It was while he was oppressed with these gloomy thoughts that his spy and scout suddenly appeared before him. Noah in his ark had not looked more longingly for the dove than had he for his brave Matyas.
“Well, Master Matyas, what news?”
“All sorts, Herr Count.”
“Good or bad?”
“Well, mixed. Both good and bad. I will leave the good till the last. To begin: Poor Satan Laczi was buried yesterday—may God have mercy on his sinful soul! They fired three salvos over his grave, and the primate himself said the prayers for his soul. If Satan Laczi himself could have seen it all, he could hardly have believed that so much honor would be shown to his dead body. Poor Laczi! His last words were a greeting to his kind patron.”
“His life closed well!” observed the count. “He got what he longed for—a soldier’s death. But tell me what you know about Raab.”
“I know all about it. I come from there.”
“Ah, did you see them? Has not the enemy besieged the city?”
“Yes; the city as well as the fortress is in the hands of the enemy, and the baroness and the princess are both in it.”
“Who told you to call her a princess?” demanded Count Vavel, his face darkening.
“I will come to that all in good time,” composedly replied Matyas, who was not to be hurried. “Colonel Pechy,” he went on, “bravely defended the fortress for ten days against the Frenchmen; but he had to yield at last—”
“Where are Katharina and Marie?” impatiently interrupted Vavel. “What became of them when the city capitulated?”
“All in good time, Herr Count, all in good time! I can tell you all about them, for I am just come from them.”
“Were they in any danger?”
“Danger? No, indeed! When the city surrendered they were concealed in a house where they passed as the nieces of the Herr Vice-palatine Goeroemboelyi.”
“Is the vice-palatine with them now?”
“Certainly. He has surrendered, too.”
“Excellent man! Who commands the Frenchmen at Raab?”
“General Guillaume?” excitedly interrupted Vavel.
“Yes, certainly; Guillaume—that is his name. And he is a very polite gentleman. He does not ill-treat the citizens; on the contrary, the very next day after he entered the city he gave a ball in the large hotel, and invited all the distinguished citizens with their wives and daughters. The Herr Count’s dear ones also received an invitation.”
“As the nieces of the vice-palatine, of course?”
“Not exactly! I saw the invitation-card, and it was to ’Madame la Comtesse de Alba, avec la Princesse Marie.’”
“Princess Marie?” echoed Vavel.
“As I tell you; and that is how I come to know she is a princess.”
Vavel’s brain seemed paralyzed. He could not even think.
“The vice-palatine,” nonchalantly continued Matyas, “protested that a mistake had been made; but the French general replied that he knew very well who the ladies were, and that he had received instructions how to treat them. From that day, two French grenadiers began to guard the baroness’s door, day and night, just exactly as if they were standing guard over a potentate.”