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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

She accepts graciously the advances of the amorous Sergy


of Ghismondo." Taking this for

a Spanish folkword, they get rather angry. But, finding that there _is_ a place of the name close by in the hills--ruinous, haunted, but actual--they take plenty of food, wine, and torches, etc., and persuade, with no little difficulty, their _arriero_ and even their companion and the real hirer of the vehicle (a theatrical manager, who has allowed them to accompany him, when they could get no other) to dare the night adventure. On the way the _arriero_ tells them the legend, how, centuries before, Ghismondo de las Sierras, ruined by debauchery, established himself in this his last possession, with one squire, one page (both of the worst characters), his beautiful niece Ines, whom he has seduced, and a few desperate followers, who help him to live by brigandage. Every night the three chiefs drank themselves senseless, and were regularly dragged to bed by their men. But one Christmas Eve at midnight, Ines, struck with remorse, entered the hall of orgies, and implored them to repent, actually kneeling before Ghismondo, and placing her hand on his heart. To which the ruffian replied by stabbing her, and leaving her for the men-at-arms to find, a corpse, among the drunken but live bodies. For a whole twelvemonth the three see, in dreams, their victim come and lay a burning hand on their hearts; and at its end, on the same day and at the same hour, the dream comes true--the phantom appears, speaks _once_, "Here am I!" sits with them, eats and drinks, even sings and dances, but finally
lays the flaming hand of the dream on each heart; and they die in torture--the men-at-arms entering as usual, only to find _four_ corpses. (Now it is actually Christmas Eve--the Spanish _Noche Buena_--at "_temp._ of tale.")

So far the story, though admirably told, in a fashion which mere summary cannot convey, is, it may be said, not more than "as per usual." Not so what follows.

The four travellers--the unnamed captain who tells the story; his two lieutenants, Boutraix, a bluff Voltairian, with an immense capacity for food and drink, and Sergy, a young and romantic Celadon, _plus_ the actor-manager Bascara, who is orthodox--with the _arriero_, arrive at last at the castle, which is Udolphish enough, and with some difficulty reach, over broken staircases and through ruined corridors, the great banqueting-hall.[87]

Here--for it is less ruinous that the rest of the building and actually contains furniture and mouldering pictures--they make themselves tolerably comfortable with their torches, a huge fire made up from broken stairs and panels, abundance of provisions, and two dozen of wine, less a supply for the _arriero_, who prudently remains in the stables, alleging that the demons that haunt those places are fairly familiar to him and not very mischievous. As the baggage has got very wet during the day, the dresses and properties of Bascara's company are taken out and put to air. Well filled with food and drink, the free-thinker Boutraix proposes that they shall equip themselves from these with costumes not unsuitable to the knight, squire, and page of the legend, and they do so, Bascara refusing to take part in the game, and protesting strongly against their irreverence. At last midnight comes, and they cry, "Where is Ines de las Sierras?" lifting their glasses to her health. Suddenly there sounds from the dark end of the great hall the fateful "Here am I!" and there comes forward a figure in a white shroud, which seats itself in the vacant place assigned by tradition to Ines herself. She is extraordinarily beautiful, and is, under the white covering, dressed in a fashion resembling the mouldering portrait which they have seen in the gallery. She speaks too, half rallying them, as if surprised at _their_ surprise; she calls herself Ines de las Sierras; she throws on the table a bracelet with the family arms, which they have also seen dimly emblazoned or sculptured about the castle; she eats; and, as a final piece of conviction, she tears her dress open and shows the scar on her breast. Then she drinks response to the toast they had in mockery proposed; she accepts graciously the advances of the amorous Sergy; she sings divinely, and she dances more divinely still. The whole scene is described supremely well, but the description of the dance is one of the very earliest and very finest pieces of Romantic French prose. One may try, however rashly, to translate it:


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