“Very well. You will engage a post-chaise here, and follow us to Frauenkirchen, where you will wait for further orders. What time did you leave Fertoeszeg?”
“Listen. I suspect that your mistress will try to escape with the maid. If that is the case, we must bestir ourselves. But women are afraid to travel by night; and even if they have already left the manor, they cannot have gone very far. The water in the Danube was unusually high on the day of the battle at Aspern; that would cause the Raab to rise, and overflow the bridges crossing it. I shall doubtless overtake the fugitives at Vitnyed.”
“It will be rather risky crossing the Hansag at night,” observed Jocrisse, “and no amount of money would induce one of these natives about here to act as guide. They are a peculiar folk.”
“Yes; but I shall not need a guide. I have an excellent map of the neighborhood, which I used when I was in garrison here. I used to hunt all over this region after wild boars and turkeys, and never had any difficulty finding my way, even at night.”
De Fervlans now sent orders to his troop to break camp at once, with as little stir as possible; and before twilight shadows fell upon the land, the demons were riding toward the Hansag.
If we assume that Marie left the Nameless Castle in company with the wife of Satan Laczi at midnight, we can easily see that she would have but a few hours’ advantage of the demons, who broke camp at sunset. If the latter met with no hindrance on their way, they would overtake the coach of the fugitives at the crossing of the Raab. As it was after midnight when Ludwig Vavel learned of the danger which threatened Marie, he could not, even if he had set out at once, have reached the Hansag before noon of the following day, by which time De Fervlans and his demons would have accomplished their errand. Therefore nothing short of a miracle could save the maid.
The miracle happened—a true miracle, like the one of the biblical legend, when the Red Sea obstructed the way of the persecutor Pharaoh.
Those who may doubt this assertion are referred to the “Monograph on Lake Neusiedl,” in which may be read a description of the phenomenon. In the last years Lake Neusiedl had been drained, and where it had joined the lakes of the Hansag, a stout dam had been built. When the waters of the Hansag chain rose, the muddy undercurrent threw up great mounds of earth, like enormous excrescences on a diseased body. One of these huge mounds burst open at the top and emitted a black, slimy mud that inundated the surrounding morass for a considerable distance.