Charles Robert Maturin.

Melmoth the wanderer: a tale (Volume 4) online

. (page 1 of 18)
Online LibraryCharles Robert MaturinMelmoth the wanderer: a tale (Volume 4) → online text (page 1 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


-! -If^






H





(i:i;ii ®> iBsbonve.



o



Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign



http://www.archive.org/details/melmothwanderert04matu




a I B RARY

OF THE
U N IVERSITY
or ILLI NOIS



etn'd Spec. Coll. Lib.





M E L M O T H



THE



WANDERER:



TALE.



BY THE AUTHOR OF " BERTRAM/' &c.



IN FOUR VOLUMES.



VOL. IV.



EDINBURGH:

PRINTED FOR ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND COMPANY,

AXD HURST, ROBINSON, AND CO. CHEAPSIDE,



LONDON.



1820.



» "**• - ' ■ "■■'ft. A - I **• ■ !•"■ 1






"^i



•^- ^\M.,.>



•^-



^ • '".v;^::*



i'-v-. ,..> -^^^ -i^- ■•':• :;. v ' '^"^



^23



K1iX



MELMOTH.



CHAPTER XXI.

If he to thee no answer give,

I'll give to thee a sign ;
A secret known to nought that live>

Save but to me and mine.

• • • JF 4^



Gone to be married.-



Shakespeare.

JL HE whole of the next day was occu-
pied by Donna Clara, to whom letter-
writing was a rare, troublesome, and
momentous task, in reading over and
correcting her answer to her husband's
letter; in which examination she found
so much to correct, interline, alter, mo-

VOL. IV. A



^ MELMOTH :

dify, expunge, and new-model, that final-
ly Donna Clara's epistle very much re-
sembled the work she was now employ-
ed in, namely, that of overcasting a piece
of tapestry wrought by her grandmother,
representing the meeting of king Solomon
and the queen of Sheba. The new work,
instead of repairing, made fearful havock
among the old ; but Donna Clara went on,
like her countryman at Mr Peter's puppet-
show, playing away (with her needle) in a
perfect shower of back- strokes, fore- strokes,
side-thrusts, and counter- thrusts, till not a
figure in the tapestry could know himself
again. The faded face of Solomon was gar-
nished with a florid beard of scarlet silk
(which Fra Jose at first told her she must rip
out, as it made Solomon very little better
than Judas) that made him resemble a boil-
ed scallop. The fardingale of the queen of
Sheba was expanded to an enormous hoop,
of whose shrunk and pallid wearer it might
be truly said, " Minima est pars sui'' The
dog that, in the original tapestry, stood



A TALE. 3

by the spurred and booted heel of the
oriental monarch, (who was clad in Spanish
costume), by dint of a few tufts of black
and yellow satin, w^as converted into a ti-
ger, — a transformation which his grinning
fangs rendered as authentic as heart could
wish. And the parrot perched on the
queen's shoulder, with the help of a train
of green and gold, which the ignorant mis-
took for her majesty's mantle, proved a
very passable peacock.

" As little trace of her original epistle
did Donna Clara's present one bear, as did
her elaborate overcasting to the original
and painful labours of her grandmother.
In both, however, Donna Clara (who
scorned to flinch) went over the same
ground with dim eye, and patient touch,
and inextinguishable and remorseless as-
siduity. The letter, such as it was,
was still sufficiently characteristic of the
writer. Some passages of it the reader
shall be indulged with, — and we reckon
on his gratitude for not insisting on his



MELMOTH :



perusal of the whole. The authentic copy,
from which we are favoured with the ex-
tracts, runs thus. * * *



^



" Your daughter takes to her religion
like mother's milk ; and well may she do
so, considering that the trunk of our fami-
ly was planted in the genuine* soil of the
Catholic church, and that every branch of
of it must flourish there or perish. For a
Neophyte, (as Fra Jose wills me to word
it), she is as promising a sprout as one
should wish to see flourishing within the
pale of the holy church ; — and for a hea-
then, she is so amenable, submissive, and
of such maidenly suavity, that for the
comportment of her person, and the dis-
creet and virtuous ordering of her mind,
I have no Christian mother to envy. Nay,
I sometimes take pity on them, when I
see the lightness, the exceeding vain car-
riage, and the unadvised eagerness to be
wedded, of the best trained maidens of our
country. This our daughter hath nothing



A TALE, 5

of, either in her outward demeanour, or
inward mind. She talks little, the?rfore
she cannot think much; and she dreams
not of the light devices of love, and is
therefore well qualified for the marriage
proposed unto her. * * *

yf: * * * *

" One thing, dear spouse of my soul, I
would have thee to take notice of, ^nd
guard like the apple of thine eye, — our
daughter is deranged, but never, on thy
discretion, mention this to Don Montilla,
even though he were the descendant in
the right line of the Campeador, or of
Gonsalvo di Cordova. Her derangement
will in no wise impede or contravene her
marriage, — for be it known to thee, it
breaks out but at times, and at such
times, that the most jealous eye of man
could not spy it, unless he had a fore-
taught intimation of it. She hath
strange fantasies swimming in her brain,
such as, that heretics and heathens shall
not be everlastingly damned — (God and



6 MELMOTH :

the saints protect us !) — which must clear-
ly proceed from madness, — but which her
Catholic husband, if ever he comes to
the knowledge of them, shall know
how to expel, by aid of the church, and
conjugal authority. That thou may'st
better know the truth of what I hereby
painfully certify, the saints and Fra Jose
(wj^o will not let me tell a lie, because he
in a manner holds my pen) can witness,
that about four days before we left Ma-
drid, as we went to church, and I was
about, while ascending the steps, to dole
alms to a mendicant woman wrapt in a
mantle, who held up a naked child for the
receiving of charity, your daughter twitch-
ed my sleeve, while she whispered, ' Ma-
dam, she cannot be mother to that child,
for she is covered, and her child is naked.
If she were its mother, she would cover
her child, and not be comfortably wrapt
herself/ True it was, I found afterwards
the wretched woman had hired the child
from its more wretched mother, and my



A TALE. 7

alms had paid the price of its hire for the
day ; but still that not a whit disproved
our daughter insane, inasmuch as it show-
ed her ignorant of the fashion and usages
of the beggars of the country, and did in
some degree shew a doubt of the merit of
alms-deeds, which thou know'st none but
heretics or madmen could deny. Other
and grievous proofs of her insanity doth
she give daily ; but not willing to in-
cumber you with ink, (which Fra Jose
willeth me to call atramentum), I will add
but a few particulars to arouse your dor-
mant faculties, which may be wrapt in le-
thargic obliviousness by the anodyne of
my somniferous epistolation."

" Reverend Father," said Donna Clara,
looking up to Fra Jose, who had dictated
the last line, " Don Francisco will know
the last line not to be mine — he heard it
in one of your sermons. Let me add
the extraordinary proof of my daughter's
insanity at the ball." — " Add or diminish,
compose or confound, what you will, in
God's name !" said Fra Jose, vexed at the



8 . MELMOTH :

frequent eraziires and lituras which disfi-
gured the lines of his dictation; " for
though in style I may somewhat boast of
my superiority, in scratches no hen on the
best dunghill in Spain can contend with
you ! On, then, in the name of all the
saints ! — and when it pleases heaven to
send an interpreter to your husband, we
may hope to hear from him by the next
post-angel, for surely such a letter was
never written on earth."

" With this encouragement and ap-
plause, Donna Clara proceeded to relate
sundry other errors and wanderings of her
daughter, which, to a mind so swathed,
crippled, and dwarfed, by the ligatures
which the hand of custom had twined
round it since its first hour of conscious-
ness, might well have appeared like the
aberrations of insanity. Among other
proofs, she mentioned that Isidora's first
introduction to a Christian and Catholic
church, was on that night of penitence in
passion-week, when, the lights being ex-



A TALE. 79

tinguished, the miserere is chaunted in
profound darkness, the penitents macerate
themselves, and groans are heard on every
side instead of prayers, as if the worship of
Moloch was renewed without its fires ; —
struck with horror at the sounds she heard,
and the darkness which surrounded her,
Isidora demanded what they were doing.
— ** Worshipping God," was the answer.

" At the expiration of Lent, she was in-
troduced to a brilliant assembly, where the
gay fandango was succeeded by the soft
notes of the seguedilla, — and the crackling
of the castanets, and the tinkling of the
guitars, marked alternate time to the light
and ecstatic step of youth, and the silvery
and love-tuned voice of beautv. Touched
with delight at all she saw and heard, —
the smiles that dimpled and sparkled over
her beautiful features reflecting every
shade of pleasure they encountered, like
the ripplings of a brook kissed by the
moon-beams, — she eagerly asked, " And
are not these worshipping God ?" — " Out

A %



10 MELMOTH :

on it, daughter !" interposed Donna Clara;
who happened to overhear the question;
*' This is a vain and sinful pastime, — the
invention of the devil to delude the chil-
dren of folly, — hateful in the eyes of heaven
and its saints, — and abhorred and renoun-
ced by the faithful." — " Then there are
two Gods," said Isidora sighing, " the
God of smiles and happiness, and the God
of groans and blood. Would I could
serve the former!" — '* I will take order
you shall serve the latter, heathenish and
profane that you are !" answered Donna
Clara, as she hurried her from the assem-
bly, shocked at the scandal which her
words might have given. These and
many similar anecdotes were painfully in-
dited in Donna Clara's long epistle, which,
after being folded and sealed by Fra Jose,
(who swore by the habit he wore, he had
rather study twenty pages of the Polyglot
fasting, than read it over once more), was
duly forwarded to Don Francisco.

" The habits and movements of Don



J^A TALE. 11

Francisco were, like those of his nation,
so deliberate and dilatory, and his aver-
sion to writing letters, except on mercan-
tile subjects, so well known, that Donna
Clara was actually alarmed at receiving,
in the evening of the day in which her
epistle was dispatched, another letter from
her husband.

" Its contents must be guessed to be
sufficiently singular, when the result was,
that Donna Clara and Fra Jose sat up
over them nearly the whole of the night,
in consultation, anxiety, and fear. So in-
tense was their conference, that it is re-
corded it was never interrupted even by
the lady telling her beads, or the monk
thinking of his supper. All the artificial
habits, the customary indulgences, the fac-
titious existence of both, were merged
in the real genuine fear which pervad-
ed their minds, and which asserted its
power over both in painful and exact-
ing proportion to their long and hardy
rejection of its influence. Their minds
succumbed together, and sought and gave



12 melmoth:

in vain, feeble counsel, and fruitless conso-
lation. They read over and over again
this extraordinary letter, and at every read-
ing their minds grew darker, — and their
counsels more perplexed, — and their looks
more dismal. Ever and anon they turn-
ed their eyes on it, as it lay open be-
fore them on Donna Clara's ebony writ-
ing-desk, and then starting, asked each
other by looks, and sometimes in words,
" Did either hear some strange noise in
the house ?" The letter, among other
matter not important to the reader, con-
tained the singular passage following. *

* * *• ^r *

" In my travel from the place where
I landed, to that whence I now write,
I fortuned to be in company with stran-
gers, from whom I heard things touch-
ing me (not as they meant, but as my
fear interpreted them) in a point the most
exquisite that can prick and wound the
soul of a Christian father. These I shall
discuss unto thee at thy more leisure.
They are full of fearful matter, and such



A TALE. IS

as may perchance require the aid of some
churchman rightly to understand, and ful-
ly to fathom. Nevertheless this I can
commend to thy discretion, that after I
had parted from this strange conference,
the reports of which I cannot by letter
communicate to thee, I retired to my
chamber full of sad and heavy thoughts,
and being seated in my chair, pored over
a tome containing legends of departed spi-
rits, in nowise contradictive to the doc-
trine of the holy Catholic church, other-
wise I would have crushed it with the sole
of my foot into the fire that burned be-
fore me on the hearth, and spit on its cin-
ders with the spittle of my mouth. Now,
whether it was the company I fortuned to
be into, (whose conversation must never
be known but to thee only), or the book
I had been reading, which contained cer-
tain extracts from Pliny, Artemidore, and
others, full-filled with tales which I may
not now recount, but which did relate
altogether to the revivification of the de-



14 MELMOTH :

parted, appearing in due accordance with
our Catholic conceptions of Christian ghosts
in purgatory, with their suitable accoutre-
ments of chains and flames, — as thus Pliny
writeth, " Apparebat eidolon senex, ma-
cie et senie confectus" — or finally, the
weariness of my lonely journey, or other
things I know not, — but feeling my mind
ill-disposed for deeper converse with books
or my own thoughts, and though oppress-
ed by sleep, unwilling to retire to rest,—
a mood which I and others have often ex-
perienced, — I took out thy letters from
the desk in which I duly reposit them,
and read over the description Avhich thou
didst send me of our daughter, upon the
first intelligence of her being discovered
in that accursed isle of heathenism, — and
I do assure thee, the description of our
daughter hath been written in such cha-
racters on the bosom to which she hath
never been clasped, that it would defy the
art of all the limners in Spain to paint it
more effectually. So, thinking on those



A TALE. 15

dark-blue eyes,— and those natural ringlets
which will not obey their new mistress,
art,— and that slender undulating shape, —
and thinking it would soon be folded in
my arms, and ask the blessing of a Chris-
tian father in Christian tones, I dozed as I
sat in my chair; and my dreams taking
part with my waking thoughts, I was
a-dreamt that such a creature, so fair,
so fond, so cherubic, sat beside me, and
asked me blessing. As I bowed to give
it, I nodded in my chair and awoke. A-
woke I say, for what followed was as pal-
pable to human sight as the furniture of
my apartment, or any other tangible ob-
ject. There was a female seated opposite
me, clad in a Spanish dress, but her veil
flowed down to her feet. She sat, and
seemed to expect that I should bespeak
her first. " Damsel," I said, " what seek-
est thou ?— or why art thou here ?" The
figure never raised its veil, nor motioned
with hand or lip. Mine head was full of
what I had heard and read of; and after



16 MELMOTH :

making the sign of the cross, and uttering
certain prayers, I approached that figure,
and said, " Damsel, what wantest thou ?"
— " A father," said the form, raising its
veil, and disclosing the identical features
of my daughter Isidora, as described
in thy numerous letters. Thou mayest
well guess my consternation, which I
might almost term fear, at the sight and
words of this beautiful but strange and so-
lemn figure. Nor was my perplexity and
trouble diminished but increased, when
the figure, rising and pointing to the door,
through which she forthwith passed with
a mysterious grace and incredible alacrity,
uttered, m ti^ansitu, words like these : —
" Save me ! — save me ! — lose not a mo-
ment, or I am lost!" And I swear to
thee, wife, that while that figure sat or de-
parted, I heard not the rusthng of her gar-
ments, or the tread of her foot, or the
sound of her respiration — only as she went
out, there was a rushing sound as of a
wind passing through the chamber, — and



A TALE. 17

a mist seemed to hang on every object a-
round me, which dispersed, — and I was
conscious of heaving a deep sigh, as if a
load had been removed from my breast.
I sat thereafter for an hour pondering on
.what I had seen, and not knowing whe-
ther to term it a waking dream, or a dream-
like waking. I am a mortal man, sensi-
ble of fear, and liable to error, — but I am
also a Catholic Christian, and have ever
been a hearty contemner of your tales of
spectres and visions, excepting always
when sanctioned by the authority of the
holv church, and recorded in the lives of
her saints and martyrs. Finding no end
or fruit of these my heavy cogitations, I
withdrew myself to bed, where I long lay
tossing and sleepless, till at the approach
of morning, just as I was falling into a
deep sleep, I was awoke by a noise like
that of a breeze waving my curtains. I
started up, and drawing them, looked a-
round me. There was a glimpse of day-
light appearing through the window-



I 8 MELMOTH :

shutters, but not sufficient to enable me to
distinguish the objects in the room, were
it not for the lamp that burned on the
hearth, and whose hght, though somewhat
dim, was perfectly distinct. By it I dis-
covered, near the door, a figure which my
sight, rendered more acute by my terror,
verified as the identical figure I had be-
fore beheld, who, waving its arm with a
melancholy gesture, and uttering in a pi-
teous voice these words, " It is too late,"
disappeared. As, I will own to thee,
overcome with horror at this second visi-
tation, I fell back on my pillow almost
bereft of the use of my faculties, I remem-
ber the clock struck three.'*

'' As Donna Clara and the priest (on
their tenth perusal of the letter) arrived
at these words, the clock in the hall below
struck three. " That is a singular coin-
cidence," said Fra Jose. " Do you think
it nothing more, Father?" said Donna
Clara, turning very pale. " I know not,"
said the priest ; " many have told credible



A TALE. 19

stories of warnings permitted by our guar-
dian saints, to be given even by the mini-
stry of inanimate things. But to what
purpose are we warned, when we know
not the evil we are to shun ?" — " Hush ! —
hark !" said Donna Clara, " did you hear
no noise ?" — " None," said Fra Jose listen-
ing, not without some appearance of per-
turbation — " None," he added, in a more
tranquil and assured voice, after a pause ;
" and the noise which I did hear about
two hours ago, was of short continuance,
and has not been renewed." — " What a
flickering light these tapers give !" said
Donna Clara, viewing them with eyes
glassy and fixed with fear. " The case-
ments are open," answered the priest. *•' So
they have been since we sat here," re-
turned Donna Clara ; " yet now see what
a stream of air comes rushing against
them ! Holy God ! they flare as if they
would go out !"

" The priest, looking up at the tapers,
observed the truth of what she said, — and



20 melmoth:

at the same time perceived the tapestry
near the door to be considerably agitated.
" There is a door open in some other di-
rection," said he, rising. " You are not
going to leave me, Father?" said Donna
Clara, who sat in her chair paralyzed with
terror, and unable to follov/ him but with
her eyes.

" The Father Jose made no answer. He
was now in the passage, where a circum-
stance which he observed had arrested all
his attention, — the door of Isidora's apart-
ment was open, and lights were burning in
it. He entered it slowly at first, and gazed
around, but its inmate was not there. He
glanced his eye on the bed, but no human
form had pressed it that night — it lay un-
touched and undisturbed. The casement
next caught his eye, now glancing with
the quickness of fear on every object. He
approached it — it was wide open, — the
casement that looked towards the garden.
In his horror at this discovery, the good
Father could not avoid uttering a cry that



A TALE. 21

pierced the ears of Donna Clara, who,
trembling and scarce able to make her
way to the room, attempted to follow him
in vain, and fell down in the passage.
The priest raised and tried to assist her
back to her own apartment. The wretch-
ed mother, when at last placed in her
chair, neither fainted or wept; but with
white and speechless lips, and a paralytic
motion of her hand, tried to point towards
her daughters apartment, as if she wished
to be conveyed there. " It is too late,"
said the priest, unconsciously using the
ominous words quoted in the letter of
Don Francisco.



CHAPTER XXII.



Responde meum argumentum— nomen est nomen
'^ergo, quod tibi est nomen — ^responde argumentum.

Beaumont and Fletcher's
Wit at several Weapons.

JL HAT night was the one fixed on for
the union of Isidora and Melmoth. She
had retired early to her chamber, and sat
at the casement watching for his approach
for hours before she could probably expect
it. It might be supposed that at this ter-
rible crisis of her fate, she felt agitated by
a thousand emotions, — that a soul suscep-



A TALE. 25

tible like hers felt itself almost torn in
pieces by the struggle, — but it was not so.
When a mind strong by nature, but
weakened by fettering circumstances, is
driven to make one strong spring to free
itself, it has no leisure to calculate the
weight of its hindrances, or the width of
its leap, — ^it sits with its chains heaped a-
bout it, thinking only of the bound that
is to be its liberation — or

" During the many hours that Isidora
awaited the approach of this mysterious
bridegroom, she felt nothing but the aw-
ful sense of that approach, and of the e-
vent that was to follow. So she sat at
her casement, pale but resolute, and trust-
ing in the extraordinary promise of Mel-
moth, that by whatever means he was en-
abled to visit her, by those she would be
enabled to effect her escape, in spite of
her well-guarded mansion, and vigilant
household.

" It was near one (the hour at which
Fra Jose, who was sitting in consul-



24 MEL3WTH :

tation with her mother over that melan-
choly letter, heard the noise alluded to in
the preceding chapter) when Melmoth ap-
peared in the garden, and, without utter-
ing a word, threw up a ladder of ropes,
which, in short and sullen whispers, he in-
structed her to fasten, and assisted her to
descend. They hurried through the gar-
den, — and Isidora, amid all the novelty of
her feelings and situation, could not avoid
testifying her surprise at the facility with
which they passed through the well-secur-
ed garden gate.

" They were now in the open country,
— a region far wilder to Isidora than the
flowery paths of that untrodden isle, where
she had no enemy, ^ow in every breeze
she heard a menacing voice, — in the echoes
of her own light steps she heard the sound
of steps pursuing her."

" The night was very dark, — unlike the
midsummer nights in that delicious cli-
mate. A blast sometimes cold, sometimes
stifling from heat, indicated some extraor-



A TALE. 25

dinary vicissitude in the atmosphere.
There is something very fearful in this
kind of wintry feeling in a summer night.
The cold, the darkness, followed by in-
tense heat, and a pale, meteoric light-
ning, seemed to unite the mingled evils of
the various seasons, and to trace their sad
analogy to life, — whose stormy summer al-
lows youth little to enjoy, and whose chill-
ing winter leaves age nothing to hope.

*' To Isidora, whose sensibilities were
still so acutely physical, that she could feel
the state of the elements as if they were
the oracles of nature, which she could
interpret at sight, — this dark and trou-
bled appearance seemed like a fearful o-
men. More than once she paused, trem-
bled, and turned on Melmoth a glance
of doubt and terror, — which the dark-
ness of the night, of course, prevented
» him from observing. Perhaps there was
another cause, — but as they hurried on,
Isidora's strength and courage began to
fail together. She perceived that she was
VOL. IV. B



26 MELMOTH :

borne on with a kind of supernatural ve-
locity,— her breath failed,— her feet faulter-
ed, — and she felt like one in a dream.

" Stay!" she exclaimed, gasping from


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryCharles Robert MaturinMelmoth the wanderer: a tale (Volume 4) → online text (page 1 of 18)