Jozef confronts the future of his love affair, joins a new regiment, and finds a new home.
Veszprém, Austria-Hungary. December 14th, 1914. Even when she had been there, Jozef had seen little of Klara during the days when at the country house. And yet, knowing that she was gone, that she would not slip, cat-like, into his bed at night, made the house seem empty and fruitless. He left on Friday, two days earlier than planned.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse, and so Henrik offered the use of the automobile. It was warmer to sit under a pile of furs and blankets in the enclosed vehicle as the chauffer slowly navigated the icy, rutted surface of the road into town than it would have been to make the journey on horseback, but the hours spent sitting, trying to stay warm, also provided little respite from thoughts of how the week’s leave should have ended.
He and Klara could have had four more days together, days the more happy for the knowledge that he would be getting a commission within the week. Perhaps the three days when he was gone had seemed as empty to her as these last few had to him. But no, she had been visiting the Revays for the last two months, and he had only been asked to the house twice during that time. Was waiting three days for him really so much worse than the waits between their assignations at the hotel? Was she angry that he had not agreed to wait until after their week together to sort out the problem of his commission? Even if so, why leave? Surely having some days together was better than none at all.
Why was Minna prepared to face such difficulties for Friedrich: staying with him in the hospital, caring for him at the flat, absorbing his bursts of anger and frustration, and all the while wanting to be with him and care for him? And yet Klara had not been willing to wait three days. Was Minna a better or more loving woman? Was Friedrich a person more worthy of love and devotion than he was?
He had always done everything that Klara asked. He had listened to her difficulties, and he had offered to help in every way that he could think of. What had he left undone that Friedrich had done, or was this yet another way in which Friedrich somehow drew to himself a good fortune which others did not receive? No, that was unfair to the friend who had suffered so much. It was an affront to envy the good fortune of a man who had lost his legs and so much else. And yet, why? Why did Friedrich find constancy and devotion and not he?
With these and similar thoughts Jozef spent the ride back into town. Nor did his arrival bring immediate respite from such musings. He had two more days of leave before his name appeared on the duty roster again. With all the other cadets gone, and the reserve regiment and Honved reduced to those most determined to find some way to sit out the war on their own terms, there was little truly congenial company as he waited to see if Baron von Goldfaden would succeed in wielding his influence. It was a relief on Monday to once again be assigned duties and spend the day inspecting the integrity of tinned beef and dried vegetables which had recently arrived in monumental quantities.
When he returned to his rooms before dinner there was an official envelope lying on his pillow.
He tore it open and skimmed down it rapidly to assure that it did not express regrets, then returned to the beginning to understand the real import.
You will report no later than December 21st to the 7th Regiment of Imperial Royal Uhlans, Archduke Franz Ferdinand Galician Regiment, temporarily headquartered at Krakow, there to assume the duties of a provisional Leutnant of Uhlans.
The rest hardly mattered. He had an assignment. In a week’s time he would be in Galicia, serving in an active duty regiment.