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like those who, as they sung and danced in this once 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 bedroom, 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 the 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, said 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 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 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 bid Ludovico good-night, who, having respectfully returned the wish, closed the door upon them, and fastened it. Then, as he retired to the bedchamber, 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 drawing-room, whose spaciousness and silent gloom somewhat awed him. For a moment he stood, looking back through the long suit of room he had quitted, and as he turned, perceiving a light and his own figure reflected in one of the large mirrors, he started. Other objects, too, were seen obscurely on its dark surface, but he paused not to examine them, and returned hastily into the bedroom, as he surveyed which, he observed the door of the oriel, and opened it. All within was still. On looking round, his eye was arrested by the portrait of the deceased marchioness, upon which he gazed for a considerable time with great . attention and some surprise ; and then, having examined the closet, he returned into the bedroom, where he kindled a wood fire, the bright blaze of which revived his spirits, which had begun to yield to the gloom and silence of the place, for gusts of wind alone broke at intervals this silence. He now drew a small table and a chair near the fire, took a bottle of wine and some cold provisions out of his basket, and regaled himself. When he had finished his repast, he laid his sword upon the table, and not feeling disposed to sleep, drew from his pocket the book he had spoken of. It was a volume of old Provençal tales. Having stirred the fire into a brighter blaze, trimmed his lamp, and drawn his chair upon the hearth, he began to read, and his attention was soon wholly occupied by the scenes which the page disclosed.
The count, meanwhile, had returned to the supper-room, whither those of the party who had attended him to the north apartment had retreated, upon hearing Dorothee's scream, and who were now earnest in their inquiries concerning those chambers. The count rallied his guests on their precipitate retreat, and on their superstitious inclination which had occasioned it; and this led to the question, whether the spirit, after it has quitted the body, is ever permitted to revisit the earth; and if it is, whether it was possible for spirits to become visible to the sense ? The baron was of opinion, that the first was probable: and he endeavored to justify this opinion by respectable authorities, both ancient and modern, which he quoted. The count, however, was decidedly against him; and a long conversation ensued, in which the usual arguments on these subjects were, on both sides, brought forward with skill, and discussed with candor, but without converting either party to the opinion of his opponent. The effect of their conversation on their auditors was various. Though the count had much the superiority of the baron in point of argument, he had considerably fewer adherents ; for that love, so natural to the human mind, of whatever is able to distend it's faculties with wonder and astonishment attached the majority of the company to the side of the baron; and though many of the count's propositions were unanswerable, his opponents were inclined to believe this the consequence of their own want of knowledge on so abstract a subject, rather than that arguments did not exist which were forcible enough to conquer his.
Blanche was pale with attention, till the ridicule in her father's glance called a blush upon her countenance, and she then endeavored to forget the superstitious tales she had been told in her convent. Meanwhile, Emily had been listening with deep attention to the discussion of what was to her a very interesting question, and remembering the appearance she had witnessed in the apartment of the late marchioness, she was frequently chilled with awe. Several times she was on the point of mentioning what she had seen, but the fear of giving pain to the count, and the dread of his ridicule, restrained her; and awaiting in anxious expectation the event of Ludovico's intrepidity, she determined that her future silence should depend upon it.
When the party had separated for the night, and the count retired to his dressing-room, the remembrance of the desolate scenes he had lately witnessed in his own mansion deeply affected him, but at length he was roused from his reverie and silence. What music is that I hear ? said he suddenly, to his valet. Who plays at this late hour ?
The man made no reply ; and the count continued to listen, and then added, That is no common musician; he touches the instrument with a delicate hand — who is it, Pierre ?
My lord ! said the man, hesitatingly.
Nothing, my lord, I meant nothing, rejoined the man, submissively, only — that music — goes about the house at midnight often, and I thought your lordship might have heard it before.
Music goes about the house at midnight! Poor fellow! does nobody dance to the music, too?
It is not in the chateau, I believe, my lord; the sounds come from the woods, they say, though they seem so near; but then a spirit can do anything.
Ah, poor fellow, said the count, I perceive you are as silly as the rest of them; to-morrow you will be convinced of your ridiculous error. But, hark!— what voice is that?
Oh, my lord! that is the voice we often hear with the music.
Often! said the count: how often, pray? It is a very fine one.
Why, my lord, I myself have not heard it more than two or three times, but there are those who have lived here longer, that have heard it often enough.
What a swell was that! exclaimed the count, as he still listened, and now, what a dying cadence! This is surely something more than mortal!
That is what they say, my lord, said the valet; they say it is nothing mortal that utters it; and if I might say my thoughts —
Peace! said the count; and be listened till the strain died away.
This is strange! said he, as he turned from the window. Close the casements, Pierre.
Pierre obeyed, and the count soon after dismissed him, but did not so soon lose the remembrance of the music, which long vibrated in his fancy in tones of melting sweetness, while surprise and perplexity engaged his thoughts.
Ludovico, meanwhile, in his remote chamber, heard now and then the faint echo of a closing door as the family retired to rest, and then the hall clock, at a great distance, strike twelve. It is midnight, said he, and he looked suspiciously round the spacious chamber. The fire on the hearth was now nearly expiring, for his attention having been engaged by the book before him, he had forgotten everything besides; but he soon added fresh wood, not because he was cold, though the night was stormy, but because he was cheerless; and having again trimmed his lamp, he poured out a glass of wine, drew his chair nearer to the crackling blaze, tried to be deaf to the wind that howled mournfully at the casements, endeavored to abstract his mind from the melancholy that was stealing upon him, and again took up his book. It had been lent to him by Dorothee, who had formerly picked it up in an obscure corner of the marquis's library, and who, having opened it, and perceived some of the marvels it related, had carefully preserved it for her own entertainment, its condition giving her some excuse for detaining it from its proper station. The damp corner into which it had fallen had caused the cover to be disfigured and mouldy, and the leaves to be so discolored with spots that it was not without difficulty the letters could be traced. The fictions of the Provençal writers, whether drawn from the Arabian legends, brought by the Saracens into Spain, or recounting the chivalric exploits performed by the crusaders whom the troubadours accompanied to the East, were generally splendid, and always marvellous, both in scenery and incident; and it is not wonderful that Dorothee and Ludovico should be fascinated by inventions which had captivated the careless imagination of every rank of society in a former age. Some of the tales, however, in the book now before Ludovico, were of simple structure, and exhibited nothing of the magnificent machinery and heroic manners which usually characterized the fables of the twelfth century, and of this description was the one he now happened to open; which in its original style was of great length, but which may be thus shortly related. The reader will perceive that it is strongly tinctured with the superstition of the times.
THE PROVENÇAL TALE. There lived, in the province of Bretagne, a noble baron, famous for bis magnificence and courtly hospitalities. His