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repulsive countenance.

"Do you think there is another face that the description of mine would
fit, Herr Count?" he asked, a certain melancholy softening the
repulsiveness of his features. "But what is the use of such senseless
chatter?" he added hastily. "I am not silly enough to come here seeking
honor and respect - though it does vex me when people say that one man
with a cudgel put to flight Satan Laczi and three of his comrades. I
came here to-night because the Herr Count rescued my poor little lad
from the morass, gave him shelter and food, and even condescended to
teach him. For all this I owe you, Herr Count, and I am come to return
favor for favor. You are thinking: 'How can this robber repay me what he
owes?' I will tell you: by giving you a robber's information. I want to
prove to the Herr Count that the robber - the true robber who understands
his trade - can enter this securely barred castle whenever he is so
minded. The locks on the doors, the bolts on the windows, are no
hindrance to the man who understands his business, and the way _I_ came
in another can come as well. It is said that the Herr Count guards a
great treasure here in this castle. I don't know, and I don't ask, what
this treasure is. If I should find it, I would n't take it from the Herr
Count, and if any one else took it I should try to get it back for him.
But some one may steal in here, as I did, while the Herr Count is
looking at the stars up in the tower, and carry off his carefully
guarded treasure."

Count Vavel gave utterance to a groan of terror; his knees gave way
beneath him; a chill shook his entire frame.

"Marie!" he gasped, forgetting himself.

Then, hastily snatching the candle from the table, he rushed
frantically toward the young girl's sleeping-chamber, leaving Satan
Laczi alone in his room.

Since he had ceased guarding Marie's door at night by sleeping on the
lounge in her room, he had cautioned her to lock the door before
retiring. Now he found the door open.

Breathless with fear, the count sprang toward the alcove and flung back
the bed-curtains. The little maid was sleeping peacefully, her face
resting against her arm. Her favorite cat was lying at her feet, and on
the floor by the bedside lay the two pugs. But the door of the
wall-cupboard in which was hidden the steel casket stood wide open, and
on the casket was a singular toy - a miniature human figure turning a
spinning-wheel.

For an instant Count Vavel's heart ceased beating. Here was sufficient
proof that the maid, together with the steel casket, might have been
carried away during his absence.

He took the curious image, which was molded of black bread, and returned
to his room.

As he crossed the threshold, Satan Laczi pointed to the toy and said:

"I left it on the casket as a remembrance in exchange for the little
stockings some one in this house knit for my little lad. We learn to
make such things in prison, where time hangs heavily on one's hands."

"But how did you manage to open the door when it was locked and the key
inside?" inquired the count.

Satan Laczi showed him the tools which he used to turn keys from the
outside.

"Any burglar can open a door from the outside if the key is left in the
lock, Herr Count. Only those doors can be securely locked which have no
keyholes outside."

"I have no idea how that could be arranged," said Count Vavel.

"I am acquainted with a jack of all trades here in the neighborhood who
could make such a door for you if I told him how to make it. He is a
carpenter, locksmith, and clock-maker, all in one person."

The count shook his head wonderingly. The robber was to direct the
locksmith how to fashion a lock that no one could open!

"Shall I send the man to the castle?" asked Satan Laczi.

"Yes; if the fellow is sensible, and does not chatter."

"But he is a fool that never knows when to stop talking. But he talks
only on one subject, so you need not be afraid to employ him. He
understands everything you tell him, will do just as you say, but will
not talk about what he is doing for you. There is only one subject on
which he will chatter, and that is, how Napoleon might be beaten. He is
continually talking about stratagems, infernal machines, and how to win
a battle. On this subject he is crazy. He will make doors for the Herr
Count that can't be opened, and tell everybody else only how to make
infernal machines, and how to build fortifications."

"Very good; then send him to me."

"But - I must say something else, Herr Count - no matter how secure your
locks may be, that treasure is best guarded against robbers which is
kept in the room you sleep in. A man of courage is worth a hundred
locks. I am not talking without a purpose when I say the Herr Count must
look after his treasure. I know more than I say, and Satan Laczi is not
the greatest robber in the world. Be on your guard!"

"I thank you."

"Does the Herr Count still believe that it was I and my comrades who
broke into the manor?"

"No; I am convinced that it was not you."

"Then my mission here is accomplished - "

"Not yet," interposed the count, stepping to a cupboard, and taking from
it a straw-covered bottle and a goblet. "Here," - filling the goblet and
handing it to the robber, - "he who comes to my house as a guest must not
quit it without a parting glass."

"A strange guest, indeed!" responded the robber, taking the proffered
glass. "I came without knocking for admittance. But I performed a
masterpiece to-day; the Herr Count will find it out soon enough! I do
not drink to your welfare Herr Count, for my good wishes don't go for
much in heaven!"

The count seated himself at the table, and said: "Don't go just yet, my
friend; I want to give you a few words of advice. I believe you are a
good man at heart. Quit your present mode of life, which will ultimately
lead you - "

"Yes, I know - to the gallows and to hell," interposed the robber.

"Take up some trade," pursued the count. "I will gladly assist you to
become an honest man. I will lend you the money necessary to begin work,
and you can pay me when you have succeeded. Surely honest labor is the
best."

"I thank you for the good advice, Herr Count, but it is too late. I know
very well what would be best for me; but, as I said, it is too late now.
There was a time when I would gladly have labored at my trade, - for I
have one, - but no one would tolerate me because of my repulsive face.
From my childhood I have been an object of ridicule and abuse. My father
was well-born, but he died in a political prison, and I was left
destitute with this hideous face. No one would employ me for anything
but swine-herd; and even then luck was against me, for if anything went
wrong with a litter of pigs, I was always blamed for the mishap, and
sent about my business. Count Jharose gave me a job once; it was a
ridiculous task, but I was glad to get any kind of honest work. I had to
exercise the count's two tame bears - promenade with them through the
village. The bears' fore paws were tied about their necks, so that they
were obliged to walk on their hind feet, and I had to walk between them,
my hands resting on a fore leg of each animal, as if I were escorting
two young women. When we promenaded thus along the village street, the
people would laugh and shout: 'There go Count Jharose's three tame
bears.' At last I got out of the way of doing hard work, and got used to
being ridiculed by all the world. But I had not yet learned to steal.
The bears grew fat under my care. I was given every day two loaves of
bread to feed to them. One day I saw, in a wretched hut at the end of
the village, a poor woman and her daughter who were starving. From that
day the bears began to grow thin; for I stole one of the loaves of bread
and gave it to the poor women, who were glad enough to get it, I can
tell you! But the steward found out my theft, and I was dismissed from
the count's service. The poor women were turned out of their miserable
hut. The mother froze to death, - for it was winter then, - and the
daughter was left on my hands. We got a Franciscan monk, whom we met in
the forest, to marry us - which was a bad move for the girl, for no one
would employ her, because she was my wife. So the forest became our
home, hollow trees our shelter; and what a friend an old tree can
become! Well, to make a long story short, necessity very soon taught me
how to take what belonged to others. I got used to the vagrant life. I
could not sleep under a roof any more. I could n't live among men, and
pull off my hat to my betters. When the little lad came into the world,
I said to my wife: 'Do you quit the forest, and look for work in some
village. Don't let the little one grow up to become a thief.' She did as
I bade her; but the people who hired her always found out that she was
the wife of Satan Laczi, and then they would not keep her, and she would
have to come back to me in the forest. And that is where I shall end my
days - in the forest. I am not good for anything any more; I could n't
even plow a furrow any more. I shall end on the gallows - I feel it. I
should have liked the life of a soldier, but they never would take me;
they always said I would disgrace any regiment to which I might belong.
Yes, I would rather have been a soldier than anything else; but what is
not to be will not be! I shall keep to my forest. I am obliged to the
Herr Count for his good wishes and this delicious brandy."

The robber placed the empty glass on the table, took up his hat, and
walked with heavy steps toward the door. Here he halted to say:

"I must tell you that the touch-holes of all your firearms are filled
with wax. Have them cleaned, or you will not be able to shoot with
them."

The count rose, and hastened to convince himself that this statement was
true. He found that his firearms had indeed been rendered useless; the
robber had taken good care to protect himself from an attack. When Vavel
looked around again, Satan Laczi had disappeared.




CHAPTER IV


The afternoon of the following day, Henry entered the count's study to
announce that a crazy person was below, who insisted on speaking to the
lord of the castle. The stranger said he had invented a cannon that
would at one shot destroy fifteen hundred men. He would take no denial,
but insisted that Henry should tell the Herr Count that Master Matyas
had arrived.

"Yes; I sent for him to come here," answered the count. "Show him up."

The appearance of the man whom Henry conducted to his master's presence
was certainly original. He wore a costume unlike any prevailing fashion.
His upper garment was so made that it might be worn either as a coat or
a mantle; if sleeves were desired there were sleeves, and none if none
were required. Even his shoes were inventions of his own, for no regular
shoemaker could have fashioned them. He held between the fingers of his
right hand a bit of lead-pencil, with which he would illustrate what he
described on the palm of his left hand.

"You come in good time, Master Matyas," said the count.

"Yes - yes. If only I had been in good time at the battle of Marengo!"
sighed the singular man.

"Too late now for regrets of that sort, Master Matyas," smilingly
responded Count Vavel. "Facts cannot be changed! I have a task for you
which I desire to have completed as quickly as possible. Come, and I
will show you what I want you to do."

It was the hour Marie spent in her garden; consequently the count was at
liberty to conduct the jack of all trades to the young girl's apartment,
and explain what he wished to have done.

Master Matyas listened attentively to what the count said, and took the
necessary measurements. When he had done so, he turned toward his
patron, and said in a serious tone:

"Do you know why we lost the battle of Marengo? Because General
Gvozdanovics, when Napoleon's cavalry made that famous assault, was not
clever enough to order three men into every tree on that long
avenue - two of the men to load the muskets, while the third kept up a
continual fire. The French horsemen could not have ridden up the trees,
and the entire troop of cavalry would have dropped under the continuous
fire! The general certainly should have commanded: 'Half battalion - half
left! Up the trees - forward!'"

"That is true, Master Matyas," assented Count Vavel; "but I should like
to know if you fully understand what I want you to do, and if you can do
it?"

Master Matyas's face brightened suddenly. "I 'll tell you what, Herr
Count; if I succeed in doing what you want, I shall be able, if ever
Napoleon makes another attack on us, to pen him up, with his entire
army, so securely that he won't be able to stir!"

"I have no doubt of that!" again assented the count. "What I want,
however, is a secure barrier that cannot be opened from the outside.
Pray understand me. I want this barrier made in such a manner that the
person within the barricade will have sufficient light and air, but be
invisible to any one outside, and be perfectly secure from intruders.
Could not you let me have a little drawing of what you propose to do?"

"Certainly"; and taking a small sketch-book from his pocket, Master
Matyas proceeded to do as he was requested - first, however, explaining
to the count a drawing of the cannon which would mow down at one shot
fifteen hundred men. "You see," he explained, "here are two cannon
welded together at the breech, with their muzzles ten degrees apart. But
one touch-hole suffices for both. The balls are connected by a long
chain, and when the cannon are fired off, the balls naturally fly in
opposite directions and forward at the same time, and, stretching the
chain, mow off the heads of every man jack with whom it comes in
contact! Fire! Boom! Heads off!"

The count was perfectly satisfied with Master Matyas. He had found a man
who fully understood his business, and who knew how to hold his tongue
on all subjects but on that of his infernal machines, and of his
stratagems to defeat Napoleon. For two weeks Master Matyas labored
diligently at his task in the Nameless Castle, during which time Henry
heard so much about warlike stratagems that his sides ached from the
continued laughter. But when the villagers questioned Master Matyas
about his work at the castle, they could learn nothing from him but
schemes to capture the ever-victorious Corsican.

"Herr Count," one day observed Henry, toward the close of the second
week, "if I hear much more of Master Matyas's wonderful battles, I shall
become as crazy as he is!"

And the count replied:

"You are crazy already, my good Henry - and so am I!"

At last the task was completed. Count Vavel was satisfied with the work
Master Matyas had performed, and it only remained for Marie to express
herself satisfied with the arrangement which would barricade her every
night as securely as were the treasures of the "green vault" in Dresden.

A few days afterward was Marie's sixteenth birthday. Count Vavel had
come to her apartments, as usual, to congratulate her, and to hear what
her birthday wish might be. But the young girl, whose sparkling eyes had
become veiled with melancholy, whose red lips had already learned to
express sadness, had no commands to give to-day.

After dinner the count, on some pretence, detained Marie in the library
while Master Matyas completed his task in her room.

This masterpiece was a peculiar curtain composed of small squares of
steel so joined together that light and air could easily penetrate the
screen. It was fitted between the two marble columns which supported the
arch of the bed-alcove. When the metal curtain was lowered, by means of
a cord, two springs in the floor caught and held it so securely that it
could not be lifted from the outside. To raise the screen the person in
the alcove had only to touch a secret spring near the bed, when the
screen would roll up of itself.

"And hast thou no wish this year, Marie?" asked the count, adopting, as
usual on this anniversary, the familiar "thou."

"Yes, I have one, dear Ludwig," replied the young girl, but with no
brightening of the melancholy features. "I have lost something, but thou
canst not give it back to me."

"And what may this something be? What hast thou lost, Marie? Tell me."

"My former sweet, sound sleep! and thou canst not buy me another in
Vienna or Paris. I used to sleep so soundly. I used to be so fond of my
sweet slumber that I could hardly wait to say my prayers, and often I
would be in dreamland long before I got to the 'Amen.' And if by any
chance I awoke in the night and heard the clock strike, I would beg of
it not to hurry along the hours so fast - I did not want morning to come
so soon! But now that I have to sleep with locked doors, I lie awake
often until midnight - terrified by I know not what. I dread to be so
entirely alone when everything is so quiet; and when it is dark I feel
as if some one were stealthily creeping about my room. When I hear a
noise I wonder what it can be, and my heart beats so rapidly! Then I
draw the covers over my head to shut out all sound, and if I fall asleep
thus I have such disagreeable dreams that I am glad when I waken again."

Count Vavel gently took the young girl's hand in his.

"Suppose I could restore to thee thy former sweet slumber, Marie?
Suppose I take up my old quarters on the lounge by the door?"

The young girl gazed into his eyes as if she would penetrate his very
soul. Then she said sorrowfully: "No, dear Ludwig; that would not
restore my slumber."

"Then suppose I have thought of something that will? Come with me, and
see."

She laid her hand on his arm, and went with him to her room.

Ludwig conducted her into the alcove, and stepped outside.

"Draw the cord which hangs at the head of the bed," he said, smiling at
her wondering face.

Marie did as he bade her, and the metal screen unrolled, and was caught
in the springs in the floor.

"Oh, how wonderful!" she exclaimed in amazement. "I am a prisoner in my
own alcove."

"Only so long as you care to remain in your prison," returned Count
Vavel. "No one can lift the screen from this side; but if you will press
your foot on the little brass button in the floor at the foot of the
column to your left, you will be at liberty again."

The next instant Master Matyas's handiwork was rolled up to the ceiling.

Marie was filled with delight and astonishment.

"There is another work of art connected with this wonderful mechanism,"
said the count, after Marie had rolled and unrolled the screen several
times. "The cord which releases the screen rings a bell in my room. When
I hear the bell I shall know that you have retired; then I shall bring
my books and papers into your room out yonder, and continue my work
there. Only enough light will penetrate the screen to the alcove to
prevent utter darkness. You will not need to be afraid hereafter, and
perhaps the sweet, sound sleep will return to you."

Marie did not offer to kiss her guardian for this birthday gift. She
merely held out both hands, and gave his a clasp that was so close and
warm that it said more than words or kisses. She waited impatiently for
evening to test the working of her wonderful screen. She did not amuse
herself with her cards, as usual, but went to bed at ten o'clock. At the
same moment that the screen unrolled and was caught by the springs in
the floor, Count Ludwig's footsteps were heard in the corridor. In one
hand he carried a two-branched candlestick, in the other his pistol-case
and ink-horn. His pen was between his lips; his books and papers were
held under his arm. He seated himself at a table, and resumed his
studies.

Marie would have been untrue to her sex had she not watched him for
several minutes through her metal screen - watched and admired the superb
head, supported on one hand as he bent intently over his book, the
broad brow, the classical nose, the chin and lips of an Achilles - all as
motionless as if they had been molded in bronze. A true hero - a hero who
battled with the most powerful demons of earth, the human passions, and
conquered. From that day Marie found her old sweet sleep again.

The second day Marie's curiosity prompted her to signal to Ludwig half
an hour earlier. He heard, and came as readily at half-past nine
o'clock. And then the little maid (like all indulged children) abused
her privileges: she signaled at nine o'clock, and at last at eight
o'clock - retiring with the birds in order to test if Ludwig would obey
the signal.

He always came promptly when the falling screen summoned him.

And then Marie said to herself:

"He loves me. He loves me very much - as the fakir loves his Brahma, as
the Carthusian loves his sainted Virgin. That is how he loves me!"




PART V

ANGE BARTHELMY


CHAPTER I


So far as Marie's safety from robbers was concerned, Count Vavel might
now rest content. Satan Laczi's advice had been obeyed to the letter.
But how about Baroness Landsknechtsschild? Danger still threatened her.

Count Vavel was seriously concerned about his fair neighbor, and
wondered how he might communicate his extraordinary discovery to her.
What could he do to warn her of the danger which still threatened her?
Should he call in person at the manor, and tell her of his interview
with Satan Laczi?

A propitious chance came to Count Vavel's aid in his perplexity.

One afternoon the sound of a trumpet drew him to his window. On looking
out, he beheld a division of cavalry riding along the highway toward the
village. They were dragoons, as their glistening helmets indicated.

When the troop drew near to the village, the band struck up a lively
mazurka, and to this spirited march the soldiers made their entry into
Fertöszeg. Ludwig could see through his telescope how the men were
quartered in the houses in the village; and in the evening, after the
retreat had been sounded, he also saw that the windows of the hitherto
unused wing of the manor were brilliantly illuminated. Evidently the
officers in command of the troop had taken up their quarters there,
which was proper. The armed guard on duty at the manor gates verified
this supposition.

Count Vavel might now feel perfectly sure that no robbers would attempt
to break into the manor; they were too cunning to come prowling about a
place where cavalry officers were quartered.

And with the arrival of the troop another danger had been averted. Now
Baroness Katharina would not break into the Nameless Castle and despoil
Count Vavel of something which Satan Laczi could not, with all his
cunning, have restored to him - his heart!

Count Ludwig did not trouble himself further about the manor. He was
convinced that enough gallant cavalrymen were over yonder to entertain
the fair mistress, so that she would no longer wait for any more
tiresome philosophizing from him.

Every evening he could hear the band playing on the veranda of the
manor, and very often, too, the merry dance-music, which floated from
the open windows until a late hour of the night. They were enjoying
themselves over yonder, and they were right in so doing.

How did all this concern him?

In one respect, however, the soldiers taking up their quarters in
Fertöszeg concerned him: they exercised daily on the same road over
which it was his custom to take his daily drive with Marie. In order to
avoid meeting them, he was obliged to change the hour to noon, when the
soldiers would be at dinner.

Several days after the arrival of the troop at Fertöszeg, the officer in
command paid a visit at the Nameless Castle - a courtesy required from
one who was familiar with the usages of good society. At the door,
however, he was told by the groom that Count Vavel was not at home. He
left his card, which Henry at once delivered to his master, who was in
his study.

The card bore the name:

"Vicomte Leon Barthelmy, K. K., Colonel of Cavalry."

Count Vavel tried to remember where he had heard the name before, but
without success. He quieted his dread which this act of ceremony had
aroused in him by the thought that it contained no further significance
than the conventional courtesy which a stranger felt himself called upon
to pay to a resident.

The call would, of course, have to be returned. From his observatory
Count Vavel informed himself at what hour the colonel betook himself to
the exercise-ground, and chose that time to make his visit. Naturally he
found the colonel absent, and left a card for him. A few days afterward
Colonel Barthelmy again alighted from his horse at the door of the
Nameless Castle, and again met with a disappointment - the Herr Count was


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