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when Ludovico was to retire thither for the night, an hour for which the whole household waited with the greatest impatience.
After supper, Ludovico, by the order of the count, attended him in his closet, where they remained alone for near half an hour, and on leaving which his lord delivered to him a sword.
“It has seen service in mortal quarrels,” said the count, jocosely, “ you will use it honourably no doubt in a spiritual
To-morrow let me hear that there is not one ghost remaining in the château.”
Ludovico received it with a respectful bow. “You shall be obeyed, my lord,” said he ; “I will engage that no spectre shall disturb the peace of the château after this night.”
They now returned to the supper-room, where the count's guests awaited to accompany him and Ludovico to the north apartments; and Dorothee, being summoned for the keys, delivered them to Ludovico, who then led the way, followed by most of the inhabitants of the château. Having reached the back staircase, several of the servants shrunk back and refused to go further, but the rest followed him to the top of the staircase, where a broad landing-place allowed them to flock round him, while he applied the key to the door, dnring which they watched him with as much eager curiosity as if he had been performing some magical rite.
Ludovico, unaccustomed to the lock, could not turn it, and Dorothee, who had lingered far behind, was called forward, under whose hand the door opened slowly, and her eye glancing within the dusky chamber, she uttered a sudden shriek and retreated. At this signal of alarm the greater part of the crowd hurried down, and the count, Henri, and Ludovico were left alone to pursue the inquiry, who instantly rushed into the apartment, Ludovico with a
drawn sword, which he had just time to draw from the scabbard, the count with a lamp in his hand, and Henry carrying a basket containing provision for the courageous adventurer.
Having looked hastily round the first room, where nothing appeared to justify alarm, they passed on to the second; and here too all being quiet, they proceeded to a third in a more tempered step. The count had now leisure to smile at the discomposure into which he had been surprised, and to ask Ludovico in which room he designed to pass the night.
“ There are several chambers beyond these, your excellenza," said Ludovico, pointing to a door," and in one of them is a bed, they say. I will pass the night there; and when I am weary of watching, I can lie down."
Good,” said the count; “let us go on. You see, these rooms show nothing but damp walls and decaying furniture. I have been so much occupied since I came to the château, that I have not looked into them till now. Remember, Ludovico, to tell the housekeeper to-morrow to throw open these windows. The damask hangings are dropping to pieces; I will have them taken down, and this antique furniture removed.”
“ Dear sir," said Henri, “ here is an arm-chair so massy with gilding, that it resembles one of the state chairs in the Louvre more than anything else.”
“Yes," said the count, stopping a moment to survey it, " there is a history belonging to that chair, but I have not time to tell it; let us pass on.
This suite runs to a greater extent than I imagined; it is many years since I was in them. But where is the bed-room you speak of, Ludovico ? these are only ante-chambers to the great drawing-room. I remember them in their splendour.”
“ The bed, my lord,” replied Ludovico, “ they told me was in a room that opens beyond the saloon and terminates the suite."
“O, here is the saloon,” said the count, as they entered the spacious apartment in which Emily and Dorothee had rested. He here stood for a moment, surveying the reliques of faded grandeur which it exhibited, the sumptuous tapestry, the long and low sofas of velvet with frames heavily carved and gilded, the floor inlaid with small squares of fine marble, and covered in the centre with a piece of rich tapestry work, the casements of painted glass, and the large Venetian mir. rors of a size and quality such as at that period France could not make, which reflected on every side the spacious apartment. These had also formerly reflected a gay and brilliant scene, for this had been the state room of the château, and here the marchioness had held the assemblies that made part of the festivities of her nuptials. If the wand of a magician could have recalled the vanished groups—many of them vanished even from the earth !—that once bad passed over these polished mirrors, what a varied and contrasted picture would they have exhibited with the present! Now, instead of a blaze of lights, and a splendid and busy crowd, they reflected only the rays of the one glimmering lamp which the count held up, and which scarcely served to show the three forlorn figures that stood surveying the room, and the spacious and dusky walls around them.
“Ah!" said the count to Henri, awaking from his deep reverie, “ how the scene is changed since last I saw it! I
a young man then, and the marchioness was alive and in her bloom; many other persons were here too, who are
There stood the orchestra, here we tripped in many a sprightly maze-the walls echoing to the dance, Now they resound only one feeble voice, and even that will,
now no more.
ere long, be heard no more. My son, remember that I was once as young as yourself, and that you
like those who have preceded you—like those who, as they sung and danced in this most gay apartment, forgot that years are made up of moments, and that every step they took carried them nearer to their graves. But such reflections are useless—I had almost said criminal—unless they teach us to prepare for eternity, since otherwise they cloud our present happiness without guiding us to a future one. But enough of this—let us go on.”
Ludovico now opened the door of the bed-room, and the count, as he entered, was struck with the funeral appearance which the dark arras gave to it. He approached the bed with an emotion of solemnity, and, perceiving it to be covered with a pall of black velvet, paused. What can this mean ?" said he, as he gazed upon it.
“ I have heard, my lord,” said Ludovico, as he stood at the feet, looking within the canopied curtains," that the Lady Marchioness de Villeroi died in this chamber, and remained here till she was removed to be buried; and this, perhaps, signor, may account for the pall.”
The count made no reply, but stood for a few moments engaged in thought, and evidently much affected. Then, turning to Ludovico, he asked him with a serious air, whether he thought his courage would support him through the night. “If you doubt this," added the count, “ do not be ashamed to own it; I will release you from your engagement without exposing you to the triumphs of your fellow-servants." Ludovico paused; pride and something very like fear seemed struggling in his breast : pride, however, was victorious ;-he blushed, and his hesitation ceased.
“No, my lord,” said he, “I will go through with what
LUDOVICO IN THE HAUNTED CHAMBER.
I have begun; and I am grateful for your consideration. On that hearth I will make a fire ; and with the good cheer in this basket, I doubt not I shall do well.”
“ Be it so," said the count; “but how will you beguile the tediousness of the night, if you do not sleep ?"
“When I am weary, my lord," replied Ludovico, “I shall not fear to sleep; in the meanwhile, I have a book that will entertain me.”
Well," said the count, “I hope nothing will disturb you ; but if you should be seriously alarmed in the night, come to my apartment. I have too much confidence in your good sense and courage to believe you will be alarmed on slight grounds, or suffer the gloom of this chamber, or its remote situation, to overcome you with ideal terrors. To-morrow I shall have to thank you for an important service; these rooms shall then be thrown open, and my people will then be convinced of their error. Good-night, Ludovico; let me see you early in the morning, and remember what I lately said to you."
"I will, my lord. Good-night to your excellenza-let me attend you with the light.”
He lighted the count and Henri through the chambers to the outer door. On the landing-place stood a lamp, which one of the affrighted servants had left; and Henri, as he took it up, again bade Ludovico “ good-night,” who, having respectfully returned the wish, closed the door upon them and fastened it. Then, as he retired to the bed-chamber, he examined the rooms through which he passed with more minuteness than he had done before; for he apprehended that some person might have concealed himself in them for the purpose of frightening him.' No one, however, but himself was in these chambers; and leaving open the doors through which he passed, he came again to the great draw