This brochure had a twofold effect upon the count. He became convinced that the monster which had frightened Marie was not an assassin hired by her enemies, not an expert diver, but a natural abnormity that had acted innocently when he pursued the swimming maid. Second, the count could not help but reproach himself when he remembered that he would have destroyed the irresponsible creature whom his neighbor was endeavoring to transform again into a human being.
How much nobler was this woman’s heart than his own! His fair neighbor began to interest him.
He took the pamphlet to Marie, who shuddered when her eyes fell on the engraving.
“The creature is really a harmless human being, Marie, and I am sorry we became so excited over it. Our neighbor, the lovely baroness, is trying to restore the poor lad to his original condition. Next summer you will not need to be afraid to venture into the lake again.”
The little maid gazed thoughtfully into Ludwig’s eyes for several moments; evidently she was pondering over something.
There had risen in her mind a suspicion that Ludwig himself had written the pamphlet, and had had the monster’s portrait engraved, in order to quiet her fears and restore her confidence in the water.
“Will you take me sometime to visit the baroness?” she asked suddenly.
“And why?” inquired Ludwig, in turn, rising from his seat.
“That I, too, may see the wonderful improvement in the monster.”
“No,” he returned shortly, and taking up the pamphlet, he quitted the room. “No!”
“But why ’No’?”
Count Vavel (thus he was addressed on his letters) had arranged an observatory in the tower of the Nameless Castle. Here was his telescope, by the aid of which he viewed the heavens by night, and by day observed the doings of his fellow-men. He noticed everything that went on about him. He peered into the neighboring farm-yards and cottages, was a spectator of the community’s disputes as well as its diversions. Of late, the chief object of his telescopic observations during the day were the doings at the neighboring manor. He was the “Lion-head” and the “Council of Ten” in one person. The question was, whether the new mistress of the manor, the unmarried baroness, should “cross the Bridge of Sighs”? His telescope told him that this woman was young and very fair; and it told him also that she lived a very secluded life. She never went beyond the village, nor did she receive any visitors.
In the neighborhood of Neusiedl Lake one village was joined to another, and these were populated by pleasure-loving and sociable families of distinction. It was therefore a difficult matter for the well-born man or woman who took up a residence in the neighborhood to avoid the jovial sociability which reigned in those aristocratic circles.