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  • The Ghost of the Black Friar
    Page 1 of 2

    IT was a dreary night in Noovember, 18—, when Mr. Hawthorne, a Protestant English gentleman, rode up to the gates of the Abbey of St. Barnabas, fifteen miles from the town of —, on the banks of the far-famed river Po. He had started from Turin early in the morning, in company with a post-chaise, containing his brother and three friends; but having left the highway to inspect a ruin at some distance across the fields, had got bewildered and lost his road. As nightfall came on, the lights from the casements of the Abbey led him, as his only protection from exposure, and the banditti who then infested the country, to seek hospitality at its gates. It was only the sheerest necessity compelled him to do so. For Mr. Hawthorne was the son of an Evangelical Minister, and his notions of monks and their persecuting spirit, were such as may be more easily imagined than described. As the sturdy lay-brother cautiously unbarred and opened the massive convent gate, the traveller's spirit was somewhat reassured by the honest good-nature which beamed from his face; but a thrill of distrust ran through his veins as he swung back the heavy portal, still eyeing the guest, who had dismounted, and stood, bridle in hand, at the horse's head. The corners of the old monk's handsome mouth at that moment assumed something of a smirk, that seemed to speak a consciousness of having a high-mettled Briton in his power.

    The gravel creaked beneath their feet as they approached the stable, where the horse was duly cared for, and where his master left him at the invitation of the monk, to repair to the strangers' apartment and partake of some refreshment, which he stood sadly in need of, after his solitary rambles.

    Not long after supper, the Most Reverend Father Abbot was announced, and Mr. Hawthorne, on rising, confronted a tall, commanding figure, in whose veins coursed some of the proudest blood of northern Italy's feudal chieftains. The mingled air of grace and majesty which formed the character of the Father Abbot impressed his visitor most favorably, and the paternal kindness with which he welcomed him to the convent halls, and on taking leave bade him a cheerful "good night, and God bless you," tended wonderfully to dispel his gloom and reassure his spirits. Still he could not but think that all this friendliness might be only apparent, while the true end was to lull all anxiety, and put him completely off his guard. He had heard from travellers, of individuals who had been known to enter similar institutions and never left them. He knew that an English Protestant would seem no better than a heretic in the eyes of the monks, whose blind zeal might lead them to any excess, against one whom they considered as an enemy of God and Holy Mother Church. He retired to rest with a heavy heart, and bitterly repented having at all entered this strange abode. Mr. Hawthorne was, in plain truth, somewhat superstitious. He had been led to believe from early infancy that monks and friars held communion with the evil spirits of the air. He believed, moreover, in presentiment; and now, do what he would, the firm conviction rested on his mind that some great mishap was going to befall him. He looked anxiously all around the room before even approaching his bed, and longer still before he laid his head on his pillow. Little did he dream of what a night he was about to pass!!

    He had not been asleep more than an hour when the wall opposite to his bed exhibited a streak of light. Hawthorne gazed intently upon this unexpected vision, so as to be sure it was not the work of fancy. He was certain he did not dream, for the dark figure of a monk in the black friar's garb detached itself from the bright glare formed on the wall, and glided with noiseless tread towards his couch. For a moment the traveller's superstition got the better of him, his flesh crept, and his hair stood on end at the thought that this awful vision must be from below. The Ghost glided into a corner of the room, between the bed and the wall. Hawthorne, in turning, made a slight noise, when the figure turned on him, and stood as though shading a light which it held between its hands. Its jaws opened as its eyes rested upon the traveller, for one moment it delayed, then glided to the part from which it came, and vanished.

    Page 2 >

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    Cummings, J.W. Italian Legends and Sketches. New York: Edward Dunigan & Brother, James B. Kirker, 1858. 75-80

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