“I don’t need any water. We were going to drink a toast; wine is required for that ceremony.”
She extended her trembling hand, clasped the stem of her glass, and, raising it, continued: “I drink to your toast, Count Vavel! And here is to my dear little daughter, my good little Marie. May God preserve her from all harm!”
“You may safely drink to Ludwig’s toast,” gaily assented Marie, “safely wish that the enemies of your Marie may ‘perish miserably,’ for she has no enemies.”
“No; she has no enemies,” repeated the baroness in a low tone, as she pressed the young girl closely to her breast.
A few minutes later, when Katharina had regained her usual self-command, she said:
“Marie, my dear little daughter, I know that our friend Ludwig is eager to discuss war plans with his emissary. Let us, therefore, give him the opportunity to do so, while we make our plans for quite a different sort of war!”
“What!” jestingly exclaimed Count Vavel, “my lovely betrothed speaks thus of her preparations for our wedding?”
“The task is not so easy as you imagine,” retorted Katharina. “There will be a great deal to do, and I mean to take Marie with me.”
“Certainly; is she not my daughter? But seriously, Ludwig, Marie must not remain here if the recruiting-flag is to wave from the tower, and if the castle is to be open to every notorious bully in the county. You gentlemen may attend to your recruits here, while Marie and I, over at the manor, arrange a fitting ensign for your company. Before we bid adieu to the castle, however, we must pay a visit to the cook. If her mistress leaves here I fancy she will not want to stop.”
“Lisette was very fond of me once,” observed Marie; “and there was a time when she did everything for me.”
“Then she must come with us to the manor to a well-deserved rest. I can send one of my servants over here to attend to the wants of the gentlemen.”
The two ladies now took leave of Count Vavel and his visitor. Marie led the way to her own apartments, where she introduced the cats and dogs to Katharina. Then she drew her into the alcove, and secretly pulled the cord at the head of the bed.
“Now you are my prisoner,” she said to the baroness, who was looking about her in a startled manner. “Were I your enemy—your rival—I should not need to do anything to gratify my enmity but refuse to reveal the secret of this screen, and you would have to die here alone with me.”
“Good heavens, Marie! How can you frighten me so?” exclaimed Katharina, in alarm.
“Ha, ha!” merrily laughed the young girl, “then I have really frightened you? But don’t be alarmed; directly some one will come who will not let you ‘perish miserably.’”
The baroness’s face grew suddenly pallid; but she quickly recovered herself as Count Vavel came hastily into the outer room.