Of what good would be such a crew against a host that had called into being a great national consciousness, a host that was made up of the best force of a vigorous people, a host whose every member was proud of his ensign with its eagle, and who held himself superior to every other soldier in the world?
Vavel well knew that the giant of the century could be conquered only by heroes and patriots. A hireling crew could not enter the field against him.
When a sacrifice is demanded by one’s fatherland, it becomes the duty of every true patriot to offer himself as the victim.
Consequently, Herr Vice-palatine Bernat Goeroemboelyi von Dravakeresztur did not hesitate to immolate himself on the sacrificial altar when his attention was directed by his superior to Section 1 of Article II. in the laws enacted by the Diet in the year 1808. Said clause required the vice-palatine to call in person on those “high and mighty persons” who, instead of appearing with their horses at the Lustrations,—according to Section 17 of Article III.,—preferred to send the fine of fifty marks for non-attendance.
Among these absentees from the county meetings was Count Ludwig Vavel.
The Vice-palatine’s task was to teach these refractories, through patriotic reasoning, to amend their ways. The sacrifice attendant upon the performance of this duty was that Herr Bernat would be obliged, during his official visit to the Nameless Castle, to abstain from smoking.
But duty is duty, and he decided to do it. He preceded his call at the castle by a letter to Count Vavel, in which he explained, with satisfaction to himself, the cause of his hasty retreat on the occasion of his former visit, and also announced his projected official attendance upon the Herr Count on the following day.
He arrived at the castle in due time; and Count Vavel, who wished to make amends for his former rudeness to so important a personage, greeted him with great cordiality.
“The Herr Count has been ill, I understand?” began Herr Bernat, when greetings had been exchanged.
“I have not been ill—at least, not to my knowledge,” smilingly responded the count.
“Indeed? I fancied you must be ill because you did not attend the Lustrations, but sent the fine instead.”
“May I ask if many persons attended the meeting?” asked Count Vavel.
“Quite a number of the lesser magnates were present; the more important nobles were conspicuous by their absence. I attributed this failure to appear at the Lustrations to Section I of Article III. of the militia law, which prohibits the noble militiaman from wearing gold or silver ornamentation on his uniform. This inhibition, you must know, is intended to prevent emulation in splendor of decoration among our own people, and also to restrain the rapacity of the enemy.”