“Do you know why we lost the battle of Marengo? Because General Gvozdanovics, when Napoleon’s cavalry made that famous assault, was not clever enough to order three men into every tree on that long avenue—two of the men to load the muskets, while the third kept up a continual fire. The French horsemen could not have ridden up the trees, and the entire troop of cavalry would have dropped under the continuous fire! The general certainly should have commanded: ’Half battalion—half left! Up the trees—forward!’”
“That is true, Master Matyas,” assented Count Vavel; “but I should like to know if you fully understand what I want you to do, and if you can do it?”
Master Matyas’s face brightened suddenly. “I ’ll tell you what, Herr Count; if I succeed in doing what you want, I shall be able, if ever Napoleon makes another attack on us, to pen him up, with his entire army, so securely that he won’t be able to stir!”
“I have no doubt of that!” again assented the count. “What I want, however, is a secure barrier that cannot be opened from the outside. Pray understand me. I want this barrier made in such a manner that the person within the barricade will have sufficient light and air, but be invisible to any one outside, and be perfectly secure from intruders. Could not you let me have a little drawing of what you propose to do?”
“Certainly”; and taking a small sketch-book from his pocket, Master Matyas proceeded to do as he was requested—first, however, explaining to the count a drawing of the cannon which would mow down at one shot fifteen hundred men. “You see,” he explained, “here are two cannon welded together at the breech, with their muzzles ten degrees apart. But one touch-hole suffices for both. The balls are connected by a long chain, and when the cannon are fired off, the balls naturally fly in opposite directions and forward at the same time, and, stretching the chain, mow off the heads of every man jack with whom it comes in contact! Fire! Boom! Heads off!”
The count was perfectly satisfied with Master Matyas. He had found a man who fully understood his business, and who knew how to hold his tongue on all subjects but on that of his infernal machines, and of his stratagems to defeat Napoleon. For two weeks Master Matyas labored diligently at his task in the Nameless Castle, during which time Henry heard so much about warlike stratagems that his sides ached from the continued laughter. But when the villagers questioned Master Matyas about his work at the castle, they could learn nothing from him but schemes to capture the ever-victorious Corsican.
“Herr Count,” one day observed Henry, toward the close of the second week, “if I hear much more of Master Matyas’s wonderful battles, I shall become as crazy as he is!”
And the count replied:
“You are crazy already, my good Henry—and so am I!”
At last the task was completed. Count Vavel was satisfied with the work Master Matyas had performed, and it only remained for Marie to express herself satisfied with the arrangement which would barricade her every night as securely as were the treasures of the “green vault” in Dresden.