On a Paris-Krakow flight, I ran into one of my favourite cousins, Crista. I asked her where she is going. Her husband, she told me, is a graduate of ESCI, the Business school in Fontainebleau. The students in his class had decided to go on a trip to Poland with their wives, the highlight of the tour being a concert in the beautiful castle of Lancut, near Krakow. I was on my way go to Lancut as well, to study its ghost, or ghosts.
We met again in the hotel in Krakow and I asked Crista how the evening in Lancut went. “If only you knew!” She began. There were about thirty good-natured, well-to-do, forty-something Frenchmen; both husband and wife were dressed to the nines, very proper and, without pointing any fingers, we might say, rather stiff. The concert took place in the castle ballroom: a pianist was playing Chopin marvellously.
At the end of the concert, we met again in a lounge for a drink. And there, one of the spectators, a very conservative-looking French lady asks: “But then who was the lady who came on stage during the concert?” The others are stupefied. Nobody else saw a lady. “But yes,” she insists, “she came in through the side door, she approached the pianist and she bent over him to study the score he was playing.” The other become increasingly amazed.
The conservator of the castle, having overheard the lady said. “Would you follow me please, madame?” The group followed in the conservator’s footsteps until they arrived in a gallery where many family portraits hang. He stops in front of one showing a lovely woman.
“Do you recognize her, madame.” “But of course,” said the Frenchwoman, “that’s who I saw on stage.”
The curator then explained: “This lady is Delfina Countess Potocka, the mistress of Lancut. She was a beautiful woman, extremely romantic. She was a close friend of Chopin. And you, madame, saw her bending over the pianist just as he was playing a nocture that he had dedicated to her… “.