The last installment of Chapter 7. I'll have the first installment of Chapter 8, featuring Natalie, posted by this coming Tuesday.
Having come to believe that her son joining the cavalry was her own idea, Lisette immersed herself in every detail. All forms of attention other than money were lavished upon his preparations. With this latter she remained close. Indeed, it was with difficulty that Jozef kept her from rejecting the cavalry pack and bags that he had ordered and substituting some cheaper version.
“But this leather is thinner and more supple, see? And none of that heavy double stitching. Don’t buy that clunky, ugly pack when this one is nicer and half as much besides.”
He took her by the arm and moved her away from the shop counter so that he could speak to her without being heard. “I intend to buy the regulation equipment, Mother, not a cheaper imitation.”
“I am only trying to keep your from being cheated. I’m sure these others are just as good, they just haven’t paid bribes to the officers of the commissariat.”
Jozef went back to the counter and told the shopman, “I’ll be taking the regulation models. Have them packaged up and sent to the flat. You have the address? Good. And the bill can go on our account.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Jozef led the way out of the shop into the street, followed by Lisette who bore an aggrieved expression.
“I’m very proud of you, Jozef. But you mustn’t think that I don’t know anything. When it comes to dealing with shopmen and their schemes, I have far more experience than you.”
After all their worries over how quickly they could join the ranks, Theodor and his other fraternity comrades had passed their medical exam and been given transportation orders for Friday morning. They had all been enrolled in the army books and issued their blue-grey woolen uniforms, which inspired such pride that they would be seen in nothing else.
Although he could not, by rights, wear his new cadet uniforms until he was officially enrolled in the service after reporting to post, Jozef donned his blue jacket and red trousers and joined the other six former students at a photographer’s studio. They were not the only young men thus inspired, and the photographer had availed himself of several rifles and swords with which young men who had been issued uniforms but not weapons could pose. They threw their chests out and struck a martial pose, the infantrymen holding rifles at attention and Jozef casually resting his hand on the pommel of his borrowed sabre. They held still for a moment, and then the photographer’s flash went off with a poof and a little cloud of smoke that smelt like gunpowder. They went off to the beer hall for several hours and then returned to the studio to pick up the result, a small print for each of them.
The post to which Jozef was to present himself on August 1st was less than a hundred and fifty miles away, south and east from Vienna, just across the border into Hungary. An express could get him there in less than five hours, an overnight train would make a leisurely trip of it. However, reports were that train schedules were chaotic, and Jozef welcomed the chance to escape his mother’s presence sooner rather than later, so he resolved to leave early on the morning of the 30th just like his friends.