“What?” exclaimed Vavel, in amazement, flinging his carbine on the ground. “Cambray—d’Avoncourt—here?”
“Yes; he is at the Nameless Castle, and Marie is with him.”
“After all, there is a God in heaven!” with deep-toned thankfulness ejaculated Ludwig. Then he added: “Oh, Katharina, how I have suffered because of—Themire!”
“Themire is dead!” solemnly returned the baroness. “Let us not speak of her. Here, take these treasures into your own keeping; they are no longer safe with me. Open the casket and convince yourself that everything is there.”
“I cannot open it; I have not got the key.”
“Have you lost your ring?”
“No. I have trusted the most notorious thief in the country with it. I have sent him with the ring to Marie. I bade him show it to her, and tell her that she was to follow him wherever he might lead her. Satan Laczi has the ring.”
Katharina covered her eyes with her hand, and stood with drooping head before her lover.
“I have deserved this,” she murmured brokenly.
Vavel passed his hand over his face, and sighed. “It was all a dream! It was madness to expect impossibilities,” he murmured. “I am familiar enough with the stars to have known that there are constellations which never descend to the horizon. The ‘Crown’ is one of them! Of what use are these rags now?” he exclaimed, with sudden vehemence, pointing to the casket, which Katharina still held on her arm. “Whom can they serve? They have brought only sorrow to him who has guarded them, and to her to whom they belong. I cannot open the casket; but I need not do that to destroy the contents. Pray throw it into the fire yonder.”
Katharina obeyed without an instant’s hesitation. After a while the metal casket began to glow in the midst of the flames. It became red, then a pale rose-color, while a thin cord of vapor trailed through the keyhole.
“The little garments are burning,” whispered Vavel, “and the documents, and the portraits, and the heap of worthless money. From to-day,” he added, in a louder tone, “I begin to learn what it is to be a poor man.”
“I have already learned what poverty means,” said Katharina. “Look at these clothes! I have no others, and even these are borrowed.”
“I love you in them,” involuntarily exclaimed Vavel, extending his hand toward her.
“What? You offer me your hand? Do you believe that I am Katharina—only Katharina?”
“That I may wholly and entirely believe that you are Katharina, and not Themire, answer one question. A creature who calls himself the Marquis de Fervlans and Leon Barthelmy is lying in ambush somewhere in this neighborhood, waiting for you to settle an old account with him. If you are the same to me that you once were, and if I am the same to you that I was once, tell me where I shall find De Fervlans, for it will be my duty then to settle with him.”