“I want to tell you about the missive, Sir Karl,” she whispered, laughing and shrugging her shoulders in great glee. “Mother returned it to the box, and when I left you I hurried back and haunted the room, fearing that some one might meddle with the parchment. Near the hour of six o’clock father entered. I was sitting on the divan, and he sat down in his great chair, of course taking no notice of me—I am too insignificant for so great a person to notice, except when he is compelled to do so. I was joyful in my heart, but I conjured up all my troubles that I might make myself weep. I feared to show any change in myself, so I sobbed aloud now and then, and soon father turned angrily toward me. ‘Are you still there?’ he asked. ‘Yes, father,’ I answered, as if trying to stifle my sobs. ’Are you really going to send that cruel letter to King Louis?’”
“Cruel, indeed,” I interrupted.
“Ah, yes! Well, father made no reply, and I went over to him and began to plead. I should have wanted to cut my tongue out had I succeeded, but I had little fear. Father is not easily touched by another’s suffering, and my tears only hardened his heart. Well, of course, he repulsed me; and soon a page announced Byron the herald and the Bishop of Cambrai. Father took the packet from the iron box, and put his fingers in the pouch, as if he were going to take out the letter. He hesitated, and during that moment of halting I was by turns cold as ice and hot as fire. Finally his resolution took form, and he drew out the missive. I thought I should die then and there, when he began to look it over. But after a careless glance he put it back in the pouch, and threw it on the table in front of the bishop. I could hardly keep from shouting for joy. He had failed to see the alteration, and in case of its discovery, he might now be his own witness against King Louis, should that crafty monarch dare to alter my father’s missive by so much as the crossing of a ‘t’. If father hereafter discovers anything wrong in the letter, he will be able to swear that King Louis was the evil doer, since father himself put the letter in the pouch with his own hands. Father will never suspect that a friend came to me out of far-away Styria to commit this crime.”
“I rejoice that I came,” I said.
“And I,” she answered. “I feared the bishop would read the letter, but he did not. He tied the ribbon, softened the lead wafer over the lamp flame, and placed it on the bow-knot; then he stamped it with father’s small seal. When it was finished I did not want to laugh for joy—when one is very happy one wants to weep. That I could safely do, and I did. The bishop handed the letter to Byron, and father spoke commandingly: ’Deliver the missive to the French king before you sleep or eat, unless he has left Paris. If he has gone to Tours, follow him and loiter not.’ ‘And if he is not in Tours, Your Grace?’ asked Byron. ’Follow him till you find him,’ answered father, ‘if you must cross the seas.’ ’Shall I do all this without eating or sleeping?’ asked Byron. Father rose angrily, and Byron said: ’If Your Grace will watch from the donjon battlements, in five minutes you will see me riding on your mission. When Your Grace sees me riding back, it will be, I fear, the ghost of Byron.’