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Title: A Hungarian Nabob
Author: Jókai, Mór, 1825-1904
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Hungarian Nabob" ***

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WORKS OF MAURUS JÓKAI

HUNGARIAN EDITION

A HUNGARIAN NABOB

_Translated from the Hungarian_

_By_ R. NISBET BAIN

NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

Copyright 1899 by Doubleday & McClure Co.



PREFACE.


This noble novel, now translated into English for the first time, was
written nearly fifty years ago. On its first appearance, Hungarian
critics of every school at once hailed it as a masterpiece. It has
maintained its popularity ever since; and now, despite the manifold
mutations of literary fashion, in Hungary as elsewhere, has reached the
unassailable position of a national classic.

It is no light task to attempt to transplant a classic like "Egy Magyar
Nábob." National tastes differ infinitely, and then there is the
formidable initial difficulty of contending with a strange and baffling
non-aryan language. Only those few hardy linguists who have learnt, in
the sweat of their brows, to read a meaning into that miracle of
agglutinative ingenuity, an Hungarian sentence, will be able to
appreciate the immense labour of rendering some four hundred pages of a
Magyar masterpiece of peculiarly idiomatic difficulty into fairly
readable English. But my profound admiration for the illustrious
Hungarian romancer, and my intimate conviction that, of all continental
novelists, he is most likely to appeal to healthy English taste, which
has ever preferred the humorous and romantic story to the
_Tendenz-Roman_, or novel with a purpose, have encouraged me to
persevere to the end of my formidable task.

I may add, in conclusion, that I have taken the liberty to cut out a
good third of the original work, and this I have done advisedly, having
always been very strongly of opinion that the _technique_ of the
original tale suffered from an excess of episode. This _embarras de
richesse_ would naturally be still more noticeable in a translation, and
I am particularly anxious that "A Hungarian Nabob" should attract at
first sight. Let this, therefore, be my apology to Dr. Jókai and, as I
trust, my claim upon his forgiveness.

R. NISBET BAIN.
AUGUST, 1898.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER                                                  PAGE

I.      AN ODDITY, 1822                                     9
II.     A BARGAIN FOR THE SKIN OF A LIVING MAN             41
III.    THE WHITSUN KING                                   58
IV.     A FAMILY CURSE                                     89
V.      THE TEMPTER IN CHURCH                             116
VI.     PAID IN FULL                                      132
VII.    THE NABOB'S BIRTHDAY                              153
VIII.   AN UNEXPECTED CHANGE                              186
IX.     THE HUNTER IN THE SNARE                           203
X.      POOR LADY!                                        242
XI.     THE FEMALE FRIEND                                 260
XII.    THE HOUSE-WARMING                                 268
XIII.   THE HUNT                                          274
XIV.    MARTYRDOM                                         287
XV.     THE SPY                                           294
XVI.    LIGHT WITHOUT AND NIGHT WITHIN                    301
XVII.   A DANGEROUS EXPERIMENT                            315
XVIII.  UNPLEASANT DISCOVERIES                            327
XIX.    ZOLTÁN KÁRPÁTHY                                   332
XX.     SECRET VISITORS                                   337
XXI.    THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT                       344
XXII.   LEAVE-TAKING                                      356



A HUNGARIAN NABOB.

CHAPTER I.

AN ODDITY, 1822.


It is nasty, dirty weather outside there on the _puszta_;[1] the sky is
cloudy, the earth muddy, the rain has been falling for two weeks
incessantly, as if by special command. There are inundations and
submersions everywhere; rushes are growing instead of wheat, the stork
is ploughing, the duck is fishing all over the precious sea-like
expanse. "This judgment weather began on St. Medardus' Day, and will
last now for forty days longer, but if it does last, I know not where we
are to find the Noah to save man and beast from a partial deluge."

[Footnote 1: For the meaning of this and all other Hungarian words used
in the text, see the glossary at end of book.]

This melancholy reflection was made by the noble Mr. Peter Bús, whom a
cruel fate had called to be a perpetual wrangler with guests on the
cross-roads of the famous county of Szabolcs, for he was the innkeeper
of the "Break-'em-tear-'em" _csárda_ there. That worthy inn owed its
name, not to its ancestors, but to its own peculiar merits, for no
traveller could possibly reach that sweet haven till he had had endless
spills and been nearly torn to pieces. This was especially the case at
such times when the floodgates of Heaven were open, and it naturally
occurred to a man's mind how much better it would have been to have had
floodgates on the earth instead, for then you would not be brought to a
standstill on the dike between two ponds, with the ground so soaking wet
beneath your feet that there seemed nothing for it but to stick there
till you grew old, or carry your waggon away with you on your back.

It was drawing towards evening. Mr. Peter Bús was coming home from his
fields on horseback, grumbling to himself, but softly, for he grudged
taking his pipe out of his mouth merely for the sake of what he was
saying, which goes to prove that pipes were invented in order that man
may have something to stuff his mouth with, and thus stop from swearing
so much. "All the hay has gone to the devil already," he muttered, "and
he'll have the wheat too! The whole shoot has gone to the deuce!" For
the innkeeper of the _csárda_ does not live by only doling out wine, but
is a bit of a farmer besides, and his business is no sinecure.

While he was thus murmuring to himself, a dubious-looking being of the
feminine gender, of whom it was difficult to judge whether she was a
spouse or a scullery-maid, appeared at the extreme end of the dike,
which led towards the River Theiss.

"Isn't there a coach coming along there?" she said.

"So I'm to be saddled with guests on an infernal day like this, eh! It
only needed that," said Peter Bús, grumbling still more. He did not look
in the direction indicated, but hastened into his pothouse to strip off
his saturated pelisse before the fire, and swear a little more. "When
our store of bread is gone, I don't know where I am to get any more
from, but I don't mean to starve for anybody."

At last, however, he condescended to look out of the window, drying the
sweat from his brow the while, and perceived a carriage a good distance
off, drawn by four post-horses, struggling along the dike. He made a
gesture of satisfaction towards it with one hand, and said, pleasantly,
"It won't get here to-day." Then he sat him down in front of his door,
and, lolling his pipe out of the corner of his mouth, looked on in calm
enjoyment, while the coachman cursed and swore at the four horses on the
far-extending dike. The lumbering old vehicle on its high springs swayed
to and fro from time to time, as if it were on the point of toppling
over, but a couple of men kept close to it on each side, and, whenever a
jolt came, they clung heavily on to the steps to keep it steady, and
when it stuck fast in mud up to the axles of the wheels, and the horses
came to a standstill, they would, first of all, shout till they were
husky at the horses, and then, buckling to, dig the whole conveyance out
with sticks and staves, raise the wheels, clean out the spokes, which
had been converted into a solid mass of mud, and then proceed
triumphantly a few paces further.

Mr. Peter Bús regarded the dangers of others in the spirit of a true
predestinarian. Frantic cries and the cracking of whips reached his ears
from time to time, but what business was it of his? It is true he had
four good horses of his own, by the aid of which he might have dragged
the coming guests out of the mud in the twinkling of an eye, but why
should he? If it were written in the Book of Fate that the carriage
would safely arrive at the _csárda_, it _would_ arrive, but if it were
preordained to stick fast in the mud and remain there till dawn, then
stick fast it must, and it would be wrong to cut athwart the ways of
Providence.

And at last all four wheels stuck so fast in the mud in the middle of
the dam that it was impossible to move either backwards or forwards. The
men were hoarse with shouting, the harness was rent to pieces, the
horses lay down in the mud, and the weather began to grow beautifully
dark. Mr. Peter Bús, with a lightened heart, knocked the ashes of his
pipe-bowl into the palm of his hand. Thank God! no guest will come
to-day, and his heart rejoiced as, passing through the door, he
perceived the empty coach-house, in which his little family of poultry,
all huddled up together for the night, was squabbling sociably. He
himself ordered the whole of his household to bed, for candles were
dear, put out the fire, and stretching himself at his ease on his
_bunda_, chuckled comfortably behind his lighted pipe, and fell
reflecting on the folly of people travelling anywhere in such dripping
weather.

While Mr. Peter Bús was calmly sleeping the sleep of the just, danger
was approaching the house from the other, the further side. In the
direction of Nyiregyháza there was no dike indeed, and the water was
free to go up and down wherever it chose. A stranger venturing that way
might just as well make his will at once, but those who knew the lie of
the land, could get along more easily than if there had been a regular
road; indeed, there were coachmen who had loafed about the district so
long and learnt to know all its boggy and hilly turnings and windings so
thoroughly, that they could make their way across it late at night in
any sort of vehicle.

It must have been close upon midnight, for the cocks of the
"Break-'em-tear-'em" _csárda_ had begun to crow one after the other,
when a light began to twinkle in the twilight. Twelve mounted men were
approaching with burning torches, with a carriage and a waggon in their
midst.

The waggon went in front, the carriage behind, so that if a ditch
presented itself unexpectedly the waggon might tumble into it, and the
carriage might take warning and avoid the spot.

The bearers of the torches were all heydukes wearing a peculiar uniform.
On their heads were tschako-shaped _kalpags_ with white horse-hair
plumes, on their bodies were scarlet dolmans with yellow facings, over
which fox-skin _kaczagánys_ were cast as a protection against the
pouring rain. At every saddle hung a _fokos_ and a couple of pistols.
Their _gunyás_ only reached to the girdle, and below that followed
short, fringed, linen hose which did not go at all well with the scarlet
cloth of the dolmans.

And now the waggon comes in sight. Four good boorish horses were
attached to it, whose manes almost swam in the water; the reins were
handled by an old coachman with the figure of a _betyár_. The worthy
fellow was sleeping, for, after all, the horses knew the way well, and
he only awoke at such times as his hands closed upon the reins, when he
would give a great snort and look angrily around him.

The interior of the waggon presented a somewhat comical sight, for
though the back seat did not appear to be occupied, in the front seat
two ambiguous looking individuals were sitting with their backs to the
coachman. Who or what they were it was difficult to make out, for they
had wrapped themselves up so completely in their shaggy woollen mantles,
or _gubas_, and drawn their hoods so low down over their heads, that
they had no resemblance to anything human. Moreover, they were sleeping
soundly. Both their heads were jig-jogging right and left, and only now
and then one or the other, and sometimes both at the same time, would be
thrown backwards by the jolting of the waggon, or they would bump their
heads together, and at such times would sit bolt upright as if
determined to say, "Now, I really am _not_ asleep!" and the next instant
off they were nodding again.

The body of the waggon was fenced about with large baskets, whose
rotundity warranted the suspicion that they must be stuffed with plenty
of all sorts. The basket on the back seat moved slightly now and then,
and, therefore, might fairly have been assumed to contain some living
creature, which the two gentlemen held in high honour or they would not
have given up the best seat to it. Presently a more violent concussion
than usual tilted the basket over, when, after a desperate struggle, the
mysterious something poked out its head, and revealed to the world a
beautiful greyhound. So it was to him that precedence belonged! And this
he seemed to be quite conscious of, for he sat up on his haunches in the
waggon, gaped majestically for a moment, then condescended to scratch
his aristocratic ears with his long legs, shook his steel-chain collar,
and when an impertinent nocturnal gadfly attempted to cultivate his
acquaintance by force, plunged into a determined contest with it, and
snapped at it vigorously with his teeth. Tiring at last of this
diversion, he turned his attention to his sleeping companions, and being
in a condescending humour, and observing that the lankiest of the two
sleepers was nodding at him, the humorous greyhound raised his front paw
and passed it over the face of the slumberer, who thereupon murmured
heavily, "Pah! don't taste it, your honour!"

And now let us have a look at the carriage. Five full-blooded stallions
were harnessed to it, and all of them were tossing their gaily decked
heads proudly. Two of them were beside the shafts and three in front,
and each of the three had jangling bells around his neck, to warn all
whom they might encounter to get out of the way. On the box sat an old
coachman in an embroidered _bekes_, or fur-pelisse, whose sole
instructions were that wherever he might go, he was not to dare to look
into the carriage behind him under pain of being instantly shot through
the head. We, however, who are in no fear of having our heads blown
off, may just as well take a peep inside.

Beneath the hood of the carriage sat an aged man wrapped up to the
throat in a wolfskin _bunda_, and with a large astrachan cap on his head
drawn down over his eyes. Inside it one could make out nothing but the
face. It was a peculiar face, with eyes that looked strangely at you. An
errant spirit seemed to dwell in them; they spoke of a mind that had
been destined for great, for amazing things. But fate, environment, and
neglect had here been too much for destiny, and the man had grown
content to be extraordinary in mere trifles, and seemed quite surprised
at the wonderful expression of his own eyes. The whole face was fat but
colourless, the features were noble but puckered up in bizarre wrinkles.
This, with the heavy eyebrows and the neglected moustache, caused
repulsion at the first glance; but if the man looked at you long enough,
you gradually got reconciled to all his features. Especially when he
shut his eyes and sleep had smoothed out all the lines and creases of
his face, he wore such a patriarchal expression that one involuntarily
thought of one's own father. But what made him look still more
remarkable was the peculiar circumstance, that crouching up close beside
him sat two peasant girls; two chubby little wenches, from the
seriousness, not to say anxiety, of whose faces it was possible to
conclude that no mere idle freak had lodged them there by the side of
the old gentleman. The cold wet night froze the blood in the veins of
the aged man, his wolfskin _bunda_ could not keep him warm enough, and,
therefore, they placed close beside him two young peasant girls that his
dilapidated organism might borrow warmth from their life-giving
magnetism.

All night long he had been unable to get any rest, any pastime in his
distant castle, so at last he had hit upon the idea of knocking up the
landlord of the "Break-'em-tear-'em" _csárda_, and picking a quarrel
with him at any price. The insult would be all the more venomous if he
woke him in the middle of the night, and demanded something to eat and
drink immediately. If the fellow cursed and swore, as he was pretty sure
to do, he should have a good hiding from the heydukes. As the innkeeper
was himself a gentleman, the whole joke would possibly cost about a
couple of thousand of florins or so, but the fun was quite worth that.

So he called up his serving-men, and made them harness horses and light
torches, and set off through the pathless darkness with twelve heydukes,
taking with him everything necessary for eating and drinking, in order
to have a banquet in honour of the jest as soon as it was accomplished,
not forgetting to carry along with him the three personages who chiefly
ministered to his amusement, and whom he sent on before him in a
separate waggon, to wit, his favourite greyhound, his gipsy jester, and
his parasitical poet, all three of whom made a nice little group
together.

Now, worthy Mr. Peter Bús was famous far and wide for his peculiar
sensitiveness to insult; the merest trifle was sufficient to lash him
into a fury. A heyduke, therefore, was sent on in advance, who rattled
at his windows like a savage, and bellowed at the top of his voice--

"Get up there, you innkeeper fellow! Get up, get up! You are required to
wait upon your betters, and look sharp about it!"

At these words Peter Bús bounded to his feet as if he had been shot from
a gun, snatched up his _fokos_, looked out of the window, and perceiving
the brilliant array of serving-men, who lit up the whole house with
their torches, instantly guessed with whom he had to do. He now grasped
the fact that they wanted to make him fly into a rage for their especial
amusement, and resolved for that very reason not to fly into a rage at
all. So he hung his _fokos_ up nicely on its nail again, thrust his head
into his sheepskin cap, threw his _bunda_ over his shoulders, and
stepped out.

All the newly arrived guests were already inside the courtyard. In the
centre, surrounded by his bodyguard, was his lordship, in a large
_attila_ with gold buttons, reaching down to his knee; the circumference
of his body constrained him to hold his head a little thrown back, and
he supported himself with a gold-headed Spanish cane. It was now quite
evident how ill that scornful, mocking expression of his became his
face, and wholly distorted its naturally jovial character.

"Come nearer, sirrah!" he called to the innkeeper in a loud imperious
voice. "Throw open your apartments, and make ready for our
entertainment. Give us wine, tokay, and _ménes_; give us also pheasants,
artichokes, and crab salad."

The innkeeper humbly took off his hat, held it in his hand, and replied
with the utmost calmness and _sangfroid_--

"God hath brought your lordship to us; I will serve you with everything
you command. I would only beg of you to pardon me for not possessing
either tokay or _ménes_. My pheasants, too, have not yet been fattened
up; and as for my crabs, they have all been drowned in this great
deluge, as you may see for yourself. And I suppose your lordship will
not give me for my kitchen the two crabs I see here?"

This last sally was directed at the scarlet uniforms of the heydukes,
and diverted his lordship's attention. He was pleased to find the
innkeeper rising to the level of the joke. He had not expected it, and
was all the more amused.

Meanwhile, the gipsy jester had poked out his black phiz, which vied
with that of any nigger, and, flashing a row of white teeth at the
innkeeper, began to tot up on his fingers what he wanted.

"All I want," said he, "is a dish of bird of paradise eggs, served with
the fat of a sucking deer, and a brawn of pickled salmon spawn. I never
eat anything else."

"Then I am sorry for that lordly belly of thine. A little gipsy-ragout
is at your service, however," replied Peter Bús.

"I beg your pardon," cried the gipsy, "but that is my kinsman, and you
are not allowed to roast him."

His lordship fell a-laughing at this insipid jest. Such witticisms
formed no small part of his amusement, and because the innkeeper had
humoured him, his intentions towards him had completely changed.

"Then what _can_ you give your guests?" he resumed.

"Everything, my lord. Only, unfortunately, what is mine is all gone,
what will be mine is far off, and what should be mine is nowhere."

His lordship was so pleased with this circumlocution of "nothing" that
he burst out laughing, and, wishing to immortalize it, exclaimed--

"Where is Gyárfás? Where is that poet fellow skulking now?" And yet the
worthy fellow was standing close beside him with his hands folded behind
his back, and with his pale, withered, parchment-like face peevishly
regarding the whole entertainment. "Look alive, Gyárfás! Quick! Make a
verse upon this inn, where people can get nothing to eat!"

Mr. Gyárfás cast down his eyelashes, drew his mouth up to his nose, and,
tapping his brow with the tip of his finger, delivered himself of this
extemporized verse--

    "If thou bring not to eat with thee hither,
     All empty the plates stand before thee.
     The fast of this house is eternal;
     The Turk will not visit this shanty."

"What's the man talking about! What has the Turk to do with this
_csárda_?"

"He has a great deal to do with it," responded Gyárfás, placidly,
"inasmuch as the Turk needs to eat, though he does not always get the
chance, and therefore would not be likely to come here where he would
find nothing, so the verse is perfect."

The Nabob now suddenly turned towards the landlord.

"Have you a mouse on the premises then?"

"They are not mine, my lord. I only rent the house. But as there are
plenty of them, I don't suppose the ground landlord will begin an action
at law if I take one or two."

"Then roast us a mouse!"

"Only one?"

"Plague on such a question! Dost thou take the belly of a man for the
abyss of hell, to think that one such beast is not quite enough for it?"

"At your service, my lord," said the innkeeper; and he immediately
called the cats into the room to assist him, though he had only to move
a few stones away in order to be able to pick and choose his mouse quite
as well as any cat could have done it for him.

And here I may say, by the way, that a mouse is such a nice pretty
little animal, that I cannot conceive why folks should hold it in such
horror. It is very much the same thing as a squirrel or a guinea-pig,
which we keep in our rooms and pet and play with; nay, it is cleverer
far than they. What a delicate little snout it has, what sweet little
ears, what wee little pets of feet! And then its comically big
moustache, and its quick black eyes like sparkling diamonds! And when
it plays, when it squeaks, when it stands up to beat the air on its hind
legs, it is as clever and as comely as any other animal in the world.
Nobody is horrified at a crab being cooked, nobody flies in terror when
snails are served up at table, yet they are both far more horrible
animals than a mouse. What, then, is there so horrifying in the idea of
cooking a mouse? Why, in China, it is the greatest of delicacies, a
lordly dish for epicures, and they feed it up in cages with nuts and
almonds, and serve it up as the choicest of savouries!

Nevertheless, the whole company was persuaded that the very idea of such
a thing was the most exquisite of jokes, and every one laughed aloud in
anticipation.

Meanwhile, while Mr. Peter Bús threw open a large barn-like room for his
guests, the heydukes had unpacked the waggon, and dragged into the light
of day cushions, curtains, camp-stools, and tables; and in a few moments
the empty, resonant room was changed as if by magic into a sumptuous
apartment. The table was piled high with silver goblets and dishes, and,
reposing among the ice in large silver pitchers, flasks of carved
Venetian crystal with long necks seemed to promise something seductive.

The Nabob himself lay down on the camp bedstead prepared for him, his
heydukes drew the large spurred boots from his feet, one of the peasant
girls sat by his head stroking continually his sparse grey hairs, while
the other sat at the end of the bed rubbing his feet with bits of
flannel. Gyárfás, the poet, and Vidra, the jester, stood before him; a
little further off the heydukes; the greyhound was under the bed. And
thus, surrounded by gipsy, heydukes, jester, peasant-girls, and
greyhound, lay one of the wealthiest magnates of Hungary!

Meanwhile, the mouse was a-roasting. The innkeeper himself brought it
lying in the middle of a large silver dish, surrounded by a heap of
horseradish shavings, and with a bit of green parsley in its mouth, the
usual appurtenances of a very different animal.

Down it was placed in the middle of the table.

First of all, the Nabob offered it to the heydukes one by one. They did
not fancy it, and only shook their heads.

Then it came to the poet's turn.

"Pardon, gratia, your Excellency! I am composing verses on him who eats
it."

"Well, you then, Vidra! Come, down with it, quick!"

"I, your Excellency?" said Vidra, as if he did not quite catch the
words.

"Yes, you. What are you afraid of? While you were living in tents, one
of my oxen went mad, and yet you and your people ate him!"

"True; and if one of your lordship's hogsheads of wine went mad I would
drink it. That's another thing."

"Come, come, make haste! Do the dish honour!"

"But my grandfather had no quarrel with this animal."

"Then rise superior to your grandpapa!"

"I'll rise superior to him for a hundred florins," said the gipsy,
scratching his curly poll.

The Nabob opened the pocket of his dolman, and drew forth a large greasy
pocket-book, which he half opened, displaying a number of nice
blood-coloured banknotes.

The gipsy squinted with half an eye at the well-crammed pocket-book, and
repeated once more--

"For a hundred florins I don't mind doing it!"

"Let us see then!"

The gipsy thereupon unbuttoned the frock-coat which it was his master's
whim he should wear, contracted his rotund, foolish face into a squarish
shape, twitched the mobile skin of his head up and down once or twice,
whereby the whole forest of his hair moved backwards and forwards like
the top-knot of a peewit, and then, seizing the horrible animal by that
part of its body which was furthest from its head, and thereby raising
it into the air, pulled an ugly, acidulous face, shook his head,
constrained himself to a desperate resolution, opened his mouth, shut
his eyes, and in an instant the mouse had disappeared.

The gipsy could not speak, but one of his hands involuntarily clutched
his throat, for it is no joke to swallow a four-legged animal at a gulp;
but his other hand he extended towards the Nabob, gasping with something
like a sob--

"The hundred florins!"

"What hundred florins?" inquired the humorous gentleman. "I said I'd
give you a hundred florins? Nonsense, sir. You should thank me for
providing you with such a rare dish which your grandfather never ate,
I'll be bound to say, and would have paid for the chance of it."

It was a screaming joke, no doubt; yet suddenly the merriment ceased,
for the gipsy all at once began to turn blue and green, his eyes
threatened to start out of his head, he sank down on his chair unable to
speak, but pointed convulsively to his distended mouth.

"Look, look, he's choking!" cried several voices.

The Nabob was terribly alarmed. The joke had taken a decidedly serious
turn.

"Pour wine into his throat to wash it down," he exclaimed.

The heydukes speedily caught up the flasks, and began to fill up the
gipsy's throat with half a bottle at a time to assist the downward
progress of the worthy mouse. After a long time the poor fellow began
to breathe hard, and seemed to recover slightly; but his eyes rolled
wildly, and he was gabbling something unintelligible.

"Well, take your hundred florins," said the frightened Nabob, who could
scarcely contain himself for terror, and wished to comfort and
compensate the gipsy on his return from Charon's ferry-boat.

"Thank you," sobbed the latter, "but there's no need of it now. It is
all up with Vidra; Vidra is dying. If only it had been a wolf that had
killed poor Vidra; but a mouse--oh, oh!"

"Don't be a fool, man! You'll take no harm from it. Look! here's another
hundred. Don't take on so; it has quite gone now! Hit him on the back,
some one, can't you? Bring the venison on now, and make him swallow some
of it!"

The jester thanked them for the thump on the back, and when they set the
venison before him, he regarded it with the doubtful, ambiguous
expression of a spoiled child, who does not know whether to laugh or to
cry. First he laughed, and then he grumbled again, but finally he sat
him down before the savoury cold meat, which had been basted with the
finest lard and flavoured with good cream-like wine sauce, and began to
cram himself full with morsel after morsel so huge that there was surely
never a mouse in the wide world half so big. And thus he not only filled
himself, but satisfied the Nabob also.

And now, at a sign from the Nabob, the heydukes carried in all the cold
dishes they had brought with them, and shoved the loaded table along
till it stood opposite the couch on which he lay. At the lower end of
the table three camp-stools were placed, and on them sat the three
favourites, the jester, the greyhound, and the poet. The Nabob gradually
acquired an appetite by watching these three creatures eat, and by
degrees the wine put them all on the most familiar terms with one
another, the poet beginning to call the gipsy "my lord," while the gipsy
metaphorically buttonholed the Nabob, who scattered petty witticisms on
the subject of the mouse, whereat the two others were obliged to laugh
with all their might.

At last, when the worthy gentleman really believed that it was quite
impossible to play any more variations on the well-worn topic of the
mouse, the gipsy suddenly put his hand to his bosom, and cried with a
laugh, "Here's the mouse!" And with that he drew it forth from the
inside pocket of his frock-coat, where he had shoved it unobserved,
while the terrified company fancied he had swallowed it, and in sheer
despair had soothed him by making him eat and drink all manner of good
things.

"Look, Mat!" said he to the dog, whereupon the greyhound immediately
swallowed the _corpus delicti_.

"You good-for-nothing rascal!" cried the nobleman, "so you'd bandy jests
with me, would you! I'll have you hanged for this. Here, you heydukes,
fetch a rope! Hoist him upon that beam!"

The heydukes immediately took their master at his word. They seized the
gipsy, who never ceased laughing, mounted him on a chair, threw the
halter round his neck, drew the extreme end of the rope across the beam,
and drew away the chair from beneath him. The gipsy kicked and
struggled, but it was of no avail; there they kept him till he really
began to choke, when they lowered him to the ground again.

But now he began to be angry. "I am dying," he cried. "I am not a fool
that you should hoist me up again, when I can die as I am, like an
honest gentleman."

"Die by all means," said the poet. "Don't be afraid. I'll think of an
epitaph for you."

And while the gipsy flung himself on the ground and closed his eyes,
Gyárfás recited this epitaph over him--

    "Here liest thou, gipsy-lad, never to laugh any longer,
     Another shall shoulder the fiddle, and death shall himself
         fiddle o'er thee."

And, in fact, the gipsy never moved a limb. There he lay, prone, stiff,
and breathless. In vain they tickled his nose and his heels; he did not
stir. Then they placed him on the table with a circle of burning candles
round him like one laid out for burial, and the heydukes had to sing
dirges over him, as over a corpse, while the poet was obliged to stand
upon a chair and pronounce his funeral oration.

And the Nabob laughed till he got blue in the face.

       *       *       *       *       *

While these things were going on in one of the rooms of the
"Break-'em-tear-'em" _csárda_, fresh guests were approaching that
inhospitable hostelry. These were the companions of the carriage that
had come to grief by sticking fast in the mud of the cross-roads, for,
after the men and beasts belonging to it had striven uselessly for three
long hours to move it from the reef on which it had foundered, the
gentleman sitting alone inside it had hit upon the peculiar idea of
being carried to the _csárda_ on man-back instead of on horseback. He
mounted, therefore, on to the shoulders of his huntsman, a broadly
built, sturdy fellow, and leaving his lackey in the carriage to look
after whatever might be there, and making the postillion march in front
with the carriage lamp, he trotted in this humorous fashion to the
_csárda_, where the muscular huntsman safely deposited him in the
porch.

It will be worth while to make the acquaintance of the new-comer, as far
as we can at least, as soon as possible.

From his outward appearance it was plain that he did not belong to the
gentry of the _Alföld_.

As he divested himself of his large mantle with its short Quiroga
collar, he revealed a costume so peculiar that if any one showed himself
in it in the streets in our days, not only the street urchins but we
ourselves should run after it. In those days this fashion was called the
mode _à la calicot_.

On his head was a little short cap, somewhat like a tin saucepan in
shape, with such a narrow rim that it would drive a man to despair to
imagine how he could ever catch hold of it. From underneath this short
cap, on both sides, there bulged forth such a forest of curly fluffy
hair that the rim of the cap was quite overwhelmed. The face beneath was
clean-shaved, except that a moustache, pointed at each end, branched
upwards towards the sky like a pair of threatening horns, and the neck
was so compressed within a stiffly starched cravat, with two
sharply-pointed linen ends, that one could not so much as move one's
chin about in it. The body of this gentleman's dark green frock-coat lay
just beneath his armpits, but the tails reached to the ground, and the
collar was so large that you could scarce distinguish its wearer inside
it. He also had double and triple shirt frills, and while the brass
buttons of his coat were no larger than cherry pips, the monstrously
puffed sleeves rose as high as his shoulders. The wax-yellow waistcoat
was almost half concealed by the huge projecting ruffles. The whole
costume was set off by hose _à la cosaque_, which appeared to amplify
downwards, bulged over the boots, and were slit up in front so as to
allow them to be stuffed therein. Above the waistcoat dangled all sorts
of jingling-jangling trinkets, but the boots were provided with spurs of
terrible dimensions, so that if a fellow did not look out he might
easily have had his eyes poked out. Such was the martial mode of those
days, at the very time when no war was going on anywhere. The finishing
touch to this get-up was supplied by a thin tortoiseshell cane with a
bird's head carved in ivory, which a beau with any pretensions to _bon
ton_ used regularly to twiddle in his mouth.

"Eh, ventre bleu! eh, sacré bleu!" exclaimed the new-comer (so much, at
any rate, he had learnt from Béranger), as he kicked at the kitchen door
and shook his saturated mantle. "What sort of a country is this? Hie,
there, a light! Is there any one at home?"

This marvel brought forth Peter Bús with a light, and after gaping
sufficiently at the new-comer and his servant who had thus broken into
his kitchen, he asked, with an alacrity to oblige by no means
corresponding to his amazement, "What are your commands, sir?" His face
showed at the same time that he meant to give nothing.

The stranger murdered the Hungarian language terribly, and he had a
distinctly foreign accent.

"Milles tonnerres!" he cried, "can't you speak any other language here
but Hungarian?"

"No."

"That's bad. Then where's the innkeeper?"

"I am. And may I ask, sir, who you are, whence you came, and where you
live?"

"I own property here, but I live at Paris, and what devils brought me
hither I don't know. I would have gone on further if the mud of your
roads hadn't stopped me. And now give me--comment s'appelle ça?" And
here he came to a stop because he could not find the word he wanted.

"Give you what, sir?"

"Comment s'appelle ça? Tell me the name!"

"My name, sir? Peter Bús."

"Diable! not your name, but the name of the thing I want."

"What _do_ you want, sir?"

"That thing that draws a coach, a four-legged thing; you strike it with
a whip."

"A horse, do you mean?"

"Pas donc! They don't call it that."

"A _forspont_?"[2]

[Footnote 2: Relay of horses: Ger. _Vorspann_.]

"That's it, that's it. A forspont! I want a forspont immediately."

"I have none, sir; all my horses are out to grass."

"C'est triste! Then here I'll remain. Tant mieux; it will not bore me. I
have travelled in Egypt and Morocco. I have spent the night in as
deplorable a hut as this before now; it will amuse me. I will fancy I am
in some Bedouin shanty, and this river here is the Nile, that has
overflowed, and these beasts that are croaking in the water--comment
s'appelle ça?--frogs? oh yes, of course--these frogs are the alligators
of the Nile. And this miserable country--what do you call this
department?"

"It is not a part of anything, sir; it is a dam, the dam of the
cross-roads, we call it."

"Fripon! I am not speaking of the mud in which I stuck fast, but of the
district all about here. What do they call it?"

"Oh, I see! They call it the county of Szabolcs."

"Szabolcs, eh? Szabolcs? C'est parceque, no doubt, so many _szabos_[3]
live in it, eh? Ha, ha! That was a good _calembourg_ of mine, c'est une
plaisanterie. Dost understand?"

[Footnote 3: Tailors.]

"I can't say for certain, but I believe the Hungarians so called it
after the name of one of their ancient leaders who led them out of
Asia."

"Ah, c'est beau! Very nice, I mean. The worthy magyars name their
departments after their ancient patriarchs. Touching, truly!"

"Then, may I ask to what nationality you yourself belong, sir?"

"I don't live here. Bon Dieu! what a terrible fate for any one to live
here, where the puddles are bottomless and a man can see nothing but
storks."

Peter Bús turned to leave the room; he was offended at being treated in
this manner.

"Come, come, don't run away with the light, signore contadino!" cried
the stranger.

"I beg your pardon, but I am of gentle birth myself. My name is Peter
Bús,[4] and I am well content with it."

[Footnote 4: Pronounced _Bush_.]

"Ah, ah, ah, Monsignore Bouche, then you are a gentleman and an
innkeeper in one, eh? That's nothing. James Stuart was of royal blood,
and at last he also became an innkeeper. Well, tell me, if I am to
remain here, have you some good wine and pretty girls, eh?"

"My wine is bad--'tis no drink for a gentleman--and my serving-maid is
as ugly as night."

"Ugly! Ah, c'est piquant! There's no need to take offence; so much the
better! 'Tis all the same to a gentleman. To-morrow an elegant lady of
fashion, to-day a Cinderella, one as beautiful as a young goddess, the
other as villainous as Macbeth's witches; there perfume, here the smell
of onions. C'est le même chose! 'tis all one; such is the streakiness of
life."

Mr. Peter Bús did not like this speech at all. "You would do better to
ask yourself where you are going to lie to-night, for I am sure I should
very much like to know."

"Ah, ça, 'tis interessant. Then is there no guest-chamber here?"

"There is, but it is already occupied."

"C'est rien! We'll go halves. If it is a man, he need not put himself
out; if it is a dame, tant pis pour elle, so much the worse for her."

"It is not as you think. Let me tell you that Master Jock is in that
room."

"Qu'est-ce-que ça? Who the devil is Master Jock?"

"What! have you never even heard of Master Jock?"

"Ah, c'est fort. This is a little too strong. Folks lead such a
patriarchal life in these parts that they are only known by their
Christian names! Eh, bien, what do I care for Master Jock! Just you go
to him and let him know that I want to sleep in his room. I am a
gentleman to whom nothing must be refused."

"A likely tale," observed Peter Bús; and without saying another word, he
put out the light and went to lie down, leaving the stranger to seek out
for himself the door of the other guest's room if he was so minded.

The darkness was such as a man might feel, but the merry singing and
howling served to guide the new-comer to the chamber of the mysterious
Nabob, who went by the name of Master Jock; why, we shall find out later
on. The fun there had by this time reached its frantic climax. The
heydukes had raised into the air by its four legs the table on which the
jester lay, and were carrying it round the room, amidst the bellowing of
long-drawn-out dirges; behind them marched the poet, with the
table-cloth tied round his neck by way of mantle, declaiming d--d bad
Alexandrine verses on the spur of the moment; while Master Jock himself
had shouldered a fiddle (he always carried one about with him wherever
he went), and was dashing off one _friss-magyar_ after another with all
the grace and dexterity of a professional gipsy fiddler, at the same
time making the two little peasant girls dance in front of him with a
couple of the heydukes.

At this moment the stranger burst into the room.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," he cried, "I have the honour to
salute you!"

The tumult instantly subsided. Every one gazed open-mouthed at the
stranger who had suddenly appeared in their midst, and saluted them with
such affability. Master Jock let his fiddle-bow fall from his hand, for
though he loved a practical joke to excess, he did not like strangers to
see him at it. But the new-comer was not a stranger for long, for the
jester, surprised at the sudden silence, looking up, and perceiving a
gentleman attired not altogether unlike himself, thought fit to come to
life again, and, springing from his bier, rushed towards the stranger,
embraced and kissed him, and exclaimed--

"My dear brother, Heaven has surely sent you hither!"

At this mad idea the laughter burst forth anew.

"Ah! ce drôle de gipsy!" said the stranger, trying to free himself from
the gipsy's embraces. "That's quite enough; kiss me no more, I say."

Then he bowed all round to the distinguished company, wiped away all
traces of the gipsy's kisses with his pocket-handkerchief, and said--

"Do not derange yourselves on my account, ladies and gentlemen; pursue
your diversions, I beg! I am not in the habit of spoiling fun. I am a
true gentleman, who knows how to prendre son air in whatever company he
may find himself. I have the pleasure of introducing myself to your
worships as Abellino Kárpáthy, of Kárpát."

And with these words he whistled into the hollow end of his cane, flung
himself with a noble nonchalance into one of the camp-chairs, and threw
one of his heavily spurred feet over the other.

This speech fairly astonished the company. Even Master Jock now sprang
from his seat, and, resting the palms of both hands on his knees,
regarded the new-comer with amazement, while the gipsy went down on all
fours and began sniffing around him like a dog.

At length Master Jock, in a solemn, drawling voice, exclaimed--

"What! that gentleman a Kárpáthy? Do you know what it means to bear the
name Kárpáthy? That name which has a line of thirty ancestors behind it,
all of whom were _főispáns_ and standard-bearers; that name which is as
sonorous as any in the kingdom! Bethink you, therefore, of what you are
saying, sir! There is only one Kárpáthy in the world besides myself, and
him they call Bélá!"

"Le voilà! That's just myself," said the stranger, protruding one of his
legs in front of him, and beating time with the other to an operatic
tune, which he whistled through the hole in his stick until he had quite
finished it. "I was born in this barbarous land, and the father who bore
me--ah, ça! not my father! comment s'appelle ça?--that one of my parents
who was not my father, I mean."

"I suppose you mean your mother?"

"Yes, yes, of course! My mother, that's it! Well, my mother was a noble
dame, and well-educated, but my father was a bit of an oddity who dearly
loved his joke. But the greatest joke he ever perpetrated was when he
christened me, his eldest son, Bélá, and made me learn Hungarian. Bélá,
forsooth! Now, _is_ that a proper name for a gentleman? Luckily for me,
my father died betimes, and I went with my mother to Paris. My name
displeased me, and as the most fashionable name just then happened to
be Abellino, I changed my name Bélá into it. On the other hand, I could
not forget the Hungarian language. But it does not matter. I know the
nigger lingo just as well. It is no disparagement to a real gentleman."

"Then why, may I ask, are you travelling about here?"

"Ah! venir ici de Paris, c'est tomber du ciel à l'enfer! ('To come
hither from Paris is to fall out of heaven into hell!') C'est
merveilleux, wonderful, that men can live here at all. Ah, mon cher
heyduke, sure I see something cooked. Be so good as to bring it nearer;
put it on the table, and fill my glass for me. A votre santé, messieurs
et mesdames! And to your health in particular, Monsieur Jock!"

Jock had listened patiently to this harangue. His eyes followed
attentively every movement of the stranger, and a sort of resigned
melancholy gradually stole over his features.

"Then what brings my lord hither--out of heaven into hell?"

"Hélas!" sighed Abellino, drumming a march on his plate with his knife
and fork. "An unavoidable piece of business. A gentleman who lives
abroad has many necessities, and my father only left me an income of a
mouldy four hundred thousand francs. Now, I ask you, how can a man live
decently on that? If a man wants to do honour to his nation, he must,
before all things, cut a decent figure abroad. I keep going one of the
first houses in Paris; I have my own meute and écurie; my mistresses are
the most famous dancers and singers. I have travelled in Egypt. In
Morocco I abducted the most beautiful damsel of the Bey from his harem.
I spend the season in Italy. I have an elegant villa on the shores of
the Lake of Como. I have whole folios written of my travels by the best
French authors, and I publish them as if I had written them myself. The
Académie des Sciences has elected me a member in consequence. At Homburg
I have lost half a million francs at a sitting without moving a muscle
of my face. And so my mouldy four hundred thousand francs have all gone,
interest and capital alike--where?"

And here, with hand and mouth, he intimated in pantomime that it had all
dissolved itself into thin air.

Master Jock continued to regard the juvenile _roué_ with a look that
grew stonier and stonier, and involuntarily, unconsciously, a deep sigh
escaped from his breast.

"Nevertheless, that was nothing," continued the young dandy, with a
self-satisfied voice. "So long as a man has a million he can easily
spend two millions; 'tis a science readily learnt. All at once ces
fripons de créanciers, those villainous creditors of mine, took it into
their heads to ask me for money, and when one began the others were not
slow in following. I cursed them; but that did not satisfy them, so they
went to the courts about it, and I had to leave Paris. C'est pour brûler
la cervelle! It was enough to make me blow my brains out. Mais v'la!
Fortune favoured me. It chanced that a kinsman of my father's, a certain
John Kárpáthy, who was very much richer than my father----"

"Aha!"

"A mad, doating old fellow, of whom I could tell you a thousand
follies."

"Really?"

"Oh yes. He never budges from his native village; but he has a theatre
in his castle, in which they play his own comedies; he sends for the
leading prima donnas, simply that they may sing boorish peasant ditties
to him; and he keeps a whole palace for his dogs, who eat with him from
the same table."

"Anything else?"

"Then he has a whole harem of farmyard wenches, and _betyárs_ similar to
himself dance with them and him till dawn. Then he sets the whole
company by the ears, and they fight till the blood flows in streams."

"Nothing more?"

"And then his conduct is so very eccentric. He can't endure anything
that comes from abroad. He does not allow peas to appear on his table,
because they don't grow on his estate. They are for the same reason not
allowed to bring coffee into the house, and he uses honey instead of
sugar. Mad, eh?"

"Certainly. But do you know anything else about him?"

"Oh, I could tell you a thousand things. His whole life is an absurdity.
He only did a wise thing once in his life. When I was at the very last
gasp, and nothing in the world could save me but a rich uncle, this
Hungarian Nabob, this Plutus, one night crammed himself up to the very
throat with plover's eggs, and died early in the morning. I was
immediately advertised of the fact."

"And so I suppose you have come hither to take over the rich inheritance
without delay?"

"Ma foi! nothing else were capable of bringing me back into this
detestable country."

"Very well, my pretty gentleman, then you may just clap your horses into
your carriage, and drive back to Paris, or Italy, or Morocco if you
like, for _I am_ that half-crazy uncle of yours, that rich _betyár_ of
whom you speak, and I am not dead yet, as you can see for yourself."

At these words Abellino collapsed; his arms and legs grew limp and
feeble, and he involuntarily stammered in his terror--

"Est-ce possible? Can it be possible?"

"Yes, sir, it can. I am that John Kárpáthy whom the country folks
jokingly call Master Jock, and who likes to be so called."

"Ah, if only I had thought a little!" cried the young gentleman, leaping
to his feet and hastening to grasp his great-uncle's hand. "But, indeed,
evil-minded persons described my only uncle to me so differently that I
could not picture him to myself in the shape of such a gallant, noble
gentleman. Milles tonnerres! let nobody in future dare to say in my
presence that my dear uncle is not the finest cavalier on the continent!
I should have been inconsolable if I had not made your acquaintance.
Capital! I was looking for a dead uncle, and I have found a living one.
C'est bien charmant! The Goddess of Fortune is not a woman for nothing.
I protest that she has quite befooled me!"

"Enough of this sort of flummery, my sweet nephew; I don't like it. I am
used to rough, plain speaking, even from my heydukes. I prefer to have
it so. You, my good nephew, have come hither from a great distance to
inherit my estate, and your creditors no doubt will be marching after
you in regiments, and now you find me alive. A little aggravating I take
it, eh?"

"Au contraire, as I find my dear uncle alive, it will be all the easier
for him to show himself amiable towards me."

"How? Explain yourself!"

"Well, I do not ask you for a yearly allowance, ce serait bien fatigant
for us both. My proposal is that you pay my debts in a lump sum, and
there shall be peace between us."

"Hum! Most magnanimous! And if I do _not_ pay them, I suppose war will
be declared?"

"Come, come, my dear uncle! You are pleased to be facetious! Not pay, do
you say! Why, 'tis only a matter of one or two hundred thousand livres
or so, a mere bagatelle to you."

"Well, my dear Mr. Nephew, I much regret that you think so lightly of
the estate which was won by the valour of your ancestors, but I am quite
unable to help you. I also am in want of cash. I also squander it on
follies, but on follies of purely home growth. I have a whole mob of
comrades, heydukes and ne'er-do-weels, at my heels, and anything over
and above what I spend on them, I scatter among the bumpkins who till my
fields, or, if a foolish whim seize me, I build me a bridge from one
hill to another. But I certainly do not waste my substance on
opera-dancers, nor am I given to abducting Moorish princesses, or
clambering up pyramids. If you like eating and drinking, you shall
always have as much as you like of both at my house, and you may also
choose you there pretty girls to your heart's content, who will look
every bit as picturesque as your Morocco princesses, if only you trick
them out finely enough. Moreover, if you have a mind to travel, this
kingdom is quite big enough. You can ride in your carriage for eight
days at a stretch without getting to the end of my property. But send
money abroad I will not; we don't carry water to the Danube."

The young gentleman began to lose patience during the course of this
lecture, turning incessantly in his chair and wriggling backwards and
forwards.

"I don't ask for a gift, you know," he exclaimed at last, "but only for
a payment in advance."

"What! a payment in advance! You want me to part with my very skin, I
suppose?"

"Eh!" cried Abellino, impatiently, and his face began to wear an
impertinent, contemptuous expression. "'Tis mine, you know, practically,
or at least will be one day. I suppose you don't want to carry it away
with you in your coffin?"

"In my coffin!" shouted the old man, deeply agitated, and his face
suddenly turned pale. "What! In my coffin! Do you speak of coffins to
me?"

"Of course I do. Why, you've one leg in your coffin already, and
banquets, parties, and peasant-girls are dragging the other one in too,
and thus all will be mine, and I shan't owe you a thank you, for it."

"Hie! my coachman!" thundered old Kárpáthy, springing from his chair,
and at that moment his face wore an almost heroic expression, "get ready
my conveyance. We'll depart--depart this instant. Let nobody breathe the
air of this room any longer."

Abellino laughed aloud at the old fellow's impotent rage.

"Come, come, don't be so furious," he said. "Why échauffer yourself? You
only give the apoplexy a quicker chance. Come, come, my good old boy,
don't be waxy. I can wait, you know. I am quite a juvenile." And with
that he stretched himself at full length across three chairs, and began
to whistle a fragment of some vaudeville ditty that occurred to his
mind.

The heydukes, packing up the things, would have pulled the chairs from
under him, but the old man cried--

"Leave everything where it is; I'll touch nothing that that fellow has
had aught to do with. Landlord! Where is the man? Everything in this
room is his!"

The last words were spoken in so hoarse a voice as to be scarcely
intelligible. The jester took his master's hand to prevent him from
falling, while the poet led the way.

"You see, it is of no use kicking up a row," said Abellino, with
ironical sympathy. "Don't go so quickly or you'll fall, and that won't
be good for your health. Put on your fur pelisse lest you catch cold.
Where are his lordship's leg-warmers? Hie! you fellows! Put a warm brick
under my dear uncle's feet! Watch over every hair of his head!"

All this time John Kárpáthy said not a word. It was the first time in
his life that any one had dared to anger him. Ah, if any one else had
dared to do such a thing, what a scene there would have been! The
heydukes, the coachmen, stood before him trembling. Even Mr. Peter Bús
himself was speechless as he looked upon that dumb listening countenance
staring fixedly at him with bloodshot eyes. With great difficulty the
heydukes hoisted him into his carriage. The two little girls took their
places by him, one on each side. Then he beckoned the innkeeper to
approach, and murmured something in his ear in a low hoarse voice,
whereupon Bús nodded with an air of approval. Mr. John then handed him
his pocket-book, and signified that he was to keep its contents, and
after that the carriage rumbled off with its escort of mounted
torch-bearers.

The _roué_ in a mocking, strident voice, sent an irritating farewell
after it with a lavish accompaniment of resounding kisses--"Adieu, cher
oncle! adieu, dear Jock _bácsi_! My respects to the little girls at
home, and to the little dogs also. Au revoir! To our next merry
meeting!" And he kept on sending after him whole handfuls of kisses.

Meanwhile the innkeeper had begun to drag out of the room one by one all
the beds and tables which Sir John had left him.

"Ah, cher ami! won't you leave the furniture till morning? I shall want
to use it."

"Impossible. The house has to be burnt down."

"Que diable! How dare you say such a thing?"

"This house belongs to the gentleman who has just gone out. What is
inside it is mine, and has been paid for. He has ordered that this inn
shall be burnt down, and that no other inn shall ever be built on this
spot again. To every one his fancy, you know."

And thereupon, with the utmost phlegm, he neatly applied his candle to
the rush-thatched eaves of the house, and with the utmost coolness
watched to see how the flames would spread. By the light of the fire he
could the more comfortably calculate how much money he had got for this
illumination. He found he could hire three good houses for it in the
neighbouring town of Szeged, and he was quite satisfied.

As for the young gentleman, if he had no wish to be burnt, he had
nothing for it but to huddle himself in his mantle, whistle for his
long-legged steed, mount on its back, and allow himself to be taken back
to his carriage.

"You have driven me out of this inn; I'll drive you out of the world,"
he murmured between his teeth, as his human steed with squelching boots
tramped along with him through the endless mud. By the light of the fire
the two men, one on the back of the other, resembled a half-submerged
giant.

And thus ended the fateful encounter of the two kinsmen at the
"Break-'em-tear-'em" _csárda_.



CHAPTER II.

A BARGAIN FOR THE SKIN OF A LIVING MAN.


One of the richest capitalists in Paris at this time was Monsieur
Griffard. Not so very long ago, somewhere about 1780, Griffard was
nothing more than a pastry-cook in one of the suburbs of the city, and
his knowledge of the science of finance was limited to his dealings with
the needy students who ate his wares on credit, and paid for them
accordingly. The Mississippi mania whirled him along with it also. In
those days every man in Paris meant to be a millionaire. In the streets,
alleys, and public squares every one was either buying or selling
Mississippi shares. Monsieur Griffard left his pastry-shop in the charge
of his eldest assistant while he himself went in search of millions,
and, what is more, found them. But one day, like a beautiful
soap-bubble, the whole Mississippi joke collapsed, and Monsieur Griffard
found himself out in the cold with but nine sous in his pocket.

Now, when a man who has not been a millionaire finds he has only nine
sous in his purse, there's no reason why he should be particularly
angry. But when a man has stood on an eminence from whence he can survey
his own coaches, horses, liveried flunkies, magnificently furnished
rooms, sumptuous table, pretty mistresses, and other agreeable things of
the same sort, a relapse into insignificance may be very unpleasant
indeed. So poor Monsieur Griffard, frantic with rage, hastened off to a
cutler's shop, bought a large knife with seven of his sous, and had it
well sharpened with the remaining two; but in the mean time up came a
mob of ragged citizens with Phrygian caps on, bawling at the top of
their voices, "Down with the aristocrats!" and carrying on a pole by way
of a banner the last number of Marat's newspaper, whereupon it occurred
to Monsieur Griffard that he might make a better use of his
well-sharpened knife than applying it to his own throat, so he mingled
with the crowd, and cried, "Down with the aristocrats!" as loudly as
anybody.

How or where he was pitched and tossed about during the next few years
he himself probably could not have told you; but when, a few years
later, we come across him again under the Directory, we find him
attached as commissary of stores to the army of the Rhine, or the army
of Italy, and dodging from one to the other, according as this or that
general showed a disposition to shoot him. For army commissaries are of
two classes, those whose business makes them beggars and those who
become millionaires; the former generally shoot themselves, while the
latter are shot by others. But the last case is much the rarer.

Fortunately for himself, Monsieur Griffard belonged to the class who are
not shot, but become millionaires. He managed to acquire some of the
neat little estates which the _emigré_ magnates had left to the care of
the State, and when they came home again in the days of the Restoration,
Monsieur Griffard was one of the lucky men who watched the gorgeous
pageant of the march of the allied armies through Paris from his own
balcony. Several of the _emigrés_, who came in batches in the rear of
the triumphant hosts, beheld with amazement the splendid five-storeyed
palace in the Boulevard des Italiens, which was not there at all when
they last saw Paris, and when they inquired after its owner, the name
they heard was quite unfamiliar to them.

But it did not remain unfamiliar for long. The owner of millions has
very little difficulty in acquiring distinctions which will admit him
into the very best society. In a short time Monsieur Griffard's name
became one of the most harmonious of passwords. An elegant _soirée_, a
genial _matinée_, a horse race, an orgie, an elopement, were not
considered complete without him, and Monsieur Griffard never remained
away, for all such occasions were so many opportunities to an able
business man for learning all about the passions, the follies, the
status, the extravagance, or the necessities of other people, and
building safe calculations upon what he learnt.

Monsieur Griffard was one of the boldest speculators in the world. He
would lend large amounts to ruined spendthrifts whom their own servants
summoned for their monthly wages, and yet, somehow or other, he always
made his money by it. When I say "his money," I mean that he got back
about twice as much as he expended. He did not risk his money for
nothing. Amongst all the villas and pavilions on the Ile de Jerusalem,
Monsieur Griffard's pleasure-house was the most costly and the most
magnificent. It was built on a little mound, which human ingenuity had
exalted into a hill, and its parade looked into the waters of the Seine.
In point of style it owed something to almost every age and nation--a
great point with the architects of the day, who, equally rejecting all
pedantic classicism, and all rococo prettiness, strove instead to make
everything they put their hands to as complicated, bizarre, and
incongruous as possible. It was not enough that the garden itself
should stand on an island, but it was surrounded by an artificial stream
meandering in the most masterly style in every direction, and with all
sorts of bridges thrown across it, from an American suspension-bridge to
a rustic Breton bridge, composed of wood and bark, and covered with ivy.
And each of these bridges had its own warden, with a halbert across his
shoulder, and the wardens had little sentry-boxes to correspond with the
style of the bridges, some like hermitages, others like lighthouses, and
their own peculiar trumpets to proclaim loudly to approaching guests
over which of the bridges they ought to go to reach the castle.

Beyond the bridges extended the winding ways of the English garden,
which in those days had quite thrown into the background the earlier
taste for stony, wall-like, rectilinear alleys. A man might now wander
helplessly about for hours among densely foliaged trees without being
able to find his destination. He would see the beds beside him
everywhere thickly planted with flowers in full bloom, and at every turn
he would come upon arcades of jasmine with idyllic benches underneath,
or marble statues of ancient divinities overgrown with creeping gobæas,
or pyramids of modish flowers piled one on the top of the other. In one
place he would behold masterly reproduced ruins, with agaric and cactus
monsters planted amongst them. In another place he would observe an
Egyptian tomb, with real mummies inside, and outside eternally burning
lamps, which were replenished with oil early every morning, or a Roman
altar with vessels of carved stone and Corinthian vases. Here and there,
in more open places, fountains and waterfalls plashed and gurgled in
marble basins, throwing jets of water into the air, and enabling merry
little goldfish to disport themselves, whence the stream flowed among
Oriental reeds into artfully hidden lakes, where, on the tranquil watery
mirror, swam beautiful white swans, which did not sing as sweetly as the
poets would have us believe, but made up for it by eating no end of
Indian corn, which was then very much dearer than pure wheat.

Supposing a man to have safely run the gauntlet of all these
obstructions and admired all these marvels, he would, at last, somehow
or other, stumble upon the terrace leading to this Tusculum, every stage
of which was planted thickly with orange trees, some in bloom, while
others were weighed down by loads of fruit. Among these orange trees
to-day we perceive that young gentleman we have already been fortunate
enough to meet. Nevertheless, as a whole twelve months has elapsed since
then, and the fashion has changed completely, we must look at him pretty
hard before we shall recognize him.

The calicot season is at an end. The young dandy now wears a long
overcoat reaching to the knee, buttoned by broad pendant gew-gaws, with
stiff, inexpressibly high-reaching boots. There is no longer the trace
of a moustache; it has been supplanted by whiskers, of a provocative
description, extending from the ears to the nose, and quite changing the
character of the face. The hair is parted, smoothed in the middle, and
pressed down from the top by a frightful sort of thing, which they
called _chapeau à la Bolivar_, a hat with so broad a rim that it could
serve just as well as an umbrella.

This was Abellino Kárpáthy.

The banker's staircases and antechambers are swarming with hosts of lazy
loafers strutting about in the silvered liveries of lackeys, who hand
the arriving guests on from one to the other, and deprive them on
entering of their overcoats, sticks, hats, and gloves, which they have
to redeem on their return in exchange for liberal _pour-boires_. These
worthy bread-wasters know Abellino of old, for Hungarian magnates are
well aware that it is especially necessary in foreign lands to keep up
the national dignity in the eyes of domestics, and here is only one way
of doing this, _i.e._ by scattering your money right and left, parting
with your guineas, in fact, every time you have a glass of water or drop
your pocket-handkerchief. You know, of course, that a really elegant
cavalier never carries any sort of money about with him short of
guineas, and these, too, must be fresh from the mint, and well sprinkled
with eau de Cologne or some other perfume, so as to be free from the
soil of vulgar hands.

In an instant Abellino's cloak, cap, and cane were wrested from him, the
servants rang to each other, and ran from apartment to apartment, and
the cavalier had scarce reached the last door when the first courier
came running back with the announcement that Monsieur Griffard was ready
to receive him, and with that he threw open the wings of the lofty
mahogany folding-door which led into Monsieur Griffard's confidential
chamber.

There sat Monsieur Griffard surrounded by a heap of newspapers. In front
of the banker, on a little china porcelain table, stood a silver
tea-service, and from time to time he sipped from a half-filled saucer
some fluid or other, possibly a raw egg beaten up in tea and sweetened
by a peculiar sort of crystallized sugar, made from milk which was said
to be a very good remedy against chest complaints, but was
extraordinarily dear, for which reason many a bigwig thought it _de bon
ton_ to suffer from chest complaints, so as to have an excuse for using
the sugar. The banker himself was a very respectable-looking old
gentleman of about seventy, with a face gracious to amiability, and at
first sight certainly most taking. Not only the dress, but the whole
manner of the man, vividly suggested Talleyrand, one of whose greatest
admirers he actually was. His hair was of a marvellously beautiful
white, but his face quite red and clean-shaved, and therefore all the
fresher and more animated; his teeth were white and even, his hands
extraordinarily smooth and delicate, as is generally the case with men
who have had much to do with the kneading of dough.

No sooner did the man of money perceive Abellino at the open door than
he put down the paper which he was reading without the aid of an
eyeglass, and, advancing to meet him to the very threshold, greeted him
with the most engaging affability.

"Monseigneur," exclaimed the young Merveilleux (such was the title of
the dandies of those days), "I am your servant to the very heel of my
shoe."

"Monseigneur," replied Monsieur Griffard, with similar pleasantry, "I am
your servant to the very depths of my cellar."

"Ha, ha, ha! Well said, well said! You answered me there," laughed the
young dandy. "In an hour's time that _bon-mot_ will be repeated in every
salon of the town. Well, what's the news in Paris, my dear money
monarch? I don't want bad news--tell me only the good!"

"The best news," said the banker, "is that we see you in Paris again.
And still better news than that is seeing you here."

"Ah, Monsieur Griffard, you are always so courtly!" cried the young man,
flinging himself into an armchair. "Well, Monsieur Griffard," he
continued, regarding himself at the same time in a little pocket-mirror
to see whether his smooth hair had been rumpled, "if you have only got
good news to tell me, I, on the other hand, have brought you nothing but
bad."

"Par exemple?"

"Par exemple. You know I went to Hungary to look after a certain
inheritance of mine, a certain patrimony which would bring me in a clear
million and a half."

"I know," said the banker, with a cold smile, and one of his hands began
playing with a pen.

"Then you also know, perhaps, that in the Asiatic kingdom where my
inheritance lies, nothing is on such a bad footing as the land, except
it be the king's highways. But no, the law is much the worse. The
highways, if the weather be dry, are tolerable, but the law is always
the same whether there be rain or sunshine."

Here the young Merveilleux stood up as if to allow the banker an
opportunity to congratulate him on this _jeu d'ésprit_, but the other
only smiled calmly.

"You must know, moreover," continued Abellino, "that there is a vile
expression in the Hungarian language, 'Intra dominium et extra
dominium,' which may be expressed in French by 'In possession and out of
possession.' Now, whatever right anybody may have to any property, if he
be out of possession he is in a hobble; while he who happens to be in
possession, let him be the biggest usurper in the world, may laugh at
the other fellow, and spin the case out indefinitely. Now, here am I,
for instance. Just fancy, the inheritance, the rich property, was almost
in my hands; I hasten to the spot in order to enter into my rights, and
I find that some one has been before me, and sits comfortably in
possession."

"I understand," said the banker, with a cunning smile, "some
evil-disposed usurper is in actual possession, Monseigneur Kárpáthy, of
the property that was so nearly yours, and will not recognize your
rights, but stupidly appeals to that big book, among whose many
paragraphs you will also find these words written, 'There is no
inheriting the living.'"

The young dandy stared at the banker with all his eyes.

"How much do you know?" he cried.

"I know this much--the evil usurper who makes so free with your
inheritance is none other than your uncle himself, who is so lacking in
discretion as to sufficiently come to himself again after a stroke of
apoplexy, with the aid of a hastily applied lancet, to do you out of
your property, and place you in such an awkward position that you cannot
find a single article in that thick code of laws of yours which will
enable you to bring an action against your uncle, because he had the
indecency not to die."

"Then it is a scandal," cried Kárpáthy, leaping from his seat. "I have
everywhere been proclaiming that I intend to bring an action."

"Pray keep quiet," remarked the banker, blandly. "Every one believes
what you say, but I must know the truth, because I am a banker. But I am
accustomed to keep silence. The family relations of the Rajah of Nepaul
in the East Indies are as well-known to me as is the mode of life of the
greatest Spanish grandee, and it is as useful to me to know of the
_embarras de richesses_ of the one as of the splendour-environed poverty
of the other. I know the position of every stranger who comes to Paris,
wherever he may come from, or whatever racket he may make. During the
last few days, two Hungarian counts have arrived here, who are on a
walking tour through Europe; another is returning from America, and he
travelled third class the whole way; but I know very well that the
properties of these three gentlemen at home are in such excellent
condition that they could lend me money if I wanted it. On the other
hand, there rode through the Porte St. Denis quite recently, in a
gilded carriage, drawn by white horses, and escorted by plumed
outriders, a northern prince, whose name is on every one's lips; but I
know very well that the poor devil carries about with him all the money
he has, for his property has been sequestered on account of some
political scandal."

Kárpáthy impatiently interrupted the banker's speech.

"Well, well!--but why should I be forced to listen to all this?"

"It may serve to show you that there are and will be secrets at the
bottom of the heart and the pocket, that the men who control the money
market know things that they keep to themselves, and that although I am
well aware of your delicate circumstances, you may tell the world quite
another tale, and you'll find it will not doubt your word."

"Enfin, of what use is that to me?"

"Well," replied the banker, with a shrug, "I know very well that it
would not trouble you much if the whole world knew of you what I know,
if only I did not know it. You naturally come to me, intending to
describe to me the symptoms of a disease entirely different to that from
which you are actually suffering; but I am a practical doctor, who can
read the symptoms of my patients from their faces. Suppose, now, I were
able to cure you?"

The bitter jest pleased Abellino. "Hum! feel my pulse then," he said
jestingly, "but put your hand, not on my pulse, but in my pocket."

"There is no necessity for that. Let us consider the symptoms. Are you
not suffering a slight indigestion in consequence of an undigested debt
of some three hundred thousand francs or so?"

"You know I do. Give my creditors something to go away with."

"But that would be hard on the poor fellows. You would not choke off
your upholsterers, your coach-makers, and your horse-dealers because you
can't pay them, I suppose? Would it not be juster to pay them up in
full?"

"How can I?" cried Abellino, furiously. "If only, like Don Juan de
Castro, I could raise money on half of my moustache by sending it to
Toledo! But I can't even do that, for I have cut it off."

"And what will you do if they keep on dunning you?"

"Blow my brains out; that's soon done."

"Ah! don't do that. What would the world say if an eminent Hungarian
nobleman were to blow his brains out for a matter of a paltry hundred
thousand francs or two?"

"And what would it say if they clapped him in gaol for these same paltry
francs?"

The banker smiled, and laid his hand on the young dandy's shoulder;
then, in a confidential tone, he added--

"Now we will try what we can do to save you."

This smile, this condescending tap on the shoulder, revealed the
_parvenu_ most completely.

The banker now took a seat beside him on the ample sofa, and thus
obliged him to sit straight.

"You require three hundred thousand francs," continued Monsieur
Griffard, in a gentle, soothing voice, "and I suppose you will not be
alarmed at the idea of paying me back six hundred thousand instead of
that amount when you come into your property?"

"Fi donc!" said Kárpáthy, contemptuously. A feeling of noble pride awoke
within him for an instant, and he coldly withdrew his arm from the
banker's hand. "You are only a usurer, after all," he added.

The banker pocketed the affront with a smile, and tried to smooth the
matter over with a jest.

"The Latin proverb says, '_Bis dat qui cito dat_--'He gives twice who
gives quickly.' Why should I not wish to double my money? Besides, money
is a sort of ware, and if you are at liberty to expect a tenfold return
from grain that you have cast forth, why may you not expect as much from
money that you have cast forth likewise? Take into consideration,
moreover, that this is one of the hardiest speculations in the world.
You may die before the kinsman you hope to inherit. You may be thrown
from your horse at a fox-hunt or a steeplechase and break your neck; you
may be shot through the head in a duel; or a fever or a cold may seize
you, and I shall be obliged to go into mourning for my dear departed
three hundred thousand francs. But let us go further. So far as you are
concerned it is not enough that I pay your debts. You will want at least
twice that amount to live upon every year. Good! I am ready to advance
you that also."

At these words Kárpáthy eagerly turned towards the banker again.

"You are joking?"

"Not in the least. I risk a million to gain two. I risk two millions to
gain four, and so on. I speak frankly. I give much and I lose much. At
the present moment you are in no better a position than Juan de Castro,
who raised a loan on half his moustache from the Saracens of Toledo.
Come now! an Hungarian gentleman's moustache is no worse than a
Spaniard's. I will advance you on it as much as you command, and I'll
boldly venture to doubt whether there is any one except myself and the
Moors of Toledo who would do such a thing? I can answer for nobody
imitating me."

"Good! Let us come to terms," said Abellino taking the matter seriously.
"You give me a million, and I'll give you a bond for two millions,
payable when my uncle expires."

"And if your uncle's vital thread in the hands of the Parcæ prove longer
than the million in your hands?"

"Then you shall give me another million, and so on. You will be
investing your money well, for the Hungarian gentleman is the slave of
his property, and can leave it to nobody but his lawful heir."

"And are you quite certain that you will be the one lawful heir?"

"None but me will bear the name of Kárpáthy after John Kárpáthy's
death."

"I know that; but John Kárpáthy may marry."

Abellino burst out laughing. "You imagine my uncle to be a very amiable
sort of cavalier."

"Not at all. I know very well that he stands at the very brink of death,
and that his vital machinery is so completely out of order that if he
does not change his diet immediately, and give up his gluttonous habits,
of which there is but little hope, I regret to say, he will scarcely
live another year. Pardon me for anticipating so bluntly the decease of
a dear relative!"

"Go on, by all means."

"We who have to do with life assurance transactions are in the habit of
appraising the lives of people, and I am regarding your uncle's life
just as if it had been insured in one of these institutions."

"Your scruples are superfluous. I have no tender concern whatever for my
uncle."

The banker smiled. He knew that even better than Abellino.

"I said just now that your uncle might marry. It would not be a very
rare occurrence. It often happens that elderly gentlemen, who for eighty
years have regarded matrimony with horror, suddenly, in a tender moment,
offer their hands to the very first young woman they may chance to cast
their eyes upon, even if she be only a kitchen wench. Or it may be some
old inclination which, after years and years, suddenly springs into life
again, like some tenacious animal that has lain imprisoned for centuries
in a coal-seam, and the ideals which at sixteen he was unable to make
his own, possibly because he had other ties, he turns to again at
seventy when he finds himself free again."

"My uncle has no ideals. He does not know such a word. Besides, I can
assure you that such a marriage could not possibly have the usual
results."

"I have no uneasiness on that score, otherwise I should scarcely venture
to make you an offer. But there is another point on which I shall
require a satisfactory assurance from you."

"A satisfactory assurance from me? Now it is the turn of my beard, I
suppose," murmured Abellino, smoothing down his black whiskers.

"The assurance I want from you," said the banker, cheerfully, "is that
you will live long enough."

"Naturally, lest I die before my uncle."

"It might so happen. I will, therefore, not only give you money, but
will take care that no harm happens to your life."

"How?"

"I mean to say, so long as old John Kárpáthy is alive, you must fight no
duels, go to no stag or boar hunts, undertake no long sea voyage, enter
into no liaison with any ballet-dancer; in a word, you must engage to
avoid everything which might endanger your life."

"And I suppose I must also drink no wine and ascend no staircase, as the
drink might fly to my head, and I might fall down and break my neck?"

"I won't bind you too strictly. I admit that you may find the enumerated
prohibitions somewhat grievous, but I know of a case which would free
you from them all."

"And that is----?"

"If you were to marry."

"Parbleu! Rather than do that I would engage never to mount a horse or
handle a weapon."

"Look at it in this way. Suppose you were to honour an elegant young
gentlewoman with your hand. The first year you would be able to pass
happily enough; for surely in all Paris you would be able to find a lady
capable of making a man happy for at least a whole year! At the end of
that year the Kárpáthy family would be enriched by a vigorous young
scion the more, and you would be absolved from your onerous engagement,
and be quite free to blow your brains out or break your neck, according
as the fancy took you. But if, on the other hand, you preferred to enjoy
life, why, then, Paris is large enough; and there's the whole world
beyond. That's not such a very terrible affair, I'm sure."

"We'll see," said Abellino, rising from his seat and smoothing his
ruffled shirt-front with the tips of his nails.

"How?" inquired the banker, attentively. He had foreseen that if he
showed himself ready to help Kárpáthy out of his financial difficulties,
the latter would at once grow coy.

"I say we will see which of the paths before me is the most practicable.
The money you offer I will accept in any case."

"Ah! I hoped as much."

"Only the assurances you require somewhat complicate the matter. I will
try, first of all, if I can put up with the restrictions you have laid
upon me. Oh! don't be afraid. I am accustomed to ascetic deprivations.
Once I cured myself homœopathically, and for five weeks I was unable to
drink coffee or perfume my hair. I have a great deal of strength of
mind. If, however, I can't stand the test, I'll try matrimony. But it
would be best of all if some one would neatly rid me of my uncle."

"Sir, sir!" cried the banker, leaping to his feet, "I hope this is only
a jest on your part!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the young dandy. "I am not thinking of murder or
poison. I am only thinking that the poor old fellow's health may be
shattered by peasant-girls and fat pasties. There are, I must tell you,
pasties so jolly heavy that they call them 'inheritance pasties.'
There's no poison in them, but lots of goose-livers and other
delicacies. Eat your fill of 'em, and throw in some good red wine, and
apoplexy will be waiting for you round the corner."

"I can't say: I never made such things," said the ex-pastry-cook,
gravely.

"Nor did I mean to say that I would have them made for my uncle. I am
capable of killing, I am capable of shooting or cutting down the man I
hate; but it is not in me to kill a man in order to inherit his
property. But so much I may say, that if only I chose to take the
trouble, I could accelerate his departure from the world a little."

"That would be a shame. Wait till he departs of his own accord."

"There's nothing else to do. Meanwhile you must make up your mind to be
my banker. The more money I borrow, the better it will be for you; for
you will get back as much again. What do I care? Whoever comes after me
will have to shut the door."

"Then we are agreed?"

"To-morrow morning, after twelve, you can send your notary to me with
all the documents ready, so that no time may be lost."

"I will not keep you waiting."

Abellino took his leave, and the banker, rubbing his hands, escorted him
out to the very door of the saloon.

And thus there was a very good prospect of one of the largest landed
estates of Hungary falling in a few years into the hands of a foreign
banker.



CHAPTER III.

THE WHITSUN KING.


And now we are home again in poor dear Hungary.

It is the red dawn of a Whitsun Day, and a real dawn it is. Very early,
soon after the first cock-crow, a band of brown musicians began marching
along the roads of Nagy-Kun-Madaras, and in front of them, with a long
hazel-wood wand in his hand, strutted a sworn burgher of the town, whose
face seemed full of angry dignity because he was engaged on an important
official function before ever a drop of _pálinka_ had crossed his lips.

The worthy sworn burgher was honourably clad in blue, which well becomes
a man in his official capacity; his spiral hat was adorned by a couple
of large peonies in full bloom; in his button-hole was a posy of pinks
and vine leaves; his silk vest had silver buttons; his face was red, his
moustache pointed, his boots shaggy and spurred. He kept raising his
feet as gingerly as if he were walking on eggs, and not for all the
world would he have looked on either side of him, still less upon the
gipsy minstrels behind his back; only when he came in front of the door
of any burgher or town councillor he would signify, by raising his
stick, that they were to walk more slowly, while the trumpets blared all
the louder.

Everywhere the loud music aroused the inhabitants of the streets.
Windows and blinds were thrown open and drawn up, and the young women,
covering their bosoms with aprons, popped their heads out and wished Mr.
Andrew Varju a very good morning. But Mr. Andrew Varju recognized
nobody, for he was now the holder of a high office which did not permit
of condescension.

But now he reached the houses of the civic notabilities, and here he had
to go indoors, for he had particular business with them. This particular
business consisted of a drink of _pálinka_, which awaited him there, and
whose softening effect was visible on his face when he came back again.

This accomplished, the most important invitation of all remained to the
last, to wit, that of his honour the most noble Master Jock, which had
to be given in due order.

Now, this was no joke, for Master Jock had the amiable habit of keeping
tame bears in his courtyard, which devour a man without the slightest
regard to his official position; or the poor man might stray among the
watch-dogs, and be torn to ribbons. Fortunately, however, on this
occasion a red-liveried menial was lounging about the gate, from whom it
was possible to get a peaceful answer.

"Is the most noble Master Jock up yet?"

"Deuce take it, man! What are you shivering at? Why, he hasn't lain down
yet!"

Mr. Varju trotted on further. He had now to report himself to their
worships at the community-house, which he accomplished without any
beating about the bush by simply saying, "I have done everything."

"It is well, Mr. Varju."

And now let us take a look at these famous men.

In the worshipful community-room, hanging in long rows on the walls,
were the painted effigies of the local and civic celebrities, with room
enough between for the arms of these defunct patrons, baillies,
curators, and charity-founders also. On the table were tomes of
tremendous bulk, pressed down by a large lead inkstand. The floor
beneath the table was nicely covered with ink-blots--it was there that
the pens were usually thrown.

The bell of early dawn was only now beginning to ring, and yet their
worships were already assembled in the room, with their elbows planted
in a circle all round the long table. The judge presided--a worthy,
stout man.

Near the door stood a group of young men in short, strong, baggy
knee-breeches and broad-buttoned pelisse-like dolmans. Every one of them
had a bright kerchief in his button-hole, and spurred boots upon his
feet.

Prominent amongst all the youths stood the Whitsun King of the year
before. He was a tall, lanky stripling, with a large hooked, aquiline
nose, and a long moustache triply twisted at the ends and well stiffened
with wax. His neck was long and prominent and burnt black by the sun
where it was not protected by his shirt. Below his shirt it looked as
though it had been cut out of another skin. His dress was different to
that of the common folks. Instead of linen hose, he wore laced trousers
tucked into boots of Kordovan leather from which long tassels dangled
down. The sparkling copper clasp of his broad girdle was visible beneath
his short silken vest. A bright kerchief peeped out from every pocket of
his dolman, and was tied at one corner to his buttons; and his fingers
were so swollen with hoop and signet-rings that he could scarce bend
them. But what distinguished the youth more than anything else was a
large umbrageous wreath on the top of his head. The young girls had
twined it out of weeping-willow leaves and flowers in such a way that
the pretty chains of pinks and roses flowed a long way down the youth's
shoulders like long maidenhair, leaving only his face free, and thus
forming a parting on both sides.

Will he win this wreath again? Who can tell?

"Well, Martin," said the judge, "so here we have red Whitsun-Day again,
eh?"

"I know it, noble sir. To-morrow I also shall be in church, and will
listen."

"Then you intend to remain Whitsun King this year also?"

"I shall not be wanting to myself, noble sir. This is only the sixth
year that I have been Whitsun King."

"And do you know how many buckets of wine you have drunk during that
period, and how many guests you have chucked out of feasts,
sow-dances,[5] and banquets?"

[Footnote 5: A dance given at sow-slaughtering time.]

"I cannot say, noble sir. My one thought was not to miss one of them,
and so much I may say, neither man nor wine has ever floored me."

"Mr. Notary, read to him how many pitchers of wine and how many broken
heads stand to his account!"

And it appeared from the register that Martin, during the year of his
Whitsun Kingship, had cost the community seventy-two firkins of wine,
and more than a hundred heads broken for fun. He had also made an
innkeeper quite a rich man by smashing all his glasses every week, which
the town paid for.

"And now, answer me further, little brother: How many times have your
horses come to grief?"

"I have not troubled myself about them. I leave all that to my
underlings."

"How many girls have you befooled?"

"Why should they let themselves be befooled?"

"How much of ill-gotten goods has passed through your hands?"

"Nobody has ever caught me."

"But thy Whitsun Kingship has cost the town a pretty penny."

"I know this much, that it does not come out of the coffers of the town,
but out of the pockets of our dear father, the noble John Kárpáthy,
whose worthy phiz I see hanging up on the wall yonder. He it is who has
presented a sum of money to the community to keep up our old customs,
and to improve the breed of our horses by gathering together all our
young riders, in order that they may run races with one another. I also
know that whoever proves to be the victor on that occasion has the
privilege of getting drunk gratis at every hostelry in the town, while
every landlord is bound to look after his horses, and whatever damage
they may do they are not to be impounded, but the sufferer has to make
good the damage for not looking after them better. Besides that, he has
the free run of all festivities and junketings that may be going on; and
if sometimes, in the exuberance of high spirits, he knocks any one about
a bit, he is not to be punished either by corporal chastisement or
imprisonment."

"Bravo, little brother! you would make an excellent advocate. Where did
you learn to speak so fluently?"

"For the last six years I have remained the Whitsun King," answered the
youth, haughtily sticking out his chest, "and so I have had plenty of
opportunities of learning my rights."

"Come, come, Martin!" said the judge, reprovingly. "Bragging does not
become a young man. You have now got so accustomed to this sort of life
that you'll find it a little difficult to fall into the ranks again,
drink wine that you've paid for, and be punished for your offences if
to-day or to-morrow you are deposed from your Whitsun Kingship."

"The man is not born who will do that," replied Martin, lifting his
eyebrows, twiddling his thumbs, and hitching up his trousers with great
dignity.

The councillors also perceived that the Whitsun King had made a mistake
in answering so rashly, but as it would have been unseemly to have
offended the dignity of so considerable a personage, they devoted
themselves exclusively to the preparations for the entertainment.

Four barrels of wine, each of a different sort, were piled upon waggons;
another waggon was full of freshly baked white rolls; fastened behind
the waggons by their horns were the couple of yoke oxen that were going
to be slaughtered.

"That's not the right way of going about it!" cried Martin. It was not
his natural voice, but he was so accustomed to a peremptory tone now
that he could use no other. "We want more pomp here. Who ever heard of
the festal oxen being tied to a cart's tail? Why, the butcher ought to
lead the pair of them by the horns, one on each side, and you ought to
stick lemons on the tips of their horns, and tie ribbons round them!"

"Bravo, little brother! He knows how it ought to be done."

"And then four girls ought to sit on the top of each barrel, and dole
out the wine from where they sit in long-eared rummers."

"Any more commands, Martin?"

"Yes. Let the gipsy musicians strike up my tune as we march along; and
let two heydukes hold my horse when I mount."

These commands were punctually obeyed.

The people, after a short religious service, made their way towards the
fields. In front trotted two sworn burghers with ribbon-bedizened
copper axes in their hands; after them came a cart with the gipsy
musicians, roaring out Martin's song as if they meant to shout the
heavens down. Immediately upon their heels followed two gaily
tricked-out oxen, led by a couple of bare-armed butcher's lads; and then
came the provision-waggons; and last of all the wine-carts, with sturdy
young bachelors astride every barrel. Then followed Mr. Varju. Fate had
raised him still higher, for he was now sitting on horseback, holding a
large red banner, which the wind kept flapping into his eyes every
moment. From the satisfied expression of his face he evidently thought
to himself that if Martin was the Whitsun King, he himself was at least
the Whitsun Palatine.

Last of all came the Whitsun King. His horse was not exactly beautiful,
but it was a large, bony beast, sixteen hands high, and what it wanted
in figure was made up to it in gay trappings and ribbons woven into its
mane; its housings too were of fox-skin. Martin did not ride badly. He
rolled about a bit, it is true; but this was due, not so much to
anything he had taken at breakfast, as to his usual habit of swaggering;
indeed, for the matter of that, he sat as firmly in his saddle as if he
had grown to it.

On both sides of him trotted a couple of burghers with drawn swords, who
had to look well after themselves all the time, for Martin's horse,
whenever he perceived any other horse half a head in front of him, would
bite at it till it screamed again.

After him, in a long row, came the competing youths. In every face was
to be seen a confident gleam of hope that he, perhaps, would be the
winner.

The rear was brought up by a crush of carriages and carts, raising
clouds of dust in their efforts to overtake the horses in front,
adorned with green branches and crammed with merry holiday-folks with
bright, streaming neckerchiefs.

At that moment the report of a mortar announces that the prime patron of
the festivities, the rich nabob, Master Jock, has departed from his
castle. The crowd takes up its position in the cemetery and the gardens
adjoining. The wary horsemen stand out in the open; some of them make
their horses prance and curvet to show their mettle, and lay bets with
one another. Shortly afterwards a cloud of dust arising from below the
gardens declares that Master Jock is approaching. No sooner are the
carriages visible than they are welcomed by a thundering huzzah, which
presently passes over into peals of merry laughter. For Master Jock had
hit upon the joke of dressing the gipsy Vidra in a splendid costume of
cloth of gold, and making him sit in the family state-carriage drawn by
four horses, while he himself came huddled up in a common peasant-cart
immediately afterwards, and the honest country-folks loudly applauded
the gold-bedizened costume till they perceived that there was only a
gipsy inside it, whereupon the laughter grew louder still, which greatly
amused the good gentleman.

With him came, besides his court jesters, those of his boon companions
whom he liked the best. Number one was Miska Horhi, the owner of an
estate of five thousand acres or so at the other end of the kingdom, who
would skip over to his crony in March and stay till August, simply to
ask him who he thought would be the next vice-lord-lieutenant of the
county, leaving word at home that the crops were to be left untouched,
and nothing was to be done till he returned. Number two was the famous
Laczi Csenkö, the owner of the finest stud in the _Alföld_, who, rather
than tire his own beautiful horses, preferred to go on foot, unless he
could drive in somebody else's conveyance. Number three was Lörincz
Berki, the most famous hunter and courser in the county, who told
falsehoods as glibly as if he lied from dictation. Number four was
Friczi Kalotai, who had the bad habit of instantly purloining whatever
came in his way, whether it were a pipe, a silver spoon, or a watch.
Nevertheless, this habit of his was not without its advantages, for
whenever his acquaintances lost anything, they always knew exactly where
to look for it, and would simply seize him by the neck and turn out his
pockets, without offending him the least bit in the world. Last of all
came Bandi Kutyfalvi, the most magnificent tippler and swash-buckler in
the realm, who, in his cups, invariably cudgelled all his boon
companions; but he had the liquid capacity of a hippopotamus, and nobody
had ever seen him dead-drunk in his life.

On the arrival of these distinguished guests, the brown musicians blew a
threefold flourish with their trumpets, and the principal jurors
measured the racecourse, at one end of which they stationed Mr. Varju
with a red flag: this was the goal. At the other end the horsemen were
arranged in a row, having previously drawn their places by lot, and so
that the gentry might survey the race from their carriages in the most
comfortable manner possible. The course was a thousand paces in length.

Master Jock was just about to signify, by a wave of his gold-headed
cane, that the mortars were to be fired--the third report was to be the
signal for the race to begin--when far away on the _puszta_ a young
horseman was seen approaching at full tilt, cracking his whip loudly,
and galloping in the direction of the competitors. On reaching the two
jurors--and he was not long about that--he reined up, and, whipping off
his cap, briefly expressed the wish to compete for the Whitsun
Kingship.

"Don't ask me who or what I am. If I am beaten I shall simply go on my
way, but if I win I shall remain here," was all that the jurors could
get in answer to their questions. Nobody knew the youth. He was a
handsome, ruddy young fellow of about six and twenty, with a little
spiral moustache twisted upwards in _betyár_ fashion, flowing curly
locks gathered up into a top-knot, black flashing eyes, and a bold
expressive mouth, slight of build, but muscular and supple. His dress
was rustic, but simple almost to affectation; you would not have found a
seal on his white bulging shirt, search as you might, and he wore his
cap, with a tuft of meadow-sweet in it, as gallantly as any cavalier.

Wherever he might have got the steed on which he sat, it was a splendid
animal--a restive Transylvanian full-blood, with tail and mane long and
strong reaching to the ground; not for an instant could it remain quiet,
but danced and pranced continually.

They made him draw lots, and then placed him in a line with the rest.

At last the signal-guns were fired. At the first thundering report the
steeds began to rear and plunge; at the second they grew quite still,
alertly pricking up their ears; one or two of the old racers slightly
pawed the ground. Then the third report sounded, and the same instant
the whole row plunged forward into the arena.

Five or six immediately forged ahead of the rest. These were the more
impetuous horsemen, who are wont to spur their horses to the front at
the outset, only to fall behind afterwards: among them was the
last-comer also. The Whitsun King was in the centre group; now and then
he snapped his fingers, but as yet he had not moved his whip. Only when
three hundred paces had been traversed did he suddenly clap his spurs to
his horse's flanks, lash out with his whip, utter a loud cry, and in
three bounds was ahead of the others.

Then, indeed, began a shouting and yelling and cracking of whips. Every
horseman lay forward on the neck of his horse, caps fell, capes flew,
and in mid-course every one fancied he was going to win. One steed
stumbled beneath his rider; the rest galloped on.

From the carriages it was easy to see how the Whitsun King was galloping
along among the rest, his long chaplet of flowers streaming in the wind
behind him. One by one he overtook those who were galloping in front of
him, and as often as he left one of them behind he gave him a crack with
his whip, crying derisively, "Wire away, little brother!"

By the time three quarters of the course was traversed he had plainly
left them all behind, or rather all but one--the stranger-youth.

Martin hastened after him likewise. His horse was longer in the body,
but the other's was as swift as the wind. And now only two hundred paces
were between them and the goal. The youth looked back upon his
competitor with a confident smile, whereupon the gentlemen in the
carriages shouted, "Hold fast!" which warning applied equally to both
competitors. Master Jock actually stood up to see better, the contest
had now become exciting.

"And now he's laying on the whip!" cried he. "Something like, eh! And
now he gives his horse the spur! One lash, and it flies like the storm!
What a horse! I'd give a million for it; and how the fellow sticks on!
Well, Martin, it will be all up with your Whitsun Kingship immediately.
Only a hundred paces more. 'Tis all over; he'll never be able to catch
him up!"

And so, indeed, it proved. The stranger reached the goal a whole
half-minute before Martin, and was already standing there in front of
the flag when he came up. Martin, however, as he came galloping in,
quickly snatched the flag out of Mr. Varju's hand, and cried
triumphantly to the youth--

"Don't suppose, little brother, that you have won; for the rule is that
whoever seizes the banner first, he is the Whitsun King, and you see it
is in _my_ hand."

"Indeed!" said the youth, serenely; "I did not know that. I'll take care
to remember that at the second race."

"Really, now," cried Martin. "You appear pretty cock-sure that you'll
get in before me again. I tell you, you'll not. You only managed it this
time because my horse got frightened and shied. But just you try a
second time, and I'll show you who is the best man."

Meanwhile the other competitors had come up, and Martin hastened to
explain how it was that the stranger had got in quicker than himself. He
had a hundred good reasons for it at the very least.

The stranger allowed him to have his say in peace, and, full of good
humour, returned to take his place again in the ranks of the
competitors. His modest self-reliance and forbearance quite won for him
the sympathy of the crowd, which was disgusted at the arrogance of
Martin, and in the carriages of the gentry wagers began to be laid, and
the betting was ten to one on the stranger winning all three races.

The mortars were again loaded, the youths were once more placed in a
row, and at the third report the competing band again plunged forward.
Now also the two rival horses drew away from the other competitors. In
the middle of the course they were a length ahead of the foremost
racers, and side by side urged their steeds strenuously towards the
goal. Almost to the very end of the course neither was able to outstrip
the other; but when they were scarce fifty paces from the flag, the
stranger suddenly gave a loud smack with his whip, whereupon his steed,
responding to the stimulus, took a frantic bound forward, outstripping
Martin's steed by a head, and this distance was maintained between them
unaltered to the very end of the race, though the Whitsun King savagely
laid about his foaming horse with his whip-handle. The stranger was at
the banner before him, and so vigorously tore it out of the hand of Mr.
Varju, that that gentleman fell prone from his horse.

Martin, beside himself with rage, lashed at the ravished flag with his
whip, and made a great rent in its red centre. Useless fury! The umpires
hastened up, and, removing the floral crown from the head of the Whitsun
King, who was quivering with passion, placed it on the head of the
victor.

"I don't want that!" cried the vanquished horseman, huskily, when they
offered him a cap. "I mean to win back my wreath."

"You had better let it rest where it is," came a voice from the
carriages.

"No need of that," replied Martin, defiantly. "Neither I nor my horse is
tired. We will run, if we die for it. Eh, Ráró?"

The good steed, as if he understood what was said to him, pawed the
ground and arched his head. The sworn umpires placed the youths in line
again. Most of them, however, seeing the uselessness of competing with
these two horsemen, fell out of the line and mingled among the
spectators, so that scarce six others remained on the ground with the
two rival heroes. All the more interesting, therefore, the contest; for
there will be nothing to distract the attention of the onlookers.

Before engaging in the contest for the third time, the stranger-youth
dismounted from his horse, and cutting a supple willow sapling from a
tree in the cemetery, stripped it of its leaves, and thrusting it into
his whip-handle, mounted his horse again. Hitherto he had not once
struck his steed.

But now, when the noble animal heard the sharp hiss of the thin willow
wand, it began to rear. Standing on its hind legs, it fell to savagely
worrying its bit, and careering round and round. The spectators began to
fear for the youth, not that he would fall from his horse--that was out
of the question--but that he would be too late for the contest, for the
second report had now sounded, and the others were all awaiting the
signal with loosely held reins, while his horse was curveting and pawing
the ground.

When the third report resounded, the stranger suddenly gave his horse a
cut with the willow switch, and let the reins hang loosely.

The smitten steed scudded off like a tempest. Wildly, madly, it skimmed
the ground beneath its feet, as only a horse can fly when,
panic-stricken, it ravishes its perishing rider along with it. None, no
none, could get anywhere near it; even Martin was left many yards behind
in mid-course. The crowd gaped in amazement at the fury of the steed and
the foolhardiness of the rider, especially when, in the midst of his mad
career, the long chaplet of flowers fell from the youth's head, and was
trampled to pieces beneath the hoofs of the other horses panting after
him. He himself did not notice the loss of his chaplet till he reached
the goal, where he had to exert all his strength to rein up his maddened
steed. He had reached the goal; but he had lost his crown.

"Look! he has lost his crown: he cannot therefore be the Whitsun King!"
cried many voices.

But who was to be the king, then? The crown was irrecoverably trampled
to pieces in the dust.

"That is not fair!" exclaimed the majority. Many proposed a fresh race.

"I am ready for anything you like," said the strange youth.

"Stop, little brother!" replied Martin, in a subdued, husky voice, which
quivered with rage. "We want to prove which of us two is the better man.
I confess that on level ground you go quicker than I. You have the
better horse, and a fool may win if his horse be quick enough. But, come
now, show us whether you are a man where standing one's ground, not
running away, is the great point. There's a nice lot of people here, you
see, and for all these folks they have only brought hither two
bullocks--and little enough too. If you're a man, come with me and fetch
a third. We shall not have to go far. Among the reeds yonder is a stray
bull, which has been prowling in these parts for the last fortnight,
killing people, scattering flocks and herds, destroying the crops,
overturning the carts on the high-road, and chasing the labourers out of
the fields into the town. Not one of the drovers, or _gulyás_, in the
place can cope with him single-handed. Let us go after him together, and
the one that drags him hither shall be the Whitsun King."

"There's my hand upon it," said the strange youth, clapping the palm of
his rival without even taking time for reflection.

Those who happened to hear this proposal showed signs of retiring
precipitately. "They must be fools to bring a mad bull among the people
on a holiday like this," murmured these waverers.

"You need have no fear," said Martin. "By the time we bring him here he
will be as gentle as a lamb, or else we shall be lying where he is now."

Quick as wildfire spread the rumour of this mad idea. The more timorous
part of the crowd tried to get behind the nearest fenced and ditched
places; the bolder spirits took horse and rushed to follow and see the
hazardous enterprise. All the gentlemen present began betting on the
issue forthwith, and Master Jock himself hastened after the youths in
his rustic cart. Possibly he thought that even the wild animal would
know how to treat a Kárpáthy with due respect.

Scarce half an hour's journey from the town began the enormous morass
which extends as far as Püspök-Ládany and Tisza-Füred, in which not
merely a wild bull but a hippopotamus could make his home comfortably.
On one side of it extended rich wheat-fields, on the other side the
rich, dark green reeds marked the water-line, only a narrow dyke
separating the meadow from the swamp.

It was easy to learn at the first of the shepherd huts scattered along
the border of the morass where the errant bull happened to be at that
moment. Amongst the shrubs of the little reedy island opposite he had
made his lair; there you could see him crouching down. All night long he
would be roaring and bellowing there, only in the daytime was he silent.

First of all, however, you must know what sort of a character the beast
known as an "errant bull" really is.

When there are two bulls in a herd, especially if one of them be only a
growing calf, they are quiet enough, and even timid all through the
winter. If they meet each other they stand face to face, rubbing
foreheads, lowing and walking round and round each other; but if the
herdsman flings his cudgel between them they trot off in opposite
directions. But when the spring expands, when the spicy flowers put
fresh vigour and warmer blood into every grass-eating beast, then the
young bulls begin to carry their horned heads higher, roar at each other
from afar, and it is the chief business of the _gulyás_ to prevent them
from coming together. If, however, on a warm spring day, when the
herdsmen are sleeping beneath their _gubas_, the two hostile chiefs
should encounter each other, a terrible fight ensues between them, which
regularly ends with the fall or the flight of one of them. At such a
time it is vain for the herdsman to attempt to separate them. The
infuriated animals neither see nor hear him; all their faculties are
devoted to the destruction of each other. Sometimes the struggle lasts
for hours on a plot of meadow, which they denude of its grass as cleanly
as if it had been ploughed. Finally, the beast who is getting the worst
of it, feeling that his rival is the stronger, begins with a terrific
roar to fly away through the herd, and runs wild on the _puszta_; with
blood-red eyes, with blood-red lolling tongue, he wanders up and down
the fields and meadows, frequently returning to the scene of his
humiliation; but he mingles no longer with the herd, and woe betide
every living animal he encounters! He begins to pursue whatever meets
his eye in the distance, and he has been known to watch for days the
tree in which a wayfarer has taken refuge, until casually passing
_csikóses_ have come up and driven the beast away.

From the information given by the _gulyáses_, it was easy to trace the
lair of the bull. Two distinct paths led to it among the tall reeds, and
the two youths, separating, chose each of them his path, and waded into
the thicket in search of the furious beast. Meanwhile, the horsemen, who
had come to see the sport, scrambled on to the high dyke, from whence
they could survey the whole willow wood.

Martin had scarce advanced a hundred paces among the reeds when he heard
the snorting of the bull. For a moment he thought of calling to the
stranger youth, who had taken the other path, but pride restrained him.
Alone he would subdue the beast, and he boldly sought the spot from
whence the snorting proceeded.

There lay the huge beast in the midst of the reeds. He had buried
himself up to the knees in the swamp, and, whether from rage or for
amusement, had trampled down a large area of rushes all round about him.

When he heard the clatter of the approaching hoofs, he raised his head.
One horn, prematurely developed, bent forwards, the other stood up
straight and pointed. His sooty black forehead was covered with prickly
water-burrs, across his snout was the scar of a large and badly healed
wound.

On perceiving the approaching horseman, he immediately raised himself on
his fore feet and uttered a wild prolonged roar. Martin, who wished to
entice the beast on to solid ground, where he could grapple with him
better than in the midst of this unknown morass, and also, by way of
provocation, cracked his long whip loudly. Maddened still more by this
exasperating sound, the wild beast arose from his resting-place and
rushed upon the horseman, who immediately turned his horse and fled out
of the swamp, enticing after him the infuriated bull.

When the wild beast came out into the plain, looked about him, and saw
all the people standing on the dyke, as if guessing what they wanted to
do with him, he suddenly turned tail again, and snorting as he went,
angrily lay down again on the border of the swamp. Martin followed after
him, and again cracked his whip over the beast's head.

The bull roared at him, but did not budge from the spot. On the
contrary, he burrowed with his snout among the reeds, and however much
the young man might crack his whip, he only responded by beating the air
with his tail.

This supreme indifference irritated Martin, and, creeping closer to the
wild bull, he gave it a cut with his whip. The hooked steel wire plaited
round the end of the whip cut out a whole patch on the skin of the
savage beast, but it did not move. Another cut reached its neck,
chipping away the skin with a sharp crackle. The bull only grunted, but
did not stand up, and buried its head among the reeds to avoid being
lassoed by the halter-line which the horseman held handy.

But now it was the huntsman's turn to grow angry, and he kept on
flicking away at the obstinate animal without being able to move it from
the spot, and presently a whole mob of horsemen began to assemble around
him, profoundly irritated by the cowardice of the bull, and tried to
arouse it by making as great a din and racket as possible.

Suddenly a flick from the whip chanced to hit the bull in the eye. Quick
as lightning the beast leaped to its feet, shook its head, and frantic
with rage, rushed upon the horseman, and before he had had time to
escape, struck him sideways, and with frightful force hurled him to the
ground, horse and all, and began trampling them both in the dust.

The other horsemen scattered in terror. The overthrown charger made
frantic efforts to regain its feet; in vain! The savage beast transfixed
its loins with his horn. Never again will the noble animal run races in
the fields. Bleeding profusely, it falls back again, crushing its rider,
who, with his feet entangled in the stirrups, was unable to liberate
himself.

The baited bull stood on the plain roaring terribly, and tearing up the
ground with his hoofs, while the blood from his cut-out eye trickled
down his black breast. He did not pursue the fugitives, but, turning
back, and seeing the overthrown horse and rider still wallowing on the
ground, he began taking short runs at them, like goats often do,
throwing up the earth here and there with his horns. God be merciful to
the poor youth beneath him!

At length Martin succeeded in extricating himself from his steed. No
sooner did the bull perceive that his enemy was on his feet again, than,
in a fresh access of rage, he rushed straight at him. A shriek of horror
filled the air; many hid their faces. In another moment all would be
over.

At that instant, when the savage beast was not more than a yard's
distance from its victim, it stopped suddenly, and threw back its head
with a jerk. A skilfully thrown noose had gripped it round the neck, and
the end of that noose was in the hands of the stranger youth, who now
emerged from among the reeds. Hearing a sound like bull-baiting, he had
hastened to the spot, and did not arrive a moment too soon. Another
second and his rival would have been trampled to death.

The bewildered beast, feeling the suffocating pressure of the lasso
about its neck, turned towards its new opponent, but he also now turned
his horse's head, and throwing the lasso-line across his shoulder, set
off at the top of his speed across the plain.

That was something like a gallop! The heavy wild beast was constrained
to run a race with the swiftest of steeds. The cord was pressing tightly
round its neck, and blindly, helter-skelter, it had to go in a perfectly
straight direction till it dropped.

The youth galloped with it straight towards the racecourse, and then
suddenly sprang to one side. The bull bounded away right on, and now the
horse remained behind, while the bull flew on in front. By this time it
had lost all count of where it was.

The horseman now drew forth his long whip, and began to cut and lash out
from behind at the bull, which rushed on even quicker and quicker. The
trampling of the horse's hoofs, the cracking of the whip, the shouting
of the people, confused it into utter stupidity. It could only run on
and on, the blood trickling from its nose and mouth, its whole front
flaked with foam, its tongue lolling forth, till, on reaching the
racecourse, which was covered with a roaring mob, its strong legs gave
way beneath it, and, unable to hold itself up any longer, it collapsed
in a ditch, and, rolling a good distance, rooted up the ground with its
snout, then stretched itself out at full length on the sward, and ceased
to breathe.

Shouting and huzzahing, the mob escorted the new Whitsun King along all
the streets of the town, for he was in duty bound to stop before the
houses of the chief magistrate and town councillors, and there drink
their healths in a good bumper, which admirable custom goes to prove
that the Whitsun King had need to be not merely a good runner, but a
good drinker too; and this latter quality was all the more necessary,
owing to the circumstance that, when he had done with the rest of them,
he had, last of all, to go up to John Kárpáthy's castle in the company
of all the sworn jurors, and drink again there.

Now, when the sworn jurors brought in the new Whitsun King to introduce
him to Squire John, the great man ordered every one to leave the room
incontinently, so that they two might be quite alone together.

Master Jock was sitting in an armchair, with his feet in a large tub of
water, chewing a couple of bitter almonds. All this was by way of
preparation for the evening's debauch.

"What is your name, little brother?" he inquired of the Whitsun King.

"Michael Kis, at your service, your honour."

"Well, Mike, you are a fine young fellow. You please me greatly. So now
you are going to be Whitsun King for a whole year, eh? What will you do
with yourself all that time?"

The youth twisted his blonde moustache upwards, and steadily regarded
the ceiling.

"I really don't know. I only know that I shall be a bigger man than ever
before."

"And if at the end of the year you are deposed?"

"Then I shall go back to my stable at Nadudvár, from whence I came."

"Have you neither father nor mother?"

"I have no belongings at all. I have never seen either father or
mother."

"Then stop where you are, Mike. What if I make a bigger man of you than
you yourself have any idea of; make you take your place in genteel
society here; give you as much money as you like, to drink and play
cards with; and turn you into Michael Kis, Esq., lord of the manor of
Nadudvár?"

"I shouldn't mind, but how to conduct myself so that they may take me
for a gentleman, I don't know."

"The bigger blackguard you are, the greater gentleman they'll take you
to be. It is only our rustics who are modest and respectful nowadays."

"If that be all, I am ready."

"I'll take you with me everywhere. You shall drink, dice, bully, brawl,
cudgel the men, and befool the women to the top of your bent. At the end
of twelve months your Whitsun Kingship will be over, you will doff your
genteel mummery, and become the leader of my heydukes. You shall then
don the red _mente_, and wait upon those very gentlemen with whom you
have been drinking and dicing for a whole year; you shall help into
their carriages the same little wenches with whom you used to make
merry. I consider that a very good joke. I don't know whether you think
so, too? How the gentlemen will curse and the ladies blush when they
find out who you were!"

The youth reflected for a moment; but then he threw back his head, and
cried--

"All right! I don't care."

Master Jock looked at his watch. "It is now a quarter to four. Remember
that. At a quarter to four twelve months hence your gentility, your
nobility, will cease. _Till_ then you are just as much a gentleman as
the rest of us. Every month you will receive from me a thousand florins
plunder money. The first thousand is in this reticule. Now be off! My
heydukes will dress you. When you are ready, come down to my
drinking-room. Be rude to the servants, especially as they know you to
be but a boor, and call the gentry by their nicknames only--Mike, Andy,
Larry, Fred, Ned, for instance. Me they call Jock, remember."

Half an hour later Mike was back again, dressed as a gentleman.

In the drinking-room there was fun enough going on already even without
him; for there the rule was, Welcome everybody, and wait for nobody. The
master of the house introduced the newly arrived guest as Michael Kis,
Esq., lord of the manor of Nadudvár, who, "like a jolly good fellow,"
had come disguised as an ostler to the Whitsun Kingship competition, and
there acquitted himself like a man.

Every one thought this a most original joke. It was plain to every eye,
moreover, that he was a gentleman and no boor. All his movements,
whether he lolled back on a chair, or leaned his elbows on the table, or
chucked his cap in a corner--_betyár_ tricks every one of them--was
proof positive that he must have been brought up in good circles. A real
_betyár_ would never have dared to lift up his head here; but this
fellow, metaphorically speaking, buttonholed everybody. In a few
moments, in fact, Mike had drunk good-fellowship with the whole company,
and become as familiar as if he had lived among them all his life.

Meanwhile the eternal bumper began to circulate, and Mike fell to
singing a new drinking-song which none of them knew, and the company
took it up with spirit; and, more than that, it was better than any they
had ever sung before.

Within an hour Mike had become a perfect hero in that genteel circle. In
his cups he far outstripped them all; and when it came to card-playing,
he won whole heaps of money from all and sundry without moving a muscle
of his face, raking the dollars in with as much _sangfroid_ as if he had
sacks of them at home. Nay, he even lent a lot to Franky Kalotai,
thereby obviously displaying an utter contempt for money, for it was
notorious that Franky never paid anything back.

And now the heads of most of the gentlemen engaged in this drinking-bout
began to loll about unsteadily. Everybody had got beyond the limit where
the good humour begotten of good wine ends and drunkenness begins; when
a man no longer tastes his wine, and is only sensible of a giddy
hankering for more. At such times Bandi Kutyfalvi was wont to exhibit
his ancient _tour-de-force_, which consisted in swallowing with
outstretched neck a whole bumper of wine at one gulp or, to use his own
technical expression, without a single hiccough. Now, such a feat
naturally requires for its performance an extraordinarily concave and
well-practised throat, and, with the exception of Bandi, there were not
above one or two others who could successfully accomplish it.

"Why, that's nothing at all!" cried Mike Kis, accomplishing the feat
without the slightest exertion. "But now, let any one try and do what I
can do--sing a song and at the same time drain a bumper without leaving
off singing."

Now, this was an entirely new trick, and an extremely difficult one to
boot; for, to be properly performed, it required not only that the
glottis should remain immovable during the passage of the vinous torrent
down the throat, but also that the throat should give forth at the same
time a clear, uninterrupted voice. Yet Michael Kis performed this feat
with masterly dexterity, to the general astonishment, and gave back the
bowl for the next man to imitate him.

Naturally they all came to grief. Every bumper of wine was a fresh
occasion of shame, and the drinkers laughed heartily at one another, for
every one of them was obliged to interrupt his song while he drank.

Michael Kis had to show them once more how it was done.

"A bumper here!" cried Bandi at last, and gallantly buckled to the
attempt; but the song only proceeded a little way, and then a drop of
wine managed to get into his windpipe, and immediately, like a whale
rising to the surface of the sea to blow, or like a stone triton
spouting forth the water of a fountain, a violent upward rush of
imprisoned breath discharged through every aperture of the suffocating
wretch the wine that filled his throat.

The whole table arose, the company bursting with laughter, while Bandi,
gasping and coughing, shook his fists at Mike during every brief respite
his lungs allowed him, and cried, "I'll kill you I'll kill you!" And at
last, when he began to feel better, he rolled the sleeves of his shirt
up his big bony arms, and yelled hoarsely, "I'll kill you! I'll kill
you! Look out, I say, for I'm going to kill the whole company."

At these words there was a general rush for the door. Every one knew
Kutyfalvi's way of going to work, and it was just as well, at such
times, either to fly before him or to lie down, for he had this in
common with the bear race, that he never hurt any one whom he found
lying on the ground. The heydukes hastily removed Master Jock outside
also. All the rest who had still the slightest command over their legs
crept under the table.

Kutyfalvi was a big, strong brute of a man. He could take up three
bushel sacks of wheat with his teeth and fling them over his head; he
could bite a thaler piece in two; he could pull a wild horse to the
ground single-handed--all of which feats inspired his comrades with such
a respect for him that a very advanced stage of drunkenness was
necessary before even the strongest of them would venture a bout with
him, especially as all such foolhardiness generally resulted in the
monstrous Cyclops mangling his weaker antagonist out of all recognition.

No wonder, then, if every living soul in the room sighed, "Woe to thee,
Mike Kis!" when they beheld him draw down upon his devoted head the
wrath of this giant, who, infuriated at the failure of the
wine-swallowing experiment, now rushed upon him with open arms, in order
to pound him to pieces, pitching all the chairs out of his way as he
rushed along.

But the ennobled ostler was used to such encounters, and when his
antagonist had come quite close to him, he deftly ducked beneath his
arms, and then gave him a lesson in the stable dodge. With one hand he
caught hold of his opponent's collar, twisting it so tightly that he
gasped for breath, at the same time tripping up his legs, and then, with
the other hand, he threw him over his knee. That is the stable dodge,
which can be safely employed against even the strongest rowdies.

Meanwhile those of his cronies who ventured to peep back through the
doorway, heard a great bang as Bandi Kutyfalvi's huge carcase smote the
floor, and saw the big, powerful man lying motionless beneath his
opponent, who kept him down with his knee, and pummelled him from head
to foot, as he had been wont to pummel others when they quarrelled with
him in their cups. Every one was delighted that his turn had now come,
and when at last Mike Kis let go his collar and left him lying at full
length on the floor, they carried the avenger of their long years of
contumely round the room, and drank his health in bumpers till break of
day.

Kutyfalvi, however, whom, after this little joke was over, the servants
removed from the room and tucked up nicely in bed, dreamt that he fell
down from the top of a high mountain into a quarry, the jagged stones of
which smashed all his limbs into little bits, and, on waking, was
greatly astonished that he should still feel the effects of his dream.

From that day forth Mike Kis became Master Jock's prime favourite, and
the sworn comrade of every gentleman who lived in the neighbourhood.
Nay, even when the Hungarian Diet assembled at Pressburg in 1823, and
Master Jock, with great reluctance, forsook his dogs, his cronies, his
zanies, his heydukes, and peasant-wenches, in order to attend to his
legislative duties, he could not find it in his heart to part with Mike,
so he took the lad along with him to Pressburg. This, however, may only
have been part of the joke. How comical it would be, for instance, to
introduce the pseudonymous young gentleman to the various noblemen and
gentlemen assembled there! Nay, better still, some young countess or
other might fall over head and ears in love with the handsome youth,
and what a capital jest it would then be to exhibit the fellow in the
scarlet livery of a heyduke, whose duty it is to climb up behind the
carriage when his master goes out for a drive!

So Michael Kis made his appearance in the midst of the elegant society
of Pressburg, and his merry humour and handsome, manly figure, backed up
by the best letters of introduction, made him a general favourite.
Polite society had a peculiar phraseology in those days. Rudeness used
to be called frankness; bad language, originality; violence, manliness;
and frivolity, nonchalance. To Mike, therefore, was attributed a whole
host of good qualities, and the only alteration required of him was that
he should wear an _attila_ instead of a _mente_. He was a gentleman by
birth, and that was enough. Every one admired, not his mind,
indeed--they troubled themselves very little about that in those
days--but his manly bearing, his rosy cheeks, his muscular figure, his
sparkling eyes, his black moustache, which are of far more account than
any amount of learning. And all the while Master Jock was laughing in
his sleeve, for the red Whitsun Day was drawing near, and most of the
young noblemen were hail-fellow-well-met with Mike Kis; and here and
there you might even hear dear, thoughtful mammas making inquiries about
the circumstances of the fine young fellow whom they were by no means
indisposed to see hovering around their darling daughters; nay, more
than one of them confided in a whisper to her bosom friends that she had
good cause to suspect that the fine young fellow in question had serious
intentions.

Such secrets have a way of spreading like wildfire, and old Kárpáthy
began to suffer from the drollest paroxysms. Sometimes, in the gravest
society, he would commence ha-ha-ha-ing at the top of his voice. At such
moments he was reflecting that in a very few days the much-befêted
cavalier would turn out to be nothing but his heyduke! Many a time he
would sit up in bed to laugh; nay, once, in the House itself, in full
session, when the galleries were filled with the _élite_ of society, and
the protocols were being read, the old gentleman, observing how the
ladies were regarding the handsome figure of Mike, as he stood amongst a
group of young nobles, with all their eyes--the old gentleman, I say,
was so overcome thereby that he burst into an irrestrainable fit of
laughter on the spot, for which he was called to order and fined. He
paid the fine immediately, but he had to pay it over double before the
day was over, for he could not restrain his laughter when he bethought
him of the near-approaching _dénoûment_ of this humorous masquerade.

And at last rosy Whitsun Day, most comical of days, arrived. Kárpáthy
had ordered a great and costly supper to be laid in the park beyond the
Danube, to which he invited every one who was at all intimate with Mike.
What a splendid joke it will be to present the hero of so many a triumph
to the company as--a lackey! Master Jock would not have parted with his
joke for an empire.

The clock had just struck a quarter to four. According to the compact,
the Whitsun King ought now to be waiting there in the antechamber, and
Master Jock ordered him to be shown in.

"What new sort of manners do you call this?" cried Mike as he entered
the room, flinging himself into an armchair; "why do you keep an
honourable man waiting ten minutes in your antechamber?"

There was a pipe in Master Jock's mouth, and he was engaged at that
moment in filling it with tobacco.

"Halloa! Mike my son!" said he with infinite slyness, "just you get out
of that chair and light my pipe for me--d'ye hear?"

"Light it yourself!" replied Mike; "the flint and steel is close beside
you."

Master Jock stared at him with all his eyes. The lad himself had clearly
forgotten what day it was. All the more piquant then to startle him out
of his insolent security.

"Then, my beloved little brother, are you not aware that to-day is red
Whitsun Day?"

"What's that got to do with me? I am neither a parson nor an
almanac-maker."

"Eh, eh! Recollect that at a quarter to four your Whitsun Kingship
ceases!"

"And what then?" inquired Mike, without the slightest perturbation,
polishing the antique opal buttons of his _attila_ with his silken
handkerchief.

"What then?" cried Jock, who was beginning to get warm; "why, from this
instant you cease to be a gentleman."

"What am I then?"

"What are you, sirrah? I'll tell ye. You're a boor, a _betyár_, a
good-for-nothing rascal, a runaway ragamuffin, that's what you are! And
you'll be glad enough to kiss my hand, and beg me to make you one of my
lackeys, to save you from starvation or the gallows."

"Excuse me," replied Mike Kis, deftly twisting his moustache, "but I am
Michael Kis, Esq., proprietor of Almasfalva, which I purchased the day
before yesterday from the trustees of the estate of Kázmér Almásfalvi,
for 120,000 florins, with the full sanction of the Court, wherefore my
title thereto is unexceptionable."

Master Jock fell back in astonishment. "One hundred and twenty thousand
florins! When and where did you pick up all that money?"

"I got it honourably," said Michael Kis, smiling. "I won it at cards one
evening, when I and a few of my gentlemen friends sat down to play
together. To tell you the truth, I won a good deal more than that, but
the balance will do to build up a splendid castle on my estate, where I
can reside during the summer."

To Master Jock this part of the matter was quite intelligible; much
larger sums than this used to be lost and won during the sessions of the
Diet at Pressburg. But one thing he could not understand at all.

"Pray how did you get your diploma of gentility?" he asked; "you are not
a gentleman by birth."

"That was a very simple matter. When Whitsun Day was only a week off, I
strolled into one of the trans-Danubian counties, and there advertised
that a prodigal member of the Szabolcs branch of the noble Kis family
was in search of his relations, and if there were any noble Kises who
remembered that branch of the family, and had certificates of nobility
in their possession, which they were willing to transfer to the
undersigned in exchange for one thousand florins, would they be kind
enough to communicate with him. In a week's time fifteen members of the
Kis family remembered their Szabolcs kinsmen, and brought me all kinds
of certificates of nobility. All I then had to do was to select the one
which had the prettiest coat of arms; whereupon we kissed each other all
round, and traced out the genealogy. I paid down the thousand florins;
they recognized me as their kinsman, and advertised the diploma
throughout the county; and so now I am a landed gentleman. Look, here on
my signet-ring is my crest."

This joke pleased Master Jock even more than his own. Instead of being
angry, he covered with kisses the astute adventurer who had more
foresight than any one else, had got the better of those who thought
they were getting the better of him, and had accepted in good earnest
the part which had been thrust upon him by way of a joke.



CHAPTER IV.

A FAMILY CURSE.


In those days there lived at Pressburg a famous family, if the sad fate
of becoming a by-word in the community can be indeed considered fame.
They called themselves Meyer, a name borne by so many people that nobody
would care to adopt it unless obliged to.

The father was a counting-house clerk in a public institution, and
blessed with five beautiful daughters. In 1818 two of the girls were
already grown up--the queens of every ball, the toasted beauties of
every public entertainment. The greatest dandies, nay, even magnates,
delighted to dance with them, and they were universally known as "the
pretty Meyer girls."

How their father and mother rejoiced in their beauty! And these pretty
girls, these universal _belles_, were brought up in a manner befitting
their superiority. No sordid work, no domestic occupations for them! No,
they were brought up luxuriously, splendidly; their vocation was
something higher than the dull round of household duties. They were sent
to first-class educational establishments, instead of to the national
schools in the neighbourhood, where they were taught to embroider
exquisitely, sing elegantly, and acquire other lady-like
accomplishments. And all the time their father hugged himself with the
thought that one of his daughters would become a famous _artiste_, and
another would grow rich as a milliner _à la mode_, and the whole lot of
them would be married by some of those rich squires and bankers who were
continually trampling the ground around them. Perhaps he had read of
such cases in some of the old-fashioned romances of the day.

Now, such an elegant education presupposes an elegant income; but, as we
all know, the salary of a cashier in a public establishment is nothing
very remarkable. Housekeeping cost much more than Mr. Meyer could afford
to give to it. Papa knew that only too well, and he would lie busy all
night long thinking of some way out of the difficulty without ever being
able to find it. And he could not call his girls away from the great
world, for fear of spoiling their prospects.

Just at that very time a country squire was courting the eldest, whose
acquaintance he had made at last year's dances. He was pretty sure to
marry her, as any other connection with the daughter of a man of good
repute would not be honourable; and then no doubt the bridegroom would
advance "papa" a couple of thousand florins or so to relieve him from
his embarrassments.

But the acquaintance of these squires was certainly very costly. Public
entertainments, frippery, and splendour made frightful inroads; and when
the domestic table was spread, the invisible shapes of tailors,
bootmakers, milliners, mercers, and hairdressers sat down and helped to
consume poor pater-familias' dinner.

As for the mistress of the house, she was the worst manager it is
possible to imagine. Understanding nothing herself, she left everything
to the servants. Whenever she was in a difficulty she ran up debts right
and left (it never entered into her calculations that she would one day
have to pay them back), and often when there was only just enough money
left to pay for kitchen requisites for another couple of days, she had a
pleasant little trick of posting off to the fruiterer's and bringing
back a pine-apple.

One day it happened that the directors suddenly, and, as is their wont,
without any previous notification, visited and examined the cashier's
department, and Meyer was found to be six thousand florins short in his
cash--the natural result of papa's frivolity. Meyer was incontinently
dismissed from his post, and the little property he possessed was
seized; there was even some talk of locking him up. For a whole
fortnight this catastrophe was the sole talk of the town.

Now, Meyer had an elder sister living in the city, an old maid who had
withdrawn from the world, and in happier times had been the butt of the
family's sarcasms. She did nothing all day but go to church, say her
prayers, and caress her cat; and whenever she and her cronies came
together they would gossip and abuse the younger generation, possibly
because they themselves were past enjoying what their juniors liked. But
towards nobody was she so venomously spiteful as towards her own family,
because they walked about fashionably dressed, lived well, and went to
balls, while she herself had to crouch beside the fire all the winter,
wear the same dress for twelve years at a stretch, and had nothing
better to eat than a light pottage flavoured with carroways, with a
wheaten loaf broken up in it. The Meyer girls, whenever they wanted to
make each other laugh, had only got to say, "Shall we go and have dinner
with Aunt Teresa?"

Now, when this partly ridiculous, partly malevolent old lady heard of
her younger brother's sad case, she immediately called in what little
money she had out at interest--the fruits of many years of pinching and
sparing--converted it into florins, and, tying them up in a bright
pocket-handkerchief, went up to town, and paid into the public coffers
the amount of her brother's defalcation, and would not be quiet till, by
dint of much weeping and supplication, she had induced all the great
gentlemen concerned (she visited them one by one) to promise not to put
her brother in jail, and to abandon criminal proceedings against him.

Meyer, on hearing of his sister's good deed, hastened to seek her out,
and kissing her hand repeatedly, sobbing and weeping bitterly all the
time, could not find words adequate to express his gratitude. Nay, he
even prevailed upon his daughters also to come and kiss his sister's
hand; and could the good girls have shown a greater spirit of
self-sacrifice than by condescending to bring lips like theirs,
veritable roses and strawberries, into immediate contact with the old
lady's withered hands, and looking without a smile at the old maid's
old-fashioned garments?

Meyer swore by heaven and earth that his whole life would henceforth be
devoted to showing his gratitude to his sister for her noble deed.

"You will do that best," replied the aged spinster, "by bringing up your
family honourably. I have given my all to preserve your name from a
great reproach, you must now take great care to preserve it from a still
greater, for here below there is even a greater degradation than being
thrust into prison. You know what I mean. Get something to do yourself,
and accustom your children to work. Don't be ashamed of offering your
services as a book-keeper to any tradesman who will have you; you will,
at least, earn enough that way to make both ends meet. As for your
girls, they are now old enough to help themselves. God guard them from
accepting the help of other people. One of them might earn her bread as
a milliner's apprentice, for she can do fine needlework. Another can go
as a governess into some gentleman's family. God will show the others
what to do in His own time, and I am sure you will all be happy."

Worthy Meyer returned home from his sister's thoroughly comforted. He
thought no longer of suicide, but very quickly found himself a place as
assistant in a merchant's office; counselled his daughters to adopt some
wholesome mode of life, and they, weeping sorely, promised to obey him.
Eliza got a situation with a sempstress; but instead of trying to get a
governess's place, Matilda preferred to go in for art, and as she had a
nice voice, and could sing a little, it was easy for her to persuade her
father that a brilliant future awaited her on the stage, and that that
was the easiest and most glorious way to riches; and he at once
bethought him of the names of several celebrated actresses who had also
sprung from ruined families and, taking to the stage, had amply
provided, by their own unaided efforts, for the wants of their growing
families.

So Meyer allowed his daughter to follow her bent and adopt an artistic
calling. At first she was only employed as a chorus-singer, but then, as
every one knows, the most famous artistes have begun in that way.

Naturally enough, nothing of this reached the ears of Aunt Teresa, who
fancied that Matilda was a governess. The worthy spinster herself never
entered a playhouse, and if any one should whisper to her that one of
the Meyer girls was employed in the theatre, it would be easy to say
that it was another Meyer and not her kinswoman, Meyer being such a very
common name. So poor Meyer really began to believe that now the whole
family was going to lead a new and orderly life, that every one would do
his and her duty, and prosperity would flow into the house through
door, window, and chimney.

Mrs. Meyer had now to accustom herself to cooking, and Mr. Meyer to
burnt dishes, and the whole family slaved away all day long. Meyer was
occupied in his counting-house from dawn to dusk; Mrs. Meyer during the
same period was in the kitchen; the children sewed and stitched; while
the bigger ones worked out of doors on a larger scale, one of them
turning out a frightful quantity of hats and bonnets, while the other
was mastering her noble profession, or so at least they made each other
believe. As a matter of fact, however, Mr. Meyer lounged about the
coffee-houses pretty frequently, and read the newspapers, which is
certainly the cheapest way of taking one's ease; Mrs. Meyer confided the
pots and pans to the nursemaid, and gossiped with her neighbours; the
children read books surreptitiously or played at blindman's buff;
elegant dandies diverted the elder girl who was in the employment of the
milliner, and it will be better to say nothing at all about the arduous
artistic labours of the chorus-singer. The family only met together at
dinner-time, and then they would sit round the table with sour,
ill-tempered faces, the younger ones grumbling and whining at the meagre
food, the elder girls with their appetites spoilt by a surfeit of
sweetmeats, every one moody and bored, as if they found each other's
company intolerable, and all of them eagerly awaiting the moment when
they might return to their engrossing pursuits again.

There are certain happy-minded people who never will believe what they
don't like. They won't believe that any one is angry with them until he
actually treads on their corns; they fail to observe whether their
acquaintances snub them in the street; they never notice any change,
however nearly it concerns them, even if it be in the bosom of their
families, unless somebody calls their attention to it; and they will
rather invent all sorts of excuses for the most glaring faults than put
themselves to the trouble of trying to correct them.

Providence, as a rule, endows those people who have to live by their
labour with a beneficial instinct, which makes them find their pride and
joy in the work they have accomplished. When the whole family meets
together in the evening, each member boasts of how much he has done in
the course of the day; and how good it is that it should be so! Now, the
Meyers lacked this instinct. The curse of the expulsion from Paradise
seemed to rest upon _their_ labours. None of them ever boasted of having
made any progress. None of them ever inquired how the others had been
getting on. All of them were very chary how they opened a conversation,
as if they feared it would be made a grievance of; and is there anything
in the world so dreadful as a family grievance!

And grievances there are which speak even when they are dumb. Indoors,
every member of the family began to wear rags, and this is what every
family must come to that can only look nice in new clothes. Such people,
unless they are able to sit before the mirror all day long, look
draggle-tailed and sluttish, even if the clothes that hang about them
are not very old, and so betray their poverty to the world. The girls
were obliged to get out and do up their last year's dresses. Carnival
time came round again, and big balls were advertised, but they were
forced to sit at home, for they had no money to go anywhere.

Meyer, in whatever direction he looked, saw nothing but ill-tempered,
dejected, sullen faces around him; but after a while he did not trouble
himself much about them. Only on Sunday afternoons, when a little of the
wine of Meszely had soothed his nerves, would his tongue be loosened,
and a fine flood of moral precept would pour forth for the edification
of his daughters. He would then tell them how happy he was at having
preserved the honour of his name, although he was poor and his overcoat
was ragged (which latter fact, by the way, was not very much to the
credit of his grown-up daughters), but he was proud of his rags, he
said, and wished his daughters to be equally proud of their virtues, and
so on. As for the daughters, they were, naturally, out of the room long
before this sermon was over.

Suddenly, however, a better humour and a more cheerful spirit descended
upon the family. Mr. Meyer, whenever he returned from his office or from
goodness knows whence, would find his daughters boisterously singing.
His wife, too, bought new bonnets; their dresses began to look stylish
again, and their food grew decidedly better. Mr. Meyer, instead of
having his modest measure of Meszely wine on Sunday afternoon only, now
met that pleasant table companion at dinner every day. He would have
taken the change as much as a matter of course as the sparrows take the
wheat from the fields without inquiring who sowed it, if his wife had
not whispered to him one day that Matilda was making such delightful
progress in her profession that the manager had thought well to very
considerably raise her salary, but that the matter was to be kept secret
for a time, lest the other chorus-girls should come to know of it, and
demand a rise of salary likewise. Mr. Meyer considered this to be quite
natural.

It is true he was a little surprised to find Matilda appearing in finer
and finer clothes every day, and wearing continually the most stylish
shawls and bonnets, which she passed on to her younger sister when she
had worn them a bit; he frequently noticed, too, that when he entered
the room, the conversation was suddenly broken off, and when he
inquired what they were talking about, they first of all looked at each
other as if they were afraid of giving contradictory answers, and once
or twice his impatience went so far that he asked his wife, "Why does
Matilda wear such expensive dresses?"

And the good lady thoroughly satisfied the anxious pater-familias. In
the first place, she said, the material of the dresses was not very
expensive, after all; it was made to look like _moiré_, but it was only
watered taffety. In the second place, Matilda did not buy them at the
original price, but got them from the prima donna for next to nothing,
after she had worn them once or twice; the things were as good as given
away. It was a common practice at the theatre, she said.

Mr. Meyer found that he was learning a great deal he had not known
before. But he considered it all quite natural.

From henceforth the whole family did their best to keep him in a good
humour. They consulted his wishes, inquired after his tastes, and were
always asking if there was anything he fancied or had a particular
liking for.

"What good girls these girls of mine are!" said this happy
pater-familias to himself.

On his birthday, too, they had pleasant surprises in store for him in
the shape of presents.

Matilda, in particular, delighted him with a valuable meerschaum pipe on
which hunting-dogs were carved. The whole thing, not including the
silver stopper, cost five and twenty florins in hard cash.

Moved partly by the fulness of his joy and partly because he thought it
the proper thing to do, Meyer resolved to visit Aunt Teresa that very
day, and was the more disposed to do so because a new velvet collar had
recently been sewn on to his overcoat, so he stuck the beautiful
meerschaum pipe in his mouth and went to Teresa's dwelling, which was
situated at the other end of the town.

The worthy spinster was sitting by her fireside, for she had a fire
lighted though the spring was fine. Mr. Meyer greeted her without taking
his pipe from his mouth.

Teresa made him sit down. Her demeanour towards him was most frosty; she
coughed thrice for every word she spoke. Mr. Meyer was only waiting for
her to say, "Where did you get that nice pipe?" and behind this
expectation was the afterthought that, perhaps, when she knew of the
festive origin of the present, Teresa also would hasten to gratify him
with birthday gifts. At last, however, he was forced to begin the
conversation of his own accord.

"Look, sister, what a handsome pipe I have!"

"It's all that," she replied, without even looking at it.

"My daughter bought it for me as a birthday present. Look!" and with
these words he handed the beautiful artistic masterpiece to Teresa.

She took the pipe by the stem and dashed it so violently against the
iron foot of the stove that it flew to pieces in every direction.

Mr. Meyer's mouth fell at both corners dismally. This was a pleasant
birthday greeting if you like!

"Sister! what does that mean?" he cried.

"What does that mean? It means that you are a stupid, a fool, a
blockhead! All the world knows that one of your daughters is the
mistress of a nobleman, and you are not only content to live with her
and share her shameful earnings, but you actually come here to me and
make a boast of it!"

"What! Which of my daughters?" exclaimed Meyer.

Teresa shrugged her shoulders. "If I did not know you for a credulous
simpleton," said she, "I should take you for an abandoned villain. You
thought me fool enough to believe that you were bringing up your
daughter as a governess when she was on the stage all the time. I don't
want to tell you what my views are as to choosing a profession--I admit
that they are old-fashioned, and out of date--but will you tell me how
it is possible for a girl with a salary of sixteen florins a month to
expend thousands on extravagant luxury?"

"Pardon me, Matilda's salary has been raised," said Meyer, who would
very much have liked others to believe something of what he believed
himself.

"That is untrue. You can find out the real state of the case from the
manager if you like."

"And then, too, her clothes are not as expensive as you fancy, sister.
She wears cheap dresses which she bought second-hand from the prima
donna."

"That also is untrue. She bought everything brand new. This very week
she purchased three hundred florins' worth of lace from Messrs. Flesz
and Huber alone."

To this Mr. Meyer knew not what to say.

"Don't sit staring at me there like a stuck pig!" cried Teresa, with a
sudden access of temper. "Hundreds, aye thousands, of times have I seen
her sitting with a certain gentleman, in a hired carriage. 'Tis only a
blockhead like yourself that can't see what all the world sees! You are
a stupid dolt, made to be taken in. I wonder it has never entered into
the head of some play-writer to put you into a farce! What! a
pater-familias who, when he is half-tipsy, on Sunday afternoons preaches
moral sermons to daughters, who are laughing in their sleeves at him all
the time, and who brags about the meerschaum pipe which the seducer of
his own daughter gives him as a birthday present! Why, if I thought that
you had had any idea of this abomination, I would sweep you out of this
room with the very broom with which I now sweep up the fragments of your
pipe."

Mr. Meyer was very much upset by this language. He got up without
answering a word, put on his hat, and went, first of all, to the shop of
Messrs. Flesz and Huber, to find out how much his daughter had spent
there. It turned out to be considerably more than three hundred florins.
Aunt Teresa was certainly well-informed.

Thence he proceeded to the theatre, and inquired what his daughter's
salary was. The manager had no need to consult his books about it. He
told Mr. Meyer straight out that his daughter was paid sixteen florins,
but she did not earn it, for she was very backward in learning--in fact,
she made no progress at all; nor did she seem to care very much, for she
never appeared at any of the rehearsals, and her salary went for the
most part in paying fines.

This was a little too much. Mr. Meyer was beside himself with rage. He
rushed wildly home. Fortunately, he made such a row when he burst into
the house that the other members of the family had time to get Matilda
out of his way, so that he had to be content with disinheriting his
abandoned daughter on the spot, and forbidding her, under pain of
extermination, ever to appear beneath his roof again. A tiger could not
have been more furious, and in the pitilessness of his rage he commanded
that her accursed name should never be mentioned in his presence, and
threatened to send packing after the minx whoever had the audacity to
defend her.

His merciless humour lasted for a whole week. Very often his tongue
itched to ask a question or two, but he stifled the rising words, and
still kept silence. At last, one day, as they all sat together at
dinner, not a single member of the family could touch a thing--then Mr.
Meyer could stand it no longer.

"What's the matter with you all?" he cried. "Why don't you eat? What's
the meaning of all this blubbering?"

The girls raised their handkerchiefs to their eyes, and blubbered more
than ever; but his wife, loudly sobbing, replied--

"My daughter is dying!"

"Naturally!" replied her husband, thrusting such a large spoonful of
pudding into his mouth that he nearly choked. "'Tis easy to say that,
but it is not so easy to die!"

"It would be better for the poor thing if she did die; she would not
suffer so much then, at any rate."

"Then, why don't you send for the doctor?"

"Her sickness is not to be cured by any doctor."

"Hum!" said Mr. Meyer, beginning to pick his teeth.

His wife waited for a little while, and thus continued in a tearful
voice--

"She is always thinking of you. All she wants is to see her father. She
says if she could kiss his hand but once, she would die of joy."

At these words the whole family in chorus sent up a piping wail like an
organ. Mr. Meyer pretended to blow his nose.

"Where is she, then?" he inquired in a constrained voice.

"In the Zuckermandel quarter, in one poor room which she has hired for a
month, abandoned by every one."

"Then she is _poor_!" thought Mr. Meyer. "Perhaps, therefore, all that
Teresa said about her is not quite true?"

Perhaps she had loved some one, and accepted gifts from him. That was
not such a great crime, surely, and it did not follow from that, that
she had sold herself. Those old spinsters, who have never experienced
the world's primest joys, are so jealous of the diversions of young
people.

"Hum! Then that bad girl speaks of me sometimes, eh?"

"She fancies your curse rests upon her. Since she departed----"

Here the conversation was again interrupted by a general outburst of
weeping.

"Since she departed," continued Mrs. Meyer, "she has never risen from
her bed, and leave it I know she never will, unless it is to be put into
her cof-cof-coffin."

"Well, well, bring her home this afternoon," said Mr. Meyer, thoroughly
softened at last.

At these words the whole family fell upon his neck and kissed and
fondled him. Never was there a better man or a kinder father in the
whole world, they said.

They scarce waited for the table to be cleared in order to deck out the
worthy pater-familias in his best, and, putting a stick in his hand, the
whole lot of them accompanied him to the Zuckermandel quarter, where
Matilda lay in a poor garret, in which there was nothing, in the
strictest sense of the word, but a bed and an innumerable quantity of
medicine-bottles.

The heart of the good father was lacerated by this spectacle. So Matilda
had nothing at all, poor girl!

The girl would have risen when she beheld her father, but was unable to
do so. Mr. Meyer rushed towards her with a penitent countenance, just as
if he had sinned against her. The girl seized his hand, pressed it to
her bosom, covered it with kisses, and in a broken voice begged for his
forgiveness.

A father's heart must surely have been made of stone to have resisted
such an appeal! He forgave her, of course, and a coach was immediately
sent for in which to convey her home. Let the world say what it liked,
blood is stronger than water; a father cannot slay his offspring for the
sake of a little tripping!

And besides, as a matter of fact, there was not the slightest reason why
he should punish her so severely, for that very same day he received a
letter (it was brought to the house by a liveried servant), which the
nobleman so frequently alluded to wrote him with his own hand, and in
which he expressed his grief that his innocent, well-meaning advances
should have occasioned such a misunderstanding. He declared, moreover,
that he regarded the whole family with the greatest respect, and as to
his intercourse with Matilda, it was simply dictated by his enthusiasm
for art. Nay, he was prepared, if necessary, to furnish the most
incontestible proofs, under his own hand and seal, that the young lady's
virtue was fenced about by absolutely impregnable bulwarks.

Ah! an honest, honourable gentleman, indeed!

"Well, that's all right," said Mr. Meyer, whom this letter perfectly
satisfied--"quite another sort of thing, in fact. But, at any rate, he
ought not to try and make Matilda go out with him, or try and see her
behind the scenes. That might so easily compromise her. If his
intentions are honourable, let him come to the house."

Imbecile, to give bread to the rats that they might not disturb him in
the night-time, instead of keeping a cat!

Naturally, in a couple of days, Matilda was as rosy as an apple just
plucked from the tree, and her squire now came to the house to visit her
quite nicely. In a few months' time he departed, and after him came a
young banker, and then another squire, and a third and a fourth, and
goodness knows how many more. And all of them were great votaries of
art, worthy respectable gentlemen every one of them, who were never
known to utter an improper word, who kissed mamma's hand, and talked on
sensible topics with papa, and bowed as decorously to the girls as if
they were young countesses at the very least. And among them were such
merry, amusing young fellows, who would make one die of laughter with
their jokes, and teased mamma by going into the kitchen and tasting the
dishes, and pocketing the pancakes. Oh, they were such funny, quizzical
young fellows!

Four of the Meyer girls were now tall and stately, and all of them as
beautiful as could be, and not a year's difference between them. As they
grew up, and their virginal charms developed, Mr. Meyer's house became
more and more noisy and frequented. The old luxury, frivolity, and
extravagance returned, and a perpetual jollity took possession of it.
The most select company, moreover, assembled there--counts, barons,
gentlemen of high degree, bankers, and other bigwigs.

It is true that it struck Mr. Meyer as somewhat peculiar that when he
met these counts and barons in the street they did not seem to see him,
and if his girls were with him, they and these friends of theirs did not
even exchange looks; but it was his way not to trouble himself about
anything unpleasant; besides, he fancied that great folks always behaved
like this.

And now his youngest daughter also was growing up; she was already
twelve years old, and she promised to be more beautiful than any of her
sisters. At present she was in short frocks, and her long thick hair,
twisted into two pigtails, dangled down her back. The guests who
honoured her father's house with their presence had already begun to ask
her, in joke, when she was going to wear long dresses like her sisters.

One day Mr. Meyer had an unusual and surprising visitor. A bevy of
good-humoured youths were flirting with his daughters just then, while
papa was smashing flies on the wall at intervals, smiling complacently
whenever one of his daughters, startled by an extra loud bang, gave a
little shriek, when a knocking was heard at the door. As nobody answered
the door, the knocking was repeated twice, much louder each time, and at
last one of the jovial young fellows aforesaid jumped up and opened the
door, imagining that it was some other merry wag who wanted to surprise
them all--and behold! a dry, wrinkled old maid in a shabby black dress
stood before the brilliant assembly!

Papa was so frightened by this apparition that his knees knocked
together. It was Aunt Teresa!

The old spinster, without deigning to bestow the least attention on the
company assembled there, made straight for Mr. Meyer with the utmost
composure.

The worthy pater-familias was in the most unspeakable confusion. He knew
not whether to ask the old lady to take a chair, or whether to introduce
her to the gay throng as his sister, or whether to deny that he knew
her. But Teresa herself relieved him from his embarrassment. With a calm
and cold look, she said, "I have a few words to say to you, and if you
have leisure to quit your guests for a moment or two, be so good as to
take me where we may not disturb the company."

Papa Meyer at once accepted this proposal, and, opening the door before
her, led her into one of the remoter rooms. They had scarcely closed the
door, when a merry laugh arose from the midst of the company which they
had just quitted. Papa Meyer thereupon drew Aunt Teresa still further
away. Even he was not quite so simple as not to know why the young
people in there laughed so uproariously at this old-fashioned spinster
of a bygone generation.

Papa Meyer, when he did address Aunt Teresa, tried to assume his most
friendly air.

"Won't you take a seat, my dear kinswoman? Oh, what a pleasure it is to
see you at last!"

"I have not exactly come here to bandy compliments," replied Teresa,
dryly, "and it is not necessary to sit down for the sake of the few
words I have come to say. I can say them just as well standing up. For
two years we have not seen each other. During that time you have placed
a pretty considerable distance between us, and your mode of life has
been such as to make it impossible for all eternity for us ever to
approach one another again. This I fancy will not very greatly astonish
you, and the knowledge that this is so has given me the courage to say
it. You have chosen for your four daughters, one after the other, the
same career. Don't speak. It is better to be silent about such things,
and I beg you will not interrupt me. I shall not reproach you. You are
the master of your own actions. You have one daughter who is twelve
years old; in a short time she will be a marriageable girl. I have not
come to this house to make a scene, nor do I wish to preach about
morality, or religion, or God, or maidenly innocence, subjects which
great men and grand gentlemen simply sneer at as the stock-in-trade of
hypocrites. I will therefore tell you in a couple of words why I have
come. All I ask is that you deliver over to me your youngest daughter. I
will engage to bring her up honourably as a respectable middle-class
girl should be brought up. Her mind is still uncorrupted, she is still
in the hands of God, and I will undertake to the day of my death to
preserve her reputation. All I require of you is that neither you
yourself, nor any member of your family, ever think of her again. God
will help me to carry out my good resolution. And one thing more, in
case you reject my offer I shall petition the highest authorities to
favour my request which may have very unpleasant consequences for you,
for I am prepared to go to the Prince Primate of Hungary himself, and
explain to him the reasons which have induced me to come forward in this
manner. My proposition does not require much consideration. I'll give
you till early to-morrow morning to make up your mind. If by that time
you have not brought the girl to my house, you can reckon me as your
most irreconcilable enemy, and then the God who remits sins have mercy
upon you!"

With these words the old spinster turned her back upon him and left the
house.

Mr. Meyer escorted his sister to the door, and so long as he saw her
before his eyes, his mind stood still, he was not the master of a single
thought. Only when she had crossed his threshold did he come to himself
again. The girls and the young dandies commented on the appearance of
the venerable virgin in the most amusing manner, and their jokes put
some heart into papa Meyer again. He began to tell them what had brought
the ancient spinster there.

"She actually wants to take away Fanny," he cried, "and keep her for
ever."

"Ho! oh! ah!" resounded on every side.

"And why? I should like to know why? Have I not always brought her up
respectably? Can any one say anything against me? Can any one reproach
me with anything? Do not I treasure my daughters as the very light of my
eyes? Has any one ever heard an ill word fall from my mouth? Am I a
swindler, perhaps, who give my daughters such a bad example that the
State feels bound to step in and take them out of my hands? Well,
gentlemen, say what you know of me! Am I a thief, or a brigand, or a
blasphemer?"

And all the time he strode rapidly up and down the room like a stage
hero, while his guests stood still and stared.

What he said, however, made a great impression, for all the young
gentlemen now vanished from the house. There was something in Aunt
Teresa's threats which might have unpleasant consequences even for them.

When the family was alone again, there was a violent outburst of wrath
against that meddlesome Aunt Teresa, and Mr. Meyer himself waxed so
wroth that he felt bound to pour forth his grievances outside as well as
inside the house. He still possessed two or three acquaintances whom he
had learnt to know in his official days: they were now leading counsel
in the supreme court, eminent jurists whose opinions he could safely
follow. He had not seen them for a long time, but it now occurred to him
that he might just as well look them up and be beforehand with Aunt
Teresa in case she put her threat into execution.

His nearest acquaintance was Councillor Schmerz, a bachelor of about
forty, a smooth-faced, quiet sort of man, whom he found in his garden
grafting his pinks. To him he confided his grievance, telling him all
about Aunt Teresa and the shabby trick she threatened to play
him--reporting him to the Prince Primate, forsooth!

Mr. Schmerz smiled once or twice during this speech, and now and then
warned Mr. Meyer, who was quite carried away by the force of his
declamation, not to trample on his flower-beds, as they were planted
with cockscombs and larkspurs. When, however, Mr. Meyer had finished his
oration, he replied very gently--

"Teresa will not do that!"

"Teresa will not do that?" thought Mr. Meyer. "That's not enough for
me." He wanted to be told that Teresa _could_ not--was not allowed to do
it; and if she tried it on, so much the worse for Teresa.

Mr. Schmerz had evidently made up his mind to graft an endless series of
pinks that afternoon, so Mr. Meyer thought it best to carry his
complaint to another of his acquaintances, in the hope that he would and
must give a more definite reply.

This other acquaintance was Mr. Chlamek, a famous advocate, one of the
most honourable of characters, and withal an exceedingly dry
man--practical shrewdness and commonsense personified. He, too, was a
pater-familias with three sons and two daughters.

Mr. Chlamek listened to the matter laid before him with all an
advocate's patience, and answered the question quietly and frankly--

"My dear friend, never quarrel with a relation for showing a disposition
to relieve you of one of your daughters. Thank God that you have still
daughters left and to spare. I know from experience that one girl gives
more trouble than three boys. I should not refuse this offer if I were
you."

Mr. Meyer said not a word. This advice pleased him even less than the
other. So he went to his third acquaintance.

This third acquaintance was a really excellent fellow, and by profession
a judge of the criminal court. He was always frightfully rude to those
with whom he was in any way angry, and if the whole penal code had been
his ring, he could not have twisted it round his finger more easily.

Mr. Meyer found the eminent criminal lawyer in the midst of a heap of
dusty papers. Mr. Bordácsi, for that was his name, had an extraordinary
faculty for so identifying himself with any complicated case he might
take up as to absolutely live and breathe in it. Any attempt at
sophistry or chicanery made him downright venomous, and he only
recovered himself when, by dint of superior acumen, he had enabled the
righteous cause to triumph. He was also far-famed for his
incorruptibility. Whoever approached him with ducats was incontinently
kicked out-of-doors, and if any pretty woman visited him with the
intention of making her charms influence his judgments, he would treat
her so unceremoniously that she was likely to think twice before
visiting him again on a similar errand.

No sooner did Bordácsi perceive Mr. Meyer than he took off his
spectacles and put them on the page of the document before him, so as
not to lose his place; then he exclaimed, in an extraordinarily rough
voice--

"Well, what's the matter, friend Meyer?"

Mr. Meyer was glad to hear the word "friend," but this was a mere form
of expression with his Honour the Judge. He always said "friend" to
lawyers' clerks, lackeys, and even to the parties to a suit whom it was
his duty to tear to ribbons. Meyer, however, set forth his grievance
quite confidently. He even sat down, though he had not been invited to
do so, as he was wont to do in the bygone happy days when they were
official colleagues together. It was Meyer's custom never to look those
whom he was addressing in the face, which bashfulness deprived him, of
course, of the advantage of being able to read from their countenances
what impression he was making upon them. He was therefore greatly
surprised when, on finishing his speech, his Honour Judge Bordácsi
roared at him in the angriest of voices--

"And why do you tell me all this?"

Mr. Meyer's spirit suddenly grew cold within him; he could not answer a
word, only his mouth moved weakly up and down, like the mouth of a
puppet that you pull with a string.

"What!" cried Judge Bordácsi, with a still more violent exertion of his
lungs, rushing upon his unfortunate client and fixing him with
frightfully distended eyes.

In his terror the unfortunate man leaped from the seat in which he had
sat down unasked, and murmured tearfully--

"I humbly beg your pardon. I came here for advice and--and protection."

"How? Do you imagine, sir, that I shall take your part?" bawled the
judge, as if he were speaking to some one who was stone deaf.

"I fancied," stammered the unfortunate pater-familias, "that the old
kindliness which you formerly showed to my house----"

Bordácsi did not let him finish. "Yes, your house! In those days your
house was a respectable house, but now your house is a Sodom and
Gomorrah which opens its doors wide to all the fools of the town. You
have devoted your four girls to the bottomless pit, and you are a
scandal to every pure-minded man. You are the corrupter of the youth of
this city, and your name is a by-word throughout the kingdom wherever
dissolute youths and outraged fathers are to be found."

Here Mr. Meyer burst into tears, and murmured something to the effect
that he did not know anything about it.

"With what a handsome family did not God bless you! and, sir, you have
made it the laughing-stock of the world. You have traded with the
innocence, the love, and the spiritual welfare of your daughters; you
have sold, you have bartered them away to the highest bidder; you have
taught them that they must catch passers-by in the street with an ogle
or a stare, that they must smile, laugh, and make love to men whom they
see for the first time in their lives, that they must make money by
lying!"

The wretched man was understood to say, amidst his sobs, that he had
done none of these things.

"And now, sir, you have one daughter left, the last, the prettiest, the
most charming of them all. When I used to visit at your house, sir, she
was a little child no higher than my knee, whom every one loved, every
one fondled. Don't you remember, sir? And now, sir, you would abandon
her also. And you are angry, you storm and rave when a respectable
person wants to save the unfortunate child from having her innocence
corrupted, save her from withering away profitlessly in the claws of a
pack of gross, rowdy, street-lounging, rake-hell young profligates, from
living a life of wretchedness and shame, from dying abandoned and
accursed, to say nothing of the fire of hell after death. And you even
raise objections, sir! But, of course, I understand, they would be
depriving you of a great treasure, of something you can sell at a high
price, something that you can calculate upon making a handsome profit
out of, eh?"

Meyer gnashed his teeth with rage and horror.

"Let me tell you, sir, if you are still able to follow good advice,"
continued the judge, in the same pitiless voice, "that if that
respectable person, your kinswoman Teresa, is still willing to take
charge of your daughter Fanny, surrender her unconditionally, renounce
all your rights to her now and for evermore, for if you raise any
further objections, if the matter comes before the courts, so help me
God! I'll have you locked up myself."

"Where?" asked the terrified Meyer.

This question took the judge somewhat aback at first, but he soon found
an answer.

"Where? Well, in the house of correction, in case the things that are
done in your house, sir, are done with your knowledge and consent; and
in a madhouse if they are done without your knowledge."

Mr. Meyer had got a sufficient answer at last; he took his leave and
departed. He could scarce find the door by which he had entered, and he
had to grope his way down to the street. The loafers there who saw him
nudged each other with a grin and said, "That chap has had a good
skinful somewhere!"

So he had to learn from others that he was not a respectable man; he had
to learn from strange lips that people looked down upon him, laughed at,
cursed him, sneered at him as the man who made money out of his
daughters' love affairs, and whose house was a place where young men
were corrupted.

And he had always fancied that he was the best man in the world, whose
house was honoured and respected, and whose friendship was sought after!

In his confusion of mind he had wandered out of his way as far as the
Malomligeti pond. What a nice pond! he thought. How many wicked girls
could be suffocated there! A man, too, might easily leap into it, and be
at rest! Then he turned back again and hastened home.

At home they were still chattering and exclaiming at the pretensions of
Aunt Teresa. The youngest girl was passed from hand to hand, and kissed
and embraced as if some great misfortune awaited her.

"Poor Fanny, it would be better for you to be a servant with us than to
live with Aunt Teresa!"

"Oh, what a pleasant time you'll have, sewing and knitting all day long,
and in the evening reading devotional books to aunty till she dozes
off!"

"I know she will always be running us down; you will never see us, and
we shall become quite strangers to you."

"Poor Fanny, the old faggot will beat you, too."

"Poor Fanny!"

"My poor girl!"

"Poor little sister!"

They quite frightened the child with all these lamentations, and it was
at last determined that if Fanny would say to papa, if he pressed her,
that she did not want to go to Aunt Teresa, they would all take her
part.

At that same moment Meyer's steps were audible upon the staircase. He
rushed into the room with his hat on--but, indeed, in such a house as
that it was not usual to take off one's hat at all at any time. He knew
that every one was looking at his face, but he also knew that his face
was distorted enough to frighten any one who looked at it.

Without bestowing a glance on any one, he simply said to Fanny--

"Put on your hat and cloak, and look sharp about it!"

"Why, papa?" asked Fanny. Like all badly-brought-up children, she always
said, "What for?" before doing anything she was told to do.

"You are to come with me."

"Where?"

"To Aunt Teresa's."

Every one present affected an air of astonishment. Fanny cast down her
eyes, and twisting a ribbon round her finger, "I don't want to go to
Aunt Teresa," she faltered timidly.

A disjointed embroidering frame was lying on the table.

Fanny stole a glance at her mother and sisters, and meeting with looks
of encouragement, repeated, this time in a bold, determined voice--

"I don't want to go to Aunt Teresa!"

"What? You don't want to go, eh?"

"I want to stay here with my mother and sisters."

"With your mother and sisters, eh? and become what they are, I suppose?"
and seizing the girl with one hand, he snatched up with the other one of
the sticks of the embroidering frame, and, before Fanny had time to be
frightened, he thrashed her in a way that made his own heart bleed for
her.

The sisters tried to interfere, and got their share also, for papa Meyer
broke all the remaining sticks of the frame over their shoulders, so
that when it came to his wife's turn, he had to pummel her with his
fists till she collapsed in a corner.

A few years sooner a moderate dose of this discipline might have been of
use, now it only caused physical pain. And all the time Mr. Meyer never
said a word; he simply gratified his rage, like a wild beast that has
escaped from its cage.

After that he seized Fanny by the hand, and without taking leave of any
one, dragged her along with him to Aunt Teresa's. The child wept all the
way.

The chastised damsels wished, in their wrath, that their departing
father might never return again. And their wish was gratified, for Mr.
Meyer never did return home again. From henceforth he vanished from
Pressburg. Where he went or what became of him nobody ever knew. Some
maintained that he had jumped into the Danube, others that he had
emigrated; and years afterwards distant travellers sent word home from
time to time that they had seen a man greatly resembling him, some said
in England, some in Turkey.



CHAPTER V.

THE TEMPTER IN CHURCH.


Three years had passed since Fanny went to live with Aunt Teresa. Those
three years had a great influence upon her youthful and pliable
disposition. At first Teresa was severe and stony-hearted towards the
child; her obstinacy, like a thorny hedge, had to be broken down. The
smallest fault was chastised, every moment of her time had its allotted
task, of which she had to give an account, not a single contradiction,
not the slightest sulkiness was put up with. Then, too, she was never
able to escape detection, a far-seeing, austere pair of eyes was ever
upon her, making falsehood impossible, looking through her very soul,
seizing and pruning down every thought as it arose. The weeds had to be
extirpated before the seeds of nobler flowers could be sown.

When, however, she had at last brought under the child's unruly
disposition and convinced her that it was of no use to play the
hypocrite or tell lies, inasmuch as there is a Being Who sees behind all
our thoughts, Who is everywhere present and watchful, Whom nothing
escapes, and Who watches over us even when we are asleep, so that we are
bound from very necessity to be just and honest; when she had brought
her charge as far as this, I say, Teresa began gradually to teach her
how conversion could have its pleasant side likewise. Teresa's
confidence grew proportionately with Fanny's candour. She frequently
left the child to herself, ceased to supervise her allotted tasks,
showed her that she believed what she said, and thereby gradually
exalted and purified her whole disposition. Perceiving that her rigorous
mentor trusted her, Fanny began to discover what self-respect means. And
what a precious treasure that is! and what a pity more attention is not
paid to it!

Teresa never alluded to the child's relatives; on the contrary, whenever
her thoughts seemed to be turning that way she would divert them into a
different direction. And gradually, as Fanny's notions of right and
wrong grew clearer and firmer, she felt less and less of a desire to
inquire after the members of her own family. At last it came to
this--that when, one day, having obtained Teresa's permission to go
somewhere, she suddenly came face to face in the street with Matilda,
who was riding in an open carriage, she fled terror-stricken into the
court-yard of the house where dwelt a lady of her acquaintance, in order
that her sister might not see her.

Teresa heard of this, and ever afterwards treated Fanny much more
tenderly.

One day, while sitting at her work, the girl sighed heavily. Teresa knew
at once that she was thinking of her relatives.

"Why do you sigh?" she asked.

"Poor Matilda!" said the girl; and she spoke with quite genuine emotion,
for she really did pity her sister who rode in a carriage and wore
Brabant lace, while she herself was so happy at home over her sewing.

Teresa made no reply, but, full of emotion, she clasped the child to her
breast. God had at last rewarded her for all the labours and anxieties
of the last three years, for Fanny was now saved, and doubtless reserved
for a happier future.

And, indeed, poverty in itself is not such a very great calamity, after
all. Those who have a close acquaintance with it will tell you that it
possesses joys of its own which are not to be bought with heaps of gold
pieces. Besides, Teresa was not absolutely destitute. She received five
hundred florins a year from an insurance office for life, with one half
of which she not only supported the pair of them comfortably, but even
left a margin for a little recreation. The other half she carefully put
by, that Fanny might have something when she herself was gone. And the
girl made a little money as well; she earned something by her
needlework. Oh, ye men and women who swim in luxury, you do not know
what delight, what rapture it is when a young man or woman receives the
reward of his honest labour for the first time; you know nothing of the
proud consciousness of being self-sufficient, of being able to live
without the compassion, without the assistance, of other people!

And Fanny's work was very well paid, too!

In the house where they lived there was an Hungarian cabinet-maker, who
owned several houses in Pressburg, John Boltay by name. This rich
artisan, long, long ago, when he had only just served his
apprenticeship, was tenderly disposed towards Teresa, and offered her
his hand. But Teresa's relatives would not give him the girl, although
she loved him; their family belonged to the official class, and looked
down upon a mere workman. So Boltay went away and married some one else,
and the marriage turned out unhappy and childless; and by the time his
wife died both he and Teresa had grown old. Teresa had never married at
all. For forty years she had been growing old and grey, but she had
never forgotten her first love. In the mean time her family had gone
down in the world, and she had been obliged to live in a house in the
suburbs, where she had remained for five-and-twenty years. Boltay
meanwhile had become a rich man, and had purchased the house in which
Teresa lived, and this gave him an opportunity of doing little
kindnesses to Teresa, which she could not very well refuse. Thus, he
turned the yard into a garden, gave the noisier of his tenants notice to
quit, and charged her a purely nominal rent. And yet, for all that, they
never exchanged a word together. Boltay himself lived at the opposite
end of the town, over his shop; but he knew very well, all the same,
what was going on at Teresa's. He knew, too, that she had adopted Fanny,
and about this time he frequently sent over his head journeyman (a
worthy, honest young fellow, and his favourite, whom he meant to make
his heir, so people said, for he had no relatives) to purchase Fanny's
handiwork, for which he paid very handsomely. He would not have dared to
offer Teresa any direct assistance; but Teresa, for the girl's sake,
felt bound to accept what he offered in this way.

Maybe both she and Boltay thought what a pretty pair the two young
people would make. Alexander (to give the young journeyman his name for
the first time) was a tall, muscular, well-built fellow, with blonde
curly locks, ardent blue eyes, and a bold, manly face. There was nothing
slovenly or commonplace in his bearing, nor, on the other hand, did he
affect gentility; but there was that quiet self-confidence about him
which belongs to the man whose mind and body are equally developed. The
girl was a slender, ideal creature, with languishing black eyes and a
rosy, chubby face so full of colour that even round her eyes one could
not detect a spot of pallor--just such a beauty, in fact, as the world
is apt to make much of. They contrasted prettily enough--blonde and
brunette, blue eyes and black; he so bold, vigorous, and sedate, she so
overflowing with tenderness and feeling; yet who can tell what is
written concerning them in the stars?

Amongst Teresa's acquaintances was a dapper little man who was generally
known, not by his real name, but by his official title--the precentor.
One evening the worthy precentor happened to hear light-hearted Fanny
sing the snatch of some song or other, and, surprised, connoisseur as he
was, by the music of her pretty voice, suggested that he should teach
her an air from the "Stabat Mater," that she might sing it in the choir
at church.

Teresa trembled at the thought. Matilda at once occurred to her mind;
yet, after all, it is one thing to sing frivolous love ditties on an
open stage in fancy costume, face to face with a lot of lazy young
loungers, and quite another to sing in the Church of God, behind a
closed screen, sublime and edifying hymns for the benefit of devout
worshippers, although, of course, the Evil One, who is always seeking
his prey, may find his victim in the Church of God itself. Teresa,
therefore, felt bound to allow Fanny to go to the precentor, who
instructed her with great enthusiasm, and was never weary of praising
her. The girl, indeed, rarely went there alone. Either Teresa herself,
or a worthy crony of Teresa's, Dame Kramm by name, regularly accompanied
Fanny to the precentor's dwelling, and in an hour's time returned to
fetch her away again. That the rumour of Fanny's beauty and virtue
should not have spread through the town was too much to expect. There
are always a number of unoccupied young gentlemen about, whose sole
mission in life seems to be to make such discoveries, and the number of
these pleasure-hunters was considerably increased on the occasion of
the assembling of the Diet at Pressburg, when many of our younger
conscript fathers spread the report of newly found female virtue as far
as possible. Who did not know of the Meyer girls in those days?--and
those who did, could not help knowing likewise that there was a fifth
sister. Now, where was this last little sister hiding? Why, it was the
most natural question in the world.

The girls themselves made no mystery of the matter. They explained with
whom Fanny was, and where and when she might be seen. Ah! and this was
much more than mere giddiness; it was shamelessness, jealousy, hatred!
Matilda could not forgive Fanny for avoiding her in the street, and the
others could not pardon her for possessing a treasure which they
possessed no longer--innocence! What a dish for the fine palate of a
connoisseur! What a rare fruit of paradise! A child of fifteen or
sixteen, whose diamond soul has been cleansed from mud and filth, who is
still conscious of God, and capable of pure delights, whose tender
loving heart, perhaps, is in the safekeeping of some honest, romantic
youth--what a fine thing to root her up unmercifully, to tear off her
budding leaves one by one, hurl her back again into the mire from which
she has been plucked, and make her acquainted with that new, that
withering, consuming fire of infernal passion begotten among the souls
of the nether world!

So the chase was let loose after the tender roe that had emerged from
the garden of paradise. Swarms of those knight-errants who have nothing
else to do waylaid and accosted her in the streets and byways, and
offered her their flattery, their homage, their gifts, but above the
head of the fairy roe rested a star, which suffered not the darts of the
huntsmen to hit their mark. That star was the star of purity.

The discomfited youths, more and more angry every day, used to meet at
the Meyers' and deride one another at the failure of their endeavours.
Very often, too, heavy bets on the issue of the event were offered and
taken, just as if it were a horse-race or a coursing-match. At length a
well-known dandy, Fennimore by name, resolved to try the effect of an
open direct attack; it was, he opined, the best way of conquering the
sex. So one day, when he had ascertained that Fanny was alone at home,
he sent her a splendid bouquet of hot-house flowers, in which was
concealed a _billet-doux_ of the following purport: If Fanny were
inclined to reward the devotion of a loving heart, she was to leave the
back door of the garden open in the evening. There are cases, he argued,
in which similar proposals lead most rapidly to the end desired.

The inexperienced girl, in the innocence of her astonishment, accepted
the proffered bouquet. This was adroitly calculated upon by the sender.
Any other missive might have aroused her suspicion and made her more
cautious, but flowers harmonize so well with a young girl's disposition
that how could she refuse them?

Only when the bearer of the missive had withdrawn did Fanny observe a
letter concealed among the flowers, and immediately, just as if she had
caught sight of a venomous spider, she threw away the bouquet, and ran
weeping to Dame Kramm, and sobbing bitterly, related the incident. She
fancied she was disgraced already.

Shortly afterwards Teresa returned home, and she and Dame Kramm held a
consultation over the sealed letter. Fanny was inconsolable when Dame
Kramm confided to her its contents. She seriously believed that the bare
receiving such a letter had dishonoured her for ever and ever, and
despite the consolations of the two worthy old spinsters, she lay in a
fever the whole night.

Meanwhile the two old ladies were concocting a plan of vengeance against
the originator of all this trouble, and, believe me, ancient spinsters
know how to be revengeful! They left the back door of the garden wide
open, laid in wait till the cavalier had entered, and then closed it
again. Then they took it in turns to watch from the garret window how
the valiant young woman-hunter, the would-be seducer, who had himself
fallen into the pit, cooled his heels for hours in the mouse-trap they
had prepared for him, and when at last the rain began to fall, they went
to bed full of malicious joy, with the house-keys tucked snugly beneath
their pillows, and listening with delight to the rain pattering against
the window-panes.

This very considerable defeat only raised the ardour of the huntsman
still higher. What, to surrender to an inexperienced child! to be
worsted by a pair of old women! Why, _l'esprit de corps_ could not let
matters rest there; and Abellino, who was the leader of the band, took
upon himself to rehabilitate their _renommée_, as he called it, and with
proud self-confidence laid a bet to a very considerable amount that,
within twelve months' time, he would induce this beauty to quit her
paradise and come and live with him--naturally not as his consort.

On the following Sunday Fanny sang the "Stabat Mater Dolorosa" in the
cathedral sublimely, and the heart of every worshipper was filled with
devotion. Dame Kramm, decked out in all her Sabbath finery, was sitting
by one of the side altars, enjoying in her own way the child's beautiful
singing, when she heard an enraptured voice close beside her sigh, "Oh,
what splendid, what sublime singing!"

She immediately felt bound to turn round and see who it was that was
pouring forth the rapture of his soul so abundantly.

She saw before her a modestly attired gentleman, who wore mourning on
his hat, and had just dried a tear from his upturned eye. It was
Abellino Kárpáthy.

"She sings beautifully, sir, does she not?" said the good spinster,
proudly.

"Like an angel! Ah, madam, every time I hear such singing the tears
start from my eyes." And the sensitive youth put his handkerchief to his
eyes again. Then he departed without saying another word to Dame Kramm.

The whole week through Dame Kramm was tortured by curiosity. What could
be amiss with this mysterious youth? Would he come again on the
following Sunday?

And come again he did, and now they greeted one another like old
acquaintances.

"Look ye, madam," said the young gentleman, with a mournful countenance,
"ten years ago I had a sweetheart, a betrothed, who used to sing the
'Stabat Mater' with just such a beautiful voice; it makes me actually
think that I can hear her now. She died on the very day fixed for our
wedding. On her death-bed she made me promise that if ever I found a
poor young lady who could sing these divine canticles with just such a
beautiful voice as she had, I was, in memory of her, to devote every
year the sum of three thousand florins to enable such young lady to
cultivate to the utmost her noble art, and thus secure for herself a
happy future. I only imposed one condition before consenting to my
betrothed's desire: I insisted that the young lady in question should be
just as pure, just as innocent, as was my beloved, my
never-to-be-forgotten Maria!" And the young man again applied his
pocket-handkerchief to his eyes.

"What genuine grief!" thought the old lady to herself.

"I must regretfully confess, madam," pursued the young dandy, in a shaky
voice, "that I have not been able to carry out the desire of my deceased
bride. So far as natural gifts are concerned, there were heaps and heaps
of candidates, but in the way of virtue they all failed me. I think of
them with shame, and yet there are some among them whom the world has
loaded with its applause. And every fresh attempt has proved a fresh
illusion."

And here he again broke off the conversation, and left Madam Kramm to
cogitate upon this strange story for another week. She said not a word
about it to any one.

On the following Sunday, Abellino again made his appearance. He kept
silence till the singing was quite over, but it was clear from his face
that there was something he would very much have liked to ask, had he
not been too shy to do so. At last, however, he constrained himself to
speak.

"Pardon me for troubling you with such a question, madam, and do not
take it ill of me; but do you not know the singer personally? I have so
many times been deceived in my benevolent intentions that I scarce dare
to approach any one without making preliminary inquiries. I have heard
the most astonishing reports of this young woman's family, which seem to
prove that virtue is in no very great request there."

At this Dame Kramm also became loquacious. "Whatever this young woman's
relations may be, sir, she has had absolutely nothing to do with them
since she was a child. Her heart is as pure as a child's, and her
education has been so austere that, even if she were now to be abandoned
entirely to herself, not the shadow of a vice could possibly find
admittance in her breast."

"Ah, madam, you have made me altogether happy!"

"How so, sir?"

"The soul of my Maria will at length be able to rest in peace."

And off he went again, leaving Dame Kramm to think the matter over for
another week.

On the following Sunday he honoured the worthy spinster with his entire
confidence.

"Madam," said he, "I am convinced that your young charge is quite worthy
of my protection. That girl will one day become a famous _artiste_, and
her rare virginal modesty will raise her far above all her fellows. But
a strict watch must be kept upon her. I am well aware that sundry rich
young men are lying in wait for her. Be careful, madam, and warn the
young woman's guardians to look well after her! Excessive light blinds
the greatest characters; but I have determined to save her from their
nefarious intrigues. She _shall_ be an _artiste_. In her voice she
possesses such a treasure that, if only it be properly cultivated, all
these cavaliers, with all their wealth to boot, will seem but beggars
beside her; and then, if she preserve within herself the source of her
riches, she will escape the danger with which wealth always threatens
innocence."

Madam Kramm thoroughly believed him. Her thoughts now began to turn from
the church to the theatre, and she looked forward to the day when she
should applaud Fanny's singing.

"A couple of years will make a thorough _artiste_ of her. Great care,
and a very trifling expenditure is all that is wanted. I will take upon
myself the rest, for my dead bride's sake. I will make no presents, I
will give nothing gratis; what I advance will be only as a loan. When
she has grown rich she shall repay me, so that I may be able to make
others happy also. I will give you three thousand florins every month,
that the young woman may be able to pay for the necessary tuition; but
pray do not let her know that the money comes from a young man, or she
might possibly refuse it. Use the name of my dead bride, Maria Darvai,
to designate the mysterious benefactor; and, indeed, she does send it,
even if it be from Heaven. I impose but one condition: she must remain
virtuous. If I should ascertain the contrary, my patronage will
instantly cease. Be so good, then, as to now accept from me the first
monthly instalment, and employ it conformably to my wishes; and, once
more, I beg of you to say nothing about me. I ask it simply for the
girl's sake. You know what an evil tongue the world has."

Dame Kramm took the money. Why, indeed, should she not have taken it?
Any one else, in her place, would have done the same thing. The secret
benefactor had given her no cause for suspicion. He remained unknown to
her, and insisted on remaining unknown; but he had forewarned her of the
machinations of others, and acted himself as the guardian of defenceless
virtue. What more could he do?

Madam Kramm took the money, I say, and secretly hired music and singing
masters for Fanny, to whom alone she told anything about the matter. Of
course, it was a mistake on her part not to have admitted Teresa into
her confidence; but, perhaps, she surmised--and no doubt her surmise was
correct--that that austere old lady would have incontinently pitched the
money out of the window, with the remark that a virtuous girl ought,
under no pretext whatever, to accept money which she has not honestly
earned. And then, too, that other point--an artistic career? That would
certainly have encountered vigorous opposition on the part of Teresa.
Why, it was a subject which could not even be broached in her presence.

But the affair was no secret to Teresa, after all. From the very first
she noticed the change that had taken place in Fanny's disposition. In
the girl's mind the idea that she possessed a treasure which would raise
her far above her competitors on the path of glory had already taken
root. She had no longer any heart for the simple tasks, the humble
pastimes, in which she had rejoiced heretofore. She no longer conversed
as openly as before with the young journeyman. She would sit and brood
for hours together, and after such broodings she would frequently say to
her aunt that one day she would richly requite her for her labour and
trouble.

How Teresa used to tremble at these words!

The girl was dreaming of riches. The Evil One had shown her the whole
world and said, "All this I will give thee: worship me." And it never
occurred to her to reply, "Get thee hence, Satan!"

The huntsman had laid his snare right well.

A feeling of gratitude often urged the girl to beg Dame Kramm to take
her to this unknown benefactor, that she might express her burning
thanks to her, and take further counsel of her. She also wished to tell
her aunt of the unselfish kindness of which she was the object. These
repeated entreaties drove the worthy old spinster at last into such a
corner that she, one day, suddenly blurted out that this mysterious
benefactor was not a woman, but a man, who wished to remain for ever in
the background.

This discovery at first terrified Fanny greatly; but subsequently it
tickled her fancy all the more. Who could this man be who wished to make
her happy without ever appearing to have a hand in it, and who was so
anxious, so fearful, lest his honest gifts should cast the slightest
slur on her reputation that he would not so much as allow his name to be
mentioned?

What more natural, then, that the girl should draw, in her imagination,
an ideal picture of her unknown defender? She represented him to herself
as a tall, gloomy, pale-faced youth, who never smiled except when doing
good, and his gentle look frequently followed her into her dreams.

Whenever she went for a walk in the streets and encountered young
cavaliers there she would steal glances at them and say to herself, "I
wonder if that one is he, or that?" But not one of them fitted into the
place that she held vacant in her heart.

At last, one day, she did meet with a face with eyes and features and
looks similar to the ideal of her dreams. Yes, she had pictured him just
like that. Yes, this must be her secret tutelary deity, who did not want
himself to be known to her. Yes, yes, this was the hero she was wont to
dream of, with the beautiful blue eyes, the noble features, and the
handsome figure!

Poor girl! That was not her benefactor. That was Rudolf Szentirmay, one
of the noblest and most patriotic of the younger noblemen of Hungary,
already happily married to the lady of his choice, the Countess Flora.
He had no thought of her whatever. But she had got the idea into her
head that he _was_ her benefactor, and nobody could drive it out again.

She begged and prayed Dame Kramm repeatedly to show her, if even at a
distance, the man who had so mysteriously taken charge of her fate. But
when, at last, the good-natured lady had resolved to satisfy her desire,
it was not in her power to do so; for Abellino no longer appeared in
church on Sundays. Nay, he had not, as usual, given her the three
thousand florins for the coming month personally, but had sent it to her
in advance by an old lackey.

What fine calculation!

Dame Kramm could only believe that the unknown gentleman was determined
at all hazards not to approach the girl, and that an effort would have
to be made to find him. She therefore humbly asked the lackey whether it
was not possible to catch a glimpse of his master in a public place,
even if only at a distance and but for a moment.

The lackey replied that his master would be visible at the public
session of the Upper House of the Diet on the morrow, and that he would
be sitting opposite the fifth pillar.

Oh ho! So he was a great nobleman, then--one of the fathers of the
Fatherland who are occupied day and night with the thought of how to
make the realm and the nation happier! And still greater confidence
arose in her heart. He to whom the destiny of the realm is entrusted
could scarcely be a fribbler!

Dame Kramm informed Fanny that she would be able to see her unknown
benefactor on the morrow in the Diet; that she could pick him out from
among the throng without anybody being the wiser, and that the whole
affair would only take a moment or two.

So Fanny went to the gallery of the Diet, where Dame Kramm pointed out
to her her mysterious benefactor.

Fanny fell down from heaven forthwith. She had expected to see some one
quite different. The face which Dame Kramm pointed out had no attraction
for her. On the contrary, it filled her heart with a feeling of distrust
and consternation. She hurried Dame Kramm away from the gallery, and
carried her poor disillusioned heart home. There she took her aunt into
her confidence, and revealed everything--her dreams, her ambitious
longings, and her disappointment. She confessed that now she
loved--yes, loved--a man who was her ideal, whose name she knew not, and
she begged to be defended against herself, for she felt tottering on the
edge of an abyss. She was mistress of her own heart no longer.

Next day, when Dame Kramm came for Fanny to take her to the
singing-master, she found Teresa's house deserted. The doors and windows
were shut, and the furniture had been removed. Nobody could tell where
she had gone.

She had taken it into her head to flit in the night-time. Her rent she
had deposited with the caretaker, unknown porters had removed
everything, and she had left no address behind for kind inquirers.



CHAPTER VI.

PAID IN FULL.


And whither, then, had Fanny vanished so suddenly, so untraceably, with
her aunt?

It was with a feeling of despair that Teresa had listened to her niece's
confession. The girl had told her honestly that she was in love, in love
body and soul, with all the fervour of her nature, with an ideal whom
she had believed to be identical with the benefactor whose benefits she
had one day meant to repay with a love stronger than death; and now,
discovering that her secret patron was not he whom she had dreamed of,
he whom once she had actually seen, and could never again forget, her
heart was full of horror. She now felt that she had acted improperly in
accepting money from that other man under any pretext whatsoever, for by
so doing she had placed herself under an obligation, and she trembled at
the thought of it, and feared to show her face in the street lest she
should meet him. A distrust of that face grew up in her heart, and she
shuddered at the idea that _that_ man was thinking of her, perhaps. Ah,
that was indeed a thorn in her soul! And the other, the ideal, there was
no reason for thinking of him at all now; and yet cast him out of her
heart again she could not. She knew him not, she knew not even his name,
yet she felt that she would love him henceforth to the last moment of
her life.

Poor Alexander!

So Teresa saw the labours of these many years all in ruins, and in the
bitterness of her despair she brought herself to take a step which, at
one time, the greatest misery would have been powerless to make her
do--she went to Boltay, told him everything, and entreated him to
defend, to protect the girl, for this was a case where female protection
was insufficient.

Boltay accepted the guardianship with joy. The coarse-handed artisan's
big face turned dark red with rage, and he did not go to his factory
that day, lest he should pitch into some one; but he gave orders that
Teresa's belongings should be carried into his house that very night.
Alexander, who heard everything, became very sorrowful, but was doubly
attentive to Fanny. It was a case of hopeless love all round. He loved
the girl and the girl loved another, and both were very unhappy.

Every one in the family knew the secret, but nobody said a word about
it. The two old people often laid their heads together, and sometimes
Alexander was admitted to this family council.

The good old people tried to find out the name of the unknown nobleman,
as they wanted to send back to him the whole of the money that he had
forwarded to Fanny. A debtor under such an obligation could not feel
free. They wanted to pay him back as soon as possible, in just the same
coin, florin for florin, three thousand down in one lump, lest any one
should say he did not get back exactly what he had given.

Yes, but how were they to find out his name? Fanny herself did not know
it, and she would not have pointed him out in the street if she had had
to die for it. Boltay took the trouble to frequent the coffee-houses and
the meetings of the merchants, and listened with all his ears in case he
might hear any talk of a shop-girl who had accepted earnest money from
a rich gentleman as the price of her virtue. But there was no such talk
anywhere. This was reassuring in one way, as tending to show that nobody
knew anything about it, and therefore the trouble was not so great as it
might have been; but the name, the name?

At last Abellino himself came to help them in their search.

Alexander used to go every Sunday to the church which Dame Kramm
frequented, and, leaning against a column, would watch to see with whom
the spinster conversed.

On the third Sunday Abellino appeared upon the scene also.

The worthy spinster told him the marvellous story of how Fanny and her
aunt had unexpectedly disappeared one night without telling her whither
they had gone, which was not very nice of them; but she suspected that
they had flitted to Mr. Boltay's house, and Teresa had kept it quiet, no
doubt, because there had been certain relations between her and Boltay
in their younger days, or perhaps she went to see him because Boltay's
adopted son wanted to marry Fanny. As for herself, she did not mean to
trouble her head about them any more.

Abellino bit his lips till the blood came, he was so angry. Could these
Philistines smell a rat, then?

"What sort of an artisan is this Boltay?" he inquired of Dame Kramm.

"A carpenter," was the reply.

"A carpenter!" and in a moment Abellino had a new plan already in his
head.

"Well, God be with you, madam!" said he; and, having no further use of
her, he hurried out of the building, with Alexander at his heels. So at
last, then, he had found the tempter in church.

Abellino marched rapidly to the corner of the street, with Alexander
after him all the way. There he got into a carriage which was awaiting
him. Alexander threw himself into a hackney-coach and trundled after
him. He overtook him at the Michael Gate, and here the gentleman got
out, while the carriage clattered into the courtyard. A big porter in
bearskins was standing at the entrance.

"Who was that gentleman who went in there just now?" inquired Alexander
of the porter.

"The Honourable Abellino Kárpáthy, of Kárpáth."

"Thank you."

So his name, then, was Abellino Kárpáthy! Alexander hastened home with
his discovery.

On that day the whole family had such a vicious expression of
countenance that every one who came to see them was positively afraid of
them.

The following day was a work-day, so everybody went about his own
business. Mr. Boltay, with his sleeves tucked up, worked away with a
will among his apprentices; but in vain was all the noise and
racket--every tool he took up seemed to repeat one name continually in
his ear, Kárpáthy, Kárpáthy!

Meanwhile Teresa and Fanny were sitting at one of the windows
overlooking the street, occupied with needlework. They spoke not a word
to each other; it was a way they had got into lately.

Suddenly a handsome carriage turned into the street, and stopped in
front of Boltay's house.

Fanny, young girl as she was, peeped out of the window. The person
sitting in the carriage was just about to get out. Terrified, all
trembling, she drew back her head; her face was pale, her eyes looked
feverish, her hands hung down by her side.

Presently the footsteps of the visitor were audible on the staircase.
They heard some one outside making inquiries in an arrogant tone, and
then the antechamber also was invaded. Would he presume, then, to come
into their room also?

Fanny leaped from her chair, and, rushing despairingly to her aunt,
knelt down before her and hid her face in her bosom, sobbing loudly.

"Don't be afraid! don't be afraid!" whispered Teresa; but every muscle
in her body trembled. "I am here."

But at that moment the outer door also opened, and Mr. Boltay entered
the antechamber in time to receive the newly arrived guest.

"Ah, good day!" cried that gentleman with friendly condescension, as he
caught sight of the artisan. "Mr. Boltay, I presume? Ah, I thought so,
my worthy fellow! You have a great reputation everywhere; they praise
your workmanship to the skies, my good, honest fellow. Fresh from your
workshop, eh? Well, that, now, is what I like to see. I hold industrious
citizens in the highest esteem."

Mr. Boltay was not the sort of man to accept indiscriminate laudation
from any one, so he somewhat curtly interrupted this eulogistic flux of
words.

"To whom have I the pleasure of speaking, pray? and what are your
honour's commands?"

"I am Abellino Kárpáthy," replied the stranger.

It was only the armoury behind him that prevented Mr. Boltay from
falling flat. On such a surprise as this he had not counted.

The great gentleman did not condescend to observe the expression of the
artisan's face, opining, as he no doubt did, that an artisan's face has
no business to have any expression whatever; but he continued as
follows:--

"I have come to you to bespeak an order for a whole _établissement_, and
I have come personally because I hear that you draw very fine, artistic
specimens of furniture."

"Sir, it is not I who draw, but my head apprentice, who lives at Paris."

"That doesn't matter. I have come myself, I say, that I may choose from
these patterns, for I should like something particularly neat, and at
the same time a simple middle-class production, quite in the
middle-class style, you understand. And I'll tell you why. I am about to
marry, and my future wife is a young girl, a citizen's daughter. Does it
surprise you that I am going to make a middle-class girl my actual,
lawful wife? Why do I do this? you may ask. Well, I have my own special
reasons for it. I am a bit of an oddity, you must know. My father before
me was an oddity, and so is every member of my family. Now, I had
resolved to marry, and my sweetheart was a small tradesman's daughter,
who used to sing beautifully in church."

Aha! the old story!

"And marry her I would have done," continued the fluent dandy, "but the
poor thing died. I then determined that I would never marry until I had
found another middle-class girl who should be just as beautiful, just as
virtuous, as she was, and who could sing the 'Stabat Mater' just as
nicely. And now I have been knocking about in the world these nine years
without being able to find what I seek; for either she whom I found sang
well and was not beautiful, or she was beautiful but not virtuous, or
she was virtuous but could not sing, and therefore could not be mine.
And now, sir, in this little town, I have actually found at last the
very thing I seek--a girl who is beautiful, virtuous, and can sing; and
her I am going to take to wife. So now I want your advice as to what
sort of furniture I am to give her as wedding-present."

All these words were plainly audible in the adjoining room. Teresa
involuntarily covered Fanny's head, which was hidden in her breast, as
if she feared that this artless tale would win her credence, and so
deceive her youthful mind, for young girls are so very credulous. Why,
they even inquire of the flowers, "Does he love me, or does he not love
me?" What will they not do, then, if any one looks straight into their
eyes?

Mr. Boltay had gradually pulled himself together during the course of
this speech, and all the answer he gave when it was quite finished was
to step to a writing-table, search diligently for something, and begin
to write rapidly.

"I suppose he is looking up his patterns and making out his account,"
thought Abellino to himself; and meanwhile he began looking about him,
wondering in which of the rooms this Philistine kept his little
sugar-plum, and whether the girl had heard what he had just been saying.

The master-carpenter had by this time finished his scribbling and
rummaging, and he now beckoned Kárpáthy to the table, and counted out
before him a bundle of hundred-florin notes in six lots, together with
four florins in twenty-kreutzer pieces, and thirty red copper kreutzers
besides.

"Look here!" said he; "count. There are one, two, three, four, five, six
thousand florins in notes, twenty florins in silver, and thirty copper
pieces"--and he indicated the money with a wave of his hand.

"What the deuce does this Philistine mean by showing his dirty halfpence
to me?" thought Abellino.

"And now be so good as to sit down and write me a receipt."

And he thrust into the young gentleman's hand a form of receipt for six
thousand florins, with four florins thirty kreutzers interest, which
amount was declared to have been a loan to the undermentioned "Miss
Fanny Meyer," but was now discharged in full on the date indicated.

Abellino was immensely surprised. That these dull Philistines with fat,
fleshy cheeks should see through his whole design--for this he was not
in the least prepared. On the other hand, he could not have had a better
opportunity for playing the injured gentleman.

With silent, grandseignorial, superciliousness he surveyed the artisan
from head to foot, cracking his horse-whip once or twice by way of
expressing that language was here superfluous, then he turned to go.

All this time there was deep silence in the room, and the trembling
women in the adjoining chamber hung upon this silence with beating
hearts, well aware what a storm of passion was brooding within it.

Boltay, perceiving that the dandy was preparing to withdraw, spoke once
more in a voice all the more emphatic because of its visibly suppressed
emotion.

"Take that money, sir, and subscribe that receipt, for I assure you you
will be sorry if you do not."

Kárpáthy turned contemptuously on his heel and, banging the door to
behind him, withdrew. Only when he was already sitting in his carriage
did the thought occur to him--"Why did I not box that man's ears?" And
yet, somehow, he could not help feeling very thankful that he had
omitted doing so.

Abellino durst not recount this scene to his comrades. He felt that
whatever turn he might give to the affair, the artisan could not fail to
appear triumphant.

But the matter did not end here.

Master Boltay did not put back in his pocket the money lying on the
table, but swept it up, sent it to the editor of the _Pressburger
Zeitung_, and the next day the following notice was to be read in the
columns of that respectable newspaper: "A pater-familias residing in
this town presents through us six thousand florins thirty kreutzers to
the civic hospital, which amount the honourable Abellino Kárpáthy was
pleased to offer as a gift to the daughter of the donor in question,
who, however, thought the sum more suitably applied to charitable
purposes."

The affair made a great stir. The name advertised was well known in the
highest circles. Some were amused, others amazed at the comic
announcement. A couple of wits belonging to the opposition complimented
Abellino in front of the green table in the name of suffering humanity.
As for Abellino, he strutted up and down the town all day on the
offchance of calling some one out; but as nobody gave him the
opportunity, he and the other young elegants finally held a conference
at the Meyers' house, and it was decided that a challenge should be sent
to this advertising pater-familias.

"What, Master Boltay? The master-carpenter! Why, that would be a mere
jest. Suppose he refused to come out? Why, then he shall be insulted all
over the place till he is forced to leave Pressburg."

"But why?"

"Why, to frighten the Philistine, of course. Cow him, tame him, take all
the pluck out of him. Why, there's not a more amiable fellow in the
world than a thoroughly cowed and tamed foe, for he will always be
trying to make up for his earlier misdeeds. And then? Why, then the
enchanted maiden, her guardian dragon once subdued, will fall an easy
prey."

As to whether it was becoming for a person of quality to fight a duel
with an artisan who perhaps was no gentleman, or, if he was, had
forfeited the respect due to a gentleman by engaging in manual labour in
order to live thereby, such a question never once arose. We all know
what these honest Philistines are, and how they shake with terror even
when they have to fire off their own guns on the occasion of the solemn
procession on Corpus Christi Day! He'll never accept the duel, but will
give explanations and offer apologies, and we'll drink a toast together
with the pretty little fugitive, as Hebe, pouring wine into our glasses
and love into our hearts. That will be the most natural termination to
such an affair.

So in the afternoon Abellino sent his seconds to the carpenter. The
first was named Livius. In all affairs of honour his opinion was a
veritable canon to the _jeunesse dorée_ of the day. The other second,
Conrad, was an herculean, athletic-looking fellow, whom, on that very
account, every challenger tried to secure in those cases when a little
judicious bullying might be necessary. This swash-buckler had, moreover,
a most imposing countenance, and a voice capable of frightening even a
bear back into its den.

These two estimable gentlemen then, having, _pro superabundante_,
written out the challenge, in case the Philistine should deny himself or
hide away from them, sought out the house of Mr. Boltay and made their
way into his workroom.

The master was not at home. He had got into a cart very early in the
morning with Teresa and Fanny, and from the nature of his arrangements
there was reason to suspect that he would be absent for some time.

Alone in the room sat Alexander drawing patterns on a piece of paper
fastened to the table.

The two gentlemen wished him _bon jour_. He responded in a similar
strain, and, approaching, asked them what were their commands.

"Hem! young man!" began Conrad, in a thunderous voice, "is this Master
Boltay's house?"

"It is," replied Alexander. There is surely no need for much growling,
thought he.

Conrad, snorting violently, glanced round the room like one of those
fairy-tale dragons that scents human flesh, and then roared--

"Let the master be sent for!"

"He is not at home."

Conrad glanced at Livius, murmuring, "Didn't I say so?" Whereupon he
planted one fist on the table, flung the other behind his back, and
thrusting forward his chest, regarded the youth with a savage stare.

"Then where _is_ the master?"

"He did not so far honour me with his confidence as to tell me," replied
Alexander, who had sufficient _sang-froid_ to assume an expression of
utter indifference.

"'Tis well," said Conrad, and he drew from an inner pocket a sealed
letter. "What's your name, young man?"

Alexander began looking at his interlocutor with surprise and annoyance.

"Come, come!" said Conrad, "don't be afraid. I don't mean to frighten
you. I only want to know your name."

"My name is Alexander Barna."

Conrad took a note of the fact in his pocket-book, and then
ceremoniously holding the letter by the edge of the envelope, he said--

"Then listen to me, my dear _Mr._ Alexander Barna." He laid particular
stress upon the word "Mr." that the lad might be duly sensible of the
honour done to him thereby. "This letter tells your master----"

"You may give it me, sir. I am Mr. Boltay's confidential agent, and
during his absence he has entrusted me with the transaction of all his
business."

"Then take this letter," remarked Conrad in voice of thunder; and was
on the point of adding something of a very imposing character, when
Alexander completely disconcerted him by indiscreetly tearing open the
letter addressed to his master, and approaching the window that he might
be able to read it better.

"What are you doing?" cried both the seconds at the same time.

"I am authorized by Mr. Boltay during his absence to open all letters
addressed to him, and discharge all debts or claims that may come in."

"But this is a purely personal matter which does not concern you."

Meanwhile Alexander had been glancing through the letter. He now came
straight towards the two seconds.

"Gentlemen, I am at your service," he said.

"How! What business is it of yours?"

"Mr. Boltay has empowered me to satisfy any claim whatever that may be
made upon him."

"Well, what then?"

"Why, then," said Alexander, smoothing out the letter with his hand, "I
am ready to settle this account also whenever and wherever you please."

Conrad looked at Livius. "This lad seems disposed to joke with us," said
he.

"I am not joking, gentlemen. Since yesterday I have become Mr. Boltay's
partner, and all the obligations of the firm are binding upon both of us
equally. The credit of the establishment demands it."

Conrad began to doubt whether the youth was in his right mind or knew
how to read.

"Have you read what is in that letter?" he roared.

"Yes. It is a challenge."

"And what right have you to accept a challenge which is meant for some
one else?"

"Because my partner, my foster-father, is not present, and everything,
be it ill or good fortune, disaster or annoyance, which touches him,
touches me equally. If he were present he would answer for himself. Now,
however, he is away, and he has his own reasons, no doubt, for not
telling me whither he has gone or how long he will be absent; and
therefore, gentlemen, you must either take away this challenge or let me
give you satisfaction."

Conrad drew Livius aside to consult him as to whether this was regular
according to duelling rules. Livius recalled similar cases, but only as
between gentlemen.

"Hark ye, Alexander Barna," said Conrad, "what you propose is only usual
among gentlemen."

"Well, gentlemen, I am not the challenger; the challenge comes from
you."

This was unanswerable.

Conrad folded his terrific arms over his immense chest, and roared this
question almost down the young man's throat--

"Can you fight?"

Alexander could scarce refrain from smiling. "I can fight with either
swords or pistols, gentlemen," said he; "'tis all one to me. Let me tell
you that I was at Waterloo and there won a decoration."

"Who are your seconds?" asked Livius, coldly. "Give me the names of two
of your acquaintances."

"My acquaintances are all peaceable working men, who would have nothing
to do with so risky an affair. I might possibly shoot down the
challenger, and in that case, I should not like to make exiles of two
innocent men; but if you will be so good as to choose for me two seconds
from your own honourable circle, I will accept them whoever they may
be."

"We will let you know the time and place of the meeting at once," said
Livius; and with that they took up their hats and withdrew.

"It seems to me," said Livius to Conrad, as they went away, "that that
young fellow has as stout a heart as any gentleman could have."

"We'll see what he's made of early to-morrow morning," returned the
other.

That same evening a gorgeous silver-laced heyduke might have been seen
looking for Master Boltay's workshop, and making inquiries for Alexander
Barna. There was a letter in his hand.

"Be so good as to tell me," said the heyduke in a courteous voice (a
sure sign that he was accustomed to polite treatment from his
superiors), "whether you used to work in Monsieur Gaudehoux's _atelier_
at Paris?"

"Yes, I did."

"And three years ago you met three Hungarian gentlemen in the
Ermenouville Forest, did you not?"

"Yes, I did meet them," replied Alexander, surprised that anybody should
bear in mind such _minutiæ_ of his past life.

"Then this letter will be meant for you," said the heyduke, delivering
the letter. "Be so good as to read it. I await a reply."

Alexander broke open the letter, and, as was his wont, looked first of
all at the signature. A cry of astonishment burst from his lips. There
stood two names written one beneath the other which every Hungarian, who
accounted himself a good patriot and a man of honour and enlightenment,
held in the highest veneration--Rudolf and Michael.

What could such as they have to write to a poor orphan like him, they
the great men, the idols of the nation, the popular heroes of the day,
to a poor unknown artisan like him?

The letter said--

"You worthy young man, you have acted quite rightly. In your place any
one of us would have done the same thing. If you will accept our
assistance, for old acquaintance sake, we are ready to place our service
as gentlemen at your disposal."

Alexander folded up the letter with great satisfaction. He had a vivid
recollection of the two young noblemen who had met him by accident at
Paris, and treated him as a friend.

"I am much honoured by their lordships' offer," said he, turning to the
heyduke, "and will accept it in any case."

The messenger respectfully bowed and withdrew.

In half an hour's time Rudolf and Michael appeared, and the former said
that a written authorization on Alexander's part was necessary, lest
Conrad and Livius should give him seconds that he did not like.

"Then there are others, also, who would offer their assistance?"

"Oh, no end to them! There is quite a competition among these young
lions as to which of them shall be present at the tragi-comedy, as they
call it."

"It will not be a tragi-comedy; I can tell them that."

"That is principally what induced us to offer you our services. We do
not see any particular glory in hounding men on against each other, and
making them fight duels which our age, unfortunately, considers such an
excellent pastime. On the other hand, we regard it as our duty as
gentlemen to offer you our assistance, and thereby put a stop to what
might become a senseless and insulting jest, which if our
feather-brained friends had their way might even have a very serious
termination."

Alexander thanked them for their kindness, and early next morning the
two young men appeared again in a hired coach. Alexander was ready
waiting for them. He had only to seal a few letters which he had written
overnight, one to his master, reporting in what state he had left the
business, and the other to Fanny, begging her to do him the favour to
accept as his heir the little property which his thrift had accumulated.

These letters, enclosed in a third envelope, he gave to the caretaker of
the house, with the request that if he, Alexander, did not return by
twelve o'clock, the envelope was to be opened and the documents inside
forwarded to their respective addresses. Then he got into the carriage
where Rudolf and Michael were awaiting him; a surgeon followed them in
another carriage.

The youths were surprised to observe that the young artisan's face
showed no signs of anxiety or trouble, nay, he bore himself as calmly
and nonchalantly as if he were used to such situations.

It was still very early when they crossed the bridge leading into the
park, where a freshly erected tent was standing. The youths then told
the coachman to stop, and asked Alexander whether he would not like a
little breakfast first of all.

"No, thank you," he replied. "People might say I wanted something to put
pluck into me. Let us say afterwards--if an afterwards there be!" he
added lightly, and in the best of humours.

They proceeded onwards through the wood to the spot agreed upon, and
they had not waited more than a few moments before their antagonists
also arrived upon the ground.

It was a cloudy, gloomy morning, and there was an expression of gloomy
_sang-froid_ on the faces of the young men which suited very well with
the morning.

The enemy, smiling, and with nonchalant haughtiness, came strolling arm
in arm through the silver poplar woods--Abellino, the large-limbed
Conrad, and Livius. A surgeon and a servant brought up the rear.

The four seconds went apart and conversed together in a low voice; they
were evidently arranging the details of the affair. They soon came to an
agreement. The extreme retiring distance was fixed at five-and-forty
paces, the barriers at five-and-twenty.

During this negociation, Abellino produced a pair of good flint-locked
Schneller pistols, and exhibited his skill before the company. He
ordered his lackey to throw linden leaves up into the air in front of
him, and riddled them with bullets three times running. This he did
simply to fill the adversary with terror. Michael, fathoming his object,
whispered confidentially in the young artisan's ear--

"We are not going to fire with those pistols, but with ours, which are
quite new, and it will not be so easy to show off with them."

Alexander smiled bitterly. "It is all one to me. My life is no more
precious to me than those linden leaves."

All the necessary formalities having been arranged, the seconds
attempted to reconcile the combatants. Abellino thereupon offered to
withdraw his challenge under two conditions: (1) If the challenged, in
the name of the firm he was defending, publicly declared that there was
no intention to insult in the advertisement complained of, and (2) if
Mr. Boltay caused to be inserted in the same newspaper in which the
offensive advertisement had appeared a notification to the effect that
Kárpáthy had given the amount in question to the girl's guardian from
purely artistic motives of the noblest description.

Alexander's seconds laid these conditions before him.

He immediately sent one of them back. Did they wish to insult him? He
meant in the plainest, most unmistakable manner, and with the fullest
knowledge of what he was doing, to take all the responsibility of the
alleged insult on his own shoulders, and he had nothing to retract.

Ah! he had far better reasons for fighting than the mere love of
swagger. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to fight.

Conrad thereupon turned towards the surgeon whom they had brought with
them, and roared in a stentorian voice--

"Have you your instruments with you? Then, mind you hold them in
readiness. There will not be much need of blood-letting, I fancy. What!
not brought your bone-saw with you, eh? My friend, your thoughtlessness
is disgraceful! It happens in duels sometimes that a man is not shot
through the head or the heart straight off; but the bullet may hit him
in the arm or leg, and then if the bone is injured and he has to wait
for an amputation till he is carried into town erysipelas may set in."

"Take your places, gentlemen! take your places!" shouted Rudolf, putting
an end to this cruel prolonging of the agony.

Abellino thereupon pierced his fourth linden leaf at twenty-five paces.

"Those pistols must be put aside, as they are evidently old
acquaintances," said Rudolf. "Mine are new."

"We agree," replied Conrad; "only you must take care," he continued,
turning towards Abellino, "that when you prepare to take aim you do not
lower your arm from your shoulder downwards, but raise it from your hip
gradually upwards, so that if you aim at the chest, and the pistol kicks
downwards, you may be able to hit him in the stomach, but if it kicks
upwards you may hit him in the skull."

Meanwhile they were loading the pistols, dropping the bullets into the
barrels in every one's sight. The challenged party then chose one of
them.

Then the antagonists were placed at the two extremities of the ground,
and the barriers were indicated by white pocket-handkerchiefs.

The seconds stepped aside, forming two separate groups. Conrad placed
himself behind a huge poplar, capable of shielding even his bulky frame.

A clapping of hands, thrice repeated, was the signal for the opponents
to advance.

Alexander remained standing in his place for some seconds, holding his
pistol in his hand pointed downwards. A cold calmness was written on his
face--regret you might even have called it, were not regret under such
circumstances somewhat akin to cowardice. Abellino, holding himself
sideways, advanced with little mincing steps, frequently pointing his
pistol as if he were on the point of firing. He meant to torture his
adversary by holding him in suspense as long as possible without firing.
And you should have seen the malicious smile, the expression of teasing,
provoking scorn, with which Abellino tried to throw his adversary into
confusion. Why, a man who can pierce a falling leaf with a bullet, may
be pretty sure of his man in a duel!

"Poor young fellow!" sighed Rudolph to himself, while his fellow-second
was just about to call out to Abellino that such tricks were not
permissible in encounters between gentlemen, when Alexander suddenly
started from his place and walked with firm, unfaltering steps right up
to his barrier, there stopped, raised his pistol, and took aim. His eyes
sparkled with a strange fire, and his hand was perfectly steady.

This was an unheard-of audacity. Before the first shot it is most
unusual for any one to walk right up to his own barrier, for, in case of
ill luck, he gives his adversary a great advantage. This boldness,
however, had the effect of making Abellino stop short six paces from his
own barrier, and move away his thumb from the trigger of his pistol,
where he had hitherto held it.

What happened the next moment nobody was able to exactly explain.

A report rang out, and half a minute afterwards another. The seconds
hastened to the spot, and found Alexander standing erect in his place;
but Abellino had turned right round, and his hand was over his left ear.
The surgeons came running up with the others.

"Are you wounded?" they asked Abellino.

"No, no!" said he, keeping one hand continually over his ear. "Deuce
take that bullet, it flew so damned close to my ear that it has almost
made me deaf. I can't hear a word of what I am saying. Curse the bullet!
I would much rather that it had gone through my ribs."

"I wish it had with all my soul!" roared Conrad, who now came rushing
up. "You are a damned fool, for you shot me instead of your opponent!
Look, gentlemen! You see that tree by which I was standing? Well, the
bullet burrowed right into it. What! fire at your own seconds? Do you
call that discretion? If that tree had not been there, I should have
been as dead as a ducat--as dead as a ducat, I say!"

So this is what must have happened. At the very moment when Alexander's
bullet whizzed past Kárpáthy's ear he must have been so startled by the
shock as to have involuntarily wheeled round and clapped one hand to his
ear, and the same instant the loaded pistol in his other hand must have
gone off sideways. At any rate, Kárpáthy was found standing, after the
shot was fired, _with his back to his opponent_.

He himself heard none of Conrad's reproaches, and the blood slowly
began to trickle in little drops from his ear. He did not show it
otherwise, but from the paleness of his face it was plain that he was
suffering torments. The doctors whispered, too, that the membrane of the
ear was ruptured, and that all his life long he would be hard of
hearing.

Kárpáthy had to be conducted to his carriage. But for his sufferings he
would have sworn. He would much rather have had a bullet in his lungs.

Rudolf and Michael then approached the seconds of the opposite party,
and asked whether they considered the satisfaction given sufficient.

Livius admitted that everything was now perfectly in order, but Conrad
declared that he was so completely satisfied with this duel that he
would deserve to be called thief and robber if ever he took part in
another as long as he lived.

"Then be so good, gentlemen, as to receipt this bill," said Alexander,
turning to the seconds, and producing the written challenge which they
had addressed to his master. "Kindly write at the bottom of it,
'Discharged in full.'"

The seconds laughed immensely at the idea, and, procuring a pen and ink
from the first shanty they came to, they duly wrote at the bottom of the
challenge the words, "Paid in full."

The young man thereupon thrust the attested document into his pocket,
thanked his own seconds for their kind services, and returned on foot to
town.



CHAPTER VII.

THE NABOB'S BIRTHDAY.


Squire John's birthday was approaching, and a famous, notable day it
always was for the whole county of Szabolcs. The clergymen in all the
surrounding villages ordered new frock-coats from Debreczin or
Nagy-Kun-Madaras a month beforehand, at the same time directing the
tailors to make the pockets "extra large;" the Lemberg firework-makers
collected hay and straw far and wide for the rockets; the students of
Debreczin learnt nice congratulatory odes, and set fine old folk-ballads
to music; the gipsy _primas_ bought up all the resin in the shops he
could lay his hands on, and the Strolling Players' Society began, in
secret, to plan how they could best escape from Nyiregyháza.[6]

[Footnote 6: The county town, where they had a standing engagement.]

In more distinguished circles, where prudent housewives are wont to take
their unfortunate husbands in hand, and exercise towards them that
office which guardian angels perform in heaven, and police-constables
perform on earth, the advent of Squire John's birthday festival was the
signal for domestic storms. The festival itself used to last for a week.
On the first day thereof every well-ordered female being fled from the
place, and on the last day thereof those of the nobler masculine race
who had remained behind, came tottering home--some half-dead, others
wholly drunk, and all of them more or less battered and penniless.

Squire John himself was so much accustomed to the delights of that day,
that he would have considered the year lost in which he did not duly
celebrate it; and any of his acquaintances who should have neglected to
appear before him on the day itself would have been thenceforth regarded
by him as his mortal enemies. Death was regarded as the one legitimate
excuse.

The festivities were this year to be celebrated at the Castle of
Kárpátfalva, Squire John's favourite residence, where nobody ever lived
but his cronies, his servants, and his dogs; and he obtained special
permission from his Highness the Palatine to absent himself for a
fortnight from his legislative duties at Pressburg, in order that, as a
good host, he might devote himself entirely to his guests.

As the day approached, an unwonted piety used to take possession of
Squire John. The buffoons and the peasant wenches were excluded from the
castle, and his reverence the village priest took their place, and was
closeted long and frequently with the squire; the dogs and the bears
were locked out of the courtyard, that they might not, as usual, tear
approaching mendicants to pieces; and the Nabob and all his retainers
went to church to partake of the sacrament, the former vowing on his
knees before the altar that he would mark the day by giving all his
enemies the right hand of fellowship and forgiveness. Then came the
regulation interview between the Nabob and his steward, Mr. Peter Varga,
who was such a fool that he not only did not know how to steal, but was
by no means willing to even receive presents except for services
rendered. Anybody else in his place would long since have become a
millionaire; but he had not got much beyond fastening a pair of silver
spurs in his Kordovan leather boots, and making use of a ramshackle old
_calèche_, to which he attached two horses, trained by his own hand ever
since they were colts. This, moreover, was only when he wanted to cut a
figure.

And now, too, we see him descending from this venerable conveyance. He
forbears to drive right in, lest the cranky wheels of his carriage
should cut up the beautiful round pebbles with which the courtyard is
covered.

The inside of the carriage was chock-full of longish tied-up bundles of
documents, which Mr. Peter first of all crammed into the arms of the two
heydukes hastening to meet him, and sent on before him, whilst he,
picking his way along, with his spurred feet at a respectable distance
from each other, straddled leisurely into the presence of Master Jock,
who was awaiting him in the office of the family archives, whose
gigantic whitewashed and gilded coffers, in their worm-eaten cases, rose
up to the ceiling, filled with the mummies of old deeds and discharged
accounts, which, for a long series of years, had been disturbed by
nobody except an ostracized mouse or two; and what accursed appetite or
hereditary perversity constrained even them to feed upon such meagre
fare, when the granaries and bacon-larders were in such tempting
proximity, Heaven only knows.

Master Jock, on perceiving the approaching steward, leaned forward in
his armchair, and held out his hand. Peter, however, instead of
advancing straight towards the hand extended towards him, retreated
backwards all round the large oak table, to avoid the discourtesy of
approaching his honour from the left hand; and, even when he got where
he thought he ought to be, he remained standing before him, at three
paces' distance, and bowed with deep respect.

"Come, come, man! Draw nearer!" cried the confidential heyduke
Palko,[7] who was also present. "Don't you see that his honour has been
holding out his front paw for ever so long?"

[Footnote 7: _I.e._, Little Paul.]

"Crying your pardon," said the worthy steward, drawing his hands away,
"I am not worthy of so much honour!"

And not for the whole world could he have been brought to extend his
hand towards Master Jock, to whom he alone of all the world gave his
proper title. It was also impossible to ever get him to sit down by the
side of his honour. Palko had to hold him down in a chair by main force,
but he would always jump up again, and remain standing before his master
as soon as the pressure was removed.

And, indeed, his honour, the steward, and the heyduke made up an
odd-looking trio between them. Kárpáthy's face, at such moments, was
always unusually serene, his great bald forehead shone like the cupola
of a temple, the scanty remains of his grey hair curled round his
forehead and the nape of his neck in silvery wisps; he was shaved
beautifully smooth, save for a well-kept moustache curling elegantly
upwards at both ends; the fiery redness of his eyes had vanished, and
there was no longer any trace of deforming wrinkles.

Opposite him stood the worthy steward, with the old-fashioned,
scrupulously obsequious, and infallibly respectful homage of a former
generation writ large on every feature of his bronzed countenance. His
moustache was clipped close to save trouble, but all the more care had
he bestowed upon his marvellous powdered top-knot--itself a
survival--which respectable elevation the worthy fellow revealed to the
light of day, neatly bound up with a black ribbon. Behind him stands
the old heyduke Palko in a laced dolman. He is just as old as they are.
All three have grown up together, all three have grown old together; and
now, too, Palko is as familiar with his honour as he used to be in the
days when they played and fought together in the courtyard. The old
fellow's head is grey now, but not a hair of it has he lost, and its
flowing abundance is brushed backwards and kept in its place by a
circular comb; his moustache is more pointed than a shoemaker's awl, and
waxed to a fearful extent at both ends; his features are so simple that
a skilful artist could have hit them off in three strokes, only the
colouring would have given him something to think about, for it is a
little difficult to paint-in blood-red on scarlet.

"Would his honour," said Peter, standing by the table, "be graciously
pleased to cast his eyes over these accounts? I have made so bold as to
most humbly make out a brief summary thereof, that his honour may find
the examination a little easier." And with that he beckoned to Palko to
put down the documents.

The latter venomously banged down the whole bundle on the table, but he
could not refrain from observing, "What a shame to spoil such a lot of
nice clean paper by scribbling on it!"

"You speak like a fool," growled Master Jock.

"It would be all the same, so far as your honour is concerned, if they
put blank paper before your honour; for they don't pay the slightest
attention to what your honour says. It is not enough to know that they
_do_ rob you; I should also like to know how much they rob you of."

"Come, come, my heart's best son, what do you mean by talking to your
master like that? Look now! you shall look through all the accounts
along with me, from beginning to end, so just stand behind my chair, and
hold your tongue."

"I am ready to eat up all that your honour looks through," murmured the
old servant to himself.

Thereupon Master Jock, with commendable determination, extended his hand
towards the top-most bundle lying before him, which contained the
accounts of his agent János Kárláts, and began fumbling about with it
till he arrived at the conviction that he could make neither head nor
tail of it, whereupon he handed it back to Mr. Peter, who immediately
found the schedule he was looking for.

"This is a schedule of the income and expenditure of your Kakadi
estate."

And now, reader, let us listen. You may find it a trifle tedious,
perhaps, but you could not have a better opportunity of seeing how the
estates of the Nabob were administered.

"With your honour's gracious permission, I would beg to call your
attention to a few notes in the margin concerning the exact position of
affairs, if your honour will listen to them."

Master Jock intimated that he would undertake to do as much as that.

"To begin, then, the Kakadi estate this year yielded twelve thousand
bushels of pure wheat, consequently, the richest soil scarcely produced
sufficient grain to pay for the expense of cultivating it."

"It was a bad year, you know," objected Master Jock. "The corn was
levelled with the ground by hailstorms in the spring, and there was so
much rain afterwards that it sprouted in the stack."

"That, indeed, is what your agent said," returned Mr. Peter; "but he
could have insured against hail at Pressburg, and there's such an
enormously big barn on the estate, that the whole crop could have been
safely housed, and then there would have been no fear of its sprouting."

"Very well, Master Peter, go on! Another time things shall be
different; you may rely upon me for that."

"The twelve thousand bushels of corn were sold at nine florins the
bushel to a corn-dealer of Raab, I see, thus making a total of one
hundred and eight thousand florins, although I notice from the
newspapers that good wheat was selling all the time at Pest at twelve
florins the bushel, and the corn might easily have been transported
thither, for, owing to the inundations, the oxen had no work to do."

"Yes; but those very inundations carried away the bridge, so that it was
impossible to cross the Theiss."

"It was a pity, truly, that the water carried away the bridge, but if
the dyke had been kept in proper repair, the water would not have got at
the bridge."

"Never mind; rely upon me in the future. Go on!"

"The millet-seed, it is said, got musty from waiting too long for
purchasers, so that we could only get eight thousand florins for it.
Now, that is a misstatement. I know as a fact that there was no rain
just then; but the agent, in order that he might attend a christening,
stacked the crop so hastily that it got black and sour from heat."

"No, really! And would you, as a Christian man, I ask, have the agent
postpone the baptism of his son even for the sake of all the millet-seed
in the world? Leave that to me, and go on!"

"The water carried away the hay because, just in the middle of
harvest-time, your honour required the services of every man capable of
holding a hay-fork at a big hunt. Otherwise nice large sums would, as
usual, have been entered to your honour's credit under this item."

"Well, then, it is simply my fault this time; the poor fellows are not
to blame. Rely upon me in the future."

"On that account, however, the receipts are increased by a new item, to
wit, the hides of the sheep and oxen, which fell dead in heaps from want
of fodder."

"Ah, you see it is an ill wind that brings nobody any good."

"On the other hand, our receipts are less, so far as the item of wool is
concerned, which usually is considerable."

"Yes, I know, the price was low; there was scarce any demand for it."

"Moreover----"

"Let that be, Peter. We know that you are a worthy, honest man, and that
everything is in order. What is that other bundle there?"

"That is the account of Taddeus Kajáput, the overseer of the Nyilasi
estate."

"Ah! that is generally interesting reading. Any fresh discoveries?"

The gentleman in question was an enterprising soul, who had started
model farming on the estate committed to his care, but this model
farming cost infinitely more than it brought in. Moreover, amongst other
things he had started glass-works, sugar-works, a silk-factory, a
post-office, laid down fir plantations in drift-sand, not to mention
many other wonderful things, all of which had come to grief.

"So that is what comes of your scientific gentlemen taking up economical
questions," observed Master Jock, sententiously, when he had laughed
heartily over each separate item.

"I humbly crave your honour's pardon," said Peter, "but it is not the
scientific but the semi-scientific who do the mischief. Science is one
of those poisons of which a good deal cures but a little kills."

"Well, well, let us go on with the rest. What is that slender little
bundle over there?"

"That is the report of the lessee of the opal mines. He has paid the
four thousand florins rent in precious stones, which we could have
bought in the market for a thousand florins, if we had paid cash for
them."

"But what is the poor man to do? He must live. I know he has children to
support."

"But there was a merchant here from Galicia a little time ago who looked
at the mine and offered twenty thousand florins rent for it straight
off."

"What? Would you have me give the mine to a man from Galicia--to a
foreigner? Not if he paid me for it with the stars of heaven! Let us
stick by the old agreement. What is that other bundle?"

"That is the account of the Talpadi Forest."

"The Talpadi Forest! Why, it is now twelve years since I have seen any
accounts at all from that quarter. Don't you recollect how you and I
were out coursing a little time ago, and the rain overtook us? It
doesn't matter, said I. We must be near my Talpadi forest; let us gallop
thither and shelter till the storm has blown over. So we galloped
thither in hot haste, and when we got there not a trace of the forest
was to be seen. At last I asked a maize-reaper I fell in with, where on
earth the Talpadi forest was? Over there, said he, pointing to a spot
where some fifty birch-trees were withering in the sand like so many
broomsticks, all set nicely in a row. And that, if you please, was the
Talpadi forest which I had planted at a very great cost! You had better
tell the man to plant out a few more broomsticks if he wants me to see
my forest in the future."

"This, again, is the account of the miller of Tarisa. He always mixes
bran with his meal."

"Let him alone; he has a pretty wife."

"Pretty, but bad, your honour."

Upon this moral observation, Master Jock thought fit to make the
following philosophical commentary:--

"My friend, bad women are a necessity in this world. For inasmuch as
there are dissolute men, it is needful that there should be dissolute
women also, for otherwise the dissolute men would of necessity cast
their eyes upon the virtuous women. You just leave that to me."

"Yes, you leave the wife of the miller of Tarisa to his honour,"
observed Paul, from behind his master's chair.

"What, sir, you presume to speak again, eh?"

"I? I never said a word."

"Come, then, Peter, let us make an end of these accounts quickly.
Surely, there's no need of so much fussing. What else is there?"

"Your honour's donations and charities."

"Don't undo them. You need only tell me which are paid. Are there any
fresh claims upon us?"

"Yes. The college at A---- has not received its annual gift."

"It did not get it because it did not send in a petition on my birthday
last year."

"Then if it sends the petition this year you will give the donation, I
suppose?"

"Yes, and for last year too."

"There are, besides, a heap of petitions and circulars."

"What for?"

"This is an invitation to subscribe to the foundation of a Hungarian
learned society."

"Not a farthing will I give. The kingdom was happy enough till the
pedants got into it. We learn quite enough at college."

"Here is the specimen-sheet of a newspaper about to be started."

"Newspaper!--a parcel of lies! I'll not spoil my den with that rubbish,
I warrant you."

"Here is a proposal to found a permanent Hungarian theatre at
Buda-Pest."

"Whoever wants play-acting can come here to me. There's a theatre here
and lots to eat, and they can stay, if they like, all their days."

"Here is a suggestion for bettering the position of the National
Museum."

"I'll wager I have far better collections here than there are in the
National Museum."

And this was the way in which the Hungarian magnate examined his
accounts every year.

When the worthy steward had withdrawn, the Nabob sent for his _fiskal_,
or family lawyer, who found him looking out of the window, motionless,
with his hands behind his back.

The _fiskal_ stood and waited for his master to turn round. He waited a
good half-hour, but the Nabob turned round at last, and said to his man
of business, "Pray sit down, sir, and write."

An unusual embarrassment was observable in the Nabob's voice, which
would certainly have surprised anybody else but the _fiskal_.

"My dear younger brother," old Kárpáthy began to dictate, "inasmuch as
you are living at present in this realm, and I do not wish the name of
Kárpáthy to be slighted on this particular day when I have made peace
with all who ever angered me, therefore I now, as becometh a kinsman,
offer my hand to you also, my younger brother,[8] in the hope that you
will not reject it; and I, at the same time, send you, my younger
brother, two hundred thousand florins, which you shall receive from me,
so long as I live, from year to year. And I hope that henceforth we
shall continue to be good kinsmen."

[Footnote 8: _Öcse_, a familiar and affectionate salutation from an
elder to a younger kinsman.]

The old man's eyes were wet while he recited these words, and if a more
sympathetic man than the _fiskal_ had been present, there might have
been something like a tender scene.

"Wrap it up and write on the outside: To the Honourable Bélá Kárpáthy of
Kárpát, at Pressburg. A stable lad must mount a horse at once, and
deliver this letter personally."

Then he gave a great sigh of relief, as if two hundred thousand stones
had been lifted from his heart with these two hundred thousand florins.
He had never felt so happy as he was at that moment.

How Abellino received this noble disposition to stretch out the right
hand of fellowship and forgiveness, we shall see presently.

       *       *       *       *       *

Master Jock could scarce await the dawn of St. John Baptist's Day; he
was as delighted as a child who knows that some long-wished-for
amusement awaits him. He was awakened long before sunrise by the baying
of the dogs and the rattling of the baggage-waggons into the courtyard.
The huntsmen were coming back from the forest with newly shot game; over
the sides of the lofty wains the horned heads of the noble antlered
stags bobbed up and down; heaps of pheasants were carried between two
poles; well-fattened heath fowl were slung over the shoulders of the
beaters. The cook came forth to meet them in his white _kantus_, and
tapped row after row of the fat game, his face beaming with satisfaction
all the time. Master Jock himself was looking down from the
latticed-window into the courtyard; even then the day had only just
begun to dawn, and the eastern curtain of the sky was aflame with
purple, pink, carmine, and saffron hues. The whole plain around was calm
and still; and silver mists lay here and there over the fields like
fairy lakes.

And now the Nabob lay down for another little snatch of slumber. We
know, of course, that early morning dreams are the sweetest. And he
dreamt that he was speaking to his eagerly desired nephew Bélá, sitting
beside him, and drinking the loving cup with him; and so it came about
that the sun was already high in the heavens when Palko shook him out of
his slumbers by bawling in his ear: "Get up! Here are your boots!"

Master Jock leaped out of his bed with the vigour of a sprightly lad.
The first question he asked was: "Has any one come?"

"As many as muck," replied the old servant; thereby showing _his_
appreciation of the arrivals.

"Is Mike Kis here?" continued Master Jock, as he drew on his boots.

"He was the first of all. His father could not have been a gentleman; no
gentleman could have had a son who is up and about two hours after
dawn."

"Who else is here?"

"There's Mike Horhi. No sooner had he got to the door than he suddenly
recollected that he had left his tobacco-pouch in the inn at Szabadka,
and would have gone back for it had I not torn him out of the carriage
by force."

"The fool! And who else is there?"

"All the good birds of the order of gentleman have already appeared.
Friczi Kalotai is also here, in his own conveyance. I wonder where he
stole it?"

"But you're as big a fool as he, Palko. Any more?"

"More!--more! There's no end to them, of course. How do you suppose I
can carry the names of all of them in my head? Come, and look at them
yourself; you'll soon have your fill of 'em, I warrant."

Meanwhile the trusty heyduke had dressed his master, brushed him down
and smoothed him out, till there was not a spot or wrinkle to be seen on
any portion of his attire.

"But is there not some other, some strange, unusual guest, the sort of
man, I mean, who is not in the habit of visiting me? Eh?"

Palko regarded his master for a moment with wide-open mouth and eyes,
not knowing what to answer.

"I want to know," continued Kárpáthy, in a solemn voice, "whether my
little brother Bélá is here?"

Palko made a wry face at these words, and dropped the velvet brush with
which he was just preparing to smooth out the collar of his master's
_mente_.

"What! that weather-cock?"

"Come, come! None of that! Don't you know that a Kárpáthy should always
be spoken of respectfully?"

"What!" cried Palko, "the man who insulted your honour so grossly?"

"What business is it of yours?"

"Oh, no business of mine, of course, not a bit! I am only a
good-for-nothing old heyduke. What right have I to poke my nose into
your honour's affairs? Make friends with him again, by all means! What
do I care. Kiss and hug each other if you like, I don't care. It was not
me but your honour whom the worthy man insulted, and if your honour
likes that, why, be it so--that's all!"

"Come, come, don't make a fool of yourself, Palko," said Master Jock,
more jocosely. "Have the comedians arrived?"

"I should think they had. There's that Lokodi with four others. He
himself plays the heroic parts; a spindle-shanked, barber's apprentice
sort of fellow, takes the aged father parts; and there's a matron, well
advanced in years, who acts the young missies. They are now making ready
to give a representation this evening. When your honours are all dining
in the Large Room they are going to act the _Marriage of Dobozy_ in
twelve tableaux, to the accompaniment of Greek fire, in the front room."

"But why in the front room, and not rather in the theatre?"

"It is too small."

"But there are only five of them."

"True; but all the heydukes we have must be there too, either as Turks
or Hungarians. We have already brought down all the costumes and weapons
from our museum of antiquities. The students meanwhile will recite the
history of Dobozy; the poet Gyárfás is at this moment writing the verses
for it, and the chief cantor is composing the music. It will be fine!"

The old fellow took as much delight in the comedy as any child.

Meanwhile he had finished dressing Master Jock--brushed and combed his
hair, pared his nails, shaved him, tied his cravat, and buttoned his
coat _comme il faut_.

"And now, sir, you may appear before your fellow-men."

"Where's my pipe?"

"Pipe! Tut-tut! Don't you know that, first of all, you must go to church
to pray? nobody smokes till after that."

"You are right. But why don't they ring the bell?"

"Wait! I must first tell the priest that your honour is up."

"And there's another thing you must tell him--a sausage should be long,
a sermon short."

"I know," said Palko; and off he trotted to the priest, whose chief
defect and peculiarity consisted not in delivering long sermons, but
rather in the rebuking of Master Jock roundly, in the name of the Lord,
on this the one occasion in the whole year when he met him face to face,
to the intense delight of the assembled guests, who kept up the joke
afterwards till dinner-time. A particular Providence, however, delivered
Master Jock from this bitter jest on this occasion, inasmuch as the
reverend gentleman had suddenly fallen so ill that he could not perform
his duties.

"The dean is here," added Palko, after communicating the sad
intelligence.

"Who never knows when to leave off spouting," commented Master Jock. "If
he gets hold of us, we must make up our minds to have dinner at
supper-time; and he so bombards the ears of God with my praises that
even I am ashamed. Let the _supplikans_ complete the service."

The _supplikans_, be it explained, was a five years' student (counting
not from his birth, of course, but from the beginning of his academical
course)--a student _togatus_, as they called it, who ever since he had
been immured at college had never set eyes upon a human being. We can,
therefore, picture the terror of the worthy youth when he was informed
that, within a quarter of an hour, he must preach an edifying discourse
for the special benefit of a whole assembly of genteel backsliders.

He would very much have liked to have crawled away into some hole, but
they kept much too good an eye upon him for that, and, perceiving his
fear and affliction, the unprincipled mob played all sorts of devilries
upon him. They sewed his pocket-handkerchief fast to the pocket of his
toga, so that he could not pull it out when his nose required its help;
they made him believe that the gipsy Vidra was the cantor; and finally
contrived to substitute a book on veterinary surgery for his
prayer-book.

The poor _supplikans_, when he perceived that he had carried a
cattle-book into the pulpit, was so dumfounded that he could not even
remember with what words the "Our Father" began, so he descended from
the preaching-stool again without uttering a word. They had, therefore,
to fall back upon the dean, after all; but they bound him down not to
preach, but only to pray; and pray he did--for an hour and a half at
least. The right reverend gentleman heaped so many blessings upon the
Kárpáthy family and all its members, male and female, _in ascendenti et
descendenti_, both in this world and the next, that, whether they lived
or died, no very serious misfortune could possibly befall any of them.

All the guests were present at this pious ceremony, for Master Jock made
it a point to speak to nobody on his birthday till he had first lifted
up his soul to God, and on such occasions there was not a trace on his
countenance of any of the feelings that moved him so strongly on
ordinary days. When he knelt down to pray, a deep, unaffected devotion
was legible in every feature; and when he heard the recapitulation of
his merits, he cast down his eyes as if he considered all that he had
done in his life so far but a small matter compared with what he might
and must do in the future. "God grant me but one more year over and
above the many He has already bestowed upon me," he sighed, "and I will
make up for my neglect of the rest." But could he reckon upon another
year being granted him? Was he sure of another month, or another day, or
even of the morrow?

Deeply affected, he quitted the chapel, and it was only the
congratulations of his friends that restored him to his usual self.

Master Jock's unusual emotion did not interfere one jot with the good
humour of the waggish company, who laughed and joked all the way from
the church to the castle, some repairing thither on horseback, and some
on foot. Ordinarily, Master Jock would have been much diverted by their
practical jokes, but now he only shook his head at them. Mike Horhi
devised every conceivable sort of joke capable of making him roar with
laughter. He filched the clergyman's book; he rubbed pitch on the
cantor's seat, that he might stick fast there; he substituted gunpowder
for poppy-meal in the kitchen, and filled the powder-flasks of the
heydukes with poppy-meal instead of gunpowder, so that when they
prepared to fire salvoes in honour of their master, on his return from
chapel, not a gun would go off, while the poppy-cakes intended for the
banquet all exploded on the hearth. But Master Jock not only did not
laugh at these funny things, but actually took Miska Horhi to task for
making such a blockhead of himself, and bade him divert himself more
decently in future. He also made the poet show him beforehand the verses
he was to recite at table, in case they might contain any frivolous or
improper expression; he told the gipsy that when he got drunk he was on
no account to kiss all the guests one after the other, as usual; the
dogs were kicked into the courtyard, and not allowed to come into the
banqueting-room and pick the fat morsels off the plates of the guests,
as they generally did; the gipsies, actors, and students were told to
behave themselves decently; and the common people were given to
understand that, though an ox would be roasted and wine would run from
the gutter for them, they were nevertheless not to attempt to fight or
squabble, as it would not be allowed. And every one asked his neighbour
in amazement what was the meaning of this strange phenomenon.

In point of fact, this sudden change of conduct was due to a single
idea. He believed that his young kinsman Bélá would infallibly come on
his birthday. He might come late, but come he certainly would. He could
not have given any reason for his belief, but he expected him, he
counted on him; and whenever his cronies began to commit any
out-of-the-way absurdity, the thought immediately occurred to him: If
the youngest scion of the Kárpáthy family were to see this, what would
he say to it? No! Once he had beheld his uncle in the midst of
diversions unworthy of him; he should now see him taking his pleasure
like a gentleman.

After the usual festive congratulations, the guests of quality descended
into the garden, where the assembled peasantry were awaiting their
master.

At other times, whenever Master Jock ascended or descended the steps, he
had to be supported on both sides, for, like a locomotive, he could only
get along on level ground; but now he shoved Palko's hand aside, and
easily went down the two and thirty marble steps which led into the
garden. No doubt the six months of regular living he had had to submit
to while attending to his parliamentary duties at Pressburg had restored
somewhat the elasticity of his nerves and muscles.

Below, a host of school children, drawn up in a row, greeted him with
cries of "_Éljen!_"[9] And at the moment when he had descended among the
festive mob awaiting him there, all the gipsies present blew three loud
flourishes on their trumpets, and two grey-haired retainers advanced
towards him, leading after them, by the horns, a young stall ox that had
been fattened up for the occasion, and the bolder of the twain, coming
forward, took off his cap, coughed slightly, steadily regarded the tips
of his own boots, and recited congratulatory verses in his master's
honour, without the slightest hesitation or stumbling, which, perhaps,
is not to be greatly wondered at, considering that he had now recited
the selfsame verses nine years running.

[Footnote 9: Vivat!]

"And God grant your honour long life, which I wish you with all my
heart!" concluded the worthy man, as if he doubted what reception the
pious verses he had just recited might receive in heaven, and was
determined to clinch the matter in prose of his own making.

Master Jock, according to good old custom, had fifty ducats ready, which
he gave to the veterans who had brought the ox. As for the ox itself, he
ordered that it should be roasted forthwith for the benefit of the
assembled peasantry.

After them came the youths of the town, rolling before them a ten-firkin
cask full of the wine of Hegyalja. They brought the cask to a standstill
at the feet of the Nabob, and set on the top of it Martin, the former
Whitsun King, as being the one among them whose tongue wagged the
nimblest. He took a beaker and, filling it with wine, thus toasted his
honour:--

"God willing, I desire and pray that the Majesty of Heaven may suffer
your honour, both to-day and hereafter, to go about clothed in velvet
well patched with gold ducats, and ride a good nag shod with silver
shoes. I pray that your honour may not be able to count the hairs of
your head, and that as many blessings may be showered upon your
shoulders as you have lost hairs from your poll. I pray that all the
ministering angels of heaven may have nothing else to do but sweep all
earthly cares out of your honour's path. I pray that the golden-spurred
_csizmas_ of your felicity may never be bespattered by the puddles of
tribulation. I pray that the field-flask of your good humour may always
be filled with the red wine of Eger. And, finally, when that merciless
scytheman cometh who makes hay of every man, and mows down your honour
with the rest of them, I pray that the chariots of heaven may not keep
your honour's soul awaiting, but that the horses of the other world may
arrive speedily, and, with a great sound of trumpets, convey you to that
great forecourt where Abraham, Isaac, and the other Jewish patriarchs,
side by side with three and thirty red-breeched, heaven-ascended gipsy
fiddlers, dance the Kálla duet in velvet pump-hose. God grant your
honour many more days! I wish it from the bottom of my heart."

Master Jock handsomely recompensed the youth who had rattled off this
odd salutation without missing a word. Yet it was observed that he did
not take as much pleasure in it as of yore.

And now a pretty young damsel approached--the loveliest virgin that
could be found within the limits of seven villages. She brought him a
white lamb as a birthday present, and made him some sort of a speech
besides; but what it was all about nobody could tell, she spoke so low.
They kept on telling her not to hold her apron before her mouth, as they
could not hear a word; but it was of no use.

It was a good old custom on Master Jock's birthday to admit the damsel
who made the pretty speech on this occasion among the guests, and seat
her beside Master Jock at table; and thus she was the only woman present
at the banquet. And rumour added that still worse things befell towards
the end of the feast, when the wine had mounted into the heads of the
guests, and the lamb-maiden had been caught in the whirl of an unwonted
carouse. But she was always married to some one afterwards; for Master
Jock used to give her a rich dowry, and she got six oxen from her own
father into the bargain to set up with. So the good peasants were not
very much alarmed at the prospect of bringing their daughters to
Kárpáthy Castle.

Master Jock, with patriarchal condescension, approached the damsel,
pinched her cheek, patted her head, and asked her kindly--

"What is thy name, my daughter?"

"Susie," she replied, in a scarcely audible voice.

"Hast thou a sweetheart?"

"No, I have not," replied the damsel, casting down her eyes.

"Then choose thee among all the youths present the one that liketh thee
best, for married thou shalt be this very hour."

"Is Master Jock in his right mind?" whispered some of his cronies to one
another. "Why, he generally postpones this little ceremony to the
afternoon of the following day."

"Well, my lads, who among you has a mind to take this young virgin to
wife on the spot?"

Ten of the youths leaped forth, Martin among them. Miska Horhi, by way
of a joke, also joined himself to them, but Master Jock shoved him aside
with his stick.

"I'll have no goat among the sheep," said he. "Come, my girl, make
haste. Canst thou not choose thee a husband from among so many pretty
fellows?"

"My dear father----" stammered the girl, without raising her eyes.

"Oh, so thou dost want thy dear father to choose for thee, eh?" inquired
Master Jock, interpreting her desire. "Where is the girl's father,
then?"

A greyish-haired man lurched forward, holding his cap in his hand.

"Come, sirrah! look sharp and choose your daughter a husband."

The boor seemed inclined, however, to take his time. He began to tick
off the candidates one by one.

"One--two--three! Not one of you has much to bless himself with." At
last he pitched upon a son-in-law agreeable to him--a short, thick-set
lout who happened to have a well-to-do father.

"Well, are you content to have him?" inquired Master Jock of the girl.

Susie blushed up to the ears and replied in a scarcely audible voice--

"I would rather have Martin!"

At this the whole company laughed heartily.

"Then why send for your father?" said they.

Martin did not wait to think the matter over, but rushed forward and
took the girl's hand. Master Jock gave them his blessing and fifty
ducats, and advised Martin to look well after his consort.

"Oh, I'll look after her," cried Martin, and he glanced defiantly in the
direction of the gentlemen.

"Why, what's come to the old chap?" murmured the guests among
themselves; "he has grown very virtuous all at once!"

Then there was another flourish of trumpets, the noble guests ascended
into the castle, the peasants looked after their own pastimes, the
youths and maidens played at blindman's-buff, kiss-in-the-ring, and
other artless games, for the old men there was wine and spirits, and the
old women had enough to do to talk of old and young alike.

On reaching the castle a fresh amusement awaited Master Jock. Bandi
Kutyfalvi, whom every one had given up, had just leaped from his horse,
and a few moments later they were in each other's arms.

"So it is only you, then!" cried the worthy old gentleman, involuntarily
drying the tears from his eyes.

"Yes, but it is only by the merest chance that another whom you expect
least of all has not arrived also."

"Who is that?" asked Master Jock, with a face beaming with joy.

"Come, guess now!"

"My little brother Bélá!" said the old man.

"Why, what the devil is the matter with you?" cried Bandi Kutyfalvi. He
had expected the Nabob to be enraged, not rejoiced at the news.

"Where is he? Where is he stopping? Why did you leave him behind?"
inquired Master Jock, amazing Bandi still more by the impetuosity of his
delight.

"He was with me in the next village; he was coming on to you with a
birthday greeting, having only just left Pressburg, but was taken ill on
the road, and had to put up at my house. Nevertheless he had brought his
present with him, and will send it on this very evening. I would have
brought it with me, but I came on horseback, and the present was so
large that it would have filled a cart, at the very least."

Master Jock trembled for joy. He had so thoroughly made up his mind that
his nephew must come, that he regarded his presence there as an
indispensable feature of the entertainment.

"Quick, Palko, quick!" he cried; "get the carriage ready for him! Send
four horses on before, that you may have a fresh relay at the Rukadi
Csárda waiting for you! Go yourself! Nay, you stay behind, and send a
man of a less proud stomach than you are! Send the fiscal! Tell Mr. Bélá
that I honour, that I embrace him! Bring him along by main force as
quickly as you can! Run! I say, run!"

"Run, eh?" grumbled Palko to himself. "I'll go, of course, but don't
suppose that I can fly!"

And not another word did Master Jock say to anybody till he saw the
fiscal bowl off in the best state carriage to meet his nephew. Then he
began making a little calculation: Four hours there and four hours back,
that makes eight hours; it is now two o'clock, he'll be here at ten. No
doubt he thought I was angry and sent Kutyfalvi on before. It was very
nice of him to show me such respect. Well, I'll not be behindhand in
expressing my regret for my hastiness--asking his pardon; and from
henceforth we will be good friends and kinsmen, and I shall be able to
rest in the Lord with an easy conscience.

"Look ye, my friends!" he cried, turning at last to those standing
around him, in the exuberance of his frank delight, "this will be the
commemoration of a double festival, inasmuch as on this day the two last
surviving male members of the Kárpáthy family, after a long
estrangement, will extend to each other the right hand of fellowship, in
token of complete reconciliation."

Meanwhile the heydukes had begun carrying round _szilvorium_ and
_öszibaraczk_ liqueur, ten years old, with wheat-bread sippets, which
signified that dinner-time was drawing near, and it became every one to
have a good appetite. Half an hour later the bell rang, which told that
dinner was actually on the table. Thrice it was repeated, to recall any
guest who might, perhaps, have strayed away too far, and then the
heydukes threw wide open the large folding doors which led into the
banqueting hall.

The vast and splendid room was filled from end to end with long tables,
which as usual were spread for as many guests again as there were people
actually present, so that any late comers might easily find room.

Every table bent beneath the weight of pies and tarts; the most
magnificent fruit--golden melons, scaly pine-apples, whole stacks of
them--everywhere exhaled their fragrance; pasties of terrific size and
shape towered upwards from the midst of the guests who sat opposite and
around them, and huge fish, veritable whales in size, embedded in
vine-leaves, filled their would-be devourers with despair. Wreaths and
bouquets in porcelain vases stood between all the dishes.

A whole museum of gold and silver plate was piled upon the tables. Even
the singing students were to drink out of silver beakers. In the midst
of the room stood a silver basin, from whose cunningly devised fountain
the pure wine of Tokay spouted upwards in a jet of topas yellow.

Every one sat down in his place while Master Jock made his way to the
head of the table. When he got there he perceived that another cover was
standing there beside his own. It used to be there on the other
birthdays also, for there, from year to year, the peasant girl who
brought the votive lambs was wont to sit. But now, Master Jock, in high
dudgeon, shouted to Palko, who stood behind his chair--

"What is this? Whose cover is it?"

"There's no need for so much hallooing, surely! Don't you see that the
family goblet has been placed there? I thought that if that other should
come, he might have somewhere to sit."

At these words Master Jock's long-drawn face grew beautifully round
again. This little attention pleased him. He patted Palko on the
shoulder, and then explained to all the guests that the empty place had
been left for his nephew Bélá. Then he praised Palko before them all.

"I see you have a good heart, after all," cried he.

"Nothing of the sort," growled the old servant, sulkily.

The soup now, for a moment, reduced the guests to silence. Every one
wished his neighbour a good appetite, and then fell to on his own
account. At the head of the table sat Master Jock, with the Dean next to
him; at the other end of the table Bandi Kutyfalvi presided, supported
by Mike Kis. Nobody durst sit beside Mike Horhi, as he was wont to
perpetrate the most ungodly pleasantries--letting off fiery crackers
under the table, pouring vinegar into his neighbour's wine-glass when
he wasn't looking, etc. The smaller gentry occupied another table.

In the background stood a colonaded peristyle, in the centre of which
was the decorated stage where, during dinner, Mr. Lakody first exhibited
a magic-lantern, and afterwards, with the assistance of the students,
acted a play called _Dr. Faust_ translated from Goethe by Lakody
himself, though Goethe himself would scarce have recognized his own
masterpiece. Then came twelve tableaux, amidst Greek fire, representing
the flight of Dobozy, and at the end of the last tableau the
folding-doors in the background were to be thrown open, revealing a
magnificent display of fireworks, which was to terminate the
entertainment.

The feast went off capitally. Music, singing, the clinking of glasses,
and merry discourse were mingled together into a joyous hubbub. There
was not a single guest who, so long as he still had full possession of
his tongue, did not call down blessings on the head of the master of the
house. And he too was in an excellent humour, and his face beamed,
though he drank far less of wine than usual. Evening had now fallen. The
heydukes brought in large candelabras, the clinking of glasses went on
uninterruptedly. At that moment the rumbling of a carriage was audible
in the courtyard.

The fiscal had returned from his mission--but alone.

Master Jock sank back dejectedly in his chair when he learnt from the
mouth of the messenger that Abellino really could not come, because he
was sick; but he had sent what he had promised, all the same--a birthday
gift to his dear uncle, with the hearty wish that he might find his
greatest joy therein.

It was as much as six strapping fellows could do to bring in the long
box which contained the birthday gift, and they hauled it on to the
table so that all the guests might see it.

The four ends of the box were fastened down by strong iron clamps, and
these had first to be removed with the aid of strong pincers.

What could be in this box? The guests laid their heads together about
it, but not one of them could guess.

Suddenly all four clamps burst asunder, the four sides of the box fell
aside in four different directions, and there on the table stood--a
covered coffin!

A cry of indignation resounded from every corner of the room.

A pretty present for a seventieth birthday! A black coffin covered with
a velvet pall; at the head of it the ancient escutcheon of the Kárpáthy
family, and on the side, picked out with large silver nails, the
name--J-o-h-n K-á-r-p-á-t-h-y.

Horror sealed every mouth, only a wail of grief was audible--a heavy,
sobbing cry, like that of a wild beast stricken to the heart. It came
from the lips of old John Kárpáthy, who had thus been so cruelly
derided. When he beheld the coffin, when he read his own name upon it,
he had leaped from his chair, stretched out his arms, his face the while
distorted by a hideous grin, and those who watched him beheld his
features gradually turning a dreadful blue. It was plain, from the
trembling of his lips, that he wanted to say something; but the only
sound that came from them was a long-drawn-out, painful rattle. Then he
raised his hands to heaven, and suddenly striking his forehead with his
two fists, sank back into his chair with wide-open, staring eyes.

The blood froze in the veins of all who saw this sight. For a few
moments nobody stirred. But then a wild hubbub arose among the guests,
and while some of them rushed towards the magnate and helped to carry
him to bed, others went to fetch the doctors. The coffin had already
been removed from the table.

The terrified army of guests was not long in scattering in every
direction. Late that night all the roads leading from the castle of
Kárpáthy were thronged with coaches speeding onwards at a gallop. Terror
and Hope were the only guests left behind in the castle itself. But the
rockets still continued to mount aloft from the blazing firework and
write the name "Kárpáthy" in the sky in gigantic fiery letters visible
from afar.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, what more natural than that the mob of breathless, departing guests
should lose no time in presenting their respects, and paying their court
to the heir-presumptive of the vast possessions of the Kárpáthy family,
his Honour Abellino Kárpáthy?

They had all seen John Kárpáthy sink back in his chair, stricken by
apoplexy. He had not died on the spot, it is true; yet he was as good as
dead, anyhow, and there were many who carried their friendly sympathy
with his highly respected nephew so far as to urge him vehemently to
hasten at once--yes, that very night--to Kárpátfalva, take possession,
and seal up everything, to prevent any surreptitious filching of his
property. But the young Squire was suspicious of all premature rumours,
and resolved to bide his time, await more reliable information, and only
put in an appearance on receiving news of the funeral. Early next
morning the Dean arrived to greet him. The very reverend gentleman had
remained behind at Kárpátfalva last of all, in order to make sure that
Master Jock really signed the codicil in favour of the college in which
he was interested. He brought the melancholy intelligence that the old
gentleman had not indeed actually given up the ghost, but was certainly
very near the last gasp, inasmuch as it was now quite impossible to
exchange a reasonable word with him, which signified that the Dean had
been unable to get him to subscribe the codicil.

The Dean was followed the same day by a number of agents and stewards
attached to the Kárpáthy domains, who hastened to introduce themselves
to his Excellency, the heir and their future patron. They brought still
further particulars of the bodily condition of the expiring head of the
family. A village barber had bled him, whereupon he had somewhat
recovered his senses. They had then proposed to send for a doctor, but
he had threatened to shoot the man down if he crossed his threshold. The
barber was to remain, however. He had more confidence in him, he said,
because he would not dare to kill him. He would take no medicine, nor
would he see a soul, and Mike Kis was the only person who had admittance
to his room. But he could not possibly last longer than early to-morrow
morning, of that they were all quite certain.

Abellino regarded the appearance of the agents and stewards as of very
good augury: it showed that they already regarded him as their master,
to whom homage was justly due. On the following day a whole host of
managers, cashiers, scribes, shepherds, tenants, and other small fry,
arrived to recommend themselves to Abellino's favour. The moments of
their old master, they said, were most assuredly numbered. None of them
could promise him so much as another day of life.

On the third day the heydukes and doorkeepers also migrated over in a
body to Abellino, who began to be exasperated at so much flattery. So he
spoke to them curtly enough, and on learning from them that henceforth
they would regard him as their earthly Providence, inasmuch as his uncle
was by this time drawing his last breath, he suddenly announced that he
was about to introduce a series of radical reforms among the domestics
attached to the Kárpáthy estate, the first of which was that every male
servant who wore a moustache was to instantly extirpate it as an
indecent excrescence. The stewards and factors obeyed incontinently,
only one or two of the heydukes refused to make themselves hideous; but
when he began to promise the lower servants also four imperial ducats a
head if they did their duty, they also proceeded to snip off what they
had hitherto most carefully cherished for years and years.

On the fourth day, of all his good friends, officials, domestics, and
buffoons, Mike Kis, Martin the former Whitsun King, Master Varga the
estate agent, Palko the old heyduke, and Vidra the gipsy, were the only
persons who remained with John Kárpáthy as he stood at Death's ferry.
Even the poet Gyárfás had deserted him, and hastened to congratulate the
new patron.

On the fifth day there was nobody to bring away tidings from Kárpáthy
Castle; perchance they were already engaged in burying the unfortunate
wretch.

On the sixth day, however, a horseman galloped into Abellino's
courtyard, whom they immediately recognized as Martin.

As he dismounted from his horse the steward of the Pukkancs estate, one
of the first deserters, looked down from the tower, and, smiling
broadly, cried out to him--

"Well, so you have come too, eh, Martin, my son? You're just in time, I
can tell you. Had your marriage been celebrated a week later, your new
landlord would have revived in his own favour some old customs. What
news from Kárpátfalva?"

He had come, of course, to invite the gentlemen to the funeral. That was
the most natural supposition.

"I have brought a letter for you, Mr. Bailiff," said Martin,
nonchalantly; and, to the great disgust of the steward, he did not even
doff his cap before Abellino, who was standing on the balcony.

"Look to your cap, you bumpkin! Why don't you doff it, sirrah? Who sent
this letter?"

At the first question Martin only shrugged his shoulders; in answer to
the second he replied that the steward of the estate had given it to
him.

The bailiff broke open the letter, and green wheels danced before his
eyes as he peered into it. The letter, which was in old John Kárpáthy's
own handwriting, begged to inform the bailiffs, heydukes, and domestics
assembled round Abellino that he had so far recovered as to be able to
rise from his bed and write them a letter, and that he was very glad to
hear that they had found so much better a master than himself, for which
reason he advised them to remain where they were, for on no account were
they to think of coming back to him.

The bailiff pulled the sort of face a man would naturally have who was
compelled to make merry on a diet of crab-apples, and as he had no
desire to keep the joyful intelligence all to himself, he passed the
letter on from hand to hand amongst his colleagues, the other bailiffs,
factors, doorkeepers, shepherds, scribes, and heydukes, till it had gone
the round of them all. Under similar circumstances men often find a
great consolation in twirling their moustaches; but now, alas! there was
not a single moustache to twirl among the lot of them. They had neither
places nor moustaches left. Some of them scratched their heads, some
burst into tears, others cursed and swore. In their first fury they knew
not which to turn upon first, Abellino for not inheriting, or Master
Jock for not dying as he ought to have done. To make such fools of so
many innocent men! It was scandalous!

Abellino was the last to whom, with tearful faces, they carried the glad
tidings. The philosophical youth, who happened at that moment to be
sipping an egg beaten up in his tea, received the intelligence with the
utmost _sang-froid_.

"Enfin!" cried he, "I verily believe the old chap means to live for
ever!"



CHAPTER VIII.

AN UNEXPECTED CHANGE.


A month later John Kárpáthy was to be met with once more at Pressburg.
It made him angry now when people called him "Master Jock."

A great change had come over the Nabob both externally and internally.
His frame had grown so meagre of late that he was unable to wear his
former clothes; the fiery flush had disappeared from his face, the
drunken puffiness from around his eyes; he spoke gravely with his
fellow-men, busied himself about political and national matters, looked
into the affairs of his own estates, sought out trustworthy stewards and
bailiffs, renounced riotous pastimes, spoke sensibly and intelligibly at
the Diet; nobody could imagine what had come to him all at once.

He had one favourite, Mike Kis, who was to be seen with him in every
public place. Very often they encountered Abellino, and on all such
occasions the Nabob and the Whitsun King would look at each other and
smile and whisper as if they were planning some design against Abellino,
as if they held in their hands some humorous trump card which would turn
the tables gloriously upon the waggish coffin-sender. For all the young
_roués_ were still greatly amused at Abellino's masterpiece. The old
bucks, on the other hand, had rather more difficulty in grasping the
humour of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Master Boltay was residing on a little estate he had somewhere
among the hills, whither in his first alarm he had conveyed Fanny, and
she had hidden away there along with her aunt. Within a week, however,
Abellino, who had by no means abandoned the chase, had discovered where
they had stowed away the girl, and a few days later Teresa caught one of
the servants in the act of popping a suspicious looking letter into
Fanny's reading book. Master Boltay discharged that servant on the spot.
Nevertheless, there were fresh rumours and alarms every day. Fashionable
gentlemen came a-hunting in the neighbourhood of the village near their
dwelling, and hit upon a thousand artifices for obtaining admittance.
Sometimes disguised lackeys presented themselves in the garb of simple
gardeners, but, fortunately, Teresa always recognized their crafty
countenances, and let them cool their heels on the doorstep. At other
times old gipsy women sneaked into the courtyard whenever they had the
chance, and by way of diverting the innocent damsel, showed her in the
cards that a terribly great gentleman was in love with her, and would
have her, too.

Master Boltay, hearing these things from day to day, became as furious
as a bull when the dog-star is in the ascendant. He fumed and fussed and
swore he would do dreadful things to any one he might catch on the
premises. But, alas! he could catch nobody! The enemy was an airy,
agile, artful, experienced creature who was never at the end of his
inventions, and had nothing else to think of but how to make a fool of
him; while he, with his dull henchman Alexander, was but a stupid, heavy
animal, whose horns had to grow before he could butt with them. It was
therefore with a very surly look that Master Boltay, standing outside
his door one day, beheld a handsome carriage stop in front of his house,
and a heyduke assist an elderly Hungarian gentleman to descend
therefrom.

The old gentleman approached Master Boltay with a very amicable air,
and, bidding the heyduke remain behind, said to the artisan--

"Sir, is this the house of Mr. Boltay?"

The person accosted was so preoccupied that the only answer he gave was
to nod his head.

"Then I suppose I have the pleasure of speaking to the worthy master
himself?"

Even now Master Boltay was not quite master of his own thoughts, and he
could not get it out of his mind that this gentleman had come to pick a
quarrel with him.

"Yes, I am; I don't deny it," he replied.

The elderly gentleman smiled, hooked his arm within Master Boltay's,
and, in the heartiest manner, invited him to go with him into the house
as they must have a long conversation together.

Master Boltay gave way, led the gentleman into the innermost apartment,
made him sit down, and remained standing before him to hear what he had
to say.

"First of all," said the old gentleman, regarding the master-carpenter
with a comical smile--"first of all, allow me to introduce myself. I
will begin by saying that I bear a name which will not be exactly music
to your ear. I am John Kárpáthy. Yes! out with the oath that hangs on
your lips as loudly and soundly as you like! I know very well that it is
not meant for me, but for my nephew, whose name is Bélá, but who, fool
as he is, has re-christened himself Abellino. You have good cause to
curse him, for he has brought misfortune to your house."

"Not yet, sir," said Boltay, "and I hope to God he will not bring it."

"I hope so too; but, alas! the devil never slumbers, especially when
pretty girls are about. My nephew has taken upon himself the glorious
resolution of seducing your ward."

"I know it, sir; but I am on my guard."

"My good sir, you know not half the artful tricks of the young bucks who
have served an apprenticeship in the great world before engaging in such
enterprises."

"Stop, sir! One thing I do know. I know that, all because of your
nephew, she is condemned to a cloister-like life, and cannot so much as
step into the street unless I am with her. And when, at last, I have had
too much of this persecution, I will leave my workshop, I will go into
another part of the world, I will quit my country, which I love as well
as, ay, and ever so much better than, many of those who call themselves
the fathers of the fatherland. But till then, sir, till then, never let
me catch hold of any of these painted butterflies! I am not a gentleman,
I will fight no duel; but I'll smash whomsoever comes in my way--I'll
smash 'em like a piece of rotten glass. Just tell that to your dear
nephew!"

"Pardon me, my friend, but I am not in the habit of carrying messages to
my nephew, neither have I come hither merely to gossip, but to carry out
a well-devised thoroughly thought-out plan. I hate this man more than
you do. You need not shake your head like that, for so it is. Abellino
is my mortal foe, and I am his. You will better understand the amicable
relations between us when I tell you that he wishes me to die, and I
will not consent, and as in all probability my road to death is much
shorter than his, the contest is conducted with very unequal weapons. On
my birthday he sent me a coffin as a present, in the expectation that I
should make use of it as speedily as possible. Now _his_ birthday is
approaching, and I am going to send him, as a present, a beggar's staff,
and I hope he will live a long time to use it."

"Well, sir, that is your business, not mine. I am a table-maker; I don't
profess to make staves. If you wish to make a present of a beggar's
staff, I can recommend you to a turner who lives hard by."

"Master Boltay, don't be so impatient. The staff I spoke of is only an
emblem. I have a plan, I say, which you must know of. It would be better
if you came and sat down by me and heard me out. Look now! I want
Abellino to wait in vain for the hour of my death. I want my estates not
to go to him, but to another. Do you understand?"

"Of course! You would cut him off with a shilling."

"Why, man, you understand nothing. My estates are hereditary; I cannot
leave them to whom I will--that depends on the law of succession, and
the law of succession is eternal. And a nice little inheritance it is
too. It deserves to be talked about, I assure you. My annual income
exceeds a million and a half!"

"A million and a half!" cried the artisan, in consternation; and he
gazed wonderingly at the magnate, as if he scarce believed that any man
in the world could be worth a million and a half a year.

"Yes, a million and a half awaits my successor, and even under the sod I
should be tortured by the thought that my ancestral estates, for which
far better men than I shed their blood, were being scattered to the
winds by a worthless descendant, were dribbling away piecemeal and
passing into the hands of usurers, shopkeepers, and aliens, and all
through the very man who, so far from weeping at my death, will be ready
to dance for joy at it. I mean to deprive him of that satisfaction."

"May I give you a piece of advice, sir?"

"There's no need of that. You've only got to listen to me." Then,
seizing the hand of the artisan, to rivet his attention the better, he
thus proceeded: "There is one way of drawing a blood-red cross through
all Abellino's calculations--for I want to draw blood, I want to wound
him to the very heart, because he has insulted me--and that one way is
for me to marry."

Here Kárpáthy stopped, and threw himself back in his chair, as if
waiting to see what the artisan would say to that. But he only nodded
his head, as if he understood the matter completely.

"If a child were to be born to me," continued Kárpáthy, and, in a sudden
outburst of merriment, he banged the table with his fist, "why, it would
be enough to make me live my life over again. I am not superstitious,
sir; but when I was lying on my death-bed, a heavenly vision gave me the
assurance that, to the wonder of my fellows, I should return from the
realm of death, though everybody looked upon me as a dead man already;
and the mere fact of my recovering my strength and good humour is proof
enough to me that that vision was no false dream. I mean to marry. And
now you shall hear how that concerns you. You have a young ward--a girl
whom Abellino persecutes, and Abellino's associates lay bets with each
other as to who shall win her first, as if it were a horse-race. Now, I
want to put a stop to this base persecution. I would provide her with a
place of refuge so secure, that if all its doors and windows stood right
open before him, Abellino would not venture in. That place of refuge is
my house!"

"What do you mean, sir?"

"I mean that I demand from you your ward as my wife!"

"What?"

"My lawful consort, I say. For many years the world has known me under
the title of 'the good old fool.' I would employ the remainder of my
days in excising the word 'fool' from that title."

Master Boltay slowly arose from beside the table.

"Sir, your honour's offer flatters and amazes me. You are a gentleman,
with an annual income of a million and a half; you are incalculably
wealthy, like the rich man in the Bible. But I know, sir, that wealth is
not happiness. I knew a poor girl whose parents last year gave her in
marriage to a rich man, and the next day they drew a suicide out of the
Danube. I want to make my ward happy, but I will not give her away for
riches or treasures."

Kárpáthy remained sitting, and gently grasped the artisan's hand.

"Sit down again, my worthy Master Boltay. When first I saw your face, I
was prepared for that answer. You certainly would provide a happy,
contented future for your ward, and your intention does you honour. You
would leave to her a possession that is not to be despised--a safe
business, and, perchance, you have also chosen for her a worthy, honest,
hard-working, sensible young man, on whose arm she can wander along
life's quiet path to the very end. But her destiny is no longer in your
power. The girl, unfortunately, springs from a family in whose blood
flightiness may be said to have run from the very beginning. She was
educated in a school which encouraged ambition, extravagance, and the
love of luxury, and the later and more rigorous years of her life have
only suppressed, not extinguished, her earlier impressions and
recollections. She was wont to see vice fêted and sobriety ridiculed.
That, sir, is a bad apprenticeship, and it requires no ordinary strength
of mind to call that which seems so sweet, bitter, and that which seems
so bitter, sweet. Have not you yourself observed how suddenly she cooled
towards the poor young fellow you chose for her, when she got the idea
into her head that she was going to become a beauty whom the world would
envy and adore? Before very much longer she will have her times of
_ennui_, of passionate desire; the claims of nature will assert
themselves. Then will come moments of bitterness and self-forgetfulness,
when she will readily listen to evil counsellors. And who shall save a
damsel from falling who herself wishes to fall?"

"I don't believe it, sir. I don't believe what you say. I feel you have
spoken the truth, and still I deny it. In general, what you say is right
enough; but my darling will be the exception."

"I will not dispute the point. Look now! I don't want to marry your ward
against her will. I simply want you to lay my proposal before her: 'A
rich nobleman sues for your hand. The suitor is neither young nor
handsome, nor even amiable--he might very well pass for your grandpapa;
yet the only demands he makes upon you are that you will swear to be his
wife, and will honour him as your husband. If you like, he and you shall
live in two separate counties, and you shall only see him when you
choose to invite him to come and see you. Will you accept his offer?' If
the girl says, 'No,' I will be quite content with her answer. We will
say no more about the matter, and I will trouble you no further. You
will but have done your duty as a guardian. I will give her a week to
make up her mind. In a week's time, my confidential agent, who is
cooling his heels outside by my carriage, will be sent here--I don't
want to carry my basket home myself[10]--to inquire if by any chance I
left a diamond ring behind me here. If the answer be a rejection, you
will send back this ring by him; if, on the other hand, my proposal be
accepted, you will answer that I must come for it myself."

[Footnote 10: In Hungarian, as in German, a rejected lover is said to
"receive a basket."]

And with that the gentleman arose, pressed Master Boltay's hand
amicably, and left him in a perfect chaos of conflicting thoughts.
Impatiently, Boltay began pacing up and down the room. What was he to
do? He felt within himself that Kárpáthy had spoken the truth. The girl
would not be able to resist the tempting prospect, and would accept the
offer. And thus she must needs be unhappy; and what would be the end of
it all? At first he had half a mind to conceal the whole thing from her.
But no, that would be unworthy of him; a man really worthy of the name
must never conceal the truth.

Suddenly a good idea occurred to him. He had discovered a way out of the
difficulty. He hastened to consult Alexander.

That worthy youth had just finished his masterpiece--a splendid
writing-table, magnificently carved, with secret drawers impossible to
discover. He was quite absorbed in his work.

"Alexander," said his old master, "your handiwork is really a
masterpiece."

"I am proud of it myself. I think of it night and day."

"Night and day? And don't you think of anything else, then?"

"I? What else should I think of, pray?"

"Why, that you will be a full master-carpenter the day after to-morrow.
Suppose I say that?"

"Oh, I'm sure of that."

"Well, what would you say if I resolved to hand over the whole of my
business to you?"

"Ah, sir, you are jesting. Why should you give it all to me?"

"Because I am weary of the worry of it, as you can see, and should like
the care of it to repose on younger shoulders. You shall conduct the
concern instead of me, and we'll share the profits. Don't you admire my
cunning? I want to have an income without any labour."

"I can go on as before; there's no necessity for us to go shares."

"But suppose I wish it? Look now! I have no son, and you are just the
son I should like to have had."

Alexander gently raised the old man's hand to his lips, which he placed
on his head, as if by way of blessing.

"And then," continued the master, "how nice it will be if you bring a
wife home, and I have the joy of a happy domestic life which I have
never had yet!"

Alexander sighed. "We shall have to live a long time before we get to
that," said he.

"What? Do you want to remain wifeless all your days? Come, don't pull
such a holy mug as that! Would you keep your secrets from me, when you
know I can see through you as if you were a glass of water? Do you think
I don't know whom you love? Speak out! don't be such a coward! Tell the
girl you love her, and cannot do without her. Or perhaps you would like
me to woo her for you? I shouldn't mind that, I am sure; I should like
to be your best man. Well, and now I'll go and ask the girl to have you,
and to-morrow you shall have her, and we'll have such a betrothal that
the very angels shall dance for joy."

Alexander never said a word; but he cast down his eyes, turned pale,
pressed Master Boltay's hand in silence, and then quitted the room.

So long as the lad had been with him, Boltay was all radiant and jocose,
but when he had departed, a couple of tears trickled from the old man's
eyes. He himself suspected and feared that Alexander loved in vain.

Boltay thought the matter over for some time, and then resolved to first
of all ask for Fanny's hand for Alexander--perhaps the girl might still
have some kindly feeling for him. If she rejected the proposal, and
declared she did not care for the youth at all, he would lay the second
offer before her. What would she say to that? Could she possibly be
amiable to an old fellow of over seventy, after coldly shutting her
heart against a handsome young man?

So the same day Boltay rode out to his country den, which was situated
in a romantic little valley in the Carpathians, to pay his ward a visit.

Fanny rushed out to meet Boltay's waggon when he was still a long way
off, dragged him down from the coach-box, and, full of childlike gaiety,
conducted him all round her little domain; and Boltay kept pinching her
cheeks, which were so firm and round that he could scarcely grip hold of
them. It was plain that she did not give so much of her time now to
melancholy brooding.

"Why, what a good housewife we shall make of you! There's surely nothing
in the world you don't know already. We must look you out a husband
now."

"Yes, let's have a husband by all means," laughed Fanny, roguishly
clipping Master Boltay round the neck, and kissing his stubbly face with
her round red lips. "Daddy Boltay is the husband for me!"

"Go along with you, you rogue!" cried Master Boltay, scarce able to
contain himself for joy. "Why, I'm older than your father. Let us look
for some one who will suit you."

"All right, Daddy Boltay, the sooner the better. But first go and see
Aunt Teresa, and in the mean time I'll run off and get supper ready."

Master Boltay hastened to seek Teresa, and make her acquainted with the
interesting situation.

The magnate's proposal overwhelmed her likewise, and she too could
promise Alexander very little success. Teresa had often tried the heart
of the girl, she had often unexpectedly mentioned the youth's name to
her, and the girl had always remained cold. She respected, she praised
him, but that is not love.

All through supper Boltay was cracking jokes with his ward, who
responded with great alacrity, and gave him back as good as he gave her.
At last the servants removed the table, and the three remained together
alone.

And now Master Boltay's good humour changed into grave solemnity, and he
drew the girl towards him by both hands.

"You have a suitor," said he; "tell me straight out if you suspect who
it is."

The girl sighed, but made no reply.

"Your suitor is a worthy young man, an honest, honourable fellow, a good
liver, a diligent mechanic, and handsome to boot, and, which is the main
thing, he has for a long time loved you truly, loyally, and ardently."

"I know. You mean Alexander," replied the girl.

Master Boltay stopped short, although there was nothing very
extraordinary in the fact that the girl knew his secret. Both of them
hung upon Fanny's next words.

"Poor Alexander!" sighed the girl.

"Why are you sorry?"

"Because he loves me. Why cannot he find a better, more reliable girl
than I, to make him happy?"

"Then you don't want to marry him?" asked the old man, sadly.

"If it would give you any pleasure, I am ready to marry him."

"Give me pleasure, indeed! I want you to please yourself, girl. The lad
is such a worthy fellow, that seek as you like you will not find a
better. He is no mere blockhead, like the ordinary workman; he has
travelled in foreign parts, he can stand up before anybody; and then he
loves you so much."

"I know; I admit it. I have always respected him, worthy man that he is;
but love him I cannot. I will marry him, I will be faithful to him to
the day of my death, but he will be unhappy, and so shall I."

Boltay sighed; and in a few moments he said, in a scarcely audible
voice, "Then, don't marry him."

The tears flowed involuntarily from the eyes of the two old people. They
loved the young folks as if they were their own children; and oh, how
they would have liked to have seen them happy together! And Fate willed
otherwise!

At last Boltay brushed the sweat off his forehead with his hand, and
said, with a great effort at composure, "Get up, my girl! Overrule your
heart I cannot; it would be wrong. He certainly could not accept your
hand without your love. No, let us talk of something else. You have
another suitor. A great and rich gentleman would make you his wife; he
has an illustrious name and an honourable title, it takes him a whole
week to ride over his estates, and he has an annual income of a million
and a half."

Fanny cast down her eyes and shook her head. Then she answered coldly
and sensibly, "That would mean good luck, but not happiness."

"It is true," continued Boltay, "that your second suitor is not young;
but, instead of love, he promises you ease and a high position."

"Who is it?"

"His name will not have a very pleasant sound in your ears, for it is a
gentleman of the same name who is the cause of most of your troubles;
he is John Kárpáthy, the uncle of that tempter at church."

Here the girl burst out laughing.

"Ah, yes! the man like a fat spider."

"His figure has improved since then."

"Whom they consider such a lunatic."

"He is much wiser now."

"And who is always drinking and making merry with peasant girls."

"He has completely changed his mode of life now."

"Ah, my dear guardian, this is only a joke, surely, or, if it be a
serious business, you only want to make fun of it. Now, look here, Daddy
Boltay, first of all, when I told you to marry and I would be your wife,
you said you might be my grandfather, and now you offer me Master Jock
as a husband. What do you mean by it?"

Master Boltay was delighted. He laughed till the tears ran down his
cheeks. Then the cast-iron truisms of ancient experience were false
after all, and it was possible to find one childish soul strong enough
to reject the dazzling allurements of wealth, even when it had only to
stretch out its hand and find power at the tips of its fingers along
with an engagement-ring!

"Look now!" replied Master Boltay; "the gentleman left this ring with
me, and I am to send it back in case you reject his offer."

"Did he give you a basket with it?" inquired the roguish damsel.

"No need of that; I knew how it would turn out," replied Boltay,
laughing.

And, indeed, he was beside himself with joy. His sorrow for Alexander
was quite obliterated by the delight he felt that his ward should have
exhibited such strength of mind. He pictured to himself how proud he
would feel to be able to say to the magnate, "You promised to give a
million and a half for the roses on my ward's cheeks, did you? Thank
you, but I'll not part with her even at that price." How high he would
hold his head before those young dandies who fancied they could buy
Fanny's love for a few shameful thousands of florins, wretched beggars
that they were!

So the two old people kissed the girl and bade her good night, and they
all went to their several rooms. The night was far advanced; it was time
to lie down, and yet it was no time for sleeping. Some unruly spirit was
about who chased slumber from everybody's eyes.

Master Boltay's brain was chock-full of all the speeches that he meant
to make here, there, and everywhere as if he were preparing to be the
mouth-piece of the whole town. Teresa's mind was wandering among the
events of the present and the past, trying to throw light upon all the
manifold contradictions of a young maiden's heart, and find out how much
therein was good or bad, instinct or free will.

But it was from Fanny's eyes that the genius of slumber kept furthest
away.

Only one thought, one idea now lived in her heart--the face of that man
whom she loved, whose shape she crowned with the flowers of her
devotion, whom she pictured to herself as noble, grand, and glorious,
with the memory of whom her heart was full, whose smiling figure she
always conjured up before her when no living face was near her, and oh,
then, how good it was to rest in its contemplation!

She had no longer a thought for the twofold offer presented to her by
her guardian, the inspiration of these sublime moments erased from her
recollection the gloomy-faced youth and the grotesque old man, both of
whom wanted to make her their wife.

Where is he now--the unknown, the unnameable, the unforgettable ideal?
Most certainly he has no idea that a heart is pining for him in secret,
in tribulation, just as the moon is quite unconscious of the lunatic who
pursues her rays and leaps across dizzy abysses in order to get nearer
to her!

How blessed the lot of those ladies of the great world who can see him
every day, speak to, admire, and honour him! Perhaps one among them is
his chosen bride! No, nobody could love him so truly, oh, so truly as
she would have done. She would never, never tell him so, but she should
love him to the death!

Why was it that she could never hope to even get near him?

Never?

Suddenly a strange thought arose in her mind. It would only cost her a
single word, and the doors of the haughtiest, the most illustrious
houses would fly open before her, and she would stand in the same rank,
in the same atmosphere as those lofty, those envied ladies who were at
liberty to behold the face and hear the voice of her adored idol.

A shudder ran through her at the thought.

Yes, this goal would be reached if she gave her hand to Kárpáthy. A
single step would raise her at once into this seemingly unattainable
world.

She rejected the thought, only for a moment did her soul retain it, and
then she brushed it away.

What would her good friends and kinsfolk Boltay and Teresa say, if she
refused a fine, manly, noble-hearted youth, and, for the sake of money
and splendour, accepted the hand of a dotard she did not love?

But again, there were other kinsfolk whom, if she took this step, she
could make happy, whom she could rescue from bitter shame, reproach, and
wretchedness--her mother and sisters. If she were rich, she could save
them from their horrible fate.

Yes, good damsel, yes; thou wilt have no lack of reasons, but it is no
tender regard for thy friends or thy relations which leads thee on. No;
'tis Love that goes before thee with his torch, and he will lead thee
through the worlds of good and evil--all the rest is mere fustian. Go,
then, towards thy Fate!

At last the whole house slept. Sleep on, for sleep brings with it good
counsel.

Next morning a strange surprise awaited the two old guardians. Fanny
told Boltay that if old Kárpáthy should send for the ring, it was not to
be sent back to him, but he was to come for it himself.



CHAPTER IX.

THE HUNTER IN THE SNARE.


Boltay and Teresa said not a word against Fanny's resolution, nor did
they talk about the wedding, but in the meantime they began to provide
the _trousseau_, for though as the wife of a magnate, she might come to
wear far more splendid things, she might nevertheless keep what they
gave her as a souvenir, and, amidst the whirl and bustle of the great
world, reflect from time to time, when she looked at their gift, on the
modest domestic joys that she had left behind her. At the same time the
preparations for Fanny's marriage were kept so secret that nobody could
possibly have known anything of that interesting event; it was not in
their natures either to brag about or lament over it.

Now a very singular thing happened about this time.

One day, when Master Boltay was at home in his factory, there rushed
into the place a shabbily, not to say raggedly, attired female whom
Master Boltay could not recognize as belonging to the circle of his
acquaintances. But there was no need for him to puzzle his head over it,
for the miserable creature herself hastened to inform him who she was.

"I am the unfortunate Mrs. Meyer, Fanny's mother," sobbed the woman in
the bitterness of her heart, throwing herself at Boltay's feet, and
covering first his hands and then his knees, and then his very boots
with her kisses, and shedding oceans of tears. Boltay, who was not used
to such tragical scenes, could only stand there as if rooted to the
spot, without asking her to get up or even tell him what was the matter.

"Oh, sir! oh, my dear sir! most worthy, honourable, magnanimous Mr.
Boltay, suffer me to kiss the dust from your boots! Oh, thou guardian
angel of the righteous, thou defender of the innocent, may God grant
thee many, many years upon earth, and, after this life, all the joys of
heaven! Was there ever a case like mine? My heart faints within me at
the thought of telling my tale; but tell it I must. The whole world must
know; and, above all, Mr. Boltay must know what an unfortunate mother I
am. Oh, oh, Mr. Boltay, you cannot imagine what a horrible torture it is
for a mother who has bad daughters--and mine are bad; but it serves me
right! I am the cause of it, for I have always let them have their own
way. Why did I not throw myself in the Danube after my poor dear
husband? But, sir, a mother's heart is never entirely lost to feeling,
and, even when her children are bad, she still loves them, still hopes
and believes that they may grow better. For four mortal years I have
stood the shame of it, and it is a miracle I have a hair still left on
my head for worry and vexation; but at last it has become too much for
me; I can stand it no longer. If I were to tell of the abominations that
go on in my house every day, Mr. Boltay, your hair would rise up with
horror! Only yesterday I spoke to my daughters, I upbraided them; and
the words were no sooner out of my mouth than, like harpies incarnate,
they fell upon me, all four of them: 'What do you mean by preaching at
us? What business is it of yours what we do? Don't we keep you like a
lady? The very dress on your back, the very cap on your head, you got
from us! There's not a stick or a straw in the whole house that belongs
to you. We earned it all!' I was terror-stricken. Was this my sole
reward for so many bitter, sleepless nights, which I had passed at their
sick-beds? for taking the very food from my own mouth to give it to
them? for humbling myself and going in rags and tatters that they might
dress in fine feathers? Then, sir, instead of being ashamed, the eldest
of them stood up to me, and told me straight out that if I did not like
to live in the same house with, and be kept by them, I might go and
shift for myself, for Pressburg was large enough, and turned me into the
street. I did not know what to do. My first thought was to make for the
Danube; but, at the selfsame instant, it seemed as if some angel
whispered in my ear, 'Have you not a daughter whom good, benevolent
people are bringing up in all honour and virtue? Go there! These good
people will not reject you; they will even give you some corner or other
where you may stretch your limbs until it please God to take you away.'
And so, sir, I came on here, just as you see me. I have absolutely
nothing under heaven I can call my own. I have not tasted a bit of food
this day; and if you turn me from your door, and if my daughter will not
see me, I must die of hunger in the street; for I would rather perish
than accept another morsel from my ungrateful and shameful children."

The part of all this rigmarole which appealed to Master Boltay most
strongly was that this worthy woman had eaten no food that day. So he
considered it his Christian duty to there and then take a plate of
lard-dumplings and a tumbler full of wine from a cupboard, place them
before her on the table, and compel her to fall to, so that, at any
rate, he might save her from dying of hunger.

"Oh, sir, a thousand thanks; but I am not a bit hungry. I am too put
out to eat, and, at the best of times, I have no more appetite than a
little bird. The little I ever eat at table would never be missed. But
what I should desire more than all the riches in the world would be to
hear a kind word from the mouth of my darling Fanny. Is such a thing
possible? Do you think she would look at her poor mother? Would she be
ashamed at the sight of me? Perhaps she would no longer recognize me, in
such misery as I am, in rags and wretchedness, and so old and haggard.
Might I see her for an instant, if only once? I do not ask to speak to
her, but if I might just see her at a little distance--through a window,
perhaps--just catch a peep at her surreptitiously, see her pass before
me, hear her speaking to some one else---- Oh, then, all my desires
would be satisfied!"

Master Boltay was quite touched by these words, though it did occur to
him that he had witnessed a somewhat similar scene in some German
tragedy.

"Come, come," said he to the weeping mother, "don't take on so! You
shall assuredly have your wish. You shall both see your daughter and
speak to her. You shall live here too, if you like. It will be very nice
for us to all live together, and will do no harm, that I can see."

"Oh, sir, you speak like an angel from heaven. But my daughter? Oh, my
daughter! She will not be able to love me any more. She will loathe me."

"Make your mind easy on that score, madam. Nobody has ever disparaged
you in your daughter's hearing; and Fanny is much too generous to spurn
her mother in adversity. I'll take you home with me, for I have sent her
into the country to be out of harm's way. There she lives with a
kinswoman of her father's--a somewhat severe personage, I admit; but
I'll reconcile her to you."

"Oh, sir, I don't expect that Teresa will raise me up to her level, but
I shall be content to be her servant, her kitchen-wench, if only my
daughter be about me."

"What nonsense you are talking, my worthy woman!" blurted out honest
Boltay, awkwardly. "I've servants enough of my own, so there's no need
for my ward to do manual labour. In half an hour we will set out
together, and just leave the rest to me."

Mrs. Meyer would thereupon have kissed Mr. Boltay's boots again, but the
worthy man escaped from the sentimental creature in time, and employed
the half-hour during which he was absent from her in scouring about the
slop-shops and collecting all sorts of ready-made garments, and returned
home with a complete suit, which Mrs. Meyer, despite her lady-like
squeamishness, was obliged to put on instead of her disgraceful rags.

And here I may mention, lest any of my readers should be blessed with as
strong a credulity as Mr. Boltay, that there was not one word of truth
in the tragic monologue above described. Mrs. Meyer had _not_ fallen out
with her daughters; they had _not_ turned her adrift; there was no need
for her to leap into the Danube. The matter stood simply thus: Abellino,
since his late rebuffs, had, full of passionate frenzy, plunged deeper
and deeper into his unsuccessful enterprise. He had just demanded from
Monsieur Griffard the last hundred thousand florins of the second
million promised to him. Abellino was constantly attended by a spy in
the service of the genial banker, who had immediately hastened to
acquaint his principals in Paris with the latest tidings from
Kárpátfalva, notably of what had happened on the night of Squire John's
birthday. Monsieur Griffard, learning that Squire John was at the last
gasp, had sent Abellino not one, but two hundred thousand florins, for
which, of course, he was naturally expected to pay back as much again
at the proper time. A few days later, he learnt, from a second letter,
that the uncle was still alive, and likely to live; but, by that time,
the money was well on its way, and reached Abellino punctually, to his
great delight.

So now he had a hundred thousand more florins than he had reckoned upon,
and at such times a man is apt to feel confident. He therefore concocted
a little scheme whereby Mrs. Meyer (the girl's own mother!) should
artfully worm her way into the Boltay family, so as to get at her last
daughter, and--we know the rest!

She was to have sixty thousand florins down if the plan succeeded. "Is
it possible!" you will cry. Yes, quite possible. Say not that I paint
monsters; it is life that I describe.

Mrs. Meyer, no doubt, reflected that sixty thousand florins was a nice
little sum, and she meant to deposit thirty thousand of it in the
savings bank on her own account, and thirty thousand on Fanny's, and
thus the pair of them would be amply provided for for life. And what was
to be given in exchange for this nice sum of money? Why, nothing at all,
so to speak--a mere chimera, which is no good to anybody while they have
it, and only becomes profitable when it is parted with--a woman's
virtue.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later, the carriage stood before the door.

Master Boltay did not take his seat beside Mrs. Meyer, but went and sat
by the coachman, and, taking the reins and the whip, galloped at full
speed from the town, as if it were a question of some great mortal
disaster which he wished to prevent.

When they reached the outskirts of the village, he dismounted from the
waggon, and, with downcast eyes and much stammering, informed Mrs. Meyer
that he had a little job to see to; he had to say a few words to a
Jew--he meant a Greek. Would she go on to the house? He would go a
quicker way among the gardens, and would be at home as soon as the
waggon.

To tell a simple lie was almost more than the worthy man could manage.
No doubt it was the first time he had ever told a lie in his life, and
only urgent necessity drove him to it now. It was true, however, that he
did want to get to the house through the gardens a little beforehand, in
order to tell Teresa and Fanny of Mrs. Meyer's arrival, and beg them to
treat her as kindly as possible, and not appear alarmed when they saw
her. At the same time, he told them the cause of Mrs. Meyer's flight,
and all this he explained with such brevity that he had quite finished
by the time the coach was heard rumbling along the road outside, and was
already standing outside in the gate to receive his guest.

The two women were by this time in the passage. Fanny had just come from
the garden, and had taken off her straw hat, which might have impeded
her mother's embraces. Teresa, too, had put aside for once that
_perpetuum mobile_ which women call knitting, lest she might poke out
her kinswoman's eye with it.

On perceiving her daughter, Mrs. Meyer would not descend from the coach.
Master Boltay and the coachman had to pull her down by main force, and
when she did touch _terra firma_ it was only to grovel at the feet of
Teresa and Fanny till Boltay, who had no desire that she should make a
scene in his courtyard for the benefit of the village loafers, raised
her to her feet again.

The worthy artisan did his very utmost to keep Mrs. Meyer in an upright
position, but all to no purpose, for by the time she had reached Fanny,
down she plumped on her knees again, and tried to discover Fanny's tiny
feet that she might kiss them. This greatly alarmed Fanny, for, having
been engaged in gardening from an early hour, she had put nothing on her
tiny feet but two little old house-slippers, and consequently Mrs.
Meyer's strenuous endeavours threatened to reveal to the world, the
disgraceful circumstance, that--she had no stockings on. Blushing at the
thought of such a scandal, she stooped hastily and raised Mrs. Meyer up
in her arms, whereupon the sensitive mother hid her face in her
daughter's bosom, wept, sobbed, and kissed and embraced her with all her
might. Fanny simply stood still and held her, without being able to make
up her mind whether she should return these tears, sobs, and embraces.

At length the united efforts of the whole family succeeded in dragging
Mrs. Meyer from the hall into the parlour, where they compelled her to
sit down, and made her understand, at last, that she was to live there.
At first she insisted upon sleeping on the floor; then, in the kitchen
among the servants; finally, she begged and prayed that, if they were
determined she should have a room of her own, it must be the tiniest of
attics in which she could only squeeze by huddling all her limbs
together, a room no larger than a coal-cellar, from which she might now
and then get a peep at her daughter. Unfortunately, in Mr. Boltay's
house there was no room of that size, except a granary.

So, at last, she had to let them be hospitable to her in their own way,
and Teresa and Fanny got ready for her a cabinet next to Fanny's
music-room. When all was ready, Teresa took Fanny's two hands in hers,
and, looking tenderly into her eyes, said in a confidential tone:
"Fanny, be kind, tender, and affectionate towards your mother! So far
from avoiding, do your utmost to anticipate, her wishes. You see that
she loves you dearly, you love her too. One thing, however, I beg of
you: say nothing, before her, of your approaching wedding. Keep it a
secret for a time--to please me."

And Fanny promised to keep it secret.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the appointed day, old Kárpáthy--if it be right to call our intending
bridegroom old--sent Palko to Boltay's, and with great delight received
the message that he was to come for the ring himself.

He flew--nay, that would be saying too much for him; but he hastened to
the house as fast as a pair of legs could carry him. On reaching it, he
must needs embrace Mr. Boltay himself willy-nilly, and insisted on being
conducted to the bride at once. The thought that this wondrously
beautiful damsel was ready to take him for a husband, made him
positively love her. Mr. Boltay was obliged to call his attention to the
fact that the marriage must be preceded by sundry legal and other
formalities, which the magnate, despite the fact of his being a member
of the legislature, had clean forgotten, though this only shows how
completely he was carried away by the idea of his own wedding. Kárpáthy,
therefore, had to content himself with requesting his future
father-in-law--who, by the way, was a good score of years younger than
himself--to keep the whole affair a profound secret in the meantime, as
he had his own peculiar reasons for so doing. Boltay promised, and only
after the magnate's departure, did he recollect that Teresa and Fanny
had demanded a similar promise of secrecy, so he told Teresa of the
coincidence.

This circumstance confirmed Teresa's suspicions. If it was for the
interest of both parties to keep the matter secret till the wedding-day,
Mrs. Meyer could not possibly know anything about it, and therefore she
must have another reason for coming here, for that she had a reason
Teresa felt quite certain.

It was only natural too, under the circumstances, that a certain
estrangement should gradually arise between Teresa and Fanny. Teresa
could not forget that Fanny was now the bride of a millionaire, and
Fanny felt ashamed to be as familiar with her aunt and guardian as she
used to be. "What will they think of me?" she thought. "They will put it
all down to vaingloriousness and affectation." Thus it came about that a
sort of cold reserve was observable among the members of the family.
Everybody seemed to be upon his guard; and they might have been deaf and
dumb for all that they said to each other at meals.

The person who observed this atmosphere of reserve and suspicion with
the liveliest attention was undoubtedly Mrs. Meyer. "The girl is not
happy," she thought. "They are too severe with her. Teresa is cold and
unsympathetic. The girl is bored, and feels wretched, plunged as she is
up to the neck in this overbearing rural felicity. All day long she
never sees any suitable young fellow of her own age, and the desires of
her heart are all the stronger in consequence. Yes, something will come
of this, I'm sure."

One day Teresa went to Pressburg to see how the wedding-garments were
getting on--all the preparations for the marriage were being made
outside the house--and as they were not ready, she felt obliged to
remain in town all night, and sent Boltay back to guard the house.

Hitherto, Fanny had never lain alone in her room. Her aunt had always
slept in the cabinet, and the door between the two rooms had been left
open; and on very stormy nights, when the rain beat against the
window-panes, when the wind slammed the doors, and the dogs were howling
in the yard below, it was nice to reflect that near her was resting a
good faithful soul who, next to God, was her most watchful guardian.

This particular night, too, was very stormy. The rain poured, the
tempest shook the trees, the roaming dogs barked and howled as if they
were hunting down some one, and the wind shook the doors as if some one
was repeatedly trying to open them from the outside. So Fanny invited
her mother to come and spend the night with her.

Mrs. Meyer came, of course, and watched her daughter undress. Why should
she not? she was her own mother! She looked at her often, and she looked
at her long, in fact, she could scarce take her eyes off her. The girl
seemed to fill her with equal astonishment and rapture. At each moment
the contours of her virginal figure revealed fresh charms. Ah! in the
eyes of real connoisseurs sixty thousand florins were but a bagatelle
for such a matchless creature!

       *       *       *       *       *

At night, in the dark, when the candles are extinguished, old women can
chatter their best, especially when they light upon some one who does
not easily doze off and is prepared to patiently listen to all they have
to say, and even to spur them on from time to time with expressions of
amazement, horror, approbation, or other stimulating interjections. Such
occasions are the most convenient time for recounting all that has
happened ten, twenty, even fifty years ago, beginning from births and
christenings, and going right on through engagements and marriages to
deaths and burials, till at last a half-snore from one quarter or
another puts an end to the discourse. Mrs. Meyer, too, was inclined to
be talkative, and she could not have had a better opportunity than when
they were both lying in bed.

"Oh, oh! my darling girl!" she began; "my sweet, pretty girl, never did
I think I should be so fortunate as to sleep in the same room with you.
How oddly things come about, to be sure! Here am I with four foolish
girls, each one madder than the other; for if they were not mad, they
would not behave as they have behaved. Each one of them had an
honourable attachment, and well for them had they stopped there! but no,
they were not content, they would have the whole world at their feet,
and so they lost their opportunity."

This was the first assault.

Fanny, however, never answered a word. Mrs. Meyer, therefore, left well
alone. She had made a move in the right direction, as she thought, so
she now passed on to something else.

"How happy you are in this house! I see that every one loves you.
They're a little strict, perhaps, but what good honest people! A
thousand times fortunate you are to have found your way hither, where
you have everything you can desire. Here you can live in perfect
contentment so long as old Boltay lives. God preserve him for many years
to come! And yet I fear that he may one day die suddenly, for his blood
is very thick, and his father and his two brothers all died of apoplexy
much about the same time of life. I know very well that he would not
leave you in want--he would provide for you, of course, if he had not
got a nephew who is an advocate, to whom, perhaps, he will leave
everything. That is family pride, and very natural, after all. Blood,
you know, is thicker than water."

This was the second assault. Frighten the girl with the thought of what
will become of her if Boltay dies! "Waste your precious youth while
Boltay is alive, and then it will be too late to sigh and groan over the
reflection, 'How much better it would have been to have sold it for so
much!'"

And the horror of it was that Fanny understood everything quite well.
She knew what her mother was talking about, what she was aiming at, how
she was tampering with and tempting her, and she fancied that, through
the darkness, she could see her cunning face, and through that cunning
face right into that cunning soul, and she closed her eyes and stopped
up her ears that she might not either see or hear, and yet she saw and
heard all the same.

"Ay, ay!" sighed Mrs. Meyer, by way of announcing that she was about to
begin again.

"Are you asleep, Fanny?"

"No," stammered the girl. She was not even sly enough to leave the
question unanswered, in which case Mrs. Meyer would, perhaps, have
fancied she had dozed off, and not said anything more.

"Are you angry with me for talking? If you don't like it, say so."

Fanny, involuntarily trembling, uttered, with an effort, a scarcely
audible "Go on!"

"I should scarcely have recognized you if I had seen you. If I had met
you in the street, I should certainly have passed you by without
speaking. Yes, it is quite true. What a tiny little girl you were when
they took you away from me! Ah! why did not all my girls remain little!
Ay, ay! how poor people's daughters do grow up to be sure! Every time a
poor man's daughters grow up he has more cause for sorrow than for joy.
What will become of them? who will bring them up? Nowadays nobody cares
about marrying. Trade brings in less and less, the expenses of
housekeeping increase every day, and if a girl here and there does marry
after all, what does she gain by it? Why, a worthless sot of a husband,
and a life of misery, care, and anxiety. She'll go from bad to worse,
have to slave like a maid-of-all-work, be saddled with a lot of wicked
children, and when she gets old they'll pitch her into the street. Ay,
ay! the best thing a mother could do for her daughter when it is born
would be to bury it!"

Thus she emphasized, for the girl's benefit, all the difficulties of
marriage, and laid stress upon the more disagreeable features of
domestic life. And the girl knew quite well why she spoke to her in this
way, for that one word, "How beautiful you are!" had suddenly
enlightened her mind, and she also began to entertain the suspicion
which, by the way, Teresa had never dared to communicate, that her
mother had come to her as a tempter.

"Are you cold, Fanny?"

"No," stammered the girl, huddling up beneath the bed-clothes.

"I thought I heard you shiver."

"No, I didn't."

"You used to know Rézi Halm, didn't you?"

"Yes," faltered Fanny, in a low voice, wondering what was coming next,
and what fresh attack was going to be made upon her.

"What a proud girl she was, eh? The whole lot of them were so proud--you
remember, surely?--they were neighbours, you know. There was no speaking
to them at all. When that misfortune happened to your eldest sister,
they would not even look at us. And now do you know what has happened to
those girls? A rich country gentleman fell in love with Rézi and carried
her off. At first they cursed her, they rejected her. Later on the
gentleman gave the girl a nice little property, and then they were
reconciled to her, and went to live with her--yes, the whole lot of
them, those stuck-up things who were so quick to judge other folks! And
now they say there's nothing to make a fuss about; the girl is happier
than any lady, and her lover is more faithful to her than many a husband
is to his wife--fulfils all her desires, and gives her whatever she
wants. The servants call her 'my lady,' and they are glad to see her in
polite society, and ask no questions."

Here Mrs. Meyer paused for a moment, to give Fanny time to take it all
in and think it all over. Then she went on again as follows: "I don't
know how it is, but I don't feel a bit sleepy to-night. Perhaps it is
because I am in a strange room. I am always fancying the window to be
where the door is. I say, Fanny," she added suddenly, "can you do
embroidery?"

It seemed an innocent question enough, so Fanny answered that she could.

"It has just occurred to me that the last piece of embroidery you did is
at home--that sofa-cover, you know, with the kissing doves on it. It
stands just below your portrait which that young artist--you
remember--painted for nothing. Ah! since then he has become a famous
artist; since then he has painted your portrait in at least three
hundred different ways, and sent it to all the exhibitions, and there
the greatest noblemen pay him large sums of money for that very
portrait. Yes, and bid against each other for it, too. I might say that
that painter has founded his reputation on that one portrait, for since
then his name is familiar in all first-class houses. That picture did
the whole thing."

Ah! now she is trying the door of vanity!

"The man himself would not believe it," pursued Mrs. Meyer. "A great
nobleman, a very great nobleman, became so enamoured of the
portrait--naturally he saw it abroad--that he came, post-haste, all the
way to Pressburg, to convince himself that the subject of the portrait
really lived in our city. He came to our house, and you should have seen
his despair when he was told that you lived there no longer. At first he
wanted to blow his brains out. He succeeded, subsequently, however, in
finding out where you were--saw you, and since then he has been worse
than ever. He would come to our house, sit down on the sofa which he
knew you had embroidered, and stare at your portrait for hours at a
stretch. Your sisters were angry with him because he had not a look for
them; but I liked him, because I always used to hear something of you
from him. He was always following you, and I could at least learn from
him whether you were well or poorly off. Oh! that man was positively mad
about you!"

So we've got as far as this, eh?

Fanny now raised herself on her elbows, and listened to her mother's
conversation with something of that shuddering curiosity with which
Damiens regarded the wounds made in his body for the reception of the
burning oil.

"Oh, what absurdities that gentleman perpetrated!" continued Mrs. Meyer,
noisily shifting her pillows from one side to the other. "The man was
not aware that they were laughing at and making fun of him. Not a day
passed without his coming to our house, and he said, over and over
again, that if you had been there, he would have made you his wife on
the spot. 'Go along with you, sir!' said I. Ah, my dear sweet girl,
beware when a great nobleman says he will marry you! It is all nonsense;
he wants to make a fool of you!"

Here Mrs. Meyer rested a little, and thus gave Fanny time to complete in
her own mind the suggestion insinuated above as follows--

"But if he says, 'I won't marry you, but I'll give you money,' that's
reason--listen to him. It is only little clerks and twopenny-halfpenny
swells that deceive girls with promises of marriage, and these you must
avoid; but a real gentleman always begins by giving something, and him
you may listen to."

And the shame, the disgrace? Pooh, such is life!

Fanny, horror-stricken, waited to see what else her mother was going to
say. Presently she went on again--

"I didn't know whether to be sorry for or disgusted with the poor man
when I saw him so far gone. Suddenly you disappeared from the town. Then
he gave way to despair altogether, for he fancied that they had got you
married somewhere or other. At any rate, he came to me like a madman and
asked what had become of you. 'I don't know, sir,' said I; 'they took
her away from me long ago. Possibly she is married.' I had no sooner
uttered these words than the young man grew quite pale, and cast himself
on the very sofa which you embroidered, on which is a couple of billing
doves in the middle of a wreath of roses. I was sorry for the poor man,
as he was a fine, handsome young fellow; in fact, I never saw a
handsomer man in my life. What eyebrows! And his face, too, so pale and
refined, a hand like velvet, a beautiful mouth, and a commanding figure.
I cannot get him out of my head. I asked him why he did not make haste
about it if his intentions with regard to you were so serious. He said
he was only waiting for the death of his uncle, who was greatly against
the marriage. 'That's all very well, sir,' I replied, 'but you cannot
expect the girl to wait till your uncle dies; she herself would be
getting old by then. It is not a fair thing to expect any girl to do.'
Then he said he would swear fidelity to you in the mean time. 'Alas,
sir!' I said, 'it is hard to believe in that; one cannot trust the men
nowadays. You would only make the girl unhappy, and the marriage would
remain an eternal secret.' Thereupon he said that if I did not believe
his word of honour and his oath, he was ready to deposit with me sixty
thousand florins, ready money, and if ever he should be such a scoundrel
as to fall short of his word and desert you, he would forfeit the money.
Now, sixty thousand florins is a great sum of money. Nobody would be
such a fool as to lightly chuck it away. A man would think twice about
breaking his word when all that was at stake, especially when he had
given his word to such a wondrously lovely girl as my Fanny."

"Good night; I want to go to sleep," stammered Fanny, sinking back again
between her pillows; and for a long time afterwards she tossed about in
her bed, whilst hatred, horror, and disgust struggled together in her
soul. Only the late dawn brought rest at last to her weary eyelids.

The sun was already shining through the window-panes when Fanny awoke.
Mrs. Meyer must have got up and gone out much earlier, for there was no
sign of her. Her good humour returned, therefore, and she arose and
dressed hastily, scarcely allowing herself time to arrange her hair in
the simplest manner possible.

Breakfast was already awaiting her. Mrs. Meyer meanwhile was in the
kitchen outside making the coffee and the toast. She would not hear of
the servants helping her; such a sweet pretty daughter deserved that her
mother should take a little trouble on her account.

Fanny and her mother were alone over their coffee. Fanny had wished her
mother good morning and kissed her hand, whereupon Mrs. Meyer gave her
back tit for tat by kissing her hand also.

"Oh, what a pretty hand, what an elegant hand! Oh, my darling, my only
girl! Ah, how blessed I am in living so near to you! Permit me to give
you your coffee. I know exactly how you like it, don't I?--a little
sugar and lots of milk, that's it, isn't it? I have forgotten nothing,
you see."

The woman was quite loquacious. Whenever Teresa was present she hardly
ventured to address the girl at all. Teresa's cold, perpetually watchful
eyes, always had a disquieting effect upon her; now she was freed from
that restraint.

Fanny primly sipped her coffee, looking from time to time at her mother,
who never once ceased praising her beauty and goodness, and would have
compelled her to eat up every bit of breakfast if she could have had her
way.

"Mamma," said the girl, taking her mother's hand (she was no longer
afraid of her), "what was the name of that gentleman who was making
inquiries about me?"

Mrs. Meyer's eyes began to sparkle villainously. Ah ha! the timid
creature was approaching the snare!

If, however, she had regarded her daughter's face a little more
attentively, she would have noticed that in putting the question she did
not even blush, but remained cold and pale.

Looking round very mysteriously to make sure that nobody was within
hearing distance, she drew her daughter's head down towards her, and
whispered in her ear--

"Abellino Kárpáthy."

"Oh, 'tis he, then!" exclaimed Fanny, with a peculiar, a very peculiar
smile.

"Then you know him?"

"I have seen him once, a long way off."

"Oh, what a handsome, refined, pleasant man he is! Never in my life have
I seen such a figure of a man!"

Fanny began brushing the crumbs off the table-cloth and playing with the
coffee-spoon.

"Yes, mother; sixty thousand florins is a lot of money, isn't it?"

Ah, the hunted creature is already in the snare! Quick, quick!

"Yes, my darling, a lot of money indeed; the legal rate of interest upon
it is three thousand six hundred florins. A poor man would have to put
his nose to the grindstone for a long, long time before he could earn
that."

"Tell me, mamma, was papa's income as much as that?"

"Alas! no, my daughter. It was much for him when it came to nine hundred
florins, and that is only the fourth part of this. Fancy, four times
nine hundred florins!"

"Now say, mamma, has Abellino really said that he would marry me?"

"He said he would give a solemn assurance to that effect any moment you
like."

Fanny appeared to be considering. "Well, if he deceives me, so much the
worse for him, the sixty thousand florins will be ours in any case."

"Ah, what a prudent girl it is! She is not a feather-brain like her
sisters. She will not make a fool of her old mother. She is, indeed, my
own true girl!" thought Mrs. Meyer to herself, and she rubbed her hands
for joy.

Now the iron is hot, now is the time to strike!

"Ah, my daughter, romance is, no doubt, a very fine thing, but it will
soon bring you to starvation if you have nothing else to depend upon.
Those poetic gentlemen love to scribble about ideals and such like
rubbish, yet they themselves are always looking out for the trees on
which money grows. Why, the whole world runs after money, nothing but
money, and he who has money has honour into the bargain. A beggar may be
as honourable as you like, but nobody takes any notice of him. You are
young now, and handsome, and can get something on the strength of it;
but how long will your beauty last? In ten years' time it will be gone.
Nay, more, your loveliness may not even last so long as ten years if you
continue to live as you are living now, for those damsels who stint
themselves of the joys of life, wither the quickest----"

"Hush! Mr. Boltay is coming."

The old man entered, wished them good morning, and inquired if they
wanted anything brought from town, as the horses were already being put
to, and he would be off at once.

"Mamma wants to go away," said Fanny, with the utmost composure; "would
you be so good, daddy, as to take her along with you?"

Mrs. Meyer stared with all her eyes, and all her mouth too; she had
never said that she wanted to go away.

"Very happy!" replied Boltay. "Where does she want to go?"

"She wants to go home to her daughters (Mrs. Meyer looked frightened).
There are some embroideries of mine there which I do not want my sisters
to throw away or sell in the rag-market; bring them back to me."

(Ah, what a sage damsel! what a golden-minded damsel!)

"I am thinking especially of a sofa that is there. Mamma knows which it
is, for I embroidered the cover; it has two doves worked upon it. I
would not let my sisters have that on any account; do you understand?"

Why, of course she understood! This was the girl's way of showing that
she accepted the offer of the gentleman who was so fond of sitting on
the sofa, and how delicately she conveyed her consent--that blockhead of
a Boltay did not suspect anything. Oh, a sage damsel! a golden-minded
damsel!

Boltay went out for a moment to tell the coachman to prepare a seat for
a lady, and taking advantage of this moment, Mrs. Meyer whispered in her
daughter's ear--

"When may I come back for you?"

"The day after to-morrow."

"And what answer shall I give?"

"The day after to-morrow," repeated Fanny.

Here Boltay popped in again.

"Wait a moment, my dear uncle," said Fanny; "I want to write a few lines
to Aunt Teresa, which you can take with you."

"All right, though it is a pity to ink your fingers, I think, for I can
give her the message all the same, if you tell me what it is."

"Very well, daddy, tell aunty to bring me a ball of _cashmir harras_, a
yard of _pur de laine_, or _poil-de-chevre_----"

Boltay was frightened at all those foreign words.

"It will be better, after all, if you write it down," said he; "I can
never learn all that."

Fanny, smiling all the time, produced her writing materials and wrote a
short letter, which she folded up, sealed, and gave to Boltay.

Mrs. Meyer cast a significant glance at the girl out of the corner of
her eye, allowed herself to be lifted up into the cart; the whip
cracked, and off they went.

Fanny remained looking after them for some time, and then with a cold,
contemptuous expression, returned to her room, watered her flowers, fed
her birds, and sang herself back into a good humour again.

On reaching town, Boltay dismounted at the first shop (he pretended he
had some indispensable purchase to make), and bade the coachman take
Mrs. Meyer to where she wanted to go. He would find his way to his house
on foot, he said.

Not very long afterwards Mrs. Meyer found herself once more in the
circle of her well-beloved. Abellino had just looked in, and the girls
were wild to know how their mother had fared.

It took Mrs. Meyer a good couple of hours to tell them all about her
happy adventure: how she had struggled, how much eloquence she had
expended till she had compelled the girl to surrender. For the girl was
frightfully modest, she said, and she had to make her believe that the
gentleman really meant to make her his wife, and had said so all along.

Abellino, in his joy, could scarce restrain himself from embracing the
duenna at intervals, during the course of her entertaining narrative,
especially when she told him what a splendid picture she had drawn of
him to Fanny.

Well, let us leave them all making merry together, and accompany Boltay
homewards also. Teresa was already awaiting him in the doorway, for the
coachman had arrived first, and told her he was coming. His first care
was to give her the letter.

"I have brought you a letter," said he, "but its contents are Greek to
me. Why, I couldn't even pronounce the lingo!"

Teresa broke open the letter, read it through, and looked at Boltay.
Then she read it through again. She read it through a third time, and
again she looked at Boltay.

"It is Greek, indeed," said she. "I don't understand it. You have a look
at it."

And she handed the letter to Boltay.

"Hum!" growled the old gentleman, fancying that the letter was full of
stupid foreign terms, and, to his amazement, he read these words--

     "MY DEAR AUNT,

     "I know everything. Don't let that woman, whom I cannot call mother
     without a feeling of horror, come to our house again. Send word to
     Mr. John Kárpáthy, and tell him to come to me at once. I have
     something very serious to say to him, which admits of no delay.
     Send immediately.

     "Your affectionate kinswoman,

     "FANNY."

What was the meaning of it? What had happened? When had there been time
for anything to happen? They had had their coffee so nicely and quietly
together, whispering so confidentially all the time, and kissed each
other's hands at parting. Mr. Boltay did not understand it at all.

But Teresa began to understand.

So they had to send at once to John Kárpáthy. Who was to go? Boltay
resolved to go himself. He had good legs, and would be there in a
moment. So he went and gave the message to old Palko, who communicated
it to his master forthwith. The bridegroom understood it in a moment,
and lost no time in getting into his carriage and setting out. Boltay
and Teresa sat beside him in the carriage. Nobody saw them through the
closed windows, and five fiery steeds carried them along the king's
high-road at a gallop, taking but a couple of hours to accomplish the
journey, whereas Master Boltay at his more leisurely pace would have
taken four at least.

Fanny herself received her distinguished guest with a face even paler
than usual; but this pallor rather became her. Squire John was beside
himself for rapture. He would not give his fair bride time to approach
him, but, putting his hand solemnly upon his breast, addressed her in
language very unusual for him--

"My dear young lady, so help me God, the one object of my life will be
how to make you happy!"

"And I, sir," said Fanny, in a calm and resolute voice, "shall consider
it my highest duty to do honour to your name. And now I would ask you
all three, my friends, to grant me a few hours' private interview where
we shall not be disturbed."

These words were spoken in such a calm and resolute voice that they felt
bound to obey, and all four withdrew into the innermost chamber, locking
the door behind them.

A few hours later the door was reopened, and they all four appeared
again.

But how every face had changed!

Fanny's face was no longer pale, but as red as the dawn, serene, and
open as a half-blown rose.

Master Boltay was twisting his moustache as if he meditated something
terrible; but for an occasional chuckle, one would have said that he
was very angry indeed.

Even honest Teresa's eyes sparkled, but the sparks of triumphant revenge
were in them after all.

And then the bridegroom, Squire John! Where was he, and what had become
of the old Nabob? Could any one have recognized him? Was this merry,
sprightly, leaping, smiling, triumphant creature the same man? Why, he
had grown twenty years younger at the very least! It was a changeling,
surely!

"To-morrow, then, in the afternoon," said he, with a voice that trembled
for joy.

"Yes, to-morrow," replied Fanny. Their eyes flashed with a strange fire
as they looked at each other.

Thereupon Squire John rushed to his carriage, opened the door himself,
without waiting for Palko to let down the steps, and, turning round,
shouted once more, "To-morrow afternoon!"

"Hush, hush!" said Fanny, putting her index-finger to her pretty little
lips.

"Drive into Pressburg!" cried Squire John with impatient celerity, while
Palko clambered up on to the box from whence he phlegmatically looked
down upon his master.

"What are you staring at, sirrah? Drive on, I say."

"We have left something behind here," said the old servant.

"What have we left behind, eh?"

"Twenty years of your age, my honoured young sir," replied Palko,
without the suspicion of a smile.

Squire John laughed good-naturedly at the comic rejoinder, and a few
moments later a cloud of dust far away on the high-road was all that was
to be seen of the carriage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early next morning a servant arrived at Boltay's country house by the
market cart, with the embroidered sofa which Mrs. Meyer sent to Fanny.
The servant whispered secretly that a letter had been thrust into the
bottom of the sofa; and so it was.

Fanny searched for the letter till she found it. It was in her mother's
handwriting. The rich gentleman was delighted, it said, so delighted in
fact, that he had arranged to give a grand party in Fanny's honour at
Mr. Kecskerey's rooms; and a beautiful invitation card was enclosed,
addressed to--"Mademoiselle Fanny de Meyer avec famille."

Quite a family party, you see!

Fanny sent back the servant with the message that she accepted the
invitation to supper, and sent her best greetings to Mr. Kecskerey.

But who was this Mr. Kecskerey you will ask? Well, he was a worthy
gentleman who was wont to play no inconsiderable part in the refined
society of the day, and supplied one of the most crying necessities of
the age. Every one knew him, everybody, that is, who prided himself upon
being somebody, whether he was a great nobleman or a great artist. His
rooms, his suppers, his breakfasts were the usual rallying points of the
whole world of fashion.

Eminent damsels, whose enthusiasm for art constrained them to come to
closer quarters than usual with this or that famous artist;
liberal-minded amazons, who extended their tender relations beyond the
chains of Hymen; lively dames, who loved to see around them
good-humoured, free-and-easy folks, instead of the usual dull and
dignified drawing-room loungers; foreign millionaires, who desired to be
regaled with an exhibition of beauty and enjoyment; _blasé_ souls, who
infected others with the contagion of their own disgust; crazy poets,
who needed but a nod to immediately rise to their feet and declaim
their own verses; two or three newspaper correspondents, who describe in
their journals everything that they hear, see, eat, and drink at Mr.
Kecskerey's suppers, and many others of a like kidney, were the sort of
guests who frequented these saloons of an evening, generally twice a
week.

It must not be supposed for a moment, however, that there was ever the
slightest breach of good manners at Mr. Kecskerey's social evenings. Any
one supposing the contrary would be making the greatest mistake in the
world. The most rigorous propriety was the order of the day, or rather
of the evening. First of all, the artists and _artistes_ recited, sang,
and played the piano, and then those who chose might dance a few modest
quadrilles and waltzes together. Then every one went to supper in the
most perfect order, the ladies sitting down and the gentlemen standing
while they ate and drank. Sometimes a few glasses of champagne were
drained to toast the ladies who were present, or, perhaps, some of the
celebrities of the day. Then, after a little brief but lively
conversation, a few more quadrilles and waltzes would be danced, and at
eleven o'clock the ladies would rise and retire, and only a few
dandies--the younger and the older men as a rule--would remain behind
for a glass or two, or a hand at cards.

From this every one can easily see that at these evening entertainments
there was not the slightest thing that could be considered an offence
against good manners or good morals. Oh no! Mr. Kecskerey would never
have allowed such a thing; he was too proud of his renown for that. He
was no minister of love, not he! He only gave people the opportunity of
meeting together if they liked, and that is entirely a personal matter,
of course.

An especially grand assembly was to be held at Mr. Kecskerey's on the
day fixed for Fanny's appearance by Abellino and his friends. They
naturally sent out all the invitations, as the money for the
entertainment came out of their pockets, and all the elegant world of
their acquaintance was to do honour to the occasion.

On the morning of the critical day Mrs. Meyer, dressed in the self-same
garments which Master Boltay had got for her, took her seat in a
hackney-coach, and drove out of town. All the way along she was
concocting the further details of the great affair. Leaving the coach
standing on the outskirts of the wood, she would make her way on foot to
Boltay's dwelling, and there she would say that she had brought the
things from town. Fanny would then go out for a walk with her under the
pretext of looking at the crops, and on reaching the coach they would
step in, shut the door, and off they would set at full tilt without
asking leave of anybody.

Maturing thus her amiable designs, she safely reached the meadows near
Boltay's dwelling. Providence was so far merciful to her that she did
not break an arm or a leg on the way. On reaching her journey's end,
however, a very cruel surprise awaited her, for in reply to her
inquiries about Fanny, the servants informed her that the young lady had
driven into Pressburg early that very morning.

She was amazed, and not without reason.

"I suppose the old people took her to town?" said she.

"No; they went away at daybreak. The young lady had departed only a
couple of hours ago in a hired carriage."

Alas, alas! What was the girl thinking about? Perhaps she only wanted to
steal a march upon her mother, and look after the lucrative business
herself unaided? Perhaps some one had explained to her that it was best
altogether to dispense with the services of go-betweens in such
affairs? Well, it would be a pretty thing indeed if she had wiped her
mother out of the reckoning altogether!

Away! Back to the coach! Back to Pressburg in hot haste, if the horses
died for it. But where could the girl be? What if she had gone quietly
off with Abellino in the meantime; or, still worse, with some one else,
and did not turn up at all? Oh, what bitter grief and anguish a mother's
heart has to contend with!

Meanwhile, all the guests were assembled in Mr. Kecskerey's saloons. One
after another bevies of charming women alighted at the entrance with
delicate coquetry, permitting the eye-glassed cavaliers to catch
glimpses of their tiny beribboned feet as they dismounted from their
equipages. In the hall, liveried footmen distributed tickets for shawls
and slippers. The master of the house, the honourable Mr. Kecskerey,
with dignified condescension, received the arrivals in the doorway.
Everybody knows that Kecskerey's money does not pay for the evening's
entertainment, and he himself knows that they know it. And yet, for all
that, they bow and scrape to one another as politely as if he were a
real host and they were real guests. Mr. Kecskerey's shrill nasal voice
resounded above all the din and bustle.

"I am so delighted that you have not rejected my modest invitation. Your
excellency has, indeed, honoured my poor house by your presence.
Mesdames, so kind of you not to forget the most sincere of your
servants. Sir, it is really too good of you to neglect your important
studies on my account! Countess, your siren song is generally
acknowledged to be the gem of the evening, etc."

The amiable host laid himself out to make the diversion of his guests as
free and unconstrained as possible. Those who did not know and wished to
know each other were immediately introduced, though it is possible that
they had known each other of old, without his or any one else's
intervention. He gave the poets printed sheets, in which they could read
their own works. He made the musicians sit down before the piano, and
placed behind their backs some one to praise them, and he possessed the
art of saying something obliging, something interesting, to every one;
he scattered freshly done-up gossip and piquant anecdotes amongst the
thronging crowds, he knew how to make tea better than any one else, and
his eye was upon everybody, so that nobody felt neglected. A model host,
indeed!

At last Abellino arrived. It was not in his power to be punctual. An
elderly foreign gentleman was leaning on his arm, and he led him
straight up to the host, and introduced him.

"Friend Kecskerey--Monsieur Griffard, the banker."

Fresh bowings and scrapings and shaking of hands.

"Pardon me, honoured host, for my indecent haste in introducing among
the _élite_ of your distinguished guests as if he were a bosom friend,
such a cosmopolitan celebrity, who, only this very hour, has
unexpectedly arrived here from Paris."

Oh, as for that, Mr. Kecskerey, so far from granting his pardon,
expressed himself obliged and gratified a thousand times over at having
been afforded the felicity of an introduction to such a distinguished
personage. And all this took place with as much solemnity as if Abellino
was not in reality the host of the evening, and as if everybody did not
know it!

As a matter of fact, the worthy banker had come all the way from Paris
(and there was no railway communication between the two places then,
remember) on purpose to convince himself with his own eyes, whether the
old Nabob, on whose skin he had staked such a pile of money, was really
going to die or not?

Mr. Kecskerey lavished his most delicate attentions upon the eminent
stranger, conducting him into the society of the most charming women,
his principal object therein being to relieve Abellino of this incubus.
As for Abellino, he withdrew, meanwhile, with a few young bucks of his
own age, into the card-room, where he was likely to pass the time most
agreeably until the arrival of Fanny.

A good many people were already seated round the green table, amongst
them being Abellino's rival, Fennimore, at the sight of whom Abellino
burst into a noisy impertinent laugh.

"Ah, Fennimore!" cried he. "You certainly ought to have mighty good luck
at cards to-day, for, so far as love is concerned, everything is going
against you. Diable! you will have to win a jolly lot, for you've lost a
thousand ducats to me already. You laid a wager that I would not win the
girl, eh? You shall see presently. And perhaps you all fancy that the
expenses of this evening will come out of my pocket? You are very much
mistaken, I can tell you. It is Fennimore who will have to pay. Here,
give me an inch of room at the table, and I'll try my luck."

Fennimore said not a word; he was keeping the bank just then. A few
moments later the bank was broken. Abellino won heaps and heaps.

"Ah, ah, my friend! the proverb 'Luckless at cards, lucky at love,' does
not seem to apply to you. Poor Fennimore, God help thee!"

Fennimore arose; he would play no more. He was livid with rage. He had
lost his wager (he had bet Abellino a thousand ducats that he would
never seduce Fanny)--he had lost his money, and he had to bear, besides,
the stinging sarcasms of his triumphant rival. His heart was full of
gall and venom. More than once he was on the point of making a vigorous
demonstration with a heavy candlestick; but he thought better of it, and
at last got up and quitted the room.

Abellino went on playing and winning, and in his teasing, tormenting way
stung those who lost to the very quick. He was stupefied by the day's
good luck. He could not restrain his laughter.

"Well," cried he at last, sweeping into his pocket the banknotes piled
up before him, "Fennimore's twofold ill luck has given the lie to the
proverb. I am going to contradict it with my twofold good fortune."

In the very next room he came face to face with a lackey who had long
been looking for him. Mrs. Meyer was waiting for him, the man said; she
was in the ante-chamber, but could not come in, for she had only just
returned from a journey, and had not had time to change her dress.

Ugh! that was not a good sign. Abellino immediately hastened out to have
a word with her. She said that she had not come across the girl, but she
was sure to come, as otherwise she would not have accepted the
invitation.

Abellino received the pleasant tidings very angrily, and left Mrs. Meyer
alone in the antechamber. Diable! if they should make a fool of him,
after all!

There, however, he could not afford to display his anger; no, there he
had to carry it off with a joyous, triumphant, provocative face to the
very end. He would rather lose all his money than be left in the lurch
by the girl now.

Presently he went out again to ask Mrs. Meyer whether she had not told
the girl that he meant to make her his wife.

Oh yes; and the girl seemed greatly delighted at the idea.

And again he cheered up a bit, and returned to the assembly room, and
did his best to amuse Monsieur Griffard.

They were handing round the tea, and the Countess X---- had just begun
to sing the "Casta Diva," when Abellino's lackey sidled up to his master
and whispered in his ear--

"I have just seen Miss Fanny Meyer descending from a carriage."

Abellino pressed into the servant's hand as many ducats as he happened
to have about him, pulled himself together, and got up and looked at
himself in a mirror. He was elegant and genteel, at any rate, that
everybody would be bound to allow. His whole get-up was
unexceptionable--his chin was clean-shaven, his moustache and whiskers
were downright picturesque, his cravat was ravishing, and his vest
magnificent.

And now the flunkey whose duty it was to announce the arrivals, entered
the room (Abellino caught sight of him in the mirror), and announced in
his ceremonious _salon_ voice, "Madame Fanny de Kárpáthy, _née_ de
Meyer!"

"The deuce!" thought Abellino; "the wench is making pretty free with my
name. Can she be taking me seriously? Well, she may do so if she likes.
It doesn't matter much."

"Ah, a wedding!" exclaimed Mons. Griffard. "Then you are marrying, eh?"

"Oh, it is only a left-handed marriage," said Abellino, jocosely.

Some of the guests, full of curiosity, pressed forward to meet the new
arrivals. The host, I mean Mr. Kecskerey, went towards the entrance; the
lackey threw open the folding-doors, and a young lady entered,
accompanied by a gentleman. For a moment the whole company was dumb with
amazement. Was it the sight of the young lady that amazed them so? She
was beautiful, certainly. A simple but costly lace mantle floated,
wave-like, round her superb figure; the rich tresses of her hair were
covered by a slight veil of Brussels lace, which allowed her long curls
_à l'Anglaise_ to sweep down on both sides over her marble-smooth
shoulders and ravishingly beautiful bosom. And then that face, that
complexion like a faintly blushing rose, that look worthy of a goddess,
those burning black eyes so full of vivacity and passion, and
contrasting so strangely with the childlike lips suggestive of sleeping
innocence, but harmonizing on the other hand with the dimples on her
rosy chin and cheeks, set there surely for the undoing of any human soul
who saw a smile upon them!

And there was a smile upon them now, as Mr. Kecskerey came forward
without exactly knowing what to say.

Fanny greeted him.

"I was very pleased to accept your honoured invitation," said she, "and
I have brought my family with me also, as you see. I mean, of course, my
husband, Mr. John Kárpáthy;" and she indicated the gentleman by her
side.

Mr. Kecskerey could only say that his delight was infinite, but all the
time his eyes were anxiously searching for Abellino in the most evident
embarrassment.

As for Abellino, he remained standing before the mirror and looking just
like Lot's wife at the moment when she was turned into a pillar of salt.

But meantime John Kárpáthy, the good-humoured, merry, radiant Squire
John, pressed the hand of the master of the house as if he were an old
acquaintance, at the same time keeping his wife's little hand safely
tucked under his arm.

"Congratulate me, my worthy friend," said he. "I have won to-day a
treasure, a heavenly treasure. I am blessed indeed. I have no need of
any other paradise, for this world is now a paradise to me."

And laughing aloud, and with a beaming countenance, he mingled with the
company, presenting his wife to the most distinguished persons present,
who overwhelmed him with congratulations.

And Abellino was obliged to look on all the time!

To think that this girl, whom he had pursued so ostentatiously with his
love, should have become his uncle's wife, and consequently, henceforth
and for evermore, inaccessible to himself!

Why, if she had been carried up to the heights of heaven or down to the
depths of hell; if she had been fenced about in a rock-girt fortress, or
if wrathful archangels had guarded her with flaming swords, she would
not have been so completely shielded from him as by that talismanic
name--"Madame John Kárpáthy!"

It was impossible for him to have any relations whatever with Madame
John Kárpáthy!

Every eye that had sated itself with gazing on the beautiful young
bride, strayed back to him, and every look fixed upon him was full of
scorn and ridicule. The dandy, who was celebrating his uncle's wedding!
The outwitted suitor, whose adored one gave her hand--not to him, but to
his uncle!

It almost did Abellino good to see some one in the company who seemed to
be as hard hit as himself--namely, Monsieur Griffard, and true, even
now, to his malicious nature, he turned towards the banker and inquired
mockingly--

"Qu'en dites vous, M. Griffard?"

"C'est bien fatal!"

"Mon cher Abellino!" said Fennimore, who chanced to be standing by him,
and never had his thin drawling voice seemed so offensive, "it looks
very much as if you owed me a thousand ducats. Ha, ha, ha!"

Abellino turned furiously upon him, but at that instant his eyes met
those of Squire John, who had just then reached the place where he was
standing, with his wife under his arm, and introduced them to each other
with the most benevolent smile in the world.

"My dear wife, this is my dear little brother Bélá Kárpáthy. My dear
little brother, I recommend my dear wife to your kinsmanlike regard!"

Ah, this was the moment which he had so joyfully anticipated; this was
the exquisite vengeance, the thought of which had grown up in the heart
of the persecuted girl, and made the eyes of the gentle creature sparkle
so brightly.

The hunter had fallen into the snare--the snare that he himself had
laid. He had been hoodwinked, rejected, worsted utterly.

Abellino bowed stiffly, biting his lips hard all the time; he was as
white as the wall.

Then Squire John passed on and had himself specially introduced to
Monsieur Griffard, who expressed his intense gratification at finding
the Nabob in the possession of such excellent health.

But Abellino, the moment they had passed by, stuck his thumbs into the
corners of his vest, and humming a tune, and holding his head high, as
if he were in the best of humours, strolled from one end of the large
assembly room to the other, feigning ignorance of the fact that the
whispering and tittering that resounded on every side was so much scorn
and ridicule directed against him.

He hastened to the card-room.

As he passed through the door he heard how everybody there was laughing
and sniggering. Fennimore's shrill voice resounded through the din. The
moment they saw him the peals of laughter broke off suddenly, all signs
of hilarity disappeared, everybody tried to put on a solemn and
expectant look. Could anything in the world be more aggravating?

Abellino dragged a chair to the table and sat down among them. Why did
they not go on laughing; why did they not continue their conversation?
Why did Fennimore make such efforts to put on a solemn face, when his
mouth was regularly twitching?

The cards were dealt.

It was now Abellino's turn to keep the bank.

He began to lose.

Fennimore was sitting at the other end of the table, and he won
continually; he doubled, trebled, quadrupled his stakes; he doubled them
again, and still he won. Abellino began to lose his _sang-froid_ and get
flurried. He did not keep a proper watch on the stakes, and often swept
in the stakes of the winners and paid the losers. His mind was
elsewhere.

And now Fennimore again won four times as much as he had staked.

He could not restrain a laugh of triumph.

"Ha! ha! Monsieur de Kárpáthy, the proverb ill applies to you also: you
are unlucky at cards, and unlucky in love as well. Poor Abellino! Heaven
help you! You owe me a thousand ducats."

"I?" asked Abellino, irritably.

"Yes, you. Did you not bet me that you would seduce Fanny? And how
splendidly it has turned out! Abellino flies from the embraces of his
uncle's wife like a new Joseph fleeing from a new Madame Potiphar! You
had much better take care lest the lady takes a fancy to some other nice
young man. Ah, ah, ah! Abellino as the protector of virtue! Abellino as
a garde des dames! Why, it's sublime! You might make a capital farce out
of it."

Every word was as venom to his ears, every word cut him to the quick,
cut him to the very marrow. Abellino turned pale and shivered with rage.
What Fennimore said was true. He must needs tremble now at the thought
that this woman would find some one to love. Damnation! Damnation!

And still he kept on losing.

He scarce noticed now what he dealt. Fennimore again won four times the
amount of his stakes. Abellino only paid him double.

"Oh, my friend, you have made a mistake! I laid as much again."

"I did not observe it."

"Why, this is pure filibustery!" cried Fennimore, with insolent
indignation.

At this insulting word, Abellino instantly sprang to his feet, and flung
the whole pack of cards right between Fennimore's eyes.

Fennimore's naturally pale face grew blue and green, and, seizing the
chair on which he had been sitting, he made a rush at Abellino; but the
company intervened, and dragged Fennimore back.

"Let me go--let me go! Give me a knife!" he roared, with foaming lips;
while Abellino, breathing hard, regarded him with bloodshot eyes. Only
with the greatest difficulty were they prevented from tearing each other
to pieces.

At this unseemly disturbance, Mr. Kecskerey rushed in with a very
alarmed expression of face, forced his way through the ranks of the
wranglers, and, assuming his most imposing manner, exclaimed with a
voice that rang out like a clarion, "Respect the sanctity of my house!"

This intervention brought the combatants to their senses. They began to
recognize that this was not the place for adjusting affairs of honour.
The appeal to the sanctity of Mr. Kecskerey's house also did something
to restore the good-humour of the majority. Fennimore and Abellino were
therefore advised by their friends to go home, and settle their little
matter the next morning. They departed accordingly, and the company was
disturbed no more. A few minutes afterwards every one knew that
Fennimore and Abellino had quarrelled at cards, but every one pretended
that he knew nothing at all about it.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the quarrel in the card-room of Mr. Kecskerey's establishment had
serious consequences for both the principal disputants. There could be
no thought of a reconciliation after such a deliberate and public
affront as that inflicted upon Fennimore by Abellino; so they sent their
seconds to each other, and it was arranged that they should fight the
matter out in the large room of The Green Tree tavern. They met
accordingly, and a stubborn contest ensued, marked on both sides by an
altogether unprecedented display of vindictive temper. Finally,
Fennimore, after treacherously wounding Abellino in the back during a
suspension of hostilities, and again on the shoulder when the fight was
resumed, was himself transfixed by his adversary's sword, and died
without uttering a sigh or groan, or moving a muscle of his face. As for
Abellino, he was confined to his bed for a whole month, and when he had
partially recovered, he received a hint from his well-wishers to the
effect that, until the affair had blown over a little, it would be as
well if he took the air somewhere abroad; and that, too, not in any
civilized kingdom, for there they would not be very long in nabbing a
man like him who had so many creditors and loved to make a stir, but in
some nice Oriental empire where he would be out of harm's way. So it
ended in his setting off for Palestine, to visit the Holy Sepulchre,
where, said the wags, he was going to do penance for his sins. Thither
we need not follow him.

But Squire John Kárpáthy, the happy, the more than happy Nabob, set off
with his fair consort for Kárpátfalva, there to spend their honeymoon.



CHAPTER X.

POOR LADY!


Poor lady!

The poor lady I mean is Madame Kárpáthy. She had got a husband, and
along with him enormous wealth and a monstrously grand name, both rather
burdens than blessings as a rule.

The day does not dawn twice for the richest man, and all the treasures
in the world cannot give their possessor peace, joy, love, contentment,
and a good conscience.

And then that illustrious name; what was it after all?

The whole world knew who had inherited that name--an old gentleman with
the reputation of a fool, who, to spite his nephew, had married a girl
belonging to a family of ill-repute. The old gentleman was either very
magnanimous or very foolish. The girl must necessarily be frivolous and
forward. Every one was ready to believe the worst of her beforehand.

Poor lady!

Fanny naturally felt miserable and lonely. There was nobody about her,
no friend of her own age and sex in whom she could confide, and she knew
not where to look for such a treasure. And yet one day she found a
confidant where she least expected it. Her husband had resolved to have
a house-warming in her honour, and had had a list made of the intended
guests which he sent to her for her approval, by the hands of old Mr.
Varga, the steward. This particular piece of attention showed, moreover,
how polite and condescending Kárpáthy was towards his wife.

Mr. Varga took the list, and, as was his wont on his passage through the
house, continued knocking at every door he came to till he was told to
come in. On perceiving his mistress, he stood on the threshold in an
attitude of the deepest respect, and would very much have liked to have
had there and then an arm long enough to have reached from the door to
the sofa.

Fanny was strangely attracted towards the old man. There are some
persons whom Fortune endows with a cast of countenance which allows you
to read right through their features into their pure and honest souls,
so that you feel confidence in them at the very first glance. Fanny did
not wait for Mr. Varga to come nearer to her, but arose and went to meet
him, took his hand, and, despite the old man's strenuous efforts to bow
low at every step he took, drew him forward, made him sit down in an
armchair, and, in order that he might not get up again, threw her arms
round him in childish fashion, which plunged the old fellow into the
most unutterable confusion. Naturally, the moment Fanny let him go, and
sat down herself, up he sprang again.

"Nay, my dear Mr. Varga, do sit down, or else I must stand up."

"I am not worthy of such an honour," stammered the old steward, very
circumspectly letting himself down into the chair again, as if he were
about to beg pardon for being so bold as to sit in it at all, and
bending forward so that he might not lean upon it too heavily.

"What have you brought me, my dear, good Mr. Varga?" asked Fanny, with a
smile. "If you have brought nothing but yourself, I should be all the
better pleased. Now you can see how pleased I am to see you."

Varga murmured something to the effect that he did not know what he had
done to deserve so much favour, and hastened to hand her the document,
at the same time delivering Squire John's message; then he prepared to
take his leave. But Fanny anticipated him.

"Pray remain," said she. "I have a few questions to put to you."

This was a command, so he felt bound to sit down again. He had never
felt so bad before any other examination. What could her ladyship have
to ask him? He devoutly wished that some other person was sitting there
in his stead.

Fanny took the list and ran her eye down it, and as she did so, her
heart sank within her. There were so many strange names, and all she
knew about them was that they were all the names of great and
illustrious men in high positions, and unexceptionable women. She had
not a single acquaintance among all these women, and had no idea which
of them she would find attractive, or which of them she might have cause
to fear. How was she to comport herself in the society of all these high
and haughty dames? If she put on a bold and confident air, they would
snub her; if she humbled herself before them, they would ridicule her.
They would not credit her with any good qualities. Her very beauty would
make them suspicious of her; a hidden meaning, a secret insinuation,
would lurk behind all the friendly words they addressed to her. Woe to
her if she did not realize this, and woe to her also if she realized it
and did not keep her feelings to herself! Woe to her if she did not give
back as good as she got, and woe to her if she did! Poor lady!

So she ran her eyes down the long list of names before her from end to
end.

How she longed to find among them some good-natured, generous,
tender-hearted woman whom she might look upon as a dear mother--not
another Mrs. Meyer, but a dear ideal mother such as all good people
imagine every mother to be! how she longed, too, to find among them many
a gentle girl, many a young sympathetic damsel whom she might love like
sisters--though not such sisters as hers! But how was she to recognize;
how was she to approach them? how was she to win their hearts, their
confidence?

Again and again she read through the list of names aloud, as if she
would have discovered from the _sound_ of the names the disposition of
their bearers; then she laid it down before her with a sigh, and turned
an inquiring look upon the steward.

"My dear Mr. Varga, pardon me if I trouble you with a question."

Mr. Varga hastened to assure her that he was her most humble servant,
and only awaited her commands.

"But this question is very, very important."

Mr. Varga assured her that he was ready for anything in the world; even
if her ladyship should require him to leap through the window, he was
prepared to do so.

"I am going to ask you a question, to which I require a perfectly
sincere answer. You must be perfectly frank towards me. Fancy yourself
for the moment my dear father, about to give to me, your daughter, good
counsel on the eve of my entering into the world."

She said these words with so much feeling, and in a voice that seemed to
come so directly from the bottom of her heart, that Mr. Varga, for the
life of him, could not help drawing from the inside pocket of his
dolman a checkered cotton pocket-handkerchief, with which he dried his
eyes.

"What is it your ladyship deigns to command?" he inquired, in a voice
that sounded as if every syllable he uttered were shod with as tight
jackboots as the ones he was himself wearing.

"I want you to be so good as to go through all the names written on this
list, one by one, and tell me quite frankly, quite openly, what your
opinion is of each one of them, what their dispositions are, how the
world regards them, which of them are likely to love one, and which are
likely to give one the cold shoulder."

In all his life Mr. Varga had never had to face so rigorous an ordeal.

If Lady Kárpáthy had charged him to call out five or six of the persons
who were down on the list, or take a message to each one of them
individually and to go on foot, or to work out the genealogy of every
one of them in the shortest conceivable space of time, he would have
considered all such commissions as mere trifles compared with what was
required of him now. What! he, the humblest of retainers in his own
estimation, who regarded with such boundless respect every member of the
higher circles that he would have considered himself the most miserable
of men had he failed, in addressing them, to give them every tittle of
their proper titles and designations--he, forsooth, was now to sit in
judgment on these great gentlemen and ladies who did him too much honour
in allowing him to address them at all?

In his despair Mr. Varga scoured the floor with his heel, and his
forehead with the checkered handkerchief.

Fanny, perceiving the confusion of the good old man, turned towards him
with a look of tender encouragement.

"My dear friend, look upon yourself as my father, as the one person whom
I can ask for advice in this new and strange world, of which I know
absolutely nothing. _I_ cannot help looking upon you as my father. Why
are you so good and kind to me?"

The good old man felt his heart fortified by the genuine and touching
sincerity of these words, and, after coughing once more with uncommon
vigour and resolution, by way of a parting adieu to the temptations of
cowardice, and thereby steeling his mind the more, thus replied--

"My lady, you honour me far above my merits by your ladyship's boundless
favour, and I feel myself inexpressibly happy and fortunate when I am
able to do your ladyship any service, however small. And although it is
a hateful thing for such an insignificant person as myself to give his
judgment or opinion concerning such distinguished gentlemen and ladies
as those whose names stand here before me, nevertheless the love--I beg
pardon--the respect I bear towards your ladyship----"

"I like the first word better; let it stand, please!"

"And it is true. I only say what I feel. I also had a daughter once. It
was long, very long ago. She was just of the same age as your ladyship;
not so beautiful, but she was good, ah, so good! She died long ago, in
her youth. And she loved me dearly. But I beg your pardon for making so
bold as to speak of the poor thing. But to turn to the business in hand,
your ladyship--before I proceed to answer the question before me, pray
allow me to make one small remark, by way of advice, which proceeds,
believe me, from the purest intention and the utmost good will. First of
all, I do not consider it necessary that I should speak to your ladyship
at all concerning those persons towards whom--how shall I put
it?--towards whom your ladyship cannot feel the fullest confidence; for
although God preserve me from taking any exception to anything in the
lives of such distinguished gentlemen and ladies, yet, nevertheless,
there may be reasons why it might not be quite desirable for your
ladyship to have any intimate relations with them. On the other hand, I
will pick out from this list such persons as will respond to your
ladyship's goodness and tenderness of heart with equal tenderness of
heart and goodness. Those, again, whom I shall humbly venture to pass
over in silence--and I assume, of course, that they possess in their own
honourable persons every recognized good quality--must be taken to be
such persons as your ladyship would not care about knowing."

"Excellent, excellent, my good friend! You shall make me acquainted with
those only whom I should like, and say nothing about the rest. Ah, you
know the world well. That is indeed good advice."

Mr. Varga looked beseechingly at Fanny, as if to insist that she was not
to praise him too much, or he should get confused again and forget what
he wished to say.

Then he took up the long list, and began to go through it, running his
finger along it, but so as not to touch the names, lest he might offend
their owners by such ignoble contact. Now and then the conducting finger
would pause at a name, and Mr. Varga would look up as if about to speak;
but in the very act of coughing to give the proper shade of respect to
his voice, he would look again at the name singled out by his finger,
think better of it, and tacitly schedule it among those who, though
blessed with all recognized good qualities, he did not think suitable
for his purpose. But as he drew near to the end of the list, he was
horror-stricken to observe how many names he had been obliged to pass
over in silence, and drops of honest sweat began to congregate on his
forehead as the index finger left ever more and more names behind
it--the names of people whom he always treated with the most awful
reverence, but not one of whom he would have recommended to the
confidence of his daughter, if he had had one. And he had now begun to
regard Fanny as his own daughter.

Ah! at last his long-drawn features grew round again with satisfaction,
and his hand trembled on the paper when it reached a name that it had
long been in search of.

"Look, my lady!" said he, extending the list towards her. "This
admirable lady is certainly one of those in whom your ladyship can
repose your confidence without running the risk of being deceived."

Fanny read the name indicated--"Flora Eszéky Szentirmay."

"What is this lady like?" she inquired of the old man.

"Verily, I should have need of very great eloquence to describe her to
you worthily. She is rich in all the virtues one looks for in a woman.
Gentleness and prudence go hand in hand with her. The oppressed and
downtrodden find in her a secret protector; for she does her good deeds
in secret, and forbids grateful tongues to talk about her. Not only is
it the hungry, the naked, the sick, and the wretched among whom she
distributes bread, garments, medicine, and kind words, who know what a
good heart she has; not only is it those under legal sentence, for whom
she pleads compassionately in high places: her benevolence goes much
further than all that; for she takes the part of those who are
spiritually poor and wretched, those whom the world condemns, poor
betrayed girls who have tripped into endless misery, poor women bending
beneath the crosses of a hard domestic life; and they all find in her a
friend, a defender who can get to the bottom of their hearts. Pardon me
for presuming so far. I know right well that there are many other
exalted personages who also do a great deal of good to the poor; but
they seem only to take thought for the bodily wants of the destitute,
whereas this lady cares for their spiritual needs as well, and thus it
comes about that she frequently finds poor sufferers in need of her
assistance, not only in hovels, but in palaces. This lady brings a
blessing into every house she enters, and scatters happiness and
contentment all round about her. Indeed, I only know of one other lady
who is worthy to stand beside her, and nothing would give me greater joy
than to see them both at one with each other."

The emotion written on Fanny's face showed that she appreciated the
tender insinuation.

"Is this lady young?"

"About your ladyship's own age."

"And is she happily married?" Fanny was rather speaking to herself than
asking a question.

"That she is," replied Varga; "indeed, it would not be possible to find
on the whole face of the earth a couple so exactly suited to each other
as she and His Excellency Count Rudolf Szentirmay. Oh, that is a great
man if you like! Every one admires his intellect and his great
qualities, and the whole kingdom praises and exalts him. They say that
at one time he was a man disgusted with life, who troubled himself very
little about his country; but from the moment when he met his future
wife, Flora Eszéky, abroad, a great change came over him, and returning
with her to Hungary, he became the benefactor not only of his country
but of humanity. But even now God has rewarded him, for that greatest of
blessings, domestic happiness, has fallen to his lot so lavishly that
it has become a proverb, and anybody seeing them together would imagine
that Paradise had already begun for them on this earth."

An involuntary, an unconscious sigh arose from Fanny's breast at these
words.

At that moment the rumbling of a coach was audible in the courtyard; a
chance guest had arrived. A great bustling about was heard outside, in
the midst of which resounded Squire John's stentorian voice. He seemed
to be joyfully welcoming some one, and immediately afterwards Martin
entered and announced: "Her Excellency the Countess Flora Eszéky
Szentirmay!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Fanny, with the trepidation of joy and surprise, awaited the guest who
had just been announced. She had tried to form an idea of her, but what
would this imaginary figure be like in reality?

How the young lady's heart did beat as footsteps drew nearer and nearer
to the door and she heard Kárpáthy cheerfully conversing with some one!
And now the door opened, and in there came--not that face, not that
figure which Fanny had imagined, but a tall, dry lady of uncertain age,
with a false complexion, false teeth, and false eyes, dressed according
to the latest fashion. A monstrous hat covered with whole bouquets of
flowers, quite shut out the prospect of everything that was behind her
back.

Her mantle was thrown back over her shoulders, which gave a martial,
amazonic cast to her figure, and this impression was intensified by the
low cut of her dress, which allowed one to catch a good glimpse of her
scraggy shoulders and projecting breast-bone, an alarming spectacle. She
had hands, moreover, of correspondingly extraordinary leanness,
embellished, why I cannot tell, by monstrously big swanskin muffs, and
as she was unable to move her arms without saying something at the same
time, and as she could never speak without laughing, and as whenever she
laughed she displayed not only the whole of her upper row of teeth (the
best procurable at Dr. Legrieux's, No. 11, Rue Vivienne, Paris), but the
whole of her gums as well, she continually kept the attention of
whatever company she happened to be in riveted with a horrible
fascination on her elbows, her gums, and her breast-bone.

She had come with her niece as a sort of guard of honour, and Flora had
sent her on in front while she lingered behind to rally Squire John a
little.

Kárpáthy hastened to make the ladies known to each other: "Dame Marion
Countess Szentirmay--Countess Rudolf Szentirmay--my wife."

Dame Marion Szentirmay made the lady of the house the most perfect and
unexceptionable curtsy, regarding her all the time with an air that
seemed to say, "I wonder if she knows how to return it, poor little
ignoramus?"

And, in fact, so confused and taken back was Fanny that she scarce knew
what to say; moreover, she was so lost in the contemplation of Dame
Marion's gums that she hardly had had time to observe Flora. But,
indeed, there was no need for her or anybody else to try and find words;
on the contrary, if anybody had had any to spare, he would have had to
keep them to himself, for Dame Marion always brought with her sufficient
conversation to keep a whole assembly going.

"Pray be seated, ladies! You, Lady Flora, sit down here, by my wife.
Dame Marion, a hundred thousand pardons!"

A glance at the lady's face had suddenly convinced Squire John that she
was quite well aware where she ought and meant to sit, without his
telling her; and down she sat accordingly, in an armchair on the other
side of the room.

"I must ask your pardon, my dear neighbour," began Dame Marion, in an
artificial sort of style, belonging to none of the recognized categories
of rhetoric, and which continually suggested the suspicion that the
speaker was rolling something about in her mouth which she was too lazy
to spit out--"I must ask your pardon, _chère voisine_--we live, you
know, close to the Kárpáthy estate in these parts" (_i.e._ It belongs
neither to you nor to your husband, but to the Kárpáthy family)--"for
making so bold as to interrupt you in your occupations" (_i.e._ I should
like to know what _you_ can find to occupy yourself with, forsooth!),
"for although, of course, we ought to have waited for Squire John
Kárpáthy to have introduced us, in the first instance, to the wife so
worthy of his love, which is the regular course" (_i.e._ Perhaps you
don't know that: how could you?), "nevertheless, as we happened to be
passing this way" (_i.e._ Don't imagine we came here on purpose!), "and
I have a long-standing legal suit with Squire John Kárpáthy" (_i.e._ So,
you see, you have to thank me and our suit, for our visit; not Countess
Rudolf's kindness, as you may perhaps suppose)--"and a pretty old suit
it is by this time! for I was young, a mere child, in fact, when it
began, ha, ha!--By the way," she continued, flying off at a tangent,
"they advised us to put an end to the suit by arranging a match between
me and Kárpáthy. I was young then, as I have said--a mere child, ha,
ha!--but I would not entertain the idea, ha, ha! I made a mistake, no
doubt; for how rich should I not have been now, a good _partie_, eh!"
(_i.e._ Squire John was already an old man when I was your age; but I
did not sell myself for his wealth, as you have done!) "Well, you are a
lucky fellow, Kárpáthy, _you_, at any rate, have nothing to complain of.
A wife so worthy of your love as yours is, is a treasure you really do
not deserve" (_i.e._ Don't give yourself airs, you little fool! Don't
fancy people praise you for your beauty as if it were a merit! You ought
to be ashamed that it is only your beauty that has made a lady of you!).

Here Dame Marion lost for a moment the thread of her discourse, which
gave Flora an opportunity of bending over Fanny and whispering in her
ear, in a gentle, confidential voice--

"I have long wished to meet you, and have been on the point of coming
over every day."

Fanny gratefully pressed her hand.

A beneficent attack of coughing here prevented Dame Marion from resuming
her conversation. Kárpáthy inquired after his friend Rudolf, Lady
Flora's husband, expressing the hope that he would not forget his
promise to honour Kárpátfalva with his presence on the occasion of the
entertainment that was coming off there in honour of the young bride.

"Oh, he must be here by then," replied Flora; "he gave me his word that
he would be back home in time for it."

Then turning towards Fanny, Flora continued, "I have been expecting to
meet you everywhere. We country-folks about here are pretty lively, and
are always delighted to see our circle increased; and now that we have
met at last, we will conspire amiably together to make every one around
us feel happy."

Dame Marion, however, at once hastened to weaken any pleasant impression
which these words might have produced.

"Kárpáthy naturally makes a mystery of his wife's whereabouts. The sly
rogue would hide her away, so that nobody may catch a glance of her but
himself"--(_i.e._ the old fool is afraid to show her, and with good
reason).

"Oh, my husband is most kind and obliging," Fanny hastened to object;
"but I must own to feeling a sort of hesitation--I might even call it
fear--at the prospect of appearing in such lofty circles. I was brought
up among quite simple folks, and I feel exceedingly obliged to your
ladyships for giving me so much encouragement."

"Naturally, naturally!" returned Dame Marion. "It is most natural, and
could not very well be otherwise. A young wife is in the most difficult
position conceivable when she first makes her entry into the great
world; especially when, from the nature of the case, she is obliged to
do without what is most necessary for her, what should be her surest
support--a mother's advice, a mother's guidance. Oh, a mother's watchful
providence is of inestimable importance to a young wife!"

Fanny felt her eyes grow burning hot, and her face flushed purple; she
could not help it. Alas! to speak of a mother before her was to cause
her the most terrible torture, the most piercing shame!

Flora convulsively pressed the young lady's hand in her own, and, as if
simply continuing the conversation, she said--

"Yes, indeed; nothing makes up for the loss of a mother."

Shortly afterwards old Kárpáthy and Dame Marion repaired to the family
archives, where the family fiscal and Mr. Varga were awaiting them, in
order to discuss their eternal lawsuit once again for the hundredth time
or so, and the two young women were left alone.

The door had scarce closed behind Dame Marion when Fanny, with the most
passionate impetuosity, suddenly seized Flora's hand with both her own,
and before the latter had had time to prevent her, pressed the pretty
little hand to her lips and covered it with kisses--kisses that came
straight from her burning heart. Again and again she heaped her kisses
upon it, but could not utter a word.

"Ah, my God! what are you doing?" said Flora; and thus, in order to
prevent Fanny from repeating her action, she took her in her arms,
kissed her face, and compelled her to do the same.

"Oh!" sobbed Fanny, "I know that you are the ministering angel of the
whole country-side. As soon as I had arrived here, I heard them talking
of you, and from what they said I could well picture to myself what you
were. You must have already guessed that in me you would find a poor
creature, who was also in need of your charity; but the greatness of
that benefit only I could know, only I could feel. Say not that it is
not so! Permit me to remain in that happy belief! Permit me to go on
loving you as I loved you from the first moment I beheld you. Oh, let me
hold fast to the thought: here is a blessed being who thinks of me,
pities me, and has made me happy!"

"Oh, Fanny!" exclaimed Flora, in a gentle, tremulous voice. She really
did pity the woman.

"Oh yes, yes! call me that!" cried Fanny, full of rapture, as she
impetuously pressed Flora's hand to her heart. She had never released it
for an instant, as if she feared that the moment she let it go the
blissful vision would vanish.

By way of guarantee, Flora pressed her beautiful lips to Fanny's
forehead, and gently bade her, from henceforth, call her Flora and
nothing else. There was to be no more strangeness between them. They
were now to be friends, firm friends.

Only with the greatest difficulty did Lady Szentirmay succeed in
preventing Fanny from flinging herself at her feet; the poor girl had to
be content with hiding her head in Flora's breast and sobbing; and when
she had wept there to her heart's content, then only did she feel happy,
oh so happy!

"Come, come, my dear Fanny!" said Flora at last, with a friendly smile;
"don't you think we have had as much of this as will do us good? Listen
to me! If you promise never to talk about this again, I will remain here
with you a whole--a whole week."

On hearing this it was as much as Fanny could do to prevent herself from
shedding fresh tears, tears of joy.

"And after that I will help you to make the necessary preparations for
the coming housewarming which your husband has resolved to give. Oh, you
would never imagine how much there is to be done, and how weary you
would get over it; but if there are two of us, we shall be able to make
quite a jest of it all, and how we shall both laugh at the many funny
little mishaps which are sure to occur!"

And then the pair of them fell a laughing. Why, of course it would be
one of the funniest, merriest affairs in the world--of course it would.

Meanwhile it afforded Fanny infinite delight to relieve Flora of her
hat, mantle, and every other sort of impoundable article which it is the
custom to deprive arriving guests of, as a greater security against
their running away. Then they sat down together, and the conversation
turned naturally upon women's dress, women's needlework, and other
similar trifles which generally interest gentlewomen, so that by the
time Dame Marion returned with old Kárpáthy from the family archives,
there was no longer any trace of the passionate and touching scene that
had taken place between the two ladies, but they were conversing with
each other like old, like good old, acquaintances.

"Ah, ha!" said Dame Marion, wagging her head when she observed Flora
without hat or mantle. "You are making yourself quite at home, I must
say."

"Yes, aunt; I am going to stay here for a short time with Fanny."

Dame Marion, with an air of astonishment, looked around her into every
corner of the room, and then up at the ceiling, as if she could not make
out who Fanny was.

"Ah! mille pardons, madame. I recollect now, of course, of course--that
is your Christian name. I am quite confused by all the family names with
which Squire Kárpáthy's _director jurium_ has been filling my ears.
Really this Kárpáthy family has quite a frightful lot of connexions. The
female branch is united by marriage with all the most eminent families
in the realm. I verily believe there's not a name in the calendar that
it has not appropriated;" which meant, being interpreted, "_Your_ family
is not very likely to add fresh glory to the Kárpáthy family tree!"

But Flora only laughed good-naturedly, and said--

"Well, now, at any rate, Fanny is a very honourable name in the family
records."

Dame Marion, however, kept standing there in amazement, with her
long-handled parasol in her hand--like Diana might have looked if she
had shot one of her dogs instead of a hare. She could not understand
from whence these people derived so much good humour when she was so
bent upon aggravating them.

"And how long, may I ask, will--this--short--time--be?" she inquired of
Flora, with a biting, staccato sort of intonation, gazing vaguely into
vacancy.

"Oh, a mere bagatelle--only a week, aunty."

"Only a week!" exclaimed Dame Marion, in horror; "only a week!"

"If only I am not kicked out in the mean time," retorted Lady
Szentirmay, jocosely; whereupon Fanny immediately embraced her
affectionately, by way of signifying that she would like to keep her for
ever.

"Ah, indeed!" remarked Dame Marion, petulantly. "Well, well! young women
soon make friends with each other. I am so delighted you have got to
love each other so much all at once--that shows how much your natures
are alike, at which I am charmed. I hope, however, my dear niece, that
you will permit _me_ to return to Szentirma. I hope," continued she,
"that I leave my niece in safe custody, though. I do not know whether
Szentirmay is likely to trouble Kárpáthy Castle very much with his
jealousy. Adieu, my dear neighbour, chère voisine! Adieu, chère nièce,
adieu!"

This ambiguous farewell was capable of a double interpretation, each
alternative of which was equally insulting, as it might be taken to
mean, either that no sane person had any reason whatever to be jealous
of old John Kárpáthy, or that Kárpáthy Castle had such a bad reputation
that no woman's good name was likely to be improved by a residence
within its walls.

No sooner had the old wet blanket disappeared than the two young women,
in the exuberance of their high spirits, took possession of Squire John,
and, singing and dancing, marched him up the stone staircase again into
the castle. Squire John himself was in the best of humours; his face
beamed, he laughed aloud, and he thought to himself what a fine thing it
would have been if both these young women were his daughters and called
him father.

The ancient rooms resounded with the hubbub and innocent frolics of
these two merry young dames. It had been a long long time since those
walls had rung with such a sound as that.



CHAPTER XI.

THE FEMALE FRIEND.


Lady Szentirmay gained her object. Her week's residence at Kárpáthy
Castle had completely changed Fanny's position in the eyes of the great
world. Even the most prejudiced became more favourably disposed towards
the woman whom Lady Szentirmay freely admitted to her friendship. The
proudest dowagers, who hitherto considered that they would be showing
infinite condescension if they appeared at a festival where a
_ci-devant_ shopkeeper's daughter would play the part of mistress of the
house, now began to think that their condescension might bear a little
paring down. Rigorously virtuous ladies, who had doubted within
themselves whether it were befitting to bring their youthful daughters
to thread the labyrinths full of Eleusianian mysteries at Kárpáthy
Castle, now ordered their dresses from the dressmakers without the
slightest apprehension. The appearance of Lady Szentirmay was the surest
guarantee of virtue and propriety. The mere fact that Fanny _had_ gained
Flora's friendship made her own domestics regard her with quite
different eyes, and even Squire John himself began to understand what
sort of a wife he had won; and so the nimbus of gentility began to shine
around her.

The whole day the two ladies might have been seen together, engaged in
their great and difficult labours. No smiling, please! The work was
really great and difficult. It is easy enough for us men-folk to say, "I
will give a great dinner-party to-morrow, or a month hence; and I will
invite the whole country-side to it. I will invite not only those I
know, but those I have never seen;" but it is our women-folk who have to
take thought for it. It is they who have to bear in mind everything
necessary to make it all adequate and splendid; it is they who have to
take into consideration the thousand and one pretensions, partialities,
and caprices of a whole army of guests. It would not have been
surprising if the new housewife had not known where to begin first; but
under Flora's direction everything went along as smoothly as possible.
She was used to such things. She remembered everything, and yet she
always appealed so artfully to Fanny as to how this or that ought to be
done, that, had not Fanny had the keenest appreciation of her friend's
delicacy and tact, she might very easily have fancied that it was she
herself who managed everything. At any rate Squire John henceforth lived
in the conviction that his consort was as much at home in all these
mighty matters as if she had lived all her life in the castles of
countesses.

And when the evening came, and they were alone together, and had time to
converse, how many sage and pleasant counsels Fanny listened to from her
friend! She did nothing but listen to, nothing but look upon those
delicate, eloquent lips, and those still more eloquent, sparkling eyes,
from which she was beginning to learn happiness. At such times they
would send away their ladies' maids, and help each other with their
evening toilets, and then they would talk freely and merrily of the
great world and its follies.

First of all, the list of names, which had caused Mr. Varga so much
sweat and anguish, would be brought forth, and then they would sit down
together and talk scandal of their neighbours, and a delightful joke it
was too.

For there's a difference between scandal and scandal. To circulate false
reports of the people you know, to lay hold upon their most recondite
faults and carefully pass them on from hand to hand, to undermine the
good name of your acquaintances,--that is certainly not a nice
occupation, I call it ungentlemanly scandal. But to be acquainted with
the vices of the world, and communicate them to innocent souls liable to
err; to warn and call the attention of the sensitive and the tottering
to the thorns, the flints, the vermin, and the pitfalls which beset
their path,--that is a proper thing to do in season, and I call it
gentlemanly scandal--although many who read these lines will perhaps
prefer to call it nonsense.

We will therefore confine ourselves to gentlemanly scandal, and let us
take the men first. It is not I who do it, remember, but these two young
women who have got hold of such an interesting list. If I had a hand in
it, I should certainly begin with the ladies.

"Here's one right at the top," said Lady Szentirmay, "let us begin with
him. If he were an ordinary man instead of a nobleman, they would call
him badly behaved. He thinks ill of every woman except his own wife, for
of her he never thinks at all, and is violent and passionate besides.
When he flies into a rage he does not pick his words, nor looks about to
see whether women or only men are near. In the most mixed society, where
two or three young girls at least must be present, he tells such queer
stories that even the more sensitive of the men cannot but blush. Yet he
is a great patriot, whose name is well known and admired; so he claims
respect, and must not be blamed like other men. The respect in which he
is held, however, is the best weapon to use against him. He will pay
court to you impetuously, and you will not be able to avoid him; but all
you have to do is to praise him for his political virtues. That always
holds him in check. I have tried it, and never known it to fail."

"Let's tick him off," said Fanny. "Count Imre Szépkiesdy: that's his
name, is it?"--and she underscored him with her lead pencil, and wrote
underneath, "A great and very estimable man!"

"Here comes another high and mighty gentleman," resumed the Countess.
"If he had not a title, I don't know that the world would recognize him
at all. _I_ have never been able to discover what qualities he
possesses, though I have the privilege of meeting him once a month. One
thing, however, I can label him with: he has a tremendous appetite, and
yet is always complaining that he cannot eat. He is a very amiable man:
before dinner he complains that he has no appetite, and after dinner
that he has over-eaten himself, and if you don't offer him anything he
sulks and starves. He doesn't give much trouble therefore."

"Let us write after his name then: 'Baron George Málnay, an amiable
man.'"

"Here is a dear silly, Count Gregory Erdey. He is the most delightful
fellow in the world, and can keep the whole company in convulsions with
his quips and cranks. He can imitate the absurdities of costume of every
nation, and can present you with an Englishman, a Spaniard, a Frenchman,
and a Jew by a mere twist of his hat. The very simplicity of his
absurdity makes him the most harmless of men. You cannot imagine him
giving offence to any one. He would be incapable of deceiving a girl of
sixteen. His whole ambition is to make people laugh, and all the lovers
of laughter are on his side."

"Count Gregory Erdey," Fanny noted down, "a dear silly."

"Let us proceed. Count Karvay Louis, a true man of the world _à la
Talleyrand_. He observes every one, and is very particular that every
one should observe him. He only puts a question to you in order to
discover how far you are unable to answer him--it is a positive trap,
the consequences of which you cannot possibly foresee. Then he has a
trick of sulking for a whole year without saying why; the merest trifle,
a letter to him misdirected, is sufficient to upset him till his dying
day. If any one comes to see you when he is with you, and this somebody
should be lower in rank than himself, and you should sin against the
rules of etiquette by rising from your seat instead of merely
bowing--Louis will lose his temper, and say that you have insulted him.
And yet he will never give any one a hint as to what is likely to offend
him and what not."

"Well, let us write under his name, 'a prickly gentleman.'"

"And now comes Count Sárosdy, the _főispán._ He is a worthy,
good-natured man, but a frightful aristocrat. It delights him to do good
to the peasants and the poor, but don't ask him to make the acquaintance
of his fellow-men. No tenantry in the whole of Hungary is better off
than his, but he will not have a non-noble person in his service even as
a clerk. You will find he will be a little stiff towards you at first,
but fortunately he has a good heart, and there are always keys wherewith
to open a good heart. It will be no easy matter to win him over to more
liberal sentiments, but if we both combine against him, victory will be
assured.

"And now we come to the young originals."

"Oh," said Fanny, "I shall understand that class better than you do! I
know more about them already than I like."

"Last of all come the fine gentlemen. I need not tell you about them
either; so we can pass on to the ladies."

"Oh yes, let us discuss the ladies by all means!"

"First of all comes the wife of the aristocratic _főispán_. She is a
cockered, discontented dame, who has swooned as many times as other
women have sighed. You might stand upon burning embers more comfortably
than before her; for you may be sure that she will not approve of
anything you may say, do, or even think. If any one crosses his legs in
her presence, she faints; if a cat strays into the room, she will have
convulsions; if a knife is put across a fork, she will not sit down to
table; if there are roses outside in the garden, she will perceive the
smell through double window-panes, and faint, so that no flowers can be
kept in the room where she may happen to be. You must not let anybody in
a blue dress sit down at the same table as herself, for that colour is
horrible to her, and she has convulsions the moment she sees it.
Finally, you will do well to talk of nothing at all in her presence, for
the slightest thing is likely to upset her nerves.

"Ah! next comes the Countess Kereszty. She is an excellent woman. She
has a tall, muscular, masculine figure, with thick, broad eyebrows. She
never speaks in a voice lower than what is usually required for
commanding a regiment; while her gruffest voice is sufficient to utterly
embarrass a nervous man, especially as she has a trick of perpetually
interrupting the person talking to her with her 'How--why--wherefore's?'
and, when she begins to laugh, the whole room trembles. She dragoons
every assembly which she honours with her presence; and whomsoever she
is angry with had much better have been born blind. Our very young men
have a cold ague fit when they see her, for she inspires them with as
much terror as any professor, and, besides that, can speak fluent Latin,
has the code at her fingers' ends, can hold her own against the most
astute of advocates, drinks like a fish, and revels in tobacco. It is
true she does not drive her own horses; but, should the coachman drive
badly, she is quite capable of snatching the whip from his hand and
belabouring him with the handle. For the rest, she is the best-hearted
creature in the world, and readily makes friends. Kiss her hand, and
call her 'My lady sister,' and you need not have the slightest fear of
her; for she will love you, make herself your champion, and woe betide
whomsoever dares to disparage you behind your back when she is present,
for she will make them stampede in every direction.

"And now we come to Lady Szépkiesdy. She is a quiet, silent woman, whom
it is impossible to offend. Her husband has found out from experience
that nothing pains her; but, on the other hand, there is nothing that
can make her happy. And her whole face, her whole figure, seems to
express but one wish, but one desire--the longing to be under the sod as
soon as possible."

"Poor lady!"

"And she is also tormented by the knowledge that every pretty face she
sees will cause her misery involuntarily; for her husband pays his court
to every one of them in her presence. She was esteemed a great beauty
once upon a time; but care and sorrow have made her quite old within the
last two years."

"Poor lady!" sighed Fanny.

"And now let me introduce you to Madame George Málnay. Beware of her.
She will be eternally flattering you, in the hope that some secret, some
unguarded word may escape you. She is a veritable Mephistopheles in
female form. She is the enemy of every one she knows; but whenever she
meets you she will kiss and embrace you, till you fancy she is quite in
love with you. It is of no use quarrelling with her. The very next day
she will embrace, kiss, and traduce you, as if nothing had happened. The
best way is to keep clear of her. Receive her, therefore, with a cold,
forbidding countenance. She'll requite you, perhaps, by calling you
boorish and underbred behind your back; but that is the kindest thing
you can expect from her."

Fanny gratefully pressed Lady Szentirmay's hand. What blunders she must
have made but for her!

"And is there any one really worth mentioning among so many?" she asked.

"Yes; Dame Marion."

"Really!"

"She is just as you saw her; she is always like that. And it is no
affectation, but her natural character."

"Then what is her real character?"

"Well, she is--like the rest of them--a treacherous scandalmonger, with
an ill word for every one, who takes a delight in picking out people's
most secret faults; but you need not fear her, for she loves you
sincerely, and will never betray, disparage, or injure you behind your
back. Have you not found that out already?"

Fanny, half-laughing half-weeping, hid her head in her friend's bosom,
and embraced her tightly; and then they kissed each other, and laughed
at the facility with which they also had fallen into the scandalizing
ways of the world.



CHAPTER XII.

THE HOUSE-WARMING.


Carriage after carriage rumbled into the courtyard of Kárpáthy Castle.
Every sort and kind of four-wheeled conveyance was visible that day
within the gates of the crowded mansion.

There seemed to be no end to the continuous flow of guests, male and
female, and Madame Kárpáthy won and captivated every heart. Of course
she had the immense advantage of knowing them all beforehand, of knowing
their weak and their strong points, their virtues and vices; but it is
due to her to add that she had learnt her lesson excellently well, and
turned it to the best advantage. She received Count Szépkiesdy with all
the grave respect due to the most honourable of patriots, and assured
him that she had long since learnt to admire him as a great orator and a
noble-minded man. The Count inwardly cursed and swore at meeting with
some one who regarded him as a hero. To Count Gregory Erdey she extended
a smiling salutation from afar, which he requited by saluting her with
his hat in one hand and his wig in another, which provoked a roar of
Homeric laughter from the assembled guests. The young buffoon had had
his head clean shaved in order that his hair might grow all the
stronger, so that his bald pate quite scared the weak-nerved members of
the company. The young housewife curtsied low in humble silence before
the _Főispán_ Count Sárosdy and his wife, whereby she greatly pleased
that aristocratic patriot. He admitted that middle-class girls are not
so bad when they have been brought up in gentlemen's families. And Fanny
completely won the favour of his consort by impressing upon her servants
to be constantly in attendance on her ladyship, and fulfil all her
wishes; for, although Countess Sárosdy had brought two of her own maids
with her, she did not consider them sufficient. On the arrival of the
Countess Kereszty, Fanny joyfully rushed forward, and kissed her hand
before she could prevent it; whereupon the amazonian dame, first of all,
seized her with both her muscular arms, and held her at arm's length, at
the same time wrinkling her thick black eyebrows as if to scrutinize her
the better, and then drew her towards her, patting her on the back all
the time, and exclaiming in her bass-viol-like voice, "We like each
other, my little sister; we like each other, eh?" Yes, there could be no
doubt about it, Fanny was a success. Her beauty won the hearts of the
gentlemen, and her correct deportment the good opinions of the ladies.

Shortly afterwards the dinner-bell rang, and the company, with a great
clatter and still greater good-humour, occupied the tables, from a
description of which I conscientiously abstain--firstly and lastly
because such things as dinner-tables are only diverting _in natura_, but
infinitely tiresome in books. There was all the wealth, pomp, splendour
and profusion that the occasion and the reputation of the Nabob
demanded; there was everything procurable for man's enjoyment, from the
native products of Hungarian cookery to the masterly creations of French
gastronomic art, and of wines every sort imaginable. The dinner lasted
far into the night, and towards the end of it the company began to grow
uproarious. The great patriot, as usual, related his lubricous,
equivocal anecdotes without troubling himself very much as to whether
ladies were present or not. He was wont to say _Castis sunt omnia
casta_, "To the pure all things are pure," and whoever blushed had, no
doubt, a good reason for blushing, and was therefore corrupt enough
already. The ladies, however, pretended not to hear, and began
conversing with their neighbours without taking any notice of the hoarse
laughter of the young bucks, who held it a point of honour to applaud
the witticisms of the great patriot.

Nevertheless every one did his best to enjoy himself as much as
possible.

And who so happy as the Nabob?

It occurred to him that, scarce a year ago, he had sat in the same place
where he was sitting now, and had seen a horrible sight; and now he saw
by his side a young and enchanting wife, and around him a merry lively
host of guests with cheerful, smiling faces.

And now from the adjoining chamber resounded, alternately grave and gay,
the notes of the Bihari fiddlers; one or two of the young wags thereupon
pushed their chairs away, went out among the gipsies, and fell a dancing
with each other. The more loquacious of the patriots who remained behind
began drinking the health of every fellow-guest present, in turn,
especially toasting the host and hostess; thence proceeding to drink to
the success of all manner of abstract objects, such as social unions,
counties and colleges, and other contemporary institutions. Count
Szépkiesdy made a long speech, into which he very neatly interwove every
applauded phrase which he had uttered during the last twelve months at
public assemblies. There were some present who had heard this speech at
least four times already, but this did not prevent anybody from cheering
him vociferously: we know, of course, that a good thing cannot be
repeated too often. Squire John himself was invincible as a
toast-responder, and if I were not obliged in this particular to give
the pre-eminence to an honoured lady, the amazonian Countess Kereszty, I
should have said that, for witty sallies and the draining of bumpers, he
was the hero of the evening.

In any case he deserves peculiar praise for one thing: in the midst of
all this talking and toasting he it was who first of all bethought him
of raising his glass in honour of two young men who were not actually
present--to wit Count Stephen and Count Rudolf; and he so worthily
extolled the superlative merits of these gentlemen, as to evoke an
unprecedented burst of enthusiasm, the very ladies themselves seizing
brimmers and clinking them with him.

While every face was still beaming with delight, a lackey entered, and
delivered a letter to Lady Szentirmay which a rapid runner had brought
from Szentirma.

Flora with a beating heart recognized her husband's writing on the
cover, and she begged leave to retire and open it. This was the signal
for release and departure, the whole company quitting the tables, and
scattering in the adjoining rooms. Flora and Fanny flew off to their
bedrooms unobserved, to read the precious letter in all peace and
quietness; for Fanny, also, naturally wanted to know what was in the
letter.

The lady broke the seal with a hand that trembled for joy, and, after
pressing the letter to her heart, read its contents, which were as
follows:--

"To-morrow I shall be at Kárpátfalva. There we shall meet. Rudolf.
1000." This "thousand" signified a thousand kisses.

How delighted the beloved wife was! Again and again she kissed the place
where her husband's name was written, as if to snatch beforehand at
least a hundred of the consignment of kisses; and then she concealed it
in her bosom, as if to preserve the remaining nine hundred till later
on; then she drew it forth once more, and read it over again, as if she
could not quite remember the whole contents of the letter, but must
needs read it anew in order to understand it properly; and then she
kissed it over and over again until, at last, she herself did not know
how many kisses she had taken.

And Fanny fully shared the joy of her friend, joy is so contagious.
To-morrow Rudolf will arrive, and how nice it will then be for Flora!
She will see the greatest joy that a loving heart can imagine, and will
not be a bit jealous--no! she will rejoice in another's joy, rejoice in
the happiness of her best friend, who possesses as her very own, so to
speak, the man in whose honour every one has spoken so well and made
such pretty speeches. And to-morrow he will be here; and, to make his
wife happy till he comes, he has notified the day of his arrival. He
does not come surreptitiously, unawares, like one who is jealous; but he
lets her know of his coming beforehand, like one who is well assured of
how greatly, how very greatly he is loved. Oh what a joy it will be even
to look upon such happiness!

The two ladies with radiantly happy faces returned to the company, which
diverted itself till midnight, when every one retired to his own room.
Squire John helped his guests to their repose with a musical
accompaniment, the gipsy band proceeding from window to window and
intoning beneath each one a sleep-compelling symphony. Finally, the last
note died away, and everybody dozed off, and dreamed beautiful dreams.
The hunters dreamt of foxes (there was to be a hunt on the morrow), the
orators dreamt of assemblies, Mr. Málnay dreamt of parties, Lady
Szentirmay dreamt of her husband, and Fanny dreamt of that beautiful
smiling countenance she had been thinking of so often, and which looked
at her so kindly with its eloquent blue eyes and spoke to her with such
a wondrously sweet voice. It is permissible, of course, to dream of
anything.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, to-morrow!



CHAPTER XIII.

THE HUNT.


Early next morning the hunting-horns awoke the guests. Those who had
gone to sleep thinking of hunting, and had dreamt of hunting, at once
sprang to their feet at that joyous sound. The others, who would gladly
have compounded with themselves for an extra half-hour and allowed their
heavy eyelids just one more little snooze, were violently thwarted in
their inclinations by the ever-increasing racket which suddenly
dominated Kárpáthy Castle; for the bustling to and fro of heavy boots,
the sound of familiar voices in the halls and parlours, the baying of
dogs in the courtyard, the cracking of whips, and the neighing of horses
would have sufficed to disturb the sweet slumbers of the Seven Sleepers
themselves. But what is the use of expecting moderation or discretion
from sportsmen? The most exquisite of drawing-room dandies, when he
prepares him for the chase, puts on quite another character with his
hunting boots and cap, and considers himself justified in making as much
row as possible, and bawls in a voice that is quite different to his
own.

Day had scarcely dawned when the fully dressed guests came into the hall
to show themselves and have a look at the weather. The more original
young bucks were dressed in coats with large flapping sleeves, vests
with broad flat buttons, and velvet caps with crane's feathers; the
elegants, on the other hand, affected tightly fitting dolmans and spiral
hats; only the buffoon, Count Gregory, was got up, _à l'Anglaise_, in a
red cut-away coat, and piteously begged every one to explain to the dogs
that he was not the fox.

Most of the ladies were also in hunting attire, the close-clinging
bodices exhibiting to admiration their amazonian figures; while the long
trains had to be held up, lest the spurred and booted heroes around them
should trample ruthlessly thereon. And who so beautiful amongst all
these beauties as Flora and Fanny!

And now the bell rang inviting the guests to breakfast. Sausage and herb
pottage, dishes _à la fourchette_, and corresponding drams of strong
spirit awaited them in the dining-room. There was no affectation or
finnicking now: all alike were sportsmen. The sweetest, prettiest ladies
did not refuse, at the request of their admirers, to moisten their rosy
lips with a few drops of thirty-years old szilvorium: everything was
permissible now, and, besides, they had need of strong hearts to-day.
Even the elderly women meant to accompany the huntsmen in carriages.

It was a glorious summer morning when the imposing cavalcade issued from
the courtyard of Kárpáthy Castle. First of all came the ladies, so many
slim, supple amazons, on prancing steeds, in the midst of a circle of
noisy youths, who made their own horses dance and curvet by the side of
their chosen dames; behind them came the wags of the party, on
splendidly caparisoned rustic nags; and, last of all, the elderly ladies
and gentlemen in their carriages. Squire John himself was in the saddle,
and shewed all the world that he could hold his own with the smartest
cavalier present, and everytime he looked at his wife he seemed to be
twenty years younger, and his face beamed at the thought that she was
such a pretty woman and he was her husband.

Three prizes had been fixed for the best foxhound: the first was a
golden goblet with an inscription on it, the second was a silver
hunting-horn, and the third a beautiful bear-skin; and no doubt the
victorious foxhound would, personally, have been most grateful for the
last. Most of the competing dogs, tied together in couples, were led
along by the men-servants; but each of the favourite foxhounds was
brought on to the ground in a cart, lest any of the horses should kick
it. Naturally none of the company carried fire-arms; it is not usual to
have them at a fox-hunt.

As the whole merry company was approaching the end of the long avenue of
Italian poplars, they perceived a solitary horseman trotting towards
them from the opposite end of the avenue.

Even at a distance every one recognized him at once from his mode of
riding, and like quick fire the rumour spread amongst the company; ah,
at last he has arrived!

Who was it, then, who had arrived at last? Why, who else but the most
gallant of cavaliers, the most daring of courtiers, who had only to
come, see, and conquer--Mike Kis, the Whitsun King!

In a moment he had reached the cavalcade, and was apologizing to the
ladies for having remained away so long, conveying the impression, from
slight allusions he let drop, that some serious business, a duel
perhaps, had detained him; then he proceeded to make his excuses to the
gentlemen, allowing it to be supposed that some tender affair, a private
assignation for instance, was the cause of his delay. Then, shaking
hands right and left, and even finding time to throw a word or two to
each of the foxhounds by name, he politely begged those who thronged him
to make way, as he wished to pay his respects immediately to Madame
Kárpáthy, whom, without the slightest embarrassment, he began to call a
goddess, an angel on horseback, and other pretty names.

Unfortunately Fanny misunderstood him, and, regarding everything he said
as so many capital jokes, rewarded them with far more laughter than
their merits deserved.

"Squire John, Squire John!" cried Dame Marion, in a shrill, pointed sort
of tone, to Kárpáthy, who was trotting beside her carriage, "if I were
you I would not have a bosom friend who has the reputation of being
irresistible."

"I am not jealous, your ladyship; that is the one little wheel which is
wanting in my mechanism. I suppose it was left out of me when I was
made--ha, ha, ha!"

"Then, if I were you, I would not come to a fox-hunt, lest my dogs
should regard me as an Actæon."

"To give your ladyship cause to conduct yourself towards me like Diana,
eh?"

Dame Marion pouted, and turned her head aside; the man was such a
blockhead that he absolutely could not understand any attempt to
aggravate him.

And now the company trotted merrily on again.

The course had been chosen outside a village, and in front of it a
pleasure-house had been erected. Here the prizes were to be distributed.
Here those of the gentlemen and ladies who were not on horseback
alighted, and ascended to a terrace, in shape like a lofty tower, which
rose from the midst of the pleasure-house, and from whence the whole
plain was visible. Only here and there was a dot of forest to be seen;
everywhere else stretched a waste expanse covered with broom, coarse
grass, and sedges,--a true realm of foxes. Thus from the tower of the
pleasure-house the best possible view of the whole competition was
obtainable, and there were field-glasses provided for those who wanted
them.

A whole army of foxhounds had followed the hunters. It was a fine sight
to see how, at a single familiar whistle, the various packs of hounds
were separated from each other; how the dogs crowded round their
respective masters, for the favourites were now let down from the carts
and the rest were unleashed; and how, barking and yelping, they leaped
in the air, to reach and lick their masters' uplifted hands.

It is curious how human passions prove contagious to the very beasts.

Squire John selected from among the rest two pure snow-white hounds,
and, whistling to them between his two fingers, led them to his wife.

"They are the finest and the boldest foxhounds in the whole pack."

"I know them: one is Cziczke, and the other Rajkó."

The two dogs, hearing their names mentioned, joyously leaped and bounded
in their efforts to lick their mistress's hand as she sat on horseback.

It was very pleasant to Squire John to find that his wife knew his dogs
by name, he was equally pleased to see that the dogs knew their
mistress--ah! every one did her homage, both man and beast.

"But where, then, is Matyi?" inquired Fanny, looking about her.

"I am taking him with me."

"What, sir, are you going to take part in the race? Pray do not!"

"Why not? Don't you think me a good enough horseman?"

"I readily believe that you are; but pray, for my sake, do not proceed
to prove it!"

"For your sake I will immediately dismount."

Flora whispered to Count Gregory, who was riding by her side, "I should
like to know how many of the husbands present would give up hunting for
the sake of their wives?"

And, indeed, Squire John's affection must have been something altogether
out of the way to make him renounce his favourite pastime in the joyful
anticipation of which he had been living for months beforehand, simply
to please his wife. Fanny, deeply touched, held out her hands towards
him.

"You are not angry with me, I hope," said she; "but I feel so frightened
on your account."

John Kárpáthy pressed the extended hand to his lips, and, holding it in
his palm some little time, asked--

"And ought _I_ not to be afraid on your account also?"

Fanny involuntarily glanced at her friend, as if to ask whether she also
ought not to remain here.

Kárpáthy guessed the meaning of the look.

"No, no; I don't want you to remain here. Go and enjoy yourself! But
take care of yourself. And you young fellows there, watch over my wife
as if she were the light of your eyes."

"Oh, we'll look after her!" replied Mike Kis, twirling his moustache.

"And _I_, also, will look after her," cried Lady Szentirmay, with a
strong emphasis on the word _I_; for she had observed that Kárpáthy's
good-natured appeal had somewhat confused his wife.

And now the horns began to sound and the whips to crack, and both dogs
and horses grew unruly and impatient. The company divided into three
parts, forming a centre and rings like an army, and advanced into the
bushy plain, sending the dogs on in front. The ladies waved their
handkerchiefs, the gentlemen their caps, to the friends they had left
behind on the tower who responded in like manner, whereupon the
galloping groups scattered in every direction, disappearing here and
there among the thick brushwood. Only the heads of most of the riders
were now visible above the bushes, but the fluttering veils of the two
ladies could be plainly seen by every one, and every eye was fixed upon
them with delight. And now they came to a ditch. Lady Szentirmay boldly
raced towards it, and was over it in a trice; a moment later, Madame
Kárpáthy also leaped the ditch, her slender figure swayed and danced
during the leap; after her plunged her escort, Count Gregory, the
Whitsun King, and some other horsemen. The people on the balcony
applauded.

Only Kárpáthy felt uneasy, and did not know where to bestow himself. He
descended among the grooms, and finding old Paul there, said to him,
anxiously--

"I can't help feeling anxious lest some accident should happen to my
wife. Isn't that horse rather shy?"

"The steadiest goer in the world; but perhaps you would like me to go
after her?"

"Well, I should. You have just hit it. Mount my horse. Take care they do
not go astray near the swamp; call their attention to the fact that they
might easily come to grief there."

Palko immediately mounted Squire John's horse, and Kárpáthy returned to
the balcony to see whether he would manage to overtake them.

The hunt sped onwards tempestuously. The hounds had now started a fox,
but they were still a long way off, and the field was so scattered that
the artful beast seemed likely to throw them off his track. He kept
plunging into the bushes while his pursuers dashed past, and then, all
of a sudden, darted off side-ways. But fruitless was all his craftiness;
he only rushed into a fresh foe, and tried vainly to hide or double:
there was no refuge to be found anywhere, and the quick cracking of
whips on every side of him told him that a war of extirpation against
his whole race was on foot, so he resolved on flight, and gained the
very first hillock, where he stopped for a moment, looked round to see
from what direction the enemy was coming, and then made for the reeds
with all his might.

"Look! the fox, the fox!" cried his pursuers, when they perceived him on
the hillock: the next moment he had disappeared from it.

But they had seen enough of him to perceive that he was a splendid
beast. He was evidently an old stager, who would give the best dogs
something to do.

After him!

Off galloped the whole party in the track of the hounds, the faces of
the two ladies were aglow with the passionate ardour of the chase, and
at that instant there occurred to the mind of Fanny her vision of long
ago: what if he, her nameless ideal, were now galloping beside her on
his swift-footed steed, and could see her impetuously heading the chase
till she threw herself down before him, and died there, without anybody
knowing why! But Flora thought: "Suppose Rudolf were now to come face to
face with me, and see me"--and then she felt again how much she loved
him.

And now the fox suddenly emerged again on the open. A newly mown field,
of a thousand acres or so in extent, covered with rows of haycocks, lay
right before the huntsmen; and here the really interesting part of the
hunt began. The fox was a fine specimen, about as big as a young wolf,
but much longer in the body, and carrying behind him a provokingly big
brush. He trotted leisurely in front, not because he could not go
quicker, but because he wanted to economize his strength, and all the
time he kept dodging to and fro, backwards and forwards, in the
endeavour to tire his enemies out, and ceaselessly threw glances behind
him at his pursuers, out of half an eye, keeping about a hundred paces
in front of them, and accelerating his pace whenever he perceived that
the distance between him and them was diminishing.

And yet the very best hounds of Squire John's--Cziczke, the two white
ones, and Rajkó, Matyi, big Ordas, Michael Kis's Fecske, and Count
Gregory's Armida, to say nothing of the whole canine army behind them,
were hard upon his traces.

The fox began to go slower and slower. He seemed to regret the brushwood
from which he had leaped forth, and kept flying towards one haycock
after another; as if he fancied he could find a shelter beside it, and
then, snarling savagely, cantered on again. Even from afar he could be
seen gnashing his teeth together when he looked back.

And indeed he was in evil case, cooped up on that level ground, where
there was neither stream nor hiding-place which might shelter him from
his pursuers. Sideways, indeed, lay an arm of the river Berettyo,
well-known to crayfish catchers and summer-bathers as a broad and deep
stream, and well would it be for him now to have that water between him
and the hounds, for the foxhound will not swim if he can help it, but it
looked very much as if they would surround him, and tear his skin off
his back before he could reach it.

And now it was easy to perceive that his pace was diminishing, as he ran
in and out among the haycocks; soon he must be completely surrounded.

"Seize him, Fecske! seize him, Rajkó! seize him, Armida!" resounded from
all sides.

The dogs rushed after him with all their might.

The two white dogs were nearest to him; like the wind they rushed after
him, their long slender necks straining forward as if to let the fox
know that a few more minutes and they, would be upon him.

Suddenly the fox stood still. Sweeping his tail beneath him, and
gnashing his teeth, he faced round upon the hounds, who, taken unawares,
stopped in front of him, snarling viciously, and wagging their upturned
tails. The hunted beast took advantage of this momentary respite, and
with a side spring slipped between the two white dogs, and tried to find
a refuge more to the right.

Again they were all after him.

Now Count Gregory's Armida got nearest to him.

"Bravo Armida! The victory is yours."

Another leap. The fox suddenly crouched down, and Armida bounded over
him, only perceiving when she had run twenty paces further that the fox
had remained behind.

And now they all suddenly turned to the right.

"Seize him, Fecske!" cried Mike Kis.

And Fecske really did seize the fox; but the fox in his turn seized
Fecske, and bit his ear so savagely that the dog immediately let go
again: so that was all poor Fecske got.

And now the fox, with all his might, made straight for the Berettyo. The
crafty old fellow had succeeded in checkmating all his pursuers and
reaching his lurking-place. The hounds were now far behind him.

But now old Matyi, the wolf-grey, solitary foxhound, came to the front,
and showed what he could do. Hitherto he had not very much exerted
himself, but had let the others do what they could. He knew very well
that a single dog would never catch this fox--nay, two and even three
would be no match for him. It was an old fox, and they knew each other,
for they had often come across each other here and there. Now then, let
him show his enemy what he was made of.

Again the fox practised his old wiles, darting aside, crouching down,
gnashing his teeth: all in vain--he had now to do with a practised foe.
If only Squire John could now have seen it all! Ask an enthusiastic
fox-hunter how much he would have given for such a sight?

And now the fox stopped short again in mid career, and crouched down;
but Matyi did not leap over him as the flighty Armida had done, but, as
the fox turned towards him with gnashing teeth, he snapped suddenly at
him from the opposite side like lightning, and in that instant all that
one could see was the fox turning a somersault in the air. Matyi,
seizing him by the neck had, in fact, tossed him up, and scarcely had he
reached the ground again when he was seized again by the skin of his
back, well shaken, and then released. Let him run a little bit longer,
if he likes!

"Bravo, Matyi! bravo!" shouted everybody present.

This exclamation encouraged Matyi to show the spectators fresh specimens
of his skill. By a series of masterly manœuvres he turned the fox back
towards the hunters, in order that they might the better see him mount
head over heels into the air again. He never held the dangerous beast in
his jaws for more than one moment, for he knew that in the next the fox
could seize him, and dogs have their own peculiar ideas of a fox's grip,
for it is the bite of all other bites they like the least. He contented
himself therefore with harrying and worrying him as much as possible
without coming to too close quarters till he should have succeeded in
wearing him out. The fox no longer defended himself, but simply ran
straight on, limping and stumbling on three legs. Every one fancied that
it was now all up with him, when, suddenly, he made another dart
sideways, and perceiving a herd of oxen on the high-road, made straight
towards them.

Here a pretty high fence confronted the hunters, which they were
obliged to take, and which gave both the ladies another opportunity of
showing their agility; both of them successfully cleared it. At that
moment they perceived a horseman coming towards them on the high-road,
whom, owing partly to the high bushes and partly to their attention
being directed elsewhere, they had not observed before.

"'Tis he!"

Flora's face that instant grew redder than ever, while Fanny's turned as
pale as death.

"'Tis he!"

Both of them recognized him at the same time. 'Tis he, the loving
husband of the one, the beloved ideal of the other.

Flora rushed towards him with a cry of joy. "Rudolf! Rudolf!" she cried.

Fanny, in dumb despair, turned her horse's head, and began to gallop
back again.

"Good God!" cried Rudolf, whose face still burned with the kisses of his
loving wife, "that lady's horse has run away with her!"

"That is Madame Kárpáthy!" cried Flora in alarm; and she whipped up her
horse in the hope of overtaking her friend.

The lady was galloping helter-skelter across the plain. Every one
fancied that her stallion had run away with her. Flora, old Palko, Mike
Kis, and Count Gregory vainly sped after her; they could not get near
her: only Rudolf was beginning to catch her up.

And now the stallion had reached the narrow dyke, and was galloping
along it; on the other side of it, six fathoms in depth, were the waters
of the Berettyo. A single stumble, and all would be over. But now Rudolf
was catching her up, and he was the best horseman of them all. And now
he was level with her. It was the first time in his life that he had
seen this woman. He had no idea that he had met her many and many a
time before, for he had never noticed her. The stallion, with foaming
mouth, rushed on, with the lady clinging to him. Her face was pale and
her bosom heaved. It was just at this moment that the young man came
abreast of her; her flying locks flapped his face: and she had a
hundredfold more reasons now than ever for wishing to die at that
moment. This youth, this ideal of her romantic dreams, was the husband
of her dearest, her noblest, her loveliest friend.

Rudolf was obliged to give up all idea of stopping the maddened steed.
Instead of that, and, just as Fanny fell back half-swooning from her
saddle, he swiftly seized her in his muscular grip, and pulled her right
on to his own saddle. The lady fainted away over his shoulder, and the
horse dashed wildly onwards.



CHAPTER XIV.

MARTYRDOM.


After this event Lady Kárpáthy was very seriously ill; for a long time
her life was even despaired of. Kárpáthy summoned the most famous
doctors in the world to attend to her, and they consulted and prescribed
for her, but none of them could tell what was the matter. It is a great
pity that nobody knows how to prescribe for the heart.

For a long time she was delirious, and talked a lot of nonsense, as sick
people generally do whose fevered brains are full of phantoms.

A soft smooth hand stroked her burning forehead from time to time. It
was the hand of Flora, who watched by the sick-bed night and day,
denying herself sleep, denying herself even the sight of her husband,
despite the terrifying suggestions of Dame Marion, who maintained that
Madame Kárpáthy was sickening for small-pox.

If that had been all the poor woman was suffering from, how little it
would have been!

At last Nature triumphed. A young constitution usually struggles more
severely with Death than an old one, and throws him off more quickly.
Fanny was delivered from death. When first she was able to look around
her with an unclouded mind, she perceived two persons sitting by her
side; one was Flora, the other--Teresa.

Though nothing in the world would have induced Teresa to call upon Fanny
as a visitor, the very first rumour of her severe illness brought her to
her side. She arrived on the very day when a change for the better had
set in, and relieved Flora by taking her turn in the nursing.

Nevertheless, Lady Szentirmay would not depart till she knew for certain
that her friend was out of danger, and therefore resolved to wait a few
days longer.

So Fanny regained life and consciousness; she no longer chattered oddly
and unintelligibly, but lay very still and quiet. She was cured, the
doctors said.

And now she could coldly review the whole course of her life. What was
he, what had she become now, and what would become of her in the future?

She was the scion of a wretched and shameful family, from whose fate she
had only been snatched by hands which, wont to lift themselves in prayer
to God, had shielded and defended her against every danger, and prepared
for her a peaceful and quiet refuge, where she might have lived like a
bird of the forest in its hidden nest.

This refuge she had been forced to quit, in order to take her place in
the great world--that great world which had so much in it that was
terrifying to her.

Then she had sought a woman's heart that could understand her, and a
manly face that might serve her for an ideal.

And she had found them both--the noble-hearted friend, who had been so
good, so kind to her, far better and kinder than she had dared to hope;
and the idolized youth, of whose heart and mind the world itself had
even grander and finer things to say than she herself had ever lavished
upon him. And this woman, and this idol of a man were spouses--and he
happiest of spouses too!

What must her portion be now?

She must be the dumb witness of that very bliss which she pictured to
herself so vividly. Every day she must see the happy face of her friend,
and listen to the sweet secrets of her rapture. She must listen while
_his_ name is magnified by another; she must look upon the majestic
countenance of the youth whom she may not worship--nay, she must not
even dare to speak of him, lest her blushes and the tremor of her voice
should betray what no man must ever know!

How happy she would have been now, had she never learnt to know this
passion, if she had never allowed her soul to fly away after
unattainable desires! If only she had listened to that honest old woman
she would now be sitting at home in her quiet peaceful cottage among the
meadows, with nothing to think of but her flowers!

That was all, all over now!

She was no longer able to go either backwards or forwards. Only to live
on, live on, one day after another, and, as every day came round, to
sigh, as she got up to face it: "Yet another day!"

But her husband, that good old fellow, what of him?

Only now did Kárpáthy feel how much he loved his wife! Perhaps if she
had died he would not have survived her. Sometimes the doctors would
allow him to see his wife, and at such times he would stand with
streaming eyes at the foot of the sick woman's bed, kissing her hand,
and weeping like a child. At last his wife was out of danger. On her
departure, Lady Szentirmay impressed upon Kárpáthy the necessity of
taking great care of Fanny, of not letting her get up too soon and take
cold, of rigorously carrying out the doctor's directions, of not letting
her read too long at a time, of allowing her, in a week's time or so, to
go out for a drive, if the weather was fine, and she was well wrapped
up, and much more to the same effect. Women understand these things so
much better than men.

Kárpáthy called down endless blessings on the head of his kind neighbour
as he bade her adieu, and promised to come and see her as soon as
possible.

"It is now your turn to come and see us," said she. "In a month's time,
I hope Fanny will be able to redeem the promise she made to come and see
me and my husband at home. I don't think, however, that I'll say
good-bye to her now, for fear of disturbing her; it will be better if
you will tell her of my departure."

Armed with this commission, and ascertaining first of all from Teresa
that Fanny was now awake, and might be seen without harm, he stole
softly to her room on the tips of his toes, went up to the bed, gently
smoothed down her hair, took her hand in his, and asked how she was.

"Quite well," replied the invalid, and she tried to smile.

The smile was but a poor success, but it did Squire John good to see the
attempt, at any rate.

"Lady Szentirmay sends her love; she has just gone."

Fanny made no reply to this, but she drew his hand across her forehead,
as if she wished to drive from thence the thought which arose within it.

Kárpáthy fancied that his hand was cooling, perhaps, to the poor hot
forehead, so he pressed it tenderly.

Then Fanny seized his hand with both her own, and drew it to her lips.
How happy Kárpáthy felt at that moment! He turned aside for a moment,
lest she should see the tears in his eyes.

Fanny fancied he would have gone away, and drew him still closer to
her.

"Don't go away," she said--"stay here; let us talk!"

"You see," continued she, "that I am quite myself again now. In a short
time I shall be able to get up. Don't be angry with me if I ask you to
do me a favour?"

"Ask not one favour, but a thousand favours!" cried Kárpáthy, rejoicing
that his wife asked anything of him at all.

"Are you not getting ready a new mansion at Pest?" asked Fanny.

"You wish to live there, perhaps?" cried Kárpáthy, hastening to
anticipate his wife's wishes. "You can take possession of it at a
moment's notice, and, if you don't like it, and want something more
handsome, I'll have another built for you this winter."

"Thanks, but I shall be quite satisfied with the one at Pest. I have
been thinking to myself what an entirely new life we'll begin to live
there together."

"Yes, indeed; we will have lots of company, and of the
merriest,--splendid parties----"

"I did not mean that. I am thinking of serious things, of charitable
objects. Oh! we who are rich have so many obligations towards the
suffering, towards the community, towards humanity."

Poor woman! how she would have escaped from her own burning heart amidst
coldly sublime ideas!

"As you please. Seek your joy, then, in drying the eyes of the tearful.
Be happy in the blessings which Gratitude will shower upon your name."

"Then you promise me this?"

"I am happy in being able to do anything that pleases you."

"Nay, be not too indulgent. I warn you that will only make me more
exacting."

"Speak, speak! would that there were no end to your wishes! Believe me,
only then am I unhappy, when I see that nothing delights you, when you
are sorrowful, when there's nothing you feel a liking for--then, indeed,
I am very, very unhappy! Would you like to go to a watering-place this
summer? Where would you like to go? Command me, where would you feel
most happy?"

Fanny began reflecting. Whither away? Anywhere, if it only were far
enough! Away from the neighbourhood of the Szentirmays, and never come
back again!

"Mehadia, I think, would be the nicest place. That is far enough away
anyhow," thought she.

"I'll engage for you beforehand the best quarters procurable for the
coming summer: it really is a very pleasant place."

"And I have something else to ask."

Kárpáthy could scarce contain himself for joy.

"But it is a greater and more serious wish than all the rest."

"All the better. What is it?"

"I should like you to come with me everywhere, and to be with me always,
and never leave me."

Ah, this was more than a human heart could bear! The foolish old man
went down on his knees beside the bed of his wife, and covered her hands
with his tears and kisses.

"How have I deserved this happiness, this goodness from you!" he cried.

The lady smiled sadly, and for a long, long time she did not release her
husband's hand from her own. Kárpáthy spent half the day by her bedside
in gentle prattle, listening to the modest wishes of his dear sick
little wife, and happy beyond expression at being allowed to give her
her tonics from time to time.

A few days afterwards Fanny was able to leave her bed, and, leaning
against her husband's shoulder, walked up and down the room. Day by day
her health returned, and she grew more and more like her old self. And
then she would spend whole days with her husband, and bring her
embroidery or her book into his room; or she would invite him into her
room, when she played the piano; or would drive about with him, in fact,
she never left him. She did not wish for any other society. She directed
the servants that if any of her old visitors came to see her, they were
to be told she was not feeling well, and all the time she would be
sitting inside with her husband, and forcing herself to make him happy
and load him with joy.

During these days she had very little to do even with Teresa, and very
shortly her worthy kinswoman took her leave. Fanny parted from her
without tears or sorrow, yet Teresa saw into her soul. When she had
kissed the silent lips, and was sitting in the carriage on her way home,
she sighed involuntarily, "Poor girl! poor girl!"



CHAPTER XV.

THE SPY.


And now we are in Mr. Kecskerey's quarters again. It would be a great
mistake on our part to leave him out of sight. An individual like him,
once seen, may not be forgotten. He was now living at Pest, where he had
elegant chambers and all his old renown, carrying on his old business of
amalgamating the various elements of society.

It was still early, and the worthy man was not yet half dressed. When I
say not yet half dressed, I mean the expression to be taken in the
literal sense of the word. He was sitting in the middle of the room on a
rich purple ottoman, enfolded in a red burnous, sucking away at a huge
chibook, puffing smoke all round him, and contemplating himself in a
large mirror exactly opposite to him. At the opposite end of the ottoman
sat a huge orang-outang of about his own size, in a similarly charming
position, wrapped in a similar burnous, also smoking a chibook, and
regarding himself in the mirror.

Scattered all about were heaps of scented _billet-doux_, verses, musical
notes, and other perishable articles of the same sort. Round about the
walls hung all kinds of select pictures, which would certainly have been
very much ashamed if they could have seen each other. On the table, in a
vase of genuine Herculanean bronze, were the visiting-cards of a number
of notable men and women of the smartest set. The carpets were all woven
by delicate feminine hands, and bore the figures of dogs, horses, and
huntsmen. The tapestried walls revealed the presence of small hidden
doors, and the windows were covered by double curtains close drawn.

In the antechamber outside, a small negro groom was scratching his ear
for sheer _ennui_. He had orders not to admit any gentleman visitor till
after twelve o'clock, from which he drew the temerarious conclusion that
he was free to admit ladies up to that hour.

Despite this prohibition, however, it chanced that Jussuf, in reply to a
determined pull at the bell, did admit a gentleman; and Mr. Kecskerey
heard the nigger lad talking in his Kaffir tongue to the new arrival,
and was furious with him in consequence.

"Who is it, Jussuf?" cried Mr. Kecskerey, in such a sharp voice that the
baboon on the sofa behind his back began to hiss for fright.

By way of answer the new arrival himself rushed through the door. "These
privileged friends of mine are vastly impertinent," murmured Mr.
Kecskerey to himself, as he perceived the intruder in the doorway; and
it seemed to give him great satisfaction when the visitor fell back at
the sight of his peculiar costume. But a moment later he recognized who
it was, and, with a determined effort at gaiety, exclaimed, stretching
out his long dry hand towards him--

"Ah, Abellino! 'tis you, eh? We fancied you had mediatized yourself in
India. Come and sit down by me. Have you brought back with you some of
those famous pastilles which you mentioned in your genial letters?"

"Go to the devil, and take your baboon with you," cursed the new
arrival. "You resemble one another so closely that I did not know which
was the master of the house."

"Ah, this monkey belongs to the species most fashionable at the Egyptian
court. Besides, my baboon is under an obligation to be polite. Joko,
show your good breeding by giving a pipe to my guest."

Joko did as he was told, and brought the pipe.

"And now sit down by me and make yourself comfortable," continued
Kecskerey. "Jussuf, fill my guest's pipe for him. I regret I cannot
oblige you with a narghilly."

Abellino took off the huge mantle which covered his shoulders, sat down
face to face with Mr. Kecskerey, and amused himself in the mean time by
throwing paper pellets at the baboon.

"And what, then, has brought you back into this realm, my hero, my
troubadour?" inquired Mr. Kecskerey. "Some love-adventure, some notable
affair, I'll be bound. I'll dare to guess that you have abducted some
Hindu vestal from Budhur?"

"Answer me first of all; is there still any rumour abroad about my
former affair?"

Kecskerey made an angry grimace.

"My dear friend," said he, "you ask too much of me. You seem to expect
that folks will talk of nothing but your beggarly duel for a whole
twelve-month. Why, it is as much forgotten as if it had never been. Look
now! you killed Fennimore, and Fennimore had a younger brother who by
his death succeeded to the family estates. They asked him a little time
ago why he did not pursue the action brought against you. 'I am not so
mad,' said he, 'as to take action against my benefactor.' You can meet
him at my place this very evening. He is a much finer fellow than his
brother, and he'll be very glad to see you."

"The luck's on my side then, but let us talk of other things. It looks
as if Pest were now becoming the nest of the elegant world, or you would
not have established yourself in it. What are you doing here?"

"We are spreading civilization. It is a somewhat poorer diversion than
spending the season at Paris, but a few Hungarian magnates have taken it
into their heads to live henceforth at Pest, and for their sake others,
and for these others' sake others still have pitched their tents in this
little town, in which there is as much pleasure as you'll find at
London, and as many illusions as you'll find anywhere."

"That's all right. And what do you know about the Kárpáthys?"

Mr. Kecskerey blew himself out haughtily like a frog, and grunted in a
strangulated sort of voice, "My friend, for what do you take me, pray?
Am I your spy, that I should go ferreting into family secrets in order
to betray them to you? What sort of an opinion can you have of me?"

Abellino, with a feeling of satisfaction, launched the remainder of the
crumpled-up visiting-cards in his fist at Joko's head. He knew the
manners and customs of Mr. Kecskerey thoroughly. He was wont to fling
back every dishonourable commission and query with the utmost
indignation, into the face of their proposer, but he executed them all
the same, and reported accordingly.

"What business is it of mine what the Kárpáthys are doing? The world
says, however, that Madame Kárpáthy has a fresh lover every day. At one
time 'tis Count Erdey, at another 'tis Mike Kis. It says, too, that old
Squire John himself invites his cronies to Kárpátfalva, and is quite
delighted if his wife finds any among them worthy to be loved. He lets
her go visiting at the neighbouring villages with Mike Kis hundreds of
times, and much more is said to the same effect. But what has it all got
to do with me? I think as little of such things as of the dreams of my
baboon."

After this, Kecskerey, with the assistance of his little negro servant,
slowly proceeded with his dressing.

"Well, my dear friend," he resumed after a while, "so you have come back
from India, eh? I suppose you'll be a fixture in our little circle now,
and will honour my assemblies with your distinguished presence?"

"I am much obliged to you for the invitation, but I am no longer rich
enough to take part in them. Griffard refuses to lend me another sou,
and I am obliged to learn the science of economy like any other
Philistine."

"Ah, that's a pity for you, for you cannot find it very amusing. You
would do more wisely if you made it up with your uncle."

"I would rather be a bandit than a beggar."

"Take care you don't fall into a snare."

"What snare can you possibly imagine?"

"Your uncle is as much enamoured of his wife as ever, or I am greatly
mistaken."

"I rather incline to think that some one else may be enamoured of her."

"That would be somewhat singular."

"Why should you think so?"

"That old man has completely changed. He looks twenty years younger; one
scarcely recognizes him. He leads a regular life, and no doubt his
doctors are clever. Besides, it is a tradition in your family that the
ladies find the gentlemen amiable even in advanced old age. The day that
I encountered your kinswoman at Szolnok, I thought she looked happier
and more contented than I had ever seen her before."

"Hell and devils!" exclaimed Abellino, mad with rage. "What can be the
reason why this woman is so happy and contented? Her husband is
incapable, I'll swear, of making her so. There's falsehood, there's
fraud somehow."

"There _may_ be falsehood and fraud, my friend," replied Kecskerey,
coolly clasping one of his knees with both his hands, and swaying
himself to and fro in a rocking-chair.

"If I could only prove that that woman was in love with some one; if any
one were able to show the world in the clearest, the most sensational
manner that she had secret relations with anybody----"

"But, as a member of the family, that would naturally bring disgrace
upon you also."

"They are playing a game against me."

"It may be so. The old man is quite capable of overlooking his wife's
infidelity in order to do you out of the inheritance."

"But it cannot be, it cannot be! Our laws would not allow such a
scandal."

Kecskerey burst out laughing.

"My friend, if our laws were disposed to make very conscientious
investigations concerning the proper descent of all our great families,
endless confusion would arise in the making out of our family trees."

"But I tell you I will not allow a downtrodden beggar-woman to force her
way into an illustrious family, and rob the rightful heirs of their
inheritance by saddling her decrepit husband with brats that are the
fruit of her base amours."

At these words Kecskerey laughed louder than ever.

"Since your return you have become quite a moral man, I see. You would
have been glad to have had one of these same base-born brats yourself a
year ago."

"Joking apart, my friend, you see that I am a ruined man, a man whom
infernal intrigues have sent to the devil. If what I fear really
happens, I shall blow my brains out. I must find out at any price
something that will compromise Madame Kárpáthy before the law, and if
something of the sort cannot be discovered, it must be invented."

Kecskerey pulled a wry face.

"My dear friend, I know not why you say such things to me. Do I look
like a person competent to give advice in such matters? It is a serious
business, I assure you. I am very sorry, but you must do what you want
yourself. The Kárpáthys will reside here this winter. Do as you please,
corrupt their servants, set your creatures to their work, and get them
to lead the young woman astray and then betray her; plant your spies
about her, watch every step she takes, and put the affair in the hands
of sharp practitioners; but leave me in peace, I am a gentleman, I will
_not_ be a spy, or a well-feed Mephistopheles, or a hired Cicisbeo."

So the worthy gentleman hastened to wash from off him the least
suspicion of such a shady transaction, but nevertheless he showed
Abellino what to do. He protested against every attempt to draw an
opinion from him, but for all that he did his best to give an exhaustive
answer.

Abellino was very well pleased with him. New projects began to spring up
in his brain; he took up his hat and bade his friend a grateful adieu,
and so they parted with mutual assurances of a speedy _au revoir_.



CHAPTER XVI.

LIGHT WITHOUT AND NIGHT WITHIN.


Yet it had to be.

Madame Kárpáthy had promised her friend to share her labours as hostess
on the occasion of the feast in honour of her husband's installation as
Lord-Lieutenant, just as Lady Szentirmay had shared hers before the
fox-hunt. She had vainly tortured her brain for a whole fortnight in
order that she might find an excuse to release her from her promise, and
not one could she find. Unfortunately, she was so well that she could
not even complain on that score. What she feared above all happened.
Flora did not forget the promise that had been made, and when the great
day was only a week off, she wrote to her friend that she should rely
upon her at the end of that time. And so for a whole week Fanny,
resigned to her fate, but with the torment of her secret passion in her
bosom, suffered in silence at the thought of going to the house of him
whom she loved as her soul's ideal, but who would not have been too far
away from her, so she thought, if he had lived in another planet.

Flora welcomed her friend with great joy, her satisfaction was
unmistakably visible on her honest, lovely face as she pressed Fanny
between her arms. Rudolf's manner was kindly and courtly, but nothing
more. He was glad to see his pretty neighbour in his house and anxious
to make her comfortable, but she did not interest him in the very
least.

And indeed Fanny herself found the situation much less dangerous than
she had imagined. Ideals, especially ideals of the masculine gender, in
their domestic circles lose very much of the nimbus which they carry
about with them elsewhere. At home you hear them whistle and shout, and
bully their servants and domestics, and see them immersed in everyday
household affairs. You see them eat and drink and look bored. You see
them with imperfect or unaccomplished toilets, and often with muddy
boots, especially when they look after their own horses. You begin to
realize that ideals also are as much subject to the petty necessities of
life as ordinary men, and do not always preserve the precise postures
you are wont to see them in when their portraits adorn the
picture-galleries. With women it is quite different. Woman is born to
beautify the domestic circle, woman is always fascinating whether she be
dressed up or domestically dowdy, but man is least of all fascinating at
home.

In a word, Fanny felt the danger to be much less when it was actually
before her than it had seemed to be when seen from afar, and she looked
at Rudolf much more calmly with her bodily eyes than she had been wont
to do with the eyes of her imagination.

Thus the first week which Fanny spent at Szentirmay Castle was by no
means so very painful, and after that Rudolf had to go to the capital
from whence he was only to return on the day before the installation.

Meanwhile the two ladies, with the utmost forethought, were arranging
everything for the approaching festivities, and whatever one of them
forgot was sure to occur to the other. Fanny began to find her position
more and more natural; every day she began to gain a greater command
over her tender emotions, and indeed life, practical life, makes
possible and comprehensible much which poetical logic and the
imagination label--absurd.

On the day of the installation, Lady Szentirmay and Madame Kárpáthy
drove over to the county town where lodgings had been provided for the
former's husband as Governor-General, at the town-hall.

Szentirmay wished his installation to be conducted with as little pomp
and ceremony as possible. The most eminent ladies of the county watched
the procession from the balcony, and Madame Kárpáthy also was among
them. It was difficult to recognize any one in particular among all
those holiday faces, such a different aspect did their Oriental gravity
and splendid Oriental _Köntöses_ give them. Several of the younger
cavaliers saluted the ladies with their swords.

At length the carriage of the _Főispán_ came in sight with a clattering
escort of twelve knightly horsemen. He himself was sitting bareheaded in
the open carriage, and something like emotion was visible on his
handsome noble face. Loud cries of "Éljen! éljen!" announced his
approach. Every one knew of him by hearsay as the noblest of men, and
every one rejoiced that the best of patriots and the most excellent of
citizens should have attained the highest dignity in the county. Madame
Kárpáthy looked at him tremblingly, better for her if she had never seen
him like this.

The procession passed across the square to the gate of the town-hall,
and half an hour later Rudolf was standing in the large assembly-room
filling it with his sublime impassioned words, till all who heard felt
their hearts leap towards him. Madame Kárpáthy also heard him, she was
in the gallery. Ah, it would have been better had she neither seen nor
heard him there. Now she not merely loved, she adored him.

All at once she began to notice that somebody in the assembly-hall below
was making frantic signs to her with hands and head, and using every
available limb to attract her attention; nay, he even got upon a chair
in order to be able to see her better. At first she did not recognize
the man, but presently the disagreeable recollection thrilled through
her that she had seen him before somewhere, and she regarded him more
closely with a look of aversion--it was Mr. Kecskerey.

Why, what could have brought that worthy man thither, for it was not his
way to put himself to any inconvenience without very good reason.

The sight of this man made a very disagreeable impression upon Fanny,
and jarred upon her nerves. Every time she looked at him she perceived,
much to her indignation, that his eyes were fixed constantly upon her.

The official ceremonies were generally terminated by a magnificent
banquet during which the assembly-room with magical rapidity was
converted into a dancing-room, to which the guests then returned.

The best and bonniest of the whole country-side were together, the most
illustrious of the men and the loveliest of the women.

Rudolf opened the ball with the Princess * * * who was considered the
most important personage present amongst the ladies, and then danced
with all the other women in turn, according to rank. How Fanny trembled,
and how her heart began to beat, when she saw him approaching her. Lady
Szentirmay had just been carried off by some young cavalier for a waltz,
and she was sitting there alone.

Rudolf politely walked up to her, and with a deep bow invited her to
dance. Oh, how beautiful he was! Fanny durst not regard him at that
moment. Rudolf bending half over her, offered her his arm.

Poor lady, she was scarce able to utter these few words: "I am not
allowed to dance, my lord. I have been very ill."

He could not but believe what she said, as she was as pale at that
moment as if she were about to descend into the tomb.

Rudolf expressed his regret in a few courtly words, and then retired.

For some time afterwards Fanny durst not raise her eyes, as if she
fancied he was still standing before her. At last, however, she did look
up, and the eyes that met her gaze were--Mr. Kecskerey's.

"The Madonna of Mount Carmel, for all the world!" said that worthy
cavalier, saluting her _chapeau-bas_, and confidently drawing still
nearer.

Fanny hastily pulled herself together. She had the foreboding that she
must hide her very soul from the scrutiny of this man; so she accepted
his salutation with a cold smile, and made as if she were not afraid of
him.

"What a loss it is to the company that your ladyship does not dance, but
what a gain to me who, also, do not dance," said the hero, with
impertinent familiarity. And he sat down beside Lady Kárpáthy as if he
were an intimate friend, throwing back his dress-coat on both sides, and
nursing one of his legs in both hands. "Will it bore your ladyship if we
have a little talk together?"

"I am a good listener."

"During the last few days a joyous rumour has flashed through our
capital which has made every one happy who has heard it."

"What rumour is that?"

"That your ladyship intends to spend the coming winter in the capital."

"It is not yet certain."

"You drive me to despair. Surely, my friend Kárpáthy is not such an
ungallant husband? Why, he should fly to execute his wife's wishes!"

"I have never told anybody that I wanted to reside at Pest."

"The lady is secretive," thought Kecskerey. "I know that they are making
their palace at Pest habitable. We shall get to the bottom of it
presently."

"Yet the Pest saloons will be very attractive this winter, and we shall
form some very elegant sets. The Szépkiesdys are coming up, and we may
also expect to see there Count Gergely with his mother, young Eugene
Darvay, the handsome Rezsö Csendey, and that genial prince of buffoons,
Mike Kis."

Fanny toyed indifferently with her fan; not one of all these persons
interested her in the least.

"And I know it as a fact, that our fêted friend Rudolf is also going to
spend the winter there, with his handsome wife."

Hah! what impression will that make? Will she be able to conceal the
smarting pain she felt at that moment? But no, she did not betray
herself; she merely said, "I don't fancy we shall go to Pest."

With that she rose from her seat. The dance was over, and Flora,
hastening to her friend, passed her arm round her waist, and they took a
turn together round the room.

Mr. Kecskerey began to rock himself gently to and fro on the sofa and
draw conclusions.

"Why did she sigh so deeply when she said, 'I don't fancy we shall go to
Pest'?"

Just then Rudolf drew near, and Mr. Kecskerey seizing his opportunity,
put his arm through Rudolf's, and paced with him up and down the
splendid saloon, as if they had been the very best friends in the world.
And here we should do well to remember that Mr. Kecskerey was a
personage of remarkable consideration in the highest circles, and
enjoyed a position of distinction there peculiarly his own.

The worthy cavalier--I mean Mr. Kecskerey--had just drawn Rudolf
underneath a chandelier, whether that people might see them together
there, or whether he himself might see Rudolf better, I cannot say. The
two young belles, the queens of the ball, were walking in front of them,
arm-in-arm. How beautiful they both were!

"What a pair!" cried Kecskerey, rapturously. "To which of them would
that wretched mythological Paris have given the apple of Eris, if he had
had to choose between two such goddesses? And how they walk, arm-in-arm.
A true _belle alliance_! Nay, I express myself badly, I ought to say
_affreuse alliance_! Why, separately they are capable of subjugating the
world! Why need they combine their charms? My friend, beware of this
dangerous alliance; Madame Kárpáthy is a splendid woman."

"My wife is the prettier," replied Rudolf, with mild self-satisfaction.

"I honour you for that word, Rudolf. You are indeed a tender husband!
But your wife really is an angel. Madame Kárpáthy pales before her. Hers
is not the beauty which can interest men of genius, she is too
sensitive."

"Nay, nay; I will not have you depreciate her in order to cry up my
wife. On the contrary, I admit that Madame Kárpáthy is a very beautiful
woman; indeed to some person's tastes, she might appear the ideal of
loveliness."

"Yes, true; poor Abellino, for instance, at one time, would scarce allow
that a more beautiful woman had been born into the world since Helen of
Troy or Ninon d'Enclos. He was quite mad about her; ruined himself, in
fact, because of her. He spent sixty thousand florins upon her."

"What do you mean by that?" inquired Rudolf, much offended.

Kecskerey laughed good-humouredly. "Ma foi! that is a vain question from
you, Rudolf. As if you did not know that it is usual to spend something
on young women."

"But I know exactly what happened to Abellino when he forced six hundred
florins into the girl's hand, and the manner in which she flung them
back in his face was equivalent, among friends, to at least three boxes
on the ears. I remember it well, because it led to a duel, and I was one
of the seconds of Abellino's opponent."

"Ah ça, that's true! But you know how often it happens that when one has
flung back a paltry five or six hundred florins between the eyes of the
giver, one does not do the same with sixty thousand florins, when
offered afterwards. I do not say this from any wish to injure Madame
Kárpáthy, for, of course, nothing happened between them. But it is true,
nevertheless, that she accepted the offer, and promised her dear mother,
worthy Mrs. Meyer, that she would listen to Abellino's words, or to his
sixty thousand florins, which is the same thing; and when luck
unexpectedly suggested to old Jock that he should sue for her hand, in
order to spite his nephew, the girl had sense enough to choose the
better of two good offers, and accepted him. But not for all the world
would I say anything ill of her. She is a lady of position and
altogether blameless; but, for that very reason, I do not see why one or
other of us might not have tried his luck with her."

At that moment several other acquaintances came up to Rudolf, and
claimed him; so he parted from Kecskerey. But henceforward an unusual
air of disquietude was visible on his face, and as often as he
encountered his wife, who never left Madame Kárpáthy for an instant, an
unpleasant feeling took possession of him, and he thought to himself,
"That is a woman who might have been won with sixty thousand florins."

And then he reflected that, in the course of the evening, Kecskerey
would tell the same pretty story to a dozen or more other men; so that
within an hour's time the whole company would know all about it, and at
the same time see his wife walking about with this woman, and talking
and whispering to her familiarly. What cared he for Madame Kárpáthy? She
might be as beautiful again as she really was, for aught that he cared;
but he reflected that she might cast a shadow on his own wife, his
adored, his idolized wife, and this reflection disturbed him. Why had he
ever allowed her to make this woman's acquaintance? Flora was so
kind-hearted that she would have raised this woman up to her own level;
but she never reflected that this woman had a shady past, and that her
own good name might be soiled by contact with her.

Of course he knew that it was Kecskerey's habit to run down every one
unmercifully, but he also knew that he vouched for everything he said.
Whatever he said of anybody was never actually false. He did not
circulate downright libels, but he had the knack of probing down into
the deepest hidden secret shame of every one he knew.

As soon as the ball was over, Rudolf hastened to seek out his wife. His
servants told him that she had already retired to her bedroom. He
knocked at the door, and, hearing her voice, entered.

Flora was still in full ball-dress; her maid was doing up her hair.

"May I have a word with you?" inquired Rudolf, peeping through the door.

Flora, with a smile, dismissed the maid; and Rudolf embraced his wife,
and impressed a burning, a lover's kiss on her radiant face.

"Ah, stop!" cried Flora, hastily, disengaging herself from the
encircling arms. "Are you not aware that I am very angry with you?"

Well, at any rate, it was very amiable of the dear wife to allow herself
to be kissed first, and then only to recollect that she was angry.

"May I know how I have offended?"

"You have been very discourteous to me to-day. The whole evening you
have not deigned to speak to me. Ten times, at least, I have purposely
passed by where Rudolf was standing, and Rudolf took not the slightest
notice of me."

While she was saying these words Rudolf succeeded in securing one of the
threatening little hands, and, placing it first to his lips and then to
his breast, compelled his beloved wife to sit down beside him again on
the sofa.

"Let me make good my fault," said he. "For three hours I have not been
near you, therefore for three days I will not quit your side, although I
know that in that case it will be the innocent party who bears the
punishment."

"Ah, Rudolf, that was but a poor jest, I don't like such witticisms. I
want you to give an account of yourself. Why are you in such a bad
humour?"

"There was something unpleasant in the installation speeches."

"Ah, my friend, that won't do; you don't deceive me. You would tell me a
falsehood, eh? You would lie in despite of that honest open face of
yours, in spite of those transparent eyes? And you would lie to me, who
exchanged souls with you? It cannot be so; tell me the truth!"

Rudolf's face grew serious, he fell a-thinking, but presently he
replied--

"Don't let us talk about it now."

"Why not?"

"It would take too long."

"Ah, Rudolf is sleepy! Poor Rudolf is afraid the conversation would go
on for ever. Well, good night, dear Rudolf. If you want to go and sleep,
send in my maid again!"

At these words Rudolf arose, bowed, and prepared to go in real earnest.

Then, naturally, it was the wife's turn to give way.

"Well, remain then, I was only joking," said she. "Even now, you see,
you are inclined to be ill-tempered--one may not even jest with you.
Come here now, and we will play at guessing riddles. Let us lay a wager
that I find out what is the matter with you?"

"Let us see," replied Rudolf, making himself comfortable on the sofa,
while Flora leaned her head on his breast, and began counting off her
guesses on her fingers.

"You have been listening to gossip?"

"Something of the sort."

"About whom?"

"Oh, if I were to tell, the riddle would be at an end. You must guess."

"About me?"

"Anybody who would circulate gossip about you would have to be endowed
with a very lively imagination."

"About whom then?"

"Don't worry me. I will tell you. I came here, indeed, resolved to tell
you; but then I thought it might disturb you, and I take you to witness
that I only come out with it after the most rigorous inquisition on your
part. It does not please me, nay--more than that, it disquiets me to see
you so very friendly with Madame Kárpáthy."

"Ah!" So astounded was Flora, that that was all she could say. It was
the last thing in the world she had expected to hear. "This really is
surprising!" she exclaimed at last. "Another husband would only have
been afraid of his wife's intercourse with men: you present the very
first example of a husband who is afraid of his wife's women-friends
likewise."

"It is because I love you so. My love of you is so devoted, so
idolatrous, that I would have every one who sees and knows you approach
you with a reverence, a homage equal to mine own. Not even in thought
must any one dare to sin against you."

"And do I give cause to the contrary?"

"You do not, but your surroundings do; and this Kárpáthy woman has a
very equivocal reputation."

"Rudolf, my good Rudolf, why are you so incensed against this poor
woman? If you only knew her, you would say there was not a more
honourable woman in the whole world."

"I know all about her; and you, from sheer compassion, have made her a
present of your heart. Your sympathy does you honour, but the world has
an opinion of this woman very different from yours: in the world's
opinion she is frivolous enough."

"The world is unjust."

"Not altogether, perhaps. This woman has a past, and there is much in
that past which justifies the world's judgment."

"But in her present there is much which contradicts that judgment. This
woman's present conduct is worthy of all respect."

Rudolf tenderly stroked the head of his consort.

"My dear Flora, you are a child; there is much you do not understand,
and will not understand. In the world there are ideas, ugly,
extraordinary ideas, of which your pure, childlike mind can form no
notion."

"Oh, don't suppose me so simple! I know everything. I know that Fanny's
sisters were very bad, unprincipled women, and that only the energy of
good kinsfolk saved Fanny herself from being betrayed and ruined. I know
that in the eyes of the world hers is a very dubious record; but I also
know that, so long as I hold that woman's hand in mine, the world will
not dare to reproach, will not dare to condemn her; and the thought of
it makes me proud and well pleased."

"And suppose you are attacked?"

"I don't understand."

"Suppose they say of you what they say of her, that you are a frivolous,
flighty woman?"

"Without cause?"

"Not without cause. She lives in the midst of a band of empty-headed
men, who certainly have no particular regard for a woman's reputation.
And you, in consequence of your intimacy with Madame Kárpáthy, rub
shoulders every day with her acquaintances, and will also be taken for a
light, frivolous, frail sort of woman."

"I a light, frail, frivolous woman!" cried Flora, visibly wounded; but
the moment afterwards she shrugged her shoulders. "It matters not.
Rather let the whole world be unjust to me, than that I should be unjust
to any one. And, after all, why should I care about the world, when you
are the whole world to me? Let everybody regard me as a light woman for
Madame Kárpáthy's sake; so long as you do not, I care nothing about the
others."

"And if I, also, considered you as much?"

Flora sprang up from Rudolf's side in amazement.

"Rudolf! think what you are saying. Are you serious?"

"Yes, I am serious."

Flora reflected for an instant, then she said decidedly--

"Very well, Rudolf, I assure you that I am neither frivolous nor
weak--weak not even in respect to you." And with that she sprang to the
bell-rope and pulled it violently three times.

The maid entered.

"Netti, you will sleep in here with me to-night."

Rudolf looked at his wife with the greatest surprise.

"This is a sentence of banishment, eh?"

"It is."

"For how long?"

"Until you withdraw your words."

Rudolf smilingly kissed her hand and quitted the room; but he lay down
in a very bad humour, and it was a long time before he could go to
sleep. Often he was on the point of starting up, hastening to her room,
begging her pardon, and giving her a written assurance under his hand
and seal that women are the strongest, the most determined creatures in
the world, and that there never was and never will be such a thing as a
frivolous, frail young woman--but the self-respect of a husband always
restrained him. It was not right that he should surrender so soon. He
must show that if his wife had strength of mind enough to dismiss him,
his strength of mind was not less than hers. On the morrow she would
certainly be the first to plead guilty of contumacy; and with thoughts
like these he went to sleep.



CHAPTER XVII.

A DANGEROUS EXPERIMENT.


The next day Rudolf only met his wife at dinner before a numerous
company. There was no trace of displeasure on the lady's handsome face;
she was as captivating, as fascinating as ever, and nothing could exceed
her tenderness, her amiability towards her husband.

Late in the evening, when all the guests had dispersed, they found
themselves alone with each other again, and Rudolf had a grateful
recollection of the German proverb, which says that lovers ought to
quarrel occasionally in order to love each other all the better
afterwards. He fancied that he was enjoying to the full the victory won
in yesterday's warfare, and he felt magnanimous and would not reproach
his wife with her defeat in that sweet hour. But when he embraced Flora
with both arms as if he were going to hold her fast for ever, the lady
gently disentangled herself, and, leaning on his shoulder, whispered in
his ear--

"And now, my dear Rudolf, God be with you! Let us wish each other good
night."

Rudolf was dumfounded.

"You see I am not so flighty as you fancied. I am not weak even where
you are concerned; but I can love, and nobody shall forbid me to love
whom I will." And with that she blew him a kiss from the threshold of
her bedroom, and Rudolf heard her double-lock the door behind her.

Now this of itself was more than enough to make any man angry.

Rudolf tore at least two buttons off his coat in the act of undressing,
and in his wrath took down Hugo Grotius, read steadily away at it till
midnight, and then dashed Hugo Grotius to the ground, for he did not
understand a word that he had been reading. His thoughts were elsewhere.

And the following day passed away with the same peculiar variations.

His wife was captivatingly amiable. Like a seductive siren, she immeshed
her husband in the magic charms of her caresses, was kindness,
tenderness personified, loaded him with every little attention which one
can look for from a gracious lady, right up to her bedroom door, which
she again locked in his face.

Now this was the most exquisite torture conceivable to which a man can
be submitted. Compared with this little fairy, a Nero, a Caligula was a
veritable philanthropist.

"But how long is this obstinacy to last?" burst forth Rudolf one day, in
spite of himself.

"Until you withdraw your disparaging opinion of women."

Well, a single word would have been enough, but that single word was too
precious for the pride of a husband to part with. Such a word meant
submission, unconditional surrender; only at the very last extremity
could it be resorted to.

No, instead of that, he will compel his wife to surrender, and he had
plenty of time in those lonely, sleepless nights to hatch a plan of
action. He would leave home for a week, and not tell his wife where he
was going. The Kárpáthys were now at their castle at Nagy Kun Madaras;
he would spend the week with them. That young woman would be certain to
welcome him most gladly, and he would pay his court to her. Success was
certain. He was sure to triumph over women of a much more obstinate
character, if only he made up his mind to conquer. Old Kárpáthy would
not trouble himself about it; he would only be too glad if his wife had
plenty of amusement. There was not even any necessity for using any
particular charm or seduction, the young woman was so avid of pleasure,
that she was pretty sure to show favour to any one. She herself would be
his best ally.

With such ideas in his head, he prepared, on the following day, for his
journey. Flora was as kind, as tender as ever as she parted from him,
and it was impossible to suspect her of any pretence.

Rudolf whispered lovingly in her ear, "Come now, shall there be an end
to our warfare?"

"I require an unconditional surrender," said Flora, with an unappeasable
smile.

"Good! there shall be an end to it when I return, but then I shall
_dictate_ peace."

Flora shook her pretty head dubiously, and kissed her husband again and
again; and when he was actually sitting in the coach, she ran after him
to kiss him once more, and then went out on the balcony and followed him
with her eyes, whilst Rudolf leaned out of the coach, and so they kept
on bidding each other adieu with hat and handkerchief till the coach was
out of sight.

And thus an honest husband quitted his house with the fixed resolve to
deceive another man's wife, simply in order that he might thereby win
back his own.

If only he had known what he was doing!

       *       *       *       *       *

Since the day of the installation, the Kárpáthys had been residing at
their castle at Madaras. Old Kárpáthy had yielded to his wife's wishes
in that respect. She had begged that they might live there for a short
time, although it was by no means so pleasantly situated as Kárpátfalva.
Fanny wished, in fact, to be far away from Szentirma, and had no longer
the slightest desire to go to Pest since hearing from Kecskerey that the
Szentirmays intended living there during the winter.

Squire John and his wife were just then walking in the newly-laid-out
English garden. The gentle fallow deer already knew their mistress well.
Her pockets were always full of sugar almonds, and they drew near to eat
the dainty morsels out of her hand, and accompanied her up and down the
walk. Suddenly the rumble of a carriage was audible on the high-road,
and Kárpáthy, looking over the fence, exclaimed--

"Look, look! those are the Szentirmay horses!"

Fanny almost collapsed. The Squire felt her arm tremble.

"I trod on a snail," said his wife, turning pale.

"You silly thing, what's there to be afraid of? I knew that Flora would
come here to seek you out. Oh, how greatly that lady loves you! But,
indeed, who would not love you?"

But Fanny could see very well, from afar, that in the carriage which was
approaching sat not a woman but a man. Kárpáthy's eyes were weak. He
could recognize a horse even at a distance, but he could not distinguish
people.

"Come, we will go and meet her," said he to his wife as the carriage
swept into the park.

Fanny stood still as if her feet were rooted to the ground.

"Come, come, don't you want to meet your friend?" insisted the good old
man.

"It is not Flora," stammered Fanny, with frightened, embarrassed eyes.

"Then who else can it be?" asked the Squire. He must have been somewhat
surprised at the conduct of his wife, but there was not a grain of
suspicion in his composition, so he simply asked again, "Then who else
can it be?"

"It is Flora's husband," said Fanny, withdrawing her hand from her
husband's arm.

Squire John began to laugh.

"Why, what a silly the girl is! Why, you must welcome him too, of
course. Are you not the mistress of the house?"

Not another word did Fanny speak, but she hardened her face as well as
her heart, and hastened towards the coming guest on her husband's arm.

By the time they reached the forecourt of the castle, Rudolf's carriage
was rumbling into the courtyard. The young nobleman perceived and
hastened towards them. Kárpáthy held out his hand while he was still
some way off, and Rudolf pressed it warmly.

"Well, and won't you hold out your hand too?" said the Squire to his
wife; "he's the husband of your dear friend, is he not? Why do you look
at him as if you had never seen him before?"

Fanny fancied that the ground beneath her must open, and the columns and
stone statues of the old castle seemed to be dancing round her. She felt
the pressure of a warm hand in hers, and she involuntarily leaned her
dizzy head on her husband's shoulder.

Rudolf regarded her fixedly, and his ideas concerning this woman were
peculiar: he took this pallor for faint-heartedness, this veiled regard
for coquetry, and he believed it would be no difficult matter to win
her.

As they ascended the staircase together, he told Kárpáthy the cause of
his coming: he had, he said, to settle a boundary dispute between two
counties, which would detain him for some days.

The two men spent the hours of the afternoon together; only at the
dinner-table did they all three meet again.

Kárpáthy himself was struck by the paleness of his wife; all through
dinner the lady was speechless.

The conversation naturally turned on general subjects. Rudolf had little
opportunity of speaking to Dame Kárpáthy by herself. After dinner
Kárpáthy used generally to have a nap, and it had now become such an
indispensable habit with him that he would not have given up his
after-dinner repose for the sake of all the potentates of the Orient.

"And meanwhile, little brother," said he to Rudolf, "amuse yourself as
you please. Have a chat with my wife, or, if you think it more prudent,
make use of my library."

The choice was not difficult.

Fanny, as soon as dinner was over, withdrew to the garden. Presently,
hearing footsteps approaching, she looked up and beheld Rudolf.

The unexpected apparition of a tiger just escaped from his cage would
not have terrified her so. There was no escape from him. They stood face
to face.

The young man approached her with friendly courtesy, and a conversation
on some general topic began. Rudolf remarked that the flowers in the
garden around them were as wondrously beautiful, as if they were
sensible of the close proximity of their mistress, and did not wish to
be inferior to her in beauty.

"I love flowers," stammered Fanny, as if she felt obliged to answer
something.

"Ah, if only your ladyship were acquainted with them!"

Fanny looked at him inquiringly.

"Yes, if only your ladyship knew the flowers, not merely by name, but
through the medium of that world of fancy which is bound up with the
life of the flowers! Every flower has its own life, desires,
inclinations, grief and sorrows, love and anguish, just as much as we
have. The imaginations of our poets give to each of them its own
characteristics, and associates little fables with them, some of which
are very pretty. Indeed, you will find much that is interesting in the
ideal lives of the flowers."

Here Rudolf broke off an iris from a side-bed.

"Look, here is a happy family, three husbands and three wives, each
husband close beside his wife. They bloom together, they wither
together; not one of them is inconstant. This is the bliss of flowers.
These are all happy lovers."

Then Rudolf threw away the iris, and plucked an amaranth.

"Now, here we have the aristocrats. In the higher compartment is the
husband, in the lower the wife--upper-class married life. Nevertheless,
the ashen-purple colour of the flower shows that its life is happy."

Here Rudolf rubbed the amaranth between his fingers, and innumerable
little dark seeds fell into the palm of his hand.

"As black as pearls, you see," said Rudolf.

"Yes, as pearls," lisped Fanny, thinking it quite natural that they
should pour out of the youth's hand into her own, for it was a shame to
lose them. There was not a pure pearl in the Indies that she would have
exchanged for these little seeds. And now Rudolf threw the amaranth away
too.

Fanny glanced in the direction of the rejected flower, as if to make
sure of the place where it had fallen.

"And now will your ladyship look at those two maples standing side by
side? What handsome trees they are! One of them seems to be of a
brighter green than the other: that, therefore, is the wife; the darker
one is the husband. They also are happy lovers. But now look over
yonder! There stands a majestic maple tree all by itself. How yellow its
foliage is! Poor thing! it has not found a husband. Some pitiless
gardener has planted it beside a nut tree, and that is no mate for it.
How pale, how yellow it looks, poor thing! But, good Heavens! how pale
you are! What is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing, sir," said Fanny, "only a little giddiness," and
without the slightest hesitation she leant on Rudolf's arm.

He fancied he understood, but he was very far from understanding.

And now they reached the richly furnished conservatory in which a
splendid snow-white dahlia with a scarce perceptible rosy tinge in its
innermost petals was just then beginning to bloom. It was a great rarity
in Europe at that time. Rudolf thought this specimen very beautiful, and
maintained that only at Schönbrunn was a more beautiful one to be seen.

And again they fell a-talking about trifling general topics, walking as
they talked up and down the garden; and Rudolf fancied that now he had
conquered this woman, and the woman fancied that she had already sinned
sufficiently to be condemned for ever. It is true she had only been
walking arm-in-arm with Rudolf throughout one long hour, and they had
only been talking of insignificant, comical, general topics. But oh,
through it all she had felt a sinful pleasure in her heart. And what did
it matter that nobody knew, she herself felt that that happiness was a
stolen treasure.

At last they returned to the Castle again.

When Rudolf went to bed that night, he found on a table in the
antechamber of his bedroom a bouquet of flowers in a handsome china
vase, in the midst of which he immediately distinguished the unique and
magnificent dahlia.

And he thought he understood.

Next day the men were occupied all the morning with so-called official
business, and who would think of a woman in the midst of such grave
matters?

In the afternoon, rainy weather set in, whence arose the double
disadvantage that Squire John was doubly as sleepy as usual, and that
Fanny was unable to seek refuge in the garden where, beneath the
protection of the open air, she was better protected against the
threatened danger.

She felt the fever in every limb. She knew, she felt that the man whom
already she madly adored wanted to make her love him. If this was sport
on his part, what a terrible sport! and if it were reality, how much
more terrible still!

When there was a knock at the door she was scarce able to say, "Come
in." The door opened, and Rudolf entered.

Fanny was not pale now, but her face burned like fire when she perceived
Rudolf. She immediately arose from her recumbent position and confusedly
begged him to excuse her for a moment; she would be back in a short
time, and in the mean time would he occupy her place, and with that she
fled from the room. She wanted to speak to her lady-companion, she said.
She traversed three or four rooms without perceiving a soul. God only
knew where everybody had gone. Not a domestic was near. And with this
disquieting knowledge she was obliged to return.

At the very moment when she returned, Rudolf noticed that Fanny had
hastily concealed a book which she evidently had hitherto been reading,
and flung a handkerchief over it in order that he might not see it.

Rudolf was interested, he felt he must take a deeper glance into the
character of this woman. What book could it be that she was so anxious
to hide from him? These modern women read risky books in private, and
love to be rigid moralists in public at the same time.

He raised the handkerchief from the book, and he opened the book--it was
a Prayer-book. And as the book opened wide of its own accord in two
places, he perceived two pressed flowers between its leaves--an iris and
an amaranth.

Rudolf suddenly grew grave. His heart felt heavy. Only now did he begin
to reflect what sort of a game he was playing. These two flowers so
fascinated him, so engrossed his attention, that he only perceived that
the lady had returned when she stood feverishly trembling before him.

Each of them shrank back from the other.

The secret was revealed.

Rudolf gazed speechlessly at the woman and she at him. How beautiful,
how bewitchingly beautiful she was in her dumb misery as slowly,
unconsciously, she folded her hands together and pressed them against
her bosom, to stifle by force the tempest of her tears!

Rudolf forgot his part, and, deeply moved, exclaimed, "My God!"

Now, for the first time, he really understood everything.

The sorrow in his voice broke down the energy with which Fanny had
hitherto restrained her tears, and they began to flow in streams down
her beautiful face as she sank into an armchair.

Taking tenderly one of her pretty hands, Rudolf asked compassionately,
"Why do you weep?"

But he knew well enough now why she wept.

"Why did you come here," inquired the lady in a voice trembling with
emotion--she could control herself no longer--"when, day after day, I
have been praying God that I might never see you again? When I avoided
every place where I might chance to meet you, why did you seek me out
here? I am lost, for God has abandoned me. In all my life, no man's
image has been in my heart save yours alone. Yet I had buried that away
too, far out of sight. Why, why did you make it come to life again? Have
you not observed that I fled every spot where you appeared? Did not your
very arms prevent me from seeking death when we met together again! Ah,
how much I suffered then because of you? Oh, why did you come hither to
see me in my misery, in my despair?"

And she covered her face with her hands, and wept.

Rudolf was vexed to the soul at what he had done.

Presently Fanny withdrew the handkerchief from the Prayer-book, dried
her streaming eyes, and resumed, in a stronger voice--

"And now what does it profit you to know that I am a senseless creature
struggling with despair when I think of you? Can you be the happier for
it? I shall be all the unhappier, for now I must deny myself even the
very thought of you."

What could he say to her? What words could he find wherewith to comfort
her? What could he do but extend his hand to her and allow her to cover
it with her tears and kisses? What could he do but allow her in her
passionate despair to fall upon his breast, and, sobbing and moaning,
hold him embraced betwixt unspeakable agony and unspeakable joy?

And when she had wept herself out on his breast, the poor lady grew
calmer, and ceasing her sobbing, said in a determined voice--

"And now I swear to you before that God who will one day judge me for my
sins, that if ever I see you again, that same hour shall be the hour of
my death. If, then, you have any compassion, avoid me! I beg of you not
your love but your pity; I shall know how to get over it somehow in
time."

Rudolf's fine eyes sparkled with tears. This poor lady had deserved to
be happy, and yet she had only been happy a single moment all her life,
and that moment was when she had hung sobbing on his breast.

How long and weary life must be to her from henceforth!

Rudolf quitted the woman, and scarce waiting until Kárpáthy had awoke,
he took his leave and returned to Szentirma. He was very sad and ill at
ease all the way.

On reaching home, his merry, vivacious, affectionate wife flew towards
him, and dried the traces of the bitter tears with her loving kisses.

"Ah, ha! so you were at Madaras, eh?" said Flora, roguishly; "a little
bird whispered me that you would go a-spying. Well, what have you
discovered?"

"That you are right," said Rudolf, tenderly--"women are not weak."

"Then there is peace between us. And what news of Fanny?"

"God help the poor lady, for she is very, very unhappy!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

UNPLEASANT DISCOVERIES.


It was the winter season at Pest. The Szentirmays had also arrived
there, and the beautiful countess and her worthy husband were the ideals
of the highest circles, and everybody tried hard to make their
acquaintance. But the greatest commotion of all was made by the arrival
of Mr. Kecskerey. Without him the whole winter season would have been
abominably dull. There was no mention even of balls and assemblies until
he came back again. Some men have a peculiar talent, a special faculty,
for arranging such things, and it was "our friend" Kecskerey's
speciality. The whole world of fashion called Kecskerey "our friend," so
it is only proper that we should give him the same title.

His first business was to get together a sufficient number of gentlemen
to form a club where only eminent and distinguished members of society
would assemble. Kecskerey himself was a singularly interesting person,
and when he had dressed himself for the evening, and laid himself out to
be agreeable, he had such a store of piquant anecdotes to draw upon, all
more or less personal experiences during his artistic ramblings, that
even the tea-tables were deserted and the witty gentleman was surrounded
by merry crowds of eager listeners.

Something particular was in the wind now, for there was a considerable
whispering among Kecskerey's _habitués_, and they let it be known that
should he be seen conversing with Abellino, it would be as well to be
within earshot, as something unusually interesting would be going on.

"Why, what great misfortune can have befallen Abellino that our friend
Kecskerey can speak of him so lightly?" inquired Livius, turning towards
Rudolf. "Generally speaking, he is in the habit of treating him with
greater respect in view of his ultimate claims to the Kárpáthy estates."

Rudolf shrugged his shoulders. What did it matter to him what befell
Abellino?

Look; now he is coming in! He had still that defiant, devil-may-care
step, that haughty, insolent look, as if the whole world were full of
his lackeys, that repellent beauty, for his features were as vacant as
they were handsome.

"Ah, good evening, Bélá; good evening, Bélá!" screeched our friend
Kecskerey, while Abellino was still some distance off; he did not move
from his place, but sat there with his arms embracing his legs like the
two of clubs as it is painted on old Hungarian cards.

Abellino went towards Kecskerey. He attributed the fact that he drew
after him a whole group of gentlemen, who quitted the tea-tables and the
whist-tables to crowd around him, to the particular respect of the
present company to himself personally.

"I congratulate you," cried Kecskerey, in a shrill nasal voice, waving
his hands towards Abellino.

"What for, you false club?"

Thus it was clear that Abellino also was struck by Kecskerey's great
resemblance to the historical playing-card already mentioned, and this
sally brought the laughter over to his side.

"Don't you know that I have just come from nunky, my dear?"

"Ah, that's another matter," said Abellino, in a somewhat softer voice.
"And what, pray, is the dear old gentleman up to now?"

"That's just where my congratulations come in. All at home send you
their best greetings, kisses, and embraces. The old gentleman is as
sound as an acorn, or as a ripe apple freshly plucked from the tree.
Don't be in the least concerned on his account; your uncle feels
remarkably well. But your aunt is sick, very sick, and to all appearance
she will be sicker still."

"Poor auntie!" said Abellino. "No doubt," thought he to himself, "that
is why he congratulates me; and good news, too. No wonder he
congratulates me. Perhaps she'll even die--who knows?--And what's the
matter with her?" he asked aloud.

"Ah, she is in great danger. I assure you, my friend, that when last I
saw her, the doctors had prohibited both riding and driving."

Even now the real state of things would not have occurred to Abellino's
mind, had not a couple of quicker-witted gentlemen, who had come there
for the express purpose of laughing, and were therefore on the alert for
the point of the jest, suddenly laughed aloud. Then, all at once, light
flashed into his brain.

"A thousand devils! You are speaking the truth now, I suppose?"

His face could not hide the fury which boiled up within him.

"Why, how else should I have cause to congratulate you?" said Kecskerey,
laughing.

"Oh, it is infamous!" exclaimed Abellino, beside himself.

The bystanders began to pity him, and the softer-hearted among them
quietly dispersed. It was a horrible thought that this man, who on
entering the room had believed himself to be the master of millions,
should have been plunged back into poverty by a few words.

Kecskerey alone had no pity for him. He never pitied any one who was
unfortunate; he reserved all his sympathy for the prosperous.

"Then there's nothing more to be done," murmured Abellino, between his
teeth, "unless it be to kill myself or that woman."

Kecskerey's strident rasping voice seemed to cut clean through that
desperate murmur.

"If you want to kill or be killed, my friend, I should advise you to
read Pitaval,[11] wherein you will find all sorts and kinds of tips for
murderers, including lists of poisons both vegetable and mineral, a
liberal choice of weapons of every description, and the best means of
disposing of the _corpus delecti_ afterwards, either by submersion,
combustion, dissection, or inhumation. The whole twelve volumes is a
little library of itself, and a man who reads it patiently through to
the end will easily persuade himself that he is a born murderer. I
recommend the matter to your attention. Ho, ho, ho!"

[Footnote 11: The allusion, no doubt, is to F. G. de Pitaval's "Causes
célèbres et intéressantes."--TR.]

To all this Abellino paid no attention. "Who can be this woman's lover?"
said he.

"Look around you, my friend, and choose for yourself."

"At least I should like to recognize and kill him."

"I am absolutely sure I know who her lover is," remarked Kecskerey.

"Who?" asked Abellino, with sparkling eyes. "Oh, that man I _should_
like to know!"

Kecskerey, who was having rare sport with him, drew his neck down
between his shoulders, and continued--"How many times have I not seen
you fall upon his neck, and kiss and embrace him!"

"Who is it, who is it?" cried Abellino, catching hold of Kecskerey's
arm.

"Would you like to know?"

"I should."

"Then it is--her husband."

"This is a stupid jest," cried Abellino, quite forgetting himself; "and
nobody will believe it. That woman loves somebody, loves some one with
shameful self-abandonment. And that old scoundrel, her husband, knows
and suffers it in order to gratify his vengeance on me. But I will find
out who he is, I will find out who it is if it be the devil himself, and
I will bring a scandalous action against this woman, the like of which
the world has never yet seen."

At that moment a loud manly voice rang out amidst the group of listeners
who were beginning to rally Abellino, and ironically beg him not to
suspect them as they were quite innocent, and could not lay claim to the
honour of making Madame Kárpáthy happy.

"Gentlemen," it said, "you forget that it is not becoming in men of
breeding to make ribald jests about the name of a lady whom nobody in
the world has any cause or any right to traduce."

"What, Rudolf! Why, what interest have you in the matter?" inquired the
astonished Kecskerey.

"This much--I am a man and will not allow a woman whom I respect to be
vilified in my presence."

That was saying a great deal, and there was no blinking it, not only
because Rudolf was right and enjoyed the best of reputations, but also
because he was known to be the best shot and swordsman in the place, and
cool-headed and lucky to boot.

So from henceforth Madame Kárpáthy's name ceased to be alluded to in the
club.



CHAPTER XIX.

ZOLTÁN KÁRPÁTHY.


What Abellino had cause to tremble at had really happened. Madame John
Kárpáthy had become a mother. A son was born to her.

Early one morning the family doctor invaded the sanctum of the Nabob
with the joyful intelligence--"Your wife has borne you a son!"

Who can describe the joy of Squire John thereat? What he had hitherto
only ventured to hope, to imagine, his hardiest, most ardent desire was
gratified: his wife had a son! A son who would be his heir and
perpetuate his name! who was born in happier times, who would make good
the faults of his father, and by means of his youthful virtues fulfil
the obligations which the Kárpáthy family owed to its country and to
humanity.

If only he might live long enough to hear the child speak, to read a
meaning in his sweet babblings, to speak words to him that he might
understand and never forget, so that in the days to come, when he was
the _fêted_ hero of all great and noble ideas, he might say, "I first
heard of these things from that good old fellow, John Kárpáthy."

What should be the child's name? It should be the name of one of those
princes who drank out of the same wine-cup with the primal ancestor of
the House of Kárpáthy on the fair plains of Hunnia. It should be
Zoltán--Zoltán Kárpáthy--how beautifully that would sound!

Presently they brought to him this new citizen of the world, and he held
him in his arms and kissed and embraced him. He could scarce see him for
the tears of joy that streamed from his eyes, and yet how greatly he
longed to see him! With twinkling eyes he regarded the child, and a
fine, vigorous little lad it was, like a little rosy-cheeked angel; his
little hands and neck were regularly wrinkled everywhere from very
plumpness, his mouth was hardly larger than a strawberry, but his
sparkling eyes, than which no precious stone was ever of a purer azure,
were all the larger by contrast, and whenever he drooped them the long
lashes lay conspicuous on his chubby cheeks. He did not cry, he was
quite serious, just as if he knew that it would be a great shame to be
weak now, and when Squire John, in his rapture, raised him to a level
with his lips and kissed his little red face again and again with his
stiff, bristly moustache, he began to smile and utter a merry little
gurgle, which those who were standing round Squire John were quite
positive was an attempt to speak.

"Talk away, my darling little soul," stammered Squire John, perceiving
that the child was screwing up his little round lips all sorts of ways,
as if he knew very well what he wanted to say but could not find the
right words, "talk away, talk away! Don't be afraid, we understand you.
Say it again."

But the doctor and the nurses thought well to interpret the little
suckling's discourse as a desire to go back to his mother. Enough of
caresses then, for the present, they said, and, taking him out of Squire
John's arms, they brought him back to his mother, whereupon the good
gentleman could not but steal softly into the adjoining room and listen
whether the child was crying, and every time anybody came out he would
ask what was going on or what had happened since, and every time
anybody went in he sent a message along with him.

Towards the afternoon the doctor emerged again, and asked him to retire
with him to another room.

"Why? I prefer being here; at least I can hear what they are talking
about."

"Yes; but I don't want you to hear what they are talking about in
there."

John stared at him. He began to feel bad as he met the doctor's cold
look; and he followed him mechanically into the adjoining room.

"Well, sir, what is it you wish to say to me that others may not hear?"

"Your worship, a great joy has this day befallen your house."

"I know it. I understand it. God be praised!"

"God has indeed blessed your worship with a great joy, but it has also
seemed good to Him to prove you with affliction."

"What do you mean by that?" thundered the terrified Kárpáthy, and his
face turned blue.

"Look now, your worship, this is just what I feared, and that is why I
called you aside into an adjoining room; show yourself a Christian, and
learn to bear the hand of God."

"Don't torture me; say exactly what has happened."

"Your honour's wife will die."

After hearing this Kárpáthy stood there without uttering a word.

"If there was any help for her in this world," continued the doctor, "I
would say there is hope, but it is my duty to tell you that her hours,
her moments, are numbered, therefore your honour must play the man, and
go to her and bid her good-bye, for ere long she will be unable to
speak."

Kárpáthy allowed himself to be led into the dying woman's chamber. The
whole world was blurred before him, he saw nobody, he heard nothing; he
saw _her_ only lying there pale, faded, with the sweat of death upon her
glorious face, with the pallor of death around her dear lips, with the
refracted gleam of death in her beautiful inspired eyes.

There he stood, beside the bed, unable to speak a word. His eyes were
tearless. The room was full of serving-maids and nurses. Here and there
a stifled sob was to be heard. He neither saw nor heard anything. He
only gazed dumbly, stonily, at the dying woman. On each side of the bed
a familiar form was kneeling--Flora and Teresa.

The good old aunt, with clasped hands, was praying, her face concealed
among the pillows. Flora held the little boy in her arms; he was
sleeping with his head upon her bosom.

The sick woman raised her breaking eyes towards her husband, stretched
out her trembling, fevered hand, and, grasping the hand of her husband,
drew it towards her panting lips, and gasped, in a scarcely audible
voice, "Remember me!"

Squire John did not hear, he did not understand what she said to him, he
only held his wife's hand in both his own as if he believed that he
could thereby draw her away from Death.

After an hour's heavy struggle, the feverish delirium of the sick woman
began to subside, her blood circulated less fiercely, her hands were no
longer so burning hot, her breathing grew easier.

She began to look about her calmly and recognize every one. She spoke to
those about her in a quiet, gentle voice; the tormenting sweat had
vanished from her face.

"My husband, my dear husband!" she said, casting a look full of feeling
upon Squire John.

Her husband rejoiced within himself, thinking it a sign of amendment;
but the doctor shook his head, he knew it was a sign of death.

Next, the sick woman turned towards Flora. Her friend guessed the
meaning of her inquiring look, and held the little child nestling on her
bosom to the sick woman's lips. Fanny tenderly strained it to her
heaving breast, and kissed the face of the sleeping child, who at every
kiss opened its dark-blue eyes, and then drooped them and went on
sleeping again.

The mother put it back on Flora's breast, and, pressing the lady's hand,
whispered to her--

"Be a mother to my child."

Flora could not reply, but she nodded her head. Not a sound would come
to her lips, and she turned her head aside, lest the dying woman should
see the tears in her eyes.

Then Fanny folded her hands together on her breast, and murmured the
single prayer which she had been taught to say in her childhood--

"O God, my God, be merciful to me, poor sinful girl, now and for
evermore. Amen."

Then she cast down her eyes gently, and fell asleep.

"She has gone to sleep," murmured the husband, softly.

"She is dead," faltered the doctor, with a look of pity.

And the good old Nabob fell down on his knees beside the bed, and,
burying his head in the dead woman's pillows, sobbed bitterly, oh, so
bitterly!



CHAPTER XX.

SECRET VISITORS.


Soon came winter. The cold, frosty, snow-laden season began; nothing but
white forests, white fields, are to be seen in every quarter of the
level _Alföld_, and as early as four o'clock in the afternoon the
dark-grey, lilac-coloured atmosphere begins to envelope the horizon all
round about, rising higher and higher every moment, till at last the
very vault of heaven is reached, and it is night. Only the snowy
whiteness of the plain preserves some gleam of light to the landscape.

Pale fallow stripes appear to have been drawn across the snowy expanse;
they are the tracks of the sledges, stretching from one village to
another.

Kárpáthy Castle seemed to make the uniform monotonous landscape still
more melancholy. At other times the windows, of an evening, shed their
light far and wide, and merry groups of sportsmen bustled about the
well-filled courtyard; but now, scarcely more than a gleam of light was
to be seen in two or three of the windows, and only the blue smoke of
the chimneys showed that it was still inhabited.

Alone on these dun-coloured roads, in the fall of the long winter
evening, a peasant's sledge, without bells, might have been seen gliding
along through that featureless, semi-obscure wilderness towards Kárpáthy
Castle.

In the rear of the sledge sat a man wrapped in a simple mantle; in
front, a peasant, in a sheepskin _bunda_, was driving the two lean
horses.

The sitter behind frequently stood up in the sledge, and swept the plain
on every side, as if he were in search of something. The preserves of
the Kárpáthy estate loomed darkly before him, and by the time they
reached a ramshackle old wooden bridge, the visitor perceived what he
sought.

"Those are pine-trees, are they not?" he inquired of the coachman.

"Yes, young sir; one can recognize them from a distance, for they are
still green when the others have shed their leaves."

They were the only trees of the sort in the whole region. They had all
been planted in Squire John's time.

"Here we will stop, old comrade. You return to the wayside _csárda_; I
will take a turn about here alone. I shall not be longer than an hour
away."

"It would be as well were I to accompany you, young sir, if you mean to
take a stroll, for wolves are wont to wander hither."

"It is not necessary, my good friend, I am not afraid."

And with that the stranger dismounted from the sledge, and, taking his
axe in his hand, directed his way through the snowy field to the spot
where the pines stood out darkly against the snow-white plain.

What was beneath those pines?

The family vault of the Kárpáthys, and he who came to visit it at that
hour was Alexander Boltay.

The young artisan had heard from Teresa on her return home that Fanny
was dead. The great lady had been lowered into her tomb for the worms
just as the wife of the poorest artisan might have been, and her tomb
was perhaps still more neglected than the tomb of the artisan's wife
would have been.

Then Alexander opened his heart to the old people. He meant, he said, to
make a pilgrimage to the tomb of the dead dear one whom he worshipped
both in life and in death, and to whom, now that she was under the
ground, he might confess his love, he had as much right now to her
death-cold heart as anybody else in the world. The two old people did
not attempt to dissuade him; let him go, they thought; let him take his
sorrow there and bury it; perchance he will be lighter of heart when he
has wept himself out there.

In the ice-bound season the young man set out, and from the description
which Teresa gave him, he recognized the funereal pine-grove which John
Kárpáthy had had planted round the family vault, in order that there it
might be green when everything else was white and dead.

He quitted the sledge, and cut across the plain, while the driver
returned to the wayside _csárda_.

Meanwhile a pair of horsemen might have been seen slowly approaching
from the opposite direction. One of them was a little in the rear of the
other, and led four hardy hounds in a long leash.

"I see the trail of a fox, Martin," said the foremost horseman, calling
the attention of the one behind to the trail. "We can easily track him
through the fresh snow if we look sharp, and can catch him up before we
reach Kárpátfalva."

The groom appeared to confirm his master's assertion.

"Follow the trail as straight as you can, and hand over two of the
hounds to me while I make a circuit of the wood yonder."

With that he took over two of the dogs, and sending his escort on in
front, turned aside, slowly wading through the snow. But the moment his
man was out of sight, he suddenly changed his direction, and strode
rapidly towards the pine grove.

On reaching the trench which surrounded it, he dismounted, tied his
horse to a bush and the dogs to his saddle bow and waded across the
narrow ditch. By the light of the snow it was easy to find his goal.

A large white marble monument arose by the side of a green tree, on the
top of it was the sad emblem of death, an angel with an inverted torch.

The horseman stood alone before the monument--this visitor was Rudolf.

Thus both of them had come at the same time, and it was the will of Fate
that they should meet there before the tomb.

Rudolf hastened confidently towards the white colonnaded monument and
stood rooted to the ground with amazement on perceiving the figure of a
man, apparently in a state of collapse, half sitting, half kneeling on
the pedestal. But the man was equally amazed to see him there.

Neither recognized the other.

"What are you doing here, sir?" asked Rudolf, who was the first to
recover his composure, drawing nearer to the pedestal.

Alexander recognized the voice, he knew that it was Rudolf, and could
not understand why he should have come to that place at that hour.

"Count Szentirmay," he said gently, "I am that artisan to whom you
showed a kindness once upon a time; be so good as to show yet another
kindness to me by leaving me here alone and asking no questions."

Then Rudolf recognized the young man, and it suddenly flashed across his
mind that the dead woman before she became Dame Kárpáthy had been
engaged to a poor young artisan who had so bravely, so chivalrously,
exposed himself to death for her sake.

Now he understood everything.

He took the young man's hand and pressed it.

"You loved this lady? You have come hither to mourn over her?"

"Yes, sir. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that. One may love the
dead. I loved that woman, I love her now, and I shall never love
another."

Rudolf's heart went out to the young man.

"You remain here," he said, "I will leave you to yourself. I will wait
in the cemetery outside, and if I can be of any service to you command
me."

"Thank you, sir, I will go too; I have done what I came here to do."

The name of the dear departed was inscribed on the tomb in golden
letters, and these letters gleamed forth in the light of the snow:
"Madame Kárpáthy, _nee_ Fanny Meyer."

The young artisan removed his cap, and with the same respect, the same
reverence with which one touches the lips of the dead, he kissed every
letter of the word "Fanny."

"I am not ashamed of this weakness before you," said Alexander, standing
up again, "for you have a noble heart, and will not laugh at me."

Rudolf answered nothing, but he turned his head aside. God knows why,
but he could not have met the young man's eyes at that moment.

"And now, sir, we can go."

"Where will you spend the night? Come with me to Szentirma!"

"Thank you; you are very good to me, but I must return this very hour.
The moon will soon be up, and there will be light enough to see my way
by. I must make haste, for there's lots for me to do at home."

He could not prevail upon him; a man's sorrow has no desire to be
comforted.

Rudolf accompanied him to the wayside _csárda_, where the sledge was
awaiting him. He could not restrain himself from warmly pressing the
artisan's hand and even embracing him.

And Alexander did not guess the meaning of that warm grasp, or why this
great nobleman was so good to him.

Shortly afterwards the sledge disappeared in the darkness of the night
by the same road by which it had come. Rudolf returned to the
pine-trees, and paid another visit to the white monument. There he stood
and thought of the woman who had suffered so much, and who, perhaps, was
thinking of him there below. Her face stood before him now as it had
looked when she had followed with her eyes the rejected amaranth; as it
had looked when she galloped past him on her wild charger; as it had
looked when she had hidden it on his bosom in an agony of despairing
love, in order that there she might weep out her woe, amidst sweet
torture and painful joy, that secret woe which she had carried about
with her for years. And when he thought on these things, his fine eyes
filled with tears.

He noticed the imprints of the knees of the departed youth, where he had
knelt on the pedestal of the monument in the snow, and he fell
a-thinking.

Did not this woman, who had so suffered, lived and died, deserve as
much? And he himself bent his knee before the monument.

And he read the name. Like a spectral invitation, those five letters,
F-a-n-n-y, gleamed before him so seductively.

For a long time he remained immersed in his own reflections, and
thought--and thought--

At last he bent down and kissed the five letters one after another,
just as the other young fellow had done.

Then he flung himself on his horse. His errant groom, not finding his
master, was impatiently blowing his horn in every direction. Rudolf soon
came up with him, and half an hour later they were in the courtyard of
John Kárpáthy's castle. Kárpáthy had invited Rudolf to hasten to him
that very night.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.


They already expected Rudolf at the Castle. The moment he dismounted,
Paul, who was awaiting him in the hall, led him straight to Kárpáthy.

The servants all wore black since their mistress had been buried, and
all the mirrors and escutcheons in the rooms were still covered with the
black crape with which they had been enveloped on the day of the
funeral.

Squire John was waiting for Rudolf in his private room, and as soon as
he saw him enter, he rose from his seat, hastened to meet him, and
warmly pressed his hand.

"Many thanks, Rudolf, many thanks for coming. Pardon me for sending for
you at such an hour and in such hot haste. God has brought you. Thank
you very much for coming. Rudolf, a peculiar feeling has come over me.
Three days ago, a strange sort of sensation, not unpleasant, took
possession of my limbs, and when I awoke from my sleep in the night it
was with a odd sort of joy, I know not how to express it, as if my soul
had quitted me. I take it as an omen of my death. Do not gainsay me, I
beg. I am not afraid of death; I long for it. At such times a quick
current of air brushes past my ear, as if some one were about to fly
away from close beside me. I know what that means. Twice I have had a
similar sensation, and on each occasion a current of air has struck me.
I fancy this will be the last of them. I think of it with joy, and have
not the slightest fear of it. I have sent for you in order that I may
make my last will, while I still have the possession of all my
faculties, and I wish you to be my executor. Will you accept the trust?"

Rudolf indicated his willingness in silence.

"Then come with me to my library. The other witnesses are waiting there
now. I have got them together as rapidly as I could, and they are all
honest fellows."

As they were passing through the suite of rooms, Squire John suddenly
stopped Rudolf, and said--

"Look! in this room I heard her laugh for the last time. On that chair
yonder she lost her shawl--it is there still. On that table is a pair of
gloves, the last she ever wore. Here she used to sit when she sketched.
There's the piano, still open--a _fantasia_ lies, you see, on the
music-stand. If she should come back again, eh?"

And now he opened the door of a room illuminated by candles--Rudolf
shrunk back.

"Old friend, that's not a fit place to enter. Surely you have lost
yourself in your own house! That is your wife's bedroom."

"I know, but I can never pass it without going in. And now I mean to
have a last look at it, for to-morrow I shall have it walled up. Look,
everything remains just as she left it. She did not die in this
room--don't be alarmed! That door yonder leads to the garden. Look,
everything is in its old place--there the lamp by which she used to
read, on the table a half-written letter, which nobody has read. A
hundred times have I entered the room, and not a word of that letter
have I read. To me it is holy. In front of the bed are her two little
embroidered slippers, so tiny that they look as if they had been made
for a child. On the table is an open prayer-book, between the open
leaves of which are an iris and an amaranth and a maple leaf. She
greatly loved those flowers."

"Let us go away from hence, let us go away," urged Rudolf. "It pains me
to hear you talk so."

"It pains you, eh?--it does me good. I have sat here for days together,
and have called to mind every word she said. I see her before me
everywhere, asleep, awake, smiling, sorrowful--I see her resting her
pretty head on the pillows, I see her sleeping, I see her dying----"

"Oh! come, come away!"

"We will go, Rudolf. And I shall never come back again. To-morrow a
smooth wall will be here in the place of the door, and iron shutters
will cover all the windows. I feel that I ought not to seek her here any
more. Elsewhere, elsewhere I will seek her: we will dwell together in
another room. Let us go, let us go!"

And smilingly, without a tear, like one who is preparing for his bridal
day, he quitted the room, casting one more look around upon it from the
threshold, and a dumb kiss into the darkness, as if he were taking leave
for a last time of a beloved object visible only to himself.

"Let us come, let us come!"

In the large library the witnesses were awaiting them.

They were four--the local notary, a stoutish young man, with his back
planted against the warm stove; the estate agent, benevolent Peter
Varga, who had asked, as a favour, that he might wear black like the
other family servants; the parish priest, and Mike Kis. That worthy
youth had quitted the brilliant saloons whose hero he was, to comfort
his old friend in the days of his tribulation. The fiscal was there
also, cutting quills for every one present, and sticking them into the
inkstands, which were placed all round the round table in front of the
witnesses.

When Squire John and Rudolf entered the room, every one present saluted
them with the grave solemnity befitting the occasion.

The Squire beckoned to everybody to be seated--Rudolf on his right, Mike
Kis on his left, the fiscal opposite to him, that they might the better
hear what he was going to say.

At the furthest end of the table sat Mr. Varga, with all the candles
piled in front of him. _He_ knew why.

"My dear friends and good neighbours," began the Nabob, while every one
listened with the deepest attention, "God has numbered my days, and is
about to call me from this transitory life to His glory, and therefore I
call you all to witness that what I am going to say now is said clearly,
deliberately, and while I am in the full possession of all my faculties.
I find that the estates which God, of His goodness, has entrusted to my
hands, now yield over a million of florins more of clear income than
when I came into possession of them. God grant that they may be more
productive of blessings in the hands of others than they have been in
mine! I begin my last will and testament with a reference to her who was
dearest to me in the world and now slumbers in her tomb. This tomb is
the beginning and the end of my arrangements in this life; it has been
my first thought when I rose up, and my last thought when I lay down,
and will last on when I rise up no more. My first bequest, then, is
50,000 florins, the interest on which is to go to that gardener on my
domains whose duty it shall be, in return therefor, to cultivate from
early spring to late autumn, irises and amaranths,--flowers which 'she'
loved so much,--and have them planted regularly round the grave of my
unforgettable wife. Furthermore I bequeath the interest of 10,000
florins to the gardeners of the Castle of Madaras, from father to son,
whose corresponding obligation it shall be to maintain a conservatory
near to the maple tree, beneath which is a white bench." Here the Squire
sighed, half to himself, "That was her favourite seat; there she used to
sit all through the afternoons. And the gardener is to plant another
maple tree beside it, that it may not stand so solitarily there. If at
any time the tree should wither, or if any careless descendant of mine
should ever cut it down, the whole amount reserved for this purpose
shall go to the poor."

Rudolf sat there with a cold, immovable face while all this was being
said; nobody guessed what he felt while these words were being spoken.

"'How foolish the old man must have grown in his latter years,' his
descendants will one day say, when they read these dispositions,
'leaving legacies to trees and shrubs!'"

"Furthermore," pursued Squire John, "I bequeath 50,000 florins to form a
fund for dowering girls of good behaviour on their marriage. On every
anniversary of the day on which my unforgettable wife fell asleep, all
the young maids on my estate shall meet together in the church to pray
to God for the souls of those that have died; then the three among these
virgins whom the priest shall judge to be the most meritorious shall be
presented with bridal wreaths in the presence of the congregation, and
the sum of money set apart for them; and then they shall proceed to the
tomb and deck it with flowers, and pray that God may make her who lies
there happier in the other world than she was in this. And that is my
desire."

Here he stopped, waiting till the lawyer had written down all his words,
during which time a mournful silence prevailed in the room, interrupted
only by the scratching and spluttering of the pen on the paper.

When the lawyer looked up from his parchment by way of signifying that
he had written everything down, the Squire sighed, and hung his head.

"When it pleases God to bring upon me the hour in which I shall quit
this transitory life, when I am dead, I desire to be buried in the dress
in which I was married to her; my faithful servant, old Paul, will know
which it is. The coffin, in which I am to be put, stands all ready in my
bedroom; every day I look at it, and accustom myself to the thought of
it; often I lay me down in it, and bethink me how good it would be were
I never to rise from it again. It is quite ready. I took some trouble
about it; it is just like hers. My name has already been driven into it
with nice silver nails, only the date of my death has to be added. That
priest is to pray over me who prayed over her, and how beautiful that
will be!"

"Sir, sir!" interrupted the priest, "who can read in the book of life
and death, or tell which of us twain will live longest, or die first?"

The Squire beckoned to the priest to bear with him--he himself knew
best.

"Further, remove none of the mourning draperies from the rooms, let
everything remain as it was at the time of her burial. Let the selfsame
cantors come from Debreczen and sing over me the same chants, and no
other. Just what they sang over her, and the selfsame youths must do it.
All those chants were so dear to me."

"Oh, sir," said the priest, "perchance every one of these students may
be grown-up men by then."

The Squire only shook his head, and thus proceeded--

"And when they have opened the vault, they are to break down the
partition wall between the two niches, so that there may be nothing
between her coffin and mine, and I may descend into the grave with the
comfortable thought that I shall sleep beside her till the day of that
joyful resurrection which God grants to every true believer. Amen!"

And all those big grave men sitting round the table there fell
a-weeping, and not one of them felt ashamed of himself before the
others. Even the matter-of-fact lawyer spoilt his nib, and could not see
the letters he was writing. Only on the Squire's face was there no sign
of sadness. He spoke like one bent on preparing his bridal chamber.

"When I am buried, my funeral monument--it is standing all ready in my
museum--must be placed beside hers. The date of death is alone wanting,
and I want nothing added to the inscription: it must remain just as it
is--my name and nothing more. Beneath it are inscribed these lines: 'He
lived but one year, the rest he slept away.' One of my treasures is
beneath the ground, and in no long time I shall be alone with it. My
second treasure, my joy, the hope of my soul, remains here. I mean my
son."

At these words the first tear he had shed appeared in Kárpáthy's eyes.
He dried it hastily, but it was a tear of joy.

"May he never resemble me in anything! may he be better, wiser than his
father was! Mr. Lawyer, write down what I say in as many words. Why
should I make any mystery of it? I am standing before the presence of
God. I want my son to be better than I was. Perchance God will forgive
me for the sake of his virtues. May my country, too, forgive me, and my
ancestors who have led lives like mine, for our sins against her! May
his life make manifest what ours ought to have been! May his wealth
never spoil his heart, so that in his old age he may not repent him of
his youth. I would have my son a happy man. But what is happiness?
Money? possessions? power? No, none of these. I possessed them all, and
yet I was not happy. Let his soul be rich, and then he will be happy.
Let him be an honourable, wise, courageous citizen, a good patriot, a
nobleman not merely by name, but in heart and soul, and then he will be
happy.

"I am well aware," pursued Kárpáthy, "that if I left my son in the
guardianship of his nearest relative--I allude to my nephew Bélá--it
would mean his utter ruin. I charge that kinsman of mine before God's
judgment-seat with being a bad man, a bad relative, a bad patriot, who
would be even worse than he is if he were not as mad as he is bad. No! I
will not have the heart of my boy ruined by such a man as that. I would
place him in the hands of those who would inspire him with all noble
ideas; who would guide him along the paths of honour and virtue; who
would cherish and defend him better than I could do were I able to
stretch forth my hand from the tomb in his defence. I would place him in
the hands of a man who will be a better father to him than I could ever
be, and who, if he cannot love him better than I love him, will, at
least, love him more wisely. The man whom I appoint the legal guardian
of my son is Count Rudolf Szentirmay."

The good old man warmly pressed the hands of the youth sitting on his
right, who thereupon arose from his chair and embraced the Nabob with
tears of emotion. On resuming his seat, he whispered, in a husky voice,
of which he was scarce the master, that he accepted the trust.

"'She' also wished it," said the Nabob. "In her last hour, as she placed
my child in the arms of your wife, she said these words: 'Be a mother
to my child!' I have not forgotten it; and now I say to you, 'Be a
father to my child!' Happy child! What a good father, what a good
mother, you will inherit!

"And now," continued the Nabob, "a word or two concerning him who was
the cause of the bitterest moments of my life. I mean my nephew, who was
christened Bélá, but who calls himself Abellino. I will not reckon up
the sins he has committed against God, his country, and myself. God and
his country forgive him, as I have forgiven him; but I should be a liar
and a hypocrite before God if I said, at this hour, that I loved him. I
feel as cold towards him as towards one whom I have never seen. And now
he is reduced to the beggar's staff; now he has more debts than the
hairs of his head. What will become of him? He cannot work--he has never
earned a penny; he has never learnt anything: he is bankrupt both in
body and mind. He is not likely to take his own life, for libertines do
not readily become suicides. And far be the thought of such a thing from
him. I desire it not. Let him live. Let him have time to turn to God!
Nor do I wish him to be a beggar, to feel want, to beg his bread at
other men's doors. I order, therefore, that my agent at Pest shall pay
him a gold ducat down every day. I fancy that will be quite enough to
keep anybody from suffering want. But this ducat he himself must come
and fetch day by day, and it must be paid to nobody but himself
personally. But every time he fails to come for such ducat it shall be
forfeited to the lawyer, and it must in no case be attached for debt, or
paid to him in advance. But every time my birthday, John Baptist's Day,
comes round, he shall receive a lump sum of one hundred ducats down
extra. It is my wish that he should rejoice beforehand at the coming of
that day every year, and that he should thus remember me from year to
year.

"And now my business with the world is over. I have no other kinsmen to
remember. My friends I can easily count up. I only know of three to whom
I can really give that name. The first is Rudolf, to him I have left my
child. The second is Mike Kis. He, also, was always a good fellow, who
loved me right well. Whenever misfortune came, he was always to be found
by my side. To him I leave my favourite horse and my favourite dog. I
could not leave them a better master, or him a more pleasant keepsake.
My third good friend is my steward, Peter Varga."

"Oh, sir!" the other old man would have murmured; but his tongue refused
to move.

"To him I leave my old servant Paul, and old Vidra the jester, and the
Lapayi property. May he live there happily with my two faithful
servants.

"All my agents now employed upon the estate are to go on receiving their
usual salaries, and they are not to lose their pay if they have to be
discharged from old age or infirmity. The general management of my
estate I leave to the wise discretion of Count Rudolf Szentirmay.

"And now, committing my soul to God and my body to the earth, I await
with resignation my dissolution, and, putting my whole trust in God, I
look forward to the hour when I shall turn to dust."

These last words were also written down. The lawyer then read the will;
and then, first Kárpáthy and then all the witnesses present subscribed
and sealed it. And the same night a fair copy of it was made and sent to
Rudolf, as the chief magistrate of the county.

Then Kárpáthy bade the priest send in the sexton.

He entered accordingly, and a golden goblet with wine in it and a golden
patten with a thin slice of bread on it were placed on a little round
ebony table. It was the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the last
supper such as the sick unto death partake of.

The priest stood in front of the table on which the wine and the bread
were. Kárpáthy, with Christian humility, approached the sacred elements,
the others stood around in silence. Then the priest communicated him in
their presence, and, after the simple ceremony was over, the old man
said to the priest--

"In no very long time, I shall see the happier country face to face. If
you hear that I am sick, say no prayers in church for my recovery,--it
would be useless; pray rather for my new life. And now let us go to my
son."

"To my son!" What feeling, what pathos was in that one phrase: "To my
son!"

All who were present followed him, and surrounded the child's cradle.
The little thing looked gravely at all those serious manly faces, as if
it also would have made one of them. The squire lifted him in his arms.
The child looked at him with such big wise eyes, as if he were taking it
all in; and the old man kissed his little lips again and again.

Then he was passed round among all the other old fellows, and he looked
at them all so gravely, as if he knew very well that they were all of
them honourable men; but when Rudolf took him in his arms the child
began to kick and crow, and fight with his little hands, and make a
great fuss, as children are wont to do when they are in a good
humour--who knows why?--and Rudolf kissed the child's forehead.

"How glad he is," said the Nabob, "just as if he knew that from
henceforth you will be his father."

A few hours later the whole company sat down to supper.

They noticed that the Squire ate and drank nothing, but he explained
that, after taking the holy bread and wine, he would not sit down to
ordinary food, and meant to eat nothing till the morrow.

And the old servant waiting upon them whispered to Rudolf that his
master had not touched a thing since yesterday evening.



CHAPTER XXII.

LEAVE-TAKING.


Every one in the castle retired to rest early except Rudolf, who
remained up for a long time. The fire burnt cosily on the hearth, and
there he sat before the fire till past midnight, reflecting on the past
and on the future. To speak of his thoughts would be treachery. There
are secrets which are better left at the bottom of men's hearts.

Towards midnight a great hubbub arose in the castle, and servants began
rushing up and down stairs. Rudolf, who was still half dressed, went out
into the corridor, and came face to face with old Paul.

"What is the matter?" said he.

The old servant would have spoken, but his lips were sealed; he shivered
convulsively, like one who would fain cry and cannot. At last he came
out with it, and there were tears on his cheek and in his eyes--

"He is dead!"

"Impossible!" cried Rudolf; and he hastened to the Squire's bedroom.

There lay the Nabob with closed eyes, his hands folded across his
breast, in front of him his wife's portrait that he might gaze upon it
to the last. That countenance looked so venerable after death, it seemed
to have been purified from all disturbing passions, only the old
ancestral dignity was visible in every feature.

He had died so quietly that even the faithful old servant, who slept in
the same room with him, had not been aware of it: only when, struck by
the extraordinary stillness, he had gone to see if his master wanted
anything, did he perceive that he was dead.

Rudolf at once sent for the doctor, although one glance at the quiet
face assured him that there was no need of doctors here.

By the time everything was ready for the funeral--for indeed everything
necessary therefor was already at hand in the bedroom, the coffin, the
pall, the escutcheons, the torches--he had no longer had that fear of a
coffin which he had felt on his birthday. Everything was done as he had
planned it.

They attired him in his wedding garments, and so placed him in the
coffin. They sent for the very same youths who had sung the dirges over
his wife so sweetly, and they sang the selfsame hymns for the dead over
his coffin likewise.

The news of his death had spread all over the county, and the courtyard
of Kárpátfalva was thronged once more with the bizarre mob which had
filled it before on that day of rejoicing, except that sad faces came
now instead of merry ones. Not one of his old acquaintances remained
away; every one hastened to see him once more, and every one said that
they could not recognize him, so greatly had death changed him.

A tremendous crowd followed the coffin to the grave. The most eminent
men in the kingdom carried torches before it, the most distinguished
ladies in the land were among the mourners that followed after it.
Custom demanded that the heir, the eldest son, should accompany his
father's coffin. But as the heir was only six months old, he had to be
carried, and it was Lady Szentirmay who carried him in her bosom. And
every one who saw it maintained that she embraced and protected the
child as tenderly as if she were really its mother.

Happy child!

The good old Nabob was committed to his last resting-place by the
selfsame priest who had spoken such consolatory words over the body of
his wife. There was much weeping, but the one who wept the most was the
priest himself, who ought to have comforted the others.

Then they lowered him down into those silent mansions where the dead
have their habitation, and they laid him by the side of his departed
wife as he had desired. The last hymns sounded so ghostly down in the
vault there as the wailing chant ascended up through the earth, even
those who wept made haste to depart from thence and get into the light
of day once more. And the heavy iron door clanged thunderously on its
hinges behind them.

And the Nabob? Ah, now he is happy indeed, happy for evermore!

THE END.



LIST OF THE HUNGARIAN WORDS USED IN THIS VERSION.

     ALFÖLD, the great Hungarian plain.

     ATTILA, the short, fringed pelisse of the Hungarian national
     costume.

     BÁCSI, uncle, a term of familiarity between a young and an old man.

     BETYÁR, a vagabond, a loafer.

     BUNDA, a mantle.

     CSÁRDA, a country inn.

     CSIKÓS, a guard or keeper of horses in the steppe.

     CSIZMA, a boot

     EGRI, a red wine of the claret kind produced near Eger.

     ÉLJEN, _vivat!_ hurrah!

     FŐISPÁN, a lord-lieutenant.

     FOKOS, a hand-axe.

     FRISS-MAGYAR, an Hungarian country-dance.

     GUBA, a shaggy mantle of coarse wool.

     GULYÁS, a herdsman.

     GUNYA, a peasant's jacket.

     HEGYALJA, the Tokay district.

     KACZAGÁNY, a fur over-mantle.

     KALPAG, the Hungarian tall fur cap, mostly plumed, part of the
     national costume.

     KANTUS, a short under-garment.

     KÖNTÖS, a gown, or robe.

     MÉNES, a stud of horses.

     MENTE, a short fur pelisse.

     MESZELY, a white Hungarian wine.

     PÁLINKA, Hungarian brandy.

     PRIMÁS, the conductor of a gipsy band.

     _PUSZTA_, the wilderness, a wide-spreading heath.

     SZILVORIUM, a spirit made from plums.


[Transcriber's Note: Several typographical errors in the original
edition have been corrected. The following sentences are as they
originally appeared, with corrections noted in brackets.]

     Chapter III

     There was a pipe in Master Jack's [Jock's] mouth, and he was
     engaged at that moment in filling it with tobacco.

     Chapter VIII

     Where is he now--the unknown, the unnameable, the unforgetable
     [unforgettable] ideal?

     Chapter IX

     Abellino was constantly attended by a spy in the service of the
     genial banker, who had immediately hastened to acquaint his
     principals in Paris with the latest tidings from Kárpáthfálva
     [Kárpátfalva], notably of what had happened on the night of Squire
     John's birthday.

     Chapter X

     Kárpáthy inquired after his friend Rudolf, Lady Flora's husband,
     expressing the hope that he would not forget his promise to honour
     Kárpáthfalva [Kárpátfalva] with his presence on the occasion of the
     entertainment that was coming off there in honour of the young
     bride.

     Chapter XI

     I have tried it, and never known it to fail.["]

     "And now comes Count Sarosdy [Sárosdy], the _főispán._

     Chapter XII

     Mr. Malnay [Málnay] dreamt of parties

     Chapter XXI

     I have got them together as rapidly as I could, and they are all
     honest fellows.["]

     Chapter XXII

     Ah, now he is happy indeed[,] happy for evermore!

     Glossary

     FÖISPÁN [FŐISPÁN], a lord-lieutenant.





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