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thanked Count Vavel for his offer of assistance to overthrow Napoleon;
but he also gave the count to understand that, were Bonaparte defeated,
the republic would be restored to France. In this case, what would
become of Vavel's cherished plans?

It was after midnight. The pole of "Charles's Wain" in the heavens stood
upward. Ludwig approached the watch-fire, and told the lieutenant on
guard that he might go to his tent, that he, Vavel, would take his
place for the remainder of the night. Then he let the reins drop on the
neck of his horse, and while the beast grazed on the luxuriant grass,
his rider, with his carbine resting in the hollow of his arm, continued
the night watch. The night was very still; the air was filled with
odorous exhalations, which rose from the earth after the shower in the
early part of the evening. From time to time a shooting star sped on its
course across the sky.

One after the other, Ludwig Vavel read the two letters he carried in his
breast. He did not need to take them from their hiding-place in order to
read them. He knew the contents by heart - every word. One of them was a
love-letter he had received from his betrothed; the other was the Judas
message of his enemy and Marie's.

At one time he would read the love-letter first; then that of the
arch-plotter. Again, he would change the order of perusal, and test the
different sensations - the bitter after the sweet, the sweet after the
bitter.

Suddenly, through the silence of the night, he heard the distant tinkle
of a mule-bell. It came nearer and nearer. He heard the outpost's "Halt!
Who comes there?" and heard the pleasant-voiced response: "Good evening,
friend. God bless you."

"Ah!" muttered Ludwig, with a scornful smile, "my beautiful bride is
sending another supply of dainties. How much she thinks of me!"

The mule-bell came nearer and nearer.

By the light of the watch-fire Vavel could see the familiar red kerchief
the farmer's wife from the manor was wont to wear over her head. The
mule came directly toward the watch-fire, and stopped when close to
Vavel's horse. The woman riding the beast slipped quickly to the ground,
emptied the provisions from the hampers, then, lifting the object which
had been concealed in the bottom of one of them, came around to Vavel's
side, saying:

"It is I. I have come to seek you."

"Who is it?" he demanded sternly, recognizing the voice; "Katharina or
Themire?"

"Katharina - Katharina; it is Katharina," stammered the trembling woman,
looking pleadingly up into his forbidding face.

"And why have you come here?"

"I came to bring you this," she replied, holding toward him the steel
casket.

"Where is Marie?"

"She is safe - with the Marquis d'Avoncourt."

"What?" exclaimed Vavel, in amazement, flinging his carbine on the
ground. "Cambray - d'Avoncourt - _here_?"

"Yes; he is at the Nameless Castle, and Marie is with him."

"After all, there is a God in heaven!" with deep-toned thankfulness
ejaculated Ludwig. Then he added: "Oh, Katharina, how I have suffered
because of - Themire!"

"Themire is dead!" solemnly returned the baroness. "Let us not speak of
her. Here, take these treasures into your own keeping; they are no
longer safe with me. Open the casket and convince yourself that
everything is there."

"I cannot open it; I have not got the key."

"Have you lost your ring?"

"No. I have trusted the most notorious thief in the country with it. I
have sent him with the ring to Marie. I bade him show it to her, and
tell her that she was to follow him wherever he might lead her. Satan
Laczi has the ring."

Katharina covered her eyes with her hand, and stood with drooping head
before her lover.

"I have deserved this," she murmured brokenly.

Vavel passed his hand over his face, and sighed. "It was all a dream!
It was madness to expect impossibilities," he murmured. "I am familiar
enough with the stars to have known that there are constellations which
never descend to the horizon. The 'Crown' is one of them! Of what use
are these rags now?" he exclaimed, with sudden vehemence, pointing to
the casket, which Katharina still held on her arm. "Whom can they serve?
They have brought only sorrow to him who has guarded them, and to her to
whom they belong. I cannot open the casket; but I need not do that to
destroy the contents. Pray throw it into the fire yonder."

Katharina obeyed without an instant's hesitation. After a while the
metal casket began to glow in the midst of the flames. It became red,
then a pale rose-color, while a thin cord of vapor trailed through the
keyhole.

"The little garments are burning," whispered Vavel, "and the documents,
and the portraits, and the heap of worthless money. From to-day," he
added, in a louder tone, "I begin to learn what it is to be a poor man."

"I have already learned what poverty means," said Katharina. "Look at
these clothes! I have no others, and even these are borrowed."

"I love you in them," involuntarily exclaimed Vavel, extending his hand
toward her.

"What? You offer me your hand? Do you believe that I am Katharina - only
Katharina?"

"That I may wholly and entirely believe that you are Katharina, and not
Themire, answer one question. A creature who calls himself the Marquis
de Fervlans and Leon Barthelmy is lying in ambush somewhere in this
neighborhood, waiting for you to settle an old account with him. If you
are the same to me that you once were, and if I am the same to you that
I was once, tell me where I shall find De Fervlans, for it will be _my_
duty then to settle with him."

Katharina's face suddenly blazed with eager excitement. She flung back
her head with a proud gesture.

"I will lead you to the place. Together we will seek him!" she cried,
with animation in every feature.

"Then give me your hand. You _are_ Katharina - _my_ Katharina!"

He bent toward her, and the two hands met in a close clasp.

* * * * *

Count Fertöszeg ordered the drums to beat a reveille; then he selected
from his troop one hundred trusty men, and galloped with them in the
direction of Neusiedl Lake. Katharina on her mule, without the tinkling
bell, trotted soberly by his side.




PART IX

SATAN AND DEMON


CHAPTER I


There was a notorious troop with Napoleon's army, the sixth Italian
regiment, which was called the "Legion of Demons."

The troop was made up of worthless members of society - idlers,
highwaymen, outcasts, and desperate characters, who had lost all sense
of respectability and morality. The majority of them had sought the
asylum of the battle-field to escape imprisonment or worse.

When their commander led his "demons" to an attack, he was wont to urge
them thus:

"_Avanti, avanti, Signori briganti! Cavalieri ladroni, avanti!_"
("Forward, forward, Messieurs Highwaymen! My chivalrous footpads,
forward!")

A division of this legion of demons had made its way with the vice-king
of Italy thus far through the belt-line, and had been intrusted with the
mission mentioned in De Fervlans's letter to General Guillaume. The
marquis commanded this body of the demons, he having, as Colonel
Barthelmy in the Austrian army, become thoroughly familiar with that
part of Hungary.

* * * * *

Lisette and Satan Laczi's little son were living alone at the Nameless
Castle.

When Marie, who was come in quest of her friend Cambray, rang the bell,
the door was opened by the lad.

"Is there a strange gentleman here?" she asked.

"I don't know. He went to see Lisette, and I did not see him come away,"
was the reply.

"Then let me come in," said the young girl. "I want to speak to Lisette,
too."

"She will beat me if I let you come in," returned the boy, opening the
door after a moment's hesitation.

The fumes of camphor were perceptible even in the vestibule; and when
Marie's little conductor knocked at the door of the kitchen, a heaping
shovelful of hot and smoking coals was thrust toward him, and a scolding
voice demanded irritably:

"What do you want again? Why do you keep annoying me, you little
torment!"

"Excuse me, Lisette," humbly apologized the lad, "but our young mistress
from the manor is here."

At this announcement Lisette hastily shut the door again, and opened a
small loophole in an upper panel, through which she spoke in a sharp
tone:

"Why do you come here? Has the Lord forsaken you over yonder, that you
come back to this pest-house? Get out of it as quickly as you can. Go
down and hide yourself in the Schmidt's cottage - perhaps they will not
betray you. Anyway, you can't stop here with us."

"That is just what I mean to do, Lisette, - stop here with you,"
smilingly responded Marie. "Where is my friend Cambray?"

"How should I know where he is? A pretty question to ask me! He is n't
anywhere. He has gone to bed, and you can't see him."

"I shall hunt till I find him, Lisette."

"Well, you will do as you like, of course; but you will not find M.
Cambray, for he does n't want to see you."

"Very well," returned Marie. Then to the lad by her side, "Come with
me, Laczko; we will hunt for the gentleman."

Lisette was beside herself with terror at the danger which threatened
Marie; but before she could utter another word, the young girl and her
little escort had disappeared down the corridor.

There was a great change everywhere in the castle. The floors were
covered with muddy foot-tracks; huge nails had been driven into the
varnished walls, and great heaps of dust, straw, and hay lay about on
the inlaid floors of the halls and salon. Marie hardly recognized her
former immaculate asylum.

She called, with her clear, soft-toned voice, into every room, "Cambray!
father! art thou here?" but received no reply.

Then she mounted the staircase to her own apartment. The door was open
like all the rest, but a first glance told Marie that the room had not
been used until now. Lisette, beyond a doubt, had lodged her respected
guest in this only habitable chamber.

Marie entered and looked about her. The metal screen was down!

She hastened toward it. There was a light burning in the alcove, and she
could see through the links by placing her eyes close to them. The noble
old knight was lying on the bare floor, with his hands forming a pillow
for his head. His glassy eyes were fixed and staring, and burning with a
startling brightness. His parched lips were half-open, as if he were
speaking.

"Cambray! father!" called Marie; in a tone of distress.

"Who calls? Marie?" gasped the fever-stricken man, making a vain attempt
to rise. He fell back with a deep groan, but flung out his hand as if to
ward off her approach.

"Let me come in, Cambray. It is I, your little Marie. Please let me
come in. There, close to your right hand, is a button in the floor.
Press it, and this screen will rise."

The sick man began to laugh; only his face showed that he was laughing,
no sound came from his parched throat. He was laughing because he had
prevented his favorite from coming to his pestilential resting-place.

Marie deliberated a moment, then decided to resort to stratagem:

"If you will not let me come in to you, papa Cambray," she called,
simulating a petulant tone, "I shall go away, and not come back again.
If you should want anything there will be a little boy here, outside;
you can summon him by pressing that button. Good night, dear papa
Cambray!"

The sick man turned his face toward the screen and listened in dreamy
ecstasy to the sweet voice. He raised his hand, waved it weakly toward
the speaker, then clasped it with the other on his breast, while his
lips moved as if in prayer.

"Go fetch candles, and the tinder-box," whispered Marie to the little
Laczko. "Place them here by the sofa, then light the lamp in the
corridor."

"May I fetch my gun, too?" asked the boy.

"Your gun? What for?"

"I should n't be afraid if I had it with me."

"Then fetch it; but don't come into the room with it, for I am
dreadfully afraid of guns. Leave it just outside the door."

It was quite dark when Laczko returned with the candles and a heavy
double-barreled fowling-piece. He carefully placed the latter in the
corner, then asked:

"Shall I light the candles now?"

"Certainly not. I don't want the gentleman to know that I am here. Maybe
he may want something, and open the screen. I am going to lie down on
this sofa, and you are to stand close by the alcove and watch the
gentleman. If he should lift the screen, and I have fallen asleep, you
must waken me at once."

Marie wrapped herself in her shawl, and lay down on the leather couch.
Laczko took up his station as directed, close by the metal screen,
through which he peered from time to time.

But there was no danger of Marie falling asleep. She could not even keep
her eyes closed. Every few moments she would sit up and ask in a
cautious whisper:

"What is he doing now?"

"He is tossing from side to side."

This reply was repeated several times.

At last the answer came that the invalid was perfectly quiet, whereupon
Marie decided not to inquire again for an hour.

Suddenly she heard the lad say, in a trembling voice:

"I am dreadfully frightened."

"What of?" whispered Marie.

"The gentleman lies so still. He has n't stirred for a long time."

"He is asleep, I dare say."

"If he were sleeping his breast would rise and fall; but he is perfectly
still."

Marie rose, and hastened to the screen. The smoking wick in the
night-lamp near Cambray's head illumined his ghastly face. Marie had
already seen one such pallid countenance - that of the old servant Henry
when he lay dead on his bier.

She shuddered, and retreated with trembling limbs, drawing the lad with
her.

"You may light the candle now," she whispered; "then we will go back to
Lisette."

Laczko lighted the candle, then shouldered his gun, and preceded his
young mistress down the staircase to the lower story.

They had almost reached the door of Lisette's room when Marie, who had
been peering sharply ahead, stopped abruptly, and exclaimed in a
startled tone:

"There is a man!"

Even as she spoke a dark form stepped from a doorway into the corridor
in front of them. Marie retreated several steps; but her little escort
proved that he was made of sterner stuff. He placed himself valiantly in
front of his young mistress, laid his gun against his cheek, and aiming
directly for the stranger's breast, said, in a brave tone:

"Halt, or I will shoot you."

"That's my brave lad," commented the stranger. "But don't shoot. It is
I, your father."

"Don't come any nearer, I tell you!" responded the lad, threateningly.

"Why, I am not moving a muscle, lad; don't be foolish."

"What do you want here?" demanded Laczko. "I will not let you do any
harm to my mistress."

Here Marie, who had recovered from her alarm, came forward, and laid her
hand over her small defender's eyes.

"Take down your gun, Laczko," she commanded. Then turning to the
stranger asked: "What do you want, my good man?"

For answer the man merely pronounced a name:

"Sophie Botta."

Without an instant's hesitation, and although she shuddered
involuntarily when her eyes fell on the stranger's repulsive
countenance, the young girl went close to his side, and said calmly:

"What do you wish me to do?"

Satan Laczi held the thumb-ring toward her, and said:

"The person who wears this sent me to fetch you away from here. Are you
ready to come with me at once?"

"I am," replied Marie, who seemed unable to remove her eyes from the
hideously ugly face before her.

"My master," continued the ex-robber, "also bade me fetch a little steel
casket. Do you know where it is hidden?"

"The person who had it in her care has already taken it to your master,"
was Marie's response.

"Ah, she has taken it to him?" repeated Satan Laczi. "Then it is all
right. I know now what I have to do. My master bade me convey you to a
place of concealment; but my face is not exactly the sort to win
anybody's confidence. Besides, I know some one who can perform this
errand as well as I. The way to Raab is clear. Instead of taking you
there myself, my wife will go with you. I think you would rather have
her for a companion?"

"Yes, I think I would rather go with a woman," diplomatically assented
Marie.

"As an additional protection, take this little lad with you." Here the
ex-robber laid his hand on his son's shoulder, and looked proudly down
on him. "His heart is already in the right place. And then he is not a
wicked rascal like his father."

He was silent a moment, then added: "But I intend to reform. When my
master has spoken with the woman to whom he intrusted his treasures, and
if she has not betrayed him, then I know where he will be to-morrow. And
Satan Laczi will be there, too! Then I and my comrades will show them
what we can do. But come, we must make haste, and get on as far as
possible while the moon is shining."

"But I am not properly clad for a journey," interposed Marie.

"My wife brought a nice warm _bunda_ to wrap you in; it is in the
carriage out yonder," returned the ex-robber.

"One word first: you are acquainted with the man who made the metal
screen in my apartments. Could you see him?"

"He is in Count Vavel's service, and I can see him when I return to the
camp."

"Then tell him to come to the Nameless Castle at once. He understands
the secret spring of the screen, behind which he will find a dead man.
This man was a very good friend, and I want him properly buried."

"I will give Master Matyas your order."

Marie now took leave of the Nameless Castle, feeling that she would
never again come back to it. But she had not the courage to enter her
apartments again.

The four-horse coach waited at the park gate. Marie entered it, wrapped
the warm sheep-skin around her, and tied a cotton kerchief over her head
in peasant fashion. Satan Laczi's wife took a seat by her side; the
little Laczko climbed to the coachman's box, where he sat with his gun
between his knees. Then the coachman cracked his whip, and the vehicle
rattled down the road amid a cloud of dust. Satan Laczi looked after the
coach until it disappeared around a turn in the road. Then he blew a
shrill blast on his whistle, whereupon a number of wild-looking men,
each armed to the teeth, emerged from the shrubbery and came toward him.
Whispered orders were given, then the men in a body moved toward the
willow-copse on the shore of the lake. Here were two flatboats drawn up
on the beach. These were pushed into the water; the men entered them,
each took an oar, and the unwieldy vessels were propelled along the
shore toward the marshes.

The Marquis de Fervlans had camped with his company of demons on the
shore of Neusiedl Lake. The marquis himself had taken quarters at the
inn in the nearest village, where, assisted by two companions of
questionable respectability but of undoubted valor, he was testing the
quality of the fiery wine of the region, when a peasant cart, drawn by
three horses, drew up before the inn, and Jocrisse, Baroness Katharina's
messenger, alighted.

"Ah, here comes a sensible fellow," exclaimed the marquis. "I wonder
what news he brings."

He was very soon enlightened.

"Hum! '_Io non posso!_'" he repeated, after reading the brief message
Jocrisse delivered to him. "Very well, madame, I think I shall know what
to do if you 'cannot'! Jocrisse, how is the country around Odenburg
garrisoned?"

"A division of militia cavalry occupies every town,"

"That is exasperating! Not that I fear these militiamen might give my
demons too much work; but I am afraid I may alarm them; then they will
scamper in all directions, and frighten the entire Neusiedl region, so
that when I arrive at Fertöszeg I shall find the birds flown and the
nest empty. We must take them by surprise. Have you ever before been in
this part of the country, Jocrisse?"

"I accompanied the county surveyor once as far as Frauenkirchen."

"Is the road practicable for wheels?"

"To Frauenkirchen it is good for wagons; but beyond the city it is in a
wretched condition."

"Very well. You will engage a post-chaise here, and follow us to
Frauenkirchen, where you will wait for further orders. What time did you
leave Fertöszeg?"

"About noon."

"Listen. I suspect that your mistress will try to escape with the maid.
If that is the case, we must bestir ourselves. But women are afraid to
travel by night; and even if they have already left the manor, they
cannot have gone very far. The water in the Danube was unusually high on
the day of the battle at Aspern; that would cause the Raab to rise, and
overflow the bridges crossing it. I shall doubtless overtake the
fugitives at Vitnyed."

"It will be rather risky crossing the Hansag at night," observed
Jocrisse, "and no amount of money would induce one of these natives
about here to act as guide. They are a peculiar folk."

"Yes; but I shall not need a guide. I have an excellent map of the
neighborhood, which I used when I was in garrison here. I used to hunt
all over this region after wild boars and turkeys, and never had any
difficulty finding my way, even at night."

De Fervlans now sent orders to his troop to break camp at once, with as
little stir as possible; and before twilight shadows fell upon the land,
the demons were riding toward the Hansag.

If we assume that Marie left the Nameless Castle in company with the
wife of Satan Laczi at midnight, we can easily see that she would have
but a few hours' advantage of the demons, who broke camp at sunset. If
the latter met with no hindrance on their way, they would overtake the
coach of the fugitives at the crossing of the Raab. As it was after
midnight when Ludwig Vavel learned of the danger which threatened Marie,
he could not, even if he had set out at once, have reached the Hansag
before noon of the following day, by which time De Fervlans and his
demons would have accomplished their errand. Therefore nothing short of
a miracle could save the maid.




CHAPTER II


The miracle happened - a true miracle, like the one of the biblical
legend, when the Red Sea obstructed the way of the persecutor Pharaoh.

Those who may doubt this assertion are referred to the "Monograph on
Lake Neusiedl," in which may be read a description of the phenomenon. In
the last years Lake Neusiedl had been drained, and where it had joined
the lakes of the Hansag, a stout dam had been built. When the waters of
the Hansag chain rose, the muddy undercurrent threw up great mounds of
earth, like enormous excrescences on a diseased body. One of these huge
mounds burst open at the top and emitted a black, slimy mud that
inundated the surrounding morass for a considerable distance.

Already in the neighborhood of St. Andras this slimy ooze was noticeable
when the troop of demons galloped over the plantain-covered flats which
here and there bent under the weight of the horsemen. As they proceeded,
the enormous numbers of frogs became surprising, as if this host of
amphibia had leagued against the invading demons. Then flocks of
water-fowl, with clamorous cries and rustling wings, rose here and
there, startled from their quiet nests by the approaching inundation,
which by this time had completely hidden what was called in that region
the public road. De Fervlans, at a loss what to make of this singular
freak of nature, sent a horseman to the right, and one to the left, to
examine the ground, and learn whence came the sea of slime, and how it
might be avoided. Each of his messengers returned with the information
that the slime was flowing in the direction he had ridden. The source,
then, must be near where they had halted.

"This is bad," said De Fervlans, impatiently. "This eruption of mud will
hinder our progress. We can't run a race with it. We must look up
another route, and this will delay us perhaps for hours. But we can make
that up when on a hard road again."

De Fervlans, who was familiar with the neighborhood, now led his troop
in the direction of the path which ran through the morass toward the
village of Banfalva, hoping thus to gain the excellent highway of
Eszterhaza. Here and there from the swamp rose slight elevations of dry
earth which were overgrown with alders and willows. On one of these
"hills" De Fervlans concluded to halt for a rest, as both men and horses
were weary with the toilsome journey over the wretched roads.

Very soon enough dry wood was collected for a fire. There was no need to
fear that the light might attract attention; the camp was far enough


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