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inquired after the health of each one in turn, and how they had enjoyed
their outing. They all had names. The cats were Hitz, Mitz, Pani, and
Miura. They were introduced to the two pugs, Phryxus and Helle. Then the
little maid fetched a porcelain basin, and with a sponge washed each
nose and paw. Only after this operation had been thoroughly performed
were the guests allowed to take their places at the breakfast-table - the
four cats opposite the two pugs.

Then a clean napkin was tied about the neck of each guest, - that their
jabots might not get soiled with milk, - and a cup of bread and milk
placed in front of each one.

No complaints were allowed (the one that broke this rule was severely
lectured), while all of them had patiently to submit when the sparrow
helped himself from whichever cup he chose. The breakfast over, the
guests bow-wowed and miaued their thanks, and were dismissed to their
morning nap.

The musical clock now began to play its shepherd's song; the brass
Cyclops standing on the dial struck the hour; the cuckoo called, and the
halberdier saluted. Then the little maid changed her toilet. She had a
whole wardrobe full of clothes; she might select what she chose to wear.
There was no one to tell her what to put on, or to help her attire
herself. When her toilet was completed, a bell outside rang once,
whereupon she donned her hat and tied over her face a heavy lace veil
that effectually concealed her features. After a few minutes the bell
rang a second time, and the sound of wheels in the courtyard was heard.
Then three taps sounded on the door, and in answer to the little maid's
clear-voiced "Come in!" a gentleman in promenade toilet entered the room
and bowed respectfully. First he satisfied himself that the veil was
securely fastened around the young girl's hat; then, drawing her hand
through his arm, he led her to the carriage.

On the box was seated the broad-shouldered groom, now clad in coachman's
costume. The gentleman assisted the little maid into the carriage, took
his seat by her side, and the black horses set off over the same road
they had traversed a thousand times, in the regulation trot, avoiding
the main thoroughfare of the village. Those persons whom they chanced to
meet did not salute, for they knew that the occupants of the carriage
from the Nameless Castle did not wish to be spoken to; and any of the
villagers who were standing idly at their doors stepped inside until
they had passed; no inquisitive woman face peered after them. And thus
the carriage passed on its way, as if it had been invisible. When it
arrived at the forest, the horses knew just where they had to halt. Here
the gentleman assisted his veiled companion to alight, gave her his left
arm, because he held in his right hand a heavy walking-stick, in the
center of which was concealed a long, three-edged poniard, an effective
weapon in the hands of him who knew how to wield it.

In silence the man and the maid promenaded along the green sward in the
shade of the trees. A campanula had just opened its blue eye at the foot
of one of the trees, and pale-blue forget-me-nots grew along the path.
Blue was the little maid's favorite color; but she was not permitted to
pluck the flowers herself. She had never been told why she must not do
this; perhaps it was because the flowers belonged to some one else.

Sometimes the little maid's steps were so light and elastic, as if a
fairy were gliding over the dewy grass; and sometimes she walked so
slowly, so wearily, as if a little old grandmother came limping along,
hunting for lichens on the mossy ground.

After the promenade, they seated themselves again in the carriage, which
returned to the Nameless Castle, and the gates were closed again.

The man conducted the maid to her room, and the serious occupation of
the day began. Books were produced, and the man proceeded to explain the
classics. They were his own favorites; he could not give her any others.
She had not yet seen or heard of romances, and she was still too young
to begin the study of history. The man could teach the maid only what he
himself knew; a strange tutor or governess was not allowed to enter the
castle.

Because her instructor could not play the piano, the little maid had not
learned. But in order that she might enjoy listening to music, a
hand-organ had been bought for her, and new melodies were inserted in it
every four months.

When the little maid wearied of her organ and her picture-making, she
seated herself at the card-table, and played _l'hombre_, or _tarok_,
with two imaginary adversaries, enjoying the manner in which the copper
coins won the gold ones.

At noon, when the bell rang a third time, the man tapped at the door
again, offered his gloved hand to the maid, and conducted her to the
dining-room. At either end of a large table was a plate. The maid took
her place at the head; the man seated himself at the foot. They
conversed during the meal. The maid talked about her cats and dogs; the
man told her about his books. When the maid wanted anything, she called
the man Ludwig; and when the man addressed his companion, he called her
simply Marie.

After dinner, they went to the library to look at the late newspapers.
Ludwig himself made the coffee, after which he read the papers, and
dictated his comments and criticisms on certain articles to Marie, who
wrote them out in her delicate hair-line chirography.

When Ludwig and Marie separated for the afternoon, he touched his lips
to her hand and brow. Marie then returned to her own apartments, played
the hand-organ for her pets, changed her dolls' toilets, counted her
gains or losses at cards, colored with her paints a few of the
illustrations in the magazines, looked through her "Orbis pictus,"
reading without difficulty the text which was printed in four languages,
and read for the hundredth time her favorite "Robinson Crusoe."

And thus passed day after day, from spring until autumn, from autumn
until spring.

Evenings, when Marie prepared for bed, before she undressed herself, she
spread a heavy silken coverlet over the leather lounge which stood near
the door. She knew very well that the some one she called Ludwig slept
every night on the lounge, but he came in so late, and went away so
early in the morning, that she never heard his coming or his going.

The little maid was a sound sleeper, and the pugs never barked at the
master of the house, who gave them lumps of sugar.

Often the little maid had determined that she would not go to sleep
until she heard Ludwig come into the room. But all her attempts to
remain awake were in vain. Her eyelids closed the moment her head
touched the pillow. Then she tried to waken early, in order to wish him
good morning; but when she thrust her little head from between the
bed-curtains, and called cheerily, "Good morning, dear Ludwig!" there
was no one there.

Ludwig never slept more than four hours of the twenty-four, and his
slumber was so light that he woke at the slightest noise. Then, too, he
slept like a soldier in the field - always clothed, with his weapons
beside him.




CHAPTER II


One day in the year formed an exception to all the rest. It was Marie's
birthday. From her earliest childhood this one day had been entirely her
own. On this day she addressed Ludwig with the familiar "thou," as she
had been wont to do when he had taught her to walk. She always looked
forward with great pleasure to this day, and made for it all sorts of
plans whose accomplishment was extremely problematic.

And who came to congratulate her on her birthday? First of all, the
solitary sparrow, whose name was David - surely because he, too, was a
tireless singer! Already at early dawn, when the first faint rosy hues
of morning glimmered through the jalousie, he would fly to the head of
her bed. Then the cats would come with their gratulations, but not until
their little mistress had leaped from the bed, run to the window, flung
open the sash, and called, "Puss, puss!" Then the whole four would
scamper into the room, one after the other, and wish her many happy
returns of the day.

When the pugs had gone through their part of the program, the little
maid proceeded to attire herself, a task she performed behind a tall
folding screen. When she stepped forth again, she had on a gorgeous
Chinese-silk wrapper, covered all over with gay-colored palms, and
confined only at the waist with a heavy silk cord. Her hair was twisted
into a single knot on the crown of her head.

Then she prepared breakfast for herself and her guests. The eight of
them drank cold milk, and ate of the dainty little cakes which some one
placed on her table every night while she slept. To-day Marie did not
amuse herself with her guests, but turned over the leaves of her
picture-book, thus passing the time until she should hear, after the
bell had rung twice, the tap at her door.

"Come in!"

The man who entered was surprised.

"What? We are not yet ready for the drive?" he exclaimed.

The maid threw her book aside, ran toward him, and flung her arms with
childish abandon around his neck.

"We are not going to drive to-day. Dost thou not know that this is my
birthday - that I alone give orders in this house to-day? To-day
everything must be done as _I_ say; and _I_ say that we will pass the
time of the drive here in my room, and that thou shalt answer several
silly questions which have come into my head. And forget not that we are
to 'thou' each other to-day. And now, congratulate me nicely. Come, let
us hear it!"

The count almost imperceptibly bent his knee and his head, but spoke not
one word. There are gratulations which are expressed in this manner.

"Very good! Then I am a queen for to-day, and thou art my sole subject.
Sit thou here at my feet on this taboret."

The man obeyed. Marie seated herself on the ottoman, and drew her feet
underneath the wide skirt of her robe.

"Put that book away!" she commanded, when Ludwig stooped to lift from
the floor the volume she had cast there. "I know every one of the four
volumes by heart! Why dost not thou give me one of the books thou
readest so often?"

"Because they are medical works."

"And why dost thou read such books?"

"In order that, should any one in the castle become ill, I may be able
to cure him or her without a doctor."

"And must the person die who is ill and cannot be cured?"

"That is generally the end of a fatal illness."

"Does it hurt to die?"

"That I am unable to tell, as I have never tried it."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the maid. "Thou canst not put me off that way!
Thou knowest many things thou hast not yet tried. Thou hast read about
them; thou knowest! What is death like? Is it more unpleasant than a
disagreeable dream? Is the pain all over when one has died, or is there
more to come afterward? If death is painful, why must we die? If it is
pleasant, why must we live?"

Children ask such strange questions!

"Life is a gift from God that must be preserved as long as possible,"
returned Ludwig, evading the main question. "Through us the world
exists - "

"What is the world?" interrupted Marie.

"The entire human race and their habitations - the earth."

"Then every person owns a plot of earth? Where is the plot which belongs
to us? Answer me that!"

"By the way, that reminds me!" exclaimed Ludwig, relieved to find an
opportunity to change the subject. "I have not yet told thee that I
intend to buy a lovely plot of ground on the shore of the lake, which is
to be made into a pretty flower-garden for thy use alone. Will not that
be pleasant?"

"Thou art very kind; the garden will be lovely. That plot of ground,
then, will be our home, will it not? What is one's home called?"

"It is called the fatherland."

"Then every country is not one's fatherland?"

"If our enemies live there, it is not."

"What are enemies?"

"Persons with whom we are angry."

"What is angry? I have never yet seen anything like it. Why art thou
never angry?"

"Because I have no reason to be angry with thee, and I never associate
with any one else."

"What do those persons do who become angry with one another?"

"They avoid each other. If they are very angry they fight; and if they
are very, very angry they kill each other."

The maid was tortured with curiosity to-day. She drew a pin from her
robe, and secretly thrust the point into Ludwig's hand.

"What art thou doing?" he asked, in surprise.

"I want to see what thou art like when thou art angry. Did it hurt
thee?"

"Certainly it hurt me; see, the blood is flowing."

"Ah, heaven!" cried the maid, in terror, drew the young man's head
toward her, and pressed a kiss on his face.

He sprang to his feet, his face pale as death, extreme horror depicted
in his glance.

"There!" exclaimed the maid. "Thou dost not kill me, and yet I have made
thee very angry."

"This is not anger," sighed the young man.

"What is it, then?"

"It has no name."

"Then I may not kiss thee? Thou lettest me kiss thee last year, and the
year before, and every other year."

"But thou art fifteen years old to-day."

"Ah! Then what was allowed last year, and always before that, is not
allowed now. Dost not thou love me any more?"

"All my thoughts are filled with thee."

"Thou knowest that I have always been allowed to make one wish on my
birthday, and that it has always been granted. That is what some one
accustomed me to - thou knowest very well who."

"Thy desires have always been fulfilled."

"Yes; and children understand how to desire what is impossible. But
grown persons are clever enough to know how to impose on the children.
Three years ago I asked thee to bring me some one with whom I could
talk - some one who would be company for me. Thou broughtest me cats and
dogs and a bird! Two years ago I wished I might learn how to make
pictures; and I was given paper patterns to color with water-colors. One
year ago to-day I wished I might learn how to make music; and a
hand-organ was bought for me. Oh, yes; my wishes have always been
fulfilled, but always in a way that cheated me. Children are always
treated so. To-day thou sayest that I am fifteen years old, and that I
am not any more to be treated as a child. Mark that! To-day, as
heretofore, I ask something of thee which thou canst give me - and thou
canst not cheat me, either!"

"Whatever it may be, thou shalt have it, Marie."

"Thy hand on it! Now, thou knowest that I asked thee not long ago to
send to Paris for a 'Melusine costume' for me!"

"And has it not already arrived? I myself delivered the box into thy
hands."

"Knowest thou what a Melusine costume is? See, this is it."

With these words she sprang from her seat, untied the cord about her
waist, flung off the silken wrapper, and stood in front of the
speechless young man in one of those costumes worn by Paris dames at the
sea-shore when they disport themselves amid the waves of the ocean. The
Melusine costume was a bathing-dress.

"To-day, Ludwig, I ask that thou wilt teach me how to swim. The lake is
just out yonder below the garden."

The maid, in her pale-blue bathing-dress, looked like one of those
fairy-like creatures in Shakspere's "Midsummer Night's Dream," innocent
and alluring, child and siren.

Disconcerted and embarrassed, Ludwig raised his hand.

"Art thou going to strike me?" inquired the child, half crying, half
laughing.

"Pray put on the wrapper again!" said Ludwig, taking the garment from
the sofa and with it veiling the model for a Naiad. "What sort of a
caprice is this?"

"I have had the thought in my head for a long, long time, and I beg that
thou wilt grant my request. Thou canst not say that thou canst not swim;
for once, when we were traveling in great haste, I know not why, we came
to a river, and found that the boat was on the farther shore. Thou
swammest across, and broughtest back the boat in which the four of us
then crossed to the other side. Already then the desire to swim arose in
me. What a delicious sensation to swim through the water - to make wings
of one's arms and fly like a bird! Since we live in this castle the wish
has become stronger. Night after night I dream that I am cleaving
through the waves. I never see God's sky when I go out, because I have
to cover my face. It is just like looking at creation through a grating!
I should love dearly to sing and shout for joy; but I dare not, for I am
afraid the trees, the walls, the people, might hear me and betray me.
But out yonder I could float on the green waves, where I should meet no
one, where no one would see me. I could look up at the shining sky, and
about in chorus with the fish-hawks, surrounded by the darting fishes,
that would tell no one what they had seen or heard. That would be
supreme happiness for me; wilt not thou help me to secure it?"

The child's wish was so true, so earnest, and Ludwig himself had
experienced the proud delights of which she had spoken. Perhaps, too, he
had related to Marie the story of Clelia and her companions, who swam
the Tiber to preserve the Roman maidens' reputation for virtue.

"Whatever gives pleasure to thee pleases me," he said, extending his
hand to take hers.

"And thou wilt grant my wish? Oh, how kind, how dear thou art!" And in
vain the young man sought to withdraw the hand she covered with kisses.
"What!" she exclaimed reproachfully, "may I not kiss thy hand either?"

"How canst thou behave so, Marie? Thou art fifteen years old! A grown-up
girl does not kiss a man's hand."

He passed his hand across his brow and sighed heavily; then he rose to
his feet.

"Where art thou going? Knowest thou not that to-day thou dost not belong
to thy horrid books nor to thy telescope, but that thou art my subject?"

"I go to execute the commands of my little queen. If she desires to
learn to swim, I must have a bath-house built on the shore, and look
about for a suitable spot in the little cove."

"When I have learned to swim all by myself, may not I go beyond the
little cove - away out into the open lake?"

"Yes, on two conditions. One is that I may follow in my canoe - "

"But not keep very near to me?"

"Of course not. The second condition is that in daylight thou wilt not
swim beyond those willows which conceal the cove. Only on moonlight
evenings mayest thou venture into the open lake."

"But why may not I venture by daylight?"

"Because a telescope does not enable one to distinguish features after
night. Other people may have a telescope, like myself."

"Who would have one in this village?"

"The manor has a new occupant. A lady has taken possession there."

"A lady? Is she pretty?"

"She is young."

"Didst thou see her through the telescope? What kind of hair has she
got?"

"Blonde."

"Then she must be very pretty. May I take a look at her some time?"

"I am afraid thou mightest fall in love with her; for she is very
beautiful, and very good."

"How dost thou know she is good?"

"Because she visits the sick and the poor, and because she goes
regularly to church."

"Why do we never go to church?"

"Because we profess a different belief from that acknowledged by those
persons who attend this church."

"Do they pray to a different God from ours?"

"No; they pray to the same God."

"Then why should n't we all go to the same church?"

Unable longer to control himself, Ludwig took the shrewd little
child-head between his hands, and said tenderly:

"My darling! my little queen! not all the synods of the four quarters of
the globe could answer thy questions - let alone this poor forgotten
soldier!"

"There! thou always pretendest to be stupid when I want to borrow a
little bit of thy wisdom. Thou art like the rich man who tells the
beggar that he has no money. By the way, I must not forget that I
always send money to the poor children on my birthday. Come, tell me
which of the heaps I shall send to-day - these small coins, or these
large ones? If thou thinkest I ought to send these little yellow ones, I
have no objections. I think I prefer to keep the white coins, they have
such a musical sound; besides, they have the image of the Virgin. If
thou thinkest I ought to send some of the large red ones, too, I will do
so."

The "little yellow ones" were gold sovereigns; the "white coins" were
silver _Zwanziger_; and the "large red ones" were copper medals of the
Austrian minister of finance, worth half a guilder.

"We will send some of the small coins and some of the large ones,"
decided Ludwig, smiling at the little maid's ignorance of the value of
the money.




CHAPTER III


Tradition maintained that many years before, during the preceding
century, the tongue of land now occupied by the Nameless Castle was part
of the lake; and it may have been true, for Neusiedl Lake is a very
capricious body of water. During the past two decades we ourselves have
seen a greater portion of the lake suddenly recede, leaving dry land
where once had been several feet of water. The owners of what had once
been the shore took possession of the dry lake bottom; they used it for
meadows and pastures; leased it, and the lessees built farm-houses and
steam-mills on the "new ground." They cultivated wheat and maize, and
for many years harvested two crops a year. Suddenly the lake took a
notion to occupy its old bed again; and when the water had resumed its
former level, fields and farms had vanished beneath the green flood;
only here and there the top of a chimney indicated where a steam-mill
had been. Magic tricks like this Neusiedl Lake has played more than once
on trusting mortals.

On either side of the peninsula on which stood the Nameless Castle was a
little cove. One of these the count had spoken of to Marie; the other
separated the castle from the village of Fertöszeg.

The manor, the habitation of the owner of the Fertöszeg estate, stood on
the slope of a hill at the eastern end of the village, and fronted, as
did the neighboring castle, on the lake.

In the second half of the month of August, in the year 1806, one might
have seen from the veranda of the manor, after the sun had gone down and
the marvelous tints of the evening sky were reflected in the water, a
small boat speed out from the cove on the farther side of the Nameless
Castle, trailing after it a long silvery streak on the parti-colored
surface of the lake. A solitary man sat in the boat.

But what could not be seen from the veranda of the manor was that a
girlish form swam a little in advance of the boat.

Marie had proved an excellent scholar in the school of the hydriads.
Already after the fourth lesson she could swim alone, and sped over the
waves as lightly and gracefully as a swan.

She did not need to wear a hat on these evening swimming excursions; her
long hair floated unbound after her on the waves. When the twilight
shadows deepened, the swimmer would speed far ahead of the accompanying
canoe. She had lost all fear of the water. The waves were her
friends - they knew each other well. When she wished to rest, she would
turn her face to the sky, fold her arms across her breast, and lie on
the waves as among swelling cushions like a child in a rocking cradle.
And here she was allowed the full privileges of a child. She shouted;
called to the startled wild geese; teased the night-swallows, and the
bats skimming along the surface of the lake in quest of water-spiders.
Here she even ventured to sing, and gave voice to charming melodies,
which floated over the water like the sounds of an Æolian harp.

Many hours were spent thus on the lake. The little maid never wearied of
the water. The protecting element restored to her nerves the strength
which the stepmotherly earth had taken from them. A promenade of a
hundred steps would tire her so that she would have to stop and rest.
She had become unused to walking. But here in the water she moved about
like a Naiad; her whole being was transformed; she lived! Then, when her
guardian would call her, she would swim back to the canoe, clamber into
it, and spread her long hair over his knees to dry while they rowed back
to the shore. Poor little maid! She declared she had found happiness in
the water.

* * * * *

One evening, after the waning moon had risen, Ludwig's canoe, as usual,
followed Marie, who was swimming a considerable distance ahead. Among
the peculiarities of Neusiedl Lake are its numerous islets, the shores
of which are thickly grown with rushes, and covered with broom and tall
trees. Such an island lay not far from the shore in front of the


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