The Castle of the Carpathians by Jules Verne
WAS it possible? La Stilla, whom Franz de Télek thought never to see again, had just appeared on the platform of the bastion! He had not been the sport of an illusion, and Rotzko had seen her as he had done! It was indeed the great artiste in her costume of Angelica, such as she had worn in public at her last performance at San Carlo
The terrible truth flashed across the young count. This adored woman, who was to have been the Countess of Télek, had been shut up for five years in this castle amid the Transylvanian mountains! She whom Franz had seen fall dead on the stage had survived! While he had been carried almost dying to the hotel, the Baron Rodolphe must have found her and carried her off to the Castle of the Carpathians; and it was an empty coffin that the whole population had followed to the Santo Campo Nuovo of Naples!
It all appeared incredible, inadmissible, contrary to probability; and Franz said so to himself over and over again. Yes! But one thing was indubitable: La Stilla must have been carried off by the Baron de Gortz, for she was in the castle! She was alive, for she had just appeared above the wall! That was an absolute fact.
The young count endeavoured to collect his thoughts, which were centred on one single object: to rescue from Rodolphe de Gortz La Stilla, who for five years had been a prisoner in the Castle of the Carpathians.
“Rotzko,” said Franz in a breathless voice, “listen to me. Understand me at least; it seems as though my brain were going,—
“My master—my dear master!”
“At all costs I must enter this castle this very night.”
“This night, I tell you! She is there. She has seen me as I saw her. She is waiting for me—”
“Well, I will follow you.”
“No. I will go alone/’
“But how can you get into the castle when Nic Deck was not able to?”
“I will go in, I tell you.”
“The gate is shut.”
“It will not be so for me. I will seek for and I will find a breach. I will get through it.”
“You do not wish me to accompany you, master? You do not wish it?”
“No! We will separate; and it is by leaving me that you will serve me.”
“Shall I wait for you here?”
“Where shall I go, then?”
“To Werst—or rather—no—not to Werst,” replied Franz. “There would be no use in those people knowing. Go down to Vulkan and stay the night there. If you do not see me, leave Vulkan in the morning—that is to say—no—wait a few hours. Then go to Karlsburg. There go to the chief of the police. Tell him all that has happened. Then return with his men. If necessary, storm the castle. Deliver her! Ah! She—alive—in the power of Rodolphe de Gortz!”
And as the young count uttered these broken sentences Rotzko noticed that his excitement increased, and manifested itself in the disordered ideas of one who was no longer master of himself.
“Go, Rotzko!” he cried for the last time.
“You wish me to?”
At this formal injunction Rotzko could but obey; particularly as Franz had begun to lçave him, and the darkness hid him from view.
Rotzko remained a few moments where he was, unable to decide on going away. Then the idea occurred to him that the count’s efforts would be in vain; that he would not be able to enter the castle, nor even to get through the outer wall; that he would be compelled to return to the village of Vulkan—perhaps next morning, perhaps that night. The two of them would then go to Karlsburg, and what neither of them could do alone would be done by the police. They would settle with this Baron de Gortz; they would rescue the unfortunate La Stilla; they would search this Castle of the Carpathians; they would not leave one stone upon another, if necessary, even if all the fiends imaginable united to defend it.
And Rotzko descended the slopes of the Orgall plateau, so as to return to the Vulkan road.
Following the edge of the counterscarp, Franz had already gone round the bastion which flanked it on the left.
A thousand thoughts crowded in his mind. There was now no doubt about the presence of the Baron de Gortz in the castle, for La Stilla was a prisoner therein. It could only be the baron. La Stilla alive! But how could Franz get to her? How could he get her out of the castle? He did not know, but it must be done—and it would be done. The obstacles which Nic Deck could not overcome he would overcome. It was not curiosity which had brought him among these ruins, it was love for the woman he had found alive, yes, alive! After believing her to be dead, he would rescue her from Rodolphe de Gortz!
Doubtless Franz had said to himself that he could only obtain admission to the interior by means of the south curtain, in which the gate opened opposite the drawbridge; and seeing that it was impossible for him to scale the high walls, he continued to skirt the crest of the Orgall plateau, as soon as he had turned the angle at the bastion.
In broad daylight there would not have been much difficulty in this. At night—the moon was not yet up—a night all the darker from the mists which thicken on the mountains, it was more dangerous. To the danger of a false step, to the danger of a fall to the bottom of the ditch, was added that of stumbling against the rocks, and perhaps causing them to fall over him.
Franz went on, however, keeping as near as possible to the zigzags of the counterscarp, feeling his way hand and foot, to make sure he was not going astray. Sustained by superhuman strength, he also felt himself guided by an extraordinary instinct that could not deceive him.
Beyond the bastion stretched the south wall, that with which the drawbridge established communication when it was not raised against the gate.
When the bastion was passed, obstacles appeared to multiply. Among the huge rocks which covered the plateau, to follow the counterscarp was impossible, and he had to leave it. Figure a man endeavouring to traverse a field of Carnac in which the dolmens and menhirs were on no plan whatever; and not a mark to guide him, not a ray of light in the dark night.
Franz kept on, here climbing over a rock which barred his way, there creeping among the rocks, his hands torn with the thistles and brushwood, his head skimmed by the pairs of ospreys disturbed in their resting-places and flying off, uttering their horrible scream.
Ah! why did not the chapel bell clang as it had clanged Tor Nic Deck and the doctor? Why did not the intense light which had enveloped them stream up from between the battlements of the donjon? He would have headed towards the sound, he would have made towards the light, as the sailor towards the siren’s whistle or the lighthouse rays.
No! nothing but deep night bordered his view a few yards away.
This lasted for nearly an hour. When the ground began to slope to the left, Franz felt he was going wrong. Perhaps he had gone lower than the gate? Perhaps he was beyond the drawbridge?
He stopped, stamping his foot and wringing his hand. Which way should he go? Ah! how angry he was when he thought he would have to wait for the daylight! But then he would be seen by the people in the castle, he could not take them by surprise. Rodolphe de Gortz would be on his guard.
It was in the night-time that he must get into the enclosure, and Franz could not find his way in this darkness!
A cry escaped him—a cry of despair:
“Stilla!” he cried, “my Stilla!”
Did he think that the prisoner could hear him, that she could reply to him?
And yet a score of times he shouted the name, and the echoes of Plesa repeated it.
Suddenly Franz’s eyes were on the alert. A ray of light pierced the darkness—a dazzling ray, and its source was at a considerable elevation.
“There is the castle—there!” he said, and from its position the light could only come from the central donjon.
In his mental excitement Franz did not hesitate to believe that it was La Stilla who showed him this light. There could be no doubt she had recognized him at the moment he had perceived her through the battlements of the bastion. And now she it was who had given the signal and showed him the road to follow to reach the gate.
Franz went towards the light, which increased with every step he took. As he had gone too far to the left on the plateau, he had to go back about twenty yards to the right, and after a few trials he regained the edge of the counterscarp.
The light shone in his face, and its height showed that it came from one of the windows of the donjon.
Franz was about to find himself faced by the last obstacles—insurmountable, perhaps.
In fact, if the gate were shut, the drawbridge raised, he would have to go down to the foot of the wall, and what would he do then, where it was fifty feet high in front of him?
Franz went on towards the place where the drawbridge would rest if the gate were open.
The drawbridge was down.
Without even stopping to think, Franz rushed on to the bridge and laid his hand on the gate.
The gate opened.
Franz rushed under the dark arch. But before he had taken a dozen steps the drawbridge was raised with a clatter against the gate.
Count Franz de Télek was a prisoner in the Castle of the Carpathians.