To-day the brigade marched toward Palota, and the Volons turned into the road which led to Zircz. They seemed, however, to have been swallowed up by the Bakonye forest, for nothing was seen again of them after they entered it. The inhabitants of Ratota still repeat tales of the handsome troopers—every man of them a true Magyar!—who rode through their village to the sound of the trumpet, nodding to the pretty girls, and paying gold coin for their refreshment at the inn. But the dwellers in Zircz complained that, instead of Magyar troopers, a squad of hostile cavalry passed through their village—Frenchmen in blue mantles, with cocks’ feathers in their helmets, with a commandant who had given all sorts of orders that no one could understand. Luckily, the prior of the Premonstrants could speak French, and he acted as interpreter for the French commandant. And everybody felt relieved when he marched farther with his troop.
These were the transformed Volons. They had exchanged their crimson shakos in the dense forest for the French helmets, and wrapped themselves in the blue mantles taken from the luggage-wagons. No one would have doubted that they were French chasseurs—even the trumpeter sounded the calls according to the regulations in the armies of France.
Master Matyas hurried on in advance of the troop to learn if the way was clear. It would have been equally unpleasant to have met either Hungarian or French soldiery. They encountered neither, however; and at daybreak on the second day arrived at the village of Boercs, on the Rabcza, where is an interesting monument of times long past—a redoubt of considerable extent, in the center of which stands the village church.
Vavel’s troop camped within this redoubt, where they could escape attracting attention. The country about them, for a long distance, was occupied by French troops.
The highway which led to Raab might be seen from the steeple of the church, and here Vavel took up his station with a field-glass.
He had not been long in his tower of observation when he saw a heavy cloud of dust moving along the highway, and very soon was able to distinguish a body of horsemen. It was a company of cuirassiers, whose polished breastplates glittered in the sunlight like stars. The company was divided into two squads: one rode in front of a four-horse traveling-coach, the other in the rear of it.
There were two ladies in the coach. The elder of the two shielded her face from the dust with a heavy veil; the younger lady wore no veil over her pale face, but held in front of it a fan, from behind which she took an occasional look at the variegated plain, where the ripening grain, blended with the green of the meadows, formed a rich, carpet on either side of the road.
The young officer riding beside the coach sought to entertain the elder lady with observations on the country through which they were passing, and from time to time exchanged tender glances with the younger. These ladies were the wife and daughter of General Guillaume. They were on their way to Raab, where they expected an addition to their party in the person of la Princesse Marie, whom they were going to accompany to Paris. The troop of cuirassiers was their escort.