“Why do you come here? Has the Lord forsaken you over yonder, that you come back to this pest-house? Get out of it as quickly as you can. Go down and hide yourself in the Schmidt’s cottage—perhaps they will not betray you. Anyway, you can’t stop here with us.”
“That is just what I mean to do, Lisette,—stop here with you,” smilingly responded Marie. “Where is my friend Cambray?”
“How should I know where he is? A pretty question to ask me! He is n’t anywhere. He has gone to bed, and you can’t see him.”
“I shall hunt till I find him, Lisette.”
“Well, you will do as you like, of course; but you will not find M. Cambray, for he does n’t want to see you.”
“Very well,” returned Marie. Then to the lad by her side, “Come with me, Laczko; we will hunt for the gentleman.”
Lisette was beside herself with terror at the danger which threatened Marie; but before she could utter another word, the young girl and her little escort had disappeared down the corridor.
There was a great change everywhere in the castle. The floors were covered with muddy foot-tracks; huge nails had been driven into the varnished walls, and great heaps of dust, straw, and hay lay about on the inlaid floors of the halls and salon. Marie hardly recognized her former immaculate asylum.
She called, with her clear, soft-toned voice, into every room, “Cambray! father! art thou here?” but received no reply.
Then she mounted the staircase to her own apartment. The door was open like all the rest, but a first glance told Marie that the room had not been used until now. Lisette, beyond a doubt, had lodged her respected guest in this only habitable chamber.
Marie entered and looked about her. The metal screen was down!
She hastened toward it. There was a light burning in the alcove, and she could see through the links by placing her eyes close to them. The noble old knight was lying on the bare floor, with his hands forming a pillow for his head. His glassy eyes were fixed and staring, and burning with a startling brightness. His parched lips were half-open, as if he were speaking.
“Cambray! father!” called Marie; in a tone of distress.
“Who calls? Marie?” gasped the fever-stricken man, making a vain attempt to rise. He fell back with a deep groan, but flung out his hand as if to ward off her approach.
“Let me come in, Cambray. It is I, your little Marie. Please let me come in. There, close to your right hand, is a button in the floor. Press it, and this screen will rise.”
The sick man began to laugh; only his face showed that he was laughing, no sound came from his parched throat. He was laughing because he had prevented his favorite from coming to his pestilential resting-place.
Marie deliberated a moment, then decided to resort to stratagem:
“If you will not let me come in to you, papa Cambray,” she called, simulating a petulant tone, “I shall go away, and not come back again. If you should want anything there will be a little boy here, outside; you can summon him by pressing that button. Good night, dear papa Cambray!”