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The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Part 3 out of 3

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

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

"Does it, alas! depend on me? Manfred will never permit our

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Remove me! never, never! I lived but in her, and will expire with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh! wound not my agonising soul!" said Hippolita; "thou never
couldst offend me--Alas! she faints! help! help!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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