But the company around the dinner-table did not share these views. The clerk was assailed on all sides—very much as would have been an aeronaut who had just alighted from a montgolfier—to relate all that he had seen in those regions not yet penetrated by man. What sort of gown did the mysterious lady wear? Was he certain that she had no cap on? Was she really no older than fifteen years?
The vice-palatine at last put an end to his clerk’s triumph.
“Tut, tut! what can you expect to learn from a mere lad like him?—when he saw her only for an instant! Just wait; I will find out all about this nameless gentleman and lady.”
“Pray how do you propose to accomplish that?” queried the baroness, who had returned to her former seat.
“I shall go to the Nameless Castle.”
“Suppose you are not permitted to enter?”
“What? I, the vice-palatine, not permitted to enter? Wait; I will explain my plan to you over the coffee.”
When the time came to serve the black coffee, the amiable hostess suggested that it would be pleasant to enjoy it in the open air; whereupon the company repaired to the veranda where, on several small tables, the fragrant mocha was steaming in the cups. Here the baroness and the vice-palatine seated themselves where they could look directly at the Nameless Castle; and Herr Bernat Goeroemboelyi proceeded to explain how he intended to take the castle without force—which was forbidden a Hungarian official.
Then the two ladies withdrew to make their toilets for the evening; and the gentlemen betook themselves to the smoking-room, to indulge in a little game of chance, without which no “installation” ceremony would have been complete.
The following morning, after a very satisfactory breakfast, the gentlemen took leave of their amiable hostess, Bernat bacsi lingering behind the rest to whisper significantly:
“I will not say farewell, Katinka hugom, for I am coming back to tell you all about it.” Then he took his place in the extra post-chaise, and bade the postilion drive directly to the neighboring castle. The Nameless Castle was built on a narrow tongue of land that extended into Lake Neusiedl. The road to the castle gate ran along a sort of causeway, which was protected from the water by a strong bulwark composed of fascines, and a row of willows with knotty crowns. A drawbridge at the farther end made it necessary for the person who wished to enter the gate to ask permission.
On ringing the bell, there appeared at the gate the servant who has already been described,—the groom, coachman, and man of all work in one person. He had on a handsome livery, white gloves, white stockings, and shoes without heels.
“Is the count at home?” inquired the vice-palatine.
“Announce us. I am the vice-palatine of the county, and wish to pay an official visit.”