Part 8 out of 8
calm of his soul communicated itself to his body, and He
recovered with such rapidity as to create universal surprize.
No so Lorenzo. Antonia's death accompanied with such terrible
circumstances weighed upon his mind heavily. He was worn down to
a shadow. Nothing could give him pleasure. He was persuaded
with difficulty to swallow nourishment sufficient for the support
of life, and a consumption was apprehended. The society of Agnes
formed his only comfort. Though accident had never permitted
their being much together, He entertained for her a sincere
friendship and attachment. Perceiving how necessary She was to
him, She seldom quitted his chamber. She listened to his
complaints with unwearied attention, and soothed him by the
gentleness of her manners, and by sympathising with his distress.
She still inhabited the Palace de Villa-Franca, the Possessors of
which treated her with marked affection. The Duke had intimated
to the Marquis his wishes respecting Virginia. The match was
unexceptionable: Lorenzo was Heir to his Uncle's immense
property, and was distinguished in Madrid for his agreeable
person, extensive knowledge, and propriety of conduct: Add to
this, that the Marchioness had discovered how strong was her
Daughter's prepossession in his favour.
In consequence the Duke's proposal was accepted without
hesitation: Every precaution was taken to induce Lorenzo's
seeing the Lady with those sentiments which She so well merited
to excite. In her visits to her Brother Agnes was frequently
accompanied by the Marchioness; and as soon as He was able to
move into his Antichamber, Virginia under her mother's
protection was sometimes permitted to express her wishes for his
recovery. This She did with such delicacy, the manner in which
She mentioned Antonia was so tender and soothing, and when She
lamented her Rival's melancholy fate, her bright eyes shone so
beautiful through her tears, that Lorenzo could not behold, or
listen to her without emotion. His Relations, as well as the
Lady, perceived that with every day her society seemed to give
him fresh pleasure, and that He spoke of her in terms of stronger
admiration. However, they prudently kept their observations to
themselves. No word was dropped which might lead him to suspect
their designs. They continued their former conduct and
attention, and left Time to ripen into a warmer sentiment the
friendship which He already felt for Virginia.
In the mean while, her visits became more frequent; and latterly
there was scarce a day, of which She did not pass some part by
the side of Lorenzo's Couch. He gradually regained his strength,
but the progress of his recovery was slow and doubtful. One
evening He seemed to be in better spirits than usual: Agnes and
her Lover, the Duke, Virginia, and her Parents were sitting round
him. He now for the first time entreated his Sister to inform
him how She had escaped the effects of the poison which St.
Ursula had seen her swallow. Fearful of recalling those scenes
to his mind in which Antonia had perished, She had hitherto
concealed from him the history of her sufferings. As He now
started the subject himself, and thinking that perhaps the
narrative of her sorrows might draw him from the contemplation of
those on which He dwelt too constantly, She immediately complied
with his request. The rest of the company had already heard her
story; But the interest which all present felt for its Heroine
made them anxious to hear it repeated. The whole society
seconding Lorenzo's entreaties, Agnes obeyed. She first
recounted the discovery which had taken place in the
Abbey Chapel, the Domina's resentment, and the midnight scene of
which St. Ursula had been a concealed witness. Though the Nun
had already described this latter event, Agnes now related it
more circumstantially and at large: After which She proceeded in
her narrative as follows.
Conclusion of the History of Agnes de Medina
My supposed death was attended with the greatest agonies. Those
moments which I believed my last, were embittered by the Domina's
assurances that I could not escape perdition; and as my eyes
closed, I heard her rage exhale itself in curses on my offence.
The horror of this situation, of a death-bed from which hope was
banished, of a sleep from which I was only to wake to find myself
the prey of flames and Furies, was more dreadful than I can
describe. When animation revived in me, my soul was still
impressed with these terrible ideas: I looked round with fear,
expecting to behold the Ministers of divine vengeance. For the
first hour, my senses were so bewildered, and my brain so dizzy,
that I strove in vain to arrange the strange images which floated
in wild confusion before me. If I endeavoured to raise myself
from the ground, the wandering of my head deceived me. Every
thing around me seemed to rock, and I sank once more upon the
earth. My weak and dazzled eyes were unable to bear a nearer
approach to a gleam of light which I saw trembling above me. I
was compelled to close them again, and remain motionless in the
A full hour elapsed, before I was sufficiently myself to examine
the surrounding Objects. When I did examine them, what terror
filled my bosom I found myself extended upon a sort of wicker
Couch: It had six handles to it, which doubtless had served the
Nuns to convey me to my grave. I was covered with a linen cloth:
Several faded flowers were strown over me: On one side lay a
small wooden Crucifix; On the other, a Rosary of large Beads.
Four low narrow walls confined me. The top was also covered, and
in it was practised a small grated Door: Through this was
admitted the little air which circulated in this miserable
place. A faint glimmering of light which streamed through the
Bars, permitted me to distinguish the surrounding horrors. I was
opprest by a noisome suffocating smell; and perceiving that the
grated door was unfastened, I thought that I might possibly
effect my escape. As I raised myself with this design, my hand
rested upon something soft: I grasped it, and advanced it
towards the light. Almighty God! What was my disgust, my
consternation! In spite of its putridity, and the worms which
preyed upon it, I perceived a corrupted human head, and
recognised the features of a Nun who had died some months before!
I threw it from me, and sank almost lifeless upon my Bier.
When my strength returned, this circumstance, and the
consciousness of being surrounded by the loathsome and mouldering
Bodies of my Companions, increased my desire to escape from my
fearful prison. I again moved towards the light. The grated
door was within my reach: I lifted it without difficulty;
Probably it had been left unclosed to facilitate my quitting the
dungeon. Aiding myself by the irregularity of the Walls some of
whose stones projected beyond the rest, I contrived to ascend
them, and drag myself out of my prison. I now found Myself in a
Vault tolerably spacious. Several Tombs, similar in appearance
to that whence I had just escaped, were ranged along the sides in
order, and seemed to be considerably sunk within the earth. A
sepulchral Lamp was suspended from the roof by an iron chain, and
shed a gloomy light through the dungeon. Emblems of Death were
seen on every side: Skulls, shoulder-blades, thigh-bones, and
other leavings of Mortality were scattered upon the dewy ground.
Each Tomb was ornamented with a large Crucifix, and in one corner
stood a wooden Statue of St. Clare. To these objects I at first
paid no attention: A Door, the only outlet from the Vault, had
attracted my eyes. I hastened towards it, having wrapped my
winding-sheet closely round me. I pushed against the door, and
to my inexpressible terror found that it was fastened on the
I guessed immediately that the Prioress, mistaking the nature of
the liquor which She had compelled me to drink, instead of poison
had administered a strong Opiate. From this I concluded that
being to all appearance dead I had received the rites of burial;
and that deprived of the power of making my existence known, it
would be my fate to expire of hunger. This idea penetrated me
with horror, not merely for my own sake, but that of the innocent
Creature, who still lived within my bosom. I again endeavoured
to open the door, but it resisted all my efforts. I stretched my
voice to the extent of its compass, and shrieked for aid: I was
remote from the hearing of every one: No friendly voice replied
to mine. A profound and melancholy silence prevailed through the
Vault, and I despaired of liberty. My long abstinence from food
now began to torment me. The tortures which hunger inflicted on
me, were the most painful and insupportable: Yet they seemed to
increase with every hour which past over my head. Sometimes I
threw myself upon the ground, and rolled upon it wild and
desperate: Sometimes starting up, I returned to the door, again
strove to force it open, and repeated my fruitless cries for
succour. Often was I on the point of striking my temple against
the sharp corner of some Monument, dashing out my brains, and
thus terminating my woes at once; But still the remembrance of my
Baby vanquished my resolution: I trembled at a deed which
equally endangered my Child's existence and my own. Then would I
vent my anguish in loud exclamations and passionate complaints;
and then again my strength failing me, silent and hopeless I
would sit me down upon the base of St. Clare's Statue, fold my
arms, and abandon myself to sullen despair. Thus passed several
wretched hours. Death advanced towards me with rapid strides,
and I expected that every succeeding moment would be that of my
dissolution. Suddenly a neighbouring Tomb caught my eye: A
Basket stood upon it, which till then I had not observed. I
started from my seat: I made towards it as swiftly as my
exhausted frame would permit. How eagerly did I seize the
Basket, on finding it to contain a loaf of coarse bread and a
small bottle of water.
I threw myself with avidity upon these humble aliments. They had
to all appearance been placed in the Vault for several days; The
bread was hard, and the water tainted; Yet never did I taste food
to me so delicious. When the cravings of appetite were
satisfied, I busied myself with conjectures upon this new
circumstance: I debated whether the Basket had been placed there
with a view to my necessity. Hope answered my doubts in the
affirmative. Yet who could guess me to be in need of such
assistance? If my existence was known, why was I detained in
this gloomy Vault? If I was kept a Prisoner, what meant the
ceremony of committing me to the Tomb? Or if I was doomed to
perish with hunger, to whose pity was I indebted for provisions
placed within my reach? A Friend would not have kept my dreadful
punishment a secret; Neither did it seem probable that an Enemy
would have taken pains to supply me with the means of existence.
Upon the whole I was inclined to think that the Domina's designs
upon my life had been discovered by some one of my Partizans in
the Convent, who had found means to substitute an opiate for
poison: That She had furnished me with food to support me, till
She could effect my delivery: And that She was then employed in
giving intelligence to my Relations of my danger, and pointing
out a way to release me from captivity. Yet why then was the
quality of my provisions so coarse? How could my Friend have
entered the Vault without the Domina's knowledge? And if She had
entered, why was the Door fastened so carefully? These
reflections staggered me: Yet still this idea was the most
favourable to my hopes, and I dwelt upon it in preference.
My meditations were interrupted by the sound of distant
footsteps. They approached, but slowly. Rays of light now
darted through the crevices of the Door. Uncertain whether the
Persons who advanced came to relieve me, or were conducted by
some other motive to the Vault, I failed not to attract their
notice by loud cries for help. Still the sounds drew near: The
light grew stronger: At length with inexpressible pleasure I
heard the Key turning in the Lock. Persuaded that my deliverance
was at hand, I flew towards the Door with a shriek of joy. It
opened: But all my hopes of escape died away, when the Prioress
appeared followed by the same four Nuns, who had been witnesses
of my supposed death. They bore torches in their hands, and
gazed upon me in fearful silence.
I started back in terror. The Domina descended into the Vault,
as did also her Companions. She bent upon me a stern resentful
eye, but expressed no surprize at finding me still living. She
took the seat which I had just quitted: The door was again
closed, and the Nuns ranged themselves behind their Superior,
while the glare of their torches, dimmed by the vapours and
dampness of the Vault, gilded with cold beams the surrounding
Monuments. For some moments all preserved a dead and solemn
silence. I stood at some distance from the Prioress. At length
She beckoned me to advance. Trembling at the severity of her
aspect my strength scarce sufficed me to obey her. I drew near,
but my limbs were unable to support their burthen. I sank upon
my knees; I clasped my hands, and lifted them up to her for
mercy, but had no power to articulate a syllable.
She gazed upon me with angry eyes.
'Do I see a Penitent, or a Criminal?' She said at length; 'Are
those hands raised in contrition for your crimes, or in fear of
meeting their punishment? Do those tears acknowledge the justice
of your doom, or only solicit mitigation of your sufferings? I
fear me, 'tis the latter!'
She paused, but kept her eye still fixt upon mine.
'Take courage;' She continued: 'I wish not for your death, but
your repentance. The draught which I administered, was no
poison, but an opiate. My intention in deceiving you was to
make you feel the agonies of a guilty conscience, had Death
overtaken you suddenly while your crimes were still unrepented.
You have suffered those agonies: I have brought you to be
familiar with the sharpness of death, and I trust that your
momentary anguish will prove to you an eternal benefit. It is
not my design to destroy your immortal soul; or bid you seek the
grave, burthened with the weight of sins unexpiated. No,
Daughter, far from it: I will purify you with wholesome
chastisement, and furnish you with full leisure for contrition
and remorse. Hear then my sentence; The ill-judged zeal of your
Friends delayed its execution, but cannot now prevent it. All
Madrid believes you to be no more; Your Relations are thoroughly
persuaded of your death, and the Nuns your Partizans have
assisted at your funeral. Your existence can never be suspected;
I have taken such precautions, as must render it an impenetrable
mystery. Then abandon all thoughts of a World from which you are
eternally separated, and employ the few hours which are allowed
you, in preparing for the next.'
This exordium led me to expect something terrible. I trembled,
and would have spoken to deprecate her wrath: but a motion of the
Domina commanded me to be silent. She proceeded.
'Though of late years unjustly neglected, and now opposed by many
of our misguided Sisters, (whom Heaven convert!) it is my
intention to revive the laws of our order in their full force.
That against incontinence is severe, but no more than so
monstrous an offence demands: Submit to it, Daughter, without
resistance; You will find the benefit of patience and resignation
in a better life than this. Listen then to the sentence of St.
Clare. Beneath these Vaults there exist Prisons, intended to
receive such criminals as yourself: Artfully is their entrance
concealed, and She who enters them, must resign all hopes of
liberty. Thither must you now be conveyed. Food shall be
supplied you, but not sufficient for the indulgence of appetite:
You shall have just enough to keep together body and soul, and
its quality shall be the simplest and coarsest. Weep, Daughter,
weep, and moisten your bread with your tears: God knows that
you have ample cause for sorrow! Chained down in one of these
secret dungeons, shut out from the world and light for ever, with
no comfort but religion, no society but repentance, thus must you
groan away the remainder of your days. Such are St. Clare's
orders; Submit to them without repining. Follow me!'
Thunderstruck at this barbarous decree, my little remaining
strength abandoned me. I answered only by falling at her feet,
and bathing them with tears. The Domina, unmoved by my
affliction, rose from her seat with a stately air. She repeated
her commands in an absolute tone: But my excessive faintness
made me unable to obey her. Mariana and Alix raised me from the
ground, and carried me forwards in their arms. The Prioress
moved on, leaning upon Violante, and Camilla preceded her with a
Torch. Thus passed our sad procession along the passages, in
silence only broken by my sighs and groans. We stopped before
the principal shrine of St. Clare. The Statue was removed from
its Pedestal, though how I knew not. The Nuns afterwards raised
an iron grate till then concealed by the Image, and let it fall
on the other side with a loud crash. The awful sound, repeated
by the vaults above, and Caverns below me, rouzed me from the
despondent apathy in which I had been plunged. I looked before
me: An abyss presented itself to my affrighted eyes, and a steep
and narrow Staircase, whither my Conductors were leading me. I
shrieked, and started back. I implored compassion, rent the air
with my cries, and summoned both heaven and earth to my
assistance. In vain! I was hurried down the Staircase, and
forced into one of the Cells which lined the Cavern's sides.
My blood ran cold, as I gazed upon this melancholy abode. The
cold vapours hovering in the air, the walls green with damp, the
bed of Straw so forlorn and comfortless, the Chain destined to
bind me for ever to my prison, and the Reptiles of every
description which as the torches advanced towards them, I
descried hurrying to their retreats, struck my heart with terrors
almost too exquisite for nature to bear. Driven by despair to
madness, I burst suddenly from the Nuns who held me: I threw
myself upon my knees before the Prioress, and besought her mercy
in the most passionate and frantic terms.
'If not on me,' said I, 'look at least with pity on that innocent
Being, whose life is attached to mine! Great is my crime, but
let not my Child suffer for it! My Baby has committed no fault:
Oh! spare me for the sake of my unborn Offspring, whom ere it
tastes life your severity dooms to destruction!'
The Prioress drew back haughtily: She forced her habit from my
grasp, as if my touch had been contagious.
'What?' She exclaimed with an exasperated air; 'What? Dare you
plead for the produce of your shame? Shall a Creature be
permitted to live, conceived in guilt so monstrous? Abandoned
Woman, speak for him no more! Better that the Wretch should
perish than live: Begotten in perjury, incontinence, and
pollution, It cannot fail to prove a Prodigy of vice. Hear me,
thou Guilty! Expect no mercy from me either for yourself, or
Brat. Rather pray that Death may seize you before you produce
it; Or if it must see the light, that its eyes may immediately be
closed again for ever! No aid shall be given you in your labour;
Bring your Offspring into the world yourself, Feed it yourself,
Nurse it yourself, Bury it yourself: God grant that the latter
may happen soon, lest you receive comfort from the fruit of your
This inhuman speech, the threats which it contained, the dreadful
sufferings foretold to me by the Domina, and her prayers for my
Infant's death, on whom though unborn I already doated, were more
than my exhausted frame could support. Uttering a deep groan, I
fell senseless at the feet of my unrelenting Enemy. I know not
how long I remained in this situation; But I imagine that some
time must have elapsed before my recovery, since it sufficed the
Prioress and her Nuns to quit the Cavern. When my senses
returned, I found myself in silence and solitude. I heard not
even the retiring footsteps of my Persecutors. All was hushed,
and all was dreadful! I had been thrown upon the bed of Straw:
The heavy Chain which I had already eyed with terror, was wound
around my waist, and fastened me to the Wall. A Lamp glimmering
with dull, melancholy rays through my dungeon, permitted my
distinguishing all its horrors: It was separated from the Cavern
by a low and irregular Wall of Stone: A large Chasm was left open
in it which formed the entrance, for door there was none. A
leaden Crucifix was in front of my straw Couch. A tattered rug
lay near me, as did also a Chaplet of Beads; and not far from me
stood a pitcher of water, and a wicker Basket containing a small
loaf, and a bottle of oil to supply my Lamp.
With a despondent eye did I examine this scene of suffering:
When I reflected that I was doomed to pass in it the remainder
of my days, my heart was rent with bitter anguish. I had once
been taught to look forward to a lot so different! At one time
my prospects had appeared so bright, so flattering! Now all was
lost to me. Friends, comfort, society, happiness, in one moment
I was deprived of all! Dead to the world, Dead to pleasure, I
lived to nothing but the sense of misery. How fair did that
world seem to me, from which I was for ever excluded! How many
loved objects did it contain, whom I never should behold again!
As I threw a look of terror round my prison, as I shrunk from the
cutting wind which howled through my subterraneous dwelling, the
change seemed so striking, so abrupt, that I doubted its reality.
That the Duke de Medina's Niece, that the destined Bride of the
Marquis de las Cisternas, One bred up in affluence, related to
the noblest families in Spain, and rich in a multitude of
affectionate Friends, that She should in one moment become a
Captive, separated from the world for ever, weighed down with
chains, and reduced to support life with the coarsest aliments,
appeared a change so sudden and incredible, that I believed
myself the sport of some frightful vision. Its continuance
convinced me of my mistake with but too much certainty. Every
morning my hopes were disappointed. At length I abandoned all
idea of escaping: I resigned myself to my fate, and only
expected Liberty when She came the Companion of Death.
My mental anguish, and the dreadful scenes in which I had been an
Actress, advanced the period of my labour. In solitude and
misery, abandoned by all, unassisted by Art, uncomforted by
Friendship, with pangs which if witnessed would have touched the
hardest heart, was I delivered of my wretched burthen. It came
alive into the world; But I knew not how to treat it, or by what
means to preserve its existence. I could only bathe it with
tears, warm it in my bosom, and offer up prayers for its safety.
I was soon deprived of this mournful employment: The want of
proper attendance, my ignorance how to nurse it, the bitter cold
of the dungeon, and the unwholesome air which inflated its lungs,
terminated my sweet Babe's short and painful existence. It
expired in a few hours after its birth, and I witnessed its death
with agonies which beggar all description.
But my grief was unavailing. My Infant was no more; nor could
all my sighs impart to its little tender frame the breath of a
moment. I rent my winding-sheet, and wrapped in it my lovely
Child. I placed it on my bosom, its soft arm folded round my
neck, and its pale cold cheek resting upon mine. Thus did its
lifeless limbs repose, while I covered it with kisses, talked to
it, wept, and moaned over it without remission, day or night.
Camilla entered my prison regularly once every twenty-four hours,
to bring me food. In spite of her flinty nature, She could not
behold this spectacle unmoved. She feared that grief so
excessive would at length turn my brain, and in truth I was not
always in my proper senses. From a principle of compassion She
urged me to permit the Corse to be buried: But to this I never
would consent. I vowed not to part with it while I had life:
Its presence was my only comfort, and no persuasion could induce
me to give it up. It soon became a mass of putridity, and to
every eye was a loathsome and disgusting Object; To every eye
but a Mother's. In vain did human feelings bid me recoil from
this emblem of mortality with repugnance: I withstood, and
vanquished that repugnance. I persisted in holding my Infant to
my bosom, in lamenting it, loving it, adoring it! Hour after
hour have I passed upon my sorry Couch, contemplating what had
once been my Child: I endeavoured to retrace its features
through the livid corruption, with which they were overspread:
During my confinement this sad occupation was my only delight;
and at that time Worlds should not have bribed me to give it up.
Even when released from my prison, I brought away my Child in my
arms. The representations of my two kind Friends,''--(Here She
took the hands of the Marchioness and Virginia, and pressed them
alternately to her lips)--''at length persuaded me to resign my
unhappy Infant to the Grave. Yet I parted from it with
reluctance: However, reason at length prevailed; I suffered it
to be taken from me, and it now reposes in consecrated ground.
I before mentioned that regularly once a day Camilla brought me
food. She sought not to embitter my sorrows with reproach: She
bad me, 'tis true, resign all hopes of liberty and worldly
happiness; But She encouraged me to bear with patience my
temporary distress, and advised me to draw comfort from religion.
My situation evidently affected her more than She ventured to
express: But She believed that to extenuate my fault would make
me less anxious to repent it. Often while her lips painted the
enormity of my guilt in glaring colours, her eyes betrayed, how
sensible She was to my sufferings. In fact I am certain that
none of my Tormentors, (for the three other Nuns entered my
prison occasionally) were so much actuated by the spirit of
oppressive cruelty as by the idea that to afflict my body was
the only way to preserve my soul. Nay, even this persuasion
might not have had such weight with them, and they might have
thought my punishment too severe, had not their good dispositions
been represt by blind obedience to their Superior. Her
resentment existed in full force. My project of elopement having
been discovered by the Abbot of the Capuchins, She supposed
herself lowered in his opinion by my disgrace, and in consequence
her hate was inveterate. She told the Nuns to whose custody I
was committed that my fault was of the most heinous nature, that
no sufferings could equal the offence, and that nothing could
save me from eternal perdition but punishing my guilt with the
utmost severity. The Superior's word is an oracle to but too
many of a Convent's Inhabitants. The Nuns believed whatever the
Prioress chose to assert: Though contradicted by reason and
charity, they hesitated not to admit the truth of her arguments.
They followed her injunctions to the very letter, and were fully
persuaded that to treat me with lenity, or to show the least
pity for my woes, would be a direct means to destroy my chance
Camilla, being most employed about me, was particularly charged
by the Prioress to treat me with harshness. In compliance with
these orders, She frequently strove to convince me, how just was
my punishment, and how enormous was my crime: She bad me think
myself too happy in saving my soul by mortifying my body, and
even threatened me sometimes with eternal perdition. Yet as I
before observed, She always concluded by words of encouragement
and comfort; and though uttered by Camilla's lips, I easily
recognised the Domina's expressions. Once, and once only, the
Prioress visited me in my dungeon. She then treated me with the
most unrelenting cruelty: She loaded me with reproaches, taunted
me with my frailty, and when I implored her mercy, told me to ask
it of heaven, since I deserved none on earth. She even gazed
upon my lifeless Infant without emotion; and when She left me, I
heard her charge Camilla to increase the hardships of my
Captivity. Unfeeling Woman! But let me check my resentment:
She has expiated her errors by her sad and unexpected death.
Peace be with her; and may her crimes be forgiven in heaven, as I
forgive her my sufferings on earth!
Thus did I drag on a miserable existence. Far from growing
familiar with my prison, I beheld it every moment with new
horror. The cold seemed more piercing and bitter, the air more
thick and pestilential. My frame became weak, feverish, and
emaciated. I was unable to rise from the bed of Straw, and
exercise my limbs in the narrow limits, to which the length of my
chain permitted me to move. Though exhausted, faint, and weary,
I trembled to profit by the approach of Sleep: My slumbers were
constantly interrupted by some obnoxious Insect crawling over me.
Sometimes I felt the bloated Toad, hideous and pampered with the
poisonous vapours of the dungeon, dragging his loathsome length
along my bosom: Sometimes the quick cold Lizard rouzed me
leaving his slimy track upon my face, and entangling itself in
the tresses of my wild and matted hair: Often have I at waking
found my fingers ringed with the long worms which bred in the
corrupted flesh of my Infant. At such times I shrieked with
terror and disgust, and while I shook off the reptile, trembled
with all a Woman's weakness.
Such was my situation, when Camilla was suddenly taken ill. A
dangerous fever, supposed to be infectious, confined her to her
bed. Every one except the Lay-Sister appointed to nurse her,
avoided her with caution, and feared to catch the disease. She
was perfectly delirious, and by no means capable of attending to
me. The Domina and the Nuns admitted to the mystery, had
latterly given me over entirely to Camilla's care: In
consequence, they busied themselves no more about me; and
occupied by preparing for the approaching Festival, it is more
than probable that I never once entered into their thoughts. Of
the reason of Camilla's negligence, I have been informed since my
release by the Mother St. Ursula; At that time I was very far
from suspecting its cause. On the contrary, I waited for my
Gaoler's appearance at first with impatience, and afterwards with
despair. One day passed away; Another followed it; The Third
arrived. Still no Camilla! Still no food! I knew the lapse of
time by the wasting of my Lamp, to supply which fortunately a
week's supply of Oil had been left me. I supposed, either that
the Nuns had forgotten me, or that the Domina had ordered them to
let me perish. The latter idea seemed the most probable; Yet so
natural is the love of life, that I trembled to find it true.
Though embittered by every species of misery, my existence was
still dear to me, and I dreaded to lose it. Every succeeding
minute proved to me that I must abandon all hopes of relief. I
was become an absolute skeleton: My eyes already failed me, and
my limbs were beginning to stiffen. I could only express my
anguish, and the pangs of that hunger which gnawed my
heart-strings, by frequent groans, whose melancholy sound the
vaulted roof of the dungeon re-echoed. I resigned myself to my
fate: I already expected the moment of dissolution, when my
Guardian Angel, when my beloved Brother arrived in time to save
me. My sight grown dim and feeble at first refused to recognize
him; and when I did distinguish his features, the sudden burst of
rapture was too much for me to bear. I was overpowered by the
swell of joy at once more beholding a Friend, and that a Friend
so dear to me. Nature could not support my emotions, and took
her refuge in insensibility.
You already know, what are my obligations to the Family of
Villa-Franca: But what you cannot know is the extent of my
gratitude, boundless as the excellence of my Benefactors.
Lorenzo! Raymond! Names so dear to me! Teach me to bear with
fortitude this sudden transition from misery to bliss. So lately
a Captive, opprest with chains, perishing with hunger, suffering
every in convenience of cold and want, hidden from the light,
excluded from society, hopeless, neglected, and as I feared,
forgotten; Now restored to life and liberty, enjoying all the
comforts of affluence and ease, surrounded by those who are most
loved by me, and on the point of becoming his Bride who has long
been wedded to my heart, my happiness is so exquisite, so
perfect, that scarcely can my brain sustain the weight. One only
wish remains ungratified: It is to see my Brother in his former
health, and to know that Antonia's memory is buried in her grave.
Granted this prayer, I have nothing more to desire. I trust,
that my past sufferings have purchased from heaven the pardon of
my momentary weakness. That I have offended, offended greatly and
grievously, I am fully conscious; But let not my Husband, because
He once conquered my virtue, doubt the propriety of my future
conduct. I have been frail and full of error: But I yielded not
to the warmth of constitution; Raymond, affection for you
betrayed me. I was too confident of my strength; But I depended
no less on your honour than my own. I had vowed never to see you
more: Had it not been for the consequences of that unguarded
moment, my resolution had been kept. Fate willed it otherwise,
and I cannot but rejoice at its decree. Still my conduct has
been highly blameable, and while I attempt to justify myself, I
blush at recollecting my imprudence. Let me then dismiss the
ungrateful subject; First assuring you, Raymond, that you shall
have no cause to repent our union, and that the more culpable
have been the errors of your Mistress, the more exemplary shall
be the conduct of your Wife.
Here Agnes ceased, and the Marquis replied to her address in
terms equally sincere and affectionate. Lorenzo expressed his
satisfaction at the prospect of being so closely connected with a
Man for whom He had ever entertained the highest esteem. The
Pope's Bull had fully and effectually released Agnes from her
religious engagements: The marriage was therefore celebrated as
soon as the needful preparations had been made, for the Marquis
wished to have the ceremony performed with all possible splendour
and publicity. This being over, and the Bride having received
the compliments of Madrid, She departed with Don Raymond for his
Castle in Andalusia: Lorenzo accompanied them, as did also the
Marchioness de Villa-Franca and her lovely Daughter. It is
needless to say that Theodore was of the party, and would be
impossible to describe his joy at his Master's marriage.
Previous to his departure, the Marquis, to atone in some measure
for his past neglect, made some enquiries relative to Elvira.
Finding that She as well as her Daughter had received many
services from Leonella and Jacintha, He showed his respect to the
memory of his Sister-in-law by making the two Women handsome
presents. Lorenzo followed his example--Leonella was highly
flattered by the attentions of Noblemen so distinguished, and
Jacintha blessed the hour on which her House was bewitched.
On her side, Agnes failed not to reward her Convent Friends.
The worthy Mother St. Ursula, to whom She owed her liberty, was
named at her request Superintendent of 'The Ladies of Charity:'
This was one of the best and most opulent Societies throughout
Spain. Bertha and Cornelia not choosing to quit their Friend,
were appointed to principal charges in the same establishment.
As to the Nuns who had aided the Domina in persecuting Agnes,
Camilla being confined by illness to her bed, had perished in the
flames which consumed St. Clare's Convent. Mariana, Alix, and
Violante, as well as two more, had fallen victims to the popular
rage. The three Others who in Council had supported the Domina's
sentence, were severely reprimanded, and banished to religious
Houses in obscure and distant Provinces: Here they languished
away a few years, ashamed of their former weakness, and shunned
by their Companions with aversion and contempt.
Nor was the fidelity of Flora permitted to go unrewarded. Her
wishes being consulted, She declared herself impatient to revisit
her native land. In consequence, a passage was procured for her
to Cuba, where She arrived in safety, loaded with the presents of
Raymond and Lorenzo.
The debts of gratitude discharged, Agnes was at liberty to pursue
her favourite plan. Lodged in the same House, Lorenzo and
Virginia were eternally together. The more He saw of her, the
more was He convinced of her merit. On her part, She laid
herself out to please, and not to succeed was for her impossible.
Lorenzo witnessed with admiration her beautiful person, elegant
manners, innumerable talents, and sweet disposition: He was also
much flattered by her prejudice in his favour, which She had not
sufficient art to conceal. However, his sentiments partook not
of that ardent character which had marked his affection for
Antonia. The image of that lovely and unfortunate Girl still
lived in his heart, and baffled all Virginia's efforts to
displace it. Still when the Duke proposed to him the match,
which He wished to earnestly to take place, his Nephew did not
reject the offer. The urgent supplications of his Friends, and
the Lady's merit conquered his repugnance to entering into new
engagements. He proposed himself to the Marquis de Villa- Franca,
and was accepted with joy and gratitude. Virginia became his
Wife, nor did She ever give him cause to repent his choice. His
esteem increased for her daily. Her unremitted endeavours to
please him could not but succeed. His affection assumed stronger
and warmer colours. Antonia's image was gradually effaced from
his bosom; and Virginia became sole Mistress of that heart, which
She well deserved to possess without a Partner.
The remaining years of Raymond and Agnes, of Lorenzo and
Virginia, were happy as can be those allotted to Mortals, born to
be the prey of grief, and sport of disappointment. The exquisite
sorrows with which they had been afflicted, made them think
lightly of every succeeding woe. They had felt the sharpest
darts in misfortune's quiver; Those which remained appeared blunt
in comparison. Having weathered Fate's heaviest Storms, they
looked calmly upon its terrors: or if ever they felt Affliction's
casual gales, they seemed to them gentle as Zephyrs which
breathe over summer-seas.
----He was a fell despightful Fiend:
Hell holds none worse in baleful bower below:
By pride, and wit, and rage, and rancor keened;
Of Man alike, if good or bad the Foe.
On the day following Antonia's death, all Madrid was a scene of
consternation and amazement. An Archer who had witnessed the
adventure in the Sepulchre had indiscreetly related the
circumstances of the murder: He had also named the Perpetrator.
The confusion was without example which this intelligence raised
among the Devotees. Most of them disbelieved it, and went
themselves to the Abbey to ascertain the fact. Anxious to avoid
the shame to which their Superior's ill-conduct exposed the whole
Brotherhood, the Monks assured the Visitors that Ambrosio was
prevented from receiving them as usual by nothing but illness.
This attempt was unsuccessful: The same excuse being repeated
day after day, the Archer's story gradually obtained confidence.
His Partizans abandoned him: No one entertained a doubt of his
guilt; and they who before had been the warmest in his praise
were now the most vociferous in his condemnation.
While his innocence or guilt was debated in Madrid with the
utmost acrimony, Ambrosio was a prey to the pangs of conscious
villainy, and the terrors of punishment impending over him. When
He looked back to the eminence on which He had lately stood,
universally honoured and respected, at peace with the world and
with himself, scarcely could He believe that He was indeed the
culprit whose crimes and whose fate He trembled to envisage.
But a few weeks had elapsed, since He was pure and virtuous,
courted by the wisest and noblest in Madrid, and regarded by the
People with a reverence that approached idolatry: He now saw
himself stained with the most loathed and monstrous sins, the
object of universal execration, a Prisoner of the Holy Office,
and probably doomed to perish in tortures the most severe. He
could not hope to deceive his Judges: The proofs of his guilt
were too strong. His being in the Sepulchre at so late an hour,
his confusion at the discovery, the dagger which in his first
alarm He owned had been concealed by him, and the blood which had
spirted upon his habit from Antonia's wound, sufficiently marked
him out for the Assassin. He waited with agony for the day of
examination: He had no resource to comfort him in his distress.
Religion could not inspire him with fortitude: If He read the
Books of morality which were put into his hands, He saw in them
nothing but the enormity of his offences; If he attempted to
pray, He recollected that He deserved not heaven's protection,
and believed his crimes so monstrous as to baffle even God's
infinite goodness. For every other Sinner He thought there
might be hope, but for him there could be none. Shuddering at
the past, anguished by the present, and dreading the future, thus
passed He the few days preceding that which was marked for his
That day arrived. At nine in the morning his prison door was
unlocked, and his Gaoler entering, commanded him to follow him.
He obeyed with trembling. He was conducted into a spacious Hall,
hung with black cloth. At the Table sat three grave,
stern-looking Men, also habited in black: One was the Grand
Inquisitor, whom the importance of this cause had induced to
examine into it himself. At a smaller table at a little distance
sat the Secretary, provided with all necessary implements for
writing. Ambrosio was beckoned to advance, and take his station
at the lower end of the Table. As his eye glanced downwards, He
perceived various iron instruments lying scattered upon the
floor. Their forms were unknown to him, but apprehension
immediately guessed them to be engines of torture. He turned
pale, and with difficulty prevented himself from sinking upon the
Profound silence prevailed, except when the Inquisitors whispered
a few words among themselves mysteriously. Near an hour past
away, and with every second of it Ambrosio's fears grew more
poignant. At length a small Door, opposite to that by which He
had entered the Hall, grated heavily upon its hinges. An Officer
appeared, and was immediately followed by the beautiful Matilda.
Her hair hung about her face wildly; Her cheeks were pale, and
her eyes sunk and hollow. She threw a melancholy look upon
Ambrosio: He replied by one of aversion and reproach. She was
placed opposite to him. A Bell then sounded thrice. It was the
signal for opening the Court, and the Inquisitors entered upon
In these trials neither the accusation is mentioned, or the name
of the Accuser. The Prisoners are only asked, whether they will
confess: If they reply that having no crime they can make no
confession, they are put to the torture without delay. This is
repeated at intervals, either till the suspected avow themselves
culpable, or the perseverance of the examinants is worn out and
exhausted: But without a direct acknowledgment of their guilt,
the Inquisition never pronounces the final doom of its Prisoners.
In general much time is suffered to elapse without their being
questioned: But Ambrosio's trial had been hastened, on account
of a solemn Auto da Fe which would take place in a few days, and
in which the Inquisitors meant this distinguished Culprit to
perform a part, and give a striking testimony of their vigilance.
The Abbot was not merely accused of rape and murder: The crime
of Sorcery was laid to his charge, as well as to Matilda's. She
had been seized as an Accomplice in Antonia's assassination. On
searching her Cell, various suspicious books and instruments were
found which justified the accusation brought against her. To
criminate the Monk, the constellated Mirror was produced, which
Matilda had accidentally left in his chamber. The strange figures
engraved upon it caught the attention of Don Ramirez, while
searching the Abbot's Cell: In consequence, He carried it away
with him. It was shown to the Grand Inquisitor, who having
considered it for some time, took off a small golden Cross which
hung at his girdle, and laid it upon the Mirror. Instantly a loud
noise was heard, resembling a clap of thunder, and the steel
shivered into a thousand pieces. This circumstance confirmed the
suspicion of the Monk's having dealt in Magic: It was even
supposed that his former influence over the minds of the People
was entirely to be ascribed to witchcraft.
Determined to make him confess not only the crimes which He had
committed, but those also of which He was innocent, the
Inquisitors began their examination. Though dreading the
tortures, as He dreaded death still more which would consign him
to eternal torments, the Abbot asserted his purity in a voice
bold and resolute. Matilda followed his example, but spoke with
fear and trembling. Having in vain exhorted him to confess, the
Inquisitors ordered the Monk to be put to the question. The
Decree was immediately executed. Ambrosio suffered the most
excruciating pangs that ever were invented by human cruelty:
Yet so dreadful is Death when guilt accompanies it, that He had
sufficient fortitude to persist in his disavowal. His agonies
were redoubled in consequence: Nor was He released till fainting
from excess of pain, insensibility rescued him from the hands of
Matilda was next ordered to the torture: But terrified by the
sight of the Friar's sufferings, her courage totally deserted
her. She sank upon her knees, acknowledged her corresponding
with infernal Spirits, and that She had witnessed the Monk's
assassination of Antonia: But as to the crime of Sorcery, She
declared herself the sole criminal, and Ambrosio perfectly
innocent. The latter assertion met with no credit. The Abbot
had recovered his senses in time to hear the confession of his
Accomplice: But He was too much enfeebled by what He had already
undergone to be capable at that time of sustaining new torments.
He was commanded back to his Cell, but first informed that as
soon as He had gained strength sufficient, He must prepare
himself for a second examination. The Inquisitors hoped that He
would then be less hardened and obstinate. To Matilda it was
announced that She must expiate her crime in fire on the
approaching Auto da Fe. All her tears and entreaties could
procure no mitigation of her doom, and She was dragged by force
from the Hall of Trial.
Returned to his dungeon, the sufferings of Ambrosio's body were
far more supportable than those of his mind. His dislocated
limbs, the nails torn from his hands and feet, and his fingers
mashed and broken by the pressure of screws, were far surpassed
in anguish by the agitation of his soul and vehemence of his
terrors. He saw that, guilty or innocent, his Judges were bent
upon condemning him: The remembrance of what his denial had
already cost him terrified him at the idea of being again
applied to the question, and almost engaged him to confess his
crimes. Then again the consequences of his confession flashed
before him, and rendered him once more irresolute. His death
would be inevitable, and that a death the most dreadful: He had
listened to Matilda's doom, and doubted not that a similar was
reserved for him. He shuddered at the approaching Auto da Fe, at
the idea of perishing in flames, and only escaping from indurable
torments to pass into others more subtile and ever-lasting! With
affright did He bend his mind's eye on the space beyond the
grave; nor could hide from himself how justly he ought to dread
Heaven's vengeance. In this Labyrinth of terrors, fain would He
have taken his refuge in the gloom of Atheism: Fain would He
have denied the soul's immortality; have persuaded himself that
when his eyes once closed, they would never more open, and that
the same moment would annihilate his soul and body. Even this
resource was refused to him. To permit his being blind to the
fallacy of this belief, his knowledge was too extensive, his
understanding too solid and just. He could not help feeling the
existence of a God. Those truths, once his comfort, now
presented themselves before him in the clearest light; But they
only served to drive him to distraction. They destroyed his
ill-grounded hopes of escaping punishment; and dispelled by the
irresistible brightness of Truth and convinction, Philosophy's
deceitful vapours faded away like a dream.
In anguish almost too great for mortal frame to bear, He expected
the time when He was again to be examined. He busied himself in
planning ineffectual schemes for escaping both present and future
punishment. Of the first there was no possibility; Of the second
Despair made him neglect the only means. While Reason forced him
to acknowledge a God's existence, Conscience made him doubt the
infinity of his goodness. He disbelieved that a Sinner like him
could find mercy. He had not been deceived into error:
Ignorance could furnish him with no excuse. He had seen vice in
her true colours; Before He committed his crimes, He had computed
every scruple of their weight; and yet he had committed them.
'Pardon?' He would cry in an access of phrenzy 'Oh! there can be
none for me!'
Persuaded of this, instead of humbling himself in penitence, of
deploring his guilt, and employing his few remaining hours in
deprecating Heaven's wrath, He abandoned himself to the
transports of desperate rage; He sorrowed for the punishment of
his crimes, not their commission; and exhaled his bosom's anguish
in idle sighs, in vain lamentations, in blasphemy and despair.
As the few beams of day which pierced through the bars of his
prison window gradually disappeared, and their place was
supplied by the pale and glimmering Lamp, He felt his terrors
redouble, and his ideas become more gloomy, more solemn, more
despondent. He dreaded the approach of sleep: No sooner did his
eyes close, wearied with tears and watching, than the dreadful
visions seemed to be realised on which his mind had dwelt during
the day. He found himself in sulphurous realms and burning
Caverns, surrounded by Fiends appointed his Tormentors, and who
drove him through a variety of tortures, each of which was more
dreadful than the former. Amidst these dismal scenes wandered
the Ghosts of Elvira and her Daughter. They reproached him with
their deaths, recounted his crimes to the Daemons, and urged them
to inflict torments of cruelty yet more refined. Such were the
pictures which floated before his eyes in sleep: They vanished
not till his repose was disturbed by excess of agony. Then would
He start from the ground on which He had stretched himself, his
brows running down with cold sweat, his eyes wild and phrenzied;
and He only exchanged the terrible certainty for surmizes
scarcely more supportable. He paced his dungeon with disordered
steps; He gazed with terror upon the surrounding darkness, and
often did He cry,
'Oh! fearful is night to the Guilty!'
The day of his second examination was at hand. He had been
compelled to swallow cordials, whose virtues were calculated to
restore his bodily strength, and enable him to support the
question longer. On the night preceding this dreaded day, his
fears for the morrow permitted him not to sleep. His terrors
were so violent, as nearly to annihilate his mental powers. He
sat like one stupefied near the Table on which his Lamp was
burning dimly. Despair chained up his faculties in Idiotism, and
He remained for some hours, unable to speak or move, or indeed to
'Look up, Ambrosio!' said a Voice in accents well-known to him--
The Monk started, and raised his melancholy eyes. Matilda stood
before him. She had quitted her religious habit. She now wore a
female dress, at once elegant and splendid: A profusion of
diamonds blazed upon her robes, and her hair was confined by a
coronet of Roses. In her right hand She held a small Book: A
lively expression of pleasure beamed upon her countenance; But
still it was mingled with a wild imperious majesty which
inspired the Monk with awe, and represt in some measure his
transports at seeing her.
'You here, Matilda?' He at length exclaimed; 'How have you gained
entrance? Where are your Chains? What means this magnificence,
and the joy which sparkles in your eyes? Have our Judges
relented? Is there a chance of my escaping? Answer me for pity,
and tell me, what I have to hope, or fear.'
'Ambrosio!' She replied with an air of commanding dignity; 'I
have baffled the Inquisition's fury. I am free: A few moments
will place kingdoms between these dungeons and me. Yet I
purchase my liberty at a dear, at a dreadful price! Dare you pay
the same, Ambrosio? Dare you spring without fear over the
bounds which separate Men from Angels?--You are silent.--You
look upon me with eyes of suspicion and alarm--I read your
thoughts and confess their justice. Yes, Ambrosio ; I have
sacrificed all for life and liberty. I am no longer a candidate
for heaven! I have renounced God's service, and am enlisted
beneath the banners of his Foes. The deed is past recall: Yet
were it in my power to go back, I would not. Oh! my Friend, to
expire in such torments! To die amidst curses and execrations!
To bear the insults of an exasperated Mob! To be exposed to all
the mortifications of shame and infamy! Who can reflect without
horror on such a doom? Let me then exult in my exchange. I have
sold distant and uncertain happiness for present and secure: I
have preserved a life which otherwise I had lost in torture; and
I have obtained the power of procuring every bliss which can
make that life delicious! The Infernal Spirits obey me as their
Sovereign: By their aid shall my days be past in every
refinement of luxury and voluptuousness. I will enjoy
unrestrained the gratification of my senses: Every passion shall
be indulged, even to satiety; Then will I bid my Servants invent
new pleasures, to revive and stimulate my glutted appetites! I
go impatient to exercise my newly-gained dominion. I pant to be
at liberty. Nothing should hold me one moment longer in this
abhorred abode, but the hope of persuading you to follow my
example. Ambrosio, I still love you: Our mutual guilt and
danger have rendered you dearer to me than ever, and I would fain
save you from impending destruction. Summon then your resolution
to your aid; and renounce for immediate and certain benefits the
hopes of a salvation, difficult to obtain, and perhaps altogether
erroneous. Shake off the prejudice of vulgar souls; Abandon a
God who has abandoned you, and raise yourself to the level of
She paused for the Monk's reply: He shuddered, while He gave it.
'Matilda!' He said after a long silence in a low and unsteady
voice; 'What price gave you for liberty?'
She answered him firm and dauntless.
'Ambrosio, it was my Soul!'
'Wretched Woman, what have you done? Pass but a few years, and
how dreadful will be your sufferings!'
'Weak Man, pass but this night, and how dreadful will be your
own! Do you remember what you have already endured? Tomorrow
you must bear torments doubly exquisite. Do you remember the
horrors of a fiery punishment? In two days you must be led a
Victim to the Stake! What then will become of you? Still dare
you hope for pardon? Still are you beguiled with visions of
salvation? Think upon your crimes! Think upon your lust, your
perjury, inhumanity, and hypocrisy! Think upon the innocent
blood which cries to the Throne of God for vengeance, and then
hope for mercy! Then dream of heaven, and sigh for worlds of
light, and realms of peace and pleasure! Absurd! Open your
eyes, Ambrosio, and be prudent. Hell is your lot; You are doomed
to eternal perdition; Nought lies beyond your grave but a gulph
of devouring flames. And will you then speed towards that Hell?
Will you clasp that perdition in your arms, ere 'tis needful?
Will you plunge into those flames while you still have the power
to shun them? 'Tis a Madman's action. No, no, Ambrosio: Let us
for awhile fly from divine vengeance. Be advised by me; Purchase
by one moment's courage the bliss of years; Enjoy the present,
and forget that a future lags behind.'
'Matilda, your counsels are dangerous: I dare not, I will not
follow them. I must not give up my claim to salvation.
Monstrous are my crimes; But God is merciful, and I will not
despair of pardon.'
'Is such your resolution? I have no more to say. I speed to joy
and liberty, and abandon you to death and eternal torments.'
'Yet stay one moment, Matilda! You command the infernal Daemons:
You can force open these prison doors; You can release me from
these chains which weigh me down. Save me, I conjure you, and
bear me from these fearful abodes!'
'You ask the only boon beyond my power to bestow. I am forbidden
to assist a Churchman and a Partizan of God: Renounce those
titles, and command me.'
'I will not sell my soul to perdition.'
'Persist in your obstinacy, till you find yourself at the Stake:
Then will you repent your error, and sigh for escape when the
moment is gone by. I quit you. Yet ere the hour of death
arrives should wisdom enlighten you, listen to the means of
repairing your present fault. I leave with you this Book. Read
the four first lines of the seventh page backwards: The Spirit
whom you have already once beheld will immediately appear to
you. If you are wise, we shall meet again: If not, farewell for
She let the Book fall upon the ground. A cloud of blue fire
wrapped itself round her: She waved her hand to Ambrosio, and
disappeared. The momentary glare which the flames poured through
the dungeon, on dissipating suddenly, seemed to have increased
its natural gloom. The solitary Lamp scarcely gave light
sufficient to guide the Monk to a Chair. He threw himself into
his seat, folded his arms, and leaning his head upon the table,
sank into reflections perplexing and unconnected.
He was still in this attitude when the opening of the prison door
rouzed him from his stupor. He was summoned to appear before the
Grand Inquisitor. He rose, and followed his Gaoler with painful
steps. He was led into the same Hall, placed before the same
Examiners, and was again interrogated whether Hewould confess.
He replied as before, that having no crimes, He could acknowledge
none: But when the Executioners prepared to put him to the
question, when He saw the engines of torture, and remembered the
pangs which they had already inflicted, his resolution failed him
entirely. Forgetting the consequences, and only anxious to
escape the terrors of the present moment, He made an ample
confession. He disclosed every circumstance of his guilt, and
owned not merely the crimes with which He was charged, but those
of which He had never been suspected. Being interrogated as to
Matilda's flight which had created much confusion, He confessed
that She had sold herself to Satan, and that She was indebted to
Sorcery for her escape. He still assured his Judges that for
his own part He had never entered into any compact with the
infernal Spirits; But the threat of being tortured made him
declare himself to be a Sorcerer, and Heretic, and whatever other
title the Inquisitors chose to fix upon him. In consequence of
this avowal, his sentence was immediately pronounced. He was
ordered to prepare himself to perish in the Auto da Fe, which was
to be solemnized at twelve o'clock that night. This hour was
chosen from the idea that the horror of the flames being
heightened by the gloom of midnight, the execution would have a
greater effect upon the mind of the People.
Ambrosio rather dead than alive was left alone in his dungeon.
The moment in which this terrible decree was pronounced had
nearly proved that of his dissolution. He looked forward to the
morrow with despair, and his terrors increased with the approach
of midnight. Sometimes He was buried in gloomy silence: At
others He raved with delirious passion, wrung his hands, and
cursed the hour when He first beheld the light. In one of these
moments his eye rested upon Matilda's mysterious gift. His
transports of rage were instantly suspended. He looked earnestly
at the Book; He took it up, but immediately threw it from him
with horror. He walked rapidly up and down his dungeon: Then
stopped, and again fixed his eyes on the spot where the Book had
fallen. He reflected that here at least was a resource from the
fate which He dreaded. He stooped, and took it up a second time.
He remained for some time trembling and irresolute: He longed to
try the charm, yet feared its consequences. The recollection of
his sentence at length fixed his indecision. He opened the
Volume; but his agitation was so great that He at first sought
in vain for the page mentioned by Matilda. Ashamed of himself,
He called all his courage to his aid. He turned to the seventh
leaf. He began to read it aloud; But his eyes frequently
wandered from the Book, while He anxiously cast them round in
search of the Spirit, whom He wished, yet dreaded to behold.
Still He persisted in his design; and with a voice unassured and
frequent interruptions, He contrived to finish the four first
lines of the page.
They were in a language, whose import was totally unknown to him.
Scarce had He pronounced the last word when the effects of the
charm were evident. A loud burst of Thunder was heard; The
prison shook to its very foundations; A blaze of lightning
flashed through the Cell; and in the next moment, borne upon
sulphurous whirl-winds, Lucifer stood before him a second time.
But He came not as when at Matilda's summons He borrowed the
Seraph's form to deceive Ambrosio. He appeared in all that
ugliness which since his fall from heaven had been his portion:
His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty's thunder: A
swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands
and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes,
which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his
huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was
supplied by living snakes, which twined themselves round his
brows with frightful hissings. In one hand He held a roll of
parchment, and in the other an iron pen. Still the lightning
flashed around him, and the Thunder with repeated bursts, seemed
to announce the dissolution of Nature.
Terrified at an Apparition so different from what He had
expected, Ambrosio remained gazing upon the Fiend, deprived of
the power of utterance. The Thunder had ceased to roll:
Universal silence reigned through the dungeon.
'For what am I summoned hither?' said the Daemon, in a voice
which sulphurous fogs had damped to hoarseness--
At the sound Nature seemed to tremble: A violent earthquake
rocked the ground, accompanied by a fresh burst of Thunder,
louder and more appalling than the first.
Ambrosio was long unable to answer the Daemon's demand.
'I am condemned to die;' He said with a faint voice, his blood
running cold, while He gazed upon his dreadful Visitor. 'Save
me! Bear me from hence!'
'Shall the reward of my services be paid me? Dare you embrace my
cause? Will you be mine, body and soul? Are you prepared to
renounce him who made you, and him who died for you? Answer but
''Yes'' and Lucifer is your Slave.'
'Will no less price content you? Can nothing satisfy you but my
eternal ruin? Spirit, you ask too much. Yet convey me from this
dungeon: Be my Servant for one hour, and I will be yours for a
thousand years. Will not this offer suffice?'
'It will not. I must have your soul; must have it mine, and mine
'Insatiate Daemon, I will not doom myself to endless torments. I
will not give up my hopes of being one day pardoned.'
'You will not? On what Chimaera rest then your hopes?
Short-sighted Mortal! Miserable Wretch! Are you not guilty?
Are you not infamous in the eyes of Men and Angels. Can such
enormous sins be forgiven? Hope you to escape my power? Your
fate is already pronounced. The Eternal has abandoned you; Mine
you are marked in the book of destiny, and mine you must and
'Fiend, 'tis false! Infinite is the Almighty's mercy, and the
Penitent shall meet his forgiveness. My crimes are monstrous,
but I will not despair of pardon: Haply, when they have received
due chastisement . . . .'
'Chastisement? Was Purgatory meant for guilt like yours? Hope
you that your offences shall be bought off by prayers of
superstitious dotards and droning Monks? Ambrosio, be wise!
you must be: You are doomed to flames, but may shun them for the
present. Sign this parchment: I will bear you from hence, and
you may pass your remaining years in bliss and liberty. Enjoy
your existence: Indulge in every pleasure to which appetite may
lead you: But from the moment that it quits your body, remember
that your soul belongs to me, and that I will not be defrauded of
The Monk was silent; But his looks declared that the Tempter's
words were not thrown away. He reflected on the conditions
proposed with horror: On the other hand, He believed himself
doomed to perdition and that, by refusing the Daemon's succour,
He only hastened tortures which He never could escape. The Fiend
saw that his resolution was shaken: He renewed his instances,
and endeavoured to fix the Abbot's indecision. He described the
agonies of death in the most terrific colours; and He worked so
powerfully upon Ambrosio's despair and fears that He prevailed
upon him to receive the Parchment. He then struck the iron Pen
which He held into a vein of the Monk's left hand. It pierced
deep, and was instantly filled with blood; Yet Ambrosio felt no
pain from the wound. The Pen was put into his hand: It
trembled. The Wretch placed the Parchment on the Table before
him, and prepared to sign it. Suddenly He held his hand: He
started away hastily, and threw the Pen upon the table.
'What am I doing?' He cried--Then turning to the Fiend with a
desperate air, 'Leave me! Begone! I will not sign the
'Fool!' exclaimed the disappointed Daemon, darting looks so
furious as penetrated the Friar's soul with horror; 'Thus am I
trifled with? Go then! Rave in agony, expire in tortures, and
then learn the extent of the Eternal's mercy! But beware how you
make me again your mock! Call me no more till resolved to accept
my offers! Summon me a second time to dismiss me thus idly, and
these Talons shall rend you into a thousand pieces! Speak yet
again; Will you sign the Parchment?'
'I will not! Leave me! Away!'
Instantly the Thunder was heard to roll horribly: Once more the
earth trembled with violence: The Dungeon resounded with loud
shrieks, and the Daemon fled with blasphemy and curses.
At first, the Monk rejoiced at having resisted the Seducer's
arts, and obtained a triumph over Mankind's Enemy: But as the
hour of punishment drew near, his former terrors revived in his
heart. Their momentary repose seemed to have given them fresh
vigour. The nearer that the time approached, the more did He
dread appearing before the Throne of God. He shuddered to think
how soon He must be plunged into eternity; How soon meet the eyes
of his Creator, whom He had so grievously offended. The Bell
announced midnight: It was the signal for being led to the
Stake! As He listened to the first stroke, the blood ceased to
circulate in the Abbot's veins: He heard death and torture
murmured in each succeeding sound. He expected to see the
Archers entering his prison; and as the Bell forbore to toll, he
seized the magic volume in a fit of despair. He opened it,
turned hastily to the seventh page, and as if fearing to allow
himself a moment's thought ran over the fatal lines with
rapidity. Accompanied by his former terrors, Lucifer again stood
before the Trembler.
'You have summoned me,' said the Fiend; 'Are you determined to be
wise? Will you accept my conditions? You know them already.
Renounce your claim to salvation, make over to me your soul, and
I bear you from this dungeon instantly. Yet is it time.
Resolve, or it will be too late. Will you sign the Parchment?'
'I must!--Fate urges me! I accept your conditions.'
'Sign the Parchment!' replied the Daemon in an exulting tone.
The Contract and the bloody Pen still lay upon the Table.
Ambrosio drew near it. He prepared to sign his name. A moment's
reflection made him hesitate.
'Hark!' cried the Tempter; 'They come! Be quick! Sign the
Parchment, and I bear you from hence this moment.'
In effect, the Archers were heard approaching, appointed to lead
Ambrosio to the Stake. The sound encouraged the Monk in his
'What is the import of this writing?' said He.
'It makes your soul over to me for ever, and without reserve.'
'What am I to receive in exchange?'
'My protection, and release from this dungeon. Sign it, and this
instant I bear you away.'
Ambrosio took up the Pen; He set it to the Parchment. Again his
courage failed him: He felt a pang of terror at his heart, and
once more threw the Pen upon the Table.
'Weak and Puerile!' cried the exasperated Fiend: 'Away with this
folly! Sign the writing this instant, or I sacrifice you to my
At this moment the bolt of the outward Door was drawn back. The
Prisoner heard the rattling of Chains; The heavy Bar fell; The
Archers were on the point of entering. Worked up to phrenzy by
the urgent danger, shrinking from the approach of death,
terrified by the Daemon's threats, and seeing no other means to
escape destruction, the wretched Monk complied. He signed the
fatal contract, and gave it hastily into the evil Spirit's hands,
whose eyes, as He received the gift, glared with malicious
'Take it!' said the God-abandoned; 'Now then save me! Snatch me
'Hold! Do you freely and absolutely renounce your Creator and
'I do! I do!'
'Do you make over your soul to me for ever?'
'Without reserve or subterfuge? Without future appeal to the
The last Chain fell from the door of the prison: The key was
heard turning in the Lock: Already the iron door grated heavily
upon its rusty hinges.
'I am yours for ever and irrevocably!' cried the Monk wild with
terror: 'I abandon all claim to salvation! I own no power but
yours! Hark! Hark! They come! Oh! save me! Bear me away!'
'I have triumphed! You are mine past reprieve, and I fulfil my
While He spoke, the Door unclosed. Instantly the Daemon grasped
one of Ambrosio's arms, spread his broad pinions, and sprang with
him into the air. The roof opened as they soared upwards, and
closed again when they had quitted the Dungeon.
In the meanwhile, the Gaoler was thrown into the utmost surprize
by the disappearance of his Prisoner. Though neither He nor the
Archers were in time to witness the Monk's escape, a sulphurous
smell prevailing through the prison sufficiently informed them by
whose aid He had been liberated. They hastened to make their
report to the Grand Inquisitor. The story, how a Sorcerer had
been carried away by the Devil, was soon noised about Madrid; and
for some days the whole City was employed in discussing the
subject. Gradually it ceased to be the topic of conversation:
Other adventures arose whose novelty engaged universal attention;
and Ambrosio was soon forgotten as totally, as if He never had
existed. While this was passing, the Monk supported by his
infernal guide, traversed the air with the rapidity of an arrow,
and a few moments placed him upon a Precipice's brink, the
steepest in Sierra Morena.
Though rescued from the Inquisition, Ambrosio as yet was
insensible of the blessings of liberty. The damning contract
weighed heavy upon his mind; and the scenes in which He had been
a principal actor had left behind them such impressions as
rendered his heart the seat of anarchy and confusion. The
Objects now before his eyes, and which the full Moon sailing
through clouds permitted him to examine, were ill-calculated to
inspire that calm, of which He stood so much in need. The
disorder of his imagination was increased by the wildness of the
surrounding scenery; By the gloomy Caverns and steep rocks,
rising above each other, and dividing the passing clouds;
solitary clusters of Trees scattered here and there, among whose
thick-twined branches the wind of night sighed hoarsely and
mournfully; the shrill cry of mountain Eagles, who had built
their nests among these lonely Desarts; the stunning roar of
torrents, as swelled by late rains they rushed violently down
tremendous precipices; and the dark waters of a silent sluggish
stream which faintly reflected the moonbeams, and bathed the
Rock's base on which Ambrosio stood. The Abbot cast round him a
look of terror. His infernal Conductor was still by his side,
and eyed him with a look of mingled malice, exultation, and
'Whither have you brought me?' said the Monk at length in an
hollow trembling voice: 'Why am I placed in this melancholy
scene? Bear me from it quickly! Carry me to Matilda!'
The Fiend replied not, but continued to gaze upon him in silence.
Ambrosio could not sustain his glance; He turned away his eyes,
while thus spoke the Daemon:
'I have him then in my power! This model of piety! This being
without reproach! This Mortal who placed his puny virtues on a
level with those of Angels. He is mine! Irrevocably, eternally
mine! Companions of my sufferings! Denizens of hell! How
grateful will be my present!'
He paused; then addressed himself to the Monk----
'Carry you to Matilda?' He continued, repeating Ambrosio's words:
'Wretch! you shall soon be with her! You well deserve a place
near her, for hell boasts no miscreant more guilty than yourself.
Hark, Ambrosio, while I unveil your crimes! You have shed the
blood of two innocents; Antonia and Elvira perished by your hand.
That Antonia whom you violated, was your Sister! That Elvira whom
you murdered, gave you birth! Tremble, abandoned Hypocrite!
Inhuman Parricide! Incestuous Ravisher! Tremble at the extent of
your offences! And you it was who thought yourself proof against
temptation, absolved from human frailties, and free from error
and vice! Is pride then a virtue? Is inhumanity no fault?
Know, vain Man! That I long have marked you for my prey: I
watched the movements of your heart; I saw that you were virtuous
from vanity, not principle, and I seized the fit moment of
seduction. I observed your blind idolatry of the Madona's
picture. I bad a subordinate but crafty spirit assume a similar
form, and you eagerly yielded to the blandishments of Matilda.
Your pride was gratified by her flattery; Your lust only needed
an opportunity to break forth; You ran into the snare blindly,
and scrupled not to commit a crime which you blamed in another
with unfeeling severity. It was I who threw Matilda in your way;
It was I who gave you entrance to Antonia's chamber; It was I who
caused the dagger to be given you which pierced your Sister's
bosom; and it was I who warned Elvira in dreams of your designs
upon her Daughter, and thus, by preventing your profiting by her
sleep, compelled you to add rape as well as incest to the
catalogue of your crimes. Hear, hear, Ambrosio! Had you
resisted me one minute longer, you had saved your body and soul.
The guards whom you heard at your prison door came to signify
your pardon. But I had already triumphed: My plots had already
succeeded. Scarcely could I propose crimes so quick as you
performed them. You are mine, and Heaven itself cannot rescue
you from my power. Hope not that your penitence will make void
our contract. Here is your bond signed with your blood; You have
given up your claim to mercy, and nothing can restore to you the
rights which you have foolishly resigned. Believe you that your
secret thoughts escaped me? No, no, I read them all! You
trusted that you should still have time for repentance. I saw
your artifice, knew its falsity, and rejoiced in deceiving the
deceiver! You are mine beyond reprieve: I burn to possess my
right, and alive you quit not these mountains.'
During the Daemon's speech, Ambrosio had been stupefied by terror
and surprize. This last declaration rouzed him.
'Not quit these mountains alive?' He exclaimed: 'Perfidious, what
mean you? Have you forgotten our contract?'
The Fiend answered by a malicious laugh:
'Our contract? Have I not performed my part? What more did I
promise than to save you from your prison? Have I not done so?
Are you not safe from the Inquisition--safe from all but from
me? Fool that you were to confide yourself to a Devil! Why did
you not stipulate for life, and power, and pleasure? Then all
would have been granted: Now, your reflections come too late.
Miscreant, prepare for death; You have not many hours to live!'
On hearing this sentence, dreadful were the feelings of the
devoted Wretch! He sank upon his knees, and raised his hands
towards heaven. The Fiend read his intention and prevented it--
'What?' He cried, darting at him a look of fury: 'Dare you still
implore the Eternal's mercy? Would you feign penitence, and
again act an Hypocrite's part? Villain, resign your hopes of
pardon. Thus I secure my prey!'
As He said this, darting his talons into the Monk's shaven crown,
He sprang with him from the rock. The Caves and mountains rang
with Ambrosio's shrieks. The Daemon continued to soar aloft, till
reaching a dreadful height, He released the sufferer. Headlong
fell the Monk through the airy waste; The sharp point of a rock
received him; and He rolled from precipice to precipice, till
bruised and mangled He rested on the river's banks. Life still
existed in his miserable frame: He attempted in vain to raise
himself; His broken and dislocated limbs refused to perform their
office, nor was He able to quit the spot where He had first
fallen. The Sun now rose above the horizon; Its scorching beams
darted full upon the head of the expiring Sinner. Myriads of
insects were called forth by the warmth; They drank the blood
which trickled from Ambrosio's wounds; He had no power to drive
them from him, and they fastened upon his sores, darted their
stings into his body, covered him with their multitudes, and
inflicted on him tortures the most exquisite and insupportable.
The Eagles of the rock tore his flesh piecemeal, and dug out his
eyeballs with their crooked beaks. A burning thirst tormented
him; He heard the river's murmur as it rolled beside him, but
strove in vain to drag himself towards the sound. Blind, maimed,
helpless, and despairing, venting his rage in blasphemy and
curses, execrating his existence, yet dreading the arrival of
death destined to yield him up to greater torments, six miserable
days did the Villain languish. On the Seventh a violent storm
arose: The winds in fury rent up rocks and forests: The sky was
now black with clouds, now sheeted with fire: The rain fell in
torrents; It swelled the stream; The waves overflowed their
banks; They reached the spot where Ambrosio lay, and when they
abated carried with them into the river the Corse of the