Tuesday, May 20, 1650
The carriage flies at a dangerous speed over the road south from Langenthal towards Bern, driven by the master guardsman Hengist. The carriage has four seats and is remarkably plush - the Prefect risks losing an investment if the carriage overturns and is broken, but Hengist drives without much concern for the Prefect's pocketbook. Beside him is Wenzel, holding on for dear life, and Andrej and Delfig in the back two seats. Both characters are exhausted. 'Forced march' rules are in effect, as they have been steadily moving and acting for more than 14 hours now.
Wenzel calls out the road markers as the carriage passes - it is too dark to see them, but Wenzel knows them by sight. It is ten miles to Burgdorf, and another fifteen after that to Bern; a few rough calculations suggests that if the carriage left Langenthal at about 3 p.m., and travelled at four miles per hour, it should have reached Bern at 9 p.m., just as the Prefect suggested. Possibly later, if there were delays. Delfig and Andrej have left Langenthal at 9:45 p.m., and are making between five and six miles an hour. At midnight, Burgdorf is a mile back of you.
It is the night of the new moon (the exact night, as it happens), and the land is pitch black to your eyes. Hengist calls out that he knows the road less well south of Burgdorf, and that in the darkness he must slow somewhat. The night turns colder with the wee hours, and chills the bones of the carriage riders; it is worse for Andrej and Delfig, who are so tired. Despite the rolling and bouncing of the carriage, neither party member can help lolling into sleep, only to be awakened abruptly by a sharp turn, or a stone in the road.
There has been no clock to tell the time since the one atop Burgdorf Hall, and the long night seems to go on and on. Only the markers, still called out by Wenzel, give any sense of the hour. It might be three or four in the morning as you pass the fourth mile marker from Bern - when suddenly Hengist pulls hard on the reins, and brings the carriage to a difficult and abrupt stop. The party are thrown from their seats to the floor; Wenzel, more awake, was able to brace himself.
"We've passed something," explains Hengist. "Something big, laying at the side of the road." He does not want to turn about the horses, and suggests that the three besides himself walk back to investigate.