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Chapter 14

Sometimes, methinks, I hear the groans of ghosts,
Then hollow sounds and lamentable screams;
Then, like a dying echo from afar,
My mother's voice, that cries, "Wed not, Almeyda--
Forewanvd, Almeyda, marriage is thy crime."
DON SEBASTIAN.


The evening at Baldringham would have seemed of portentous and
unendurable length, had it not been that apprehended danger makes
times pass quickly betwixt us and the dreaded hour, and that if
Eveline felt little interested or amused by the conversation of
her aunt and Berwine, which turned upon the long deduction of
their ancestors from the warlike Horsa, and the feats of Saxon
champions, and the miracles of Saxon monks, she was still better
pleased to listen to these legends, than to anticipate her retreat
to the destined and dreaded apartment where she was to pass the
night. There lacked not, however, such amusement as the house of
Baldringham could afford, to pass away the evening. Blessed by a

grave old Saxon monk, the chaplain of the house, a sumptuous
entertainment, which might have sufficed twenty hungry men, was
served up before Ermengarde and her niece, whose sole assistants,
beside the reverend man, were Berwine and Rose Flammock. Eveline
was the less inclined to do justice to this excess of hospitality,
that the dishes were all of the gross and substantial nature which
the Saxons admired, but which contrasted disadvantageously with
the refined and delicate cookery of the Normans, as did the
moderate cup of light and high-flavoured Gascon wine, tempered
with more than half its quantity of the purest water, with the
mighty ale, the high-spiced pigment and hippocras, and the other
potent liquors, which, one after another, were in vain proffered
for her acceptance by the steward Hundwolf, in honour of the
hospitality of Baldringham.

Neither were the stated amusements of evening more congenial to
Eveline's taste, than the profusion of her aunt's solid refection.
When the boards and tresses, on which the viands had been served,
were withdrawn from the apartment, the menials, under direction of
the steward, proceeded to light several long waxen torches, one of
which was graduated for the purpose of marking the passing time,
and dividing it into portions. These were announced by means of
brazen balls, suspended by threads from the torch, the spaces
betwixt them being calculated to occupy a certain time in burning;
so that, when the flame reached the thread, and the balls fell,
each in succession, into a brazen basin placed for its reception,
the office of a modern clock was in some degree discharged. By
this light the party was arranged for the evening.

The ancient Ermengarde's lofty and ample chair was removed,
according to ancient custom, from the middle of the apartment to
the warmest side of a large grate, filled with charcoal, and her
guest was placed on her right, as the seat of honour. Berwine then
arranged in due order the females of the household, and, having
seen that each was engaged with her own proper task, sat herself
down to ply the spindle and distaff. The men, in a more remote
circle, betook themselves to the repairing of their implements of
husbandry, or new furbishing weapons of the chase, under the
direction of the steward Hundwolf. For the amusement of the family
thus assembled, an old glee-man sung to a harp, which had but four
strings, a long and apparently interminable legend, upon some
religious subject, which was rendered almost unintelligible to
Eveline, by the extreme and complicated affectation of the poet,
who, in order to indulge in the alliteration which was accounted
one great ornament of Saxon poetry, had sacrificed sense to sound,
and used words in the most forced and remote sense, provided they
could be compelled into his service. There was also all the
obscurity arising from elision, and from the most extravagant and
hyperbolical epithets.

Eveline, though well acquainted with the Saxon language, soon left
off listening to the singer, to reflect for a moment on the gay
fabliaux and imaginative _lais_ of the Norman minstrels, and
then to anticipate, with anxious apprehension, what nature of
visitation she might be exposed to in the mysterious chamber in
which she was doomed to pass the night.

The hour of parting at length approached. At half an hour before
mid-night, a period ascertained by the consumption of the huge
waxen torch, the ball which was secured to it fell clanging into
the brazen basin placed beneath, and announced to all the hour of
rest. The old glee-man paused in his song, instantaneously, and in
the middle of a stanza, and the household were all on foot at the
signal, some retiring to their own apartments, others lighting
torches or bearing lamps to conduct the visitors to their places
of repose. Among these last was a bevy of bower-women, to whom the
duty was assigned of conveying the Lady Eveline to her chamber for
the night. Her aunt took a solemn leave of her, crossed her
forehead, kissed it, and whispered in her ear, "Be courageous, and
be fortunate."

"May not my bower-maiden, Rose Flammock, or my tire-woman, Dame
Gillian, Raoul's wife, remain in the apartment with me for this
night?" said Eveline.

"Flammock-Raoul!" repeated Ermengarde, angrily; "is thy household
thus made up? The Flemings are the cold palsy to Britain, the
Normans the burning fever."

"And the poor Welsh will add," said Rose, whose resentment began
to surpass her awe for the ancient Saxon dame, "that the Anglo-
Saxons were the original disease, and resemble a wasting
pestilence."

"Thou art too bold, sweetheart," said the Lady Ermengarde, looking
at the Flemish maiden from under her dark brows; "and yet there is
wit in thy words. Saxon, Dane, and Norman, have rolled like
successive billows over the land, each having strength to subdue
what they lacked wisdom to keep. When shall it be otherwise?"

"When, Saxon, and Briton, and Norman, and Fleming," answered Rose,
boldly, "shall learn to call themselves by one name, and think
themselves alike children of the land they were born in."

"Ha!" exclaimed the Lady of Baldringham, in the tone of one half
surprised, half-pleased. Then turning to her relation, she said,
"There are words and wit in this maiden; see that she use but do
not abuse them."

"She is as kind and faithful, as she is prompt and ready-witted."
said Eveline. "I pray you, dearest aunt, let me use her company
for this night."

"It may not be--it were dangerous to both. Alone you must learn
your destiny, as have all the females of our race, excepting your
grandmother, and what have been the consequences of her neglecting
the rules of our house? Lo! her descendant stands before me an
orphan in the very bloom of youth."

"I will go, then," said Eveline with a sigh of resignation; "and
it shall never be said I incurred future wo, to shun present
terror."

"Your attendants," said the Lady Ermengarde, "may occupy the
anteroom, and be almost within your call. Berwine will show you
the apartment--I cannot; for we, thou knowest, who have once
entered it, return not thither again. Farewell, my child, and may
heaven bless thee!"

With more of human emotion and sympathy than she had yet shown,
the Lady again saluted Eveline, and signed to her to follow
Berwine, who, attended by two damsels bearing torches, waited to
conduct her to the dreaded apartment.

Their torches glared along the rudely built walls and dark arched
roofs of one or two long winding passages; these by their light
enabled them to descend the steps of a winding stair, whose
inequality and ruggedness showed its antiquity; and finally led
into a tolerably large chamber on the lower story of the edifice,
to which some old hangings, a lively fire on the hearth, the
moonbeams stealing through a latticed window, and the boughs of a
myrtle plant which grew around the casement, gave no uncomfortable
appearance. "This," said Berwine, "is the resting-place of your
attendants," and she pointed to the couches which had been
prepared for Rose and Dame Gillian; "we," she added, "proceed
farther."

She then took a torch from the attendant maidens, both of whom
seemed to shrink back with fear, which was readily caught by Dame
Gillian, although she was not probably aware of the cause. But
Rose Flammock, unbidden, followed her mistress without hesitation,
as Berwine conducted her through a small wicket at the upper end
of the apartment, clenched with many an iron nail, into a second
but smaller anteroom or wardrobe, at the end of which was a
similar door. This wardrobe had also its casement mantled with
evergreens, and, like the former, it was faintly enlightened by
the moonbeams.

Berwine paused here, and, pointing to Rose, demanded of Eveline,
"Why does she follow?"

"To share my mistress's danger, be it what it may," answered Rose,
with her characteristic readiness of speech and resolution.

"Speak," she said, "my dearest lady," grasping Eveline's hand,
while she addressed her; "you will not drive your Rose from you?
If I am less high-minded than one of your boasted race, I am bold
and quick-witted in all honest service.--You tremble like the
aspen! Do not go into this apartment--do not be gulled by all this
pomp and mystery of terrible preparation; bid defiance to this
antiquated, and, I think, half-pagan superstition."

"The Lady Eveline must go, minion," replied Berwine, sternly; "and
she must go without any malapert adviser or companion."

"Must go---_must go_!" repeated Rose. "Is this language to a
free and noble maiden?--Sweet lady, give me once but the least
hint that you wish it, and their '_must go_' shall be put to
the trial. I will call from the casement on the Norman cavaliers,
and tell them we have fallen, into a den of witches, instead of a
house of hospitality."

"Silence, madwoman," said Berwine, her voice quivering with anger
and fear; "you know not who dwells in the next chamber."

"I will call those who will soon see to that," said Rose, flying
to the casement, when Eveline, seizing her arm in her turn,
compelled her to stop.

"I thank thy kindness, Rose," she said, "but it cannot help me in
this matter. She who enters yonder door, must do so alone."

"Then I will enter it in your stead, my dearest lady," said Rose.
"You are pale--you are cold--you will die with terror if you go
on. There may be as much of trick as of supernatural agency in
this matter--me they shall not deceive--or if some stern spirit
craves a victim,--better Rose than her lady."

"Forbear, forbear," said Eveline, rousing up her own spirits; "you
make me ashamed of myself. This is an ancient ordeal, which
regards the females descended from the house of Baldringham as far
as in the third degree, and them only. I did not indeed expect, in
my present circumstances, to have been called upon to undergo it;
but, since the hour summons me, I will meet it as freely as any of
my ancestors."

So saying, she took the torch from the hand of Berwine, and
wishing good-night to her and Rose, gently disengaged herself from
the hold of the latter, and advanced into the mysterious chamber.
Rose pressed after her so far as to see that it was an apartment
of moderate dimensions, resembling that through which they had
last passed, and lighted by the moonbeams, which came through a
window lying on the same range with those of the anterooms. More
she could not see, for Eveline turned on the threshold, and
kissing her at the same time, thrust her gently back into the
smaller apartment which she had just left, shut the door of
communication, and barred and bolted it, as if in security against
her well-meant intrusion.

Berwine now exhorted Rose, as she valued her life, to retire into
the first anteroom, where the beds were prepared, and betake
herself, if not to rest, at least to silence and devotion; but the
faithful Flemish girl stoutly refused her entreaties, and resisted
her commands.

"Talk not to me of danger," she said; "here I remain, that I may
be at least within hearing of my mistress's danger, and wo betide
those who shall offer her injury!--Take notice, that twenty Norman
spears surround this inhospitable dwelling, prompt to avenge
whatsoever injury shall be offered to the daughter of Raymond
Berenger."

"Reserve your threats for those who are mortal," said Berwine, in
a low, but piercing whisper; "the owner of yonder chamber fears
them not. Farewell--thy danger be on thine own head!"

She departed, leaving Rose strangely agitated by what had passed,
and somewhat appalled at her last words. "These Saxons," said the
maiden, within herself, "are but half converted after all, and
hold many of their old hellish rites in the worship of elementary
spirits. Their very saints are unlike to the saints of any
Christian country, and have, as it were, a look of something
savage and fiendish--their very names sound pagan and diabolical.
It is fearful being alone here--and all is silent as death in the
apartment into which my lady has been thus strangely compelled.
Shall I call up Gillian?--but no--she has neither sense, nor
courage, nor principle, to aid me on such an occasion--better
alone than have a false friend for company. I will see if the
Normans are on their post, since it is to them I must trust, if a
moment of need should arrive."

Thus reflecting, Rose Flammock went to the window of the little
apartment, in order to satisfy herself of the vigilance of the
sentinels, and to ascertain the exact situation of the corps de
garde. The moon was at the full, and enabled her to see with
accuracy the nature of the ground without. In the first place, she
was rather disappointed to find, that instead of being so near the
earth as she supposed, the range of windows which gave light as
well to the two anterooms as to the mysterious chamber itself,
looked down upon an ancient moat, by which they were divided from
the level ground on the farther side. The defence which this fosse
afforded seemed to have been long neglected, and the bottom,
entirely dry, was choked in many places with bushes and low trees,
which rose up against the wall of the castle, and by means of
which it seemed to Rose the windows might be easily scaled, and
the mansion entered. From the level plain beyond, the space
adjoining to the castle was in a considerable degree clear, and
the moonbeams slumbered on its close and beautiful turf, mixed
with long shadows of the towers and trees. Beyond this esplanade
lay the forest ground, with a few gigantic oaks scattered
individually along the skirt of its dark and ample domain, like
champions, who take their ground of defiance in front of a line of
arrayed battle.

The calm beauty and repose of a scene so lovely, the stillness of
all around, and the more matured reflections which the whole
suggested, quieted, in some measure, the apprehensions which the
events of the evening had inspired. "After all," she reflected,
"why should I be so anxious on account of the Lady Eveline? There
is among the proud Normans and the dogged Saxons scarce a single
family of note, but must needs be held distinguished from others
by some superstitious observance peculiar to their race, as if
they thought it scorn to go to Heaven like a poor simple Fleming,
such as I am.--Could I but see the Norman sentinel, I would hold
myself satisfied with my mistress's security.--And yonder one
stalks along the gloom, wrapt in his long white mantle, and the
moon tipping the point of his lance with silver.--What ho, Sir
Cavalier!"

The Norman turned his steps, and approached the ditch as she
spoke. "What is your pleasure, damsel?" he demanded.

"The window next to mine is that of the Lady Eveline Berenger,
whom you are appointed to guard. Please to give heedful watch upon
this side of the castle."

"Doubt it not, lady," answered the cavalier; and enveloping
himself in his long _chappe_, or military watch-cloak, he
withdrew to a large oak tree at some distance, and stood there
with folded arms, and leaning on his lance, more like a trophy of
armour than a living warrior.

Imboldened by the consciousness, that in case of need succour was
close at hand, Rose drew back into her little chamber, and having
ascertained, by listening, that there was no noise or stirring in
that of Eveline, she began to make some preparations for her own
repose. For this purpose she went into the outward ante-room,
where Dame Gillian, whose fears had given way to the soporiferous
effects of a copious draught of _lithe-alos_, (mild ale, of
the first strength and quality,) slept as sound a sleep as that
generous Saxon beverage could procure.

Muttering an indignant censure on her sloth and indifference, Rose
caught, from the empty couch which had been destined for her own
use, the upper covering, and dragging it with her into the inner
ante-room, disposed it so as, with the assistance of the rushes
which strewed that apartment, to form a sort of couch, upon which,
half seated, half reclined, she resolved to pass the night in as
close attendance upon her mistress as circumstances permitted.
Thus seated, her eye on the pale planet which sailed in full glory
through the blue sky of midnight, she proposed to herself that
sleep should not visit her eyelids till the dawn of morning should
assure her of Eveline's safety.

Her thoughts, meanwhile, rested on the boundless and shadowy world
beyond the grave, and on the great and perhaps yet undecided
question, whether the separation of its inhabitants from those of
this temporal sphere is absolute and decided, or whether,
influenced by motives which we cannot appreciate, they continue to
hold shadowy communication with those yet existing in earthly
reality of flesh and blood? To have denied this, would, in the age
of crusades and of miracles, have incurred the guilt of heresy;
but Rose's firm good sense led her to doubt at least the frequency
of supernatural interference, and she comforted herself with an
opinion, contradicted, however, by her own involuntary starts and
shudderings at every leaf which moved, that, in submitting to the
performance of the rite imposed on her, Eveline incurred no real
danger, and only sacrificed to an obsolete family superstition.

As this conviction strengthened on Rose's mind, her purpose of
vigilance began to decline--her thoughts wandered to objects
towards which they were not directed, like sheep which stray
beyond the charge of their shepherd--her eyes no longer brought
back to her a distinct apprehension of the broad, round, silvery
orb on which they continued to gaze. At length they closed, and
seated on the folded mantle, her back resting against the wall of
the apartment, and her white arms folded on her bosom, Rose
Flammock fell fast asleep.

Her repose was fearfully broken by a shrill and piercing shriek
from the apartment where her lady reposed. To start up and fly to
the door was the work of a moment with the generous girl, who
never permitted fear to struggle with love or duty. The door was
secured with both bar and bolt; and another fainter scream, or
rather groan, seemed to say, aid must be instant, or in vain. Rose
next rushed to the window, and screamed rather than called to the
Norman soldier, who, distinguished by the white folds of his
watch-cloak, still retained his position under the old oak-tree.

At the cry of "Help, help!--the Lady Eveline is murdered!" the
seeming statue, starting at once into active exertion, sped with
the swiftness of a race-horse to the brink of the moat, and was
about to cross it, opposite to the spot where Rose stood at the
open casement, urging him to speed by voice and gesture.

"Not here--not here!" she exclaimed, with breathless precipitation,
as she saw him make towards her--"the window to the right--scale
it, for God's sake, and undo the door of communication."

The soldier seemed to comprehend her--he dashed into the moat
without hesitation, securing himself by catching at the boughs of
trees as he descended. In one moment he vanished among the
underwood; and in another, availing himself of the branches of a
dwarf oak, Rose saw him upon her right, and close to the window of
the fatal apartment. One fear remained--the casement might be
secured against entrance from without--but no! at the thrust of
the Norman it yielded, and its clasps or fastenings being worn
with time, fell inward with a crash which even Dame Gillian's
slumbers were unable to resist.

Echoing scream upon scream, in the usual fashion of fools and
cowards, she entered the cabinet from the ante-room, just as the
door of Eveline's chamber opened, and the soldier appeared,
bearing in his arms the half-undressed and lifeless form of the
Norman maiden herself. Without speaking a word, he placed her in
Rose's arms, and with the same precipitation with which he had
entered, threw himself out of the opened window from which Rose
had summoned him.

Gillian, half distracted with fear and wonder, heaped exclamations
on questions, and mingled questions with cries for help, till Rose
sternly rebuked her in a tone which seemed to recall her scattered
senses. She became then composed enough to fetch a lamp which
remained lighted in the room she had left, and to render herself
at least partly useful in suggesting and applying the usual modes
for recalling the suspended sense. In this they at length
succeeded, for Eveline fetched a fuller sigh, and opened her eyes;
but presently shut them again, and letting her head drop on Rose's
bosom, fell into a strong shuddering fit; while her faithful
damsel, chafing her hands and her temples alternately with
affectionate assiduity, and mingling caresses with these efforts,
exclaimed aloud, "She lives!--She is recovering!--Praised be God!"

"Praised be God!" was echoed in a solemn tone from the window of
the apartment; and turning towards it in terror, Rose beheld the
armed and plumed head of the soldier who had come so opportunely
to their assistance, and who, supported by his arms, had raised
himself so high as to be able to look into the interior of the
cabinet.

Rose immediately ran towards him. "Go--go--good friend," she said;
"the lady recovers--your reward shall await you another time. Go--
begone!--yet stay--keep on your post, and I will call you if there
is farther need. Begone--be faithful, and be secret."

The soldier obeyed without answering a word, and she presently saw
him descend into the moat. Rose then returned back to her
mistress, whom she found supported by Gillian, moaning feebly, and
muttering hurried and unintelligible ejaculations, all intimating
that she had laboured under a violent shock sustained from some
alarming cause.

Dame Gillian had no sooner recovered some degree of self-
possession, than her curiosity became active in proportion. "What
means all this?" she said to Rose; "what has been doing among
you?"

"I do not know," replied Rose.

"If you do not," said Gillian, "who should?--Shall I call the
other women, and raise the house?"

"Not for your life," said Rose, "till my lady is able to give her
own orders; and for this apartment, so help me Heaven, as I will
do my best to discover the secrets it contains!--Support my
mistress the whilst."

So saying, she took the lamp in her hand, and, crossing her brow,
stepped boldly across the mysterious threshold, and, holding up
the light, surveyed the apartment.

It was merely an old vaulted chamber, of very moderate dimensions.
In one corner was an image of the Virgin, rudely cut, and placed
above a Saxon font of curious workmanship. There were two seats
and a couch, covered with coarse tapestry, on which it seemed that
Eveline had been reposing. The fragments of the shattered casement
lay on the floor; but that opening had been only made when the
soldier forced it in, and she saw no other access by which a
stranger could have entered an apartment, the ordinary access to
which was barred and bolted.

Rose felt the influence of those terrors which she had hitherto
surmounted; she cast her mantle hastily around her head, as if to
shroud her sight from some blighting vision, and tripping back to
the cabinet, with more speed and a less firm step than when she
left it, she directed Gillian to lend her assistance in conveying
Eveline to the next room; and having done so, carefully secured
the door of communication, as if to put a barrier betwixt them,
and the suspected danger.

The Lady Eveline was now so far recovered that she could sit up,
and was trying to speak, though but faintly. "Rose," she said at
length, "I have seen her--my doom is sealed."

Rose immediately recollected the imprudence of suffering Gillian
to hear what her mistress might say at such an awful moment, and
hastily adopting the proposal she had before declined, desired her
to go and call other two maidens of their mistress's household.

"And where am I to find them in this house," said Dame Gillian,
"where strange men run about one chamber at midnight, and devils,
for aught I know, frequent the rest of the habitation?"

"Find them where you can," said Rose, sharply; "but begone
presently."

Gillian withdrew lingeringly, and muttering at the same time
something which could not distinctly be understood. No sooner was
she gone, than Rose, giving way to the enthusiastic affection
which she felt for her mistress, implored her, in the most tender
terms, to open her eyes, (for she had again closed them,) and
speak to Rose, her own Rose, who was ready, if necessary, to die
by her mistress's side.

"To-morrow--to-morrow, Rose," murmured Eveline--"I cannot speak at
present."

"Only disburden your mind with one word--tell what has thus
alarmed you--what danger you apprehend."

"I have seen her," answered Eveline--"I have seen the tenant of
yonder chamber--the vision fatal to my race!--Urge me no more--to-
morrow you shall know all." [Footnote: The idea of the Bahr-Geist
was taken from a passage in the Memoirs of Lady Fanshaw, which
have since been given to the public, and received with deserved
approbation.

The original runs as follows. Lady Fanshaw, shifting among her
friends in Ireland, like other sound loyalists of the period,
tells her story thus:--

"From thence we went to the Lady Honor O'Brien's, a lady that went
for a maid, but few believed it. She was the youngest daughter of
the Earl of Thomond. There we staid three nights--the first of
which I was surprised at being laid in a chamber, where, when
about one o'clock, I heard a voice that awakened me. I drew the
curtain, and in the casement of the window I saw, by the light of
the moon, a woman leaning through the casement into the room, in
white, with red hair and pale and ghastly complexion. She spoke
loud, and in a tone I had never heard, thrice. "A horse;" and
then, with a sigh more like the wind than breath, she vanished,
and to me her body looked more like a thick cloud than substance.
I was so much frightened, that my hair stood on end, and my night-
clothes fell off. I pulled and pinched your father, who never
awoke during the disorder I was in, but at last was much surprised
to see me in this fright, and more so when I related the story and
showed him the window opened. Neither of us slept any more that
night; but he entertained me by telling me how much more these
apparitions were common in this country than in England; and we
concluded the cause to be the great superstition of the Irish, and
the want of that knowing faith which should defend them from the
power of the devil, which he exercises among them very much. About
five o'clock the lady of the house came to see us, saying, she had
not been in bed all night, because a cousin O'Brien of hers, whose
ancestors had owned that house, had desired her to stay with him
in his chamber, and that he died at two o'clock; and she said, I
wish you to have had no disturbance, for 'tis the custom of the
place, that when any of the family are dying, the shape of a woman
appears every night in the window until they be dead. This woman
was many ages ago got with child by the owner of this place, who
murdered her in his garden, and flung her into the river under the
window; but truly I thought not of it when I lodged you here, it
being the best room in the house! We made little reply to her
speech, but disposed ourselves to be gone suddenly."]

As Gillian entered with two of the maidens of her mistress's
household, they removed the Lady Eveline, by Rose's directions,
into a chamber at some distance which the latter had occupied, and
placed her in one of their beds, where Rose, dismissing the others
(Gillian excepted) to seek repose where they could find it,
continued to watch her mistress. For some time she continued very
much disturbed, but, gradually, fatigue, and the influence of some
narcotic which Gillian had sense enough to recommend and prepare,
seemed to compose her spirits. She fell into a deep slumber, from
which she did not awaken until the sun was high over the distant
hills.

Sir Walter Scott