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 side-wall, 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.
“To-morrow,” 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.