“No, indeed! Ludwig would hear the sound of wheels, and know what we were doing. Then he would jump out of bed, run into the court, and take a cold that would certainly be his death. No; we must go on foot, as noiselessly as possible. It is not so very far to the village. Go now, and fetch the lantern.”
Several minutes afterward, the gates of the Nameless Castle opened, and there came forth a veiled lady, who clung with one hand to the arm of a tall man, and carried a lantern in the other. Her companion held over her, to protect her from the pouring rain, a large red umbrella, and steadied his steps in the slippery mud with a stout walking-stick. The lady walked so rapidly that her companion with difficulty kept pace with her.
Dr. Tromfszky had just returned from a visum repertum in a criminal case, and had concluded that he would go to bed so soon as he had finished his supper. The rain fell in torrents on the roof, and rushed through the gutters with a roaring noise.
“Now just let any one send again for me this night!” he exclaimed, when his housekeeper came to remove the remnants of cheese from the supper-table. “I would n’t go—not if the primate himself got a fish-bone fast in his throat; no, not for a hundred ducats. I swear it!”
At that moment there came a knock at the street door, and a very peremptory one, too.
“There! did n’t I know some one would take it into his head to let the devil fetch him to-night? Go to the door, Zsuzsa, and tell them that I have a pain in my foot—that I have just applied a poultice, and can’t walk.”
Frau Zsuzsa, with the kitchen lamp in her hand, waddled into the corridor. After inquiring the second time through the door, “Who is it?” and the one outside had answered: “It is I,” she became convinced, from the musical feminine tone, that it was not the notorious robber, Satan Laczi, who was seeking admittance.
Then she opened the door a few inches, and said:
“The Herr Doctor can’t go out any more to-night; he has gone to bed, and is poulticing his foot.”
The door was open wide enough to admit a delicate feminine hand, which pressed into the housekeeper’s palm a little heap of money. By the light of the lamp Frau Zsuzsa recognized the shining silver coins, and the door was opened its full width.
When she saw before her the veiled lady she became quite complaisant. Curiosity is a powerful lever.
“I humbly beg your ladyship to enter.”
“Please tell the doctor the lady from the Nameless Castle wishes to see him.”
Frau Zsuzsa placed the lamp on the kitchen table, and left the visitors standing in the middle of the floor.
“Well, what were you talking about so long out yonder?” demanded the doctor, when she burst into his study.
“Make haste and put on your coat again; the veiled lady from the Nameless Castle is here.”