The reality was quite different.
Every man that was enrolled in his volunteer corps Count Vavel made an object of special study. He found among them many interesting characters, who would have deserved perpetuation, and made of all of them excellent soldiers. The men very soon became devoted to their leader. When the troop was complete—three hundred horsemen in handsome uniforms, on spirited horses—their ensign was ready for them. Marie thought it would have been only proper for Katharina, the betrothed of the leader, to present the flag; but Count Vavel insisted that Marie must perform the duty. The flag was hers; it would wave over the men who were going to fight for her cause.
It was an inspiriting sight—three hundred horsemen, every one of noble Hungarian blood. There were among them fathers of families, and brothers; and all of them soldiers of their own free will. Of such material was the troop of Volons, commanded by “Count Vavel von Fertoeszeg.”
Count Vavel had a second volunteer company, composed of Satan Laczi and his comrades. This company, however, had been formed and drilled in secret, as the noble Volons would not have tolerated such vagabonds in their ranks. There were only twenty-four men in Satan Laczi’s squad, and they were expected to undertake only the most hazardous missions of the campaign.
Ah, how Marie’s hand trembled when she knotted the gay streamers to the flag Ludwig held in his hands! She whispered, in a tone so low that only he could hear what she said:
“Don’t go away, Ludwig! Stay here with us. Don’t waste your precious blood for me, but let us three fly far away from here.”
Those standing apart from the count and his fair ward fancied that the whispered words were a blessing on the ensign. She did not bless it in words, but when she saw that Ludwig would not renounce his undertaking, she pressed her lips to the standard which bore the patrona Hungaria. That was her blessing! Then she turned and flung herself into Katharina’s arms, sobbing, while hearty cheers rose from the Volons:
“Why don’t you try to prevent him from going away from us? Why don’t you say to him, ’To-morrow we are to be wedded. Why not wait until then?’”
But there was no time now to think of marriage. There was one who was in greater haste than any bridegroom or bride. The great leader of armies was striding onward, whole kingdoms between his paces. From the slaughter at Ebersburg he passed at once to the walls of Vienna, to the square in front of the Cathedral of St. Stephen. From the south, also, came Job’s messengers, thick and fast. Archduke John had retreated from Italy back into Hungary, the viceroy Eugene following on his heels.
General Chasteler had become alarmed at Napoleon’s proclamation threatening him with death, and had removed his entire army from the Tyrol. His divisions were surrendering, one after another, to the pursuing foe.