The Literary Magnet/Series 1/Volume 4/The Veiled Bride

For other versions of this work, see The Veiled Bride.

Part one of two: for the conclusion, see The Veiled Bride—Part II. Published in German as "Klara Mongomery" in Gespensterbuch (vol. 3, 1811).


By the Author of the “Dance of the Dead.”[1]

The deed was done—Louis XVI. was no more! A veil of secret horror and awe had spread over all France; nay, over the whole of Europe. Tyranny had assumed the colour of Liberty, whose divine rays, smiling and roseate as the dawn of a May-day morning, had vanished and left in its place the bloody scarlet of the Jacobins. At length Robespierre fell, and a new order of things arose. With a fearful heart had I watched the course of events; ten years had I been absent from my country, and with joy, therefore, did I embrace the mission, however dangerous, with which the court of ——— honoured me.—I set out for Paris; I passed the Rhine; my way led through the village of Montremy. I had already learnt that my venerable friend, (its minister) who had been intrusted with my education, when I passed my happy youth in the charming valleys of the province,—but who, for the last twenty years, had fulfilled the duties of a servant of God in this place,—had escaped the horrors of the reign of terror; and that he still lived, beloved and respected, in the midst of his spiritual children. The Marquis of Mongomery, however, the lord of the manor, had fallen its victim, and the magnificent chateau had been destroyed. When I approached the village, the beauty of the valley, joined to the stillness and calm of the evening, induced me to alight, and to pursue the course of a small rivulet which led to the village. I ordered my carriage to wait for me at the inn, and proceeded leisurely on my way.

Since I had passed the Rhine, my eyes had continually met with scenes of destruction, which spoke loudly of the days of terror, for the all-softening hand of time had only then begun to heal the wounds of this unhappy country, and to draw a veil over the desolation of these scenes. However afflicting the sight, I had by degrees become accustomed to it, added to which, the expedition with which I travelled, did not allow me to take a close inspection of the surrounding objects. But here, in the deep solitude of nature, the effect of which was heightened by the calm of a summer’s evening, and where nothing met my view but some roofless huts, peeping through the trees; behind which towered the ruins of the chateau, huge and black, like a burnt out volcano; at the sight of these horrors, in the midst of a scenery glowing in all the beauty and richness of nature, the mercy of God and the barbarity of man formed too striking a contrast, not to awaken feelings of a gloomy and melancholy nature. Lost in my reveries, I scarcely perceived that I had taken a small, but little trodden path, which led through meadows and underwood, leaving the village to the right. After walking for some time, I found myself shut in by hedges of considerable height, and of a regular cut. The place had all the appearance of a complete wilderness; but nevertheless bore witness that the hand of man had once been busy there. The grass had grown to such a height as to impede the step, and at every advance I made, the birds flew fluttering from out their quiet nests; here and there were recesses in the hedges, and occasionally a broken statue was seen lying on the ground; and in other places, a fragment was observed still standing on its pedestal. All this bespoke a deserted garden in the old French style, and, indeed, I perceived the chateau at a small distance. The hedges I walked between formed narrow alleys, open spaces, and serpentine walks. There was something in all this more dreadful than the mere solitude of a wilderness. Where Nature reigns alone in her native majesty, she is ever smiling, grand, or soothing; but where she triumphs over the works of men, her aspect is fearful and appalling; the genius of humanity veils her face and flies, while men are lost in awful contemplation of their own transient condition.—I approached the ruined edifice; the fire had destroyed only a small portion of the immense building; it still frowned in gloomy grandeur—magnificent even in ruins. A small gate led me to a kind of court-yard: bushes obstructed my path, and it was not without some difficulty I gained an entrance into the chateau. After forcing my way over different heaps of ashes and rubbish, I at length found myself in a large apartment, which led into several others. All wore the strong marks of a splendour, which had been effaced more by the rude hand of force and rapine, than by the slowly destroying hand of time. Torn arras, broken windows, fragments of costly furniture, and the architectural ornaments, were the gloomy, but powerful and eloquent, interpreters of the past. At length I reached a small chapel, where the broken altar and mutilated statues spoke the same language. I was about to retire, when leaning against the wall, at the back of the altar, to take another view of the building, a door suddenly opened behind me. I started, turned round, and saw an aperture which led into a low, dark vaulted passage. It was evident I had unconsciously touched and opened a hidden spring in the wall. Curiosity urged me to enter. I proceeded slowly, and soon found myself in a kind of vaulted hall of considerable extent. It was some time before I became so far accustomed to the dim twilight of the scene, as to enable me to discern the surrounding objects. The atmosphere was not oppressive as I had expected to find it; a strong current of air caused me to direct my attention towards the roof, when I perceived that the only light of the hall came through a cupola, the windows of which were broken, and accounted for the fresh stream of air which flowed into the closed vault. The veil of darkness had gradually dissolved before my eyes, and I remarked that the walls were ornamented with gloomy images and emblems of death. Fronting the door stood, upon a high pedestal in a niche, a statue representing a veiled female figure. On the pedestal was the simple inscription:

Clara Mongomery.

While I stood contemplating the statue, which appeared of good workmanship, and was wondering at the singularity of placing a veiled figure as a monumental effigy, a ray of the parting sun glanced through the cupola and fell at my feet. It enabled me to see that I was standing upon a plate of metal covered with inscriptions. I stooped down, and read as follows: CLARA MONGOMERY, OF THE HOUSE OF LIMEUIL, BORN 1543, DIED 1559. Under this inscription were several others in smaller letters, and engraved by different hands. I attempted to decipher them, expecting to find some of those common-place remarks, by which insignificant travellers vainly hope to commemorate themselves. But what was my astonishment when I read these words: “Was seen the 20th of July, 1589; was observed the 14th of May, 1610;” several others followed, the last of which was: “Appeared the 21st of January, 1793.”—I remained for a considerable time lost in wonder and meditation upon the singularity of the object before me, when the shades of evening, which were rapidly closing around me, hastened my departure. I withdrew, and closing the secret door behind me, I crossed the chapel, and re-entered the apartments. When I had proceeded for some minutes, I found myself in a spacious hall leading to what had evidently been the grand avenue of the garden; at its extremity appeared the village, dimly seen through the twilight. It now first occurred to me that I must have taken another direction on quitting the chapel; but thinking this the nearest way, I proceeded at a quick rate, impelled by the desire to embrace my venerable tutor. As the village lay before me, I easily, by clearing a few hedges and ditches, succeeded in reaching it. On my entrance I observed different groupes of villagers, who appeared to be earnestly engaged in some interesting subject: they were whispering to each other, and seemed pensive and afflicted. I approached an elderly man, who was standing alone, and inquired for the residence of the minister. The man was evidently labouring under deep afflictions; but he replied in a mild and collected manner, pointing out my nearest way, and then added, “If you walk on slowly, Sir, you will just see him returned from a burial—the burial of my poor niece.” The tone of suppressed grief, with which these last words were uttered, and the tear glistening in the old man’s eyes, greatly moved me: I made some inquiry after his niece and her death, and whilst the honest peasant replied to my questions, several others collected around us. The substance of his answer was, that Rosa, his niece, a lovely and lively girl of seventeen, had two days since cheerfully joined in the evening’s dance of the villagers under the trees; that she had quitted them for an instant, and stolen into the neighbouring thicket, in order to observe her lover secretly, when she was suddenly heard to utter a piercing shriek: they all ran to the spot, and found the poor girl stretched upon the ground, without any sign of life, and with her features dreadfully distorted by the marks of convulsive terror. “They say,” added the villager, “that the heat and the exertion of dancing had caused an apoplectic fit.”—”They may say what they please,” interrupted a young girl, “but I am convinced she was in perfect health. I have no doubt but she saw the WHITE.” “Don’t talk of that, my daughter, you must not, indeed,” said the old man, interrupting her. “Go, Lisette, conduct this gentleman to our good minister.”—I wished to have spoken somewhat longer with him, but it was clear he sought to break off the discourse. The other peasants seemed to hold him in great respect; they dispersed; he wished me a good night, and turned away. I followed my pretty conductress, who was waiting for me. I attempted to resume my questions about the death of her young friend, but was silenced by her naïve answer: “You heard, Sir, that my father commanded my silence on this subject, but whatever else I know, I will tell you with all my heart.” I inquired after my old friend. “This is his garden,” answered she, opening the gate, “and there he sits in his bower.” Before I could answer a word, my fair guide dropped me a courtesy, and disappeared among the bushes. At my first setting out upon my journey, I had strongly anticipated the pleasure of seeing my friend again; but now that I was near him, I found myself troubled and agitated. What I had seen in the vault of the ruined chateau,—what I had heard relating to the mysterious death of the young girl, so strongly occupied my mind, and absorbed all my faculties, that when I approached the bower, where the minister reposed, I scarcely recognized him. At the time I quitted him, he was an elderly, but hale and vigorous man; and I now beheld a venerable face of four score. When I entered the bower, the old gentleman rose to meet me. He took off his cap—his silver hair played in the evening breeze, and his clear blue eye gave me a friendly welcome: it was his old, well remembered, loving look. I took his hand and said, “Do you not know me?” He looked at me, shook his head, and pleaded old age as an excuse for his want of memory. “Dear Clairval,” said I again, “do you not even know my voice?” There passed a ray of joy over the old man’s face; with both his hands he parted my hair from forehead, and gazed earnestly in my eyes:—“Count Ferdinand! my dear, dear son!” exclaimed he, and sunk upon my breast.—After a quarter of an hour’s conversation, every trace, which time and care had impressed on his face, appeared to have vanished; he became animated by my presence, and I was again young in my memory. There were so many things to be inquired after, that time ran quickly away; and so strongly did the past occupy our minds, that the present was lost entirely.—At length, when we were about retiring to partake of a slight repast, he said, “I thank God doubly for having sent you to-day—for it has been a sad and heavy one, and I feel I shall not see many more. I have lost one child, and heaven blesses me with the sight of another before I close these eyes for ever.”—This brought me, of course, upon the mysterious manner of the death of the young girl, and upon my visit to the vault.—“How strange!” replied he, “you have then been at the vault! For many years not a human being has been there except myself. The peasants avoid that part of the gardens—and the spring in the wall is a secret.—Indeed,” added he, after a pause, “there is a mystery about the death of my poor Rosa! I loved her as my daughter,—she was innocent and beautiful, like Eve before her fall. Poor, poor girl! Fright was the cause of her death;—she had seen the WHITE LADY.”—“The white Lady!” exclaimed I. “Is it possible that I can hear such a thing from your mouth? I heard something of that kind from the peasants, but I treated it as a mere superstition; and now I hear you gravely repeating the very same thing!” He smiled and said, “God is a mystery, and his works are not less so. Let this suffice you. Philosophy kindles her torch only to show us that we are really in darkness. The White Lady does appear. However, I strictly forbade the peasantry to talk about it, as it is a subject not fit for them.—Do you recollect the letter I wrote you ten years ago, in which I wished you joy on your quitting France?” “Certainly I do!” interrupted I, with vivacity; “I have often been astonished—more than astonished, in recollecting how clearly you unfolded the abyss of time before my eyes: all that was dark when I received your letter, became afterwards but too clear.” “What,” observed he again, “if this White Lady, as people call her, and my knowledge of the future were connected? You look astonished and doubtful: but so it is. Did you not remark the dates of the inscriptions at the foot of the veiled figure in the vault?” “I recollect the first two and the last,” said I, “and reflecting upon them, I was not a little struck to find that they marked the days of the death of Henry III., Henry IV., and Louis XVI. But what of this? The veiled figure”——“Is the white Lady!” interrupted my aged friend. “Your curiosity shall be satisfied. But let us take our supper,—we will speak of this hereafter.” We entered the house and sat down to table. After a short pause he began of his own accord. “The sudden death of my dear Rosa, has extinguished the last lingering spark of life. I shall not see you again, although you will return in a few weeks. Your unexpected presence at this very juncture, and your extraordinary visit to the secret vault, seem an admonition of Providence, which I shall obey. I promised you an explanation of this mystery: you shall have it. It is contained in a packet of papers, which I will place in your hands, and which you are at liberty to copy. I found these papers in the family archives of the chateau, in the third year of my residence here. The existence of these records, as well as that of the vault, were unknown, even to the lords of the manor, till within this century. The Marquis of Mongomery is dead; and, before I die, I think it my duty to send these papers to the present Count of Limeuil.—I request a favour at your hands. I have some time since prepared a letter to the Count, and only waited for an opportunity to send it, together with the papers. He lives at a short distance from Paris; take these papers with you, and send them to him immediately after your arrival in the capital. However, do not go to see him,” added he smiling; “he belongs to a party, whose politics are strongly opposite to those of your court.” He rose at these words, went out of the room, and returned shortly after with the packet. One of the papers was inscribed: CLARA MONGOMERY, THE VEILED BRIDE. The others were sealed, and directed to Count Limeuil. “After you have read this,” said he, “and used your discretion, with respect to copying it, you will enclose the whole in a sheet of paper, and forward the packet to the Count. I will order paper to be placed in your room; and a family seal of the Mongomerys, which is in my possession, will serve you to seal the packet.” “But why,” inquired I, “is this wonderful being represented veiled? Were her features not deemed worthy of being known to posterity? and if deemed unworthy, why represent her at all?” “You will not find an answer to your question in the papers,” replied he; “but a tradition prevails, that it was known during her lifetime, that she would wander the earth after her death; and that, if an image of her was to be placed over her tomb, she would appear in the same shape: her countenance was deemed to be fatal to the beholder, and on this account she was represented veiled—and,” added he, “it is under this form that she really appears.” “Indeed!” exclaimed I, while a feeling of awe thrilled through my whole frame. “Yes, my son,” replied he, “it is even so: twice have these eyes of mine beheld the veiled Lady.—As to the two last inscriptions which you read, they were engraved by my own hand.” Did she ever speak?” inquired I. “No;” said he, “she was never known to speak, and I did not address her. She does not appear on common occasions; and her appearance rarely fails to announce the death of a king of France.” My curiosity was intensely excited. The moment of our bidding good night having arrived, my old friend embraced me with all the tenderness of a parent, and gave me his blessing. There was a solemnity in his manner, and yet a heavenly smile played on his countenance—I never shall forget his look at that moment.

On retiring to my room, I found a writing-desk, paper, and a large family seal on the table, just as my old friend had told me. I seated myself, opened the parcel inscribed CLARA MONGOMERY, and began to read. I was greatly surprised, and somewhat disappointed, to find that these papers consisted of the letters of a young lady of the court of Henry the Second. I thought there must have been some mistake respecting the papers, and was on the point of laying them aside, when I reflected that the name of Limeuil, in the first letter, could not possibly be a mistake. I therefore resumed my reading; and my interest and astonishment increased, when I came to those points which had enabled my friend to take such an insight into the future. I availed myself of the permission I had received, and began to copy the letters; but being obliged to set out again next morning, and finding that I should be straitened in time, I contented myself with taking extracts, and copied only those letters which appeared indispensable, in order to connect the main facts.

(To be concluded in our next.)

  1. Vide Literary Magnet, Vol. ii. p. 177.

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse