About admin

Born in witchy old Massachusetts, what else could I be? Queen of the Faery Witches, I am an author of Dark Fantasy, essayist, prize-winning poet, blogger, historian. occultist, professional clairvoyant, psychic empath, energy weaver and healer. I began in art school, but spent many years in the theater acting, dancing, choreographing, singing. I was in the Seattle Celtic band, Castlerigg in the 1990's. I have traveled extensively and lived in London from 1998-2007 where I worked as a Tarot counselor and healer as well as doing theater and a few projects on MTV. My array of healing and counseling skills is vast. I hope to bring my experience and wisdom gained from my many adventures perceived through my psychic-spiritual-visionary consciousness and artistic endeavors. I seek to bring magic and art together and teach other to do the same.

The Keys: A Gothic Re-telling of Bluebeard with Zombies PT Two

20885386

The house was built on a high cliff overlooking the sea.

The ground floor, our suite, had been built on level ground at the foot of a steep mountain. The two upper stories climbed the rocky slope, connected by crumbling stairways. Those higher floors looked very old and treacherous under their red tiled roofs, overgrown by moss and flowering vines. No wonder my husband warned me not to go up there.

As the days wore on, I sat in the garden gazing up at that forbidden zone. I’d heard voices, seen movements of flowers and leaves that suggested people walking on the stairs. The servants kept their distance, watching me.

At night, drums and songs filtered over the surf.

The house ticked.

weird automaton

Jean del Jean showed me more of Armand’s collection, taking me into closets where mechanical women sat in powdered wigs dealing cards, or glided across the floor on rails, waltzing alone. Jean del Jean dusted them, oiled their wooden parts, kept them wound up. In another room, stood cabinets of gleaming bottles filled with potions and elixirs, like the one given to me in St. Malo. I’d seen them on the dinner table, full, and then empty, with no memory of having drunk of them.

One evening, a large folio album appeared near the fire where I sat writing letters to Mamma. Amid notices of Armand’s concert tours, playbills, pressed flowers, and invitations to aristocratic houses, were engravings—-wedding pictures of my young, handsome Armand and his three wives.

actress

His first wife glistened with jewels. She’d been clearly older than Armand, coifed blonde hair, high cheekbones, melting eyes, Polish aristocracy. The next wife, an actress with flirtatious eyes, wore a powdered wig, beauty spots, deep décolleté. The third was of a darker aspect. Her gaze was hypnotic, her black hair wild, her fingers long and pointed. She was a singer, but there was something of the witch about her.

In time, the monotonous ticking of the automatons receded, and I could hear the faint, haunting melody of a piano playing. It came from somewhere in the house, but where? The music filled my head; I grew listless with its melancholy notes. Then the ticking sound began to wander in again, to intrude into my mind.

Jean del Jean appeared, carrying a little windup doll. He wouldn’t let me see it, but, taunting playfully, lured me down forbidden corridors where he unexpectedly vanished.
One day, he abandoned me before an open stairway leading up into darkness. The piano was playing. Voices. Who was up there?

I touched the rubies at my throat as if I feared for my head. But curiosity drove me up the stairs. At the top I found a vine-entangled pergola, and then more stairs.

The music grew louder as I climbed. On the landing was an open door. I stepped inside.
The suite, with it high, frescoed ceilings and damask walls, was of another age entirely. Bouquets of tuberose filled the room, their sweetness masking an insidious, vaguely disgusting odor.

Inside, a grand stairway rose up to another open door.

I climbed quietly, secretly, glancing over my shoulder, hoping I wasn’t being followed. At the top, I stayed behind the doorjamb and looked in.

Reflected in the glass of a tall mirror, was a tall, dark lady, her body like marble under a gauzy violet dressing gown. Vivienne was standing behind her, deeply absorbed in brushing the lady’s long, raven hair.

a4dd746374fd0cf531a80fc0e78a26de--dark-fashion-baroque-fashion

The lady’s reflected eyes were empty; the over-painted features (I stifled a gasp) were those of Armand’s third wife!

Had I married a secret bigamist?

Seemingly disappointed that she could not bring the dried, black locks to a shine, Vivienne set her hairbrush on the dressing table.

“Come,” she whispered, pinching the lady’s elbow.

As I backed away, the lady turned so woodenly, I wondered if she were perhaps only an exceedingly lifelike automaton. Fanatical collectors often sought to innovate, to improve the objects of their passion, did they not?

All unseeing, the lady crossed the room with heavy, dragging steps. Vivienne guided her into a high-backed chair, and crossed herself.

“Now, Madame Aglentine, you wait there. Monsieur Armand will be down shortly.”

What?

Madame Aglentine said nothing, only stared towards a sun-bright window where a small bird fluttered and cried, caught in a tangle of bougainvillea.

Vivienne was coming out.

I rushed down another passage, and hurried across a gallery to a narrow stairway. Mounting higher into the house, I heard the music, the Mephisto Waltz crashing towards climax.

When I got to the landing, the piano rang to silence.

A door was open on a richly decorated boudoir. He was there, with his back to me, embracing a lady in a powdered wig, kissing her hungrily.

My heart sank.

Armand!

Finally, he released her. Her head remained tilted back on her swan-like neck. Her heavy makeup was smeared and her lips, still wet from kissing, were blue. Armand jerked away. The lady’s posture did not change.

MArie

“Hettie!” he shouted. My chaperone stepped out from behind the bed curtains. “Fix her face. It disgusts me.”

Armand grabbed Hettie and shoved her towards the dressing table. She picked up a handkerchief and began, with slow, stiff movements, wiping the lady’s face. The exposed skin was slightly green.

“Sit her in a chair while you wipe that wretched mask off,” my husband shouted. In a temper he sat down at the grand piano and pounded on the keys something horrible.

“Oh yes. Oh yes!” he said. “Music. It always does what I want.”

The lady looked just like Armand’s second wife. But her eyes were not flirtatious, more like hollows in the face of an eyeless doll. Still, actress to the core, she smiled.
I had no words, no concept for what I saw, but I was jealous as a hornet.

Mistresses! They are his mistresses. Made up to look like his dead wives! I shrieked to myself, Ohhhh!

My stomach heaving, I raced on silent feet down a passage praying it led out to a garden. to fresh sea air, free of the sickening under-smell of tuberose.

I arrived at another pergola-covered stairway winding precariously up to the top floor of the house. The way back down was blocked by Jean del Jean, ticking into the room I’d just left, so I had no choice but to ascend.

I barged through a mossy blue door into a dark entryway. An exceedingly tall black man with wide, staring eyes loomed up to stop me going in.

“I am Madame de Rais,” I said, breathlessly. “You must let me pass.”

His swerved and stepped stiffly aside.

take this

As I hurried along the ruined passageway, I met another such person, another and another, each blindly attempting to block me. My name got me through, but their thick, shuffling steps came after me in the dark. Dreading what I would see if I looked back, I blundered into a room filled with white flowers.

A woman stood with her back to me. Her blonde head hung forward, her chemise was loose, exposing greenish-purple skin. A slave covered her with a dressing gown, guided her bruised arms into the sleeves like a doll. I fell back, covering my mouth, but not fast enough to stifle a shriek. The slave looked straight at me.

“Bonjour, Mademoiselle,” she said. “Come in and meet Madame de Rais.”

“What?” I blurted, remaining firmly outside the door. “You are mistaken. I am Madame de Rais.”

“Oh, the new wife. Here is a little gift for you. It once belonged to Madame Yvanna, but she no longer wears it.” The slave held out a marvelous ring.

Helpless in my weakness for baubles I stepped quickly over the threshold to accept it. The ring flashed on my finger like the devil’s eye.

The slave spoke to my rival. “You have a visitor, Madame. Meet Monsieur Armand’s new wife.”

green face

Yvanna turned towards me. The once beautiful face was chalky and sunken, the eyes dead, but blazing.

“What is she?” I cried.

The slave got a jar of face paint and began applying it to the rotting skin. Suddenly, footsteps echoed in the passage.

Armand!

My heart faltering in my chest, I hid behind the bed curtains and gripped the bedpost, reeling.

He burst in.

“What is this?” he shouted.

“I did not have time to finish Monsieur.”

“She’s too far gone. Aren’t you Yvanna? Well, for old times sake.”

With a hog-like grunt, Armand pushed Yvanna onto the bed. I shut my eyes, and my ears. I did not want to know him any more.

*

Drums beat that night. A coffin was loaded onto a wagon, no doubt containing the corpse of Madame Yvanna. Torches were lit along the road beyond the gate, guiding it into utter darkness.

I shuddered. Was she living? Was she dead? Would I someday share her fate?
dark-ocean-10-jun-2016
At last I received a letter from Mamma, thanking me for the money I’d sent to pay for her passage to Iaiti.

My joy was interrupted when Armand blustered in, followed by three steamer trunks. He rushed towards me, scooped me up, and kissed me like a loving husband who’d missed me. I avoided his lips, froze in his grasp. I couldn’t stand the sight of him.

He stood back, took out a little brown cigar, and struck a match. “Aren’t you glad to see me?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?”

I tried to get past him, but he grabbed my arm.

“Have you been snooping my little love? I hope not. It could ruin everything.”

His breath was hot on my neck.

“You left me alone too long,” I said.

“Oh, you’re angry. Go rest then. I shall see you at dinner wearing that ruby choker.” He released me and went out, shouting for Jean del Jean.

I wandered out to my balcony to look at the sea and prayed for Mamma to come quickly. The sun was almost down, and not a ship in sight.

baroque girl

I put on the white frock, and the rubies, adding eardrops of the same lurid gem. I hid my rosary in a handkerchief and went downstairs to dine.

Jean del Jean was standing in the hallway beside the grandfather clock, grinning broadly. As the clock chimed the hour, he mimed a winding motion. Suddenly, as if turned by millions of unseen hands, every automaton in the house began ticking.

Armand’s voice boomed from the dining room.

“Are you coming?”

I went.

All the chairs along the sides of the table were filled by automatons. I sat down as if they were vipers, and glared at my husband.

“What do you think? Aren’t they marvelous?”

“Why do you collect these things?” I asked.

“Because they’re always beautiful, they stay where I put them, and they never, ever speak,” he said.

“They’re frightening,” I said.

“Stop talking back,” he shouted. “I am the only one with the right to feel things. It is your role to look good and shut up!”

I clutched my hidden rosary and stared at the wooden puppets clacking their forks on the their empty plates and lifting them to their painted mouths, empty.

“You’re supposed to last longer,” he spat. “Being young.”

I had no idea what he meant and didn’t want to know.

“Eat. Drink your wine. I’m not leaving until you clean your plate,” he said. He stabbed his pork with a long, pointed knife and put into his mouth.

I ate slowly, painfully aware of several empty elixir bottles lying on the tablecloth. Gingerly, I sipped my wine. Overcome with drowsiness, I couldn’t speak for the ticking in my head.

Tiring of me, Armand growled upright, and called Jean del Jean.

“Take these wonders away. My wife has no appreciation for art. I’ve had enough. Good night, Madame.”

automaton_06(a)

It was too hot to sleep. The piano was too loud. My sheet wound round me so tightly I couldn’t move. Full moonlight brightened the curtains blowing in the open windows. Singing, drumming rose up from the crossroads below the cliff. I sat up, anxious. Where was Mamma? The blast of a horn echoed up from the harbor. Was a ship coming in at last?

I raced on my dressing gown and hurried into the ticking depths of the house. All of the doors were wide open to the drums.

In the forecourt, stood a woman in a black gown, her dark hair wild in the breeze. She turned as if she sensed me. Her face was a white skull.

82bea795343ae706880ef256a907fff2

I screamed down the passage past the cabinets where the automatons moved, clattering, ticking, playing their stilted tunes. It seemed I dreamed as I glided along, guided by an unseen hand towards a cabinet displaying a new automaton.

Lying on an ivory couch, propped on one elbow, one long-lashed, mechanical eye winking, was the spitting portrait of myself wearing only the ruby choker.

I ran outside, through the garden, and heedless of my bare feet, stumbled down the cliff stairs towards the shore. The horn boomed again.

A boat was coming in!

 

A cacophonous ululation broke out above the cliff, drums pounded. I fell to my knees on the moonlit sand and could not rise. My limbs were too weak.

A heavy tread fell behind me, a reek of tuberose.

There was a loud explosion,

The ticking stopped.

The sea went black.

7f18b8e8dc4a41f9e99fcc0cd24feb02--botanical-drawings-botanical-illustration

It was the listing of the ship that woke me, and the cries of the gulls that seemed, in the absence of ticking, the most profound silence. My eyes opened upon lamplight against a cabin wall, the silver glint of a pistol on the bedside table, and my mother’s shadowy figure as she quickly covered a large birdcage with her shawl.

“Mamma! What happened?” I cried, reaching for her.

“Oh, Lissette! I thought you would be happy, that I’d made your dream come true, but letter after letter proved your misery. Nothing I wrote to you seemed to help.”

“But, Mamma, I did not get your letters, but one.” The one received, I realized, when Armand was away.

She stood up, walked to the corner.

The ship rocked.

Pressing her hands against the walls, she braced herself and gazed at me with bitter remorse. In the black bristles of her widow’s gown, hair thrown back in wild disarray, her dark eyes like pools in the high-boned pallor of her face, she was the woman I’d seen in the windy forecourt, the blood-avenging Tisiphone incarnate.

“I thought as much. When I received your money, I came. Arriving on the shore, I dug for information. I found things out that made my mother’s blood boil.”

The fierceness of her eyes made me jump! Vain and silly as I’d always been, I’d had no idea she loved me so much.

From a long leather scabbard behind the chair, she pulled out a sword and pointed it at the birdcage.

“Imagine my joy when I discovered that there was a price on Monsieur Armand’s head,” she said.

The briny smell of the sea gave way to the suspicious reek of tuberose. I trembled.

“What… is in the birdcage, Mamma?”

“Our fortune, my daughter. I already have a buyer. An artist, Madame Marie Tussaud of Paris.”

I could not take my eyes from the birdcage as, with the point of the sword, Mamma slowly lifted the edge of the shawl that covered it.

Through the thin, silver wires of the cage were the bloodstained edges of a blue-black beard.

birdcage

Finis

The Keys: A Gothic Re-Telling of Bluebeard with Zombies PT One

have a few stories that have been out for a few years, so I think it time to share them on this blog. I found a sweet review of this one here: https://themodestvergebookblog.wordpress.com/tag/creepy/

Thank you Modest Verge!

20885386

*
As his dark closet shows, Bluebeard was a collector at heart,
and even after dispatching a wife, could not let her depart? ——–Shuli Barzilai

*

I was only six when Mamma and Papa first took me to the Paris Opera to see a concert by the famous pianist, Monsieur Armand Guy de Rais. The moment he arrived on the stage, tall and gorgeous, with his wild blue-black hair and dark, sparkling eyes, I was smitten. Sitting at the jaws of a glossy beast of a piano, Monsieur played with such fire that my innocent soul was branded forever with the agony of passion. Mamma recalls me shaking and spattering my dress of cameo colored silk with tears. She chided me, but I’d been so seized by the violent beauty of his music, by his long fingers flying over the keys, yet touching them with exquisite tenderness, that I did not hear her.
I was shocked when he suddenly stood up and bowed for the applause. I tugged my mother’s sleeve: Is it over? It can’t possibly be over!

Suddenly everyone was towering above me clapping and shouting Bravo! leaving me in the dark, my view of Monsieur blocked by black coat tails and voluminous gowns.
Nine years later, we had to flee Paris. The rabble had broken into the Bastille. Fear swept us all out of the city on one giant wave. Mamma and I ended up in Brittany to stay with distant cousins while Papa remained to protect his house and treasure.

Those were days of great idleness for me. Even after so many years, Monsieur Armand remained my ideal of manhood. I had little to do but wander the gardens of the manoir fancying the unbearable sensation of his long pianist’s fingers stroking my hair and unbuttoning my dress. Imagine the thrill that seized me when my cousin, Delphine, told me of a ruined castle close by that bore the name le Chateau de Rais.

“Mamma forbids us ever to go there,” she said. “For it is the abode of highwaymen and cutthroats.”

Nevertheless, I rode the donkey to the fringes of the forest and stopped at the base of a high crag. At the top was a grim guard tower scaling high above the bastion of outward leaning curtain walls of dark blue stone. Foreboding rose out of the ground, silencing the earth.

Even the birds stopped singing.

Easting=484341,67 m - Northing=5372397,06 m

August prowled away with terrible news. Papa had not only lost his treasure, but his head to the hateful machinery of that bloodbath, la Revolution. There was also news of Monsieur Armand. He had arrived in Paris to perform a concert, but was seized by the rabble.

Mamma, in her widow’s weeds, wrung her hands more for him than she ever had for poor Papa. Mystified by the intensity of her grief, I buzzed with jealousy.

How dare she?

I stormed about the house, stood before the mirrors for ages arranging and re-arranging my wealth of pale brown hair, reassuring myself that my mother’s worn features were no match for my own pearly skin, large blue-gray eyes, or the perfect oval of my face. I changed my gowns before the mirror that was really the eye of Monsieur Armand, like a kind of doll, posing for his imagined delectation.

Delphine only laughed at me.

I laughed back, watching myself in the mirror.

Autumn arrived. Strong winds blew leaves of fire from the trees, denuding them all too soon. Winter gales shrieked in from Siberia. News from Paris was sporadic. Mamma despaired.

Our cousins had asked us to move out once the roads cleared. Tragically, our house in Paris had not only been looted, but gutted to the edge of ruin. We would be forced to continue to impose ourselves upon others in order to survive.

Shame rose up in me like a giant green lily. I was immobilized. My mother’s eyes told me I was no longer her daughter, but a burden to be disposed of.

“Too spoiled to work,” she said. “Too lazy and self indulgent to marry down.”

In the time we had left, Mamma grew industrious. Letters flew as fast as the weather permitted back and forth to relatives, friends, acquaintances…. Finally, judging by the light in her eyes, a solution had arrived.

445px-Gainsborough_-_Princess_elizabeth_of_the_united_kingdom

I was to be married.

Never mind that the man in question was twenty-four years my senior, or that his previous wives had all died under mysterious circumstances, or that he lived very far away on his own island in the Americas. He was rich, an aristocrat, and that was all Mamma needed to know to give me away.

Nevertheless I was excited. Though his image lived in my heart as a kind of ideal, I had no hope that a paragon like Monsieur Armand would desire me, let alone become my bridegroom. It was enough to know that I would be cared for amid all the luxurious trappings I required, in a far-away, fairy tale sort of place.

Shortly after the papers were signed, gifts began to arrive: gowns, coats, jewels, lingerie—-all of the latest fashion, most exquisite taste, and, as if my betrothed had already seen me, remarkably flattering. The shipments were always accompanied by bouquets of white flowers called tuberose whose strong, sweet fragrance warmed me into a kind of sensuous trance. The petals were always slightly brown at the edges for having traveled so far. Their beauty was therefore brief, but replaced so quickly by another bouquet that I had no time to mourn.

“Mamma, when will I meet my betrothed?” I asked, chafing. It was almost Spring. The roads would soon be clear, fanned by the warmer, drier winds blowing in from the Channel.

“You will take the ship to the Island of Iati. Monsieur will meet you on the dock,” said Mamma.

“I shall be alone on the ship? With all those sailors?”

“You won’t be entirely alone. Monsieur is sending a chaperone to collect you. She should be arriving in a few days. Don’t be frightened. I envy your adventure.”

“What is his name?”

Mamma’s brow creased with worry. She paced before the fire, then gave me the name as if she were under a curse for revealing it.

“Monsieur de Rais,” she said. “Monsieur Armand Guy de Rais.”

5780370121730406714

Time passed in a dreamlike blur. Next thing I knew, my luggage and I were being loaded into a carriage bound for St. Malo.

I waved goodbye to our cousins, kissed Mamma. I recall the constant shaking and jarring of the coach and my soggy handkerchief. I don’t know why I was crying except that I was shattered through and through knowing I was to be married to him.

It seemed forever before we stopped under the shadow of a passenger ship that loomed like a giant whale in the dock. Waiting for me was a small woman in a neat black coat. Black as night she was, and silent. When she saw me she smiled, made the sign of the cross, then, quick as serpent’s tongue, pressed a small gift into my hand.
It was an exquisitely cut crystal bottle with a silver stopper.

She gestured that I drink it.

Thinking it a welcoming custom of the New World, I drank the burning liquid down. Her gladness towards me lightened my heart. It was with great anticipation that I followed her onto the ship.

The ocean was sickeningly tumultuous, but the blustering winds filled the sails and sped the ship along. Quickly, quickly, I thought. You cannot sail quickly enough!

My chaperone was always with me, quiet as my shadow. Only once did she speak. Pointing to a dark mass of hills on the horizon, she smiled and shouted, “Iaiti! Iaiti! Home.”\

ss Great Britain, Halloween. 31 October 2015

Dressed in fine white linen, my hat wreathed with chiffon, I felt quite the young bride-to-be as I disembarked. It was wild place. Hill rose upon dark hill thick with trees and hot jungle flowers. My companion and I walked down the pier to meet an ancient cabriolet with two white horses waiting in the mud. The driver, black as my chaperone, lifted his hat and smiled in greeting. Where was my betrothed? As the cabriolet pulled off and climbed a steep, winding lane into the dusky woods, I could not help fearing what was in store for me in that foreign place.

At the top of the cliff, the ground leveled. We passed through a graveyard of stately tombs brightened with blue lamps. Fires burned along the paths. The sound of cicadas filled the air, surf crisping against the shore, and the faint, hollow heartbeat of drums.
By the time we drove through the high gate and stopped in the forecourt of the villa, all lit up for my arrival, my gloved, sweaty hand was clutching that of my dark companion. The first sight of my beloved was a great shadow looming in the lighted doorway.

His voice boomed as I stepped out of the carriage. “So, you have arrived in one piece, Lissette.”

I froze. He was not at all as I remembered him. He’d grown portly with age and over the fine, chiseled features of his face was a full blue-black beard. But the eyes were his; no one could mistake them, dark and shining with wit and charm. I stumbled toward him with arms outstretched as if I were pleading for my life, smiling as if such a mask could fool him.

He laughed.

“O, my little child so far away from home. Come inside,” he said.

His embrace was firm. The great bulk, smoothed by his silk dressing gown, was cool. Yet as I held him, I recalled the young, handsome version I had carried in my heart for ten years, and felt deeply the pangs of first love.

He regaled me with a feast of spiced meats, aubergines, oysters, and sweet cakes glazed with strange fruits. I was quickly drunk, not only on wine, but on the heady fragrance of tuberose. Armand grinned as if he expected me to become silly, but I was not. Rather I felt languid, cat-like, relaxing into my velvet skin, soaking up rich flavors and perfumes through my every pore.

Debussy

I woke in a rumpled bed, wrapped in white sheets spotted with blood. I had no memory of pain, but of exquisite tortures carried to crisis on the last, passionate crescendos of Liszt.

Of course I was alone, my god-like love having fled with the sunrise. Though I saw no timepiece nearby, the entire house was filled with a noise like hundreds of clocks ticking. Dismayed at my bloodstained nakedness, I drew on the beautiful dressing gown that lay in wait for me at the end of the bed.

I was about to go to the door when it burst open. A monkey came racing across the floor, whizzing and spinning around with the most awful racket. When it came at me, I screamed.

Armand entered, laughing.

“Oh, my little love, you’re so amusing. It’s only a toy. Vivienne has drawn a bath for you. I want you to look exquisite for breakfast. Wear the ruby choker. Scarlet suits you so well.”

He indicated the pool of liquid jewels on my dressing table.

“Red jewels around the neck are all the rage in Paris these days,” he said.*

RUBY Vivienne, a lovely half-caste girl, crossed herself when she saw me, drawing my attention to an ornate silver Crucifix hanging over her bosom. After my bath, she got me all tricked out in a creamy silk sheath with brown edges, my hair up in waves with a sprig of tuberose, and the choker like a bloody gash around my neck.

“Vivienne, when are we to be married, Armand and I?” I asked.

“Why, today, Mademoiselle,” she said. “Why do you think you’re all dressed up? Here, let me show you your veil.”

Vivienne went to the wardrobe and pulled out a mile of sheer white chiffon.
“See? We put that over your head with a crown of tuberose. You’ll look lovely, Mademoiselle.”

“Why always tuberose?” I asked.

“It’s Monsieur’s favorite.”

The house reeked of it.

“I should like real roses,” I said. “Red roses to go with my jewels.”

Vivienne wrapped the veil up silently.

“And what is that constant ticking sound?” I asked. “Doesn’t it drive you mad?”

“It’s Monsieur’s collection,” she said. “Perhaps Jean del Jean will show it to you.”

As if he’d been summoned, a wizened little black man appeared at the door. With a short bow, he held out his large, square hand, offering to escort me.

“Your new home, Mademoiselle,” he said, crossing himself as he took my hand. He too wore a heavy silver Crucifix.

AT LAST CORRIDOR

There was a long passage lined with cabinets, and behind the glass, moving in mechanical rhythm to their ticking, were hundreds of automatons. Beautiful wax heads, long necks, blinking glass eyes—-all women. Some danced, others played musical instruments, mechanical parodies of melody.

“They’re like music boxes,” I said. “Ingenious!”

Jean del Jean smiled and bowed with a flourish towards the cabinets. A few china dolls were mixed in, eyes staring wide in their frozen faces like the dead. Jean del Jean held up a long black key and opened one of the doors. Out came a large doll with a powdered wig and beauty spots, wearing a choker of rubies like my own.

“Le Reine Marie,” Jean del Jean said. He laughed as he grasped the key in her back and wound her up. The jaw moved and emitted a mechanical voice.

Permettez-eux de manger le gâteau.

“Let them eat cake!” I laughed at the infamous phrase.

The figure’s head spun round and round, unscrewing up the length of its neck, ticking louder until it popped off. Jean del Jean caught it in his hand as a stream of red ribbons spewed out of the neck cavity. He held the small head out to me laughing uproariously.
I recoiled.

marie doll

He was waiting for me at the gleaming breakfast table dressed in a black tailcoat and impeccable white cravat. He stood up as I, ungracefully hindered by the soft, clinging layers of my skirt, approached. His smile faded. His eyes clouded darkly.

I must have registered fright, for, as we sat down, his smile lit up again. Like a dog, I smiled back, hating my clumsiness.

“Bon appétit, my love.” He raised his glass of wine to me. I mirrored his gesture. I’d never drunk wine with breakfast before, but it did calm me. “Eat your croissant and peaches for now, then we shall repair to the garden to be married.” There was a little present beside my plate, tied with a red ribbon.

“Open it my love. It is from my private collection.”

It was an ivory box, about the length of my hand. With a turn of a little key, the lid opened. Inside was an ivory lady lying on an ivory couch, propped on one elbow, and completely nude. I gasped.

“A gift from the Orient,” Armand said. “From a bordello in Shanghai.”
I closed the box, blushing.

“Thank you,” I said. “Who is coming? Are there guests?” I felt sharply alone. Would Mamma completely forget about me?

“It is a shame your mother did not come with you, but you have me now.”

I nodded. The wine sprang to my head. A veil fell over my eyes. Someone helped me up. I was soon on Armand’s arm standing in a garden of bright flowers before a black priest. A ring was on my hand, but I had no ring for Armand. I was about to ask for it, when my husband grabbed me and fastened his lips on mine. Waves of fire rippled through me so hot, I fainted.

My sinuses stung by smelling salts, I awoke sitting at the end of a banqueting table. Through the fiery glow of a silver candelabrum I saw a frilly wedding cake, vases of tuberose and, so far away I could hardly see him, was my great love, now my husband, Armand.

There were guests, all artistes, glittering and posing like actors on a stage. Holding me tightly, Armand introduced me. I tried to make it a happy occasion. Shouldn’t all weddings be happy?

Soon the sun was going down, cicadas sang, the house ticked.
He went to the piano and opened the keys. The artistes draped their loose-limbed bodies around it in worship.

As he played I was six years old again, spilling fiery tears over my gown.

blue wedding

“Well, my little love, that was lovely.” Armand threw his cufflinks on the dressing table. “I have been called away. I’m leaving in the morning…”

“But, we have just been married!” I protested.

“It can’t be helped. While I am away, you must confine yourself to this suite of rooms. This house is very old. It isn’t safe to wander the upper rooms. They’ve been walled off for decades.”

“How long will you be away?” I asked.

He raised one eyebrow. “As long as it takes.”

In one movement he’d thrown off his coat and trousers and pinned me down on the bed. I was delirious! I gave myself up to him completely, hoping, in my heart, that that would be enough to make him stay.

It wasn’t. Despite my pleading, he left me.

.“He doesn’t love me,” I sobbed.

sad-girl-wallpaper-5

Carmilla: Part Sixteen: Conclusion

Carmilla
J. Sheridan LeFanu
Copyright 1872

 

XVI
 
Conclusion

I write all this you suppose with composure. But far from it; I cannot think of it without agitation. Nothing but your earnest desire so repeatedly expressed, could have induced me to sit down to a task that has unstrung my nerves for months to come, and reinduced a shadow of the unspeakable horror which years after my deliverance continued to make my days and nights dreadful, and solitude insupportably terrific.
Let me add a word or two about that quaint Baron Vordenburg, to whose curious lore we were indebted for the discovery of the Countess Mircalla’s grave.
He had taken up his abode in Gratz, where, living upon a mere pittance, which was all that remained to him of the once princely estates of his family, in Upper Styria, he devoted himself to the minute and laborious investigation of the marvelously authenticated tradition of Vampirism. He had at his fingers’ ends all the great and little works upon the subject.
“Magia Posthuma,” “Phlegon de Mirabilibus,” “Augustinus de cura pro Mortuis,” “Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris,” by John Christofer Herenberg; and a thousand others, among which I remember only a few of those which he lent to my father. He had a voluminous digest of all the judicial cases, from which he had extracted a system of principles that appear to govern–some always, and others occasionally only–the condition of the vampire.

I may mention, in passing, that the deadly pallor attributed to that sort of revenants, is a mere melodramatic fiction. They present, in the grave, and when they show themselves in human society, the appearance of healthy life. When disclosed to light in their coffins, they exhibit all the symptoms that are enumerated as those which proved the vampire-life of the long-dead Countess Karnstein.
How they escape from their graves and return to them for certain hours every day, without displacing the clay or leaving any trace of disturbance in the state of the coffin or the cerements, has always been admitted to be utterly inexplicable. The amphibious existence of the vampire is sustained by daily renewed slumber in the grave. Its horrible lust for living blood supplies the vigor of its waking existence. The vampire is prone to be fascinated with an engrossing vehemence, resembling the passion of love, by particular persons. In pursuit of these it will exercise inexhaustible patience and stratagem, for access to a particular object may be obstructed in a hundred ways. It will never desist until it has satiated its passion, and drained the very life of its coveted victim. But it will, in these cases, husband and protract its murderous enjoyment with the refinement of an epicure, and heighten it by the gradual approaches of an artful courtship. In these cases it seems to yearn for something like sympathy and consent. In ordinary ones it goes direct to its object, overpowers with violence, and strangles and exhausts often at a single feast.
The vampire is, apparently, subject, in certain situations, to special conditions. In the particular instance of which I have given you a relation, Mircalla seemed to be limited to a name which, if not her real one, should at least reproduce, without the omission or addition of a single letter, those, as we say, anagrammatically, which compose it.
Carmilla did this; so did Millarca.


My father related to the Baron Vordenburg, who remained with us for two or three weeks after the expulsion of Carmilla, the story about the Moravian nobleman and the vampire at Karnstein churchyard, and then he asked the Baron how he had discovered the exact position of the long-concealed tomb of the Countess Mircalla? The Baron’s grotesque features puckered up into a mysterious smile; he looked down, still smiling on his worn spectacle case and fumbled with it. Then looking up, he said:
“I have many journals, and other papers, written by that remarkable man; the most curious among them is one treating of the visit of which you speak, to Karnstein. The tradition, of course, discolors and distorts a little. He might have been termed a Moravian nobleman, for he had changed his abode to that territory, and was, beside, a noble. But he was, in truth, a native of Upper Styria. It is enough to say that in very early youth he had been a passionate and favored lover of the beautiful Mircalla, Countess Karnstein. Her early death plunged him into inconsolable grief. It is the nature of vampires to increase and multiply, but according to an ascertained and ghostly law.
“Assume, at starting, a territory perfectly free from that pest. How does it begin, and how does it multiply itself? I will tell you. A person, more or less wicked, puts an end to himself. A suicide, under certain circumstances, becomes a vampire. That specter visits living people in their slumbers; they die, and almost invariably, in the grave, develop into vampires. This happened in the case of the beautiful Mircalla, who was haunted by one of those demons. My ancestor, Vordenburg, whose title I still bear, soon discovered this, and in the course of the studies to which he devoted himself, learned a great deal more.
“Among other things, he concluded that suspicion of vampirism would probably fall, sooner or later, upon the dead Countess, who in life had been his idol. He conceived a horror, be she what she might, of her remains being profaned by the outrage of a posthumous execution. He has left a curious paper to prove that the vampire, on its expulsion from its amphibious existence, is projected into a far more horrible life; and he resolved to save his once beloved Mircalla from this.
“He adopted the stratagem of a journey here, a pretended removal of her remains, and a real obliteration of her monument. When age had stolen upon him, and from the vale of years, he looked back on the scenes he was leaving, he considered, in a different spirit, what he had done, and a horror took possession of him. He made the tracings and notes which have guided me to the very spot, and drew up a confession of the deception that he had practiced. If he had intended any further action in this matter, death prevented him; and the hand of a remote descendant has, too late for many, directed the pursuit to the lair of the beast.”
We talked a little more, and among other things he said was this:


“One sign of the vampire is the power of the hand. The slender hand of Mircalla closed like a vice of steel on the General’s wrist when he raised the hatchet to strike. But its power is not confined to its grasp; it leaves a numbness in the limb it seizes, which is slowly, if ever, recovered from.”
The following Spring my father took me a tour through Italy. We remained away for more than a year. It was long before the terror of recent events subsided; and to this hour the image of Carmilla returns to memory with ambiguous alternations–sometimes the playful, languid, beautiful girl; sometimes the writhing fiend I saw in the ruined church; and often from a reverie I have started, fancying I heard the light step of Carmilla at the drawing room door.

Carmilla: Part Fifteen

Carmilla

J. Sheridan LeFanu

Copyright 1872

XV

Ordeal and Execution

As he spoke one of the strangest looking men I ever beheld entered the chapel at the door through which Carmilla had made her entrance and her exit. He was tall, narrow-chested, stooping, with high shoulders, and dressed in black. His face was brown and dried in with deep furrows; he wore an oddly-shaped hat with a broad leaf. His hair, long and grizzled, hung on his shoulders. He wore a pair of gold spectacles, and walked slowly, with an odd shambling gait, with his face sometimes turned up to the sky, and sometimes bowed down towards the ground, seemed to wear a perpetual smile; his long thin arms were swinging, and his lank hands, in old black gloves ever so much too wide for them, waving and gesticulating in utter abstraction.

“The very man!” exclaimed the General, advancing with manifest delight. “My dear Baron, how happy I am to see you, I had no hope of meeting you so soon.” He signed to my father, who had by this time returned, and leading the fantastic old gentleman, whom he called the Baron to meet him. He introduced him formally, and they at once entered into earnest conversation. The stranger took a roll of paper from his pocket, and spread it on the worn surface of a tomb that stood by. He had a pencil case in his fingers, with which he traced imaginary lines from point to point on the paper, which from their often glancing from it, together, at certain points of the building, I concluded to be a plan of the chapel. He accompanied, what I may term, his lecture, with occasional readings from a dirty little book, whose yellow leaves were closely written over.

They sauntered together down the side aisle, opposite to the spot where I was standing, conversing as they went; then they began measuring distances by paces, and finally they all stood together, facing a piece of the sidewall, which they began to examine with great minuteness; pulling off the ivy that clung over it, and rapping the plaster with the ends of their sticks, scraping here, and knocking there. At length they ascertained the existence of a broad marble tablet, with letters carved in relief upon it.

With the assistance of the woodman, who soon returned, a monumental inscription, and carved escutcheon, were disclosed. They proved to be those of the long lost monument of Mircalla, Countess Karnstein.

The old General, though not I fear given to the praying mood, raised his hands and eyes to heaven, in mute thanksgiving for some moments.

“Tomorrow,” I heard him say; “the commissioner will be here, and the Inquisition will be held according to law.”

Then turning to the old man with the gold spectacles, whom I have described, he shook him warmly by both hands and said:

“Baron, how can I thank you? How can we all thank you? You will have delivered this region from a plague that has scourged its inhabitants for more than a century. The horrible enemy, thank God, is at last tracked.”

My father led the stranger aside, and the General followed. I know that he had led them out of hearing, that he might relate my case, and I saw them glance often quickly at me, as the discussion proceeded.

My father came to me, kissed me again and again, and leading me from the chapel, said:

“It is time to return, but before we go home, we must add to our party the good priest, who lives but a little way from this; and persuade him to accompany us to the schloss.”

In this quest we were successful: and I was glad, being unspeakably fatigued when we reached home. But my satisfaction was changed to dismay, on discovering that there were no tidings of Carmilla. Of the scene that had occurred in the ruined chapel, no explanation was offered to me, and it was clear that it was a secret which my father for the present determined to keep from me.

The sinister absence of Carmilla made the remembrance of the scene more horrible to me. The arrangements for the night were singular. Two servants, and Madame were to sit up in my room that night; and the ecclesiastic with my father kept watch in the adjoining dressing room.

The priest had performed certain solemn rites that night, the purport of which I did not understand any more than I comprehended the reason of this extraordinary precaution taken for my safety during sleep.

I saw all clearly a few days later.

The disappearance of Carmilla was followed by the discontinuance of my nightly sufferings.

You have heard, no doubt, of the appalling superstition that prevails in Upper and Lower Styria, in Moravia, Silesia, in Turkish Serbia, in Poland, even in Russia; the superstition, so we must call it, of the Vampire.

If human testimony, taken with every care and solemnity, judicially, before commissions innumerable, each consisting of many members, all chosen for integrity and intelligence, and constituting reports more voluminous perhaps than exist upon any one other class of cases, is worth anything, it is difficult to deny, or even to doubt the existence of such a phenomenon as the Vampire.

For my part I have heard no theory by which to explain what I myself have witnessed and experienced, other than that supplied by the ancient and well-attested belief of the country.

The next day the formal proceedings took place in the Chapel of Karnstein.

The grave of the Countess Mircalla was opened; and the General and my father recognized each his perfidious and beautiful guest, in the face now disclosed to view. The features, though a hundred and fifty years had passed since her funeral, were tinted with the warmth of life. Her eyes were open; no cadaverous smell exhaled from the coffin. The two medical men, one officially present, the other on the part of the promoter of the inquiry, attested the marvelous fact that there was a faint but appreciable respiration, and a corresponding action of the heart. The limbs were perfectly flexible, the flesh elastic; and the leaden coffin floated with blood, in which to a depth of seven inches, the body lay immersed.

Here then, were all the admitted signs and proofs of vampirism. The body, therefore, in accordance with the ancient practice, was raised, and a sharp stake driven through the heart of the vampire, who uttered a piercing shriek at the moment, in all respects such as might escape from a living person in the last agony. Then the head was struck off, and a torrent of blood flowed from the severed neck. The body and head was next placed on a pile of wood, and reduced to ashes, which were thrown upon the river and borne away, and that territory has never since been plagued by the visits of a vampire.

My father has a copy of the report of the Imperial Commission, with the signatures of all who were present at these proceedings, attached in verification of the statement. It is from this official paper that I have summarized my account of this last shocking scene.

Carmilla: Part Fourteen

Carmilla

J. Sheridan LeFanu

Copyright 1872

XIV
The Meeting

“My beloved child,” he resumed, “was now growing rapidly worse. The physician who attended her had failed to produce the slightest impression on her disease, for such I then supposed it to be. He saw my alarm, and suggested a consultation. I called in an abler physician, from Gratz.

Several days elapsed before he arrived. He was a good and pious, as well as a learned man. Having seen my poor ward together, they withdrew to my library to confer and discuss. I, from the adjoining room, where I awaited their summons, heard these two gentlemen’s voices raised in something sharper than a strictly philosophical discussion. I knocked at the door and entered. I found the old physician from Gratz maintaining his theory. His rival was combating it with undisguised ridicule, accompanied with bursts of laughter. This unseemly manifestation subsided and the altercation ended on my entrance.

“‘Sir,’ said my first physician,’my learned brother seems to think that you want a conjuror, and not a doctor.’

“‘Pardon me,’ said the old physician from Gratz, looking displeased, ‘I shall state my own view of the case in my own way another time. I grieve, Monsieur le General, that by my skill and science I can be of no use.

Before I go I shall do myself the honor to suggest something to you.’

“He seemed thoughtful, and sat down at a table and began to write.

Profoundly disappointed, I made my bow, and as I turned to go, the other doctor pointed over his shoulder to his companion who was writing, and then, with a shrug, significantly touched his forehead.

“This consultation, then, left me precisely where I was. I walked out into the grounds, all but distracted. The doctor from Gratz, in ten or fifteen minutes, overtook me. He apologized for having followed me, but said that he could not conscientiously take his leave without a few words more. He told me that he could not be mistaken; no natural disease exhibited the same symptoms; and that death was already very near. There remained, however, a day, or possibly two, of life. If the fatal seizure were at once arrested, with great care and skill her strength might possibly return. But all hung now upon the confines of the irrevocable. One more assault might extinguish the last spark of vitality which is, every moment, ready to die.

“‘And what is the nature of the seizure you speak of?’ I entreated.

“‘I have stated all fully in this note, which I place in your hands upon the distinct condition that you send for the nearest clergyman, and open my letter in his presence, and on no account read it till he is with you; you would despise it else, and it is a matter of life and death. Should the priest fail you, then, indeed, you may read it.’

>
“He asked me, before taking his leave finally, whether I would wish to see a man curiously learned upon the very subject, which, after I had read his letter, would probably interest me above all others, and he urged me earnestly to invite him to visit him there; and so took his leave.


“The ecclesiastic was absent, and I read the letter by myself. At another time, or in another case, it might have excited my ridicule. But into what quackeries will not people rush for a last chance, where all accustomed means have failed, and the life of a beloved object is at stake?

“Nothing, you will say, could be more absurd than the learned man’s letter.

It was monstrous enough to have consigned him to a madhouse. He said that the patient was suffering from the visits of a vampire! The punctures which she described as having occurred near the throat, were, he insisted, the insertion of those two long, thin, and sharp teeth which, it is well known, are peculiar to vampires; and there could be no doubt, he added, as to the well-defined presence of the small livid mark which all concurred in describing as that induced by the demon’s lips, and every symptom described by the sufferer was in exact conformity with those recorded in every case of a similar visitation.

“Being myself wholly skeptical as to the existence of any such portent as the vampire, the supernatural theory of the good doctor furnished, in my opinion, but another instance of learning and intelligence oddly associated with some one hallucination. I was so miserable, however, that, rather than try nothing, I acted upon the instructions of the letter.

“I concealed myself in the dark dressing room, that opened upon the poor patient’s room, in which a candle was burning, and watched there till she was fast asleep. I stood at the door, peeping through the small crevice, my sword laid on the table beside me, as my directions prescribed, until, a little after one, I saw a large black object, very ill-defined, crawl, as it seemed to me, over the foot of the bed, and swiftly spread itself up to the poor girl’s throat, where it swelled, in a moment, into a great, palpitating mass.

“For a few moments I had stood petrified. I now sprang forward, with my sword in my hand. The black creature suddenly contracted towards the foot of the bed, glided over it, and, standing on the floor about a yard below the foot of the bed, with a glare of skulking ferocity and horror fixed on me, I saw Millarca. Speculating I know not what, I struck at her instantly with my sword; but I saw her standing near the door, unscathed. Horrified, I pursued, and struck again. She was gone; and my sword flew to shivers against the door.

>
“I can’t describe to you all that passed on that horrible night. The whole house was up and stirring. The specter Millarca was gone. But her victim was sinking fast, and before the morning dawned, she died.”

>
The old General was agitated. We did not speak to him. My father walked to some little distance, and began reading the inscriptions on the tombstones; and thus occupied, he strolled into the door of a side chapel to prosecute his researches. The General leaned against the wall, dried his eyes, and sighed heavily. I was relieved on hearing the voices of Carmilla and Madame, who were at that moment approaching. The voices died away.?In this solitude, having just listened to so strange a story, connected, as it was, with the great and titled dead, whose monuments were moldering among the dust and ivy round us, and every incident of which bore so awfully upon my own mysterious case–in this haunted spot, darkened by the towering foliage that rose on every side, dense and high above its noiseless walls–a horror began to steal over me, and my heart sank as I thought that my friends were, after all, not about to enter and disturb this triste and ominous scene.
The old General’s eyes were fixed on the ground, as he leaned with his hand upon the basement of a shattered monument.

>
Under a narrow, arched doorway, surmounted by one of those demoniacal grotesques in which the cynical and ghastly fancy of old Gothic carving delights, I saw very gladly the beautiful face and figure of Carmilla enter the shadowy chapel.
?


I was just about to rise and speak, and nodded smiling, in answer to her peculiarly engaging smile; when with a cry, the old man by my side caught up the woodman’s hatchet, and started forward. On seeing him a brutalized change came over her features. It was an instantaneous and horrible transformation, as she made a crouching step backwards. Before I could utter a scream, he struck at her with all his force, but she dived under his blow, and unscathed, caught him in her tiny grasp by the wrist. He struggled for a moment to release his arm, but his hand opened, the axe fell to the ground, and the girl was gone.
>
He staggered against the wall. His grey hair stood upon his head, and a moisture shone over his face, as if he were at the point of death.
<
The frightful scene had passed in a moment. The first thing I recollect after, is Madame standing before me, and impatiently repeating again and again, the question, “Where is Mademoiselle Carmilla?”
>
I answered at length, “I don’t know–I can’t tell–she went there,” and I pointed to the door through which Madame had just entered; “only a minute or two since.”
>
“But I have been standing there, in the passage, ever since Mademoiselle Carmilla entered; and she did not return.”
She then began to call “Carmilla,” through every door and passage and from the windows, but no answer came.
“She called herself Carmilla?” asked the General, still agitated.
>
“Carmilla, yes,” I answered.
>
“Aye,” he said; “that is Millarca. That is the same person who long ago was called Mircalla, Countess Karnstein. Depart from this accursed ground, my poor child, as quickly as you can. Drive to the clergyman’s house, and stay there till we come. Begone! May you never behold Carmilla more; you will not find her here.”

Carmilla: Part Thirteen

Carmilla
J. Sheridan LeFanu
Copyright 1872

>

>

XIII


The Woodman

“There soon, however, appeared some drawbacks. In the first place, Millarca complained of extreme languor–the weakness that remained after her late illness–and she never emerged from her room till the afternoon was pretty far advanced. In the next place, it was accidentally discovered, although she always locked her door on the inside, and never disturbed the key from its place till she admitted the maid to assist at her toilet, that she was undoubtedly sometimes absent from her room in the very early morning, and at various times later in the day, before she wished it to be understood that she was stirring. She was repeatedly seen from the windows of the schloss, in the first faint grey of the morning, walking through the trees, in an easterly direction, and looking like a person in a trance. This convinced me that she walked in her sleep. But this hypothesis did not solve the puzzle. How did she pass out from her room, leaving the door locked on the inside? How did she escape from the house without unbarring door or window?

“In the midst of my perplexities, an anxiety of a far more urgent kind presented itself.

“My dear child began to lose her looks and health, and that in a manner so mysterious, and even horrible, that I became thoroughly frightened.

“She was at first visited by appalling dreams; then, as she fancied, by a specter, sometimes resembling Millarca, sometimes in the shape of a beast, indistinctly seen, walking round the foot of her bed, from side to side.

Lastly came sensations. One, not unpleasant, but very peculiar, she said, resembled the flow of an icy stream against her breast. At a later time, she felt something like a pair of large needles pierce her, a little below the throat, with a very sharp pain. A few nights after, followed a gradual and convulsive sense of strangulation; then came unconsciousness.”

Image: Olivier Theyskens

I could hear distinctly every word the kind old General was saying, because by this time we were driving upon the short grass that spreads on either side of the road as you approach the roofless village which had not shown the smoke of a chimney for more than half a century.

You may guess how strangely I felt as I heard my own symptoms so exactly described in those which had been experienced by the poor girl who, but for the catastrophe which followed, would have been at that moment a visitor at my father’s chateau. You may suppose, also, how I felt as I heard him detail habits and mysterious peculiarities which were, in fact, those of our beautiful guest, Carmilla!

A vista opened in the forest; we were on a sudden under the chimneys and gables of the ruined village, and the towers and battlements of the dismantled castle, round which gigantic trees are grouped, overhung us from a slight eminence.

In a frightened dream I got down from the carriage, and in silence, for we had each abundant matter for thinking; we soon mounted the ascent, and were among the spacious chambers, winding stairs, and dark corridors of the castle.

“And this was once the palatial residence of the Karnsteins!” said the old General at length, as from a great window he looked out across the village, and saw the wide, undulating expanse of forest. “It was a bad family, and here its bloodstained annals were written,” he continued. “It is hard that they should, after death, continue to plague the human race with their atrocious lusts. That is the chapel of the Karnsteins, down there.”

He pointed down to the grey walls of the Gothic building partly visible through the foliage, a little way down the steep. “And I hear the axe of a woodman,” he added, “busy among the trees that surround it; he possibly may give us the information of which I am in search, and point out the grave of Mircalla, Countess of Karnstein. These rustics preserve the local traditions of great families, whose stories die out among the rich and titled so soon as the families themselves become extinct.”

“We have a portrait, at home, of Mircalla, the Countess Karnstein; should you like to see it?” asked my father.

“Time enough, dear friend,” replied the General. “I believe that I have seen the original; and one motive which has led me to you earlier than I at first intended, was to explore the chapel which we are now approaching.”

“What! see the Countess Mircalla,” exclaimed my father; “why, she has been dead more than a century!”

“Not so dead as you fancy, I am told,” answered the General.

“I confess, General, you puzzle me utterly,” replied my father, looking at him, I fancied, for a moment with a return of the suspicion I detected before. But although there was anger and detestation, at times, in the old General’s manner, there was nothing flighty.

“There remains to me,” he said, as we passed under the heavy arch of the Gothic church–for its dimensions would have justified its being so styled–“but one object which can interest me during the few years that remain to me on earth, and that is to wreak on her the vengeance which, I thank God, may still be accomplished by a mortal arm.”

“What vengeance can you mean?” asked my father, in increasing amazement.

“I mean, to decapitate the monster,” he answered, with a fierce flush, and a stamp that echoed mournfully through the hollow ruin, and his clenched hand was at the same moment raised, as if it grasped the handle of an axe, while he shook it ferociously in the air.

“What?” exclaimed my father, more than ever bewildered.

“To strike her head off.”

“Cut her head off!”

“Aye, with a hatchet, with a spade, or with anything that can cleave through her murderous throat. You shall hear,” he answered, trembling with rage. And hurrying forward he said:

“That beam will answer for a seat; your dear child is fatigued; let her be seated, and I will, in a few sentences, close my dreadful story.”

The squared block of wood, which lay on the grass-grown pavement of the chapel, formed a bench on which I was very glad to seat myself, and in the meantime the General called to the woodman, who had been removing some boughs which leaned upon the old walls; and, axe in hand, the hardy old fellow stood before us.

He could not tell us anything of these monuments; but there was an old man, he said, a ranger of this forest, at present sojourning in the house of the priest, about two miles away, who could point out every monument of the old Karnstein family; and, for a trifle, he undertook to bring him back with him, if we would lend him one of our horses, in little more than half an hour.

“Have you been long employed about this forest?” asked my father of the old man.

“I have been a woodman here,” he answered in his patois, “under the forester, all my days; so has my father before me, and so on, as many generations as I can count up. I could show you the very house in the village here, in which my ancestors lived.”

“How came the village to be deserted?” asked the General.

“It was troubled by revenants, sir; several were tracked to their graves, there detected by the usual tests, and extinguished in the usual way, by decapitation, by the stake, and by burning; but not until many of the villagers were killed.

“But after all these proceedings according to law,” he continued–“so many graves opened, and so many vampires deprived of their horrible animation–the village was not relieved. But a Moravian nobleman, who happened to be traveling this way, heard how matters were, and being skilled–as many people are in his country–in such affairs, he offered to deliver the village from its tormentor. He did so thus: There being a bright moon that night, he ascended, shortly after sunset, the towers of the chapel here, from whence he could distinctly see the churchyard beneath him; you can see it from that window. From this point he watched until he saw the vampire come out of his grave, and place near it the linen clothes in which he had been folded, and then glide away towards the village to plague its inhabitants.

“The stranger, having seen all this, came down from the steeple, took the linen wrappings of the vampire, and carried them up to the top of the tower, which he again mounted. When the vampire returned from his prowlings and missed his clothes, he cried furiously to the Moravian, whom he saw at the summit of the tower, and who, in reply, beckoned him to ascend and take them. Whereupon the vampire, accepting his invitation, began to climb the steeple, and so soon as he had reached the battlements, the Moravian, with a stroke of his sword, clove his skull in twain, hurling him down to the churchyard, whither, descending by the winding stairs, the stranger followed and cut his head off, and next day delivered it and the body to the villagers, who duly impaled and burnt them.

“This Moravian nobleman had authority from the then head of the family to remove the tomb of Mircalla, Countess Karnstein, which he did effectually, so that in a little while its site was quite forgotten.”

“Can you point out where it stood?” asked the General, eagerly.

The forester shook his head, and smiled.

“Not a soul living could tell you that now,” he said; “besides, they say her body was removed; but no one is sure of that either.”

Having thus spoken, as time pressed, he dropped his axe and departed, leaving us to hear the remainder of the General’s strange story.

>

Carmilla: Part Twelve

Carmilla

J. Sheridan LeFanu

Copyright 1872

XII

A Petition

“‘Then we are to lose Madame la Comtesse, but I hope only for a few hours,’ I said, with a low bow.

“‘It may be that only, or it may be a few weeks. It was very unlucky his speaking to me just now as he did. Do you now know me?’

“I assured her I did not.

“‘You shall know me,’ she said, ‘but not at present. We are older and better friends than, perhaps, you suspect. I cannot yet declare myself. I shall in three weeks pass your beautiful schloss, about which I have been making enquiries. I shall then look in upon you for an hour or two, and renew a friendship which I never think of without a thousand pleasant recollections. This moment a piece of news has reached me like a thunderbolt. I must set out now, and travel by a devious route, nearly a hundred miles, with all the dispatch I can possibly make. My perplexities multiply. I am only deterred by the compulsory reserve I practice as to my name from making a very singular request of you. My poor child has not quite recovered her strength. Her horse fell with her, at a hunt which she had ridden out to witness, her nerves have not yet recovered the shock, and our physician says that she must on no account exert herself for some time to come. We came here, in consequence, by very easy stages–hardly six leagues a day. I must now travel day and night, on a mission of life and death–a mission the critical and momentous nature of which I shall be able to explain to you when we meet, as I hope we shall, in a few weeks, without the necessity of any concealment.’

“She went on to make her petition, and it was in the tone of a person from whom such a request amounted to conferring, rather than seeking a favor.

This was only in manner, and, as it seemed, quite unconsciously. Than the terms in which it was expressed, nothing could be more deprecatory. It was simply that I would consent to take charge of her daughter during her absence.

“This was, all things considered, a strange, not to say, an audacious request. She in some sort disarmed me, by stating and admitting everything that could be urged against it, and throwing herself entirely upon my chivalry. At the same moment, by a fatality that seems to have predetermined all that happened, my poor child came to my side, and, in an undertone, besought me to invite her new friend, Millarca, to pay us a visit. She had just been sounding her, and thought, if her mamma would allow her, she would like it extremely.

“At another time I should have told her to wait a little, until, at least, we knew who they were. But I had not a moment to think in. The two ladies assailed me together, and I must confess the refined and beautiful face of the young lady, about which there was something extremely engaging, as well as the elegance and fire of high birth, determined me; and, quite overpowered, I submitted, and undertook, too easily, the care of the young lady, whom her mother called Millarca.

“The Countess beckoned to her daughter, who listened with grave attention while she told her, in general terms, how suddenly and peremptorily she had been summoned, and also of the arrangement she had made for her under my care, adding that I was one of her earliest and most valued friends.

“I made, of course, such speeches as the case seemed to call for, and found myself, on reflection, in a position which I did not half like.

“The gentleman in black returned, and very ceremoniously conducted the lady from the room.

“The demeanor of this gentleman was such as to impress me with the conviction that the Countess was a lady of very much more importance than her modest title alone might have led me to assume.

“Her last charge to me was that no attempt was to be made to learn more about her than I might have already guessed, until her return. Our distinguished host, whose guest she was, knew her reasons.

“‘But here,’ she said, ‘neither I nor my daughter could safely remain for more than a day. I removed my mask imprudently for a moment, about an hour ago, and, too late, I fancied you saw me. So I resolved to seek an opportunity of talking a little to you. Had I found that you had seen me, I would have thrown myself on your high sense of honor to keep my secret some weeks. As it is, I am satisfied that you did not see me; but if you now suspect, or, on reflection, should suspect, who I am, I commit myself, in like manner, entirely to your honor. My daughter will observe the same secrecy, and I well know that you will, from time to time, remind her, lest she should thoughtlessly disclose it.’

“She whispered a few words to her daughter, kissed her hurriedly twice, and went away, accompanied by the pale gentleman in black, and disappeared in the crowd.

“‘In the next room,’ said Millarca, ‘there is a window that looks upon the hall door. I should like to see the last of mamma, and to kiss my hand to her.’

“We assented, of course, and accompanied her to the window. We looked out, and saw a handsome old-fashioned carriage, with a troop of couriers and footmen. We saw the slim figure of the pale gentleman in black, as he held a thick velvet cloak, and placed it about her shoulders and threw the hood over her head. She nodded to him, and just touched his hand with hers. He bowed low repeatedly as the door closed, and the carriage began to move.

“‘She is gone,’ said Millarca, with a sigh.

“‘She is gone,’ I repeated to myself, for the first time–in the hurried moments that had elapsed since my consent–reflecting upon the folly of my act.

“‘She did not look up,’ said the young lady, plaintively.

“‘The Countess had taken off her mask, perhaps, and did not care to show her face,’ I said; ‘and she could not know that you were in the window.’

“She sighed, and looked in my face. She was so beautiful that I relented. I was sorry I had for a moment repented of my hospitality, and I determined to make her amends for the unavowed churlishness of my reception.

“The young lady, replacing her mask, joined my ward in persuading me to return to the grounds, where the concert was soon to be renewed. We did so, and walked up and down the terrace that lies under the castle windows.

Millarca became very intimate with us, and amused us with lively descriptions and stories of most of the great people whom we saw upon the terrace. I liked her more and more every minute. Her gossip without being ill-natured, was extremely diverting to me, who had been so long out of the great world. I thought what life she would give to our sometimes lonely evenings at home.

“This ball was not over until the morning sun had almost reached the horizon. It pleased the Grand Duke to dance till then, so loyal people could not go away, or think of bed.

“We had just got through a crowded saloon, when my ward asked me what had become of Millarca. I thought she had been by her side, and she fancied she was by mine. The fact was, we had lost her.

“All my efforts to find her were vain. I feared that she had mistaken, in the confusion of a momentary separation from us, other people for her new friends, and had, possibly, pursued and lost them in the extensive grounds which were thrown open to us.

“Now, in its full force, I recognized a new folly in my having undertaken the charge of a young lady without so much as knowing her name; and fettered as I was by promises, of the reasons for imposing which I knew nothing, I could not even point my inquiries by saying that the missing young lady was the daughter of the Countess who had taken her departure a few hours before.

“Morning broke. It was clear daylight before I gave up my search. It was not till near two o’clock next day that we heard anything of my missing charge.

“At about that time a servant knocked at my niece’s door, to say that he had been earnestly requested by a young lady, who appeared to be in great distress, to make out where she could find the General Baron Spielsdorf and the young lady his daughter, in whose charge she had been left by her mother.

“There could be no doubt, notwithstanding the slight inaccuracy, that our young friend had turned up; and so she had. Would to heaven we had lost her!

“She told my poor child a story to account for her having failed to recover us for so long. Very late, she said, she had got to the housekeeper’s bedroom in despair of finding us, and had then fallen into a deep sleep which, long as it was, had hardly sufficed to recruit her strength after the fatigues of the ball.

“That day Millarca came home with us. I was only too happy, after all, to have secured so charming a companion for my dear girl.”

 

 

Carmilla: Part Eleven

 

Carmilla

J. Sheridan LeFanu

Copyright 1872

 XI

The Story

With all my heart,” said the General, with an effort; and after a short pause in which to arrange his subject, he commenced one of the strangest narratives I ever heard.

“My dear child was looking forward with great pleasure to the visit you had been so good as to arrange for her to your charming daughter.” Here he made me a gallant but melancholy bow. “In the meantime we had an invitation to my old friend the Count Carlsfeld, whose schloss is about six leagues to the other side of Karnstein. It was to attend the series of fetes which, you remember, were given by him in honor of his illustrious visitor, the Grand Duke Charles.”

“Yes; and very splendid, I believe, they were,” said my father.

“Princely! But then his hospitalities are quite regal. He has Aladdin’s lamp. The night from which my sorrow dates was devoted to a magnificent masquerade. The grounds were thrown open, the trees hung with colored lamps. There was such a display of fireworks as Paris itself had never witnessed. And such music–music, you know, is my weakness–such ravishing music! The finest instrumental band, perhaps, in the world, and the finest singers who could be collected from all the great operas in Europe. As you wandered through these fantastically illuminated grounds, the moon-lighted chateau throwing a rosy light from its long rows of windows, you would suddenly hear these ravishing voices stealing from the silence of some grove, or rising from boats upon the lake. I felt myself, as I looked and listened, carried back into the romance and poetry of my early youth.

“When the fireworks were ended, and the ball beginning, we returned to the noble suite of rooms that were thrown open to the dancers. A masked ball, you know, is a beautiful sight; but so brilliant a spectacle of the kind I never saw before.

“It was a very aristocratic assembly. I was myself almost the only ‘nobody’ present.

“My dear child was looking quite beautiful. She wore no mask. Her excitement and delight added an unspeakable charm to her features, always lovely. I remarked a young lady, dressed magnificently, but wearing a mask, who appeared to me to be observing my ward with extraordinary interest. I had seen her, earlier in the evening, in the great hall, and again, for a few minutes, walking near us, on the terrace under the castle windows, similarly employed. A lady, also masked, richly and gravely dressed, and with a stately air, like a person of rank, accompanied her as a chaperon.

Had the young lady not worn a mask, I could, of course, have been much more certain upon the question whether she was really watching my poor darling.

I am now well assured that she was.

“We were now in one of the salons. My poor dear child had been dancing, and was resting a little in one of the chairs near the door; I was standing near. The two ladies I have mentioned had approached and the younger took the chair next my ward; while her companion stood beside me, and for a little time addressed herself, in a low tone, to her charge.

“Availing herself of the privilege of her mask, she turned to me, and in the tone of an old friend, and calling me by my name, opened a conversation with me, which piqued my curiosity a good deal. She referred to many scenes where she had met me–at Court, and at distinguished houses. She alluded to little incidents which I had long ceased to think of, but which, I found, had only lain in abeyance in my memory, for they instantly started into life at her touch.

I became more and more curious to ascertain who she was, every moment. She parried my attempts to discover very adroitly and pleasantly. The knowledge she showed of many passages in my life seemed to me all but unaccountable; and she appeared to take a not unnatural pleasure in foiling my curiosity, and in seeing me flounder in my eager perplexity, from one conjecture to another.

“In the meantime the young lady, whom her mother called by the odd name of Millarca, when she once or twice addressed her, had, with the same ease and grace, got into conversation with my ward.

“She introduced herself by saying that her mother was a very old acquaintance of mine. She spoke of the agreeable audacity which a mask rendered practicable; she talked like a friend; she admired her dress, and insinuated very prettily her admiration of her beauty. She amused her with laughing criticisms upon the people who crowded the ballroom, and laughed at my poor child’s fun. She was very witty and lively when she pleased, and after a time they had grown very good friends, and the young stranger lowered her mask, displaying a remarkably beautiful face. I had never seen it before, neither had my dear child. But though it was new to us, the features were so engaging, as well as lovely, that it was impossible not to feel the attraction powerfully. My poor girl did so. I never saw anyone more taken with another at first sight, unless, indeed, it was the stranger herself, who seemed quite to have lost her heart to her.

“In the meantime, availing myself of the license of a masquerade, I put not a few questions to the elder lady.

“‘You have puzzled me utterly,’ I said, laughing. ‘Is that not enough?

Won’t you, now, consent to stand on equal terms, and do me the kindness to remove your mask?’

“‘Can any request be more unreasonable?’ she replied. ‘Ask a lady to yield an advantage! Beside, how do you know you should recognize me? Years make changes.’

“‘As you see,’ I said, with a bow, and, I suppose, a rather melancholy little laugh.

“‘As philosophers tell us,’ she said; ‘and how do you know that a sight of my face would help you?’

“‘I should take chance for that,’ I answered. ‘It is vain trying to make yourself out an old woman; your figure betrays you.’

“‘Years, nevertheless, have passed since I saw you, rather since you saw me, for that is what I am considering. Millarca, there, is my daughter; I cannot then be young, even in the opinion of people whom time has taught to be indulgent, and I may not like to be compared with what you remember me.

You have no mask to remove. You can offer me nothing in exchange.’

“‘My petition is to your pity, to remove it.’

“‘And mine to yours, to let it stay where it is,’ she replied.

“‘Well, then, at least you will tell me whether you are French or German; you speak both languages so perfectly.’

“‘I don’t think I shall tell you that, General; you intend a surprise, and are meditating the particular point of attack.’

“‘At all events, you won’t deny this,’ I said, ‘that being honored by your permission to converse, I ought to know how to address you. Shall I say Madame la Comtesse?’

“She laughed, and she would, no doubt, have met me with another evasion–if, indeed, I can treat any occurrence in an interview every circumstance of which was prearranged, as I now believe, with the profoundest cunning, as liable to be modified by accident.

‘As to that,’ she began; but she was interrupted, almost as she opened her lips, by a gentleman, dressed in black, who looked particularly elegant and distinguished, with this drawback, that his face was the most deadly pale I ever saw, except in death. He was in no masquerade–in the plain evening dress of a gentleman; and he said, without a smile, but with a courtly and unusually low bow:–

“‘Will Madame la Comtesse permit me to say a very few words which may interest her?’

“The lady turned quickly to him, and touched her lip in token of silence; she then said to me, ‘Keep my place for me, General; I shall return when I have said a few words.’

“And with this injunction, playfully given, she walked a little aside with the gentleman in black, and talked for some minutes, apparently very earnestly. They then walked away slowly together in the crowd, and I lost them for some minutes.

“I spent the interval in cudgeling my brains for a conjecture as to the identity of the lady who seemed to remember me so kindly, and I was thinking of turning about and joining in the conversation between my pretty ward and the Countess’s daughter, and trying whether, by the time she returned, I might not have a surprise in store for her, by having her name, title, chateau, and estates at my fingers’ ends. But at this moment she returned, accompanied by the pale man in black, who said:

“‘I shall return and inform Madame la Comtesse when her carriage is at the door.’

“He withdrew with a bow.”

 

Carmilla: Part Ten

Carmilla

J. Sheridan LeFanu

Copyright 1872


 

X

 Bereaved

It was about ten months since we had last seen him: but that time had sufficed to make an alteration of years in his appearance. He had grown thinner; something of gloom and anxiety had taken the place of that cordial serenity which used to characterize his features. His dark blue eyes, always penetrating, now gleamed with a sterner light from under his shaggy grey eyebrows. It was not such a change as grief alone usually induces, and angrier passions seemed to have had their share in bringing it about.

We had not long resumed our drive, when the General began to talk, with his usual soldierly directness, of the bereavement, as he termed it, which he had sustained in the death of his beloved niece and ward; and he then broke out in a tone of intense bitterness and fury, inveighing against the “hellish arts” to which she had fallen a victim, and expressing, with more exasperation than piety, his wonder that Heaven should tolerate so monstrous an indulgence of the lusts and malignity of hell.

My father, who saw at once that something very extraordinary had befallen, asked him, if not too painful to him, to detail the circumstances which he thought justified the strong terms in which he expressed himself.

“I should tell you all with pleasure,” said the General, “but you would not believe me.”

“Why should I not?” he asked.

“Because,” he answered testily, “you believe in nothing but what consists with your own prejudices and illusions. I remember when I was like you, but I have learned better.”

“Try me,” said my father; “I am not such a dogmatist as you suppose.

Besides which, I very well know that you generally require proof for what you believe, and am, therefore, very strongly predisposed to respect your conclusions.”

“You are right in supposing that I have not been led lightly into a belief in the marvelous–for what I have experienced is marvelous–and I have been forced by extraordinary evidence to credit that which ran counter, diametrically, to all my theories. I have been made the dupe of a preternatural conspiracy.”

Notwithstanding his professions of confidence in the General’s penetration, I saw my father, at this point, glance at the General, with, as I thought, a marked suspicion of his sanity.

The General did not see it, luckily. He was looking gloomily and curiously into the glades and vistas of the woods that were opening before us.

“You are going to the Ruins of Karnstein?” he said. “Yes, it is a lucky coincidence; do you know I was going to ask you to bring me there to inspect them. I have a special object in exploring. There is a ruined chapel, ain’t there, with a great many tombs of that extinct family?”

“So there are–highly interesting,” said my father. “I hope you are thinking of claiming the title and estates?”

My father said this gaily, but the General did not recollect the laugh, or even the smile, which courtesy exacts for a friend’s joke; on the contrary, he looked grave and even fierce, ruminating on a matter that stirred his anger and horror.

“Something very different,” he said, gruffly. “I mean to unearth some of those fine people. I hope, by God’s blessing, to accomplish a pious sacrilege here, which will relieve our earth of certain monsters, and enable honest people to sleep in their beds without being assailed by murderers. I have strange things to tell you, my dear friend, such as I myself would have scouted as incredible a few months since.”

My father looked at him again, but this time not with a glance of suspicion–with an eye, rather, of keen intelligence and alarm.

“The house of Karnstein,” he said, “has been long extinct: a hundred years at least. My dear wife was maternally descended from the Karnsteins. But the name and title have long ceased to exist. The castle is a ruin; the very village is deserted; it is fifty years since the smoke of a chimney was seen there; not a roof left.”

“Quite true. I have heard a great deal about that since I last saw you; a great deal that will astonish you. But I had better relate everything in the order in which it occurred,” said the General. “You saw my dear ward–my child, I may call her. No creature could have been more beautiful, and only three months ago none more blooming.”

“Yes, poor thing! when I saw her last she certainly was quite lovely,” said my father. “I was grieved and shocked more than I can tell you, my dear friend; I knew what a blow it was to you.”

He took the General’s hand, and they exchanged a kind pressure. Tears gathered in the old soldier’s eyes. He did not seek to conceal them. He said:

“We have been very old friends; I knew you would feel for me, childless as I am. She had become an object of very near interest to me, and repaid my care by an affection that cheered my home and made my life happy. That is all gone. The years that remain to me on earth may not be very long; but by God’s mercy I hope to accomplish a service to mankind before I die, and to subserve the vengeance of Heaven upon the fiends who have murdered my poor child in the spring of her hopes and beauty!”

“You said, just now, that you intended relating everything as it occurred,” said my father. “Pray do; I assure you that it is not mere curiosity that prompts me.”

By this time we had reached the point at which the Drunstall road, by which the General had come, diverges from the road which we were traveling to Karnstein.

“How far is it to the ruins?” inquired the General, looking anxiously forward.

“About half a league,” answered my father. “Pray let us hear the story you were so good as to promise.”

 

Carmilla: Part Nine

Carmilla

J. Sheridan LeFanu

Copyright 1872

 

IX

The Doctor

As Carmilla would not hear of an attendant sleeping in her room, my father arranged that a servant should sleep outside her door, so that she would not attempt to make another such excursion without being arrested at her own door.

That night passed quietly; and next morning early, the doctor, whom my father had sent for without telling me a word about it, arrived to see me.

Madame accompanied me to the library; and there the grave little doctor, with white hair and spectacles, whom I mentioned before, was waiting to receive me.

I told him my story, and as I proceeded he grew graver and graver.

We were standing, he and I, in the recess of one of the windows, facing one another. When my statement was over, he leaned with his shoulders against the wall, and with his eyes fixed on me earnestly, with an interest in which was a dash of horror.

After a minute’s reflection, he asked Madame if he could see my father.

He was sent for accordingly, and as he entered, smiling, he said:

“I dare say, doctor, you are going to tell me that I am an old fool for having brought you here; I hope I am.”

But his smile faded into shadow as the doctor, with a very grave face, beckoned him to him.

He and the doctor talked for some time in the same recess where I had just conferred with the physician. It seemed an earnest and argumentative conversation. The room is very large, and I and Madame stood together, burning with curiosity, at the farther end. Not a word could we hear, however, for they spoke in a very low tone, and the deep recess of the window quite concealed the doctor from view, and very nearly my father, whose foot, arm, and shoulder only could we see; and the voices were, I suppose, all the less audible for the sort of closet which the thick wall and window formed.

After a time my father’s face looked into the room; it was pale, thoughtful, and, I fancied, agitated.

“Laura, dear, come here for a moment. Madame, we shan’t trouble you, the doctor says, at present.”

Accordingly I approached, for the first time a little alarmed; for, although I felt very weak, I did not feel ill; and strength, one always fancies, is a thing that may be picked up when we please.

My father held out his hand to me, as I drew near, but he was looking at the doctor, and he said:

“It certainly is very odd; I don’t understand it quite. Laura, come here, dear; now attend to Doctor Spielsberg, and recollect yourself.”

“You mentioned a sensation like that of two needles piercing the skin, somewhere about your neck, on the night when you experienced your first horrible dream. Is there still any soreness?”

“None at all,” I answered.

“Can you indicate with your finger about the point at which you think this occurred?”

“Very little below my throat–here,” I answered.

I wore a morning dress, which covered the place I pointed to.

“Now you can satisfy yourself,” said the doctor. “You won’t mind your papa’s lowering your dress a very little. It is necessary, to detect a symptom of the complaint under which you have been suffering.”

I acquiesced. It was only an inch or two below the edge of my collar.

“God bless me!–so it is,” exclaimed my father, growing pale.

“You see it now with your own eyes,” said the doctor, with a gloomy triumph.

“What is it?” I exclaimed, beginning to be frightened.

“Nothing, my dear young lady, but a small blue spot, about the size of the tip of your little finger; and now,” he continued, turning to papa, “the question is what is best to be done?”

Is there any danger?”I urged, in great trepidation.

“I trust not, my dear,” answered the doctor. “I don’t see why you should not recover. I don’t see why you should not begin immediately to get better. That is the point at which the sense of strangulation begins?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“And–recollect as well as you can–the same point was a kind of center of that thrill which you described just now, like the current of a cold stream running against you?”

“It may have been; I think it was.”

“Ay, you see?” he added, turning to my father. “Shall I say a word to Madame?”

“Certainly,” said my father.

He called Madame to him, and said:

“I find my young friend here far from well. It won’t be of any great consequence, I hope; but it will be necessary that some steps be taken, which I will explain by-and-by; but in the meantime, Madame, you will be so good as not to let Miss Laura be alone for one moment. That is the only direction I need give for the present. It is indispensable.”

“We may rely upon your kindness, Madame, I know,” added my father.

Madame satisfied him eagerly.

“And you, dear Laura, I know you will observe the doctor’s direction.”

“I shall have to ask your opinion upon another patient, whose symptoms slightly resemble those of my daughter, that have just been detailed to you–very much milder in degree, but I believe quite of the same sort. She is a young lady–our guest; but as you say you will be passing this way again this evening, you can’t do better than take your supper here, and you can then see her. She does not come down till the afternoon.”

“I thank you,” said the doctor. “I shall be with you, then, at about seven this evening.”

And then they repeated their directions to me and to Madame, and with this parting charge my father left us, and walked out with the doctor; and I saw them pacing together up and down between the road and the moat, on the grassy platform in front of the castle, evidently absorbed in earnest conversation.

The doctor did not return. I saw him mount his horse there, take his leave, and ride away eastward through the forest.

Nearly at the same time I saw the man arrive from Dranfield with the letters, and dismount and hand the bag to my father.

In the meantime, Madame and I were both busy, lost in conjecture as to the reasons of the singular and earnest direction which the doctor and my father had concurred in imposing. Madame, as she afterwards told me, was afraid the doctor apprehended a sudden seizure, and that, without prompt assistance, I might either lose my life in a fit, or at least be seriously hurt.

The interpretation did not strike me; and I fancied, perhaps luckily for my nerves, that the arrangement was prescribed simply to secure a companion, who would prevent my taking too much exercise, or eating unripe fruit, or doing any of the fifty foolish things to which young people are supposed to be prone.

About half an hour after my father came in–he had a letter in his hand–and said:

“This letter had been delayed; it is from General Spielsdorf. He might have been here yesterday, he may not come till tomorrow or he may be here today.”

He put the open letter into my hand; but he did not look pleased, as he used when a guest, especially one so much loved as the General, was coming.

On the contrary, he looked as if he wished him at the bottom of the Red Sea. There was plainly something on his mind which he did not choose to divulge.

“Papa, darling, will you tell me this?” said I, suddenly laying my hand on his arm, and looking, I am sure, imploringly in his face.

“Perhaps,” he answered, smoothing my hair caressingly over my eyes.

“Does the doctor think me very ill?”

“No, dear; he thinks, if right steps are taken, you will be quite well again, at least, on the high road to a complete recovery, in a day or two,” he answered, a little dryly. “I wish our good friend, the General, had chosen any other time; that is, I wish you had been perfectly well to receive him.”

“But do tell me, papa,” I insisted, “what does he think is the matter with me?”

“Nothing; you must not plague me with questions,” he answered, with more irritation than I ever remember him to have displayed before; and seeing that I looked wounded, I suppose, he kissed me, and added, “You shall know all about it in a day or two; that is, all that I know. In the meantime you are not to trouble your head about it.”

He turned and left the room, but came back before I had done wondering and puzzling over the oddity of all this; it was merely to say that he was going to Karnstein, and had ordered the carriage to be ready at twelve, and that I and Madame should accompany him; he was going to see the priest who lived near those picturesque grounds, upon business, and as Carmilla had never seen them, she could follow, when she came down, with Mademoiselle, who would bring materials for what you call a picnic, which might be laid for us in the ruined castle.

At twelve o’clock, accordingly, I was ready, and not long after, my father, Madame and I set out upon our projected drive.

Passing the drawbridge we turn to the right, and follow the road over the steep Gothic bridge, westward, to reach the deserted village and ruined castle of Karnstein.

No sylvan drive can be fancied prettier. The ground breaks into gentle hills and hollows, all clothed with beautiful wood, totally destitute of the comparative formality which artificial planting and early culture and pruning impart.

The irregularities of the ground often lead the road out of its course, and cause it to wind beautifully round the sides of broken hollows and the steeper sides of the hills, among varieties of ground almost inexhaustible.

Turning one of these points, we suddenly encountered our old friend, the General, riding towards us, attended by a mounted servant. His portmanteaus were following in a hired wagon, such as we term a cart.

The General dismounted as we pulled up, and, after the usual greetings, was easily persuaded to accept the vacant seat in the carriage and send his horse on with his servant to the schloss.