The Count de Cronstadt retires for unknown reasons to his remote family castle with his wife, the Countess, and daughter, Joanna. The family dwells there in complete isolation for ten years until their peace is interrupted by the arrival of a young nobleman, Villeroy, who appears at the castle while the Count is away. His servant, Martin, has been gravely injured defending his master from desperadoes. The Countess agrees to care for Martin on the condition that both men remain hidden and depart without the Count knowing of their stay. Villeroy, who has taken an interest in Joanna, is curious about the Count’s self-inflicted exile. One night, a ghost-like figure appears before Villeroy and leads him to an underground vault. When he relates the incident to Martin, his servant becomes convinced the Count de Cronstadt is a murderer. The two men are interrupted by the Countess, who enters the apartment in tears and leads Villeroy to her husband, who is dying from a self-inflicted stab wound. Before he dies, the Count takes Villeroy’s hand and begs his forgiveness. The Countess explains to Villeroy (who is actually Henry, the Marquis Mont Aubin) that before his suicide, the Count confessed to having kept Henry’s father locked in the castle for the last ten years. Remembering his mysterious visitor, Henry returns to the underground vault and discovers a cellar containing his emaciated father. The entire party sits down to hear the contents of a confession left by the Count. Years before, he was good friends with the elder Marquis and Chevalier Lannoy, until the Count fell madly in love with Lannoy’s wife, Julia. The two began an affair while Lannoy was abroad and Julia became pregnant. The Count conspired with a servant, Rodolpho, to murder the chevalier on his return journey. The elder Marquis eventually discovered the affair and the Count imprisoned him to maintain the secret. The Count was finally driven to suicide when he learned Rodolpho, under torture, had recently confessed his part in the murder. The chapbook concludes with Henry and Joanna’s marriage.
The appended short story, The Unfortunate Victim, is the tale of Ludovisio Carantani, who has two daughters. In a bid to consolidate his wealth, he decides to place his daughter Olympia in a convent, while the other, Victoria, is to marry a wealthy young man. He threatens to kill Olympia if she does not take the veil at his command. She begs him to release her from confinement at the convent, since she longs to enjoy her youth. In the end, she hangs herself in the convent’s garret before her vows are complete. Her father is dragged to death by his horse immediately thereafter. Victoria’s intended husband abandons her, and Victoria dies from grief.
Literature in English, British Isles
Cronstadt Castle; or, The Mysterious Visitor. An Original Romance. London: A. Kemmish, c. 1800.