When the Marquis d’Avoncourt left the pavilion he was shaking with a violent chill, and as he took his way with tottering steps toward the Nameless Castle, Katharina, broken-hearted and filled with anguish, wept out her heart in bitter tears.
Marie had finished practising her lesson, and hastened to join Katharina in the park. She found her in the pavilion, and was filled with alarm when she saw her “little mama” kneeling among the fragments of her fortune. Katharina’s tear-stained eyes, swollen face, and drawn lips betrayed how terribly she was suffering.
“My dearest little mama!” exclaimed Marie, hastening toward the kneeling woman, and trying to lift her from the floor, “what is the matter? What has happened?”
“Don’t touch me,” moaned the baroness. “Don’t come near me. I am a murderess. I murdered her who called me mother.”
She held the ivory locket toward Marie, and added: “See, this is what she was like when I deserted her—my little daughter Amelie!”
“Your daughter?” repeated Marie, wonderingly. “You have been married? Are you a widow?”
Katharina now held toward the young girl the portrait M. Cambray had given her. “And this,” she explained in a hollow tone, “is what she is like now—now, when I wanted her to come to me.”
“Good heaven!” ejaculated Marie, gazing in terror at the miniature, “she is dead?”
“Yes—murdered—as you, too, will be if you stay with me! You must fly—fly at once!”
“Katharina!” interposed the young girl, “why do you speak so?”
“I say that you must leave me. Go—go at once! Go down to the parsonage, and ask Herr Mercatoris to give you shelter. Tell him to clothe you in rags; and when you hear the tramp of horses, hide yourself, and don’t venture from your concealment until they are gone. I, too, am going away from here.”
“But why may not I come with you?” asked Marie, in a troubled tone.
“Where I go you cannot accompany me. I am going to steal through the lines of Ludwig’s camp.”
“You are going to Ludwig?” interrupted the young girl.
“Yes, to deliver into his hands the casket containing your belongings. After that I—I don’t know what will become of me.”
“Katharina! Don’t frighten me so! Do you imagine that Ludwig will cease to love you when he learns you are a widow, and that you had a daughter?”
“Oh, no; he will not hate me because I had a daughter,” returned Katharina, shaking her head sadly, “but because my wickedness destroyed her.”
“Don’t talk so, Katharina,” again expostulated Marie.
“Why, don’t you see that she is dead? Look at these closed eyes, the white face! Ask these closed lips to open and tell you that I did not murder her!”
“Katharina, this is not true! Your enemies have told you this to grieve you. Look at these two pictures! There is not the least resemblance between them. This pale one is not your daughter. He who told you so lied cruelly.”