The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe

CHAPTER 42

Now it is the time of night,

That, the graves all gaping wide,

Every one lets forth his spite,

In the church-way path to glide.

SHAKESPEARE

On the next night, about the same hour as before, Dorothee came to Emily’s chamber, with the keys of that suite of rooms, which had been particularly appropriated to the late Marchioness. These extended along the north side of the chateau, forming part of the old building; and, as Emily’s room was in the south, they had to pass over a great extent of the castle, and by the chambers of several of the family, whose observations Dorothee was anxious to avoid, since it might excite enquiry, and raise reports, such as would displease the Count. She, therefore, requested, that Emily would wait half an hour, before they ventured forth, that they might be certain all the servants were gone to bed. It was nearly one, before the chateau was perfectly still, or Dorothee thought it prudent to leave the chamber. In this interval, her spirits seemed to be greatly affected by the remembrance of past events, and by the prospect of entering again upon places, where these had occurred, and in which she had not been for so many years. Emily too was affected, but her feelings had more of solemnity, and less of fear. From the silence, into which reflection and expectation had thrown them, they, at length, roused themselves, and left the chamber. Dorothee, at first, carried the lamp, but her hand trembled so much with infirmity and alarm, that Emily took it from her, and offered her arm, to support her feeble steps.

They had to descend the great stair-case, and, after passing over a wide extent of the chateau, to ascend another, which led to the suite of rooms they were in quest of. They stepped cautiously along the open corridor, that ran round the great hall, and into which the chambers of the Count, Countess, and the Lady Blanche, opened, and, from thence, descending the chief stair-case, they crossed the hall itself. Proceeding through the servants hall, where the dying embers of a wood fire still glimmered on the hearth, and the supper table was surrounded by chairs, that obstructed their passage, they came to the foot of the back stair-case. Old Dorothee here paused, and looked around; ‘Let us listen,’ said she, ‘if any thing is stirring; Ma’amselle, do you hear any voice?’ ‘None,’ said Emily, ‘there certainly is no person up in the chateau, besides ourselves.’—‘No, ma’amselle,’ said Dorothee, ‘but I have never been here at this hour before, and, after what I know, my fears are not wonderful.’—‘What do you know?’ said Emily. —‘O, ma’amselle, we have no time for talking now; let us go on. That door on the left is the one we must open.’

They proceeded, and, having reached the top of the stair-case, Dorothee applied the key to the lock. ‘Ah,’ said she, as she endeavoured to turn it, ‘so many years have passed since this was opened, that I fear it will not move.’ Emily was more successful, and they presently entered a spacious and ancient chamber.

‘Alas!’ exclaimed Dorothee, as she entered, ‘the last time I passed through this door — I followed my poor lady’s corpse!’

Emily, struck with the circumstance, and affected by the dusky and solemn air of the apartment, remained silent, and they passed on through a long suite of rooms, till they came to one more spacious than the rest, and rich in the remains of faded magnificence.

‘Let us rest here awhile, madam,’ said Dorothee faintly, ‘we are going into the chamber, where my lady died! that door opens into it. Ah, ma’amselle! why did you persuade me to come?’

Emily drew one of the massy arm-chairs, with which the apartment was furnished, and begged Dorothee would sit down, and try to compose her spirits.

‘How the sight of this place brings all that passed formerly to my mind!’ said Dorothee; ‘it seems as if it was but yesterday since all that sad affair happened!’

‘Hark! what noise is that?’ said Emily.

Dorothee, half starting from her chair, looked round the apartment, and they listened — but, every thing remaining still, the old woman spoke again upon the subject of her sorrow. ‘This saloon, ma’amselle, was in my lady’s time the finest apartment in the chateau, and it was fitted up according to her own taste. All this grand furniture, but you can now hardly see what it is for the dust, and our light is none of the best — ah! how I have seen this room lighted up in my lady’s time! — all this grand furniture came from Paris, and was made after the fashion of some in the Louvre there, except those large glasses, and they came from some outlandish place, and that rich tapestry. How the colours are faded already! — since I saw it last!’

‘I understood, that was twenty years ago,’ observed Emily.

‘Thereabout, madam,’ said Dorothee, ‘and well remembered, but all the time between then and now seems as nothing. That tapestry used to be greatly admired at, it tells the stories out of some famous book, or other, but I have forgot the name.’

Emily now rose to examine the figures it exhibited, and discovered, by verses in the Provencal tongue, wrought underneath each scene, that it exhibited stories from some of the most celebrated ancient romances.

Dorothee’s spirits being now more composed, she rose, and unlocked the door that led into the late Marchioness’s apartment, and Emily passed into a lofty chamber, hung round with dark arras, and so spacious, that the lamp she held up did not shew its extent; while Dorothee, when she entered, had dropped into a chair, where, sighing deeply, she scarcely trusted herself with the view of a scene so affecting to her. It was some time before Emily perceived, through the dusk, the bed on which the Marchioness was said to have died; when, advancing to the upper end of the room, she discovered the high canopied tester of dark green damask, with the curtains descending to the floor in the fashion of a tent, half drawn, and remaining apparently, as they had been left twenty years before; and over the whole bedding was thrown a counterpane, or pall, of black velvet, that hung down to the floor. Emily shuddered, as she held the lamp over it, and looked within the dark curtains, where she almost expected to have seen a human face, and, suddenly remembering the horror she had suffered upon discovering the dying Madame Montoni in the turret-chamber of Udolpho, her spirits fainted, and she was turning from the bed, when Dorothee, who had now reached it, exclaimed, ‘Holy Virgin! methinks I see my lady stretched upon that pall — as when last I saw her!’

Emily, shocked by this exclamation, looked involuntarily again within the curtains, but the blackness of the pall only appeared; while Dorothee was compelled to support herself upon the side of the bed, and presently tears brought her some relief.

‘Ah!’ said she, after she had wept awhile, ‘it was here I sat on that terrible night, and held my lady’s hand, and heard her last words, and saw all her sufferings — HERE she died in my arms!’

‘Do not indulge these painful recollections,’ said Emily, ‘let us go. Shew me the picture you mentioned, if it will not too much affect you.’

‘It hangs in the oriel,’ said Dorothee rising, and going towards a small door near the bed’s head, which she opened, and Emily followed with the light, into the closet of the late Marchioness.

‘Alas! there she is, ma’amselle,’ said Dorothee, pointing to a portrait of a lady, ‘there is her very self! just as she looked when she came first to the chateau. You see, madam, she was all blooming like you, then — and so soon to be cut off!’

While Dorothee spoke, Emily was attentively examining the picture, which bore a strong resemblance to the miniature, though the expression of the countenance in each was somewhat different; but still she thought she perceived something of that pensive melancholy in the portrait, which so strongly characterised the miniature.

‘Pray, ma’amselle, stand beside the picture, that I may look at you together,’ said Dorothee, who, when the request was complied with, exclaimed again at the resemblance. Emily also, as she gazed upon it, thought that she had somewhere seen a person very like it, though she could not now recollect who this was.

In this closet were many memorials of the departed Marchioness; a robe and several articles of her dress were scattered upon the chairs, as if they had just been thrown off. On the floor were a pair of black satin slippers, and, on the dressing-table, a pair of gloves and a long black veil, which, as Emily took it up to examine, she perceived was dropping to pieces with age.

‘Ah!’ said Dorothee, observing the veil, ‘my lady’s hand laid it there; it has never been moved since!’

Emily, shuddering, immediately laid it down again. ‘I well remember seeing her take it off,’ continued Dorothee, ‘it was on the night before her death, when she had returned from a little walk I had persuaded her to take in the gardens, and she seemed refreshed by it. I told her how much better she looked, and I remember what a languid smile she gave me; but, alas! she little thought, or I either, that she was to die, that night.’

Dorothee wept again, and then, taking up the veil, threw it suddenly over Emily, who shuddered to find it wrapped round her, descending even to her feet, and, as she endeavoured to throw it off, Dorothee intreated that she would keep it on for one moment. ‘I thought,’ added she, ‘how like you would look to my dear mistress in that veil; — may your life, ma’amselle, be a happier one than hers!’

Emily, having disengaged herself from the veil, laid it again on the dressing-table, and surveyed the closet, where every object, on which her eye fixed, seemed to speak of the Marchioness. In a large oriel window of painted glass, stood a table, with a silver crucifix, and a prayer-book open; and Emily remembered with emotion what Dorothee had mentioned concerning her custom of playing on her lute in this window, before she observed the lute itself, lying on a corner of the table, as if it had been carelessly placed there by the hand, that had so often awakened it.

‘This is a sad forlorn place!’ said Dorothee, ‘for, when my dear lady died, I had no heart to put it to rights, or the chamber either; and my lord never came into the rooms after, so they remain just as they did when my lady was removed for interment.’

While Dorothee spoke, Emily was still looking on the lute, which was a Spanish one, and remarkably large; and then, with a hesitating hand, she took it up, and passed her fingers over the chords. They were out of tune, but uttered a deep and full sound. Dorothee started at their well-known tones, and, seeing the lute in Emily’s hand, said, ‘This is the lute my lady Marchioness loved so! I remember when last she played upon it — it was on the night that she died. I came as usual to undress her, and, as I entered the bed- chamber, I heard the sound of music from the oriel, and perceiving it was my lady’s, who was sitting there, I stepped softly to the door, which stood a little open, to listen; for the music — though it was mournful — was so sweet! There I saw her, with the lute in her hand, looking upwards, and the tears fell upon her cheeks, while she sung a vesper hymn, so soft, and so solemn! and her voice trembled, as it were, and then she would stop for a moment, and wipe away her tears, and go on again, lower than before. O! I had often listened to my lady, but never heard any thing so sweet as this; it made me cry, almost, to hear it. She had been at prayers, I fancy, for there was the book open on the table beside her — aye, and there it lies open still! Pray, let us leave the oriel, ma’amselle,’ added Dorothee, ‘this is a heart-breaking place!’

Having returned into the chamber, she desired to look once more upon the bed, when, as they came opposite to the open door, leading into the saloon, Emily, in the partial gleam, which the lamp threw into it, thought she saw something glide along into the obscurer part of the room. Her spirits had been much affected by the surrounding scene, or it is probable this circumstance, whether real or imaginary, would not have affected her in the degree it did; but she endeavoured to conceal her emotion from Dorothee, who, however, observing her countenance change, enquired if she was ill.

‘Let us go,’ said Emily, faintly, ‘the air of these rooms is unwholesome;’ but, when she attempted to do so, considering that she must pass through the apartment where the phantom of her terror had appeared, this terror increased, and, too faint to support herself, she sad down on the side of the bed.

Dorothee, believing that she was only affected by a consideration of the melancholy catastrophe, which had happened on this spot, endeavoured to cheer her; and then, as they sat together on the bed, she began to relate other particulars concerning it, and this without reflecting, that it might increase Emily’s emotion, but because they were particularly interesting to herself. ‘A little before my lady’s death,’ said she, ‘when the pains were gone off, she called me to her, and stretching out her hand to me, I sat down just there — where the curtain falls upon the bed. How well I remember her look at the time — death was in it! — I can almost fancy I see her now. — There she lay, ma’amselle — her face was upon the pillow there! This black counterpane was not upon the bed then; it was laid on, after her death, and she was laid out upon it.’

Emily turned to look within the dusky curtains, as if she could have seen the countenance of which Dorothee spoke. The edge of the white pillow only appeared above the blackness of the pall, but, as her eyes wandered over the pall itself, she fancied she saw it move. Without speaking, she caught Dorothee’s arm, who, surprised by the action, and by the look of terror that accompanied it, turned her eyes from Emily to the bed, where, in the next moment she, too, saw the pall slowly lifted, and fall again.

Emily attempted to go, but Dorothee stood fixed and gazing upon the bed; and, at length, said —‘It is only the wind, that waves it, ma’amselle; we have left all the doors open: see how the air waves the lamp, too. — It is only the wind.’

She had scarcely uttered these words, when the pall was more violently agitated than before; but Emily, somewhat ashamed of her terrors, stepped back to the bed, willing to be convinced that the wind only had occasioned her alarm; when, as she gazed within the curtains, the pall moved again, and, in the next moment, the apparition of a human countenance rose above it.

Screaming with terror, they both fled, and got out of the chamber as fast as their trembling limbs would bear them, leaving open the doors of all the rooms, through which they passed. When they reached the stair-case, Dorothee threw open a chamber door, where some of the female servants slept, and sunk breathless on the bed; while Emily, deprived of all presence of mind, made only a feeble attempt to conceal the occasion of her terror from the astonished servants; and, though Dorothee, when she could speak, endeavoured to laugh at her own fright, and was joined by Emily, no remonstrances could prevail with the servants, who had quickly taken the alarm, to pass even the remainder of the night in a room so near to these terrific chambers.

Dorothee having accompanied Emily to her own apartment, they then began to talk over, with some degree of coolness, the strange circumstance, that had just occurred; and Emily would almost have doubted her own perceptions, had not those of Dorothee attested their truth. Having now mentioned what she had observed in the outer chamber, she asked the housekeeper, whether she was certain no door had been left unfastened, by which a person might secretly have entered the apartments? Dorothee replied, that she had constantly kept the keys of the several doors in her own possession; that, when she had gone her rounds through the castle, as she frequently did, to examine if all was safe, she had tried these doors among the rest, and had always found them fastened. It was, therefore, impossible, she added, that any person could have got admittance into the apartments; and, if they could — it was very improbable they should have chose to sleep in a place so cold and forlorn.

Emily observed, that their visit to these chambers had, perhaps, been watched, and that some person, for a frolic, had followed them into the rooms, with a design to frighten them, and, while they were in the oriel, had taken the opportunity of concealing himself in the bed.

Dorothee allowed, that this was possible, till she recollected, that, on entering the apartments, she had turned the key of the outer door, and this, which had been done to prevent their visit being noticed by any of the family, who might happen to be up, must effectually have excluded every person, except themselves, from the chambers; and she now persisted in affirming, that the ghastly countenance she had seen was nothing human, but some dreadful apparition.

Emily was very solemnly affected. Of whatever nature might be the appearance she had witnessed, whether human or supernatural, the fate of the deceased Marchioness was a truth not to be doubted; and this unaccountable circumstance, occurring in the very scene of her sufferings, affected Emily’s imagination with a superstitious awe, to which, after having detected the fallacies at Udolpho, she might not have yielded, had she been ignorant of the unhappy story, related by the housekeeper. Her she now solemnly conjured to conceal the occurrence of this night, and to make light of the terror she had already betrayed, that the Count might not be distressed by reports, which would certainly spread alarm and confusion among his family. ‘Time,’ she added, ‘may explain this mysterious affair; meanwhile let us watch the event in silence.’

Dorothee readily acquiesced; but she now recollected that she had left all the doors of the north suite of rooms open, and, not having courage to return alone to lock even the outer one, Emily, after some effort, so far conquered her own fears, that she offered to accompany her to the foot of the back stair-case, and to wait there while Dorothee ascended, whose resolution being re-assured by this circumstance, she consented to go, and they left Emily’s apartment together.

No sound disturbed the stillness, as they passed along the halls and galleries; but, on reaching the foot of the back stair-case, Dorothee’s resolution failed again; having, however, paused a moment to listen, and no sound being heard above, she ascended, leaving Emily below, and, scarcely suffering her eye to glance within the first chamber, she fastened the door, which shut up the whole suite of apartments, and returned to Emily.

As they stepped along the passage, leading into the great hall, a sound of lamentation was heard, which seemed to come from the hall itself, and they stopped in new alarm to listen, when Emily presently distinguished the voice of Annette, whom she found crossing the hall, with another female servant, and so terrified by the report, which the other maids had spread, that, believing she could be safe only where her lady was, she was going for refuge to her apartment. Emily’s endeavours to laugh, or to argue her out of these terrors, were equally vain, and, in compassion to her distress, she consented that she should remain in her room during the night.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33