In vain he racked his memory to ascertain whether he had left his sword in its scabbard, or had laid the naked blade, as was his custom, by him while he slept. The more he tried to think the more confused his thoughts became. His forehead felt circled with burning iron, his lips were dry and parched, his step faltering as if under the influence of some potent spell. He called for a light, but his voice sounded in his own ears thick and unnatural, and no one answered. His aged hosts had retired to rest an hour before, and though they had noticed and drew their own conclusions from his agitated movements, his call was unregarded. In five minutes more they heard him rush from the house; and anxious as she was to justify all the ways and doings of her handsome lodger, old Juanna was this night compelled to lean to her husband’s ominously expressed belief, that no one would voluntarily go forth on such an awful night, save for deeds of evil.
His rapid pace and open path were illumined every alternate minute with, the vivid lightning, and the very excitement of the storm partially removed the incomprehensible sensations under which Stanley labored. He turned in the direction of the castle, perhaps with the unconfessed hope of meeting some of his companions in arms returning from the royal meeting, and in their society to shake off the spell which chained him. As he neared the Calle Soledad the ground suddenly became slippery, as with some thick fluid, of what nature the dense darkness prevented his discovering, his foot came in contact with some heavy substance lying right across his path. He stumbled and fell, and his dress and hands became literrally dyed with the same hue as the ground. He started up in terror; a long vivid flash lingering more than a minute in the air, disclosed the object against which he had fallen; and paralyzed with horror, pale, ghastly, as if suddenly turned to stone, he remained. He uttered no word nor cry; but flash after flash played around him, and still beheld him gazing in stupefied and motionless horror on the appalling sight before him.
1st MONK.—The storm increases;
hark! how dismally
It sounds along the cloisters!
BERNARD.—As on I hastened,
bearing thus my light,
Across my path, not fifty paces off,
I saw a murdered corse, stretched on its back,
Smeared with new blood, as though but freshly slain.
The apartment adjoining the council-room of the castle, and selected this night as the scene of King Ferdinand’s banquet, was at the commencement of the storm filled with the expected guests. From forty to fifty were there assembled, chosen indiscriminately from the Castilians and Arragonese, the first statesmen and bravest warriors of the age. But the usual animated discussion, the easy converse, and eager council, had strangely, and almost unconsciously, sunk