon the
subject. Cunegonda's captivity entertained him beyond measure.
During his abode in the Castle, a continual warfare had been
carried on between him and the Duenna; and now that He found his
Enemy so absolutely in his power, He triumphed without mercy. He
seemed to think of nothing but how to find out new means of
plaguing her: Sometimes He affected to pity her misfortune, then
laughed at, abused, and mimicked her; He played her a thousand
tricks, each more provoking than the other, and amused himself by
telling her that her elopement must have occasioned much
surprise at the Baron's. This was in fact the case. No one
except Agnes could imagine what was become of Dame Cunegonda:
Every hole and corner was searched for her; The Ponds were
dragged, and the Woods underwent a thorough examination. Still
no Dame Cunegonda made her appearance. Agnes kept the secret,
and I kept the Duenna: The Baroness, therefore, remained in
total ignorance respecting the old Woman's fate, but suspected
her to have perished by suicide. Thus past away five days,
during which I had prepared every thing necessary for my
enterprise. On quitting Agnes, I had made it my first business
to dispatch a Peasant with a letter to Lucas at Munich, ordering
him to take care that a Coach and four should arrive about ten
o'clock on the fifth of May at the Village of Rosenwald. He
obeyed my instructions punctually: The Equipage arrived at the
time appointed. As the period of her Lady's elopement drew
nearer, Cunegonda's rage increased. I verily believe that spight
and passion would have killed her, had I not luckily discovered
her prepossession in favour of Cherry Brandy. With this favourite
liquor She was plentifully supplied, and Theodore always
remaining to guard her, the Gag was occasionally removed. The
liquor seemed to have a wonderful effect in softening the
acrimony of her nature; and her confinement not admitting of any
other amusement, She got drunk regularly once a day just by way
of passing the time.
The fifth of May arrived, a period by me never to be forgotten!
Before the Clock struck twelve, I betook myself to the scene of
action. Theodore followed me on horseback. I concealed the
Carriage in a spacious Cavern of the Hill, on whose brow the
Castle was situated: This Cavern was of considerable depth, and
among the peasants was known by the name of Lindenberg Hole. The
night was calm and beautiful: The Moonbeams fell upon the
antient Towers of the Castle, and shed upon their summits a
silver light. All was still around me: Nothing was to be heard
except the night breeze sighing among the leaves, the distant
barking of Village Dogs, or the Owl who had established herself
in a nook of the deserted Eastern Turret. I heard her melancholy
shriek, and looked upwards. She sat upon the ride of a window,
which I recognized to be that of the haunted Room. This brought
to my remembrance the story of the Bleeding Nun, and I sighed
while I reflected on the influence of superstition and weakness
of human reason. Suddenly I heard a faint chorus steal upon the
silence of the night.
'What can occasion that noise, Theodore?'
'A Stranger of distinction,' replied He, 'passed through the
Village today in his way to the Castle: He is reported to be
the Father of Donna Agnes. Doubtless, the Baron has given an
entertainment to celebrate his arrival.'
The Castle Bell announced the hour of midnight: This was the
usual signal for the family to retire to Bed. Soon after I
perceived lights in the Castle moving backwards and forwards in
different directions. I conjectured the company to be
separating. I could hear the heavy doors grate as they opened
with difficulty, and as they closed again the rotten Casements
rattled in their frames. The chamber of Agnes was on the other
side of the Castle. I trembled lest She should have failed in
obtaining the Key of the haunted Room: Through this it was
necessary for her to pass in order to reach the narrow
Staircase by which the Ghost was supposed to descend into the
great Hall. Agitated by this apprehension, I kept my eyes
constantly fixed upon the window, where I hoped to perceive the
friendly glare of a Lamp borne by Agnes. I now heard the massy
Gates unbarred. By the candle in his hand I distinguished old
Conrad, the Porter. He set the Portal doors wide open, and
retired. The lights in the Castle gradually disappeared, and at
length the whole Building was wrapt in darkness.
While I sat upon a broken ridge of the Hill, the stillness of the
scene inspired me with melancholy ideas not altogether
unpleasing. The Castle which stood full in my sight, formed an
object equally awful and picturesque. Its ponderous Walls tinged
by the moon with solemn brightness, its old and partly-ruined
Towers lifting themselves into the clouds and seeming to frown on
the plains around them, its lofty battlements oergrown with ivy,
and folding Gates expanding in honour of the Visionary
Inhabitant, made me sensible of a sad and reverential horror.
Yet did not these sensations occupy me so fully, as to prevent me
from witnessing with impatience the slow progress of time. I
approached the Castle, and ventured to walk round it. A few rays
of light still glimmered in the chamber of Agnes. I observed
them with joy. I was still gazing upon them, when I perceived a
figure draw near the window, and the Curtain was carefully closed
to conceal the Lamp which burned there. Convinced by this
observation that Agnes had not abandoned our plan, I returned
with a light heart to my former station.
The half-hour struck! The three-quarters struck! My bosom beat
high with hope and expectation. At length the wished-for sound
was heard. The Bell tolled 'One,' and the Mansion echoed with
the noise loud and solemn. I looked up to the Casement of the
haunted Chamber. Scarcely had five minutes elapsed, when the
expected light appeared. I was now close to the Tower. The
window was not so far from the Ground but that I fancied I
perceived a female figure with a Lamp in her hand moving slowly
along the Apartment. The light soon faded away, and all was
again dark and gloomy.
Occasional gleams of brightness darted from the Staircase
windows as the lovely Ghost past by them. I traced the light
through the Hall: It reached the Portal, and at length I beheld
Agnes pass through the folding gates. She was habited exactly
as She had described the Spectre. A chaplet of Beads hung upon
her arm; her head was enveloped in a long white veil; Her Nun's
dress was stained with blood, and She had taken care to provide
herself with a Lamp and dagger. She advanced towards the spot
where I stood. I flew to meet her, and clasped her in my arms.
'Agnes!' said I while I pressed her to my bosom,
Agnes! Agnes! Thou art mine!
Agnes! Agnes! I am thine!
In my veins while blood shall roll,
Thou art mine!
I am thine!
Thine my body! Thine my soul!
Terrified and breathless She was unable to speak: She dropt her
Lamp and dagger, and sank upon my bosom in silence. I raised her
in my arms, and conveyed her to the Carriage. Theodore remained
behind in order to release Dame Cunegonda. I also charged him
with a letter to the Baroness explaining the whole affair, and
entreating her good offices in reconciling Don Gaston to my union
with his Daughter. I discovered to her my real name: I proved
to her that my birth and expectations justified my pretending to
her Niece, and assured her, though it was out of my power to
return her love, that I would strive unceasingly to obtain her
esteem and friendship.
I stepped into the Carriage, where Agnes was already seated.
Theodore closed the door, and the Postillions drove away. At
first I was delighted with the rapidity of our progress; But as
soon as we were in no danger of pursuit, I called to the Drivers,
and bad them moderate their pace. They strove in vain to obey
me. The Horses refused to answer the rein, and continued to rush
on with astonishing swiftness. The Postillions redoubled their
efforts to stop them, but by kicking and plunging the Beasts soon
released themselves from this restraint. Uttering a loud shriek,
the Drivers were hurled upon the ground. Immediately thick
clouds obscured the sky: The winds howled around us, the
lightning flashed, and the Thunder roared tremendously. Never
did I behold so frightful a Tempest! Terrified by the jar of
contending elements, the Horses seemed every moment to increase
their speed. Nothing could interrupt their career; They dragged
the Carriage through Hedges and Ditches, dashed down the most
dangerous precipices, and seemed to vye in swiftness with the
rapidity of the winds.
All this while my Companion lay motionless in my arms. Truly
alarmed by the magnitude of the danger, I was in vain attempting
to recall her to her senses; when a loud crash announced, that a
stop was put to our progress in the most disagreeable manner.
The Carriage was shattered to pieces. In falling I struck my
temple against a flint. The pain of the wound, the violence of
the shock, and apprehension for the safety of Agnes combined to
overpower me so compleatly, that my senses forsook me, and I lay
without animation on the ground.
I probably remained for some time in this situation, since when I
opened my eyes, it was broad daylight. Several Peasants were
standing round me, and seemed disputing whether my recovery was
possible. I spoke German tolerably well. As soon as I could
utter an articulate sound, I enquired after Agnes. What was my
surprise and distress, when assured by the Peasants, that nobody
had been seen answering the description which I gave of her!
They told me that in going to their daily labour they had been
alarmed by observing the fragments of my Carriage, and by hearing
the groans of an Horse, the only one of the four which remained
alive: The other Three lay dead by my side. Nobody was near me
when they came up, and much time had been lost, before they
succeeded in recovering me. Uneasy beyond expression respecting
the fate of my Companion, I besought the Peasants to disperse
themselves in search of her: I described her dress, and promised
immense rewards to whoever brought me any intelligence. As for
myself, it was impossible for me to join in the pursuit: I had
broken two of my ribs in the fall: My arm being dislocated hung
useless by my side; and my left leg was shattered so terribly,
that I never expected to recover its use.
The Peasants complied with my request: All left me except Four,
who made a litter of boughs and prepared to convey me to the
neighbouring Town. I enquired its name. It proved to be
Ratisbon, and I could scarcely persuade myself that I had
travelled to such a distance in a single night. I told the
Countrymen that at one o'clock that morning I had past through
the Village of Rosenwald. They shook their heads wistfully, and
made signs to each other that I must certainly be delirious. I
was conveyed to a decent Inn and immediately put to bed. A
Physician was sent for, who set my arm with success. He then
examined my other hurts, and told me that I need be under no
apprehension of the consequences of any of them; But ordered me
to keep myself quiet, and be prepared for a tedious and painful
cure. I answered him that if He hoped to keep me quiet, He must
first endeavour to procure me some news of a Lady who had
quitted Rosenwald in my company the night before, and had been
with me at the moment when the Coach broke down. He smiled, and
only replied by advising me to make myself easy, for that all
proper care should be taken of me. As He quitted me, the Hostess
met him at the door of the room.
'The Gentleman is not quite in his right senses;' I heard him say
to her in a low voice; ' 'Tis the natural consequence of his
fall, but that will soon be over.'
One after another the Peasants returned to the Inn, and informed
me that no traces had been discovered of my unfortunate Mistress.
Uneasiness now became despair. I entreated them to renew their
search in the most urgent terms, doubling the promises which I
had already made them. My wild and frantic manner confirmed the
bye-standers in the idea of my being delirious. No signs of the
Lady having appeared, they believed her to be a creature
fabricated by my over-heated brain, and paid no attention to my
entreaties. However, the Hostess assured me that a fresh enquiry
should be made, but I found afterwards that her promise was only
given to quiet me. No further steps were taken in the business.
Though my Baggage was left at Munich under the care of my French
Servant, having prepared myself for a long journey, my purse was
amply furnished: Besides my equipage proved me to be of
distinction, and in consequence all possible attention was paid
me at the Inn. The day passed away: Still no news arrived of
Agnes. The anxiety of fear now gave place to despondency. I
ceased to rave about her and was plunged in the depth of
melancholy reflections. Perceiving me to be silent and tranquil,
my Attendants believed my delirium to have abated, and that my
malady had taken a favourable turn. According to the Physician's
order I swallowed a composing medicine; and as soon as the night
shut in, my attendants withdrew and left me to repose.
That repose I wooed in vain. The agitation of my bosom chased
away sleep. Restless in my mind, in spite of the fatigue of my
body, I continued to toss about from side to side, till the Clock
in a neighbouring Steeple struck 'One.' As I listened to the
mournful hollow sound, and heard it die away in the wind, I felt
a sudden chillness spread itself over my body. I shuddered
without knowing wherefore; Cold dews poured down my forehead, and
my hair stood bristling with alarm. Suddenly I heard slow and
heavy steps ascending the staircase. By an involuntary movement
I started up in my bed, and drew back the curtain. A single
rush-light which glimmered upon the hearth shed a faint gleam
through the apartment, which was hung with tapestry. The door
was thrown open with violence. A figure entered, and drew near
my Bed with solemn measured steps. With trembling apprehension I
examined this midnight Visitor. God Almighty! It was the
Bleeding Nun! It was my lost Companion! Her face was still
veiled, but She no longer held her Lamp and dagger. She lifted
up her veil slowly. What a sight presented itself to my startled
eyes! I beheld before me an animated Corse. Her countenance was
long and haggard; Her cheeks and lips were bloodless; The
paleness of death was spread over her features, and her eyeballs
fixed stedfastly upon me were lustreless and hollow.
I gazed upon the Spectre with horror too great to be described.
My blood was frozen in my veins. I would have called for aid,
but the sound expired ere it could pass my lips. My nerves were
bound up in impotence, and I remained in the same attitude
inanimate as a Statue.
The visionary Nun looked upon me for some minutes in silence:
There was something petrifying in her regard. At length in a low
sepulchral voice She pronounced the following words.
''Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine!
Raymond! Raymond! I am thine!
In thy veins while blood shall roll,
I am thine!
Thou art mine!
Mine thy body! Mine thy soul!----''
Breathless with fear, I listened while She repeated my own
expressions. The Apparition seated herself opposite to me at the
foot of the Bed, and was silent. Her eyes were fixed earnestly
upon mine: They seemed endowed with the property of the
Rattlesnake's, for I strove in vain to look off her. My eyes
were fascinated, and I had not the power of withdrawing them from
the Spectre's.
In this attitude She remained for a whole long hour without
speaking or moving; nor was I able to do either. At length the
Clock struck two. The Apparition rose from her seat, and
approached the side of the bed. She grasped with her icy fingers
my hand which hung lifeless upon the Coverture, and pressing her
cold lips to mine, again repeated,
''Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine!
Raymond! Raymond!
I am thine! &c.----''
She then dropped my hand, quitted the chamber with slow steps,
and the Door closed after her. Till that moment the faculties of
my body had been all suspended; Those of my mind had alone been
waking. The charm now ceased to operate: The blood which had
been frozen in my veins rushed back to my heart with violence: I
uttered a deep groan, and sank lifeless upon my pillow.
The adjoining room was only separated from mine by a thin
partition: It was occupied by the Host and his Wife: The Former
was rouzed by my groan, and immediately hastened to my chamber:
The Hostess soon followed him. With some difficulty they
succeeded in restoring me to my senses, and immediately sent for
the Physician, who arrived in all diligence. He declared my
fever to be very much increased, and that if I continued to
suffer such violent agitation, He would not take upon him to
ensure my life. Some medicines which He gave me in some degree
tranquillized my spirits. I fell into a sort of slumber towards
daybreak; But fearful dreams prevented me from deriving any
benefit from my repose. Agnes and the Bleeding Nun presented
themselves by turns to my fancy, and combined to harass and
torment me. I awoke fatigued and unrefreshed. My fever seemed
rather augmented than diminished; The agitation of my mind
impeded my fractured bones from knitting: I had frequent
fainting fits, and during the whole day the Physician judged it
expedient not to quit me for two hours together.
The singularity of my adventure made me determine to conceal it
from every one, since I could not expect that a circumstance so
strange should gain credit. I was very uneasy about Agnes. I
knew not what She would think at not finding me at the
rendezvous, and dreaded her entertaining suspicions of my
fidelity. However, I depended upon Theodore's discretion, and
trusted that my letter to the Baroness would convince her of the
rectitude of my intentions. These considerations somewhat
lightened my inquietude upon her account: But the impression
left upon my mind by my nocturnal Visitor grew stronger with
every succeeding moment. The night drew near; I dreaded its
arrival. Yet I strove to persuade myself that the Ghost would
appear no more, and at all events I desired that a Servant might
sit up in my chamber.
The fatigue of my body from not having slept on the former night,
co-operating with the strong opiates administered to me in
profusion, at length procured me that repose of which I was so
much in need. I sank into a profound and tranquil slumber, and
had already slept for some hours, when the neighbouring Clock
rouzed me by striking 'One'. Its sound brought with it to my
memory all the horrors of the night before. The same cold
shivering seized me. I started up in my bed, and perceived the
Servant fast asleep in an armed-Chair near me. I called him by
his name: He made no answer. I shook him forcibly by the arm,
and strove in vain to wake him. He was perfectly insensible to
my efforts. I now heard the heavy steps ascending the
staircase; The Door was thrown open, and again the Bleeding Nun
stood before me. Once more my limbs were chained in second
infancy. Once more I heard those fatal words repeated,
''Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine!
Raymond! Raymond! I am thine! &c.----''
The scene which had shocked me so sensibly on the former night,
was again presented. The Spectre again pressed her lips to mine,
again touched me with her rotting fingers, and as on her first
appearance, quitted the chamber as soon as the Clock told 'Two.'
Even night was this repeated. Far from growing accustomed to the
Ghost, every succeeding visit inspired me with greater horror.
Her idea pursued me continually, and I became the prey of
habitual melancholy. The constant agitation of my mind naturally
retarded the re-establishment of my health. Several months
elapsed before I was able to quit my bed; and when at length I
was moved to a Sopha, I was so faint, spiritless, and emaciated,
that I could not cross the room without assistance. The looks of
my Attendants sufficiently denoted the little hope, which they
entertained of my recovery. The profound sadness, which
oppressed me without remission made the Physician consider me to
be an Hypochondriac. The cause of my distress I carefully
concealed in my own bosom, for I knew that no one could give me
relief: The Ghost was not even visible to any eye but mine. I
had frequently caused Attendants to sit up in my room: But the
moment that the Clock struck 'One,' irresistible slumber seized
them, nor left them till the departure of the Ghost.
You may be surprized that during this time I made no enquiries
after your Sister. Theodore, who with difficulty had discovered
my abode, had quieted my apprehensions for her safety: At the
same time He convinced me that all attempts to release her from
captivity must be fruitless till I should be in a condition to
return to Spain. The particulars of her adventure which I shall
now relate to you, were partly communicated to me by Theodore,
and partly by Agnes herself.
On the fatal night when her elopement was to have taken place,
accident had not permitted her to quit her chamber at the
appointed time. At length She ventured into the haunted room,
descended the staircase leading into the Hall, found the Gates
open as She expected, and left the Castle unobserved. What was
her surprize at not finding me ready to receive her! She
examined the Cavern, ranged through every Alley of the
neighbouring wood, and passed two full hours in this fruitless
enquiry. She could discover no traces either of me or of the
Carriage. Alarmed and disappointed, her only resource was to
return to the Castle before the Baroness missed her: But here
She found herself in a fresh embarrassment. The Bell had already
tolled 'Two:' The Ghostly hour was past, and the careful Porter
had locked the folding gates. After much irresolution She
ventured to knock softly. Luckily for her, Conrad was still
awake: He heard the noise and rose, murmuring at being called
up a second time. No sooner had He opened one of the Doors, and
beheld the supposed Apparition waiting there for admittance, than
He uttered a loud cry, and sank upon his knees. Agnes profited
by his terror. She glided by him, flew to her own apartment, and
having thrown off her Spectre's trappings, retired to bed
endeavouring in vain to account for my disappearing.
In the mean while Theodore having seen my Carriage drive off with
the false Agnes, returned joyfully to the Village. The next
morning He released Cunegonda from her confinement, and
accompanied her to the Castle. There He found the Baron, his
Lady, and Don Gaston, disputing together upon the Porter's
relation. All of them agreed in believing the existence of
Spectres: But the Latter contended, that for a Ghost to knock
for admittance was a proceeding till then unwitnessed, and
totally incompatible with the immaterial nature of a Spirit.
They were still discussing this subject when the Page appeared
with Cunegonda and cleared up the mystery. On hearing his
deposition, it was agreed unanimously that the Agnes whom
Theodore had seen step into my Carriage must have been the
Bleeding Nun, and that the Ghost who had terrified Conrad was no
other than Don Gaston's Daughter.
The first surprize which this discovery occasioned being over,
the Baroness resolved to make it of use in persuading her Niece
to take the veil. Fearing lest so advantageous an establishment
for his Daughter should induce Don Gaston to renounce his
resolution, She suppressed my letter, and continued to represent
me as a needy unknown Adventurer. A childish vanity had led me
to conceal my real name even from my Mistress; I wished to be
loved for myself, not for being the Son and Heir of the Marquis
de las Cisternas. The consequence was that my rank was known to
no one in the Castle except the Baroness, and She took good care
to confine the knowledge to her own breast. Don Gaston having
approved his Sister's design, Agnes was summoned to appear before
them. She was taxed with having meditated an elopement, obliged
to make a full confession, and was amazed at the gentleness with
which it was received: But what was her affliction, when
informed that the failure of her project must be attributed to
me! Cunegonda, tutored by the Baroness, told her that when I
released her, I had desired her to inform her Lady that our
connexion was at an end, that the whole affair was occasioned by
a false report, and that it by no means suited my circumstances
to marry a Woman without fortune or expectations.
To this account my sudden disappearing gave but too great an air
of probability. Theodore, who could have contradicted the story,
by Donna Rodolpha's order was kept out of her sight: What proved
a still greater confirmation of my being an Impostor, was the
arrival of a letter from yourself declaring that you had no sort
of acquaintance with Alphonso d'Alvarada. These seeming proofs
of my perfidy, aided by the artful insinuations of her Aunt, by
Cunegonda's flattery, and her Father's threats and anger,
entirely conquered your Sister's repugnance to a Convent.
Incensed at my behaviour, and disgusted with the world in
general, She consented to receive the veil. She past another
Month at the Castle of Lindenberg, during which my non-appearance
confirmed her in her resolution, and then accompanied Don Gaston
into Spain. Theodore was now set at liberty. He hastened to
Munich, where I had promised to let him hear from me; But finding
from Lucas that I had never arrived there, He pursued his search
with indefatigable perseverance, and at length succeeded in
rejoining me at Ratisbon.
So much was I altered, that scarcely could He recollect my
features: The distress visible upon his sufficiently testified
how lively was the interest which He felt for me. The society of
this amiable Boy, whom I had always considered rather as a
Companion than a Servant, was now my only comfort. His
conversation was gay yet sensible, and his observations shrewd
and entertaining: He had picked up much more knowledge than is
usual at his Age: But what rendered him most agreeable to me,
was his having a delightful voice, and some skill in Music. He
had also acquired some taste in poetry, and even ventured
sometimes to write verses himself. He occasionally composed
little Ballads in Spanish, his compositions were but indifferent,
I must confess; yet they were pleasing to me from their novelty,
and hearing him sing them to his guitar was the only amusement,
which I was capable of receiving. Theodore perceived well enough
that something preyed upon my mind; But as I concealed the cause
of my grief even from him, Respect would not permit him to pry
into my secrets.
One Evening I was lying upon my Sopha, plunged in reflections
very far from agreeable: Theodore amused himself by observing
from the window a Battle between two Postillions, who were
quarrelling in the Inn-yard.
'Ha! Ha!' cried He suddenly; 'Yonder is the Great Mogul.'
'Who?' said I.
'Only a Man who made me a strange speech at Munich.'
'What was the purport of it?'
'Now you put me in mind of it, Segnor, it was a kind of message
to you; but truly it was not worth delivering. I believe the
Fellow to be mad, for my part. When I came to Munich in search
of you, I found him living at 'The King of the Romans,' and the
Host gave me an odd account of him. By his accent He is supposed
to be a Foreigner, but of what Country nobody can tell. He
seemed to have no acquaintance in the Town, spoke very seldom,
and never was seen to smile. He had neither Servants or Baggage;
But his Purse seemed well-furnished, and He did much good in the
Town. Some supposed him to be an Arabian Astrologer, Others to
be a Travelling Mountebank, and many declared that He was Doctor
Faustus, whom the Devil had sent back to Germany. The Landlord,
however told me, that He had the best reasons to believe him to
be the Great Mogul incognito.'
'But the strange speech, Theodore.'
'True, I had almost forgotten the speech: Indeed for that
matter, it would not have been a great loss if I had forgotten
it altogether. You are to know, Segnor, that while I was
enquiring about you of the Landlord, this Stranger passed by. He
stopped, and looked at me earnestly. 'Youth!' said He in a solemn
voice, 'He whom you seek, has found that which He would fain
lose. My hand alone can dry up the blood: Bid your Master wish
for me when the Clock strikes, 'One.'
'How?' cried I, starting from my Sopha. (The words which
Theodore had repeated, seemed to imply the Stranger's knowledge
of my secret) 'Fly to him, my Boy! Entreat him to grant me one
moment's conversation!'
Theodore was surprised at the vivacity of my manner: However, He
asked no questions, but hastened to obey me. I waited his return
impatiently. But a short space of time had elapsed when He again
appeared and ushered the expected Guest into my chamber. He was
a Man of majestic presence: His countenance was strongly marked,
and his eyes were large, black, and sparkling: Yet there was a
something in his look which, the moment that I saw him, inspired
me with a secret awe, not to say horror. He was drest plainly,
his hair was unpowdered, and a band of black velvet which
encircled his forehead spread over his features an additional
gloom. His countenance wore the marks of profound melancholy;
his step was slow, and his manner grave, stately, and solemn.
He saluted me with politeness; and having replied to the usual
compliments of introduction, He motioned to Theodore to quit the
chamber. The Page instantly withdrew.
'I know your business,' said He, without giving me time to speak.
'I have the power of releasing you from your nightly Visitor; But
this cannot be done before Sunday. On the hour when the Sabbath
Morning breaks, Spirits of darkness have least influence over
Mortals. After Saturday the Nun shall visit you no more.'
'May I not enquire,' said I, 'by what means you are in possession
of a secret which I have carefully concealed from the knowledge
of everyone?'
'How can I be ignorant of your distress, when their cause at this
moment stands beside you?'
I started. The Stranger continued.
'Though to you only visible for one hour in the twenty-four,
neither day or night does She ever quit you; Nor will She ever
quit you till you have granted her request.'
'And what is that request?'
'That She must herself explain: It lies not in my knowledge.
Wait with patience for the night of Saturday: All shall be then
cleared up.'
I dared not press him further. He soon after changed the
conversation and talked of various matters. He named People who
had ceased to exist for many Centuries, and yet with whom He
appeared to have been personally acquainted. I could not mention
a Country however distant which He had not visited, nor could I
sufficiently admire the extent and variety of his information.
I remarked to him that having travelled, seen, and known so much,
must have given him infinite pleasure. He shook his head
'No one,' He replied, 'is adequate to comprehending the misery of
my lot! Fate obliges me to be constantly in movement: I am not
permitted to pass more than a fortnight in the same place. I
have no Friend in the world, and from the restlessness of my
destiny I never can acquire one. Fain would I lay down my
miserable life, for I envy those who enjoy the quiet of the
Grave: But Death eludes me, and flies from my embrace. In vain
do I throw myself in the way of danger. I plunge into the Ocean;
The Waves throw me back with abhorrence upon the shore: I rush
into fire; The flames recoil at my approach: I oppose myself to
the fury of Banditti; Their swords become blunted, and break
against my breast: The hungry Tiger shudders at my approach, and
the Alligator flies from a Monster more horrible than itself.
God has set his seal upon me, and all his Creatures respect this
fatal mark!'
He put his hand to the velvet, which was bound round his
forehead. There was in his eyes an expression of fury, despair,
and malevolence, that struck horror to my very soul. An
involuntary convulsion made me shudder. The Stranger perceived
'Such is the curse imposed on me,' he continued: 'I am doomed to
inspire all who look on me with terror and detestation. You
already feel the influence of the charm, and with every
succeeding moment will feel it more. I will not add to your
sufferings by my presence. Farewell till Saturday. As soon as
the Clock strikes twelve, expect me at your chamber door.'
Having said this He departed, leaving me in astonishment at the
mysterious turn of his manner and conversation.
His assurances that I should soon be relieved from the
Apparition's visits produced a good effect upon my constitution.
Theodore, whom I rather treated as an adopted Child than a
Domestic, was surprized at his return to observe the amendment in
my looks. He congratulated me on this symptom of returning
health, and declared himself delighted at my having received so
much benefit from my conference with the Great Mogul. Upon
enquiry I found that the Stranger had already past eight days in
Ratisbon: According to his own account, therefore, He was only
to remain there six days longer. Saturday was still at the
distance of Three. Oh! with what impatience did I expect its
arrival! In the interim, the Bleeding Nun continued her
nocturnal visits; But hoping soon to be released from them
altogether, the effects which they produced on me became less
violent than before.
The wished-for night arrived. To avoid creating suspicion I
retired to bed at my usual hour: But as soon as my Attendants
had left me, I dressed myself again, and prepared for the
Stranger's reception. He entered my room upon the turn of
midnight. A small Chest was in his hand, which He placed near
the Stove. He saluted me without speaking; I returned the
compliment, observing an equal silence. He then opened his
Chest. The first thing which He produced was a small wooden
Crucifix: He sank upon his knees, gazed upon it mournfully, and
cast his eyes towards heaven. He seemed to be praying devoutly.
At length He bowed his head respectfully, kissed the Crucifix
thrice, and quitted his kneeling posture. He next drew from the
Chest a covered Goblet: With the liquor which it contained, and
which appeared to be blood, He sprinkled the floor, and then
dipping in it one end of the Crucifix, He described a circle in
the middle of the room. Round about this He placed various
reliques, sculls, thigh-bones &c; I observed, that He disposed
them all in the forms of Crosses. Lastly He took out a large
Bible, and beckoned me to follow him into the Circle. I obeyed.
'Be cautious not to utter a syllable!' whispered the Stranger;
'Step not out of the circle, and as you love yourself, dare not
to look upon my face!'
Holding the Crucifix in one hand, the Bible in the other, He
seemed to read with profound attention. The Clock struck 'One'!
As usual I heard the Spectre's steps upon the Staircase: But I
was not seized with the accustomed shivering. I waited her
approach with confidence. She entered the room, drew near the
Circle, and stopped. The Stranger muttered some words, to me
unintelligible. Then raising his head from the Book, and
extending the Crucifix towards the Ghost, He pronounced in a
voice distinct and solemn,
'Beatrice! Beatrice! Beatrice!'
'What wouldst Thou?' replied the Apparition in a hollow faltering
'What disturbs thy sleep? Why dost thou afflict and torture this
Youth? How can rest be restored to thy unquiet Spirit?'
'I dare not tell!--I must not tell!--Fain would I repose in my
Grave, but stern commands force me to prolong my punishment!'
'Knowest Thou this blood? Knowest Thou in whose veins it flowed?
Beatrice! Beatrice! In his name I charge thee to answer me!'
'I dare not disobey my taskers.'
'Darest Thou disobey Me?'
He spoke in a commanding tone, and drew the sable band from his
forehead. In spite of his injunctions to the contrary,
Curiosity would not suffer me to keep my eyes off his face: I
raised them, and beheld a burning Cross impressed upon his brow.
For the horror with which this object inspired me I cannot
account, but I never felt its equal! My senses left me for some
moments; A mysterious dread overcame my courage, and had not the
Exorciser caught my hand, I should have fallen out of the Circle.
When I recovered myself, I perceived that the burning Cross had
produced an effect no less violent upon the Spectre. Her
countenance expressed reverence, and horror, and her visionary
limbs were shaken by fear.
'Yes!' She said at length; 'I tremble at that mark!-- respect
it!--I obey you! Know then, that my bones lie still unburied:
They rot in the obscurity of Lindenberg Hole. None but this
Youth has the right of consigning them to the Grave. His own
lips have made over to me his body and his soul: Never will I
give back his promise, never shall He know a night devoid of
terror, unless He engages to collect my mouldering bones, and
deposit them in the family vault of his Andalusian Castle. Then
let thirty Masses be said for the repose of my Spirit, and I
trouble this world no more. Now let me depart! Those flames are
He let the hand drop slowly which held the Crucifix, and which
till then He had pointed towards her. The apparition bowed her
head, and her form melted into air. The Exorciser led me out of
the Circle. He replaced the Bible &c. in the Chest, and then
addressed himself to me, who stood near him speechless from
'Don Raymond, you have heard the conditions on which repose is
promised you. Be it your business to fulfil them to the letter.
For me nothing more remains than to clear up the darkness still
spread over the Spectre's History, and inform you that when
living, Beatrice bore the name of las Cisternas. She was the
great Aunt of your Grandfather: In quality of your relation,
her ashes demand respect from you, though the enormity of her
crimes must excite your abhorrence. The nature of those crimes
no one is more capable of explaining to you than myself: I was
personally acquainted with the holy Man who proscribed her
nocturnal riots in the Castle of Lindenberg, and I hold this
narrative from his own lips.
'Beatrice de las Cisternas took the veil at an early age, not by
her own choice, but at the express command of her Parents. She
was then too young to regret the pleasures of which her
profession deprived her: But no sooner did her warm and
voluptuous character begin to be developed than She abandoned
herself freely to the impulse of her passions, and seized the
first opportunity to procure their gratification. This
opportunity was at length presented, after many obstacles which
only added new force to her desires. She contrived to elope from
the Convent, and fled to Germany with the Baron Lindenberg. She
lived at his Castle several months as his avowed Concubine: All
Bavaria was scandalized by her impudent and abandoned conduct.
Her feasts vied in luxury with Cleopatra's, and Lindenberg became
the Theatre of the most unbridled debauchery. Not satisfied with
displaying the incontinence of a Prostitute, She professed
herself an Atheist: She took every opportunity to scoff at her
monastic vows, and loaded with ridicule the most sacred
ceremonies of Religion.
'Possessed of a character so depraved, She did not long confine
her affections to one object. Soon after her arrival at the
Castle, the Baron's younger Brother attracted her notice by his
strong-marked features, gigantic Stature, and Herculean limbs.
She was not of an humour to keep her inclinations long unknown;
But She found in Otto von Lindenberg her equal in depravity. He
returned her passion just sufficiently to increase it; and when
He had worked it up to the desired pitch, He fixed the price of
his love at his Brother's murder. The Wretch consented to this
horrible agreement. A night was pitched upon for perpetrating
the deed. Otto, who resided on a small Estate a few miles
distant from the Castle, promised that at One in the morning He
would be waiting for her at Lindenberg Hole; that He would bring
with him a party of chosen Friends, by whose aid He doubted not
being able to make himself Master of the Castle; and that his
next step should be the uniting her hand to his. It was this
last promise, which overruled every scruple of Beatrice, since in
spite of his affection for her, the Baron had declared positively
that He never would make her his Wife.
'The fatal night arrived. The Baron slept in the arms of his
perfidious Mistress, when the Castle-Bell struck 'One.'
Immediately Beatrice drew a dagger from underneath the pillow,
and plunged it in her Paramour's heart. The Baron uttered a
single dreadful groan, and expired. The Murderess quitted her
bed hastily, took a Lamp in one hand, in the other the bloody
dagger, and bent her course towards the cavern. The Porter dared
not to refuse opening the Gates to one more dreaded in the
Castle than its Master. Beatrice reached Lindenberg Hole
unopposed, where according to promise She found Otto waiting for
her. He received and listened to her narrative with transport:
But ere She had time to ask why He came unaccompanied, He
convinced her that He wished for no witnesses to their interview.
Anxious to conceal his share in the murder, and to free himself
from a Woman, whose violent and atrocious character made him
tremble with reason for his own safety, He had resolved on the
destruction of his wretched Agent. Rushing upon her suddenly, He
wrested the dagger from her hand: He plunged it still reeking
with his Brother's blood in her bosom, and put an end to her
existence by repeated blows.
'Otto now succeeded to the Barony of Lindenberg. The murder was
attributed solely to the fugitive Nun, and no one suspected him
to have persuaded her to the action. But though his crime was
unpunished by Man, God's justice permitted him not to enjoy in
peace his blood-stained honours. Her bones lying still unburied
in the Cave, the restless soul of Beatrice continued to inhabit
the Castle. Drest in her religious habit in memory of her vows
broken to heaven, furnished with the dagger which had drank the
blood of her Paramour, and holding the Lamp which had guided her
flying steps, every night did She stand before the Bed of Otto.
The most dreadful confusion reigned through the Castle; The
vaulted chambers resounded with shrieks and groans; And the
Spectre, as She ranged along the antique Galleries, uttered an
incoherent mixture of prayers and blasphemies. Otto was unable
to withstand the shock which He felt at this fearful Vision:
Its horror increased with every succeeding appearance: His alarm
at length became so insupportable that his heart burst, and one
morning He was found in his bed totally deprived of warmth and
animation. His death did not put an end to the nocturnal riots.
The bones of Beatrice continued to lie unburied, and her Ghost
continued to haunt the Castle.
'The domains of Lindenberg now fell to a distant Relation. But
terrified by the accounts given him of the Bleeding Nun (So was
the Spectre called by the multitude), the new Baron called to his
assistance a celebrated Exorciser. This holy Man succeeded in
obliging her to temporary repose; But though She discovered to
him her history, He was not permitted to reveal it to others, or
cause her skeleton to be removed to hallowed ground. That Office
was reserved for you, and till your coming, her Ghost was doomed
to wander about the Castle and lament the crime which She had
there committed. However, the Exorciser obliged her to silence
during his lifetime. So long as He existed, the haunted chamber
was shut up, and the Spectre was invisible. At his death which
happened in five years after, She again appeared, but only once
on every fifth year, on the same day and at the same hour when
She plunged her Knife in the heart of her sleeping Lover: She
then visited the Cavern which held her mouldering skeleton,
returned to the Castle as soon as the Clock struck 'Two,' and was
seen no more till the next five years had elapsed.
'She was doomed to suffer during the space of a Century. That
period is past. Nothing now remains but to consign to the Grave
the ashes of Beatrice. I have been the means of releasing you
from your visionary Tormentor; and amidst all the sorrows which
oppress me, to think that I have been of use to you, is some
consolation. Youth, farewell! May the Ghost of your Relation
enjoy that rest in the Tomb, which the Almighty's vengeance has
denied to me for ever!'
Here the Stranger prepared to quit the apartment.
'Stay yet one moment!' said I; 'You have satisfied my curiosity
with regard to the Spectre, but you leave me in prey to yet
greater respecting yourself. Deign to inform me, to whom I am
under such real obligations. You mention circumstances long
past, and persons long dead: You were personally acquainted with
the Exorciser, who by your own account has been deceased near a
Century. How am I to account for this? What means that burning
Cross upon your forehead, and why did the sight of it strike
such horror to my soul?'
On these points He for some time refused to satisfy me. At
length overcome by my entreaties, He consented to clear up the
whole, on condition that I would defer his explanation till the
next day. With this request I was obliged to comply, and He left
me. In the Morning my first care was to enquire after the
mysterious Stranger. Conceive my disappointment when informed
that He had already quitted Ratisbon. I dispatched messengers in
pursuit of him but in vain. No traces of the Fugitive were
discovered. Since that moment I never have heard any more of
him, and 'tis most probable that I never shall.'
(Lorenzo here interrupted his Friend's narrative.
'How?' said He; 'You have never discovered who He was, or even
formed a guess?'
'Pardon me,' replied the Marquis; 'When I related this adventure
to my Uncle, the Cardinal-Duke, He told me that He had no doubt
of this singular Man's being the celebrated Character known
universally by the name of 'the wandering Jew.' His not being
permitted to pass more than fourteen days on the same spot, the
burning Cross impressed upon his forehead, the effect which it
produced upon the Beholders, and many other circumstances give
this supposition the colour of truth. The Cardinal is fully
persuaded of it; and for my own part I am inclined to adopt the
only solution which offers itself to this riddle. I return to
the narrative from which I have digressed.')
From this period I recovered my health so rapidly as to astonish
my Physicians. The Bleeding Nun appeared no more, and I was soon
able to set out for Lindenberg. The Baron received me with open
arms. I confided to him the sequel of my adventure; and He was
not a little pleased to find that his Mansion would be no longer
troubled with the Phantom's quiennial visits. I was sorry to
perceive that absence had not weakened Donna Rodolpha's
imprudent passion. In a private conversation which I had with
her during my short stay at the Castle, She renewed her attempts
to persuade me to return her affection. Regarding her as the
primary cause of all my sufferings, I entertained for her no
other sentiment than disgust. The Skeleton of Beatrice was found
in the place which She had mentioned. This being all that I
sought at Lindenberg, I hastened to quit the Baron's domains,
equally anxious to perform the obsequies of the murdered Nun, and
escape the importunity of a Woman whom I detested. I departed,
followed by Donna Rodolpha's menaces that my contempt should not
be long unpunished.
I now bent my course towards Spain with all diligence. Lucas
with my Baggage had joined me during my abode at Lindenberg. I
arrived in my native Country without any accident, and
immediately proceeded to my Father's Castle in Andalusia. The
remains of Beatrice were deposited in the family vault, all due
ceremonies performed, and the number of Masses said which She had
required. Nothing now hindered me from employing all my
endeavours to discover the retreat of Agnes. The Baroness had
assured me that her Niece had already taken the veil: This
intelligence I suspected to have been forged by jealousy, and
hoped to find my Mistress still at liberty to accept my hand. I
enquired after her family; I found that before her Daughter could
reach Madrid, Donna Inesilla was no more: You, my dear Lorenzo,
were said to be abroad, but where I could not discover: Your
Father was in a distant Province on a visit to the Duke de
Medina, and as to Agnes, no one could or would inform me what was
become of her. Theodore, according to promise, had returned to
Strasbourg, where He found his Grandfather dead, and Marguerite
in possession of his fortune. All her persuations to remain with
her were fruitless: He quitted her a second time, and followed
me to Madrid. He exerted himself to the utmost in forwarding my
search: But our united endeavours were unattended by success.
The retreat, which concealed Agnes remained an impenetrable
mystery, and I began to abandon all hopes of recovering her.
About eight months ago I was returning to my Hotel in a
melancholy humour, having past the evening at the Play-House.
The Night was dark, and I was unaccompanied. Plunged in
reflections which were far from being agreeable, I perceived not
that three Men had followed me from the Theatre; till, on turning
into an unfrequented Street, they all attacked me at the same
time with the utmost fury. I sprang back a few paces, drew my
sword, and threw my cloak over my left arm. The obscurity of the
night was in my favour. For the most part the blows of the
Assassins, being aimed at random, failed to touch me. I at
length was fortunate enough to lay one of my Adversaries at my
feet; But before this I had already received so many wounds, and
was so warmly pressed, that my destruction would have been
inevitable, had not the clashing of swords called a Cavalier to
my assistance. He ran towards me with his sword drawn: Several
Domestics followed him with torches. His arrival made the combat
equal: Yet would not the Bravoes abandon their design till the
Servants were on the point of joining us. They then fled away,
and we lost them in the obscurity.
The Stranger now addressed himself to me with politeness, and
enquired whether I was wounded. Faint with the loss of blood, I
could scarcely thank him for his seasonable aid, and entreat him
to let some of his Servants convey me to the Hotel de las
Cisternas. I no sooner mentioned the name than He profest
himself an acquaintance of my Father's, and declared that He
would not permit my being transported to such a distance before
my wounds had been examined. He added that his House was hard
by, and begged me to accompany him thither. His manner was so
earnest, that I could not reject his offer, and leaning upon his
arm, a few minutes brought me to the Porch of a magnificent
On entering the House, an old grey-headed Domestic came to
welcome my Conductor: He enquired when the Duke, his Master,
meant to quit the Country, and was answered that He would remain
there yet some months. My Deliverer then desired the
family Surgeon to be summoned without delay. His orders were
obeyed. I was seated upon a Sopha in a noble apartment; and my
wounds being examined, they were declared to be very slight. The
Surgeon, however, advised me not to expose myself to the
night air; and the Stranger pressed me so earnestly to take a bed
in his House, that I consented to remain where I was for the
Being now left alone with my Deliverer, I took the opportunity of
thanking him in more express terms, than I had done hitherto:
But He begged me to be silent upon the subject.
'I esteem myself happy,' said He, 'in having had it in my power
to render you this little service; and I shall think myself
eternally obliged to my Daughter for detaining me so late at the
Convent of St. Clare. The high esteem in which I have ever held
the Marquis de las Cisternas, though accident has not permitted
our being so intimate as I could wish, makes me rejoice in the
opportunity of making his Son's acquaintance. I am certain that
my Brother in whose House you now are, will lament his not being
at Madrid to receive you himself: But in the Duke's absence I am
Master of the family, and may assure you in his name, that every
thing in the Hotel de Medina is perfectly at your disposal.'
Conceive my surprize, Lorenzo, at discovering in the person of my
Preserver Don Gaston de Medina: It was only to be equalled by my
secret satisfaction at the assurance that Agnes inhabited the
Convent of St. Clare. This latter sensation was not a little
weakened, when in answer to my seemingly indifferent questions He
told me that his Daughter had really taken the veil. I suffered
not my grief at this circumstance to take root in my mind: I
flattered myself with the idea that my Uncle's credit at the
Court of Rome would remove this obstacle, and that without
difficulty I should obtain for my Mistress a dispensation from
her vows. Buoyed up with this hope I calmed the uneasiness of my
bosom; and I redoubled my endeavours to appear grateful for the
attention and pleased with the society of Don Gaston.
A Domestic now entered the room, and informed me that the Bravo
whom I had wounded discovered some signs of life. I desired
that He might be carried to my Father's Hotel, and that as soon
as He recovered his voice, I would examine him respecting his
reasons for attempting my life. I was answered that He was
already able to speak, though with difficulty: Don Gaston's
curiosity made him press me to interrogate the Assassin in his
presence, but this curiosity I was by no means inclined to
gratify. One reason was, that doubting from whence the blow
came, I was unwilling to place before Don Gaston's eyes the guilt
of a Sister: Another was, that I feared to be recognized for
Alphonso d'Alvarada, and precautions taken in consequence to keep
me from the sight of Agnes. To avow my passion for his Daughter,
and endeavour to make him enter into my schemes, what I knew of
Don Gaston's character convinced me would be an imprudent step:
and considering it to be essential that He should know me for no
other than the Conde de las Cisternas, I was determined not to
let him hear the Bravo's confession. I insinuated to him, that
as I suspected a Lady to be concerned in the Business, whose name
might accidentally escape from the Assassin, it was necessary for
me to examine the Man in private. Don Gaston's delicacy would
not permit his urging the point any longer, and in consequence
the Bravo was conveyed to my Hotel.
The next Morning I took leave of my Host, who was to return to
the Duke on the same day. My wounds had been so trifling that,
except being obliged to wear my arm in a sling for a short time,
I felt no inconvenience from the night's adventure. The Surgeon
who examined the Bravo's wound declared it to be mortal: He had
just time to confess that He had been instigated to murder me by
the revengeful Donna Rodolpha, and expired in a few minutes
All my thoughts were now bent upon getting to the speech of my
lovely Nun. Theodore set himself to work, and for this time with
better success. He attacked the Gardener of St. Clare so
forcibly with bribes and promises that the Old Man was entirely
gained over to my interests; and it was settled that I should be
introduced into the Convent in the character of his Assistant.
The plan was put into execution without delay. Disguised in a
common habit, and a black patch covering one of my eyes, I was
presented to the Lady Prioress, who condescended to approve of
the Gardener's choice. I immediately entered upon my employment.
Botany having been a favourite study with me, I was by no means
at a loss in my new station. For some days I continued to work
in the Convent Garden without meeting the Object of my disguise:
On the fourth Morning I was more successful. I heard the voice
of Agnes, and was speeding towards the sound, when the sight of
the Domina stopped me. I drew back with caution, and concealed
myself behind a thick clump of Trees.
The Prioress advanced and seated herself with Agnes on a Bench
at no great distance. I heard her in an angry tone blame her
Companion's continual melancholy: She told her that to weep the
loss of any Lover in her situation was a crime; But that to weep
the loss of a faithless one was folly and absurdity in the
extreme. Agnes replied in so low a voice that I could not
distinguish her words, but I perceived that She used terms of
gentleness and submission. The conversation was interrupted by
the arrival of a young Pensioner who informed the Domina that
She was waited for in the Parlour. The old Lady rose, kissed the
cheek of Agnes, and retired. The newcomer remained. Agnes spoke
much to her in praise of somebody whom I could not make out, but
her Auditor seemed highly delighted, and interested by the
conversation. The Nun showed her several letters; the Other
perused them with evident pleasure, obtained permission to copy
them, and withdrew for that purpose to my great satisfaction.
No sooner was She out of sight, than I quitted my concealment.
Fearing to alarm my lovely Mistress, I drew near her gently,
intending to discover myself by degrees. But who for a moment
can deceive the eyes of love? She raised her head at my
approach, and recognised me in spite of my disguise at a single
glance. She rose hastily from her seat with an exclamation of
surprize, and attempted to retire; But I followed her, detained
her, and entreated to be heard. Persuaded of my falsehood She
refused to listen to me, and ordered me positively to quit the
Garden. It was now my turn to refuse. I protested that however
dangerous might be the consequences, I would not leave her till
She had heard my justification. I assured her that She had been
deceived by the artifices of her Relations; that I could convince
her beyond the power of doubt that my passion had been pure and
disinterested; and I asked her what should induce me to seek her
in the Convent, were I influenced by the selfish motives which my
Enemies had ascribed to me.
My prayers, my arguments, and vows not to quit her, till She had
promised to listen to me, united to her fears lest the Nuns
should see me with her, to her natural curiosity, and to the
effection which She still felt for me in spite of my supposed
desertion, at length prevailed. She told me that to grant my
request at that moment was impossible; But She engaged to be in
the same spot at eleven that night, and to converse with me for
the last time. Having obtained this promise I released her hand,
and She fled back with rapidity towards the Convent.
I communicated my success to my Ally, the old Gardener: He
pointed out an hiding place where I might shelter myself till
night without fear of a discovery. Thither I betook myself at
the hour when I ought to have retired with my supposed Master,
and waited impatiently for the appointed time. The chillness of
the night was in my favour, since it kept the other Nuns confined
to their Cells. Agnes alone was insensible of the inclemency of
the Air, and before eleven joined me at the spot which had
witnessed our former interview. Secure from interruption, I
related to her the true cause of my disappearing on the fatal
fifth of May. She was evidently much affected by my narrative:
When it was concluded, She confessed the injustice of her
suspicions, and blamed herself for having taken the veil through
despair at my ingratitude.
'But now it is too late to repine!' She added; 'The die is
thrown: I have pronounced my vows, and dedicated myself to the
service of heaven. I am sensible, how ill I am calculated for a
Convent. My disgust at a monastic life increases daily: Ennui
and discontent are my constant Companions; and I will not conceal
from you that the passion which I formerly felt for one so near
being my Husband is not yet extinguished in my bosom. But we
must part! Insuperable Barriers divide us from each other, and
on this side the Grave we must never meet again!'
I now exerted myself to prove that our union was not so
impossible as She seemed to think it. I vaunted to her the
Cardinal-Duke of Lerma's influence at the Court of Rome: I
assured her that I should easily obtain a dispensation from her
vows; and I doubted not but Don Gaston would coincide with my
views, when informed of my real name and long attachment. Agnes
replied that since I encouraged such an hope, I could know but
little of her Father. Liberal and kind in every other respect,
Superstition formed the only stain upon his character. Upon this
head He was inflexible; He sacrificed his dearest interests to
his scruples, and would consider it an insult to suppose him
capable of authorising his daughter to break her vows to heaven.
'But suppose,' said I interrupting her; 'Suppose that He should
disapprove of our union; Let him remain ignorant of my
proceedings, till I have rescued you from the prison in which
you are now confined. Once my Wife, you are free from his
authority: I need from him no pecuniary assistance; and when He
sees his resentment to be unavailing, He will doubtless restore
you to his favour. But let the worst happen; Should Don Gaston
be irreconcileable, my Relations will vie with each other in
making you forget his loss: and you will find in my Father a
substitute for the Parent of whom I shall deprive you.'
'Don Raymond,' replied Agnes in a firm and resolute voice, 'I
love my Father: He has treated me harshly in this one instance;
but I have received from him in every other so many proofs of
love that his affection is become necessary to my existence.
Were I to quit the Convent, He never would forgive me; nor can I
think that on his deathbed He would leave me his curse, without
shuddering at the very idea. Besides, I am conscious myself,
that my vows are binding: Wilfully did I contract my engagement
with heaven; I cannot break it without a crime. Then banish from
your mind the idea of our being ever united. I am devoted to
religion; and however I may grieve at our separation, I would
oppose obstacles myself, to what I feel would render me guilty.'
I strove to overrule these ill-grounded scruples: We were still
disputing upon the subject, when the Convent Bell summoned the
Nuns to Matins. Agnes was obliged to attend them; But She left
me not till I had compelled her to promise that on the following
night She would be at the same place at the same hour. These
meetings continued for several Weeks uninterrupted; and 'tis now,
Lorenzo, that I must implore your indulgence. Reflect upon our
situation, our youth, our long attachment: Weigh all the
circumstances which attended our assignations, and you will
confess the temptation to have been irresistible; you will even
pardon me when I acknowledge, that in an unguarded moment, the
honour of Agnes was sacrificed to my passion.'
(Lorenzo's eyes sparkled with fury: A deep crimson spread itself
over his face. He started from his seat, and attempted to draw
his sword. The Marquis was aware of his movement, and caught his
hand: He pressed it affectionately.
'My Friend! My Brother! Hear me to the conclusion! Till then
restrain your passion, and be at least convinced, that if what I
have related is criminal, the blame must fall upon me, and not
upon your Sister.'
Lorenzo suffered himself to be prevailed upon by Don Raymond's
entreaties. He resumed his place, and listened to the rest of
the narrative with a gloomy and impatient countenance. The
Marquis thus continued.)
'Scarcely was the first burst of passion past when Agnes,
recovering herself, started from my arms with horror. She called
me infamous Seducer, loaded me with the bitterest reproaches, and
beat her bosom in all the wildness of delirium. Ashamed of my
imprudence, I with difficulty found words to excuse myself. I
endeavoured to console her; I threw myself at her feet, and
entreated her forgiveness. She forced her hand from me, which I
had taken, and would have prest to my lips.
'Touch me not!' She cried with a violence which terrified me;
'Monster of perfidy and ingratitude, how have I been deceived in
you! I looked upon you as my Friend, my Protector: I trusted
myself in your hands with confidence, and relying upon your
honour, thought that mine ran no risque. And 'tis by you, whom I
adored, that I am covered with infamy! 'Tis by you that I have
been seduced into breaking my vows to God, that I am reduced to a
level with the basest of my sex! Shame upon you, Villain, you
shall never see me more!'
She started from the Bank on which She was seated. I endeavoured
to detain her; But She disengaged herself from me with violence,
and took refuge in the Convent.
I retired, filled with confusion and inquietude. The next
morning I failed not as usual to appear in the Garden; but Agnes
was no where to be seen. At night I waited for her at the place
where we generally met; I found no better success. Several days
and nights passed away in the same manner. At length I saw my
offended Mistress cross the walk on whose borders I was working:
She was accompanied by the same young Pensioner, on whose arm She
seemed from weakness obliged to support herself. She looked upon
me for a moment, but instantly turned her head away. I waited
her return; But She passed on to the Convent without paying any
attention to me, or the penitent looks with which I implored her
As soon as the Nuns were retired, the old Gardener joined me with
a sorrowful air.
'Segnor,' said He, 'it grieves me to say, that I can be no longer
of use to you. The Lady whom you used to meet has just assured
me that if I admitted you again into the Garden, She would
discover the whole business to the Lady Prioress. She bade me
tell you also, that your presence was an insult, and that if you
still possess the least respect for her, you will never attempt
to see her more. Excuse me then for informing you that I can
favour your disguise no longer. Should the Prioress be
acquainted with my conduct, She might not be contented with
dismissing me her service: Out of revenge She might accuse me of
having profaned the Convent, and cause me to be thrown into the
Prisons of the Inquisition.'
Fruitless were my attempts to conquer his resolution. He denied
me all future entrance into the Garden, and Agnes persevered in
neither letting me see or hear from her. In about a fortnight
after, a violent illness which had seized my Father obliged me to
set out for Andalusia. I hastened thither, and as I imagined,
found the Marquis at the point of death. Though on its first
appearance his complaint was declared mortal, He lingered out
several Months; during which my attendance upon him during his
malady, and the occupation of settling his affairs after his
decease, permitted not my quitting Andalusia. Within these four
days I returned to Madrid, and on arriving at my Hotel, I there
found this letter waiting for me.
(Here the Marquis unlocked the drawer of a Cabinet: He took out a
folded paper, which He presented to his Auditor. Lorenzo opened
it, and recognised his Sister's hand. The Contents were as
Into what an abyss of misery have you plunged me! Raymond, you
force me to become as criminal as yourself. I had resolved never
to see you more; if possible, to forget you; If not, only to
remember you with hate. A Being for whom I already feel a
Mother's tenderness, solicits me to pardon my Seducer, and apply
to his love for the means of preservation. Raymond, your child
lives in my bosom. I tremble at the vengeance of the Prioress; I
tremble much for myself, yet more for the innocent Creature whose
existence depends upon mine. Both of us are lost, should my
situation be discovered. Advise me then what steps to take, but
seek not to see me. The Gardener, who undertakes to deliver
this, is dismissed, and we have nothing to hope from that
quarter: The Man engaged in his place is of incorruptible
fidelity. The best means of conveying to me your answer, is by
concealing it under the great Statue of St. Francis, which stands
in the Capuchin Cathedral. Thither I go every Thursday to
confession, and shall easily have an opportunity of securing your
letter. I hear that you are now absent from Madrid; Need I
entreat you to write the very moment of your return? I will not
think it. Ah! Raymond! Mine is a cruel situation! Deceived by
my nearest Relations, compelled to embrace a profession the
duties of which I am ill-calculated to perform, conscious of the
sanctity of those duties, and seduced into violating them by One
whom I least suspected of perfidy, I am now obliged by
circumstances to chuse between death and perjury. Woman's
timidity, and maternal affection, permit me not to balance in the
choice. I feel all the guilt into which I plunge myself, when I
yield to the plan which you before proposed to me. My poor
Father's death which has taken place since we met, has removed
one obstacle. He sleeps in his grave, and I no longer dread his
anger. But from the anger of God, Oh! Raymond! who shall shield
me? Who can protect me against my conscience, against myself? I
dare not dwell upon these thoughts; They will drive me mad. I
have taken my resolution: Procure a dispensation from my vows; I
am ready to fly with you. Write to me, my Husband! Tell me,
that absence has not abated your love, tell me that you will
rescue from death your unborn Child, and its unhappy Mother. I
live in all the agonies of terror: Every eye which is fixed upon
me seems to read my secret and my shame. And you are the cause
of those agonies! Oh! When my heart first loved you, how little
did it suspect you of making it feel such pangs!
Having perused the letter, Lorenzo restored it in silence. The
Marquis replaced it in the Cabinet, and then proceeded.)
'Excessive was my joy at reading this intelligence so
earnestly-desired, so little expected. My plan was soon
arranged. When Don Gaston discovered to me his Daughter's
retreat, I entertained no doubt of her readiness to quit the
Convent: I had, therefore, entrusted the Cardinal-Duke of Lerma
with the whole affair, who immediately busied himself in
obtaining the necessary Bull. Fortunately I had afterwards
neglected to stop his proceedings. Not long since I received a
letter from him, stating that He expected daily to receive the
order from the Court of Rome. Upon this I would willingly have
relyed: But the Cardinal wrote me word, that I must find some
means of conveying Agnes out of the Convent, unknown to the
Prioress. He doubted not but this Latter would be much incensed
by losing a Person of such high rank from her society, and
consider the renunciation of Agnes as an insult to her House. He
represented her as a Woman of a violent and revengeful character,
capable of proceeding to the greatest extremities. It was
therefore to be feared, lest by confining Agnes in the Convent
She should frustrate my hopes, and render the Pope's mandate
unavailing. Influenced by this consideration, I resolved to
carry off my Mistress, and conceal her till the arrival of the
expected Bull in the Cardinal-Duke's Estate. He approved of my
design, and profest himself ready to give a shelter to the
Fugitive. I next caused the new Gardener of St. Clare to be
seized privately, and confined in my Hotel. By this means I
became Master of the Key to the Garden door, and I had now
nothing more to do than prepare Agnes for the elopement. This
was done by the letter, which you saw me deliver this Evening. I
told her in it, that I should be ready to receive her at twelve
tomorrow night, that I had secured the Key of the Garden, and
that She might depend upon a speedy release.
You have now, Lorenzo, heard the whole of my long narrative. I
have nothing to say in my excuse, save that my intentions towards
your Sister have been ever the most honourable: That it has
always been, and still is my design to make her my Wife: And
that I trust, when you consider these circumstances, our youth,
and our attachment, you will not only forgive our momentary lapse
from virtue, but will aid me in repairing my faults to Agnes, and
securing a lawful title to her person and her heart.
O You! whom Vanity's light bark conveys
On Fame's mad voyage by the wind of praise,
With what a shifting gale your course you ply,
For ever sunk too low, or borne too high!
Who pants for glory finds but short repose,
A breath revives him, and a breath o'er-throws.
Here the Marquis concluded his adventures. Lorenzo, before He
could determine on his reply, past some moments in reflection.
At length He broke silence.
'Raymond,' said He taking his hand, 'strict honour would oblige
me to wash off in your blood the stain thrown upon my family; But
the circumstances of your case forbid me to consider you as an
Enemy. The temptation was too great to be resisted. 'Tis the
superstition of my Relations which has occasioned these
misfortunes, and they are more the Offenders than yourself and
Agnes. What has past between you cannot be recalled, but may yet
be repaired by uniting you to my Sister. You have ever been, you
still continue to be, my dearest and indeed my only Friend. I
feel for Agnes the truest affection, and there is no one on whom
I would bestow her more willingly than on yourself. Pursue then
your design. I will accompany you tomorrow night, and conduct
her myself to the House of the Cardinal. My presence will be a
sanction for her conduct, and prevent her incurring blame by her
flight from the Convent.'
The Marquis thanked him in terms by no means deficient in
gratitude. Lorenzo then informed him that He had nothing more
to apprehend from Donna Rodolpha's enmity. Five Months had
already elapsed since, in an excess of passion, She broke a
blood-vessel and expired in the course of a few hours. He then
proceeded to mention the interests of Antonia. The Marquis was
much surprized at hearing of this new Relation: His Father had
carried his hatred of Elvira to the Grave, and had never given
the least hint that He knew what was become of his eldest Son's
Widow. Don Raymond assured his friend that He was not mistaken
in supposing him ready to acknowledge his Sister-in-law and her
amiable Daughter. The preparations for the elopement would not
permit his visiting them the next day; But in the meanwhile He
desired Lorenzo to assure them of his friendship, and to supply
Elvira upon his account with any sums which She might want. This
the Youth promised to do, as soon as her abode should be known to
him: He then took leave of his future Brother, and returned to
the Palace de Medina.
The day was already on the point of breaking when the Marquis
retired to his chamber. Conscious that his narrative would take
up some hours, and wishing to secure himself from interruption
on returning to the Hotel, He ordered his Attendants not to sit
upfor him. Consequently, He was somewhat surprised on entering
his Antiroom, to find Theodore established there. The Page sat
near a Table with a pen in his hand, and was so totally occupied
by his employment that He perceived not his Lord's approach. The
Marquis stopped to observe him. Theodore wrote a few lines, then
paused, and scratched out a part of the writing: Then wrote
again, smiled, and seemed highly pleased with what He had been
about. At last He threw down his pen, sprang from his chair, and
clapped his hands together joyfully.
'There it is!' cried He aloud: 'Now they are charming!'
His transports were interrupted by a laugh from the Marquis, who
suspected the nature of his employment.
'What is so charming, Theodore?'
The Youth started, and looked round. He blushed, ran to the
Table, seized the paper on which He had been writing, and
concealed it in confusion.
'Oh! my Lord, I knew not that you were so near me. Can I be of
use to you? Lucas is already gone to bed.'
'I shall follow his example when I have given my opinion of your
'My verses, my Lord?'
'Nay, I am sure that you have been writing some, for nothing else
could have kept you awake till this time of the morning. Where
are they, Theodore? I shall like to see your composition.'
Theodore's cheeks glowed with still deeper crimson: He longed to
show his poetry, but first chose to be pressed for it.
'Indeed, my Lord, they are not worthy your attention.'
'Not these verses, which you just now declared to be so charming?
Come, come, let me see whether our opinions are the same. I
promise that you shall find in me an indulgent Critic.'
The Boy produced his paper with seeming reluctance; but the
satisfaction which sparkled in his dark expressive eyes betrayed
the vanity of his little bosom. The Marquis smiled while He
observed the emotions of an heart as yet but little skilled in
veiling its sentiments. He seated himself upon a Sopha:
Theodore, while Hope and fear contended on his anxious
countenance, waited with inquietude for his Master's decision,
while the Marquis read the following lines.
The night was dark; The wind blew cold;
Anacreon, grown morose and old,
Sat by his fire, and fed the chearful flame:
Sudden the Cottage-door expands,
And lo! before him Cupid stands,
Casts round a friendly glance, and greets him by his name.
'What is it Thou?' the startled Sire
In sullen tone exclaimed, while ire
With crimson flushed his pale and wrinkled cheek:
'Wouldst Thou again with amorous rage
Inflame my bosom? Steeled by age,
Vain Boy, to pierce my breast thine arrows are too weak.
'What seek You in this desart drear?
No smiles or sports inhabit here;
Ne'er did these vallies witness dalliance sweet:
Eternal winter binds the plains;
Age in my house despotic reigns,
My Garden boasts no flower, my bosom boasts no heat.
'Begone, and seek the blooming bower,
Where some ripe Virgin courts thy power,
Or bid provoking dreams flit round her bed;
On Damon's amorous breast repose;
Wanton-on Chloe's lip of rose,
Or make her blushing cheek a pillow for thy head.
'Be such thy haunts; These regions cold
Avoid! Nor think grown wise and old
This hoary head again thy yoke shall bear:
Remembering that my fairest years
By Thee were marked with sighs and tears,
I think thy friendship false, and shun the guileful snare.
'I have not yet forgot the pains
I felt, while bound in Julia's chains;
The ardent flames with which my bosom burned;
The nights I passed deprived of rest;
The jealous pangs which racked my breast;
My disappointed hopes, and passion unreturned.
'Then fly, and curse mine eyes no more!
Fly from my peaceful Cottage-door!
No day, no hour, no moment shalt Thou stay.
I know thy falsehood, scorn thy arts,
Distrust thy smiles, and fear thy darts;
Traitor, begone, and seek some other to betray!'
'Does Age, old Man, your wits confound?'
Replied the offended God, and frowned;
(His frown was sweet as is the Virgin's smile!)
'Do You to Me these words address?
To Me, who do not love you less,
Though You my friendship scorn, and pleasures past revile!
'If one proud Fair you chanced to find,
An hundred other Nymphs were kind,
Whose smiles might well for Julia's frowns atone:
But such is Man! His partial hand
Unnumbered favours writes on sand,
But stamps one little fault on solid lasting stone.
'Ingrate! Who led Thee to the wave,
At noon where Lesbia loved to lave?
Who named the bower alone where Daphne lay?
And who, when Caelia shrieked for aid,
Bad you with kisses hush the Maid?
What other was't than Love, Oh! false Anacreon, say!
'Then You could call me--''Gentle Boy!
''My only bliss! my source of joy !''--
Then You could prize me dearer than your soul!
Could kiss, and dance me on your knees;
And swear, not wine itself would please,
Had not the lip of Love first touched the flowing bowl!
'Must those sweet days return no more?
Must I for aye your loss deplore,
Banished your heart, and from your favour driven?
Ah! no; My fears that smile denies;
That heaving breast, those sparkling eyes
Declare me ever dear and all my faults forgiven.
'Again beloved, esteemed, carest,
Cupid shall in thine arms be prest,
Sport on thy knees, or on thy bosom sleep:
My Torch thine age-struck heart shall warm;
My Hand pale Winter's rage disarm,
And Youth and Spring shall here once more their revels keep.'--
A feather now of golden hue
He smiling from his pinion drew;
This to the Poet's hand the Boy commits;
And straight before Anacreon's eyes
The fairest dreams of fancy rise,
And round his favoured head wild inspiration flits.
His bosom glows with amorous fire
Eager He grasps the magic lyre;
Swift o'er the tuneful chords his fingers move:
The Feather plucked from Cupid's wing
Sweeps the too-long-neglected string,
While soft Anacreon sings the power
and praise of Love.
Soon as that name was heard, the Woods
Shook off their snows; The melting floods
Broke their cold chains, and Winter fled away.
Once more the earth was deckt with flowers;
Mild Zephyrs breathed through blooming bowers;
High towered the glorious Sun, and poured the blaze of day.
Attracted by the harmonious sound,
Sylvans and Fauns the Cot surround,
And curious crowd the Minstrel to behold:
The Wood-nymphs haste the spell to prove;
Eager They run; They list, they love,
And while They hear the strain, forget the Man is old.
Cupid, to nothing constant long,
Perched on the Harp attends the song,
Or stifles with a kiss the dulcet notes:
Now on the Poet's breast reposes,
Now twines his hoary locks with roses,
Or borne on wings of gold in wanton circle floats.
Then thus Anacreon--'I no more
At other shrine my vows will pour,
Since Cupid deigns my numbers to inspire:
From Phoebus or the blue-eyed Maid
Now shall my verse request no aid,
For Love alone shall be the Patron of my Lyre.
'In lofty strain, of earlier days,
I spread the King's or Hero's praise,
And struck the martial Chords with epic fire:
But farewell, Hero! farewell, King!
Your deeds my lips no more shall sing,
For Love alone shall be the subject of my Lyre.
The Marquis returned the paper with a smile of encouragement.
'Your little poem pleases me much,' said He; 'However, you must
not count my opinion for anything. I am no judge of verses, and
for my own part, never composed more than six lines in my life:
Those six produced so unlucky an effect that I am fully resolved
never to compose another. But I wander from my subject. I was
going to say that you cannot employ your time worse than in
making verses. An Author, whether good or bad, or between both,
is an Animal whom everybody is privileged to attack; For though
All are not able to write books, all conceive themselves able to
judge them. A bad composition carries with it its own
punishment, contempt and ridicule. A good one excites envy, and
entails upon its Author a thousand mortifications. He finds
himself assailed by partial and ill-humoured Criticism: One Man
finds fault with the plan, Another with the style, a Third with
the precept, which it strives to inculcate; and they who cannot
succeed in finding fault with the Book, employ themselves in
stigmatizing its Author. They maliciously rake out from
obscurity every little circumstance which may throw ridicule
upon his private character or conduct, and aim at wounding the
Man, since They cannot hurt the Writer. In short, to enter the
lists of literature is wilfully to expose yourself to the arrows
of neglect, ridicule, envy, and disappointment. Whether you
write well or ill, be assured that you will not escape from
blame; Indeed this circumstance contains a young Author's chief
consolation: He remembers that Lope de Vega and Calderona had
unjust and envious Critics, and He modestly conceives himself to
be exactly in their predicament. But I am conscious that all
these sage observations are thrown away upon you. Authorship is
a mania to conquer which no reasons are sufficiently strong; and
you might as easily persuade me not to love, as I persuade you
not to write. However, if you cannot help being occasionally
seized with a poetical paroxysm, take at least the precaution of
communicating your verses to none but those whose partiality for
you secures their approbation.'
'Then, my Lord, you do not think these lines tolerable?' said
Theodore with an humble and dejected air.
'You mistake my meaning. As I said before, they have pleased me
much; But my regard for you makes me partial, and Others might
judge them less favourably. I must still remark that even my
prejudice in your favour does not blind me so much as to prevent
my observing several faults. For instance, you make a terrible
confusion of metaphors; You are too apt to make the strength of
your lines consist more in the words than sense; Some of the
verses only seem introduced in order to rhyme with others; and
most of the best ideas are borrowed from other Poets, though
possibly you are unconscious of the theft yourself. These faults
may occasionally be excused in a work of length; But a short Poem
must be correct and perfect.'
'All this is true, Segnor; But you should consider that I only
write for pleasure.'
'Your defects are the less excusable. Their incorrectness may be
forgiven in those who work for money, who are obliged to compleat
a given task in a given time, and are paid according to the bulk,
not value of their productions. But in those whom no necessity
forces to turn Author, who merely write for fame, and have full
leisure to polish their compositions, faults are impardonable,
and merit the sharpest arrows of criticism.'
The Marquis rose from the Sopha; the Page looked discouraged and
melancholy, and this did not escape his Master's observation.
'However' added He smiling, 'I think that these lines do you no
discredit. Your versification is tolerably easy, and your ear
seems to be just. The perusal of your little poem upon the whole
gave me much pleasure; and if it is not asking too great a
favour, I shall be highly obliged to you for a Copy.'
The Youth's countenance immediately cleared up. He perceived not
the smile, half approving, half ironical, which accompanied the
request, and He promised the Copy with great readiness. The
Marquis withdrew to his chamber, much amused by the
instantaneous effect produced upon Theodore's vanity by the
conclusion of his Criticism. He threw himself upon his Couch;
Sleep soon stole over him, and his dreams presented him with the
most flattering pictures of happiness with Agnes.
On reaching the Hotel de Medina, Lorenzo's first care was to
enquire for Letters. He found several waiting for him; but that
which He sought was not amongst them. Leonella had found it
impossible to write that evening. However, her impatience to
secure Don Christoval's heart, on which She flattered herself
with having made no slight impression, permitted her not to pass
another day without informing him where She was to be found. On
her return from the Capuchin Church, She had related to her
Sister with exultation how attentive an handsome Cavalier had
been to her; as also how his Companion had undertaken to plead
Antonia's cause with the Marquis de las Cisternas. Elvira
received this intelligence with sensations very different from
those with which it was communicated. She blamed her Sister's
imprudence in confiding her history to an absolute Stranger, and
expressed her fears lest this inconsiderate step should
prejudice the Marquis against her. The greatest of her
apprehensions She concealed in her own breast. She had observed
with inquietude that at the mention of Lorenzo, a deep blush
spread itself over her Daughter's cheek. The timid Antonia dared
not to pronounce his name: Without knowing wherefore, She felt
embarrassed when He was made the subject of discourse, and
endeavoured to change the conversation to Ambrosio. Elvira
perceived the emotions of this young bosom: In consequence, She
insisted upon Leonella's breaking her promise to the Cavaliers.
A sigh, which on hearing this order escaped from Antonia,
confirmed the wary Mother in her resolution.
Through this resolution Leonella was determined to break: She
conceived it to be inspired by envy, and that her Sister dreaded
her being elevated above her. Without imparting her design to
anyone, She took an opportunity of dispatching the following
note to Lorenzo; It was delivered to him as soon as He woke.
'Doubtless, Segnor Don Lorenzo, you have frequently accused me of
ingratitude and forgetfulness: But on the word of a Virgin, it
was out of my power to perform my promise yesterday. I know not
in what words to inform you how strange a reception my Sister
gave your kind wish to visit her. She is an odd Woman, with many
good points about her; But her jealousy of me frequently makes
her conceive notions quite unaccountable. On hearing that your
Friend had paid some little attention to me, She immediately took
the alarm: She blamed my conduct, and has absolutely forbidden
me to let you know our abode. My strong sense of gratitude for
your kind offers of service, and . . . Shall I confess it? my
desire to behold once more the too amiable Don Christoval, will
not permit my obeying her injunctions. I have therefore stolen a
moment to inform you, that we lodge in the Strada di San Iago,
four doors from the Palace d'Albornos, and nearly opposite to the
Barber's Miguel Coello. Enquire for Donna Elvira Dalfa, since in
compliance with her Father-in-law's order, my Sister continues to
be called by her maiden name. At eight this evening you will be
sure of finding us: But let not a word drop which may raise a
suspicion of my having written this letter. Should you see the
Conde d'Ossorio, tell him . . . I blush while I declare it . . .
Tell him that his presence will be but too acceptable to the
sympathetic Leonella.
The latter sentences were written in red ink, to express the
blushes of her cheek, while She committed an outrage upon her
virgin modesty.
Lorenzo had no sooner perused this note than He set out in
search of Don Christoval. Not being able to find him in the
course of the day, He proceeded to Donna Elvira's alone, to
Leonella's infinite disappointment. The Domestic by whom He
sent up his name, having already declared his Lady to be at home,
She had no excuse for refusing his visit: Yet She consented to
receive it with much reluctance. That reluctance was increased
by the changes which his approach produced in Antonia's
countenance; nor was it by any means abated when the Youth
himself appeared. The symmetry of his person, animation of his
features, and natural elegance of his manners and address,
convinced Elvira that such a Guest must be dangerous for her
Daughter. She resolved to treat him with distant politeness, to
decline his services with gratitude for the tender of them, and
to make him feel, without offence, that his future visits would
be far from acceptable.
On his entrance He found Elvira, who was indisposed, reclining
upon a Sopha: Antonia sat by her embroidery frame, and Leonella,
in a pastoral dress, held 'Montemayor's Diana.' In spite of
her being the Mother of Antonia, Lorenzo could not help expecting
to find in Elvira Leonella's true Sister, and the Daughter of 'as
honest a painstaking Shoe-maker, as any in Cordova.' A single
glance was sufficient to undeceive him. He beheld a Woman whose
features, though impaired by time and sorrow, still bore the
marks of distinguished beauty: A serious dignity reigned upon
her countenance, but was tempered by a grace and sweetness which
rendered her truly enchanting. Lorenzo fancied that She must
have resembled her Daughter in her youth, and readily excused the
imprudence of the late Conde de las Cisternas. She desired him
to be seated, and immediately resumed her place upon the Sopha.
Antonia received him with a simple reverence, and continued her
work: Her cheeks were suffused with crimson, and She strove to
conceal her emotion by leaning over her embroidery frame. Her
Aunt also chose to play off her airs of modesty; She affected to
blush and tremble, and waited with her eyes cast down to receive,
as She expected, the compliments of Don Christoval. Finding
after some time that no sign of his approach was given, She
ventured to look round the room, and perceived with vexation that
Medina was unaccompanied. Impatience would not permit her
waiting for an explanation: Interrupting Lorenzo, who was
delivering Raymond's message, She desired to know what was become
of his Friend.
He, who thought it necessary to maintain himself in her good
graces, strove to console her under her disappointment by
committing a little violence upon truth.
'Ah! Segnora,' He replied in a melancholy voice 'How grieved will
He be at losing this opportunity of paying you his respects! A
Relation's illness has obliged him to quit Madrid in haste: But
on his return, He will doubtless seize the first moment with
transport to throw himself at your feet!'
As He said this, his eyes met those of Elvira: She punished his
falsehood sufficiently by darting at him a look expressive of
displeasure and reproach. Neither did the deceit answer his
intention. Vexed and disappointed Leonella rose from her seat,
and retired in dudgeon to her own apartment.
Lorenzo hastened to repair the fault, which had injured him in
Elvira's opinion. He related his conversation with the Marquis
respecting her: He assured her that Raymond was prepared to
acknowledge her for his Brother's Widow; and that till it was in
his power to pay his compliments to her in person, Lorenzo was
commissioned to supply his place. This intelligence relieved
Elvira from an heavy weight of uneasiness: She had now found a
Protector for the fatherless Antonia, for whose future fortunes
She had suffered the greatest apprehensions. She was not sparing
of her thanks to him who had interfered so generously in her
behalf; But still She gave him no invitation to repeat his visit.
However, when upon rising to depart He requested permission to
enquire after her health occasionally, the polite earnestness of
his manner, gratitude for his services, and respect for his
Friend the Marquis, would not admit of a refusal. She consented
reluctantly to receive him: He promised not to abuse her
goodness, and quitted the House.
Antonia was now left alone with her Mother: A temporary silence
ensued. Both wished to speak upon the same subject, but Neither
knew how to introduce it. The one felt a bashfulness which
sealed up her lips, and for which She could not account: The
other feared to find her apprehensions true, or to inspire her
Daughter with notions to which She might be still a Stranger. At
length Elvira began the conversation.
'That is a charming young Man, Antonia; I am much pleased with
him. Was He long near you yesterday in the Cathedral?'
'He quitted me not for a moment while I staid in the Church: He
gave me his seat, and was very obliging and attentive.'
'Indeed? Why then have you never mentioned his name to me? Your
Aunt lanched out in praise of his Friend, and you vaunted
Ambrosio's eloquence: But Neither said a word of Don Lorenzo's
person and accomplishments. Had not Leonella spoken of his
readiness to undertake our cause, I should not have known him to
be in existence.'
She paused. Antonia coloured, but was silent.
'Perhaps you judge him less favourably than I do. In my opinion
his figure is pleasing, his conversation sensible, and manners
engaging. Still He may have struck you differently: You may
think him disagreeable, and . . .'.
'Disagreeable? Oh! dear Mother, how should I possibly think him
so? I should be very ungrateful were I not sensible of his
kindness yesterday, and very blind if his merits had escaped me.
His figure is so graceful, so noble! His manners so gentle, yet
so manly! I never yet saw so many accomplishments united in one
person, and I doubt whether Madrid can produce his equal.'
'Why then were you so silent in praise of this Phoenix of Madrid?
Why was it concealed from me that his society had afforded you
'In truth, I know not: You ask me a question which I cannot
resolve myself. I was on the point of mentioning him a thousand
times: His name was constantly upon my lips, but when I would
have pronounced it, I wanted courage to execute my design.
However, if I did not speak of him, it was not that I thought of
him the less.'
'That I believe; But shall I tell you why you wanted courage? It
was because, accustomed to confide to me your most secret
thoughts, you knew not how to conceal, yet feared to acknowledge,
that your heart nourished a sentiment which you were conscious I
should disapprove. Come hither to me, my Child.'
Antonia quitted her embroidery frame, threw herself upon her
knees by the Sopha, and hid her face in her Mother's lap.
'Fear not, my sweet Girl! Consider me equally as your Friend and
Parent, and apprehend no reproof from me. I have read the
emotions of your bosom; you are yet ill-skilled in concealing
them, and they could not escape my attentive eye. This Lorenzo
is dangerous to your repose; He has already made an impression
upon your heart. 'Tis true that I perceive easily that your
affection is returned; But what can be the consequences of this
attachment? You are poor and friendless, my Antonia; Lorenzo is
the Heir of the Duke of Medina Celi. Even should Himself mean
honourably, his Uncle never will consent to your union; Nor
without that Uncle's consent, will I. By sad experience I know
what sorrows She must endure, who marries into a family unwilling
to receive her. Then struggle with your affection: Whatever
pains it may cost you, strive to conquer it. Your heart is
tender and susceptible: It has already received a strong
impression; But when once convinced that you should not encourage
such sentiments, I trust, that you have sufficient fortitude to
drive them from your bosom.'
Antonia kissed her hand, and promised implicit obedience. Elvira
then continued.
'To prevent your passion from growing stronger, it will be
needful to prohibit Lorenzo's visits. The service which He has
rendered me permits not my forbidding them positively; But unless
I judge too favourably of his character, He will discontinue them
without taking offence, if I confess to him my reasons, and throw
myself entirely on his generosity. The next time that I see him,
I will honestly avow to him the embarrassment which his presence
occasions. How say you, my Child? Is not this measure
Antonia subscribed to every thing without hesitation, though not
without regret. Her Mother kissed her affectionately, and
retired to bed. Antonia followed her example, and vowed so
frequently never more to think of Lorenzo, that till Sleep closed
her eyes She thought of nothing else.
While this was passing at Elvira's, Lorenzo hastened to rejoin
the Marquis. Every thing was ready for the second elopement of
Agnes; and at twelve the two Friends with a Coach and four were
at the Garden wall of the Convent. Don Raymond drew out his Key,
and unlocked the door. They entered, and waited for some time in
expectation of being joined by Agnes. At length the Marquis grew
impatient: Beginning to fear that his second attempt would
succeed no better than the first, He proposed to reconnoitre the
Convent. The Friends advanced towards it. Every thing was still
and dark. The Prioress was anxious to keep the story a secret,
fearing lest the crime of one of its members should bring
disgrace upon the whole community, or that the interposition of
powerful Relations should deprive her vengeance of its intended
victim. She took care therefore to give the Lover of Agnes no
cause to suppose that his design was discovered, and his
Mistress on the point of suffering the punishment of her fault.
The same reason made her reject the idea of arresting the unknown
Seducer in the Garden; Such a proceeding would have created much
disturbance, and the disgrace of her Convent would have been
noised about Madrid. She contented herself with confining Agnes
closely; As to the Lover, She left him at liberty to pursue his
designs. What She had expected was the result. The Marquis and
Lorenzo waited in vain till the break of day: They then retired
without noise, alarmed at the failure of their plan, and ignorant
of the cause of its ill-success.
The next morning Lorenzo went to the Convent, and requested to
see his Sister. The Prioress appeared at the Grate with a
melancholy countenance: She informed him that for several days
Agnes had appeared much agitated; That She had been prest by the
Nuns in vain to reveal the cause, and apply to their tenderness
for advice and consolation; That She had obstinately persisted in
concealing the cause of her distress; But that on Thursday
Evening it had produced so violent an effect upon her
constitution, that She had fallen ill, and was actually confined
to her bed. Lorenzo did not credit a syllable of this account:
He insisted upon seeing his Sister; If She was unable to come to
the Grate, He desired to be admitted to her Cell. The Prioress
crossed herself! She was shocked at the very idea of a Man's
profane eye pervading the interior of her holy Mansion, and
professed herself astonished that Lorenzo could think of such a
thing. She told him that his request could not be granted; But
that if He returned the next day, She hoped that her beloved
Daughter would then be sufficiently recovered to join him at the
Parlour grate.
With this answer Lorenzo was obliged to retire, unsatisfied and
trembling for his Sister's safety.
He returned the next morning at an early hour. 'Agnes was worse;
The Physician had pronounced her to be in imminent danger; She
was ordered to remain quiet, and it was utterly impossible for
her to receive her Brother's visit.' Lorenzo stormed at this
answer, but there was no resource. He raved, He entreated, He
threatened: No means were left untried to obtain a sight of
Agnes. His endeavours were as fruitless as those of the day
before, and He returned in despair to the Marquis. On his side,
the Latter had spared no pains to discover what had occasioned
his plot to fail: Don Christoval, to whom the affair was now
entrusted, endeavoured to worm out the secret from the Old
Porteress of St. Clare, with whom He had formed an acquaintance;
But She was too much upon her guard, and He gained from her no
intelligence. The Marquis was almost distracted, and Lorenzo felt
scarcely less inquietude. Both were convinced that the purposed
elopement must have been discovered: They doubted not but the
malady of Agnes was a pretence, But they knew not by what means
to rescue her from the hands of the Prioress.
Regularly every day did Lorenzo visit the Convent: As regularly
was He informed that his Sister rather grew worse than better.
Certain that her indisposition was feigned, these accounts did
not alarm him: But his ignorance of her fate, and of the motives
which induced the Prioress to keep her from him, excited the most
serious uneasiness. He was still uncertain what steps He ought
to take, when the Marquis received a letter from the
Cardinal-Duke of Lerma. It inclosed the Pope's expected Bull,
ordering that Agnes should be released from her vows, and
restored to her Relations. This essential paper decided at once
the proceedings of her Friends: They resolved that Lorenzo
should carry it to the Domina without delay, and demand that his
Sister should be instantly given up to him. Against this mandate
illness could not be pleaded: It gave her Brother the power of
removing her instantly to the Palace de Medina, and He determined
to use that power on the following day.
His mind relieved from inquietude respecting his Sister, and his
Spirits raised by the hope of soon restoring her to freedom, He
now had time to give a few moments to love and to Antonia. At
the same hour as on his former visit He repaired to Donna
Elvira's: She had given orders for his admission. As soon as He
was announced, her Daughter retired with Leonella, and when He
entered the chamber, He found the Lady of the House alone. She
received him with less distance than before, and desired him to
place himself near her upon the Sopha. She then without losing
time opened her business, as had been agreed between herself and
'You must not think me ungrateful, Don Lorenzo, or forgetful how
essential are the services which you have rendered me with the
Marquis. I feel the weight of my obligations; Nothing under the
Sun should induce my taking the step to which I am now compelled
but the interest of my Child, of my beloved Antonia. My health
is declining; God only knows how soon I may be summoned before
his Throne. My Daughter will be left without Parents, and should
She lose the protection of the Cisternas family, without Friends.
She is young and artless, uninstructed in the world's perfidy,
and with charms sufficient to render her an object of seduction.
Judge then, how I must tremble at the prospect before her!
Judge how anxious I must be to keep her from their society who
may excite the yet dormant passions of her bosom. You are
amiable, Don Lorenzo: Antonia has a susceptible, a loving heart,
and is grateful for the favours conferred upon us by your
interference with the Marquis. Your presence makes me tremble:
I fear lest it should inspire her with sentiments which may
embitter the remainder of her life, or encourage her to cherish
hopes in her situation unjustifiable and futile. Pardon me when
I avow my terrors, and let my frankness plead in my excuse. I
cannot forbid you my House, for gratitude restrains me; I can
only throw myself upon your generosity, and entreat you to spare
the feelings of an anxious, of a doting Mother. Believe me when
I assure you that I lament the necessity of rejecting your
acquaintance; But there is no remedy, and Antonia's interest
obliges me to beg you to forbear your visits. By complying with
my request, you will increase the esteem which I already feel for
you, and of which everything convinces me that you are truly
'Your frankness charms me,' replied Lorenzo; 'You shall find that
in your favourable opinion of me you were not deceived. Yet I
hope that the reasons, now in my power to allege, will persuade
you to withdraw a request which I cannot obey without infinite
reluctance. I love your Daughter, love her most sincerely: I
wish for no greater happiness than to inspire her with the same
sentiments, and receive her hand at the Altar as her Husband.
'Tis true, I am not rich myself; My Father's death has left me
but little in my own possession; But my expectations justify my
pretending to the Conde de las Cisternas' Daughter.'
He was proceeding, but Elvira interrupted him.
'Ah! Don Lorenzo, you forget in that pompous title the meanness
of my origin. You forget that I have now past fourteen years in
Spain, disavowed by my Husband's family, and existing upon a
stipend barely sufficient for the support and education of my
Daughter. Nay, I have even been neglected by most of my own
Relations, who out of envy affect to doubt the reality of my
marriage. My allowance being discontinued at my Father-in-law's
death, I was reduced to the very brink of want. In this
situation I was found by my Sister, who amongst all her foibles
possesses a warm, generous, and affectionate heart. She aided me
with the little fortune which my Father left her, persuaded me to
visit Madrid, and has supported my Child and myself since our
quitting Murcia. Then consider not Antonia as descended from the
Conde de la Cisternas: Consider her as a poor and unprotected
Orphan, as the Grand-child of the Tradesman Torribio Dalfa, as
the needy Pensioner of that Tradesman's Daughter. Reflect upon
the difference between such a situation, and that of the Nephew
and Heir of the potent Duke of Medina. I believe your intentions
to be honourable; But as there are no hopes that your Uncle will
approve of the union, I foresee that the consequences of your
attachment must be fatal to my Child's repose.'
'Pardon me, Segnora; You are misinformed if you suppose the Duke
of Medina to resemble the generality of Men. His sentiments are
liberal and disinterested: He loves me well; and I have no
reason to dread his forbidding the marriage when He perceives
that my happiness depends upon Antonia. But supposing him to
refuse his sanction, what have I still to fear? My Parents are
no more; My little fortune is in my own possession: It will be
sufficient to support Antonia, and I shall exchange for her hand
Medina's Dukedom without one sigh of regret.'
'You are young and eager; It is natural for you to entertain such
ideas. But Experience has taught me to my cost that curses
accompany an unequal alliance. I married the Conde de las
Cisternas in opposition to the will of his Relations; Many an
heart-pang has punished me for the imprudent step. Whereever we
bent our course, a Father's execration pursued Gonzalvo. Poverty
overtook us, and no Friend was near to relieve our wants. Still
our mutual affection existed, but alas! not without interruption.
Accustomed to wealth and ease, ill could my Husband support the
transition to distress and indigence. He looked back with
repining to the comforts which He once enjoyed. He regretted the
situation which for my sake He had quitted; and in moments when
Despair possessed his mind, has reproached me with having made
him the Companion of want and wretchedness! He has called me his
bane! The source of his sorrows, the cause of his destruction!
Ah God! He little knew how much keener were my own heart's
reproaches! He was ignorant that I suffered trebly, for myself,
for my Children, and for him! 'Tis true that his anger seldom
lasted long: His sincere affection for me soon revived in his
heart; and then his repentance for the tears which He had made me
shed tortured me even more than his reproaches. He would throw
himself on the ground, implore my forgiveness in the most frantic
terms, and load himself with curses for being the Murderer of my
repose. Taught by experience that an union contracted against
the inclinations of families on either side must be unfortunate,
I will save my Daughter from those miseries which I have
suffered. Without your Uncle's consent, while I live, She never
shall be yours. Undoubtedly He will disapprove of the union; His
power is immense, and Antonia shall not be exposed to his anger
and persecution.'
'His persecution? How easily may that be avoided! Let the worst
happen, it is but quitting Spain. My wealth may easily be
realised; The Indian Islands will offer us a secure retreat; I
have an estate, though not of value, in Hispaniola: Thither will
we fly, and I shall consider it to be my native Country, if it
gives me Antonia's undisturbed possession.'
'Ah! Youth, this is a fond romantic vision. Gonzalvo thought the
same. He fancied that He could leave Spain without regret; But
the moment of parting undeceived him. You know not yet what it
is to quit your native land; to quit it, never to behold it more!
You know not, what it is to exchange the scenes where you have
passed your infancy, for unknown realms and barbarous climates!
To be forgotten, utterly eternally forgotten, by the Companions
of your Youth! To see your dearest Friends, the fondest objects
of your affection, perishing with diseases incidental to Indian
atmospheres, and find yourself unable to procure for them
necessary assistance! I have felt all this! My Husband and two
sweet Babes found their Graves in Cuba: Nothing would have saved
my young Antonia but my sudden return to Spain. Ah! Don Lorenzo,
could you conceive what I suffered during my absence! Could you
know how sorely I regretted all that I left behind, and how dear
to me was the very name of Spain! I envied the winds which blew
towards it: And when the Spanish Sailor chaunted some well-known
air as He past my window, tears filled my eyes while I thought
upon my native land. Gonzalvo too . . . My Husband . . .'.
Elvira paused. Her voice faltered, and She concealed her face
with her handkerchief. After a short silence She rose from the
Sopha, and proceeded.
'Excuse my quitting you for a few moments: The remembrance of
what I have suffered has much agitated me, and I need to be
alone. Till I return peruse these lines. After my Husband's
death I found them among his papers; Had I known sooner that He
entertained such sentiments, Grief would have killed me. He
wrote these verses on his voyage to Cuba, when his mind was
clouded by sorrow, and He forgot that He had a Wife and Children.
What we are losing, ever seems to us the most precious: Gonzalvo
was quitting Spain for ever, and therefore was Spain dearer to
his eyes than all else which the World contained. Read them,
Don Lorenzo; They will give you some idea of the feelings of a
banished Man!'
Elvira put a paper into Lorenzo's hand, and retired from the
chamber. The Youth examined the contents, and found them to be
as follows.
Farewell, Oh! native Spain! Farewell for ever!
These banished eyes shall view thy coasts no more;
A mournful presage tells my heart, that never
Gonzalvo's steps again shall press thy shore.
Hushed are the winds; While soft the Vessel sailing
With gentle motion plows the unruffled Main,
I feel my bosom's boasted courage failing,
And curse the waves which bear me far from Spain.
I see it yet! Beneath yon blue clear Heaven
Still do the Spires, so well beloved, appear;
From yonder craggy point the gale of Even
Still wafts my native accents to mine ear:
Propped on some moss-crowned Rock, and gaily singing,
There in the Sun his nets the Fisher dries;
Oft have I heard the plaintive Ballad, bringing
Scenes of past joys before my sorrowing eyes.
Ah! Happy Swain! He waits the accustomed hour,
When twilight-gloom obscures the closing sky;
Then gladly seeks his loved paternal bower,
And shares the feast his native fields supply:
Friendship and Love, his Cottage Guests, receive him
With honest welcome and with smile sincere;
No threatening woes of present joys bereave him,
No sigh his bosom owns, his cheek no tear.
Ah! Happy Swain! Such bliss to me denying,
Fortune thy lot with envy bids me view;
Me, who from home and Spain an Exile flying,
Bid all I value, all I love, adieu.
No more mine ear shall list the well-known ditty
Sung by some Mountain-Girl, who tends her Goats,
Some Village-Swain imploring amorous pity,
Or Shepherd chaunting wild his rustic notes:
No more my arms a Parent's fond embraces,
No more my heart domestic calm, must know;
Far from these joys, with sighs which Memory traces,
To sultry skies, and distant climes I go.
Where Indian Suns engender new diseases,
Where snakes and tigers breed, I bend my way
To brave the feverish thirst no art appeases,
The yellow plague, and madding blaze of day:
But not to feel slow pangs consume my liver,
To die by piece-meal in the bloom of age,
My boiling blood drank by insatiate fever,
And brain delirious with the day-star's rage,
Can make me know such grief, as thus to sever
With many a bitter sigh, Dear Land, from Thee;
To feel this heart must doat on thee for ever,
And feel, that all thy joys are torn from me!
Ah me! How oft will Fancy's spells in slumber
Recall my native Country to my mind!
How oft regret will bid me sadly number
Each lost delight and dear Friend left behind!
Wild Murcia's Vales, and loved romantic bowers,
The River on whose banks a Child I played,
My Castle's antient Halls, its frowning Towers,
Each much-regretted wood, and well-known Glade,
Dreams of the land where all my wishes centre,
Thy scenes, which I am doomed no more to know,
Full oft shall Memory trace, my soul's Tormentor,
And turn each pleasure past to present woe.
But Lo! The Sun beneath the waves retires;
Night speeds apace her empire to restore:
Clouds from my sight obscure the village-spires,
Now seen but faintly, and now seen no more.
Oh! breathe not, Winds! Still be the Water's motion!
Sleep, sleep, my Bark, in silence on the Main!
So when to-morrow's light shall gild the Ocean,
Once more mine eyes shall see the coast of Spain.
Vain is the wish! My last petition scorning,
Fresh blows the Gale, and high the Billows swell:
Far shall we be before the break of Morning;
Oh! then for ever, native Spain, farewell!
Lorenzo had scarcely time to read these lines, when Elvira
returned to him: The giving a free course to her tears had
relieved her, and her spirits had regained their usual composure.
'I have nothing more to say, my Lord,' said She; 'You have heard
my apprehensions, and my reasons for begging you not to repeat
your visits. I have thrown myself in full confidence upon your
honour: I am certain that you will not prove my opinion of you
to have been too favourable.'
'But one question more, Segnora, and I leave you. Should the
Duke of Medina approve my love, would my addresses be
unacceptable to yourself and the fair Antonia?'
'I will be open with you, Don Lorenzo: There being little
probability of such an union taking place, I fear that it is
desired but too ardently by my Daughter. You have made an
impression upon her young heart, which gives me the most serious
alarm: To prevent that impression from growing stronger, I am
obliged to decline your acquaintance. For me, you may be sure
that I should rejoice at establishing my Child so advantageously.
Conscious that my constitution, impaired by grief and illness,
forbids me to expect a long continuance in this world, I tremble
at the thought of leaving her under the protection of a perfect
Stranger. The Marquis de las Cisternas is totally unknown to me:
He will marry; His Lady may look upon Antonia with an eye of
displeasure, and deprive her of her only Friend. Should the
Duke, your Uncle, give his consent, you need not doubt obtaining
mine, and my Daughter's: But without his, hope not for ours. At
all events, what ever steps you may take, what ever may be the
Duke's decision, till you know it let me beg your forbearing to
strengthen by your presence Antonia's prepossession. If the
sanction of your Relations authorises your addressing her as your
Wife, my Doors fly open to you: If that sanction is refused, be
satisfied to possess my esteem and gratitude, but remember, that
we must meet no more.'
Lorenzo promised reluctantly to conform to this decree: But He
added that He hoped soon to obtain that consent which would give
him a claim to the renewal of their acquaintance. He then
explained to her why the Marquis had not called in person, and
made no scruple of confiding to her his Sister's History. He
concluded by saying that He hoped to set Agnes at liberty the
next day; and that as soon as Don Raymond's fears were quieted
upon this subject, He would lose no time in assuring Donna Elvira
of his friendship and protection.
The Lady shook her head.
'I tremble for your Sister,' said She; 'I have heard many traits
of the Domina of St. Clare's character, from a Friend who was
educated in the same Convent with her. She reported her to be
haughty, inflexible, superstitious, and revengeful. I have since
heard that She is infatuated with the idea of rendering her
Convent the most regular in Madrid, and never forgave those whose
imprudence threw upon it the slightest stain. Though naturally
violent and severe, when her interests require it, She well knows
how to assume an appearance of benignity. She leaves no means
untried to persuade young Women of rank to become Members of her
Community: She is implacable when once incensed, and has too
much intrepidity to shrink at taking the most rigorous measures
for punishing the Offender. Doubtless, She will consider your
Sister's quitting the Convent as a disgrace thrown upon it: She
will use every artifice to avoid obeying the mandate of his
Holiness, and I shudder to think that Donna Agnes is in the
hands of this dangerous Woman.'
Lorenzo now rose to take leave. Elvira gave him her hand at
parting, which He kissed respectfully; and telling her that He
soon hoped for the permission to salute that of Antonia, He
returned to his Hotel. The Lady was perfectly satisfied with the
conversation which had past between them. She looked forward
with satisfaction to the prospect of his becoming her Son-inlaw;
But Prudence bad her conceal from her Daughter's knowledge
the flattering hopes which Herself now ventured to entertain.
Scarcely was it day, and already Lorenzo was at the Convent of
St. Clare, furnished with the necessary mandate. The Nuns were
at Matins. He waited impatiently for the conclusion of the
service, and at length the Prioress appeared at the Parlour
Grate. Agnes was demanded. The old Lady replied, with a
melancholy air, that the dear Child's situation grew hourly more
dangerous; That the Physicians despaired of her life; But that
they had declared the only chance for her recovery to consist in
keeping her quiet, and not to permit those to approach her whose
presence was likely to agitate her. Not a word of all this was
believed by Lorenzo, any more than He credited the expressions of
grief and affection for Agnes, with which this account was
interlarded. To end the business, He put the Pope's Bull into
the hands of the Domina, and insisted that, ill or in health, his
Sister should be delivered to him without delay.
The Prioress received the paper with an air of humility: But no
sooner had her eye glanced over the contents, than her resentment
baffled all the efforts of Hypocrisy. A deep crimson spread
itself over her face, and She darted upon Lorenzo looks of rage
and menace.
'This order is positive,' said She in a voice of anger, which She
in vain strove to disguise; 'Willingly would I obey it; But
unfortunately it is out of my power.'
Lorenzo interrupted her by an exclamation of surprize.
'I repeat it, Segnor; to obey this order is totally out of my
power. From tenderness to a Brother's feelings, I would have
communicated the sad event to you by degrees, and have prepared
you to hear it with fortitude. My measures are broken through:
This order commands me to deliver up to you the Sister Agnes
without delay; I am therefore obliged to inform you without
circumlocution, that on Friday last, She expired.'
Lorenzo started back with horror, and turned pale. A moment's
recollection convinced him that this assertion must be false,
and it restored him to himself.
'You deceive me!' said He passionately; 'But five minutes past
since you assured me that though ill She was still alive.
Produce her this instant! See her I must and will, and every
attempt to keep her from me will be unavailing.'
'You forget yourself, Segnor; You owe respect to my age as well
as my profession. Your Sister is no more. If I at first
concealed her death, it was from dreading lest an event so
unexpected should produce on you too violent an effect. In
truth, I am but ill repaid for my attention. And what interest,
I pray you, should I have in detaining her? To know her wish of
quitting our society is a sufficient reason for me to wish her
absence, and think her a disgrace to the Sisterhood of St.
Clare: But She has forfeited my affection in a manner yet more
culpable. Her crimes were great, and when you know the cause of
her death, you will doubtless rejoice, Don Lorenzo, that such a
Wretch is no longer in existence. She was taken ill on Thursday
last on returning from confession in the Capuchin Chapel. Her
malady seemed attended with strange circumstances; But She
persisted in concealing its cause: Thanks to the Virgin, we were
too ignorant to suspect it! Judge then what must have been our
consternation, our horror, when She was delivered the next day of
a stillborn Child, whom She immediately followed to the Grave.
How, Segnor? Is it possible that your countenance expresses no
surprize, no indignation? Is it possible that your Sister's
infamy was known to you, and that still She possessed your
affection? In that case, you have no need of my compassion. I
can say nothing more, except repeat my inability of obeying the
orders of his Holiness. Agnes is no more, and to convince you
that what I say is true, I swear by our blessed Saviour, that
three days have past since She was buried.'
Here She kissed a small crucifix which hung at her girdle. She
then rose from her chair, and quitted the Parlour. As She
withdrew, She cast upon Lorenzo a scornful smile.
'Farewell, Segnor,' said She; 'I know no remedy for this
accident: I fear that even a second Bull from the Pope will not
procure your Sister's resurrection.'
Lorenzo also retired, penetrated with affliction: But Don
Raymond's at the news of this event amounted to Madness. He
would not be convinced that Agnes was really dead, and continued
to insist that the Walls of St. Clare still confined her. No
arguments could make him abandon his hopes of regaining her:
Every day some fresh scheme was invented for procuring
intelligence of her, and all of them were attended with the same
On his part, Medina gave up the idea of ever seeing his Sister
more: Yet He believed that She had been taken off by unfair
means. Under this persuasion, He encouraged Don Raymond's
researches, determined, should He discover the least warrant for
his suspicions, to take a severe vengeance upon the unfeeling
Prioress. The loss of his Sister affected him sincerely; Nor was
it the least cause of his distress that propriety obliged him
for some time to defer mentioning Antonia to the Duke. In the
meanwhile his emissaries constantly surrounded Elvira's Door.
He had intelligence of all the movements of his Mistress: As She
never failed every Thursday to attend the Sermon in the Capuchin
Cathedral, He was secure of seeing her once a week, though in
compliance with his promise, He carefully shunned her
observation. Thus two long Months passed away. Still no
information was procured of Agnes: All but the Marquis credited
her death; and now Lorenzo determined to disclose his sentiments
to his Uncle. He had already dropt some hints of his intention
to marry; They had been as favourably received as He could
expect, and He harboured no doubt of the success of his
While in each other's arms entranced They lay,
They blessed the night, and curst the coming day.
The burst of transport was past: Ambrosio's lust was satisfied;
Pleasure fled, and Shame usurped her seat in his bosom. Confused
and terrified at his weakness, He drew himself from Matilda's
arms. His perjury presented itself before him: He reflected on
the scene which had just been acted, and trembled at the
consequences of a discovery. He looked forward with horror; His
heart was despondent, and became the abode of satiety and
disgust. He avoided the eyes of his Partner in frailty; A
melancholy silence prevailed, during which Both seemed busied
with disagreable reflections.
Matilda was the first to break it. She took his hand gently, and
pressed it to her burning lips.
'Ambrosio!' She murmured in a soft and trembling voice.
The Abbot started at the sound. He turned his eyes upon
Matilda's: They were filled with tears; Her cheeks were covered
with blushes, and her supplicating looks seemed to solicit his
'Dangerous Woman!' said He; 'Into what an abyss of misery have
you plunged me! Should your sex be discovered, my honour, nay my
life, must pay for the pleasure of a few moments. Fool that I
was, to trust myself to your seductions! What can now be done?
How can my offence be expiated? What atonement can purchase the
pardon of my crime? Wretched Matilda, you have destroyed my
quiet for ever!'
'To me these reproaches, Ambrosio? To me, who have sacrificed
for you the world's pleasures, the luxury of wealth, the delicacy
of sex, my Friends, my fortune, and my fame? What have you lost,
which I preserved? Have _I_ not shared in YOUR guilt? Have YOU
not shared in MY pleasure? Guilt, did I say? In what consists
ours, unless in the opinion of an ill-judging World? Let that
World be ignorant of them, and our joys become divine and
blameless! Unnatural were your vows of Celibacy; Man was not
created for such a state; And were Love a crime, God never would
have made it so sweet, so irresistible! Then banish those clouds
from your brow, my Ambrosio! Indulge in those pleasures freely,
without which life is a worthless gift: Cease to reproach me
with having taught you what is bliss, and feel equal transports
with the Woman who adores you!'
As She spoke, her eyes were filled with a delicious languor. Her
bosom panted: She twined her arms voluptuously round him, drew
him towards her, and glewed her lips to his. Ambrosio again
raged with desire: The die was thrown: His vows were already
broken; He had already committed the crime, and why should He
refrain from enjoying its reward? He clasped her to his breast
with redoubled ardour. No longer repressed by the sense of
shame, He gave a loose to his intemperate appetites. While the
fair Wanton put every invention of lust in practice, every
refinement in the art of pleasure which might heighten the bliss
of her possession, and render her Lover's transports still more
exquisite, Ambrosio rioted in delights till then unknown to him:
Swift fled the night, and the Morning blushed to behold him still
clasped in the embraces of Matilda.
Intoxicated with pleasure, the Monk rose from the Syren's
luxurious Couch. He no longer reflected with shame upon his
incontinence, or dreaded the vengeance of offended heaven. His
only fear was lest Death should rob him of enjoyments, for which
his long Fast had only given a keener edge to his appetite.
Matilda was still under the influence of poison, and the
voluptuous Monk trembled less for his Preserver's life than his
Concubine's. Deprived of her, He would not easily find another
Mistress with whom He could indulge his passions so fully, and
so safely. He therefore pressed her with earnestness to use the
means of preservation which She had declared to be in her
'Yes!' replied Matilda; 'Since you have made me feel that Life is
valuable, I will rescue mine at any rate. No dangers shall
appall me: I will look upon the consequences of my action
boldly, nor shudder at the horrors which they present. I will
think my sacrifice scarcely worthy to purchase your possession,
and remember that a moment past in your arms in this world
o'er-pays an age of punishment in the next. But before I take
this step, Ambrosio, give me your solemn oath never to enquire
by what means I shall preserve myself.'
He did so in a manner the most binding.
'I thank you, my Beloved. This precaution is necessary, for
though you know it not, you are under the command of vulgar
prejudices: The Business on which I must be employed this night,
might startle you from its singularity, and lower me in your
opinion. Tell me; Are you possessed of the Key of the low door
on the western side of the Garden?'
'The Door which opens into the burying-ground common to us and
the Sisterhood of St. Clare? I have not the Key, but can easily
procure it.'
'You have only this to do. Admit me into the burying-ground at
midnight; Watch while I descend into the vaults of St. Clare,
lest some prying eye should observe my actions; Leave me there
alone for an hour, and that life is safe which I dedicate to
your pleasures. To prevent creating suspicion, do not visit me
during the day. Remember the Key, and that I expect you before
twelve. Hark! I hear steps approaching! Leave me; I will
pretend to sleep.'
The Friar obeyed, and left the Cell. As He opened the door,
Father Pablos made his appearance.
'I come,' said the Latter, 'to enquire after the health of my
young Patient.'
'Hush!' replied Ambrosio, laying his finger upon his lip; 'Speak
softly; I am just come from him. He has fallen into a profound
slumber, which doubtless will be of service to him. Do not
disturb him at present, for He wishes to repose.'
Father Pablos obeyed, and hearing the Bell ring, accompanied the
Abbot to Matins. Ambrosio felt embarrassed as He entered the
Chapel. Guilt was new to him, and He fancied that every eye
could read the transactions of the night upon his countenance.
He strove to pray; His bosom no longer glowed with devotion; His
thoughts insensibly wandered to Matilda's secret charms. But
what He wanted in purity of heart, He supplied by exterior
sanctity. The better to cloak his transgression, He redoubled
his pretensions to the semblance of virtue, and never appeared
more devoted to Heaven as since He had broken through his
engagements. Thus did He unconsciously add Hypocrisy to perjury
and incontinence; He had fallen into the latter errors from
yielding to seduction almost irresistible; But he was now guilty
of a voluntary fault by endeavouring to conceal those into which
Another had betrayed him.
The Matins concluded, Ambrosio retired to his Cell. The
pleasures which He had just tasted for the first time were still
impressed upon his mind. His brain was bewildered, and presented
a confused Chaos of remorse, voluptuousness, inquietude, and
fear. He looked back with regret to that peace of soul, that
security of virtue, which till then had been his portion. He had
indulged in excesses whose very idea but four and twenty hours
before He had recoiled at with horror. He shuddered at
reflecting that a trifling indiscretion on his part, or on
Matilda's, would overturn that fabric of reputation which it had
cost him thirty years to erect, and render him the abhorrence of
that People of whom He was then the Idol. Conscience painted to
him in glaring colours his perjury and weakness; Apprehension
magnified to him the horrors of punishment, and He already
fancied himself in the prisons of the Inquisition. To these
tormenting ideas succeeded Matilda's beauty, and those delicious
lessons which, once learnt, can never be forgotten. A single
glance thrown upon these reconciled him with himself. He
considered the pleasures of the former night to have been
purchased at an easy price by the sacrifice of innocence and
honour. Their very remembrance filled his soul with ecstacy; He
cursed his foolish vanity, which had induced him to waste in
obscurity the bloom of life, ignorant of the blessings of Love
and Woman. He determined at all events to continue his commerce
with Matilda, and called every argument to his aid which might
confirm his resolution. He asked himself, provided his
irregularity was unknown, in what would his fault consist, and
what consequences He had to apprehend? By adhering strictly to
every rule of his order save Chastity, He doubted not to retain
the esteem of Men, and even the protection of heaven. He trusted
easily to be forgiven so slight and natural a deviation from his
vows: But He forgot that having pronounced those vows,
Incontinence, in Laymen the most venial of errors, became in his
person the most heinous of crimes.
Once decided upon his future conduct, his mind became more easy.
He threw himself upon his bed, and strove by sleeping to recruit
his strength exhausted by his nocturnal excesses. He awoke
refreshed, and eager for a repetition of his pleasures. Obedient
to Matilda's order, He visited not her Cell during the day.
Father Pablos mentioned in the Refectory that Rosario had at
length been prevailed upon to follow his prescription; But that
the medicine had not produced the slightest effect, and that He
believed no mortal skill could rescue him from the Grave. With
this opinion the Abbot agreed, and affected to lament the
untimely fate of a Youth, whose talents had appeared so
The night arrived. Ambrosio had taken care to procure from the
Porter the Key of the low door opening into the Cemetery.
Furnished with this, when all was silent in the Monastery, He
quitted his Cell, and hastened to Matilda's. She had left her
bed, and was drest before his arrival.
'I have been expecting you with impatience,' said She; 'My life
depends upon these moments. Have you the Key?'
'I have.'
'Away then to the garden. We have no time to lose. Follow me!'
She took a small covered Basket from the Table. Bearing this in
one hand, and the Lamp, which was flaming upon the Hearth, in the
other, She hastened from the Cell. Ambrosio followed her. Both
maintained a profound silence. She moved on with quick but
cautious steps, passed through the Cloisters, and reached the
Western side of the Garden. Her eyes flashed with a fire and
wildness which impressed the Monk at once with awe and horror.
A determined desperate courage reigned upon her brow. She gave
the Lamp to Ambrosio; Then taking from him the Key, She unlocked
the low Door, and entered the Cemetery. It was a vast and
spacious Square planted with yew trees: Half of it belonged to
the Abbey; The other half was the property of the Sisterhood of
St. Clare, and was protected by a roof of Stone. The Division
was marked by an iron railing, the wicket of which was generally
left unlocked.
Thither Matilda bent her course. She opened the wicket and
sought for the door leading to the subterraneous Vaults, where
reposed the mouldering Bodies of the Votaries of St. Clare. The
night was perfectly dark; Neither Moon or Stars were visible.
Luckily there was not a breath of Wind, and the Friar bore his
Lamp in full security: By the assistance of its beams, the door
of the Sepulchre was soon discovered. It was sunk within the
hollow of a wall, and almost concealed by thick festoons of ivy
hanging over it. Three steps of rough-hewn Stone conducted to
it, and Matilda was on the point of descending them when She
suddenly started back.
'There are People in the Vaults!' She whispered to the Monk;
'Conceal yourself till they are past.
She took refuge behind a lofty and magnificent Tomb, erected in
honour of the Convent's Foundress. Ambrosio followed her
example, carefully hiding his Lamp lest its beams should betray
them. But a few moments had elapsed when the Door was pushed
open leading to the subterraneous Caverns. Rays of light
proceeded up the Staircase: They enabled the concealed
Spectators to observe two Females drest in religious habits, who
seemed engaged in earnest conversation. The Abbot had no
difficulty to recognize the Prioress of St. Clare in the first,
and one of the elder Nuns in her Companion.
'Every thing is prepared,' said the Prioress; 'Her fate shall be
decided tomorrow. All her tears and sighs will be unavailing.
No! In five and twenty years that I have been Superior of this
Convent, never did I witness a transaction more infamous!'
'You must expect much opposition to your will;' the Other replied
in a milder voice; 'Agnes has many Friends in the Convent, and in
particular the Mother St. Ursula will espouse her cause most
warmly. In truth, She merits to have Friends; and I wish I
could prevail upon you to consider her youth, and her peculiar
situation. She seems sensible of her fault; The excess of her
grief proves her penitence, and I am convinced that her tears
flow more from contrition than fear of punishment. Reverend
Mother, would you be persuaded to mitigate the severity of your
sentence, would you but deign to overlook this first
transgression, I offer myself as the pledge of her future
'Overlook it, say you? Mother Camilla, you amaze me! What?
After disgracing me in the presence of Madrid's Idol, of the very
Man on whom I most wished to impress an idea of the strictness of
my discipline? How despicable must I have appeared to the
reverend Abbot! No, Mother, No! I never can forgive the insult.
I cannot better convince Ambrosio that I abhor such crimes, than
by punishing that of Agnes with all the rigour of which our
severe laws admit. Cease then your supplications; They will all
be unavailing. My resolution is taken: Tomorrow Agnes shall be
made a terrible example of my justice and resentment.'
The Mother Camilla seemed not to give up the point, but by this
time the Nuns were out of hearing. The Prioress unlocked the
door which communicated with St. Clare's Chapel, and having
entered with her Companion, closed it again after them.
Matilda now asked, who was this Agnes with whom the Prioress was
thus incensed, and what connexion She could have with Ambrosio.
He related her adventure; and He added, that since that time his
ideas having undergone a thorough revolution, He now felt much
compassion for the unfortunate Nun.
'I design,' said He, 'to request an audience of the Domina
tomorrow, and use every means of obtaining a mitigation of her
'Beware of what you do!' interrupted Matilda; 'Your sudden change
of sentiment may naturally create surprize, and may give birth to
suspicions which it is most our interest to avoid. Rather,
redouble your outward austerity, and thunder out menaces against
the errors of others, the better to conceal your own. Abandon
the Nun to her fate. Your interfering might be dangerous, and
her imprudence merits to be punished: She is unworthy to enjoy
Love's pleasures, who has not wit enough to conceal them. But in
discussing this trifling subject I waste moments which are
precious. The night flies apace, and much must be done before
morning. The Nuns are retired; All is safe. Give me the Lamp,
Ambrosio. I must descend alone into these Caverns: Wait here,
and if any one approaches, warn me by your voice; But as you
value your existence, presume not to follow me. Your life would
fall a victim to your imprudent curiosity.'
Thus saying She advanced towards the Sepulchre, still holding her
Lamp in one hand, and her little Basket in the other. She
touched the door: It turned slowly upon its grating hinges, and
a narrow winding staircase of black marble presented itself to
her eyes. She descended it. Ambrosio remained above, watching
the faint beams of the Lamp as they still proceeded up the
stairs. They disappeared, and He found himself in total
Left to himself He could not reflect without surprize on the
sudden change in Matilda's character and sentiments. But a few
days had past since She appeared the mildest and softest of her
sex, devoted to his will, and looking up to him as to a superior
Being. Now She assumed a sort of courage and manliness in her
manners and discourse but ill-calculated to please him. She
spoke no longer to insinuate, but command: He found himself
unable to cope with her in argument, and was unwillingly
obliged to confess the superiority of her judgment. Every moment
convinced him of the astonishing powers of her mind: But what
She gained in the opinion of the Man, She lost with interest in
the affection of the Lover. He regretted Rosario, the fond, the
gentle, and submissive: He grieved that Matilda preferred the
virtues of his sex to those of her own; and when He thought of
her expressions respecting the devoted Nun, He could not help
blaming them as cruel and unfeminine. Pity is a sentiment so
natural, so appropriate to the female character, that it is
scarcely a merit for a Woman to possess it, but to be without it
is a grievous crime. Ambrosio could not easily forgive his
Mistress for being deficient in this amiable quality. However,
though he blamed her insensibility, He felt the truth of her
observations; and though He pitied sincerely the unfortunate
Agnes, He resolved to drop the idea of interposing in her behalf.
Near an hour had elapsed, since Matilda descended into the
Caverns; Still She returned not. Ambrosio's curiosity was
excited. He drew near the Staircase. He listened. All was
silent, except that at intervals He caught the sound of Matilda's
voice, as it wound along the subteraneous passages, and was
re-echoed by the Sepulchre's vaulted roofs. She was at too great
a distance for him to distinguish her words, and ere they reached
him they were deadened into a low murmur. He longed to penetrate
into this mystery. He resolved to disobey her injunctions and
follow her into the Cavern. He advanced to the Staircase; He
had already descended some steps when his courage failed him.
He remembered Matilda's menaces if He infringed her orders, and
his bosom was filled with a secret unaccountable awe. He
returned up the stairs, resumed his former station, and waited
impatiently for the conclusion of this adventure.
Suddenly He was sensible of a violent shock: An earthquake
rocked the ground. The Columns which supported the roof under
which He stood were so strongly shaken, that every moment
menaced him with its fall, and at the same moment He heard a loud
and tremendous burst of thunder. It ceased, and his eyes being
fixed upon the Staircase, He saw a bright column of light flash
along the Caverns beneath. It was seen but for an instant. No
sooner did it disappear, than all was once more quiet and
obscure. Profound Darkness again surrounded him, and the silence
of night was only broken by the whirring Bat, as She flitted
slowly by him.
With every instant Ambrosio's amazement increased. Another hour
elapsed, after which the same light again appeared and was lost
again as suddenly. It was accompanied by a strain of sweet but
solemn Music, which as it stole through the Vaults below,
inspired the Monk with mingled delight and terror. It had not
long been hushed, when He heard Matilda's steps upon the
Staircase. She ascended from the Cavern; The most lively joy
animated her beautiful features.
'Did you see any thing?' She asked.
'Twice I saw a column of light flash up the Staircase.'
'Nothing else?'
'The Morning is on the point of breaking. Let us retire to the
Abbey, lest daylight should betray us.'
With a light step She hastened from the burying-ground. She
regained her Cell, and the curious Abbot still accompanied her.
She closed the door, and disembarrassed herself of her Lamp and
'I have succeeded!' She cried, throwing herself upon his bosom:
'Succeeded beyond my fondest hopes! I shall live, Ambrosio,
shall live for you! The step which I shuddered at taking
proves to me a source of joys inexpressible! Oh! that I dared
communicate those joys to you! Oh! that I were permitted to
share with you my power, and raise you as high above the level of
your sex, as one bold deed has exalted me above mine!'
'And what prevents you, Matilda?' interrupted the Friar; 'Why is
your business in the Cavern made a secret? Do you think me
undeserving of your confidence? Matilda, I must doubt the truth
of your affection, while you have joys in which I am forbidden to
'You reproach me with injustice. I grieve sincerely that I am
obliged to conceal from you my happiness. But I am not to blame:
The fault lies not in me, but in yourself, my Ambrosio! You are
still too much the Monk. Your mind is enslaved by the prejudices
of Education; And Superstition might make you shudder at the idea
of that which experience has taught me to prize and value. At
present you are unfit to be trusted with a secret of such
importance: But the strength of your judgment; and the curiosity
which I rejoice to see sparkling in your eyes, makes me hope
that you will one day deserve my confidence. Till that period
arrives, restrain your impatience. Remember that you have given
me your solemn oath never to enquire into this night's
adventures. I insist upon your keeping this oath: For though'
She added smiling, while She sealed his lips with a wanton kiss;
'Though I forgive your breaking your vows to heaven, I expect you
to keep your vows to me.'
The Friar returned the embrace which had set his blood on fire.
The luxurious and unbounded excesses of the former night were
renewed, and they separated not till the Bell rang for Matins.
The same pleasures were frequently repeated. The Monks rejoiced
in the feigned Rosario's unexpected recovery, and none of them
suspected his real sex. The Abbot possessed his Mistress in
tranquillity, and perceiving his frailty unsuspected, abandoned
himself to his passions in full security. Shame and remorse no
longer tormented him. Frequent repetitions made him familiar
with sin, and his bosom became proof against the stings of
Conscience. In these sentiments He was encouraged by Matilda;
But She soon was aware that She had satiated her Lover by the
unbounded freedom of her caresses. Her charms becoming
accustomed to him, they ceased to excite the same desires which
at first they had inspired. The delirium of passion being past,
He had leisure to observe every trifling defect: Where none were
to be found, Satiety made him fancy them. The Monk was glutted
with the fullness of pleasure: A Week had scarcely elapsed
before He was wearied of his Paramour: His warm constitution
still made him seek in her arms the gratification of his lust:
But when the moment of passion was over, He quitted her with
disgust, and his humour, naturally inconstant, made him sigh
impatiently for variety.
Possession, which cloys Man, only increases the affection of
Woman. Matilda with every succeeding day grew more attached to
the Friar. Since He had obtained her favours, He was become
dearer to her than ever, and She felt grateful to him for the
pleasures in which they had equally been Sharers. Unfortunately
as her passion grew ardent, Ambrosio's grew cold; The very marks
of her fondness excited his disgust, and its excess served to
extinguish the flame which already burned but feebly in his
bosom. Matilda could not but remark that her society seemed to
him daily less agreeable: He was inattentive while She spoke:
her musical talents, which She possessed in perfection, had lost
the power of amusing him; Or if He deigned to praise them, his
compliments were evidently forced and cold. He no longer gazed
upon her with affection, or applauded her sentiments with a
Lover's partiality. This Matilda well perceived, and redoubled
her efforts to revive those sentiments which He once had felt.
She could not but fail, since He considered as importunities the
pains which She took to please him, and was disgusted by the very
means which She used to recall the Wanderer. Still, however,
their illicit Commerce continued: But it was clear that He was
led to her arms, not by love, but the cravings of brutal
appetite. His constitution made a Woman necessary to him, and
Matilda was the only one with whom He could indulge his passions
safely: In spite of her beauty, He gazed upon every other Female
with more desire; But fearing that his Hypocrisy should be made
public, He confined his inclinations to his own breast.
It was by no means his nature to be timid: But his education had
impressed his mind with fear so strongly, that apprehension was
now become part of his character. Had his Youth been passed in
the world, He would have shown himself possessed of many
brilliant and manly qualities. He was naturally enterprizing,
firm, and fearless: He had a Warrior's heart, and He might have
shone with splendour at the head of an Army. There was no want
of generosity in his nature: The Wretched never failed to find
in him a compassionate Auditor: His abilities were quick and
shining, and his judgment, vast, solid, and decisive. With such
qualifications He would have been an ornament to his Country:
That He possessed them, He had given proofs in his earliest
infancy, and his Parents had beheld his dawning virtues with the
fondest delight and admiration. Unfortunately, while yet a Child
He was deprived of those Parents. He fell into the power of a
Relation whose only wish about him was never to hear of him
more; For that purpose He gave him in charge to his Friend, the
former Superior of the Capuchins. The Abbot, a very Monk, used
all his endeavours to persuade the Boy that happiness existed
not without the walls of a Convent. He succeeded fully. To
deserve admittance into the order of St. Francis was Ambrosio's
highest ambition. His Instructors carefully repressed those
virtues whose grandeur and disinterestedness were ill-suited to
the Cloister. Instead of universal benevolence, He adopted a
selfish partiality for his own particular establishment: He was
taught to consider compassion for the errors of Others as a crime
of the blackest dye: The noble frankness of his temper was
exchanged for servile humility; and in order to break his natural
spirit, the Monks terrified his young mind by placing before him
all the horrors with which Superstition could furnish them: They
painted to him the torments of the Damned in colours the most
dark, terrible, and fantastic, and threatened him at the
slightest fault with eternal perdition. No wonder that his
imagination constantly dwelling upon these fearful objects should
have rendered his character timid and apprehensive. Add to this,
that his long absence from the great world, and total
unacquaintance with the common dangers of life, made him form of
them an idea far more dismal than the reality. While the Monks
were busied in rooting out his virtues and narrowing his
sentiments, they allowed every vice which had fallen to his
share to arrive at full perfection. He was suffered to be
proud, vain, ambitious, and disdainful: He was jealous of his
Equals, and despised all merit but his own: He was implacable
when offended, and cruel in his revenge. Still in spite of the
pains taken to pervert them, his natural good qualities would
occasionally break through the gloom cast over them so carefully:
At such times the contest for superiority between his real and
acquired character was striking and unaccountable to those
unacquainted with his original disposition. He pronounced the
most severe sentences upon Offenders, which, the moment after,
Compassion induced him to mitigate: He undertook the most daring
enterprizes, which the fear of their consequences soon obliged
him to abandon: His inborn genius darted a brilliant light upon
subjects the most obscure; and almost instantaneously his
Superstition replunged them in darkness more profound than that
from which they had just been rescued. His Brother Monks,
regarding him as a Superior Being, remarked not this
contradiction in their Idol's conduct. They were persuaded that
what He did must be right, and supposed him to have good reasons
for changing his resolutions. The fact was, that the different
sentiments with which Education and Nature had inspired him
were combating in his bosom: It remained for his passions, which
as yet no opportunity had called into play, to decide the
victory. Unfortunately his passions were the very worst Judges,
to whom He could possibly have applied. His monastic seclusion
had till now been in his favour, since it gave him no room for
discovering his bad qualities. The superiority of his talents
raised him too far above his Companions to permit his being
jealous of them: His exemplary piety, persuasive eloquence, and
pleasing manners had secured him universal Esteem, and
consequently He had no injuries to revenge: His Ambition was
justified by his acknowledged merit, and his pride considered as
no more than proper confidence. He never saw, much less
conversed with, the other sex: He was ignorant of the pleasures
in Woman's power to bestow, and if He read in the course of his
'That Men were fond, He smiled, and wondered how!'
For a time, spare diet, frequent watching, and severe penance
cooled and represt the natural warmth of his constitution: But
no sooner did opportunity present itself, no sooner did He catch
a glimpse of joys to which He was still a Stranger, than
Religion's barriers were too feeble to resist the overwhelming
torrent of his desires. All impediments yielded before the force
of his temperament, warm, sanguine, and voluptuous in the excess.
As yet his other passions lay dormant; But they only needed to be
once awakened, to display themselves with violence as great and
He continued to be the admiration of Madrid. The Enthusiasm
created by his eloquence seemed rather to increase than diminish.
Every Thursday, which was the only day when He appeared in
public, the Capuchin Cathedral was crowded with Auditors, and
his discourse was always received with the same approbation. He
was named Confessor to all the chief families in Madrid; and no
one was counted fashionable who was injoined penance by any
other than Ambrosio. In his resolution of never stirring out of
his Convent, He still persisted. This circumstance created a
still greater opinion of his sanctity and self-denial. Above
all, the Women sang forth his praises loudly, less influenced by
devotion than by his noble countenance, majestic air, and
well-turned, graceful figure. The Abbey door was thronged with
Carriages from morning to night; and the noblest and fairest
Dames of Madrid confessed to the Abbot their secret peccadilloes.
The eyes of the luxurious Friar devoured their charms: Had his
Penitents consulted those Interpreters, He would have needed no
other means of expressing his desires. For his misfortune, they
were so strongly persuaded of his continence, that the
possibility of his harbouring indecent thoughts never once
entered their imaginations. The climate's heat, 'tis well known,
operates with no small influence upon the constitutions of the
Spanish Ladies: But the most abandoned would have thought it an
easier task to inspire with passion the marble Statue of St.
Francis than the cold and rigid heart of the immaculate Ambrosio.
On his part, the Friar was little acquainted with the depravity
of the world; He suspected not that but few of his Penitents
would have rejected his addresses. Yet had He been better
instructed on this head, the danger attending such an attempt
would have sealed up his lips in silence. He knew that it would
be difficult for a Woman to keep a secret so strange and so
important as his frailty; and He even trembled lest Matilda
should betray him. Anxious to preserve a reputation which was
infinitely dear to him, He saw all the risque of committing it to
the power of some vain giddy Female; and as the Beauties of
Madrid affected only his senses without touching his heart, He
forgot them as soon as they were out of his sight. The danger of
discovery, the fear of being repulsed, the loss of reputation,
all these considerations counselled him to stifle his desires:
And though He now felt for it the most perfect indifference, He
was necessitated to confine himself to Matilda's person.
One morning, the confluence of Penitents was greater than usual.
He was detained in the Confessional Chair till a late hour. At
length the crowd was dispatched, and He prepared to quit the
Chapel, when two Females entered and drew near him with
humility. They threw up their veils, and the youngest entreated
him to listen to her for a few moments. The melody of her voice,
of that voice to which no Man ever listened without interest,
immediately caught Ambrosio's attention. He stopped. The
Petitioner seemed bowed down with affliction: Her cheeks were
pale, her eyes dimmed with tears, and her hair fell in disorder
over her face and bosom. Still her countenance was so sweet, so
innocent, so heavenly, as might have charmed an heart less
susceptible, than that which panted in the Abbot's breast. With
more than usual softness of manner He desired her to proceed, and
heard her speak as follows with an emotion which increased every
'Reverend Father, you see an Unfortunate, threatened with the
loss of her dearest, of almost her only Friend! My Mother, my
excellent Mother lies upon the bed of sickness. A sudden and
dreadful malady seized her last night; and so rapid has been its
progress, that the Physicians despair of her life. Human aid
fails me; Nothing remains for me but to implore the mercy of
Heaven. Father, all Madrid rings with the report of your piety
and virtue. Deign to remember my Mother in your prayers:
Perhaps they may prevail on the Almighty to spare her; and should
that be the case, I engage myself every Thursday in the next
three Months to illuminate the Shrine of St. Francis in his
'So!' thought the Monk; 'Here we have a second Vincentio della
Ronda. Rosario's adventure began thus,' and He wished secretly
that this might have the same conclusion.
He acceded to the request. The Petitioner returned him thanks
with every mark of gratitude, and then continued.
'I have yet another favour to ask. We are Strangers in Madrid;
My Mother needs a Confessor, and knows not to whom She should
apply. We understand that you never quit the Abbey, and Alas! my
poor Mother is unable to come hither! If you would have the
goodness, reverend Father, to name a proper person, whose wise
and pious consolations may soften the agonies of my Parent's
deathbed, you will confer an everlasting favour upon hearts not
With this petition also the Monk complied. Indeed, what petition
would He have refused, if urged in such enchanting accents? The
suppliant was so interesting! Her voice was so sweet, so
harmonious! Her very tears became her, and her affliction seemed
to add new lustre to her charms. He promised to send to her a
Confessor that same Evening, and begged her to leave her address.
The Companion presented him with a Card on which it was written,
and then withdrew with the fair Petitioner, who pronounced
before her departure a thousand benedictions on the Abbot's
goodness. His eyes followed her out of the Chapel. It was not
till She was out of sight that He examined the Card, on which He
read the following words.
'Donna Elvira Dalfa, Strada di San Iago, four doors from the
Palace d'Albornos.'
The Suppliant was no other than Antonia, and Leonella was her
Companion. The Latter had not consented without difficulty to
accompany her Niece to the Abbey: Ambrosio had inspired her with
such awe that She trembled at the very sight of him. Her fears
had conquered even her natural loquacity, and while in his
presence She uttered not a single syllable.
The Monk retired to his Cell, whither He was pursued by Antonia's
image. He felt a thousand new emotions springing in his bosom,
and He trembled to examine into the cause which gave them birth.
They were totally different from those inspired by Matilda, when
She first declared her sex and her affection. He felt not the
provocation of lust; No voluptuous desires rioted in his bosom;
Nor did a burning imagination picture to him the charms which
Modesty had veiled from his eyes. On the contrary, what He now
felt was a mingled sentiment of tenderness, admiration, and
respect. A soft and delicious melancholy infused itself into his
soul, and He would not have exchanged it for the most lively
transports of joy. Society now disgusted him: He delighted in
solitude, which permitted his indulging the visions of Fancy:
His thoughts were all gentle, sad, and soothing, and the whole
wide world presented him with no other object than Antonia.
'Happy Man!' He exclaimed in his romantic enthusiasm; 'Happy Man,
who is destined to possess the heart of that lovely Girl! What
delicacy in her features! What elegance in her form! How
enchanting was the timid innocence of her eyes, and how different
from the wanton expression, the wild luxurious fire which
sparkles in Matilda's! Oh! sweeter must one kiss be snatched
from the rosy lips of the First, than all the full and lustful
favours bestowed so freely by the Second. Matilda gluts me with
enjoyment even to loathing, forces me to her arms, apes the
Harlot, and glories in her prostitution. Disgusting! Did She
know the inexpressible charm of Modesty, how irresistibly it
enthralls the heart of Man, how firmly it chains him to the
Throne of Beauty, She never would have thrown it off. What would
be too dear a price for this lovely Girl's affections? What
would I refuse to sacrifice, could I be released from my vows,
and permitted to declare my love in the sight of earth and
heaven? While I strove to inspire her with tenderness, with
friendship and esteem, how tranquil and undisturbed would the
hours roll away! Gracious God! To see her blue downcast eyes
beam upon mine with timid fondness! To sit for days, for years
listening to that gentle voice! To acquire the right of obliging
her, and hear the artless expressions of her gratitude! To watch
the emotions of her spotless heart! To encourage each dawning
virtue! To share in her joy when happy, to kiss away her tears
when distrest, and to see her fly to my arms for comfort and
support! Yes; If there is perfect bliss on earth, 'tis his lot
alone, who becomes that Angel's Husband.'
While his fancy coined these ideas, He paced his Cell with a
disordered air. His eyes were fixed upon vacancy: His head
reclined upon his shoulder; A tear rolled down his cheek, while
He reflected that the vision of happiness for him could never be
'She is lost to me!' He continued; 'By marriage She cannot be
mine: And to seduce such innocence, to use the confidence
reposed in me to work her ruin. . . . Oh! it would be a crime,
blacker than yet the world ever witnessed! Fear not, lovely
Girl! Your virtue runs no risque from me. Not for Indies would
I make that gentle bosom know the tortures of remorse.'
Again He paced his chamber hastily. Then stopping, his eye fell
upon the picture of his once-admired Madona. He tore it with
indignation from the wall: He threw it on the ground, and
spurned it from him with his foot.
'The Prostitute!'
Unfortunate Matilda! Her Paramour forgot that for his sake alone
She had forfeited her claim to virtue; and his only reason for
despising her was that She had loved him much too well.
He threw himself into a Chair which stood near the Table. He
saw the card with Elvira's address. He took it up, and it
brought to his recollection his promise respecting a Confessor.
He passed a few minutes in doubt: But Antonia's Empire over him
was already too much decided to permit his making a long
resistance to the idea which struck him. He resolved to be the
Confessor himself. He could leave the Abbey unobserved without
difficulty: By wrapping up his head in his Cowl He hoped to pass
through the Streets without being recognised: By taking these
precautions, and by recommending secrecy to Elvira's family, He
doubted not to keep Madrid in ignorance that He had broken his
vow never to see the outside of the Abbey walls. Matilda was the
only person whose vigilance He dreaded: But by informing her at
the Refectory that during the whole of that day, Business would
confine him to his Cell, He thought himself secure from her
wakeful jealousy. Accordingly, at the hours when the Spaniards
are generally taking their Siesta, He ventured to quit the Abbey
by a private door, the Key of which was in his possession. The
Cowl of his habit was thrown over his face: From the heat of the
weather the Streets were almost totally deserted: The Monk met
with few people, found the Strada di San Iago, and arrived
without accident at Donna Elvira's door. He rang, was admitted,
and immediately ushered into an upper apartment.
It was here that He ran the greatest risque of a discovery. Had
Leonella been at home, She would have recognized him directly:
Her communicative disposition would never have permitted her to
rest till all Madrid was informed that Ambrosio had ventured out
of the Abbey, and visited her Sister. Fortune here stood the
Monk's Friend. On Leonella's return home, She found a letter
instructing her that a Cousin was just dead, who had left what
little He possessed between Herself and Elvira. To secure this
bequest She was obliged to set out for Cordova without losing a
moment. Amidst all her foibles her heart was truly warm and
affectionate, and She was unwilling to quit her Sister in so
dangerous a state. But Elvira insisted upon her taking the
journey, conscious that in her Daughter's forlorn situation no
increase of fortune, however trifling, ought to be neglected.
Accordingly, Leonella left Madrid, sincerely grieved at her
Sister's illness, and giving some few sighs to the memory of the
amiable but inconstant Don Christoval. She was fully persuaded
that at first She had made a terrible breach in his heart: But
hearing nothing more of him, She supposed that He had quitted the
pursuit, disgusted by the lowness of her origin, and knowing upon
other terms than marriage He had nothing to hope from such a
Dragon of Virtue as She professed herself; Or else, that being
naturally capricious and changeable, the remembrance of her
charms had been effaced from the Conde's heart by those of some
newer Beauty. Whatever was the cause of her losing him, She
lamented it sorely. She strove in vain, as She assured every
body who was kind enough to listen to her, to tear his image from
her too susceptible heart. She affected the airs of a lovesick
Virgin, and carried them all to the most ridiculous excess. She
heaved lamentable sighs, walked with her arms folded, uttered
long soliloquies, and her discourse generally turned upon some
forsaken Maid who expired of a broken heart! Her fiery locks
were always ornamented with a garland of willow; Every evening
She was seen straying upon the Banks of a rivulet by Moonlight;
and She declared herself a violent Admirer of murmuring Streams
and Nightingales;
'Of lonely haunts, and twilight Groves,
'Places which pale Passion loves!'
Such was the state of Leonella's mind, when obliged to quit
Madrid. Elvira was out of patience at all these follies, and
endeavoured at persuading her to act like a reasonable Woman.
Her advice was thrown away: Leonella assured her at parting that
nothing could make her forget the perfidious Don Christoval. In
this point She was fortunately mistaken. An honest Youth of
Cordova, Journeyman to an Apothecary, found that her fortune
would be sufficient to set him up in a genteel Shop of his own:
In consequence of this reflection He avowed himself her Admirer.
Leonella was not inflexible. The ardour of his sighs melted her
heart, and She soon consented to make him the happiest of
Mankind. She wrote to inform her Sister of her marriage; But,
for reasons which will be explained hereafter, Elvira never
answered her letter.
Ambrosio was conducted into the Antichamber to that where
Elvira was reposing. The Female Domestic who had admitted him
left him alone while She announced his arrival to her Mistress.
Antonia, who had been by her Mother's Bedside, immediately came
to him.
'Pardon me, Father,' said She, advancing towards him; when
recognizing his features, She stopped suddenly, and uttered a cry
of joy. 'Is it possible!' She continued;
'Do not my eyes deceive me? Has the worthy Ambrosio broken
through his resolution, that He may soften the agonies of the
best of Women? What pleasure will this visit give my Mother!
Let me not delay for a moment the comfort which your piety and
wisdom will afford her.'
Thus saying, She opened the chamber door, presented to her Mother
her distinguished Visitor, and having placed an armed-chair by
the side of the Bed, withdrew into another department.
Elvira was highly gratified by this visit: Her expectations had
been raised high by general report, but She found them far
exceeded. Ambrosio, endowed by nature with powers of pleasing,
exerted them to the utmost while conversing with Antonia's
Mother. With persuasive eloquence He calmed every fear, and
dissipated every scruple: He bad her reflect on the infinite
mercy of her Judge, despoiled Death of his darts and terrors, and
taught her to view without shrinking the abyss of eternity, on
whose brink She then stood. Elvira was absorbed in attention and
delight: While She listened to his exhortations, confidence and
comfort stole insensibly into her mind. She unbosomed to him
without hesitation her cares and apprehensions. The latter
respecting a future life He had already quieted: And He now
removed the former, which She felt for the concerns of this. She
trembled for Antonia. She had none to whose care She could
recommend her, save to the Marquis de las Cisternas and her
Sister Leonella. The protection of the One was very uncertain;
and as to the Other, though fond of her Niece, Leonella was so
thoughtless and vain as to make her an improper person to have
the sole direction of a Girl so young and ignorant of the World.
The Friar no sooner learnt the cause of her alarms than He
begged her to make herself easy upon that head. He doubted not
being able to secure for Antonia a safe refuge in the House of
one of his Penitents, the Marchioness of Villa-Franca: This was
a Lady of acknowledged virtue, remarkable for strict principles
and extensive charity. Should accident deprive her of this
resource, He engaged to procure Antonia a reception in some
respectable Convent: That is to say, in quality of boarder; for
Elvira had declared herself no Friend to a monastic life, and the
Monk was either candid or complaisant enough to allow that her
disapprobation was not unfounded.
These proofs of the interest which He felt for her completely
won Elvira's heart. In thanking him She exhausted every
expression which Gratitude could furnish, and protested that now
She should resign herself with tranquillity to the Grave.
Ambrosio rose to take leave: He promised to return the next day
at the same hour, but requested that his visits might be kept
'I am unwilling' said He, 'that my breaking through a rule
imposed by necessity should be generally known. Had I not
resolved never to quit my Convent, except upon circumstances as
urgent as that which has conducted me to your door, I should be
frequently summoned upon insignificant occasions: That time
would be engrossed by the Curious, the Unoccupied, and the
fanciful, which I now pass at the Bedside of the Sick, in
comforting the expiring Penitent, and clearing the passage to
Eternity from Thorns.'
Elvira commended equally his prudence and compassion, promising
to conceal carefully the honour of his visits. The Monk then
gave her his benediction, and retired from the chamber.
In the Antiroom He found Antonia: He could not refuse himself
the pleasure of passing a few moments in her society. He bad her
take comfort, for that her Mother seemed composed and tranquil,
and He hoped that She might yet do well. He enquired who
attended her, and engaged to send the Physician of his Convent to
see her, one of the most skilful in Madrid. He then launched out
in Elvira's commendation, praised her purity and fortitude of
mind, and declared that She had inspired him with the highest
esteem and reverence. Antonia's innocent heart swelled with
gratitude: Joy danced in her eyes, where a tear still sparkled.
The hopes which He gave her of her Mother's recovery, the lively
interest which He seemed to feel for her, and the flattering way
in which She was mentioned by him, added to the report of his
judgment and virtue, and to the impression made upon her by his
eloquence, confirmed the favourable opinion with which his first,
appearance had inspired Antonia. She replied with diffidence,
but without restraint: She feared not to relate to him all her
little sorrows, all her little fears and anxieties; and She
thanked him for his goodness with all the genuine warmth which
favours kindle in a young and innocent heart. Such alone know
how to estimate benefits at their full value. They who are
conscious of Mankind's perfidy and selfishness, ever receive an
obligation with apprehension and distrust: They suspect that
some secret motive must lurk behind it: They express their
thanks with restraint and caution, and fear to praise a kind
action to its full extent, aware that some future day a return
may be required. Not so Antonia; She thought the world was
composed only of those who resembled her, and that vice existed,
was to her still a secret. The Monk had been of service to her;
He said that He wished her well; She was grateful for his
kindness, and thought that no terms were strong enough to be the
vehicle of her thanks. With what delight did Ambrosio listen to
the declaration of her artless gratitude! The natural grace of
her manners, the unequalled sweetness of her voice, her modest
vivacity, her unstudied elegance, her expressive countenance, and
intelligent eyes united to inspire him with pleasure and
admiration, While the solidity and correctness of her remarks
received additional beauty from the unaffected simplicity of the
language in which they were conveyed.
Ambrosio was at length obliged to tear himself from this
conversation which possessed for him but too many charms. He
repeated to Antonia his wishes that his visits should not be
made known, which desire She promised to observe. He then
quitted the House, while his Enchantress hastened to her Mother,
ignorant of the mischief which her Beauty had caused. She was
eager to know Elvira's opinion of the Man whom She had praised in
such enthusiastic terms, and was delighted to find it equally
favourable, if not even more so, than her own.
'Even before He spoke,' said Elvira, 'I was prejudiced in his
favour: The fervour of his exhortations, dignity of his manner,
and closeness of his reasoning, were very far from inducing me to
alter my opinion. His fine and full-toned voice struck me
particularly; But surely, Antonia, I have heard it before. It
seemed perfectly familiar to my ear. Either I must have known
the Abbot in former times, or his voice bears a wonderful
resemblance to that of some other, to whom I have often listened.
There were certain tones which touched my very heart, and made me
feel sensations so singular, that I strive in vain to account for
'My dearest Mother, it produced the same effect upon me: Yet
certainly neither of us ever heard his voice till we came to
Madrid. I suspect that what we attribute to his voice, really
proceeds from his pleasant manners, which forbid our considering
him as a Stranger. I know not why, but I feel more at my ease
while conversing with him than I usually do with people who are
unknown to me. I feared not to repeat to him all my childish
thoughts; and somehow I felt confident that He would hear my
folly with indulgence. Oh! I was not deceived in him! He
listened to me with such an air of kindness and attention! He
answered me with such gentleness, such condescension! He did not
call me an Infant, and treat me with contempt, as our cross old
Confessor at the Castle used to do. I verily believe that if I
had lived in Murcia a thousand years, I never should have liked
that fat old Father Dominic!'
'I confess that Father Dominic had not the most pleasing manners
in the world; But He was honest, friendly, and well-meaning.'
'Ah! my dear Mother, those qualities are so common!'
'God grant, my Child, that Experience may not teach you to think
them rare and precious: I have found them but too much so! But
tell me, Antonia; Why is it impossible for me to have seen the
Abbot before?'
'Because since the moment when He entered the Abbey, He has never
been on the outside of its walls. He told me just now, that from
his ignorance of the Streets, He had some difficulty to find the
Strada di San Iago, though so near the Abbey.'
'All this is possible, and still I may have seen him BEFORE He
entered the Abbey: In order to come out, it was rather necessary
that He should first go in.'
'Holy Virgin! As you say, that is very true.--Oh! But might He
not have been born in the Abbey?'
Elvira smiled.
'Why, not very easily.'
'Stay, Stay! Now I recollect how it was. He was put into the
Abbey quite a Child; The common People say that He fell from
heaven, and was sent as a present to the Capuchins by the
'That was very kind of her. And so He fell from heaven, Antonia?
He must have had a terrible tumble.'
'Many do not credit this, and I fancy, my dear Mother, that I
must number you among the Unbelievers. Indeed, as our Landlady
told my Aunt, the general idea is that his Parents, being poor
and unable to maintain him, left him just born at the Abbey door.
The late Superior from pure charity had him educated in the
Convent, and He proved to be a model of virtue, and piety, and
learning, and I know not what else besides: In consequence, He
was first received as a Brother of the order, and not long ago
was chosen Abbot. However, whether this account or the other is
the true one, at least all agree that when the Monks took him
under their care, He could not speak: Therefore, you could not
have heard his voice before He entered the Monastery, because at
that time He had no voice at all.'
'Upon my word, Antonia, you argue very closely! Your conclusions
are infallible! I did not suspect you of being so able a
'Ah! You are mocking me! But so much the better. It delights me
to see you in spirits: Besides you seem tranquil and easy, and I
hope that you will have no more convulsions. Oh! I was sure the
Abbot's visit would do you good!'
'It has indeed done me good, my Child. He has quieted my mind
upon some points which agitated me, and I already feel the
effects of his attention. My eyes grow heavy, and I think I can
sleep a little. Draw the curtains, my Antonia: But if I should
not wake before midnight, do not sit up with me, I charge you.'
Antonia promised to obey her, and having received her blessing
drew the curtains of the Bed. She then seated herself in silence
at her embroidery frame, and beguiled the hours with building
Castles in the air. Her spirits were enlivened by the evident
change for the better in Elvira, and her fancy presented her with
visions bright and pleasing. In these dreams Ambrosio made no
despicable figure. She thought of him with joy and gratitude;
But for every idea which fell to the Friar's share, at least two
were unconsciously bestowed upon Lorenzo. Thus passed the time,
till the Bell in the neighbouring Steeple of the Capuchin
Cathedral announced the hour of midnight: Antonia remembered her
Mother's injunctions, and obeyed them, though with reluctance.
She undrew the curtains with caution. Elvira was enjoying a
profound and quiet slumber; Her cheek glowed with health's
returning colours: A smile declared that her dreams were
pleasant, and as Antonia bent over her, She fancied that She
heard her name pronounced. She kissed her Mother's forehead
softly, and retired to her chamber. There She knelt before a
Statue of St. Rosolia, her Patroness; She recommended herself to
the protection of heaven, and as had been her custom from
infancy, concluded her devotions by chaunting the following
Now all is hushed; The solemn chime
No longer swells the nightly gale:
Thy awful presence, Hour sublime,
With spotless heart once more I hail.
'Tis now the moment still and dread,
When Sorcerers use their baleful power;
When Graves give up their buried dead
To profit by the sanctioned hour:
From guilt and guilty thoughts secure,
To duty and devotion true,
With bosom light and conscience pure,
Repose, thy gentle aid I woo.
Good Angels, take my thanks, that still
The snares of vice I view with scorn;
Thanks, that to-night as free from ill
I sleep, as when I woke at morn.
Yet may not my unconscious breast
Harbour some guilt to me unknown?
Some wish impure, which unreprest
You blush to see, and I to own?
If such there be, in gentle dream
Instruct my feet to shun the snare;
Bid truth upon my errors beam,
And deign to make me still your care.
Chase from my peaceful bed away
The witching Spell, a foe to rest,
The nightly Goblin, wanton Fay,
The Ghost in pain, and Fiend unblest:
Let not the Tempter in mine ear
Pour lessons of unhallowed joy;
Let not the Night-mare, wandering near
My Couch, the calm of sleep destroy;
Let not some horrid dream affright
With strange fantastic forms mine eyes;
But rather bid some vision bright
Display the blissof yonder skies.
Show me the crystal Domes of Heaven,
The worlds of light where Angels lie;
Shew me the lot to Mortals given,
Who guiltless live, who guiltless die.
Then show me how a seat to gain
Amidst those blissful realms of
Air; Teach me to shun each guilty stain,
And guide me to the good and fair.
So every morn and night, my Voice
To heaven the grateful strain shall raise;
In You as Guardian Powers rejoice,
Good Angels, and exalt your praise:
So will I strive with zealous fire
Each vice to shun, each fault correct;
Will love the lessons you inspire,
And Prize the virtues you protect.
Then when at length by high command
My body seeks the Grave's repose,
When Death draws nigh with friendly hand
My failing Pilgrim eyes to close;
Pleased that my soul has 'scaped the wreck,
Sighless will I my life resign,
And yield to God my Spirit back,
As pure as when it first was mine.
Having finished her usual devotions, Antonia retired to bed.
Sleep soon stole over her senses; and for several hours She
enjoyed that calm repose which innocence alone can know, and for
which many a Monarch with pleasure would exchange his Crown.
----Ah! how dark
These long-extended realms and rueful wastes;
Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
Dark as was Chaos ere the Infant Sun
Was rolled together, or had tried its beams
Athwart the gloom profound!
The sickly Taper
By glimmering through thy low-browed misty vaults,
Furred round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime,
Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
And only serves to make
Thy night more irksome!
Returned undiscovered to the Abbey, Ambrosio's mind was filled
with the most pleasing images. He was wilfully blind to the
danger of exposing himself to Antonia's charms: He only
remembered the pleasure which her society had afforded him, and
rejoiced in the prospect of that pleasure being repeated. He
failed not to profit by Elvira's indisposition to obtain a sight
of her Daughter every day. At first He bounded his wishes to
inspire Antonia with friendship: But no sooner was He convinced
that She felt that sentiment in its fullest extent, than his aim
became more decided, and his attentions assumed a warmer colour.
The innocent familiarity with which She treated him, encouraged
his desires: Grown used to her modesty, it no longer commanded
the same respect and awe: He still admired it, but it only made
him more anxious to deprive her of that quality which formed her
principal charm. Warmth of passion, and natural penetration, of
which latter unfortunately both for himself and Antonia He
possessed an ample share, supplied a knowledge of the arts of
seduction. He easily distinguished the emotions which were
favourable to his designs, and seized every means with avidity of
infusing corruption into Antonia's bosom. This He found no easy
matter. Extreme simplicity prevented her from perceiving the aim
to which the Monk's insinuations tended; But the excellent morals
which She owed to Elvira's care, the solidity and correctness of
her understanding, and a strong sense of what was right implanted
in her heart by Nature, made her feel that his precepts must be
faulty. By a few simple words She frequently overthrew the whole
bulk of his sophistical arguments, and made him conscious how
weak they were when opposed to Virtue and Truth. On such
occasion He took refuge in his eloquence; He overpowered her
with a torrent of Philosophical paradoxes, to which, not
understanding them, it was impossible for her to reply; And thus
though He did not convince her that his reasoning was just, He at
least prevented her from discovering it to be false. He
perceived that her respect for his judgment augmented daily, and
doubted not with time to bring her to the point desired.
He was not unconscious that his attempts were highly criminal:
He saw clearly the baseness of seducing the innocent Girl: But
his passion was too violent to permit his abandoning his design.
He resolved to pursue it, let the consequences be what they
might. He depended upon finding Antonia in some unguarded
moment; And seeing no other Man admitted into her society, nor
hearing any mentioned either by her or by Elvira, He imagined
that her young heart was still unoccupied. While He waited for
the opportunity of satisfying his unwarrantable lust, every day
increased his coldness for Matilda. Not a little was this
occasioned by the consciousness of his faults to her. To hide
them from her He was not sufficiently master of himself: Yet He
dreaded lest, in a transport of jealous rage, She should betray
the secret on which his character and even his life depended.
Matilda could not but remark his indifference: He was conscious
that She remarked it, and fearing her reproaches, shunned her
studiously. Yet when He could not avoid her, her mildness might
have convinced him that He had nothing to dread from her
resentment. She had resumed the character of the gentle
interesting Rosario: She taxed him not with ingratitude; But her
eyes filled with involuntary tears, and the soft melancholy of
her countenance and voice uttered complaints far more touching
than words could have conveyed. Ambrosio was not unmoved by her
sorrow; But unable to remove its cause, He forbore to show that
it affected him. As her conduct convinced him that He needed not
fear her vengeance, He continued to neglect her, and avoided her
company with care. Matilda saw that She in vain attempted to
regain his affections: Yet She stifled the impulse of
resentment, and continued to treat her inconstant Lover with her
former fondness and attention.
By degrees Elvira's constitution recovered itself. She was no
longer troubled with convulsions, and Antonia ceased to tremble
for her Mother. Ambrosio beheld this reestablishment with
displeasure. He saw that Elvira's knowledge of the world would
not be the Dupe of his sanctified demeanour, and that She would
easily perceive his views upon her Daughter. He resolved
therefore, before She quitted her chamber, to try the extent of
his influence over the innocent Antonia.
One evening, when He had found Elvira almost perfectly restored
to health, He quitted her earlier than was his usual custom. Not
finding Antonia in the Antichamber, He ventured to follow her
to her own. It was only separated from her Mother's by a Closet,
in which Flora, the Waiting-Woman, generally slept. Antonia sat
upon a Sopha with her back towards the door, and read
attentively. She heard not his approach, till He had seated
himself by her. She started, and welcomed him with a look of
pleasure: Then rising, She would have conducted him to the
sitting-room; But Ambrosio taking her hand, obliged her by gentle
violence to resume her place. She complied without difficulty:
She knew not that there was more impropriety in conversing with
him in one room than another. She thought herself equally secure
of his principles and her own, and having replaced herself upon
the Sopha, She began to prattle to him with her usual ease and
He examined the Book which She had been reading, and had now
placed upon the Table. It was the Bible.
'How!' said the Friar to himself; 'Antonia reads the Bible, and
is still so ignorant?'
But, upon a further inspection, He found that Elvira had made
exactly the same remark. That prudent Mother, while She admired
the beauties of the sacred writings, was convinced that,
unrestricted, no reading more improper could be permitted a young
Woman. Many of the narratives can only tend to excite ideas the
worst calculated for a female breast: Every thing is called
plainly and roundly by its name; and the annals of a Brothel
would scarcely furnish a greater choice of indecent expressions.
Yet this is the Book which young Women are recommended to study;
which is put into the hands of Children, able to comprehend
little more than those passages of which they had better remain
ignorant; and which but too frequently inculcates the first
rudiments of vice, and gives the first alarm to the still
sleeping passions. Of this was Elvira so fully convinced, that
She would have preferred putting into her Daughter's hands
'Amadis de Gaul,' or 'The Valiant Champion, Tirante the
White;' and would sooner have authorised her studying the lewd
exploits of 'Don Galaor,' or the lascivious jokes of the
'Damsel Plazer di mi vida.' She had in consequence made two
resolutions respecting the Bible. The first was that Antonia
should not read it till She was of an age to feel its beauties,
and profit by its morality: The second, that it should be copied
out with her own hand, and all improper passages either altered
or omitted. She had adhered to this determination, and such was
the Bible which Antonia was reading: It had been lately
delivered to her, and She perused it with an avidity, with a
delight that was inexpressible. Ambrosio perceived his mistake,
and replaced the Book upon the Table.
Antonia spoke of her Mother's health with all the enthusiastic
joy of a youthful heart.
'I admire your filial affection,' said the Abbot; 'It proves the
excellence and sensibility of your character; It promises a
treasure to him whom Heaven has destined to possess your
affections. The Breast, so capable of fondness for a Parent,
what will it feel for a Lover? Nay, perhaps, what feels it for
one even now? Tell me, my lovely Daughter; Have you known what
it is to love? Answer me with sincerity: Forget my habit, and
consider me only as a Friend.'
'What it is to love?' said She, repeating his question; 'Oh! yes,
undoubtedly; I have loved many, many People.'
'That is not what I mean. The love of which I speak can be felt
only for one. Have you never seen the Man whom you wished to be
your Husband?'
'Oh! No, indeed!'
This was an untruth, but She was unconscious of its falsehood:
She knew not the nature of her sentiments for Lorenzo; and never
having seen him since his first visit to Elvira, with every day
his Image grew less feebly impressed upon her bosom. Besides,
She thought of an Husband with all a Virgin's terror, and
negatived the Friar's demand without a moment's hesitation.
'And do you not long to see that Man, Antonia? Do you feel no
void in your heart which you fain would have filled up? Do you
heave no sighs for the absence of some one dear to you, but who
that some one is, you know not? Perceive you not that what
formerly could please, has charms for you no longer? That a
thousand new wishes, new ideas, new sensations, have sprang in
your bosom, only to be felt, never to be described? Or while you
fill every other heart with passion, is it possible that your own
remains insensible and cold? It cannot be! That melting eye,
that blushing cheek, that enchanting voluptuous melancholy which
at times overspreads your features, all these marks belye your
words. You love, Antonia, and in vain would hide it from me.'
'Father, you amaze me! What is this love of which you speak? I
neither know its nature, nor if I felt it, why I should conceal
the sentiment.'
'Have you seen no Man, Antonia, whom though never seen before,
you seemed long to have sought? Whose form, though a Stranger's,
was familiar to your eyes? The sound of whose voice soothed you,
pleased you, penetrated to your very soul? In whose presence you
rejoiced, for whose absence you lamented? With whom your heart
seemed to expand, and in whose bosom with confidence unbounded
you reposed the cares of your own? Have you not felt all this,
'Certainly I have: The first time that I saw you, I felt it.'
Ambrosio started. Scarcely dared He credit his hearing.
'Me, Antonia?' He cried, his eyes sparkling with delight and
impatience, while He seized her hand, and pressed it rapturously
to his lips. 'Me, Antonia? You felt these sentiments for me?'
'Even with more strength than you have described. The very
moment that I beheld you, I felt so pleased, so interested! I
waited so eagerly to catch the sound of your voice, and when I
heard it, it seemed so sweet! It spoke to me a language till
then so unknown! Methought, it told me a thousand things which I
wished to hear! It seemed as if I had long known you; as if I
had a right to your friendship, your advice, and your protection.
I wept when you departed, and longed for the time which should
restore you to my sight.'
'Antonia! my charming Antonia!' exclaimed the Monk, and caught
her to his bosom; 'Can I believe my senses? Repeat it to me, my
sweet Girl! Tell me again that you love me, that you love me
truly and tenderly!'
'Indeed, I do: Let my Mother be excepted, and the world holds no
one more dear to me!'
At this frank avowal Ambrosio no longer possessed himself; Wild
with desire, He clasped the blushing Trembler in his arms. He
fastened his lips greedily upon hers, sucked in her pure
delicious breath, violated with his bold hand the treasures of
her bosom, and wound around him her soft and yielding limbs.
Startled, alarmed, and confused at his action, surprize at first
deprived her of the power of resistance. At length recovering
herself, She strove to escape from his embrace.
'Father! . . . . Ambrosio!' She cried; 'Release me, for God's
But the licentious Monk heeded not her prayers: He persisted in
his design, and proceeded to take still greater liberties.
Antonia prayed, wept, and struggled: Terrified to the extreme,
though at what She knew not, She exerted all her strength to
repulse the Friar, and was on the point of shrieking for
assistance when the chamber door was suddenly thrown open.
Ambrosio had just sufficient presence of mind to be sensible of
his danger. Reluctantly He quitted his prey, and started hastily
from the Couch. Antonia uttered an exclamation of joy, flew
towards the door, and found herself clasped in the arms of her
Alarmed at some of the Abbot's speeches, which Antonia had
innocently repeated, Elvira resolved to ascertain the truth of
her suspicions. She had known enough of Mankind not to be
imposed upon by the Monk's reputed virtue. She reflected on
several circumstances, which though trifling, on being put
together seemed to authorize her fears. His frequent visits,
which as far as She could see, were confined to her family; His
evident emotion, whenever She spoke of Antonia; His being in the
full prime and heat of Manhood; and above all, his pernicious
philosophy communicated to her by Antonia, and which accorded but
ill with his conversation in her presence, all these
circumstances inspired her with doubts respecting the purity of
Ambrosio's friendship. In consequence, She resolved, when He
should next be alone with Antonia, to endeavour at surprizing
him. Her plan had succeeded. 'Tis true, that when She entered
the room, He had already abandoned his prey; But the disorder of
her Daughter's dress, and the shame and confusion stamped upon
the Friar's countenance, sufficed to prove that her suspicions
were but too well-founded. However, She was too prudent to make
those suspicions known. She judged that to unmask the Imposter
would be no easy matter, the public being so much prejudiced in
his favour: and having but few Friends, She thought it dangerous
to make herself so powerful an Enemy. She affected therefore not
to remark his agitation, seated herself tranquilly upon the
Sopha, assigned some trifling reason for having quitted her room
unexpectedly, and conversed on various subjects with seeming
confidence and ease.
Reassured by her behaviour, the Monk began to recover himself.
He strove to answer Elvira without appearing embarrassed: But He
was still too great a novice in dissimulation, and He felt that
He must look confused and awkward. He soon broke off the
conversation, and rose to depart. What was his vexation, when on
taking leave, Elvira told him in polite terms, that being now
perfectly reestablished, She thought it an injustice to deprive
Others of his company, who might be more in need of it! She
assured him of her eternal gratitude, for the benefit which
during her illness She had derived from his society and
exhortations: And She lamented that her domestic affairs, as
well as the multitude of business which his situation must of
necessity impose upon him, would in future deprive her of the
pleasure of his visits. Though delivered in the mildest language
this hint was too plain to be mistaken. Still, He was preparing
to put in a remonstrance when an expressive look from Elvira
stopped him short. He dared not press her to receive him, for
her manner convinced him that He was discovered: He submitted
without reply, took an hasty leave, and retired to the Abbey, his
heart filled with rage and shame, with bitterness and
Antonia's mind felt relieved by his departure; Yet She could not
help lamenting that She was never to see him more. Elvira also
felt a secret sorrow; She had received too much pleasure from
thinking him her Friend, not to regret the necessity of changing
her opinion: But her mind was too much accustomed to the fallacy
of worldly friendships to permit her present disappointment to
weigh upon it long. She now endeavoured to make her Daughter
aware of the risque which She had ran: But She was obliged to
treat the subject with caution, lest in removing the bandage of
ignorance, the veil of innocence should be rent away. She
therefore contented herself with warning Antonia to be upon her
guard, and ordering her, should the Abbot persist in his visits,
never to receive them but in company. With this injunction
Antonia promised to comply.
Ambrosio hastened to his Cell. He closed the door after him, and
threw himself upon the bed in despair. The impulse of desire, the
stings of disappointment, the shame of detection, and the fear of
being publicly unmasked, rendered his bosom a scene of the most
horrible confusion. He knew not what course to pursue. Debarred
the presence of Antonia, He had no hopes of satisfying that
passion which was now become a part of his existence. He
reflected that his secret was in a Woman's power: He trembled
with apprehension when He beheld the precipice before him, and
with rage, when He thought that had it not been for Elvira, He
should now have possessed the object of his desires. With the
direct imprecations He vowed vengeance against her; He swore
that, cost what it would, He still would possess Antonia.
Starting from the Bed, He paced the chamber with disordered
steps, howled with impotent fury, dashed himself violently
against the walls, and indulged all the transports of rage and
He was still under the influence of this storm of passions when
He heard a gentle knock at the door of his Cell. Conscious that
his voice must have been heard, He dared not refuse admittance to
the Importuner: He strove to compose himself, and to hide his
agitation. Having in some degree succeeded, He drew back the
bolt: The door opened, and Matilda appeared.
At this precise moment there was no one with whose presence He
could better have dispensed. He had not sufficient command over
himself to conceal his vexation. He started back, and frowned.
'I am busy,' said He in a stern and hasty tone; 'Leave me!'
Matilda heeded him not: She again fastened the door, and then
advanced towards him with an air gentle and supplicating.
'Forgive me, Ambrosio,' said She; 'For your own sake I must not
obey you. Fear no complaints from me; I come not to reproach you
with your ingratitude. I pardon you from my heart, and since
your love can no longer be mine, I request the next best gift,
your confidence and friendship. We cannot force our
inclinations; The little beauty which you once saw in me has
perished with its novelty, and if it can no longer excite desire,
mine is the fault, not yours. But why persist in shunning me?
Why such anxiety to fly my presence? You have sorrows, but will
not permit me to share them; You have disappointments, but will
not accept my comfort; You have wishes, but forbid my aiding your
pursuits. 'Tis of this which I complain, not of your
indifference to my person. I have given up the claims of the
Mistress, but nothing shall prevail on me to give up those of the
Her mildness had an instantaneous effect upon Ambrosio's
'Generous Matilda!' He replied, taking her hand, 'How far do you
rise superior to the foibles of your sex! Yes, I accept your
offer. I have need of an adviser, and a Confident: In you I
find every needful quality united. But to aid my pursuits . . .
. Ah! Matilda, it lies not in your power!'
'It lies in no one's power but mine. Ambrosio, your secret is
none to me; Your every step, your every action has been observed
by my attentive eye. You love.'
'Why conceal it from me? Fear not the little jealousy which
taints the generality of Women: My soul disdains so despicable a
passion. You love, Ambrosio; Antonia Dalfa is the object of your
flame. I know every circumstance respecting your passion: Every
conversation has been repeated to me. I have been informed of
your attempt to enjoy Antonia's person, your disappointment, and
dismission from Elvira's House. You now despair of possessing
your Mistress; But I come to revive your hopes, and point out the
road to success.'
'To success? Oh! impossible!'
'To them who dare nothing is impossible. Rely upon me, and you
may yet be happy. The time is come, Ambrosio, when regard for
your comfort and tranquillity compels me to reveal a part of my
History, with which you are still unacquainted. Listen, and do
not interrupt me: Should my confession disgust you, remember
that in making it my sole aim is to satisfy your wishes, and
restore that peace to your heart which at present has abandoned
it. I formerly mentioned that my Guardian was a Man of uncommon
knowledge: He took pains to instil that knowledge into my infant
mind. Among the various sciences which curiosity had induced him
to explore, He neglected not that which by most is esteemed
impious, and by many chimerical. I speak of those arts which
relate to the world of Spirits. His deep researches into causes
and effects, his unwearied application to the study of natural
philosophy, his profound and unlimited knowledge of the
properties and virtues of every gem which enriches the deep, of
every herb which the earth produces, at length procured him the
distinction which He had sought so long, so earnestly. His
curiosity was fully slaked, his ambition amply gratified. He
gave laws to the elements; He could reverse the order of nature;
His eye read the mandates of futurity, and the infernal Spirits
were submissive to his commands. Why shrink you from me? I
understand that enquiring look. Your suspicions are right,
though your terrors are unfounded. My Guardian concealed not
from me his most precious acquisition. Yet had I never seen YOU,
I should never have exerted my power. Like you I shuddered at
the thoughts of Magic: Like you I had formed a terrible idea of
the consequences of raising a daemon. To preserve that life
which your love had taught me to prize, I had recourse to means
which I trembled at employing. You remember that night which I
past in St. Clare's Sepulchre? Then was it that, surrounded by
mouldering bodies, I dared to perform those mystic rites which
summoned to my aid a fallen Angel. Judge what must have been my
joy at discovering that my terrors were imaginary: I saw the
Daemon obedient to my orders, I saw him trembling at my frown,
and found that, instead of selling my soul to a Master, my
courage had purchased for myself a Slave.'
'Rash Matilda! What have you done? You have doomed yourself to
endless perdition; You have bartered for momentary power eternal
happiness! If on witchcraft depends the fruition of my desires,
I renounce your aid most absolutely. The consequences are too
horrible: I doat upon Antonia, but am not so blinded by lust as
to sacrifice for her enjoyment my existence both in this world
and the next.'
'Ridiculous prejudices! Oh! blush, Ambrosio, blush at being
subjected to their dominion. Where is the risque of accepting my
offers? What should induce my persuading you to this step,
except the wish of restoring you to happiness and quiet. If
there is danger, it must fall upon me: It is I who invoke the
ministry of the Spirits; Mine therefore will be the crime, and
yours the profit. But danger there is none: The Enemy of
Mankind is my Slave, not my Sovereign. Is there no difference
between giving and receiving laws, between serving and
commanding? Awake from your idle dreams, Ambrosio! Throw from
you these terrors so ill-suited to a soul like yours; Leave them
for common Men, and dare to be happy! Accompany me this night to
St. Clare's Sepulchre, witness my incantations, and Antonia is
your own.'
'To obtain her by such means I neither can, or will. Cease then
to persuade me, for I dare not employ Hell's agency.
'You DARE not? How have you deceived me! That mind which I
esteemed so great and valiant, proves to be feeble, puerile, and
grovelling, a slave to vulgar errors, and weaker than a Woman's.'
'What? Though conscious of the danger, wilfully shall I expose
myself to the Seducer's arts? Shall I renounce for ever my title
to salvation? Shall my eyes seek a sight which I know will
blast them? No, no, Matilda; I will not ally myself with God's
'Are you then God's Friend at present? Have you not broken your
engagements with him, renounced his service, and abandoned
yourself to the impulse of your passions? Are you not planning
the destruction of innocence, the ruin of a Creature whom He
formed in the mould of Angels? If not of Daemons, whose aid
would you invoke to forward this laudable design? Will the
Seraphims protect it, conduct Antonia to your arms, and sanction
with their ministry your illicit pleasures? Absurd! But I am
not deceived, Ambrosio! It is not virtue which makes you reject
my offer: You WOULD accept it, but you dare not. 'Tis not the
crime which holds your hand, but the punishment; 'Tis not respect
for God which restrains you, but the terror of his vengeance!
Fain would you offend him in secret, but you tremble to profess
yourself his Foe. Now shame on the coward soul, which wants the
courage either to be a firm Friend or open Enemy!'
'To look upon guilt with horror, Matilda, is in itself a merit:
In this respect I glory to confess myself a Coward. Though my
passions have made me deviate from her laws, I still feel in my
heart an innate love of virtue. But it ill becomes you to tax me
with my perjury: You, who first seduced me to violate my vows;
You, who first rouzed my sleeping vices, made me feel the weight
of Religion's chains, and bad me be convinced that guilt had
pleasures. Yet though my principles have yielded to the force of
temperament, I still have sufficient grace to shudder at Sorcery,
and avoid a crime so monstrous, so unpardonable!'
'Unpardonable, say you? Where then is your constant boast of the
Almighty's infinite mercy? Has He of late set bounds to it?
Receives He no longer a Sinner with joy? You injure him,
Ambrosio; You will always have time to repent, and He have
goodness to forgive. Afford him a glorious opportunity to exert
that goodness: The greater your crime, the greater his merit in
pardoning. Away then with these childish scruples: Be persuaded
to your good, and follow me to the Sepulchre.'
'Oh! cease, Matilda! That scoffing tone, that bold and impious
language, is horrible in every mouth, but most so in a Woman's.
Let us drop a conversation which excites no other sentiments
than horror and disgust. I will not follow you to the Sepulchre,
or accept the services of your infernal Agents. Antonia shall be
mine, but mine by human means.'
'Then yours She will never be! You are banished her presence;
Her Mother has opened her eyes to your designs, and She is now
upon her guard against them. Nay more, She loves another. A
Youth of distinguished merit possesses her heart, and unless you
interfere, a few days will make her his Bride. This intelligence
was brought me by my invisible Servants, to whom I had recourse
on first perceiving your indifference. They watched your every
action, related to me all that past at Elvira's, and inspired me
with the idea of favouring your designs. Their reports have been
my only comfort. Though you shunned my presence, all your
proceedings were known to me: Nay, I was constantly with you in
some degree, thanks to this precious gift!'
With these words She drew from beneath her habit a mirror of
polished steel, the borders of which were marked with various
strange and unknown characters.
'Amidst all my sorrows, amidst all my regrets for your coldness,
I was sustained from despair by the virtues of this Talisman. On
pronouncing certain words, the Person appears in it on whom the
Observer's thoughts are bent: thus though _I_ was exiled from
YOUR sight, you, Ambrosio, were ever present to mine.'
The Friar's curiosity was excited strongly.
'What you relate is incredible! Matilda, are you not amusing
yourself with my credulity?'
'Be your own eyes the Judge.'
She put the Mirror into his hand. Curiosity induced him to take
it, and Love, to wish that Antonia might appear. Matilda
pronounced the magic words. Immediately, a thick smoke rose from
the characters traced upon the borders, and spread itself over
the surface. It dispersed again gradually; A confused mixture of
colours and images presented themselves to the Friar's eyes,
which at length arranging themselves in their proper places, He
beheld in miniature Antonia's lovely form.
The scene was a small closet belonging to her apartment. She was
undressing to bathe herself. The long tresses of her hair were
already bound up. The amorous Monk had full opportunity to
observe the voluptuous contours and admirable symmetry of her
person. She threw off her last garment, and advancing to the
Bath prepared for her, She put her foot into the water. It
struck cold, and She drew it back again. Though unconscious of
being observed, an inbred sense of modesty induced her to veil
her charms; and She stood hesitating upon the brink, in the
attitude of the Venus de Medicis. At this moment a tame Linnet
flew towards her, nestled its head between her breasts, and
nibbled them in wanton play. The smiling Antonia strove in vain
to shake off the Bird, and at length raised her hands to drive it
from its delightful harbour. Ambrosio could bear no more: His
desires were worked up to phrenzy.
'I yield!' He cried, dashing the mirror upon the ground:
'Matilda, I follow you! Do with me what you will!'
She waited not to hear his consent repeated. It was already
midnight. She flew to her Cell, and soon returned with her
little basket and the Key of the Cemetery, which had remained in
her possession since her first visit to the Vaults. She gave the
Monk no time for reflection.
'Come!' She said, and took his hand; 'Follow me, and witness the
effects of your resolve!'
This said, She drew him hastily along. They passed into the
Burying-ground unobserved, opened the door of the Sepulchre, and
found themselves at the head of the subterraneous Staircase. As
yet the beams of the full Moon had guided their steps, but that
resource now failed them. Matilda had neglected to provide
herself with a Lamp. Still holding Ambrosio's hand She descended
the marble steps; But the profound obscurity with which they were
overspread obliged them to walk slow and cautiously.
'You tremble!' said Matilda to her Companion; 'Fear not; The
destined spot is near.'
They reached the foot of the Staircase, and continued to
proceed, feeling their way along the Walls. On turning a corner
suddenly, they descried faint gleams of light which seemed
burning at a distance. Thither they bent their steps: The rays
proceeded from a small sepulchral Lamp which flamed unceasingly
before the Statue of St. Clare. It tinged with dim and cheerless
beams the massy Columns which supported the Roof, but was too
feeble to dissipate the thick gloom in which the Vaults above
were buried.
Matilda took the Lamp.
'Wait for me!' said She to the Friar; 'In a few moments I am here
With these words She hastened into one of the passages which
branched in various directions from this spot, and formed a sort
of Labyrinth. Ambrosio was now left alone: Darkness the most
profound surrounded him, and encouraged the doubts which began
to revive in his bosom. He had been hurried away by the delirium
of the moment: The shame of betraying his terrors, while in
Matilda's presence, had induced him to repress them; But now that
he was abandoned to himself, they resumed their former
ascendancy. He trembled at the scene which He was soon to
witness. He knew not how far the delusions of Magic might
operate upon his mind, and possibly might force him to some deed
whose commission would make the breach between himself and Heaven
irreparable. In this fearful dilemma, He would have implored
God's assistance, but was conscious that He had forfeited all
claim to such protection. Gladly would He have returned to the
Abbey; But as He had past through innumerable Caverns and winding
passages, the attempt of regaining the Stairs was hopeless. His
fate was determined: No possibility of escape presented itself:
He therefore combated his apprehensions, and called every
argument to his succour, which might enable him to support the
trying scene with fortitude. He reflected that Antonia would be
the reward of his daring: He inflamed his imagination by
enumerating her charms. He persuaded himself that (as Matilda
had observed), He always should have time sufficient for
repentance, and that as He employed HER assistance, not that of
the Daemons, the crime of Sorcery could not be laid to his
charge. He had read much respecting witchcraft: He understood
that unless a formal Act was signed renouncing his claim to
salvation, Satan would have no power over him. He was fully
determined not to execute any such act, whatever threats might be
used, or advantages held out to him.
Such were his meditations while waiting for Matilda. They were
interrupted by a low murmur which seemed at no great distance
from him. He was startled. He listened. Some minutes past in
silence, after which the murmur was repeated. It appeared to be
the groaning of one in pain. In any other situation, this
circumstance would only have excited his attention and curiosity:
In the present, his predominant sensation was that of terror. His
imagination totally engrossed by the ideas of sorcery and
Spirits, He fancied that some unquiet Ghost was wandering near
him; or else that Matilda had fallen a Victim to her presumption,
and was perishing under the cruel fangs of the Daemons. The
noise seemed not to approach, but continued to be heard at
intervals. Sometimes it became more audible, doubtless as the
sufferings of the person who uttered the groans became
more acute and insupportable. Ambrosio now and then thought
that He could distinguish accents; and once in particular He was
almost convinced that He heard a faint voice exclaim,
'God! Oh! God! No hope! No succour!'
Yet deeper groans followed these words. They died away
gradually, and universal silence again prevailed.
'What can this mean?' thought the bewildered Monk.
At that moment an idea which flashed into his mind, almost
petrified him with horror. He started, and shuddered at himself.
'Should it be possible!' He groaned involuntarily; 'Should it but
be possible, Oh! what a Monster am I!'
He wished to resolve his doubts, and to repair his fault, if it
were not too late already: But these generous and compassionate
sentiments were soon put to flight by the return of Matilda. He
forgot the groaning Sufferer, and remembered nothing but the
danger and embarrassment of his own situation. The light of the
returning Lamp gilded the walls, and in a few moments after
Matilda stood beside him. She had quitted her religious habit:
She was now cloathed in a long sable Robe, on which was traced in
gold embroidery a variety of unknown characters: It was fastened
by a girdle of precious stones, in which was fixed a poignard.
Her neck and arms were uncovered. In her hand She bore a golden
wand. Her hair was loose and flowed wildly upon her shoulders;
Her eyes sparkled with terrific expression; and her whole
Demeanour was calculated to inspire the beholder with awe and
'Follow me!' She said to the Monk in a low and solemn voice; 'All
is ready!'
His limbs trembled, while He obeyed her. She led him through
various narrow passages; and on every side as they past along,
the beams of the Lamp displayed none but the most revolting
objects; Skulls, Bones, Graves, and Images whose eyes seemed to
glare on them with horror and surprize. At length they reached a
spacious Cavern, whose lofty roof the eye sought in vain to
discover. A profound obscurity hovered through the void. Damp
vapours struck cold to the Friar's heart; and He listened sadly
to the blast while it howled along the lonely Vaults. Here
Matilda stopped. She turned to Ambrosio. His cheeks and lips
were pale with apprehension. By a glance of mingled scorn and
anger She reproved his pusillanimity, but She spoke not. She
placed the Lamp upon the ground, near the Basket. She motioned
that Ambrosio should be silent, and began the mysterious rites.
She drew a circle round him, another round herself, and then
taking a small Phial from the Basket, poured a few drops upon the
ground before her. She bent over the place, muttered some
indistinct sentences, and immediately a pale sulphurous flame
arose from the ground. It increased by degrees, and at length
spread its waves over the whole surface, the circles alone
excepted in which stood Matilda and the Monk. It then ascended
the huge Columns of unhewn stone, glided along the roof, and
formed the Cavern into an immense chamber totally covered with
blue trembling fire. It emitted no heat: On the contrary, the
extreme chillness of the place seemed to augment with every
moment. Matilda continued her incantations: At intervals She
took various articles from the Basket, the nature and name of
most of which were unknown to the Friar: But among the few which
He distinguished, He particularly observed three human fingers,
and an Agnus Dei which She broke in pieces. She threw them all
into the flames which burned before her, and they were instantly
The Monk beheld her with anxious curiosity. Suddenly She uttered
a loud and piercing shriek. She appeared to be seized with an
access of delirium; She tore her hair, beat her bosom, used the
most frantic gestures, and drawing the poignard from her girdle
plunged it into her left arm. The blood gushed out plentifully,
and as She stood on the brink of the circle, She took care that
it should fall on the outside. The flames retired from the spot
on which the blood was pouring. A volume of dark clouds rose
slowly from the ensanguined earth, and ascended gradually, till
it reached the vault of the Cavern. At the same time a clap of
thunder was heard: The echo pealed fearfully along the
subterraneous passages, and the ground shook beneath the feet of
the Enchantress.
It was now that Ambrosio repented of his rashness. The solemn
singularity of the charm had prepared him for something strange
and horrible. He waited with fear for the Spirit's appearance,
whose coming was announced by thunder and earthquakes. He looked
wildly round him, expecting that some dreadful Apparition would
meet his eyes, the sight of which would drive him mad. A cold
shivering seized his body, and He sank upon one knee, unable to
support himself.
'He comes!' exclaimed Matilda in a joyful accent.
Ambrosio started, and expected the Daemon with terror. What was
his surprize, when the Thunder ceasing to roll, a full strain of
melodious Music sounded in the air. At the same time the cloud
dispersed, and He beheld a Figure more beautiful than Fancy's
pencil ever drew. It was a Youth seemingly scarce eighteen, the
perfection of whose form and face was unrivalled. He was
perfectly naked: A bright Star sparkled upon his forehead; Two
crimson wings extended themselves from his shoulders; and his
silken locks were confined by a band of many-coloured fires,
which played round his head, formed themselves into a variety of
figures, and shone with a brilliance far surpassing that of
precious Stones. Circlets of Diamonds were fastened round his
arms and ankles, and in his right hand He bore a silver branch,
imitating Myrtle. His form shone with dazzling glory: He was
surrounded by clouds of rose-coloured light, and at the moment
that He appeared, a refreshing air breathed perfumes through the
Cavern. Enchanted at a vision so contrary to his expectations,
Ambrosio gazed upon the Spirit with delight and wonder: Yet
however beautiful the Figure, He could not but remark a wildness
in the Daemon's eyes, and a mysterious melancholy impressed upon
his features, betraying the Fallen Angel, and inspiring the
Spectators with secret awe.
The Music ceased. Matilda addressed herself to the Spirit: She
spoke in a language unintelligible to the Monk, and was answered
in the same. She seemed to insist upon something which the
Daemon was unwilling to grant. He frequently darted upon
Ambrosio angry glances, and at such times the Friar's heart sank
within him. Matilda appeared to grow incensed. She spoke in a
loud and commanding tone, and her gestures declared that She was
threatening him with her vengeance. Her menaces had the desired
effect: The Spirit sank upon his knee, and with a submissive air
presented to her the branch of Myrtle. No sooner had She
received it, than the Music was again heard; A thick cloud spread
itself over the Apparition; The blue flames disappeared, and
total obscurity reigned through the Cave. The Abbot moved not
from his place: His faculties were all bound up in pleasure,
anxiety, and surprize. At length the darkness dispersing, He
perceived Matilda standing near him in her religious habit, with
the Myrtle in her hand. No traces of the incantation, and the
Vaults were only illuminated by the faint rays of the sepulchral
'I have succeeded,' said Matilda, 'though with more difficulty
than I expected. Lucifer, whom I summoned to my assistance, was
at first unwilling to obey my commands: To enforce his compliance
I was constrained to have recourse to my strongest charms. They
have produced the desired effect, but I have engaged never more
to invoke his agency in your favour. Beware then, how you employ
an opportunity which never will return. My magic arts will now
be of no use to you: In future you can only hope for
supernatural aid by invoking the Daemons yourself, and accepting
the conditions of their service. This you will never do: You
want strength of mind to force them to obedience, and unless you
pay their established price, they will not be your voluntary
Servants. In this one instance they consent to obey you: I offer
you the means of enjoying your Mistress, and be careful not to
lose the opportunity. Receive this constellated Myrtle: While
you bear this in your hand, every door will fly open to you. It
will procure you access tomorrow night to Antonia's chamber:
Then breathe upon it thrice, pronounce her name, and place it
upon her pillow. A death-like slumber will immediately seize
upon her, and deprive her of the power of resisting your
attempts. Sleep will hold her till break of Morning. In this
state you may satisfy your desires without danger of being
discovered; since when daylight shall dispel the effects of the
enchantment, Antonia will perceive her dishonour, but be ignorant
of the Ravisher. Be happy then, my Ambrosio, and let this
service convince you that my friendship is disinterested and
pure. The night must be near expiring: Let us return to the
Abbey, lest our absence should create surprize.'
The Abbot received the talisman with silent gratitude. His ideas
were too much bewildered by the adventures of the night to
permit his expressing his thanks audibly, or indeed as yet to
feel the whole value of her present. Matilda took up her Lamp
and Basket, and guided her Companion from the mysterious Cavern.
She restored the Lamp to its former place, and continued her
route in darkness, till She reached the foot of the Staircase.
The first beams of the rising Sun darting down it facilitated the
ascent. Matilda and the Abbot hastened out of the Sepulchre,
closed the door after them, and soon regained the Abbey's western
Cloister. No one met them, and they retired unobserved to their
respective Cells.
The confusion of Ambrosio's mind now began to appease. He
rejoiced in the fortunate issue of his adventure, and reflecting
upon the virtues of the Myrtle, looked upon Antonia as already in
his power. Imagination retraced to him those secret charms
betrayed to him by the Enchanted Mirror, and He waited with
impatience for the approach of midnight.
The crickets sing, and Man's o'er-laboured sense
Repairs itself by rest: Our Tarquin thus
Did softly press the rushes, ere He wakened
The chastity He wounded--Cytherea,
How bravely thou becom'st thy bed! Fresh Lily!
And whiter than the sheets!
All the researches of the Marquis de las Cisternas proved vain:
Agnes was lost to him for ever. Despair produced so violent an
effect upon his constitution, that the consequence was a long and
severe illness. This prevented him from visiting Elvira as He
had intended; and She being ignorant of the cause of his neglect,
it gave her no trifling uneasiness. His Sister's death had
prevented Lorenzo from communicating to his Uncle his designs
respecting Antonia: The injunctions of her Mother forbad his
presenting himself to her without the Duke's consent; and as She
heard no more of him or his proposals, Elvira conjectured that He
had either met with a better match, or had been commanded to give
up all thoughts of her Daughter. Every day made her more uneasy
respecting Antonia's fate: While She retained the Abbot's
protection, She bore with fortitude the disappointment of her
hopes with regard to Lorenzo and the Marquis. That resource now
failed her. She was convinced that Ambrosio had meditated her
Daughter's ruin: And when She reflected that her death would
leave Antonia friendless and unprotected in a world so base, so
perfidious and depraved, her heart swelled with the bitterness of
apprehension. At such times She would sit for hours gazing upon
the lovely Girl; and seeming to listen to her innocent prattle,
while in reality her thoughts dwelt upon the sorrows into which
a moment would suffice to plunge her. Then She would clasp her
in her arms suddenly, lean her head upon her Daughter's bosom,
and bedew it with her tears.
An event was in preparation which, had She known it, would have
relieved her from her inquietude. Lorenzo now waited only for a
favourable opportunity to inform the Duke of his intended
marriage: However, a circumstance which occurred at this period,
obliged him to delay his explanation for a few days longer.
Don Raymond's malady seemed to gain ground. Lorenzo was
constantly at his bedside, and treated him with a tenderness
truly fraternal. Both the cause and effects of the disorder were
highly afflicting to the Brother of Agnes: yet Theodore's grief
was scarcely less sincere. That amiable Boy quitted not his
Master for a moment, and put every means in practice to console
and alleviate his sufferings. The Marquis had conceived so
rooted an affection for his deceased Mistress, that it was
evident to all that He never could survive her loss: Nothing
could have prevented him from sinking under his grief but the
persuasion of her being still alive, and in need of his
assistance. Though convinced of its falsehood, his Attendants
encouraged him in a belief which formed his only comfort. He
was assured daily that fresh perquisitions were making
respecting the fate of Agnes: Stories were invented recounting
the various attempts made to get admittance into the Convent; and
circumstances were related which, though they did not promise her
absolute recovery, at least were sufficient to keep his hopes
alive. The Marquis constantly fell into the most terrible excess
of passion when informed of the failure of these supposed
attempts. Still He would not credit that the succeeding ones
would have the same fate, but flattered himself that the next
would prove more fortunate.
Theodore was the only one who exerted himself to realize his
Master's Chimoeras. He was eternally busied in planning schemes
for entering the Convent, or at least of obtaining from the Nuns
some intelligence of Agnes. To execute these schemes was the
only inducement which could prevail on him to quit Don Raymond.
He became a very Proteus, changing his shape every day; but all
his metamorphoses were to very little purpose: He regularly
returned to the Palace de las Cisternas without any intelligence
to confirm his Master's hopes. One day He took it into his head
to disguise himself as a Beggar. He put a patch over his left
eye, took his Guitar in hand, and posted himself at the Gate of
the Convent.
'If Agnes is really confined in the Convent,' thought He, 'and
hears my voice, She will recollect it, and possibly may find
means to let me know that She is here.'
With this idea He mingled with a crowd of Beggars who assembled
daily at the Gate of St. Clare to receive Soup, which the Nuns
were accustomed to distribute at twelve o'clock. All were
provided with jugs or bowls to carry it away; But as Theodore had
no utensil of this kind, He begged leave to eat his portion at
the Convent door. This was granted without difficulty: His
sweet voice, and in spite of his patched eye, his engaging
countenance, won the heart of the good old Porteress, who, aided
by a Lay-Sister, was busied in serving to each his Mess.
Theodore was bad to stay till the Others should depart, and
promised that his request should then be granted. The Youth
desired no better, since it was not to eat Soup that He presented
himself at the Convent. He thanked the Porteress for her
permission, retired from the Door, and seating himself upon a
large stone, amused himself in tuning his Guitar while the
Beggars were served.
As soon as the Crowd was gone, Theodore was beckoned to the Gate,
and desired to come in. He obeyed with infinite readiness, but
affected great respect at passing the hallowed Threshold, and to
be much daunted by the presence of the Reverend Ladies. His
feigned timidity flattered the vanity of the Nuns, who
endeavoured to reassure him. The Porteress took him into her
awn little Parlour: In the meanwhile, the Lay-Sister went to
the Kitchen, and soon returned with a double portion of Soup, of
better quality than what was given to the Beggars. His Hostess
added some fruits and confections from her own private store, and
Both encouraged the Youth to dine heartily. To all these
attentions He replied with much seeming gratitude, and abundance
of blessings upon his benefactresses. While He ate, the Nuns
admired the delicacy of his features, the beauty of his hair, and
the sweetness and grace which accompanied all his actions. They
lamented to each other in whispers, that so charming a Youth
should be exposed to the seductions of the World, and agreed,
that He would be a worthy Pillar of the Catholic Church. They
concluded their conference by resolving that Heaven would be
rendered a real service if they entreated the Prioress to
intercede with Ambrosio for the Beggar's admission into the order
of Capuchins.
This being determined, the Porteress, who was a person of great
influence in the Convent, posted away in all haste to the
Domina's Cell. Here She made so flaming a narrative of
Theodore's merits that the old Lady grew curious to see him.
Accordingly, the Porteress was commissioned to convey him to the
Parlour grate. In the interim, the supposed Beggar was sifting
the Lay-Sister with respect to the fate of Agnes: Her evidence
only corroborated the Domina's assertions. She said that Agnes
had been taken ill on returning from confession, had never
quitted her bed from that moment, and that She had herself been
present at the Funeral. She even attested having seen her dead
body, and assisted with her own hands in adjusting it upon the
Bier. This account discouraged Theodore: Yet as He had pushed
the adventure so far, He resolved to witness its conclusion.
The Porteress now returned, and ordered him to follow her. He
obeyed, and was conducted into the Parlour, where the Lady
Prioress was already posted at the Grate. The Nuns surrounded
her, who all flocked with eagerness to a scene which promised
some diversion. Theodore saluted them with profound respect, and
his presence had the power to smooth for a moment even the stern
brow of the Superior. She asked several questions respecting his
Parents, his religion, and what had reduced him to a state of
Beggary. To these demands his answers were perfectly
satisfactory and perfectly false. He was then asked his opinion
of a monastic life: He replied in terms of high estimation and
respect for it. Upon this, the Prioress told him that his
obtaining an entrance into a religious order was not impossible;
that her recommendation would not permit his poverty to be an
obstacle, and that if She found him deserving it, He might depend
in future upon her protection. Theodore assured her that to
merit her favour would be his highest ambition; and having
ordered him to return next day, when She would talk with him
further, the Domina quitted the Parlour.
The Nuns, whom respect for the Superior had till then kept
silent, now crowded all together to the Grate, and assailed the
Youth with a multitude of questions. He had already examined
each with attention: Alas! Agnes was not amongst them. The Nuns
heaped question upon question so thickly that it was scarcely
possible for him to reply. One asked where He was born, since
his accent declared him to be a Foreigner: Another wanted to
know, why He wore a patch upon his left eye: Sister Helena
enquired whether He had not a Sister like him, because She should
like such a Companion; and Sister Rachael was fully persuaded
that the Brother would be the pleasanter Companion of the Two.
Theodore amused himself with retailing to the credulous Nuns for
truths all the strange stories which his imagination could
invent. He related to them his supposed adventures, and
penetrated every Auditor with astonishment, while He talked of
Giants, Savages, Ship-wrecks, and Islands inhabited
'By Anthropophagi, and Men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders,'
With many other circumstances to the full as remarkable. He said,
that He was born in Terra Incognita, was educated at an Hottentot
University, and had past two years among the Americans of
'For what regards the loss of my eye' said He, 'it was a just
punishment upon me for disrespect to the Virgin, when I made my
second pilgrimage to Loretto. I stood near the Altar in the
miraculous Chapel: The Monks were proceeding to array the Statue
in her best apparel. The Pilgrims were ordered to close their
eyes during this ceremony: But though by nature extremely
religious, curiosity was too powerful. At the moment . . . . . I
shall penetrate you with horror, reverend Ladies, when I reveal
my crime! . . . . At the moment that the Monks were changing her
shift, I ventured to open my left eye, and gave a little peep
towards the Statue. That look was my last! The Glory which
surrounded the Virgin was too great to be supported. I hastily
shut my sacrilegious eye, and never have been able to unclose it
At the relation of this miracle the Nuns all crossed themselves,
and promised to intercede with the blessed Virgin for the
recovery of his sight. They expressed their wonder at the extent
of his travels, and at the strange adventures which He had met
with at so early an age. They now remarked his Guitar, and
enquired whether he was an adept in Music. He replied with
modesty that it was not for him to decide upon his talents, but
requested permission to appeal to them as Judges. This was
granted without difficulty.
'But at least,' said the old Porteress, 'take care not to sing
any thing profane.'
'You may depend upon my discretion,' replied Theodore: 'You shall
hear how dangerous it is for young Women to abandon themselves
to their passions, illustrated by the adventure of a Damsel who
fell suddenly in love with an unknown Knight.'
'But is the adventure true?' enquired the Porteress.
'Every word of it. It happened in Denmark, and the Heroine was
thought so beautiful that She was known by no other name but
that of ''the lovely Maid''.'
'In Denmark, say you?' mumbled an old Nun; 'Are not the People
all Blacks in Denmark?'
'By no means, reverend Lady; They are of a delicate pea-green
with flame-coloured hair and whiskers.'
'Mother of God! Pea-green?' exclaimed Sister Helena; 'Oh! 'tis
'Impossible?' said the Porteress with a look of contempt and
exultation: 'Not at all: When I was a young Woman, I remember
seeing several of them myself.'
Theodore now put his instrument in proper order. He had read the
story of a King of England whose prison was discovered by a
Minstrel; and He hoped that the same scheme would enable him to
discover Agnes, should She be in the Convent. He chose a Ballad
which She had taught him herself in the Castle of Lindenberg: She
might possibly catch the sound, and He hoped to hear her replying
to some of the Stanzas. His Guitar was now in tune, and He
prepared to strike it.
'But before I begin,' said He 'it is necessary to inform you,
Ladies, that this same Denmark is terribly infested by Sorcerers,
Witches, and Evil Spirits. Every element possesses its
appropriate Daemons. The Woods are haunted by a malignant power,
called ''the Erl- or Oak-King:'' He it is who blights the Trees,
spoils the Harvest, and commands the Imps and Goblins: He
appears in the form of an old Man of majestic figure, with a
golden Crown and long white beard: His principal amusement is to
entice young Children from their Parents, and as soon as He gets
them into his Cave, He tears them into a thousand pieces--The
Rivers are governed by another Fiend, called ''the Water-King:''
His province is to agitate the deep, occasion ship-wrecks, and
drag the drowning Sailors beneath the waves: He wears the
appearance of a Warrior, and employs himself in luring young
Virgins into his snare: What He does with them, when He catches
them in the water, Reverend Ladies, I leave for you to
imagine--''The Fire-King'' seems to be a Man all formed of
flames: He raises the Meteors and wandering lights which
beguile Travellers into ponds and marshes, and He directs the
lightning where it may do most mischief--The last of these
elementary Daemons is called ''the Cloud-King;'' His figure is
that of a beautiful Youth, and He is distinguished by two large
sable Wings: Though his outside is so enchanting, He is not a
bit better disposed than the Others: He is continually employed
in raising Storms, tearing up Forests by the roots, and blowing
Castles and Convents about the ears of their Inhabitants. The
First has a Daughter, who is Queen of the Elves and Fairies; The
Second has a Mother, who is a powerful Enchantress: Neither of
these Ladies are worth more than the Gentlemen: I do not
remember to have heard any family assigned to the two other
Daemons, but at present I have no business with any of them
except the Fiend of the Waters. He is the Hero of my Ballad; but
I thought it necessary before I began, to give you some account
of his proceedings--'
Theodore then played a short symphony; After which, stretching
his voice to its utmost extent to facilitate its reaching the ear
of Agnes, He sang the following Stanzas.
With gentle murmur flowed the Tide,
While by the fragrant flowery side
The lovely Maid with carols gay
To Mary's Church pursued her way.
The Water-Fiend's malignant eye
Along the Banks beheld her hie;
Straight to his Mother-witch He sped,
And thus in suppliant accents said:
'Oh! Mother! Mother! now advise,
How I may yonder Maid surprize:
Oh! Mother! Mother! Now explain,
How I may yonder Maid obtain.'
The Witch She gave him armour white;
She formed him like a gallant Knight;
Of water clear next made her hand
A Steed, whose housings were of sand.
The Water-King then swift He went;
To Mary's Church his steps He bent:
He bound his Courser to the Door,
And paced the Church-yard three times four.
His Courser to the door bound He,
And paced the Church-yard four time three:
Then hastened up the Aisle, where all
The People flocked, both great and small.
The Priest said, as the Knight drew near,
'And wherefore comes the white Chief here?'
The lovely Maid She smiled aside;
'Oh! would I were the white Chief's Bride!'
He stept o'er Benches one and two;
'Oh! lovely Maid, I die for You!'
He stept o'er Benches two and three;
'Oh! lovely Maiden, go with me!'
Then sweet She smiled, the lovely Maid,
And while She gave her hand, She said,
'Betide me joy, betide me woe,
O'er Hill, o'er dale, with thee I go.'
The Priest their hands together joins:
They dance, while clear the moon-beam shines;
And little thinks the Maiden bright,
Her Partner is the Water-spright.
Oh! had some spirit deigned to sing,
'Your Partner is the Water-King!'
The Maid had fear and hate confest,
And cursed the hand which then She prest.
But nothing giving cause to think,
How near She strayed to danger's brink,
Still on She went, and hand in hand
The Lovers reached the yellow sand.
'Ascend this Steed with me, my Dear;
We needs must cross the streamlet here;
Ride boldly in; It is not deep;
The winds are hushed, the billows sleep.'
Thus spoke the Water-King. The Maid
Her Traitor-Bride-groom's wish obeyed:
And soon She saw the Courser lave
Delighted in his parent wave.
'Stop! Stop! my Love! The waters blue
E'en now my shrinking foot bedew!'
'Oh! lay aside your fears, sweet Heart!
We now have reached the deepest part.'
'Stop! Stop! my Love! For now I see
The waters rise above my knee.'
'Oh! lay aside your fears, sweet Heart!
We now have reached the deepest part.'
'Stop! Stop! for God's sake, stop! For Oh!
The waters o'er my bosom flow!'--
Scarce was the word pronounced, when Knight
And Courser vanished from her sight.
She shrieks, but shrieks in vain; for high
The wild winds rising dull the cry;
The Fiend exults; The Billows dash,
And o'er their hapless Victim wash.
Three times while struggling with the stream,
The lovely Maid was heard to scream;
But when the Tempest's rage was o'er,
The lovely Maid was seen no more.
Warned by this Tale, ye Damsels fair,
To whom you give your love beware!
Believe not every handsome Knight,
And dance not with the Water-Spright!
The Youth ceased to sing. The Nuns were delighted with the
sweetness of his voice and masterly manner of touching the
Instrument: But however acceptable this applause would have been
at any other time, at present it was insipid to Theodore. His
artifice had not succeeded. He paused in vain between the
Stanzas: No voice replied to his, and He abandoned the hope of
equalling Blondel.
The Convent Bell now warned the Nuns that it was time to
assemble in the Refectory. They were obliged to quit the Grate;
They thanked the Youth for the entertainment which his Music had
afforded them, and charged him to return the next day. This He
promised: The Nuns, to give him the greater inclination to keep
his word, told him that He might always depend upon the Convent
for his meals, and each of them made him some little present.
One gave him a box of sweetmeats; Another, an Agnus Dei; Some
brought reliques of Saints, waxen Images, and consecrated
Crosses; and Others presented him with pieces of those works in
which the Religious excel, such as embroidery, artificial
flowers, lace, and needlework. All these He was advised to
sell, in order to put himself into better case; and He was
assured that it would be easy to dispose of them, since the
Spaniards hold the performances of the Nuns in high estimation.
Having received these gifts with seeming respect and gratitude,
He remarked that, having no Basket, He knew not how to convey
them away. Several of the Nuns were hastening in search of one,
when they were stopped by the return of an elderly Woman, whom
Theodore had not till then observed: Her mild countenance, and
respectable air prejudiced him immediately in her favour.
'Hah!' said the Porteress; 'Here comes the Mother St. Ursula with
a Basket.'
The Nun approached the Grate, and presented the Basket to
Theodore: It was of willow, lined with blue satin, and upon the
four sides were painted scenes from the legend of St. Genevieve.
'Here is my gift,' said She, as She gave it into his hand; 'Good
Youth, despise it not; Though its value seems insignificant, it
has many hidden virtues.'
She accompanied these words with an expressive look. It was not
lost upon Theodore; In receiving the present, He drew as near the
Grate as possible.
'Agnes!' She whispered in a voice scarcely intelligible.
Theodore, however, caught the sound: He concluded that some
mystery was concealed in the Basket, and his heart beat with
impatience and joy. At this moment the Domina returned. Her air
was gloomy and frowning, and She looked if possible more stern
than ever.
'Mother St. Ursula, I would speak with you in private.'
The Nun changed colour, and was evidently disconcerted.
'With me?' She replied in a faltering voice.
The Domina motioned that She must follow her, and retired. The
Mother St. Ursula obeyed her; Soon after, the Refectory Bell
ringing a second time, the Nuns quitted the Grate, and Theodore
was left at liberty to carry off his prize. Delighted that at
length He had obtained some intelligence for the Marquis, He flew
rather than ran, till He reached the Hotel de las Cisternas. In
a few minutes He stood by his Master's Bed with the Basket in his
hand. Lorenzo was in the chamber, endeavouring to reconcile his
Friend to a misfortune which He felt himself but too severely.
Theodore related his adventure, and the hopes which had been
created by the Mother St. Ursula's gift. The Marquis started
his pillow: That fire which since the death of Agnes had been
extinguished, now revived in his bosom, and his eyes sparkled
with the eagerness of expectation. The emotions which Lorenzo's
countenance betrayed, were scarcely weaker, and He waited with
inexpressible impatience for the solution of this mystery.
Raymond caught the basket from the hands of his Page: He emptied
the contents upon the bed, and examined them with minute
attention. He hoped that a letter would be found at the bottom;
Nothing of the kind appeared. The search was resumed, and still
with no better success. At length Don Raymond observed that one
corner of the blue satin lining was unripped; He tore it open
hastily, and drew forth a small scrap of paper neither folded or
sealed. It was addressed to the Marquis de las Cisternas, and
the contents were as follows.
Having recognised your Page, I venture to send these few lines.
Procure an order from the Cardinal-Duke for seizing my Person,
and that of the Domina; But let it not be executed till Friday at
midnight. It is the Festival of St. Clare: There will be a
procession of Nuns by torch-light, and I shall be among them.
Beware not to let your intention be known: Should a syllable be
dropt to excite the Domina's suspicions, you will never hear of
me more. Be cautious, if you prize the memory of Agnes, and wish
to punish her Assassins. I have that to tell, will freeze your
blood with horror. St. Ursula.
No sooner had the Marquis read the note than He fell back upon
his pillow deprived of sense or motion. The hope failed him
which till now had supported his existence; and these lines
convinced him but too positively that Agnes was indeed no more.
Lorenzo felt this circumstance less forcibly, since it had always
been his idea that his Sister had perished by unfair means. When
He found by the Mother St. Ursula's letter how true were his
suspicions, the confirmation excited no other sentiment in his
bosom than a wish to punish the Murderers as they deserved. It
was no easy task to recall the Marquis to himself. As soon as He
recovered his speech, He broke out into execrations against the
Assassins of his Beloved, and vowed to take upon them a signal
vengeance. He continued to rave and torment himself with
impotent passion till his constitution, enfeebled by grief and
illness, could support itself no longer, and He relapsed into
insensibility. His melancholy situation sincerely affected
Lorenzo, who would willingly have remained in the apartment of
his Friend; But other cares now demanded his presence. It was
necessary to procure the order for seizing the Prioress of St.
Clare. For this purpose, having committed Raymond to the care of
the best Physicians in Madrid, He quitted the Hotel de las
Cisternas, and bent his course towards the Palace of the
His disappointment was excessive, when He found that affairs of
State had obliged the Cardinal to set out for a distant Province.
It wanted but five to Friday: Yet by travelling day and night,
He hoped to return in time for the Pilgrimage of St. Clare. In
this He succeeded. He found the Cardinal-Duke; and represented
to him the supposed culpability of the Prioress, as also the
violent effects which it had produced upon Don Raymond. He could
have used no argument so forcible as this last. Of all his
Nephews, the Marquis was the only one to whom the Cardinal-Duke
was sincerely attached: He perfectly doated upon him, and the
Prioress could have committed no greater crime in his eyes than
to have endangered the life of the Marquis. Consequently, He
granted the order of arrest without difficulty: He also gave
Lorenzo a letter to a principal Officer of the Inquisition,
desiring him to see his mandate executed. Furnished with these
papers, Medina hastened back to Madrid, which He reached on the
Friday a few hours before dark. He found the Marquis somewhat
easier, but so weak and exhausted that without great exertion He
could neither speak or more. Having past an hour by his Bedside,
Lorenzo left him to communicate his design to his Uncle, as also
to give Don Ramirez de Mello the Cardinal's letter. The First
was petrified with horror when He learnt the fate of his unhappy
Niece: He encouraged Lorenzo to punish her Assassins, and
engaged to accompany him at night to St. Clare's Convent. Don
Ramirez promised his firmest support, and selected a band of
trusty Archers to prevent opposition on the part of the Populace.
But while Lorenzo was anxious to unmask one religious Hypocrite,
He was unconscious of the sorrows prepared for him by Another.
Aided by Matilda's infernal Agents, Ambrosio had resolved upon
the innocent Antonia's ruin. The moment destined to be so fatal
to her arrived. She had taken leave of her Mother for the night.
As She kissed her, She felt an unusual despondency infuse itself
into her bosom. She left her, and returned to her instantly,
threw herself into her maternal arms, and bathed her cheek with
tears: She felt uneasy at quitting her, and a secret
presentiment assured her that never must they meet again. Elvira
observed, and tried to laugh her out of this childish prejudice:
She chid her mildly for encouraging such ungrounded sadness, and
warned her how dangerous it was to encourage such ideas.
To all her remonstrances She received no other answer than,
'Mother! Dear Mother! Oh! would to God, it were Morning!'
Elvira, whose inquietude respecting her Daughter was a great
obstacle to her perfect reestablishment, was still labouring
under the effects of her late severe illness. She was this
Evening more than usually indisposed, and retired to bed before
her accustomed hour. Antonia withdrew from her Mother's chamber
with regret, and till the Door closed, kept her eyes fixed upon
her with melancholy expression. She retired to her own
apartment; Her heart was filled with bitterness: It seemed to
her that all her prospects were blasted, and the world contained
nothing for which it was worth existing. She sank into a Chair,
reclined her head upon her arm, and gazed upon the floor with a
vacant stare, while the most gloomy images floated before her
fancy. She was still in this state of insensibility when She
was disturbed by hearing a strain of soft Music breathed beneath
her window. She rose, drew near the Casement, and opened it to
hear it more distinctly. Having thrown her veil over her face,
She ventured to look out. By the light of the Moon She perceived
several Men below with Guitars and Lutes in their hands; and at a
little distance from them stood Another wrapped in his cloak,
whose stature and appearance bore a strong resemblance to
Lorenzo's. She was not deceived in this conjecture. It was
indeed Lorenzo himself, who bound by his word not to present
himself to Antonia without his Uncle's consent, endeavoured by
occasional Serenades, to convince his Mistress that his
attachment still existed. His stratagem had not the desired
effect. Antonia was far from supposing that this nightly music
was intended as a compliment to her: She was too modest to think
herself worthy such attentions; and concluding them to be
addressed to some neighbouring Lady, She grieved to find that
they were offered by Lorenzo.
The air which was played, was plaintive and melodious. It
accorded with the state of Antonia's mind, and She listened with
pleasure. After a symphony of some length, it was succeeded by
the sound of voices, and Antonia distinguished the following
Oh! Breathe in gentle strain, my Lyre!
'Tis here that Beauty loves to rest:
Describe the pangs of fond desire,
Which rend a faithful Lover's breast.
In every heart to find a Slave,
In every Soul to fix his reign,
In bonds to lead the wise and brave,
And make the Captives kiss his chain,
Such is the power of Love, and Oh!
I grieve so well Love's power to know.
In sighs to pass the live-long day,
To taste a short and broken sleep,
For one dear Object far away,
All others scorned, to watch and weep,
Such are the pains of Love, and Oh!
I grieve so well Love's pains to know!
To read consent in virgin eyes,
To press the lip ne'er prest till then
To hear the sigh of transport rise,
And kiss, and kiss, and kiss again,
Such are thy pleasures, Love, But Oh!
When shall my heart thy pleasures know?
Now hush, my Lyre! My voice be still!
Sleep, gentle Maid! May fond desire
With amorous thoughts thy visions fill,
Though still my voice, and hushed my Lyre.
The Music ceased: The Performers dispersed, and silence
prevailed through the Street. Antonia quitted the window with
regret: She as usual recommended herself to the protection of
St. Rosolia, said her accustomed prayers, and retired to bed.
Sleep was not long absent, and his presence relieved her from her
terrors and inquietude
It was almost two o'clock before the lustful Monk ventured to
bend his steps towards Antonia's dwelling. It has been already
mentioned that the Abbey was at no great distance from the
Strada di San Iago. He reached the House unobserved. Here He
stopped, and hesitated for a moment. He reflected on the
enormity of the crime, the consequences of a discovery, and the
probability, after what had passed, of Elvira's suspecting him to
be her Daughter's Ravisher: On the other hand it was suggested
that She could do no more than suspect; that no proofs of his
guilt could be produced; that it would seem impossible for the
rape to have been committed without Antonia's knowing when,
where, or by whom; and finally, He believed that his fame was too
firmly established to be shaken by the unsupported accusations of
two unknown Women. This latter argument was perfectly false: He
knew not how uncertain is the air of popular applause, and that a
moment suffices to make him today the detestation of the world,
who yesterday was its Idol. The result of the Monk's
deliberations was that He should proceed in his enterprize. He
ascended the steps leading to the House. No sooner did He touch
the door with the silver Myrtle, than it flew open, and presented
him with a free passage. He entered, and the door closed after
him of its own accord.
Guided by the moonbeams, He proceeded up the Staircase with
slow and cautious steps. He looked round him every moment with
apprehension and anxiety. He saw a Spy in every shadow, and
heard a voice in every murmur of the night breeze. Consciousness
of the guilty business on which He was employed appalled his
heart, and rendered it more timid than a Woman's. Yet still He
proceeded. He reached the door of Antonia's chamber. He stopped,
and listened. All was hushed within. The total silence
persuaded him that his intended Victim was retired to rest, and
He ventured to lift up the Latch. The door was fastened, and
resisted his efforts: But no sooner was it touched by the
Talisman, than the Bolt flew back. The Ravisher stept on, and
found himself in the chamber, where slept the innocent Girl,
unconscious how dangerous a Visitor was drawing near her Couch.
The door closed after him, and the Bolt shot again into its
Ambrosio advanced with precaution. He took care that not a board
should creak under his foot, and held in his breath as He
approached the Bed. His first attention was to perform the magic
ceremony, as Matilda had charged him: He breathed thrice upon
the silver Myrtle, pronounced over it Antonia's name, and laid it
upon her pillow. The effects which it had already produced
permitted not his doubting its success in prolonging the slumbers
of his devoted Mistress. No sooner was the enchantment
performed than He considered her to be absolutely in his power,
and his eyes flamed with lust and impatience. He now ventured to
cast a glance upon the sleeping Beauty. A single Lamp, burning
before the Statue of St. Rosolia, shed a faint light through the
room, and permitted him to examine all the charms of the lovely
Object before him. The heat of the weather had obliged her to
throw off part of the Bed-cloathes: Those which still covered
her, Ambrosio's insolent hand hastened to remove. She lay with
her cheek reclining upon one ivory arm; The Other rested on the
side of the Bed with graceful indolence. A few tresses of her
hair had escaped from beneath the Muslin which confined the rest,
and fell carelessly over her bosom, as it heaved with slow and
regular suspiration. The warm air had spread her cheek with
higher colour than usual. A smile inexpressibly sweet played
round her ripe and coral lips, from which every now and then
escaped a gentle sigh or an half-pronounced sentence. An air of
enchanting innocence and candour pervaded her whole form; and
there was a sort of modesty in her very nakedness which added
fresh stings to the desires of the lustful Monk.
He remained for some moments devouring those charms with his
eyes which soon were to be subjected to his ill-regulated
passions. Her mouth half-opened seemed to solicit a kiss: He
bent over her; he joined his lips to hers, and drew in the
fragrance of her breath with rapture. This momentary pleasure
increased his longing for still greater. His desires were raised
to that frantic height by which Brutes are agitated. He
resolved not to delay for one instant longer the accomplishment
of his wishes, and hastily proceeded to tear off those garments
which impeded the gratification of his lust.
'Gracious God!' exclaimed a voice behind him; 'Am I not deceived?
Is not this an illusion?'
Terror, confusion, and disappointment accompanied these words, as
they struck Ambrosio's hearing. He started, and turned towards
it. Elvira stood at the door of the chamber, and regarded the
Monk with looks of surprize and detestation.
A frightful dream had represented to her Antonia on the verge of
a precipice. She saw her trembling on the brink: Every moment
seemed to threaten her fall, and She heard her exclaim with
shrieks, 'Save me, Mother! Save me!--Yet a moment, and it will be
too late!' Elvira woke in terror. The vision had made too
strong an impression upon her mind, to permit her resting till
assured of her Daughter's safety. She hastily started from her
Bed, threw on a loose night-gown, and passing through the Closet
in which slept the Waiting-woman, She reached Antonia's chamber
just in time to rescue her from the grasp of the Ravisher.
His shame and her amazement seemed to have petrified into Statues
both Elvira and the Monk: They remained gazing upon each other
in silence. The Lady was the first to recover herself.
'It is no dream!' She cried; 'It is really Ambrosio, who stands
before me! It is the Man whom Madrid esteems a Saint, that I
find at this late hour near the Couch of my unhappy Child!
Monster of Hypocrisy! I already suspected your designs, but
forbore your accusation in pity to human frailty. Silence would
now be criminal: The whole City shall be informed of your
incontinence. I will unmask you, Villain, and convince the
Church what a Viper She cherishes in her bosom.'
Pale and confused the baffled Culprit stood trembling before her.
He would fain have extenuated his offence, but could find no
apology for his conduct: He could produce nothing but broken
sentences, and excuses which contradicted each other. Elvira was
too justly incensed to grant the pardon which He requested. She
protested that She would raise the neighbourhood, and make him an
example to all future Hypocrites. Then hastening to the Bed, She
called to Antonia to wake; and finding that her voice had no
effect, She took her arm, and raised her forcibly from the
pillow. The charm operated too powerfully. Antonia remained
insensible, and on being released by her Mother, sank back upon
the pillow.
'This slumber cannot be natural!' cried the amazed Elvira, whose
indignation increased with every moment. 'Some mystery is
concealed in it; But tremble, Hypocrite; all your villainy shall
soon be unravelled! Help! Help!' She exclaimed aloud; 'Within
there! Flora! Flora!'
'Hear me for one moment, Lady!' cried the Monk, restored to
himself by the urgency of the danger; 'By all that is sacred and
holy, I swear that your Daughter's honour is still unviolated.
Forgive my transgression! Spare me the shame of a discovery, and
permit me to regain the Abbey undisturbed. Grant me this request
in mercy! I promise not only that Antonia shall be secure from
me in future, but that the rest of my life shall prove . . . . .'
Elvira interrupted him abruptly.
'Antonia secure from you? _I_ will secure her! You shall betray
no longer the confidence of Parents! Your iniquity shall be
unveiled to the public eye: All Madrid shall shudder at your
perfidy, your hypocrisy and incontinence. What Ho! there! Flora!
Flora, I say!'
While She spoke thus, the remembrance of Agnes struck upon his
mind. Thus had She sued to him for mercy, and thus had He
refused her prayer! It was now his turn to suffer, and He could
not but acknowledge that his punishment was just. In the
meanwhile Elvira continued to call Flora to her assistance; but
her voice was so choaked with passion that the Servant, who was
buried in profound slumber, was insensible to all her cries:
Elvira dared not go towards the Closet in which Flora slept, lest
the Monk should take that opportunity to escape. Such indeed was
his intention: He trusted that could He reach the Abbey
unobserved by any other than Elvira, her single testimony would
not suffice to ruin a reputation so well established as his was
in Madrid. With this idea He gathered up such garments as He had
already thrown off, and hastened towards the Door. Elvira was
aware of his design; She followed him, and ere He could draw back
the bolt, seized him by the arm, and detained him.
'Attempt not to fly!' said She; 'You quit not this room without
Witnesses of your guilt.'
Ambrosio struggled in vain to disengage himself. Elvira quitted
not her hold, but redoubled her cries for succour. The Friar's
danger grew more urgent. He expected every moment to hear people
assembling at her voice; And worked up to madness by the approach
of ruin, He adopted a resolution equally desperate and savage.
Turning round suddenly, with one hand He grasped Elvira's throat
so as to prevent her continuing her clamour, and with the other,
dashing her violently upon the ground, He dragged her towards the
Bed. Confused by this unexpected attack, She scarcely had power
to strive at forcing herself from his grasp: While the Monk,
snatching the pillow from beneath her Daughter's head, covering
with it Elvira's face, and pressing his knee upon her stomach
with all his strength, endeavoured to put an end to her
existence. He succeeded but too well. Her natural strength
increased by the excess of anguish, long did the Sufferer
struggle to disengage herself, but in vain. The Monk continued
to kneel upon her breast, witnessed without mercy the convulsive
trembling of her limbs beneath him, and sustained with inhuman
firmness the spectacle of her agonies, when soul and body were on
the point of separating. Those agonies at length were over. She
ceased to struggle for life. The Monk took off the pillow, and
gazed upon her. Her face was covered with a frightful blackness:
Her limbs moved no more; The blood was chilled in her veins; Her
heart had forgotten to beat, and her hands were stiff and frozen.
Ambrosio beheld before him that once noble and majestic form, now
become a Corse, cold, senseless and disgusting.
This horrible act was no sooner perpetrated, than the Friar
beheld the enormity of his crime. A cold dew flowed over his
limbs; his eyes closed; He staggered to a chair, and sank into it
almost as lifeless as the Unfortunate who lay extended at his
feet. From this state He was rouzed by the necessity of flight,
and the danger of being found in Antonia's apartment. He had no
desire to profit by the execution of his crime. Antonia now
appeared to him an object of disgust. A deadly cold had usurped
the place of that warmth which glowed in his bosom: No ideas
offered themselves to his mind but those of death and guilt, of
present shame and future punishment. Agitated by remorse and
fear He prepared for flight: Yet his terrors did not so
compleatly master his recollection, as to prevent his taking the
precautions necessary for his safety. He replaced the pillow
upon the bed, gathered up his garments, and with the fatal
Talisman in his hand, bent his unsteady steps towards the door.
Bewildered by fear, He fancied that his flight was opposed by
Legions of Phantoms; Whereever He turned, the disfigured Corse
seemed to lie in his passage, and it was long before He succeeded
in reaching the door. The enchanted Myrtle produced its former
effect. The door opened, and He hastened down the staircase.
He entered the Abbey unobserved, and having shut himself into his
Cell, He abandoned his soul to the tortures of unavailing
remorse, and terrors of impending detection.
Tell us, ye Dead, will none of you in pity
To those you left behind disclose the secret?
O! That some courteous Ghost would blab it out,
What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be.
I've heard that Souls departed have sometimes
Fore-warned Men of their deaths:
'Twas kindly done
To knock, and give the alarum.
Ambrosio shuddered at himself, when He reflected on his rapid
advances in iniquity. The enormous crime which He had just
committed filled him with real horror. The murdered Elvira was
continually before his eyes, and his guilt was already punished
by the agonies of his conscience. Time, however, considerably
weakened these impressions: One day passed away, another
followed it, and still not the least suspicion was thrown upon
him. Impunity reconciled him to his guilt: He began to resume
his spirits; and as his fears of detection died away, He paid
less attention to the reproaches of remorse. Matilda exerted
herself to quiet his alarms. At the first intelligence of
Elvira's death, She seemed greatly affected, and joined the Monk
in deploring the unhappy catastrophe of his adventure: But when
She found his agitation to be somewhat calmed, and himself better
disposed to listen to her arguments, She proceeded to mention his
offence in milder terms, and convince him that He was not so
highly culpable as He appeared to consider himself. She
represented that He had only availed himself of the rights which
Nature allows to every one, those of self-preservation: That
either Elvira or himself must have perished, and that her
inflexibility and resolution to ruin him had deservedly marked
her out for the Victim. She next stated, that as He had before
rendered himself suspected to Elvira, it was a fortunate event
for him that her lips were closed by death; since without this
last adventure, her suspicions if made public might have produced
very disagreeable consequences. He had therefore freed himself
from an Enemy, to whom the errors of his conduct were
sufficiently known to make her dangerous, and who was the
greatest obstacle to his designs upon Antonia. Those designs She
encouraged him not to abandon. She assured him that, no longer
protected by her Mother's watchful eye, the Daughter would fall
an easy conquest; and by praising and enumerating Antonia's
charms, She strove to rekindle the desires of the Monk. In this
endeavour She succeeded but too well.
As if the crimes into which his passion had seduced him had only
increased its violence, He longed more eagerly than ever to enjoy
Antonia. The same success in concealing his present guilt, He
trusted would attend his future. He was deaf to the murmurs of
conscience, and resolved to satisfy his desires at any price. He
waited only for an opportunity of repeating his former
enterprize; But to procure that opportunity by the same means was
now impracticable. In the first transports of despair He had
dashed the enchanted Myrtle into a thousand pieces: Matilda told
him plainly that He must expect no further assistance from the
infernal Powers unless He was willing to subscribe to their
established conditions. This Ambrosio was determined not to do:
He persuaded himself that however great might be his iniquity,
so long as he preserved his claim to salvation, He need not
despair of pardon. He therefore resolutely refused to enter into
any bond or compact with the Fiends; and Matilda finding him
obstinate upon this point, forbore to press him further. She
exerted her invention to discover some means of putting Antonia
into the Abbot's power: Nor was it long before that means
presented itself.
While her ruin was thus meditating, the unhappy Girl herself
suffered severely from the loss of her Mother. Every morning on
waking, it was her first care to hasten to Elvira's chamber. On
that which followed Ambrosio's fatal visit, She woke later than
was her usual custom: Of this She was convinced by the
Abbey Chimes. She started from her bed, threw on a few loose
garments hastily, and was speeding to enquire how her Mother had
passed the night, when her foot struck against something which
lay in her passage. She looked down. What was her horror at
recognizing Elvira's livid Corse! She uttered a loud shriek, and
threw herself upon the floor. She clasped the inanimate form to
her bosom, felt that it was dead-cold, and with a movement of
disgust, of which She was not the Mistress, let it fall again
from her arms. The cry had alarmed Flora, who hastened to her
assistance. The sight which She beheld penetrated her with
horror; but her alarm was more audible than Antonia's. She made
the House ring with her lamentations, while her Mistress, almost
suffocated with grief, could only mark her distress by sobs and
groans. Flora's shrieks soon reached the ears of the Hostess,
whose terror and surprize were excessive on learning the cause of
this disturbance. A Physician was immediately sent for: But on
the first moment of beholding the Corse, He declared that
Elvira's recovery was beyond the power of art. He proceeded
therefore to give his assistance to Antonia, who by this time was
truly in need of it. She was conveyed to bed, while the Landlady
busied herself in giving orders for Elvira's Burial. Dame
Jacintha was a plain good kind of Woman, charitable, generous,
and devout: But her intellects were weak, and She was a
Miserable Slave to fear and superstition. She shuddered at the
idea of passing the night in the same House with a dead Body:
She was persuaded that Elvira's Ghost would appear to her, and no
less certain that such a visit would kill her with fright. From
this persuasion, She resolved to pass the night at a Neighbour's,
and insisted that the Funeral should take place the next day.
St. Clare's Cemetery being the nearest, it was determined that
Elvira should be buried there. Dame Jacintha engaged to defray
every expence attending the burial. She knew not in what
circumstances Antonia was left, but from the sparing manner in
which the Family had lived, She concluded them to be indifferent.
Consequently, She entertained very little hope of ever being
recompensed; But this consideration prevented her not from taking
care that the Interment was performed with decency, and from
showing the unfortunate Antonia all possible respect.
Nobody dies of mere grief; Of this Antonia was an instance.
Aided by her youth and healthy constitution, She shook off the
malady which her Mother's death had occasioned; But it was not
so easy to remove the disease of her mind. Her eyes were
constantly filled with tears: Every trifle affected her, and She
evidently nourished in her bosom a profound and rooted
melancholy. The slightest mention of Elvira, the most trivial
circumstance recalling that beloved Parent to her memory, was
sufficient to throw her into serious agitation. How much would
her grief have been increased, had She known the agonies which
terminated her Mother's existence! But of this no one
entertained the least suspicion. Elvira was subject to strong
convulsions: It was supposed that, aware of their approach, She
had dragged herself to her Daughter's chamber in hopes of
assistance; that a sudden access of her fits had seized her, too
violent to be resisted by her already enfeebled state of health;
and that She had expired ere She had time to reach the medicine
which generally relieved her, and which stood upon a shelf in
Antonia's room. This idea was firmly credited by the few people,
who interested themselves about Elvira: Her Death was esteemed a
natural event, and soon forgotten by all save by her, who had but
too much reason to deplore her loss.
In truth Antonia's situation was sufficiently embarrassing and
unpleasant. She was alone in the midst of a dissipated and
expensive City; She was ill provided with money, and worse with
Friends. Her aunt Leonella was still at Cordova, and She knew
not her direction. Of the Marquis de las Cisternas She heard no
news: As to Lorenzo, She had long given up the idea of
possessing any interest in his bosom. She knew not to whom She
could address herself in her present dilemma. She wished to
consult Ambrosio; But She remembered her Mother's injunctions to
shun him as much as possible, and the last conversation which
Elvira had held with her upon the subject had given her
sufficient lights respecting his designs to put her upon her
guard against him in future. Still all her Mother's warnings
could not make her change her good opinion of the Friar. She
continued to feel that his friendship and society were requisite
to her happiness: She looked upon his failings with a partial
eye, and could not persuade herself that He really had intended
her ruin. However, Elvira had positively commanded her to drop
his acquaintance, and She had too much respect for her orders to
disobey them.
At length She resolved to address herself for advice and
protection to the Marquis de las Cisternas, as being her nearest
Relation. She wrote to him, briefly stating her desolate
situation; She besought him to compassionate his Brother's Child,
to continue to her Elvira's pension, and to authorise her
retiring to his old Castle in Murcia, which till now had been her
retreat. Having sealed her letter, She gave it to the trusty
Flora, who immediately set out to execute her commission. But
Antonia was born under an unlucky Star. Had She made her
application to the Marquis but one day sooner, received as his
Niece and placed at the head of his Family, She would have
escaped all the misfortunes with which She was now threatened.
Raymond had always intended to execute this plan: But first, his
hopes of making the proposal to Elvira through the lips of Agnes,
and afterwards, his disappointment at losing his intended Bride,
as well as the severe illness which for some time had confined
him to his Bed, made him defer from day to day the giving an
Asylum in his House to his Brother's Widow. He had commissioned
Lorenzo to supply her liberally with money: But Elvira,
unwilling to receive obligations from that Nobleman, had assured
him that She needed no immediate pecuniary assistance.
Consequently, the Marquis did not imagine that a trifling delay
on his part could create any embarrassment; and the distress and
agitation of his mind might well excuse his negligence.
Had He been informed that Elvira's death had left her Daughter
Friendless and unprotected, He would doubtless have taken such
measures, as would have ensured her from every danger: But
Antonia was not destined to be so fortunate. The day on which
She sent her letter to the Palace de las Cisternas was that
following Lorenzo's departure from Madrid. The Marquis was in
the first paroxysms of despair at the conviction that Agnes was
indeed no more: He was delirious, and his life being in danger,
no one was suffered to approach him. Flora was informed that He
was incapable of attending to Letters, and that probably a few
hours would decide his fate. With this unsatisfactory answer She
was obliged to return to her Mistress, who now found herself
plunged into greater difficulties than ever.
Flora and Dame Jacintha exerted themselves to console her. The
Latter begged her to make herself easy, for that as long as She
chose to stay with her, She would treat her like her own Child.
Antonia, finding that the good Woman had taken a real affection
for her, was somewhat comforted by thinking that She had at
least one Friend in the World. A Letter was now brought to her,
directed to Elvira. She recognized Leonella's writing, and
opening it with joy, found a detailed account of her Aunt's
adventures at Cordova. She informed her Sister that She had
recovered her Legacy, had lost her heart, and had received in
exchange that of the most amiable of Apothecaries, past, present,
and to come. She added that She should be at Madrid on the
Tuesday night, and meant to have the pleasure of presenting her
Caro Sposo in form. Though her nuptials were far from pleasing
Antonia, Leonella's speedy return gave her Niece much delight.
She rejoiced in thinking that She should once more be under a
Relation's care. She could not but judge it to be highly
improper, for a young Woman to be living among absolute
Strangers, with no one to regulate her conduct, or protect her
from the insults to which, in her defenceless situation, She was
exposed. She therefore looked forward with impatience to the
Tuesday night.
It arrived. Antonia listened anxiously to the Carriages, as they
rolled along the Street. None of them stopped, and it grew late
without Leonella's appearing. Still, Antonia resolved to sit up
till her Aunt's arrival, and in spite of all her remonstrances,
Dame Jacintha and Flora insisted upon doing the same. The hours
passed on slow and tediously. Lorenzo's departure from Madrid
had put a stop to the nightly Serenades: She hoped in vain to
hear the usual sound of Guitars beneath her window. She took up
her own, and struck a few chords: But Music that evening had lost
its charms for her, and She soon replaced the Instrument in its
case. She seated herself at her embroidery frame, but nothing
went right: The silks were missing, the thread snapped every
moment, and the needles were so expert at falling that they
seemed to be animated. At length a flake of wax fell from the
Taper which stood near her upon a favourite wreath of Violets:
This compleatly discomposed her; She threw down her needle, and
quitted the frame. It was decreed that for that night nothing
should have the power of amusing her. She was the prey of Ennui,
and employed herself in making fruitless wishes for the arrival
of her Aunt.
As She walked with a listless air up and down the chamber, the
Door caught her eye conducting to that which had been her
Mother's. She remembered that Elvira's little Library was
arranged there, and thought that She might possibly find in it
some Book to amuse her till Leonella should arrive. Accordingly
She took her Taper from the table, passed through the little
Closet, and entered the adjoining apartment. As She looked
around her, the sight of this room brought to her recollection a
thousand painful ideas. It was the first time of her entering it
since her Mother's death. The total silence prevailing through
the chamber, the Bed despoiled of its furniture, the cheerless
hearth where stood an extinguished Lamp, and a few dying Plants
in the window which, since Elvira's loss, had been neglected,
inspired Antonia with a melancholy awe. The gloom of night gave
strength to this sensation. She placed her light upon the Table,
and sank into a large chair, in which She had seen her Mother
seated a thousand and a thousand times. She was never to see her
seated there again! Tears unbidden streamed down her cheek, and
She abandoned herself to the sadness which grew deeper with
every moment.
Ashamed of her weakness, She at length rose from her seat: She
proceeded to seek for what had brought her to this melancholy
scene. The small collection of Books was arranged upon several
shelves in order. Antonia examined them without finding any
thing likely to interest her, till She put her hand upon a volume
of old Spanish Ballads. She read a few Stanzas of one of them:
They excited her curiosity. She took down the Book, and seated
herself to peruse it with more ease. She trimmed the Taper,
which now drew towards its end, and then read the following
A Warrior so bold, and a Virgin so bright
Conversed, as They sat on the green:
They gazed on each other with tender delight;
Alonzo the Brave was the name of the Knight,
The Maid's was the Fair Imogine.
'And Oh!' said the Youth, 'since to-morrow I go
To fight in a far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon leaving to flow,
Some Other will court you, and you will bestow
On a wealthier Suitor your hand.'
'Oh! hush these suspicions,' Fair Imogine said,
'Offensive to Love and to me!
For if ye be living, or if ye be dead,
I swear by the Virgin, that none in your stead
Shall Husband of Imogine be.
'If e'er I by lust or by wealth led aside
Forget my Alonzo the Brave,
God grant, that to punish my falsehood and pride
Your Ghost at the Marriage may sit by my side,
May tax me with perjury, claim me as Bride,
And bear me away to the Grave!'
To Palestine hastened the Hero so bold;
His Love, She lamented him sore:
But scarce had a twelve-month elapsed, when behold,
A Baron all covered with jewels and gold
Arrived at Fair Imogine's door.
His treasure, his presents, his spacious domain
Soon made her untrue to her vows:
He dazzled her eyes; He bewildered her brain;
He caught her affections so light and so vain,
And carried her home as his Spouse.
And now had the Marriage been blest by the Priest;
The revelry now was begun:
The Tables, they groaned with the weightof the Feast;
Nor yet had the laughter and merriment ceased,
When the Bell of the Castle told,--'One!'
Then first with amazement Fair Imogine found
That a Stranger was placed by her side: His air was terrific;
He uttered no sound; He spoke not, He moved not,
He looked not around,
But earnestly gazed on the Bride.
His vizor was closed, and gigantic his height;
His armour was sable to view:
All pleasure and laughter were hushed at his sight;
The Dogs as They eyed him drew back in affright,
The Lights in the chamber burned blue!
His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay;
The Guests sat in silence and fear.
At length spoke the Bride, while She trembled;
'I pray, Sir Knight, that your Helmet aside you would lay,
And deign to partake of our chear.'
The Lady is silent: The Stranger complies.
His vizor lie slowly unclosed:
Oh! God! what a sight met Fair Imogine's eyes!
What words can express her dismay and surprize,
When a Skeleton's head was exposed.
All present then uttered a terrified shout;
All turned with disgust from the scene.
The worms, They crept in, and the worms, They crept out,
And sported his eyes and his temples about,
While the Spectre addressed Imogine.
'Behold me, Thou false one! Behold me!' He cried;
'Remember Alonzo the Brave!
God grants, that to punish thy falsehood and pride
My Ghost at thy marriage should sit by thy side,
Should tax thee with perjury, claim thee as Bride
And bear thee away to the Grave!'
Thus saying, his arms round the Lady He wound,
While loudly She shrieked in dismay;
Then sank with his prey through the wide-yawning ground:
Nor ever again was Fair Imogine found,
Or the Spectre who bore her away.
Not long lived the Baron; and none since that time
To inhabit the Castle presume:
For Chronicles tell, that by order sublime
There Imogine suffers the pain of her crime,
And mourns her deplorable doom.
At midnight four times in each year does her Spright
When Mortals in slumber are bound,
Arrayed in her bridal apparel of white,
Appear in the Hall with the Skeleton-Knight,
And shriek, as He whirls her around.
While They drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave,
Dancing round them the Spectres are seen:
Their liquor is blood, and this horrible Stave
They howl.--'To the health of Alonzo the Brave,
And his Consort, the False Imogine!'
The perusal of this story was ill-calculated to dispel Antonia's
melancholy. She had naturally a strong inclination to the
marvellous; and her Nurse, who believed firmly in Apparitions,
had related to her when an Infant so many horrible adventures of
this kind, that all Elvira's attempts had failed to eradicate
their impressions from her Daughter's mind. Antonia still
nourished a superstitious prejudice in her bosom: She was often
susceptible of terrors which, when She discovered their natural
and insignificant cause, made her blush at her own weakness.
With such a turn of mind, the adventure which She had just been
reading sufficed to give her apprehensions the alarm. The hour
and the scene combined to authorize them. It was the dead of
night: She was alone, and in the chamber once occupied by her
deceased Mother. The weather was comfortless and stormy: The
wind howled around the House, the doors rattled in their frames,
and the heavy rain pattered against the windows. No other sound
was heard. The Taper, now burnt down to the socket, sometimes
flaring upwards shot a gleam of light through the room, then
sinking again seemed upon the point of expiring. Antonia's heart
throbbed with agitation: Her eyes wandered fearfully over the
objects around her, as the trembling flame illuminated them at
intervals. She attempted to rise from her seat; But her limbs
trembled so violently that She was unable to proceed. She then
called Flora, who was in a room at no great distance: But
agitation choaked her voice, and her cries died away in hollow
She passed some minutes in this situation, after which her
terrors began to diminish. She strove to recover herself, and
acquire strength enough to quit the room: Suddenly She fancied,
that She heard a low sigh drawn near her. This idea brought back
her former weakness. She had already raised herself from her
seat, and was on the point of taking the Lamp from the Table.
The imaginary noise stopped her: She drew back her hand, and
supported herself upon the back of a Chair. She listened
anxiously, but nothing more was heard.
'Gracious God!' She said to herself; 'What could be that sound?
Was I deceived, or did I really hear it?'
Her reflections were interrupted by a noise at the door scarcely
audible: It seemed as if somebody was whispering. Antonia's
alarm increased: Yet the Bolt She knew to be fastened, and this
idea in some degree reassured her. Presently the Latch was
lifted up softly, and the Door moved with caution backwards and
forwards. Excess of terror now supplied Antonia with that
strength, of which She had till then been deprived. She started
from her place and made towards the Closet door, whence She
might soon have reached the chamber where She expected to find
Flora and Dame Jacintha. Scarcely had She reached the middle of
the room when the Latch was lifted up a second time. An
involuntary movement obliged her to turn her head. Slowly and
gradually the Door turned upon its hinges, and standing upon the
Threshold She beheld a tall thin Figure, wrapped in a white
shroud which covered it from head to foot.
This vision arrested her feet: She remained as if petrified in
the middle of the apartment. The Stranger with measured and
solemn steps drew near the Table. The dying Taper darted a blue
and melancholy flame as the Figure advanced towards it. Over the
Table was fixed a small Clock; The hand of it was upon the stroke
of three. The Figure stopped opposite to the Clock: It raised
its right arm, and pointed to the hour, at the same time looking
earnestly upon Antonia, who waited for the conclusion of this
scene, motionless and silent.
The figure remained in this posture for some moments. The clock
struck. When the sound had ceased, the Stranger advanced yet a
few steps nearer Antonia.
'Yet three days,' said a voice faint, hollow, and sepulchral;
'Yet three days, and we meet again!'
Antonia shuddered at the words.
'We meet again?' She pronounced at length with difficulty:
'Where shall we meet? Whom shall I meet?'
The figure pointed to the ground with one hand, and with the
other raised the Linen which covered its face.
'Almighty God! My Mother!'
Antonia shrieked, and fell lifeless upon the floor.
Dame Jacintha who was at work in a neighbouring chamber, was
alarmed by the cry: Flora was just gone down stairs to fetch
fresh oil for the Lamp, by which they had been sitting. Jacintha
therefore hastened alone to Antonia's assistance, and great was
her amazement to find her extended upon the floor. She raised
her in her arms, conveyed her to her apartment, and placed her
upon the Bed still senseless. She then proceeded to bathe her
temples, chafe her hands, and use all possible means of bringing
her to herself. With some difficulty She succeeded. Antonia
opened her eyes, and looked round her wildly.
'Where is She?' She cried in a trembling voice; 'Is She gone? Am
I safe? Speak to me! Comfort me! Oh! speak to me for God's
'Safe from whom, my Child?' replied the astonished Jacintha;
'What alarms you? Of whom are you afraid?'
'In three days! She told me that we should meet in three days! I
heard her say it! I saw her, Jacintha, I saw her but this
She threw herself upon Jacintha's bosom.
'You saw her? Saw whom?'
'My Mother's Ghost!'
'Christ Jesus!' cried Jacintha, and starting from the Bed, let
fall Antonia upon the pillow, and fled in consternation out of
the room.
As She hastened down stairs, She met Flora ascending them.
'Go to your Mistress, Flora,' said She; 'Here are rare doings!
Oh! I am the most unfortunate Woman alive! My House is filled
with Ghosts and dead Bodies, and the Lord knows what besides; Yet
I am sure, nobody likes such company less than I do. But go
your way to Donna Antonia, Flora, and let me go mine.'
Thus saying, She continued her course to the Street door, which
She opened, and without allowing herself time to throw on her
veil, She made the best of her way to the Capuchin Abbey. In the
meanwhile, Flora hastened to her Lady's chamber, equally
surprized and alarmed at Jacintha's consternation. She found
Antonia lying upon the bed insensible. She used the same means
for her recovery that Jacintha had already employed; But finding
that her Mistress only recovered from one fit to fall into
another, She sent in all haste for a Physician. While expecting
his arrival, She undrest Antonia, and conveyed her to Bed.
Heedless of the storm, terrified almost out of her senses,
Jacintha ran through the Streets, and stopped not till She
reached the Gate of the Abbey. She rang loudly at the bell, and
as soon as the Porter appeared, She desired permission to speak
to the Superior. Ambrosio was then conferring with Matilda upon
the means of procuring access to Antonia. The cause of Elvira's
death remaining unknown, He was convinced that crimes were not so
swiftly followed by punishment, as his Instructors the Monks had
taught him, and as till then He had himself believed. This
persuasion made him resolve upon Antonia's ruin, for the
enjoyment of whose person dangers and difficulties only seemed to
have increased his passion. The Monk had already made one
attempt to gain admission to her presence; But Flora had refused
him in such a manner as to convince him that all future
endeavours must be vain. Elvira had confided her suspicions to
that trusty Servant: She had desired her never to leave Ambrosio
alone with her Daughter, and if possible to prevent their meeting
altogether. Flora promised to obey her, and had executed her
orders to the very letter. Ambrosio's visit had been rejected
that morning, though Antonia was ignorant of it. He saw that to
obtain a sight of his Mistress by open means was out of the
question; and both Himself and Matilda had consumed the night, in
endeavouring to invent some plan, whose event might be more
successful. Such was their employment, when a Lay-Brother
entered the Abbot's Cell, and informed him that a Woman calling
herself Jacintha Zuniga requested audience for a few minutes.
Ambrosio was by no means disposed to grant the petition of his
Visitor. He refused it positively, and bad the Lay-Brother tell
the Stranger to return the next day. Matilda interrupted him.
'See this Woman,' said She in a low voice; 'I have my reasons.'
The Abbot obeyed her, and signified that He would go to the
Parlour immediately. With this answer the Lay-Brother
withdrew. As soon as they were alone Ambrosio enquired why
Matilda wished him to see this Jacintha.
'She is Antonia's Hostess,' replied Matilda; 'She may possibly be
of use to you: but let us examine her, and learn what brings her
They proceeded together to the Parlour, where Jacintha was
already waiting for the Abbot. She had conceived a great opinion
of his piety and virtue; and supposing him to have much influence
over the Devil, thought that it must be an easy matter for him to
lay Elvira's Ghost in the Red Sea. Filled with this persuasion
She had hastened to the Abbey. As soon as She saw the Monk enter
the Parlour, She dropped upon her knees, and began her story as
'Oh! Reverend Father! Such an accident! Such an adventure! I
know not what course to take, and unless you can help me, I shall
certainly go distracted. Well, to be sure, never was Woman so
unfortunate, as myself! All in my power to keep clear of such
abomination have I done, and yet that all is too little. What
signifies my telling my beads four times a day, and observing
every fast prescribed by the Calendar? What signifies my having
made three Pilgrimages to St. James of Compostella, and purchased
as many pardons from the Pope as would buy off Cain's
punishment? Nothing prospers with me! All goes wrong, and God
only knows, whether any thing will ever go right again! Why now,
be your Holiness the Judge. My Lodger dies in convulsions; Out
of pure kindness I bury her at my own expence; (Not that She is
any Relation of mine, or that I shall be benefited a single
pistole by her death: I got nothing by it, and therefore you
know, reverend Father, that her living or dying was just the same
to me. But that is nothing to the purpose; To return to what I
was saying,) I took care of her funeral, had every thing
performed decently and properly, and put myself to expence
enough, God knows! And how do you think the Lady repays me for
my kindness? Why truly by refusing to sleep quietly in her
comfortable deal Coffin, as a peaceable well-disposed Spirit
ought to do, and coming to plague me, who never wish to set eyes
on her again. Forsooth, it well becomes her to go racketing
about my House at midnight, popping into her Daughter's room
through the Keyhole, and frightening the poor Child out of her
wits! Though She be a Ghost, She might be more civil than to
bolt into a Person's House, who likes her company so little. But
as for me, reverend Father, the plain state of the case is this:
If She walks into my House, I must walk out of it, for I cannot
abide such Visitors, not I! Thus you see, your Sanctity, that
without your assistance I am ruined and undone for ever. I shall
be obliged to quit my House; Nobody will take it, when 'tis known
that She haunts it, and then I shall find myself in a fine
situation! Miserable Woman that I am! What shall I do! What
will become of me!'
Here She wept bitterly, wrung her hands, and begged to know the
Abbot's opinion of her case.
'In truth, good Woman,' replied He, 'It will be difficult for me
to relieve you without knowing what is the matter with you. You
have forgotten to tell me what has happened, and what it is you
'Let me die' cried Jacintha, 'but your Sanctity is in the right!
This then is the fact stated briefly. A lodger of mine is lately
dead, a very good sort of Woman that I must needs say for her as
far as my knowledge of her went, though that was not a great way:
She kept me too much at a distance; for indeed She was given to
be upon the high ropes, and whenever I ventured to speak to her,
She had a look with her which always made me feel a little
queerish, God forgive me for saying so. However, though She was
more stately than needful, and affected to look down upon me
(Though if I am well informed, I come of as good Parents as She
could do for her ears, for her Father was a Shoe-maker at
Cordova, and Mine was an Hatter at Madrid, aye, and a very
creditable Hatter too, let me tell you,) Yet for all her pride,
She was a quiet well-behaved Body, and I never wish to have a
better Lodger. This makes me wonder the more at her not sleeping
quietly in her Grave: But there is no trusting to people in this
world! For my part, I never saw her do amiss, except on the
Friday before her death. To be sure, I was then much scandalized
by seeing her eat the wing of a Chicken! ''How, Madona Flora!''
quoth I; (Flora, may it please your Reverence, is the name of the
waiting Maid)--''How, Madona Flora!'' quoth I; ''Does your
Mistress eat flesh upon Fridays? Well! Well! See the event,
and then remember that Dame Jacintha warned you of it!'' These
were my very words, but Alas! I might as well have held my
tongue! Nobody minded me; and Flora, who is somewhat pert and
snappish, (More is the pity, say I) told me that there was no
more harm in eating a Chicken than the egg from which it came.
Nay, She even declared that if her Lady added a slice of bacon,
She would not be an inch nearer Damnation, God protect us! A
poor ignorant sinful soul! I protest to your Holiness, I
trembled to hear her utter such blasphemies, and expected every
moment to see the ground open and swallow her up, Chicken and
all! For you must know, worshipful Father, that while She talked
thus, She held the plate in her hand, on which lay the identical
roast Fowl. And a fine Bird it was, that I must say for it! Done
to a turn, for I superintended the cooking of it myself: It was
a little Gallician of my own raising, may it please your
Holiness, and the flesh was as white as an egg-shell, as indeed
Donna Elvira told me herself. ''Dame Jacintha,'' said She, very
good-humouredly, though to say the truth, She was always very
polite to me . . . . .'
Here Ambrosio's patience failed him. Eager to know Jacintha's
business in which Antonia seemed to be concerned, He was almost
distracted while listening to the rambling of this prosing old
Woman. He interrupted her, and protested that if She did not
immediately tell her story and have done with it, He should quit
the Parlour, and leave her to get out of her difficulties by
herself. This threat had the desired effect. Jacintha related
her business in as few words as She could manage; But her account
was still so prolix that Ambrosio had need of his patience to
bear him to the conclusion.
'And so, your Reverence,' said She, after relating Elvira's death
and burial, with all their circumstances; 'And so, your
Reverence, upon hearing the shriek, I put away my work, and away
posted I to Donna Antonia's chamber. Finding nobody there, I
past on to the next; But I must own, I was a little timorous at
going in, for this was the very room where Donna Elvira used to
sleep. However, in I went, and sure enough, there lay the young
Lady at full length upon the floor, as cold as a stone, and as
white as a sheet. I was surprized at this, as your Holiness may
well suppose; But Oh me! how I shook when I saw a great tall
figure at my elbow whose head touched the ceiling! The face was
Donna Elvira's, I must confess; But out of its mouth came clouds
of fire, its arms were loaded with heavy chains which it rattled
piteously, and every hair on its head was a Serpent as big as my
arm! At this I was frightened enough, and began to say my
Ave-Maria: But the Ghost interrupting me uttered three loud
groans, and roared out in a terrible voice, ''Oh! That Chicken's
wing! My poor soul suffers for it!'' As soon as She had said
this, the Ground opened, the Spectre sank down, I heard a clap of
thunder, and the room was filled with a smell of brimstone. When
I recovered from my fright, and had brought Donna Antonia to
herself, who told me that She had cried out upon seeing her
Mother's Ghost, (And well might She cry, poor Soul! Had I been
in her place, I should have cried ten times louder) it directly
came into my head, that if any one had power to quiet this
Spectre, it must be your Reverence. So hither I came in all
diligence, to beg that you will sprinkle my House with holy
water, and lay the Apparition in the Red Sea.'
Ambrosio stared at this strange story, which He could not credit.
'Did Donna Antonia also see the Ghost?' said He.
'As plain as I see you, Reverend Father!'
Ambrosio paused for a moment. Here was an opportunity offered
him of gaining access to Antonia, but He hesitated to employ it.
The reputation which He enjoyed in Madrid was still dear to him;
and since He had lost the reality of virtue, it appeared as if
its semblance was become more valuable. He was conscious that
publicly to break through the rule never to quit the
Abbey precincts, would derogate much from his supposed austerity.
In visiting Elvira, He had always taken care to keep his features
concealed from the Domestics. Except by the Lady, her Daughter,
and the faithful Flora, He was known in the Family by no other
name than that of Father Jerome. Should He comply with
Jacintha's request, and accompany her to her House, He knew that
the violation of his rule could not be kept a secret. However,
his eagerness to see Antonia obtained the victory: He even hoped,
that the singularity of this adventure would justify him in the
eyes of Madrid: But whatever might be the consequences, He
resolved to profit by the opportunity which chance had presented
to him. An expressive look from Matilda confirmed him in this
'Good Woman,' said He to Jacintha, 'what you tell me is so
extraordinary that I can scarcely credit your assertions.
However, I will comply with your request. Tomorrow after Matins
you may expect me at your House: I will then examine into what I
can do for you, and if it is in my power, will free you from this
unwelcome Visitor. Now then go home, and peace be with you!'
'Home?' exclaimed Jacintha; 'I go home? Not I by my troth!
except under your protection, I set no foot of mine within the
threshold. God help me, the Ghost may meet me upon the Stairs,
and whisk me away with her to the devil! Oh! That I had
accepted young Melchior Basco's offer! Then I should have had
somebody to protect me; But now I am a lone Woman, and meet with
nothing but crosses and misfortunes! Thank Heaven, it is not yet
too late to repent! There is Simon Gonzalez will have me any day
of the week, and if I live till daybreak, I will marry him out
of hand: An Husband I will have, that is determined, for now
this Ghost is once in my House, I shall be frightened out of my
wits to sleep alone. But for God's sake, reverend Father, come
with me now. I shall have no rest till the House is purified, or
the poor young Lady either. The dear Girl! She is in a piteous
taking: I left her in strong convulsions, and I doubt, She will
not easily recover her fright.'
The Friar started, and interrupted her hastily.
'In convulsions, say you? Antonia in convulsions? Lead on, good
Woman! I follow you this moment!'
Jacintha insisted upon his stopping to furnish himself with the
vessel of holy water: With this request He complied. Thinking
herself safe under his protection should a Legion of Ghosts
attack her, the old Woman returned the Monk a profusion of
thanks, and they departed together for the Strada di San Iago.
So strong an impression had the Spectre made upon Antonia, that
for the first two or three hours the Physician declared her life
to be in danger. The fits at length becoming less frequent
induced him to alter his opinion. He said that to keep her quiet
was all that was necessary; and He ordered a medicine to be
prepared which would tranquillize her nerves, and procure her
that repose which at present She much wanted. The sight of
Ambrosio, who now appeared with Jacintha at her Bedside,
contributed essentially to compose her ruffled spirits. Elvira
had not sufficiently explained herself upon the nature of his
designs, to make a Girl so ignorant of the world as her Daughter
aware how dangerous was his acquaintance. At this moment, when
penetrated with horror at the scene which had just past, and
dreading to contemplate the Ghost's prediction, her mind had need
of all the succours of friendship and religion, Antonia regarded
the Abbot with an eye doubly partial. That strong prepossession
in his favour still existed which She had felt for him at first
sight: She fancied, yet knew not wherefore, that his presence
was a safeguard to her from every danger, insult, or misfortune.
She thanked him gratefully for his visit, and related to him the
adventure, which had alarmed her so seriously.
The Abbot strove to reassure her, and convince her that the
whole had been a deception of her overheated fancy. The
solitude in which She had passed the Evening, the gloom of night,
the Book which She had been reading, and the Room in which She
sat, were all calculated to place before her such a vision. He
treated the idea of Ghosts with ridicule, and produced strong
arguments to prove the fallacy of such a system. His
conversation tranquillized and comforted her, but did not
convince her. She could not believe that the Spectre had been a
mere creature of her imagination; Every circumstance was
impressed upon her mind too forcibly, to permit her flattering
herself with such an idea. She persisted in asserting that She
had really seen her Mother's Ghost, had heard the period of her
dissolution announced and declared that She never should quit
her bed alive. Ambrosio advised her against encouraging these
sentiments, and then quitted her chamber, having promised to
repeat his visit on the morrow. Antonia received this assurance
with every mark of joy: But the Monk easily perceived that He
was not equally acceptable to her Attendant. Flora obeyed
Elvira's injunctions with the most scrupulous observance. She
examined every circumstance with an anxious eye likely in the
least to prejudice her young Mistress, to whom She had been
attached for many years. She was a Native of Cuba, had followed
Elvira to Spain, and loved the young Antonia with a Mother's
affection. Flora quitted not the room for a moment while the
Abbot remained there: She watched his every word, his every
look, his every action. He saw that her suspicious eye was
always fixed upon him, and conscious that his designs would not
bear inspection so minute, He felt frequently confused and
disconcerted. He was aware that She doubted the purity of his
intentions; that She would never leave him alone with Antonia,
and his Mistress defended by the presence of this vigilant
Observer, He despaired of finding the means to gratify his
As He quitted the House, Jacintha met him, and begged that some
Masses might be sung for the repose of Elvira's soul, which She
doubted not was suffering in Purgatory. He promised not to
forget her request; But He perfectly gained the old Woman's
heart by engaging to watch during the whole of the approaching
night in the haunted chamber. Jacintha could find no terms
sufficiently strong to express her gratitude, and the Monk
departed loaded with her benedictions.
It was broad day when He returned to the Abbey. His first care
was to communicate what had past to his Confident. He felt too
sincere a passion for Antonia to have heard unmoved the
prediction of her speedy death, and He shuddered at the idea of
losing an object so dear to him. Upon this head Matilda
reassured him. She confirmed the arguments which Himself had
already used: She declared Antonia to have been deceived by the
wandering of her brain, by the Spleen which opprest her at the
moment, and by the natural turn of her mind to superstition, and
the marvellous. As to Jacintha's account, the absurdity refuted
itself; The Abbot hesitated not to believe that She had
fabricated the whole story, either confused by terror, or hoping
to make him comply more readily with her request. Having
overruled the Monk's apprehensions, Matilda continued thus.
'The prediction and the Ghost are equally false; But it must be
your care, Ambrosio, to verify the first. Antonia within three
days must indeed be dead to the world; But She must live for you.
Her present illness, and this fancy which She has taken into her
head, will colour a plan which I have long meditated, but which
was impracticable without your procuring access to Antonia. She
shall be yours, not for a single night, but for ever. All the
vigilance of her Duenna shall not avail her: You shall riot
unrestrained in the charms of your Mistress. This very day must
the scheme be put in execution, for you have no time to lose.
The Nephew of the Duke of Medina Celi prepares to demand Antonia
for his Bride: In a few days She will be removed to the Palace
of her Relation, the Marquis de las Cisternas, and there She will
be secure from your attempts. Thus during your absence have I
been informed by my Spies, who are ever employed in bringing me
intelligence for your service. Now then listen to me. There is
a juice extracted from certain herbs, known but to few, which
brings on the Person who drinks it the exact image of Death. Let
this be administered to Antonia: You may easily find means to
pour a few drops into her medicine. The effect will be throwing
her into strong convulsions for an hour: After which her blood
will gradually cease to flow, and heart to beat; A mortal
paleness will spread itself over her features, and She will
appear a Corse to every eye. She has no Friends about her: You
may charge yourself unsuspected with the superintendence of her
funeral, and cause her to be buried in the Vaults of St. Clare.
Their solitude and easy access render these Caverns favourable to
your designs. Give Antonia the soporific draught this Evening:
Eight and forty hours after She has drank it, Life will revive to
her bosom. She will then be absolutely in your power: She will
find all resistance unavailing, and necessity will compel her to
receive you in her arms.'
'Antonia will be in my power!' exclaimed the Monk; 'Matilda, you
transport me! At length then, happiness will be mine, and that
happiness will be Matilda's gift, will be the gift of friendship!
I shall clasp Antonia in my arms, far from every prying eye, from
every tormenting Intruder! I shall sigh out my soul upon her
bosom; Shall teach her young heart the first rudiments of
pleasure, and revel uncontrouled in the endless variety of her
charms! And shall this delight indeed by mine? Shall I give the
reins to my desires, and gratify every wild tumultuous wish? Oh!
Matilda, how can I express to you my gratitude?'
'By profiting by my counsels. Ambrosio, I live but to serve you:
Your interest and happiness are equally mine. Be your person
Antonia's, but to your friendship and your heart I still assert
my claim. Contributing to yours forms now my only pleasure.
Should my exertions procure the gratification of your wishes, I
shall consider my trouble to be amply repaid. But let us lose no
time. The liquor of which I spoke is only to be found in St.
Clare's Laboratory. Hasten then to the Prioress; Request of her
admission to the Laboratory, and it will not be denied. There is
a Closet at the lower end of the great Room, filled with liquids
of different colours and qualities. The Bottle in question
stands by itself upon the third shelf on the left. It contains a
greenish liquor: Fill a small phial with it when you are
unobserved, and Antonia is your own.'
The Monk hesitated not to adopt this infamous plan. His desires,
but too violent before, had acquired fresh vigour from the sight
of Antonia. As He sat by her bedside, accident had discovered to
him some of those charms which till then had been concealed from
him: He found them even more perfect, than his ardent imagination
had pictured them. Sometimes her white and polished arm was
displayed in arranging the pillow: Sometimes a sudden movement
discovered part of her swelling bosom: But whereever the
new-found charm presented itself, there rested the Friar's
gloting eyes. Scarcely could He master himself sufficiently to
conceal his desires from Antonia and her vigilant Duenna.
Inflamed by the remembrance of these beauties, He entered into
Matilda's scheme without hesitation.
No sooner were Matins over than He bent his course towards the
Convent of St. Clare: His arrival threw the whole Sisterhood
into the utmost amazement. The Prioress was sensible of the
honour done her Convent by his paying it his first visit, and
strove to express her gratitude by every possible attention. He
was paraded through the Garden, shown all the reliques of Saints
and Martyrs, and treated with as much respect and distinction as
had He been the Pope himself. On his part, Ambrosio received the
Domina's civilities very graciously, and strove to remove her
surprize at his having broken through his resolution. He stated,
that among his penitents, illness prevented many from quitting
their Houses. These were exactly the People who most needed his
advice and the comforts of Religion: Many representations had
been made to him upon this account, and though highly repugnant
to his own wishes, He had found it absolutely necessary for the
service of heaven to change his determination, and quit his
beloved retirement. The Prioress applauded his zeal in his
profession and his charity towards Mankind: She declared that
Madrid was happy in possessing a Man so perfect and
irreproachable. In such discourse, the Friar at length reached
the Laboratory. He found the Closet: The Bottle stood in the
place which Matilda had described, and the Monk seized an
opportunity to fill his phial unobserved with the soporific
liquor. Then having partaken of a Collation in the Refectory, He
retired from the Convent pleased with the success of his visit,
and leaving the Nuns delighted by the honour conferred upon them.
He waited till Evening before He took the road to Antonia's
dwelling. Jacintha welcomed him with transport, and besought him
not to forget his promise to pass the night in the haunted
Chamber: That promise He now repeated. He found Antonia
tolerably well, but still harping upon the Ghost's prediction.
Flora moved not from her Lady's Bed, and by symptoms yet stronger
than on the former night testified her dislike to the Abbot's
presence. Still Ambrosio affected not to observe them. The
Physician arrived, while He was conversing with Antonia. It was
dark already; Lights were called for, and Flora was compelled to
descend for them herself. However, as She left a third Person in
the room, and expected to be absent but a few minutes, She
believed that She risqued nothing in quitting her post. No
sooner had She left the room, than Ambrosio moved towards the
Table, on which stood Antonia's medicine: It was placed in a
recess of the window. The Physician seated in an armed-chair,
and employed in questioning his Patient, paid no attention to the
proceedings of the Monk. Ambrosio seized the opportunity: He
drew out the fatal Phial, and let a few drops fall into the
medicine. He then hastily left the Table, and returned to the
seat which He had quitted. When Flora made her appearance with
lights, every thing seemed to be exactly as She had left it.
The Physician declared that Antonia might quit her chamber the
next day with perfect safety. He recommended her following the
same prescription which, on the night before, had procured her a
refreshing sleep: Flora replied that the draught stood ready
upon the Table: He advised the Patient to take it without delay,
and then retired. Flora poured the medicine into a Cup and
presented it to her Mistress. At that moment Ambrosio's courage
failed him. Might not Matilda have deceived him? Might not
Jealousy have persuaded her to destroy her Rival, and substitute
poison in the room of an opiate? This idea appeared so
reasonable that He was on the point of preventing her from
swallowing the medicine. His resolution was adopted too late:
The Cup was already emptied, and Antonia restored it into Flora's
hands. No remedy was now to be found: Ambrosio could only
expect the moment impatiently, destined to decide upon Antonia's
life or death, upon his own happiness or despair.
Dreading to create suspicion by his stay, or betray himself by
his mind's agitation, He took leave of his Victim, and withdrew
from the room. Antonia parted from him with less cordiality than
on the former night. Flora had represented to her Mistress that
to admit his visits was to disobey her Mother's orders: She
described to her his emotion on entering the room, and the fire
which sparkled in his eyes while He gazed upon her. This had
escaped Antonia's observation, but not her Attendant's; Who
explaining the Monk's designs and their probable consequences in
terms much clearer than Elvira's, though not quite so delicate,
had succeeded in alarming her young Lady, and persuading her to
treat him more distantly than She had done hitherto. The idea of
obeying her Mother's will at once determined Antonia. Though She
grieved at losing his society, She conquered herself sufficiently
to receive the Monk with some degree of reserve and coldness.
She thanked him with respect and gratitude for his former visits,
but did not invite his repeating them in future. It now was not
the Friar's interest to solicit admission to her presence, and He
took leave of her as if not designing to return. Fully
persuaded that the acquaintance which She dreaded was now at an
end, Flora was so much worked upon by his easy compliance that
She began to doubt the justice of her suspicions. As She lighted
him down Stairs, She thanked him for having endeavoured to root
out from Antonia's mind her superstitious terrors of the
Spectre's prediction: She added, that as He seemed interested in
Donna Antonia's welfare, should any change take place in her
situation, She would be careful to let him know it. The Monk in
replying took pains to raise his voice, hoping that Jacintha
would hear it. In this He succeeded; As He reached the foot of
the Stairs with his Conductress, the Landlady failed not to make
her appearance.
'Why surely you are not going away, reverend Father?' cried She;
'Did you not promise to pass the night in the haunted Chamber?
Christ Jesus! I shall be left alone with the Ghost, and a fine
pickle I shall be in by morning! Do all I could, say all I
could, that obstinate old Brute, Simon Gonzalez, refused to marry
me today; And before tomorrow comes, I suppose, I shall be torn
to pieces, by the Ghosts, and Goblins, and Devils, and what not!
For God's sake, your Holiness, do not leave me in such a woeful
condition! On my bended knees I beseech you to keep your
promise: Watch this night in the haunted chamber; Lay the
Apparition in the Red Sea, and Jacintha remembers you in her
prayers to the last day of her existence!'
This request Ambrosio expected and desired; Yet He affected to
raise objections, and to seem unwilling to keep his word. He
told Jacintha that the Ghost existed nowhere but in her own
brain, and that her insisting upon his staying all night in the
House was ridiculous and useless. Jacintha was obstinate: She
was not to be convinced, and pressed him so urgently not to leave
her a prey to the Devil, that at length He granted her request.
All this show of resistance imposed not upon Flora, who was
naturally of a suspicious temper. She suspected the Monk to be
acting a part very contrary to his own inclinations, and that He
wished for no better than to remain where He was. She even went
so far as to believe that Jacintha was in his interest; and the
poor old Woman was immediately set down, as no better than a
Procuress. While She applauded herself for having penetrated
into this plot against her Lady's honour, She resolved in secret
to render it fruitless.
'So then,' said She to the Abbot with a look half-satirical and
half indignant; 'So then you mean to stay here tonight? Do so,
in God's name! Nobody will prevent you. Sit up to watch for the
Ghost's arrival: I shall sit up too, and the Lord grant that I
may see nothing worse than a Ghost! I quit not Donna Antonia's
Bedside during this blessed night: Let me see any one dare to
enter the room, and be He mortal or immortal, be He Ghost, Devil,
or Man, I warrant his repenting that ever He crossed the
This hint was sufficiently strong, and Ambrosio understood its
meaning. But instead of showing that He perceived her
suspicions; He replied mildly that He approved the Duenna's
precautions, and advised her to persevere in her intention.
This, She assured him faithfully that He might depend upon her
doing. Jacintha then conducted him into the chamber where the
Ghost had appeared, and Flora returned to her Lady's.
Jacintha opened the door of the haunted room with a trembling
hand: She ventured to peep in; But the wealth of India would not
have tempted her to cross the threshold. She gave the Taper to
the Monk, wished him well through the adventure, and hastened to
be gone. Ambrosio entered. He bolted the door, placed the light
upon the Table, and seated himself in the Chair which on the
former night had sustained Antonia. In spite of Matilda's
assurances that the Spectre was a mere creation of fancy, his
mind was impressed with a certain mysterious horror. He in vain
endeavoured to shake it off. The silence of the night, the story
of the Apparition, the chamber wainscotted with dark oak
pannells, the recollection which it brought with it of the
murdered Elvira, and his incertitude respecting the nature of the
drops given by him to Antonia, made him feel uneasy at his
present situation. But He thought much less of the Spectre, than
of the poison. Should He have destroyed the only object which
rendered life dear to him; Should the Ghost's prediction prove
true; Should Antonia in three days be no more, and He the
wretched cause of her death . . . . . . The supposition was too
horrible to dwell upon. He drove away these dreadful images, and
as often they presented themselves again before him. Matilda had
assured him that the effects of the Opiate would be speedy. He
listened with fear, yet with eagerness, expecting to hear some
disturbance in the adjoining chamber. All was still silent. He
concluded that the drops had not begun to operate. Great was
the stake, for which He now played: A moment would suffice to
decide upon his misery or happiness. Matilda had taught him the
means of ascertaining that life was not extinct for ever: Upon
this assay depended all his hopes. With every instant his
impatience redoubled; His terrors grew more lively, his anxiety
more awake. Unable to bear this state of incertitude, He
endeavoured to divert it by substituting the thoughts of Others
to his own. The Books, as was before mentioned, were ranged upon
shelves near the Table: This stood exactly opposite to the Bed,
which was placed in an Alcove near the Closet door. Ambrosio
took down a Volume, and seated himself by the Table: But his
attention wandered from the Pages before him. Antonia's image
and that of the murdered Elvira persisted to force themselves
before his imagination. Still He continued to read, though his
eyes ran over the characters without his mind being conscious of
their import. Such was his occupation, when He fancied that He
heard a footstep. He turned his head, but nobody was to be seen.
He resumed his Book; But in a few minutes after the same sound
was repeated, and followed by a rustling noise close behind him.
He now started from his seat, and looking round him, perceived
the Closet door standing half-unclosed. On his first entering
the room He had tried to open it, but found it bolted on the
'How is this?' said He to himself; 'How comes this door
He advanced towards it: He pushed it open, and looked into the
closet: No one was there. While He stood irresolute, He
thought that He distinguished a groaning in the adjacent
chamber: It was Antonia's, and He supposed that the drops began
to take effect: But upon listening more attentively, He found
the noise to be caused by Jacintha, who had fallen asleep by the
Lady's Bedside, and was snoring most lustily. Ambrosio drew
back, and returned to the other room, musing upon the sudden
opening of the Closet door, for which He strove in vain to
He paced the chamber up and down in silence. At length He
stopped, and the Bed attracted his attention. The curtain of the
Recess was but half-drawn. He sighed involuntarily.
'That Bed,' said He in a low voice, 'That Bed was Elvira's!
There has She past many a quiet night, for She was good and
innocent. How sound must have been her sleep! And yet now She
sleeps sounder! Does She indeed sleep? Oh! God grant that She
may! What if She rose from her Grave at this sad and silent
hour? What if She broke the bonds of the Tomb, and glided
angrily before my blasted eyes? Oh! I never could support the
sight! Again to see her form distorted by dying agonies, her
blood-swollen veins, her livid countenance, her eyes bursting
from their sockets with pain! To hear her speak of future
punishment, menace me with Heaven's vengeance, tax me with the
crimes I have committed, with those I am going to commit . . . .
. Great God! What is that?'
As He uttered these words, his eyes which were fixed upon the
Bed, saw the curtain shaken gently backwards and forwards. The
Apparition was recalled to his mind, and He almost fancied that
He beheld Elvira's visionary form reclining upon the Bed. A few
moments consideration sufficed to reassure him.
'It was only the wind,' said He, recovering himself.
Again He paced the chamber; But an involuntary movement of awe
and inquietude constantly led his eye towards the Alcove. He
drew near it with irresolution. He paused before He ascended the
few steps which led to it. He put out his hand thrice to remove
the curtain, and as often drew it back.
'Absurd terrors!' He cried at length, ashamed of his own
Hastily he mounted the steps; When a Figure drest in white
started from the Alcove, and gliding by him, made with
precipitation towards the Closet. Madness and despair now
supplied the Monk with that courage, of which He had till then
been destitute. He flew down the steps, pursued the Apparition,
and attempted to grasp it.
'Ghost, or Devil, I hold you!' He exclaimed, and seized the
Spectre by the arm.
'Oh! Christ Jesus!' cried a shrill voice; 'Holy Father, how you
gripe me! I protest that I meant no harm!'
This address, as well as the arm which He held, convinced the
Abbot that the supposed Ghost was substantial flesh and blood.
He drew the Intruder towards the Table, and holding up the light,
discovered the features of . . . . . . Madona Flora!
Incensed at having been betrayed by this trifling cause into
fears so ridiculous, He asked her sternly, what business had
brought her to that chamber. Flora, ashamed at being found out,
and terrified at the severity of Ambrosio's looks, fell upon her
knees, and promised to make a full confession.
'I protest, reverend Father,' said She, 'that I am quite grieved
at having disturbed you: Nothing was further from my intention.
I meant to get out of the room as quietly as I got in; and had
you been ignorant that I watched you, you know, it would have
been the same thing as if I had not watched you at all. To be
sure, I did very wrong in being a Spy upon you, that I cannot
deny; But Lord! your Reverence, how can a poor weak Woman resist
curiosity? Mine was so strong to know what you were doing, that
I could not but try to get a little peep, without any body
knowing any thing about it. So with that I left old Dame
Jacintha sitting by my Lady's Bed, and I ventured to steal into
the Closet. Being unwilling to interrupt you, I contented myself
at first with putting my eye to the Keyhole; But as I could see
nothing by this means, I undrew the bolt, and while your back was
turned to the Alcove, I whipt me in softly and silently. Here I
lay snug behind the curtain, till your Reverence found me out,
and seized me ere I had time to regain the Closet door. This is
the whole truth, I assure you, Holy Father, and I beg your pardon
a thousand times for my impertinence.'
During this speech the Abbot had time to recollect himself: He
was satisfied with reading the penitent Spy a lecture upon the
dangers of curiosity, and the meanness of the action in which She
had been just discovered. Flora declared herself fully
persuaded that She had done wrong; She promised never to be
guilty of the same fault again, and was retiring very humble and
contrite to Antonia's chamber, when the Closet door was suddenly
thrown open, and in rushed Jacintha pale and out of breath.
'Oh! Father! Father!' She cried in a voice almost choaked with
terror; 'What shall I do! What shall I do! Here is a fine piece
of work! Nothing but misfortunes! Nothing but dead people, and
dying people! Oh! I shall go distracted! I shall go
'Speak! Speak!' cried Flora and the Monk at the same time; 'What
has happened? What is the matter?'
'Oh! I shall have another Corse in my House! Some Witch has
certainly cast a spell upon it, upon me, and upon all about me!
Poor Donna Antonia! There She lies in just such convulsions, as
killed her Mother! The Ghost told her true! I am sure, the Ghost
has told her true!'
Flora ran, or rather flew to her Lady's chamber: Ambrosio
followed her, his bosom trembling with hope and apprehension.
They found Antonia as Jacintha had described, torn by racking
convulsions from which they in vain endeavoured to relieve her.
The Monk dispatched Jacintha to the Abbey in all haste, and
commissioned her to bring Father Pablos back with her, without
losing a moment.
'I will go for him,' replied Jacintha, 'and tell him to come
hither; But as to bringing him myself, I shall do no such thing.
I am sure that the House is bewitched, and burn me if ever I set
foot in it again.'
With this resolution She set out for the Monastery, and delivered
to Father Pablos the Abbot's orders. She then betook herself to
the House of old Simon Gonzalez, whom She resolved never to quit,
till She had made him her Husband, and his dwelling her own.
Father Pablos had no sooner beheld Antonia, than He pronounced
her incurable. The convulsions continued for an hour: During
that time her agonies were much milder than those which her
groans created in the Abbot's heart. Her every pang seemed a
dagger in his bosom, and He cursed himself a thousand times for
having adopted so barbarous a project. The hour being expired,
by degrees the Fits became less frequent, and Antonia less
agitated. She felt that her dissolution was approaching, and
that nothing could save her.
'Worthy Ambrosio,' She said in a feeble voice, while She pressed
his hand to her lips; 'I am now at liberty to express, how
grateful is my heart for your attention and kindness. I am upon
the bed of death; Yet an hour, and I shall be no more. I may
therefore acknowledge without restraint, that to relinquish your
society was very painful to me: But such was the will of a
Parent, and I dared not disobey. I die without repugnance:
There are few, who will lament my leaving them; There are few,
whom I lament to leave. Among those few, I lament for none more
than for yourself; But we shall meet again, Ambrosio! We shall
one day meet in heaven: There shall our friendship be renewed,
and my Mother shall view it with pleasure!'
She paused. The Abbot shuddered when She mentioned Elvira:
Antonia imputed his emotion to pity and concern for her.
'You are grieved for me, Father,' She continued; 'Ah! sigh not
for my loss. I have no crimes to repent, at least none of which
I am conscious, and I restore my soul without fear to him from
whom I received it. I have but few requests to make: Yet let me
hope that what few I have shall be granted. Let a solemn Mass be
said for my soul's repose, and another for that of my beloved
Mother. Not that I doubt her resting in her Grave: I am now
convinced that my reason wandered, and the falsehood of the
Ghost's prediction is sufficient to prove my error. But every
one has some failing: My Mother may have had hers, though I knew
them not: I therefore wish a Mass to be celebrated for her
repose, and the expence may be defrayed by the little wealth of
which I am possessed. Whatever may then remain, I bequeath to my
Aunt Leonella. When I am dead, let the Marquis de las Cisternas
know that his Brother's unhappy family can no longer importune
him. But disappointment makes me unjust: They tell me that He
is ill, and perhaps had it been in his power, He wished to have
protected me. Tell him then, Father, only that I am dead, and
that if He had any faults to me, I forgave him from my heart.
This done, I have nothing more to ask for, than your prayers:
Promise to remember my requests, and I shall resign my life
without a pang or sorrow.'
Ambrosio engaged to comply with her desires, and proceeded to
give her absolution. Every moment announced the approach of
Antonia's fate: Her sight failed; Her heart beat sluggishly; Her
fingers stiffened, and grew cold, and at two in the morning She
expired without a groan. As soon as the breath had forsaken her
body, Father Pablos retired, sincerely affected at the melancholy
scene. On her part, Flora gave way to the most unbridled sorrow.
Far different concerns employed Ambrosio: He sought for the
pulse whose throbbing, so Matilda had assured him, would prove
Antonia's death but temporal. He found it; He pressed it; It
palpitated beneath his hand, and his heart was filled with
ecstacy. However, He carefully concealed his satisfaction at the
success of his plan. He assumed a melancholy air, and addressing
himself to Flora, warned her against abandoning herself to
fruitless sorrow. Her tears were too sincere to permit her
listening to his counsels, and She continued to weep unceasingly.
The Friar withdrew, first promising to give orders himself about
the Funeral, which, out of consideration for Jacintha as He
pretended, should take place with all expedition. Plunged in
grief for the loss of her beloved Mistress, Flora scarcely
attended to what He said. Ambrosio hastened to command the
Burial. He obtained permission from the Prioress, that the Corse
should be deposited in St. Clare's Sepulchre: and on the Friday
Morning, every proper and needful ceremony being performed,
Antonia's body was committed to the Tomb.
On the same day Leonella arrived at Madrid, intending to present
her young Husband to Elvira. Various circumstances had obliged
her to defer her journey from Tuesday to Friday, and She had no
opportunity of making this alteration in her plans known to her
Sister. As her heart was truly affectionate, and as She had ever
entertained a sincere regard for Elvira and her Daughter, her
surprize at hearing of their sudden and melancholy fate was fully
equalled by her sorrow and disappointment. Ambrosio sent to
inform her of Antonia's bequest: At her solication, He promised,
as soon as Elvira's trifling debts were discharged, to transmit
to her the remainder. This being settled, no other business
detained Leonella in Madrid, and She returned to Cordova with all
Oh! could I worship aught beneath the skies
That earth hath seen or fancy could devise,
Thine altar, sacred Liberty, should stand,
Built by no mercenary vulgar hand,
With fragrant turf, and flowers as wild and fair,
As ever dressed a bank, or scented summer air.
His whole attention bent upon bringing to justice the Assassins
of his Sister, Lorenzo little thought how severely his interest
was suffering in another quarter. As was before mentioned, He
returned not to Madrid till the evening of that day on which
Antonia was buried. Signifying to the Grand Inquisitor the order
of the Cardinal-Duke (a ceremony not to be neglected, when a
Member of the Church was to be arrested publicly) communicating
his design to his Uncle and Don Ramirez, and assembling a troop
of Attendants sufficiently to prevent opposition, furnished him
with full occupation during the few hours preceding midnight.
Consequently, He had no opportunity to enquire about his
Mistress, and was perfectly ignorant both of her death and her
The Marquis was by no means out of danger: His delirium was
gone, but had left him so much exhausted that the Physicians
declined pronouncing upon the consequences likely to ensue. As
for Raymond himself, He wished for nothing more earnestly than to
join Agnes in the grave. Existence was hateful to him: He saw
nothing in the world deserving his attention; and He hoped to
hear that Agnes was revenged, and himself given over in the same
Followed by Raymond's ardent prayers for success, Lorenzo was at
the Gates of St. Clare a full hour before the time appointed by
the Mother St. Ursula. He was accompanied by his Uncle, by Don
Ramirez de Mello, and a party of chosen Archers. Though in
considerable numbers their appearance created no surprize: A
great Crowd was already assembled before the Convent doors, in
order to witness the Procession. It was naturally supposed that
Lorenzo and his Attendants were conducted thither by the same
design. The Duke of Medina being recognised, the People drew
back, and made way for his party to advance. Lorenzo placed
himself opposite to the great Gate, through which the Pilgrims
were to pass. Convinced that the Prioress could not escape him,
He waited patiently for her appearance, which She was expected to
make exactly at Midnight.
The Nuns were employed in religious duties established in honour
of St. Clare, and to which no Prophane was ever admitted. The
Chapel windows were illuminated. As they stood on the outside,
the Auditors heard the full swell of the organ, accompanied by a
chorus of female voices, rise upon the stillness of the night.
This died away, and was succeeded by a single strain of harmony:
It was the voice of her who was destined to sustain in the
procession the character of St. Clare. For this office the most
beautiful Virgin of Madrid was always selected, and She upon whom
the choice fell esteemed it as the highest of honours. While
listening to the Music, whose melody distance only seemed to
render sweeter, the Audience was wrapped up in profound
attention. Universal silence prevailed through the Crowd, and
every heart was filled with reverence for religion. Every heart
but Lorenzo's. Conscious that among those who chaunted the
praises of their God so sweetly, there were some who cloaked with
devotion the foulest sins, their hymns inspired him with
detestation at their Hypocrisy. He had long observed with
disapprobation and contempt the superstition which governed
Madrid's Inhabitants. His good sense had pointed out to him the
artifices of the Monks, and the gross absurdity of their
miracles, wonders, and supposititious reliques. He blushed to
see his Countrymen the Dupes of deceptions so ridiculous, and
only wished for an opportunity to free them from their monkish
fetters. That opportunity, so long desired in vain, was at
length presented to him. He resolved not to let it slip, but to
set before the People in glaring colours how enormous were the
abuses but too frequently practised in Monasteries, and how
unjustly public esteem was bestowed indiscriminately upon all who
wore a religious habit. He longed for the moment destined to
unmask the Hypocrites, and convince his Countrymen that a
sanctified exterior does not always hide a virtuous heart.
The service lasted, till Midnight was announced by the
Convent Bell. That sound being heard, the Music ceased: The
voices died away softly, and soon after the lights disappeared
from the Chapel windows. Lorenzo's heart beat high, when He
found the execution of his plan to be at hand. From the natural
superstition of the People He had prepared himself for some
resistance. But He trusted that the Mother St. Ursula would
bring good reasons to justify his proceeding. He had force with
him to repel the first impulse of the Populace, till his
arguments should be heard: His only fear was lest the Domina,
suspecting his design, should have spirited away the Nun on
whose deposition every thing depended. Unless the Mother St.
Ursula should be present, He could only accuse the Prioress upon
suspicion; and this reflection gave him some little apprehension
for the success of his enterprize. The tranquillity which seemed
to reign through the Convent in some degree re-assured him:
Still He expected the moment eagerly, when the presence of his
Ally should deprive him of the power of doubting.
The Abbey of Capuchins was only separated from the Convent by the
Garden and Cemetery. The Monks had been invited to assist at the
Pilgrimage. They now arrived, marching two by two with lighted
Torches in their hands, and chaunting Hymns in honour of St.
Clare. Father Pablos was at their head, the Abbot having excused
himself from attending. The people made way for the holy Train,
and the Friars placed themselves in ranks on either side of the
great Gates. A few minutes sufficed to arrange the order of the
Procession. This being settled, the Convent doors were thrown
open, and again the female Chorus sounded in full melody. First
appeared a Band of Choristers: As soon as they had passed, the
Monks fell in two by two, and followed with steps slow and
measured. Next came the Novices; They bore no Tapers, as did the
Professed, but moved on with eyes bent downwards, and seemed to
be occupied by telling their Beads. To them succeeded a young
and lovely Girl, who represented St. Lucia: She held a golden
bason in which were two eyes: Her own were covered by a velvet
bandage, and She was conducted by another Nun habited as an
Angel. She was followed by St. Catherine, a palm-branch in one
hand, a flaming Sword in the other: She was robed in white, and
her brow was ornamented with a sparkling Diadem. After her
appeared St. Genevieve, surrounded by a number of Imps, who
putting themselves into grotesque attitudes, drawing her by the
robe, and sporting round her with antic gestures, endeavoured to
distract her attention from the Book, on which her eyes were
constantly fixed. These merry Devils greatly entertained the
Spectators, who testified their pleasure by repeated bursts of
Laughter. The Prioress had been careful to select a Nun whose
disposition was naturally solemn and saturnine. She had every
reason to be satisfied with her choice: The drolleries of the
Imps were entirely thrown away, and St. Genevieve moved on
without discomposing a muscle.
Each of these Saints was separated from the Other by a band of
Choristers, exalting her praise in their Hymns, but declaring her
to be very much inferior to St. Clare, the Convent's avowed
Patroness. These having passed, a long train of Nuns appeared,
bearing like the Choristers each a burning Taper. Next came the
reliques of St. Clare, inclosed in vases equally precious for
their materials and workmanship: But they attracted not
Lorenzo's attention. The Nun who bore the heart occupied him
entirely. According to Theodore's description, He doubted not
her being the Mother St. Ursula. She seemed to look round with
anxiety. As He stood foremost in the rank by which the
procession past, her eye caught Lorenzo's. A flush of joy
overspread her till then pallid cheek. She turned to her
Companion eagerly.
'We are safe!' He heard her whisper; ' 'tis her Brother!'
His heart being now at ease, Lorenzo gazed with tranquillity upon
the remainder of the show. Now appeared its most brilliant
ornament. It was a Machine fashioned like a throne, rich with
jewels and dazzling with light. It rolled onwards upon
concealed wheels, and was guided by several lovely Children,
dressed as Seraphs. The summit was covered with silver clouds,
upon which reclined the most beautiful form that eyes ever
witnessed. It was a Damsel representing St. Clare: Her dress was
of inestimable price, and round her head a wreath of Diamonds
formed an artificial glory: But all these ornaments yielded to
the lustre of her charms. As She advanced, a murmur of delight
ran through the Crowd. Even Lorenzo confessed secretly, that He
never beheld more perfect beauty, and had not his heart been
Antonia's, it must have fallen a sacrifice to this enchanting
Girl. As it was, He considered her only as a fine Statue: She
obtained from him no tribute save cold admiration, and when She
had passed him, He thought of her no more.
'Who is She?' asked a By-stander in Lorenzo's hearing.
'One whose beauty you must often have heard celebrated. Her name
is Virginia de Villa-Franca: She is a Pensioner of St. Clare's
Convent, a Relation of the Prioress, and has been selected with
justice as the ornament of the Procession.'
The Throne moved onwards. It was followed by the Prioress
herself: She marched at the head of the remaining Nuns with a
devout and sanctified air, and closed the procession. She moved
on slowly: Her eyes were raised to heaven: Her countenance calm
and tranquil seemed abstracted from all sublunary things, and no
feature betrayed her secret pride at displaying the pomp and
opulence of her Convent. She passed along, accompanied by the
prayers and benedictions of the Populace: But how great was the
general confusion and surprize, when Don Ramirez starting
forward, challenged her as his Prisoner.
For a moment amazement held the Domina silent and immoveable:
But no sooner did She recover herself, than She exclaimed against
sacrilege and impiety, and called the People to rescue a Daughter
of the Church. They were eagerly preparing to obey her; when Don
Ramirez, protected by the Archers from their rage, commanded them
to forbear, and threatened them with the severest vengeance of
the Inquisition. At that dreaded word every arm fell, every
sword shrunk back into its scabbard. The Prioress herself turned
pale, and trembled. The general silence convinced her that She
had nothing to hope but from innocence, and She besought Don
Ramirez in a faultering voice, to inform her of what crime She
was accused.
'That you shall know in time,' replied He; 'But first I must
secure the Mother St. Ursula.'
'The Mother St. Ursula?' repeated the Domina faintly.
At this moment casting her eyes round, She saw near her Lorenzo
and the Duke, who had followed Don Ramirez.
'Ah! great God!' She cried, clasping her hands together with a
frantic air; 'I am betrayed!'
'Betrayed?' replied St. Ursula, who now arrived conducted by some
of the Archers, and followed by the Nun her Companion in the
procession: 'Not betrayed, but discovered. In me recognise your
Accuser: You know not how well I am instructed in your
guilt!--Segnor!' She continued, turning to Don Ramirez; 'I commit
myself to your custody. I charge the Prioress of St. Clare with
murder, and stake my life for the justice of my accusation.'
A general cry of surprize was uttered by the whole Audience, and
an explanation was demanded loudly.n The trembling Nuns,
terrifiedat the noise and universal confusion, had dispersed, and
fleddifferent ways. Some regained the Convent; Others sought
refugein the dwellings of their Relations; and Many, only
sensible oftheir present danger, and anxious to escape from the
tumult, ran through the Streets, and wandered, they knew not
whither. The lovely Virginia was one of the first to fly: And
in order that She might be better seen and heard, the People
desired that St. Ursula should harangue them from the vacant
Throne. The Nun complied; She ascended the glittering Machine,
and then addressed the surrounding multitude as follows.
'However strange and unseemly may appear my conduct, when
considered to be adopted by a Female and a Nun, necessity will
justify it most fully. A secret, an horrible secret weighs heavy
upon my soul: No rest can be mine till I have revealed it to the
world, and satisfied that innocent blood which calls from the
Grave for vengeance. Much have I dared to gain this opportunity
of lightening my conscience. Had I failed in my attempt to
reveal the crime, had the Domina but suspected that the mystery
was none to me, my ruin was inevitable. Angels who watch
unceasingly over those who deserve their favour, have enabled me
to escape detection: I am now at liberty to relate a Tale, whose
circumstances will freeze every honest soul with horror. Mine is
the task to rend the veil from Hypocrisy, and show misguided
Parents to what dangers the Woman is exposed, who falls under the
sway of a monastic Tyrant.
'Among the Votaries of St. Clare, none was more lovely, none more
gentle, than Agnes de Medina. I knew her well; She entrusted to
me every secret of her heart; I was her Friend and Confident, and
I loved her with sincere affection. Nor was I singular in my
attachment. Her piety unfeigned, her willingness to oblige, and
her angelic disposition, rendered her the Darling of all that was
estimable in the Convent. The Prioress herself, proud,
scrupulous and forbidding, could not refuse Agnes that tribute of
approbation which She bestowed upon no one else. Every one has
some fault: Alas! Agnes had her weakness! She violated the laws
of our order, and incurred the inveterate hate of the unforgiving
Domina. St. Clare's rules are severe: But grown antiquated and
neglected, many of late years have either been forgotten, or
changed by universal consent into milder punishments. The
penance, adjudged to the crime of Agnes, was most cruel, most
inhuman! The law had been long exploded: Alas! It still
existed, and the revengeful Prioress now determined to revive it.
This law decreed that the Offender should be plunged into a
private dungeon, expressly constituted to hide from the world for
ever the Victim of Cruelty and tyrannic superstition. In this
dreadful abode She was to lead a perpetual solitude, deprived of
all society, and believed to be dead by those whom affection
might have prompted to attempt her rescue. Thus was She to
languish out the remainder of her days, with no other food than
bread and water, and no other comfort than the free indulgence of
her tears.'
The indignation created by this account was so violent, as for
some moments to interrupt St. Ursula's narrative. When the
disturbance ceased, and silence again prevailed through the
Assembly, She continued her discourse, while at every word the
Domina's countenance betrayed her increasing terrors.
'A Council of the twelve elder Nuns was called: I was of the
number. The Prioress in exaggerated colours described the
offence of Agnes, and scrupled not to propose the revival of this
almost forgotten law. To the shame of our sex be it spoken, that
either so absolute was the Domina's will in the Convent, or so
much had disappointment, solitude, and self-denial hardened their
hearts and sowered their tempers that this barbarous proposal
was assented to by nine voices out of the twelve. I was not one
of the nine. Frequent opportunities had convinced me of the
virtues of Agnes, and I loved and pitied her most sincerely. The
Mothers Bertha and Cornelia joined my party: We made the
strongest opposition possible, and the Superior found herself
compelled to change her intention. In spite of the majority in
her favour, She feared to break with us openly. She knew that
supported by the Medina family, our forces would be too strong
for her to cope with: And She also knew that after being once
imprisoned and supposed dead, should Agnes be discovered, her
ruin would be inevitable. She therefore gave up her design,
though which much reluctance. She demanded some days to reflect
upon a mode of punishment which might be agreeable to the whole
Community; and She promised, that as soon as her resolution was
fixed, the same Council should be again summoned. Two days
passed away: On the Evening of the Third it was announced that
on the next day Agnes should be examined; and that according to
her behaviour on that occasion, her punishment should be either
strengthened or mitigated.
'On the night preceding this examination, I stole to the Cell of
Agnes at an hour when I supposed the other Nuns to be buried in
sleep. I comforted her to the best of my power: I bad her take
courage, told her to rely upon the support of her friends, and
taught her certain signs, by which I might instruct her to answer
the Domina's questions by an assent or negative. Conscious that
her Enemy would strive to confuse, embarrass, and daunt her, I
feared her being ensnared into some confession prejudicial to her
interests. Being anxious to keep my visit secret, I stayed with
Agnes but a short time. I bad her not let her spirits be cast
down; I mingled my tears with those which streamed down her
cheek, embraced her fondly, and was on the point of retiring,
when I heard the sound of steps approaching the Cell. I started
back. A Curtain which veiled a large Crucifix offered me a
retreat, and I hastened to place myself behind it. The door
opened. The Prioress entered, followed by four other Nuns. They
advanced towards the bed of Agnes. The Superior reproached her
with her errors in the bitterest terms: She told her that She
was a disgrace to the Convent, that She was resolved to deliver
the world and herself from such a Monster, and commanded her to
drink the contents of a Goblet now presented to her by one of the
Nuns. Aware of the fatal properties of the liquor, and trembling
to find herself upon the brink of Eternity, the unhappy Girl
strove to excite the Domina's pity by the most affecting prayers.
She sued for life in terms which might have melted the heart of a
Fiend: She promised to submit patiently to any punishment, to
shame, imprisonment, and torture, might She but be permitted to
live! Oh! might She but live another month, or week, or day!
Her merciless Enemy listened to her complaints unmoved: She told
her that at first She meant to have spared her life, and that if
She had altered her intention, She had to thank the opposition of
her Friends. She continued to insist upon her swallowing the
poison: She bad her recommend herself to the Almighty's mercy,
not to hers, and assured her that in an hour She would be
numbered with the Dead. Perceiving that it was vain to implore
this unfeeling Woman, She attempted to spring from her bed, and
call for assistance: She hoped, if She could not escape the fate
announced to her, at least to have witnesses of the violence
committed. The Prioress guessed her design. She seized her
forcibly by the arm, and pushed her back upon her pillow. At the
same time drawing a dagger, and placing it at the breast of the
unfortunate Agnes, She protested that if She uttered a single
cry, or hesitated a single moment to drink the poison, She would
pierce her heart that instant. Already half-dead with fear, She
could make no further resistance. The Nun approached with the
fatal Goblet. The Domina obliged her to take it, and swallow the
contents. She drank, and the horrid deed was accomplished. The
Nuns then seated themselves round the Bed. They answered her
groans with reproaches; They interrupted with sarcasms the
prayers in which She recommended her parting soul to mercy: They
threatened her with heaven's vengeance and eternal perdition:
They bad her despair of pardon, and strowed with yet sharper
thorns Death's painful pillow. Such were the sufferings of this
young Unfortunate, till released by fate from the malice of her
Tormentors. She expired in horror of the past, in fears for the
future; and her agonies were such as must have amply gratified
the hate and vengeance of her Enemies. As soon as her Victim
ceased to breathe, the Domina retired, and was followed by her
'It was now that I ventured from my concealment. I dared not to
assist my unhappy Friend, aware that without preserving her, I
should only have brought on myself the same destruction. Shocked
and terrified beyond expression at this horrid scene, scarcely
had I sufficient strength to regain my Cell. As I reached the
door of that of Agnes, I ventured to look towards the bed, on
which lay her lifeless body, once so lovely and so sweet! I
breathed a prayer for her departed Spirit, and vowed to revenge
her death by the shame and punishment of her Assassins. With
danger and difficulty have I kept my oath. I unwarily dropped
some words at the funeral of Agnes, while thrown off my guard by
excessive grief, which alarmed the guilty conscience of the
Prioress. My every action was observed; My every step was
traced. I was constantly surrounded by the Superior's spies. It
was long before I could find the means of conveying to the
unhappy Girl's Relations an intimation of my secret. It was
given out that Agnes had expired suddenly: This account was
credited not only by her Friends in Madrid, but even by those
within the Convent. The poison had left no marks upon her body:
No one suspected the true cause of her death, and it remained
unknown to all, save the Assassins and Myself.
'I have no more to say: For what I have already said, I will
answer with my life. I repeat that the Prioress is a Murderess;
That She has driven from the world, perhaps from heaven, an
Unfortunate whose offence was light and venial; that She has
abused the power intrusted to her hands, and has been a Tyrant, a
Barbarian, and an Hypocrite. I also accuse the four Nuns,
Violante, Camilla, Alix, and Mariana, as being her Accomplices,
and equally criminal.'
Here St. Ursula ended her narrative. It created horror and
surprize throughout: But when She related the inhuman murder of
Agnes, the indignation of the Mob was so audibly testified, that
it was scarcely possible to hear the conclusion. This confusion
increased with every moment: At length a multitude of voices
exclaimed that the Prioress should be given up to their fury.
To this Don Ramirez refused to consent positively. Even Lorenzo
bad the People remember that She had undergone no trial, and
advised them to leave her punishment to the Inquisition. All
representations were fruitless: The disturbance grew still more
violent, and the Populace more exasperated. In vain did Ramirez
attempt to convey his Prisoner out of the Throng. Wherever He
turned, a band of Rioters barred his passage, and demanded her
being delivered over to them more loudly than before. Ramirez
ordered his Attendants to cut their way through the multitude:
Oppressed by numbers, it was impossible for them to draw their
swords. He threatened the Mob with the vengeance of the
Inquisition: But in this moment of popular phrenzy even this
dreadful name had lost its effect. Though regret for his Sister
made him look upon the Prioress with abhorrence, Lorenzo could
not help pitying a Woman in a situation so terrible: But in
spite of all his exertions, and those of the Duke, of Don
Ramirez, and the Archers, the People continued to press onwards.
They forced a passage through the Guards who protected their
destined Victim, dragged her from her shelter, and proceeded to
take upon her a most summary and cruel vengeance. Wild with
terror, and scarcely knowing what She said, the wretched Woman
shrieked for a moment's mercy: She protested that She was
innocent of the death of Agnes, and could clear herself from the
suspicion beyond the power of doubt. The Rioters heeded nothing
but the gratification of their barbarous vengeance. They refused
to listen to her: They showed her every sort of insult, loaded
her with mud and filth, and called her by the most opprobrious
appellations. They tore her one from another, and each new
Tormentor was more savage than the former. They stifled with
howls and execrations her shrill cries for mercy; and dragged her
through the Streets, spurning her, trampling her, and treating
her with every species of cruelty which hate or vindictive fury
could invent. At length a Flint, aimed by some well-directing
hand, struck her full upon the temple. She sank upon the ground
bathed in blood, and in a few minutes terminated her miserable
existence. Yet though She no longer felt their insults, the
Rioters still exercised their impotent rage upon her lifeless
body. They beat it, trod upon it, and ill-used it, till it
became no more than a mass of flesh, unsightly, shapeless, and
Unable to prevent this shocking event, Lorenzo and his Friends
had beheld it with the utmost horror: But they were rouzed from
their compelled inactivity, on hearing that the Mob was attacking
the Convent of St. Clare. The incensed Populace, confounding the
innocent with the guilty, had resolved to sacrifice all the Nuns
of that order to their rage, and not to leave one stone of the
building upon another. Alarmed at this intelligence, they
hastened to the Convent, resolved to defend it if possible, or at
least to rescue the Inhabitants from the fury of the Rioters.
Most of the Nuns had fled, but a few still remained in their
habitation. Their situation was truly dangerous. However, as
they had taken the precaution of fastening the inner Gates, with
this assistance Lorenzo hoped to repel the Mob, till Don Ramirez
should return to him with a more sufficient force.
Having been conducted by the former disturbance to the distance
of some Streets from the Convent, He did not immediately reach
it: When He arrived, the throng surrounding it was so excessive
as to prevent his approaching the Gates. In the interim, the
Populace besieged the Building with persevering rage: They
battered the walls, threw lighted torches in at the windows, and
swore that by break of day not a Nun of St. Clare's order should
be left alive. Lorenzo had just succeeded in piercing his way
through the Crowd, when one of the Gates was forced open. The
Rioters poured into the interior part of the Building, where they
exercised their vengeance upon every thing which found itself in
their passage. They broke the furniture into pieces, tore down
the pictures, destroyed the reliques, and in their hatred of her
Servant forgot all respect to the Saint. Some employed
themselves in searching out the Nuns, Others in pulling down
parts of the Convent, and Others again in setting fire to the
pictures and valuable furniture which it contained. These
Latter produced the most decisive desolation: Indeed the
consequences of their action were more sudden than themselves
had expected or wished. The Flames rising from the burning piles
caught part of the Building, which being old and dry, the
conflagration spread with rapidity from room to room. The Walls
were soon shaken by the devouring element: The Columns gave way:
The Roofs came tumbling down upon the Rioters, and crushed many
of them beneath their weight. Nothing was to be heard but
shrieks and groans; The Convent was wrapped in flames, and the
whole presented a scene of devastation and horror.
Lorenzo was shocked at having been the cause, however innocent,
of this frightful disturbance: He endeavoured to repair his
fault by protecting the helpless Inhabitants of the Convent. He
entered it with the Mob, and exerted himself to repress the
prevailing Fury, till the sudden and alarming progress of the
flames compelled him to provide for his own safety. The People
now hurried out, as eagerly as they had before thronged in; But
their numbers clogging up the doorway, and the fire gaining upon
them rapidly, many of them perished ere they had time to effect
their escape. Lorenzo's good fortune directed him to a small
door in a farther Aisle of the Chapel. The bolt was already
undrawn: He opened the door, and found himself at the foot of
St. Clare's Sepulchre.
Here He stopped to breathe. The Duke and some of his Attendants
had followed him, and thus were in security for the present.
They now consulted, what steps they should take to escape from
this scene of disturbance: But their deliberations were
considerably interrupted by the sight of volumes of fire rising
from amidst the Convent's massy walls, by the noise of some heavy
Arch tumbling down in ruins, or by the mingled shrieks of the
Nuns and Rioters, either suffocating in the press, perishing in
the flames, or crushed beneath the weight of the falling Mansion.
Lorenzo enquired, whither the Wicket led? He was answered, to
the Garden of the Capuchins, and it was resolved to explore an
outlet upon that side. Accordingly the Duke raised the Latch,
and passed into the adjoining Cemetery. The Attendants followed
without ceremony. Lorenzo, being the last, was also on the point
of quitting the Colonnade, when He saw the door of the Sepulchre
opened softly. Someone looked out, but on perceiving Strangers
uttered a loud shriek, started back again, and flew down the
marble Stairs.
'What can this mean?' cried Lorenzo; 'Here is some mystery
concealed. Follow me without delay!'
Thus saying, He hastened into the Sepulchre, and pursued the
person who continued to fly before him. The Duke knew not the
cause of his exclamation, but supposing that He had good reasons
for it, he followed him without hesitation. The Others did the
same, and the whole Party soon arrived at the foot of the Stairs.
The upper door having been left open, the neighbouring flames
darted from above a sufficient light to enable Lorenzo's catching
a glance of the Fugitive running through the long passages and
distant Vaults: But when a sudden turn deprived him of this
assistance, total darkness succeeded, and He could only trace the
object of his enquiry by the faint echo of retiring feet. The
Pursuers were now compelled to proceed with caution: As well as
they could judge, the Fugitive also seemed to slacken pace, for
they heard the steps follow each other at longer intervals. They
at length were bewildered by the Labyrinth of passages, and
dispersed in various directions. Carried away by his eagerness
to clear up this mystery, and to penetrate into which He was
impelled by a movement secret and unaccountable, Lorenzo heeded
not this circumstance till He found himself in total solitude.
The noise of footsteps had ceased. All was silent around, and
no clue offered itself to guide him to the flying Person. He
stopped to reflect on the means most likely to aid his pursuit.
He was persuaded that no common cause would have induced the
Fugitive to seek that dreary place at an hour so unusual: The
cry which He had heard, seemed uttered in a voice of terror, and
He was convinced that some mystery was attached to this event.
After some minutes past in hesitation He continued to proceed,
feeling his way along the walls of the passage. He had already
past some time in this slow progress, when He descried a spark of
light glimmering at a distance. Guided by this observation, and
having drawn his sword, He bent his steps towards the place,
whence the beam seemed to be emitted.
It proceeded from the Lamp which flamed before St. Clare's
Statue. Before it stood several Females, their white Garments
streaming in the blast, as it howled along the vaulted dungeons.
Curious to know what had brought them together in this melancholy
spot, Lorenzo drew near with precaution. The Strangers seemed
earnestly engaged in conversation. They heard not Lorenzo's
steps, and He approached unobserved, till He could hear their
voices distinctly.
'I protest,' continued She who was speaking when He arrived, and
to whom the rest were listening with great attention; 'I protest,
that I saw them with my own eyes. I flew down the steps; They
pursued me, and I escaped falling into their hands with
difficulty. Had it not been for the Lamp, I should never have
found you.'
'And what could bring them hither?' said another in a trembling
voice; 'Do you think that they were looking for us?'
'God grant that my fears may be false,' rejoined the First; 'But
I doubt they are Murderers! If they discover us, we are lost!
As for me, my fate is certain: My affinity to the Prioress will
be a sufficient crime to condemn me; and though till now these
Vaults have afforded me a retreat. . . . . . .'
Here looking up, her eye fell upon Lorenzo, who had continued to
approach softly.
'The Murderers!' She cried--
She started away from the Statue's Pedestal on which She had been
seated, and attempted to escape by flight. Her Companions at the
same moment uttered a terrified scream, while Lorenzo arrested
the Fugitive by the arm. Frightened and desperate She sank upon
her knees before him.
'Spare me!' She exclaimed; 'For Christ's sake, spare me! I am
innocent, indeed, I am!'
While She spoke, her voice was almost choaked with fear. The
beams of the Lamp darting full upon her face which was unveiled,
Lorenzo recognized the beautiful Virginia de Villa-Franca. He
hastened to raise her from the ground, and besought her to take
courage. He promised to protect her from the Rioters, assured
her that her retreat was still a secret, and that She might
depend upon his readiness to defend her to the last drop of his
blood. During this conversation, the Nuns had thrown themselves
into various attitudes: One knelt, and addressed herself to
heaven; Another hid her face in the lap of her Neighbour; Some
listened motionless with fear to the discourse of the supposed
Assassin; while Others embraced the Statue of St. Clare, and
implored her protection with frantic cries. On perceiving their
mistake, they crowded round Lorenzo and heaped benedictions on
him by dozens. He found that, on hearing the threats of the Mob,
and terrified by the cruelties which from the Convent Towers
they had seen inflicted on the Superior, many of the Pensioners
and Nuns had taken refuge in the Sepulchre. Among the former was
to be reckoned the lovely Virginia. Nearly related to the
Prioress, She had more reason than the rest to dread the Rioters,
and now besought Lorenzo earnestly not to abandon her to their
rage. Her Companions, most of whom were Women of noble family,
made the same request, which He readily granted. He promised not
to quit them, till He had seen each of them safe in the arms of
her Relations: But He advised their deferring to quit the
Sepulchre for some time longer, when the popular fury should be
somewhat calmed, and the arrival of military force have dispersed
the multitude.
'Would to God!' cried Virginia, 'That I were already safe in my
Mother's embraces! How say you, Segnor; Will it be long, ere we
may leave this place? Every moment that I pass here, I pass in
'I hope, not long,' said He; 'But till you can proceed with
security, this Sepulchre will prove an impenetrable asylum. Here
you run no risque of a discovery, and I would advise your
remaining quiet for the next two or three hours.'
'Two or three hours?' exclaimed Sister Helena; 'If I stay another
hour in these vaults, I shall expire with fear! Not the wealth
of worlds should bribe me to undergo again what I have suffered
since my coming hither. Blessed Virgin! To be in this melancholy
place in the middle of night, surrounded by the mouldering bodies
of my deceased Companions, and expecting every moment to be torn
in pieces by their Ghosts who wander about me, and complain, and
groan, and wail in accents that make my blood run cold, . . . . .
. Christ Jesus! It is enough to drive me to madness!'
'Excuse me,' replied Lorenzo, 'if I am surprized that while
menaced by real woes you are capable of yielding to imaginary
dangers. These terrors are puerile and groundless: Combat them,
holy Sister; I have promised to guard you from the Rioters, but
against the attacks of superstition you must depend for
protection upon yourself. The idea of Ghosts is ridiculous in the
extreme; And if you continue to be swayed by ideal terrors . . .
. . .'
'Ideal?' exclaimed the Nuns with one voice; 'Why we heard it
ourselves, Segnor! Every one of us heard it! It was frequently
repeated, and it sounded every time more melancholy and deep.
You will never persuade me that we could all have been deceived.
Not we, indeed; No, no; Had the noise been merely created by
fancy . . . .'
'Hark! Hark!' interrupted Virginia in a voice of terror; 'God
preserve us! There it is again!'
The Nuns clasped their hands together, and sank upon their knees.
Lorenzo looked round him eagerly, and was on the point of
yielding to the fears which already had possessed the Women.
Universal silence prevailed. He examined the Vault, but nothing
was to be seen. He now prepared to address the Nuns, and
ridicule their childish apprehensions, when his attention was
arrested by a deep and long-drawn groan.
'What was that?' He cried, and started.
'There, Segnor!' said Helena; 'Now you must be convinced! You
have heard the noise yourself! Now judge, whether our terrors
are imaginary. Since we have been here, that groaning has been
repeated almost every five minutes. Doubtless, it proceeds from
some Soul in pain, who wishes to be prayed out of purgatory: But
none of us here dares ask it the question. As for me, were I to
see an Apparition, the fright, I am very certain, would kill me
out of hand.'
As She said this, a second groan was heard yet more distinctly.
The Nuns crossed themselves, and hastened to repeat their prayers
against evil Spirits. Lorenzo listened attentively. He even
thought that He could distinguish sounds, as of one speaking in
complaint; But distance rendered them inarticulate. The noise
seemed to come from the midst of the small Vault in which He and
the Nuns then were, and which a multitude of passages branching
out in various directions, formed into a sort of Star. Lorenzo's
curiosity which was ever awake, made him anxious to solve this
mystery. He desired that silence might be kept. The Nuns obeyed
him. All was hushed, till the general stillness was again
disturbed by the groaning, which was repeated several times
successively. He perceived it to be most audible, when upon
following the sound He was conducted close to the shrine of St.
'The noise comes from hence,' said He; 'Whose is this Statue?'
Helena, to whom He addressed the question, paused for a moment.
Suddenly She clapped her hands together.
'Aye!' cried She, 'it must be so. I have discovered the meaning
of these groans.'
The Nuns crowded round her, and besought her eagerly to explain
herself. She gravely replied that for time immemorial the
Statue had been famous for performing miracles: From this She
inferred that the Saint was concerned at the conflagration of a
Convent which She protected, and expressed her grief by audible
lamentations. Not having equal faith in the miraculous Saint,
Lorenzo did not think this solution of the mystery quite so
satisfactory, as the Nuns, who subscribed to it without
hesitation. In one point, 'tis true, that He agreed with Helena.
He suspected that the groans proceeded from the Statue: The more
He listened, the more was He confirmed in this idea. He drew
nearer to the Image, designing to inspect it more closely: But
perceiving his intention, the Nuns besought him for God's sake to
desist, since if He touched the Statue, his death was inevitable.
'And in what consists the danger?' said He.
'Mother of God! In what?' replied Helena, ever eager to relate a
miraculous adventure; 'If you had only heard the hundredth part
of those marvellous Stories about this Statue which the Domina
used to recount! She assured us often and often, that if we only
dared to lay a finger upon it, we might expect the most fatal
consequences. Among other things She told us that a Robber
having entered these Vaults by night, He observed yonder Ruby,
whose value is inestimable. Do you see it, Segnor? It sparkles
upon the third finger of the hand, in which She holds a crown of
Thorns. This Jewel naturally excited the Villain's cupidity. He
resolved to make himself Master of it. For this purpose He
ascended the Pedestal: He supported himself by grasping the
Saint's right arm, and extended his own towards the Ring. What
was his surprize, when He saw the Statue's hand raised in a
posture of menace, and heard her lips pronounce his eternal
perdition! Penetrated with awe and consternation, He desisted
from his attempt, and prepared to quit the Sepulchre. In this He
also failed. Flight was denied him. He found it impossible to
disengage the hand, which rested upon the right arm of the
Statue. In vain did He struggle: He remained fixed to the
Image, till the insupportable and fiery anguish which darted
itself through his veins, compelled his shrieking for assistance.
The Sepulchre was now filled with Spectators. The Villain
confessed his sacrilege, and was only released by the separation
of his hand from his body. It has remained ever since fastened
to the Image. The Robber turned Hermit, and led ever after an
exemplary life: But yet the Saint's decree was performed, and
Tradition says that He continues to haunt this Sepulchre, and
implore St. Clare's pardon with groans and lamentations. Now I
think of it, those which we have just heard, may very possibly
have been uttered by the Ghost of this Sinner: But of this I will
not be positive. All that I can say is, that since that time no
one has ever dared to touch the Statue: Then do not be
foolhardy, good Segnor! For the love of heaven, give up your
design, nor expose yourself unnecessarily to certain
Not being convinced that his destruction would be so certain as
Helena seemed to think it, Lorenzo persisted in his resolution.
The Nuns besought him to desist in piteous terms, and even
pointed out the Robber's hand, which in effect was still visible
upon the arm of the Statue. This proof, as they imagined, must
convince him. It was very far from doing so; and they were
greatly scandalized when he declared his suspicion that the
dried and shrivelled fingers had been placed there by order of
the Prioress. In spite of their prayers and threats He
approached the Statue. He sprang over the iron Rails which
defended it, and the Saint underwent a thorough examination.
The Image at first appeared to be of Stone, but proved on further
inspection to be formed of no more solid materials than coloured
Wood. He shook it, and attempted to move it; But it appeared to
be of a piece with the Base which it stood upon. He examined it
over and over: Still no clue guided him to the solution of this
mystery, for which the Nuns were become equally solicitous, when
they saw that He touched the Statue with impunity. He paused,
and listened: The groans were repeated at intervals, and He was
convinced of being in the spot nearest to them. He mused upon
this singular event, and ran over the Statue with enquiring eyes.
Suddenly they rested upon the shrivelled hand. It struck him,
that so particular an injunction was not given without cause, not
to touch the arm of the Image. He again ascended the Pedestal;
He examined the object of his attention, and discovered a small
knob of iron concealed between the Saint's shoulder and what was
supposed to have been the hand of the Robber. This observation
delighted him. He applied his fingers to the knob, and pressed
it down forcibly. Immediately a rumbling noise was heard within
the Statue, as if a chain tightly stretched was flying back.
Startled at the sound the timid Nuns started away, prepared to
hasten from the Vault at the first appearance of danger. All
remaining quiet and still, they again gathered round Lorenzo, and
beheld his proceedings with anxious curiosity.
Finding that nothing followed this discovery, He descended. As
He took his hand from the Saint, She trembled beneath his touch.
This created new terrors in the Spectators, who believed the
Statue to be animated. Lorenzo's ideas upon the subject were
widely different. He easily comprehended that the noise which He
had heard, was occasioned by his having loosened a chain which
attached the Image to its Pedestal. He once more attempted to
move it, and succeeded without much exertion. He placed it upon
the ground, and then perceived the Pedestal to be hollow, and
covered at the opening with an heavy iron grate.
This excited such general curiosity that the Sisters forgot both
their real and imaginary dangers. Lorenzo proceeded to raise the
Grate, in which the Nuns assisted him to the utmost of their
strength. The attempt was accomplished with little difficulty.
A deep abyss now presented itself before them, whose thick
obscurity the eye strove in vain to pierce. The rays of the Lamp
were too feeble to be of much assistance. Nothing was
discernible, save a flight of rough unshapen steps which sank
into the yawning Gulph and were soon lost in darkness. The
groans were heard no more; But All believed them to have ascended
from this Cavern. As He bent over it, Lorenzo fancied that He
distinguished something bright twinkling through the gloom. He
gazed attentively upon the spot where it showed itself, and was
convinced that He saw a small spark of light, now visible, now
disappearing. He communicated this circumstance to the Nuns:
They also perceived the spark; But when He declared his intention
to descend into the Cave, they united to oppose his resolution.
All their remonstrances could not prevail on him to alter it.
None of them had courage enough to accompany him; neither could
He think of depriving them of the Lamp. Alone therefore, and in
darkness, He prepared to pursue his design, while the Nuns were
contented to offer up prayers for his success and safety.
The steps were so narrow and uneven, that to descend them was
like walking down the side of a precipice. The obscurity by
which He was surrounded rendered his footing insecure. He was
obliged to proceed with great caution, lest He should miss the
steps and fall into the Gulph below him. This He was several
times on the point of doing. However, He arrived sooner upon
solid ground than He had expected: He now found that the thick
darkness and impenetrable mists which reigned through the Cavern
had deceived him into the belief of its being much more profound
than it proved upon inspection. He reached the foot of the
Stairs unhurt: He now stopped, and looked round for the spark
which had before caught his attention. He sought it in vain: All
was dark and gloomy. He listened for the groans; But his ear
caught no sound, except the distant murmur of the Nuns above, as
in low voices they repeated their Ave-Marias. He stood
irresolute to which side He should address his steps. At all
events He determined to proceed: He did so, but slowly, fearing
lest instead of approaching, He should be retiring from the
object of his search. The groans seemed to announce one in pain,
or at least in sorrow, and He hoped to have the power of
relieving the Mourner's calamities. A plaintive tone, sounding
at no great distance, at length reached his hearing; He bent his
course joyfully towards it. It became more audible as He
advanced; and He soon beheld again the spark of light, which a
low projecting Wall had hitherto concealed from him.
It proceeded from a small Lamp which was placed upon an heap of
stones, and whose faint and melancholy rays served rather to
point out, than dispell the horrors of a narrow gloomy dungeon
formed in one side of the Cavern; It also showed several other
recesses of similar construction, but whose depth was buried in
obscurity. Coldly played the light upon the damp walls, whose
dew-stained surface gave back a feeble reflection. A thick and
pestilential fog clouded the height of the vaulted dungeon. As
Lorenzo advanced, He felt a piercing chillness spread itself
through his veins. The frequent groans still engaged him to move
forwards. He turned towards them, and by the Lamp's glimmering
beams beheld in a corner of this loathsome abode, a Creature
stretched upon a bed of straw, so wretched, so emaciated, so
pale, that He doubted to think her Woman. She was half-naked:
Her long dishevelled hair fell in disorder over her face, and
almost entirely concealed it. One wasted Arm hung listlessly
upon a tattered rug which covered her convulsed and shivering
limbs: The Other was wrapped round a small bundle, and held it
closely to her bosom. A large Rosary lay near her: Opposite to
her was a Crucifix, on which She bent her sunk eyes fixedly, and
by her side stood a Basket and a small Earthen Pitcher.
Lorenzo stopped: He was petrified with horror. He gazed upon
the miserable Object with disgust and pity. He trembled at the
spectacle; He grew sick at heart: His strength failed him, and
his limbs were unable to support his weight. He was obliged to
lean against the low Wall which was near him, unable to go
forward, or to address the Sufferer. She cast her eyes towards
the Staircase: The Wall concealed Lorenzo, and She observed him
'No one comes!' She at length murmured.
As She spoke, her voice was hollow, and rattled in her throat:
She sighed bitterly.
'No one comes!' She repeated; 'No! They have forgotten me! They
will come no more!'
She paused for a moment: Then continued mournfully.
'Two days! Two long, long days, and yet no food! And yet no
hope, no comfort! Foolish Woman! How can I wish to lengthen a
life so wretched! Yet such a death! O! God! To perish by such
a death! To linger out such ages in torture! Till now, I knew
not what it was to hunger! Hark! No. No one comes! They will
come no more!'
She was silent. She shivered, and drew the rug over her naked
'I am very cold! I am still unused to the damps of this dungeon!
'Tis strange: But no matter. Colder shall I soon be, and yet
not feel it--I shall be cold, cold as Thou art!'
She looked at the bundle which lay upon her breast. She bent
over it, and kissed it: Then drew back hastily, and shuddered
with disgust.
'It was once so sweet! It would have been so lovely, so like
him! I have lost it for ever! How a few days have changed it!
I should not know it again myself! Yet it is dear to me! God!
how dear! I will forget what it is: I will only remember what it
was, and love it as well, as when it was so sweet! so lovely! so
like him! I thought that I had wept away all my tears, but here
is one still lingering.'
She wiped her eyes with a tress of her hair. She put out her
hand for the Pitcher, and reached it with difficulty. She cast
into it a look of hopeless enquiry. She sighed, and replaced it
upon the ground.
'Quite a void! Not a drop! Not one drop left to cool my
scorched-up burning palate! Now would I give treasures for a
draught of water! And they are God's Servants, who make me
suffer thus! They think themselves holy, while they torture me
like Fiends! They are cruel and unfeeling; And 'tis they who bid
me repent; And 'tis they, who threaten me with eternal perdition!
Saviour, Saviour! You think not so!'
She again fixed her eyes upon the Crucifix, took her Rosary, and
while She told her beads, the quick motion of her lips declared
her to be praying with fervency.
While He listened to her melancholy accents, Lorenzo's
sensibility became yet more violently affected. The first sight
of such misery had given a sensible shock to his feelings: But
that being past, He now advanced towards the Captive. She heard
his steps, and uttering a cry of joy, dropped the Rosary.
'Hark! Hark! Hark!' She cried: 'Some one comes!'
She strove to raise herself, but her strength was unequal to the
attempt: She fell back, and as She sank again upon the bed of
straw, Lorenzo heard the rattling of heavy chains. He still
approached, while the Prisoner thus continued.
'Is it you, Camilla? You are come then at last? Oh! it was
time! I thought that you had forsaken me; that I was doomed to
perish of hunger. Give me to drink, Camilla, for pity's sake! I
am faint with long fasting, and grown so weak that I cannot raise
myself from the ground. Good Camilla, give me to drink, lest I
expire before you!'
Fearing that surprize in her enfeebled state might be fatal,
Lorenzo was at a loss how to address her.
'It is not Camilla,' said He at length, speaking in a slow and
gentle voice.
'Who is it then?' replied the Sufferer: 'Alix, perhaps, or
Violante. My eyes are grown so dim and feeble that I cannot
distinguish your features. But whichever it is, if your breast
is sensible of the least compassion, if you are not more cruel
than Wolves and Tigers, take pity on my sufferings. You know
that I am dying for want of sustenance. This is the third day,
since these lips have received nourishment. Do you bring me
food? Or come you only to announce my death, and learn how long
I have yet to exist in agony?'
'You mistake my business,' replied Lorenzo; 'I am no Emissary of
the cruel Prioress. I pity your sorrows, and come hither to
relieve them.'
'To relieve them?' repeated the Captive; 'Said you, to relieve
At the same time starting from the ground, and supporting herself
upon her hands, She gazed upon the Stranger earnestly.
'Great God! It is no illusion! A Man! Speak! Who are you?
What brings you hither? Come you to save me, to restore me to
liberty, to life and light? Oh! speak, speak quickly, lest I
encourage an hope whose disappointment will destroy me.'
'Be calm!' replied Lorenzo in a voice soothing and compassionate;
'The Domina of whose cruelty you complain, has already paid the
forfeit of her offences: You have nothing more to fear from her.
A few minutes will restore you to liberty, and the embraces of
your Friends from whom you have been secluded. You may rely upon
my protection. Give me your hand, and be not fearful. Let me
conduct you where you may receive those attentions which your
feeble state requires.'
'Oh! Yes! Yes! Yes!' cried the Prisoner with an exulting
shriek; 'There is a God then, and a just one! Joy! Joy! I shall
once more breath the fresh air, and view the light of the
glorious sunbeams! I will go with you! Stranger, I will go with
you! Oh! Heaven will bless you for pitying an Unfortunate! But
this too must go with me,' She added pointing to the small
bundle which She still clasped to her bosom; 'I cannot part with
this. I will bear it away: It shall convince the world how
dreadful are the abodes so falsely termed religious. Good
Stranger, lend me your hand to rise: I am faint with want, and
sorrow, and sickness, and my forces have quite forsaken me! So,
that is well!'
As Lorenzo stooped to raise her, the beams of the Lamp struck
full upon his face.
'Almighty God!' She exclaimed; 'Is it possible! That look!
Those features! Oh! Yes, it is, it is . . . . .'
She extended her arms to throw them round him; But her enfeebled
frame was unable to sustain the emotions which agitated her
bosom. She fainted, and again sank upon the bed of straw.
Lorenzo was surprized at her last exclamation. He thought that
He had before heard such accents as her hollow voice had just
formed, but where He could not remember. He saw that in her
dangerous situation immediate physical aid was absolutely
necessary, and He hastened to convey her from the dungeon. He
was at first prevented from doing so by a strong chain fastened
round the prisoner's body, and fixing her to the neighbouring
Wall. However, his natural strength being aided by anxiety to
relieve the Unfortunate, He soon forced out the Staple to which
one end of the Chain was attached. Then taking the Captive in his
arms, He bent his course towards the Staircase. The rays of the
Lamp above, as well as the murmur of female voices, guided his
steps. He gained the Stairs, and in a few minutes after arrived
at the iron-grate.
The Nuns during his absence had been terribly tormented by
curiosity and apprehension: They were equally surprized and
delighted on seeing him suddenly emerge from the Cave. Every
heart was filled with compassion for the miserable Creature whom
He bore in his arms. While the Nuns, and Virginia in particular,
employed themselves in striving to recall her to her senses,
Lorenzo related in few words the manner of his finding her. He
then observed to them that by this time the tumult must have been
quelled, and that He could now conduct them to their Friends
without danger. All were eager to quit the Sepulchre: Still to
prevent all possibility of ill-usage, they besought Lorenzo to
venture out first alone, and examine whether the Coast was
clear. With this request He complied. Helena offered to conduct
him to the Staircase, and they were on the point of departing,
when a strong light flashed from several passages upon the
adjacent walls. At the same time Steps were heard of people
approaching hastily, and whose number seemed to be considerable.
The Nuns were greatly alarmed at this circumstance: They
supposed their retreat to be discovered, and the Rioters to be
advancing in pursuit of them. Hastily quitting the Prisoner who
remained insensible, they crowded round Lorenzo, and claimed his
promise to protect them. Virginia alone forgot her own danger by
striving to relieve the sorrows of Another. She supported the
Sufferer's head upon her knees, bathing her temples with
rose-water, chafing her cold hands, and sprinkling her face with
tears which were drawn from her by compassion. The Strangers
approaching nearer, Lorenzo was enabled to dispel the fears of
the Suppliants. His name, pronounced by a number of voices among
which He distinguished the Duke's, pealed along the Vaults, and
convinced him that He was the object of their search. He
communicated this intelligence to the Nuns, who received it with
rapture. A few moments after confirmed his idea. Don Ramirez,
as well as the Duke, appeared, followed by Attendants with
Torches. They had been seeking him through the Vaults, in order
to let him know that the Mob was dispersed, and the riot entirely
over. Lorenzo recounted briefly his adventure in the Cavern, and
explained how much the Unknown was in want of medical
assistance. He besought the Duke to take charge of her, as well
as of the Nuns and Pensioners.
'As for me,' said He, 'Other cares demand my attention. While
you with one half of the Archers convey these Ladies to their
respective homes, I wish the other half to be left with me. I
will examine the Cavern below, and pervade the most secret
recesses of the Sepulchre. I cannot rest till convinced that
yonder wretched Victim was the only one confined by Superstition
in these vaults.'
The Duke applauded his intention. Don Ramirez offered to assist
him in his enquiry, and his proposal was accepted with gratitude.
The Nuns having made their acknowledgments to Lorenzo, committed
themselves to the care of his Uncle, and were conducted from the
Sepulchre. Virginia requested that the Unknown might be given to
her in charge, and promised to let Lorenzo know whenever She was
sufficiently recovered to accept his visits. In truth, She made
this promise more from consideration for herself than for either
Lorenzo or the Captive. She had witnessed his politeness,
gentleness, and intrepidity with sensible emotion. She wished
earnestly to preserve his acquaintance; and in addition to the
sentiments of pity which the Prisoner excited, She hoped that her
attention to this Unfortunate would raise her a degree in the
esteem of Lorenzo. She had no occasion to trouble herself upon
this head. The kindness already displayed by her and the tender
concern which She had shown for the Sufferer had gained her an
exalted place in his good graces. While occupied in alleviating
the Captive's sorrows, the nature of her employment adorned her
with new charms, and rendered her beauty a thousand times more
interesting. Lorenzo viewed her with admiration and delight: He
considered her as a ministering Angel descended to the aid of
afflicted innocence; nor could his heart have resisted her
attractions, had it not been steeled by the remembrance of
The Duke now conveyed the Nuns in safety to the Dwellings of
their respective Friends. The rescued Prisoner was still
insensible and gave no signs of life, except by occasional
groans. She was borne upon a sort of litter; Virginia, who was
constantly by the side of it, was apprehensive that exhausted by
long abstinence, and shaken by the sudden change from bonds and
darkness to liberty and light, her frame would never get the
better of the shock. Lorenzo and Don Ramirez still remained in
the Sepulchre. After deliberating upon their proceedings, it was
resolved that to prevent losing time, the Archers should be
divided into two Bodies: That with one Don Ramirez should
examine the cavern, while Lorenzo with the other might penetrate
into the further Vaults. This being arranged, and his Followers
being provided with Torches, Don Ramirez advanced to the Cavern.
He had already descended some steps when He heard People
approaching hastily from the interior part of the Sepulchre.
This surprized him, and He quitted the Cave precipitately.
'Do you hear footsteps?' said Lorenzo; 'Let us bend our course
towards them. 'Tis from this side that they seem to proceed.'
At that moment a loud and piercing shriek induced him to quicken
his steps.
'Help! Help, for God's sake! cried a voice, whose melodious
tone penetrated Lorenzo's heart with terror.
He flew towards the cry with the rapidity of lightning, and was
followed by Don Ramirez with equal swiftness.
Great Heaven! How frail thy creature Man is made!
How by himself insensibly betrayed!
In our own strength unhappily secure,
Too little cautious of the adverse power,
On pleasure's flowery brink we idly stray,
Masters as yet of our returning way:
Till the strong gusts of raging passion rise,
Till the dire Tempest mingles earth and skies,
And swift into the boundless Ocean borne,
Our foolish confidence too late we mourn:
Round our devoted heads the billows beat,
And from our troubled view the lessening lands retreat.
All this while, Ambrosio was unconscious of the dreadful scenes
which were passing so near. The execution of his designs upon
Antonia employed his every thought. Hitherto, He was satisfied
with the success of his plans. Antonia had drank the opiate, was
buried in the vaults of St. Clare, and absolutely in his
disposal. Matilda, who was well acquainted with the nature and
effects of the soporific medicine, had computed that it would not
cease to operate till one in the Morning. For that hour He
waited with impatience. The Festival of St. Clare presented him
with a favourable opportunity of consummating his crime. He was
certain that the Friars and Nuns would be engaged in the
Procession, and that He had no cause to dread an interruption:
From appearing himself at the head of his Monks, He had desired
to be excused. He doubted not, that being beyond the reach of
help, cut off from all the world, and totally in his power,
Antonia would comply with his desires. The affection which She
had ever exprest for him, warranted this persuasion: But He
resolved that should She prove obstinate, no consideration
whatever should prevent him from enjoying her. Secure from a
discovery, He shuddered not at the idea of employing force: If
He felt any repugnance, it arose not from a principle of shame
or compassion, but from his feeling for Antonia the most sincere
and ardent affection, and wishing to owe her favours to no one
but herself.
The Monks quitted the Abbey at midnight. Matilda was among the
Choristers, and led the chaunt. Ambrosio was left by himself,
and at liberty to pursue his own inclinations. Convinced that no
one remained behind to watch his motions, or disturb his
pleasures, He now hastened to the Western Aisles. His heart
beating with hope not unmingled with anxiety, He crossed the
Garden, unlocked the door which admitted him into the Cemetery,
and in a few minutes He stood before the Vaults. Here He paused.
He looked round him with suspicion, conscious that his business
was unfit for any other eye. As He stood in hesitation, He heard
the melancholy shriek of the screech-Owl: The wind rattled
loudly against the windows of the adjacent Convent, and as the
current swept by him, bore with it the faint notes of the chaunt
of Choristers. He opened the door cautiously, as if fearing to
be overheard: He entered; and closed it again after him.
Guided by his Lamp, He threaded the long passages, in whose
windings Matilda had instructed him, and reached the private
Vault which contained his sleeping Mistress.
Its entrance was by no means easy to discover: But this was no
obstacle to Ambrosio, who at the time of Antonia's Funeral had
observed it too carefully to be deceived. He found the door,
which was unfastened, pushed it open, and descended into the
dungeon. He approached the humble Tomb in which Antonia
reposed. He had provided himself with an iron crow and a
pick-axe; But this precaution was unnecessary. The Grate was
slightly fastened on the outside: He raised it, and placing the
Lamp upon its ridge, bent silently over the Tomb. By the side of
three putrid half-corrupted Bodies lay the sleeping Beauty. A
lively red, the forerunner of returning animation, had already
spread itself over her cheek; and as wrapped in her shroud She
reclined upon her funeral Bier, She seemed to smile at the Images
of Death around her. While He gazed upon their rotting bones and
disgusting figures, who perhaps were once as sweet and lovely,
Ambrosio thought upon Elvira, by him reduced to the same state.
As the memory of that horrid act glanced upon his mind, it was
clouded with a gloomy horror. Yet it served but to strengthen
his resolution to destroy Antonia's honour.
'For your sake, Fatal Beauty!' murmured the Monk, while gazing on
his devoted prey; 'For your sake, have I committed this murder,
and sold myself to eternal tortures. Now you are in my power:
The produce of my guilt will at least be mine. Hope not that
your prayers breathed in tones of unequalled melody, your bright
eyes filled with tears, and your hands lifted in supplication, as
when seeking in penitence the Virgin's pardon; Hope not that
your moving innocence, your beauteous grief, or all your
suppliant arts shall ransom you from my embraces. Before the
break of day, mine you must, and mine you shall be!'
He lifted her still motionless from the Tomb: He seated himself
upon a bank of Stone, and supporting her in his arms, watched
impatiently for the symptoms of returning animation. Scarcely
could He command his passions sufficiently, to restrain himself
from enjoying her while yet insensible. His natural lust was
increased in ardour by the difficulties which had opposed his
satisfying it: As also by his long abstinence from Woman, since
from the moment of resigning her claim to his love, Matilda had
exiled him from her arms for ever.
'I am no Prostitute, Ambrosio;' Had She told him, when in the
fullness of his lust He demanded her favours with more than usual
earnestness; 'I am now no more than your Friend, and will not be
your Mistress. Cease then to solicit my complying with desires,
which insult me. While your heart was mine, I gloried in your
embraces: Those happy times are past: My person is become
indifferent to you, and 'tis necessity, not love, which makes you
seek my enjoyment. I cannot yield to a request so humiliating
to my pride.'
Suddenly deprived of pleasures, the use of which had made them an
absolute want, the Monk felt this restraint severely. Naturally
addicted to the gratification of the senses, in the full vigour
of manhood, and heat of blood, He had suffered his temperament to
acquire such ascendency that his lust was become madness. Of
his fondness for Antonia, none but the grosser particles
remained: He longed for the possession of her person; and even
the gloom of the vault, the surrounding silence, and the
resistance which He expected from her, seemed to give a fresh
edge to his fierce and unbridled desires.
Gradually He felt the bosom which rested against his, glow with
returning warmth. Her heart throbbed again; Her blood flowed
swifter, and her lips moved. At length She opened her eyes, but
still opprest and bewildered by the effects of the strong opiate,
She closed them again immediately. Ambrosio watched her
narrowly, nor permitted a movement to escape him. Perceiving
that She was fully restored to existence, He caught her in
rapture to his bosom, and closely pressed his lips to hers. The
suddenness of his action sufficed to dissipate the fumes which
obscured Antonia's reason. She hastily raised herself, and cast
a wild look round her. The strange Images which presented
themselves on every side contributed to confuse her. She put her
hand to her head, as if to settle her disordered imagination. At
length She took it away, and threw her eyes through the dungeon a
second time. They fixed upon the Abbot's face.
'Where am I?' She said abruptly. 'How came I here? Where is my
Mother? Methought, I saw her! Oh! a dream, a dreadful dreadful
dream told me . . . . . . But where am I? Let me go! I cannot
stay here!'
She attempted to rise, but the Monk prevented her.
'Be calm, lovely Antonia!' He replied; 'No danger is near you:
Confide in my protection. Why do you gaze on me so earnestly?
Do you not know me? Not know your Friend? Ambrosio?'
'Ambrosio? My Friend? Oh! yes, yes; I remember . . . . . .
But why am I here? Who has brought me? Why are you with me?
Oh! Flora bad me beware . . . . .! Here are nothing but Graves,
and Tombs, and Skeletons! This place frightens me! Good Ambrosio
take me away from it, for it recalls my fearful dream! Methought
I was dead, and laid in my grave! Good Ambrosio, take me from
hence. Will you not? Oh! will you not? Do not look on me thus!
Your flaming eyes terrify me! Spare me, Father! Oh! spare me for
God's sake!'
'Why these terrors, Antonia?' rejoined the Abbot, folding her in
his arms, and covering her bosom with kisses which She in vain
struggled to avoid: 'What fear you from me, from one who adores
you? What matters it where you are? This Sepulchre seems to me
Love's bower; This gloom is the friendly night of mystery which
He spreads over our delights! Such do I think it, and such must
my Antonia. Yes, my sweet Girl! Yes! Your veins shall glow with
fire which circles in mine, and my transports shall be doubled
by your sharing them!'
While He spoke thus, He repeated his embraces, and permitted
himself the most indecent liberties. Even Antonia's ignorance
was not proof against the freedom of his behaviour. She was
sensible of her danger, forced herself from his arms, and her
shroud being her only garment, She wrapped it closely round her.
'Unhand me, Father!' She cried, her honest indignation tempered
by alarm at her unprotected position; 'Why have you brought me to
this place? Its appearance freezes me with horror! Convey me
from hence, if you have the least sense of pity and humanity!
Let me return to the House which I have quitted I know not how;
But stay here one moment longer, I neither will, or ought.'
Though the Monk was somewhat startled by the resolute tone in
which this speech was delivered, it produced upon him no other
effect than surprize. He caught her hand, forced her upon his
knee, and gazing upon her with gloting eyes, He thus replied to
'Compose yourself, Antonia. Resistance is unavailing, and I need
disavow my passion for you no longer. You are imagined dead:
Society is for ever lost to you. I possess you here alone; You
are absolutely in my power, and I burn with desires which I must
either gratify or die: But I would owe my happiness to
yourself. My lovely Girl! My adorable Antonia! Let me instruct
you in joys to which you are still a Stranger, and teach you to
feel those pleasures in my arms which I must soon enjoy in
yours. Nay, this struggling is childish,' He continued, seeing
her repell his caresses, and endeavour to escape from his grasp;
'No aid is near: Neither heaven or earth shall save you from my
embraces. Yet why reject pleasures so sweet, so rapturous? No
one observes us: Our loves will be a secret to all the world:
Love and opportunity invite your giving loose to your passions.
Yield to them, my Antonia! Yield to them, my lovely Girl! Throw
your arms thus fondly round me; Join your lips thus closely to
mine! Amidst all her gifts, has Nature denied her most precious,
the sensibility of Pleasure? Oh! impossible! Every feature,
look, and motion declares you formed to bless, and to be blessed
yourself! Turn not on me those supplicating eyes: Consult your
own charms; They will tell you that I am proof against entreaty.
Can I relinquish these limbs so white, so soft, so delicate;
These swelling breasts, round, full, and elastic! These lips
fraught with such inexhaustible sweetness? Can I relinquish
these treasures, and leave them to another's enjoyment? No,
Antonia; never, never! I swear it by this kiss, and this! and
With every moment the Friar's passion became more ardent, and
Antonia's terror more intense. She struggled to disengage
herself from his arms: Her exertions were unsuccessful; and
finding that Ambrosio's conduct became still freer, She shrieked
for assistance with all her strength. The aspect of the Vault,
the pale glimmering of the Lamp, the surrounding obscurity, the
sight of the Tomb, and the objects of mortality which met her
eyes on either side, were ill-calculated to inspire her with
those emotions by which the Friar was agitated. Even his
caresses terrified her from their fury, and created no other
sentiment than fear. On the contrary, her alarm, her evident
disgust, and incessant opposition, seemed only to inflame the
Monk's desires, and supply his brutality with additional
strength. Antonia's shrieks were unheard: Yet She continued
them, nor abandoned her endeavours to escape, till exhausted and
out of breath She sank from his arms upon her knees, and once
more had recourse to prayers and supplications. This attempt had
no better success than the former. On the contrary, taking
advantage of her situation, the Ravisher threw himself by her
side: He clasped her to his bosom almost lifeless with terror,
and faint with struggling. He stifled her cries with kisses,
treated her with the rudeness of an unprincipled Barbarian,
proceeded from freedom to freedom, and in the violence of his
lustful delirium, wounded and bruised her tender limbs. Heedless
of her tears, cries and entreaties, He gradually made himself
Master of her person, and desisted not from his prey, till He had
accomplished his crime and the dishonour of Antonia.
Scarcely had He succeeded in his design than He shuddered at
himself and the means by which it was effected. The very excess
of his former eagerness to possess Antonia now contributed to
inspire him with disgust; and a secret impulse made him feel how
base and unmanly was the crime which He had just committed. He
started hastily from her arms. She, who so lately had been the
object of his adoration, now raised no other sentiment in his
heart than aversion and rage. He turned away from her; or if his
eyes rested upon her figure involuntarily, it was only to dart
upon her looks of hate. The Unfortunate had fainted ere the
completion of her disgrace: She only recovered life to be
sensible of her misfortune. She remained stretched upon the earth
in silent despair: The tears chased each other slowly down her
cheeks, and her bosom heaved with frequent sobs. Oppressed with
grief, She continued for some time in this state of torpidity.
At length She rose with difficulty, and dragging her feeble steps
towards the door, prepared to quit the dungeon.
The sound of her footsteps rouzed the Monk from his sullen
apathy. Starting from the Tomb against which He reclined, while
his eyes wandered over the images of corruption contained in it,
He pursued the Victim of his brutality, and soon overtook her.
He seized her by the arm, and violently forced her back into the
'Whither go you?' He cried in a stern voice; 'Return this
Antonia trembled at the fury of his countenance.
'What, would you more?' She said with timidity: 'Is not my ruin
compleated? Am I not undone, undone for ever? Is not your
cruelty contented, or have I yet more to suffer? Let me depart.
Let me return to my home, and weep unrestrained my shame and my
'Return to your home?' repeated the Monk, with bitter and
contemptuous mockery; Then suddenly his eyes flaming with
passion, 'What? That you may denounce me to the world? That
you may proclaim me an Hypocrite, a Ravisher, a Betrayer, a
Monster of cruelty, lust, and ingratitude? No, no, no! I know
well the whole weight of my offences; Well that your complaints
would be too just, and my crimes too notorious! You shall not
from hence to tell Madrid that I am a Villain; that my conscience
is loaded with sins which make me despair of Heaven's pardon.
Wretched Girl, you must stay here with me! Here amidst these
lonely Tombs, these images of Death, these rotting loathsome
corrupted bodies! Here shall you stay, and witness my
sufferings; witness what it is to die in the horrors of
despondency, and breathe the last groan in blasphemy and curses!
And who am I to thank for this? What seduced me into crimes,
whose bare remembrance makes me shudder? Fatal Witch! was it not
thy beauty? Have you not plunged my soul into infamy? Have you
not made me a perjured Hypocrite, a Ravisher, an Assassin! Nay,
at this moment, does not that angel look bid me despair of God's
forgiveness? Oh! when I stand before his judgment-throne, that
look will suffice to damn me! You will tell my Judge that you
were happy, till I saw you; that you were innocent, till I
polluted you! You will come with those tearful eyes, those
cheeks pale and ghastly, those hands lifted in supplication, as
when you sought from me that mercy which I gave not! Then will
my perdition be certain! Then will come your Mother's Ghost, and
hurl me down into the dwellings of Fiends, and flames, and
Furies, and everlasting torments! And 'tis you, who will accuse
me! 'Tis you, who will cause my eternal anguish! You, wretched
Girl! You! You!'
As He thundered out these words, He violently grasped Antonia's
arm, and spurned the earth with delirious fury.
Supposing his brain to be turned, Antonia sank in terror upon her
knees: She lifted up her hands, and her voice almost died away,
ere She could give it utterance.
'Spare me! Spare me!' She murmured with difficulty.
'Silence!' cried the Friar madly, and dashed her upon the
He quitted her, and paced the dungeon with a wild and disordered
air. His eyes rolled fearfully: Antonia trembled whenever She
met their gaze. He seemed to meditate on something horrible, and
She gave up all hopes of escaping from the Sepulchre with life.
Yet in harbouring this idea, She did him injustice. Amidst the
horror and disgust to which his soul was a prey, pity for his
Victim still held a place in it. The storm of passion once over,
He would have given worlds had He possest them, to have restored
to her that innocence of which his unbridled lust had deprived
her. Of the desires which had urged him to the crime, no trace
was left in his bosom: The wealth of India would not have
tempted him to a second enjoyment of her person. His nature
seemed to revolt at the very idea, and fain would He have wiped
from his memory the scene which had just past. As his gloomy
rage abated, in proportion did his compassion augment for
Antonia. He stopped, and would have spoken to her words of
comfort; But He knew not from whence to draw them, and remained
gazing upon her with mournful wildness. Her situation seemed so
hopeless, so woebegone, as to baffle mortal power to relieve
her. What could He do for her? Her peace of mind was lost, her
honour irreparably ruined. She was cut off for ever from
society, nor dared He give her back to it. He was conscious
that were She to appear in the world again, his guilt would be
revealed, and his punishment inevitable. To one so laden with
crimes, Death came armed with double terrors. Yet should He
restore Antonia to light, and stand the chance of her betraying
him, how miserable a prospect would present itself before her.
She could never hope to be creditably established; She would be
marked with infamy, and condemned to sorrow and solitude for the
remainder of her existence. What was the alternative? A
resolution far more terrible for Antonia, but which at least
would insure the Abbot's safety. He determined to leave the
world persuaded of her death, and to retain her a captive in this
gloomy prison: There He proposed to visit her every night, to
bring her food, to profess his penitence, and mingle his tears
with hers. The Monk felt that this resolution was unjust and
cruel; but it was his only means to prevent Antonia from
publishing his guilt and her own infamy. Should He release her,
He could not depend upon her silence: His offence was too
flagrant to permit his hoping for her forgiveness. Besides, her
reappearing would excite universal curiosity, and the violence
of her affliction would prevent her from concealing its cause.
He determined therefore, that Antonia should remain a Prisoner in
the dungeon.
He approached her with confusion painted on his countenance. He
raised her from the ground. Her hand trembled, as He took it,
and He dropped it again as if He had touched a Serpent. Nature
seemed to recoil at the touch. He felt himself at once repulsed
from and attracted towards her, yet could account for neither
sentiment. There was something in her look which penetrated him
with horror; and though his understanding was still ignorant of
it, Conscience pointed out to him the whole extent of his crime.
In hurried accents yet the gentlest He could find, while his eye
was averted, and his voice scarcely audible, He strove to console
her under a misfortune which now could not be avoided. He
declared himself sincerely penitent, and that He would gladly
shed a drop of his blood, for every tear which his barbarity had
forced from her. Wretched and hopeless, Antonia listened to him
in silent grief: But when He announced her confinement in the
Sepulchre, that dreadful doom to which even death seemed
preferable roused her from her insensibility at once. To linger
out a life of misery in a narrow loathsome Cell, known to exist
by no human Being save her Ravisher, surrounded by mouldering
Corses, breathing the pestilential air of corruption, never more
to behold the light, or drink the pure gale of heaven, the idea
was more terrible than She could support. It conquered even her
abhorrence of the Friar. Again She sank upon her knees: She
besought his compassion in terms the most pathetic and urgent.
She promised, would He but restore her to liberty, to conceal her
injuries from the world; to assign any reason for her
reappearance which He might judge proper; and in order to
prevent the least suspicion from falling upon him, She offered to
quit Madrid immediately. Her entreaties were so urgent as to
make a considerable impression upon the Monk. He reflected that
as her person no longer excited his desires, He had no interest
in keeping her concealed as He had at first intended; that He was
adding a fresh injury to those which She had already suffered;
and that if She adhered to her promises, whether She was confined
or at liberty, his life and reputation were equally secure. On
the other hand, He trembled lest in her affliction Antonia should
unintentionally break her engagement; or that her excessive
simplicity and ignorance of deceit should permit some one more
artful to surprize her secret. However well-founded were these
apprehensions, compassion, and a sincere wish to repair his fault
as much as possible solicited his complying with the prayers of
his Suppliant. The difficulty of colouring Antonia's unexpected
return to life, after her supposed death and public interment,
was the only point which kept him irresolute. He was still
pondering on the means of removing this obstacle, when He heard
the sound of feet approaching with precipitation. The door of
the Vault was thrown open, and Matilda rushed in, evidently much
confused and terrified.
On seeing a Stranger enter, Antonia uttered a cry of joy: But
her hopes of receiving succour from him were soon dissipated.
The supposed Novice, without expressing the least surprize at
finding a Woman alone with the Monk, in so strange a place, and
at so late an hour, addressed him thus without losing a moment.
'What is to be done, Ambrosio? We are lost, unless some speedy
means is found of dispelling the Rioters. Ambrosio, the Convent
of St. Clare is on fire; The Prioress has fallen a victim to the
fury of the Mob. Already is the Abbey menaced with a similar
fate. Alarmed at the threats of the People, the Monks seek for
you everywhere. They imagine that your authority alone will
suffice to calm this disturbance. No one knows what is become
of you, and your absence creates universal astonishment and
despair. I profited by the confusion, and fled hither to warn
you of the danger.'
'This will soon be remedied,' answered the Abbot; 'I will hasten
back to my Cell: a trivial reason will account for my having
been missed.'
'Impossible!' rejoined Matilda: 'The Sepulchre is filled with
Archers. Lorenzo de Medina, with several Officers of the
Inquisition, searches through the Vaults, and pervades every
passage. You will be intercepted in your flight; Your reasons
for being at this late hour in the Sepulchre will be examined;
Antonia will be found, and then you are undone for ever!'
'Lorenzo de Medina? Officers of the Inquisition? What brings
them here? Seek they for me? Am I then suspected? Oh! speak,
Matilda! Answer me, in pity!'
'As yet they do not think of you, but I fear that they will ere
long. Your only chance of escaping their notice rests upon the
difficulty of exploring this Vault. The door is artfully hidden:
Haply it may not be observed, and we may remain concealed till
the search is over.'
'But Antonia . . . . . Should the Inquisitors draw near, and her
cries be heard . . . .'
'Thus I remove that danger!' interrupted Matilda.
At the same time drawing a poignard, She rushed upon her devoted
'Hold! Hold!' cried Ambrosio, seizing her hand, and wresting from
it the already lifted weapon. 'What would you do, cruel Woman?
The Unfortunate has already suffered but too much, thanks to your
pernicious consels! Would to God that I had never followed them!
Would to God that I had never seen your face!'
Matilda darted upon him a look of scorn.
'Absurd!' She exclaimed with an air of passion and majesty which
impressed the Monk with awe. 'After robbing her of all that made
it dear, can you fear to deprive her of a life so miserable? But
'tis well! Let her live to convince you of your folly. I
abandon you to your evil destiny! I disclaim your alliance! Who
trembles to commit so insignificant a crime, deserves not my
protection. Hark! Hark! Ambrosio; Hear you not the Archers?
They come, and your destruction is inevitable!'
At this moment the Abbot heard the sound of distant voices. He
flew to close the door on whose concealment his safety depended,
and which Matilda had neglected to fasten. Ere He could reach
it, He saw Antonia glide suddenly by him, rush through the door,
and fly towards the noise with the swiftness of an arrow. She
had listened attentively to Matilda: She heard Lorenzo's name
mentioned, and resolved to risque every thing to throw herself
under his protection. The door was open. The sounds convinced
her that the Archers could be at no great distance. She
mustered up her little remaining strength, rushed by the Monk ere
He perceived her design, and bent her course rapidly towards the
voices. As soon as He recovered from his first surprize, the
Abbot failed not to pursue her. In vain did Antonia redouble her
speed, and stretch every nerve to the utmost. Her Enemy gained
upon her every moment: She heard his steps close after her, and
felt the heat of his breath glow upon her neck. He overtook
her; He twisted his hand in the ringlets of her streaming hair,
and attempted to drag her back with him to the dungeon. Antonia
resisted with all her strength: She folded her arms round a
Pillar which supported the roof, and shrieked loudly for
assistance. In vain did the Monk strive to threaten her to
'Help!' She continued to exclaim; 'Help! Help! for God's sake!'
Quickened by her cries, the sound of footsteps was heard
approaching. The Abbot expected every moment to see the
Inquisitors arrive. Antonia still resisted, and He now enforced
her silence by means the most horrible and inhuman. He still
grasped Matilda's dagger: Without allowing himself a moment's
reflection, He raised it, and plunged it twice in the bosom of
Antonia! She shrieked, and sank upon the ground. The Monk
endeavoured to bear her away with him, but She still embraced the
Pillar firmly. At that instant the light of approaching Torches
flashed upon the Walls. Dreading a discovery, Ambrosio was
compelled to abandon his Victim, and hastily fled back to the
Vault, where He had left Matilda.
He fled not unobserved. Don Ramirez happening to arrive the
first, perceived a Female bleeding upon the ground, and a Man
flying from the spot, whose confusion betrayed him for the
Murderer. He instantly pursued the Fugitive with some part of
the Archers, while the Others remained with Lorenzo to protect
the wounded Stranger. They raised her, and supported her in their
arms. She had fainted from excess of pain, but soon gave signs
of returning life. She opened her eyes, and on lifting up her
head, the quantity of fair hair fell back which till then had
obscured her features.
'God Almighty! It is Antonia!'
Such was Lorenzo's exclamation, while He snatched her from the
Attendant's arms, and clasped her in his own.
Though aimed by an uncertain hand, the poignard had answered but
too well the purpose of its Employer. The wounds were mortal, and
Antonia was conscious that She never could recover. Yet the few
moments which remained for her were moments of happiness. The
concern exprest upon Lorenzo's countenance, the frantic fondness
of his complaints, and his earnest enquiries respecting her
wounds, convinced her beyond a doubt that his affections were her
own. She would not be removed from the Vaults, fearing lest
motion should only hasten her death; and She was unwilling to
lose those moments which She past in receiving proofs of
Lorenzo's love, and assuring him of her own. She told him that
had She still been undefiled She might have lamented the loss of
life; But that deprived of honour and branded with shame, Death
was to her a blessing: She could not have been his Wife, and
that hope being denied her, She resigned herself to the Grave
without one sigh of regret. She bad him take courage, conjured
him not to abandon himself to fruitless sorrow, and declared that
She mourned to leave nothing in the whole world but him. While
every sweet accent increased rather than lightened Lorenzo's
grief, She continued to converse with him till the moment of
dissolution. Her voice grew faint and scarcely audible; A thick
cloud spread itself over her eyes; Her heart beat slow and
irregular, and every instant seemed to announce that her fate was
near at hand.
She lay, her head reclining upon Lorenzo's bosom, and her lips
still murmuring to him words of comfort. She was interrupted by
the Convent Bell, as tolling at a distance, it struck the hour.
Suddenly Antonia's eyes sparkled with celestial brightness: Her
frame seemed to have received new strength and animation. She
started from her Lover's arms.
'Three o'clock!' She cried; 'Mother, I come!'
She clasped her hands, and sank lifeless upon the ground.
Lorenzo in agony threw himself beside her: He tore his hair,
beat his breast, and refused to be separated from the Corse. At
length his force being exhausted, He suffered himself to be led
from the Vault, and was conveyed to the Palace de Medina scarcely
more alive than the unfortunate Antonia.
In the meanwhile, though closely pursued, Ambrosio succeeded in
regaining the Vault. The Door was already fastened when Don
Ramirez arrived, and much time elapsed, ere the Fugitive's
retreat was discovered. But nothing can resist perseverance.
Though so artfully concealed, the Door could not escape the
vigilance of the Archers. They forced it open, and entered the
Vault to the infinite dismay of Ambrosio and his Companion. The
Monk's confusion, his attempt to hide himself, his rapid flight,
and the blood sprinkled upon his cloaths, left no room to doubt
his being Antonia's Murderer. But when He was recognized for the
immaculate Ambrosio, 'The Man of Holiness,' the Idol of Madrid,
the faculties of the Spectators were chained up in surprize, and
scarcely could they persuade themselves that what they saw was no
vision. The Abbot strove not to vindicate himself, but preserved
a sullen silence. He was secured and bound. The same precaution
was taken with Matilda: Her Cowl being removed, the delicacy of
her features and profusion of her golden hair betrayed her sex,
and this incident created fresh amazement. The dagger was also
found in the Tomb, where the Monk had thrown it; and the dungeon
having undergone a thorough search, the two Culprits were
conveyed to the prisons of the Inquisition.
Don Ramirez took care that the populace should remain ignorant
both of the crimes and profession of the Captives. He feared a
repetition of the riots which had followed the apprehending the
Prioress of St. Clare. He contented himself with stating to the
Capuchins the guilt of their Superior. To avoid the shame of a
public accusation, and dreading the popular fury from which they
had already saved their Abbey with much difficulty, the Monks
readily permitted the Inquisitors to search their Mansion without
noise. No fresh discoveries were made. The effects found in the
Abbot's and Matilda's Cells were seized, and carried to the
Inquisition to be produced in evidence. Every thing else
remained in its former position, and order and tranquillity once
more prevailed through Madrid.
St. Clare's Convent was completely ruined by the united ravages
of the Mob and conflagration. Nothing remained of it but the
principal Walls, whose thickness and solidity had preserved them
from the flames. The Nuns who had belonged to it were obliged
in consequence to disperse themselves into other Societies: But
the prejudice against them ran high, and the Superiors were very
unwilling to admit them. However, most of them being related to
Families the most distinguished for their riches birth and power,
the several Convents were compelled to receive them, though they
did it with a very ill grace. This prejudice was extremely false
and unjustifiable: After a close investigation, it was proved
that All in the Convent were persuaded of the death of Agnes,
except the four Nuns whom St. Ursula had pointed out. These had
fallen Victims to the popular fury; as had also several who were
perfectly innocent and unconscious of the whole affair. Blinded
by resentment, the Mob had sacrificed every Nun who fell into
their hands: They who escaped were entirely indebted to the Duke
de Medina's prudence and moderation. Of this they were
conscious, and felt for that Nobleman a proper sense of
Virginia was not the most sparing of her thanks: She wished
equally to make a proper return for his attentions, and to obtain
the good graces of Lorenzo's Uncle. In this She easily succeeded.
The Duke beheld her beauty with wonder and admiration; and while
his eyes were enchanted with her Form, the sweetness of her
manners and her tender concern for the suffering Nun prepossessed
his heart in her favour. This Virginia had discernment enough to
perceive, and She redoubled her attention to the Invalid. When
He parted from her at the door of her Father's Palace, the Duke
entreated permission to enquire occasionally after her health.
His request was readily granted: Virginia assured him that the
Marquis de Villa-Franca would be proud of an opportunity to thank
him in person for the protection afforded to her. They now
separated, He enchanted with her beauty and gentleness, and She
much pleased with him and more with his Nephew.
On entering the Palace, Virginia's first care was to summon the
family Physician, and take care of her unknown charge. Her
Mother hastened to share with her the charitable office. Alarmed
by the riots, and trembling for his Daughter's safety, who was
his only child, the Marquis had flown to St. Clare's Convent, and
was still employed in seeking her. Messengers were now
dispatched on all sides to inform him that He would find her
safe at his Hotel, and desire him to hasten thither immediately.
His absence gave Virginia liberty to bestow her whole attention
upon her Patient; and though much disordered herself by the
adventures of the night, no persuasion could induce her to quit
the bedside of the Sufferer. Her constitution being much
enfeebled by want and sorrow, it was some time before the
Stranger was restored to her senses. She found great difficulty
in swallowing the medicines prescribed to her: But this obstacle
being removed, She easily conquered her disease which proceeded
from nothing but weakness. The attention which was paid her, the
wholesome food to which She had been long a Stranger, and her joy
at being restored to liberty, to society, and, as She dared to
hope, to Love, all this combined to her speedy re-establishment.
From the first moment of knowing her, her melancholy situation,
her sufferings almost unparalleled had engaged the affections of
her amiable Hostess: Virginia felt for her the most lively
interest; But how was She delighted, when her Guest being
sufficiently recovered to relate her History, She recognized in
the captive Nun the Sister of Lorenzo!
This victim of monastic cruelty was indeed no other than the
unfortunate Agnes. During her abode in the Convent, She had been
well known to Virginia: But her emaciated form, her features
altered by affliction, her death universally credited, and her
overgrown and matted hair which hung over her face and bosom in
disorder at first had prevented her being recollected. The
Prioress had put every artifice in practice to induce Virginia to
take the veil; for the Heiress of Villa-Franca would have been no
despicable acquisition. Her seeming kindness and unremitted
attention so far succeeded that her young Relation began to
think seriously upon compliance. Better instructed in the
disgust and ennui of a monastic life, Agnes had penetrated the
designs of the Domina: She trembled for the innocent Girl, and
endeavoured to make her sensible of her error. She painted in
their true colours the numerous inconveniencies attached to a
Convent, the continued restraint, the low jealousies, the petty
intrigues, the servile court and gross flattery expected by the
Superior. She then bad Virginia reflect on the brilliant
prospect which presented itself before her: The Idol of her
Parents, the admiration of Madrid, endowed by nature and
education with every perfection of person and mind, She might
look forward to an establishment the most fortunate. Her riches
furnished her with the means of exercising in their fullest
extent, charity and benevolence, those virtues so dear to her;
and her stay in the world would enable her discovering Objects
worthy her protection, which could not be done in the seclusion
of a Convent.
Her persuasions induced Virginia to lay aside all thoughts of the
Veil: But another argument, not used by Agnes, had more weight
with her than all the others put together. She had seen Lorenzo,
when He visited his Sister at the Grate. His Person pleased her,
and her conversations with Agnes generally used to terminate in
some question about her Brother. She, who doted upon Lorenzo,
wished for no better than an opportunity to trumpet out his
praise. She spoke of him in terms of rapture; and to convince
her Auditor how just were his sentiments, how cultivated his
mind, and elegant his expressions, She showed her at different
times the letters which She received from him. She soon
perceived that from these communications the heart of her young
Friend had imbibed impressions, which She was far from intending
to give, but was truly happy to discover. She could not have
wished her Brother a more desirable union: Heiress of
Villa-Franca, virtuous, affectionate, beautiful, and
accomplished, Virginia seemed calculated to make him happy. She
sounded her Brother upon the subject, though without mentioning
names or circumstances. He assured her in his answers that his
heart and hand were totally disengaged, and She thought that
upon these grounds She might proceed without danger. She in
consequence endeavoured to strengthen the dawning passion of her
Friend. Lorenzo was made the constant topic of her discourse;
and the avidity with which her Auditor listened, the sighs which
frequently escaped from her bosom, and the eagerness with which
upon any digression She brought back the conversation to the
subject whence it had wandered, sufficed to convince Agnes that
her Brother's addresses would be far from disagreeable. She at
length ventured to mention her wishes to the Duke: Though a
Stranger to the Lady herself, He knew enough of her situation to
think her worthy his Nephew's hand. It was agreed between him
and his Niece, that She should insinuate the idea to Lorenzo, and
She only waited his return to Madrid to propose her Friend to him
as his Bride. The unfortunate events which took place in the
interim, prevented her from executing her design. Virginia wept
her loss sincerely, both as a Companion, and as the only Person
to whom She could speak of Lorenzo. Her passion continued to
prey upon her heart in secret, and She had almost determined to
confess her sentiments to her Mother, when accident once more
threw their object in her way. The sight of him so near her, his
politeness, his compassion, his intrepidity, had combined to give
new ardour to her affection. When She now found her Friend and
Advocate restored to her, She looked upon her as a Gift from
Heaven; She ventured to cherish the hope of being united to
Lorenzo, and resolved to use with him his Sister's influence.
Supposing that before her death Agnes might possibly have made
the proposal, the Duke had placed all his Nephew's hints of
marriage to Virginia's account: Consequently, He gave them the
most favourable reception. On returning to his Hotel, the
relation given him of Antonia's death, and Lorenzo's behaviour on
the occasion, made evident his mistake. He lamented the
circumstances; But the unhappy Girl being effectually out of the
way, He trusted that his designs would yet be executed. 'Tis
true that Lorenzo's situation just then ill-suited him for
a Bridegroom. His hopes disappointed at the moment when He
expected to realize them, and the dreadful and sudden death of
his Mistress had affected him very severely. The Duke found him
upon the Bed of sickness. His Attendants expressed serious
apprehensions for his life; But the Uncle entertained not the
same fears. He was of opinion, and not unwisely, that 'Men have
died, and worms have eat them; but not for Love!' He therefore
flattered himself that however deep might be the impression made
upon his Nephew's heart, Time and Virginia would be able to
efface it. He now hastened to the afflicted Youth, and
endeavoured to console him: He sympathised in his distress, but
encouraged him to resist the encroachments of despair. He
allowed that He could not but feel shocked at an event so
terrible, nor could He blame his sensibility; But He besought him
not to torment himself with vain regrets, and rather to struggle
with affliction, and preserve his life, if not for his own sake,
at least for the sake of those who were fondly attached to him.
While He laboured thus to make Lorenzo forget Antonia's loss, the
Duke paid his court assiduously to Virginia, and seized every
opportunity to advance his Nephew's interest in her heart.
It may easily be expected that Agnes was not long without
enquiring after Don Raymond. She was shocked to hear the
wretched situation to which grief had reduced him; Yet She could
not help exulting secretly, when She reflected, that his illness
proved the sincerity of his love. The Duke undertook the office
himself, of announcing to the Invalid the happiness which awaited
him. Though He omitted no precaution to prepare him for such an
event, at this sudden change from despair to happiness Raymond's
transports were so violent, as nearly to have proved fatal to
him. These once passed, the tranquillity of his mind, the
assurance of felicity, and above all the presence of Agnes, (Who
was no sooner reestablished by the care of Virginia and the
Marchioness, than She hastened to attend her Lover) soon enabled
him to overcome the effects of his late dreadful malady. The
calm of his soul communicated itself to his body, and He
recovered with such rapidity as to create universal surprize.
No so Lorenzo. Antonia's death accompanied with such terrible
circumstances weighed upon his mind heavily. He was worn down to
a shadow. Nothing could give him pleasure. He was persuaded
with difficulty to swallow nourishment sufficient for the support
of life, and a consumption was apprehended. The society of Agnes
formed his only comfort. Though accident had never permitted
their being much together, He entertained for her a sincere
friendship and attachment. Perceiving how necessary She was to
him, She seldom quitted his chamber. She listened to his
complaints with unwearied attention, and soothed him by the
gentleness of her manners, and by sympathising with his distress.
She still inhabited the Palace de Villa-Franca, the Possessors of
which treated her with marked affection. The Duke had intimated
to the Marquis his wishes respecting Virginia. The match was
unexceptionable: Lorenzo was Heir to his Uncle's immense
property, and was distinguished in Madrid for his agreeable
person, extensive knowledge, and propriety of conduct: Add to
this, that the Marchioness had discovered how strong was her
Daughter's prepossession in his favour.
In consequence the Duke's proposal was accepted without
hesitation: Every precaution was taken to induce Lorenzo's
seeing the Lady with those sentiments which She so well merited
to excite. In her visits to her Brother Agnes was frequently
accompanied by the Marchioness; and as soon as He was able to
move into his Antichamber, Virginia under her mother's
protection was sometimes permitted to express her wishes for his
recovery. This She did with such delicacy, the manner in which
She mentioned Antonia was so tender and soothing, and when She
lamented her Rival's melancholy fate, her bright eyes shone so
beautiful through her tears, that Lorenzo could not behold, or
listen to her without emotion. His Relations, as well as the
Lady, perceived that with every day her society seemed to give
him fresh pleasure, and that He spoke of her in terms of stronger
admiration. However, they prudently kept their observations to
themselves. No word was dropped which might lead him to suspect
their designs. They continued their former conduct and
attention, and left Time to ripen into a warmer sentiment the
friendship which He already felt for Virginia.
In the mean while, her visits became more frequent; and latterly
there was scarce a day, of which She did not pass some part by
the side of Lorenzo's Couch. He gradually regained his strength,
but the progress of his recovery was slow and doubtful. One
evening He seemed to be in better spirits than usual: Agnes and
her Lover, the Duke, Virginia, and her Parents were sitting round
him. He now for the first time entreated his Sister to inform
him how She had escaped the effects of the poison which St.
Ursula had seen her swallow. Fearful of recalling those scenes
to his mind in which Antonia had perished, She had hitherto
concealed from him the history of her sufferings. As He now
started the subject himself, and thinking that perhaps the
narrative of her sorrows might draw him from the contemplation of
those on which He dwelt too constantly, She immediately complied
with his request. The rest of the company had already heard her
story; But the interest which all present felt for its Heroine
made them anxious to hear it repeated. The whole society
seconding Lorenzo's entreaties, Agnes obeyed. She first
recounted the discovery which had taken place in the
Abbey Chapel, the Domina's resentment, and the midnight scene of
which St. Ursula had been a concealed witness. Though the Nun
had already described this latter event, Agnes now related it
more circumstantially and at large: After which She proceeded in
her narrative as follows.
Conclusion of the History of Agnes de Medina
My supposed death was attended with the greatest agonies. Those
moments which I believed my last, were embittered by the Domina's
assurances that I could not escape perdition; and as my eyes
closed, I heard her rage exhale itself in curses on my offence.
The horror of this situation, of a death-bed from which hope was
banished, of a sleep from which I was only to wake to find myself
the prey of flames and Furies, was more dreadful than I can
describe. When animation revived in me, my soul was still
impressed with these terrible ideas: I looked round with fear,
expecting to behold the Ministers of divine vengeance. For the
first hour, my senses were so bewildered, and my brain so dizzy,
that I strove in vain to arrange the strange images which floated
in wild confusion before me. If I endeavoured to raise myself
from the ground, the wandering of my head deceived me. Every
thing around me seemed to rock, and I sank once more upon the
earth. My weak and dazzled eyes were unable to bear a nearer
approach to a gleam of light which I saw trembling above me. I
was compelled to close them again, and remain motionless in the
same posture.
A full hour elapsed, before I was sufficiently myself to examine
the surrounding Objects. When I did examine them, what terror
filled my bosom I found myself extended upon a sort of wicker
Couch: It had six handles to it, which doubtless had served the
Nuns to convey me to my grave. I was covered with a linen cloth:
Several faded flowers were strown over me: On one side lay a
small wooden Crucifix; On the other, a Rosary of large Beads.
Four low narrow walls confined me. The top was also covered, and
in it was practised a small grated Door: Through this was
admitted the little air which circulated in this miserable
place. A faint glimmering of light which streamed through the
Bars, permitted me to distinguish the surrounding horrors. I was
opprest by a noisome suffocating smell; and perceiving that the
grated door was unfastened, I thought that I might possibly
effect my escape. As I raised myself with this design, my hand
rested upon something soft: I grasped it, and advanced it
towards the light. Almighty God! What was my disgust, my
consternation! In spite of its putridity, and the worms which
preyed upon it, I perceived a corrupted human head, and
recognised the features of a Nun who had died some months before!
I threw it from me, and sank almost lifeless upon my Bier.
When my strength returned, this circumstance, and the
consciousness of being surrounded by the loathsome and mouldering
Bodies of my Companions, increased my desire to escape from my
fearful prison. I again moved towards the light. The grated
door was within my reach: I lifted it without difficulty;
Probably it had been left unclosed to facilitate my quitting the
dungeon. Aiding myself by the irregularity of the Walls some of
whose stones projected beyond the rest, I contrived to ascend
them, and drag myself out of my prison. I now found Myself in a
Vault tolerably spacious. Several Tombs, similar in appearance
to that whence I had just escaped, were ranged along the sides in
order, and seemed to be considerably sunk within the earth. A
sepulchral Lamp was suspended from the roof by an iron chain, and
shed a gloomy light through the dungeon. Emblems of Death were
seen on every side: Skulls, shoulder-blades, thigh-bones, and
other leavings of Mortality were scattered upon the dewy ground.
Each Tomb was ornamented with a large Crucifix, and in one corner
stood a wooden Statue of St. Clare. To these objects I at first
paid no attention: A Door, the only outlet from the Vault, had
attracted my eyes. I hastened towards it, having wrapped my
winding-sheet closely round me. I pushed against the door, and
to my inexpressible terror found that it was fastened on the
I guessed immediately that the Prioress, mistaking the nature of
the liquor which She had compelled me to drink, instead of poison
had administered a strong Opiate. From this I concluded that
being to all appearance dead I had received the rites of burial;
and that deprived of the power of making my existence known, it
would be my fate to expire of hunger. This idea penetrated me
with horror, not merely for my own sake, but that of the innocent
Creature, who still lived within my bosom. I again endeavoured
to open the door, but it resisted all my efforts. I stretched my
voice to the extent of its compass, and shrieked for aid: I was
remote from the hearing of every one: No friendly voice replied
to mine. A profound and melancholy silence prevailed through the
Vault, and I despaired of liberty. My long abstinence from food
now began to torment me. The tortures which hunger inflicted on
me, were the most painful and insupportable: Yet they seemed to
increase with every hour which past over my head. Sometimes I
threw myself upon the ground, and rolled upon it wild and
desperate: Sometimes starting up, I returned to the door, again
strove to force it open, and repeated my fruitless cries for
succour. Often was I on the point of striking my temple against
the sharp corner of some Monument, dashing out my brains, and
thus terminating my woes at once; But still the remembrance of my
Baby vanquished my resolution: I trembled at a deed which
equally endangered my Child's existence and my own. Then would I
vent my anguish in loud exclamations and passionate complaints;
and then again my strength failing me, silent and hopeless I
would sit me down upon the base of St. Clare's Statue, fold my
arms, and abandon myself to sullen despair. Thus passed several
wretched hours. Death advanced towards me with rapid strides,
and I expected that every succeeding moment would be that of my
dissolution. Suddenly a neighbouring Tomb caught my eye: A
Basket stood upon it, which till then I had not observed. I
started from my seat: I made towards it as swiftly as my
exhausted frame would permit. How eagerly did I seize the
Basket, on finding it to contain a loaf of coarse bread and a
small bottle of water.
I threw myself with avidity upon these humble aliments. They had
to all appearance been placed in the Vault for several days; The
bread was hard, and the water tainted; Yet never did I taste food
to me so delicious. When the cravings of appetite were
satisfied, I busied myself with conjectures upon this new
circumstance: I debated whether the Basket had been placed there
with a view to my necessity. Hope answered my doubts in the
affirmative. Yet who could guess me to be in need of such
assistance? If my existence was known, why was I detained in
this gloomy Vault? If I was kept a Prisoner, what meant the
ceremony of committing me to the Tomb? Or if I was doomed to
perish with hunger, to whose pity was I indebted for provisions
placed within my reach? A Friend would not have kept my dreadful
punishment a secret; Neither did it seem probable that an Enemy
would have taken pains to supply me with the means of existence.
Upon the whole I was inclined to think that the Domina's designs
upon my life had been discovered by some one of my Partizans in
the Convent, who had found means to substitute an opiate for
poison: That She had furnished me with food to support me, till
She could effect my delivery: And that She was then employed in
giving intelligence to my Relations of my danger, and pointing
out a way to release me from captivity. Yet why then was the
quality of my provisions so coarse? How could my Friend have
entered the Vault without the Domina's knowledge? And if She had
entered, why was the Door fastened so carefully? These
reflections staggered me: Yet still this idea was the most
favourable to my hopes, and I dwelt upon it in preference.
My meditations were interrupted by the sound of distant
footsteps. They approached, but slowly. Rays of light now
darted through the crevices of the Door. Uncertain whether the
Persons who advanced came to relieve me, or were conducted by
some other motive to the Vault, I failed not to attract their
notice by loud cries for help. Still the sounds drew near: The
light grew stronger: At length with inexpressible pleasure I
heard the Key turning in the Lock. Persuaded that my deliverance
was at hand, I flew towards the Door with a shriek of joy. It
opened: But all my hopes of escape died away, when the Prioress
appeared followed by the same four Nuns, who had been witnesses
of my supposed death. They bore torches in their hands, and
gazed upon me in fearful silence.
I started back in terror. The Domina descended into the Vault,
as did also her Companions. She bent upon me a stern resentful
eye, but expressed no surprize at finding me still living. She
took the seat which I had just quitted: The door was again
closed, and the Nuns ranged themselves behind their Superior,
while the glare of their torches, dimmed by the vapours and
dampness of the Vault, gilded with cold beams the surrounding
Monuments. For some moments all preserved a dead and solemn
silence. I stood at some distance from the Prioress. At length
She beckoned me to advance. Trembling at the severity of her
aspect my strength scarce sufficed me to obey her. I drew near,
but my limbs were unable to support their burthen. I sank upon
my knees; I clasped my hands, and lifted them up to her for
mercy, but had no power to articulate a syllable.
She gazed upon me with angry eyes.
'Do I see a Penitent, or a Criminal?' She said at length; 'Are
those hands raised in contrition for your crimes, or in fear of
meeting their punishment? Do those tears acknowledge the justice
of your doom, or only solicit mitigation of your sufferings? I
fear me, 'tis the latter!'
She paused, but kept her eye still fixt upon mine.
'Take courage;' She continued: 'I wish not for your death, but
your repentance. The draught which I administered, was no
poison, but an opiate. My intention in deceiving you was to
make you feel the agonies of a guilty conscience, had Death
overtaken you suddenly while your crimes were still unrepented.
You have suffered those agonies: I have brought you to be
familiar with the sharpness of death, and I trust that your
momentary anguish will prove to you an eternal benefit. It is
not my design to destroy your immortal soul; or bid you seek the
grave, burthened with the weight of sins unexpiated. No,
Daughter, far from it: I will purify you with wholesome
chastisement, and furnish you with full leisure for contrition
and remorse. Hear then my sentence; The ill-judged zeal of your
Friends delayed its execution, but cannot now prevent it. All
Madrid believes you to be no more; Your Relations are thoroughly
persuaded of your death, and the Nuns your Partizans have
assisted at your funeral. Your existence can never be suspected;
I have taken such precautions, as must render it an impenetrable
mystery. Then abandon all thoughts of a World from which you are
eternally separated, and employ the few hours which are allowed
you, in preparing for the next.'
This exordium led me to expect something terrible. I trembled,
and would have spoken to deprecate her wrath: but a motion of the
Domina commanded me to be silent. She proceeded.
'Though of late years unjustly neglected, and now opposed by many
of our misguided Sisters, (whom Heaven convert!) it is my
intention to revive the laws of our order in their full force.
That against incontinence is severe, but no more than so
monstrous an offence demands: Submit to it, Daughter, without
resistance; You will find the benefit of patience and resignation
in a better life than this. Listen then to the sentence of St.
Clare. Beneath these Vaults there exist Prisons, intended to
receive such criminals as yourself: Artfully is their entrance
concealed, and She who enters them, must resign all hopes of
liberty. Thither must you now be conveyed. Food shall be
supplied you, but not sufficient for the indulgence of appetite:
You shall have just enough to keep together body and soul, and
its quality shall be the simplest and coarsest. Weep, Daughter,
weep, and moisten your bread with your tears: God knows that
you have ample cause for sorrow! Chained down in one of these
secret dungeons, shut out from the world and light for ever, with
no comfort but religion, no society but repentance, thus must you
groan away the remainder of your days. Such are St. Clare's
orders; Submit to them without repining. Follow me!'
Thunderstruck at this barbarous decree, my little remaining
strength abandoned me. I answered only by falling at her feet,
and bathing them with tears. The Domina, unmoved by my
affliction, rose from her seat with a stately air. She repeated
her commands in an absolute tone: But my excessive faintness
made me unable to obey her. Mariana and Alix raised me from the
ground, and carried me forwards in their arms. The Prioress
moved on, leaning upon Violante, and Camilla preceded her with a
Torch. Thus passed our sad procession along the passages, in
silence only broken by my sighs and groans. We stopped before
the principal shrine of St. Clare. The Statue was removed from
its Pedestal, though how I knew not. The Nuns afterwards raised
an iron grate till then concealed by the Image, and let it fall
on the other side with a loud crash. The awful sound, repeated
by the vaults above, and Caverns below me, rouzed me from the
despondent apathy in which I had been plunged. I looked before
me: An abyss presented itself to my affrighted eyes, and a steep
and narrow Staircase, whither my Conductors were leading me. I
shrieked, and started back. I implored compassion, rent the air
with my cries, and summoned both heaven and earth to my
assistance. In vain! I was hurried down the Staircase, and
forced into one of the Cells which lined the Cavern's sides.
My blood ran cold, as I gazed upon this melancholy abode. The
cold vapours hovering in the air, the walls green with damp, the
bed of Straw so forlorn and comfortless, the Chain destined to
bind me for ever to my prison, and the Reptiles of every
description which as the torches advanced towards them, I
descried hurrying to their retreats, struck my heart with terrors
almost too exquisite for nature to bear. Driven by despair to
madness, I burst suddenly from the Nuns who held me: I threw
myself upon my knees before the Prioress, and besought her mercy
in the most passionate and frantic terms.
'If not on me,' said I, 'look at least with pity on that innocent
Being, whose life is attached to mine! Great is my crime, but
let not my Child suffer for it! My Baby has committed no fault:
Oh! spare me for the sake of my unborn Offspring, whom ere it
tastes life your severity dooms to destruction!'
The Prioress drew back haughtily: She forced her habit from my
grasp, as if my touch had been contagious.
'What?' She exclaimed with an exasperated air; 'What? Dare you
plead for the produce of your shame? Shall a Creature be
permitted to live, conceived in guilt so monstrous? Abandoned
Woman, speak for him no more! Better that the Wretch should
perish than live: Begotten in perjury, incontinence, and
pollution, It cannot fail to prove a Prodigy of vice. Hear me,
thou Guilty! Expect no mercy from me either for yourself, or
Brat. Rather pray that Death may seize you before you produce
it; Or if it must see the light, that its eyes may immediately be
closed again for ever! No aid shall be given you in your labour;
Bring your Offspring into the world yourself, Feed it yourself,
Nurse it yourself, Bury it yourself: God grant that the latter
may happen soon, lest you receive comfort from the fruit of your
This inhuman speech, the threats which it contained, the dreadful
sufferings foretold to me by the Domina, and her prayers for my
Infant's death, on whom though unborn I already doated, were more
than my exhausted frame could support. Uttering a deep groan, I
fell senseless at the feet of my unrelenting Enemy. I know not
how long I remained in this situation; But I imagine that some
time must have elapsed before my recovery, since it sufficed the
Prioress and her Nuns to quit the Cavern. When my senses
returned, I found myself in silence and solitude. I heard not
even the retiring footsteps of my Persecutors. All was hushed,
and all was dreadful! I had been thrown upon the bed of Straw:
The heavy Chain which I had already eyed with terror, was wound
around my waist, and fastened me to the Wall. A Lamp glimmering
with dull, melancholy rays through my dungeon, permitted my
distinguishing all its horrors: It was separated from the Cavern
by a low and irregular Wall of Stone: A large Chasm was left open
in it which formed the entrance, for door there was none. A
leaden Crucifix was in front of my straw Couch. A tattered rug
lay near me, as did also a Chaplet of Beads; and not far from me
stood a pitcher of water, and a wicker Basket containing a small
loaf, and a bottle of oil to supply my Lamp.
With a despondent eye did I examine this scene of suffering:
When I reflected that I was doomed to pass in it the remainder
of my days, my heart was rent with bitter anguish. I had once
been taught to look forward to a lot so different! At one time
my prospects had appeared so bright, so flattering! Now all was
lost to me. Friends, comfort, society, happiness, in one moment
I was deprived of all! Dead to the world, Dead to pleasure, I
lived to nothing but the sense of misery. How fair did that
world seem to me, from which I was for ever excluded! How many
loved objects did it contain, whom I never should behold again!
As I threw a look of terror round my prison, as I shrunk from the
cutting wind which howled through my subterraneous dwelling, the
change seemed so striking, so abrupt, that I doubted its reality.
That the Duke de Medina's Niece, that the destined Bride of the
Marquis de las Cisternas, One bred up in affluence, related to
the noblest families in Spain, and rich in a multitude of
affectionate Friends, that She should in one moment become a
Captive, separated from the world for ever, weighed down with
chains, and reduced to support life with the coarsest aliments,
appeared a change so sudden and incredible, that I believed
myself the sport of some frightful vision. Its continuance
convinced me of my mistake with but too much certainty. Every
morning my hopes were disappointed. At length I abandoned all
idea of escaping: I resigned myself to my fate, and only
expected Liberty when She came the Companion of Death.
My mental anguish, and the dreadful scenes in which I had been an
Actress, advanced the period of my labour. In solitude and
misery, abandoned by all, unassisted by Art, uncomforted by
Friendship, with pangs which if witnessed would have touched the
hardest heart, was I delivered of my wretched burthen. It came
alive into the world; But I knew not how to treat it, or by what
means to preserve its existence. I could only bathe it with
tears, warm it in my bosom, and offer up prayers for its safety.
I was soon deprived of this mournful employment: The want of
proper attendance, my ignorance how to nurse it, the bitter cold
of the dungeon, and the unwholesome air which inflated its lungs,
terminated my sweet Babe's short and painful existence. It
expired in a few hours after its birth, and I witnessed its death
with agonies which beggar all description.
But my grief was unavailing. My Infant was no more; nor could
all my sighs impart to its little tender frame the breath of a
moment. I rent my winding-sheet, and wrapped in it my lovely
Child. I placed it on my bosom, its soft arm folded round my
neck, and its pale cold cheek resting upon mine. Thus did its
lifeless limbs repose, while I covered it with kisses, talked to
it, wept, and moaned over it without remission, day or night.
Camilla entered my prison regularly once every twenty-four hours,
to bring me food. In spite of her flinty nature, She could not
behold this spectacle unmoved. She feared that grief so
excessive would at length turn my brain, and in truth I was not
always in my proper senses. From a principle of compassion She
urged me to permit the Corse to be buried: But to this I never
would consent. I vowed not to part with it while I had life:
Its presence was my only comfort, and no persuasion could induce
me to give it up. It soon became a mass of putridity, and to
every eye was a loathsome and disgusting Object; To every eye
but a Mother's. In vain did human feelings bid me recoil from
this emblem of mortality with repugnance: I withstood, and
vanquished that repugnance. I persisted in holding my Infant to
my bosom, in lamenting it, loving it, adoring it! Hour after
hour have I passed upon my sorry Couch, contemplating what had
once been my Child: I endeavoured to retrace its features
through the livid corruption, with which they were overspread:
During my confinement this sad occupation was my only delight;
and at that time Worlds should not have bribed me to give it up.
Even when released from my prison, I brought away my Child in my
arms. The representations of my two kind Friends,''--(Here She
took the hands of the Marchioness and Virginia, and pressed them
alternately to her lips)--''at length persuaded me to resign my
unhappy Infant to the Grave. Yet I parted from it with
reluctance: However, reason at length prevailed; I suffered it
to be taken from me, and it now reposes in consecrated ground.
I before mentioned that regularly once a day Camilla brought me
food. She sought not to embitter my sorrows with reproach: She
bad me, 'tis true, resign all hopes of liberty and worldly
happiness; But She encouraged me to bear with patience my
temporary distress, and advised me to draw comfort from religion.
My situation evidently affected her more than She ventured to
express: But She believed that to extenuate my fault would make
me less anxious to repent it. Often while her lips painted the
enormity of my guilt in glaring colours, her eyes betrayed, how
sensible She was to my sufferings. In fact I am certain that
none of my Tormentors, (for the three other Nuns entered my
prison occasionally) were so much actuated by the spirit of
oppressive cruelty as by the idea that to afflict my body was
the only way to preserve my soul. Nay, even this persuasion
might not have had such weight with them, and they might have
thought my punishment too severe, had not their good dispositions
been represt by blind obedience to their Superior. Her
resentment existed in full force. My project of elopement having
been discovered by the Abbot of the Capuchins, She supposed
herself lowered in his opinion by my disgrace, and in consequence
her hate was inveterate. She told the Nuns to whose custody I
was committed that my fault was of the most heinous nature, that
no sufferings could equal the offence, and that nothing could
save me from eternal perdition but punishing my guilt with the
utmost severity. The Superior's word is an oracle to but too
many of a Convent's Inhabitants. The Nuns believed whatever the
Prioress chose to assert: Though contradicted by reason and
charity, they hesitated not to admit the truth of her arguments.
They followed her injunctions to the very letter, and were fully
persuaded that to treat me with lenity, or to show the least
pity for my woes, would be a direct means to destroy my chance
for salvation.
Camilla, being most employed about me, was particularly charged
by the Prioress to treat me with harshness. In compliance with
these orders, She frequently strove to convince me, how just was
my punishment, and how enormous was my crime: She bad me think
myself too happy in saving my soul by mortifying my body, and
even threatened me sometimes with eternal perdition. Yet as I
before observed, She always concluded by words of encouragement
and comfort; and though uttered by Camilla's lips, I easily
recognised the Domina's expressions. Once, and once only, the
Prioress visited me in my dungeon. She then treated me with the
most unrelenting cruelty: She loaded me with reproaches, taunted
me with my frailty, and when I implored her mercy, told me to ask
it of heaven, since I deserved none on earth. She even gazed
upon my lifeless Infant without emotion; and when She left me, I
heard her charge Camilla to increase the hardships of my
Captivity. Unfeeling Woman! But let me check my resentment:
She has expiated her errors by her sad and unexpected death.
Peace be with her; and may her crimes be forgiven in heaven, as I
forgive her my sufferings on earth!
Thus did I drag on a miserable existence. Far from growing
familiar with my prison, I beheld it every moment with new
horror. The cold seemed more piercing and bitter, the air more
thick and pestilential. My frame became weak, feverish, and
emaciated. I was unable to rise from the bed of Straw, and
exercise my limbs in the narrow limits, to which the length of my
chain permitted me to move. Though exhausted, faint, and weary,
I trembled to profit by the approach of Sleep: My slumbers were
constantly interrupted by some obnoxious Insect crawling over me.
Sometimes I felt the bloated Toad, hideous and pampered with the
poisonous vapours of the dungeon, dragging his loathsome length
along my bosom: Sometimes the quick cold Lizard rouzed me
leaving his slimy track upon my face, and entangling itself in
the tresses of my wild and matted hair: Often have I at waking
found my fingers ringed with the long worms which bred in the
corrupted flesh of my Infant. At such times I shrieked with
terror and disgust, and while I shook off the reptile, trembled
with all a Woman's weakness.
Such was my situation, when Camilla was suddenly taken ill. A
dangerous fever, supposed to be infectious, confined her to her
bed. Every one except the Lay-Sister appointed to nurse her,
avoided her with caution, and feared to catch the disease. She
was perfectly delirious, and by no means capable of attending to
me. The Domina and the Nuns admitted to the mystery, had
latterly given me over entirely to Camilla's care: In
consequence, they busied themselves no more about me; and
occupied by preparing for the approaching Festival, it is more
than probable that I never once entered into their thoughts. Of
the reason of Camilla's negligence, I have been informed since my
release by the Mother St. Ursula; At that time I was very far
from suspecting its cause. On the contrary, I waited for my
Gaoler's appearance at first with impatience, and afterwards with
despair. One day passed away; Another followed it; The Third
arrived. Still no Camilla! Still no food! I knew the lapse of
time by the wasting of my Lamp, to supply which fortunately a
week's supply of Oil had been left me. I supposed, either that
the Nuns had forgotten me, or that the Domina had ordered them to
let me perish. The latter idea seemed the most probable; Yet so
natural is the love of life, that I trembled to find it true.
Though embittered by every species of misery, my existence was
still dear to me, and I dreaded to lose it. Every succeeding
minute proved to me that I must abandon all hopes of relief. I
was become an absolute skeleton: My eyes already failed me, and
my limbs were beginning to stiffen. I could only express my
anguish, and the pangs of that hunger which gnawed my
heart-strings, by frequent groans, whose melancholy sound the
vaulted roof of the dungeon re-echoed. I resigned myself to my
fate: I already expected the moment of dissolution, when my
Guardian Angel, when my beloved Brother arrived in time to save
me. My sight grown dim and feeble at first refused to recognize
him; and when I did distinguish his features, the sudden burst of
rapture was too much for me to bear. I was overpowered by the
swell of joy at once more beholding a Friend, and that a Friend
so dear to me. Nature could not support my emotions, and took
her refuge in insensibility.
You already know, what are my obligations to the Family of
Villa-Franca: But what you cannot know is the extent of my
gratitude, boundless as the excellence of my Benefactors.
Lorenzo! Raymond! Names so dear to me! Teach me to bear with
fortitude this sudden transition from misery to bliss. So lately
a Captive, opprest with chains, perishing with hunger, suffering
every in convenience of cold and want, hidden from the light,
excluded from society, hopeless, neglected, and as I feared,
forgotten; Now restored to life and liberty, enjoying all the
comforts of affluence and ease, surrounded by those who are most
loved by me, and on the point of becoming his Bride who has long
been wedded to my heart, my happiness is so exquisite, so
perfect, that scarcely can my brain sustain the weight. One only
wish remains ungratified: It is to see my Brother in his former
health, and to know that Antonia's memory is buried in her grave.
Granted this prayer, I have nothing more to desire. I trust,
that my past sufferings have purchased from heaven the pardon of
my momentary weakness. That I have offended, offended greatly and
grievously, I am fully conscious; But let not my Husband, because
He once conquered my virtue, doubt the propriety of my future
conduct. I have been frail and full of error: But I yielded not
to the warmth of constitution; Raymond, affection for you
betrayed me. I was too confident of my strength; But I depended
no less on your honour than my own. I had vowed never to see you
more: Had it not been for the consequences of that unguarded
moment, my resolution had been kept. Fate willed it otherwise,
and I cannot but rejoice at its decree. Still my conduct has
been highly blameable, and while I attempt to justify myself, I
blush at recollecting my imprudence. Let me then dismiss the
ungrateful subject; First assuring you, Raymond, that you shall
have no cause to repent our union, and that the more culpable
have been the errors of your Mistress, the more exemplary shall
be the conduct of your Wife.
Here Agnes ceased, and the Marquis replied to her address in
terms equally sincere and affectionate. Lorenzo expressed his
satisfaction at the prospect of being so closely connected with a
Man for whom He had ever entertained the highest esteem. The
Pope's Bull had fully and effectually released Agnes from her
religious engagements: The marriage was therefore celebrated as
soon as the needful preparations had been made, for the Marquis
wished to have the ceremony performed with all possible splendour
and publicity. This being over, and the Bride having received
the compliments of Madrid, She departed with Don Raymond for his
Castle in Andalusia: Lorenzo accompanied them, as did also the
Marchioness de Villa-Franca and her lovely Daughter. It is
needless to say that Theodore was of the party, and would be
impossible to describe his joy at his Master's marriage.
Previous to his departure, the Marquis, to atone in some measure
for his past neglect, made some enquiries relative to Elvira.
Finding that She as well as her Daughter had received many
services from Leonella and Jacintha, He showed his respect to the
memory of his Sister-in-law by making the two Women handsome
presents. Lorenzo followed his example--Leonella was highly
flattered by the attentions of Noblemen so distinguished, and
Jacintha blessed the hour on which her House was bewitched.
On her side, Agnes failed not to reward her Convent Friends.
The worthy Mother St. Ursula, to whom She owed her liberty, was
named at her request Superintendent of 'The Ladies of Charity:'
This was one of the best and most opulent Societies throughout
Spain. Bertha and Cornelia not choosing to quit their Friend,
were appointed to principal charges in the same establishment.
As to the Nuns who had aided the Domina in persecuting Agnes,
Camilla being confined by illness to her bed, had perished in the
flames which consumed St. Clare's Convent. Mariana, Alix, and
Violante, as well as two more, had fallen victims to the popular
rage. The three Others who in Council had supported the Domina's
sentence, were severely reprimanded, and banished to religious
Houses in obscure and distant Provinces: Here they languished
away a few years, ashamed of their former weakness, and shunned
by their Companions with aversion and contempt.
Nor was the fidelity of Flora permitted to go unrewarded. Her
wishes being consulted, She declared herself impatient to revisit
her native land. In consequence, a passage was procured for her
to Cuba, where She arrived in safety, loaded with the presents of
Raymond and Lorenzo.
The debts of gratitude discharged, Agnes was at liberty to pursue
her favourite plan. Lodged in the same House, Lorenzo and
Virginia were eternally together. The more He saw of her, the
more was He convinced of her merit. On her part, She laid
herself out to please, and not to succeed was for her impossible.
Lorenzo witnessed with admiration her beautiful person, elegant
manners, innumerable talents, and sweet disposition: He was also
much flattered by her prejudice in his favour, which She had not
sufficient art to conceal. However, his sentiments partook not
of that ardent character which had marked his affection for
Antonia. The image of that lovely and unfortunate Girl still
lived in his heart, and baffled all Virginia's efforts to
displace it. Still when the Duke proposed to him the match,
which He wished to earnestly to take place, his Nephew did not
reject the offer. The urgent supplications of his Friends, and
the Lady's merit conquered his repugnance to entering into new
engagements. He proposed himself to the Marquis de Villa- Franca,
and was accepted with joy and gratitude. Virginia became his
Wife, nor did She ever give him cause to repent his choice. His
esteem increased for her daily. Her unremitted endeavours to
please him could not but succeed. His affection assumed stronger
and warmer colours. Antonia's image was gradually effaced from
his bosom; and Virginia became sole Mistress of that heart, which
She well deserved to possess without a Partner.
The remaining years of Raymond and Agnes, of Lorenzo and
Virginia, were happy as can be those allotted to Mortals, born to
be the prey of grief, and sport of disappointment. The exquisite
sorrows with which they had been afflicted, made them think
lightly of every succeeding woe. They had felt the sharpest
darts in misfortune's quiver; Those which remained appeared blunt
in comparison. Having weathered Fate's heaviest Storms, they
looked calmly upon its terrors: or if ever they felt Affliction's
casual gales, they seemed to them gentle as Zephyrs which
breathe over summer-seas.
----He was a fell despightful Fiend:
Hell holds none worse in baleful bower below:
By pride, and wit, and rage, and rancor keened;
Of Man alike, if good or bad the Foe.
On the day following Antonia's death, all Madrid was a scene of
consternation and amazement. An Archer who had witnessed the
adventure in the Sepulchre had indiscreetly related the
circumstances of the murder: He had also named the Perpetrator.
The confusion was without example which this intelligence raised
among the Devotees. Most of them disbelieved it, and went
themselves to the Abbey to ascertain the fact. Anxious to avoid
the shame to which their Superior's ill-conduct exposed the whole
Brotherhood, the Monks assured the Visitors that Ambrosio was
prevented from receiving them as usual by nothing but illness.
This attempt was unsuccessful: The same excuse being repeated
day after day, the Archer's story gradually obtained confidence.
His Partizans abandoned him: No one entertained a doubt of his
guilt; and they who before had been the warmest in his praise
were now the most vociferous in his condemnation.
While his innocence or guilt was debated in Madrid with the
utmost acrimony, Ambrosio was a prey to the pangs of conscious
villainy, and the terrors of punishment impending over him. When
He looked back to the eminence on which He had lately stood,
universally honoured and respected, at peace with the world and
with himself, scarcely could He believe that He was indeed the
culprit whose crimes and whose fate He trembled to envisage.
But a few weeks had elapsed, since He was pure and virtuous,
courted by the wisest and noblest in Madrid, and regarded by the
People with a reverence that approached idolatry: He now saw
himself stained with the most loathed and monstrous sins, the
object of universal execration, a Prisoner of the Holy Office,
and probably doomed to perish in tortures the most severe. He
could not hope to deceive his Judges: The proofs of his guilt
were too strong. His being in the Sepulchre at so late an hour,
his confusion at the discovery, the dagger which in his first
alarm He owned had been concealed by him, and the blood which had
spirted upon his habit from Antonia's wound, sufficiently marked
him out for the Assassin. He waited with agony for the day of
examination: He had no resource to comfort him in his distress.
Religion could not inspire him with fortitude: If He read the
Books of morality which were put into his hands, He saw in them
nothing but the enormity of his offences; If he attempted to
pray, He recollected that He deserved not heaven's protection,
and believed his crimes so monstrous as to baffle even God's
infinite goodness. For every other Sinner He thought there
might be hope, but for him there could be none. Shuddering at
the past, anguished by the present, and dreading the future, thus
passed He the few days preceding that which was marked for his
That day arrived. At nine in the morning his prison door was
unlocked, and his Gaoler entering, commanded him to follow him.
He obeyed with trembling. He was conducted into a spacious Hall,
hung with black cloth. At the Table sat three grave,
stern-looking Men, also habited in black: One was the Grand
Inquisitor, whom the importance of this cause had induced to
examine into it himself. At a smaller table at a little distance
sat the Secretary, provided with all necessary implements for
writing. Ambrosio was beckoned to advance, and take his station
at the lower end of the Table. As his eye glanced downwards, He
perceived various iron instruments lying scattered upon the
floor. Their forms were unknown to him, but apprehension
immediately guessed them to be engines of torture. He turned
pale, and with difficulty prevented himself from sinking upon the
Profound silence prevailed, except when the Inquisitors whispered
a few words among themselves mysteriously. Near an hour past
away, and with every second of it Ambrosio's fears grew more
poignant. At length a small Door, opposite to that by which He
had entered the Hall, grated heavily upon its hinges. An Officer
appeared, and was immediately followed by the beautiful Matilda.
Her hair hung about her face wildly; Her cheeks were pale, and
her eyes sunk and hollow. She threw a melancholy look upon
Ambrosio: He replied by one of aversion and reproach. She was
placed opposite to him. A Bell then sounded thrice. It was the
signal for opening the Court, and the Inquisitors entered upon
their office.
In these trials neither the accusation is mentioned, or the name
of the Accuser. The Prisoners are only asked, whether they will
confess: If they reply that having no crime they can make no
confession, they are put to the torture without delay. This is
repeated at intervals, either till the suspected avow themselves
culpable, or the perseverance of the examinants is worn out and
exhausted: But without a direct acknowledgment of their guilt,
the Inquisition never pronounces the final doom of its Prisoners.
In general much time is suffered to elapse without their being
questioned: But Ambrosio's trial had been hastened, on account
of a solemn Auto da Fe which would take place in a few days, and
in which the Inquisitors meant this distinguished Culprit to
perform a part, and give a striking testimony of their vigilance.
The Abbot was not merely accused of rape and murder: The crime
of Sorcery was laid to his charge, as well as to Matilda's. She
had been seized as an Accomplice in Antonia's assassination. On
searching her Cell, various suspicious books and instruments were
found which justified the accusation brought against her. To
criminate the Monk, the constellated Mirror was produced, which
Matilda had accidentally left in his chamber. The strange figures
engraved upon it caught the attention of Don Ramirez, while
searching the Abbot's Cell: In consequence, He carried it away
with him. It was shown to the Grand Inquisitor, who having
considered it for some time, took off a small golden Cross which
hung at his girdle, and laid it upon the Mirror. Instantly a loud
noise was heard, resembling a clap of thunder, and the steel
shivered into a thousand pieces. This circumstance confirmed the
suspicion of the Monk's having dealt in Magic: It was even
supposed that his former influence over the minds of the People
was entirely to be ascribed to witchcraft.
Determined to make him confess not only the crimes which He had
committed, but those also of which He was innocent, the
Inquisitors began their examination. Though dreading the
tortures, as He dreaded death still more which would consign him
to eternal torments, the Abbot asserted his purity in a voice
bold and resolute. Matilda followed his example, but spoke with
fear and trembling. Having in vain exhorted him to confess, the
Inquisitors ordered the Monk to be put to the question. The
Decree was immediately executed. Ambrosio suffered the most
excruciating pangs that ever were invented by human cruelty:
Yet so dreadful is Death when guilt accompanies it, that He had
sufficient fortitude to persist in his disavowal. His agonies
were redoubled in consequence: Nor was He released till fainting
from excess of pain, insensibility rescued him from the hands of
his Tormentors.
Matilda was next ordered to the torture: But terrified by the
sight of the Friar's sufferings, her courage totally deserted
her. She sank upon her knees, acknowledged her corresponding
with infernal Spirits, and that She had witnessed the Monk's
assassination of Antonia: But as to the crime of Sorcery, She
declared herself the sole criminal, and Ambrosio perfectly
innocent. The latter assertion met with no credit. The Abbot
had recovered his senses in time to hear the confession of his
Accomplice: But He was too much enfeebled by what He had already
undergone to be capable at that time of sustaining new torments.
He was commanded back to his Cell, but first informed that as
soon as He had gained strength sufficient, He must prepare
himself for a second examination. The Inquisitors hoped that He
would then be less hardened and obstinate. To Matilda it was
announced that She must expiate her crime in fire on the
approaching Auto da Fe. All her tears and entreaties could
procure no mitigation of her doom, and She was dragged by force
from the Hall of Trial.
Returned to his dungeon, the sufferings of Ambrosio's body were
far more supportable than those of his mind. His dislocated
limbs, the nails torn from his hands and feet, and his fingers
mashed and broken by the pressure of screws, were far surpassed
in anguish by the agitation of his soul and vehemence of his
terrors. He saw that, guilty or innocent, his Judges were bent
upon condemning him: The remembrance of what his denial had
already cost him terrified him at the idea of being again
applied to the question, and almost engaged him to confess his
crimes. Then again the consequences of his confession flashed
before him, and rendered him once more irresolute. His death
would be inevitable, and that a death the most dreadful: He had
listened to Matilda's doom, and doubted not that a similar was
reserved for him. He shuddered at the approaching Auto da Fe, at
the idea of perishing in flames, and only escaping from indurable
torments to pass into others more subtile and ever-lasting! With
affright did He bend his mind's eye on the space beyond the
grave; nor could hide from himself how justly he ought to dread
Heaven's vengeance. In this Labyrinth of terrors, fain would He
have taken his refuge in the gloom of Atheism: Fain would He
have denied the soul's immortality; have persuaded himself that
when his eyes once closed, they would never more open, and that
the same moment would annihilate his soul and body. Even this
resource was refused to him. To permit his being blind to the
fallacy of this belief, his knowledge was too extensive, his
understanding too solid and just. He could not help feeling the
existence of a God. Those truths, once his comfort, now
presented themselves before him in the clearest light; But they
only served to drive him to distraction. They destroyed his
ill-grounded hopes of escaping punishment; and dispelled by the
irresistible brightness of Truth and convinction, Philosophy's
deceitful vapours faded away like a dream.
In anguish almost too great for mortal frame to bear, He expected
the time when He was again to be examined. He busied himself in
planning ineffectual schemes for escaping both present and future
punishment. Of the first there was no possibility; Of the second
Despair made him neglect the only means. While Reason forced him
to acknowledge a God's existence, Conscience made him doubt the
infinity of his goodness. He disbelieved that a Sinner like him
could find mercy. He had not been deceived into error:
Ignorance could furnish him with no excuse. He had seen vice in
her true colours; Before He committed his crimes, He had computed
every scruple of their weight; and yet he had committed them.
'Pardon?' He would cry in an access of phrenzy 'Oh! there can be
none for me!'
Persuaded of this, instead of humbling himself in penitence, of
deploring his guilt, and employing his few remaining hours in
deprecating Heaven's wrath, He abandoned himself to the
transports of desperate rage; He sorrowed for the punishment of
his crimes, not their commission; and exhaled his bosom's anguish
in idle sighs, in vain lamentations, in blasphemy and despair.
As the few beams of day which pierced through the bars of his
prison window gradually disappeared, and their place was
supplied by the pale and glimmering Lamp, He felt his terrors
redouble, and his ideas become more gloomy, more solemn, more
despondent. He dreaded the approach of sleep: No sooner did his
eyes close, wearied with tears and watching, than the dreadful
visions seemed to be realised on which his mind had dwelt during
the day. He found himself in sulphurous realms and burning
Caverns, surrounded by Fiends appointed his Tormentors, and who
drove him through a variety of tortures, each of which was more
dreadful than the former. Amidst these dismal scenes wandered
the Ghosts of Elvira and her Daughter. They reproached him with
their deaths, recounted his crimes to the Daemons, and urged them
to inflict torments of cruelty yet more refined. Such were the
pictures which floated before his eyes in sleep: They vanished
not till his repose was disturbed by excess of agony. Then would
He start from the ground on which He had stretched himself, his
brows running down with cold sweat, his eyes wild and phrenzied;
and He only exchanged the terrible certainty for surmizes
scarcely more supportable. He paced his dungeon with disordered
steps; He gazed with terror upon the surrounding darkness, and
often did He cry,
'Oh! fearful is night to the Guilty!'
The day of his second examination was at hand. He had been
compelled to swallow cordials, whose virtues were calculated to
restore his bodily strength, and enable him to support the
question longer. On the night preceding this dreaded day, his
fears for the morrow permitted him not to sleep. His terrors
were so violent, as nearly to annihilate his mental powers. He
sat like one stupefied near the Table on which his Lamp was
burning dimly. Despair chained up his faculties in Idiotism, and
He remained for some hours, unable to speak or move, or indeed to
'Look up, Ambrosio!' said a Voice in accents well-known to him--
The Monk started, and raised his melancholy eyes. Matilda stood
before him. She had quitted her religious habit. She now wore a
female dress, at once elegant and splendid: A profusion of
diamonds blazed upon her robes, and her hair was confined by a
coronet of Roses. In her right hand She held a small Book: A
lively expression of pleasure beamed upon her countenance; But
still it was mingled with a wild imperious majesty which
inspired the Monk with awe, and represt in some measure his
transports at seeing her.
'You here, Matilda?' He at length exclaimed; 'How have you gained
entrance? Where are your Chains? What means this magnificence,
and the joy which sparkles in your eyes? Have our Judges
relented? Is there a chance of my escaping? Answer me for pity,
and tell me, what I have to hope, or fear.'
'Ambrosio!' She replied with an air of commanding dignity; 'I
have baffled the Inquisition's fury. I am free: A few moments
will place kingdoms between these dungeons and me. Yet I
purchase my liberty at a dear, at a dreadful price! Dare you pay
the same, Ambrosio? Dare you spring without fear over the
bounds which separate Men from Angels?--You are silent.--You
look upon me with eyes of suspicion and alarm--I read your
thoughts and confess their justice. Yes, Ambrosio ; I have
sacrificed all for life and liberty. I am no longer a candidate
for heaven! I have renounced God's service, and am enlisted
beneath the banners of his Foes. The deed is past recall: Yet
were it in my power to go back, I would not. Oh! my Friend, to
expire in such torments! To die amidst curses and execrations!
To bear the insults of an exasperated Mob! To be exposed to all
the mortifications of shame and infamy! Who can reflect without
horror on such a doom? Let me then exult in my exchange. I have
sold distant and uncertain happiness for present and secure: I
have preserved a life which otherwise I had lost in torture; and
I have obtained the power of procuring every bliss which can
make that life delicious! The Infernal Spirits obey me as their
Sovereign: By their aid shall my days be past in every
refinement of luxury and voluptuousness. I will enjoy
unrestrained the gratification of my senses: Every passion shall
be indulged, even to satiety; Then will I bid my Servants invent
new pleasures, to revive and stimulate my glutted appetites! I
go impatient to exercise my newly-gained dominion. I pant to be
at liberty. Nothing should hold me one moment longer in this
abhorred abode, but the hope of persuading you to follow my
example. Ambrosio, I still love you: Our mutual guilt and
danger have rendered you dearer to me than ever, and I would fain
save you from impending destruction. Summon then your resolution
to your aid; and renounce for immediate and certain benefits the
hopes of a salvation, difficult to obtain, and perhaps altogether
erroneous. Shake off the prejudice of vulgar souls; Abandon a
God who has abandoned you, and raise yourself to the level of
superior Beings!'
She paused for the Monk's reply: He shuddered, while He gave it.
'Matilda!' He said after a long silence in a low and unsteady
voice; 'What price gave you for liberty?'
She answered him firm and dauntless.
'Ambrosio, it was my Soul!'
'Wretched Woman, what have you done? Pass but a few years, and
how dreadful will be your sufferings!'
'Weak Man, pass but this night, and how dreadful will be your
own! Do you remember what you have already endured? Tomorrow
you must bear torments doubly exquisite. Do you remember the
horrors of a fiery punishment? In two days you must be led a
Victim to the Stake! What then will become of you? Still dare
you hope for pardon? Still are you beguiled with visions of
salvation? Think upon your crimes! Think upon your lust, your
perjury, inhumanity, and hypocrisy! Think upon the innocent
blood which cries to the Throne of God for vengeance, and then
hope for mercy! Then dream of heaven, and sigh for worlds of
light, and realms of peace and pleasure! Absurd! Open your
eyes, Ambrosio, and be prudent. Hell is your lot; You are doomed
to eternal perdition; Nought lies beyond your grave but a gulph
of devouring flames. And will you then speed towards that Hell?
Will you clasp that perdition in your arms, ere 'tis needful?
Will you plunge into those flames while you still have the power
to shun them? 'Tis a Madman's action. No, no, Ambrosio: Let us
for awhile fly from divine vengeance. Be advised by me; Purchase
by one moment's courage the bliss of years; Enjoy the present,
and forget that a future lags behind.'
'Matilda, your counsels are dangerous: I dare not, I will not
follow them. I must not give up my claim to salvation.
Monstrous are my crimes; But God is merciful, and I will not
despair of pardon.'
'Is such your resolution? I have no more to say. I speed to joy
and liberty, and abandon you to death and eternal torments.'
'Yet stay one moment, Matilda! You command the infernal Daemons:
You can force open these prison doors; You can release me from
these chains which weigh me down. Save me, I conjure you, and
bear me from these fearful abodes!'
'You ask the only boon beyond my power to bestow. I am forbidden
to assist a Churchman and a Partizan of God: Renounce those
titles, and command me.'
'I will not sell my soul to perdition.'
'Persist in your obstinacy, till you find yourself at the Stake:
Then will you repent your error, and sigh for escape when the
moment is gone by. I quit you. Yet ere the hour of death
arrives should wisdom enlighten you, listen to the means of
repairing your present fault. I leave with you this Book. Read
the four first lines of the seventh page backwards: The Spirit
whom you have already once beheld will immediately appear to
you. If you are wise, we shall meet again: If not, farewell for
She let the Book fall upon the ground. A cloud of blue fire
wrapped itself round her: She waved her hand to Ambrosio, and
disappeared. The momentary glare which the flames poured through
the dungeon, on dissipating suddenly, seemed to have increased
its natural gloom. The solitary Lamp scarcely gave light
sufficient to guide the Monk to a Chair. He threw himself into
his seat, folded his arms, and leaning his head upon the table,
sank into reflections perplexing and unconnected.
He was still in this attitude when the opening of the prison door
rouzed him from his stupor. He was summoned to appear before the
Grand Inquisitor. He rose, and followed his Gaoler with painful
steps. He was led into the same Hall, placed before the same
Examiners, and was again interrogated whether Hewould confess.
He replied as before, that having no crimes, He could acknowledge
none: But when the Executioners prepared to put him to the
question, when He saw the engines of torture, and remembered the
pangs which they had already inflicted, his resolution failed him
entirely. Forgetting the consequences, and only anxious to
escape the terrors of the present moment, He made an ample
confession. He disclosed every circumstance of his guilt, and
owned not merely the crimes with which He was charged, but those
of which He had never been suspected. Being interrogated as to
Matilda's flight which had created much confusion, He confessed
that She had sold herself to Satan, and that She was indebted to
Sorcery for her escape. He still assured his Judges that for
his own part He had never entered into any compact with the
infernal Spirits; But the threat of being tortured made him
declare himself to be a Sorcerer, and Heretic, and whatever other
title the Inquisitors chose to fix upon him. In consequence of
this avowal, his sentence was immediately pronounced. He was
ordered to prepare himself to perish in the Auto da Fe, which was
to be solemnized at twelve o'clock that night. This hour was
chosen from the idea that the horror of the flames being
heightened by the gloom of midnight, the execution would have a
greater effect upon the mind of the People.
Ambrosio rather dead than alive was left alone in his dungeon.
The moment in which this terrible decree was pronounced had
nearly proved that of his dissolution. He looked forward to the
morrow with despair, and his terrors increased with the approach
of midnight. Sometimes He was buried in gloomy silence: At
others He raved with delirious passion, wrung his hands, and
cursed the hour when He first beheld the light. In one of these
moments his eye rested upon Matilda's mysterious gift. His
transports of rage were instantly suspended. He looked earnestly
at the Book; He took it up, but immediately threw it from him
with horror. He walked rapidly up and down his dungeon: Then
stopped, and again fixed his eyes on the spot where the Book had
fallen. He reflected that here at least was a resource from the
fate which He dreaded. He stooped, and took it up a second time.
He remained for some time trembling and irresolute: He longed to
try the charm, yet feared its consequences. The recollection of
his sentence at length fixed his indecision. He opened the
Volume; but his agitation was so great that He at first sought
in vain for the page mentioned by Matilda. Ashamed of himself,
He called all his courage to his aid. He turned to the seventh
leaf. He began to read it aloud; But his eyes frequently
wandered from the Book, while He anxiously cast them round in
search of the Spirit, whom He wished, yet dreaded to behold.
Still He persisted in his design; and with a voice unassured and
frequent interruptions, He contrived to finish the four first
lines of the page.
They were in a language, whose import was totally unknown to him.
Scarce had He pronounced the last word when the effects of the
charm were evident. A loud burst of Thunder was heard; The
prison shook to its very foundations; A blaze of lightning
flashed through the Cell; and in the next moment, borne upon
sulphurous whirl-winds, Lucifer stood before him a second time.
But He came not as when at Matilda's summons He borrowed the
Seraph's form to deceive Ambrosio. He appeared in all that
ugliness which since his fall from heaven had been his portion:
His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty's thunder: A
swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands
and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes,
which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his
huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was
supplied by living snakes, which twined themselves round his
brows with frightful hissings. In one hand He held a roll of
parchment, and in the other an iron pen. Still the lightning
flashed around him, and the Thunder with repeated bursts, seemed
to announce the dissolution of Nature.
Terrified at an Apparition so different from what He had
expected, Ambrosio remained gazing upon the Fiend, deprived of
the power of utterance. The Thunder had ceased to roll:
Universal silence reigned through the dungeon.
'For what am I summoned hither?' said the Daemon, in a voice
which sulphurous fogs had damped to hoarseness--
At the sound Nature seemed to tremble: A violent earthquake
rocked the ground, accompanied by a fresh burst of Thunder,
louder and more appalling than the first.
Ambrosio was long unable to answer the Daemon's demand.
'I am condemned to die;' He said with a faint voice, his blood
running cold, while He gazed upon his dreadful Visitor. 'Save
me! Bear me from hence!'
'Shall the reward of my services be paid me? Dare you embrace my
cause? Will you be mine, body and soul? Are you prepared to
renounce him who made you, and him who died for you? Answer but
''Yes'' and Lucifer is your Slave.'
'Will no less price content you? Can nothing satisfy you but my
eternal ruin? Spirit, you ask too much. Yet convey me from this
dungeon: Be my Servant for one hour, and I will be yours for a
thousand years. Will not this offer suffice?'
'It will not. I must have your soul; must have it mine, and mine
for ever.'
'Insatiate Daemon, I will not doom myself to endless torments. I
will not give up my hopes of being one day pardoned.'
'You will not? On what Chimaera rest then your hopes?
Short-sighted Mortal! Miserable Wretch! Are you not guilty?
Are you not infamous in the eyes of Men and Angels. Can such
enormous sins be forgiven? Hope you to escape my power? Your
fate is already pronounced. The Eternal has abandoned you; Mine
you are marked in the book of destiny, and mine you must and
shall be!'
'Fiend, 'tis false! Infinite is the Almighty's mercy, and the
Penitent shall meet his forgiveness. My crimes are monstrous,
but I will not despair of pardon: Haply, when they have received
due chastisement . . . .'
'Chastisement? Was Purgatory meant for guilt like yours? Hope
you that your offences shall be bought off by prayers of
superstitious dotards and droning Monks? Ambrosio, be wise!
you must be: You are doomed to flames, but may shun them for the
present. Sign this parchment: I will bear you from hence, and
you may pass your remaining years in bliss and liberty. Enjoy
your existence: Indulge in every pleasure to which appetite may
lead you: But from the moment that it quits your body, remember
that your soul belongs to me, and that I will not be defrauded of
my right.'
The Monk was silent; But his looks declared that the Tempter's
words were not thrown away. He reflected on the conditions
proposed with horror: On the other hand, He believed himself
doomed to perdition and that, by refusing the Daemon's succour,
He only hastened tortures which He never could escape. The Fiend
saw that his resolution was shaken: He renewed his instances,
and endeavoured to fix the Abbot's indecision. He described the
agonies of death in the most terrific colours; and He worked so
powerfully upon Ambrosio's despair and fears that He prevailed
upon him to receive the Parchment. He then struck the iron Pen
which He held into a vein of the Monk's left hand. It pierced
deep, and was instantly filled with blood; Yet Ambrosio felt no
pain from the wound. The Pen was put into his hand: It
trembled. The Wretch placed the Parchment on the Table before
him, and prepared to sign it. Suddenly He held his hand: He
started away hastily, and threw the Pen upon the table.
'What am I doing?' He cried--Then turning to the Fiend with a
desperate air, 'Leave me! Begone! I will not sign the
'Fool!' exclaimed the disappointed Daemon, darting looks so
furious as penetrated the Friar's soul with horror; 'Thus am I
trifled with? Go then! Rave in agony, expire in tortures, and
then learn the extent of the Eternal's mercy! But beware how you
make me again your mock! Call me no more till resolved to accept
my offers! Summon me a second time to dismiss me thus idly, and
these Talons shall rend you into a thousand pieces! Speak yet
again; Will you sign the Parchment?'
'I will not! Leave me! Away!'
Instantly the Thunder was heard to roll horribly: Once more the
earth trembled with violence: The Dungeon resounded with loud
shrieks, and the Daemon fled with blasphemy and curses.
At first, the Monk rejoiced at having resisted the Seducer's
arts, and obtained a triumph over Mankind's Enemy: But as the
hour of punishment drew near, his former terrors revived in his
heart. Their momentary repose seemed to have given them fresh
vigour. The nearer that the time approached, the more did He
dread appearing before the Throne of God. He shuddered to think
how soon He must be plunged into eternity; How soon meet the eyes
of his Creator, whom He had so grievously offended. The Bell
announced midnight: It was the signal for being led to the
Stake! As He listened to the first stroke, the blood ceased to
circulate in the Abbot's veins: He heard death and torture
murmured in each succeeding sound. He expected to see the
Archers entering his prison; and as the Bell forbore to toll, he
seized the magic volume in a fit of despair. He opened it,
turned hastily to the seventh page, and as if fearing to allow
himself a moment's thought ran over the fatal lines with
rapidity. Accompanied by his former terrors, Lucifer again stood
before the Trembler.
'You have summoned me,' said the Fiend; 'Are you determined to be
wise? Will you accept my conditions? You know them already.
Renounce your claim to salvation, make over to me your soul, and
I bear you from this dungeon instantly. Yet is it time.
Resolve, or it will be too late. Will you sign the Parchment?'
'I must!--Fate urges me! I accept your conditions.'
'Sign the Parchment!' replied the Daemon in an exulting tone.
The Contract and the bloody Pen still lay upon the Table.
Ambrosio drew near it. He prepared to sign his name. A moment's
reflection made him hesitate.
'Hark!' cried the Tempter; 'They come! Be quick! Sign the
Parchment, and I bear you from hence this moment.'
In effect, the Archers were heard approaching, appointed to lead
Ambrosio to the Stake. The sound encouraged the Monk in his
'What is the import of this writing?' said He.
'It makes your soul over to me for ever, and without reserve.'
'What am I to receive in exchange?'
'My protection, and release from this dungeon. Sign it, and this
instant I bear you away.'
Ambrosio took up the Pen; He set it to the Parchment. Again his
courage failed him: He felt a pang of terror at his heart, and
once more threw the Pen upon the Table.
'Weak and Puerile!' cried the exasperated Fiend: 'Away with this
folly! Sign the writing this instant, or I sacrifice you to my
At this moment the bolt of the outward Door was drawn back. The
Prisoner heard the rattling of Chains; The heavy Bar fell; The
Archers were on the point of entering. Worked up to phrenzy by
the urgent danger, shrinking from the approach of death,
terrified by the Daemon's threats, and seeing no other means to
escape destruction, the wretched Monk complied. He signed the
fatal contract, and gave it hastily into the evil Spirit's hands,
whose eyes, as He received the gift, glared with malicious
'Take it!' said the God-abandoned; 'Now then save me! Snatch me
from hence!'
'Hold! Do you freely and absolutely renounce your Creator and
his Son?'
'I do! I do!'
'Do you make over your soul to me for ever?'
'For ever!'
'Without reserve or subterfuge? Without future appeal to the
divine mercy?'
The last Chain fell from the door of the prison: The key was
heard turning in the Lock: Already the iron door grated heavily
upon its rusty hinges.
'I am yours for ever and irrevocably!' cried the Monk wild with
terror: 'I abandon all claim to salvation! I own no power but
yours! Hark! Hark! They come! Oh! save me! Bear me away!'
'I have triumphed! You are mine past reprieve, and I fulfil my
While He spoke, the Door unclosed. Instantly the Daemon grasped
one of Ambrosio's arms, spread his broad pinions, and sprang with
him into the air. The roof opened as they soared upwards, and
closed again when they had quitted the Dungeon.
In the meanwhile, the Gaoler was thrown into the utmost surprize
by the disappearance of his Prisoner. Though neither He nor the
Archers were in time to witness the Monk's escape, a sulphurous
smell prevailing through the prison sufficiently informed them by
whose aid He had been liberated. They hastened to make their
report to the Grand Inquisitor. The story, how a Sorcerer had
been carried away by the Devil, was soon noised about Madrid; and
for some days the whole City was employed in discussing the
subject. Gradually it ceased to be the topic of conversation:
Other adventures arose whose novelty engaged universal attention;
and Ambrosio was soon forgotten as totally, as if He never had
existed. While this was passing, the Monk supported by his
infernal guide, traversed the air with the rapidity of an arrow,
and a few moments placed him upon a Precipice's brink, the
steepest in Sierra Morena.
Though rescued from the Inquisition, Ambrosio as yet was
insensible of the blessings of liberty. The damning contract
weighed heavy upon his mind; and the scenes in which He had been
a principal actor had left behind them such impressions as
rendered his heart the seat of anarchy and confusion. The
Objects now before his eyes, and which the full Moon sailing
through clouds permitted him to examine, were ill-calculated to
inspire that calm, of which He stood so much in need. The
disorder of his imagination was increased by the wildness of the
surrounding scenery; By the gloomy Caverns and steep rocks,
rising above each other, and dividing the passing clouds;
solitary clusters of Trees scattered here and there, among whose
thick-twined branches the wind of night sighed hoarsely and
mournfully; the shrill cry of mountain Eagles, who had built
their nests among these lonely Desarts; the stunning roar of
torrents, as swelled by late rains they rushed violently down
tremendous precipices; and the dark waters of a silent sluggish
stream which faintly reflected the moonbeams, and bathed the
Rock's base on which Ambrosio stood. The Abbot cast round him a
look of terror. His infernal Conductor was still by his side,
and eyed him with a look of mingled malice, exultation, and
'Whither have you brought me?' said the Monk at length in an
hollow trembling voice: 'Why am I placed in this melancholy
scene? Bear me from it quickly! Carry me to Matilda!'
The Fiend replied not, but continued to gaze upon him in silence.
Ambrosio could not sustain his glance; He turned away his eyes,
while thus spoke the Daemon:
'I have him then in my power! This model of piety! This being
without reproach! This Mortal who placed his puny virtues on a
level with those of Angels. He is mine! Irrevocably, eternally
mine! Companions of my sufferings! Denizens of hell! How
grateful will be my present!'
He paused; then addressed himself to the Monk----
'Carry you to Matilda?' He continued, repeating Ambrosio's words:
'Wretch! you shall soon be with her! You well deserve a place
near her, for hell boasts no miscreant more guilty than yourself.
Hark, Ambrosio, while I unveil your crimes! You have shed the
blood of two innocents; Antonia and Elvira perished by your hand.
That Antonia whom you violated, was your Sister! That Elvira whom
you murdered, gave you birth! Tremble, abandoned Hypocrite!
Inhuman Parricide! Incestuous Ravisher! Tremble at the extent of
your offences! And you it was who thought yourself proof against
temptation, absolved from human frailties, and free from error
and vice! Is pride then a virtue? Is inhumanity no fault?
Know, vain Man! That I long have marked you for my prey: I
watched the movements of your heart; I saw that you were virtuous
from vanity, not principle, and I seized the fit moment of
seduction. I observed your blind idolatry of the Madona's
picture. I bad a subordinate but crafty spirit assume a similar
form, and you eagerly yielded to the blandishments of Matilda.
Your pride was gratified by her flattery; Your lust only needed
an opportunity to break forth; You ran into the snare blindly,
and scrupled not to commit a crime which you blamed in another
with unfeeling severity. It was I who threw Matilda in your way;
It was I who gave you entrance to Antonia's chamber; It was I who
caused the dagger to be given you which pierced your Sister's
bosom; and it was I who warned Elvira in dreams of your designs
upon her Daughter, and thus, by preventing your profiting by her
sleep, compelled you to add rape as well as incest to the
catalogue of your crimes. Hear, hear, Ambrosio! Had you
resisted me one minute longer, you had saved your body and soul.
The guards whom you heard at your prison door came to signify
your pardon. But I had already triumphed: My plots had already
succeeded. Scarcely could I propose crimes so quick as you
performed them. You are mine, and Heaven itself cannot rescue
you from my power. Hope not that your penitence will make void
our contract. Here is your bond signed with your blood; You have
given up your claim to mercy, and nothing can restore to you the
rights which you have foolishly resigned. Believe you that your
secret thoughts escaped me? No, no, I read them all! You
trusted that you should still have time for repentance. I saw
your artifice, knew its falsity, and rejoiced in deceiving the
deceiver! You are mine beyond reprieve: I burn to possess my
right, and alive you quit not these mountains.'
During the Daemon's speech, Ambrosio had been stupefied by terror
and surprize. This last declaration rouzed him.
'Not quit these mountains alive?' He exclaimed: 'Perfidious, what
mean you? Have you forgotten our contract?'
The Fiend answered by a malicious laugh:
'Our contract? Have I not performed my part? What more did I
promise than to save you from your prison? Have I not done so?
Are you not safe from the Inquisition--safe from all but from
me? Fool that you were to confide yourself to a Devil! Why did
you not stipulate for life, and power, and pleasure? Then all
would have been granted: Now, your reflections come too late.
Miscreant, prepare for death; You have not many hours to live!'
On hearing this sentence, dreadful were the feelings of the
devoted Wretch! He sank upon his knees, and raised his hands
towards heaven. The Fiend read his intention and prevented it--
'What?' He cried, darting at him a look of fury: 'Dare you still
implore the Eternal's mercy? Would you feign penitence, and
again act an Hypocrite's part? Villain, resign your hopes of
pardon. Thus I secure my prey!'
As He said this, darting his talons into the Monk's shaven crown,
He sprang with him from the rock. The Caves and mountains rang
with Ambrosio's shrieks. The Daemon continued to soar aloft, till
reaching a dreadful height, He released the sufferer. Headlong
fell the Monk through the airy waste; The sharp point of a rock
received him; and He rolled from precipice to precipice, till
bruised and mangled He rested on the river's banks. Life still
existed in his miserable frame: He attempted in vain to raise
himself; His broken and dislocated limbs refused to perform their
office, nor was He able to quit the spot where He had first
fallen. The Sun now rose above the horizon; Its scorching beams
darted full upon the head of the expiring Sinner. Myriads of
insects were called forth by the warmth; They drank the blood
which trickled from Ambrosio's wounds; He had no power to drive
them from him, and they fastened upon his sores, darted their
stings into his body, covered him with their multitudes, and
inflicted on him tortures the most exquisite and insupportable.
The Eagles of the rock tore his flesh piecemeal, and dug out his
eyeballs with their crooked beaks. A burning thirst tormented
him; He heard the river's murmur as it rolled beside him, but
strove in vain to drag himself towards the sound. Blind, maimed,
helpless, and despairing, venting his rage in blasphemy and
curses, execrating his existence, yet dreading the arrival of
death destined to yield him up to greater torments, six miserable
days did the Villain languish. On the Seventh a violent storm
arose: The winds in fury rent up rocks and forests: The sky was
now black with clouds, now sheeted with fire: The rain fell in
torrents; It swelled the stream; The waves overflowed their
banks; They reached the spot where Ambrosio lay, and when they
abated carried with them into the river the Corse of the
despairing Monk.

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