“Both, if possible; the maid in any case. But you must be sure that she is alone when you approach her. Then say merely the name ‘Sophie Botta,’ and she will listen quietly to what you have to say. Then show her this ring,—here, put it on your left thumb”—he drew the steel ring from his own thumb and slipped it on to Satan Laczi’s,—“and say, ’The person who wears this ring sent me to fetch you away from here. You are to come with me at once.’”
“And where am I to take her?”
“You will have a carriage with four swift horses at the park gate nearest the cemetery, and must drive with the maid to Raab.—Don’t stop on any account until you get there. In Raab you will inquire for the house of Dr. Tromfszky, who is our army physician. He will have been advised of your coming, and will take charge of the maid. Then you will return to me here, and report what you have done. Here is a passport; if you are stopped at our lines show it to the guard. And here is a purse; don’t spare the contents. And do not speak to a living soul about your mission.”
“Your orders shall be obeyed,” responded Satan Laczi, as he turned to leave the tent.
Vavel did not go back to the officers’ tent. He went out into the night, and stood with folded arms, gazing with unseeing eyes into the darkness.
KATHARINA OR THEMIRE?
It 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 accomplished her mission successfully; the fugitive maid and the important documents were in her possession; and yet her trembling hand refused to grasp the promised reward. A fortune awaited her for the comedy she had played with such success—a comedy in which she had acted the part of the charitable lady of the manor.
And what if there had been something of reality in the farce? Suppose her heart had learned to thrill with emotions hitherto unknown to it? Suppose it had learned to know the true meaning of gratitude—of love?
But five millions of francs!
If she were alone in the world! But there was Amelie, her dear little daughter, who was now almost fifteen years old—almost a young lady. Should she leave Amelie in her present disagreeable position, a member of “Cythera’s Brigade,” or should she send for her, and confess to the man whose respect she desired to retain that the child was her daughter, and that she was a widow? Could she tell him what she had once been? Would he continue to respect, to love her?