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virtues of the medicine to paying the expense of the physician. But the moment had now arrived when earth and all its treasures were gliding from before his eyes, and when his heart, though hard as a nether millstone, became appalled as he gazed forward into the waste darkness of futurity. The fever of his body aided the impatience and agony of his mind, and his deathbed exhibited a mixture of the newly awakened feelings of remorse, combating with the fixed and inveterate obstinacy of his disposition ;—a fearful state of mind, only to be equalled in those tremendous regions, where there are complaints without hope, remorse without repentance, a horrid sense of present agony, and a presentiment that it cannot cease or be diminished!
"Where be these dog priests now," growled the baron, " who set such a price on their ghostly mummery?—where be all those unshod Carmelites, for whom old Front de Boeuf founded the convent of St. Anne, robbing his heir of many a fair rood of meadow, and many a fat field and close—where be the greedy hounds now? Swilling, I warrant me, at the ale, or playing their juggling tricks at the bedside of some miserly churl. Me, the heir of their founder—me, whom their foundation binds them to pray for—me— ungrateful villains as they are!—they suffer to die like the houseless dog on yonder common, unshriven and unhouseled!—Tell the Templar to come hither—he is a priest, and may do something.—But, no!—as well confess myself to the devil as to Brian de Bois Guilbert, who recks neither of heaven nor of hell.—I have heard old. men talk of prayer—prayer by their own voice—. Mich need not to court or to bribe the false priest —but I—I dare not!"
"Lives Reginald Front de Boeuf," said a broken and shrill voice close by his bedside, "to say there is that which he dares not?"
The evil conscience and the shaken nerves of Front de Boeuf heard, in this strange interruption to his soliloquy, the voice of one of those demons who, as the superstition of the times believed, beset the beds of dying men, to distract their thoughts, and turn them from the meditations which concerned their eternal welfare. He shuddered, and drew himself together; but, instantly summoningup his resolution, he exclaimed, "Who is there ?—What art thou, that darest to echo my words in a tone like that of the night raven?— Come before my couch, that I may see thee."
"I am thine evil angel, Reginald Front de Boeuf," replied the voice.
"Let me behold thee then in thy bodily shape, if thou beest indeed a fiend," replied the dying knight; "think not that I will blench from thee! By the eternal dungeon, could I but grapple with these horrors that hover round me, as I have done with mortal dangers, heaven nor hell should say that I shrunk from the conflict!"
"Think on thy sins, Reginald Front de Boeuf —on rebellion, on rapine, on murder! who stirred up the licentious John to war against his gray headed father—against his generous brother?"
"Be thou fiend, priest, or devil," replied Front de Boeuf, " thou liest in thy throat! Not I stirred John to rebellion—not I alone—there. were fifty knights and barons, the flower of the midland counties—better men never laid lance in rest—and must I answer for the fault done by fifty? False fiend, I defy thee! Depart, and haunt my couch no more—let me die in peace, if thou be mortal—if thou be a demon, thy time is not yet come."
"In peace thon shall not die," repeated the voice, " even in death shalt thou think on thy murders—on the groans which this castle has echoed—on the blood that is ingrained in its floors."
"Thou canst not shake me by thy petty malice," answered Front de Boeuf, with a ghastly and constrained laugh. "The infidel Jew—it was merit with heaven to deal with him as I did, else wherefore are men canonized who dip their hands in the blood of Saracens?—The Saxon porkers whom I have slain, they were the foes of my country, and of my lineage, and of my liege lord,—Ho! ho! thou seest there is no crevice in my coat of plate,—Art thou fled?— art thou silenced?"
"No, foul parricide!" replied the voice; "think of thy father! think of his death!— think of his banquet room, flooded with his gore, and by the hand of a son!"
"Ha!" answered the baron, after a long pause, "an thou knowest that, thou art indeed the author of evil, and as omniscient as the monks call thee!-—That secret I deemed locked in my own breast, and in but one beside—the temptress, the partaker of my guilt.—Go, leave me, fiend! and seek the Saxon witch Ulrica, who alone could tell thee what she and I alone witnessed. —Go, I say, to her, who washed the wounds, and straighted the corpse, and gave to the slain man the outward show of one parted in time and in the course of nature.—Go to her—she was my temptress, the foul provoker, the more foul rewarder of the deed—let her, as well as I, taste of the tortures which anticipate hell I"
"She already tastes them," said Ulrica, stepping before the couch of Front de Boeuf," she hath long drunken out of this cup, and its bitterness is sweetened to see that thou dost partake it.—Grind not thy teeth, Front de Boeuf—roll not thine eyes —clench not thy hand, nor shake it at me with that gesture of menace! The hand which, like that of thy renowned ancestor who gained thy name, could have broken with one stroke the skull of a mountain bull, is now unnerved and powerless as mine own!"
"Vile, murderous hag!" replied Frontde Boeuf, "detestable screechowl! is it then thou who art come to exult over the ruins thou hast assisted to lay low?"
"Ay, Reginald Front de Boeuf," answered she, "it is Ulrica! it is the daughter of the murdered Torquil Wolfganger! — it is the sister of his slaughtered sons!—it is she who demands of thee, and of thy father's house, father and kindred, name and fame—all that she has lost by the name of Frontde Boeuf!—Think of my wrongs, Front de Boeuf, and answer me, if I speak not truth. Thou hast been my evil angel, and I will be thine—I will dog thee till the very instant of dissolution."
"Detestable fury!" answered Front de Boeuf, "that moment shalt thou never witness.—Ho! Giles, Clement, and Eustace! Saint Maur and Stephen! seize this damned witch, and hurl her from the battlements headlong—she has betrayed us to the Saxon.—Ho! Saint Maur! Clements! false hearted knaves, where tarry ye f
"Call on them again, valiant baron," said the hag, with a smile of grisly mockery; "summon thy vassals around thee, doom them that loiter to the scourge and the dungeon.—But know,mighty chief," she continued, suddenly changing her tone, " thou shalt have neither answer, nor aid, nor obedience at their hands.—Listen to these horrid sounds," for the din of the recommenced assault and defence now rung fearfully loud from the battlements of the castle; "in that war cry is the downfall of thy house.—Theblood-cemented fabric of Front de Boeofs power totters to the foundation, and before the foes he most despised! The Saxon, Reginald! the scorned Saxon assails thy walls!—Why liest thou here, like a worn out hind, when the Saxon storms thy place at strength f
"Gods and fiends!" exclaimed the wounded knight; " O for one moment's strength, to drag myself to the mellay, and perish as becomes my name!"
"Think not of it, valiant warrior!" replied she; "thou shalt die no soldier's death, but perish like the fox in his den, when the peasants have set fire to the cover around it."
"Hateful hag! thou liest," exclaimed Front de Boeuf, " my followers bear them bravely—my