“He who goes on a matrimonial mission must wear a nosegay.” With these words she drew the violets from her corsage, and fastened them in Herr Bernat’s buttonhole.
Hereupon the gallant vice-palatine forgot his ceremonious intentions. He seized the maid’s hand, pressed it against his stiffly waxed mustache, and muttered, with a wary glance toward Count Vavel: “I am sorry this pretty little hand belongs to those messieurs Frenchmen!”
Then he quitted the room, and in descending the stairs had all he could do to transfer without dropping them the coins from his hat to the pockets of his dolman.
Marie skipped, singing joyously, into the dining-room, where the windows faced toward the neighboring manor. She did not ask if she might do so, but flung open the sash, leaned far out, and waved her handkerchief to the vice-palatine, who was driving swiftly across the causeway.
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: