“His deeds certainly proclaim him as such, your ladyship.”
“How do you explain the mystery of the veiled lady?”
“I cannot explain it, your ladyship; she is never mentioned in our correspondence.”
“She may be a prisoner, detained at the castle by force.”
“That cannot be; for she has a hundred opportunities to escape, or to ask for help.”
Here the surveyor managed to express his belief that the reason the lady wore a veil was because of the repulsiveness of her face.
At this, a voice that had not yet been heard said, at the lower end of the table:
“But the lady is one the most beautiful creatures I ever saw—and quite young.”
Every eye was turned toward the speaker.
“What? Audiat? How dares he say such a thing?” demanded the vice-palatine.
“Because I have seen her.”
“You have seen her? When did you see her? Where did you see her—her whom no one yet has seen?”
“When I was returning from college last year, per pedes apostolorum, for my money had given out, and my knapsack was empty. I was picking hazelnuts from the bushes in the park of the Nameless Castle, when I heard a window open. I looked up, and saw in the open sash a face the like of which I have never seen, even in a picture.”
“Ah!” ejaculated the baroness. “Tell us what is she like. Come nearer to me.”
The clerk, however, was too bashful to leave his place, whereupon the baroness rose and took a seat by his side.
“She has long, curling black hair,” he went on. “Her face is fair as a lily and red as a rose, her brow pure and high, with no sign of the branding-iron. Her mouth is small and delicate. Indeed, her entire appearance that day was like that of an angel looking down from heaven.”
“Is she a maid or a married woman?” inquired one of the company.
A maid, in those days, was very easily distinguished from her married sister. The latter was never seen without a cap.
“A young girl not more than fifteen, I should say,” was the reply. “A cap would not suit her face.”
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Bernat bacsi. “And this enchanting fairy opened the window to show her lovely face to Audiat!”
“No; she did not open the window on my account,” retorted the young man, “but for the beasts that were luckier than I—for four cats that were playing in the gutter of the roof; a white one, a black one, a yellow one, and a gray one; and all of them scampered toward her when they heard her call.”
“The cats are her only companions—that much we know from the servants,” affirmed the justice.
The laurels which his clerk had won made the vice-palatine jealous.
“Audiat,” he said, in a reproving tone, “you ought to learn that a young person should speak only when spoken to; indeed,—as the learned Professor Hatvani says,—even then it is not necessary to answer all questions.”