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to preserve your life; I swear by all a mother's love he shall be yours ! ”
“Oh mother, mother," murmured Ida through her sobs, “ you are too late ; they have killed him!” Madame Dallheimer was not so entirely covered by the hard crust of the world as not to be greatly shocked at this announcement; and even when the circumstances were explained, and she knew her daughter was in all probability premature, she was so little accustomed to depend on accident or romance in her calculations, that she gave up, not without tears, the unfortunate young man for lost; and then turned her thoughts towards the task of consoling Ida for a calamity that could not be avoided.
The incident had rather a beneficial effect than otherwise on Ida's mind; her tears relieved her, and she took advantage of the comparative calm to consider still more closely the circumstances of his situation.
It was evident that as yet her lover was safe, or the news of the catastrophe would have reached her ere now, the distance being so inconsiderable. She was assured that everything was in progress that could be done for the advantage of the prisoner : but what was done for her own? Suppose the worst to happen, which was nothing more than the probability, what could console her for her present inactivity? If Carl was indeed doomed to die, was he to die without a friend near him to whisper a parting blessing in his ear? But again, if the plans of Schinderhannes failed, was it not time that her's should commence? Was she to see him led out to the block without an effort to save him ? Ida knew not what she would do- but she would do something. She would at least be on the spot to hear what was going on. If not admitted
into the prison, she would at all events make one of the crowd who feasted their eyes on the execution : she would wave her hand and scream forth his name till he heard her; and his last word, and last thought, and last look would be hers.
The difficulty was how to escape from her mother, and from the farm. Liese had not returned, and was not expected that day; and without her express permission, she knew that she could not wander above a hundred yards from the house. At dark, moreover, the outer doors of the building were surrounded, and could not be passed without an order.
The window of the dressing-closet opened upon a court, the walls of which appeared so ruinous, that she calculated on easily getting over them, if she could once effect her descent. The window, however, was a considerable distance from the ground, and the feat, if ventured
upon at all, must be attempted in the evening twilight. But having resolved to make her escape, and find her way to Birkenfeld, everything else seemed easy; and, with wonderful serenity, she set about manufacturing a rope out of a sheet to assist her descent.
The mother, whose restless thoughts had been left so long to feed upon themselves, that, like the Kilkenny cats, they appeared to have eaten one another up, was by this time wearied even to death of her captivity. She went to bed almost every day immediately after dinner; and Ida hoped that she would thus be able to steal to her enterprise without observation.
When the fateful moment came, however, a feeling almost resembling remorse, mingled with her generous enthusiasm. Her mother lay tranquilly on the bed, which in all probability she was henceforward to occupy alone; and Ida on some slight pretence drew near, and laid
upon the further pillow a note, containing some incoherent lines of explanation.
“ You are almost asleep, mother,” said she: “give me the kiss of goodnight !"
" It is not time-but there--"
“ And will you not bless me too ? Indeed, I need it!”
“ God bless my child !” There was a fervour in Madame Dallheimer's manner while she spokecaught no doubt from the tone in which the request had been made—which sent a thrill through the heart of Ida. She had felt a weakness gathering about her eyes; and but for this would perhaps have wept an adieu: as it was she turned away in a kind of awe, and when she had shut herself up in the closet, fell apon her knees, and prayed fervently. Then feeling calmed and strengthened by the exercise, she fastened the rope to a chest of drawers, which she had removed near the window; and throwing open the sash, and grasping her intended ladder firmly, she began her descent.
Her fingers were weaker, or her body heavier than she imagined ; for she had scarcely sunk beneath the window, when the rope spun through her hands and she came to the ground with a heavy fall. The circumstance, for a little while, confused her perceptions; and, with no distinct knowledge of the direction, she groped her way hastily through the ruins. On arriving at the wall it was far too entire and too lofty to be scaled ; and in wandering along in search of an opening, or at least of some breaks that might serve for her feet, so much time was lost that it was almost
dark. Still Ida would not despair, and at length her efforts were crowned with success. She was on the outer side of the buildings.
How to find the road was the next question ; for she was at present on quite a different side of the farm than the one she had proposed to herself for her descent on setting out. Even in this, however, she was fortunate. Stretching at random across the fields, in a very few minutes she found the road, or at least a road, and, tempted to believe herself guided by Providence in the adventure, she pursued the track with confidence.
The difficulties of the journey, so far, being now surmounted, Ida had time to be terrified. The nearest village was at a considerable distance, and the night threatened to become pitch dark. It was the very
hour when evil spirits, whether corporeal or incorporeal, walked the earth. She grew more nervous every moment; she started at every sound; and at length, as the tramp of horses in the distance met her ear, she sprang aside from the road, and hid herself behind a tree.
The sound approached with great rapidity, and resembled to Ida's ear the tramp of a body of cavalry. The horsemen at last came in sight, moving dimly in the gloom like shadows; and when they neared the place of her concealment, impelled by a fever of curiosity, she thrust her head between the branches, and gazed at them as they passed.
The first person she recognised was Peter Schwarz, the next Wolfenstein, and the next Carl Benzel. The party consisted of about twenty men, riding silently and sternly along ; and from the heads and limbs of some of them being bound up with handkerchiefs, it
was evident that they had just been engaged in some bloody fray.
Ida neither screamed nor fainted ; she pursued the apparition when it swept past her with her eyes, and then regaining the road, followed in its track. Carl Benzel then was at freedom !
There mingled not a touch of joy in this exclamation of her soul. In vain she tried to feel happy.
6. He is free !” said she aloud, “ he is free!” A voice answered within
“ How ? ” and her heart grew sick and faint.
His deliverance had been effected by the band of Schinderhannes. The condition was then performed, the compact sealed. What condition ? What compact ? Why was he there riding among the foremost in a troop of banditti? Why did he not make use of his recovered liberty to proceed to Mayence; and if molested on the way, throw himself upon the justice and common-sense of the authorities ? Was it to see her he endured such society ? Even this did not satisfy her. Her heart was heavy, and only images of gloom and terror could find a place in her thoughts.
When she reached the farm she went boldly up to the principal entrance, and knocked loudly. There was
She knocked again, beat at the door with a stone, screamed, still no answer. Ida pressed her hand on her brow, and inquired whether she was not in a dream.
What was to be done ? She went round to the stable door and listened. The horsemen had arrived, for she heard the painful panting of the steeds ; yet not a single individual had remained to attend them. She at length determined to find, if possible, the part of the wall by which she had escaped, and so re-enter the