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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Nameless Castle - Part 6. Death And New Life In The Nameless Castle - Chapter 4
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The Nameless Castle - Part 6. Death And New Life In The Nameless Castle - Chapter 4 Post by :magicmanny Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :661

Click below to download : The Nameless Castle - Part 6. Death And New Life In The Nameless Castle - Chapter 4 (Format : PDF)

The Nameless Castle - Part 6. Death And New Life In The Nameless Castle - Chapter 4

PART VI. DEATH AND NEW LIFE IN THE NAMELESS CASTLE
CHAPTER IV

When Herr Bernat Goeroemboelyi, in his character of emissary, arrived at the manor, he proceeded at once to state his errand:

"My lovely sister Katinka, I am come a-wooing--as this nosegay on my breast indicates. I ask your hand for a brave, handsome, and young cavalier."

"Thank you very much for the honor, my dear Bernat bacsi, but I intend to remain faithful to my vow never to marry."

"Then you send me out of your house with a mitten, Katinka hugom?"

"I should prefer to detain you as a welcome guest."

"Thanks; but I cannot stop to-day. I am invited to a betrothal feast over at the Nameless Castle. The count intends to wed in a few weeks."

He had been watching, while speaking, the effect of this announcement on the lovely face before him.

Baroness Katharina, however, acted as if nothing interested her so much as the letter she was embroidering with gold thread on a red streamer for a militia flag.

"The count is in a hurry," continued Herr Bernat, "for he may have to ride at the head of a company of militia to the war in less than three weeks."

Here the cruel needle thrust its point into the fair worker's rosy finger.

Herr Bernat smiled roguishly; and said:

"Would n't you like to hear the name of the bride, my pretty sister Katinka?"

"If it is no secret," was the indifferent response.

"It is no secret for me, and I am allowed to repeat it. The charming lady Count Vavel intends to wed is--Katharina Landsknechtsschild!"

The baroness suddenly dropped her embroidery, sprang to her feet, and surveyed the smiling emissary with her brows drawn into a frown.

"It is quite true," continued Herr Bernat. "Count Vavel sent me here to beg you to answer the words he spoke to you on an eventful occasion. Do you remember them?"

The lady's countenance did not brighten as she replied:

"Yes, I remember the words; but between them and my reply there is a veil that separates the two."

"The veil has been removed."

"Ah! Then you saw the lady of the castle without her veil? Is she pretty?"

"More than pretty!"

"And who is she? What is she to Count Vavel?"

"She is not your rival, my pretty sister Katinka; she is neither wife nor betrothed to Count Vavel--nor yet his secret love."

"Then she must be his sister--or daughter."

"No; she is neither sister nor daughter."

"Then what is she? Not a servant?"

"No; she is his mistress."

"His mistress?"

"Yes, his mistress--as my queen is my mistress."

"Ah!" There was a peculiar gleam in the lovely baroness's eyes. Then she came nearer to Herr Bernat, and asked with womanly shyness: "And you believe the count--loves _me_?"

"That I do not know, baroness, for he did not tell me; but I think you know that he loves you. That he deserves your love I can swear! No one can become thoroughly acquainted with Count Vavel and not love him. I went to the castle to ask him to join the noble militia, and he let me see the lady about whom so much has been said. She had excellent reasons, baroness, for veiling her lovely face, for whoever had seen her mother's pictures would have recognized her at once. When Count Vavel goes into battle to help defend our fatherland, he must leave the royal maid in a mother's hands. Will you fill that office? Will you take the desolate maid to your heart? And now, Katinka hugom, give me your answer to the Count's words."

With sudden impulsiveness the baroness extended both hands to Herr Bernat, and said earnestly:

"With all my heart I consent to be Count Vavel's betrothed wife!"

"And I may fly to him with this answer?"

"Yes--on condition that you take me with you."

"What, baroness? You wish to go to the castle--now?"

"Yes, now--this very moment--in these clothes! I have no one to ask what I should or should not do, and--_he needs me."

When his emissary had departed, Count Vavel began to reflect whether he had not been rather hasty. Had he done right in giving to the world his zealously guarded secret?

But there lay the royal manifesto on the table; there was no doubting that. The venture must be made now or never. If only d'Avoncourt were free! How well he would know what to do in this emergency!

He seated himself at the table to write to his friends abroad; but he could accomplish nothing; his hand trembled so that he could hardly guide the pen. And why should he tremble? Was he afraid to hear Katharina's answer? It is by no means a wise move for a man to make on the same day a declaration of war and one of love.

His meditations were interrupted by Marie, who came running into his study, laughing and clapping her hands. She snatched the pen from his fingers, and flung it on the floor.

"She is coming! She is coming!" she cried in jubilant tones.

"Who is coming?" asked Ludwig, surveying the young girl in surprise.

"Who? Why, the lady who is to be my mother--the beautiful lady from the manor."

"What nonsense, Marie! How can you give voice to such impossible nonsense?"

"But the vice-palatine would not be returning to the castle in _two carriages!" persisted the maid. "Come and see them for yourself!"

She drew him from his chair to the window in the dining-room, where his own eyes convinced him of the truth of Marie's announcement.

Already the two vehicles were crossing the causeway, and the baroness's rose-colored parasol gleamed among the trees. Deeply agitated, Count Vavel hastened to meet her.

"May I come with you?" shyly begged Marie, following him.

"I beg that you will come," was the reply; and the two, guardian and ward, hand in hand, descended to the entrance-hall.

Baroness Katharina's countenance beamed with a magical charm--the result of the union of opposite emotions; as when shame and courage, timidity and daring, love and heroism, meet and are blended together in a wonderful harmony--a miracle seen only in the magic mirror of a woman's face.

While yet several paces distant, she held out her hand toward Count Vavel, and, with a charming mixture of embarrassment and candor, said:

"Yes, I am."

This was her confirmation of the words Vavel had spoken in the forest in the presence of the three dragoon officers: "She is my betrothed."

Vavel lifted the white hand to his lips. Then Katharina quickly passed onward toward Marie, who had timidly held back.

The baroness grasped the young girl's hands in both her own, and looked long and earnestly into the fair face lifted shyly toward her. Then she said:

"It was not for his sake I came so precipitately. He could have waited. They told me your heart yearned for a mother's care, and it must not be kept waiting."

After this speech the two young women embraced. Which was the first to sob, which kiss was the warmer, cannot be known; but that Marie was the happier was certain. For the first time in years she was permitted to embrace a woman and tell her she loved her. Ludwig Vavel looked with delight on the meeting between the two, and gratefully pressed the hand of his successful emissary.

When the two young women had sobbed out their hearts to each other, they began to laugh and jest. Was not the mother still a girl, like the daughter?

"You must come with me to the manor?" said Katharina, as, with arms entwined about each other, they entered the castle. "I shall not allow you to stop longer in this lonely place."

"I wish you would take me with you," responded Marie. "I shall be very obedient and dutiful. If I do anything that displeases you, you must scold me, and praise me when I do what is right."

"And I am not to be asked if I consent to this abduction of my ward?" here smilingly interposed Count Vavel.

"Why can't you come with us?" innocently inquired Marie.

The other young woman laughed merrily.

"He may come for a brief visit; later we will let him come to stay always." Then she added in a more serious tone: "Count Vavel, you may rest perfectly content that your treasure will be safe with me. My house is prepared for assault. My people are brave and well armed. There is no possible chance of another attack from robbers like that from which you delivered me."

"Ludwig delivered you from robbers?" repeated Marie, in astonishment. "When? How?"

"Then he did not tell you about his adventure? What a singular man!"

Here the vice-palatine interposed with: "What is this I hear? Robbers? I heard nothing about robbers."

"The baroness herself asked me not to speak of the affair," explained the count.

"Yes, but I did not forbid you to tell Marie, Herr Count," responded Katharina.

"'Baroness'--'Herr Count'?" repeated Marie, turning questioningly from her guardian to their fair neighbor. "Why don't you call each other by your Christian names?"

They were spared an explanation by Herr Bernat, who again observed:

"Robbers? I confess I should like to hear about this robbery?"

"I will tell you all about it," returned the baroness; "but first, I must beg the vice-palatine not to make any arrests. For," she added, with an enchanting smile, "had it not been for those valiant knights of the road I should not have become acquainted with my brave Ludwig."

"That is better!" applauded Marie, hurrying her "little mother" into the reception-room, where the wonderful story of the robbery was repeated.

And what an attentive listener was the fair young girl! Her lips were pressed tightly together; her eyes were opened to their widest extent--like those of a child who hears a wonderful fairy tale. Even the vice-palatine from time to time ejaculated:

"_Darvalia_!" "_Beste karaffia_!"--which, doubtless, were the proper terms to apply to marauding rascals.

But when the baroness came to that part of her story where Count Vavel, with his walking-stick, put to flight the four robbers, Marie's face glowed with pride. Surely there was not another brave man like her Ludwig in the whole world!

"That was our first meeting," concluded Katharina laughingly, laying her hand on that of her betrothed husband, who was leaning against the arm of her chair.

"I should like to know why you both thought it best to keep this robbery a secret?" remarked Herr Bernat.

"The real reason," explained Count Vavel, "was because the baroness did not want her protege, Satan Laczi's wife, persecuted."

"Hum! if everybody was as generous as you two, then robbery would become a lucrative business!"

"You must remember," Katharina made haste to protest, "that all this has been told to the matrimonial emissary, and not to the vice-palatine. On no account are any arrests to be made!"

"I will suggest a plan to the Herr Vice-palatine," said Count Vavel. "Grant an amnesty to the robbers; not to the four who broke into the manor,--for they are merely common thieves,--but to Satan Laczi and his comrades, who will cheerfully exchange their nefarious calling for the purifying fire of the battle-field. I myself will undertake to form them into a company of foot-soldiers."

"But how do you know that Satan Laczi and his comrades will join the army?" inquired Herr Bernat.

"Satan Laczi told me so himself--one night here in the castle. He opened all the doors and cupboards, while I was in the observatory, and waited for me in my study."

It was the ladies' turn now to exhibit the liveliest interest. Each seized a hand of the speaker, and listened attentively to his description of the robber's midnight visit to the castle.

"Good!" was Herr Bernat's comment, when the count had concluded. "An amnesty shall be granted to Satan Laczi and his crew if they will submit themselves to the Herr Count's military discipline."

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