The Castle of Otranto
Part 2 out of 3
by some invisible wearer.
Manfred's heart misgave him when he beheld the plumage on the
miraculous casque shaken in concert with the sounding of the brazen
"Father!" said he to Jerome, whom he now ceased to treat as Count
of Falconara, "what mean these portents? If I have offended--" the
plumes were shaken with greater violence than before.
"Unhappy Prince that I am," cried Manfred. "Holy Father! will you
not assist me with your prayers?"
"My Lord," replied Jerome, "heaven is no doubt displeased with your
mockery of its servants. Submit yourself to the church; and cease
to persecute her ministers. Dismiss this innocent youth; and learn
to respect the holy character I wear. Heaven will not be trifled
with: you see--" the trumpet sounded again.
"I acknowledge I have been too hasty," said Manfred. "Father, do
you go to the wicket, and demand who is at the gate."
"Do you grant me the life of Theodore?" replied the Friar.
"I do," said Manfred; "but inquire who is without!"
Jerome, falling on the neck of his son, discharged a flood of
tears, that spoke the fulness of his soul.
"You promised to go to the gate," said Manfred.
"I thought," replied the Friar, "your Highness would excuse my
thanking you first in this tribute of my heart."
"Go, dearest Sir," said Theodore; "obey the Prince. I do not
deserve that you should delay his satisfaction for me."
Jerome, inquiring who was without, was answered, "A Herald."
"From whom?" said he.
"From the Knight of the Gigantic Sabre," said the Herald; "and I
must speak with the usurper of Otranto."
Jerome returned to the Prince, and did not fail to repeat the
message in the very words it had been uttered. The first sounds
struck Manfred with terror; but when he heard himself styled
usurper, his rage rekindled, and all his courage revived.
"Usurper!--insolent villain!" cried he; "who dares to question my
title? Retire, Father; this is no business for Monks: I will meet
this presumptuous man myself. Go to your convent and prepare the
Princess's return. Your son shall be a hostage for your fidelity:
his life depends on your obedience."
"Good heaven! my Lord," cried Jerome, "your Highness did but this
instant freely pardon my child--have you so soon forgot the
interposition of heaven?"
"Heaven," replied Manfred, "does not send Heralds to question the
title of a lawful Prince. I doubt whether it even notifies its
will through Friars--but that is your affair, not mine. At present
you know my pleasure; and it is not a saucy Herald that shall save
your son, if you do not return with the Princess."
It was in vain for the holy man to reply. Manfred commanded him to
be conducted to the postern-gate, and shut out from the castle.
And he ordered some of his attendants to carry Theodore to the top
of the black tower, and guard him strictly; scarce permitting the
father and son to exchange a hasty embrace at parting. He then
withdrew to the hall, and seating himself in princely state,
ordered the Herald to be admitted to his presence.
"Well! thou insolent!" said the Prince, "what wouldst thou with
"I come," replied he, "to thee, Manfred, usurper of the
principality of Otranto, from the renowned and invincible Knight,
the Knight of the Gigantic Sabre: in the name of his Lord,
Frederic, Marquis of Vicenza, he demands the Lady Isabella,
daughter of that Prince, whom thou hast basely and traitorously got
into thy power, by bribing her false guardians during his absence;
and he requires thee to resign the principality of Otranto, which
thou hast usurped from the said Lord Frederic, the nearest of blood
to the last rightful Lord, Alfonso the Good. If thou dost not
instantly comply with these just demands, he defies thee to single
combat to the last extremity." And so saying the Herald cast down
"And where is this braggart who sends thee?" said Manfred.
"At the distance of a league," said the Herald: "he comes to make
good his Lord's claim against thee, as he is a true knight, and
thou an usurper and ravisher."
Injurious as this challenge was, Manfred reflected that it was not
his interest to provoke the Marquis. He knew how well founded the
claim of Frederic was; nor was this the first time he had heard of
it. Frederic's ancestors had assumed the style of Princes of
Otranto, from the death of Alfonso the Good without issue; but
Manfred, his father, and grandfather, had been too powerful for the
house of Vicenza to dispossess them. Frederic, a martial and
amorous young Prince, had married a beautiful young lady, of whom
he was enamoured, and who had died in childbed of Isabella. Her
death affected him so much that he had taken the cross and gone to
the Holy Land, where he was wounded in an engagement against the
infidels, made prisoner, and reported to be dead. When the news
reached Manfred's ears, he bribed the guardians of the Lady
Isabella to deliver her up to him as a bride for his son Conrad, by
which alliance he had proposed to unite the claims of the two
houses. This motive, on Conrad's death, had co-operated to make
him so suddenly resolve on espousing her himself; and the same
reflection determined him now to endeavour at obtaining the consent
of Frederic to this marriage. A like policy inspired him with the
thought of inviting Frederic's champion into the castle, lest he
should be informed of Isabella's flight, which he strictly enjoined
his domestics not to disclose to any of the Knight's retinue.
"Herald," said Manfred, as soon as he had digested these
reflections, "return to thy master, and tell him, ere we liquidate
our differences by the sword, Manfred would hold some converse with
him. Bid him welcome to my castle, where by my faith, as I am a
true Knight, he shall have courteous reception, and full security
for himself and followers. If we cannot adjust our quarrel by
amicable means, I swear he shall depart in safety, and shall have
full satisfaction according to the laws of arms: So help me God
and His holy Trinity!"
The Herald made three obeisances and retired.
During this interview Jerome's mind was agitated by a thousand
contrary passions. He trembled for the life of his son, and his
first thought was to persuade Isabella to return to the castle.
Yet he was scarce less alarmed at the thought of her union with
Manfred. He dreaded Hippolita's unbounded submission to the will
of her Lord; and though he did not doubt but he could alarm her
piety not to consent to a divorce, if he could get access to her;
yet should Manfred discover that the obstruction came from him, it
might be equally fatal to Theodore. He was impatient to know
whence came the Herald, who with so little management had
questioned the title of Manfred: yet he did not dare absent
himself from the convent, lest Isabella should leave it, and her
flight be imputed to him. He returned disconsolately to the
monastery, uncertain on what conduct to resolve. A Monk, who met
him in the porch and observed his melancholy air, said -
"Alas! brother, is it then true that we have lost our excellent
The holy man started, and cried, "What meanest thou, brother? I
come this instant from the castle, and left her in perfect health."
"Martelli," replied the other Friar, "passed by the convent but a
quarter of an hour ago on his way from the castle, and reported
that her Highness was dead. All our brethren are gone to the
chapel to pray for her happy transit to a better life, and willed
me to wait thy arrival. They know thy holy attachment to that good
Lady, and are anxious for the affliction it will cause in thee--
indeed we have all reason to weep; she was a mother to our house.
But this life is but a pilgrimage; we must not murmur--we shall all
follow her! May our end be like hers!"
"Good brother, thou dreamest," said Jerome. "I tell thee I come
from the castle, and left the Princess well. Where is the Lady
"Poor Gentlewoman!" replied the Friar; "I told her the sad news,
and offered her spiritual comfort. I reminded her of the
transitory condition of mortality, and advised her to take the
veil: I quoted the example of the holy Princess Sanchia of
"Thy zeal was laudable," said Jerome, impatiently; "but at present
it was unnecessary: Hippolita is well--at least I trust in the
Lord she is; I heard nothing to the contrary--yet, methinks, the
Prince's earnestness--Well, brother, but where is the Lady
"I know not," said the Friar; "she wept much, and said she would
retire to her chamber."
Jerome left his comrade abruptly, and hastened to the Princess, but
she was not in her chamber. He inquired of the domestics of the
convent, but could learn no news of her. He searched in vain
throughout the monastery and the church, and despatched messengers
round the neighbourhood, to get intelligence if she had been seen;
but to no purpose. Nothing could equal the good man's perplexity.
He judged that Isabella, suspecting Manfred of having precipitated
his wife's death, had taken the alarm, and withdrawn herself to
some more secret place of concealment. This new flight would
probably carry the Prince's fury to the height. The report of
Hippolita's death, though it seemed almost incredible, increased
his consternation; and though Isabella's escape bespoke her
aversion of Manfred for a husband, Jerome could feel no comfort
from it, while it endangered the life of his son. He determined to
return to the castle, and made several of his brethren accompany
him to attest his innocence to Manfred, and, if necessary, join
their intercession with his for Theodore.
The Prince, in the meantime, had passed into the court, and ordered
the gates of the castle to be flung open for the reception of the
stranger Knight and his train. In a few minutes the cavalcade
arrived. First came two harbingers with wands. Next a herald,
followed by two pages and two trumpets. Then a hundred foot-
guards. These were attended by as many horse. After them fifty
footmen, clothed in scarlet and black, the colours of the Knight.
Then a led horse. Two heralds on each side of a gentleman on
horseback bearing a banner with the arms of Vicenza and Otranto
quarterly--a circumstance that much offended Manfred--but he
stifled his resentment. Two more pages. The Knight's confessor
telling his beads. Fifty more footmen clad as before. Two Knights
habited in complete armour, their beavers down, comrades to the
principal Knight. The squires of the two Knights, carrying their
shields and devices. The Knight's own squire. A hundred gentlemen
bearing an enormous sword, and seeming to faint under the weight of
it. The Knight himself on a chestnut steed, in complete armour,
his lance in the rest, his face entirely concealed by his vizor,
which was surmounted by a large plume of scarlet and black
feathers. Fifty foot-guards with drums and trumpets closed the
procession, which wheeled off to the right and left to make room
for the principal Knight.
As soon as he approached the gate he stopped; and the herald
advancing, read again the words of the challenge. Manfred's eyes
were fixed on the gigantic sword, and he scarce seemed to attend to
the cartel: but his attention was soon diverted by a tempest of
wind that rose behind him. He turned and beheld the Plumes of the
enchanted helmet agitated in the same extraordinary manner as
before. It required intrepidity like Manfred's not to sink under a
concurrence of circumstances that seemed to announce his fate. Yet
scorning in the presence of strangers to betray the courage he had
always manifested, he said boldly -
"Sir Knight, whoever thou art, I bid thee welcome. If thou art of
mortal mould, thy valour shall meet its equal: and if thou art a
true Knight, thou wilt scorn to employ sorcery to carry thy point.
Be these omens from heaven or hell, Manfred trusts to the
righteousness of his cause and to the aid of St. Nicholas, who has
ever protected his house. Alight, Sir Knight, and repose thyself.
To-morrow thou shalt have a fair field, and heaven befriend the
The Knight made no reply, but dismounting, was conducted by Manfred
to the great hall of the castle. As they traversed the court, the
Knight stopped to gaze on the miraculous casque; and kneeling down,
seemed to pray inwardly for some minutes. Rising, he made a sign
to the Prince to lead on. As soon as they entered the hall,
Manfred proposed to the stranger to disarm, but the Knight shook
his head in token of refusal.
"Sir Knight," said Manfred, "this is not courteous, but by my good
faith I will not cross thee, nor shalt thou have cause to complain
of the Prince of Otranto. No treachery is designed on my part; I
hope none is intended on thine; here take my gage" (giving him his
ring): "your friends and you shall enjoy the laws of hospitality.
Rest here until refreshments are brought. I will but give orders
for the accommodation of your train, and return to you." The three
Knights bowed as accepting his courtesy. Manfred directed the
stranger's retinue to be conducted to an adjacent hospital, founded
by the Princess Hippolita for the reception of pilgrims. As they
made the circuit of the court to return towards the gate, the
gigantic sword burst from the supporters, and falling to the ground
opposite to the helmet, remained immovable. Manfred, almost
hardened to preternatural appearances, surmounted the shock of this
new prodigy; and returning to the hall, where by this time the
feast was ready, he invited his silent guests to take their places.
Manfred, however ill his heart was at ease, endeavoured to inspire
the company with mirth. He put several questions to them, but was
answered only by signs. They raised their vizors but sufficiently
to feed themselves, and that sparingly.
"Sirs" said the Prince, "ye are the first guests I ever treated
within these walls who scorned to hold any intercourse with me:
nor has it oft been customary, I ween, for princes to hazard their
state and dignity against strangers and mutes. You say you come in
the name of Frederic of Vicenza; I have ever heard that he was a
gallant and courteous Knight; nor would he, I am bold to say, think
it beneath him to mix in social converse with a Prince that is his
equal, and not unknown by deeds in arms. Still ye are silent--
well! be it as it may--by the laws of hospitality and chivalry ye
are masters under this roof: ye shall do your pleasure. But come,
give me a goblet of wine; ye will not refuse to pledge me to the
healths of your fair mistresses."
The principal Knight sighed and crossed himself, and was rising
from the board.
"Sir Knight," said Manfred, "what I said was but in sport. I shall
constrain you in nothing: use your good liking. Since mirth is
not your mood, let us be sad. Business may hit your fancies
better. Let us withdraw, and hear if what I have to unfold may be
better relished than the vain efforts I have made for your
Manfred then conducting the three Knights into an inner chamber,
shut the door, and inviting them to be seated, began thus,
addressing himself to the chief personage:-
"You come, Sir Knight, as I understand, in the name of the Marquis
of Vicenza, to re-demand the Lady Isabella, his daughter, who has
been contracted in the face of Holy Church to my son, by the
consent of her legal guardians; and to require me to resign my
dominions to your Lord, who gives himself for the nearest of blood
to Prince Alfonso, whose soul God rest! I shall speak to the
latter article of your demands first. You must know, your Lord
knows, that I enjoy the principality of Otranto from my father, Don
Manuel, as he received it from his father, Don Ricardo. Alfonso,
their predecessor, dying childless in the Holy Land, bequeathed his
estates to my grandfather, Don Ricardo, in consideration of his
faithful services." The stranger shook his head.
"Sir Knight," said Manfred, warmly, "Ricardo was a valiant and
upright man; he was a pious man; witness his munificent foundation
of the adjoining church and two converts. He was peculiarly
patronised by St. Nicholas--my grandfather was incapable--I say,
Sir, Don Ricardo was incapable--excuse me, your interruption has
disordered me. I venerate the memory of my grandfather. Well,
Sirs, he held this estate; he held it by his good sword and by the
favour of St. Nicholas--so did my father; and so, Sirs, will I,
come what come will. But Frederic, your Lord, is nearest in blood.
I have consented to put my title to the issue of the sword. Does
that imply a vicious title? I might have asked, where is Frederic
your Lord? Report speaks him dead in captivity. You say, your
actions say, he lives--I question it not--I might, Sirs, I might--
but I do not. Other Princes would bid Frederic take his
inheritance by force, if he can: they would not stake their
dignity on a single combat: they would not submit it to the
decision of unknown mutes!--pardon me, gentlemen, I am too warm:
but suppose yourselves in my situation: as ye are stout Knights,
would it not move your choler to have your own and the honour of
your ancestors called in question?"
"But to the point. Ye require me to deliver up the Lady Isabella.
Sirs, I must ask if ye are authorised to receive her?"
The Knight nodded.
"Receive her," continued Manfred; "well, you are authorised to
receive her, but, gentle Knight, may I ask if you have full
The Knight nodded.
"'Tis well," said Manfred; "then hear what I have to offer. Ye
see, gentlemen, before you, the most unhappy of men!" (he began to
weep); "afford me your compassion; I am entitled to it, indeed I
am. Know, I have lost my only hope, my joy, the support of my
house--Conrad died yester morning."
The Knights discovered signs of surprise.
"Yes, Sirs, fate has disposed of my son. Isabella is at liberty."
"Do you then restore her?" cried the chief Knight, breaking
"Afford me your patience," said Manfred. "I rejoice to find, by
this testimony of your goodwill, that this matter may be adjusted
without blood. It is no interest of mine dictates what little I
have farther to say. Ye behold in me a man disgusted with the
world: the loss of my son has weaned me from earthly cares. Power
and greatness have no longer any charms in my eyes. I wished to
transmit the sceptre I had received from my ancestors with honour
to my son--but that is over! Life itself is so indifferent to me,
that I accepted your defiance with joy. A good Knight cannot go to
the grave with more satisfaction than when falling in his vocation:
whatever is the will of heaven, I submit; for alas! Sirs, I am a
man of many sorrows. Manfred is no object of envy, but no doubt
you are acquainted with my story."
The Knight made signs of ignorance, and seemed curious to have
"Is it possible, Sirs," continued the Prince, "that my story should
be a secret to you? Have you heard nothing relating to me and the
They shook their heads.
"No! Thus, then, Sirs, it is. You think me ambitious: ambition,
alas! is composed of more rugged materials. If I were ambitious, I
should not for so many years have been a prey to all the hell of
conscientious scruples. But I weary your patience: I will be
brief. Know, then, that I have long been troubled in mind on my
union with the Princess Hippolita. Oh! Sirs, if ye were acquainted
with that excellent woman! if ye knew that I adore her like a
mistress, and cherish her as a friend--but man was not born for
perfect happiness! She shares my scruples, and with her consent I
have brought this matter before the church, for we are related
within the forbidden degrees. I expect every hour the definitive
sentence that must separate us for ever--I am sure you feel for me-
-I see you do--pardon these tears!"
The Knights gazed on each other, wondering where this would end.
Manfred continued -
"The death of my son betiding while my soul was under this anxiety,
I thought of nothing but resigning my dominions, and retiring for
ever from the sight of mankind. My only difficulty was to fix on a
successor, who would be tender of my people, and to dispose of the
Lady Isabella, who is dear to me as my own blood. I was willing to
restore the line of Alfonso, even in his most distant kindred. And
though, pardon me, I am satisfied it was his will that Ricardo's
lineage should take place of his own relations; yet where was I to
search for those relations? I knew of none but Frederic, your
Lord; he was a captive to the infidels, or dead; and were he
living, and at home, would he quit the flourishing State of Vicenza
for the inconsiderable principality of Otranto? If he would not,
could I bear the thought of seeing a hard, unfeeling, Viceroy set
over my poor faithful people? for, Sirs, I love my people, and
thank heaven am beloved by them. But ye will ask whither tends
this long discourse? Briefly, then, thus, Sirs. Heaven in your
arrival seems to point out a remedy for these difficulties and my
misfortunes. The Lady Isabella is at liberty; I shall soon be so.
I would submit to anything for the good of my people. Were it not
the best, the only way to extinguish the feuds between our
families, if I was to take the Lady Isabella to wife? You start.
But though Hippolita's virtues will ever be dear to me, a Prince
must not consider himself; he is born for his people." A servant
at that instant entering the chamber apprised Manfred that Jerome
and several of his brethren demanded immediate access to him.
The Prince, provoked at this interruption, and fearing that the
Friar would discover to the strangers that Isabella had taken
sanctuary, was going to forbid Jerome's entrance. But recollecting
that he was certainly arrived to notify the Princess's return,
Manfred began to excuse himself to the Knights for leaving them for
a few moments, but was prevented by the arrival of the Friars.
Manfred angrily reprimanded them for their intrusion, and would
have forced them back from the chamber; but Jerome was too much
agitated to be repulsed. He declared aloud the flight of Isabella,
with protestations of his own innocence.
Manfred, distracted at the news, and not less at its coming to the
knowledge of the strangers, uttered nothing but incoherent
sentences, now upbraiding the Friar, now apologising to the
Knights, earnest to know what was become of Isabella, yet equally
afraid of their knowing; impatient to pursue her, yet dreading to
have them join in the pursuit. He offered to despatch messengers
in quest of her, but the chief Knight, no longer keeping silence,
reproached Manfred in bitter terms for his dark and ambiguous
dealing, and demanded the cause of Isabella's first absence from
the castle. Manfred, casting a stern look at Jerome, implying a
command of silence, pretended that on Conrad's death he had placed
her in sanctuary until he could determine how to dispose of her.
Jerome, who trembled for his son's life, did not dare contradict
this falsehood, but one of his brethren, not under the same
anxiety, declared frankly that she had fled to their church in the
preceding night. The Prince in vain endeavoured to stop this
discovery, which overwhelmed him with shame and confusion. The
principal stranger, amazed at the contradictions he heard, and more
than half persuaded that Manfred had secreted the Princess,
notwithstanding the concern he expressed at her flight, rushing to
the door, said -
"Thou traitor Prince! Isabella shall be found."
Manfred endeavoured to hold him, but the other Knights assisting
their comrade, he broke from the Prince, and hastened into the
court, demanding his attendants. Manfred, finding it vain to
divert him from the pursuit, offered to accompany him and summoning
his attendants, and taking Jerome and some of the Friars to guide
them, they issued from the castle; Manfred privately giving orders
to have the Knight's company secured, while to the knight he
affected to despatch a messenger to require their assistance.
The company had no sooner quitted the castle than Matilda, who felt
herself deeply interested for the young peasant, since she had seen
him condemned to death in the hall, and whose thoughts had been
taken up with concerting measures to save him, was informed by some
of the female attendants that Manfred had despatched all his men
various ways in pursuit of Isabella. He had in his hurry given
this order in general terms, not meaning to extend it to the guard
he had set upon Theodore, but forgetting it. The domestics,
officious to obey so peremptory a Prince, and urged by their own
curiosity and love of novelty to join in any precipitate chase, had
to a man left the castle. Matilda disengaged herself from her
women, stole up to the black tower, and unbolting the door,
presented herself to the astonished Theodore.
"Young man," said she, "though filial duty and womanly modesty
condemn the step I am taking, yet holy charity, surmounting all
other ties, justifies this act. Fly; the doors of thy prison are
open: my father and his domestics are absent; but they may soon
return. Be gone in safety; and may the angels of heaven direct thy
"Thou art surely one of those angels!" said the enraptured
Theodore: "none but a blessed saint could speak, could act--could
look--like thee. May I not know the name of my divine protectress?
Methought thou namedst thy father. Is it possible? Can Manfred's
blood feel holy pity! Lovely Lady, thou answerest not. But how
art thou here thyself? Why dost thou neglect thy own safety, and
waste a thought on a wretch like Theodore? Let us fly together:
the life thou bestowest shall be dedicated to thy defence."
"Alas! thou mistakest," said Matilda, signing: "I am Manfred's
daughter, but no dangers await me."
"Amazement!" said Theodore; "but last night I blessed myself for
yielding thee the service thy gracious compassion so charitably
returns me now."
"Still thou art in an error," said the Princess; "but this is no
time for explanation. Fly, virtuous youth, while it is in my power
to save thee: should my father return, thou and I both should
indeed have cause to tremble."
"How!" said Theodore; "thinkest thou, charming maid, that I will
accept of life at the hazard of aught calamitous to thee? Better I
endured a thousand deaths."
"I run no risk," said Matilda, "but by thy delay. Depart; it
cannot be known that I have assisted thy flight."
"Swear by the saints above," said Theodore, "that thou canst not be
suspected; else here I vow to await whatever can befall me."
"Oh! thou art too generous," said Matilda; "but rest assured that
no suspicion can alight on me."
"Give me thy beauteous hand in token that thou dost not deceive
me," said Theodore; "and let me bathe it with the warm tears of
"Forbear!" said the Princess; "this must not be."
"Alas!" said Theodore, "I have never known but calamity until this
hour--perhaps shall never know other fortune again: suffer the
chaste raptures of holy gratitude: 'tis my soul would print its
effusions on thy hand."
"Forbear, and be gone," said Matilda. "How would Isabella approve
of seeing thee at my feet?"
"Who is Isabella?" said the young man with surprise.
"Ah, me! I fear," said the Princess, "I am serving a deceitful
one. Hast thou forgot thy curiosity this morning?"
"Thy looks, thy actions, all thy beauteous self seem an emanation
of divinity," said Theodore; "but thy words are dark and
mysterious. Speak, Lady; speak to thy servant's comprehension."
"Thou understandest but too well!" said Matilda; "but once more I
command thee to be gone: thy blood, which I may preserve, will be
on my head, if I waste the time in vain discourse."
"I go, Lady," said Theodore, "because it is thy will, and because I
would not bring the grey hairs of my father with sorrow to the
grave. Say but, adored Lady, that I have thy gentle pity."
"Stay," said Matilda; "I will conduct thee to the subterraneous
vault by which Isabella escaped; it will lead thee to the church of
St. Nicholas, where thou mayst take sanctuary."
"What!" said Theodore, "was it another, and not thy lovely self
that I assisted to find the subterraneous passage?"
"It was," said Matilda; "but ask no more; I tremble to see thee
still abide here; fly to the sanctuary."
"To sanctuary," said Theodore; "no, Princess; sanctuaries are for
helpless damsels, or for criminals. Theodore's soul is free from
guilt, nor will wear the appearance of it. Give me a sword, Lady,
and thy father shall learn that Theodore scorns an ignominious
"Rash youth!" said Matilda; "thou wouldst not dare to lift thy
presumptuous arm against the Prince of Otranto?"
"Not against thy father; indeed, I dare not," said Theodore.
"Excuse me, Lady; I had forgotten. But could I gaze on thee, and
remember thou art sprung from the tyrant Manfred! But he is thy
father, and from this moment my injuries are buried in oblivion."
A deep and hollow groan, which seemed to come from above, startled
the Princess and Theodore.
"Good heaven! we are overheard!" said the Princess. They listened;
but perceiving no further noise, they both concluded it the effect
of pent-up vapours. And the Princess, preceding Theodore softly,
carried him to her father's armoury, where, equipping him with a
complete suit, he was conducted by Matilda to the postern-gate.
"Avoid the town," said the Princess, "and all the western side of
the castle. 'Tis there the search must be making by Manfred and
the strangers; but hie thee to the opposite quarter. Yonder behind
that forest to the east is a chain of rocks, hollowed into a
labyrinth of caverns that reach to the sea coast. There thou mayst
lie concealed, till thou canst make signs to some vessel to put on
shore, and take thee off. Go! heaven be thy guide!--and sometimes
in thy prayers remember--Matilda!"
Theodore flung himself at her feet, and seizing her lily hand,
which with struggles she suffered him to kiss, he vowed on the
earliest opportunity to get himself knighted, and fervently
entreated her permission to swear himself eternally her knight.
Ere the Princess could reply, a clap of thunder was suddenly heard
that shook the battlements. Theodore, regardless of the tempest,
would have urged his suit: but the Princess, dismayed, retreated
hastily into the castle, and commanded the youth to be gone with an
air that would not be disobeyed. He sighed, and retired, but with
eyes fixed on the gate, until Matilda, closing it, put an end to an
interview, in which the hearts of both had drunk so deeply of a
passion, which both now tasted for the first time.
Theodore went pensively to the convent, to acquaint his father with
his deliverance. There he learned the absence of Jerome, and the
pursuit that was making after the Lady Isabella, with some
particulars of whose story he now first became acquainted. The
generous gallantry of his nature prompted him to wish to assist
her; but the Monks could lend him no lights to guess at the route
she had taken. He was not tempted to wander far in search of her,
for the idea of Matilda had imprinted itself so strongly on his
heart, that he could not bear to absent himself at much distance
from her abode. The tenderness Jerome had expressed for him
concurred to confirm this reluctance; and he even persuaded himself
that filial affection was the chief cause of his hovering between
the castle and monastery.
Until Jerome should return at night, Theodore at length determined
to repair to the forest that Matilda had pointed out to him.
Arriving there, he sought the gloomiest shades, as best suited to
the pleasing melancholy that reigned in his mind. In this mood he
roved insensibly to the caves which had formerly served as a
retreat to hermits, and were now reported round the country to be
haunted by evil spirits. He recollected to have heard this
tradition; and being of a brave and adventurous disposition, he
willingly indulged his curiosity in exploring the secret recesses
of this labyrinth. He had not penetrated far before he thought he
heard the steps of some person who seemed to retreat before him.
Theodore, though firmly grounded in all our holy faith enjoins to
be believed, had no apprehension that good men were abandoned
without cause to the malice of the powers of darkness. He thought
the place more likely to be infested by robbers than by those
infernal agents who are reported to molest and bewilder travellers.
He had long burned with impatience to approve his valour. Drawing
his sabre, he marched sedately onwards, still directing his steps
as the imperfect rustling sound before him led the way. The armour
he wore was a like indication to the person who avoided him.
Theodore, now convinced that he was not mistaken, redoubled his
pace, and evidently gained on the person that fled, whose haste
increasing, Theodore came up just as a woman fell breathless before
him. He hasted to raise her, but her terror was so great that he
apprehended she would faint in his arms. He used every gentle word
to dispel her alarms, and assured her that far from injuring, he
would defend her at the peril of his life. The Lady recovering her
spirits from his courteous demeanour, and gazing on her protector,
"Sure, I have heard that voice before!"
"Not to my knowledge," replied Theodore; "unless, as I conjecture,
thou art the Lady Isabella."
"Merciful heaven!" cried she. "Thou art not sent in quest of me,
art thou?" And saying those words, she threw herself at his feet,
and besought him not to deliver her up to Manfred.
"To Manfred!" cried Theodore--"no, Lady; I have once already
delivered thee from his tyranny, and it shall fare hard with me
now, but I will place thee out of the reach of his daring."
"Is it possible," said she, "that thou shouldst be the generous
unknown whom I met last night in the vault of the castle? Sure
thou art not a mortal, but my guardian angel. On my knees, let me
"Hold! gentle Princess," said Theodore, "nor demean thyself before
a poor and friendless young man. If heaven has selected me for thy
deliverer, it will accomplish its work, and strengthen my arm in
thy cause. But come, Lady, we are too near the mouth of the
cavern; let us seek its inmost recesses. I can have no
tranquillity till I have placed thee beyond the reach of danger."
"Alas! what mean you, sir?" said she. "Though all your actions are
noble, though your sentiments speak the purity of your soul, is it
fitting that I should accompany you alone into these perplexed
retreats? Should we be found together, what would a censorious
world think of my conduct?"
"I respect your virtuous delicacy," said Theodore; "nor do you
harbour a suspicion that wounds my honour. I meant to conduct you
into the most private cavity of these rocks, and then at the hazard
of my life to guard their entrance against every living thing.
Besides, Lady," continued he, drawing a deep sigh, "beauteous and
all perfect as your form is, and though my wishes are not guiltless
of aspiring, know, my soul is dedicated to another; and although--"
A sudden noise prevented Theodore from proceeding. They soon
distinguished these sounds -
"Isabella! what, ho! Isabella!" The trembling Princess relapsed
into her former agony of fear. Theodore endeavoured to encourage
her, but in vain. He assured her he would die rather than suffer
her to return under Manfred's power; and begging her to remain
concealed, he went forth to prevent the person in search of her
At the mouth of the cavern he found an armed Knight, discoursing
with a peasant, who assured him he had seen a lady enter the passes
of the rock. The Knight was preparing to seek her, when Theodore,
placing himself in his way, with his sword drawn, sternly forbad
him at his peril to advance.
"And who art thou, who darest to cross my way?" said the Knight,
"One who does not dare more than he will perform," said Theodore.
"I seek the Lady Isabella," said the Knight, "and understand she
has taken refuge among these rocks. Impede me not, or thou wilt
repent having provoked my resentment."
"Thy purpose is as odious as thy resentment is contemptible," said
Theodore. "Return whence thou camest, or we shall soon know whose
resentment is most terrible."
The stranger, who was the principal Knight that had arrived from
the Marquis of Vicenza, had galloped from Manfred as he was busied
in getting information of the Princess, and giving various orders
to prevent her falling into the power of the three Knights. Their
chief had suspected Manfred of being privy to the Princess's
absconding, and this insult from a man, who he concluded was
stationed by that Prince to secrete her, confirming his suspicions,
he made no reply, but discharging a blow with his sabre at
Theodore, would soon have removed all obstruction, if Theodore, who
took him for one of Manfred's captains, and who had no sooner given
the provocation than prepared to support it, had not received the
stroke on his shield. The valour that had so long been smothered
in his breast broke forth at once; he rushed impetuously on the
Knight, whose pride and wrath were not less powerful incentives to
hardy deeds. The combat was furious, but not long. Theodore
wounded the Knight in three several places, and at last disarmed
him as he fainted by the loss of blood.
The peasant, who had fled on the first onset, had given the alarm
to some of Manfred's domestics, who, by his orders, were dispersed
through the forest in pursuit of Isabella. They came up as the
Knight fell, whom they soon discovered to be the noble stranger.
Theodore, notwithstanding his hatred to Manfred, could not behold
the victory he had gained without emotions of pity and generosity.
But he was more touched when he learned the quality of his
adversary, and was informed that he was no retainer, but an enemy,
of Manfred. He assisted the servants of the latter in disarming
the Knight, and in endeavouring to stanch the blood that flowed
from his wounds. The Knight recovering his speech, said, in a
faint and faltering voice -
"Generous foe, we have both been in an error. I took thee for an
instrument of the tyrant; I perceive thou hast made the like
mistake. It is too late for excuses. I faint. If Isabella is at
hand--call her--I have important secrets to--"
"He is dying!" said one of the attendants; "has nobody a crucifix
about them? Andrea, do thou pray over him."
"Fetch some water," said Theodore, "and pour it down his throat,
while I hasten to the Princess."
Saying this, he flew to Isabella, and in few words told her
modestly that he had been so unfortunate by mistake as to wound a
gentleman from her father's court, who wished, ere he died, to
impart something of consequence to her.
The Princess, who had been transported at hearing the voice of
Theodore, as he called to her to come forth, was astonished at what
she heard. Suffering herself to be conducted by Theodore, the new
proof of whose valour recalled her dispersed spirits, she came
where the bleeding Knight lay speechless on the ground. But her
fears returned when she beheld the domestics of Manfred. She would
again have fled if Theodore had not made her observe that they were
unarmed, and had not threatened them with instant death if they
should dare to seize the Princess.
The stranger, opening his eyes, and beholding a woman, said, "Art
thou--pray tell me truly--art thou Isabella of Vicenza?"
"I am," said she: "good heaven restore thee!"
"Then thou--then thou"--said the Knight, struggling for utterance-
-"seest--thy father. Give me one--"
"Oh! amazement! horror! what do I hear! what do I see!" cried
Isabella. "My father! You my father! How came you here, Sir?
For heaven's sake, speak! Oh! run for help, or he will expire!"
"'Tis most true," said the wounded Knight, exerting all his force;
"I am Frederic thy father. Yes, I came to deliver thee. It will
not be. Give me a parting kiss, and take--"
"Sir," said Theodore, "do not exhaust yourself; suffer us to convey
you to the castle."
"To the castle!" said Isabella. "Is there no help nearer than the
castle? Would you expose my father to the tyrant? If he goes
thither, I dare not accompany him; and yet, can I leave him!"
"My child," said Frederic, "it matters not for me whither I am
carried. A few minutes will place me beyond danger; but while I
have eyes to dote on thee, forsake me not, dear Isabella! This
brave Knight--I know not who he is--will protect thy innocence.
Sir, you will not abandon my child, will you?"
Theodore, shedding tears over his victim, and vowing to guard the
Princess at the expense of his life, persuaded Frederic to suffer
himself to be conducted to the castle. They placed him on a horse
belonging to one of the domestics, after binding up his wounds as
well as they were able. Theodore marched by his side; and the
afflicted Isabella, who could not bear to quit him, followed
The sorrowful troop no sooner arrived at the castle, than they were
met by Hippolita and Matilda, whom Isabella had sent one of the
domestics before to advertise of their approach. The ladies
causing Frederic to be conveyed into the nearest chamber, retired,
while the surgeons examined his wounds. Matilda blushed at seeing
Theodore and Isabella together; but endeavoured to conceal it by
embracing the latter, and condoling with her on her father's
mischance. The surgeons soon came to acquaint Hippolita that none
of the Marquis's wounds were dangerous; and that he was desirous of
seeing his daughter and the Princesses.
Theodore, under pretence of expressing his joy at being freed from
his apprehensions of the combat being fatal to Frederic, could not
resist the impulse of following Matilda. Her eyes were so often
cast down on meeting his, that Isabella, who regarded Theodore as
attentively as he gazed on Matilda, soon divined who the object was
that he had told her in the cave engaged his affections. While
this mute scene passed, Hippolita demanded of Frederic the cause of
his having taken that mysterious course for reclaiming his
daughter; and threw in various apologies to excuse her Lord for the
match contracted between their children.
Frederic, however incensed against Manfred, was not insensible to
the courtesy and benevolence of Hippolita: but he was still more
struck with the lovely form of Matilda. Wishing to detain them by
his bedside, he informed Hippolita of his story. He told her that,
while prisoner to the infidels, he had dreamed that his daughter,
of whom he had learned no news since his captivity, was detained in
a castle, where she was in danger of the most dreadful misfortunes:
and that if he obtained his liberty, and repaired to a wood near
Joppa, he would learn more. Alarmed at this dream, and incapable
of obeying the direction given by it, his chains became more
grievous than ever. But while his thoughts were occupied on the
means of obtaining his liberty, he received the agreeable news that
the confederate Princes who were warring in Palestine had paid his
ransom. He instantly set out for the wood that had been marked in
For three days he and his attendants had wandered in the forest
without seeing a human form: but on the evening of the third they
came to a cell, in which they found a venerable hermit in the
agonies of death. Applying rich cordials, they brought the
fainting man to his speech.
"My sons," said he, "I am bounden to your charity--but it is in
vain--I am going to my eternal rest--yet I die with the
satisfaction of performing the will of heaven. When first I
repaired to this solitude, after seeing my country become a prey to
unbelievers--it is alas! above fifty years since I was witness to
that dreadful scene! St. Nicholas appeared to me, and revealed a
secret, which he bade me never disclose to mortal man, but on my
death-bed. This is that tremendous hour, and ye are no doubt the
chosen warriors to whom I was ordered to reveal my trust. As soon
as ye have done the last offices to this wretched corse, dig under
the seventh tree on the left hand of this poor cave, and your pains
will--Oh! good heaven receive my soul!" With those words the
devout man breathed his last.
"By break of day," continued Frederic, "when we had committed the
holy relics to earth, we dug according to direction. But what was
our astonishment when about the depth of six feet we discovered an
enormous sabre--the very weapon yonder in the court. On the blade,
which was then partly out of the scabbard, though since closed by
our efforts in removing it, were written the following lines--no;
excuse me, Madam," added the Marquis, turning to Hippolita; "if I
forbear to repeat them: I respect your sex and rank, and would not
be guilty of offending your ear with sounds injurious to aught that
is dear to you."
He paused. Hippolita trembled. She did not doubt but Frederic was
destined by heaven to accomplish the fate that seemed to threaten
her house. Looking with anxious fondness at Matilda, a silent tear
stole down her cheek: but recollecting herself, she said -
"Proceed, my Lord; heaven does nothing in vain; mortals must
receive its divine behests with lowliness and submission. It is
our part to deprecate its wrath, or bow to its decrees. Repeat the
sentence, my Lord; we listen resigned."
Frederic was grieved that he had proceeded so far. The dignity and
patient firmness of Hippolita penetrated him with respect, and the
tender silent affection with which the Princess and her daughter
regarded each other, melted him almost to tears. Yet apprehensive
that his forbearance to obey would be more alarming, he repeated in
a faltering and low voice the following lines:
"Where'er a casque that suits this sword is found,
With perils is thy daughter compass'd round;
ALFONSO'S blood alone can save the maid,
And quiet a long restless Prince's shade."
"What is there in these lines," said Theodore impatiently, "that
affects these Princesses? Why were they to be shocked by a
mysterious delicacy, that has so little foundation?"
"Your words are rude, young man," said the Marquis; "and though
fortune has favoured you once--"
"My honoured Lord," said Isabella, who resented Theodore's warmth,
which she perceived was dictated by his sentiments for Matilda,
"discompose not yourself for the glosing of a peasant's son: he
forgets the reverence he owes you; but he is not accustomed--"
Hippolita, concerned at the heat that had arisen, checked Theodore
for his boldness, but with an air acknowledging his zeal; and
changing the conversation, demanded of Frederic where he had left
her Lord? As the Marquis was going to reply, they heard a noise
without, and rising to inquire the cause, Manfred, Jerome, and part
of the troop, who had met an imperfect rumour of what had happened,
entered the chamber. Manfred advanced hastily towards Frederic's
bed to condole with him on his misfortune, and to learn the
circumstances of the combat, when starting in an agony of terror
and amazement, he cried -
"Ha! what art thou? thou dreadful spectre! is my hour come?"
"My dearest, gracious Lord," cried Hippolita, clasping him in her
arms, "what is it you see! Why do you fix your eye-balls thus?"
"What!" cried Manfred breathless; "dost thou see nothing,
Hippolita? Is this ghastly phantom sent to me alone--to rue, who
"For mercy's sweetest self, my Lord," said Hippolita, "resume your
soul, command your reason. There is none here, but us, your
"What, is not that Alfonso?" cried Manfred. "Dost thou not see
him? can it be my brain's delirium?"
"This! my Lord," said Hippolita; "this is Theodore, the youth who
has been so unfortunate."
"Theodore!" said Manfred mournfully, and striking his forehead;
"Theodore or a phantom, he has unhinged the soul of Manfred. But
how comes he here? and how comes he in armour?"
"I believe he went in search of Isabella," said Hippolita.
"Of Isabella!" said Manfred, relapsing into rage; "yes, yes, that
is not doubtful -. But how did he escape from durance in which I
left him? Was it Isabella, or this hypocritical old Friar, that
procured his enlargement?"
"And would a parent be criminal, my Lord," said Theodore, "if he
meditated the deliverance of his child?"
Jerome, amazed to hear himself in a manner accused by his son, and
without foundation, knew not what to think. He could not
comprehend how Theodore had escaped, how he came to be armed, and
to encounter Frederic. Still he would not venture to ask any
questions that might tend to inflame Manfred's wrath against his
son. Jerome's silence convinced Manfred that he had contrived
"And is it thus, thou ungrateful old man," said the Prince,
addressing himself to the Friar, "that thou repayest mine and
Hippolita's bounties? And not content with traversing my heart's
nearest wishes, thou armest thy bastard, and bringest him into my
own castle to insult me!"
"My Lord," said Theodore, "you wrong my father: neither he nor I
are capable of harbouring a thought against your peace. Is it
insolence thus to surrender myself to your Highness's pleasure?"
added he, laying his sword respectfully at Manfred's feet. "Behold
my bosom; strike, my Lord, if you suspect that a disloyal thought
is lodged there. There is not a sentiment engraven on my heart
that does not venerate you and yours."
The grace and fervour with which Theodore uttered these words
interested every person present in his favour. Even Manfred was
touched--yet still possessed with his resemblance to Alfonso, his
admiration was dashed with secret horror.
"Rise," said he; "thy life is not my present purpose. But tell me
thy history, and how thou camest connected with this old traitor
"My Lord," said Jerome eagerly.
"Peace! impostor!" said Manfred; "I will not have him prompted."
"My Lord," said Theodore, "I want no assistance; my story is very
brief. I was carried at five years of age to Algiers with my
mother, who had been taken by corsairs from the coast of Sicily.
She died of grief in less than a twelvemonth;" the tears gushed
from Jerome's eyes, on whose countenance a thousand anxious
passions stood expressed. "Before she died," continued Theodore,
"she bound a writing about my arm under my garments, which told me
I was the son of the Count Falconara."
"It is most true," said Jerome; "I am that wretched father."
"Again I enjoin thee silence," said Manfred: "proceed."
"I remained in slavery," said Theodore, "until within these two
years, when attending on my master in his cruises, I was delivered
by a Christian vessel, which overpowered the pirate; and
discovering myself to the captain, he generously put me on shore in
Sicily; but alas! instead of finding a father, I learned that his
estate, which was situated on the coast, had, during his absence,
been laid waste by the Rover who had carried my mother and me into
captivity: that his castle had been burnt to the ground, and that
my father on his return had sold what remained, and was retired
into religion in the kingdom of Naples, but where no man could
inform me. Destitute and friendless, hopeless almost of attaining
the transport of a parent's embrace, I took the first opportunity
of setting sail for Naples, from whence, within these six days, I
wandered into this province, still supporting myself by the labour
of my hands; nor until yester-morn did I believe that heaven had
reserved any lot for me but peace of mind and contented poverty.
This, my Lord, is Theodore's story. I am blessed beyond my hope in
finding a father; I am unfortunate beyond my desert in having
incurred your Highness's displeasure."
He ceased. A murmur of approbation gently arose from the audience.
"This is not all," said Frederic; "I am bound in honour to add what
he suppresses. Though he is modest, I must be generous; he is one
of the bravest youths on Christian ground. He is warm too; and
from the short knowledge I have of him, I will pledge myself for
his veracity: if what he reports of himself were not true, he
would not utter it--and for me, youth, I honour a frankness which
becomes thy birth; but now, and thou didst offend me: yet the
noble blood which flows in thy veins, may well be allowed to boil
out, when it has so recently traced itself to its source. Come, my
Lord," (turning to Manfred), "if I can pardon him, surely you may;
it is not the youth's fault, if you took him for a spectre."
This bitter taunt galled the soul of Manfred.
"If beings from another world," replied he haughtily, "have power
to impress my mind with awe, it is more than living man can do; nor
could a stripling's arm."
"My Lord," interrupted Hippolita, "your guest has occasion for
repose: shall we not leave him to his rest?" Saying this, and
taking Manfred by the hand, she took leave of Frederic, and led the
The Prince, not sorry to quit a conversation which recalled to mind
the discovery he had made of his most secret sensations, suffered
himself to be conducted to his own apartment, after permitting
Theodore, though under engagement to return to the castle on the
morrow (a condition the young man gladly accepted), to retire with
his father to the convent. Matilda and Isabella were too much
occupied with their own reflections, and too little content with
each other, to wish for farther converse that night. They
separated each to her chamber, with more expressions of ceremony
and fewer of affection thou had passed between them since their
If they parted with small cordiality, they did but meet with
greater impatience, as soon as the sun was risen. Their minds were
in a situation that excluded sleep, and each recollected a thousand
questions which she wished she had put to the other overnight.
Matilda reflected that Isabella had been twice delivered by
Theodore in very critical situations, which she could not believe
accidental. His eyes, it was true, had been fixed on her in
Frederic's chamber; but that might have been to disguise his
passion for Isabella from the fathers of both. It were better to
clear this up. She wished to know the truth, lest she should wrong
her friend by entertaining a passion for Isabella's lover. Thus
jealousy prompted, and at the same time borrowed an excuse from
friendship to justify its curiosity.
Isabella, not less restless, had better foundation for her
suspicions. Both Theodore's tongue and eyes had told her his heart
was engaged; it was true--yet, perhaps, Matilda might not
correspond to his passion; she had ever appeared insensible to
love: all her thoughts were set on heaven.
"Why did I dissuade her?" said Isabella to herself; "I am punished
for my generosity; but when did they meet? where? It cannot be; I
have deceived myself; perhaps last night was the first time they
ever beheld each other; it must be some other object that has
prepossessed his affections--if it is, I am not so unhappy as I
thought; if it is not my friend Matilda--how! Can I stoop to wish
for the affection of a man, who rudely and unnecessarily acquainted
me with his indifference? and that at the very moment in which
common courtesy demanded at least expressions of civility. I will
go to my dear Matilda, who will confirm me in this becoming pride.
Man is false--I will advise with her on taking the veil: she will
rejoice to find me in this disposition; and I will acquaint her
that I no longer oppose her inclination for the cloister."
In this frame of mind, and determined to open her heart entirely to
Matilda, she went to that Princess's chamber, whom she found
already dressed, and leaning pensively on her arm. This attitude,
so correspondent to what she felt herself, revived Isabella's
suspicions, and destroyed the confidence she had purposed to place
in her friend. They blushed at meeting, and were too much novices
to disguise their sensations with address. After some unmeaning
questions and replies, Matilda demanded of Isabella the cause of
her flight? The latter, who had almost forgotten Manfred's
passion, so entirely was she occupied by her own, concluding that
Matilda referred to her last escape from the convent, which had
occasioned the events of the preceding evening, replied -
"Martelli brought word to the convent that your mother was dead."
"Oh!" said Matilda, interrupting her, "Bianca has explained that
mistake to me: on seeing me faint, she cried out, 'The Princess is
dead!' and Martelli, who had come for the usual dole to the castle-
"And what made you faint?" said Isabella, indifferent to the rest.
Matilda blushed and stammered -
"My father--he was sitting in judgment on a criminal--"
"What criminal?" said Isabella eagerly.
"A young man," said Matilda; "I believe--"
"I think it was that young man that--"
"What, Theodore?" said Isabella.
"Yes," answered she; "I never saw him before; I do not know how he
had offended my father, but as he has been of service to you, I am
glad my Lord has pardoned him."
"Served me!" replied Isabella; "do you term it serving me, to wound
my father, and almost occasion his death? Though it is but since
yesterday that I am blessed with knowing a parent, I hope Matilda
does not think I am such a stranger to filial tenderness as not to
resent the boldness of that audacious youth, and that it is
impossible for me ever to feel any affection for one who dared to
lift his arm against the author of my being. No, Matilda, my heart
abhors him; and if you still retain the friendship for me that you
have vowed from your infancy, you will detest a man who has been on
the point of making me miserable for ever."
Matilda held down her head and replied: "I hope my dearest
Isabella does not doubt her Matilda's friendship: I never beheld
that youth until yesterday; he is almost a stranger to me: but as
the surgeons have pronounced your father out of danger, you ought
not to harbour uncharitable resentment against one, who I am
persuaded did not know the Marquis was related to you."
"You plead his cause very pathetically," said Isabella,
"considering he is so much a stranger to you! I am mistaken, or he
returns your charity."
"What mean you?" said Matilda.
"Nothing," said Isabella, repenting that she had given Matilda a
hint of Theodore's inclination for her. Then changing the
discourse, she asked Matilda what occasioned Manfred to take
Theodore for a spectre?
"Bless me," said Matilda, "did not you observe his extreme
resemblance to the portrait of Alfonso in the gallery? I took
notice of it to Bianca even before I saw him in armour; but with
the helmet on, he is the very image of that picture."
"I do not much observe pictures," said Isabella: "much less have I
examined this young man so attentively as you seem to have done.
Ah? Matilda, your heart is in danger, but let me warn you as a
friend, he has owned to me that he is in love; it cannot be with
you, for yesterday was the first time you ever met--was it not?"
"Certainly," replied Matilda; "but why does my dearest Isabella
conclude from anything I have said, that"--she paused--then
continuing: "he saw you first, and I am far from having the vanity
to think that my little portion of charms could engage a heart
devoted to you; may you be happy, Isabella, whatever is the fate of
"My lovely friend," said Isabella, whose heart was too honest to
resist a kind expression, "it is you that Theodore admires; I saw
it; I am persuaded of it; nor shall a thought of my own happiness
suffer me to interfere with yours."
This frankness drew tears from the gentle Matilda; and jealousy
that for a moment had raised a coolness between these amiable
maidens soon gave way to the natural sincerity and candour of their
souls. Each confessed to the other the impression that Theodore
had made on her; and this confidence was followed by a struggle of
generosity, each insisting on yielding her claim to her friend. At
length the dignity of Isabella's virtue reminding her of the
preference which Theodore had almost declared for her rival, made
her determine to conquer her passion, and cede the beloved object
to her friend.
During this contest of amity, Hippolita entered her daughter's
"Madam," said she to Isabella, "you have so much tenderness for
Matilda, and interest yourself so kindly in whatever affects our
wretched house, that I can have no secrets with my child which are
not proper for you to hear."
The princesses were all attention and anxiety.
"Know then, Madam," continued Hippolita, "and you my dearest
Matilda, that being convinced by all the events of these two last
ominous days, that heaven purposes the sceptre of Otranto should
pass from Manfred's hands into those of the Marquis Frederic, I
have been perhaps inspired with the thought of averting our total
destruction by the union of our rival houses. With this view I
have been proposing to Manfred, my lord, to tender this dear, dear
child to Frederic, your father."
"Me to Lord Frederic!" cried Matilda; "good heavens! my gracious
mother--and have you named it to my father?"
"I have," said Hippolita; "he listened benignly to my proposal, and
is gone to break it to the Marquis."
"Ah! wretched princess!" cried Isabella; "what hast thou done! what
ruin has thy inadvertent goodness been preparing for thyself, for
me, and for Matilda!"
"Ruin from me to you and to my child!" said Hippolita "what can
"Alas!" said Isabella, "the purity of your own heart prevents your
seeing the depravity of others. Manfred, your lord, that impious
"Hold," said Hippolita; "you must not in my presence, young lady,
mention Manfred with disrespect: he is my lord and husband, and--"
"Will not long be so," said Isabella, "if his wicked purposes can
be carried into execution."
"This language amazes me," said Hippolita. "Your feeling,
Isabella, is warm; but until this hour I never knew it betray you
into intemperance. What deed of Manfred authorises you to treat
him as a murderer, an assassin?"
"Thou virtuous, and too credulous Princess!" replied Isabella; "it
is not thy life he aims at--it is to separate himself from thee! to
divorce thee! to--"
"To divorce me!" "To divorce my mother!" cried Hippolita and
Matilda at once.
"Yes," said Isabella; "and to complete his crime, he meditates--I
cannot speak it!"
"What can surpass what thou hast already uttered?" said Matilda.
Hippolita was silent. Grief choked her speech; and the
recollection of Manfred's late ambiguous discourses confirmed what
"Excellent, dear lady! madam! mother!" cried Isabella, flinging
herself at Hippolita's feet in a transport of passion; "trust me,
believe me, I will die a thousand deaths sooner than consent to
injure you, than yield to so odious--oh!--"
"This is too much!" cried Hippolita: "What crimes does one crime
suggest! Rise, dear Isabella; I do not doubt your virtue. Oh!
Matilda, this stroke is too heavy for thee! weep not, my child; and
not a murmur, I charge thee. Remember, he is thy father still!"
"But you are my mother too," said Matilda fervently; "and you are
virtuous, you are guiltless!--Oh! must not I, must not I complain?"
"You must not," said Hippolita--"come, all will yet be well.
Manfred, in the agony for the loss of thy brother, knew not what he
said; perhaps Isabella misunderstood him; his heart is good--and,
my child, thou knowest not all! There is a destiny hangs over us;
the hand of Providence is stretched out; oh! could I but save thee
from the wreck! Yes," continued she in a firmer tone, "perhaps the
sacrifice of myself may atone for all; I will go and offer myself
to this divorce--it boots not what becomes of me. I will withdraw
into the neighbouring monastery, and waste the remainder of life in
prayers and tears for my child and--the Prince!"
"Thou art as much too good for this world," said Isabella, "as
Manfred is execrable; but think not, lady, that thy weakness shall
determine for me. I swear, hear me all ye angels--"
"Stop, I adjure thee," cried Hippolita: "remember thou dost not
depend on thyself; thou hast a father."
"My father is too pious, too noble," interrupted Isabella, "to
command an impious deed. But should he command it; can a father
enjoin a cursed act? I was contracted to the son, can I wed the
father? No, madam, no; force should not drag me to Manfred's hated
bed. I loathe him, I abhor him: divine and human laws forbid--and
my friend, my dearest Matilda! would I wound her tender soul by
injuring her adored mother? my own mother--I never have known
"Oh! she is the mother of both!" cried Matilda: "can we, can we,
Isabella, adore her too much?"
"My lovely children," said the touched Hippolita, "your tenderness
overpowers me--but I must not give way to it. It is not ours to
make election for ourselves: heaven, our fathers, and our husbands
must decide for us. Have patience until you hear what Manfred and
Frederic have determined. If the Marquis accepts Matilda's hand, I
know she will readily obey. Heaven may interpose and prevent the
rest. What means my child?" continued she, seeing Matilda fall at
her feet with a flood of speechless tears--"But no; answer me not,
my daughter: I must not hear a word against the pleasure of thy
"Oh! doubt not my obedience, my dreadful obedience to him and to
you!" said Matilda. "But can I, most respected of women, can I
experience all this tenderness, this world of goodness, and conceal
a thought from the best of mothers?"
"What art thou going to utter?" said Isabella trembling.
"Recollect thyself, Matilda."
"No, Isabella," said the Princess, "I should not deserve this
incomparable parent, if the inmost recesses of my soul harboured a
thought without her permission--nay, I have offended her; I have
suffered a passion to enter my heart without her avowal--but here I
disclaim it; here I vow to heaven and her--"
"My child! my child;" said Hippolita, "what words are these! what
new calamities has fate in store for us! Thou, a passion? Thou,
in this hour of destruction--"
"Oh! I see all my guilt!" said Matilda. "I abhor myself, if I cost
my mother a pang. She is the dearest thing I have on earth--Oh! I
will never, never behold him more!"
"Isabella," said Hippolita, "thou art conscious to this unhappy
secret, whatever it is. Speak!"
"What!" cried Matilda, "have I so forfeited my mother's love, that
she will not permit me even to speak my own guilt? oh! wretched,
"Thou art too cruel," said Isabella to Hippolita: "canst thou
behold this anguish of a virtuous mind, and not commiserate it?"
"Not pity my child!" said Hippolita, catching Matilda in her arms--
"Oh! I know she is good, she is all virtue, all tenderness, and
duty. I do forgive thee, my excellent, my only hope!"
The princesses then revealed to Hippolita their mutual inclination
for Theodore, and the purpose of Isabella to resign him to Matilda.
Hippolita blamed their imprudence, and showed them the
improbability that either father would consent to bestow his
heiress on so poor a man, though nobly born. Some comfort it gave
her to find their passion of so recent a date, and that Theodore
had had but little cause to suspect it in either. She strictly
enjoined them to avoid all correspondence with him. This Matilda
fervently promised: but Isabella, who flattered herself that she
meant no more than to promote his union with her friend, could not
determine to avoid him; and made no reply.
"I will go to the convent," said Hippolita, "and order new masses
to be said for a deliverance from these calamities."
"Oh! my mother," said Matilda, "you mean to quit us: you mean to
take sanctuary, and to give my father an opportunity of pursuing
his fatal intention. Alas! on my knees I supplicate you to
forbear; will you leave me a prey to Frederic? I will follow you
to the convent."
"Be at peace, my child," said Hippolita: "I will return instantly.
I will never abandon thee, until I know it is the will of heaven,
and for thy benefit."
"Do not deceive me," said Matilda. "I will not marry Frederic
until thou commandest it. Alas! what will become of me?"
"Why that exclamation?" said Hippolita. "I have promised thee to
"Ah! my mother," replied Matilda, "stay and save me from myself. A
frown from thee can do more than all my father's severity. I have
given away my heart, and you alone can make me recall it."
"No more," said Hippolita; "thou must not relapse, Matilda."
"I can quit Theodore," said she, "but must I wed another? let me
attend thee to the altar, and shut myself from the world for ever."
"Thy fate depends on thy father," said Hippolita; "I have ill-
bestowed my tenderness, if it has taught thee to revere aught
beyond him. Adieu! my child: I go to pray for thee."
Hippolita's real purpose was to demand of Jerome, whether in
conscience she might not consent to the divorce. She had oft urged
Manfred to resign the principality, which the delicacy of her
conscience rendered an hourly burthen to her. These scruples
concurred to make the separation from her husband appear less
dreadful to her than it would have seemed in any other situation.
Jerome, at quitting the castle overnight, had questioned Theodore
severely why he had accused him to Manfred of being privy to his
escape. Theodore owned it had been with design to prevent
Manfred's suspicion from alighting on Matilda; and added, the
holiness of Jerome's life and character secured him from the
tyrant's wrath. Jerome was heartily grieved to discover his son's
inclination for that princess; and leaving him to his rest,
promised in the morning to acquaint him with important reasons for
conquering his passion.
Theodore, like Isabella, was too recently acquainted with parental
authority to submit to its decisions against the impulse of his
heart. He had little curiosity to learn the Friar's reasons, and
less disposition to obey them. The lovely Matilda had made
stronger impressions on him than filial affection. All night he
pleased himself with visions of love; and it was not till late
after the morning-office, that he recollected the Friar's commands
to attend him at Alfonso's tomb.
"Young man," said Jerome, when he saw him, "this tardiness does not
please me. Have a father's commands already so little weight?"
Theodore made awkward excuses, and attributed his delay to having
"And on whom were thy dreams employed?" said the Friar sternly.
His son blushed. "Come, come," resumed the Friar, "inconsiderate
youth, this must not be; eradicate this guilty passion from thy
"Guilty passion!" cried Theodore: "Can guilt dwell with innocent
beauty and virtuous modesty?"
"It is sinful," replied the Friar, "to cherish those whom heaven
has doomed to destruction. A tyrant's race must be swept from the
earth to the third and fourth generation."
"Will heaven visit the innocent for the crimes of the guilty?" said
Theodore. "The fair Matilda has virtues enough--"
"To undo thee:" interrupted Jerome. "Hast thou so soon forgotten
that twice the savage Manfred has pronounced thy sentence?"
"Nor have I forgotten, sir," said Theodore, "that the charity of
his daughter delivered me from his power. I can forget injuries,
but never benefits."
"The injuries thou hast received from Manfred's race," said the
Friar, "are beyond what thou canst conceive. Reply not, but view
this holy image! Beneath this marble monument rest the ashes of
the good Alfonso; a prince adorned with every virtue: the father
of his people! the delight of mankind! Kneel, headstrong boy, and
list, while a father unfolds a tale of horror that will expel every
sentiment from thy soul, but sensations of sacred vengeance--
Alfonso! much injured prince! let thy unsatisfied shade sit awful
on the troubled air, while these trembling lips--Ha! who comes
"The most wretched of women!" said Hippolita, entering the choir.
"Good Father, art thou at leisure?--but why this kneeling youth?
what means the horror imprinted on each countenance? why at this
venerable tomb--alas! hast thou seen aught?"
"We were pouring forth our orisons to heaven," replied the Friar,
with some confusion, "to put an end to the woes of this deplorable
province. Join with us, Lady! thy spotless soul may obtain an
exemption from the judgments which the portents of these days but
too speakingly denounce against thy house."
"I pray fervently to heaven to divert them," said the pious
Princess. "Thou knowest it has been the occupation of my life to
wrest a blessing for my Lord and my harmless children.--One alas!
is taken from me! would heaven but hear me for my poor Matilda!
Father! intercede for her!"
"Every heart will bless her," cried Theodore with rapture.
"Be dumb, rash youth!" said Jerome. "And thou, fond Princess,
contend not with the Powers above! the Lord giveth, and the Lord
taketh away: bless His holy name, and submit to his decrees."
"I do most devoutly," said Hippolita; "but will He not spare my
only comfort? must Matilda perish too?--ah! Father, I came--but
dismiss thy son. No ear but thine must hear what I have to utter."
"May heaven grant thy every wish, most excellent Princess!" said
Theodore retiring. Jerome frowned.
Hippolita then acquainted the Friar with the proposal she had
suggested to Manfred, his approbation of it, and the tender of
Matilda that he was gone to make to Frederic. Jerome could not
conceal his dislike of the notion, which he covered under pretence
of the improbability that Frederic, the nearest of blood to
Alfonso, and who was come to claim his succession, would yield to
an alliance with the usurper of his right. But nothing could equal
the perplexity of the Friar, when Hippolita confessed her readiness
not to oppose the separation, and demanded his opinion on the
legality of her acquiescence. The Friar caught eagerly at her
request of his advice, and without explaining his aversion to the
proposed marriage of Manfred and Isabella, he painted to Hippolita
in the most alarming colours the sinfulness of her consent,
denounced judgments against her if she complied, and enjoined her
in the severest terms to treat any such proposition with every mark
of indignation and refusal.
Manfred, in the meantime, had broken his purpose to Frederic, and
proposed the double marriage. That weak Prince, who had been
struck with the charms of Matilda, listened but too eagerly to the
offer. He forgot his enmity to Manfred, whom he saw but little
hope of dispossessing by force; and flattering himself that no
issue might succeed from the union of his daughter with the tyrant,
he looked upon his own succession to the principality as
facilitated by wedding Matilda. He made faint opposition to the
proposal; affecting, for form only, not to acquiesce unless
Hippolita should consent to the divorce. Manfred took that upon
Transported with his success, and impatient to see himself in a
situation to expect sons, he hastened to his wife's apartment,
determined to extort her compliance. He learned with indignation
that she was absent at the convent. His guilt suggested to him
that she had probably been informed by Isabella of his purpose. He
doubted whether her retirement to the convent did not import an
intention of remaining there, until she could raise obstacles to
their divorce; and the suspicions he had already entertained of
Jerome, made him apprehend that the Friar would not only traverse
his views, but might have inspired Hippolita with the resolution of
talking sanctuary. Impatient to unravel this clue, and to defeat
its success, Manfred hastened to the convent, and arrived there as
the Friar was earnestly exhorting the Princess never to yield to
"Madam," said Manfred, "what business drew you hither? why did you
not await my return from the Marquis?"
"I came to implore a blessing on your councils," replied Hippolita.
"My councils do not need a Friar's intervention," said Manfred;
"and of all men living is that hoary traitor the only one whom you
delight to confer with?"
"Profane Prince!" said Jerome; "is it at the altar that thou
choosest to insult the servants of the altar?--but, Manfred, thy
impious schemes are known. Heaven and this virtuous lady know
them--nay, frown not, Prince. The Church despises thy menaces.
Her thunders will be heard above thy wrath. Dare to proceed in thy
cursed purpose of a divorce, until her sentence be known, and here
I lance her anathema at thy head."
"Audacious rebel!" said Manfred, endeavouring to conceal the awe
with which the Friar's words inspired him. "Dost thou presume to
threaten thy lawful Prince?"
"Thou art no lawful Prince," said Jerome; "thou art no Prince--go,
discuss thy claim with Frederic; and when that is done--"
"It is done," replied Manfred; "Frederic accepts Matilda's hand,
and is content to waive his claim, unless I have no male issue"--as
he spoke those words three drops of blood fell from the nose of
Alfonso's statue. Manfred turned pale, and the Princess sank on
"Behold!" said the Friar; "mark this miraculous indication that the
blood of Alfonso will never mix with that of Manfred!"
"My gracious Lord," said Hippolita, "let us submit ourselves to
heaven. Think not thy ever obedient wife rebels against thy
authority. I have no will but that of my Lord and the Church. To
that revered tribunal let us appeal. It does not depend on us to
burst the bonds that unite us. If the Church shall approve the
dissolution of our marriage, be it so--I have but few years, and
those of sorrow, to pass. Where can they be worn away so well as
at the foot of this altar, in prayers for thine and Matilda's
"But thou shalt not remain here until then," said Manfred. "Repair
with me to the castle, and there I will advise on the proper
measures for a divorce;--but this meddling Friar comes not thither;
my hospitable roof shall never more harbour a traitor--and for thy
Reverence's offspring," continued he, "I banish him from my
dominions. He, I ween, is no sacred personage, nor under the
protection of the Church. Whoever weds Isabella, it shall not be
Father Falconara's started-up son."
"They start up," said the Friar, "who are suddenly beheld in the
seat of lawful Princes; but they wither away like the grass, and
their place knows them no more."
Manfred, casting a look of scorn at the Friar, led Hippolita forth;
but at the door of the church whispered one of his attendants to
remain concealed about the convent, and bring him instant notice,
if any one from the castle should repair thither.
Every reflection which Manfred made on the Friar's behaviour,
conspired to persuade him that Jerome was privy to an amour between
Isabella and Theodore. But Jerome's new presumption, so dissonant
from his former meekness, suggested still deeper apprehensions.
The Prince even suspected that the Friar depended on some secret
support from Frederic, whose arrival, coinciding with the novel
appearance of Theodore, seemed to bespeak a correspondence. Still
more was he troubled with the resemblance of Theodore to Alfonso's
portrait. The latter he knew had unquestionably died without
issue. Frederic had consented to bestow Isabella on him. These
contradictions agitated his mind with numberless pangs.
He saw but two methods of extricating himself from his
difficulties. The one was to resign his dominions to the Marquis--
pride, ambition, and his reliance on ancient prophecies, which had
pointed out a possibility of his preserving them to his posterity,
combated that thought. The other was to press his marriage with
Isabella. After long ruminating on these anxious thoughts, as he
marched silently with Hippolita to the castle, he at last
discoursed with that Princess on the subject of his disquiet, and
used every insinuating and plausible argument to extract her
consent to, even her promise of promoting the divorce. Hippolita
needed little persuasions to bend her to his pleasure. She
endeavoured to win him over to the measure of resigning his
dominions; but finding her exhortations fruitless, she assured him,
that as far as her conscience would allow, she would raise no
opposition to a separation, though without better founded scruples
than what he yet alleged, she would not engage to be active in
This compliance, though inadequate, was sufficient to raise
Manfred's hopes. He trusted that his power and wealth would easily
advance his suit at the court of Rome, whither he resolved to
engage Frederic to take a journey on purpose. That Prince had
discovered so much passion for Matilda, that Manfred hoped to
obtain all he wished by holding out or withdrawing his daughter's
charms, according as the Marquis should appear more or less
disposed to co-operate in his views. Even the absence of Frederic
would be a material point gained, until he could take further
measures for his security.
Dismissing Hippolita to her apartment, he repaired to that of the
Marquis; but crossing the great hall through which he was to pass
he met Bianca. The damsel he knew was in the confidence of both
the young ladies. It immediately occurred to him to sift her on
the subject of Isabella and Theodore. Calling her aside into the
recess of the oriel window of the hall, and soothing her with many
fair words and promises, he demanded of her whether she knew aught
of the state of Isabella's affections.
"I! my Lord! no my Lord--yes my Lord--poor Lady! she is wonderfully
alarmed about her father's wounds; but I tell her he will do well;
don't your Highness think so?"
"I do not ask you," replied Manfred, "what she thinks about her
father; but you are in her secrets. Come, be a good girl and tell
me; is there any young man--ha!--you understand me."
"Lord bless me! understand your Highness? no, not I. I told her a
few vulnerary herbs and repose--"
"I am not talking," replied the Prince, impatiently, "about her
father; I know he will do well."
"Bless me, I rejoice to hear your Highness say so; for though I
thought it not right to let my young Lady despond, methought his
greatness had a wan look, and a something--I remember when young
Ferdinand was wounded by the Venetian--"
"Thou answerest from the point," interrupted Manfred; "but here,
take this jewel, perhaps that may fix thy attention--nay, no
reverences; my favour shall not stop here--come, tell me truly; how
stands Isabella's heart?"
"Well! your Highness has such a way!" said Bianca, "to be sure--but
can your Highness keep a secret? if it should ever come out of your
"It shall not, it shall not," cried Manfred.
"Nay, but swear, your Highness."
"By my halidame, if it should ever be known that I said it--"
"Why, truth is truth, I do not think my Lady Isabella ever much
affectioned my young Lord your son; yet he was a sweet youth as one
should see; I am sure, if I had been a Princess--but bless me! I
must attend my Lady Matilda; she will marvel what is become of me."
"Stay," cried Manfred; "thou hast not satisfied my question. Hast
thou ever carried any message, any letter?"
"I! good gracious!" cried Bianca; "I carry a letter? I would not
to be a Queen. I hope your Highness thinks, though I am poor, I am
honest. Did your Highness never hear what Count Marsigli offered
me, when he came a wooing to my Lady Matilda?"
"I have not leisure," said Manfred, "to listen to thy tale. I do
not question thy honesty. But it is thy duty to conceal nothing
from me. How long has Isabella been acquainted with Theodore?"
"Nay, there is nothing can escape your Highness!" said Bianca; "not
that I know any thing of the matter. Theodore, to be sure, is a
proper young man, and, as my Lady Matilda says, the very image of
good Alfonso. Has not your Highness remarked it?"
"Yes, yes,--No--thou torturest me," said Manfred. "Where did they
"Who! my Lady Matilda?" said Bianca.
"No, no, not Matilda: Isabella; when did Isabella first become
acquainted with this Theodore!"
"Virgin Mary!" said Bianca, "how should I know?"
"Thou dost know," said Manfred; "and I must know; I will--"
"Lord! your Highness is not jealous of young Theodore!" said
"Jealous! no, no. Why should I be jealous? perhaps I mean to unite
them--If I were sure Isabella would have no repugnance."
"Repugnance! no, I'll warrant her," said Bianca; "he is as comely a
youth as ever trod on Christian ground. We are all in love with
him; there is not a soul in the castle but would be rejoiced to
have him for our Prince--I mean, when it shall please heaven to
call your Highness to itself."
"Indeed!" said Manfred, "has it gone so far! oh! this cursed
Friar!--but I must not lose time--go, Bianca, attend Isabella; but
I charge thee, not a word of what has passed. Find out how she is
affected towards Theodore; bring me good news, and that ring has a
companion. Wait at the foot of the winding staircase: I am going
to visit the Marquis, and will talk further with thee at my
Manfred, after some general conversation, desired Frederic to
dismiss the two Knights, his companions, having to talk with him on
As soon as they were alone, he began in artful guise to sound the
Marquis on the subject of Matilda; and finding him disposed to his
wish, he let drop hints on the difficulties that would attend the
celebration of their marriage, unless--At that instant Bianca burst
into the room with a wildness in her look and gestures that spoke
the utmost terror.
"Oh! my Lord, my Lord!" cried she; "we are all undone! it is come
again! it is come again!"
"What is come again?" cried Manfred amazed.
"Oh! the hand! the Giant! the hand!--support me! I am terrified out
of my senses," cried Bianca. "I will not sleep in the castle to-
night. Where shall I go? my things may come after me to-morrow--
would I had been content to wed Francesco! this comes of ambition!"
"What has terrified thee thus, young woman?" said the Marquis.
"Thou art safe here; be not alarmed."
"Oh! your Greatness is wonderfully good," said Bianca, "but I dare
not--no, pray let me go--I had rather leave everything behind me,
than stay another hour under this roof."
"Go to, thou hast lost thy senses," said Manfred. "Interrupt us
not; we were communing on important matters--My Lord, this wench is
subject to fits--Come with me, Bianca."
"Oh! the Saints! No," said Bianca, "for certain it comes to warn
your Highness; why should it appear to me else? I say my prayers
morning and evening--oh! if your Highness had believed Diego! 'Tis
the same hand that he saw the foot to in the gallery-chamber--
Father Jerome has often told us the prophecy would be out one of
these days--'Bianca,' said he, 'mark my words--'"
"Thou ravest," said Manfred, in a rage; "be gone, and keep these
fooleries to frighten thy companions."
"What! my Lord," cried Bianca, "do you think I have seen nothing?
go to the foot of the great stairs yourself--as I live I saw it."
"Saw what? tell us, fair maid, what thou hast seen," said Frederic.
"Can your Highness listen," said Manfred, "to the delirium of a
silly wench, who has heard stories of apparitions until she
"This is more than fancy," said the Marquis; "her terror is too
natural and too strongly impressed to be the work of imagination.
Tell us, fair maiden, what it is has moved thee thus?"
"Yes, my Lord, thank your Greatness," said Bianca; "I believe I
look very pale; I shall be better when I have recovered myself--I
was going to my Lady Isabella's chamber, by his Highness's order--"
"We do not want the circumstances," interrupted Manfred. "Since
his Highness will have it so, proceed; but be brief."
"Lord! your Highness thwarts one so!" replied Bianca; "I fear my
hair--I am sure I never in my life--well! as I was telling your
Greatness, I was going by his Highness's order to my Lady
Isabella's chamber; she lies in the watchet-coloured chamber, on
the right hand, one pair of stairs: so when I came to the great
stairs--I was looking on his Highness's present here--"
"Grant me patience!" said Manfred, "will this wench never come to
the point? what imports it to the Marquis, that I gave thee a
bauble for thy faithful attendance on my daughter? we want to know
what thou sawest."
"I was going to tell your Highness," said Bianca, "if you would
permit me. So as I was rubbing the ring--I am sure I had not gone
up three steps, but I heard the rattling of armour; for all the
world such a clatter as Diego says he heard when the Giant turned
him about in the gallery-chamber."
"What Giant is this, my Lord?" said the Marquis; "is your castle
haunted by giants and goblins?"
"Lord! what, has not your Greatness heard the story of the Giant in
the gallery-chamber?" cried Bianca. "I marvel his Highness has not
told you; mayhap you do not know there is a prophecy--"
"This trifling is intolerable," interrupted Manfred. "Let us
dismiss this silly wench, my Lord! we have more important affairs
"By your favour," said Frederic, "these are no trifles. The
enormous sabre I was directed to in the wood, yon casque, its
fellow--are these visions of this poor maiden's brain?"
"So Jaquez thinks, may it please your Greatness," said Bianca. "He
says this moon will not be out without our seeing some strange
revolution. For my part, I should not be surprised if it was to
happen to-morrow; for, as I was saying, when I heard the clattering
of armour, I was all in a cold sweat. I looked up, and, if your
Greatness will believe me, I saw upon the uppermost banister of the
great stairs a hand in armour as big as big. I thought I should
have swooned. I never stopped until I came hither--would I were
well out of this castle. My Lady Matilda told me but yester-
morning that her Highness Hippolita knows something."
"Thou art an insolent!" cried Manfred. "Lord Marquis, it much
misgives me that this scene is concerted to affront me. Are my own
domestics suborned to spread tales injurious to my honour? Pursue
your claim by manly daring; or let us bury our feuds, as was
proposed, by the intermarriage of our children. But trust me, it
ill becomes a Prince of your bearing to practise on mercenary
"I scorn your imputation," said Frederic. "Until this hour I never
set eyes on this damsel: I have given her no jewel. My Lord, my
Lord, your conscience, your guilt accuses you, and would throw the
suspicion on me; but keep your daughter, and think no more of
Isabella. The judgments already fallen on your house forbid me
matching into it."
Manfred, alarmed at the resolute tone in which Frederic delivered
these words, endeavoured to pacify him. Dismissing Bianca, he made
such submissions to the Marquis, and threw in such artful encomiums
on Matilda, that Frederic was once more staggered. However, as his
passion was of so recent a date, it could not at once surmount the
scruples he had conceived. He had gathered enough from Bianca's
discourse to persuade him that heaven declared itself against
Manfred. The proposed marriages too removed his claim to a
distance; and the principality of Otranto was a stronger temptation
than the contingent reversion of it with Matilda. Still he would
not absolutely recede from his engagements; but purposing to gain
time, he demanded of Manfred if it was true in fact that Hippolita
consented to the divorce. The Prince, transported to find no other
obstacle, and depending on his influence over his wife, assured the
Marquis it was so, and that he might satisfy himself of the truth
from her own mouth.
As they were thus discoursing, word was brought that the banquet
was prepared. Manfred conducted Frederic to the great hall, where
they were received by Hippolita and the young Princesses. Manfred
placed the Marquis next to Matilda, and seated himself between his
wife and Isabella. Hippolita comported herself with an easy
gravity; but the young ladies were silent and melancholy. Manfred,
who was determined to pursue his point with the Marquis in the
remainder of the evening, pushed on the feast until it waxed late;
affecting unrestrained gaiety, and plying Frederic with repeated
goblets of wine. The latter, more upon his guard than Manfred
wished, declined his frequent challenges, on pretence of his late
loss of blood; while the Prince, to raise his own disordered
spirits, and to counterfeit unconcern, indulged himself in
plentiful draughts, though not to the intoxication of his senses.
The evening being far advanced, the banquet concluded. Manfred
would have withdrawn with Frederic; but the latter pleading
weakness and want of repose, retired to his chamber, gallantly
telling the Prince that his daughter should amuse his Highness
until himself could attend him. Manfred accepted the party, and to
the no small grief of Isabella, accompanied her to her apartment.
Matilda waited on her mother to enjoy the freshness of the evening
on the ramparts of the castle.
Soon as the company were dispersed their several ways, Frederic,
quitting his chamber, inquired if Hippolita was alone, and was told
by one of her attendants, who had not noticed her going forth, that
at that hour she generally withdrew to her oratory, where he
probably would find her. The Marquis, during the repast, had
beheld Matilda with increase of passion. He now wished to find
Hippolita in the disposition her Lord had promised. The portents
that had alarmed him were forgotten in his desires. Stealing
softly and unobserved to the apartment of Hippolita, he entered it
with a resolution to encourage her acquiescence to the divorce,
having perceived that Manfred was resolved to make the possession
of Isabella an unalterable condition, before he would grant Matilda
to his wishes.
The Marquis was not surprised at the silence that reigned in the
Princess's apartment. Concluding her, as he had been advertised,
in her oratory, he passed on. The door was ajar; the evening
gloomy and overcast. Pushing open the door gently, he saw a person
kneeling before the altar. As he approached nearer, it seemed not
a woman, but one in a long woollen weed, whose back was towards
him. The person seemed absorbed in prayer. The Marquis was about
to return, when the figure, rising, stood some moments fixed in
meditation, without regarding him. The Marquis, expecting the holy
person to come forth, and meaning to excuse his uncivil
"Reverend Father, I sought the Lady Hippolita."
"Hippolita!" replied a hollow voice; "camest thou to this castle to
seek Hippolita?" and then the figure, turning slowly round,
discovered to Frederic the fleshless jaws and empty sockets of a
skeleton, wrapt in a hermit's cowl.
"Angels of grace protect me!" cried Frederic, recoiling.
"Deserve their protection!" said the Spectre. Frederic, falling on
his knees, adjured the phantom to take pity on him.
"Dost thou not remember me?" said the apparition. "Remember the
wood of Joppa!"
"Art thou that holy hermit?" cried Frederic, trembling. "Can I do
aught for thy eternal peace?"
"Wast thou delivered from bondage," said the spectre, "to pursue
carnal delights? Hast thou forgotten the buried sabre, and the
behest of Heaven engraven on it?"
"I have not, I have not," said Frederic; "but say, blest spirit,
what is thy errand to me? What remains to be done?"
"To forget Matilda!" said the apparition; and vanished.
Frederic's blood froze in his veins. For some minutes he remained
motionless. Then falling prostrate on his face before the altar,
he besought the intercession of every saint for pardon. A flood of
tears succeeded to this transport; and the image of the beauteous
Matilda rushing in spite of him on his thoughts, he lay on the
ground in a conflict of penitence and passion. Ere he could
recover from this agony of his spirits, the Princess Hippolita with
a taper in her hand entered the oratory alone. Seeing a man
without motion on the floor, she gave a shriek, concluding him
dead. Her fright brought Frederic to himself. Rising suddenly,
his face bedewed with tears, he would have rushed from her
presence; but Hippolita stopping him, conjured him in the most
plaintive accents to explain the cause of his disorder, and by what
strange chance she had found him there in that posture.
"Ah, virtuous Princess!" said the Marquis, penetrated with grief,
"For the love of Heaven, my Lord," said Hippolita, "disclose the
cause of this transport! What mean these doleful sounds, this
alarming exclamation on my name? What woes has heaven still in
store for the wretched Hippolita? Yet silent! By every pitying
angel, I adjure thee, noble Prince," continued she, falling at his
feet, "to disclose the purport of what lies at thy heart. I see
thou feelest for me; thou feelest the sharp pangs that thou
inflictest--speak, for pity! Does aught thou knowest concern my
"I cannot speak," cried Frederic, bursting from her. "Oh,
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