by Emilia Pardo Bazán
The present account, though it is a true story, cannot be read in the bright sun. I advise you, reader, make no mistake: turn on a light, but not an electric one, nor gaslight, nor even an oil lamp, but one of those nice ordinary candles of such pretty design, the kind that hardly sheds light, leaving the better part of the room in shadow. Or better yet: don’t light anything; pop out to the garden, near the pond, where the magnolias emanate intoxicating perfume and the moon silvery shimmers, and listen to the tale of the mandrake and the Baron Helynagy.
I met this foreigner (and I don’t say this to lend color to the story, but because I actually met him) in the simplest and least romantic way in the world: I was introduced to him at one of the many parties given by the Austrian ambassador. The baron was First Secretary of the embassy; but neither the post he occupied, nor his figure, nor his conversation, similar to that of the majority of the people to whom one is presented, really justified the mysterious tone and the reticent phrases with which they announced that they would introduce him to me, in the manner with which you announce some important event.