Saturday, October 13, 2007


The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
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
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.
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
Young Conrad's birthday was fixed for his espousals. The company was
assembled in the chapel of the Castle, and everything ready for
beginning the divine office, when Conrad himself was missing.
Manfred, impatient of the least delay, and who had not observed his
son retire, despatched one of his attendants to summon the young
Prince. The servant, who had not stayed long enough to have crossed
the court to Conrad's apartment, came running back breathless, in a
frantic manner, his eyes staring, and foaming at the month. He said
nothing, but pointed to the court.
The company were struck with terror and amazement. The Princess
Hippolita, without knowing what was the matter, but anxious for her
son, swooned away. Manfred, less apprehensive than enraged at the
procrastination of the nuptials, and at the folly of his domestic,
asked imperiously what was the matter? The fellow made no answer, but
continued pointing towards the court-yard; and at last, after repeated
questions put to him, cried out, "Oh! the helmet! the helmet!"
In the meantime, some of the company had run into the court, from
whence was heard a confused noise of shrieks, horror, and surprise.
Manfred, who began to be alarmed at not seeing his son, went himself
to get information of what occasioned this strange confusion. Matilda
remained endeavouring to assist her mother, and Isabella stayed for
the same purpose, and to avoid showing any impatience for the
bridegroom, for whom, in truth, she had conceived little affection.
The first thing that struck Manfred's eyes was a group of his servants
endeavouring to raise something that appeared to him a mountain of
sable plumes. He gazed without believing his sight.
"What are ye doing?" cried Manfred, wrathfully; "where is my son?"
A volley of voices replied, "Oh! my Lord! the Prince! the Prince! the
helmet! the helmet!"
Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what,
he advanced hastily, - but what a sight for a father's eyes! - he
beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous
helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for
human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of black
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"Art thou so hardy as to dare my vengeance?" said the Prince; "but
tortures shall force the truth from thee. Tell me; I will know thy
"There was my accomplice!" said the youth, smiling, and pointing to
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 trapdoor
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
"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
While the Prince was in this suspense, a confused noise of voices
echoed through the distant vaults. As the sound approached, he
distinguished the clamours of some of his domestics, whom he had
dispersed through the castle in search of Isabella, calling out -
"Where is my Lord? where is the Prince?"
"Here I am," said Manfred, as they came nearer; "have you found the
The first that arrived, replied, "Oh, my Lord! I am glad we have
found 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
"We do not know," said they both together; "but we are frightened out
of our wits."
"So I think, blockheads," said Manfred; "what is it has scared you
"Oh! my Lord," said Jaquez, "Diego has seen such a sight! your
Highness would not believe our eyes."
"What new absurdity is this?" cried Manfred; "give me a direct answer,
or, by Heaven - "
"Why, my Lord, if it please your Highness to hear me," said the poor
fellow, "Diego and I - "
"Yes, I and Jaquez - " cried his comrade.
"Did not I forbid you to speak both at a time?" said the Prince:
"you, Jaquez, answer; for the other fool seems more distracted than
thou art; what is the matter?"
"My gracious Lord," said Jaquez, "if it please your Highness to hear
me; Diego and I, according to your Highness's orders, went to search
for the young Lady; but being comprehensive that we might meet the
ghost of my young Lord, your Highness's son, God rest his soul, as he
has not received Christian burial - "
"Sot!" cried Manfred in a rage; "is it only a ghost, then, that thou
hast seen?"
"Oh! worse! worse! my Lord," cried Diego: "I had rather have seen ten
whole ghosts."
"Grant me patience!" said Manfred; "these blockheads distract me. Out
of my sight, Diego! and thou, Jaquez, tell me in one word, art thou
sober? art thou raving? thou wast wont to have some sense: has the
other sot frightened himself and thee too? Speak; what is it he
fancies he has seen?"
"Why, my Lord," replied Jaquez, trembling, "I was going to tell your
Highness, that since the calamitous misfortune of my young Lord, God
rest his precious soul! not one of us your Highness's faithful
servants - indeed we are, my Lord, though poor men - I say, not one of
us has dared to set a foot about the castle, but two together: so
Diego and I, thinking that my young Lady might be in the great
gallery, went up there to look for her, and tell her your Highness
wanted something to impart to her."
"O blundering fools!" cried Manfred; "and in the meantime, she has
made her escape, because you were afraid of goblins! - Why, thou
knave! she left me in the gallery; I came from thence myself."
"For all that, she may be there still for aught I know," said Jaquez;
"but the devil shall have me before I seek her there again - poor
Diego! I do not believe he will ever recover it."
"Recover what?" said Manfred; "am I never to learn what it is has
terrified these rascals? - but I lose my time; follow me, slave; I
will see if she is in the gallery."
"For Heaven's sake, my dear, good Lord," cried Jaquez, "do not go to
the gallery. Satan himself I believe is in the chamber next to the
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
"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
"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
"Matilda shall call her," said the Princess. "Sit down, my Lord, and
resume your wonted fortitude."
"What, art thou jealous of Isabella?" replied he, "that you wish to be
present at our interview!"
"Good heavens! my Lord," said Hippolita, "what is it your Highness
"Thou wilt know ere many minutes are passed," said the cruel Prince.
"Send your chaplain to me, and wait my pleasure here."
At these words he flung out of the room in search of Isabella, leaving
the amazed ladies thunderstruck with his words and frantic deportment,
and lost in vain conjectures on what he was meditating.
Manfred was now returning from the vault, attended by the peasant and
a few of his servants whom he had obliged to accompany him. He
ascended the staircase without stopping till he arrived at the
gallery, at the door of which he met Hippolita and her chaplain. When
Diego had been dismissed by Manfred, he had gone directly to the
Princess's apartment with the alarm of what he had seen. That
excellent Lady, who no more than Manfred doubted of the reality of the
vision, yet affected to treat it as a delirium of the servant.
Willing, however, to save her Lord from any additional shock, and
prepared by a series of griefs not to tremble at any accession to it,
she determined to make herself the first sacrifice, if fate had marked
the present hour for their destruction. Dismissing the reluctant
Matilda to her rest, who in vain sued for leave to accompany her
mother, and attended only by her chaplain, Hippolita had visited the
gallery and great chamber; and now with more serenity of soul than she
had felt for many hours, she met her Lord, and assured him that the
vision of the gigantic leg and foot was all a fable; and no doubt an
impression made by fear, and the dark and dismal hour of the night, on
the minds of his servants. She and the chaplain had examined the
chamber, and found everything in the usual order.
Manfred, though persuaded, like his wife, that the vision had been no
work of fancy, recovered a little from the tempest of mind into which
so many strange events had thrown him. Ashamed, too, of his inhuman
treatment of a Princess who returned every injury with new marks of
tenderness and duty, he felt returning love forcing itself into his
eyes; but not less ashamed of feeling remorse towards one against whom
he was inwardly meditating a yet more bitter outrage, he curbed the
yearnings of his heart, and did not dare to lean even towards pity.
The next transition of his soul was to exquisite 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 halfnod
on Hippolita, he retired to his own chamber.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Art thou not ashamed, Bianca!" said the Princess. "What right have
we to pry into the secrets of this young man's heart? He seems
virtuous and frank, and tells us he is unhappy. Are those
circumstances that authorise us to make a property of him? How are we
entitled to his confidence?"
"Lord, Madam! how little you know of love!" replied Bianca; "why,
lovers have no pleasure equal to talking of their mistress."
"And would you have ME become a peasant's confidante?" said the
"Well, then, let me talk to him," said Bianca; "though I have the
honour of being your Highness's maid of honour, I was not always so
great. Besides, if love levels ranks, it raises them too; I have a
respect for any young man in love."
"Peace, simpleton!" said the Princess. "Though he said he was
unhappy, it does not follow that he must be in love. Think of all
that has happened to-day, and tell me if there are no misfortunes but
what love causes. - Stranger," resumed the Princess, "if thy
misfortunes have not been occasioned by thy own fault, and are within
the compass of the Princess Hippolita's power to redress, I will take
upon me to answer that she will be thy protectress. When thou art
dismissed from this castle, repair to holy father Jerome, at the
convent adjoining to the church of St. Nicholas, and make thy story
known to him, as far as thou thinkest meet. He will not fail to
inform the Princess, who is the mother of all that want her
assistance. Farewell; it is not seemly for me to hold farther
converse with a man at this unwonted hour."
"May the saints guard thee, gracious Lady!" replied the peasant; "but
oh! if a poor and worthless stranger might presume to beg a minute's
audience farther; am I so happy? the casement is not shut; might I
venture to ask - "
"Speak quickly," said Matilda; "the morning dawns apace: should the
labourers come into the fields and perceive us - What wouldst thou
"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 trapdoor.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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 wellmeaning
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
MANFRED'S heart misgave him when he beheld the plumage on the
miraculous casque shaken in concert with the sounding of the brazen
"Father!" said he to Jerome, whom he now ceased to treat as Count of
Falconara, "what mean these portents? If I have offended - " the
plumes were shaken with greater violence than before.
"Unhappy Prince that I am," cried Manfred. "Holy Father! will you not
assist me with your prayers?"
"My Lord," replied Jerome, "heaven is no doubt displeased with your
mockery of its servants. Submit yourself to the church; and cease to
persecute her ministers. Dismiss this innocent youth; and learn to
respect the holy character I wear. Heaven will not be trifled with:
you see - " the trumpet sounded again.
"I acknowledge I have been too hasty," said Manfred. "Father, do you
go to the wicket, and demand who is at the gate."
"Do you grant me the life of Theodore?" replied the Friar.
"I do," said Manfred; "but inquire who is without!"
Jerome, falling on the neck of his son, discharged a flood of tears,
that spoke the fulness of his soul.
"You promised to go to the gate," said Manfred.
"I thought," replied the Friar, "your Highness would excuse my
thanking you first in this tribute of my heart."
"Go, dearest Sir," said Theodore; "obey the Prince. I do not deserve
that you should delay his satisfaction for me."
Jerome, inquiring who was without, was answered, "A Herald."
"From whom?" said he.
"From the Knight of the Gigantic Sabre," said the Herald; "and I must
speak with the usurper of Otranto."
Jerome returned to the Prince, and did not fail to repeat the message
in the very words it had been uttered. The first sounds struck
Manfred with terror; but when he heard himself styled usurper, his
rage rekindled, and all his courage revived.
"Usurper! - insolent villain!" cried he; "who dares to question my
title? Retire, Father; this is no business for Monks: I will meet
this presumptuous man myself. Go to your convent and prepare the
Princess's return. Your son shall be a hostage for your fidelity:
his life depends on your obedience."
"Good heaven! my Lord," cried Jerome, "your Highness did but this
instant freely pardon my child - have you so soon forgot the
interposition of heaven?"
"Heaven," replied Manfred, "does not send Heralds to question the
title of a lawful Prince. I doubt whether it even notifies its will
through Friars - but that is your affair, not mine. At present you
know my pleasure; and it is not a saucy Herald that shall save your
son, if you do not return with the Princess."
It was in vain for the holy man to reply. Manfred commanded him to be
conducted to the postern-gate, and shut out from the castle. And he
ordered some of his attendants to carry Theodore to the top of the
black tower, and guard him strictly; scarce permitting the father and
son to exchange a hasty embrace at parting. He then withdrew to the
hall, and seating himself in princely state, ordered the Herald to be
admitted to his presence.
"Well! thou insolent!" said the Prince, "what wouldst thou with 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
"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
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
"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
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,
"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.
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 off-spring," continued he, "I banish him from my
dominions. He, I ween, is no sacred personage, nor under the
protection of the Church. Whoever weds Isabella, it shall not be
Father Falconara's started-up son."
"They start up," said the Friar, "who are suddenly beheld in the seat
of lawful Princes; but they wither away like the grass, and their
place knows them no more."
Manfred, casting a look of scorn at the Friar, led Hippolita forth;
but at the door of the church whispered one of his attendants to
remain concealed about the convent, and bring him instant notice, if
any one from the castle should repair thither.
EVERY reflection which Manfred made on the Friar's behaviour,
conspired to persuade him that Jerome was privy to an amour between
Isabella and Theodore. But Jerome's new presumption, so dissonant
from his former meekness, suggested still deeper apprehensions. The
Prince even suspected that the Friar depended on some secret support
from Frederic, whose arrival, coinciding with the novel appearance of
Theodore, seemed to bespeak a correspondence. Still more was he
troubled with the resemblance of Theodore to Alfonso's portrait. The
latter he knew had unquestionably died without issue. Frederic had
consented to bestow Isabella on him. These contradictions agitated
his mind with numberless pangs.
He saw but two methods of extricating himself from his difficulties.
The one was to resign his dominions to the Marquis - pride, ambition,
and his reliance on ancient prophecies, which had pointed out a
possibility of his preserving them to his posterity, combated that
thought. The other was to press his marriage with Isabella. After
long ruminating on these anxious thoughts, as he marched silently with
Hippolita to the castle, he at last discoursed with that Princess on
the subject of his disquiet, and used every insinuating and plausible
argument to extract her consent to, even her promise of promoting the
divorce. Hippolita needed little persuasions to bend her to his
pleasure. She endeavoured to win him over to the measure of resigning
his dominions; but finding her exhortations fruitless, she assured
him, that as far as her conscience would allow, she would raise no
opposition to a separation, though without better founded scruples
than what he yet alleged, she would not engage to be active in
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
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 tonight.
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
"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
"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
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
"Ah, virtuous Princess!" said the Marquis, penetrated with grief, and
"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!"
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
"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
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
"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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