This segment begins Chapter Four and introduces the last of our major characters, Jozef.
Vienna. June 29th, 1914 When Jozef von Revay and his mother arrived at the Baroness von Miko’s flat, there were already a number of guests present. A dozen men, some in the colorful uniforms of the Austro-Hungarian army or imperial civil service, others in black suits, and an equal number of women, stood in two’s and three’s around the sitting room, and more could be seen in the dining room beyond. There was the constant rise and fall of conversation, and from some other room the sound of a piano.
The invitation, which had arrived in that morning’s post, had read:
“My Dear Lisette,
“I know that you, like me, are too prostrated with grief to go out into society tonight. However, if you have it in your heart to comfort a sick old woman in these times, I shall be receiving in a quiet and intimate fashion at nine in the evening.”
It was a perfect example of why Baroness von Miko formed the indispensable center of her circle of Vienna’s lesser greats that she had sensed instinctively that what her friends most desired was a chance to gather and discuss the previous day’s assassinations while maintaining the fiction that they were above such things. Looking around the room, his frustration with his mother’s insistence that he accompany her still simmering, Jozef imagined what would be the reaction if some revolutionary were to burst into the room waving a revolver or hurling a bomb onto red and gold diamonds of the rug which covered the large sitting room’s floor. Perhaps if the explosion were to go off directly under the chandelier, the thousands of pieces of cut glass would fly in every direction, shattering the social triviality which made political murder a pleasant evening topic for gossip and speculation. Couldn’t people see through their pleasant fog of complacency that some action needed to be taken?
The night before, at the beer hall with his fraternity comrades, Konstantin had stood on the table and announced that it was the duty of every loyal man to defend the empire, and they’d all cheered loudly, several students smashing mugs on the floor. The evening had ended in farce as the group had set out into the streets to protect the Empire from its enemies, only to realize after stumbling loudly around several blocks that there was no one available in that neighborhood to defend the Empire against. One of the drunker men had hurled a stone through the window of a shop he thought looked Serbian, and the group had shamefacedly dispersed. It had, he saw now, all been idiotic. But at least they had possessed a sense of action, not this everlasting triviality.
His mother took his arm. “The Baroness is ready to receive us now. She’ll be pleased you came. She likes so much to have young people at her parties.”
“Of course, mother.” Jozef put a smile onto his face and reminded himself of his determination that despite the words between them that afternoon he would not make himself look childish by indulging in a public argument.