“Why in the world did you not tell me this at once?” demanded Count Vavel.
“Because it is not customary to put the fire underneath the tobacco in the pipe! The king’s example inspired our magnates. Those whom the law compelled to equip ten horsemen sent out whole companies, and placed themselves in command.”
“As I shall do!” appended Count Vavel. “I hope, Herr Vice-palatine, that you will not forget the amnesty for Satan Laczi and his men. They will be of special value as spies.”
“I have a knot in my handkerchief for that, Herr Count, and shall be sure to remember. The company to be commanded by Count Ludwig Fertoeszeg will be complete in a week.”
“Why do you call me Fertoeszeg?”
“Because a Hungarian name is better for your ensign than your own foreign one. Our people have an antipathy to everything foreign—and we have cause to complain of the Frenchmen who served in our army. Most of them were spies—tools of Napoleon’s. Generals Moiselle and Lefebre surrendered fortified Laibach, together with its entire brigade, without discharging a gun. And even our quondam friend, the gallant Colonel Barthelmy, has taken Dutch leave and gone back to the enemy.”
“What? Gone back to the enemy!” repeated Ludwig, springing from his chair, and laughing delightedly.
“The news seems to rejoice you,” observed Herr Bernat.
“I shout for very joy! The thought that we might have to fight side by side annoyed me. Now, however, we shall be adversaries, and when we meet, the man who did not steal Ange Barthelmy will send her husband to the devil! And now, Herr Vice-palatine, I think it is time to say good night. It will be the first night in six years that I shall sleep quietly.”
They shook hands, and separated for the night.
From early morning until evening the enrolment of names went on at the Nameless Castle, while from time to time a squad of volunteers, accompanied by Count Vavel himself, would depart amid the blare of trumpets for the drill-ground.
The count made a fine-looking officer, with the crimson shako on his head, his mantle flung over one shoulder, his saber in his hand. When he saluted the ladies on their balconies, his spirited horse would rear and dance proudly. His company, the “Volons,” had selected black and crimson as the colors for their uniform. The shako was ornamented in front with a white death’s-head, and one would not have believed that a skull could be so ornamental.
The Volons’ ensign was not yet finished, but pretty white hands were embroidering gold letters on the silken streamers; lead would very soon add further ornamentation!
When Ludwig Vavel opened the door of his castle to the public, he very soon became acquainted with a very different life from that of the past six years. For six years he had dwelt among a people whom he imagined he had learned to know and understand through his telescope, and from the letters he had received from a clergyman and a young law student.