“What? Well, that is an event!” exclaimed the doctor, hurriedly thrusting his arms into the sleeves of his coat. “Is the count with her?”
“No; the groom accompanied her.”
These magic words, “the veiled lady,” had more influence on the doctor than any imaginable number of ducats.
At last he was to behold the mythological appearance—yes, and even hear her voice!
“Show her ladyship into the guest-chamber, and take a lamp in there,” he ordered, following quickly, after he had adjusted his cravat in front of the looking-glass.
Then she stood before him—the mysterious woman. Her face was veiled as usual. Behind her stood the groom, with whose appearance every child in the village was familiar.
“Herr Doctor,” stammered the young girl, so faintly that it was difficult to tell whether it was the voice of a child, a young or an old woman, “I beg that you will come with me at once to the castle; the gentleman is very seriously ill.”
“Certainly; I am delighted!—that is, I am not delighted to hear of the worshipful gentleman’s illness, but glad that I am fortunate enough to be of service to him. I shall be ready in a few moments.”
“Oh, pray make haste.”
“The carriage will take us to the castle in five minutes, your ladyship.”
“But we did not come in a carriage; we walked.”
Only now the doctor noticed that the lady’s gown was thickly spattered with mud.
“What? Came on foot in such weather—all the way from the Nameless Castle? and your ladyship has a carriage and horses?”
“Cannot you come with us on foot, Herr Doctor?”
“I should like very much to accompany your ladyship; but really, I have rheumatismus acutus in my foot, and were I to get wet I should certainly have an ischias.”
Marie lifted her clasped hands in despair to her lips, but the beseeching expression on her face was hidden by the heavy veil. Could the doctor have seen the tearful eyes, the trembling lips!
Seeing that her voiceless petition was in vain, Marie drew from her bosom a silken purse, and emptied the contents, gold, silver, and copper coins, on the table.
“Here,” she exclaimed proudly. “I have much more money like this, and will reward you richly if you will come with me.”
The doctor was amazed. There on the table lay more gold than the whole county could have mustered in these days of paper notes. Truly these people were not to be despised.
“If only it did not rain so heavily—”
“I will let you take my umbrella.”
“Thanks, your ladyship; I have one of my own.”
“Then let us start at once.”
“But my foot—it pains dreadfully.”
“We can easily arrange that. Henry, here, is a very strong man; he will take you on his shoulders, and bring you back from the castle in the carriage.”