“Yes, yes, I know,” returned Katharina. “A good lad, and an honest woman. But tell me, in heaven’s name, where is the maid?”
“The maid—Sophie Botta went with—my wife to Raab—they are there now—and Laczko too.”
How gently the lady bathed the wounded man’s face and hands! How carefully she renewed the bandages on the horrible wounds!
Ludwig Vavel, who hart approached noiselessly, stood and watched her perform the labor of love. He saw, heard, and admired. Then he came close to the kneeling woman, and clasped his arms around her.
“My Katharina! Oh, what a woman art thou!”
When Count Vavel returned from his skirmish with De Fervlans’s demons, he sent his betrothed at once to Raab, with instructions not to separate herself again from Marie.
He had not been able to accompany Katharina on her journey, as he had received marching orders immediately on his return to camp. On parting with his betrothed, however, he had promised to pay a visit to her and Marie at an early day, and to write to both of them daily.
The first part of his promise he had not been able to fulfil; his time was too fully occupied with the duties of the field. But he sent frequent messages to his loved ones; while every day, no matter where he might be, he would be sure to receive his letter from Raab—one sheet covered to the edges with Katharina’s writing, and the other with Marie’s.
Their letters were always cheerful, and filled with hope and confidence for the future. Ludwig fancied he could see the scene as Katharina described it, when Marie had opened the steel casket.
He knew just how delighted the young girl had been when she beheld nothing but ashes instead of the little garments, the documents, the portraits, the bank-notes; and he could hear her joyous laugh on finding herself relieved of the burden of her greatness. But what he could not hear was Katharina reciting his brave exploits during the fierce struggle on the Hansag, a recital Marie insisted on hearing every day.
Then the two, Marie and Katharina, would go every morning to church, to pray for Ludwig, to ask God to protect him, and bring him safely back to them. This was their daily pleasure and consolation.
Then came the bloody days of Karako, Papa, Raab, and Acs. The militia troops took active part in all these battles, and proved themselves valiant warriors.
Vavel with his Volons had been assigned to Mesko’s brigade, and had shared its adventurous march from Abda, around Lake Balaton to Veszprim. Here he found his spy and scout, Master Matyas, awaiting him.
For weeks he had not had a word from his loved ones. When he had sent them to Raab he believed he had selected a secure haven for them, but the course which events had taken proved that he had made a mistake in his calculations. Katharina and Marie were now surrounded on all sides by the enemy.