The Castle Apparition
Translated by the Rev. Weeden Butler, Jun. from a Monkish Manuscript.
In the vicinity of Chamberry, a town in Savoy, stood the ancient mansion
of the Albertini: round it were several little buildings, in which were
deposited the cattle, poultry, &c. &c. belonging to the family. A young
gentleman, by name Barbarosse, came to the chateau on a visit for a few
days; he was cordially received, being of a pleasing lively disposition;
and an elegant room in the east wing was prepared for his accommodation.
The family, and their young guests, spent the day very agreeably; and,
after supper, they sat round a comfortable large fire, and diverted
themselves with songs and stories: the former, as is generally the case,
were some of the sprightly, some of the tender and pathetic kind; but
the latter were, for the most part, of the melancholy cast, particularly
those which related to preternatural occurrences. The social party
separated at half past twelve o'clock; and Barbarosse retired to his
chamber. It was a handsome room on the first floor, having three doors;
two of these belonged to two little closets, one on the right that
overlooked a farm-yard, and another more to the left that presented a
view through the window of a large romantic wood; the third door was
that by which he entered his room, after traversing a long passage. Our
youth had visited this room in the morning, and looked out of the window
to enjoy the prospect for a great while.
As he entered this apartment, with his mind full of the diversion just
left, he set his candle down upon the table, and looked about him. There
was an excellent fire in the chimney, with an iron grating before it, to
prevent accidents; a large elbow-chair stood near it; and, not being at
all sleepy, he sat down reflecting on the amusements of the day, and
endeavoured to remember the tales he had heard. In some he thought he
perceived strong traits of truth; and in others he discovered palpable
fiction and absurdity. Whilst he was deliberating on the various
incidents, the heavy watch-bell tolled two; but Barbarosse did not
attend to it, being deeply engaged in his contemplations. He was
suddenly awakened from his reveries by an uncommon rustling sound
issuing from the closet on the right hand; and, listening attentively,
he heard distinct taps upon the floor at short intervals.
Alarmed at the circumstance, he walked slowly to his bed-side, and drew
forth his pocket-pistols from under the pillow; these he carefully
placed upon the table, and resumed the elbow-chair. All was again still
as death; and nought but the winds, which whistled round the watch-tower
and the adjacent buildings, could be heard.
Barbarosse looked towards the door of the closet, which he then, and not
till then, perceived was not shut, but found that it hung upon the jar;
immediately a furious blast forced it wide open; the taper burnt blue,
and the fire seemed almost extinct.
Barbarosse arose, put forth a silent hasty ejaculation of prayer, and
sat down again; again he heard the noise! He started up, seized the
pistols, and stood motionless; whilst large cold drops of dew hung upon
his face. Still his heart continued firm, and he grew more composed,
when the rustling taps were renewed! Barbarosse desperately invoked the
protection of Heaven, cocked one of the pistols, and was about to rush
into the portentous apartment, when the noise increased and drew nearer:
a loud peal of thunder, that seemed to rend the firmament, shook
violently the solid battlements of the watch-tower; the deep-toned bell
tolled three, and its hollow sound long vibrated on the ear of
Barbarosse with fainter and fainter murmurs; when a tremendous cry
thrilled him with terror and dismay; and, lo! the long-dreaded spectre
stalked into the middle of the room: and Barbarosse, overcome with
surprise and astonishment at the unexpected apparition, sunk down
convulsed[B] in his chair.
The phantom was armed de cap en pied, and clad in a black garment. On
his crest a black plume waved majestically; and, instead of a glove or
any other sort of lady's favour, he wore a blood-red token. He bore no
weapon of offence in his hand; but a gloomy shield, made of the feathers
of some kind of bird, was cast over each shoulder. He was booted and
spurred; and, looking upon Barbarosse with ardent eyes, raised his
feathery arms, and struck them vehemently against his sides, making at
the same time the most vociferous noise!
Then it was, that Barbarosse found he had not shut down the window in
the morning; from which neglect it happened, that a black game-cock
had flown into the closet, and created all this inexpressible confusion.
[B] Lest any of the faculty should wish, ineffectually, to be informed
what species of convulsions affected Barbarosse, I think it proper
(observes the translator) to satisfy their truly laudable curiosity by
anticipation, and to assure them, fois d'homme d'honneur, that this
disorder was a convulsion of laughter.
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