THROUGH THE WINTER
Weisspriess and Wilfrid made their way toward Milan together, silently smoking, after one attempt at conversation, which touched on Vittoria’s marriage; but when they reached Monza the officer slapped his degraded brother in arms upon the shoulder, and asked him whether he had any inclination to crave permission to serve in Hungary. For his own part, Weisspriess said that he should quit Italy at once; he had here to skewer the poor devils, one or two weekly, or to play the mightily generous; in short, to do things unsoldierly; and he was desirous of getting away from the country. General Schoneck was at Monza, and might arrange the matter for them both. Promotion was to be looked for in Hungary; the application would please the General; one battle would restore the lieutenant’s star to Wilfrid’s collar. Wilfrid, who had been offended by his companion’s previous brooding silence, nodded briefly, and they stopped at Monza, where they saw General Schoneck in the morning, and Wilfrid being by extraordinary favour in civilian’s dress during his leave of absence, they were jointly invited to the General’s table at noon, though not to meet any other officer. General Schoneck agreed with Weisspriess that Hungary would be a better field for Wilfrid; said he would do his utmost to serve them in the manner they wished, and dismissed them after the second cigar. They strolled about the city, glad for reasons of their own to be out of Milan as long as the leave permitted. At night, when they were passing a palace in one of the dark streets, a feather, accompanied by a sharp sibilation from above, dropped on Wilfrid’s face. Weisspriess held the feather up, and judged by its length that it was an eagle’s, and therefore belonging to the Hungarian Hussar regiment stationed in Milan. “The bird’s aloft,” he remarked. His voice aroused a noise of feet that was instantly still. He sent a glance at the doorways, where he thought he discerned men. Fetching a whistle in with his breath, he unsheathed his sword, and seeing that Wilfrid had no weapon, he pushed him to a gate of the palace-court that had just cautiously turned a hinge. Wilfrid found his hand taken by a woman’s hand inside. The gate closed behind him. He was led up to an apartment where, by the light of a darkly-veiled lamp, he beheld a young Hungarian officer and a lady clinging to his neck, praying him not to go forth. Her Italian speech revealed how matters stood in this house. The officer accosted Wilfrid: “But you are not one of us!” He repeated it to the lady: “You see, the man is not one of us!”
She assured him that she had seen the uniform when she dropped the feather, and wept protesting it.
“Louis, Louis! why did you come to-night! why did I make you come! You will be slain. I had my warning, but I was mad.”
The officer hushed her with a quick squeeze of her inter-twisted fingers.