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The Countess Cosel Part 55

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At last the sky was covered with clouds, and it seemed to promise rain for several days. Zaklika, covered with his long mantle, was continually coming in and going out of the castle, not answering the questions made to him by the sentries, as if telling them that he did not like to talk much. The trials were very successful. One Friday it rained hard from the early morning. When dusk began to fall everything was ready. Cosel gave the servant leave to go to the town.

Covered with a long, military mantle, with a cap pushed over her eyes, Cosel went first to the St. Donat's gate, and no one paid any attention to her; at the second gate the soldiers looked at her, but let her pa.s.s.

A few minutes later Zaklika, dressed in the same manner, pa.s.sed the first gate quickly, in which he did not meet anybody. At the second gate the soldier muttered,--

"How many of you are there?"

Zaklika uncovered his face.



"Devil knows you," said the soldier. "I know only that there came in one, and two go out."

"What are you talking about?"

"I am not blind."

Zaklika paid no attention and moved on. The soldier stopped him.

"But they all know me here," said Zaklika.

"Go to the commandant and explain to him, otherwise I shall not let you out."

They began to quarrel. The corporal came. Zaklika complained to him, and they let him out, and he disappeared in the bushes beyond the park; but the soldier grumbled.

"Why are you angry with him?" asked the corporal.

"When I am at the gate, I must count how many people I let in, and how many out. There entered one clad in a long mantle, and two of them went out. The first looked as if he never was a soldier. Suppose it was the Countess?" added he, laughing.

"You talk nonsense!" said the corporal, with uneasiness. He stopped, thought for a while, and went to the St. John's tower. Here he learned that all the servants had been permitted to go to town.

He rushed up the first flight--the room was dark and empty; on the floor above--n.o.body either. The corporal hastened to the commandant, who rushed out and began to search with the soldiers in the castle.

Time was pa.s.sing by; dusk was already quite thick. There was no doubt that Cosel had escaped! They struck the alarm, and the commandant, dividing his soldiers into several groups, rushed out to chase the fugitive lady.

In the meantime Cosel ran to the horses, which were ready at a certain spot; in her great haste she lost her way. Zaklika reached them, and, not finding the Countess, rushed to seek her, but not daring to call, for the alarm was already given.

He lost much time, but he found her standing under a tree. He seized her by the hand, and conducted her to the horses. Cosel jumped on her horse, and Zaklika was ready too, when the soldiers arrived and surrounded them. Zaklika cried to Cosel to run, he barring the road to the soldiers.

A few shots sounded, and the faithful man, struck by a bullet in the forehead, fell to the ground moaning. At that moment a soldier seized the reins of the Countess's horse. She killed the aggressor on the spot; but there rushed forward another and a third, and she was obliged to surrender.

The commandant arrived when the two cold corpses were already on the b.l.o.o.d.y ground--the third was dying.

"Countess," said he, "look how many lives your fancies of escape cost!"

She answered nothing, but, jumping from her horse, came to the dead Zaklika. She put her pale lips on his forehead, covered with blood. The dead man's hand was lying on his breast, as though it would defend the King's promise of marriage to Cosel that had been entrusted to him. She took it with her.

She was led back to the castle, where she spent long days sitting and reading the Bible. Zaklika was buried at her expense.

"n.o.body would care about my funeral," she said to herself. "Now I am alone in the world. My children do not know me."

In 1733 Augustus died, and the commandant of Stolpen came personally to announce to her the news.

For a long time she stood speechless; then she wrung her hands, and, throwing herself on the floor, began to cry.

Imprisonment, cruelty, wrongs, oblivion, could not take from her womanly heart the love which she had for him. From that moment he was again for her the dear Augustus.

Five days later there came an official from Dresden, sent by the Kurfurst, who was then Augustus III., King of Poland. He asked to be announced to the Countess.

"I am sent to your Excellency," said he, "by our most gracious lord, to announce to you that you are free, and that you may live where you please."

Cosel rubbed her forehead.

"I? Free?" said she. "What do I need freedom for now? The people have become strangers to me, and I am a stranger to them. Where can I go? I have nothing; they have robbed me of everything. You want to make me ridiculous; you wish that those who bowed down to me should now point the finger of scorn at me?"

The official was silent.

"No!" she added. "I do not want freedom; leave me here. I am accustomed to these walls, where I have shed all my tears; I could not live in another place."

So they let her stay in Stolpen, where she outlived Augustus III., and the Seven Years' War.

She died in 1765, being eighty-five years of age. To the end of her life she preserved traces of her great beauty, by which she became so famous.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Maurice Saxe, the famous French general.]

[Footnote 2: This was the name familiarly given to the King, and the popular song, "_Mein Lieber Augustin_," referred to him.]

THE END.

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