Ludwig explained to her that the large, brilliant circles were extinct craters; the dark blotches, seas. At that time scientists still accepted the theory of oceans on the moon. What interested Marie most of all, however, was the question, “Were there people on the moon?” Ludwig promised to procure for her the fanciful descriptions of a supposed journey made to the moon by some naturalists in the preceding century. Innocent enough reading for a girl of sixteen!
“I wonder what the people are like who live on the moon?”
And Ludwig’s mental reply was: “One of them stands here by your side!”
After a while Marie wearied of the heavenly phenomena, and when the hour came at which she usually went to bed she was overcome by sleep.
In vain Ludwig sought to keep her awake by telling her about the Imbrian Ocean, and relating the wonders of Mount Aristarchus. Marie could not keep from nodding, and several times she caught herself dreaming.
“I shall not wait to see the end of the eclipse,” she said to Ludwig. “It is very pretty and interesting, but I am sleepy.”
She was yet so much a child that she would not have given up her sweet slumbers for an eclipse of all the planets of the universe.
Ludwig accompanied her to the door of her apartments, bade her good night, and returned to the observatory.
Already the disk of the moon was half obscured. Ludwig removed the astronomical eye-piece from the telescope, and inserted the tellurian glass instead; then he turned the object-glass toward the neighboring manor instead of toward the moon. Now, if ever, was the time to find out if his fair neighbor possessed a telescope. If she had one, she would certainly be using it now.
It was sufficiently light to enable him to see quite distinctly the baroness sitting, with two other women, on the veranda. She was observing the eclipse, but with an opera-glass—a magnifier that certainly could not reveal very much.
Of this Count Ludwig might rest satisfied. And yet, in spite of the satisfaction this decision had given him, he continued to observe the disappearance of the moonlight from the veranda of the manor with far more attention than he bestowed upon the gradual darkening of the heavenly luminary itself. Then there happened to the baroness’s companions what had happened to Marie: the women began to nod, whereupon the baroness sent them to bed. There remained now only the count and his fair neighbor to continue the astronomical observations. The lady looked at the moon; the count looked at the lady.
The baroness, as was evident, was thorough in whatever she undertook. She waited for the full obscuration—until the last vestige of moonlight had vanished, and only a strange-looking, dull, copper-hued ball hung in the sky.
The baroness now rose and went into the house. The astronomer on the castle tower observed that she neglected to close the veranda door.