Billeder på siden

with black, and in order to increase the horrors of the scene, the powerful pencil of Tintoret had been employed to figure upon the ceiling different instruments of torture, and their mode of operation. From this apartment there are two doors communicating with the dungeons, by one of which the prisoners were brought to be tried, and by the other taken away. A traveller has described the staircase leading from one of these, as being almost totally dark, and terminating in a trap-door, fastened by a number of locks, which again led to another steep and narrow staircase, conducting to an iron door; and so on, darker and more dismal, until the fearful dungeons were reached, shut out from the light and air, and sunk considerably below the surrounding water. The same traveller describes the fall of the heavy trap-door behind him, as ringing through the damp vaults he was just entering, and sending such a thrill through his heart, that he fancied he could almost form some idea of what must have been the feelings of those who heard the same sound, knowing themselves doomed to be buried alive within these dreadful abodes.

"There are four stories in these once living tombs, each containing a separate range of passages and dungeons, from which light is excluded. The cells in these are small and vaulted, and scarcely high enough for a man to stand upright. The walls and roof are lined with iron; an iron shelf and a broad wooden board, serving at once for table, chair, and bed, such being the only furniture they have ever contained.

"After emerging from these frightful vaults, the

traveller proceeded along another passage and staircase of the same melancholy description, to the Bridge of Sighs, which is a covered gallery, with narrow gratings at the sides to admit air, and is crossed by an iron door. Near to this, another door formerly opened into a little chamber, into which the prisoner who once entered, was seen no more; for in this place he was strangled, and his body cast into the canal below.


Now, Lucy, do you not think there was some reason for this being called The Bridge of Sighs?"



"What a charming picture of an old English hall," said Bertha to her mother, "and how happy people must have been when they lived in such secure and stately apartments, surrounded by everything so rich and grand."

"It does, indeed, look very inviting," replied Mrs. Morton; "the old oak furniture, the highlyfinished carved work, that princely couch, and, above all, the little secluded recesses in which the windows of such mansions were always placed, do indeed give us an ideal picture of social comfort, security, and repose. We read, too, of the hospitable entertainments, the Christmas festivities, and the family gatherings, which were wont to take place in the old English halls; and we half persuade ourselves that these must have been happier times than ours, and that we should like to go back again, to live in that stage of our country's history, when the great lords and barons ruled like little kings over their own territories, and held their own little courts within the walls of these mansions."

"It is, however, only on one condition," said Bertha, "that I think we should, any of us, be willing to go back; and that is, that we ourselves should belong to the families of the great lords

or barons, and not to the people over whom they ruled."

"You are right, my child," said Mrs. Morton, "and if we examine the subject further, we shall see that the times to which we allude, were in reality not nearly so happy as our own. This ancient building, for instance, the interior of which is here represented, is situated in Westmoreland, in the midst of fertile grounds, beautifully diversified with the richest woods, above which are often seen the summits of bold and craggy hills. Unlike many other structures of ancient times, it has not been suffered to fall to decay, but has been repaired in a manner corresponding to the original design, so as to present one of the most perfect specimens to be found in the present day, of that particular style of building. The interior is elegantly furnished, and adorned with good paintings; and the dining-room, a lofty and spacious apartment, is ornamented with a ceiling and wainscoting of the most richly carved oak. That particular apartment which forms the subject of this picture, is called the Queen's Room, from the circumstance of Catharine Parr, the last queen of Henry the Eighth, having spent several nights here after the death of the king. It does, indeed, appear to be worthy of the occupation of a queen, but we may better judge of the extent and importance of the whole establishment, by reading in our national records, that in the time of Henry the Sixth, the owner of this mansion could take to the border wars a force of 290 well-trained fighting-men. We have, however, no stronger proof of the wretchedness and violence of these times, than the fact, that

the power and influence of the lords and barons was reckoned, not so much by the property which they held by lawful and secure possession, as by the number of men they could call around them, to take into the field of battle. Even this quiet and peaceful-looking mansion has its embattled turrets, its winding stairs, and a strength of masonry which sufficiently prove that a well-appointed garrison was required to defend these elegant apartments, and the festal scenes they may be supposed to have occasionally presented, from the violence of feudal discord, and the fierce irruptions of lawless depredators."


Still," said Bertha, "there seems to me something glorious and great in defending one's own possessions, at least in having the power to do it, against all the world; and I often think if I was rich, that I should like to build myself a great castle, and live in it like some of the princesses of old."

"I am afraid you would look rather foolish," said her mother, "surrounded by your thick walls and massive turrets, without an enemy to assail them."

"Oh !” replied Bertha, "but I should like a few enemies, at least I should like to hear of a few at a great distance, or I should have no pleasure in my security."

"Ah! my child," exclaimed her mother, “do you not find enemies enough in your own temper, and your own heart, without wishing for enemies to your personal safety? But now, I hope you will be patient and attentive, while I go into the subject a little further, and endeavor to explain.

« ForrigeFortsæt »