“Do not speak lightly of that picture,” interrupted Matilda, sighing: “I know the adoration with which I look at that picture is uncommon—but I am not in love with a coloured panel. The character of that virtuous prince, the veneration with which my mother has inspired me for his memory, the orisons which, I know not why, she has enjoined me to pour forth at his tomb, all have concurred to persuade me that, somehow or other, my destiny is linked with something relating to him.”

“Lord, madam! how should that be?” said Bianca: “I have always heard that your family was no way related to his; and I am sure I cannot conceive why my lady, the princess, sends you in a cold morning or a damp evening to pray at his tomb: he is no saint by the almanac. If you must pray, why does she not bid you address yourself to our great St. Nicholas? I am sure he is the saint I pray to for a husband.”

“Perhaps my mind would be less affected,” said Matilda, “if my mother would explain her reasons to me; but it is the mystery she observes, that inspires me with this—I know not what to call it. As she never acts from caprice, I am sure there is some fatal secret at bottom—nay, I know there is. In her agony of grief for my brother’s death she dropped some words that intimated as much.”

“Oh, dear madam,” cried Bianca, “what were they?”

“No,” said Matilda, “if a parent lets fall a word, and wishes it recalled, it is not for a child to utter it.”

“What! was she sorry for what she had said?” asked Bianca. “I am sure, madam, you may trust me.”

“With my own little secrets, when I have any, I may,” said Matilda; “but never with my mother’s. A child ought to have no ears or eyes, but as a parent directs.”

“Well, to be sure, madam, you were born to be a saint,” said Bianca, “and there is no resisting one’s vocation: you will end in a convent at last. But there is my Lady Isabella would not be so reserved to me: she will let me talk to her of young men; and when a handsome cavalier has come to the castle, she has owned to me that she wished your brother Conrad resembled him.”

“Bianca,” said the princess, “I do not allow you to mention my friend disrespectfully. Isabella is of a cheerful disposition, but her soul is as pure as virtue itself. She knows your idling, babbling humour, and perhaps has now and then encouraged it, to divert melancholy, and enliven the solitude in which my father keeps us.”

“Blessed Mary!” said Bianca, starting, “there it is again! Dear madam, do you hear nothing? The castle is certainly haunted!”

“Peace!” said Matilda, “and listen! I did think I heard a voice—but it must be fancy; your terrors, I suppose, have infected me.”

“Indeed! indeed! madam,” said Bianca, half weeping with agony; “I am sure I heard a voice.”

“Does anybody lie in the chamber beneath?” said the princess.

“Nobody has dared to lie there,” answered Bianca, “since the great astrologer, that was your brother’s tutor, drowned himself. For certain, madam, his ghost and the young prince’s are now met in the chamber below; for Heaven’s sake let us fly to your mother’s apartment!”

“I charge you not to stir,” said Matilda. “If they are spirits in pain, we may ease their sufferings by questioning them. They can mean no hurt to us, for we have not injured them; and if they should, shall we be more safe in one chamber than in another? Reach me my beads; we will say a prayer, and then speak to them.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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