illustrated by rhoda penmarq , roy dismas and konrad kraus
the comtesse souvine de x----------- had been forgotten for years, following a scandal which had itself been long forgotten. she had lived alone, with only nine or ten servants, in a castle in the eastern marshes which she had inherited from a barely known cousin of her mother. so it was with some surprise, and a small tremor of anticipation, that she received the news one morning from her personal maid, that a visitor - a woman no longer quite young - had arrived the evening before, claiming to be a niece.
"and this person gave her name?"
"i am sure she did, madame, but you know i can never remember names so i did not enquire after hers. i am sure william can enlighten you on that score."
"and she was placed where?"
"arette told me that william put her in the west tower, and assigned little margaret to her."
"assigned little margaret to her? surely she had her own servant?"
"apparently not, madame. she arrived without one."
"i hardly know what to think. and william accepted her claim to be my niece?"
"i think he will leave it to you to decide who she is. it was very late, and we all know madame does not like to be disturbed."
"no... no, of course not. it is very curious."
"will madame go downstairs at her usual time?"
"of course. why would i not?"
"and of course there is no guarantee that the young woman will arise any time soon."
"young woman? i thought you described her as 'no longer quite young'"
"madame is so particular. and so quick to notice the most minute discrepancies in the most innocently intended statements. i would describe her as neither young nor old - perhaps young but mature for her years. "