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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, 1 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
all. There was also a knight in full armor, who looked impatiently down from his cumbrous frame, as if eager to 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 patientiy 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. I 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 flickered, they wore the same mournful cast as before. Sometimes, I thought that the delicate lip,
seemed to quiver, and the thin nostril to dilate, but the light and shade varied and I saw by what I had been deceived ; again I fancied, that the airy drapery trembled as the breast throbbed with some secret emotion, but it was only an illusion and I smiled at my own foolishness.
But there was a strange fascination in that full, deep and lustrous eye which I could not resist. It looked fixedly at me with a steadiness that seemed to read my very soul; I tried to oppose its influence, but the effort was useless. The more I persuaded myself that it was a painting, the more I was convinced that it was a reality. No artist could have imparted that burning, searching gaze to a senseless and inanimate canvass. I felt that it was a LIVING EYE.
My nerves shook as with an electric shock when I distinctly saw the long lashes move ; the lips slightly part, and the whole features assume a quiet and pleasant smile. • 'Tis only a strange dream,' I murmured, *why cannot I shake it off, but the charm still continued and the lady smiled yet more sweetly again.
How long this continued I do not know, my agitation and excitement were so great, that it seemed to me countless hours. The drapery at length nestled ; the picture descended from the heavy frame and stood erect before me. I was paralyzed with fear, but still I was entranced with the loveliness of the object which caused it. I tried to speak, but my tongue refused utterance, my power of volition was gone, and I surrendered myself to the influence of the enchantress. She approached toward me.
Her features wore a look of commanding firmness, and placing a finger upon her lip, she motioned to me to rise. Incapable of resistance, I mechanically obeyed. What her purpose was, or for what I was to be employed, I could not conceive. Not a word had been spoken, and I felt that by disturbing the silence, some terrible consequence would ensue. I would have broken the charm which bound
me, for the agony that I suffered was inexpressible, but the influence · which was over me was not mortal, and I was as powerless as the fledgling when in the fascination of the serpent.
She turned toward the wall and cautiously tapped it thrice. A door swung heavily open and disclosed a dark and loathsome vault. She fixed upon me one of her indescribable glances and sprang lightly upon the threshold, I followed her while the cold perspiration covered me with a clammy dampness and my hair bristled with superstitious fear; the door closed upon me, and in profound darkness I groped my way down a narrow stair-case. We descended till we came to the very foundations of the castle. A door admitted us into a dark and narrow passage built of solid masonry, and cold and chilling from the damp and confined atmosphere. The lady stopped at the entrance, and lighting a blazing torch, raised it above her head and carried it rapidly before her. I now saw with horror the place that I was in. Low vaults were on either side, closed with heavy iron doors, which swung back with a mournful creak as the glare of the torch fell upon their ponderous padlocks, but the instant that we passed them they closed again with a deafening clang which echoed and reëchoed, till the senses were stunned with the sharpness of the peals. The lady fearlessly proceeded by these repositories of the dead, waving occasionally her torch in
triumph, as a grim skeleton started from his deathly slumber, and smiling as sweetly as if she was receiving the less terrible homage of the living. We turned a sharp angle at the end of the corridor and came to the foot of a pile of rude steps built around a massive stone pillar which supported the masonry above. The lady extinguished her torch, when instantly the ceiling opened, and we ascended until we gained the upper floor; the light of the apartment was so intense that for a moment I could not distinguish a single object, so sudden had been the change from almost impenetrable darkness to blazing brilliancy. It was not until I had followed my mysterious conductress to the middle of the room, which I did by an irresistible impulse, that I was enabled to look around me.
I WAS IN THE SECRET CHAPEL. A glare, brighter than the sun at noon-day, filled the whole chamber, but from whence it proceeded I could not tell. The whole air seemed to be luminous, and every object seemed to irradiate light. Fluted pillars surmounted by caps of elaborate workmanship, supported the arches of the ceiling. High arched windows with panes of the richest hues, reflected the light in a thousand mingled shades and colorings upon the tastefully tesselated floor. Images of angels with wings outspread, held in one hand chaplets of roses and laurel, and in the other, the ends of burnished rods, over which drooped in graceful folds golden fringed dra
of crimson and purple. Statues of saints stood in solemn attitudes in the niches of the wall, and from blazing censers raised on lofty pedestals, rolled out colored clouds of intoxicating perfumes. The chancel and the altar were raised above the floor
which I stood, and were furnished with magnificent decorations. A picture of the Saviour on the cross with the crown of thorns plaited upon his bleeding brow and the nails in his extended limbs, was suspended above the sacred receptacle for the host. The Madonna was kneeling at his feet, with arms extended, and her face averted in expressive agony, while the earth around appeared to be in the convulsive throes of na- · ture, and the graves seemed to be giving forth their dead. I looked about me and was bewildered; thought and reason were gone, and my head whirled in dizzy amazement. The whole scene was in an instant burned into my memory and branded indelibly into my brain.
More inexpressibly lovely, than any thing upon which eye ever rested, was the mysterious lady as she gently took the band of pearls from her forehead ; threw back the clustering curls upon her shoulders and kneeling, bowed to the Holy Virgin. She rose, and the sound of music as if from a thousand golden harps, sweeter than the dying echo of the nightingale's song, and more melodious than the hushed whispers of angels trembled upon the air. The strains ceased, and from the altar blazed a ring of fire of a brilliant crimson hue. The same sweet smile sparkled from her eye and played upon her features, as the lady placed herself by my side, and extending her bared arm, pointed toward the altar.
My trepidation was vanished ; a wild exhilaration fired my blood and coursed furiously through my veins. Fearless and determined, I sprang upon the marble steps and stood upon the chancel. Within the circle of fire I saw a roll of parchment, around which the flames