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presented to the eye from this commanding situation, and turned reluctantly to descend. I observed that the major-domo seemed little inclined to linger longer than to satisfy our curiosity, and attributing his backwardness to his superstitious fears, I could not refrain from complimenting in a jesting way the taste which the old Baron's spirit displayed in selecting a position so eligible for his midnight observations.
• Hist,' whispered the old servant, as he crossed himself thrice: . It is not safe to provoke the spirits of the dead, and he was a dark and terrible man.'
We passed through several winding and circuitous passages, upon whose walls the moisture had collected, and was now dripping upon the floor. Stopping now and then to examine some curiously contrived angle in the complicated structure of the building, or to observe the diversified features of the landscape, tinted with different shades and colors, when seen through the stained panes of the windows, I observed that our guide as we were conducted through a lonely corridor, passed a heavy door thickly studded with bolts and hung on hinges of ponderous weight. I inquired for what the apartment was used and why we were not admitted. He informed me that within his memory it had never been entered by any one except by the countess, and she visited it only on some particular nights in the year, and then for secluded devotion. It was built, so I learned from the date on the wall, in the days of Halbert, the first baron of Ivenskoff, who attended, it is said, the Council of Clermont, and joined in the enthusiasm and sufferings of the wandering Peter. On his return from Palestine, it was used as a private chapel, but after his death it was closed to every one except to the inheritors of the baronial estate and name. A sad tradition, the major-domo said, was connected with the circumstance of its being closed, but what it was, strange to relate, he would not inform us, and when questioned more closely, maintained an inflexible silence. Perceiving that on this subject he was as reserved as on others he was tiringly garrulous, we were compelled to satisfy our curiosity by useless surmises and unsatisfactory conjectures.
After visiting the extensive cellars of the castle, which were stored with old wines of the richest flavor, as well as with some rusting vestiges of feudal rigor, we returned to the oaken parlor where we found the countess quietly engaged on a piece of embroidery, after the fashion of ladies of her rank in the days of love and gallantry.
It was now quite late in the afternoon, and we were ushered into the feasting hall, which had so often reëchoed to the song of riotous revelry. It had never been altered, but was as spacious, as cold and as gloomy as when the first hunting party collected within it, to pledge their successful lord in claret and
brandy. Thọ walls were variously decorated with the branching antlers of the stag and with the grinning tusks of the boar; here and there hung the black and shaggy skin of the wolf, with the savage teeth still bristling from the gaping jaws; while spears and lances, cross-bows and long swords, shields and helmets, were profusely interspersed among the trophies of the chase. There was also a complete suit of Eastern armor, which had been preserved in the
family for many years, and which had been brought home by Sir Halbert on his return from Palestine.
The servants received us in a long line as we entered, and the majordomo bowed most elaborately, as my friend conducted the countess to her seat. I had expected an unusual display of hospitality, but was surprised at the sight of the tables. There was a profusion for a famished regiment; Hesh of almost every known animal, and the breasts of almost every feathered fowl. Most of the dishes were dressed in a style which I had never met with in my travels, but which to the taste far exceeded in delicacy any thing that I had ever seen. The Countess, her relative and myself were the only persons who appeared to partake of it; but far up and down the table were placed salvers and ewers, as if the company of a host was expected. I ascertained afterward, that our visit had happened to be on the anniversary of her marriage, the commemoration of which event she thus singularly and faithfully observed. The service of the table was of massive silver; it had evidently been molten in foreign crucibles and ornamented by foreign tools; they were covered too, with hieroglyphics which I could not decipher, and with designs that I could not understand. I felt my antiquarian spirit rising, but my attention was diverted by the repeated calls of a vigorous appetite, rendered none the blunter by our cool ride in the morning mist, and to this day I am ignorant of their mysterious import.
After the successive courses had been finished, which I will not attempt to enumerate, but of which he who has dined at the table d'hôte of a German hotel, can form some conception, wines were produced in heavy pitchers of curious workmanship, but in keeping with the rest of the furniture of the table. It was quite late when we rose, and I fear that my friend and myself became somewhat garrulous; for I talked long, and I fancied profoundly upon ruins and antiquities, genealogies and hereditary titles, to all of which, however, the countess listened with patient and lady-like attention, occasionally correcting my inaccuracies, or detecting the complete history of some legendary occurrence, which I had blunderingly attempted to relate. Again the deep goblets were filled to the brim, and draining wine in a style which I remembered was peculiar to knights when originating a gallant sentence, I wished our hostess a period of longevity, only rivalled by that of Methusaleh.
The evening wore away in delightful conversation. It seemed to me that all the natural reserve which a stranger usually feels before the lapse of a few days has fairly domesticated him, had entirely left
I never was esteemed unusually gifted in verbal fluency, but on this occasion I felt so uncommonly communicative, that my friend, who was aware of my general character, was utterly confounded.
Toward the close of the evening, an immense vessel of German beer was introduced, which was recommended by the Countess as excellent before retiring to bed. At the same time she related how many flagons were drank in the old baronial hall of the castle on the night of her marriage, and assured us, good naturedly, that she would have repeated one of the songs that were sung on the occasion, had our visit VOL, XXXVI.
happened only a few years earlier. Fearing that I should be outdone by our hostess in the contest of agreeability, and dreading a consciousness of mental, as well as corporeal indebtedness, I rallied my memory, and marshalled forth all the marvellous events that had slumbered from boyhood in my brain. In return, however, I was repaid by a description of all the mysterious occurrences that had ever transpired within the history of the castle. As she proceeded, my interest became rapidly excited. The remembrance of the heavy-studded door, which our guide had said was never opened, flashed upon me as she was describing some of the localities of the building, and I was burning to inquire into the secret history of the room which it closed. It was too delicate a subject, I was conscious, to be broached rudely. Once I alluded to it, but the question was so adroitly avoided, that I was discouraged from urging it farther.
Perhaps it was owing to the copious potations of ale and wines that I had taken, but that was impossible; or to the associations which were excited by the consciousness of being within a building of which startling tales were related; but as the night advanced, I experienced some unusual sensations. I am not timid or superstitious, but I felt like a child who has been reading the story of Blue Beard, or listening to the cruelties of the Seven-Leagued Giant. I was like the boy who wished to see the Devil, but was in momentary fear that he would present himself before him.
It wanted hardly an hour of midnight, when I requested to retire to my chamber. It was situated at the extremity of a long and intricate passage-way, and at a distance from what might be called the main body of the building. It was a large and airy apartment, with windows opening toward a range of high hills on one side, and a broad sweep of cultivated acres on the other. The furniture was of the oldest and most antiquated kind. Tall and cumbrous posts supported each corner of the bedstead, carved all over by some laborious artist, who had consummated his conception by converting the ends into twisting and writhing serpents. The counterpane was the product of no modern loom, but the slow result of patient and untiring industry. The needlework was of a rare and exquisite quality; and the flowers and birds, which were quaintly wrought with variously colored silks, testified also to the taste of its maker. Several large and awkward chairs, with stuffed seats and backs, were ranged at regular intervals beneath the casements, whose color corresponded well with the gloomy hue of the cold and uncarpeted floor. The walls had assumed a dingy shade from age and dampness; but several fine pictures were hung from them, among which appeared to be several family portraits. There was one old gentleman with a ruddy, good humored face, and powdered wig, who was stationed next to an animated hunting scene. I imagined that there was some connexion between the two, and after examining them farther, I detected, as I fancied, a resemblance between the old gentleman in question and the foremost rider of a dashing party in the stagchase.
Several ladies, with high turbans and short plaited sleeves, came next in order, who were designed undoubtedly by the artist, in the plenitude
of his imagination, to be models of beauty and affability, but unfortunately an eye squinted in one, a nose with a celestial tendency in another, and a projecting tusk in a third, completely destroyed the effect of the rosy cheeks and dimpled chin, which he had probably gratuitously bestowed upon all. There was also a knight in full armor, who looked impatiently down from his cumbrous frame, as if
eager escape from his confinement. This portrait was of extraordinary merit. The black and shaggy hair waving from under the heavy helmet, the deep, fiery, and lustrous eye, and the dark nut-brown complexion, had been sketched by no unpractised limner. It made the blood fly more quickly, and the pulse to palpitate more nervously, to look upon it. The lips were slightly parted, and in that solitary chamber I almost feared that they would utter one of their accustomed challenges.
I turned from this toward the next, which hung directly over the mantel-piece. It was the portrait of a female, of transcendant beauty; a beauty too which belonged to no northern clime. The eyes were deep, animated, and passionate; the mouth slightly and delicately arched, indicative of firmness, tempered with lamb-like submission. Her hair was drawn back from the forehead, as if with the intention of displaying its fulness and classical prominence, and from the parting on either side the auburn curls fell upon her bared shoulders in the carelessness of negligent profusion. A simple ornament hung from either ear, and a band of pearls was tastefully arranged upon her forehead. Her complexion was darker than that which is usually to be seen among
ladies in our rigorous climate; but there was a richness to its coloring, which contrasted well with the snowy whiteness of her drapery.
Upon this portrait the artist had apparently lavished his utmost skill. His genius had caught the animated yet somewhat saddened expression of the features, and had transferred it with startling truthfulness to the canvass. It was impossible to avoid the conviction that the original had experienced some misfortune, which had brooded like a cloud over her existence. There was nothing which indicated any connexion between this portrait and that of the dark knight in armor; but I felt assured that the fortunes of the two had had a mutual dependence, and that perhaps the same circumstances had produced the stern haughtiness in the features of the one, and the melancholy sadness in the countenance of the other.
The drapery of the picture belonged to a distant age, and to a distant country. It was light, flowing, and graceful. A wreath of silken gauze was slightly confined with a single sparkling brooch, and was then suffered to fall in voluptuous folds over the plaits of her satin bodice. A loop of golden threads supported the weight of the flowing sleeve, a bracelet of glittering brilliants shone on either wrist, while in her jewelled fingers she held a golden crucifix, attached to a chain of pearls thrown carelessly round her neck.
After thus surveying my apartment, I drew one of the stuffed chairs toward the pleasant fire, which had been lighted in order to render the room more cheerful, and to remove the unpleasant chill of the evening air. As is my custom when travelling, I drew a volume of Shakspeare from my pocket, and opened it at random, hoping to become soon sufficiently drowsy to overcome the excitement of my imagination. The first sentence which struck my eye was the wild exclamation of Macbeth as he is confronted by the ghost of Banquo. I turned hastily over a few pages further, but rested at the more revolting confessions of Lady Macbeth, as she looks in her restless slumbers for the stains on her guilty hands. I turned again, but the types and the pages seemed to have changed their places, and involved themselves in inextricable confusion. Determined not to be disappointed, I patiently waited for them to resume their proper position, when
Look, my lord, it comes ! floated before my eyes in blazing capitals; and the ghost of Hamlet appeared before me as vividly as on the night when I last saw it played at the Haymarket. I gave up in despair, and hastily undressing myself, extinguished my light and sprang into the bed-clothes.
The fire had almost burned down, but now and then the glowing coals would start into a bright flame, and then as suddenly expire. had left, too, the upper part of the eastern casement unclosed, and the light of the moon, struggling through the dark clouds, which an approaching storm drove hurriedly across its disc, played in fantastic figures upon the old portraits on the gloomy wall." If a person is in the least imaginative, he will find himself unconsciously indulging in a thousand fancies as he irresistibly gazes upon a pile of glowing embers. My position enabled me to look directly into the open fire-place, and as a natural consequence, all the knights in chivalry filed out in panoply before me. Some were clad in mail, of a bright and dazzling polish; others were concealed in black armor, and mounted upon steeds as black and as furious as their riders. Then giants and strange monsters strode across the hearth, in changing shapes for an instant, and then dissolved in wreaths of curling smoke and flame. Again all was gone, and then a dazzling tournament was before me. Steel-clad knights were charging in the lists, and ladies were waving their fair hands on the raised platform around. Suddenly the combatants met, horses and riders were thrown to the earth, a cloud of dust rose over the vanquished and the victors, and horses, champions, and ladies, were vanished from my view!
These phantasmagoria became at last so painful that I closed my eyes and endeavored to shut out the wearying sight. But it seemed impossible to avoid opening them. I resolutely shut the lids, changed my position, and in a moment I found myself watching a feudal fray or a knightly tourney. I turned at length toward the portrait of the beautiful lady, which for the moment I had forgotten, in the hope, that when my attention was diverted, that my nerves would become more quiet, and that I should obtain some sleep. It was in the position most favorable for receiving the varying rays of light which emanated from the bright coals upon the hearth-stone. The features seemed more serenely beautiful than when I had observed them before. At one moment, a bright glow would seem to suffuse the soft cheeks and the high forehead, and then as the flame faded and fickered, they wore the same mournful cast as before. Sometimes, I thought that the delicate lip,