“Well, you must know that there are three essential parts among the works of a clock,” returned Herr Bernat, complacently puffing away at his pipe. “There is the spring, the pendulum, and the escapement. The wheels are the subordinates. The spring is the law passed by the Diet. The pendulum is the palatine office, which has to set the law in motion; the escapement is the imperial counselor of war. The wheels are the people. We will keep to the technical terms, if you please. When the spring was wound up, the pendulum began to set the wheels going. They turned, and the loyal nobles of the country began to enroll their names—”
“How many do you suppose enrolled their names?” interrupted the count.
“Thirty thousand cavalry and forty thousand infantry—which are not all the able-bodied men, as only one member from each family is required to join the army. After the names had been entered came the question of uniforms, arms, officering, drilling, provisions. You must admit that a clock cannot strike until the hands have made their regular passage through all the minutes and seconds that make up the hour!”
“For heaven’s sake! What a preamble!” ejaculated the count. “But go on. The first minute?”
“Yes; the first minute a stoppage occurred caused by the escapement objecting to furnish canteens; if the militiamen wanted canteens they must provide them themselves.”
“I trust the clock was not allowed to stop for want of a few canteens,” ironically observed Count Vavel.
“Moreover,” continued the vice-palatine, not heeding the interruption, “the escapement gave them to understand that brass drums could not be furnished—only wooden ones—”
“They will do their duty, too, if properly handled,” again interpolated Vavel.
“A more disastrous check, however, was the decision of the Komitate that the uniform was to consist of red trousers and light-blue dolman—”
“A picturesque uniform, at any rate!”
“There was a good deal of argument about it; but at last it was decided that the companies from the Danube should adopt light-blue dolmans, and those from the Theiss dark-blue.”
“Thank heaven something was decided!”
“Don’t be too premature with your thanks, Herr Count! The escapement would not consent to the red trousers; red dye-stuff was not to be had, because of the continental embargo. The militia must content itself with trousers made of the coarse white cloth of which peasants’ cloaks are made. You can imagine what a tempest that raised in the various counties! To offer Hungarian nobles trousers made of such stuff! At last the matter was arranged: trousers and dolman were to be made of the same material. The Komitate were satisfied with this. But the escapement then said there were not enough tailors to make so many uniforms. The government would supply the cloth, and have it cut, and the militiamen could have it made up at home.”