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My father said this gaily, but the General did not recollect the laugh, or even the
smile, which courtesy exacts for a friend’s joke; on the contrary, he looked grave
and even fierce, ruminating on a matter that stirred his anger and horror.
“Something very different,” he said, gruffly. “I mean to unearth some of those fine
people. I hope, by God’s blessing, to accomplish a pious sacrilege here, which
will relieve our earth of certain monsters, and enable honest people to sleep in
their beds without being assailed by murderers. I have strange things to tell you,
my dear friend, such as I myself would have scouted as incredible a few months
My father looked at him again, but this time not with a glance of suspicion—with
an eye, rather, of keen intelligence and alarm.
“The house of Karnstein,” he said, “has been long extinct: a hundred years at
least. My dear wife was maternally descended from the Karnsteins. But the name
and title have long ceased to exist. The castle is a ruin; the very village is
deserted; it is fifty years since the smoke of a chimney was seen there; not a roof
“Quite true. I have heard a great deal about that since I last saw you; a great deal
that will astonish you. But I had better relate everything in the order in which it
occurred,” said the General. “You saw my dear ward—my child, I may call her.
No creature could have been more beautiful, and only three months ago none
more blooming.”
“Yes, poor thing! when I saw her last she certainly was quite lovely,” said my
father. “I was grieved and shocked more than I can tell you, my dear friend; I
knew what a blow it was to you.”
He took the General’s hand, and they exchanged a kind pressure. Tears
gathered in the old soldier’s eyes. He did not seek to conceal them. He said:
“We have been very old friends; I knew you would feel for me, childless as I am.
She had become an object of very near interest to me, and repaid my care by an
affection that cheered my home and made my life happy. That is all gone. The
years that remain to me on earth may not be very long; but by God’s mercy I
hope to accomplish a service to mankind before I die, and to subserve the
vengeance of Heaven upon the fiends who have murdered my poor child in the
spring of her hopes and beauty!”
“You said, just now, that you intended relating everything as it occurred,” said my
father. “Pray do; I assure you that it is not mere curiosity that prompts me.”
By this time we had reached the point at which the Drunstall road, by which the
General had come, diverges from the road which we were travelling to Karnstein.
“How far is it to the ruins?” inquired the General, looking anxiously forward.
“About half a league,” answered my father. “Pray let us hear the story you were
so good as to promise.”