“Most gracious sir, according to the latest accounts, the Electoral Prince was enjoying a little rest, having fallen into a profound sleep.”
“Very fine!” said the count, entering his cabinet. “Good-night, Lehndorf!”
The next morning Count Schwarzenberg interrogated all the sentinels who had been on guard at the castle on the preceding night. They unanimously affirmed that they had been awake and watchful when they had seen the White Lady. The sentinel before the Electoral Prince’s apartments had seen her enter those rooms, even distinctly heard the door creak as it closed behind her. Collectively the sentinels asseverated that afterward they had seen the White Lady pass before the guardhouse windows, and that she had even looked in upon them with her great black eyes. Even to-day they shuddered and trembled at the bare remembrance of the frightful apparition, and swore that they would rather die than see that horrible woman again. Then, when the soldiers had withdrawn, came the castellan’s wife, who had been summoned by Chamberlain von Lehndorf.
“And what say you to the goblin of last night?” asked Count Schwarzenberg, noticing the castellan’s wife with a condescending nod.
“Most noble sir,” replied the old woman solemnly, “I say that a member of the Electoral family will die.”
“What? you, the prudent, wise, intelligent Mrs. Culwin—you, too, believe this ridiculous story?”
“Most revered sir, I believe in it because I know the White Lady, and have seen her often before.”
“Oh, indeed,” smiled the count; “you count the White Lady among your acquaintances; you have seen her often before? Just tell me a little about her, my dear dame! When did you first see the specter?”
“Almost twenty years ago, if it please your honor. I had just been a year in Berlin. Your honor knows I came here from Venice in the capacity of maid to your lady of blessed memory, and had committed the folly of giving up the countess’s good service in order to marry Culwin, the young castellan.”
“And why do you call that a folly?” asked Count Schwarzenberg, laughing. “I have always believed that you lived in happy wedlock with your good man.”
“That may be so, your excellency, but for all that, a lady’s maid, who can live independently always commits a folly in submitting to a husband’s rule. And I could support myself, for your excellency paid me such a handsome salary, and I was in such favor with your blessed lady. Often, before I stupidly left her to get married, she would call me, and we would talk together of our beautiful home, our beloved Venice. Ah! your excellency, we have often wept together, and longed ardently to behold once more the city of the sea. Whoever comes from there never recovers from homesickness and wherever he goes, and however far he may be removed, his heart still clings to Venice. That the gracious countess often remarked to me, weeping bitterly, which did her good, and—”