The Castle of Otranto
Part 1 out of 3
Transcribed from the 1901 Cassell and Company edition by David
Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic
family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the
black letter, in the year 1529. How much sooner it was written
does not appear. The principal incidents are such as were believed
in the darkest ages of Christianity; but the language and conduct
have nothing that savours of barbarism. The style is the purest
If the story was written near the time when it is supposed to have
happened, it must have been between 1095, the era of the first
Crusade, and 1243, the date of the last, or not long afterwards.
There is no other circumstance in the work that can lead us to
guess at the period in which the scene is laid: the names of the
actors are evidently fictitious, and probably disguised on purpose:
yet the Spanish names of the domestics seem to indicate that this
work was not composed until the establishment of the Arragonian
Kings in Naples had made Spanish appellations familiar in that
country. The beauty of the diction, and the zeal of the author
(moderated, however, by singular judgment) concur to make me think
that the date of the composition was little antecedent to that of
the impression. Letters were then in their most flourishing state
in Italy, and contributed to dispel the empire of superstition, at
that time so forcibly attacked by the reformers. It is not
unlikely that an artful priest might endeavour to turn their own
arms on the innovators, and might avail himself of his abilities as
an author to confirm the populace in their ancient errors and
superstitions. If this was his view, he has certainly acted with
signal address. Such a work as the following would enslave a
hundred vulgar minds beyond half the books of controversy that have
been written from the days of Luther to the present hour.
This solution of the author's motives is, however, offered as a
mere conjecture. Whatever his views were, or whatever effects the
execution of them might have, his work can only be laid before the
public at present as a matter of entertainment. Even as such, some
apology for it is necessary. Miracles, visions, necromancy,
dreams, and other preternatural events, are exploded now even from
romances. That was not the case when our author wrote; much less
when the story itself is supposed to have happened. Belief in
every kind of prodigy was so established in those dark ages, that
an author would not be faithful to the manners of the times, who
should omit all mention of them. He is not bound to believe them
himself, but he must represent his actors as believing them.
If this air of the miraculous is excused, the reader will find
nothing else unworthy of his perusal. Allow the possibility of the
facts, and all the actors comport themselves as persons would do in
their situation. There is no bombast, no similes, flowers,
digressions, or unnecessary descriptions. Everything tends
directly to the catastrophe. Never is the reader's attention
relaxed. The rules of the drama are almost observed throughout the
conduct of the piece. The characters are well drawn, and still
better maintained. Terror, the author's principal engine, prevents
the story from ever languishing; and it is so often contrasted by
pity, that the mind is kept up in a constant vicissitude of
Some persons may perhaps think the characters of the domestics too
little serious for the general cast of the story; but besides their
opposition to the principal personages, the art of the author is
very observable in his conduct of the subalterns. They discover
many passages essential to the story, which could not be well
brought to light but by their naivete and simplicity. In
particular, the womanish terror and foibles of Bianca, in the last
chapter, conduce essentially towards advancing the catastrophe.
It is natural for a translator to be prejudiced in favour of his
adopted work. More impartial readers may not be so much struck
with the beauties of this piece as I was. Yet I am not blind to my
author's defects. I could wish he had grounded his plan on a more
useful moral than this: that "the sins of fathers are visited on
their children to the third and fourth generation." I doubt
whether, in his time, any more than at present, ambition curbed its
appetite of dominion from the dread of so remote a punishment. And
yet this moral is weakened by that less direct insinuation, that
even such anathema may be diverted by devotion to St. Nicholas.
Here the interest of the Monk plainly gets the better of the
judgment of the author. However, with all its faults, I have no
doubt but the English reader will be pleased with a sight of this
performance. The piety that reigns throughout, the lessons of
virtue that are inculcated, and the rigid purity of the sentiments,
exempt this work from the censure to which romances are but too
liable. Should it meet with the success I hope for, I may be
encouraged to reprint the original Italian, though it will tend to
depreciate my own labour. Our language falls far short of the
charms of the Italian, both for variety and harmony. The latter is
peculiarly excellent for simple narrative. It is difficult in
English to relate without falling too low or rising too high; a
fault obviously occasioned by the little care taken to speak pure
language in common conversation. Every Italian or Frenchman of any
rank piques himself on speaking his own tongue correctly and with
choice. I cannot flatter myself with having done justice to my
author in this respect: his style is as elegant as his conduct of
the passions is masterly. It is a pity that he did not apply his
talents to what they were evidently proper for--the theatre.
I will detain the reader no longer, but to make one short remark.
Though the machinery is invention, and the names of the actors
imaginary, I cannot but believe that the groundwork of the story is
founded on truth. The scene is undoubtedly laid in some real
castle. The author seems frequently, without design, to describe
particular parts. "The chamber," says he, "on the right hand;"
"the door on the left hand;" "the distance from the chapel to
Conrad's apartment:" these and other passages are strong
presumptions that the author had some certain building in his eye.
Curious persons, who have leisure to employ in such researches, may
possibly discover in the Italian writers the foundation on which
our author has built. If a catastrophe, at all resembling that
which he describes, is believed to have given rise to this work, it
will contribute to interest the reader, and will make the "Castle
of Otranto" a still more moving story.
SONNET TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LADY MARY COKE.
The gentle maid, whose hapless tale
These melancholy pages speak;
Say, gracious lady, shall she fail
To draw the tear adown thy cheek?
No; never was thy pitying breast
Insensible to human woes;
Tender, tho' firm, it melts distrest
For weaknesses it never knows.
Oh! guard the marvels I relate
Of fell ambition scourg'd by fate,
From reason's peevish blame.
Blest with thy smile, my dauntless sail
I dare expand to Fancy's gale,
For sure thy smiles are Fame.
Manfred, Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the
latter, a most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda.
Conrad, the son, was three years younger, a homely youth, sickly,
and of no promising disposition; yet he was the darling of his
father, who never showed any symptoms of affection to Matilda.
Manfred had contracted a marriage for his son with the Marquis of
Vicenza's daughter, Isabella; and she had already been delivered by
her guardians into the hands of Manfred, that he might celebrate
the wedding as soon as Conrad's infirm state of health would
Manfred's impatience for this ceremonial was remarked by his family
and neighbours. The former, indeed, apprehending the severity of
their Prince's disposition, did not dare to utter their surmises on
this precipitation. Hippolita, his wife, an amiable lady, did
sometimes venture to represent the danger of marrying their only
son so early, considering his great youth, and greater infirmities;
but she never received any other answer than reflections on her own
sterility, who had given him but one heir. His tenants and
subjects were less cautious in their discourses. They attributed
this hasty wedding to the Prince's dread of seeing accomplished an
ancient prophecy, which was said to have pronounced that the castle
and lordship of Otranto "should pass from the present family,
whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it."
It was difficult to make any sense of this prophecy; and still less
easy to conceive what it had to do with the marriage in question.
Yet these mysteries, or contradictions, did not make the populace
adhere the less to their opinion.
Young Conrad's birthday was fixed for his espousals. The company
was assembled in the chapel of the Castle, and everything ready for
beginning the divine office, when Conrad himself was missing.
Manfred, impatient of the least delay, and who had not observed his
son retire, despatched one of his attendants to summon the young
Prince. The servant, who had not stayed long enough to have
crossed the court to Conrad's apartment, came running back
breathless, in a frantic manner, his eyes staring, and foaming at
the month. He said nothing, but pointed to the court.
The company were struck with terror and amazement. The Princess
Hippolita, without knowing what was the matter, but anxious for her
son, swooned away. Manfred, less apprehensive than enraged at the
procrastination of the nuptials, and at the folly of his domestic,
asked imperiously what was the matter? The fellow made no answer,
but continued pointing towards the courtyard; and at last, after
repeated questions put to him, cried out, "Oh! the helmet! the
In the meantime, some of the company had run into the court, from
whence was heard a confused noise of shrieks, horror, and surprise.
Manfred, who began to be alarmed at not seeing his son, went
himself to get information of what occasioned this strange
confusion. Matilda remained endeavouring to assist her mother, and
Isabella stayed for the same purpose, and to avoid showing any
impatience for the bridegroom, for whom, in truth, she had
conceived little affection.
The first thing that struck Manfred's eyes was a group of his
servants endeavouring to raise something that appeared to him a
mountain of sable plumes. He gazed without believing his sight.
"What are ye doing?" cried Manfred, wrathfully; "where is my son?"
A volley of voices replied, "Oh! my Lord! the Prince! the Prince!
the helmet! the helmet!"
Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not
what, he advanced hastily,--but what a sight for a father's eyes!--
he beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an
enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever
made for human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of
The horror of the spectacle, the ignorance of all around how this
misfortune had happened, and above all, the tremendous phenomenon
before him, took away the Prince's speech. Yet his silence lasted
longer than even grief could occasion. He fixed his eyes on what
he wished in vain to believe a vision; and seemed less attentive to
his loss, than buried in meditation on the stupendous object that
had occasioned it. He touched, he examined the fatal casque; nor
could even the bleeding mangled remains of the young Prince divert
the eyes of Manfred from the portent before him.
All who had known his partial fondness for young Conrad, were as
much surprised at their Prince's insensibility, as thunderstruck
themselves at the miracle of the helmet. They conveyed the
disfigured corpse into the hall, without receiving the least
direction from Manfred. As little was he attentive to the ladies
who remained in the chapel. On the contrary, without mentioning
the unhappy princesses, his wife and daughter, the first sounds
that dropped from Manfred's lips were, "Take care of the Lady
The domestics, without observing the singularity of this direction,
were guided by their affection to their mistress, to consider it as
peculiarly addressed to her situation, and flew to her assistance.
They conveyed her to her chamber more dead than alive, and
indifferent to all the strange circumstances she heard, except the
death of her son.
Matilda, who doted on her mother, smothered her own grief and
amazement, and thought of nothing but assisting and comforting her
afflicted parent. Isabella, who had been treated by Hippolita like
a daughter, and who returned that tenderness with equal duty and
affection, was scarce less assiduous about the Princess; at the
same time endeavouring to partake and lessen the weight of sorrow
which she saw Matilda strove to suppress, for whom she had
conceived the warmest sympathy of friendship. Yet her own
situation could not help finding its place in her thoughts. She
felt no concern for the death of young Conrad, except
commiseration; and she was not sorry to be delivered from a
marriage which had promised her little felicity, either from her
destined bridegroom, or from the severe temper of Manfred, who,
though he had distinguished her by great indulgence, had imprinted
her mind with terror, from his causeless rigour to such amiable
princesses as Hippolita and Matilda.
While the ladies were conveying the wretched mother to her bed,
Manfred remained in the court, gazing on the ominous casque, and
regardless of the crowd which the strangeness of the event had now
assembled around him. The few words he articulated, tended solely
to inquiries, whether any man knew from whence it could have come?
Nobody could give him the least information. However, as it seemed
to be the sole object of his curiosity, it soon became so to the
rest of the spectators, whose conjectures were as absurd and
improbable, as the catastrophe itself was unprecedented. In the
midst of their senseless guesses, a young peasant, whom rumour had
drawn thither from a neighbouring village, observed that the
miraculous helmet was exactly like that on the figure in black
marble of Alfonso the Good, one of their former princes, in the
church of St. Nicholas.
"Villain! What sayest thou?" cried Manfred, starting from his
trance in a tempest of rage, and seizing the young man by the
collar; "how darest thou utter such treason? Thy life shall pay
The spectators, who as little comprehended the cause of the
Prince's fury as all the rest they had seen, were at a loss to
unravel this new circumstance. The young peasant himself was still
more astonished, not conceiving how he had offended the Prince.
Yet recollecting himself, with a mixture of grace and humility, he
disengaged himself from Manfred's grip, and then with an obeisance,
which discovered more jealousy of innocence than dismay, he asked,
with respect, of what he was guilty? Manfred, more enraged at the
vigour, however decently exerted, with which the young man had
shaken off his hold, than appeased by his submission, ordered his
attendants to seize him, and, if he had not been withheld by his
friends whom he had invited to the nuptials, would have poignarded
the peasant in their arms.
During this altercation, some of the vulgar spectators had run to
the great church, which stood near the castle, and came back open-
mouthed, declaring that the helmet was missing from Alfonso's
statue. Manfred, at this news, grew perfectly frantic; and, as if
he sought a subject on which to vent the tempest within him, he
rushed again on the young peasant, crying -
"Villain! Monster! Sorcerer! 'tis thou hast done this! 'tis thou
hast slain my son!"
The mob, who wanted some object within the scope of their
capacities, on whom they might discharge their bewildered
reasoning, caught the words from the mouth of their lord, and re-
"Ay, ay; 'tis he, 'tis he: he has stolen the helmet from good
Alfonso's tomb, and dashed out the brains of our young Prince with
it," never reflecting how enormous the disproportion was between
the marble helmet that had been in the church, and that of steel
before their eyes; nor how impossible it was for a youth seemingly
not twenty, to wield a piece of armour of so prodigious a weight
The folly of these ejaculations brought Manfred to himself: yet
whether provoked at the peasant having observed the resemblance
between the two helmets, and thereby led to the farther discovery
of the absence of that in the church, or wishing to bury any such
rumour under so impertinent a supposition, he gravely pronounced
that the young man was certainly a necromancer, and that till the
Church could take cognisance of the affair, he would have the
Magician, whom they had thus detected, kept prisoner under the
helmet itself, which he ordered his attendants to raise, and place
the young man under it; declaring he should be kept there without
food, with which his own infernal art might furnish him.
It was in vain for the youth to represent against this preposterous
sentence: in vain did Manfred's friends endeavour to divert him
from this savage and ill-grounded resolution. The generality were
charmed with their lord's decision, which, to their apprehensions,
carried great appearance of justice, as the Magician was to be
punished by the very instrument with which he had offended: nor
were they struck with the least compunction at the probability of
the youth being starved, for they firmly believed that, by his
diabolic skill, he could easily supply himself with nutriment.
Manfred thus saw his commands even cheerfully obeyed; and
appointing a guard with strict orders to prevent any food being
conveyed to the prisoner, he dismissed his friends and attendants,
and retired to his own chamber, after locking the gates of the
castle, in which he suffered none but his domestics to remain.
In the meantime, the care and zeal of the young Ladies had brought
the Princess Hippolita to herself, who amidst the transports of her
own sorrow frequently demanded news of her lord, would have
dismissed her attendants to watch over him, and at last enjoined
Matilda to leave her, and visit and comfort her father. Matilda,
who wanted no affectionate duty to Manfred, though she trembled at
his austerity, obeyed the orders of Hippolita, whom she tenderly
recommended to Isabella; and inquiring of the domestics for her
father, was informed that he was retired to his chamber, and had
commanded that nobody should have admittance to him. Concluding
that he was immersed in sorrow for the death of her brother, and
fearing to renew his tears by the sight of his sole remaining
child, she hesitated whether she should break in upon his
affliction; yet solicitude for him, backed by the commands of her
mother, encouraged her to venture disobeying the orders he had
given; a fault she had never been guilty of before.
The gentle timidity of her nature made her pause for some minutes
at his door. She heard him traverse his chamber backwards, and
forwards with disordered steps; a mood which increased her
apprehensions. She was, however, just going to beg admittance,
when Manfred suddenly opened the door; and as it was now twilight,
concurring with the disorder of his mind, he did not distinguish
the person, but asked angrily, who it was? Matilda replied,
"My dearest father, it is I, your daughter."
Manfred, stepping back hastily, cried, "Begone! I do not want a
daughter;" and flinging back abruptly, clapped the door against the
She was too well acquainted with her father's impetuosity to
venture a second intrusion. When she had a little recovered the
shock of so bitter a reception, she wiped away her tears to prevent
the additional stab that the knowledge of it would give to
Hippolita, who questioned her in the most anxious terms on the
health of Manfred, and how he bore his loss. Matilda assured her
he was well, and supported his misfortune with manly fortitude.
"But will he not let me see him?" said Hippolita mournfully; "will
he not permit me to blend my tears with his, and shed a mother's
sorrows in the bosom of her Lord? Or do you deceive me, Matilda?
I know how Manfred doted on his son: is not the stroke too heavy
for him? has he not sunk under it? You do not answer me--alas! I
dread the worst!--Raise me, my maidens; I will, I will see my Lord.
Bear me to him instantly: he is dearer to me even than my
Matilda made signs to Isabella to prevent Hippolita's rising; and
both those lovely young women were using their gentle violence to
stop and calm the Princess, when a servant, on the part of Manfred,
arrived and told Isabella that his Lord demanded to speak with her.
"With me!" cried Isabella.
"Go," said Hippolita, relieved by a message from her Lord:
"Manfred cannot support the sight of his own family. He thinks you
less disordered than we are, and dreads the shock of my grief.
Console him, dear Isabella, and tell him I will smother my own
anguish rather than add to his."
As it was now evening the servant who conducted Isabella bore a
torch before her. When they came to Manfred, who was walking
impatiently about the gallery, he started, and said hastily -
"Take away that light, and begone."
Then shutting the door impetuously, he flung himself upon a bench
against the wall, and bade Isabella sit by him. She obeyed
"I sent for you, Lady," said he--and then stopped under great
appearance of confusion.
"Yes, I sent for you on a matter of great moment," resumed he.
"Dry your tears, young Lady--you have lost your bridegroom. Yes,
cruel fate! and I have lost the hopes of my race! But Conrad was
not worthy of your beauty."
"How, my Lord!" said Isabella; "sure you do not suspect me of not
feeling the concern I ought: my duty and affection would have
"Think no more of him," interrupted Manfred; "he was a sickly, puny
child, and Heaven has perhaps taken him away, that I might not
trust the honours of my house on so frail a foundation. The line
of Manfred calls for numerous supports. My foolish fondness for
that boy blinded the eyes of my prudence--but it is better as it
is. I hope, in a few years, to have reason to rejoice at the death
Words cannot paint the astonishment of Isabella. At first she
apprehended that grief had disordered Manfred's understanding. Her
next thought suggested that this strange discourse was designed to
ensnare her: she feared that Manfred had perceived her
indifference for his son: and in consequence of that idea she
"Good my Lord, do not doubt my tenderness: my heart would have
accompanied my hand. Conrad would have engrossed all my care; and
wherever fate shall dispose of me, I shall always cherish his
memory, and regard your Highness and the virtuous Hippolita as my
"Curse on Hippolita!" cried Manfred. "Forget her from this moment,
as I do. In short, Lady, you have missed a husband undeserving of
your charms: they shall now be better disposed of. Instead of a
sickly boy, you shall have a husband in the prime of his age, who
will know how to value your beauties, and who may expect a numerous
"Alas, my Lord!" said Isabella, "my mind is too sadly engrossed by
the recent catastrophe in your family to think of another marriage.
If ever my father returns, and it shall be his pleasure, I shall
obey, as I did when I consented to give my hand to your son: but
until his return, permit me to remain under your hospitable roof,
and employ the melancholy hours in assuaging yours, Hippolita's,
and the fair Matilda's affliction."
"I desired you once before," said Manfred angrily, "not to name
that woman: from this hour she must be a stranger to you, as she
must be to me. In short, Isabella, since I cannot give you my son,
I offer you myself."
"Heavens!" cried Isabella, waking from her delusion, "what do I
hear? You! my Lord! You! My father-in-law! the father of Conrad!
the husband of the virtuous and tender Hippolita!"
"I tell you," said Manfred imperiously, "Hippolita is no longer my
wife; I divorce her from this hour. Too long has she cursed me by
her unfruitfulness. My fate depends on having sons, and this night
I trust will give a new date to my hopes."
At those words he seized the cold hand of Isabella, who was half
dead with fright and horror. She shrieked, and started from him,
Manfred rose to pursue her, when the moon, which was now up, and
gleamed in at the opposite casement, presented to his sight the
plumes of the fatal helmet, which rose to the height of the
windows, waving backwards and forwards in a tempestuous manner, and
accompanied with a hollow and rustling sound. Isabella, who
gathered courage from her situation, and who dreaded nothing so
much as Manfred's pursuit of his declaration, cried -
"Look, my Lord! see, Heaven itself declares against your impious
"Heaven nor Hell shall impede my designs," said Manfred, advancing
again to seize the Princess.
At that instant the portrait of his grandfather, which hung over
the bench where they had been sitting, uttered a deep sigh, and
heaved its breast.
Isabella, whose back was turned to the picture, saw not the motion,
nor knew whence the sound came, but started, and said -
"Hark, my Lord! What sound was that?" and at the same time made
towards the door.
Manfred, distracted between the flight of Isabella, who had now
reached the stairs, and yet unable to keep his eyes from the
picture, which began to move, had, however, advanced some steps
after her, still looking backwards on the portrait, when he saw it
quit its panel, and descend on the floor with a grave and
"Do I dream?" cried Manfred, returning; "or are the devils
themselves in league against me? Speak, internal spectre! Or, if
thou art my grandsire, why dost thou too conspire against thy
wretched descendant, who too dearly pays for--" Ere he could
finish the sentence, the vision sighed again, and made a sign to
Manfred to follow him.
"Lead on!" cried Manfred; "I will follow thee to the gulf of
The spectre marched sedately, but dejected, to the end of the
gallery, and turned into a chamber on the right hand. Manfred
accompanied him at a little distance, full of anxiety and horror,
but resolved. As he would have entered the chamber, the door was
clapped to with violence by an invisible hand. The Prince,
collecting courage from this delay, would have forcibly burst open
the door with his foot, but found that it resisted his utmost
"Since Hell will not satisfy my curiosity," said Manfred, "I will
use the human means in my power for preserving my race; Isabella
shall not escape me."
The lady, whose resolution had given way to terror the moment she
had quitted Manfred, continued her flight to the bottom of the
principal staircase. There she stopped, not knowing whither to
direct her steps, nor how to escape from the impetuosity of the
Prince. The gates of the castle, she knew, were locked, and guards
placed in the court. Should she, as her heart prompted her, go and
prepare Hippolita for the cruel destiny that awaited her, she did
not doubt but Manfred would seek her there, and that his violence
would incite him to double the injury he meditated, without leaving
room for them to avoid the impetuosity of his passions. Delay
might give him time to reflect on the horrid measures he had
conceived, or produce some circumstance in her favour, if she
could--for that night, at least--avoid his odious purpose. Yet
where conceal herself? How avoid the pursuit he would infallibly
make throughout the castle?
As these thoughts passed rapidly through her mind, she recollected
a subterraneous passage which led from the vaults of the castle to
the church of St. Nicholas. Could she reach the altar before she
was overtaken, she knew even Manfred's violence would not dare to
profane the sacredness of the place; and she determined, if no
other means of deliverance offered, to shut herself up for ever
among the holy virgins whose convent was contiguous to the
cathedral. In this resolution, she seized a lamp that burned at
the foot of the staircase, and hurried towards the secret passage.
The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate
cloisters; and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to
find the door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence
reigned throughout those subterraneous regions, except now and then
some blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed, and which,
grating on the rusty hinges, were re-echoed through that long
labyrinth of darkness. Every murmur struck her with new terror;
yet more she dreaded to hear the wrathful voice of Manfred urging
his domestics to pursue her.
She trod as softly as impatience would give her leave, yet
frequently stopped and listened to hear if she was followed. In
one of those moments she thought she heard a sigh. She shuddered,
and recoiled a few paces. In a moment she thought she heard the
step of some person. Her blood curdled; she concluded it was
Manfred. Every suggestion that horror could inspire rushed into
her mind. She condemned her rash flight, which had thus exposed
her to his rage in a place where her cries were not likely to draw
anybody to her assistance. Yet the sound seemed not to come from
behind. If Manfred knew where she was, he must have followed her.
She was still in one of the cloisters, and the steps she had heard
were too distinct to proceed from the way she had come. Cheered
with this reflection, and hoping to find a friend in whoever was
not the Prince, she was going to advance, when a door that stood
ajar, at some distance to the left, was opened gently: but ere her
lamp, which she held up, could discover who opened it, the person
retreated precipitately on seeing the light.
Isabella, whom every incident was sufficient to dismay, hesitated
whether she should proceed. Her dread of Manfred soon outweighed
every other terror. The very circumstance of the person avoiding
her gave her a sort of courage. It could only be, she thought,
some domestic belonging to the castle. Her gentleness had never
raised her an enemy, and conscious innocence made her hope that,
unless sent by the Prince's order to seek her, his servants would
rather assist than prevent her flight. Fortifying herself with
these reflections, and believing by what she could observe that she
was near the mouth of the subterraneous cavern, she approached the
door that had been opened; but a sudden gust of wind that met her
at the door extinguished her lamp, and left her in total darkness.
Words cannot paint the horror of the Princess's situation. Alone
in so dismal a place, her mind imprinted with all the terrible
events of the day, hopeless of escaping, expecting every moment the
arrival of Manfred, and far from tranquil on knowing she was within
reach of somebody, she knew not whom, who for some cause seemed
concealed thereabouts; all these thoughts crowded on her distracted
mind, and she was ready to sink under her apprehensions. She
addressed herself to every saint in heaven, and inwardly implored
their assistance. For a considerable time she remained in an agony
At last, as softly as was possible, she felt for the door, and
having found it, entered trembling into the vault from whence she
had heard the sigh and steps. It gave her a kind of momentary joy
to perceive an imperfect ray of clouded moonshine gleam from the
roof of the vault, which seemed to be fallen in, and from whence
hung a fragment of earth or building, she could not distinguish
which, that appeared to have been crushed inwards. She advanced
eagerly towards this chasm, when she discerned a human form
standing close against the wall.
She shrieked, believing it the ghost of her betrothed Conrad. The
figure, advancing, said, in a submissive voice -
"Be not alarmed, Lady; I will not injure you."
Isabella, a little encouraged by the words and tone of voice of the
stranger, and recollecting that this must be the person who had
opened the door, recovered her spirits enough to reply -
"Sir, whoever you are, take pity on a wretched Princess, standing
on the brink of destruction. Assist me to escape from this fatal
castle, or in a few moments I may be made miserable for ever."
"Alas!" said the stranger, "what can I do to assist you? I will
die in your defence; but I am unacquainted with the castle, and
"Oh!" said Isabella, hastily interrupting him; "help me but to find
a trap-door that must be hereabout, and it is the greatest service
you can do me, for I have not a minute to lose."
Saying a these words, she felt about on the pavement, and directed
the stranger to search likewise, for a smooth piece of brass
enclosed in one of the stones.
"That," said she, "is the lock, which opens with a spring, of which
I know the secret. If we can find that, I may escape--if not,
alas! courteous stranger, I fear I shall have involved you in my
misfortunes: Manfred will suspect you for the accomplice of my
flight, and you will fall a victim to his resentment."
"I value not my life," said the stranger, "and it will be some
comfort to lose it in trying to deliver you from his tyranny."
"Generous youth," said Isabella, "how shall I ever requite--"
As she uttered those words, a ray of moonshine, streaming through a
cranny of the ruin above, shone directly on the lock they sought.
"Oh! transport!" said Isabella; "here is the trap-door!" and,
taking out the key, she touched the spring, which, starting aside,
discovered an iron ring. "Lift up the door," said the Princess.
The stranger obeyed, and beneath appeared some stone steps
descending into a vault totally dark.
"We must go down here," said Isabella. "Follow me; dark and dismal
as it is, we cannot miss our way; it leads directly to the church
of St. Nicholas. But, perhaps," added the Princess modestly, "you
have no reason to leave the castle, nor have I farther occasion for
your service; in a few minutes I shall be safe from Manfred's rage-
-only let me know to whom I am so much obliged."
"I will never quit you," said the stranger eagerly, "until I have
placed you in safety--nor think me, Princess, more generous than I
am; though you are my principal care--"
The stranger was interrupted by a sudden noise of voices that
seemed approaching, and they soon distinguished these words -
"Talk not to me of necromancers; I tell you she must be in the
castle; I will find her in spite of enchantment."
"Oh, heavens!" cried Isabella; "it is the voice of Manfred! Make
haste, or we are ruined! and shut the trap-door after you."
Saying this, she descended the steps precipitately; and as the
stranger hastened to follow her, he let the door slip out of his
hands: it fell, and the spring closed over it. He tried in vain
to open it, not having observed Isabella's method of touching the
spring; nor had he many moments to make an essay. The noise of the
falling door had been heard by Manfred, who, directed by the sound,
hastened thither, attended by his servants with torches.
"It must be Isabella," cried Manfred, before he entered the vault.
"She is escaping by the subterraneous passage, but she cannot have
What was the astonishment of the Prince when, instead of Isabella,
the light of the torches discovered to him the young peasant whom
he thought confined under the fatal helmet!
"Traitor!" said Manfred; "how camest thou here? I thought thee in
durance above in the court."
"I am no traitor," replied the young man boldly, "nor am I
answerable for your thoughts."
"Presumptuous villain!" cried Manfred; "dost thou provoke my wrath?
Tell me, how hast thou escaped from above? Thou hast corrupted thy
guards, and their lives shall answer it."
"My poverty," said the peasant calmly, "will disculpate them:
though the ministers of a tyrant's wrath, to thee they are
faithful, and but too willing to execute the orders which you
unjustly imposed upon them."
"Art thou so hardy as to dare my vengeance?" said the Prince; "but
tortures shall force the truth from thee. Tell me; I will know thy
"There was my accomplice!" said the youth, smiling, and pointing to
Manfred ordered the torches to be held up, and perceived that one
of the cheeks of the enchanted casque had forced its way through
the pavement of the court, as his servants had let it fall over the
peasant, and had broken through into the vault, leaving a gap,
through which the peasant had pressed himself some minutes before
he was found by Isabella.
"Was that the way by which thou didst descend?" said Manfred.
"It was," said the youth.
"But what noise was that," said Manfred, "which I heard as I
entered the cloister?"
"A door clapped," said the peasant; "I heard it as well as you."
"What door?" said Manfred hastily.
"I am not acquainted with your castle," said the peasant; "this is
the first time I ever entered it, and this vault the only part of
it within which I ever was."
"But I tell thee," said Manfred (wishing to find out if the youth
had discovered the trap-door), "it was this way I heard the noise.
My servants heard it too."
"My Lord," interrupted one of them officiously, "to be sure it was
the trap-door, and he was going to make his escape."
"Peace, blockhead!" said the Prince angrily; "if he was going to
escape, how should he come on this side? I will know from his own
mouth what noise it was I heard. Tell me truly; thy life depends
on thy veracity."
"My veracity is dearer to me than my life," said the peasant; "nor
would I purchase the one by forfeiting the other."
"Indeed, young philosopher!" said Manfred contemptuously; "tell me,
then, what was the noise I heard?"
"Ask me what I can answer," said he, "and put me to death instantly
if I tell you a lie."
Manfred, growing impatient at the steady valour and indifference of
the youth, cried -
"Well, then, thou man of truth, answer! Was it the fall of the
trap-door that I heard?"
"It was," said the youth.
"It was!" said the Prince; "and how didst thou come to know there
was a trap-door here?"
"I saw the plate of brass by a gleam of moonshine," replied he.
"But what told thee it was a lock?" said Manfred. "How didst thou
discover the secret of opening it?"
"Providence, that delivered me from the helmet, was able to direct
me to the spring of a lock," said he.
"Providence should have gone a little farther, and have placed thee
out of the reach of my resentment," said Manfred. "When Providence
had taught thee to open the lock, it abandoned thee for a fool, who
did not know how to make use of its favours. Why didst thou not
pursue the path pointed out for thy escape? Why didst thou shut
the trap-door before thou hadst descended the steps?"
"I might ask you, my Lord," said the peasant, "how I, totally
unacquainted with your castle, was to know that those steps led to
any outlet? but I scorn to evade your questions. Wherever those
steps lead to, perhaps I should have explored the way--I could not
be in a worse situation than I was. But the truth is, I let the
trap-door fall: your immediate arrival followed. I had given the
alarm--what imported it to me whether I was seized a minute sooner
or a minute later?"
"Thou art a resolute villain for thy years," said Manfred; "yet on
reflection I suspect thou dost but trifle with me. Thou hast not
yet told me how thou didst open the lock."
"That I will show you, my Lord," said the peasant; and, taking up a
fragment of stone that had fallen from above, he laid himself on
the trap-door, and began to beat on the piece of brass that covered
it, meaning to gain time for the escape of the Princess. This
presence of mind, joined to the frankness of the youth, staggered
Manfred. He even felt a disposition towards pardoning one who had
been guilty of no crime. Manfred was not one of those savage
tyrants who wanton in cruelty unprovoked. The circumstances of his
fortune had given an asperity to his temper, which was naturally
humane; and his virtues were always ready to operate, when his
passions did not obscure his reason.
While the Prince was in this suspense, a confused noise of voices
echoed through the distant vaults. As the sound approached, he
distinguished the clamours of some of his domestics, whom he had
dispersed through the castle in search of Isabella, calling out -
"Where is my Lord? where is the Prince?"
"Here I am," said Manfred, as they came nearer; "have you found the
The first that arrived, replied, "Oh, my Lord! I am glad we have
"Found me!" said Manfred; "have you found the Princess?"
"We thought we had, my Lord," said the fellow, looking terrified,
"But, what?" cried the Prince; "has she escaped?"
"Jaquez and I, my Lord--"
"Yes, I and Diego," interrupted the second, who came up in still
"Speak one of you at a time," said Manfred; "I ask you, where is
"We do not know," said they both together; "but we are frightened
out of our wits."
"So I think, blockheads," said Manfred; "what is it has scared you
"Oh! my Lord," said Jaquez, "Diego has seen such a sight! your
Highness would not believe our eyes."
"What new absurdity is this?" cried Manfred; "give me a direct
answer, or, by Heaven--"
"Why, my Lord, if it please your Highness to hear me," said the
poor fellow, "Diego and I--"
"Yes, I and Jaquez--" cried his comrade.
"Did not I forbid you to speak both at a time?" said the Prince:
"you, Jaquez, answer; for the other fool seems more distracted than
thou art; what is the matter?"
"My gracious Lord," said Jaquez, "if it please your Highness to
hear me; Diego and I, according to your Highness's orders, went to
search for the young Lady; but being comprehensive that we might
meet the ghost of my young Lord, your Highness's son, God rest his
soul, as he has not received Christian burial--"
"Sot!" cried Manfred in a rage; "is it only a ghost, then, that
thou hast seen?"
"Oh! worse! worse! my Lord," cried Diego: "I had rather have seen
ten whole ghosts."
"Grant me patience!" said Manfred; "these blockheads distract me.
Out of my sight, Diego! and thou, Jaquez, tell me in one word, art
thou sober? art thou raving? thou wast wont to have some sense:
has the other sot frightened himself and thee too? Speak; what is
it he fancies he has seen?"
"Why, my Lord," replied Jaquez, trembling, "I was going to tell
your Highness, that since the calamitous misfortune of my young
Lord, God rest his precious soul! not one of us your Highness's
faithful servants--indeed we are, my Lord, though poor men--I say,
not one of us has dared to set a foot about the castle, but two
together: so Diego and I, thinking that my young Lady might be in
the great gallery, went up there to look for her, and tell her your
Highness wanted something to impart to her."
"O blundering fools!" cried Manfred; "and in the meantime, she has
made her escape, because you were afraid of goblins!--Why, thou
knave! she left me in the gallery; I came from thence myself."
"For all that, she may be there still for aught I know," said
Jaquez; "but the devil shall have me before I seek her there again-
-poor Diego! I do not believe he will ever recover it."
"Recover what?" said Manfred; "am I never to learn what it is has
terrified these rascals?--but I lose my time; follow me, slave; I
will see if she is in the gallery."
"For Heaven's sake, my dear, good Lord," cried Jaquez, "do not go
to the gallery. Satan himself I believe is in the chamber next to
Manfred, who hitherto had treated the terror of his servants as an
idle panic, was struck at this new circumstance. He recollected
the apparition of the portrait, and the sudden closing of the door
at the end of the gallery. His voice faltered, and he asked with
"What is in the great chamber?"
"My Lord," said Jaquez, "when Diego and I came into the gallery, he
went first, for he said he had more courage than I. So when we
came into the gallery we found nobody. We looked under every bench
and stool; and still we found nobody."
"Were all the pictures in their places?" said Manfred.
"Yes, my Lord," answered Jaquez; "but we did not think of looking
"Well, well!" said Manfred; "proceed."
"When we came to the door of the great chamber," continued Jaquez,
"we found it shut."
"And could not you open it?" said Manfred.
"Oh! yes, my Lord; would to Heaven we had not!" replied he--"nay,
it was not I neither; it was Diego: he was grown foolhardy, and
would go on, though I advised him not--if ever I open a door that
is shut again--"
"Trifle not," said Manfred, shuddering, "but tell me what you saw
in the great chamber on opening the door."
"I! my Lord!" said Jaquez; "I was behind Diego; but I heard the
"Jaquez," said Manfred, in a solemn tone of voice; "tell me, I
adjure thee by the souls of my ancestors, what was it thou sawest?
what was it thou heardest?"
"It was Diego saw it, my Lord, it was not I," replied Jaquez; "I
only heard the noise. Diego had no sooner opened the door, than he
cried out, and ran back. I ran back too, and said, 'Is it the
ghost?' 'The ghost! no, no,' said Diego, and his hair stood on
end--'it is a giant, I believe; he is all clad in armour, for I saw
his foot and part of his leg, and they are as large as the helmet
below in the court.' As he said these words, my Lord, we heard a
violent motion and the rattling of armour, as if the giant was
rising, for Diego has told me since that he believes the giant was
lying down, for the foot and leg were stretched at length on the
floor. Before we could get to the end of the gallery, we heard the
door of the great chamber clap behind us, but we did not dare turn
back to see if the giant was following us--yet, now I think on it,
we must have heard him if he had pursued us--but for Heaven's sake,
good my Lord, send for the chaplain, and have the castle exorcised,
for, for certain, it is enchanted."
"Ay, pray do, my Lord," cried all the servants at once, "or we must
leave your Highness's service."
"Peace, dotards!" said Manfred, "and follow me; I will know what
all this means."
"We! my Lord!" cried they with one voice; "we would not go up to
the gallery for your Highness's revenue." The young peasant, who
had stood silent, now spoke.
"Will your Highness," said he, "permit me to try this adventure?
My life is of consequence to nobody; I fear no bad angel, and have
offended no good one."
"Your behaviour is above your seeming," said Manfred, viewing him
with surprise and admiration--"hereafter I will reward your
bravery--but now," continued he with a sigh, "I am so
circumstanced, that I dare trust no eyes but my own. However, I
give you leave to accompany me."
Manfred, when he first followed Isabella from the gallery, had gone
directly to the apartment of his wife, concluding the Princess had
retired thither. Hippolita, who knew his step, rose with anxious
fondness to meet her Lord, whom she had not seen since the death of
their son. She would have flown in a transport mixed of joy and
grief to his bosom, but he pushed her rudely off, and said -
"Where is Isabella?"
"Isabella! my Lord!" said the astonished Hippolita.
"Yes, Isabella," cried Manfred imperiously; "I want Isabella."
"My Lord," replied Matilda, who perceived how much his behaviour
had shocked her mother, "she has not been with us since your
Highness summoned her to your apartment."
"Tell me where she is," said the Prince; "I do not want to know
where she has been."
"My good Lord," says Hippolita, "your daughter tells you the truth:
Isabella left us by your command, and has not returned since;--but,
my good Lord, compose yourself: retire to your rest: this dismal
day has disordered you. Isabella shall wait your orders in the
"What, then, you know where she is!" cried Manfred. "Tell me
directly, for I will not lose an instant--and you, woman," speaking
to his wife, "order your chaplain to attend me forthwith."
"Isabella," said Hippolita calmly, "is retired, I suppose, to her
chamber: she is not accustomed to watch at this late hour.
Gracious my Lord," continued she, "let me know what has disturbed
you. Has Isabella offended you?"
"Trouble me not with questions," said Manfred, "but tell me where
"Matilda shall call her," said the Princess. "Sit down, my Lord,
and resume your wonted fortitude."
"What, art thou jealous of Isabella?" replied he, "that you wish to
be present at our interview!"
"Good heavens! my Lord," said Hippolita, "what is it your Highness
"Thou wilt know ere many minutes are passed," said the cruel
Prince. "Send your chaplain to me, and wait my pleasure here."
At these words he flung out of the room in search of Isabella,
leaving the amazed ladies thunderstruck with his words and frantic
deportment, and lost in vain conjectures on what he was meditating.
Manfred was now returning from the vault, attended by the peasant
and a few of his servants whom he had obliged to accompany him. He
ascended the staircase without stopping till he arrived at the
gallery, at the door of which he met Hippolita and her chaplain.
When Diego had been dismissed by Manfred, he had gone directly to
the Princess's apartment with the alarm of what he had seen. That
excellent Lady, who no more than Manfred doubted of the reality of
the vision, yet affected to treat it as a delirium of the servant.
Willing, however, to save her Lord from any additional shock, and
prepared by a series of griefs not to tremble at any accession to
it, she determined to make herself the first sacrifice, if fate had
marked the present hour for their destruction. Dismissing the
reluctant Matilda to her rest, who in vain sued for leave to
accompany her mother, and attended only by her chaplain, Hippolita
had visited the gallery and great chamber; and now with more
serenity of soul than she had felt for many hours, she met her
Lord, and assured him that the vision of the gigantic leg and foot
was all a fable; and no doubt an impression made by fear, and the
dark and dismal hour of the night, on the minds of his servants.
She and the chaplain had examined the chamber, and found everything
in the usual order.
Manfred, though persuaded, like his wife, that the vision had been
no work of fancy, recovered a little from the tempest of mind into
which so many strange events had thrown him. Ashamed, too, of his
inhuman treatment of a Princess who returned every injury with new
marks of tenderness and duty, he felt returning love forcing itself
into his eyes; but not less ashamed of feeling remorse towards one
against whom he was inwardly meditating a yet more bitter outrage,
he curbed the yearnings of his heart, and did not dare to lean even
towards pity. The next transition of his soul was to exquisite
Presuming on the unshaken submission of Hippolita, he flattered
himself that she would not only acquiesce with patience to a
divorce, but would obey, if it was his pleasure, in endeavouring to
persuade Isabella to give him her hand--but ere he could indulge
his horrid hope, he reflected that Isabella was not to be found.
Coming to himself, he gave orders that every avenue to the castle
should be strictly guarded, and charged his domestics on pain of
their lives to suffer nobody to pass out. The young peasant, to
whom he spoke favourably, he ordered to remain in a small chamber
on the stairs, in which there was a pallet-bed, and the key of
which he took away himself, telling the youth he would talk with
him in the morning. Then dismissing his attendants, and bestowing
a sullen kind of half-nod on Hippolita, he retired to his own
Matilda, who by Hippolita's order had retired to her apartment, was
ill-disposed to take any rest. The shocking fate of her brother
had deeply affected her. She was surprised at not seeing Isabella;
but the strange words which had fallen from her father, and his
obscure menace to the Princess his wife, accompanied by the most
furious behaviour, had filled her gentle mind with terror and
alarm. She waited anxiously for the return of Bianca, a young
damsel that attended her, whom she had sent to learn what was
become of Isabella. Bianca soon appeared, and informed her
mistress of what she had gathered from the servants, that Isabella
was nowhere to be found. She related the adventure of the young
peasant who had been discovered in the vault, though with many
simple additions from the incoherent accounts of the domestics; and
she dwelt principally on the gigantic leg and foot which had been
seen in the gallery-chamber. This last circumstance had terrified
Bianca so much, that she was rejoiced when Matilda told her that
she would not go to rest, but would watch till the Princess should
The young Princess wearied herself in conjectures on the flight of
Isabella, and on the threats of Manfred to her mother. "But what
business could he have so urgent with the chaplain?" said Matilda,
"Does he intend to have my brother's body interred privately in the
"Oh, Madam!" said Bianca, "now I guess. As you are become his
heiress, he is impatient to have you married: he has always been
raving for more sons; I warrant he is now impatient for grandsons.
As sure as I live, Madam, I shall see you a bride at last.--Good
madam, you won't cast off your faithful Bianca: you won't put
Donna Rosara over me now you are a great Princess."
"My poor Bianca," said Matilda, "how fast your thoughts amble! I a
great princess! What hast thou seen in Manfred's behaviour since
my brother's death that bespeaks any increase of tenderness to me?
No, Bianca; his heart was ever a stranger to me--but he is my
father, and I must not complain. Nay, if Heaven shuts my father's
heart against me, it overpays my little merit in the tenderness of
my mother--O that dear mother! yes, Bianca, 'tis there I feel the
rugged temper of Manfred. I can support his harshness to me with
patience; but it wounds my soul when I am witness to his causeless
severity towards her."
"Oh! Madam," said Bianca, "all men use their wives so, when they
are weary of them."
"And yet you congratulated me but now," said Matilda, "when you
fancied my father intended to dispose of me!"
"I would have you a great Lady," replied Bianca, "come what will.
I do not wish to see you moped in a convent, as you would be if you
had your will, and if my Lady, your mother, who knows that a bad
husband is better than no husband at all, did not hinder you.--
Bless me! what noise is that! St. Nicholas forgive me! I was but
"It is the wind," said Matilda, "whistling through the battlements
in the tower above: you have heard it a thousand times."
"Nay," said Bianca, "there was no harm neither in what I said: it
is no sin to talk of matrimony--and so, Madam, as I was saying, if
my Lord Manfred should offer you a handsome young Prince for a
bridegroom, you would drop him a curtsey, and tell him you would
rather take the veil?"
"Thank Heaven! I am in no such danger," said Matilda: "you know
how many proposals for me he has rejected--"
"And you thank him, like a dutiful daughter, do you, Madam? But
come, Madam; suppose, to-morrow morning, he was to send for you to
the great council chamber, and there you should find at his elbow a
lovely young Prince, with large black eyes, a smooth white
forehead, and manly curling locks like jet; in short, Madam, a
young hero resembling the picture of the good Alfonso in the
gallery, which you sit and gaze at for hours together--"
"Do not speak lightly of that picture," interrupted Matilda
sighing; "I know the adoration with which I look at that picture is
uncommon--but I am not in love with a coloured panel. The
character of that virtuous Prince, the veneration with which my
mother has inspired me for his memory, the orisons which, I know
not why, she has enjoined me to pour forth at his tomb, all have
concurred to persuade me that somehow or other my destiny is linked
with something relating to him."
"Lord, Madam! how should that be?" said Bianca; "I have always
heard that your family was in no way related to his: and I am sure
I cannot conceive why my Lady, the Princess, sends you in a cold
morning or a damp evening to pray at his tomb: he is no saint by
the almanack. If you must pray, why does she not bid you address
yourself to our great St. Nicholas? I am sure he is the saint I
pray to for a husband."
"Perhaps my mind would be less affected," said Matilda, "if my
mother would explain her reasons to me: but it is the mystery she
observes, that inspires me with this--I know not what to call it.
As she never acts from caprice, I am sure there is some fatal
secret at bottom--nay, I know there is: in her agony of grief for
my brother's death she dropped some words that intimated as much."
"Oh! dear Madam," cried Bianca, "what were they?"
"No," said Matilda, "if a parent lets fall a word, and wishes it
recalled, it is not for a child to utter it."
"What! was she sorry for what she had said?" asked Bianca; "I am
sure, Madam, you may trust me--"
"With my own little secrets when I have any, I may," said Matilda;
"but never with my mother's: a child ought to have no ears or eyes
but as a parent directs."
"Well! to be sure, Madam, you were born to be a saint," said
Bianca, "and there is no resisting one's vocation: you will end in
a convent at last. But there is my Lady Isabella would not be so
reserved to me: she will let me talk to her of young men: and
when a handsome cavalier has come to the castle, she has owned to
me that she wished your brother Conrad resembled him."
"Bianca," said the Princess, "I do not allow you to mention my
friend disrespectfully. Isabella is of a cheerful disposition, but
her soul is pure as virtue itself. She knows your idle babbling
humour, and perhaps has now and then encouraged it, to divert
melancholy, and enliven the solitude in which my father keeps us--"
"Blessed Mary!" said Bianca, starting, "there it is again! Dear
Madam, do you hear nothing? this castle is certainly haunted!"
"Peace!" said Matilda, "and listen! I did think I heard a voice--
but it must be fancy: your terrors, I suppose, have infected me."
"Indeed! indeed! Madam," said Bianca, half-weeping with agony, "I
am sure I heard a voice."
"Does anybody lie in the chamber beneath?" said the Princess.
"Nobody has dared to lie there," answered Bianca, "since the great
astrologer, that was your brother's tutor, drowned himself. For
certain, Madam, his ghost and the young Prince's are now met in the
chamber below--for Heaven's sake let us fly to your mother's
"I charge you not to stir," said Matilda. "If they are spirits in
pain, we may ease their sufferings by questioning them. They can
mean no hurt to us, for we have not injured them--and if they
should, shall we be more safe in one chamber than in another?
Reach me my beads; we will say a prayer, and then speak to them."
"Oh! dear Lady, I would not speak to a ghost for the world!" cried
Bianca. As she said those words they heard the casement of the
little chamber below Matilda's open. They listened attentively,
and in a few minutes thought they heard a person sing, but could
not distinguish the words.
"This can be no evil spirit," said the Princess, in a low voice;
"it is undoubtedly one of the family--open the window, and we shall
know the voice."
"I dare not, indeed, Madam," said Bianca.
"Thou art a very fool," said Matilda, opening the window gently
herself. The noise the Princess made was, however, heard by the
person beneath, who stopped; and they concluded had heard the
"Is anybody below?" said the Princess; "if there is, speak."
"Yes," said an unknown voice.
"Who is it?" said Matilda.
"A stranger," replied the voice.
"What stranger?" said she; "and how didst thou come there at this
unusual hour, when all the gates of the castle are locked?"
"I am not here willingly," answered the voice. "But pardon me,
Lady, if I have disturbed your rest; I knew not that I was
overheard. Sleep had forsaken me; I left a restless couch, and
came to waste the irksome hours with gazing on the fair approach of
morning, impatient to be dismissed from this castle."
"Thy words and accents," said Matilda, "are of melancholy cast; if
thou art unhappy, I pity thee. If poverty afflicts thee, let me
know it; I will mention thee to the Princess, whose beneficent soul
ever melts for the distressed, and she will relieve thee."
"I am indeed unhappy," said the stranger; "and I know not what
wealth is. But I do not complain of the lot which Heaven has cast
for me; I am young and healthy, and am not ashamed of owing my
support to myself--yet think me not proud, or that I disdain your
generous offers. I will remember you in my orisons, and will pray
for blessings on your gracious self and your noble mistress--if I
sigh, Lady, it is for others, not for myself."
"Now I have it, Madam," said Bianca, whispering the Princess; "this
is certainly the young peasant; and, by my conscience, he is in
love--Well! this is a charming adventure!--do, Madam, let us sift
him. He does not know you, but takes you for one of my Lady
"Art thou not ashamed, Bianca!" said the Princess. "What right
have we to pry into the secrets of this young man's heart? He
seems virtuous and frank, and tells us he is unhappy. Are those
circumstances that authorise us to make a property of him? How are
we entitled to his confidence?"
"Lord, Madam! how little you know of love!" replied Bianca; "why,
lovers have no pleasure equal to talking of their mistress."
"And would you have ME become a peasant's confidante?" said the
"Well, then, let me talk to him," said Bianca; "though I have the
honour of being your Highness's maid of honour, I was not always so
great. Besides, if love levels ranks, it raises them too; I have a
respect for any young man in love."
"Peace, simpleton!" said the Princess. "Though he said he was
unhappy, it does not follow that he must be in love. Think of all
that has happened to-day, and tell me if there are no misfortunes
but what love causes.--Stranger," resumed the Princess, "if thy
misfortunes have not been occasioned by thy own fault, and are
within the compass of the Princess Hippolita's power to redress, I
will take upon me to answer that she will be thy protectress. When
thou art dismissed from this castle, repair to holy father Jerome,
at the convent adjoining to the church of St. Nicholas, and make
thy story known to him, as far as thou thinkest meet. He will not
fail to inform the Princess, who is the mother of all that want her
assistance. Farewell; it is not seemly for me to hold farther
converse with a man at this unwonted hour."
"May the saints guard thee, gracious Lady!" replied the peasant;
"but oh! if a poor and worthless stranger might presume to beg a
minute's audience farther; am I so happy? the casement is not shut;
might I venture to ask--"
"Speak quickly," said Matilda; "the morning dawns apace: should
the labourers come into the fields and perceive us--What wouldst
"I know not how, I know not if I dare," said the Young stranger,
faltering; "yet the humanity with which you have spoken to me
emboldens--Lady! dare I trust you?"
"Heavens!" said Matilda, "what dost thou mean? With what wouldst
thou trust me? Speak boldly, if thy secret is fit to be entrusted
to a virtuous breast."
"I would ask," said the peasant, recollecting himself, "whether
what I have heard from the domestics is true, that the Princess is
missing from the castle?"
"What imports it to thee to know?" replied Matilda. "Thy first
words bespoke a prudent and becoming gravity. Dost thou come
hither to pry into the secrets of Manfred? Adieu. I have been
mistaken in thee." Saying these words she shut the casement
hastily, without giving the young man time to reply.
"I had acted more wisely," said the Princess to Bianca, with some
sharpness, "if I had let thee converse with this peasant; his
inquisitiveness seems of a piece with thy own."
"It is not fit for me to argue with your Highness," replied Bianca;
"but perhaps the questions I should have put to him would have been
more to the purpose than those you have been pleased to ask him."
"Oh! no doubt," said Matilda; "you are a very discreet personage!
May I know what YOU would have asked him?"
"A bystander often sees more of the game than those that play,"
answered Bianca. "Does your Highness think, Madam, that this
question about my Lady Isabella was the result of mere curiosity?
No, no, Madam, there is more in it than you great folks are aware
of. Lopez told me that all the servants believe this young fellow
contrived my Lady Isabella's escape; now, pray, Madam, observe you
and I both know that my Lady Isabella never much fancied the Prince
your brother. Well! he is killed just in a critical minute--I
accuse nobody. A helmet falls from the moon--so, my Lord, your
father says; but Lopez and all the servants say that this young
spark is a magician, and stole it from Alfonso's tomb--"
"Have done with this rhapsody of impertinence," said Matilda.
"Nay, Madam, as you please," cried Bianca; "yet it is very
particular though, that my Lady Isabella should be missing the very
same day, and that this young sorcerer should be found at the mouth
of the trap-door. I accuse nobody; but if my young Lord came
honestly by his death--"
"Dare not on thy duty," said Matilda, "to breathe a suspicion on
the purity of my dear Isabella's fame."
"Purity, or not purity," said Bianca, "gone she is--a stranger is
found that nobody knows; you question him yourself; he tells you he
is in love, or unhappy, it is the same thing--nay, he owned he was
unhappy about others; and is anybody unhappy about another, unless
they are in love with them? and at the very next word, he asks
innocently, pour soul! if my Lady Isabella is missing."
"To be sure," said Matilda, "thy observations are not totally
without foundation--Isabella's flight amazes me. The curiosity of
the stranger is very particular; yet Isabella never concealed a
thought from me."
"So she told you," said Bianca, "to fish out your secrets; but who
knows, Madam, but this stranger may be some Prince in disguise?
Do, Madam, let me open the window, and ask him a few questions."
"No," replied Matilda, "I will ask him myself, if he knows aught of
Isabella; he is not worthy I should converse farther with him."
She was going to open the casement, when they heard the bell ring
at the postern-gate of the castle, which is on the right hand of
the tower, where Matilda lay. This prevented the Princess from
renewing the conversation with the stranger.
After continuing silent for some time, "I am persuaded," said she
to Bianca, "that whatever be the cause of Isabella's flight it had
no unworthy motive. If this stranger was accessory to it, she must
be satisfied with his fidelity and worth. I observed, did not you,
Bianca? that his words were tinctured with an uncommon infusion of
piety. It was no ruffian's speech; his phrases were becoming a man
of gentle birth."
"I told you, Madam," said Bianca, "that I was sure he was some
Prince in disguise."
"Yet," said Matilda, "if he was privy to her escape, how will you
account for his not accompanying her in her flight? why expose
himself unnecessarily and rashly to my father's resentment?"
"As for that, Madam," replied she, "if he could get from under the
helmet, he will find ways of eluding your father's anger. I do not
doubt but he has some talisman or other about him."
"You resolve everything into magic," said Matilda; "but a man who
has any intercourse with infernal spirits, does not dare to make
use of those tremendous and holy words which he uttered. Didst
thou not observe with what fervour he vowed to remember ME to
heaven in his prayers? Yes; Isabella was undoubtedly convinced of
"Commend me to the piety of a young fellow and a damsel that
consult to elope!" said Bianca. "No, no, Madam, my Lady Isabella
is of another guess mould than you take her for. She used indeed
to sigh and lift up her eyes in your company, because she knows you
are a saint; but when your back was turned--"
"You wrong her," said Matilda; "Isabella is no hypocrite; she has a
due sense of devotion, but never affected a call she has not. On
the contrary, she always combated my inclination for the cloister;
and though I own the mystery she has made to me of her flight
confounds me; though it seems inconsistent with the friendship
between us; I cannot forget the disinterested warmth with which she
always opposed my taking the veil. She wished to see me married,
though my dower would have been a loss to her and my brother's
children. For her sake I will believe well of this young peasant."
"Then you do think there is some liking between them," said Bianca.
While she was speaking, a servant came hastily into the chamber and
told the Princess that the Lady Isabella was found.
"Where?" said Matilda.
"She has taken sanctuary in St. Nicholas's church," replied the
servant; "Father Jerome has brought the news himself; he is below
with his Highness."
"Where is my mother?" said Matilda.
"She is in her own chamber, Madam, and has asked for you."
Manfred had risen at the first dawn of light, and gone to
Hippolita's apartment, to inquire if she knew aught of Isabella.
While he was questioning her, word was brought that Jerome demanded
to speak with him. Manfred, little suspecting the cause of the
Friar's arrival, and knowing he was employed by Hippolita in her
charities, ordered him to be admitted, intending to leave them
together, while he pursued his search after Isabella.
"Is your business with me or the Princess?" said Manfred.
"With both," replied the holy man. "The Lady Isabella--"
"What of her?" interrupted Manfred, eagerly.
"Is at St. Nicholas's altar," replied Jerome.
"That is no business of Hippolita," said Manfred with confusion;
"let us retire to my chamber, Father, and inform me how she came
"No, my Lord," replied the good man, with an air of firmness and
authority, that daunted even the resolute Manfred, who could not
help revering the saint-like virtues of Jerome; "my commission is
to both, and with your Highness's good-liking, in the presence of
both I shall deliver it; but first, my Lord, I must interrogate the
Princess, whether she is acquainted with the cause of the Lady
Isabella's retirement from your castle."
"No, on my soul," said Hippolita; "does Isabella charge me with
being privy to it?"
"Father," interrupted Manfred, "I pay due reverence to your holy
profession; but I am sovereign here, and will allow no meddling
priest to interfere in the affairs of my domestic. If you have
aught to say attend me to my chamber; I do not use to let my wife
be acquainted with the secret affairs of my state; they are not
within a woman's province."
"My Lord," said the holy man, "I am no intruder into the secrets of
families. My office is to promote peace, to heal divisions, to
preach repentance, and teach mankind to curb their headstrong
passions. I forgive your Highness's uncharitable apostrophe; I
know my duty, and am the minister of a mightier prince than
Manfred. Hearken to him who speaks through my organs."
Manfred trembled with rage and shame. Hippolita's countenance
declared her astonishment and impatience to know where this would
end. Her silence more strongly spoke her observance of Manfred.
"The Lady Isabella," resumed Jerome, "commends herself to both your
Highnesses; she thanks both for the kindness with which she has
been treated in your castle: she deplores the loss of your son,
and her own misfortune in not becoming the daughter of such wise
and noble Princes, whom she shall always respect as Parents; she
prays for uninterrupted union and felicity between you" [Manfred's
colour changed]: "but as it is no longer possible for her to be
allied to you, she entreats your consent to remain in sanctuary,
till she can learn news of her father, or, by the certainty of his
death, be at liberty, with the approbation of her guardians, to
dispose of herself in suitable marriage."
"I shall give no such consent," said the Prince, "but insist on her
return to the castle without delay: I am answerable for her person
to her guardians, and will not brook her being in any hands but my
"Your Highness will recollect whether that can any longer be
proper," replied the Friar.
"I want no monitor," said Manfred, colouring; "Isabella's conduct
leaves room for strange suspicions--and that young villain, who was
at least the accomplice of her flight, if not the cause of it--"
"The cause!" interrupted Jerome; "was a YOUNG man the cause?"
"This is not to be borne!" cried Manfred. "Am I to be bearded in
my own palace by an insolent Monk? Thou art privy, I guess, to
"I would pray to heaven to clear up your uncharitable surmises,"
said Jerome, "if your Highness were not satisfied in your
conscience how unjustly you accuse me. I do pray to heaven to
pardon that uncharitableness: and I implore your Highness to leave
the Princess at peace in that holy place, where she is not liable
to be disturbed by such vain and worldly fantasies as discourses of
love from any man."
"Cant not to me," said Manfred, "but return and bring the Princess
to her duty."
"It is my duty to prevent her return hither," said Jerome. "She is
where orphans and virgins are safest from the snares and wiles of
this world; and nothing but a parent's authority shall take her
"I am her parent," cried Manfred, "and demand her."
"She wished to have you for her parent," said the Friar; "but
Heaven that forbad that connection has for ever dissolved all ties
betwixt you: and I announce to your Highness--"
"Stop! audacious man," said Manfred, "and dread my displeasure."
"Holy farther," said Hippolita, "it is your office to be no
respecter of persons: you must speak as your duty prescribes: but
it is my duty to hear nothing that it pleases not my Lord I should
hear. Attend the Prince to his chamber. I will retire to my
oratory, and pray to the blessed Virgin to inspire you with her
holy counsels, and to restore the heart of my gracious Lord to its
wonted peace and gentleness."
"Excellent woman!" said the Friar. "My Lord, I attend your
Manfred, accompanied by the Friar, passed to his own apartment,
where shutting the door, "I perceive, Father," said he, "that
Isabella has acquainted you with my purpose. Now hear my resolve,
and obey. Reasons of state, most urgent reasons, my own and the
safety of my people, demand that I should have a son. It is in
vain to expect an heir from Hippolita. I have made choice of
Isabella. You must bring her back; and you must do more. I know
the influence you have with Hippolita: her conscience is in your
hands. She is, I allow, a faultless woman: her soul is set on
heaven, and scorns the little grandeur of this world: you can
withdraw her from it entirely. Persuade her to consent to the
dissolution of our marriage, and to retire into a monastery--she
shall endow one if she will; and she shall have the means of being
as liberal to your order as she or you can wish. Thus you will
divert the calamities that are hanging over our heads, and have the
merit of saying the principality of Otranto from destruction. You
are a prudent man, and though the warmth of my temper betrayed me
into some unbecoming expressions, I honour your virtue, and wish to
be indebted to you for the repose of my life and the preservation
of my family."
"The will of heaven be done!" said the Friar. "I am but its
worthless instrument. It makes use of my tongue to tell thee,
Prince, of thy unwarrantable designs. The injuries of the virtuous
Hippolita have mounted to the throne of pity. By me thou art
reprimanded for thy adulterous intention of repudiating her: by me
thou art warned not to pursue the incestuous design on thy
contracted daughter. Heaven that delivered her from thy fury, when
the judgments so recently fallen on thy house ought to have
inspired thee with other thoughts, will continue to watch over her.
Even I, a poor and despised Friar, am able to protect her from thy
violence--I, sinner as I am, and uncharitably reviled by your
Highness as an accomplice of I know not what amours, scorn the
allurements with which it has pleased thee to tempt mine honesty.
I love my order; I honour devout souls; I respect the piety of thy
Princess--but I will not betray the confidence she reposes in me,
nor serve even the cause of religion by foul and sinful
compliances--but forsooth! the welfare of the state depends on your
Highness having a son! Heaven mocks the short-sighted views of
man. But yester-morn, whose house was so great, so flourishing as
Manfred's?--where is young Conrad now?--My Lord, I respect your
tears--but I mean not to check them--let them flow, Prince! They
will weigh more with heaven toward the welfare of thy subjects,
than a marriage, which, founded on lust or policy, could never
prosper. The sceptre, which passed from the race of Alfonso to
thine, cannot be preserved by a match which the church will never
allow. If it is the will of the Most High that Manfred's name must
perish, resign yourself, my Lord, to its decrees; and thus deserve
a crown that can never pass away. Come, my Lord; I like this
sorrow--let us return to the Princess: she is not apprised of your
cruel intentions; nor did I mean more than to alarm you. You saw
with what gentle patience, with what efforts of love, she heard,
she rejected hearing, the extent of your guilt. I know she longs
to fold you in her arms, and assure you of her unalterable
"Father," said the Prince, "you mistake my compunction: true, I
honour Hippolita's virtues; I think her a Saint; and wish it were
for my soul's health to tie faster the knot that has united us--but
alas! Father, you know not the bitterest of my pangs! it is some
time that I have had scruples on the legality of our union:
Hippolita is related to me in the fourth degree--it is true, we had
a dispensation: but I have been informed that she had also been
contracted to another. This it is that sits heavy at my heart: to
this state of unlawful wedlock I impute the visitation that has
fallen on me in the death of Conrad!--ease my conscience of this
burden: dissolve our marriage, and accomplish the work of
godliness--which your divine exhortations have commenced in my
How cutting was the anguish which the good man felt, when he
perceived this turn in the wily Prince! He trembled for Hippolita,
whose ruin he saw was determined; and he feared if Manfred had no
hope of recovering Isabella, that his impatience for a son would
direct him to some other object, who might not be equally proof
against the temptation of Manfred's rank. For some time the holy
man remained absorbed in thought. At length, conceiving some hopes
from delay, he thought the wisest conduct would be to prevent the
Prince from despairing of recovering Isabella. Her the Friar knew
he could dispose, from her affection to Hippolita, and from the
aversion she had expressed to him for Manfred's addresses, to
second his views, till the censures of the church could be
fulminated against a divorce. With this intention, as if struck
with the Prince's scruples, he at length said:
"My Lord, I have been pondering on what your Highness has said; and
if in truth it is delicacy of conscience that is the real motive of
your repugnance to your virtuous Lady, far be it from me to
endeavour to harden your heart. The church is an indulgent mother:
unfold your griefs to her: she alone can administer comfort to
your soul, either by satisfying your conscience, or upon
examination of your scruples, by setting you at liberty, and
indulging you in the lawful means of continuing your lineage. In
the latter case, if the Lady Isabella can be brought to consent--"
Manfred, who concluded that he had either over-reached the good
man, or that his first warmth had been but a tribute paid to
appearance, was overjoyed at this sudden turn, and repeated the
most magnificent promises, if he should succeed by the Friar's
mediation. The well-meaning priest suffered him to deceive
himself, fully determined to traverse his views, instead of
"Since we now understand one another," resumed the Prince, "I
expect, Father, that you satisfy me in one point. Who is the youth
that I found in the vault? He must have been privy to Isabella's
flight: tell me truly, is he her lover? or is he an agent for
another's passion? I have often suspected Isabella's indifference
to my son: a thousand circumstances crowd on my mind that confirm
that suspicion. She herself was so conscious of it, that while I
discoursed her in the gallery, she outran my suspicious, and
endeavoured to justify herself from coolness to Conrad."
The Friar, who knew nothing of the youth, but what he had learnt
occasionally from the Princess, ignorant what was become of him,
and not sufficiently reflecting on the impetuosity of Manfred's
temper, conceived that it might not be amiss to sow the seeds of
jealousy in his mind: they might be turned to some use hereafter,
either by prejudicing the Prince against Isabella, if he persisted
in that union or by diverting his attention to a wrong scent, and
employing his thoughts on a visionary intrigue, prevent his
engaging in any new pursuit. With this unhappy policy, he answered
in a manner to confirm Manfred in the belief of some connection
between Isabella and the youth. The Prince, whose passions wanted
little fuel to throw them into a blaze, fell into a rage at the
idea of what the Friar suggested.
"I will fathom to the bottom of this intrigue," cried he; and
quitting Jerome abruptly, with a command to remain there till his
return, he hastened to the great hall of the castle, and ordered
the peasant to be brought before him.
"Thou hardened young impostor!" said the Prince, as soon as he saw
the youth; "what becomes of thy boasted veracity now? it was
Providence, was it, and the light of the moon, that discovered the
lock of the trap-door to thee? Tell me, audacious boy, who thou
art, and how long thou hast been acquainted with the Princess--and
take care to answer with less equivocation than thou didst last
night, or tortures shall wring the truth from thee."
The young man, perceiving that his share in the flight of the
Princess was discovered, and concluding that anything he should say
could no longer be of any service or detriment to her, replied -
"I am no impostor, my Lord, nor have I deserved opprobrious
language. I answered to every question your Highness put to me
last night with the same veracity that I shall speak now: and that
will not be from fear of your tortures, but because my soul abhors
a falsehood. Please to repeat your questions, my Lord; I am ready
to give you all the satisfaction in my power."
"You know my questions," replied the Prince, "and only want time to
prepare an evasion. Speak directly; who art thou? and how long
hast thou been known to the Princess?"
"I am a labourer at the next village," said the peasant; "my name
is Theodore. The Princess found me in the vault last night:
before that hour I never was in her presence."
"I may believe as much or as little as I please of this," said
Manfred; "but I will hear thy own story before I examine into the
truth of it. Tell me, what reason did the Princess give thee for
making her escape? thy life depends on thy answer."
"She told me," replied Theodore, "that she was on the brink of
destruction, and that if she could not escape from the castle, she
was in danger in a few moments of being made miserable for ever."
"And on this slight foundation, on a silly girl's report," said
Manfred, "thou didst hazard my displeasure?"
"I fear no man's displeasure," said Theodore, "when a woman in
distress puts herself under my protection."
During this examination, Matilda was going to the apartment of
Hippolita. At the upper end of the hall, where Manfred sat, was a
boarded gallery with latticed windows, through which Matilda and
Bianca were to pass. Hearing her father's voice, and seeing the
servants assembled round him, she stopped to learn the occasion.
The prisoner soon drew her attention: the steady and composed
manner in which he answered, and the gallantry of his last reply,
which were the first words she heard distinctly, interested her in
his flavour. His person was noble, handsome, and commanding, even
in that situation: but his countenance soon engrossed her whole
"Heavens! Bianca," said the Princess softly, "do I dream? or is
not that youth the exact resemblance of Alfonso's picture in the
She could say no more, for her father's voice grew louder at every
"This bravado," said he, "surpasses all thy former insolence. Thou
shalt experience the wrath with which thou darest to trifle. Seize
him," continued Manfred, "and 'bind him--the first news the
Princess hears of her champion shall be, that he has lost his head
for her sake."
"The injustice of which thou art guilty towards me," said Theodore,
"convinces me that I have done a good deed in delivering the
Princess from thy tyranny. May she be happy, whatever becomes of
"This is a lover!" cried Manfred in a rage: "a peasant within
sight of death is not animated by such sentiments. Tell me, tell
me, rash boy, who thou art, or the rack shall force thy secret from
"Thou hast threatened me with death already," said the youth, "for
the truth I have told thee: if that is all the encouragement I am
to expect for sincerity, I am not tempted to indulge thy vain
"Then thou wilt not speak?" said Manfred.
"I will not," replied he.
"Bear him away into the courtyard," said Manfred; "I will see his
head this instant severed from his body."
Matilda fainted at hearing those words. Bianca shrieked, and cried
"Help! help! the Princess is dead!" Manfred started at this
ejaculation, and demanded what was the matter! The young peasant,
who heard it too, was struck with horror, and asked eagerly the
same question; but Manfred ordered him to be hurried into the
court, and kept there for execution, till he had informed himself
of the cause of Bianca's shrieks. When he learned the meaning, he
treated it as a womanish panic, and ordering Matilda to be carried
to her apartment, he rushed into the court, and calling for one of
his guards, bade Theodore kneel down, and prepare to receive the
The undaunted youth received the bitter sentence with a resignation
that touched every heart but Manfred's. He wished earnestly to
know the meaning of the words he had heard relating to the
Princess; but fearing to exasperate the tyrant more against her, he
desisted. The only boon he deigned to ask was, that he might be
permitted to have a confessor, and make his peace with heaven.
Manfred, who hoped by the confessor's means to come at the youth's
history, readily granted his request; and being convinced that
Father Jerome was now in his interest, he ordered him to be called
and shrive the prisoner. The holy man, who had little foreseen the
catastrophe that his imprudence occasioned, fell on his knees to
the Prince, and adjured him in the most solemn manner not to shed
innocent blood. He accused himself in the bitterest terms for his
indiscretion, endeavoured to disculpate the youth, and left no
method untried to soften the tyrant's rage. Manfred, more incensed
than appeased by Jerome's intercession, whose retraction now made
him suspect he had been imposed upon by both, commanded the Friar
to do his duty, telling him he would not allow the prisoner many
minutes for confession.
"Nor do I ask many, my Lord," said the unhappy young man. "My
sins, thank heaven, have not been numerous; nor exceed what might
be expected at my years. Dry your tears, good Father, and let us
despatch. This is a bad world; nor have I had cause to leave it
"Oh wretched youth!" said Jerome; "how canst thou bear the sight of
me with patience? I am thy murderer! it is I have brought this
dismal hour upon thee!"
"I forgive thee from my soul," said the youth, "as I hope heaven
will pardon me. Hear my confession, Father; and give me thy
"How can I prepare thee for thy passage as I ought?" said Jerome.
"Thou canst not be saved without pardoning thy foes--and canst thou
forgive that impious man there?"
"I can," said Theodore; "I do."
"And does not this touch thee, cruel Prince?" said the Friar.
"I sent for thee to confess him," said Manfred, sternly; "not to
plead for him. Thou didst first incense me against him--his blood
be upon thy head!"
"It will! it will!" said the good main, in an agony of sorrow.
"Thou and I must never hope to go where this blessed youth is
"Despatch!" said Manfred; "I am no more to be moved by the whining
of priests than by the shrieks of women."
"What!" said the youth; "is it possible that my fate could have
occasioned what I heard! Is the Princess then again in thy power?"
"Thou dost but remember me of my wrath," said Manfred. "Prepare
thee, for this moment is thy last."
The youth, who felt his indignation rise, and who was touched with
the sorrow which he saw he had infused into all the spectators, as
well as into the Friar, suppressed his emotions, and putting off
his doublet, and unbuttoning, his collar, knelt down to his
prayers. As he stooped, his shirt slipped down below his shoulder,
and discovered the mark of a bloody arrow.
"Gracious heaven!" cried the holy man, starting; "what do I see?
It is my child! my Theodore!"
The passions that ensued must be conceived; they cannot be painted.
The tears of the assistants were suspended by wonder, rather than
stopped by joy. They seemed to inquire in the eyes of their Lord
what they ought to feel. Surprise, doubt, tenderness, respect,
succeeded each other in the countenance of the youth. He received
with modest submission the effusion of the old man's tears and
embraces. Yet afraid of giving a loose to hope, and suspecting
from what had passed the inflexibility of Manfred's temper, he cast
a glance towards the Prince, as if to say, canst thou be unmoved at
such a scene as this?
Manfred's heart was capable of being touched. He forgot his anger
in his astonishment; yet his pride forbad his owning himself
affected. He even doubted whether this discovery was not a
contrivance of the Friar to save the youth.
"What may this mean?" said he. "How can he be thy son? Is it
consistent with thy profession or reputed sanctity to avow a
peasant's offspring for the fruit of thy irregular amours!"
"Oh, God!" said the holy man, "dost thou question his being mine?
Could I feel the anguish I do if I were not his father? Spare him!
good Prince! spare him! and revile me as thou pleasest."
"Spare him! spare him!" cried the attendants; "for this good man's
"Peace!" said Manfred, sternly. "I must know more ere I am
disposed to pardon. A Saint's bastard may be no saint himself."
"Injurious Lord!" said Theodore, "add not insult to cruelty. If I
am this venerable man's son, though no Prince, as thou art, know
the blood that flows in my veins--"
"Yes," said the Friar, interrupting him, "his blood is noble; nor
is he that abject thing, my Lord, you speak him. He is my lawful
son, and Sicily can boast of few houses more ancient than that of
Falconara. But alas! my Lord, what is blood! what is nobility! We
are all reptiles, miserable, sinful creatures. It is piety alone
that can distinguish us from the dust whence we sprung, and whither
we must return."
"Truce to your sermon," said Manfred; "you forget you are no longer
Friar Jerome, but the Count of Falconara. Let me know your
history; you will have time to moralise hereafter, if you should
not happen to obtain the grace of that sturdy criminal there."
"Mother of God!" said the Friar, "is it possible my Lord can refuse
a father the life of his only, his long-lost, child! Trample me,
my Lord, scorn, afflict me, accept my life for his, but spare my
"Thou canst feel, then," said Manfred, "what it is to lose an only
son! A little hour ago thou didst preach up resignation to me: MY
house, if fate so pleased, must perish--but the Count of Falconara-
"Alas! my Lord," said Jerome, "I confess I have offended; but
aggravate not an old man's sufferings! I boast not of my family,
nor think of such vanities--it is nature, that pleads for this boy;
it is the memory of the dear woman that bore him. Is she,
Theodore, is she dead?"
"Her soul has long been with the blessed," said Theodore.
"Oh! how?" cried Jerome, "tell me--no--she is happy! Thou art all
my care now!--Most dread Lord! will you--will you grant me my poor
"Return to thy convent," answered Manfred; "conduct the Princess
hither; obey me in what else thou knowest; and I promise thee the
life of thy son."
"Oh! my Lord," said Jerome, "is my honesty the price I must pay for
this dear youth's safety?"
"For me!" cried Theodore. "Let me die a thousand deaths, rather
than stain thy conscience. What is it the tyrant would exact of
thee? Is the Princess still safe from his power? Protect her,
thou venerable old man; and let all the weight of his wrath fall on
Jerome endeavoured to check the impetuosity of the youth; and ere
Manfred could reply, the trampling of horses was heard, and a
brazen trumpet, which hung without the gate of the castle, was
suddenly sounded. At the same instant the sable plumes on the
enchanted helmet, which still remained at the other end of the
court, were tempestuously agitated, and nodded thrice, as if bowed
Back to Full Books