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Carmilla

“ ‘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 honoured 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 pre-arranged, 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 cudgelling 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.”
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