1. An Early Fright
In Styria, we, though by no means magnificent people, inhabit a castle, or
schloss. A small income, in that part of the world, goes a great way. Eight or nine
hundred a year does wonders. Scantily enough ours would have answered
among wealthy people at home. My father is English, and I bear an English
name, although I never saw England. But here, in this lonely and primitive place,
where everything is so marvellously cheap, I real]y don’t see how ever so much
more money would at all materially add to our comforts, or even luxuries.
My father was in the Austrian service, and retired upon a pension and his
patrimony, and purchased this feudal residence, and the small estate on which it
stands, a bargain.
Nothing can be more picturesque or solitary. It stands on a slight eminence in a
forest. The road, very old and narrow, passes in front of its drawbridge, never
raised in my time, and its moat, stocked with perch, and sailed over by many
swans, and floating on its surface white fleets of water-lilies.
Over all this the schloss shows its many-windowed front; its towers, and its
The forest opens in an irregular and very picturesque glade before its gate, and
at the right a steep Gothic bridge carries the road over a stream that winds in
deep shadow through the wood. I have said that this is a very lonely place. Judge
whether I say truth. Looking from the hall door towards the road, the forest in
which our castle stands extends fifteen miles to the right, and twelve to the left.
The nearest inhabited village is about seven of your English miles to the left. The
nearest inhabited schloss of any historic associations, is that of old General
Spielsdorf, nearly twenty miles away to the right.
I have said “the nearest inhabited village,” because there is, only three miles
westward, that is to say in the direction of General Spielsdorf’s schloss, a ruined
village, with its quaint little church, now roofless, in the aisle of which are the
mouldering tombs of the proud family of Karnstein, now extinct, who once owned
the equally desolate chateau which, in the thick of the forest, overlooks the silent
ruins of the town.
Respecting the cause of the desertion of this striking and melancholy spot, there
is a legend which I shall relate to you another time.
I must tell you now, how very small is the party who constitute the inhabitants of
our castle. I don’t include servants, or those dependents who occupy rooms in
the buildings attached to the schloss. Listen, and wonder! My father, who is the
kindest man on earth, but growing old; and I, at the date of my story, only
nineteen. Eight years have passed since then. I and my father constituted the
family at the schloss. My mother, a Styrian lady, died in my infancy, but I had a
good-natured governess, who had been with me from, I might almost say, my
infancy. I could not remember the time time when her fat, benignant face was not