Count Vavel stopped the carriage at the park gate, assisted his companion to alight, and sent Henry on to the castle with the horses.
“What have you done?” in a deeply agitated voice exclaimed the baroness, when they were alone in the park.
“I gave expression to the feeling which is in my heart.”
“And do you realize what that has done?”
“What has it done?”
“It has made it impossible for us to meet again—for us ever to speak again to each other.”
“I cannot see it in that light.”
“You could were you to give it but a moment’s serious thought. I do not ask what the mysterious lady at the castle is to you; I know, however, that you must be everything to her. Pray don’t believe me cruel enough to rob her of her whole world. I cannot ask you to believe a lie—I cannot pretend that you are nothing to me. I have allowed you to look too deeply into my heart to deny my feelings. But there is something besides love in my heart! it is pride. I am too proud to take you from the woman to whom you are bound—no matter by what ties. Therefore, we must not meet again in this life; we may meet again in another world! Pray do not come any farther with me; I can easily find the way to my boat. No one at the manor knows of my absence. I must be careful to return as I came—unseen. And now, one request: Do not try to see me again. Should you do so, it will compel me to flee from the neighborhood. Adieu!”
She drew her veil closer over her face, and passed swiftly with noiseless steps through the gateway.
Ludwig Vavel stood where she had left him, and looked after her until she vanished from his sight amid the trees. Then he turned and walked slowly toward the castle.
Count Vavel did not see Marie, after his return from the drive with the baroness, until dinner. He had not ventured into her presence until then, when he fancied he had sufficiently mastered his emotions so that his countenance would not betray him. The consciousness of his disloyalty to the young girl troubled him, and he could not help but tremble when he came into her presence. It was not permitted to him to bestow his heart on any one. Did he not belong, soul and body, to this innocent creature, whom he had sworn to defend with his life?
From that hour, however, Marie’s behavior toward him was changed. He could see that she strove to be attentive and obedient, but she was shy and reserved. Did she suspect the change in him? or could it be possible that she had seen the baroness driving with him? It was very late when her bell signaled that she had retired, and when Ludwig entered the outer room, as usual, he found a number of books lying about on the table. Evidently the young girl had been studying.
The next morning Ludwig came at the usual hour to conduct her to the carriage.