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surely need not hesitate."

And yet he hesitated.

"Don't speak of this plan of yours as a mischievous trick, baroness," he
said earnestly. "It is a great, a noble sacrifice - so great, indeed,
that living woman could not perform a greater - to be willing to blush
with shame while innocent. She who blushes for her love does not suffer;
but to flush with shame out of friendship must be a torture like that
endured by martyrs."

"Very well, then; let it be a sacrifice - as you will! I am a willing
victim! I owe you a debt of gratitude; I want to pay it. Now go and
order the carriage; I will wait here for you."

Every drop of blood in his body rebelled against his accepting this
offer. A woman rescue a strong man from a threatened danger! And at what
a risk!

"Well," a trifle impatiently exclaimed the baroness, as he still
lingered, "are n't you going to fetch your cloak? I am ready for the

Without another word the count turned and strode toward the castle.

Marie was satisfied with the excuse he made for not taking her with him
as usual: he said he had urgent business in the neighboring village, and
would have to drive there alone.

Then he ordered Henry to harness the horses to the carriage, and drive
down to the gate, where he would await him.

He found the baroness waiting for him where he had left her.

"Well," she began, when he came near enough to hear her, "have you
decided to take me with you?"


"Then you are going to take the lady?"


"Not? Then who is going with you?"

"These two pistols," replied the count, flinging back his cloak and
revealing the weapons thrust into his pocket. "With these two companions
I am going to meet the gentleman who is so determined to see the face of
the veiled lady. I shall show him a lady whose face is not a subject of

The baroness uttered a cry of terror, and seized Count Vavel's hand.

"No, no; you shall not go alone. Listen. I was prepared for just such a
decision on your part, so I wrote this letter. If you persist in going
alone to meet the colonel, I shall hurry back to the manor, send my
groom on the swiftest horse I own with this letter to Colonel Barthelmy.
Read it."

She unfolded the letter she had taken from her pocket, and held it so
that Count Vavel might read, without taking it in his hands:

"HERR COLONEL: You need not seek Mme. Ange Barthelmy at the
Nameless Castle. The veiled lady seen in company with Count Vavel


In speechless amazement Count Vavel looked down at the baroness, who
calmly folded the letter and returned it to her pocket.

"Now you may go if you like," she said coolly, "and I, too, shall do as
_I_ like! The colonel will then have written proof to justify him in
dragging my name in the dust!"

The count gazed long and earnestly into the lovely face turned
defiantly toward him. What was said by those glowing eyes, what was
expressed by those lips trembling with excitement, could not be mere
sport. There is only one name for the emotion which urges a woman to
risk so much for a man; and if Count Vavel guessed the name, then there
was nothing for him to do but offer his arm to the lady and say:

"Come, baroness, we will go together."

When the count assisted his veiled companion into the carriage, and took
his seat by her side, not even Henry could have told that it was not his
young mistress from the castle who was going to drive, as usual, with
her guardian.

It was with a singular feeling that Count Vavel looked at the woman
beside him, to whom he was bound for one hour by the strongest, most
dangerous of ties. Only for one hour! For this one hour the woman
belonged to him as wholly, as entirely as the soul belongs to the living
human being. And afterward? Afterward she would be no more to him than
is the vanished soul to the dead human being.

The carriage had arrived at the boundary of the neighboring village,
where the usual turn was made for the homeward drive, and they had not
yet seen any one. Had Colonel Barthelmy's words been merely an idle

Henry knew that he was not to drive beyond this point; he mechanically
turned the horses' heads in the homeward direction, as he had done every
day for years.

On the return drive the carriage always stopped at the edge of the
forest, where a shaded path led through the dense shrubbery to a cleared
space some distance from the highway. This was the spot for their daily

The count and his companion had gone but a short distance along the path
when they saw coming toward them three men in uniform. They were
cavalry officers. The two in the rear had on white cloaks; the one in
front was without, an outer garment - merely his close-fitting uniform

"That is Barthelmy," whispered the baroness, pressing the arm on which
she was leaning.

The count's expression of calm indifference did not change. He walked
with a firm step toward the approaching officers.

Very soon they stood face to face.

The colonel was a tall, distinguished-looking man; he carried his head
well upright, and every movement spoke of haughty self-confidence and

"Herr Count Vavel, I believe?" he began, halting in front of Ludwig and
his companion. "Allow me to introduce myself; I am Colonel Vicomte Leon

Count Vavel murmured something which gave the colonel to understand that
he (the count) was very glad to learn the gentleman's name.

"I have long desired to make your acquaintance," continued the colonel
(his companions had halted several paces distant). "I was so unfortunate
as not to find you at home the three calls I made at your castle. Now,
however, I shall take this opportunity to say to you what I wanted to
say then. First, however, let me introduce my friends," - waving his hand
toward the two officers, - "Captain Kriegeisen and Lieutenant Zagodics,
of Emperor Alexander's dragoons."

Count Vavel again gave utterance to his pleasure on making the
acquaintance of the colonel's friends. Then he said courteously:

"In what way can I serve you, Herr Colonel?"

"In a very simple manner, Herr Count," responded the colonel. "I have
had the peculiar misfortune which sometimes overtakes a married man; my
wife deceived me, and ran away with her lover, whom I do not even know.
As mine is not one of those phlegmatic natures which can meekly tolerate
such an indignity, I am searching for the fugitives - for what purpose I
fancy you can guess. For four years my quest has been fruitless; I have
been unable to find a trace of the guilty pair. A lucky chance at last
led me to this secluded corner of the earth, and here I learned
that - but, to be brief, Herr Count, I owe it to my heart and to my honor
to ask you this question: Is not this lady by your side, who is always
closely veiled, Ange Barthelmy, my wife?"

"Herr Vicomte Leon de Barthelmy," calmly replied Count Vavel, "I give
you my word of honor as a cavalier that this lady never was your wife."

The colonel laughed in a peculiar manner.

"Your word of honor, Herr Count, would be entirely satisfactory in all
other questions save those relating to the fair sex - and to war. You
will excuse me, therefore, if I take the liberty to doubt your assertion
in this case, and request you to prove that my suspicions are at fault.
Without this proof I will not move from this spot."

"Then I am very sorry for you, Herr Colonel," returned Count Vavel, "but
I shall be compelled to leave you and your suspicions in possession of
this spot."

He made as if he would pass onward; but the colonel politely but with
decision barred the path.

"I must request that you wait a little longer, Herr Count," he said, his
face darkening.

"And why should I?" demanded the count.

"To convince me that the lady on your arm is not my wife," was the
reply, in an excited tone.

"You will have to remain unconvinced," in an equally excited tone
retorted Count Vavel; and for a brief instant it was a question which
of the two enraged men would strike the first blow.

The threatening scene was suddenly concluded by the baroness, who flung
back her veil, exclaiming: "Here, Colonel Barthelmy, you may convince
yourself that I am _not_ your wife."

Leon Barthelmy started in amazement, and hastily laid his hand against
his lips as if to repress the words which had rushed to them. Then he
bowed with exaggerated courtesy, and said: "I most humbly beg your
pardon, Herr Count Vavel. This lady is _not_ Ange Barthelmy. These
gentlemen are witnesses that I have asked your pardon in the proper

The colonel's companions, who had come hastily forward at the threatened
conflict between their superior and the count, were gazing in a peculiar
manner at the lady whose hospitality they had so lately enjoyed. Colonel
Barthelmy also, although he bowed with elaborate courtesy before the
baroness, cast upon her a glance that was full of insulting scorn.

The situation had changed so rapidly - as when a sudden flash of
lightning illumines the darkness of night; and like the electric flash a
light sped into Vavel's heart and illumined it with a delicious, a
heavenly warmth that made it throb madly. But only for an instant. Then
he realized that this woman who had dared everything for his sake had
been insulted by the glance of scorn and derision.

He had now lost all control of himself. He snatched a pistol from his
pocket, directed the muzzle toward Colonel Barthelmy's sneering face,
and said in a voice that quivered with savage fury:

"I demand that you beg this lady's pardon."

"You do?" coolly returned the colonel, still smiling, and gazing calmly
into the muzzle of the pistol.

"Yes - or I will blow out your brains!"

The two officers accompanying the colonel drew their swords. The
baroness uttered a cry of terror, and flung herself on Vavel's breast.

"I presume you will allow me to inquire, first, what relation this lady
bears to you?"

Colonel Barthelmy asked the question in measured tones; and without an
instant's hesitation came Count Vavel's reply:

"The lady is my betrothed wife."

The sneer vanished from the colonel's lips, and the swords of his
companions were returned to their scabbards.

"I hasten to apologize," said the colonel. "Accept, madame, my deepest
reverence, and do not refuse to forgive the insulting scorn my ignorance
caused me to express. Permit me to convince you of my sincere homage, by
this salute."

He bent his head and pressed his lips to one of the lady's hands, which
were clasped about Count Vavel's arm. Then, with his helmet still in his
hand, he turned to Count Vavel, and added: "Are you satisfied?"

"Yes," was the curt reply.

"Then let us shake hands - without malice. Accept my sincerest
congratulations. To you, baroness, I give thanks for the lesson you have
taught me this morning."

He bowed once more, then stepped to one side, indicating that the way
was clear.

The baroness drew her veil over her face, and, clinging tremblingly to
the arm of her escort, walked by his side back to the highway, the three
officers following at a respectful distance.

When they emerged from the forest they saw the three horses which had
been left by the colonel and his companions in charge of the grooms.
Henry must have told the gentlemen where to find his master.

With what different emotions Count Vavel returned to the castle! The
dreamer in his slumbers had given utterance to words which betrayed what
he had been dreaming, and he compelled the vision to abide with him even
after he had wakened. He felt that he had the right to do what he had
done. This woman loved him as only a woman can love; and what he had
done had only been his duty, for he loved her! What he had said was no
falsehood - the words had not been forced from him merely to preserve her
honor; they were the truth.

Count Vavel stopped the carriage at the park gate, assisted his
companion to alight, and sent Henry on to the castle with the horses.

"What have you done?" in a deeply agitated voice exclaimed the baroness,
when they were alone in the park.

"I gave expression to the feeling which is in my heart."

"And do you realize what that has done?"

"What has it done?"

"It has made it impossible for us to meet again - for us ever to speak
again to each other."

"I cannot see it in that light."

"You could were you to give it but a moment's serious thought. I do not
ask what the mysterious lady at the castle is to you; I know, however,
that you must be everything to her. Pray don't believe me cruel enough
to rob her of her whole world. I cannot ask you to believe a lie - I
cannot pretend that you are nothing to me. I have allowed you to look
too deeply into my heart to deny my feelings. But there is something
besides love in my heart! it is pride. I am too proud to take you from
the woman to whom you are bound - no matter by what ties. Therefore, we
must not meet again in this life; we may meet again in another world!
Pray do not come any farther with me; I can easily find the way to my
boat. No one at the manor knows of my absence. I must be careful to
return as I came - unseen. And now, one request: Do not try to see me
again. Should you do so, it will compel me to flee from the
neighborhood. Adieu!"

She drew her veil closer over her face, and passed swiftly with
noiseless steps through the gateway.

Ludwig Vavel stood where she had left him, and looked after her until
she vanished from his sight amid the trees. Then he turned and walked
slowly toward the castle.


Count Vavel did not see Marie, after his return from the drive with the
baroness, until dinner. He had not ventured into her presence until
then, when he fancied he had sufficiently mastered his emotions so that
his countenance would not betray him. The consciousness of his
disloyalty to the young girl troubled him, and he could not help but
tremble when he came into her presence. It was not permitted to him to
bestow his heart on any one. Did he not belong, soul and body, to this
innocent creature, whom he had sworn to defend with his life?

From that hour, however, Marie's behavior toward him was changed. He
could see that she strove to be attentive and obedient, but she was shy
and reserved. Did she suspect the change in him? or could it be possible
that she had seen the baroness driving with him? It was very late when
her bell signaled that she had retired, and when Ludwig entered the
outer room, as usual, he found a number of books lying about on the
table. Evidently the young girl had been studying.

The next morning Ludwig came at the usual hour to conduct her to the

"Thank you, but I don't care to drive to-day," she said.

"Why not?"

"Riding out in a carriage does not benefit me."

"When did you discover this?"

"Some time ago."

Ludwig looked at her in astonishment. What was the meaning of this?
Could she know that some one else had occupied her place in the carriage

"And will you not go with me to-morrow?"

"If you will allow me, I shall stay at home."

"Is anything the matter with you, Marie?"

"Nothing. I don't like the jolting of the carriage."

"Then I shall sell the horses."

"It might be well to do so - if you don't want them for your own use. I
shall take my exercise in the garden."

"And in the winter?"

"Then I will promenade in the court, and make snow images, as the
farmers' children do."

And the end of the matter was that Ludwig sold the horses, and Marie's
outdoor exercises were restricted to the garden. Moreover, she studied
and wrote all day long.

When she went into the garden, Josef, the gardener's boy, was sent
elsewhere so long as she chose to remain among the flowers.

One afternoon Josef had been sent, as usual, to perform some task in the
park while Marie promenaded in the garden. He was busily engaged raking
together the fallen leaves, when Marie suddenly appeared by his side,
and said breathlessly:

"Please take this letter."

The youth, who was speechless with astonishment and confusion at sight
of the lady he had been forbidden to look at, slowly extended his hand
to comply with her request when Count Vavel, who had swiftly approached,
unseen by either the youth or Marie, with one hand seized the letter,
and with the other sent Josef flying across the sward so rapidly that he
fell head over heels into some shrubbery.

Then the count thrust the letter into his pocket, and without a word
drew the young girl's hand through his arm, and walked swiftly with her
into the castle. The count conducted his charge into the library. He had
not yet spoken a word. His face was startlingly pale with anger and

When they two were alone within the four walls of the library, he said,
fixing a reproachful glance on her:

"You were going to send a letter to some one?"

The young girl calmly returned his glance, but did not open her lips.

"To whom are you writing, Marie?"

Marie smiled sadly, and drooped her head.

Vavel then drew the letter from his pocket, and read the address:

"To our beautiful and kind-hearted neighbor."

The count looked up in surprise.

"You are writing to Baroness Landsknechtsschild!" he exclaimed, not
without some confusion.

"I did not know her name; that is why I addressed it so."

Vavel turned the letter in his hands, and saw that the seal had been
stamped with the crest which was familiar to all the world.

He hurriedly crushed it into bits, and, unfolding the letter, read:

"DEAR, BEAUTIFUL, AND GOOD LADY: I want you to love my Ludwig. Make
him happy. He is a good man. I am nothing at all to him.


When he had read the touching epistle, he buried his face in his hands,
and a bitter sob burst from his tortured heart.

Marie looked sorrowfully at his quivering frame, and sighed heavily.

"Oh, Marie! To think you should write this! Nothing at all to me!"
murmured the young man, in a choking voice.

"'Nothing at all,'" in a low tone repeated Marie.

Vavel moved swiftly to her side, and, looking down upon her with his
burning eyes still filled with tears, asked in an unsteady voice:

"What do you want, Marie? Tell me what you wish me to do."

Marie softly took his hand in both her own, and said tremulously:

"I want you to give me a companion - a mother. I want some one to
love, - a woman that I can love, - one who will love me and command me. I
will be an obedient and dutiful daughter to such a woman. I will never
grieve her, never disobey her. I am so very, very lonely!"

"And am not I, too, alone and lonely, Marie?" sadly responded Vavel.

"Yes, yes. I know that, Ludwig. It is your pale, melancholy face that
oppresses me and makes me sad. Day after day I see the pale face which
my cruel, curse-laden destiny has buried here with me. I know that you
are unhappy, and that I am the cause of it."

"For heaven's sake, Marie! who has given you such fancies?"

"The long, weary nights! Oh, how much I have learned from the darkness!
It was not merely caprice that prompted me to ask you once what death
meant. Had you questioned me more fully then, I should have confessed
something to you. That time, when you rescued me from death, you gave my
name to Sophie Botta, who also took upon herself my fate. I don't know
what became of her. If she died in my stead, may God comfort her! If
she still lives, may God bless and help her to reign in my stead! But
give me the name of Sophie Botta; give me the clothes of a working-girl;
give me God's free world, which she enjoyed. Let me become Sophie Botta
in reality, and let me wash clothes with the washerwomen at the brook.
If Sophie and I exchanged lives, let the exchange become real. Let me
learn what it is to live, or - let me learn what it is to die."

In speechless astonishment Count Vavel had listened to this passionate
outburst. It was the first time he had ever heard the gentle girl speak
so excitedly.

"Madame," he said with peculiar intonation, when she had ceased
speaking, "I am now convinced that I am the guardian of the most
precious treasure on this terrestrial ball. Henceforward I shall watch
over you with redoubled care."

"That will be unnecessary," proudly returned the young girl. "If you
wish to feel certain that I will patiently continue to abide in this
Nameless Castle, then make a home here for me - bring some happiness into
these rooms. If I see that you are happy I shall be content."

"Marie, Marie, the day of my perfect happiness only awaits the dawn of
your own! And that yours will come I firmly believe. But don't look for
it here, Marie. Don't ask for impossibilities. Marie, were my own
mother, whom I worshiped, still living, I could not bring her within
these walls to learn our secret."

"The woman who loves will not betray a secret."

For an instant Ludwig did not reply; then he said:

"And if it were true that some one loves me as you fancy, could I ask
her to bury herself here - here where there is no intercourse with the
outside world? No, no, Marie; we cannot expect any one else to become an
occupant of this tomb - the gates of which will not open until the trump
of deliverance sounds."

"And will it be long before that trump sounds, Ludwig?"

"I believe - nay, I know it must come very soon. The signs of the times
are not deceptive. Our resurrection may be nearer than we imagine; and
until then, Marie, let us endure with patience."

Marie pressed her guardian's hand, and drew a long sigh.

"Yes; we will endure - and wait," she repeated. "And now, give me back my

"Why do you want it, Marie?"

"I shall keep it, and sometime send it to the proper address - when the
angel of deliverance sounds his trump."

"May God hasten his coming!" fervently appended the count.

But he did not give her the letter.

* * * * *

Count Vavel now rarely ventured beyond the gate of the Nameless Castle.
The weather had become stormy, and a severe frost had robbed the garden
of its beauties. The very elements seemed to have combined against the
dwellers in the castle. Even the lake suddenly began to extend its
limits, overflowing its banks, and inundating meadows and gardens.
Marie's little pleasure-garden suffered with the rest of the flooded
lands, and threatened to become an unsightly swamp.

Count Vavel, knowing how Marie delighted to ramble amid her flowers,
determined to protect the garden from further destruction. Laborers were
easily secured. The numerous families of working-people who had been
rendered homeless by the inundation besieged the castle for assistance
and work, and none were turned empty-handed away. A small army was put
to work to construct an embankment that would prevent further
encroachment upon the garden by the water, while to Herr Mercatoris the
count sent a liberal sum of money to be distributed among the sufferers
by the flood.

This gift renewed the correspondence between the castle and the
parsonage, which had been dropped for several months.

The pastor, in acknowledging the receipt of the money, wrote:

"The flood has made a new survey of the lake necessary, as the evil
cannot be remedied until it has been determined what obstructs the
outlet. Our surveyor made a calculation as to the probable cost of the
work, and found that it would require an enormous sum of money - almost
five thousand guilders! Where was all this money to come from? The
puzzling question was answered by that angel from heaven, Baroness
Landsknechtsschild. When she heard of the sufferings of the poor people
who had been driven from their homes by the inundation, she offered to
supply the entire sum necessary. Now, it seems, something besides the
money is required for the undertaking.

"The surveyor, in order to calculate the distances which cannot be
measured by the chain, needs a superior telescope, and such a glass
would cost two or three thousand guilders more. As your lordship is the
owner of a telescope, I take it upon myself to beg the loan of it - if
your lordship can spare it to the surveyor for a short time."

The next day Count Vavel sent his telescope to the parsonage, with the
message that it was a present to the surveyor. Then, that he might not
be again tempted to look out upon the world and its people, the count
closed the tower windows.




Since Count Vavel had ceased to take outdoor exercise, he had renewed
his fencing practice with Henry, who was also an expert swordsman.

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Online LibraryMór JókaiThe Nameless Castle → online text (page 12 of 21)