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I set out for France as speedily as possible, and made no delay in my journey. On arriving at Poitiers, I found that the tidings of the death of the commander had reached there, but had caused no more affliction than among the people of Malta. Leaving my equipage in the town, I put on the garb of a pilgrim, and taking a guide, set out on foot for Tétefoulques. Indeed the roads in this part of the country were impracticable for carriages.
I found the castle of Têtefoulques a grand but gloomy and dilapidated pile. All the gates were closed, and there reigned over the whole place an air of almost savage loneliness and desertion. I had understood that its only inhabitants were the concierge, or warder, and a kind of hermit who had charge of the chapel. After ringing for some time at the gate, I at length succeeded in bringing forth the warder, who bowed with reverence to my pilgrim's garb. I begged him to conduct me to the chapel, that being the end of my pilgrimage. We found the hermit there, chanting the funeral service; a dismal sound to one who came to perform a penance for the death of a member of the family. When he had ceased to chant, I informed him that I came to accomplish an obligation of conscience, and that I wished him to perform a hundred masses for the repose
of the soul of the commander. He replied that, not being in orders, he was not authorized to perform mass, but that he would willingly undertake to see that my debt of conscience was discharged. I laid my offering on the altar, and would have placed the sword of the commander there, likewise. Hold!' said the hermit, with a melancholy shake of the head, this is no place for so deadly a weapon, that has so often been bathed in Christian blood. Take it to the armory; you will find there trophies enough of like character. It is a place into which I never enter.
The warder here took up the theme abandoned by the peaceful man of God. He assured me that I would see in the armory the swords of all the warrior race of Foulquerres, together with those of the enemies over whom they had triumphed. This, he observed, had been a usage kept up since the time of Mellusine,
and of her husband, Geoffrey à la Grand-dent, or Geoffrey with the Great-tooth.
• I followed the gossiping warder to the armory. It was a great dusty hall, hung round with Gothic-looking portraits, of a stark line of warriors, each with his weapon, and the weapons of those he had slain in battle, hung beside his picture. The most conspicuous portrait was that of Foulques Taillefer, (Fulke Hackiron,) Count of Angouleme, and founder of the castle. He was represented at full length, armed cap-à-pie, and grasping a huge buckler, on which were emblazoned three lions passant. The figure was so striking, that it seemed ready to start from the canvass : and I observed beneath this picture, a trophy composed of many weapons, proofs of the numerous triumphs of this hard-fighting old cavalier. Beside the weapons connected with the portraits, there were swords of all shapes, sizes, and centuries, hung round the hall; with piles of armor, placed as it were in effigy.
• On each side of an immense chimney, were suspended the portraits of the first seneschal of Poitou (the illegitimate son of Foulques
Taillefer) and his wife Isabella de Lusignan; the progenitors of the grim race of Foulquerres that frowned around. They had the look of being perfect likenesses; and as I gazed on them, I fancied I could trace in their antiquated features some family resemblance to their unfortunate descendant, whom I had slain! This was a dismal neighborhood, yet the armory was the only part of the castle that had a habitable air; so I asked the warder whether he could not make a fire, and give me something for supper there, and prepare me a bed in one corner.
“A fire and a supper you shall have, and that cheerfully, most worthy pilgrim,' said he ; .but as to a bed, I advise you to come and sleep in my chamber.'
“Why so ?' inquired I ; 'why shall I not sleep in this ball ?'
· I made no objections, for I recollected that it was Friday, and I dreaded the return of my vision. He brought in billets of wood, kindled a fire in the great overhanging chimney, and then went forth to prepare my supper. I drew a heavy chair before the fire, and seating myself in it, gazed musingly round upon the portraits of the Foulquerres, and the antiquated armor and weapons, the mementos of many a bloody deed. As the day declined, the smoky draperies of the hall gradually became confounded with the dark ground of the paintings, and the lurid gleams from the chimney only enabled me to see visages staring at me from the gathering darkness. All this was dismal in the extreme, and somewhat appalling ; perhaps it was the state of my conscience that rendered me peculiarly sensitive, and prone to fearful imaginings.
* At length the warder brought in my supper. It consisted of a dish of trout, and some craw-fish taken in the fosse of the castle. He procured also a bottle of wine, which he informed me was wine of Poitou. I requested him to invite the hermit to join me in my repast ; but the holy man sent back word that he allowed himself nothing but roots and herbs, cooked with water. I took my meal, therefore, alone, but prolonged it as much as possible, and sought to cheer my drooping spirits by the wine of Poitou, which I found very tolerable.
When supper was over, I prepared for my evening devotions. I have always been very punctual in reciting my breviary; it is the prescribed and bounden duty of all chevaliers of the religious orders; and I can answer for it, is faithfully performed by those of Spain. I accordingly drew forth from my pocket a small missal and a rosary, and told the warder he need only designate to me the way to his chamber, where I could come and rejoin him, when I had finished my prayers.
• He accordingly pointed out a winding stair-case, opening from the hall. You will descend this stair-case,' said he, ' until you come to the fourth landing place, where you enter a vaulted passage, terminated by an arcade, with a statue of the blessed Jeanne of France : you cannot help finding my room, the door of which I will leave open; it is the sixth door from the landing place. I advise you not to remain in this hall after midnight. Before that hour, you will hear the hermit ring the bell, in going the rounds of the corridors. Do not linger here after that signal.'
• The warder retired, and I commenced my devotions. I continued. at them earnestly; pausing from time to time to put wood
the fire. I did not dare to look much around me, for I felt myself becoming a prey to fearful fancies. The pictures appeared to become animated. If I regarded one attentively, for any length of time, it seemed to move the eyes and lips. Above all, the portraits of the Grand Seneschal and his lady, which hung on each side of the great chimney, the progenitors of the Foulquerres of Têtefoulque, regarded me, I thought, with angry and baleful eyes : I even fancied they exchanged significant glances with each other. Just then a terrible blast of wind shook all the casements, and, rushing through the hall, made a fearful rattling and clashing among the armor. To my startled fancy, it seemed something supernatural.
• At length I heard the bell of the hermit, and hastened to quit the ball. Taking a solitary light, which stood on the supper table, I descended the winding stair-case; but before I had reached the vaulted passage, leading to the statue of the blessed Jeanne of France, a blast of wind extinguished my taper. I hastily remounted the stairs, to light it again at the chimney; but judge of my feelings, when, on arriving at the entrance to the armory, I beheld the Seneschal and his lady, who had descended from their frames, and seated themselves on each side of the fire-place!
“Madam, my love,' said the Seneschal, with great formality, and in antiquated phrase, 'what think you of the presumption of this Castilian, who comes to harbor himself and make wassail in this our castle, after having slain our descendant, the commander, and that without granting him time for confession ?'
"Truly, my lord,' answered the female spectre, with no less stateliness of manner, and with great asperity of tone ; 'truly, my lord, I opine that this Castilian did a grievous wrong in this encounter ; and he should never be suffered to depart hence, without your
throwing him the gauntlet.' I paused to hear no more, but rushed again down stairs, to seek the chamber of the warder. It was impossible to find it in the darkness, and in the perturbation of my mind. After an hour and a half of fruitless search, and mortal horror and anxieties, I endeavored to persuade myself that the day was about to break, and listened impatiently for the crowing of the cock; for I thought if I could hear his cheerful note, I should be rëassured ; catching, in the disordered state of my nerves, at the popular notion that ghosts never appear after the first crowing of the cock.
At length I rallied myself, and endeavored to shake off the vague terrors which haunted me. I tried to persuade myself that the two figures which I had seemed to see and hear, had existed only in my troubled imagination. I still had the end of a candle in my hand, and determined to make another effort to re-light it, and find my way to bed; for I was ready to sink with fatigue. I accordingly sprang up the stair-case, three steps at a time, stopped at the door of the armory, and peeped cautiously in. The two Gothic figures were no longer in the chimney corners, but I neglected to notice whether they had réascended to their frames. I entered, and made desperately for the fire-place, but scarce had I advanced three strides, when Messire Foulques Taillefer stood before me, in the centre of the hall, armed
cap-à-pie, and standing in guard, with the point of his sword silently presented to me. I would have retreated to the stair-case, but the door of it was occupied by the phantom figure of an esquire, who rudely flung a gauntlet in my face. Driven to fury, I snatched down a sword from the wall : by chance, it was that of the commander which I had placed there. I rushed upon my fantastic adversary, and seemed to pierce him through and through ; but at the same time I felt as if something pierced my heart, burning like a red-hot iron. My blood inundated the ball, and I fell senseless.
• When I recovered consciousness, it was broad day, and I found myself in a small chamber, attended by the warder and the hermit. The former told me that on the previous night, he had awakened long after the midnight hour, and perceiving that I had not come to his chamber, he bad furnished himself with a vase of holy water, and set out to seek me. He found me stretched senseless on the pavement of the armory, and bore me to his room. I spoke of my wound; and of the quantity of blood that I had lost. He shook his head, and knew nothing about it; and to my surprise, on examination, I found myself perfectly sound and unharmed. The wound and blood, therefore, had been all delusion. Neither the warder nor the hermit put any questions to me, but advised me to leave the castle as soon as possible. I lost no time in complying with their counsel, and felt my heart relieved from an oppressive weight, as I left the gloomy and fate-bound battlements of Têtefoulques behind me.'
I arrived at Bayonne, on my way to Spain, on the following Friday. At midnight I was startled from my sleep, as I had formerly been; but it was no longer by the vision of the dying commander. It was old Foulques Taillefer who stood before me, armed cap-á-pie, and presenting the point of his sword. I made the sign of the cross, and the spectre vanished, but I received the same red-hot thrust in the heart which I had felt in the armory, and I seemed to be bathed in blood. I would have called out, or have arisen from my bed and gone in quest of succor, but I could neither speak nor stir. This agony endured until the crowing of the cock, when I fell asleep again; but the next day I was ill, and in a most pitiable state. I have continued to be harrassed by the same vision every Friday night ; no acts of penitence and devotion have been able to relieve me from it; and it is only a lingering hope in divine mercy, that sustains me, and enables me to support so lamentable a visitation.
The Grand Prior of Minorca wasted gradually away under this constant remorse of conscience, and this horrible incubus. He died some time after having revealed the preceding particulars of his case, evidently the victim of a diseased imagination.
The above relation has been rendered, in many parts literally, from the French memoir, in which it is given as a true story: if so, it is one of those instances in which truth is more romantic than fiction.
"Oh could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
DENHAM'S COOPER'S HILL.
The steeper summit of the glorious hill