There was still another hindrance. The fire in the morass had alarmed the entire neighborhood, and the inhabitants were out, to a man, fighting the flames which threatened their meadows. Therefore De Fervlans, who wished to avoid attracting attention to his troop, was obliged to make his way through thickets and over rough byways, which was very tedious work.
It was noon when they arrived at the bridge which crossed the Raab half a mile from Pomogy. At the farther end of this bridge was the custom-house, which was also a public inn.
“We must rest there,” said De Fervlans, “or our worn-out beasts will drop under us.”
Just as the troop rode on to the bridge, two men ran swiftly from the custom-house toward the swampy lowland. Before they entered the marsh they stopped, and bound long wooden stilts to their feet; and, thus equipped, stepped without difficulty from one earth-clod to another. No horseman could have followed them across the treacherous ground. De Fervlans’s adjutant became uneasy when he saw these two men, whose actions seemed suspicious to him; but the marquis assured him that they were only shepherds whose herds pastured in the marshes.
The troop dismounted at the inn, and demanded of the host whatever he had of victuals and drinks. He could offer them nothing better than sour cider, mead, and wild ducks’ eggs. But when a demon is hungry and thirsty, even these will satisfy him. De Fervlans, who had not for one instant doubted that his expedition would be successful, spread out his map and planned their further march. General Guillaume would have received one of his letters at least,—he had sent two, with two different couriers in different directions,—and would now be waiting at Friedberg for the arrival of the demons and their distinguished captive. Therefore the most direct route to that point must be selected. It was not likely that any militia troops would be idling about that cart of the country; and if there were, the demons could very easily manage them.
One of the two men who crossed the morass on stilts was Master Matyas, whose distance marches during this campaign were something phenomenal. Matyas found Count Vavel with his troop already at Eszterhaza, and apprized him at once of De Fervlans’s arrival at the bridge-inn. The Volons had not yet rested, but they had traveled over passable roads, and were not so exhausted. Their leader at once gave orders to mount.
When Ludwig saw that Katharina also prepared to accompany the troop, he hurried to her side.
“Don’t come any farther, Katharina,” he begged. “Remain here, where you will be perfectly safe. Something might happen to you when we meet the enemy.”
Katharina’s smiling reply was:
“No, my dear friend. I have paid a very high entrance-fee to see this tragedy, for that you will kill Barthelmy Fervlans I am as certain as that there is a just God in heaven!”