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Title: Dr. Dumany's Wife
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.

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Works of Maurus Jókai
Hungarian Edition

DR. DUMANY'S WIFE

Translated from the Hungarian by F. STEINITZ



New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
1891



PUBLISHERS' NOTE.


This, the latest story from the pen of Hungary's great man of letters,
Maurus Jókai, was translated directly from the manuscript of the author
by Mme. F. Steinitz, who resides in Buda-Pest, and was selected by him
for that purpose.

Maurus Jókai is now sixty-six years of age, having been born at Komaróm,
in 1825. He was intended for the law, that having been his father's
profession but at twelve years of age the desire to write seized him.
Some of his stories fell into the hands of the lawyer in whose office he
was studying, who read them, and was so struck by their originality and
talent that he published them at once at his own expense. The public was
as well pleased with the book as the lawyer had been with the
manuscripts, and from that tender age to the present Jókai has devoted
himself to writing, and is the author of several hundred successful
volumes. At the age of twenty-three he laid down his pen long enough to
get married, his bride being Rosa Laborfalvi, the then leading Hungarian
actress. At the end of a year he joined the Revolutionists, and buckled
on the sword of the patriot. He was taken prisoner and sentenced to be
shot, when his bride appeared upon the scene with her pockets full of
the money she had made by the sale of her jewels, and, bribing the
guards, escaped with her husband into the birch woods, where they hid in
caves and slept on leaves, all the time in danger of their lives, until
they finally found their way to Buda-Pest and liberty. This city Jókai
has made his home; in the winter he lives in the heart of the town, in
the summer just far enough outside of it to have a house surrounded by
grounds, where he can sit out of doors in the shade of his own trees. He
is probably the best-known man in Hungary to-day, for he is not only an
author, but a financier, a statesman, and a journalist as well.



CONTENTS.


PART I.

   I.  THE DUMB CHILD
  II.  THE DARK GOD
 III.  THE ENGLISHMAN
  IV.  THE NABOB
   V.  A REPUBLICAN COUNTESS
  VI.  DUMANY KORNEL
 VII.  THE DEAD MAN'S VOTE
VIII.  MY UNCLE DIOGENES
  IX.  A SLAVONIC KINGDOM
   X.  "DEAD"
  XI.  MY DEAR FRIEND SIEGFRIED
 XII.  THE DEVIL'S HOOF
XIII.  THE VALKYRS


PART II.

   I.  THE SEA-DOVE
  II.  "WHAT IS THE DEVIL LIKE?"
 III.  THE FOUR-LEAVED CLOVER
  IV.  THE HISTORY OF MY FRIEND
   V.  HOW ROSES ARE INOCULATED
  VI.  MR. PARASITE
 VII.  A BRILLIANT GAME
VIII.  A BITING KISS
  IX.  WHO IS THE VISITOR?
   X.  AFTER THE WEDDING
  XI.  MY SCHEME
 XII.  SEEKING FOR DEATH
XIII.  MY DISCHARGE
 XIV.  HOME! SWEET HOME
  XV.  VOX POPULI
 XVI.  DAME FORTUNE
XVII.  LIGHT AT LAST



DR. DUMANY'S WIFE.

Part I.


I.

THE DUMB CHILD.


It was about the close of the year 1876 when, on my road to Paris, I
boarded the St. Gothard railway-train. Travellers coming from Italy had
already taken possession of the sleeping-car compartments, and I owed it
solely to the virtue of an extraordinarily large tip that I was at last
able to stretch my weary limbs upon the little sofa of a half-coupé. It
was not a very comfortable resting-place, inasmuch as this carriage was
the very last in an immensely long train, and one must be indeed fond of
rocking to enjoy the incessant shaking, jostling, and rattling in this
portion of the train. But still it was much preferable to the crowded
carriages, peopled with old women carrying babies, giggling maidens,
snoring or smoking men, and hilarious children; so I made the best of
it, and prepared for a doze.

The guard came in to look at my ticket, and, pitying my lonely
condition, he opened a conversation. He told me that the son of an
immensely wealthy American nabob, with an escort well-nigh princely,
was travelling on the same train to Paris. He had with him an attendant
physician, a nursery governess, a little playfellow, a travelling
courier, and a huge negro servant to prepare his baths, besides several
inferior servants. These all occupied the parlour-car and the sleeping
compartments; but the little fellow had a parlour, a bedroom, and a
dressing-room all to himself.

I did not pay much attention to the talk of the gossiping guard, and so
he departed, and at last I could sleep. On the road I am like a miller
in his mill. So long as the wheel turns, I sleep on; but the moment it
is stopped, I start up and am instantly wide awake. We had reached a
smaller station where the train usually stops for a few minutes only,
when, to my surprise, there was a great deal of pushing and sliding of
the cars backward and forward, and we halted for an extraordinarily long
time. I was just getting up to learn what was going on, when the guard
entered, lantern in hand.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but there is something amiss. The
linch-pin of the parlour-car has become over-heated, and we had to
uncouple the car and leave it behind. Now we are obliged to find a
convenient place for the little American, until we reach some main
station, where another parlour-car can be attached to the train. I am
really sorry for you, sir, but this is the only suitable place we have,
and the little fellow and his governess must be your travelling
companions for a while."

"Well, when a thing can't be helped, grumbling is unreasonable, so
good-bye sleep and quiet, and let us prepare to pay homage to the
illustrious youth and his lady attendant," said I, smiling at the
guard's earnestness. But still he hesitated.

"And pray, sir, what is your religion?" stammered he; "I have to tell
the governess."

"Indeed!" My good-humour was rising still, and I continued smiling.
"Tell the lady that I am a Swiss Protestant, and I hope she will not
object, as I shall not try to convert her or her charge if they are of a
different creed. Is there anything else you want to inquire into?"

"Yes, sir. The little gentleman's physician would also like to accompany
his charge, and stay at his side."

"But there is only room for three."

"I know; but, sir, the doctor is a very liberal gentleman, and he told
me that if anybody would be willing to exchange places with him, he
would gladly repay his whole travelling expenses."

"That's liberal, certainly, and I have no doubt the fireman of the
engine will thankfully accept his offer. You can tell him as much. And
now go!"

The man went out, but right after him came the doctor--a very pleasant
and distinguished-looking young man. He apologised for the guard's
bluntness and his misinterpretation of his message. He had not meant to
offend a gentleman, and so forth. He introduced himself as Dr. Mayer,
family physician at the house of the so-called "Silver King," Mr.
Dumany, the father of the little "Silver Prince." After learning that I
did not smoke, and had no objection to children, he inquired my
nationality. My astrachan fur cap and coat-collar made him take me for a
Russian, but, thanking him for his good opinion, I stated that as yet I
was merely a Hungarian. He did not object; but asked if we were free
from small-pox, diphtheritis, croup, measles, scarlet-fever,
whooping-cough, and such like maladies in our country at present. After
I had satisfied him that even the foot-and-mouth disease had by this
time ceased, he finally quitted me, but immediately returned, assisting
a lady with both hands full of travelling necessaries to climb up into
the carriage. After the lady came a grand stately-looking negro servant,
with gold-braided cap and overcoat of white bear's fur, and on his arm,
bundled up in rich velvet and costly fur, he carried a beautiful
five-year-old boy, who looked like some waxen image or big doll.

The lady seemed very lively and talkative, and had a host of languages
at command. With the doctor she conversed in German; to the guide she
spoke French; the negro she questioned in English, and to a maid who
brought in some rugs and air-pillows she spoke Italian. All these
languages she spoke excellently, and I am certain that if a dozen
persons of different nationalities had been present she could have
talked to them in their various dialects with the same ease and fluency.
Of her beauty I could not judge, for she wore a bonnet with a thick
veil, which covered her face to the chin.

Taking her seat at the opposite window, she placed the child between
us. He was a pale, quiet little boy, with very red, thin,
tightly-compressed lips, and great, melancholy dark-blue eyes. As long
as the negro was occupied in arranging the rugs and pillows, he looked
wholly unconcerned, and the smiles from the great black shining face did
not impress him at all; but when the swarthy giant caught the two fair
little hands in his own great black palm and wanted to kiss them, the
boy withdrew his hands with a quick gesture and struck the ebony
forehead with his tiny fist.

At last we were seated. The negro was gone, the guide went out and
locked the door after him. Seeing that the open window was disagreeable
to the lady, I volunteered to close it. She accepted gratefully, and at
the same time expressed her regrets that, in consequence of the accident
to the parlour-car, she had been compelled to disturb me. Of course, I
hastened to say that I was not in the least incommoded, and only
regretted that it was not in my power to make her more comfortable. She
then told me that she was an American, and pretty well used to railroad
accidents of a more or less serious character. Three times she had been
saved by a miracle in railway collisions at home, and she assured me
that in America about 30,000 persons were every year injured in railway
accidents, while some 4,000 were killed outright.

We conversed in German, and, as the lady became more and more
communicative, talk turned upon the subject of the child between us.
She told me that Master James was deaf and dumb, and could not
understand a word of our conversation; hence restraint was unnecessary.
I asked her if he was born with this defect, and she said, "No; until
the age of three he could speak very nicely, but at that age he was
thrown out of his little goat-carriage, and in consequence of the shock
and concussion lost his power of speech."

"Then he will possibly recover it," I said. "I knew a young man who lost
his speech in the same manner at the age of five, and could not speak up
to his tenth year; then he recovered, and now he has graduated from
college as senior wrangler."

"Yes," she said. "But Mr. Dumany is impatient, and he has sent the boy
to all the deaf-and-dumb boarding-schools in Europe. Even now we are
coming from such an institution in Italy; but none of all these
different masters has been able to teach more than sign-talk, and that
is insufficient. Mr. Dumany wants to give the German Heinicke method a
trial. That professes to teach real conversation, based on the
observations of the movements of the lips and tongue."

Of this method I also knew examples of success. I was acquainted with a
deaf and dumb type-setter, who had learned to talk intelligibly and
fluently, could read aloud, and take part in conversation, but in a
piping voice like that of a bird.

"Even that would be a great success," she said. "At any rate, little
James will be taken to the Zürich Institute, and remain there until he
acquires his speech."

During this whole conversation the little fellow had sat between us,
mute, and, to all appearance, wholly indifferent. His little pale face
was dull, and his great eyes half closed. I felt sorry for him, and with
a sigh of real compassion I muttered in my own native Hungarian tongue,
"Szegény fincska!" ("Poor little boy!") At this I saw a thrill of
surprise run through the child's little frame; the great blue eyes
opened wide in wonder and delight, and the closed cherry lips opened in
a smile of joy.

I was struck with surprise, and did not believe my own eyes. The lady
had not noticed anything, since she still kept her bonnet on and the
thick veil tightly drawn over her face.

I took pity on her, and offered to go out into the corridor to smoke a
cigarette, so that she might make herself a little more comfortable
until we arrived at some large station, where she would enter another
parlour-car.

She accepted thankfully, and, to my utter astonishment, the little boy
raised his tiny hand, and caressingly stroked the fur collar of my coat.
I bent down to kiss him, and he smiled sweetly on me; and when I got up
and signed to him that he could now occupy both seats and stretch
himself upon the little sofa, he shook his head, and crept into the
corner which I had quitted. And there, as often as in my walk up and
down the corridor I threw a glance into his corner, I could see the
child's large dark-blue eyes following all my movements with an eager
curiosity; the white little face pressed to the window-pane and the tiny
hand never losing hold of the edge of the curtain, which he had
purposely lifted, for the governess had pulled the curtain down the
moment I left, possibly to take off her bonnet.

Mine was not a very pleasant situation in that corridor. I watched the
rising and sinking of the moon, which phenomenon repeated itself about
twice every hour, according to the serpentine windings of the road. I
looked at the milky mist which surrounded the icy pinnacles of the great
mountains, and grumbled over the intense darkness in the many tunnels,
in which the roar and noise of the train is tremendously increased,
thundering as if Titans were breaking out of their prisons below Mount
Pelion.

As if they had not broken through long, long ago! What if the old
Grecian gods should come to life? should leave their marble temples, and
gaze about on the world as it is at present? If Pallas Athene were told
of America? If Helios Apollo could listen to Wagner's operas, and Zeus
Jupiter might look into the great tube of the London Observatory,
wondering what had become of that milky way which had been formed out of
the milk spilled by Amalthea? If we could show him that we had caught
and harnessed his heavenly lightning to draw our vehicles and carry our
messages, and that, with the help of fire-eyed leviathans, we break
through the rocky womb of his great mountains? And yet, how easy it
would be for them, with a simple sneeze of their most illustrious and
omnipotent noses, to raise such a tempest that earth and sea would rise
and destroy man and his pigmy works at one fell stroke! I wonder if they
never awake? I rather think they sometimes get up and shake their mighty
fists at us. These cyclones look very suspicious to me!

The huge iron leviathan turns and twists itself like a Gordian knot;
disappears and reappears, almost on the same spot, but higher up on the
mountain, and then glides rapidly on along the brinks of fearful
abysses, over long iron bridges looking like some fanciful filigree
work, some giant spider's web, extending across great valleys, chasms,
and precipices, over which great mountain rivers splash down, roaring
and foaming in gigantic falls. What giant power has cleft the way for
these waters--Vulcan or Neptune? Or was it laid down in Euclid's
adventurous age, when the Titans went into bankruptcy?

The train increases its speed to regain the time lost in uncoupling the
disabled parlour-car, and this increased speed is chiefly felt at the
tail of the great iron dragon. I have to cling tightly to the brass rod
in front of the windows. We pass the central station without stopping,
the locomotive whistles, the lamps of the little watch-houses fly past
like so many jack-o'-lanterns, and all at once we are enveloped by a
thick fog rising from beneath, where it had rested above the sea, and
when the train has twice completed the circle around the valley, the
noxious, dangerous mist surrounds us entirely.

But once more the creation of human hands conquers the spectre, and,
puffing and whistling, the locomotive breaks through the dark haze. Once
again the iron serpent disappears into the bowels of the rock, and as it
emerges it crosses another valley and is greeted by a clear heaven and a
multitude of brightly-glistening stars.

We are on the Rossberg. A devastated tract of the globe it seems. Our
eyes rest on barren soil devoid of vegetation. Beneath a large field of
huge boulders, imbedded in snow and ice, the Alpine vegetation thrives.
The whole valley is one immense graveyard, and the great rocks are giant
tombstones, encircled by wreaths of white flowers meet for adorning
graves. At the beginning of the present century one of the ridges of the
Rossberg gave way, and in the landslide four villages were buried. This
happened at night, when the villagers were all asleep, and not a single
man, women, or child escaped. This valley is their resting-place. Was I
not right to call it a graveyard?

Above this valley of destruction the train glides on. Upon the side of
the mountain is a little watch-house, built into the rock; a narrow
flight of steps hewn in the stone leads up to it like a ladder. The
moon, which had lately seemed fixed to the crest of the mountain, now
plays hide-and-seek among the peaks. A high barricade on the side of the
Rossberg serves to protect the railroad track against another landslide.

On the high ridges of the mountain goats were pasturing, and not far
from them a shepherd's fire was blazing, and the shepherd himself sat
beside it. I remember all these accessories as well as if they were
still before my eyes. I can see the white goats climbing up and pulling
at the broom-plants. I can see the shepherd's black form, encircled by
the light of the fire, and the white watch-house with its black leaden
roof, the high signal-pole in front of it, above which all at once a
great flaming star arises.



II.

THE DARK GOD.


I was gazing at that shining red light, when all at once I felt a
concussion, as if the train had met with some impediment. I heard the
jolting of the foremost cars, and had time to prepare for the shock
which was sure to follow; but when it did come, it was so great that it
threw me to the opposite wall of the corridor.

Yet the train moved on as before, so that it could not have been
disabled, as I at first thought. I heard the guards run from carriage to
carriage, opening the doors, and I could see great clouds of steam arise
from the puffing and blowing engines. The friction of the wheels made a
grating noise, and I leaned out of the window to ascertain the nature of
the danger. Was another train approaching, and a collision inevitable? I
could see nothing, but suddenly I beheld the figure of the shepherd, and
saw him raise his staff aloft. I followed the motion of his hand, and
with a thrill of horror I saw a great ledge of rock sliding downward
with threatening speed, while at the same time a shower of small stones
crashed on the roof of the cars.

I did not wait for the guards to open my door. I had it open in an
instant. From the other carriages passengers were jumping out at the
risk of life and limb, for the train was running at full speed.

I hastily ran into the coupé to awaken my travelling companions, but
found them up. "Madam," I said, "I am afraid that we are in danger of a
serious accident. Pray come out quickly!"

"Save the child!" she answered; and I caught the little boy, took him in
my arms, and ran out.

The train was gliding perpetually on, and I bethought myself of the
recommendation of one who is jumping from a running vehicle, to leap
forward, because in jumping sideways or backward he invariably falls
under the wheels. So I followed the recommendation and leaped.
Fortunately, I reached the ground, although my knees doubled up under
me, and I struck the knuckles of my right hand a hard blow. The child
had fainted in my arms, but only from fright; otherwise he had received
no harm. I laid him on the ground in a safe place, and ran with all my
might after the train to help the lady out. She was standing on the
steps, already prepared for the jump. I extended my hand to her,
impatiently crying "Quick!" But instead of taking my proffered hand she
exclaimed, "Oh! I have forgotten my bonnet and veil," and back she ran
into the coupé, never again to come forth.

At that moment I felt a tremendous shock, as if the earth had quaked and
opened beneath me, and this was followed by a deafening uproar, the
clashing of stones, the cracking of wood and glass, the grating and
crushing of iron, and the pitiful cries of men, women, and children.
The great mass of rock broke through the protecting barricade and rushed
right upon the engine. The huge, steam-vomiting leviathan was crushed in
an instant, and the copper and steel fragments scattered everywhere.
Three of the wheels were shattered, and with that the iron colossus came
to a dead stop, the suddenness of which threw the carriages crashing on
top of each other. This fearful havoc was not all. Through the breach
which the great rock had made in the barricade, an incessant avalanche
of stones, from the size of a cannon-ball to that of a wheelbarrow,
descended upon the train, crushing everything beneath into fragments,
pushing the unhappy train into the chasm below, into the valley of death
and destruction. Like a huge serpent it slid down, the great glowing
furnace with its feeding coals undermost, and then the whole wrecked
mass of carriages tumbled after, atop of each other, while cries of
despair were heard on every side. Then I saw the rear car--that in which
I had been sitting--stand up erect on top of the others, while on its
roof fell, with thunderous violence, the awful shower of stones. Mutely
I gazed on, until a large stone struck the barricade just where I stood,
and then I realised that the danger was not over, and ran for shelter.

The stones were falling fast to left and to right, and I hastened to
gain the steps which led to the little watch-house. Then I bethought me
of the boy. I found him still insensible, but otherwise unharmed, and I
took him up, covering him with a furred coat. I ran up the steps with
him, so fast that not a thought of my asthma and heart disease
slackened my speed.

There was nobody in the house but a woman milking a goat. In one corner
of the room stood a bed, in the middle was a table, and on one of the
walls hung a burning coal-oil lamp.

As I opened the door the woman looked up, and said in a dull piteous
moaning--

"It is none of Jörge's fault. Jörge had shown the red light in good
season, and yesterday he specially warned the gentlemen, and told them
that a ridge of the Gnippe was crumbling, and would soon break down; but
they did not listen to him, and now that the accident has come, they
will surely visit their own carelessness upon him. It is always the poor
dependent that is made to suffer for the fault of his superiors. But I
will not stand it; and if Jörge is discharged and loses his bread,
then--"

"All right, madam!" I said, "I saw the red light in time, and I shall
testify for Jörge in case of need. Only keep quiet now, and come here.
You must try to restore this child. He has fainted. Give him water or
something; you will know best what to do."

In recalling these words to my memory and writing them down, I am not
quite certain that I really spoke them; I am not certain of a single
word or action of mine on that fearful night. But I think that I said
the words I am relating, although I was so confused that it is possible
I did not utter a word. I had come out of the house again, and saw a man
running up and down on the narrow rocky plateau, like one crazy. It was
Jörge the watchman; he was looking for the signal-post, and could not
find it.

"Here it is, look!" I said, turning his face toward the high pole right
in front of him. He gazed up wistfully, and then all at once he
blubbered out--

"See! See, the red light! I gave the warning. They cannot blame me; they
dare not punish me for it. It is not my fault!"

Of course, he thought of nothing but himself, and the misfortune of the
others touched him only in so far as he was concerned.

"Don't blubber now!" I said. "There will be time enough to think of
ourselves. Now let us learn what has happened to the others. The whole
train has been swept down into the abyss below. What has become of the
people in it?"

"God Almighty have mercy on their souls!"

"Yet perhaps we could save some of them. Come along!"

"I can't go. I dare not leave my post, else they will turn against me."

"Well then, I shall go alone," said I, and hastened down the steps.

I heard no screams, no cries, not a sound of human voices. The poor
victims of the catastrophe were exhausted or frightened out of their
wits, and gave no utterance to the pain they felt. Only the
never-ceasing clatter of the falling stones was heard, nothing else.
Awful is the voice of the elements, and dreadful their revenge on their
human antagonists! The thundering heavens, the roaring sea, are awful
to behold and to listen to; but most fearful of all is the voice of the
earth, when, quivering in wrath, she opens her fiery mouth or hurls her
rocky missiles at pigmy men.

From the wrecked train a great many travellers had jumped like myself;
but not all with the same happy result. They had mostly reached the
ground more or less bruised, but at the moment of escape from the clutch
of death we do not much feel our hurts. These unhappy victims,
frightened as they were, had managed to creep and hide behind the
untouched portion of the bulwark, and happy to have escaped from
immediate death, sheltered from the tremendous cataract of stones, they
remained quiet, trembling, awaiting the end of the catastrophe and the
ultimate rescue. But what had meanwhile become of those who had stayed
in the falling carriages?

There came a terrible answer to that question, and out of the old horror
arose a new and still more terrible spectre. A demon with a cloudy head,
rising from the darkness below, and with a swift and fearful growth,
mounting up to the sky--a demon with a thousand glistening, sparkling
eyes and tongues, a smoke-fiend!

The great boiler of the locomotive had gone down first. There it fell,
not on the ground, but on a large fragment of rock, which pierced it
completely, so that the air had free access to the fire. Upon the top of
both boiler and tender, the coal-van had been turned upside down, and
these had pulled all the carriages one on top of the other in the same
way, so that the whole train stood upright, like some huge steeple. This
dreadful structure had become a great funeral pile, the altar of a black
pagan idol whose fiery tongues were greedily thrusting upward to devour
their prey.

Then, as the smoke became blacker and blacker, a heart-rending, almost
maddening sound of shrieking and crying rang out from that devilish
wreck, so loud and piercing that it drowned the clatter of stones, the
crackling of the fast-kindling coals, and the crushing noise of the
metals. At the cry for aid of the doomed victims, all who had escaped
and hidden behind the bulwark came forth, creeping or running, shrieking
and gesticulating, forgetful of their own danger and pitiful condition,
thinking only of those dear lost ones there in that abode of hell, and
maddened at the impossibility of rescuing them. It was a wild
hurly-burly of voices and of tongues, of despairing yells, hysterical
sobs, heart-rending prayers; and as I stumbled over the twisted and
broken rails, that stood upright like bent wires, and stooped over the
bulwark, I beheld a spectacle so terrible that every nerve of my body,
every heart-string, revolted at it. Even now they quiver at the ghastly
recollection.

As the fire lighted up the horrible pile I could see that the first
carriage atop of the coals was a shattered mass, the second crushed
flat, while the third stood with wheels uppermost, and so forth to the
top, and out of all of them human heads, limbs, faces, bodies, were
thrust forward. Two small gloved female hands, locked as in prayer, were
stretched out of a window, and above them two strong, muscular,
masculine arms tried with superhuman force to lift the iron weight
above, to break a way at the top, until the blood flowed from the nails,
and even these strong arms dropped down exhausted. Half-seen forms,
mutilated, bleeding, were tearing with teeth and nails at their dreadful
prison. Then for a while the smoky cloud involved everything in
darkness. A moment after, the red fiery tongues came lapping upward, and
a red, glowing halo encircles the fatal wreck. The first and second
carriages were already burned. How long would it take the flames to
reach the top? How many of the sufferers were yet alive? What power in
heaven or earth could save them, and how?

The hollow into which the train had fallen was so deep that, in spite of
the erect position of the ill-fated pile, the topmost car--that
containing the poor foolish American governess, who had lost her life in
running back for her bonnet--was ten mètres below us, and we had not
even a single rope or cord with which to hazard the experiment of
descending. A young man, one of those few who had come forth unharmed,
ran up and down the embankment, shouting madly for a rope, offering a
fortune for belts, shawls, and cords. His newly-married bride was in one
of those carriages, and hers were the tiny gloved hands that were
stretched out of the window. "A rope!" cried he; "give me anything to
make a rope!" But who heeded him?

A young mother sat on the tracks, fondly hugging a plaid shawl in her
arms. Her babe was there in that burning pyre, but horror had
overpowered her reason. There she sat, caressing the woollen bundle, and
in a low voice singing her "Eia Popeia" to the child of her fantasy.

An aged Polish Jew lay across the barricade wall. His two hands were
stretched downward, and there he muttered the prayers and invocations of
his ancient liturgy, which no one there understood but himself and his
God. The ritual prayer-bands were upon his thumbs and wrists, and
encircling his forehead. His forked beard and greasy side-locks dangled
as he chanted his hymns, while his eyes, starting almost out of their
sockets, were fixed upon one of the carriages. What did that car
contain? His wife? His children? Or his worldly goods, the fortune
hoarded up through a life-time of cunning and privation? Who knows?
Forth he chants his prayers, loudly yelling, or muttering low, as the
ghastly scene before him vanishes in smoke and darkness, or glows out
again in fearful distinctness.

Every one shrieks, cries, prays, swears, raves.

No; not every one! There, on the barricade, his logs doubled up
Turk-fashion, sits a young painter with Mephisto beard and grey eyes.
His sketch-book is open, and he is making a vivid sketch of the
sensational scene. The illustrated papers are grateful customers, and
will rejoice at receiving the sketch.

But this young draughtsman is not the only sensible person in the
place. There is another, a long-legged Englishman, standing with watch
in hand, reckoning up the time lost by the accident, and eyeing the
scene complacently.

Some noisy dispute attracts my attention, and, turning, I behold a man,
trying with all his might to overcome a woman, who attacks him with
teeth and nails, biting his hands and tearing at his flesh, as he drags
her close to him. At last he succeeds in joining both of her hands
behind her back, she foaming, writhing, and cursing. I ask indignantly,
"What do you want with the woman? Let her alone!"

"Oh, sir!" he said, showing me a sorrowful and tear-stained face, "for
Heaven's sake, help me! I cannot bear with her any more. She wants to
leap down and kill herself. Pray help me to tie her hands, and carry her
off from here!"

By his speech I knew him for a Pole, and the woman's exclamations were
also uttered in the Polish language. She was his wife; her children were
there in that infernal pile, and she wanted to die with them.

"Quick! quick!" gasped the man. "Take my necktie and fasten her hands
behind her." I obeyed; and as I wound the silken strip tight around the
unhappy woman's wrist, her despairing gaze fixed itself in deadly hate
upon my face, and her foaming lips cursed me for keeping her away from
her children. As her husband carried her away, her curses pierced the
air; and although I could not understand the words, I understood that
she spoke of the "Czrny Bog," or, as the Russians say, "Cserny Boh," the
"Black God" of the Slavs--Death.

By this time the horrible tower was burning brightly, and the night was
all aglow with the glaring light, and still those terrible shrieks from
human voices resounded to and fro.

The young artist had a picturesque scene for his pencil, and kept making
sketch after sketch. The burning wreck, the flying cinders, the red mist
around the black pine woods on the rocky wall of the mountain, and that
small span of star-lit heaven above; all those frightened, maddened,
running, crouching, creeping men and women around, with the chanting
Jew, in his long silken _caftan_ and dangling locks, in the midst of
them, made a picture of terrible sublimity.

But still the god of destruction was unsatisfied, and his fiery maw
opened for more victims. The unhappy young husband had succeeded in
tearing up his clothes and knotting the strips together. A compassionate
woman had given him a shawl, which he fastened to the bushes. On this he
descended into that mouth of hell. The perilous attempt succeeded so far
that, with one mad leap, he landed on the top of the uppermost car with
its pile of stones, and then, with cat-like dexterity and desperate
daring, he scrambled downward to the third carriage. Quickly he reached
the spot, and the poor little gloved hands of his darling were thrown in
ecstasy around his neck. Someone had drawn up the cord on which he had
let himself down, fastened a stout iron rod to it, and suspended it
carefully. Happily it reached him, and with its aid he made a good-sized
breach, widening the opening of the window; he worked with desperate
strength, and we gazed breathlessly on. Now we saw him drop the rod
again. The tender arms of his bride were around his neck, a fair head
was thrust out, the whole form was emerging, when with a tremendous
crash, and a hissing, spluttering, crackling noise, the whole fabric
shook and trembled, and husband and wife were united in death.

The great boiler had burst; the explosion had changed the scene again,
and the young painter might draw still another sketch.



III.

THE ENGLISHMAN.


That long-legged son of Albion whom I had previously observed, strolled
up to my side and asked--

"Do you understand German, sir?"

"Yes, sir, I do."

"Then call for that shepherd. I want him."

I obeyed, and the shepherd, who had complacently eyed the scene as
something that was of no consequence to him, came slowly and wonderingly
up.

He was in no hurry, and my coaxing "Dear friend" and "Good friend" did
not impress him at all; but when the Englishman showed him a handful of
gold coins he came on quickly enough.

"Tell him," said the Englishman, "to run to the next railway station,
give notice of the accident, and return with a relief train for succour.
Tell him to be quick, and when he returns I will give him two hundred
francs."

"Yes," said the man; "but who will take care of my goats meanwhile?"

"How many goats have you?"

"Six."

"And what is the average price of a goat?"

"Fifteen francs."

"Well, here is the price of your goats in cash. I give you one hundred
francs--ten more than your goats are worth. Now run! How far is it?"

"A good running distance, not very far." The man pocketed his money and
turned, when an idea struck him. "Could you not take care of my goats
anyhow, till I return?" he asked.

Smart fellow! He kept the money for his goats, and tried to keep the
goats into the bargain.

"All right," said the Englishman, "I will take care of them. Never fear.
Go!"

"But you must take my stick and my horn; the goats will get astray when
they do not hear the horn."

"Then give it to me, and I will blow it," said the Englishman, with
admirable patience, and, taking the shepherd's crook and horn, he gave
the man his red shawl to use as a signal-flag.

As the shepherd at length trotted on and disappeared, that unique,
long-legged example of phlegm and good sense sat down by the shepherd's
fire, on exactly the same spot where the shepherd had sat, and began
watching the goats.

I returned to the mournful scene which I had quitted when the Englishman
came up to me. It was a terrible one, and no marvel that even the
painter had closed his sketch-book to gaze upon it in silent awe. The
entire valley below showed like a giant furnace, or some flaming ocean
of hell. Huge fiery serpents came hissing and snarling up to the
barricade, and great flakes of fire were flying about everywhere,
scorching and kindling as they fell. The chill, keen, mountain air had
become heavy and warm in spite of the winter, and a loathsome,
penetrating odour arose and drove us away from the horrible place. No
one remained but the Polish Jew. He did not move away. He had risen to
his knees on the barricade wall, and his hands, with their prayer-bands,
were uplifted to heaven. Louder and louder he chanted his hymns, raising
his voice above the thundering roar of the crackling fire, the rolling
stones, and the last despairing cries of the doomed ones. The fur on his
cap, his forked beard and dangling locks were singed by the falling
cinders, and his skin scorched and blistered, yet still he chanted on.
But when at last he saw that his prayer was in vain, all at once he
sprang up, and seemed to strike at the flames with both palms; then,
spitting into the fire "pchi!" he fell down senseless.

By this time the heat was so oppressive that it was dangerous to stand
anywhere near the barricade, and even for the sake of saving a man's
life from such a horrid fate, it was impossible to venture among the
falling cinders and rolling stones. All that the few of us who had
escaped with sound limbs and bodies could do was to carry our less
fortunate, wounded or maimed fellow-travellers up into the little
watch-house.

This we did, and then came those seemingly endless minutes in which we
waited for the relief train. Once the Englishman blew the horn for the
goats, and we thought it was the whistling of the expected train. How
terribly that disappointment was felt! and what sinful, subtle, and
sophistical thoughts crowded into our heads, burdened our hearts, and
oppressed our spirits in those awful minutes!

What terrible thing had these poor victims done to deserve such fearful
punishment? What heinous crime had they committed to be sentenced to
death and destruction by such a painful, torturing process? Whose sin
was visited on the guileless heads of little infants and innocent
children who had perished in those flames? Could not they have been
spared? or that loving and beautiful young couple, just on the brink of
life and happiness, and now sent to eternity together by such a fearful
road, into the mouth of hell when they had thought themselves before the
open gate of Paradise? What had that unhappy mother done? or all these
old and young men and women, in full health and spirits, enjoying life
and happiness, surrounded by happy relatives, full of happy plans and
hopes? What had they done to deserve this fate, those poor servants of
the public convenience, the guards, the engineer, and the other
officials, who could have saved their own lives easily, and in good
time, if they had abandoned their fatal posts, and had not preferred to
die in doing their duty? Why had not these been saved for the sake of
their wives and children, now widows and orphans, abandoned to the
charities of a merciless world? Who and where is that awful Deity into
whose altar-fire that conjuring Jew had spat, because He would not
listen to his invocations? What dreadful Power is it which has pushed
down that rock-colossus to destroy so many human lives? Is it the Czrny
Bog of the Samaritans, the Lord of Darkness and Doer of Mischief, whose
might is great in harm, whose joy is human despair, and who is adored
with oaths and curses?

But if such a power exists--if there is a Czrny Bog, indeed--then his
deeds are befitting his name--dark and black. But why should I, who am
human myself, and have a heart for my brethren and a sense of their
wrongs, why should I in this fatal instant, although full of pity and
commiseration, yet inwardly rejoice that this misfortune has fallen upon
others and not upon me? Why should I feel that although others have
perished, all is well as long as I am safe?

Is this not shameful? Is it not an everlasting stain and disgrace upon
my inner self? What right have I to think myself the chosen ward of some
guardian angel or tutelary spirit? In what am I different from those
lost ones? In what better, worthier than they? And if not, why had I
been saved and not they? Here! Here was the Czrny Bog, the dark god, in
my own breast.

At last day was dawning, and, in the grey morning light, the horrible
picture looked ghastlier still, when, to our intense relief, the
long-expected train came, and physicians with their assistants, firemen
with their manifold implements, police, and all kinds of labourers,
arrived upon it. The train stopped at a safe distance, and then the work
of rescue began. Wounds were dressed, the insensible restored, watchmen
and travellers were interrogated by officials. Ropes and rope-ladders
were fastened and suspended, and brave men, magnanimously forgetful of
the threatening danger, went down into the flames, although the hope of
success was small. True, the two or three uppermost cars had not as yet
caught fire; but who could breathe amid that suffocating smoke, that
lurid loathsome atmosphere, and yet live?

The labourers set to work at the breaches of the barricade and the line
of rails. The engineers discussed the best way in which a protecting
barrier ought to be built so as to shut out every possibility of such an
accident; and from the plateau before the watch-house some men were
incessantly calling for a "Monsieur d'Astrachan."

At last one of the labourers called my attention to these repeated
shouts, and, turning in their direction, I observed that this title was
intended for me. The watchman's wife, not knowing my name, had described
me as wearing an astrachan cap and coat-collar, and accordingly I was
called "Monsieur d'Astrachan." Now for the first time I remembered the
child I had carried thither. I had completely forgotten it, and the
occurrence seemed such an age away that I should not have been surprised
to hear that the boy had grown to be a man.

I hastened up the steps, and observed that some official personage in
showy uniform was expecting me quite impatiently. "Come up, sir," he
said; "we cannot converse with your little boy."

"To be sure you can't!" said I, smiling, in spite of the dreadful
situation. "Neither can I, for the boy is deaf and dumb; but I have to
correct you, sir. The boy is not my own, although I took him out of the
carriage."

"That boy deaf and dumb? About as much as we are, I judge. Why, he is
talking incessantly, only we can't make anything out of his prattle, as
we do not understand the language," said the officer.

"Well, that's certainly a miracle!" I exclaimed, "and it bears witness
to the truth of the old proverb, 'It is an ill wind that blows nobody
any good.' Assuredly, the shock of the accident restored his power of
speech. What is he saying?"

"I told you we can't make it out. It's a language that none of us
understand."

"Then I hardly suppose that I shall be cleverer than all of you."

"Whose child is it, if not yours?"

"Some rich nabob's. I can't at the moment recall his name, although the
governess told me, poor soul! We were thrown together by chance, and the
poor woman perished in the flames. Has no one of his many attendants and
servants escaped?"

"It seems not. But pray come in and listen to him; perhaps you will
understand him."

I went in, and found my practical Englishman beside the child, but
incapable of arriving at a mutual understanding. The injured travellers
and the hysterical women passengers were already snugly stowed away in
the ambulance carriages and well taken care of. The goats were again
under the protection of their legitimate shepherd, and that temporary
official, the long-legged son of Albion, was addressing all kinds of
questions in English to an obstinate little boy.

As I entered, and the child caught sight of me, the little face lit up
at once. He extended both his little arms in joy. "Please come," he
said; "I will be a good boy. I will speak!"

It is marvellous enough when a dumb child speaks; but what was my
surprise when I recognised these words, uttered in my own native
Hungarian tongue! Just imagine the five-year-old son of a wealthy
American, whose entire _cortège_ had been German, French, Italian, and
English, speaking Hungarian!

I took the little fellow up in my arms, and he put both his little arms
around my neck, and, leaning his soft cheek on my bearded face, he said
again, "I will be good, very good; but please take me to my papa. I am
afraid!"

"Who is your father, my child?" I asked. "What is his name?"

As I uttered these questions in Hungarian, he clapped his hands in
gladness, and then, after a little meditation, he answered--

"My father is called the 'Silver King,' and his name is Mr. Dumany. Do
you know him?"

"Oh!" said the Englishman, as he heard the name, "Mr. Kornel Dumany, the
Silver King; I know him very well. He is an American, and very rich. He
lives mostly in Paris. If it is more convenient for you to get rid of
the child, I can take care of him and bring him to his father."

"No, no!" protested the little one, clinging tightly to me. "Please, do
not give me to him! I want to stay with you; I want to go with you to my
papa!"

So he knew English well enough, since he understood every word of the
Englishman's. In this case he could not have been deaf at all, but
obstinate, hearing and refusing to talk. Was not such unheard-of
obstinacy in a child of such tender age some malady of the mind or soul?

"I wonder how this child comes to speak Hungarian?" said I, turning to
the Englishman. "Ours is not a language generally spoken by foreigners,
least of all by the young children of American nabobs."

"I never wonder at anything," said he, coolly. "At any rate, I should
advise you at the first station to telegraph to Mr. Dumany; I will give
you his address. So you will be expected when you arrive in Paris, and
have no further trouble. Since you are the only person able to talk to
the boy, it will be certainly the best thing for him to remain with you.
Now I think it is time for us to take our seats in the carriage, or else
the train will start and leave us behind. Come on, gentlemen!"



IV.

THE NABOB.


The train from Zürich arrived at the Eastern Railway Station at seven
o'clock in the morning. In Paris the day has at that early hour not yet
begun, and but very few persons, mostly travelling foreigners and
labourers, are seen on the streets. Since it has become the fashion to
use the moving train for suicidal purposes, the perron is locked, and
only those travellers admitted whose luggage is undergoing examination
by the customs officials.

I was lucky enough to have sent my luggage one day ahead of me to Paris,
and so it had not been lost in the accident. I had nothing with me but a
small satchel, which I had saved, but which contained nothing to
interest the custom-house officers, and so, taking my little charge in
hand, I stepped out into the hall. I had hardly gone two paces, when the
child dropped my hand, and crying, "Papa! dear, darling papa!" ran to a
gentleman who, with a lady at his side, stood by the turnstile.

I had never before seen the lady, yet I recognised her at once as the
mother of my little charge, so striking was the resemblance between
them. She had the same large, dark-blue eyes, the same dimpled chin,
aquiline nose, and pretty, shell-shaped, little mouth as he, and she
could hardly have been more than four-and-twenty, so young and girlish
did she look. The husband was a large-made, well-shaped, and
distinguished-looking gentleman. His bronze complexion had a healthy
flush, and he wore side whiskers, but no moustache. His head was covered
with a round soft beaver, and a long, rich fur coat was thrown lightly
over his shoulder. In his scarf I saw a large solitaire. The lady at his
side was very plainly attired in black, and wore no jewellery at all.
The age of the gentleman was, according to my judgment, about forty.

As the child ran toward him, with both his little arms stretched out,
and crying, in Hungarian, "Apám! Drágo édes apám!" ("Papa! dear darling
papa!") the gentleman hastened to meet him, caught the boy up in his
arms, and covered the little face, hands, eyes, and hair with a shower
of kisses. The father sobbed in his joy, while the child laughed,
caressed his father's cheeks, and called him "Édes jo apám!" ("My good,
sweet father!") in Hungarian, and the father called him, crying and
laughing, "My dear little fool"--in English.

Then I saw the father whisper something to the child, and in an instant
the whole little face became rigid and dull, all child-like mirth and
sweetness had vanished. He looked around, and then clung tightly to his
father, as if in dread of something, and I saw his lips move in appeal.
The father kissed him again and carried him to the lady, who all the
while had given no sign of animation or interest, but had looked on,
cool and indifferent.

"Look, my pet, here is your mama!" said the gentleman to the boy,
approaching the lady and holding the boy toward her. Now, according to
the law of nature, according to all human sentiment and experience, we
should expect a mother who receives back her own offspring, saved from a
fate too horrible even to contemplate, her own child who had gone from
her mute and comes back to her speaking, I say we should think it
natural in such a mother to seize this child, and, in the ecstasy of her
love and joy, half suffocate it with her kisses and caresses. Not so
here. I could see no glad tear in the lady's eye, no smile of welcome on
her face. Her hands were snugly stowed away in a costly little muff, and
she did not think it necessary to extend them to her child. She breathed
a cold, lifeless kiss upon the boy's pale forehead, and the tiny hand of
the child caressed the fur trimming on her jacket, just as he had done
with the astrachan lapel of my coat. What a strange behaviour in mother
and child after such a reunion!

I had watched this family scene out of a strange curiosity, which was
wholly involuntary. Presently I recollected the situation, and turned to
leave the perron. Perhaps, if I had saved some honest cockney's son from
a like danger, I should not have avoided him, but, with a friendly
pressure of the hand, expressed my pleasure at having been able to be of
service to him. Then we should have parted good friends. But to
introduce myself to an American nabob as the rescuer of his child was
impossible! Why, the man was capable of offering me a remuneration!

No, I would have nothing to do with aristocrats like these. They have
their child; it is safe; and so good-bye to them!

However, as I turned to leave, I was surprised to hear some one
pronounce my name, and, to my astonishment, I found that it was Mr.
Dumany. He still held the child on his arm, and, coming toward me, he
said in French, "Oh, sir! you do not mean to run away from us, surely?"

"Indeed I must!" said I, bowing. "But, pray, how is it that you know my
name? You cannot know me personally?"

"Well, that is a question which must remain to be answered later on. At
present it is sufficient to tell you that the telegraph service has been
very full and exact, even in personal description. However, I beg you to
revoke that 'I must,' for indeed I cannot allow you to depart. To the
great favour you have done me, you must add the additional favour of
being my guest for the time of your sojourn in Paris. Promise me to
accept of my hospitality--nay, to regard my house as your own. I shall
be ever so happy! Come, pray, do not hesitate, and give me leave to
introduce you to my wife!"

With that he took my arm, and holding it tight, as if in fear I might
break loose and run off, he led me to the turnstile, where the lady was
standing as quiet and composed as before. He introduced me to her by my
proper name and title, naming even the district which I represented in
the Hungarian Parliament; and all these he pronounced perfectly and
correctly, as I never heard them pronounced by a foreigner before. How
could he know all that? True, I had shown my passport to the frontier
officials; but were these also subject to the Silver King?

The lady bowed politely as her husband said, "This gentleman has saved
our little James from being consumed by the flames at the Rossberg
catastrophe"; and for a moment I felt the slight pressure of a little
gloved hand in mine. It was a very slight pressure, the faintest
possible acknowledgment of a duty, and if I had saved her little pet
monkey or dog, instead of her child, she might well have afforded me a
warmer recognition. Indeed, I had seen women go into raptures on account
of such animals before this, but never before had I seen a mother value
the life of her own child so cheap. She did not hold it worthy of a
single expression of gratitude; she had not a word to spare for him or
me. Was this woman a human monstrosity and void of all natural feeling?
or else was it part of the American etiquette to suppress all outward
signs of emotion?

What puzzled me most was the boy. He was so different from the happy,
talkative little fellow he had been with me and with his father some
minutes ago, and he looked just as dull and inanimate as when I had seen
him first on the railway. Was it because he could only speak Hungarian?
But then, how could he speak to his father? Who had taught the boy to
speak that peculiar language, dear to me and my compatriots, but wholly
unintelligible and of very little use or advantage to the world at
large?

I observed that Mr. Dumany held a short conversation with a tall
liveried footman behind him, and I understood that he ordered him to
take out my luggage. I protested and tried to escape. I like hospitality
at home; but when I come into a foreign country, I prefer the simplest
inn or the obscurest hotel to the most magnificent apartments of a
palace of a prince of the Bourse, because independence goes with the
former, and of all slavery I fear that of etiquette the worst.

But Mr. Dumany did not mean to give way to my polite protestations.
"Just surrender nicely, pray!" he said, smilingly. "It saves you
trouble. Look! If you insist upon going to some hotel, I promise you
that all the reporters of every paper we have, daily and weekly, will be
sure to pester you day and night with interviews, besides the reporters
of foreign papers here, of which we also have an abundance. Every word
you speak will by each reporter be turned into a different meaning, and
by to-morrow the papers will be full of your intimations, although you
do not say anything at all. And then the photographers: how will you
escape them? Don't you know that every penny paper will appear with your
picture in front to-morrow, and, wherever you go, it will be thrust
before your eyes? You will hear your name pronounced in all languages,
and in every way, and you will not know how to escape this unsought-for
and unwelcome notoriety. But if you accept my invitation, nobody will be
able to stare at you or interrogate you, and you shall live as quietly
and peacefully as if you were in some herdsman's hovel in Hortobágy at
home."

I stared at him quite stunned. How, in the name of all that was
wonderful, could he have learned of the existence of a herdsman's hovel
in Hortobágy? How could he know that it was my favourite spot? And how
he pronounced that Hortobágy! Just as I myself! He smiled at my
astonishment, but offered no explanation. But now he had caught me in my
weak point--a writer's curiosity--and I gave in, willingly enough.

Mr. Dumany ordered the carriages. In one magnificent landau Mrs. Dumany
was to go with little James, in the other Mr. Dumany and myself. But the
child obstinately refused to leave his father's arms, and clung to him
more tightly than ever. So the lady was obliged to go alone, and we two
men took the boy with us.

I confess that the gentleman puzzled and interested me very much. Not
because people had given him the name of "Silver King." I do not covet,
and I do not admire wealth alone, pure and simple. I know how to
describe a vine-embowered cottage, or even a thatch-roofed hut, with a
garland of gourd blossoms around its small windows, and I can appreciate
the beauties of a picturesque church or castle. But all my descriptive
faculties desert me before the marble and gold luxury of a modern
palace, and its gorgeous splendour has no charm for me. The interest I
felt was due to the man himself, and, most of all, to the connection
existing between him and my own home. How came this American Croesus to
be acquainted with the nomenclature, customs, and topography of my own
country and language? How came the latter upon the lips of his
five-year-old boy? In my childhood I had known a five-year-old boy, the
son of a count, who could speak only Latin, and not a word except Latin.
But, then, Latin is taught throughout the world, and no education is
considered as finished without a more or less perfect knowledge of
Latin. But where in a foreign country is the professor who teaches the
Ugro-Finnish tongue, even if there were some whimsical parent who wished
that his son should learn to speak it?

During the drive Mr. Dumany acquainted me with some particulars
regarding the customs of his house. He told me that the hour for
breakfast was nine, and that for lunch one o'clock. Dinner was
invariably served at six, and I was entirely at liberty to put in my
appearance or stay away. They would not wait for me, but my place at the
table would be kept reserved; and if I was late, I should be served
afresh. The cook should be entirely at my disposal. If the excitement
and fatigue of the journey should make me wish for a day's rest, I was
free to retire to my rooms at once, and should not be disturbed by
anybody.

In answer to all this I said that I had no habits whatever; that I was
able to eat, drink, and sleep at will; was never fatigued, and would
with pleasure put in my appearance at his breakfast-table that very
morning.

"That will be nice, indeed!" he said. "But I must beg your pardon in
advance for my wife. On ordinary days she is up and presides at
breakfast; but to-day she bade me apologise. She has been up all night
from excitement, and now I have told her to lie down and rest a few
hours. After that she usually spends some time in the nursery,
superintending the children's ablutions, prayers, and breakfast, and
only when all these matters are accomplished is she ready for her duties
as hostess and mistress of the household."

"So little James is not your only child?" I ventured to ask.

"Not by many; we have two more boys and two beautiful little
girls--quite a houseful."

"But the lady looks almost too young to be the mother of so many
children. Little James is the eldest, of course?"

"Yes, he is her first-born, and she is not yet twenty-four. We have been
married six years, so christening has been an annual event with us."

Well, I was more puzzled than ever. I had met with a good many English
and American gentlemen before, but all had been rather reserved in
speech and manner, quite different from this Croesus; and, regarding the
lady, I was altogether at a loss, as all my conjectures were entirely at
fault. She was not without feeling; she was apparently a good mother,
and little James was her own child and not a stepson, as I had guessed.
Her behaviour at the station was still an enigma to me.

At last we arrived at the Silver King's residence--a large, well-built,
and rather comfortable than brilliant mansion, filled with a host of
servants, of whom each knew and fulfilled his particular duty. A _valet
de chambre_ showed me into a very splendid and comfortable suite of
rooms, consisting of a reception-room, sitting-room, work-room, bed-,
dressing-, and bathroom, all furnished in the choicest and most
practical way, and I was delighted to see that, although all was rich
and costly, none of the offensive and pretentious pomp of the ordinary
millionaire's house met my eye.

The valet, an Alsacian, who talked to me in German--perhaps with the
notion of paying me a compliment--informed me that he was entirely at my
own service. He showed me a beautiful escritoire in the work-room, with
everything ready for writing purposes, and told me that, in the
reading-room attached, I should find an assortment of newspapers. He
then quickly and skilfully prepared me a bath, unpacked and arranged my
things, and helped me to dress. He was altogether a wonderfully nice
fellow.

When the valet left me, I went into the reading-room, and looked at the
newspapers. I found quite a number of them--French, English, Italian,
and one German; but still I was a little disappointed. I had half
expected to find a Hungarian paper, and there was none.

The library contained a choice collection of books; works of science,
philosophy, history, poetry, and fiction--of the latter, only a small
and select number. Here also was no Hungarian author to be found; not
even the translation of a Hungarian book could I detect, although I
looked into every one--French, German, English, and Italian, and even
some Spanish and Danish ones.

From the reading-room opened the billiard-room, a handsome apartment.
Its walls were covered with beautiful frescoes, betraying the French
school of art in the delicate colours, and in the Norman, Basque,
Breton, and Kabyle scenes and types represented. Of Hungary I could see
nothing. The Hortobágy herdsman's hovel, of which my host had spoken,
was not to be found.

In another room I found a sort of ethnographical museum, full of relics
and rarities from all countries except Hungary; and yet, if that man had
ever been in my country, he would certainly have brought some token of
remembrance with him. Hungary is more rich in curiosities than a good
many of the countries represented here.

Mr. Dumany came in to see if I was ready for breakfast, and I followed
him into the tea-room, passing a little, semi-circular, ship-cabin-like
apartment, with small, round windows, between which, in
beautifully-sculptured, round frames, of the size of the windows, hung
very handsome landscapes, apparently American.

In the breakfast-room I recognised a tiny Meissonier, in a gold frame of
twice its size, and an Alma Tadema. Mr. Dumany, observing my interest in
the pictures, informed me that these two were there only temporarily,
pending their shipment to New York. There, in Mr. Dumany's real home,
was his picture gallery, containing works of art of the highest
standard.

I ventured to observe that we Scythians, barbarians as we were held to
be, had also some painters worthy the interest of a Mæcenas, and not
without fame, too.

"I should think so," he said, smiling. "And in my New York gallery you
will find Munkácsy _genres_, Zichy _aquarelles_, a Benczur, and some
other equally fine Hungarian pictures. Here I keep only French and
German pictures of lesser value."

Our conversation turned to art in general, and Mr. Dumany surprised me
again by an allusion to the Hungarian witticism that when we speak of
Hungarian art we cannot omit Liszt (for the name of the great musician
is also the Hungarian word for _flour_); and Mr. Dumany remarked that
Americans travelling abroad have learned to appreciate both the
Hungarian specialties. The great artist, and the product of the soil and
mill converted into fine cake, are equally esteemed by them.

We talked about commerce and exports, and he observed that although
American wheat was sure to inundate the European market, yet Hungarian
flour was unrivalled in quality, and would increase in consumption
throughout the world. Then we spoke of financial matters, and here Mr.
Dumany was completely at home. The Hungarian rente had at that time just
been introduced into the market, and Mr. Dumany predicted for it a fair
success. He prophesied the rente conversion scheme and the four per
cent. bonds, and from this topic we diverged to politics. He was a very
fair politician, and I was pleasantly impressed by the apparent interest
which he took in Hungary. He admired Andrássy, and spoke well of his
Bosnian policy. Of Tisza he entertained great hopes, and he felt sorry
for Apponyi, because he had allied his great talents with the
Opposition. He spoke of Kossuth, and said it was a pity to see the grand
old man's name misused by the extreme faction. I tried to turn the
conversation to Hungarian literature, but on this point I met with but
little interest. Still, I noticed that he knew more about us than
foreigners in general do. He did not think the Gypsies the ruling race
in Hungary, and he did not believe us to be a sort of chivalrous
brigands, as some foreigners consider us; but he did not show any
particular sympathy with either the country or the people, and certainly
used no flattery on the subject of our special virtues.

Our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Dumany's valet,
who handed his master two letters. "Will you give me leave to read them
at once?" he asked, turning to me. "They are of some importance, being
answers to two dinner invitations I sent out this morning."

"Certainly," I answered; "pray do as you wish."

He opened and read the letters, and, replacing them again on the silver
salver upon which the servant had brought them, he ordered him to hand
them over to the chambermaid so that Mrs. Dumany might receive and read
them.

After the valet had left, Mr. Dumany said to me--

"I have invited these two gentlemen to meet you at dinner. One of them
is secretary of the Department of the Interior, the other an old
Catholic priest, the parson of St. Germain l'Auxerrois. It is very nice
and pleasant that both of them accepted, and so I hope you will not
object to make the acquaintance of two whole-souled and intelligent
gentlemen."

"Quite the contrary," I hastened to say; "I shall be very happy to meet
them."

Just then the valet returned, and, deferentially bowing, he said to me--

"Madame la Comtesse begs to inform monsieur that she would be grateful
if monsieur would be kind enough to see madame in her apartments."



V.

A REPUBLICAN COUNTESS.


"Madame la Comtesse!" A Peruvian or Argentine countess? Or have these
plutocrats of the great republic some special distinguishing titles,
such as "Silver King," "Railway Prince," etc., and was this exotic
countess the daughter of some such lord of the money market? At any
rate, I had to obey her polite commands, so, throwing away my cigar, I
bowed to Mr. Dumany and followed the lead of the valet.

In crossing a long suite of tastefully-furnished rooms, I noticed the
entire absence of family pictures. They had no ancestors, or did not
boast of them. No farthingaled, white-wigged ladies in hooped skirts and
trailing brocade robes; no mail-clad, chivalrous-looking gentlemen, with
marshals' staffs, keys, and like emblems of rank and high station; or
else these, too, had gone over to New York to subdue with their haughty
grandeur the eyes of less high-born mortals.

There was something else I missed in these beautiful chambers--the usual
obtrusive, caressed and pampered pet animal of a great lady. No
paroquet, no monkey, no little, silken-haired lap-dog, no St. Bernard or
Newfoundland dog, no cat, not even a little canary bird, was to be met
with; and not a single flower, real or artificial, greeted the eye.

At last we came to a room with beautiful heavy brocaded draperies,
evidently veiling the entrance into some other apartment. As the servant
stepped up and drew the hanging aside, I could not suppress an
exclamation of admiration and surprise; and for a moment I stood
transfixed at the lovely and exquisite scene, deeming that fairyland had
opened to me, and that Queen Mab was expecting me in her own enchanting
bower.

The room which I now entered resembled to some extent the Blue Grotto of
Capri. It was flooded with a magic blue light. Just opposite to the
entrance was some kind of bower, with honeysuckle, woodbine, and other
blooming and fragrant vines intertwined. This bower was prolonged in the
rear into a spacious and seemingly endless tropical garden, with
wonderful blooming exotic plants and trees; and in this East Indian
paradise, gaily-plumed, sweet-voiced birds of different size and colour
were chirping, hopping, and hovering above their nests, among evergreen
bushes and glorious flowers. The whole winter-garden received its light
from above, and this light, falling through large panes of blue glass,
threw that peculiar, fairy, grotto-like hue over the little boudoir in
front.

To prevent the luscious odour of the winter-garden from pervading the
air of the boudoir and becoming oppressive, a fine, translucent film
separated the bower from the garden. But this film was not of glass or
any other transparent but solid substance; it consisted of a beautiful,
clear waterfall, transparent as a veil, and noiseless as a fine summer
rain. At the touch of a spring, this softly-pouring waterfall might be
shut off and the entrance into the winter-garden thrown wide.

In the little boudoir, at the opening of the bower, stood a couch, and
opposite this a little settee and two small gilded and embroidered
chairs; while two large sculptured frames, one containing a splendid
mirror, the other a life-size portrait of Mr. Dumany, completed the
appointments.

Mrs. Dumany, or, as she was called, the countess, wore a loose
morning-dress of raw silk, with rich embroidery. Her rich, dark hair was
uncovered and wound around her head in three thick coils, like a tiara.

Her graceful figure was as slender as that of a girl, and she looked so
young and childlike that no living man would have supposed her to be the
mother of five children.

In the peculiar blue light of the boudoir her naturally fair face
appeared so white that I was almost startled. It was just as though some
marble or alabaster statue had moved, looked at me with those large
dark-blue eyes, spoken to me with those finely-chiselled, ruby-coloured
lips.

"Pray pardon me for troubling you to call on me," she said, in fluent
and precise French, although with a somewhat foreign accent and manner
of speech; "I should not have done it were you not the only trustworthy
person from whom I can learn the necessary particulars of the terrible
Rossberg accident. My husband, as perhaps you already know, has invited
two gentlemen to dine with us. One is a government officer of high rank,
the other a kind and benevolent priest. My husband's intention is to
spend a considerable sum of money for distribution among those who were
injured in the Rossberg catastrophe, or their destitute relatives. They
shall at least not suffer actual want, and although I daresay that money
is a poor compensation for a lost or crippled husband and father, or son
and brother, still it is the only possible consolation we can offer
them, and in providing for their own future and that of their
dependents, we at least relieve their hearts of one burden. Of this my
husband wants to talk to the government official. The priest was invited
by me, and I want him to hold a requiem for the souls of those who
perished, and to superintend the erection of a memorial chapel at the
place of the terrible accident. Mr. Dumany is ungrudging in his charity,
and ready for any sacrifice of money; but, you see, we know really
nothing about the particulars. How many were lost, and how many died
afterward in consequence of their injuries? Who were they? Of what
nation, faith, quality, and circumstances? How many were saved, and in
what condition? Have they somebody to attend to them, to support them in
case of need? And then those belonging to ourselves, our dutiful
servants, I might call them our true and faithful friends, has not one
of them escaped? Have they all perished together? You can tell me best,
and therefore I made bold to call you to me. Do not hesitate, pray, but
tell me all that happened, and in what manner it happened, from the
dreadful beginning to the pitiful end--the whole catastrophe, with all
the particulars you can recall to memory."

"Madam," said I, "pray do not wish that. These particulars are much too
dreadful to relate--much too horrible for the ear of a lady. It requires
strong nerves and an iron heart to listen to such a tale as that."

"And what that?" she replied. "True, my nerves are not a bit less
sensitive than those of any other woman, but I have learned to suppress
them--to hold them down. Never fear me! Never spare me! If the scourge
hurts me, I shall think it a penance. Go on! You hold the
scourge--strike! Go on, I say!"

There was an impatient, almost fierce resolution in her voice, and I
obeyed.

If this woman regarded the act of listening to the dreadful tale I had
to tell as a penance, then, indeed, she allowed it to become a torture.
I was obliged to recount the smallest incident of the ghastly event, and
she drank in every word, shuddering as at some deadly poison. Again and
again she questioned me with the skill and zeal of a professional
cross-examiner. Nor would she let me omit a syllable. And when at the
most fearful and heartrending point, her soft, dimpled chin sunk down on
her breast, and her fair, babyish hand knocked at the tender bosom "_Mea
culpa_! Oh, _mea culpa_!"

When she heard that the uncoupling of the parlour car had caused a
delay, she groaned. "Then all this terrible mishap is due to our own
vanity?" she cried. "A consequence of our own presumptuous pride! If our
dependents had sat with the boy in a common carriage with other decent
travellers, the train would have passed the fatal spot long before the
landslide was in motion! But, of course, the Silver King's son is far
too precious a creature to breathe the same air with other creatures of
God's making. He must needs have a separate parlour to himself! And this
sinful, detestable vanity of ours must cost the lives of so many good,
brave, happy, and useful persons. Oh, hell itself must mock at our
folly!"

Now this commination, unexpected as it was from a lady of wealth and
position, was not altogether unwarranted, and so I went on.

As I drew near to the catastrophe I could hear the beating of her heart,
and her breath came short and gasping. When I related how I had caught
hold of the governess's hand, she was trembling, and an almost deadly
pallor overspread her white face. "Alice! oh, Alice!" she cried; and
when I told her how the lady ran back to the coupé for her bonnet, just
at the last moment for escaping, she broke out into a painful hysterical
laugh. "Just like her! Her bonnet! Yes; ha! ha! She would have come down
to dinner in her bonnet, the foolish pride! She was so afraid to show
her bare ears to a man! Oh! oh! Alice!"

At last the tears came to her relief, and she sobbed pitifully. "If you
had only known her goodness," she cried, "her self-sacrificing devotion,
her pure, kind heart! She was the best friend I ever had, and how she
loved that unhappy boy! She was more his mother than I, for she gave him
all a mother's love and all a mother's care and attention. Why did I let
her go with him? Why did I not keep her back from him?"

I told her how the poor woman's first thought had been the safety of the
child.

"And you have not seen her again? You do not know what has become of
her?"

I denied having seen her again. I could not describe to her the horrid
spectacle of the poor woman as I had seen her last, when taken by the
brave firemen from that infernal pile; for, strong as she forced herself
to appear, this would have been more than she could bear; so I told her
that the relief train started with the rescued before we could learn
anything of the rest; but of the certainty of their death there could
not be the slightest doubt.

"What a misfortune!" she sighed, wringing her hands. "Why, that boy had
an escort with him like a prince royal! The honest Dr. Mayer, such a
refined, generous young man; and Tom, the negro, my best servant, and
the truest! He saved me from an alligator once, and killed him with an
iron bar. He was severely wounded by the ferocious reptile, yet he
laughed at his pains."

I remembered the grin on his broad black face in the moment of death,
as I had seen him at the carriage window. He had laughed then also.

"And poor little Georgie?" she asked again, "James's playfellow and
foster-brother? Georgie's mother was James's nurse. How she begged of me
to take care of her darling, to bring him up well, to make a priest of
him! And how well I have kept that promise! I have made more of him than
a priest: he is a saint, and a martyr. Oh, _mea culpa_! _mea culpa_!"

When I had explained to her the circumstances which had made all
attempts at rescue impossible for us, and afterward futile, she nodded.
"I know it," she said. "On that evening I had not said my prayers. We
dined out late, and spent the evening there. I could not come home to
pray with my children, and I could not say my prayers there. I felt the
heavy load on my heart, and once for a moment, when I was not observed
by anybody, I heaved a sigh and said, 'God bless us!' It must have been
at the moment of the catastrophe, for my heart ached with some vague and
gloomy presentiment. Oh, me! our neglected prayer, and such a fearful
chastisement! Tell me! Who is that terrible being that watches us so
relentlessly, and if he catches us napping but once, hurls down those we
love into death and destruction?"

Her marble-white face, her large wide-open eyes, gave her the look of a
spirit.

"Perhaps," said I, "the single blessing you asked saved the life of
your dear child. Let this thought comfort you."

"James?" she said. "This child of sin and misfortune? Why, it was
because he was on that train that all those pure and good people had to
die! Oh, accursed was the hour of his birth! No, no; he is not accursed.
I--I, his mother, that gave birth to him, I am guilty! He is innocent;
he could not help it. Oh, _mea culpa_! _mea culpa_!"

She was beating her breast, and rocking herself to and fro, uttering her
incessant "_Mea culpa_!" "Tell me more," she said again, presently;
"show me more dreadful sights, that I may suffer more. I yearn for it;
it will do my soul good--it is like purgatory. Go on!"

I took good care not to feed this religious frenzy further. On the
contrary, I spoke of the practical Englishman and his performances, and
of the artist who had sat there among all the terrible havoc and had
drawn sketch after sketch.

"That picture we must secure, at whatever cost," she said, eagerly. "It
shall be the altar-piece of the chapel which we are about to raise in
memory of the tragic event and of the souls of the slain."

I had formed my own opinion of Mrs Dumany's state of mind. No doubt she
was mentally deranged, and her special craze was religious monomania.
From this arose the deep melancholy which held her own innocent babe
responsible for the misfortune of others. This made the child repugnant
to the mother, and, no doubt, this was at the bottom of that remarkable
mutual estrangement between mother and child.

I tried to quiet her. I told her that in a very short period a great
many serious catastrophes, such as frequent earthquakes, great
inundations, and similar unfortunate and most terrible events, had
shocked the world and buried whole cities, destroyed the lives and
fortunes of thousands upon thousands of happy and innocent persons. Even
this Rossberg catastrophe had been preceded by another at the same spot,
about the beginning of the present century. Such catastrophes were by no
means to be considered as a punishment from God Almighty, Who is far too
magnanimous to visit the sins of the guilty upon the heads of the
innocent, but simply as the outcome of geological and meteorological
phases of our globe, depending upon natural laws. If anybody was really
to be blamed for the present misfortune, it must be the engineer who had
planned and erected that insufficient barrier instead of a strong
bastion.

Mr. Dumany's entrance interrupted our painful conversation. He came on
the pretence that letters and newspapers had arrived for me, and with
that he handed me a copy of the _Hon_.

"But I had them addressed to the Hôtel d'Espagne," I said.

"They have been already informed that you are here," he answered; and
then, turning to his wife, he said--

"Have you drunk deep enough of the bitter cup? or do you thirst for
more of its contents?"

His voice was soft and tender, and the wife threw both her arms around
the husband's neck, and, burying her face on his breast, she wept
bitterly.

I took my journal, and, without making my excuses to the lady, I
silently stole out of the room.



VI.

DUMANY KORNEL.


At dinner I was punctual, but nevertheless the two gentlemen of whom Mr.
Dumany and his wife had spoken were already present and discussing the
question of Mr. Dumany's munificent offer. After a hurried introduction
I was soon informed of all that had been agreed on. The Secretary of
State had received bonds for 1,000,000 francs, to be taken by the two
Governments, the French and the Swiss, for distribution among the
injured or maimed of the Rossberg catastrophe and the poor dependents of
the slain. The old railroad watchman, who had been discharged by the
company, and the canny shepherd, who both sold and kept his goats when
he ran for the relief train, each received 10,000 francs, and a
considerable sum went to the officials of the relief train as a
remuneration for their services. The rest of the million francs was set
aside for a memorial chapel on the site of the accident, and for the
celebration of masses and a grand requiem in the church of St Germain
l'Auxerrois on the following day--a ceremony which was to be repeated
annually.

I have forgotten to mention that although the dinner was sumptuous, and
the dishes and wines were excellent, yet it was as stately, solemn, and
unsociable a meal as a funeral banquet, and Mrs. Dumany presided in
deep mourning. The only jewel she wore was a large cross studded with
dark-blue diamonds, only recognisable as such by the rays of blue,
yellow, red, and green light which darted from them. This cross was
suspended on a chain of black beads resembling a rosary, and giving to
the black-robed figure the appearance of an abbess. The Spanish lace
mantilla which she had thrown over her beautiful hair served as the
veil, and made the resemblance perfect.

At nine o'clock the government official and the priest took their leave,
and Mrs. Dumany retired, to put her babes to bed, as she said--a duty
which she always fulfilled herself, saying her prayers with them, and
watching them until they slept. After the lady had retired, Mr. Dumany
told me that even when he and his wife dined out, or were going to the
opera, my lady invariably went home at nine o'clock to put her children
to bed--a duty which she never omitted; but on the evening of the
catastrophe she had been compelled to stay by the company present, and
this had given rise to her self-accusations. She was nowhere happy but
in the company of her children, who afforded her the greatest delight
and amusement. I sighed, and, yes--I think I was actually guilty of the
remark that Hungarian ladies of quality were equally good and dutiful
mothers.

We went over to Mr. Dumany's bedroom for a cup of tea and a cigar. It
was a grand room, lofty and spacious as a church, and if I had been a
Chauvinist, I should have said that the rays of light in this room
composed a tricolour of the same hues as the Hungarian flag. The
beautiful hanging-lamp shed a green light, the glowing coals in the
grate threw a reddish tint over the surrounding objects, and the large,
richly-sculptured bed-canopy was all ablaze with white electric lights,
arranged like a chain of diamonds above the heavy purple velvet hangings
which encircled the couch and gave it a cosy and well-shaded effect.

We had hardly finished our first cigar, when Mrs. Dumany, or, as I
should call her, the countess, came in. She wore a white wrapper,
covered with costly lace and leaving her beautiful arms bare below the
loose lace-trimmed sleeves. She led little James into the room, and,
turning to her husband, she said--"This boy obstinately refuses to sleep
anywhere but with his father, just as before we sent him to the
Institute."

The little fellow was simpering, and tottered drowsily to and fro. He
was evidently very sleepy. Mr. Dumany took him up on his lap, unbuttoned
his little boots, and pulled off the tiny socks. The mother stood there,
looking on unconcerned, and presently she said, "Good-night!" and went
out of the room.

The father undressed the child, and put him to bed; then he drew the
curtains aside; the child knelt in bed, folded his little hands, and
evidently said his prayers, for I saw his lips move; but I could not
hear a word. After he had finished, his father kissed him tenderly,
covered him up with the angora rug, and, letting down the curtains,
returned to me.

He had hardly sat down, when the bed-curtains moved, and the cherubic
little head peeped out. "Papa! Papa!" said the child.

"What is it, darling?" his father asked, going back to him.

"I want you to kiss me again," he said, with a little mischievous smile.

After the boy had had his wish, he crept below the covering, and was
soon fast asleep. Mr. Dumany observed that my cigar had expired, and
that I looked rather drowsy. "You are tired," he said; "let me lead you
to your room."

"I have not slept for the last two nights," I replied; "but I shall not
trouble you, as I can find my room easily, or else I can ask the valet.
Pray stay and rest yourself."

"Well then, good-night and sleep well!"

But however sleepy I had been the moment before, these few words were
enough to drive sleep from my eyes for ten nights to come, and to raise
my curiosity to the highest pitch, for they were spoken in clear,
well-pronounced Hungarian.

I gazed at him in utter astonishment, and he smiled. "You did not
recognise me," he said, "but I knew you at once. I knew you very well,
too--at one time: we have been colleagues once."

"Indeed? And how is that possible? Pray where was that?"

"In Budapest, in the Sándor Uteza Palace, the House of Commons."

"You have been a member of the Hungarian Parliament? When? And what
name did you then bear?"

"The name I bear now, which is my own. Only I used to write it in
Hungarian, Dumany Kornel."

"Still I don't remember. Neither your name, nor yet your face is
familiar to me."

"Naturally enough. I was in Parliament for only one day; the next day
they conducted me out again."

"Ah, now I know you! You were the dead man's candidate."

"Yes, you have hit it; I was the man."

Well, this was indeed a surprise. All the drowsiness had entirely gone
from me, and, turning back into the room, I asked, eagerly--

"Sir, have I some claim on your generosity?"

"Oh sir! my dear friend!" he cried, extending both hands to me, "I am
your most grateful and obedient servant for ever. I hand you a blank
sheet, and, whatever you may be pleased to write upon it, I shall most
willingly subscribe to."

"Then tell me how the right honourable Dumany Kornel, a member of the
Hungarian landed gentry, and also of the medical profession, if I
rightly remember, a rather fast-living bachelor, and rejected Commoner,
has been metamorphosed into Cornelius Dumany, the Silver King, the South
American nabob, the matador of the Bourse, husband of a beautiful
countess, and father of five children, within such a short period. Tell
me this, for it is the only gratification I shall accept."

"And let me tell you, dear friend, it is the highest I could give," was
his reply. "In fact, you have presented me such a draft that, in spite
of all my wealth, I am unable to pay it at sight. I have to ask my
wife's permission first. The story you want me to tell is but one half
my own, the other half belongs to my wife, and you must allow me to ask
her leave;" and, bowing to me, he left the room.

I was alone. No, not alone. From behind the bed-curtains issued a heavy
groaning, as if the little sleeper were troubled with bad dreams. I went
to him and lifted the hangings. The glare of the light awakened him, and
he cried out, "Apa!" ("Papa!")

"Papa will come presently, my little one," I said in Hungarian, and he
smiled happily.

"Oh, the Hungarian uncle!" he said, "that's nice;" and, taking hold of
my hand, he caressingly laid his little, soft cheek on it.

"Have you been troubled in your sleep?" I asked.

"Yes," he said; "I was dumb again, although I wanted to speak and tried
very hard. A snake was coiled around my neck, and choked me. There is no
snake in this room? Or is there?"

"No. Don't be afraid of anything. Try to sleep again."

"You will stay with me?"

"Yes, until your papa comes back."

"Stay always. Papa would like it. He always used to say, 'Speak to me,
my boy, only to me! I have nobody but thee to speak to me in our own
Hungarian;' and now he has you also. How glad he must be of it! You will
stay?--promise!"

I promised him to stay a long time, and, holding fast to my hand, he
fell asleep again.

When Mr. Du Many, or rather Dumany, returned to me, I was sitting before
the grate, musing over what the child's innocent prattle had revealed to
me--the tender, loving recollection this man had of his home and the
sweet sounds of our beloved mother tongue.

He came in with an animated face. "My wife has consented," he said. "She
told me that it was confession-time. To-morrow she will confess to
Father Augustin, and this evening I shall make you my confessor. Now
that I have made up my mind to it, I really think that, even from a
practical point of view, it would be much better if the truth should be
known about us, rather than those wild, fanciful stories reported by
gossiping American newspapers."

With that he rang the bell for the servant, and gave his orders for the
night. Tea with mandarin liqueur at once, at twelve o'clock punch and
fruits, at two in the morning coffee _à la Turque_, and at five o'clock
a cold woodcock and champagne, were to be served.

"I hope you will be able to stand being up all night?" he asked.

"I think so. I am chief of the campaign committee at home."

"I beg your pardon. Then I know your quality. But it will possibly
interest you to learn that the bill of fare I have issued consists
entirely of products of my own raising. The tea comes from my own garden
in Hong Kong. The mandarin is decocted from the crop of oranges grown in
my Borneo orchard. The coffee comes from my Cuban plantation, as well as
the 'gizr' spirit, obtained from the coffee bean. The woodcock is from
my own park; and it is only the flour for the cakes that I have to buy,
for that comes from Hungary, and there I own nothing."

"How is that? If I remember rightly, you had a handsome property there."

"Have you not heard that it was sold to pay my debts?"

"And you consented to that?"

"Well, first hear my story. However, I have told you an untruth. I am
yet a landed proprietor at home; I own a cabbage-garden in the rear of
my former castle. That garden is the only bit of soil I kept, and in
this garden fine cabbages grow. Year after year the whole crop is sliced
up, put into great barrels, and converted into sauer-kraut. This they
send after me, wherever I happen to be--whether at New York, Rio de
Janeiro, Palermo, or Paris--and from this, after a sleepless night, my
wife prepares me a delicious 'Korhely-leves'" (a broth made from the
juice, and some slices of cabbage, with sour cream and fresh and smoked
ham, and sausages. This broth is in Hungary frequently served after a
night of dissipation; hence its name, "Korhely-leves," which means
"Scamp's-broth").

"And the countess understands how to prepare the old-fashioned Hungarian
delicacy?" I asked.

He laughed. "Ha-ha-ha! Why, she is as good a Hungarian as you or I. If
she speaks French, she only imitates our ladies at home, who think
themselves so much more refined when they speak bad French instead of
good Hungarian."

This was another revelation, and upset the other half of my fictitious
combination. I had imagined that my countryman had won the love of some
South American magnate's daughter, and in this way had become the
possessor of his innumerable millions. Mr. Dumany might have read my
thoughts in my face, for he smiled and said--

"You will presently understand that I did not rob, did not cheat, and
did not marry for money, and yet I did not acquire my present great
wealth by my own good sense and management, either. I'll show you by
what road I have reached it, as a warning to others. May no other man
ever do as I did! But I do not believe that such events are ever likely
to happen again. I do not believe that there can ever be born another
such a pair of thick-skinned, iron-nerved human beings as the heroes of
this story, or two other persons able to endure what we endured. I will
venture to say that the worldly wealth I have won is not worth the price
I paid for it; but I have gained another prize, whose value can never be
expressed in figures."

Thereupon we sat down at the little tea-table. Mr. Dumany threw a few
logs of odorous cedar wood upon the fire and began his tale. So, from
this point, the present romance is not written by me, but by him.



MR DUMANY'S STORY.

VII.

THE DEAD MAN'S VOTE.


I do not think it necessary to particularly describe the borough for
which I was nominated as a candidate for Parliament. If you know one,
you know all. There were factions, of course, ranged into parties, one
of which drank deep, while the other drank deeper still. There are a
good many nationalities in this particular district, and they are
distinguished by the liquor they prefer. The Slavs drink whiskey; the
Suabians or Germans, beer; the Ugro-Fins or Hungarians, wine; and the
more intelligent and cultivated of all the races show their agreement in
matters of taste by drinking, alternately, wine, beer, or whiskey, with
equal relish. Jehovah's own chosen people, considering it much more
prudent and hospitable to serve the liquid to others than to drink it
themselves, furnish all parties with the wished-for fluid, according to
individual taste, and find the transaction even more satisfactory and
profitable than drinking in itself.

If Dante had visited Hungary, and had seen my particular borough in
election-time, he would not have omitted it in his description of hell.

Yet the highly respectable voters expect a substantial confirmation of
their patriotic convictions, and some of them are not fully persuaded
until four or five angels (golden, of course) come to enlighten their
minds. Others refuse to listen even to the sweet voices of these angels,
and wait obstinately for the mightier spirits, emblazoned on fifty and
one hundred florin bank-bills. Others, again, are to be had only _en
bloc_--that is, in company with their friends and connections, and only
just at the last moment, when the bidding is highest; and so tender is
their conscience that they listen to the persuasions of all parties with
equal earnestness, and it takes much to convince and win them over.

It is a matter of course that the nominated candidate of each party is
far above such negotiations, and, although he owns that it has come to
his knowledge that his antagonist actually stooped to bribery in order
to defend his weak cause, yet he himself will never condescend to meet
the man on that ground. If his own moral integrity, the lofty standing
of his party, and his party's principles, will not secure the victory
for him, why, then there is no honesty and patriotism in this decayed
age, and the patriotic cause is lost!

At every election, as you well know, are a number of kind,
disinterested, active, and zealous party members, indefatigably busy in
securing and collecting votes, or, what is more essential, trying to win
over the votes of the enemy. These very useful and highly respectable
gentlemen are leaders or drum-majors, and they have a number of
subalterns, not less useful, painstaking, and persuasive, only a little
less gentlemanlike and less scrupulous, and perhaps not wholly
disinterested as regards pecuniary gain. These are the election
drummers, plain and simple.

Now at the election of which I am speaking there were two factions. I,
as the champion of the Clerical-National-Conservative party, stood in
opposition to the champion of the Panslavonic-Liberal-Reform party, and
you may believe that we did all that was possible to defeat the opposing
faction. My own party emblem was the red feather, that of my adversary
the green feather; the national cockade we sported in common.

At six o'clock p.m. the green feathers were one vote ahead of us. "This
is not to be endured!" shouted my head drummers, and "This is not to be
endured!" was the war-cry of the subordinate drummers. But how could
they help it? The lists were scrutinised again, and it was found that
Tóth János, the potter, had not voted. "Where is Tóth János, the potter?
and why did he not vote?" added my chief drummer. "Beg pardon," said one
of the subalterns, "but the man was buried the other day."

"Well, that was a calamity. Is there no other Tóth János in the village?
The name is rather a common one."

"There is indeed, and he happens to live in the same house with the
deceased, only he is not a voter, as he does not pay taxes; he is only a
poor poultry-dealer. Still he is on the list as a carter, and the thing
could be managed."

Tóth János, the poultry-dealer, was sent for, but his voting in his own
right was out of the question. So the drummers talked with him a long
time, and they had glib tongues, and the aid of the ever-welcome angels.
Tóth János the poultry-dealer, who could not vote in his own name, voted
as Tóth János, the potter, but he had a great sacrifice to make. The
deceased potter was nick-named the "gap-toothed," because he had lost
his front teeth in a brawl. Now the poultry-dealer's front teeth were as
sound as ivory, yet so great and effective were the persuasions of the
"angels" that, in half an hour's time, Tóth János, the poultry-dealer,
so closely resembled Tóth János, the potter, in outward appearance that
no question concerning his identity was raised, and his vote was
recorded.

Still, this was insufficient. True, we were now even with the foe, but
we were compelled to show a majority, even if it consisted only of a
single vote. If Richard III could offer "a kingdom for a horse," why
should not we offer "1,000 florins for a vote?"

Somebody made the discovery that on the outskirts of the village, in an
old tumble-down shanty of his own, lived a poor Jew with a lot of
half-starved, forlorn-looking children, and a half-crazed, careworn,
hard-working wife. The husband and father had been laid up with
consumption for the last few months, and was daily expected to die. This
poor wretch, who never in all his life had been the owner of an entire
suit of decent clothes--for when he had a hat, he invariably lacked
shoes, or when in possession of a coat, he was in sore want of a pair of
trousers--this poor fellow had yet a fortune at his call, for he could
bequeath to his family the 1,000 florins which we were willing to pay
for his vote. All his life he had been as honest as he was poor, earning
a miserable livelihood by setting glass panes in the village windows.
Nobody had ever thought of getting his vote, still less had he himself
thought of attaching any importance to the right he possessed as a
taxpayer. Our drummers found the poor fellow just in the act of taking
leave of this vale of care and sorrow; but they would not have been the
smart fellows they were if they had not succeeded in defeating Death
himself, and robbing him of his prey for as long as they needed. The
dying man stared vacantly into their faces when they offered him this
enormous sum of ready money, while his wife and children broke into a
howl of despair that the offer had not come earlier, for how could a
dying man leave his bed to vote? But my drummers were not to be beaten.
They caught up the bedstead with the sufferer on it, and hastened with
it to the tent where the votes were collected. The dying man had been
made to understand that the bill of 1,000 florins which he saw would be
given to his wife, if he would only pronounce my name when asked to whom
he gave his vote, and he hold tight to his wife's hand, and met her
appealing glance with something like assurance. Happily, he was still
alive when brought to the urn, and the drummers announced that "the poor
man was troubled in his conscience, and could not die unless the
opportunity of fulfilling his patriotic duty was afforded him, so that
he had begged them to bring him to the tent and allow him to vote." This
touching little piece of news was received in the spirit in which it had
been given, and just as the poor fellow in his agony was asked the name
of his chosen candidate, Death came to claim his own. With a last look
of sorrow and affection at his wife he sighed with his dying breath, "Du
mein liebel"[1] ("Thou, my love!"), and expired.

[Footnote 1: The Jews in Hungary usually speak German among themselves.]

"'Nelly Dumany! Dumany Nelly!' he said," cried my drummers--"Nelly"
being an abbreviation of Kornel, my Christian name--and since the "Du
meine" really sounded like "Dumany" and not at all like "Belacsek," the
candidate of the other party, and since the dead man could not be made
to repeat his vote, whereas my drummers were ready to take their oath of
the correctness of their assertion, the vote was credited to me, and I
was declared elected by a majority of one vote, my suffrages being 1,501
in number, whereas my adversary had received only 1,500.

The case was afterward contested, and some witnesses endeavoured to
prove that the dying man had not said, "Dumány Nelly," but "Du mein
liebe"; yet there was the sworn statement of my drummers to the
contrary, as well as the evidence of his wife and children that the man
had been a devout and religious Jew, incapable of offending Jehovah by
uttering German words with his last breath. He had simply pronounced my
name in Jewish fashion, and eased his patriotic heart by voting for me.
Itzig Maikäfer's vote was as sound as a nut and could not be rejected.

Not quite so sound, however, was the other dead man's vote--that of Tóth
János, the potter. We had sent his substitute, the poultry-dealer, with
a cartload of odds and ends to Galicia, just to have him out of the way.
We managed to make it difficult to prove which of the two men named Tóth
János had been buried two days before election-day by providing for the
dead man's family, and sending them off to a remote place; and as the
poultry-dealer (who was a widower without any family) did not return
from Galicia for many weeks to come, everything seemed secure. But we
had reckoned without our host, and did not take into consideration a
possible treachery. The barber, a miserable wretch, whom we thought to
be a true red-feather man, and who had been more than liberally paid for
extracting the poultry-dealer's front teeth, and trimming his hair and
beard into the semblance of those of the dead potter, went and blabbed
of his work. A strict examination followed, the body of the potter was
exhumed, and his identity proved to a certainty. Of course, no one dared
to accuse me of foul play, but a new election was found necessary, and
the day after I had first taken my seat as a member of the Hungarian
Parliament, I was politely but firmly given to understand that I had no
legal right to its possession, and had better go. This is the story of
how I became to be called "the dead man's representative," and how I was
a colleague of yours for a single day.

Yet this story I have told you cannot give anyone a fair or true
estimate of me, or my character, or ability. Anybody who heard or read
this story would suppose me to have been a vain, good-for-nothing sort
of fellow, who had missed his degree at college and lacked the ability
to fill any decent position, and therefore plunged into politics to make
his living, or perhaps to squander the inheritance he had received from
his ancestors. But, in reality, I had already, at the age of
six-and-twenty, occupied the position of a well-qualified assistant
physician, and at two-and-thirty the newspapers spoke of me as a famous
specialist and a great light of the profession. As I was established in
Vienna, where the competition is great, and Hungarians are pushed into
the rear if possible, my reputation could not have been without some
foundation at least. I was respectable and respected, very much in love
with my profession, and did not care a straw for politics. So, in order
to make you understand the change--nay, the entire revolution--which my
outward and inward man, my entire existence, had experienced, I must
acquaint you with a portion of my family troubles and domestic
relations, and I shall have to speak of my Uncle Diogenes.



VIII.

MY UNCLE DIOGENES.


First of all, I must inform you that my father was a very zealous
patriot, and mingled largely in state and political affairs. Of course,
in the great insurrection of the year 1848 he took an active share, and
after the catastrophe of Világos he was seized and imprisoned at Olmütz.
At that time I was a lean, overgrown youngster of sixteen. I was
compelled to take charge of the household, and behave as head of the
family, for which dignity I had no inclination and but little talent.
Study was the great object of my life. After my father's release from
prison I was just of an age to decide as to my future career; but that,
at the time, was rather a difficult thing for a Hungarian youth, all
offices and positions being filled by Germans and Bohemians. I did not
wish to follow in my father's footsteps, for I saw that what with his
neglect of business matters, what with his liberality in furnishing all
patriotic enterprises out of his own pocket with the necessary means,
and in extending a wide hospitality to all political refugees, our own
circumstances were getting worse and worse, and we were deeply in debt.

So one day I took courage to speak to my father upon the subject, and
told him that I thought it was time for me to select a profession.

"Oh! you are going to hunt for some paltry office in the district
courts?" he said, with a snarl.

"No! I am going to study as a physician," I replied.

"What? Do you want to be a barber or a veterinary surgeon, or one of
those curs who pretend to look after the wounded so that they themselves
may keep out of danger when their betters fight? Imagine a scion of the
Dumanys, and the last one, too, wanting to be a sick nurse instead of a
man! I have a notion to shoot you on the spot!"

"That you can't, for our present ingenious Government takes precious
good care that such dangerous persons as my father shall not be left in
possession of a rifle or any other shooting-iron; and surely you will
not butcher me? Come, father, be reasonable! You know well what I mean
to become, and that the calling I have selected is honourable and
respected."

"It is not fit for the son of a gentleman and a Dumany. If you dare to
follow such an insane course, you may be sure of my malediction, and,
besides that, I'll discard you--disinherit you!"

"I am very much afraid, papa, that if our present course lasts awhile
longer, there will not be much left to bequeath to your heirs. So I am
not afraid of that threat; and as to maledictions, you are much too kind
and good-natured to utter such stuff; and, besides, curses are just as
harmless and useless as blessings. The Frauenhofer lines tell us all the
secrets of hell, and so I am not at all afraid of them. But I am
terribly afraid, dear father, that the road which you have pursued will
lead us to ruin in a very short time."

I had taken precise accounts of all that we possessed and all that we
owed. I had computed these accurately, and showed him the result, which
was rather alarming; but he waved the document away with his hands, and
said, "Don't be foolish; don't worry about these little inconveniences,
which can't be helped, and will soon cease to trouble us. Why, there is
your uncle Dion, with eighty-seven winters on his head (may God rest
him!) and not a soul to leave his large fortune to, but you, his only
nephew! Bless my soul! what a nuisance is this boy! Instead of going to
this paragon of an uncle, and trying to get into his good graces, as his
next of blood and kin, he talks of becoming an apothecary, smearing
plasters, mixing poisons, and setting sprained joints. Go to thy uncle,
I say, like a dutiful nephew, and doctor him, if doctor you must!"

"I have been to him already, and have told him of my intentions."

"'Pon my word! And then?"

"He gave me the money to pay my preliminary expenses, and I hope to get
along afterward by myself."

"Well, to think of Dion giving away anything but advice! It's a treat!
And what did he say?"

"That I was right and sensible in providing against the future; for he
knows of your difficulties."

"Stuff and nonsense! He can't last for ever, and then where is the need
for your troubling yourself about my difficulties or studying for a
profession?"

"You are mistaken: he will not leave us a penny; neither do I care for
his money. All I wanted of him I have got, and there is an end of it."

"Then don't say that I am an unnatural or unfeeling father. I'll give
you thir--no, twenty florins!" But he never said whether these twenty
florins were meant to be given monthly, or only once for good and all.
However, as I did not ask for them, I never got a penny, and soon
learned to do without my father's money by giving lessons, coaching less
diligent and capable fellow-students, and contriving to live upon almost
nothing.

But I wanted to speak to you of my Uncle Diogenes, as he was generally
called, although his Christian name was Dion. He was my father's
brother, but by no means like him. Rather an odd sort of a fellow, and
as keen as a razor. He went even beyond the old classical types; he was
more cynical and more of a philosopher than they. Not the oldest
inhabitant remembered the time when the cloak that covered his stooping
shoulders on the street was new. Daily he went to church, never into
church. There, on the sacred threshold, among the beggars and outcasts,
he paid his homage to his Maker, and then returned to his desolate home.
There was a large public well in the village. To this he himself went
with a large pitcher for his drinking-water. This water he poured into a
large boiler, boiled and strained it, and then drank it, because then
he was sure of the bacilli. He kept no attendant or housekeeper, for
fear of being murdered; and he was so much in dread of poison that he
never ate cooked food or anything made of flour, not even bread. He
lived on baked potatoes, nuts, honey, raw fresh eggs, and all sorts of
fruits and vegetables which might be eaten raw, and which grew in his
own orchard and garden. Out of his large herd of cattle he selected a
cow for his stall. This cow he attended to with his own hand, carefully
examining each stalk or haulm she ate, in order that no poisonous weed
might be consumed by her, and thus poison the milk. Each morning and
evening his own hands milked her, and he churned all his butter, and
made all his cheese himself. He never ate anything but what I have
mentioned, and he never went out without two loaded double-barrelled
pistols in his boots. He never read any other newspaper than the
Slavonic _Narodne Novine_, which he got from the village parson; but,
before reading it, he held it over a charcoal fire, on which he had
thrown some juniper berries, to kill possible malarial germs. His land
was all farmed out, and the rent had to be paid to him in gold or
silver, which he locked away in a great old iron chest. Occasionally,
through auctioning off some poor debtor's effects, he came into
possession of bank bills, 50, 100, 1,000 florin notes. These he rolled
up separately, and pushed one by one into a hollow reed. Of those
stuffed reeds he made bundles, which he stowed away in a corner of his
room. He never lent a penny of his money; he never put a penny into any
savings-bank, for he called them all humbugs; and he never gave a penny
for charity or friendship. Such was my Uncle Diogenes or Dion; and now I
will tell you what he had given me. You remember I told my father that
my Uncle Dion had furnished me with the means of paying my preliminary
expenses. That was true, but I had earned the money, little as it was,
in ciphering, writing, and riding about to my uncle's tenants at a time
when he was ill with a cold, and would have been obliged to pay a
stranger for the work which I did for him. I said it was little he gave
me. I have not told the whole truth, for he gave me his advice, and put
his own example before me, and that made a small sum go a long way.

Well, to make a long story short, let me tell you that I was an
established physician when my father died, and immediately after his
death his estate was seized in bankruptcy proceedings.

I did not care. I was satisfied with my position in Vienna, and as I had
no mother nor sisters or dependent younger brothers, and had long ago
relinquished the hope of coming into possession of our family estate, I
tried to forget my former home and live only for my profession.

After my efforts had made me a name as a clever and skilful specialist,
I was occasionally called to visit some wealthy patient in Hungary, and
then the papers gave accounts of the diagnosis I had given, and
mentioned the generous fee I had received. I did not approve of this
sort of advertisement, but I found that it could not be checked, and so
grew indifferent to it. One day I received a registered letter
containing money. It was stamped all over with the cheapest kind of
sealing-wax, and, on opening the envelope, I was surprised to find a
letter from my Uncle Dion, with an old, crumpled hundred-florin bill, of
a kind that had long gone out of circulation, and which showed every
mark of having issued from one of the hollow reeds. The letter ran about
as follows:--

     "MY DEAR NEPHEW, DR. DUMANY,--Knowing well that physicians will not
     move a step without being well paid, I send you the enclosed
     bank-bill, and pray you to take the trouble to visit me for a few
     days here in my house.

                                                          "DUMANY DION."

I took the bank-bill, put it into a fresh envelope, and wrote the
following lines:--

     "MY DEAR UNCLE,--One hundred florins will not induce me to leave my
     patients, and so I return the bill; but if you are really in need
     of a physician, and want me in that capacity, then please let me
     know, without enclosing money, for I should consider it my duty as
     a near blood-relation to give you my professional assistance
     without delay.--Yours,

                                                        "DUMANY KORNEL."

By return of post came the answer--"Yes, I want you immediately."

I went at once. It was ten years since I had seen him last. He was
eighty-seven then; he must be ninety-seven now. A rare age, indeed!
When last I saw him, his long and thick white hair had reached to the
middle of his back, and his long untrimmed beard flowed down to his
girdle, and was the colour of hemp. His eyes were as sharp as those of
any young man, and he did his reading and writing without an eye-glass.
Even his grafting he did without an artificial help to his vision. I
remembered well the old custom for guests arriving at his house: coach
and servants had to be left at the inn, and dinner had to be ordered
there. Whoever came to visit the lord of the château, quite a
magnificent old-fashioned country seat, had to enter through a narrow
garden-gate, just wide enough to admit a single person. The great gate
was never opened, no vehicle of any kind was admitted to pass through
it, and a thick growth of horse-sorrel, both without and within the
great oaken wings, bore witness to the fact. There was a turnkey at the
little gate, and an old man--the only servant my uncle ever kept, who
served for porter, gardener, and all other purposes--opened the door.

There was yet one tender spot in my uncle's heart, one sprinkle of
poetry in his nature. He adored flowers, especially roses, and he did
not even grudge money to secure rare specimens. His flower-garden was a
real fairy bower, and the old man, with the flowing snow-white hair and
beard, pruning and grafting continually, resembled some sorcerer who,
with a single touch of his withered hands, could create or destroy all
the beauty around him.

I found him there among his roses when I came. He recognised me at
once, although the last ten years had considerably changed my
appearance. He was looking just the same as he did ten years ago; not
altered in the least. He was as dry, as wrinkled, and as white as when I
had last seen him, and his eyes appeared by no means less sharp than at
the time I speak of.

"Happy to see you, my dear fellow!" he said. "I should have known you
wherever I met you. You look like the old boy you were."

"So I do, because of my clean-shaven face, uncle. I do not care for the
manly beauty of a moustache and beard. But I must return your
compliment. You have not aged in the least, and I can hardly believe in
your wanting a physician at all. You do not look like it."

He chuckled. "Well, well, I don't think you are much mistaken; but sit
down here in the bower: my room is not quite so pleasant and orderly a
place. I must call the gardener--"

"Don't take the least trouble, uncle," I said. "I shall not stay with
you, as I ordered a room at the inn and also my dinner. I had a hearty
lunch half an hour ago, and so you need not worry about my comfort. Now
tell me what ails you, pray, and then I'll see what I can do for you."

"Nothing in the least with regard to my health, for I am not a bit worse
than I was ten years ago, and far better than most others at my age. I
am ninety-seven, as you know, and that's no trifle. It would be foolish
to expect anything better, and you could not prevent my dying about this
time next year."

"Oh! you are hypochondriac, I see, and give way to fancies! Come in, and
let me examine you professionally, for such fancies are always the
result of some serious disorder."

"There you are mistaken, my boy. My heart, lungs, liver, and the rest of
it are all right, and I am not melancholy. Neither am I weak-minded or
nervous, and you need not look into my eyes or feel my pulse. I have
known these four years that I am to die at the time I mentioned,
although I am sure, when I tell you how I came to know it, you will call
me superstitious. For you fellows of the present day are so sceptical
and matter-of-fact that you refuse to believe in anything that cannot be
proved by optical inspection or by evidence. It was, as I said, just
four years ago, on my ninety-third birthday, when St. John the Nepomuc
appeared to me in a dream, and said--'Dionysius, my good fellow, make
the best of your time! There are only five more years for you in store,
and then you must die! no help for it!' Since that time he comes to me
every year regularly on the night of my birthday, and repeats his
warning, each time giving me one year less. Last week was my birthday,
and he gave me the last warning. Next time he comes I shall have to go.
So--"

"But, my dear uncle," I said, rather vexed, "if you are so much
convinced of the certainty of your death, then it was not at all
necessary for me to come. You want the priest, and not the physician. I
can cure bodily diseases, and release you from the clutches of cholera,
or sometimes even of death; but if the saints have got hold of you, and
such a tight hold, too, then you had better go to your confessor, for it
is his business to be in close connection with all of them. I give you
up. Good-bye! I have patients in Vienna, and cannot afford to waste my
time on a pleasure trip."

"Good God! what a hot-tempered fellow, and what admirable rudeness!
Stay, you unmannerly specimen of honesty, who don't think it worth your
while to cajole an old fool for the sake of his money! What do you think
that I summoned you for? But none of your impudence, if you please!"

I was amazed, and must have looked so, for the old man broke into a
merry laugh, that sounded like two pieces of cracked iron rubbing
together. There was a merry twinkle in his eye even after his laugh, and
he regarded me with a humorous expression which was entirely new to me.

"Well," he said, "I see that you are somewhat slow of apprehension; not
at all as sharp as others of the family. So I must help you out. I am
going to make my will. There!"

"Well then, you had better consult a lawyer or a notary. I am neither of
the two, and cannot be of the least use to you."

"That's gospel truth. But as you are the only sensible person of the
whole family, the only one who is not a prodigal, and have made shift to
live decently upon your own earnings, I rather think that I may be of
use to you. I like you, because you browbeat me and do not flatter me,
and I will tell you the truth; that bank-bill which you returned to me
strongly interested me in your favour. There was a time when I was not
the shrewd hard fellow that I am, but a true Dumany and a spendthrift. I
can show you a heap of signatures from nearly all the members of our
family--that is, the elder members--every one given me as security for
money I have lent them; but that money was never returned to me, and
although I have always believed that spirits will break their bonds and
return to their former home, I never believed in a bank-note's return
until you showed me the miracle. Therefore I have decided to make you my
heir, and I have called you to witness the will and--"

"Not a word more," I said. "I never speculated upon anybody's death, and
do not intend to change my habit. I never took the trouble to inquire
how much of my poor father's fortune was swallowed by the lawyers,
although I know that, after paying all of his debts, there must have
been a handsome penny left, and I could have recovered that money if I
had cared to see about it. I have earned for myself a respected position
and a decent living, and I expect to do better yet. So thanks to you for
your kind intention, but I am not the man you want."

"Yes, you are, and the more so because you do not worship the golden
calf, and do not want to hurry me into my grave as the others do. To
tell you all: I wish to settle everything on you while I live, the
estate, the house, the money, and all--no, don't run away! I am not
crazy, and you need not be afraid that I want you to live here with me
in this old hall as it is, mouldy and dirty and desolate. Neither do I
want you to share my diet of fruits and raw vegetables, eggs and milk,
and baked potatoes. On the contrary, I want you to come to me and live
like a gentleman, as a Dumany should, and let me enjoy life with you."



IX.

A SLAVONIC KINGDOM.


"You see, my dear boy," continued the old man, fondly taking my hand and
pressing it, "it is a princely domain that I offer you, and a princely
income. The station I invest you with is that of a king in its way, and
not a small way, either. Now listen to me! For a great number of years I
have lived here on this spot, like one of those hermits of bygone times,
living on roots and other primitive food, and never tasting of a decent
cooked meal, because I have never ceased to fear that those who wished
to get my money would try to poison me in order to get it sooner. This
fear I know no longer. I know well that my time expires next year; but
of this one year of life I am assured, and I am resolved to make the
best of it. I want to eat nice roasts, good cakes, and other delicate
dishes, and I want to drink wine. I have not tasted wine since 1809,
when I was studying law and attached as juratus to the Personal. For
many years I did not seem to care about it; but now I long for it, and I
remember how delicious it used to taste."

"But, my dear uncle, this would not be wise. Such a change would
absolutely kill you."

"Tut! tut! Never fear! I am sure of the one year, and am not going to
bargain with Death for more. Give me the one year, and let me enjoy it
according to my wishes--that is all I ask for. But for a safeguard
against extravagances, should not I have a skilled and renowned
physician living with me and looking after me daily? Don't you see that
your professional attendance will prevent all evil results, so that I
shall be perfectly safe? I could not have lighted upon a better plan
than making you my heir, and letting you live with me. Of course, I
could have taken a housekeeper; but I know womankind. In less than half
a year she would have persuaded me to marry her and settle all my
belongings on her, and this would not do for a Dumany. But if you come
to live with me, everything will be different. I'll let you have the
whole mansion, and keep nothing but my old room, of which I am fond,
because I am used to it and to the old, dingy, broken furniture that's
in it. You should marry, and bring your pretty little wife into the
house, and she would sing to me and play the piano or the organ, and
would keep pretty little chambermaids that I could pat on the cheeks,
and your little wife would let me kiss her fair, soft little hands; it
would be delicious! Then I should hear a little scolding and quarrelling
in the house, and you would take care that your little lady-wife should
not spoil me by too much fondness, and you would order my dinners and
select my wearing apparel according to my health. Perhaps I might sleep
a little after meals at the open window--a luxury I always longed for,
but did not dare to indulge in. This would be life for me, and a slow
and sweet transit from the cares and troubles of this world into
heaven."

The old man became quite excited over this ideal picture of happiness.
"I speak of heaven," he continued, "and this reminds me of the church.
Do you know why I say my prayers outside among the beggars, and never go
into the church? Not out of humility, but because at present there is
only a simple Slav minister here, and I am not over-anxious to listen to
his orations. Besides, the church is always so full of the Slav peasants
that you cannot breathe inside of it, such an infernal odour is diffused
by them. But if you would come to live here, and bring a gentle little
Hungarian lady with you, perhaps the bishop could be induced to send
some nice Hungarian priest to preach to us; and I am very fond of a good
sermon, especially if I could listen to it comfortably in my pew, as you
may wager that not one of these burly peasants would go inside the
church if the service were held in Hungarian. And then just fancy the
happiness if there should be a christening in the family, and I should
be godfather to your son! Would not that be glorious? Oh, if I could
live to see it! You must make haste and marry, or I'll put speed into
you, you may rely on that!"

I was ready with my diagnosis by the time he had finished his last
sentence. Hallucinations born of religious frenzy; idiosyncrasies with
allotriophagical symptoms, a consequence of his ascetical mode of
living; nymphomania of old age; hypochondriacal fancies: all symptoms
that are frequently found together. To second his morbid intention of
changing his diet and habits would be sheer lunacy; nay, worse, it would
be actual murder. Yet first I must win his confidence as a physician, so
that he may trust me and take my advice. I embraced him, and thanked him
most heartily and tenderly for his kind intentions, which I should never
forget and should always feel grateful for; but I said, brilliant and
splendid as it was, I could not accept his proposition, I could not give
up the career I had entered, the profession I had embraced and which I
loved, and the independent and honoured position I was proud of. My
calling was everything to me--life, happiness, fortune, and ambition;
and to give up my profession in order to till my farm, to exchange my
study, laboratory, and dissecting-table for the petty cares and troubles
of a country squire and a county member, would be physical and mental
death to me.

The old man smiled. "You talk so because you cannot comprehend the
importance of the position you will fill as the lord of my Slavic
kingdom, because you cannot guess the amount of the wealth I offer you.
You shall know it, and you are the only person alive to whom I have ever
spoken, or shall ever speak about it. You think this old mansion looks
as dreary and rotten inside as out; but you are mistaken. This residence
of the so-called Slav King is a princely seat, and it hides treasures
that monarchs and potentates would be proud to possess. If any one of
the family calls on me, he finds me in my dingy little hole of a room,
which, with an old rotten table, broken chairs, mutilated chest of
drawers, and coarse bed with bear-skin coverlet, looks poor and
inhospitable enough, and my visitors are generally glad to escape into
the open air again, thinking that the whole house resembles this room in
appearance; whereas, were I to throw the doors open, and show them the
splendour of the rooms and halls, they would stare in amazement. Every
one of the rooms is a perfect museum, and contains precious rarities.
One is full of carved furniture of costly woods, inlaid with ivory,
mother-of-pearl, gold and silver, and rich stones of the time of
'Ulászló.' The next contains all sorts of pottery of past
centuries--Roman and Etruscan, Chinese and Japanese, Sèvres and Dresden,
old Hungarian, and so forth. The third room is full of weapons of all
ages--panoplies, coats of mail, shields, bucklers, saddles. In the
fourth room are gowns and trains and coats of brocade, and artistic
embroidery and tapestry. The fifth room is a picture-gallery of
unlimited value; and then comes a library that has not its equal on this
continent, nor, I may say, on any other. High up to the ceiling the
large hall is filled with precious and rare old products; books with
clasps that are themselves curiosities of rare beauty. But those books!
If your medical colleagues had the privilege of entering this library
and peeping into those books, I doubt if they would be willing to part
with them ever after. Why, there is actually a book to invoke the devil
with! I did not dare to look into it, but you young fellows are such
sceptics that you will deny the existence of God and Devil presently,
and you will take the risk of reading that book.

"All these treasures were hoarded together by my father--may God bless
and rest his soul! He was called a miser throughout his life, and he
denied himself all comfort in order to spend his income in replenishing
his collection of rarities. Shortly after the birth of his second son,
your father, our mother grew tired of his mania and the sacrifices she
had daily to make, and left him, taking us boys with her, while he
remained alone among his beloved curiosities, which became dearer to him
on account of the high price he had to pay for them. When we boys--your
father and I--grew up, your father grew daily more like our mother,
while I became strangely infatuated with the old man and his store of
curiosities. He was also fond of me, showed me all his treasures,
dwelling upon the particular beauty of each. Miser as our father was, he
occasionally gave money to his younger son, but he never gave any to me,
and I had to consider this as an especial favour, for had I not the
privilege of sharing the main interest of his life?

"When my father died, there was hardly enough ready money in his desk to
pay his funeral expenses, and he had left a very strange will. He had
kept minute accounts of the amount he had spent each day and year for
different objects. All the money he had given to my mother and my
younger brother was reckoned up and subtracted from their share under
his will. He wrote that, as he knew that his wife was well provided for,
having a considerable fortune of her own, he left her a life-estate in
such one of his many domains as she might select. With regard to his two
sons, one had never shown him any love, and visited him only when in
want of spending-money; the other had never asked for a penny, although
he had received less from his mother than her favourite, the younger.
Yet, as a dutiful father, he did not wish to be partial; therefore his
sons were to divide his lands, goods, and chattels in the following
manner:--One was to take all his ready money, bonds, and objects of
gold, silver, and jewellery of recent workmanship (meaning the present
century), besides his horses and cattle, and the wine in the cellars;
while the other was to take possession of all the lands and the
residuary estate, on condition that he should reside in this particular
mansion and take charge of the museum therein, that he should never
marry, never accept any public office, in order that the treasures under
his care might receive the full benefit of his resources. He was
required to pledge himself to live in exactly the same secluded and
frugal way as his father, and to take his oath that during his lifetime
and stewardship he would not sell or give away one particle of the
estate, whether real or personal, which he received under the will.
Further, he must give up all claim on his mother's estate for ever, and
must relinquish all that she might give or bequeath him to his brother.

"To say that your father was furious would hardly express his state of
mind. I have already said that the whole amount of cash left was barely
enough for the funeral expenses. The bonds which were found proved to be
so many worthless pieces of parchment. The jewellery of recent
workmanship consisted of a set of valueless shirt-studs and a watch that
would not have fetched ten florins at auction. Of silver there was a
tablespoon, a teaspoon, a ladle, and two or three pieces of tableware,
bent, crooked, and broken, hardly worth the mentioning. Of horses there
were two lean and decrepit-looking animals, and the cattle consisted of
a diminutive black cow and her calf, neither of much value, yet forming
no doubt the most valuable part of the whole bequest. This was your
father's portion, for as to his taking the other part, giving up the
prospect of our mother's goodly store of money and other property, and
living a secluded life as guardian of a museum, that was entirely out of
the question.

"To tell that I felt pleased or glad on taking possession of the immense
wealth my father had left me would be a falsehood. I was young, and not
altogether devoid of the passions and inclinations pertaining to that
age. But I had interpreted the true spirit of my father's will, and I
knew that all this seeming spite and injustice was really a token of his
great love for me and of his great wisdom. Had he not stipulated such
hard conditions, my brother would have taken and squandered these lands
and goods as he squandered our mother's fortune, and I should not have
been able now to say to his only son, 'Stay with me, and receive at my
hands the undiminished fortune which your grandfather entrusted to my
care.' How immense that fortune is you may guess, when I tell you that
one year's income, large as it is, was not sufficient to pay the
legacy-taxes. But come, let me show you everything, and give you an idea
of the Slavic kingdom to which I invite you."

We entered the mansion, an old château built in the time of King Albert,
under the dynasty of the Mazures. Strong walls of cut stone, like the
ramparts of a fortress; great projecting, mullioned oriel windows;
everywhere the Dumany coat-of-arms hewn in stone, wrought in iron,
carved in wood. The main entrance was walled up; the middle portion of
the building contained but one storey; the wings, too, were low, but in
the rear of the house there was a large, high turret.

A heavy oaken door, beautifully carved, gave access to this turret, and
as this was at present the only approach to the interior of the house,
we had to cross halls and corridors until we reached the floor of the
main building. As we entered, my uncle locked the massive portal and put
the key in his pocket. When, in order to do this, he lifted the lapel of
his long zrinyi dolmány (old-fashioned Hungarian coat), I could see the
butts of his pistols, which were always loaded and ready to his hands.
He noticed the smile on my lips, and said testily, shrugging his
shoulders, "What can I do? I have to think of my personal safety at all
times. Wickedness has not died out of the world, and a poor lone old man
is rather a temptation to robbers. To keep a manservant for protection
would not do. He would be the very person to kill me, having me at his
mercy all the time; and as to keeping a dog for the purpose, I could not
think of it. A dog may bite, and there is danger in that; and, besides,
his keep costs just as much as a man's. He will eat up a fortune in
time. But when you are here, you will have servants and dogs, and all
the rest, and there will be no more need of my pistols."

My uncle took me directly to his treasures. With all he had said to
excite my curiosity, he had not said enough. For here were treasures
indeed, and I could readily believe that in these luxurious creations of
long-forgotten ages and races a strong witchcraft was pent, and that a
man might grow to give his heart and soul to them. My uncle could give
me the date of every object. This statuette is a Praxiteles; this
picture a Guido Reni; Benvenuto Cellini was the owner of this goblet;
and this sword was that of Sultan Soliman.

It was dusk, and the shadows of night were falling fast when I quitted
the museum. My uncle and I returned to the narrow turret-room in which
he had taken up his abode for the last seventy years and more. This room
of itself was a sight to see, and I was slightly faint and dizzy from
bewilderment at what I had already beheld. "You see, my boy," said the
old man again, "I have not lied to you; and when you are once
established here, and open these rooms to your visitors, all the barons,
and counts, and princes will stare at them with open mouth, and will
cajole you, flatter you, and bring their handsomest daughters for you to
choose a wife from; for such is the power of wealth. But do not believe
that the rarities I have shown you are all that I can give. For what
would be the good of the offer if I gave you nothing else? You would
have to lead a miserable existence like mine, for you could not soil
those things--no, not to save your life. If once you come to take
possession of them, you will find that you belong to them as much as
they to you. You will cling to them and neglect the present, only to
live in the forgotten past. The beauty of women you will admire in these
pictures only; the beauty of Nature in these stones and minerals. For
politics you will not care, and home will mean to you this mansion,
which encloses your treasure. Oh, the air of these rooms is poisonous to
youth, and mirth, and love!"

"Yes, uncle," I said, earnestly, "and to ambition and independence, and
all good and right purposes, also; and therefore I cannot stay with you,
for I have chosen my path in life, and I will adhere to it in spite of
these powerful temptations."

"Oh, you are afraid that they will convert you into a miser and a
hermit, as I have become! But I can give you a potent antidote, which
was never given to me; that is, ready money. Come, and I'll show you
what you have never seen, and assuredly never dreamed of. You see this
large iron chest, itself a rare piece of workmanship, and stronger and
safer than any of your new inventions? Come, let me show you how to
unlock it, for it is difficult; and one who was unacquainted with the
secret of this lock might try until Doomsday to force it open, and all
to no purpose. See, it turns this way, and at this point you must stop.
If in all three locks the keys have been turned to this point, the chest
will open. The contents will rebuild this old castle, will buy you
horses and carriages, and all the home luxuries of modern times, and
will enable you to keep up with the richest and the noblest of them all.
Keep up, I say--nay, go ahead of them; and still you will have what
money cannot buy for them--your museum. Oh, the Dumanys shall be a
powerful race once more, and I shall live to see it!"

He lifted the heavy lid of the chest, and I saw a number of linen bags
and an equally large number of bladders. The linen bags, my uncle
explained, were full of silver coins, the bladders of gold coins.

"You see," he continued, "there are fourteen hundred acres of ground
belonging to this estate--rather a handsome piece of property in this
part of the country. It has all been leased out to farmers for many,
many years, almost a century, and it has greatly deteriorated. But this
money will help you to improve the soil also, and it will yield you more
than the twelve thousand acres of Count Vernöczy's estate can do, for
half of that land has been turned into a deer-park, and the other half
is imperfectly cultivated. Look at the bundles of reeds there in the
corner. You have wondered at them, no doubt; and at all those pipes on
the shelf yonder. You asked me if I was a smoker. I am, but I do not
smoke out of those pipe-stems. Both they and the reeds are money-boxes,
every one of them. In them I keep the bank-notes which I have had to
take during the last seventy years. They represent a fortune in
themselves. I hardly know myself how much money they contain. You can
split them, and find out when you come to live with me. I'll settle it
all on you in legal fashion, and keep nothing but my own room. You can
do with the rest as you please; build and rebuild, buy and furnish, to
suit your fancy. Only let me live the one year that remains to me
pleasantly and in plenty, and promise me three things: Never to till
your acres after the ideas you will get from the text-books; never to do
a kindness to a great lord; and never to quarrel or get vexed with a
woman."

"I promise you whatever you wish, dear uncle," said I; "but, since I
have listened to you for quite a while, you must now listen to me. You
have called me in the capacity of a doctor, and as such I must speak to
you."

"Do you know a remedy for old age?" was his sarcastic inquiry.

"I do, to grow older still. You do not look a bit older or feebler than
you did ten years ago, and there is no positive reason why you should
not live for ten years longer, or even more, provided you do not change
your course of living in the least degree. The slightest change of
habits, of diet, or of dress, may prove fatal at your age. I know that
you are not afraid of death, and that you also have taken St. John the
Nepomuc's word for the remaining year. But, my dear uncle, saints are
sometimes ambiguous, and there is something that resembles a living
death, a prospect too horrible to dwell upon, yet dreadfully near. A
single meal of some heavy, unwonted food, one glass of liquor, may bring
it on. It is called paralysis, and when it comes, St. Nepomuc may stick
to his word and give you a year, but what a year that would be!"

He looked at me with a troubled face, and I pressed his hands and said,
"Yes, dear uncle; you have to stick to the old, long-travelled road, and
then I may hope to see you ten years hence as hearty as you are now, or
as you were ten years ago. For you are in perfect health otherwise, and
there is no need whatever of my staying with you. Only beware of
indigestion, and you will be all right. As for myself, I shall never
cease to remember your kindness and to feel grateful for it, but to
accept your offer would be moral death to me. I have to go back to my
profession, and if you, dear uncle, dislike our other relatives, and do
not want to leave them your property, then give it to such patriotic and
charitable institutions as deserve patronising, and you may be sure that
your memory will be blessed by thousands. Of me you need not think. I am
not the man to speculate on another man's death, and build my future on
a grave."

The old man looked curiously at me; then he sighed, and embraced me.
"Thank you, my dear fellow!" he said; "I see you are a truly honest man
and no hypocrite. I won't offer you any money: on the contrary, I'll ask
a further favour. Before you leave, I'll give you a letter, which you
will personally hand to the Prefect at his residence at the county seat,
which is on your way to Vienna. I am afraid to entrust this letter to
the mail, as there are very valuable papers in it, and you will have to
take a receipt for it from the magistrate. This receipt you need not
send me, but keep it safe; and if you come to this house again, you may
bring it with you."

With that the old man showed me out into the garden, carefully unlocking
and re-locking the door, and securing the key. "Thank you for coming to
me, my dear fellow," he said. "And since you decline to take anything of
actual value from me, let me offer you something that has only fanciful
value, yet is dearer to me than all the treasures within the house. See
these Remontan roses in their second bloom--for instance, this Sultan of
Morocco, the most perfect specimen of its kind? I gave a _Napoléon d'or_
for the scion, and this is its first year of flowering. Here, take it!"

With that he actually cut the blossom from the stalk, and handed it to
me. It was a magnificent flower, and almost black, with but a slight
purple tinge. It was the darkest-hued rose known at that time. Later on
the "Deuil d'Alsace" came out of Pandora's box. At the time I speak of,
that box was in Benedetti's pocket, and more is the pity that the pocket
held it so tight.



X.

"DEAD."


Hardly three months after I had taken a tender and affectionate farewell
from my Uncle Dion a newspaper item informed me of his death. My
prediction that a fit of indigestion would prove fatal to him had come
true. His confidence in St. John of Nepomuc had been greater than his
prudence, and it was a mercy that the stroke of apoplexy had killed him
outright, instead of making a living corpse of him, as is so often the
case.

About a fortnight after I had read of the death of the celebrated Slav
King, I received a package by mail, containing an official and a private
letter. The official letter informed me that the Honourable Dionysius
Dumany had recorded a last will and testament in the county archives, in
which last will and testament he nominated me, Dr. Kornel Dumany, as his
sole heir, upon condition that I should take possession of the property
and live in Dumany Castle. But if I should stubbornly refuse to fulfil
that condition, lands, goods, and chattels should forthwith pass over to
the "Maticza" (Slavic and ecclesiastical literary fund, employed for
Panslavonic ends).

The private letter came from the Governor of the county, and referred to
the same subject. The Governor declared that it was my unmistakable
duty, as a Dumany and a son of Hungary, to take possession of the home
of my ancestors, and not to allow such an anti-patriotic and dangerous
institution as the "Maticza" to do her a mischief on the strength of
Hungarian funds, and to turn the ancient halls of my patriotic
forefathers into a meeting-place of daring conspirators.

I shrugged my shoulders, but had not the faintest notion of accepting. I
did not care for politics, and knew of the "Maticza" as a purely
Slavonic literary society. If this society was to hold future meetings
in my uncle's museums, I could bear it; there was very little of
Chauvinism or even patriotism left in me. I was rather cosmopolitan in
tendency; and as to giving up my profession and becoming a country
squire, that was simply ridiculous.

This happened to be the very period when, after years of degradation and
suffering, the Hungarian national spirit was first allowed to lift its
head and show its colours. Germans and Bohemians, who for many years had
filled all the public offices in Hungary, were compelled either to learn
the Hungarian language or surrender their places to natives. In most
cases the latter was unavoidable, and these aliens, furious at being
driven from their prescriptive sinecures, went up to Vienna and did
their best to make it hot for the Hungarians. As every war has its
origin in an inkstand, students are, naturally, the greatest
Chauvinists, and I was to find that out with a vengeance. All my friends
and colleagues became more and more averse to me, and even went so far
as to take my patients from me by incensing them against me in every
possible manner. Soon they began to drag my name into professional
polemics, into professional newspapers; and when I had defeated and
silenced them in one place, they began to annoy me in another. At home,
in Hungary, the reorganisation of the counties was begun. For twenty
years constitutional life in Hungary had been extinct, and now it had to
be resuscitated. This was a hard task, and at first it was not even
known who were entitled to vote at the meetings.

And now I received another letter from the Governor, again reminding me
of my duty, clearly describing the situation of affairs, and telling me
how much good every honest and right-minded man could effect, and how
much mischief I should be able to prevent. "But," he closed, "if you
stubbornly and positively adhere to your unpatriotic resolution, and
finally decline to accept your deceased uncle's legacy, I must trouble
you to come down in person and give a definite renunciation, with the
necessary affidavit, such being your uncle's strict demand."

There was no help. I had to go to get rid of the annoyance. Arriving at
the county seat, I paid my respects to the Vice-Governor, the same
dignitary to whom I had given the letter which my uncle had entrusted to
my care, and which, as I now learned, proved to be the very will in
question. I announced my firm resolution to adhere to my principles, and
the magistrate replied that that was all right, but before we talked
further on the subject, I had better go to the county meeting, which
was to be held that day.

"But what right have I to be there?" I asked.

"Why, as the present head of the ancient Dumany family, of course," was
the reply. "There is not one of us provided with a better claim."

So I let myself be persuaded, and went. The great Hall of Meetings was
crowded to suffocation, and among the local celebrities I recognised a
few of those compatriots who had kindly assisted my poor father to get
rid of his money by feeding them and keeping their pockets full. There
were others who were quite young men, old schoolfellows of mine;
somewhat bad students at the time, but, since Providence had furnished
them with strong voices, they had taken advantage of the gift so as to
make a noise in the world, and played the _rôle_ of leading partisans.
One of them in particular, a good-for-nothing sort of fellow who had
never come near his degree in any school, was recognised as a bright
particular star, and quite too smart for anything. If I remember
rightly, he was the head of the Radical wing.

After much deliberation and a good deal of talk, of which I did not
comprehend anything, it was decided to read the names of the present
county members. A long list was handed to an official, who was
instructed to pronounce each name clearly; and each name, as it was
read, was followed by a loud cheer "Éljen!" All at once there came,
instead of the "Éljen!" after one of the names, the unanimous shout
"Dead!" and the person named had to rise from his seat and leave the
room, and his name was erased from the list. This was repeated a number
of times, and behind me stood a Slav nobleman, who after each of these
utterances of "Dead," added the Slavonic word "Smrt"[2]--a beautiful
word, as bony as the spectre "death" itself.

[Footnote 2: "Dead."]

There was a priest, with a broad red sash, who made himself especially
obnoxious to me; for, as often as the "dead" sentence was pronounced, he
laughed, and pointed conspicuously with his fat fingers at the expelled
man, who, with bent head, made his way to the door. I inquired the
reason of these demonstrations, and was told that these men were
traitors, who had filled offices under the absolutist government of the
Austrians.

Immediately after one of these shouts of "Dead," an old gentleman who
sat just in front of me, and of whom I had up to this moment seen
nothing but his bald head, which showed an immense scar, evidently an
old sword-cut, got up from his seat at the green-covered table, and as
he turned I beheld an aged and careworn but honest face, with two big
tears slowly rolling down the furrowed cheeks. "That is for the seven
wounds I received at Nagy Sarló!" said he, with choking voice; and
raising his trembling hand to his eyes, he moved away.

"Seven children the poor fellow has at home, and he had to earn daily
bread for them, somehow, so he served as surveyor, and that was his
treachery," said one of my neighbours in an undertone. As the banished
man passed out, I sat down on the seat he quitted. "It is ill luck to
sit in a traitor's chair," said a well-meaning man at my elbow; but I
smiled and kept my seat.

"Who may that smooth-faced stranger be? and how comes it that he is
here?" I heard some of the bystanders ask, referring, of course, to my
clean-shaven visage. Nobody in the whole congregation knew or recognised
me, except the Vice-Governor, and the fellow-student of whom I have
spoken. But, of course, he kept at a distance. Presently my own name,
"Dumany Kornel," was pronounced, and "Dead! Dead! Smrt!" was the shout
of all around. I had caught the infection, and as the red-sashed priest
smilingly and playfully raised a threatening fat finger at me and said,
"He is turned into a German, an Austrian," down came my fist upon the
green cloth of the table. Philosophy, _sang-froid_, and political
indifference were blown to the winds, carrying forethought and
resolution with them. I jumped up, pushed the chair away from behind me,
and shouted--

"He is not dead! He is here! And what is more, here he shall stay! I am
a landed gentleman, as well as the best of you, and as pure a Hungarian
as any in this meeting, or in this country either. I am that Dumany
Kornel whose name has been read, and I am not dead, but alive, as you
shall soon find out!"

There was a dead silence at these words, and some heads were nodded in
acknowledgment that I was right. Then there was a whispering and
consulting and questioning, until the honourable Vice-Governor said,
"Silence, gentlemen! the honourable Dumany Kornel has the floor upon a
personal question."

"Hear! hear!" shouted all, some in good earnest, some in order to
embarrass me, and the red-sashed parson said, maliciously, "If you are a
Hungarian, sir, as you claim, where is your moustache?"

"Out hunting for yours, your reverence," said I, with a grin.

"I am a priest!" was the haughty reply; but that was just what I
expected, and looking around at the portraits upon the walls of the
room, portraits representing the most celebrated heroes of our national
history, I gave them then and there such a barbological sermon, _ex
tripode_, that they listened to me in mute astonishment. I told them
that the great national high-priests and patriots, Peter Pázmány, Prince
Cardinal Esterházy, and Thomas Bakács, there portrayed, had worn
moustaches, although they were priests; whereas Mathias Corvinus, our
glorious, never-to-be-forgotten hero-king, wore a clean-shaven face like
mine. The famous Palatinus Illésházy had pronounced Hungary free and
independent with smooth hairless lips, and Thomas Nádasdy had carried
the Hungarian tricolour to immortal triumphs although his face was as
beardless as mine, as everybody might see by his portrait there present.
I told them that I did not speak for myself, as I did not care a straw
for their opinion, and felt sufficiently strong in my own self-respect
and clear conscience, which, perhaps, was more than a good many present
could say of themselves. But I was not going to look on when patriotism
was made the monopoly of certain people, whereas decent and deserving
men were hooted at because they had dared to earn their own bread and
that of their family, instead of living upon the bounty of friends and
driving them to ruin and death. And then I told them that it was not a
time to inaugurate a policy of jealousy and persecution. We had had
enough of that under the absolutist government; what we wanted was
honest, energetic co-operation for a common purpose, the welfare of
country and nation.

I had spoken with all the bravery of a simpleton, who has no idea that
if he throws a glowing tinder into a barrel of gunpowder he may blow the
house up and himself also. For some seconds I ran the risk of being
thrown out of doors, or of getting my hands full of private quarrels and
duels, but the concluding sentences met with such unanimous applause
that I was heartily congratulated on the success of my maiden speech,
and had the additional satisfaction of seeing the majority of those
formerly pronounced "dead" restored to the list again, and I was able to
give back the seat which I occupied to its former owner, the old
gentleman with the seven scars and as many children.

Among those who had congratulated me was one conspicuously handsome and
distinguished-looking young man. He fairly embraced me, and said, "You
are the man we wanted! Let me welcome you, and consider me your friend;
I am Count Vernöczy. Siegfried Vernöczy is my name!"

The Vice-Governor invited me to dinner, and just as we were pushing our
way out of the hall, I heard the red-sashed priest and the Slav
nobleman, who had always added his "Smrt" to the cry of "Dead!" speaking
together in Slav, of which language they supposed me ignorant. The
nobleman said to the priest--

"What folly it was of you to vex and excite this blockhead by
pronouncing him dead! Had you left him alone, he would have gone off,
and left the Maticza in possession of the old miser's fortune. Now we
may go and hunt for other fools; this one has escaped us for ever."

"Well, how could I know that the milksop had turned into a fighting
bull?" was the reply.

The reverend gentleman was wrong. I was not a bull, but an ox; and a
moment's excitement had made me give up fame and ambition, profession
and independence, and here I was in the kingdom of Swatopluk, taking
possession of my Uncle Diogenes's legacy. It was very foolish, but if I
had to do it again--why, I should do it. I was a Hungarian and a Dumany,
in spite of my cosmopolitan tendencies and in spite of modern equality.



XI.

MY DEAR FRIEND SIEGFRIED.


So I must needs call him, for dear was his friendship to me; at least, I
have paid for it dearly. At our first meeting he told me that henceforth
we should stick to each other like the Siamese twins. And the man whom
he thought worth catching was clever indeed if he could extricate
himself from the meshes which encircled him. He was altogether a
wonderful fellow. Of athletic build, striking beauty, great agility and
versatility in all bodily exercises, an unrivalled fencer, and a perfect
marksman. What a soldier he would have made! But Mr. Schmerling knew a
good many fine tricks, and one of the prettiest was the prevention of
Hungarian youths from entering the army. He took advantage of the
prevalent Chauvinistic sentiments, and put them forward as a bait. One
thousand florins, paid down, protected a Hungarian youth from serving in
the hated army, and he was free to ride his own horses instead of the
king's. Yet what a general that Siegfried might have been! He was born
to command and direct other people. All who adhered to him and did his
bidding were his soldiers; all who declined to follow his lead, he
regarded as enemies. The former he compelled to serve him, the latter he
defeated and slew. He was sometimes high-spirited to eccentricity. At
other times he was discreetly prudent. He spoke almost every existing
language, and was a brilliant orator. His addresses were admirably
delivered, and he took an independent and imperative tone. His talk was
always fluent; and if a Hungarian or a German word failed him, he
substituted for it a French, English, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Turkish,
or other foreign phrase, never stopping for a moment to consider or even
to explain. His Hungarian speeches were rhetorical gems, yet they could
hardly be styled Hungarian, for they were delivered in a perfect
Volapük--that is, in a medley of all possible languages. He was a strong
personality, and a "grand seigneur." His purse was always open, and he
spent his money with a liberal hand. He must have been a very rich man,
for I never knew him in even a momentary embarrassment for money. When I
first felt the pressure of his iron arm, I knew at once that he would
dominate me. But such was the fascination he exercised that I submitted
at once.

It was at the close of that memorable meeting, and after he told me to
consider him my friend. The Vice-Governor had invited me to dine with
him, and I wanted to go to my rooms for a change of attire, or at least
a white tie and a pair of light gloves. "Nonsense!" he said, "these
rustics will take you as you are, _en plein parade_. Come at once. We
will order them to lose no time, but to take up your status in your new
domain to-morrow, and have you put in possession of your rights and
privileges without delay."

"But to-morrow I shall not be here," I remonstrated; "I have to go to
Vienna and provide for my patients."

"What would you provide for them? _Qu'ils attendent, les pauvres bêtes_;
death will not escape them. 'We can wait,' is the Austrian parole; don't
worry about them. To-morrow you will have the board of commissioners
meet on your new premises, and put you in possession of your
inheritance, so that you may be placed on the list of voters. This must
not be postponed, for if you miss that you are dead indeed--'Smrt,' as
that honest Maticza champion said."

Siegfried lost no time, and the Vice-Governor said that he was right.
"Yes," he said, "to-morrow you shall have the keys of your castle."

"And that of the famous iron chest," said Siegfried.

"No, that cannot be yet," replied the officer; "the iron chest is under
an official lock as yet, for the 'Maticza' has put in a claim to the
inheritance. The Slav parish priest in Dumanyfalva, as well as his
housekeeper and his sacristan, affirm that your deceased uncle, on the
eve of his death, dined with them (in parentheses, the fat pork he
partook of and the strong wine he drank brought on the fatal stroke),
and there at the table he declared that, even in case you, his nephew,
should accept of the inheritance, the Maticza should not be left
empty-handed, but should receive all the ready money found on the
premises."

"Franca, franca! It's all a lie!" said Siegfried.

"So I think, too. But we have no evidence to prove it. It all depends on
the decision of the court, because the Maticza has no documentary
evidence, and so the court will decide the question."

"And where is the chest at present?"

"There at the castle, under guard."

"And why did you let it remain there? It ought to be here under your own
care."

"Yes; but it is so riveted to the wall that we could not remove it
without tearing up the wall also."

"Then why have you not taken the money into your own custody? Some
unknown person or persons may force the lock."

"That lock? Why, we tried it in every way, for the tax-commissioner
would have liked to examine its contents to make sure as to the amount
of taxes due. But we could not find a locksmith capable of using the
three keys belonging to the locks in the proper way."

At this I spoke out. "If," I said, "my uncle has indeed willed away his
ready money to the Maticza, he must assuredly have instructed them how
to get at their money. To me, at least, he disclosed the secret of the
lock, and I know how to apply the keys properly."

"Bravissimo! That settles the question. A clearer piece of evidence
cannot exist. The court cannot decide otherwise than in your favour."

"Then try to expedite the formalities. You can do it."

"I can't. The parties must be informed at what time the court holds its
session; they have to appear before the court, and introduce testimony.
All this takes a month at least."

"And how is he to manage until then? Is there nothing in old Diogenes's
casket to make money out of?"

"Oh yes, a lot of old rubbish! I daresay it would bring something at
least. We have taken an inventory of it, and taxed it; here it is."

With that he took from the shelf an official-looking document, and
handed it to me. I was curious to know at what they had appraised my
uncle's precious treasures, and looked at the inventory. I was more than
surprised--I was amused beyond everything. The contents of the two large
halls, ante-chamber, and five chambers were valued at three hundred and
seventy-nine florins and forty-five kreutzers. The kreutzers were for an
old Gobelin hanging--a rare piece of tapestry.

"Why, this is ludicrous!" said I laughingly. The Vice-Governor smiled
knowingly, and Siegfried took the paper out of my hand, and read the
items. A Palissy-cabinet was described as a wooden chest, worth three
florins; precious old majolica as old earthenware, the suits of armour
as old iron, and so forth. "Now this is a masterpiece!" said Siegfried;
but I was indignant. "It is hyper-barbarism!" I said. "This inventory
enumerates the contents of some dime museum--not of my uncle's valuable
collections. If you had looked for it, you might have found an exact
schedule, made by my uncle, with the name of each object, statement of
cost, etc."

"We could not find anything of the kind," said the Vice-Governor. "But I
forgot. Attached to the will was a package, sealed; and addressed to
you--'Dr. Cornelius Dumány.' Here it is."

I took the package, opened it, found the inventory within, and handed it
to the official. "Here it is. You see I was right! Here you can see the
actual worth of my uncle's museum."

"I have no curiosity whatever," said the Vice-Governor; "this is a
private document addressed to you, and, therefore, I have no business to
inquire into it."

"But--"

"But it is time for you to go," said Siegfried, slapping me on the
shoulder; "never mind that old inventory of your uncle's."

"But I do mind it," I insisted. "I can't have something that is actually
worth two hundred thousand florins appraised at three hundred, all in
all."

"But can't you see that on the three hundred florins the amount of tax
would be seventeen florins, and on the two hundred thousand you will
have to pay nine thousand florins as legacy taxes?"

"Is that the law?"

"Of course it is, clear and distinct."

"Then I shall pay according to law. I do not intend to cheat the
Treasury."

The Vice-Governor broke into a laugh, and Siegfried took hold of both my
ears and gave them a hard pull. "Oh! you, you, you doctor!" He would
have said you fool, or you simpleton, but he found the "doctor" more
explanatory, and a good deal more to the purpose. Why, did I not
understand that it was the patriotic duty of a Hungarian citizen to
cheat the Treasury whenever an opportunity to do so was offered?

"Just you let him alone," said the Vice-Governor, laughing. "He is an
innocent, honest fellow, with a tender conscience, and nothing so tough
and hardened as you. Come, friend Kornel! tell me, what do you think of
the rate at which the other things are estimated? For instance, your
uncle's private room? The whole furniture is valued at twenty-three
florins. Do you think that underestimated? No? Well, here are his
pipes--old clay pipes, stuck into cane stems. They are valued at ninety
kreutzers."

I laughed. "The pipes are hardly worth more, but the stems would be well
worth the money, for they and the old reeds in my uncle's room were his
bank-note receptacles, and for all I know they may be full of hundred-
or even thousand-florin bills."

"Well, if you are not the greatest ass in Christendom, then I am--and no
doubt about it," said Siegfried, vexed. "Here is this fellow actually
denouncing his own money to the police. If you are such an imbecile, and
really do not care for your own profit, then at least do not talk
without being asked."

"Hadn't you better use more civil language?" I asked. "I really am not
used to such strong expressions."

"Oh, of course; I beg your pardon! Only I should like to know what you
will do without ready money? Because you have compelled our friend, the
Vice-Governor here, to take all the money on the premises, that is, all
the contents of the reeds and pipe-stems, of which you blabbed, into his
own custody, whereas you might have kept your own counsel, and culled
the money out at your leisure, without anybody having an idea of its
existence."

"Yes; but that would not be honest. If anybody finds a pocket-book full
of money he cannot keep it for himself, but must give it up to the
authorities."

"Not if it is his own pocket-book, I should think. But, as you have done
it, it is too late to quarrel about the policy of the act."

The Vice-Governor called in one of his office clerks, and drew up a
statement containing all I had said about the reeds and pipes, and the
actual value of the museum. I had to put my signature at the foot of the
document, and then I was allowed to go.

Next day Siegfried took me out in his own chaise, to which four
beautiful horses were attached, to Dumanyfalva, and there, with all the
ceremony belonging to the occasion, I was inducted into my legal rights
as landlord. I was conducted into the mansion, the keys were put into my
hands, then they took me out into the field and gave me a handful of
soil of each individual plot, or meadow, or pasture. After that they
split the reeds and pipe-stems, and ten bills of one thousand florins
apiece, two hundred bills of one hundred florins, and sixty-four
fifty-florin bills were found, flattened out, made into a package, upon
which each of the persons present put a seal, with his own name. Then
the Vice-Governor wrote on its cover, "Legacy of the Late Honourable
Dionysius Dumany," and handed it over to the trustee.

"Now you see what has come of your blabbing," said Siegfried. "How will
you manage now?"

"Well enough. I have some money in Vienna, and I am going to fetch it. I
have to go up to Vienna, anyhow, to arrange my belongings there."

"And I'll go with you, for, thorough Æsculapius as you are, there is
danger of your escaping us yet."

He kept his word, and we went by his own chaise and four to Nagy
Szombat, where we took the train for Vienna. In Vienna he never moved
from my side, hardly allowing me time for any business transactions, but
taking me to theatres, dinners, cafes, and all sorts of variety-shows
and music-halls. I had lived soberly and industriously up to this time,
rarely going to the opera or to private entertainments; but I was young
and naturally jovial, and did not object to a few days of dissipation,
enjoying the manifold diversions which the Austrian metropolis offered.

On the last day, Siegfried helped to pack and send off my furniture to
Dumanyfalva, and, as I could not sleep in my empty rooms, he carried me
off to a hotel; but not to sleep, for we never closed our eyes that
night, and it was with a dizzy head and a confused brain that I found
myself in the railway carriage, travelling homeward. Happily, my
faithful old servant had gone with the furniture ahead of me, and, on my
arrival at home, I found that the practical old fellow had made the best
of his time. A bedroom and sitting-room had already been furnished and
the old dining-room made serviceable. He had also procured a cook, and
for the first time in my life I enjoyed the sensation of sitting at my
own table and playing the host, for that Siegfried did not leave me yet
will be readily understood.

While at dinner, Siegfried laid down a plan of how the old mansion might
be renovated without and within, and I had to acknowledge that his taste
was perfect; but--very expensive, as I remarked.

"How much ready money have you?" he asked.

"Something over four thousand florins," I replied.

"That is almost nothing--hardly sufficient to furnish a few rooms, and
what becomes of the building? Then there is the grange, the stable,
etc., and then you will want to buy two pair of horses; one for your
chaise, the other for work. You will have to buy cattle, and grain, and
hay, and a good many other necessaries, and you will have to take the
distillery away from the lessee, for what will you do with your cattle?
What you want is at least twenty thousand florins, and these you have
fooled away. It will take months to get hold of them again, and then
half of them will be gone, and the time for making all necessary
arrangements will have passed. I'll tell you what, you cannot sit here
and do nothing, and I am not going to let you waste time. I'll lend you
these twenty thousand florins." I was surprised at the offer. "Yes," he
said, "I have the money ready, for I intended to buy a piece of
property, but could not make a bargain with the owner. Now the money is
of no use to me at present, and you may have it until your money is
restored to you. Happily, I have the money with me now. Here it is!"

With that he took out a portfolio, and handed me twenty bank-notes of
one thousand florins each. I wanted to give him a bond, but he would not
hear of it "The idea!" he said; "why, we are no Jews, but gentlemen.
Just write upon your card: 'Good for twenty thousand florins, which I
will pay upon receipt of my legacy.' Here, take my lead-pencil; that
will do."

I was rather embarrassed, but his face showed so much sincere friendship
and regard that I did not venture to refuse the offer, and, considering
the circumstances, he was right, and he had behaved nobly. Still, I did
not like the obligation he had put me under, and should have preferred
to pay interest on the sum even to a common usurer. I had some faint
presentiment that the interest on such a loan as this would be much
higher than the usual percentage taken by the professional money-lender;
but I had done it, and could not undo it, as you might say.

With the money in hand I attended to business. Siegfried, indefatigable
in his endeavours to be of use in me, assisted me with his practical
versatility in business matters, and with his good taste in the
domestic sphere. He purchased the horses for my carriage, he bargained
with the mason about the buildings, he made the contracts with my
tenants, and he bought my grain and other household necessaries. I could
never have got on without his help--at least, not so profitably--and I
was naturally very grateful to him.

"You can't pay any visits to your neighbours until you have made your
own house fit to receive company; but, as it would be rather hard upon
you to live like a hermit until that time, you might drive over to the
county town and put in an appearance at the casino. I'll introduce you
to the whole set."

The county town was two hours' drive from Dumányfalva. Siegfried drove
me over, and my own brand-new and very "pshutt"-looking cab was to wait
for me at the casino door. In the casino Siegfried introduced me to
about a dozen of young and old local celebrities, and one or two great
lights of national reputation. Party divisions there were none; all
parties agreed harmoniously, and played with each other their whist,
their games of chess or dominoes. I was very cordially received, and in
the ensuing conversation I took a very lively and active share, and
stood my ground without any of the usual bashfulness of a novice.
Siegfried seconded me in all my remarks with an occasional nod and a
"Very true, my friend," or "You have hit it exactly," or "You have
expressed my own opinion;" "My friend, you are an excellent debater,"
and other observations of the kind, and soon we were unanimously called
"the Dioscuri," for we were never found apart.

At a county banquet Siegfried spoke of me, in a brilliant toast-speech,
as of a newly risen star, or rather "a great shining planet," and there
was a universal "Éljen!" and shouts of acclamation. It was wonderful how
many friends I found, and how much I was sought after! I had a dozen
different invitations at once. One invited me to his shooting-box in the
mountains, another to inspect his model farm and dairy, a third invited
me on a fishing excursion, and so forth.

While driving home from the casino, Siegfried said to me--"I wonder you
are not vexed at my never inviting you over to Vernöcze, but I must tell
you the truth. I am not the master of my own house and home at present.
An aunt of mine is here with my two cousins, half-grown young girls,
staying until the bathing-season begins. So the lady has control of the
house, and I live in a little pavilion in the park. My aunt will be very
much pleased to make your acquaintance--too much pleased, I should say,
for she is one of those spirited women who have an opinion of their own,
and let you know it. She is never tired of arguing, and you are the very
person for her. I verily believe that the two little girls have caught
the infection from her, and you would be surprised to hear what a flow
of nonsense issues from the aristocratic little mouths. And the number
of questions they ask is astonishing! Sometimes I give them an answer in
language such as I would not venture to use to a variety singer; but
the little innocents stare at me, and laugh without the faintest blush;
they do not understand the hidden impertinence. I'll some day introduce
you to all of them, my aunt and the two girls; but your house must first
be put in order. For I find it hard, even now, to keep them from rushing
in upon you unawares, and introducing themselves. They are positively
dying for a peep at you and your museum. Well, I have done enough to
excite that curiosity. I am incessantly talking of you."

"Then it will be your fault if their ladyships are shocked at finding
out the deception. I am too commonplace a fellow not to disappoint them
cruelly."

"Vederemo!" he said. "The Devil is never at rest!"

     INTERMEZZO.

     The Devil?

     "Do you believe, then, in the existence of a personal Devil?" you
     ask.

     "Has not this story been terribly dull and tedious up to this
     moment? You have not shown us a single Devil as yet. No, not even a
     woman."

     "Well, I'll show you three of the latter species presently--a
     strong-minded, argumentative aunt, and two little nieces."

     "You won't say that these two little countesses or their
     aristocratic aunt, or either of them, is an incarnation of the Evil
     One? Or are you speaking of your dear friend, Siegfried? Why, he is
     a perfect guardian angel, the personification of goodness and
     benevolence!"

     "Do you know the story of St. Anthony? How he was tempted by the
     Devil in the semblance of a lovely sylph, until all at once he saw
     the fiend's hoof appear from under the robe?"

That night, as Siegfried took leave of me, to drive home to Vernöcze, he
embraced me and kissed me on the cheek. It is many years since that
night, but many a night since then I have lain sleepless in my bed and
rubbed that eternally burning and smarting spot, and felt an almost
unconquerable temptation to take the operating-knife and cut out the
part which had been contaminated by that foul kiss.



XII.

THE DEVIL'S HOOF.


One morning my dear friend, Siegfried, came. "My dear Nell," he said,
"we held a party meeting yesterday, and it was decided that you should
be a candidate for Parliament. In fact, we have nominated you already."

"You are in a jocular mood, I suppose?" said I. "I do not understand an
atom of legislation and politics."

"Neither do I; yet I fill my place in the House of Lords, so will you
fill yours in the House of Commons. You need not stare at me, for I am
not joking. I am fully in earnest, and, now that the chalice is set to
your lips, you are bound to drain it."

"But I can't see why," said I. "I am not in the least fit for the
position, and am not going to make a fool of myself. I am a doctor of
medicine, not a legislator."

"And what does that matter, pray? The department of public health is
very much in need of a radical reform, and you are the very man to
advocate sanitary measures in Parliament. But this is all nonsense.
Hungary is not yet in a position to have all departments represented by
experts; what she wants at present is firmness to principle, strict
party fealty. The demagogues, the heretics, and the Panslavonians of
our country are preparing for a strong contest at the coming electoral
struggle, and we Conservatives must strain every nerve to defeat them,
and cause patriotism, religion, and aristocratic rights to triumph. Our
party believes that you are the man to represent these principles, and
you can't decline to accept such an honourable mission. Do you not love
your country? Do you want her to become a prey to infidels, or
Panslavonic conspirators, or to the mob? You would not have the
descendants of the Hussites dominate Hungary? Are you not a Catholic
Christian? You are brave; you have strong principles, and you are an
excellent orator. You are the man we want, and there is an end of
arguing."

"Very good! But there is a practical side to the question."

"Yes. If the other parties come off victorious, the agrarian movement
will grow too fast for us. The Socialist rabble is preaching the
assessment of all land, the abolition of the congrua taxes,[3] and the
abolition of our feudal privileges. This is the prose or practical side
of the question, my friend."

[Footnote 3: Congrua taxes are the taxes paid by the parish members to
their curates or priests.]

"There is another still," I persisted, "and I must speak plainly. You
know that I have no money for political enterprises. My own money is in
official custody; but, even if it were not, and I had so much money at
my disposal that I did not know what to set about in order to get rid of
it, I should not waste it in buying myself a seat in Parliament. I
remember well what politics did for my father, and how much it cost him.
But, besides this recollection, the idea of corrupting the minds of the
electors and of making drunken animals out of decent and intelligent
labourers for two or three weeks is repulsive to me. It is entirely
against my conscience."

"Now listen to me. In the first place, no one asks for a penny of your
money, so it is no business of yours to inquire or care about it. What
is the use of party funds, I might ask? Then, what have you to do with
the details of the campaign? I am head-drummer, manager of the canvass.
You need not give a single bottle of wine to anybody, unless you want to
regale your friends here in your house; but that is quite a different
thing, and has nothing to do with the election. There is one thing you
must remember. If you offer venison and champagne to your electors, it
is called a banquet, and the papers speak admiringly of your bountiful
hospitality; but if you boil a sheep and open a barrel of sixpenny wine
or beer for them, then you are bribing voters, and corrupting the minds
of the innocent. So never trouble your head with a thought about these
things. I have made a bargain with every hotel-keeper or inn-keeper in
the whole county for that one day, and the voters may revel as they
please--at their own expense; that is, a dinner may be had for two
kreutzers, a supper for three, and the wine will be included in that
price. Who can forbid an inn-keeper to sell cheap viands? You will have
nothing to do with the whole business. Only, if some decent elector gets
his head broken in the spree, you will plaster him up, or sew him up, as
may be necessary. Up to the day of election you will not show yourself,
and only put in your appearance when they come to fetch you with music
and flags and all that flummery, and beg you to come and kindly accept
the mandate, which the chairman of the party is dying to hand over to
you. Then at the banquet you offer a toast to his Majesty the King, and
afterward you will accept of the torchlight serenade, which your voters
will give you, and perhaps speak a few gracious words; but that is not
essential, and you may hold your peace. At any rate, with that serenade
all your duties are ended."

"I should think they began with that--at least, according to my notion.
No, I can't accept. I can't afford to loiter about in Budapest, and have
everything here go to the dogs."

"What a greenhorn you are! You need not live in Budapest at all. If the
chief of the party telegraphs you that some great division is coming on
with respect to some important question, you go up, find the seat with
your name on it, sit down, and, when your name is called, you shout
'yes' or 'no,' according to the party's views, and then you travel home
again, and make your famous 'Lipto cheese.'"

"I have no intention of becoming a voting machine."

"There you are right. You are too spirited and much too talented for
that. You will deliver your maiden speech amid universal applause, and
become famous at once. You will be hated by the opposite parties, hated
and feared, and that will only stimulate your courage. You will be a
great man, and a blessing to your country. You can engage a trustworthy
man to manage your estate, and do well under such an arrangement; and
you will give your talent and your faculties to your country and your
party. It is your duty, and you are not the man to shrink from an
acknowledged duty. Besides, out of friendship for me, you cannot refuse.
I have positively staked my word on your acceptance; and then there is a
request from the party, with a hundred and twenty signatures. Look
here!"

He showed me a sheet of writing, with a long list of badly-scrawled
names underneath a few lines of writing. I still hesitated, when
Siegfried smiled, and, taking from his pocket a little bit of a letter,
perfumed with heliotrope, handed it to me.

"My aunt sends you this."

I broke the rose-coloured wax, and drew out a tiny piece of
bristol-board with the signature of Countess Diodora Vernöczy. Its
contents were as follows:--

"Pray accept the nomination."

That was all. But what all the persuasions, all the allusions to
country, race, patriotism, and religion had not effected, these few
Hungarian words, written in a fine, aristocratic hand, did at once. They
persuaded me, and I accepted. Yet I had never seen the lady who had
written these words, and did not even know whether she was young or old,
beautiful or ugly! She was a woman, and that sufficed. No! the Devil is
not dead; here is his hoof.

How I triumphed and how I fell I have told you already. If I had the
gift of Virgilius Maro, and could speak or write in hexameters, in such
verses I would compose the "Æneid" of my career as a belligerent. As it
is, you can read it all, described in somewhat unflattering language, in
the Hungarian newspapers of the period. There is a whole history of
bribery, corruption, intimidation, and similar crimes committed in my
name, related in those papers, and you may read of the horrible fraud
that was practised in offering the vote of a dead man. The epithets
"cheat," "deceiver," "liar," and so forth were freely and frequently
attached to my name; and then followed the shameful annulment of the
election, and I was sent home--a broken, disgraced, snuffed-out
wretch--a dead man, indeed!

There is something fearful, something terribly cruel and unjust, in such
a moral cudgelling to death, for those who cast the stones are not a
whit better than their victim. A common criminal, murderer,
counterfeiter, or forger may procure a pardon, and rehabilitate himself
in time; but a man that has furnished society with amusement and been
laughed to death is never again allowed to hold up his head and show his
face. I was nearly mad with shame and disgrace. What should I do with
myself now--now that I was nothing but a broken tool--I, who might have
been a scientific celebrity, a light in the profession? I could not go
back to Vienna for very shame. A flouted, ridiculed man cannot be a
doctor. A doctor must be respected, trusted, even revered, like a
priest. For me there was nothing but to hide myself in my own house,
shut the doors against everybody, and live the life of a hermit--the
life of my Uncle Diogenes.

I need not have shut my doors; not a soul demanded admittance. I really
think my dear friends made a circuit around my château when they had to
pass through my village.

The first day I remained shut up in my room; the second I paced the
garden walks in a furious rage; the third I noticed that I had
shamefully neglected my uncle's dearly-cherished garden since I had
abandoned myself to the mania of politics. The carefully tended Isabella
grapes wound their tender twigs up and around an apple tree; the roses
were full of water shoots; the American lilies choked up with dead
nettles. Wasps' nests were hanging from the branches of the trees, and
giant ants had built their pyramids on the foot-path; and the hedgehogs
boldly invaded the lawn as I passed. As I strolled, my eye fell upon a
little flower which I recognised as a favourite from my dear mother's
garden; I observed a glowing alkermes, an Oriental corn-rose, then again
an artichoke, overgrown with vile weeds. All at once I found myself
working away with garden-knife, shovel, and spade, pruning, weeding, and
tying up the twigs and branches, just as Uncle Diogenes had done.

By night I had smoked out the wasps, put the little bower to rights,
and, hardly knowing how or why, I had gone into my uncle's
turret-chamber instead of my own bedroom. And why not be as he had been?
I asked myself. Here at least I could meet with no shame, no
disappointment, and no deception. All was well. I should be a gardener
in summer and a museum-keeper in winter, and so the time would pass with
me as it passed with him. No doubt, in time, this solitary, secluded
life would not be so irksome to me as now. The social instinct would die
out; and, left to rural pleasures and occupations, the polish would be
rubbed off me, and in appearance also I should be as my Uncle Diogenes
had been. I gave up shaving, dressed shabbily, and ordered a dinner of
pork and potatoes, which disgusted me. I ceased to drink wine, because I
was no toper to enjoy drinking alone, and in the course of two or three
days I had a hearty indigestion, which at least recalled me from my
self-tormenting course so far as my inward man was concerned. In outward
appearance I had a beard of a week's growth, wore a pair of coarse
breeches and high top-boots, because in low boots I could not ramble
about in garden and field as I did.

My valet was in despair; the good old man had known me for years, and
was very faithful to me. Of course, he dared not ask questions, but he
threw me such appealing glances that I was strongly tempted to pour out
all my burning shame and rage to him, since I had nobody else to make a
confidant of. It was a very, very miserable time, and it lasted
something more than a week--a week, I say! I thought it a century at the
least.



XIII.

THE VALKYRS.


It was about ten or twelve days after my discomfiture, and a beautiful
afternoon. I was standing in my front garden, attired, as I usually had
been of late, in coarse breeches, muddy top-boots, a not very clean
linen blouse, and a broad, rough straw hat on my head. My face was rough
and adorned with bristles. I do not think that anybody coming upon me
unawares would have taken me for anything but a Slav garden labourer.

Presently I heard the gallop of horses, and, looking through the new and
very handsome iron trellis in front of the building, I saw three Amazons
riding up to the house. I did not know them, and supposed them to be
strangers in the country, approaching in order to admire the curious old
building. They wore long black riding-habits, all three alike, with blue
veils tied around their high beavers and entirely concealing their
faces. One of them was a real Zenobia figure: tall of stature, regal in
gait, a magnificent creature! The second was tall and slender, and slow
and stately in movement. The third was a tiny little figure, but full of
nervous vitality and energy. Opposite to the verandah of my house they
checked their horses, and looked through the trellis at me as if they
expected me to run out, and give them the desired information. The
tall, slender lady rode nearer to the gate and looked haughtily in,
while the little girl-rider cried out:

"_Tu y serais_!" Then she beckoned the groom, who was waiting behind
them, to come nearer and hand her a little wooden case with a round
glass set in at the front--a little photograph-apparatus.

"Well," thought I, "these are amateur photographers, and Dumany Castle
has apparently pleased their eye, and they want to immortalise it in the
pages of their albums--an interesting object!"

I was standing near the fence, by the side of a flowering rose-bush. I
held a spade in my hand, and was just in the act of putting it to its
proper use when the lady directed her camera toward me. I thought it was
rather a clever performance for a person on horseback.

"_Ne remuez pas, mon cher_!" cried the lady, as I lifted the spade. Of
course the Slav gardener, whom I resembled, was bound to understand her
French prattle. So there I stood, with uplifted spade in hand, until the
lady had finished her picture, and then she released me with a "_Merci,
mon garçon_!" and I, hardly able to keep my composure, answered in Slav,
"_Dobri nocz, mladi panyicska_," which means "Good night, miss!"

The ladies broke out into a merry laugh, returned the apparatus to the
groom, and rode off, laughing because the slender lady had been included
in the picture. I laughed also as I looked after them, and I said to
myself, "Now I shall not utterly die, '_non omnis moriar_.' The Valkyrs
have come to pick up the fallen hero and carry him into their Walhalla,
which in all probability is bound in morocco leather with silver
clasps."

The same evening I had another surprise. My friend Siegfried drove up to
my house, sprang from his barouche, and, seeing me, he ran up and
embraced me tenderly.

"So you know me still?" asked I.

"Know you? It would be no wonder if I had not recognised you as you look
now! Do you know that with a week's growth of beard and moustache a man
looks like a gorilla?"

"Well then, I look like the progenitor of mankind, if Darwin is to be
believed."

"I say, it's high time I came! otherwise you would cease to be a
Christian, and become one of those detestable naturalists." With that
Siegfried ordered his coachman to walk the horses about, feed them,
water them, and prepare for the drive home after supper. So I had to
give orders for a supper, and remember that I was not yet my Uncle
Diogenes, but his nephew and a gentleman, and this friend of mine a
veritable Count, who expected me to give him a good supper. "After
supper you must come with me," said Siegfried, decidedly.

"I! Where?"

"To Vernöcze, to visit me! Have you not got my letter?"

"I received a letter. I have it in my blouse-pocket yet, but--"

"You have not opened it, nor looked at it yet?"

"No. I thought that if anybody wrote to me now, he either wanted to
insult me or call me to some kind of a reckoning. I thought there was
time for both."

"Oh, you stupid fellow! Where is that letter? I want you to read it at
once!"

I took out the letter, opened it, and read:--

     "DEAR NELL,--Our party decided at yesterday's meeting to support
     your name at all odds against the ensuing new election, and carry
     you through at any cost. My aunt wants to inform you of some very
     serious matter, so she begs you to pay her a visit on Wednesday
     next.--Yours, as ever,

                                                              "SIGID."

The previous day had been Wednesday, and the letter had been in my
pocket for the last four days. I confess that I felt a glow after
reading these lines. Something like joy, like exultation, filled me,
that after all I was not dead and buried there in that house, not an
utter laughing-stock, and that my name was not hooted by friend and
enemy alike. I still had noble friends. They remembered me, acted for
me, endeavoured to avenge me, and rehabilitate me. It was an intense
feeling of relief, of pride, of happiness; but I tried to hide my
sensations and play the Cincinnatus a little longer. When Siegfried
said, "We expected you all day yesterday; but as you did not come I
concluded to come over and look after you," I replied, "I had not read
the letter; but if I had, it would hardly have been otherwise. I cannot
go from home at present."

"Why! what is the matter with you? You are not going to play Uncle
Diogenes, are you? Simple civility might have induced you to come over
to Vernöcze. You are due there for ever so long."

"You are very kind; but, you see, the Vice-Governor does not send his
sentinels to guard the iron chest with the money, and so I have to guard
it myself; and then, you see, I am busy budding my 'Marshal Niel' and
'Sultan of Morocco' roses--it is their season."

Siegfried broke into a merry laugh. "The dear boy is actually trying to
live after the pattern of that exemplary old uncle of his. Now, don't
make a fool of yourself, old fellow, and don't make believe that you
like baked potatoes and curds. I tell you I want a good supper, and
after that I'll take you with me. You can take your rose-scions with
you. My gardener will be thankful for them. We have a lot of
water-shoots in our garden."

We had a good supper, and after the first glass of wine I felt the gloom
vanish from me entirely. Siegfried had brought me good news. The new
election was to take place in twenty days. Our party was firm as a rock,
and the enemy was disheartened and short of money, as the Maticza
Society, which had given up all hope of driving me away from the estate,
would not furnish them with more funds. Now they had reunited to a last
desperate method, and their candidate was about to unfold the
anti-Semitic flag, in this way driving all intelligent, Liberal
voters--or those at least who assumed the name, and all the Jews with
their money, influence, and keenness--straight into our arms, so that
our success was undoubted. In order to silence all accusations of
bribery, of feasting the voters, and so forth, Countess Diodora,
Siegfried's aunt, was ready to keep open house in Vernöcze for our
political friends, and so there would be no need of engaging any public
restaurants or wine-shops. Siegfried told me that Countess Diodora was a
very active champion of our party, and very influential, too. Besides,
she was very much interested in me personally.

"I am sure I am very grateful to her ladyship, and shall take the
liberty of telling her so, to-morrow," I said--"the more grateful, as I
really do not know how I could have merited such an interest."

He smiled. "Merit is not everything," he said. "But Aunt Diodora is a
little vexed at your want of politeness. You should have come and paid
your homage long ago. Her ladyship really threatened the other day that
some day she would come over with the two little ones and fetch you, if
not personally, at least in effigy. They have photographic apparatus,
and are very clever amateur photographers."

I could not suppress an exclamation, and then I related the little
adventure of the afternoon. He laughed. "Oh, no question as to their
identity! Sure enough, it was my aunt and the girls! That queenly Amazon
is my aunt, Countess Diodora. You are surprised? I see, you supposed
that an aunt must necessarily be some aged, corpulent lady, fond of her
game of 'patience,' and secretly indulging in a sip. My aunt is but one
year my senior, and I am barely thirty. My aunt is a classical beauty,
highly intellectual, and very talented; quite a female phenomenon. That
tall, slender girl is Countess Flamma, a miracle of beauty and virtue;
and that tiny creature was the little Kobold, Puck, or whatever else you
may call her, Cousin Cenni. She is the most skilful photographer of the
three, and it was she who told you not to move, and took you with spade
in hand. That's the best joke I ever heard! How vexed Countess Cenni
will feel on discovering the mistake! She is a little vixen, and full of
mischief. If any of the young dandies tries to court her, she bids him
go bear-hunting with her and show his valour. My woods are full of
bears. I have shot three, but there are a lot of them alive still, and
they do a deal of damage. So, if Cenni invites you, which no doubt she
will, you need not be afraid of want of game."

I was dazzled, flattered, and surprised. What a difference between these
ladies of the high aristocracy and the daughters of our country gentry!
As if they really belonged to a different world, lived on a different
planet. One of them assuming the lead in politics, another bear-hunting
and photographing. The third, that tall, slender, somewhat haughty, but
modest girl, who had approached to admire my roses, pleased me best; and
then, too, their names--"Diodora! Cenni! Flamma!" The first domineering,
imposing; the second with a touch of the Bohemian or the gipsy; the
third bewitching, enticing, a flame! Oh, what a moth I should make!

I did not show much further resistance, but was willing enough to go
with Siegfried. I did not even take the trouble of locking the
turret-chamber, in which the precious iron chest stood, with my own
hands, but ordered my valet to perform that duty and take care of the
key. I went out into the garden, and cut all the blooming "Sultan of
Morocco" roses and carefully wrapped them up with wet moss; and all the
way I held them in my hand for fear of injuring them.

So the Valkyrs were indeed taking away the fallen hero to Walhalla,
their own abode.

"Where is Walhalla, and what is it like? Does anybody know? If only
somebody might return and tell us!"

"Well, I have been there, and I have returned, and I will tell you."



Part II.

I.

THE SEA-DOVE.


From Dumanyfalva to Vernöcze the high-road makes a circuit of a two
hours' ride, but we took a short cut by a cross-road through Siegfried's
deer-park, which is about ten thousand acres in extent. The whole park
was fenced in with high iron railings, and this fence alone had cost the
neat little sum of one hundred and fifty thousand florins. Yet it was
worth its cost, for, before its erection, the Vernöczys had to pay
yearly about twenty-five thousand florins for damage done by their game
upon the crops in the neighbouring fields. At the big iron gate a ranger
with two loaded rifles was waiting for us. He handed the rifles to the
two servants, and then took his seat on the box with the coachman.

It was a beautiful wood through which we drove--all of giant larch trees
of a century's growth, perfuming the air with ambrosial odours. The
bright rays from our lanterns attracted the deer, and they stood gazing
at us with their glittering eyes. One of the bucks bellowed at us, and
one of the little fawns came almost under the wheels. Pheasants,
startled from sleep by the noise of our wheels, soared above our heads.
From the depths of the forest mysterious voices met our ears: the
woodcock's hoarse call, the roebuck's deep bellow, the wild boar's
grunt, the squirrel's chatter, and the shrill cries which announce the
presence of the wild peacock. What a difference between this lordly
forest and my small twenty-acre park! Red squirrels, gray squirrels,
gambolling among the boughs, playing with acorns and hazelnuts;
thrushes, blackbirds, nightingales, and greenfinches, chirruping and
twittering, were all the game I had.

In vain we endeavour to bring high nobility and plain gentry into one
class. They are divided by the game-park. We are only visitors there,
kindly invited, kindly received, but visitors still, and we can never
repay the compliment. Therefore I consider we should always think twice
before we accept the invitation.

It was past midnight when we finally arrived at Siegfried's
shooting-box, a beautiful pavilion in the Swiss style, with a large
verandah to the east, facing the magnificent château. Between the two
buildings extended a clear, broad lake, with silvery willows on the
nearer side, and grand old lime-trees on the side toward the mansion.
Graceful white and black swans swam on the lake, and two tiny little
wherries lay ready for a boating excursion. The south side of the
shooting-box had "altdeutsch" windows of coloured glass, and wooden
shutters with heart-shaped perforations on the outside. On the nearer
side of the lodge was a beautiful green lawn and a few somewhat
neglected rose-beds.

The shooting-box was a comfortably large and luxuriously-furnished
building, and afforded accommodation for thirty guests. The couches in
the different sleeping apartments were all covered with deerskin
spreads, and the furniture was all in harmony with the purpose and style
of the building.

I left my window ajar for the night, so as to be up early, and my plan
succeeded. The dew still glittered upon the tender petals of the roses
when I was up and sauntering among the flowers. I had brought my
"Malmaison" and "Sultan of Morocco" roses with me, and also my
budding-knife and the sap for budding. "What a surprise for them," I
thought, "when they find these beautiful flowers instead of the wild
suckers." I had put my roses into a glass of water, and was now
preparing for the performance by cutting off the collateral shoots and
removing the inconvenient thorns. Just as I had taken one of the "Sultan
of Morocco" roses out of the water, I heard steps on the gravel, and a
musical voice cried--

"Gardener, do you hear?"

I turned around, and beheld two beautiful young girls hurrying toward
me. One of them, a tiny little creature, was of the blonde type, with
long, golden curls and a face of cream and roses. One startling,
bewitching little black mole was seen on one of the dimpled cheeks. Her
eyebrows were dense, of a golden-brown, and arched over a pair of large,
glittering brown eyes. The corners of her little mouth curved upward in
a smile, and the cherry lips were always open and moving. Her little
hands were busy gesticulating, explaining, acting, and never at rest; a
picture of the entire little personage.

The other girl was a tall, slender, willow-like figure, with raven hair
pushed high above the marble forehead. Her skin was clear and
transparent, but with hardly a tinge of colour. Her straight, black
brows and long black lashes overhung a pair of deep blue, or rather
sea-green, eyes, and her little coral mouth was so small that the idea
struck me that it must hurt her to speak, and therefore she liked to
hold her peace.

Both were in morning dress, appropriate to the country. The blonde wore
a dress of some sort of light Japanese silk, covered with a pattern of
great painted birds and flowers. The dark girl had a Nile-blue gown of
some light material, and in style somewhat resembling the Greek.

The verandah had prevented me from perceiving their approach. Now they
hastened toward me with the easy composure with which we meet some old
friend, or--a servant. Of course, I had no difficulty in recognising the
equestrian amateurs of the previous day, and it was easy to guess that
they repeated their mistake of that afternoon, by taking me for a
gardener. I had no intention of undeceiving them, and did not take off
my hat, but stood with the "Sultan of Morocco" between my teeth, and my
hands engaged with the budding-knife.

"Do you hear?" said the little blonde, now coming near; "cut me a bud
of these 'Gloire de Dijons.' No! one of these 'Marshal Niels'; not this,
the other, that is just opening!"

I was correctly dressed for the occasion, and quite in proper style for
a country visit: tanned shoes, knickerbocker jacket, Pepita waistcoat,
Madapolam shirt-collar, Bismarck _en colère_ scarf, Panama hat. "My
darling, does not that content you?" Still these girls took me for a
servant. Well, let it pass!

I cut off one of the roses, and began to pare off the thorns with my
knife, when she angrily stamped her little foot on the grass. "What are
you paring the thorns off for? I don't like a rose without thorns, I
want a rose with thorns; this looks stripped!" and, pulling the rose out
of my hand, she held it over to her companion.

"_Tiens! Ca m'embête_!"

To her she spoke French; to me, German. The girl took the rose without a
word; for her it was good enough without the thorns. I prepared to cut
another bud for the capricious fair one, when she asked, "What rose is
that in your mouth?"

"A Sultan of Morocco," I said, taking the rose from my lips.

"Give me this," with an imperative gesture.

"This is for grafting," I tried to explain.

"But I want it!" was the haughty reply, and she impatiently held out her
bit of a hand for the rose. I handed it to her, and for a moment she
buried her little nose in it and then tried to fasten it to her dress.
Presently a thought seemed to strike her, for she lifted the rose to
her lips, and then, turning to me again, asked--

"Has the Count returned home?"

"He has," I answered.

"He did not come alone? A gentleman came with him, did he not?"

I answered in the affirmative.

"Are they asleep yet, do you think? Which is his window?"

"Whose? The Count's?"

"No, that I know! The stranger's?"

"The one that is open," I said, wondering what she meant. She looked
around, and observed a double step-ladder standing in front of a tree.
"Bring that ladder," she said to me, "and put it in front of that
window."

I began to perceive her intention, and, much amused, I fetched the
ladder. "Shall I hold it?" I asked, with seeming innocence.

"No. Go back to your work!"

I submitted, and went back to my roses, where the other girl was still
standing. The little blonde vixen, as Siegfried had called her, went up
the ladder, throwing me a haughty glance because I had the impertinence
to watch her movements.

As I prepared for work again, I noticed that in the chalice of each
flower, two or more green cetonias were to be found. The cetonia beetle
is the deadliest foe of the rose, destroying it entirely, and since my
boyhood, when I used to practise gardening at home, and was taught to
kill a cetonia wherever I found it, I could not bear the sight of the
glittering, green beetle. I was just crushing one under my foot, when
the dark-haired girl near me cried out--

"Why do you kill that poor cetonia?"

"Because it injures the roses," I said.

"Well, let them alone! Who cares for the roses?"

"Who cares for the roses?" Is not that strange? A young girl taking the
side of the harmful destroyer against the innocent victim!

The blonde descended the ladder, and her face, her hands, and her walk
betrayed that she was vexed. I was very much amused. Was it not a joke
that she had climbed up to my window to present me with my own rose, the
rose she had taken out of my mouth? And was it not amusing to see her
angry, because I had had the sauciness to watch the movements of those
tiny slippered feet in pink stockings as they mounted the ladder and
revealed a bewitching little ankle?

The black-haired girl turned to her and complained--"See, he kills our
cetonias!" Whereupon the little one, with a queenly mien, stepped in
front of me and said--

"I forbid you to do that! Do not dare to hurt my cetonias!"

I could not repress a smile, as I answered, "I shall duly obey. I had no
right to interfere, as these cetonias do not belong to me."

"I really think that fellow is laughing at us!" said the little one,
with arching brows, when the other, who had been watching me for some
moments, made some whispered remark, and then the fair head and the dark
one were put close together in earnest consultation.

On one of my hands I wore an antique carnelian seal-ring, with my family
crest, and a large solitaire, the gift of a grateful patient. These
rings, rather unusual upon the finger of a common gardener, had caught
the eye of the dark-haired girl, and she could not but notice that my
hands and nails were not those of a labourer. For a while they looked
shyly at me, while they busied themselves in gathering into their garden
hats all the cetonias they could, as if afraid that, after their
departure, I should avenge myself by a general onslaught on their
_protégées_. Presently the blonde stepped up to me, and, touching the
carnelian on my hand with her finger, she said--

"Are you a nobleman?"

I answered by an anecdote.

"A German journalist had to translate an item on sea-turtles from an
English paper. He did not exactly understand what a turtle was; but he
know of turtle-doves, which are in German called _Turtel-tauben_, and,
as he did not want to trouble himself to look for the expression in a
dictionary, _turtle-doves_ it remained. He wrote of the bird, that it
comes out of the sea to the sand of the shore, lays its eggs in that
sand, carefully and safely scratching them in, and smoothing the surface
with its front paws. These front paws of a turtle-dove perplexed him,
and he did what he ought to have done before: he looked in the
dictionary and found that the sea-turtle was no dove at all."

"Hem!" said the little one, looking with charming astonishment at the
other girl; and then she turned to me again, and, lifting a threatening
little finger at me, she said--

"Now, don't you go and betray us to anybody. Promise!"

"You have my knightly word," I said; "_parole d'honneur_!" But, unable
to suppress my mirth any longer, I broke into a ringing laugh, and both
girls fled as fast as they could.

On returning to my room, I found Siegfried there. "My aunt's footman has
already been here to invite us to breakfast," he said. "When in the
country she is always an early riser, and so are the children. I wonder
they have not been running about yet. They used to."

I did not tell him that they had been running about already; but,
stepping up to the window, I found the rose which the fair girl had laid
upon the sill, and, fastening it in the button-hole of my jacket, made
ready to follow up the invitation for breakfast.

"Wouldn't you rather shave before going down?" asked Siegfried, with a
disapproving look at my face. "My valet has an easy hand, and is very
reliable."

"No, thank you!" I said, and with that I took his arm and we went down.

Near the lake was a mass of beautiful dolomite rock, a forerunner of the
high mountains further on. The face of the rock was all overgrown with
birch trees, and wild roses and other flowers were peeping out of the
thick moss and bush. At the foot of the rock was a clearing, surrounded
with pines, their drooping foliage forming a shady roof above the little
circuit of ground. In the wall of the rock was a grotto, overrun with
henna leaves, hedge-plant, and other creepers. Out of one of the walls
of the grotto broke, murmuring and rippling, a clear mountain spring,
which, meeting with another and uniting with it to form a rivulet,
flowed across the flowery plain, emptying itself into the lake by a
series of cascades.

In the centre of this space the breakfast-table was set--the shining
silver, the glittering crystal, and the creamy china forming a pleasant
contrast to the rural simplicity of the chairs and table and the green
roof and walls above and around.

Countess Diodora was already there, expecting us. The two girls were in
the grotto, pretending to be busy with the preparations for breakfast.

Countess Diodora was strikingly handsome. Tall of stature and fully
developed, her movements had all the elasticity of youth and all the
majesty of a goddess. Her Creole complexion was in harmony with the
great almond-shaped eyes, the Minerva forehead, Grecian nose, and
shell-shaped mouth with its coral-red lips. Her head was crowned with a
tiara of heavy black tresses, more precious and beautiful than any
artificial ornament.

Siegfried led me to her and presented me with the following words--

"At last I am able to introduce my hitherto invisible friend. Do not be
amazed at his present resemblance to our common progenitors, the
Simians--that is, if we believe the evolutionists; but our friend here
has no intention of claiming that affinity. His sprouting moustache and
beard are a token of patriotic zeal, and a sacrifice upon the altar of
national idiosyncrasy. Henceforth he will be known as a Hungarian in
appearance also, and nobody will be justified in calling him an
Austrian."

The lady smiled at the humorous introduction, and extended both her
hands, which were somewhat large, but magnificently shaped. Could I do
less than kiss both? The smile that flitted over her queenly features
gave her the appearance of a veritable goddess.

"Is it not odd," she asked, "that we know each other so well, yet have
never met until this moment?" Her voice was a rich, deep contralto, and
very sweet.

"I have already enjoyed the happiness of seeing your ladyship," said I,
smiling.

"Indeed? And where?"

"In my own garden. If I am not greatly mistaken, your ladyship and the
two young ladies, your cousins, were yesterday at the pains to
immortalise me by taking my photograph."

"Impossible!" she cried. "It could not have been you! With the spade in
hand, and--oh, it is too odd!" And she broke into a loud laugh.

A laughing Pallas! The two girls ran but of the grotto to see what the
staid Diodora was laughing at. "Come on, Cenni," said the lady to the
little blonde: "here is the gardener of yesterday; the one you have
photographed along with his garden."

But by that time the little one knew me well enough; she had recognised
the rose in my button-hole, and, with pretended anger, she ran toward
me, took hold of the collar of my jacket, and gave it a hearty pull.

"You are an artful and dangerous cheat and deceiver--that is what you
are!" she said. "Why did you deceive us this morning, and make sport of
us? Let us treat you as a gardener, and send you on errands? Why did not
you tell us who you were?"

Siegfried came to my help. "How could he? He did not know you; maybe he
took you for your own maids. If you had told him who you were, he would
have returned the compliment."

"But you won't betray us to anybody?" she said, holding up, as if in
prayer, her little hands, that looked like the delicate petals of the
white lily. "You won't tell anybody of our conversation at the rose
bushes? If you promise, I'll give you a kiss; I will, indeed!"

"But, Cenni!" cried Countess Diodora, shocked, "what expression is that
again?"

The little one looked like a scolded school-girl, who does not know what
crime she has been punished for, and said, poutingly--

"But I want him to keep the secret, and I must give him a reward."

"You always forget that you are no longer a little girl of twelve
years, but a grown-up young lady, although, God knows, you do not look
like it!" said the countess, with a humorous shake of the head.

"Now you great debater and future lawgiver, what do you say to this
offered reward? Answer _ex tripode_!" said Siegfried, laughingly.

"I say that I am no usurer, and cannot take unlawful interest," I
replied.

"Bravo! bravissimo! A usurer! Unlawful interest he calls a kiss! Oh,
what a moral fellow!" cried Siegfried; but Countess Diodora observed
that breakfast was waiting, and that we had time enough for ventilating
academic questions afterward.

At the table I sat between Countess Diodora and Countess Flamma. The
latter turned to me, and said in her quiet and sober way--

"But I discovered soon enough that the sea-turtle was not a sea-dove,
did I not?"

"What are you talking about sea-doves?" asked the countess; "it seems
you have secrets in common already."

I opened my mouth to answer, when the little blonde opposite to me
sprang up and put her little shell-coloured hand to my lips. "No
betrayal, if you please! You have given your knightly word!"

"I am mute!" I said, bowing to her with a smile.

"I declare!" said the countess, "knightly word, turtle-dove! Why, what
mystery is this? Flamma was complaining something about the cetonias."

"Oh, that is nothing," said Cenni, lightly, "and that may be spoken of;
but the 'step-ladder,' the 'Sultan of Morocco,' and the 'sea-dove' are
strict secrets, and never to be mentioned anywhere."

Siegfried clapped his hands in surprise. "Riddle after riddle! and to
think that I myself have brought this boy to the house only last night
for the first time in his life, and introduced him not an hour ago,
and--talk of his being shy in the company of ladies!--he is head over
ears in conspiracy with both of the girls, when I thought he had never
seen them, and they did not know him at all!"



II.

"WHAT IS THE DEVIL LIKE?"


"We not know him?" asked the little one. "Why, we have his photograph in
our album! Only he looks much nicer there. Such a Lord Byron face!"

"Well, this is really audacious!" cried Siegfried, "with such a face to
appear before ladies! Coarse and stubby like that of a Slav
field-labourer, and yet such a young lady as that calls it a Lord Byron
face! Now I see that the old proverb is right, and a man has to be but
one shade handsomer than the Devil, for women will find him handsome
enough."

"Only that the proverb is a paradox in itself. The Evil One is not ugly;
on the contrary, he is beautiful!" said Diodora.

"_Quien sabe_?" answered Siegfried. "I have seen his portrait in the
Greek churches, in a large wall-painting, and there he is represented as
a bandy-legged, ox-tailed, black-faced monster, with a pair of big horns
on his forehead. Then, again, I have seen the Devil in the opera, as
Göthe and Gounod's creation of Mephistopheles in _Faust_, and there he
wore a goat's-beard and red-feathered cap, was a little lame in one leg,
and had a baritone voice. He was not in the least beautiful."

"You ought to read Klopstock, then, and Milton," said Countess Diodora.
"Their Devils are enchantingly handsome men, with pale faces, and deep,
sorrowful eyes; and that is the real demon-type as given by the
classics: for, originally, the Devil was not known as an evil spirit,
but was an angel. Only he was haughty and ambitious, and tried to rival
and dethrone the Almighty. It was after he was defeated, and due
punishment was dealt to him, that he became the representative of Evil,
and, after the creation of man, the tempter and seducer."

"So part of the Devil's corruption is due to man kind," said Siegfried,
ironically.

"If you read the Cabalists and Gnostics you will learn how sinful pride
had its downfall, and the angel fell. Still, in all his humiliation and
his banishment from grace and glory, he never lost his beauty, and this
is natural; for who would listen to the temptations of an ugly monster?
A seducer must needs be handsome. In the old Jewish Scripture, from
before Moses' time, the Evil Spirit is represented by a woman, Lilith,
the ideal beauty. In the same manner Menander has painted Sybaris, and
of Socrates it is said that he lived in intimate friendship with the
demon."

Siegfried had made a desperate onslaught on the sandwiches; now he
turned in comical vexation to me, and said--

"Friend, brother, help! for this learned woman is slaying me with
pandects, and, if the Devil has such a champion, what can poor I do
against him?"

It was a difficult task. If I said that she was right, she would scorn
me as a simple, empty-headed flatterer. If, on the other hand, I tried
to contradict her, she was sure to conquer me with arguments. So I
thought I would plead scepticism.

"Indeed, I can't," was my reply. "All I have to say is that I do not
believe in the existence of an actual Devil at all. I positively deny
the existence of evil spirits or devils."

"Ah!" said the countess, astonished and seemingly dismayed, "do you know
that such a negation includes a denial of the fundamental truths of all
religion also? Turn wherever you will, and you will find that the Roman
Catholic faith expressly commands us to believe in the Devil. The
Protestants, with Martin Luther at the head, have in speech and writing
gone so far as to compose a whole Shamanism of the Devil's special
qualities; and so on in all positive religions. Are you an infidel, a
so-called Freethinker, and not a Christian?"

At first I smilingly referred her to Becker's "Bewitched World," which
made all belief in an actual Devil completely ridiculous, showing to
demonstration that such a being is simply impossible. She answered me
with Spinoza. I again spoke of Thomasius, whereupon the countess
declared me a Rationalist.

Siegfried smiled, and smoked his cigarette complacently, and the two
girls listened innocently and wonderingly to the strange dispute.

"You see, my lady," said I at last, "I am a physician, and I know of no
bodily or mental ailment that is without some foundation or reason. I
know of miasmata, spores, bacilli, as sources of bodily diseases, of
inherited or fancied maladies, infections, contagions, and their proper
remedies: vaccination, disinfection, prophylactics; but an invisible,
immaterial spirit, which we ought to know by the title of Devil, has
nothing to do with any of these. All evil-doers, murderers, etc., are
prompted to the mischief they do by some abnormity in their brains, or
by some powerful egotistic motive, as jealousy, revenge, greed,
ambition, etc.; but the temptation is always material--a benefit they
want to secure by their crime--never a spiritual Devil. We may fairly
say that all crimes committed without a visible motive are founded upon
lunacy, a disorder of the brain. I do not believe in one being, either
corporal or spiritual, that would do mischief purely for mischief's
sake, out of evil principle, of pure malice. I do not believe that any
being exists which would inflict sorrow on others just in order to
rejoice at the despair of the victims. The so-called hellish passions
and inclinations in man are really created by that which is beneath him,
the animal part of him, the material element, and it is superfluous to
look to that which is above him, a spirit, for a motive."

As I pronounced this conviction, the four persons present looked at each
other and then at me, in wonder and defiance, but without a word. For a
moment a chilly presentiment crept over me--a shadowy warning that the
declaration I had just made would prove the _fatum_ of my life.

As a physician, I had given very much attention to disturbances of the
mind; nervous distractions, diseases of the brain. In lunatic asylums I
had had frequent opportunity of observing the different manifestations
of extravagances of the mind diseased. There are cases in which
simulation is identical with the symptoms of actual insanity, others in
which it is mistaken for such; but still the simulator is never quite
sane. I had speculated about the hidden motives of apparently motiveless
crimes. I had seen a gallant youth, whose noble, manly features inspired
love and confidence, and who yet had murdered many victims of his
bestial desires; had lured them on, and killed them.

I had seen a tender, innocent, pleasant-looking young girl, with a
winning smile on her ruby lips, after she had poisoned all the members
of her family in turn; and I had known a miracle-working virgin, who had
for years and years befooled and deceived aged and experienced men. All
these and more I had seen, but all had possessed one common peculiarity
which betrayed them as belonging to that large and unhappy class we term
lunatics, and their mental disorder was revealed in a clear, glittering
glance, cold and keen as a steel blade. The moment that unlucky
assertion had escaped me, I saw my companions stare at each other and
then at me, and in the eyes of all four of them I clearly discerned and
recognised the same cold, keen, and gloomy expression. I felt a shock of
terror, and then I laughed at my own folly. A professional habit of
mentally examining and distinguishing all persons as sane and healthy,
or diseased, I thought, and I tried to joke the matter away.

"Let us make a bargain, countess! We will leave the demon to those who
cannot spare him; for there are people who would greatly protest against
being robbed of their devils--as, for instance, some Western nations who
worship him instead of God. They say God is good, and won't hurt them,
anyhow, but the Devil must be bribed by compliments to keep him from
doing mischief. Therefore they raise altars to him, and set up his
images with many ceremonies. The Yakoots and Chuckches believe in a
double creation, and think that all good things are created by God, and
all bad things by the Devil."

"It would not hurt you to be of the same creed," said Countess Diodora.

"For instance, to believe that the rose was created by God and the
cetonia by the Devil," I replied, smilingly.

"And why those?" she asked. "My niece has complained to me that you
crush these beautiful little beetles to death. In what have they
offended you?"

"Offended me? Do you hold me capable of such petty malice? I kill the
cetonias because they are the deadliest foes of the rose; or, rather, as
they love the rose, and in loving destroy the flower, I must call the
cetonia the most dangerous friend of the rose."

"However, the beetles are necessary to my nieces, and therefore they
must live."

"Necessary?" I cried. "How so?"

The blonde girl went into the grotto and, returning, brought with her a
large teak board, upon which a Chinese sun-bird was enamelled. The bird
was only half finished as yet, but it was the most artistic, tasteful,
and delightful enamel-work I had ever seen, and all of it was composed
of the delicate lids of the beetle-wings. The cetonias vary in colour:
some of them are red with a tinge of gold; others green and gold; others
again the colour of darkened copper, and still others in a metallic
blue, like steel. All these were carefully arranged and pasted upon the
teak board in a wonderful mosaic, the sun-bird's head and wings
consisting of red, its neck of blue, and its breast of green
cetonia-wings. I looked admiringly at the work. So, then, they had not
protected the cetonias out of some sentimental fancy for them, but for
industrial purposes. This changed my conception of the matter entirely;
for the better in some respects--in some for the worse.

"So you save the life of the beetle in order to rob them of their
wings?" I asked them, reproachfully.

"These are only their winter wings which we take off; their summer wings
they keep, and we give them their liberty again. It is summer now; they
have no need of their winter wings at present."

Well, this was girlish logic and philosophy: I have taken what I wanted,
you must make the best of what I have left you. Rather a striking piece
of egotism!

"Do you know that the cetonia contains poison?" asked I.

"What kind of poison?" was the inquiring response, given with great
quickness.

"The poison," I said, evasively, "that gives the motive to the Bánk-Bán
tragedy."

At these words Siegfried puffed a whole cloud of tobacco-smoke full in
my face, and at any other time I should have strongly resented the
insult; but this time he was right. The explanation was, even as an
allusion, objectionable in the presence of girls. Nevertheless I could
perceive through the cloud of smoke that the pale face of Flamma had
coloured violently, and that Cenni pouted and pushed the sun-bird away.
The innocents were not so very innocent, after all.

"Is not this beetle identical with the holy scarabæus of the Egyptians?"
asked Countess Diodora.

"No. Because the cetonia lives on roses; and of the holy scarabæus
Herodotus tells us that he dies of the odour of roses. As soon as the
roses begin to bloom the scarabæus vanishes."

This interested the girls, and we continued the subject. I told them of
the South American Hercules-beetle, that is as fond of liquor as any
human tippler, and I really thought that I had succeeded in turning the
conversation from the horned devil to the horned beetle, when Countess
Diodora said--

"You are too much of a naturalist. This won't do, and you must try to
amend. To deny God is bad enough, but He is kind and forgiving, and the
infidel may yet be saved; but to deny the Devil is sure destruction, for
the Devil knows no mercy, and he takes his revenge on the insulter."

I looked up astonished and met her eyes. Again I detected that
bewildering cold glitter, and with an involuntary shiver I turned away.



III.

THE FOUR-LEAVED CLOVER.


The same day our political friends and partisans came, and we held a
conference. From that day on I was a daily guest in Vernöcze, and when
occasionally I spent a night at home in my own house, next morning I was
sure to feel restless and uneasy, and persuaded myself that political
reasons required my presence in Vernöcze, and that I must make haste to
go there.

A number of times the illustrious ladies of the Vernöcze castle
descended from their lofty situation to pay a visit to my lowly house,
and on these occasions I played the host, and set before them what my
cellar and buttery afforded. Then I conducted them through the chambers
in which were stored my late uncle's beloved curiosities, and I told
them of the horrors of the olden time, and the history of this ancient
seat of my family. There was the story of a walled-up wife and murdered
lovers, and we had our "Woman in White" and our "Red Templar," who, at
the stroke of midnight, duly stalked through locked rooms and corridors,
and performed all the actions that could be expected of real and
respectable ghosts. These phantoms the countess rather envied me, for
Vernöcze could boast of no such token of old nobility; yet the
Vernöczys were counts and the Dumanys only plain gentry.

Of course, I was an ardent admirer of the three fairies, only I could
not exactly tell which of the three I admired most. Countess Diodora's
philosophical intellect impressed me as much as Countess Cenni's unruly
activity; and Countess Flamma's pensive silence affected me none the
less, and I looked at her with the reverential awe of the priest before
the Holy Virgin.

Only one thing puzzled me. Here were three beautiful, gifted, high-born,
and wealthy young women, and not one of them had a real, earnest, and
sincere suitor. Of course, there were a number of young aristocrats
paying court to them, and very much inclined to carry on a little bit of
flirtation; but all in an easy-going, although certainly very respectful
and distant way; but of a real, true attachment I could perceive no
sign. Once I had ventured a remark to this effect in Siegfried's
presence, whereupon he explained that the two younger countesses were
mere school-girls yet, and nobody would have the audacity to think of a
serious courtship in that quarter as yet, while, as to Countess Diodora,
she would never marry at all. She repudiated the very idea of marriage,
and would no doubt, sooner or later, enter a convent as abbess.

This explanation, to tell the truth, did not satisfy me. If the two
young ladies were such forbidden fruit at present, why bring them in
constant contact with young men? And, as to Countess Diodora's
intention to become a nun, I had my strong doubts. True, she was
religious, even to bigotry, but she was not averse to the pleasures of
the world, and I did not believe in her inclination to give them up of
her free will. I rather believed that men were afraid of her, for such
learned and strong-minded women can be only the wives of yet wiser and
more strong-minded men, or else of fools, who willingly become their
slaves.

To me Countess Diodora was conspicuously kind, and showed me an
exceptional preference--that is, she did me the honour to select me as
her antagonist in debate.

When she supported one paradox, I would support the opposite, and we
kept up a constant battle with intellectual weapons. She was a great
reader; so was I. She had travelled a good deal; so had I, and, as it
chanced, we had observed the same countries and scenes. On art,
architecture, literature, I gave judgment with the same startling
audacity as she, only that my opinions were in direct opposition to
hers.

Still in matters of politics our views were harmonious. I had the same
Conservative principles as she, and I heartily agreed with all that she
uttered on that point. This was the first step to our mutual
understanding. The second step was taken when we joined each other in
defence of our principles against persons of opposing views; and the
third step, which lifted me not only to a level with my new and
beautiful ally, but even above her, was gained by me in a controversy
on professional science, with especial relation to physicians. The
countess, in a very spirited bit of banter, ridiculed the whole
profession and its science, stating that, in her belief, our entire
pathology, therapeutic, etc., was not worth the sand strewn over the
prescriptions. She declared that in the treatment of internal maladies
medical science has made no progress since Galen's time, and our most
renowned professional celebrities are no wiser than Paracelsus. Our
medicines, according to her opinion, were either baneful poisons, or of
no higher sanative power, at the best, than the waters of Lourdes. She
also was afflicted with bodily pain at times, but never yet had she
submitted to any professional treatment. No physician had ever entered
her bed-room or parted the tapestry hangings around her bed, and never
yet had she tasted of any kind of medicine.

I listened complacently to her talk, and did not interrupt her with a
word. After she had finished, I said--

"Allow me to contradict, and, at the same time, convict you. You have
never spoken of your special ailment to me up to this moment. I have
never heard of it before this, and I need not put any questions either
to you or to others in regard to it. Yet, by simply looking at you, I
can tell you from what you are suffering--that you are a victim of
occasional nervous attacks of greater or less severity, and I can tell
you exactly how these paroxysms commence, what symptoms they show, and
all the particulars of your ailment."

She stared at me, quite perplexed. "You are right!" she said at last,
and there was not a man alive who could boast that she had ever said as
much to him. She asked me how I came to know or to guess the nature of
her sufferings, and I told her that I had had great experience in the
treatment of nervous disorders, and that her case was by no means
hopeless. That although it was impossible to entirely and permanently
cure the disease and drive away its attacks, yet it might be greatly
diminished. The paroxysms might be reduced in duration and violence, and
that without administering any poisonous drugs--simply by proper
massage.

"Then I am sorry that we have no female physicians as yet; for I would
never submit to that treatment from a male physician."

"And do you know that this shrinking is one of the symptoms of the
malady, and at the same time its main foundation?"

"How so?"

"Because, if your views of propriety were not distorted, you would apply
for help in time, and not wait until you are past cure; but you grow up
with the conviction that it is a shame and a degradation to confess your
physical weaknesses to a male physician, yet you are by no means
ashamed--nay, you consider it a duty and a virtue--to confess your
mental and moral failings to a priest, although he is a man as well as
the physician, and the sins you confess are sometimes more degrading and
shameful than the sores of your body."

She looked at me for quite a while. "Again you are right," she said, and
with that broke off the conversation.

At that period, every day brought some political meeting or party
conference, and the leaders of the coming elections, head-drummers, and
subalterns swarmed into Vernöcze, bringing all sorts of news, asking for
all sorts of information, and Countess Diodora was at the head of
everything--presiding at the councils, assisting them all with her
advice, never tired, never slackening in spirit or courage, and never
forgetting her position as hostess--and a bountiful hostess, too.

When the discussion approached the financial question, she said to me
with rare delicacy--

"This is no affair of yours; leave that to us. You can meanwhile go and
look for the girls in the park."

And I, in spite of my professional sagacity, in spite of the knowledge
and experience I had gained, I was such a greenhorn--such a simple
fool--that I actually believed in the existence of a fund raised for the
especial purpose of sending such shining political stars, such rare
celebrities, as the Honourable Cornelius Dumany, into Parliament, there
to enlighten the minds of his compatriots, and to be a blessing to his
country; although, if any one had asked me how I had deserved to be held
in such high esteem, I could not have found an answer! Oh, vanity and
conceit! How easily you are caught in the meshes of cunning deception!

The "girls," as they were invariably called, were on the lawn looking
for four-leaved clovers, and the little blonde declared that she was
bent on finding one, for whoever found it first was sure to be married
first. I laughed, and, looking down, I saw one little quatrefoil just at
my feet. I gathered it, and presented it to the little blonde countess,
but she refused to accept it. "No," she said, "everybody must keep his
own fortune. You have found the leaf, and you will get married first,
and within the year."

"Ought not I to know something of the coming happiness in advance?" I
asked, smilingly. "Surely I can't get married without my own knowledge!"

"Just you keep quiet. Mockery is not becoming to you; but tell us in
good earnest, why don't you marry? You ought to."

"Why, then, in good faith, I do not marry because the girls that would
not reject me I do not care for, and those that I might care for would
not accept me."

"How do you know? First tell us what qualities a girl must possess to
make you care for her."

"Well, I suppose I must obey your ladyship's wishes. In the first place,
then, she must be young and pretty; then she must be intellectual,
prudent, and well educated; and, finally, she must have a kind heart
and a sweet disposition; if she is merry and bright also, I shall like
her the better. Yes, there is something else: I should like my future
wife to be always elegant and stylish, and I should like to give her a
splendid home and keep her in luxury; but, as my own little Slav kingdom
is not sufficient for my notion of the term, therefore she must also
have a fortune of her own. Yet, if a woman, or let me rather say a young
girl, should possess all these qualities at once, which I think
unlikely, I would not take her if I were not fully convinced that she
married me for love. So, you see, with these pretensions I am likely to
live and die a bachelor."

"Not necessarily. I, for instance, know a lady who answers to your
description as if you had drawn her portrait."

"Indeed? You seem bent on proving that the four-leaved clover was a true
prophet of marriage. You want to make the match?"

"Why not? But, indeed, I am speaking in good faith. Why don't you marry
Aunt Diodora?"

"Because I have more sense than those poor birds who shatter their heads
and beaks in flying against the reflected rays of the lighthouse."

"I don't understand the simile."

"Do you know the story of Turandot?"

"No. Novels and comedies I dare not read yet; but I should like to know,
for Aunty Diodora is nicknamed 'Princess Turandot.' I have often heard
her spoken of by that name. I think that Turandot must be a fictitious
creature, who tortures all her suitors to death, for aunty is also very
unkind to them. Only that is no fault of hers; it is her misfortune to
have nobody sue for her hand except simpletons. All these sweet-spoken,
flattering, aping, thought-snatching, cajoling, empty-headed wooers my
aunt calls monkeys, and not men. A man must have the courage to oppose
her, defend his own opinion against her and all the world, to gain her
respect and her confidence. This you have done. Oh, we girls know well
enough what impression a man has made on another girl!"

This was a startling confession. Here was a little girl, who was treated
and spoken of as quite a baby; yet, in spite of her unacquaintance with
novels and comedies, she seemed to be very well versed in all matters of
love and matrimony.

"Yes," she continued, "I have noticed it plainly enough, and quite
frequently. Whenever you are away she is gloomy, and melancholy, and out
of spirits; but, as soon as she sees you or hears your voice, she
brightens up and is good-humoured and pleasant. When, the other day,
Flamma and I had made some remark about you--some light jest--she gave
us such a sermon! telling us that men were all so different, and that
you were, among them, like a real diamond among coloured glass. Oh, if I
could tell you all! But you are proud and disdainful, I see. Perhaps you
want to wait until Countess Diodora Vernöczy makes you a humble offer of
her hand, and then maybe you would be proud, and consider about it."

"Perhaps I should. Give me leave, ladies, to tell you a story--the
history of a very intimate friend, and from beginning to the end true to
the letter. I shall invent nothing."



IV.

THE HISTORY OF MY FRIEND.


As soon as I promised them a story, the two young girls sat down on a
low bench beneath a jasmine bush, and I sat down on the bowling-green at
their feet; or, rather, I kneeled there before them. Do not think that
we were left without a proper guard, for we could be seen from the
balcony of the house, and on the mountain-ash tree was an old
missel-thrush that kept on chirruping and twittering, "Take care, you
boy! take care!"

The young ladies had stripped a heap of the slender Pimprinpáre stalks,
from which they began to braid chains and other ornaments, while I
related the following story:--

"My friend is a descendant of the noblest families of Hungary, and a
count by birth. During the Revolution of 1848 he was one of the bravest
and most heroic defenders of the national cause, and his great personal
attractions, manly beauty, athletic strength, intellectual power, and
high moral integrity, united with an iron will and the tender heart of a
woman, made him distinguished above many. Of him it was said that, even
as a man, he obeyed every command of his mother, but could never be made
to obey that of any potentate of the world."

"Is that paragon of a man alive yet?" asked Cenni.

"He is. Only he is an old eagle now, for our friendship dates from the
time when he gave me a ride on his knees, while I blew the whistle he
had brought me. During our national struggle for liberty in 1848 he
served as a captain of the ---- Hussars, and, after the Russian
invasion, and the final overthrow of the national cause, he made good
his escape to England. Of course, his lands and goods were seized, and
he was sentenced to death; but, as he could not be caught and hanged in
person, he was hanged in effigy--that is, his portrait was nailed to the
gallows.

"The same high qualities which had distinguished him at home
distinguished him abroad. A great many Hungarian refugees had found a
home in England, especially in that gigantic metropolis, London; and it
is said of them, in general, that of all political emigrants they
behaved best. They never quarrelled, never grumbled, and never
conspired. Everyone hastened to find a mode of earning a decent living
for himself, and none of them were too proud or too lazy to work. Every
one of them was honestly and diligently engaged in some business.

"My friend had some acquaintances among the English nobility, and he was
soon introduced, and speedily became at home in English high life. Among
those aristocratic families with which he had frequent intercourse was
one in which there was a young girl, an orphan and an heiress. She was
beautiful and intellectual, like Countess Diodora, and competition for
her hand was naturally high among the young and old bachelors, and
marriageable men of their set. Singularly enough, the young stranger,
who never thought of such good fortune, at last felt compelled to
believe that the open preference the lady showed him was more than
common courtesy, and more than the friendly, even sisterly regard with
which most ladies of his acquaintance honoured him. He could not but
admire her beauty, her grace, and accomplishments, and he was ready and
willing enough to fall in love with so much charm and loveliness. His
courtship, if so it must be termed, although the lady was doing the
greater part of the wooing, was short and successful, and they were
married.

"The marriage took place on the Isle of Wight, at that time the
favourite haunt of the Hungarian refugees. Two of the latter, the one a
renowned politician, the other a famous general, were witnesses, and the
wedding breakfast was quite an event. But when, after the bridal cake
had been cut and the toasts drunk, the guests retired, and the young
couple were left alone, the fair young bride said to the happy groom:--

"'I beg your pardon for leaving you to your own company, but I must
retire to change my dress, for my yacht is waiting, and I shall start
for France in two hours.'

"He gazed at her in utter amazement 'Why, dearest,' he said, 'don't you
know that Louis Napoleon denies us Hungarians even the privilege of
passing through France, and that for me to go there is equivalent to
imprisonment, possibly death?'

"'I know it, and I do not ask you to accompany me. I shall go there
alone. I yearned for independence and liberty, and for the coming years
I could get it only as a married woman. I was in need of a husband, or
of his name, and my choice fell upon you, because I did not dare to play
this trick on one of our English Hotspurs. Of you I know that you are
too gentle and too noble withal to injure a woman. So good-bye to you,
count, for I do not think that we shall ever set eyes on each other
again!'

"With that the fair goddess left her husband of two hours' standing,
humiliated, stunned, without money, bereft of his former occupation, to
which, as her husband, he could not return; left him for ever; and he
was such a gentle fool that he did not even for a moment think of
revenge upon the woman who had robbed him of the last and only treasure
he possessed, his spotless name and honour, and had ruined him for ever.

"For twenty-five years the poor victim of the fair deceiver could not
with decency extricate himself from the meshes of the net which she had
thrown over him. After some years he found a good, pure, and true heart
that was full to the brim with love for the unhappy man--so much so that
she sacrificed position, family, and reputation for his sake, and
accompanied him from country to country, through danger and poverty,
sharing his cares and troubles, and consoling him with her love and
fidelity. To this woman, who was his real wife, he could not give the
legal name and position she merited, and the curse that had been laid on
his own life was heavy upon his innocent children, for he could not
carry them to the baptismal font, could not christen them as his own. In
England he could not secure a divorce, to France he could not go, and
home to Hungary he dared not come. For twenty-five years he dragged
these heavy chains on his weary limbs, until Hungary had risen from her
prostration, had become a constitutional state with a free Parliament,
and had crowned her king, and called home her banished children from the
nooks and corners of the world. Then only, when again at home and in
full possession of his ancestral castle and estates, then only a legal
divorce set him at liberty and left him free to bestow his name upon his
faithful, loving companion and their children. But when that time had at
last arrived, my friend was an old man with silvery beard and a bald
head. The fairy that was the cause of so much suffering had taken
nothing of him but his name, of which she was in need; but what is a
name? Nothing but the lid, the tender coverlet of the beetle's wing. She
did not kill the poor beetle, and she set him free; he was allowed to
live with his winter wings."

During the recital of this story, Cenni's rosy countenance was crimsoned
through and through, while Flamma's pale face was overspread with an
almost deadly pallor, and, as I spoke the final words, the girls looked
at each other in silence. "So, you see," I continued, "if such a thing
could happen to a man like my friend, the bearer of a great name, noble,
brave, accomplished, and handsome, what would be my fate if I should
attempt to do what he did--marry a beauty and an heiress? I, that am
nothing but a runaway doctor, an expelled Member of Parliament, and a
Slav King! one who, from his appearance, is mistaken for his own
subject."

"No! no!" said Cenni, taking hold of both my hands, "there you are
mistaken, and--and I am sure you do not know your own worth!"

At that moment the jasmine-bush was parted, and Siegfried's voice asked,
"May I take the liberty to interrupt these tender confessions?"

At the sound of Siegfried's voice we all sprang from our seats, and
Cenni, throwing the chain she had braided on his neck, said, "You are a
great, naughty, good-for-nothing fellow! What do you want?"

"This noble and gallant knight of yours. He is wanted by his
executioners--that is, by the election leaders that are to be."

The two young girls laughed, and ran to the little lake for a boating
trip, and I asked Siegfried, "What do these men want from me? What is
their business with me?"

"Oh, nothing!" he said, coolly. "They have not come; it is I who have
business to speak of with you, and quickly, too, for I may be too late
already. My dear boy, even a friend has something that he wants to keep
for himself and does not want to share with his dearest friend--his
love! You are making love to Cenni, although you must have seen that I
am over ears in love with her myself."

"I have seen nothing of the kind, and I give you my word that I never
thought of making love to her."

"Possibly so; but then she makes love to you, and that renders matters
worse yet."

"I assure you that your jealousy leads you into error."

"Oh! Do you think we have no telescopes in the house? I have witnessed
the last interesting scene as if I were on the spot."

"Then I can only wish that your hearing might have been as much
increased by some instrument as your vision by the telescope, so that
you might have heard our discourse, and not guessed at it by sight."

"Did you not find a four-leaved clover, and offer it to Cenni?"

"Yes, here it is; take it, my boy, and marry your Cenni, with my
blessing!"

"Take care! I may take you at your word!"

"And welcome! I'll be your best man."

"That's a bargain. And, now that I see that you are really not going to
play the traitor with me, I'll tell you the whole truth. I am mad with
love for Cenni; and then, too, she has a million florins from her
grandfather, and this money would come in well to help me carry out my
plans. But my aunt does not consent to give the girl to me. She says I
am a libertine, a _frivol viveur_, etc., and she won't take the
responsibility of trusting me with the dear child."

"Tell her you will reform, you will change after marriage."

"That I have repeatedly tried, but she refuses to believe me. Then
there is that million. As long as the girl is unmarried and a minor, my
aunt takes her revenues, and, among her other accomplishments, my aunt
is a very fair accountant. She has found out that the girl cannot eat
figs and candies in a year to the amount of sixty thousand florins, so
she is not over-willing to part with her at all. But I am not going to
play the Tantalus for years, and run the risk of having the girl
snatched from me by some jackanapes or rascal or another. Pardon!"

"Never mind! I shan't pick up the 'jackanapes' or the 'rascal.' They do
not belong to me."

"Then help me carry out my plan. Do you promise?"

"By all means."

"Thank you. But let me unfold my plan. Cenni and I will be married
clandestinely behind Aunt Diodora's back. My aunt is sometimes subject
to severe neuralgic attacks, and, as she never calls a physician and
never takes any remedies for her pains, she suffers all day. During
these paroxysms of her nerves she remains all day in a darkened room,
and will not allow anybody to stay with her but Flamma. That kind soul
is with her at such times, administering to her comforts, smoothing her
pillows, etc., and in return she is allowed to read Flammarion, or one
of Verne's harmless fictions, in the adjoining sitting-room. On such
days Cenni is entirely at liberty, and not watched by anybody, because
that sleepy governess the girls have is hardly worth mentioning. Now
listen. I keep here, concealed in my shooting-box, a priest--a Capuchin
monk--Father Paphuntius. He seems to be a jolly good fellow, and he has
an open hand. In the park there is a little memorial chapel, erected by
one of my ancestors in honour of St. Vincent de Paul. In that chapel we
will exchange vows. You and Muckicza shall be my witnesses. Now you have
given me your promise, will you stick to your word?"

"By all means! Only after the marriage is perfected give me leave to run
away as fast as possible; for I should not dare to look your aunt in the
face after such perfidy on my part."

"_Au contraire_, you shall not run, for you must stay and help me out
further. I have chosen you in your capacity as physician to persuade
Diodora to swallow this bitter medicine. She will take much if it comes
from you, and I really believe you have magnetised her. It will be your
mission to break the fact of the accomplished marriage to her, and
persuade her to give her consent, since the matter is irreparable. You
see, we cannot afford to quarrel with her, for she has four millions,
and is not likely to marry at all."

I hesitated, but he begged and prayed--"My dear friend," "My own Nell,"
and so forth--until I gave way, and promised to do all that he wanted.

When I had finally promised him he pressed my hands, and then turned
away and buried his face in his silk pocket-handkerchief. Was this to
hide his tears or--his laughter? _O sancta simplicitas_!



V.

HOW ROSES ARE INOCULATED.


The same day, after luncheon, Countess Flamma turned to me with the
question--

"Would you mind teaching me the process of inoculation? I am greatly
interested in roses, and should like to see how the scion is set into
the stock."

"With ever so much pleasure," I said, pleased that the pale, silent girl
showed an interest in my favourites, the roses, and turned to me for a
favour. Countess Diodora gave the required permission for the lesson,
which was to be given and taken while the others were playing
lawn-tennis on the adjacent grounds. Flamma was a bad player, anyhow, so
she might take to horticulture meanwhile.

When the whole company were on the grounds, Flamma and I stepped up to
the rose-beds, and I began to explain to her how, in the first place, a
T-shaped incision has to be made on the stock, when presently she said,
in a low whisper, "Take care of yourself."

I thought she meant that I should cut my fingers with the knife, when
she repeated her warning again, mid more explicitly, "Take care; they
mean to play a bad joke on you."

I looked up amazed. What could she mean?

"Who?" I asked.

"Don't look at me, but continue the explanation and demonstration. Never
forget I am taking a lesson, for we are closely watched."

"Thank you. So now we take a carefully chosen scion. Tell me, pray, who
wants to play that jest on me?"

"This scion is beautifully developed, let us take it--Siegfried."

"Siegfried? What does he intend to do?"

"Keep your hands busy, and do not look surprised. That clandestine
marriage, of which you are to be a witness, is a comedy. The Capuchin
monk, who is to perform the ceremony, is Seestern, the famous German
actor, who is here under an assumed name, as he does not want to be
pestered to play or amuse the others."

My hands trembled, but I kept on and said--

"Siegfried has sworn to me that he is madly in love with Countess Cenni,
and that he will marry her, come what may."

"What for?"

"What a question! For love, and--because--he wants the million florins
of her grandfather's which the countess has."

"Hand me the knife, for you will assuredly cut your finger, and give me
that scion, so that I may try to insert it. Cenni is no countess at all,
but the niece of Leestern and daughter of an actress, who at one time
did my aunt a great service, and, when dying, made Aunt Diodora promise
to take care of her little girl. Aunt gave her at confirmation the name
of Cenerentola, which we have shortened to Cenni. Her real name is
Klara. She has no other money or dower but what Aunt Diodora will give
her, which will not be much, for in money matters she is not very
liberal, and Cenni is called 'comtesse' because it suits Aunt Diodora's
whims. That million of which Siegfried spoke exists; but it is mine, and
not Cenni's. Is this scion well inserted?"

"No. I will show you the whole process again. What is Siegfried's object
in the deception?"

"You show too much agitation. Show me how to cut out the germ properly.
This is the plan. After the ceremony, on the day when Diodora is
confined to her room and I am with her, a festival banquet will be
spread in the shooting-box. It will be a noisy, dissolute company that
meets there, and Siegfried will drink most, be the loudest and least
well-behaved of the set. The bride will pretend to be afraid of the
groom, and at last she will break away from his hands, and ask the
protection of the only sober, sensible, and decent man present, namely,
yourself. The bridegroom will have lost all self-control through drink.
He will swear, and use all sorts of bad language, and the bride will sob
and entreat you to take her away, protesting that she hated the sight of
the vulgar wretch she had just married, but had been forced to do his
will, although he knew well that in reality she loved you, and you
alone. At last, growing desperate, she will attempt to leap out of the
window to escape from this place, even at the risk of her life. You will
take pity on her; her tears and charms will conquer your resistance,
and you will tell her to dispose of you for ever, and take shelter in
your own castle from the ruffian who was not worthy of the treasure he
had obtained. You will order your carriage, and take Cenni with you;
but, as soon as you have left, the fellow-plotters will mount their
horses, and, by a short cross-cut, arrive there before you, discover the
intended elopement of the bride, and carry off you and her as criminals.
You will of course offer to fight every one of them, until all, the
bride included, will burst out into Olympian laughter, and you stand
stunned and bewildered. But, pray, show me how to insert the germ
properly into the T-shape?"

My whole frame trembled with excitement.

"What is his object in all this?" I asked.

"To give you the usual 'jump,' as they call it in our set. If, for
instance, a member of some other class of society--in your case a simple
nobleman--is pushing his way into high aristocracy, he must be 'jumped,'
each in his own different way. One is made to drink until he makes
himself obnoxious even to his nearest friends; another is made to gamble
until he either wins or loses a fortune, generally the latter; but all
must 'jump,' and if they break their necks, well and good! It was
proposed to 'jump' you in courtship; you refused to aspire to Diodora.
In a duel you are not afraid of a fight, and so this course was decided
on. You had been 'jumped' already--at the election--but the triumph and
your downfall were not complete. Your vanity--don't start--was not yet
wounded to death, and you will have to 'jump' once more--once in private
and once at a second election. But this time you will not rise again.
Hopp! Hopp! That's the design. Don't look at me--that's all!"

I was fairly choked with emotion. "But why do they play that trick on
me? I did not want to enter their society; in fact, never valued it at
all; but I cared for Siegfried, and he lured me on with protestations of
friendship. What was his reason for that? What have I done to him to
merit this?"

"What have you done? You have provoked him--called him out. You said you
could not believe in the existence of a spiritual or corporal being who
would do mischief without a material motive, simply for the sake of
mischief and the pleasure he found in the despair of a fellow-being: you
did not believe that there are men who will afflict the innocent with
pain and sorrow, who will degrade, socially and morally humiliate you,
and then laugh you in the face and make game of you. Stay here, move in
our society, and you will find out your mistake! Why, what a sight it
will be to have the great debater, the candidate-elect, the sage and
learned doctor, and heir of old Diogenes caught in the act of robbing
another man of his bride! They will have a painter there to take a
sketch of the fine situation '_en plein air_.'"

At that moment one of the lawn-tennis players throw the ball just in
front of my feet, and Siegfried came running to fetch it.

"Well, have you profited at all by this lesson on inoculating?" he
asked the girl, and he added a remark which was so vulgar and
impertinent that he would not have dared to use the expression in a
variety theatre or any other low place of common entertainment.

"I have," said the girl, with low emphasis, and laid down the knife.

I was in such a state of anguish that I did not know for certain whether
the spot I was standing on belonged to this earth or was part of the
infernal kingdom, for the soil actually burned my feet. Countess Mamma
thanked me for the horticultural lesson I had given her, and I was so
much embarrassed that I repeated her own words verbally, instead of
giving her a courteous reply. Siegfried laughed.

"What an exemplary, bashful young fellow you are! Evidently you are not
used to teach young ladies such delicate lessons. Come! come! Don't
blush. Try your hand at lawn tennis."

And I went with him and played.



VI.

MR. PARASITE.


I have never given way to paroxysms of temper; not exactly because I was
naturally cool and collected, but because my profession had taught me
presence of mind and self-control. Violent wrath, violent terror, and
violent love could not attack me.

Countess Flamma's singular disclosure had made a twofold impression. My
first feeling was a painful regret that my most intimate friend, in whom
I had placed infinite trust and confidence, was a faithless deceiver;
and my second emotion was that of a burning curiosity as to why that
girl, a close relative of my cozening friend, had betrayed him to me--a
stranger. What reason had the one to hurt me, and what was the motive of
the other in warning me? For, as I refused to believe in evil spirits, I
also refused to believe in protecting angels.

"My dear friend, take care!" said Siegfried, throwing the ball at me.
The ball I did not catch, but the "dear" epithet I picked up; for it
struck me that the same phrase was often attached to my name as well as
to that of other less intimate acquaintances, and sometimes with a
special, humorous playfulness. Now I caught it. Of course I was their
"dear" friend, for did not I sit there and do nothing, and let them
waste their money on my election?

In Hungarian society, and I think in most other societies as well,
there is a certain person whom we call "Potya ur"--"Mr. Parasite." He
feeds at every board, sleeps in other men's rooms, is served by other
men's servants, uses other men's horses and carriages, and smokes other
men's cigars. When playing cards, he has invariably left his money at
home; so when he is a loser it does not matter, for he is not accustomed
to pay his losses; but, when a winner, he complacently pockets his
gains. He never pays for the flowers he sends to his hostess, never pays
anything or anybody; yet he is well lodged, well fed, well clad, and in
excellent spirits, for he needs them. His wit is his only resource, his
sole capital.

Such a Mr. Parasite, I thought, was I to these men, and I determined
that I would be so no longer. Surely I, who was formerly a physician in
Vienna, had no right to accept a nomination for Parliament in
Hungary--at other men's expense. They were right, and I had been an ass
and a coxcomb. When Siegfried told me that the party had decided not to
take a penny of me, but to secure my election out of party funds, I
should have remembered Chinese etiquette. If two Chinamen meet on the
street, Tsang will invariably invite Tsing home to dinner, and Tsing
will invariably refuse. Tsang will use all possible persuasion, and
finally fairly drag the invited one to his house, although the man
protests and struggles as much as possible. And well he knows why;
because if he should give way to the pressing invitation and go with
Tsang, the moment he entered the house his host would call him a rude,
unmannered peasant; for he must remember well that it becomes the one to
courteously invite, and the other to respectfully refuse. This is the
law of civilisation in China; and I had forgotten that law the second
time.

So, about Siegfried's motive I felt pretty sure; but what was that
girl's motive in betraying the whole plot? More! She had not only
betrayed Siegfried, her own cousin, to me--a stranger: she had betrayed
Cenni, her origin, her real name, and her kin; and, finally, what motive
had she in informing me that the million of florins was her money, and
not Cenni's? What was her motive in confiding to me such a secret in
such a mysterious and secret manner? Was it only kindness, generosity,
compassion, that prompted her, or--? No, I durst not go farther--as
yet--only I knew now beyond a doubt that, from the first, of all the
three fairies of the castle Flamma alone had aroused my interest and
sympathy. Her clear, transparent, pale face, her deep, sea-tinted eyes,
and her silent, cherry lips, so lovely when parted in speaking, had
attracted me from the first.

We were called indoors to partake of some iced coffee, and strawberries
with cream; but this time I had not forgotten Tsang and Tsing. I
refused, saying that I had a letter from the Vice-Governor, and was
expected by him; so I could not return until next day in the afternoon.

My excuse was accepted, and I took my leave. For a second the thought
flashed through my mind that I ought not to return at all, and that
this should be my last visit to the place; but, somehow, to that
rose-scion which I had taught Flamma how to inoculate I had
involuntarily and unconsciously tied that particular part of my being
which is known as the "soul."

Next morning I drove over to the county seat, and paid a visit to the
Vice-Governor.

Of course, he was as cordial as ever, and welcomed me as a dear friend.
"Well, what have you brought me?" he asked finally.

"This time a sensible resolution," I said. "I have come to give in my
resignation as a candidate for Parliament."

The Vice-Governor embraced, nay, fairly hugged me in his arms. "My dear
boy, that's a sensible thing, indeed: not from the view of the
Government party only--I don't believe that your party could have
carried the day with you--but in consideration of your own welfare. Just
sit down, and let me inform the President of the Board of Elections of
your resolution. I shall do that at once. Not for a world would I let
you reconsider this excellent idea. Perhaps you might be over-persuaded,
and 'jumped' again by your good friends."

Again I heard the expression "jumped," and I sat down to meditate over
it. "Have you told Siegfried yet?" asked the Vice-Governor.

"Not yet," I said; "but I think he won't greatly object."

"Who knows? But you will pledge your word that you will stick to your
resignation against all persuasion?"

"Certainly. I'll give you any oath you want, and--well, here is my hand
on the promise. My resignation is final."

"Then allow me to congratulate you, and to convince you, by action, what
a sensible conclusion you have come to. I should have withheld your
property from you until after election, for I feared that generous
nature of yours, and was afraid that, if you had free access to your
uncle's iron chest, your companions would soon enough have their fists
deep in it. But, now that you convince me of your good sense, here are
the papers which make you lord of the real and personal property of your
late uncle, and here is the package with the bank-bills. Pray open and
count them over. The county sheriff will go over with you to take off
the seals from everything, and put you in legal possession."

I thanked him, and put the money, uncounted, in my coat pocket. Then I
returned to our former theme, and asked the Vice-Governor if he really
thought that my nomination had put my party to very great expense.

"Think so?" he exclaimed, "of course, I think so! Why, my dear friend,
you are a new man, and considered almost as a foreigner and a scholar,
not a patriotic politician! But, if you are really interested in the
question, you can find out the exact figure which your nomination has
cost your party. Just go straight to the County Savings Bank here, and
ask the amount which Siegfried has drawn on bills signed with his own
name and that of his political friends as security."

I was stunned. "I never thought of such a thing," I said. "Siegfried
told me that he had money at home which he did not want for himself at
present, and could easily spare."

The official laughed. "Siegfried, and spare money! Why, what an innocent
you are! If he had money at all, he would leave it on the card-table, he
is such a gambler. The fact is, he is on such a sandbank, just at
present, that it will be fortunate for him if his barque ever gets
afloat again."

"How is that possible? I thought him very well off."

"He is more than that; he is very rich. His domains are large and
beautiful, and his income is princely; only he is of the opinion that it
is mean to keep money, and he spends in six months the income of a year,
and in this way he runs into debt. He has practised that for a
considerable time, and it cannot go on that way much longer. His only
resource is his maiden aunt, Countess Diodora. It is said--at least,
Siegfried says--that she hates men, and will take the veil to become an
abbess. In that case her estates will revert to him as next heir."

"H--m; and do you think Siegfried would feel insulted if I should go to
the Savings Bank and pay those bills of his? Or do you believe that his
friends would be offended if I took up all the bills, and paid all the
expenses I have caused them?"

"No; although they would pretend to be so for a while, in reality I
think they would be only too glad. But I will tell you something: you
are just such a generous, large-hearted, noble, free-handed fool as your
father was, and, if you go on the way you have begun, old Diogenes's
hoard will go after your father's fortune. Do you know what the two Ms
in the palm of your hands signify?"

"_Memento mori_," I said, smilingly.

"No. Mind money. It means 'Always mind your own money.' It is the best
advice I can give you, and the one you stand most in need of."

I thanked him, and took my leave: no more Mr. Parasite, but on the way
to earn the title he had given me--that of a fool.



VII.

A BRILLIANT GAME.


If I had had a particle of good judgment or common sense, I should have
taken the bills I had paid for at the bank to the solicitor who acted
both for Siegfried and myself, should have authorised that gentleman to
pay the twenty thousand florins Siegfried had lent me when I came into
possession of my house, and I myself should have written two pleasant
letters--one to Countess Diodora, thanking her for her great and
disinterested kindness and hospitality, and the other to Siegfried,
notifying him formally of what I had done, and, at the same time,
telling him that my resolution was firm, and that no persuasion on his
part would shake it. Then I should have thanked him for his friendship,
and finally have taken myself off with all possible speed to Heligoland,
Ostend, or some other remote watering-place. After an election campaign,
or, as in my case, nearly two campaigns, such an invigorating of the
system is very commendable.

All this I should have done as a man of good judgment, but, alas! I was
not such a man--at any rate, no longer. My judgment had left me, and it
would need a whole pathologico-psychological dissertation to explain how
the process of inserting a rose-scion into a stock can, in a period of
hardly an hour, convert a cool, sensible, and collected man into a
stark raving madman.

For a lunatic I was--no doubt about that. Now it was I who wanted to
play the game to the end, and to show to those five companions of mine
which of us could "jump" best. An angel had come to warn me, and had
given me a weapon against my adversaries; now I was bound to show her
that I could make proper use of the weapon. There was already a sweet
secret bond between us--her warning, and I was burning to find out the
cause, the fountain-head, of that significant partiality shown to me.
Why was the angel an angel? The question was all-important to me.

On arriving at home with the sheriff I found a letter from Siegfried,
and on the envelope the inscription, "_Ibi, ubi, cito, citissime_. N.B.
Dr. Cornelius Dumany, Esquire."

The contents of the letter were as follows:--

     "DEAR FRIEND,--Aunt Diodora has her nervous attack, and is
     dangerously ill. Pray make haste! _Periculum, in mora_. Bring your
     electro-magnetic apparatus with you, and come at once.--SIEGFRIED."

The gamekeeper had brought the letter, and said that he had strict
orders to wait for me, if it was until midnight. So I despatched my
business with the sheriff, gave orders for refreshments for him, and,
going into my museum, I took out a watch of the Apafy period, with which
I presented him, and made him perfectly happy. Then I picked out an
antique opal bracelet, which Cenni had found exceptionally beautiful,
and put it into my pocket as a present for the bride. I would take the
ceremony _bonâ fide_, and play my part as naturally as possible.

We drove through Siegfried's game-park, and at the cascades I was
expected by Baron Muckicza, the other witness. "You are expected like
the Messiah by the Jews," he cried, and leaped up to me without stopping
the vehicle. "Cenni and Siegfried are in the chapel already."

On arriving in front of the chapel, an old Gothic edifice, situated in a
large clearing in the park, we alighted, and I ordered my coachman not
to unhitch the horses, but to drive about, and wait for me at the gate
in about an hour or more.

We opened the little gate that led to a large stone crucifix in front of
the chapel, and found the vestry-clerk and a boy ministrant waiting for
us in the entry. Now they tolled the bell hurriedly and briefly, and
gave way to us.

Siegfried and Cenni met us in the chapel. He pressed my hand in evident
excitement, assuring me of eternal friendship and gratitude for standing
by his side at this turning-point of his life, whereupon I returned his
protestations with equal feeling. The bride, in a dove-coloured
travelling-dress, with a wreath of orange flowers in her blonde locks,
and a costly lace shawl as a bridal veil, was an exquisite image of love
and modesty. On seeing me she bashfully hid her face in her hands,
exclaiming, "Oh! what will you think of me?" and to Siegfried,
imploringly, "Pray let me go back to the house! My God, what a step you
have persuaded me to! Pray let me go back; oh, pray do!" But Siegfried
tenderly held her hands, and persuaded her to go to the good Father
Paphuntius, who was awaiting her in the shriving-pew to receive the
confession of her sins; for, as a good Catholic, she could not marry
unshriven. So she simpered and blushed a good deal, and went away to
where the Father, with clean-shaven face--evidently a Ligorian, not a
Capuchin--received her with a benediction.

It was a splendid farce, and admirably acted by almost all the parties.
There were two bridesmaids with somewhat rural complexions, and hands
which seemed to swell out of their number seven white gloves, as did
their robust waists from the tightly-laced silk bodices. Of course, we
called them "Milady," and spoke French to them, although it was easy to
guess that they were dairy and garden wenches, and the only language
they understood or spoke was the Slavonic. They blushed and giggled a
good deal, and did not feel very much at ease on our arms.

The ceremony took place in the most solemn and decorous way. Father
Paphuntius delivered a very impressive sermon on domestic virtues and
the fear of God leading to earthly happiness and eternal bliss. Bride
and groom kneeled down before the altar and exchanged their vows,
whereupon the priest bound their hands together and gave them his
benediction.

My hand itched, and I could hardly keep from loudly applauding the
acting priest or the preaching actor; but I did not forget that at least
the place of comedy was really sacred, although profaned by a parcel of
blasphemous roysterers, and so I held my peace and looked on.

After the ceremony, of course, everybody congratulated the new couple,
and I added the opal bracelet to my compliments, and received in return
a sweet smile from the fair bride. "You have robbed your collection of
its most precious treasure," she said, and "It will be made more
precious by your ladyship's acceptance" was my answer.

We wrote our names in an old register which was in the vestry. I
presented the excellent Father Paphuntius with six gold eagles, and the
vestry clerk was made happy with as many brand-new and shining silver
florins, while the boy received six glittering quarters--all in the
fashion of a real wedding. After that, the new Benedict gave his arm to
his bride. Baron Muckicza and I bowed to the red-faced damsels, with the
German phrase, "_Darf ich Ihnen meinen Arm bieten, mein Fräulein_," to
which they answered in classic Slavonian, "_Gyekujem peknye mladi-pan_,"
which means, "Thank you very much, young master." Then we went, _per
pedes apostolorum_, to the shooting-box, Father Paphuntius, of course,
accompanying us, to feast at the wedding banquet.

The table fairly groaned under the sumptuous meal. The newly-wedded
couple took the seat of honour. I was placed to the right of the bride,
and Musinka, the dairy-wench, sat next to me, as became her position as
bridesmaid. Next to the groom sat the priest, then Anyicska, the
garden-wench and second bridesmaid, and at her side, between the two
damsels (the table was round), sat Baron Muckicza.

We were in excellent humour and rather hilarious, and the affair was a
very lively one. At all such revels I have the peculiarity of never
drinking anything but champagne. All other wine I despise and scorn to
drink. Siegfried knew this well, and had given orders that, after the
trout, champagne should be served. The cork was drawn with a loud noise,
the wine foamed and sparkled in the glasses, but, when the servant came
to help me, I took the bottle from his hands to look at the label; for
there is a difference in the fluid, and Röderer and Röderer is not
always alike. There are certain symbolical marks on the bottles, well
known to connoisseurs. On some is a bee, on others an ostrich or an
elephant. On this particular bottle was a fly, and I threw the bottle to
the wall with such force that it broke into shivers, and the foaming
contents went splashing into the faces of the company. The reverend
Father had just risen, glass in hand, to drink a toast to the happy
couple, and Siegfried said, reproachfully--

"My dear fellow, you begin it too early; the bottle-breaking business
comes after the drinking, not before it."

"All right," said I, grumbling, "but if you have a physician as your
marriage witness, don't treat your wedding company with wine marked with
a fly. I know the effect of that poison."

He smiled mischievously, and, turning, he said in Hungarian, which the
Father did not understand, "Don't spoil the game. You'll have another
mark; this is for the Capuchin. I want to 'jump' him."

"Indeed!" I thought. "Well, I'll 'jump' you both." The mock priest was
standing with his glass in hand to begin his toast, when I turned to him
and asked--

"Is it not you, my dear Seestern, that plays the Capuchin in Schiller's
_Wallenteins's Camp_?"

The man stared at me, and fell back into his chair, with the classical
quotation "_Ha, ich bin erkannt_!" The bride shrieked, and, bounding
from my side, ran out of the room. The rustic bridesmaids stared at each
other, and asked, "_Csoeto_?" ("What does that mean?") and Siegfried's
fist came down hard on the table. "_Sacré de Dieu_! This is treachery!"
and taking hold of my arm, he asked, "Who was it? Who has betrayed this
little joke?"

I looked him innocently in the face. "Why, my dear Siegfried, it would
be unnatural if an old Vienna theatre-goer like me did not know
Seestern, the famous comic actor. I am no country cousin to be cozened
in that way."

"Well, evidently we have made the reckoning without our host," said he,
grumblingly. "But it is a pity. Such a capital joke it would have been,
and you would have laughed most. Still, it can't be helped, so we'll
make the best of the spoiled game. I see the prima donna has thrown off
her _rôle_, so you had better go after her, Seestern, and see her safe
to the château. Your monk's cowl is a protection in itself. Don't look
disconcerted; you can come back. Our revel does not end yet; it has
hardly begun. You, Muckicza, my dear boy, go out and get in the boys.
Tell them the hunt is over; the game has broken fence."

By this time one of the Slav girls had stuffed her pockets with French
candies and confectionery from the table, and the other drank off the
champagne from all the glasses near. Now Siegfried looked at them, and
imperatively motioned to the door. They hurried out, and "my dear
friend" Siegfried and I were face to face, alone. His face wore a gloomy
expression, and he said, in a courtly manner--

"Sir, I am at your service. Do you feel offended by this joke?"

I laughed outright. "I offended? Why should I? Nothing has happened to
me."

"But it would have happened. We intended to give you a little 'jump.'"

"And why?"

"Oh, for nothing! Only you look so funny with that gorilla beard you
wear on your face."

"Indeed? And pray how should I 'jump' as your marriage witness?"

"Has not the person who warned you betrayed the whole scheme?"

"Never you mind. I am not offended; quite the contrary. I like such
practical jokes, and have taken my revenge beforehand. I have played you
an equal trick: I have given my resignation as a candidate this
morning."

"You cannot mean it! Tell me, are you in earnest?"

"Dear me, no! I am joking; I told you so! But the thing is irrevocably
done, all the same."

"But how could you do it without consulting the party!--without telling
me! Thunder and lightning! this is no child's play, but a high game; and
there are thousands staked on it! How dare you play fast and loose with
us, after all the expenses you have caused us?"

"Oh, if I have a hand in such a game, I generally play it in the proper
way!" I said, taking out the wallet with Siegfried's bills, and putting
them all in a row on the table. "You see, this is the way I ventured to
do as I did."

He tried to play the offended man. "Sir, it seems you do not know--"

"Oh, everything, my dear count!" I said, laughingly; "only don't let us
make much ado about nothing. We have both had our joke, and now allow me
to beg you for my piece of pasteboard, on which you had the kindness to
lend me twenty thousand florins. Here, pray, let me hand you your money.
I have it ready for you."

He gave me my card, but refused the money. "It is paid already," he
said. "The amount is included in these bills."

At that moment Countess Diodora's footman came in, and Siegfried asked
if he had come to look for Countess Cenni. "No," said the man, "Countess
Cenni is in the château"--("What a good runner she is!" I thought)--"but
her ladyship, the Countess Vernöczy--Diodora--is very ill, and begs his
honour, the Dr. Dumany, to be kind enough to come and see her. The
ranger has saddled his horse, and is waiting for the prescription to
take it to town at once."

That was an honour indeed, and I lost no time in following the man, and
left Siegfried utterly amazed. "Why, Nell," he said, "you can work
miracles! You are a Cagliostro, and exercise some powerful, mysterious
influence! You must be congratulated on this victory. Fancy Aunt Diodora
consulting a physician! having a man enter her maiden sanctuary! It
would not be believed if I told it!"

At the portal of the château I hesitated for a moment. I had grown
suspicious, and suddenly it occurred to me that this might be some other
little practical joke, and part of the programme; but I dismissed the
thought as base. The countess was a woman--a sick woman; deception in
that line was impossible, at least in my profession. I could not be
"jumped."

In the château everybody went on tiptoe, as usual when Diodora had her
nervous attacks, but I did not heed that. My step was as firm as ever;
the reverberation of the physician's step is soothing to the patient,
and fills him with hope and assurance.

The servant conducted me to the room in which Countess Flamma sat; the
adjacent room was that of the sufferer. Flamma sat reading before the
lamp when I entered. She laid down the book, got up, and extended her
hand. "Diodora expects you impatiently. She is more excited than ever,
and has just driven out Cenni because she smelt of wine."

"So Cenni was here already, possibly for the sake of an _alibi_."

"Don't speak of that! She told me all that has occurred. Have you drunk
wine also, or is your breath pure? Bend down a little, so. You are all
right, and I'll take you to Diodora; only wait here a little."

She went in, but returned instantly, and beckoned me to follow her into
a boudoir lighted by a lamp with a shade of green glass. Rich tapestry
hangings divided the apartment. Flamma drew the hangings partly aside,
motioned me to go near, and left the room, softly closing the entrance.

So I was here on that sacred spot, the first and only male being alive
who had ever been granted the privilege of seeing the sublime Diodora on
her couch. Only her head and arms were visible--such arms as might have
been lost by the Venus of Milo and found by this, her divine sister. The
thick tresses of raven hair were uncoiled and scattered in rich skeins
on the pillows and the coverlet. One of the silken coils fell down
heavily to the carpet, and another was thrown high over the sculptured
ornaments of the mahogany bedstead. It was an _embarras de richesses_
rarely met with; and in the rich and precious braids the ivory fingers
were clutched, dishevelling them, tearing at them, in the excess of
pain. The beautiful face was pale and lustrous, the eyes bright and
glittering, surrounded by broad, dark blue circles; the lips were
parted, and the breath came short. Her hands were hot and dry, and the
pulse beat intermittently. When I laid my hand on her head and my thumb
pressed against the crown, she groaned--"Yes, there it is. Hell itself,
with all its tortures!"

My hands went down on her neck, between the _musculus cucullaris_ and
the _sternocleido mastoideus_. "Ah, that is the way the pain goes down,"
she sighed; and when I asked, "Will your ladyship give me leave to make
use of my skill?" she answered, "Don't call me 'ladyship'! I am no
countess now; I am nothing but a suffering animal, and you may call me
what you please. Give me the title of dog, so you can help me."

"Then pray sit up first, and let me gather and secure your hair; it
hinders my movements."

She obeyed; and, while I gathered the loose tresses and coiled them
around the head, the coverlet slipped down unnoticed, and the lace
nightgown, torn open by the restless fingers, revealed the marble bust
and shoulders; but for the physician, in the execution of his
professional duty, female charms do not exist. The warm, soft, creamy
skin is nothing to him but epidermis, _stratum mucosum Malpighii_; the
white, sculptured neck only the _regio nuchæ_, and then comes the _regio
scapularis_, the _deltoidea_, and then the _sacrospinalis_.

What a fuss they make about that ascetic who resisted the temptations
of the flesh when tried by the evil spirit in the shape of Lilith! What
would that famous saint have done, how would he have behaved, if he had
been called to rub this soft, velvety, odorous flesh, the fascinating,
peerless body, with his hands? Who knows if then the Catholic Church had
not boasted of one saint less? Indeed, indeed, we modern physicians have
more of the saint in our disposition--in general, of course.

The effect of the treatment appeared at once in soft, voluptuous sighs
of relief, deep and long-drawn; in the magnetic showers of the body I
recognised a sure token which that mysterious disorder in the veins,
lymphs, and nerves reveals in the ganglia. A firm pressure of the biceps
with full fist, a pressure of the thumb against the _rhomboideus_, made
her exclaim, "Oh, that has done me good!" Then she began to shiver, the
body ceased to be hot and dry, and perspiration set in. She laughed
involuntarily, her teeth chattering with cold, and then she sighed
again, and said, gratefully, "I feel as if you had saved me from
drowning in an ocean of hot oil." I was at the _regio palmarum_, rubbing
her hands and fingers, cracking each of them. "Thank you," said she;
"that will do. I feel much better."

But I told her that my work was only half done as yet and had to be
finished, or else the attack would return. The object was to gain
regular circulation of the blood throughout the whole body. This is no
witchcraft, but plain mechanical aid to the action of the live organism.

But now that her sense had returned, her bashfulness returned also.
"Could not the remaining part of the treatment be executed by a woman?"
she asked.

"Yes, if she has studied anatomy, visited the dissecting-room regularly,
and knows every particle in the structure of the human body; otherwise,
a quack may do just as much mischief with the pressure of her unskilled
hands on the outside of your body as with a bottle of quack medicine to
your inner system. It is hard to make you open your eyes to the fact
that the organic structure of the human body is a more wonderful, much
more admirable work of creation than the starry heaven. When, at a word,
the muscles of your face move to a smile of pleasure, or your eyes are
filled with tears of joy, sorrow, or compassion such a complicated
machinery is set in motion that no mechanical iron structure on earth
can be found half as involved or half as complete; and a person not
thoroughly acquainted with the qualities and parts of this wonderful
apparatus will prove a tormenting executioner, not a healing physician,
to the sufferer. Be patient, milady, the physician at the bed of his
patient is of the neuter gender--just as the angels are."

"Then--be an angel!"

I did my duty. The _musculus risorius_ was moving already. A happy smile
played on her face, the pale face regained its colour, and then the
involuntary smile gave way to involuntary tears. After this she fell
asleep; so deep, so peaceful was her sleep that the _aponeurosis
plantaris_ did not disturb her, although there are few or none who are
able to undergo the process of having the soles of their feet rubbed.

She slept, and there she lay in all her sublime beauty, like some
wonderful marble statue, the image of a goddess. I took the coverlet, on
which the Vernöczy crest--a nymph rising out of a shell, holding apart
her long, golden hair--was embroidered, and covered up the fair sleeper,
folding the blanket well on the feet to prevent evil dreams. Then I let
down the curtains to shut out the lamplight, and left the room.

On the thick, soft carpet, my step was noiseless, and Countess Flamma
was not aware of my presence. I entered the room in which she sat before
a little table, her palms clutched together, her pale, beautiful face
bent over a book. It seemed to be a very interesting book, for she was
entirely lost in the contents. I waited until she finished the page, but
she did not turn the leaf, but re-read the same page again and again.
"Countess!" I said, deferentially. She looked up and hastily closed the
book. The silver filigree cross on the purple velvet cover betrayed the
prayer-book. What prayer was that of which she did not tire, but read it
over and over repeatedly?

She gazed at me in evident wonder, and her eyes sparkled like two
shining orbs. "You have returned?" she exclaimed, as if in doubt of my
bodily reality.

"Countess Diodora is asleep," I said, "and will not wake until the
morning. Pray, take care not to disturb her."

"And--you--you--did not remain--there?" pointing to the room I left.

"I have done all I could, and my staying would be of no use to her. To
watch her sleep would do no good to her and be tiresome to me."

From the shooting-box shouts of revelry reverberated up to us. "You are
going back to them?" she asked.

"No. I have finished my business with Siegfried, and told him that I had
revoked my nomination."

"You have really done it?"

"Certainly. I have also paid the election expenses up to date, and
thanked Siegfried for his good intentions. Henceforth we shall be
friendly neighbours, but not friends. Now give me leave to say
good-night to you. To-morrow morning I'll drive over to pay a
professional visit to Countess Diodora."

"Don't go home now," she said, holding my hand; "the night is dark, and
something might happen to you. I have prepared a room for you here in
the château, with auntie's permission, and you will stay. Henceforth,
whenever you come to Vernöcze, you will come straight here, not to the
shooting-box."

The blood rushed up to my face, and then back to my heart with a
throbbing sensation. A tingling noise like the sound of bells was in my
ears, and for a moment the whole universe seemed to have but one real
fixed star--the fair, pale face before me. "Will you stay?" she asked,
with a sweet smile and a pressure of her hand; and I ask, Is there on
earth a Cicero or a Demosthenes so eloquent as the pressure of a
woman's hand when it speaks?

I thought I knew all. I had sounded the mystery of her warning to me,
and in that moment of overwhelming bliss I do not know what I did. Had I
kissed her hand? Had I said anything? given a promise or received one? I
do not know; but that my head was dizzy, and my heart filled with a
world of joy, that I remember.



VIII.

A BITING KISS.


The valet conducted me to the room assigned to me, and carried my orders
to my coachman to unhitch the horses, and send up my necessaries. "Will
it please your honour to take some tea?" asked the valet.

"Thanks," said I, "I won't take anything. But you will greatly oblige me
if you will send me a bowl with warm water; I want to shave."

"Certainly, sir. The chambermaid will fetch it at once."

I had resolved to shave. Good-bye to Chauvinism and national
peculiarity! I wanted a smooth, clean face, as I had had before I had
given way to vanity and political ambition. From this day on I ceased to
be a clay figure in the hands of juggling quacks. I was Dr. Dumany
again, and would remain so for life.

As I sat before the mirror, looking at my own face, I could not repress
a smile. That beard of a few weeks' growth lent me an appearance that
was nearly akin to that of a gorilla. I took a pair of scissors and
clipped off the hair; then I prepared the soap and razor for shaving the
bristles. A woman, whom I took to be the chambermaid, set a bowl of
water before me, and, as I am not in the habit of looking closely at
chambermaids, I said, "Thank you," prepared the lather, and commenced
shaving.

The woman was yet standing beside me, and, as I thought she was waiting
for orders, I said, without turning--

"Much obliged, my dear; you need not wait. I shall not want anything
this evening."

"May I not send you a cup of tea?"

I started, and the razor in my hand gave a great jerk, happily not into
my face: the woman I had taken for a chambermaid was Cenni.

"Oh," I said, "it is you!"

She laughed, and said, with a mock obeisance, "Yes, sir." But, looking
at me in the mirror, she laughed again, and said--"Only go on. I am
waiting for the Byron face to appear again, when these stalks are swept
off. We can talk a little meanwhile."

"Indeed? But, you see, there is one more forbidden subject between us.
There are four now: the step-ladder, the Sultan of Morocco, the
sea-dove, and now Father Paphuntius."

"It's astonishing how sharp you are; almost as keen as your razor. Only
take care, you may cut your own skin!"

"Not likely. My hand is skilled in using knives. Am I mistaken in
supposing that you have come to ask for secrecy on my part?"

"Not altogether. That was a part of my motive in coming."

"You magnanimously promised me a kiss for keeping the other secrets.
What will be my fee for this?"

"A bite, and yet a kiss. It will hurt you, and yet it is meant as a
caress--like those biting kisses which some over-fond mothers bestow on
their little ones, and make them cry."

"Thank you, I am ready to accept it, and shall do my best not to cry."

"Don't be too sure of that. Take care of the blade in your hand! I half
think I ought to postpone my revelations, because as long as this
shaving process serves you as a pretext for making grimaces, I cannot
clearly detect the real impression my words are making on you. Would you
mind laying down that razor for a while, and leave off making faces and
holding the tip of your own nose?"

"Impossible. I have heard of Janus having two different faces--one for
peace, smooth and smiling sweetly; the other for war, frowning and
threatening, and clothed with a grizzly beard. But I myself always show
an honest impartiality to friend or foe."

"Oh, I daresay that you condemn and despise me, for, foolish and
conceited as you are, you scarcely know how to distinguish between
friend and foe. You think the misfortune that little pleasantry would
have brought upon you highly important, whereas, if carried out as
intended, it would have saved you from real harm and real degradation."

"What? If I had played that game to the end and had caused you, the
pretended bride of another man, to elope with me, it would have been to
my advantage? Is that the quintessence of cynicism, or sublime
_naïveté_?"

"No. It is plain truth, and you will find it out with a vengeance! Only
then it will be too late for repentance. You have been told that I lent
my aid to play a trick which would have made you the laughing-stock of
all your acquaintances. I tell you if you had only gone on,
unforewarned, you would have come out a hero and the master of them all.
Only then you would have known me as I truly am, and not as I choose to
appear. I have been slandered to you, and you think me a she-devil at
least, because I like a joke, and look everybody in the face, and not up
to heaven like a saint, or down to earth like a sinner. I also look like
a bold word, and am no more a hypocrite in words than I am in deeds;
and, first of all, I never make use of calumny to gain my own ends. I
know who has told you that I was a Satanella. Flamma, the--'angel.' Of
course, everybody who is acquainted with us will tell you that she _is_
an _angel_, and that I am a devil at least, because I have cat's-eyes, a
sharp tongue, and a quick temper, whereas she has the face of a Madonna,
the disposition of a nun, and--she knows how to keep her own counsel.
Her mouth is only opened when necessary to her own purposes; in such a
case she does not recoil from the basest slander. Do you think I did not
watch you two at that rose-bed? That I did not notice the glitter in
your eye, the excited shaking of your hands? And do you know why she did
it? Because the day before I had boldly told you to win Diodora. That
she could not forgive me, and do you know why? You remember your answer.
It was when you told us the tragic story of your friend and the moral,
that you were wary of the caprices of aristocratic heiresses. Now--she
thought--if this is so? Here is a girl without a penny of her own, with
a mock title which does not belong to her; if he disbelieves in
heiresses, he may believe in her, and that is a state of things not to
be endured. Let us spoil that little private game of Miss Nobody,
because we have a reason for wanting the light-headed, easily-deceived
fellow for ourselves. But do you know that reason? Can you guess it?"

The knife was at my throat literally; but she laughed a short, harsh
laugh, and continued--

"Ha! ha! You come from them. You have been called to the divinity to
admire her in her sublime loveliness, and you have treated her as clay,
and played the _rôle_ of the Messiah, Who drove out the demons by the
touch of His hands. How she must despise you--nay, hate you--for that
proof of your preference for Psyche over Anadyomene! How that
sweet-winged creature, Psyche, must have pressed your hand, and looked
up to you with a sweet, promissory smile as you kissed her hand and
professed yourself her most obedient slave for ever after! Although you
ought to remember your friend's story well enough! When you told it, you
said, 'I am nothing but a runaway doctor, an expelled Member of
Parliament, and a Slav king'; now you shave your face and say, 'I am a
marvellously powerful man, and endowed with magical charms. I shall be a
king of hearts!'"

My face was smooth and clean. I poured some _eau de Cologne_ in the bowl
of water, dipped a sponge into it, and washed my face, drying it with a
soft towel. "Oh, you are quite handsome enough!" she said, mockingly;
"you can show your Byron face; 'I come, I see, I conquer,' is written on
your forehead. But now I am not jesting; and listen to me, or repent it
until your dying hour! If you succeed in winning the divinity you may be
a slave, but a cherished slave. You will not know the blessing of love,
but you will also be free of the pangs of jealousy and of shame. But
beware of the angel! I tell you, if that rose-scion which you both
inserted the other day germinates and comes to bloom, deadly despair
will be your lot, and the angel's rose will kill you with foul poison!
Beware, I say! Cut that scion while you have the opportunity, and then
go to the end of the world to be safe from the angel's revenge!
Remember, I have warned you!"

She had gone to the door, but at the threshold she turned and said--"I
have given you the biting kiss I promised. Much good it may do you!"

With that she went out, but her biting kiss had not hurt me. My heart
was full of hope and joy. This girl's impotent jealousy had convinced me
of the reality of my happiness. I was beloved, and I loved again; and
could the venomous tongue of a jealous woman incense me against an angel
like Flamma? True love is like pure gold, and the acid of calumny does
not destroy it, but gives new proof of its value. I loved Flamma, and
Flamma loved me. This was enough of bliss, enough to keep me all night
in a waking dream, in a transport of exquisite joy.



IX.

WHO IS THE VISITOR?


I waited impatiently for the daybreak. At the first dawn I was up and
dressed, and taking long strides on the garden path. How long would it
be until the ladies were up, and willing to receive me? Even the
servants were asleep yet. I strolled on aimlessly until I found myself
unexpectedly at the dairy, which was quite a grand establishment, where
twenty milch cows of the Aargau breed were milked daily, and a delicious
cheese manufactured. Siegfried had told me some time before that, as
soon as the railway was extended to the neighbouring town--a prospect
which was expected to be realised shortly--he would have a branch laid
on, at his own expense, to his dairy. Anyicska and Masinka, the two
bridesmaids of last evening, met me at the gate, and were very officious
in showing me in, and while Anyicska brought me a cup of excellent sweet
milk, Masinka brought some spongy rye bread, fresh from the oven, upon a
salver. Of course, this was offered as a bribe for my secrecy on the
topic of last night, and I promised them not to tell Countess Diodora
how they had been employed at the mock wedding. Poor things, why should
I betray them for obeying orders? So I graciously accepted my
hush-money, which was less subtle and more substantial than that offered
by the fair bride herself; and they told me that the revelry had lasted
almost until cock-crow. They all had capital fun. The Father had sung
highly amusing songs. The girls had been called back after my departure,
and then, with the other companions who were called in, the merry-making
had reached a very high pitch. Of course, Cenni had not returned to
them.

As I gave them my promise of silence they thanked me, and in return they
told me that, with my smooth face, I was a much handsomer-looking fellow
than last night, with that beard on my cheeks and chin; and I was
conceited enough to pocket the compliment and believe in its truth.

Breakfast was served to me in my room. The ladies were up, but Countess
Diodora was too weak to preside as usual at the breakfast-table. I
requested the honour of paying her a professional visit, and was told
that she would be glad to see the "doctor."

The room in which she received me was a magnificent _salon_, with a
balcony in front. When I entered, the doors and windows were wide open;
the rays of the sun darted through the filmy lace curtains; it was a
"_tableau en plein air_" that met my eye. Countess Diodora, in a
mauve-coloured silk dressing-gown, rested on a settee. Before her was a
little Venetian mosaic table, and on it a tea-tray. Diodora seemed to be
in excellent spirits, and looked beautiful; the suffering of last night
had not told on her complexion the least bit. She wore a black lace
scarf to conceal her hair, which was still in the state in which I had
coiled and pinned it, except that a great ornamental tortoise-shell
comb, of yellow hue, had been thrust into it. Opposite to the countess,
on two embroidered stools, sat the two girls, engaged in finishing the
Japanese sunbird; and in the balcony door stood Siegfried, smoking a
cigarette, and blowing the smoke--in consideration of his aunt--out of
the door. I thought it would have been more considerate still if he had
not smoked at all. As I entered, the thought seemed to occur to him that
the business of smoking would be best despatched on the balcony, so he
escaped the difficulty of looking me in the face. Cenni also found a
pretext for retiring; she took the tea-tray from the little table and
left the room with it. Countess Diodora, Flamma, and myself remained in
the room. I asked the countess how she felt, and whether she had enjoyed
a peaceful sleep, and she answered, with rapture--

"I slept deliciously, as I never have before since my childhood; and I
had such delightful dreams! I fancied I was a child again, and rambled
in the garden chasing butterflies. You have worked miracles, and
henceforth I shall believe in you as in an oracle. I revoke all I have
said against your profession and science, and confide myself entirely
into your hands. The first touch of your hand had a magic effect on me,
and afterward I felt as if you had taken my vile body of clay from me,
joint by joint, with the witchcraft of your fingers, and given me a new,
better, and more perfect form. I felt as if you had lent me wings, and
that now I could rise with you up above the clouds, captivated by your
mesmeric influence upon me. Moon and stars seemed to remain far below
me, and you were guiding me up to a strange world, full of unknown and
eternal bliss. Oh, why cannot this transport of exquisite pleasure last
for ever? Indeed, indeed, I do not know how to express the gratitude I
owe you!"

Diodora said this to me in the presence of Flamma, and in the hearing of
Siegfried, who, on the balcony, could hear every word through the open
door; and, as she said it, her great Juno-like eyes rested on mine with
an expression of enthusiastic admiration. Yes! such might have been the
look which the goddess bestowed on poor, silly Ixion as she lured him on
and then--left a cloud in his arms.

But do you know why that look failed to infect me as it had Ixion?
Because I had been inoculated against the infection by another look last
night--a look from the violet eyes of Flamma.

I rose from my seat, and, throwing myself into an attitude befitting a
ceremonious announcement, I said--

"Countess, to be of service to you is a happiness to me. Pray dispose of
me. If I can convert your pains into pleasures, I shall consider the
happy result as the highest reward. Your ladyship's gracious words at
this moment inspire me with boldness; so much so that I feel encouraged
to lay the hidden secret of my heart, the cherished wish of my life, in
your hands. If you deign to accept my confession and grant my desire,
you will bind me to your service for life, in attaching me to your
family."

I shall never in life forget that proud, repellent lifting of her head
as I spoke. Diana might have looked so at Actæon, although, poor fellow,
he had never come so near to the virgin charms of that Olympian lady as
I to those of the queenly virgin before me on the preceding night. Her
forehead seemed to gain in height, her eyes retreated behind the lashes,
her lips were pressed together, and her nostrils dilated. In looking at
me her chin doubled, and she seemed the personification of haughty
disdain.

"My dear doctor," she said, with proud emphasis on the "doctor," "it
seems you have misinterpreted my words. I have never thought of
encouraging you in desires such as you this moment expressed."

I bent my head deeper still. "Dear countess, allow me to say that the
misconstruction is on your side. I did not intend the bold request which
you seem to impute to me; I simply beg leave to ask for the hand of your
niece."

Her whole disposition seemed to change on hearing this, and she broke
into a long, ringing, scornful laugh--the laugh of offended vanity, of
angered pride; such a laugh as women use to mask their disappointment
and jealousy, and the rising of their temper.

"Ha! ha! ha! Ah! ha! ha! The little Cenni! Ha! ha! So it is true, and I
have guessed right? Ha! ha! ha! And the little fool has run out; she
guessed the object of your visit. Ha! ha! ha! It's wonderful! My niece,
the little Cenni--Countess Cenni! Oh, what a perfect match! Ha! ha! ha!"

I did not disturb the explosion of her mirth. As a physician I knew that
it impaired the health of a nervous woman if she was interrupted in her
vagaries. At the sound of her laughter Siegfried re-entered and asked,
"What is it now?"

Diodora explained, laughing hysterically, that their dear, common
friend, Dr. Dumany, had just now asked for the hand of little Cenni.

"Very well," said Siegfried, "serves him right. Let him have her, by all
means!"

"I beg both your pardons," I said, "but it seems to me as if the
misunderstanding between us is becoming chronic. I very much admire, but
have no intention of marrying--Miss Klara."

"Ah!" Like Semiramis she stood before me. "Who has told you that there
was such a person--a Miss Klara--existing in this house?"

Retreat was impossible. I looked at Flamma, and she answered with an
encouraging nod; so I replied to the countess's imperious inquiries--

"Lady Flamma."

"Yes, it was I," said Flamma, rising from her seat, and stepping to my
side.

"You shall pay dear to me for this!" cried Siegfried, with a threatening
look; but I took her hand, and said--

"Pray compose yourself. This lady stands under my protection. I have
done myself the honour to ask for her hand, and I wait for your
decision."

"Show the Devil your finger, and he will take your hand; treat a peasant
with kindness, and he will think himself your equal," said he, with a
sneer.

"Siegfried!" said Diodora, "I beg you not to forget that this is my
room, and that my guests are not to be insulted in my presence. This
affair does not concern you in the least."

"But if he is impertinent?" growled he.

"Perhaps the count might be more careful in his choice of language,"
said I, proudly, "if he would consider that a Dumany fought as a knight
and a soldier under the national tricolour at Mount Thabor, while the
first Vernöczy was still serving as a humble shepherd on the Verhovina."

I was sorry for this as soon as I said it, for I had offended Flamma
also; but the bitter pill had the desired effect, inasmuch as the whole
aristocratic family regained their usual lymphatic composure.

"Flamma," said Diodora, coldly, "have you given this gentleman the right
to claim your hand?"

"Yes."

"Then--I do not object," and she motioned with her hand. I understood
the gesture, and extended my hand to Flamma. She accepted it, and I
bowed and kissed her hand. That was our betrothal. Siegfried took out a
cigarette, lighted it, and blow the smoke at the chandelier.

"I had other intentions concerning Flamma's future," said Diodora again,
"but, since her choice has fallen on you, I am satisfied--at least, I
do not object. Only I beg of you not to delay your nuptials. Have them
celebrated as soon as possible, for I intend to go to Heligoland--to try
the baths."

To Heligoland!--that was the place I should have gone to, if I had
listened to good sense--and to Cenni.

"Certainly," I said; "I am only too happy in the prospect. If you will
give me leave I shall hasten to Szepes-Váralja, to the bishop, for a
dispensation, and, as soon as I am in possession of that document, I
shall return, and we can have the ceremony performed the day after my
return."

"Then I should also wish," said Diodora again, "that the wedding might
be altogether a simple family affair, with no strangers as witnesses."

"Your ladyship expresses my own wishes."

"If so, we might have the ceremony performed here, in our chapel."

I remembered Father Paphuntius. "No, I'll have nothing to do with that
chapel."

Siegfried smiled as he guessed the reason of my embarrassed silence, and
then Flamma smiled, and Diodora also. At last, as a smile has a soothing
effect on everybody, we all laughed. "No," said Diodora, "I was not
speaking of the park hermitage. We have a chapel here in the château,
and if we do not invite too many we shall have room enough."

"I shall invite no one but a single witness as my best man."

"But do not ask me to fill that position," said Siegfried; "for I am
invited to go buffalo-hunting in Volhynia, and shall start to-morrow."

"There is something else," said Diodora. "After the wedding ceremony I
shall hand you over Flamma's dowry, which she has inherited from her
grandfather. It consists of a million of florins in good bonds."

I bowed in silence, looking at Flamma.

"No; this is a matter which concerns you as well as her, and you must
know that her grandfather laid down the condition that if she, guided by
whatever motive, should release herself from the bonds of the Catholic
religion, she should lose everything, and surrender the inheritance to
collateral relatives."

"I cannot think that such an event could take place at any time."

"Time will show."

There was a long pause, and I thought best to take my leave. I turned
first to Flamma, who laid both her hands in mine, and, looking up to me,
asked me softly to return soon. Then Diodora languidly extended her hand
to me, and I bowed over it with cool, studied politeness, and as I
looked up I saw that Siegfried thought fit to shake my hand in honour of
the new relation between us. He even went so far as to embrace me. "God
bless you, my dear--cousin," he said, laughingly; but, thank God, he did
not think it necessary to kiss me!

A week later Flamma and I were married. Everything went on in the
regular way. No objection, no obstacle was raised. The ceremony was
held in Vernöcze in the afternoon, and the same evening I was free to
take my bride home to Dumanyfalva. From one of the great portals I drove
with Flamma; from the other, Diodora and Cenni started on a trip to
Heligoland. Siegfried had gone to Volhynia six days before.

If you think that with this marriage my story is at an end, you are
mistaken; it has hardly begun. It is a strange story, and not pleasant
to dwell on; but you shall judge for yourself.



X.

AFTER THE WEDDING.


So overwhelming was my happiness that I sometimes fancied that it was
all a dream, and that I should wake to find myself in my former
condition. In one short week I had had my old mansion refurnished in a
style worthy of the high-born and gently-reared bride who was to inhabit
it; and I thought what joy it would give me if she should walk through
the halls and chambers of her new home, and find everything arranged to
suit her own delicate and refined taste, and answering all her
requirements as to beauty and comfort.

And then I had dreamt of the first supper we should eat at home at our
own table; each dish an inviting delicacy, deliciously prepared; and yet
we should hardly taste of it, our palates thirsting for different
feasts.

And now this dream had become a reality, and I looked at my beloved, and
tried to catch a glance of her beautiful, downcast eyes. I had as yet
never enjoyed the privilege of a kiss from her lips, and I was longing
for one; but when I tried to draw her close to me, she whispered,
"Don't, we shall be observed by the servants!"

At last the meal was over, and we rose from the table.

"Pray lead me to your work-room. I have yet to hand you over my dowry."

I laughed. "Time enough for that a week or more hence. No? Well, any day
you please; but not now." Still she persisted.

"It has to be done this evening. I can't keep it any longer. You did not
accept of it from Diodora, so you must take it from me. It is no longer
my own--it is yours."

"Dearest, there is no such distinction existing! Since this blessed
morning neither of us can claim possession of anything that is not
common to both alike. What is mine is all yours, and what is yours I
claim all for myself! For the marriage tie has made us one for ever!"

"But pray come," she said again; "I have the chest with the securities
here with me, and I should like to have it all over."

I sighed and obeyed. At the door of my study she left me for a moment,
returning instantly with a rosewood chest, richly ornamented with
silver. On one of her bracelets a tiny filigree key was dangling; with
this key she opened the chest, and then, stepping back, she said--

"Convince yourself. The contents must amount to exactly one million of
florins."

"I am quite convinced," I said, "and accept it as correct."

"That you shall not. Let us take out everything, and reckon up the
amount." With that she took the papers out herself, and I had to sit
down, take slate and pencil, while she dictated to me the value of each
bond, its title, and, looking into every one, she satisfied herself that
the coupons were attached to it.

In the abstract it may seem rather a pleasant occupation for a married
couple to reckon up a million of money as their joint property; but, in
this concrete instance, to spend the wedding-night in a study, making
pecuniary computation, is the pinnacle of pedantry.

At last it was done; and, as I computed it, I made the total to be one
million and twenty-five thousand florins.

"How is that possible?" she asked.

I had to explain to her the fluctations of the market price in relation
to the nominal value, which was the basis of our computation.

"Then let us look for the market-price of the bonds as it is at present.
I know it is to be found in every newspaper," and with that she took one
up from the table, looked for the exchange report, and dictated again,
"Hungarian real estate bonds, 85; Lower-Austrian, 88; Transylvanian, 82,
etc."

This time we have thirty thousand florins less than the million.

"How is that possible?" she asked again.

"Dearest," said I, "let that be! What does it matter if--"

"But it does matter. My grandfather left me exactly one million; neither
more nor less. So I must find out this balance of thirty thousand,
also."

"Maybe, at the time when he bequeathed this money to you the price of
these securities was higher than at present," I suggested.

"That is possible. But then there ought to be some list, or something
else relating to it. Let me look it over again."

Great heavens! she took everything out again, and searched for a last
year's exchange list. A crumbled yellow newspaper clipping was found,
and then the whole process had to be repeated again; and now thank God,
the million came out even! I drew a great sigh of relief; but I had
triumphed too soon. She asked for pen and ink, and, as I got up from the
seat before the writing-desk, she sat down and wrote on each of the
bonds, deeds, obligations, mortgages, etc., her own name--"Flamma Maria
Dumany of Dumanyfalva, _née_ Countess Vernöczy of Vranicsa," in a clear,
almost masculine hand.

"What is the use of this, dearest?" I asked.

"You know," she replied, "all these papers, as yet, bear the name of my
grandfather, and we could not realise upon them as they are. I must
first write my own name upon each."

"But we do not want to realise on them."

"That you don't know--at present."

"But there would be time for this on some future day."

"No. Pray compose yourself. I have to finish this now."

And she did finish it. On two hundred different securities she wrote, in
bold, large letters, her full name, and I stood there and looked on in
helpless despair.

At last there was an end of it. She put the papers in the chest again,
handed me the key, and begged me to lock everything up in the safe. I
obeyed, in the ardent hope that at last I had done with papers and
accounts.

"There is something else I have to hand over to you," said Flamma, as I
stepped nearer; and, drawing from the pocket of her dress an envelope,
she handed me an official-looking document, fastened with tri-coloured
tape, with a large official seal upon it. It was a power of attorney
from Flamma Maria, Countess Vernöczy of Vranicsa, to her husband Dr.
Cornelius Dumany of Dumanyfalva, giving him full authority over her
dowry, consisting of real estate, bonds, etc., to the amount of one
million of florins, and authorising him to sell or retain or use the
aforesaid securities according to his own need or pleasure, and without
previous consultation with any person, his wife included.

"Dearest," I said, "this is very generous of you; but there is no need
of any such document to give me proof of your confidence."

"I did not intend it as such a proof."

"Then what was your intention?"

"To give you no cause to accuse me of meanness. You shall not say that I
left you on your wedding-day without a shilling in your pocket, as your
friend was left on the Isle of Wight."

I gazed at her, at the pale face that was even paler than usual, and
cold and inanimate as a block of ice.

"Flamma!" I cried, "what does it mean? How am I to take this?"

"As a confession. That other man has made me--his--wife."

"Flamma!"

She stood there, pale, cold, statue-like, and her voice sounded like
that of an automaton. I felt like one stupefied, like one who had meant
to enter the gates of paradise and found himself in a sea of fire and
brimstone.

"Who is the man?" I stammered.

"Siegfried."

"And why did he not marry you, if--"

"Because he is married already. His wife lives in Egypt, and he cannot
get a legal divorce from her."

"And why have you married me? For we are married. The ceremony of this
afternoon was real, not a comedy like that other?"

"No; we are married. When that--misfortune--happened to me Siegfried
promised to marry me to some distinguished gentleman who might give me a
good name and an acceptable position, so that the marriage should need
no explanation."

"When was that?"

"Three months ago."

"At the time I arrived from Vienna?"

"Yes."

"Was that the reason for his instantaneous proffer of friendship?"

"Yes."

"And for that reason I was nominated for Parliament?"

"Yes, but that also was the cause of your first failure. It was
Siegfried who bribed the witnesses against you. He wanted to crush your
pride, draw you closer to him, bring you into close connection with and
dependence upon our homes and us."

"So it was all a conspiracy?"

"Yes."

"And Cenni's mock-marriage and your betrayal of the scheme?"

"Were meant to win your confidence."

"So Cenni co-operated with you?"

"She had to. At first she opposed it, and meant to win you for herself.
She is a poor girl, and dependent on Diodora's charity; and she had to
give way."

"And Diodora?"

"It was she who designed the whole plot. Her sickness that night was
simulated in order to bring you near me, and to encourage you to the
proposal."

This whole discourse, so closely resembling a cross-examination, had
altogether the appearance of such an interrogatory as a magnetiser would
address to his subject; and the answers I received were given with the
plain, involuntary precision characteristic of hypnotised persons. She
stood there before me, with her hands clasped in each other; that
seraph-face of hers, that seemed the type of innocence and purity,
without a tinge of colour, although her dreadful confession was enough
to paint the cheeks of the most degraded woman with the colour of shame.
She seemed to have no bashfulness, no sense of shame, and to be wholly
incapable of realising her offence. And I had not believed in a Devil!
Here he was before me, in the shape of this fair woman, who had tempted
me with her angel's mien to sell my soul for her, and now she was
dragging me down with her to eternal damnation! And the other one had
warned me! She had told me with that "biting kiss" of hers that this
seeming angel was no angel, but a Devil to kill me body and soul. She
had told me that this fair rose was full of foul poison, and her warning
had filled me with vain conceit and enhanced my love for my executioner.
I saw it now. Cenni had meant to make that elopement real; and if I had
taken her she would have given me her love, as this one had given me her
accursed million. Money to pay for my honest name, money for my lost
life and happiness, money to bribe me to the endurance of these hellish
tortures!

Impossible! I cannot believe that human nature can be so vile, so
miserably cunning and treacherous. This is some evil dream, some test,
perhaps, of the sincerity of my love and trust in her.

"Flamma!" I said--"dearest! do not continue this ugly jest. I cannot
hear foul words come out of your pure mouth;" and I tried to take her
hand. But she drew back.

"I have told you the truth," she said, with a repellent gesture.

The truth! The truth! This shameful, horrid confession was the truth?
Like an idiot or a lunatic I stared, gazing before me, with scarcely a
thought in my stunned, aching head. A Calabrian dagger lay before me on
the table. I had taken it from the museum, and used it for
paper-cutting. Upon the steel blade was graven, in golden letters,
"_Buona notte_;" and "_Buona notte! buona notte_," I kept incoherently
murmuring.

"Have you no other question to address to me?" she asked, in a tremulus
voice.

I shook my head, and pointed to the door, and, like a wooden puppet, she
turned and disappeared through it. At the moment when her back was
turned something like a flame flashed through my brain and body. For an
instant I felt a mad impulse to rush after her, and with one bound bury
this two-edged knife in her heart. Yes, in her heart; but from behind,
just as they had stabbed me unawares, like assassins. My better self
kept me back. My Uncle Diogenes rose before me. "Never quarrel with,
never hurt a woman!" and my professional instinct was awakened. I should
then have destroyed two lives; with the guilty I should have slain the
innocent--a life which was in God's keeping as yet. Now the door closed
behind her, and I had let the only opportunity for a deadly revenge upon
the woman who had tricked me pass by neglected. Had I killed her at that
moment I should have washed off the stain she had brought on my name in
her own blood. "Look," I might have said, "she was led astray by another
man, and I have killed her; it was my right and my duty!" This I could
no longer do. She had escaped, and would live on safe and unharmed, and
I should be dead and buried alive. I remembered now how confused they
looked, Cenni and she, when I related to them the story of my friend,
and how I had prided myself on my own prudence and good sense! And the
trap was already laid for me, and I, who had thought myself safe from
every such danger, here was I, on my wedding night, left alone,
insulted, degraded as he was. No, not quite. He had had no money, and I
had received a million. I had been paid for my disgrace, bribed for my
infamy with money!

Great Jehovah, Whose vengeance is mighty, lend me Thine ear! No! Thou
art too just and upright, I'll have nothing from Thee! Turn from me! I
will none of Thy advice, none of Thy heavenly patience and magnanimous
mercy! That marble-hearted woman had said to me, "If you deny God, He
will forgive you, for He is infinitely good and merciful; but if you
deny the Devil, he will be revenged on you!" and I had seen the devilish
light in their eyes. I had shuddered and shunned them, and yet I had
plunged headlong into the abyss which they had opened at my feet.

But now they had conjured up the Devil before me, I felt that in my own
breast they had awakened a demon quite as cunning and wicked as their
hoofed and horned idol; and we would see whose teachings would prove
more destructive! Only, cool blood! Let me not betray myself; let me
consider how to act, and then keep my own counsel. Shall I go to
Volhynia after that man? Hold him to account, invite him to face the
muzzle of my pistol or the edge of my sword? He is a ruffian and a
notorious duellist. I am a bad shot and an indifferent fencer. He is
perfect in both; it is his profession. Naturally, he would kill me, and
where would be my revenge? Should I kill myself? Die the death of a
suicide, and be spoken of as a lunatic who had crazy fancies because his
fortune had turned his head? And what would be the result? Flamma would
perhaps faint away for a few seconds, have bad dreams for a week, wear
mourning for six months, and--would be none the worse for being a widow,
whereas I should be laughed at as a silly fool. Shall I sue for a legal
divorce? "_Si fuerit dolus_?" Had I not had enough of notoriety? Enough
of laughter, calumny, and ridicule? Must I drag my honest and hitherto
respected name through the mire, and become the laughing-stock of every
fop throughout the country? No, anything but that! Help me, thou worser
self, thou Devil in my own breast, help me to find some revenge worthy
of a Devil's teaching! Give me death, for it is death I crave; but such
a death as will give me peace and rest and honour in my grave, and to
those others remaining here on earth, shame, sorrow, and remorse! I am a
dead man from this accursed night forward, but I can, at least, choose
the manner of my corporal death, and woe to her who has driven me to the
choice!

When the morning dawned my scheme was complete, and it was a scheme that
did honour to my special demon. I would die, but fame and glory should
write my epitaph; and dead, I should be remembered by this woman with
lifelong sorrow. She shall never be happy; and in remembering me, her
soul shall be filled with bitter repentance for the misfortune she
brought on me. She shall yearn for me, shed bitter tears for me, and
fret away her life in despair. This should be my revenge.



XI.

MY SCHEME.


Next morning I said to my wife--"We cannot stay here. Our next year must
be spent in travelling in foreign parts, and we shall start for Paris in
three days. You had better make arrangements accordingly."

"My arrangements are made, for I have not unpacked my things yet. So
everything is at your command," was her answer.

I left her, and drove over to the county town to my solicitor, and told
him to borrow as much money on my property as he could possibly get from
the financial institutions. As a pretext I told him that I had the
intention of buying lands. He advised me to wait, for he had learned for
certain that in a year's time Siegfried would have to sell out. His
estates were mortgaged over and over, and matters were going very ill
with him. If, then, I should add to the million my wife had brought me,
the money I had and the money I could at any moment raise on my
property, I should be able to purchase the Vernöczy estates.

This was a revelation that for a moment made me hold my breath. It would
be something to tear that water-nymph on the Vernöczy crest from over
the portals of the château into the mire, and erect the Dumany crest on
the front of the proud old castle. But that feeling passed, and with it
the temptation. It would be no revenge on her to let her live as
mistress on the estates of her forefathers, and, first of all, I craved
revenge on her. More than that scoundrel who had betrayed her and then
flung her to me, I hated her, Lilith, the tempting devil in the guise of
a seraph! But I said to the lawyer, "Very well"--that I would consider
about it, and not buy anything at present; but that he should raise the
money, all the same, and send it for me to Paris, as well as the funds I
had inherited. Perhaps I might have use for the money there--at any
rate, he must send it. Then I took the rosewood chest with my wife's
dowry, and sent it by mail, and under the usual guarantee, to a
well-known banking firm in Brussels as a deposit.

Three days after, we were on our journey to Paris. I had taken the Swiss
route, for in those days it was the safest way to escape the obstacles
and annoyances which on the road through Germany were thrown in the way
of travellers to France. War was, so to speak, floating in the air, and
was each moment expected to break upon the two leading nations of the
Continent. At such a time the railroad termini are naturally the centres
of exciting scenes and noisy demonstrations; but the Swiss republic was
neutral, and the southern part of France was quiet. So we arrived in
Paris unmolested; and the great crowds in the boulevards, and the
multitude of detectives among the people, gave us the first notion that
something extraordinary was occurring.

At first the demonstrations were all in favour of peace. Labourers in
blue blouses were marching up in compact masses on the Place de la
Concorde, carrying white flags and signs with the inscriptions "_À bas
la guerre_" and "_Vive la paix_!" Public speakers delivered long
orations on the horrors of war, and protested against the ambitious,
fame-hunting tyrants who drove their innocent, peace-loving subjects
into bloody combats to feed their own greed for glory and power. But
their speeches were all blown to the winds. Bellona is a fair woman, and
the more she is slandered to her admirers the more ardent and
impassioned is their love for her. In vain did the orators protest that
France was all for peace, and would not be dragged into the perils of
war. The soil was thirsting for blood, and the day after our arrival in
Paris the declaration of war which Napoleon had issued against Prussia
was publicly announced.

I had been informed of these events long before they happened, and on
them my whole scheme was built. When the public enthusiasm was highest,
and the shouts "_À Berlin_!" loudest, when throngs of people crowded
through the streets, singing the "_Marseillaise_" and "_Le Départ_," I
mingled with them, bent on business.

During our journey I had shown my wife all those polite little
attentions which are due to a bride on her wedding tour from her
husband. Now I was looking for a residence for her. I found a handsome,
palatial-looking house, exquisitely furnished, which had been hastily
abandoned by a German diplomat at the first rumour of the war, and was
now in the market, with its carriages and horses, servants, and
everything. The bargain was made, and, as I took my wife to her
temporary home, she seemed to be struck with the delicate consideration
which I showed her. I saw by her face that she wished to protest against
this excess of luxury, which was not in keeping with our means. But
perhaps something in the expression of my face warned her to be silent;
perhaps it occurred to her that as she had given me full power to do
what I pleased with her dowry, I had acquired the right to squander
it--if it suited my whims--on herself.

When she was comfortably established I said to her--"I have offered my
services as an army physician to the French Government, and they have
been accepted. I have received my commission from the Duke of Palikao,
and shall start this evening for my destination."

"If it is your wish, I cannot oppose it," was her answer. What a meek,
obedient wife she was! Whatever I said or did, it was, "Pray please
yourself. Whatever you think best will satisfy me." She never showed the
slightest increase of temper, never offered the least resistance to my
arrangements. She was the same quiet, pale, silent, sylph-like being as
she had been when I first knew her, and I wondered that she had not
changed. We had been married only two weeks, but to me it seemed as if
seven hard winters and seven fierce tropical summers had passed since
that time, and had taken the marrow from my bones and every spark of
hope and brightness from my soul.

"I have left you forty thousand francs in the safe; they will last you
until the time of my return. You need not deny yourself anything you
wish," I said.

"Thank you. I shall manage the money carefully, and shall not spend more
than is strictly necessary. I am of a saving disposition."

These were our parting words, and we exchanged no others. I went to
H----'s banking-house to draw the money my solicitor had sent me, and
when they inquired whether I wanted checks or bills of exchange, I asked
for the latter, because, as I said, in time of war the Government might
bring in a _moratorium_.[4] "What," they laughed, "the Napoleonic
Government bring in _moratorium_? _Tête carrée_!" The latter was meant
as a compliment for me.

[Footnote 4: A governmental act of mercy in regard to the payment of
debts.]

By the next express train I went to Brussels, and then straight to the
banker to whom I had sent Flamma's million. I opened the chest in his
presence, and convinced him that it actually contained good
security--bonds and deeds for the sum of one million and twenty-five
thousand florins par--and asked him for an advance. The banker put
seventy-five per cent of the nominal value at my disposal, and I handed
him the power of attorney from my wife, and a written authorisation
permitting him to sell the securities without notice in the event of my
failure to repay the loan at a certain date.

This money, with a part of the funds which my solicitor had sent me,
amounted to two millions of francs. With this sum I went to a well-known
and trustworthy stockbroker, and instructed him to speculate with the
whole amount in French Government bonds for a fall.

"Do you intend to throw this money in the gutter?" said the man, eyeing
me critically.

"That is my own business, I presume," said I, calmly.

"Have you ever speculated on the Exchange before? Are you versed in
these manipulations?"

"No! Never!"

"Do you know the situation of the Money Market at present?"

"No."

"Then grant me leave to inform you by giving you a few data. All French
securities are rising in value. Paris is enthusiastic for the war. The
money-chests of the financial ring are open to the Government. The
French military force is fully equipped, ready to begin hostilities, and
stationed at the Rhone, whereas the Prussians are caught unprepared.
Bavaria will remain neutral, and the Danes are preparing to break into
Schleswig-Holstein. The sequel of the war can be foretold with such
certainty that a Paris financier offers, to any one who will accept it,
a wager of two hundred thousand francs against one hundred thousand that
on August 15 the French will march into Berlin."

"Well, you may take up that wager, also, for me."

The agent shrugged his shoulders, and accepted my offer for a bear
speculation. We agreed that from time to time we should communicate with
each other in cipher. Telegrams were to be forwarded through H----'s
Bank.

From Brussels I returned to Paris, and procured all the necessary
surgical instruments at my own expense. Next I bought three waggons with
strong Trakene horses for my own transport and that of the invalids,
furnished myself with all utensils requisite for camp hospitals, and
then, under the protecting ensign of the Geneva Cross, I joined the
regiment of the French army in which I had enlisted as volunteer
camp-surgeon. My scheme was clear now. I was a dead man. I was seeking
Death in his own realm, where he reigned supreme, and it was impossible
not to find him there, if one really sought him. So I should die, but
not the death of a suicide, despised, misjudged, forgotten, but a death
on the field of honour and glory, as a hero and a martyr of science and
philanthropy. And that accursed money which was given me as a fee for my
disgrace would be blown to naught, as my body would be by a merciful
Krupp shell. When the news of my death reaches that woman in Paris, she
will try hard to discover what I have done with her fortune--and mine!
But let her search ever so thoroughly, she would find--nothing! I had
left no trace of my operations, nothing from which she could regain one
penny. Then she would be compelled to come down from her height, return
to Hungary, and live a lonely, miserable, poverty-stricken existence on
my Slav kingdom, which I had mortgaged and ruined. She would have to
struggle against poverty and want, and, by daily care and close economy,
would have to pay from her scanty crops the heavy debts I had incurred.
All day she would pine and toil, all night she would sigh and grieve.
And in her dreams she would call me back, and ask me where I had buried
the treasures. Her priests would fail to console her, and she would
become superstitious, and resort to clairvoyants and mediums for the
solution of the torturing mystery. But no prayer or curse will reach me,
no incantation of conjurers or spirit-rappers will call me back. The
dead do not return, either for promised kisses or for promised bites.



XII.

SEEKING FOR DEATH.


To tell the truth, on my arrival at the camp I felt like an apprentice
in the presence of his masters. French surgery in general occupies a
foremost place. French camp-surgeons have acquired skill and experience
in their great military expeditions; there their studies receive the
finishing-touch, whereas the little skill and practice which I had came
entirely from the clinic and the dissecting-table.

But, nevertheless, I was very cordially received by the old, experienced
masters of the profession, to whom I stated that I had come, as a
voluntary apprentice, to aid in the work of philanthropy as best I
could. My immediate superior was old Duval, who had served as
camp-surgeon at Sebastopol, and I succeeded in acquiring his good
graces. He asked me if I had ever been on a battle-field before, and I
answered, a little ashamed, that I had never had that opportunity. In
spite of my descent from the chivalrous Hungarian nation, I know the
sound of the cannon only from hearing the salutes fired on our King's
birthday, or other occasions equally peaceful.

"It does not matter," said the old man, encouragingly. "You will get
over your first irritation at the noise, and then you will feel as much
at home and as safe as in your own study. There is not the least danger
for us. We hoist the Geneva flag with its red cross, and every civilised
foe respects that ensign. After the battle is over, and the enemy has
fled, beaten, shattered, and in disorder, we carry our ambulances to the
gory field, and take up the wounded, friend and foe alike. The severely
injured we attend to at once, dressing their wounds on the spot, and
then we place them all on our beds, and take them to our hospital-tents
for treatment."

This had been the old man's practice in many wars. The French had
invariably been victors and masters of the field; the enemy had
retreated, and then the French had taken up the wounded and nursed them
faithfully, whether friend or foe. That a time could come when the
French would be driven from the field, and the enemy would take up the
wounded, was deemed preposterous and out of the question.

We were attached to Marshal Douay's corps, but, unfortunately, I did not
receive the privilege of participating in the first battle at
Saarbrücken, where old Dr. Duval's experience was confirmed; the
Prussian advance was repulsed, and the victorious French gathered up the
wounded.

The first wounded soldiers whom we treated were foes; one an Englishman,
the other a German from Baden. Both were officers in the German army.
Three daring officers from the German camp, on horseback and in full
uniform, had galloped into the heart of the French camp in broad
daylight; there they had cut down the sentinel, ordered food and drink,
taken notes as to the camp, the position and order of the forces, the
number of the batteries, etc., until at last the French awoke from their
illusion, and recognised them as foes. They retreated firing, cutting
their way through the French lines, killing two French officers, one of
whom, as he expires, finds strength enough to return the fire, and one
of the three, the Englishman, falls shot in the abdomen. A second, the
Badener, is hewn down from his horse; but the third escapes unhurt, and
cuts his way back to the German camp.

This incident I regarded as a bad omen. The French were so confident, so
presumptuous, that they neglected the outpost service. Next day the
Germans attacked Marshal Douay at Weissenburg with three times his
force. This was the fault of the French, who ought to have attacked the
Germans with an overwhelming force, instead of waiting to be attacked by
them.

The French fought heroically against the crushing superiority of the
Germans, vainly hoping that the report of the cannonade would attract
assistance from a corps stationed in the neighbourhood of the
battle-field; but in this heroic fight their lines were sadly decimated.
At first they fought in the village, then they were forced out by the
Germans, and had to defend themselves among the vineyards and the
thickets. The soil was saturated with blood, and the dead and wounded
were lying about in ditches, copses, and everywhere.

"Sir," said I to Dr. Duval, "to-day the enemy will be master of the
field, and he will gather up the wounded, unless we prevent this by
picking them up while the fight lasts. Now, while the balls are flying
about, is our chance! Give me leave to go there with the ambulance."

"With all my heart! Try it if you have a mind to."

"If I had a mind to?" Why, of course, I had come for that; it was the
opportunity I had craved, the chance for the immortalising cannon-ball
to send me up to heaven and glory! So, taking the twelve men who were
given me as aids, I started off with the ambulance to the scene of the
battle.

There is not the slightest braggadocio about this. Soldiers, even in the
hottest ardour of battle, will carefully avoid firing at the life-saving
corps, which is distinguished by the sign of the red cross. But it is
impossible to prevent an exploding shell from sending its splinters
among them, and on that eventful day I had occasion to watch the course
of these splinters.

The firing did not cease for a moment. The roar of the artillery, the
cracking of the rifles created a deafening noise; the hoarse, grating
sounds from the French mitrailleuses, in particular, made a horrible
accompaniment to the dying groans of the wounded. But the French
mitrailleuses had found their match in the Krupp cannon. These fire no
balls, but some fiendish contrivances, longitudinal, cylindrical
projectiles, which explode as they alight, and scatter their deadly
fragments far and near.

All the injured men whom we took from the field were wounded by these
splinters. As we toiled, the hellish projectiles were flying over our
heads; but my experienced aids worked with the coolness of the harvester
when he hastens to save his crops from the threatening rain. They knew
well that these messages of death were not sent to them, but to the
French artillery, which was opposing the advance of the Germans. All
this while I felt that indescribable intoxication which is sure to
overtake every novice. I stood there in the terrible realm of death, in
the presence of the awful Moloch, Hamoves, the angel with the scythe. I
felt a chill, a shudder, and I bowed down before the omnipotent Lord of
life and death, the Almighty Ruler of the universe.

This short-lived sensation of terror every novice has to overcome. Nor
is anyone spared the humiliation of this experience. The eye can hardly
perceive anything of the effect of the shots, for the cannon-smoke
envelopes the surrounding objects in a thick cloud of fog. The Prussian
infantry were crouching down, and, while creeping and cringing thus,
they were pressing forward. Nothing but the smoke of their rifles
betrayed the level of their faces, and the French infantry were hidden
in ditches, behind bushes and trees, and firing from these
vantage-grounds. Only the Zouaves and the Turcos might now and then be
recognised by their red caps.

While the artillery was pealing, the bugle was sounding the commands.
All at once a strange drumbeat was heard from beside us, and the
veteran sergeant at my elbow said--

"Sir, we must get out of this with our beds at once. Cavalry is
advancing."

"Cavalry of the enemy?" I asked.

"Brother and enemy is all one in such a case. If we are in their way
they will crush us under their horses' hoofs, without observing what
body we belong to."

So we hastily picked up our beds with the wounded, and retreated with
all speed behind the line of battle. We had hardly reached security
when, from both sides, the cavalry advanced, both friends and enemies.
The earth shook with the stamping of the hoofs, "_Quadrupedante putrem
crepitu quatit ungula campum_."

Avoiding our right wing, a regiment of Prussian hussars was galloping
towards us; a regiment of French chasseurs on horseback, under command
of the commander-in-chief, Marshal Douay, in person, was dashing from
the hills to meet them. The strong west wind was blowing clouds of dust
in the faces of the French, the backs of the Germans. All at once the
Prussian regiment divided itself, wheeling to right and left; behind
them a whole battery of artillery appeared, and a powerful discharge
saluted the chasseurs.

The shells made a fearful gap in the French horsemen, but still they
dashed bravely on, shouting wildly, and giving the enemy's artillery no
time for a second shot. The Prussians wheeled swiftly, and hussars,
battery and all, fled before the lines of the French chasseurs. We
thought this wild retreat meant victory for the French, but we
discovered that it was only a ruse.

When the clouds of dust had dispersed, we saw that on the battle-field
horses, struggling in deadly convulsions, and men in the throes of
death, were strewn thickly around. We hastened thither to save whom we
could, but, oh! what an awful sight it was! Man and beast piled in
confusion and crushing each other. The neighing of the wounded horse
mingled with the last prayer, or the death-groan, of its rider. Maddened
horses, with their dead or wounded riders hanging in the saddle, were
galloping on, while the less-injured soldiers, who had been thrown from
their slain horses, or were struggling to extricate themselves from
beneath them, were cursing and swearing, and invoking God and Devil for
vengeance on the Prussians.

Among those who were fatally injured was Marshal Douay himself. As the
old sergeant drew him out from under his horse, the blood rushed from an
awful gash on his neck. "_O, mon général_!" sobbed the old soldier,
trying to close the gash with his pocket-handkerchief.

"Don't cry!" said the dying chief, hoarsely. "Go shout to them '_En
avant_!' in my place."

It was a fatal command, this "_En avant_!" The French chasseurs had
pursued the German hussars to a hop plantation, which proved to be full
of concealed Prussian sharp-shooters. At this point the hussars
attacked the chasseurs in the rear, while the sharp-shooters received
them with a volley from their quick-firing rifles, and a general
onslaught was begun upon the brave corps. The chasseurs endeavoured to
break into the hop field, but such a plantation is a terrible
fortification, with its walls of vines fastened to other walls of stout
poles, and behind each a hidden foe with a quick-slaying weapon. The
whole fine corps of cavalry was destroyed then and there.

The fall of the commander-in-chief, Marshal Douay, had decided the fate
of the battle. When finally, all too late, MacMahon arrived with his
troops, Douay's unfortunate command was shattered, and the battle of
Weissenburg lost.



XIII.

MY DISCHARGE.


In spite of this terrible disaster, the retreat of the French troops was
accomplished in good order, and but few prisoners fell into the hands of
the Prussians; even those few were mostly Zouaves and Turcos, not real
French soldiers.

That we had really been beaten was not believed by anybody. Everybody
was inspired by the conviction that the Weissenburg disaster was nothing
but an incident. A comparatively small defensive force had been attacked
by an overwhelmingly large force of Prussians, and was compelled to
retreat for the moment; but the fight had been only a trifling prologue
to the great battle to come, or else was part of a deep-laid plan which
would secure to us the final victory. So it had been at Solferino, when
Benedek had been allowed to attack and disperse the French-Italian
troops on their left wing, while at Solferino itself the Austrian army
was destroyed. So it would be here. It was supposed that this slight
victory was allowed to the Prussians, so as to divert their attention
from the movements of MacMahon and Bazaine, who were certain to crush
them all at their first encounter.

Next day the Emperor himself and his young heir-apparent appeared among
us, presenting to each of those who had distinguished themselves at the
battle of the preceding day some badge of honour. At the recommendation
of old Dr. Duval, the Chevalier Cross of the Legion of Honour was pinned
to my breast, and the reporter of a Paris newspaper wrote a flourishing
item about the heroic and self-sacrificing Hungarian surgeon. When I
read it, I thought of that woman in Paris, and what she would think of
these reports. Perhaps she would say to herself, "So he is not
everywhere the same coward as he was here! He has some pluck, some
physical courage at least."

But in vain did we wait for our revenge upon the Prussians. After
Weissenburg came Spicheren, then Wörth. Everywhere the German force was
stronger than the French, and it turned out that their artillery was
better than ours. MacMahon was cut off from Bazaine, and in the gigantic
battles at Bézonville and Gravelotte, Bazaine, with his force of one
hundred and fifty thousand men, was driven back into Metz. Strasburg was
besieged, and MacMahon cut off from the road to Paris.

In every battle that was fought the Prussians remained masters of the
field, and it was always they who took charge of the wounded. Of course,
each corps was in ignorance as to the fate of the others, and if one was
beaten or repulsed, it was fully convinced that the other had meanwhile
been victorious elsewhere. The Paris newspapers and the Bourse supported
and increased that belief. One evening, after a forced march that very
much resembled a regular flight, we arrived at a certain town. I entered
a café, and being very curious to learn something of the present state
of the Money Market, I looked for a newspaper, and here it was:--"Paris.
Extraordinary Upward Movement! Rate of interest raised to 68-15, and
rising rapidly. News of great victories!"

"Well," I thought, "my two millions are nicely exploded by this time."
Underneath I read in large letters, "The Prussians severely beaten by
MacMahon! The German Crown Prince captured and made prisoner by
MacMahon!"

That very day we had been compelled to leave our entire baggage in the
enemy's hands and run for our lives, so to speak, and here they are
talking of the German Prince having been captured. That is how they
create upward movements on 'Change. But could this last? Surely such
lies would soon be exposed! How long was it possible to keep on in this
way?

How long? For ever.

After the massacre at Mars-la-Tour, MacMahon's forces were practically
scattered to the winds, running aimlessly about, and, when coming into
contact with the enemy, hardly thinking any longer of resistance. If a
Prussian Uhlan was seen far off on the road every man took to his heels.
The infantry threw down their rifles, the cuirassiers their helmets and
breastplates; the gunners cut the traces of the horses, jumped upon
their backs, and dashed on, without thinking of the fate of the rest. On
horseback, with a loaded revolver in hand, I had to keep guard at the
side of the ambulance carts, to keep the marauders away from the
wounded. Once I had a narrow escape from being captured by the
Bavarians. It was at a skirmish of artillery. A couple of French and a
couple of German pieces were in position. The French were quickly
disabled by the Germans, and even the head gunner was severely wounded.
I took him on my shoulders, and got him out of the line of fire. The
Bavarians sent another shrapnell shell after us, and, as the projectile
burst over our heads, I felt a blow on the leather rim of my képi. "A
shrapnel splinter!" I thought, scornfully: "could it not have hit me a
little more to the right, and have done with me?"

After I had hastily placed the wounded officer on the waggon, I jumped
on horseback, and hastened after the flying troops. Upon a wooden bridge
that led over a shallow rivulet the soldiers were crowded. I did not
stop to consider, but dashed on with my waggons to the water. A
detachment of Bavarian hussars, guessing at my intention, was there to
prevent its execution. A young lieutenant of hussars was leading the
detachment, and, placing the muzzle of his revolver to my forehead, he
shouted: "_Rendez-vous: demande pardon_!"

"At last!" I thought, "here is my opportunity for the glorious end. This
fellow is the man I want," and, turning my face full toward him, I
looked coolly into the barrel of his weapon. "Shoot, comrade!" I said.
"You'll get neither me, nor my charges, as long as I am alive."

He gazed at me, as if scrutinising my features. "You are not French?" he
asked.

"I am a Hungarian," I answered.

"Kornel, and no doubt about it!" he exclaimed, taking hold of my hand
and shaking it. "Don't you know me? I am Plessen." Sure enough, he was
my favourite chum from the University; but we had not seen each other
for years, and the last three months of camp-life had done more to
change a man's outward appearance than whole years at home. "Go on,
comrade," he said, with a farewell shake of the hand, "and may our next
meeting be a pleasanter one! Good-bye!" With that he let me take my
charges safely across the water and over the fields, avoiding the open
roads, until finally, as night fell, I reached with my patients the camp
at Chalons, and found my way to the camp hospital.

What a cursed, vile task old Duval had had all day! Nothing but sore
heels and slight shrapnel scars in the rear!--and he embraced me and
kissed me all over for bringing him now three cart-loads of real wounded
men, with wounds got from sword-cuts, rifle-bullets, and gun-shots.
"What an invaluable, brave fellow you are!" he said to me, handling each
of my charges with the tenderness of a loving father; "but now you shall
share the privilege of dressing their wounds, and assist me in the
necessary operations." This was a privilege indeed, and for a while we
were very busy. When we had finished, he put his hand into his pocket
and said, "Now, my boy, I will also present you with something."

I thought he meant to give me one of his utterly wretched cigars; but
no--it was a paper, and, on handing it over to me, Duval said, "It is
your discharge, my boy; you are free."

"My discharge?" I asked, offended, "and why, pray? Have I not done more
than my duty? And if so, how have I merited this disgrace?"

"I am afraid that it was just your extraordinary ardour that brought it
on you; that's it, you have done more than your duty; and as you are a
foreigner, it is natural to ask, Why have you done it? Why have you
exposed your own life, contrary to custom, picking up the wounded where
the fight was the hottest and the balls flying thickest? True, you have
by this course saved the lives of many that would have bled to death, or
been otherwise lost; but it is a marvellous thing that you could do all
that and escape unhurt. The fact is, you have always come back with a
sound skin. Can you explain this miracle? Can you tell me, why you, a
foreigner, took the risk of such imminent danger for--Hecuba--that is,
for wounded French soldiers?"

The old man was right. I could not explain it, for I could not tell him
that I had regarded their great national calamity as a means of carrying
out my petty suicidal designs and giving them a decent cloak. I never
thought of it before; but now I had to acknowledge that my conduct
looked suspicious to strangers. What will be their suspicions, I
thought, when they learn that I have talked German with a Prussian
officer, and shaken hands with him? Would this not give new matter for
their suspicions, and was it not natural in the vanquished to believe in
treachery?

And then I thought what a self-conceited fool I had been to think I
could command God Mars to afford me a disguise for self-murder. "Why,"
he said, "do you suppose these great national conflagrations are kindled
to cook your meals on? What do I care for your family quarrels? If you
are tired of life, take a rope and hang yourself on that willow, and
there is an end of you and your paltry complaints."

As I stood there musing, old Duval turned my face around and
exclaimed--"Look! look! Your forehead is wounded."

"A mere scratch with a shrapnel splinter," I said, bitterly, "not worth
plastering." I took from him the letter with my discharge, presented him
with my camp outfit, instruments, horses, etc., and kept nothing but one
of the waggons and a pair of horses for my journey homeward--that is, to
Paris. This was now the speediest way of travelling, for the railways
were all occupied with the transport of troops.

Before I left Chalons, I entered a café and drank a cupful of some black
beverage that was called coffee, although I think it tasted of soot, and
read one of the Paris newspapers--the last that had arrived the same
day.

A dazzling glare of light was visible through the windows, arising from
the valley. It was the burning camp. The Emperor had given orders to
burn all tents, since there was not time enough to strike them and carry
them off. So everything was left to be consumed by the flames, while the
men fled for their lives.

The newspapers in the coffee-house were going from hand to hand, and
were eagerly devoured. At last I obtained one. I found the following
report in large letters--

"The Prussian army scattered! Two hundred Krupp guns remaining as
captures in the hands of the French! Commander Moltke a prisoner!
Bismarck fatally wounded! Price of rentes, 1 franc 25."

If this were true, one part of my scheme had succeeded. The two millions
were annihilated. But what of the other part? I was still alive, and
death would not come to me without disgrace and ridicule. What a
position to be in!



XIV.

HOME! SWEET HOME!


It was damp, disagreeable, dirty weather when I arrived in Paris. It had
rained for the last few days, for usually after great battles stormy
weather sets in. The poets will have it that heaven washes away with
tears the blood spilt by man. Scientists say that the gas freed by the
combustion of so much gunpowder, together with the detonations at the
explosions, brings on the rain. The fact is that after all great battles
rain is sure to follow.

As I alighted from the one-horsed vehicle that had brought me to the
door of my residence, my own porter asked me whom I was looking for at
this house? I answered "Myself," but found it difficult to convince him
that I was his master. At last he let me in, and rang the bell three
times as a signal that the master of the house had arrived.

The valet met me at the ante-chamber, and stared at me with mouth and
eyes wide open; but no wonder. I must have cut a handsome figure, with,
that torn and perforated red képi on my head, and the dirty,
blood-smeared cotton handkerchief around my forehead. My face was
blackened by exposure to the sun and wind, and had a grizzly beard of
three months' growth upon it. My uniform was dirty and torn, and above
it was a rubber cloak with a hood, while on my feet were a pair of
rough, high top-boots, with spurs. By my side I had a sabre, a revolver,
and a bag for bread and bacon--not a very gentlemanly appearance, by any
means.

"Is madame at home?" I asked.

"Yes, sir. Madame is in her boudoir."

"Then tell her, monsieur has come home, and afterward see that a fire is
kindled in my room. I am cold and damp."

The valet was a very humane and obliging fellow. He asked me to step
into the _salon_, where a fire was burning already. I was forcibly
struck by this proof of democratic condescension. Fancy his allowing a
fellow with such a robber's look, who had unexpectedly intruded into the
house, to enter the luxurious, polished, gilded _salon_ of--his own
wife!

The fire was burning in the grate, and I went up to it to warm myself,
when the door opened, and, with quick steps, there entered--my wife. She
had entered hastily, but, on seeing me she faltered, and stood
motionless at the door.

Well might she start at my strange appearance; but, if I looked dreadful
to her, her appearance was positively loathsome to me. I had not seen
her for three months, and she had visibly changed since then.

To another man his wife looks charming in that condition, but to me my
wife seemed perfectly disgusting, horrid, abominable! I cannot find a
phrase to express the detestation that filled me as I looked at her.

"You have come away from the camp?" she asked, in a low tone.

"I have been discharged," I answered.

"You? How could that be?"

"They believed me to be a Prussian spy."

"Nonsense! I have read so much of your courage and daring, of the
self-sacrifice which made you risk your own life to save that of others.
The papers were full of praise of your magnanimous conduct."

"That's it exactly. They think a respectable surgeon has no business to
risk his hide or exhibit sentiment. So they told me to pack off."

"But you are wounded!" she cried out, as I took off my képi.

"A mere scratch, and already closed. It's nothing." And, throwing the
rubber cloak from my shoulders, I stepped nearer to the gate.

"You have been decorated!" she said, pointing to the "_légion
d'honneur_" on my breast.

"Trash!" I said, tearing it off, and with an angry gesture throwing it
almost into the fire.

She ran up to me, and held my hand. "No! no!" she said: "I shall not let
you! Leave it on your breast!" and, snatching it out of my hand, she
pinned it in its place again.

"Well, let it be," I thought. At least there would be one spot on my
body that was honourable. But it was time to change the subject. For a
soldier coming home from the gory field of honour might speak to his
wife of his wounds and his deserts, but I? As I was no real soldier, so
my wound was no real wound, this badge of merit not really merited,
and--my wife--was not really my wife. So I changed the subject, and,
like a conscientious family physician, I questioned her about her
health. My questions were purely professional, and she gave her answers
in confidence, as patients usually answer the questions of their
_ordinarius_. I advised her as to the best way of avoiding
inconveniences connected with her present condition, and so on. After
the consultation was over, I asked her if no letters had arrived for me
during my absence.

"Only one--in the last day or two, and that has been opened."

"By whom?"

"By the police, I think. For a short time back all letters coming from
foreign parts are opened by the police."

"Have you also read the letter?"

"I looked into it certainly; but I have not read it. It is written in
cipher."

"Ah!" I thought, "the communication from my agent to say that the
millions have disappeared." But I did not show any impatience to get at
the contents of the letter. I listened politely as she related to me the
events of her life in my absence.

After a while the valet announced that my room was ready for me, and
then she asked if I would not dine with her? "No, thank you!" said I,
with an inward shudder; "I am quite unfamiliar with your civilised
customs, and will thank you if you will permit me to retire to my room."

In my room I found the letter upon my writing-desk. As I had expected,
it came from my agent in Brussels. The key to the cipher code was in my
pocket, rolled up in a cigarette; so that in case of my death on the
battle-field some soldier or nurse might smoke the cigarette and
unwittingly destroy this last clue to the mystery which surrounded my
money transactions. The letter ran as follows:--

     "SIR,--The two millions which you entrusted to my care have doubled
     themselves, and I hold four millions of francs for you. The decline
     is continuous, and will hold good for a considerable time to come.
     The Paris Bourse created an enormous rise by fictitious reports of
     victories; but the decline was all the sharper in consequence. The
     French are beaten everywhere, and if you will consent to let me
     continue in the present course, I shall double your money again on
     short sales."

Camp life had taught me to swear, and I was furious. Fate was mocking
me, tantalising me. Instead of taking from me the accursed money which I
had received in exchange for my life, my soul's salvation, and my
honour, it doubled that money, and threw it back at me. But I would see
if I could not get the better of blind fortune. I did not want that
money, and would have none of it.

I sat down and wrote an answer on the spot I gave the agent fixed
instructions to speculate with the whole amount for a rise, and that
immediately. As soon as I had translated this into cipher, I gave it to
the valet to be posted.

Then I took out the rough fare I had been accustomed to during my camp
life, the rye bread and bacon, and, slicing it up, I toasted it at the
grate fire. Surely a man who had thrown four millions out at the window
a few minutes before had a right to indulge in such luxuries.

But the cognac which I had been used to drink I could not relish at
home. For three months I had drunk nothing but cognac. It is a powerful
stimulant, good for fever and ague, hunger and thirst, influenza-cold,
and, yes, the tremor before a battle. But here, at home, I wanted
something I could not get there--a glass of clear, fresh water.

Oh, how I enjoyed it! How deliciously refreshing it was after so long a
craving! Home had still a great treasure to offer me--a glass of clear,
fresh water.

What a precious, sweet, home it was!



XV.

VOX POPULI.


The street was very noisy, and a tumult of loud voices, shouts, etc.,
penetrated through the blinds, shutters, and doors into the room in
which I sat. I took that to be the normal condition of a Paris street,
for in large cities there is always some spectacle afoot to set the mob
shouting. But I was mistaken. The valet, whom I had sent to the
post-office to mail my letter to the broker at Brussels, entered
hastily, his face livid with fear.

"Monsieur, save yourself!" he cried. "The mob is coming."

"Coming where?"

"To this hotel. A German diplomat lived here before you, and the people
think this is his house still. Someone has given them a hint, and they
have taken it up, and they are coming to storm and plunder the house.
The residences of two bankers have been demolished in this way, only
because their names had a German sound."

"Let them alone," I said; "I will talk with their leaders. Now go to
madame, and tell her I beg she will retire to the winter-garden, and not
come out of it in any case or for any noise."

The valet obeyed, and I girded on my sword again, put on my képi, and
went downstairs.

The porter had locked the entrance, but a loud muttering and battering
noise was heard from the outside.

"Open the door!" I said to the porter, and, sword in hand, I stepped out
What I beheld was the usual spectacle upon such occasions. A mob of all
classes; labourers in blouses, dandies in tall hats, college youths,
street boys, market women, and veiled "ladies" in flashy dresses and
with painted cheeks, all huddled pell-mell in picturesque disorder.

The man who was battering at the door was a gigantic locksmith, with
hammer in hand, and I believe that the only object he had in his
battering operations was to make use of his hammer. As I appeared, those
who were near the door, retreated a little, and some of them called out,
"See, see! An officer of the army."

"_Citoyens_!" said I, in a loud voice, "in this house there is a sick
woman, and whoever tries to break into this house will have his skull
split in two."

Most of the _gommeux_ retreated at these words, but the locksmith seemed
to think resistance a provocation to an attack. "Ho, ho!" said he,
beating his breast and swinging his hammer, inviting me to try the edge
of my sword on his skull, while around him sticks and umbrellas were
upraised against me with threatening gestures of all sorts of people,
male and female.

I had to make an end of this, and that was only possible by showing them
that I was not afraid of them, and, first of all, I had to silence that
burly smith by a smart cut on the hand that held the hammer. I had just
lifted my arm with the sword, when someone caught it from behind,
seizing tight hold of both hand and sword.

It was Flamma.

"What do you want here? Why did you come out?" I asked her.

She stepped close to my side, and addressed the people. I could never
have believed that that tiny, silent, shell-mouth of hers could be
capable of such eloquence. "_Citoyens_!" she said, with a perfectly
dramatic intonation and gesture, "you are mistaken in this house and in
us. We are no Germans, no enemies, but Hungarians, and friends to the
French. Look at my husband! He has just arrived from the battlefield,
where he has served the French army. He has repeatedly risked his own
life to save that of your brethren. Look at his forehead! That wound
upon it he received in the service of your country! Look at his breast!
It is decorated with the star of the Legion of Honour! He--"

I was furious. What business had this woman, who, in her heart of
hearts, despised me as an abject, greedy, dishonourable coward, a base
wretch, who had accepted the most degrading position on earth for a
money consideration--what business, said I, had she to speak fair of me
before this crowd?

"Madame," I shouted, "go into the house! I do not want your speeches!
Let go my hand, I say! I want to drive this rabble away!" But she clung
tightly to me, and, seeing that I could not free myself of her, I
caught her up in my arms, and carried her to her room. There I threw her
upon her couch and said--"Don't move from this bed. You are trifling
with your life!"

"Then stay here with me," she said, beseechingly; "don't go back among
them!"

"Nonsense, I am able to protect and save you from a drunken mob, but
from an attack of convulsions I could not save you! This might cost you
your life."

At this word I fancied I saw a smile of contempt on her lips, and it
occurred to me that she thought I feared for her life, because, in case
of her death, I should have to return her money. "I wish they would come
and tear me to pieces in her very presence," I thought, in the
bitterness of my heart; but, to my surprise, no one came. The next
minute or two furnished an explanation. I heard the sound of a bugle,
then the clatter of horse-hoofs; the Imperial Guard itself had cleared
the street of the mob. In a few minutes the shouts and threats were
silenced, and the crowd had moved on to other quarters. Immediately
afterward I heard voices in the _salon_, and, telling the woman to keep
quiet and not stir, I entered the _salon_.

A police officer was talking with the valet. I thanked him for ridding
me of my unpleasant visitors, who would undoubtedly have done harm to
the furniture of the house, if not to our persons.

"Oh, that is past," said he, "but there is something else amiss; and I
may tell you at once, sir, something that is very serious!"

"Serious to me?" I asked.

"Yes, the police have certain knowledge of the fact that you keep up a
cipher correspondence with somebody in Brussels. You have received a
letter a day or two ago."

"I know it. The letter had been opened by the police."

"Exactly. You have answered that letter, also in cipher, and the letter
was posted not quite an hour ago."

"And the contents of this letter are already in the hands of the
police?"

"Yes. Will you have the kindness to give me the key to the cipher?"

"Sir," said I, "you know well that every correspondence has secrets
which cannot be disclosed to a stranger!"

"I assure you that the Police Department is just as silent with respect
to the secrets that are entrusted to it, as the tongueless stone lions
on St. Mark's Square in Venice."

"And what will be the consequence if I refuse to give you the key?"

"If they offer to shoot me," I thought, "I will not tell."

"If you refuse, you will be conducted to the Belgian frontier without a
moment's delay."

"No, thank you," I thought; "I'll have none of that."

So I invited him into my room, and together we solved the contents of
both letters.

The first was that of the agent, the second was my answer, which
consisted of the following words:--

"The French will be victorious; invest my whole fortune, all the money
you hold of mine, in buying for a rise."

The tears rushed down the cheeks of the police officer. That a foreigner
had so much confidence in the French cause as to stake his whole fortune
on it was completely overpowering to him. He pressed my hands in silent
acknowledgment, when I could have laughed in his face, and was silently
applauding myself on the comedy I had played.

"It is all right, sir," said he, taking his leave; "but since you are a
true friend of the French, let me give you a bit of honest advice. Don't
stay in Paris beyond to-day at the utmost. To-day we command; to-morrow,
God knows who may fill our place. Go to-day, while you are free to go;
to-morrow it is possible that I shall follow your example."

I thanked him heartily, and gave him my passport for revision. In an
hour the passport was returned to me in proper order, and at daybreak we
were sitting in a railway carriage. My wife confessed that she felt very
happy in being able to leave Paris; she had been very uncomfortable and
ill at ease there.



XVI.

DAME FORTUNE.


It took us two whole days to reach Brussels. All the railway trains were
crowded with soldiers and refugees fleeing from Paris, and at every
station there was some delay. Special trains had to be waited for, and
at every town the passengers had to leave the carriage, show their
passports, answer all questions, and open all trunks and valises for
examination by the police.

For me this exasperating procedure was rendered more difficult still.
The wound on my forehead betrayed me for a soldier of some sort, and a
strict command of General Trochu expressly forbade soldiers to leave the
country. Of course, I had my discharge; but, when I showed the document,
it took them always a good while to consider which command of General
Trochu should be respected--the one which bade me go, or the other which
directed me to stay.

At the border I was detained for exactly four hours. Again my luggage
was searched; again I had to convince them that I was no runaway
soldier, no foreign spy, but a lawfully-discharged volunteer
camp-surgeon of foreign birth; and I had to give my word of honour that
the lady with me was really and legally my own wife.

When we finally arrived at Brussels, late at night, we could hardly find
a lodging. All the hotels were crowded to the doors, and only with
difficulty, and by the aid of a very liberal tip, was I enabled to
procure a back room on the third storey. I took my wife to the elevator,
to be carried to the room, gave orders for her supper, etc., and went
down to the café to drink a glass of hot punch.

The place was crowded to suffocation, in spite of the lateness of the
hour. Every newspaper was being read by five or six readers at once.
Something very important seemed to have happened, but the noise was so
deafening that it was utterly impossible to catch a word of the news.

I begged the waiter to let me have one of the papers.

"Never mind, sir," he said, smilingly; "these are all afternoon
editions. If you will wait till your punch is ready, I will manage to
get you a fresh paper moist from the press."

I rewarded his good offices with the expected money gratification, and
some minutes later the hot punch and a moist copy of the morning
_Indépendance_ were before me. The price of the copy was five francs.

As an experienced reader of Continental newspapers, I began my reading
on the last page, devoted to the telegrams. I found one from Arlon,
stating that MacMahon's position was very good. He was posted behind
fortifications, which were stored with provisions for three hundred
thousand men. Yesterday's engagement had ended in a triumph for the
French.

Another telegram came from Mézières, according to which yesterday's
battle had ended fatally for the French, who had been forced to the
Belgian frontier by the Prussians. The Emperor was with MacMahon. The
line of battle extended from Bazille to La Chapelle. Three thousand
French soldiers, with five hundred horses, had been driven across the
Belgian frontier, and had there surrendered.

A gentleman sitting near me, evidently a Frenchman, politely begged me
to show him the telegrams. "Oh," said he, "these are old ones, brought
over from the evening papers. Let us look at the front page," and,
turning the leaves, he pointed to a few lines printed in large letters,
"Sedan, September 2, 8 p.m. MacMahon's army has surrendered and laid
down its arms. MacMahon is severely wounded, and General Wimpffen has
taken command in his place. The capitulation was signed by him. Napoleon
has personally surrendered to the Prussian King."

The French gentleman had fallen from his chair in a swoon. He was
carried out into the fresh air to recover. This incident caused a
sensation in the room; everybody inquired for the cause of the swoon,
and I gave them the newspaper, which was eagerly devoured, until one
gentleman leaped upon a billiard-table and read the news aloud to all.

I went up to my wife. She had thrown herself on the bed, without
undressing, for, as we had only this single apartment for both of us,
she could not undress before the stranger who was--her husband. I begged
her pardon for disturbing her, but I thought she would be interested in
the important news. Of course she was! All the sleep was gone from her
eyes in a moment. She sprang from the bed and came to me. "See how kind
Providence has been!" she said. "If you had not been dismissed, you also
would be a prisoner now. So what seemed an evil has been converted into
a benefit."

At the first moment I felt inclined to share her views. For, indeed, it
would have been a ludicrous end to my little private tragedy if, instead
of the coveted death, I had experienced a few years of tedious inaction
at Mainz or some other German fortress.

So that, considered from this point of view, I had indeed had a
fortunate escape, and out of the fancied evil had come a certain good.
"But if evil may change into good," I thought, "I wonder who can repair
my marred and blackened life? Is there any Providence powerful enough to
convert this evil into a benefit?"

I gazed at Flamma, and wondered how she would look if I were to tell her
that her million had ceased to exist, that this catastrophe, which had
dragged a monarch from his throne into captivity, had also cost her her
sole fortune, the inheritance of her grandfather, and had thrown her
upon my mercy? "Good-night!" I said to her. "Try to sleep a little. I
will go and look for some private lodgings. We cannot stay in this
place." She thanked me, and, if I remember rightly, she extended her
hand to me; but I contrived to avoid taking it, and left her to her own
company.

I descended again to the café. Nobody was there except the staff of
waiters. Everybody else had gone to the Bourse, I learned. 'Change open
at four o'clock in the morning! is not that extraordinary? Certainly,
but so are the events which are occurring. The spacious halls and
corridors of the Exchange were brilliantly lighted all night long, and
were filled with a throng of brokers and "matadores." Curiosity took me
there also; but I had literally to fight my way in. My fists had to
procure admission for me. In the large hall this lighting for room was
general; and as for the noise and uproar of voices, the blockade of
Spicheren must have been a symphony in comparison.

I promised twenty francs to one of the servants of the establishment if
he would fetch me Mr. X., my broker, from the _coulisses_. I handed him
my card. It was an hour before the good man could emerge from the crowd.
His silk hat was crushed, his coat-collar torn off, the bow of his
necktie was dangling at the back of his neck, and his waistcoat had lost
four buttons; but he was radiant. As he caught sight of me, he ran to
meet me, shook my hands, embraced and kissed me, and fairly went into
ecstasies over me. Was this man mad?

"Sir!" he cried. "My friend! my hero! You are a sage, a prophet! At the
news of the catastrophe of Sedan a tremendous rise has set in on
'Change!"

"Rise!" I exclaimed, astonished.

"Certainly, and what a rise! If the French had simply been vanquished we
should have had a tremendous fall, but at the news of the surrender
values are rising enormously. You are a wonderful man! How you have
scented it all! Let me go back to make millions! Your money is all
invested for a rise. To-day we shall take lunch at Tortoni's at twelve
o'clock sharp. I shall bring you home eight millions. Let me go, or I
shall leave the lappet of my coat in your hands."

With that he ran back to the orgies around the golden calf. I let myself
go with a crowd that was thronging out--possibly the beaten
speculators--and was borne by the current into the street. I was
completely stunned at the results of my determined efforts to lose that
money, and felt for my head to make sure that I was not dreaming. Could
all this be true? Could ice be kindled into flames, and could flames
freeze to ice? How was I to believe that all my curses could be turned
into blessings, and that out of misfortune Fortune herself should arise?

By this time the morning had dawned, and I went into a café to get some
tea. With the tray a newspaper was laid before me, and, sure enough, I
read--"General rise! French values mounting and greatly in demand! Money
in abundance!"

So it was no dream.

Until noon I sauntered about in order to kill time. At precisely twelve
o'clock I was at Tortoni's, and found my broker already expecting me. He
had ordered lunch: Four dozen oysters, woodcock, artichokes,
giardinetto. Wines: Chablis, Chateau Lafitte, Grand Vin Mumm, etc.

"Wonderful victory!" said he, taking my hand. "_Écrasant_ defeat of the
_contremine_! Sir, Napoleon has capitulated before King William; I
capitulate before you. You know more of the psychology of the Money
Market than I!"

I to know the psychology of the Money Market? was not that excessively
absurd?

"It is easy to understand," he continued. "You are home from the French
camp. Evidently you have not gone there to plaster sores or set broken
bones, but to have an opportunity for watching the development of the
situation, and the movements of the forces. Oh if all 'matadores' would
only be as prudent! But this course requires pluck, courage, and perfect
coolness. You already knew that MacMahon was hemmed in, and that the
Emperor shared the same fate. It was easy to foresee the ensuing
surrender, and you made use of the means provided for your escape. You
gave me instructions; I have carried out your order, and here is the
result. Four millions are the prize of this one day."

"But how is it possible?" asked I.

"Pray don't try to play the simpleton before me. Of course, you had
calculated that, with the capitulation and the capture of the Emperor,
the war was at an end. The French have no organised armies left, and
are, therefore, compelled to make peace. The Stock Market anticipates
the conclusion of peace, and forces up French securities. What shall I
do with your eight millions?"

What? I hardly knew. Throw it into the ocean; it would come back to me,
like the ring of Polycrates. Nay, not like that, for it kept hatching,
and came back like a hen with a brood of chickens--that is, millions.
This odious money sticks to me like so many burs, and I cannot get rid
of it. Fortune is called a goddess. To me she was a "She-devil;" her
gold was choking me.

"Did you come from Paris alone?" asked the broker.

"No; my wife is with me."

"Have you found comfortable quarters to live in?"

"A back room on the third storey. I am looking for private lodgings."

"Well, I will tell you something. A banker, who was on the bear side,
offers his residence for sale, in order to pay his differences. His
house cost him four hundred thousand francs. We could get it for half
the amount, and you could move into it at once."

"Take it, by all means."

"But what shall I do with the balance of the money? This glass to the
new landlord!"

We clinked glasses. What a powerful agent money was! Only last night I
could not find a room to sleep in, and now I was practically the owner
of a palatial residence in Brussels. But what should I do with the rest,
the seven million eight hundred thousand francs?

"Speculate with the whole amount for a fall," said I to the agent,
determined that this time the hateful money should be lost for ever. Mr.
X. set down his glass and looked at me. "I beg pardon, sir, but--perhaps
you are not accustomed to spirits? The champagne was rather strong."

"Wine does not affect me. I am quite sober."

"Then, in all politeness, I would advise you to consult a specialist;
perhaps you are suffering from the mania of contradiction or some other
mental disease."

"This is my own affair. You do with my money as I instruct you. Put all
the money left, after paying for the house, on a bear speculation at one
week."

"Then, pray, give me permission to take out my percentage first; for in
this transaction I take no share. You have pulled out the devil's
forelock and shaved off his beard, but he won't give you his hoof and
tail also. Give me my percentage, and handle your money yourself."

"Your percentage you may take when you please, but with the rest do as I
tell you; speculate for a fall at the end of a week. I have no time to
go on 'Change, as I must be off to Paris."

"Paris? You are going back to Paris? Sir, your reason must be disturbed.
Why, revolution has broken out in Paris. Don't you know of it?"

"That's exactly the reason for my going. My wife has left her whole
wardrobe, her silver, jewellery, pictures, and tapestry in Paris, and I
am going to take everything away before it is destroyed."

"But, sir, this is foolish! Here are eight millions. Surely you can buy
a new wardrobe and jewellery for your wife with this money without
carrying your head to the guillotine."

"Will you allow me to judge of my own affairs?" said I, angrily. "I must
know best what I ought to do."

After that my man put the tip of his forefinger to his nose, and
exclaimed: "Oh, so!"

I looked at him with tight-shut lips, giving vent to a slight "H--m,
h--m!"

At that he raised his eyebrows, lifted his fat finger with a warning
gesture, and smiled mischievously; whereat I shrugged my shoulders, and
the mutual understanding was perfect. Of course, it was natural in the
owner of eight millions to have, besides his legal wife, another illegal
wife, or mistress; and as in case of danger an honest man's first duty
is to save his own wife, I had of course done so; but, like a real
gentleman, I was returning to the place of danger in order to save my
other wife as well.

That was the meaning of the mysterious winking and smiling and hemming,
and I did not think it worth my while to undeceive him. Let him believe
whatever he likes; what do I care for his opinion?

The same day I obtained possession of the house, and took my wife to it.
She was greatly astonished at its splendour, but ventured no remark. I
asked her if she had any money left out of the forty thousand francs,
and she answered that she had only spent half of it. That showed good
economy. Not to spend more than twenty thousand francs in three months
was the quintessence of thriftiness. I told her that the house was at
her disposal, and that she might arrange everything to please herself. I
was compelled to leave her on urgent business. She did not ask me what
business I had, nor where it would take me. Neither would she persuade
me to stay.

I reached Paris much sooner than I had expected. As soon as I had passed
the frontier I had donned my uniform again, and was very wise in doing
so. All those who had hindered me when leaving the country were now
very officious in assisting me to reach Paris. The sight of my uniform,
my wounded forehead, and the _légion d'honneur_ was enough to put them
entirely at my service. In Paris I was surprised at the change of the
appearance in the public streets. Over every porch, on every house, a
large tricolour flag was displayed; the military embraced and
fraternised with the people. I saw the Imperial Guard hacking at the
imperial eagle over the barrack-gate with their swords--the same swords
which they used two days before to drive off and disperse the mob at my
door.

My own residence had undergone a similar change. Like the caterpillar
which has developed into a gay butterfly, it had put on wings, and from
the balcony, above the porch, on all sides, great tricolours were
hanging, with the legend "_Vive la République_!"

So it was already a Republic, and only the other day it had been an
Empire. And all this had occurred without the shedding of a single drop
of blood, without the least disorder! It was just as though a handsome
widow should remarry the day after her husband's funeral. The new
Government was already established, and the satisfaction over this
performance was enough to sweeten the pang caused by the catastrophe of
Sedan.

In the streets no policeman, no detective could be seen. The National
Guard watched over the public order, and the foreigners, who, under
Palikao's reign, had been the victims of so many molestations, were left
in peace. Yes, large placards, in big red letters, invited all
foreigners who were true friends of liberty to enter the volunteer
corps, which was called into existence for defence against the tyrants.
It was enough to show some exotic trait of dress or appearance to be
literally embraced on the streets by fair ladies.

So it was in vain that I had come to this place to get rid of my head.
There was no guillotine, no barricade, not the slightest opportunity for
cheap martyrdom; and as for the volunteer legion, why, that was a
veritable life insurance corps.

I could not get myself killed. But my millions had another chance of
annihilation. The rise was lasting for days, and all Europe believed in
a restoration of peace.

On the sixth day, the limit I had given to my broker, appeared that
manifesto of the French Republican Government which proclaimed that the
war would be continued until all resources were exhausted. France would
never rest until she had driven her enemy from her soil.

This proclamation was a deathblow to all hopes of peace, and destroyed
all calculations and expectations. That a tremendous decline in values
was the consequence will be readily understood.

So my Hell-born millions had hatched again, and returned to me doubled.
Dame Fortuna insulted me! She was a demon--a Devil!



XVII.

LIGHT AT LAST.


At this I gave up that Quixotic fight against windmills, and said to my
own familiar spirit, my little inward devil--

"My dear little demon, I find you are a much more cunning little devil
than I thought you to be, and I shall begin to listen to your advice.
What the devil shall I kill myself for, when I have got sixteen million
francs of ready money? Is there any need of my final surrender to you as
yet? First, I'll see what services you'll do me still. The money I got
by following your suggestions, but the suicide speculation was a
failure. Evidently there are other devils more potent than you. Now let
me see. If I judge correctly, I can spare you altogether, dismiss you
with good references, such as, 'A fine little demon, very cunning, very
devoted and submissive.' It would be easy for you to find another
master, and I could well spare you. Why, with sixteen millions there is
no need of my being unhappy, and giving way to despair; with so much
ready money, I have Fortune at my command. She will come at my bidding.
If every husband in France who is not beloved by his wife were to enlist
against the Prussians, daring Death and Devil alike, the Prussians would
very soon find their way home again. And if she has insulted, betrayed
me with another man before she became my wife, I can revenge myself now,
and why not? When Father Adam quarrelled with Mother Eve, he found
consolation with Lilith, the dark-skinned Hashor, the almond-eyed
Anaitio, the silent Mylitta. So, my dear little demon, I can't see of
what use you can be to me any longer. I am tired of going death-hunting,
and not fool enough to play a game of shuttlecock with a lump of gold.
Then what's the use of my keeping you?"

"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" laughed he. "Fancy your sending me off when you stand
most in need of me and my advice. My dear boy, you were never so much my
own as at this moment. You are tired of death-hunting? Very good; live
on, drink deep of the fountain of life, drain it to the dregs, and much
good may it do you! You have wealth and therefore power, and you will
become just such a dare-devil villain as the man who has caused all this
pother. You will betray innocent, confiding maidens, deceive loving
friends, ruin families, and beget unfortunate, ill-starred beings. You
will become a heartless libertine, a selfish sensualist. You will mock
at God, mock at the Devil; and when you are all alone, you will dread
and despise yourself. You will do evil for evil's sake, and rejoice at
the despair of your brethren. Oh, you can't spare me now, my boy; you
want me more than ever!"

I did not enter the Franc-tireur legion, although its captain was a
countryman of mine, a chivalrous Hungarian: if I am not mistaken, his
name was Varjassy. I returned to Brussels, and remained there.

My broker, Mr. X., came to me, quite submissive, doing penance in
sackcloth and ashes. Again he called me sage and prophet, and finally
asked me, "What next?"

"Nothing," I said. "We will not go near the Bourse again. We have made
our booty; don't let us run the risk of losing it."

"You are certainly wise!" he said, admiringly. He took his own
proportion, and bought property with it. The last time I had heard of
him he had established a great dairy and was manufacturing an excellent
cheese.

I had become a fashionable dandy. I was a member of the Jockey Club, was
seen at the theatres and at all fashionable places of public
entertainment. I opened my palatial residence to fashionable society,
and took my wife to all social amusements fitted to her station in life.
I took pride in the elegance of her toilette, and was jealously careful
that her equipage should outshine all others.

Still I cannot say that this constant, tender consideration and
attention to her affected her in my favour. On the contrary, I found
that of late her glance had a troubled, I may say, puzzled expression
when it rested on me; and when occasionally I entered her room
unexpectedly I saw that she hastily concealed in a drawer a small and
well-worn note-book. I supposed she was calculating what this expensive
rate of living might cost. If she only computed what I spent officially,
so to speak--that is to say, on herself and the household--she must have
made it some four hundred thousand francs. The income on her million of
florins would amount, at the utmost, to one hundred thousand francs, so
she must naturally have come to the conclusion that her securities were
scattered to the winds.

At that time the rosewood chest with the bonds, in exactly the same
condition as when she had given them to me on our wedding night, was in
my own possession again, and locked up in my safe. It had been my first
care to take it home from the banking-house where it had been deposited.
I had repaid the amount of the loan, received the securities, and found
them all in excellent order.

By this time the period of Flamma's confinement had arrived, and a son
was born. I had made her a proposition to postpone the christening for a
month, and only then to give our aristocratic family connections at home
information of the happy event. She consented, and by the time the
christening took place she had fully recovered her health and beauty,
or, rather, she had become more beautiful than ever; for, from a girlish
maiden, she had developed into a blooming woman.

The little boy we christened William James. He was a well-formed,
healthy child, and I myself had conscientiously selected a nurse for
him.

When at last no harm was to be feared from excitement, and Flamma's
health was fully established, I wrote her a line that I should like to
have some conversation with her on money matters that afternoon. She
wrote me in reply that I had anticipated her own wishes, and that she
would be ready to receive me.

At the appointed time I carried the rosewood chest with her dowry to her
room. I found her engaged with the same worn-looking note-book that I
had already noticed, but this time she did not hide it upon my entrance.
She offered me a seat, but I set the chest on the table in front of her,
and, looking her in the face, I said--

"Madame, to-day it is seven months since that eventful evening on which
you made me certain confidential disclosures. At that time I did not
make any remark on the subject, because the state of your health was
such that, in my capacity as a physician, conscientious scruples
prohibited me from creating in you any excitement which might prove
fatal to yourself and to another being. You will not refuse to bear
witness that I have paid you all the care and attention which your
condition required, and that I have done everything that was possible,
under the circumstances, to save you from emotions which might be
injurious. I have nursed you conscientiously, and omitted nothing which
I thought necessary to your health and that of your child. But now your
health is fully established, your child is christened, and I have given
him an honourable name and a good nurse, which is all that he requires
for the present. Now the time has come when I may express my real
sentiments to you. I shall even now forbear to reproach you. In this
whole baneful connection between us the fault has been mine alone. It
was my boundless vanity, my absurd conceit, which led me to believe that
a beautiful, wealthy, and high-born young lady would choose me, of all
men, for her husband, without any secret motive or hidden reason to
prompt her. I ought to have known my own worthlessness better, and not
yielded to a flattering self-conceit. You see, I acknowledge my fault
fully, and I own that I have deserved my punishment. I have no
accusation against you. You were desperate; you had to save your
reputation, and you did not stop to consider what it might cost me so
long as it served your purpose. Of course, the pride and honour of
Countess Vernöczy were of much higher importance than the life, the
honour, of an insignificant fool like myself. Move over, you paid for the
services you had procured with admirable magnanimity. You placed your
whole dowry at my disposal. But now your honour and reputation are
saved; so is that of your child. There is no need of my suffering longer
for a fault for which I have bitterly atoned. Now, pray, let me restore
to you the money which you placed in my hands on that memorable night.
Let me beg you to take slate and pencil, and convince yourself of the
entire correctness of the amount."

She looked at me as if mesmerised, and mechanically she obeyed me. I
opened the chest, took out the papers, and, as she had done on the night
of our wedding, I dictated to her the titles of the various deeds and
securities, and she wrote as I dictated.

The amount was correct. "You see that the coupons are inside," I said;
"those of last year and those of this year also. Not one has been
touched."

"And our household expenses?" asked she, breathlessly.

"Were liquidated by me with my own money. Now, pray, take the property
out of my hands, for this is the last time that we shall ever speak with
or behold each other as long as we live." She gazed up at me, trembling
in every nerve. I continued--

"I shall leave you to-day, and you will never learn whither I have gone
or where I am. Like the criminal escaping from jail, I shall change my
name, and deny the term which I have served at your side. I shall
possess no name, no home, no family. I shall be a stranger and an
outcast, wandering to and fro for fear that the acquisition of a settled
residence might betray my abode to you. And now, there are three roads
open to you. You may return with your child to the old home of the
Dumanys, my poor Slav kingdom. There you may live, secluded from the
world, bringing up your child and teaching him virtue, honesty, and
useful employments. You may dole out alms to the poor, and in this
mournful solitude pray to God for happy oblivion or the still happier
news of my death. This is one of the roads open to you; it is the stony
path of virtue, dreary and tiresome. The second path is the flowery one.
You may throw yourself upon the waves of life, drink deep of the cup of
pleasure, not troubling yourself with scruples as to what is allowed and
what forbidden. Your youth, beauty, and wealth will carry you up to the
pinnacle of pleasure--only beware of the consequences! I, the husband,
shall be separated from you by whole oceans perhaps, and shall not be
here to legitimatise the result of a _faux pas_. There is still a third
way--a divorce; and I authorise you to commence your suit. Only, you
know, this way is tedious, and requires great sacrifices. Monetary
sacrifices also, for we cannot get a divorce without being converted to
Protestantism, and in that case, according to your grandfather's will,
you are obliged to give up your dowry--this million. But you have also
to give up the Church and the religion in which you were born and
brought up, and which has given you consolation in despair, and the
saints whom you are accustomed to invoke to your aid. Still, the road is
open to you, and I will give you four hours to make your decision. If it
should be for a divorce, I am ready to go with you to Transylvania to
procure a divorce under the Unitarian laws."

As I finished she rose from her seat, her cheeks aglow, her eyes
burning. "I know a fourth way," she said, catching her breath.

"And that is?"

"I will not let you go!" she cried, taking hold of my arm with both
hands, and clinging to me with her trembling body.

I broke out into a bitter, scornful laugh. "Countess," said I, "do you
believe that there is in the world an interest, a sentiment, a spirit of
magnanimity or of cowardice, which is powerful enough to hold me in jail
now that the time for which I have sentenced myself has expired? That
there is any power existing which could tie me to your side, if but for
another day? Well, I have read the hate, the contempt, the scorn in your
eyes, and you were justly entitled to those feelings; but you cannot
wish me to endure these daily pangs and lacerations of my wounded
self-esteem for ever. You cannot ask of me to live on at the side of a
woman who hates me, despises me, and scorns me, simply because it would
suit that woman to retain her present position. No, my lady! Even my
ample stock of weak foolish indulgence is at an end. I go, and I go for
ever! Not even in Paradise do I wish to meet you again. And if you go to
salvation, I shall go to perdition to avoid you!"

The effect of my cruel, insulting words were marvellous. They did not
seem to hurt or offend her; she seemed to delight in them, drink them in
like some sweet, delicious nectar. Her face, her eyes, her attitude
spoke of exultant admiration, of triumphant joy, of ecstatic delight.

"True!" she said, "it is all true that you have said. Only what I have
felt for you was never hate; it was love warring against contempt, and
contempt fighting against love. Yes, I have despised you; for I was
told, and I believed it, that money was all that you cared for, and your
own words have confirmed me in this opinion. Do you remember, after you
had told Cenni and me the story of your friend, you spoke of the
qualities of the girl whom you might marry? She must be young and
beautiful, and wealthy and luxurious. Young and beautiful--I thought--to
suit your vanity; wealthy and luxurious--because you loved wealth and
luxury; and your conduct after our marriage hourly convinced me of the
correctness of the supposition. You accepted your position without a
murmur. I was burning with shame and humiliation, ready at a word to
fall at your feet, and make you a confession which would cleanse me from
the burning stigma, remove from me the brand of shame. But you accepted
the money, and asked no questions, and I left you in despairing
contempt. Our married life was much too luxurious to undeceive me, and I
believed that you were making use of my money to feed your appetite for
pleasure. When you protected me against danger, nursed me in my odious
condition, I thought, 'All is well to him as long as he can keep the
money. He fears for my life, because, in case of my death, he would have
to restore the money.' The comfort, the splendour, the costly presents,
dresses, and jewels which you bestowed upon me were so many accusations
against yourself. And yet how I longed to be able to respect you! When
the newspapers spoke of your undaunted courage, of your disinterested
and indefatigable activity, your self-denial, generosity, and discreet
modesty, how my heart yearned for you! How my soul cried out to you,
'Why are you not the same to me as to the world? Why are you brave,
generous, disinterested, and self-denying to them, and not to me? Why am
I, of all persons alive, condemned to know you for a cowardly,
avaricious, and selfish man, when, in spite of all that, my heart burns
for love of you?' And now you have thrown off the hideous mask you wore,
have shown me your real face, shown me how much I have misjudged you,
how I have sinned against you! You give me back that money untouched.
You have not even spent the interest of it, and now I see how I have
wronged you in accusing you of greed. All your tender care, your
delicate attention, your patient indulgence were given to me out of your
magnanimous sense of duty, the heavenly generosity of your soul! And now
that I know you in all the glory of your goodness, now that I have found
my ideal in you and my love has grown into worship, now you tell me
that you are lost to me for ever, that you will not be mine, and I must
choose the paths you point out to me. No, sir; that is impossible! You
cannot cast me off, now that I love you! I have sinned against you,
caused you insufferable pains, infinite tortures; but my whole life
shall be given to atone for those sins by meek submission, dutiful
obedience, ardent love. I cannot choose between those paths you have
shown me. I do not want to be consumed by the fires of sinful love, nor
to freeze in the ice of solitude and self-abnegation. I want to be
happy, and to make you happy. I want to love, and I do love you!"

"You have a child."

"That child! That living stigma which was branded into my flesh by a
miserable assassin! I hate it so much that I will never kiss it, never
pray for it. Its very sight is loathsome to me! I have given birth to
it, but shall never love it as a mother!"

After this tempest of her emotions she threw herself against the door,
barring it against me as though to say: "The way through this door, the
way that separates you from me, leads over my body."

I looked at her, and the sight of her deep and real agitation summoned
me to a silent condemnation of my base hypocrisy. What was I but a
cunning dissembler, coming here to play a great part before her, making
believe that I had not touched her money, when I had time and again
risked it in speculations? And the very house she lived in, the comfort
and splendour that surrounded her, were the result of the profits her
money had acquired. How dared I make a parade of my generosity, when all
the time I had been scheming for her ruin and dreaming of revenge? Truth
and sincerity were all on her side; the halo of virtue around my head
was false.

And she loved me! She confessed that love with the frank truthfulness of
her nature--confessed it in words that sent a thrill of delight through
my whole frame! And I, who am burning for love of her, I stand here like
a pagan idol, in stony indifference, looking down at the bleeding heart
which is held up as a sacrifice to me. No, I am no stone! Avaunt,
Hathor, Mylitta, Baaltis, I am none of yours! And thou too, vile,
wretched Dissimulation, I cast thee forth! Depart from the presence of
this true woman!

I went to her and took her hands. "If your boy is not to have the love
of a mother, he shall have that of a father instead. I shall love him
dearly and be a true father to him."

As I said this, she broke into passionate sobbing, and, crouching down
at my feet, she threw her arms around my knees and wept bitterly.

"No," said she, "do not lift me up, for my confessions are not yet
ended. I have asked you for mercy heretofore. I now ask you for justice;
for a righteous judgment! I have never been the degraded wretch you
believed me to be, have never been the mistress of another man, never
listened to his words of love, so help me God! Siegfried was not my
betrayer, he was my assassin! He made use of Diodora's and Cenni's
absence from the house, at a time when a slight illness had prevented
me from accompanying them, to drug my wine at the table, and during the
lethargy caused by the soporific potion he slew my soul! Devil as he is,
he took a devilish revenge, because I had shown him my contempt and
abhorrence."

Before this I was down on my knees, covering her eyes, her hair, her
face, and her mouth with my kisses; weeping in the excess of my love and
happiness. "Why did you not tell me this before? Why not on the night of
our wedding?" I asked.

"I intended to! Do you remember that I asked you if you had no other
question to address to me? You said 'No,' and pointed to the door. For a
few moments only your eye had rested with a fiery glare on a two-edged
dagger which lay upon the table. If you had carried out the wild
promptings of your wrath, if your hand had raised the dagger against me,
if only a single word or action had given me proof that you were the man
I wished you to be, and not the wretch who accepts the money which is
offered in return for his name and honour, I should have spoken. Oh, how
I have longed to do it!"

I pressed her to my heart and kissed her again. "You are innocent," I
said: "as innocent as that poor child himself. You have not sinned;
others have sinned against you. And now that you have confessed to me,
let me also confess to you, and, if you can, forgive me!" I told her
all--my evil designs, the monetary speculations, my suicidal purposes,
my moral cowardice. She listened, shuddering, but, when I had finished,
she nestled close to my heart and kissed me passionately. She had
forgiven.

       *       *       *       *       *

After this we decided to leave Europe and go to the New World--to
America. My old Slav kingdom I did not care to keep; it was best to give
up everything, and wipe out all memory of myself. So I left it to be
sold in payment of the debts I had accumulated. In the New World fortune
clung to me with the same persistence. Whatever I undertook was sure to
succeed, and all my enterprises were fortunate. So, in course of time, I
became the "Silver King." We came to Europe on account of little James,
who all at once ceased speaking and became a mute. We tried American
physicians, but to no purpose, and so we came to Europe in order to
consult the best professional talent. Now you know all. You know how it
was possible for the little son of a South American nabob, after
regaining his lost speech, to speak Hungarian, and you know who taught
him to speak that language. The child has never loved anyone but me, and
no one has loved him but myself. And I love him truly and with all my
heart. For to him I am indebted for all my present happiness; not only
for my wealth, for wealth alone is not happiness. A man may be happy
without wealth, and be very unhappy with it; but I owe him this.

He took a photograph from his pocket-book, and showed it to me--four
laughing little cherub heads, peeping out of a bath-tub, like birds from
the nest. "These my little James has brought me," he said, with tears of
joy in his eyes; "if he had not come, these would not have come either.
So, you see, my dear friend, I was thrown into Hell and fell into
Paradise."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I beg your pardon," said I to Mr. Dumany, as he finished his story,
"but I am curious to know what became of Siegfried? Would you mind
telling me?"

"Oh, he is a very famous man at present, and fills a very honourable
position. He is engaged as horse-tamer in the Paris Hippodrome, and they
say that he is excellent in 'jumping.' I have not seen him yet, but I
hear he has a good salary, and is a general favourite. He is very much
praised and admired by those who have seen him. I think it highly
creditable in a man when he lives honourably by means of his ability and
talent."

By this time the dawn had greeted us. Through the chinks of the closed
shutters the rising sun was stealing, decorating the wall-tapestry with
rings of golden red, adding radiant circles to the smoke-wreaths of our
cigarettes, and sending long glittering darts into all the corners and
behind the curtains.

Presently, breaking the monotony of our voices, which punch and cognac
had made hoarse, a sweet, silvery voice chimed in, "Apácska! Apácska!"
("Papa! Papa!") and a little unfledged cherub was peeping out from the
bed-curtains. "You may come to me," said Mr. Dumany, smilingly, and, in
an instant, little James was out of bed, and, barefooted, in his little
nightgown as he was, he ran to his father, shouting with glee, climbing
up into his lap, and throwing his little arms caressingly around his
neck, laughing mischievously the while. At the noise of this babbling
and laughter, similar sounds were heard in the next room, just as in a
bird's nest when one little fledgeling chirps all the rest join in,
lifting the little heads and trying the winglets.

"Reveille is sounded," said my friend, with a happy smile. "I have to go
and muster my troops; this next chamber is their bedroom."

But the muster was postponed, for the commander-in-chief arrived--the
mother. She was in a plain, dark dress, but her beautiful face bore a
soft expression of happiness which I had not seen the day before. "You
are up yet?" she asked.

"And you are up already?" asked her husband.

"Yes. I have been out to my confessor's. You have made a clean breast to
your friend at home; I have done the same in the confessional, and I
have come home much happier than I went, and I truly hope much better."
With that she bent down to the child, and kissed it tenderly.

"I have been an unnatural and undutiful mother," she said, in a low,
trembling voice, "and if you, in your generous pity, in the overflowing
kindness of your nature, had not taken this poor innocent to your heart,
it would not have known the tender love, the sweet care of a parent.
Father Augustin has shown me the great, black sin in my breast. How can
I hope for mercy from Heaven if I mercilessly lock my heart against my
own innocent offspring? How can I hope for love and respect from my
other children, if I withhold a mother's love from this one? Oh, my
dearest husband! here in the presence of your friend, whom you have made
cognisant of our past sorrows and trials, I thank you from the bottom of
my heart for the love you have borne my child!" And before he could
prevent the action she had bent down and pressed her lips to his hand.

"Flamma! dearest!" he said, overcome by his emotion, "you have been the
truest, the most considerate, most loving, and most dutiful of all wives
and mothers; but this day you have filled my cup of happiness to the
brim. This one drop, the mother's kiss to the sweet innocent, was
wanting. This day shall henceforth be kept as a high holiday, as this
little darling's real birthday, for it has given him a mother."

He held up the boy to her, and at the sweet, inviting smile and the
opened arms the little one threw open his arms also; one of them he drew
around his mother's, the other around his father's neck, and then he
showered a volley of kisses and caresses on both. Never in all my life
have I seen a picture more lovely and beautiful than this.

"Come, my little one," said the mother, after a while, to the child, "it
is too early yet for you to rise. Come to your little brothers and
sisters and sleep awhile longer," and, nodding sweetly to us, she
disappeared, with the child on her arm, through the tapestry _portière_
that led to the children's bedroom.

The "Silver King" silently pressed my hand as I said--

"Sir, you are the happiest man on earth, nor can all the crowned
monarchs of the world compare to you in wealth!"

"Yes," he said, after a while, "I am very happy. But I owe you an
explanation, before I take leave of you. You may think it singular that
a man who is the father of a family should disclose such intimate
secrets to a friend of whom he knows beforehand that he will make public
use of the disclosure, and relate to his readers the events he has
learned. But, you see, so much has already been said about my wife and
me--the fantastic imagination of one half of our fellow-creatures has
invented so much to feed the idle curiosity of the other half, that the
plain truth will serve in general as a cooling sedative. There are
different versions afloat as to how we got our money. Some say that I
was a general spy of the Prussians, and that my money was a fee for the
information furnished, or, in plain words, the betrayal of the positions
of the French forces. Others say that my wife had been the mistress of a
King, and was enriched by him, and that she still draws a life-pension
from the Civil List; while superstitious fools will have it that I have
sold myself to the Devil, and am supplied by him with infernal lore.
Against all of these the disclosure of the plain truth will be the best
defence. Human I am and have been, and human have been the temptations
and trials that have beset me. The only Devil to whom, for a time, I
sold myself, was the demon in my own breast--a poor, feeble spirit, and
long ago subdued by the more potent angel of love and peace."


THE END.



      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's Note:

   The following typographical errors in the original text have
   been corrected.

   In Part I, Chapter V, "religous monomania" has been changed to
   "religious monomania".

   In Part I, Chapter VIII, "Yes, I wan you immediately" has been
   changed to "Yes, I want you immediately".

   In Part I, Chapter XIII, "photograpers" has been changed to
   "photographers".

   In Part II, Chapter IV, "siezed" has been changed to "seized".

   In Part II, Chapter X, a missing quotation mark has been added
   to the sentence,

      Upon the steel blade was graven, in golden letters, "_Buona
      notte_; and "_Buona notte! buona notte_," I kept incoherently
      murmuring.

   In Part II, Chapter XII, "distinguised" has been changed to
   "distinguished".

   In Part II, Chapter XV, an extra "are" has been deleted from
   "you are are mistaken in this house".

   In Part II, Chapter XVII, "Moveover" has been changed to
   "Moreover".

   In Part II, Chapter XVII, "infernal ore" has been changed to
   "infernal lore".





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