Carmilla HTML version

5. A Wonderful Likeness
This evening there arrived from Gratz the grave, dark-faced son of the picture
cleaner, with a horse and cart laden with two large packing cases, having many
pictures in each. It was a journey of ten leagues, and whenever a messenger
arrived at the schloss from our little capital of Gratz, we used to crowd about him
in the hall, to hear the news.
This arrival created in our secluded quarters quite a sensation. The cases
remained in the hall, and the messenger was taken charge of by the servants till
he had eaten his supper. Then with assistants, and armed with hammer, ripping-
chisel, and turnscrew, he met us in the hall. where we had assembled to witness
the unpacking of the cases.
Carmilla sat looking listlessly on, while one after the other the old pictures, nearly
all portraits, which had undergone the process of renovation, were brought to
light. My mother was of an old Hungarian family, and most of these pictures,
which were about to be restored to their places, had come to us through her.
My father had a list in his hand, from which he read, as the artist rummaged out
the corresponding numbers. I don’t know that the pictures were very good, but
they were, undoubtedly, very old, and some of them very curious also. They had,
for the most part, the merit of being now seen by me, I may say, for the first time;
for the smoke and dust of time had all but obliterated them.
“There is a picture that I have not seen yet,” said my father. “In one corner, at the
top of it, is the name, as well as I could read, ‘Marcia Karnstein,’ and the date
‘1698’; and I am curious to see how it has turned out.”
I remembered it; it was a small picture, about a foot and a half high, and nearly
square, without a frame; but it was so blackened by age that I could not make it
The artist now produced it, with evident pride. It was quite beautiful; it was
startling; it seemed to live. It was the effigy of Carmilla!
“Carmilla, dear, here is an absolute miracle. Here you are, living, smiling, ready
to speak, in this picture. Isn’t it beautiful, Papa? And see, even the little mole on
her throat.”
My father laughed, and said “Certainly it is a wonderful likeness,” but he looked
away, and to my surprise seemed but little struck by it, and went on talking to the
picture cleaner, who was also something of an artist, and discoursed with
intelligence about the portraits or other works, which his art had just brought into
light and colour, while I was more and more lost in wonder the more I looked at
the picture.
“Will you let me hang this picture in my room, papa?” I asked.
“Certainly, dear,” said he, smiling, “I’m very glad you think it so like. It must be
prettier even than I thought it, if it is.”
The young lady did not acknowledge this pretty speech, did not seem to hear it.
She was leaning back in her seat, her fine eyes under their long lashes gazing on
me in contemplation, and she smiled in a kind of rapture.
“And now you can read quite plainly the name that is written in the corner. It is
not Marcia; it looks as if it was done in gold. The name is Mircalla, Countess