Count Rudolf has died. He was the Count of Stallery Manor, and a big man in the neighborhood. Gossip said that his wife nagged him into his grave, but the important thing to the story in Conrad's Fate is that his death precipitates an employment opportunity. Someone needs to be trained up to become the new valet to the new Count, Count Robert. Which causes Conrad's uncle to force him to leave school and report to Stallery for a job interview. Which basically sets everything in motion. We learn a few more interesting facts about the late Count Rudolf by the end of the story, but basically his most critical job is done by dying.