“Come along,” the count said, taking his arm and leading him into the house. “The poor fellows mean well, and you must not be vexed with them.”
The countess’s first question had been for her child, and with an exclamation of thankfulness, when she heard that it was better, she had at once hurried into the house. As soon as they had entered, the count left Charlie in charge of his brother, and also hurried away. He was not long before he returned.
“The child is doing well,” he said, “and now that it has got its mother again, it will, I think, improve rapidly. The doctor said this morning that he considered it out of danger, but that it needed its mother sorely, to cheer and pet it.”
In a very short time the tables were laid. The count, his brother, and Charlie sat at an upper table, and the hall was filled with the various officers and retainers. The count’s arrival was expected, for a horseman had been sent forward on their arrival at the inn the evening before. The dinner had therefore been cooked in readiness, and Charlie was astonished at the profusion with which it was served. Fish, joints, great pies, and game of many kinds were placed on the table in unlimited quantities; the drink being a species of beer, although excellent wine was served at the high table. He could now understand how often the Polish nobles impoverished themselves by their unbounded hospitality and love of display.
“I suppose, for tomorrow, you will like to remain quiet,” the count said, “but after that we will try to amuse you. There is game of all sorts to be shot, or if you have had enough sport, lately, there will be a sledge and horses at your disposal, whenever you choose to ride or drive, and in a few days we will give an entertainment, in honour at once of our return, your visit, and the child’s restoration to health. Then you will have an opportunity of seeing our national dances.”
Charlie had had enough shooting, but he greatly enjoyed the drives in the sledges, behind the spirited horses. The entertainment came off a fortnight after his arrival at the chateau. The guests, for the most part, arrived early in the afternoon, many having driven in from great distances. The preparations had been on an immense scale, and the scene at night was a brilliant one.
Never had Charlie seen anything like the magnificence of the dresses, not of the ladies only, but also of the gentlemen; the Poles having the true oriental love for rich costumes, a taste that their national dress permitted them to gratify to the utmost. Next to the splendour of the dresses, Charlie was surprised at the grace and spirit of the dancing, which was far more vivacious than that of western nations. The Poles were long considered to be the best dancers in the world. It was their great national amusement; and all danced, from noble to peasant, entering into it with spirit and enthusiasm, and uniting the perfection of rhythmical motion with the grace and ease peculiar to them, and to their kinsmen the Hungarians.