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2. A Guest
I am now going to tell you something so strange that it will require all your faith in
my veracity to believe my story. It is not only true, nevertheless, but truth of which
I have been an eye-witness.
It was a sweet summer evening, and my father asked me, as he sometimes did,
to take a little ramble with him along that beautiful forest vista which I have
mentioned as lying in front of the schloss.
“General Spielsdorf cannot come to us so soon as I had hoped,” said my father,
as we pursued our walk.
He was to have paid us a visit of some weeks, and we had expected his arrival
next day. He was to have brought with him a young lady, his niece and ward,
Mademoiselle Rheinfeldt, whom I had never seen, but whom I had heard
described as a very charming girl, and in whose society I had promised myself
many happy days. I was more disappointed than a young lady living in a town, or
a bustling neighbourhood can possibly imagine. This visit, and the new
acquaintance it promised, had furnished my day dream for many weeks
“And how soon does he come?” I asked.
“Not till autumn. Not for two months, I dare say,” he answered. “And I am very
glad now, dear, that you never knew Mademoiselle Rheinfeldt.”
“And why?” I asked, both mortified and curious.
“Because the poor young lady is dead,” he replied. “I quite forgot I had not told
you, but you were not in the room when I received the General’s letter this
I was very much shocked. General Spielsdorf had mentioned in his first letter, six
or seven weeks before, that she was not so well as he would wish her, but there
was nothing to suggest the remotest suspicion of danger.
“Here is the General’s letter,” he said, handing it to me. “I am afraid he is in great
affliction; the letter appears to me to have been written very nearly in distraction.”
We sat down on a rude bench, under a group of magnificent lime trees. The sun
was setting with all its melancholy splendour behind the sylvan horizon, and the
stream that flows beside our home, and passes under the steep old bridge I have
mentioned, wound through many a group of noble trees, almost at our feet,
reflecting in its current the fading crimson of the sky. General Spielsdorf’s letter
was so extraordinary, so vehement, and in some places so self-contradictory,
that I read it twice over—the second time aloud to my father—and was still
unable to account for it, except by supposing that grief had unsettled his mind.
It said “I have lost my darling daughter, for as such I loved her. During the last
days of dear Bertha’s illness I was not able to write to you. Before then I had no
idea of her danger. I have lost her, and now learn all, too late. She died in the
peace of innocence, and in the glorious hope of a blessed futurity. The fiend who