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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Nameless Castle - Part 8. Katharina Or Themire? - Chapter 2
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The Nameless Castle - Part 8. Katharina Or Themire? - Chapter 2 Post by :alfiee Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :3473

Click below to download : The Nameless Castle - Part 8. Katharina Or Themire? - Chapter 2 (Format : PDF)

The Nameless Castle - Part 8. Katharina Or Themire? - Chapter 2

PART VIII. KATHARINA OR THEMIRE?
CHAPTER II

Marie had finished practising her lesson, and hastened to join Katharina in the park. She found her in the pavilion, and was filled with alarm when she saw her "little mama" kneeling among the fragments of her fortune. Katharina's tear-stained eyes, swollen face, and drawn lips betrayed how terribly she was suffering.

"My dearest little mama!" exclaimed Marie, hastening toward the kneeling woman, and trying to lift her from the floor, "what is the matter? What has happened?"

"Don't touch me," moaned the baroness. "Don't come near me. I am a murderess. I murdered her who called me mother."

She held the ivory locket toward Marie, and added: "See, this is what she was like when I deserted her--my little daughter Amelie!"

"Your daughter?" repeated Marie, wonderingly. "You have been married? Are you a widow?"

"I am."

Katharina now held toward the young girl the portrait M. Cambray had given her. "And this," she explained in a hollow tone, "is what she is like now--now, when I wanted her to come to me."

"Good heaven!" ejaculated Marie, gazing in terror at the miniature, "she is dead?"

"Yes--murdered--as you, too, will be if you stay with me! You must fly--fly at once!"

"Katharina!" interposed the young girl, "why do you speak so?"

"I say that you must leave me. Go--go at once! Go down to the parsonage, and ask Herr Mercatoris to give you shelter. Tell him to clothe you in rags; and when you hear the tramp of horses, hide yourself, and don't venture from your concealment until they are gone. I, too, am going away from here."

"But why may not I come with you?" asked Marie, in a troubled tone.

"Where I go you cannot accompany me. I am going to steal through the lines of Ludwig's camp."

"You are going to Ludwig?" interrupted the young girl.

"Yes, to deliver into his hands the casket containing your belongings. After that I--I don't know what will become of me."

"Katharina! Don't frighten me so! Do you imagine that Ludwig will cease to love you when he learns you are a widow, and that you had a daughter?"

"Oh, no; he will not hate me because I had a daughter," returned Katharina, shaking her head sadly, "but because my wickedness destroyed her."

"Don't talk so, Katharina," again expostulated Marie.

"Why, don't you see that she is dead? Look at these closed eyes, the white face! Ask these closed lips to open and tell you that I did not murder her!"

"Katharina, this is not true! Your enemies have told you this to grieve you. Look at these two pictures! There is not the least resemblance between them. This pale one is not your daughter. He who told you so lied cruelly."

Katharina sighed mournfully.

"He who told me so does not lie. It was your old friend Cambray."

"Cambray?" echoed Marie, with mingled delight and astonishment. "Cambray is here? My deliverer, my second father! Where is he?"

"He is gone. He accomplished that for which he came,--to crush me to the earth, and to serve you,--and has gone away again."

"Gone away?" repeated Marie, incredulously. "Gone away? Impossible! Cambray would not go away without seeing me! Which way did he go? I will run after him and overtake him."

"No; stay where you are!" commanded Katharina, seizing her arm. "You must not follow him."

"Why not?"

"Listen, and I will tell you. Cambray brought these pictures and this letter from Paris. The letter was written by my daughter in the hospital, where she caught the dreadful disease which caused her death. She had been nursing the sick, like a heroine, and died like a saint. It is well with her now, for she is in heaven. If I weep, it is not for her, but for myself. The deadly disease Amelie died of has seized upon your friend Cambray; and the noble old man is unselfish even in dying. He does not want you to come near him, lest you, too, become affected by the pestilence. He is gone to the Nameless Castle, where Lisette will take care of him--"

"Lisette?" interrupted Marie, excitedly. "Lisette, who was afraid to go near her own husband when he lay dying!"

"Well, what would you? Shall I send some one to nurse him?"

"No--no. _I am the one to take care of him! He was a father to me. For my sake he was imprisoned, persecuted, buried alive all these years! And I am to let him die over yonder--alone, without a friend near him! No; I am going to him. That which your other daughter had the courage to do, this one also will do!"

"Marie! Think of Ludwig! Do you wish to drive him to despair?"

"God watches over us. He will do what is well for all of us!"

"Marie"--Katharina made a last effort to detain the young girl--"Marie, do you wish to go to Cambray to learn from him that I am the curse-laden creature who was sent after you to capture you and deliver you into the hands of your enemies?"

Marie turned at these desperate words, held out her hand, and said gently:

"And if he were to tell me that, Katharina, I should say to him that, instead of destroying me you liberated me, and instead of hating me you love me as I love you."

She made as if she would kiss Katharina; but the excited woman turned away her face, and held toward Marie the letter Cambray had given her.

"Read this, and learn to know me as I am," she said in a choking voice.

While Marie was reading the letter, Katharina covered her burning face with both hands; but they were gently drawn away and held in the young girl's warm clasp, while she spoke:

"A reply must be sent to this letter, little mother. I shall say to her, through the soul now on the eve of departure to the better land where she dwells: 'Little sister, your mother will wear the pure white garment, as you desired, in mourning for you. Instead of you, she will have me, and will love me, as I shall love her, in your stead. Bless us both, and be happy.' Shall I not send this message to your Amelie with my good friend Cambray?"

"Go, then; go--go," convulsively sobbed Katharina, and fell upon her face on the floor as Marie hastened from the pavilion.

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PART VIII. KATHARINA OR THEMIRE? CHAPTER IIt was a delightful May evening. Marie was practising diligently her piano lesson, in order to surprise Ludwig with her progress when he should return from the war. That he would return Marie was quite certain. Katharina had gone into the park for a solitary promenade. She had complained all day of a headache--a headache that began to trouble her after she had read the letter she had received that morning from the Marquis de Fervlans. She held the letter in her hand now, and read it again for the hundredth time. Yes, she had
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