SECRETS OF THE CASTLE (1806)
DAVID CAREY (17821824)
The Flowers of Literature was a kind of Regency Reader’s Digest, containing extracts from the most interesting literature to appear in the preceding twelve months: belles lettres, biography, travel, the fine arts, poetry and Gothic novels. The volume for 1806 contains, for example, extracts from T. J. Horsley-Curties’s The Monk of Udolpho and David Carey’s Secrets of the Castle; or, The Adventures of Charles D’Almaine, which is reproduced here.
Copyright © 2000, 2012 Rictor Norton
The Prisoners of Banditti
or, The Vault of the Castle
Hitherto no violence had been offered to the person of our captive hero, and his thoughts were not a little employed to find out the cause: for the threats and the savage looks of the banditti were still in his remembrance, and gave him no room to doubt but that, however delayed by confinement and other means of oppression, the gloomy fate that seemed to await him was not the less certain.
It was about the eleventh hour of the night, when his thoughts were occupied by reflections on his forlorn condition, that the entrance of Jerome was announced by a low whisper from the adjoining vault. Jerome approached with a shade of concern visibly marked on his countenance. ‘I am sorry to be the messenger of bad news,’ said he; ‘your fate is at last determined upon.’ The frame of our hero, at these words, shook with violent emotion. For some time he dared not enquire the extent of his fears; he read it too plainly in the sympathising features of the faithful Jerome. At last, mustering sufficient courage to propose the question, Jerome informed him, that he had been privy to a consultation held by his companions, wherein it was determined to sacrifice him to their revenge; adding, that so long as their captain was averse, as he declared himself, to their determination, there were yet hopes of escaping the impending catastrophe. Nothwithstanding, Jerome could not conceal his apprehension of foul play from those to whom he alluded, who were inflamed against our hero for the loss of their companions. Is it not they alone who are conscious of guilt that are capable of fear? Charles, who a moment before was on the point of resigning himself to the agony of mind that the thoughts of certain destruction must inspire, felt the most grateful consolation from the assurance that there were still hopes of life from a quarter he could least expect it. Yet he could not help shuddering at a recollection of the dangers to which he was exposed; for treachery and revenge seldom stop short of their aim, when once they have entered into the thoughts of man. ‘You are a young man,’ said Jerome, ‘and may have a parent who vainly sorrows for your loss ’ Charles sighed at the mention of the name of parent, and Jerome went on, suddenly exclaiming, as if recollecting himself, and looking in Charles’s face, ‘Have you courage to venture into the family vault of the castle at midnight? have you also the resolution to trust yourself in any other unfrequented part of the castle?’ Charles imagining that this was said with a view to facilitate his escape by some means or other, eagerly answered that conscious innocence had nothing to fear, and that he was ready to convince him how much it was superior to guilt in this particular; but his impatience at that moment made hm forget that, however courageous human nature may be in the midst of visible danger, it always shrinks back, affrighted and appalled, at supernatural power, or that which is invisible. A pause succeeded, and Jerome seemed lost in profound reverie, as if labouring with a secret which he was unwilling to trust beyond the limits of his own bosom. Suddenly they heard a gentle noise, as if proceeding from the vault, and soon after their attention was rivetted to the spot by the clanking of chains, heard at a distance, and growing more indistinct, till the sound was lost in seeming distance. Charles, in spite of his boasted courage, felt an uncommon sensation of apprehension, and even awe, rush on his mind, and Jerome started with visible emotion. ‘From whence can it proceed?’ said he, not daring to go in search of the cause. ‘I have been often in this place, and the places adjoining, and never heard any sounds similar to these before.’ Charles was apprehensive of a discovery, and hinted his fears for his visitor’s safety on his account. But Jerome was of opinion that this was unlikely, as he had some reasons to suppose that no one but himself was privy to the communication leading thereto.
‘It is true,’ said he, ‘that there are strange appearances seen in that part of the castle, to which the direction of the sound tended, which made me ask you if you were afraid of such things, or willing to hazard your person in that wing of the building.’ ‘What appearances?’ said Charles; ‘and what inducement is held out to such attempt?’ ‘To explain my meaning for such a proposition,’ replied the friendly Jerome, endeavouring to appear tranquil in the course of his narration, ‘it will be necessary to recount to you some particulars with which few but myself are acquainted.’ Charles expressed himself grateful for his confidence, and Jerome proceeded to this effect: ‘It was shortly after our arrival at the castle, one stormy night, (I shall never forget that night of horror, and the sensations it occasioned in my mind, and I think in the minds of the most hardened of our troop,) the wind roared among the ancient oaks that surrounded the castle; the rain fell in torrents; the lightning darted at intervals through the gloom, illuminating the woods; whilst the tremendous peals of thunder that re-echoed over our heads alarmed the consciences of the guilty, and I am afraid,’ said Jerome wildly, ‘gave them but a faint idea of what they have to fear hereafter. As for myself, who was then abroad with a party of our companions, exposed to the fury of the elements, I thought all the sins which I had committed in the whole course of my life, were then present to my mind.
‘In the midst of this storm, as I was afterwards informed, a gentleman and lady, who had lost their way, had arrived at the castle, drenched in the rain, in hopes of finding lodging for the night. The drawbridge was up, and they found themselves prevented from going any farther by the deep moat with which it is encircled. All arround [sic] appeared dark and profoundly silent.
‘They went wandering about the castle in search of some light, in hopes that some one of the inhabitants would be up, and grant them shelter from so tempestuous a night. But not a glimmering of light could be discovered. They shouted as loud as they could, but no one answered. Supposing that the inhabitants were buried in sleep, or that perhaps the noise of the storm prevented their being heard, they again returned to the front, and stood observing it through the flashes of lightning that at intervals rendered it visible. They advanced as near as possible, and suddenly beheld a light to wind along the battlements of the castle, by which they could plainly perceive the person who carried it to be a being of a most terrific appearance, giving them the idea of something supernatural. The light and the figure again disappeared, and the place was totally dark. They waited some time, and the light once more appeared on the turret, but the figure was invisible. “These strange appearances astonish me,” said the man, and turned to his partner; but the exertion and fatigue, joined to the thoughts of some horrible murder having been committeed there, and the castle being haunted, were too much for her to sustain, and she fainted on the re-appearance of the lights. At that moment, our party coming up, heard the man again shouting for assistance. Recovered from the momentary insensibility, and the drawbridge in the meantime being let down at the summons, the unfortunate strangers were conducted into the castle. Apprehensive lest their retreat might be discovered, should the travellers be allowed to proceed in search of a habitation, it was previously determined that they should suffer death; but this sentence was soon afterwards overruled by a majority of the troop. As their appearance denoted them to be persons of rank, notwithstanding their forlorn condition, they were led into a spacious saloon, on the east wing of the castle, unconscious of the misery that awaited them. It is true, we could plainly perceive that the strangers were struck, at first sight, with the desolate state of the room through which they passed, and the warlike appearance of those who surrounded them. But they were not allowed to remain long in ignorance of their situation. They were both young and handsome, and appeared destined for each other. To be permitted to remain in the same place of confinement together, enjoying the free interchange of thought, and the sight of each other, would have been too happy a lot; and that apparent happy destiny was changed into the bitterest of fates, that of tormenting uncertainty, and separation from the object beloved.’ Charles sighed at this part of the story, so much resembling his own situation, and Jerome continued: – ‘I shall never forget the parting of these two lovers, when four armed men burst into the place where they were sitting, and disarmed the youth, who had snatched a weapon of defence from one of my companions, as he attempted to approach him, and stood, with the spirit of a lion in his countenance, resolving to defend his lovely charge, who had thrown herself into his arms for protection. But he was soon overpowered by numbers; not, however, before he had killed one of my companions, who attepted to drag the lady from under his protection, which so enraged the rest, that one of them plunged his poniard into the bosom of the faithful youth, and he fell bleeding by the side of my companion. One last embrace was permitted to his fair partner before they were separated for ever, and she was torn from his grasp, frantic, and confined to a separate chamber. Her defender survived but to be immured in one of the dungeons of that part of the castle which is said to be haunted, where, it is reported, he soon afterwards died of his wound.’
[SOURCE: Flowers of Literature, for 1806, ed. Francis William Blagdon (London: R. Crosby, 1807), pp. 11425]
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