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When I came to myself, I found that I was lying on the grass, supported in the arms of the young man who had come to my assistance, whilst before me stood, his arms crossed over his chest, the young chief who had led the attack.
“Kostaki,” said he who supported me, in good French, "you must withdraw your men, and leave this young woman to my care."
“Brother! brother!" answered the one to whom these words were addressed, and who appeared with difficulty to restrain himself,“ brother, do not try my patience too far. I leave you the castle: leave me the forest. In the castle you are allpowerful, but here I am the master.”
“Kostaki, I am the eldest; that is, I am master everywhere. I am of the blood of the Brancovans as well as yourself-royal blood, and am accustomed to command. This young woman shall not go to the cavern; she shall be conveyed to the castle, and given in charge of my mother.”
“Well, Grégoriska," replied the other, “let it be so, but she shall not the less be mine. I find her pretty, and I won her by conquest."
Upon this the young man who supported me placed my head on a stone, and rose up to speak in Moldavian to the bandits. He about twenty-four years of age, tall, handsome, with expressive blue eyes and long light hair, indicating his Slavonian origin. But at the same moment Kostaki took me up in his arms, and calling for a horse, placed me upon it, and then vaulted into the saddle. But Gregoriska was as quick as he; and seizing the horse of one of the bandits, he hurried along without saying a word by the side of his brother.
It was a singular sight to see these two young men galloping along side by side without uttering a word, through woods, and amid rocks, and by frightful precipices. Nor was our perilous course stopped till I found myself in the courtyard of a Moldavian castle of the fourteenth century. The servants hastened forward on seeing the two young men arrive thus in charge of a female ; and Gregoriska spoke in Moldavian to two of the women, who showed me the way to an apartment. This apartment, naked as it was, was in keeping with everything else in the castle. A large divan, covered with green baize, served as a seat in the day time, as a bed at night; as to curtains, either for the bed or for the windows, there were none. I had not been long in the room before my trunks were brought to me. Soon afterwards some one knocked at the door.
“Come in," I said in French.
“Ah, madame," said Gregoriska, as he entered, “I am glad to hear you speak French.”
“ I also, sir, am happy in understanding that language, since it enabled me to appreciate your generous conduct towards me."
" Thank you, madame. How could I do otherwise than be interested in a lady placed in such a situation? Might I inquire by what accident a lady of quality like yourself should thus be found in the midst of our mountains ?”
The Polish lady related her history in a few words; and in return for her confidence, Gregoriska narrated that of his family.
“My mother,” he said, “ was the last princess of the house of Brankovan. She had wedded first Serban Voivode, whose son I am, and with whom I travelled throughout Europe. During our absence my mother had guilty relations with a Count Giordaki Koproli-half Greek, half Moldavian, and a chief of partisans; 80 we call in the mountains," added Gregoriska, smiling, “the gentry with whom you had to do in the pass. My father dying, left my mother free to wed the count; this was after the birth of Kostaki, the child of adultery, whose passions are his only law, and who knows nothing sacred in this world save his mother, The count did not dwell long in this castle, having been killed, it is said, by some of my father's followers. And at his death I returned to the home of my ancestors--for I loved my mother, notwithstanding her faults; and, as eldest, I was made master; but the indomitable creature you saw yields to me but a nominal obedience, and it was on that account I came to warn you to keep your room for a time, and not to attempt to leave the castle. Within, I will defend you with my life: once outside, I cannot answer for anything."
“Cannot I get, then, to the convent of Sahasten ?”
“You would never be allowed to get there. Wait here a time. You shall be introduced to my mother, who is good and generous in her disposition, and a princess by birth—that is saying everything. She will defend you from the brutal passions of Kostaki, and you can then await events in safety.”
After thus advising with me, Gregoriska led the way to the dining-room, where I was introduced to and kindly received by the Princess Brankovan. The prin.
cess was dressed in a semi-oriental costume of great splendour, and by her side was Kostaki, in the brilliant costume of a Magyar noble. Each took his place at dinner, Gregoriska seating himself next to me. He had also put on the dress of a noble Magyar, and from his neck hung the splendid nichan of Sultan Mahmoud, The repast was gloomy enough; Kostaki did not address his captive once, although his brother spoke to me several times in French-à language understood by both, but not by the princess. On retiring to my room at night I found a note upon the table; it was to the effect that I might sleep in tranquillity, and it was signed “ Gregoriska.”
From this time henceforth I was fairly established in the castle, with both brothers in love with me. Kostaki had openly avowed his love; had declared to me that I should be his and no one else's; and that he would kill me before I should belong to another. The princess seconded the younger son, and was, if possible, more jealous of Gregoriska than Kostaki himself. Gregoriska on his side said nothing, but paid me a thousand little attentions. Before three months had elapsed, Kostaki had told me a hundred times that he loved me; and I hated him. Gregoriska had not spoken a word of love; yet I felt that whenever he asked me, I was his.
One night after I had retired to my room, I heard some one knock gently. I asked who was there.
* Gregoriska," was the answer.
I admitted the young man, but trembled so that he led me to a chair. Taking my hand in his, "I love you,” he said; “Do you love me?"
Yes," I replied. “ If you love me, then, you will follow me. We have no safety but in flight." “I will follow you anywhere."'.
“Listen then," he said. “I have sold lands, and herds, and villages, to the monastery of Hango, so that I can support you in comfort, if not in affluence. To-morrow, at nine o'clock, horses will be in readiness a hundred paces from the castle. I will be here again at the same hour, and we will fly together.” Saying this, Gregoriska pressed me to his heart, and bade me farewell
. I could not sleep for thinking of my hoped-for escape. Day came: I went down to breakfast. Kostaki appeared to me to be even more gloomy and more morose than usual. Gregoriska ordered his horse after breakfast, and said he would not return till evening. Kostaki did not appear to take much notice of his brother's departure, but about seven o'clock, as it was growing dark, I saw him cross the court and go to the stables. I was anxious, and watched him. He soon came out with his favourite horse saddled, and mounting, he issued forth from the castle, and I saw that he took the road of the monastery of Hango. Then my heart shrank within me; I knew that he was going out to meet his brother. I remained at the window till the darkness
of night prevented me distinguishing one object from another. I then went down-stairs, convinced that the first news of either of the brothers would come to me there. The princess was then giving her orders for supper as usual; nothing in her countenance betrayed that anything extraordinary was going on. As to me, I shuddered at every noise. A few minutes before nine, the usual supper-hour, I heard a horse gallop into the yard. I knew that only one rider would return, but which was it to be?”
I heard steps in the antechamber the door opened, and Gregoriska walked in calm and quiet, but his face pale as death.
"Is it you, Gregoriska?” said the princess mother; " Where is your brother?"
• Mother," Gregoriska replied, with a calm voice, my brother and I did not go out together."
At the same moment, a loud noise was heard in the court, and a valet rushed into the saloon, exclaiming,
“ Princess, Count Kostaki's horse has just come into the castle without rider, and covered with blood!”
“Oh!" muttered the princess; “it was thus that his father's horse also came in one night;" and, with a resolute threatening look, she took up a light and descended into the courtyard. Looking at the saddle, she saw a large stain of blood on the pommel. “I expected it,” she said; “ Kostaki has been killed face to face -in a duel, or by one assailant."
She then gave orders for the attendants to go out by the gate of Hango, and search for the body. As if convinced that the search would not be long, she re
mained in the court. Gregoriska stood ncar her; I, by Gregoriska. Soon the torches which we had watched disappearing in the distance were seen again; but this time they were grouped around a common centre. Ten minutes more, and by their light we could distinguish a litter, and on it a body. The heart-broken mother said nothing, but motioned that the corpse should be borne into the hall.
The attendants being dismissed, there remained the princess, Gregoriska, and myself alone with the corpse. The princess had turned the gory hair from off the dead man's brow, and contemplated it for some time in silence, and without shedding a tear. Then opening his dress, she looked at the wound.
“ It has been inflicted by a double-edged sword," she remarked. Then asking for some water, she dipped her handkerchief in it, and washed the wound. Å stream of clear and fresh blood gurgled forth!
“Gregoriska!" she said, turning round to her son, “I know that you and Kostaki did not love one another ; but you were children of the same mother. Now, Gregoriska, you must swear that the murderer of your brother shall die – that you will never cease to pursue him until death, or the curse of your mother rest upon you!"
“I swear,” said Gregoriska, stretching out his hand over the corpse, " that the murderer shall die!"
At this strange oath, the bearing of which I and the dead man could alone comprehend, a strange prodigy took place. The corpse opened its eyes, and fixed them upon me with a gaze more earnest than when alive. I felt them like a ray of fire penetrating to my heart; and, unable to bear the trial any longer, I fainted.
When I came to myself, I was in my own room. Three days and three nights I remained there, buried in painful thought. Flight was no longer necessary; Kostaki was dead: but marriage was also out of the question. Could I wed the fratricide? The third day they brought me widow's mourning. It was the day of the funeral, and I went down-stairs. The princess met me in the hall. She appeared like a statue of grief. When she embraced me she said, as she used to say before Kostaki's death,
“ Kostaki loves you."
I cannot describe the effect these words had upon me. This protestation of love made in the present instead of the past tense--this profession of affection coming from the tomb-terrified me so, that I leant against a door for support. The princess, seeing that I was so much afflicted, would not allow me to join the procession. I was led back to my own apartment.
We were now in the month of November. The days were short and cold. By five o'clock it was already night. The night of the funeral, overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, and terrified by the strange incidents that had taken place, I was more melancholy than usual. It was a quarter to nine, the hour at which Kostaki, four days previously, had been so mysteriously deprived of life by my lover; and I was pondering on the circumstance, when I suddenly experienced an extraordinary feeling: a cold icy shudder pervaded my whole frame, my mind felt stupified, and I involuntarily fell back on my bed. At the same time I was not so completely deprived of my senses as not to hear the door open, and the step of some one approaching me. Beyond that I heard or saw nothing: I only felt a sharp pain in my throat. I then fell into a complete state of lethargy, from which I did not awake till the morning. When I attempted to rise I was surprised at the weakness that I felt, and at the same time I felt a slight pain in my neck. I looked in the glass, but nothing was visible save a slight mark, like that of a prick of a needle. All day I remained listless and uneasy. I felt no wish to leave my room, or indeed to put myself to the slightest inconvenience. To this feeling of extreme debility was superadded the sentiment of some unknown horror.
The next night, at the same hour, I experienced the same strange sensations. I wished to rise up and call for assistance, but I had not the power. I felt the pain at the same point: that pain was followed by the same insensibility, only I awoke the next day more feeble even than the day before, and the unearthly pallor of my countenance filled me with strange terrors.
The next day Gregoriska came to see me. He uttered a cry of surprise.
“ What is the matter?" he exclaimed. " What makes you so pale? That pallor is not natural!"
"If I was to tell you, Gregoriska,” I answered, “ you would think I had lost my senses."
“ No! no!" replied the young man; “you are here in a family that resembles no other family. Tell me everything, I beg of you."
I accordingly related to him the strange feelings by which I was overcome every night at the period when Kostaki fell, the noise I heard of approaching footsteps, and the sharp pain I experienced in my neck, followed by total prostration. When I had finished my narrative, which Gregoriska listened to with a profound and melancholy interest, he asked to look at the wound. Having done so, he said,
“ You must not be terrified when I remind you of a tradition that exists in your own country, as well as in ours.”
I shuddered, for the tradition presented itself at once to my mind.
“You mean vampires,” I said. “I have heard of them in my childhood. I saw forty persons disinterred from a neighbouring village, among whom seventeen exhibited signs of vampirism-that is to say, they were found in a fresh and rosy condition ; the rest were the victims."
“And what did they do," asked Gregoriska, “ to deliver the country of them?" “A stake was stuck through the chest of each.”
" And so it is with us,” muttered Gregoriska; and after a hurried farewell he repaired at once to the monastery of Hango, where he communicated to a worthy monk, Father Basile, in whom he had every confidence, the dangerous position in which I was placed. It was accordingly agreed, with the consent of the superior of the monastery, that a party of monks should proceed at once, armed with pickaxes and holy water, to disinter the body of Kostaki. Gregoriska in the mean time kept me company, to prevent another attack. Leaning upon his arm, it seemed to me that the mere contact with his noble heart infused new blood and new life into me. I felt certain of triumphing over my mysterious enemy.
A little after dusk Father Basile came to us, to say that the body had been disinterred, and had been found as fresh as when first put under ground. The bad spirit had, however, been exorcised, but not until he had been fairly despatched in the domicile he had taken up within the deceased count's body.
It is almost unnecessary to add, that after this, the vampire no longer persecuted the young Polish maiden, but she gradually regained her strength and youthful bloom. Gregoriska having explained the circumstances of the fatal night, upon which Kostaki, having unfortunately become suspicious of his intentions, went out to slay him, but himself fell a victim to his treachery, she could no longer see an act of fratricide in one of mere self-defence; nor did she longer refuse her hand to her noble protector, but by the death of the princess mother soon afterwards became sole mistress of the castle of the Brankovans, where herself and her husband laboured not ineffectually in introducing civilisation, a happier and more pleasing aspect, and especially a higher tone of morality.
The notion of a vampire is not, as is imagined by many, a mere romancer's dream. It is a superstition which to this day survives in the east of Europe, where little more than a century ago it was frightfully prevalent. At that period vampirism spread like a pestilence through Servia and Wallachia, causing numerous deaths, and disturbing all the land with fear of the mysterious visitation, against which no one felt himself secure.
The Polish maiden in Dumas's story makes allusion to the disinterment of a number of vampires in one single village. As this is probably the most extraordinary case of vampirism on record, we shall transfer an account of it to our pages from Dr. Herbert Mayo's newly-published work, previously quoted.
In the spring of 1727 there returned from the Levant to the village of Meduegna near Belgrade, one Arnod Paole, who, in a few years of military service and varied adventure, had amassed enough to purchase a cottage and an acre or two of land in his native place, where, he gave out, he meant to pass the remainder of his days. He kept his word. Arnod had yet scarcely reached the prime of manhood; and though he must have encountered the rough as well as the smco:h of
life, and mingled with many a wild and reckless companion, yet his naturally good disposition and honest principles had preserved him unscathed in the scenes he had passed through. At all events, such were the thoughts expressed by his neighbours, as they discussed his return and settlement among them in the Stube of the village Hof. Nor did the frank and open countenance of Arnod, his obliging habits, and steady conduct, argue their judgment incorrect. Nevertheless, there was something occasionally noticeable in his ways, a look and tone, that betrayed inward disquiet. Often would he refuse to join his friends, or on some sudden plea abruptly quit their society. And he still more unaccountably, and as it seemed systematically, avoided meeting his pretty neighbour Nina, whose father occupied the next tenement to his own. At the age of seventeen, Nina was as charming a picture as you could have seen, of youth, cheerfulness, innocence, and confidence, in all the world. You could not look into her limpid eyes, which steadily returned your gaze, without seeing to the bottom of the pure and transparent spring of her thoughts. Why then did Arnod shrink from meeting her? He was young, had a little property, had health and industry, and he had told his friends he had formed no ties in other lands. Why, then, did he avoid the fascination of the pretty Nina, who seemed a being made to chase from any brow the clouds of gathering care? But he did so. Yet less and less resolutely, for he felt the charm of her presence. Who could have done otherwise? and how could he long resist—he did'nt—the impulse of his fondness for the innocent girl, who often sought to cheer his fits of depression.
And they were to be united; were betrothed; yet still an anxious gloom would fitfully overcast his countenance, even in the sunshine of those hours.
“What is it, dear Arnod, that makes you sad? It cannot be on my account, I know, for you were sad before you ever noticed me; and that, I think," and you should have seen the deepening rose upon her cheeks,“ surely first made me notice you."
“Nina,” he answered, “ I have done, I fear, a great wrong, in trying to gain your affections. Nina, I have a fixed impression that I shall not live;-yet, knowing this, I have selfishly made my existence necessary to your happiness.”
" How strangely you talk, dear Arnod! Who in the village is stronger and healthier than you? You feared no danger when you were a soldier: what danger do you fear as a villager of Meduegna?"
“It haunts me, Nina." “ But, Arnod, you were sad before you thought of me; Did you then fear to die?"
Ah, Nina, it is something worse than death.” And his vigorous frame shook with agony.
“ Arnod, I conjure you, tell me.”
" It was in Cossova this fate befell me-here you have hitherto escaped the terrible scourge. But there they died, and the dead visited the living. I experienced the first frightful visitation, and I fled; but not till I had sought his grave, and exacted the dread expiation from the vampire.”
Nina's blood ran cold. She stood horror-stricken. But her young heart soon mastered her first despair. With a touching voice she spoke:
“ Fear not, dear Arnod, fear not now. I will be your shield-or I will die with you."
And she encircled his neck with her gentle arms; and returning hope shone, Iris-like, amid her falling tears. Afterwards they found a reasonable ground for banishing or allaying their apprehensions, in the length of time which had elapsed since Arnod left Cossova, during which no fearful visitant had again approached him; and they fondly trusted that gave them security.
It is a strange world. The ills we fear are commonly not those which overwhelm us. The blows that reach us are for the most part unforeseen. One day, about a week after this conversation, Arnod missed his footing when on the top of a loaded hay-waggon, and fell from it to the ground. He was picked up insensible and carried home, where after lingering a short time he died; his interment as usual followed immediately. His fate was sad and premature; but what pencil could paint Nina's grief ?
Twenty or thirty days after his decease, says the perfectly authenticated report of these transactions, several of the neighbourhood complained that they were haunted by the deceased Arnod; and what was more to the purpose, four of them died. The evil looked at sceptically was bad enough; but aggravated by the suggestions of superstition, it spread a panic through the whole district. To allay