“Then you imagine, Herr Vice-palatine, that I do not attend the meetings because I am not permitted to wear gold buttons and cords on my coat?” smilingly queried the count.
“I confess I cannot think of any other reason, Herr Count.”
“Then I will tell you the true one,” rather haughtily rejoined Count Vavel, believing that his visitor was inclined to be sarcastic. “I do not attend your meetings because I look upon the entire law as a jest—mere child’s play. It begins with the mental reservation, ’The Hungarian noble militia will be called into service only in case of imminent danger of an attack from a foreign enemy, and then only if the attacking army be so powerful that the regular imperial troops shall be unable to withstand it!’ That the enemy is the more powerful no commander-in-chief finds out until he has been thoroughly whipped! The mission of the Hungarian noble militia, therefore, is to move into the field—untrained for service—when the regular troops find they cannot cope with a superior foe! This is utterly ridiculous! And, moreover, what sort of an organization must that be in which ’all nobles who have an income of more than three thousand guilders shall become cavalry soldiers, those having less shall become foot-soldiers’? The money-bag decides the question between cavalry and infantry! Again, ’every village selects its own trooper, and equips him.’ A fine squadron they will make! And to think of sending such a crew into the field against soldiers who have won their epaulets under the baptismal fires of battle! Again, to wage war requires money first of all; and this fact has been entirely ignored by the authorities. You have no money, gentlemen; do you propose that the noble militia host shall march only so long as the supply of food in their knapsacks holds out? Are they to return home when the provisions shall have given out? Never fear, Herr Vice-palatine! when it becomes necessary to shoulder arms and march against the enemy, I shall be among the first to respond to the first call. But I have no desire to be even a spectator of a comedy, much less take part in one. But let us not discuss this farce any further. I fancy, Herr Vice-palatine, we may be able to find a more sensible subject for discussion. There is a quiet little nook in this old castle where are to be found some excellent wines, and some of the best latakia you—”
“What?” with lively interest interrupted the vice-palatine. “Latakia? Why, that is tobacco.”
“Certainly—and Turkish tobacco, too, at that!” responded Count Vavel. “Come, we will retire to this nook, empty one glass after another, enjoy a smoke, and tell anecdotes without end!”
“Then you do smoke, Herr Count?”
“Certainly; but I never smoke anywhere but in the nook before mentioned, and never in the clothes I wear ordinarily.”
“Aha!—that a certain person may not detect the fumes, eh?”