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Carmilla by J. Sheridan LeFanu

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"the question is what is best to be done?"

"Is there any danger?" I urged, in great trepidation.

"I trust not, my dear," answered the doctor. "I don't see why you should
not recover. I don't see why you should not begin immediately to get
better. That is the point at which the sense of strangulation begins?"

"Yes," I answered.

"And--recollect as well as you can--the same point was a kind of center
of that thrill which you described just now, like the current of a cold
stream running against you?"

"It may have been; I think it was."

"Ay, you see?" he added, turning to my father. "Shall I say a word to

"Certainly," said my father.

He called Madame to him, and said:

"I find my young friend here far from well. It won't be of any great
consequence, I hope; but it will be necessary that some steps be taken,
which I will explain by-and-by; but in the meantime, Madame, you will
be so good as not to let Miss Laura be alone for one moment. That is the
only direction I need give for the present. It is indispensable."

"We may rely upon your kindness, Madame, I know," added my father.

Madame satisfied him eagerly.

"And you, dear Laura, I know you will observe the doctor's direction."

"I shall have to ask your opinion upon another patient, whose symptoms
slightly resemble those of my daughter, that have just been detailed to
you--very much milder in degree, but I believe quite of the same sort.
She is a young lady--our guest; but as you say you will be passing this
way again this evening, you can't do better than take your supper here,
and you can then see her. She does not come down till the afternoon."

"I thank you," said the doctor. "I shall be with you, then, at about
seven this evening."

And then they repeated their directions to me and to Madame, and with
this parting charge my father left us, and walked out with the doctor;
and I saw them pacing together up and down between the road and the
moat, on the grassy platform in front of the castle, evidently absorbed
in earnest conversation.

The doctor did not return. I saw him mount his horse there, take his
leave, and ride away eastward through the forest.

Nearly at the same time I saw the man arrive from Dranfield with the
letters, and dismount and hand the bag to my father.

In the meantime, Madame and I were both busy, lost in conjecture as to
the reasons of the singular and earnest direction which the doctor and
my father had concurred in imposing. Madame, as she afterwards told me,
was afraid the doctor apprehended a sudden seizure, and that, without
prompt assistance, I might either lose my life in a fit, or at least be
seriously hurt.

The interpretation did not strike me; and I fancied, perhaps luckily for
my nerves, that the arrangement was prescribed simply to secure a
companion, who would prevent my taking too much exercise, or eating
unripe fruit, or doing any of the fifty foolish things to which young
people are supposed to be prone.

About half an hour after my father came in--he had a letter in his
hand--and said:

"This letter had been delayed; it is from General Spielsdorf. He might
have been here yesterday, he may not come till tomorrow or he may be
here today."

He put the open letter into my hand; but he did not look pleased, as he
used when a guest, especially one so much loved as the General,
was coming.

On the contrary, he looked as if he wished him at the bottom of the Red
Sea. There was plainly something on his mind which he did not choose
to divulge.

"Papa, darling, will you tell me this?" said I, suddenly laying my hand
on his arm, and looking, I am sure, imploringly in his face.

"Perhaps," he answered, smoothing my hair caressingly over my eyes.

"Does the doctor think me very ill?"

"No, dear; he thinks, if right steps are taken, you will be quite well
again, at least, on the high road to a complete recovery, in a day or
two," he answered, a little dryly. "I wish our good friend, the General,
had chosen any other time; that is, I wish you had been perfectly well
to receive him."

"But do tell me, papa" I insisted, "what does he think is the matter
with me?"

"Nothing; you must not plague me with questions," he answered, with more
irritation than I ever remember him to have displayed before; and seeing
that I looked wounded, I suppose, he kissed me, and added, "You shall
know all about it in a day or two; that is, all that I know. In the
meantime you are not to trouble your head about it."

He turned and left the room, but came back before I had done wondering
and puzzling over the oddity of all this; it was merely to say that he
was going to Karnstein, and had ordered the carriage to be ready at
twelve, and that I and Madame should accompany him; he was going to see
priest who lived near those picturesque grounds, upon business, and as
Carmilla had never seen them, she could follow, when she came down, with
Mademoiselle, who would bring materials for what you call a picnic,
which might be laid for us in the ruined castle.

At twelve o'clock, accordingly, I was ready, and not long after, my
father, Madame and I set out upon our projected drive.

Passing the drawbridge we turn to the right, and follow the road over
the steep Gothic bridge, westward, to reach the deserted village and
ruined castle of Karnstein.

No sylvan drive can be fancied prettier. The ground breaks into gentle
hills and hollows, all clothed with beautiful wood, totally destitute of
the comparative formality which artificial planting and early culture
and pruning impart.

The irregularities of the ground often lead the road out of its course,
and cause it to wind beautifully round the sides of broken hollows and
the steeper sides of the hills, among varieties of ground almost

Turning one of these points, we suddenly encountered our old friend, the
General, riding towards us, attended by a mounted servant. His
portmanteaus were following in a hired wagon, such as we term a cart.

The General dismounted as we pulled up, and, after the usual greetings,
was easily persuaded to accept the vacant seat in the carriage and send
his horse on with his servant to the schloss.



It was about ten months since we had last seen him: but that time had
sufficed to make an alteration of years in his appearance. He had grown
thinner; something of gloom and anxiety had taken the place of that
cordial serenity which used to characterize his features. His dark blue
eyes, always penetrating, now gleamed with a sterner light from under
his shaggy grey eyebrows. It was not such a change as grief alone
usually induces, and angrier passions seemed to have had their share in
bringing it about.

We had not long resumed our drive, when the General began to talk, with
his usual soldierly directness, of the bereavement, as he termed it,
which he had sustained in the death of his beloved niece and ward; and
he then broke out in a tone of intense bitterness and fury, inveighing
against the "hellish arts" to which she had fallen a victim, and
expressing, with more exasperation than piety, his wonder that Heaven
should tolerate so monstrous an indulgence of the lusts and malignity
of hell.

My father, who saw at once that something very extraordinary had
befallen, asked him, if not too painful to him, to detail the
circumstances which he thought justified the strong terms in which he
expressed himself.

"I should tell you all with pleasure," said the General, "but you would
not believe me."

"Why should I not?" he asked.

"Because," he answered testily, "you believe in nothing but what
consists with your own prejudices and illusions. I remember when I was
like you, but I have learned better."

"Try me," said my father; "I am not such a dogmatist as you suppose.
Besides which, I very well know that you generally require proof for
what you believe, and am, therefore, very strongly predisposed to
respect your conclusions."

"You are right in supposing that I have not been led lightly into a
belief in the marvelous--for what I have experienced is marvelous--and I
have been forced by extraordinary evidence to credit that which ran
counter, diametrically, to all my theories. I have been made the dupe of
a preternatural conspiracy."

Notwithstanding his professions of confidence in the General's
penetration, I saw my father, at this point, glance at the General,
with, as I thought, a marked suspicion of his sanity.

The General did not see it, luckily. He was looking gloomily and
curiously into the glades and vistas of the woods that were opening
before us.

"You are going to the Ruins of Karnstein?" he said. "Yes, it is a lucky
coincidence; do you know I was going to ask you to bring me there to
inspect them. I have a special object in exploring. There is a ruined
chapel, ain't there, with a great many tombs of that extinct family?"

"So there are--highly interesting," said my father. "I hope you are
thinking of claiming the title and estates?"

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 since."

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 left."

"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
traveling to Karnstein.

"How far is it to the ruins?" inquired the General, looking anxiously

"About half a league," answered my father. "Pray let us hear the story
you were so good as to promise."


_The Story_

"With all my heart," said the General, with an effort; and after a short
pause in which to arrange his subject, he commenced one of the strangest
narratives I ever heard.

"My dear child was looking forward with great pleasure to the visit you
had been so good as to arrange for her to your charming daughter." Here
he made me a gallant but melancholy bow. "In the meantime we had an
invitation to my old friend the Count Carlsfeld, whose schloss is about
six leagues to the other side of Karnstein. It was to attend the series
of fetes which, you remember, were given by him in honor of his
illustrious visitor, the Grand Duke Charles."

"Yes; and very splendid, I believe, they were," said my father.

"Princely! But then his hospitalities are quite regal. He has Aladdin's
lamp. The night from which my sorrow dates was devoted to a magnificent
masquerade. The grounds were thrown open, the trees hung with colored
lamps. There was such a display of fireworks as Paris itself had never
witnessed. And such music--music, you know, is my weakness--such
ravishing music! The finest instrumental band, perhaps, in the world,
and the finest singers who could be collected from all the great operas
in Europe. As you wandered through these fantastically illuminated
grounds, the moon-lighted chateau throwing a rosy light from its long
rows of windows, you would suddenly hear these ravishing voices stealing
from the silence of some grove, or rising from boats upon the lake. I
felt myself, as I looked and listened, carried back into the romance and
poetry of my early youth.

"When the fireworks were ended, and the ball beginning, we returned to
the noble suite of rooms that were thrown open to the dancers. A masked
ball, you know, is a beautiful sight; but so brilliant a spectacle of
the kind I never saw before.

"It was a very aristocratic assembly. I was myself almost the only
'nobody' present.

"My dear child was looking quite beautiful. She wore no mask. Her
excitement and delight added an unspeakable charm to her features,
always lovely. I remarked a young lady, dressed magnificently, but
wearing a mask, who appeared to me to be observing my ward with
extraordinary interest. I had seen her, earlier in the evening, in the
great hall, and again, for a few minutes, walking near us, on the
terrace under the castle windows, similarly employed. A lady, also
masked, richly and gravely dressed, and with a stately air, like a
person of rank, accompanied her as a chaperon.

"Had the young lady not worn a mask, I could, of course, have been much
more certain upon the question whether she was really watching my
poor darling.

"I am now well assured that she was.

"We were now in one of the salons. My poor dear child had been dancing,
and was resting a little in one of the chairs near the door; I was
standing near. The two ladies I have mentioned had approached and the
younger took the chair next my ward; while her companion stood beside
me, and for a little time addressed herself, in a low tone, to
her charge.

"Availing herself of the privilege of her mask, she turned to me, and in
the tone of an old friend, and calling me by my name, opened a
conversation with me, which piqued my curiosity a good deal. She
referred to many scenes where she had met me--at Court, and at
distinguished houses. She alluded to little incidents which I had long
ceased to think of, but which, I found, had only lain in abeyance in my
memory, for they instantly started into life at her touch.

"I became more and more curious to ascertain who she was, every moment.
She parried my attempts to discover very adroitly and pleasantly. The
knowledge she showed of many passages in my life seemed to me all but
unaccountable; and she appeared to take a not unnatural pleasure in
foiling my curiosity, and in seeing me flounder in my eager perplexity,
from one conjecture to another.

"In the meantime the young lady, whom her mother called by the odd name
of Millarca, when she once or twice addressed her, had, with the same
ease and grace, got into conversation with my ward.

"She introduced herself by saying that her mother was a very old
acquaintance of mine. She spoke of the agreeable audacity which a mask
rendered practicable; she talked like a friend; she admired her dress,
and insinuated very prettily her admiration of her beauty. She amused
her with laughing criticisms upon the people who crowded the ballroom,
and laughed at my poor child's fun. She was very witty and lively when
she pleased, and after a time they had grown very good friends, and the
young stranger lowered her mask, displaying a remarkably beautiful face.
I had never seen it before, neither had my dear child. But though it was
new to us, the features were so engaging, as well as lovely, that it
was impossible not to feel the attraction powerfully. My poor girl did
so. I never saw anyone more taken with another at first sight, unless,
indeed, it was the stranger herself, who seemed quite to have lost her
heart to her.

"In the meantime, availing myself of the license of a masquerade, I put
not a few questions to the elder lady.

"'You have puzzled me utterly,' I said, laughing. 'Is that not enough?
Won't you, now, consent to stand on equal terms, and do me the kindness
to remove your mask?'

"'Can any request be more unreasonable?' she replied. 'Ask a lady to
yield an advantage! Beside, how do you know you should recognize me?
Years make changes.'

"'As you see,' I said, with a bow, and, I suppose, a rather melancholy
little laugh.

"'As philosophers tell us,' she said; 'and how do you know that a sight
of my face would help you?'

"'I should take chance for that,' I answered. 'It is vain trying to make
yourself out an old woman; your figure betrays you.'

"'Years, nevertheless, have passed since I saw you, rather since you saw
me, for that is what I am considering. Millarca, there, is my daughter;
I cannot then be young, even in the opinion of people whom time has
taught to be indulgent, and I may not like to be compared with what you
remember me. You have no mask to remove. You can offer me nothing in

"'My petition is to your pity, to remove it.'

"'And mine to yours, to let it stay where it is,' she replied.

"'Well, then, at least you will tell me whether you are French or
German; you speak both languages so perfectly.'

"'I don't think I shall tell you that, General; you intend a surprise,
and are meditating the particular point of attack.'

"'At all events, you won't deny this,' I said, 'that being honored by
your permission to converse, I ought to know how to address you. Shall I
say Madame la Comtesse?'

"She laughed, and she would, no doubt, have met me with another
evasion--if, indeed, I can treat any occurrence in an interview every
circumstance of which was prearranged, as I now believe, with the
profoundest cunning, as liable to be modified by accident.

"'As to that,' she began; but she was interrupted, almost as she opened
her lips, by a gentleman, dressed in black, who looked particularly
elegant and distinguished, with this drawback, that his face was the
most deadly pale I ever saw, except in death. He was in no
masquerade--in the plain evening dress of a gentleman; and he said,
without a smile, but with a courtly and unusually low bow:--

"'Will Madame la Comtesse permit me to say a very few words which may
interest her?'

"The lady turned quickly to him, and touched her lip in token of
silence; she then said to me, 'Keep my place for me, General; I shall
return when I have said a few words.'

"And with this injunction, playfully given, she walked a little aside
with the gentleman in black, and talked for some minutes, apparently
very earnestly. They then walked away slowly together in the crowd, and
I lost them for some minutes.

"I spent the interval in cudgeling my brains for a conjecture as to the
identity of the lady who seemed to remember me so kindly, and I was
thinking of turning about and joining in the conversation between my
pretty ward and the Countess's daughter, and trying whether, by the time
she returned, I might not have a surprise in store for her, by having
her name, title, chateau, and estates at my fingers' ends. But at this
moment she returned, accompanied by the pale man in black, who said:

"'I shall return and inform Madame la Comtesse when her carriage is at
the door.'

"He withdrew with a bow."


_A Petition_

"'Then we are to lose Madame la Comtesse, but I hope only for a few
hours,' I said, with a low bow.

"'It may be that only, or it may be a few weeks. It was very unlucky his
speaking to me just now as he did. Do you now know me?'

"I assured her I did not.

"'You shall know me,' she said, 'but not at present. We are older and
better friends than, perhaps, you suspect. I cannot yet declare myself.
I shall in three weeks pass your beautiful schloss, about which I have
been making enquiries. I shall then look in upon you for an hour or two,
and renew a friendship which I never think of without a thousand
pleasant recollections. This moment a piece of news has reached me like
a thunderbolt. I must set out now, and travel by a devious route, nearly
a hundred miles, with all the dispatch I can possibly make. My
perplexities multiply. I am only deterred by the compulsory reserve I
practice as to my name from making a very singular request of you. My
poor child has not quite recovered her strength. Her horse fell with
her, at a hunt which she had ridden out to witness, her nerves have not
yet recovered the shock, and our physician says that she must on no
account exert herself for some time to come. We came here, in
consequence, by very easy stages--hardly six leagues a day. I must now
travel day and night, on a mission of life and death--a mission the
critical and momentous nature of which I shall be able to explain to you
when we meet, as I hope we shall, in a few weeks, without the necessity
of any concealment.'

"She went on to make her petition, and it was in the tone of a person
from whom such a request amounted to conferring, rather than seeking
a favor.

"This was only in manner, and, as it seemed, quite unconsciously. Than
the terms in which it was expressed, nothing could be more deprecatory.
It was simply that I would consent to take charge of her daughter during
her absence.

"This was, all things considered, a strange, not to say, an audacious
request. She in some sort disarmed me, by stating and admitting
everything that could be urged against it, and throwing herself entirely
upon my chivalry. At the same moment, by a fatality that seems to have
predetermined all that happened, my poor child came to my side, and, in
an undertone, besought me to invite her new friend, Millarca, to pay us
a visit. She had just been sounding her, and thought, if her mamma would
allow her, she would like it extremely.

"At another time I should have told her to wait a little, until, at
least, we knew who they were. But I had not a moment to think in. The
two ladies assailed me together, and I must confess the refined and
beautiful face of the young lady, about which there was something
extremely engaging, as well as the elegance and fire of high birth,
determined me; and, quite overpowered, I submitted, and undertook, too
easily, the care of the young lady, whom her mother called Millarca.

"The Countess beckoned to her daughter, who listened with grave
attention while she told her, in general terms, how suddenly and
peremptorily she had been summoned, and also of the arrangement she had
made for her under my care, adding that I was one of her earliest and
most valued friends.

"I made, of course, such speeches as the case seemed to call for, and
found myself, on reflection, in a position which I did not half like.

"The gentleman in black returned, and very ceremoniously conducted the
lady from the room.

"The demeanor of this gentleman was such as to impress me with the
conviction that the Countess was a lady of very much more importance
than her modest title alone might have led me to assume.

"Her last charge to me was that no attempt was to be made to learn more
about her than I might have already guessed, until her return. Our
distinguished host, whose guest she was, knew her reasons.

"'But here,' she said, 'neither I nor my daughter could safely remain
for more than a day. I removed my mask imprudently for a moment, about
an hour ago, and, too late, I fancied you saw me. So I resolved to seek
an opportunity of talking a little to you. Had I found that you had seen
me, I would have thrown myself on your high sense of honor to keep my
secret some weeks. As it is, I am satisfied that you did not see me; but
if you now suspect, or, on reflection, should suspect, who I am, I
commit myself, in like manner, entirely to your honor. My daughter will
observe the same secrecy, and I well know that you will, from time to
time, remind her, lest she should thoughtlessly disclose it.'

"She whispered a few words to her daughter, kissed her hurriedly twice,
and went away, accompanied by the pale gentleman in black, and
disappeared in the crowd.

"'In the next room,' said Millarca, 'there is a window that looks upon
the hall door. I should like to see the last of mamma, and to kiss my
hand to her.'

"We assented, of course, and accompanied her to the window. We looked
out, and saw a handsome old-fashioned carriage, with a troop of couriers
and footmen. We saw the slim figure of the pale gentleman in black, as
he held a thick velvet cloak, and placed it about her shoulders and
threw the hood over her head. She nodded to him, and just touched his
hand with hers. He bowed low repeatedly as the door closed, and the
carriage began to move.

"'She is gone,' said Millarca, with a sigh.

"'She is gone,' I repeated to myself, for the first time--in the hurried
moments that had elapsed since my consent--reflecting upon the folly
of my act.

"'She did not look up,' said the young lady, plaintively.

"'The Countess had taken off her mask, perhaps, and did not care to show
her face,' I said; 'and she could not know that you were in the window.'

"She sighed, and looked in my face. She was so beautiful that I
relented. I was sorry I had for a moment repented of my hospitality, and
I determined to make her amends for the unavowed churlishness of my

"The young lady, replacing her mask, joined my ward in persuading me to
return to the grounds, where the concert was soon to be renewed. We did
so, and walked up and down the terrace that lies under the
castle windows.

"Millarca became very intimate with us, and amused us with lively
descriptions and stories of most of the great people whom we saw upon
the terrace. I liked her more and more every minute. Her gossip without
being ill-natured, was extremely diverting to me, who had been so long
out of the great world. I thought what life she would give to our
sometimes lonely evenings at home.

"This ball was not over until the morning sun had almost reached the
horizon. It pleased the Grand Duke to dance till then, so loyal people
could not go away, or think of bed.

"We had just got through a crowded saloon, when my ward asked me what
had become of Millarca. I thought she had been by her side, and she
fancied she was by mine. The fact was, we had lost her.

"All my efforts to find her were vain. I feared that she had mistaken,
in the confusion of a momentary separation from us, other people for her
new friends, and had, possibly, pursued and lost them in the extensive
grounds which were thrown open to us.

"Now, in its full force, I recognized a new folly in my having
undertaken the charge of a young lady without so much as knowing her
name; and fettered as I was by promises, of the reasons for imposing
which I knew nothing, I could not even point my inquiries by saying that
the missing young lady was the daughter of the Countess who had taken
her departure a few hours before.

"Morning broke. It was clear daylight before I gave up my search. It was
not till near two o'clock next day that we heard anything of my
missing charge.

"At about that time a servant knocked at my niece's door, to say that he
had been earnestly requested by a young lady, who appeared to be in
great distress, to make out where she could find the General Baron
Spielsdorf and the young lady his daughter, in whose charge she had been
left by her mother.

"There could be no doubt, notwithstanding the slight inaccuracy, that
our young friend had turned up; and so she had. Would to heaven we
had lost her!

"She told my poor child a story to account for her having failed to
recover us for so long. Very late, she said, she had got to the
housekeeper's bedroom in despair of finding us, and had then fallen
into a deep sleep which, long as it was, had hardly sufficed to recruit
her strength after the fatigues of the ball.

"That day Millarca came home with us. I was only too happy, after all,
to have secured so charming a companion for my dear girl."


_The Woodman_

"There soon, however, appeared some drawbacks. In the first place,
Millarca complained of extreme languor--the weakness that remained after
her late illness--and she never emerged from her room till the afternoon
was pretty far advanced. In the next place, it was accidentally
discovered, although she always locked her door on the inside, and never
disturbed the key from its place till she admitted the maid to assist at
her toilet, that she was undoubtedly sometimes absent from her room in
the very early morning, and at various times later in the day, before
she wished it to be understood that she was stirring. She was repeatedly
seen from the windows of the schloss, in the first faint grey of the
morning, walking through the trees, in an easterly direction, and
looking like a person in a trance. This convinced me that she walked in
her sleep. But this hypothesis did not solve the puzzle. How did she
pass out from her room, leaving the door locked on the inside? How did
she escape from the house without unbarring door or window?

"In the midst of my perplexities, an anxiety of a far more urgent kind
presented itself.

"My dear child began to lose her looks and health, and that in a manner
so mysterious, and even horrible, that I became thoroughly frightened.

"She was at first visited by appalling dreams; then, as she fancied, by
a specter, sometimes resembling Millarca, sometimes in the shape of a
beast, indistinctly seen, walking round the foot of her bed, from
side to side.

"Lastly came sensations. One, not unpleasant, but very peculiar, she
said, resembled the flow of an icy stream against her breast. At a later
time, she felt something like a pair of large needles pierce her, a
little below the throat, with a very sharp pain. A few nights after,
followed a gradual and convulsive sense of strangulation; then came

I could hear distinctly every word the kind old General was saying,
because by this time we were driving upon the short grass that spreads
on either side of the road as you approach the roofless village which
had not shown the smoke of a chimney for more than half a century.

You may guess how strangely I felt as I heard my own symptoms so exactly
described in those which had been experienced by the poor girl who, but
for the catastrophe which followed, would have been at that moment a
visitor at my father's chateau. You may suppose, also, how I felt as I
heard him detail habits and mysterious peculiarities which were, in
fact, those of our beautiful guest, Carmilla!

A vista opened in the forest; we were on a sudden under the chimneys and
gables of the ruined village, and the towers and battlements of the
dismantled castle, round which gigantic trees are grouped, overhung us
from a slight eminence.

In a frightened dream I got down from the carriage, and in silence, for
we had each abundant matter for thinking; we soon mounted the ascent,
and were among the spacious chambers, winding stairs, and dark
corridors of the castle.

"And this was once the palatial residence of the Karnsteins!" said the
old General at length, as from a great window he looked out across the
village, and saw the wide, undulating expanse of forest. "It was a bad
family, and here its bloodstained annals were written," he continued.
"It is hard that they should, after death, continue to plague the human
race with their atrocious lusts. That is the chapel of the Karnsteins,
down there."

He pointed down to the grey walls of the Gothic building partly visible
through the foliage, a little way down the steep. "And I hear the axe of
a woodman," he added, "busy among the trees that surround it; he
possibly may give us the information of which I am in search, and point
out the grave of Mircalla, Countess of Karnstein. These rustics preserve
the local traditions of great families, whose stories die out among the
rich and titled so soon as the families themselves become extinct."

"We have a portrait, at home, of Mircalla, the Countess Karnstein;
should you like to see it?" asked my father.

"Time enough, dear friend," replied the General. "I believe that I have
seen the original; and one motive which has led me to you earlier than I
at first intended, was to explore the chapel which we are now

"What! see the Countess Mircalla," exclaimed my father; "why, she has
been dead more than a century!"

"Not so dead as you fancy, I am told," answered the General.

"I confess, General, you puzzle me utterly," replied my father, looking
at him, I fancied, for a moment with a return of the suspicion I
detected before. But although there was anger and detestation, at times,
in the old General's manner, there was nothing flighty.

"There remains to me," he said, as we passed under the heavy arch of
the Gothic church--for its dimensions would have justified its being so
styled--"but one object which can interest me during the few years that
remain to me on earth, and that is to wreak on her the vengeance which,
I thank God, may still be accomplished by a mortal arm."

"What vengeance can you mean?" asked my father, in increasing amazement.

"I mean, to decapitate the monster," he answered, with a fierce flush,
and a stamp that echoed mournfully through the hollow ruin, and his
clenched hand was at the same moment raised, as if it grasped the handle
of an axe, while he shook it ferociously in the air.

"What?" exclaimed my father, more than ever bewildered.

"To strike her head off."

"Cut her head off!"

"Aye, with a hatchet, with a spade, or with anything that can cleave
through her murderous throat. You shall hear," he answered, trembling
with rage. And hurrying forward he said:

"That beam will answer for a seat; your dear child is fatigued; let her
be seated, and I will, in a few sentences, close my dreadful story."

The squared block of wood, which lay on the grass-grown pavement of the
chapel, formed a bench on which I was very glad to seat myself, and in
the meantime the General called to the woodman, who had been removing
some boughs which leaned upon the old walls; and, axe in hand, the hardy
old fellow stood before us.

He could not tell us anything of these monuments; but there was an old
man, he said, a ranger of this forest, at present sojourning in the
house of the priest, about two miles away, who could point out every
monument of the old Karnstein family; and, for a trifle, he undertook
to bring him back with him, if we would lend him one of our horses, in
little more than half an hour.

"Have you been long employed about this forest?" asked my father of the
old man.

"I have been a woodman here," he answered in his patois, "under the
forester, all my days; so has my rather before me, and so on, as many
generations as I can count up. I could show You the very house in the
village here, in which my ancestors lived."

"How came the village to be deserted?" asked the General.

"It was troubled by revenants, sir; several were tracked to their
graves, there detected by the usual tests, and extinguished in the usual
way, by decapitation, by the stake, and by burning; but not until many
of the villagers were killed.

"But after all these proceedings according to law," he continued--"so
many graves opened, and so many vampires deprived of their horrible
animation--the village was not relieved. But a Moravian nobleman, who
happened to be traveling this way, heard how matters were, and being
skilled--as many people are in his country--in such affairs, he offered
to deliver the village from its tormentor. He did so thus: There being a
bright moon that night, he ascended, shortly after sunset, the towers of
the chapel here, from whence he could distinctly see the churchyard
beneath him; you can see it from that window. From this point he watched
until he saw the vampire come out of his grave, and place near it the
linen clothes in which he had been folded, and then glide away towards
the village to plague its inhabitants.

"The stranger, having seen all this, came down from the steeple, took
the linen wrappings of the vampire, and carried them up to the top of
the tower, which he again mounted. When the vampire returned from his
prowlings and missed his clothes, he cried furiously to the Moravian,
whom he saw at the summit of the tower, and who, in reply, beckoned him
to ascend and take them. Whereupon the vampire, accepting his
invitation, began to climb the steeple, and so soon as he had reached
the battlements, the Moravian, with a stroke of his sword, clove his
skull in twain, hurling him down to the churchyard, whither, descending
by the winding stairs, the stranger followed and cut his head off, and
next day delivered it and the body to the villagers, who duly impaled
and burnt them.

"This Moravian nobleman had authority from the then head of the family
to remove the tomb of Mircalla, Countess Karnstein, which he did
effectually, so that in a little while its site was quite forgotten."

"Can you point out where it stood?" asked the General, eagerly.

The forester shook his head, and smiled.

"Not a soul living could tell you that now," he said; "besides, they say
her body was removed; but no one is sure of that either."

Having thus spoken, as time pressed, he dropped his axe and departed,
leaving us to hear the remainder of the General's strange story.


_The Meeting_

"My beloved child," he resumed, "was now growing rapidly worse. The
physician who attended her had failed to produce the slightest
impression on her disease, for such I then supposed it to be. He saw my
alarm, and suggested a consultation. I called in an abler physician,
from Gratz.

"Several days elapsed before he arrived. He was a good and pious, as well
as a leaned man. Having seen my poor ward together, they withdrew to my
library to confer and discuss. I, from the adjoining room, where I
awaited their summons, heard these two gentlemen's voices raised in
something sharper than a strictly philosophical discussion. I knocked at
the door and entered. I found the old physician from Gratz maintaining
his theory. His rival was combating it with undisguised ridicule,
accompanied with bursts of laughter. This unseemly manifestation
subsided and the altercation ended on my entrance.

"'Sir,' said my first physician, 'my learned brother seems to think that
you want a conjuror, and not a doctor.'

"'Pardon me,' said the old physician from Gratz, looking displeased, 'I
shall state my own view of the case in my own way another time. I
grieve, Monsieur le General, that by my skill and science I can be of no
use. Before I go I shall do myself the honor to suggest something to

"He seemed thoughtful, and sat down at a table and began to write.

"Profoundly disappointed, I made my bow, and as I turned to go, the other
doctor pointed over his shoulder to his companion who was writing, and
then, with a shrug, significantly touched his forehead.

"This consultation, then, left me precisely where I was. I walked out
into the grounds, all but distracted. The doctor from Gratz, in ten or
fifteen minutes, overtook me. He apologized for having followed me, but
said that he could not conscientiously take his leave without a few
words more. He told me that he could not be mistaken; no natural disease
exhibited the same symptoms; and that death was already very near. There
remained, however, a day, or possibly two, of life. If the fatal seizure
were at once arrested, with great care and skill her strength might
possibly return. But all hung now upon the confines of the irrevocable.
One more assault might extinguish the last spark of vitality which is,
every moment, ready to die.

"'And what is the nature of the seizure you speak of?' I entreated.

"'I have stated all fully in this note, which I place in your hands upon
the distinct condition that you send for the nearest clergyman, and open
my letter in his presence, and on no account read it till he is with
you; you would despise it else, and it is a matter of life and death.
Should the priest fail you, then, indeed, you may read it.'

"He asked me, before taking his leave finally, whether I would wish to
see a man curiously learned upon the very subject, which, after I had
read his letter, would probably interest me above all others, and he
urged me earnestly to invite him to visit him there; and so took
his leave.

"The ecclesiastic was absent, and I read the letter by myself. At
another time, or in another case, it might have excited my ridicule. But
into what quackeries will not people rush for a last chance, where all
accustomed means have failed, and the life of a beloved object is
at stake?

"Nothing, you will say, could be more absurd than the learned man's

"It was monstrous enough to have consigned him to a madhouse. He said
that the patient was suffering from the visits of a vampire! The
punctures which she described as having occurred near the throat, were,
he insisted, the insertion of those two long, thin, and sharp teeth
which, it is well known, are peculiar to vampires; and there could be no
doubt, he added, as to the well-defined presence of the small livid mark
which all concurred in describing as that induced by the demon's lips,
and every symptom described by the sufferer was in exact conformity with
those recorded in every case of a similar visitation.

"Being myself wholly skeptical as to the existence of any such portent
as the vampire, the supernatural theory of the good doctor furnished, in
my opinion, but another instance of learning and intelligence oddly
associated with someone hallucination. I was so miserable, however,
that, rather than try nothing, I acted upon the instructions of
the letter.

"I concealed myself in the dark dressing room, that opened upon the poor
patient's room, in which a candle was burning, and watched there till
she was fast asleep. I stood at the door, peeping through the small
crevice, my sword laid on the table beside me, as my directions
prescribed, until, a little after one, I saw a large black object, very
ill-defined, crawl, as it seemed to me, over the foot of the bed, and
swiftly spread itself up to the poor girl's throat, where it swelled, in
a moment, into a great, palpitating mass.

"For a few moments I had stood petrified. I now sprang forward, with my
sword in my hand. The black creature suddenly contracted towards the
foot of the bed, glided over it, and, standing on the floor about a yard
below the foot of the bed, with a glare of skulking ferocity and horror
fixed on me, I saw Millarca. Speculating I know not what, I struck at
her instantly with my sword; but I saw her standing near the door,
unscathed. Horrified, I pursued, and struck again. She was gone; and my
sword flew to shivers against the door.

"I can't describe to you all that passed on that horrible night. The
whole house was up and stirring. The specter Millarca was gone. But her
victim was sinking fast, and before the morning dawned, she died."

The old General was agitated. We did not speak to him. My father walked
to some little distance, and began reading the inscriptions on the
tombstones; and thus occupied, he strolled into the door of a side
chapel to prosecute his researches. The General leaned against the wall,
dried his eyes, and sighed heavily. I was relieved on hearing the voices
of Carmilla and Madame, who were at that moment approaching. The voices
died away.

In this solitude, having just listened to so strange a story, connected,
as it was, with the great and titled dead, whose monuments were
moldering among the dust and ivy round us, and every incident of which
bore so awfully upon my own mysterious case--in this haunted spot,
darkened by the towering foliage that rose on every side, dense and high
above its noiseless walls--a horror began to steal over me, and my heart
sank as I thought that my friends were, after all, not about to enter
and disturb this triste and ominous scene.

The old General's eyes were fixed on the ground, as he leaned with his
hand upon the basement of a shattered monument.

Under a narrow, arched doorway, surmounted by one of those demoniacal
grotesques in which the cynical and ghastly fancy of old Gothic carving
delights, I saw very gladly the beautiful face and figure of Carmilla
enter the shadowy chapel.

I was just about to rise and speak, and nodded smiling, in answer to her
peculiarly engaging smile; when with a cry, the old man by my side
caught up the woodman's hatchet, and started forward. On seeing him a
brutalized change came over her features. It was an instantaneous and
horrible transformation, as she made a crouching step backwards. Before
I could utter a scream, he struck at her with all his force, but she
dived under his blow, and unscathed, caught him in her tiny grasp by the
wrist. He struggled for a moment to release his arm, but his hand
opened, the axe fell to the ground, and the girl was gone.

He staggered against the wall. His grey hair stood upon his head, and a
moisture shone over his face, as if he were at the point of death.

The frightful scene had passed in a moment. The first thing I recollect
after, is Madame standing before me, and impatiently repeating again and
again, the question, "Where is Mademoiselle Carmilla?"

I answered at length, "I don't know--I can't tell--she went there," and
I pointed to the door through which Madame had just entered; "only a
minute or two since."

"But I have been standing there, in the passage, ever since Mademoiselle
Carmilla entered; and she did not return."

She then began to call "Carmilla," through every door and passage and
from the windows, but no answer came.

"She called herself Carmilla?" asked the General, still agitated.

"Carmilla, yes," I answered.

"Aye," he said; "that is Millarca. That is the same person who long ago
was called Mircalla, Countess Karnstein. Depart from this accursed
ground, my poor child, as quickly as you can. Drive to the clergyman's
house, and stay there till we come. Begone! May you never behold
Carmilla more; you will not find her here."


_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 sidewall, 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.

"Tomorrow," 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.

My father came to me, kissed me again and again, and leading me from the
chapel, said:

"It is time to return, but before we go home, we must add to our party
the good priest, who lives but a little way from this; and persuade him
to accompany us to the schloss."

In this quest we were successful: and I was glad, being unspeakably
fatigued when we reached home. But my satisfaction was changed to
dismay, on discovering that there were no tidings of Carmilla. Of the
scene that had occurred in the ruined chapel, no explanation was offered
to me, and it was clear that it was a secret which my father for the
present determined to keep from me.

The sinister absence of Carmilla made the remembrance of the scene more
horrible to me. The arrangements for the night were singular. Two
servants, and Madame were to sit up in my room that night; and the
ecclesiastic with my father kept watch in the adjoining dressing room.

The priest had performed certain solemn rites that night, the purport of
which I did not understand any more than I comprehended the reason of
this extraordinary precaution taken for my safety during sleep.

I saw all clearly a few days later.

The disappearance of Carmilla was followed by the discontinuance of my
nightly sufferings.

You have heard, no doubt, of the appalling superstition that prevails in
Upper and Lower Styria, in Moravia, Silesia, in Turkish Serbia, in
Poland, even in Russia; the superstition, so we must call it, of
the Vampire.

If human testimony, taken with every care and solemnity, judicially,
before commissions innumerable, each consisting of many members, all
chosen for integrity and intelligence, and constituting reports more
voluminous perhaps than exist upon any one other class of cases, is
worth anything, it is difficult to deny, or even to doubt the existence
of such a phenomenon as the Vampire.

For my part I have heard no theory by which to explain what I myself
have witnessed and experienced, other than that supplied by the ancient
and well-attested belief of the country.

The next day the formal proceedings took place in the Chapel of

The grave of the Countess Mircalla was opened; and the General and my
father recognized each his perfidious and beautiful guest, in the face
now disclosed to view. The features, though a hundred and fifty years
had passed since her funeral, were tinted with the warmth of life. Her
eyes were open; no cadaverous smell exhaled from the coffin. The two
medical men, one officially present, the other on the part of the
promoter of the inquiry, attested the marvelous fact that there was a
faint but appreciable respiration, and a corresponding action of the
heart. The limbs were perfectly flexible, the flesh elastic; and the
leaden coffin floated with blood, in which to a depth of seven inches,
the body lay immersed.

Here then, were all the admitted signs and proofs of vampirism. The
body, therefore, in accordance with the ancient practice, was raised,
and a sharp stake driven through the heart of the vampire, who uttered a
piercing shriek at the moment, in all respects such as might escape from
a living person in the last agony. Then the head was struck off, and a
torrent of blood flowed from the severed neck. The body and head was
next placed on a pile of wood, and reduced to ashes, which were thrown
upon the river and borne away, and that territory has never since been
plagued by the visits of a vampire.

My father has a copy of the report of the Imperial Commission, with the
signatures of all who were present at these proceedings, attached in
verification of the statement. It is from this official paper that I
have summarized my account of this last shocking scene.



I write all this you suppose with composure. But far from it; I cannot
think of it without agitation. Nothing but your earnest desire so
repeatedly expressed, could have induced me to sit down to a task that
has unstrung my nerves for months to come, and reinduced a shadow of the
unspeakable horror which years after my deliverance continued to make my
days and nights dreadful, and solitude insupportably terrific.

Let me add a word or two about that quaint Baron Vordenburg, to whose
curious lore we were indebted for the discovery of the Countess
Mircalla's grave.

He had taken up his abode in Gratz, where, living upon a mere pittance,
which was all that remained to him of the once princely estates of his
family, in Upper Styria, he devoted himself to the minute and laborious
investigation of the marvelously authenticated tradition of Vampirism.
He had at his fingers' ends all the great and little works upon
the subject.

"Magia Posthuma," "Phlegon de Mirabilibus," "Augustinus de cura pro
Mortuis," "Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris," by
John Christofer Herenberg; and a thousand others, among which I
remember only a few of those which he lent to my father. He had a
voluminous digest of all the judicial cases, from which he had extracted
a system of principles that appear to govern--some always, and others
occasionally only--the condition of the vampire. I may mention, in
passing, that the deadly pallor attributed to that sort of revenants, is
a mere melodramatic fiction. They present, in the grave, and when they
show themselves in human society, the appearance of healthy life. When
disclosed to light in their coffins, they exhibit all the symptoms that
are enumerated as those which proved the vampire-life of the long-dead
Countess Karnstein.

How they escape from their graves and return to them for certain hours
every day, without displacing the clay or leaving any trace of
disturbance in the state of the coffin or the cerements, has always been
admitted to be utterly inexplicable. The amphibious existence of the
vampire is sustained by daily renewed slumber in the grave. Its horrible
lust for living blood supplies the vigor of its waking existence. The
vampire is prone to be fascinated with an engrossing vehemence,
resembling the passion of love, by particular persons. In pursuit of
these it will exercise inexhaustible patience and stratagem, for access
to a particular object may be obstructed in a hundred ways. It will
never desist until it has satiated its passion, and drained the very
life of its coveted victim. But it will, in these cases, husband and
protract its murderous enjoyment with the refinement of an epicure, and
heighten it by the gradual approaches of an artful courtship. In these
cases it seems to yearn for something like sympathy and consent. In
ordinary ones it goes direct to its object, overpowers with violence,
and strangles and exhausts often at a single feast.

The vampire is, apparently, subject, in certain situations, to special
conditions. In the particular instance of which I have given you a
relation, Mircalla seemed to be limited to a name which, if not her real
one, should at least reproduce, without the omission or addition of a
single letter, those, as we say, anagrammatically, which compose it.

Carmilla did this; so did Millarca.

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, discolors 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 favored 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 specter 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 practiced. 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 to this hour the image of Carmilla returns to
memory with ambiguous alternations--sometimes the playful, languid,
beautiful girl; sometimes the writhing fiend I saw in the ruined church;
and often from a reverie I have started, fancying I heard the light step
of Carmilla at the drawing room door.

* * * * *

Other books by J. Sheridan LeFanu

The Cock and Anchor
Torlogh O'Brien
The House by the Churchyard
Uncle Silas
The Wyvern Mystery
Guy Deverell
Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery
The Chronicles of Golden Friars
In a Glass Darkly
The Purcell Papers
The Watcher and Other Weird Stories
A Chronicle of Golden Friars and Other Stories
Madam Growl's Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery
Green Tea and Other Stories
Sheridan LeFanu: The Diabolic Genius
Best Ghost Stories of J.S. LeFanu
The Best Horror Stories
The Vampire Lovers and Other Stories
Ghost Stories and Mysteries
The Hours After Midnight
J.S. LeFanu: Ghost Stories and Mysteries
Ghost and Horror Stories
Green Tea and Other Ghost Stones
Carmilla and Other Classic Tales of Mystery

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