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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, discolours 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
favoured 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 spectre 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 practised. 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