“But your presence will make me fear at a moment when I must not feel afraid—afraid for your safety.”
“Oh, don’t trouble about yourself. I know you better. When you come in sight of the enemy you will forget all about me. As for me, I am going with you.”
The troop now set out on the march through the poplar avenue. When they drew near to Pomogy, Vavel sent a squad in advance to act as skirmishers, while he, with the rest of his men, took possession of a solitary elevation near the road, which was the work of human hands. It was composed of the refuse from a soda-factory, and encircled on three sides a low building. Vavel concealed his horsemen behind this artificial hillock, then, accompanied by Katharina, he ascended to the top to take a view of the surrounding country.
He could see through his field-glass the bridge across the Raab and the inn at the farther end. The entire region was nothing but morass. A trench ran from the highway toward Lake Neusiedl; it could be traced by the dense growth of broom along its edges.
“You are my adjutant,” jestingly remarked Vavel to Katharina. “I am going down now; for if I should be seen here it will be known what is behind me. You are a farmer’s wife, and will not arouse suspicion; stop here, therefore, and take observations with my glass, and keep me informed of what happens.”
The Marquis de Fervlans was enjoying a tankard of foaming mead when his adjutant came hastily into the room with the announcement that some troopers were approaching the bridge on the farther side of the river. De Fervlans hurried from the inn and gave orders to mount. As yet only the crimson hats of the troopers could be seen above the tall reeds on the farther shore.
“Those are Vavel’s Volons,” said De Fervlans, taking a look through his glass. “I recognize the uniform from Jocrisse’s description. Madame Themire has turned traitor, and sent the count to deal with me instead of coming herself. Very good! We will show the gentleman that war and star-gazing are different occupations. He was a soldier once; but I don’t think he paid much attention to military tactics, else he would not have neglected to occupy yon hill, on which I see a peasant woman with a red kerchief over her head. That is an old soda-factory—I know the place well. I should n’t wonder if Vavel had concealed some men there after all! That small body coming this way is evidently bent on a skirmishing errand. Well, our tactics will be to lure him from his concealment.”
He held a consultation with his subordinates; after which he turned toward the waiting demons, and called:
The man came forward—a true type of the gladiator of the Vatican.
“Dismount,” ordered the marquis. “Take thirty men, and proceed on foot to the farther side of yon thicket, where you will lie in ambush until I have begun an assault on the soda-factory over yonder. The men in hiding there will show up when we approach; I shall then pretend to retreat, and lure them toward the thicket. You will know what to do then—fall upon them in the rear. When you have arrived at the thicket let me know. Set fire to that tallest clump of reeds near the willow-shrubs.”