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- The Mysteries of Udolpho - 70/153 -
'Art thou in thy senses, Annette?' said Madame Montoni; 'or is this a trick to deceive me? Tell me, this instant, what Ludovico DID say to thee;--no equivocation;--this instant.'
'Nay, madam,' cried Annette, 'if this is all I am to get for having told the secret'--Her mistress thus continued to insist, and Annette to protest, till Montoni, himself, appeared, who bade the latter leave the room, and she withdrew, trembling for the fate of her story. Emily also was retiring, but her aunt desired she would stay; and Montoni had so often made her a witness of their contention, that he no longer had scruples on that account.
'I insist upon knowing this instant, Signor, what all this means:' said his wife--'what are all these armed men, whom they tell me of, gone out about?' Montoni answered her only with a look of scorn; and Emily whispered something to her. 'It does not signify,' said her aunt: 'I will know; and I will know, too, what the castle has been fortified for.'
'Come, come,' said Montoni, 'other business brought me here. I must be trifled with no longer. I have immediate occasion for what I demand--those estates must be given up, without further contention; or I may find a way--'
'They never shall be given up,' interrupted Madame Montoni: 'they never shall enable you to carry on your wild schemes;--but what are these? I will know. Do you expect the castle to be attacked? Do you expect enemies? Am I to be shut up here, to be killed in a siege?'
'Sign the writings,' said Montoni, 'and you shall know more.'
'What enemy can be coming?' continued his wife. 'Have you entered into the service of the state? Am I to be blocked up here to die?'
'That may possibly happen,' said Montoni, 'unless you yield to my demand: for, come what may, you shall not quit the castle till then.' Madame Montoni burst into loud lamentation, which she as suddenly checked, considering, that her husband's assertions might be only artifices, employed to extort her consent. She hinted this suspicion, and, in the next moment, told him also, that his designs were not so honourable as to serve the state, and that she believed he had only commenced a captain of banditti, to join the enemies of Venice, in plundering and laying waste the surrounding country.
Montoni looked at her for a moment with a steady and stern countenance; while Emily trembled, and his wife, for once, thought she had said too much. 'You shall be removed, this night,' said he, 'to the east turret: there, perhaps, you may understand the danger of offending a man, who has an unlimited power over you.'
Emily now fell at his feet, and, with tears of terror, supplicated for her aunt, who sat, trembling with fear, and indignation; now ready to pour forth execrations, and now to join the intercessions of Emily. Montoni, however, soon interrupted these entreaties with an horrible oath; and, as he burst from Emily, leaving his cloak, in her hand, she fell to the floor, with a force, that occasioned her a severe blow on the forehead. But he quitted the room, without attempting to raise her, whose attention was called from herself, by a deep groan from Madame Montoni, who continued otherwise unmoved in her chair, and had not fainted. Emily, hastening to her assistance, saw her eyes rolling, and her features convulsed.
Having spoken to her, without receiving an answer, she brought water, and supported her head, while she held it to her lips; but the increasing convulsions soon compelled Emily to call for assistance. On her way through the hall, in search of Annette, she met Montoni, whom she told what had happened, and conjured to return and comfort her aunt; but he turned silently away, with a look of indifference, and went out upon the ramparts. At length she found old Carlo and Annette, and they hastened to the dressing-room, where Madame Montoni had fallen on the floor, and was lying in strong convulsions. Having lifted her into the adjoining room, and laid her on the bed, the force of her disorder still made all their strength necessary to hold her, while Annette trembled and sobbed, and old Carlo looked silently and piteously on, as his feeble hands grasped those of his mistress, till, turning his eyes upon Emily, he exclaimed, 'Good God! Signora, what is the matter?'
Emily looked calmly at him, and saw his enquiring eyes fixed on her: and Annette, looking up, screamed loudly; for Emily's face was stained with blood, which continued to fall slowly from her forehead: but her attention had been so entirely occupied by the scene before her, that she had felt no pain from the wound. She now held an handkerchief to her face, and, notwithstanding her faintness, continued to watch Madame Montoni, the violence of whose convulsions was abating, till at length they ceased, and left her in a kind of stupor.
'My aunt must remain quiet,' said Emily. 'Go, good Carlo; if we should want your assistance, I will send for you. In the mean time, if you have an opportunity, speak kindly of your mistress to your master.'
'Alas!' said Carlo, 'I have seen too much! I have little influence with the Signor. But do, dear young lady, take some care of yourself; that is an ugly wound, and you look sadly.'
'Thank you, my friend, for your consideration,' said Emily, smiling kindly: 'the wound is trifling, it came by a fall.'
Carlo shook his head, and left the room; and Emily, with Annette, continued to watch by her aunt. 'Did my lady tell the Signor what Ludovico said, ma'amselle?' asked Annette in a whisper; but Emily quieted her fears on the subject.
'I thought what this quarrelling would come to,' continued Annette: 'I suppose the Signor has been beating my lady.'
'No, no, Annette, you are totally mistaken, nothing extra-ordinary has happened.'
'Why, extraordinary things happen here so often, ma'amselle, that there is nothing in them. Here is another legion of those ill- looking fellows, come to the castle, this morning.'
'Hush! Annette, you will disturb my aunt; we will talk of that by and bye.'
They continued watching silently, till Madame Montoni uttered a low sigh, when Emily took her hand, and spoke soothingly to her; but the former gazed with unconscious eyes, and it was long before she knew her niece. Her first words then enquired for Montoni; to which Emily replied by an entreaty, that she would compose her spirits, and consent to be kept quiet, adding, that, if she wished any message to be conveyed to him, she would herself deliver it. 'No,' said her aunt faintly, 'no--I have nothing new to tell him. Does he persist in saying I shall be removed from my chamber?'
Emily replied, that he had not spoken, on the subject, since Madame Montoni heard him; and then she tried to divert her attention to some other topic; but her aunt seemed to be inattentive to what she said, and lost in secret thoughts. Emily, having brought her some refreshment, now left her to the care of Annette, and went in search of Montoni, whom she found on a remote part of the rampart, conversing among a group of the men described by Annette. They stood round him with fierce, yet subjugated, looks, while he, speaking earnestly, and pointing to the walls, did not perceive Emily, who remained at some distance, waiting till he should be at leisure, and observing involuntarily the appearance of one man, more savage than his fellows, who stood resting on his pike, and looking, over the shoulders of a comrade, at Montoni, to whom he listened with uncommon earnestness. This man was apparently of low condition; yet his looks appeared not to acknowledge the superiority of Montoni, as did those of his companions; and sometimes they even assumed an air of authority, which the decisive manner of the Signor could not repress. Some few words of Montoni then passed in the wind; and, as the men were separating, she heard him say, 'This evening, then, begin the watch at sun-set.'
'At sun-set, Signor,' replied one or two of them, and walked away; while Emily approached Montoni, who appeared desirous of avoiding her: but, though she observed this, she had courage to proceed. She endeavoured to intercede once more for her aunt, represented to him her sufferings, and urged the danger of exposing her to a cold apartment in her present state. 'She suffers by her own folly,' said Montoni, 'and is not to be pitied;--she knows how she may avoid these sufferings in future--if she is removed to the turret, it will be her own fault. Let her be obedient, and sign the writings you heard of, and I will think no more of it.'
When Emily ventured still to plead, he sternly silenced and rebuked her for interfering in his domestic affairs, but, at length, dismissed her with this concession--That he would not remove Madame Montoni, on the ensuing night, but allow her till the next to consider, whether she would resign her settlements, or be imprisoned in the east turret of the castle, 'where she shall find,' he added, 'a punishment she may not expect.'
Emily then hastened to inform her aunt of this short respite and of the alternative, that awaited her, to which the latter made no reply, but appeared thoughtful, while Emily, in consideration of her extreme languor, wished to sooth her mind by leading it to less interesting topics: and, though these efforts were unsuccessful, and Madame Montoni became peevish, her resolution, on the contended point, seemed somewhat to relax, and Emily recommended, as her only means of safety, that she should submit to Montoni's demand. 'You know not what you advise,' said her aunt. 'Do you understand, that these estates will descend to you at my death, if I persist in a refusal?'
'I was ignorant of that circumstance, madam,' replied Emily, 'but the knowledge of it cannot with-hold me from advising you to adopt the conduct, which not only your peace, but, I fear, your safety requires, and I entreat, that you will not suffer a consideration comparatively so trifling, to make you hesitate a moment in resigning them.'
'Are you sincere, niece?' 'Is it possible you can doubt it, madam?' Her aunt appeared to be affected. 'You are not unworthy of these estates, niece,' said she: 'I would wish to keep them for your sake- -you shew a virtue I did not expect.'
'How have I deserved this reproof, madam?' said Emily sorrowfully.
'Reproof!' replied Madame Montoni: 'I meant to praise your virtue.'
'Alas! here is no exertion of virtue,' rejoined Emily, 'for here is no temptation to be overcome.'
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