THE CASTLE of OTRANTO, A STORY.

Translated by WILLIAM MARSHAL, Gent. From the Original ITALIAN of ONUPHRIO MURALTO, CANON of the Church of St. NICHOLAS at OTRANTO.

DUBLIN: Printed for ELIZABETH WATTS, in Skin­ner-Row, M,DCCLXV.

THE TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE.

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 stile 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 aera 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 [Page iv] 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 [Page v] 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. E­very thing 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; [Page vi] 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 [Page vii] 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 re-print 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 stile is as elegant, as his con­duct [Page viii] of the passions is masterly. It is 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 ground-work 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 Condra's apart­ment: These and other passages are strong presumptions that the author had some cer­tain building in his eye. Curious persons, who have leisure to employ in such re­searches, may possibly discover in the Ita­lian writers the foundation on which our author has built. If a catastrophe, at all resembling that which he describes, is be­lieved to have given rise to this work, it will contribute to interest the reader, and will make the castle of Otranto a still more moving story.

THE CASTLE of OTRANTO, A STORY, &c.

CHAPTER I.

MANFRED, Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: The lat­ter a most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda. Conrad, the son, was three years younger, a homely youth, sickly, and of no promising disposition; yet he was the darling of his father, who never showed any [Page 2] 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. Hippilita, 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 [Page 3] Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it. It was difficult to make any sense of this prophecy; and still less easy to conceive what it had to do with the marriage in question. Yet these mysteries, or contradictions, did not make the populace adhere the less to their opi­nion.

Young Conrad's birth-day was fixed for his espousals. The company was assembled in the chapel of the Castle, and every thing 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, dispatched one of his attendants to summon the young Prince. The servant, who had not staid 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 mouth. He said nothing, but pointed to the court. The company were struck with ter­ror [Page 4] 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 mean time, 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 staid 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 [Page 5] was a groupe 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 volly of voices replied, Oh! My Lord! The Prince! the Prince, the helmet! the helmet! shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what; he advanced hastily,—but what a sight for a father's eyes!—he beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of black feathers.

The horror of the spectacle, the ignorance of all around how this misfortune had happened, and above all, the tremendous phaenomenon 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 [Page 6] 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 surprized at their Prince's insensibility, as thunder-struck 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 [Page 7] addressed to her situation, and flew to her assistance. They conveyed her to her chamber more dead than alive, and indifferent to all the strange circumstances she heard, except the death of her son. Matilda, who doated 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, [Page 8] 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 [Page 9] 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 gripe, 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 [Page 10] 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 reasonings, caught, the words from the mouth of their Lord, and re-ecchoed, ay, ay; 'tis he, 'tis he: He has stolen the helmet from good Alfonse'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 [Page 11] had been in the church, and that of steel before their eyes; nor how impossible it was for a youth, seemingly not twenty, to weild 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 fresh rumours under so impertinent a supposition; he gravely pronounced that the young man was certainly a necro­mancer, and that till the church could take cog­nizance 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.

[Page 12] 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 diabolical skill, he could easily sup­ply himself with nutriment.

Manfred thus saw his commands even chear­fully 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.

[Page 13] In the mean time, 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 enquiring 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 [Page 14] 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 his 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, [Page 15] and how he bore his loss. Matildá assured her he was well, and supported his misfortune with manly fortitude. But will he not let me see him? said Hippolita mornfully; 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 doated 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 [Page 16] 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 fit 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 [Page 17] 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 [Page 18] 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 asswaging yours, Hippolita's, and the fair Matilda's affliction.

I desired you once before, said Manfred an­grily, [Page 19] 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 [Page 20] 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 in­tention!—Heaven nor hell shall impede my designs, said Manfred, advancing again to seize the Princess. At that instant the portrait of his grandfather, which hung over the bench where they had been sitting, uttered a deep sigh, and heaved its breast. Isabella, whose back was turned to the picture, saw not the motion, nor knew whence the sound came, but started, and, said, Hark, my Lord! What sound was that? and at the same time made towards the door. Manfred, distracted between the flight of Isa­bella, who had now reached the stairs, and yet unable to keep his eyes from the picture which began to move, had however advanced some steps after her, still looking backwards on the portrait, when he saw it quit its pannel, and descend on the floor with a grave and melan­choly [Page 21] air. Do I dream? cried Manfred return­ing, or are the devils themselves in league against me? speak, infernal spectre! or, if thou art my grandsire, why dost thou too con­spire against thy wretched descendent, 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 gulph of perdition. The spectre marched sedately, but dejected, to the end of the gallery, and turned into a chamber on the right-hand. Manfred accompanied him at a little distance, full of anxiety and horror, but resolved. As he would have entered the chamber, the door was clapped to with violence by an invisible hand. The Prince, collecting courage from this delay, would have forcibly burst open the door with his foot, but found that it resisted his utmost efforts. Since hell will not satisfy my curiosity, said Manfred, I will use the human means in [Page 22] my power for preserving my race; Isabella shall not escape me.

That 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 [Page 23] 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 cloysters; 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 [Page 24] which grating on the rusty hinges, were re­ecchoed 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 any body 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 cloysters, and the steps she had heard were too distinct to proceed from the way she [Page 25] had come. Cheared 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 a jar, 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 bade 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 [Page 26] 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 crouded 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 [Page 27] heard the sigh and steps. It gave her a kind of momentary joy to perceive an imperfect ray of clouded moonshine gleam from the roof of the vault, which seemed to be fallen in, and from whence hung a fragment of earth or building, she could not distinguish which, that appeared to have been crushed inwards. She advanced eagerly towards this chasm, when she discerned a human form standing close against the wall.

She shrieked, believing it the ghost of her betrothed Conrad. The figure advancing, said in a submissive voice, be not alarmed, Lady; I will not injure you. Isabella a little encouraged by the words and tone of voice of the stranger, and recollecting that this must be the person who had opened the door, recovered her spirits enough to reply, Sir, whoever you are, take pity on a wretched Princess, standing on the brink of destruction: Assist me to escape from this fatal castle, or in few moments I may be made miserable for ever. Alas! said the stranger, [Page 28] 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 these words, she felt about on the pavement, and directed the stranger to search likewise for a smooth piece of brass inclosed 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 [Page 29] shone directly on the lock they sought—Oh! transport! said Isabella, here is the trap-door! and taking out a 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 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 [Page 30] necromancers; I tell you she must be in the castle: I will find her in spite of enchantment—Oh! heavens, cried Isabella, it is the voice of Manfred! make haste or we are ruined! and shut the trap-door after you. Saying this, she descend­ed the steps precipitately, and as the stranger hastened to follow her, he let the door slip out of his hands, it fell, and the spring closed over it. He tried in vain to open it, not having observed Isabella's method of touching the spring: nor had he many moments to make an essay. The noise of the falling door had been heard by Manfred, who directed by the sound, hastened thither, attended by his servants with torches. It must be Isabella; cried Manfred before he entered the vault; she is escaping by the sub­terraneous passage, but she cannot have got far.—What was the astonishment of the Prince, when, instead of Isabella, the light of the torches discovered to him the young peasant, whom he thought confined under the fatal helmet: Traitor! said Manfred, how camest [Page 31] thou here? I thought thee in durance above in the court. I am no traitor, replied the young man boldly, nor am I answerable for your thoughts. Presumptuous villain! cried Man­fred, dost thou provoke my wrath? tell me; how hast thou escaped from above? thou hast corrupted thy guards, and their lives shall an­swer it. My poverty, said the peasant calmly, will disculpate them: Though the ministers of a tyrant's wrath, to thee they are faithful, and but too willing to execute the orders which you unjustly imposed upon them. Art thou so hardy as to dare my vengeance? said the Prince—but tortures shall force the truth from thee. Tell me, I will know thy accom­plices. There was my accomplice! said the youth smiling, and pointing to the roof. Manfred ordered the torches to be held up, and perceived that one of the cheeks of the enchanted casque had forced its way through the pavement of the court, as his servants had let it fall over the peasant, and had broken [Page 32] through into the vault, [...] gap through which the peasant had [...] 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 cloyster? 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 [Page 33] truly; thy life depends on thy veracity. My veracity is dearer to me than my life; said the peasant; nor would I purchase the one by for­feiting the other. Indeed! young philosopher! said Manfred contemptuously; tell me then, what was the noise I heard? Ask me what I can answer, said he, and put me to death instantly if I tell you a lie. Manfred growing impatient at the steady valour and indifference of the youth, cried, Well then, thou man of truth! answer; was it the fall of the trap-door that I heard? It was; said the youth. It was! said the Prince; and how didst thou come to know there was a trap-door here? I saw the plate of brass by a gleam of moonshine; replied he. But what told thee it was a lock? said Manfred; How didst thou discover the secret of opening it? Providence, that delivered me from the helmet, was able to direct me to the spring of a lock; said he. Pro­vidence should have gone a little farther, and have placed thee out of the reach of my resent­ment, said Manfred: When Providence had [Page 34] taught thee to open the lock, it abandoned thee for a fool, who did not know how to make use of its favours. Why didst thou not pursue the path pointed out for thy escape? Why didst thou shut the trap-door before thou hadst de­scended the steps? I might ask you, my Lord, said the peasant, how I, totally unacquainted with your castle, was to know that those steps, led to any outlet? but I scorn to evade your questions. Wherever those steps lead to, per­haps I should have explored the way—I could not be in a worse situation than I was. But the truth is, I let the trap-door fall: Your imme­diate arrival followed. I had given the alarm—what imported it to me whether I was seized a minute sooner or a minute later? Thou art a resolute villain for thy years; said Manfred—yet on reflection I suspect thou dost but trifle with me: Thou hast not yet told me how thou didst open the lock. That I will show you, my Lord; said the Peasant, and taking up a frag­ment of stone that had fall from above, [Page 35] he laid himself on the trap-door, and began to beat on the piece of brass that covered it; mean­ing to gain time for the escape of the Princess. This presence of mind, joined to the frankness of the youth, staggered Manfred. He even felt a disposition towards pardoning one who had been guilty of no crime. Manfred was not one of those savage tyrants who wanton in cruelty unprovoked. The circumstances of his fortune had given an asperity to his temper, which was naturally humane: and his virtues were always ready to operate, when his passions did not ob­scure his reason.

While the Prince was in this suspence, a confused noise of voices ecchoed 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 [Page 36] the Princess? the first that arrived, replied, oh! my Lord! I am glad we have found you—found me! said Manfred; have you found the Princess! We thought we had, my Lord, said the fellow, looking terrified—but—but what? cried the Prince; has she escaped!—Jaquez and I, my Lord—yes, I and Diego, interrupted the second, who came up in still greater consternation—speak one of you at a time, said Manfred; I ask you where is the Princess? We do not know; said they both together; but we are frightened out of our wits—so I think, block­heads, said Manfred; what is it has scared you thus?—oh! my Lord, said Jaquez, Diego has seen such a sight! your Highness would not believe our eyes—what new absurdity is this! cried Manfred—give me a direct answer, or, by heaven—why, my Lord, if it please your. Highness to hear me, said the poor fellow; Diego and I—yes I and Jaquez, cried his com­rade—did not I forbid you to speak both at a time? said the Prince: You, Jaquez, answer [Page 37] 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 apprehensive 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 frighted 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 mifortune of my young Lord, God rest his precious soul! not one of us your [Page 38] 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 mean time she has made her escape, because you were afraid of goblings!—Why, thou knave! she left me in the gallery; I came from thence myself. For all that, she may be there still for ought 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 great chamber next to the gallery—Manfred, who hitherto had treated the [Page 39] 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 fool-hardy, and would go on, though I advised him not—if ever I open a door that is shut again—trifle [Page 40] not, said Manfred shuddering, but tell me what you saw in the great chamber on opening the door—I! my Lord! said Jaquez, I saw nothing; I was behind Diego;—but I heard the noise—Jaquez, said Manfred in a solemn tone of voice; tell me I adjure thee by the souls of my ancestors, what was it thou sawest? what was it thou heardst? 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 an 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 [Page 41] the end of the gallery, we heard the door of the great chamber clap behind us, but we did not dare turn back to see if the giant was following us—yet now I think on it, we must have heard him if he had pursued us—but for heaven's sake, good my Lord, send for the chaplain and have the castle exorcised, for, for certain, it is enchanted. Ay, pray do, my Lord, cried all the servants at once, or we must leave your High­ness's service—peace! dotards; said Manfred, and follow me; I will know what all this means. We! my Lord! cried they with one voice, we would not go up to the gallery for your Highness's revenue. The young peasant, who had stood silent, now spoke. Will your Highess, 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, [Page 42] 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 [Page 43] good Lord, said Hippolita, your daughter tells you the truth: Isabella left us by your com­mand, and has not returned since;—but, my good Lord, compose yourself: Retire to your rest: This dismal day has disordered you. Isa­bella shall wait your orders in the morning. What then, you know where she is! cried Man­fred: Tell me directly, for I will not lose an instant—and you, woman, speaking to his wife, order your chaplain to attend me forth­with. Isabella, said Hippolita calmly, is retired, I suppose to her chamber: She is not accustom­ed to watch at this late hour. Gracious my Lord, continued she, let me know what has disturbed you: Has Isabella, offended you? Trouble me not with questions, said Manfred, but tell me where she is. Matilda shall call her, said the Princess—Sit down, my Lord, and resume your wonted fortitude.—What, art thou jealous of Isabella, replied he, that you wish to be present at our interview? Good heavens! [Page 44] my Lord, said Hippolita, what is it your High­ness means? Thou wilt know ere many mi­nutes are passed; said the cruel Prince. Send your chaplain to me, and wait my pleasure here. At these words he flung out of the room in search of Isabella; leaving the amazed Ladies thunder-struck 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 stair-case, 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 [Page 45] save her Lord from any additional shock, and prepared by a series of grief 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 every thing 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 [Page 46] 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 wou'd 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 this 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, [Page 47] 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 fullen kind of half-nod on Hippolita, he retired to his own chamber.

CHAP. II.

MATILDA, who, by Hippolita's order, had retired to her apartment, was ill-disposed to take any rest. The shocking fate of her brother had deeply affacted her. She was sur­prized 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 no where to be found. She related the adventure of the young peasant, who [Page 49] had been discovered in the vault, tho' with many simple additions from the incoherent accounts of the domestics; and she dwelled principally on the gigantic leg and foot which had been seen in the gallery-chamber. This last circumstance had terrified Bianca so much, that she was re­joiced when Matilda told her that she would not go to rest, but would watch till the Princess should rise.

The young Princess wearied herself in con­jectures on the flight of Isabella, and on the threats of Manfred to her mother. But what business could he have so urgent with the chap­lain? said Matilda. Does he intend to have my brother's body interred privately in the chapel? Oh! Madam, said Bianca, now I guess. As you are become his heiress, he is impatient to have you married: He has always been raving for more sons; I warrant he is now impatient for grandsons. As sure as I live, Madam, I shall see you a bride at last—Good Madam, you [Page 50] won't cast off your faithful Bianca: You won't put Donna Rosara over me, now you are a great Princess. My poor Bianca, said Matilda, how fast your thoughts amble! I a great Princess! What hast thou seen in Manfred's behaviour since my brother's death that bespeaks any in­crease of tenderness to me? No, Bianca; his heart was ever a stranger to me—but he is my father, and I must not complain. Nay, if hea­ven shuts my father's heart against me, it over­pays my little merit in the tenderness of my mo­ther—O that dear mother! yes, Bianca, 'tis there I feel the rugged temper of Manfred. I can support his harshness to me with patience; but it wounds my soul when I am witness to his causeless severity towards her. Oh! Madam, said Bianca, all men use their wives so, when they are weary of them—and yet you congra­tulated me but now, said Matilda, when you fancied my father intended to dispose of me. I would have you a great Lady, replied Bianca, come what will. I do not wish to see you moped [Page 51] 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 curtsy, and tell him you had 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 [Page 52] 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 pannel. 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 some how 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 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 not she bid you address [Page 53] 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 [Page 54] 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 chearful dispo­sition, but her soul is pure as virtue itself. She knows your idle babling 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 any body lie in the chamber beneath? said the Prin­cess. Nobody has dared to lie there, answered [Page 55] Bianca, since the great astrologer that was your brother's tutor, drowned himself. For certain, Madam, his ghost and the young Prince's are now met in the chamber below—for heaven's sake let us fly to your mother's apartment! I charge you not to stir; said Matilda. If they are spirits in pain, we may ease their sufferings by questioning them. They can mean no hurt to us, for we have not injured them—and if they should, shall we be more safe in one cham­ber than in another? Reach me my beads; we will say a prayer, and then speak to them. Oh! dear Lady, I would not speak to a ghost for the world; cried Bianca—as she said those words, they heard the casement of the little chamber below Matilda's open. They listened attentive­ly, and in 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 [Page 56] Bianca. Thou art a very fool, said Matilda, opening the window gently herself. The noise the Princess made was however heard by the person beneath, who stopped; and they con­cluded had heard the casement open. Is any body 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 a 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 [Page 57] the distressed, and she will relieve thee. I am indeed unhappy, said the stranger; and I know what wealth is: But I do not complain of the lot which heaven has cast for me: I am young and healthy, and am not ashamed of owing my support to myself—yet think me not proud, or that I disdain your generous offers. I will re­member you in my orisons, and will pray for blessings on your gracious self and your noble mistress—if I sigh, Lady, it is for others, not for myself. Now I have it, Madam, said Bianca, whispering the Princess. This is certainly the young peasant; and by my conscience he is in love—Well! this is a charming adventure!—do, Madam, let us sift him. He does not know you, but takes you for one of my Lady Hippolita's women. Art thou not ashamed, Bi­anca! said the Princess: What right have we to pry into the secrets of this young man's heart? he seems virtuous and frank, and tells us he is unhappy: Are those circumstances that authorize us to make a property of him? how [Page 58] are we intitled 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 confident? said the Prin­cess. Well then, let me talk to him: Said Bi­anca: Though I have the honour of being your Highness's maid of honour, I was not always so great: Besides, if love levels ranks, it raises them too: I have a respect for any young man in love—peace! simpleton; said the Princess. Though he said he was unhappy, it does not follow that he must be in love. Think of all that has happened to-day, and tell me if there are no misfortunes but what love causes. Stranger, resumed the Princess, if thy misfortunes have not been occasioned by thy own fault, and are within the compass of the Princess Hippolita's power to redress, I will take upon me to answer that she will be thy protectress. When thou art dismissed from this castle, repair to holy fa­ther Jerome at the convent adjoining to the [Page 59] 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. Fare­wel: 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 a pace: Should the labourers come into the fields and perceive us—What wouldst thou ask?—I know not how—I know not if I dare—said the young stranger faltering—yet the humanity with which you have spoken to me emboldens—Lady! dare I trust you?—Heavens! said Matilda, What dost thou mean? with what wouldst thou trust me?—speak boldly, if thy secret is fit to be entrusted to a virtuous breast—I would ask, said the Peasant, recollecting [Page 60] 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 by-stander often sees more of the game than those that play, answered Bianca. Does your Highness think, [Page 61] Madam, that his 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 the 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 tho', that my Lady Isabella should be missing the very same day, and that this young sorcerer should be found at the mouth of the trap-door—I accuse nobody—but if my young Lord came honestly by his death—Dare not on thy duty, said Matilda, to breathe a suspicion on [Page 62] the purity of my dear Isabella's same—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 any body unhappy about another, unless they are in love with them? and at the very next word, he asks innocently, poor 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 this 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 that I should converse farther with him. She was going to open the casement, when they heard, [Page 63] 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 accessary to it, she must be satisfied of his fidelity and worth. I observed, did not you, Bianca? that his words were tinctured with an uncommon effusion 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 [Page 64] anger. I do not doubt but he has some talisman or other about him—You resolve every thing 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 cloyster: And though I own the mystery she has made to me of her flight, confounds me; though it seems [Page 65] inconsistent with the freindship 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 ought of Isabella. While he was questioning her, word was brought that Jerome [Page 66] 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 [Page 67] 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 ought to say, attend me to my chamber—I do not use to let my Wife be acquainted with the secret affairs of my State; they are not within a woman's province. My Lord, said the holy man, I am no intruder into the secrets of families. My office is to promote peace, to heal divisions, to preach repentance, and teach mankind to curb their headstrong passions. I for­give your Highness's uncharitable apostrophe: I know my duty, and am the minister of a mightier prince than Manfred. Hearken to him who speaks through my organs. Manfred trembled with rage and shame. Hippolita's countenance de­clared her astonishment and impatience to know where this would end: her silence more strongly spoke her observance of Manfred.

[Page 68] 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 intreats 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. [Page 69] Isabella's conduct leaves room for strange suspi­cions—and that young villain, who was at least the accomplice of her flight, if not the cause of it—the cause! interrupted Jerome; was a young man the cause! This is not to be borne! cried Manfred. Am I to be bearded in my own palace by an insolent Monk! thou art privy I guess, to their amours. I would pray to heaven to clear up your uncharitable surmises, said Jerome, if your Highness were not satisfied in your conscience how unjustly you accuse me. I do pray to heaven to pardon that uncharitable­ness: And I implore your Highness to leave the Princess at peace in that holy place, where she is not liable to be disturbed by such vain and worldly fantasies as discourses of love from any man. Cant not to me, said Manfred, but return and bring the Princess to her duty. It is my duty to prevent her return hither, said Jerome. She is where orphans and virgins are safest from the snares and wiles of this world; and nothing but a parent's authority shall take [Page 70] 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 father, 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 councils, and to restore the heart of my gracious Lord to its wonted peace and gentleness. Excellent woman! said the Friar—my Lord, I attend your pleasure.

Manfred, accompanied by the Friar, passed to his own apartment, where shutting the door, I perceive, father, said he, that Isabella has acquainted you with my purpose. Now hear [Page 71] 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 intirely. 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 saving 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 [Page 72] 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 [Page 73] 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 for sooth! 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 towards 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 [Page 74] 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 burthen: dissolve our marriage, and accomplish the work of god­liness which your divine exhortations have com­menced in my soul.

[Page 75] 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 hope 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 [Page 76] that is the real motive of your repugnance to your virtuous Lady, far be it from me to en­deavour to harden your heart. The church is an indulgent mother: unfold your griefs to her: she alone can administer comfort to your soul, either by satisfying your conscience, or upon examination of your scruples, by setting you at liberty, and indulging you in the lawful means of continuing your lineage. In the latter case, if the Lady Isabella can be brought to consent—Manfred, who concluded that he had either over-reached the good man, or that his first warmth had been but a tribute paid to appearance, was overjoyed at this sudden turn, and repeated the most magnificent promises, if he should succeed by the Friar's mediation. The well meaning Priest suffered him to deceive himself, fully determined to traverse his views, instead of seconding them.

Since we now understand one another, re­sumed the Prince, I expect, Father, that you [Page 77] 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 croud 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 suspicions, 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, [Page 78] prevent his engaging in any new pursuit. With this unhappy policy, he answered in a manner to confirm Manfred in the belief of some con­nection between Isabella and the youth. The Prince, whose passions wanted little fuel to throw them into a blaze, fell into a rage at the idea of what the Friar suggested. I will fathom to the bottom of this intrigue; cried he; and quitting Jerome abruptly, with a command to remain there till his return, he hastened to the great hall of the castle, and ordered the peasant to be brought before him.

Thou hardened young impostor! said the Prince, as soon as he saw the youth; what be­comes of thy boasted veracity now? it was Pro­vidence, was it, and the light of the moon, that discovered the lock of the trap-door to thee▪ Tell me, audacious boy, who thou art, and how long thou hast been acquainted with the Princess—and take care to answer with less equivocation than thou didst last night, or tor­tures [Page 79] shall wring the truth from thee. The young man, perceiving that his share in the flight of the Princess was discovered, and con­cluding that any thing he should say could no longer be of 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 falshood. 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; [Page 80] 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 to 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, thro' 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 [Page 81] last reply, which were the first words she heard distinctly interested her in his favour. His per­son was noble, handsome, and commanding, even in that situation: But his countenance soon engrossed her whole care. Heavens! Bi­anca, said the Princess softly, do I dream? or is not that youth the exact resemblance of Alfonso's picture in the gallery? She could say no more, for her father's voice grew louder at every word. This bravado, said he, surpasses all thy former insolence. Thou shalt experience the wrath with which thou darest to trifle. Seize him, con­tinued Manfred, and bind him—the first news the Princess hears of her champion shall be, that he has lost his head for her sake. The in­justice of which thou art guilty towards me, said Theodore, convinces me that I have done a good deed in delivering the Princess from thy tyranny. May she be happy, whatever be­comes of me! This is a Lover! cried Manfred in a rage: A peasant within sight of death is not [Page 82] animated by such sentiments. Tell me, tell me, rash boy, who thou art, or the rack shall force thy secret from thee. Thou hast threatened me with death already, said the youth, for the truth I have told thee: If that is all the encouragement I am to expect for sincerity, I am not tempted to indulge thy vain curiosity farther. Then thou wilt not speak! said Manfred; I will not, replied he. Bear him away into the court-yard, 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 [Page 83] 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 shrift 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 [Page 84] 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 retractation 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 dis­patch: This is a bad world; nor have I had cause to leave it with regret. Oh! wretched youth! said Jerome, how canst thou bear the fight 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? [Page 85] 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 on thy head; It will! it will! said the good man, in an agony of sorrow. Thou and I must never hope to go, where this blessed youth is going! Dispatch! 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 thy 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 [Page 86] 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?

[Page 87] Manfred's heart was capable of being touched. He forgot his anger in his astonishment: Yet his pride forbade his owning himself affected. He even doubted whether this discovery was not a contrivance of the friar to save the youth. What may this mean? said he: How can he be thy son? is it consistent with thy profession or reputed sanctity to avow a peasant's offspring for the fruit of thy irregular amours! Oh! God, said the holy man, dost thou question his being mine? could I feel the anguish I do, if I were not his father? Spare him! good Prince, spare him! and revile me as thou pleasest. Spare him! spare him, cried the attendants, for this good man's sake! Peace! said Manfred sternly: I must know more, ere I am disposed to pardon. A Saint's bastard may be no saint himself. In­jurious Lord! said Theodore; add not insult to cruelty. If I am this venerable man's son, tho' no Prince, as thou art, know, the blood that flows in my vains—yes, said the friar, inter­rupting [Page 88] him, his blood is noble; nor is he that abject thing, my Lord, you speak him. He is my lawful son; and Sicily can boast of few houses more ancient than that of Falconara—but alas! my Lord, what is blood! what is nobility! We are all reptiles, miserable, sinful crea­tures. It is piety alone that can distinguish us from the dust whence we sprung, and whither we must return—Truce to your sermon! said Manfred: You forget, you are no longer Friar Jerome, but the Count of Falconara. Let me know your history: You will have time to mo­ralize 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 [Page 89] —but the Counts of Falconara—alas! my Lord, said Jerome, I confess I have offended; but ag­gravate not an old man's sufferings! I boast not of my family, nor think of such vanities—it is nature that pleads for this boy; it is the me­mory of the dear woman that bore him—is she Theodore, is she dead?—Her soul has long been with the blessed, said Theodore. Oh! how? cried Jerome, tell me—No—she is happy! Thou art all my care now!—most dread Lord! will you—will you grant me my poor boy's life? Return to thy convent; answered Manfred; conduct the Princess hither; obey me in what else thou knowest; and I promise thee the life of thy son.—Oh! my Lord, said Jerome, is my honesty the price I must pay for this dear youth's safety—for me! cried Theodore: Let me die a thousand deaths, rather than stain thy conscience. What is it the tyrant would exact of thee? is the Princess still safe from his power? protect her, thou venerable old man; and let all the weight of his wrath fall on me. Jerome [Page 90] 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.

CHAP. III.

MANFRED's heart mis-gave him when he beheld the plumage on the miraculous casque shaken in concert with the sounding of the brazen trumpet. Father! said he to Jerome, whom he now ceased to treat as Count of Fal­conara, what mean these portents? If I have of­fended—the plumes were shaken with greater violence than before. Unhappy Prince that I am! cried Manfred—Holy Father! will you not assist me with your prayers? My Lord, replied Jerome, heaven is no doubt displeased with your mockery of its servants. Submit yourself to the church; and cease to persecute her ministers. Dismiss this innocent youth: and learn to respect the holy character I wear: Heaven will not be trifled with: you see—the trumpet sounded again. I acknowledge I have been too hasty, said Manfred. Father, [Page 92] 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 fullness 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 [Page 93] 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: [Page 94] 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 traiterously 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 [Page 95] 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 [Page 96] 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 cooperated 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 his 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, [Page 97] 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 obeissances 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 [Page 98] 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 [Page 99] 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 her's! 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 hasted to the Princess, but she [Page 100] 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 dispatched 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.

[Page 101] The Prince, in the mean time, 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 an hundred foot-guards. These were attended by as many horse. After them fifty footman, 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 [Page 102] own squire. An 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 [Page 103] 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. To­morrow 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 at 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 [Page 104] 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 im­moveable. Manfred almost hardened to preter­natural appearances, surmounted the shock of this new prodigy; and returning to the hall, [Page 105] where by this time the feast was ready, he in­vited his silent guests to take their places. Man­fred, however ill his heart was at ease, endea­voured to inspire the company with mirth. He put several questions to them, but was answered only by signs. They raised their vizors but sufficiently to feed themselves, and that spar­ingly. Sirs, said the Prince, ye are the first guests I ever treated within these walls, who scorned to hold any intercourse with me: Nor has it oft been customary, I ween, for Princes to hazard their state and dignity against strangers and mutes. You say you come in the name of Frederic of Vicenza: I have ever heard that he was a gallant and courteous Knight; nor would he, I am bold to say, think it beneath him to mix in social converse with a Prince that is his equal, and not unknown by deeds in arms.—Still ye are silent—well! be it as it may—by the laws of hospitality and chivalry ye are masters under this roof; Ye shall do your plea­sures—but come, give me a goblet of wine; [Page 106] ye will not refuse to pledge me to the healths of your fair mistresses. The principal Knight sighed and crossed himself, and was rising from the board—Sir Knight, said Manfred, what I said was but in sport: I shall constrain you in nothing: Use your good liking. Since mirth is not your mood, let us be sad. Business may hit your fancies better: Let us withdraw; and hear if what I have to unfold, may be better relished than the vain efforts I have made for your pastime.

Manfred then conducting the three Knights into an inner chamber, shut the door, and in­viting them to be seated, began thus, addressing himself to the chief personage.

You come, Sir Knight, as I understand, in the name of the Marquis of Vicenza, to re-de­mand the Lady Isabella his daughter, who has been contracted in the face of holy church to my son, by the consent of her legal guardians; [Page 107] 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 convents. He was peculiarly patronized 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 [Page 108] —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 vitious 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 authorized to receive her? The Knight nodded. Receive her—continued Manfred; well! you are authorized to receive her—but, gentle [Page 109] 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, Gentleman, before you the most unhappy of men! [he began to weep] afford me your com­passion; I am intitled 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 good-will, 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 [Page 110] son—but that is ever! Life itself is so indiffe­rent to me, that I accepted your defiance with joy: A good Knight cannot go to the grave with more satisfaction than when falling in his vocation. Whatever is the will of heaven, I submit; for alas! Sirs, I am a man of many sorrows. Manfred is no object of envy—but no doubt you are acquainted with my story. The Knight made signs of ignorance, and seemed curious to have Manfred proceed. Is it possible, Sirs, continued the Prince, that my story should be a secret to you? have you heard nothing relating to me and the Princess Hippo­lita? They shook their heads—no! thus then, Sirs, it is. You think me ambitious: Ambi­tion alas! is composed of more rugged mate­rials. If I were ambitious, I should not for so many years have been a prey to all the hell of conscientious scruples—but I weary your pati­ence: I will be brief. Know then, that I have long been troubled in mind on my union with the Princess Hippolita.—Oh! Sirs, if ye were [Page 111] 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 [Page 112] 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 any thing 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 apprized [Page 113] Manfred that Jerome and several of his brethren demanded immediate access to him.

The Prince, provoked at this interruption, and fearing that the Friar would discover to the strangers that Isabella had taken sanctuary, was going to forbid Jerome's entrance. But recollect­ing that he was certainly arrived to notify the Princess's return, Manfred began to excuse him­self to the Knights for leaving them for a few moments, but was prevented by the arrival of the Friars. Manfred angrily reprimanded them for their intrusion, and would have forced them back from the chamber; but Jerome was too much agitated to be repulsed. He declared aloud the flight of Isabella, with protestations of his own innocence. Manfred distracted at the news, and not less at its coming to the knowledge of the strangers, uttered nothing but incoherent sentences, now upbraiding the Friar, now apolo­gizing to the Knights, earnest to know what was become of Isabella, yet equally afraid of their [Page 114] knowing, impatient to pursue her, yet dreading to have them join in the pursuit. He offered to dispatch messengers in quest of her,—but the chief Knight no longer keeping silence, re­proached Manfred in bitter terms for his dark and ambigucus 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 falshood, 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 [Page 115] 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 dispatch 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 dis­patched all his men various ways in pursuit of [Page 116] 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 disengaging 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 [Page 117] 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 sighing: 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 as­sisted [Page 118] thy flight. Swear by the faints above, said Theodore, that thou canst not be suspected; else here I vow to await whatever can befal 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 surprize. 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 seems an emanation of divinity, said Theodore, but thy words are dark and myste­rious,—speak, [Page 119] 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 [Page 120] 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 farther noise, they both concluded it the effect of pent-up vapours: And the Prin­cess preceding Theodore softly, carried him to her father's armory, 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 [Page 121] 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 sea­coast. 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 intreated 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 [Page 122] 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 galantry 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 [Page 123] 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 [Page 124] 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 [Page 125] 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 [Page 126] 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.

[Page 127] At the mouth of the cavern he found an armed Knight, discoursing with a peasant, who assured him he had seen a lady enter the passes of the rock. The Knight was prepar­ing to seek her, when Theodore, placing him­self in his way, with his sword drawn, sternly forbad him at his peril to advance. And who art thou who darest to cross my way? said the Knight haughtily. One who does not dare more than he will perform, said Theodore. I seek the lady Isabella, said the Knight, and understand she has taken refuge among these rocks. Impede me not, or thou wilt repent having provoked my resentment. Thy pur­pose is as odious, as thy resentment is con­temptible, said Theodore. Return whence thou camest, or we shall soon know whose resent­ment is most terrible. The stranger, who was the principal Knight that had arrived from the marquis of Vicenza, had galloped from Manfred as he was busied in getting information of the [Page 128] 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 with the loss of blood. The peasant, who had fled at the first onset, had given the alarm to some of Manfred's domes­tics, [Page 129] 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 staunch 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 [Page 130] 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: [Page 131] 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 doat on thee, forsake me not, dear Isabella! This brave Knight—I know not [Page 132] who he is, will protect thy innocence—Sir, you will not abondon my child, will you! Theo­dore shedding tears over his victim, and vow­ing to guard the Princess at the expence 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 affected Isabella, who could not bear to quit him, followed mournfully behind.

CHAP. IV.

THE sorrowful troop no sooner arrived at the castle, than they were met by Hippo­lita and Matilda, whom Isabella had sent one of the domestics before to advertise of their ap­proach. The Ladies causing Frederic to be con­veyed into the nearest chamber, retired, while the surgeons examined his wounds. Matilda blushed at seeing Theodore and Isabella together; but endeavoured to conceal it by embracing the latter, and condoling with her on her father's mischance. The surgeons soon came to ac­quaint Hippolita that none of the Marquis's wounds were dangerous; and that he was de­sirous of seeing his daughter and the Princesses. Theodore, under pretence of expressing his joy at being freed from his apprehensions of the com­bat being fatal to Frederic, could not resist the [Page 134] impulse of following Matilda. Her eyes were so often cast down on meeting his, that Isabella, who regarded Theodore as attentively as he gazed on Matilda, soon divined who the object was that he had told her in the cave engaged his affections. While this mute scene passed, Hip­polita demanded of Frederic the cause of his hav­ing taken that mysterious course for reclaiming his daughter; and threw in various apologies to excuse her Lord for the match contracted be­tween their children. Frederic, however in­censed against Manfred, was not insensible to the courtesy and benevolence of Hippolita: But he was still more struck with the lovely form of Matilda. Wishing to detain them by his bed-side, 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 [Page 135] 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 saint-like 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 [Page 136] to that dreadful scene! St. Nicholas appeared to me, and revealed a secret, which he had me never reveal 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 relicks 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 [Page 137] rank, and would not be guilty of offending your ear with sounds injurious to aught that is dear to you—He paused. Hippolita trembled. She did not doubt but Frederic was destined by heaven to accomplish the fate that seemed to threaten her house. Looking with anxious fondness at Matilda, a silent tear stole down her cheek: But recollecting herself, she said, proceed, my Lord: Heaven does nothing in vain: Mortals must receive its divine behests with lowliness and submission. It is our part to deprecate its wrath, or bow to its decrees. Repeat the sen­tence, my Lord; we listen resigned. Frederic was grieved that he had proceeded so far. The dignity and patient firmness of Hippolita pene­trated him with respect, and the tender silent affection with which the Princess and her daugh­ter regarded each other, melted him almost to tears. Yet apprehensive that his forbearance to obey, would be more alarming, he repeated in a faltering and low voice the following lines:

Where e'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 tho' 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 [Page 139] 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 me, 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! [Page 140] 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 [Page 141] addressing himself to the Friar, that thou re­payest mine and Hippolita's bounties? And not content with traversing my heart's nearest wishes, thou armest thy bastard, and bringest him into my own castle to insult me! My Lord, said Theodore, you wrong my father: Nor 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. [Page 142] 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 cruizes, I was delivered by a Christian vessel, which over-powered 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, [Page 143] 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 a religious house 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 [Page 144] 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 vains, 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 [Page 145] 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, tho' 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, than 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 [Page 146] 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 [Page 147] 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 cloyster. 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 [Page 148] 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 [Page 149] 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 [Page 150] have pronounced your father out of dan­ger, you ought not to harbour uncharitable re­sentment against one, who I am persuaded did not know the Marquis was related to you. You plead his cause very pathetically, said Isa­bella, considering he is so much a stranger to you! I am mistaken, or he returns your charity. What mean you? said Matilda. Nothing: Said Isa­bella, repenting that she had given Matilda a hint of Theodore's inclination for her. Then chang­ing the discourse, she asked Matilda what occa­sioned Manfred to take Theodore for a spectre? Bless me, said Matilda, did not you observe his extreme resemblance to the portrait of Al­fonso in the gallery? I took notice of it to Bianca even before I saw him in armour; but with the helmet on, he is the very image of that picture. I do not much observe pictures; said Isabella: Much less have I examined this young man so attentively as you seem to have done—ah! Matilda, your heart is in danger—but let me warn you as a friend—he has owned to me that [Page 151] 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 any thing 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 [Page 152] to her friend. At length, the dignity of Isabel­la's virtue reminding her of the preference which Theodore had almost declared for her rival, made her determine to conquer her passion, and cede the beloved object to her friend.

During this contest of amity, Hippolita enter­ed her daughter's chamber. Madam, said she to Isabella, you have so much tenderness for Matilda, and interest yourself so kindly in what­ever affects our wretched house, that I can have no secrets with my child, which are not pro­per for you to hear. The Princesses were all attention and anxiety. Know then, Madam, continued Hippolita, and you, my dearest Ma­tilda, that being convinced by all the events of these two last ominous days, that heaven pur­poses the sceptre of Otranto should pass from Manfred's hands into those of the Marquis Fre­deric, I have been perhaps inspired with the thought of averting our total destruction by the union of our rival houses. With this view I [Page 153] have been proposing to Manfred my Lord to ten­der this dear, dear child to Frederic your father—me to lord Frederic! cried Matilda—good hea­vens! my gracious mother—and have you nam­ed it to my father? I have, said Hippolita: He listened benignly to my proposal, and is gone to break it to the Marquis. Ah! wretch­ed Princess! cried Isabella; what hast thou done! what ruin has thy inadvertent goodness been pre­paring for thyself, for me, and for Matilda! Ruin from me to you and to my child! said Hippolita; what can this mean? Alas! said Isabella, the purity of your own heart prevents your seeing the depravity of others. Manfred your Lord, that impious man—hold; said Hippolita, you must not in my presence, young lady, mention Manfred with disrespect: He is my lord and husband, and—will not long be so, said Isabella, if his wicked purposes can be carried into execution. This language amazes me; said Hippolita. Your feeling, Isabella, is warm: but until this hour I never knew it betray you [Page 154] into intemperance. What deed of Manfred au­thorizes 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 compleat his crime, he meditates—I cannot speak it! What can surpass what thou hast already uttered? said Matilda. Hippolita was silent. Grief choaked 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 [Page 155] not, my child; and not a murmur, I charge thee. Remember, he is thy father still!—but you are my mother too; said Matilda servently; 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 [Page 156] 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 loath 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 over-powers 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 [Page 157] 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 are 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 [Page 158] fate in store for us! Thou, a passion! Thou, in this hour of destruction—Oh! I see all my guilt! said Matilda. I abhor myself, if I cost my mother a pang. She is the dearest thing I have on earth—oh! I will never, never behold him more! Isabella, said Hippolita, thou art con­scious to this unhappy secret, whatever it is. Speak—what! cried Matilda, have I so for­feited my mother's love, that she will not per­mit me even to speak my own guilt? oh! wretch­ed, wretched Matilda! Thou art too cruel; said Isabella to Hippolita: Canst thou behold this anguish of a virtuous mind, and not commise­rate it? Not pity my child! said Hippolita, catching Matilda in her arms—Oh! I know she is good, she is all virtue, all tenderness, and duty. I do forgive thee, my excellent, my only hope! The Princesses then revealed to Hippolita their mutual inclination for Theodore, and the purpose of Isabella to resign him to Ma­tilda. Hippolita blamed their imprudence, and shewed them the improbability that either father [Page 159] 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 [Page 160] 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 recal 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 [Page 161] 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 [Page 162] 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 [Page 163] 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, head strong boy, and list, while a father un­folds a state 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 [Page 164] 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 denounced 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 [Page 165] 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 motion, 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.

[Page 166] The Friar catched 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 mean time, 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 [Page 167] 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 taking 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.

[Page 167] 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 chusest 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 curst 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 the lawful Prince? Thou art no lawful Prince; said Jerome; thou art no Prince—go, discuss thy claim with Fre­deric; [Page 179] and when that is done—it is done: Replied Manfred: Frederic accepts Matilda's hand, and is content to wave 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 sunk 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 reverend tribunal let us apply. It does not depend on us to burst the bonds that unite us. If the church shall approve the dissolution of our marrage, 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 [Page 167] [...] [Page 179] [...] [Page 180] 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 habour a traitor—and for thy Reverence's offspring, continued he, I banish him from my dominions. He, I ween, is no sacred personage, nor under the protection of the church. Whoever weds Isabella it shall not be Father Falconara's started-up son. They start up, said the Friar, who are suddenly beheld in the seat of lawful Princes; but they wither away like the grass, and their place knows them no more. Manfred casting a look of scorn at the Friar led Hippolita forth; but at the door of the church whispered one of his attendants to remain concealed about the convent, and bring him instant notice, if any one from the castle should repair thither.

CHAP. V.

EVERY reflection which Manfred made on the Friar's behaviour, conspired to persuade [Page 181] 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 [Page 182] 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 persuasion 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 alledged, 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. [Page 183] 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 farther 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. That damsel he knew was in the confidence of both the young Ladies. It imme­diately occured 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 [Page 184] 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 [Page 185] 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 tales. I do not question thy honesty: But it is thy duty to conceal no­thing from me. How long has Isabella been [Page 186] 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 [Page 187] 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 farther with thee at my return.

Manfred after some general conversation, desired Frederic to dismiss the two knights his companions, having to talk with him on urgent affairs. As soon as they were alone, he began in artful guise to sound the Marquis on the subject of Matilda; and finding him disposed to his wish he let drop hints on the difficulties that would attend the celebration of their mar­riage, unless—at that instant Bianca burst into the room with a wildness in her look and ges­tures [Page 188] that spoke the utmost terror. Oh! my Lord, my Lord! cried she; we are all undone! it is come again! it is come again! What is come again? cried Manfred amazed—oh! the hand! the Giant! the hand!—support me! I am terrified out of my senses, cried Bianca, I will not sleep in the castle to-night; where shall I go? my things may come after me to-mor­row—would I had been content to wed Fran­cisco! 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 wonderful good, said Bianca, but I dare not—no, pray let me go—I had rather leave every thing 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 [Page 189] else? I say my hours 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 prophesy 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 [Page 190] going to my Lady Isabella's chamber by his Highness's order—we do 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 bawble for thy faithful attendance on my daughter? we want to know what thou sawest. I was going to tell your Highness, said Bianca, if you would permit me.—So as I was rubbing the ring—I am sure I had not gone up three steps, but I heard the rattling of armour; for all the world such a clatter, as Diego says he heard when the [Page 191] Giant turned him about in the gallery-chamber—what does she mean, 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—may hap 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 surprized 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 [Page 192] 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 somthing—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 practice 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 [Page 193] Isabella: The judgments already fallen on your house forbid my 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 adsolutely 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 [Page 194] 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 [Page 195] 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, galantly telling the Prince, that his daugh­ter should amuse his Highness until himself could attend him. Manfred accepted the party, and to the no small grief of Isabella accompanied her to her apartment. Matilda waited on her mother to enjoy the freshness of the evening on the ramparts of the castle.

Soon as the company were dispersed their several ways, Frederic, quitting his chamber, enquired 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 [Page 196] 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 surprized at the silence that reigned in the Princess's apartment. Con­cluding her, as he had been advertized, 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 alter. 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. [Page 197] 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 Hip­politaHippolita! 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 [Page 198] 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 alter, 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 [Page 199] him in the most plaintive accents to ex­plain the cause of his disorder, and by what strange chance she had found him there in that posture. Ah! virtuous Princess! said the Mar­quis, penetrated with grief—and stopped. For the love of Heaven, my Lord, said Hippolita, disclose the cause of this transport! what mean these doleful sounds, this alarming exclama­tion on my name? What woes has heaven still in store for the wretched Hippolita?—yet silent!—by every pitying angel, I adjure thee, noble Prince, continued she falling at his feet, to disclose the purport of what lies at thy heart—I see thou feelest for me; thou feelest the sharp pangs that thou inflictest—speak for pity!—does aught thou knowest concern my child?—I cannot speak; cried Frederic, bursting from her—Oh! Matilda!

Quitting the Princess thus abruptly, he ha­stened to his own apartment. At the door of it he was accosted by Manfred, who flushed by [Page 200] 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 [Page 201] 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 ailes, and guided by an imperfect gleam of moon-shine that shone faintly through the illuminated windows, he stole towards the tomb of Alfonso, of the persons he sought. The first sounds 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 [Page 202] 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 dispatch himself. Theodore scarce less distracted, and only mastering the transports of his grief to asist 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! [Page 203] behold the completion of woe fulfilled on thy im­pious and devoted head! The blood of Alfonso cried to heaven for vengeance; and heaven has permitted its altar to be polluted by assassination, that thou mightest shed thy own blood at the foot of that Prince's sepulchre!—Cruel man! cried Matilda, to aggravate the woes of a parent! may heaven bless my father, and forgive him as I do! My lord, my gracious Sire, dost thou forgive thy child? indeed I came not hither to meet Theodore: I found him praying at this tomb, whither my mother sent me to intercede for thee, for her—dearest father, bless your child and, say you forgive her—forgive thee! murderous monster! cried Manfred—can assassins forgive? I took thee for Isabella; but heaven directed my bloody hand to the heart of my child!—oh! Matilda—I cannot utter it—can'st 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 [Page 204] 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 born 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 inocent tears, pre­pared her for her passage to immortality. Man­fred plunged in the deepest afflion, 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 [Page 205] 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 every thing but her: but when the tender Isabella's care would have [Page 206] likewise removed her, while the surgeons exa­mined Matilda's wound, she cried, remove me! never! never! I lived but in her, and will ex­pire with her. Matilda raised her eyes at her mother's voice, but closed them again without speaking. Her sinking pulse and the damp cold­ness of her hand soon dispelled all hopes of reco­very. Theodore followed the surgeons into the outer chamber and heard them pronounce the fatal sentence with a transport equal to frenzy—Since she cannot live mine, cried he, at least she shall be mine in death!—Father! Jerome! will you not join our hands? cried he to the Friar, who with the marquis had accompanied the sur­geons What means thy distracted rashness? said Jerome; is this an hour for marriage! It is, it is, cried Theodore, alas! there is no other! Young man, thou art too unadvised, said Fre­deric: dost thou think we are to listen to thy fond transports in this hour of fate? what pre­tensions hast thou to the Princess? Those of a Prince, said Theodore; of the sovereign of Otranto. [Page 207] 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 [Page 208] possible? The violence of his exclamations brought Matilda to herself. Lifting up her eyes, she looked round for her mother—Life of my soul! I am here, cried Hippolita; think not I will quit thee! Oh! you are too good; said Matilda—but weep not for me, my mother! I am going where sorrow never dwells—Isabella thou hast loved me; wot 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 agonizing soul! said Hippolita; thou never couldst offend me—alas! she faints! help! help!—I would say something more, said Matilda struggling, but [Page 209] it wonnot be—IsabellaTheodore—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 mean time, 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 countenance 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 [Page 210] 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! [Page 211] shall we not, can we but dedicate the few de­plorable hours we have to live, in deprecating the farther wrath of heaven? heaven ejects us—whither can we fly, but to you 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 [Page 212] 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 [Page 213] 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 Crusado, when he purposed to seek and acknowledge her for his lawful wife. [Page 214] 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 recal 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.

[Page 215] 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.

FINIS.

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