“That certainly would make the uniform of more value to the wearer!”
“Would have made, Herr Count; would have made! The escapement suddenly announced that the cloth could not be purchased; for, while the dispute about the colors of the uniform had been going on, the greedy merchants had advanced the price of all cloths to such an exorbitant figure that the government could n’t afford to buy it.”
“To the cuckoo with your escapement! The men have got to have uniforms!”
“Beg pardon; don’t begin yet to waste expletives, else you will not have any left at the end of the hour! The counties then agreed to pay the sum advanced on the original price of the cloth, whereupon the escapement said the money would have to be forthcoming at once, as the cloth could not be bought on credit.”
“Well, is there no treasury which could supply enough funds for this worthy object?” asked the count.
“Yes; there is the public treasury for current expenses. But the treasurer will not give any money to the militia until they are mounted and equipped; the escapement will not furnish the cloth for the uniforms without the money; and the treasury will not give any money until the militia has its uniforms!”
“Well, a man can fight without a uniform. If only these men have horses under them and weapons in their hands—”
“Two of these requisites we already have; but the escapement announces that arms of the latest improvements cannot be furnished, because the government has not got them.”
“Well, the old ones will answer.”
“They would if we had enough flints; but they are not to be had, because the insurrectionary Poles have captured the flint depot in Lemberg.”
“Each man certainly could get a flint for himself.”
“Even then there are only enough guns for about one half of the men. The escapement suggested that to those who had no arms it would furnish—halberds!”
“What? Halberds!” cried Vavel, losing all patience. “Halberds against Bonaparte? Halberds against the legions who have broken a path from one end of Europe to the other with their bayonets, and with them carved their triumphs on the pyramids? Halberds against them? Do you take me to be a fool, Herr Vice-palatine?”
He sprang to his feet and began to pace the floor excitedly, his guest meanwhile eying him with a roguish glance.
“There!” at last exclaimed Herr Bernat, “I will not tease you any longer. Fortunately, there is a clock-repairer who, so soon as he perceived how tardily the hands performed their task, with his finger twirled them around the entire dial, whereupon the clock struck the hour. This able repairer is our king, who at once advanced from his own exchequer enough money to equip the militia companies, distributed six thousand first-class cavalry sabers and sixteen cannon, and loaned the entire Hungarian life-guard to drill the newly formed regiments. And now, I will wager that our noble militia host will be ready for the field in less than thirty days, and that they will fight as well as the good Lord permitted them to learn how!”