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Transcribed from the 1901 Cassell and Company edition by David
Price, email [email protected]

THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

The following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic
family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the
black letter, in the year 1529. How much sooner it was written
does not appear. The principal incidents are such as were believed
in the darkest ages of Christianity; but the language and conduct
have nothing that savours of barbarism. The style is the purest
Italian.

If the story was written near the time when it is supposed to have
happened, it must have been between 1095, the era of the first
Crusade, and 1243, the date of the last, or not long afterwards.
There is no other circumstance in the work that can lead us to
guess at the period in which the scene is laid: the names of the
actors are evidently fictitious, and probably disguised on purpose:
yet the Spanish names of the domestics seem to indicate that this
work was not composed until the establishment of the Arragonian
Kings in Naples had made Spanish appellations familiar in that
country. The beauty of the diction, and the zeal of the author
(moderated, however, by singular judgment) concur to make me think
that the date of the composition was little antecedent to that of
the impression. Letters were then in their most flourishing state
in Italy, and contributed to dispel the empire of superstition, at
that time so forcibly attacked by the reformers. It is not
unlikely that an artful priest might endeavour to turn their own
arms on the innovators, and might avail himself of his abilities as
an author to confirm the populace in their ancient errors and
superstitions. If this was his view, he has certainly acted with
signal address. Such a work as the following would enslave a
hundred vulgar minds beyond half the books of controversy that have
been written from the days of Luther to the present hour.

This solution of the author’s motives is, however, offered as a
mere conjecture. Whatever his views were, or whatever effects the
execution of them might have, his work can only be laid before the
public at present as a matter of entertainment. Even as such, some
apology for it is necessary. Miracles, visions, necromancy,
dreams, and other preternatural events, are exploded now even from
romances. That was not the case when our author wrote; much less
when the story itself is supposed to have happened. Belief in
every kind of prodigy was so established in those dark ages, that
an author would not be faithful to the manners of the times, who
should omit all mention of them. He is not bound to believe them
himself, but he must represent his actors as believing them.

If this air of the miraculous is excused, the reader will find
nothing else unworthy of his perusal. Allow the possibility of the
facts, and all the actors comport themselves as persons would do in
their situation. There is no bombast, no similes, flowers,
digressions, or unnecessary descriptions. Everything tends
directly to the catastrophe. Never is the reader’s attention
relaxed. The rules of the drama are almost observed throughout the
conduct of the piece. The characters are well drawn, and still
better maintained. Terror, the author’s principal engine, prevents
the story from ever languishing; and it is so often contrasted by
pity, that the mind is kept up in a constant vicissitude of
interesting passions.

Some persons may perhaps think the characters of the domestics too
little serious for the general cast of the story; but besides their
opposition to the principal personages, the art of the author is
very observable in his conduct of the subalterns. They discover
many passages essential to the story, which could not be well
brought to light but by their naivete and simplicity. In
particular, the womanish terror and foibles of Bianca, in the last
chapter, conduce essentially towards advancing the catastrophe.

It is natural for a translator to be prejudiced in favour of his
adopted work. More impartial readers may not be so much struck
with the beauties of this piece as I was. Yet I am not blind to my
author’s defects. I could wish he had grounded his plan on a more
useful moral than this: that “the sins of fathers are visited on
their children to the third and fourth generation.” I doubt
whether, in his time, any more than at present, ambition curbed its
appetite of dominion from the dread of so remote a punishment. And
yet this moral is weakened by that less direct insinuation, that
even such anathema may be diverted by devotion to St. Nicholas.
Here the interest of the Monk plainly gets the better of the
judgment of the author. However, with all its faults, I have no
doubt but the English reader will be pleased with a sight of this
performance. The piety that reigns throughout, the lessons of
virtue that are inculcated, and the rigid purity of the sentiments,
exempt this work from the censure to which romances are but too
liable. Should it meet with the success I hope for, I may be
encouraged to reprint the original Italian, though it will tend to
depreciate my own labour. Our language falls far short of the
charms of the Italian, both for variety and harmony. The latter is
peculiarly excellent for simple narrative. It is difficult in
English to relate without falling too low or rising too high; a
fault obviously occasioned by the little care taken to speak pure
language in common conversation. Every Italian or Frenchman of any
rank piques himself on speaking his own tongue correctly and with
choice. I cannot flatter myself with having done justice to my
author in this respect: his style is as elegant as his conduct of
the passions is masterly. It is a pity that he did not apply his
talents to what they were evidently proper for–the theatre.

I will detain the reader no longer, but to make one short remark.
Though the machinery is invention, and the names of the actors
imaginary, I cannot but believe that the groundwork of the story is
founded on truth. The scene is undoubtedly laid in some real
castle. The author seems frequently, without design, to describe
particular parts. “The chamber,” says he, “on the right hand;”
“the door on the left hand;” “the distance from the chapel to
Conrad’s apartment:” these and other passages are strong
presumptions that the author had some certain building in his eye.
Curious persons, who have leisure to employ in such researches, may
possibly discover in the Italian writers the foundation on which
our author has built. If a catastrophe, at all resembling that
which he describes, is believed to have given rise to this work, it
will contribute to interest the reader, and will make the “Castle
of Otranto” a still more moving story.

SONNET TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LADY MARY COKE.

The gentle maid, whose hapless tale
These melancholy pages speak;
Say, gracious lady, shall she fail
To draw the tear adown thy cheek?

No; never was thy pitying breast
Insensible to human woes;
Tender, tho’ firm, it melts distrest
For weaknesses it never knows.

Oh! guard the marvels I relate
Of fell ambition scourg’d by fate,
From reason’s peevish blame.
Blest with thy smile, my dauntless sail
I dare expand to Fancy’s gale,
For sure thy smiles are Fame.

H. W.

CHAPTER I.

Manfred, Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the
latter, a most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda.
Conrad, the son, was three years younger, a homely youth, sickly,
and of no promising disposition; yet he was the darling of his
father, who never showed any symptoms of affection to Matilda.
Manfred had contracted a marriage for his son with the Marquis of
Vicenza’s daughter, Isabella; and she had already been delivered by
her guardians into the hands of Manfred, that he might celebrate
the wedding as soon as Conrad’s infirm state of health would
permit.

Manfred’s impatience for this ceremonial was remarked by his family
and neighbours. The former, indeed, apprehending the severity of
their Prince’s disposition, did not dare to utter their surmises on
this precipitation. Hippolita, his wife, an amiable lady, did
sometimes venture to represent the danger of marrying their only
son so early, considering his great youth, and greater infirmities;
but she never received any other answer than reflections on her own
sterility, who had given him but one heir. His tenants and
subjects were less cautious in their discourses. They attributed
this hasty wedding to the Prince’s dread of seeing accomplished an
ancient prophecy, which was said to have pronounced that the castle
and lordship of Otranto “should pass from the present family,
whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it.”
It was difficult to make any sense of this prophecy; and still less
easy to conceive what it had to do with the marriage in question.
Yet these mysteries, or contradictions, did not make the populace
adhere the less to their opinion.

Young Conrad’s birthday was fixed for his espousals. The company
was assembled in the chapel of the Castle, and everything ready for
beginning the divine office, when Conrad himself was missing.
Manfred, impatient of the least delay, and who had not observed his
son retire, despatched one of his attendants to summon the young
Prince. The servant, who had not stayed long enough to have
crossed the court to Conrad’s apartment, came running back
breathless, in a frantic manner, his eyes staring, and foaming at
the month. He said nothing, but pointed to the court.

The company were struck with terror and amazement. The Princess
Hippolita, without knowing what was the matter, but anxious for her
son, swooned away. Manfred, less apprehensive than enraged at the
procrastination of the nuptials, and at the folly of his domestic,
asked imperiously what was the matter? The fellow made no answer,
but continued pointing towards the courtyard; and at last, after
repeated questions put to him, cried out, “Oh! the helmet! the
helmet!”

In the meantime, some of the company had run into the court, from
whence was heard a confused noise of shrieks, horror, and surprise.
Manfred, who began to be alarmed at not seeing his son, went
himself to get information of what occasioned this strange
confusion. Matilda remained endeavouring to assist her mother, and
Isabella stayed for the same purpose, and to avoid showing any
impatience for the bridegroom, for whom, in truth, she had
conceived little affection.

The first thing that struck Manfred’s eyes was a group of his
servants endeavouring to raise something that appeared to him a
mountain of sable plumes. He gazed without believing his sight.

“What are ye doing?” cried Manfred, wrathfully; “where is my son?”

A volley of voices replied, “Oh! my Lord! the Prince! the Prince!
the helmet! the helmet!”

Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not
what, he advanced hastily,–but what a sight for a father’s eyes!–
he beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an
enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever
made for human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of
black feathers.

The horror of the spectacle, the ignorance of all around how this
misfortune had happened, and above all, the tremendous phenomenon
before him, took away the Prince’s speech. Yet his silence lasted
longer than even grief could occasion. He fixed his eyes on what
he wished in vain to believe a vision; and seemed less attentive to
his loss, than buried in meditation on the stupendous object that
had occasioned it. He touched, he examined the fatal casque; nor
could even the bleeding mangled remains of the young Prince divert
the eyes of Manfred from the portent before him.

All who had known his partial fondness for young Conrad, were as
much surprised at their Prince’s insensibility, as thunderstruck
themselves at the miracle of the helmet. They conveyed the
disfigured corpse into the hall, without receiving the least
direction from Manfred. As little was he attentive to the ladies
who remained in the chapel. On the contrary, without mentioning
the unhappy princesses, his wife and daughter, the first sounds
that dropped from Manfred’s lips were, “Take care of the Lady
Isabella.”

The domestics, without observing the singularity of this direction,
were guided by their affection to their mistress, to consider it as
peculiarly addressed to her situation, and flew to her assistance.
They conveyed her to her chamber more dead than alive, and
indifferent to all the strange circumstances she heard, except the
death of her son.

Matilda, who doted on her mother, smothered her own grief and
amazement, and thought of nothing but assisting and comforting her
afflicted parent. Isabella, who had been treated by Hippolita like
a daughter, and who returned that tenderness with equal duty and
affection, was scarce less assiduous about the Princess; at the
same time endeavouring to partake and lessen the weight of sorrow
which she saw Matilda strove to suppress, for whom she had
conceived the warmest sympathy of friendship. Yet her own
situation could not help finding its place in her thoughts. She
felt no concern for the death of young Conrad, except
commiseration; and she was not sorry to be delivered from a
marriage which had promised her little felicity, either from her
destined bridegroom, or from the severe temper of Manfred, who,
though he had distinguished her by great indulgence, had imprinted
her mind with terror, from his causeless rigour to such amiable
princesses as Hippolita and Matilda.

While the ladies were conveying the wretched mother to her bed,
Manfred remained in the court, gazing on the ominous casque, and
regardless of the crowd which the strangeness of the event had now
assembled around him. The few words he articulated, tended solely
to inquiries, whether any man knew from whence it could have come?
Nobody could give him the least information. However, as it seemed
to be the sole object of his curiosity, it soon became so to the
rest of the spectators, whose conjectures were as absurd and
improbable, as the catastrophe itself was unprecedented. In the
midst of their senseless guesses, a young peasant, whom rumour had
drawn thither from a neighbouring village, observed that the
miraculous helmet was exactly like that on the figure in black
marble of Alfonso the Good, one of their former princes, in the
church of St. Nicholas.

“Villain! What sayest thou?” cried Manfred, starting from his
trance in a tempest of rage, and seizing the young man by the
collar; “how darest thou utter such treason? Thy life shall pay
for it.”

The spectators, who as little comprehended the cause of the
Prince’s fury as all the rest they had seen, were at a loss to
unravel this new circumstance. The young peasant himself was still
more astonished, not conceiving how he had offended the Prince.
Yet recollecting himself, with a mixture of grace and humility, he
disengaged himself from Manfred’s grip, and then with an obeisance,
which discovered more jealousy of innocence than dismay, he asked,
with respect, of what he was guilty? Manfred, more enraged at the
vigour, however decently exerted, with which the young man had
shaken off his hold, than appeased by his submission, ordered his
attendants to seize him, and, if he had not been withheld by his
friends whom he had invited to the nuptials, would have poignarded
the peasant in their arms.

During this altercation, some of the vulgar spectators had run to
the great church, which stood near the castle, and came back open-
mouthed, declaring that the helmet was missing from Alfonso’s
statue. Manfred, at this news, grew perfectly frantic; and, as if
he sought a subject on which to vent the tempest within him, he
rushed again on the young peasant, crying –

“Villain! Monster! Sorcerer! ’tis thou hast done this! ’tis thou
hast slain my son!”

The mob, who wanted some object within the scope of their
capacities, on whom they might discharge their bewildered
reasoning, caught the words from the mouth of their lord, and re-
echoed –

“Ay, ay; ’tis he, ’tis he: he has stolen the helmet from good
Alfonso’s tomb, and dashed out the brains of our young Prince with
it,” never reflecting how enormous the disproportion was between
the marble helmet that had been in the church, and that of steel
before their eyes; nor how impossible it was for a youth seemingly
not twenty, to wield a piece of armour of so prodigious a weight

The folly of these ejaculations brought Manfred to himself: yet
whether provoked at the peasant having observed the resemblance
between the two helmets, and thereby led to the farther discovery
of the absence of that in the church, or wishing to bury any such
rumour under so impertinent a supposition, he gravely pronounced
that the young man was certainly a necromancer, and that till the
Church could take cognisance of the affair, he would have the
Magician, whom they had thus detected, kept prisoner under the
helmet itself, which he ordered his attendants to raise, and place
the young man under it; declaring he should be kept there without
food, with which his own infernal art might furnish him.

It was in vain for the youth to represent against this preposterous
sentence: in vain did Manfred’s friends endeavour to divert him
from this savage and ill-grounded resolution. The generality were
charmed with their lord’s decision, which, to their apprehensions,
carried great appearance of justice, as the Magician was to be
punished by the very instrument with which he had offended: nor
were they struck with the least compunction at the probability of
the youth being starved, for they firmly believed that, by his
diabolic skill, he could easily supply himself with nutriment.

Manfred thus saw his commands even cheerfully obeyed; and
appointing a guard with strict orders to prevent any food being
conveyed to the prisoner, he dismissed his friends and attendants,
and retired to his own chamber, after locking the gates of the
castle, in which he suffered none but his domestics to remain.

In the meantime, the care and zeal of the young Ladies had brought
the Princess Hippolita to herself, who amidst the transports of her
own sorrow frequently demanded news of her lord, would have
dismissed her attendants to watch over him, and at last enjoined
Matilda to leave her, and visit and comfort her father. Matilda,
who wanted no affectionate duty to Manfred, though she trembled at
his austerity, obeyed the orders of Hippolita, whom she tenderly
recommended to Isabella; and inquiring of the domestics for her
father, was informed that he was retired to his chamber, and had
commanded that nobody should have admittance to him. Concluding
that he was immersed in sorrow for the death of her brother, and
fearing to renew his tears by the sight of his sole remaining
child, she hesitated whether she should break in upon his
affliction; yet solicitude for him, backed by the commands of her
mother, encouraged her to venture disobeying the orders he had
given; a fault she had never been guilty of before.

The gentle timidity of her nature made her pause for some minutes
at his door. She heard him traverse his chamber backwards, and
forwards with disordered steps; a mood which increased her
apprehensions. She was, however, just going to beg admittance,
when Manfred suddenly opened the door; and as it was now twilight,
concurring with the disorder of his mind, he did not distinguish
the person, but asked angrily, who it was? Matilda replied,
trembling –

“My dearest father, it is I, your daughter.”

Manfred, stepping back hastily, cried, “Begone! I do not want a
daughter;” and flinging back abruptly, clapped the door against the
terrified Matilda.

She was too well acquainted with her father’s impetuosity to
venture a second intrusion. When she had a little recovered the
shock of so bitter a reception, she wiped away her tears to prevent
the additional stab that the knowledge of it would give to
Hippolita, who questioned her in the most anxious terms on the
health of Manfred, and how he bore his loss. Matilda assured her
he was well, and supported his misfortune with manly fortitude.

“But will he not let me see him?” said Hippolita mournfully; “will
he not permit me to blend my tears with his, and shed a mother’s
sorrows in the bosom of her Lord? Or do you deceive me, Matilda?
I know how Manfred doted on his son: is not the stroke too heavy
for him? has he not sunk under it? You do not answer me–alas! I
dread the worst!–Raise me, my maidens; I will, I will see my Lord.
Bear me to him instantly: he is dearer to me even than my
children.”

Matilda made signs to Isabella to prevent Hippolita’s rising; and
both those lovely young women were using their gentle violence to
stop and calm the Princess, when a servant, on the part of Manfred,
arrived and told Isabella that his Lord demanded to speak with her.

“With me!” cried Isabella.

“Go,” said Hippolita, relieved by a message from her Lord:
“Manfred cannot support the sight of his own family. He thinks you
less disordered than we are, and dreads the shock of my grief.
Console him, dear Isabella, and tell him I will smother my own
anguish rather than add to his.”

As it was now evening the servant who conducted Isabella bore a
torch before her. When they came to Manfred, who was walking
impatiently about the gallery, he started, and said hastily –

“Take away that light, and begone.”

Then shutting the door impetuously, he flung himself upon a bench
against the wall, and bade Isabella sit by him. She obeyed
trembling.

“I sent for you, Lady,” said he–and then stopped under great
appearance of confusion.

“My Lord!”

“Yes, I sent for you on a matter of great moment,” resumed he.
“Dry your tears, young Lady–you have lost your bridegroom. Yes,
cruel fate! and I have lost the hopes of my race! But Conrad was
not worthy of your beauty.”

“How, my Lord!” said Isabella; “sure you do not suspect me of not
feeling the concern I ought: my duty and affection would have
always–”

“Think no more of him,” interrupted Manfred; “he was a sickly, puny
child, and Heaven has perhaps taken him away, that I might not
trust the honours of my house on so frail a foundation. The line
of Manfred calls for numerous supports. My foolish fondness for
that boy blinded the eyes of my prudence–but it is better as it
is. I hope, in a few years, to have reason to rejoice at the death
of Conrad.”

Words cannot paint the astonishment of Isabella. At first she
apprehended that grief had disordered Manfred’s understanding. Her
next thought suggested that this strange discourse was designed to
ensnare her: she feared that Manfred had perceived her
indifference for his son: and in consequence of that idea she
replied –

“Good my Lord, do not doubt my tenderness: my heart would have
accompanied my hand. Conrad would have engrossed all my care; and
wherever fate shall dispose of me, I shall always cherish his
memory, and regard your Highness and the virtuous Hippolita as my
parents.”

“Curse on Hippolita!” cried Manfred. “Forget her from this moment,
as I do. In short, Lady, you have missed a husband undeserving of
your charms: they shall now be better disposed of. Instead of a
sickly boy, you shall have a husband in the prime of his age, who
will know how to value your beauties, and who may expect a numerous
offspring.”

“Alas, my Lord!” said Isabella, “my mind is too sadly engrossed by
the recent catastrophe in your family to think of another marriage.
If ever my father returns, and it shall be his pleasure, I shall
obey, as I did when I consented to give my hand to your son: but
until his return, permit me to remain under your hospitable roof,
and employ the melancholy hours in assuaging yours, Hippolita’s,
and the fair Matilda’s affliction.”

“I desired you once before,” said Manfred angrily, “not to name
that woman: from this hour she must be a stranger to you, as she
must be to me. In short, Isabella, since I cannot give you my son,
I offer you myself.”

“Heavens!” cried Isabella, waking from her delusion, “what do I
hear? You! my Lord! You! My father-in-law! the father of Conrad!
the husband of the virtuous and tender Hippolita!”

“I tell you,” said Manfred imperiously, “Hippolita is no longer my
wife; I divorce her from this hour. Too long has she cursed me by
her unfruitfulness. My fate depends on having sons, and this night
I trust will give a new date to my hopes.”

At those words he seized the cold hand of Isabella, who was half
dead with fright and horror. She shrieked, and started from him,
Manfred rose to pursue her, when the moon, which was now up, and
gleamed in at the opposite casement, presented to his sight the
plumes of the fatal helmet, which rose to the height of the
windows, waving backwards and forwards in a tempestuous manner, and
accompanied with a hollow and rustling sound. Isabella, who
gathered courage from her situation, and who dreaded nothing so
much as Manfred’s pursuit of his declaration, cried –

“Look, my Lord! see, Heaven itself declares against your impious
intentions!”

“Heaven nor Hell shall impede my designs,” said Manfred, advancing
again to seize the Princess.

At that instant the portrait of his grandfather, which hung over
the bench where they had been sitting, uttered a deep sigh, and
heaved its breast.

Isabella, whose back was turned to the picture, saw not the motion,
nor knew whence the sound came, but started, and said –

“Hark, my Lord! What sound was that?” and at the same time made
towards the door.

Manfred, distracted between the flight of Isabella, who had now
reached the stairs, and yet unable to keep his eyes from the
picture, which began to move, had, however, advanced some steps
after her, still looking backwards on the portrait, when he saw it
quit its panel, and descend on the floor with a grave and
melancholy air.

“Do I dream?” cried Manfred, returning; “or are the devils
themselves in league against me? Speak, internal spectre! Or, if
thou art my grandsire, why dost thou too conspire against thy
wretched descendant, who too dearly pays for–” Ere he could
finish the sentence, the vision sighed again, and made a sign to
Manfred to follow him.

“Lead on!” cried Manfred; “I will follow thee to the gulf of
perdition.”

The spectre marched sedately, but dejected, to the end of the
gallery, and turned into a chamber on the right hand. Manfred
accompanied him at a little distance, full of anxiety and horror,
but resolved. As he would have entered the chamber, the door was
clapped to with violence by an invisible hand. The Prince,
collecting courage from this delay, would have forcibly burst open
the door with his foot, but found that it resisted his utmost
efforts.

“Since Hell will not satisfy my curiosity,” said Manfred, “I will
use the human means in my power for preserving my race; Isabella
shall not escape me.”

The lady, whose resolution had given way to terror the moment she
had quitted Manfred, continued her flight to the bottom of the
principal staircase. There she stopped, not knowing whither to
direct her steps, nor how to escape from the impetuosity of the
Prince. The gates of the castle, she knew, were locked, and guards
placed in the court. Should she, as her heart prompted her, go and
prepare Hippolita for the cruel destiny that awaited her, she did
not doubt but Manfred would seek her there, and that his violence
would incite him to double the injury he meditated, without leaving
room for them to avoid the impetuosity of his passions. Delay
might give him time to reflect on the horrid measures he had
conceived, or produce some circumstance in her favour, if she
could–for that night, at least–avoid his odious purpose. Yet
where conceal herself? How avoid the pursuit he would infallibly
make throughout the castle?

As these thoughts passed rapidly through her mind, she recollected
a subterraneous passage which led from the vaults of the castle to
the church of St. Nicholas. Could she reach the altar before she
was overtaken, she knew even Manfred’s violence would not dare to
profane the sacredness of the place; and she determined, if no
other means of deliverance offered, to shut herself up for ever
among the holy virgins whose convent was contiguous to the
cathedral. In this resolution, she seized a lamp that burned at
the foot of the staircase, and hurried towards the secret passage.

The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate
cloisters; and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to
find the door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence
reigned throughout those subterraneous regions, except now and then
some blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed, and which,
grating on the rusty hinges, were re-echoed through that long
labyrinth of darkness. Every murmur struck her with new terror;
yet more she dreaded to hear the wrathful voice of Manfred urging
his domestics to pursue her.

She trod as softly as impatience would give her leave, yet
frequently stopped and listened to hear if she was followed. In
one of those moments she thought she heard a sigh. She shuddered,
and recoiled a few paces. In a moment she thought she heard the
step of some person. Her blood curdled; she concluded it was
Manfred. Every suggestion that horror could inspire rushed into
her mind. She condemned her rash flight, which had thus exposed
her to his rage in a place where her cries were not likely to draw
anybody to her assistance. Yet the sound seemed not to come from
behind. If Manfred knew where she was, he must have followed her.
She was still in one of the cloisters, and the steps she had heard
were too distinct to proceed from the way she had come. Cheered
with this reflection, and hoping to find a friend in whoever was
not the Prince, she was going to advance, when a door that stood
ajar, at some distance to the left, was opened gently: but ere her
lamp, which she held up, could discover who opened it, the person
retreated precipitately on seeing the light.

Isabella, whom every incident was sufficient to dismay, hesitated
whether she should proceed. Her dread of Manfred soon outweighed
every other terror. The very circumstance of the person avoiding
her gave her a sort of courage. It could only be, she thought,
some domestic belonging to the castle. Her gentleness had never
raised her an enemy, and conscious innocence made her hope that,
unless sent by the Prince’s order to seek her, his servants would
rather assist than prevent her flight. Fortifying herself with
these reflections, and believing by what she could observe that she
was near the mouth of the subterraneous cavern, she approached the
door that had been opened; but a sudden gust of wind that met her
at the door extinguished her lamp, and left her in total darkness.

Words cannot paint the horror of the Princess’s situation. Alone
in so dismal a place, her mind imprinted with all the terrible
events of the day, hopeless of escaping, expecting every moment the
arrival of Manfred, and far from tranquil on knowing she was within
reach of somebody, she knew not whom, who for some cause seemed
concealed thereabouts; all these thoughts crowded on her distracted
mind, and she was ready to sink under her apprehensions. She
addressed herself to every saint in heaven, and inwardly implored
their assistance. For a considerable time she remained in an agony
of despair.

At last, as softly as was possible, she felt for the door, and
having found it, entered trembling into the vault from whence she
had heard the sigh and steps. It gave her a kind of momentary joy
to perceive an imperfect ray of clouded moonshine gleam from the
roof of the vault, which seemed to be fallen in, and from whence
hung a fragment of earth or building, she could not distinguish
which, that appeared to have been crushed inwards. She advanced
eagerly towards this chasm, when she discerned a human form
standing close against the wall.

She shrieked, believing it the ghost of her betrothed Conrad. The
figure, advancing, said, in a submissive voice –

“Be not alarmed, Lady; I will not injure you.”

Isabella, a little encouraged by the words and tone of voice of the
stranger, and recollecting that this must be the person who had
opened the door, recovered her spirits enough to reply –

“Sir, whoever you are, take pity on a wretched Princess, standing
on the brink of destruction. Assist me to escape from this fatal
castle, or in a few moments I may be made miserable for ever.”

“Alas!” said the stranger, “what can I do to assist you? I will
die in your defence; but I am unacquainted with the castle, and
want–”

“Oh!” said Isabella, hastily interrupting him; “help me but to find
a trap-door that must be hereabout, and it is the greatest service
you can do me, for I have not a minute to lose.”

Saying a these words, she felt about on the pavement, and directed
the stranger to search likewise, for a smooth piece of brass
enclosed in one of the stones.

“That,” said she, “is the lock, which opens with a spring, of which
I know the secret. If we can find that, I may escape–if not,
alas! courteous stranger, I fear I shall have involved you in my
misfortunes: Manfred will suspect you for the accomplice of my
flight, and you will fall a victim to his resentment.”

“I value not my life,” said the stranger, “and it will be some
comfort to lose it in trying to deliver you from his tyranny.”

“Generous youth,” said Isabella, “how shall I ever requite–”

As she uttered those words, a ray of moonshine, streaming through a
cranny of the ruin above, shone directly on the lock they sought.

“Oh! transport!” said Isabella; “here is the trap-door!” and,
taking out the key, she touched the spring, which, starting aside,
discovered an iron ring. “Lift up the door,” said the Princess.

The stranger obeyed, and beneath appeared some stone steps
descending into a vault totally dark.

“We must go down here,” said Isabella. “Follow me; dark and dismal
as it is, we cannot miss our way; it leads directly to the church
of St. Nicholas. But, perhaps,” added the Princess modestly, “you
have no reason to leave the castle, nor have I farther occasion for
your service; in a few minutes I shall be safe from Manfred’s rage-
-only let me know to whom I am so much obliged.”

“I will never quit you,” said the stranger eagerly, “until I have
placed you in safety–nor think me, Princess, more generous than I
am; though you are my principal care–”

The stranger was interrupted by a sudden noise of voices that
seemed approaching, and they soon distinguished these words –

“Talk not to me of necromancers; I tell you she must be in the
castle; I will find her in spite of enchantment.”

“Oh, heavens!” cried Isabella; “it is the voice of Manfred! Make
haste, or we are ruined! and shut the trap-door after you.”

Saying this, she descended the steps precipitately; and as the
stranger hastened to follow her, he let the door slip out of his
hands: it fell, and the spring closed over it. He tried in vain
to open it, not having observed Isabella’s method of touching the
spring; nor had he many moments to make an essay. The noise of the
falling door had been heard by Manfred, who, directed by the sound,
hastened thither, attended by his servants with torches.

“It must be Isabella,” cried Manfred, before he entered the vault.
“She is escaping by the subterraneous passage, but she cannot have
got far.”

What was the astonishment of the Prince when, instead of Isabella,
the light of the torches discovered to him the young peasant whom
he thought confined under the fatal helmet!

“Traitor!” said Manfred; “how camest thou here? I thought thee in
durance above in the court.”

“I am no traitor,” replied the young man boldly, “nor am I
answerable for your thoughts.”

“Presumptuous villain!” cried Manfred; “dost thou provoke my wrath?
Tell me, how hast thou escaped from above? Thou hast corrupted thy
guards, and their lives shall answer it.”

“My poverty,” said the peasant calmly, “will disculpate them:
though the ministers of a tyrant’s wrath, to thee they are
faithful, and but too willing to execute the orders which you
unjustly imposed upon them.”

“Art thou so hardy as to dare my vengeance?” said the Prince; “but
tortures shall force the truth from thee. Tell me; I will know thy
accomplices.”

“There was my accomplice!” said the youth, smiling, and pointing to
the roof.

Manfred ordered the torches to be held up, and perceived that one
of the cheeks of the enchanted casque had forced its way through
the pavement of the court, as his servants had let it fall over the
peasant, and had broken through into the vault, leaving a gap,
through which the peasant had pressed himself some minutes before
he was found by Isabella.

“Was that the way by which thou didst descend?” said Manfred.

“It was,” said the youth.

“But what noise was that,” said Manfred, “which I heard as I
entered the cloister?”

“A door clapped,” said the peasant; “I heard it as well as you.”

“What door?” said Manfred hastily.

“I am not acquainted with your castle,” said the peasant; “this is
the first time I ever entered it, and this vault the only part of
it within which I ever was.”

“But I tell thee,” said Manfred (wishing to find out if the youth
had discovered the trap-door), “it was this way I heard the noise.
My servants heard it too.”

“My Lord,” interrupted one of them officiously, “to be sure it was
the trap-door, and he was going to make his escape.”

“Peace, blockhead!” said the Prince angrily; “if he was going to
escape, how should he come on this side? I will know from his own
mouth what noise it was I heard. Tell me truly; thy life depends
on thy veracity.”

“My veracity is dearer to me than my life,” said the peasant; “nor
would I purchase the one by forfeiting the other.”

“Indeed, young philosopher!” said Manfred contemptuously; “tell me,
then, what was the noise I heard?”

“Ask me what I can answer,” said he, “and put me to death instantly
if I tell you a lie.”

Manfred, growing impatient at the steady valour and indifference of
the youth, cried –

“Well, then, thou man of truth, answer! Was it the fall of the
trap-door that I heard?”

“It was,” said the youth.

“It was!” said the Prince; “and how didst thou come to know there
was a trap-door here?”

“I saw the plate of brass by a gleam of moonshine,” replied he.

“But what told thee it was a lock?” said Manfred. “How didst thou
discover the secret of opening it?”

“Providence, that delivered me from the helmet, was able to direct
me to the spring of a lock,” said he.

“Providence should have gone a little farther, and have placed thee
out of the reach of my resentment,” said Manfred. “When Providence
had taught thee to open the lock, it abandoned thee for a fool, who
did not know how to make use of its favours. Why didst thou not
pursue the path pointed out for thy escape? Why didst thou shut
the trap-door before thou hadst descended the steps?”

“I might ask you, my Lord,” said the peasant, “how I, totally
unacquainted with your castle, was to know that those steps led to
any outlet? but I scorn to evade your questions. Wherever those
steps lead to, perhaps I should have explored the way–I could not
be in a worse situation than I was. But the truth is, I let the
trap-door fall: your immediate arrival followed. I had given the
alarm–what imported it to me whether I was seized a minute sooner
or a minute later?”

“Thou art a resolute villain for thy years,” said Manfred; “yet on
reflection I suspect thou dost but trifle with me. Thou hast not
yet told me how thou didst open the lock.”

“That I will show you, my Lord,” said the peasant; and, taking up a
fragment of stone that had fallen from above, he laid himself on
the trap-door, and began to beat on the piece of brass that covered
it, meaning to gain time for the escape of the Princess. This
presence of mind, joined to the frankness of the youth, staggered
Manfred. He even felt a disposition towards pardoning one who had
been guilty of no crime. Manfred was not one of those savage
tyrants who wanton in cruelty unprovoked. The circumstances of his
fortune had given an asperity to his temper, which was naturally
humane; and his virtues were always ready to operate, when his
passions did not obscure his reason.

While the Prince was in this suspense, a confused noise of voices
echoed through the distant vaults. As the sound approached, he
distinguished the clamours of some of his domestics, whom he had
dispersed through the castle in search of Isabella, calling out –

“Where is my Lord? where is the Prince?”

“Here I am,” said Manfred, as they came nearer; “have you found the
Princess?”

The first that arrived, replied, “Oh, my Lord! I am glad we have
found you.”

“Found me!” said Manfred; “have you found the Princess?”

“We thought we had, my Lord,” said the fellow, looking terrified,
“but–”

“But, what?” cried the Prince; “has she escaped?”

“Jaquez and I, my Lord–”

“Yes, I and Diego,” interrupted the second, who came up in still
greater consternation.

“Speak one of you at a time,” said Manfred; “I ask you, where is
the Princess?”

“We do not know,” said they both together; “but we are frightened
out of our wits.”

“So I think, blockheads,” said Manfred; “what is it has scared you
thus?”

“Oh! my Lord,” said Jaquez, “Diego has seen such a sight! your
Highness would not believe our eyes.”

“What new absurdity is this?” cried Manfred; “give me a direct
answer, or, by Heaven–”

“Why, my Lord, if it please your Highness to hear me,” said the
poor fellow, “Diego and I–”

“Yes, I and Jaquez–” cried his comrade.

“Did not I forbid you to speak both at a time?” said the Prince:
“you, Jaquez, answer; for the other fool seems more distracted than
thou art; what is the matter?”

“My gracious Lord,” said Jaquez, “if it please your Highness to
hear me; Diego and I, according to your Highness’s orders, went to
search for the young Lady; but being comprehensive that we might
meet the ghost of my young Lord, your Highness’s son, God rest his
soul, as he has not received Christian burial–”

“Sot!” cried Manfred in a rage; “is it only a ghost, then, that
thou hast seen?”

“Oh! worse! worse! my Lord,” cried Diego: “I had rather have seen
ten whole ghosts.”

“Grant me patience!” said Manfred; “these blockheads distract me.
Out of my sight, Diego! and thou, Jaquez, tell me in one word, art
thou sober? art thou raving? thou wast wont to have some sense:
has the other sot frightened himself and thee too? Speak; what is
it he fancies he has seen?”

“Why, my Lord,” replied Jaquez, trembling, “I was going to tell
your Highness, that since the calamitous misfortune of my young
Lord, God rest his precious soul! not one of us your Highness’s
faithful servants–indeed we are, my Lord, though poor men–I say,
not one of us has dared to set a foot about the castle, but two
together: so Diego and I, thinking that my young Lady might be in
the great gallery, went up there to look for her, and tell her your
Highness wanted something to impart to her.”

“O blundering fools!” cried Manfred; “and in the meantime, she has
made her escape, because you were afraid of goblins!–Why, thou
knave! she left me in the gallery; I came from thence myself.”

“For all that, she may be there still for aught I know,” said
Jaquez; “but the devil shall have me before I seek her there again-
-poor Diego! I do not believe he will ever recover it.”

“Recover what?” said Manfred; “am I never to learn what it is has
terrified these rascals?–but I lose my time; follow me, slave; I
will see if she is in the gallery.”

“For Heaven’s sake, my dear, good Lord,” cried Jaquez, “do not go
to the gallery. Satan himself I believe is in the chamber next to
the gallery.”

Manfred, who hitherto had treated the terror of his servants as an
idle panic, was struck at this new circumstance. He recollected
the apparition of the portrait, and the sudden closing of the door
at the end of the gallery. His voice faltered, and he asked with
disorder –

“What is in the great chamber?”

“My Lord,” said Jaquez, “when Diego and I came into the gallery, he
went first, for he said he had more courage than I. So when we
came into the gallery we found nobody. We looked under every bench
and stool; and still we found nobody.”

“Were all the pictures in their places?” said Manfred.

“Yes, my Lord,” answered Jaquez; “but we did not think of looking
behind them.”

“Well, well!” said Manfred; “proceed.”

“When we came to the door of the great chamber,” continued Jaquez,
“we found it shut.”

“And could not you open it?” said Manfred.

“Oh! yes, my Lord; would to Heaven we had not!” replied he–“nay,
it was not I neither; it was Diego: he was grown foolhardy, and
would go on, though I advised him not–if ever I open a door that
is shut again–”

“Trifle not,” said Manfred, shuddering, “but tell me what you saw
in the great chamber on opening the door.”

“I! my Lord!” said Jaquez; “I was behind Diego; but I heard the
noise.”

“Jaquez,” said Manfred, in a solemn tone of voice; “tell me, I
adjure thee by the souls of my ancestors, what was it thou sawest?
what was it thou heardest?”

“It was Diego saw it, my Lord, it was not I,” replied Jaquez; “I
only heard the noise. Diego had no sooner opened the door, than he
cried out, and ran back. I ran back too, and said, ‘Is it the
ghost?’ ‘The ghost! no, no,’ said Diego, and his hair stood on
end–‘it is a giant, I believe; he is all clad in armour, for I saw
his foot and part of his leg, and they are as large as the helmet
below in the court.’ As he said these words, my Lord, we heard a
violent motion and the rattling of armour, as if the giant was
rising, for Diego has told me since that he believes the giant was
lying down, for the foot and leg were stretched at length on the
floor. Before we could get to the end of the gallery, we heard the
door of the great chamber clap behind us, but we did not dare turn
back to see if the giant was following us–yet, now I think on it,
we must have heard him if he had pursued us–but for Heaven’s sake,
good my Lord, send for the chaplain, and have the castle exorcised,
for, for certain, it is enchanted.”

“Ay, pray do, my Lord,” cried all the servants at once, “or we must
leave your Highness’s service.”

“Peace, dotards!” said Manfred, “and follow me; I will know what
all this means.”

“We! my Lord!” cried they with one voice; “we would not go up to
the gallery for your Highness’s revenue.” The young peasant, who
had stood silent, now spoke.

“Will your Highness,” said he, “permit me to try this adventure?
My life is of consequence to nobody; I fear no bad angel, and have
offended no good one.”

“Your behaviour is above your seeming,” said Manfred, viewing him
with surprise and admiration–“hereafter I will reward your
bravery–but now,” continued he with a sigh, “I am so
circumstanced, that I dare trust no eyes but my own. However, I
give you leave to accompany me.”

Manfred, when he first followed Isabella from the gallery, had gone
directly to the apartment of his wife, concluding the Princess had
retired thither. Hippolita, who knew his step, rose with anxious
fondness to meet her Lord, whom she had not seen since the death of
their son. She would have flown in a transport mixed of joy and
grief to his bosom, but he pushed her rudely off, and said –

“Where is Isabella?”

“Isabella! my Lord!” said the astonished Hippolita.

“Yes, Isabella,” cried Manfred imperiously; “I want Isabella.”

“My Lord,” replied Matilda, who perceived how much his behaviour
had shocked her mother, “she has not been with us since your
Highness summoned her to your apartment.”

“Tell me where she is,” said the Prince; “I do not want to know
where she has been.”

“My good Lord,” says Hippolita, “your daughter tells you the truth:
Isabella left us by your command, and has not returned since;–but,
my good Lord, compose yourself: retire to your rest: this dismal
day has disordered you. Isabella shall wait your orders in the
morning.”

“What, then, you know where she is!” cried Manfred. “Tell me
directly, for I will not lose an instant–and you, woman,” speaking
to his wife, “order your chaplain to attend me forthwith.”

“Isabella,” said Hippolita calmly, “is retired, I suppose, to her
chamber: she is not accustomed to watch at this late hour.
Gracious my Lord,” continued she, “let me know what has disturbed
you. Has Isabella offended you?”

“Trouble me not with questions,” said Manfred, “but tell me where
she is.”

“Matilda shall call her,” said the Princess. “Sit down, my Lord,
and resume your wonted fortitude.”

“What, art thou jealous of Isabella?” replied he, “that you wish to
be present at our interview!”

“Good heavens! my Lord,” said Hippolita, “what is it your Highness
means?”

“Thou wilt know ere many minutes are passed,” said the cruel
Prince. “Send your chaplain to me, and wait my pleasure here.”

At these words he flung out of the room in search of Isabella,
leaving the amazed ladies thunderstruck with his words and frantic
deportment, and lost in vain conjectures on what he was meditating.

Manfred was now returning from the vault, attended by the peasant
and a few of his servants whom he had obliged to accompany him. He
ascended the staircase without stopping till he arrived at the
gallery, at the door of which he met Hippolita and her chaplain.
When Diego had been dismissed by Manfred, he had gone directly to
the Princess’s apartment with the alarm of what he had seen. That
excellent Lady, who no more than Manfred doubted of the reality of
the vision, yet affected to treat it as a delirium of the servant.
Willing, however, to save her Lord from any additional shock, and
prepared by a series of griefs not to tremble at any accession to
it, she determined to make herself the first sacrifice, if fate had
marked the present hour for their destruction. Dismissing the
reluctant Matilda to her rest, who in vain sued for leave to
accompany her mother, and attended only by her chaplain, Hippolita
had visited the gallery and great chamber; and now with more
serenity of soul than she had felt for many hours, she met her
Lord, and assured him that the vision of the gigantic leg and foot
was all a fable; and no doubt an impression made by fear, and the
dark and dismal hour of the night, on the minds of his servants.
She and the chaplain had examined the chamber, and found everything
in the usual order.

Manfred, though persuaded, like his wife, that the vision had been
no work of fancy, recovered a little from the tempest of mind into
which so many strange events had thrown him. Ashamed, too, of his
inhuman treatment of a Princess who returned every injury with new
marks of tenderness and duty, he felt returning love forcing itself
into his eyes; but not less ashamed of feeling remorse towards one
against whom he was inwardly meditating a yet more bitter outrage,
he curbed the yearnings of his heart, and did not dare to lean even
towards pity. The next transition of his soul was to exquisite
villainy.

Presuming on the unshaken submission of Hippolita, he flattered
himself that she would not only acquiesce with patience to a
divorce, but would obey, if it was his pleasure, in endeavouring to
persuade Isabella to give him her hand–but ere he could indulge
his horrid hope, he reflected that Isabella was not to be found.
Coming to himself, he gave orders that every avenue to the castle
should be strictly guarded, and charged his domestics on pain of
their lives to suffer nobody to pass out. The young peasant, to
whom he spoke favourably, he ordered to remain in a small chamber
on the stairs, in which there was a pallet-bed, and the key of
which he took away himself, telling the youth he would talk with
him in the morning. Then dismissing his attendants, and bestowing
a sullen kind of half-nod on Hippolita, he retired to his own
chamber.

CHAPTER II.

Matilda, who by Hippolita’s order had retired to her apartment, was
ill-disposed to take any rest. The shocking fate of her brother
had deeply affected her. She was surprised at not seeing Isabella;
but the strange words which had fallen from her father, and his
obscure menace to the Princess his wife, accompanied by the most
furious behaviour, had filled her gentle mind with terror and
alarm. She waited anxiously for the return of Bianca, a young
damsel that attended her, whom she had sent to learn what was
become of Isabella. Bianca soon appeared, and informed her
mistress of what she had gathered from the servants, that Isabella
was nowhere to be found. She related the adventure of the young
peasant who had been discovered in the vault, though with many
simple additions from the incoherent accounts of the domestics; and
she dwelt principally on the gigantic leg and foot which had been
seen in the gallery-chamber. This last circumstance had terrified
Bianca so much, that she was rejoiced when Matilda told her that
she would not go to rest, but would watch till the Princess should
rise.

The young Princess wearied herself in conjectures on the flight of
Isabella, and on the threats of Manfred to her mother. “But what
business could he have so urgent with the chaplain?” said Matilda,
“Does he intend to have my brother’s body interred privately in the
chapel?”

“Oh, Madam!” said Bianca, “now I guess. As you are become his
heiress, he is impatient to have you married: he has always been
raving for more sons; I warrant he is now impatient for grandsons.
As sure as I live, Madam, I shall see you a bride at last.–Good
madam, you won’t cast off your faithful Bianca: you won’t put
Donna Rosara over me now you are a great Princess.”

“My poor Bianca,” said Matilda, “how fast your thoughts amble! I a
great princess! What hast thou seen in Manfred’s behaviour since
my brother’s death that bespeaks any increase of tenderness to me?
No, Bianca; his heart was ever a stranger to me–but he is my
father, and I must not complain. Nay, if Heaven shuts my father’s
heart against me, it overpays my little merit in the tenderness of
my mother–O that dear mother! yes, Bianca, ’tis there I feel the
rugged temper of Manfred. I can support his harshness to me with
patience; but it wounds my soul when I am witness to his causeless
severity towards her.”

“Oh! Madam,” said Bianca, “all men use their wives so, when they
are weary of them.”

“And yet you congratulated me but now,” said Matilda, “when you
fancied my father intended to dispose of me!”

“I would have you a great Lady,” replied Bianca, “come what will.
I do not wish to see you moped in a convent, as you would be if you
had your will, and if my Lady, your mother, who knows that a bad
husband is better than no husband at all, did not hinder you.–
Bless me! what noise is that! St. Nicholas forgive me! I was but
in jest.”

“It is the wind,” said Matilda, “whistling through the battlements
in the tower above: you have heard it a thousand times.”

“Nay,” said Bianca, “there was no harm neither in what I said: it
is no sin to talk of matrimony–and so, Madam, as I was saying, if
my Lord Manfred should offer you a handsome young Prince for a
bridegroom, you would drop him a curtsey, and tell him you would
rather take the veil?”

“Thank Heaven! I am in no such danger,” said Matilda: “you know
how many proposals for me he has rejected–”

“And you thank him, like a dutiful daughter, do you, Madam? But
come, Madam; suppose, to-morrow morning, he was to send for you to
the great council chamber, and there you should find at his elbow a
lovely young Prince, with large black eyes, a smooth white
forehead, and manly curling locks like jet; in short, Madam, a
young hero resembling the picture of the good Alfonso in the
gallery, which you sit and gaze at for hours together–”

“Do not speak lightly of that picture,” interrupted Matilda
sighing; “I know the adoration with which I look at that picture is
uncommon–but I am not in love with a coloured panel. The
character of that virtuous Prince, the veneration with which my
mother has inspired me for his memory, the orisons which, I know
not why, she has enjoined me to pour forth at his tomb, all have
concurred to persuade me that somehow or other my destiny is linked
with something relating to him.”

“Lord, Madam! how should that be?” said Bianca; “I have always
heard that your family was in no way related to his: and I am sure
I cannot conceive why my Lady, the Princess, sends you in a cold
morning or a damp evening to pray at his tomb: he is no saint by
the almanack. If you must pray, why does she not bid you address
yourself to our great St. Nicholas? I am sure he is the saint I
pray to for a husband.”

“Perhaps my mind would be less affected,” said Matilda, “if my
mother would explain her reasons to me: but it is the mystery she
observes, that inspires me with this–I know not what to call it.
As she never acts from caprice, I am sure there is some fatal
secret at bottom–nay, I know there is: in her agony of grief for
my brother’s death she dropped some words that intimated as much.”

“Oh! dear Madam,” cried Bianca, “what were they?”

“No,” said Matilda, “if a parent lets fall a word, and wishes it
recalled, it is not for a child to utter it.”

“What! was she sorry for what she had said?” asked Bianca; “I am
sure, Madam, you may trust me–”

“With my own little secrets when I have any, I may,” said Matilda;
“but never with my mother’s: a child ought to have no ears or eyes
but as a parent directs.”

“Well! to be sure, Madam, you were born to be a saint,” said
Bianca, “and there is no resisting one’s vocation: you will end in
a convent at last. But there is my Lady Isabella would not be so
reserved to me: she will let me talk to her of young men: and
when a handsome cavalier has come to the castle, she has owned to
me that she wished your brother Conrad resembled him.”

“Bianca,” said the Princess, “I do not allow you to mention my
friend disrespectfully. Isabella is of a cheerful disposition, but
her soul is pure as virtue itself. She knows your idle babbling
humour, and perhaps has now and then encouraged it, to divert
melancholy, and enliven the solitude in which my father keeps us–”

“Blessed Mary!” said Bianca, starting, “there it is again! Dear
Madam, do you hear nothing? this castle is certainly haunted!”

“Peace!” said Matilda, “and listen! I did think I heard a voice–
but it must be fancy: your terrors, I suppose, have infected me.”

“Indeed! indeed! Madam,” said Bianca, half-weeping with agony, “I
am sure I heard a voice.”

“Does anybody lie in the chamber beneath?” said the Princess.

“Nobody has dared to lie there,” answered Bianca, “since the great
astrologer, that was your brother’s tutor, drowned himself. For
certain, Madam, his ghost and the young Prince’s are now met in the
chamber below–for Heaven’s sake let us fly to your mother’s
apartment!”

“I charge you not to stir,” said Matilda. “If they are spirits in
pain, we may ease their sufferings by questioning them. They can
mean no hurt to us, for we have not injured them–and if they
should, shall we be more safe in one chamber than in another?
Reach me my beads; we will say a prayer, and then speak to them.”

“Oh! dear Lady, I would not speak to a ghost for the world!” cried
Bianca. As she said those words they heard the casement of the
little chamber below Matilda’s open. They listened attentively,
and in a few minutes thought they heard a person sing, but could
not distinguish the words.

“This can be no evil spirit,” said the Princess, in a low voice;
“it is undoubtedly one of the family–open the window, and we shall
know the voice.”

“I dare not, indeed, Madam,” said Bianca.

“Thou art a very fool,” said Matilda, opening the window gently
herself. The noise the Princess made was, however, heard by the
person beneath, who stopped; and they concluded had heard the
casement open.

“Is anybody below?” said the Princess; “if there is, speak.”

“Yes,” said an unknown voice.

“Who is it?” said Matilda.

“A stranger,” replied the voice.

“What stranger?” said she; “and how didst thou come there at this
unusual hour, when all the gates of the castle are locked?”

“I am not here willingly,” answered the voice. “But pardon me,
Lady, if I have disturbed your rest; I knew not that I was
overheard. Sleep had forsaken me; I left a restless couch, and
came to waste the irksome hours with gazing on the fair approach of
morning, impatient to be dismissed from this castle.”

“Thy words and accents,” said Matilda, “are of melancholy cast; if
thou art unhappy, I pity thee. If poverty afflicts thee, let me
know it; I will mention thee to the Princess, whose beneficent soul
ever melts for the distressed, and she will relieve thee.”

“I am indeed unhappy,” said the stranger; “and I know not what
wealth is. But I do not complain of the lot which Heaven has cast
for me; I am young and healthy, and am not ashamed of owing my
support to myself–yet think me not proud, or that I disdain your
generous offers. I will remember you in my orisons, and will pray
for blessings on your gracious self and your noble mistress–if I
sigh, Lady, it is for others, not for myself.”

“Now I have it, Madam,” said Bianca, whispering the Princess; “this
is certainly the young peasant; and, by my conscience, he is in
love–Well! this is a charming adventure!–do, Madam, let us sift
him. He does not know you, but takes you for one of my Lady
Hippolita’s women.”

“Art thou not ashamed, Bianca!” said the Princess. “What right
have we to pry into the secrets of this young man’s heart? He
seems virtuous and frank, and tells us he is unhappy. Are those
circumstances that authorise us to make a property of him? How are
we entitled to his confidence?”

“Lord, Madam! how little you know of love!” replied Bianca; “why,
lovers have no pleasure equal to talking of their mistress.”

“And would you have ME become a peasant’s confidante?” said the
Princess.

“Well, then, let me talk to him,” said Bianca; “though I have the
honour of being your Highness’s maid of honour, I was not always so
great. Besides, if love levels ranks, it raises them too; I have a
respect for any young man in love.”

“Peace, simpleton!” said the Princess. “Though he said he was
unhappy, it does not follow that he must be in love. Think of all
that has happened to-day, and tell me if there are no misfortunes
but what love causes.–Stranger,” resumed the Princess, “if thy
misfortunes have not been occasioned by thy own fault, and are
within the compass of the Princess Hippolita’s power to redress, I
will take upon me to answer that she will be thy protectress. When
thou art dismissed from this castle, repair to holy father Jerome,
at the convent adjoining to the church of St. Nicholas, and make
thy story known to him, as far as thou thinkest meet. He will not
fail to inform the Princess, who is the mother of all that want her
assistance. Farewell; it is not seemly for me to hold farther
converse with a man at this unwonted hour.”

“May the saints guard thee, gracious Lady!” replied the peasant;
“but oh! if a poor and worthless stranger might presume to beg a
minute’s audience farther; am I so happy? the casement is not shut;
might I venture to ask–”

“Speak quickly,” said Matilda; “the morning dawns apace: should
the labourers come into the fields and perceive us–What wouldst
thou ask?”

“I know not how, I know not if I dare,” said the Young stranger,
faltering; “yet the humanity with which you have spoken to me
emboldens–Lady! dare I trust you?”

“Heavens!” said Matilda, “what dost thou mean? With what wouldst
thou trust me? Speak boldly, if thy secret is fit to be entrusted
to a virtuous breast.”

“I would ask,” said the peasant, recollecting himself, “whether
what I have heard from the domestics is true, that the Princess is
missing from the castle?”

“What imports it to thee to know?” replied Matilda. “Thy first
words bespoke a prudent and becoming gravity. Dost thou come
hither to pry into the secrets of Manfred? Adieu. I have been
mistaken in thee.” Saying these words she shut the casement
hastily, without giving the young man time to reply.

“I had acted more wisely,” said the Princess to Bianca, with some
sharpness, “if I had let thee converse with this peasant; his
inquisitiveness seems of a piece with thy own.”

“It is not fit for me to argue with your Highness,” replied Bianca;
“but perhaps the questions I should have put to him would have been
more to the purpose than those you have been pleased to ask him.”

“Oh! no doubt,” said Matilda; “you are a very discreet personage!
May I know what YOU would have asked him?”

“A bystander often sees more of the game than those that play,”
answered Bianca. “Does your Highness think, Madam, that this
question about my Lady Isabella was the result of mere curiosity?
No, no, Madam, there is more in it than you great folks are aware
of. Lopez told me that all the servants believe this young fellow
contrived my Lady Isabella’s escape; now, pray, Madam, observe you
and I both know that my Lady Isabella never much fancied the Prince
your brother. Well! he is killed just in a critical minute–I
accuse nobody. A helmet falls from the moon–so, my Lord, your
father says; but Lopez and all the servants say that this young
spark is a magician, and stole it from Alfonso’s tomb–”

“Have done with this rhapsody of impertinence,” said Matilda.

“Nay, Madam, as you please,” cried Bianca; “yet it is very
particular though, that my Lady Isabella should be missing the very
same day, and that this young sorcerer should be found at the mouth
of the trap-door. I accuse nobody; but if my young Lord came
honestly by his death–”

“Dare not on thy duty,” said Matilda, “to breathe a suspicion on
the purity of my dear Isabella’s fame.”

“Purity, or not purity,” said Bianca, “gone she is–a stranger is
found that nobody knows; you question him yourself; he tells you he
is in love, or unhappy, it is the same thing–nay, he owned he was
unhappy about others; and is anybody unhappy about another, unless
they are in love with them? and at the very next word, he asks
innocently, pour soul! if my Lady Isabella is missing.”

“To be sure,” said Matilda, “thy observations are not totally
without foundation–Isabella’s flight amazes me. The curiosity of
the stranger is very particular; yet Isabella never concealed a
thought from me.”

“So she told you,” said Bianca, “to fish out your secrets; but who
knows, Madam, but this stranger may be some Prince in disguise?
Do, Madam, let me open the window, and ask him a few questions.”

“No,” replied Matilda, “I will ask him myself, if he knows aught of
Isabella; he is not worthy I should converse farther with him.”
She was going to open the casement, when they heard the bell ring
at the postern-gate of the castle, which is on the right hand of
the tower, where Matilda lay. This prevented the Princess from
renewing the conversation with the stranger.

After continuing silent for some time, “I am persuaded,” said she
to Bianca, “that whatever be the cause of Isabella’s flight it had
no unworthy motive. If this stranger was accessory to it, she must
be satisfied with his fidelity and worth. I observed, did not you,
Bianca? that his words were tinctured with an uncommon infusion of
piety. It was no ruffian’s speech; his phrases were becoming a man
of gentle birth.”

“I told you, Madam,” said Bianca, “that I was sure he was some
Prince in disguise.”

“Yet,” said Matilda, “if he was privy to her escape, how will you
account for his not accompanying her in her flight? why expose
himself unnecessarily and rashly to my father’s resentment?”

“As for that, Madam,” replied she, “if he could get from under the
helmet, he will find ways of eluding your father’s anger. I do not
doubt but he has some talisman or other about him.”

“You resolve everything into magic,” said Matilda; “but a man who
has any intercourse with infernal spirits, does not dare to make
use of those tremendous and holy words which he uttered. Didst
thou not observe with what fervour he vowed to remember ME to
heaven in his prayers? Yes; Isabella was undoubtedly convinced of
his piety.”

“Commend me to the piety of a young fellow and a damsel that
consult to elope!” said Bianca. “No, no, Madam, my Lady Isabella
is of another guess mould than you take her for. She used indeed
to sigh and lift up her eyes in your company, because she knows you
are a saint; but when your back was turned–”

“You wrong her,” said Matilda; “Isabella is no hypocrite; she has a
due sense of devotion, but never affected a call she has not. On
the contrary, she always combated my inclination for the cloister;
and though I own the mystery she has made to me of her flight
confounds me; though it seems inconsistent with the friendship
between us; I cannot forget the disinterested warmth with which she
always opposed my taking the veil. She wished to see me married,
though my dower would have been a loss to her and my brother’s
children. For her sake I will believe well of this young peasant.”

“Then you do think there is some liking between them,” said Bianca.
While she was speaking, a servant came hastily into the chamber and
told the Princess that the Lady Isabella was found.

“Where?” said Matilda.

“She has taken sanctuary in St. Nicholas’s church,” replied the
servant; “Father Jerome has brought the news himself; he is below
with his Highness.”

“Where is my mother?” said Matilda.

“She is in her own chamber, Madam, and has asked for you.”

Manfred had risen at the first dawn of light, and gone to
Hippolita’s apartment, to inquire if she knew aught of Isabella.
While he was questioning her, word was brought that Jerome demanded
to speak with him. Manfred, little suspecting the cause of the
Friar’s arrival, and knowing he was employed by Hippolita in her
charities, ordered him to be admitted, intending to leave them
together, while he pursued his search after Isabella.

“Is your business with me or the Princess?” said Manfred.

“With both,” replied the holy man. “The Lady Isabella–”

“What of her?” interrupted Manfred, eagerly.

“Is at St. Nicholas’s altar,” replied Jerome.

“That is no business of Hippolita,” said Manfred with confusion;
“let us retire to my chamber, Father, and inform me how she came
thither.”

“No, my Lord,” replied the good man, with an air of firmness and
authority, that daunted even the resolute Manfred, who could not
help revering the saint-like virtues of Jerome; “my commission is
to both, and with your Highness’s good-liking, in the presence of
both I shall deliver it; but first, my Lord, I must interrogate the
Princess, whether she is acquainted with the cause of the Lady
Isabella’s retirement from your castle.”

“No, on my soul,” said Hippolita; “does Isabella charge me with
being privy to it?”

“Father,” interrupted Manfred, “I pay due reverence to your holy
profession; but I am sovereign here, and will allow no meddling
priest to interfere in the affairs of my domestic. If you have
aught to say attend me to my chamber; I do not use to let my wife
be acquainted with the secret affairs of my state; they are not
within a woman’s province.”

“My Lord,” said the holy man, “I am no intruder into the secrets of
families. My office is to promote peace, to heal divisions, to
preach repentance, and teach mankind to curb their headstrong
passions. I forgive your Highness’s uncharitable apostrophe; I
know my duty, and am the minister of a mightier prince than
Manfred. Hearken to him who speaks through my organs.”

Manfred trembled with rage and shame. Hippolita’s countenance
declared her astonishment and impatience to know where this would
end. Her silence more strongly spoke her observance of Manfred.

“The Lady Isabella,” resumed Jerome, “commends herself to both your
Highnesses; she thanks both for the kindness with which she has
been treated in your castle: she deplores the loss of your son,
and her own misfortune in not becoming the daughter of such wise
and noble Princes, whom she shall always respect as Parents; she
prays for uninterrupted union and felicity between you” [Manfred’s
colour changed]: “but as it is no longer possible for her to be
allied to you, she entreats your consent to remain in sanctuary,
till she can learn news of her father, or, by the certainty of his
death, be at liberty, with the approbation of her guardians, to
dispose of herself in suitable marriage.”

“I shall give no such consent,” said the Prince, “but insist on her
return to the castle without delay: I am answerable for her person
to her guardians, and will not brook her being in any hands but my
own.”

“Your Highness will recollect whether that can any longer be
proper,” replied the Friar.

“I want no monitor,” said Manfred, colouring; “Isabella’s conduct
leaves room for strange suspicions–and that young villain, who was
at least the accomplice of her flight, if not the cause of it–”

“The cause!” interrupted Jerome; “was a YOUNG man the cause?”

“This is not to be borne!” cried Manfred. “Am I to be bearded in
my own palace by an insolent Monk? Thou art privy, I guess, to
their amours.”

“I would pray to heaven to clear up your uncharitable surmises,”
said Jerome, “if your Highness were not satisfied in your
conscience how unjustly you accuse me. I do pray to heaven to
pardon that uncharitableness: and I implore your Highness to leave
the Princess at peace in that holy place, where she is not liable
to be disturbed by such vain and worldly fantasies as discourses of
love from any man.”

“Cant not to me,” said Manfred, “but return and bring the Princess
to her duty.”

“It is my duty to prevent her return hither,” said Jerome. “She is
where orphans and virgins are safest from the snares and wiles of
this world; and nothing but a parent’s authority shall take her
thence.”

“I am her parent,” cried Manfred, “and demand her.”

“She wished to have you for her parent,” said the Friar; “but
Heaven that forbad that connection has for ever dissolved all ties
betwixt you: and I announce to your Highness–”

“Stop! audacious man,” said Manfred, “and dread my displeasure.”

“Holy farther,” said Hippolita, “it is your office to be no
respecter of persons: you must speak as your duty prescribes: but
it is my duty to hear nothing that it pleases not my Lord I should
hear. Attend the Prince to his chamber. I will retire to my
oratory, and pray to the blessed Virgin to inspire you with her
holy counsels, and to restore the heart of my gracious Lord to its
wonted peace and gentleness.”

“Excellent woman!” said the Friar. “My Lord, I attend your
pleasure.”

Manfred, accompanied by the Friar, passed to his own apartment,
where shutting the door, “I perceive, Father,” said he, “that
Isabella has acquainted you with my purpose. Now hear my resolve,
and obey. Reasons of state, most urgent reasons, my own and the
safety of my people, demand that I should have a son. It is in
vain to expect an heir from Hippolita. I have made choice of
Isabella. You must bring her back; and you must do more. I know
the influence you have with Hippolita: her conscience is in your
hands. She is, I allow, a faultless woman: her soul is set on
heaven, and scorns the little grandeur of this world: you can
withdraw her from it entirely. Persuade her to consent to the
dissolution of our marriage, and to retire into a monastery–she
shall endow one if she will; and she shall have the means of being
as liberal to your order as she or you can wish. Thus you will
divert the calamities that are hanging over our heads, and have the
merit of saying the principality of Otranto from destruction. You
are a prudent man, and though the warmth of my temper betrayed me
into some unbecoming expressions, I honour your virtue, and wish to
be indebted to you for the repose of my life and the preservation
of my family.”

“The will of heaven be done!” said the Friar. “I am but its
worthless instrument. It makes use of my tongue to tell thee,
Prince, of thy unwarrantable designs. The injuries of the virtuous
Hippolita have mounted to the throne of pity. By me thou art
reprimanded for thy adulterous intention of repudiating her: by me
thou art warned not to pursue the incestuous design on thy
contracted daughter. Heaven that delivered her from thy fury, when
the judgments so recently fallen on thy house ought to have
inspired thee with other thoughts, will continue to watch over her.
Even I, a poor and despised Friar, am able to protect her from thy
violence–I, sinner as I am, and uncharitably reviled by your
Highness as an accomplice of I know not what amours, scorn the
allurements with which it has pleased thee to tempt mine honesty.
I love my order; I honour devout souls; I respect the piety of thy
Princess–but I will not betray the confidence she reposes in me,
nor serve even the cause of religion by foul and sinful
compliances–but forsooth! the welfare of the state depends on your
Highness having a son! Heaven mocks the short-sighted views of
man. But yester-morn, whose house was so great, so flourishing as
Manfred’s?–where is young Conrad now?–My Lord, I respect your
tears–but I mean not to check them–let them flow, Prince! They
will weigh more with heaven toward the welfare of thy subjects,
than a marriage, which, founded on lust or policy, could never
prosper. The sceptre, which passed from the race of Alfonso to
thine, cannot be preserved by a match which the church will never
allow. If it is the will of the Most High that Manfred’s name must
perish, resign yourself, my Lord, to its decrees; and thus deserve
a crown that can never pass away. Come, my Lord; I like this
sorrow–let us return to the Princess: she is not apprised of your
cruel intentions; nor did I mean more than to alarm you. You saw
with what gentle patience, with what efforts of love, she heard,
she rejected hearing, the extent of your guilt. I know she longs
to fold you in her arms, and assure you of her unalterable
affection.”

“Father,” said the Prince, “you mistake my compunction: true, I
honour Hippolita’s virtues; I think her a Saint; and wish it were
for my soul’s health to tie faster the knot that has united us–but
alas! Father, you know not the bitterest of my pangs! it is some
time that I have had scruples on the legality of our union:
Hippolita is related to me in the fourth degree–it is true, we had
a dispensation: but I have been informed that she had also been
contracted to another. This it is that sits heavy at my heart: to
this state of unlawful wedlock I impute the visitation that has
fallen on me in the death of Conrad!–ease my conscience of this
burden: dissolve our marriage, and accomplish the work of
godliness–which your divine exhortations have commenced in my
soul.”

How cutting was the anguish which the good man felt, when he
perceived this turn in the wily Prince! He trembled for Hippolita,
whose ruin he saw was determined; and he feared if Manfred had no
hope of recovering Isabella, that his impatience for a son would
direct him to some other object, who might not be equally proof
against the temptation of Manfred’s rank. For some time the holy
man remained absorbed in thought. At length, conceiving some hopes
from delay, he thought the wisest conduct would be to prevent the
Prince from despairing of recovering Isabella. Her the Friar knew
he could dispose, from her affection to Hippolita, and from the
aversion she had expressed to him for Manfred’s addresses, to
second his views, till the censures of the church could be
fulminated against a divorce. With this intention, as if struck
with the Prince’s scruples, he at length said:

“My Lord, I have been pondering on what your Highness has said; and
if in truth it is delicacy of conscience that is the real motive of
your repugnance to your virtuous Lady, far be it from me to
endeavour to harden your heart. The church is an indulgent mother:
unfold your griefs to her: she alone can administer comfort to
your soul, either by satisfying your conscience, or upon
examination of your scruples, by setting you at liberty, and
indulging you in the lawful means of continuing your lineage. In
the latter case, if the Lady Isabella can be brought to consent–”

Manfred, who concluded that he had either over-reached the good
man, or that his first warmth had been but a tribute paid to
appearance, was overjoyed at this sudden turn, and repeated the
most magnificent promises, if he should succeed by the Friar’s
mediation. The well-meaning priest suffered him to deceive
himself, fully determined to traverse his views, instead of
seconding them.

“Since we now understand one another,” resumed the Prince, “I
expect, Father, that you satisfy me in one point. Who is the youth
that I found in the vault? He must have been privy to Isabella’s
flight: tell me truly, is he her lover? or is he an agent for
another’s passion? I have often suspected Isabella’s indifference
to my son: a thousand circumstances crowd on my mind that confirm
that suspicion. She herself was so conscious of it, that while I
discoursed her in the gallery, she outran my suspicious, and
endeavoured to justify herself from coolness to Conrad.”

The Friar, who knew nothing of the youth, but what he had learnt
occasionally from the Princess, ignorant what was become of him,
and not sufficiently reflecting on the impetuosity of Manfred’s
temper, conceived that it might not be amiss to sow the seeds of
jealousy in his mind: they might be turned to some use hereafter,
either by prejudicing the Prince against Isabella, if he persisted
in that union or by diverting his attention to a wrong scent, and
employing his thoughts on a visionary intrigue, prevent his
engaging in any new pursuit. With this unhappy policy, he answered
in a manner to confirm Manfred in the belief of some connection
between Isabella and the youth. The Prince, whose passions wanted
little fuel to throw them into a blaze, fell into a rage at the
idea of what the Friar suggested.

“I will fathom to the bottom of this intrigue,” cried he; and
quitting Jerome abruptly, with a command to remain there till his
return, he hastened to the great hall of the castle, and ordered
the peasant to be brought before him.

“Thou hardened young impostor!” said the Prince, as soon as he saw
the youth; “what becomes of thy boasted veracity now? it was
Providence, was it, and the light of the moon, that discovered the
lock of the trap-door to thee? Tell me, audacious boy, who thou
art, and how long thou hast been acquainted with the Princess–and
take care to answer with less equivocation than thou didst last
night, or tortures shall wring the truth from thee.”

The young man, perceiving that his share in the flight of the
Princess was discovered, and concluding that anything he should say
could no longer be of any service or detriment to her, replied –

“I am no impostor, my Lord, nor have I deserved opprobrious
language. I answered to every question your Highness put to me
last night with the same veracity that I shall speak now: and that
will not be from fear of your tortures, but because my soul abhors
a falsehood. Please to repeat your questions, my Lord; I am ready
to give you all the satisfaction in my power.”

“You know my questions,” replied the Prince, “and only want time to
prepare an evasion. Speak directly; who art thou? and how long
hast thou been known to the Princess?”

“I am a labourer at the next village,” said the peasant; “my name
is Theodore. The Princess found me in the vault last night:
before that hour I never was in her presence.”

“I may believe as much or as little as I please of this,” said
Manfred; “but I will hear thy own story before I examine into the
truth of it. Tell me, what reason did the Princess give thee for
making her escape? thy life depends on thy answer.”

“She told me,” replied Theodore, “that she was on the brink of
destruction, and that if she could not escape from the castle, she
was in danger in a few moments of being made miserable for ever.”

“And on this slight foundation, on a silly girl’s report,” said
Manfred, “thou didst hazard my displeasure?”

“I fear no man’s displeasure,” said Theodore, “when a woman in
distress puts herself under my protection.”

During this examination, Matilda was going to the apartment of
Hippolita. At the upper end of the hall, where Manfred sat, was a
boarded gallery with latticed windows, through which Matilda and
Bianca were to pass. Hearing her father’s voice, and seeing the
servants assembled round him, she stopped to learn the occasion.
The prisoner soon drew her attention: the steady and composed
manner in which he answered, and the gallantry of his last reply,
which were the first words she heard distinctly, interested her in
his flavour. His person was noble, handsome, and commanding, even
in that situation: but his countenance soon engrossed her whole
care.

“Heavens! Bianca,” said the Princess softly, “do I dream? or is
not that youth the exact resemblance of Alfonso’s picture in the
gallery?”

She could say no more, for her father’s voice grew louder at every
word.

“This bravado,” said he, “surpasses all thy former insolence. Thou
shalt experience the wrath with which thou darest to trifle. Seize
him,” continued Manfred, “and ‘bind him–the first news the
Princess hears of her champion shall be, that he has lost his head
for her sake.”

“The injustice of which thou art guilty towards me,” said Theodore,
“convinces me that I have done a good deed in delivering the
Princess from thy tyranny. May she be happy, whatever becomes of
me!”

“This is a lover!” cried Manfred in a rage: “a peasant within
sight of death is not animated by such sentiments. Tell me, tell
me, rash boy, who thou art, or the rack shall force thy secret from
thee.”

“Thou hast threatened me with death already,” said the youth, “for
the truth I have told thee: if that is all the encouragement I am
to expect for sincerity, I am not tempted to indulge thy vain
curiosity farther.”

“Then thou wilt not speak?” said Manfred.

“I will not,” replied he.

“Bear him away into the courtyard,” said Manfred; “I will see his
head this instant severed from his body.”

Matilda fainted at hearing those words. Bianca shrieked, and cried

“Help! help! the Princess is dead!” Manfred started at this
ejaculation, and demanded what was the matter! The young peasant,
who heard it too, was struck with horror, and asked eagerly the
same question; but Manfred ordered him to be hurried into the
court, and kept there for execution, till he had informed himself
of the cause of Bianca’s shrieks. When he learned the meaning, he
treated it as a womanish panic, and ordering Matilda to be carried
to her apartment, he rushed into the court, and calling for one of
his guards, bade Theodore kneel down, and prepare to receive the
fatal blow.

The undaunted youth received the bitter sentence with a resignation
that touched every heart but Manfred’s. He wished earnestly to
know the meaning of the words he had heard relating to the
Princess; but fearing to exasperate the tyrant more against her, he
desisted. The only boon he deigned to ask was, that he might be
permitted to have a confessor, and make his peace with heaven.
Manfred, who hoped by the confessor’s means to come at the youth’s
history, readily granted his request; and being convinced that
Father Jerome was now in his interest, he ordered him to be called
and shrive the prisoner. The holy man, who had little foreseen the
catastrophe that his imprudence occasioned, fell on his knees to
the Prince, and adjured him in the most solemn manner not to shed
innocent blood. He accused himself in the bitterest terms for his
indiscretion, endeavoured to disculpate the youth, and left no
method untried to soften the tyrant’s rage. Manfred, more incensed
than appeased by Jerome’s intercession, whose retraction now made
him suspect he had been imposed upon by both, commanded the Friar
to do his duty, telling him he would not allow the prisoner many
minutes for confession.

“Nor do I ask many, my Lord,” said the unhappy young man. “My
sins, thank heaven, have not been numerous; nor exceed what might
be expected at my years. Dry your tears, good Father, and let us
despatch. This is a bad world; nor have I had cause to leave it
with regret.”

“Oh wretched youth!” said Jerome; “how canst thou bear the sight of
me with patience? I am thy murderer! it is I have brought this
dismal hour upon thee!”

“I forgive thee from my soul,” said the youth, “as I hope heaven
will pardon me. Hear my confession, Father; and give me thy
blessing.”

“How can I prepare thee for thy passage as I ought?” said Jerome.
“Thou canst not be saved without pardoning thy foes–and canst thou
forgive that impious man there?”

“I can,” said Theodore; “I do.”

“And does not this touch thee, cruel Prince?” said the Friar.

“I sent for thee to confess him,” said Manfred, sternly; “not to
plead for him. Thou didst first incense me against him–his blood
be upon thy head!”

“It will! it will!” said the good main, in an agony of sorrow.
“Thou and I must never hope to go where this blessed youth is
going!”

“Despatch!” said Manfred; “I am no more to be moved by the whining
of priests than by the shrieks of women.”

“What!” said the youth; “is it possible that my fate could have
occasioned what I heard! Is the Princess then again in thy power?”

“Thou dost but remember me of my wrath,” said Manfred. “Prepare
thee, for this moment is thy last.”

The youth, who felt his indignation rise, and who was touched with
the sorrow which he saw he had infused into all the spectators, as
well as into the Friar, suppressed his emotions, and putting off
his doublet, and unbuttoning, his collar, knelt down to his
prayers. As he stooped, his shirt slipped down below his shoulder,
and discovered the mark of a bloody arrow.

“Gracious heaven!” cried the holy man, starting; “what do I see?
It is my child! my Theodore!”

The passions that ensued must be conceived; they cannot be painted.
The tears of the assistants were suspended by wonder, rather than
stopped by joy. They seemed to inquire in the eyes of their Lord
what they ought to feel. Surprise, doubt, tenderness, respect,
succeeded each other in the countenance of the youth. He received
with modest submission the effusion of the old man’s tears and
embraces. Yet afraid of giving a loose to hope, and suspecting
from what had passed the inflexibility of Manfred’s temper, he cast
a glance towards the Prince, as if to say, canst thou be unmoved at
such a scene as this?

Manfred’s heart was capable of being touched. He forgot his anger
in his astonishment; yet his pride forbad his owning himself
affected. He even doubted whether this discovery was not a
contrivance of the Friar to save the youth.

“What may this mean?” said he. “How can he be thy son? Is it
consistent with thy profession or reputed sanctity to avow a
peasant’s offspring for the fruit of thy irregular amours!”

“Oh, God!” said the holy man, “dost thou question his being mine?
Could I feel the anguish I do if I were not his father? Spare him!
good Prince! spare him! and revile me as thou pleasest.”

“Spare him! spare him!” cried the attendants; “for this good man’s
sake!”

“Peace!” said Manfred, sternly. “I must know more ere I am
disposed to pardon. A Saint’s bastard may be no saint himself.”

“Injurious Lord!” said Theodore, “add not insult to cruelty. If I
am this venerable man’s son, though no Prince, as thou art, know
the blood that flows in my veins–”

“Yes,” said the Friar, interrupting him, “his blood is noble; nor
is he that abject thing, my Lord, you speak him. He is my lawful
son, and Sicily can boast of few houses more ancient than that of
Falconara. But alas! my Lord, what is blood! what is nobility! We
are all reptiles, miserable, sinful creatures. It is piety alone
that can distinguish us from the dust whence we sprung, and whither
we must return.”

“Truce to your sermon,” said Manfred; “you forget you are no longer
Friar Jerome, but the Count of Falconara. Let me know your
history; you will have time to moralise hereafter, if you should
not happen to obtain the grace of that sturdy criminal there.”

“Mother of God!” said the Friar, “is it possible my Lord can refuse
a father the life of his only, his long-lost, child! Trample me,
my Lord, scorn, afflict me, accept my life for his, but spare my
son!”

“Thou canst feel, then,” said Manfred, “what it is to lose an only
son! A little hour ago thou didst preach up resignation to me: MY
house, if fate so pleased, must perish–but the Count of Falconara-
-”

“Alas! my Lord,” said Jerome, “I confess I have offended; but
aggravate not an old man’s sufferings! I boast not of my family,
nor think of such vanities–it is nature, that pleads for this boy;
it is the memory of the dear woman that bore him. Is she,
Theodore, is she dead?”

“Her soul has long been with the blessed,” said Theodore.

“Oh! how?” cried Jerome, “tell me–no–she is happy! Thou art all
my care now!–Most dread Lord! will you–will you grant me my poor
boy’s life?”

“Return to thy convent,” answered Manfred; “conduct the Princess
hither; obey me in what else thou knowest; and I promise thee the
life of thy son.”

“Oh! my Lord,” said Jerome, “is my honesty the price I must pay for
this dear youth’s safety?”

“For me!” cried Theodore. “Let me die a thousand deaths, rather
than stain thy conscience. What is it the tyrant would exact of
thee? Is the Princess still safe from his power? Protect her,
thou venerable old man; and let all the weight of his wrath fall on
me.”

Jerome endeavoured to check the impetuosity of the youth; and ere
Manfred could reply, the trampling of horses was heard, and a
brazen trumpet, which hung without the gate of the castle, was
suddenly sounded. At the same instant the sable plumes on the
enchanted helmet, which still remained at the other end of the
court, were tempestuously agitated, and nodded thrice, as if bowed

by some invisible wearer.

 

PART II

CHAPTER III.

Manfred’s heart misgave him when he beheld the plumage on the
miraculous casque shaken in concert with the sounding of the brazen
trumpet.

“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
me?”

“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
his warder.

“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
Princess Hippolita?”

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
Isabella?”

“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
Arragon.”

“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
Isabella?”

“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
juster side!”

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
pastime.”

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
powers?”

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
silence.

“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
Manfred proceed.

“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
Princess Hippolita?”

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
course!”

“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
gratitude.”

“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
flight.”

“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,
said –

“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
thank–”

“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
from approaching.

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,
haughtily.

“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
mournfully behind.

CHAPTER IV.

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
his dream.

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
did not–”

“For mercy’s sweetest self, my Lord,” said Hippolita, “resume your
soul, command your reason. There is none here, but us, your
friends.”

“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
Theodore’s release.

“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
here.”

“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
company forth.

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
childhood.

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
Matilda!”

“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
chamber.

“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
this mean?”

“Alas!” said Isabella, “the purity of your own heart prevents your
seeing the depravity of others. Manfred, your lord, that impious
man–”

“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
she heard.

“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
another” –

“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
father.”

“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,
wretched Matilda!”

“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
return–”

“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
overslept himself.

“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
breast–”

“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
there?–”

“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
himself.

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
the divorce.

“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
her knees.

“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
safety?”

“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.

CHAPTER V.

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
demanding it.

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
lips–”

“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
meet? when?”

“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
Bianca.

“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
return.”

Manfred, after some general conversation, desired Frederic to
dismiss the two Knights, his companions, having to talk with him on
urgent affairs.

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
believes them?”

“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
to discuss.”

“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
wenches.”

“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
interruption, said,

“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,
and stopped.

“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
child?”

“I cannot speak,” cried Frederic, bursting from her. “Oh,
Matilda!”

 

 

PART III

 

 

Quitting the Princess thus abruptly, he hastened to his own
apartment. At the door of it he was accosted by Manfred, who
flushed by wine and love had come to seek him, and to propose to
waste some hours of the night in music and revelling. Frederic,
offended at an invitation so dissonant from the mood of his soul,
pushed him rudely aside, and entering his chamber, flung the door
intemperately against Manfred, and bolted it inwards. The haughty
Prince, enraged at this unaccountable behaviour, withdrew in a
frame of mind capable of the most fatal excesses. As he crossed
the court, he was met by the domestic whom he had planted at the
convent as a spy on Jerome and Theodore. This man, almost
breathless with the haste he had made, informed his Lord that
Theodore, and some lady from the castle were, at that instant, in
private conference at the tomb of Alfonso in St. Nicholas’s church.
He had dogged Theodore thither, but the gloominess of the night had
prevented his discovering who the woman was.

Manfred, whose spirits were inflamed, and whom Isabella had driven
from her on his urging his passion with too little reserve, did not
doubt but the inquietude she had expressed had been occasioned by
her impatience to meet Theodore. Provoked by this conjecture, and
enraged at her father, he hastened secretly to the great church.
Gliding softly between the aisles, and guided by an imperfect gleam
of moonshine that shone faintly through the illuminated windows, he
stole towards the tomb of Alfonso, to which he was directed by
indistinct whispers of the persons he sought. The first sounds he
could distinguish were –

“Does it, alas! depend on me? Manfred will never permit our
union.”

“No, this shall prevent it!” cried the tyrant, drawing his dagger,
and plunging it over her shoulder into the bosom of the person that
spoke.

“Ah, me, I am slain!” cried Matilda, sinking. “Good heaven,
receive my soul!”

“Savage, inhuman monster, what hast thou done!” cried Theodore,
rushing on him, and wrenching his dagger from him.

“Stop, stop thy impious hand!” cried Matilda; “it is my father!”

Manfred, waking as from a trance, beat his breast, twisted his
hands in his locks, and endeavoured to recover his dagger from
Theodore to despatch himself. Theodore, scarce less distracted,
and only mastering the transports of his grief to assist Matilda,
had now by his cries drawn some of the monks to his aid. While
part of them endeavoured, in concert with the afflicted Theodore,
to stop the blood of the dying Princess, the rest prevented Manfred
from laying violent hands on himself.

Matilda, resigning herself patiently to her fate, acknowledged with
looks of grateful love the zeal of Theodore. Yet oft as her
faintness would permit her speech its way, she begged the
assistants to comfort her father. Jerome, by this time, had learnt
the fatal news, and reached the church. His looks seemed to
reproach Theodore, but turning to Manfred, he said,

“Now, tyrant! behold the completion of woe fulfilled on thy impious
and devoted head! The blood of Alfonso cried to heaven for
vengeance; and heaven has permitted its altar to be polluted by
assassination, that thou mightest shed thy own blood at the foot of
that Prince’s sepulchre!”

“Cruel man!” cried Matilda, “to aggravate the woes of a parent; may
heaven bless my father, and forgive him as I do! My Lord, my
gracious Sire, dost thou forgive thy child? Indeed, I came not
hither to meet Theodore. I found him praying at this tomb, whither
my mother sent me to intercede for thee, for her–dearest father,
bless your child, and say you forgive her.”

“Forgive thee! Murderous monster!” cried Manfred, “can assassins
forgive? I took thee for Isabella; but heaven directed my bloody
hand to the heart of my child. Oh, Matilda!–I cannot utter it–
canst thou forgive the blindness of my rage?”

“I can, I do; and may heaven confirm it!” said Matilda; “but while
I have life to ask it–oh! my mother! what will she feel? Will you
comfort her, my Lord? Will you not put her away? Indeed she loves
you! Oh, I am faint! bear me to the castle. Can I live to have
her close my eyes?”

Theodore and the monks besought her earnestly to suffer herself to
be borne into the convent; but her instances were so pressing to be
carried to the castle, that placing her on a litter, they conveyed
her thither as she requested. Theodore, supporting her head with
his arm, and hanging over her in an agony of despairing love, still
endeavoured to inspire her with hopes of life. Jerome, on the
other side, comforted her with discourses of heaven, and holding a
crucifix before her, which she bathed with innocent tears, prepared
her for her passage to immortality. Manfred, plunged in the
deepest affliction, followed the litter in despair.

Ere they reached the castle, Hippolita, informed of the dreadful
catastrophe, had flown to meet her murdered child; but when she saw
the afflicted procession, the mightiness of her grief deprived her
of her senses, and she fell lifeless to the earth in a swoon.
Isabella and Frederic, who attended her, were overwhelmed in almost
equal sorrow. Matilda alone seemed insensible to her own
situation: every thought was lost in tenderness for her mother.

Ordering the litter to stop, as soon as Hippolita was brought to
herself, she asked for her father. He approached, unable to speak.
Matilda, seizing his hand and her mother’s, locked them in her own,
and then clasped them to her heart. Manfred could not support this
act of pathetic piety. He dashed himself on the ground, and cursed
the day he was born. Isabella, apprehensive that these struggles
of passion were more than Matilda could support, took upon herself
to order Manfred to be borne to his apartment, while she caused
Matilda to be conveyed to the nearest chamber. Hippolita, scarce
more alive than her daughter, was regardless of everything but her;
but when the tender Isabella’s care would have likewise removed
her, while the surgeons examined Matilda’s wound, she cried,

“Remove me! never, never! I lived but in her, and will expire with
her.”

Matilda raised her eyes at her mother’s voice, but closed them
again without speaking. Her sinking pulse and the damp coldness of
her hand soon dispelled all hopes of recovery. Theodore followed
the surgeons into the outer chamber, and heard them pronounce the
fatal sentence with a transport equal to frenzy.

“Since she cannot live mine,” cried he, “at least she shall be mine
in death! Father! Jerome! will you not join our hands?” cried he
to the Friar, who, with the Marquis, had accompanied the surgeons.

“What means thy distracted rashness?” said Jerome. “Is this an
hour for marriage?”

“It is, it is,” cried Theodore. “Alas! there is no other!”

“Young man, thou art too unadvised,” said Frederic. “Dost thou
think we are to listen to thy fond transports in this hour of fate?
What pretensions hast thou to the Princess?”

“Those of a Prince,” said Theodore; “of the sovereign of Otranto.
This reverend man, my father, has informed me who I am.”

“Thou ravest,” said the Marquis. “There is no Prince of Otranto
but myself, now Manfred, by murder, by sacrilegious murder, has
forfeited all pretensions.”

“My Lord,” said Jerome, assuming an air of command, “he tells you
true. It was not my purpose the secret should have been divulged
so soon, but fate presses onward to its work. What his hot-headed
passion has revealed, my tongue confirms. Know, Prince, that when
Alfonso set sail for the Holy Land–”

“Is this a season for explanations?” cried Theodore. “Father, come
and unite me to the Princess; she shall be mine! In every other
thing I will dutifully obey you. My life! my adored Matilda!”
continued Theodore, rushing back into the inner chamber, “will you
not be mine? Will you not bless your–”

Isabella made signs to him to be silent, apprehending the Princess
was near her end.

“What, is she dead?” cried Theodore; “is it possible!”

The violence of his exclamations brought Matilda to herself.
Lifting up her eyes, she looked round for her mother.

“Life of my soul, I am here!” cried Hippolita; “think not I will
quit thee!”

“Oh! you are too good,” said Matilda. “But weep not for me, my
mother! I am going where sorrow never dwells–Isabella, thou hast
loved me; wouldst thou not supply my fondness to this dear, dear
woman? Indeed I am faint!”

“Oh! my child! my child!” said Hippolita in a flood of tears, “can
I not withhold thee a moment?”

“It will not be,” said Matilda; “commend me to heaven–Where is my
father? forgive him, dearest mother–forgive him my death; it was
an error. Oh! I had forgotten–dearest mother, I vowed never to
see Theodore more–perhaps that has drawn down this calamity–but
it was not intentional–can you pardon me?”

“Oh! wound not my agonising soul!” said Hippolita; “thou never
couldst offend me–Alas! she faints! help! help!”

“I would say something more,” said Matilda, struggling, “but it
cannot be–Isabella–Theodore–for my sake–Oh!–” she expired.

Isabella and her women tore Hippolita from the corse; but Theodore
threatened destruction to all who attempted to remove him from it.
He printed a thousand kisses on her clay-cold hands, and uttered
every expression that despairing love could dictate.

Isabella, in the meantime, was accompanying the afflicted Hippolita
to her apartment; but, in the middle of the court, they were met by
Manfred, who, distracted with his own thoughts, and anxious once
more to behold his daughter, was advancing to the chamber where she
lay. As the moon was now at its height, he read in the
countenances of this unhappy company the event he dreaded.

“What! is she dead?” cried he in wild confusion. A clap of thunder
at that instant shook the castle to its foundations; the earth
rocked, and the clank of more than mortal armour was heard behind.
Frederic and Jerome thought the last day was at hand. The latter,
forcing Theodore along with them, rushed into the court. The
moment Theodore appeared, the walls of the castle behind Manfred
were thrown down with a mighty force, and the form of Alfonso,
dilated to an immense magnitude, appeared in the centre of the
ruins.

“Behold in Theodore the true heir of Alfonso!” said the vision:
And having pronounced those words, accompanied by a clap of
thunder, it ascended solemnly towards heaven, where the clouds
parting asunder, the form of St. Nicholas was seen, and receiving
Alfonso’s shade, they were soon wrapt from mortal eyes in a blaze
of glory.

The beholders fell prostrate on their faces, acknowledging the
divine will. The first that broke silence was Hippolita.

“My Lord,” said she to the desponding Manfred, “behold the vanity
of human greatness! Conrad is gone! Matilda is no more! In
Theodore we view the true Prince of Otranto. By what miracle he is
so I know not–suffice it to us, our doom is pronounced! shall we
not, can we but dedicate the few deplorable hours we have to live,
in deprecating the further wrath of heaven? heaven ejects us–
whither can we fly, but to yon holy cells that yet offer us a
retreat.”

“Thou guiltless but unhappy woman! unhappy by my crimes!” replied
Manfred, “my heart at last is open to thy devout admonitions. Oh!
could–but it cannot be–ye are lost in wonder–let me at last do
justice on myself! To heap shame on my own head is all the
satisfaction I have left to offer to offended heaven. My story has
drawn down these judgments: Let my confession atone–but, ah! what
can atone for usurpation and a murdered child? a child murdered in
a consecrated place? List, sirs, and may this bloody record be a
warning to future tyrants!”

“Alfonso, ye all know, died in the Holy Land–ye would interrupt
me; ye would say he came not fairly to his end–it is most true–
why else this bitter cup which Manfred must drink to the dregs.
Ricardo, my grandfather, was his chamberlain–I would draw a veil
over my ancestor’s crimes–but it is in vain! Alfonso died by
poison. A fictitious will declared Ricardo his heir. His crimes
pursued him–yet he lost no Conrad, no Matilda! I pay the price of
usurpation for all! A storm overtook him. Haunted by his guilt he
vowed to St. Nicholas to found a church and two convents, if he
lived to reach Otranto. The sacrifice was accepted: the saint
appeared to him in a dream, and promised that Ricardo’s posterity
should reign in Otranto until the rightful owner should be grown
too large to inhabit the castle, and as long as issue male from
Ricardo’s loins should remain to enjoy it–alas! alas! nor male nor
female, except myself, remains of all his wretched race! I have
done–the woes of these three days speak the rest. How this young
man can be Alfonso’s heir I know not–yet I do not doubt it. His
are these dominions; I resign them–yet I knew not Alfonso had an
heir–I question not the will of heaven–poverty and prayer must
fill up the woeful space, until Manfred shall be summoned to
Ricardo.”

“What remains is my part to declare,” said Jerome. “When Alfonso
set sail for the Holy Land he was driven by a storm to the coast of
Sicily. The other vessel, which bore Ricardo and his train, as
your Lordship must have heard, was separated from him.”

“It is most true,” said Manfred; “and the title you give me is more
than an outcast can claim–well! be it so–proceed.”

Jerome blushed, and continued. “For three months Lord Alfonso was
wind-bound in Sicily. There he became enamoured of a fair virgin
named Victoria. He was too pious to tempt her to forbidden
pleasures. They were married. Yet deeming this amour incongruous
with the holy vow of arms by which he was bound, he determined to
conceal their nuptials until his return from the Crusade, when he
purposed to seek and acknowledge her for his lawful wife. He left
her pregnant. During his absence she was delivered of a daughter.
But scarce had she felt a mother’s pangs ere she heard the fatal
rumour of her Lord’s death, and the succession of Ricardo. What
could a friendless, helpless woman do? Would her testimony avail?-
-yet, my lord, I have an authentic writing–”

“It needs not,” said Manfred; “the horrors of these days, the
vision we have but now seen, all corroborate thy evidence beyond a
thousand parchments. Matilda’s death and my expulsion–”

“Be composed, my Lord,” said Hippolita; “this holy man did not mean
to recall your griefs.” Jerome proceeded.

“I shall not dwell on what is needless. The daughter of which
Victoria was delivered, was at her maturity bestowed in marriage on
me. Victoria died; and the secret remained locked in my breast.
Theodore’s narrative has told the rest.”

The Friar ceased. The disconsolate company retired to the
remaining part of the castle. In the morning Manfred signed his
abdication of the principality, with the approbation of Hippolita,
and each took on them the habit of religion in the neighbouring
convents. Frederic offered his daughter to the new Prince, which
Hippolita’s tenderness for Isabella concurred to promote. But
Theodore’s grief was too fresh to admit the thought of another
love; and it was not until after frequent discourses with Isabella
of his dear Matilda, that he was persuaded he could know no
happiness but in the society of one with whom he could for ever
indulge the melancholy that had taken possession of his soul.

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