“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.”
The little servant, Satan Laczi, junior, interrupted the conversation. He came to announce dinner. Lisette had not needed any instructions. She knew what was expected of her when a visitor happened to be at the castle at meal-times. Besides, she wanted to show the lady from the manor what she could do. Not since the count’s arrival at the Nameless Castle had there been so cheerful a meal as to-day. Marie sparkled with delight; the baroness was wit personified; and the vice-palatine bubbled over with anecdotes. When the roast appeared he raised his glass for a serious toast:
“To our beloved fatherland. Vivat! To our revered king. Vivat! To our adored queen. Vivat!”
Count Vavel promptly responded, as did also the ladies. Then the count refilled the glasses, and, raising his own above his head, cried:
“And now, another vivat to my queen! Long may she reign, and gloriously! And,” he added, with sudden fierceness, “may all who are her enemies perish miserably!”
“Ludwig, for heaven’s sake!” ejaculated Marie, in terror. “Look at Katharina; she is ill.”
And, indeed, the baroness’s lovely face was pallid as that of a corpse. Her eyes were closed; her head had fallen back against her chair.
Ludwig and Marie sprang to her side, the young girl exclaiming reproachfully:
“See how you have terrified her.”
“Don’t be frightened,” returned Ludwig, assuringly; “it is only a passing illness, and will soon be over.”
He had restored the fair woman to consciousness on another occasion; he knew, therefore, what to do now. After a few minutes the baroness opened her eyes again. She forced a smile to her lips, shivered once or twice, then whispered to Ludwig, who was bending over her with a glass of water: