Part 2 out of 8
Matilda from his presence. He forbad her ever again appearing
before him. His severity broke her heart: She returned to her
Father's, and in a few Months after was carried to her Grave.'
'Unhappy Girl! Surely her fate was too severe, and Julian was
'Do you think so, Father?' cried the Novice with vivacity; 'Do
you think that He was cruel?'
'Doubtless I do, and pity her most sincerely.'
'You pity her? You pity her? Oh! Father! Father! Then pity
The Friar started; when after a moment's pause Rosario added with
a faltering voice,--'for my sufferings are still greater. My
Sister had a Friend, a real Friend, who pitied the acuteness of
her feelings, nor reproached her with her inability to repress
them. I . . .! I have no Friend! The whole wide world cannot
furnish an heart that is willing to participate in the sorrows
As He uttered these words, He sobbed audibly. The Friar was
affected. He took Rosario's hand, and pressed it with
'You have no Friend, say you? What then am I? Why will you not
confide in me, and what can you fear? My severity? Have I ever
used it with you? The dignity of my habit? Rosario, I lay aside
the Monk, and bid you consider me as no other than your Friend,
your Father. Well may I assume that title, for never did Parent
watch over a Child more fondly than I have watched over you.
From the moment in which I first beheld you, I perceived
sensations in my bosom till then unknown to me; I found a
delight in your society which no one's else could afford; and
when I witnessed the extent of your genius and information, I
rejoiced as does a Father in the perfections of his Son. Then
lay aside your fears; Speak to me with openness: Speak to me,
Rosario, and say that you will confide in me. If my aid or my
pity can alleviate your distress. . . .'
'Yours can! Yours only can! Ah! Father, how willingly would I
unveil to you my heart! How willingly would I declare the
secret which bows me down with its weight! But Oh! I fear! I
'What, my Son?'
'That you should abhor me for my weakness; That the reward of my
confidence should be the loss of your esteem.'
'How shall I reassure you? Reflect upon the whole of my past
conduct, upon the paternal tenderness which I have ever shown
you. Abhor you, Rosario? It is no longer in my power. To give
up your society would be to deprive myself of the greatest
pleasure of my life. Then reveal to me what afflicts you, and
believe me while I solemnly swear. . . .'
'Hold!' interrupted the Novice; 'Swear, that whatever be my
secret, you will not oblige me to quit the Monastery till my
Noviciate shall expire.'
'I promise it faithfully, and as I keep my vows to you, may
Christ keep his to Mankind. Now then explain this mystery, and
rely upon my indulgence.'
'I obey you. Know then. . . . Oh! how I tremble to name the
word! Listen to me with pity, revered Ambrosio! Call up every
latent spark of human weakness that may teach you compassion for
mine! Father!' continued He throwing himself at the Friar's
feet, and pressing his hand to his lips with eagerness, while
agitation for a moment choaked his voice; 'Father!' continued He
in faltering accents, 'I am a Woman!'
The Abbot started at this unexpected avowal. Prostrate on the
ground lay the feigned Rosario, as if waiting in silence the
decision of his Judge. Astonishment on the one part,
apprehension on the other, for some minutes chained them in the
same attitudes, as had they been touched by the Rod of some
Magician. At length recovering from his confusion, the Monk
quitted the Grotto, and sped with precipitation towards the
Abbey. His action did not escape the Suppliant. She sprang from
the ground; She hastened to follow him, overtook him, threw
herself in his passage, and embraced his knees. Ambrosio strove
in vain to disengage himself from her grasp.
'Do not fly me!' She cried; 'Leave me not abandoned to the
impulse of despair! Listen, while I excuse my imprudence; while
I acknowledge my Sister's story to be my own! I am Matilda; You
are her Beloved.'
If Ambrosio's surprise was great at her first avowal, upon
hearing her second it exceeded all bounds. Amazed, embarrassed,
and irresolute He found himself incapable of pronouncing a
syllable, and remained in silence gazing upon Matilda: This gave
her opportunity to continue her explanation as follows.
'Think not, Ambrosio, that I come to rob your Bride of your
affections. No, believe me: Religion alone deserves you; and
far is it from Matilda's wish to draw you from the paths of
virtue. What I feel for you is love, not licentiousness; I sigh
to be possessor of your heart, not lust for the enjoyment of your
person. Deign to listen to my vindication: A few moments will
convince you that this holy retreat is not polluted by my
presence, and that you may grant me your compassion without
trespassing against your vows.'--She seated herself: Ambrosio,
scarcely conscious of what He did, followed her example, and She
proceeded in her discourse.
'I spring from a distinguished family: My Father was Chief of
the noble House of Villanegas. He died while I was still an
Infant, and left me sole Heiress of his immense possessions.
Young and wealthy, I was sought in marriage by the noblest Youths
of Madrid; But no one succeeded in gaining my affections. I had
been brought up under the care of an Uncle possessed of the most
solid judgment and extensive erudition. He took pleasure in
communicating to me some portion of his knowledge. Under his
instructions my understanding acquired more strength and
justness than generally falls to the lot of my sex: The ability
of my Preceptor being aided by natural curiosity, I not only made
a considerable progress in sciences universally studied, but in
others, revealed but to few, and lying under censure from the
blindness of superstition. But while my Guardian laboured to
enlarge the sphere of my knowledge, He carefully inculcated every
moral precept: He relieved me from the shackles of vulgar
prejudice; He pointed out the beauty of Religion; He taught me to
look with adoration upon the pure and virtuous, and, woe is me!
I have obeyed him but too well!
'With such dispositions, Judge whether I could observe with any
other sentiment than disgust the vice, dissipation, and
ignorance, which disgrace our Spanish Youth. I rejected every
offer with disdain. My heart remained without a Master till
chance conducted me to the Cathedral of the Capuchins. Oh!
surely on that day my Guardian Angel slumbered neglectful of his
charge! Then was it that I first beheld you: You supplied the
Superior's place, absent from illness. You cannot but remember
the lively enthusiasm which your discourse created. Oh! how I
drank your words! How your eloquence seemed to steal me from
myself! I scarcely dared to breathe, fearing to lose a syllable;
and while you spoke, Methought a radiant glory beamed round your
head, and your countenance shone with the majesty of a God. I
retired from the Church, glowing with admiration. From that
moment you became the idol of my heart, the never-changing object
of my Meditations. I enquired respecting you. The reports which
were made me of your mode of life, of your knowledge, piety, and
self-denial riveted the chains imposed on me by your eloquence.
I was conscious that there was no longer a void in my heart; That
I had found the Man whom I had sought till then in vain. In
expectation of hearing you again, every day I visited your
Cathedral: You remained secluded within the Abbey walls, and I
always withdrew, wretched and disappointed. The Night was more
propitious to me, for then you stood before me in my dreams; You
vowed to me eternal friendship; You led me through the paths of
virtue, and assisted me to support the vexations of life. The
Morning dispelled these pleasing visions; I woke, and found
myself separated from you by Barriers which appeared
insurmountable. Time seemed only to increase the strength of my
passion: I grew melancholy and despondent; I fled from society,
and my health declined daily. At length no longer able to exist
in this state of torture, I resolved to assume the disguise in
which you see me. My artifice was fortunate: I was received
into the Monastery, and succeeded in gaining your esteem.
'Now then I should have felt compleatly happy, had not my quiet
been disturbed by the fear of detection. The pleasure which I
received from your society, was embittered by the idea that
perhaps I should soon be deprived of it: and my heart throbbed so
rapturously at obtaining the marks of your friendship, as to
convince me that I never should survive its loss. I resolved,
therefore, not to leave the discovery of my sex to chance, to
confess the whole to you, and throw myself entirely on your mercy
and indulgence. Ah! Ambrosio, can I have been deceived? Can you
be less generous than I thought you? I will not suspect it. You
will not drive a Wretch to despair; I shall still be permitted to
see you, to converse with you, to adore you! Your virtues shall
be my example through life; and when we expire, our bodies shall
rest in the same Grave.'
She ceased. While She spoke, a thousand opposing sentiments
combated in Ambrosio's bosom. Surprise at the singularity of
this adventure, Confusion at her abrupt declaration, Resentment
at her boldness in entering the Monastery, and Consciousness of
the austerity with which it behoved him to reply, such were the
sentiments of which He was aware; But there were others also
which did not obtain his notice. He perceived not, that his
vanity was flattered by the praises bestowed upon his eloquence
and virtue; that He felt a secret pleasure in reflecting that a
young and seemingly lovely Woman had for his sake abandoned the
world, and sacrificed every other passion to that which He had
inspired: Still less did He perceive that his heart throbbed
with desire, while his hand was pressed gently by Matilda's ivory
By degrees He recovered from his confusion. His ideas became
less bewildered: He was immediately sensible of the extreme
impropriety, should Matilda be permitted to remain in the Abbey
after this avowal of her sex. He assumed an air of severity, and
drew away his hand.
'How, Lady!' said He; 'Can you really hope for my permission to
remain amongst us? Even were I to grant your request, what good
could you derive from it? Think you that I ever can reply to an
affection, which . . .'.
'No, Father, No! I expect not to inspire you with a love like
mine. I only wish for the liberty to be near you, to pass some
hours of the day in your society; to obtain your compassion, your
friendship and esteem. Surely my request is not unreasonable.'
'But reflect, Lady! Reflect only for a moment on the impropriety
of my harbouring a Woman in the Abbey; and that too a Woman, who
confesses that She loves me. It must not be. The risque of your
being discovered is too great, and I will not expose myself to so
dangerous a temptation.'
'Temptation, say you? Forget that I am a Woman, and it no
longer exists: Consider me only as a Friend, as an Unfortunate,
whose happiness, whose life depends upon your protection. Fear
not lest I should ever call to your remembrance that love the
most impetuous, the most unbounded, has induced me to disguise my
sex; or that instigated by desires, offensive to YOUR vows and my
own honour, I should endeavour to seduce you from the path of
rectitude. No, Ambrosio, learn to know me better. I love you
for your virtues: Lose them, and with them you lose my
affections. I look upon you as a Saint; Prove to me that you are
no more than Man, and I quit you with disgust. Is it then from
me that you fear temptation? From me, in whom the world's
dazzling pleasures created no other sentiment than contempt?
From me, whose attachment is grounded on your exemption from
human frailty? Oh! dismiss such injurious apprehensions! Think
nobler of me, think nobler of yourself. I am incapable of
seducing you to error; and surely your Virtue is established on a
basis too firm to be shaken by unwarranted desires. Ambrosio,
dearest Ambrosio! drive me not from your presence; Remember your
promise, and authorize my stay!'
'Impossible, Matilda; YOUR interest commands me to refuse your
prayer, since I tremble for you, not for myself. After
vanquishing the impetuous ebullitions of Youth; After passing
thirty years in mortification and penance, I might safely permit
your stay, nor fear your inspiring me with warmer sentiments than
pity. But to yourself, remaining in the Abbey can produce none
but fatal consequences. You will misconstrue my every word and
action; You will seize every circumstance with avidity, which
encourages you to hope the return of your affection; Insensibly
your passions will gain a superiority over your reason; and far
from these being repressed by my presence, every moment which we
pass together, will only serve to irritate and excite them.
Believe me, unhappy Woman! you possess my sincere compassion. I
am convinced that you have hitherto acted upon the purest
motives; But though you are blind to the imprudence of your
conduct, in me it would be culpable not to open your eyes. I
feel that Duty obliges my treating you with harshness: I must
reject your prayer, and remove every shadow of hope which may
aid to nourish sentiments so pernicious to your repose. Matilda,
you must from hence tomorrow.'
'Tomorrow, Ambrosio? Tomorrow? Oh! surely you cannot mean it!
You cannot resolve on driving me to despair! You cannot have the
cruelty. . . .'
'You have heard my decision, and it must be obeyed. The Laws of
our Order forbid your stay: It would be perjury to conceal that
a Woman is within these Walls, and my vows will oblige me to
declare your story to the Community. You must from hence!--I
pity you, but can do no more!'
He pronounced these words in a faint and trembling voice: Then
rising from his seat, He would have hastened towards the
Monastery. Uttering a loud shriek, Matilda followed, and
'Stay yet one moment, Ambrosio! Hear me yet speak one word!'
'I dare not listen! Release me! You know my resolution!'
'But one word! But one last word, and I have done!'
'Leave me! Your entreaties are in vain! You must from hence
'Go then, Barbarian! But this resource is still left me.'
As She said this, She suddenly drew a poignard: She rent open
her garment, and placed the weapon's point against her bosom.
'Father, I will never quit these Walls alive!'
'Hold! Hold, Matilda! What would you do?'
'You are determined, so am I: The Moment that you leave me, I
plunge this Steel in my heart.'
'Holy St. Francis! Matilda, have you your senses? Do you know
the consequences of your action? That Suicide is the greatest of
crimes? That you destroy your Soul? That you lose your claim to
salvation? That you prepare for yourself everlasting torments?'
'I care not! I care not!' She replied passionately; 'Either your
hand guides me to Paradise, or my own dooms me to perdition!
Speak to me, Ambrosio! Tell me that you will conceal my story,
that I shall remain your Friend and your Companion, or this
poignard drinks my blood!'
As She uttered these last words, She lifted her arm, and made a
motion as if to stab herself. The Friar's eyes followed with
dread the course of the dagger. She had torn open her habit, and
her bosom was half exposed. The weapon's point rested upon her
left breast: And Oh! that was such a breast! The Moonbeams
darting full upon it enabled the Monk to observe its dazzling
whiteness. His eye dwelt with insatiable avidity upon the
beauteous Orb. A sensation till then unknown filled his heart
with a mixture of anxiety and delight: A raging fire shot
through every limb; The blood boiled in his veins, and a thousand
wild wishes bewildered his imagination.
'Hold!' He cried in an hurried faultering voice; 'I can resist no
longer! Stay, then, Enchantress; Stay for my destruction!'
He said, and rushing from the place, hastened towards the
Monastery: He regained his Cell and threw himself upon his
Couch, distracted irresolute and confused.
He found it impossible for some time to arrange his ideas. The
scene in which He had been engaged had excited such a variety of
sentiments in his bosom, that He was incapable of deciding which
was predominant. He was irresolute what conduct He ought to hold
with the disturber of his repose. He was conscious that
religion, and propriety necessitated his obliging her to quit the
Abbey: But on the other hand such powerful reasons authorized
her stay that He was but too much inclined to consent to her
remaining. He could not avoid being flattered by Matilda's
declaration, and at reflecting that He had unconsciously
vanquished an heart which had resisted the attacks of Spain's
noblest Cavaliers: The manner in which He had gained her
affections was also the most satisfactory to his vanity: He
remembered the many happy hours which He had passed in Rosario's
society, and dreaded that void in his heart which parting with
him would occasion. Besides all this, He considered, that as
Matilda was wealthy, her favour might be of essential benefit to
'And what do I risque,' said He to himself, 'by authorizing her
stay? May I not safely credit her assertions? Will it not be
easy for me to forget her sex, and still consider her as my
Friend and my disciple? Surely her love is as pure as She
describes. Had it been the offspring of mere licentiousness,
would She so long have concealed it in her own bosom? Would She
not have employed some means to procure its gratification? She
has done quite the contrary: She strove to keep me in ignorance
of her sex; and nothing but the fear of detection, and my
instances, would have compelled her to reveal the secret. She
has observed the duties of religion not less strictly than
myself. She has made no attempts to rouze my slumbering
passions, nor has She ever conversed with me till this night on
the subject of Love. Had She been desirous to gain my
affections, not my esteem, She would not have concealed from me
her charms so carefully: At this very moment I have never seen
her face: Yet certainly that face must be lovely, and her person
beautiful, to judge by her . . . by what I have seen.'
As this last idea passed through his imagination, a blush spread
itself over his cheek. Alarmed at the sentiments which He was
indulging, He betook himself to prayer; He started from his
Couch, knelt before the beautiful Madona, and entreated her
assistance in stifling such culpable emotions. He then returned
to his Bed, and resigned himself to slumber.
He awoke, heated and unrefreshed. During his sleep his inflamed
imagination had presented him with none but the most voluptuous
objects. Matilda stood before him in his dreams, and his eyes
again dwelt upon her naked breast. She repeated her
protestations of eternal love, threw her arms round his neck, and
loaded him with kisses: He returned them; He clasped her
passionately to his bosom, and . . . the vision was dissolved.
Sometimes his dreams presented the image of his favourite Madona,
and He fancied that He was kneeling before her: As He offered up
his vows to her, the eyes of the Figure seemed to beam on him
with inexpressible sweetness. He pressed his lips to hers, and
found them warm: The animated form started from the Canvas,
embraced him affectionately, and his senses were unable to
support delight so exquisite. Such were the scenes, on which his
thoughts were employed while sleeping: His unsatisfied Desires
placed before him the most lustful and provoking Images, and he
rioted in joys till then unknown to him.
He started from his Couch, filled with confusion at the
remembrance of his dreams. Scarcely was He less ashamed, when He
reflected on his reasons of the former night which induced him
to authorize Matilda's stay. The cloud was now dissipated which
had obscured his judgment: He shuddered when He beheld his
arguments blazoned in their proper colours, and found that He had
been a slave to flattery, to avarice, and self-love. If in one
hour's conversation Matilda had produced a change so remarkable
in his sentiments, what had He not to dread from her remaining in
the Abbey? Become sensible of his danger, awakened from his
dream of confidence, He resolved to insist on her departing
without delay. He began to feel that He was not proof against
temptation; and that however Matilda might restrain herself
within the bounds of modesty, He was unable to contend with those
passions, from which He falsely thought himself exempted.
'Agnes! Agnes!' He exclaimed, while reflecting on his
embarrassments, 'I already feel thy curse!'
He quitted his Cell, determined upon dismissing the feigned
Rosario. He appeared at Matins; But his thoughts were absent,
and He paid them but little attention. His heart and brain were
both of them filled with worldly objects, and He prayed without
devotion. The service over, He descended into the Garden. He
bent his steps towards the same spot where, on the preceding
night, He had made this embarrassing discovery. He doubted not
but that Matilda would seek him there: He was not deceived. She
soon entered the Hermitage, and approached the Monk with a timid
air. After a few minutes during which both were silent, She
appeared as if on the point of speaking; But the Abbot, who
during this time had been summoning up all his resolution,
hastily interrupted her. Though still unconscious how extensive
was its influence, He dreaded the melodious seduction of her
'Seat yourself by my side, Matilda,' said He, assuming a look of
firmness, though carefully avoiding the least mixture of
severity; 'Listen to me patiently, and believe, that in what I
shall say, I am not more influenced by my own interest than by
yours: Believe, that I feel for you the warmest friendship, the
truest compassion, and that you cannot feel more grieved than I
do, when I declare to you that we must never meet again.'
'Ambrosio!' She cried, in a voice at once expressive of surprise
'Be calm, my Friend! My Rosario! Still let me call you by that
name so dear to me! Our separation is unavoidable; I blush to
own, how sensibly it affects me.-- But yet it must be so. I feel
myself incapable of treating you with indifference, and that very
conviction obliges me to insist upon your departure. Matilda,
you must stay here no longer.'
'Oh! where shall I now seek for probity? Disgusted with a
perfidious world, in what happy region does Truth conceal
herself? Father, I hoped that She resided here; I thought that
your bosom had been her favourite shrine. And you too prove
false? Oh God! And you too can betray me?'
'Yes, Father, Yes! 'Tis with justice that I reproach you. Oh!
where are your promises? My Noviciate is not expired, and yet
will you compell me to quit the Monastery? Can you have the
heart to drive me from you? And have I not received your solemn
oath to the contrary?'
'I will not compell you to quit the Monastery: You have received
my solemn oath to the contrary. But yet when I throw myself upon
your generosity, when I declare to you the embarrassments in
which your presence involves me, will you not release me from
that oath? Reflect upon the danger of a discovery, upon the
opprobrium in which such an event would plunge me: Reflect that
my honour and reputation are at stake, and that my peace of mind
depends on your compliance. As yet my heart is free; I shall
separate from you with regret, but not with despair. Stay here,
and a few weeks will sacrifice my happiness on the altar of your
charms. You are but too interesting, too amiable! I should love
you, I should doat on you! My bosom would become the prey of
desires which Honour and my profession forbid me to gratify. If
I resisted them, the impetuosity of my wishes unsatisfied would
drive me to madness: If I yielded to the temptation, I should
sacrifice to one moment of guilty pleasure my reputation in this
world, my salvation in the next. To you then I fly for defence
against myself. Preserve me from losing the reward of thirty
years of sufferings! Preserve me from becoming the Victim of
Remorse! YOUR heart has already felt the anguish of hopeless
love; Oh! then if you really value me, spare mine that anguish!
Give me back my promise; Fly from these walls. Go, and you bear
with you my warmest prayers for your happiness, my friendship, my
esteem and admiration: Stay, and you become to me the source of
danger, of sufferings, of despair! Answer me, Matilda; What is
your resolve?'--She was silent--'Will you not speak, Matilda?
Will you not name your choice?'
'Cruel! Cruel!' She exclaimed, wringing her hands in agony; 'You
know too well that you offer me no choice! You know too well that
I can have no will but yours!'
'I was not then deceived! Matilda's generosity equals my
'Yes; I will prove the truth of my affection by submitting to a
decree which cuts me to the very heart. Take back your promise.
I will quit the Monastery this very day. I have a Relation,
Abbess of a Covent in Estramadura: To her will I bend my steps,
and shut myself from the world for ever. Yet tell me, Father;
Shall I bear your good wishes with me to my solitude? Will you
sometimes abstract your attention from heavenly objects to bestow
a thought upon me?'
'Ah! Matilda, I fear that I shall think on you but too often for
'Then I have nothing more to wish for, save that we may meet in
heaven. Farewell, my Friend! my Ambrosio!-- And yet methinks, I
would fain bear with me some token of your regard!'
'What shall I give you?'
'Something.--Any thing.--One of those flowers will be
sufficient.' (Here She pointed to a bush of Roses, planted at the
door of the Grotto.) 'I will hide it in my bosom, and when I am
dead, the Nuns shall find it withered upon my heart.'
The Friar was unable to reply: With slow steps, and a soul heavy
with affliction, He quitted the Hermitage. He approached the
Bush, and stooped to pluck one of the Roses. Suddenly He uttered
a piercing cry, started back hastily, and let the flower, which
He already held, fall from his hand. Matilda heard the shriek,
and flew anxiously towards him.
'What is the matter?' She cried; 'Answer me, for God's sake!
What has happened?'
'I have received my death!' He replied in a faint voice;
'Concealed among the Roses . . . A Serpent. . . .'
Here the pain of his wound became so exquisite, that Nature was
unable to bear it: His senses abandoned him, and He sank
inanimate into Matilda's arms.
Her distress was beyond the power of description. She rent her
hair, beat her bosom, and not daring to quit Ambrosio,
endeavoured by loud cries to summon the Monks to her assistance.
She at length succeeded. Alarmed by her shrieks, Several of the
Brothers hastened to the spot, and the Superior was conveyed back
to the Abbey. He was immediately put to bed, and the Monk who
officiated as Surgeon to the Fraternity prepared to examine the
wound. By this time Ambrosio's hand had swelled to an
extraordinary size; The remedies which had been administered to
him, 'tis true, restored him to life, but not to his senses; He
raved in all the horrors of delirium, foamed at the mouth, and
four of the strongest Monks were scarcely able to hold him in his
Father Pablos, such was the Surgeon's name, hastened to examine
the wounded hand. The Monks surrounded the Bed, anxiously
waiting for the decision: Among these the feigned Rosario
appeared not the most insensible to the Friar's calamity. He
gazed upon the Sufferer with inexpressible anguish; and the
groans which every moment escaped from his bosom sufficiently
betrayed the violence of his affliction.
Father Pablos probed the wound. As He drew out his Lancet, its
point was tinged with a greenish hue. He shook his head
mournfully, and quitted the bedside.
' 'Tis as I feared!' said He; 'There is no hope.'
'No hope?' exclaimed the Monks with one voice; 'Say you, no
'From the sudden effects, I suspected that the Abbot was stung by
a Cientipedoro: The venom which you see upon my Lancet
confirms my idea: He cannot live three days.'
'And can no possible remedy be found?' enquired Rosario.
'Without extracting the poison, He cannot recover; and how to
extract it is to me still a secret. All that I can do is to
apply such herbs to the wound as will relieve the anguish: The
Patient will be restored to his senses; But the venom will
corrupt the whole mass of his blood, and in three days He will
exist no longer.'
Excessive was the universal grief at hearing this decision.
Pablos, as He had promised, dressed the wound, and then retired,
followed by his Companions: Rosario alone remained in the Cell,
the Abbot at his urgent entreaty having been committed to his
care. Ambrosio's strength worn out by the violence of his
exertions, He had by this time fallen into a profound sleep. So
totally was He overcome by weariness, that He scarcely gave any
signs of life; He was still in this situation, when the Monks
returned to enquire whether any change had taken place. Pablos
loosened the bandage which concealed the wound, more from a
principle of curiosity than from indulging the hope of
discovering any favourable symptoms. What was his astonishment
at finding, that the inflammation had totally subsided! He
probed the hand; His Lancet came out pure and unsullied; No
traces of the venom were perceptible; and had not the orifice
still been visible, Pablos might have doubted that there had ever
been a wound.
He communicated this intelligence to his Brethren; their delight
was only equalled by their surprize. From the latter sentiment,
however, they were soon released by explaining the circumstance
according to their own ideas: They were perfectly convinced that
their Superior was a Saint, and thought, that nothing could be
more natural than for St. Francis to have operated a miracle in
his favour. This opinion was adopted unanimously: They declared
it so loudly, and vociferated,--'A miracle! a miracle!'--with
such fervour, that they soon interrupted Ambrosio's slumbers.
The Monks immediately crowded round his Bed, and expressed their
satisfaction at his wonderful recovery. He was perfectly in his
senses, and free from every complaint except feeling weak and
languid. Pablos gave him a strengthening medicine, and advised
his keeping his bed for the two succeeding days: He then
retired, having desired his Patient not to exhaust himself by
conversation, but rather to endeavour at taking some repose. The
other Monks followed his example, and the Abbot and Rosario were
left without Observers.
For some minutes Ambrosio regarded his Attendant with a look of
mingled pleasure and apprehension. She was seated upon the side
of the Bed, her head bending down, and as usual enveloped in the
Cowl of her Habit.
'And you are still here, Matilda?' said the Friar at length.
'Are you not satisfied with having so nearly effected my
destruction, that nothing but a miracle could have saved me from
the Grave? Ah! surely Heaven sent that Serpent to punish. . . .'
Matilda interrupted him by putting her hand before his lips with
an air of gaiety.
'Hush! Father, Hush! You must not talk!'
'He who imposed that order, knew not how interesting are the
subjects on which I wish to speak.'
'But I know it, and yet issue the same positive command. I am
appointed your Nurse, and you must not disobey my orders.'
'You are in spirits, Matilda!'
'Well may I be so: I have just received a pleasure unexampled
through my whole life.'
'What was that pleasure?'
'What I must conceal from all, but most from you.'
'But most from me? Nay then, I entreat you, Matilda. . . .'
'Hush, Father! Hush! You must not talk. But as you do not seem
inclined to sleep, shall I endeavour to amuse you with my Harp?'
'How? I knew not that you understood Music.'
'Oh! I am a sorry Performer! Yet as silence is prescribed you
for eight and forty hours, I may possibly entertain you, when
wearied of your own reflections. I go to fetch my Harp.'
She soon returned with it.
'Now, Father; What shall I sing? Will you hear the Ballad which
treats of the gallant Durandarte, who died in the famous battle
'What you please, Matilda.'
'Oh! call me not Matilda! Call me Rosario, call me your Friend!
Those are the names, which I love to hear from your lips. Now
She then tuned her harp, and afterwards preluded for some moments
with such exquisite taste as to prove her a perfect Mistress of
the Instrument. The air which She played was soft and plaintive:
Ambrosio, while He listened, felt his uneasiness subside, and a
pleasing melancholy spread itself into his bosom. Suddenly
Matilda changed the strain: With an hand bold and rapid She
struck a few loud martial chords, and then chaunted the following
Ballad to an air at once simple and melodious.
DURANDARTE AND BELERMA
Sad and fearful is the story
Of the Roncevalles fight;
On those fatal plains of glory
Perished many a gallant Knight.
There fell Durandarte; Never
Verse a nobler Chieftain named:
He, before his lips for ever
Closed in silence thus exclaimed.
'Oh! Belerma! Oh! my dear-one!
For my pain and pleasure born!
Seven long years I served thee, fair-one,
Seven long years my fee was scorn:
'And when now thy heart replying
To my wishes, burns like mine,
Cruel Fate my bliss denying
Bids me every hope resign.
'Ah! Though young I fall, believe me,
Death would never claim a sigh;
'Tis to lose thee, 'tis to leave thee,
Makes me think it hard to die!
'Oh! my Cousin Montesinos,
By that friendship firm and dear
Which from Youth has lived between us,
Now my last petition hear!
'When my Soul these limbs forsaking
Eager seeks a purer air,
From my breast the cold heart taking,
Give it to Belerma's care.
Say, I of my lands Possessor
Named her with my dying breath:
Say, my lips I op'd to bless her,
Ere they closed for aye in death:
'Twice a week too how sincerely
I adored her, Cousin, say;
Twice a week for one who dearly
Loved her, Cousin, bid her pray.
'Montesinos, now the hour
Marked by fate is near at hand:
Lo! my arm has lost its power!
Lo! I drop my trusty brand!
'Eyes, which forth beheld me going,
Homewards ne'er shall see me hie!
Cousin, stop those tears o'er-flowing,
Let me on thy bosom die!
'Thy kind hand my eyelids closing,
Yet one favour I implore:
Pray Thou for my Soul's reposing,
When my heart shall throb no more;
'So shall Jesus, still attending
Gracious to a Christian's vow,
Pleased accept my Ghost ascending,
And a seat in heaven allow.'
Thus spoke gallant Durandarte;
Soon his brave heart broke in twain.
Greatly joyed the Moorish party,
That the gallant Knight was slain.
Bitter weeping Montesinos
Took from him his helm and glaive;
Bitter weeping Montesinos
Dug his gallant Cousin's grave.
To perform his promise made, He
Cut the heart from out the breast,
That Belerma, wretched Lady!
Might receive the last bequest.
Sad was Montesinos' heart, He
Felt distress his bosom rend.
'Oh! my Cousin Durandarte,
Woe is me to view thy end!
'Sweet in manners, fair in favour,
Mild in temper, fierce in fight,
Warrior, nobler, gentler, braver,
Never shall behold the light!
'Cousin, Lo! my tears bedew thee!
How shall I thy loss survive!
Durandarte, He who slew thee,
Wherefore left He me alive!'
While She sung, Ambrosio listened with delight: Never had He
heard a voice more harmonious; and He wondered how such heavenly
sounds could be produced by any but Angels. But though He
indulged the sense of hearing, a single look convinced him that
He must not trust to that of sight. The Songstress sat at a
little distance from his Bed. The attitude in which She bent
over her harp, was easy and graceful: Her Cowl had fallen back-
warder than usual: Two coral lips were visible, ripe, fresh, and
melting, and a Chin in whose dimples seemed to lurk a thousand
Cupids. Her Habit's long sleeve would have swept along the
Chords of the Instrument: To prevent this inconvenience She had
drawn it above her elbow, and by this means an arm was discovered
formed in the most perfect symmetry, the delicacy of whose skin
might have contended with snow in whiteness. Ambrosio dared to
look on her but once: That glance sufficed to convince him, how
dangerous was the presence of this seducing Object. He closed
his eyes, but strove in vain to banish her from his thoughts.
There She still moved before him, adorned with all those charms
which his heated imagination could supply: Every beauty which He
had seen, appeared embellished, and those still concealed Fancy
represented to him in glowing colours. Still, however, his vows
and the necessity of keeping to them were present to his memory.
He struggled with desire, and shuddered when He beheld how deep
was the precipice before him.
Matilda ceased to sing. Dreading the influence of her charms,
Ambrosio remained with his eyes closed, and offered up his
prayers to St. Francis to assist him in this dangerous trial!
Matilda believed that He was sleeping. She rose from her seat,
approached the Bed softly, and for some minutes gazed upon him
'He sleeps!' said She at length in a low voice, but whose accents
the Abbot distinguished perfectly; 'Now then I may gaze upon him
without offence! I may mix my breath with his; I may doat upon
his features, and He cannot suspect me of impurity and
deceit!--He fears my seducing him to the violation of his vows!
Oh! the Unjust! Were it my wish to excite desire, should I
conceal my features from him so carefully? Those features, of
which I daily hear him. . . .'
She stopped, and was lost in her reflections.
'It was but yesterday!' She continued; 'But a few short hours
have past, since I was dear to him! He esteemed me, and my heart
was satisfied! Now!. . . Oh! now how cruelly is my situation
changed! He looks on me with suspicion! He bids me leave him,
leave him for ever! Oh! You, my Saint! my Idol! You, holding
the next place to God in my breast! Yet two days, and my heart
will be unveiled to you.--Could you know my feelings, when I
beheld your agony! Could you know, how much your sufferings have
endeared you to me! But the time will come, when you will be
convinced that my passion is pure and disinterested. Then you
will pity me, and feel the whole weight of these sorrows!'
As She said this, her voice was choaked by weeping. While She
bent over Ambrosio, a tear fell upon his cheek.
'Ah! I have disturbed him!' cried Matilda, and retreated
Her alarm was ungrounded. None sleep so profoundly, as those who
are determined not to wake. The Friar was in this predicament:
He still seemed buried in a repose, which every succeeding minute
rendered him less capable of enjoying. The burning tear had
communicated its warmth to his heart.
'What affection! What purity!' said He internally; 'Ah! since
my bosom is thus sensible of pity, what would it be if agitated
Matilda again quitted her seat, and retired to some distance from
the Bed. Ambrosio ventured to open his eyes, and to cast them
upon her fearfully. Her face was turned from him. She rested
her head in a melancholy posture upon her Harp, and gazed on the
picture which hung opposite to the Bed.
'Happy, happy Image!' Thus did She address the beautiful Madona;
' 'Tis to you that He offers his prayers! 'Tis on you that He
gazes with admiration! I thought you would have lightened my
sorrows; You have only served to increase their weight: You have
made me feel that had I known him ere his vows were pronounced,
Ambrosio and happiness might have been mine. With what pleasure
He views this picture! With what fervour He addresses his
prayers to the insensible Image! Ah! may not his sentiments be
inspired by some kind and secret Genius, Friend to my affection?
May it not be Man's natural instinct which informs him. . . Be
silent, idle hopes! Let me not encourage an idea which takes
from the brilliance of Ambrosio's virtue. 'Tis Religion, not
Beauty which attracts his admiration; 'Tis not to the Woman, but
the Divinity that He kneels. Would He but address to me the
least tender expression which He pours forth to this Madona!
Would He but say that were He not already affianced to the
Church, He would not have despised Matilda! Oh! let me nourish
that fond idea! Perhaps He may yet acknowledge that He feels for
me more than pity, and that affection like mine might well have
deserved a return; Perhaps, He may own thus much when I lye on my
deathbed! He then need not fear to infringe his vows, and the
confession of his regard will soften the pangs of dying. Would I
were sure of this! Oh! how earnestly should I sigh for the
moment of dissolution!'
Of this discourse the Abbot lost not a syllable; and the tone in
which She pronounced these last words pierced to his heart.
Involuntarily He raised himself from his pillow.
'Matilda!' He said in a troubled voice; 'Oh! my Matilda!'
She started at the sound, and turned towards him hastily. The
suddenness of her movement made her Cowl fall back from her head;
Her features became visible to the Monk's enquiring eye. What
was his amazement at beholding the exact resemblance of his
admired Madona? The same exquisite proportion of features, the
same profusion of golden hair, the same rosy lips, heavenly eyes,
and majesty of countenance adorned Matilda! Uttering an
exclamation of surprize, Ambrosio sank back upon his pillow, and
doubted whether the Object before him was mortal or divine.
Matilda seemed penetrated with confusion. She remained
motionless in her place, and supported herself upon her
Instrument. Her eyes were bent upon the earth, and her fair
cheeks overspread with blushes. On recovering herself, her
first action was to conceal her features. She then in an
unsteady and troubled voice ventured to address these words to
'Accident has made you Master of a secret, which I never would
have revealed but on the Bed of death. Yes, Ambrosio; In Matilda
de Villanegas you see the original of your beloved Madona. Soon
after I conceived my unfortunate passion, I formed the project of
conveying to you my Picture: Crowds of Admirers had persuaded me
that I possessed some beauty, and I was anxious to know what
effect it would produce upon you. I caused my Portrait to be
drawn by Martin Galuppi, a celebrated Venetian at that time
resident in Madrid. The resemblance was striking: I sent it to
the Capuchin Abbey as if for sale, and the Jew from whom you
bought it was one of my Emissaries. You purchased it. Judge of
my rapture, when informed that you had gazed upon it with
delight, or rather with adoration; that you had suspended it in
your Cell, and that you addressed your supplications to no other
Saint. Will this discovery make me still more regarded as an
object of suspicion? Rather should it convince you how pure is
my affection, and engage you to suffer me in your society and
esteem. I heard you daily extol the praises of my Portrait: I
was an eyewitness of the transports, which its beauty excited
in you: Yet I forbore to use against your virtue those arms, with
which yourself had furnished me. I concealed those features from
your sight, which you loved unconsciously. I strove not to
excite desire by displaying my charms, or to make myself Mistress
of your heart through the medium of your senses. To attract your
notice by studiously attending to religious duties, to endear
myself to you by convincing you that my mind was virtuous and my
attachment sincere, such was my only aim. I succeeded; I became
your companion and your Friend. I concealed my sex from your
knowledge; and had you not pressed me to reveal my secret, had I
not been tormented by the fear of a discovery, never had you
known me for any other than Rosario. And still are you resolved
to drive me from you? The few hours of life which yet remain for
me, may I not pass them in your presence? Oh! speak, Ambrosio,
and tell me that I may stay!'
This speech gave the Abbot an opportunity of recollecting
himself. He was conscious that in the present disposition of his
mind, avoiding her society was his only refuge from the power of
this enchanting Woman.
'You declaration has so much astonished me,' said He, 'that I am
at present incapable of answering you. Do not insist upon a
reply, Matilda; Leave me to myself; I have need to be alone.'
'I obey you--But before I go, promise not to insist upon my
quitting the Abbey immediately.'
'Matilda, reflect upon your situation; Reflect upon the
consequences of your stay. Our separation is indispensable, and
we must part.'
'But not to-day, Father! Oh! in pity not today!'
'You press me too hard, but I cannot resist that tone of
supplication. Since you insist upon it, I yield to your prayer:
I consent to your remaining here a sufficient time to prepare in
some measure the Brethren for your departure. Stay yet two days;
But on the third,' . . . (He sighed involuntarily)--'Remember,
that on the third we must part for ever!'
She caught his hand eagerly, and pressed it to her lips.
'On the third?' She exclaimed with an air of wild solemnity; 'You
are right, Father! You are right! On the third we must part for
There was a dreadful expression in her eye as She uttered these
words, which penetrated the Friar's soul with horror: Again She
kissed his hand, and then fled with rapidity from the chamber.
Anxious to authorise the presence of his dangerous Guest, yet
conscious that her stay was infringing the laws of his order,
Ambrosio's bosom became the Theatre of a thousand contending
passions. At length his attachment to the feigned Rosario, aided
by the natural warmth of his temperament, seemed likely to obtain
the victory: The success was assured, when that presumption which
formed the groundwork of his character came to Matilda's
assistance. The Monk reflected that to vanquish temptation was
an infinitely greater merit than to avoid it: He thought that
He ought rather to rejoice in the opportunity given him of
proving the firmness of his virtue. St. Anthony had withstood
all seductions to lust; Then why should not He? Besides, St.
Anthony was tempted by the Devil, who put every art into practice
to excite his passions: Whereas, Ambrosio's danger proceeded
from a mere mortal Woman, fearful and modest, whose apprehensions
of his yielding were not less violent than his own.
'Yes,' said He; 'The Unfortunate shall stay; I have nothing to
fear from her presence. Even should my own prove too weak to
resist the temptation, I am secured from danger by the innocence
Ambrosio was yet to learn, that to an heart unacquainted with
her, Vice is ever most dangerous when lurking behind the Mask of
He found himself so perfectly recovered, that when Father Pablos
visited him again at night, He entreated permission to quit his
chamber on the day following. His request was granted. Matilda
appeared no more that evening, except in company with the Monks
when they came in a body to enquire after the Abbot's health.
She seemed fearful of conversing with him in private, and stayed
but a few minutes in his room. The Friar slept well; But the
dreams of the former night were repeated, and his sensations of
voluptuousness were yet more keen and exquisite. The same
lust-exciting visions floated before his eyes: Matilda, in all
the pomp of beauty, warm, tender, and luxurious, clasped him to
her bosom, and lavished upon him the most ardent caresses. He
returned them as eagerly, and already was on the point of
satisfying his desires, when the faithless form disappeared, and
left him to all the horrors of shame and disappointment.
The Morning dawned. Fatigued, harassed, and exhausted by his
provoking dreams, He was not disposed to quit his Bed. He
excused himself from appearing at Matins: It was the first
morning in his life that He had ever missed them. He rose late.
During the whole of the day He had no opportunity of speaking to
Matilda without witnesses. His Cell was thronged by the Monks,
anxious to express their concern at his illness; And He was still
occupied in receiving their compliments on his recovery, when the
Bell summoned them to the Refectory.
After dinner the Monks separated, and dispersed themselves in
various parts of the Garden, where the shade of trees or
retirement of some Grotto presented the most agreeable means of
enjoying the Siesta. The Abbot bent his steps towards the
Hermitage: A glance of his eye invited Matilda to accompany him.
She obeyed, and followed him thither in silence. They entered
the Grotto, and seated themselves. Both seemed unwilling to
begin the conversation, and to labour under the influence of
mutual embarrassment. At length the Abbot spoke: He conversed
only on indifferent topics, and Matilda answered him in the same
tone. She seemed anxious to make him forget that the Person who
sat by him was any other than Rosario. Neither of them dared, or
indeed wished to make an allusion, to the subject which was most
at the hearts of both.
Matilda's efforts to appear gay were evidently forced: Her
spirits were oppressed by the weight of anxiety, and when She
spoke her voice was low and feeble. She seemed desirous of
finishing a conversation which embarrassed her; and complaining
that She was unwell, She requested Ambrosio's permission to
return to the Abbey. He accompanied her to the door of her cell;
and when arrived there, He stopped her to declare his consent to
her continuing the Partner of his solitude so long as should be
agreeable to herself.
She discovered no marks of pleasure at receiving this
intelligence, though on the preceding day She had been so anxious
to obtain the permission.
'Alas! Father,' She said, waving her head mournfully; 'Your
kindness comes too late! My doom is fixed. We must separate for
ever. Yet believe, that I am grateful for your generosity, for
your compassion of an Unfortunate who is but too little deserving
She put her handkerchief to her eyes. Her Cowl was only half
drawn over her face. Ambrosio observed that She was pale, and
her eyes sunk and heavy.
'Good God!' He cried; 'You are very ill, Matilda! I shall send
Father Pablos to you instantly.'
'No; Do not. I am ill, 'tis true; But He cannot cure my malady.
Farewell, Father! Remember me in your prayers tomorrow, while I
shall remember you in heaven!'
She entered her cell, and closed the door.
The Abbot dispatched to her the Physician without losing a
moment, and waited his report impatiently. But Father Pablos
soon returned, and declared that his errand had been fruitless.
Rosario refused to admit him, and had positively rejected his
offers of assistance. The uneasiness which this account gave
Ambrosio was not trifling: Yet He determined that Matilda should
have her own way for that night: But that if her situation did
not mend by the morning, he would insist upon her taking the
advice of Father Pablos.
He did not find himself inclined to sleep. He opened his
casement, and gazed upon the moonbeams as they played upon the
small stream whose waters bathed the walls of the Monastery. The
coolness of the night breeze and tranquillity of the hour
inspired the Friar's mind with sadness. He thought upon
Matilda's beauty and affection; Upon the pleasures which He might
have shared with her, had He not been restrained by monastic
fetters. He reflected, that unsustained by hope her love for him
could not long exist; That doubtless She would succeed in
extinguishing her passion, and seek for happiness in the arms of
One more fortunate. He shuddered at the void which her absence
would leave in his bosom. He looked with disgust on the monotony
of a Convent, and breathed a sigh towards that world from which
He was for ever separated. Such were the reflections which a
loud knocking at his door interrupted. The Bell of the Church
had already struck Two. The Abbot hastened to enquire the cause
of this disturbance. He opened the door of his Cell, and a
Lay-Brother entered, whose looks declared his hurry and
'Hasten, reverend Father!' said He; 'Hasten to the young Rosario.
He earnestly requests to see you; He lies at the point of death.'
'Gracious God! Where is Father Pablos? Why is He not with him?
Oh! I fear! I fear!'
'Father Pablos has seen him, but his art can do nothing. He
says that He suspects the Youth to be poisoned.'
'Poisoned? Oh! The Unfortunate! It is then as I suspected!
But let me not lose a moment; Perhaps it may yet be time to save
He said, and flew towards the Cell of the Novice. Several Monks
were already in the chamber. Father Pablos was one of them, and
held a medicine in his hand which He was endeavouring to
persuade Rosario to swallow. The Others were employed in
admiring the Patient's divine countenance, which They now saw for
the first time. She looked lovelier than ever. She was no
longer pale or languid; A bright glow had spread itself over her
cheeks; her eyes sparkled with a serene delight, and her
countenance was expressive of confidence and resignation.
'Oh! torment me no more!' was She saying to Pablos, when the
terrified Abbot rushed hastily into the Cell; 'My disease is far
beyond the reach of your skill, and I wish not to be cured of
it'--Then perceiving Ambrosio,-- 'Ah! 'tis He!' She cried; 'I see
him once again, before we part for ever! Leave me, my Brethren;
Much have I to tell this holy Man in private.'
The Monks retired immediately, and Matilda and the Abbot remained
'What have you done, imprudent Woman!' exclaimed the Latter, as
soon as they were left alone; 'Tell me; Are my suspicions just?
Am I indeed to lose you? Has your own hand been the instrument
of your destruction?'
She smiled, and grasped his hand.
'In what have I been imprudent, Father? I have sacrificed a
pebble, and saved a diamond: My death preserves a life valuable
to the world, and more dear to me than my own. Yes, Father; I am
poisoned; But know that the poison once circulated in your
'What I tell you I resolved never to discover to you but on the
bed of death: That moment is now arrived. You cannot have
forgotten the day already, when your life was endangered by the
bite of a Cientipedoro. The Physician gave you over, declaring
himself ignorant how to extract the venom: I knew but of one
means, and hesitated not a moment to employ it. I was left alone
with you: You slept; I loosened the bandage from your hand; I
kissed the wound, and drew out the poison with my lips. The
effect has been more sudden than I expected. I feel death at my
heart; Yet an hour, and I shall be in a better world.'
'Almighty God!' exclaimed the Abbot, and sank almost lifeless
upon the Bed.
After a few minutes He again raised himself up suddenly, and
gazed upon Matilda with all the wildness of despair.
'And you have sacrificed yourself for me! You die, and die to
preserve Ambrosio! And is there indeed no remedy, Matilda? And
is there indeed no hope? Speak to me, Oh! speak to me! Tell
me, that you have still the means of life!'
'Be comforted, my only Friend! Yes, I have still the means of
life in my power: But 'tis a means which I dare not employ. It
is dangerous! It is dreadful! Life would be purchased at too
dear a rate, . . . unless it were permitted me to live for you.'
'Then live for me, Matilda, for me and gratitude!'-- (He caught
her hand, and pressed it rapturously to his lips.)--'Remember our
late conversations; I now consent to every thing: Remember in
what lively colours you described the union of souls; Be it ours
to realize those ideas. Let us forget the distinctions of sex,
despise the world's prejudices, and only consider each other as
Brother and Friend. Live then, Matilda! Oh! live for me!'
'Ambrosio, it must not be. When I thought thus, I deceived both
you and myself. Either I must die at present, or expire by the
lingering torments of unsatisfied desire. Oh! since we last
conversed together, a dreadful veil has been rent from before my
eyes. I love you no longer with the devotion which is paid to a
Saint: I prize you no more for the virtues of your soul; I lust
for the enjoyment of your person. The Woman reigns in my bosom,
and I am become a prey to the wildest of passions. Away with
friendship! 'tis a cold unfeeling word. My bosom burns with
love, with unutterable love, and love must be its return.
Tremble then, Ambrosio, tremble to succeed in your prayers. If I
live, your truth, your reputation, your reward of a life past in
sufferings, all that you value is irretrievably lost. I shall no
longer be able to combat my passions, shall seize every
opportunity to excite your desires, and labour to effect your
dishonour and my own. No, no, Ambrosio; I must not live! I am
convinced with every moment, that I have but one alternative; I
feel with every heart-throb, that I must enjoy you, or die.'
'Amazement!--Matilda! Can it be you who speak to me?'
He made a movement as if to quit his seat. She uttered a loud
shriek, and raising herself half out of the Bed, threw her arms
round the Friar to detain him.
'Oh! do not leave me! Listen to my errors with compassion! In a
few hours I shall be no more; Yet a little, and I am free from
this disgraceful passion.'
'Wretched Woman, what can I say to you! I cannot . . . I must
not . . . But live, Matilda! Oh! live!'
'You do not reflect on what you ask. What? Live to plunge
myself in infamy? To become the Agent of Hell? To work the
destruction both of you and of Myself? Feel this heart, Father!'
She took his hand: Confused, embarrassed, and fascinated, He
withdrew it not, and felt her heart throb under it.
'Feel this heart, Father! It is yet the seat of honour, truth,
and chastity: If it beats tomorrow, it must fall a prey to the
blackest crimes. Oh! let me then die today! Let me die, while
I yet deserve the tears of the virtuous! Thus will
expire!'--(She reclined her head upon his shoulder; Her golden
Hair poured itself over his Chest.)-- 'Folded in your arms, I
shall sink to sleep; Your hand shall close my eyes for ever, and
your lips receive my dying breath. And will you not sometimes
think of me? Will you not sometimes shed a tear upon my Tomb?
Oh! Yes! Yes! Yes! That kiss is my assurance!'
The hour was night. All was silence around. The faint beams of
a solitary Lamp darted upon Matilda's figure, and shed through
the chamber a dim mysterious light. No prying eye, or curious
ear was near the Lovers: Nothing was heard but Matilda's
melodious accents. Ambrosio was in the full vigour of Manhood.
He saw before him a young and beautiful Woman, the preserver of
his life, the Adorer of his person, and whom affection for him
had reduced to the brink of the Grave. He sat upon her Bed; His
hand rested upon her bosom; Her head reclined voluptuously upon
his breast. Who then can wonder, if He yielded to the
temptation? Drunk with desire, He pressed his lips to those
which sought them: His kisses vied with Matilda's in warmth and
passion. He clasped her rapturously in his arms; He forgot his
vows, his sanctity, and his fame: He remembered nothing but the
pleasure and opportunity.
'Ambrosio! Oh! my Ambrosio!' sighed Matilda.
'Thine, ever thine!' murmured the Friar, and sank upon her bosom.
----These are the Villains
Whom all the Travellers do fear so much.
--------Some of them are Gentlemen
Such as the fury of ungoverned Youth
Thrust from the company of awful Men.
Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The Marquis and Lorenzo proceeded to the Hotel in silence. The
Former employed himself in calling every circumstance to his
mind, which related might give Lorenzo's the most favourable idea
of his connexion with Agnes. The Latter, justly alarmed for the
honour of his family, felt embarrassed by the presence of the
Marquis: The adventure which He had just witnessed forbad his
treating him as a Friend; and Antonia's interests being entrusted
to his mediation, He saw the impolicy of treating him as a Foe.
He concluded from these reflections, that profound silence would
be the wisest plan, and waited with impatience for Don Raymond's
They arrived at the Hotel de las Cisternas. The Marquis
immediately conducted him to his apartment, and began to express
his satisfaction at finding him at Madrid. Lorenzo interrupted
'Excuse me, my Lord,' said He with a distant air, 'if I reply
somewhat coldly to your expressions of regard. A Sister's honour
is involved in this affair: Till that is established, and the
purport of your correspondence with Agnes cleared up, I cannot
consider you as my Friend. I am anxious to hear the meaning of
your conduct, and hope that you will not delay the promised
'First give me your word, that you will listen with patience and
'I love my Sister too well to judge her harshly; and till this
moment I possessed no Friend so dear to me as yourself. I will
also confess, that your having it in your power to oblige me in a
business which I have much at heart, makes me very anxious to
find you still deserving my esteem.'
'Lorenzo, you transport me! No greater pleasure can be given me,
than an opportunity of serving the Brother of Agnes.'
'Convince me that I can accept your favours without dishonour,
and there is no Man in the world to whom I am more willing to be
'Probably, you have already heard your Sister mention the name of
'Never. Though I feel for Agnes an affection truly fraternal,
circumstances have prevented us from being much together. While
yet a Child She was consigned to the care of her Aunt, who had
married a German Nobleman. At his Castle She remained till two
years since, when She returned to Spain, determined upon
secluding herself from the world.'
'Good God! Lorenzo, you knew of her intention, and yet strove
not to make her change it?'
'Marquis, you wrong me. The intelligence, which I received at
Naples, shocked me extremely, and I hastened my return to Madrid
for the express purpose of preventing the sacrifice. The moment
that I arrived, I flew to the Convent of St. Clare, in which
Agnes had chosen to perform her Noviciate. I requested to see my
Sister. Conceive my surprise when She sent me a refusal; She
declared positively, that apprehending my influence over her
mind, She would not trust herself in my society till the day
before that on which She was to receive the Veil. I supplicated
the Nuns; I insisted upon seeing Agnes, and hesitated not to avow
my suspicions that her being kept from me was against her own
inclinations. To free herself from the imputation of violence,
the Prioress brought me a few lines written in my Sister's
well-known hand, repeating the message already delivered. All
future attempts to obtain a moment's conversation with her were
as fruitless as the first. She was inflexible, and I was not
permitted to see her till the day preceding that on which She
entered the Cloister never to quit it more. This interview took
place in the presence of our principal Relations. It was for the
first time since her childhood that I saw her, and the scene was
most affecting. She threw herself upon my bosom, kissed me, and
wept bitterly. By every possible argument, by tears, by prayers,
by kneeling, I strove to make her abandon her intention. I
represented to her all the hardships of a religious life; I
painted to her imagination all the pleasures which She was going
to quit, and besought her to disclose to me, what occasioned her
disgust to the world. At this last question She turned pale, and
her tears flowed yet faster. She entreated me not to press her
on that subject; That it sufficed me to know that her resolution
was taken, and that a Convent was the only place where She could
now hope for tranquillity. She persevered in her design, and
made her profession. I visited her frequently at the Grate, and
every moment that I passed with her, made me feel more affliction
at her loss. I was shortly after obliged to quit Madrid; I
returned but yesterday evening, and since then have not had time
to call at St. Clare's Convent.'
'Then till I mentioned it, you never heard the name of Alphonso
'Pardon me: my Aunt wrote me word that an Adventurer so called
had found means to get introduced into the Castle of Lindenberg;
That He had insinuated himself into my Sister's good graces, and
that She had even consented to elope with him. However, before
the plan could be executed, the Cavalier discovered that the
estates which He believed Agnes to possess in Hispaniola, in
reality belonged to me. This intelligence made him change his
intention; He disappeared on the day that the elopement was to
have taken place, and Agnes, in despair at his perfidy and
meanness, had resolved upon seclusion in a Convent. She added,
that as this adventurer had given himself out to be a Friend of
mine, She wished to know whether I had any knowledge of him. I
replied in the negative. I had then very little idea, that
Alphonso d'Alvarada and the Marquis de las Cisternas were one and
the same person: The description given me of the first by no
means tallied with what I knew of the latter.'
'In this I easily recognize Donna Rodolpha's perfidious
character. Every word of this account is stamped with marks of
her malice, of her falsehood, of her talents for misrepresenting
those whom She wishes to injure. Forgive me, Medina, for
speaking so freely of your Relation. The mischief which She has
done me authorises my resentment, and when you have heard my
story, you will be convinced that my expressions have not been
He then began his narrative in the following manner.
HISTORY OF DON RAYMOND, MARQUIS DE LAS CISTERNAS
Long experience, my dear Lorenzo, has convinced me how generous
is your nature: I waited not for your declaration of ignorance
respecting your Sister's adventures to suppose that they had
been purposely concealed from you. Had they reached your
knowledge, from what misfortunes should both Agnes and myself
have escaped! Fate had ordained it otherwise! You were on your
Travels when I first became acquainted with your Sister; and as
our Enemies took care to conceal from her your direction, it was
impossible for her to implore by letter your protection and
On leaving Salamanca, at which University as I have since heard,
you remained a year after I quitted it, I immediately set out
upon my Travels. My Father supplied me liberally with money; But
He insisted upon my concealing my rank, and presenting myself as
no more than a private Gentleman. This command was issued by the
counsels of his Friend, the Duke of Villa Hermosa, a Nobleman for
whose abilities and knowledge of the world I have ever
entertained the most profound veneration.
'Believe me,' said He, 'my dear Raymond, you will hereafter feel
the benefits of this temporary degradation. 'Tis true, that as
the Conde de las Cisternas you would have been received with open
arms; and your youthful vanity might have felt gratified by the
attentions showered upon you from all sides. At present, much
will depend upon yourself: You have excellent recommendations,
but it must be your own business to make them of use to you. You
must lay yourself out to please; You must labour to gain the
approbation of those, to whom you are presented: They who would
have courted the friendship of the Conde de las Cisternas will
have no interest in finding out the merits, or bearing patiently
with the faults, of Alphonso d'Alvarada. Consequently, when you
find yourself really liked, you may safely ascribe it to your
good qualities, not your rank, and the distinction shown you will
be infinitely more flattering. Besides, your exalted birth would
not permit your mixing with the lower classes of society, which
will now be in your power, and from which, in my opinion, you
will derive considerable benefit. Do not confine yourself to the
Illustrious of those Countries through which you pass. Examine
the manners and customs of the multitude: Enter into the
Cottages; and by observing how the Vassals of Foreigners are
treated, learn to diminish the burthens and augment the comforts
of your own. According to my ideas, of those advantages which a
Youth destined to the possession of power and wealth may reap
from travel, He should not consider as the least essential, the
opportunity of mixing with the classes below him, and becoming an
eyewitness of the sufferings of the People.'
Forgive me, Lorenzo, if I seem tedious in my narration. The close
connexion which now exists between us, makes me anxious that you
should know every particular respecting me; and in my fear of
omitting the least circumstance which may induce you to think
favourably of your Sister and myself, I may possibly relate many
which you may think uninteresting.
I followed the Duke's advice; I was soon convinced of its wisdom.
I quitted Spain, calling myself by the assumed title of Don
Alphonso d'Alvarada, and attended by a single Domestic of
approved fidelity. Paris was my first station. For some time I
was enchanted with it, as indeed must be every Man who is young,
rich, and fond of pleasure. Yet among all its gaieties, I felt
that something was wanting to my heart. I grew sick of
dissipation: I discovered, that the People among whom I lived,
and whose exterior was so polished and seducing, were at bottom
frivolous, unfeeling and insincere. I turned from the
Inhabitants of Paris with disgust, and quitted that Theatre of
Luxury without heaving one sigh of regret.
I now bent my course towards Germany, intending to visit most of
the principal courts: Prior to this expedition, I meant to make
some little stay at Strasbourg. On quitting my Chaise at
Luneville to take some refreshment, I observed a splendid
Equipage, attended by four Domestics in rich liveries, waiting at
the door of the Silver Lion. Soon after as I looked out of the
window, I saw a Lady of noble presence, followed by two female
Attendants, step into the Carriage, which drove off immediately.
I enquired of the Host, who the Lady was, that had just departed.
'A German Baroness, Monsieur, of great rank and fortune. She has
been upon a visit to the Duchess of Longueville, as her Servants
informed me; She is going to Strasbourg, where She will find her
Husband, and then both return to their Castle in Germany.'
I resumed my journey, intending to reach Strasbourg that night.
My hopes, however were frustrated by the breaking down of my
Chaise. The accident happened in the middle of a thick Forest,
and I was not a little embarrassed as to the means of proceeding.
It was the depth of winter: The night was already closing round
us; and Strasbourg, which was the nearest Town, was still distant
from us several leagues. It seemed to me that my only
alternative to passing the night in the Forest, was to take my
Servant's Horse and ride on to Strasbourg, an undertaking at
that season very far from agreeable. However, seeing no other
resource, I was obliged to make up my mind to it. Accordingly I
communicated my design to the Postillion, telling him that I
would send People to assist him as soon as I reached Strasbourg.
I had not much confidence in his honesty; But Stephano being
well-armed, and the Driver to all appearance considerably
advanced in years, I believed I ran no danger of losing my
Luckily, as I then thought, an opportunity presented itself of
passing the night more agreeably than I expected. On mentioning
my design of proceeding by myself to Strasbourg, the Postillion
shook his head in disapprobation.
'It is a long way,' said He; 'You will find it a difficult matter
to arrive there without a Guide. Besides, Monsieur seems
unaccustomed to the season's severity, and 'tis possible that
unable to sustain the excessive cold. . . .'
'What use is there to present me with all these objections?' said
I, impatiently interrupting him; 'I have no other resource: I
run still greater risque of perishing with cold by passing the
night in the Forest.'
'Passing the night in the Forest?' He replied; 'Oh! by St. Denis!
We are not in quite so bad a plight as that comes to yet. If I
am not mistaken, we are scarcely five minutes walk from the
Cottage of my old Friend, Baptiste. He is a Wood-cutter, and a
very honest Fellow. I doubt not but He will shelter you for the
night with pleasure. In the meantime I can take the
saddle-Horse, ride to Strasbourg, and be back with proper people
to mend your Carriage by break of day.'
'And in the name of God,' said I, 'How could you leave me so long
in suspense? Why did you not tell me of this Cottage sooner?
What excessive stupidity!'
'I thought that perhaps Monsieur would not deign to accept. . .
'Absurd! Come, come! Say no more, but conduct us without delay
to the Wood-man's Cottage.'
He obeyed, and we moved onwards: The Horses contrived with some
difficulty to drag the shattered vehicle after us. My Servant
was become almost speechless, and I began to feel the effects of
the cold myself, before we reached the wished-for Cottage. It
was a small but neat Building: As we drew near it, I rejoiced at
observing through the window the blaze of a comfortable fire.
Our Conductor knocked at the door: It was some time before any
one answered; The People within seemed in doubt whether we should
'Come! Come, Friend Baptiste!' cried the Driver with impatience;
'What are you about? Are you asleep? Or will you refuse a
night's lodging to a Gentleman, whose Chaise has just broken down
in the Forest?'
'Ah! is it you, honest Claude?' replied a Man's voice from
within; 'Wait a moment, and the door shall be opened.'
Soon after the bolts were drawn back. The door was unclosed, and
a Man presented himself to us with a Lamp in his hand. He gave
the Guide an hearty reception, and then addressed himself to me.
'Walk in, Monsieur; Walk in, and welcome! Excuse me for not
admitting you at first: But there are so many Rogues about this
place, that saving your presence, I suspected you to be one.'
Thus saying, He ushered me into the room, where I had observed
the fire: I was immediately placed in an Easy Chair, which stood
close to the Hearth. A Female, whom I supposed to be the Wife of
my Host, rose from her seat upon my entrance, and received me
with a slight and distant reverence. She made no answer to my
compliment, but immediately re-seating herself, continued the
work on which She had been employed. Her Husband's manners were
as friendly as hers were harsh and repulsive.
'I wish, I could lodge you more conveniently, Monsieur,' said He;
'But we cannot boast of much spare room in this hovel. However,
a chamber for yourself, and another for your Servant, I think, we
can make shift to supply. You must content yourself with sorry
fare; But to what we have, believe me, you are heartily welcome.'
----Then turning to his wife--'Why, how you sit there,
Marguerite, with as much tranquillity as if you had nothing
better to do! Stir about, Dame! Stir about! Get some supper;
Look out some sheets; Here, here; throw some logs upon the fire,
for the Gentleman seems perished with cold.'
The Wife threw her work hastily upon the Table, and proceeded to
execute his commands with every mark of unwillingness. Her
countenance had displeased me on the first moment of my examining
it. Yet upon the whole her features were handsome
unquestionably; But her skin was sallow, and her person thin and
meagre; A louring gloom over-spread her countenance; and it bore
such visible marks of rancour and ill-will, as could not escape
being noticed by the most inattentive Observer. Her every look
and action expressed discontent and impatience, and the answers
which She gave Baptiste, when He reproached her good-humouredly
for her dissatisfied air, were tart, short, and cutting. In
fine, I conceived at first sight equal disgust for her, and
prepossession in favour of her Husband, whose appearance was
calculated to inspire esteem and confidence. His countenance was
open, sincere, and friendly; his manners had all the Peasant's
honesty unaccompanied by his rudeness; His cheeks were broad,
full, and ruddy; and in the solidity of his person He seemed to
offer an ample apology for the leanness of his Wife's. From the
wrinkles on his brow I judged him to be turned of sixty; But He
bore his years well, and seemed still hearty and strong: The Wife
could not be more than thirty, but in spirits and vivacity She
was infinitely older than the Husband.
However, in spite of her unwillingness, Marguerite began to
prepare the supper, while the Wood-man conversed gaily on
different subjects. The Postillion, who had been furnished with
a bottle of spirits, was now ready to set out for Strasbourg, and
enquired, whether I had any further commands.
'For Strasbourg?' interrupted Baptiste; 'You are not going
'I beg your pardon: If I do not fetch Workmen to mend the
Chaise, How is Monsieur to proceed tomorrow?'
'That is true, as you say; I had forgotten the Chaise. Well, but
Claude; You may at least eat your supper here? That can make you
lose very little time, and Monsieur looks too kind-hearted to
send you out with an empty stomach on such a bitter cold night as
To this I readily assented, telling the Postillion that my
reaching Strasbourg the next day an hour or two later would be
perfectly immaterial. He thanked me, and then leaving the
Cottage with Stephano, put up his Horses in the Wood-man's
Stable. Baptiste followed them to the door, and looked out with
' 'Tis a sharp biting wind!' said He; 'I wonder, what detains my
Boys so long! Monsieur, I shall show you two of the finest Lads,
that ever stept in shoe of leather. The eldest is three and
twenty, the second a year younger: Their Equals for sense,
courage, and activity, are not to be found within fifty miles of
Strasbourg. Would They were back again! I begin to feel uneasy
Marguerite was at this time employed in laying the cloth.
'And are you equally anxious for the return of your Sons?' said I
'Not I!' She replied peevishly; 'They are no children of mine.'
'Come! Come, Marguerite!' said the Husband; 'Do not be out of
humour with the Gentleman for asking a simple question. Had you
not looked so cross, He would never have thought you old enough
to have a Son of three and twenty: But you see how many years
ill-temper adds to you!--Excuse my Wife's rudeness, Monsieur. A
little thing puts her out, and She is somewhat displeased at
your not thinking her to be under thirty. That is the truth, is
it not, Marguerite? You know, Monsieur, that Age is always a
ticklish subject with a Woman. Come! come! Marguerite, clear up
a little. If you have not Sons as old, you will some twenty
years hence, and I hope, that we shall live to see them just such
Lads as Jacques and Robert.'
Marguerite clasped her hands together passionately.
'God forbid!' said She; 'God forbid! If I thought it, I would
strangle them with my own hands!'
She quitted the room hastily, and went up stairs.
I could not help expressing to the Wood-man how much I pitied
him for being chained for life to a Partner of such ill-humour.
'Ah! Lord! Monsieur, Every one has his share of grievances, and
Marguerite has fallen to mine. Besides, after all She is only
cross, and not malicious. The worst is, that her affection for
two children by a former Husband makes her play the Step-mother
with my two Sons. She cannot bear the sight of them, and by her
good-will they would never set a foot within my door. But on
this point I always stand firm, and never will consent to abandon
the poor Lads to the world's mercy, as She has often solicited me
to do. In every thing else I let her have her own way; and truly
She manages a family rarely, that I must say for her.'
We were conversing in this manner, when our discourse was
interrupted by a loud halloo, which rang through the Forest.
'My Sons, I hope!' exclaimed the Wood-man, and ran to open the
The halloo was repeated: We now distinguished the trampling of
Horses, and soon after a Carriage, attended by several Cavaliers
stopped at the Cottage door. One of the Horsemen enquired how
far they were still from Strasbourg. As He addressed himself to
me, I answered in the number of miles which Claude had told me;
Upon which a volley of curses was vented against the Drivers for
having lost their way. The Persons in the Coach were now
informed of the distance of Strasbourg, and also that the Horses
were so fatigued as to be incapable of proceeding further. A
Lady, who appeared to be the principal, expressed much chagrin at
this intelligence; But as there was no remedy, one of the
Attendants asked the Wood-man, whether He could furnish them with
lodging for the night.
He seemed much embarrassed, and replied in the negative; Adding
that a Spanish Gentleman and his Servant were already in
possession of the only spare apartments in his House. On hearing
this, the gallantry of my nation would not permit me to retain
those accommodations, of which a Female was in want. I instantly
signified to the Wood-man, that I transferred my right to the
Lady; He made some objections; But I overruled them, and
hastening to the Carriage, opened the door, and assisted the Lady
to descend. I immediately recognized her for the same person
whom I had seen at the Inn at Luneville. I took an opportunity
of asking one of her Attendants, what was her name?
'The Baroness Lindenberg,' was the answer.
I could not but remark how different a reception our Host had
given these newcomers and myself. His reluctance to admit them
was visibly expressed on his countenance, and He prevailed on
himself with difficulty to tell the Lady that She was welcome.
I conducted her into the House, and placed her in the
armed-chair, which I had just quitted. She thanked me very
graciously; and made a thousand apologies for putting me to an
inconvenience. Suddenly the Wood-man's countenance cleared up.
'At last I have arranged it!' said He, interrupting her excuses;
'I can lodge you and your suite, Madam, and you will not be under
the necessity of making this Gentleman suffer for his politeness.
We have two spare chambers, one for the Lady, the other,
Monsieur, for you: My Wife shall give up hers to the two
Waiting-women; As for the Men-servants, they must content
themselves with passing the night in a large Barn, which stands
at a few yards distance from the House. There they shall have a
blazing fire, and as good a supper as we can make shift to give
After several expressions of gratitude on the Lady's part, and
opposition on mine to Marguerite's giving up her bed, this
arrangement was agreed to. As the Room was small, the Baroness
immediately dismissed her Male Domestics: Baptiste was on the
point of conducting them to the Barn which He had mentioned when
two young Men appeared at the door of the Cottage.
'Hell and Furies!' exclaimed the first starting back; 'Robert,
the House is filled with Strangers!'
'Ha! There are my Sons!' cried our Host. 'Why, Jacques! Robert!
whither are you running, Boys? There is room enough still for
Upon this assurance the Youths returned. The Father presented
them to the Baroness and myself: After which He withdrew with
our Domestics, while at the request of the two Waiting-women,
Marguerite conducted them to the room designed for their
The two new-comers were tall, stout, well-made young Men,
hard-featured, and very much sun-burnt. They paid their
compliments to us in few words, and acknowledged Claude, who now
entered the room, as an old acquaintance. They then threw aside
their cloaks in which they were wrapped up, took off a leathern
belt to which a large Cutlass was suspended, and each drawing a
brace of pistols from his girdle laid them upon a shelf.
'You travel well-armed,' said I.
'True, Monsieur;' replied Robert. 'We left Strasbourg late this
Evening, and 'tis necessary to take precautions at passing
through this Forest after dark. It does not bear a good repute,
I promise you.'
'How?' said the Baroness; 'Are there Robbers hereabout?'
'So it is said, Madame; For my own part, I have travelled through
the wood at all hours, and never met with one of them.'
Here Marguerite returned. Her Stepsons drew her to the other
end of the room, and whispered her for some minutes. By the
looks which they cast towards us at intervals, I conjectured them
to be enquiring our business in the Cottage.
In the meanwhile the Baroness expressed her apprehensions, that
her Husband would be suffering much anxiety upon her account.
She had intended to send on one of her Servants to inform the
Baron of her delay; But the account which the young Men gave of
the Forest rendered this plan impracticable. Claude relieved
her from her embarrassment. He informed her that He was under
the necessity of reaching Strasbourg that night, and that would
She trust him with a letter, She might depend upon its being
'And how comes it,' said I, 'that you are under no apprehension
of meeting these Robbers?'
'Alas! Monsieur, a poor Man with a large family must not lose
certain profit because 'tis attended with a little danger, and
perhaps my Lord the Baron may give me a trifle for my pains.
Besides, I have nothing to lose except my life, and that will not
be worth the Robbers taking.'
I thought his arguments bad, and advised his waiting till the
Morning; But as the Baroness did not second me, I was obliged to
give up the point. The Baroness Lindenberg, as I found
afterwards, had long been accustomed to sacrifice the interests
of others to her own, and her wish to send Claude to Strasbourg
blinded her to the danger of the undertaking. Accordingly, it
was resolved that He should set out without delay. The Baroness
wrote her letter to her Husband, and I sent a few lines to my
Banker, apprising him that I should not be at Strasbourg till the
next day. Claude took our letters, and left the Cottage.
The Lady declared herself much fatigued by her journey: Besides
having come from some distance, the Drivers had contrived to lose
their way in the Forest. She now addressed herself to
Marguerite, desiring to be shown to her chamber, and permitted to
take half an hour's repose. One of the Waiting-women was
immediately summoned; She appeared with a light, and the Baroness
followed her up stairs. The cloth was spreading in the chamber
where I was, and Marguerite soon gave me to understand that I
was in her way. Her hints were too broad to be easily mistaken;
I therefore desired one of the young Men to conduct me to the
chamber where I was to sleep, and where I could remain till
supper was ready.
'Which chamber is it, Mother?' said Robert.
'The One with green hangings,' She replied; 'I have just been at
the trouble of getting it ready, and have put fresh sheets upon
the Bed; If the Gentleman chooses to lollop and lounge upon it,
He may make it again himself for me.'
'You are out of humour, Mother, but that is no novelty. Have the
goodness to follow me, Monsieur.'
He opened the door, and advanced towards a narrow staircase.
'You have got no light!' said Marguerite; 'Is it your own neck or
the Gentleman's that you have a mind to break?'
She crossed by me, and put a candle into Robert's hand, having
received which, He began to ascend the staircase. Jacques was
employed in laying the cloth, and his back was turned towards me.
Marguerite seized the moment, when we were unobserved. She
caught my hand, and pressed it strongly.
'Look at the Sheets!' said She as She passed me, and immediately
resumed her former occupation.
Startled by the abruptness of her action, I remained as if
petrified. Robert's voice, desiring me to follow him, recalled
me to myself. I ascended the staircase. My conductor ushered
me into a chamber, where an excellent wood-fire was blazing upon
the hearth. He placed the light upon the Table, enquired whether
I had any further commands, and on my replying in the negative,
He left me to myself. You may be certain that the moment when I
found myself alone was that on which I complied with Marguerite's
injunction. I took the candle, hastily approached the Bed, and
turned down the Coverture. What was my astonishment, my horror,
at finding the sheets crimsoned with blood!
At that moment a thousand confused ideas passed before my
imagination. The Robbers who infested the Wood, Marguerite's
exclamation respecting her Children, the arms and appearance of
the two young Men, and the various Anecdotes which I had heard
related, respecting the secret correspondence which frequently
exists between Banditti and Postillions, all these circumstances
flashed upon my mind, and inspired me with doubt and
apprehension. I ruminated on the most probable means of
ascertaining the truth of my conjectures. Suddenly I was aware
of Someone below pacing hastily backwards and forwards. Every
thing now appeared to me an object of suspicion. With precaution
I drew near the window, which, as the room had been long shut up,
was left open in spite of the cold. I ventured to look out. The
beams of the Moon permitted me to distinguish a Man, whom I had
no difficulty to recognize for my Host. I watched his movements.
He walked swiftly, then stopped, and seemed to listen: He
stamped upon the ground, and beat his stomach with his arms as if
to guard himself from the inclemency of the season. At the least
noise, if a voice was heard in the lower part of the House, if a
Bat flitted past him, or the wind rattled amidst the leafless
boughs, He started, and looked round with anxiety.
'Plague take him!' said He at length with impatience; 'What can
He be about!'
He spoke in a low voice; but as He was just below my window, I
had no difficulty to distinguish his words.
I now heard the steps of one approaching. Baptiste went towards
the sound; He joined a man, whom his low stature and the Horn
suspended from his neck, declared to be no other than my faithful
Claude, whom I had supposed to be already on his way to
Strasbourg. Expecting their discourse to throw some light upon
my situation, I hastened to put myself in a condition to hear it
with safety. For this purpose I extinguished the candle, which
stood upon a table near the Bed: The flame of the fire was not
strong enough to betray me, and I immediately resumed my place at
The objects of my curiosity had stationed themselves directly
under it. I suppose that during my momentary absence the
Wood-man had been blaming Claude for tardiness, since when I
returned to the window, the latter was endeavouring to excuse his
'However,' added He, 'my diligence at present shall make up for
my past delay.'
'On that condition,' answered Baptiste, 'I shall readily forgive
you. But in truth as you share equally with us in our prizes,
your own interest will make you use all possible diligence.
'Twould be a shame to let such a noble booty escape us! You say,
that this Spaniard is rich?'
'His Servant boasted at the Inn, that the effects in his Chaise
were worth above two thousand Pistoles.'
Oh! how I cursed Stephano's imprudent vanity!
'And I have been told,' continued the Postillion, 'that this
Baroness carries about her a casket of jewels of immense value.'
'May be so, but I had rather She had stayed away. The Spaniard
was a secure prey. The Boys and myself could easily have
mastered him and his Servant, and then the two thousand Pistoles
would have been shared between us four. Now we must let in the
Band for a share, and perhaps the whole Covey may escape us.
Should our Friends have betaken themselves to their different
posts before you reach the Cavern, all will be lost. The Lady's
Attendants are too numerous for us to overpower them: Unless
our Associates arrive in time, we must needs let these Travellers
set out tomorrow without damage or hurt.'
' 'Tis plaguy unlucky that my Comrades who drove the Coach
should be those unacquainted with our Confederacy! But never
fear, Friend Baptiste. An hour will bring me to the Cavern; It
is now but ten o'clock, and by twelve you may expect the arrival
of the Band. By the bye, take care of your Wife: You know how
strong is her repugnance to our mode of life, and She may find
means to give information to the Lady's Servants of our design.'
'Oh! I am secure of her silence; She is too much afraid of me,
and fond of her children, to dare to betray my secret. Besides,
Jacques and Robert keep a strict eye over her, and She is not
permitted to set a foot out of the Cottage. The Servants are
safely lodged in the Barn; I shall endeavour to keep all quiet
till the arrival of our Friends. Were I assured of your finding
them, the Strangers should be dispatched this instant; But as it
is possible for you to miss the Banditti, I am fearful of being
summoned to produce them by their Domestics in the Morning.'
'And suppose either of the Travellers should discover your
'Then we must poignard those in our power, and take our chance
about mastering the rest. However, to avoid running such a
risque, hasten to the Cavern: The Banditti never leave it before
eleven, and if you use diligence, you may reach it in time to
'Tell Robert that I have taken his Horse: My own has broken his
bridle, and escaped into the Wood. What is the watch-word?'
'The reward of Courage.'
' 'Tis sufficient. I hasten to the Cavern.'
'And I to rejoin my Guests, lest my absence should create
suspicion. Farewell, and be diligent.'
These worthy Associates now separated: The One bent his course
towards the Stable, while the Other returned to the House.
You may judge, what must have been my feelings during this
conversation, of which I lost not a single syllable. I dared not
trust myself to my reflections, nor did any means present itself
to escape the dangers which threatened me. Resistance, I knew to
be vain; I was unarmed, and a single Man against Three: However,
I resolved at least to sell my life as dearly as I could.
Dreading lest Baptiste should perceive my absence, and suspect me
to have overheard the message with which Claude was dispatched, I
hastily relighted my candle and quitted the chamber. On
descending, I found the Table spread for six Persons. The
Baroness sat by the fireside: Marguerite was employed in
dressing a sallad, and her Step-sons were whispering together at
the further end of the room. Baptiste having the round of the
Garden to make, ere He could reach the Cottage door, was not yet
arrived. I seated myself quietly opposite to the Baroness.
A glance upon Marguerite told her that her hint had not been
thrown away upon me. How different did She now appear to me!
What before seemed gloom and sullenness, I now found to be
disgust at her Associates, and compassion for my danger. I
looked up to her as to my only resource; Yet knowing her to be
watched by her Husband with a suspicious eye, I could place but
little reliance on the exertions of her good-will.
In spite of all my endeavours to conceal it, my agitation was but
too visibly expressed upon my countenance. I was pale, and both
my words and actions were disordered and embarrassed. The young
Men observed this, and enquired the cause. I attributed it to
excess of fatigue, and the violent effect produced on me by the
severity of the season. Whether they believed me or not, I will
not pretend to say: They at least ceased to embarrass me with
their questions. I strove to divert my attention from the perils
which surrounded me, by conversing on different subjects with the
Baroness. I talked of Germany, declaring my intention of
visiting it immediately: God knows, that I little thought at
that moment of ever seeing it! She replied to me with great ease