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Title: Pretty Michal
Author: Jókai, Mór, 1825-1904
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pretty Michal" ***

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PRETTY MICHAL

A FREE TRANSLATION OF MAURUS JÓKAI'S ROMANCE
"A SZÉP MIKHÁL"

BY R. N. BAIN


NEW YORK
CASSELL PUBLISHING COMPANY
104 & 106 FOURTH AVENUE

COPYRIGHT, 1892, BY
CASSELL PUBLISHING COMPANY.

_All rights reserved._

THE MERSHON COMPANY PRESS,
RAHWAY, N. J.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

Wherein is shown how sagely the Rev. Master Fröhlich
brought up his motherless daughter, pretty Michal,         1

CHAPTER II.

Wherein is shown how the evil dragon brought to
naught all the sage devices of our reverend friend,       10

CHAPTER III.

Wherein is clearly shown that he who tends the sheep
is much more honorable than he who slaughters them,       19

CHAPTER IV.

Wherein are described all manner of robbers and
dangers, wherefrom the righteous are wondrously
delivered,                                                26

CHAPTER V.

Which will be a short chapter but not a very merry
one,                                                      52

CHAPTER VI.

Contains the proper explanation of things which have
hitherto remained obscure,                                56

CHAPTER VII.

Wherein are described the house and the mistress of
the house,                                                60

CHAPTER VIII.

In which are described the joys of long-parted but
finally reunited kinsmen, and everyone learns to
know exactly how he stands,                               66

CHAPTER IX.

In the course of which the stern father, in the
hardness of his heart, chastizes his lost son, but
finally grants forgiveness to the repentant
prodigal,                                                 72

CHAPTER X.

In which is shown how vain it is for womankind to
murmur against the course and order of this world,        81

CHAPTER XI.

Wherein is shown what terrible perils befall women
who are not resigned to their fate, and do not obey
their lords and masters,                                  89

CHAPTER XII.

Consists of a very few words which are, however, of
all the more consequence,                                102

CHAPTER XIII.

Wherein the knavish practices of the evil witch are
only insinuated, but not yet fully divulged,             103

CHAPTER XIV.

Which goes to prove that the society of great folks
is not always a thing to be desired,                     107

CHAPTER XV.

Valentine really becomes one of those who work in
blood,                                                   122

CHAPTER XVI.

Wherein is shown of what great use it is when a
mother is hardhearted toward her only son. Also
concerning divers skirmishes with the Turks, things
not to be read of without a shudder,                     129

CHAPTER XVII.

In which it is shown by an edifying example that he
who pursues the path of evil must needs fall into
the ditch,                                               140

CHAPTER XVIII.

Wherein is related what very different fates befell
the two honest comrades,                                 145

CHAPTER XIX.

The story now to be related very much resembles the
story of Joseph and Potiphar, but not quite,
inasmuch as it is not Joseph, but Potiphar, who is
finally cast into prison,                                152

CHAPTER XX.

In which is a very circumstantial, if not very
pleasant, description of all the conditions to be
observed in the exchange and purchase of slaves,         165

CHAPTER XXI.

Is full of good tidings, inasmuch as it treats of
the discomfiture of evil-doers,                          168

CHAPTER XXII.

Wherein is related what end was reserved for the
evil-doers by way of deterrent example, which
example, however, only distressed the soft-hearted
without terrifying the stiff-necked,                     172

CHAPTER XXIII.

In which it is shown not only that Satan is the
author of all evil, but also that the grisly
witches, his handmaidens, are always ready with
their malicious practices to plunge poor mortals
into utter destruction,                                  181

CHAPTER XXIV.

A true relation of the thoughtlessness of youth, and
the artifices whereby women enthrall their lovers,       194

CHAPTER XXV.

Man cannot fathom the wiles which witches imagine
when they unite in wedlock lovers whom they have
clandestinely brought together,                          200

CHAPTER XXVI.

The mummery receives its due punishment;
nevertheless, Mercy and Compassion come to the
mummer's aid, and deliver her out of all her
troubles,                                                209

CHAPTER XXVII.

Wherein is shown how great a force the will of a
woman is, and how quickly it can alter the order of
things which man devises,                                216

CHAPTER XXVIII.

Wherein occur such astounding transformations that
people are scarcely able to recognize their very
selves. Michal, however, is calumniated in a matter
wherein she is absolutely innocent,                      222

CHAPTER XXIX.

Concerning a terribly great contest, from which it
will be seen that where his spouse's honor was
concerned, Valentine put no bounds to his fury,          229

CHAPTER XXX.

Which teaches that outward beauty, be it never so
precious a property, is often most dangerous to its
possessor,                                               236

CHAPTER XXXI.

'Tis a true proverb which says that the devil sends
an old woman when he cannot come himself; but of
course it only applies to wicked old women, for
there are very many gentlewomen well advanced in
years who lead a God-fearing life and do good to
their fellow-creatures,                                  246

CHAPTER XXXII.

Whereby we learn that it is not good to come to
close quarters with Satan, for if we catch him by
the horns he butts us, if we clutch him by the
throat he bites us, and if we hold him by the neck
he kicks us,                                             259

CHAPTER XXXIII.

Which shows what a good thing it is when "publica
privatis præcedunt," or, in other words, when public
duties take precedence of private affairs,               276

CHAPTER XXXIV.

The fulfillment of the proverb, as you make your bed
so must you lie in it, comes to pass,                    289

CHAPTER XXXV.

Things in this world do not always exactly turn out
as men devise beforehand,                                305

CHAPTER XXXVI.

Wherein carnival revels are described,                   311

CHAPTER XXXVII.

The Lenten penance succeeds the carnival revels,         318

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

In which it is shown how ghosts haunt churchyards,       320

CHAPTER XXXIX.

In which everyone at last gets his deserts,              325

CHAPTER XL.

All things pass away, but science remains eternal,       334



PRETTY MICHAL.


CHAPTER I.

Wherein is shown how sagely the Rev. Master Fröhlich
brought up his motherless daughter, pretty Michal.


In the days when the Turkish Sultan ruled in Hungary as far as
Ersekujvar and Eger, the German Kaiser from Eger to the Zips
country, and George Rakoczy, Prince of Transylvania, from Zips to
the Szeklerland--all three of whom were perpetually fighting among
themselves, sometimes two against one and sometimes all together
indiscriminately, so that the inhabitants had a very lively time of
it--in those days (somewhere about 1650) the learned and reverend
Master David Fröhlich was the pride of the Keszmár Lyceum and
Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy there. Master Fröhlich knew
everything which could be reasonably expected of a man. He knew how
to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. He knew how to take the old
town-clock to pieces when it got out of order and put it together
again. He could fix the weather for a whole year beforehand. He
understood the _aureus calculus_ and could cast a horoscope with any
man living. He knew by heart which trades could be carried on best
in each of the twelve months. He had at his fingers' ends the arcana
and secret properties of all herbs and plants, could explain
sympathies and antipathies, nay, he could be implicitly trusted in
the manufacture of amulets.

But his most difficult science was that of which we are now about to
speak.

He had one beautiful daughter whom he had brought up without the
help of a mother, and that, surely, is a feat of which any man might
be proud! His wife had died on the very day on which she had given
birth to the child, and the widower had forthwith steadily set
before himself the problem of educating the girl without the
slightest female intervention.

The way in which he managed by artificial contrivances to find a
substitute for mother's milk was a miracle of itself; but even that
was as nothing compared with the masterly system of education which
he himself invented and applied, in order to make his daughter grow
up a discreet and modest maiden, despite the grievous want of
maternal supervision. For he would neither marry again, nor trust
his daughter to female nurses and servants, nor even admit any of
his own kinswomen into the house.

He inaugurated his system at her very baptism, by giving his
daughter the name of Michal. At first hearing, everyone, of course,
takes this for a man's name, never suspecting that a damsel lurks
behind it; perhaps only one among a thousand even knows that it is a
girl's name after all. Was not one of the wives of King David called
Michal?--she, I mean, who laughed when she saw the great King
dancing in the street. So the reverend and learned gentleman
christened his little daughter Michal, arguing that the Evil One
would not so lightly venture to tackle a name with such a masculine
ring about it.

Then he personally instructed his daughter in all good things from
her babyhood upward. She never went to school. Everything, from the
alphabet to the catechism, she learnt at home. Later on, as the
damsel's mind grew stronger, he taught her not only the Latin and
Greek tongues, but all the sciences which are useful and necessary
in life; _e. g._, the tabular calculations as to how much meat,
butter, meal, peas, grain, salt, etc., a prudent housewife should
dispense for two, four, eight, sixteen, etc., persons per day, week,
or month, so that the domestics may neither suffer hunger nor yet
overload their stomachs (N. B., salt must be particularly well
looked after lest the mice get at it, for everyone knows that when
mice eat salt they multiply prodigiously); item, wherewith to feed
the livestock; how much meal and bran should be got in exchange from
the miller for so much wheat; how to prepare yeast, knead dough,
bake bread, not forgetting to always turn the tub toward the north.
And bread making in the Highlands of North Hungary was a serious
business in those days, for rye meal was often scarce, and bread had
to be made of spelt, buckwheat, sweet peas, and other disgusting
things. Galen especially recommends bean meal bread. Dioscorides, on
the other hand, prefers a judicious admixture of onions. Nay, in
hard times, when no corn is to be had, poor people must be prepared
to make bread of dried quinces, medlars, elderberries, hips and
haws, and fungus, while the clergy and people of quality must be
content with honey bread, maize bread, or even oil cakes. Flesh
bread, too, of which Pliny so much approves, may be used
occasionally, or curd bread, which was the favorite dish of
Zoroaster. The Rev. Master Fröhlich also taught his daughter how to
preserve fruit, and how to convert it into blue, green, red, and
yellow jellies, without using any injurious pigments.

Moreover in these sciences beer brewing was also included, for the
ladies of Keszmár were wont to make their own ale. Every citizen
there owed his beer to his wife and daughter. No one ever thought of
getting it from the inn.

Nor was that all. It was part of every good housewife's business in
those days to keep in store all manner of medicines, and to know how
to concoct health-giving cordials from hundreds of wonder-working
herbs. To them the medical science was far from being the finger and
thumb work which our modern doctors make it, who, after prescribing
you a dozen doses or so of ipecacuanha against fever, hold
themselves absolved from all further responsibility. Our
grandmothers had efficacious cordials against every malady under the
sun, and in cases of serious illness they dosed the patient with the
infallible elixir known as Galen's specific, the principal
ingredients of which were Oriental pearls, red coral, and emeralds
powdered fine, cubeb balsam, lignum aloes, muscat blossoms,
frankincense, musk, bezoar, manus Christi, flesh-colored rose
leaves, oil of cinnamon, and kirmis berries. Extraordinary, indeed,
was the amount of knowledge which the housewife of yore had to carry
about in her noddle!

And besides the generally recognized alphabets of our own days there
were, at that time, three-and-thirty other symbols, the
signification whereof every good cook was bound to know by heart
before she could mix her ingredients. An oval with a stroke through
it meant "salt"; a square with a cross beneath it, "cream of
tartar"; a square with a horn, "oil"; a horseshoe, "spirits of
wine"; an oblong, "soap"; one triangle, "spring water"; two
triangles, point to point, "distilled water"; a crown with a star,
"regulus stellatus." Without a knowledge of this science, no woman
was regarded as perfect.

And then again the various kinds of aquavitæ! Nowadays most of us do
not even know the proper meaning of the term; then, their manifold
and salutary effects were universally recognized and appreciated.
Everyone knew, for instance, that they kept the blood warm and
fluid; removed all venom; dried up all sluggish humors; strengthened
the memory, etc. Then there were various mysterious oils, the most
costly of which was victriol (quite a different thing from vitriol),
which our great-grandmothers called "potable gold," to say nothing
of a multitude of waters, vinegars, acids, antidotes, plasters, and
pastils no reputable housewife could afford to be without, for was
she not the natural doctor and nurse of the whole family?

And the art of cookery was not a whit less abstruse than the art of
pharmacy. The stomachs of our ancestors were accustomed to very
complicated dishes. Cookery was a more difficult science than
metaphysics.

Then, too, the whole charge of the garden lay upon the housewife's
shoulders, and gardening was by no means the simple affair it is
nowadays. Our great-grandmothers, in their gardening capacity, knew
a whole host of things which have long since been forgotten. To
prevent the fruit falling from the tree before its time, they bored
a hole in the roots and drove through it a whitethorn peg; to
prevent the cherries from ripening too soon, they surrounded the
roots with unslacked lime; when they wanted scarlet pippins, they
softened the grafts in pike's blood, and when they wished to
propagate aromatic fruit, they bored a hole in the trunk of the tree
and filled it with fragrant oil. Our grandmothers were so clever
that they could compel a pear tree to bring forth grapes; they
could grow citrons as large as your head, figs with almond kernels
inside and the letters of the alphabet outside, and even nuts
without shells. They knew how to graft medlars on coffee trees,
which then produced an entirely new fruit, exceedingly luscious and
fragrant. When they wanted the bitter almond to bear sweet almonds,
they took counsel of Theophrastus and drove iron nails into the
roots. They knew the good and bad effects of winter upon all kinds
of garden produce. Even the simple, unsophisticated potato, only
just introduced from America, and called by them _adenes cardensis_,
was powerless against their innumerable artifices. Our
great-grandmothers knew and cultivated scores of vegetables the very
names of which are unknown to their posterity. All their dishes were
pungent with the most exquisite spices. They carried on a regular
trade in all manner of wholesome herbs and pigment plants. Saffron
alone was taken by the ton to the Zips markets, and thence exported
to Turkey. The kitchen garden was a veritable gold mine to the
thrifty housewife.

Nor must the flower garden be forgotten. In those days a speculation
in tulips was going on which can only be compared with the Bourse
speculations of our own days. The horticulturist had to carry about
in his head a whole dictionary of French botanical terms if he meant
to make a living. A lady gardener who understood her business had to
know what species of flowers could be planted and sown under the
zodiacal signs ♈, ♉, ♊, or ♋, ♌, ♍; to which the signs ♎, ♏, and ♐
are baleful; and how seldom those flourish which are planted under
the signs ♑, ♒, and ♓; in fact, she had to have her almanac at her
fingers' ends. The floral art had its own literature and its own
professors, who disposed of tulips and carnations to the value of
millions, and sent whole fleets laden with bulbs and plants to China
and America. Nay, the most distinguished writers of Europe did not
deem it beneath their dignity to dabble in the flower trade, just as
the writers of our own day dabble in politics.

It was certainly much more beneficial for young women to read about
such things than to fill their heads with the scandal and tomfoolery
of these later times.

If, however, they must needs know something about love and
antipathy, they could gather from these sage botanical records that
the fig tree and the rue love each other, for which reason it is
advisable to plant rue close to fig trees, especially as it keeps
away those sworn enemies of figs, the frogs; that the asparagus
loves the reed and the rosemary the sage, for which reason whoever
sets about planting rosemary must first of all rub his hand well
with sage leaves, so that the young transplants may thrive; that the
orange tree loves the cypress and the vine the cherry tree, and that
the lily thrives beside the rose, but also beside the garlic--'tis
only a matter of taste. On the other hand, there are plants which
hate, which absolutely cannot endure each other. For instance, when
one plants the noble anthora close to the wild najollus, it dries up
and withers, despite the most constant care; the angelica and the
hemlock infallibly throttle each other; while the antipathy of the
vine to the colewort goes so far that when a man who has drunk a
little too much wine eats of the colewort he instantly becomes
sober, and if you mix a little wine in the pot where the colewort is
boiling it will never get soft, stew it as long as you will.

Now pretty Michal mastered all these sciences not only with edifying
assiduity, but even with real enthusiasm; she found pleasure,
employment, and profit therein. Her books, her science, and her
flowers not only rejoiced her heart, they filled her pockets
likewise. Her garden especially was a veritable gold mine, for while
in those days a goose cost only a shilling and a young ox ten
shillings, no one considered paragon tulip bulbs dear at ten pounds
a piece. But (and this in Pastor Fröhlich's opinion was the greatest
gain of all) the flowers and the books left the damsel no time for
idle pranks; to this end the whole pedagogical system of the
reverend gentleman had been directed from the very first.

Whenever his lectures called him away from home, the professor took
down his grammars, lexicons, and other folios before he started, and
gave Michal as much to learn by heart as would occupy her the whole
time he was away at the Lyceum; then he locked the house door and
walked off with the key in his pocket. The very first thing he did
when he came home again was to make her repeat the set task from
beginning to end. Such a method is infallible. A servant-maid, a
governess, may deceive the cleverest cross-questioner, the ancient
folios never. They tell him at once whether the damsel's eyes have
been fixed on the book all the time, or whether they've been
straying about elsewhere.

In this way pretty Michal picked up a very considerable store of
general information.

Sundays and festivals were the only days on which she left the
house, and then she used to walk to church by her father's side. On
such occasions she wore a coffee-brown frock, with a collar reaching
to the chin, and sleeves which hid the very tips of her fingers. The
other girls prided themselves on the taste with which they adorned
their girdles, but pretty Michal's girdle could not boast of as much
as a silver buckle. Her _parta_, as the headdress of the Hungarian
maidens is called, was quite black, and over it was thrown a veil
which completely covered her face in front, and hung down so far
over her shoulders behind that it was absolutely impossible to make
out whether her twin long, pendent pigtails were blond or
chestnut-brown. Her eyes, too, were not permitted to declare whether
they were black or blue. During service they were well hidden behind
their long lashes, for she modestly kept them fixed upon her
prayer-book the whole time, and if she raised them during the sermon
it was only to rivet them upon the preacher. Moreover, the very wise
and proper regulation which not only separated the sexes, but made
the men sit right behind the women, prevented her from ogling
anybody even if she had a mind to. As for the students, they sat so
high up in the choir that they could see nothing from thence but the
notice-boards and the Decalogue.

Further, the reverend gentleman never took Michal to weddings or
other entertainments, the canonical prescriptions forbidding a
clergyman's daughter to dance. In fact, he did not even let her make
the acquaintance of other girls, for fear she should get a liking
for the frivolous ways of the gossiping minxes.

We must not forget to mention, too, that his house was so
constructed as to exclude by anticipation every possible temptation.
All the windows of pretty Michal's bedroom looked out upon the
courtyard, which was shut in on two sides by the blank walls of the
opposite houses, while the third side opened into the garden, which
was cut off from the outer world by a still higher wall richly
embroidered with iron nails and sharp spikes. Thus, pretty Michal's
heart might be regarded as a stronghold which no foe could capture
either by force or by fraud; and in the light of a foe was regarded
every mortal of the masculine gender who did not happen to be a
favorite of the reverend gentleman.



CHAPTER II.

Wherein is shown how the evil dragon brought to
naught all the sage devices of our reverend friend.


The Rev. Professor David Fröhlich had a very particular favorite,
who can also be said to have deserved that rare distinction. The
name of this young man was Henry Catsrider--a very curious name,
certainly, yet the bearer thereof had very little ridicule to fear
in consequence, for his big, strong frame inspired his
fellow-scholars with respect. For the noble art of wrestling
(commended of old, remember, by no less a person than Aristotle) had
never been neglected in our schools, and in the art of wrestling no
one could vie with Catsrider except a young Calvinist from Kassa
called Valentine Kalondai. The latter, however, could well hold his
own, even against Catsrider, and a very pretty sight it was to see
them contending together on the village green, each hugging the
other closely and planting his chin firmly on his opponent's
shoulder. Catsrider had long, coarse, light hair, twisted up into a
knot on both sides of his head, and a waxed and pointed mustache.

Unhappily, although the Hungarian lad was quite a match for the
Zipser in all corporeal exercises, in mental contests he was far
inferior to him. There, indeed, Catsrider stood without a rival. He
was always eminent-issimus in every science, while Valentine
Kalondai was constantly at the bottom of his class.

_Ex moribus_--in morals--there was also all the difference in the
world between the two students. Valentine Kalondai was no despiser
of wine and music. He even lived on friendly terms with folks like
the Silesian Simplicissimus, whom everyone else looked down upon as
a loafing vagabond, who could do absolutely nothing but blow the
trumpet; while Catsrider was the model of a well ordered youth. It
was now ten years since he had come, a poor boy, to Keszmár, and all
that time he had conscientiously supported himself by the labor of
his hands. He meant to take orders, and therefore diligently studied
theology; but, besides that, he served in the house of the Rev.
David Fröhlich and assisted that gentleman in his Museum Physicum,
wherefore the professor loved him dearly, and long ago destined him
to be pretty Michal's consort in her journey through life.

Valentine Kalondai, indeed, had no need to appropriate a very great
amount of learning. He had a rich widowed mother at Kassa, from
whom, when he came of age, he was to take over his patrimony. He had
only been sent to the Keszmár Lyceum to pick up as much knowledge as
might be necessary for a citizen of Kassa who hoped one day to be
elected sheriff of his native town; he only required to learn as
much Latin as his late father of blessed memory, who likewise had
held that dignity, and part of whose office it had been to pronounce
over delinquents the _capite plectetur_, or the more merciful _harum
palczarum_, and correspond with pen as well as with cannon with the
Imperialist generals, though it certainly must be admitted that he
could give a better account of himself with the cannon than with the
pen. Valentine therefore had no call to learn absolutely more than
he chose.

Henry, on the other hand, was obliged to turn night into day in
order to cut a decent figure at the examination which preceded his
ordination; and, to do him justice, he passed through it with the
utmost distinction. He was immediately afterward presented to the
living of Nagy-Leta--which fortunately happened to be vacant at that
very time--naturally on condition that during the year of grace,
conceded as usual to the widow of the late incumbent, he was to make
no claim whatever upon the resources of the benefice. On that solemn
day, the Rev. David Fröhlich invited the new pastor to dinner to
meet the superintendent and the presbyters.

After the meal was over, pretty Michal was also allowed to appear at
table, first, to be complimented by the superintendent on account of
the banquet they had all enjoyed so much--whereupon her face, ruddy
enough already from the kitchen fire, grew ruddier still--and
secondly, that she might just moisten her lips with a little wine in
honor of her father's guests.

When the guests had all withdrawn, pretty Michal had the tables
cleared away by the maids, and very carefully put all the soiled
napkins and tablecloths into the cupboard, and all the old ancestral
pottery and glazed earthenware upon the dresser. When all this had
been done, the professor bade his little daughter remain in the
room. He had something to say to her.

The learned gentleman was in a very good humor, not only in
consequence of the exhilarating drinks he had drunk, and the lively
table-talk he had freely indulged in, but also on account of
something else besides.

He lit his pipe and began to smoke, although he was still wearing
his _reverende_, which ought, properly speaking, never to betray the
faintest odor of tobacco.

"My daughter Michal," said he at last, with a sly assumption of
gravity, "we did not finish our _pensum_ to-day. And the rule is:
'Nulla dies sine linea!' What does that mean?"

"One should never let a day pass without doing one's allotted task,"
answered Michal.

"Then bring hither your exercise-book."

The damsel dutifully obeyed. In the kitchen all that it was
necessary to do had already been done, so the voice of science could
be listened to without self-reproach. She sat her down therefore and
took up her pen, or, as our ancestors would then have said, her
_calamus_.

"It is wholesome to exercise the mind after a long meal," said the
learned gentleman from the midst of the clouds of smoke which
enveloped him, "but it would not be well if every day was spent in
such junketing: 'Qui amat vitam longam, amet mensam brevem!' Write
that down in your book and translate it."

Michal wrote and translated at the same time: "Let him who would see
many days keep a spare table!"

"The Italians say: 'La cucina piccola fa la casa grande, la tavola e
un ladrone segreto!' Write that down also and tell me what it
means."

The damsel recited as she wrote: "A small kitchen enlarges a house,
but a liberal table is a secret thief!"

"That is what Petrus Novus said to Hugotius Fagiola when the latter
lost two cities because of a single banquet. Write: 'Plures
interierunt vinolentia quam violenta!' How would you construe that?"

"More men have perished through wine than through violence."

"Very good! Nevertheless on extraordinary days extraordinary things
must happen, and to-day has been no ordinary day, for it has seen a
clergyman ordained and a maiden sued for."

In an instant every trace of color had vanished from pretty Michal's
face.

The learned gentleman puffed away tremendously, and quoted these
saws in the midst of volumes of smoke.

"What saith Dubravius? 'Si qua voles nubere apte, nube pari!'--Wilt
thou marry well, so marry within thy station! Again Ambrosius, in
answering the question what one should look for in a consort, saith:
'Ammorem, morem, rem'--Love, morals, means."

A good maxim, truly, but for all that the damsel did not write it
down in her exercise-book.

"And here we have a wooer who possesses all three. He brings love
with good morals and has somewhat besides. His station in life
indeed is not very illustrious, for, like me, he is only a parson.
But Macrobius saith, 'Amores sunt sicut flores'--Maidens are like
flowers, that is to say, they soon wither; and as Drexelius
Trismegistus hath it, 'Sæpius ima petet melius qui scandere
novit'--He often sinks into the depths who seeks the heights. Write
that in your book, my daughter, 'tis a golden precept! Nor be
appalled at your suitor's poverty. Cyprian saith: 'Paupertas dura
sed secura et sine cura'--Poverty is hard, but hardy, and has naught
to care for. Write that down also, my daughter Michal!"

But pretty Michal did not record these golden maxims, either in the
original or yet a translation. On the contrary she laid her pen
aside and said: "I don't like him!"

The reverend gentleman gave a great start of astonishment. "That is
a paradox. To love no one--that is possible; but not to love a
particular person--that is absurd. Have you then any idea what love
is? 'Amantes sunt dementes'--Lovers are demented. What don't you
like about him? His red hair, eh? 'Homo rufus rare bonus, sed si
bonus valde bonus'--A red-haired man is rarely good, but if good
then very good indeed. Or perhaps you don't like him because he
belongs to another nation? Nay, but mark what the wise Queen
Christina used to say: 'There are only two kinds of nations on the
whole earth, the god-fearing and the godless.' If you don't like him
now, you'll learn to like him by and by. The Italians say: 'Amore
noné senza amaro'--Love is not without bitterness. Every good girl
has to be shoved out of doors by her parents, because she would much
rather stay at home than go away; but later on she is very grateful
to them for getting her off their hands."

But pretty Michal, thanks to her much learning and her long domestic
sway, had grown up with such a stout heart that in this one thing
she even dared to gainsay her father and all his philosophic
authorities to boot, for she said to the reverend gentleman:

"Nevertheless, I can't like him who desires my hand from you because
I don't like him, and I don't like him because I like another."

On hearing these words, the scholar let his pipe fall from his
mouth.

"That is indeed an _argumentum ad hominum_," said he. "You love
another, eh? Where on earth did you pick him up? Where did you set
your eyes upon him? When have you spoken to him?"

The maiden cast down her eyes and said nothing.

This was too much. The learned professor rose from his chair
straightway, and said in an austere, dictatorial voice: "Write in
your book, 'Virginitas dum aspicitur, inficitur'--Where maidenhood
is concerned mere inspection is infection. Whom have you allowed to
look into your eyes?"

"No one," answered Michal.

"No one! Where then have you spoken to anyone?"

"Nowhere."

"But if you have spoken to no one, neither with your eyes nor yet
with your mouth, how could you possibly have fallen in love with
anyone? Make a clean breast of it. You know that the smallest lie is
a greater sin than the greatest crime honestly confessed. In what
way have you been carrying on this intrigue?"

"By writing."

"Has anyone written to you then?"

"Yes, and I've replied."

"But how is that possible? My house is barred and bolted night and
day. You cannot even look out upon the street. You were never
allowed to go anywhere without me. The garden is protected by a
moat. A suspicious character could not possibly get in here unless
he flew down from the sky."

"It came down from the sky."

"It! What do you mean by it?"

"The dragon."

At first the professor's mind wandered off to the dragon which St.
George had scotched, but perhaps not quite killed; but he bethought
himself and asked, "A paper dragon,[1] I suppose?"

[Footnote 1: _Sárkany_, like its German equivalent _Drache_, means a
kite as well as a dragon.]

"Yes. They were flying a dragon in the market-place, and I was
watching it for a long time. Suddenly it fell into our garden, and
remained hanging on an apple tree. I went to take it down, and when
I had it in my hand I saw that it was covered all over with verses
addressed to me, and they were so lovely that I cannot find words to
describe them."

"Lovely! pshaw! profane scribble I call them. Does not Macrobius
say: 'Ignibus iste liber quod ipse ignibus liber!'--Into the flames
with that book if thou wouldst escape the flames thyself! And what
makes you think that these shameless verses were addressed to you?"

"They were no such thing. Had they been shameless verses I should
have thrown them away. They were beautiful, true-hearted verses,
with my name written over every one of them, for there is no other
girl here called Michal. I tried to answer them."

"To answer them! How?"

"I fastened what I wrote to the dragon with the written side turned
inward, then, with the help of the pack-thread which still remained
attached thereto, I let it mount up again."

"But suppose he to whom it belonged never got it?"

"He most certainly got it, for the next day he sent me the answer."

"Again by means of the dragon?"

"No. The next day he wrote me by the balloon."

The balloon in question was a large inflated box bladder, covered
over with calf skin. The youth of the town used this balloon in
their athletic exercises, knocking it into the air with their fists,
and otherwise disporting themselves therewith.

"I see it all now. The rascal placed his letter inside the balloon,
and threw it into our garden. You took out your letter, stuck in
your reply, and pitched the balloon back again."

To think that neither Theophrastus nor Trismegistus should have
foreseen such a case: an aërial correspondence, carried on without
the intervention of the post-office!

"And how far has this precious correspondence proceeded?"

"We have both sworn eternal fidelity to each other."

"There we have it! What is the use of bolts and bars and all human
wisdom? So you have pledged away your hand without your father's
consent. Don't you know that among the Protestants the consent of
the parents is requisite to a marriage; without it, no betrothal is
valid and no wedding can be solemnized?"

"Then has he who demands my hand from you brought with him the
written consent of his father to his marriage with me?"

"He has no father; he is an orphan."

"You said just now that the smallest lie was a greater sin than the
greatest crime honestly confessed. And I say that he, my suitor, has
lied. He has a father who is a rich man of high degree."

"Who told you so?"

"The dragon and the balloon. He boasted of it to a friend, and the
heavenly posts have brought me tidings thereof."

Now, indeed, the reverend gentleman was as fairly caught as ever the
devil was by a witch's foot. To this reply there was absolutely no
rejoinder.

"I'll take him to task for it to-morrow," said he, "and meantime I
postpone the inquiry. After it is over, however, I shall require the
name of this rascally seducer. And now, my daughter Michal, proceed
to your chamber and consider yourself in arrest there for the next
four and twenty hours."

And thus ended the festive day on which Henry Catsrider was ordained
a priest.



CHAPTER III.

Wherein is clearly shown that he who tends the sheep
is much more honorable than he who slaughters them.


Next morning the reverend gentleman sent for Henry and submitted him
to a very severe cross-examination, which lasted for more than an
hour. When Henry at last departed, he was not only as red as a
boiled crab, but he made his exit head foremost and somewhat
precipitately; from which circumstance the maid-servants, who were
listening all the time at the kitchen door, drew various
conclusions.

Immediately afterward the reverend gentleman's bell rang three
times, which signified that Miss Michal was wanted in the library.

The reverend gentleman was in full canonicals; he united in himself
at that moment both the paternal and the maternal authority. He was
surrounded by open books, like a general in the midst of his staff;
other books, bound in pigskin, stood on the shelves like a phalanx
drawn up in battle array, and on the cupboards and presses stood
stuffed birds and the skeletons of various animals, like so many
witnesses or accusers. The human skeleton in the corner seemed
particularly on the alert. The electrical machine was also in
readiness to contribute its flashes; but the only being among all
these objects which gave any sign of life was the big clock, on the
top of which stood a little dog, which kept time with the pendulum
by wagging his tail and thrusting out his tongue.

Michal, during the whole of the following examination, fixed her
eyes steadily on the mechanical dog; and ever afterward, when she
looked back upon that momentous interview, she always saw before her
the figure of the little dog wagging his tail and thrusting out his
tongue.

"My daughter Michal," began the scholar, "I have spoken to the
candidate of faith and love, and learnt everything from him. On my
asking him whether he had a father, he answered yes. What is he? A
man of position who dwells at Zeb, and is the chief judge of the
place. I asked him why he had left his father and given himself out
for an orphan. He said he had done so because his father was a
Catholic, while he himself desired to become a Protestant clergyman.
Such a desire is certainly most praiseworthy. A young man who is
ready to eat the bread of affliction rather than be false to his
conscience reveals a great character. Moreover this answer is the
best defense to the charge you have brought against him, viz., that
of daring to make a proposal of marriage without his father's
consent. The law does not recognize the consent of a Catholic
father, but only of a Protestant. Therefore Henry Catsrider stands
absolved from the accusation that he knowingly perpetrated a fraud.
Reticence after all is not falsehood. Then, too, his new confession
of faith releases him from all parental authority, thus putting the
father completely out of court."

The big folios and the stuffed birds signified their approval by
saying nothing, and the skeleton also was silent as to the fact that
his own head had formerly been severed from his body because he had
put into practice similar subtleties in his lifetime; only the
automatical dog kept on wagging his tail, as if to say, "No, no!"
and professing his scorn of the professor's sophisms by thrusting
out his tongue.

Michal answered not a word.

"Thus all your negations are confuted, and now let us hear your
affirmations. What is the name of the young man who has presumed to
make you a declaration of love?"

"Valentine Kalondai."

The learned man no sooner heard this name than he smote violently
with the palm of his hand on the volume of Macrobius lying open
before him.

"'Quis hominum?'--What sort of a man is he?"

"An honest man!" cried Michal, with flashing eyes.

"What do you know about it? You only go by his outward appearance.
'Quanta especies sed cerebrum non habet'--a handsome face but no
brains. 'Non bene casta caro quæ bene pasta caro'--Well fed, ill
bred. But I have had occasion to learn something about the fellow's
inner man. 'Flocci, nihili'--A feather brain, a nonentity. 'Classis
primæ exultimis'--Always the first in his class, counting from the
bottom. And how about his morals? He is a wine-bibber. 'Ubi vinum
intrat, ibi ratio exit'--When the wine's in, the wit's out. He is a
dancer and a serenader. He goes about with musicians and other lewd
fellows. All that, indeed, might have been overlooked; but do you
know what the trade of his parents was, ay, and still is? Did he
confess _that_ to you in his sinful correspondence? And this trade,
remember, he must carry on to his dying day, for he does not know
enough--far from it--to raise him to a higher rank. Do you know
whose wife you would be if your senseless wish were to be
fulfilled?"

The girl grew pale. There had been nothing said about this in the
correspondence.

The professor took down his note-book and read out the name and
description of the accused:

"'Parentes, Sarah, vidua macellarii'--Sarah, the butcher's widow.
His father was a butcher, and he will be a butcher too. People who
work in blood! What do you say to that? Can the daughter of the
clergyman become the wife of a butcher? And when she has to choose
between a man who tends the sheep of the Lord and a man who
slaughters cattle, how can she possibly give her hand to the latter?
Have I brought you up all these years only that your lot may be an
eternal shedding of blood? To wake up with blood every day, and
every day to lie down with blood! Every day to smell blood on the
hand of him who embraces you! To be bound to a man whose calling in
life it is to lay violent hands on God's creatures! Have you really
the courage to choose such a lot?"

The mechanical dog wagged his tail and put out his tongue.

It seemed to Michal as if everything was turning round and round:
the portraits of the scholars, the stuffed birds, even the skeleton
with its clattering joints. How could she defend herself against so
many?

The scholar saw from the corpse-like pallor of his daughter's face
the crushing impression his words had produced upon her. It was in a
much gentler voice that he now continued:

"Now go to your room, or rather to your little garden, and think
over what I've just been saying. Write first of all in your copy
book: 'Fathers have their children's welfare more at heart than the
children themselves.' Yet the decision shall rest with you alone.
Your fate is in your own hands. I'll do no violence to your
feelings. If indeed there be really more strength in your heart
than I ever anticipated, show it now! If you have the courage to
knit your life to those who work in blood, give us a specimen of it
at home here. You have two pretty doves in a cage. I bought them for
you on your birthday. Slaughter them with your own hand and make
some broth of them; you may prepare it any way you like. It doesn't
matter to me now. I shall then know your decision. Go now, and think
the matter over!"

Pretty Michal went down into the garden and walked to and fro among
the rose trees. In the middle of the path was the dovecote, and in
it were the two fan-tailed pigeons which she had to slaughter, she
who had never had the heart to kill so much as a kitchen fly. If she
could have had her own way she would have liked everyone to have
been a vegetarian. And now she was to kill her favorite doves.

She had no one to whom she could turn for advice, no one to whom she
could pour out her griefs. Here was a case in which neither the
philosophers, nor the calf-bound polyhistors, nor yet her daily
playfellows, the flowers, could be of the slightest assistance. She
had no other friends than the flowers, and they could only tell her
what they knew themselves, _e. g._, that the virginal lily loves the
garlic, although the one exhales perfumes and the other stinks; and
the noble anthora withers away whenever it is planted beside the
najollus for although the latter certainly has splendid blossoms,
(the corolla is a helmet whereon sit two doves), it nevertheless
brings destruction upon its fair neighbor--and so on _ad nauseam_.

And then she began thinking that perhaps the feeling which had been
nourished in her breast by this exchange correspondence was not
exactly love after all. She had only seen the young man from afar,
only spoken to him in her dreams. She might easily renounce him. She
had no mother to tell her difficulties to, and from her father she
had learnt nothing but cold prudence. Mathematics is a pitiless
science. According to mathematics, love is not a number which
counts, but a mere cipher. Among geometrical figures you will find
every conceivable shape but nothing in the shape of a heart. She
could get no further information about her lover. The games of ball
in the market-place were now forbidden, and who knew but what poor
Valentine was locked up besides? It was so easy to find a pretext.
Perhaps he had renounced her himself already. Perhaps he had gone
back to his native place.

Should she therefore sacrifice her favorite doves for his sake?

       *       *       *       *       *

At noon the same day Michal brought both the doves to her father,
not roasted or stewed on a dish, but alive in their cage, whereupon
the professor kissed his dutiful little daughter on both cheeks.

Three weeks later he united pretty Michal and Henry Catsrider in
holy wedlock, and gave them both his parental as well as his
sacerdotal blessing.

Valentine Kalondai had had no opportunity of doing anything
desperate in the meantime. After the assembled Consistory had
publicly upbraided him for all the sins he had hitherto
committed--to wit: his dancing in the woods; his keeping a big dog;
his propensity to all kinds of idle jesting; his playing truant at
church; his consorting with fiddlers and trumpeters; tussling with
night watchmen; making the beadle drunk and dressing him up in
woman's clothes; smoking in the streets, etc.--he was sent to jail
for a week, and then solemnly expelled from the Keszmár Lyceum with
the _consilium abeundi_, and thus prevented from doing anything
whereby he might perhaps have prevented the consummation of his
rival's wedding. So the ceremony was performed without let or stay,
and pretty Michal became the wife of the man who tended the Lord's
flock instead of the man who slaughtered the sheep.



CHAPTER IV.

Wherein are described all manner of robbers and
dangers, wherefrom the righteous are wondrously
delivered.


Henry had made up his mind to take his young wife to Zeb immediately
after the wedding, before settling down at the parsonage of Leta. It
was ten years since he had seen his father, who was naturally full
of wrath and sorrow at the disappearance of his son. But a fair
daughter-in-law would, no doubt, be the best mediator between them.
At any rate, there was no harm in trying, for the old man was very
rich and Henry was his only son. Many a wrinkled brow has been
stroked smooth again ere now by the soft hand of a pretty woman.

The learned Professor Fröhlich himself fully approved of this plan,
for although the books of the philosophers are full of golden maxims
which demonstrate that all earthly treasures are but dross,
nevertheless, in this practical world of ours, where one can get
nothing without money, a little money is ever so much better than
any amount of golden maxims.

Besides, the old gentleman had very little of the good things of
this world to bestow upon his daughter. Alchemy could no more make
gold then than it can now.

It was as much as he could do to dower the bride with new gowns and
underlinen, and here, too, he looked rather to simplicity than to
splendor. Instead of giving his daughter silk and satin robes, he
impressed upon her the wise saw: 'Mulier superbe amicta, in facie
picta, in sermone ficta--non uni vitio est addicta'--The woman who
flaunts in frippery, paints her face, and talks mincingly, is the
slave of more than one vice already. The husband must see to the
rest, and the husband in this case was but a poor, hungry parson,
whose benefice for a whole year to come would be but an empty title.
During all that time he must be content with a curate's pay. After
that, however, he would certainly do very well, especially if his
father helped him with a little ready money to go on with.

Meanwhile a journey had to be undertaken, and a journey in those
days was no joke. The mountain roads could only be crossed on horses
or mules, and the beasts, drivers and all, had to be hired. Then,
for security's sake, you had to wait till a regular caravan had
assembled, for the whole region was blackmailed in those days by
three powerful bands of robbers, whose leaders were called Janko,
Bajus, and Hafran. Janko was famed for his physical strength and
agility, Bajus for his craft and cunning, but Hafran, or Raven, as
the Slovacks called him, for his ferocity. Each of them commanded
from fifty-five to sixty men. Sometimes they all united and fought
regular pitched battles with the soldiers and police sent out to
capture them. It was, therefore, not advisable for single families
or small parties to undertake long journeys like that from Keszmár
to Zeb. One had to make arrangements months beforehand, and wait
till the dealers in cloth, haberdashery, and spices were ready to
set out with their wares for Eperies; these were then usually joined
by a dozen or so of butchers and cattle-dealers from Lower Hungary,
as many cattle-drovers, half a dozen strolling fiddlers, sundry
Slovack linen and oil merchants, and some thirty students traveling
homeward in vacation and provided with stout bludgeons; thereto
were, of course, to be added the drivers of those who had to make
the journey by horse or mule, or pay for the transport of their
goods, so that the whole caravan generally numbered one hundred and
fifty strong, and the robbers would think twice before venturing to
attack so large a party. On this occasion, moreover, Fortune added
to their company a Polish nobleman who had been on a visit to his
kinsmen in Hungary, and was returning home with an escort of forty
men-at-arms. Whoever was disposed to go a two days' journey from
Keszmár might safely commend his soul to God in such a goodly
company.

Now although the good and learned Professor David Fröhlich could not
endow his daughter with much worldly wealth, yet by way of
compensation he gave her richly of what he himself possessed, for
his parting present was a sack-load of wonder-working medicinal
herbs. Among them was the "weapon balsam," which he fully directed
her how to use in case her husband was wounded by the way. In such a
case she was first of all to stick into the wound a piece of wood of
the same shape as the weapon which had inflicted it, and then draw
it out and anoint it with the balsam. The wound would then
infallibly heal--in course of time. In case, however, of a gunshot
wound, when the bullet remained in the body, she was to beat flat
and bind upon the wound a leaden bullet which had previously shot a
wild boar, for it is well known that all such bullets attract and
draw out all other bullets. In one corner of the sack he stuck that
valuable counselor in all the ills of life, the book "Georgica
Curiosa," which was an inventory of all the healing herbs with which
the sack was filled. Nay, his love for his daughter made the worthy
man part with even his most precious talisman--the plague amulet.
This was a little blue silk cushion filled with the leaves of herbs
beneficial against the plague, and inscribed with the following
charm in letters of gold: "Longe, tarde cede, recede, redi!" which
is really a very good charm, for it means that one should hasten
away as far and as soon as possible from the place where the plague
prevails, and not return for a long time after it is all over. This
amulet the learned man had worn, fastened by a silken cord round his
neck, night and day for years. Now, however, he said good-by to it,
and the tears came into his eyes as he tied it round his daughter's
white neck, and whispered tenderly:

"Never take it off, my dear, never take it off! It was your
mother's."

Then the great scholar, after carefully observing the aspects of the
seven planets, was very particular to calculate beforehand a day
which, owing to a propitious conjunction, would be a very favorable
day for traveling, for warfare, for the donning of new clothes, for
courtships, and for making visits and purchases.

He took leave of his son-in-law and his daughter on the previous
evening, for the caravan was to depart before sunrise, while Orion
was in the ascendant, at which time the learned man would already
have surrendered his limbs to repose. Now, all the world knows that
whoever is involuntarily aroused from his slumbers at such a time
will wake up every day at the self-same hour for a whole year
afterward and not be able to go to sleep again: such a contingency
therefore was to be guarded against at any cost.

Pretty Michal wept long and sore when the time came to say good-by.
She wept for her good, affectionate father, for her flowers, her
serving-maids, her little room which looked out upon the garden,
her kitchen, bright with burnished copper vessels; but the
ungrateful little thing did not weep very much for the learned books
she left behind her, though, indeed, she could never cease to think
of those with whom she had had her daily conversation for years.
Nay, she so managed as to leave behind her the whole sack-load of
medicinal herbs collected with such wisdom, "Georgica Curiosa" to
boot. Instead of that she took with her one of her fan-tailed
pigeons, which she dexterously smuggled into her long pocket.

The amulet fastened round her neck she held in high honor, not
because it was a febrifuge, but because it was the solitary memento
of her mother which she possessed.

Her husband, also, was motherless. He, too, had never known a
mother's love.

Perhaps, too, she shed a few tears as she threw behind the fire a
certain carefully folded up bundle of papers. They were the
billets-doux which had reached her through the aërial post. She held
them tightly in her hand till the mules jangling their bells stood
before the door. Longer than that she could not hold them. She
fancied she had destroyed them when she had burnt them, but, alas!
the burning of those letters was only so much labor lost.

But joy always follows after sorrow.

Michal was going on a journey for the first time in her life. For
the first time in her life she was to see field and forest beneath
the open sky. Set in a frame of the most beautiful landscape, even
her husband looked better than he had ever looked before. Never had
she thought him so agreeable, and he cut quite a stately figure on
horseback; indeed, she scarcely recognized him as the same being who
used to trip so humbly after the professor with his books under his
arm, for he could sing cheerily among the students who walked along
by his side, and his merry laugh was heard from one end of the
caravan to the other.

The city walls of Keszmár and the well-known mountains had long ago
been left far behind, and Michal kept thinking to herself that she
was now her own mistress, and that she had a master who was at the
same time her slave. The house that she would henceforth call her
home would have a very different appearance from the one she had
just left. There would be no one to supervise or keep her in order;
she would have no other monitor but her own conjugal virtue. She
would be a model of a wife, upon whom all eyes should be fixed, and
of whom people would say: "Try and be like that God-fearing lady,
learn from her sobriety, decency, piety, frugality, and domestic
economy; learn from her how to speak sensibly in four languages, and
still more sensibly to keep silence." Thus she tried to discern,
through the enigmatical gloom of the future, the joys and delights
that her soul longed for, so as the better to accommodate herself to
her new position.

She was the only woman in the whole company.

A driver had been assigned to her, who was to lead her mule by the
bridle whenever the path went through a brook or over a stone, and
stimulate it whenever it had to clamber up the steep mountain-side.
He was an enigmatical Slovack lad, with bast shoes and a hat with a
brim drawn deep down over his eyes. "Gee!" and "Whoa!" were the only
sounds he ever uttered, and these were naturally addressed to the
mule.

The character of the region had suddenly and completely changed.
Mountains, pine forests, and roaring waterfalls succeeded one
another in rapid succession.

The numerous company sat them down on the fresh grass at the foot of
a shady tree by the side of a purling brook, and everyone produced
his knapsack, his wallet, or his flask. The wealthier of them shared
their good fare with the students, who expressed their thankfulness
by singing merry songs. There was one student who particularly
distinguished himself by his facetiousness, and whom everyone called
Simplex. He, too, introduces himself under that very name in his
contemporary memoirs, from which we have borrowed many of the data
of this our veracious history. He was an itinerant student, drummer,
and trumpeter, and a wag and good fellow to boot. He soon succeeded
in gaining Henry's goodwill, and he also favored the young bride
with his company from time to time, taking the whip out of the hands
of the sleepy driver and rating him soundly in Polish, which the
other endured without a murmur.

The jests of Simplex put the company in high good-humor. Even Michal
caught the contagion of the general merriment. The spicy, fresh air
seemed to relieve her mind of sorrow.

Suddenly, on reaching the summit of a lofty mountain, another
panorama unfolded itself before their eyes. The steep mountain wall
was succeeded by a deep glen, and the tops of the huge pine trees
massed together below seemed to the naked eye to be a meadow of a
wonderful green perpetually in motion. In the distance arose lofty
rocks, piled one above the other and split up by chasms full of ice
and snow. The path wound steeply down into this glen, where it was
already night, and by the side of the path ran a mountain stream,
which, pouring forth from the crevices of the granite rocks, plunged
downward in a hundred glistening columns like a crystal organ.

But it was not this splendid sight, but another, very strange and
very terrible, on the other side of the way, which riveted pretty
Michal's attention.

In the crevice of a projecting rock a lofty stake had been firmly
planted; on the top of the stake was a wheel, and on the wheel lay
something distantly resembling the shape of a man. The hands and
feet hung loosely down; the neck and skull were thrown backward and
reclined half over the tire of the wheel. Large black birds swept
slowly round and round, and though startled by the approaching
hub-bub were not scared away.

It never so much as entered into pretty Michal's mind what this
strange object could be, she had absolutely no name for it.

"What's that?" cried she with a shudder, involuntarily reining up
her mule.

But Henry was not there to answer her question. He had ridden on in
advance with the students, who had now begun to sing in order to
cheer the caravan during its perilous descent into the glen.

"That is the sign-post of the glen," said the driver; "don't look in
that direction, my lady!"

Michal turned her head toward the speaker, but she immediately felt
that it would have been far better for her to have riveted her
sorrowing gaze on that nameless, hideous object, than to have looked
into the eyes of him who had just addressed her, for the sight of
him filled her with unutterable anguish. Now for the first time she
recognized him. The silent, ragged driver was Valentine Kalondai!

"By the five wounds of Christ, it is Valentine!" murmured Michal in
a voice stifled with emotion.

"Then you have recognized me at last?"

"What do you want here?"

"To accompany you."

"Wherefore?"

"To serve you if you should need anything, to defend you if you
should be in danger, and, finally, to find out whither they are
taking you."

"Valentine," said the girl, withdrawing the reins of the mule from
the youth's hand, "it is sin to act thus. You will disgrace us both.
I am dead to you now. If you have ever loved me, bury me! Bewail me
as one who has died in the Lord. Make me not as one of those who
will hereafter rise up and accuse you before God! I am now a married
woman. I have plighted my troth to another. Not even for your sake
will I lose my hope of salvation. I beseech you by the tender
mercies of God not to pursue me. Remain here and forget that you
ever saw me! Here, in this frightful glen, where I know not what
awaits me, though I feel that it is full of horror, I cannot pray to
God to protect me from all danger while you are by my side. I would
not have the heart to go into those terrible depths if I felt myself
laden with sin and perjury. If you love anything which belongs to
me, oh, love my soul! If you would preserve me from harm, be jealous
of my honor! Remain behind, I say, and follow me no further!"

The young man opened his lips to say something in reply, but not a
word came forth, only a long-drawn sigh; a hot breath in the cold
autumnal air was it, or, perhaps, a part of his very soul? Then he
pulled his hat deeper down over his eyes and remained standing in
the way, while Michal on her mule ambled further on.

"Jacky, my boy!" cried a jesting voice in the ear of the startled
driver, and at the same time someone tapped him on the shoulder. It
was Simplex, the merry trumpeter.

"How far you have dropped behind your mistress!"

"Yes, and I will drop back still further, friend Simplex. She has
recognized me. She has driven me away. I have now but one favor to
ask of you. If you are really my friend, prove it by doing me a
great service. I cannot accompany her further. You do so in my
stead. If any evil befall Michal, stand by her and save her. You
have your wits about you and know the region thoroughly. Be near her
as long as possible. Let me know how it befalls, be it good or evil.
You will find me at Kassa, in my mother's house."

Nowadays we should hurl back such a commission at the suggester's
head. Nowadays everyone looks after himself, and no one is such a
fool as to run after a woman whom a second person loves and a third
person has married. But in former days men were different. Besides,
they had not so much to do then as they have now, and a social law
was then in force which has long since become obsolete, the law of
friendship. It was not codified, yet its authority was universally
deferred to and folios were written about it. This law of friendship
gave a man the right to demand great things from his neighbor, and
those who obeyed this law were bound together by stronger ties than
any ties of kinship. We shall presently give many examples to show
how much in those days the unwritten law of friendship was needed, a
law passed by no parliament, sanctioned by no monarch, enforced by
no tribunal, yet everywhere valid and effectual.

The trumpeter, contemptuously dubbed Simplex, promised to do all
that his friend required of him and gave him his hand upon it,
whereupon he hastened to overtake the lady, who was now some
distance ahead.

But Valentine Kalondai remained standing on the hillside listening
till the clattering of the horses' hoofs had quite died away. Then
he turned and walked slowly off, to the great joy of the crows and
ravens, who so long as he stood there did not venture to resume
their banquet beneath the gallows. Meanwhile Michal was trying to
overtake her husband, who was well on in front surrounded by the
merry students.

The road became rougher and rougher as it wound down into the
valley. The broad, well-wooded mountain-sides confined it within a
precipitously shelving glen. The brook zigzagged across it and tore
out the rolling stones, so that the very mules had to pick their way
cautiously along. At first the way wound among large blocks of
stone, but presently it ended abruptly at a yawning chasm among the
rocks. Here the mountain stream plunged, roaring and foaming, down
into a dizzy depth. Beyond the bridge the path reappeared, but now
it was confined more than ever between two steep rocky walls, down
the smooth slaty sides of which the moisture trickled continually,
diffusing a misty, cavernous sort of smell over the whole of the
dark rocky defile, which was overshadowed by nodding pine trees. The
mules no longer picked their way among rocks, but among bones. All
around lay the skeletons of men and of horses inextricably mixed
together.

"Is this a burial-ground?" asked Michal of her Henry, not without a
shudder.

But Henry had no answer ready. He said that he had never been that
way before; he had gone to Keszmár by another road over the mountain
ridge, a road which you could only pass on foot. But Simplex was at
hand and he explained the mystery of the bones strewing the way, as
he had heard it during his wanderings in the mountains from the lips
of his guides.

Many years ago, the troops of the Prince of Transylvania, with some
Turkish auxiliaries, had blockaded a regiment of Imperial cavalry in
this defile, and after breaking down the bridge leading to the glen
had massacred the whole lot without mercy. There was no place to
bury the dead, and so they had lain there ever since. The students,
from sheer mischief, now picked up two or three of the skulls and
trundled them along the road. No doubt they were not the first who
had amused themselves by playing bowls with dead men's bones.

"If Hafran were to catch you here, he and his merry men would play
at bowls with your heads also," cried Simplex, without however
either spoiling their good-humor or putting Michal in a better
humor.

In the evening twilight they came to the kopanitscha, where it was
advisable to stay the night. It consisted of a group of houses
formed of the trunks of trees, surrounded by a palisade of sharp
stakes, with loopholes at regular intervals. A low door, made of
heavy beams, led into the palisade, where, as the neighing of horses
promptly testified, other travelers had already arrived.

The door was opened to their knocking, and the first arrivals, among
whom were the students and the young married couple, were admitted.
Far behind toiled the merchants and drivers with their cattle and
heavily laden wagons, and last of all came the Polish nobleman and
his armed retainers.

There were enough barns and out-houses to accommodate them all. Hay
for fodder and straw for bedding were also to be had in abundance.
The host was cooking flesh in a large caldron on an open hearth.
One wing of the house was already occupied by a company of Polish
merchants, bringing cloth and spices to the Eperies market, and
accompanied by an escort of twelve hired soldiers, in helmets and
coats of mail, armed with swords and blunderbusses.

The wife of the kopanitschar, or host, a good-looking young person,
immediately took charge of the pastor's wife, whom she led into her
own private room, that she might not have to listen to the loose
talk which would certainly flow from the unwashen mouths of so many
men.

"For no one will close an eye here the whole night through,"
remarked the worthy woman confidentially. "Here in the mountains
lurk Janko, Hafran, and Bajus, all three of them!"

Michal asked who these three worthies were.

The hostess told her they were three robber chiefs, each more
terrible than the other. Hafran was cruel, Bajus a crafty rogue, but
Janko a true hero who knew not fear.

How the eyes of the woman sparkled when she mentioned Janko!

Michal asked her whether she was not afraid to live in so lonely a
place with so many robbers about.

"Oh! Janko will do us no harm," said the young hostess, smiling; and
Michal was still such a child that she gave no heed to the woman's
sparkling eyes and smiling lips.

The hostess then began to tell her how powerful the robbers were.
People were forever hanging, beheading, and breaking them on the
wheel, and yet they never seemed to grow less. The militia of three
counties combined with the Imperial troops were not strong enough
to root them out of the mountains. And then she kept Michal awake
till long after midnight by telling her of the adventures and
exploits of the robbers, and the terrible fate which awaited them at
the hands of the vihodar of Zeb.

"Who is he?" asked Michal.

What! not hear of the vihodar! He was the headsman of Zeb, a man
famed far and wide. They call him the vihodar. Every child knows of
him; but bandits, witches, and painted damsels know him best of all.
Michal's idea of these last three species of mankind was very vague;
she had never even heard tell of them before. She, too, told the
hostess whence she came, whither she was going, and how she had only
been married the day before, and this was the first night that she
and her husband had ever slept under the same roof.

About midnight Henry Catsrider came to his wife, and told her that
the region was not safe. The mountain path over which they had to go
was occupied by a band of robbers, and the number of the robbers was
great. It is true the caravan was also numerous, but the members of
it could not agree among themselves as to what was the best thing to
be done. The Polish nobleman, who had many musketeers with him, said
that he had not come all that distance to be shot down like a dog.
He would send to Janko and offer him a ransom if he would let him
pass through the glen unmolested. He was also willing to pay a
ransom for all who cared to join him. But the merchants and the
drovers would not agree to this, asserting that however willing the
robbers might be to negotiate when they had to do with armed
noblemen or poor ambulant students, they certainly would not allow
wealthy merchants and fat drovers to escape scot free. Not to defend
themselves, therefore, would be to lose everything. The fact is
they had been over-persuaded by the Polish merchants, who had
brought with them twelve Imperial soldiers, and were firmly
persuaded that they could keep the robbers at bay. All they wanted
was rainy weather.

"Why do they want rainy weather?" asked Michal.

"I'll tell you," whispered the kopanitschar's wife. "When it rains
the robbers cannot fire, because their lunts won't burn and the
powder gets moist. These twelve soldiers, however, have new-fangled
muskets, which are fired, not with a lunt, but by a flint; the flint
strikes upon a piece of steel, the steel gives out a spark, and the
spark fires the powder. They say that these cunning firearms come
from France. The soldiers would like to try them against the
robbers, and they only want rainy weather in order that the robbers
may not be able to fire upon them in return."

"But," remarked Henry, "the question is which party we ought to
join, the Polish nobleman's, who trusts in the clemency of the
robbers and will pay them a ransom, or the merchants', who rely upon
their firearms?"

"Join neither," said the hostess. "An idea occurs to me. I am sorry
for that pretty young creature. She was only married yesterday. I'll
be bound to say she has not kissed her husband yet. You must not go
with the merchants, for the danger will be very great. I know Janko.
When he is attacked he is like a bear with a sore head. He cares not
a fig for muskets, and does not value his life at a boot-lace. It
would not be becoming for you to be mixed up in a skirmish. It is
not a clergyman's business to fight. But neither must you join the
Polish nobleman and trust to the clemency of the robbers. I know
Janko. The sight of a pretty woman makes him like the very devil.
He would rather leave a sack of gold untouched than a pretty woman.
I should not like you to fall into his hands. But I have a third
plan ready. It would not do at all for a large company, but two or
three people might very well try it. My husband will lead you over
the mountain ridge, but let the horse, the mule, the drivers, and
the baggage go on with the Polish nobleman; and when they pass over
the bridge where Janko bars the way, and when the blackmail has been
levied, the drivers can halt at the Praszkinocz csarda with the
beasts and the baggage. Meanwhile my husband will guide you so
securely to the csarda that not a hair of your head shall be
rumpled."

Michal thought the advice good. It was the best way of escaping two
great dangers.

They put together in all secrecy what they needed most, entrusting
the remainder of the baggage to one of the drivers (the other had
evidently run away, for Henry could find him nowhere); the host
brought alpenstocks, bast shoes with nails in the soles, which they
put on forthwith, and they all set out in the gloom of twilight.

Suddenly they remarked that they were four. Simplex, the trumpeter,
was trotting on behind them. He said that as he was not inclined to
send his flesh to market he preferred scaling the mountains with
them to accompanying the merchants or the magnate.

Michal had no objection. It was only one familiar face the more, and
he had quite won her heart by his gayety and good-humor. Besides
that, he could help her to talk to the guide, who was a native Pole
and therefore unintelligible without an interpreter, for Simplex
could patter Polish very well.

The wish of the Polish merchants was gratified: it began to rain.
Scarcely was the little group half an hour's journey from the
kopanitscha, scarcely had it begun to ascend the footpath, when it
was enveloped in so dense a mist that only the experience of its
guide saved it from being lost in the wilderness.

The experienced mountaineer comforted them with the assurance that
the mist would not be long in their way, for it was nothing but a
descending cloud. They would soon be able to look down upon it with
a clear sky over their heads. By sunrise they would be among heights
never visited by clouds.

Simplex, on this occasion, approved himself a highly useful
traveling companion. To prevent the young wife from growing weary on
the slippery way, he hewed down with his hanger two young pine trees
and made a litter out of them, on which weary Michal was made to
sit, while he and the guide bore her between them over the most
difficult parts of the way.

The kopanitschar spoke Polish with the trumpeter in order that the
lady might not understand what they were talking about. He said to
him that if either of them were to slip, litter-bearers, lady, and
all would infallibly plunge headlong into the abyss, the bottom of
which could not be seen for the mists, though they could hear the
murmuring of the mountain stream far below them. Or if they lost
themselves in the thick mists and strayed into a chasm or a
snowdrift, whence not even a chamois could force his way out again;
or if they met the man-eating bear which haunted the forests; or if
they fell foul of the robbers' camp, then God have mercy on their
souls!

And while the young bride was thus sitting between them on her
litter, she took the fan-tailed pigeon from her pocket, and fed it
out of her hand and gave it drink from her lips, unconscious of the
thousand deadly perils which surrounded her, and whispered
caressingly: "My dovey, my darling little dovey!"

The young morning was now beginning to dawn, for the mist was
growing lighter and snow fell instead of rain; they had already
reached the Alpine regions.

"We are on the right road," murmured the kopanitschar; "there goes
the track of the bear through the juniper tree, and yonder is the
place by which the hares, the wild goats, and the buffaloes go up
every morning to drink out of the mountain tarn. We are close upon
the Devil's Castle."

But surely he must have been mistaken! How can that be the right way
which leads to the Devil's Castle?

"What is that shimmering in the bushes?" inquired Simplex anxiously.

"The eyes of a lynx," growled the guide; "he is on the lookout for
young chamois."

But a lynx has two eyes, and there was only a single bright point
shimmering there. It was the lunt of a musket, which someone was
hiding beneath his mantle to prevent it from going out.

"Halt!" cried a voice from the bushes, and at a distance of only ten
paces a wild shape sprang up, resting its heavy firearm on an iron
fork fastened in the ground. The robber did not aim at the two
rustically clad shapes who were carrying the litter, but at the
gentleman who was following a considerable distance behind.

"Jesus, Maria!" cried Michal, "he is shooting at my husband!"

"Don't shoot at him, Hanack!" cried Stevey to the robber, "don't you
see that he's a clergyman?"

The challenge was of use, the freebooter lowered his lunt. Possibly,
too, he was somewhat taken back at finding himself face to face with
three men, one of whom was armed with an ax and another with a
hanger; besides, he was not quite certain whether his powder was wet
or dry. He therefore used clemency and answered amicably:

"Oh! 'tis you, Stevey, eh? Whom are you leading?"

"A clergyman and his wife."

"Then it is a Lutheran! A lucky thing for him! Had he been a Papist,
I should have chucked him down that hole. But when you get to where
Hamis is keeping watch, tell him that you are guiding a Romish
priest and his sister, for he is ready to flay a Lutheran alive."

"Don't be afraid," said the kopanitschar kindly to the lady, "a
single robber will not think of attacking three men. This is the
outermost picket, the camp is down in that deep hollow yonder."

They hastened onward, and now Michal begged her husband not to lag
so far behind her.

The guide had calculated rightly that by ascending the steep upward
path through the bear's track they would reach the mountain's summit
before sunrise, by which time the clouds would lie below them. The
mists over their heads now began to clear away. As the rays of the
sun dissipated the snow clouds, it was as if millions of crystal
needles were shimmering in the air, till a gust of wind suddenly
swept them all away and revealed the clear blue sky. Then the sun
came forth amidst the Alpine summits. At first, however, they did
not see the sunrise to advantage, for their way led through a dense
grove of young pine trees growing up among the charred stumps of a
burnt forest. The litter was here of no use. They had to creep
through the young undergrowth on all fours.

The guide now told the travelers to remain where they were; he would
go ahead and look about to see if it was all right. With that he
crept cautiously forward among the thick bushes, taking great care
not to disturb the rustling leaves in the silent woods. In a little
time he came back very crestfallen. It was not safe. The robbers
were encamped close by the Devil's Castle.

Then Simplex also crept close to the extreme edge of the wood, and
there saw with his own eyes, at the foot of the old tower rising
above the steep precipices, forty men armed with muskets and axes
lying on the grass round a fire, on which a substantial breakfast
was broiling.

There are some insanely audacious ideas which only the extremity of
despair can suggest, and Simplex was just the sort of man to whom
such mad ideas would naturally occur. So now, too, he hit upon an
expedient which none but a devil-may-care ex-student with a taste
for adventure would ever have thought of.

"Listen, Stevey!" said he suddenly to the guide, "I'll scare away
all the robbers!"

"Stop!" cried the terrified guide; "are you mad?"

But the deed was already done. Simplex took the trumpet from his
shoulder and blew a mighty alarum that re-echoed far and wide
through forest and dale, and then he cried aloud: "Run! the soldiers
are coming!"

The robbers no sooner heard it than they sprang to their feet in
terror. Many of them even took the precaution to discharge their
firearms in the direction of the forest, so as to give the alarm to
their remaining companions who were encamped all about. A general
stampede ensued. Simplex kept on blowing his trumpet with all the
strength of his lungs; the guide threw himself with his face to the
ground, praying three different prayers simultaneously, and tossing
his arms and legs about like an epileptic; while Henry Catsrider,
in his agony, hastily climbed up a tree.

Now when pretty Michal saw the panic-stricken robbers scattering in
all directions, the guide in convulsions, Simplex trumpeting with
all his might and main, and her clerical husband hastily clambering
up the nearest tree, she could not refrain from bursting into a
hearty peal of laughter. If die she must, she might just as well
have one more good laugh before she did die. It could make not the
slightest difference.

But no sooner had the threatened peril been so marvelously averted
than the laughter of the pretty lady infected the trumpeter to such
a degree that he let his instrument fall to the ground; then the
kopanitschar also rose from the ground and burst into a hoarse
guffaw, and at last Henry Catsrider himself descended from his perch
and also burst out laughing.

The young lady thought how funny it is when man and wife laugh in
unison. It is perhaps a wife's greatest bliss to be able to laugh
when her husband laughs, and weep when he weeps.

But the kopanitschar gave the trumpeter a violent blow on the back
and said, half in jest and half in anger: "I'll never be your guide
again as long as I live! May the vihodar of Zeb get hold of you!"

Michal thought to herself how strange it is when a husband suddenly
breaks off in the middle of a peal of laughter as if he had had a
cold douche. Must not a wife in such a case also cease laughing?

"But now we must pack off as quietly as possible while the road is
clear," continued the kopanitschar. "We must not stop a minute till
we get to Praszkinocz!"

So they all took to their heels and tried to reach the Devil's
Castle as quickly as they could, where the fires were still
burning, and hacked and bloody pieces of bone, and half-roasted
hunks of flesh on huge wooden spits, were scattered all about. The
spring bubbling forth from the plateau formed, deep down in the
valley below, a small lake covered with water lilies and the broad
red flowers of the water clover. Hither came the wild beasts of the
forest to slake their thirst.

From the foot of the ruin the valley sinks abruptly down toward the
northwest, where it has quite a winterly aspect. The whole declivity
is covered by a layer of snow, which the rays of the sun are never
able to entirely melt. The sun only shows his face there for an hour
at noon every day, and what is then melted quickly hardens into a
coating of ice of a mirror-like smoothness. While on the
southeastern side of the mountain snow and rain are always falling
and clouds obscure the landscape, a bright sky smiles on the other
side and you can see as far as Poland. In the valley beneath, at
least two miles distant from the ruins of the Devil's Castle, lies
the little village of Praszkinocz. A serpentine path winds down the
slippery sides of the mountains into the village below, but few
people ever use it, save an occasional charcoal-burner or
wood-cutter.

"Alas, Stevey!" cried Simplex, shuddering at the sight of this
perilous descent, "we shall never get off with a whole skin that
way. 'Tis like the glass mountain of Prince Argyrus, and he, at all
events, had an enchanted horse to fall back upon. If we creep down
on all fours we shan't get there in two days, and what's to become
of this delicate creature?"

"Have no fear, trumpeter," said the guide calmly, and he set to work
felling a pine with his ax.

Meanwhile Simplex explored every hole and corner of the ruins to see
if he could discover any hidden treasure which the robbers might
have left behind, while Michal searched in the grass, which had been
protected from the snow by the overhanging pine branches, for
gentian and wood angelica, and great was her joy when she discovered
some specimens of those wonder-working herbs.

But Henry stood aloof, holding his forehead with his hands as if his
head ached.

As the pine branch fell to the last stroke of the ax, the roll of
musketry suddenly began to resound from behind the mountains. The
sharp volleys at once put an end to the composure of the party.

"Listen!" cried the guide; "the robbers have come to blows with the
soldiers over there," and with that he dragged the fallen pine trunk
to the edge of the declivity and poised it over the serpentine path,
with the hewn-off end pointing downward.

"And now to horse, to horse! You, trumpeter, get up behind. His
reverence must sit in the middle with his lady behind him, who must
clip him tightly round the waist. Each one of us must hold fast to
the branches on both sides, and draw up his legs so as not to get
entangled in the wayside shrubs and briars. I'll sit in front and be
coachman and pilot."

After thus assigning to everyone his place, the guide sat astraddle
on the thick end of the trunk, and the three men jogged the
dangerous vehicle along like a six-footed dragon till it toppled
over the edge of the slope.

"Forward, dragon! in Heaven's name, forward!"

The pine trunk, once set in motion, glided down the smooth,
mirror-like incline like a dart. The guide, spreading out his long
legs, steered it right and left, and when it flew down a little too
quickly, he sharply planted both his heels against the ground to
slacken speed, and cried:

"Wo-ah, dragon, wo-ah!"

No gondolier, no coachman, could have steered or driven more
skillfully. A single false shove, a single obstacle in the path, and
all four of them would have been hurled into the abyss below and
dashed to pieces.

But no footless serpent could have writhed more deftly down than the
pine trunk. It was a sight worth seeing, this lightning-like flight
down a mountain of glass.

"Holloah! hie! fly away, thou devil's steed!"

Silly Simplex, in a transport of delight, took the trumpet from his
shoulder, and catching the mane of the pine tree firmly by one hand,
blew a postilion-march with all his might.

"Holloah, ho! holloah, ho! This is the way the devil brings home his
bride."

Michal, too, loosed her arm from her husband's neck and began to
clap her hands for joy. What a rapture to fly down so swiftly! She
feared nothing, she delighted in the very danger. Her heart was
innocent. No sin oppressed her conscience. Well for her that she had
had sense enough to shut her ears against the tempter. If only the
shadow of a sin had now darkened her soul she would not have been so
blithe in the midst of danger, but would have looked down with a
shudder at the awful abyss which seemed both Death and Hell.

"Put your arms round me again or I shall fall off!" cried the man in
front of her. His face was as pale as wax. A vertigo had seized him.
And Michal had to hug him tightly lest he should lose his
equilibrium, and she clasped him to her breast till they got to the
bottom of the glen. The flight along the icy slope had lasted half
an hour, on foot it would have taken them half a day at least to
traverse it.

So they all thanked God that they had come off with a whole skin.
And it was not long before they had to thank God for much more than
that. At midday they were rejoined by their fellow travelers who had
come through the valley, and fearful tales they had to tell of the
dangers which they had encountered.

Janko, to whom a mounted messenger had been sent on beforehand to
negotiate with the robbers, had granted the travelers a free passage
thorough the defile, and the Polish nobleman paid for all those who
accompanied him, students included, the ransom demanded. But in the
meantime Hafran's robbers (it was these whom Simplex had scared away
with his trumpet from the Devil's Castle) fell upon the Keszmár
merchants who were marching far behind in the rear, cut down the
drivers, tortured the merchants, and carried off the mules and
pack-horses. But while they were thus making free with the booty,
the twelve soldiers, armed with their new-fangled muskets which
could be fired off even in rainy weather, fell upon the robbers, who
could not shoot because of the wet. About forty of the freebooters
bit the dust. Hafran, with the remainder, escaped by the skin of his
teeth among the rocks, contriving to carry the whole of the spoil
along with him, including the baggage of the young married people,
who now had nothing left but what they were actually wearing. All
the beautiful embroidery, lace, and fine linen which pretty Michal
had worked and woven with her own hands, an inestimable treasure,
had become the booty of these vagabonds.

"May the vihodar of Zeb break every one of them on the wheel!" cried
the kopanitschar.

At these words Henry's face became fiery red.

But Michal threw her arms round his neck and consoled him.

"Let us thank God," said she, "for so marvelously delivering us from
so great a peril."

She knew now what a great danger she had escaped, but she had no
idea of the still greater danger that she was about to encounter.



CHAPTER V.

Which will be a short chapter but not a very merry
one.


The young married people had now neither horse nor mule to carry
them any further. They had to look about for some sort of vehicle to
take them to Zeb, and the wagoner whom they hunted up at last swore
by hook and by crook that he would go by sledge or not at all, for
snow had fallen in Praszkinocz, and there was now a sledging track
all the way. As they could not be choosers they of course consented.
Simplex begged them to take his bundle with them, for he too wanted
to get to Eperies. He had come off the luckiest of them all, for as
he had carried his few worldly possessions slung over his shoulder,
he had not been plundered by the robbers. The wagoner granted him
his request, and even allowed him to run along behind the sledge and
hang on by the trestle when he was tired.

He ran as long as the sledge-track lasted, but, as might have been
anticipated (though the driver absolutely refused to believe in the
possibility of any such thing), when they arrived at the foot of the
mountain they saw that there was no more snow but only mud. Simplex
had now to shove the sledge much oftener than mount behind it,
especially when the road lay uphill. The clergyman also had to lend
a hand occasionally, while the countryman in front dragged the
horses along by main force. Thus, in addition to their other
troubles, they were saddled with a sledge on muddy roads.

They had fallen far behind the caravan; even the carriers with the
baggage were now a long way ahead of them. It was late in the
evening before they saw in the distance the lofty church of Zeb with
its copper roof, and the bastions of the city embowered in gardens.
The wind wafted to their ears the sound of the evening _Ave Maria_,
and a very comfortable sound it is to him who sits snugly by his own
fireside. But it is far from pleasant to those who are outside the
walls, for after the _Angelus_ all the gates are closed, the bridges
drawn up, and not a living soul that wanders in a bodily shape upon
the earth is admitted within the city.

"We are shut out," growled the wagoner, scratching his head. "Now we
shall have to sleep under some haystack. I only wish we had not
taken that vagabond student's bundle into the sledge, that was what
made us creep along so slowly."

But if Simplex had not helped to shove on the sledge they would not
have got so far as this.

"Pray let us go on a little further," said the clergyman. He was
walking along moodily by the side of the sledge. No one was inside
it but Michal.

The sun had set. Its scarlet glare still lit up the summits of the
distant Carpathians, but the only objects which they illuminated
here below were one or two mansions scattered among the hills, the
gates of the city, and a large, lonely building standing outside the
walls. The walls and roof of this building shone blood-red in the
evening twilight, but from the huge chimney issued volumes of
pitch-black smoke. Glowing red clouds, betokening wind, accompanied
the setting sun, and a flock of crows which had been startled from
their resting-place flew, loudly croaking, out of the woods toward
the town as forerunners of the approaching storm.

The flock of crows alighted on a dismal-looking scaffolding, which
stood on a hill on this side of the red house. It consisted of
roofless columns rising gauntly out of a square mass of masonry and
united by four iron bars. From each of these four columns a huge
iron hook boldly projected. The crows settled down in thick clusters
on the iron bars. Nowhere in the whole region was a tree, a shrub,
or any asylum for man or beast to be seen.

"Whatever can that be?" thought Michal.

Simplex and the wagoner dragged the horses forward. Henry walked
beside the sledge, and held it fast with one hand to prevent it from
toppling over.

"Whither are we to go now?" growled the wagoner. "We must pass the
night outside here, I suppose. There is no shelter anywhere, and
during the night the witches will do us a mischief."

"There are no such things as witches," remarked Henry dryly.

"But I say there are. I'm sure of it. Barbara Pirka is certainly a
witch. They assemble here at midnight."

"Silence!" cried Henry sternly, and with that he seized the reins of
the horses and began to lead them away from the road.

"Sir," said the carter, hesitating, "why are you going in that
direction? Here is no other house but that one yonder," and he
pointed to the lonely house which stood below the town, all lurid in
the evening twilight.

"And thither we must go."

"Jesus Christ preserve us!" stammered the wagoner, "that is the
house of the vihodar."

"And thither I say we must go."

Then he went to his wife, and wrapped her in his mantle to protect
her from the cold night air.

"Is your father's house much further?" she asked tenderly.

"There it is, straight before us," answered Henry; "my father is the
vihodar of Zeb!"



CHAPTER VI.

Contains the proper explanation of things which have
hitherto remained obscure.


So his father is the vihodar of Zeb, the headsman, the man who works
in blood, not the blood of sheep and oxen, but the blood of men!

This is his house, his territory.

His house is shut out from the town, the boundary of his dominion is
the gallows.

Those stakes by the wayside with wheels fastened to them are his
mile-posts. The robber bands are his ripe wheat, which he mows down
with his sword and harrows with his wheel.

He is the judge of final appeal before whom all criminals must
appear--truly a great and distinguished personage. People make haste
to get out of his way whenever he walks the streets, and salute him
by drawing their caps over their eyes whenever he passes by. His
sway extends from the sixteen towns of Zips as far as Kassa, and
letters patent from the Emperor and the King of Poland give him the
right to kill and torture.

Michal spoke not a word, but closed her eyes and lay back in the
sledge.

The sledge, on quitting the boggy ground and reaching the level
turf, again had a smooth course before it where some progress could
be made. Here Henry again mounted. Simplex and the driver also took
their places on the box-seat. The horses shied at the gallows, and
galloped off with the sledge as if they had broken loose altogether.
The driver cried piteously, as if he were being led to execution.

"Don't disturb yourself, countryman," cried Simplex consolingly, "at
home the headsman is a great personage. He regales his guests with
good pottage, new milk, and old tokay. Dine with him but once, and
you'll have something to talk of for the rest of your life. I know
him. He is a good and honest man. I played to his singing once, and
he filled my cap with thalers."

"It is indeed a dreadful house," whispered Henry in Michal's ear,
"and the master of that house is an object of terror. It is an awful
thing to sleep in that house, and a still more awful thing it is to
speak face to face with its grim master, although I say it who am
his son. Listen, and do not abhor me. Horror drove me thence in my
early boyhood; I fled; my father's business filled me with loathing.
I wanted to live in the world, beloved and respected by my
fellow-men. I departed into a strange land; I was determined they
should never hear of me again at home. Begging my way along, I
hardly earned my daily bread; I suffered cold and hunger; I went
about in the rags which the hand of charity bestowed upon me; I
became a scholar and a slave; I learned to practice obedience and
humility; in all the world I found but a single benefactor, who took
me in, instructed, educated, and ennobled me; and by subtlety I've
robbed this single benefactor of his most precious treasure, his
only daughter. I told him not who my father was; had I told him, he
would not have given me his daughter. No one knows the family name
of my father; his grandfather dwelt in this very house, he took over
this ghastly office from his predecessor, and this predecessor was
called the vihodar. It was a name the people gave him, and so, from
generation to generation, the dweller in this house has been called;
but my father has not forgotten his family name, and he knows that
there is one other man in the world besides himself who bears that
name. Old Catsrider is a very rich man. He has pocketed many gold
pieces and has hoarded them up. Why, indeed, should a hangman spend
his money, or on what? In amusements? He has no time for such
things. In pomp or display? He cannot acquire property. But I have
not come hither because I covet his treasures; not on that account
have I brought you to the door of this sad house, no, but because I
deceived your father in giving out that my own father was a
Catholic. That is not true; he is a Protestant. Our canons are very
stringent. A marriage solemnized without the consent of the parents
on both sides is invalid. I dare not run the risk of one day seeing
the hangman enter the church, tug me by my surplice and say: 'I,
Christian Catsrider, tear you, my son, down from this holy place,
because you are living in illicit union with a woman who is not your
wife.'

"I must obtain the consent of my father to our marriage, or else you
and I are dishonored and our marriage is void. Do you understand
now?"

At this question the young woman sprang to her feet and for an
instant she was seized with the desire of springing out of this
infernal vehicle as it flew along the dry grass, and flying, flying,
flying, till some bottomless abyss swallowed her up; but the next
moment she submitted to her fate, bowed her head, hid her hands
beneath her mantle, and said:

"I will be obedient!"

"My great love for you was the cause of my crime. Will you hate me
for it?"

It was with a very low voice that the young wife replied:

"I will be gentle."

"This humiliation will only last for a night," said the husband
encouragingly. "Early to-morrow morning we will go on our way. No
one will ever find out who was the father of the pastor of Great
Leta. We will live in peace and honor and walk in the way of the
Lord."

"Amen!" answered the wife, but she heaved a great sigh.

Meanwhile the sledge had arrived in front of the lonely house.



CHAPTER VII.

Wherein are described the house and the mistress of
the house.


It was a house unlike all other houses. Banished beyond the walls of
the city, it had to defend itself as best it could. A deep moat
filled with stagnant water and covered with green slime completely
surrounded it, and the drawbridge which crossed the moat led up to a
fortified palisade which formed a second line of circumvallation.
But the drawbridge was now drawn up and the portcullis let down. On
the tops of the palings the hides of various kinds of animals were
hanging out to dry.

The walls of the house were made of a rude sort of rubble, odd
bricks without a trace of mortar. The lower windows were mere
loopholes; the upper windows were of every conceivable shape and
size, but all, without exception, were guarded by a double iron
trellis-work. Right opposite the drawbridge stood the door, made of
heavy oaken beams, traversed in all directions by strong iron bands,
and embossed with large iron-headed nails.

Inside the house a pretty hubbub was going on. Even a long way off
the howling of dogs could be heard; but close at hand it sounded
like a perfect pandemonium; there must have been twenty dogs there
at the very least.

For the house had already been barred and bolted, and the travelers
beyond the moat might have cried and shouted all night without
anyone hearing them had not the trumpeter made one of the party, and
he now blew with all his might the _reveil_, wherewith the Imperial
heralds were wont to demand admission at the gates of a castle.

At this trumpet-blast the drawbridge was slowly lowered amidst a
great rattling and clatter of bolts and chains, but as the door
still remained closed, Simplex went boldly up to it, and knocked
loudly with his fists.

Through the barking of dogs, which now broke forth again with
redoubled vigor, a hoarse female voice shrieked:

"Who is at the gate there?"

"The pastor of Great Leta and his wife," Simplex roared back.

Whereupon a furious yelling and a cracking of whips was heard, as if
someone inside was dispersing a pack of dogs, and as they scampered
howling back, the creaking door slowly turned upon its rusty hinges,
allowing a glimpse into the vaulted hall which was lit by a swinging
lamp.

In the doorway appeared a woman with a large bunch of keys in her
hand.

It was a tall bony shape in a yellow frock, with its head wrapped in
a red cloth, from beneath which coal-black, stubbly bristles peeped
forth.

There had been a time when this woman was beautiful. She had oval
features, a dimpled chin, red cheeks, black eyebrows, sparkling
eyes, and a lofty forehead, but her whole face was now full of
wrinkles, and the furrows on her forehead looked like the stave
lines in a music-book.

"Jesus, Mary, and St. Anna protect me!" cried the wagoner, with
chattering teeth. "If it is not Barbara Pirka in the flesh!"

The woman laughed aloud when she perceived the sledge.

"What! do even the clergy ride on besoms nowadays?" she cried, with
rough pleasantry, while a couple of serving-men, whose shirt-sleeves
were tucked up to their elbows, drew the bridge up again behind the
in-gliding sledge and then shut the groaning door.

"A pleasant evening, Mother Pirka," said Simplex, chucking the woman
under the chin; "'tis a long time since we two met together. Do you
recognize me, eh?"

"Hah!" stammered the wagoner, "you'll pay for chucking her chin like
that. The old hag will twist your neck for you this very night. Mark
my words!"

"Be off, you devil's student!" cried the woman; "why can't you get
out of my way? Where, pray, is the pastor of Great Leta?"

"He is lifting his wife out of the sledge yonder. Is the master at
home?" The hangman was usually styled the master.

"Where should he be? He's in his workshop of course. But your beard
has grown since last I saw you."

"Since Mother Pirka regaled me with cheese soup, eh? Don't you
recollect? I then promised to marry you as soon as I had grown up.
Come now, shall we have a marriage feast?"

"If you give her too much of your jaw she'll ride you, the hag,"
said the wagoner, tugging one of his horses by the mane; "she'll put
a bridle in your mouth at night, and ride you to the very top of the
Krivan!"[2]

[Footnote 2: One of the highest peaks of the Karpathians.]

"You shall have all you want," said Barbara to Simplex. "Let the
others eat first, and then come into the kitchen. You shall have a
good supper."

"I'll take good care not to eat any of it," said the wagoner.
"She'll be sure to give me something to drink which will turn me
into a swine."

"You'll then at least have a finer burial than if you had remained a
man," jeered Simplex.

Nothing could induce the wagoner to stir a step from beside his
horses, and he was quite content to sup upon the buckwheat balls
which he had brought with him in his knapsack. Simplex, on turning
in himself about midnight, derisively assured his snoring companion
that he neighed as if he were turned into a horse already.

Meanwhile the woman led the priest and his wife into the palisaded
mansion.

It was a massive structure, consisting of numerous rooms united
together by long narrow passages with heavy iron-clouted doors. She
stopped at last in a hexagonal vaulted chamber, from the central
arch of which hung a huge lamp. But a far brighter light came from
the hearth, whereon enormous logs were sparkling and crackling.

Nothing in this chamber called to mind the dismal business of the
master of the house. Old-fashioned presses were ranged around the
walls, and in the midst of the chamber stood a round table with feet
resembling tigers' claws, and leather-covered chairs all round it.
In a corner stood a dumb-waiter covered with glittering plate and
pewter. Small pictures and clusters of weapons were visible on the
walls. This chamber led into a small side-room, the door of which
was so low that a person entering it had to duck his head.

"This will be your bedroom," said the woman; "it is a nice, quiet
place, out of hearing of the howling dogs."

Barbara Pirka no longer recognized Henry, though they had often torn
each other's hair out in the good old times.

The woman remarked that Michal's clothing was wet through, and that
her shoes had suffered from her wanderings through the mountains.

"Would madam like to change her clothes?" asked the old woman
obsequiously.

"I have no change," replied Michal, "the robbers have taken the
whole of our baggage, and we ourselves only escaped from them by the
devious mountain paths."

"D----d scoundrels! It would be as well perhaps if you were to lie
down in a warm bed, and take a little hot wine. That would do you
good, and you need not come to supper."

"I thank you for your kindness," said Michal, who was thinking all
the while of the object of their coming thither--viz., the
reconciliation with Henry's father--"but I wish to eat in company
with the master of the house."

"Do you really?" remarked the woman, contracting her brows. "Are you
not afraid of him, then? Have you so strong a heart? So much the
better."

With that she turned and left the room, and there was but time for
the husband and wife to exchange a few words, whereby Michal learnt
that Barbara Pirka was an old housekeeper of the Catsriders, when
back she came again with a change of raiment on her arm.

It consisted of a dress of heavy purple silk, embroidered at the
skirts with colored garlands, a girdle of Turkish stuff, and a broad
lace collar; the bodice was fastened in front with gold clasps.

"You would do well to put on these dry clothes."

Michal allowed the housekeeper to undress her, and then help her on
first with the silk dress, which had been airing all the time over
the fire, and then with the golden-clasped bodice, the Turkish
girdle, and the lace collar.

"Just look, now! It might have been made for her."

Then she took Michal's wet shoes from her feet and gave her instead
slippers of fine red Korduan leather, and as there was no mirror in
the room, she herself supplied its place by turning her round and
round and surveying her from head to foot.

"Just as if it had been made to order. Don't be afraid, my dear lady
pastor. No common wench ever wore that dress. It was a noble,
beautiful lady who once made a brave show therein, and she only wore
it twice. She looked like a flower, and was the fairest of the fair.
I chopped off her head myself."

Michal felt her knees totter. She was wearing on her body the
garments of a woman who had died a felon's death.



CHAPTER VIII.

In which are described the joys of long-parted but
finally reunited kinsmen, and every one learns to
know exactly how he stands.


But even if Michal had wished to take off the clothes there was no
time to do so, for the housekeeper now said that supper was upon the
table, and that the master of the house awaited his guests in the
dining-room. Michal meekly bowed her head on her husband's shoulder,
and allowed herself to be led into the presence of the great and
terrible man.

The dining-room was in every respect like the other rooms. It had
just as many angles and arches, and was whitewashed in precisely the
same way. In the middle stood a table laid for three persons, each
cover consisting of two pewter dishes, one on the top of the other.
There were also two big-bellied, glazed jugs, with pewter lids, a
chased silver tankard for one of the guests, a Venetian crystal
glass for the other, and a wooden mug for the master of the house.

The master of the house already stood beside the table with his
hands resting on the back of his chair. He was a tall, commanding
figure, with very broad shoulders. He wore a brown Polish jacket
with long sleeves, a broad, buckled girdle, and long jack-boots. His
features were hard and angular, his hair short and bristly; but his
beard, already grizzled, hung down in two long flaps, the ends of
which were stuck into his girdle. His look was grave and tranquil,
but without the slightest trace of human feeling.

Michal felt that her husband's hand was trembling as he approached
the master of the house, though he made superhuman efforts to appear
calm.

"Peace and blessing rest upon this house!" stammered Henry,
whereupon the old man sighed deeply but without returning the
salutation.

"Is your reverence the pastor of Great Leta?" It was the first time
he had addressed Henry. His voice was deep and sonorous as if it
proceeded from a bronze statue, his whole body seemed to reëcho the
sound.

"I have been elected the successor of the late pastor. Forgive me,
master, for causing you so much inconvenience!"

"Your visit is nothing unusual," returned the old man, "the late
pastor of Leta was often a guest in this sad house," and he
thereupon beckoned to his guests to be seated.

"This is my wife," stammered Henry.

The old man did not even affect the bare semblance of cordiality. He
coldly said: "Women also, nowadays, seem to love sad spectacles."
Michal, however, before sitting down, folded her hands on the back
of the chair, and piously inclining her head said grace.

The old man wrinkled his eyebrows and turned his face away.

Then they sat down to eat.

Nothing but vegetables was served, and after the vegetables came
cheese. No flesh was to be seen, not a dish was there which required
the assistance of a knife. Of beer and wine, however, there was no
stint. The master of the house urged no one to eat, he left that to
the housekeeper. She poured out for Michal beer and wine. Michal
begged for water instead, but this they would not give her. They
told her that the water of Zeb gave skin diseases to those who
drank of it. So she had to sip beer.

During the meal no one broke silence, but after the first cup was
drunk, the master of the house raised his voice.

"Did the rascals plunder your reverence as well?"

"We ourselves only escaped as by a miracle."

"They will receive their reward. Your reverence will see them the
day after to-morrow."

Henry stared at him with astonishment.

"Yes, the soldiers have captured six of them, and these with some
others will be executed the day after to-morrow."

Henry looked blankly at the old man, whose sharp eyes took in his
astonishment at once.

"What! has not your reverence been sent here on purpose to give the
last consolations of religion to those of the poor sinners who are
of the same communion as yourself?"

Henry's face grew pale.

The old man guessed his thoughts.

"Such an office is no doubt none of the most pleasant. Not every
clergyman likes to be at the side of the poor sinners during such a
sad spectacle. The Franciscans of Eperies are sent to shrive the
Catholics, the pastors of Great Leta to comfort the Protestants.
Indeed this office is part of the cure. On every such sad occasion
the pastor of Great Leta has to sit in the felons' car by my side
with the delinquents opposite. He is therefore a frequent guest at
my house."

To Henry it seemed as if the house were falling about his ears. He
had known nothing of all this till now. He began to wipe away the
sweat from his brow.

"Did not your reverence know then that the black cassock of the
pastor of Great Leta and the red mantle of the vihodar of Zeb go
together? Did the Consistory conceal the fact from your reverence
when they recapitulated the emoluments of the benefice--a denarius
for each baptism, a Mary-florin for each burial, and a Kremnitz
ducat for the last sacraments administered to each poor felon?"

"To tell you the truth," stammered Henry, "I did not go very closely
into the question of the temporalities. I only thought about my
spiritual duties."

"Then if you have not come hither to act as chaplain at the
execution of the law's sentence, to what other circumstances does my
poor house owe the honor of your society?"

Michal threw Henry an encouraging look, signifying that now was the
time to confess everything.

"I will tell you my story, master," began Henry. "Ten years ago I
fled from my father's house. My father loved me. He was good to me.
I was his only son, and I forsook him, nevertheless, because I did
not want to follow his trade, because I strove after higher things.
It was my wish to become a scholar and a clergyman. For the last ten
years I have not let my father know where I was. During that time I
have endured much misery; but I have also been compensated for it. I
have made progress in the path of learning. I was the first among my
fellow-scholars. The high-born sons of great statesmen and churchmen
sat on the same bench with me, with me the poor mendicant student;
but no one has ever sat before me. I outstripped them all. I was the
favorite of the professor and the presbyters. When I mounted the
pulpit to preach, the people strained their ears so as not to lose a
single word, and no one ever went to sleep when I was speaking. When
scarcely four-and-twenty years of age I was elected a regular
minister, and the superintendent confirmed the choice. I was not
even obliged to officiate beforehand as chaplain in the usual way.
'Twas the greatest distinction which could have befallen a
theologian. In the examination which preceded my consecration, my
replies were such that the whole Consistory cried unanimously,
'Eminentissime!' And my benefactor, my protector, the famous, most
learned Dr. David Fröhlich, crowned the efforts of my laborious life
by giving me his only daughter to wife. I then resolved to seek out
in his solitude my long-deserted father, who thought me dead, and
was passing his declining years in dreary abandonment. I said to my
beloved wife, 'Let us go and seek out my poor old father, let us
present ourselves as traveling strangers and take him by surprise.
We owe our first visit to him.' My beloved agreed to my wishes. On
the day after the wedding we set out to visit my father, but robbers
waylaid our caravan and took from us our horse and mule. We
ourselves, guided by good men, escaped by making a long detour over
the mountains, after which we continued our journey by sledge in
wretched plight. Night overtook us. We found the gates of the city
closed. We were too much afraid of robbers to pass the night
outside. We perceived a house in front of the town. We begged for
admittance and it was granted, and now we beg pardon for the trouble
we have caused."

The master of the house kept his eyes fixed on the lips of the
speaker till he had quite finished.

"Then a mere chance has brought your reverence hither?"

Henry's lips refused to say yes, he merely nodded with his head, as
if, forsooth, it were not as great a sin to lie with the whole head
as with the mouth alone!

"Then until your reverence has received your father's blessing, you
cannot, I presume, taste of the earthly joys of wedded life?"
inquired the master of the house, thereby betraying not only his
acquaintance with ecclesiastical ordinances but the possession of
the art of expressing himself politely.

"True, but such consent I hope to obtain this very day, for I am now
in my father's house. My name is Henry Catsrider," and with that the
young man rose from his seat.

But the lady, in a transport of conjugal loyalty and devotion, threw
herself at the father's feet, seized his hand and kissed it.

She actually kissed the hand of the vihodar, the headsman. With
glowing, cleaving lips she kissed the hand which had never been
kissed.



CHAPTER IX.

In the course of which the stern father, in the
hardness of his heart, chastizes his lost son, but
finally grants forgiveness to the repentant
prodigal.


When Christian Catsrider felt the kiss of the young bride on his
hand, he hissed three times like one who has been seared with a
red-hot iron.

But when Henry also would have approached him, the old man stretched
out his long arm, and laying his hand on his son's shoulder forced
him back into his seat with as much force as if he had used a heavy
iron lever for the purpose.

It was only to Michal that the old man spoke.

"So this tender creature has not come hither to see the horrors of
an execution after all? I am glad of it. On such occasions there are
generally more women present than men, ay, and young women too!
What's her name? Michal--and this fellow--Henry! Ah!"

With that he rose from the table.

But Michal still held his iron hand in her hands, and clasping it
tightly with her fingers softly whispered grace, the old man turning
his head aside all the time. Then he drew his hand out of Michal's
hands, but as she still kept kneeling at his feet as if expecting
something more, the old man let his long sleeve fall right over his
hands till the very tips of his fingers were covered, and then he
laid them gently on Michal's head so that that innocent head might
not be polluted by the touch of his bare hand.

Then Michal arose from her knees.

But the master did not extend his hand to his son. On the contrary,
when the housekeeper entered to clear the table, he told her to
leave it alone for the present, and first of all conduct the gentle
lady to her room, make her a comfortable bed, lay her down in it and
lull her gently to sleep. "The reverend gentleman," he added, "will
remain behind with me, for I've a couple of words to say to him."

Michal thanked him for his courtesy, and holding out her hand to her
husband, asked him shyly:

"I suppose you will come soon?"

"As soon as I have received my father's blessing," replied Henry,
unctuously, from which Barbara Pirka gathered that the clergyman was
the master's son.

The heavy doors had no sooner closed behind the two women than
Christian Catsrider said to his son:

"Follow me!"

With that he took out of his side pocket a key with a double ward,
and unlocked therewith a secret door, discovering a spiral staircase
which led up to a tower.

Henry knew from experience that the old man kept his treasures in
this tower. That his father should lead him thither seemed therefore
an omen of good.

"Take the lamp and go on before."

Henry took the lamp and led the way up the staircase whilst the old
man closed the iron door behind them.

After ascending twelve steps, they came to a large round room.
Heaped up all round lay, not the treasures of the master, but all
the instruments of his trade which were employed in the torturings
and executions of those times, with a description of which we will
not harrow the readers of this sufficiently sad story. Nowadays
these instruments are only to be found in museums; men have
discovered other ways of ameliorating their fellow-creatures.

Henry looked around him with horror at this frightful arsenal. He
could not imagine what the old man had to say to him in such a
place.

The master did not leave him very long in doubt. On the wall hung an
enormous two-edged sword in a sheath of black leather. This sword
the old man took down, and drew from its red velvet-lined sheath the
broad blade, which was concave at both edges from much grinding, and
of a mirror-like brightness; then, seizing the weapon with both
hands, he said to his son in a cold, calm voice:

"Kneel down, my lad. You must die!"

"Oh! my father!" cried Henry.

"No, not your father. Your judge and executioner."

"Why do you want to kill me?"

"I have been headsman of Zeb for forty years. During that time I
have dispatched many malefactors to the other world; but such a
precious scoundrel as you are it has never yet been my misfortune to
meet."

"What offense have I committed?" asked the horror-stricken Henry.

"You have run through a whole catalogue of crimes, each one of which
is sufficient to bring a man to the scaffold. You are a thief! You
have robbed the benefactor who received you into his house. You are
a liar! You have denied your own father. You are a blasphemer! You
have stretched out your hand toward the sacrament of the altar,
knowing all the time that you were profaning that holy rite. You are
a murderer--a parricide! For never was a man's affection so cruelly
murdered as mine has been by you, to say nothing of the honor of
this innocent woman and her father. Enough; you must die!"

"But if I have committed such crimes, why not bring me before the
judges? I ought to be judged according to law and equity."

"Hold your tongue. You are beyond the pale of the law. There is a
statute in force against abductors. That statute says that whosoever
is caught in the act of abducting a youth or a maiden need not be
brought before the tribunals, but may be sent direct to the headsman
who is to judge and sentence him forthwith. Now you are such a
robber. You have abducted a girl. You are caught in the act. And I
will be a merciful judge to you, for I'll condemn you simply to be
beheaded. Undress and kneel down!"

Henry rallied all his courage. He began to smile. Perhaps the old
man was jesting with him. Perhaps he wanted to try his courage.

"'Tis well, my father. You've scared me enough now. A truce to
jesting. I've neither murdered nor robbed. I am certainly anything
but a parricide. If I did not honor my father, I should not be here
now. Pray give me your blessing, therefore, and let me go to my
wife. Michal followed me of her own free will, and she is waiting
for me now."

"The virgin you have brought with you is not your wife, and she
awaits you in vain. At dawn I will send her back to her father under
a strong escort together with the news of your death."

At these words the son was seized with a paroxysm of rage. Trusting
in the great strength by which he had so often distinguished himself
among his fellow-scholars, he fell fiercely upon his father. He
fancied he would be able to wrest the sword from him, break loose
from this ambuscade, and venture another leap through the dormer
window and over the palisades, as he had done ten years before. But
he reckoned without his host. The old man had only to stretch out
his left hand, seize him by the chest and hurl him like a young
kitten to the other side of the room, where he bounded head foremost
against the wall, and fell all of a heap.

"It only needed that," murmured the old man. "Now that you have
raised your hand against your master and judge, against your own
father, you've not another crime to commit. This is the first case
among the thousands of which I have had experience in which the
condemned has presumed to wrestle with the headsman. Curer of souls
indeed! In what Bible did you learn that, I should like to know."

The humiliated wretch, after this overthrow, lost his strength of
mind altogether. The hero who had thus found his master in a
physical encounter no longer felt equal to an intellectual contest;
he writhed to his father on his knees, and cried, sobbing loudly all
the time:

"Mercy, my father! I am your only son!"

"A precious only son, truly, who has outraged his own father. You
fled from me. You said to yourself: 'My father pursues a
dishonorable trade. I will not share his fate!' Alas! that it should
be so. I cleanse the human race of its filth. My hand cannot be as
white as a lily. They send for me to wipe away all their dirt, all
that is vile and disgusting. A terrible fate! But someone, if it be
only one in a hundred thousand, must submit to it. Evil-doers thrive
like a brood of serpents. You have seen them yourself. You have been
surrounded by them. You have felt how powerful they are even where
the sword has been whetted to destroy them. I have already peopled
many a room in hell with these damned spirits, and yet they spring
up again like so many poisonous funguses. But for the gallows the
dominion of Satan in these parts would gain the upper hand. I too
live in a state of horror night and day. When I am alone I loathe
myself. When I lay me down to sleep, someone must stand by my
bedside to wake me when I dream, for the dreams I dream are ghastly.
Once I even resigned my office. The King's grace releases the
headsman after a thirty years' service, and a Royal decree ennobles
him after a thirty years' obloquy. But I had not laid the sword
aside for more than six months when traveling in the district became
impossible. In the town, women were robbed in the broad daylight,
and malefactors danced in the churches, which they had broken open
and plundered. I again began to work in blood. A ghastly work! Men
hide themselves, dogs howl, grazing flocks disperse when they scent
me from afar. There is no seat for me in the church, and every door
in the town is closed against me. The good abhor me even more than
the evil. But for all that I care nothing. What does grieve me is
that my son should loathe me. The thousands of terrifying shapes
which are waiting for me in the next world to stone me with their
decapitated heads do not frighten me. My own son, who smites me in
the face, he it is who really hurls me into hell."

"No, my father," interrupted Henry, "I adjure you by the living God
not to say so. I do not abhor you. You, too, serve humanity. I
condemn you not. But Heaven has not given me so strong a heart as
yours. I have chosen the mission of reconciliation, of amelioration.
I, too, would destroy the evil which you destroy, if not with the
sword at least by the Word of God."

"Then you think it belongs to the eternal fitness of things that
your father should be a headsman, while you are a curer of souls;
that when you are dispensing the Lord's Supper, all the people
should look with fear and loathing at your hand to see whether you
have not inherited some blood-mark from your father; that the
children in your parish should come into the world with red blotches
instead of moles; that the rabble, when we sit side by side in the
felons' car, should cry out: 'There go the headsman and his son, the
parson; the old 'un flays the sinners, and the youngster patches 'em
up again!' Perhaps, however, you think nothing of the sort. Perhaps
you will prefer to go on denying your father. Perhaps you will
prefer to live a lie six days in the week, and then ascend the
pulpit to preach eternal truth on the seventh day. But then would
not the words 'Our Father' stick in your throat? Would you not hear
the devil whispering in your ear every time you repeated the fifth
commandment? But enough of this. Keep steady! Stretch out your head,
and let us make an end of it!"

The young man was almost in a state of collapse. He tried to raise
himself from the floor with one hand, and, as if even the cold
stones had pity upon him, there suddenly resounded from the room
below a soft chant, a lowly prayer sung by a woman's gentle voice:

    Glory be to God the Lord,
    My refuge and my great reward.
    To Him my prayer shall ever be
    Who holp me in extremity.

The young man began to sob. The father leaned with both hands upon
his sword. For a long time he was silent. He would not speak so long
as that evening prayer lasted.

His son threw himself sobbing on the ground, and moistened the
flagstones with his tears.

"Do you wish to live?" asked the father in a low voice.

Henry rose from the ground with overflowing joy. He was certain from
this sudden softness of tone that the mortal rage of his father had
given way to a milder frame of mind.

"Are you not sorry for that poor creature?" inquired his father.

"I love her as I love my own soul."

"I didn't ask you that, I asked you whether you feel compassion for
her; you need say no more."

"Yes, I do."

"Do you feel compassion for your father?"

"I love and honor you."

"Don't talk so much, but answer my question!"

"God knows that I feel compassion for you."

"You take the name of the Lord into your mouth much too often. If
you want to live, if you have any pity for me and for that poor
creature, rise up! Don't blubber! It's not pretty and does not
become you. You are a man, remember! Take off that garment! Here's
another! Put it on and follow me!"

Henry took off his black cassock and put on the linen jacket which
the old man had taken out of a cupboard for him. It was a plain
jacket, without either buttons or buckles, and fastened round the
waist by a leather girdle. It did not escape Henry that the old man
carefully counted out two hundred gold pieces, which he took from
the same cupboard and put into the girdle. "'Tis yours," said he, as
he buckled the girdle round his son's body. Then he beckoned to him
to take the lamp and again go on in front, only this time they
descended the staircase. The old man took the sword with him.

Henry was thinking to himself that if he could only escape from his
father with a whole skin he would never venture within those walls
again so long as the old man was alive.

But the old man also knew very well what his son's thoughts were,
and he himself was thinking of how he could best prevent him from
doing anything of the sort again.



CHAPTER X.

In which is shown how vain it is for womankind to
murmur against the course and order of this world.


Pretty Michal was trembling in all her limbs when the housekeeper
undressed and put her to bed.

Barbara Pirka went out of her way to be agreeable and obliging. She
wanted to make Michal a hot salt and bran poultice and prepare her a
posset of centaury, but these and sundry other good offices Michal
absolutely declined, declaring that she had no fear of catching
cold.

After putting the young woman to bed, she sat down beside her, and
rubbed Michal's tiny white feet between her hands. She said it was
good remedy against sleeplessness and anxiety.

"My hand has power," explained Pirka; "I am a seventh child and a
witch to boot."

An ill-bred person would have burst out laughing; but Michal looked
at Pirka with an astonishment which had more of reverence in it than
of fear. She had never seen a witch before.

It pleased Pirka to see how Michal folded her hands together as if
in prayer.

"Yes. Now I'm a witch and can make and mar as I please. But even
those whom I benefit must suffer for it. I was once the wife of a
headsman myself. The business pleased me. The only thing that
surprises me is how a judge can leave to another the torturing and
execution of those he has condemned to death instead of doing it
himself. If I were the Emperor I would make a decree that every
judge should be his own executioner. I was always at my husband's
side when he was at work. I would not have stayed away at any price.
When the felon was a woman I used to clip off her hair with a pair
of shears. What a lot of lovely hair I've cut off in my time! After
my husband's death (a mad dog bit him and he died from the effects
of it), I continued the business with an assistant. My assistant was
a lanky, awkward fellow. Once he put me to shame on the scaffold by
breaking down altogether at his task, so I snatched the sword out of
his hand and finished the job myself. Then they took the business
away from me and kicked me out: they said that it was not meet that
a woman should wield the headsman's sword. So I came hither and
entered the service of this vihodar. He could get no other servant,
and no other master would look at me. But you are shivering, my
dovey! Shall I tell you some pretty tale, my pet?"

At the word "dovey" Michal suddenly recollected her favorite fantail
pigeon, which she had put into her pocket, and she begged Barbara to
take out the poor creature and give it meat and drink. She had
brought some grain with her.

"All right, my darling! But the dove cannot remain in this house.
There are so many owls and hawks here that the timid creature would
die of fright at the very sight of these savage birds of prey; and
besides, don't you know that if your little hen pigeon were to live
here and lay eggs without pairing, and hatch them, the brood would
be goblins instead of chickens?"

Superstition is contagious. Michal already began to believe that her
dove would hatch a brood of gnomes.

She began to be tormented with a desire to know exactly how she
stood, and what was going on about her. Pirka was a queer creature,
certainly; but she was the only woman in the house, and women always
hold together, especially in such a house as this. She was not
afraid of speaking out before Pirka.

Pirka fed the dove and gave it water, and then stuck it into
Michal's pocket again.

"There now!" she said. "She feels all the better for that, I know."

Then she covered up the pretty lady with a warm counterpane and a
bearskin, and while doing so caught sight of the small silk sachet
which was fastened round her neck. Pirka's eyes began to sparkle
savagely. She thought it was an amulet against witchcraft; but
Michal told her that it was only a talisman against the plague,
nothing more. Then Pirka laughed.

"You don't need that here. The plague never penetrates into this
house. At the time of the great Egyptian sickness the headsmen were
the gravediggers. Not one of them died."

"How was that?"

"Why, don't you know? They've made a compact with Death."

Of course no one need take this literally, but it is certain that
men with such blunted nerves as headsmen are not so liable to
contagion as other people.

"It is a memento of my poor mother," said Michal, pressing the
silken sachet to her lips.

"Don't do that," said Pirka, in a warning voice. "As often as one
kisses such mementos the dead person turns round in his grave."

At this Michal could not restrain her tears.

"Come, come, my pretty darling, don't weep! Shall I tell you a
pretty tale? What shall it be about?"

Michal ceased to sob. She begged Pirka to tell her the story of the
lady whose dress she had worn that day.

"Alas, alas, my darling! that is a very sad story; you'll not be
able to sleep if you hear that."

But she told her about it all the same.

"There was once a wondrously beautiful lady, the only daughter of a
noble house. They married her to a Polish lord whom she did not
love. She loved another, a beautiful, brown Hungarian lad, and what
is more she took care never to be very far away from him. One day
the Polish nobleman observed that his wife had on a beautiful dress
of cornflower-blue silk. He asked her: 'Where did you get that
beautiful silk dress from?' She replied: 'My mother sent it to me
from Szeszko as a birthday gift.' The husband did not shirk the
trouble of riding all the way to Szeszko and asking his
mother-in-law whether she had sent her daughter the beautiful blue
dress. Back he came to his wife. 'Wife, your mother has told me that
she sent you that blue dress. You have lied and your mother has lied
also. Confess now from whom you got that beautiful dress.' Then his
wife told him she had bought it at the Lemberg fair with her own
money from an Armenian of Ungvar. The husband did not shirk the
trouble of riding all the way to Ungvar. There he sought out the
Armenian and asked if his wife had purchased from him the
cornflower-blue dress. Then he came back and sent for his wife.
'Wife, wife, you have not spoken the truth, and the Armenian has
lied as well as you, for he said you _did_ buy the cornflower dress
from him.' Then, at last, the woman confessed that she got the
cornflower-blue dress from her lover. It was the death of her. She
was condemned to be beheaded. She was obliged to mount the scaffold
in her beautiful dress, and there take it off and put on
sack-cloth. Never had so handsome a face, so majestic a figure and
such a soft, swan-like neck been seen there before. It was then I
met with the mishap I've already told you of. When my chief
assistant seized the sword and saw such a beautiful creature before
him, he grew green in the face, his eyes became fixed and glazed,
his knees tottered, and at last, as if seized by an epileptic fit,
he fell down and tumbled backward off the scaffold. Then I gave the
sword to my younger assistant. He, however, sank down on his knees
before the kneeling lady, held the handle of his sword in front of
him like a crucifix, and began to chant an _Ave Maria_. The sheriff
was filled with dismay, the Polish nobleman, who stood close by,
began to curse, called all who dwelt in Hungary cowardly milksops,
and spat on the scaffold. Filled with fury thereat, I seized the
sword and with a single blow cut off the woman's head. Then I took
up the head by its long tresses and dashed it in the nobleman's
face. 'You Polack,' I cried, 'take home what is yours!' That was why
they drove me away."

A cold shudder ran through Michal's limbs despite all her warm
wrappings.

"How long Henry remains away," she whispered softly.

"I'll go out, my pretty lambkin, and listen at the door to hear what
he is saying to the old master."

So Pirka went through the dining-room and stopped to listen at the
iron door and find out what was going on in the tower; and Michal,
meanwhile, sang that evening hymn which had reached the ears of the
headsman and his son.

Soon afterward Barbara Pirka returned, and with a sly grin whispered
in Michal's ear:

"Don't fret, darling, the old man has made it all up, and now they
are hugging and kissing each other."

But still Henry did not come back to his wife.

The howling of many dogs resounded through the courtyard below. The
hideous din penetrated the thick vaults and double corridors and
reached the very room where Michal lay.

"They will soon be quiet," said the housekeeper grimly.

Michal, in order to change the subject to something more agreeable,
asked Pirka whether there was any garden to the house.

"You can't keep one," answered Pirka. "Here neither tree nor flower
will flourish. The master's wife found that out long ago, when she
tried to garden. The first summer after she came here, all the
branches of the trees curved inwardly as if they would have crept
under the ground, and the roots were devoured by worms. Nothing
prospers but the black elder-tree, and even that produces red
berries."

Meanwhile, the howling of the dogs grew fainter, as if the number of
them was gradually growing smaller.

"What a long time Henry remains away," sighed the young wife.

"He'll very soon be here now, my pretty sweetheart!"

By this time only two dogs were howling in the courtyard below.

Pirka smiled, and began to arch her eyebrows.

"His reverence will be here almost immediately," said she.

And now only a single dog was howling through the night.

The storm, too, furiously shook the window-casements.

Suddenly the last dog ceased barking.

Pirka blinked, and said:

"The master will soon be here now."

During these odd scenes, Michal consoled herself with the reflection
that the whole thing would be over in a day. Even the last day and
the last night of a condemned felon must come to an end. Let them
once get over this unpleasant day and they would go right away. They
would have a home of their own, a quiet, peaceful parsonage all to
themselves, with a large flower garden and a dove-cot.

Barbara Pirka had prophesied rightly. Soon after the last dog had
quite ceased howling a man's step was heard approaching the door of
the bedroom. Pirka murmured an incantation in the gipsy tongue over
Michal, which might have been a blessing for all that Michal knew to
the contrary. Then the old woman withdrew.

Immediately afterward Henry came in. The first thing he did was to
extinguish the lamp, so that his wife might not see his face. Then
he undressed and lay down beside her, for they both shared the same
couch. Henry threw the bearskin coverlet off the bed; he was bathed
in sweat.

The young wife was shivering, and her teeth chattered. She drew
herself up like a hedgehog, and dared not close her eyes. To prevent
herself from falling asleep she kept on repeating all the quotations
which she knew by heart one after the other.

But Henry was in a raging fever. He kept tossing about on his couch,
and murmured repeatedly, "Jesus, Maria, and St. Joseph!" and
whenever sleep was about to overcome him he would almost throttle
himself, and plunge with his feet till he almost kicked out the
footboard.

The wife trembled, the husband groaned, the tempest outside shook
the window-panes, the weathercocks creaked on the roof, the owls
hooted in the lofts, and so the night wore on.

It was only toward morning that sleep sank down upon the young
wife's weary eyelids. She had already kept vigil for two nights
running, and now her slumber was tormented by frightful dreams till,
when the morning was far advanced, Barbara Pirka came and woke her.

The housekeeper brought the sleeper a steaming wine-posset in a
porcelain bowl.

Michal was not in the least refreshed by her repose. She felt weaker
than ever. A parching thirst tormented her. All her bones ached. She
was glad that Pirka had brought her drink. She cared little whether
the woman was a witch or not, and she felt that it would not much
matter if the hag's potion were to enchant her and change her into
some bestial shape.

She eagerly took the bowl and drained it to the very dregs.

Then she called Barbara Pirka, and said:

"Where is my husband?"

Pirka replied:

"He has gone to town with his father."

"And what is my husband doing in town?" asked pretty Michal once
more.

"He is helping his father to catch dogs."



CHAPTER XI.

Wherein is shown what terrible perils befall women
who are not resigned to their fate, and do not obey
their lords and masters.


Pretty Michal did not immediately expire on receiving this answer.
For a moment, indeed, she really believed her heart would have
ceased to beat there and then. Everything around her seemed to be
turning pitch-black, and the horror which froze her breast made
itself felt even to the tips of her fingers. Then she held her
breath and fancied that her last hour had come.

But she very soon found that death is not to be had for the mere
asking.

And surely the old witch must have put something in her drink, some
magic charm capable of producing a complete moral transformation;
for how else account for the evil thoughts which now suddenly
occurred to her as she sat there on the edge of the bed, thoughts
which, so far from keeping to herself, she uttered quite loud? Was
she speaking to the old hag at her side or to some invisible being?
Heaven only knows, but there she sat gazing steadily before her,
with her fingers on her lips and her elbows on her knees.

"What then, after all, is the use of all the wisdom of the learned,
of all the precepts of the saints? Why cast horoscopes, why consult
the stars, if it is all to end like this? And they had said: 'How
can you, a clergyman's daughter, give your hand to a man who works
in blood, for he'll be bound to follow his father's trade? Will you
allow your whole life to be a ceaseless bloodshedding? What! every
day to rise and shed blood, and every night to lie down with blood!
Every day to trace blood on the hands of him who embraces you! To be
bound for life to a man whose very calling it is to lay violent
hands on God's innocent creatures!' Alas! alas! Then it was only the
blood of sheep and oxen that was in question. And now! What avails
it, then, all the wisdom of the wise, when such things are possible?
What if the little automatic dog had wagged his tail and stuck out
his tongue by way of warning? And to think that a living wise man
should have had no idea of the impending ruin of a human soul, and
that soul his very daughter! What, then, is the use of amulets and
talismanic necklaces? What is the good of the angelic choirs in
heaven when they cannot protect the faithful from such calamities?"

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Barbara Pirka, "there are very many more men
in this world, my jewel, than there are angels in heaven. It is not
everyone that has a guardian angel to look after him, but there
isn't a man in this world who hasn't seven devils all to himself. I,
too, was carried off from my father's house by my husband. He told
me he was a tanner, and I, silly fool! did not inquire what sort of
hides he tanned. But I made him pay one hundred-fold for that one
deceit, I warrant you."

Michal stared blankly at her. She did not understand a word of what
Pirka was talking about.

Pirka shrugged her shoulders.

"My ruby! won't we put on our clothes?"

"No!" cried Michal, defiantly, and throwing herself back in the bed.
"Where are the clothes in which I came hither?"

"They are still very wet and hanging up to dry. They are tattered
and torn, too, and want a lot of mending."

"I'll wait here till I get them."

So she stayed in bed. She would have nothing to do with the terrible
finery which had belonged to the unhappy Polish lady.

And all day long nobody troubled her. Everyone in the house had
something to do in town.

Barbara Pirka brought her her dinner; but the hag had no sooner
taken it in than she had to take it out again. Michal would not
touch a morsel.

Late in the afternoon the men came home. Michal again heard a
horrible howling and yelping, brawling voices and heavy footsteps.
It was only when they passed her door that they trod softly. Someone
standing outside whispered to them:

"Pst! be quiet! The lady keeps her bed!"

"If she keeps her bed, she must be ill!" so thought they all.

When it was dark, Barbara Pirka came down again and lit the lamp in
Michal's room.

How happy the evening hours had been to Michal at home, when she
could go to her book-shelves and take down her learned folios. Then
she had never felt alone.

But here there were not even books!

       *       *       *       *       *

The night was far advanced. Every living thing had long ago gone to
sleep. Cautious footsteps approached the chamber where Michal lay.

The door opened and Henry entered.

He wore a gold-embroidered doublet buckled round with a stately
girdle; his sleeves were trimmed with gold lace right up to the
elbows. His large, tight-fitting jack-boots were of yellow buckskin,
and they too were richly embroidered with lace. No bride could have
wished for a more handsomely equipped bridegroom. But he had no
sooner entered the room than Michal sprang from her bed, and
wrapping herself in the bearskin, shrieked in a voice hoarse with
rage:

"How dare you come in hither? This is the bedroom of my husband, the
pastor of Great Leta! None else has any business here at all!"

The witch's potion must certainly have changed Michal's very nature,
for language such as this was the last thing to be expected from so
meek and gentle a creature in the hour of her terrible dereliction.

And some mighty spell really was at work, for that big, strong man,
who could have brought the weak creature before him to her knees in
the twinkling of an eye, was so frightened by Michal's repellent
gesture, so timidly apprehensive of her furiously flashing eyes,
that he could not utter a word, but slunk out of the chamber like a
whipped cur.

Some person who had been eavesdropping outside all the time giggled
aloud, and then was heard the voice of a man blaspheming the name of
God, and gnashing his teeth with rage.

Surely that was not the parson of Great Leta?

Certainly not. But what has become of him? Well, after the work of
yesterday night and to-day, the doors of every church are shut
against Henry Catsrider, and the steps leading to every pulpit are
broken down as far as he is concerned.

The old vihodar had taken very good care that his son should never
be a clergyman again.

And Michal remained alone with her phantoms.

She thought upon the vanished days of her maidenhood; of the
innocent joys amidst which her days had glided so sweetly away; of
the studies, which had always been a source of delight to her.

Whither had vanished all those joys and all those studies? What
availed her now the books of all those learned men? What to her now
was moral philosophy, horticulture, or domestic economy? Here there
was no morality, no garden, no home! Her life at home had been a
monastic life, but it was a veritable heaven compared with this
hell.

But when she fell a-thinking how happy she might have been if she
had given her hand to him whom her heart had chosen--who was not
perhaps very learned, but certainly upright, honest, good-hearted,
and over head and ears in love--then indeed evil thoughts began to
arise within her.

When the moon shone through the iron bars of her window she could
not help thinking what a nice time the witches must have of it; they
had only to bestride their broomsticks and scud through the air,
even narrow iron bars could not stop them.

What if her forsaken sweetheart were thinking of her now? Would he
ever learn into what depths of misery the mistress of his heart had
fallen?

While she was thinking of these things, and drying her streaming
eyes, she suddenly heard in the court below the tune of one of her
favorite songs, which ran thus:

    The cloud wherein the crow doth stay,
    The dark black cloud will pass away!

Someone was playing this air on a Hungarian field-trumpet.

This instrument is called the farogato, and very few know how to
play it. It is certainly a difficult instrument. Let anyone but a
connoisseur attempt to blow it, and he will bring forth a sound not
at all unlike the howl of a dog on whose tail someone has trodden.
But he who really knows the secret of the field-trumpet can play
thereon every imaginable air, in tones which will go to one's very
heart. You'll find yourself weeping without exactly knowing why. The
good old songs, as they come forth from the instrument, recall to
you the lullaby which your mother used to sing at your cradle, and
the hymn which was sung at your father's burial. It does you good
and makes you sad at the same time. But when a real connoisseur
takes up the farogato and blows into it with all his might, then
indeed he brings forth notes which excite the martial sentiments of
every hearer, notes which can be heard for two miles round. It
sounds just as if a host were marching forth to battle and to
victory.

It was this instrument which, thirty years later, inspired the rebel
troops of Rakóczy in the campaigns. After the insurrection was over,
therefore, the peace-abiding government collected together all the
farogatos in the land and destroyed them, just as if they had been
so many double-mortars. Only a single specimen still remains, which
is exhibited as a great curiosity in the Royal Museum at Buda-Pest,
and only a single man in the whole land knows how to play it.

We have said this much about the farogato in order to give some idea
of the great joy which arose in Michal's heart, when she suddenly
heard it playing her favorite song.

Her father had often spoken to her about an out-at-elbow vagrant
student, whom the scholars derisively nicknamed Simplex, and who had
wrought much mischief there with his music by enticing the sons of
the Muses away from their studies thereby. Kalondai, in particular,
had to thank this fellow for the corruption of his morals, in fact
they were hand and glove. Besides that, Simplex was a low fellow,
who had not been ashamed to serve a twelve months' apprenticeship
with the civic trumpeter of Zeb, and since then had spent all his
time in gadding about the country as an itinerant musician, earning
a penny here and a penny there at wedding feasts and such like
riotous entertainments. All this the learned professor had told his
daughter in high dudgeon; but what a comfort it was to her that she
knew it now. From the fact that she heard all her favorite songs
played one after the other in the courtyard below, she drew the
following conclusion: If Simplex has come hither, it is only because
Kalondai sent him. If he is staying here, it is certainly only
because he wants to find out something about me. When he discovers
what my position is, he will return to his bosom friend and tell him
everything.

And the thought consoled her.

For hours and hours she listened in the beautiful moonlight to the
well-known melancholy strains, which her serving-maids used to sing
when they heard the field-trumpet's blare outside. She, too, had now
and again hummed "The Hunter's Song," or "The Polish Lay of the
Three Hundred Widows," with its ghostly finale supposed to represent
the Dance of Death.

Simplex played these airs very prettily. Michal could have listened
to him all night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in the morning Pirka appeared, and brought her the wine posset
spiced with cloves, cinnamon, and muscat-nut.

While she was sipping it, Michal angrily asked: "Who is that
tiresome man who keeps on blowing his trumpet all night in the
courtyard below?"

She was already learning to be sly. It is ever so with women. Treat
them with tenderness and affection, and they are as gentle as doves
and speak straight out what they think. But just bully, offend, or
persecute them, and they become as crafty as serpents. No one
teaches them deceit, and yet they are masters in it. Then they think
before they speak, and their tongues say one thing and their hearts
another.

So that was why Michal complained so angrily about that tiresome
man. She knew by instinct that the best way to keep him in the house
was to complain of him.

"Oh, my darling!" said Barbara Pirka, "don't say that! He is my
trumpeter, quite a superior young man, I assure you."

"And pray when will he take himself off and let people sleep o'
nights?" she asked with dissembled bitterness.

"He is not so easily got rid of, darling! If you were to chuck him
out of doors with a pitchfork he would come in again through the
window. He enjoys himself amazingly with the lads! Would you believe
it, they got up a fine dance last night! There was no lack of
partners either, for each of the lads brought in a large watch-dog,
made it stand on its hind-legs, and danced with it that way. If you
had been there you'd have split your sides for laughing. Last of
all, everyone made his partner kiss the musician. Ha! ha! ha!"

"The beast!" cried Michal, wiping her mouth in disgust. "And why
then does he not run away from a place where they treat him so
vilely?"

"I'll tell you, my dear little squirrel! 'tis because he is
desperately in love with me."

Then Michal thought how great must be the friendship of these two
men, when one of them is willing to live as a guest in the
headsman's house, make sport for the headsman's henchmen, endure
their brutal jests, nay, even make love to this domestic witch,
simply to bring his friend tidings of the woman who has been the
cause of all his misery!

All that day Barbara Pirka did not bring Michal the clothes in which
she had come, nor did Michal again put on the fine dress which had
been given to her. She preferred to feign illness and lie in bed.

But Henry dared not show his face to her all that day.

Neither on that nor yet on the following day did he appear before
her. He was waiting till Michal got up.

She, however, would take nothing but broth, so that she might say
she was ill and not be obliged to get up.

And night after night she listened at the window to the farogato,
and it sometimes seemed to her as if someone was urging the musician
to play with all his might.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Henry steadily plied his trade. The better to inure him to
it, he was never allowed to be sober for a moment. They gave him
heavy beer to drink which muddled his head. They gave him garlic to
eat, and the very consciousness that he has eaten garlic is
sufficient to make a man regard himself as the enemy of all
refinement. The coarse jests which he heard from his father's
henchmen, familiarity with dirt and filth, the drunken orgies into
which he was plunged, so brutalized him that at last he absolutely
did not know how to approach such a tenderly nurtured creature as
Michal in a propitiatory manner. So he learnt to sing filthy songs
instead, and vied with the headsman's lads themselves in cursing and
swearing.

If the reverend professor could have seen his son-in-law now he
would have fancied that this was an homunculus whom some alchemist
had inflated with another and an inferior soul.

That his wife had driven him out of her bedchamber was not regarded
as anything extraordinary. In these days the women of Zeb were so
shamefaced and coy that it was considered by no means proper for
young married people to begin billing and cooing while the honeymoon
was yet young. Nay, it was even requisite that the husband when he
stole the first kiss from his bride should bear away the marks of
her ten nails in his face, just as if he had been engaged in taming
a wild panther; while a woman who at the beginning of the honeymoon
was able to pitch her husband twice out of the bridal-chamber could
reckon upon reaping a whole harvest of praise.

It was consequently nothing unusual if a modest young spouse, with a
good opinion of herself, abstained from eating during the first few
days of her honeymoon, or even made as though she had been struck
dumb. It showed that she had been piously brought up, that was all.
It was only when this self-imposed abstinence lasted long enough to
endanger the lady's life that third parties stepped in and put a
stop to it.

So Michal had her own way entirely, neither getting up, nor
dressing, nor speaking, nor taking any nourishment to speak of.

But on Friday, when Pirka came in to see her, Michal sneezed
violently. Now when anybody sneezes on Friday it signifies that his
enemies will triumph over him. So, at least, Pirka interpreted it.

Then she observed that the iron window shutters had been left open
all night, and she scolded Michal for it.

"It is not good," she said, "to sleep in moonlight, for it draws all
the strength out of one's heart." Then she whispered to Michal that
to-day the young master was going to accomplish his masterpiece.
What that masterpiece was, Michal had little difficulty in guessing.

On such occasions, to each of the headsman's assistants is given a
flask of brandy wherewith to strengthen his heart. The master
himself partakes of brandy mingled with hartshorn and sunflower dew,
which (we have it on the authority of Arnoldus de Villanova) is such
an efficacious cordial that so long as a man drinks thereof he will
probably never die.

It chanced, moreover, that on this very day Henry was bitten by a
strange dog, and as there was no knowing whether the beast might not
be mad they made young Catsrider swallow a large pill of very
pungent spices as an antidote; and no doubt this too had an
inflammatory effect upon his blood.

Add to this that the old master on this particular evening gave a
great feast to all his apprentices, at which they first drank heavy
old beer and then strong red wine. The apprentices on this occasion
mocked Henry unmercifully, and called him a milksop, fit only to be
stuck up in a corner and beaten with a spindle by his wife. The wine
mounted to his head, and the blood and the gibes did the rest. The
feast was no sooner over than Henry went straight to the door of
Michal's chamber, set his shoulders against it, and tore it off its
hinges.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning, pretty Michal had a blue mark under one eye and a
wheal on her forehead, and the precious amulet, the amulet she had
received from her father as a bridal gift, was no longer round her
neck.

"What's the good of you," cried she, addressing the amulet, "if you
cannot defend me? How can you save me from the Black Death when you
cannot save me from the hand of man?"

Then she took the dove which she had brought with her from home, and
said to it:

"It is all your fault! Why was my heart so soft on your account, why
had I not the courage to kill you there and then? If I had wrung
your neck, plucked your feathers, stuck you on a spit and carved
you, I should not be here now! Fly home! Take back the amulet! I'll
tie it round your neck. Take it to my father! May the amulet defend
you on the way from vultures and hawks, may it preserve my father
from ever feeling such heavy woe as I am feeling here."

With that, she took the amulet and fastened it beneath the dove's
wings with the ribbon, in such a way as to show that it had not been
unloosed but torn from her neck. Then she opened the window and let
the dove go.

The dove cooed, flew into the air, and Michal saw it no more.

And pray what became of the dove? Only this. On the same day it came
home to Keszmár and tapped at the window, while the great scholar
sat poring over his folios. The learned Professor Fröhlich, much
amazed, admitted the winged messenger through the casement, and
still greater grew his astonishment when he perceived beneath her
wings the precious amulet, tied by a ribbon which had evidently been
violently torn. Being a very great and learned mathematician, he
naturally concluded therefrom that some great evil must have
befallen his daughter; whereupon, without thinking of consulting the
heavenly bodies as to whether this was a lucky day for traveling,
without waiting for a caravan to pass by that way and pick him up,
he took his hat and stick and went off at once and alone to seek his
daughter.

He made straight for Great Leta, now going on foot, now sitting on a
wagon, now riding on an ass, according as opportunity offered. The
young married couple must certainly be at Great Leta, thought he.

But at Great Leta the late pastor's widow received him with great
lamentations. She had not set eyes on the young people. It was
wrong, very wrong of them not to come, for all the new-born children
in the place were being taken to the next parish to be christened;
and still more scandalous, during the Leutschau fair last week,
Protestant malefactors had to be accompanied to the scaffold by a
Papist priest. Such things were no less than flagrant infringements
of the Council of Linz, and had lost the parish four Kremnitz
ducats.

Thence the learned gentleman proceeded to Zeb, where he inquired
after Henry's father, old Catsrider.

No one had ever heard such a name at Zeb. The father and grandfather
of Henry had always been called the vihodar, and that was all. Not
even in the civic accounts was the name of Catsrider to be found. So
they laughed the old man out of countenance with his Catsriders.
They told him that people were making an April fool of him. But for
all that he would not budge, but actually made a house to house
visitation through the town of Zeb, to find out what had become of
his son-in-law and his daughter.

Yet for all his learning and wisdom it never once occurred to him to
visit the solitary house which stood without the city walls.



CHAPTER XII.

Consists of a very few words which are, however, of
all the more consequence.


When Barbara Pirka visited the young woman next morning, she was
greatly astonished to find her quite dressed. Michal had on the
beautiful cornflower-blue silk dress of the beheaded Polish
countess.

She drove out the housekeeper with her morning broth.

"Bring me broiled flesh and red wine," she cried, imperiously.

So she could speak and eat again at last!

When Barbara Pirka returned with the cold meat, flavored with
garlic, and a flask of wine, Michal sat down at the table and took a
long draught, and then she ate, and then she drank again.

"Fill up!" she cried to the housekeeper.

After she had eaten and drank her fill, she turned to Barbara Pirka
and said:

"What ought a wife to do who hates her husband?"

"Leave that to me, I understand a little about it."

Then Michal asked a second question:

"What ought a wife to do who loves another?"

"Leave that to me also, I understand a good deal about it."

"And what ought a woman to do who no longer believes in Heaven?"
asked Michal for the third time.

"I'll tell you, my little squirrel, for no one knows more about that
than I do."



CHAPTER XIII.

Wherein the knavish practices of the evil witch are
only insinuated, but not yet fully divulged.


First of all, Barbara Pirka brought on a platter a specific whereby
the blue marks caused by blows can be made to vanish in no time. It
consists of the piece of cornflower roots plucked on the morning of
Corpus Christi Day by a left-handed person with his back to the sun,
and the juice of the cardamom plucked on Maundy Thursday, and mixed
with the honey of the queen bee. With this balsam she rubbed
Michal's bruises, who felt all the better for it. Then Barbara
praised Michal greatly, and said that Master Henry would also make a
fine show with the scratches he had received from her.

And now she proceeded to answer Michal's first question.

"So you want to know, my little poppet, what a wife should do who
does not love her husband? She ought to pretend she loves him very
much; for jealousy is like a savage dog--when he's hungry he's
wakeful, but when he has his bellyful he goes to sleep. A wife who
does not love her husband ought always to take care that he neither
hears nor sees anything. And there grows no wonder-working herb in
all the mountains around which can make a man half so blind or deaf
as when his wife kisses him on the eyes, and whispers in his ear,
'My darling!' A scold is always carrying her husband about on her
back, but a good-humored wife is always sitting on her husband's
jacket, and he must carry her about wherever she likes. A pretty
woman needs no bridle to make a horse of a bearded man like we
witches do. She needs only a silken thread, the silken thread of her
wheedling voice. The hand with which a pretty woman strokes her
husband's cheek is a real gold mine, far more productive than the
gold mines of Kremnitz. But a woman who wants an answer to the
second question must have money. Yes; and I can give an answer to
the third question also. So sure as I'm Barbara Pirka and the leader
of the witches, I'll bring your sweetheart to you, my pretty little
violet! I'll not so much as ask you his name nor where he dwells,
whether it be far or near. All I've got to do is to send my little
buck-goat in quest of him, and my little buck-goat will carry him
whithersoever you like, if only you'll follow my advice in all
things."

The witch's influence over the poor weak girl was already so strong
that she followed her advice implicitly. When she met her husband at
supper time, she was not ashamed to embrace and caress him, although
others were looking on; nay, she even allowed him to take her on his
lap and tenderly kiss the blue marks on her face, which blows not
given in wrath had left behind them. It is true there was nothing
blameworthy in all this fondling. Were they not man and wife? But we
know that it was all deceit on the wife's part, for she loathed from
the bottom of her heart the man who, under the lying pretense of
making her a parson's wife, had torn her away from the darling of
her heart, tied her to a common hangman, buried her alive, and made
it impossible for her ever to show her face in respectable society
again. But she followed the evil counsel of Barbara Pirka so well
that she flattered and fondled her husband to the top of his bent,
although he no longer wore the splendid scarlet doublet of
yesterday, but only a day-laborer's common linen blouse. In his joy
he unfastened his leather girdle and shook out the two hundred gold
pieces into her lap.

"That is your nuptial gift," said he.

Let no one maintain after this that a hangman can't behave
handsomely!

Next morning Michal requested Barbara Pirka to give her an answer to
her second question, viz., What a woman must do who loves another
than her husband?

"Alas, pet! that is not a very easy question to answer. The loves
must first be looked up. Only my little buck-goat can find him, and
he cannot set out until he has been shod with golden shoes."

Michal put her hand into her pocket, and took out four gold pieces.
These she handed to the witch, at the same time jingling her pockets
to show that there were many more gold pieces where those came from.

The witch laughed.

"What, my little gold cockchafer! don't you know then that goats
have divided hoofs? My little buck-goat, therefore, requires not
four but eight little shoes for his feet."

Michal immediately gave her four more gold pieces.

"And now, my dear little froggy! you will see that the black
buck-goat will bring you your sweetheart, only we must wait till the
old and the young master are well out of the way, which will
certainly happen when the Eperies annual fair begins."

Michal believed everything the witch told her.

What else could she have done? All her former faith had been
destroyed. She believed in nothing more. The wisdom of her father,
the amulet of her mother, had become utterly worthless in her eyes.
She had been deceived, humbled, imprisoned, mocked, tormented, she
who had never hurt a living thing, she who had always been so good!

"Well," thought she, "now I'll be wicked, perhaps that will bear
better fruit."

But Barbara Pirka immediately gave Simplex four of the eight gold
pieces, the rest she kept for herself, and from that day forth
Michal no longer heard the songs of the field-trumpet sounding in
the courtyard.



CHAPTER XIV.

Which goes to prove that the society of great folks
is not always a thing to be desired.


The reason why pretty, unhappy Michal no longer heard the
field-trumpet in the courtyard was because Pirka had already sent
off Simplex to seek the beloved of Michal's heart; for the old witch
had already discovered that this beloved was Simplex's bosom
friend--but that was all. For the trumpeter, like the prudent German
he was (an Hungarian, who always carries his heart on his sleeve,
would have blabbed out everything straight off), did indeed let her
know that Michal had been married against her will; but he shrewdly
mentioned no names, and put her off with a few lines when she
pressed him too closely. Let her find out the truth for herself!
What else was she a witch for?

But wicked Pirka knew quite enough already to ruin the poor innocent
creature altogether. For 'tis not so much because they themselves
are already sold to Beelzebub that such hags lay traps for young
ladies, but because they well know that they may fleece to their
heart's content, all whom they have once got into their clutches.

So she gave four of her eight ducats to Simplex to buy him food on
his journey, and told him which was the best way to take, for the
trumpeter had told her this much, that Michal's sweetheart lived in
Transylvania.

Simplex was a good, honest fellow, and he had frequented the schools
long enough to know that the Consistory would probably quash a union
which had been fraudulently contracted; and in the present case the
fraud was patent to everyone, for the wooer who had introduced
himself as a clergyman turned out to be a common hangman. Simplex
meant to inform his bosom friend at once, when Valentine might, if
he liked, take steps to annul the marriage and make the lady his own
lawful wife in the proper way.

And no doubt it was just because Simplex was thus following the path
of truth and justice that he was so wondrously delivered from the
extraordinary dangers which befell him on the way--dangers from
which, perhaps, he would never have escaped at all if he had simply
set out with the evil intention of discovering Michal's sweetheart,
as the witch had supposed when she sent him off.

So he shouldered his trumpet, and had scarcely proceeded more than
an hour's journey through a deep valley, known as the Wolf's Dale,
which lies between rocks so steep and narrow that it is as much as
two mules can do to pass each other therein, when two wild shapes
suddenly pounced out upon him from an ambush, and whirling their
axes over their heads, dictatorially cried:

"Halt!"

The honest trumpeter could not possibly be expected to know who
these people were, for at that time the militia used to dress
exactly like robbers so as to be better able to capture those
gentry. They wore sheepskin caps on their heads; their shirts, which
had first been soaked through with grease and then smoked dry in a
chimney, were as black as ink; belts bristling with knives girded
their loins; they were shod with bast shoes, and in their hands they
carried muskets and long-handled axes.

The waylayers told the trumpeter to wait till their comrades came
up and decided what was to be done with him; if he uttered a
syllable in the meantime, he would immediately be cut to pieces.
Then they whistled, and down from the rocks sprang four similar wild
figures, who took the trumpeter into custody and haled him along
with them.

They forced him to crawl up the steep sides of the narrow rocky
gorge, by means of holes hewn therein at regular intervals, and
serving as footholds and resting-places to venturesome climbers. It
was just like mounting a chimney. Here and there still larger holes
gaped forth from the rocky walls, from the depths of which a
frightful growling resounded. But Simplex's companions bade him fear
nothing. These were only bears' dens, they said. Mother Bruin was
too much engaged at this season in suckling her young to bestow much
attention on those who did not wantonly attack her. Yet Simplex, for
all that, had not the slightest wish to make the acquaintance of a
monster which is, perhaps, a still more dreadful enemy than even a
robber. He knew the habits of the terrible beast, which, when it
meets a man on a narrow path, rises on its hind legs and crushes him
to death in its embrace.

On reaching the top of this perilous ladder, Simplex saw before him
a spacious plateau surrounded by steep rocks. This was the robbers'
lair.

Huge pine-trees stretched down their branches from the rocks, thus
forming a sort of natural canopy over the valley. Out of the cleft
of a granite rock gurgled a merry little brook, half dammed up by
two huge jagged stones. The object of this dam Simplex learned later
on.

The first glance at the spectacle now before him made his eyes
twinkle. This natural chamber was occupied by more than a hundred
robbers. Most of them were sitting round a caldron, which hung
simmering over a large fire, on a iron tripod. One of the robbers
served as cook, another as scullion. The former was cutting up a
sheep, with which he filled the caldron, while the latter stirred
the mess round and round, adding milk instead of water and frequent
handfuls of saffron, cinnamon, and cloves. Truly a bandits' banquet!
Others were squatting on barrels and playing dice. All of them spoke
very low. No one attempted to attack the caldron beforehand, or
stave in one of the many casks of wine, beer, and brandy lying about
the place. The discipline among them was perfect.

In the midst of the rocky place, bales of goods were piled one on
top of the other, just as they are exhibited for sale at fairs and
in market-places. Aloft on this costly throne sat the three robber
chieftains.

They were dressed precisely like their comrades, yet each had his
distinguishing marks, so that Simplex, who had often heard them
described by the country people, was able to identify them at a
glance.

The first of the robber chieftains was Hafran, whose love of pomp
was notorious. His girdle had a fringe of gold ducats, and from the
corners of his hat hung strings of rose nobles, the largest coin
then in vogue. His fingers were covered with gold rings, and the
sheath and handle of his sword sparkled with precious stones. His
gigantic stature was an additional and unmistakable distinction.

The second chieftain was Bajus. He prided himself on a huge
mustache, each end of which terminated in a rose noble. Whenever he
wanted to drink or speak, he had first to stroke back both ends of
his mustache behind his ears.

The third chieftain was Janko. His body was small and thin; no one
would have taken him for a man of monstrous strength. Yet he could
leap from a sitting posture on to the shoulders of the tallest man,
and had even been known to mount a galloping horse, or a wagon going
at full speed, at a single bound. In wrestling, he could have given
odds to Samson himself.

Him, too, Simplex recognized by the hellebore he was munching. For
Janko, like the son of Cambyses, had made a practice of chewing
hellebore from his youth upward, thus securing himself against the
chance of being poisoned; though his own mouth thereby became so
poisonous that all the women whom he kissed fainted instantly, and
all the men whom he bit died. Even now the leaves of a large bunch
of hellebore were sticking out of his mouth all the time he talked
to Simplex, to whom he put these questions:

"Who are you? What's your name? Whence do you come? Whither are you
going? Whom do you serve?"

Simplex put on as nonchalant an air as he was capable of, for fear
is a grievous fault in the eyes of such bandits, but they are always
indulgently disposed toward a man of pluck.

"I am an orphan from Silesia," said he. "I've never had either
father or mother. I don't even know what name I received at my
baptism, but my comrades call me Simplex because they say I am so
very simple. I come from Keszmár, where Master Matthias, the town
crier, has been teaching me the trumpet, and I am on my way to
Saros, where I hope to enter the service of some great lord who
loves music."

The robber chieftain fixed a piercing look on the speaker and never
once left off chewing his hellebore.

"If you come from Keszmár you must have passed the kopanitscha of
Hamar on your way. Did you see the wife of the kopanitschar?"

"Yes, and a wondrously lovely little creature she is."

At these words the eyes of the robber sparkled.

"That woman is my sweetheart! Did you see her husband?"

"Yes, and a very polite old man he is."

"Well, if you know them, go back to them once more. I'll pay your
traveling expenses"--here he proudly jingled the ducats in his
girdle. "Tell them that they are both on my bad books; the woman
because she a little time ago drank mead and danced till morning
with the headman of Leta at the church consecration there; the man
because he lately guided the son of the vihodar of Zeb and his wife
over the mountains, and thus helped them to escape us. Tell them
that I mean to pay them a visit shortly. The woman must then put on
her best humor, and the man must not show his face at all. For if I
once kiss the woman's lips and bite the man's cheek, the pair of
them will have had enough of me for some time to come." At these
words the robber spat out the hellebore, and Simplex perceived that
his mouth and teeth were perfectly yellow. "That is the message you
must deliver to them, trumpeter. For the present, however, you will
remain with us; eat and drink as much as your stomach can hold, and
then show us what you can do with the trumpet. We'll pay for it, of
course."

Poor Simplex rejoiced exceedingly at escaping so well, and having
the prospect of turning an honest penny besides, he loudly and
solemnly protested that he would faithfully deliver the robber's
message.

Meanwhile the sheep's flesh in the great caldron was quite done, and
the robbers sat down to eat. The caldron was lowered on to the
outspread skins, which served as tablecloth and napkin, and the
robbers carved for themselves with their huge clasp-knives. But if
their meat was coarse and their table rude, their drinking vessels
were magnificent. They consisted of gold and silver chalices and
pocals, the spoil of many a church and castle, and as often as a
robber took a draught he drank to the memory of some comrade or
other who had ended a glorious career on the wheel, gallows, or
stake, winding up with a full recital of the deceased's
exploits--_e. g._, how many men he had killed, how many robberies he
had achieved, what lady of quality had been his doxy, and how at the
last he had manfully endured all manner of torments rather than
betray his comrades.

And after each toast Simplex had to blow a long flourish.

And as the feast proceeded, the robbers became more and more
communicative. They began to boast loudly of their own heroic deeds;
how, for instance, they had plundered great caravans, attacked
noblemen's castles, and extirpated everyone therein in a different
sort of way; how they had filled a Jew's mouth with molten lead, and
nearly died with laughter at the queer faces he pulled; how they had
forced a rich miser by torture to discover his hidden treasure; how
they had tied the captured militiamen to the branches of trees and
then torn them limb from limb; and how they had set fire to a church
in which a lot of peasants had taken refuge and burnt them all
alive. Everyone vied with his neighbor in boasting, and tried to
make himself out more ferocious than the rest. And Simplex blew
incessantly with his trumpet, so as to hear as little as possible of
their ghastly stories.

The robbers forced him also to eat and drink with them, and well for
him it was that he had learnt in his student days to hold a full
skin. For he was well aware that so long as he could keep on
trumpeting he was safe. It fared with him as with the piper in the
story, who piped to the wolf to save himself from being eaten up.

Meanwhile night had set in; the rocky chamber was lit only by the
heaps of smoldering logs; the robbers began to dance a wild dance,
and Simplex was forced to mount upon a barrel and play for them with
all his might. They stamped with their feet, roared, howled, fired
off their guns, and so deftly hurled their axes at the barrel on
which Simplex was standing that they all stuck fast in it without
hurting a hair of his head.

He, poor wretch! dared not spring off for the life of him. It was a
perfect pandemonium.

At last Hafran commanded Simplex to sound an alarm.

Simplex blew him an alarm accordingly.

"You rascal!" cried the robber captain, "it was with just such an
alarm as that that they startled us at the Devil's Castle; were you
the devil's trumpeter on that occasion?"

Perhaps the drink which Simplex had already taken had flown to his
head, perhaps he thought it might go worse with him if he did not
make a clean breast of it, at any rate he replied:

"Yes, 'twas I!"

"The devil it was!" cried Hafran furiously. "I'll cut you in two
this very instant. Don't you know that you drove us into the very
jaws of the devil with your d----d trumpet, and that forty of our
comrades went straight to hell in consequence! Stay where you are on
that barrel, that I may cut you in two at a blow!"

With that he drew his broad palash from its sheath, and grasped it
with both hands.

But this time Simplex did not take the matter as a joke, but sprang
down from the barrel and fled to his protector, Janko, who,
laughing with hideous glee, warded off with his sword the strokes
which Hafran aimed at poor Simplex, all the while opening wide his
yellow-stained jaws, which with their yellow fangs looked like the
jaws of a lion.

"Serve you all right!" cried he as he warded off Hafran's blows.
"What! fifty of you to be scared by a single trumpeter! Let him be
in peace! He has to carry a message to my sweetheart. Whoever
touches him is a dead man!"

At this the wrath of Hafran against Simplex subsided, but he
insisted on his leaping over his bare palash, and little as Simplex
felt inclined to jump into the air just then, he had to do it; and
the jest so took the fancy of the robbers that they one and all made
the trumpeter jump over their swords likewise, till at last he
became so tired that he threw himself prone on the ground and
allowed himself to be beaten with the flats of their swords rather
than jump over them any more.

Meanwhile Janko had gone to sleep. It was his custom to slumber in a
sitting position, but he slept so deeply that not even a roaring
lion could have awakened him.

Gradually also the remaining robbers fell down one by one heavy with
drink.

Only Bajus remained sober.

It was a wise provision of the robbers that one of their leaders
should always remain sober; he drank nothing but mead mixed with
water, and mounted guard over the whole band when they had drunk
their fill.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was already midnight; the moon came forth from behind the rocks
and shone among the dark pine branches.

"Up, you rogues!" cried Bajus, "the banquet is over. Make ready to
depart elsewhere, that we may all be on the right spot at the right
moment in the morning."

At this command all the fires were extinguished one after the other.
When it was quite dark they began to deliberate in whispers which of
their plans should be carried out first.

One plan was to attack the Iglo annual fair in the broad daylight,
set the town on fire, plunder the merchants, and sack the town-hall.

Their second plan was to steal their way into the lair of the
vihodar of Zeb through a secret subterranean passage, capture him
and his son alive, and make them suffer all the tortures which they
had inflicted on their comrades; as for the young woman, they would
cast lots for her.

For a long time they could not come to any agreement.

At last they resolved to attack the Iglo fair; the vihodar they
would leave to some subsequent occasion, especially as they would
first of all have to gain over Barbara Pirka, for otherwise that
evil witch was quite capable of throttling all the assailants one
after the other single-handed.

Simplex listened, and his teeth chattered with fear. What he heard
filled him with joy and terror at the same time--joy because he had
now an additional argument for moving his bosom friend to rescue
Michal from her frightful position; terror lest the robbers might
suddenly remember that they were betraying their horrible secrets to
one who was not of their band. And if they should remember, what
would become of him?

He would have given anything to have been able to creep inside the
crevices of the rocks near which he was cowering, so that the
robbers might not perceive him.

All at once the moon, which had now risen, shone full on the spot
where Simplex stood, and Hafran perceived him.

"What shall we do to prevent this fellow from betraying us?" cried
he, and with that he took him by the collar and dragged him into the
midst of them.

"Strike him dead!" cried Bajus.

Poor Simplex was greatly terrified; he began to piteously implore
them not to do him any harm.

"Silence, fellow!" cried Hafran; "a stout-hearted lad must not
blubber. He must stand firm even when the skin is being flayed from
his body. Whine, and you are a dead man! We'll have no cowards here!
Tremble if you dare!"

"Strike him dead!" repeated Bajus, who was quite sober.

"That'll never do," said Hafran. "We promised Janko that we would
not kill the trumpeter. Besides, the fellow has played well and
entertained us finely. He has made good again all the harm he did
with his cursed trumpet at the Devil's Castle. At the same time we
must not let him go away before us, or he will betray us to the
county train-bands. Let us take him a little way down the road and
smash one of his legs, so that he may not be able to go any further.
In the morning some wayfarer or other will be sure to find him and
take care of him. What do you say?"

But this proposition was anything but satisfactory to Simplex; not
at any price would he hear of having his leg broken.

"Come, come, lad!" cried Hafran, soothingly. "Don't be scared at
such a trifle! A small fracture is an everyday occurrence. The
shepherdess in the hut by the roadside will put it in splints for
you, mutter a charm over it, and you'll be able to dance a jig with
it in no time. Here are twelve dollars to pay your expenses in the
meantime; you wouldn't get as much as that from the county if you
went to law about it."

And they seized poor Simplex by both arms to drag him to the place
where his leg was to be shattered. Then despair suggested the saving
thought of begging the robbers to allow him to blow his own funeral
march, and holding the funnel of his trumpet to the ear of the
sleeping Janko he blew with such force that the robber chieftain
started up from his sleep and leapt his own height in the air.

"Janko! they want to kill me! Don't allow it, Janko!" cried the
agonized wretch.

Janko yawned and stretched himself. Then he roughly repulsed the mob
which surrounded him, and wrapped Simplex in his mantle.

"Fear nothing, my lad! I'll not let them hurt you!"

But the rest became more and more importunate.

"Are you mad, Janko? Will you let him saddle us with the gendarmes
while we are all drunk? They will fall upon us while we are sound
asleep, and then where shall we be? We must either kill him or break
his leg."

"We'll do neither the one nor the other," said Janko; "we'll buy him
off. D--n it! let's be gentlemen! What are you most in need of, my
lad? I see your clothes are in rags. You'd better have it out in
good stout cloth."

With that he lifted up one of the bales of goods and opened it. It
contained scarlet cloth.

He began to measure it with his arm.

"There you have five ells of cloth for your coat and vest. Hafran,
you measure him as much from your share for his hose, and you,
Bajus, give him of yours for a mantle."

They fell to cursing, and curses fell as thick as hailstones; but
Janko left them no peace till Hafran had clipped him off five ells
of green Turkish cloth for his hose, and Bajus had contributed just
as much blue English cloth for his mantle.

"But now he must give back the twelve dollars," remarked Bajus; "if
his leg is not to be broken, he won't require money for mending it."

"Not so," said Janko; "when a gentlemen has given a musician money
he does not ask it back again."

"Well, all right; but at any rate you must also give him six dollars
as we have done."

But Janko could not be made to see this at all.

"Why should I give him money when you've given him some already?

"Then I'll smash one of his legs, for I mean to have value for my
money."

The poor trumpeter tried to put an end to the dispute by instantly
volunteering to return the twelve dollars; but it had like to have
gone ill with him in consequence, for he thereby so deeply wounded
Hafran's pride that the robber chief at once fired his gun at him.
Fortunately Simplex ducked so nimbly that only his cap was grazed.

"What do you take us for, you bumpkin? A gentleman does not ask his
money back again from a musician. Either Janko must give you as much
as I have given you, or I will strike you dead."

So this struggle between ferocity and magnanimity plunged the poor
trumpeter into a dilemma from which there seemed absolutely no
escape. The robbers whirled their axes over his head.

"Listen to me," cried Janko suddenly, "I'll tell you what we'll do.
We'll dig a deep ditch, and make the trumpeter get into it. Then
we'll clap an empty barrel over him and peg it down fast, so that he
won't be able to see in what direction we have gone. He must sleep
in the ditch to-day, but to-morrow he may free himself with his ax
and go his way."

This wise accommodation pleased all parties. The robbers forthwith
dug a deep hole in the earth, put Simplex inside it, clapped over
him a cask, the bottom of which had previously been knocked out, and
charged him as he valued his life not to stir from the spot till
dawn of day.

He did exactly as he was bid, and that was very wise of him, for
when everything was perfectly still, and he might well have fancied
the robbers were miles away, a shot suddenly cracked quite close to
him and the bullet perforated the cask. It was a warning that he was
being watched. So there he sat, and there is no knowing how long he
might have remained without budging had not a fresh danger
supervened; the hole in which he sat suddenly began to fill with
water. Higher and higher rose the tide till it reached his very
mouth, and he was forced to pull himself up to the top of the cask
to escape drowning. At last he plucked up courage to look through
the hole which the bullet had made, and he then saw that the whole
of the rocky chamber had been converted into a watershed, and not a
living soul was anywhere visible.

Then he smashed in the side of the cask with his ax, scrambled out
of the hole, which was now completely filled with water, and
immediately grasped the meaning of the robbers' stratagem.

With the above-mentioned improvised weir they had dammed up the
mountain stream, and used its bed as a short cut into the next
valley, for it was passable so long as the water was confined within
the rocky chasm; when the water had risen high enough to overflow
into its bed again, it would of course blot out all traces of their
passage.

But Simplex, without bestowing much thought upon this feat, thanked
the Almighty for so miraculously delivering him from so great a
danger; which deliverance, moreover, strengthened him in the belief
that the errand on which he was bound was a righteous one.

Thereupon, with much fear and trembling, he clambered down the
rock-hewn way by which he had ascended, not forgetting to shout a
good-morning into the hole of the mother bear as he passed.

He naturally omitted to return to the kopanitscha and deliver
Janko's message to the pretty hostess; but he did tell an
oil-merchant, whom he met on the way, the frightful things which had
happened to him and bade him deliver the message at the kopanitscha,
as it was all on his way. The oil-merchant, on the other hand, gave
him a piece of good advice; to wit, that when he came to the town of
Saros he should hand over the bundle which he was carrying on his
back to the mayor, for the plundered merchants had advertised their
wares broadcast, and if people saw and recognized their stolen cloth
on his person they would measure him a jacket which he would not get
rid of his whole life long.

And worthy Simplex followed the advice which was given him. No
sooner had he arrived at Saros than he handed over the costly cloth
stuffs to the town authorities, and the merchants rewarded him with
a ducat and let him go on his way unmolested, as he himself in his
extant memoirs modestly informs us.



CHAPTER XV.

Valentine really becomes one of those who work in
blood.


Valentine's mother had become a widow in her first youth. Her
husband, an eminent citizen of Kassa and sheriff there, had been
detained as a hostage by the Turks at Buda, whither he had gone on a
diplomatic mission, and, succumbing to an attack of the Oriental
plague, died in captivity, leaving behind him a widow and a little
orphan son. He could only make his will orally, in the presence of
two other hostages as witnesses, but it was on that very account all
the more religiously adhered to. It prescribed that his widow should
retain possession of the whole of his property so long as it pleased
God to preserve her in the flesh, so that she might bring up her
little son in the fear of the Lord, in all pious ways, in the true
Christian Calvinistic faith, and, "quantum potest," in all knowledge
and learning.

These testamentary dispositions were most rigorously observed. Dame
Kalondai herself carried on the business of her late husband, who
had been butcher and ham-curer as well as sheriff, and she never
gave her son a stepfather, though in her day she must have been a
very pretty woman. Even now she was so buxom and blooming that she
looked like a gigantic edition of a swaddling babe. She had taken
particular care that Valentine should be properly educated. He
always had nice clothes and well-bound books, and when the proper
time came she sent him to Keszmár, though it was with a very heavy
heart that she consented to part from her little son for so long a
time.

So worthy Dame Sarah did not see her little son again for three full
years, and when at last he did appear before her she could scarcely
recognize him.

She could not get it into her head that the man with the big
mustache was really her own little son. His father at his age had
had no sign of one.

Then she tried to persuade him that he had grown thin. The
melancholy which Valentine could not hide from her she ascribed to
some illness or other. The bad mountain-water was certainly to blame
for it.

And she had good remedies against such complaints. They were not,
indeed, of the drastic sort of which the professor at Keszmár had so
large a store; her remedies were simply good and tasty dishes which
she prepared for her little son with her own hands. She invented a
savory dish against every ill of life, and you had only to taste of
it to be instantly cured. And when the evil was caused by bad water,
with what could you more certainly cure it than with good wine?

But Valentine's sadness would yield neither to the most delicate
cookery nor to the most savory meats; he allowed the daintiest
tit-bits to remain on his plate untouched, as if he meant to save
them for someone else, and he drank the good wine mixed with water.

Worthy Dame Sarah vainly bothered her little son to tell her what
was the matter with him. On all such occasions he would only smile,
kiss his mother on the cheek, and tell her that there was absolutely
nothing the matter with him, his disposition had only changed a
little lately, he said. He naturally did not tell Dame Sarah
anything of what had happened to him at school.

Now if anyone ever wants to know what is really going on at his own
house, let him just go to his neighbor's and there he'll find out
all about it.

One Sunday evening Dame Sarah came home from her neighbors', the
Fürmenders.

"Why, Valentine!" she cried, "what is this I hear of you? Young
Fürmender says that you were expelled from the school at Keszmár!"

"If he says so he speaks the truth."

Oh how delighted was Mistress Sarah when she heard these words!

"If it's only that which grieves you, my dear, good child!" said
she, soothingly, "don't think anything more about it. Your father
was expelled from three schools, but that did not prevent him from
getting a wife and becoming sheriff. You, too, will pick up a nice
girl, and may become sheriff as well, one day. Don't fret yourself
about it. I never meant you to be a parson."

With that she kissed and embraced him, and he really did seem a
little more cheerful after all these tokens of motherly love.

Very soon, however, his face was as long as ever.

Dame Sarah's remedies were inexhaustible. The best thing for such
moping, woebegone fellows, is certainly wedlock. An unmarried man is
like a widower and a widower has cause to be miserable.

She choose for him a virtuous, discreet damsel, the sister of the
above-mentioned young Fürmender, Catherine by name, who was by no
means indisposed toward the stately Valentine Kalondai. Beautiful,
indeed, you could scarcely call her; but her mother had not been a
whit prettier, and yet she had managed to do very well.

Then she took her son Valentine to the social gatherings, where the
young lads and lasses, beneath the eyes of their parents, made
merry with one another in all meekness and sobriety.

But Valentine led neither blonde nor brunette out to dance. There he
stood leaning against the wall as if he had been put there for the
express purpose of propping it up, and kept as still as if he was
afraid of missing a single word of the conversation that was going
on around him.

And when the bolster dance followed, during which it is the amiable
custom for the lads and lasses to alternately carry round a silken
bolster, deposit it in front of the person whom he or she likes
best, kneel down upon it, and so remain till the favored one
tenderly raises the suppliant and dances with her, whereupon it is
his turn to carry the bolster round--then, I say, Valentine behaved
very badly. For when Kitty Fürmender brought the bolster to him, and
sank down on her knees before him, Valentine would not dance with
her, and did not even raise her up, but rudely told her that he had
made a vow never to dance again. Then Kitty naturally burst out
crying, for how could an honest girl be insulted more grossly?

When they got home Dame Sarah said to her son:

"I say, Valentine, young Fürmender says you are possessed by evil
spirits."

"I don't much care if I am."

"And for that reason you don't trust yourself to talk with the
girls. He also says you will have nothing to do with your father's
business because you have a horror of blood."

"He says that, does he? Well, I'll just show you to-morrow that I've
no fear of blood, and am well able to carry on my father's trade."

Dame Sarah rejoiced greatly at these words, for nothing would have
pleased her better than to have seen her son relieve her of the
cares of the business; and no sooner had Valentine declared his
intention of approving himself a master in his craft than she handed
over to him the keys of the chamber in which were preserved the
tools and weapons of his father, the butcher's ax, the knives,
muskets, and swords, which no man's hand had been allowed to touch
since his death. It is not surprising, therefore, if all these
implements were somewhat rust-eaten, and it was only natural that
Valentine should spend the whole of the forenoon in furbishing them
up with polishing powder, tow, and chalk, till they shone as bright
as mirrors. He was evidently determined that his father's tools
should gleam quite splendidly when he wrought his promised
masterpiece.

At midday Dame Sarah served up all Valentine's favorite dishes, and
after she had feasted her little son right royally, she told him
that she had given due notice to the guild-master that her boy was
about to qualify himself for his profession, and also that she had
already paid for the license. All ready in the stall stood the fat
ox whereon he was to display his dexterity on this occasion. In the
cellar a cask of wine had been broached, and on the counter she had
deposited four or five gold pieces, as it was quite possible that
the 'prentice hand of the young master might have lost its cunning,
so that he would not be able to fell the ox at a single blow, in
which case he would have to pay to the butcher's guild a gold piece
for every extra blow till the ox fell.

"Alas, dear mother," cried Valentine, "my guild-master is not where
you seek him. Captain Count Hommonai will be my guild-master. It is
not in the slaughter-house, but on the battlefield that I mean to
achieve my masterpiece. I will not strike oxen, which are unable to
defend themselves, but Turks, who can give back blow for blow. War
shall be my trade."

At first Dame Sarah would not believe him, she thought it was only
the wine which was speaking out of him; but when Valentine fetched
down his father's arms, the old sword, the musket, the long
three-edged dagger, all most splendidly burnished, the good woman
burst into tears, fell upon his neck, begged him to stay at home,
and adjured him not to commit such an act of folly. He was still too
weak a lad for that sort of thing, she said. What! had she brought
him up so nicely, and even got a learned professor to teach him
Latin, only that he might now go away and be cut down by the first
wild Turk he met, or get one of his legs torn off by a chain-shot,
and leave his widowed mother comfortless? But all this had not the
slightest effect upon Valentine. He replied that his father had gone
to the wars before him, and he meant to do what his father had done.

Now when Dame Sarah saw that all her maternal begging and praying
and all her fine words were quite thrown away upon her son, she
suddenly turned round and overwhelmed him with the bitterest curses.

"Very well, then, you wicked, obstinate son, if you _will_ bring
trouble and sorrow down upon your mother's head, go, and be hanged
to you. I know all about it. Young Fürmender has told me that you
have chummed up with a vagabond sort of fellow, one Simplex, who
serves as field-trumpeter with Count Hommonai, and is your dearest
bosom friend. He it is who leads you astray into all kinds of
wickedness. He it is who has persuaded you to be a soldier. Very
well, if your comrade is dearer to you than your own mother, be off
with you. You may go and die far away where I can't get you buried,
for all that I care. If one of your hands is cut off I'll disown
you, for my son had both his hands. You may go and beg your bread,
but don't look to me for help. From me you don't get a red farthing.
Your father left all his property to me, remember."

"Except his weapons," said Valentine. He asked for nothing more, but
went straight off to Captain Hommonai and enlisted under his banner.
They gave him a horse, a wolf skin, and three Polish guldens by way
of enlistment-money, and kept fast hold of him, for the troops were
to set out for the camp at Onod at a moment's notice.

And Mistress Sarah hardened her heart to such a degree, that as the
banderium marched out of the town the same night amidst the blare of
clarions, she did not even stand in the doorway to greet her son for
the last time; but she hid herself behind the flower-pots in the
window, and while she peered yearningly after him, she poured out
all the fury of her heart upon the trumpeter by wishing that he
might break his neck on the way. And this curse was within an ace of
being fulfilled upon worthy Simplex.



CHAPTER XVI.

Wherein is shown of what great use it is when a
mother is hardhearted toward her only son. Also
concerning divers skirmishes with the Turks, things
not to be read of without a shudder.


Rumor said that the Turks had invaded the Tokay district and ravaged
Hegylaja, and this, too, just at vintage time when the whole rural
population was living in the vineyards.

Now an Hungarian does not lightly surrender to the foe the chiefest
of the three mountains in his coat of arms, to wit, the Tokay
mountain. Orders, therefore, were given by the Palatine of Hungary
on the one side and by the Prince of Transylvania on the other for
the banderia of Zemplin and Alany to turn out immediately, unite
with the Zipsers at Onod, and fall upon the Turks whenever and
wherever they might meet them.

It was at the very time when he was celebrating the feast in honor
of his wedding with the lovely Isabella Peruyi, that the local
commander, Count John Hommonai, received the order to depart.

They were just at the last dance, the torch-dance, during which the
guests and the bridesmaids dance before the bride to the
bridegroom's house, when the herald summoned the bridegroom from the
midst of the dancers, whereupon the gentlemen threw away their
torches and mounted their horses, while the count himself had only
time to impress a kiss on the lips of his beloved bride and
recommend her to God's protection on the very threshold of the
bridal mansion.

The departure of the troops took place in the dead of night.
Valentine rode beside his faithful Simplex, who not only had to blow
the field-trumpet but also to beat the kettle-drums, which hung down
on both sides of his saddle. His horse was naturally the sorriest of
hacks, for all the others were much too spirited to patiently endure
the roll of kettle-drums close behind their ears.

"Look ye, comrade Simplex," said Valentine, "our present campaign
will be my ordeal. You have told me that my poor Michal is unhappy
and wants to see me; that she has never reached Great Leta, that she
has been shamefully deceived by her husband; that she suffers much,
and is exposed to indescribably great dangers. More than that you
will not tell me, nor have I asked to know more, but I have been
thinking ever since such thoughts as these: Shall I not be
committing a grievous sin if I go seek her? Shall I not be d----d
for it along with her? It does not matter very much, perhaps, if I'm
d----d, although I, too, should like to see my dear old father in
Paradise, and the sight of my good mother among the blessed would
rejoice me greatly; but the thought that I might drag this unhappy
creature down to hell with me, fills me with horror. Her place is in
heaven among the angels. But you've such an enticing way of putting
matters, that I'm no longer able to decide whether what I am about
to do is good or bad. Now I mean to leave it to the decision of the
Lord of Hosts. When we stand on the battlefield, he who tries the
hearts and reins will read in my breast that I still love my Michal,
though she has bound herself by an oath to another, and if this
feeling be a sin, the guards of the Lord, the angels of Death are
there, and he can charge them to call me away so as to prevent me
from committing evil. If, however, I return in safety, if sword and
bullet (and I certainly shall not keep out of their way) leave me
unhurt, that will be a sign that the heavenly Omnipotence is ready
to perform a miracle for my sake, whereby I shall win back again her
whom I had given up for lost. If I return safe and sound, if no evil
befall me, I'll go and seek my Michal."

"But in that case you must take care that I come back too, for
without me you will not find your Michal, even if you were to set
out to seek her with Christopher Columbus himself for your guide."

"Have no fear, comrade, we will live and die together."

But Valentine lagged behind the troop. A load lay upon his breast.
From his earliest childhood he had been wont every night, as it grew
dark, to say this prayer: "Be with me, O Lord my God! and let my
poor, good mother awake safe and sound. Amen." His tutor had taught
him a much finer prayer in Latin; but this prayer he never could
recollect. He could never reconcile himself to the secula seculorum;
why should he ask good things for himself for a thousand years to
come? He was content to pray for what he wanted day by day. That
would be quite enough if it were granted him. He made as if he were
only dismounting to tighten his loosened saddle-girth, and when he
was out of hearing of his comrades' curses, he covered his face in
his furred horse-cloth and muttered his short prayer, whereupon he
swung himself into his saddle with a lightened heart and galloped
after his comrades.

By morning they stood before Nemeti, which is half an hour's journey
from Göncz, and there the captain, officers, and gentry swear the
banner oath under the open sky. Then they halted, and after a short
rest proceeded on further.

Just as they were about to cross the Hernad at Nemeti, whom do you
think they found on the banks? Why, Dame Sarah with a huge Kassa
wagon drawn by three stout horses. The wagon was well laden. It
contained a Gönczer cask full of wine, a keg of plum brandy, fresh
white bread, cakes, sheep cheeses in small trusses, and in the midst
of this ambulant storehouse beamed the radiant countenance of the
buxom citizeness of Kassa, with both her round white arms bare to
the elbow.

"My dear, good mother! What do you want here?" cried Valentine,
rushing to the wagon.

"Oh, you wicked son! if you are bent on following this trade, I, at
any rate, won't let you die of hunger. Come, eat and drink! Call
hither, too, the gentleman officers and your good companions. There
is enough here for everyone."

They did not wait to be asked twice, but crowded round the wagon
straightway, and Dame Sarah helped them to everything with both
hands. When she perceived the trumpeter she singled him out from the
rest.

"Hi! come here, trumpeter! May the thunderbolt strike the ground
within three yards of you! You've seduced my son, have you? Then
come hither and sit down by me, and if you don't eat your fill it
will be the worse for you."

Good Simplex did what he could. He sat down in the wagon at Dame
Sarah's side, and ate and drank his fill; but soon his appetite
began to flag, and at last he protested he could go on no longer.

"Fellow! you must eat or I'll stuff it down your throat."

And with that she seized Simplex by both arms, shook him like a sack
which must be made to hold still more, and compelled him to begin
his meal over again.

But worthy Valentine was more delighted at the sight of his
mother's strong, stout arms, than at all the good things she
distributed, and he covered the good creature with kisses.

"And now, dear mother, turn back, there can be enough of a good
thing," said he, perceiving that the main body of the hussars had
reached the ford on the opposite side, and only the rear guard still
remained behind. The officers also urged her to turn back.

"Turn back, eh? Do you really think I have come all this way, with a
heavy-laden wagon, only to turn back? I will follow my son to the
very end of the world. I'll not leave him just when things are going
badly with him. Why should I be afraid when others are not?"

In vain they represented that it was not the proper thing for a
woman to roam about in regions haunted by fighting Turks. There was
no reasoning with her, they were obliged to take her along with the
baggage wagons.

Meanwhile the scouts brought tidings that the Turkish predatory
bands were assembling on the other side of the Theiss at Plakamocz.
It was a good thing that all the ferry-boats at Tokay had been drawn
up on to the shore, thus preventing the enemy from crossing over
without great difficulty.

Count Hommonai therefore resolved to seek the Turks beyond the
Theiss, and led his troops toward Tokay.

When they had crossed to the other side of the river, they could
nowhere find a trace of the enemy, who evidently intended to entice
the Hungarians further inland, and then drive them back upon the
Theiss.

Dame Sarah would have followed them to the other side also, but this
they would on no account allow her to do. The baggage wagons had to
be left behind on the opposite bank. She then begged that, at least,
they would let her drive up to the highest hill thereabouts, from
whence she might watch her little son scuffling with the Turks.

"Take care, good mother, that a cannon ball does not hurt you."

"Fiddlesticks! You call yourself a student, and don't even know that
a cannon ball cannot fly across a river because the water draws it
down," cried Dame Sarah, triumphantly, and with that she drove to
the top of the hill, where she stood up on the wagon and thence
surveyed the course of the skirmish, while her great lout of a
coachman, in his fear and anguish, crawled under a wagon, and viewed
the fight with his back. And yet the fellow called himself a man!

First of all, five Turkish horsemen appeared on the top of a hill.
How many more lay behind the hill, nobody of course could tell.

To the left stretched a large morass covered with rushes, on the
right lay an oak forest. The presumption was that the whole thicket
was swarming with hidden foes.

So out against the five Turkish horsemen rode just as many and no
more, from the Hungarian side, whereupon the five Turks turned tail
and galloped off, the Hungarians also instantly returning to their
ranks.

Then seven or eight Turkish horsemen reappeared, and began insulting
the Hungarians, not with words indeed, which would have been quite
thrown away at so great a distance, but with all sorts of outrageous
gestures; while the Hungarians, not to be outdone, retaliated in
kind with great spirit and originality. Tiring at last, however, of
this pantomimic war, eight of the Hungarian horsemen dashed against
the Turks with couched lances. In the ensuing mêlée all sixteen
lances were splintered to atoms, whereupon the horsemen on both
sides returned to their respective places.

At last the Hungarian commander grew weary of these tantalizing
tactics, divided his troops into four battalions, and sent one of
them off to encompass the forest. On this division coming close up
to the outskirts of the wood, a swarm of Turkish horsemen rushed out
upon them with loud cries; whereupon the Hungarians feigned flight
till they had drawn the pursuers within reach of the second line of
battle, when they suddenly turned and drove the Turks, who were now
completely surrounded, toward the morass. Here, however, they
themselves fell into an ambush of janizaries, who picked them off
from among the bushes, and at the same moment from behind the sedges
there poured forth a whole stream of horsemen of all sorts,
Albanians, _Spahis_, and Moors, who attacked them on all sides like
a swarm of hornets.

The Hungarian captain now set his third division in motion, in which
were also Valentine and his comrade Simplex.

Dame Sarah, from the opposite shore, saw how they charged the foe.

"Why, the plucky lad sits on horseback as if he had never learnt
anything else all his life! If only his poor father could see him!"

Valentine had never learnt the trade of a soldier, but he did what
he thought was the right thing, grasping his father's broad crooked
sword in his right hand, and his long three-edged dagger in his
left, at the same time throwing his horse's reins over its neck.
Simplex, likewise, drew his broadsword and wrapped his wolfskin
round his left arm by way of a buckler.

Two horsemen were coming straight at them; one of them was an
Albanian in a coat of mail, the other a distinguished _Spahi_, an
Aga at the very least.

The Albanian horseman was covered from head to foot with a coat of
scale armor; his horse's head and neck were protected in the same
way, and it also bore a huge spike on its forehead, so that the pair
looked for all the world like a crocodile mounted on a unicorn, and
worthy Simplex was so astonished at this strange sight that he
forgot he had a sword in his hand. Besides, thought he, what weapon
can cut down a man who is cased in steel? So in his terror he merely
held his wolfskin buckler in front of his head, and the Albanian
aimed a mighty blow at him with his sword, which was like to have
felled him to the ground.

Fortunately Valentine observed the danger of his comrade, and while
throwing him a word of encouragement, smote the Albanian so
violently on the head with the dagger in his left hand, that the
scaly monster immediately plunged headlong from his horse; but at
the same time the _Spahi_ aimed a terrific blow at Valentine's neck.

"Don't you touch my son, you heathen you!" cried Dame Sarah from the
wagon on the opposite shore; and whether it was the effect of her
voice or of Valentine's rapid hand it is difficult to say, but at
any rate the youth parried the blow of the Turk so well that he
struck the sword out of his hand, and at the same time sliced off a
piece of his thumb. Then he seized the _Spahi_ by the collar and led
him away captive, the Turk all the time begging for mercy, and
promising him a ransom of two hundred gold guldens if he spared his
life.

Valentine brought his captive safely to the rear, where the captain
praised him for his valor, but said that they had now had quite
enough fighting for one day. The skirmish was over. On both sides
there were just enough of killed and wounded to satisfy honor,
neither more nor less, so that both generals could tell their hosts
that they had conquered. Those of the enemy who had not taken flight
were cut down, and those who could not work their way out of the
morass were drowned. As for the leaders, neither of them had lost a
hair, and if either of them cared to fire a haystack on his retreat
and claim to have burnt a fortress, no one would be a whit the wiser
and his reputation would be made.

But all this time Simplex was nowhere to be found, which greatly
embarrassed the whole company, for he had with him the field-trumpet
and the kettle-drum of the banderium, and without them they could of
course neither beat a recall nor sound a reveille.

But Valentine was more embarrassed than them all, for if Simplex
were lost, who was to lead him to his Michal? All that he knew of
her at present was that her husband had not taken her to Great Leta
as he had promised, but to some other place.

Valentine, therefore, begged the captain to allow him to return to
the battlefield with two companions, to search for Simplex on the
margin of the morass where they had last fought side by side. The
undertaking was not without danger, for bands of marauders were wont
to prowl about the battlefield to plunder the fallen and make
captive the survivors; so the captain, Count Hommonai, gave
Valentine not two, but six horsemen, who were to help seek the
field-trumpeter by the borders of the morass.

But Simplex had not been cut down by the Turks after all. Such a
glorious death was by no means his ideal. When the battle was raging
its fiercest, when the opposing warriors fell upon each other tooth
and nail, and there was such a whirring and clashing of lances and
battle-axes that it was as much as a man could do to avoid having an
eye knocked out--then, I say, Simplex, without thinking twice about
it, sprang nimbly from his nag, unbuckled both his kettle-drums,
left his steed to its own devices, hid the trumpet in the bushes,
and crept himself into a place where the reeds and sedges were
thickest. Then when the din of battle was over and everything was
quite still again, he crept out of his hiding-place and looked about
him.

Here and there a few couples were still fighting in the distance,
but all around lay only the bodies of those who had already had
their fill of fighting in this life. Close to the swamp, too, he
espied the charger of the Albanian horseman. It was quietly grazing,
but the Albanian, whose head Valentine had split open, lay on the
ground still holding fast the reins in his convulsively clenched
fist, so that the horse dragged him along whenever it changed its
place. The trumpeter immediately appropriated this beautiful beast.
First he loaded him with the kettle-drums, then he took off all the
Albanian's finery, hung it on the end of his lance, and so rode
toward the camp. Valentine and his comrades met him when he was
already half-way there.

Simplex made the most of his victory. He demonstrated how he had
first cloven the Albanian horseman to the very saddle-bow, and then
torn his horse away from under him by main force. Valentine listened
to him in silence, for in those days it was an understood thing that
when one friend had achieved an heroic deed which sufficed for two,
he was to relinquish half the glory of it to his less fortunate
comrade; and further, that one friend should never put another to
shame by publicly contradicting him when he drew the long-bow too
strongly.

Simplex was highly commended by the captain, who made him a present
of the Albanian's horse (his former sorry nag had returned of its
own accord to the camp), so that he was richly recompensed. Then he
gave the signal for the scattered horsemen to reassemble, and in the
evening the Hungarians retreated in perfect order to the other side
of the Thiros, almost everyone of them taking back with him a
captive Turk.

Valentine brought his prisoner to his mother, who was as much
delighted as any child to whom his father brings home from the chase
a live wild cat. The good woman would not hear of the Turk being
bound to the wagon, and compelled to run after it on foot all the
way to Kassa; but assigned him a place near the coachman, merely
taking the precaution to bind one of his feet to the trestle with a
leather strap, so that it might not occur to him to spring down and
run away. After that she tied up the poor fellow's maimed thumb.

With what pride would she not exhibit this real live Turk at home!

Young Fürmender would no longer be able to say that Valentine was
possessed by evil spirits, and that he was afraid of blood.



CHAPTER XVII.

In which it is shown by an edifying example that he
who pursues the path of evil must needs fall into
the ditch.


They all arrived safely at Kassa. Dame Sarah with the captive Turk
had got home even sooner than her son.

"Do you know, Valentine," said she, "this Turk is a very good, pious
fellow! He is as gentle as a lamb, and can speak Hungarian like a
native. He learnt it at Grosswardein. All the way home I was holding
up to him the glory of the Christian religion, and he listened to me
with the greatest attention. How nice it would be if only I could
convert him to the true faith!"

"Anything but that, dear mother!" cried Valentine, in consternation.
"Pray don't get it into your head to convert this Turk, or he'll
remain where he is, and I shall lose his ransom, and be two hundred
ducats out of pocket in consequence."

His impious speech scandalized worthy Dame Sarah greatly.

"But, but, my son, are these two hundred ducats more to you than the
soul of a converted heathen? How can you speak so impiously? Suppose
the Apostles had thought as you do! And why lay such stress upon
these two hundred ducats? If you want money, here hang the keys at
my girdle. I'll give them to you. Thrust your arm into the great
money chest, take the whole treasure away with you if you will, for
we have an honest trade which brings us in as much gold and silver
as we want. But if you must earn money, at all events don't earn it
by offering men's flesh for sale. Say! Will you have the keys?"

"God bless you, my dear mother! I don't want your gold. I'll spend
no money but what I've earned, piece by piece, by the sweat of my
brow."

"Eh, eh, young fellow! I see what it is. You have something on your
mind which you don't want your old mother to know. Come, sir,
confess that you're in love! Out with it, don't be shamefaced! Your
father was just such another mealy-mouth. For two whole years he was
dangling after me without the pluck to open his mouth, till at last
I was forced to take pity on him. Come, now, speak the truth! You
are in love?"

"Perhaps I am."

"Who's the lady?"

"That's more than I can tell you."

"Some poor lass, I suppose of lowly birth perhaps? Perhaps a
peasant's daughter, or maybe, even a serving-maid? I don't care. Let
her family be what it may, if only she herself is a virtuous virgin,
you may bring her to my house without fear. If she is clumsy, I'll
gladly shut one eye and only see that she loves you. If she knows
absolutely nothing at all, I'll be her teacher, and she shall learn
from me everything which a right-minded housewife ought to know.
Come, now! Who is it?"

"I cannot say, my good mother!"

"Valentine! Valentine!" cried Dame Sarah, threatening her son with
the large carving-knife which she always kept hanging by her side.
"You are after no good thing. You love a woman who has already got a
husband. Don't deny it! I see by your sudden change of color that
I've hit the mark. Valentine, you are walking in evil ways! Bethink
you what is in store for you--here on earth the sword of the
headsman, and in the next world the fires of hell! You know that in
matters of morality our laws don't jest! I have seen with my own
eyes many a head, quite as comely as yours, roll in the sand--the
sole offense of these poor sinners was presuming to cast sheep's
eyes at women who had no business to have lovers at all. But I pray
God that he'll place an obstacle in your path at the very outset,
which will make it impossible for you to go any further on the way
where shame, death, and damnation await you. God will hear me!"

But Valentine reflected that he too had recommended his affairs to
God. Had he not said that if he returned safe and sound from the
battle, it should be a sign that his intention of seeking out his
beloved in her misery was right and pious? And, lo! the blessing of
God had followed hard upon his footsteps; he had not only returned
home safe and sound, but had brought back with him a captive whose
ransom would enable him to face all manner of unknown perils with
far more courage than if he only had an empty purse. Therefore he
impatiently waited for the kinsfolk of his prisoner Achmed to send
him the ransom from Grosswardein. But it was just at this time that
Dame Sarah was moving heaven and earth to convert the Turk. Every
day she read to him extracts from the Gospels, and taught him to
sing hymns. He had even got so far as to renounce those articles of
his creed which prohibited the drinking of wine and the eating of
ham, when he one day put to Dame Sarah the ticklish question,
whether a converted Turk might not keep all four of his wives? The
worthy dame smote her hands together in horror.

"What! you have four wives, you d----d Turk? Well, then, you may
remain in your heathenish faith for all I care. Go with your four
wives to your Turkish hell, but don't contaminate ours." And with
that she washed her hands of him altogether.

A few days later the Turk's ransom reached the hands of Captain
Hommonai, who paid over the money to Valentine, and Achmed was sent
off to Grosswardein.

So Valentine had at last enough money to carry out what he had so
long been brooding over.

His first step was to beg Captain Hommonai for a short furlough for
himself and his comrade Simplex, which furlough he very easily
obtained, inasmuch as my lord count was just then in the middle of
his honeymoon, and therefore ill disposed to engage in martial feats
for some time to come. The Turks also were keeping very quiet in
that part of the country.

The two hundred ducats Valentine already had in his pocket. All that
he now required for his journey was a good cloth mantle, a stout ax,
a flask, and a knapsack.

It was also of no small assistance to our two honest comrades that
the general ordered the squadron of cavalry to which they belonged
to proceed to Onod (which was half-way to Zeb), for Valentine was
thereby able to conceal from his mother the fact that he had
obtained leave of absence. So they reached Onod safely, and thence
made their way across country to seek Michal.

Yet the prayers of Dame Sarah were more efficacious than the
resolutions of the two friends, for as they were passing through the
Onod forest, out of the bushes sprang twelve of those miscreants who
then pursued the accursed trade of kidnaping Christian men and women
in order to sell them to the Turks. Valentine indeed made a good
fight for it, and broke no end of jaws and noses; but at last he was
overpowered by numbers. Then the robbers gagged him, and tied him
with his comrade to a tree, and naturally left him very little of
the two hundred ducats which they found upon his person. Then they
separated to seek fresh booty. In the evening they returned with a
woman and a young girl, and at dusk they tied the captives to their
saddles and haled them away.

Thus Dame Sarah's pious wish that her son Valentine might light upon
an obstacle which should hinder him at the very outset from pursuing
his evil way, was exactly fulfilled.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Wherein is related what very different fates befell
the two honest comrades.


The wicked kidnapers took off all their captives' upper garments,
leaving them nothing but their shirts and hose to cover their limbs
with, and drove them in this guise through all the villages they
came to.

The captive girl had bruised her feet on the stony ways so that it
was as much as she could do to limp painfully along. Valentine could
not bear to see the robbers goading the poor child on with their
whips, as if she were a brute beast, so, as if he had not enough
wretchedness of his own to carry, he must needs take her on to his
shoulders and trudge along with her to Eger, where they happened to
arrive on market day. The slaves were driven straight to the market
place, where a brisk traffic in oxen, sheep, and buffaloes was going
on, and one of the accursed robbers blew a hoarse, squeaking fife,
to advertise his slaves, and after attracting a crowd around them,
began to praise their good points with a glib tongue. He called
attention to Valentine's mighty arms as he stood there defiantly
protruding his broad chest; but as for Simplex, he pulled such
wretched faces and was so doubled up by his misery, that the robber
felt bound to flip him now and then with his whip just to put a
little life into him. The female slaves were treated with even less
ceremony, for the robber tore the very smocks from their shoulders
to show the purchasers how smooth their skins were.

First of all the woman and her little daughter were sold. A Mudir
required them both, so at all events they had the consolation of
each other's society.

Then there came an under-sized Turkish butcher who dealt in sheep
flesh, and rejoiced greatly when he learnt from Valentine that he
was a butcher's assistant. He did not chaffer very long about him,
but paid the thousand ducats which the robber demanded for
Valentine, put him in chains, and drove him off, at the same time
bidding him be of good cheer, as he would be very well treated, have
enough to eat, and when the vintage time came, might work in the
vineyards in the open air, and have plenty of sour wine to comfort
his heart with.

But for Simplex no purchaser could be found. They all looked at his
hands, which were quite smooth and soft, for how could trumpet
blowing make them hard? Nobody would have him. In vain did the
robber make him dance at the end of a rope like a bear, and cry
continually:

"Buy! buy! Who'll buy this _giaour_?"

At last, finding that no one would buy him, he led him to the
fortress to the pasha. There the Muteshin came to meet him, and the
robber said that he had brought him a captive soldier, for all
captive soldiers had to be handed over to the pasha, who made an
immense profit out of them by buying them dirt-cheap and then
reselling them to their friends at fancy prices. The Muteshin,
therefore, paid the robber forty ducats down for Simplex, one of
which the godless wretch gave to the poor captive as a sort of
parting gift.

Simplex was then sent straight to the smithy, and there such heavy
fetters were fastened to his legs that he could scarcely drag them
along. After that they stuck him in a subterranean dungeon, already
occupied by some fifty other persons, who said very little to each
other, but squatted on the floor, as near as they could get to the
narrow, single window, and carved pipes, plaited scourges, or wove
Turkish girdles in order to earn a few aspers. Many of them,
however, lay against the wall as if they were sick, and these had
their feet tied up. A barber came down to them in the morning and
evening to change their bandages, and rub their wounded soles with
soothing salves.

Simplex asked them what long journeys they had been taking to make
the soles of their feet so sore. One of them answered:

"Just wait a bit. It will be your turn soon to take the same journey
and find out where Bambooland lies."

And, indeed, before the week was out, Simplex's curiosity was
satisfied, and he had no need to bother his head about the matter
any more.

When his turn came he was led to the Kaimakan.

The Kaimakan was a fat-faced, big-bellied man who loved his joke. He
was smoking a pipe with a very long stem, and sat with crossed legs
on a bright carpet.

He addressed Simplex most affably, called him "my dear son!" and
asked whence he was, who his relations were, how much property he
had, and where his estate lay.

Simplex gave him the same answer which he had given to the robber
captain, Janko. He said that he was a poor orphan.

At this the Kaimakan fairly screamed with laughter.

"Ha! ha! Of course! of course! Just as if you had got it all up. All
the lot of you answer like that when the question is first put to
you. I know! I know! You have neither father nor mother, don't even
know where you were born, are as poor as a church mouse, carry your
house on your shoulders, your bread in your breast, and begging is
your trade. 'Tis the usual answer to the first question, but we'll
now see what you've got to say to the second question."

He gave a nod, and four soldiers instantly threw Simplex to the
ground. Two of them tied his feet together and hoisted them up with
a cord till the soles pointed heavenwards, whereupon the other two
so belabored them with bamboo sticks, that Simplex, in reply to the
continually reiterated questions, confessed that he was a prince,
that his father was the Doge of Venice, and his godfather the King
of Poland, and that they would certainly send, on application, his
weight in gold by way of ransom.

At this the soles of his feet were belabored still more--poor
Simplex really thought his last hour had come.

Then followed the third examination. The Kaimakan ordered poor
Simplex's swollen and lacerated soles to be well rubbed with
soothing balsam, told the soldiers to give him a cooling drink, and
then began to address him still more amicably.

"Look now, my dear son! Why talk such nonsense? Why say at one
moment that you are a poor orphan, and the next that you are a
prince? Surely there must be someone in the wide world who would
give something to save your skin, some good friend or other who
would pay your ransom for you? Just reflect a moment! Surely we
don't ask so very much?"

Then it occurred to Simplex that he had one good friend, only
unfortunately this friend had also fallen into captivity at Eger,
where a butcher had purchased him; if he were in a position to buy
his friend off he would certainly do so.

"Oh, come, now! there's sense in that. And what kind of
master-butcher is it, then, who purchased your friend?"

"He has a blistered face."

Now as there was no less than thirty and three butchers in Eger
whose faces had all been blistered by the fly bites which are part
and parcel of their trade, the Kaimakan summoned them all to the
fortress, so that Simplex might pick out the right one.

He selected Valentine's master, Ibrahim.

The Kaimakan ordered Ibrahim to bring his slave thither forthwith.

Worthy Valentine was horrified when he saw his poor Simplex in such
a condition.

"Poor Simplex! in what misfortune have you not been plunged on my
account! I am much better off, for I have a mild sort of master who
lets no one beat me but himself, and uses not a stick but a thong of
hippopotamus leather."

"But why do you endure it? Why don't you write to your mother to
ransom you?"

"I have written to her and prayed her to send the ransom for us
both, nor had I long to wait for an answer. She says she is quite
ready to pay down the ransom, but only on condition that I
henceforth become her slave, do everything she commands, go
nowhither without her knowledge and consent, never consort with you
again, and utterly forget her whom I love most of all in the world,
otherwise she'll leave me in the hands of the Turks."

"And what answer did you make?"

"I wrote to her: 'God bless you, my dear mother, but I prefer to
remain where I am, for I'll never forget my beloved, even in death,
nor deny my faithful comrade, whom I have sworn to stand by as long
as I live.'"

"Bravo, Valentine!" cried Simplex; then snapping his fingers at the
Kaimakan, "your servant, Pasha! Now I'll go back to prison again.
When the soles of my feet are healed, you can begin the examination
over again, if you like!"

So Simplex was carried back to his dungeon, and there he had leisure
to learn to make Turkish lace at an asper an ell, and reflect what
an absurd sort of destiny it is when a man is beaten on the soles of
his feet because his friend is enamored of a woman who can never be
his.

Meanwhile the wounds on the soles of his feet began to heal, but
that was no consolation to him, for he had been told beforehand that
as soon as he was able to stand upright he would again be
cross-examined. There were many among the prisoners who had been
tortured in this way three or four times. The Turks called it
"negotiating." He who offered little, got much.

At last the day arrived when he had again to go before the Kaimakan.
He knew it twenty-four hours in advance, for the prisoners who were
to be examined got nothing to eat the day before. Bamboo is less
injurious when taken on an empty stomach.

Simplex was all of a tremble when he entered the antechamber. The
Kaimakan was sitting on his carpet, and on a low table before him
steamed a dish of pilaf, that is, sheep's flesh mixed with rice;
beside him lay two bamboo canes.

"Ah! Come hither, my son, and choose," said the Kaimakan to the
trembling wretch, "which you will have: this dish of pilaf or a
hundred strokes on the soles of your feet with these two bamboos?
Don't tremble, but choose whichever you like. Here are paper, ink,
and pens, write me out a receipt. If you want pilaf, write that you
have received pilaf; but if you choose stripes, acknowledge that
you've had stripes."

Simplex did not understand it at all. He could not see the point of
the Kaimakan's joke. But he did not want the bastinado again, and
the pilaf pleasantly tickled his nostrils. So he did not take long
to make up his mind, but sat down and consumed the pilaf to the very
last morsel. It pleases the Turks when one does not despise their
favorite dishes. Simplex knew that.

"Now, my son," said the Kaimakan, when Simplex had finished, "now
write that I have this day regaled you with pilaf instead of bamboo,
and address your letter to your dear comrade, the honorable, noble,
and valiant Valentine Kalondai, that accursed, unbelieving dog who
has not only freed himself from captivity without a ransom, but has
taken his master, the sheep butcher, along with him to Onod, and now
he offers him in exchange for you, and threatens to requite his
prisoner good or evil, according as you are treated here."

So Simplex had to testify in writing that the Turks had shown him
all possible kindness. Then the fetter was taken off one foot and
fastened to his girdle as a sign that he was half free; but he had
to go about with the chain on the other foot till his good friend
came to take it off.



CHAPTER XIX.

The story now to be related very much resembles the
story of Joseph and Potiphar, but not quite,
inasmuch as it is not Joseph, but Potiphar, who is
finally cast into prison.


It will be worth the trouble to listen how Valentine escaped from
captivity. It is a wondrous story, though perfectly true, for
Simplex records it in his memoirs.

Valentine's master, the mutton salesman, had a beautiful vineyard,
and in the vineyard a pretty wooden hut which, being a Turk, he
called his kiosk.

As the vintage time drew near, the Turk went every day into his
vineyard, and made his slave accompany him.

The rain had very much damaged the garden paths, and he was anxious
to have them put right again. He dare not trust the work to an
ordinary day laborer, as such people generally require to be paid
and eat the grapes as well; but his slave he could command to work
for nothing, and let him touch a single berry if he dared! And at
the end of every day's work he said to him: "Show me your tongue!"
for the Eger grapes are so black that they dye the tongues of those
who eat of them. Poor Valentine was often sick with longing, as he
stood breaking stones in the melting heat with thousands of lovely
grapes smiling on every side of him, and he was unable to pluck one
of them!

Meanwhile his master would be sitting in the kiosk, and as the Turks
are forbidden by their religion to drink wine publicly, he only
drank on the sly, with not a human soul to keep him company.

Now the Turk had a very beautiful slave, or wife, which with the
Moslems is pretty much the same thing. She was called Jigerdilla,
which signifies "the piercer of hearts." She was a Circassian. He
had purchased her at Buda from a slave-dealer who had brought a
whole shipload of female slaves from Stamboul. The only difference
between a wife and a slave is that the slave works, the wife
doesn't; Jigerdilla did not work.

The Turkish damsel had, from the very first, taken a fancy to the
handsome, stately Hungarian whom her husband had brought into the
house as a slave; but it was impossible to begin to intrigue with
him there, because too many eyes were on the watch. But whenever she
followed her husband into the vineyard, she could speak more freely
with Valentine, especially when the meat seller had so well applied
himself to the good red wine that they had to prop him up between
them all the way.

Kermes Ibrahim--the butcher was called Kermes from his red
beard--used sometimes bid his slave sing while he worked, not only
because singing makes a man work lustily, but also, and especially,
because he would thereby be preserved from the temptation of
plucking the grapes. No man can sing and eat at the same time.

Sometimes, when Ibrahim was overpowered by sleep and lay stretched
out full length on his carpet, Jigerdilla would join in Valentine's
songs, and it is no small encouragement on a lady's part when she
accompanies a gentleman's song with her own voice.

But as soon as Jigerdilla began to accompany his songs, Valentine
stopped short.

"Why do you leave off?" she asked him.

"Because you've begun, and I'm afraid you'll awaken Ibrahim, and
he'll beat me for it."

"Fear nothing! Ibrahim sleeps soundly. I have mixed opium with his
tobacco. If you fired off cannons close to his ear he would not
awake. We might kiss each other over his body, and still he would
not awake."

Valentine made as though he did not understand.

Then Jigerdilla began to sing a popular ballad all about love. Even
in those times such ditties used to be sung, but on the sly, in the
woods or the meadows; for within the walled cities the clergy
forbade them, preached whole series of sermons against them, called
them "flower songs," said that they only served to corrupt good
manners.

And it certainly is very strange what liberties are taken in
singing. If a gentleman said to a pretty woman in simple prose, "My
dear, prithee give me a couple of kisses!" she would, there and
then, give him an answer with her hand which would make his eyes
flash fire; but if he sang the self-same sentence in an elegant
manner, the lady would forthwith sit her down at the piano and play
the accompaniment. And, again, if a pretty woman were to say to a
gentleman, in the presence of her husband, "Taste and see how sweet
my kiss is!" the husband would instantly cry vengeance, and send for
sword and pistols; but when madame sings the same words in a fine
soprano voice before a whole roomful of people, the husband himself
is the first to applaud and cry, "Da capo!"

And Jigerdilla could sing those enticing songs so seductively that
it was impossible to listen to her and remain cold.

But Valentine manfully hardened his heart, and would not accompany
her.

"Can't you sing these songs, then?" asked Jigerdilla derisively.

"I know one or two of them, and have sung them quite often enough.
It was for nothing but that that I was expelled from college. But I
have vowed that not a single flower song shall cross my lips so long
as I am in captivity."

The Turk had in his garden a fine and costly plum tree, and in those
days plum trees were accounted curiosities. The fruit upon it was
round and red as a rose. Gardeners call them bonameras.

Ibrahim was proud of this tree. He had told Valentine beforehand,
that if he dared to pluck a single plum, he would break every bone
in his body. He had destined all the fruit for the table of the
pasha.

One afternoon, Jigerdilla again accompanied her lord into the
garden. She again mingled opium with his tobacco so as to make him
dead-drunk, and then, as Valentine still refused to sing a flower
song with her, she threw herself on the grass in a pet, and
pretended to fall asleep.

The sun was shining fiercely, and so great was Valentine's thirst
that his tongue cleaved to the very roof of his mouth. The grapes he
dare not touch, for their juice left a black stain behind it, but
the rosy red plums smiled at him so enticingly. They, at any rate,
were not numbered. So fancying that no one saw him, he ventured to
steal up to the tree, drew down a branch, and ate of the plums that
were reserved for the pasha's table.

"The pasha would get the fever if he ate so many. Why should he have
them all?"

Suddenly he heard behind him a mocking peal of laughter--Jigerdilla
had been on the watch all the time--and in his terror he started
back so violently, that he snapped off the branch of the plum tree
which he had pulled down toward him.

"Ha, ha, Valentine! Now you can look forward to something pleasant."

Back he went to his work very much ashamed, and he now worked with
such zeal that he finished in one hour what it usually took him two
to do. But Jigerdilla gave him no peace. She made ribald songs upon
him, pelted him with green nuts, and mocked him in all sorts of
ways.

And Valentine felt just like a child who has been naughty and
expects to be beaten for it. The Turk had often said that he would
not give a branch of this tree for a hundred denarii. How many blows
with a whip would he reckon to a denarius?

When it was evening the butcher awoke. He fell to drinking again,
and he drank so much that his wife and his slave had to prop him up
on his way back to the house.

As he passed by the bonamera tree, he perceived that a branch had
been broken off.

At this sight he immediately became quite sober.

"Who did that?" he roared, tearing his whip from his girdle, while
his eyes rolled about as if he were the brother of the hippopotamus
whose hide had supplied the lashes of his whip.

But before Valentine could say a word, Jigerdilla had already
exclaimed:

"I did it. What does it matter if there be one paltry branch more or
less?"

The only misfortune which happened in consequence was this: Ibrahim
raised his whip without more ado, and belabored the back of his dear
wife with the full force of his fury, and perhaps he would have
flayed her from her head to her heels had he not accidently stumbled
and fallen on his nose, when the blood spurted out so violently that
he had enough to do to stop it till he got home.

But in the meantime, Jigerdilla had endured sufficient stripes to
convince Valentine that hot indeed must be the passion felt for him
by this woman, who was ready to take a slave's fault on her own
shoulders, and suffer the punishment which ought to have been his.

At noon, next day, all three went into the vineyard together.

When Ibrahim had gone to sleep as usual, Jigerdilla called Valentine
to her.

"I still feel sore from yesterday's stripes," she said. Then she
gave him a silver box of ointment.

"I can't reach the wounds on my shoulder. Rub them for me with this
balsam."

With that she let her dress glide down over her shoulders so that
Valentine could see her naked, snow-white neck and back; but he also
saw great red wheals, as thick as his finger, stretching right
across the velvety skin.

Valentine rubbed them well with the fragrant balsam, and then asked
Jigerdilla if her wounds felt a little easier.

"I should get well much more quickly if only you would kiss them!"

Valentine recoiled at these words.

"How should I kiss the shoulders of a strange woman who is also my
master's wife?"

"Your master is sleeping, he sees nothing."

"But God sees."

The Turkish lady looked around in astonishment.

"I see no one!"

"God is present everywhere, though invisible."

"If He is invisible, His whip must also be invisible, and He
therefore cannot beat me with it."

"Nay, but His invisible whip can beat right sorely. Look at me! I
have not done but only thought of doing something which God
forbids, and for that one sin I now bear these fetters."

"I would take off your chains every night. I know where Ibrahim
keeps the keys of them--in his girdle. You shall only be a slave by
day. At night you shall be free, and the ransom would not be dear,
we could easily agree about it; you could pay it off in kisses."

"But that would be a sin before God!"

"How can it offend God if a man kisses a woman?"

"Because that would be breaking His commandment, which forbids a man
to lust after that which belongs to another."

"Come now, tell me!" cried Jigerdilla, suddenly giving another turn
to the conversation, "how could you quietly look on yesterday, while
Ibrahim whipped me instead of you? Why did you not seize his arm and
confess that it was you who did the mischief?"

"I'll tell you why. I did not keep silence for fear of the blows,
but because I was afraid that Ibrahim would have killed you if I had
told the truth."

"And what made you fear that Ibrahim would have killed me?"

"Because you took my fault on your shoulders."

"And what conclusion could Ibrahim draw from that?"

But this Valentine would not tell her.

Jigerdilla, however, helped him out.

"He might have thought," continued she, "that I belong more to you
than to him. And why, indeed, might I not belong wholly to you?"

"Because you are his."

"It is true. He bought me for five hundred ducats; but if you gave
him one thousand ducats for me he would hand me over to you, for he
is greedy, and fond of money."

Valentine laughed heartily at these words.

"Whence would a poor devil like me get one thousand ducats?"

"Wait a bit, and I'll tell you something which I've never told to
anybody else. Sit down by me! Nay! sit so that you can look into my
eyes. When Ibrahim bought this vineyard, the kiosk already stood
there, and in the kiosk was an oven. During vintage time, Ibrahim
often took it into his head to sleep in the open air, and I had to
bake bread for him. Once, as I was taking the loaves out of the
oven, I found a ducat sticking to one of them. I said nothing about
it, but waited till it was night, when I took up a knife and ripped
up the floor of the oven. The whole of the underlying mortar was
full of ducats. I suppose that when the town was taken by the Turks,
some rich proprietor or other hid them there, and afterward perished
in the war. I did not take away the treasure, but left it there,
spread fresh mortar over it, and made a fire upon it to burn the
mortar hard. The treasure is there now. I said nothing to Ibrahim
about it, for if he got the money he would only drink the more and
beat me oftener; nay, he would bring fresh wives into the house, and
I should have trouble and strife enough. So I'll give the whole
treasure to you. You can then ransom yourself and purchase me, and
you'll have enough left for both of us to live comfortably
together."

Valentine was in a sad difficulty. What was he to do? Fate gave him
the chance of securing a pretty woman and a lot of money besides. At
last he summoned his religion to his assistance.

"It is impossible, my good lady," said he apologetically; "the men
of my faith do not buy women with money. No, our women, following
the bent of their hearts, freely give their hands to the men of
their own choice. And the men who marry them pay them for their
devotion, not with gifts and gold, but with equal devotion and
sympathy."

At these words Jigerdilla smote her hands together.

"Then your religion will suit me very well. If in your country such
things are not matters of cash and barter, but free-will offerings,
that is just what I should like. I'll follow you of my own free
will. I'll fly with you, learn to know your God, go to your church,
and take in baptism whatever name you like to give me."

Valentine ought to have found the offer very tempting. Had Dame
Sarah been at his side she would certainly have said:

"Look, my son, now you've got fortune by the forelock, hold on fast
with both hands and never let go again. You'll get a wondrously
beautiful young woman, with large black eyes and a small red mouth,
and a whole oven full of ducats besides; and (which is the main
thing after all) you'll be saving an erring, unbelieving soul for an
eternal salvation, and will thus obtain for yourself a claim upon
Paradise." And it would have been the most natural thing in the
world to have thought so.

But Valentine was very far indeed from thinking so. So long as the
image of Michal lived in his heart, he saw in every other woman,
however beautiful, only an evil spirit of temptation to which one
has only to say, "Depart hence!" and it will instantly vanish into
the air.

He loved another.

But he did not tell Jigerdilla so.

Instead of that he pulled a very wry face, bowed himself humbly, and
said:

"How could I be such a villain as to seduce my master's wife?"

At this, Jigerdilla, fairly beside herself with rage, tore off her
slipper, struck Valentine in the face, and cried:

"Be off, slave! Take your spade and set about your work!"

Then she covered herself once more with her veil that the bumpkin
might not see her face again, and her contempt for him was so great
that she did not even think it worth while to fear that the craven
would abuse the secret that he had learnt. "He who dare not touch
his master's wife will certainly never dare to lay a hand on his
master's treasure."

Then, with a good deal of unnecessary bustle, she bounced out of the
vineyard, first stopping to bestow on the slumbering Ibrahim a kick
sufficiently vicious to awaken him.

The Turk, thus roughly aroused from his narcotic sleep, began first
of all to throw his arms and legs about; then he revolved five or
six times on his axis, and finally rolled over a little hillock into
the garden below. There he lay for some time, dreaming on with
wide-open eyes and addressing the paradisaical shapes which the
opium had conjured up before him. Then he stared blankly into the
world around him; began blinking with his eyes and plunging with his
knees, and at last raised himself on his elbows and bellowed for his
slave.

Valentine hastened up to him.

"Where is my wife?"

"Am I your wife's keeper? Perhaps she has gone home."

"I dreamt that she had been nibbling again at my plums. These women
are so greedy. But I know that you, Valentine, have not eaten of my
plums. Nor shall you do so, you dog! These plums are like the fruit
of the tuba tree which stands in Paradise, and which you can never
taste, you _giaour_, you swine, you! What have you done with my
wife? It would be as well if I plucked all these plums and sent them
to the pasha. What do you think he'll give me for them? Do you think
that I can climb up that tree? What! I tell you I can fly up it like
a squirrel."

Opium smokers in their drunken reveries always fancy themselves
strong and agile. Yet the worthy man could not stand, much less fly.

So Valentine helped Ibrahim to climb the plum tree. The Turk was
determined to pluck every one of the plums himself; the hand of a
slave should never profane the dessert of the pasha.

And the poor slave was all the time thinking to himself that when he
got home with his lord, Jigerdilla would treat him exactly as
Potiphar's wife treated Joseph. A woman has no need to betake
herself to the Old Testament to learn how to avenge herself on the
man who has slighted her advances.

She will certainly get him beaten to death by her husband.

And to make the resemblance between the two cases more complete,
there was a vision to be interpreted.

"What is the meaning of the dreams I've just been dreaming?" growled
Ibrahim, in the tree. "I dreamt that a hen pounced down upon an
eagle and flew away with him--not the eagle with the hen, but the
hen with the eagle."

"Just you come down from that tree and I'll let you know all about
it," thought Valentine to himself, and while Ibrahim was plucking
the plums, he took out of his master's discarded girdle the key of
his own fetters and quickly freed his feet. Then he planted himself
close beside the tree.

Ibrahim was so busily engaged in plucking his fruit, and so lost in
admiration at his beautiful bonameras, that it quite escaped him
that the sun was going down, and that they had begun to sound the
retreat in the fortress. Now this signified that everyone was to
leave off laboring in his field or vineyard, for at the third signal
the gates were closed, and whoever then remained outside had to stay
there all night. Only at the third signal did Kermes reflect that it
was growing late, and begin to climb down from the plum tree. First
he handed to Valentine the basket-load of bonameras, and then he
slowly began to let himself down, and begged his slave to help him.

And Valentine did help him, for just when Ibrahim was hanging with
both hands to a branch between heaven and earth, Valentine threw the
basket at him, plums and all, tore him to the ground, bound his
hands to his back, and kicked him into the kiosk. The neighbors
observed nothing of all this, for they were much too intent upon
getting to the town themselves before the gates were closed, to
notice what others were doing.

Valentine next locked the door of the kiosk and set about tearing up
the mortar flooring.

Jigerdilla had spoken truly; there was no lack of ducats. Valentine
did not let the opportunity escape him, but swept all the gold
pieces together and put them into Ibrahim's knapsack. Then he donned
the Turk's kaftan, turban, and girdle, compelling him to put on his
own slave's clothes; and when it grew dusk, he threw a rope round
his neck, and said to him:

"Now we are going to Onod, and if you dare to utter a word by the
way, I'll break your own ax to pieces over your bald pate!" And as
Ibrahim Kermes was very anxious about his beautiful ax, and still
more so about his skull, he allowed himself, with true Mohammedan
resignation, to be driven through the alley between the vineyards
into the wood and from thence into the next village. There Valentine
hired from the Christian magistrate a four-horse wagon, and drove
with his captive master to Onod, where he arrived early next morning
safe and sound.



CHAPTER XX.

In which is a very circumstantial, if not very
pleasant, description of all the conditions to be
observed in the exchange and purchase of slaves.


On arriving at the fortress of Onod, Valentine at once handed over
his prisoner and the money he had brought with him (of course
deducting the two hundred ducats which the robbers had taken away
from him) to the Commandant of the fortress, that he might ransom
therewith the persons who were languishing in the dungeons of Eger,
and especially the woman and child who had been abducted with him
and sold at the Eger cattle market. As for the imprisoned butcher,
he proposed to exchange him for the field-trumpeter, Simplex.

By this noble deed Valentine so completely won the hearts of the
brave warriors of Onod, that they made him a corporal on the spot.
Moreover, the liberated lady also visited him with her daughter,
expressed her thanks by kissing his hands and embracing his feet,
informed him that she was a rich proprietress, and insisted upon
giving him her daughter to wife as soon as she had reached maturity,
the young lady at present being only twelve years of age.

Valentine thanked her for her offer, but begged her to bring up her
daughter for some other more fortunate mortal. Who could tell where
his bones might be bleaching in five or six years' time?

It was only pretty Michal that he had always in his thoughts.

He could scarcely wait for Simplex to appear, so impatient was he to
set out with him to discover Michal.

But the ransom of the prisoners did not go off so smoothly after
all. The Kaimakan of Eger wrote to the Commandant of Onod that he
did not consider the Eger butcher worth four hundred gulden, the
amount of the trumpeter's ransom. There were still two and thirty
butchers at Eger, and therefore he would not give more than two
hundred gulden for this particular butcher. If the other two hundred
gulden were not paid in cash, the whole of the Christian prisoners
at Eger should suffer for it on the soles of their feet. Annexed to
the Kaimakan's letter was a heart-rending petition from the
Christian prisoners, in which they implored the Commandant to
fulfill the desire of the Kaimakan for their sakes.

The Commandant of Onod thereupon fetched out of prison the six and
twenty Turks who were in captivity there, and made them address a
solemn memorial to the Kaimakan of Eger, whom they piteously
besought not to bastinado the Christian captives, as in such a case
they, the Turkish captives, would be visited with still more
grievous torments.

The principal sufferers, however, were the two prisoners who were to
be exchanged, and from whom both sides tried to extort as much as
possible, so that in their mutual distress they grew quite fond of
each other.

At last Valentine sent the extra two hundred gulden, and both
Simplex and the Turkish butcher were escorted to Eger with fetters
on only one leg. There the Kaimakan received his gold and the
butcher his wife. Ibrahim Kermes celebrated his liberation with a
banquet, to which Simplex was also invited, and regaled with mutton
in twelve different editions. Finally, Ibrahim presented him with a
pair of red morocco slippers, while Jigerdilla sent Valentine a
couple of superfine laced pocket-handkerchiefs, with initials
embroidered in the four corners in Turkish letters, and wet with the
tears from her lovely eyes at the recollection of him.

But Ibrahim Kermes swore by the beard of the Prophet that he would
never again buy a Calvinist _giaour_ as a slave, even if he could
get him for a single denarius.

And now, after all this, it is high time that Valentine set out to
seek his unhappy Michal.



CHAPTER XXI.

Is full of good tidings, inasmuch as it treats of
the discomfiture of evil-doers.


Simplex had quite won Valentine's heart by warning him of the
dangers threatening his sweetheart which he had overheard in the
robber's camp. It is true he did not tell him the whole truth for
fear of frightening him too much, or even making him lose courage
altogether. But so much he did tell him: that Catsrider, instead of
taking his Michal to the parsonage which, as a curer of souls, he
ought to have occupied, had remained in his father's house, where
they had treated Michal very cruelly. But he added that, sooner or
later, the robbers would destroy the house, and then Michal had a
most terrible fate to expect.

"What shall I do? Merciful Heaven, what shall I do?" groaned poor
Valentine.

"My dear fellow," said Simplex, "what you have to do is perfectly
plain. You must carry off your beloved from the place at once."

"But that would be a sin against God."

"Yet you'll do it all same. Just you come along with me. One word
with her, one look at her, and I'm sure you'll do what I've said."

"God preserve me from so great a sin."

"Now just listen to me. I'm a Lutheran. I don't believe in
predestination. But you are a Calvinist. You are bound to believe in
it. You know for certain that everything which happens, or may
happen to you, is already recorded in a great book which has been
written before the beginning of the world. Your will can alter
nothing therein, and if it is recorded of you that you must die on
the top of a mountain, and you don't go up the mountain, the summit
will come down to you and place itself beneath your feet. I say you
have only got to take the first step, and all the other steps will
follow as a matter of course. If you resolve to see your beloved,
you will never leave her again, but will bring her back with you,
though you walked in the shadow of the gallows all the way along. If
all this had not been preordained, you would have remained at home
and married Kitty Fürmender."

They were discoursing thus as they proceeded along the highway,
provided this time with such good weapons that not every kidnaper of
slaves would have cared to attack them. But as far as these
waylayers were concerned, they felt themselves pretty safe, for they
had chosen not the Kassa road but the Gäuz road, and such abductors
very seldom ventured on the left bank of the Hernad, because the
river is liable to overflow, and thus often prevents them from
escaping when hard pressed by pursuers.

What our wanderers really had to fear were the ordinary robber bands
who terrorized those regions, and whose exact whereabouts could only
be learnt by experience; for these bandits were here, there, and
everywhere, and very often broke into Poland, where they were
naturally as welcome guests as here in Transylvania.

Simplex undertook to find out all about the robbers from the
frequenters of the fairs, who were generally best informed on the
subject. His friend he left at an inn in the meantime.

When he returned, his face was beaming with joy.

"Didn't I say that we were Fortune's own children? Didn't you come
into the world in a caul, Valentine? The town is full of joy. All
three robber bands have been captured. They fell into an ambuscade
while on their way to plunder the Iglo fair. Three counties and the
Imperial soldiers were banded together for the occasion. They drove
them out of their rocky lairs, occupied every point of exit, and at
last the robbers ran short of powder, and all who had not already
fallen surrendered. The haughty Hafran and the cruel Bajus were
taken alive. Their comrades, to obtain a pardon, delivered them up
bound hand and foot. But most wonderful of all is Janko's story. It
was I who contributed to his overthrow. The pursuers were unable to
lay hands upon him, for when he saw himself abandoned by his own
people and surrounded on every side, he cut down a pine tree and
glided with it over a rocky precipice; then he climbed up another
steep rock like a wild cat, so that no one could come up with him.
Yet he was taken after all, and he has a woman to thank for it. He
had sent a message through me to the wife of the kopanitschar of
Hamar (and I passed it on to an oil merchant) that she should treat
him friendly when he next came to her, but that her husband should
not show his face at all. Now, when he saw himself so hotly pursued,
Janko fled straight to the kopanitschar's wife, who is his
sweetheart. The woman received him with open arms, made him a great
feast, and they were right merry together. Wine flowed all night,
and a couple of bagpipers played the music by turns. They soon got
tired of playing, but Janko never tired of dancing. He drank on to
midday, and was in such high good-humor that he did not know what to
do with himself. At last he scattered handfuls of gold among the
gaping peasantry, and while they were fighting for it among
themselves, he went out into the fields, declaring that whosoever
dared to follow him would be a dead man. And, indeed, no one had the
courage to follow him but one man, and that man was the
kopanitschar.

"Janko had looked for him all night long in order to kill him, but
he had remained concealed in a hayrick till midday. At midday, he
crept out of his hiding-place and went to look for Janko. He had no
other weapon but a long, two-pronged wooden fork, which they use in
those parts to toss hay.

"And he found Janko stretched out at full length in the meadow, and
fast asleep. The kopanitschar caught him round the neck between the
prongs of the fork, and pinned him fast to the ground. The terrible
robber was caught and quite harmless. In vain he roared and cursed;
the kopanitschar's iron fist and wooden fork held him down till the
rest mustered up sufficient courage to hasten up and secure him.

"To-morrow the whole three of them will be executed at Eperies, and
we will be there to see it all."



CHAPTER XXII.

Wherein is related what end was reserved for the
evil-doers by way of deterrent example, which
example, however, only distressed the soft-hearted
without terrifying the stiff-necked.


"I won't be there to see it," said Valentine to Simplex. "A shudder
runs through my whole body when I think of a man torturing another.
If a man were to beat, tweak, or flay me, I should only laugh at it;
but when I see one man tormenting another, it makes my blood boil. I
feel no dizziness when I stand on the edge of the loftiest
precipice, but when I see another hovering over the abyss, I am
beside myself with terror. I am amazed that there should be people
who delight in watching the bloody scenes on the scaffold. The
battlefield is quite another thing. There you fight man to man;
there you do not hear the cries of the dying. The death I deal to
one man, another man may at any moment deal to me. But I won't see
men who are bound hand and foot tortured to death; I won't hear them
shriek with anguish beneath the hand of the headsman."

"You'll go, notwithstanding," returned Simplex. "As I've already
said, if you are a true Calvinist, you'll resign yourself to
predestination, and must not say: 'I'll go hither, or, I'll go
thither!' You will do what it was preordained you should do at the
beginning of the world, and the place you are now going to is the
town of Eperies, and the market place in that town."

And it all happened exactly as Simplex said. For they had no sooner
stepped out of the tavern than they were stopped by a patrol of
drabants, who learning that they were soldiers, showed them the
mandate of the Commandant of Eperies, whereby all the soldiers on
leave in the district were ordered to Eperies, to remain in the
market place during the day, so that the people might not disturb
the execution of the law's sentence, or the comrades of the robbers
release them by a sudden and audacious onslaught.

So Valentine had to march to Eperies, with the other men-at-arms,
whether he liked it or not.

Crowds of people were pouring into the town that day, from all
quarters, as if a great banquet were to be given, or a lord
lieutenant installed--gentlemen in coaches or on horseback, peasants
sitting ten in a wagon, students, apprentices, peddlers,
sacred-image sellers, and deceivers of all sorts.

Simplex and Valentine were sent on by wagon the same night to
Eperies, where they arrived at dawn next morning.

At that time, Eperies no longer presented the smiling aspect of half
a century before. The internecine disorders, the religious
discussions, the ravages of robbers, had laid bare the whole region.
The stumps of trees and wildering weeds were all that remained of
the orchards which had once encircled the city walls, and whole rows
of ruined pleasure houses were left to tell what a merry life had
once been there.

Instead of the fine old plum and lordly apple trees quite another
sort of grove had grown up around the bastions--a ghastly grove of
gaunt, withered trees, laden with sad fruits, a wood of gallowses,
wheels, and spikes, on which the bones of criminals were rotting.
The three captured robber bands had largely contributed to this
gruesome grove. The lesser fry, the receivers of stolen goods, and
the women who had brought the robbers' powder from the town, had
been executed outside the trenches, three days before; only for the
three robber chieftains was reserved the supreme distinction of
being done to death _within_ the walls. One could not make too sure
of them.

In the great square, where the townhall and the large covered market
stand opposite to each other, that terrible edifice, generally
called the scaffold, had been raised. It towered high up and could
only be ascended by ladders, which the headsman's apprentices, when
they went to work, drew up after them so that none might follow. In
the middle of the scaffold stood a broad block against which heavy
wheels were leaning. On each side of the block two thick stakes were
fastened with heavy dependent chains, the links of which could be
locked and unlocked. From the top of each of these stakes projected
huge forks with bars across them and hooks hanging down from the
bars.

In front of the townhall a dais had been erected for the convenience
of the sheriffs, mayor, and town councilors. A guard of honor stood
in front of the dais, and the scaffold was environed by soldiers
three deep. Valentine tried to get into the hindermost row. He
wanted to see as little as possible of the terrible spectacle.
Simplex stood by his side, so as to be at hand in case his friend
was taken ill. The great square was filled with a gaping crowd. At
the windows stood or sat gayly dressed women, just as if a Corpus
Christi procession were about to pass. The very roofs of the houses
were covered with human heads. Booths had been erected in the market
place, where cakes and mead were offered for sale, steaks basted,
and pancakes tossed in large pans. The biographies of the robbers,
printed on coarse paper with red frontispieces, were also hawked
about.

Conspicuous among the itinerant gypsies and peddlers was a woman who
offered for sale long thongs fastened to the end of a stick, and was
particularly importunate with Simplex.

"Come Mr. Trumpeter, won't you buy a thong made out of the skin
flayed from the robbers' backs?"

Simplex at once recognized the voice; it was Pirka the witch. So
under the pretext of chaffing with her, he at once entered into a
conversation.

"What are these thongs of human skin good for?"

"They are good against the plague and falling sickness. They also
keep wild beasts away, and compel the most stubborn of sweethearts
to surrender."

"And how much are they apiece?"

"Four thalers."

But Valentine could stand it no longer.

"Don't be a fool," said he to Simplex, "she's cheating you. Those
thongs of fool leather, you'll get them from the farriers for a
penny apiece."

"That's all you know about it, Mr. Corporal," cried the witch,
gnashing her teeth; "my husband is not a knacker who flays horses,
but a headsman who flays men."

Valentine shuddered, and spat on the ground.

"Then if your wares be really genuine, they are doubly loathsome. Be
off with you!"

Simplex gave Pirka a nudge with his elbow and pointed at Valentine
with a wink, whereupon Pirka looked slyly askance at him, and
arching her elbows and screwing up her mouth, said to Valentine:

"Well, well, Mr. Corporal, for all your fine airs you'll be glad
enough before long to take something from me which comes through the
headsman's hands."

Simplex trod on her foot to make her hold her tongue, and then they
began talking together in a low voice, as if they were only haggling
about the thongs.

The next moment Pirka had as completely vanished as if the earth had
swallowed her up.

When the clock in the townhall tower struck eight, the bells of the
Franciscan convent close by began to ring, the roll of drums was
heard proceeding from the courtyard, and the sad procession appeared
in the market place.

First came the magistrates, who ascended the cloth-laid steps of the
dais, on the top of which the town-clerk recited the sentence aloud.
Then came the guards, sword in hand, and between them the three
delinquents, each of whom had a cord round his neck, the end of
which was held by one of the headsman's apprentices. Last of all
came the headsman, the old vihodar himself, on a white horse,
dressed in a long red mantle half covering his steed; a black
biretta with a red plume covered his head, and he held a naked sword
in his right hand. Two of his henchmen led the horse. Behind him
marched eight apprentices, who brought with them a whole arsenal of
instruments of torture.

Valentine turned his head aside in order to see nothing of all this.
Had he but looked, he would certainly have recognized _one_ of the
headsman's assistants.

The mob saluted the robbers with a fearful howl, which they answered
with hideous curses. But their filthiest imprecations were hurled at
the women among the spectators, who were ready to sink into the
ground for shame.

All three delinquents bore traces of torture on their bodies. They
were covered with burns and sores. Yet they showed no signs of
weakness. On the contrary, they greeted the old vihodar with wild
laughter, and scornfully challenged him to show them of his skill.

He coolly tossed the scarlet mantle from his shoulders, and in a low
voice distributed his commands to the apprentices, who were already
assembled on the scaffold.

The mob set up a frightful yell at the sight of the grim, stalwart
graybeard, to which he responded with a mock bow like a stage hero.

He opened the proceedings with Bajus.

Valentine had no need to stop his ears, for Bajus never uttered a
sound. Not a sigh escaped him. The people all round whispered to one
another in shuddering awe. The robber's cold contempt of death, and
the calmness with which he endured all manner of tortures, raised
him in their eyes to the rank of a hero.

In the deep stillness which prevailed, nothing was to be heard but
the droning of the heavy wheel.

It was all over with Bajus.

The next in order was the haughty Hafran.

With him the bloody drama took quite another turn.

The vihodar's assistants had sufficed for the first robber. He
himself had only given his directions in a low voice. But honor
constrained him to cope personally with the second robber.

Hafran was a frantic devil. He howled curses at the vihodar and
overwhelmed him with insults. He told him to his face that he was a
clumsy bungler.

Then the old vihodar took his biretta from his head, doffed his
coat, and set about accomplishing his masterpiece.

The spectators had reason to be satisfied with both performers. The
old vihodar exhausted all his skill upon the robber, and the robber
never ceased hurling defiance at the vihodar. They cursed and
reviled each other like devils. The robber laughed at all the
torments, and infuriated the vihodar by asking him derisively when
he was going to begin. The vihodar was quite beside himself for
rage, and excelled himself in the invention of fresh torments. Every
time he produced a fresh instrument of torture, he asked the robber
how the entertainment pleased him.

The Franciscan monk who was on the scaffold to afford the
delinquents the last consolations of religion, tried to pacify them
both, and begged them for Heaven's sake to leave off cursing; but
neither paid the slightest attention to him. The robber had the last
word. Even when he was so mangled and mutilated that he no longer
resembled anything human, even then he howled words of scorn in the
face of his tormentor. At last they plunged a hook into his side and
hoisted him aloft, and even then he showered down insults upon all
the women present at the bloody spectacle, till at last he gave up
his unconquerable spirit, which had surely made some mistake in
choosing a simple human body for its earthly dwelling-place.

The old vihodar was ashamed. He felt that this heroic resistance had
very considerably impaired his prestige in the opinion of the
people. This blot upon his escutcheon must be wiped off.

The third robber chieftain, Janko, still remained. He should serve
to restore the honor of the vihodar.

The old vihodar proposed to do great things with him. He had the
fetters removed from the feet of the delinquent, and would not even
allow him to be bound to the stake.

"We will have a dance together!" said he to Janko.

That word was the death of him.

The next moment, such a yell of horror burst forth from the crowd
that even Valentine's curiosity was aroused. He looked toward the
scaffold, and what he saw there really was astounding.

Janko, the mighty leaper, the instant his chains were taken from his
feet, had sprung upon the vihodar, pressed down his chest with his
knees, and bit him in the neck exactly on the spot where the great
jugular artery is. This he bit clean through, and--as if to justify
the fable, that whomsoever Janko bit with his envenomed fangs was a
child of death--the old vihodar fell to the ground like a log of
wood, and when the apprentices sprang forward to tear the delinquent
away from him, the headsman was already dead.

This incident so revolted Valentine that he reeled, and clinging
tightly to Simplex, stammered: "I really believe I am going to
faint."

"Hold up a little bit longer!" whispered Simplex in his ear.

As soon as the people learnt that Janko had killed the vihodar with
a single bite, a fearful tumult arose.

Everyone began to applaud the delinquent and cry: "Vivat Janko,"
while they pelted the headsman's assistants with stinking eggs and
rotten apples.

At last the blare of trumpets and the roll of kettle-drums drowned
the voice of the mob, and the sheriff arose on the dais and declared
that despite the unhappy accident which had befallen the old
vihodar, the execution of the law's sentence must proceed
notwithstanding. The young master, the son of the vihodar, was
there, and he was to do his duty, and that at once.

The uproar ceased and the crowd in intense expectation looked toward
the scaffold for the new performer to appear. It was plain, from the
deep silence that now ensued, that the newcomer had something to
say.

Valentine kept his eyes closed. He was deeply agitated. Had he not
been in the ranks he would have run away.

And now, in the midst of the general silence, he heard the young
master addressing the people:

"This evil-doer who has killed my father is not worthy to be put out
of the world by a human hand in a human way."

Valentine listened in amazement. That voice was familiar to his ear.
It seemed to him as if he had once heard it from the pulpit.

But the other proceeded:

"There is a mode of execution used in distant Abyssinia, where the
black skins of evil-doers are insensible to ordinary torture. They
are sewn alive in fresh buffalo hides and hung in the sun. So soon
as the hide begins to dry and shrink, the evil-doers learn to sing a
veritable song of hell. That is the way in which I mean to execute
this delinquent."

"What's that?" cried Valentine, "whose voice is that? Who but one
that has attended the lectures of the learned Professor David
Fröhlich could have heard of this Abyssinian tale? Who is it?"

He looked up and recognized the man in scarlet on the scaffold.

"That is Henry Catsrider, the husband of your Michal!" cried
Simplex, looking him full in the face.

To Valentine Kalondai it seemed as if everything was turning round
and round. He staggered, and would have fallen if Simplex had not
seized him by the arm and led him away. Nobody heeded them. During
this horrible scene many others, even among the soldiers, had fallen
senseless to the ground.



CHAPTER XXIII.

In which it is shown not only that Satan is the
author of all evil, but also that the grisly
witches, his handmaidens, are always ready with
their malicious practices to plunge poor mortals
into utter destruction.


Barbara Pirka had run straight home to the lonely house that stood
outside the walls of Zeb. She knew all the short cuts across the
mountains, so that she could have given a horseman an hour's start
and yet have beaten him easily. Night made no difference to her. She
never lost herself, and wandered fearlessly through the wilderness
in company with the will-o'-the-wisps and other evil spirits, with
whom she manifestly stood on the most friendly terms.

The morning light found her at the Girjo kopanitscha. Here the wife
of the kopanitschar of Hamar kept house alone. Her husband, after
capturing Janko, had turned her out of doors, and then enlisted in
the county militia. What else, then, could his wife do but turn
witch? She had already began her novitiate in the school of Barbara
Pirka.

"Well, Annie!" cried Barbara on entering, "what do you think?
To-day, to-morrow, and the day after to-morrow, three livelong days,
is Janko to be tormented. To-night, however, I bring you guests.
Make ready a good supper. We shall have music, too, and will hold a
wake in Janko's honor."

With that she gave the kopanitschar's wife a ducat to provide
supper, and then taught her the diabolical art of tying knots in
the entrails of absent foes, so that they may pine away and perish
miserably. That very night, all the headsman's apprentices were
seized with cramps in the stomach, and if this was not caused by the
quantities of sour wine which they had been drinking all day it was
certainly due to the malpractices of the two hags.

All this time the young wife was sitting in the upper story of the
headsman's house, absolutely alone. Only two of the apprentices were
left behind to look after the premises, and they took it in turns to
keep watch in the tower and guard the drawbridge.

The lonely house was well protected against every attack. Pointed
stakes, planted at the bottom of the moat encircling the walls, made
it impossible for anyone to swim over. The narrow windows of the
massive walls were guarded by strong iron palings and iron
casements, and two gigantic dogs, which would have tackled the most
strongly armed intruder, ran loose in the courtyard. Both
apprentices were armed with muskets, the barrels of which were so
large that one could have fired whole handfuls of lead out of them
if necessary.

The young wife was left at home when everyone went to the bloody
procedure at Eperies. She, indeed, had not the slightest wish to go
with them. Her soul died away within her at the very thought of the
frightful things which had such a horrible attraction for other
women. But her husband, too, had no wish to take her. He was far too
jealous of her, and however kindly the young woman might treat him,
he felt that it was deception, every bit of it, and did not trust
her. Besides, he feared that Valentine Kalondai might be among the
crowds which flocked from every quarter toward Eperies.

Barbara Pirka was charged to remain at home, and on no account quit
the house till they all returned. The doorkeepers, too, were to let
no one in or out, not even Pirka.

As if it were possible to keep a witch under lock and key! She was
at Eperies before the vihodar and his company, although she did not
set out till an hour later.

Michal had told Pirka that she should not require her during her
husband's absence, and might therefore leave her to herself. She
could cook what she wanted; she had learnt to do so at home. In the
kitchen was a well from which she could draw water by means of a
windlass, an iron chain, and two buckets, so she had no occasion to
go down into the courtyard for water. She could therefore lock all
the doors behind her (the trellised door leading to the staircase as
well as the door closing the corridor), and when at night she had
also barred and bolted the heavy oaken door of the kitchen, she felt
herself quite secure against all human violence.

All the more defenseless was she against those things which cannot
be kept out by bolts and bars.

When the ordinary sounds of day had died away in the house, when the
heavy tread of jack-boots, the rough voices, the filthy jests, the
hoarse curses of the drunken roysterers, had grown dumb, then the
intervening silence brought with it those invisible beings who
announce their presence in whispers, sighs, and groans. In every
corner she fancied she saw a victim whose blood had grown dry on the
hands of the inhabitants of that house. She fancied they came forth
to demand back from her their dissevered lives, to claim for their
freezing limbs the clothes which the hangman had inherited from
them. Every shadow appeared to beckon to her. Lifeless objects
became animated and spoke to her. Behind her back she heard a
perpetual whimpering and sobbing, and when she stirred the fire the
moist logs spat and spluttered. There was a buzzing all around her
like the whirring of cockchafers. When the wind arose, there was a
howling and groaning all through the house as if whole hosts of
spirits were haunting it, and they entered visibly into the dreams
of the poor agonized lady, and drove her toward dizzy abysses with
their grotesquely hideous faces and mutilated figures.

When, however, she had scared away these imaginary specters, the
cold and dreary horror of reality swept before her mind in a still
more terrible shape.

What sort of a life was she leading? She was chained to a man whom
she loved not when she first married him, but whose very presence
filled her now with fear and loathing. She had been deceived, most
cruelly deceived. She had been shut out of the world forever, and
chained alive to the open gate of hell, where all who entered in
mocked and gibbered at her with their decapitated heads. She was
without hope, without the prospect of ever escaping from her prison,
of ever seeing her fate take a favorable turn, of ever having her
woes alleviated. She was tortured by the thought that her father had
forgotten her; but what agonized her still more was the reflection
that her lover was thinking of her even now, knowing nothing of her
misery, fancying her happy, and cursing and adoring her at the same
time.

Then there came to her those evil thoughts which are far more
terrible than all the pale specters of the tomb and the
scaffold--doubt in a heavenly Providence, rebellion against human
morality and human justice. The custom which gave a father a right
to dispose of the destiny of his child revolted her. She cursed the
altar before which a man and a woman are bound together with
inseparable chains. She hated human society, which stifles the
longings of the heart in the name of respectability. She grew dimly
conscious that despair might make her wicked, very wicked.

She began to be afraid of herself.

At night she dared not, and indeed had no desire to sleep in her
bedroom. She loathed the marriage bed, and made for herself a sort
of couch in the kitchen. The kitchen was her most secure asylum. All
night long she kept a roaring fire (she could not bear to remain in
the dark) and on the fire she placed pots of water which she kept
continually boiling. She had no weapons, and even if she had had
them what use would they have been in her weak hands? But she
thought herself quite capable of drenching with boiling water any
man who dared to approach her.

She had now been shut up alone for five days, and the frightful
solitude had made her very nervous. Solitary confinement is the
worst of all torments, it is worse than hunger. She would have felt
much more comfortable if Pirka had been with her. Even the witch's
words, with all their devilish insinuations, were better than the
eternal, ghostly gibbering of the crackling logs, this piping and
squeaking through doors and window crevices, and this howling in the
chimney when the wind blew.

On the fifth morning, as she was turning the windlass in order to
draw water from the kitchen well, the words escaped her:

"Oh, that the devil would bring Pirka hither!"

Scarcely had she said it, when she perceived that the windlass began
to turn round of its own accord, and from out of the ascending
bucket rose the bristly, angular form of Barbara Pirka.

Michal cried:

"Jesus, Maria!" and shrieked aloud for terror.

But Pirka laughed, and said to her:

"Ha, ha! my pretty little lady! You can't lock out a witch you see.
A witch can find her way in through any loophole."

Michal really believed that Pirka had come straight out of the
water, although her clothes and boots were quite dry.

"Eh, what great supper are we getting ready yonder!" cried Pirka,
catching sight of the army of pots on the hearth. Then she looked
into them all, one after the other. "Water, water, nothing but
boiling water. Well, well! let us put something into one of them
that we may have a little good broth."

With that she took out of her knapsack a handful of scraps of paper,
and threw them into the boiling water.

"These are names clipped out of the perpetual almanac," whispered
she to Michal, with a grin. "The first that comes to the surface
will be the name of our beloved."

Then she took a ladle, and fished out the first piece of paper which
appeared on the surface of the boiling water. Michal, she said, was
to see what was written on it.

Michal took the scrap, and read aloud the name:

"Valentine!"

In her terror she threw it back into the flames.

But the flames, so far from consuming the wet scrap of paper, tossed
it up into the air, and the name of the beloved one flew up the
chimney with the smoke.

"It won't burn, ladykin!" laughed Pirka. "Hocus-pocus! there it is
again!"

And now she had another scrap of paper in her hand, on which was
also written the word, Valentine!

"Well, and how has my little lady been amusing herself all this
time?" asked Pirka, stroking pretty Michal's hands. "Has she not
been wishing that her Pirka was with her again?"

Michal could not deny that she had.

"But those who believe in what the cards say," pursued Pirka,
somewhat irrelevantly, "must pay for it, and those who do not
believe must also pay, ay, and much more dearly too."

"Let us see!"

Michal crouched down beside Pirka on the mat, where the witch had
spread the cards.

"Oh, oh! Great things are in store for us," began Pirka, pointing to
the cards. "This here is the old vihodar, and that yonder is his
son. Look, there's a coffin. Death threatens the old vihodar. The
robbers will kill him."

"What nonsense," interrupted Michal.

"I don't say it. The cards say it. Victory and might await the young
master. He kills the robber, and will be promoted to his father's
place."

Michal laughed.

"That is certainly not true. Henry would quit the headsman's trade
if his father died. He would go to Germany where nobody knows him,
and try to get a professorship. He has promised me it a hundred
times."

"Well, well, I know nothing. I only say what the cards say. Look
now! There is the heart lady! Oh, what a joy awaits her. Her beloved
is close at hand. That rose means burning love. That dog is
fidelity. This dove-cot is felicity. This very day she will meet
him."

"Go along with you, Pirka! It is all nonsense."

"Well, well, my little lady, we shall see. The cards never lie. This
very night she will see him."

"He is far away; who knows how far?" sighed Michal.

"Yes, but I've a little buck-goat, and when I send him away and say
to him, 'Go, bring me the pretty youth hither whom my lady dotes
upon; so true as I came out of that well, my little buck-goat will
bring the young man hither though he were even on the Turkish
borders."

Michal began to grow frightened.

"Hither he shall not bring him," cried she.

"No, not into this hideous hole, perhaps, not into the house of the
vihodar, but into a quiet little cot where the doves bill and coo on
the gables."

"But how am I to get there? I should not care about sitting on the
buck-goat."

"Nor need you. Barbara Pirka can take her pretty little lady
wherever she can go herself, and will lead her through beautiful
flowery meadows to the house of bliss by a path on which not even
the feet of a butterfly could get wet with dew. The fair lady will
then disguise herself as a peasant girl, so that none who meet her
on the road may recognize her; but she will also take nice clothes
with her, so as to meet her beloved in gorgeous apparel. She must
dress herself in his presence three times running, the first time in
scarlet, the second time in corn-flower blue, and the third time in
purple; she must also put on gold earrings and a goodly chain, and
on her head she must wear a coif of pearls. She must pack up all
these splendid things. The headsman has bought them for his wife,
and she has not worn them once yet. Eh! how beautiful we shall
look!"

"Tempt me not, Satan!"

"The cards have said it and Pirka will do it. The pretty lady may
like or lump it, that is her lookout. In any case she will pay the
price for it."

Michal believed and disbelieved at the same time.

She put together the three dresses--the delicate rose-colored dress,
the corn-flower blue, and the purple one; then she hung them all up
before her one after the other, examined them all, and considered
which would suit her best. Then she let Pirka disguise her as a
peasant girl, and put on her a short frock and high red shoes. (In
the vihodar's house there was a whole collection of costumes, Heaven
only knows whence he got them.) She turned herself round and round,
and was quite glad that she looked so pretty, but when Pirka said to
her:

"Come, now let us go!" she shrank back, and answered that to do so
would be to sin against God.

At that moment a flourish of trumpets was heard before the gates. It
was the signal by which Henry usually announced his arrival. The
drawbridge now rattled down, and the friendly barking of the watch
dogs showed that the newcomer was an old friend.

The blood flew to Michal's face.

"My husband has come. Now you see how the cards have lied!"

She had barely time to roll up the three beautiful dresses into a
bundle and pitch them into a dark corner. The peasant costume she
was obliged to keep on. However, she could tell her husband that it
was her kitchen dress.

The keys of the corridor and the trapdoor Michal handed to Pirka,
that she might admit the knocker below.

And now, as she pretended to be busy about the hearth, she awaited
the appearance of that face which always made her sick at heart, but
which had nevertheless on this occasion, so she thought, come
between her and a great temptation, a grievous sin. Yet it was not
her husband after all, but a still more detestable shape. It was
the second apprentice, who used to lend the vihodar a helping hand
in all his great achievements. The first apprentice already worked
on his own account.

The intruder did not bestow upon her so much as the shadow of a
salutation, but slouched down upon the kitchen bench, threw his
heavy hat on the hearth, and blandly said to the lady:

"Give me to drink, my pretty mistress! I'm perishing with thirst."

Then he emptied a bumper of beer to the very dregs, and after that
set about delivering his message.

"I bring you good news, my pretty young mistress! The devil has
carried off the old vihodar. The accursed Janko has bitten him in
the neck with his poisonous teeth and the old 'un croaked straight
off."

Michal thought, with a shudder, that the cards had said as much.

"Now your husband will be master in his own house. All the treasures
belong to him. And the honor, too. The Count of Zips and the Lord
Lieutenant of Saros have already, under their hand and seal,
appointed him public executioner in his father's stead, with
jurisdiction over the whole hill country, and he has just been
accomplishing his masterpiece on Janko, who is still roaring for
pain and will roar two days and two nights longer, so that all
Eperies will hear him. The woman who does not faint, the child who
does not get the falling sickness, and the dog who does not go mad
through hearing this howling, will be fit to join the witches'
sabbath on the Peak of Lomnitz."

Michal shivered as if in an ague. So Henry had voluntarily taken
over his father's office; nay! at once accomplished his hellish
masterpiece? He had not thought of flying, though no one could have
compelled him to remain. He actually takes delight in cruelty!
What! the ex-clergyman, the meek curer of souls, could within so
short a time become a bloody headsman, and thus close against Michal
every way of escaping from this hell! And all this had been
prophesied by the cards of the wise woman!

And as if to raise her horror, disgust, and loathing to the highest
pitch, the fellow stepped up to her and said, with a hideous leer:

"My pretty young mistress! you must give the bearer of so many good
tidings a couple of busses."

The fellow may have been drunk (he had looked in at every tavern on
his way home) but his demand was certainly based on a very ancient
custom.

"It is a law with us," said he to the terrified, recoiling woman,
"that whoever first brings the news to the headsman's wife that her
husband has been installed as master shall receive a couple of good,
smacking busses from the young mistress."

And with that he stroked out his stubbly mustaches with both hands
and stretched out his arms to clasp pretty Michal round the waist.

This shameless impudence put the tender lady into such a violent
rage that she now did what she had all along been meditating; she
snatched from the hearth a pot full of boiling water, and soused the
importunate loafer from head to foot, scalding him so severely that
for one moment he was quite dazed. And during that one moment,
Michal rushed upon him, hurled him back with all her might, Pirka
assisting her, and their united efforts succeeded in pitching the
big strong man headlong out of the kitchen. Then they quickly
slammed to the heavy oaken door.

But the parboiled wretch, speedily recovering himself and now madder
than ever, fell to cursing and swearing, threatened to do Michal a
mischief, and called loudly to his fellow-apprentices to help him;
whereupon they hastened up with iron clubs (which also played a part
at executions in those days), and began hammering at the oaken door
with all their might.

Michal gave herself up for lost. She would rather have sprung down
the well than have stopped till the murderers had battered in the
door.

"Don't be alarmed, my pretty ladykin," said the witch, taking her by
the hand. "The cards have twice spoken the truth, haven't they? And
depend upon it they will speak the truth the third time also. Will
you trust me now?"

"Take me, body and soul!" cried the unhappy woman, throwing herself
into the witch's arms.

"Well! let the pretty lady first take this burning fagot in her hand
and step into the bucket. I'll turn the wheel and let her down, not
into the water, but only as far as the middle of the shaft. There
she will find a narrow platform by an opening, where she must wait
till I have let myself down, too."

Michal, in the extremity of her bitterness and despair, was capable
of anything, so she allowed Pirka to let her down into the well. By
the light of the burning fagots, she found the described opening and
stepped into it. The bucket again ascended, and in a short time
Pirka also came down, holding fast in her hands the other end of the
chain and gradually letting the bucket down ring by ring. On
arriving opposite to the opening, she, too, sprang out of the bucket
and unloosed it from the chain, whereupon the other bucket loosing
its equilibrium, fell down into the water, and the chain ran
rattling up to the wheel.

"Well, my pretty little lady! I think we may now go on a little
further," said Pirka, who carried on her back the bundle in which
were all Michal's fine clothes.

At the end of the narrow passage was an open iron door, which led
into a low vaulted cellar, full of large barrels containing pitch,
tar, sulphur, and tow, in fact all the raw materials of the
headsman's trade, besides sundry tanned hides, the exuviæ of his
triumphs. This cellar terminated in a long corridor, and at the end
of the corridor was another iron door.

Pirka had a key which opened this door, so she was able to go in and
out of the house unseen whenever she liked.

The object of this subterraneous way was to enable the headsman to
escape, in case robber bands besieged his house and drove him to
extremities. The little iron door led into a wood.

In the cellar was a flight of wooden steps leading up to a trapdoor.

Before quitting this corridor, Pirka wove out of the tow a huge
skein, which reached from one end of the corridor to the other, and
as she opened the door for Michal to go out, she hurled the burning
fagot into the tow.

"Why do you throw the fagot into the tow?" asked Michal.

"Because it would only betray us outside here; nor do we want it,
for the moon is still high."

"But the cellar might catch fire?"

"All the better for us, for then they will not be able to pursue us
that way if they find out how we have escaped."

"But if the cellar burn, the house may burn too."

"And what then? Is there anything burning there which my pretty
mistress or myself would greatly miss?"



CHAPTER XXIV.

A true relation of the thoughtlessness of youth, and
the artifices whereby women enthrall their lovers.


"I am afraid!" said Michal, when she found herself in the middle of
the dark forest.

"What's there to be afraid of?" cried Pirka. "The wild beasts, the
bears, and the wolves, have been scared away into other regions by
the shooting match between the county militia and the robbers, so
that they won't come back again in a hurry. The robber bands, too,
have been rooted out. At this moment they are dancing in the air
round the bastions of Eperies. We shall have peace and quiet now for
at least a year to come. Not that the people have been terrified by
the fate of the executed robbers; not a bit of it. On the contrary,
many a man will be thereby stimulated to live and die as bravely as
they have done. But it will be a year at least before the new robber
bands seek (and perhaps find) the treasures hidden by the older
ones. No amount of torture could force from the prisoners the secret
of their hidden treasures. They endured everything rather than give
up their gold and silver. Till there is another outbreak of
highwaymen, therefore, every traveler may go singing through the
woods without the slightest fear. From robbers and wild beasts you
are now quite secure."

"It is God that I am afraid of," said Michal.

The witch pressed the wrists of the young woman together till they
cracked again.

"If ever you dare to repeat that word again," said she, "I'll leave
you in the midst of this dark wood, and then you may either fly or
seek Him whom you fear so much; I'll wash my hands of you."

Then Michal said not another word, but followed the witch, who led
her so surely through the sylvan labyrinth that she actually stopped
at a place in the midst of the thickest thicket, drew a knife from
out of the trunk of a tree, and showed it to Michal.

"Look! This knife I stuck into that tree in the broad daylight, as I
passed by this way, and now I have found it again in darkest night."

Not an hour had passed, and the moon still stood in the sky, when
they arrived at the kopanitscha of Görgö.

"Here we stop," cried Pirka. "This is the house where the doves bill
one another on the gables."

Just then, however, all the doves were asleep; but in the courtyard
a woman was wandering about, who raised her hands toward the moon,
and made all sorts of frantic gestures.

Pirka greeted her with strangely sounding words, not one of which
Michal understood, and the kopanitschar's wife answered in the same
fashion.

"Have you offered up a witch's prayer, and if so, for what have you
prayed?"

"I have prayed that the devil may take the old vihodar."

"He has got him already. Janko bit him in the neck, and immediately
he was a dead man."

"Beelzebub be praised!" cried the kopanitschar's wife, and she
frisked about for joy.

"Cook us some supper, sisterkin," said Pirka to Annie.

"What sort of a guest have you brought me?" asked the latter.

"You know well enough without being told."

Then Annie recognized Michal, and laughed with all her might.
Witches always rejoice when they see an innocent soul rushing to
perdition.

With that the pair of them led her into the kitchen, and made a
great fire, on which they put sundry pots. But Pirka filled a
smaller pan with water, and after performing all sorts of mystic
hocus-pocus over it, put it also on the fire, first of all throwing
into it a scrap of paper, on which the word Valentine was written.

"What does that pot do on the fire?" asked Annie.

"As soon as all the water in it has boiled away, so that nothing
remains in it but the scrap of paper, my buck-goat will bring this
pretty little lady her stately lover. Make ready the supper, I say,
there will be five of us."

"I don't like odd numbers," said Annie; but she forthwith fell to
killing and plucking fowls, and baking little cakes.

Michal sat at the window and shivered.

During the cooking, Annie sang obscene flower songs, and Pirka kept
on drawing her pan away from the fire and putting it on again.

Annie asked her why she did that.

"When the water boils fiercely, my buck with the stately lover is
running so fast that the poor young man can hardly draw his breath;
but when I remove the pan from the fire, he goes along more quietly,
and the poor fellow can take breath again."

In ordinary circumstances Michal would have laughed aloud at such
superstition. But to-day she had gone through so many dreadful
things, and she was so staggered by the actual fulfillment of two of
the events predicted by Pirka's cards, that she dared not deny the
possibility of a third. Half of the witch's prophecy had already
come to pass. She had escaped from her husband's house, and was now
awaiting her lover in a strange place. Everything was possible after
that.

"He is coming now. He is quite near!" cried Pirka, looking into the
pan. "I already hear the galloping of my buck-goat, I already hear
his four feet on the roofs of the houses. Now he is springing over
the Krivan, now he is running along the Polish Saddle.[3] Hi! Hi!
How he is galloping! Quick, my little buck, quick! quick!"

[Footnote 3: Two of the Karpathian Alps.]

Michal's common sense was quite dazed by all these insane
proceedings. She was no longer mistress of herself.

"And now it's time to dress," continued Pirka, and with that she
took off Michal's peasant garb, and arrayed her in a rosy colored
robe. She laced tightly her bodice to show off her waist, and combed
out and plaited her long tresses to make them crisp and wavy. Her
sweetheart was coming, so she must look nice to please him. The
young lady was quite bewildered. She let them do what they liked
with her.

Outside the moon had gone down. It had grown quite dark. A silent,
starless night, dank with heavy falling dew.

"Now he'll be here almost directly," cried the witch, as the water
bubbled away at the bottom of the pan.

And now the blare of a farogato began to resound through the silent
night. Nearer and nearer came the music. Michal's heart beat
quickly. She recognized her favorite song. She scarcely knew whether
she was awake or dreaming, whether she was in the world or out of
it. There was a buzzing in her ears. The air around her was full of
dancing specters. Her body seemed too narrow for her soul. Nearer
and nearer came the song. At the bottom of the pan, the last drop
of water had long since evaporated.

"My buck-goat has arrived," cried the witch, in triumph.

At that moment, Valentine Kalondai entered and advanced toward
Michal.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was no longer joy, it was frenzy which took possession of the
young woman. Up she sprang with a shriek, and then threw herself on
her beloved's breast, wound her arms round his neck, pressed her
lips to his mouth as if she would have inhaled his very soul, and
wetted his cheeks with her tears.

How long did they hold each other thus embraced? An eternity
perhaps, like that which Mirza Shah experienced when, at the Persian
Magian's command, he crept under a tub, and dreamed away a whole
lifetime in a single moment. At least, Michal fancied that it must
have been a very long time, for on coming to herself again she said,
with a sigh: "What a pity that the morning is breaking! Look! there
is the dawn already?"

A great light had suddenly sprung up in the sky.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Barbara Pirka, "that certainly would be a
crazy sun which rose in the west! What you see there is the morning
sheen of hell. The house of the headsman is burning. A pretty dawn
that certainly!"

The fire threw a frightful blood-red glare over mountain and forest,
and gilded the white rocks in the distance as if they too were
flaming. The stars twinkled faintly through the ruddy glow.

"Now you may sleep in peace, my children," said Barbara Pirka. "By
the time the young vihodar returns, he will find only the ruins of
his house, and will fancy that his wife has been burnt likewise. He
will seek her no more on this earth."

"And even if he should seek her," cried Valentine defiantly, "I
would not give her up to him though heaven and earth commanded it. I
would rather get together a band of robbers and wage war against all
humanity, than allow my beloved to be ever torn from me again.
Whoever would take my Michal away from me must tear her from my arms
on the very scaffold."

And he smote the butt-end of his musket so violently on the ground,
that both the witches leaped up to the very ceiling for joy.

But Michal fell upon Valentine's neck and stammered:

"With thee by my side, I'll go forth into the wild forest and face
cold and tempest. With thee I'll brave death, yea, damnation itself.
I crave no other death than the death by which thou diest. I desire
no other eternity, be it bliss or woe, than the eternity which
unites our soul in one, my angel, my king, my sun!"

And Simplex thrust his trumpet through the window and sounded a
wedding march, which awoke the echoes in the neighboring hills.



CHAPTER XXV.

Man cannot fathom the wiles which witches imagine
when they unite in wedlock lovers whom they have
clandestinely brought together.


The kopanitschar's wife now brought in the supper, and all five of
them straightway sat down and made merry in honor of the festive
occasion. This done, the witches began to feel frisky, and called to
Simplex to bring out his trumpet into the courtyard and play them a
jig. He very complaisantly complied with this request, sat him down
on the edge of the well and made music for the ladies, while they,
taking each other by the hand, danced a dance which looked for all
the world as if they were possessed. Their wooden shoes rattled and
clattered, their disheveled tresses floated in the wind, and the
terrified bats flitted over their heads. The flames of the
headsman's house lit up this dance of witches, and the wild figures,
leaping in the blood-red glare, cast long, spasmodic shadows on the
whitewashed walls of the inn, just as if Beelzebub himself were
leading the frolic.

"Blow, blow, trumpeter!" they cried, and Simplex blew and blew till
his breast was nigh to bursting, and yet he was so bewitched that he
could not take the trumpet from his mouth, nay! he even felt
constrained to drum all the time with both his heels on the sides of
the well. If a good, honest Christian had come upon this spectacle
unawares, he would have been rooted to the ground with terror.

Meanwhile the lovers were left to themselves. They had quite enough
to tell each other. First, Valentine made Michal tell him of all the
horrors she had gone through, and what desperate suffering she had
endured, and then he related to her the many contrarieties which had
befallen himself. Of course, too, they did not forget to richly
indemnify each other for their past woes by a liberal exchange of
caresses. In particular, when Valentine recounted the history of
Jigerdilla, Michal did not grudge him an ample compensation for the
kisses which, for her sake, he had refused the Turkish lady. At the
same time Valentine treated his beloved as his bride indeed, but not
as his affianced wife.

At the first cockcrow the witches ceased to dance. Simplex they sent
into the loft to sleep of his fatigue. The kopanitschar's wife set
about preparing breakfast; but Pirka went into the room of the
lovers to ask them what they had been dreaming about. Then she sent
Valentine out, but whispered in his ear as she passed, that he might
peep through the window if he liked, and then she helped Michal on
with the cornflower-blue dress. After that she called the young man
in again.

Valentine was enchanted at the sight of the beautiful lady, and
protested that if she had looked in the first dress like a bride,
she looked in the second one like a saint on an altar screen. Pirka
thereupon pulled a very wry face, for she did not like to hear tell
of saints and altars. So she drove Valentine out again, and bade him
go wake his friend who had been dozing all night, and yet was as
heavy as ever. While Valentine was wrangling in the loft with
Simplex, who swore by hook and by crook that he had been trumpeting
all night long for the benefit of the witches, and had scarcely had
more than forty winks, Pirka took off Michal's blue dress which made
her look like a saint, and arrayed her in the purple one. When
Valentine saw her in this he declared that she now looked just like
a queen.

But the witches tried to persuade Simplex that he had only dreamt
that he had been playing all night, and that it was not from
overmuch blowing of trumpets but from excessive mastication at
supper the night before, that his jaws were so sore.

The lovers, too, protested that they had heard nothing of the whole
entertainment. They had been so much occupied with each other that
they had been unconscious of all else. They had not only not heard
the trumpet of Simplex, they had not even heard the clarion of the
Archangel Uriel who (according to the ancient formula: "Michal on my
right, Gabriel on my left, Raphael behind me, Israel before me,
Uriel above my head") flies above the head of each one of us, and
blows his clarion whenever we are about to plunge into some dreadful
danger. Well for us if we heed the warning!

But the lovers had heard nothing.

When Annie served the breakfast (goat's milk, cheese, and brandy
mixed with honey and sugar), Valentine's spirits rose so high that
he vowed over again what he had already vowed the night before,
viz.: that if anyone tore away his Michal from him, he would turn
highwayman and gather a robber band around him.

But women have, generally speaking, more common sense in the broad
light of day than they have at dead of night; so Michal now said
that it need not come to that. Valentine must take her back to her
father's house. There she would bring a divorce suit against her
husband on the plea that he had married her in a wrong name and
under false pretenses, and that his marriage with her was
consequently invalid. As soon then as the marriage was dissolved,
Valentine must come forward and woo her, when she certainly would
not send him away with a flea in his ear.

At this Barbara Pirka burst into a peal of laughter.

"Trust to parsons, and you'll soon see what a pretty dance they'll
lead you! The parsons have many creases in their surplices, and they
shake a fresh ordinance out of every crease. Do what you say, by all
means! Bring your action against Henry Vihodar, formerly clerk in
holy orders, and now headsman, and you'll find that justice is on
the side of the longest purse. It is true that the vihodar's house
is merrily burning, but his treasures in the basement of the tower
cannot be burnt, and he will be a very rich man. He'll confront you
with a dozen witnesses who will testify that the Keszmár professor
knew very well what his son-in-law's trade was. He will manufacture
forged letters with false seals, and what will be the end of it all?
Why, Squire Valentine will be found guilty of abduction and put out
of the way. No, no! don't go to law. You'll get no good by it.
Besides, I've a much better plan."

"Let's hear it then. But mind! I mean to be my Valentine's wife, not
his mistress," said Michal.

"Yes, the pretty lady shall become her Valentine's wife, but she
must listen to me. She knows now that my cards always speak the
truth. So hearken to me, my children! You go out, Annie! We don't
want you prying here. You, Simplex, can stay where you are, for you
know how to hold your tongue."

So Annie went away, and as soon as she was out of hearing, Pirka, in
a low whisper, began to expound her crafty scheme.

"Listen now! Not far from here is a town called Bártfa. Every town,
as you know, has its peculiar laws and customs. At Kassa, for
instance, clandestine lovers caught together are beheaded. At
Bártfa they are much more cruel. There, if a lass accosts a lad in
the streets after vespers, or if a lad is caught talking with a
lassie in a gateway, the watchman lays hands on the pair and claps
them into jail. Next morning, without any of the usual preliminary
fiddle-faddle, without even asking for their baptismal certificate
or requiring the consent of their parents, or obtaining a special
license or dispensation, the magistrates send for a parson and
splice them straight off. Only as man and wife are they permitted to
pass through the city gates. Hence the proverb:

    If thou comest from Bártfa without a wife,
    Good luck will befriend thee the rest of thy life.

And a marriage contracted at Bártfa is valid everywhere."

"But," sagely objected Michal, "supposing one of the parties be
already married?"

"Then both parties are publicly scourged to death. But I've taken
precautions against that also. My late pretty mistress, the young
vihodar's wife, is no more. Her father fancies that he has married
her to the pastor of Great Leta; but his reverence also is no longer
to be found on the face of the earth. The people of Great Leta have
already provided themselves with another curer of souls, and his
wife is an old woman with a hunch on her back. Henry Vihodar firmly
believes that his wife has perished in his burning house, from
which, indeed, no living soul could possibly have escaped when once
the sulphur and the tar caught fire. Besides, the young headsman
will soon marry again. So you two must come along with me to Bártfa,
where I'll pretend that the pretty lady is my daughter, and will put
her out to service. You, squire, must seek a farm laborer's place in
the same town. The rest depends entirely on yourselves. If once you
are caught together, you'll not be allowed to depart thence except
as man and wife, and then you can go to---- Where did you say you
lived?"

It was just on the tip of Valentine's tongue to say Kassa, when
Simplex anticipated him and said Klausenburg, which is in the
opposite direction. For it is also the duty of a true friend when he
sees that his comrade cannot lie, to lie for him. And here it was
very necessary not to let the witch know where Valentine lived, lest
she might take it into her head, at some future day, to pay him and
his wife a visit when they least desired it.

"Very well," pursued the witch, "then you can go to Klausenburg and
take your marriage certificate with you. No one will think of asking
any further questions. People will say, they've been married at
Bártfa, and no more will be said about it. Are you pleased with my
plan?"

They were so pleased with it that they fell to kissing each other
over and over again, and in their joy had almost wasted a kiss or
two on Pirka herself, which would have been a useless piece of
extravagance.

"But we cannot take service with all our silk clothes and gewgaws,"
said Pirka. "We must put on the rustic dress in which we came
hither."

Michal readily consented to this change of raiment, and going into
the adjoining room, she took off her dress, her earrings, and her
necklace. Her three dresses and all her jewels she gave to Pirka,
who had calculated on obtaining these perquisites all along.

"Do you think Valentine will like me in this dress?" asked the
pretty young lady, as she put on her sober weeds again.

"It won't quite do yet," said Pirka. "Even through this rustic garb
people might easily spy out the fine lady. We cannot take service
with this rose and milk complexion, for everyone would immediately
ask us out of what castle we had escaped. We must find a remedy
against that also. We must make freckles on our cheeks and
foreheads, so that we may not look so pretty."

"But will Valentine love me if I am ugly?"

"Sweetheart! he would love you even if you were as hideous as I am."

With that, the witch took freshly plucked wolf's milk flowers, the
juice of which rubbed into the skin leaves behind spots resembling
freckles which cannot be washed away by water, and only very
gradually fade away. Pirka well rubbed Michal's face with the juice
of the wolf's milk flowers till she was as speckled and as spotted
as a pea hen. It was as well that there was no mirror at hand to
tell pretty Michal what a fright she had become.

This done, Pirka led her back to Valentine, and said to him: "Well!
how does my serving wench please you?" But he, without troubling
himself in the least about the freckles, embraced his beloved as
fervently as before.

When, however, the kopanitschar's wife came in again and saw the
ugly serving maid, she asked what had become of the wondrously
beautiful lady who had lately been there.

Pirka replied that she had bestraddled a broomstick, flown out of
the window, and left this wench behind in her stead.

Annie believed Pirka, and bawled to Michal to take herself off and
feed the swine.

So little did she recognize Michal.

Then Pirka took her bundle on her back and went off with Michal and
Valentine to show them the way to Bártfa, while Simplex stayed
behind with the kopanitschar's wife, so that in case the headsman's
assistants should stop there for a drink on their way back from
Eperies, he might give them an earful of lies. And that is really
what he did do. Simplex actually saw and spoke to Henry himself, and
made him believe that he, Simplex, had stood close to the burning
house, and seen and heard the two women shrieking for help behind a
window; but no one could get at them, and the whole tower in which
they were had been burnt to the ground. Henry Catsrider, therefore,
might be quite sure that he had become an orphan and a widower on
the same day.

At Bártfa, meanwhile, Pirka got Michal a place in a respectable
shopkeeper's family, where they willingly took her in because she
was so very plain. It was a sort of guarantee that no one would
attempt to court her, and thereby deprive them of a useful servant.

Yet even this maid only kept her place for three days, for on the
evening of the fourth day, they caught her talking in a gateway with
a farm laborer from over the way, who had only come to Bártfa a few
days before. The guilty pair were immediately seized; for the people
of Bártfa, who took good care never to fall into their own mouse
traps, were immensely delighted whenever they could catch strangers
in them. So both man and maid were committed to jail, and taken next
day before the clergyman, when they were married in due form and
then discharged. In the marriage certificate handed to them on their
departure, Valentine Kalondai's name stood there right enough, but
Michal was therein described as Milly Barbara.

Neither of them reflected, at the time, that this was a false
certificate; all that they then thought about was that they at last
belonged to each other.

Barbara Pirka had kept very quiet till after the wedding was over,
and then Valentine gave her all the money he had about him (some
hundred and fifty ducats or so), only keeping enough to buy victuals
for his wife and himself on their way home. Then he said to Pirka:

"Now we are going to Transylvania, but you had better go to Poland,
for here you might be called to account for the valuables in your
possession."

Pirka laughed.

"I am going, I am going, and I will not stop till I get to Poland. I
know that you are very fond of me, children; yet for all that you
would like to see two foreign lands lying between me and you."

And at that time two foreign lands really did lie between
Transylvania and Poland. The chroniclers called them Hungary and
Turkey.



CHAPTER XXVI.

The mummery receives its due punishment;
nevertheless, Mercy and Compassion come to the
mummer's aid, and deliver her out of all her
troubles.


When Valentine got home to Kassa, he introduced his beloved Milly to
his mother with these words:

"My dear lady mother! you used to say that if she whom I love were
even a poor serving maid, you would not consider her origin too
curiously, but if only she had a good heart, would accept her as
your daughter-in-law. Well! See now, I've brought you my beloved
wife, and here she is!"

Milly's face, we may add, was still terribly disfigured by the
freckles which the wolf's milk flower juice had eaten into her skin.

Good Dame Sarah smote her hands together.

"Well, my dear son! I'll only say that if this was the young person
for whose sake you could desert your mother, and rather endure the
Turkish slavery than renounce her and play her false--then, I say
you are as immovable as Mount Sion itself; and if you can really
love this young person so very much she must have within her
hundreds of good qualities."

"And so indeed she has," returned Valentine, and he there and then
kissed Milly's freckled face. What cared he though the whole world
thought his wife ugly, so long as he knew that she was beautiful?

In the very first week of their acquaintance, Dame Sarah severely
tested her daughter-in-law in every possible way, and discovered
that she was an angel from the crown of her head to the soles of her
feet. She was dutiful, obedient, not fastidious in her work, brisk,
cleanly, early to rise and late to bed, sweet-tempered, a great
stopper-at-home, modest, and shamefaced. And Dame Sarah had made up
her mind to be very strict with her; to find fault with everything
she did; and scold and chide her on every possible occasion. But
this scolding and chiding was heavenly music to poor Milly's ears,
compared with what she had been obliged to endure at that other
house, so that the only effect of Dame Sarah's fiercest anger on
Milly was to make her kiss her mother-in-law's hands and thank her
for the scolding with tears of gratitude. It was equally true,
indeed, that it was extremely difficult for Dame Sarah to be really
angry. Her face was so round that no wrinkling of her forehead could
make it look angular, and her voice was so soft that even her
chiding seemed like friendly coaxing. Milly had never known a
mother. It had always been the wish of her heart to find a mother in
her husband's house. And now she had found what she had wished for;
and her soul was satisfied.

When Valentine brought Milly home, she possessed nothing in the
world but the clothes on her back. Dame Sarah chided her
daughter-in-law again and again because of her bad and scanty
attire. Then she bought her woolen stuff for a suit of clothes, cut
out the pattern herself, and threw it to Milly, that she might make
herself a dress by next Sunday, with which to go to church and show
herself among respectable people.

And Michal had to pretend that she did not understand a word of what
her mother-in-law explained to her. She who had manufactured the
most recondite tarts and cakes at home, and had been far famed as a
model housewife, now listened in silence while her mother-in-law
told her how a simple soup was made! She dared not even betray her
knowledge of needlework and millinery. She dared not say that she
could stitch beautifully, and even weave lace. She who was so clever
with her fingers now stitched so clumsily that Dame Sarah had to
take half her work to pieces again. She held her needle so
awkwardly, and her stitches were so irregular, and full of knots and
crinkles, that when she tried on her Sunday dress, which had cost
her so much trouble, it was found to be a perfectly absurd misfit.
In front it was too long, and behind it was too short; where it
ought to have fitted tightly it bulged out, and _vice versa_.

And yet this dress pleased her.

And, stranger still, her husband liked her in it too.

The town of Kassa had a lot to say about the lady whom Valentine had
brought home as his wife.

"Ah, well! such a treasure was quite worth the trouble which Squire
Valentine took to discover it!"

"But, at least, she is of very distinguished parentage: her father
was lord-lieutenant of the sheep!"

"Such a beauty has not been seen in Kassa for many a long day!"

"And all that is as nothing compared with her riches. Why, when she
climbs up a nut tree to hang out the clothes, she leaves nothing
behind her that she can call her own!"

Everyone looked forward to the day when Dame Sarah would present her
daughter-in-law to her acquaintances, the notabilities of Kassa.

And what would they have said if they only could have seen her in a
dress of her own making!

The anxiously awaited Sunday dawned at last. In the early morning,
however, a sergeant came and tapped at Valentine's window, awoke
him from his slumbers, and told him that his captain, Count
Hommonai, commanded him to mount his horse at once, and ride into
the market place fully armed.

Valentine was still a soldier, a corporal in fact. Obey he must. He
therefore took leave of his mother and his wife, armed himself, and
was at his post at the appointed time. Thence, without showing the
slightest regard for the sacredness of the Sabbath, the captain
marched off his troops straightway, for tidings had come that a host
of Turks had penetrated as far as Naggy Ida, burning all the hamlets
in their way. Count Hommonai, therefore, did not take very long to
reflect, but quickly collected two hundred horsemen, and set out
from Kassa to chastise the Turkish marauders.

Thus it was that Milly or Michal was left entirely in charge of Dame
Sarah.

Early in the morning the young lady put on the new dress that was so
admirably adapted to spoil her pretty figure altogether. Then she
prepared to go to church.

When she was quite ready, Dame Sarah said to her: "Take off that
dress, you shall not go to church in that, but in another."

And with that she opened her lofty wardrobe and took out her own
beautiful silk dress which she had worn in her younger days, her
bodice embroidered with gold flowers, her apron fringed with broad
lace, her costly cambric pocket-handkerchief, and gave them all to
her daughter-in-law, and while she laced the bodice on to Michal's
slim waist, she said, with great self-complacency: "I was just as
slim myself, dear, in the first years of my marriage. In those days
this was my gala costume, I've never worn it since."

Then she put her beautiful gold-laced coif on Michal's head, and
praised at the same time her daughter-in-law's lovely hair. That, at
any rate, was a thing of beauty, let her face be never so ugly.

Then she took her gorgeously attired daughter-in-law along with her,
first of all thrusting into her right hand the best bound prayer
book with a posy in it. How Michal's silk dress rustled as she
walked along the streets!

The young wife was perfectly happy, not so much because she actually
wore the silk dress, as because Valentine's mother thought her
worthy to wear it.

Yet her happiness was only to last till she got to church.

The old cathedral of Kassa had again fallen into the hands of the
Protestants, and they now held divine service in it. The first row
of pews was assigned to the wives of eminent burgesses who had held
office in the town. Among them sat Dame Sarah, for her late husband
had been sheriff, and she herself was a rich woman.

In the corner pew sat the wife of old Fürmender. With her pointed
nose and large gray coif, she resembled a guinea fowl, and when she
spoke the resemblance was more striking than ever. Beside her sat
her maiden daughter, and next to her there was room for a dozen more
at the very least.

When Dame Sarah and pretty Michal came to the pew Dame Fürmender
rose from her place and let Dame Sarah pass in, but when Michal
tried to follow her, Dame Fürmender sat back in her place again,
thrust her elbows on to the desk in front, and would not let Michal
pass.

"Servants must sit in the back seats," said she.

"That is the wife of my son Valentine," cried Dame Sarah, much hurt.

"He too is nothing but an expelled student and a common soldier,"
replied Dame Fürmender, who excelled at repartee.

At this Michal burst into tears.

She was not distressed on her own account, but she could not bear to
hear her husband run down.

And now all the women crowded together at the corner of the pew, and
turned their backs upon her just to let her know that there was no
room for her anywhere.

Poor Michal could have sunk into the ground for shame, when all at
once a wondrously beautiful, handsomely dressed lady stepped out of
a richly carved pew covered with heraldic emblazonments which stood
close to the central column, hastened toward Michal, and said to
her: "What! is there no room for the young lady? Pray come into my
pew, there is room enough there." And with that she took pilloried
Michal by the hand, led her to her own pew, made her sit down beside
her, and pushed toward her her beautiful gold-clasped prayer book,
so that they might both sing out of it together.

Now this lady was the Countess Isabella Hommonai the wife of the
Captain-General and Commander of Kassa, whom the latter, as we have
already mentioned, had married a short time before.

The whole sisterhood of backbiters was most cruelly checkmated,
their vexation nearly choked them.

But Michal, with streaming eyes, prayed the Almighty to protect her
beloved Valentine in his present great peril, save him from wounds
and captivity, and bring him back safe and sound. She had nothing
else to pray for.

And when divine service was over, the countess did not consider it
beneath her dignity to accompany Michal out of church, waited in
the porch for Dame Sarah, and then said to Michal, who gratefully
kissed her hand, that she must make haste and come and pay her a
visit at the castle.

All the other women heard it and were ready to burst for envy.



CHAPTER XXVII.

Wherein is shown how great a force the will of a
woman is, and how quickly it can alter the order of
things which man devises.


Three days later, Count Hommonai brought back his forces, after
successfully driving the Turkish freebooters into the neighboring
county; it was for the neighboring county to drive them on still
further.

Valentine came riding safe and sound into his own courtyard, and
great was Michal's joy when she saw him return in such a merry mood.
Nevertheless, she surrendered the first kisses to her mother-in-law.

"Well, have you cut down many Turks?" inquired Dame Sarah.

"I've felled a few, but I did not count how many."

"I'm only glad they've done you no harm," said Michal joyfully.

"You've been praying for me, darling, have you not? Were you not in
church, did you sit by my mother?"

"Oh, no!" cried Dame Sarah, eager to tell everything. "That wicked
old Fürmender woman would not let her come into the pew. She said to
her: 'Servant maids must sit behind.' And do you know who it was
that found her a seat after all? Why the good Countess Hommonai!
Yes, the countess herself actually made Michal come and sit down
beside her in her own beautiful pew."

Valentine snatched his cap from his head as if the countess stood
before him in person.

"God bless her for it! You thanked her for her graciousness, I
hope?"

"At the time we hardly knew what to say, we were so confused; but
her ladyship has invited Michal to the castle."

"And have you been?"

"Not yet, I waited for you. We must go together."

Valentine scratched his head.

"With Count Hommonai I should think nothing of going against a whole
host of dog-headed Tartars, but how can I approach the countess? She
is such a fine lady, and I am such a stupid blockhead."

But he had to go all the same, and that at once, for scarcely had he
had time to change his clothes when the captain's carriage drove up
to the door, and a heyduke brought the message that the count and
countess wished to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Kalondai.

"Well, I don't know what will be the end of it," stammered
Valentine. He was so nervous that he could not even tie his
neckerchief properly, and kept on buttoning his coat at one moment a
button too high, and at another a button too low, so that he had to
begin it all over again.

But he had to go, for the carriage was waiting outside.

Dame Sarah now gave her daughter-in-law another dress to wear, a
trifle simpler than the former one, and hung a handsome mantle round
her shoulders.

The Countess Hommonai come forward to meet her guests to the very
door of the room, and received Michal with great cordiality.

"And to think, my dear!" said she, "that while I was delivering you
out of the hands of the Philistines last Sunday, your husband should
be rescuing mine from the hands of the Turks! But you have heard
all about it already, I dare say?"

"I have heard nothing. My husband never boasts of his exploits."

"He never boasts, eh? Then he's all the more a man."

Valentine grew fiery red.

They had got thus far, when the count himself entered the countess's
chamber. And he was as handsome a man as she was a woman. He had
long, chestnut-brown hair rolling down his shoulders, red cheeks, an
open forehead, a well-twisted mustache, and a stately figure.

And the count also was very kind to them both, and ignoring
altogether the fact that he was a magnate and a captain, while
Valentine was only a simple gentleman and a corporal, he held out
his hand and shook Valentine's so vigorously that Valentine grew
visibly.

But the countess made Michal sit down beside her on the sofa, which
was covered with a beautiful gobelin.

Valentine thought that Michal, now that she was in polite society,
would put on the fine manners she had learnt at home and thus betray
herself. All the more pleasantly surprised was he, therefore, when
he saw that Milly could clean forget Michal, so well did she know
how to fall into the ways of the rustics. First of all, she shyly
hesitated to sit down at all. Then she dusted the corner of the sofa
a little with her skirt before sitting down on the edge of it, just
as the country people are wont to do, at which the countess secretly
smiled.

"Yes, my husband would certainly at this moment be a prisoner among
the Turks," said the countess to Milly, "if your husband had not
saved him. Mine had ventured forward a little too far. When the
Turks had been put to flight, and the hussars were busy tying the
prisoners together in couples, my lord captain took it into his
head to capture the pasha single-handed. The pasha, however, had
already taken to his heels, and nobody had a horse swift enough to
catch him but my husband, who accordingly overtook and captured him.
But while he was securing him, up came the pasha's attendants, who
threw a hair lasso round my husband's neck and pulled him from his
horse. Then they began to hale him away, when Kalondai perceived the
danger of his captain, and dashed forward at the head of two of his
men. The Turks, overtaken, and thus prevented from dragging away my
husband alive, at once resolved to kill him, and one of them drew a
saber to cut off his head. But Kalondai was quicker than the Turk,
and cut him down with a single blow. Thus he saved my husband's life
and liberty. The mark of the cord is still visible on my husband's
neck, and the cord itself (which he has brought home with him) I
shall always preserve among my curiosities. So now you see how well
we did in praying together out of the same prayer book. You have a
brave husband!"

Valentine's heart swelled with pride at this great praise.

"And he shall be rewarded for his valor," put in the count. "I'll
give him the pick of the prisoners and of the captured horses, and I
make him my lieutenant besides."

"I thank my gracious lord for his goodness," replied Valentine (he
was never at a loss when he had men to deal with, it was only with
women that he felt shy); "if I may choose, I'll pick out from among
the captives a good-natured fellow of humble rank who may help my
mother in her household duties. A horse I don't want. I am content
with that I have. But if my lord captain will do me a favor, I beg
of him a better horse for my comrade Simplex, the field-trumpeter,
for his present nag is lame. As to my promotion to the rank of
lieutenant, I thank my lord captain for it, but I must decline it.
That is no post for one like me who has never learnt the art of war.
I should like, however, to make another request of my gracious lord.
It is the inmost wish of my poor mother that I should relieve her of
the cares of the business, which is a heavy burden to her. I
therefore beg permission to leave the service that I may carry on
the trade of a butcher."

The count laughed.

"But you have clean forgotten one of your best arguments: 'As I have
only just been married, I would much rather remain at home with my
wife than scamper after the foe!' You are right. I would say the
same if I only could. I'll release you at once from your military
service."

"But not that you may become a butcher," said the countess. "A man
like you deserves a better place. The post of castellan has become
vacant, and my husband has the gift of it. My dear, you must make
Mr. Kalondai our castellan."

"It shall be done," declared the count.

"Alas, your ladyship!" cried Milly, when she saw that her husband
could not immediately find an answer, "I fear me greatly that my
husband will never do for such a post as that. He is, like me, very
ignorant. He did not learn very much at school and they kicked him
out at last. Now, a castellan has to speak with many great lords,
and read many letters which are written in Latin and German, and
even French perhaps. How could my poor dear husband read and answer
all these letters? A mischief would surely come of it."

"I tell you what," said the countess; "I know Latin, German, and
French. Come to me at the castle twice a day, and I'll instruct you
in all those languages. Nay, you must. I have nothing else to do,
and what you learn from me you must teach your husband at home, and
thus he will very soon know everything required of him in his new
office."

"That will do very well," said the count.

Now it would have been downright rudeness to have rejected such a
generous offer. A greater reward and distinction they could not have
desired. Nevertheless, they resolved to keep the matter secret and
not even tell it to Dame Sarah, who would certainly have boasted of
it all over the town. All they let her know was that the countess
had permitted Milly to come to the castle daily to learn cookery
from her cook and stitching from her housekeeper. Now _we_ know that
Milly could do all these things ever so long ago; but the
astonishment of Dame Sarah was great indeed when her
daughter-in-law, every time she returned from the castle, proceeded
to manufacture some new cake or pastry, while she soon hemmed
handkerchiefs so beautifully that it was a marvel how she did it.

It was also a great surprise for Dame Sarah when Valentine chose for
her from among the imprisoned Turks a good-humored fellow who had
been a butcher's apprentice in his native place. To him the shop
could safely be intrusted, for a Turk, when properly treated, is an
upright, diligent, and sober servant, and devoted to his master.
Dame Sarah treated him like her own son, and would not allow him to
be branded, as was usually done in those days.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

Wherein occur such astounding transformations that
people are scarcely able to recognize their very
selves. Michal, however, is calumniated in a matter
wherein she is absolutely innocent.


However great was the astonishment of Dame Sarah at Milly's rapid
proficiency in the culinary and other female sciences, it was as
nothing compared with the astonishment of the Countess Hommonai at
the swift apprehension of her pupil. You had only to read a passage
over to her once, and she immediately knew it by heart, and what is
more, never again forgot it. She could repeat one hundred foreign
words after hearing them pronounced for the first time. "This young
woman is a genius," said the countess to her husband. She had no
idea that her pupil had learnt long ago what she was now teaching
her.

Moreover, the countess gradually weaned her from all her boorish
habits, and accustomed her to polite manners, which Milly
appropriated all the more readily as they were what she had always
been used to, whereas her rusticity was a mere disguise and
pretense.

Wonderful, too, was the scientific progress which Milly brought
about in worthy Valentine, her husband.

For Valentine had taken her at her word, and made it the goal of his
ambition to obtain the post of castellan, so that his wife might
enjoy the title of châtelaine. And wondrous indeed were his advances
on the path of learning. Perhaps, too, Valentine might have proved
an apter scholar in his younger days if grammar and syntax had only
been recited to him by such sweet lips, and if the _hic_, _hæc_,
_hoc_ had been impressed upon him with sweet kisses instead of with
_ferula_ and _signum_. Perhaps, too, the stronger will that goes
hand in hand with mental maturity helped him more quickly onward.

After some months he had got on so well that he could not only
clearly expound the Latin and German letters which the count laid
before him, but could even reply to them; nay, even in French he got
so far that no one could have cheated him in a bargain conducted in
that language.

So Milly was instructed by the countess, and Valentine was
instructed by Milly, and all three took delight in the progress that
was being made.

"What a pity it is," said the countess to her husband on one
occasion, "that such a clever, highly endowed young woman, who has
such a fine figure, such good features, and such a pleasant manner,
should be disfigured by so many hideous freckles. If only we could
remedy this evil! I have a wash, the famous Aqua Regina, which dates
from the days of Elizabeth, the mother of our king, Louis the Great;
my face is quite smooth and soft from using it--let us try it on
her, perhaps it will do something to remove these hideous freckles."

Milly dared not assent at once, but said she must first ask her
husband if he wished her face to be free from freckles, as it was
with her freckled face that he had fallen in love originally. She
must also communicate beforehand with her mother-in-law, as that
lady might possibly regard her daughter-in-law's endeavor to
beautify her face as a species of coquetry.

But both Valentine and his mother acquiesced in the experiment. They
said that a medicament which the countess used herself could not
possibly do Milly any harm.

The disfiguring freckles which had been produced by the juice of the
euphorbia naturally vanished from Michal's face after she had washed
herself twice or thrice with the Aqua Regina. In a few days she had
quite a different appearance. She got a white and red complexion,
and a skin as pure as dew. The countess was triumphant with joy that
her wash should have produced such a marvelous effect, and Dame
Sarah also was beside herself with astonishment when she saw her
daughter-in-law growing daily in grace and beauty; but the happiest
of all was Valentine, as he gradually won back his adored Michal,
whom he regarded as the fairest, best, and wisest woman in the whole
world.

The ladies of Kassa, however, were by no means disposed to regard
this wondrous transformation with favorable eyes. At that time (now,
of course, it is quite different) the complexions of the fair Kassa
burgesses, owing to the bad spring water, the close air, the sour
wine, but also and especially to the plague which broke out there on
the average every seven years--the complexions of the fair Kassa
burgesses, I say, were then of that peculiar yellowish tinge which
in the faces of the Venetian ladies is called _morbidezza_, but
which in Hungary usually went by the name of the Kassa color. Lest,
however, we should be saddled with the charge of calumny, we hasten,
in our justification, to cite the following words from one of the
original sources of our present history: "The people, more
particularly the women folk, are of a pale and yellow color, which
in Hungary is called the Kassa color." (_Vide_ Johan Christopher
Wagner's "Town and History Mirror," 1687.)

That, however, was two hundred years ago. Nowadays, the complexion
of the ladies of Kassa, like the complexions of their fair sisters
elsewhere, consists of roses and lilies; and it is also no longer
true what the same author says of the wine of Kassa, to wit, that it
gives foreigners the gout.

Now when the women at morning service in church on Christmas Day
perceived Milly sitting demurely in the countess's pew, they were
scandalized beyond expression at her red and white cheeks, on which
not the smallest freckle was to be seen.

They could not of course insult her to her face, because her
distinguished patroness was present; but they put their heads
together in the vestry, and quitted it with the steadfast
determination to submit the case to the consideration of the dean.

Dame Fürmender took it upon herself to be the mouthpiece of the
pious sisterhood. She informed the dean that a young woman had come
to church that very morning with her cheeks painted white and red,
which lewd and unchristian conduct had sorely troubled the whole of
the pious congregation.

There was service again in the afternoon, when the very reverend
gentleman was wont to catechize. For in those days it was the custom
for young persons, both bachelors and spinsters, and especially
young married people from foreign parts, to be called forth into the
midst of the congregation and be catechized by the very reverend
gentleman in front of the Lord's Table; so that it might be made
manifest whether they were well grounded in the principles of the
creed and the confession, and also that they might confess publicly,
before the whole church, that they belonged to the true evangelical
Christian faith; lest at the distribution of the Lord's Supper, on
the following day, the bread and wine might be given to such as did
not even know why the sacred elements were so given, or lest those
should communicate who were morally unworthy so to do.

The first person whom the very reverend gentleman called up that
afternoon was the young wife of Valentine Kalondai.

Milly rose from her place and stepped modestly but fearlessly
forward. She felt quite secure, for she knew her whole catechism by
heart. It came as easy to her as the Paternoster.

But great was her astonishment when the very reverend gentleman,
instead of questioning her on the mystery of the Trinity or as to
the necessity of communicating in both kinds, roughly addressed her
as follows:

"Dost thou know, pious Christian lady! the commandment of God which
forbids all the faithful daughters of his Church to make of the face
which he of his grace has given to each one of them, another face
after the manner of the heathen, by anointing it with all kinds of
false and meretricious salves as the daughters of Midian were wont
to do?"

Milly answered with a perfectly clear conscience:

"I know it."

"Then, if thou knowest it, wherefore doest thou the contrary?"

"My countenance is just as God has made it," replied Milly, with a
tranquil heart.

"If what thou hast said be true, come wash thyself herein!"

The very reverend gentleman beckoned, and the sacristan placed on
the marble font a large silver basin full of crystal clear water.

Milly most willingly washed her face in the basin, and after she had
done so, the water was as pure as it had been before.

"And now wipe thy face with this!"

With that he handed the young woman a towel, with which she rubbed
her face all over with all her might, yet not the smallest trace of
anything red or white was to be seen upon the snowy napkin, while
her face had only become rosier than ever from the scrubbing.

The dean was astonished.

"How comes it," cried he, "that thy face, which was once so full of
freckles, is now without a single speck upon it?"

"Freckles always disappear in winter," answered Milly.

And that was no more than the truth. From many faces freckles
disappear in winter, and it was just then the very depth of winter.

At this, the very reverend gentleman grew very wroth. He struck the
table violently with his book, and stretching forth his hand,
exclaimed:

"Then thou hast been foully calumniated by thine accuser, Dame
Fürmender, the wife of Augustus Zwirina, who, by way of punishment
for such a calumny, is excluded from to-morrow's communion."

Dame Fürmender, who was sitting in the corner of the front pew,
where everyone could see it, got up, courtesied, and went straight
out of the church.

But the dean kept Michal back in order to catechize her, and began
to put various questions to her, which she answered so promptly and
so correctly that he was perfectly delighted. He absolutely could
not leave off catechizing her.

He went out of his way to find harder and ever harder questions, to
every one of which the lady nevertheless found an appropriate
answer, so that at last the audience began to whisper to each other
that the maids of Bártfa must be as learned as chaplains. Finally
the dean sent her back to her place with a warm eulogy and his
benediction.

Thus the day on which Michal was to have been put to shame ended
with her exaltation and the utter discomfiture of her calumniators.
Dame Sarah was naturally triumphant, but she was not more delighted
than the good Countess Hommonai, who justly imagined that Michal had
her to thank for all her knowledge.

And the countess was quite right in thinking so, for though it is
true that Milly had originally received her beauty and her wisdom
from God, nevertheless, both her bodily and her spiritual
excellences had been so completely killed and buried by the
contrarieties of fate that their resurrection might well be regarded
as the work of the countess.



CHAPTER XXIX.

Concerning a terribly great contest, from which it
will be seen that where his spouse's honor was
concerned, Valentine put no bounds to his fury.


But all this was not enough for Valentine. Henceforward he went
about like a raging lion, and whenever he talked with anyone in the
street, his gestures were those of a man who is about to pull up his
shirt sleeves for a fight.

At last he fell in with Simplex.

"I must trounce someone to-day, or else I shall certainly get the
fever or the jaundice. Friend Simplex, if ever you were my good
comrade, if the health of your friend is at all dear to you, find me
someone on whom I can vent my wrath."

"Most willingly, my dear good comrade, I'll find you someone."

"Anyone will do. I don't care who it is, a sword-eater, a
stone-breaker, a giant! I'll fight him. A woman has insulted me, but
I cannot take revenge upon a woman. Procure me, from somewhere or
other, a man whom I can trample underfoot. Bring me a Turkish pasha,
or a robber chieftain, or a dog-headed Tartar, that I may devour
him."

"I need not look so far as that. I'll find you an antagonist much
nearer home. If you want such a one, know that you have no greater
enemy than young Ignatius Fürmender, or Zwirina. You have been
insulted by his mother; the son must now pay for the mother's
rudeness."

"You've hit it," cried Valentine, giving Simplex a mighty blow on
the back from sheer friendship. "Not in vain do they call you
knowing. He never once occurred to me. To think that I should be
looking everywhere for a foe, when he is under my nose all the time.
It is just like the man who went in search of the horse on which he
was actually riding. Here! take my glove and this gulden, and notify
to the sheriff that I challenge Ignatius Zwirina to break a lance
with me."

Simplex accepted the commission, went straight to the sheriff, and
informed him that Valentine Kalondai desired to challenge Ignatius
Zwirina to fight him with lances, according to ancient law and
custom. The sheriff made a note thereof, and took the deposited
gulden, at the same time calling Simplex's attention to the fact
that as the city found the lances, each of the combatants would have
to pay a Hungarian gulden extra for every lance that broke in his
hand. Thereupon he handed him a written permission, duly sealed with
the seal of the city of Kassa, for Valentine Kalondai to challenge
Ignatius Zwirina to fight him with lances, according to ancient law
and custom, as prescribed by the statutes of the city of Kassa.

Thus provided with the official authorization, Simplex, accompanied
by the town trumpeter, next proceeded to the house of the Zwirina
family, and finding the door closed, bade the trumpeter blow a
flourish three times, and then proclaimed the challenge before the
crowd, which had in the meantime assembled in the streets:

"Ignatius Zwirina! With the permission and consent of the sheriff of
Kassa, I hereby challenge you in the name of the good and valiant
Valentine Kalondai, to break with him, according to ancient law and
custom, one, two, or three lances, as the case may be. Take this
glove, and on the first day of carnival appear on the ropewalk
behind the townhall, duly armed and mounted, to answer the challenge
in your own person, if you would be regarded as a stout-hearted
fellow and not as an errand-boy of your lady-mother."

Then the trumpeter sounded three more flourishes, and Simplex nailed
Valentine's glove to the Zwirinas' door.

There the glove remained till Twelfthnight. Nobody took it down. For
according to the statute all such duels had to be fought out between
Twelfthnight and Shrovetide, whereby all and sundry were given to
understand that the town council regarded such combats as mere
carnival frolics. This wise ordinance assumed that the hot-blooded
youth of the parish had their fling during Shrovetide. If anyone
felt as if he did not know what to do with himself, it was open to
him to fight to his heart's content during the prescribed season and
have done with it, for, Shrovetide over, it was strictly forbidden
to break the peace, or in any way disturb or harass one's neighbors.
It was also generally found that after all such combats the young
fellows, even when they had belabored each other most soundly,
became the best friends in the world, and it was considered the most
shameful cowardice to bewail the bumps and bruises dealt out on such
occasions, be they what they might.

It was also considered equally disgraceful when the person so
challenged did not appear on the field of battle at the appointed
day and hour. Now this was the case with Ignatius Zwirina, who had
no very fervent desire to make the acquaintance of Valentine
Kalondai's cudgel.

Epiphany arrived, and the whole youth of the parish, as well as the
officials appointed to watch the proceedings and keep order, waited
in vain from dawn till eve for the appearance of the challenged. The
challenger rode idle and alone up and down the ropewalk.

When evening came, and it was no longer to be expected that the
defaulter would either appear in person or send people to excuse his
absence, Valentine was authorized to take his lance in his hand,
having at the end of it a lantern made of a bladder with a lighted
candle inside it, and a pair of ragged old drawers hanging over it,
and then to ride through the town and proclaim at the corner of
every street:

"Noble gentlemen, burgesses, and honest inhabitants of this town!
which of you has seen, which of you knows that cowardly knave
Ignatius Zwirina? Who can tell me into which hole he has crawled? Is
he in the oven, under the bed, or beneath his mother's skirts?
Whoever finds him, tell him not to be afraid but show himself, for I
won't eat him. Here I have a pair of ragged hose. Let him come out
and patch them for me, and I'll pay him for the job."

This was the formula of degradation which was the meed of those who
failed to appear on such occasions.

Moreover, the whole youth of the town used to take up the heckling
with such spirit that further existence in the town of Kassa became
an absolute impossibility for the person so distinguished. Ignatius
Zwirina, however, was already deputy syndic of his native place. He
therefore could not afford to fly, and his good friends persuaded
him so long that at last he resolved to answer Valentine's
challenge, and break a pair of lances with him on the following day.
Then, of course, the public mockery ceased.

On the following day a still greater crowd of spectators appeared on
the ropewalk, fifty drabants had also been sent by the corporation
to keep order, and Count Hommonai had come on horseback to see the
fight.

At the appointed hour both horsemen appeared, accompanied by their
friends. Valentine wore a breastplate, a helmet, and greaves, but
Ignatius was clad in mail from top to toe, both in front and behind;
he was plainly of opinion that the back is also vulnerable.

They took the places assigned to them on the opposite sides of the
lists, and the umpire then produced two long wooden lances without
iron points, and two stout oaken cudgels exactly alike. The
challenged had the first choice of weapons, and what he left were
handed to the challenger.

They rode bareback, guiding their horses by their knees, to which
their reins were fastened, for in their right hands they held their
lances and in their left their cudgels.

The moment the trumpet sounded, both horsemen couched their lances
and rushed upon each other with a fearful crash.

Ignatius Zwirina was a big lout of a fellow. Placed on the scales he
would certainly have weighed much more than Valentine. He aimed
viciously at Valentine with his lance; but Valentine struck the
shaft of it so sharply with his cudgel that it broke off in the
middle, and at the same time with his own lance he struck his
antagonist full in the breast, so that Ignatius flew backward into
the air off his steed and fell flat on the ground.

Valentine immediately sprang from his horse and punched and pommeled
the back and shoulders of the prostrate champion, as prescribed by
the rules of the contest, till his cudgel broke; but all this
belaboring did very little damage to the defeated combatant, for,
besides the coat of mail he wore behind, his mother had well
stuffed his clothes with horsehair. Yet, for all that, he did get
one or two knocks which he did not forget in a hurry, and that was
no more than his due, for he had often vexed Valentine with his evil
tongue.

And there the matter would have ended had not old Fürmender thought
fit to reopen it all again.

For when, after the contest was over, the defeated youth was carried
home in a basket, according to ancient practice, the old man took it
so to heart that he immediately buckled on his saber, took down the
statutes, ran with them to the captain, and called his attention to
the paragraph which strictly forbade persons serving in the army to
challenge young civilians. He therefore demanded that Valentine
should be punished for his challenge as being a gross breach of the
law.

But the good captain diligently searched through his diary and
showed the conscientious complainant that Valentine Kalondai on such
and such a day, viz., on the Wednesday before the last Sunday in
Advent of the past year, had been relieved of his military duties,
and therefore no longer fell within the category incriminated by the
statute. All that could be done therefore, suggested the captain,
was for old Mr. Fürmender to well rub the blue and red bruises of
his Nassy with butter, which he would find a sovereign specific.

And that not a shadow of a doubt as to Valentine's true position
might remain, the count that very day publicly advertised Valentine
Kalondai's appointment as castellan. Now, no doubt this post is
essentially a civic office, but inasmuch as the castellan is
practically the commandant's lieutenant, it had for a long time
always been given to a soldier, especially since the days when one
of the civic magistrates had been discovered in collusion with the
castellan to betray the town into the enemy's hands. In memory of
this event, the Hamor gate, through which the enemy had been
admitted, was walled up in perpetuity.

Thus Kalondai's enemies were completely put to shame, and Dame Sarah
experienced the joy of seeing her son's wife, the damsel from
Bártfa, sitting in the first place of the front pew of the
cathedral; which pew Dame Fürmender Zwirina had refused to occupy
any longer, having given notice to the dean that she would
henceforth take sittings in the suburb church instead.



CHAPTER XXX.

Which teaches that outward beauty, be it never so
precious a property, is often most dangerous to its
possessor.


From this time forth, Valentine, by virtue of his new office, daily
visited the commandant's house, where he was always a welcome guest.
In the townhall also, he was held in high honor.

The land, just then, was in very difficult circumstances. A town
like Kassa, shut in between three distinct masters and anxious to
please all three, without giving such a preference to any one of
them as might offend the other two, had a very hard time of it. By
virtue of the pacification putting an end to the late religious
wars, Kassa fell within the jurisdiction of George Rakoczy, Prince
of Transylvania, whose Suzerain was the Turkish Sultan. But the
pashas of Eger and Grosswardein often took it into their heads to
make predatory raids on their own account as far as Kassa and Tokay,
and then the good people of Kassa could not wait, as it is the
fashion nowadays, till the English had held indignation meetings to
protest against the Turkish atrocities; but they forthwith mounted
their steeds, seized their weapons, and smote the troops of their
own Prince's Suzerain; and this they often did, moreover, in concert
with their adversaries the Hungarians of that portion of the kingdom
of Hungary which belonged to the Kaiser. In those days, therefore,
it required no small discrimination to judge accurately which of the
many strangers passing to and fro were to be reckoned with as
friends, and which as foes; which could be put off with promises,
and which had really to be sent away with presents; which might
merely be threatened with stripes, and which ought really to get
them.

Now at this very time, there came from that part of the land which
both Hungary and Transylvania claimed as their own, a person of
great distinction, Belisarius Zurdoki by name. One of his ancestors
had returned to Hungary from Wallachia with great treasures, and
this his descendant had also the reputation of being a very rich
man.

Zurdoki made a great display at Kassa. He said he had come to visit
Count Hommonai, with whom he was distantly connected on his mother's
side. He brought quite a court with him, equerries, pages, a
secretary, a chaplain, a huntsman, a master of the hounds, a jester,
gypsy musicians, a falconer, heydukes, couriers, domestics, lackeys,
coachmen--in fact, there was no counting the multitude he brought in
his train. He took up so much space in Count Hommonai's castle that
there was no room left for its lawful owners.

And all the time he resided at Kassa, he did nothing but give
splendid entertainments. There was absolutely no end to them.

Belisarius Zurdoki was already over sixty, but though his age was
venerable, he had no very extraordinary reputation for morality. He
had had so many wives, morganatic and otherwise, to say nothing of
those from whom he had been separated, that he himself no longer
recollected their proper sequence. He had little respect for the
sex, and held that there was not a woman in the world who could not
be bought with gifts, only some were more highly priced than others.

He himself, however, had not been in the way when beauty was being
served out. He had a broad, satyr face, with a red nose sinking
right down upon his mustache; his head, after the prevailing Turkish
fashion, was clean shaved, with the exception of a single gray lock
over his brows which bobbed up and down whenever he wagged his head.
His mustache hung down limp on both sides in the Turkish style, and
his stomach was not unlike a large beer barrel.

And yet he tried to make the world believe that he was such an
amiable man that the woman was yet to be born who could resist him,
be she never so young, beautiful, and accomplished.

That he was also smelling and purring around the Countess Isabella
Hommonai was patent to everyone, but the count would not for the
world have taken any notice of it. Yet he heartily laughed over it
all in secret with the countess, who made sport of the old rake, and
told her husband everything he said.

One day Zurdoki gave a great banquet at the castle, on which
occasion he brought out all his silver plate to make a goodly show,
and invited the whole of the civic notabilities. Pretty Michal was
there too, the prettiest of the whole company, and as she was
dressed very simply her beauty was, of course, all the more
striking. She was even lovelier than the countess herself. Her
natural refinement and smiling coyness could not be imitated by
those who did not possess those graces. With proud humility, she
wore over her wondrously beautiful tresses the matron's coif, which
showed that all this loveliness already had a master.

How the old voluptuary feasted his eyes upon this beautiful
apparition! He was all fire and flame instantly, like an old
worm-eaten tree stump, which blazes up whenever the young herdsmen
smoke the wasps out of its hollow trunk.

He had no longer a single look for the countess, but followed close
upon the heels of the beautiful châtelaine, though Valentine
occasionally, as if by accident, gave him a violent nudge in the
ribs with his elbow, or trod sharply on his foot with his spurred
boots.

At table, the enamored Zurdoki distinguished pretty Michal so very
markedly that all the women present whispered spiteful things to
each other about it. The countess was naturally an exception. She
only laughed at the coxcombry of the old inamorato, and was quite
persuaded beforehand that such a sage damsel as pretty Michal would
be more than a match for him.

After dinner, the martial and amatory airs which had been played
during the banquet were succeeded by dance music, and the guests
flocked into the dancing-room.

The Hungarian dances of those days were very different from the
dances we dance now. What are now called csardaszes and friszes were
then only danced at rustic weddings. At polite entertainments, the
dance consisted of slow and stately figures, accompanied by the
clash of colliding spurs, of rhythmical involutions, and evolutions,
with much extending of hands and kneeling on cushions, or, at most,
of a defiant manly stamping with the feet and majestic movements of
the body; not like our present system of dancing, when everyone
seems bent on jostling his neighbor into a corner, and makes a
whirligig of his partner. The earlier dances did very well for a
time, whose motto was, _Festina lente!_

The ball began with the minuet-like dance known as the palotas. It
was Zurdoki's duty as host to open the ball, and he lost no time in
doing so. With grandiose _aplomb_, he sauntered up to the fairest of
the fair, and held toward her a silken handkerchief as a sign that
he had chosen her for his partner. This was, indeed, a notable
distinction for Michal, especially as the countess was also present
in the saloon.

But pretty Michel did not accept the extended handkerchief, the
other corner of which she ought to have held so as to begin the
palotas, but bowed modestly, and said so that everyone could hear
it: "Your pardon, gracious sir! but I've only been a poor serving
maid and have never learnt dancing!"

And this was no more than the simple truth, for she certainly had
been a serving maid and never learnt dancing.

At this unexpected rebuff, Zurdoki became as red as a turkey cock,
and in his fury sought out the most hideous woman in the room. This
was old Dame Fürmender, and with her he opened the ball.

And during the whole of the dance he was cudgeling his brains as to
the meaning of pretty Michal's words. "She had not learnt to dance
because she was only a serving maid! Now serving maids can dance,
and dance very well too! Yet surely she must have spoken the truth,
for otherwise she would never have dared to publicly put to shame
her host when he invited her to dance. Who are the women who really
do not dance? Why, who but the daughters of Protestant pastors?"

Thus pretty Michal, when she said she could not dance, had already
betrayed a part of her secret. When once an old bloodhound has got a
scent, he will surely run down his prey!

       *       *       *       *       *

As already mentioned, in consequence of an unfortunate episode in
the history of the city of Kassa, when a sheriff had attempted to
betray the city into the hands of the enemy, extra precautions had
been taken to prevent similar conspiracies in the future. One of
these precautions was that all letters brought by couriers from
abroad, to whomsoever they might be directed, should be first opened
by the magistrates, and only then handed over to their respective
owners. And to take away all appearance of espionage from this
precautionary measure, such letters were opened under the pretext of
fumigating them to avoid the infection of the plague. And fumigated
they certainly were, but the castellan used first to copy them and
communicate their contents to the commandant, who could thus keep a
watch upon the citizens, and prevent them from plotting behind his
back.

Zurdoki, too, during his residence at Kassa, received a foreign
letter which was delivered to him open and fumigated.

"You may try and spell out this letter as much as you like," laughed
the great man. "I warrant you won't be able to make much of it!"

And, indeed, it was a very curious epistle. In the first place the
letters were all so much mixed up together that you could see at a
glance that it was cipher writing.

Valentine recollected that the learned Professor David Fröhlich
possessed, among other sciences, the key of cipher writing. Perhaps
he had communicated this also to his daughter.

So he showed the letter to Michal.

Michal had indeed been initiated into the mystery of such writings,
and as at that time there were very few variations in cipher
writing, a person who held the key of one of them might very easily
decipher all the others; and in fact, Valentine succeeded, with the
aid of the key supplied to him by Michal, in deciphering the whole
letter.

But now a second difficulty arose. This letter was written in a
language which he had never seen before. It was like German, and yet
it was not German. He had again to apply to Michal, and asked her if
she understood this strange tongue.

"Yes! it is Swedish."

"What! you know Swedish too?"

"My father taught it me. He corresponded a good deal with the king
of Sweden, who supported our schools."

"Then translate me this letter."

Michal did as she was told, and Valentine then hastened with the
solved enigma to the commandant, Count Hommonai.

The letter contained very remarkable things. Count Hommonai had no
sooner taken note of its contents than he sent for Zurdoki.

"Sir!" he at once began, without so much as asking Zurdoki to take a
seat, "you are here with no good intention."

"How?" replied Zurdoki, attempting to give a jocose turn to the
matter. "Do you mean that I am perhaps a little too attentive to
some of your pretty little ladies here?"

"It is not a question of women, now, cousin! I allude to your
correspondence with the Swedish Minister."

"Well! let us hear what you make of it."

"I can tell you if you choose to listen. Your master is George
Rakoczy, prince of Transylvania."

"He is your master, also," retorted Zurdoki.

"Yes, to-day, perhaps, but he may not be so to-morrow. George
Rakoczy, not content with the good fortune of being lord of
Transylvania and of fifteen adjacent Hungarian counties, strives
after higher fame. Although on his accession he swore to the Estates
never to commence a war without their consent, he has nevertheless
interfered in the present dispute between Sweden and Poland, first
offering to assist Poland against Sweden in consideration of
receiving the thirteen towns of Zips; and now, when the Swedes have
entangled him in their net, he turns round and negotiates with them
through you, demanding no less a reward for his services than the
whole kingdom of Poland; and in order to gain the consent of the
German Emperor thereto, he now offers him the five Hungarian
counties on the other side of the Theiss."

"I deny the truth of that," blustered Zurdoki. "All that is mere
sophistical gabble."

"Here you have the contents of the letter which the Swedish Minister
writes to you. Read it!" said Hommonai, handing him the copied
letter.

Zurdoki was dumfounded.

"Whence did you get this? Who is there in Kassa that can read
cipher? Who understands Swedish here, I should like to know?"

"Why, my castellan, of course."

"What! that butcher boy! that expelled student?"

But for all that he could no longer deny the contents of the letter.

And now Count Hommonai spoke very sharply to Mr. Zurdoki. He told
him it would be a piece of folly on the part of the Prince of
Transylvania to attack Poland with the Cossacks, on whose friendship
no one could depend, whereas the Poles had always been good
neighbors. Transylvania and Hungary had quite enough to do at home.
They should sweep the dust off their own thresholds, and not meddle
with the affairs of other lands. We should only be too glad to be
able to defend ourselves against the foes we actually have, and not
try and saddle ourselves with fresh ones. Besides, an enterprise so
foolishly begun could not possibly have any good issue. The German
Emperor would not approve of it because the Pole was his ally. The
Sultan, too, would refuse his consent, and the end of it would be
that George Rakoczy would lose the five counties without receiving
anything in return. Nay, he might at last even lose his
Transylvanian throne also.

Like every ill-bred fellow when he is driven into a corner, Zurdoki
now took refuge in low abuse. He insisted that he was right. He
raised his voice. He asked how they dared to break open his private
letters, and what business the Commandant of Kassa had to criticise
the plans of the Prince of Transylvania. Let the commandant look to
his patrolling and leave politics to his superiors.

"And I mean to show you," retorted Hommonai, "that the city of Kassa
also has to do with politics. If George Rakoczy thinks fit to
exchange Hungarian counties for a kingdom, the city of Kassa will
also think fit to shut its gates against all suspected persons who
cannot give a good account of themselves. As for you, sir, you are
my kinsman, and I have hitherto willingly seen you in my house. But
I now beg to inform you that your carriage is waiting, and nothing
prevents you from taking your departure immediately."

That was indeed a snub! What! to refuse hospitality to a guest!
Zurdoki could not swallow that calmly. He stuck out his chest and
said haughtily to Hommonai:

"Look ye, my lord Count! You know as well as I do the real reason
why you drive me out of your house. It is because you fear I might
be dangerous to your dear wife!"

Hommonai was a finished gentleman. Even in his insults he was
exquisite.

"I have a book which I will send you at once," said he to Zurdoki;
"if you look into it attentively, you will find that it is really
quite impossible for me to be jealous of you."

Zurdoki was very curious to see this odd book. He could scarcely
wait patiently for the heyduke to bring it to him. It was bound in
heavy morocco covers, and when Zurdoki opened them he found nothing
inside but a mirror. In that he read that Hommonai could not be
jealous of so ugly a face as his.

He dashed the mirror to the ground and rode away from Kassa that
very day. The goal of his journey was his castle at Saros.



CHAPTER XXXI.

'Tis a true proverb which says that the devil sends
an old woman when he cannot come himself; but of
course it only applies to wicked old women, for
there are very many gentlewomen well advanced in
years who lead a God-fearing life and do good to
their fellow-creatures.


Mr. Zurdoki left Kassa in rage and fury, and there were very many
reasons why he should so leave it. In the first place the object of
his scheming had been frustrated by his enforced departure from the
city. He was to have spurred on to action there the party which
leaned to Vienna, and thus facilitated George Rakoczy's plan of
handing over to Ferdinand of Austria the trans-Theissian counties.
At Kassa, Mr. Zwirina was his willing ally, but now all
communication between them was cut off. He was also well aware that
the citizens of Kassa are very stiff-necked people. Whenever they
say "no," the Sultan, the Kaiser, and the Prince of Transylvania may
say "yes," in vain. For when the potentates lay their heads
together, and lay out the land in a way the people of Kassa don't
like, the sheriff of Kassa simply wets his fingers and rubs out the
proposed line of demarcation. Nor do they much mind being besieged
for a couple of years or so; they have often enough experienced
that. And when the Imperial general sends his shots into the city,
they shoot them back again into his camp, and at last undermine the
very ground beneath his feet. You had to be very clever indeed to
get the better of the citizens of Kassa.

The threads of Zurdoki's crafty policy had been woven together in
the letter deciphered by Valentine Kalondai, and Zurdoki was one of
those who were perpetually urging the ambitious George Rakoczy to
conquer Poland. The governorship of Cracow was the prize reserved
for himself, and the prospect of the loss of that lucrative post
piqued him exceedingly.

The second cause of his rage was his unsatisfied personal grudge
against those who had forestalled him, viz., Count Hommonai and
Valentine Kalondai.

In the third place he was in love with the wives of the count and
the castellan, and the old miscreant had got the idea into his
shaven head of corrupting them both, and to this idea he stuck
through thick and thin.

On arriving at Saros, he gave up all the time that was not devoted
to political intrigues to elaborating this evil design.

That Dame Kalondai had been married to her husband at Bártfa he had
already learnt from old Dame Zwirina, who had told him so
immediately after that memorable dance. He also knew from the same
person that Michal's face, during her earlier residence at Kassa,
had been disfigured by great brown patches, which had subsequently
vanished in a most marvelous manner. She had said then that they
were freckles, which always go away in winter; yet since then
another summer had come and gone, and yet not a single freckle had
reappeared.

From this Zurdoki's crafty intellect concluded that if the roses and
lilies on Dame Kalondai's face were not of artificial growth, the
disfiguring freckles must have been painted on designedly, and there
must be some reason for it.

He took the trouble to go all the way to Bártfa, searched on the
spot the records which testify to the marriage of Valentine
Kalondai, and learnt therefrom with whom pretty--nay, ugly Michal,
had been in service.

There they recollected the freckle-faced girl very well, and they
also told him what sort of a person it was who had brought the
damsel thither.

But to find this woman now was not very easy.

Red Barbara had certainly gone to Poland, where she had no reason to
fear that she would fall into the hands of Henry Catsrider, who, if
he came across her, would guess at once that she had set his house
on fire, and that the two charred skulls which had been found under
the débris were the remains, not of Barbara and Michal, but of the
two lads. And thus he could ferret out many other things, especially
if he took the trouble to investigate how the splendid garments and
jewels which he himself had bought to rejoice pretty Michal's heart
had found their way to the Cracow rag market.

Nevertheless Mr. Zurdoki persistently followed up his clew.

The witch, he argued, must have had associates in the country.
Witches form a sort of guild, and are closely united to one another.
So he searched and searched till at last he found the wife of the
Kopanitschar of Zeb. There he gave a great banquet, danced all night
with the Kopanitschar's wife, and after exhausting all his
flatteries upon her, well plying her with wine and loading her with
gifts, he learnt from her that she had indeed been acquainted with a
woman who had sprung up from the bowels of the earth one night with
a freckle-faced girl, and had then flown away through the air with
her. The Kopanitschar's wife also knew where Red Barbara was now to
be found.

In those days the more the witches were persecuted, the more they
multiplied. Many lonely old women, and even younger ones who were
separated from their husbands, not to mention a few young widows,
got it into their heads that they were witches. They took great
pride in the idea that men were afraid of them, and regarded them as
supernatural beings, and for the sake of this senseless reputation
did not even flinch from the horrors of a lingering death. There
were quack anointers among them, too, who distributed to the others
a salve made of stupefying, poisonous herbs, which, when well rubbed
into their bodies, took away their senses, gave them delirious
visions, and made their excited fancy believe that they were at
witches' sabbaths in the society of the devil; or gave them morbidly
voluptuous dreams such as haunt opium eaters, so that on awakening
they firmly believed that their dreams were solid facts, and thus
they openly confessed to deeds which they had only dreamt of doing.
To such magic ointment-makers the rank and file of the witches
looked up as their natural chiefs, went enormous distances to
consult them, and in fact never lost sight of them.

Thus Annie knew very well where Red Barbara was to be found,
although the latter had not considered it expedient to return to
Hungary.

With Barbara's money it had been lightly come, lightly go! She had
gone with her hoard of ducats and her costly dresses to Sandomir,
where she gave herself out for a great lady, lived riotously with
the professional thieves of the place, and after spending all her
ready cash, sold her jewels likewise. Then the pretty dresses went
too, till at last she found herself once more the same old tattered
hag she had been before, and began again to haunt young women to
tell them lies about their future, and give them bad advice in
return for clandestine ducats.

This was just the sort of woman Zurdoki wanted.

He commissioned Annie to seek out Barbara, and gave the latter money
for her journey, besides a letter certifying that she belonged to
his household. This certificate she was to show to all and sundry
who might stop her on the way. He was now quite certain of success.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, great changes were taking place at Kassa.

The day for the election of the sheriff had arrived, for according
to ancient custom a new sheriff had to be elected every year.

Valentine Kalondai, with God's help, had already advanced very far.
He had administered the office of castellan so excellently well that
everyone was persuaded that the Keszmár professors had acted very
unjustly in expelling him from college. But since discovering
Zurdoki's intrigues, he had risen so high in the opinion of his
fellow-citizens that, when the time for the election of the sheriff
came round, no one would hear of anybody else for that office but
him. Besides, said they, did not his father sacrifice himself for
the benefit of the town when he was sheriff, and Valentine was much
more fitted for the post than ever his father had been.

That the commandant, Count Hommonai, was a great patron of his, and
warmly recommended him everywhere, naturally did him no harm either.

Nevertheless, to appease the opposite faction and prevent the
citizens from quarreling among themselves, it was arranged that Mr.
Zwirina, senior, who had hitherto been curator, should be made
burgomaster, while Ignatius his son should become curator in his
stead. In this way all parties were satisfied.

All three elections took place in the most orderly way. First, on
Epiphany, the burgomaster--or, as he was then called, the
superrector--was appointed, and then the curator, who had a weighty
office to perform. He had to choose from among the most respectable
citizens a hundred persons, who were to duly elect the sheriff.
Fifty of these electors had to be Hungarians, and the remaining
fifty Germans and Slovacks in equal numbers. As to confessions of
faith, four-and-thirty of the hundred had to be Calvinists,
three-and-thirty Lutherans, and just as many Papists.

It was no light manner to get together one hundred electors who
should satisfy all these requirements.

At last, however, the hundred electors were all found, and then all
the gates were closed, and no one was allowed to enter the city.

The hundred electors assembled in the townhall, and agreed among
themselves as to the sheriff-elect.

Then they proceeded in perfect silence to the market-place, where a
car drawn by six horses, and covered by a black cloth baldeluir,
which made it look just like a hearse, awaited them. The retiring
sheriff had to sit down in this car, and the hundred electors walked
alongside it on foot, as if they were accompanying a corpse on its
last journey to the churchyard. And it was indeed, to the churchyard
that the procession went, and all the streets were thickly strewn
with straw, so that the rattling of the car might not be heard.

In front of the churchyard the representatives of the guilds, with
the symbols of their trade on long poles, were drawn up in two
lines: the butcher held his hatchet, the cobbler his last, the
tailor his shears, the mason his trowel, the metal-smelter his
mortar, the carpenter his ax, the joiner his plane. But the guild of
the organ-builders was represented by the image of its patron St.
Cecilia, fastened in a banner.

And all this time the town was as silent as the grave. No music, no
noise of any kind was allowed.

The electors and the guildsmen marched into the very center of the
churchyard, which was likewise covered with straw, and all stood
around the chapel in a half-circle. Then the retiring sheriff arose
in the car, which was laden with eighteen long, smoothly planed
boards of the hardest wood, and said to the burgesses:

"Gentlemen and judges, let thy servant depart!" whereupon the
curator answered in the name of the rest:

"Thou hast served us faithfully, depart in peace!"

Then the sheriff came down from the car.

"To whom am I to give these eighteen boards?" he asked.

"To the noble, valiant, worshipful burgher, Valentine Kalondai,"
replied the curator, in the name of the electors.

Then the car was turned round, and went back into the town as
silently as it came, and this time, not only the hundred electors,
but the representatives of the guilds also escorted it.

The car stood still before Kalondai's house, the doors and windows
of which were shut, as indeed were the windows and doors of all the
houses, and closed they must remain till the pealings of the
church-bells gave them the signal to reopen.

At the knocking of the curator, Valentine Kalondai appeared on the
balcony.

"What do the citizens require of me?"

"Admittance with our car and our tools," answered the curator.

"And what am I to do with your car and your tools?"

"Valentine Kalondai, the citizens of the town of Kassa have this
day, of their own free will, chosen you their sheriff. These tools
which we have brought with us are the symbols of our prosperity,
which we now intrust to your safe keeping. For a whole year to come
the care of our peace and our prosperity lies in your hands. But on
this car, according to ancient law and custom, we have brought you
eighteen boards: six for your coffin, in case you die in the service
of our city, but twelve for the fagots round your stake in case you
betray the town wherein you were born. Will you admit us within your
gates?"

"Come in, and welcome, in God's name!" said Valentine, and thereupon
he opened the gate of his courtyard, and the heavy car lumbered
rattling in.

Dame Sarah had overheard the conversation in the next room, and,
through the closed window, said to pretty Michal:

"I know not how it is, but I am so delighted that my teeth chatter,
and an ague shakes me."

"'Tis just the same with me," whispered pretty Michal.

But Valentine went down into the courtyard to the electors, and took
the eighteen boards, six of which were for a coffin for the
faithful, and twelve for fagots for the faithless sheriff.

Then they escorted the sheriff-elect to the townhall. There the two
eldest town-councilors led him by the hand to the council-chamber,
and bade him take his place in the sheriff's chair, at the upper end
of the table, which was covered with a green cloth. Then the four
youngest town-councilors seized the four legs of the chair and
raised it, Valentine and all, on to their shoulders, and carried him
out on the balcony of the townhall, while the hundred electors in
the council-chamber shouted aloud, "_Vivat!_"

At the third _vivat_ all the mortars in the market-place were fired
off, and immediately afterward all the bells in the church towers
rang out, the town band blew with the trumpets, the town drummer
beat the big drum in the square, in front of the cathedral, and the
civic watch fired three salvos out of their heavy muskets, while all
the people filled the air with their loud rejoicings. The straw was
swept away from all the streets, and fresh green grass, specially
mowed for the occasion, laid down instead. Then the procession set
out again from the townhall, the guilds going before with their
banners and the militia with their weapons, with the sheriff in the
midst under a canopy--and thus the guard of honor proceeded to the
churches of all denominations, as a sign that the new head of the
town would honor the creeds of all confessions according to law and
custom. There they prayed in the Hungarian, German, and Slovack
languages, and after making the circuit of the town, set the sheriff
on horseback, and placed the civic sword in his hand to signify
that, in case of war, he was ready, if necessary, to defend the city
by force of arms; whereupon they accompanied him back to his house,
while the trumpets blew and the bells pealed continuously. And by
this time all the doors and windows were opened, and thronged with
spectators.

Among the many trumpeters who strode along before the sheriff's
horse was worthy Simplex, who looked up from time to time at his old
friend, as if he thought that a part of all this pomp and splendor
belonged to him. And Valentine Kalondai looked down from his high
horse upon his old bosom friend, and beckoned kindly to him with his
naked sword; nay, when they came to his own gate, he stuck his
middle finger into his open mouth and pointed up at the house, which
means in all the languages of the world, "Mind you also come up to
the banquet!"

For the good old custom then prevailed that the elected sheriff,
when the solemn function was over, should entertain the whole of the
magistrates, not forgetting their lowliest servant, so that no one
took it ill of him in the least for inviting the civic trumpeter to
table also.

And now the women had all their work cut out for them, and indeed on
all such festive occasions they have by far the hardest part to
play. The men can very soon get through their hocus-pocus, and it
does not very much matter whether they gabble off their set speeches
like parrots, or stick fast in the middle of them like asses; but
what with cooking and baking and roasting, the poor women have no
rest or repose for a whole week beforehand, for the comfort and
convenience of the guests depend entirely upon them, and they must
see to it that no one has the slightest cause to grumble. For the
last three nights they had scarcely closed an eye.

A good old sumptuary ordinance provided that the lesser burgesses
should be first provided for in roomy tents erected in the
courtyard, while the notables, among whom the commandant and his
lovely wife took precedence, were regaled in the family mansion
itself.

Besides these two groups of guests, there was yet another sort,
consisting of the beggars of the town.

These ragged ones limped in a long row through the streets, and
stopped in turn at the bottom of the flight of steps which led up to
the door of the pantry. On the lowest of these steps stood pretty
Michal, and gave them a huge loaf apiece, while Ali, the Turk,
filled each one's jug with as much beer as it would hold.

After the male came the female beggars. The Calvinists saluted
pretty Michal with "God give you blessing and peace!" the Papists
with "Praised be Jesus Christ!" and pretty Michal returned each
salutation most sweetly. Whenever she saw a beggar-woman with a
child in her arms, she gave her two loaves instead of one, and
although herself a Protestant, she nevertheless always answered the
"Praised be Jesus Christ!" with a devout "For ever and ever, Amen."
And the beggars said to one another as they went away, "Oh! what a
beautiful, good, blessed creature! May God preserve her for a
hundred years to come!"

All at once there came hobbling along among the beggars, a woman
whose head was swathed in a red cloth, who held one hand to her
mouth, and looked at the young woman with her large piercing black
eyes, as if she would have devoured her.

When this strange shape reached pretty Michal, she whispered in her
ear, with a mocking, singing drawl, not the usual salutation, but
the words, "Praised be--the pretty lady!" And then, for a single
instant, she showed her face, which was distorted by a devilish
grin.

Pretty Michal collapsed utterly. Had not the faithful Ali caught her
in his arms, she would have dashed her head against the stones.

The beggar with the red cloth had disappeared in the crowd. Most
likely no one had observed her, but, at any rate, no one troubled
himself about her.

On hearing that pretty Michal had fainted, all the women came
running together, and carried her into the house. Then, with many
winks and smiles, they whispered to each other over her body. When a
young wife faints there is no reason to be alarmed. The
indisposition goes away of its own accord. The more initiated
playfully take the husband to task for it, and he generally blushes
and looks stupid enough. When a young wife swoons away, she is not
so very desperately ill after all. The women soothed and calmed
pretty Michal, and told her not to exert herself and not to sit at
table. They could drink to her health, or rather to her speedy
recovery, without her assistance.

So the banquet went on right merrily without her, especially after
Dame Sarah had received the reassuring intelligence that there was
really nothing the matter, the young wife only required a little
rest. They drank to the prosperity of the land, the town, and all
the distinguished guests present, without exception. The new sheriff
had to clink glasses and drink bumpers with so many people that his
happiness was almost too much for him. Even the two Zwirinas made
Latin verses in his honor, so that his triumph that day was
complete. At last Count Hommonai himself raised his beaker, and
looking at Valentine, cried: "God preserve the man whom I love most
of all my fellow-men, and with whom I am ready to share all my
riches and all my honor!"

Then Valentine raised his tankard and proposed this toast:

"God preserve the friend who has shared with me all the
contrarieties of life, my good comrade Simplex!"

And the commandant drank with the sheriff to the health of the
trumpeter, although one or two fastidious gentlemen turned up their
noses in consequence. But the majority liked Valentine all the
better for not forgetting his lowly comrade in the hour of his
greatest elevation.

Very late at night the merry company dispersed, and Greek fire
flamed on all the bastions in honor of the happy day.

Valentine hastened to his Michal. His brain was reeling. He was
brimful of the splendor of that day's triumph. In such a condition,
a man deems it impossible that his own spouse, the second half of
his soul, can perhaps be just as full of grief and despair as he of
joy.

Beaming with pride, he advanced toward the bed on which pretty
Michal lay. But she, with a horrified face, fell upon his neck, drew
his head down toward her and whispered in his ear what she could
have screamed aloud for terror:

"Let us fly. Red Barbara is here!"

At these words, Valentine's face grew pale, and the pride of his
heart was gone.



CHAPTER XXXII.

Whereby we learn that it is not good to come to
close quarters with Satan, for if we catch him by
the horns he butts us, if we clutch him by the
throat he bites us, and if we hold him by the neck
he kicks us.


"Perhaps it was not she after all?"

"It was. She looked at me, spoke to me, mocked me, and threatened
me. Oh! all my limbs are still trembling!"

"Don't tremble, darling! Lay your hand on my breast and warm it.
Have I not the power to defend you?"

"No! Though you had the power to defend me against all the world,
you would be powerless against this woman, and you know it."

"Don't be afraid of her! She was in rags, you say? I'll pay her off,
and she'll hold her tongue and go her way. Even if it will cost me
my whole fortune, I'll buy her off and give you peace. Don't be
afraid of her! She will certainly come again to see what she can
get. Here is the key of my strong-box. Give her money. Manage so
that mother knows nothing about it. As soon as you have satisfied
her, I'll have all the foreign itinerant beggars, quacks, and
fortune-tellers drummed out of the town within twenty-four hours,
and then she also will vanish."

Valentine's soothing words had very little effect upon pretty
Michal. All night long she was plagued by horrible dreams, and
frequently sprang out of bed as if Death himself was after her.

Next day, while Valentine was at the townhall, Michal listened
anxiously whenever a door creaked or a dog barked, and often peeped
into the street through the closed window; but no one disturbed her
all that day. The terrific form did not appear.

The third day passed, and the fourth, and yet the dreaded specter
did not appear. Michal began to believe that the terrible
beggar-woman had after all only been a phantom, the mere creature of
her own imagination.

And so Friday arrived, when the beggars of the town visit every
house in turn, and every door must be opened to them.

Pretty Michal used personally to distribute the Friday's alms, a
piece of bread and a penny, at the kitchen door.

At last the shape swathed in the red cloth, the shape so long
expected in fear and trembling, came to the half-open door, and
began the usual beggar's whine, "Praised be the--"

Michal did not let her finish the blasphemous salutation, but seized
her by the hand and drew her rapidly into a side chamber. Here the
beggar-woman took the cloth from her head, and laughed in Michal's
face.

"Well! Here I am again! Eh? Have you thought about me much? Have you
often mentioned me to your husband? Have you ever said: 'I wonder
where poor Barbara is? If only we could see her once more?' Do you
still recognize me? I haven't grown much younger since then, have
I?"

"Barbara!" said Michal, rallying all her courage, "we must not
converse very long together or else my mother will hear it."

"Ah, ha! So you have another mother besides me?"

"I know what you want--money. I'll give you all I can, and then, in
God's name, go!"

"I don't want money--there now! I have enough of that and to spare.
Look!" and with that she showed her a netted purse in which were at
least two hundred ducats. "I want something else. I won't go from
hence in anyone's holy name, for I've not come hither to be sent
away, but to talk to you. Yes, to talk to you, in all secrecy, yet
without fear. I already know all the habits of this household. At
two o'clock in the afternoon your husband goes to the townhall to
attend to his business. At the selfsame hour, the old lady has her
afternoon nap. She has need of it, poor thing. In the afternoon the
shop is closed, and not opened again till six in the evening; for no
one sends for meat in the afternoon, and meanwhile the apprentices
are busy at the drawbridge. But behind the gate is a side door,
through which the meat is carried up into the shop, to be cured and
salted; through that door I can creep in unobserved. Even the dogs
don't bark at me. Be there in the afternoon when it strikes two!
Then I'll tell you something."

With that she quickly whipped the cloth round her head again, and
whisked out of the room, shuffling and scraping all the way down the
long corridor as beggar-women do.

Michal remained behind, tormented by agonizing doubts. What did this
woman, who had so much power over her, mean to do with her? If she
will not let her silence be bought with gold, what price will she
demand for it?

She said nothing to anyone, not even to her husband, about the
rendezvous; but it seemed an age to her before Valentine went off to
the townhall, and her mother-in-law began dozing in her armchair.
At the stroke of two, she was already in the shop below, the
trellis-door of which, leading to the street, was closed, while the
side door near the gateway stood ajar.

Red Barbara appeared punctually. She looked cautiously round for
fear of an ambush, and then slowly closed the door behind her that
it might not creak. Then she stroked pretty Michal's face with her
rough red hand, and said with cunning flattery:

"Eh! my little sweetheart, how lovely you have grown since last I
saw you!"

Her touch, her words, made Michal shudder.

"I don't wonder at all at the enamoured Zurdoki going quite off his
head about you."

"Zurdoki?"

"Yes, my dear little cockchafer! You may be quite sure that I have
not come all the way to your dismal town of Kassa for my own
amusement, but because I have been sent thither. The fine stout
gentleman, the gracious, rich, and kind old gentleman, said to me:
'Go, dear gossip Barbara, go to the town of Kassa, seek there my
wondrous little flower, the pretty wife of Valentine Kalondai, your
own dear daughter, whom you got married to her husband at Bártfa,
and take her this costly girdle. She must wear it for my sake, and
it will make her more beautiful than ever!'"

The girdle was inlaid with turquoises and Orient pearls, a gift meet
for a princess.

Michal dashed it angrily to the ground.

"Shameless wretch!"

"Whom do you call shameless? Me?"

"No, the sender."

"Oh, my treasure! I don't say that's all. He will give you very much
more than that. He will load you with precious things, so that your
beauty will shine forth still more resplendently."

"I won't have his presents!"

"Who dares to talk of presents here? It is not presents that a
pretty woman receives. Oh, no! When any one brings a costly offering
to a saint, he does it to open the way to heaven in the next world;
and when anyone sends costly offerings to a pretty woman, _he_ does
it to obtain heaven here below. That is no present, but a
well-earned reward."

"Reward! For what?"

"For what? How simple we are! Why, for admitting someone into your
heaven, of course."

"What! The horrible old devil really believes that of me?"

"Come, come! A man is never horrible, and the devil is never old. If
you think him ugly I'll give you a magic potion, and with that in
your body you'll think him a prince."

"Go to hell with him! ugly or handsome. I'll none of him! I have a
husband whom I love."

"You have two husbands, and one of them you do not love. Your first
and lawful husband, whom you have forsaken for the more comely one,
lives the life of a lonely, dismal bachelor at Zeb. You are on a
crooked path. Do you fancy you can keep straight? No! you must go on
as you have begun. Do you think that I only took you away from the
house of the headsman of Zeb, in order that one stout butcher's wife
the more might in course of time sit in the front pew of the
Cathedral of Kassa?"

"You frightful woman! What do you mean to do with me?"

"What do I mean to do with you? Why, you little fool! I want to
give you the whole world. I want you to find out what sort of fruit
grew on the tree of which our mother Eve plucked one. Why, when she
was about it, did she not pick ten or twenty? If I had wished you to
join the ranks of the saints as a martyr, I should have left you in
the house of the headsman of Zeb, shouldn't I? Do you suppose that I
do not know how to value your beautiful white velvety skin, your
large sparkling eyes, your round cheeks, your inviting lips, your
fine figure? All the noble opals in the mines of Dubink are not half
as numerous as the precious stones which will be laid at your feet
whenever you like. Your fingers will turn whatever they touch to
gold. If you only do what I tell you, you'll be richer than King
Darius. And it won't cost you the least trouble. It will seem as if
you only dreamt it all. Who can call you to account for what you
dream? Do you go to confession merely for dreaming that you are
another man's wife. Fear nothing! If only you will put yourself in
my hands, you will tread on no one's corns. But if you try to get
away from me, it will only be so much labor lost. I have only to
send a letter, a word, to Henry Catsrider, and you and your
Valentine are lost. We shall see pretty Michal publicly scourged
with rods and branded with red-hot irons in the market-place, and
they will strike off the head of the sheriff of Kassa; for your
lawfully wedded husband still lives, and you were not separated from
him when you married the second."

Michal shuddered. She felt herself in the grip of a vise. She could
only tear herself away by force. Feminine cunning suggested an idea,
and rage and pride matured it into a regular plan. She would pretend
to lend an ear to the evil counsels of her seducer. She would
ostensibly consent to the disgraceful offer, lure Zurdoki to her,
and when quite sure of him, would tell her husband everything.

A man like Valentine would most certainly kill both the seducer and
his go-between, and such a homicide is justified by the laws and
customs of every nation.

Then she meditated killing by the hand of her husband the one being
in the world who was in possession of her secret. She had reason
enough for hating with a deadly hatred the witch who came to her
with such a dastardly proposal, and whose devilish intention it was
to hand her innocent soul over to perdition; but at the bottom of
this murderous idea was the constant thought that, when once Barbara
was out of the way, her secret would be secure. So she whispered
gently to Barbara:

"I'm only afraid someone will find me out."

Barbara's eyes flashed and sparkled like those of a wolf pouncing on
his prey. She fancied the little bird was caught already.

"Leave it all to me," she replied, also in a whisper, "no true woman
ever lets herself be caught. One who really knows what's what can
even manage to be in two places at the same time. You know how to
treat your husband so that he sees least when he's most on the
alert. Only rely upon me. Has anyone ever suspected our former
secret? Very well, then! It will be the same with this one also. No
headsman can tear from me with red-hot pincers what I know about
you, and no stately youth can wheedle it out of me with fond
caresses; but a single shifty look from you may make me blab."

And Michal so far overcame her heartfelt horror of the evil witch as
to press her hand and promise that they two would hold together as
heretofore. Then she told her to be at the same place on the morrow,
at the same time.

"And when the proper time comes," she added, confidentially, "you
must once more practice enchantments with the pan of water on the
fire, and the buck-goat will bring me the enamored swain."

Michal was well aware that it was no buck-goat, but his own legs,
that had brought Valentine to her on that occasion; but she wanted
to flatter the witch, who was much gratified by the allusion. She
winked roguishly, patted Michal's cheeks once more, and after
promising to come on the morrow, whisked out of the door as
stealthily as she had come.

But Michal went up into her own room, threw herself on the bed, and
wept bitterly. And when, a little time afterward, Dame Sarah asked
her how it was that her eyes were so red, she pretended she had been
working too long at a piece of fine white embroidery. Dame Sarah
thereupon locked up every piece of white embroidery in her wardrobe,
so that Michal might not ruin her eyes. When, however, her husband
came home and asked whether Barbara had been there yet, she
pretended that the woman had not appeared that day also.

Next day the witch came again after it had struck two o'clock,
locked herself up with Michal in the butcher's shop, and had a whole
hour's conversation with her.

And when Red Barbara had gone away, pretty Michal again went up into
her bedroom, and wept till her mother-in-law awoke from her
afternoon nap. And when Dame Sarah again asked her why her eyes were
so red, she pretended that the scent of the sweet basil plant in her
room was too strong, and had given her a headache.

Dame Sarah immediately had all the flowers which stood in glazed
jars on Michal's window-sill removed elsewhere.

And this evening also pretty Michal deceived her husband by
assuring him that Red Barbara had never been there.

The following day was Sunday. Pretty Michal declared she did not
feel well and could not go to church. This time Dame Sarah and
Valentine went to the house of God without her. During their absence
Red Barbara again visited Michal, and the young woman dismissed the
witch with the assurance that she was quite ready to receive the
gracious gentleman if he would only come, whereupon Red Barbara
promised to hasten on her hobby-horse (a broomstick, no doubt!) to
Saros, and Michal might expect her return any day.

When Michal heard that the witch was about to depart, she felt much
relieved. That day she told her husband that Red Barbara had been
there, and had departed satisfied. The same afternoon Valentine had
it publicly proclaimed, that all foreign vagrants must quit the town
by the following morning, or in default thereof be whipped with
rods.

And now nothing was heard of the evil witch for some time to come.

But the roses did not come back to pretty Michal's cheeks, nor did
the wrinkles vanish from Valentine's brow. Dame Sarah observed them
both with anxious curiosity. Something dreadful was going on, of
that she felt quite certain, especially as pretty Michal had now
altogether left off going to church.

This much indeed Dame Sarah knew for certain. On the day of the
election of the sheriff, just before her daughter-in-law had swooned
away, a strange beggar-woman with a red cloth round her head had
been seen to approach her, and now sundry friends and acquaintances
told her that at the very time when she was wont to enjoy her
afternoon nap, this same beggar-woman had been seen to step into
the shop, and not come out again for some considerable time.

"My daughter-in-law is bewitched," said she to herself, "and no
other than that evil witch has done it."

And pretty Michal pined and fell off from day to day, and no one
knew what was the matter with her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile political events were ripening toward a catastrophe.
Neither the remonstrances of his own subjects nor the prohibition of
the Sultan could deter George Rakoczy. He collected a host and,
uniting with the Cossacks and the Wallacks, went out against Poland.
To win over the Emperor Ferdinand, however, he transferred to him
the whole of that part of the land which lay along the banks of the
Theiss; though, to be sure, this liberality was not of the slightest
use to him. The Kaiser took, indeed, the counties offered to him,
but declared at the same time that he did not approve of Rakoczy's
attack on Poland, and, if necessary, would drive him out from thence
by force of arms.

In consequence of these events, the town of Kassa had to send a
deputation to Pressburg to negotiate with the delegates of the
Emperor and the Palatine as to the maintenance of the privileges of
the town and the confirmation of its religious liberties, and the
sheriff, Valentine Kalondai, was chosen the spokesman of this
deputation.

This mission took him away from home for some time, and there was
very much weeping and sobbing on pretty Michal's part when he
departed. Valentine would have liked to have taken her with him to
Pressburg, but it was scarcely prudent to venture upon so long a
journey at winter-time with such an invalid. On his departure,
however, he was very urgent with his mother to guard his beloved
Michal as the very apple of her eye; but, indeed, all such
exhortations were quite superfluous, for good Dame Sarah dearly
loved her daughter-in-law, and was constantly racking her brains as
to what had made her so very sad all at once. Immediately after
Valentine's departure there was a great fall of snow, and Dame Sarah
persuaded her daughter-in-law to take a sledge drive into the town
to see the carnival revels. The fresh air might do her good, and the
bracing cold would perhaps bring back the roses to her cheeks.

Michal herself was very fond of sledging. She therefore let them
bring her her furred pelisse, and harness the horses to the jingling
sledge. Behind her on the box-seat sat the faithful Ali, loudly
cracking his long whip.

Just as they were turning round the corner of the church into the
public square, a swarm of frisky masqueraders began to pelt the
sledge with snow. One of the snowballs fell right into Michal's lap,
and as she shook it off her pelisse, there fell at her feet from the
crumbling snow, a little crumpled piece of paper.

She picked it up and saw that something was written on it.

"At two o'clock this afternoon I shall be there!"

So she has come back. She has dared to creep back into the town,
despite the prohibition. She has been watching for the time when the
husband would not be at home!

When pretty Michal got home again her face was paler than ever. All
her limbs were as cold as ice. Perhaps she would even have been
taken ill had not Dame Sarah, there and then, insisted upon her
swallowing a hot wine-and-nutmeg posset. She rallied all her
strength, however, so as to be able to go and meet the evil witch
when she came. She was in her power, she must obey her in all
things, she must go wherever she bade her.

Even her indignation was paralyzed by the circumstance that
Valentine was now far away from her. The trap had been laid, the
sword sharpened; but who was to kill the evil being that had fallen
into the snare?

As soon as dinner was over and Dame Sarah asleep, she slipped
unobserved down into the usual trysting-place. The shop had a double
door in the gateway. When Michal had opened the outer door, she
thought to herself how strange it would be if the witch were already
standing between the two doors.

And there, indeed, the witch really was, so that Michal did not even
scream out when she saw her.

Witches can get into any room through a keyhole--especially if they
have the assistance of a skeleton key.

"Alas, alas! my little poppet, how pale you have grown," whimpered
Barbara, when she saw Michal. "You must get back your rosy color
somehow, or else there's an end to all your glory. In this moldy
city even you are catching the Kassa color, and it is, therefore,
high time that you left it."

"But how dare you come into the town again?" said Michal, "when you
know very well how strictly it is forbidden for all such--such----"

"Don't pick your words, sweetheart! Call a spade a spade! You mean
to say, such a vagabond brood of witches, who are beaten with rods
whenever they are caught. I know it. But the devil does not forsake
his daughters. The witch has sense enough, when she enters Kassa by
the Eperies gate, to come, not with her crutch in her hand and her
bundle on her back, but in a jingling sledge, drawn by three horses;
and when I throw aside this ragged mantle, I also am a person of
honor."

Red Barbara let the mantle fall from her shoulder, and took the red
cloth from her head, and Michal fancied she saw upon the witch the
same purple mantle which had once belonged to her, and of which
Valentine had said that it made her look like a queen. But the satin
robe was somewhat stained and shabby, and Red Barbara looked more
like a witch in it than ever. Nothing is so disgusting as when such
shameless old women trick themselves out in gay apparel.

"Have no concern on my account! I also have come hither in a sledge.
I have left it standing at the corner, and have thrown these rags
over me. There is a thick mist. No one has seen me."

"What do you want of me?" asked Michal trembling.

"First of all that you will sit down on this little chair."

"Why?"

"I cannot bear to see you so pale."

"And what then?"

"I have a nice remedy against all such pale faces. If I rub your
cheeks a little with it, they will bloom like roses."

"What? You would rouge my face," cried Michal, with a shudder,
retreating into the furthest corner of the shop, and holding her
hands before her face.

"Don't be so scared! This remedy only lends a red color to a pale
cheek. Who's the worse for that? Come here, I say, when I call you!
Have I not anointed your face once before. Then, indeed, I covered
you with ugly freckles. That pleased the lover you had then. The
lover you have now likes it otherwise."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Oh, oh! You want to know everything beforehand, do you? Won't you
trust me till I have told you everything from beginning to end? Very
well, then, I'll tell you. The fool who adores you, the great, rich
lord, awaits you near to the town, in the Eperies tavern. He has
harnessed five fleet horses to his sledge. My sledge will carry you
to him."

"Me?"

"Don't be afraid. You won't catch cold. I've brought a fur mantle
with me."

"I am to fly from here!"

"You can do it now. Your husband is not at home."

"By the mercy of God, I implore you to depart from me."

"Name not that potentate, for by so doing, you only offend the
devil, whose friendship we have now much need of. We have not much
time to lose. The great lord must travel to Poland the day after
to-morrow to the Prince; he will take you with him wherever he goes,
to Cracow, to Warsaw. He will make a noble lady of you, and when you
have had enough of him you can come back to your present husband.
You can make him believe that you went away to see your father the
Keszmár professor."

"Depart from me, Satan!" cried Michal, violently removing the
witch's arms from her body.

"That's right! cry aloud! Make a noise that the servants and
neighbors may come running up. Let them lock me up and make me
confess all about our acquaintance. That will be very pleasant for
both of us, won't it?"

"Have mercy upon me and depart!"

"I'm not such a fool as that. You are the little goose that lays me
the golden eggs."

"I'll give you all my money, all my jewels, only do not ruin me."

"Don't talk to me of compassion and mercy! I hate you. In the first
place, I can't endure that a person I can make just like myself
should be a pious, church-going, happy woman. In the second place,
I've given my word to bring you with me. My reputation as a witch is
at stake. And, finally, I'm furious with you because you tried to
deceive me. You lied to me. You told me you lived in one place, when
you lived in another, so that I might not find you. Instead of
honoring and supporting me as your adopted mother, you paid me off
once for all with a beggarly pittance that only made my mouth water
for more. Now I don't mean to let you escape from my clutches again.
When once you have given yourself up to me, you are mine forever,
and if you are mine you are the devil's. Come along with me!"

A mist swam before Michal's eyes, her feet tottered, her whole body
was palsied. She could not speak, she only staggered, and sought
with her hands for a support to keep her from falling.

"If you faint," whispered Barbara, "it will be all the worse for
you, for then I shall take you in my arms and carry you off. The
sledge is close at hand, the mist is thick, and the snow is falling.
No one will ever find out whither you have vanished."

Michal shuddered all over, and fell her full length upon the floor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Good Dame Sarah did not take her usual afternoon nap that day. On
the contrary, she took out her Bible and read therefrom in a loud
voice to keep herself awake.

All at once it occurred to her to see what Michal was about. She
went up to her room, but she was not there.

A side door which led from Michal's door to the basement stood open.
The young woman must consequently have gone out through this door.

The wind had blown the freshly fallen snow into the corridor, and in
this snow Dame Sarah recognized the impressions of Michal's small,
narrow boots. These footprints led her right down to the gate, and
thence, guided by the patches of snow which Michal had shaken from
her feet, she arrived at the door of the butcher's shop.

She crept toward it and began to listen. Then she suddenly tore open
the door and rushed in.

Red Barbara was stooping over the form of the senseless woman, and
grasping her round the body in order to raise her up and carry her
away.

"So I've caught you at last, eh! you horrible, godless witch!"

The hag, taken quite by surprise, uttered a hoarse shriek, like a
vulture startled from her prey and, springing up from Michal's side,
extended her crooked fingers like the talons of a bird of prey, and
raised them aloft to strike. But her claws would have been of little
use to her, even if she had borrowed them from her patron Beelzebub
himself, against the attack which Dame Sarah in her rage and fury
now made upon her.

That lady's iron hand seized the witch with irresistible might. In
vain she twisted and wriggled. Dame Sarah bent the witch's body back
over the chopping-board.

"Let me go, woman!" yelled Barbara, with bloody, foaming lips.
"Don't hold me like that or you'll rue it! I can bite, and my bite
is worse than that of a mad dog. I'll drag you down to hell with me
if you don't let me go."

"You'd bite me, you b----, would you?" cried Dame Sarah, with grim
fury; "then bite yourself!" and with that, thrusting one of
Barbara's arms against Barbara's own mouth, she forced the witch's
clenched fist in between her wide open jaws. "Bite away, and choke!"

The face of the witch was already livid, her eyes were starting out
of their sockets, she was very near being choked with her own fist.
And Dame Sarah would certainly have bestowed a great benefit upon
her own family, and all the powers in heaven and earth would
certainly have forgiven her, if she had not loosed her hold upon the
evil creature till its pestilential soul had gone to hell.

But it was otherwise decreed in the great book of predestination.

The uproar made by the two struggling women drew the whole household
to the spot. The servants hastened promptly to the assistance of
their mistress, and after tearing a considerable quantity of hair
out of Red Barbara's head, they tied her hands behind her and, as
she would not go willingly, they dragged her through the snow to the
lockup. All the way thither the witch never ceased shouting: "For
this I'll revenge myself on your whole house."

Michal knew nothing of all this, for she lay in a swoon. It was
already late in the evening when she came to herself and gradually
recognized the faces of those who stood round her.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

Which shows what a good thing it is when "publica
privatis præcedunt," or, in other words, when public
duties take precedence of private affairs.


As the time approached when the return of Valentine Kalondai with
the deputation from Pressburg might be reasonably expected, Simplex
joined the town watchman, with whom he, as trumpeter, stood on terms
of good fellowship, and watched with him for the approach of the
sledges.

The carnival was now pretty far advanced, when a postilion arrived
to say that the deputation was already on its homeward way, and the
town was to send four fresh horses to meet it, so that it might make
its solemn entry with due dignity; the four nags which had been
hired at Pressburg being by this time splashed up to the very ears
with mud.

As the deputies approached the gate, Simplex seized his trumpet--it
was the custom when notables drew near to play in their honor a
selection of the choicest melodies--and played a tune, the text of
which begins with these words:

    Hasten, little nag, gallop and fly,
    At home thy mistress sick doth lie.

He thought that Valentine would understand the allusion.

And Valentine did understand it, but he would not take the hint. He
told the coachman to drive direct to the townhall.

The civic coachman was a very old man. He had many a time driven
Valentine's father on the business of the town, and was also very
much attached to his son.

"Mr. Sheriff," he inquired, as they passed beneath the portcullis,
"hadn't we better drive home first of all?"

"No, old fellow! the business of the city comes first. I'll go home
afterward."

As the sledge stopped before the townhall, where the
town-councilors, apprised of the arrival of the deputies, had
already assembled, the first person whom Valentine met on
dismounting was Count Hommonai.

He drew Valentine aside.

"Have you been home yet?" he asked.

"Not yet," replied the other, "'publica præcedunt privatis.'"

"Go home first."

"No, my lord! That I will not do. Tidings may there be awaiting me
which will either irritate or delight me, and so either make me too
severe or too soft-hearted. The circumstances of the city are at
this moment so very serious that, till they have been set right, we
must let our private affairs go. So, by your leave, the townhall
first and my own house afterward."

And when Valentine explained in the council the actual situation of
affairs, everyone said that he had acted quite rightly.

The Prince of Transylvania, in order to bring King Ferdinand over to
his side, had surrendered to him the five counties on this side of
the Theiss which had been ceded to Transylvania by the Peace of
Linz. Then, shutting his ears against all good advice, he had
invaded Poland, and his first attack was crowned with success, for
Cracow fell into his hands.

King Ferdinand had accepted the portions of Transylvania offered to
him, but at the same time intimated to Prince George Rakoczy that if
he did not evacuate Poland at once, he, Ferdinand, would be forced
to make common cause with the Poles, and compel him to do so by
force of arms.

And now, too, the Sultan was very wroth with Prince George Rakozcy
for beginning the war without his consent, and also for surrendering
portions of the land to Ferdinand. When they are wroth in Stamboul
it is no joke. The Sultan declared that George Rakoczy had forfeited
his throne, and issued an athname which gave the scepter to Achatius
Baresai, at the same time commanding the Khan of the Crim Tartars to
march into Transylvania and chastise his rebellious vassal.

So the town of Kassa had now to choose between two things.

It might quietly conform to the will of Prince George Rakoczy, and
consent to be transferred to Ferdinand of Austria, the first
consequence of which would be that the troops of the Prince of
Transylvania would quit the town in order to garrison the fortress
of Onod, while a Walloon regiment, under the command of General
Löffelholz, would take their place; in which case the Jesuits would
have their cloisters restored to them, and would reënter the town
behind the Walloons.

That would be a bitter morsel to swallow.

The second alternative for the town, in case it disliked the
Emperor's friendship, was to throw itself into the arms of the
Turks. The Sultan had deposed George Rakoczy, and appointed Achatius
Baresai Prince in his stead. If the town of Kassa chose, it could
side with Baresai and summon the Pasha of Eger to its assistance.

One of these two courses had to be adopted.

Good advice was now scarce.

There lay the stone which one fool had cast into the well, and one
hundred wise men could not pull it out.

The session of the council, when these things had been explained was
extraordinarily stormy. Valentine Kalondai, who presided, was
scarcely able to maintain order, so heated were the tempers of his
colleagues.

One of them threatened to burn his house to the ground rather than
permit German troops to be quartered upon him, while another
protested that he would rather massacre his own wife and children
than allow the Turkish janissaries to perpetrate their atrocities
upon them; and while some exhausted the whole vocabulary of abuse
against the unbelieving heathen, others excelled themselves in
blackening the Jesuits. Thus there arose two fiercely antagonistic
parties, neither of which would give way a hair's breadth to the
other.

The president alone was silent.

At last the superrector turned to him and asked him for his opinion.

"Well, if you want to know what I think," began Kalondai, "let me
tell you that I do not agree with either opinion. Judging the case
on its merits, I think the Theiss counties ought not to have been
ceded to Ferdinand till he had fulfilled his obligation of assisting
George Rakoczy against Poland, which he has not done. But on the
other hand, neither has the Sultan any right to dispose of the free
city of Kassa; such right belongs to the Estates of the Realm alone.
So again, Rakoczy can only be deposed by the Estates of
Transylvania, and if they wish Baresai for their Prince they alone
can elect him. My opinion, therefore, is that neither Walloon
horsemen nor Turkish _Spahis_ be allowed to enter here, but we must
close the city gates, and, if need be, oppose force to force as our
fathers have done. If the council wish it so, I'll stake my head
upon the issue, and God shall judge betwixt us."

But Mr. Zwirina was by no means enamored of so adventurous a policy,
and he so dexterously strung together the evil consequences which
would accrue to the town from such obstinacy--to wit, bombardments
with red-hot bullets, loss of life, famine, plague, conflagrations,
bankruptcy of the merchants, ruin of the guilds, storms,
capitulations, wholesale blackmailing, nay, even the wresting of the
churches from the hands of the Protestants--that when it came to
voting, the majority of the council decided that the town ought
rather to conform to the will of the Prince by submitting to the
change, than come to loggerheads with the Kaiser and the Sultan at
the same time; and that the Walloons should be allowed to enter,
especially as they were, after all, the soldiers of the King of
Hungary.

No sooner had this resolution been adopted than Count Hommonai took
the golden key of the town from his neck and threw it on the table,
saying that from henceforth he no longer regarded himself as
commandant, and would discharge his troops forthwith. He would now,
he said, retire to his estates to shoot stags and plant cabbages.

"If you go, I go too," said Valentine Kalondai. "I also lay down the
sheriff's staff on the table; let a better man bear it!"

And so saying, he placed the gold-headed Spanish cane on the table,
and rose from his seat. It must certainly have been his guardian
angel that gave him the idea of resignation at that moment, for he
thereby averted the point of the sword that was actually suspended
over his head.

But now he was suddenly assailed on all sides. His friends, his
enemies also (especially the latter), begged and prayed him to
remain. Most earnestly of all Mr. Zwirina implored him not to
forsake the town at such a crisis. Was he not so very much wiser
than they all? Without him the concord of the town would become
sheer anarchy; it was just at such times as these that they needed a
strong hand like his to guide them, for where could they find such
another? At last they attacked him on his weak point. It was
cowardice, they said, to hide his head just as danger was
approaching. They pestered him so long that at last the voice of
ambition drowned the suggestion of his good angel; but it is only
fair to say that his love for his native place, and his sense of
duty, also, contributed not a little thereto. He allowed them to
lead him back to his place, for which complacency he received a loud
_vivat_. They even wished to lift him up in the air, chair and all,
as upon the occasion of his election, but he motioned to them not to
do so.

Then Count Hommonai withdrew from the council-chamber; he had no
longer any business there.

Valentine Kalondai declared, however, that he would only hold office
till the new order of things had been established; then they must
elect them a new sheriff in his place.

After this weighty matter had thus been satisfactorily settled, the
recorder and the fiscal procurator brought in sundry official
documents, which only needed the signature of the sheriff, the
council having already passed them; they were urgent criminal cases,
in which every delay would be cruel. In all penal matters a swift
execution is merciful. Not till all this business had been disposed
of could Valentine quit the council-chamber.

The first document presented for his signature was a death-warrant.

It was the first sentence of death he had ever signed; his heart
beat violently.

To kill a man in the battlefield, in the heat of the combat; to
manfully grapple with a man who is already mowing his way through
the ranks, sword in hand, first bidding him defend himself or
surrender; to cut down with a strong hand and dash to pieces a man
who breaks into the land as an enemy, and ravages it like a wild
beast--all that he had often and cheerfully done, as became a
soldier. But to sit in a soft armchair and kill a man in cold blood,
a man in fetters who cannot fly, who cannot defend himself; a man of
the same town as yourself, a fellow-citizen, perhaps an
acquaintance, who, pale with mortal agony, begs you for mercy; to
kill such a man by breaking the staff of office over him--in such a
thing as that he was quite a novice.

He asked what crime this man had committed.

"He has killed his wife."

A terrible crime!

"He killed his wife, and she, too, big with child."

A horrible, unnatural crime. Such a wound as that none but the
headsman can heal.

The headsman! He had not thought of that on the day of his triumph,
when he had visited every church, and prayed before every altar,
"God preserve this noble city from the misfortune of requiring the
headsman to come hither to execute justice before the year is out!"

That will, indeed, be a painful meeting when Valentine Kalondai and
Henry Catsrider meet each other in the narrow path leading to the
scaffold, the one as the judge of wretched criminals, the other as
the torturer, the executioner of the condemned felons!

How will he be able to look that man in the face?

He would not submit to the inevitable. He requested that the charge
brought against the accused should be laid before him. A sheriff
cannot sign a death-warrant before he has heard the defense of the
accused.

The conrector, acting as secretary, then recited to him both the
accusation and the defense. A militiaman--Valentine knew him very
well, for he was a butcher's apprentice--came home drunk one night
from patrolling. His wife began scolding him, and he furiously drew
his sword and aimed a blow at her. He only meant to hit her with the
flat of the blade, but the devil jogged his hand, and the point went
right through her heart. She died. The murderer gave himself up
immediately the deed was done. He repented of his crime, and himself
demanded death as his punishment.

"Then he did this dreadful deed when he was in liquor and is now
sorry for it?" said Valentine, by way of extenuation.

"Yes, and that is certainly a reason for mitigating the punishment,"
replied the superrector. "Just for that very reason he has only been
condemned to be beheaded, otherwise he would have been quartered
alive for his bloody deed."

"Has he any children?" asked the sheriff.

"Seven," replied the conrector.

"He leaves behind him seven orphans," sighed Valentine, "seven
innocent orphans, who will be forever branded as the children of the
man who died beneath the hand of the headsman!"

"So it is!" answered the cold and grim superrector; "seven will be
branded with infamy for the crime of one. But if we were to pardon
him, all the inhabitants of Kassa would be branded for all time."

"I don't ask you to pardon him. Lifelong imprisonment in the
treadmill of the civic reservoir, with the sting of conscience in
his heart, would be a still greater punishment for him than death."

"Pray don't let us have any mawkish sentiment, good Master Sheriff!
If we don't kill, people will kill us. If we pardon the evil-doers
we shall leave the good defenseless. This hard-mouthed people
requires an example which shall strike its eyes and so frighten it.
If we pardon one malefactor, a hundred others will spring up. It is
a sad duty, no doubt, but it is a duty none the less, and must be
done."

The cold sweat started out on Valentine's forehead like the morning
dew on a flower-bed, as he dipped the pen into the inkhorn, and his
large powerful hand trembled so much as he wrote his name under the
warrant that his signature, ordinarily so bold and energetic, was
now scarcely legible.

"Are there any more arrears?"

"One more sentence, only one, a 'harum palczarum.'"

We must linger a little on these words in order to find out what
they mean. Both of the German chroniclers whom we here follow write
"harum pallizarum," possibly a corrupt contraction with Latin
terminations of the Hungarian expression "három pálczára," _i. e._,
"with three staves." But what is the meaning of the expression? In
the annals of the Debreczin town council we find this peculiar
punishment (reserved for witches found guilty of pimping and
seduction) very plainly described. The Debreczin chronicle says,
"let them be crowned with three staves!" The German chronicler adds
it was very seldom that anyone survived this punishment. The head of
the condemned was pressed between three staves, and then the
executioner slowly screwed them together, thereby causing the
felons truly infernal torments. Very often they swooned away, and
then they were beaten with bunches of thorn till they came to again.

This was the horrible sentence which Valentine Kalondai had now to
sign.

When he read the name of the condemned, he fancied the whole house
was sinking with him.

"Red Barbara!"

Sparks and rings of fire danced before his eyes.

That _she_ should have fallen into _his_ hands!

"Examine the documents, Master Sheriff; the case will interest you!"
said the conrector.

Valentine Kalondai read.

It was indeed a hellish message which these documents conveyed.

The confessions of the imprisoned witch, the charge brought by
Valentine's mother, the testimony of acquaintances and friends all
showed that a detestable plot had been forged against his happiness
and honor. The accused denied nothing. She confessed everything at
the very first examination. The great and mighty Mr. Zurdoki had
sent her to corrupt the wife of Valentine Kalondai. She had
intended, by fair means or foul, to have carried Michal off and made
her Zurdoki's mistress. She had been paid to do so, and had got
everything ready for carrying out this diabolical plan.

But when they had asked by what means she had managed to approach
the wife of Valentine Kalondai, and how she had got her to listen to
her filthy insinuations, seeing that Michal had recoiled from them
with horror, nay, at least, had even fainted away, the accused had
simply replied: "I am a witch, I can do everything." Nay, even when
they applied the question extraordinary, she stood them out that
she had no other help but her own magic power. At last, however,
under the extremest torture, she had declared herself the mother of
Dame Valentine Kalondai. That was why the latter had allowed her
free access to her person. Nay, so far did this woman's impudence
go, that she actually maintained that when the sheriff came home, he
would be the first to implore the town council to let the mother of
his wife go free.

Valentine felt as if the whole world was falling to pieces over his
head. And then it was that the maxim occurred to him, that it was
just when the universe lies in ruins around him that a true man
raises his head most defiantly.

His friends and foes at the green table were watching him with
curiosity and concern to see what he would do. Would he quail
beneath the blow, and justify the assertion of the witch by
imploring them to do her no harm?

Valentine Kalondai took the pen, dipped it into the inkhorn, and
wrote, no longer with a trembling hand, the date and his own name at
the bottom of the warrant, underlining the words "with three staves"
twice, and taking good care not to mistake the inkhorn for the
sandbox when he sanded his signature.

And then, his heavy fist still reposing on the bundle of documents,
he requested the conrector to fold together a sheet of paper and,
"fracto margine," to write, in the name of the town council, a
letter of citation to the headsman of Zeb, Henry Catsrider, bidding
him, as in duty bound, to appear within eight days at the city of
Kassa, in order to execute the law's sentences which had been passed
that day, copies of which were sent him. He was then to present his
account to the civic auditor, who was authorized to discharge it.
This citation Valentine also subscribed.

He had still a faint glimmer of hope.

When Henry Catsrider receives this citation and learns that he, the
headsman of Zeb, must come face to face with Valentine Kalondai whom
he had formerly robbed of his beloved, he was then a genius, a
luminary, a cleric and a scholar, face to face with him who had once
been an expelled convict, but now was sheriff; when he reflects that
he who was now a branded monster, an outcast from every city, is to
appear before his former rival, who was now the first magistrate of
one of the most important cities of the land; and when, besides all
that, Henry Catsrider discovers that one of the condemned, on whom a
masterpiece of his hellish art was to be performed, was his father's
former housekeeper, who had once actually been his own nurse and
suckled him, why, then, he would surely have human feeling enough to
remain at home, and, as he was often wont to do, send his oldest
apprentice to execute the sentence in his stead.

Valentine actually believed that there was still some human feeling
left in Henry Catsrider!

When all this had been done he arose from his seat of honor.

The whole town council bowed before him. The conrector, Ignatius
Zwirina the younger, expressed the satisfaction felt by all the
burgesses at having a sheriff whose wise and firm administration
would serve as an example to all his successors.

And now Valentine hastened home.

He asked no questions. He let no one speak. He stifled the words on
the lips of his mother and his wife with kisses. Then he took his
pretty Michal on his knee, and whispered in her ear in the tones of
a lover to his lady:

"Come what may or must! Be it weal or woe, our comfort is that we
shall share it together!"

And pretty Michal was content that it should be so.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

The fulfilment of the proverb, as you make your bed
so must you lie in it, comes to pass.


Valentine Kalondai knew Henry Catsrider ill, and all his
psychological calculations foundered completely.

During the last few years Henry Catsrider's nature had entirely
degenerated.

When Valentine was his fellow-student at the college of Keszmár,
Henry was a stuck-up youth, proud of his learning, who was always
boasting to his comrades of his mental capacity and his physical
strength till he became positively unendurable. The weaker ones he
persecuted. In his wrestling-bouts with them he shockingly
maltreated them, and when they played pranks he reported them to the
authorities. But the end and aim of all his brutal self-assertion
was to become a clergyman. In this calling he would also have been
sly and tyrannous, always looking after himself and a scourge and a
burden to his colleagues; but his father had violently torn him away
from this path of life, and forced him to go back to his proper
trade. And perhaps the old man was right.

For this was, after all, the trade for which Henry was intended by
nature, and within a few years he was as much at home in it as if he
had done nothing else all his life. Coarse society soon brings down
everyone who mixes in it to its own level. The feeling, too, that
all the world despises him, arouses in a man the defiant instinct to
avenge himself on the whole world for such contempt. Till then he
had led the life of a recluse, but now he suddenly plunged into a
continual orgy, and hated sobriety. The ghastly death of his father
had filled him with the cruelty of a wild beast, and the destruction
of his house had extinguished in him the last sparks of human
feeling. After the loss of his wife, whom he had loved passionately,
he sank completely into the slough of vileness, and sought the
society of those women whom not the altar but the pillory would
sooner or later unite to him--to-day a glowing kiss, to-morrow a
hissing iron. As, moreover, he had lost a large part of his
treasures in the burning of his house, he became avaricious
likewise. He wanted to make up again what he had lost. Just then
they were beginning in Poland to play at games of chance with the
painted cards invented by Peter Gringenoir, and Henry spent all his
time in the Polish cities playing cards with the cheats and filchers
of the district. And in these gambling dens he generally managed to
lose some fresh piece of his silver plate which he brought with him
in the leg of his boot. Woe betide them who then fell into his
hands!

Once he was warned by the authorities that he would be degraded and
expelled from his office if he did not attend to it better.

After all this we may readily suppose that Henry Catsrider, when he
received the summons from the town council of Kassa, did not
hesitate a moment to appear personally in answer to it. That this
summons was signed by Valentine Kalondai, as sheriff, did not
disturb him in the least. On the contrary, the idea of appearing
before his former rival as executioner rather tickled him than
otherwise. That one of the victims was Red Barbara afforded him the
greatest satisfaction. He suspected at once that the witch had set
his house on fire and stolen a portion of his treasures. That she
had also filched from him his greatest treasure was, however,
unknown to him as yet. He would not for any consideration have
relinquished to anyone else the bliss of tormenting her.

A week after the dispatch of the citation, the wagon of the
executioner of Zeb rattled over the stones of the market-place of
Kassa. It was a black vehicle, with red wheels and axles, on which
the somber company, like a troupe of itinerant comedians, brought
with them all the requisites of their terrible stage. Mounted
drabants and musketeers escorted them before and behind.

The worshipful town council had a very hard time of it that day. In
the early morning, two squadrons of Walloon cuirassiers had marched
into the town, blowing, not the Hungarian farogato whose richly
varying melodies so much delighted the people, but those shrill
trumpets which were only invented for the annoyance of mankind. And
between the two squadrons of cavalry, sitting on mules and chanting
discordant hymns, the Jesuit fathers also came back to the town.

The colonel of the foreign soldiers and the superior of the Jesuits
hastened together to the townhall, and a great dispute arose between
them in the council-chamber as to which of them should have the
precedence. General Löffelholz asserted that, by virtue of his rank,
he was entitled to settle military matters with the magistrates
first of all. Prior Hieronymus, on the other hand, appealed to the
privileges of his order, which placed him above every temporal
authority.

Neither the soldier nor the monk would give way, and the pair of
them kept their heads covered, the one with his plumed hat, the
other with his hood. At that moment the sound of clanking spurs was
heard coming along the corridor, and now both the contending
parties gave way before the third comer.

The man who now entered also wore a plumed biretta on his head, but
it was scarlet. His powerful body was dressed in a scarlet coat, and
over it he wore a long scarlet mantle.

The clergyman and the soldier instantly made way for him. They were
careful not to come into contact with so much as the hem of his
garment.

It was the headsman.

Henry Catsrider's face had very much altered since he had laid aside
his priestly garb. His former long fair hair was now clipped short,
and his beard flowed down in two long reddish wisps. His face was
puffy from much drinking, and his large eyes, that had once been so
sparkling, now gleamed out of his coppery, swollen countenance like
smoldering embers. His large, coarse mouth was all awry. The
humanized wild beast had relapsed again into its original savagery.
Even if he had worn no hangman's weeds, all the world might have
read his frightful profession from his face. As he approached,
everyone timidly made way for him.

And if there was anyone who had as much cause to shudder at the
appearance of this shape, as if the skeleton with the scythe had
suddenly sprung up out of the ground before him, it was certainly
Valentine Kalondai. To him this creature was not only the man of
blood, but the man whom he had robbed of his wife.

Even at the time when passion had led him to this step--a step to
which a whole host of concurring circumstances, hot blood, and the
force of fate had constrained him--even then he had thought that he
might one day fall in with him whom he had made a widower, but he
had then said, "I will rather get together a robber band than
surrender my beloved to destruction!" That would have been a very
different kind of meeting. A meeting like this was more than human
foresight could have foreseen.

All eyes turned to him who was the head of the city, the president
of the town council.

And even at that moment his strength of mind did not forsake him. He
looked Henry Catsrider straight in the face, as if they had never
known each other, as if he had never trespassed against him.

The headsman planted himself in front of the sheriff and said:
"'They have called me, and I have come!'"

Valentine, with perfect _sangfroid_, completed the quotation:

"'I have sprung from the dust of an accursed earth.'"

This distich, it is said, was written in Chaldaic characters on the
wings of those locusts which first appeared at the call of Moses,
and always reappear when the Lord would abase the pride of man.

Everyone knew this saying. The words of the sheriff, therefore,
called forth a slight smile on every face, and a murmur of merriment
ran through the room because he had so dexterously turned the tables
on the coarse intruder.

Still more satisfied with his wisdom were they when he pronounced
judgment in the precedence dispute. "The Church first, then the
temporal power, last of all the headsman."

But the Walloon general, a strapping fellow, tapped his saber, said
he was the first man in the town, and made a terrible to-do.

Valentine Kalondai thereupon shoved back his presidential chair,
laid down his mace, girded on his sword, and donned his hat. There
were now four persons in the council-chamber who had their hats on.

Then he turned to the general and said: "Have we come hither to
deliberate or to fight?"

The Walloon perceived that he had met his match. Such courage
pleased him. He held out his hand to the sheriff and said with a
laugh: "Well, well, Master Sheriff, I have not come hither to
squabble. Pray sit down again and deliberate," and with that he drew
back.

This resolute behavior made such an impression on the members of the
council that, as the sheriff resumed his seat, they greeted him with
a loud _vivat_, while the victorious prior stretched forth his
skinny arm toward him and said: "Deus benedicat tibi!"

"I have asked no blessing of your reverence; he who sits in the
judgment-seat may not even accept a benediction;" and he forthwith
began to investigate the points in dispute between the city and the
College of Jesuits.

If you really want to test a man's presence of mind and dialectic
skill, just engage him in an argument in a foreign language.
Valentine now showed that he could negotiate with the Jesuit in
Latin and with the Walloon in German, without stammering or
stuttering in the least. And indeed, as the conrector could not help
remarking to his neighbor, the sheriff was a far greater master of
both languages than those with whom he was negotiating. His precise,
curial style was easily victorious over the Jesuit's dog Latin, and
his expressive German, with his pithy Lutheranisms, was more than a
match for the general's Platt-Deutsch dialect.

And the headsman was standing behind him all the time!

The questions before him were by no means easy to solve. On the
part of the town a charter had to be drafted and signed,
guaranteeing to the Jesuits all their privileges and possessions,
and declaring their cloisters a sacred asylum, whose very threshold
the secular authorities should never cross. The College of Jesuits
had also to subscribe an agreement pledging itself not to convert
Protestants to the Roman faith by force, artifice, moral pressure,
or any sort of cajolery.

Valentine's clear intelligence knew exactly how to hit the proper
mean between these directly antagonistic pretensions, and keep the
document entirely free from those artfully insinuated clauses
whereby the Jesuits tried again and again to smuggle in their mental
reservations.

The prior was satisfied with the compact, and when Valentine took up
his pen to subscribe it the other unctuously exclaimed:

"Such a good sowing will produce a good harvest!"

And Valentine could not help thinking, as he handled the pen, "I
wonder what sort of harvest the letters I am now sowing will bring
in to me."

The matters to be settled with the general, too, were not a whit
less captious. The relations between the military and the civic
authorities had to be very carefully defined and settled, once for
all. The city had an armed garrison of its own, and reserved to
itself the complete control of this garrison. The gates were to be
watched by both parties together. So the Gordian knot to be untied
was this: how two sets of men diametrically opposed in nationality,
religion, and politics were to be made to consent to be faithful
guardians of the law of the land and the prerogatives of the Kaiser,
without prejudicing the liberties of the city, or interfering in any
way with one another, or attempting to violently hew the knot in two
with the sword.

And that Kalondai settled this complicated matter also in the wisest
possible way is sufficiently obvious from the fact that neither
party was quite contented with his decision.

Last of all, it occurred to him that there was still someone
standing behind him--the headsman.

He did not tell the fellow to stand forth, but alluded to him in the
third person, and as the man had a Slovack accent, he addressed him
in the Slovack tongue, just as if they had never squabbled with each
other in their youth in the Hungarian, German, and Latin languages.

"Master Henry will be at his post on the scaffold at six o'clock
to-morrow morning, and there await with his apprentices the arrival
of the magistrates."

He wasted no more words on the subject, but closed the session and
went home.

In the evening of the same day the very reverend dean was sent for
to come to Kalondai's house to give a lady the sacrament of the
altar.

The dean at once supposed that Dame Sarah was on the point of death,
and great was his astonishment when they led him to the bedside of
the younger lady. It was pretty Michal who desired the last
sacraments.

The very reverend gentleman was beyond measure astonished thereat.
Had he not seen Michal piously praying in church only the day
before! And now she desired the sacrament of the dying!

"Would you haggle with God?" asked Valentine.

So pretty Michal partook of the Lord's Supper, and the clergyman
gave her his benediction.

And pretty Michal at that moment had no bodily ailment, yet for all
that she was on the point of death.

Next day--it was a dark January morning--the gloomy scaffold stood
ready in the market-place of Kassa. The early risers could see
through the thick mists the headsman's apprentices, in their pointed
caps, moving like hellish shadows about the burning fire, in which
they were heating their terrible tools red-hot, and warming their
hands the while, to prevent them from growing stiff.

When the clock in the church-tower struck seven, the watchmen on the
bastions struck the big drum three times, whereupon the felon's bell
in the tower of the townhall began to toll--a sad, heartrending
sound. Then the gates of the courtyard were thrown open, and out
came the procession in the usual order, the headsman first on
horseback, then the convict, and last of all the members of the town
council, the sheriff, the superrector, the conrector, the syndic,
and the civic warden. All these took their places on the dais, with
the sheriff in the center, while the headsman dismounted from his
horse and ascended the scaffold.

The soldier who had been condemned to be beheaded was accompanied to
the place of execution by his comrades. It was the special privilege
of every citizen of Kassa who suffered capital punishment to go to
the scaffold free and unfettered, take leave there of his family and
friends, and not be maltreated by the headsman.

The convict in question advanced with a cheerful countenance and
head erect. Two of his comrades accompanied him, consoling and
consoled by him.

"Never mind, gossips! I am not the first to whom it has happened. I
don't take it so much to heart, and it doesn't hurt anyone else. God
bless those who are left behind!"

Then he kissed and embraced his little children one after the other,
and distributed them among his friends.

"To you I give my little son, and to you I leave my little
daughter."

And so he parted with them all.

Who is that weeping so loudly?

It is the sheriff beneath his canopy. He cannot refrain from
sobbing.

The convict had compassion upon his judge, and said to him:

"Weep not, Master Sheriff! you have pronounced a righteous judgment
over me. I deserve to die. Not a drop of my blood will ever burden
your soul, for it was a righteous sentence. Turn your head aside if
you find it hard to see the sentence carried out!"

But Valentine Kalondai did not cover his eyes. He bade them weep no
more, but watch the scene to the very end.

He was learning!

He was learning how to mount the seven steps of the scaffold with a
firm step, how to cheerily tap the headsman on the shoulder, ask him
if his ax was sharp, and then send his last greetings to those at
home.

The man sat down without any assistance on the low stool, put his
hands on his knees, stretched forward his head, and began to sing
the well-known verse: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O
----" The word "Lord" was still upon his lips as he stood before the
throne of God.

Valentine had learnt something.

Another and far more terrible scene now ensued. They brought up the
witch.

_She_ did not endure her fate calmly. She bit, kicked, scratched,
cursed the saints and all mankind, and called upon the devil to help
her. They had to bind her by force to the pillar.

And Henry Catsrider actually took pleasure in the hideous contest.

It is one of the most ghastly privileges of the headsman to wound
with words the wretches whom he is worrying to death, to torture
their souls as well as their bodies.

"Oh--oh, you old witch! So you have come under my hands at last,
eh?"

"I suckled you, you dog! You have sucked witch's milk from me. Show
yourself the devil you are!"

"Come along then, you queen of witches, come and be crowned!"

With that he placed upon her head the crown, made of three staves,
and began to screw them together.

Red Barbara turned her face toward Valentine Kalondai and cried;
"Judge! make them take this crown off, it hurts me!"

"Wait a bit!" said the headsman, with a harsh laugh; "I'll give you
a sedative immediately;" and seizing a scourge with one hand, he
gave a vicious twist at the screw with the other.

The tortured hag bellowed for anguish.

"Judge, let them kill me outright, let me die!"

"Don't be afraid! I'll wake you up again," sneered the headsman, and
he tore her gown from her shoulders, so as to give freer play to the
lashes of his scourge.

It was just such another purple gown as that in which Michal had
once so greatly excited Valentine's admiration, and the recollection
of that dress occurred to Henry also.

"Is not this the dress you stole from my wife, you thief, you
incendiary?" and again the lash hissed through the air.

"Do you strike me, you hangman? You knacker, you! I'll strike you
back now! I'll brand your face so that you will bear the marks about
with you to your dying day. You cuckold, you horned beast! You have
crowned me, have you! I'll crown you still better. Your wife, your
pretty Michal, still lives, and is the mistress of that sheriff
yonder! You have two horns on your head, bear them as best you can!"

The headsman's apprentices began to laugh.

Furious with rage at this taunt, the headsman gave the gibbering
witch such a blow on the head, with the leaden knob of his scourge,
that she never spoke another word on this earth; then, rushing to
the edge of the scaffold, he stretched out his arm and pointed his
whip at Valentine.

The town-councilors sprang to their feet with a shudder.

Then Valentine said in a calm voice: "It is so--it is true!"

Augustus Zwirina immediately turned toward him and said: "Then, Mr.
Valentine Kalondai, the time has come for you to lay down the
sheriff's staff!"

Valentine surrendered his staff, descended from the tribune, and
went straight home. He went quite alone. Not a soul accompanied him.

When he got home, pretty Michal could read from his face that
misfortune had overtaken him.

"It's all up. We are betrayed and openly accused."

Pretty Michal was not dismayed by this intelligence, she was
prepared for it.

"I only ask one thing of you," said she to Valentine, "and as you
love me, you must grant it. Our sole defense is that Henry
Catsrider, when he married me, gave himself out to my father as a
different person from what he really was. That is an impediment
which nullifies the marriage. We might, therefore, defend ourselves
by contending that I was not his true and lawful wife, that he
married me under false pretenses, and kept me in his house by
force. I pray and beseech you not to offer any such defense. My poor
father knows not what has befallen me, and I wish him never to know
it."

"But I have a mother."

"Her heart will break for your sake. I know it. But then she will
live forever among the choirs of angels. She has nothing to reproach
herself with. Her inward monitor does not accuse her. But it is my
father's own fault that I came into this terrible situation. If he
ever learns that he is the sole cause of all this sorrow and shame,
it will not only be the death of him, but it will make him lose his
hopes of heaven."

Valentine kissed his pretty Michal.

"You are right. We will not defend ourselves."

At that moment worthy Simplex appeared.

"Quick, comrade! Take horse! The gates are not yet closed. Twelve of
your trusty friends have banded to assist your flight. There is no
time for reflection. The town council is at this moment deciding
your fate."

But Valentine answered: "If I alone were concerned, I do not say
that I would not attempt to escape. But there are two of us, and
rather let my head be thrown into the dust along with the head of my
Michal than her name and mine should be written over the pillory to
our eternal shame. Here we remain, come what may."

"Good! Be it so!" said Simplex. "But, at least, defend yourself. You
know the rule: 'Si fecisti, nega!' We will give the accusers enough
to do. I will swear that I saw with my own eyes the wife of Henry,
the hangman, perish in the flames. I don't care very much whether I
am a cell higher or lower in hell. I know the commandment says:
'Thou must not bear false witness against thy neighbor.' But there
is nothing said about bearing false witness to befriend thy
neighbor."

"No, my good Simplex! we don't do that. If my Michal were to say
that she had never been Henry's wife, but was another person, she
would next be asked who she really was then, and who her father was.
But this she never will say. Do you understand why?"

"Yes, comrade, I do understand. She would spare the white hairs of
her father."

"And if she would not answer this question, would you like them to
lay upon the rack her whom I adore?"

Valentine, in his anguish, pressed the trembling creature to his
breast, while Simplex gnashed his teeth, and struck his forehead
with his fist.

"And finally," said Valentine, proudly raising his head, "I would
rather die one hundred times over, and see my wife die before my
eyes, than let a single lie cross my lips, which would make me blush
when I stood face to face with the knacker of Zeb. Rather let my
blood trickle to the ground than stream into my face for shame!
What! would you have me lie to this man, and then turn my face away
from him? I will oppose him boldly, tell him the truth, and then
spit in his face."

"Right, Valentine, right! You are acting like a true man," said
Simplex, while pretty Michal fell at her husband's feet and kissed
his hands. "Then you must accept our last offer. If you will neither
fly nor lie, our twelve trusty friends will give good bail to the
city magistrates to prevent you from being put in fetters."

"I will accept that offer thankfully, and make bold to say that they
will lose nothing by it."

Simplex had no sooner departed than a message came from the town
council, summoning Valentine and his wife to appear before it.

Dame Sarah now learnt for the first time whereof her children were
accused, and was terribly enraged thereat.

Dressed just as she used to be indoors (she did not even throw her
fur mantle over her shoulders), she rushed after her children. She
would like to see who would dare to rob her of them.

She followed the accused into the council-chamber. The halberdiers
would have kept her back, but she sent them spinning to the left and
right against the doorposts, and forced her way up to the green
table itself. She could scarcely restrain herself while the syndic
read out the accusation, according to which Valentine had abducted
the wife of Henry Catsrider, and unlawfully cohabited with her. Then
Dame Sarah could contain herself no longer.

"The whole thing is a lie, a shameless, scandalous calumny! What! my
daughter-in-law, Milly, the wife of the headsman of Zeb! Step forth,
you scarlet juggler! Produce the marriage certificate which can show
that my daughter-in-law, Milly, was ever married to the knacker of
Zeb! Your wife, forsooth, you red dog! This gentle, pious creature,
who is a veritable angel! Or name, if you can, the clergyman who
united you at the altar, you spawn of hell, you flayer of men, you
scarecrow, with this angelic creature!"

Henry was terribly alarmed. His teeth chattered and his chin
waggled, beard and all, at this woman's onslaught, for he could not
have proved that Michal had been married to him, the hangman. He had
married her as a clergyman. He had obtained her hand by subtlety.
And all this would now come out. He did not know what to say. Words
failed him.

But still more frightened was Michal. Full of terror she pressed her
husband's hand.

Then Valentine turned to Henry Catsrider and said:

"I forbid you to answer that question. It has no bearing on the
case. I acknowledge and confess that my consort was this man's wife.
I took her from him because it was better for her to die with me
than to live with him, and I am responsible for it to God alone and
his avenging cherubim."

"But here below you are also responsible to the high tribunal of
the worshipful city of Kassa," said the presiding superrector.
"You know the law. You know that death is the penalty for such a
transgression."

"I await death."

"You shall not be disappointed."

Pretty Michal crossed her arms over her breast, and turning her
martyr-like face to heaven, looked up as if transfigured, while
Valentine supported her with his stalwart arm.

A solemn pause ensued, and then the silence was broken by the
heartrending cry of Dame Sarah:

"I appeal!"

"To whom?" inquired the cruelly cold voice of the superrector.

"To the Prince."

"He lies in a Polish dungeon."

"To the Kaiser, then."

"He died last week."

"Then I appeal to God!" cried the mother, in her bitter agony.

"He's napping!" answered a deep, hollow voice, which seemed to come
from the very bowels of the earth. It was the headsman who had
spoken.

But the dean there and then arose from his place at the green table,
and gave the speaker such a buffet in the face that the blood flowed
in streams from his mouth and nose.



CHAPTER XXXV.

Things in this world do not always exactly turn out
as men devise beforehand.


The Zwirinas had won a complete triumph over the Kalondais. They
were amply revenged for the humiliation in the cathedral, for the
defeat in the duel. Their wounded pride was satisfied.

The sentence pronounced by the town council was that both the guilty
parties should be beheaded, the woman first. Moreover, the headless
bodies were not to be buried in the churchyard, but in the
churchyard ditch where all the asses of the town browsed on the
abundant thistles.

This was an aggravation of the original sentence. But it was a case
where a memorable example had to be made. A vile transgressor had
intruded himself into the highest office of the town; an infamous
woman, living in adultery, had dared to appropriate the foremost pew
in the cathedral, thus defiling the most respectable society in the
town with her presence, and shamelessly laying claim to honors which
did not belong to her. Public opinion was shocked and outraged by
such a scandal. It was an offense which death alone could not atone
for. It must be pursued even beyond the grave.

Yet the judges had at least so much humanity--they would not let
Henry Catsrider execute his own wife. It was enough that the seducer
should be made over to him.

And again the felon's bell rang, again the gates of the townhall
were thrown open, and in the midst of the sad procession came the
unhappy pair, supporting one another; Michal in a snow-white
garment, her beautiful face bound round with a white fillet, but
Valentine in his court dress, in his jacket with the foxskin collar,
and with his long hair flowing down his shoulders.

The members of the council took their places on the dais beneath the
baldachin, and in the midst of them sat Augustus Zwirina.

When they reached the scaffold, Valentine would have supported
Michal as she ascended the steps, but she needed no assistance. It
was with an easy heart and a light step that she mounted up.

In the distance could be heard the shrieks of a woman, whom the
halberdiers had to keep back by main force lest she should make a
disturbance. It was Dame Sarah.

When they had got to the top of the scaffold, which was hung with
black cloth, Valentine kissed the hands and the cheeks of his
Michal.

"Do you forgive me?"

"I have nothing to forgive."

"For your horrible death?"

"It unites me eternally with you."

"Do you expect that we shall meet again?"

"I'll wait at the gates of heaven till you come."

"And if for my sin's sake I go to hell?"

"I'll pray to God till he releases you."

"Would you like to pray again now?"

"No, my heart is at peace."

"Amen!"

Then she sat her down on the little stool, and bound up her hair
with the white fillet.

An iron coffin was there to hold them both.

The headsman's henchman stood close by the little stool, leaning on
his sword.

Michal recognized and spoke to him.

"Tell me now, Master Matthias! was I not always a good mistress to
you?"

"Would to God you had never been!" murmured the rough fellow.

"Deal gently with me now, and God reward you for it."

A flash, a whiz, and human justice was satisfied. But there above
the angels were awaiting their sister, and asked her which was the
better of the two--death, or what they call life on earth?

Henry Catsrider sprang from the other end of the scaffold to pick up
the corpse.

"Touch her not!" cried Valentine, with the voice of an angry lion,
"or I'll give you a blow which will send you to the other world
before me."

With that he threw off his jacket, and called to the crowd around:

"Whoever will come and help me, shall have my foxskin jacket!"

"Here I am!" cried a well-known voice, and the faithful Simplex
ascended to the scaffold.

"Help me to lay her in the coffin!" said Valentine; "and then don't
forget what I asked you to do." And with the help of his friend he
laid his pretty Michal in that sad bed from which no one ever rises
again till the last trump.

Then he embraced his faithful comrade and sent him away.

"Now it is our turn, Henry Catsrider!" said he, turning to his
mortal foe.

The dean, who had accompanied him so far to give him the
consolations of religion, exhorted him to turn to God in this the
last moment of his life and to pray. Valentine beckoned him away.

"I believe in a God, but not in the bloodthirsty God in whom you
believe."

"Do not die without the blessing of the Church," said the clergyman
appealingly.

"Can I require a greater blessing from the Church than to have for
my confessor the executioner who cuts off my head?"

The crowd below took great pleasure in this passage of arms.

Valentine, in fact, was seized by that desperate merriment which is
known as gallows humor. The spirits of those who had preceded him in
this dreadful stage swept around him and suggested bitter jibes and
taunts.

"Well, my good friend," said Valentine jocosely, to Henry, "is it
to-day with you or to-morrow? Your eyes look as crooked as if you
had not slept all night. I fear me you will not strike where you
aim."

Henry had indeed been drinking hard all night to keep up his
spirits.

"Well! How shall I do up my hair?" asked Valentine, sitting down on
the little stool, and tying up his locks with the self-same white
fillet (it was red now) which Michal had wound round her tresses.

"Will it do so?"

"A little higher!" said Catsrider.

"What! higher still? Well! how will that do for you?"

This nonchalance made the headsman perfectly furious. He had no
opportunity of reveling in the mental agony of his foe, for, even on
the very threshold of death, Valentine only bantered him. In
ordinary times it was not in Valentine's nature to behave thus, but
now a feeling of mad disdain had come over him, whereby he expressed
the utter scorn he felt for all his enemies.

"Now, master headsman, pray don't keep me waiting."

Rage filled Henry's heart, and rage is a bad marksman. He raised his
sword, and the blow fell just where the hair on Valentine's head was
coiled in its thickest folds. The false blow made Catsrider lose his
balance. He stumbled, fell sprawling, and struck his head so hard
against the corner of the coffin intended for Valentine that he
remained lying there senseless.

The mob raised a fearful howl when, after the blow had descended,
they saw the delinquent spring up while the executioner lay prone on
the ground.

"Let him go free!" cried some; "when the headsman misses his blow
the delinquent should be reprieved." Others, however, were for the
headsman's apprentices taking up the sword and completing the
sentence.

During this uproar Valentine looked down from the lofty scaffold. He
saw the excitement of his enemies on the dais, and heard them cry:

"Down with him!"

He saw a desperate woman attempting to force her way through the
crowd, and recognized in her his mother. He threw a glance at his
slain beloved, and then an idea suddenly flashed through his brain.

"Hither, Valentine, hither!" It was the voice of Simplex.

Valentine sprang down from the scaffold among the crowd.

"After him, seize him!" cried the members of the town council to the
drabants surrounding the scaffold.

The throng was very dense. Each man pressed hard upon his neighbor.
But when Valentine broke through, a path was made for him which
closed immediately on his pursuers. Not one of the crowd laid hands
on him. Simplex and his comrades covered his flight.

He escaped from the crowd, and ran along the street with his
pursuers hot upon his heels, headed by the superrector with his
gold-headed stick of office raised aloft, the headsman (who had in
the meantime recovered) with his drawn sword, and the drabants with
their halberts.

At the end of the street Valentine found an open door, through which
he darted. This door closed behind him, and when the pursuers came
up and loudly demanded admission, it suddenly reopened and out
stepped the Prior of the Jesuits, Father Hieronymus, with the
charter in his hand. They could tell it by the long pendant seals.

"Be off!" cried he, "this house is an asylum!"

It was the cloister of the Jesuits. The secular authorities were
debarred from crossing the threshold by their own charter.

So wondrously fulfilled was the prophecy of the prior, that the seed
which Valentine had sown when he subscribed this document would one
day turn out to his advantage.

When, however, they brought the news to Dame Sarah that her son had
fled to the cloister of the Jesuits, and now remained beneath their
protection, the poor lady was quite overcome and said:

"Would that he had rather died by the side of his Michal!"



CHAPTER XXXVI.

Wherein carnival revels are described.


Out of this incident a great dispute arose. The worshipful
corporation held it as a point of honor that when once they had
condemned a man to death, that man's head must be severed from his
body. The College of Jesuits maintained, on the other hand, that
whoever had once taken refuge in their cloister could be removed by
no earthly authority from that sacred asylum.

And besides their respective rights in the matter, each party had
other reasons in _petto_.

Those who had got the government of the city through Kalondai's fall
could never feel absolutely at their ease so long as he remained
alive. They were afraid that the rapid turn of Fortune's wheel might
bring him to the helm again, and then, woe betide them.

But the Jesuits calculated that Valentine, out of gratitude for his
deliverance by them, would become their convert, in which case their
hands at Kassa would be greatly strengthened.

Both parties therefore thought it worth while to send
plenipotentiaries to the Palatine and the Supreme Court of Hungary,
petitioning for a decree in their favor.

Meanwhile the gates of the Jesuit cloisters were watched day and
night, so that Valentine might not escape.

There were two persons who made it their special business to watch
the cloister: Augustus Zwirina, who sent a drabant, and Henry
Catsrider, who sent one of his own apprentices.

The headsman had another reason, besides mere personal vengeance,
for cutting off Valentine's head. His own neck was in danger. The
world is so bad that even the headsman has enemies. Report said that
Henry was drunk when he came to execute the law's sentence, and that
was why he missed his aim. And the executioner has his own
executioner also, who strikes him in the face in the middle of the
market place, if he commits a fault sufficiently grievous to carry
deprivation from his office along with it.

Therefore Henry bowled up at the windows of the cloister every
evening, and threatened to quarter Valentine alive when he got him
into his hands.

The watchers allowed no suspicious person to leave the cloister
unsearched. It happened once that a servant died at the cloister. As
they were carrying the corpse away to be buried, the town council
ordered the coffin to be searched to make sure that Valentine was
not being smuggled out in that way, and a stringent order was issued
forbidding people to go out at night without lanterns, under the
penalty of imprisonment.

At last the judgment of the Supreme Tribunal on the asylum question
reached Kassa.

The judgment ran as follows: "Whereas the Jesuits have the right of
asylum for their cloister, but whereas it is forbidden them to
forcibly detain those of another persuasion, it is now hereby
declared that the privilege of sanctuary can only be accorded to
Valentine Kalondai on condition that he consents to be received into
the bosom of the Catholic Church as a priest, but if he remains in
his former faith he is to be handed over to justice. Three days'
grace, moreover, are allowed to the said Valentine Kalondai, within
which time he is to come to a decision."

With this politic document both the Jesuits and the Zwirina faction
were very well satisfied. The former calculated that the delinquent
who had escaped from the scaffold would much rather submit to the
tonsure than lose his whole head, and would rather renounce the
friendship of Calvin than dear life itself, and this they thought
would be a great triumph for them. But this very thing would have
been no small triumph to Zwirina and Co. also, for the whole
Hungarian party, which consisted for the most part of Calvinists,
would be humbled to the dust by such an apostasy. As a renegade,
Valentine Kalondai would be as good as dead and buried.

When Dame Sarah heard of this judgment, she said to Simplex, who
since the days of her calamity had been a constant visitor at her
house: "Go to my son, and tell him that I would rather see his head
severed from his body than his soul separated from my soul. He will
understand what I mean."

But Simplex had something else to say to Valentine, of which Dame
Sarah knew nothing.

Two days of the respite had already elapsed; the third was Shrove
Tuesday, the day of fools.

Valentine had as yet not declared his resolution, but he had now
only till vespers to do so. If he still remained silent, then it
would be taken as a sign that he preferred to submit to the sentence
of death.

Henry Catsrider had had the scaffold reërected. Valentine could see
it from the cloister window.

No one else, however, troubled himself about it, for it was the last
day of carnival, and all the world was thinking of the carnival
frolics. All day long boisterous masks paraded the streets--men
disguised as women, all sorts of guys dressed up on horseback; and
in the evening, they all met together to carry out the carnival and
bury him. The lads vied with one another as to who should make the
greatest fools of themselves. One lengthened his legs with stilts,
another made himself up as a giant. There were some who stuck
themselves all over with feathers, and strutted about like birds,
while others stuffed themselves out till they were as big as
barrels. One trumpeted, another rattled, a third drummed away on a
huge frying-pan.

The most attractive mask of all, however, was the carnival horse,
which consisted of two men. The first man made up the fore part of
the horse; he wore the horse's head, which was true to nature and as
large as life, while the other, who planted his head in the middle
of the first man's body, composed the rear part of the horse; both
were covered with a large horsecloth, on which lay a saddle with the
dependent stirrups, and the whole thing looked exactly like a real
horse. The man in front had all the fun of the thing. He could
trumpet whenever he felt inclined, he drank whatever people liked to
give him, and he held a large whip in his hand, with which he struck
at everyone who came too near him. But the poor fellow who formed
the rear part of the horse had a much harder billet. He saw nothing
and heard nothing, and was obliged to scramble along in a stooping
position wherever the man in front chose to lead him; and if his
leader did not look well after him, he got from everyone of the
passers-by a sounding thump on the hindermost part of his person. It
was not easy, therefore, to find someone willing to accept this
rôle, and generally some lubber of an apprentice, who had failed in
everything else, was pitchforked into it.

Now just at that time there was no such apprentice in all the
guilds of Kassa, so that there was absolutely no one to take up this
unpleasant rôle but the poor, good-natured Turk Ali, who could be
persuaded to do anything, and everyone could see his red slippers
peeping out from under the horsecloth as the carnival steed pranced
along. It was an open secret that the carnival horseman who rode
this steed was Simplex himself.

Behind the carnival steed came the carnival himself in a cart drawn
by two oxen. He lay in a red coffin, which was covered all over with
fools' caps, bells, and masks. Giants with heads as large as barrels
and gigantic storks walked alongside of him, carrying his escutcheon
on a pole, and behind the coffin marched a roystering band of
apprentices made up as buxom wenches, who offered their tankards to
everyone who passed and would absolutely take no denial.

The carnival's funeral procession stopped before the dwelling of
every guildmaster and every clergyman. The leader of the procession
pronounced a loud eulogium on every notability, to which the
notability in question responded by refilling the empty tankards
with wine or beer. On each such occasion the fool's sacristan awoke
the carnival in his coffin, lifted up the pall and gave him a drink.
The carnival was also an apprentice, and he certainly had one of the
very best billets, for all he had to do was to lie still and drink.

When the carnival's funeral procession arrived in front of the
cloister of the Jesuits, the two armed watchmen, the drabant and the
headsman's assistant, were still standing there, one on each side of
the door.

The waggish crowd pressed upon them from all sides, and while the
funeral car with its canopy, its cortége, and its banners surrounded
the door, one of the buxom wenches fell upon the neck of the drabant
and kissed and hugged him, while a giant raven with a pointed beak
forced his tankard on the headsman's assistant, and compelled him to
drain it to the dregs, finally bonneting him with the empty tankard.

All this lasted for a single brief instant, but it was quite long
enough for the cloister door to open and close again. What had
happened in the meantime was known only to the initiated.

Then the fools' procession went on more noisily than ever.

When they arrived at the Miskolcz gate, the superrector Zwirina and
his halberdiers barred the way.

"Whither are you going?" said he to the carnival horseman.

Simplex held a quill to his mouth, and squeaked through it in a
thin, chirpy, birdlike voice:

"We are going to bury the dead carnival."

But Augustus Zwirina was a knowing man, and he had his suspicions.

"Let me see if this carnival is really dead," said he.

And with that he tore the cover from the face of the figure lying in
the coffin.

The fellow representing the carnival rose in his bier, distended his
broad mouth, and grinned in the superrector's face. He was an honest
brushmaker's apprentice. The whole crowd burst into roars of
laughter and derisive yells. Everyone instantly guessed that the
superrector had sought for Valentine Kalondai in the carnival's
coffin.

Old Zwirina was very angry and ashamed.

"You may take him to hell, if you like!" cried he to the crowd of
revelers, and, by way of jocose emphasis, he gave the backward part
of the carnival horse a spanking thump, but received a kick in
return which sent him sprawling into the mud. The horse, which lost
one of the red slippers of its hind feet in consequence, then bolted
off like mad, while Simplex yelled like a cockney horseman on a
runaway nag, tugged at the reins, and implored the laughing crowd to
stop the beast. But the mob only chivied the horse all the more,
till it had far outdistanced its panting escort. When at last he
arrived in the neighborhood of the churchyard, Simplex blew his
trumpet with all his might, and at the shrill sound two stout lads
leaped up out of the cemetery ditch, leading after them a horse
saddled and bridled.

"Valentine!" cried Simplex, "ecce tuum Bucephalum!"

Then the man forming the hinder part of the carnival steed sprang
quickly forth from beneath the horsecloth. It was not the Turk Ali,
but Valentine Kalondai.

The condemned convict threw himself upon the horse and galloped off.

Simplex and the comrades who had assisted him in the execution of
this stratagem threw their masquerading costumes into the churchyard
ditch, and after making a wide circuit of the town, returned to it
by the Leutschau gate as if they knew nothing at all about it.

The Turk Ali had exchanged rôles with Valentine in the gates of the
cloister.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

The Lenten penance succeeds the carnival revels.


When they brought the news to Augustus Zwirina that Valentine
Kalondai had happily escaped, the big fat man suddenly grew blue in
the face, and was struck down with apoplexy on the spot. So swiftly
did death overtake him that he had not even time to make his will.

This extraordinary case made a huge sensation throughout the town.
Whole processions of acquaintances thronged the house of mourning,
and in the courts of the Zwirinas there was wailing and woe.

Now the courtyard of the Kalondais was only separated from that of
the Zwirinas by a narrow partition wall. When then Dame Sarah heard
the lamentations in her neighborhood, and learnt the cause thereof,
viz., that her son had managed to escape and that the superrector
had died of grief in consequence, she planted herself in the
passage, and, despite the keenness of a February morning, began to
sing the psalms in which King David celebrates the humiliation of
his enemies. The louder grew the lamentations next door, the louder
she sang her revengefully exultant psalms.

Who could forbid her? Were they not sacred songs?

On the day of the funeral, too, she sat on the balcony of her house,
and while the priests and the choristers below were intoning dirges
by the side of the bier, and the relations of the dead man
accompanied these mournful songs with their sobs, the butcher's
widow, dressed in white, as if she were holding high festival,
mingled her exultant songs of triumph with their sobs and dirges.

And henceforward, through the still watches of the night, when
everyone was asleep, Dame Sarah sang her psalms and exulted over her
fallen and humiliated enemies.

Who could forbid a poor forlorn widow to seek comfort for her
afflicted soul in spiritual songs?

As for Henry Catsrider, he was driven from his profession three days
later for putting to shame the dignity of his office, the reputation
of the city, and the majesty of the law by his bungling. On the same
scaffold which he himself had erected his own apprentices tore his
red mantle from his shoulders and the red cap from his head, struck
him three times in the face before all the people with the great
silver seal hanging round his neck (which was a gift from the King
of Poland), and finally drove him away amid the derisive laughter of
the crowd.

What became of the degraded headsman, how and where he ended his
days, on these points nothing has ever been recorded.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

In which it is shown how ghosts haunt churchyards.


The adherents of the disgraced faction did not cease persecuting
Valentine Kalondai.

From the very first they had sent pursuers after him who had
followed hard upon the fugitive; but at a certain inn, when they
were already close upon him, two men, evidently instructed
beforehand, met him with a fresh horse. The fugitive mounted and was
instantly off again, while his pursuers thought it best to slowly
ride their jaded nags back to town.

The new superrector, young Ignatius Zwirina, calculated thus:
Valentine Kalondai will one of these days come back of his own
accord to the neighborhood of Kassa. His beloved rests there in the
churchyard ditch, and he will never be able to keep away from the
spot where she whom he loves so much reposes.

So in the ditch where pretty Michal had been cast he kept nine
musketeers in ambush, night and day, that they might seize Valentine
when he came thither, and shoot him down if he sought to fly.

The trap was laid for him, and they made certain that he would fall
into it.

Nor did he remain long away.

In the first stormy night, when the Lenten wind drove the shapeless
clouds from one end of the sky to the other and shook the leafless
trees, and the will-o'-the-wisps darted about among the graves, a
lonely horseman approached the churchyard from the plains.

A poplar which had been torn down by the storm marked the spot where
pretty Michal lay.

"I hear the tramp of horses' hoofs," murmured one of the musketeers
in the ditch.

"What if it be the devil riding on a buck-goat?"

"Yes, indeed, who else would think of riding over the plains at such
a time?"

"Look how the will-o'-the-wisps are dancing!" said a third, raising
his head a little above the ditch.

From time to time, a reddish tongue of flame shot up from among the
graves, casting a lurid glimmer on the angels praying on the
monuments.

Then it seemed as if the deep notes of a horn were mingling with the
howling of the storm. It sounded like a subterranean music. A
shudder ran down the backs of the musketeers in the ditch and their
teeth chattered.

"An accursed signal that!"

When the midnight rider reached the churchyard, he dismounted from
his horse, bound it to an elderberry tree, and replied to the signal
with a trumpet-blast of his own, whereupon a spectral flame shot up
among the tombstones.

"Do you hear that? The devils are answering one another."

"It is either the devil or Valentine Kalondai."

"If it be Valentine Kalondai he will come hither, and we will take
him prisoner; but if it be the devil 'twere best to leave him
alone."

That was very sage advice, certainly.

The horseman found the churchyard-gate open and went in.

He went straight to the spot where he had seen the flames shoot up.

It was no will-o'-the-wisp, no perambulating spirit, but Simplex,
who, to scare the watchers and guide Valentine, had ignited
lycopodium powder from time to time.

"Hush!" said he to his approaching friend, "they are on the watch."

"Let them watch!" murmured Valentine; "I have a sword with me.
Though I should die on the spot for it, I mean to speak to my
beloved."

"You shall speak to her. Follow me! but duck your head that they may
not see us."

With that he led Valentine along among the graves till they came to
a large monument. It was a red marble obelisk, surmounted by a
wreathed urn. The bed round the grave was planted with violets and
primroses with an ivy border. On the pediment lay several wreaths.

"Look there!" said Simplex, drawing a dark lantern from beneath his
mantle; "look and read!"

Valentine drew near and saw on the splendid monument the name,
"Augustus Zwirina," followed by a long litany of the deeds and
services of that distinguished citizen.

"Why have you led me to the grave of my mortal foe?" asked Valentine
sternly.

"It is not your mortal foe who sleeps here," returned Simplex, "but
pretty Michal. The night after they had buried your mortal foe, I
came to the churchyard with the faithful Ali. Then we set to work
and dug out the coffin of pretty Michal and brought it hither, and
placed it where the coffin of Zwirina had been laid, and now you can
be quite easy in your mind, for your beloved reposes in consecrated
ground, and flowers bloom over her all the year round."

Valentine threw himself with his face to the ground.

"Listen how the ghosts are weeping!" said one of the watchers to his
comrade.

"Depend upon it, Beelzebub is tormenting them!"

"Don't look back or they'll twist your neck for you!"

After Valentine had wept to his heart's content, and consoled
himself with the reflection that his tears would filter through the
mound to his sleeping love and give her sweeter dreams, he arose and
said to Simplex:

"But suppose the thing becomes known?"

"There are only three of us who know anything about it. One is Ali
the Turk; your mother has emancipated him, and he has now gone home
to Thessaly. The second is the grave, and the grave tells no tales.
I myself am the third, and I can keep as silent as the grave."

Valentine pressed his faithful friend to his heart and covered him
with kisses. And then he kissed the grave and the flowers which
covered it:

"Don't you hear how the specters are kissing each other?" whispered
one of the musketeers.

"No doubt Lucifer is caressing them!"

"And whither then have you removed Augustus Zwirina?"

"Why, where he ought to be, of course! We laid the good man in the
churchyard ditch in the place intended for Michal, and all the asses
of the town will come and nibble their thistles over his head from
one year's end to the other."

"Listen how the ghosts are laughing!"

"I would not go among them if they gave me the whole city of Kassa."

Even the howling wind seemed to take up the ghostly laughter and
carry it on further. It was indeed a ghastly jest--a jest fit even
to provoke a loud peal of laughter in a churchyard at midnight, that
pretty Michal and the author of her death should have changed places
with each other, that pretty Michal should have been laid in the
flower-strewn bed, in the grave dug in consecrated ground and
watered with tears, while the author of her death should have been
cast forth into the churchyard ditch, to gaze up at the asses when
they came to chew the thistles over his head.

"Now that you have spoken with your beloved, hasten away!"

"God bless you, my loyal comrade! Greet my dear mother. Tell her
that to-morrow I am off to the wars. Eger is to be stormed. Tell her
to pray that I may die a glorious death!"

With that he hastened back to his horse and darted away into the
waste night.

"The ghost is riding back to his realm!"

"All good spirits praise the Lord!"

And if Dame Sarah prayed as her son desired her, her prayer was
certainly heard in heaven. At the brilliant assault by which the
city of Eger was won back to Hungary, Valentine Kalondai died a
hero's death on the field of honor.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

In which everyone at last gets his deserts.


Old Zurdoki, whose unseemly amours had been the cause of the tragedy
of two loving hearts, so far from being sobered by this sad
occurrence, so far from taking to heart the blood of the gentle lady
which had flowed through his foul fault, had no sooner escaped from
Poland with a part of the Prince's routed troops (the rest had been
carried away captive to the Crimea by the Tartars) than he set about
another evil prank. Failing to seduce one of the pretty women, he
now spread his nets for the second.

Here, too, he soon found a willing go-between. Even if Red Barbara
were no more, there was still enough of witches and to spare. Was
not Annie, the wife of the kopanitschar, at hand? So far from being
scared at the fearful fate of her superior, she burned to occupy the
vacant place of honor in the witches' ranks. For the saying of the
sages, that from the blood of one martyr a hundred others spring up,
is equally true when applied to evil-doers. Among sinners also there
are enthusiasts who count it an honor to suffer for hell, and where
one felon is executed a hundred are always ready to step into his
shoes. This was especially the case with witches. The burnt and
tortured members of that grim sisterhood always had immediate and
innumerable successors. The world seemed too small to hold them all.
The love of evil notoriety took possession of them like a sort of
intoxication, and plunged into the abyss even those who otherwise
would never have thought of becoming witches. It is thus that we are
able to explain why Annie undertook a far more dangerous commission
than even that by which Barbara had found her death. Moreover, the
dazzling promises of Zurdoki, who was no niggard with his money, had
also great weight with her. And Zurdoki was now richer than ever.
George Rakoczy, when the Crim Tartars invaded Hungary, had intrusted
the whole of his treasures to Zurdoki to conceal them in Berga
Castle. On the way thither as much of this treasure might be lost as
Zurdoki pleased. Who amid the hurly-burly of those troubled times
would ever think of calling him to account for it?

So Zurdoki intrusted to Annie the billet-doux which he had written
to the lovely Isabella, the spouse of Count Hommonai. He had not
been very particular in his style, nor had he wasted his ardor in
romantic effusiveness, but he went straight to the point like the
man of business he was. He said he was ten times richer than
Hommonai, and if the countess were kind to him, he would give her
three hundred ducats down and a diamond collar such as princesses
wear, besides making a will in her favor, whereby she would inherit
after his death a city, a castle, two-and-twenty villages, and all
the flocks, herds, and studs thereunto belonging.

Zurdoki, therefore, did not woo very romantically, perhaps, but for
all that the letter was full of burning love. He thought that the
handsomeness of the gift would make the lovely lady forget the
ugliness of the giver.

But Isabella was very wroth when she received this shameful
proposal. She immediately took the letter to her husband, and begged
him to order the bearer of it to be exemplarily whipped. They were
then dwelling at their castle at Saros.

"No," said Count Hommonai; "why whip the bearer of the letter, it is
the writer who deserves a whipping." And he there and then dictated
to his wife the answer she was to send to Zurdoki, which was so
worded as to seem to consent to his proposition.

Annie, whom Isabella also rewarded most handsomely, took back the
letter and delivered it to the ancient Celadon.

The object of Hommonai's stratagem was to get Zurdoki into his
hands, so Zurdoki fell into the trap which he himself had laid.

Count Hommonai had an occasion ready to hand. He had a pair of old
retainers, a coachman and a female lodge-keeper, both of Turkish
extraction, and living together as man and wife after the Turkish
fashion. These the count had converted to the Calvinistic Christian
faith, and now they were to be united at the altar according to the
Christian rite.

Such cases used to make a great sensation, for in those days, when
the Turk was a mighty potentate who had two-thirds of Hungary in his
power, and kept the remaining third in constant fear and trembling,
it was an extraordinary phenomenon when a Mussulman pair voluntarily
denied the Prophet and went over to the Christian faith. Therefore,
all the neighboring gentry were invited from far and near, and most
of them came, so that Count Hommonai's castle had to be enlarged in
all haste by wooden annexes, so as to provide suitable accommodation
for the servants of so many guests.

To this memorable wedding Zurdoki was also invited. Indeed it may be
said that it was mainly on his account that the whole affair was got
up.

He was well aware of this; but he fancied that the lady had arranged
it all for love of him, whereas it was the husband's doings, and
there is always a great difference between the motives of a husband
and the motives of a wife.

Zurdoki arrived on the day of the wedding and brought thirty
retainers with him. Hommonai received him very heartily, and did not
once allude to the old theme of dispute; nay, he even allowed the
old coxcomb to dance attendance upon his wife and whisper all sorts
of tender compliments in her ear.

The ceremony was conducted with all due solemnity, and the behavior
of the converted couple engrossed all the attention of the assembled
guests. They could talk of nothing but how the bridegroom could not
draw the ring off his finger; how he gave the bride his left hand
instead of his right; how the bride, under the influence of the
baptismal water, began to sneeze; and how the bridegroom drained the
chalice to the very dregs instead of only sipping it; and how both
of them, when they should have said "yes," only shook their heads,
which, with the Turks, signifies assent. Who, under such
circumstances, had any time to notice that Zurdoki was constantly
whispering to the lady of the house?

Next followed a splendid banquet of four-and-twenty courses. During
the meal Simplex played on the farogato, so as to put even the gypsy
musicians to shame. Since Valentine's death he had entered the
service of Count Hommonai as trumpeter, at a salary of five hundred
gulden and his keep, which shows in what high estimation a skillful
trumpeter was held in those days.

After the meal was over the ladies withdrew to their rooms to dress
for the dance, but the gentlemen remained behind over their cups.

Then, according to a good old custom of Russian origin, the
"fratina" went from hand to hand. This "fratina" was a silver pocal,
set with precious stones and engraved with many sage saws, and the
men drank to each other out of it and drained it to the very dregs.
No one laughed at him who fell in this contest. The servants simply
picked him up and carried him into his bedroom, that he might there
sleep off his carouse.

He to whose head the wine flew soonest was the host himself. He very
soon had had enough, and laid his head down on the table. They
quickly carried him away.

"This wine really is very strong," said Zurdoki. "I suppose the
vintage is of the year of the great comet? It has got into my head
too." And with that his tongue began to loll out, his head sank back
in his easy-chair, and the tankard fell from his hand.

"He's had his fill too," said the guests, whereupon four servants
raised him from his chair and carried him to his room.

But Zurdoki was not drunk after all; he had only been pretending. As
soon as he was alone in his room he locked the door, and sought for
a tapestried door concealed at the foot of the bed. Through this he
proceeded to a little corridor which led direct into the countess's
room.

The time of the rendezvous could not have been better chosen. The
guests who had not already succumbed to the wine proceeded from the
dining-room to the dancing-room, and there practiced a martial dance
among themselves till the fumes of the wine had evaporated and the
ladies assembled, when they began to dance together the palotás, the
polonaise, the torch dance, and the dance of the three hundred
widows.

No one thought of the absent.

Zurdoki found the countess in her chamber; she had been waiting for
him, and was quite alone.

The old inamorato at once fell down upon his knees before the lovely
lady, and to convince her of the sincerity of his passion laid at
her feet the promised gifts; a purse filled with gold, the collar of
brilliants, and the will and testament, authenticated by the seal of
a cathedral chapter.

"All this is thine, my beloved, if thou wilt receive me favorably."

"Get up, sir! and you will certainly have a warm reception," replied
the lovely Isabella.

At this the enamored old buck sprang to his feet, as fiery and lusty
as a young weasel.

On the wall opposite were life-size portraits of Count Hommonai and
his wife, but between them hung a beautiful Venetian mirror in a
cut-glass frame. The old vulture placed himself before this mirror,
and, stroking his gray mustache, exclaimed very complacently, as if
rejoicing in his beauty: "Come now, my lord Count Hommonai, which of
us two is the handsomer fellow now?"

"Why, I am, of course, and always shall be!" cried Count Hommonai;
for he was behind the picture, which opened like a tapestried door,
and out he stepped.

The terror-stricken Zurdoki stood there with his mouth wide open. He
now perceived that they had been fooling him all along.

Count Hommonai did not exchange many words with him, but seized him
by the collar and thrust him into the room where all the other
guests were dancing. They were not a little astonished to see their
host and his friend, who, as they fancied, had been overcome with
wine, now appear among them quite brisk and sober. But what
astonished them still more was the circumstance, that whereas they
had both been carried off to their respective bedrooms a few moments
before, they now both came out of the countess's chamber.

"Look, gentlemen!" cried the count derisively, "look at that old
buck-goat who would fain browse in my garden!"

At this, a roar of laughter greeted the discomfited Lothario, and
his terror at being caught in forbidden ways now turned into furious
rage at being mocked in public. Perceiving his page, to whom he had
intrusted his sword when he sat down at table, he beckoned to him,
tore the weapon from his hand, and planting himself in front of
Hommonai, exclaimed:

"Shame, confusion on you, to entice a nobleman into a trap and
ridicule your guest in your own house! But you shall not boast of it
to anyone, and the marriage feast which you arranged on my account
shall now be turned into a funeral wake. You must fight me, sir!"

Hommonai's only intention had been to make the old libertine a butt
and a laughing-stock. He had, therefore, no weapon with him. But
when Zurdoki drew his sword and challenged him to single combat, he
also called his page, sent him for a rapier, and stood on his
defense. The guests in the hall fell back to give the combatants
room. Nobody attempted to intervene. It was only right that such an
insult should be settled by arms.

First the furious Zurdoki aimed a mighty blow at the count, but
miscalculating the length of his saber, the point of his weapon only
grazed the yellow, gold-gallooned jack-boots of the count, and then
struck the floor. But the blow which Hommonai dealt him in return
settled him on the spot, and he breathed forth his filthy soul at
the feet of the aggrieved husband.

And everyone present said it served him right. Hommonai ought to
have killed him a year ago at least. Then Zurdoki would not have
persuaded Prince George Rakoczy to undertake his unlucky campaign,
then many good Hungarian warriors would not have fallen into
captivity, and Hungary and Transylvania would not have been wasted
with fire and sword.

But when the Countess Isabella heard that her husband had killed the
old fool, she said:

"What a pity he had but one life! He has only atoned for the blood
of my poor Michal. Valentine Kalondai is still unavenged."

They then called the maids, who cleansed the floor with hot water.
Meanwhile the host led his guests into the castle gardens, and told
them of all the miserable plots in which the evil-minded old
libertine had played a part, down to his latest intrigue when he had
attempted to seduce the countess. To prove his words he produced the
gifts and the will which were to have served as a decoy, and gave
them to the Protestant bishop who had celebrated the wedding of the
Turkish couple, that he might employ them for the benefit of the
College of Sarospatak. Zurdoki had spent not a farthing on church or
school, but now his sinful liberality was to be turned to pious
uses.

Then they returned to the dancing-room; the fiddles, flutes, and
farogatos struck up, and the guests danced over the very spot where
Zurdoki's blood had flowed, just as if absolutely nothing had
occurred.

And surely you cannot express your contempt for a man more
emphatically than by dancing over the spot where his blood has been,
only an hour after his death!

       *       *       *       *       *

Simplex, from whose contemporary diary we have compiled this
history, most of whose events the narrator had himself witnessed and
experienced, subsequently entered the service of Achatius Baresai,
whom the Padishah had made Prince of Transylvania in George
Rakoczy's stead. He also accompanied his Highness on his journey to
Turkey. His latest memoirs are dated from Stamboul. What ultimately
became of him no one has ever been able to find out.



CHAPTER XL.

All things pass away, but science remains eternal.


But the learned Professor David Fröhlich continued for many years to
implant the sciences in the youthful mind, and enrich the world with
his inventions. Down to the very day of his death he was in constant
correspondence with the most distinguished European scholars, and
was still informed about everything which was going on in foreign
parts.

But what had become of his daughter Michal he never could find out.

Oftentimes, indeed, he would cast her horoscope and compare its
various aspects; but he always arrived at precisely the same
conclusion, viz., that his daughter Michal was now leading a most
blissful life in some far-distant land, the very name of which was
unknown to him.

And perhaps it really was so!


THE END.



Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in
the original edition have been corrected.

A missing period was added after "CHAPTER XXXI" in the Table of
Contents.

In Chapter I, "with real enthusiasm,;" was changed to "with real
enthusiasm;".

In Chapter II, "the more merciful harum palzarum" was changed to
"the more merciful harum palczarum", missing quotation marks were
added after "the god-fearing and the godless" and before "Write in
your book", and an extraneous quotation mark was removed after
"marry within thy station!".

In Chapter III, "he aswered yes" was changed to "he answered yes".

In Chapter IV, "neck and skull were thown backward" was changed to
"neck and skull were thrown backward", a missing quotation mark was
added after "fire upon them in return", and "mixed up in a
skirmrish" was changed to "mixed up in a skirmish".

In Chapter IX, "commited such crimes" was changed to "committed such
crimes", and "humilated wretch" was changed to "humilated wretch".

In Chapter XI, "of one her favorite songs" was changed to "of one of
her favorite songs".

In Chapter XIV, "passed the kopanitscha of Hamer" was changed to
"passed the kopanitscha of Hamar".

In Chapter XVI, "Gönez" was changed to "Göncz", and "Gönezer cask"
was changed to "Gönczer cask".

In Chapter XVIII, "Simplex was caried back to his dungeon, and there
he had leasure" was changed to "Simplex was carried back to his
dungeon, and there he had leisure".

In Chapter XIX, "great red wheels" was changed to "great red
wheals".

In Chapter XXII, "Frölich could have heard" was changed to "Fröhlich
could have heard".

In Chapter XXIII, "my pretty young misstress" was changed to "my
pretty young mistress".

In Chapter XXVI, "her daughter-in law's lovely hair" was changed to
"her daughter-in-law's lovely hair".

In Chapter XXVII, "the good Countess Hommonia" was changed to "the
good Countess Hommonai", and "Kalondai preceived the danger" was
changed to "Kalondai perceived the danger".

In Chapter XXVIII, "was then of that pecular yellowish tinge" was
changed to "were then of that peculiar yellowish tinge".

In Chapter XXIX, "Valentine Kolondai desired to challenge" was
changed to "Valentine Kalondai desired to challenge".

In Chapter XXX, "With grandoise aplomb" was changed to "With
grandoise aplomb", and "Frölich possessed" was changed to "Fröhlich
possessed".

In Chapter XXXI, "makiug the circuit of the town" was changed to
"making the circuit of the town", and "The Calvinists saluted prety
Michal" was changed to "The Calvinists saluted pretty Michal".

In Chapter XXXIII, a quotation mark was added after "három
pálczára".

In Chapter XXXVI, "ag reat dispute" was changed to "a great
dispute".

In Chapter XXXVIII, an extra quotation mark was removed before "look
and read".

In Chapter XXXIX, "Zurdoki aimed a mighy blow" was changed to
"Zurdoki aimed a mighty blow".





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