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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
characterise 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
“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
marvellous—for what I have experienced is marvellous—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?”