The Castle of the Carpathians by Jules Verne
“IS the connection with the chapel finished, Orfanik?”
“I have just done it.”
“Everything is ready in the casemates of the bastions?”
“The bastions and chapel are in direct connection with the donjon?”
“And after the instrument has made the current, we shall have time to get away?”
“Have you made sure that the tunnel on to the Vulkan is clear?”
They were silent for a few minutes while Orfanik took up his lantern and directed its light into the corners of the chapel.
“Ah! my old castle!” exclaimed the baron. “You will cost them dear who would storm your walls.”
And Rodolphe de Gortz pronounced these words in a tone which made the count shudder.
“You have heard what they say at Werst?” the baron asked Orfanik.
“Fifty minutes ago I heard on the wire what they were talking about at the “King Mathias.’”
“Is the attack to be to-night?”
“No, not until daybreak.”
“When did this Rotzko return to Werst?”
“Two hours ago, with the police he brought from Karlsburg.”
“Well! as the castle cannot defend itself,” said the baron, “at least it can crush under its ruins this Franz de Télek and all his people with him.”
Then, after a few moments he continued,—
“And this wire, Orfanik? Will they ever know that it put the castle in communication with the village of Werst?”
“I will destroy it, and they will know nothing about it.”
And now the hour would seem to have come to explain certain phenomena which have occurred in the course of our story, the origin of which ought no longer to be concealed.
At this period—it must be remembered that these events happened in one of the closing years of the nineteenth century—the use of electricity, which has justly been called the soul of the universe, had been brought to its highest perfection. The illustrious Edison and his disciples had finished their work.
Among other electrical instruments, the telephone then worked with such wonderful precision that the sounds collected by the diaphragms could be freely heard without the aid of ear-trumpets. What was said, what was sung, what was even whispered, could be heard at any distance, and two persons separated by thousands of leagues could converse as easily as if they were side by side.
For some years Orfanik, the baron’s inseparable companion, had been in all that concerns the practical application of electricity an inventor of the first order. But, as we know, his admirable discoveries had not been welcomed as they deserved. The learned world had taken him for a madman, whereas he was a man of genius; and hence the inappeasable hatred which the despised inventor bore to his fellow-men.
It was under these circumstances that Baron de Gortz had met Orfanik, who was then in the depths of misery. He encouraged him in his work, he helped him with money, and finally he engaged him to be his companion on condition that he alone should profit by his inventions.
In fact, these two eccentric personages were made to understand one another, and since their meeting they had never separated, not even when the Baron de Gortz was following La Stilla from town to town in Italy.
While the melomaniac was intoxicating himself with the singing of the incomparable artiste, Orfanik was busy in completing the discoveries made by electricians during these later years, perfecting their adaptations and obtaining the most extraordinary results from them.
After the events which terminated the dramatic career of La Stilla, the baron had disappeared without any one knowing what had become of him. When he left Naples it was in the Castle of the Carpathians that he had taken refuge, accompanied by Orfanik, who had no hesitation in shutting himself up with him.
When he resolved to bury his existence in this old castle, the baron’s intention was that no inhabitant of the district should suspect his return, and no one try to visit him. We need not say that Orfanik and he had the means of providing liberally for their daily wants; in fact, a secret communication existed with the road over the Vulkan, and by this road an old servant of the baron’s, whom nobody knew, brought in all that was necessary for the existence of Baron Rodolphe and his companion.
In reality what remained of the castle—and particularly the central donjon—was less dilapidated than was believed, and even more habitable than its inmates required. Orfanik, provided with all he wanted for his experiments, busied himself with immense researches in physics and chemistry, and of these he proposed to avail himself in his attempt to keep off unwelcome visitors.
The Baron de Gortz received the propositions with eagerness, and Orfanik built special machinery for spreading terror in the country by producing phenomena which could only be ascribed to diabolic agencies.
But in the first place it was necessary for the Baron de Gortz to be kept informed of what was passing in the nearest village. Was there any means of hearing what its people were talking about without their suspecting anything? Yes, if a telephone communication could be established between the castle and the large saloon of the “King Mathias,” where the notables of Werst were accustomed to meet every evening.
Orfanik managed this very skilfully and very secretly, and in the most simple manner. A copper wire covered with an insulating sheath had one end fastened on the first floor of the donjon and was then laid under the waters of the Nyad up to the village of Werst. This part of the work being accomplished, Orfanik, going himself out as a tourist, came to spend a night at the “King Mathias,” and there connect the wire with the inn saloon. It was easy for him to bring up the end from the bed of the torrent to the height of the back window, which was never opened, He then fixed a telephonic instrument, which was hidden by the thick foliage, and with that connected the cable. As the instrument was ingeniously adapted to emit as well as to receive sound, Baron de Gortz could hear all that was said at the “King Mathias,” and make himself heard whenever he chose.
During the first years the tranquillity of the castle was not troubled. The evil reputation it enjoyed was enough to keep the people of Werst away from it. But one day, that on which our story began, the purchase of the telescope led to the smoke being noticed escaping from the donjon chimney. From that moment interest was reawakened, and we know what happened.
It was then that the telephonic communication proved useful, for the baron and Orfanik could keep themselves posted up in what was passing in the village. It was by the wire that they knew that Nic Deck had undertaken to visit the castle, and by the wire the threatening voice entered the room to endeavour to keep him away. When the young forester persisted in his determination in spite of the menace, the baron resolved to give him such a lesson that he would have no desire to try it again. That night, Orfanik’s machinery, which was always in working order, produced a series of purely physical phenomena intended to carry terror throughout the district; the bell was rung in the old chapel, intense flames were shot forth mingled with sea-salt, giving a spectral appearance to everything; powerful sirens were worked from which the compressed air escaped in terrible groans; diagram outlines of monsters were projected on to the clouds by means of huge reflectors; iron plates were laid about the ditch in communication with electric batteries, and one of these plates caught the doctor by his iron-shod boots, while another had given the forester a shock at the moment he laid his hand on the drawbridge.
And so the baron thought that after the apparition of these prodigies, after the attempt of Nic Deck which had ended so badly, terror would reach its height in the district, and that neither for gold nor silver would any one approach even within two good miles of this Castle of the Carpathians, evidently haunted by supernatural beings.
Rodolphe de Gortz thought himself safe from all unwelcome curiosity when Franz de Télek arrived in the village of Werst.
All that passed between him and Jonas and Master Koltz and the others was immediately known to him along the wire in the Nyad. The baron’s hatred of the young count was rekindled by the memory of the events which had occurred at Naples. And not only was Franz de Télek in the village, a few miles from the castle, but there before the notables he was deriding their absurd superstitions, and demolishing that fantastic reputation which protected the Castle of the Carpathians; and he was even undertaking to warn the Karlsburg authorities, so that the police might come and scatter the legends to the winds!
And so the Baron de Gortz resolved to allure Franz de Télek to the castle, and we know by what means he had succeeded. The voice of La Stilla, sent into the inn saloon by means of the telephone, had led the young Count to turn aside from his road to visit the castle; the apparition of the singer on the platform of the bastion had given him an irresistible desire to enter; a light shown at one of the windows of the donjon had guided him to the gate, which was opened to let him in. In this crypt, lighted electrically, in which he had again heard that wonderful voice, and where food was brought him while he was in a lethargic sleep; in that crypt in the depths of the castle, the door of which was closed on him, Franz de Télek was in the power of the Baron de Gortz, and the Baron de Gortz intended he should never get out of it.
Such were the results obtained by this mysterious collaboration between Rodolphe de Gortz and his accomplice Orfanik. But to his extreme disgust, the baron knew that the alarm had been given by Rotzko, who, not having followed his master into the castle, had warned the authorities at Karlsburg. A detachment of police had arrived at the village of Werst, and the Baron de Gortz would have a strong force to contend with. How could he and Orfanik defend themselves against a numerous party? The means employed against Nic Deck and Doctor Patak would not be enough, for the police do not believe in diabolic intervention. And so they had resolved to destroy the castle completely, and were only waiting for the moment to act. An electric current had been prepared for firing the charges of dynamite which had been buried in the donjon,- the bastions, and the old chapel, and the arrangement would allow of the baron and his accomplice having time to escape by the tunnel on to the Vulkan road. After the explosion, of which the count and a number of those who had scaled the castle wall would be the victims, the two would get so far away that no trace of them would be discoverable.
What he had just heard had given Franz the explanation of many things that had happened. He now knew that telephonic communication existed between the Castle of the Carpathians and the village of Werst. He also knew that the castle was about to be destroyed in an explosion which would cost him his life and be fatal to the police brought by Rotzko. He knew that the Baron de Gortz and Orfanik would have time to get away, dragging with them the unconscious La Stilla.
Ah! why could not Franz rush into the chapel and throw himself on these men? He would have knocked them down, he would have stopped their injuring any one, he would have prevented the catastrophe.
But what was impossible at the moment might not be so after the baron’s departure. When the two had left the chapel Franz would throw himself on their track, pursue them to the castle, and with God’s help would settle with them.
The baron and Orfanik were already in the apse. Franz had not lost sight of them. Which way were they going out? Was there a door opening on to the enclosure? or was there some corridor connecting the chapel with the donjon? for it seemed as though all the castle buildings were in communication with each other. It mattered little if the count did not meet with an obstacle he could not surmount.
At this moment a few words were interchanged between Baron de Gortz and Orfanik:—
“There is nothing more to do here?”
“Then we can leave each other.”
“You still intend that I should leave you alone in the castle?”
“Yes, Orfanik; and you get off at once by the tunnel on to the Vulkan road.”
“I shall not leave the castle until the last moment.”
“It is understood that I am to wait for you at Bistritz?”
“Remain here, Baron Rodolphe, and remain alone, if that is your wish.”
“Yes—for I wish to hear her—to hear her once again during this last night I shall pass in the Castle of the Carpathians.”
A few moments afterwards the Baron de Gortz and Orfanik had left the chapel.
Although La Stilla’s name had not been mentioned in this conversation, Franz understood; it was of her that Rodolphe de Gortz had just spoken.