The Castle of the Carpathians by Jules Verne


AS the young count had gone mad, no one would probably have ever heard an explanation of the events of which the Castle of the Carpathians had been the theatre, if it had not been for the revelations which came about in this manner:—

For four days Orfanik had waited as agreed for the baron to meet him at the town of Bistritz. But as he did not appear, he began to wonder if he had perished in the explosion. Urged as much by curiosity as anxiety, he had left the town, gone back towards Werst, and was prowling about the ruins of the castle, when he was arrested by the police, who knew him from the description given by Rotzko.

Once in the chief town of the district, in the presence of the magistrates before whom he had been taken, Orfanik made no difficulty about replying to the questions put to him in the course of the inquiry ordered into the circumstances of this catastrophe.

But it must be confessed that the sad end of the Baron de Gortz seemed in no way to affect this learned egotist and maniac, whose heart was entirely in his inventions.

In the first place, on the urgent demand of Rotzko, Orfanik stated that La Stilla was dead, really dead and—such was his expression—buried, and well buried, for more than five years in the cemetery of Santo Nuovo Campo at Naples.

This statement was not the least astonishing of those provoked by this curious adventure.

If La Stilla were dead, how came it that Franz could hear her voice in the saloon of the inn, see her on the bastion, and listen to her song when he was in the crypt? And how could he have found her alive in the donjon?

The explanation of this apparently inexplicable phenomena was as follows:—

It will be remembered how deep was the baron’s despair when the rumour spread that La Stilla had resolved to retire from the stage and become Countess of Télek. The artiste’s admirable talent and all his dilettante gratifications would thus escape him. Then it was that Orfanik suggested that by means of the phonograph he should collect the principal airs from the operas she would appear in during her farewell performances at San Carlo. This instrument had reached a high state of perfection at this period, and Orfanik had so improved it that the human voice underwent no change, and lost none of its charm or purity.

The baron accepted Orfanik’s offer. Phonographs were successively and secretly introduced into the private box at the theatre during the last weeks of the season; and in this way their cylinders received the cavatinas and romances from the operas and concerts, including the melody from “San Stefano,” and the final air from “Orlando,” which was interrupted by La Stilla’s death.

These were the circumstances under which the baron had shut himself up in the Castle of the Carpathians, and there, each night, he listened to the music given out by the phonograph. And not only did he hear La Stilla as if he were in his box, but—and that would appear absolutely incomprehensible—he saw her as if she were alive, before his eyes.

It was a simple optical illusion.

It will be remembered that Baron de Gortz had obtained a magnificent portrait of the singer. This portrait represented her in the white costume of Angelica in “Orlando,” her magnificent hair in disorder, her arms extended. By means of glasses inclined at a certain angle calculated by Orfanik, when a light was thrown on the portrait placed in front of a glass, La Stilla appeared by reflection as real as if she were alive, and in all the splendour of her beauty. It was by means of this apparatus, taken for the night to the bastion platform, that Rodolphe de Gortz had made her appear when he wished to lure Franz de Télek into the castle; and by its means the young count had seen her in the room of the donjon, while her fanatic admirer was in full enjoyment of the voice reproduced by the phonograph.

Such very briefly were the explanations given in much detail by Orfanik during his examination. And it was with infinite pride that he deck red himself the author of these ingenious inventions, which he had brought to the highest pitch of perfection.

But if Orfanik had explained these phenomena, he did not explain why it was that the Baron de Gortz had not had time to escape by the tunnel on to the Vulkan road. When, however, he heard that a bullet had shattered the object Rodolphe de Gortz bore in his hands, he understood how it had happened. This box was the phonographic apparatus containing La Stilla’s last song, that which the baron had wished to hear for the last time in the donjon before destroying it. With its destruction his life was destroyed, and, mad with despair, he had resolved to bury himself under the ruins of his castle.

Baron Rodolphe was buried in the graveyard at Werst with the honours due to the ancient family that ended with him.

The young Count Franz de Télek was taken by Rotzko to the Castle of Krajowa, and there he devoted himself entirely to watching over his master. Orfanik had willingly handed over the phonographs containing the other songs of La Stilla, and when Franz heard the voice of the great artiste, he seemed to listen to them and recover a little of his old intelligence, and it seemed as though his mind were struggling to revive in the memories of the unforgettable past.

In fact, a few months later he recovered his reason, and through him became known what had passed during the last night in the Castle of the Carpathians.

The marriage of the charming Miriota and Nic Deck took place during the week following the catastrophe. After receiving the benediction from the pope of the village of Vulkan, they returned to Werst, where Master Koltz had reserved for them the best room in his house.

But although these different phenomena have been explained in so natural a manner, it must not be imagined that Miriota ceased to believe in their supernatural nature. Nic Deck found reasoning in vain—so did Jonas, who had as many customers as ever at the “King Mathias”—she would not be convinced. And neither would Master Koltz, nor the shepherd Frik, nor Magister Hermod, nor the other inhabitants of Werst; and many years will elapse before they will renounce their superstitious beliefs.

Doctor Patak, who has resumed his customary swagger, is often heard to say,—

“Well, did I not tell you so? Spirits in the castle! Just as if there ever were any spirits!”

But no one listens to him, and he is invariably asked to be silent when his facetiousness exceeds due bounds.

And Magister Hermod continues to base the lessons he gives to the young folk of Werst on the study of the Transylvanian legends; and for many years yet the villagers will believe that spirits from the other world haunt the ruins of the Castle of the Carpathians.