Count Hugo Borromini is at the wheel of his sports car. He is young, handsome, and rich; naturally, he attracts all the young women, but it is Margarita Caraccini who has caught his eye. Margarita is tall and blonde, and unlike most of the young aristocrats, she made her name as a painter. Hugo was attracted to the occult, something he shared with Margarita. They discovered this together, during a ball at a haunted palace, where they felt the presence of ghosts.
One day, the count drove to the Caraccini’s chateau, so he could present himself to the family of his future wife. The Caraccini’s are one of the oldest families in the region, they own many vast estates where they shut themselves away, lost in a time they simply do not understand. The chateau is an old medieval fortress, perched atop a hill. Margarita was waiting for him, and leapt into Hugo’s arms upon his arrival. She brought him into the great room where her parents, Prince Fausto and Princess Emma, were waiting. They welcomed him rather dryly, as he belonged to a comparably modest family. The grandmother, Stefania, was much warmer, she had an allure to her and must have been very beautiful.
Dinner was quite an ordeal. The prince and princess made little effort. Margarita and her sisters tried without success to lift the atmosphere. The periods of silence grew longer and longer until it was time to go to bed. Hugo was delighted with the room, chosen by Margarita, because it had the best view and the most light. He sat in bed and read alone, unable to fall asleep.
In the middle of the night, he saw the knob of the door turning and soon the silhouette of a tall woman appeared. Slowly and silently the silhouette approached. Hugo stared at the figure. She resembled the grandmother, but it was certainly a ghost. He noticed the ruby encrusted brooch that she wore on her elegant dress. The ghost stared back at him for some time, then left. It took Hugo a long time to finally fall asleep after that.
The following morning Hugo met the whole family for breakfast.
“Did you sleep well Hugo?”
“As well as the ghost would let me.”
Hugo was convinced that, like Margarita, her whole family was interested in ghosts, and he described every detail of his strange encounter. He went over each particularity of her appearance, down to the rubies on the brooch. Margarita and her sisters were captivated, asking more and more questions, the prince and princess on the other hand, along with Stefania, appeared horrified, as if they themselves had seen a terrifying ghost, dread was written across their faces.
Later, when Margarita and her sisters went to a charity sale, her mother, Princess Emma, visited Hugo at the chateau. She spoke of her husband and asked Hugo not to judge him if he seems a bit grumpy, assuring him that he was a brave man. She spoke of her mother-in-law and then her father-in-law, whom she hardly knew.
The Prince Caraccini, her father-in-law, took for a wife the rich daughter of the Prince of Boscoveare. He traveling to Naples with the expectation of courting his future bride. But when he arrived at the Boscoreale Palace, instead of pursuing the eldest daughter Maria, a simple glance of the younger one, Stefania, was all it took for him to fall madly in love. Everyone tried to reason with him, their efforts were in vain. Stefania was only a child, and it was Maria who must be married, they protested. All the while Maria was falling deeply in love with the prince, but the prince’s love was stubborn, and ultimately won the day.
During the wedding, it was Maria who appeared the happiest. Taken with pity, the prince and Stefania had invited her to stay with them at the chateau of San Lorenzo. She became a part of the home, incrusted in the rooms and halls. She saw the children born. They rode out the war at the chateau together. Maria joined the resistance, which endangered the whole family, and angered her sister and the prince.
Their parents died, and Maria never married. It was clear she had no intention of ever leaving San Lorenzo. This, naturally, did not sit well with Fausto or Stefania. So one day, Fausto, who had a difficult and somewhat violent character, informed Maria that he and Stefania were going hunting, and that they expected her to be gone from the home when they returned.
After passing a wonderful day in the woods hunting rabbit, the couple returned to San Lorenzo, finding it empty. Maria was gone; there was not a single trace of her existence. At ease, they made their way to her bedroom. They opened the door immediately stumbled backwards in horror. Sitting on the sofa was Maria, with a pistol in her mouth. Blood covered the walls. The Caraccini Princes were still powerful enough that the police declared the princess had died accidentally while cleaning her gun. Clearly, nobody knew the truth.
Everyone in the region was shocked that Prince Fausto so quickly accepted the marriage between his beloved daughter Margarita and Hugo Borromini, a simple count from modest family, but one who knew the secret the family sought to keep at any price.
The couple married and returned frequently to San Lorenzo. Hugo often visited the bedroom where he had seen the ghost, but never saw her again. He determined that her apparition had been a sign of her approval, her acceptance of his marriage to her niece Margarita.