The closer Christmas approaches, the shorter the days are. All the sounds are muffled by the falling snow. I pass my days at the Globe Hotel by reading and re-reading the old book Mr. Codi gave me.
It's the story of a little girl, for whom her father, before leaving for afar, promises to build a castle. He doesn't tell her where it will be built. That will be for her to discover. He only tells her that it will be her marriage present. While waiting to be old enough to marry, the little girl is raised by an old woman in a cottage in the middle of a large, nearly impenetrable forest. She receives no news of her father, but every night before going to sleep she thinks of him and of the castle he is building somewhere for her, as he promised her.
When the old woman dies, the little girl has become a young woman of marriageable age. So she leaves the forest where she has always lived in search of her father's castle. She travels throughout the whole kingdom which she had not imagined was so vast. She stops in all the castles where she is always welcomed. Since she is pretty and of noble birth, she receives marriage proposals. But she always refuses because the castles that she visits are too old to be the one that her father built.
Many years pass. She has lost hope because she thinks that her father has not kept his promise. She returns, then, to the forest where she grew up. And there in the place of the cottage of her childhood, she discovers a castle, all white, which has never been inhabited. She has no doubt that this is the castle that her father has built for her. Each day, she climbs to the top of the tower, and she looks afar to see if the knight has not arrived whom she must marry.
No knight ever visits the forest in the middle of which is hidden the castle with the young woman. Little by little the young woman becomes an old woman. And one day, afar, she thinks she finally sees a knight. He walks aside his horse, which limps. He seems to be old and tired. When the knight gets near, she discovers that he is wounded and that his clothes are stained with blood. Then she feels a violent pain in her chest, and she suddenly dies at the top of the tower.
When the knight finally arrives at the castle, he hopes to receive hospitility and to have his wounds treated, but he only discovers at the top of the tower an old dead woman. So he continues his way across the forest, continuing to lose blood.
The castle in the middle of the forest still waits to be inhabited. But at the end of the story, it is said that for a long time no voyager ventures again into the forest, which little by little recovers the castle and recloses around it.
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