The image of a wicked, heinous fault
Lives in his eye; that close aspect of his
Does shew the mood of a much-troubled breast.
Leaving the gay scenes of Paris, we return to those of the gloomy Apennine, where Emily’s thoughts were still faithful to Valancourt. Looking to him as to her only hope, she recollected, with jealous exactness, every assurance and every proof she had witnessed of his affection; read again and again the letters she had received from him; weighed, with intense anxiety, the force of every word, that spoke of his attachment; and dried her tears, as she trusted in his truth.
Montoni, meanwhile, had made strict enquiry concerning the strange circumstance of his alarm, without obtaining information; and was, at length, obliged to account for it by the reasonable supposition, that it was a mischievous trick played off by one of his domestics. His disagreements with Madame Montoni, on the subject of her settlements, were now more frequent than ever; he even confined her entirely to her own apartment, and did not scruple to threaten her with much greater severity, should she persevere in a refusal.
Reason, had she consulted it, would now have perplexed her in the choice of a conduct to be adopted. It would have pointed out the danger of irritating by further opposition a man, such as Montoni had proved himself to be, and to whose power she had so entirely committed herself; and it would also have told her, of what extreme importance to her future comfort it was, to reserve for herself those possessions, which would enable her to live independently of Montoni, should she ever escape from his immediate controul. But she was directed by a more decisive guide than reason — the spirit of revenge, which urged her to oppose violence to violence, and obstinacy to obstinacy.
Wholly confined to the solitude of her apartment, she was now reduced to solicit the society she had lately rejected; for Emily was the only person, except Annette, with whom she was permitted to converse.
Generously anxious for her peace, Emily, therefore, tried to persuade, when she could not convince, and sought by every gentle means to induce her to forbear that asperity of reply, which so greatly irritated Montoni. The pride of her aunt did sometimes soften to the soothing voice of Emily, and there even were moments, when she regarded her affectionate attentions with goodwill.
The scenes of terrible contention, to which Emily was frequently compelled to be witness, exhausted her spirits more than any circumstances, that had occurred since her departure from Tholouse. The gentleness and goodness of her parents, together with the scenes of her early happiness, often stole on her mind, like the visions of a higher world; while the characters and circumstances, now passing beneath her eye, excited both terror and surprise. She could scarcely have imagined, that passions so fierce and so various, as those which Montoni exhibited, could have been concentrated in one individual; yet what more surprised her, was, that, on great occasions, he could bend these passions, wild as they were, to the cause of his interest, and generally could disguise in his countenance their operation on his mind; but she had seen him too often, when he had thought it unnecessary to conceal his nature, to be deceived on such occasions.
Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Reflection brought only regret, and anticipation terror. How often did she wish to ‘steal the lark’s wing, and mount the swiftest gale,’ that Languedoc and repose might once more be hers!
Of Count Morano’s health she made frequent enquiry; but Annette heard only vague reports of his danger, and that his surgeon had said he would never leave the cottage alive; while Emily could not but be shocked to think, that she, however innocently, might be the means of his death; and Annette, who did not fail to observe her emotion, interpreted it in her own way.
But a circumstance soon occurred, which entirely withdrew Annette’s attention from this subject, and awakened the surprise and curiosity so natural to her. Coming one day to Emily’s apartment, with a countenance full of importance, ‘What can all this mean, ma’amselle?’ said she. ‘Would I was once safe in Languedoc again, they should never catch me going on my travels any more! I must think it a fine thing, truly, to come abroad, and see foreign parts! I little thought I was coming to be catched up in a old castle, among such dreary mountains, with the chance of being murdered, or, what is as good, having my throat cut!’
‘What can all this mean, indeed, Annette?’ said Emily, in astonishment.
‘Aye, ma’amselle, you may look surprised; but you won’t believe it, perhaps, till they have murdered you, too. You would not believe about the ghost I told you of, though I shewed you the very place, where it used to appear! — You will believe nothing, ma’amselle.’
‘Not till you speak more reasonably, Annette; for Heaven’s sake, explain your meaning. You spoke of murder!’
‘Aye, ma’amselle, they are coming to murder us all, perhaps; but what signifies explaining? — you will not believe.’
Emily again desired her to relate what she had seen, or heard.
‘O, I have seen enough, ma’am, and heard too much, as Ludovico can prove. Poor soul! they will murder him, too! I little thought, when he sung those sweet verses under my lattice, at Venice!’— Emily looked impatient and displeased. ‘Well, ma’amselle, as I was saying, these preparations about the castle, and these strange-looking people, that are calling here every day, and the Signor’s cruel usage of my lady, and his odd goings-on — all these, as I told Ludovico, can bode no good. And he bid me hold my tongue. So, says I, the Signor’s strangely altered, Ludovico, in this gloomy castle, to what he was in France; there, all so gay! Nobody so gallant to my lady, then; and he could smile, too, upon a poor servant, sometimes, and jeer her, too, good-naturedly enough. I remember once, when he said to me, as I was going out of my lady’s dressing-room — Annette, says he —’
‘Never mind what the Signor said,’ interrupted Emily; ‘but tell me, at once, the circumstance, which has thus alarmed you.’
‘Aye, ma’amselle,’ rejoined Annette, ‘that is just what Ludovico said: says he, Never mind what the Signor says to you. So I told him what I thought about the Signor. He is so strangely altered, said I: for now he is so haughty, and so commanding, and so sharp with my lady; and, if he meets one, he’ll scarcely look at one, unless it be to frown. So much the better, says Ludovico, so much the better. And to tell you the truth, ma’amselle, I thought this was a very ill-natured speech of Ludovico: but I went on. And then, says I, he is always knitting his brows; and if one speaks to him, he does not hear; and then he sits up counselling so, of a night, with the other Signors — there they are, till long past midnight, discoursing together! Aye, but says Ludovico, you don’t know what they are counselling about. No, said I, but I can guess — it is about my young lady. Upon that, Ludovico burst out a-laughing, quite loud; so he put me in a huff, for I did not like that either I or you, ma’amselle, should be laughed at; and I turned away quick, but he stopped me. “Don’t be affronted, Annette,” said he, “but I cannot help laughing;” and with that he laughed again. “What!” says he, “do you think the Signors sit up, night after night, only to counsel about thy young lady! No, no, there is something more in the wind than that. And these repairs about the castle, and these preparations about the ramparts — they are not making about young ladies.” Why, surely, said I, the Signor, my master, is not going to make war? “Make war!” said Ludovico, “what, upon the mountains and the woods? for here is no living soul to make war upon that I see.”
‘What are these preparations for, then? said I; why surely nobody is coming to take away my master’s castle! “Then there are so many ill- looking fellows coming to the castle every day,” says Ludovico, without answering my question, “and the Signor sees them all, and talks with them all, and they all stay in the neighbourhood! By holy St. Marco! some of them are the most cut-throat-looking dogs I ever set my eyes upon.”
‘I asked Ludovico again, if he thought they were coming to take away my master’s castle; and he said, No, he did not think they were, but he did not know for certain. “Then yesterday,” said he, but you must not tell this, ma’amselle, “yesterday, a party of these men came, and left all their horses in the castle stables, where, it seems, they are to stay, for the Signor ordered them all to be entertained with the best provender in the manger; but the men are, most of them, in the neighbouring cottages.”
‘So, ma’amselle, I came to tell you all this, for I never heard any thing so strange in my life. But what can these ill-looking men be come about, if it is not to murder us? And the Signor knows this, or why should he be so civil to them? And why should he fortify the castle, and counsel so much with the other Signors, and be so thoughtful?’
‘Is this all you have to tell, Annette?’ said Emily. ‘Have you heard nothing else, that alarms you?’
‘Nothing else, ma’amselle!’ said Annette; ‘why, is not this enough?’ ‘Quite enough for my patience, Annette, but not quite enough to convince me we are all to be murdered, though I acknowledge here is sufficient food for curiosity.’ She forbore to speak her apprehensions, because she would not encourage Annette’s wild terrors; but the present circumstances of the castle both surprised, and alarmed her. Annette, having told her tale, left the chamber, on the wing for new wonders.
In the evening, Emily had passed some melancholy hours with Madame Montoni, and was retiring to rest, when she was alarmed by a strange and loud knocking at her chamber door, and then a heavy weight fell against it, that almost burst it open. She called to know who was there, and receiving no answer, repeated the call; but a chilling silence followed. It occurred to her — for, at this moment, she could not reason on the probability of circumstances — that some one of the strangers, lately arrived at the castle, had discovered her apartment, and was come with such intent, as their looks rendered too possible — to rob, perhaps to murder, her. The moment she admitted this possibility, terror supplied the place of conviction, and a kind of instinctive remembrance of her remote situation from the family heightened it to a degree, that almost overcame her senses. She looked at the door, which led to the staircase, expecting to see it open, and listening, in fearful silence, for a return of the noise, till she began to think it had proceeded from this door, and a wish of escaping through the opposite one rushed upon her mind. She went to the gallery door, and then, fearing to open it, lest some person might be silently lurking for her without, she stopped, but with her eyes fixed in expectation upon the opposite door of the stair-case. As thus she stood, she heard a faint breathing near her, and became convinced, that some person was on the other side of the door, which was already locked. She sought for other fastening, but there was none.
While she yet listened, the breathing was distinctly heard, and her terror was not soothed, when, looking round her wide and lonely chamber, she again considered her remote situation. As she stood hesitating whether to call for assistance, the continuance of the stillness surprised her; and her spirits would have revived, had she not continued to hear the faint breathing, that convinced her, the person, whoever it was, had not quitted the door.
At length, worn out with anxiety, she determined to call loudly for assistance from her casement, and was advancing to it, when, whether the terror of her mind gave her ideal sounds, or that real ones did come, she thought footsteps were ascending the private stair-case; and, expecting to see its door unclose, she forgot all other cause of alarm, and retreated towards the corridor. Here she endeavoured to make her escape, but, on opening the door, was very near falling over a person, who lay on the floor without. She screamed, and would have passed, but her trembling frame refused to support her; and the moment, in which she leaned against the wall of the gallery, allowed her leisure to observe the figure before her, and to recognise the features of Annette. Fear instantly yielded to surprise. She spoke in vain to the poor girl, who remained senseless on the floor, and then, losing all consciousness of her own weakness, hurried to her assistance.
When Annette recovered, she was helped by Emily into the chamber, but was still unable to speak, and looked round her, as if her eyes followed some person in the room. Emily tried to sooth her disturbed spirits, and forbore, at present, to ask her any questions; but the faculty of speech was never long with-held from Annette, and she explained, in broken sentences, and in her tedious way, the occasion of her disorder. She affirmed, and with a solemnity of conviction, that almost staggered the incredulity of Emily, that she had seen an apparition, as she was passing to her bedroom, through the corridor.
‘I had heard strange stories of that chamber before,’ said Annette: ‘but as it was so near yours, ma’amselle, I would not tell them to you, because they would frighten you. The servants had told me, often and often, that it was haunted, and that was the reason why it was shut up: nay, for that matter, why the whole string of these rooms, here, are shut up. I quaked whenever I went by, and I must say, I did sometimes think I heard odd noises within it. But, as I said, as I was passing along the corridor, and not thinking a word about the matter, or even of the strange voice that the Signors heard the other night, all of a sudden comes a great light, and, looking behind me, there was a tall figure, (I saw it as plainly, ma’amselle, as I see you at this moment), a tall figure gliding along (Oh! I cannot describe how!) into the room, that is always shut up, and nobody has the key of it but the Signor, and the door shut directly.’
‘Then it doubtless was the Signor,’ said Emily.
‘O no, ma’amselle, it could not be him, for I left him busy a- quarrelling in my lady’s dressing-room!’
‘You bring me strange tales, Annette,’ said Emily: ‘it was but this morning, that you would have terrified me with the apprehension of murder; and now you would persuade me, you have seen a ghost! These wonderful stories come too quickly.’
‘Nay, ma’amselle, I will say no more, only, if I had not been frightened, I should not have fainted dead away, so. I ran as fast as I could, to get to your door; but, what was worst of all, I could not call out; then I thought something must be strangely the matter with me, and directly I dropt down.’
‘Was it the chamber where the black veil hangs?’ said Emily. ‘O! no, ma’amselle, it was one nearer to this. What shall I do, to get to my room? I would not go out into the corridor again, for the whole world!’ Emily, whose spirits had been severely shocked, and who, therefore, did not like the thought of passing the night alone, told her she might sleep where she was. ‘O, no, ma’amselle,’ replied Annette, ‘I would not sleep in the room, now, for a thousand sequins!’
Wearied and disappointed, Emily first ridiculed, though she shared, her fears, and then tried to sooth them; but neither attempt succeeded, and the girl persisted in believing and affirming, that what she had seen was nothing human. It was not till some time after Emily had recovered her composure, that she recollected the steps she had heard on the stair-case — a remembrance, however, which made her insist that Annette should pass the night with her, and, with much difficulty, she, at length, prevailed, assisted by that part of the girl’s fear, which concerned the corridor.
Early on the following morning, as Emily crossed the hall to the ramparts, she heard a noisy bustle in the court-yard, and the clatter of horses’ hoofs. Such unusual sounds excited her curiosity; and, instead of going to the ramparts, she went to an upper casement, from whence she saw, in the court below, a large party of horsemen, dressed in a singular, but uniform, habit, and completely, though variously, armed. They wore a kind of short jacket, composed of black and scarlet, and several of them had a cloak, of plain black, which, covering the person entirely, hung down to the stirrups. As one of these cloaks glanced aside, she saw, beneath, daggers, apparently of different sizes, tucked into the horseman’s belt. She further observed, that these were carried, in the same manner, by many of the horsemen without cloaks, most of whom bore also pikes, or javelins. On their heads, were the small Italian caps, some of which were distinguished by black feathers. Whether these caps gave a fierce air to the countenance, or that the countenances they surmounted had naturally such an appearance, Emily thought she had never, till then, seen an assemblage of faces so savage and terrific. While she gazed, she almost fancied herself surrounded by banditti; and a vague thought glanced athwart her fancy — that Montoni was the captain of the group before her, and that this castle was to be the place of rendezvous. The strange and horrible supposition was but momentary, though her reason could supply none more probable, and though she discovered, among the band, the strangers she had formerly noticed with so much alarm, who were now distinguished by the black plume.
While she continued gazing, Cavigni, Verezzi, and Bertolini came forth from the hall, habited like the rest, except that they wore hats, with a mixed plume of black and scarlet, and that their arms differed from those of the rest of the party. As they mounted their horses, Emily was struck with the exulting joy, expressed on the visage of Verezzi, while Cavigni was gay, yet with a shade of thought on his countenance; and, as he managed his horse with dexterity, his graceful and commanding figure, which exhibited the majesty of a hero, had never appeared to more advantage. Emily, as she observed him, thought he somewhat resembled Valancourt, in the spirit and dignity of his person; but she looked in vain for the noble, benevolent countenance — the soul’s intelligence, which overspread the features of the latter.
As she was hoping, she scarcely knew why, that Montoni would accompany the party, he appeared at the hall door, but un-accoutred. Having carefully observed the horsemen, conversed awhile with the cavaliers, and bidden them farewel, the band wheeled round the court, and, led by Verezzi, issued forth under the portcullis; Montoni following to the portal, and gazing after them for some time. Emily then retired from the casement, and, now certain of being unmolested, went to walk on the ramparts, from whence she soon after saw the party winding among the mountains to the west, appearing and disappearing between the woods, till distance confused their figures, consolidated their numbers, and only a dingy mass appeared moving along the heights.
Emily observed, that no workmen were on the ramparts, and that the repairs of the fortifications seemed to be completed. While she sauntered thoughtfully on, she heard distant footsteps, and, raising her eyes, saw several men lurking under the castle walls, who were evidently not workmen, but looked as if they would have accorded well with the party, which was gone. Wondering where Annette had hid herself so long, who might have explained some of the late circumstances, and then considering that Madame Montoni was probably risen, she went to her dressing-room, where she mentioned what had occurred; but Madame Montoni either would not, or could not, give any explanation of the event. The Signor’s reserve to his wife, on this subject, was probably nothing more than usual; yet, to Emily, it gave an air of mystery to the whole affair, that seemed to hint, there was danger, if not villany, in his schemes.
Annette presently came, and, as usual, was full of alarm; to her lady’s eager enquiries of what she had heard among the servants, she replied:
‘Ah, madam! nobody knows what it is all about, but old Carlo; he knows well enough, I dare say, but he is as close as his master. Some say the Signor is going out to frighten the enemy, as they call it: but where is the enemy? Then others say, he is going to take away some body’s castle: but I am sure he has room enough in his own, without taking other people’s; and I am sure I should like it a great deal better, if there were more people to fill it.’
‘Ah! you will soon have your wish, I fear,’ replied Madame Montoni.
‘No, madam, but such ill-looking fellows are not worth having. I mean such gallant, smart, merry fellows as Ludovico, who is always telling droll stories, to make one laugh. It was but yesterday, he told me such a HUMOURSOME tale! I can’t help laughing at it now. — Says he —’
‘Well, we can dispense with the story,’ said her lady. ‘Ah!’ continued Annette, ‘he sees a great way further than other people! Now he sees into all the Signor’s meaning, without knowing a word about the matter!’
‘How is that?’ said Madame Montoni.
‘Why he says — but he made me promise not to tell, and I would not disoblige him for the world.’
‘What is it he made you promise not to tell?’ said her lady, sternly. ‘I insist upon knowing immediately — what is it he made you promise?’
‘O madam,’ cried Annette, ‘I would not tell for the universe!’ ‘I insist upon your telling this instant,’ said Madame Montoni. ‘O dear madam! I would not tell for a hundred sequins! You would not have me forswear myself madam!’ exclaimed Annette.
‘I will not wait another moment,’ said Madame Montoni. Annette was silent.
‘The Signor shall be informed of this directly,’ rejoined her mistress: ‘he will make you discover all.’
‘It is Ludovico, who has discovered,’ said Annette: ‘but for mercy’s sake, madam, don’t tell the Signor, and you shall know all directly.’ Madame Montoni said, that she would not.
‘Well then, madam, Ludovico says, that the Signor, my master, is — is- -that is, he only thinks so, and any body, you know, madam, is free to think — that the Signor, my master, is — is —’
‘Is what?’ said her lady, impatiently.
‘That the Signor, my master, is going to be — a great robber — that is- -he is going to rob on his own account; — to be, (but I am sure I don’t understand what he means) to be a — captain of — robbers.’
‘Art thou in thy senses, Annette?’ said Madame Montoni; ‘or is this a trick to deceive me? Tell me, this instant, what Ludovico DID say to thee; — no equivocation; — this instant.’
‘Nay, madam,’ cried Annette, ‘if this is all I am to get for having told the secret’— Her mistress thus continued to insist, and Annette to protest, till Montoni, himself, appeared, who bade the latter leave the room, and she withdrew, trembling for the fate of her story. Emily also was retiring, but her aunt desired she would stay; and Montoni had so often made her a witness of their contention, that he no longer had scruples on that account.
‘I insist upon knowing this instant, Signor, what all this means:’ said his wife —‘what are all these armed men, whom they tell me of, gone out about?’ Montoni answered her only with a look of scorn; and Emily whispered something to her. ‘It does not signify,’ said her aunt: ‘I will know; and I will know, too, what the castle has been fortified for.’
‘Come, come,’ said Montoni, ‘other business brought me here. I must be trifled with no longer. I have immediate occasion for what I demand — those estates must be given up, without further contention; or I may find a way —’
‘They never shall be given up,’ interrupted Madame Montoni: ‘they never shall enable you to carry on your wild schemes; — but what are these? I will know. Do you expect the castle to be attacked? Do you expect enemies? Am I to be shut up here, to be killed in a siege?’
‘Sign the writings,’ said Montoni, ‘and you shall know more.’
‘What enemy can be coming?’ continued his wife. ‘Have you entered into the service of the state? Am I to be blocked up here to die?’
‘That may possibly happen,’ said Montoni, ‘unless you yield to my demand: for, come what may, you shall not quit the castle till then.’ Madame Montoni burst into loud lamentation, which she as suddenly checked, considering, that her husband’s assertions might be only artifices, employed to extort her consent. She hinted this suspicion, and, in the next moment, told him also, that his designs were not so honourable as to serve the state, and that she believed he had only commenced a captain of banditti, to join the enemies of Venice, in plundering and laying waste the surrounding country.
Montoni looked at her for a moment with a steady and stern countenance; while Emily trembled, and his wife, for once, thought she had said too much. ‘You shall be removed, this night,’ said he, ‘to the east turret: there, perhaps, you may understand the danger of offending a man, who has an unlimited power over you.’
Emily now fell at his feet, and, with tears of terror, supplicated for her aunt, who sat, trembling with fear, and indignation; now ready to pour forth execrations, and now to join the intercessions of Emily. Montoni, however, soon interrupted these entreaties with an horrible oath; and, as he burst from Emily, leaving his cloak, in her hand, she fell to the floor, with a force, that occasioned her a severe blow on the forehead. But he quitted the room, without attempting to raise her, whose attention was called from herself, by a deep groan from Madame Montoni, who continued otherwise unmoved in her chair, and had not fainted. Emily, hastening to her assistance, saw her eyes rolling, and her features convulsed.
Having spoken to her, without receiving an answer, she brought water, and supported her head, while she held it to her lips; but the increasing convulsions soon compelled Emily to call for assistance. On her way through the hall, in search of Annette, she met Montoni, whom she told what had happened, and conjured to return and comfort her aunt; but he turned silently away, with a look of indifference, and went out upon the ramparts. At length she found old Carlo and Annette, and they hastened to the dressing-room, where Madame Montoni had fallen on the floor, and was lying in strong convulsions. Having lifted her into the adjoining room, and laid her on the bed, the force of her disorder still made all their strength necessary to hold her, while Annette trembled and sobbed, and old Carlo looked silently and piteously on, as his feeble hands grasped those of his mistress, till, turning his eyes upon Emily, he exclaimed, ‘Good God! Signora, what is the matter?’
Emily looked calmly at him, and saw his enquiring eyes fixed on her: and Annette, looking up, screamed loudly; for Emily’s face was stained with blood, which continued to fall slowly from her forehead: but her attention had been so entirely occupied by the scene before her, that she had felt no pain from the wound. She now held an handkerchief to her face, and, notwithstanding her faintness, continued to watch Madame Montoni, the violence of whose convulsions was abating, till at length they ceased, and left her in a kind of stupor.
‘My aunt must remain quiet,’ said Emily. ‘Go, good Carlo; if we should want your assistance, I will send for you. In the mean time, if you have an opportunity, speak kindly of your mistress to your master.’
‘Alas!’ said Carlo, ‘I have seen too much! I have little influence with the Signor. But do, dear young lady, take some care of yourself; that is an ugly wound, and you look sadly.’
‘Thank you, my friend, for your consideration,’ said Emily, smiling kindly: ‘the wound is trifling, it came by a fall.’
Carlo shook his head, and left the room; and Emily, with Annette, continued to watch by her aunt. ‘Did my lady tell the Signor what Ludovico said, ma’amselle?’ asked Annette in a whisper; but Emily quieted her fears on the subject.
‘I thought what this quarrelling would come to,’ continued Annette: ‘I suppose the Signor has been beating my lady.’
‘No, no, Annette, you are totally mistaken, nothing extra-ordinary has happened.’
‘Why, extraordinary things happen here so often, ma’amselle, that there is nothing in them. Here is another legion of those ill- looking fellows, come to the castle, this morning.’
‘Hush! Annette, you will disturb my aunt; we will talk of that by and bye.’
They continued watching silently, till Madame Montoni uttered a low sigh, when Emily took her hand, and spoke soothingly to her; but the former gazed with unconscious eyes, and it was long before she knew her niece. Her first words then enquired for Montoni; to which Emily replied by an entreaty, that she would compose her spirits, and consent to be kept quiet, adding, that, if she wished any message to be conveyed to him, she would herself deliver it. ‘No,’ said her aunt faintly, ‘no — I have nothing new to tell him. Does he persist in saying I shall be removed from my chamber?’
Emily replied, that he had not spoken, on the subject, since Madame Montoni heard him; and then she tried to divert her attention to some other topic; but her aunt seemed to be inattentive to what she said, and lost in secret thoughts. Emily, having brought her some refreshment, now left her to the care of Annette, and went in search of Montoni, whom she found on a remote part of the rampart, conversing among a group of the men described by Annette. They stood round him with fierce, yet subjugated, looks, while he, speaking earnestly, and pointing to the walls, did not perceive Emily, who remained at some distance, waiting till he should be at leisure, and observing involuntarily the appearance of one man, more savage than his fellows, who stood resting on his pike, and looking, over the shoulders of a comrade, at Montoni, to whom he listened with uncommon earnestness. This man was apparently of low condition; yet his looks appeared not to acknowledge the superiority of Montoni, as did those of his companions; and sometimes they even assumed an air of authority, which the decisive manner of the Signor could not repress. Some few words of Montoni then passed in the wind; and, as the men were separating, she heard him say, ‘This evening, then, begin the watch at sun-set.’
‘At sun-set, Signor,’ replied one or two of them, and walked away; while Emily approached Montoni, who appeared desirous of avoiding her: but, though she observed this, she had courage to proceed. She endeavoured to intercede once more for her aunt, represented to him her sufferings, and urged the danger of exposing her to a cold apartment in her present state. ‘She suffers by her own folly,’ said Montoni, ‘and is not to be pitied; — she knows how she may avoid these sufferings in future — if she is removed to the turret, it will be her own fault. Let her be obedient, and sign the writings you heard of, and I will think no more of it.’
When Emily ventured still to plead, he sternly silenced and rebuked her for interfering in his domestic affairs, but, at length, dismissed her with this concession — That he would not remove Madame Montoni, on the ensuing night, but allow her till the next to consider, whether she would resign her settlements, or be imprisoned in the east turret of the castle, ‘where she shall find,’ he added, ‘a punishment she may not expect.’
Emily then hastened to inform her aunt of this short respite and of the alternative, that awaited her, to which the latter made no reply, but appeared thoughtful, while Emily, in consideration of her extreme languor, wished to sooth her mind by leading it to less interesting topics: and, though these efforts were unsuccessful, and Madame Montoni became peevish, her resolution, on the contended point, seemed somewhat to relax, and Emily recommended, as her only means of safety, that she should submit to Montoni’s demand. ‘You know not what you advise,’ said her aunt. ‘Do you understand, that these estates will descend to you at my death, if I persist in a refusal?’
‘I was ignorant of that circumstance, madam,’ replied Emily, ‘but the knowledge of it cannot with-hold me from advising you to adopt the conduct, which not only your peace, but, I fear, your safety requires, and I entreat, that you will not suffer a consideration comparatively so trifling, to make you hesitate a moment in resigning them.’
‘Are you sincere, niece?’ ‘Is it possible you can doubt it, madam?’ Her aunt appeared to be affected. ‘You are not unworthy of these estates, niece,’ said she: ‘I would wish to keep them for your sake- -you shew a virtue I did not expect.’
‘How have I deserved this reproof, madam?’ said Emily sorrowfully.
‘Reproof!’ replied Madame Montoni: ‘I meant to praise your virtue.’
‘Alas! here is no exertion of virtue,’ rejoined Emily, ‘for here is no temptation to be overcome.’
‘Yet Monsieur Valancourt’— said her aunt. ‘O, madam!’ interrupted Emily, anticipating what she would have said, ‘do not let me glance on that subject: do not let my mind be stained with a wish so shockingly self-interested.’ She immediately changed the topic, and continued with Madame Montoni, till she withdrew to her apartment for the night.
At that hour, the castle was perfectly still, and every inhabitant of it, except herself, seemed to have retired to rest. As she passed along the wide and lonely galleries, dusky and silent, she felt forlorn and apprehensive of — she scarcely knew what; but when, entering the corridor, she recollected the incident of the preceding night, a dread seized her, lest a subject of alarm, similar to that, which had befallen Annette, should occur to her, and which, whether real, or ideal, would, she felt, have an almost equal effect upon her weakened spirits. The chamber, to which Annette had alluded, she did not exactly know, but understood it to be one of those she must pass in the way to her own; and, sending a fearful look forward into the gloom, she stepped lightly and cautiously along, till, coming to a door, from whence issued a low sound, she hesitated and paused; and, during the delay of that moment, her fears so much increased, that she had no power to move from the spot. Believing, that she heard a human voice within, she was somewhat revived; but, in the next moment, the door was opened, and a person, whom she conceived to be Montoni, appeared, who instantly started back, and closed it, though not before she had seen, by the light that burned in the chamber, another person, sitting in a melancholy attitude by the fire. Her terror vanished, but her astonishment only began, which was now roused by the mysterious secrecy of Montoni’s manner, and by the discovery of a person, whom he thus visited at midnight, in an apartment, which had long been shut up, and of which such extraordinary reports were circulated.
While she thus continued hesitating, strongly prompted to watch Montoni’s motions, yet fearing to irritate him by appearing to notice them, the door was again opened cautiously, and as instantly closed as before. She then stepped softly to her chamber, which was the next but one to this, but, having put down her lamp, returned to an obscure corner of the corridor, to observe the proceedings of this half-seen person, and to ascertain, whether it was indeed Montoni.
Having waited in silent expectation for a few minutes, with her eyes fixed on the door, it was again opened, and the same person appeared, whom she now knew to be Montoni. He looked cautiously round, without perceiving her, then, stepping forward, closed the door, and left the corridor. Soon after, Emily heard the door fastened on the inside, and she withdrew to her chamber, wondering at what she had witnessed.
It was now twelve o’clock. As she closed her casement, she heard footsteps on the terrace below, and saw imperfectly, through the gloom, several persons advancing, who passed under the casement. She then heard the clink of arms, and, in the next moment, the watch- word; when, recollecting the command she had overheard from Montoni, and the hour of the night, she understood, that these men were, for the first time, relieving guard in the castle. Having listened till all was again still, she retired to sleep.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59