“She must be saved!”
Maximilian, too, although colder-blooded, and hardened by contact with this debased age, was also stirred to his depths; his face was flushed, and he seized me by the hand. He said:
“I will help you, my friend.”
“But what can we do?” I asked.
“We should see her at once,” he replied, “and, if it is not yet too late, carry her away from that damnable place, that house of hell, and its devilish owner, who preys on innocence and youth. We have one thing in our favor: the Master of the Servants, who bought Estella, is the same person who answered my first message. He belongs, as I told you, to our Brotherhood. He is in my power. He will give us access to the poor girl, and will do whatever is necessary to be done. Come, let us go!”
Those thin, firm lips were more firmly set than ever; the handsome eyes flashed with a fierce light; he hurried for an instant into his secret room.
“Take this magazine pistol,” he said, “and this knife,” handing me a long bowie-knife covered with a handsome, gold-embossed sheath; “we are going into a den of infamy where everything is possible. Never unsheathe that knife until you are compelled to use it, for a scratch from it is certain and instant death; it is charged with the most deadly poison the art of the chemist has been able to produce; the secret is known only to our Brotherhood; the discoverer is an Italian professor, a member of our society.”
Mounting to one of the electrical railroads, we were soon at the house of the Prince. Passing around to the servants’ entrance of the palace, Maximilian sent in his card to the Master of the Servants, who soon appeared, bowing deferentially to my friend. We were ushered into his private room. Maximilian first locked the door; he then examined the room carefully, to see if there was any one hidden behind the tapestry or furniture; for the room, like every part of the palace, was furnished in the most lavish and extravagant style. Satisfied with his search, he turned to Rudolph, as the Master of the Servants was called, and handed him the message he had received, which gave the history of Estella.
“Read it,” he said.
Rudolph read it with a troubled countenance.
“Yes,” he said, “I am familiar with most of the facts here stated, and believe them all to be true. What would you have me do?”
“First,” said Maximilian, “we desire to know if Estella is still in ignorance of the purpose for which she was brought here.”
“Yes,” he replied; “Frederika is jealous of her, as I can see, and has contrived to keep her out of the Prince’s sight. She has no desire to be supplanted by a younger and fairer woman.”
“God be praised for that jealousy,” exclaimed Maximilian. “We must see Estella; can you manage it for us?”