“When will that be?”
“When I have served a year as jurat, and have paid a ducat for my diploma.”
“I will give you the ducat, and when you have become a lawyer I will employ you as my attorney at six hundred guilders a year. I know that a Hungarian gentleman will not accept a gift without making some return; I ask you, therefore, to give me for this ducat some information.”
“What is it you wish to know?”
“How can I obtain possession of a portion of Lake Neusiedl for my own use alone?”
“By becoming a naturalized citizen of the county, and by purchase of a portion of the shore. I dare say there are some landowners on the shore who would be glad to part with their possessions in exchange for solid cash. If you buy such an estate you will have sole right to that part of the water in front of your property, and to the middle of the lake.”
“Thank you. One more question: if you were my attorney, what could you do to prevent me from being ejected from this castle, in case I did not sign a new contract with the present owner?”
“First, I should take advantage of the law of possession, and drag the case through a twelve years’ process; then I should appeal, which would postpone a settlement for three years longer. Would that be long enough?”
The count nodded a farewell to the youthful jurist without even inquiring his name; nor did Audiat venture to propound a like question to his future employer.
Bernat bacsi did not, as he had promised, return to the manor to tell the baroness the result of his visit. He drove direct to his home.
THE MISTRESS OF THE CATS
When they heard the call, “Puss, puss!” they scampered down the roof, leaped from the eaves, and vanished, one after the other, between the curtains of the open window. It was quite an ethnographic, so to speak, collection of cats; a panther-like French pussy from Dund, a Caucasian with long pointed ears, one from China with wavy silken fur and drooping ears. Then the window was closed, for the company were all assembled—four cats, two pug-dogs, and a sparrow, and the hostess, a young girl.
The girl, to judge from her figure, was perhaps fifteen years old; but her manner and speech were those of a much younger child. With her arched brow and rainbow-formed eyebrows, she might have served as a model for a saint, had not the roguish smile about the corners of her red lips betrayed an earthly origin. The sparkling dark eyes, delicately chiseled nostrils, and rounded chin gave to her face certain family characteristics which many persons would have recognized at a first glance.
Her clothing was richly adorned with lace and embroidery, which was not the fashion for girls of her age; at the same time, there was about her attire a peculiar negligence, as if she had no one to advise her what was proper to wear, or how to wear it.