I had gone to the window, and as the Baron Zimmer and his groom mounted on horseback in the middle of the courtyard, in spite of the snow which was filling the air, I saw at the left in a turret, pierced with long Gothic windows, the pale countenance of Odile directed long and anxiously towards the young man.
“Halloo, Fritz! what are you doing?”
“I am only looking at those strangers’ horses.”
“Oh, the Wallachians! I saw them this morning in the stable. They are splendid animals.”
The horsemen galloped away at full speed, and the curtain in the turret-window dropped.
Several uneventful days followed. My life at Nideck was becoming dull and monotonous. Every morning there was the doleful bugle-call of the huntsman, whose occupation was gone; then came a visit to the count; after that breakfast, with Sperver’s interminable speculations upon the Black Plague, the incessant gossiping and chattering of Marie Lagoutte, Maitre Tobias, and all that pack of idle servants, who had nothing to do but eat and drink, smoke, and go to sleep. The only man who had any kind of individual existence was Knapwurst, who sat buried up to the tip of his red nose in old chronicles all the day long, careless of the cold so long as there was anything left to find out in his curious researches.
My weariness of all this may easily be imagined. Ten times had Sperver taken me over the stables and the kennels; the dogs were beginning to know me. I knew by heart all the coarse pleasantries of the major-domo over his bottles and Marie Lagoutte’s invariable replies. Sebalt’s melancholy was infecting me; I would gladly have blown a little on his horn to tell the mountains of my ennui, and my eyes were incessantly directed towards Fribourg.
Still the disorder of Yeri-Hans, lord of Nideck, was taking its usual course, and this gave my only occupation any serious interest. All the particulars which Sperver had made me acquainted with appeared clearly before me; sometimes the count, waking up with a start, would half rise, and supported on his elbow, with neck outstretched and haggard eyes, would mutter, “She is coming, she is coming!”
Then Gideon would shake his head and ascend the signal-tower, but neither right nor left could the Black Plague be discovered.
After long reflection upon this strange malady I had come to the conclusion that the sufferer was insane. The strange influence that the old hag exercised over him, his alternate phases of madness and lucidity, all confirmed me in this view.