The promise of rain in the afternoon was now fulfilled, and it was pouring in torrents. The gutters were rivers, and every now and then through the driving rain came the bluish dart of a lightning flash.
A lean old gentleman, almost at the same time, stuck his head out of the window. An invalid he seemed, for although the day was hot, he wore a black muffler which came up to his ears and nose, quite covering the lower part of his face, an arrangement which he disturbed by pulling it down for a moment, and poured forth a torrent of French thanks, as he uncovered his black wig, and gesticulated with grateful animation.
The next day the formal proceedings took place in the Chapel of Karnstein. The grave of the Countess Mircalla was opened; and the General and my father recognised each his perfidious and beautiful guest, in the face now disclosed to view. The features, though a hundred and fifty years had passed since her funeral, were tinted with the warmth of life. Her eyes were open; no cadaverous smell exhaled from the coffin. The two medical men, one officially present, the other on the part of the promoter of the inquiry, attested the marvellous fact, that there was a faint but appreciable respiration, and a corresponding action of the heart. The limbs were perfectly flexible, the flesh elastic; and the leaden coffin floated with blood, in which to a depth of seven inches, the body lay immersed. Here then, were all the admitted signs and proofs of vampirism. The body, therefore, in accordance with the ancient practice, was raised, and a sharp stake driven through the heart of the vampire, who uttered a piercing shriek at the moment, in all respects such as might escape from a living person in the last agony. Then the head was struck off, and a torrent of blood flowed from the severed neck. The body and head were next placed on a pile of wood, and reduced to ashes, which were thrown upon the river and borne away, and that territory has never since been plagued by the visits of a vampire.
Madame was greatly annoyed. She movedas if to put the child away from her, andscolded her sharply for being boisterous andrude. The little one, who did not understandFrench, was not disturbed by the reprimand,and stayed on in madame's lap. She restedher plump little cheek, that was hot andflushed, against the soft white linen of the oldlady's gown.
The child was perfectly content to lie stilland prattle a little in that language which madamethought hideous. But the brown eyeswere soon swimming in drowsiness, andthe little body grew heavy with sleep in madame'sclasp.
Madame Lalonde sent the girl away with along letter of explanation that must have satisfiedthe parents; for the child was left undisturbedin Madame Carambeau's care. She wasa sweet child, gentle and affectionate. And,though she cried and fretted a little throughoutthe night for her mother, she seemed, afterall, to take kindly to madame's gentlenursing. It was not much of a fever thatafflicted her, and after two days she was wellenough to be sent back to her parents.
But the touch of the caressing baby arms;the pressure of the soft little body in thenight; the tones of the voice, and the feelingof the hot lips when the child kissed her, believingherself to be with her mother, wereimpressions that had sunk through the crustof madame's prejudice and reached her heart.
Yes, her daughter Cécile knew, and so didFrançois, for that matter. They drove outSt. Charles avenue - very far out. It waslike a strange city to old madame, who hadnot been in the American quarter since thetown had taken on this new and splendidgrowth.
MAMOUCHE stood within the opendoorway, which he had just entered.It was night; the rain was falling intorrents, and the water trickled from him asit would have done from an umbrella, if hehad carried one. 2b1af7f3a8