Then, with a glance at the poor dog—
“Oh! Lieverle, Lieverle!” he cried, “was it to end thus? Come, Fritz, let us go. I cannot stay here. I might do something that I should have to repent of!”
And, laying hold of Fox by the mane, he was going to throw himself into the saddle, but suddenly his feelings of distress overcame all restraint, and bowing his head upon his horse’s neck, he burst into sobs and tears, and wept like a child.
Sperver had gone, bearing the body of poor Lieverle in his cloak. I had declined to follow; my sense of duty kept me by this unhappy woman, and I could not leave her without violence to my own feelings.
Besides, I must confess I was curious to see a little more closely this strange mysterious being, and therefore as soon as Sperver had disappeared in the darkness of the glen I began to climb up to reach the cavern.
There I beheld a strange sight.
Extended upon a large cloak of white fur lay the aged woman in a long and ragged robe of purple, her fingers clutching her breast, a golden arrow through her grey hair.
Never shall I forget the figure of this strange woman; her vulture-like features distorted with the last agonies of death, her eyes set, her gasping mouth, were fearful to look upon. Such might have been the terrible Queen Fredegonde.
The baron, on his knees at her side, was trying to restore her to animation; but I saw at a glance that the wretched creature was dying, and it was not without a profound sense of pity that I took her by the arm.
“Leave madame alone—don’t touch her,” cried the young man with irritation.
“I am a surgeon, monseigneur.”
He looked in silence at me for a moment, then rising, said—
“Pardon me, sir; pray forgive my hasty language.”
He trembled with excitement, scarcely yet subdued, and presently he went on—
“What is your opinion, sir?”
“It is over—she is dead!”
Then, without speaking another word, he sat upon a large stone, with his forehead resting upon his hand and his elbow on his knee, his eyes motionless, as still as a statue.
I sat near the fire, watching the flames rising to the vaulted roof of the cave, and casting lurid reflections upon the rigid features of the corpse.
We had sat there an hour as motionless as statues, each deep in thought, when, suddenly lifting his head, the baron said—
“Sir, all this utterly confounds me. Here is my mother—for twenty-six years I thought I knew her—and now an abyss of horrible mysteries opens before me. You are a doctor; tell me, did you ever know anything so dreadful?”
“Monseigneur,” I replied, “the Count of Nideck is afflicted with a complaint strikingly similar to that from which your mother appears to have suffered. If you feel enough confidence in me to communicate to me the facts which you have yourself observed, I will gladly tell you what I know myself; for perhaps this exchange of our experiences might supply me with the means to save my patient.”