“A reply must be sent to this letter, little mother. I shall say to her, through the soul now on the eve of departure to the better land where she dwells: ’Little sister, your mother will wear the pure white garment, as you desired, in mourning for you. Instead of you, she will have me, and will love me, as I shall love her, in your stead. Bless us both, and be happy.’ Shall I not send this message to your Amelie with my good friend Cambray?”
“Go, then; go—go,” convulsively sobbed Katharina, and fell upon her face on the floor as Marie hastened from the pavilion.
When her grief had exhausted itself, Katharina stole back to the manor, where she removed the steel casket from its hiding-place, wrapped it in her shawl, and, passing noiselessly and unseen down a staircase that was rarely used, crossed the park to the farmer’s cottage.
Here she told the farmer’s wife that she was going to play a trick on her betrothed, that she wanted to borrow a gown and a kerchief. She bade the farmer saddle the mule which his wife rode when she went to the village, and to hang the hampers, as usual, from the pommel. In one of these she placed the steel casket, in the other a pistol, and filled them both with all sorts of provisions. Thus disguised, she mounted the quadruped, and set out alone on her way toward the camp.
Almost at the same moment that Ludwig Vavel had learned of the deceit of the woman he loved, he became convinced that his ambitious designs had come to naught. The rising of the German patriots against Napoleon had ended in their defeat, and not a trace was left of the uprising among the French people themselves.
It was the third day after the battle of Aspern when Master Matyas entered Count Vavel’s tent.
The jack of all trades had proved himself a useful member of the army—not, indeed, where there was any fighting, for he much preferred looking on, when a battle was in progress, to taking an active part in the fray. But as a spy he was invaluable.
“I have seen everything,” he announced. “I saw the balloon in which a French engineer made an ascent to the clouds, to reconnoiter the Austrian camp. He went up as high as a kite, and they held on to the rope below, down which he sent his messages—observations of the Austrians’ movements. I saw the bridge, which is two hundred and forty fathoms long, which can be transported from place to place, and reaches from one bank of the Danube to the other. And I saw that demi-god flying on his white horse. He was pale, and trembled.”
“And how came you to see all these sights, Master Matyas?” interrupted Vavel.
“I allowed the Frenchmen to capture me; then I was set to work in the intrenchments with the other prisoners.”
“And did you manage to deliver my letter?”
“Oh, yes. The Philadelphians are easily recognized from the silver arrow they wear in their ears. When I whispered the password to one of them, he gave it back to me, whereupon I handed him your letter. I came away as soon as he brought me the answer. Here it is.”