Remove the Veil, Annette

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

udolpho

‘Do you know which is my room?’ said she to Annette, as they crossed the
hall.

‘Yes, I believe I do, ma’amselle; but this is such a strange rambling
place! I have been lost in it already: they call it the double chamber,
over the south rampart, and I went up this great stair-case to it. My
lady’s room is at the other end of the castle.’

Emily ascended the marble staircase, and came to the corridor, as they
passed through which, Annette resumed her chat–‘What a wild lonely
place this is, ma’am! I shall be quite frightened to live in it. How
often, and often have I wished myself in France again! I little thought,
when I came with my lady to see the world, that I should ever be shut up
in such a place as this, or I would never have left my own country!
This way, ma’amselle, down this turning. I can almost believe in giants
again, and such like, for this is just like one of their castles; and,
some night or other, I suppose I shall see fairies too, hopping about
in that great old hall, that looks more like a church, with its huge
pillars, than any thing else.’

‘Yes,’ said Emily, smiling, and glad to escape from more serious
thought, ‘if we come to the corridor, about midnight, and look down into
the hall, we shall certainly see it illuminated with a thousand lamps,
and the fairies tripping in gay circles to the sound of delicious music;
for it is in such places as this, you know, that they come to hold
their revels. But I am afraid, Annette, you will not be able to pay the
necessary penance for such a sight: and, if once they hear your voice,
the whole scene will vanish in an instant.’

‘O! if you will bear me company, ma’amselle, I will come to the
corridor, this very night, and I promise you I will hold my tongue; it
shall not be my fault if the show vanishes.–But do you think they will
come?’

‘I cannot promise that with certainty, but I will venture to say, it
will not be your fault if the enchantment should vanish.’

‘Well, ma’amselle, that is saying more than I expected of you: but I am
not so much afraid of fairies, as of ghosts, and they say there are a
plentiful many of them about the castle: now I should be frightened to
death, if I should chance to see any of them. But hush! ma’amselle, walk
softly! I have thought, several times, something passed by me.’

‘Ridiculous!’ said Emily, ‘you must not indulge such fancies.’

‘O ma’am! they are not fancies, for aught I know; Benedetto says these
dismal galleries and halls are fit for nothing but ghosts to live
in; and I verily believe, if I LIVE long in them I shall turn to one
myself!’

‘I hope,’ said Emily, ‘you will not suffer Signor Montoni to hear of
these weak fears; they would highly displease him.’

‘What, you know then, ma’amselle, all about it!’ rejoined Annette. ‘No,
no, I do know better than to do so; though, if the Signor can sleep
sound, nobody else in the castle has any right to lie awake, I am sure.’
Emily did not appear to notice this remark.

‘Down this passage, ma’amselle; this leads to a back stair-case. O! if I
see any thing, I shall be frightened out of my wits!’

‘That will scarcely be possible,’ said Emily smiling, as she followed
the winding of the passage, which opened into another gallery: and then
Annette, perceiving that she had missed her way, while she had been
so eloquently haranguing on ghosts and fairies, wandered about through
other passages and galleries, till, at length, frightened by their
intricacies and desolation, she called aloud for assistance: but they
were beyond the hearing of the servants, who were on the other side of
the castle, and Emily now opened the door of a chamber on the left.

‘O! do not go in there, ma’amselle,’ said Annette, ‘you will only lose
yourself further.’

‘Bring the light forward,’ said Emily, ‘we may possibly find our way
through these rooms.’

Annette stood at the door, in an attitude of hesitation, with the light
held up to shew the chamber, but the feeble rays spread through not half
of it. ‘Why do you hesitate?’ said Emily, ‘let me see whither this room
leads.’

Annette advanced reluctantly. It opened into a suite of spacious and
ancient apartments, some of which were hung with tapestry, and others
wainscoted with cedar and black larch-wood. What furniture there was,
seemed to be almost as old as the rooms, and retained an appearance
of grandeur, though covered with dust, and dropping to pieces with the
damps, and with age.

‘How cold these rooms are, ma’amselle!’ said Annette: ‘nobody has lived
in them for many, many years, they say. Do let us go.’

‘They may open upon the great stair-case, perhaps,’ said Emily, passing
on till she came to a chamber, hung with pictures, and took the light
to examine that of a soldier on horseback in a field of battle.–He was
darting his spear upon a man, who lay under the feet of the horse, and
who held up one hand in a supplicating attitude. The soldier,
whose beaver was up, regarded him with a look of vengeance, and the
countenance, with that expression, struck Emily as resembling Montoni.
She shuddered, and turned from it. Passing the light hastily over
several other pictures, she came to one concealed by a veil of black
silk. The singularity of the circumstance struck her, and she stopped
before it, wishing to remove the veil, and examine what could thus
carefully be concealed, but somewhat wanting courage. ‘Holy Virgin! what
can this mean?’ exclaimed Annette. ‘This is surely the picture they told
me of at Venice.’

‘What picture?’ said Emily. ‘Why a picture–a picture,’ replied Annette,
hesitatingly–‘but I never could make out exactly what it was about,
either.’

‘Remove the veil, Annette.’

‘What! I, ma’amselle!–I! not for the world!’ Emily, turning round, saw
Annette’s countenance grow pale. ‘And pray, what have you heard of
this picture, to terrify you so, my good girl?’ said she. ‘Nothing,
ma’amselle: I have heard nothing, only let us find our way out.’

‘Certainly: but I wish first to examine the picture; take the light,
Annette, while I lift the veil.’ Annette took the light, and immediately
walked away with it, disregarding Emily’s call to stay, who, not
choosing to be left alone in the dark chamber, at length followed her.
‘What is the reason of this, Annette?’ said Emily, when she overtook
her, ‘what have you heard concerning that picture, which makes you so
unwilling to stay when I bid you?’

‘I don’t know what is the reason, ma’amselle, replied Annette, ‘nor
any thing about the picture, only I have heard there is something very
dreadful belonging to it–and that it has been covered up in black EVER
SINCE–and that nobody has looked at it for a great many years–and it
somehow has to do with the owner of this castle before Signor Montoni
came to the possession of it–and’—

‘Well, Annette,’ said Emily, smiling, ‘I perceive it is as you say–that
you know nothing about the picture.’

‘No, nothing, indeed, ma’amselle, for they made me promise never to
tell:–but’–

‘Well,’ rejoined Emily, who observed that she was struggling between
her inclination to reveal a secret, and her apprehension for the
consequence, ‘I will enquire no further’—

‘No, pray, ma’am, do not.’

‘Lest you should tell all,’ interrupted Emily.

Annette blushed, and Emily smiled, and they passed on to the extremity
of this suite of apartments, and found themselves, after some further
perplexity, once more at the top of the marble stair-case, where Annette
left Emily, while she went to call one of the servants of the castle to
shew them to the chamber, for which they had been seeking.

While she was absent, Emily’s thoughts returned to the picture; an
unwillingness to tamper with the integrity of a servant, had checked her
enquiries on this subject, as well as concerning some alarming hints,
which Annette had dropped respecting Montoni; though her curiosity
was entirely awakened, and she had perceived, that her questions might
easily be answered. She was now, however, inclined to go back to the
apartment and examine the picture; but the loneliness of the hour and
of the place, with the melancholy silence that reigned around her,
conspired with a certain degree of awe, excited by the mystery attending
this picture, to prevent her. She determined, however, when day-light
should have re-animated her spirits, to go thither and remove the veil.
As she leaned from the corridor, over the stair-case, and her eyes
wandered round, she again observed, with wonder, the vast strength of
the walls, now somewhat decayed, and the pillars of solid marble, that
rose from the hall, and supported the roof.

— Ann Radcliffe

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Books Publishing and Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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