The Black Dwarf HTML version

Chapter 17
This looks not like a nuptial. ---- MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
The chapel in the castle of Ellieslaw, destined to be the scene of this ill-omened
union, was a building of much older date than the castle itself, though that
claimed considerable antiquity. Before the wars between England and Scotland
had become so common and of such long duration, that the buildings along both
sides of the Border were chiefly dedicated to warlike purposes, there had been a
small settlement of monks at Ellieslaw, a dependency, it is believed by
antiquaries, on the rich Abbey of Jedburgh. Their possessions had long passed
away under the changes introduced by war and mutual ravage. A feudal castle
had arisen on the ruin of their cells, and their chapel was included in its precincts.
The edifice, in its round arches and massive pillars, the simplicity of which
referred their date to what has been called the Saxon architecture, presented at
all times a dark and sombre appearance, and had been frequently used as the
cemetery of the family of the feudal lords, as well as formerly of the monastic
brethren. But it looked doubly gloomy by the effect of the few and smoky torches
which were used to enlighten it on the present occasion, and which, spreading a
glare of yellow light in their immediate vicinity, were surrounded beyond by a red
and purple halo reflected from their own smoke, and beyond that again by a zone
of darkness which magnified the extent of the chapel, while it rendered it
impossible for the eye to ascertain its limits. Some injudicious ornaments,
adopted in haste for the occasion, rather added to the dreariness of the scene.
Old fragments of tapestry, torn from the walls of other apartments, had been
hastily and partially disposed around those of the chapel, and mingled
inconsistently with scutcheons and funeral emblems of the dead, which they
elsewhere exhibited. On each side of the stone altar was a monument, the
appearance of which formed an equally strange contrast. On the one was the
figure, in stone, of some grim hermit, or monk, who had died in the odour of
sanctity; he was represented as recumbent, in his cowl and scapulaire, with his
face turned upward as in the act of devotion, and his hands folded, from which
his string of beads was dependent. On the other side was a tomb, in the Italian
taste, composed of the most beautiful statuary marble, and accounted a model of
modern art. It was erected to the memory of Isabella's mother, the late Mrs. Vere
of Ellieslaw, who was represented as in a dying posture, while a weeping cherub,
with eyes averted, seemed in the act of extinguishing a dying lamp as
emblematic of her speedy dissolution. It was, indeed, a masterpiece of art, but
misplaced in the rude vault to which it had been consigned. Many were
surprised, and even scandalized, that Ellieslaw, not remarkable for attention to
his lady while alive, should erect after her death such a costly mausoleum in
affected sorrow; others cleared him from the imputation of hypocrisy, and averred
that the monument had been constructed under the direction and at the sole
expense of Mr. Ratcliffe.
Before these monuments the wedding guests were assembled. They were few in
number; for many had left the castle to prepare for the ensuing political