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Emily paused, and then said she would be on the terrace, an hour after sun-set;--'and tell Barnardine,' she added, 'to be punctual to the time; for that I, also, may be observed by Signor Montoni. Where is the Signor? I would speak with him.'
'He is in the cedar chamber, ma'am, counselling with the other Signors. He is going to give them a sort of treat to-day, to make up for what passed at the last, I suppose; the people are all very busy in the kitchen.'
Emily now enquired, if Montoni expected any new guests? and Annette believed that he did not. 'Poor Ludovico!' added she, 'he would be as merry as the best of them, if he was well; but he may recover yet. Count Morano was wounded as bad, as he, and he is got well again, and is gone back to Venice.'
'Is he so?' said Emily, 'when did you hear this?'
'I heard it, last night, ma'amselle, but I forgot to tell it.'
Emily asked some further questions, and then, desiring Annette would observe and inform her, when Montoni was alone, the girl went to deliver her message to Barnardine.
Montoni was, however, so much engaged, during the whole day, that Emily had no opportunity of seeking a release from her terrible suspense, concerning her aunt. Annette was employed in watching his steps, and in attending upon Ludovico, whom she, assisted by Caterina, nursed with the utmost care; and Emily was, of course, left much alone. Her thoughts dwelt often on the message of the porter, and were employed in conjecturing the subject, that occasioned it, which she sometimes imagined concerned the fate of Madame Montoni; at others, that it related to some personal danger, which threatened herself. The cautious secrecy which Barnardine observed in his conduct, inclined her to believe the latter.
As the hour of appointment drew near, her impatience increased. At length, the sun set; she heard the passing steps of the sentinels going to their posts; and waited only for Annette to accompany her to the terrace, who, soon after, came, and they descended together. When Emily expressed apprehensions of meeting Montoni, or some of his guests, 'O, there is no fear of that, ma'amselle,' said Annette, 'they are all set in to feasting yet, and that Barnardine knows.'
They reached the first terrace, where the sentinels demanded who passed; and Emily, having answered, walked on to the east rampart, at the entrance of which they were again stopped; and, having again replied, were permitted to proceed. But Emily did not like to expose herself to the discretion of these men, at such an hour; and, impatient to withdraw from the situation, she stepped hastily on in search of Barnardine. He was not yet come. She leaned pensively on the wall of the rampart, and waited for him. The gloom of twilight sat deep on the surrounding objects, blending in soft confusion the valley, the mountains, and the woods, whose tall heads, stirred by the evening breeze, gave the only sounds, that stole on silence, except a faint, faint chorus of distant voices, that arose from within the castle.
'What voices are those?' said Emily, as she fearfully listened.
'It is only the Signor and his guests, carousing,' replied Annette.
'Good God!' thought Emily, 'can this man's heart be so gay, when he has made another being so wretched; if, indeed, my aunt is yet suffered to feel her wretchedness? O! whatever are my own sufferings, may my heart never, never be hardened against those of others!'
She looked up, with a sensation of horror, to the east turret, near which she then stood; a light glimmered through the grates of the lower chamber, but those of the upper one were dark. Presently, she perceived a person moving with a lamp across the lower room; but this circumstance revived no hope, concerning Madame Montoni, whom she had vainly sought in that apartment, which had appeared to contain only soldiers' accoutrements. Emily, however, determined to attempt the outer door of the turret, as soon as Barnardine should withdraw; and, if it was unfastened, to make another effort to discover her aunt.
The moments passed, but still Barnardine did not appear; and Emily, becoming uneasy, hesitated whether to wait any longer. She would have sent Annette to the portal to hasten him, but feared to be left alone, for it was now almost dark, and a melancholy streak of red, that still lingered in the west, was the only vestige of departed day. The strong interest, however, which Barnardine's message had awakened, overcame other apprehensions, and still detained her.
While she was conjecturing with Annette what could thus occasion his absence, they heard a key turn in the lock of the gate near them, and presently saw a man advancing. It was Barnardine, of whom Emily hastily enquired what he had to communicate, and desired, that he would tell her quickly, 'for I am chilled with this evening air,' said she.
'You must dismiss your maid, lady,' said the man in a voice, the deep tone of which shocked her, 'what I have to tell is to you only.'
Emily, after some hesitation, desired Annette to withdraw to a little distance. 'Now, my friend, what would you say?'
He was silent a moment, as if considering, and then said,--
'That which would cost me my place, at least, if it came to the Signor's ears. You must promise, lady, that nothing shall ever make you tell a syllable of the matter; I have been trusted in this affair, and, if it was known, that I betrayed my trust, my life, perhaps, might answer it. But I was concerned for you, lady, and I resolved to tell you.' He paused.--
Emily thanked him, assured him that he might repose on her discretion, and entreated him to dispatch.
'Annette told us in the hall how unhappy you was about Signora Montoni, and how much you wished to know what was become of her.'
'Most true,' said Emily eagerly, 'and you can inform me. I conjure you tell me the worst, without hesitation.' She rested her trembling arm upon the wall.
'I can tell you,' said Barnardine, and paused.--
Emily had no power to enforce her entreaties.
'I CAN tell you,' resumed Barnardine,--'but'--
'But what?' exclaimed Emily, recovering her resolution.
'Here I am, ma'amselle,' said Annette, who, having heard the eager tone, in which Emily pronounced these words, came running towards her.
'Retire!' said Barnardine, sternly; 'you are not wanted;' and, as Emily said nothing, Annette obeyed.
'I CAN tell you,' repeated the porter,--'but I know not how--you was afflicted before.'--
'I am prepared for the worst, my friend,' said Emily, in a firm and solemn voice. 'I can support any certainty better than this suspense.'
'Well, Signora, if that is the case, you shall hear.--You know, I suppose, that the Signor and his lady used sometimes to disagree. It is none of my concerns to enquire what it was about, but I believe you know it was so.'
'Well,' said Emily, 'proceed.'
'The Signor, it seems, had lately been very wrath against her. I saw all, and heard all,--a great deal more than people thought for; but it was none of my business, so I said nothing. A few days ago, the Signor sent for me. "Barnardine," says he, "you are--an honest man, I think I can trust you." I assured his excellenza that he could. "Then," says he, as near as I can remember, "I have an affair in hand, which I want you to assist me in."--Then he told me what I was to do; but that I shall say nothing about--it concerned only the Signora.'
'O Heavens!' exclaimed Emily--'what have you done?'
Barnardine hesitated, and was silent.
'What fiend could tempt him, or you, to such an act!' cried Emily, chilled with horror, and scarcely able to support her fainting spirits.
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The Mysteries of Udolpho -by- Ann RadcliffeBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.