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- The Mysteries of Udolpho - 90/153 -

in a few minutes after I was not so vexed, for there came Signor Verezzi roaring along the passage, like a mad bull, and he mistook Ludovico's hall, for old Carlo's; so he tried to burst open the door, and called out for more wine, for that he had drunk all the flasks dry, and was dying of thirst. So we were all as still as night, that he might suppose there was nobody in the room; but the Signor was as cunning as the best of us, and kept calling out at the door, "Come forth, my antient hero!" said he, "here is no enemy at the gate, that you need hide yourself: come forth, my valorous Signor Steward!" Just then old Carlo opened his door, and he came with a flask in his hand; for, as soon as the Signor saw him, he was as tame as could be, and followed him away as naturally as a dog does a butcher with a piece of meat in his basket. All this I saw through the key-hole. Well, Annette, said Ludovico, jeeringly, shall I let you out now? O no, says I, I would not'--

'I have some questions to ask you on another subject,' interrupted Emily, quite wearied by this story. 'Do you know whether there are any prisoners in the castle, and whether they are confined at this end of the edifice?'

'I was not in the way, ma'amselle,' replied Annette, 'when the first party came in from the mountains, and the last party is not come back yet, so I don't know, whether there are any prisoners; but it is expected back to-night, or to-morrow, and I shall know then, perhaps.'

Emily enquired if she had ever heard the servants talk of prisoners.

'Ah ma'amselle!' said Annette archly, 'now I dare say you are thinking of Monsieur Valancourt, and that he may have come among the armies, which, they say, are come from our country, to fight against this state, and that he has met with some of OUR people, and is taken captive. O Lord! how glad I should be, if it was so!'

'Would you, indeed, be glad?' said Emily, in a tone of mournful reproach.

'To be sure I should, ma'am,' replied Annette, 'and would not you be glad too, to see Signor Valancourt? I don't know any chevalier I like better, I have a very great regard for the Signor, truly.'

'Your regard for him cannot be doubted,' said Emily, 'since you wish to see him a prisoner.'

'Why no, ma'amselle, not a prisoner either; but one must be glad to see him, you know. And it was only the other night I dreamt--I dreamt I saw him drive into the castle-yard all in a coach and six, and dressed out, with a laced coat and a sword, like a lord as he is.'

Emily could not forbear smiling at Annette's ideas of Valancourt, and repeated her enquiry, whether she had heard the servants talk of prisoners.

'No, ma'amselle,' replied she, 'never; and lately they have done nothing but talk of the apparition, that has been walking about of a night on the ramparts, and that frightened the sentinels into fits. It came among them like a flash of fire, they say, and they all fell down in a row, till they came to themselves again; and then it was gone, and nothing to be seen but the old castle walls; so they helped one another up again as fast as they could. You would not believe, ma'amselle, though I shewed you the very cannon, where it used to appear.'

'And are you, indeed, so simple, Annette,' said Emily, smiling at this curious exaggeration of the circumstances she had witnessed, 'as to credit these stories?'

'Credit them, ma'amselle! why all the world could not persuade me out of them. Roberto and Sebastian and half a dozen more of them went into fits! To be sure, there was no occasion for that; I said, myself, there was no need of that, for, says I, when the enemy comes, what a pretty figure they will cut, if they are to fall down in fits, all of a row! The enemy won't be so civil, perhaps, as to walk off, like the ghost, and leave them to help one another up, but will fall to, cutting and slashing, till he makes them all rise up dead men. No, no, says I, there is reason in all things: though I might have fallen down in a fit that was no rule for them, being, because it is no business of mine to look gruff, and fight battles.'

Emily endeavoured to correct the superstitious weakness of Annette, though she could not entirely subdue her own; to which the latter only replied, 'Nay, ma'amselle, you will believe nothing; you are almost as bad as the Signor himself, who was in a great passion when they told of what had happened, and swore that the first man, who repeated such nonsense, should be thrown into the dungeon under the east turret. This was a hard punishment too, for only talking nonsense, as he called it, but I dare say he had other reasons for calling it so, than you have, ma'am.'

Emily looked displeased, and made no reply. As she mused upon the recollected appearance, which had lately so much alarmed her, and considered the circumstances of the figure having stationed itself opposite to her casement, she was for a moment inclined to believe it was Valancourt, whom she had seen. Yet, if it was he, why did he not speak to her, when he had the opportunity of doing so--and, if he was a prisoner in the castle, and he could be here in no other character, how could he obtain the means of walking abroad on the rampart? Thus she was utterly unable to decide, whether the musician and the form she had observed, were the same, or, if they were, whether this was Valancourt. She, however, desired that Annette would endeavour to learn whether any prisoners were in the castle, and also their names.

'O dear, ma'amselle!' said Annette, 'I forget to tell you what you bade me ask about, the ladies, as they call themselves, who are lately come to Udolpho. Why that Signora Livona, that the Signor brought to see my late lady at Venice, is his mistress now, and was little better then, I dare say. And Ludovico says (but pray be secret, ma'am) that his excellenza introduced her only to impose upon the world, that had begun to make free with her character. So when people saw my lady notice her, they thought what they had heard must be scandal. The other two are the mistresses of Signor Verezzi and Signor Bertolini; and Signor Montoni invited them all to the castle; and so, yesterday, he gave a great entertainment; and there they were, all drinking Tuscany wine and all sorts, and laughing and singing, till they made the castle ring again. But I thought they were dismal sounds, so soon after my poor lady's death too; and they brought to my mind what she would have thought, if she had heard them--but she cannot hear them now, poor soul! said I.'

Emily turned away to conceal her emotion, and then desired Annette to go, and make enquiry, concerning the prisoners, that might be in the castle, but conjured her to do it with caution, and on no account to mention her name, or that of Monsieur Valancourt.

'Now I think of it, ma'amselle,' said Annette, 'I do believe there are prisoners, for I overheard one of the Signor's men, yesterday, in the servants hall, talking something about ransoms, and saying what a fine thing it was for his excellenza to catch up men, and they were as good booty as any other, because of the ransoms. And the other man was grumbling, and saying it was fine enough for the Signor, but none so fine for his soldiers, because, said he, we don't go shares there.'

This information heightened Emily's impatience to know more, and Annette immediately departed on her enquiry.

The late resolution of Emily to resign her estates to Montoni, now gave way to new considerations; the possibility, that Valancourt was near her, revived her fortitude, and she determined to brave the threatened vengeance, at least, till she could be assured whether he was really in the castle. She was in this temper of mind, when she received a message from Montoni, requiring her attendance in the cedar parlour, which she obeyed with trembling, and, on her way thither, endeavoured to animate her fortitude with the idea of Valancourt.

Montoni was alone. 'I sent for you,' said he, 'to give you another opportunity of retracting your late mistaken assertions concerning the Languedoc estates. I will condescend to advise, where I may command.--If you are really deluded by an opinion, that you have any right to these estates, at least, do not persist in the error--an error, which you may perceive, too late, has been fatal to you. Dare my resentment no further, but sign the papers.'

'If I have no right in these estates, sir,' said Emily, 'of what service can it be to you, that I should sign any papers, concerning them? If the lands are yours by law, you certainly may possess them, without my interference, or my consent.'

'I will have no more argument,' said Montoni, with a look that made her tremble. 'What had I but trouble to expect, when I condescended to reason with a baby! But I will be trifled with no longer: let the recollection of your aunt's sufferings, in consequence of her folly and obstinacy, teach you a lesson.--Sign the papers.'

Emily's resolution was for a moment awed:--she shrunk at the recollections he revived, and from the vengeance he threatened; but then, the image of Valancourt, who so long had loved her, and who was now, perhaps, so near her, came to her heart, and, together with the strong feelings of indignation, with which she had always, from her infancy, regarded an act of injustice, inspired her with a noble, though imprudent, courage.

'Sign the papers,' said Montoni, more impatiently than before.

'Never, sir,' replied Emily; 'that request would have proved to me the injustice of your claim, had I even been ignorant of my right.'

Montoni turned pale with anger, while his quivering lip and lurking eye made her almost repent the boldness of her speech.

'Then all my vengeance falls upon you,' he exclaimed, with an horrible oath. 'and think not it shall be delayed. Neither the estates in Languedoc, or Gascony, shall be yours; you have dared to question my right,--now dare to question my power. I have a punishment which you think not of; it is terrible! This night--this very night'--

'This night!' repeated another voice.

Montoni paused, and turned half round, but, seeming to recollect himself, he proceeded in a lower tone.

'You have lately seen one terrible example of obstinacy and folly; yet this, it appears, has not been sufficient to deter you.--I could tell you of others--I could make you tremble at the bare recital.'

He was interrupted by a groan, which seemed to rise from underneath

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