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Title: The Slaves of the Padishah
Author: Jókai, Mór, 1825-1904
Language: English
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THE SLAVES OF THE PADISHAH



[Illustration: Dr. Jókai Mór 1900]



The Slaves of the Padishah

("The Turks in Hungary," being the Sequel to
"'Midst the Wild Carpathians")

_A ROMANCE_

BY MAURUS JÓKAI

_Author of "'Midst the Wild Carpathians," "Black Diamonds,"
"Pretty Michal," etc._

TRANSLATED FROM THE SIXTH HUNGARIAN EDITION BY
R. NISBET BAIN

[Illustration: SANS PEUR ET SANS REPROCHE  THIRD EDITION]

 LONDON
 JARROLD & SONS, 10 & 11, WARWICK LANE, E.C.
 [_All Rights Reserved_]
 1903

 AUTHORISED VERSION

 _Copyright_
 _London: Jarrold & Sons_



CONTENTS.

  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE
       I.  THE GOLDEN CAFTAN                                       9
      II.  MAIDENS THREE                                          17
     III.  THREE MEN                                              31
      IV.  AFFAIRS OF STATE                                       41
       V.  THE DAY OF GROSSWARDEIN                                52
      VI.  THE MONK OF THE HOLY SPRING                            77
     VII.  THE PANIC OF NAGYENYED                                 93
    VIII.  THE SLAVE MARKET AT BUDA-PESTH                        102
      IX.  THE AMAZON BRIGADE                                    112
       X.  THE MARGARET ISLAND                                   118
      XI.  A STAR IN HELL                                        125
     XII.  THE BATTLE OF ST. GOTHARD                             134
    XIII.  THE PERSECUTED WOMAN                                  154
     XIV.  OLAJ BEG                                              169
      XV.  THE WOMEN'S DEFENCE                                   179
     XVI.  A FIGHT FOR HIS OWN HEAD                              193
    XVII.  THE EXTRAVAGANCES OF LOVE                             218
   XVIII.  SPORT WITH A BLIND MAN                                233
     XIX.  THE NIGHT BEFORE DEATH                                237
      XX.  THE VICTIM                                            261
     XXI.  OTHER TIMES--OTHER MEN                                267
    XXII.  THE DIVÁN                                             276
   XXIII.  THE TURKISH DEATH                                     293
    XXIV.  THE HOSTAGE                                           307
     XXV.  THE HUSBAND                                           313
    XXVI.  THE FADING OF FLOWERS                                 321
   XXVII.  THE SWORD OF GOD                                      327
  XXVIII.  THE MADMAN                                            340
    XXIX.  PLEASANT SURPRISES                                    349
     XXX.  A MAN ABANDONED BY HIS GUARDIAN-ANGEL                 360
    XXXI.  THE NEWLY DRAWN SWORD                                 364
   XXXII.  THE LAST DAY                                          371



INTRODUCTION.


"Török Világ Magyarországon," now englished for the first time, is a
sequel to "Az Erdély arany kora," already published by Messrs. Jarrold,
under the title of "'Midst the Wild Carpathians." The two tales, though
quite distinct, form together one great historical romance, which
centres round the weakly, good-natured Michael Apafi, the last
independent Prince of Transylvania, his masterful and virtuous consort,
Anna Bornemissza, and his machiavellian Minister, Michael Teleki, a sort
of pocket-Richelieu, whose genius might have made a great and strong
state greater and stronger still, but could not save a little state,
already doomed to destruction as much from its geographical position as
from its inherent weakness. The whole history of Transylvania, indeed,
reads like an old romance of chivalry, cut across by odd episodes out of
"The Thousand and One Nights," and the last phase of that history
(1674-1690), so vividly depicted in the present volume, is fuller of
life, colour, variety, and adventure than any other period of European
history. The little mountain principality, lying between two vast
aggressive empires, the Ottoman and the German, ever striving with each
other for the mastery of central Europe, was throughout this period the
football of both. Viewed from a comfortable armchair at a distance of
two centuries, the whole era is curiously fascinating: to unfortunate
contemporaries it must have been unspeakably terrible. Strange
happenings were bound to be the rule, not the exception, when a Turkish
Pasha ruled the best part of Hungary from the bastions of Buda. Thus it
was quite in the regular order of things for Hungarian gentlemen to join
with notorious robber-chieftains to attack Turkish fortresses; for
bandits, in the disguise of monks, to plunder lonely monasteries; for
simple boors to be snatched from the plough to be set upon a throne; for
Christian girls, from every country under heaven, to be sold by auction
not fifty miles from Vienna, and for Turkish filibusters to plant
fortified harems in the midst of the Carpathians. Jókai, luckier than
Dumas, had no need to invent his episodes, though he frequently presents
them in a romantic environment. He found his facts duly recorded in
contemporary chronicles, and he had no temptation to be unfaithful to
them, because the ordinary, humdrum incidents of every-day life in
seventeenth century Transylvania outstrip the extravagances of the most
unbridled imagination.

No greater praise can be awarded to the workmanship of Jókai than to say
that, although written half a century ago (the first edition was
published in 1853), "Török Világ Magyarországon" does not strike one as
in the least old-fashioned or out of date. Romantic it is, no doubt, in
treatment as well as in subject, but a really good romance never grows
old, and Jókai's unfailing humour is always--at least, in his
masterpieces--a sufficient corrective of the excessive sensibility to
which, like all the romanticists, he is, by temperament, sometimes
liable.

Most of the characters which delighted us in "'Midst the Wild
Carpathians" accompany us through the sequel. The Prince, the Princess,
the Minister, Béldi, Kucsuk, Feriz, Azrael, and even such minor
personages as the triple renegade, Zülfikar, are all here, and remain
true to their original presentment, except Azrael, who is the least
convincing of them all. Of the new personages, the most original are the
saponaceous Olaj Beg, whose unctuous suavity always conveys a menace,
and the heroic figure of the famous Emeric Tököly, who, but for the
saving sword of Sobieski, might have wrested the crown of St. Stephen
from the House of Hapsburg.


R. NISBET BAIN.

_December, 1902._



The Slaves of the Padishah.



CHAPTER I.

THE GOLDEN CAFTAN.


The S---- family was one of the richest in Wallachia, and consequently
one of the most famous. The head of the family dictated to twelve
boyars, collected hearth-money and tithes from four-and-fifty villages,
lived nine months in the year at Stambul, held the Sultan's bridle when
he mounted his steed in time of war, contributed two thousand
lands-knechts to the host of the Pasha of Macedonia, and had permission
to keep on his slippers when he entered the inner court of the Seraglio.

In the year 1600 and something, George was the name of the first-born of
the S---- family, but with him we shall not have very much concern. We
shall do much better to follow the fortunes of the second born, Michael,
whom his family had sent betimes to Bucharest to be brought up as a
priest in the Seminary there. The youth had, however, a remarkably thick
head, and, so far from making any great progress in the sciences, was
becoming quite an ancient classman, when he suddenly married the
daughter of a sub-deacon, and buried himself in a little village in
Wallachia. There he spent a good many years of his life with scarce
sufficient stipend to clothe him decently, and had he not tilled his
soil with his own hands, he would have been hard put to it to find
maize-cakes enough to live upon.

In the first year of his marriage a little girl was born to him, and for
her the worthy man and his wife spared and scraped so that, in case they
were to die, she might have some little trifle. So they laid aside a few
halfpence out of every shilling in order that when it rose to a good
round sum they might purchase for their little girl--a cow.

A cow! That was their very ultimate desire. If only they could get a
cow, who would be happier than they? Milk and butter would come to their
table in abundance, and they would be able to give some away besides.
Her calf they would rear and sell to the butcher for a good price,
stipulating for a quarter of it against the Easter festival. Then, too,
a cow would give so much pleasure to the whole family. In the morning
they would be giving it drink, rubbing it down, leading it out into the
field, and its little bell would be sounding all day in the pasture. In
the evening it would come into the yard, keeping close to the wall,
where the mulberry-tree stood, and poke its head through the kitchen
door. It would have a star upon its forehead, and would let you scratch
its head and stroke its neck, and would take the piece of maize-cake
that little Mariska held out to it. She would be able to lead the cow
everywhere. This was the Utopia of the family, its every-day desire, and
Papa had already planted a mulberry-tree in the yard in order that
Csákó, that was to be the cow's name, might have something to rub his
side against, and little Mariska every day broke off a piece of
maize-cake and hid it under the window-sill. The little calf would have
a fine time of it.

And lo and behold! when the halfpennies and farthings had mounted up to
such a heap that they already began to think of going to the very next
market to bring home the cow; when every day they could talk of nothing
else, and kept wondering what the cow would be like, brindled, or brown,
or white, or spotted; when they had already given it its name
beforehand, and had prepared a leafy bed for it close to the house--it
came to pass that a certain vagabond Turkish Sheikh shot dead the elder
brother, who was living in Stambul, because he accidentally touched the
edge of the holy man's garment in the street. So the poor priest
received one day a long letter from Adrianople, in which he was informed
that he had succeeded his brother as head of the family, and, from that
hour, was the happy possessor of an annual income of 70,000 ducats.

I wonder whether they wept for that cow, which they never brought home
after all?

Mr. Michael immediately left his old dwelling, travelled with his family
all the way to Bucharest in a carriage (it was the first time in his
life he had ever enjoyed that dignity), went through the family
archives, and entered into possession of his immense domain, of whose
extent he had had no idea before.

The old family mansion was near Rumnik, whither Mr. Michael also
repaired. The house was dilapidated and neglected, its former possessors
having lived constantly abroad, only popping in occasionally to see how
things were going on. Nevertheless, it was a palace to the new heir,
who, after the experience of his narrow hovel, could hardly accommodate
himself to the large, barrack-like rooms, and finally contented himself
with one half of it, leaving the other wing quite empty, as he didn't
know what to do with it.

Having been accustomed throughout the prime of his life to deprivation
and the hardest of hard work, that state of things had become such a
second nature to him, that, when he became a millionaire, he had not
much taste for anything better than maize-cakes, and it was high
festival with him when _puliszka_[1] was put upon the table.

     [Footnote 1: A sort of maize pottage.]

On the death of his wife, he sent his daughter on foot to the
neighbouring village to learn her alphabet from the cantor, and two
heydukes accompanied her lest the dogs should worry her on the way.
When his daughter grew up, he entrusted her with the housekeeping and
the care of the kitchen. Very often some young and flighty boyar would
pass through the place from the neighbouring village, and very much
would he have liked to have taken the girl off with him, if only her
father would give her away. And all this time Mr. Michael's capital
began to increase so outrageously that he himself began to be afraid of
it. It had come to this, that he could not spend even a thousandth part
of his annual income, and, puzzle his head as he might, he could not
turn it over quickly enough. He had now whole herds of cows, he bought
pigs by the thousand, but everything he touched turned to money, and the
capital that he invested came back to him in the course of the year with
compound interest. The worthy man was downright desperate when he
thought upon his treasure-heaps multiplying beyond all his expectations.
How to enjoy them he knew not, and yet he did not wish to pitch them
away.

He would have liked to have played the grand seignior, if only thereby
to get rid of some of his money, but the rôle did not suit him at all.
If, for instance, he wanted to build a palace, there was so much
calculating how, in what manner, and by whom it could be built most
cheaply, that it scarce cost him anything at all, but then it never
turned out a palace. Or if he wanted to give a feast, it was easy enough
to select the handsomest of the boyars for his guests. Whatever was
necessary for the feast--wine, meat, bread, honey, and sack-pipers--was
supplied in such abundance from his own magazines and villages, that he
absolutely despaired to think how it was that his ancestors had not only
devoured their immense estates, but had even piled up debts upon them.
To him this remained an insoluble problem, and after bothering his head
for a long time as to what he should do with his eternally accumulating
capital, he at last hit upon a good idea. The spacious garden
surrounding his crazy castle had, by his especial command, been planted
with all sorts of rare and pleasant plants--like basil, lavender, wild
saffron, hops, and gourds--over whom a tenant had been promoted as
gardener to look after them. One year the garden produced such gigantic
gourds, that each one was as big as a pitcher. The astonished neighbours
came in crowds to gaze at them, and the promoted ex-boyar swore a
hundred times that such gourds as these the Turkish Sultan himself had
not seen all his life long.

This gave Master Michael an idea. He made up his mind that he would send
one of these gourds to the Sultan as a present. So he selected the
finest and roundest of them, of a beautiful flesh-coloured rind,
encircled by dark-green stripes, with a turban-shaped cap at the top of
it, and, boring a little hole through it, drew out the pulp and filled
it instead with good solid ducats of the finest stamp, and placing it on
his best six-oxened wagon, he selected his wisest tenant, and, dinning
well into his head where to go, what to say, and to whom to say it, sent
him off with the great gourd to the Sublime Porte at Stambul.

It took the cart three weeks to get to Constantinople.

The good, worthy farmer, upon declaring that he brought gifts for the
Grand Seignior, was readily admitted into the presence, and after
kissing the hem of the Padishah's robe, drew the bright cloth away from
the presented pumpkin and deposited it in front of the Diván.

The Sultan flew into a violent rage at the sight of the gift.

"Dost thou take me for a swine, thou unbelieving dog, that thou bringest
me a gourd?" cried he.

And straightway he commanded the Kiaja Beg to remove both the gourd and
the man. The gourd he was to dash to pieces on the ground, the bringer
of the gourd was to have dealt unto him a hundred stripes on the soles
of his feet, but the sender of the gourd was to lose his head.

The Kiaja Beg did as he was commanded. He banged the gourd down in the
courtyard outside, and behold! a stream of shining ducats gushed out of
it instead of the pulp. Nevertheless, faithful above all things to his
orders, he had the poor farmer flung down on his face, and gave him such
a sound hundred stripes on the soles of his feet that he had no wish for
any more.

Immediately afterwards he hastened to inform the Sultan that the gourd
had been dashed to the ground, the hundred blows with the stick duly
paid, the silken cord ready packed, but that the gourd was full of
ducats.

At these words the countenance of the Grand Seignior grew serene once
more, like the smiling summer sky, and after ordering that the silken
cord should be put back in its place, he commanded that the most
magnificent of caftans should be distributed both to the bastinadoed
farmer and to the boyar who had sent the gift, and that they should both
be assured of the gracious favour of the Padishah.

The former had sufficient sense when he arrived at Bucharest to sell the
gay garment he had received to a huckster in the bazaar, but his
master's present he carefully brought home, and, after informing him of
the unpleasant incident concerning himself, delivered to him his
present, together with a gracious letter from the Sultan.

Master Michael was delighted with the return gift. He put on the long
caftan, which reached to his heels, and was made of fine dark-red
Thibetan stuff, embroidered with gold and silken flowers. Gold lace and
galloon, as broad as your hand, were piled up on the sleeves, shoulder,
and back, to such an extent that the original cloth was scarcely
visible, and the hem of the caftan was most wondrously embroidered with
splendid tulips, green, blue, and lilac roses, and all sorts of tinsel
and precious stones.

Master Michael felt himself quite another man in this caftan. The Sultan
had sent him a letter. The Sultan had plainly written to him that he
was to wear this caftan. This, therefore, was a command, and it was
possible that the Sultan might turn up to-morrow or the next day to see
whether he was wearing this caftan, and would be angry if he hadn't got
it on. He must needs therefore wear it continually.

But this golden caftan did not go at all well with his coarse fur
jacket, nor with his wooden sandals and lambskin cap. He was therefore
obliged to send to Tergoviste for a tailor who should make him a silk
dolman, vest, and embroidered stockings to match the golden caftan. He
also sent to Kronstadt for a tasselled girdle, to Braila for shoes and
morocco slippers, and to Tekas for an ermine kalpag with a heron's plume
in it.

Of course, now that he was so handsomely dressed, it was quite out of
the question for him to sit in a ramshackle old carriage, or to bestride
a fifty-thaler nag. He therefore ordered splendid chargers to be sent to
him from Bessarabia, and had a gilded coach made for him in
Transylvania; and when the carriage and the horses were there, he could
not put them into the muddy wagon-shed and the sparrow-frequented,
rush-thatched stable, but had to make good stone coach-houses and
stables expressly for them. Now, it would have looked very singular,
and, in fact, disgusting, if the stable and coach-house had been better
than the castle, whose shingle roof was a mass of variegated patches and
gaping holes where the mortar had fallen out and left the bricks bare;
so there was nothing for it but to pull down the old castle, and to
order his steward to build up a new one in its place, and make it as
beautiful and splendid as his fancy could suggest.

Thus the whole order of the world he lived in was transformed by a
golden caftan.

The steward embellished the castle with golden lattices, turrets,
ornamental porches and winding staircases; put conservatories in the
garden, planted projecting rondelles and soaring belvederes at the
corners of the castle and a regular tower in the middle of it, and
painted all the walls and ceilings inside with green forests and
crooked-beaked birds.

Of course, he couldn't put inside such a place as this the old rustic
furniture and frippery, so he had to purchase the large, high, shining
hump-backed arm-chairs, the gold-stamped leather sofas, and the
lion-legged marble tables which were then at the height of fashion.

Of course, Turkey carpets had to be laid on the floor, and silver
candelabra and beakers placed upon the magnificent tables; and in order
that these same Turkey carpets might not be soiled by the muddy boots of
farmyard hinds, a whole series of new servants had to be invented, such
as footmen to stand behind the new carriage, cooks for the kitchen, and
a special gardener for the conservatories, who, instead of looking after
the honest, straightforward citron-trees and pumpkins, had gingerly to
plant out cactuses and Egyptian thistles like dry stalks, in pots,
whence, also, it came about that as there was now a regular gardener and
a regular cook, pretty Mariska had no longer any occasion to concern
herself either with garden or kitchen, nor did she go any more to the
village rector to learn reading or writing, but they had to get her a
French governess from whom she learnt good taste, elegant manners,
embroidery, and harp-strumming.

And all these things were the work of the golden caftan!



CHAPTER II.

MAIDENS THREE.


The family banner had scarce been hoisted on to the high tower of the
new castle, the rumour of Mariska's loveliness and her father's millions
had scarce been spread abroad, when the courtyard began to be all ablaze
with the retinues and equipages of the most eminent zhupans,[2]
voivodes,[3] and princes; but Master Michael had resolved within himself
beforehand that nobody less than the reigning Prince of Moldavia should
ever receive his daughter's hand, and stolidly he kept to his
resolution.

     [Footnote 2: A Servian Prince.]

     [Footnote 3: A Roumanian Prince.]

Now the reigning Prince of Moldavia no doubt had an illustrious name
enough, but he also had inherited a very considerable load of debt, and
what with the eternal exactions of the Tartars, and the presents
expected by all the leading Pashas, and other disturbing causes, he saw
his people growing poorer and poorer, and his own position becoming more
and more precarious every year. He therefore did not keep worthy Master
Michael waiting very long when he heard, on excellent authority, that
there was being reserved for him in Wallachia a beautiful and
accomplished virgin, who would bring to her husband a dowry of a couple
of millions, in addition to an uncorrupted heart and an old ancestral
title.

So, gathering together all the boyars, retainers, and officers of his
court, he set off a-wooing to Rumnik, where he was well received by the
father, satisfied himself as to the young lady's good graces, demanded
her hand in marriage, and, allowing an adequate delay for the
preliminaries of the wedding, fixed the glad event for the first week
after Easter.

Master Michael, meantime, could think of nothing else but how he could
cut as magnificent a figure as possible on the occasion. He invited to
the banquet all the celebrities in Moldavia, Servia, Bosnia, and
Transylvania. He did not even hesitate to hire from Versailles one of
Louis XIV.'s cooks, to regulate the order and quality of the dishes. On
the day of the banquet the good gentleman was visible everywhere, and
saw to everything himself. Quite early, arrayed in the golden caftan,
the heron-plumed kalpag, and the tasselled girdle, he strutted about the
courtyard, corridors and chambers, distributing his orders and receiving
his guests; and his heart fluttered when he beheld the courtyard filling
with carriages, each one more brilliant than its predecessor, escorted
by gold-bedizened cavaliers, from which silver-laced heydukes assisted
noble ladies, in splendid pearl-embroidered costumes, to descend. There
was such a rustling of silk dresses, such a rattling of swords, and such
an endless procession of elegant and magnificent forms up the staircase,
as to make the heart of the beholder rejoice.

Master Michael rushed hither and thither, and pride and humility were
strangely blended on his face. He assured all he welcomed how happy they
made him by honouring his poor dwelling with their presence; but the
voice with which he said this betrayed the conviction that not one of
his guests had quitted a home as splendid as his own poor dwelling.

Then he plunged into the robing-chamber of the bride, where tire-women,
fetched all the way from Vienna, had been decking out Mariska from early
dawn. It gave them no end of trouble to adjust her jewels and her
gewgaws, and if they had heaped upon the fair bride all that her father
had purchased for her, she would have been unable to move beneath the
weight of her gems.

Thence the good man rushed off to the banqueting-room, where his
domestics had been busy making ready two rows of tables in five long
halls.

"Here shall sit the bride! That arm-chair to the right of her is for the
Patriarch--it is his proper place. On the left will sit Prince Michael
Apafi. He is to have the green-embossed chair, with the golden cherubim.
The bridegroom will sit on the right hand of the Patriarch. You must
give him that round, armless seat, so that he cannot lean back, but must
hold himself proudly erect. Over there you must place Paul Béldi and his
spouse, for they are always wont to sit together. Their daughter Aranka
will also be there, and she must sit between them on that little blue
velvet stool. Opposite to them the silk sofa is for Achmed Pasha and
Feriz Beg, recollect that they won't want knife or fork. The Dean must
have that painted stone bench, for a wooden bench would break beneath
him, and no chair will hold him. The three-and-thirty priests must be
placed all together over there--you must put none else beside them, or
they would be ashamed to eat. Don't forget to pile up wreaths of flowers
on the silver salvers; and remember there are peculiar reasons for not
placing a pitcher of wine before Michael Teleki. Achmed Pasha must have
a sherbet-bowl placed beside the can from which he drinks his wine, and
then folks will fancy he is not transgressing the Koran. Place goblets
of Venetian crystal before the ladies, and golden beakers before the
gentlemen, the handsomest before Teleki and Bethlen, the commoner sort
before the others, as they are wont to dash them against the walls. The
bridegroom should have the slenderest beaker of all, for he'll have to
pledge everyone, and I want no harm to befall him. Mind what I say!"

Nearly all the wedding guests had now assembled. Only two families were
still expected, the Apafis and the Telekis, whom Master Michael in his
pride wished to see at his table most of all. He glanced impatiently
into the courtyard every time he heard the roll of a carriage, and the
staircase lacqueys had strict injunctions to let him know as soon as
they saw the Prince's carriage approaching.

At last the rumbling of wheels was heard. Master Michael went all the
way to the gate to receive his guests, shoving aside all the vehicles in
his way, and bawling to the sentinels on the tower to blow the trumpets
as soon as ever they beheld the carriage on the road. The goodly host of
guests also thronged the balconies, the turrets, and the rondelles, to
catch a glance at the new arrivals, and before very long two carriages,
each drawn by four horses, turned the corner of the well-wooded road,
carriages supported on each side by footmen, lest they should topple
over, and escorted by a brilliant banderium of prancing horsemen.

They were instantly recognised as the carriages of the Prince and his
Prime Minister, and the voices of the trumpets never ceased till the
splendid, gilded, silk-curtained vehicles had lumbered into the
courtyard, although the master of the castle was already awaiting them
at the outer, sculptured gate, and himself hastened to open the carriage
door, doffing first of all his ermine kalpag. But he popped it on again,
considerably nonplussed, when, on opening the carriage, a beardless bit
of a boy, to all appearance, leapt out of it all alone, and there was
not a trace of the Prince to be seen in the carriage. Perhaps he had
dismounted at the foot of the hill in order to complete the journey on
foot, as Master Michael himself was in the habit of doing every time he
took a drive in his coach, for fear of an accident.

But the youthful jack-in-the-box lost no time in dispelling all rising
suspicions by quickly introducing himself.

"I am Emeric Tököly," said he, "whom his Highness the Prince has sent to
your Worship as his representative to take part in the festivities, and
at the same time to express his regret that he was not able to appear
personally, but only to send his hearty congratulations, inasmuch as her
Highness the Princess is just now in good hopes, by the grace of God, of
presenting her consort with an heir, and consequently his Highness does
not feel himself capable of enduring the amenities which under these
circumstances Ali Pasha might at such a time think fit to force upon
him. Nevertheless he wishes your Worship, with God's will, all
imaginable felicity."

Master Michael did not exactly know whether to say "I am very glad" or
"I am very sorry;" and in the meanwhile, to gain time, was turning
towards the second carriage, when Emeric Tököly suddenly intercepted
him.

"I was also to inform your Worship that his Excellency Michael Teleki,
having unexpectedly received the command to invade Hungary with all the
forces of Transylvania, has sent, instead of himself, his daughter Flora
to do honour to your Worship, much regretting that, because of the
command aforesaid, which will brook neither objection nor delay, he has
been obliged to deny himself the pleasure personally to press your
Worship's hand and exchange the warm kiss of kinsmanship; but if your
Worship will entrust me with both the handshake and the kiss, I will
give your Worship his and take back to him your Worship's."

The good old gentleman was absolutely delighted with the young man's
patriarchal idea, forgot the sour and solemn countenance which he had
expressly put on in honour of the Prince, and, falling on the neck of
the graceful young gentleman, hugged and kissed him so emphatically that
the latter could scarcely free himself from his embraces; then, taking
Flora Teleki, the youth's reported _fiancée_, on one arm, and Emeric
himself on the other, he conducted them in this guise among his other
guests, and they were the first to whom he introduced his daughter in
all her bridal array.

A stately, slender brunette was Mariska, her face as pale as a lily, her
eyes timidly cast down, as, leaning on her lady companion's arm, and
tricked out in her festal costume, she appeared before the expectant
multitude. The beauty of her rich black velvet tresses was enhanced by
interwoven strings of real pearls; her figure, whose tender charms were
insinuated rather than indicated by her splendid oriental dress, would
not have been out of place among a group of Naiads; and that superb
carriage, those haughty eyebrows, those lips of hers full of the promise
of pleasure, suited very well with her bashful looks and timid
movements.

Amongst the army of guests there was one man who towered above the
others--tall, muscular, with broad shoulders, dome-like breast, and head
proudly erect, whose long locks, like a rich black pavilion, flowed
right down over his shoulders. His thick dark eyebrows and his
coal-black moustache gave an emphatically resolute expression to his
dark olive-coloured face, whose profile had an air of old Roman
distinction.

This was the bridegroom, Prince Ghyka.

When the father of the bride introduced the new arrivals to the other
guests, his first action was to present them to Prince Ghyka, not
forgetting to relate how courteously the young Count had executed his
commission as to the transfer of the kisses, which, having been received
with general hilarity, suggested a peculiarly bold idea to the flighty
young man.

While he was being embraced by one after the other, and passed on from
hand to hand so to speak, he suddenly stood before the trembling bride,
who scarce dared to cast a single furtive look upon him, and, greeting
her in the style of the most chivalrous French courtesy, at the same
time turning towards the bystanders with a proud, not to say haughty
smile, pardonable in him alone, said, with an amiable _abandon_:
"Inasmuch as I have been solemnly authorised to be the bearer of kisses,
I imagine I shall be well within my rights if I deliver personally the
kisses which my kinswomen, Princess Apafi and Dame Teleki have charged
me to convey to the bride."

And before anyone had quite taken in the meaning of his concluding
words, the handsome youth, with that fascinating impertinence with which
he was wont to subdue men and women alike, bent over the charming bride,
and while her face blushed for a moment scarlet red, imprinted a
noiseless kiss upon her pure marble forehead. And this he did with such
grace, with such tender sprightliness, that nothing worse than a light
smile appeared upon the most rigorous faces present.

Then, turning to the company with a proud smile of self-confidence on
his face: "I hope," said he, tucking Flora Teleki's hand under his arm,
"that the presence of my _fiancée_ is a sufficient guarantee of the
respect with which I have accomplished this item of my mission."

At this there was a general outburst of laughter amongst the guests. Any
sort of absurdity could be forgiven Emeric, for he managed even his most
practical jokes so amiably that it was impossible to be angry with him.

But the cheeks of two damsels remained rosy-red--Mariska's and Flora's.
Women don't understand that sort of joke.

The bridegroom, half-smiling, half-angry, stroked his fine moustache.
"Come, come, my lad," said he, "you have been quicker in kissing my
bride than I have been myself."

But now the reverend gentlemen intervened, the bells rang, the
bridesmaids and the best men took possession of the bride and
bridegroom, the ceremony began, and nobody thought any more of the
circumstance, except, perhaps, two damsels, whose hearts had been
pricked by the thoughtless pleasantry, one of them as by the thorn of a
rose, the other as by the sting of a serpent.

And now, while for the next hour and a half the marriage ceremony, with
the assistance of the Most Reverend Patriarch, the Venerable Archdeacon,
three-and-thirty reverend gentlemen of the lower clergy, and just as
many secular dignitaries, is solemnly and religiously proceeding, we
will remain behind in the ante-chamber, and be indiscreet enough to worm
out the contents of the two well-sealed letters which have just been
brought in hot haste from Kronstadt for Emeric Tököly by a special
courier, who stamped his foot angrily when he was told that he must wait
till the Count came out of church.

One of the letters was from Michael Teleki, and its contents pretty much
as follows:--

      "MY DEAR SIR AND SON,

      "Our affairs are in the best possible order. During
      the last few days our army, 9,000 strong, quitting
      Gyulafehervár, has gone to await Achmed Pasha's forces
      near Déva, and will thence proceed to unite with
      Kiuprile's host. War, indeed, is inevitable; and
      Transylvania must be gloriously in the forefront of
      it. Do not linger where you are, but try and overtake
      us. It would be superfluous for me to remind you to
      take charge of my daughter Flora on the way. God bless
      you.

      "MICHAEL TELEKI.

      "_Datum Albæ Juliæ._

      "P.S.--Her Highness the Princess awaits a safe
      delivery from the mercy of God. His Highness the
      Prince has just finished a very learned dissertation
      on the orbits of the planets."

The second letter was in a fine feminine script, but one might judge
from it that that hand knew how to handle a sword as well as a pen.

It was to the following effect:--

      "MY DEAR FRIEND,

      "I have received your letter, and this is my answer
      to it. I can give you no very credible news in
      writing, either about myself or the affairs of the
      realm. A lover can do everything and sacrifice
      everything, even to life itself, for his love. (You
      will understand that this reference to love refers not
      to me, a mournful widow, but to another mournful
      widow, who is also your mother.) I do not judge men by
      what they say, but by what they do. All the same, I
      have every reason to think well of you, and I shall be
      delighted if the future should justify my good opinion
      of you.

      "Your faithful servant,

      "ILONA.

      "P.S.--I shall spend midsummer at the baths of
      Mehadia."

The noble bridal retinue, merrily conversing, now returned from the
chapel to the castle, the very sensible arrangement obtaining, that when
the guests sat down to table each damsel was to be escorted to her seat
by a selected cavalier known to be not displeasing to her. The only
exceptions to this rule were the right reverend brigade, and Achmed
Pasha and Feriz Beg, the two Turkish magnates present, whose grave
dignity restrained them from participating in this innocent species of
gallantry.

First of all, as the representative of the Prince of Transylvania, came
Emeric Tököly, conducting the aged mother of the bridegroom, the
Princess Ghyka; after him came Paul Béldi, leading the bride by the
hand. Béldi's wife was escorted by the master of the house, and her
pretty little golden-haired daughter Aranka hung upon her left arm.

Feriz Beg was standing in the vestibule with a grave countenance till
Aranka appeared. The little girl, on perceiving the youth, greeted him
kindly, whereupon Feriz sighed deeply, and followed her. The bridegroom
led the beautiful Flora Teleki by the hand.

On reaching the great hall, the company broke up into groups, the
merriest of which was that which included Flora, Mariska, and Aranka.

"Be seated, ladies and gentlemen! be seated!" cried the strident voice
of the host, who, full of proud self-satisfaction, ran hither and
thither to see that all the guests were in the places assigned to them.
Tököly was by the side of Mariska, opposite to them sat the bridegroom,
with Flora Teleki by his side. Aranka was the _vis-à-vis_ of Feriz Beg.

The banquet began. The endless loving-cup went round, the faces of the
guests grew ever cheerier, the bride conversed in whispers with her
handsome neighbour. Opposite to them the bridegroom, with equal
courtesy, exchanged from time to time a word with the fair Flora, but
the conversation thus begun broke down continually, and yet both the
lady and the prince were persons of culture, and had no lack of
mother-wit. But their minds were far away. Their lips spoke
unconsciously, and the Prince grew ever gloomier as he saw his bride
plunging ever more deeply into the merry chatter of her gay companion,
and try as he might to entertain his own partner, the resounding
laughter of the happy pair opposite drove the smile from his face,
especially when Flora also grew absolutely silent, so that the
bridegroom was obliged, at last, to turn to the Patriarch, who was
sitting on his right, and converse with him about terribly dull matters.

Meanwhile, a couple of Servian musicians began, to the accompaniment of
a zithern, to sing one of their sad, monotonous, heroic songs. All this
time Achmed Pasha had never spoken a word, but now, fired by the juice
of the grape mediatized by his sherbet-bowl, he turned towards the
singers and, beckoning them towards him, said in a voice not unlike a
growl:

"Drop all that martial jumble and sing us instead something from one of
our poets, something from Hariri the amorous, something from Gulestan!"

At these words the face of Feriz Beg, who sat beside him, suddenly went
a fiery red--why, he could not have told for the life of him.

"Do you know 'The Lover's Complaint,' for instance?" inquired the Pasha
of the musician.

"I know the tune, but the verses have quite gone out of my head."

"Oh! as to that, Feriz Beg here will supply you with the words quickly
enough if you give him a piece of parchment and a pen."

Feriz Beg was preparing to object, with the sole result that all the
women were down upon him immediately, and begged and implored him for
the beautiful song. So he surrendered, and, tucking up the long sleeve
of his dolman, set the writing materials before him and began to write.

They who drink no wine are nevertheless wont to be intoxicated by the
glances of bright eyes, and Feriz, as he wrote, glanced from time to
time at the fair face of Aranka, who cast down her forget-me-not eyes
shamefacedly at his friendly smile. So Feriz Beg wrote the verses and
handed them to the musicians, and then everyone bade his neighbour hush
and listen with all his ears.

The musician ran his fingers across the strings of his zithern, and then
began to sing the song of the Turkish poet:

   "Three lovely maidens I see, three maidens embracing each other;
    Gentle, and burning, and bright--Sun, Moon, and Star I declare them.
    Let others adore Sun and Moon, but give me my Star, my belovéd!"

   "When the Sun leaves the heavens, her adorers are whelméd in slumber;
    When the Moon quits the sky, sleep falls on the eyes of her lovers.
    But the fall of the Star is the death of the man who adores her--
    And oh! if _my_ load-star doth fall, Machallah! I cease from the
                                                                living!"

General applause rewarded the song, which it was difficult to believe
had not been made expressly for the occasion.

"Who would think," said Paul Béldi to the Pasha, "that your people not
only cut darts from reeds, but pens also, pens worthy of the poets of
love?"

"Oh!" replied Achmed, "in the hands of our poets, blades and harps are
equally good weapons; and if they bound the laurel-wreath round the
brows of Hariri it was only to conceal the wounds which he received in
battle."

When the banquet was over, Tököly, with courteous affability, parted
from his fair neighbour, whom he immediately saw disappear in a window
recess, arm-in-arm with Flora. He himself made the circuit of the table
in order that he might meet the fair Aranka, but was stopped in
mid-career by his host, who was so full of compliments that by the time
Tököly reached the girl, he found her leaning on her mother's arm
engaged in conversation with the Prince. Aranka, feeling herself out of
danger when she had only a married man to deal with, had quite regained
her childish gaiety, and was making merry with the bridegroom.

Tököly, with insinuating grace, wormed his way into the group, and
gradually succeeded in so cornering the Prince, that he was obliged to
confine his conversation to Dame Béldi, while Tököly himself was
fortunate enough to make Aranka laugh again and again at his droll
sallies.

The Prince was boiling over with venom, and was on the verge of
forgetting himself and exploding with rage. Fortunately, Dame Béldi,
observing in time the tension between the two men, curtseyed low to them
both, and withdrew from the room with her daughter. Whereupon, the
Prince seized Tököly's hand, and said to him with choleric jocosity: "If
your Excellency's own bride is not sufficient for you, will you at least
be satisfied with throwing in mine, and do not try to sweep every girl
you see into your butterfly-net?"

Tököly quite understood the bitter irony of these words, and replied,
with a soft but offensively condescending smile: "My dear friend, your
theory of life is erroneous. I see, from your face, that you are
suffering from an overflow of bile. You have not had a purge lately, or
been blooded for a long time."

The Prince's face darkened. He squeezed Tököly's hand convulsively, and
murmured between his teeth:

"One way is as good as another. When shall we settle this little
affair?"

Tököly shrugged his shoulders. "To-morrow morning, if you like."

"Very well, we'll meet by the cross."

The two men had spoken so low that nobody in the whole company had
noticed them, except Feriz Beg, who, although standing at the extreme
end of the room with folded arms, had followed with his eagle eyes every
play of feature, every motion of the lips of the whole group, including
Dame Béldi and the girl, and who now, on observing the two men grasp
each other's hands, and part from each other with significant looks,
suddenly planted himself before them, and said simply: "Do you want to
fight a duel because of Aranka?"

"What a question?" said the Prince evasively.

"It will not be a duel," said Feriz, "for there will be three of us
there," and, with that, he turned away and departed.

"How foolish these solemn men are," said Tököly to himself, "they are
always seeking sorrow for themselves. It would require only a single
word to make them merry, and, in spite of all I do, they will go and
spoil a joke. Why, such a duel as this--all three against each other,
and each one against the other two--was unknown even to the famous Round
Table and to the Courts of Love. It will be splendid."

At that moment the courier, who had brought the letters, forced his way
right up to Tököly, and said that he had got two important despatches
for him.

"All right, keep them for me, I'll read them to-morrow. I won't spoil
the day with tiresome business."

And so he kept it up till late at night with the merriest of the topers.
Only after midnight did he return to his room, and ordered the soldier
who had brought the letters to wake him as soon as he saw the red dawn.



CHAPTER III.

THREE MEN.


Tököly's servant durst not go to sleep on the off-chance of awaking at
dawn in order to arouse his master, and so the sky had scarcely begun to
grow grey when he routed him up. Emeric hastily dressed himself. A sort
of ill-humour on his pale face was the sole reminder of the previous
night's debauch.

"Here are the letters, sir," said the soldier.

"Leave me in peace with your letters," returned Emeric roughly, "I have
no time now to read your scribble. Go down and saddle my horse for me,
and tell the coachman to make haste and get the carriage ready, and have
it waiting for me near the cross at the slope of the hill, and find out
on your way down whether the old master of the house is up yet."

The soldier pocketed the letter once more, and went down grumbling
greatly, while Emeric buckled on his sword and threw his pelisse over
his shoulders. Soon after the soldier returned and announced that Master
Michael had been up long ago, because many of his guests had to depart
before dawn, amongst them the Prince, also the Turkish gentleman; the
bride was to follow them in the afternoon.

"Good," said Emeric; "let the coachman wait for me in front of the
Dragmuili _csarda_.[4] You had better bring with you some cold meat and
wine, and we'll have breakfast on the way." And with that he hastened
to the father of the bride, who, after embracing him heartily and
repeatedly, with a great flux of tears, and kissing him again and again,
and sending innumerable greetings through him to every eminent
Transylvanian gentleman, took an affectionate leave of him.

     [Footnote 4: An inn.]

Tököly hastened to bestride his horse on hearing that his adversaries
had been a little beforehand with him, and, putting spurs to his horse,
galloped rapidly away. Master Michael looked after him in amazement so
long as he could see him racing along the steep, hilly way, till he
disappeared among the woods. A soldier followed him at a considerable
distance.

Emeric, on reaching the cross, found his adversaries there already.
Feriz Beg had brought with him Achmed Pasha's field-surgeon. Tököly had
only thought of breakfast, the Prince had thought of nothing.

"Good morning," cried the Count, leaping from his horse. The Beg
returned his salute with a solemn obeisance; the Prince turned his back
upon him.

"Let us go into the forest to find a nice clear space," said Tököly; and
off he set in silence, leading the way, while the soldiers followed at
some distance, leading the horses by the bridles.

After going about a hundred yards they came to a clear space, surrounded
by some fine ash-trees. The Prince signified to the soldiers to stop
here, and, without a word, began to take off his dolman and mantle and
tuck up his sleeves.

It was a fine sight to behold these men--all three of them were
remarkably handsome fellows. The Prince was one of those vigorous,
muscular shapes, whom Nature herself seems specially to have created to
head a host. As he rolled up the flapping sleeves of his
gold-embroidered, calf-skin shirt, he displayed muscles capable of
holding their own single-handed against a whole brigade, and the defiant
look of his eye testified to his confidence in the strength of his arms,
whose every muscle stood out like a hard tumour, while his fists were
worthy of the heavy broadsword, whose blade was broadest towards its
point.

Feriz Beg, on discarding his dolman, rolled up the sleeves of his fine
shirt of Turkish linen to his shoulders, and drew from its sheath his
fine Damascus scimitar, which was scarce two inches broad, and so
flexible that you could have bent it double in every direction like a
watch-spring. His arms did not seem to be over-encumbered with muscles,
but at the first movement he made, as he lightly tested his blade, a
whole array of steel springs and stone-hard sinews, or so they seemed to
be, suddenly started up upon his arm, revealing a whole network of
highly-developed sinews and muscles. His face was fixed and grave.

Only Emeric seemed to take the whole affair as a light joke. With a
smile he drew up his lace-embroidered shirt of holland linen, bound up
his hair beneath his kalpag, and folded his well-rounded arms, whose
feminine whiteness, plastic, regular symmetry, and slender proportions,
gave no promise whatever of anything like manly strength. His sword came
from a famous Newcastle arms manufactory, and was made of a certain
dark, lilac-coloured steel, somewhat bent, and with a very fine point.

"My friends," said Emeric, turning towards his opponents, "as there are
three of us in this contest, and each one of the three must fight the
other two, let us lay down some rule to regulate the encounter."

"I'll fight the pair of you together," said the Prince haughtily.

"I'll also fight one against two," retorted Feriz.

"Then each one for himself and everybody against everybody else,"
explained Tököly. "That will certainly be amusing enough; in fact, a new
sort of encounter altogether, though hardly what gentlemen are used to.
Now, I should consider it much nobler if we fought against each other
singly, and when one of us falls, the victor can renew the combat with
the man in reserve."

"I don't mind, only the sooner the better," said the Prince
impatiently, and took up his position on the ground.

"Stop, my friend; don't you know that we cannot commence this contest
without Feriz?"

"Pooh! I didn't come here as a spectator," cried the Prince
passionately; "besides, I have nothing to do with the Beg."

"But I have to do with you," interrupted Feriz.

"Well," said Tököly, "I myself do not know what has offended him, but he
chose to intervene, and such challenges as his are wont to be accepted
without asking the reason why. No doubt he has private reasons of his
own."

"You may stop there," interrupted Feriz. "Let Fate decide."

"By all means," observed the Count, drawing forth three pieces of money
impressed with the image of King Sigismund--a gold coin, a silver coin,
and a copper coin--and handed them to the Turkish leech. "Take these
pieces of money, my worthy fellow, and throw them into the air. The gold
coin is the Prince, the copper coin is myself. Whichever two of the
three coins come down on the same side, their representatives will fight
first."

The leech flung the pieces into the air, and the gold and silver pieces
came down on the same side.

The Prince beckoned angrily to Feriz.

"Come, the sooner the better. Apparently I must have this little affair
off my hands before I can get at Tököly."

Tököly motioned to the leech to keep the pieces of money and have his
bandages ready.

"Bandages!" said the Prince ironically. "It's not first blood, but last
blood, I'm after."

And now the combatants stood face to face.

For a long time they looked into each other's eyes, as if they would
begin the contest with the darts of flashing glances, and then suddenly
they fell to.

The Prince's onset was as furious as if he would have crushed his
opponent in the twinkling of an eye with the heavy and violent blows
which he rained upon him with all his might. But Feriz Beg stood firmly
on the self-same spot where he had first planted his feet, and though he
was obliged to bend backwards a little to avoid the impact of the
terrible blows, yet his slender Damascus scimitar, wove, as it were, a
tent of lightning flashes all around him, defending him on every side,
and flashing sparks now hither, now thither, whenever it encountered the
antagonistic broadsword.

The Prince's face was purple with rage. "Miserable puppy!" he thundered,
gnashing his teeth; and, pressing still closer on his opponent, he dealt
him two or three such terrible blows that the Beg was beaten down upon
one knee, and, the same instant, a jet of blood leaped suddenly from
somewhere into the face of the Prince, who thereupon staggered back and
let fall his sword. In the heat of the duel he had not noticed that he
had been wounded. Whilst raining down a torrent of violent blows upon
his antagonist, he incautiously struck his own hand, so to speak, on the
sword of Feriz Beg, just below the palm where the arteries are, and the
wound which severed the sinews of the wrist constrained him to drop his
sword.

Tököly at once rushed forward.

"You are wounded, Prince!" he cried.

The leech hastened forward with the bandages, the dark red blood spurted
from the severed arteries like a fountain, and the Prince's face grew
pale in an instant. But scarcely had the surgeon bound up his wounded
right hand than his eye kindled again, and, turning to Emeric, he cried:
"I have still a hand left, and I can fight with it. Put my sword into my
left hand, and I'll fight to the last drop of my blood."

"Don't be impatient, Prince," said Emeric courteously; "ill-luck is your
enemy to-day, but as soon as you are cured you may command me, and I
will be at your service."

The Prince, who was already tottering, leaned heavily on his soldiers,
who hastened towards him and conveyed him half unconscious to the
carriage awaiting him. His wound was much worse than it had seemed at
first, and there was no knowing whether it would not prove mortal.

Only two combatants now remained in the field--Emeric and Feriz. The Beg
was still standing in his former place, and beckoned in dumb show to
Emeric to come on.

"Pardon me, my worthy comrade," said the Count, "you are a little
fatigued, and a combat between us would be unfair if I, who have rested,
should fight with you now. Come, plump down on the grass for a little
beside me. My man has brought some cold provisions for the journey; let
us have a few mouthfuls together first, and then we can fight it out at
our ease."

This nonchalant proposal seemed to please Feriz, and, leaning his sword
against a tree, he sat down in the grass, whilst Emeric's servant
unpacked the cold meat and the fruit which he had brought for his
master, together with a silver calabash-shaped flask full of wine.

Emeric returned the flask to the soldier. "Look you, my son," said he,
"you can drink the wine, and then fill the flask with spring water, for
Feriz Beg does not drink wine, and there are no other drinking utensils;
I, therefore, will also drink water, and so we shall be equal." Feriz
Beg was pleased with his comrade's free and easy behaviour, took
willingly of the food piled up before him, and not only drank out of the
same flask, but even answered questions when they were put to him.

A faint scar was visible on the forehead of the young Beg, which the
fold of his turban did not quite conceal.

"Did you get that wound from a Magyar?" inquired the Count.

"No, from an Italian, on the isle of Candia."

"I thought so at once. A Magyar does not cut with the point of his
sword. I see the hand of an Italian fencing-master in it. I can even
tell you the position you were in when you received it. The enemy was
beside you, in front of you, on your right hand, and on your left. Now
you employed that masterly circular stroke which you have just now
displayed, whereby you can defend yourself on all sides at once. Then
the foe in front of you suddenly rose in his saddle, and with a blow
which you did not completely ward off, scarred your forehead with the
point of his sword."

"It was just like that."

"It is one of the master-strokes of Basanella, and very carefully you
have to watch it, for there is scarce any defence against it; the sword
seems to strike up and down in the same instant, as if it were a sickle,
and however high you may hold your own sword, the blow breaks through
your defence. There is, indeed, only one defence against it, and that
the simplest in the world--dodge back your head."

"You are quite right," said Feriz Beg smiling, and after washing his
hands, he again took up his sword, "let us make an end of it."

"I don't mind," said Tököly; and lightly drawing his own sword with his
delicate white hand, just as if it were a gewgaw which he was
disengaging from its case to present to a lady, he took up his position
on the ground.

"Just one word more," said Tököly with friendly candour. "When you fight
with a single opponent, do not rush forward as if you were on a
battlefield and had to do with ten men at least, for in so doing you
expend much force uselessly, and allow your opponent to come up closer;
rather elongate your sword and allow only your hand to play freely."

"I thank you for the advice," said Feriz smiling. Had it been anybody
else he would probably have thrust back the advice into his face. But
Emeric imparted it to him with such a friendly, comrade-like voice as
if they had only come there for the fun of the thing.

Then the combat began. Feriz Beg, with his usual impetuosity, pressed
upon his adversary as if he would pay him back his amicable counsels in
kind; while Tököly calmly, composedly smiling, flung back the most
violent assaults of his rival as if it were a mere sport to him, so
lightly, so confidently did his sword turn in his hand, with so much
finished grace did he accompany every movement--in fact, he hardly
seemed to make any exertion. The most violent blows aimed at him by
Feriz Beg he parried with the lightest twist of his sword, and not once
did he counter, so that at last Feriz Beg, involuntarily overcome by
rage, fell back and lowered his sword.

"You are only playing with me. Why don't you strike back?"

"Twice you might have received from me Basanella's master-stroke, so
impetuously do you fight."

In a duel nothing is so wounding as the supercilious self-restraint of
an opponent. Feriz Beg grew quite furious at Tököly's cold repose, and
flung himself upon his opponent as if absolutely beside himself.

"Let us see whether you are the Devil or not," he cried.

At the same instant, when he had advanced a pace nearer to Tököly, the
latter suddenly stretched forth his sword and at the instant when he
parried his opponent's blow, he made a scarce perceptible backward and
upward jerk with the point of his sword, and at that same instant a
burning red line was visible on the temples of Feriz Beg. The young Turk
lowered his sword in surprise as his face, immediately after the
unnoticed stroke, began to bleed. Tököly flung away his sword and,
tearing out his white pocket-handkerchief, rushed suddenly towards his
opponent, stanched the wound with the liveliest sympathy, and said, in a
voice tremulous with the most naïve apprehension: "Look now! didn't I
tell you all along to watch for that stroke?"

By this time the leech had also come up with the bandages, and examining
the wound, observed consolingly:

"A soldierly affair. Only the skin is pierced. In three days you will be
all right."

Tököly, full of joy, pressed the hand of Feriz Beg.

"Henceforth we will be good friends," said he. "Before God, I protest I
never gave you the slightest cause of offence."

"I shall rejoice in your friendship," said Feriz solemnly, "but if you
wish it to last, listen to my words: never approach a girl whom you do
not love in order to make her love you, and if you are loved, love in
return and make her happy."

"You have my word of honour on it, Feriz," replied Tököly. "Of all the
girls whom I have seen since I knew you, not one of them have I loved,
and by none of them do I want to be loved."

Feriz Beg could not refrain from shaking his head and smiling.

"Apparently you forget that your own bride was among them."

Tököly bit his lips in some confusion, and answered nothing; he thought
it best to pass off this slip of the tongue as a mere jest. Then the two
reconciled antagonists embraced and returned to the roadside cross.
Tököly constrained the Beg to take his coach and go on to Ibraila, while
he himself mounted his horse, and taking leave of Feriz, took the road
leading to the Pass of Bozza.

The soldier-courier now fancied it was high time that the urgent
letters, of which he was the bearer, should be read, and accordingly
asked his master about it.

"Well, where are your two letters?" asked the Count very languidly.

"There are not two, sir, but three."

"What! have they multiplied?"

"Miss Flora gave me the third half an hour before she took coach to go
home."

"Then she has gone on before, eh? Well, let us see what they write
about."

Teleki's was the first letter which Emeric perused; he glanced through
it rapidly, as if it had no very great claim upon his attention. When he
came to that part of it where he was told to look after Flora, he paused
for a little. "Well, I can easily overtake her," he thought, and he took
the second letter, which was subscribed with the name of Helen. Twice he
perused it, and then he returned to it a third time, and his face grew
visibly redder. Involuntarily he sighed as he thrust the letter into his
breast pocket just above his heart, and looked sadly in front of him, as
if he were listening to the beating of his own heart.

Then he broke open the third letter.

It contained an engagement ring, nothing else. That was all--not a
single accompanying word or letter.

For an instant Emeric held it in his hand in blank amazement; his steed
stopped also. For some minutes his face was pale and his head hung down.

But in another instant he was again upright in his saddle, and he
exclaimed in a voice loud enough to be heard afar:

"Well, it's not coming off then, so much the better!"

Then he threw away the envelope in which the ring had been, and drawing
out the letter which he had thrust into his bosom, he put the ring into
it and then returned it to his bosom; then, with a glowing face, he
turned his horse's head and, in the best of humours, called to his
soldier: "We will not go to Transylvania. Back to Mehadia!"



CHAPTER IV.

AFFAIRS OF STATE.


The year was a few weeks older since we saw Tököly depart from Rumnik,
after reading the three letters, and behold, Michael Teleki still
lingered at Gyulafehervár, and had _not_ gone with the Transylvanian
forces to Déva.

He had been feeling ill for some days, and had not been able to leave
his room. A slow fever tormented his limbs, his face had lost its
colour, he was hardly able to hold himself up, and every joint ached
whenever he moved. He had need of repose, but not a single moment could
he have to himself, and just when he would have liked to have shown the
door to every worry and bother, the Prince at one moment, and the
Turkish Ambassador at another, were continually pressing their affairs
upon him.

At that moment his crony Nalaczi was with him, standing at the window,
while Teleki sat in an arm-chair. All his members were shaken by the
ague, his breath was burning hot, his face was as pale as wax, and he
could scarce keep his lips together.

By his chair stood his page--young Cserei--whilst huddled up in a corner
on one side was a scarce visible figure which clung close to the wall
with as miserable, shamefaced an expression as if it would have liked to
crawl right into it and be hidden. What with the darkness and its own
miserableness, we should scarce recognise this shape if Teleki did not
chance to give it a name, railing at it, from time to time, as if it
were a lifeless log, without even looking at it, for, in truth, his back
was turned upon it.

"I tell you, Master Szénasi, you are an infinitely useless
blockhead----"

"I humbly beg----"

"Don't beg anything. Here have I, worse luck, been entrusting you with a
small commission, in order that you might impart some wholesome
information to the people, and instead of that you go and fool them with
all sorts of old wives' stories."

"Begging your Excellency's pardon, I thought----"

"Thought? What business had you to think? You thought, perhaps, you were
doing me a service with your nonsense, eh?"

"Mr. Nalaczi said as much, your Excellency."

Mr. Nalaczi seemed to be sitting on thorns all this while.

"Now just see what a big fool you are," interrupted Teleki. "Mr. Nalaczi
_may_ have told you, for what I know, that it might be well for you to
use your influence with the common people by mentioning before them the
wonders which have recently taken place, and thereby encouraging them to
be loyal and friendly to each other, but I am sure he did not tell you
to manufacture wonders on your own account, and terrify the people by
spreading abroad rumours of coming war."

"I thought----" Here he stopped short, the worthy man was quite
incapable at that moment of completing his sentence.

"Thought! You thought, I suppose, that just as I was collecting armies,
you would do me a great service by preaching war? So far as I am
concerned, I should like to see every sword buried in the earth."

"Begging your Excellency's pardon----"

"Get out of my sight. Never let me see you again. In three days you must
leave Transylvania, or else I'll send you out, and you won't thank me
for that."

"May I humbly ask what I am to do if your Excellency withdraws your
favour from me?" whined the fellow.

"You may do as you like. Go to Szathmár and become the lacquey of Baron
Kopp, or the scribe of Master Kászonyi. I'm just going to write to them.
I'll mention your name in my letter, and you can take it."

"And if they won't accept me?"

"Then you must tack on to someone else, anyhow you shan't starve. Only
get out of my sight as quickly as possible."

The "magister" withdrew in fear and trembling, wiping his eyes with his
pocket-handkerchief.

"Sir," said Nalaczi, when they were alone together, "this violence does
harm."

"The only way with such fellows is to bully them whatever they do, for
they are deceivers and traitors at heart, and would otherwise do you
mischief. Kick and beat them, chivy them from pillar to post, and make
them feel how wretched their lot is, if you don't want them to play off
their tricks upon you."

"I don't see it in that light. This irritability will do you no good."

"On the contrary it keeps me up. If I had not always given vent to my
feelings I should have been lying on a sick-bed long ago. Take these few
thalers, go after that good-for-nothing, and tell him that I am very
angry with him, and therefore he must try in future to deserve my
confidence better, in which case I shall not forget him. Tell him to
wait in the gate for the letter I am about to write, and when once he
has it in his hand let him get out of Transylvania as speedily as he
can. Remind him that I don't yet know about what happened in the square
at Klausenberg, and if I did know I would have him flogged out of the
realm; so let him look sharp about it."

Nalaczi laughed and went out.

Teleki sank back exhausted on his pillows, and made his page rub the
back of his neck violently with a piece of flannel.

At that instant the Prince entered. His face was wrath, and all because
of his sympathy. He began scolding Teleki on the very threshold.

"Why don't you lie down when I command you? Does it beseem a grown-up
man like you to be as disobedient as a capricious child? Why don't you
send for the doctor; why don't you be blooded?"

"There is nothing the matter with me, your Highness. It is only a little
_hæmorrhoidalis alteratio_. I am used to it. It always plagues me at the
approach of the equinoxes."

"Ai, ai, Michael Teleki, you don't get over me. You are very ill, I tell
you. Your mental anxiety has brought about this physical trouble. Does
it become a Christian man, I ask, to take on so because my little friend
Flora cannot have one particular man out of fifteen wooers, and a fellow
like Emeric, too--a mere dry stick of a man."

"I don't give it any particular importance."

"You are a bad Christian, I tell you, if you say that. You love neither
God nor man; neither your family, nor me----"

"Sir!" said Teleki, in a supplicating voice.

"For if you did love us, you would spare yourself and lie down, and not
get up again till you were quite well again."

"But if I lie down----"

"Yes, I know--other things will have a rest too. The bottom of the world
isn't going to fall out, I suppose, because you keep your bed for a day
or two. Come! look sharp! I will not go till I see you lying on your
bed."

What could Teleki do but lie down at the express command of his
Sovereign.

"And you won't get up again without my permission, mind," said the
Prince, signalling to young Cserei, and addressing the remainder of his
discourse to him. "And you, young man, take care that your master does
not leave his bed, do you hear? I command it, and, till he is quite
well, don't let him do any hard work, whether it be reading, writing, or
dictation. You have my authorisation to prevent it, and you must
rigorously do your duty. You will also allow nobody to enter this room,
except the doctor and the members of the family. Now, mind what I say!
As for you, Master Teleki, you will wrap yourself well up and get
yourself well rubbed all over the body with a woollen cloth, clap a
mustard poultice on your neck and keep it there as long as you can bear
it, and towards evening have a hot bath, with salt and bran in it; and
if you won't have a vein opened put six leeches on your temples, and the
doctor will tell you what else to do. And in any case don't fail to take
some of these _pilulæ de cynoglosso_. Their effect is infallible."
Whereupon the Prince pressed into Teleki's hand a box full of those
harmless medicaments which, under the name of dog's-tongue pills, were
then the vogue in all domestic repositories.

"All will be well, your Highness."

"Let us hope so! Towards evening I will come and see you again."

And then the Prince withdrew with an air of satisfaction, thinking that
he had given the fellow a good frightening.

Scarce had he closed the door behind him than Teleki beckoned to Cserei
to bring him the letters which had just arrived.

The page regarded him dubiously. "The Prince forbade me to do so," he
observed conscientiously.

"The Prince loves to have his joke," returned the counsellor. "I like my
joke, too, when I've time for it. Break open those letters and read them
to me."

"But what will the Prince say?"

"It is I who command you, my son, not the Prince. Read them, I say, and
don't mind if you hear me groan."

Cserei looked at the seal of one of the letters and durst not break it
open.

"Your Excellency, that is a _secretum sigillum_."

"Break it open like a man, I say. Such secrets are not dangerous to you;
you are a child to be afraid of such things."

Cserei opened the letter, and glancing at the signature, stammered in a
scarce audible voice: "Leopoldus."[5]

     [Footnote 5: _i.e._ the Emperor Leopold.]

Teleki, resting on his elbows, listened attentively.

      "YOUR HIGHNESS AND MY WELL-DISPOSED FRIEND--I have
      heard from Baron Mendenzi Kopp and worthy Master
      Kászonyi of your Excellency's good dispositions
      towards me and Christendom, and your readiness to help
      in the present disturbances. All my own efforts will
      be directed to the preservation of the rights and
      liberties of the Christian Princes, so that there may
      not be the slightest occasion that the Turkish War
      should extend, and that the whole power of the Ottoman
      Empire should be hurled on me and my dominions. But I
      hope that the fury of these barbarians, by the
      combination of the foreign kings and princes, shall,
      with God's assistance, be so opposed and thwarted as
      to make them turn back from the league of the combined
      faithful hosts. Meanwhile, I assure your Excellency
      and the Estates of Transylvania of my protection, so
      long as you continue well-disposed towards me, and I
      entrust the maintenance of this good understanding
      between us to Messrs. the illustrious Baron Kopp and
      the Honourable Mr. Kászonyi. Wishing your Excellency
      good health and all manner of good fortune, etc.,
      etc."

Cserei looked at the doors and windows in terror, for fear someone might
be listening.

"And now let us read the second letter."

Cserei's top-knot regularly began to sweat when he recognised at the
bottom of the opened letter the signature of the Grand Vizier, who thus
wrote to the Prince:

      "MOST ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE, HEARTY LOVE AND
      GREETING!--We would inform thee of our grace and
      favour that we have sent a part of our army to the
      assistance of the imprisoned heroes in our most mighty
      master the Sultan's fortress of Nyitra, where the
      faithless foe are besieging them. It is therefore
      necessary that thou with thy whole host and all the
      necessary muniments of war should hasten thither
      without loss of time, so as to unite both in heart and
      deed with our warriors, who are on their way against
      the enemy. We believe that by the grace of God thou
      wilt be ready to render useful service to the mighty
      Sultan, and so be entitled to participate in his
      favour and liberality. We, moreover, after the end of
      the solemn feast days which we are wont to keep after
      our fasts are over, will follow our advance guards
      with our countless hosts, and thou meanwhile must
      manfully take this business in hand, so that thy
      loyalty may shine the more gloriously in martial
      deeds. Peace be to those who are in the obedience of
      God."

Poor Cserei, when he had read this letter through, had a worse fit of
ague than his master. He anxiously watched the face of the statesman,
but the only thing visible in his features was bodily suffering. There
was no sign of mental disturbance.

The blood flew to his face, the veins were throbbing visibly in his
temples.

"Come hither, my son," he said in a scarcely audible voice; "bring me a
glass of water, put into it as much rhubarb powder as would go on the
edge of a knife, and give it me to drink."

Cserei fancied that the sick Premier had not mastered the contents of
the letter because of a fresh access of fever, and, having prepared the
rhubarb water in a few moments, gave it him to drink, whereupon Teleki
crouched down beneath his coverlet. He could have done nothing better,
for now the ague burst forth again, so that he regularly shivered
beneath its attack. Cserei wanted to run for a doctor.

"Whither are you going?" asked Teleki. "Fetch ink and parchment, and
write."

The lad obeyed his command marvelling.

"Bring hither the round table and sit down beside it. Write what I tell
you."

The pen shook in the lad's hand, and he kept dipping it into the sand
instead of into the ink.

Teleki, in a broken voice, dictated a letter as well as the fever would
allow him.

      "MOST EXALTED GRAND VIZIER AND WELL-BELOVED SIR,--We
      learn from your Highness's dispatch that the armies of
      the Sublime Sultan who have lately been besieging the
      fortress of Nyitra are now endeavouring to combine
      their forces, and though this realm has but a meagre
      possession of the muniments of war remaining to it, we
      shall be prepared most punctually to hold at your
      Highness's gracious disposition as much, though it be
      but little, forage, hay, and other necessary stores as
      we still possess, you making allowance for all
      inevitable defects and shortcomings. Moreover, rumour
      has it that the hostile hosts are beginning to show
      themselves on the borders of Transylvania, which
      irruption, though it be no secret, is yet to be
      confirmed, and should it be so we must meet it with
      all our attention and energy. As to this your Highness
      shall be informed in good time, and in the meanwhile
      we commit you to God's gracious favour, etc., etc."

Cserei sighed and thought to himself: "I wonder whence all the hay and
oats is to come?"

But Teleki knew very well that in consequence of last year's bad
harvests and inundations the Turkish army was suffering severely from
want of hay, so that what with him was an occasion for delay, with them
was an occasion for hurrying--whence we may draw the reflection that the
great events of this world are built upon haycocks!

"Address the second letter," continued Teleki, "to his Excellency Baron
Mendenzi Kopp and to the honourable Achatius Kászonyi, commandants of
the fortress of Szathmár," and he thus went on dictating to Cserei,
whilst in the intervals of silence the groans which the ague forced from
his breast were distinctly audible.

      "With joy we learn of the intention of your Honours to
      endeavour to seize one of the gates of entrance of the
      enemy of our faith, through which he was always ready
      to come for our destruction. May the God of mercy
      forward the designs of your Excellencies. If, on this
      occasion, your Excellencies could also find time to
      make a feigned attack upon Transylvania in order to
      give us a reasonable excuse of our inability to lend
      the Turks the assistance they expect from us, you
      would make matters easier for us, and render us an
      essential service. On the other hand, if we should be
      compelled against our wills to send our soldiers
      against the Christian camp, in conjunction with the
      enemies of our faith, we assure your Excellencies that
      our host will be a purely nominal one, etc., etc.

      "P.S.--The bearer of this letter can be employed by
      your Excellencies as a courier or otherwise."

Cserei looked with amazement at the man in whom mental vivacity seemed
to rise triumphant even over the lassitude of fever.

"Take a third sheet of paper, and address it to the Honourable Ladislaus
Ebéni, Lieutenant-Governor of the fortress of Klausenburg.

      "We hasten to inform your Honour that preparations are
      being made by the Commandant of the fortress of
      Szathmár, which leads us to conjecture that he
      meditates making an irruption into Transylvania. It
      may, of course, be merely a feint, but your Honour
      would do well to be prepared and under arms, lest he
      have designs against us, and is not merely making a
      noise. We, meanwhile, will postpone the advance of our
      arms into Hungary, lest, while we are attacking on one
      side, we leave Transylvania defenceless on the other.
      Once more we counsel your Honour to use the utmost
      caution, etc."

"And now take these letters and carry them to the Prince, that he may
sign them."

"And what if he box my ears for allowing your Excellency to dictate?"
said the frightened lad.

"Never mind it, my son, you will have suffered for your country. I, too,
have had buffets enough in my time, not only when I was a child, but
since I have grown up." And with that he turned his face towards the
wall and pulled the coverlet over him.

Fortunately Cserei found Apafi in the apartment of the consort, and thus
avoided the box on the ear, got the letters signed, and dispatched them
all in different directions, so that all three got into the proper hands
in the shortest conceivable time. And now let us see the result.

The Grand Vizier blasphemed when he had read his, and swore emphatically
that if there were no hay in Transylvania he would make hay of their
Excellencies.

Baron Kopp and Mr. Kászonyi chuckled together over _their_ letter. The
Commandant murmured gruffly: "I don't care, so you needn't."

Mr. Ebéni, however, on reading his letter, deposited it neatly among the
public archives, growling angrily:

"If I were to call the people to arms at every wild alarm or idle
rumour, I should have nothing else to do all day long. It is a pity that
Teleki hasn't something better to do than to bother me continually with
his scribble."



CHAPTER V.

THE DAY OF GROSSWARDEIN.


In order that the horizon may stand clearly before us, it must be said
that in those days there were two important points in Hungary on the
Transylvanian border: Grosswardein and Szathmár-Németi, which might be
called the gates of Transylvania--good places of refuge if their keys
are in the hand of the Realm, but all the more dangerous when the hands
of strangers dispose of them.

At this very time a German army was investing Szathmár and the Turks had
sat down before Grosswardein, and the plumed helmets of the former were
regarded as as great a menace on the frontiers of the state as the
half-moons themselves.

The inhabitants of the regions enclosed between these fortresses never
could tell by which road they were to expect the enemy to come. For in
such topsy-turvy days as those were, every armed man was an enemy, from
whom corn, cattle, and pretty women had to be hidden away, and their
friendship cost as much as their enmity, and perhaps more; for if they
found out at Szathmár that some nice wagon-loads of corn and hay had
been captured from local marauders without first beating their brains
out, the magistrates would look in next day and impose a penalty; and
again, on the other hand, if it were known at Grosswardein that the
Szathmárians had been received hospitably at any gentleman's house, and
the daughter of the house had spoken courteously to them, the Turks
would wait until the Szathmárians had gone farther on and would then
fall upon the house in question and burn it to the ground, so that the
Szathmárians should not be able to sleep there again; and, as for the
daughter of the house, they would carry her off to a harem, in order to
save her from any further discoursing with the magistrates of Szathmár.

And, last of all, there was a third enemy to be reckoned with, and this
was the countless rabble of _betyárs_, or freebooters, who inhabited the
whole region from the marshes of Ecsed to the morasses of Alibuner, and
who gave no reason at all for driving off their neighbour's herds and
even destroying his houses.

In those days a certain Feri Kökényesdi had won renown as a robber
chieftain, and extraordinary, marvellous tales were told in every
village and on every _puszta_[6] of him and the twelve robbers who
followed his banner, and who were ready at a word to commit the most
incredible audacities. People talked of their entrenched fortresses
among the Bélabora and Alibuner marshes which were inaccessible to any
mortal foe, and in which, even if surrounded on all sides, they could
hold out against five regiments till the day of judgment. Then there
were tales of storehouses concealed among the Cumanian sand-hills which
could only be discovered by the scent of a horse; there were tales of a
good steed who, after one watering, could gallop all the way from the
Theiss to the Danube, who could recognise a foe two thousand paces off,
and would neigh if his master were asleep or fondling his sweetheart in
the tavern; there were tales of the gigantic strength of the robber
chief who could tackle ten _pandurs_[7] at once, and who, whenever he
was pursued, could cause a sea to burst forth between himself and his
pursuers, so that they would be compelled to turn back.

     [Footnote 6: Common.]

     [Footnote 7: Police officers.]

As a matter of fact, Mr. Kökényesdi was neither a giant who turned men
round his little finger nor a magician who threw dust in their eyes, but
an honest-looking, undersized, meagre figure of a man and a citizen of
Hodmezö-Vásárhely, in which place he had a house and a couple of farms,
on which he conscientiously paid his portion of taxes; and he had bulls
and stallions, as to every one of which he was able to prove where he
had bought and how much he had paid for it. Not one of them was stolen.

Yet everyone knew very well that neither his farms nor his bulls nor his
stallions had been acquired in a godly way, and that the famous robber
chief whose rumour filled every corner of the land was none other than
he.

But who could prove it? Had anybody ever seen him steal? Had he ever
been caught red-handed? Did he not always defend himself in the most
brilliant manner whenever he was accused? When there was a rumour that
Kökényesdi was plundering the county of Mármaros from end to end, did he
not produce five or six eye-witnesses to prove that at that very time he
was ploughing and sowing on his farms, and was not the judge at great
pains to discover whether these witnesses were reliable?

Those who visited him at his native place of Vásárhely found him to be a
respected, worthy, well-to-do man, who tossed his own hay till the very
palm of his hand sweated, while those who sought for Kökényesdi on the
confines of the realm never saw his face at all; it was indeed a very
tiresome business to pursue him. That man was a brave fellow indeed who
did not feel his heart beat quicker when he followed his track through
the pathless morasses and the crooked sand-hills of the interminable
_puszta_. And if two or three counties united to capture him, he would
let himself be chased to the borders of the fourth county, and when he
had leaped across it would leisurely dismount and beneath the very eyes
of his pursuers, loose his horse to graze and lie down beside it on his
_bunda_[8]--for there was the Turkish frontier, and he knew very well
that beyond Lippa they durst not pursue him, for there the Pasha of
Temesvar held sway.

     [Footnote 8: Sheepskin mantle.]

Now, at this time there was among the garrison of Szathmár a captain
named Ladislaus Rákóczy. The Rákóczy family, after Helen Zrinyi's
husband had turned papist, for the most part were brought up at Vienna,
and many of them held commissions in the Imperial army. Ladislaus
Rákóczy likewise became a captain of musketeers, and as the greater part
of his company consisted of Hungarian lads, it was not surprising if the
Prince of Transylvania, on the other hand, kept German regiments to
garrison his towns and accompany him whithersoever he went. It chanced
that this Ladislaus Rákóczy, who was a very handsome, well-shaped, and
good-hearted youth, fell in love with Christina, the daughter of Adam
Rhédey, who dwelt at Rékás; and as the girl's father agreed to the
match, he frequently went over from Szathmár to see his _fiancée_,
accompanied by several of his fellow-officers, and he and his friends
were always received by the family as welcome guests.

Now, it came to the ears of the Pasha of Grosswardein that the Squire of
Rékás was inclined to give away his daughter in marriage to a German
officer, and perchance it was also whispered to him that the girl was
beautiful and gracious. At any rate, one night Haly Pasha, at the head
of his Spahis, stole away from Grosswardein and, taking the people of
Rékás by surprise, burnt Adam Rhédey's house down, delivered it over to
pillage, beat Rhédey himself with a whip, and tied him to the
pump-handle, while, as for his daughter, who was half dead with fright,
he put her up behind him on the saddle and trotted back to Grosswardein
by the light of the burning village.

Ladislaus Rákóczy, who came there next day for his own bridal feast,
found everything wasted and ravaged, and the servants, who were hiding
behind the hedges, peeped out and told him what had happened the night
before, and how Haly Pasha had abducted his bride. The bridegroom was
taciturn at the best of times, but a Hungarian is not in the habit of
talking much when anything greatly annoys him, so, without a word to his
comrades, he went back to the governor and asked permission to lead his
regiment against Grosswardein.

The general, perceiving that persuasion was useless, and that the youth
would by himself try a tussle with the Turks if he couldn't do it
otherwise, took the matter seriously and promised that he would place at
his disposal, not only his own regiment but the whole garrison, if only
he would persuade the neighbouring gentry to join him in the attack on
the Turks of Grosswardein.

As for the gentry, they only needed a word to fly to arms at once, for
there was scarce one of them who had not at one time or other been
enslaved, beaten, or at least insulted by the Turks, so that the mere
appearance of a considerable force of regular soldiers marching against
the Turks was sufficient to bring them out at once. The Turks, having
once got possession of Grosswardein, had established themselves therein
as firmly as if they meant to justify the Mussulman tradition that he
never abandons a town that he has once occupied, or never voluntarily
surrenders a place in which he has built a mosque, and indeed history
rarely records a case of capitulation by the Turks--_their_ fortresses
are generally taken by storm.

From the year 1660, when Haly Pasha occupied the fortress, a quite new
Turkish town had arisen in the vacant space between the fortress and the
old town, and this new town was surrounded by a strong palisade, the
only entrances into which were through very narrow gates. This new town
was inhabited by nothing but Turkish chapmen, who bartered away the
goods captured by the garrison, and Haly Pasha's Spahis did a roaring
business in the oxen and slaves which they had gathered together,
attracting purchasers all the way from Bagdad. Thus from year to year
the market of Grosswardein became better and better known in the Turkish
commercial world, so that one wooden house after another sprang up, and
they built across and along the empty space just as they liked, so that
at last there was hardly what you would call a street in the whole
place, and people had to go through their neighbours' houses in order to
get into their own; in a word, the whole thing took the form of a
Turkish fair, where pomp and splendour conceals no end of filth; the
patched up wooden shanties were covered with gorgeous oriental stuffs,
while in the streets hordes of ownerless dogs wandered among the
perennial offal, and if two people met together in the narrow alleys, to
pass each other was impossible.

This fenced town was not large enough to hold the herds that were swept
towards it, there was hardly room enough for the masters of the herds;
but on the banks of the Pecze there was a large open entrenched space
reserved for the purpose, where the Bashkir horsemen stood on guard over
the herds with their long spears, and had to keep their eyes pretty open
if they didn't want Kökényesdi to honour them with a visit, who was
capable of stealing not only the horses but the horsemen who guarded
them.

Take but one case out of many. One day Kökényesdi, in his _bunda_,
turned inside out as usual, with a round spiral hat on his head and a
large knobby stick in his hands, appeared outside the entrenchment
within which a closely-capped Kurd was guarding Haly Pasha's favourite
charger, Shebdiz.

"What a nice charger!" said the horse-dealer to the Kurd.

"Nice indeed, but not for your dog's teeth."

"Yet I assure you I'll steal him this very night."

"I shall be there too, my lad," thought the Kurd to himself, and with
that he leaped upon the horse and grasped fast his three and a half
ells long spear; "if you want the horse come for it now!"

"I'm not going to fetch it at once, so don't put yourself out,"
Kökényesdi assured him. "You may do as you like with him till morning,"
and with that he sat down on the edge of the ditch, wrapped himself up
in his _bunda_, and leaned his chin on his big stick.

The Kurd durst not take his eyes off him, he scarce ventured even to
wink, lest the horse-dealer should practise magic in the meantime.

He never stirred from the spot, but drew his hat deep down and regarded
the Kurd from beneath it with his foxy eyes.

Meanwhile it was drawing towards evening. The Kurd's eyes now regularly
started out of his head in his endeavours to distinguish the form of
Kökényesdi through the darkness. At last he grew weary of the whole
business.

"Go away!" he said. "Do you hear me?"

Kökényesdi made no reply.

The Kurd waited and gazed again. Everything seemed to him to be turning
round, and blue and green wheels were revolving before his eyes.

"Go away, I tell you, for if this ditch was not a broad one I would leap
across and bore you through with my spear."

The _bunda_ never budged.

The Kurd flew into a rage, dismounted from the horse, seized his spear,
and climbing down into the ditch, viciously plunged his spear into the
sleeping form before him.

But how great was his consternation when he discovered that what he had
looked upon as a man in the darkness was nothing but a propped up stick,
on which a _bunda_ and a hat were hanging! While he had been staring at
Kökényesdi, the latter had crept from out of the _bunda_ beneath his
very eyes and hidden himself in the ditch.

The Kurd had not yet recovered from his astonishment when he heard the
crack of a whip behind his back, and there was Kökényesdi sitting
already on the back of Haly Pasha's charger, Shebdiz, and the next
moment he had leaped the ditch above the Kurd's head, shouting back at
him:

"The trench is not broad enough for this horse, my son!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Master Szénasi was one of those who had been sent to find Kökényesdi,
and he now arrived at Demerser, the famous robber's most usual
resting-place in those days, and pushing his way forward told him that
the gentlemen of Szathmár had sent him to ask him, Kökényesdi, to assist
them in their expedition against the Turks.

Kökényesdi, who was carrying a sheaf on his back, looked sharply at the
magister, who dared not meet his gaze, and when he had finished his
little speech he roared at him:

"You lie! You're a spy! I don't like the look of your mug! I'm going to
hang you up!"

Szénasi, who was unacquainted with the robber chief's peculiarities, was
near collapsing with terror, whereupon Kökényesdi observed with a smile:

"Come, come, don't tremble so, I won't eat you up at any rate, but tell
the gentleman that sent you here that another time he mustn't send a spy
to me, for to tell you the truth I don't believe in such faces as yours.
You may tell the gentleman, moreover, that if he wants to speak to me he
must come himself. I don't care about making a move on the strength of
idle chatter. I am easily to be found. Go to Püspök Ladánya, walk into
the last house on the right-hand side and ask the master where the
Barátfa hostelry is, he'll show you the way; and now in God's name
scuttle! and don't look back till you've got home."

The magister did as he was bid, and on getting home delivered the
message to his masters, whereupon they immediately set out; Raining
going on the part of the military, János Topay on the part of the
Hungarians, together with Ladislaus Rákóczy himself and the captain of
the gentry of Báródság.

The gentlemen safely reached Püspök Ladánya, where they had to wait at
the magistrate's house till night-fall, although Raining would have much
preferred to meet Kökényesdi by daylight, and Rákóczy was burning to
carry through his enterprise as soon as possible.

While they waited Raining could not help asking the magistrate whether
it was far from there to the Barátfa inn?

The magistrate shook his head and maintained there was no such inn in
the whole district, nor was there.

Raining fancied that the magistrate must be a stranger there, so he
asked two or three old men the same question, but they all gave him the
same answer: there might be a _barátfa puszta_[9] here but there could
be no inn on it, or if there was an inn, the _puszta_ itself did not
exist.

     [Footnote 9: Common.]

"Well, if they don't know anything about it at the last house we had
better turn back," said Raining to himself; and, when it had grown quite
dark, he approached the house and began to talk with the master who was
dawdling about the door.

"God bless thee, countryman! where's the barátfa inn?"

The man first of all measured the questioner from head to foot, and then
he merely remarked: "God requite thee! over yonder!" and he vaguely
indicated the direction with his head.

"We want to go there; can't you show us the way?" asked Topay.

The man seized the questioner's hand and pointed with it to a herdsman's
fire in the distance.

"Look; do you see the shine of its windows there?"

"Which is the way to it?"

"That way 'tis nearer, t'other way it's quicker."

"What do you mean?"

"If you go that way you'll go astray the quicker, and if you go t'other
way you may plump into a bog."

"You lead us thither," intervened Rákóczy, at the same time pressing a
ducat into the man's fist.

He looked at it, turned it round in his palm and gave it back to Rákóczy
with the request that he would give him copper money in exchange for it.
He could not imagine anyone giving him gold which was not false.

When this had been done he neatly led the gentlemen through the
morass--wading in front of them, girded up to his waist--through those
hidden places where the water-fowl were sitting on their nests, and when
at last they emerged from among the thick reedy plantations they saw a
hundred paces in front of them a fire of heaped up bulrushes brightly
burning, by the light of which they saw a horseman standing behind it.

Here their guide stopped and the three men trotted in single file
towards the fire, which suddenly died out at the very moment they were
approaching it, as if someone had cast wet rushes upon it.

Topay greeted the horseman, who lifted his hat in silence and allowed
them to draw nearer.

"There are three of you gentlemen together," he observed guardedly; "but
that doesn't matter," he continued. "It would be all the same to me if
there were ten times as many of you, for there's a pistol in every one
of my holsters, from which I can fire sixteen bullets in succession, and
in each bullet is a magnet, so that even if I don't aim at my man I
bring him down all the same."

"Very good, very good indeed, Master Kökényesdi," said Topay; "we have
not come here for you to pepper us with your magnetic globules, but we
have come to ask your assistance for the accomplishment of a doughty
deed, the object of which is an attack upon our pagan foes."

"Oh, my good sirs, I am ready to do that without the co-operation of
your honours. In the courtyard of a castle in the Baborsai _puszta_
there is a well some hundred fathoms deep and quite full of Turkish
skulls, and I will not be satisfied till I have piled up on the top of
it a tower just as high made of similar materials."

"So I believe. But you would gain glory too?"

"I have glory enough already. I am known in foreign countries as well as
at home. The King of France has long ago only waited for a word from me
to make me chief colonel of a long-tailed regiment, and quite recently,
when the King of England heard how I bored through the hulls of the
munition ships on the Theiss, he did me the honour to invite me to form
a regiment of divers to ravage the enemy under water. And I've all the
boys for it too."

"I know, I know, Master Kökényesdi, but there will be booty here too,
and lots of it."

"What is booty to me? If I choose to do so, I could bathe in gold and
sleep on pearls."

"Have you really as much treasure as all that?" inquired Raining with
some curiosity.

"Ah," said Kökényesdi, "you ought to see the storehouse in the Szilicza
cavern, where gold and silver are filled up as high as haystacks. There,
too, are the treasures dug up from the sands of the sea, nothing but
precious stones, diamonds, rubies, carbuncles, and real pearls. I,
myself, do not know how many sackfuls."

"And cannot you be robbed of them?"

"Impossible; the entrance is so well concealed that no man living can
find it. I myself can never tell whether I am near it; the shifting sand
has so well covered it. Only one living animal can find it when it is
wanted, and that is my horse. And he will never betray it, for if anyone
but myself mounts him, not a step farther will he go."

"And how did you come into possession of these enormous treasures?"
asked Raining with astonishment.

"God gave them to me," said the horse-dealer, raising his voice and his
eyebrows at the same time.

"Very edifying, no doubt, my friend," said Topay; "but tell me now,
briefly, for how much will you join us against the Turks of
Grosswardein?--not counting the booty, which of course will be pretty
considerable."

"Well--that is not so easily said. Of course I shall have to collect
together my twelve companies, and it will cost something to hold them
together and give them what they want and pay them."

"At any rate you can name a good round sum for the services you are
going to render us, can't you? Come! how much do you require?"

The robber chief reflected.

"Well, as it is your honours' own business I hope your honours won't say
that I tax you too highly. Let us look at the job in this way: suppose I
came to the attack with seventeen companies, and I charge one thousand
thalers for each company. Let us say each company consists of one
thousand men, that will be a thaler per head--and what is that, 'twill
barely pay for their keep. Thus the whole round sum will come to
seventeen thousand thalers."

"That won't do at all, Master Kökényesdi. 'Twere a shame to fatigue so
many gallant fellows for nothing, but suppose you bring with you only a
hundred men and the rest remain comfortably at home? In that case you
shall receive from us seventeen hundred florins in hard cash."

"Pooh!" snapped the robber, "what does your honour take me for, eh? Do
you suppose you are dealing with a gipsy chief or a Wallachian bandit,
who are paid in pence? Why, I wouldn't saddle my horse for such a
trifle, I had rather sleep the whole time away."

"But you have so much treasure besides," observed Raining naïvely.

"But we may not break into it," rejoined the robber angrily.

"Why not?"

"Because we have agreed not to make use of till it has mounted up to a
million florins."

"And what will you do with it then?"

"We shall then buy a vacant kingdom from the Tartar king, where the
pasturage is good, and thither we will go with our men and set up an
empire of our own. We will buy enough pretty women from the Turks for us
all, and be our own masters."

Topay smiled.

"Well," said he, "this seventeen hundred florins of ours will at any
rate purchase one of the counties in this kingdom of yours." He was
greatly amused that Raining should take the robber's yarn so seriously,
and he pushed the German gentleman aside. "Mr. Kökényesdi," said he,
"you have nothing to do with this worthy man; he is come with us only to
see the fun, but it is we who pay the money, and I think we understand
each other pretty well."

"Why didn't you tell me so sooner?" said the robber sulkily, "then I
shouldn't have wasted so many words. With which of you am I to bargain?"

"With this young gentleman here," said Topay. "Ladislaus Rákóczy. I
suppose you know him by report?"

"Know him? I should think I did. Haven't I carried him in my arms when
he was little? If it hadn't been so dark I should have recognised him at
once. Well, as it is he, I don't mind doing him a good turn. I certainly
wouldn't have taken a florin less from anyone else. I'll take from _him_
the offer of seventeen hundred thalers."

"Seventeen hundred florins, _I_ said."

"I tell your honour, you said thalers--thalers was what _I_ heard, and I
won't undertake the job for less; may my hand and leg wither if I move
a step for less."

"Oh, I'll give him his thalers," said Rákóczy, interrupting the dispute;
whereupon the robber seized the youth's hand and shook it joyfully.

"Didn't I know that your honour was the finest fellow of the three?"
said the robber. "If, therefore, you will send these few trumpery
thalers a week hence to the house of the worthy man who guided you
hither, I will be at Grosswardein a week later with my seventeen hundred
fellows."

"But, suppose we pay you in advance, and you don't turn up?" said
Raining anxiously.

The robber looked at the quartermaster proudly.

"Do you take me for a common swindler?" said he. Then he turned with a
movement of confiding expansion to the other gentlemen.

"We understand each other better," he remarked. "Your honours may depend
upon me. God be with you."

With that he turned his horse and galloped off into the darkness. The
three gentlemen were conducted back to Ladány.

"Marvellous fellow, this Kökényesdi," said Raining, who had scarce
recovered yet from his astonishment.

"You mustn't believe all the yarns he chooses to tell you," said Topay.

"What!" inquired Raining. "Had he then no communications with the French
and English Courts?"

"No more than his grandmother."

"Then how about those treasures of which he spoke?"

"He himself has never seen them, and he only talked about them to give
you a higher opinion of him."

"And his castle in the puszta, and his seventeen companies of
freebooters?"

"He invented them entirely for your honour's edification. The freebooter
is no fool, he lives in no castle in the puszta, but in a simple
village as modest Mr. Kökényesdi, and his seventeen companies scarcely
amount to more than seventeen hundred men."

"Then why did he consent so easily to take only seventeen hundred
thalers?"

"Because he does not mean to give his lads a single farthing of it."

Raining shook his head, and grumbled to himself all the way home.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a week's time they sent to Kökényesdi the stipulated money. Raining,
moreover, fearing lest the fellow might forget the fixed time, did not
hesitate to go personally to Vásárhely, to seek him at his own door.
There stood Master Kökényesdi in his threshing-floor, picking his teeth
with a straw.

"Good-day," said the quartermaster.

"If it's good, eat it," murmured Kökényesdi to himself.

"Don't you know me?"

"Blast me if I do."

"Then don't you remember what you promised at the Barátfa inn?"

"I don't know where the Barátfa inn is."

"Then haven't you received the seventeen hundred thalers?"

"What should I receive seventeen hundred thalers for?"

"Don't joke, the appointed time has come."

"What appointed time?"

"What appointed time? And you who have to be at Grosswardein with
seventeen hundred men!"

"Seventeen oxen and seventeen herdsmen on their backs, I suppose you
mean."

"Well, a pretty mess we are in now," said Raining to himself as he
wrathfully trotted back to Debreczen, and as he rushed into Rákóczy's
room exclaiming, "Well, Kökényesdi has toasted us finely!" there stood
Kökényesdi before his very eyes.

"What, you here?"

"Yes, I am; and another time your honour will know that whenever I am at
my own place I am not at home."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the Friday before Whit Sunday, and the time about evening. A
great silence rested over the whole district, only from the minarets of
Varalja one Imâm answered another, and from the tombs one shepherd dog
answered his fellow: it was impossible to distinguish from which of the
two the howling proceeded.

A couple of turbaned gentlemen were leisurely strolling along the
bastions. Above the palisaded gate the torso of a square-headed Tartar
was visible, with his elbows resting on the ramparts, holding his long
musket in his hand. The Tartar sentinel was gazing with round open eyes
into the black night, watching lest anyone should come from the
direction in which he was aiming with his gun, and blowing vigorously at
the lunt to prevent its going out. While he was thus anxiously on the
watch, it suddenly seemed to him as if he discerned the shape of a
horseman approaching the city.

In such cases the orders given to the Osmanli sentinels were of the
simplest description: they were to shoot everyone who approached in the
night-time without a word.

The Tartar only waited until the man had come nearer, and then, placing
his long musket on the moulding of the gate, began to take aim with it.

But the approaching horseman rode his steed as oddly as only Hungarian
_csikósok_[10] can do, for he bobbed perpetually from the right to the
left, and dodged backwards and forwards in the most aggravating manner.

     [Footnote 10: Horse-dealers.]

"Allah pluck thy skin from off thee, thou drunken Giaour," murmured the
baffled Tartar to himself, as he found all his aiming useless; for just
as he was about to apply the lunt, the _csikós_ was no longer there, and
the next moment he stood at the very end of his musket. "May all the
seven-and-seventy hells have a little bit of thee! Why canst thou not
remain still for a moment that I may fire at thee?"

Meanwhile the shape had gradually come up to the very gate.

"Don't come any nearer," cried the Tartar, "or I shan't be able to shoot
thee."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the other. "Then why didn't you tell me so
sooner? But don't hold your musket so near to me, it may go off of its
own accord."

We recognise in the _csikós_ Kökényesdi, whose horse now began to prance
about to such an extent that it was impossible for the Tartar to take a
fair aim at it.

"I bring a letter for Haly Pasha, from the Defterdar of Lippa," said the
_csikós_, searching for something in the pocket of his fur pelisse, so
far as his caracolling steed would allow him. "Catch it if you don't
want to come through the gate for it."

"Well, fling it up here," murmured the sentinel, "and then be off again,
but ride decently that I may have a shot."

"Thank you, my worthy Mr. Dog-headed Hero; but look out and catch what I
throw to you."

And with that he drew out a roll of parchment and flung it up to the top
of the gate. The Tartar, with his eyes fixed on the missive, did not
perceive that the _csikós_, at the same time, threw up a long piece of
cord, and the sense of the joke did not burst upon him until the
_csikós_ drew in the noose, and he felt it circling round his body.
Kökényesdi turned round suddenly, twisted the cord round the forepart of
his horse, and clapping the spurs to its side, began galloping off.

Naturally, in about a moment the Tartar had descended from the top of
the gate without either musket or lunt, and the cord being well lassoed
round his body, he plumped first into the moat, a moment afterwards
reappeared on the top of the trench, and was carried with the velocity
of lightning through bushes and briars. Being quite unused to this mode
of progression, and vainly attempting to cling by hand or foot to the
trees and shrubs which met him in his way, he began to bellow with all
his might, at which terrible uproar the other sentries behind the
ramparts were aroused, and, perceiving that some horseman or other was
compelling one of their comrades to follow after him in this merciless
fashion, they mounted their horses, and throwing open the gate, plunged
after him.

As for Kökényesdi, he trotted on in front of them, drawing the Tartar
horde farther and farther after him till he reached a willow-wood, when
he turned aside and whistled, and instantly fifty stout fellows leaped
forth from the thicket on swift horses with _csákánys_[11] in their
hands, so that the pursuing Turks were fairly caught.

     [Footnote 11: Long-handled hammers.]

They turned tail, however, in double-quick time, having no great love of
the _csákánys_, and never stopped till they reached the gate of the
fortress, within the walls of which they yelled to their heart's
content, that Kökényesdi's robbers were at hand, had leaped the cattle
trench at a single bound, seized a good part of the herds and were
driving the beasts before them; whereupon, some hundreds of Spahis set
off in pursuit of the audacious adventurers. When, however, the robbers
had reached the River Körös, they halted, faced about and stood up to
their pursuers man to man, and the encounter had scarce begun when the
Spahis grew alive to the fact that their opponents, who at first had
barely numbered fifty, had grown into a hundred, into two hundred, and
at last into five or six hundred: from out of the thickets, the ridges,
and the darkness, fresh shapes were continually galloping to the
assistance of their comrades, while from the fortress the Turks came
rushing out on each other's heels in tens and twenties to the help of
the Spahis, so that by this time the greater part of the garrison had
emerged to pounce upon Kökényesdi's freebooters; when suddenly, the
battle-cry resounded from every quarter and from the other side of the
Körös, whence nobody expected it, the _bandérium_[12] of the gentry of
Báródság rushed forth, and swam right across the river; while from the
direction of Várad-Olaszi, amidst the rolling of drums, Ladislaus
Rákóczy came marching along with the infantry of Szathmár.

     [Footnote 12: Mounted troops.]

"Forward!" cried the youth, holding the banner in his hand, and he was
the first who placed his foot on the storming-ladder. The terrified
garrison, after firing their muskets in the air, abandoned the ramparts
and fled into the citadel.

Rákóczy got into the town before the Spahis who were fighting with
Kökényesdi, and who now, at the sound of the uproar, would have fled
back through the town to take refuge in the citadel, but came into
collision with the cavalry of Topay, who reached the gates of the town
at the same moment that they did, and both parties, crowding together
before the gates, desperately tried to get possession of them, during
which tussle the contending hosts for a moment were wedged together into
a maddened mass, in which the antagonists could recognise each other
only from their war-cries; when, all at once, from the middle of the
town, a huge column of fire whirled up into the air, illuminating the
faces of the combatants. The fact was that Kökényesdi had hit upon the
good idea of connecting a burning lunt with the tops of the houses, and
making a general blaze, so that at least the people could see one
another. By this hideous illumination the Spahis suddenly perceived that
Rákóczy's infantry had broken through the ramparts in one place, and
that a sturdy young heyduke had just hoisted the banner of the Blessed
Virgin on the top of the eastern gate.

"This is the day of death," cried the Aga of the Spahis in despair; and
drawing his sword from its sheath, he planted himself in the gateway,
and fought desperately till his comrades had taken refuge in the town,
and he himself fell covered with wounds. It was over his body that the
Hungarians rushed through the gates after the flying Spahis.

At that moment a fresh cry resounded from the fortress: "Ali! Ali!" The
Pasha himself was advancing with his picked guards, with the valiant
Janissaries, with those good marksmen, the Szaracsies, who can pierce
with a bullet a thaler flung into the air, and with the veteran
Mamelukes, who can fight with sword and lance at the same time. He
himself rode in advance of his host on his war-horse, his big red face
aflame with rage; in front of him his standard-bearer bore the triple
horse-tail, on each side of which strode a negro headsman with a
broadsword.

"Come hither, ye faithless dogs! Is the world too narrow for ye that ye
come to die here? By the shadow of Allah, I swear it, ye shall all be
sent to hell this day, and I will ravage your kingdom ten leagues round.
Come hither, ye impure swine-eaters! Your heads shall be brought to
market; everyone who brings in the head of a Christian shall receive a
ducat, and he who brings in a captive shall die."

Thus the Pasha roared, stormed, and yelled at the same time; while Topay
tried to marshal once more his men who were scattering before the fire
of the Turks, galloping from street to street, and re-forming his
terrified squadrons to make head against the solid host of the advancing
Turks, which was rapidly gaining ground, while Kökényesdi's followers
only thought of booty.

"A hundred ducats to him who shoots down that son of a dog!" thundered
the Pasha, pointing out the ubiquitous Topay, and, finding it impossible
to get near him, roared after him: "Thou cowardly puppy! whither art
thou running? Look me in the face, canst thou not?"

Topay heard the exclamation and shouted back very briefly:

"I saw _thy_ back at Bánfi-Hunyad."[13]

     [Footnote 13: See "'Midst the Wild Carpathians," Book
     II., Chapter IV.]

At this insult Ali Pasha's gall overflowed, and seizing his mace, he
aimed a blow with it at Topay, when suddenly a sharp crackling
cross-fire resounded from a neighbouring lane, and amidst the thick
clouds of smoke, Rákóczy's musketeers appeared, sticking their daggers
into their discharged firearms, a practise to which the bayonet owed its
origin at a later day. The Turkish cavalry, crowded together in the
narrow street, was in a few moments demoralised by this rapid assault.
The improvised bayonet told terribly in the crush, swords and darts were
powerless against it.

"Allah is great!" cried Ali. "Hasten into the fortress and draw up the
bridge, we are only perishing here. Only the fortress remains to us."

His conductors, against his will, seized his bridle, and dragged him
along with them; and when a valiant musketeer, drawing near to him, cut
down his charger, the terrified Pasha clambered up into the saddle of
one of his headsmen, and took refuge behind his back.

A young Hungarian horseman was constantly on his track. Nobody could
tell Ali who he was, but one could see from his face that he was the
Pasha's fiercest enemy, and animated by something more than mere martial
ardour. This young horseman gave no heed to the bullets or blades which
were directed against him; he was bent only on bloodshed.

It was young Rákóczy, to whom bitterness had given strength a
hundredfold. Forcing his way through the flying hostile rabble, he was
drawing nearer and nearer to Ali every moment, cutting down one by one
all who barred the way between him and the Pasha, and the Turks quailed
before his strong hands and savage looks.

At length they reached the bridge, which was built upon piles, between
deep bulwarks, and led into the fortress, the front part of whose gate
was fortified by iron plates and huge nails, and could be drawn up to
the gate of the tower by round chains. On the summit of the tower of the
citadel could still be seen the equestrian statue of St. Ladislaus
derisively turned upside down between the severed legs of two felons.

The Hungarians and the Turks reached the bridge together so intermingled
that the only thing to be seen was a confused mass of turbans and
helmets, in the midst of a forest of swords and scimitars, with the
banner of the Blessed Virgin cheek by jowl with the crescented
horse-tails.

At the gate of the citadel stood two long widely gaping
eighteen-pounders commanding the bridge, filled with chain, shot, and
ground nails; but the Komparajis dare not use their cannons, for in
whatever direction they might aim, there were quite as many Turks as
Hungarians. On the bridge itself the foes were fighting man to man.
Rákóczy was at that moment fighting with the bearer of the triple
horse-tail, striving to take the standard pole with his left hand, while
he aimed blow after blow at his antagonist with his right.

"Shoot them down, you good-for-nothings!" roared Ali Pasha, turning back
to the inactive and contumacious Komparajis. "Reck not whether your
bullets sweep away as many Mussulmans as Hungarians, myself included!
Sweep the bridge clear, I say! Life is cheap, but Paradise is dear!"

But the gunners still hesitated to fire amongst their comrades, when Ali
sent two drummers to them commanding them to aim their guns aloft and
fire into the air.

The contest on the bridge was raging furiously; the Janissaries had
placed their backs against the parapet, and there stood motionless, with
their huge broad-swords in their naked fists, like a fence of living
scythes, tearing into ribbons everything which came between them.

Then it occurred to a regiment of German Drabants to clamber up the
parapet of the bridge, and tear the Janissaries away from the parapet;
some ten or twenty of these Drabants did scramble up on the bridge, when
the parapet suddenly gave way beneath the double weight, and Janissaries
and Drabants fell down into the deep moat beneath, throttling each other
in the water, and whenever a turbaned head appeared above the surface,
the Germans standing at the foot of the bridge beat out its brains with
their halberds.

Meanwhile, the two fighting heroes in the middle of the bridge were
almost exhausted by the contest. They had already hacked each other's
swords to pieces, had grasped the banner, the object of the struggle,
with both hands, and were tearing away at it with ravening wrath.

The Turkish standard-bearer then suddenly pressed his steed with his
knees, making it rear up beneath him, so that the Turk stood now a head
and shoulder higher than Rákóczy, and threatened either to oust him from
his saddle or tear the standard from his hand.

At that moment the white figure of a girl appeared on the summit of the
rampart of the tower, her black locks streaming in the wind, her face
aglow with enthusiasm.

"Heaven help thee, Ladislaus!" cried the girl from the battlement of the
tower; and the youth, hearing from on high what sounded like a voice
from heaven, recognised it, looked up and saw his bride--a superhuman
strength arose in his heart and in his arm, and when the Turkish
standard-bearer made his charger rear, Rákóczy suddenly let the
flag-pole go, and seizing the bridle of the snorting steed with both
hands, with one Herculean thrust, flung back steed, rider, and banner
through the palisade into the deep moat below.

"There is no hope save with God!" cried Ali in despair, for his
terrified people at the sight of this prodigy had dragged him along with
them against his will.

"Ladislaus! Ladislaus! My darling!" resounded from above. The youth was
fighting with the strength of ten men; three horses had already been
shot under him, and a third sword was flashing in his hand. Already he
was standing on the drawbridge; his sweetheart threw down a white
handkerchief to him, and he was already waving it above his head in
triumph, when a well-directed bullet pierced the young hero's heart, and
he collapsed a corpse on the very threshold of his success, in the very
gate of the captured fortress at the feet of his beloved.

At that same instant a heart-rending shriek resounded, and from the top
of the tower a white shape fell down upon the bridge; the beautiful
bride, from a height of thirty feet, had cast herself down on the dead
body of her beloved, and died at the same instant as he, mingling their
blood together; and if their arms did not, at least their souls could,
embrace each other.

This spectacle so stupefied the besiegers, that Ali Pasha had just time
enough swiftly to raise the drawbridge and save the fortress and a
fragment of his host. Of those who remained outside, not a single soul
survived. Kökényesdi massacred without mercy everything which distantly
resembled a Turk, together with the camels and mules, sparing nothing
but the horses, and when every house had been well plundered, he set the
town on fire in twelve places, so that the flames in half an hour
consumed everything, and the whole city blazed away like a gigantic
bonfire, the rising wind whirling the smoke and flame over the ditch
towards the fortress.

"Ali Pasha may put that in his pipe and smoke it," said Kökényesdi,
rejoicing at the magnificent conflagration.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the bodies of Ladislaus Rákóczy and his sweetheart they bore away,
and buried them side by side in the family vault at Rákás.



CHAPTER VI.

THE MONK OF THE HOLY SPRING.


About a day's journey from Klausenburg there used to be a famous
monastery, whose ruined tower remains to this day.

Formerly the ample courtyard was surrounded by a stone wall, massive and
strong, within which crowds of pilgrims, coming from every direction,
found a convenient resting-place. For at the foot of this monastery was
a famous miraculous spring, which entirely disappeared throughout the
winter and spring, but on certain days in the summer and autumn was wont
to trickle through the crevices of the rocks, and, for a couple of weeks
or so, to bubble forth abundantly, whereupon it gradually subsided
again.

During this season whole hosts of suffering humanity, the lame, the
paralytic, the aged, the mentally infirm, and the childless mothers,
would come from the most distant regions; and the Lord of Nature gave a
wondrous virtue to the waters, and the sufferers quitted the blessed
spring crutchless and edified, both in body and mind. There could be
seen, hung up on the walls of the church, votive crutches which the
cripples had left behind them; and more than one great nobleman, out of
gratitude to the holy spring, enriched the altar with gold and silver
plate.

The larger part of the building was reserved for noble guests, the
common people encamped in the courtyard beneath tents; and behind the
building a splendid garden was laid out, which the worthy monks always
magnificently maintained. Even to this day, in the grassy patches round
about the spot, it is possible to discover the savage descendants of
many rare and precious flowers.

At the period in which our history falls, the convent of the holy well
was represented by a single reverend father, whom the common tongue
simply called Friar Gregory, and there was scarce a soul in Transylvania
who did not know him well. He was a big man, six feet in height, with a
flowing black beard, swarthy, lean, with a bony frame, and with hands so
big that he could cover a six-pound cannon ball with each palm. A simple
habit covered his limbs, head-dress he had none, and his broad shining
forehead was without a wrinkle. His droning voice was so powerful that
when he sang his psalms he made more noise than a whole congregation.

At the times when the holy spring was flowing, the cellar and pantry of
the good friar stood wide open to rich and poor alike, for whatever he
earned in one year he never put by for the next, and whatever the
wealthy paid to him the needy had the benefit of; and whenever any
clerical colleague happened to come his way, whether he were Orthodox,
Armenian, Calvinist, or Unitarian, he could not make too much of him;
all such guests, during their stay, regularly swam in milk and butter,
and remembered it to the very day of their death.

Just at this very time the Right Reverend Ladislaus Magyari's little
daughter, Rosy, was suffering from a complaint which gave the lie to her
healthy name, and her father thought it just as well to take her to the
holy spring, perchance the healing water would restore to her wan little
face the colour of youth.

Brother Gregory was beside himself with joy; the best room was prepared
for his right reverend colleague, and brother cook, brother cellarer,
and brother gardener were ordered to see to it that meat, drink, and
heaps of flowers were provided for the honoured guests. No two people in
the wide world were so suited to each other as Father Gregory and Dean
Magyari; their hearts were equally good, and each of them had a head
upon his shoulders. They rose up early in the morning to argue with each
other on dogmatic questions--to wit, which faith was the best, truest,
happiest, most blessed, and surest, and kept it up till late in the
evening, by no means neglecting the frequent emptying of foaming beakers
during the contest, pounding each other with citations, entangling each
other with syllogisms, flooring each other with authorities, and
overwhelming each other with anecdotes; and it always ended in their
shaking hands and agreeing together that every faith was good if only a
man were true to himself.

While her father was thus manfully battling, pretty pale Rosy would be
amusing herself in the garden or by the spring with little girls of her
own age, and the fresh air, the scent of the flowers, and the beneficent
water of the spring gradually restored to her face its vanished bloom;
and Magyari joyfully thought how delighted her mother would be if she
were able to embrace her convalescent child, and, in sheer delight at
the idea, spun out his disputatious evenings whilst Rosy in an adjacent
cell was sleeping the sleep of the just.

The two worthy gentlemen were sitting over their cups one beautiful
evening, when a loud knocking was heard at the outer gate. The rule was
that at sundown the pilgrim mob was to betake itself to the courtyard of
the cloister, and the gate should be closed. The friar who kept the gate
came to announce that four queer-looking monks demanded admission, were
they to be let in?

"There can be no question about it," said Father Gregory. "If any desire
admission, bring them to us, and provide refreshment for them."

In a few moments the four friars in question entered. They were dressed
in coarse black sackcloth habits, with the cowls drawn down over their
heads. All that was to be seen of them was their eyes and shaggy beards.
With deep obeisances, but without a word, they approached the two
reverend gentlemen. The Father rose politely and greeted them
respectfully in Latin: "Benedicite nomen Domini." They only kept on
bowing and were silent.

"Nomen dei sit benedictum!" repeated Gregory, fancying that his guests
did not hear what he said, and as they did not reply to that, he asked
with great astonishment:

"Non exandistis nomen gloriosissimi Domini, fratres amantissimi?"

At this the foremost of them said: "We do not understand that language,
worthy brother."

"Then what sort of monks are ye? To what confession do ye belong? Are ye
Greeks?"

"We are not Greeks."

"Then are you Armenians?"

"We are not Armenians."

"Arians, then?"

"Neither are we Arians."

"Are you Patarenes?"

"No, we are not."

"Then _in gloriam æterni_ to what order do you belong?"

"We are robbers," thereupon exclaimed the one interrogated, throwing
aside the fold of his cloak, beneath which could be seen a belt crammed
with daggers and pistols. "My name is Feri Kökényesdi," said he,
striking his breast.

Magyari thereupon leaped from his chair, which he immediately converted
into a weapon; it at once occurred to him that he had an only daughter
to defend, and he was ready to fight the robbers on behalf of her. But
the father pulled him by the cassock and whispered: "Pray be quiet, your
Reverence," and then with an infinitely placid face he turned towards
the robbers. "So that is the order to which you belong," said he.
"Still, if you have come as guests, sit down and eat what you desire."

"But that is not sufficient. Outside this monastery there are 1700 of
us, and all of them want to eat and drink, for it is only the ancient
prophets who, when hungry, were content with the meat of the Word."

"Let them also satisfy their desires."

"However, the main thing is this: in your Reverence's chapel is a whole
lot of very nice gold and silver saints, who certainly befriend those
who sigh after them, and as we cannot come running to them here every
day in order to entreat their aid, we had better take them along with
us, that they may be helpful to us on the road."

"Thou hast a pretty mother-wit, frater! Who could refuse thee anything?"

"It is also no secret to us, Father Gregory, that your Reverence's
cellar is crammed with kegs full of good money, silver and gold. May we
be allowed to relieve your Reverence of a little of this burden?"

"He is quite welcome to it," thought the father, well aware that there
was absolutely nothing at all.

"Do not imagine, your Reverence," continued the robber, "that we cannot
extort a confession, if it should occur to your Reverence to conceal
anything. It would be just as well, therefore, if your Reverence were to
reveal everything before we cut up your back with sharp thongs."

The brother smiled as good-humouredly as if he were listening to some
pleasing anecdote.

"Have you any other desires, my sons?"

"Yes, a good many. There is a great crowd of women collected together in
your Reverence's courtyard. We have taken no vows of celibacy, therefore
we should like to choose from among them what would suit us."

Magyari felt the hairs of his head rising heavenwards, a cold shiver ran
through him from head to foot, and he would have risen from his place
had not the monk pressed him down with a frightfully heavy hand.

"For God's sake, my dear son, do not so wickedly. Take away the saints
from the altar if you like, but harm not the innocent who are now
peacefully slumbering in the shadow of God's protection."

"Not another word, Brother Gregory," cried the robber, closing his fist
on his dagger, "or I'll set the monastery on fire and burn every living
soul in it, yourself included. A robber only recognises four sacraments:
wine, money, wenches, and blood! You may congratulate yourself if we are
content with the third and dispense with the last."

"So it is!" observed another of the cowled and bearded robbers, tapping
Magyari on the shoulder. "Do you recognise me, eh, your Reverence?"

Magyari, with a sensation of shuddering loathing, recognised Szénasi, a
canting charlatan whose frauds he had often exposed.

"We know well enough," said the fellow with an evil chuckle, "that you
have a fair daughter here. I am going to pay off old scores."

If Magyari had not been well in the brother's grip, he would have gone
for the wretch. Every fibre of his body was shivering with rage.

Only the brother remained calm and smiling. Joining his hands together,
he made a little mill with the aid of his two thumbs.

"Wait, my dear son, cannot we come to some agreement. You know very well
that my money is concealed in barrels, but so well hidden is it that
none besides myself know where it is. Even if you turned this monastery
upside down you would not find it. You may also have heard that once
upon a time there lived a kind of men called martyrs, who let themselves
be boiled in oil, or roasted on red-hot fires, or torn in pieces by wild
beasts, without saying a word which might hurt their souls. Well, that
is the sort of man _I_ am. If I make up my mind to hold my tongue, you
might tear me to bits inch by inch with burning tweezers, and you would
get not a word nor a penny out of me. Now 'tis for you to choose. Will
you carry off the money and leave the poor women-folk alone, or will you
lay your hands on the down-trodden, lame, halt, consumptive
beggar-women, whom you will find here, and not see a farthing? Which is
it to be?"

The four robbers whispered together. No doubt they said something to
this effect: only let the pater produce his money, and then it will be
an easy thing for us to take back our given word and satisfy our hearts'
desires. They signified that they would stand by the money.

"Look now! you are good men," said the father, "take these two torches
and come with me to the cellar and go through my treasures, only you
must do none any harm."

"A little less jaw, please," growled Kökényesdi. "Two go in front with
the torches, and Brother Gregory between you. I'll follow after; the
magister can remain behind to look after the other parson. Whoever
speaks a word or makes a signal, I'll bring my axe down on his
head--forward!"

And so it was. Two of the robbers went in front with torches; after them
came the brother with Kökényesdi at his heels with a drawn dagger in his
hand; last of all marched Magyari, whom Master Szénasi held by the
collar at arm's-length, threatening him at the same time with a flashing
axe.

Thus they descended to the cellar. The good father, with timid humility,
hid his head in his hood and looked neither to the left nor to the
right.

The cellar was provided with a large, double, iron trap-door. After
drawing out its massive bolts, the worthy brother raised one of its
flaps, bidding them lower the torches for his convenience.

As now the first robber descended and the second plunged after him, the
father suddenly kicked out with his monstrous wooden shoe and brought
the door down on his head, so that he rolled down to the bottom of the
stairs; and then, quick as thought, he turned upon Kökényesdi, seized
his hands, and said to Magyari:

"You seize the other!"

Kökényesdi, in the first moment of surprise, thrust at the brother, but
his dagger glanced aside against the stiff hair-shirt, and there was no
time for a second thrust, for the terrible brother had seized both his
hands and crushed them against his breast with irresistible force with
one hand, while with the other he dispossessed him of all the murderous
weapons in his girdle one by one, shaking him with one hand as easily as
a grown man shakes a child of nine; then he dragged him towards the
cellar door, pressing it down with their double weight so that those
below could not raise it.

Mr. Magyari that self-same instant had caught the magister by the nape
of the neck and, mindful of the wrestling trick he had learnt in his
youth when he was a student at Nagyenyed, quickly floored, and, not
content with that, sat down on the top of him with his whole weight, so
that the poor meagre creature was flattened out beneath him. Magyari at
the same time relieved his sprawling hands of their murderous weapons in
imitation of the good priest.

Kökényesdi admitted to himself that never before had he been in such a
hobble. In a stand-up fight he had rarely met his equal, and more than
once he had held his own against two or three stout fellows
single-handed; but never had he had to do with such a man as Brother
Gregory, one of whose hands was quite sufficient to pin his two arms
uselessly to his side, while with the other hand he explored his
remotest pockets to their ultimate depths and denuded them of every sort
of cutting and stabbing instrument. When the robber realized that even
his gigantic strength was powerless to drag his antagonist away from the
cellar door beneath which his two comrades were vainly thundering, he
endeavoured to free himself by resorting to the desperate devices of the
wild-beasts, lunging out with his feet and worrying the iron hand of the
monk with his teeth; whereupon Brother Gregory also lost his temper and,
seizing Kökényesdi by the hair of his head, held him aloft like a young
hare, so that he was unable to scratch or bite any more.

"Do not plunge about so, dilectissime; you see it is of no use," said
the brother, holding the robber so far away from him by his hairy poll
with outstretched hand that at last he was obliged to capitulate.

"Thou seest what unmercifulness thou dost compel us to adopt,
amantissime!" said the brother apologetically, but still holding him
aloft with one hand and shaking a reproving finger at him with the
other. "Dost thou not shudder at thyself, does not thine own soul accuse
thee for coming to plunder holy places? Or dost thou not think of the
Kingdom of Hell to the very threshold of which evil resolves have
misguided thy feet, and where there will be weeping, wailing, and
gnashing of teeth?"

"Let me go, you devil of a friar!" gasped the robber, hoarse with rage.

"Not until thou hast come to thyself and art sorry for thy sins," said
the brother, still holding in the air his dilectissime, whose eyes by
this time were starting out of his head because of the tugging pressure
on his hair; "thou must be sorry for thy sins."

"I am sorry then, only let me go!"

"And wilt thou turn back to the right path?"

"Yes, yes, of course I will."

"And thou wilt steal no more?"

"Not a cockchafer."

"Nor curse and swear?"

"Never no more."

"Very well, then, I'll let thee go. But, colleague Magyari, first of all
tie all these daggers and axes together and fling them out of the
window."

Mr. Magyari, who had meanwhile disposed of the magister by tying his
hands and legs so tightly that he was unable to move a muscle, effected
the clearance confided to him, while Brother Gregory deposited on the
ground his convert, who leaned against the wall breathing heavily.

"Well, you monk of hell, give me something to eat if there's anything
like a kitchen here."

"Oh, my dear son," said the pater tenderly, stroking the face of his
lambkin; "believe me, that there is more joy in heaven over one
converted sinner----"

"You're a devil, not a friar; for if you were a man of God you could not
have got over Kökényesdi so easily--Kökényesdi, who was wont to
overthrow whole armadas single-handed--and now to be beaten by an
unarmed man!"

"Thou didst come against me with an axe and a _fokos_,[14] but I came
against thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, and He who permitted
David the shepherd to pluck the raging lion by the beard and slay him,
hath aided my arm also in order that I might be a blessing to thee."

     [Footnote 14: Sledge-hammer.]

"Blessing indeed!--hang me up! I deserve it for letting myself be
collared by a parson."

"Oh, my dear son, to attribute such flagrant cruelty to me! Heaven
rejoices not in the death of a sinner."

"Then let me go!"

"How could I let thee go when thou art but half converted? Rather remain
here, my son, in this holy seclusion and try and cleanse thy soul by
holy penance and prayer."

The robber foamed with rage.

"Where is there a nail that I may hang myself upon it?"

"That thou certainly wilt never be able to do, for a worthy pater shall
always be by thy side to teach thee how to sing the Psalter."

The robber gnashed his teeth and stamped with his feet as he cast at the
terrible brother bloodshot glances very similar to those which a hyena
casts upon a beast-tamer whom he would like to tear to bits and grind to
mincemeat, but whom he durst not attack, being well aware that if he but
lay a paw or even cast an eye upon him he will instantly be felled to
the ground.

"Besides that," continued the brother, "by way of a first trial thou
shalt presently deliver a God-fearing discourse."

"I preach a sermon!"

"Not exactly a sermon, but inasmuch as thy faithful followers outside
the walls of the monastery may be growing impatient at thy long absence,
thou wilt stand at a window and, after assuring them of thy heart-felt
penitence, thou wilt send the worthy fellows away that they may depart
to their own homes."

"Very well," said Kökényesdi, thinking all the time, let me once be
planted at the window in the sight of my bands and at a word from me
they will break up the whole monastery, and I will leap out to them at
the first opening.

Then Brother Gregory called Magyari aside and whispered in his ear: "You
meanwhile will get the carriage ready and take your seat in it with your
daughter, and as soon as you perceive that the rabble has departed from
the monastery, you will drive straight to Klausenburg and inform Mr.
Ebéni, the commandant, that a mixed band of freebooters, together with
the garrison of Szathmár, has invaded the realm. I detected a helmet
beneath a cowl of one of the rascals I kicked into the cellar. Try to
defend the capital against their attacks. God be with you!"

The two priests pressed each other's hands, whereupon Brother Gregory,
taking the robber by the arms and shoving him through a little low door,
in order that no mischief might befall him, caught him by the nape of
the neck and began to force him to ascend a narrow corkscrew staircase,
two or three steps at a time.

It was evening now and dark, and there was nothing about the corkscrew
staircase to suggest to the robber whither he was being led till at last
the brother opened a trapdoor with his head and emerged with him on to a
light place and deposited him in front of a lofty window.

The robber's first thought was that he could clear the window at a
single bold leap, but one swift glance from the parapet made him recoil
with terror; beneath him yawned a depth of at least fifty ells, and,
glancing dizzily aloft, he perceived hanging above his head the bells of
the monastery. They were in the tower.

"So now, my dear son," said the brother, "stand out on this parapet and
call in a loud voice to thy faithful ones that they may draw nigh and
hear thee. Then thou wilt speak to them, and in case thou shouldst be at
a loss for words, I shall be standing close by this bell-tongue to
suggest to thee what thou shalt say. But, for God's sake, beware of
thyself, dilectissime! Thou seest what a frightful depth is here below
thee, and say not to thy faithful followers anything but what I shall
suggest to thee, nor give with thy head or thy hand an unbecoming
interpretation to thy words, for if thou doest any such thing, take my
word for it that at that same instant thou shalt fall from this window,
and if once thou dost stumble, thou wilt not stop till thou dost reach
the depths of hell."

The robber stood at the window with his hair erect with horror. He
actually trembled--a thing which had never occurred to him before. His
valour, that cold contempt for death which had always accompanied him
hitherto, forsook him in this horrible position. He felt that at this
giddy height neither dexterity nor audacity were of the slightest use to
him. Beneath his feet was the gaping abyss, and behind his back was a
man with the strength of a giant from whom a mere push--nay! the mere
touch of a finger, or a shout a little louder than usual, were
sufficient to plunge him down and dash him into helpless fragments on
the rocks below. The desperate adventurer, in a fever of terror never
felt before, crouched against one of the pillars of the window clutching
at the wall with his hand, and it seemed to him as if the wall were
about to give way beneath him, as if the tower were tottering beneath
his feet; and he regarded the ground below as if it had some horrible
power of dragging him down to it, as if some invisible force were
inviting him to leap down from there.

Meanwhile his bands, who were lying in ambush outside the monastery,
perceived the form of their leader aloft and suddenly darted forward in
a body with a loud yell.

"Speak to them, attract their attention!" whispered the brother; "quick,
mind what I say!"

The robber indicated his readiness to comply by a nod of his swimming
head, and repeated the words which the brother concealed behind the
tongue of the bell whispered in his ear.

"My friends" (thus he began his speech), "the priests are collecting
their treasures; they are piling them on carts; there are sacks and
sacks crammed with gold and silver."

A hideous shout of joy from the auditors expressed thorough approval of
this sentence.

"But the worthy brethren have no wine or provisions in this monastery,
but in their cellars at Eger there is plenty, so let two hundred of you
go there immediately and get what you want."

The freebooters approved of this sentiment also.

"As for the desires that you nourish towards the womenfolk here, I am
horrified to be obliged to tell you that for the last three days the
black death, that most terrible of plagues, which makes the human body
black as a coal even while alive, and infects everyone who draws near
it, has been raging within the walls of this monastery during the last
three days. I should not therefore advise you to break into this
monastery, for it is full of dead and dying men, and so swift is the
operation of this destroying angel that my three comrades succumbed to
it even while I was ascending this tower, and only the Turkish talisman
I wear, composed of earth seven times burnt, and the little finger of a
baby that never saw the light of day, have preserved me from
destruction."

By the way, Father Gregory had discovered all these things while he was
investigating the robber's pockets.

At this terrifying message the horde of robbers began to scatter in all
directions from beneath the walls of the monastery.

"For the same reason neither I myself nor the treasure of the monastery
can leave this place till all the gold and silver that has been found
here has been purified first by fire, then by boiling, and then by cold
water, lest the black death should infect you by means of them. And now
before making a joint attack on Klausenburg, as we had arranged--which,
in view of the height of its walls and the strength of its fortress,
would scarcely be a safe job to tackle--you will do this instead: Hide
yourselves in parties of two hundred in the forests of Magyar-Gorbo,
Vista and Szucság, and remain there quietly without showing yourself on
the high road; at the same time four hundred of you will go round at
night by the Korod road, and the rest of you will make for the Gyalu
woods, and go round towards Szász Fenes. Then, when the garrison of
Klausenburg hears the rumour that you are approaching by the Korod road,
they will come forth with great confidence; and while some of you will
be enticing them further on continually, the rest of you can fall on the
defenceless town and plunder it. All you have to do is to act in this
way and never show yourselves on the high road."

The robbers expressed their approval of their leader's advice with a
loud howl; and while Kökényesdi tottered back half senseless into the
brother's arms, they scattered amongst the woods with a great uproar. In
an hour's time all that could be heard of them was a cry or two from the
darkened distance.

The people assembled in the monastery had been listening to all this in
an agony of terror; only Magyari understood the meaning of it. When the
brother came down from the tower, Kökényesdi was locked up with his two
comrades, and the two reverend gentlemen embraced and magnified each
other.

"After God, we have your Reverence to thank for our deliverance," said
Magyari with warm feeling, holding his trembling little daughter by the
hand.

"But now we must save Klausenburg," said Gregory.

"I will set out this instant; my horse is saddled."

"Your Reverence on horseback, eh? How about the girl?"

"I will leave her here in your Reverence's fatherly care."

"But think."

"Could I leave her in a better place than within these walls, which
Providence and your Reverence's fists defend so well?"

"But what if this robber rabble discover our trick and return upon the
monastery with tenfold fury?"

"Then I will all the more certainly hasten to defend the walls of your
Reverence, because my only child will be within them."

With that the pastor kissed the forehead of his daughter, who at that
moment was paler than ever, fastened his big copper sword to his side,
seized his shaggy little horse by the bridle, opened the door for
himself, and, with a stout heart, trotted away on the high road.

But the brother summoned into the chapel the whole congregation, and
late at night intoned a thanksgiving to the Lord of Hosts; after which
Father Gregory got into the pulpit and preached to the faithful a
powerful and fulminating sermon, in which he stirred them up to the
defence of their altars, and at the end of his sacred discourse he
seized with one hand the gigantic banner of the church--which on the
occasion of processions three men used to support with difficulty--and
so stirred up the enthusiastic people that if at that moment the robbers
had been there in front of the monastery, they would have been capable
of rushing out of the gates upon them with their crutches and sticks and
dashing them to pieces.



CHAPTER VII.

THE PANIC OF NAGYENYED.


While the priests were girding swords upon their thighs, while the lame
and the halt were flying to arms in defence of their homes and altars,
the chief commandant of the town of Klausenburg, Mr. Ebéni, was calmly
sleeping in his bed.

The worthy man had this peculiarity that when any of his officers awoke
him for anything and told him that this or that had happened, he would
simply reply "Impossible!" turn over on the other side, and go on
slumbering.

Magyari was well aware of this peculiarity of the worthy man, and so
when he arrived home, late at night, safe and sound, he wasted no time
in talking with Mr. Ebéni, but opened the doors of the church and had
all the bells rung in the middle of the night--a regular peal of them.

The people, aroused from its sleep in terror at the sound of the
church-bells at that unwonted hour, naturally hastened in crowds to the
church, where the reverend gentleman stood up before them and, in the
most impressive language, told them all that he had seen, described the
danger which was drawing near to them beneath the wings of the night,
and exhorted his hearers valiantly to defend themselves.

The first that Mr. Ebéni heard of the approaching mischief was when ten
or twenty men came rushing to him one after another to arouse him and
tell him what the parson was saying. When at last he was brought to see
that the matter was no joke, he leaped from his bed in terror, and for
the life of him did not know what to do. The people were running up and
down the streets bawling and squalling; the heydukes were beating the
alarm drums; cavalry, blowing their trumpets, were galloping backwards
and forwards--and Mr. Ebéni completely lost his head.

Fortunately for him Magyari was quickly by his side.

"What has happened? What's the matter? What are they doing, very
reverend sir?" inquired the commandant, just as if Magyari were the
leader of troops.

"The mischief is not very serious, but it is close at hand," replied the
reverend gentleman. "A band of freebooters--some seventeen companies
under the command of a robber chief--have burst into Transylvania, and
with them are some regular horse belonging to the garrison of Szathmár.
At this moment they cannot be more than four leagues distant from
Klausenburg; but they are so scattered that there are no more than four
hundred of them together anywhere, so that, with the aid of the
gentlemen volunteers and the Prince's German regiments, you ought to
wipe them out in detail. The first thing to be done, however, is to warn
the Prince of this unexpected event, for he is now taking his pleasure
at Nagyenyed."

"Your Reverence is right," said Ebéni, "we'll act at once;" and, after
dismissing the priest to look after the armed bands and reconnoitre, he
summoned a swift courier, and, as in his confusion he at first couldn't
find a pen and then upset the inkstand over the letter when he _had_
written it, he at last hurriedly instructed the courier to convey a
verbal message to the Prince to the effect that the Szathmárians, in
conjunction with the freebooters, had broken into Transylvania with
seventeen companies, and were only four hours' march from Klausenburg,
and that Klausenburg was now preparing to defend itself.

Thus Ebéni gave quite another version to the parson's tidings, for while
the parson had only mentioned a few horsemen from the Szathmár garrison
he had put the Szathmárians at the head of the whole enterprise, and had
reduced the distance of four leagues to a four hours' journey which, in
view of the condition of the Transylvanian roads, made all the
difference.

The courier got out of the town as quickly as possible, and by the time
he had reached his destination had worked up his imagination to such an
extent that he fancied the invading host had already valiantly covered
the four leagues; and, bursting in upon the Prince without observing
that the Princess, then in an interesting condition, was with him,
blurted out the following message:

"The Szathmár garrison with seventeen bands of freebooters has invaded
Transylvania and is besieging Klausenburg, but Mr. Ebéni is, no doubt,
still defending himself."

The Princess almost fainted at these words; while Apafi, leaping from
his seat and summoning his faithful old servant Andrew, ordered him to
get the carriage ready at once, and convey the Princess as quickly as
possible to Gyula-Fehervár, for the Szathmár army, with seventeen
companies of Hungarians, had attacked Klausenburg, and by this time
eaten up Mr. Ebéni, who was not in a position to defend himself.

Andrew immediately rushed off for his horses, had put them to in one
moment, in another moment had carried down the Princess' most necessary
travelling things, and in the third moment had the lady safely seated,
who was terribly frightened at the impending danger.

The men loafing about the courtyard, surprised at this sudden haste,
surrounded the carriage; and one of them, an old acquaintance of
Andrew's, spoke to him just as he had mounted the box and asked him what
was the matter.

"Alas!" replied Andrew, "the army of Szathmár has invaded Transylvania,
has devastated Klausenburg with 17,000 men, and is now advancing on
Nagyenyed."

Well, they waited to hear no more. As soon as they perceived the
Princess's carriage rolling rapidly towards the fortress of Fehervár,
they scattered in every direction, and in an hour's time the whole town
was flying along the Fehervár road. Everyone hastily took away with him
as much as he could carry; the women held their children in their arms;
the men had their bundles on their backs and drove their cows and oxen
before them; carts were packed full of household goods; and everyone
lamented, stormed, and fled for all he was worth.

Just at that time there happened to be at Nagyenyed the envoy of the
Pasha of Buda, Yffim Beg, who had been sent to the Prince to hasten his
march into Hungary with the expected auxiliary army, and who absolutely
refused to believe Teleki that they ought to remain where they where, as
it was from the direction of Szathmár that an attack was to be feared.

The worthy Yffim Beg was actually sitting in his bath when the
panic-flight took place; and, alarmed at the noise, he sprang out of the
water, and wrapping a sheet round him rushed to the window, and
perceiving the terrified flying rabble, cried to one of the passers-by:
"Whither are you running? What is going on here?"

"Alas, sir!" panted the breathless fugitive, "the Szathmár army, 27,000
strong, has invaded Transylvania, has taken everything in its road, and
is now only two hours' march from Nagyenyed."

This was quite enough for Yffim Beg also. Hastily tying the
bathing-towels round his body and without his turban, he rushed to the
stables, flung himself on a barebacked steed and galloped away from
Nagyenyed without taking leave of anyone; and did not so much as change
his garment till he reached Temesvár, and there reported that the
countless armies of Szathmár had conquered the whole of Transylvania!

Thus Teleki had gained his object: the Transylvanian troops had now good
reasons for staying at home. Yet he had got much more than he wanted,
for he had only required of Kászonyi a feigned attack, whereas the band
of Kökényesdi had ravaged Transylvania as far as Klausenburg.

The fact that the worthy friar and Mr. Ladislaus Magyari had captured
the leader of the freebooters made very little difference at all, for
the crafty adventurer had bored his way through the wall of his dungeon
that very night, and had escaped with his three comrades.

Early next morning, on perceiving that his captives had escaped, Father
Gregory was terribly alarmed, imagining that they would now bring back
the whole robber band against him; and, hastening immediately to collect
the whole of the pilgrims, loaded wagons with the most necessary
provisions and the treasures of the altar, conducted them among the
hills, and there concealed them in the Cavern of Balina, carrying the
sick members of his flock one by one across the mountain-streams in
front of the cavern and depositing them in the majestic rocky chamber,
which more than once had served the inhabitants of the surrounding
districts as a place of refuge from the Tartars, having a large open
roof through which the smoke could get out, while a stream flowing
through it kept them well supplied with drinking-water. In an hour's
time fires and ovens, made from fresh leaves and mown grass, stood ready
in the midst of the place of refuge; and on a stone pedestal, in the
background, always standing ready for such a purpose, an altar was
erected.

Meanwhile Kökényesdi had hastened to overtake his bands which had
scattered at the word of the brother in order to re-unite them before
the people of Klausenburg could capture them in detail. Szénasi he
dispatched to call back the wanderers who had been sent to the cellars
of Eger and besiege the monastery.

When Szénasi returned with the two hundred hungry men he only found
empty walls, and to make them emptier still--he burnt them down to the
ground.

He then sat down, and by the light of the conflagration wrote a
sarcastic letter to Teleki, in which he informed him with a great show
of humility that he had made the required diversion against
Transylvania, that he kissed his hand, that he might command him at any
future time, and that he was his most humble servant.

He had scarcely sent off the letter by a Wallachian gipsy, picked up on
the road, when he saw a company of horsemen galloping towards the
burning monastery, and recognised in the foremost fugitive Kökényesdi.

"It is all up with us!" cried the robber chief from afar, "we are
surrounded. All the parsons in the world have become soldiers, and
turned their swords against us as if they were Bibles. The Calvinist
pastor, the Catholic friar, the Greek priest, and the Unitarian
minister--every man jack of them has placed himself at the head of the
faithful, and are coming against us with at least twenty thousand men:
students, artisans and peasants, the whole swarm is rushing upon us. I
and fifty more were set upon by the whole Guild of Shoemakers, who cut
down twenty of my men; they were all as mad as hatters, and when the
peasants had done with us, the gentlemen took us up: they united with
the German dragoons, and pursued my flying army on horseback. Every bit
of booty, every slave they have torn from us; this Calvinist Joshua is
always close on my heels, not a single one of our infantry can be
saved."

The robber chief behaved as the leader of robber bands usually do
behave. When he had to fight, he fought among the foremost; but when he
had to run, then also he was well to the front. When he was beaten, he
cared not a jot whether the others got off scot-free, he only thought of
saving himself.

When he had announced the catastrophe from horseback to the terrified
Szénasi, he clapped spurs to his nag, and, without looking back to see
whether anyone was following him, he galloped off, and left Szénasi in
the lurch with the footmen.

The fox is always most crafty when he falls into the snare. The
perplexed hypocrite perceived that however quickly he might try to
escape, the cavalry would overtake him at Grosswardein and mow him down.
Unfortunately, he knew not how to ride, and therefore could not hope to
save himself that way. Already the trumpets of the Transylvanian bands
were blaring all around him; fiery beacons of pitchy pines were
beginning to blaze out from mountain-top to mountain-top; on every road
were visible the flying comrades of Kökényesdi, terrifying one another
with their shouts of alarm as they rushed through the woods and valleys,
not daring to take refuge among the snowy Alps, where the axes of the
enraged Wallachians flashed before their eyes; and there was not a
single road on which they did not run the risk of being trampled down by
the Hungarian banderia and the German dragoons.

In that moment of despair Szénasi quickly flung himself into the
garments of a peasant, climbed up to the top of a tree, and as soon as
he perceived the first band of German horsemen approaching him, he
called out to them.

"God bless you, my noble gentlemen!"

They looked up at these words and told the man to come down from the
tree.

"No doubt you also have taken refuge from the robbers, poor man!"

"Ah! most precious gentlemen! they were not robbers, but German soldiers
in Hungarian uniforms who had been sent hither from Szathmár. Take care
how you pursue them, for if your German soldiers should meet theirs, it
might easily happen that they would join together against you. I heard
what they were saying as I understand their language, but I pretended
that I did not understand; and while they made me come with them to show
them the road, they began talking among themselves, and they said that
they had had sure but secret information from the Klausenburg dragoons
that they were going to attack the town. The Devil never sleeps, my
noble gentlemen!"

The good gentlemen were astounded; the intelligence was not altogether
improbable, and as, just before, a vagabond had been captured who could
speak nothing but German, a mad rumour spread like wild-fire among the
Magyars that the dragoons had an understanding with the enemy and wanted
to draw them into an ambush; and so the gentlemen told the students, and
the students told the mechanics, and by the time it reached the ears of
Ebéni and the parsons, there was something very like a mutiny in the
army. The gentry suggested that the Germans should be deprived of their
swords and horses; the students would have fought them there and then;
but the most sensible idea came from the Guild of Cobblers, who would
have waited till they had lain down to sleep and then bound and gagged
them one by one.

Master Szénasi meanwhile went and hunted up the dragoons, whom he found
full of zeal for the good cause entrusted to them, and had a talk with
them.

"Gentlemen!" said he, "what a pity it is, but look now at these
Hungarian gentlemen! Well, they are shaking their fists at you, so look
to yourselves. Someone has told them that you are acting in concert with
the people of Szathmár, so they won't go a step further until they have
first massacred the whole lot of you."

At this the German soldiers were greatly embittered. Here they were,
they said, shedding their blood for Transylvania, and the only reward
they got was to be called traitors! So they sounded the alarm,
collected their regiments together, took up a defensive position, and
for a whole hour the camp of Mr. Ebéni was thrown into such confusion
that nothing was easier for Master Szénasi than to hide himself among
the fugitives. All night long Mr. Ebéni suffered all the tortures of
martyrdom. At one time he was besieged by a deputation from the Magyars,
who demanded satisfaction, confirmation, and Heaven only knows what
else; while the worthy parsons kept rushing from one end of the camp to
the other, with great difficulty appeasing the uproar, enlightening the
half-informed, and in particular solemnly assuring both parties that
neither the Hungarian gentlemen wanted to hurt the Germans nor the
Germans the Hungarians, till light began to dawn on them, and the
reconciled parties were convinced, much to their astonishment, that the
whole alarm was the work of a single crafty adventurer who clearly
enough had gained time to escape from the pursuers when they had him in
their very clutches.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE SLAVE MARKET AT BUDA-PESTH.


In the middle of the sixteenth century, Haji Baba, the most celebrated
slave-dealer of Stambul, having been secretly informed beforehand, by
acquaintances in the Seraglio, that a great host would assemble that
summer beneath Pesth, hastily filled his ship with wares before his
business colleagues had got an inkling of what was going to happen; and,
steering his bark with its precious load through the Black Sea and up
the Danube, reached Pesth some time before the army had concentrated
there.

Casting anchor in the Danube, he adorned his vessel with oriental
carpets and flowers, and placing a band of black eunuchs in the prow of
the vessel with all sorts of tinkling musical instruments, he set about
beating drums till the sound re-echoed from the hills of Buda.

The Turks immediately assembled on the bastions of the castle of Buda
right opposite, and perceiving the bedizened ship with its flags
streaming from the mast and sweeping the waves, thereby giving everyone
who wanted to know what sort of wares were for sale there, got into all
sorts of little skiffs and let themselves be rowed out thither.

The loveliest damsels in the round world were there exhibited for sale.

As soon as the first of the Turks had well intoxicated himself with the
sight of the sumptuous wares, he hastened back to get his money and come
again, telling the dozen or so of his acquaintances whom he met on the
way what sort of a spectacle he had seen with no little enthusiasm, and
in a very short time hundreds more were hastening to this ship which
offered Paradise itself for sale.

Hassan Pasha, the then Governor of Buda, perceiving the throng from the
windows of his palace, and ascertaining the cause, sent his favourite
Yffim Beg to forbid the market to the mob till he, the general, had
chosen for himself what girls he wanted; and if there was any one of the
slave-girls worthy of consideration, he was to buy her for his harem.

Yffim Beg hastened to announce the prohibition, and when the skiffs had
departed one by one from the ship, he got into the general's curtained
gondola and had himself rowed over to the ship of Haji Baba.

The man-seller, perceiving the state gondola on its way to him, went to
the ship's side, and waited with a woe-begone face till it had come
alongside, and stretched forth his long neck to Yffim Beg that he might
clamber up it on to the deck.

The Beg, with great condescension, informed the merchant that he had
come on behalf of the Vizier of Buda, who was over all the Pashas of
Hungary, to choose from among the wares he had for sale.

Haji Baba, on hearing this, immediately cast himself to the ground and
blessed the day which had risen on these hills, and the water and the
oars which had brought the Beg thither, and even the mother who had made
the slippers in which Yffim Beg had mounted his ship.

Then he kissed the Beg's hand, and having, as a still greater sign of
respect, boxed the ears of the eunuch who happened to be nearest to the
Beg, for his impertinence in daring to stand so near at all, led Yffim
into the most secret of his secret chambers. Heavy gold-embroidered
hangings defended the entry to the interior of the ship; after this came
a second curtain of dark-red silk, and through this were already audible
sweet songs and twittering, and when this curtain was drawn aside by
its golden tassels, a third muslin-like veil still stood in front of the
entrance through which one could look into the room beyond without being
seen by those inside.

Fourteen damsels were sporting with one another. Some of them darting in
and out from between the numerous Persian curtains suspended from the
ceiling, and laughing aloud when they caught each other; one was
strumming a mandoline; five or six were dancing a round dance to the
music of softly sung songs; another group was swinging one another on a
swing made from costly shawls. All of them were so young, all of them
were of such superior loveliness, that if the heart had allowed the eye
alone to choose for it, mere bewilderment would have made selection
impossible.

Yffim Beg gazed for a long time with the indifference of a connoisseur,
but even his face relaxed at last, and smilingly tapping the merchant on
the shoulder, he said to him:

"You have been filching from Paradise, Haji Baba!"

Haji Baba crossed his hands over his breast and shook his head humbly.

"All these girls are my pupils, sir. There is not one of them who
resembles her dear mother. From their tenderest youth they have grown up
beneath my fostering care; I do no business with grown-up, captured
slave-girls, for, as a rule, they only weep themselves to death, grow
troublesome, wither away before their time, and upset all the others. I
buy the girls while they are babies; it costs a mint of money and no end
of trouble before such a flower expands, but at least he who plucks it
has every reason to rejoice. Look, sir, they are all equally perfect!
Look at that slim lily there dancing on the angora carpet! Did you ever
see such a figure anywhere else? How she sways from side to side like
the flowering branch of a banyan tree! That is a Georgian girl whom I
purchased before she was born. Her father when he married had not money
enough for the wedding-feast, so he came to me and sold for a hundred
denarii the very first child of his that should be born. Yes, sir, not
much money, I know, but suppose the child had never been born? And
suppose it had been a son! And how often too, and how easily I might
have been cheated! I am sure you could not say that five hundred ducats
was too much for her if I named that price. Look, how she stamps down
her embroidered slippers! Ah, what legs! I don't believe you could find
such round, white, smooth little legs anywhere else! Her price, sir, is
six hundred ducats."

Yffim Beg listened to the trader with the air of a connoisseur.

"Or, perhaps, you would prefer that melancholy virgin yonder, who has
sought solitude and is lying beneath the shade of that rose-tree? Look,
sir, what a lot of rose-trees I have all about the place! My girls can
never bear to be without rose-trees, for roses go best with damsels, and
the fragrance of the rose is the best teacher of love. That Circassian
girl yonder was captured along with her father and mother; the husband,
a rough fellow, slew his wife lest she should fall into our hands, but
he had no time to kill his child, for I took her, and now I would not
sell her for less than seven hundred ducats; there's no hurry, for she
is still quite a child."

Here Yffim Beg growled something or other.

"Now that saucy damsel swinging herself to and fro on the shawl,"
continued the dealer, "I got in China, where her parents abandoned her
in a public place. She does not promise much at first sight, but touch
her and you'll fancy you are in contact with warm velvet. I would let
you have her, sir, for five hundred ducats, but I should charge anyone
else as much again."

Yffim Beg nodded approvingly.

"And now do you see that fair damsel who, with a gold comb, is combing
out tresses more precious than gold; she came to me from the northern
islands, from a ship which the Kapudan Pasha sent to the bottom of the
sea. I don't ask you if you ever saw such rich fair tresses before, but
I do ask you whether you ever saw before a mortal maid with such a
blindingly fair face? When she blushes, it is just as if the dawn were
touching her with rosy finger-tips."

"Yes, but her face is painted," said Yffim Beg suspiciously.

"Painted, sir!" exclaimed Haji Baba with dignity. "Painted faces at my
shop! Very well! come and convince yourself."

And, tearing aside the muslin veil, he entered the apartment with Yffim
Beg.

At the sight of the men a couple of the charming hoydens rushed
shrieking behind the tapestries, and only after a time poked their
inquisitive little heads through the folds of the curtains; but the
Georgian beauty continued to dance; the Chinese damsel went on swinging
more provocatively than ever; the beauty from the northern islands
allowed her golden tresses to go on playing about her shoulders; a
fresh, tawny gipsy-girl, in a variegated, elaborately fringed dress,
with ribbons in her curly hair, stood right in front of the approaching
Beg, eyed him carefully from top to toe, seized part of his silken
caftan, and rubbed it between her fingers, as if she wanted to appraise
its value to a penny; while a tiny little negro girl with gold bracelets
round her hands and legs, fumigated the entering guest with ambergris,
naïvely smiling at him all the time with eyes like pure enamel and lips
as red as coral.

The robber-chapman was right, there was not one of these girls who felt
ashamed. They looked at the purchaser with indifference and even
complacency, and everyone of them tried to please him in the hope that
he would take them where they would have lots of jewels and fine
clothes, and slaves to wait on them.

Haji Baba led the Beg to the above-mentioned beauty, and raising the
edge of her white garment and displaying her blushing face, rubbed it
hard, and when the main texture remained white, he turned triumphantly
to the seller.

"Well, sir! I sell painted faces, do I? Do you suppose that every
orthodox shah, emir, and khan would have any confidence in me if I did?
Will you not find in my garden those flowers which the Sultana Valideh
presents to the greatest of Emperors on his birthday, and which in a
week's time the Sultan gives in marriage to those of his favourite
Pashas whom he delights to honour? Why, I don't keep Hindu bayaderes
simply because they stain their teeth with betel-root and orange yellow,
and gild their eyebrows; accursed be he who would improve upon what
Allah created perfect! The black girl is lovely because she is black,
the Greek because she is brown, the Pole because she is pale, and the
Wallach because she is ruddy; there are some who like blonde, and some
who like dark tresses; and fire dwells in blue eyes as well as in black;
and God has created everything that man may rejoice therein."

While the worthy man-filcher was thus pouring himself forth so
enthusiastically, Yffim Beg, with a very grave face, was gazing round
the apartment, drawing aside every curtain and gazing grimly at the
dwellers behind them, who, clad in rich oriental garments, were
reclining on divans, sucking sugar-plums and singing songs.

Haji Baba was at his back the whole time, and had so much to say of the
qualifications of every damsel they beheld, that the Turkish gentleman
must have been sorely perplexed which of them to choose.

He had got right to the end of the apartment, when unexpectedly peeping
into the remotest corner, he beheld a damsel who seemed to be entirely
different from all the rest. She was wrapped in a simple white
wadding-like garment, only her head was visible; and when the Beg
turned towards her, both his eyes and his mouth opened wide, and he
stood rooted to the spot before her.

It was the face of the Queen in the Kingdom of Beauty. Never had he seen
such a look, such burning, glistening, flashing eyes as hers! The proud,
free temples, beneath which two passionate eyebrows sparkled like
rainbows, even without a diadem dispensed majesty. At the first glance
she seemed as savage as Diana surprised in her bath, at the next she was
as timorous as the flying Daphne; gradually a tender smile transformed
her features, she looked in front of her with a dazed expression like
betrayed Sappho gazing at the expanse of ocean in which she would fain
extinguish her burning love.

"Chapman!" cried the Beg, scarce able to contain himself for
astonishment, "would you deceive me by hiding away from me a houri
stolen from heaven?"

"I assure you, sir," said the chapman, with a look of terror, "that it
were better for you if you turned away and thought of her no more."

"Haji Baba, beware! if perchance you would sell her to another, or even
keep her for yourself, you run the risk of losing more than you will
ever make up again."

"I tell you, sir, by the beard of my father, look not upon that woman."

"Hum! Some defect perhaps!" thought Yffim to himself, and he beckoned to
the girl to let down her garment. She immediately complied, and,
standing up, stripped her light mantle from her limbs.

Ah! how the Beg's eyes sparkled. He half believed that what he saw was
not human, but a vision from fairy-land. The damsel's shape was as
perfect as a marble statue carved expressly for the altar of the Goddess
of Love, and the silver hoop encircling her body only seemed to be there
as a girdle in order to show how much whiter than silver was her body.

"Curses on your tongue, vile chatterer!" said Yffim Beg, turning upon
the chapman. "Here have you been wasting an hour of my time with your
empty twaddle, and hiding the beauties of Paradise from my gaze. What's
the price of this damsel?"

"Believe me, sir, she won't do for you."

"What! thou man-headed dog! Dost fancy thou hast to do with beggars who
cannot give thee what thou askest? I come hither to buy for Hassan
Pasha, the Governor of Buda, who is wont to give two thousand ducats to
him who asks him for one thousand."

At these words the damsel's face was illuminated by an unwonted smile,
and at that moment her large, fiery eyes flashed so at Yffim Beg that
_his_ eyes could not have been more blinded if he had been walking on
the seashore and two suns had flashed simultaneously in his face, one
from the sky and the other from the watery mirror.

"It is not that," said the slave merchant, bowing himself to the ground;
"on the contrary, I'll let you have the damsel so cheaply that you will
see from the very price that I had reserved her for one of the lowest
_mushirs_, in case he should take a fancy to her--you shall have her for
a hundred dinars."

"Thou blasphemer, thou! Dost thou cheapen in this fashion the
masterpieces of Nature. Thou shouldst ask ten thousand dinars for her,
or have a stroke on the soles of thy feet with a bamboo for every dinar
thou askest below that price."

The merchant's face grew dark.

"Take her not, sir," said he; "you will be no friend to yourself or to
your master if you would bring her into his harem."

"I suppose," said the Beg, "that the damsel has a rough voice, and that
is why she is going so cheaply?" and he ordered her to sing a song to
him if she knew one.

"Ask her not to do that, sir!" implored the chapman. But, already, he
was too late. At the very first word the girl had laid hold of a
mandolin, and striking the chords till they sounded like the breeze on
an æolian harp, she began to sing in the softest, sweetest, most ardent
voice an Arab love-song:

   "In the rose-groves of Shiraz,
    In the pale beams of moonlight,
    In the burning heart's slumber,
      Love ever is born.

   "'Midst the icebergs of Altai,
    On the steps of the scaffold,
    In the fierce flames of hatred,
      Love never can die."

The Beg felt absolutely obliged to rush forthwith upon Haji Baba and
pummel him right and left for daring to utter a word to put him off
buying the damsel.

The slave-dealer patiently endured his kicks and cuffs, and when the
jest was over, he said once more:

"And again I have to counsel you not to take the damsel for your
master."

"What's amiss with her, then, thou big owl? Speak sense, or I'll hang
thee up at thine own masthead."

"I'll tell you, sir, if only you will listen. That damsel has not
belonged to one master only, for I know for certain that five have had
her. All five, sir, have perished miserably by poison, the headman's
sword, or the silken cord. She has brought misfortune to every house she
has visited, and she has dwelt with Tartars, Turks, and Magyars. Against
the Iblis that dwells within her, prophets, messiahs, and idols have
alike been powerless; ruin and destruction breathe from her lips; he who
embraces her has his grave already dug for him, and he who looks at her
had best have been born without the light of his eyes. Therefore I once
more implore you, sir, to let this damsel go to some poor mushir, whose
head may roll off without anybody much caring, and do not convey danger
to so high a house as the palace of Hassan Pasha."

The Beg shook his head.

"I thought thee a sharper, and I have found thee a blockhead," said he,
and he signified to the damsel to wrap herself in her mantle and follow
him.

"Allah is my witness that I warned you; I wash my hands of it,"
stammered Haji Baba.

"The girl will follow me; send thou for the money to my house."

"The Prophet seeth my soul, sir. If you are determined to take the
damsel, _I_ will not give her to you for money, lest so great a man may
one day say that he bought ruin from me. Take her then as a gift to your
master."

"But I have forgotten to ask the damsel's name?"

"I will tell you, but forget not every time that name passes your lips
to say: 'Mashallah!' for that woman's name is the name of the devil, and
doubtless she does not bear it without good cause, nor will she ever be
false to it."

"Speak, and chatter not!"

"That damsel's name is Azrael ... Allah is mighty!"



CHAPTER IX.

THE AMAZON BRIGADE.


It was three days since Azrael had come into the possession of Hassan
Pasha, and in the evening of the third day Haji Baba was sitting in the
prow of his ship and rejoicing in the beautiful moonlight when he saw, a
long way off, in the direction of the Margaret island a skiff, and then
another skiff, and then another, row across the Danube, and heard
heart-rending shrieks which only lasted for a short time.

Presently the skiffs disappeared among the trees on the river bank, the
last hideous cry died away, and from the rose-groves of the castle came
a romantic song which resounded over the Danube through the silent
night. The merchant recognised the voice of the odalisk, and listened
attentively to it for a long time, and it seemed to him as if through
this song those shrieks were passing incessantly.

The next day Yffim Beg came to see him, and the merchant hospitably
welcomed him. He set before him a narghile and little cups of sherbet,
and then they settled down comfortably to their pipes, but neither of
them uttered a word.

Thus a good hour passed away; then at last Haji Baba opened his mouth.

"During the night I saw some skiffs row out towards the island, and I
heard the sound of stifled shrieks."

And then they both continued to pull away at their narghiles, and
another long hour passed away.

Then Yffim Beg arose, pressed the hand of Haji Baba, and said, just as
he was moving off:

"They were the favourite damsels of Hassan Pasha, who had been sewn up
in leathern sacks and flung into the water."

Haji Baba shook his head, which signifies with a Turk: I anticipated
that.

Not long afterwards the whole host began to assemble below Pesth,
encamping on the bank of the Danube; a bridge suddenly sprang into
sight, and across it passed army corps, heavy cannons and wagons. First
there arrived from Belgrade the Vizier Aga, with a bodyguard of nine
thousand men, and pitched their tents on the Rákás; after him followed
Ismail Pasha, with sixteen thousand Janissaries, and their tents covered
the plain. The Tartar Khan's disorderly hordes, which might be computed
at forty thousand, extended over the environs of Vácz; and presently
Prince Ghyka also arrived with six thousand horsemen, and along with him
the picked troops of the Vizier of Buda; the whole army numbered about
one hundred thousand.

So Haji Baba did a roaring trade. There were numerous purchasers among
so many Turkish gentlemen; there was something to suit everyone, for the
prices were graduated; and Haji thought he might perhaps order up a
fresh consignment from his agents at Belgrade, hoping to sell this off
rapidly so long as the camp remained. But he very much wanted to know
how long the concentration would go on, and how many more gentlemen were
still expected to join the host, and with that object he sought out
Yffim Beg.

The Beg answered straightforwardly that nearly everyone who had a mind
to come was there already. The Prince of Transylvania had treacherously
absented himself from the host, and only Kucsuk Pasha and young Feriz
Beg's brigades were still expected; without them the army would move no
farther.

At the mention of these names Haji Baba started.

"You have as good as made me a dead man, sir. I must now go back to
Stambul with my whole consignment."

"Art thou mad?"

"No, but I shall become bankrupt, if I wait for these gentlemen. Never,
sir, can I live in the same part of the world, sir, with those fine
fellows, whom may Allah long preserve for the glory of our nation! I
have two houses on the opposite shores of the Bosphorus, so that when
these noble gentlemen are in Europe I may be in Asia, and when they come
to Asia I may sail over to Europe."

"Thou speakest in riddles."

"Then you have not heard the fame of Feriz Beg?"

"I have heard him mentioned as a valiant warrior."

"And how about the brigade of damsels which is wont to follow him into
battle?"

Yffim Beg burst out laughing at these words.

"It is easy for you to laugh, sir, for you have never dealt in damsels
like me. But you should know that what I tell you is no jest, and Feriz
Beg is as great a danger to every man who trades in women as plague or
small-pox."

"I never heard of this peculiarity of his."

"But I have. I tell you this Feriz Beg is a youth with magic power, in
whose eyes is hidden a talisman, whose forehead is inscribed with magic
letters, and from whose lips flow sorcery and magic spells, so that
whenever he looks upon a woman, or whenever she hears his words even
through a closed door, that woman is lost for ever. Just as he upon whom
the moon shines when he is asleep is obliged to follow the moon from
thenceforth, so, too, this young man draws after him with the moonbeams
of his eyes all the women who look upon him. Ah! many is the great man
who has cursed the hour in which Feriz Beg galloped past his windows and
thereby turned the heads of the most beauteous damsels. Even the Grand
Vizier himself has wept the loss of his favourite bayadere Zaida, who
descended from his windows by a silken cord into the sea, and swam after
the ship which bore along Feriz Beg; and one night my kinsman, Kutub
Alnuma, who is a far greater slave merchant than I am, was, while he
slept, tied hand and foot by his own damsels to whom he heedlessly had
pointed out Feriz Beg, and the whole lot incontinently ran after him."

"And what does the youth do with all these women?"

"Oh, sir, that is the most marvellous part of the whole story. For if he
culled all the fairest flowers of earth for the sake of love, I would
say that he was a wise man, who tasted the joys of Paradise beforehand.
But it is quite another thing, sir. You will be horrified when I tell
you that he at whose feet all the beauties of earth fling themselves,
never so much as greets one of them with a kiss."

"Is he sick, then, or mad?"

"He loves another damsel, a Christian girl, who is far from here, and
for whom he has pined from the days of his childhood. At the time of his
first battle he saw this girl for the first time, and as often as he has
gone to war since, it is always with her name upon his lips that he
draws his sword."

"And what happens to the girls he takes away?"

"When the first of these flung themselves at his feet, offering him
their hearts and their very lives and imploring him to kill them if he
would not requite their love, to them he replied: 'You have not been
taught to love as I love. Your love awoke in the shadows of rose-bushes,
mine amidst the flashing of swords; you love sweet songs, and the voice
of the nightingale, I love the sound of the trumpet. If you would love
me, love as I do; if you would be with me, come whither I go; and if
Allah wills it, die where I die.' Ah, sir, there is an accursed charm on
the lips of this young man. He destroys the hearts of the damsels with
his words so that they forget that Allah gave them to men as playthings
and delightful toys, and they gird swords upon their tender thighs,
fasten cuirasses of mail round their bosoms, and expose their fair faces
to deadly swords."

"And do these women really fight, or is it all a fable?"

"They do wonders, sir. No one has ever seen them fly before the foe, and
frequently they are victorious; and if they have less strength in their
arms than men, they have ten times more fire in their hearts. And if at
any one point the fight is most dogged, and the enemy collecting
together his most valiant bands has tired out the hardly-pressed spahis
and timariots, then the youth draws his sword and plunges into the
blackest of mortal peril. And then the wretched women all plunge blindly
after him, and each one of them tries to get nearest to him, for they
know that every weapon is directed against him, and they ward off with
their bosoms the bullets which were meant for him. And so long as the
youth remains there, or presses forward, they never leave him, the whole
battalion perishes first. And at last, if he wins the fight and remains
master of the field, the youth dismounts from his horse, collects the
bodies of the slain who have fallen fighting beside him, kisses them one
by one on their foreheads, sheds tears on their pale faces, and with his
own hands lays them in the grave. And, believe me, sir, these bewitched,
enchanted damsels are mad after that kiss, and their only wish is to
gain it as soon as possible."

"And is there none to put an end to this scandal? Have the generals no
authority to abolish this abomination? Do not the outraged owners demand
back their slave-girls?"

"You must know, sir, that Feriz Beg stands high in the favour of the
Sultan. He is never prominent anywhere but on the battlefield, but there
he gives a good account of himself; and if anybody who came to his
tents to try and recover his slave-girls by force, he might easily be
sent about his business minus his nose and ears. Besides, who could say
that these warriors of Feriz are women? Do they not dispense thrusts and
slashes instead of kisses? Do you ever hear them sing or see them dance
and smile so long as they are under canvas? Oh, sir, I assure you that
you would do well if you told all those who buy slave-girls from me to
guard the damsels from the enchanting dark eyes of this man, for there
is a talisman concealed in them. And, in particular, forget not to tell
your master to conceal his damsel, for you know not what might happen if
a magician caused a female Iblis[15] to enter into her. If an enamoured
woman is terrible, what would an enamoured she-devil be? You bought her,
take care that she does not sell you! The day before yesterday you threw
his favourite women into the water, the day after to-morrow you
might----but Allah guard my tongue, I will not say what I would. Watch
carefully, that's all I'll say. Yet to keep a watch upon women is the
most difficult of sciences. If you want to get into a beleagured
fortress, hide an enamoured woman in it, and she'll very soon show you
the way in. Take heed to what I say, sir, for if you forget my words but
for half an hour, I would not give my little finger-nail for your head."

     [Footnote 15: Evil spirit.]

Whereupon Yffim Beg arose without saying a word and withdrew, deeply
pondering the words of the slave-dealer. But Haji Baba that same night
drew up his anchors, and at dawn he had vanished from the Danube, none
knew whither.



CHAPTER X.

THE MARGARET ISLAND.


On the Margaret island, in the bosom of the blue Danube, was the
paradise of Hassan Pasha, and to behold its treasures was death. At
every interval of twenty yards stands a eunuch behind the groves of the
island with a long musket, and if any man fares upon the water within
bullet-reach, he certainly will never tell anyone what he saw.

Paradise exhales every intoxicating joy, every transient delight; it is
full of flowers, and no sooner does one flower bloom than another
instantly fades away; and this also is the fate of those flowers which
are called damsels, for some of these likewise fade in a day, whilst
others are culled to adorn the table of the favourite. This, I say, is
the fate of all the flowers, and frequently in those huge porcelain
vases which stand before Azrael's bed, among its wreaths of roses and
pomegranate flowers, one may see the head of an odalisk with drooping
eyes who yesterday was as bright and merry as her comrades, the rose and
pomegranate blossoms.

Oh, that woman is a veritable dream! Since he possessed her Hassan Pasha
is no longer a man, but a piece of wax which receives the impression of
her ideas. He hears nothing but her voice, and sees nothing but her.
Already they are beginning to say that Hassan Pasha no longer recognizes
a man ten feet off, and is no longer able to distinguish between the
sound of the drum and the sound of the trumpet. And it is true, but
whoever said so aloud would be jeopardizing his head, for Hassan would
conceal his failings for fear of being deprived of the command of the
army if they became generally known.

All the better does Yffim Beg see and hear, Yffim Beg who is constantly
about Azrael; if he were not such an old and faithful favourite of
Hassan Pasha he might almost regret that he has such good eyes and ears.
But Azrael's penetrating mind knows well enough that Yffim Beg's head
stands much more firmly on his shoulders than stand the heads of those
whom Hassan Pasha sacrifices to her whims, so she flatters him, and it
is all the worse for him that she does flatter.

Hassan Pasha, scarce waiting for the day to end and dismissing all
serious business, sat him down in his curtained pinnace, known only to
the dwellers on the fairy island, and had himself rowed across to his
hidden paradise, where, amidst two hundred attendant damsels, Azrael,
the loveliest of the living, awaits him in the hall of the fairy kiosk,
round whose golden trellis work twine the blooms of a foreign sky.

Yffim Beg alone accompanies the Pasha thither.

The Governor, after embracing the odalisk, strolled thoughtfully through
the labyrinth of fragrant trees where the paths were covered by coloured
pebbles and a whole army of domesticated birds made their nests in the
trees. Yffim Beg follows them at a little distance, and not a movement
escapes his keen eyes, not so much as a sigh eludes his sharp ears; he
keeps a strict watch on all that Azrael does and says.

In the midst of their walk--they hadn't gone a hundred paces--a falcon
rose before them from among the trees and perched on a poplar close by.

"Look, sir, what a beautiful falcon!" cried Yffim Beg.

Azrael laughed aloud and looked back.

"Oh, my good Beg, how canst thou take a wood-pigeon for a falcon? why it
_was_ a wood-pigeon."

"I took good note of it, Azrael, and there it is sitting on that
poplar."

"Why, that's better still--now he calls a nut-tree a poplar. Eh, eh!
worthy Beg, thou must needs have been drinking a little to see so
badly."

"Well, that was what I fancied," said the Beg, much perplexed, and for
the life of him not perceiving the point of the jest. Why should the
odalisk make a fool of him so?

"But look then, my love," said Azrael, appealing to the Pasha; "thou
didst see that bird fly away from the tree yonder, was it not a
wood-pigeon flying from a nut-tree?"

Hassan saw neither the tree nor the bird, but he pretended he did, and
agreed with the odalisk.

"Of course it was a wood-pigeon and a nut-tree."

Yffim Beg did not understand it at all.

They went on further, and presently Yffim Beg again spoke.

"Shall we not turn, my master, towards that beautiful arcade of
rose-trees?"

Azrael clapped her hands together in amazement.

"What! an arcade of roses! Where is it?"

"Turn in that direction and thou wilt see it."

"These things! Why if he isn't taking some sumach trees full of berries
for an arcade of rose-trees!"

Hassan Pasha laughed. As for Yffim Beg he was lost in amazement--why did
this damsel choose to jest with him in this fashion?

At that moment a cannon shot resounded from the Pesth shore.

"Ah!" said the Pasha, stopping, "a cannon shot!"

"Yes, my master," said Yffim, "from the direction of Pesth."

"From Pesth indeed," said Azrael, "it was from Buda; it was the signal
for closing the gate."

"I heard it plainly."

"Excuse me, my good Beg, but thy hearing is as bad as thy sight. I am
beginning to be anxious about thee. How could it be from the direction
of Pesth when the whole camp has crossed over to Buda?"

"Maybe a fresh host has arrived, which now awaits us."

"Come," cried Azrael, seizing Hassan's hand, "we will find out at once
who is right;" and she hastened with them to the shore of the island.

On the further bank the camp of Feriz Beg was visible; they were just
pitching their tents on the side of the hills. A company of cavalry was
just going down to the water's-edge, at whose head ambled a slim young
man whose features were immediately recognised, even at that distance,
both by the favourite Beg and the favourite damsel.

Only Hassan saw nothing; in the distance everything was to him but a
blur of black and yellow.

"Well, what did I say?" exclaimed Yffim Beg triumphantly; "that is the
camp of Feriz Beg, and there is Feriz himself trotting in front of
them."

The words were scarce out of his mouth when the terrible thought
occurred to him that Azrael had no business to be looking upon this
strange man.

The odalisk, laughing loudly, flung herself on Hassan's neck.

"Ha, ha, ha! the worthy Beg takes the water-carrying girls for an army!"

Then Yffim Beg began to tremble, for he perceived now whither this woman
wanted to carry her joke.

"My master," said he, "forbid thy slave-girl to make a fool of me. The
camp of Feriz Beg is straight in front of us, and thou wilt do well to
prevent thy maid-servant from looking at these men with her face
unveiled."

"Allah! thou dost terrify me, good Beg!" said Azrael, feigning horror so
admirably that Hassan himself felt the contagion of it.

"Say! where dost thou see this camp?"

"There, on the water-side; dost thou not see the tents on the
hillocks?"

"Surely it is the linen which these girls are bleaching."

"And that blare of trumpets?"

"I only hear the merry songs that the girls are singing."

In his fury Yffim Beg plucked at his beard.

"My master, this devilish damsel is only mocking us."

"Thou art suffering from deliriums," said Azrael, with a terrible face,
"or thou art under a spell which makes thee see before thee things which
exist not. Contradict me not, I beg; this hath happened to thee once
before. Dost thou not remember when thou fleddest from Transylvania how,
then also, thou didst maintain that the enemy was everywhere close upon
thy heels! Thou also then wert under the spell of a hideous enchantment,
for thy eunuch horseman who remained behind at Nagyenyed, and is now a
sentinel on this island, hath told me that there was no sign of any
enemy for more than twenty leagues around, and he remained waiting for
thee for ten days and fancied thou wert mad. Most assuredly some evil
sorcery made thee fly before an imaginary enemy without thy turban or
tunic."

Yffim Beg grew pale. He felt that he must surrender unconditionally to
this infernal woman.

"Was it so, Yffim?" cried Hassan angrily.

"Pardon him, my lord," said Azrael soothingly; "he was under a spell
then, as he is now. Thou art bewitched, my good Yffim."

"Really, I believe I am," he stammered involuntarily.

"But I will turn away the enchantment," said the damsel; and tripping
down to the water's-edge she moistened her hand and sprinkled the face
of the Beg, murmuring to herself at the same time some magic spell. "Now
look and see!"

The Beg did all that he was bidden to do.

"Who, then, are these walking on the bank of the Danube?"

"Young girls," stammered the Beg.

"And those things spread out yonder."

"Wet linen."

"Dost thou not hear the songs of the girls?"

"Certainly I do."

"Look now, my master, what wonders there are beneath the sun!" said
Azrael, turning towards Hassan Pasha; "is it not marvellous that Yffim
should see armies when there is nothing but pretty peasant girls?"

"Miracles proceed from Allah, but methinks Yffim Beg must have very bad
sight to mistake maidens for men of war."

Yffim Beg durst not say to Hassan Pasha that he also had bad sight; he
might just as well have pronounced his own death sentence at once.
Hassan wanted to pretend to see all that his favourite damsel pointed
out, and she proceeded to befool the pair of them most audaciously in
the intimate persuasion that Hassan would not betray the fact that he
could not see, while Yffim Beg was afraid to contradict lest he should
be saddled with that plaguy Transylvanian business.

Meanwhile, on the opposite bank, Feriz Beg in a sonorous voice was
distributing his orders and making his tired battalions rest, galloping
the while an Arab steed along the banks of the Danube. The odalisk
followed every movement of the young hero with burning eyes.

"I love to hear the songs of these damsels; dost not thou also, my
master?" she inquired of Hassan.

"Oh, I do," he answered hastily.

"Wilt thou not sit down beside me here on the soft grass of the river
bank?"

The Pasha sat down beside the odalisk, who, lying half in his bosom,
with her arm round his neck, followed continually the movements of Feriz
with sparkling eyes.

"Look, my master!" said she, pointing him out to Hassan; "look at that
slim, gentle damsel, prominent among all the others, walking on the
river's bank. Her eyes sparkle towards us like fire, her figure is
lovelier than a slender flower. Ah! now she turns towards us! What a
splendid, beauteous shape! Never have I seen anything so lovely. Why may
I not embrace her--like a sister--why may I not say to her, as I say to
thee, 'I love thee, I live and die for thee?'"

And with these words the odalisk pressed Hassan to her bosom, covering
his face with kisses at every word; and he, beside himself with rapture,
saw everything which the girl told him of, never suspecting that those
kisses, those embraces, were not for him but for a youth to whom his
favourite damsel openly confessed her love beneath his very eyes!

And Yffim Beg, amazed, confounded, stood behind them, and shaking his
head, bethought him of the words of Haji Baba, "Cast forth that devil,
and beware lest she give you away!"



CHAPTER XI.

A STAR IN HELL.


Let the gentle shadows of night descend which guard them that sleep from
the eyes of evil spectres! Let the weary errant bee rest in the fragrant
chalice of the closed flower. Everything sleeps, all is quiet, only the
stars and burning hearts are still awake.

What a gentle, mystical song resounds from among the willows, as of a
nightingale endowed with a human voice in order to sing to the listening
night in coherent rhymes the song of his love and his melancholy
rapture. It is the poet Hariri whom, sword in hand, they call Feriz Beg,
"The Lion of Combat," but who, when evening descends, and the noise and
tumult of the camp are still, discards his coat of mail, puts on a light
grey _burnush_, and, lute in hand, strolls through the listening groves
and by the side of the murmuring streams and calls forth languishing
songs from the depths of his heart and the strings of his lute,
uninterrupted by the awakening appeals of the trumpet.

Many a pale maid opens her window to the night at the sound of these
magic songs--and becomes all the paler from listening to them.

The eunuchs steal softly along the banks of the Margaret Island with
their long muskets, and stop still and watch for any suspicious skiff
drawing near to the island; and the most wakeful of them is old Majmun,
who, even when he is asleep, has one eye open, and in happier times was
the guardian of the harem. He sits down on a hillock, and even a
carrier-pigeon with a letter under its wings could not have eluded his
vigilance. He has only just arrived on the island, having previously
accompanied Yffim Beg into Transylvania, and therefore has only seen
Azrael once.

His eyes roam constantly around, and his sharp ears detect even the
flight of a moth or a beetle, yet suddenly he feels--some one tapping
him on the shoulder.

He turns terrified, and behold Azrael standing behind him.

"Accursed be that singing over yonder. I was listening to it, so did not
hear thee approach. What dost thou want? Why dost thou come hither in
the darkness of night? How didst thou escape from the harem?"

"I prythee be quiet!" said the odalisk. "This evening I went a-boating
with my master, and a gold ring dropped from my finger into the water;
it was a present from him, and if to-morrow he asks: 'Where is that
ornament?' and I cannot show it him, he will slay me. Oh, let me seek
for it here in the water."

"Foolish damsel, the water here is deep; it will go over thy head, and
thou wilt perish."

"I care not; I must look for it. I must find the ring, or lose my life
for it."

And the odalisk said the words in such an agony of despair that the
eunuch was quite touched by it.

"Thou shouldst entrust the matter to another."

"If only I could find someone who can dive under the water, I would give
him three costly bracelets for it; I would give away all my treasures."

"I can dive," said Majmun, seized by avarice.

"Oh, descend then into the water for me," implored the damsel, falling
on her knees before him and covering the horny hand of the slave with
her kisses. "But art thou not afraid of being suffocated? For then in
the eyes of the governor I should be twice guilty."

"Fear not on my account. In my youth I was a pearl-fisher in the Indian
Ocean, and I can remain under water and look about me like a fish, even
at night, while thou dost count one hundred. Only show me the place
where the ring fell from thy finger."

Azrael drew a pearl necklace from her arm and casting it into the water,
pointed at the place where it fell.

"It was on the very spot where I have cast that; if thou dost fetch up
both of them for me, the second one shall be thine."

Majmun perceived that this was not exactly a joke, and laying aside his
garment and his weapon, bade the damsel look after them, and quickly
slipped beneath the water.

In a few seconds the eunuch's terrified face emerged above the water and
he struck out for the shore with a horrified expression.

"This is an evil spot," said he; "at the bottom of the water is a heap
of human heads."

"I know it," said the odalisk calmly.

The eunuch was puzzled. He gazed up at her, and was astounded to observe
that in the place of the sensitive, supplicating figure so lately there,
there now stood a haughty, awe-inspiring woman, who looked down upon him
like a queen.

"Those heads there are the heads of thy comrades," said Azrael to the
astounded eunuch, "whom last night and the preceding nights I asked to
do me a service, which they refused to do. Next day I accused them to
the governor and he instantly had their heads cut off without letting
them speak."

"And what service didst thou require?"

"To swim to the opposite shore and give this bunch of flowers to that
youth yonder."

"Ha! thou art a traitor."

"No such thing. All I ask of thee is this: dost thou hear those songs in
that grove yonder? Very well, swim thither and give him this posy. If
thou dost not, thy head also will be under the water among the heap of
the others. But if thou dost oblige me I will make thee rich for the
remainder of thy life. It is in thine own power to choose whether thou
wilt live happily or die miserably."

"But I have a third choice, and that is to kill thee," cried the eunuch,
gnashing his teeth.

Azrael laughed.

"Thou blockhead! Whilst thou wert still under the water it occurred to
me to fill thy musket with earth and gird thy dagger to my side. Utter
but a cry and thou wilt have no need to wait for to-morrow to lay thy
head at thy feet."

At these words the damsel squeezed the eunuch's arm so emphatically that
he bent down before her.

"What dost thou command?"

"I have already told thee."

"I am playing with my own head."

"That is not as bad as if I were playing with it."

"What dost thou want of me?"

"I want thee to row me across to the opposite shore."

"There is only one skiff on the island, and in that Yffim Beg is wont to
fish."

"Oh, why have I never learnt to swim!" cried Azrael, collapsing in
despair.

"What! wouldst thou swim across this broad stream?"

"Yes, and I'll swim across it now, this instant."

"Those are idle words. If thou art not a devil thou wilt drown in this
river if thou canst not swim."

"Thou shalt swim with me. I will put one hand on thy shoulder to keep me
up."

"Thou art mad, surely! Only just now thou didst threaten me with death,
and now thou wouldst trust thy life to me! I need only hold thee under
for a second or two to be rid of thee for ever. Water is a terrible
element to him who cannot rule over it, the dwellers beneath the waves
are merciless."

"By putting my life into thy hands I show thee that I fear thee not.
Lead me through the water!"

"Thou art mad, but I still keep my senses. Go back to the Vizier's kiosk
while he hath not noticed thy absence. I will not betray thee."

"Then thou wilt not go with me?" said the odalisk darkly.

"May I never see thee again if I do so," said Majmun resolutely, sitting
down on a hillock.

"Wretched slave!" cried Azrael in despair, "then I will go myself."

And with that she cast herself into the water from the high bank.
Majmun, unable to prevent her leap, plunged in after her and soon
emerged with her again on the surface of the water, holding the woman by
her long hair.

She suddenly embraced the eunuch with both arms, turned in the water so
as to come uppermost and raising her head from the waves, cried fiercely
to the submerged eunuch:

"Go to the opposite shore, or we'll drown together."

The eunuch, after a short, desperate struggle, becoming convinced that
he could not free himself from the arms of the damsel who held him fast
like a gigantic serpent, with a tremendous wrench contrived to bring his
head above the water and cried unwillingly:

"I'll lead thee thither."

"Hasten then!" cried Azrael, releasing him from her arms and grasping
the woolly pate of the swimmer with one hand; "hasten!"

The eunuch swam onwards. Nothing was to be seen but a white and a black
head moving closely together in the darkness and the long tresses of the
damsel floating on the surface of the waves.

"Is the bank far?" she presently asked the slave, for she was somewhat
behind and could not see in front of her.

"Art thou afraid?"

"I fear that I may not be able to see it."

"We shall be at the other side directly. The stream is broad just now,
for the Danube is in flood."

A few minutes later the negro felt firm ground beneath his feet, and the
odalisk perceived the branch of a willow drooping above her face.
Quickly seizing it, she drew herself out of the water.

Softly and tremulously she ran towards the grove of trees which
concealed what she sought, and on perceiving the singer, whose
enchanting tones had enticed her across the water, she stood there all
quivering, holding back her breath, and with one hand pressed against
her bosom.

The young singer was sitting on a silver linden-tree. He had just
finished his song, and had placed the lute by his side, and was gazing
sadly before him with his handsome head resting against his hand as if
he would have summoned back the spirit which had flown far far away on
the wings of his melody.

"Now thou canst speak to him," said Majmun to the damsel.

Azrael stood there, leaning against a weeping willow and gazing,
motionless, at the youth.

"Hasten, I say. The night is drawing to an end and we have to get back
again. Wherefore dost thou hesitate when thou hast come so far for this
very thing?"

The odalisk sighed softly, and leant her head against the mossy tree
trunk.

"Thou saidst thou wouldst rush to him, embrace his knees, and greet him
with thy lips, and now thou dost stand as if rooted to the spot by
spells."

The damsel slowly sank upon her knees and hid her face in her garment.

"The girl is really crazy," murmured the negro; "if thou hast come
hither only to weep, thou couldst have done that just as well on the
other side."

At that moment the voice of a bugle horn rang out from a distance
through the silent night, whereupon the singer, suddenly transformed
into a warrior, sprang to his feet. It was the first _reveille_ from the
camp of Buda to awake the sleepers, and Hariri disappeared to become
Feriz Beg again, who, drawing his sword, quickly hastened away from
among the willow-trees, and in his hurry forgot his lute beneath a
silver birch.

"Thou seest he has departed from thee," cried the negro malevolently,
seizing the damsel's hand. "Hasten back with me while yet there is
time."

The girl arose--holding her breath as she gazed after the youth--and
waited till he had disappeared among the bushes; then she drew forth the
wreath of flowers which she had hidden in her bosom, and took a step
forward, listening till the retreating footsteps had died away, and then
suddenly rushed towards the abandoned lute, pressed it to her heart,
covered it with kisses, and fell down beside it filled with agony and
rapture.

Then she took the wreath and cast it round the lute, and the wreath was
composed of these flowers: A rose. What does a rose signify in the
language of love?--"I love thee, I am happy." Then a pomegranate-flower,
which signifies: "I love none but thee!" Then a pink, which signifies:
"I wither for love of thee." Then a balsam, which signifies: "I dare not
approach thee." And, finally, a forget-me-not, which signifies: "Let us
live or die together."

This wreath the odalisk fastened together with a lock of her own hair,
which signifies: "I surrender my life into thy hands!" For a Turkish
woman never allows a lock of her hair to pass into the hand of a
stranger, believing, as she does, that whoever possesses it has the
power to ruin or slay her, to deprive her either of her reason or her
life.

Majmun gazed at her in astonishment. Was this all she had come for
through so many terrible dangers?

"Hasten, damsel, with thine incantations," said he, "the camp is now
aroused and the dawn is at hand."

Azrael cast a burning kiss with her hand in the direction whither Feriz
had disappeared; then returning to the slave, she said, with her usual
commanding voice:

"Remain here and count up to six hundred without looking after me, and
by that time I shall have come back."

Majmun counted up to six hundred with a loud voice.

Meanwhile, Azrael ran along the dam of the river bank till she came to
the sluice, which she raised by the exertion of her full strength. The
liberated water began to flow through the opening with a mighty roar.

Then Azrael hastened back to the negro.

"And now for the island," said she.

And once more they traversed the dangerous way, Azrael lying on her back
with a hand on the negro's head. In her bosom was a poplar leaf, which
afforded her great satisfaction.

On reaching the island Azrael richly recompensed the negro, and said to
him:

"To-morrow morning, at dawn, thy master, Yffim Beg, will seek thee and
command thee to accompany him and Hassan Pasha across the bridge to the
other side where stands the camp of Feriz Beg. Thou wilt find no one
there, but look at the place where we were this night, and if thou
shouldst find there a nosegay or a wreath, bring it to me!"

Majmun listened with amazement. How could Azrael have found out all
about these things?

Azrael returned to the kiosk, where Hassan Pasha was still sleeping the
deep sleep of opium. He awoke in the arms of his favourite, and he could
not understand why her hands were so cold and her kisses so burning.

The odalisk told him she had been dreaming. She had dreamt that she swam
across the river enticed by the singing of the Peris.

Hassan smiled.

"Go on sleeping, and continue thy dream," said he.

The sun was high in the heaven when Hassan Pasha quitted the kiosk.
Yffim Beg was awaiting him.

"Wilt thou not ride to Pesth there to mark out the place for the camp of
Feriz Beg, who has just arrived?"

Azrael shrewdly guessed that Yffim Beg was for leading the Governor to
the Pesth shore to satisfy him as to the peasant girls whom he was said
to have mistaken for soldiers by some evil enchantment. She also thought
how convenient it would be for her that they should take Majmun with
them for the whole day.

Hassan accordingly accepted Yffim's invitation, and galloped with him
and Majmun over to the opposite shore, where Yffim was amazed to
discover that not a soul of Feriz Beg's host was visible.

In the night the suddenly released water had covered the whole ground of
their camp, and they had been obliged to retire farther away from the
river and seek another encampment beyond Pesth.

Yffim Beg would have liked to have torn out his beard in his wrath if he
had not been restrained by the general's presence.

But Majmun, under the pretext of clearing the way, reconnoitred the
scene of yesterday's interview, and there, in the roots of the silver
birch, he found that a wreath had been deposited. He concealed it
beneath his _burnush_, and carried it home to Azrael.

The wreath was composed of two pieces--a branch of laurel and a spray of
thorn.

The damsel bowed her head before this answer. She knew that it
signified: "Suffer if thou wouldst prevail!"



CHAPTER XII.

THE BATTLE OF ST. GOTHARD.


It was a beautiful summer evening; there was a half-moon in the sky, and
a hundred other half-moons scattered over the hillocks below. The
Turkish host had encamped among the hills skirting the river Raab.

Concerning this particular new moon, we find recorded in the prophetic
column of the "Kaossa Almanack" for the current year that it was to be:

   "To the Germans, help in need;
    To the Turks, fortune indeed;
    To the Magyars, power to succeed.
    And whoever's not ill
    Shall of health have his fill,
    For 'tis Heaven's own will."

The worthy astrologer forgot, however, to find out in heaven whether
there are not certain quarters of the moon beneath which man may easily
die even if they are not sick.

The great Grand Vizier Kiuprile, after resting on the ruins of Zerinvár,
turned towards the borders of Styria and united with the army of the
Pasha of Buda, below St. Gothard.

Kiuprile's host consisted for the most part of cavalry, for his infantry
was employed in digging trenches round Zerinvár, whose commandant, in
reply to an invitation to surrender the fortress and not attempt to
defend it with six hundred men against thirty thousand, jestingly
responded: "As one Hungarian florin is worth ten Turkish piasters, one
Hungarian warrior necessarily must be worth ten Turkish warriors." And
what is more, the worthy man made good this rate of exchange, for when
the victors came to count up the cost, they found that for six hundred
Hungarians they had had to pay six thousand Osmanlis into the hands of
his Majesty King Death.

Kiuprile had then pursued the armies of the Emperor, but they refused to
stand and fight anywhere; and while their enemies were marching higher
and higher up the banks of the Raab, they seemed to be withdrawing
farther and farther away on the opposite shore.

The army of the Pasha of Buda should have gone round at the rear of the
imperial forces, in order to unite with the Pasha of Érsekújvár, the
former having previously cut off every possibility of a retreat; but
Hassan, as an independent general, did not follow the directions sent
him, simply because they came from Kiuprile, and he also made straight
for the Raab by forced marches, in order to wrest the opportunity of
victory from his rival.

Thus the two armies came together, on July 30th, below the romantic
hills of St. Gothard, each army pitching its tents on the right bank of
the river, and occupying the summits of the hills, which commanded a
view of the whole region.

And certainly the worthy gentlemen showed no bad taste when they took a
fancy to that part of the kingdom. In every direction lay the yellow
acres, from which the terrified peasants had not yet reaped the standing
corn; to the right were the gay vineyard-clad hills; to the left the
dark woods and stretch upon stretch of undulating meadow-land, bisected
by the winding ribbon of the Raab. On a hill close by stood the gigantic
pillared portico of the Monastery of St. Gothard, with fair
pleasure-groves at its base. Farther away were the towers of four or
five villages. The setting sun, as if desirous of making the district
still more beautiful, enwrapped it in a veil of golden mist.

"Thou dog!" cried Hassan Pasha to the peasant who alone received the
terrible guests in the abandoned cloisters, "this region is far too
beautiful for the like of you monks to dwell in. But you will not be in
it long, my good sirs, for I mean to take it for myself. The peasant
after all is lord here. He eats his own bread and he drinks his own
wine, and he has a couple of good garments to draw over his head. But
stop, things shall be very different, for I shall have a word to say
about it."

The honest peasant took off his cap. "God grant," said he, "that more
and more of you may dwell in my domains, and that I may build your
houses for you." The man was a grave-digger.

Hassan Pasha and his suite occupied the monastery, whose vestibule was
filled with priests and magistrates from every quarter of the kingdom,
whose duty it was to collect and bring in provisions and taxes due to
the Turkish Government. And what they brought in was never sufficient,
and therefore the poor creatures had to send deputies as hostages from
time to time, who followed their lords on foot wherever they went, and
relieved each other from this servitude in rotation; some of them had
been here for half a year.

The Turkish army was more than 100,000 strong, and the right bank of the
river was planted for a long distance with their tents. The monastery
constituted the centre of the camp; there was the encampment of Hassan's
favourite mamelukes and the selected corps of cloven-nosed, gigantic
negroes, who used to plunge into the combat half-naked, and neither take
nor give quarter. Alongside of them was the cavalry of Kucsuk Pasha, a
corps accustomed to the strictest discipline. Close beside the tents of
this division, within a quadrilateral, guarded by a ditch, you could see
the camp of the Amazon Brigade, whose first thought when they pitch
their tents is to entrench themselves.

Close to the camp of Kucsuk lies the Moldavian army, from whose
elaborate precautions you can gather that they have a far greater fear
of their allies all around them than of the foe against whom they are
marching. From beyond the monastery, right up to the vineyards of
Nagyfalva, the ground is occupied by the noisy Janissaries of Ismail
Pasha, who, if their military reputation lies not, are more used to
distributing orders to their commanders than receiving orders from them.
Beyond the vine-clad hills lies the cavalry of the Grand Vizier, Achmed
Kiuprile, and all round about, wherever a column of smoke is to be seen
or the sky is blood-red, there is good reason for suspecting that there
the marauding Tartar bands are out, whom it was not the habit to attach
to the main army. Far in the rear, along the mountain paths, on the
slopes of the narrow forest passes, could be seen the endlessly long
procession of wagons laden with plunder, intermingled with long round
iron cannons and ancient stone mortars, each one drawn along by ten or
twelve buffaloes, striving laboriously and painfully to urge their way
forward, and if one of them stops for a moment, or falls down, all the
others behind it must stop also.

It is now evening, and from one division of the army to another the
messengers from headquarters are hurrying. Kiuprile's messenger comes to
inform Hassan that the army of the enemy has taken up its position on
the opposite bank, between two forests, the French mercenaries and the
German auxiliary troops have joined it, so that it would be well to
attack it in the night, before it has had time properly to marshal its
ranks.

"Thy master is mad," replied Hassan; "how can I fly across the water?
Before me is the river Raab. I should have to fling a bridge across it
first--nay two, three bridges--which it would take me days to do, and I
cannot even begin to do it till the old ammunition waggons have
arrived. Go back, therefore, and tell thy master that if he wants to
fight I'll sound the alarm."

The messenger opened his eyes wide, being unaware of the fact that
Hassan was short-sighted, and consequently only knew the river Raab from
the map, not knowing that at the spot where he stood the river was not
more than two yards wide, and could be bridged over in a couple of hours
without the assistance of old ammunition wagons--so back the messenger
went to Kiuprile.

He had scarce shown a clean pair of heels, when the messenger of Kucsuk
Pasha arrived to signify in his master's name that the battle could not
be postponed, because no hay had arrived for the horses.

Hassan turned furiously on the captive magistrates.

"Why have you not sent hay?"

The wisest of them, desirous to answer the question, politely rejoined:
"It has been a dry summer, sir, the Lord has kept back the clouds of
Heaven."

"Oh, that's it, eh!" said Hassan. "Tell Kucsuk Pasha that he must give
his horses the clouds to eat; the hay of the Magyars is there, it
seems."

This messenger had no sooner departed than a whole embassy arrived from
the Janissaries, and the whole lot of them energetically demanded that
they should be led into battle at once.

"What?" inquired Hassan mockingly, "has your hay fallen short too,
then?" The Janissaries are infantry, by the way.

"It is glory we are running short of," said the leader of the deputation
stolidly; "it bores us to stand staring idly into the eyes of the
enemy."

"Then don't stare idly at them any longer; away with those mutinous dogs
and impale them, and put them on the highest hillock that the whole army
may see them."

The bodyguard, after a fierce struggle, overpowered the Janissaries, and
pending their impalement, locked them up in the cellar of the
cloisters.

By this time Hassan Pasha was in the most horrible temper; and just at
that unlucky moment who should arrive but Balló, the envoy of the Prince
of Transylvania.

Hassan, who could not see very well at the best of times, and was now
blinded with rage besides, roared at him:

"Whence hast thou come? Who hath sent thee hither? What is thy errand?"

"I come from Kiuprile, sir," replied Balló blandly.

"What a good-for-nothing blackguard this Kiuprile must be to send to me
such a rogue as thou art, except in chains and fetters."

"Well, of course he knows that I am the envoy of Transylvania, and
represent the Prince."

"Represent the Prince, eh? Art thou the Prince's cobbler that thou
standest in his shoes? Hast thou brought soldiers with thee?"

"Gracious sir----"

"Thou hast _not_, then? Not another word! Hast thou brought money?"

"Gracious sir!"

"Not even money! Wherefore, then, hast thou come at all? Canst thou pay
the allotted tribute?"

"Gracious sir!"

"Don't gracious sir me, but answer--yes or no!"

"Well, but----"

"Then why not?"

"The land is poor, sir. The heavy hand of God is upon it."

"Thou must settle that with God, then, and pray that it may not feel my
heavy hand also. Wherefore, then, hast thou come?"

Balló made up his mind to swallow the bitter morsel.

"I have come to implore you to remit the annual tribute."

At first Hassan did not know what to say.

"Hast thou become wooden, then," he said at last, "thou and thy whole
nation? What right have ye to ask for a remission of the tribute?"

"Gracious sir, the tribute is five times more than what Gabriel Bethlen
was wont to pay."

"Gabriel Bethlen was a fine fellow who paid in iron what he did not pay
in silver; if he paid fourteen thousand thalers for the privilege of
fighting alongside of us, ye may very well pay down eighty thousand for
sitting comfortably at your own firesides. What, only eighty thousand
for Transylvania, a state that is always digging up gold and silver,
when a single sandjak[16] pays the Pasha of Thessalonica twice as much?"

     [Footnote 16: Province.]

At these words the national pride awoke in the breast of Balló.

"Sir, Thessalonica is a subject province, and its Pasha has unlimited
power over his sandjaks, but Transylvania is a free state."

"And who told thee that it shall not become a sandjak like the rest?"
said Hassan grimly. "Before the moon has waxed and waned again twice,
take my word for it that a Turkish Pasha shall sit on the throne of
Transylvania! Dost thou hear me? By the prophet I swear it."

"The Grand Seignior has also sworn that the ancient rights of
Transylvania should never be infringed. He swore it on the Koran and by
the Prophet."

"It is beneath the dignity of the Grand Seignior, our present Sultan,"
cried Hassan, "to remember the oath sworn by the great Suleiman; not
what he says, but what his viziers wish, will happen. And vainly do ye
entrust your heads to his hand, while the sword of execution remains in
our hands! I'll humble you, ye stony-headed, most obstinate of all
nations! Ye shall be no different from the Bosnian rajas who themselves
pull the plough!"

Balló raised his head with a bitter look before the wrathful vizier.

"Then, sir, you must find another population for Transylvania, for you
will not find there now the men you seek. You may see no end of murdered
Magyars there, but a degraded Magyar you will never find."

At these words Hassan drew his sword, and with his own hand would have
decapitated the presumptuous ambassador, but the mamelukes dragged him
away, assuring the Pasha that they would impale him along with the
Janissaries.

"Place the stake in front of my window that I may speak to the insolent
wolf while he is well spitted."

The men-at-arms did indeed thrust Balló into the cellar along with the
Janissaries, and began to plant a long, sharp-pointed stake in front of
the Pasha's window, when, all at once, a frightful din arose behind
their backs, for the Janissaries, hearing that their comrades had been
condemned to death without mercy, had revolted in a body. In a moment
they had cut down those of their officers who remonstrated, and while
one body rushed towards the monastery, beating their alarm-drum and
blowing their horns, the others attacked the negro giants guarding the
impalement stakes already planted on the top of the hill, and in a few
moments the executioners were themselves writhing on the stakes.

Meanwhile the mamelukes of Hassan, who were preparing to resist the
insurgents, put to flight by the furious Janissaries, made for the
courtyard of the cloister and its garden, which was surrounded by a
stone wall, and after barricading the entrances, succeeded with great
difficulty in shutting the iron gates in the faces of their assailants,
and prepared vigorously to defend them.

The insurgents surrounded the monastery, and bombarding its windows with
bullets and darts, began to besiege it at long-firing distance.

Hassan, distracted by rage and fear, fled into the tower of the
monastery, leaving his guards to defend the gates till the other
divisions of the army should come to quell the insurgents, but they did
not stir. Hassan perceived from his tower that not a man from Kiuprile's
army was coming to his assistance, though they very well could see his
jeopardy and hear the din of the firing a long way off. On the other
side the Moldavians had pitched their camp on the hills, but it never
entered their minds to draw nearer; on the contrary, they were only too
delighted to see Turks devour Turks in this fashion. Ismail Pasha's army
seemed rather to be retreating than approaching, and from Kucsuk and his
son he durst not hope for assistance, as they were his personal enemies.

At that moment the insurgents caught sight of the stake planted before
the window, and set up a howl of fury.

"Ah, ha! Hassan had this planted here for himself. Let's fix up Hassan!"

With a shudder the Vizier reflected on the enormous difference between
the throne of Transylvania and the stake on which he might be planted
instead, and cursed softly as he murmured to himself:

"That rogue of a Christian must have prayed to his God that I might be
brought to shame here;" and grasping in his terror the solitary
bell-rope that hung there, and winding it round his neck, he stood by
the window, so that if the rebels should burst through the gates he
might leap out and hang himself, rather than that they should wreak
their horrible threats upon him.

The night had now set in, but the besiegers kindled pine branches, by
whose spluttering light they streamed round the monastery; and then came
a sudden and continuous firing of guns and beating of drums and a
frightful braying of buffalo horns.

The banner of danger had already been planted on the summit of the
tower, but from no quarter did help arise, and from time to time the
sound of a bell rang through the air as a chance bullet struck it.

Hassan, full of terror, drew back behind the window curtains. Suddenly a
yell still more terrible than the hitherto pervading tumult filled his
ear--the besiegers had discovered the cellar in which their comrades had
been confined, and, bursting in the doors, liberated them, and the
Transylvanian deputy along with them, who speedily left this scene of
uproar behind him.

At the sight of their bound and fettered comrades, the Janissaries'
wrath increased ten-fold. The leader of the released captives, waving an
axe over his head with a fierce howl, and hurling himself at the iron
gate, hammered away like the roaring of guns; whilst the rest of them,
who hitherto had been firing at the windows from a distance, now
attacked the entrances with unrestrainable fury, raining showers of
blows upon the gates.

But the gates were of good strong iron plates, well barricaded below
with quadraginal paving-stones. The besiegers' arms grew weary, and the
mamelukes on the roof flung stones and heavy beams down upon them, doing
fearful execution among their serried ranks; whilst every mameluke who
fell from his perch, pierced by a bullet, was instantly torn to pieces
by the crowd, which flung back his head at the defenders.

"Draw back!" cried the officer in command, who stood foremost amidst the
storm of rafters and bullets. "Run for the guns! At the bottom of that
hill I saw a mortar planted in the ground; draw it forth, and we'll fire
upon the walls."

In an instant the whole Janissary host had withdrawn from below the
monastery, and the whole din died away. Yet the dumb silence was more
threatening, more terrible, than the uproar had been. Very soon a dull
rumbling was audible, drawing nearer and nearer every instant; it was
the rolling of a gun-carriage full of artillery. Hundreds of them were
pushing it together, and were rapidly advancing with the heavy,
shapeless guns. At last they placed one in position opposite the
monastery; it was a heavy iron four-and-twenty pound culverin, whose
voice would be audible at the distance of four leagues. This they
planted less than fifteen yards from the monastery, and aimed it at the
gate.

"There is no help save with God!" cried Hassan in despair; and he took
off his turban lest they should thereby recognise his dead body.

At that instant a trumpet sounded, and the cavalry of Kucsuk Pasha
appeared in battle array, making its way through the congested masses of
the insurgents; while Feriz Beg, at the head of his Spahis, skilfully
surrounded them, and cut off their retreat.

Kucsuk Pasha, with a drawn sword in his hand, trotted straight up to the
gun and stood face to face with its muzzle.

"Are ye faithful sons of the prophet, or fire-worshippers, giaurs, and
idolators, that ye attack the faithful after this fashion?" he asked the
insurgents.

At these words the ringleaders of the insurgents came forward.

"We are Janissaries," he said, "the flowers of the Prophet's garden, who
are wont to pluck the weeds we find there."

"I know you, but you know me; ye are good soldiers, but I am a good
soldier too. Hath Allah put swords into the hands of good soldiers that
they may fall upon one another? Ye would weep for me if I fell because
of you, and I would weep for you if ye fell because of me--but where
would be the glory of it? What! Here with the foe in front of you, ye
would wage war among yourselves, to your own shame, and to the joy of
the stranger? Is not that sword accursed which is not drawn against the
foe?"

"Yet accursed also is the sword which returns to its sheath unblooded."

"What do ye want?"

"We want to fight."

"And can you only find enemies among yourselves?"

"Our first enemy is cowardice, and cowardice sits in the seat of that
general who alone is afraid when the whole camp wants to fight. We would
first slay fear, and then we would slay the foe."

"Why not slay the foe first?"

"We will go alone against the whole camp of the enemy if the rest
refuse."

"Good; I will go with you."

"Thou?"

"I and my son with all our squadrons."

At these words the mutineers passed, in an instant, from the deepest
wrath to the sublimest joy. "To battle!" they cried. "Kucsuk also is
coming, and Feriz will help!" These cries spread from mouth to mouth.
And immediately the drums began to beat another reveille, the horns gave
forth a very different sound, they turned the cannons round and dragged
them to the river's bank, and began to build a bridge over the Raab with
the beams and rafters that had been hurled down upon them.

The hostile camp lay about four hours' march away, on the opposite bank,
between two forests, and by an inexplicable oversight, had left that
portion of the river's bank absolutely unguarded.

The Janissaries swam to and fro in the water strengthening the posts and
stays of the improvised bridge by tying them stoutly together, and by
the time the night had begun to grow grey, the first bridge ever thrown
over the Raab was ready and the infantry began to cross it.

It was only then that the German-Hungarian camp perceived the design of
the enemy, and speedily sent three regiments of musketeers against the
Turks, who fought valiantly with the Janissaries, and drove them right
back upon the bridge, where a bloody tussle ensued as fresh divisions
hastened up to sustain the hardly-pressed Mussulmans.

Meanwhile a second bridge had been got ready, over which Kucsuk's
cavalry quickly galloped and fell upon the rear of the musketeers.

These warriors, taken by surprise and perceiving the preponderance of
the enemy, and obtaining no assistance from their own headquarters,
quickly flung down their firearms and made helter-skelter for their own
trenches.

The next moment the two combating divisions were a confused struggling
mass. Kucsuk's swift Spahis cut off the retreat of the Christian
infantry; only for a few moments was there a definite struggle, the
tussle being most obstinate round the standards, till at last they also
began to totter and fall one after the other, and three thousand
Christian souls mounted on high together, pursued by a roar of triumph
from the Mussulmans, who, seizing the advanced trenches, planted thereon
their half-moon streamers, and plundered the tents which remained
defenceless before them.

At that moment the Christian host was near to destruction, and if
Kiuprile had crossed the river and Hassan Pasha had shared the fight
with Kucsuk, he would have become famous.

But the two chief commanders remained obstinately behind on the further
shore. Kiuprile, who the evening before had himself wanted to begin the
fight when he had received a negative answer, had now not even saddled
his nag, and looked on with sinister _sangfroid_ while the extreme wing
of the army was engaged. Hassan, on the other hand, would have liked
nothing better if the Janissaries, and Kucsuk their auxiliary, had lost
the battle thus begun without orders, and so far from hastening to their
assistance remained sitting up in his tower. He could see nothing of the
battle, but he heard a cry, and fancying that it was the death-yell of
the Janissaries, took his beads from his girdle and began zealously to
pray that the Prophet would keep open for them the gates of Paradise.

"Master, master!" exclaimed Yffim Beg, "gird on thy sword and to horse!"

The Pasha heard nothing. At last Yffim Beg, in despair, seized the
bell-rope, and pulled the old bell right above Hassan's head, whereupon
the latter rushed in terror to the window.

"What is it? What dost thou want?"

"Hasten, sir!" roared Yffim Beg. "Kucsuk Pasha has beaten the enemy,
taken their trenches, and is plundering their tents. Do not allow him to
have all the glory of scattering the Christians!"

Hassan leapt from his seat. If he had heard that Kucsuk's men were being
cut to pieces he would have gone on praying, but Kucsuk triumphed--had
all the triumph to himself. The thought was a keen spur to his mind. Up
everyone who could stir hand or foot! Forward Spahis and Arabs! To
battle every true believer! Let the dervishes go up in the tower and
sing dirges for the fallen! Let the ground shake beneath the rolling of
the guns! Let the horns ring out for now is the day of glory!

In an instant the camp was alert, and crowds of warriors rushed towards
the bridge. Every man pressed hard on the heels of his fellow; those who
were crowded into the water did their best to reach the opposite shore
by swimming; whole companies swam through on horseback, and the heavy
iron guns moved forward as rapidly as if they had wings. It was only now
that the vast numbers of the Ottoman host became manifest, it seemed
suddenly to spring out of the ground in every direction; the tiny little
cramped Christian camp over against them looked like an island in an
inundation.

In the very centre of the host could be seen Hassan Pasha with a
brilliant suite, twenty horse-tail banners fluttered around him, the
pick of his veterans at his side. On the left was the army of Ismail
Pasha; on the right were the hosts of the Moldavians. Their immediate
objective was the trenches already occupied by Kucsuk Pasha.

At that moment Yffim Beg was seen galloping along the front of the host
with the Vizier's commands for Kucsuk Pasha.

"Ye remain where now you are, and move no farther till a fresh command
arrives. Feriz Beg and his battalion move forward along the outermost
wing."

Hassan could not endure that two such heroes should help each other in
the battle, and that the son should deliver the father. Kucsuk beat the
tattoo. Feriz Beg moved along the left wing, where he formed the
reserve.

Then the reveille sounded; a hideous yell filled the air; the Mussulman
host, with bloodthirsty rage, rushed upon the front of the Christian
army. No power on earth can save them! But what is this? Suddenly the
impetus of the assailants is stayed. Along the front of the camp of the
Christian infantry star-shaped trenches have been dug during the night
and planted full of sharp stakes. The foremost row of the assailants
pause terror-stricken in front of these trenches, and for an instant the
onset is arrested. But only for an instant. The powerful impact of the
rearward masses flings them into the deadly ditch, one after another
they fall upon the pointed stakes, a mortal yell drowns the cry of
battle, in a few moments the star-shaped trenches are filled with
corpses and the rushing throng tramples over the dead bodies of their
comrades to get to the other side of the ditch. And now the roar of the
cannons begin. Up to that moment the guns of the Christians have
remained inactive, concealed behind the gabions. Now their gaping
throats face the attacking host. At a single signal the roar of eighty
iron throats is heard, bullets and chain-shot make their whirring way
through the serried ranks, the crackling mortars discharge sackloads of
acorn-shaped balls, while the fire-spitting grenades terrify the
rearmost ranks.

The Mussulmans host recoils in terror, leaving their dead and wounded
behind them. Horrible spectacle! Instead of the lately brilliant ranks
the ground is strewn with mangled bloody limbs, writhing like worms in
the dust. The next moment the splendid array again covers the ground;
the corpses are no longer visible, they are hidden by the feet of the
living. The beaten squadrons are sent to the rear; fresh battalions fill
their places; the assault is renewed. The fire of the guns no longer
keeps them back. They cast down their eyes, shout "Allah!" and rush
forward. An earth-rending report resounds, a fiery mine has exploded
beneath the feet of the assailants; fragments of human limbs
intermingled with strips of tempest-tossed banners fly up into the air
amidst whirling clouds of smoke. The second assault is also flung back,
and in the meantime the Christian army has succeeded in drawing a line
of wagons across their front. And now a third, now a fourth, assault is
delivered, each more furious than the last. The Christians begin to
despair; every regiment of the Turkish host is now engaged with them,
only Kucsuk has received no order to advance. Hassan would win the
battle without him.

There he stands, together with his staff, directing the most perverse of
battles, hurling his swarms against unassailable rocks, assaulting
entrenched places with cavalry; at one time distributing orders to
regiments which had ceased to exist, at another sending to consult with
commanders who had fallen before his very eyes. Those around him
listened to his words with astonishment, and not one of them durst say:
"Dismount from your horse, you cannot see ten yards in front of you!"
The din of the renewed assaults sounded in his ears like a cry of
triumph. "Look how they waver!" he cried; "look how the Christian ranks
waver, and how their banners are falling in the dust! Shoot them, shoot
them down!" and none durst say to him: "These are thy hosts whose
death-cries thou dost hear, and it is the fire from the Christian guns
which mow down whole ranks of thy army!"

The Ottoman host had begun its tenth assault, when Hassan sent a courier
to Kiuprile on the opposite shore with this message: "Thou canst return
to Paphlagonia! We have won the battle without thee. Tell them at home
what thou hast seen!"

Kiuprile, seriously alarmed lest he should have no part in the glory of
the contest, immediately mounted the whole of his cavalry, flung a
bridge over the river, and began to cross it.

This happened at the very moment when Ismail Pasha was leading the
Osmanlis to the tenth assault.

The leader of the Christian host, Montecuculi, no sooner perceived
Kiuprile's movement, than he called together his generals and gave them
to understand that if they awaited Kiuprile where they stood they would
be irretrievably lost.

They were just then loading their guns with their last charge.

Many faces grew pale at this announcement, and a deep silence followed
Montecuculi's words. Yet his words were the words of valour. Three
heroes had been in his army--one of them, the French general, the
Marquis de Brianzon, had already fallen; the other two, still present,
were the German general, Toggendorf, and the Hungarian cavalry officer,
Petneházy.

At the commander-in-chief's announcement the faces of both remained
unmoved, and Toggendorf, with the utmost _sang-froid_ came forward: "If
we must choose between two deaths," said he, "why not rather choose
death by advancing than death in flight?"

"Not so, my lad," cried Petneházy, enthusiastically grasping his
comrade's hand; "we choose between death and glory, and he who seeks
glory will find a triumph also."

"So be it," said Montecuculi, with cool satisfaction, thrusting his
field-glass into his pocket and drawing forth his thin blade; and, while
he sent the two heroes to the two wings, he placed himself in front of
the army, and commanded that the barrier of wagons should instantly be
demolished.

The last discharge thundered forth, and from amidst the dispersing
clouds of smoke two compact army columns could be seen rapidly
charging--they were Toggendorf's cuirassiers and Petneházy's hussars.

Petneházy made straight for the still hesitating Moldavian army, which,
with Prince Ghyka at its head, had as yet taken no part in the fight.
Heaven itself gave him the inspiration. The Prince of Moldavia had been
waiting for a long time for some one to attack him, that he might at
once quit the field of battle to which he had been constrained to come,
though it revolted his feelings as a Christian to do so; consequently,
when Petneházy was within fifty yards of his battalions, they, as if at
a given signal, turned tail without so much as crossing swords with the
foe, galloped off to the left bank of the Waag, and so quitted the
field.

This flight threw the whole Turkish army into disorder. A more skilful
general would indeed have withdrawn the whole host, but, because of his
short-sightedness, Hassan did not perceive that the Moldavians had fled,
and nobody durst tell him so. Ismail Pasha immediately hastened to fill
up the gap; but before he had reached the spot, Toggendorf's cuirassiers
were upon him, and he was caught between two fires in a moment. The
Janissaries received the full brunt of the swords of the cuirassiers and
the hussars, and in the first onset Ismail Pasha himself fell from his
horse. A hussar rushed upon him, and severing from his body his big
bared head, stuck it on the point of a lance, and raised it in the air
as a very emblem of terror to the panic-stricken Turks. The Janissaries
were no longer able to rally, in every direction they broke through the
hostile ranks in a desperate attempt at flight, and, which was worse
still, the flying infantry barred the way against the cavalry which was
hastening to their assistance.

All this was taking place within two hundred yards of Hassan Pasha, and
he saw nothing of it.

"Glory be to Allah," he cried, raising his hands to heaven; "victory is
ours! The Christian is flying and is casting down his banners in every
direction. The best of his warriors are wallowing in the dust. The rest
are flying without weapons and with pale----"

Those about him listened, horror-stricken, to his words. The Christian
host was at that moment cutting down the Janissaries, the flower of the
Turkish camp!

"Thou ravest, my master!" cried Yffim Beg, seizing the bridle of Hassan
Pasha's horse. "Fly and save thyself! The best of thy army has perished,
the Janissaries have fallen, the Moldavian army hath fled. Ismail
Pasha's head has been hoisted on to a pike!"

"Impossible!" roared Hassan, beside himself, "come with me; let us
charge, the victory is ours."

But his generals seized him, and tearing his sword from his hand, seized
the bridle of his horse on both sides and hurried him along with them
towards the bridge, which was now full of fugitives.

The hazard of the die had changed. The pursuers had become the
fugitives. An hour before the Christian camp ran the risk of
annihilation; it was now the turn of the Turks.

Kiuprile seeing the catastrophe, destroyed his bridges and remained on
the opposite bank.

Meanwhile on the wings, Kucsuk Pasha and Feriz Beg, with his brigade of
Amazons, were valiantly holding their own against the cuirassiers of
Toggendorf and the hussars of Petneházy, till at last the melancholy
notes of the bugle-horns gave the signal for retreat, and the combatants
gradually separated. Only a few scattered bands, and presently, only a
few scattered individuals, still fought together, and then they also
wearily abandoned the contest and returned silently to their respective
camps. Both sides felt that their strength was exhausted. The Christian
host had four thousand, the Turkish sixteen thousand slain, and among
them its best generals; they also lost all their heavy cannons, their
banners, and their military renown; but none lost so much as Feriz Beg.
The Amazon Brigade had perished. By its deliberate self-sacrifice it had
saved the Turkish army from utter destruction.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE PERSECUTED WOMAN.


Perhaps by this time you have clean forgotten our dear acquaintance,
pretty Mariska, the wife of the Prince of Wallachia?

Ah, she is happy! Although her husband is far away, her sorrow is
forgotten in the near approach of a new joy--the joy of motherhood.

There she sits at eventide in the garden of her castle, weaving together
dreams of a happy future, and her court ladies by her side are making
tiny little garments adorned with bright ribbons.

When the peasant women pass by her on the road with their children in
their arms, she takes the children from them, presses them to her bosom,
kisses, and talks to them. She is the godmother of every new-born
infant, and what a tender godmother! Day after day she visits the
churches, and before the altar of the Virgin-Mother prays that she also
may have her portion of that happiness which is the greatest joy God
gives to women.

After the battle of St. Gothard it was Prince Ghyka's first thought to
send a courier to his wife, bidding her not to be anxious about her
husband, for he was alive and would soon be home.

This was Mariska's first tidings of the lost battle, and she thanked God
for it. What did she care that the battle was lost, that the glory of
the Turkish Sultan was cracked beyond repair, so long as her husband
remained to her? With him the husbands of all the other poor Wallachian
wives were also safe. She at once hastened to tell the more remote of
these poor women that they were not to be alarmed if they heard that the
Turkish army had been cut down, for their husbands were free and quite
near to them.

What joy at the thought of seeing him again! How she watched for her
husband from morn till eve, and awoke at night at the slightest noise.
If a horse neighed in the street, if she heard a trumpet far away, she
fancied that her husband was coming.

One night she was aroused by the sound of a light tapping at her bedroom
door, and her husband's voice replied to her question of "Who is there?"

Her surprise and her joy were so great that in the first moment of
awaking she knew not what to do, whereupon her husband impatiently
repeated:

"Mariska, open the door!"

The wife hastened to embrace her husband, admitted him, fell upon his
neck, and covered him with kisses; but, perceiving suddenly that the
kisses her husband gave her back were quite cold, and that his arm
trembled when he embraced her, she looked anxiously at his face--it was
grave and full of anxiety.

"My husband!" cried the unusually sensitive woman with a shaky voice.
"Why do you embrace me--us, so coldly," her downcast eyes seemed to say.

The Prince did not fail to notice the expression, and very sadly, and
sighing slightly, he said:

"So much the worse for me!"

His hands, his whole frame shook so in the arms of his wife; and yet the
Prince was a muscular as well as a brave man.

"What has happened? What is the matter?" asked his wife anxiously.

"Nothing," said the Prince, kissing her forehead. "Be quiet. Lie down. I
have some business to do which must be done to-night. Then I'll come to
you, and we'll talk about things."

Mariska took him at his word, and lay down again. But she still
trembled--why, she knew not.

There must be something wrong, something very wrong with her husband, or
else he would not have welcomed his wife so coldly at the very moment of
his arrival.

After a few moments, during which she heard her husband talking in an
undertone with someone outside, he came in with his sword in his hand,
and after seeming to look for something, he turned to Mariska:

"Have you the keys of your treasure-box?"

"Yes, they are in my secretaire."

The Prince took the keys and withdrew.

Mariska breathed again. "Then it is only some money trouble after all,"
she thought. "Thank God it is no worse. They have lost something in the
camp, I suppose, or they are screwing some more tribute out of him."

In a short time the Prince again returned, and stood there for a time as
if he couldn't make up his mind to speak. At last he said:

"Mariska, have you any money?"

"Yes, dear!" Mariska hastened to answer, "just ten thousand thalers. Do
you want them?"

"No, no. But have them all ready to hand, and if you collected your
jewels together at the same time you would do well."

"What for, my husband?"

"Because," stammered Ghyka, "because--we may--and very speedily,
too--have to set out on our travels."

"Have to travel--in my condition?" asked Mariska, raising a pathetic
face up to her husband.

That look transfixed the very soul of Ghyka. His wife was in a condition
nearer to death than to life.

"No, I won't stir a stump," he suddenly cried, beside himself with
agitation, striking his sword so violently on the table that it flew
from its sheath, "if heaven itself fall on me, I won't go."

"For God's sake, my husband, what is the matter?" cried Mariska in her
astonishment; whereupon the Prince proudly raised his eyebrows,
approached her with a smile, and pressing his wife to his bosom, said
reassuringly:

"Fear nothing. I had an idea in my head; but I have dismissed it, and
will think of it no more. Take it that I have asked you nothing."

"But your anxiety?"

"It has gone already. Ask not the reason, for you would laugh at me for
it. Sleep in peace. I also will sleep upon it."

The husband caressed and kissed his wife, and his hand trembled no
longer, his face was no longer pale, and his lips were no longer so cold
as before.

But the wife's were now. When her husband tenderly kissed her eyes and
bade her sleep, she pretended that she was satisfied; but as soon as he
had withdrawn from her room, she arose, put on a dressing-gown, and
calling one of her maids, descended with her into the hall, and sent for
a faithful old servant of her husband's, who was wont to accompany him
everywhere, an old Moldavian courier.

"Jova!" she said, "speak the truth! What's the matter with your master?
What have you seen and heard?"

"It is a great trouble, my lady. God deliver us from it! We only escaped
destruction at the battle of St. Gothard by not standing up against the
Magyars. But what were we to do? Christian cannot fight against
Christian, for then should we be fighting against God. The Turkish army
was badly beaten there. And now the Vizier of Buda, that he may wash
himself clean, for the Sultan is very wroth, wants to cast the whole
blame of the affair on the head of the Prince."

"Great Heaven! And what will be the result?"

"Well, it would not be a bad thing if your Highnesses were to withdraw
somewhere or other for a time to give the Sultan's wrath time to cool."

"To my father's, eh? in Wallachia?"

"Well, a little farther than that, I should say."

"True, we might go to Transylvania; we have lots of good friends there."

"Even there it might not be as well to stay. You would do well to make a
journey to Poland."

"Do you suppose the danger to be so great then?"

"God grant it be not so bad as I think it."

"Thank you for your advice, Jova. I will tell my husband quite early in
the morning."

"My lady, you would do well not to wait till morning."

The woman grew pale.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that if you would take care of yourselves, you should take
carriage this very night, this very hour. I will go before the horses
with a lantern, and a courier shall be sent on ahead to have fresh
relays of horses awaiting us at every station, so that by the time it
begins to grow grey, we shall have left the last hill of this region out
of sight."

The terrified Princess returned to her bedchamber, and quickly packed up
her most valuable things, making all the necessary preparations for a
long journey. But the door leading to her husband's room was locked, and
she durst not call him, but with an indescribable sinking of heart
awaited the endlessly distant dawn. She was unable to close her eyes the
whole night. Wearied out in body and soul she rose as soon as she saw
the light of dawn, sitting with her swimming head against the window,
whence she could look down into the courtyard.

Gradually the courtyard awoke to life and noise again, and the hall was
peopled with domestics hurrying to and fro. The grooms began walking the
horses up and down, the peasant girls with pitchers on their heads were
returning from the distant wells, a merry voice began singing a popular
ditty in one of the outhouses. All this seemed as strange to the
watchful lady as the life and the movement of the outside world seems to
one condemned to death who gazes upon it from the window of his cell.

Then the door opened and her husband came out of his bedchamber and
greeted his wife with a voice full of boisterous courage. He was dressed
in a short stagskin jacket, which he generally wore when he went
a-hunting, and wore big Polish boots with star-like spurs.

"Going a-hunting, eh?" asked Mariska, from whose soul all her terrifying
phantoms vanished instantly when her husband embraced her in his
vigorous arms.

"Yes, I'm going a-hunting. I feel so full of energy that if I don't
tumble about somewhere or other I shall burst. Any boar or bear that I
come across to-day will have good cause to remember me."

"Oh! take care no ill befalls you!"

"Befalls me!" cried the Prince, proudly smiting his herculean breast.

The lady flung herself on her husband's neck with the confidence of a
child, and lifting from his head his saucy bonnet with its eagle plume,
which gave him such a brave appearance, and smoothing down his curls,
kissed his bonny face, and forgot all her thoughts and visions of the
bygone night.

The Prince withdrew, and Mariska opened her window and looked out of it
to see him mount his horse.

While the Prince was going downstairs, a dirty Turkish cavasse in sordid
rags entered the courtyard, from which at other times he was wont to
fetch letters, and mingled with the ostlers and stablemen without
seeming to attract attention.

A few moments later the Prince ordered his horse to be brought in a loud
resonant voice, whereupon the cavasse immediately came forward, and
producing from beneath his dirty dolman a sealed and corded letter,
pressed it to his forehead and then handed it to the Prince.

The Prince broke open the letter and his face suddenly turned pale;
taking off his cap, he bowed low before the cavasse and saluted him.

O Prince of Moldavia! to doff thy eagle-plumed cap to a dirty cavasse,
and bow thy haughty manly brow before him! Whatever can be the meaning
of it all? Mariska's heart began to throb violently as she gazed down
from her window.

The Prince, with all imaginable deference, then indicated the door of
his castle to the cavasse and invited him to enter first; but the Turk
with true boorish insolence, signified that the Prince was to lead the
way.

Suddenly, in an illuminated flash, Mariska guessed the mystery. In the
moment of peril, with rare presence of mind, she rushed to her
secretaire, where her jewels were. Her first thought was that the
cavasse had come for her husband; he must be bribed therefore to connive
at his escape.

Then she saw hastening through the door the old groom Jova. The face of
the ancient servitor was full of fear, and there were tears in his eyes.

"Has the cavasse come for my husband, then?" she inquired tremulously.

"Yes, my lady," stammered the servant; "why don't you make haste?"

"Let us give him money."

"He won't take it. What is money to him? If he returns without the
Prince his own head will be forfeit."

"Merciful God! Then what shall we do?"

"My master whispered a few words in my ear, and I fancy I caught their
meaning. First of all I must take you off to Transylvania, my lady.
Meanwhile my master will remain here with the cavasses and their
attendants, who are now in the courtyard. My master will remain with
them and spin out the time till he feels pretty sure that we have got
well beyond the river Sereth in our carriage. Near there is a bridge
over a steep rocky chasm, beneath which the river flows. That bridge we
will break down behind us. The Prince will then bring forth his charger
Gryllus, on whose back he is wont to take such daring leaps, and will
set out in the same direction with the Turkish cavasses. When he
approaches the broken-down bridge, he will put spurs to his steed and
leap across the gap, while the Turks remain behind. And after that God
grant him good counsel!"

Mariska perceiving there was no time to be lost, hastily collected her
treasures and, assisted by Jova, descended by way of the secret
staircase to the chapel and stood there, for a moment, before the image
of the Blessed Virgin to pray that her husband might succeed in
escaping. Before the chapel door stood a carriage drawn by four muscular
stallions. She got into it quickly, and succeeded in escaping by a
side-gate.

Meanwhile the Prince, with great self-denial, endeavoured to detain his
unwelcome guests by all manner of pretexts. First of all he almost
compelled them to eat and drink to bursting point, swearing by heaven
and earth that he would never allow such precious guests as they were to
leave his castle with empty stomachs. Then followed a distribution of
gifts. Every individual cavasse got a sword or a beaker and every sword
and every beaker had its own peculiar history. So-and-so had worn it,
So-and-so had drunk out of it. It had been found here and sent there,
and its last owner was such a one, etc., etc. And he artfully
interlarded his speech with such sacred and sublime words as "Allah!"
"Mahomet!" "the Sultan!" at the mention of each one of which the
cavasses felt bound to interrupt him repeatedly with such expressions as
"Blessed be his name!" so that despite the insistence of the Turks, it
was fully an hour before his horse could be brought forward.

At last, however, Gryllus was brought round to the courtyard. The Prince
now also would have improved the occasion by telling them a nice
interesting tale about this steed of his, but the chief cavasse would
give him no peace.

"Come! mount your Honour!" said he, "you can tell us the story on the
way."

The Prince mounted accordingly, and immediately began to complain how
very much all the galloping of the last few days had taken it out of
him, and begged his escort not to hurry on so as he could scarce sit in
his saddle.

The chief cavasse, taking him at his word, had the Prince's feet tied
fast to his stirrups, so that he might not fall off his horse,
sarcastically adding:

"If your honour should totter in your saddle, I shall be close beside
you, so that you may lean upon me."

And indeed the chief cavasse trotted by his side with a drawn sword in
his hand; the rest were a horse's head behind them.

When they came to the path leading to the bridge the way grew so narrow
because of the rocks on both sides that it was as much as two horsemen
could do to ride abreast. The Prince already caught sight of the bridge,
and though its wooden frame was quite hidden by a projecting tree, a
white handkerchief tied to the tree informed him that his carriage with
his consort inside it had got across and away, and that the supports had
been also cut.

At this point he made as if he felt faint and turning to the chief
cavasse, said to him, "Come nearer, I want to lean on you!" and upon the
cavasse leaning fatuously towards him he dealt him such a fearful blow
with his clenched fist that the Turk fell right across his horse. And
now: "Onward, my Gryllus!"

The gallant steed with a bound forward left the escort some distance
behind, and while they dashed after him with a savage howl, he darted
with the fleetness of the wind towards the bridge.

The Prince sat tied to his horse without either arms or spurs, but the
noble charger, as if he felt that his master's life was now entrusted to
his safe-keeping, galloped forward with ten-fold energy.

Suddenly it became clear to the pursuers that the beams of the bridge
had been severed and only the balustrade remained. "Stop!" they shouted
in terror to the Prince, at the same time reining in their own horses.
Then Ghyka turned towards them a haughty face, and leaning over his
horse's head, pressed its flanks with his knees, and at the very moment
when he had reached the dizzy chasm he laughed aloud as he raised his
eagle-plumed cap in the air, and shouted to his pursuers: "Follow me, if
you dare!"

The charger the same instant lowered its head upon its breast, and, with
a well-calculated bound, leaped the empty space between the two sides of
the bridge as lightly as a bird. The Prince as he flew through the air
held his eagle-plumed cap in his hand, while his black locks fluttered
round his bold face.

The terrified cavasses drew the reins of their horses tightly lest they
should plunge after Gryllus; but one of them, carried away by his
maddened steed, would also have made the bold leap but the fore feet of
the horse barely grazed the opposite bank, and with a mortal yell it
crashed down with its rider among the rocks of the stream below.

The Prince meanwhile, beneath the very eyes of the cavasses, loosened
the cords from his legs on the opposite shore and also allowed himself
time enough to break down the remaining balustrades of the bridge, one
by one, and pitch them into the river. Then, remounting his steed, he
ambled leisurely off whilst the cavasses gazed after him in helpless
fury. A rapid two hours' gallop enabled him to overtake the carriage of
his wife, who, according to his directions, had hastened without
stopping towards Transylvania with the sole escort of the old horseman.

On overtaking the carriage he mounted the old man on his own nag, and
sent him on before to Transylvania requesting the Prince to allow him
and his wife to pass through Transylvania to the domains of the Kaiser.
He himself took a seat in the carriage by the side of Mariska, who was
quite rejoiced at her husband's deliverance, and forgot the anxieties
still awaiting her.

According to the most rigorous calculations their pursuers would either
have to go another way, or they might throw another bridge over the
Sereth; but, in any case they had a day's clear start of them, which
would be quite sufficient to enable them, travelling leisurely, to reach
the borders of Transylvania, where the Seraskier of Moldavia had no
jurisdiction.

In this hope they presently perceived the mountains of Szeklerland
rising up before them, and the nearer they came to them the more lightly
they felt their hearts beat, regarding the mountain range as a vast city
of refuge stretching out before them.

They had already struck into that deep-lying road which leads to the
Pass of Porgo, which, after winding along the bare hillside, plunges
like a serpent into the shady flowering valleys beneath, and every now
and then a mountain stream darted along the road beside them; above them
the dangerous road looked like a tiny notch in which a heavy wagon
crawled slowly along, with lofty rocks apparently tottering to their
fall above it in every direction.

And here galloping straight towards them, was a horseman in whom the
Prince instantly recognised his _avant courier_.

Old Jova reached them in a state of exhaustion, and Gryllus also seemed
ready to drop.

"Go no further, sir!" cried the terrified servant, "I have come all the
way without stopping from Szamosújvár where the Prince is staying. I
laid your request before him. 'For God's sake!' cried the Prince,
clasping his hands together, 'don't let your master come here, or he'll
ruin the whole lot of us. Olaj Beg has just come hither with the
Sultan's command that if the Prince of Moldavia comes here he is to be
handed over.'"

The Prince gazed gloomily in front of him, his lips trembled. Then he
turned his face round and shading his eyes with his hand, gazed away
into the distance. On the same road by which he had come a cloud of dust
could be seen rapidly approaching.

"Those are our pursuers," he moaned despairingly; "there is nothing for
it but to die."

"Nay, my master. Over yonder is a mountain path which can only be
traversed on foot. With worthy Szeklers or Wallachs as our guides we may
get all the way to Poland through the mountains. Why not take refuge
there?"

"And my wife?" asked the Prince, looking round savagely and biting his
lips in his distress; "she cannot accompany me."

All this time Mariska had remained, benumbed and speechless, gazing at
her husband--her heart, her mind, stood still at these terrible tidings;
but when she heard that her husband could be saved without her, she
plunged out of the carriage and falling at his feet implored him,
sobbing loudly, to fly.

"Save yourself," she cried; "do not linger here on my account another
instant."

"And sacrifice you, my consort, to their fury?"

"They will not hurt me, for they do not pursue an innocent woman. God
will defend me. You go into Transylvania; there live good friends of
mine, whose husbands and fathers are the leading men in the State; there
is the heroic Princess, there is the gentle Béldi with her angel
daughter, there is Teleki's daughter Flora--we swore eternal friendship
together once--they will mediate for us; and then, too, my rich father
will gladly spend his money to spare our blood. And if I must suffer and
even die, it will be for you, my husband. Save yourself! In Heaven's
name I implore you to depart from me."

Ghyka reflected for a moment.

"Very well, I will take refuge in order to be able to save you."

And he pressed the pale face of his wife to his bosom.

"Make haste," said Mariska, "I also want to hasten. If die I must--I
would prefer to die among Christians, in the sight of my friends and
acquaintances. But you go on in front, for if they were to slay you
before my eyes, it would need no sword to slay me; my heart would break
from sheer despair."

"Come, sir, come!" said the old courier, seizing the hand of the Prince
and dragging him away by force.

Mariska got into the carriage again, and told the coachman to drive on
quickly. The Prince allowed himself to be guided by the old courier
along the narrow pass, looking back continually so long as the carriage
was visible, and mournfully pausing whenever he caught sight of it again
from the top of some mountain-ridge.

"Come on, sir! come on!" the old servant kept insisting; "when we have
reached that mountain summit yonder we shall be able to rest."

Ghyka stumbled on as heavily as if the mountain was pressing on his
bosom with all its weight. He allowed himself to be led unconsciously
among the steep precipices, clinging on to projecting bushes as he went
along. God guarded him from falling a hundred times.

After half an hour's hard labour they reached the indicated summit, and
as the courier helped his master up and they looked around them,
Nature's magnificent tableau stood before them; and looking down upon a
vast panorama, they saw the tiny winding road by which his wife had
gone; and, looking still farther on, he perceived that the carriage had
just climbed to the summit of a declivity about half a league off.

Ah! that sight gave him back his soul. He followed with his eyes the
travelling coach, and as often as the coach ascended a higher hill, it
again appeared in sight, and it seemed to him as if all along he saw
inside it his wife, and his face brightened as he fancied himself
kissing away her tears.

At that instant a loud uproar smote upon his ears. At the foot of the
steep mountain, on the summit of which his wife had just come into sight
again, he saw a troop of horsemen trotting rapidly along. These were the
pursuers. They seemed scarcely larger than ants.

Ah! how he would have liked to have trampled those ants to death.

"You would pursue her, eh? Then I will stop you."

And with these words seizing a large grey rock from among those which
were heaped upon the summit, he rolled it down the side of the mountain
just as the Turks had reached a narrow defile.

With a noise like thunder the huge mass of rock plunged its way down the
mountain-side, taking great leaps into the air whenever it encountered
any obstacle. Ah! how the galloping rock plunged among the terrified
horsemen--only a streak of blood remained in its track, horses and
horsemen were equally crushed beneath it.

With a second, with a third rock also he greeted them. The cavasses, at
their wits' end, fled back, and never stopped till they had clambered up
the opposite ridge; they did not feel safe among the plunging rocks
below and there they could be seen deliberating how it was possible to
reach the road behind their backs.

Guessing their intention, the Prince sent his servant to fling a rock
down upon them from the hillside beyond, which, as it came clattering
down, made the cavasses believe that their enemies were in force, and
they climbed higher up still.

"There they will remain till evening," thought the Prince to himself;
"so they will not overtake Mariska after all."

And so it conveniently turned out. The cavasses, after consulting
together for a long time fruitlessly as to what road they should take to
get out of the dangerous pass, began to yell from their lofty perch at
their invisible foes, threatening them with the highest displeasure of
the Sultan if they did not allow them to pass through in peace; and when
a fresh shower of rocks came down by way of reply, they unsaddled their
horses and allowing them to graze about at will, lit a fire and squatted
down beside it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, the hunted lady, exchanging her tired horses for four fresh
ones in the first Transylvanian village she came to, pressed onwards
without stopping. Travelling all night she reached Szamosújvár in the
early morning. The Prince was no longer there. He had migrated in hot
haste, they said, before the rising of the sun, to Klausenberg.

Mariska did not descend from her carriage, but only changed her horses.
Three days and three nights she had already been travelling, without
rest, in sickness and despair. And again she must hasten on farther. It
was evening when they reached Klausenberg. The coachman, when he saw the
towers in the distance, turned round to her with the comforting
assurance that they would now be at Klausenberg very shortly. At these
words the lady begged the coachman not to go so quickly, and when he
lashed up his horses still more vigorously notwithstanding, and cast a
look behind him, she also looked through the window at the back of the
carriage and saw a band of horsemen galloping after them along the road.

So their pursuers were as near to them behind as Klausenberg was in
front.

There was not a moment's delay. The coachman whipped up the horses,
their nostrils steamed, foam fell from their lips, they plunged wildly
forward, the pebbles flashed sparks beneath their hoofs, the carriage
swayed to and fro on the uneven road, the persecuted lady huddled
herself into a corner of the carriage, and prayed to God for
deliverance.



CHAPTER XIV.

OLAJ BEG.


The Prince was just then standing in the portico of his palace
conversing with the Princess, whose face bore strong marks of the
sufferings of the last few days. Shortly after the panic of Nagyenyed
she had given birth to a little daughter, and the terror experienced at
the time had had a bad effect on both mother and child.

Apafi's brow was also clouded. The Prince's heart was sore, and not
merely on his own account. Whenever there was any distress in the
principality he also was distressed, but his own sorrow he had to share
alone.

For some days he had found no comfort in whatever direction he might
turn. The Turks had made him feel their tyranny everywhere, and the
foreign courts had listened to his tale of distress with selfish
indifference; while the great men of the realm dubbed him a tyrant, the
common folks sung lampoons upon his cowardice beneath his very windows;
and when he took refuge in the bosom of his family he was met by a sick
wife, who had ceased to find any joy in life ever since he had been made
Prince.

A sick wife is omnipotent as regards her husband. If Anna had insisted
upon _her_ husband's quitting his princely palace, and returning with
her to their quiet country house at Ebesfalu--where there was no kingdom
but the kingdom of Heaven--perhaps he would even have done that for
her.

As the princely pair stood on the castle battlements, the din of the
town grew deeper, and suddenly the rumble of a carriage, driven at full
tilt, broke upon the dreamy stillness of the castle courtyard, and
dashing into it stopped before the staircase; the door of the coach was
quickly thrown open and out of it rushed a pale woman, who, rallying her
last remaining strength, ran up the staircase and collapsed at the feet
of the Prince as he hastened to meet her, exclaiming as she did so:

"I am Mariska Sturdza."

"For the love of God," cried the agitated Prince, "why did you come
here? You have destroyed the state and me; you have brought ruin on
yourself and on us."

The unfortunate lady was unable to utter another word. Her energy was
exhausted. She lay there on the marble floor, half unconscious.

The Princess Apafi summoned her ladies-in-waiting, who, at her command,
hastened to raise the lady in their arms and began to sprinkle her face
with eau-de-Cologne.

"I cannot allow her to be brought into my house," cried the terrified
Apafi; "it would bring utter destruction on me and my family."

The Princess cast a look full of dignity upon her husband.

"What do you mean? Would you hand this unfortunate woman over to her
pursuers? In her present condition, too? Suppose _I_ was obliged to fly
in a similar plight, would you fling _me_ out upon the high road instead
of offering me a place of refuge?"

"But the wrath of the Sultan?"

"Yes; and the contempt of posterity?"

"Then would you have me bring ruin upon my throne and my family for the
sake of a woman?"

"Better perish for the sake of a woman than do that woman to death. If
you shut your rooms against her, I will open mine wide to receive her,
and then you can tell the Sultan if you like that I have taken her."

Apafi felt that his wife's obstinacy was getting him into a hideous
muddle. This audacious woman would listen to no reasons of state in any
matter which interested her humanity.

What was he to do? He pitied the persecuted lady from the bottom of his
heart, but the emissary of the Sublime Porte, Olaj Beg, had come to
demand her with plenipotentiary power. If he did _not_ shelter the
persecuted lady he would pronounce himself a coward in the face of the
whole world; if he _did_ shelter her, the Porte would annihilate him!

In the midst of this dilemma, one of the gate-keepers came in hot haste
to announce that a band of Turkish soldiers was at that moment galloping
along the road, inquiring in a loud voice for the Princess of Wallachia.

Apafi leant in dumb despair against a marble pillar whilst Anna quickly
ordered her women to carry the unconscious lady to her innermost
apartments and summon the doctor. She then went out on the balcony, and
perceiving that the cavasses had just halted in front of the palace, she
cried to the gate-keepers:

"Close the gates!"

Apafi would have very much liked to have countermanded the order; but
while he was still thinking about it, the gates were snapped to under
the very noses of the cavasses.

They began angrily beating with the shafts of their lances against the
closed gate, whereupon the Princess called down to them from the balcony
with a sonorous, authoritative voice:

"Ye good-for-nothing rascals, wherefore all that racket? This is not a
barrack, but the residence of the Prince. Perchance ye know it not,
because fresh human heads are wont to be nailed over the gates of your
Princes every day as a mark of recognition? If that is what you are
accustomed to, your error is pardonable."

The cavasses were considerably startled at these words, and, looking up
at the imperious lady, began to see that she really meant what she said.
For a while they laid their heads together, and then turned round and
departed.

Apafi sighed deeply.

"There is some hidden trick in this," said he, "but what it is God only
knows."

A few moments later a müderris appeared from Olaj Beg at the gate of the
Prince, and, being all alone, was admitted.

"Olaj Beg greets thee, and thou must come to him quickly," said he.

Anna had drawn near to greet her guest, but hearing that Olaj Beg
summoned the Prince to appear before him, she approached the messenger,
boiling over with wrath.

"Whoever heard," she said, "of a servant ordering his master about, or
an ambassador summoning the Prince to whose Court he is accredited?"

But Apafi could only take refuge in a desperate falsehood.

"Poor Olaj Beg," he explained, "is very sick and cannot stir from his
bed, and, indeed, he humbly begs me to pay him a visit. There is no
humiliation in this--none at all, if I am graciously pleased to do it.
He is an old man of eighty. I might be his grandson, he is wont to scold
me as if I were his darling; I will certainly go to him, and put this
matter right with him. You go to your sick guest and comfort her. I give
you my word I will do everything to get her set free. For her sake I
will humble myself."

The Princess Apafi's foresight already suggested to her that this
humiliation would be permanent, but, perceiving that her own strength of
mind was not contagious, she allowed her husband to depart.

Apafi prepared himself for his visit upon Olaj Beg. With a peculiar
feeling of melancholy he did _not_ put on his princely dolman of green
velvet, but only the _köntös_ of a simple nobleman, imagining that thus
it would not be the Prince of Transylvania but the squire of Ebesfalu
who was paying a visit on Olaj Beg. He went on foot to the house of Olaj
Beg, accompanied by a single soldier, who had to put on his everyday
clothes.

The dogs had been let loose in the courtyard, for the Beg was a great
protector of animals, and used to keep open table in front of his
dwelling for the wandering dogs of every town he came to.

Making his way through them, Apafi had to cross a hall and an
ante-chamber, brimful with praying dervishes, who, squatting down with
legs crossed, were reading aloud from books with large clasps, only so
far paying attention to each other as to see which could yell the
loudest.

The Prince did not address them, as it was clear that he would get no
answer, but went straight towards the third door.

The chamber beyond was also full of spiders'-webs and dervishes, but a
red cushion had been placed in the midst of it, and on this cushion sat
a big, pale, grey man in a roomy yellow caftan. He also was holding a
large book in front of him and reading painfully.

Apafi approached, and even ventured to address him.

"Merciful Olaj Beg, my gracious master, find a full stop somewhere in
that book of yours, turn down the leaf at the proper spot, put it down,
and listen to me."

Olaj Beg, on hearing the words of the Prince, put the book aside, and
turning with a sweet and tender smile towards him, remarked with
emotion:

"The angels of the Prophet bear thee up in all thy ways, my dear child.
Heaven preserve every hair of thy beard, and the Archangel Izrafil go
before thee and sweep every stone from thy path, that thy feet may not
strike against them!"

With these words the Beg graciously extended his right hand to be
kissed, blinking privily at the Prince; nor would Apafi have minded
kissing it if they had been all alone, but in the presence of so many
dervishes it would have been derogatory to his dignity; so, instead of
doing so, he took the Beg's hand and provisionally placed it in his left
hand and gave it a resounding thump with his right, and then shook it
amicably as became a friend.

"Don't trouble thyself, my dear son, I will not suffer thee to kiss my
hand," cried Olaj Beg, drawing back his hand and making a show of
opposition so that everyone might fancy that Apafi was angry with him
for not being allowed to kiss it.

"You have deigned to send for me," said Apafi, taking a step backwards;
"tell me, I pray, what you desire, for my time is short. I am
overwhelmed with affairs of state."

These last words Apafi pronounced with as majestic an intonation as
possible.

Olaj Beg thereupon folded his hands together.

"Oh, my dear son!" said he, "the princely dignity is indeed a heavy
burden. I see that quite well, nor am I in the least surprised that thou
wishest to be relieved of it; but be of good cheer, the blessing of
Heaven will come upon us when we are not praying for it; when thou dost
least expect it the Sublime Sultan will have compassion upon thee, and
will deliver thee of the heavy load which presses upon thy shoulders."

Apafi wrinkled his brows. The exordium was bad enough; he hastened
towards the end of the business.

"Perchance, you have heard, gracious Olaj Beg! that the unfortunate
Mariska Sturdza has taken refuge with us."

"It matters not," signified the Beg, with a reassuring wave of the hand.

"She took refuge in my palace without my knowledge," observed Apafi
apologetically, "and what could I do when she was all alone? I couldn't
turn her out of my house."

"There was no necessity. Thou didst as it became a merciful man to do."

"If you had seen her you would yourself have felt sorry for her--sick,
half-dead, desperate, she flung herself at my feet, imploring
compassion, and before I could reply to her she had fainted away.
Perhaps even now she is dead."

"Oh, poor child!" cried Olaj Beg, folding both his hands and raising his
eyes to Heaven.

"Her husband had left her in great misery, and alone she plunged into
jeopardy," continued Apafi, trying to justify the persecuted woman in
every possible manner.

"Oh, poor, unhappy child!" cried Olaj Beg, shaking his head.

"And more than that," sighed Apafi, "the poor woman is big with child."

"What dost thou say?"

"Yes, sir, and flying day and night in all sorts of weathers from her
pursuers in such a condition, you can imagine her wretched condition;
she was scarce alive, she was on the very threshold of death."

"Allah be gracious to her and extend over her the wings of his mercy!"

Apafi began to think that he had found Olaj Beg in a charitable humour.

"I knew that you would not be angry about her."

"I am not angry, my son, I am not angry. My eyes overflow at her sad
fate."

"She, you know, had no share in her husband's faults."

"Far from it."

"And it would not be right that an innocent woman should atone for what
her husband has committed."

"Certainly not."

"Then do you think, my lord, that the Sublime Sultan will be merciful to
this woman?"

"What a question! Have no fear for her!"

Apafi was not so simple as not to be struck by this exaggerated
indulgence, the more satisfactory were the Beg's replies the keener grew
his feeling of anxiety. At last, much perturbed, he ventured to put this
question:

"Gracious Beg! will you allow this unfortunate woman to rest in peace at
my house, and can you assure me that the Sublime Sultan will espouse her
cause?"

"The Holy Book says: 'Be merciful to them that suffer and compassionate
them that weep.' Therefore, behold I grant thee thy desire: let this
poor innocent woman repose in thy house in peace, let her rest
thoroughly from her sufferings and let her enjoy the blessedness of
peace till such time as I must take her from thee by the command of the
Grand Seignior."

Apafi felt his brain reel, so marvellous, so terrible was this
graciousness of the Turk towards him.

"And when think you you will require this woman to be handed over?"

Olaj Beg, with a reassuring look, tapped Apafi on the shoulder, and said
with a voice full of unction:

"Fret not thyself, my dear son! In no case will it be earlier than
to-morrow morning."

Apafi almost collapsed in his fright.

"To-morrow morning, do you say, my lord?"

"I promise thee she shall not be disturbed before."

Apafi perceived that the man had been making sport with him all along.
Rage began to seethe in his heart.

"But, my lord, I said nothing about one day. One day is the period
allowed to condemned criminals."

"Days and seasons come from Allah, and none may divide them."

"Damn you soft sawder!" murmured Apafi between his teeth. "My lord," he
resumed, "would you carry away with you a sick woman whom only the most
tender care can bring back from the shores of Death, and who, if she
were now to set out for Buda, would never reach it, for she would die on
the way?"

Olaj Beg piously raised his hands to Heaven.

"Life and death are inscribed above in the Book of Thora, and if it
there be written in letters embellished with roses and tulips that
Mariska Sturdza must die to-morrow, or the day after to-morrow, die she
will most certainly, though she lay upon musk and were anointed with the
balm of life, and neither the prayers of the saints nor the lore of the
Sages could save her--but if it be written that she is to live, then let
the Angels of Death come against her with every manner of weapon and
they shall not harm her."

Apafi saw that he would have to speak very plainly to this crafty old
man.

"Worthy Olaj Beg! you know that this realm has a constitution which
enjoins that the Prince himself must not issue ordinances in the more
weighty matters without consulting his counsellors. Now, the present
case seems to me to be so important that I cannot inform you of my
resolution till I have communicated it to my council."

"It is well, my dear son, I have no objection. Speak with those servants
of thine whom thou hast made thy masters; sit in thy council chamber and
let the matter be well considered as it deserves to be; and if
thereafter ye decide that the Princess shall accompany me, I will take
her away and take leave of thee with great honour; but if it should so
fall out that ye do not give her up to me, my dear son, or should allow
her to escape from me--then will I take thee instead of her, together
with thy brave counsellors, my sweet son."

The Beg said these words in the sweetest, tenderest voice, as old
grandfathers are wont to address their grandchildren, and descending
from his pillows he stroked the Prince's face with both his hands, and
kissed him on the temples with great good will, quite covering his head
with his long white beard.

Apafi felt as if the whole room were dancing around him. He did not
speak a word, but turned on his axis and went right out. He himself did
not know how he got through the first door, but by the time he had shut
the second door behind him he bethought him that he was still the Prince
of Transylvania, and by descent one of the first noblemen of the land,
whereas Olaj Beg was only a nasty, dirty Turkish captain, who had been a
camel-driver in the days of his youth, and yet had dared to speak to
him, the Prince, like that! By the time he had reached the third door he
had reflected that in the days when he was nothing but the joint-tenant
of Ebesfalu, if Olaj Beg had dared to treat him so shamefully, he would
have broken his bald head for him with a stout truncheon. But had he not
just such a stout truncheon actually hanging by his side? Yes, he had!
and he would go back and strike Olaj Beg with it, not exactly on the
head perhaps, but, at any rate, on the back that he might remember for
the rest of his life the _stylus curialis_ of Transylvania.

And with that he turned back from the third door with very grave
resolves.

But when he had re-opened the second door he bethought him once more
that such violence might be of great prejudice to the realm, and
besides, there was not very much glory after all in striking an old man
of eighty. But at any rate he would tell him like a man what it had not
occurred to him to say in the first moment of his surprise.

So when he had opened the first door and was in the presence of Olaj
Beg, he stood there on the threshold with the door ajar, and said to him
in a voice of thunder:

"Hearken, Olaj Beg! I have come back simply to tell you----"

Olaj Beg looked at him.

"What dost thou say, my good son?"

"This," continued Apafi in a very much lower key, "that it will take
time to summon the council, for Béldi lives at Bodola, Teleki at
Gernyeszeg, Csaky at Déva, and until they come together you can do what
you think best: you may remain here or go"--and with that he turned
back, and only when he had slammed to the door he added--"to hell!"



CHAPTER XV.

THE WOMEN'S DEFENCE.


This incident was the occasion of great affliction to the Estates of
Transylvania. The counsellors assembled at the appointed time at the
residence of the Prince, who at that moment would have felt happier as a
Tartar captive than as the ruler of Transylvania.

On the day of the session everyone appeared in the council chamber with
as gloomy a countenance as if he were about to pronounce his own
death-warrant.

They took their places in silence, and everyone took great care that his
sword should not rattle. There were present: old John and young Michael
Bethlen, Paul Béldi, Caspar Kornis, Ladislaus Csaky, Joshua Kapi, and
the protonotarius, Francis Sárpataky. For the Prince, there had just
been prepared a new canopied throne, with three steps; it was the first
time he had sat on it. Beside it was an empty arm-chair, reserved for
Michael Teleki.

As soon as the guard of the chamber announced that the counsellors had
assembled, the Prince at once appeared, accompanied by Michael Teleki
and Stephen Naláczi.

It could be seen from the Prince's face that for at least two hours
Teleki had been filling his head with talk. Nalaczi greeted everyone
present with a courtly smile, but nobody smiled back at him. Teleki,
with cold gravity, led the Prince to the throne. The latter on first
looking up at the throne, stood before it as if thunderstruck, and
seemed to be deliberating for a moment whether it ought not to be taken
away and a simple chair put in its place. But after thinking it well out
he mounted the steps, and, sighing deeply, took his seat upon it.

Michael Teleki stood silent in his place for some time, as if he was
collecting his thoughts. His eyes did not travel along the faces of
those present as they generally did to watch the effect of his words,
but were fixed on the clasp of his kalpag, and his voice was much duller
than at other times, often sinking to tremulous depths, except when he
pulled himself together and tried to give it a firmer tone.

"Your Highness, your Excellencies,--God has reserved peculiar trials for
our unfortunate nation. One danger has scarce passed over us when we
plump into another; when we try to avoid the lesser perils, we find the
greater ones directly in our path, and we end in sorrow what we began in
joy. Scarcely have we got over the tidings of the battle of St. Gothard
(we had our own melancholy reasons for not participating therein), and
the consequent annihilation of the far-reaching designs of the Turkish
Empire, by the peace contracted between the two great Powers, amidst
whose quarrels our unhappy country is buffeted about as if between
hammer and anvil, when we have a fresh and still greater occasion for
apprehension. For the generals of the Turkish Sultan impute the loss of
the battle to the premature flight of Prince Ghyka, and at the same time
hold us partly responsible for it--and certainly, had our soldiers stood
in the place of the Wallachian warriors, although they would not have
liked fighting their fellow-Magyars, nevertheless, if once they had been
in for it, they would not have ran away and so the battle would not have
been lost--wherefore the wrath of the Sublime Sultan was so greatly
kindled against both the neighbouring nations, that he sent his cavasses
to seize the Prince of Moldavia and carry him in chains to Stambul with
his whole family. As for Transylvania, but for the mercy of God and the
goodwill of certain Turkish statesmen, we might have seen it suddenly
converted into a sandjak or province, and a fez-wearing Pasha on the
throne of his Highness. Now it has so happened that the Prince of
Moldavia, wresting himself and his wife out of the hands of their
pursuers, took the shortest road to Transylvania. We sent a message to
them that on no account were they to try to come here, as their flight
would cost us more than a Tartar invasion. The Prince, therefore, took
refuge in the mountains, but let his wife continue her journey, and, in
an evil hour for us and herself, she arrived here a few days ago with
the knowledge and under the very eyes of the Sultan's plenipotentiary.
The husband having escaped, the whole wrath of the Sultan is turned upon
the wife and upon us also if we try to defend her. What, then, are we to
do? If we had to choose between shame and death, I should know what to
say; but here our choice is only between two kinds of shame: either to
hand over an innocent, tender woman, who has appealed to us for
protection, or see a Turkish Pasha sitting on the throne of the Prince!"

"But there's a third course, surely," said Béldi, "by way of petition?"

"I might indeed make the request," interrupted Apafi, "but I know very
well what answer I should get."

"I do not mean petitioning the envoy," returned Béldi. "Who would
humiliate himself by petitioning the servant when he could appeal to the
master?"

At this Apafi grew dumb; he could not bring forward the fact that he had
already petitioned the servant.

"I believe that Béldi is right," said young Michael Bethlen, "and that
is the only course we can take. I am well acquainted with the mood of an
eastern Despot when he gets angry, and I know that at such times it is
nothing unusual for him to level towns to the ground and decapitate
viceroys; but fortunately for Transylvania it is situated in Europe,
where one state has some regard for another, and it is the interest of
all the European kingdoms to maintain a free state between themselves
and the Ottoman Empire, even if it be only a small one like
Transylvania. And it seems to me that if our petition be supported at
Stambul by the French, Austrian, and Polish ambassadors, there will be
no reason for the Sultan, especially after such a defeat as the last
one, to send a Pasha to Transylvania. And, finally, if we show him that
our swords have not rusted in their scabbards, and that we know how to
draw them on occasion, he will not be disposed to do so."

The youth's enthusiastic speech began to pour fresh confidence into the
souls of those who heard him, and their very faces appeared to brighten
because of it.

Teleki shook his head slowly.

"I tell your Excellencies it will be a serious business," said he. "I am
obliged to arouse you from an agreeable dream by confronting you with a
rigorous fact. Europe has not the smallest care for our existence; we
only find allies when they have need of our sacrifices; let us begin to
petition, and they know us no more. It is true that at one time I said
something very different, but time is such a good master that it teaches
a man more in one day than if he had gone through nine schools. In
consequence of the battle of St. Gothard, peace has been concluded
between the two Emperors. I have read every article of it, every point,
and we are left out of it altogether, as if we were a nation quite
unworthy of consideration. Yet the French, the English, and the Polish
ministers were there, and I can say that not one of them received so
much pay from his own court as he received from us. If they want war,
oh! then we are a great and glorious nation; but when peace is concluded
they do not even know that we are there. In war we may lead the van, but
in the distribution of rewards we are left far behind. And now the
Pasha of Buda, who is bent upon our destruction and would like to set a
pasha over Transylvania, after the last defeat, has sent down Yffim Beg
to us to go from village to village demanding why the arrears of taxes
have not been paid, and then he is coming to the Prince to ask the cause
of the remissness and threaten him with the vengeance of the Pasha of
Buda."

There was a general murmur of indignation.

"Ah, gentlemen, let us confess to each other that we play at being
masters in our own home, but in fact we are masters there no longer. We
may trust to our efforts and rely upon our rights, but we have none to
help us; we have no allies either on the right hand or on the left; we
have only our masters. We may change our masters, but we shall never win
confederates. The Power which stands above us is only awaiting an
opportunity to carry out its designs upon us, and no one could render it
a better service in Transylvania than by raising his head against it. We
have all of us a great obligation laid upon us: to recognise the little
we possess, take care to preserve it, and, if the occasion arise, insist
upon it. It is true that while the sword is in our hands we may defend
all Europe with it; but let our sword once be broken and our whole realm
falls to pieces and the heathen will trample upon us in the sight of all
the nations. We shall bleed for a half-century or so, and nobody will
come to our assistance; the gates of our realm will be guarded by our
enemies; and, like the scorpion in a fiery circle, we shall only turn
the bitterness of our hearts against ourselves. Do you want reasons,
then, why we should not defend those hunted creatures who seek a refuge
with us? The World and Fate have settled their accounts with us; this
realm is left entirely to its own devices. Matters standing thus, if we
refuse to deliver up to Olaj Beg the above-mentioned Princess of
Moldavia, the armies of the Pashas of Buda and Grosswardein will
instantly receive orders to reduce Transylvania to the rank of a vassal
state of the Porte. There is no room here for regret or humanity,
self-preservation is our one remaining duty and the duty of
self-preservation demands that where we have no choice, we should do
voluntarily what we may be forced to do."

Teleki had scarce finished these words than an attendant announced that
the Princess of Moldavia requested admittance into the council chamber.

Apafi would have replied in the negative, but Teleki signified that she
might as well come in.

A few moments later the attendant again appeared and requested
permission for the ladies of the Princess's suite to accompany their
mistress, as she was too weak to walk alone.

Teleki consented to that also.

The counsellors cast down their eyes when the door opened. But there is
a sort of spell which forces a man to look in the very direction in
which he would not, in which he fears to look, and lo and behold! when
the door opened and the hunted woman entered with her suite, a cry of
astonishment resounded from every lip. For of what did the woman's suite
consist? It consisted of the most eminent ladies of Transylvania. The
wives and daughters of all the counsellors present accompanied the
unfortunate lady, foremost among them being the Princess and Dame
Michael Teleki, on whose shoulders she leaned; and last of all came old
Dame Bethlen, with dove-white hair. All the most respectable matrons,
the loveliest wives, and fairest maidens of the realm were there.

The unfortunate Princess, whose pale face was full of suffering,
advanced on the arms of her supporters towards the throne of the Prince.
Her knees tottered beneath her, her whole body trembled like a leaf, she
opened her lips, but no sound proceeded from them.

"Courage, my child," whispered Anna Bornemissza, pressing her hand;
whereupon the tears suddenly burst from the eyes of the unfortunate
woman, and, breaking from her escort, she flung herself at the feet of
the Prince, embracing his knees with her convulsive arms, and raising
towards him her tear-stained face, exclaimed with a heart-rending voice:
"Mercy! ... Mercy!"

A cold dumbness sat on every lip; it was impossible for a time to hear
anything but the woman's deep sobbing. The Prince sat like a statue on
his throne, the steps of which Mariska Sturdza moistened with her tears.
The silence was painful to everyone, yet nobody dared to break it.

Teleki smoothed away his forelock from his broad forehead, but he could
not smooth away the wrinkles which had settled there. He regretted that
he had given occasion to this scene.

"Mercy!" sobbed the poor woman once more, and half unconsciously her
hand slipped from Apafi's knees. Aranka Béldi rushed towards her and
rested her declining head on her own pretty childlike bosom.

Then Anna Bornemissza stepped forward, and after throwing a stony glance
upon all the counsellors present, who cast down their eyes before her,
looked Apafi straight in the face with her own bright, penetrating,
soul-searching eyes, till her astonished husband was constrained to
return her glance almost without knowing it.

"My petition is a brief one," said Dame Apafi in a low, deep, though
perfectly audible voice. "An unfortunate woman, whom the Lord of Destiny
did not deem to be sufficiently chastened by a single blow, has lost in
one day her husband, her home, and her property; she implores us now for
bare life. You see her lying in the dust asking of you nothing more than
leave to rest--a petition which Dzengis Khan's executioners would have
granted her. That is all she asks, but we demand more. The destiny of
Transylvania is in your hands, but its honour is ours also; ye are
summoned to decide whether our children are to be happy or miserable.
But speak freely to us and say if you wish them to be honourable men or
cowards. And I ask you which of us women would care to bear the name of
a Kornis, a Csaky, or an Apafi, if posterity shall say of the bearers of
these names that they surrendered an innocent woman to her heathen
pursuers and constrained their own sons thereby to renounce the names of
their fathers? Look not so darkly upon me, Master Michael Teleki, for my
soul is dark enough without that. An unhappy woman is on her knees
before you, hoping that she will find you to be men. The women of
Transylvania stand before you, hoping to find you patriots. We beg you
to have compassion for the sake of the honour of our children."

Teleki, upon whom the eyes of the Princess had flashed fiercely during
the speech, as if accepting the challenge, answered in a cold, stony
voice:

"Here, madam, we dispense justice only, not mercy or honour."

"Justice!" exclaimed Anna. "What! If a husband has offended, is his
innocent wife, whose only fault is that she loves the fugitive, is she,
I say, to suffer punishment in his stead? Where is the justice of that?"

"Justice is often another name for necessity."

"Then who are all ye whom I see here? Are ye the chief men of
Transylvania or Turkish slaves? This is what I ask, and what we should
all of us very much like to know: is this the council chamber of the
free and constitutional state of Transylvania, or is it the ante-chamber
of Olaj Beg?"

The gentlemen present preserved a deep silence. This was a question to
which they could not give a direct answer.

"I demand an answer to my question," cried Dame Apafi in a loud voice.

"And what good will the answer do you, my lady?" inquired Teleki,
pressing his index-finger to his lips.

"I shall at any rate know whether the place in which we now stand is
worthy of us."

"It is not worthy, my lady. The present is no time for the Magyars to be
proud that they dwell in Transylvania; we are ashamed to be the
responsible ministers of a down-trodden, deserted, and captive nation.
This your Highness ought to know as well as any of us, for it was a
Turkish Pasha who placed your husband on the Prince's seat. And,
assuredly, it would be a far less grief to us to lose our heads than to
bend them humbly beneath the derisive honour of being the leaders of a
people lying among ruins. But, at the most, history will only be able to
say of us that we humbly bowed before necessity, that we bore the yoke
of the stranger without dignity, that running counter to the feelings of
our hearts and the persuasions of our minds, we covered our faces with
shame, and yet that that very shame and dishonour saved the life of
Transylvania, and that poor spot of earth which remained in our hands
saved the whole country from a bloody persecution. We are the victims of
the times, madam; help us to conceal the blush of shame and share it
with us. There, you have the answer to your question."

Dame Apafi grew as pale as death, her head drooped, and she clasped her
hands together.

"So we have come to this at last? Formerly valour was the national
virtue, now it is cowardice. What is our own fate likely to be if we
reject this poor woman? What has happened to-day to a Princess Ghyka
might easily happen to the wives of Kornis and Csaky and Béldi
to-morrow. For their husbands' faults they may be carried away captive,
brought to the block, if only God does not have mercy upon them, for you
yourselves say that this would be right. Why do you look at us? You,
Béldi, Kornis, Teleki, Csaky, Bethlen, here stand your wives and
daughters. Draw forth your coward swords, and if you dare not slay men,
at least slay women; kill them before it occurs to the Turkish Padishah
to drag them by the hair into his harem."

As Dame Apafi mentioned the names of the men one after another, their
wives and daughters, loudly weeping, rushed towards them, and hiding
their heads in their bosoms, with passionate sobs, begged for the
unfortunate Princess, and behold the eyes of the men also filled with
tears, and nothing could be heard in the room but the sobbing of the
husbands mingled with the sobbing of their wives.

On Teleki's breast also hung the gentle Judith Veér and his own daughter
Flora, and the great stony-hearted counsellor stood trembling between
them; and although his cast-iron features assumed with an effort a
rigorous expression, nevertheless a couple of unrestrainable tears
suddenly trickled down the furrows of his face.

The Prince turned aside on his throne, and covering his face, murmured:
"No more, Anna! No more!"

"Oh, Apafi!" cried the Princess bitterly; "if perish I must it shall not
be by your hand. Anna Bornemissza has strength enough to meet death if
there be no choice between that and shame. Be content, if Olaj Beg
demands my death, I shall at least be spared the unpleasantness of
falling at your feet in supplication. And now, pronounce your decision,
but remember that every word you say will resound throughout the
Christian world."

Teleki dried the tears from his face, made his wife and daughter
withdraw, and said in a voice tremulous with emotion:

"In vain should I deny it, my tears reveal that I have a feeling heart.
I am a man, I am a father, and a husband. If I were nothing but Michael
Teleki, I should know how to sacrifice myself on behalf of persecuted
innocence; and if my colleagues around me were only companions-in-arms,
I should say to them, gird on your swords, lie in wait, rush upon the
Turkish escort of the Princess, and deliver her out of their hands--if
we perish, a blessing will be upon us. But in this place, in these
chairs, it is not ourselves who feel and speak. The life, the death of
all Transylvania depends upon us. And my last word is that we
incontinently deliver up Mariska Sturdza to the ambassador of the Porte.
If my colleagues decide otherwise, I will agree to it, I will take my
share of the responsibility, but I shall have saved my soul anyhow.
Speak, gentlemen, and if you like, vote against me."

The silence of death ensued, nobody spoke a word.

"What, nobody speaks?" cried Dame Apafi in amazement. "Nobody! Ah! let
us leave this place! There is not a man in the whole principality."

And with these words the lady withdrew from the council chamber. Her
attendants followed her sorrowfully, one by one, tearfully bidding adieu
to the unfortunate Princess. Aranka Béldi was the last to part from her.
During the whole of this mournful scene her eyes had remained tearless,
but she had knelt down the whole time by Mariska's side, holding her
closely embraced, and assuring her that God would deliver her, she must
fear nothing.

When all the ladies had withdrawn, and Dame Béldi beckoned her daughter
to follow her, she tenderly kissed the face of her friend and whispered
in her ear: "I have still hope, fear not, we will save you!" and smiling
at her with her bright blue eyes like an angel of consolation, got up
and withdrew.

The Princess, tearless, speechless, then allowed herself to be conducted
away by the officers of the council chamber.

The men remained sitting upon their chairs, downcast and sorrowful.
Every bosom was oppressed, and every heart was empty, and the thought of
their delivered fatherland was a cold consolation for the grief they
felt that the Government of Transylvania should fling an innocent woman
back into the throat of the monster which was pursuing her.

The silence still continued when, suddenly, the door was violently burst
open, and shoving aside the guards right and left, Yffim Beg entered
the room. He had been sent by Hassan Pasha to levy contributions on the
Prince and the people.

The rough Turkish captain looked round with boorish pride upon the
silent gentlemen, who were still depressed by the preceding incident,
and perceiving that here he had to do with the humble, without so much
as bowing, he strode straight up to the Prince, and placing one foot on
the footstool before the throne, and throwing his head haughtily back,
flung these words at him:

"In the name of my master, the mighty Hassan Pasha, I put this question
to thee, thou Prince of the Giaurs, why hast thou kept back for so long
the tribute which is due to the Porte? Who hath caused the delay--thou,
or the farmers of the taxes, or the tax-paying people? Answer me
directly, and take care that thou liest not!"

The Prince looked around with wrinkled brows as if looking for something
to fling at the head of the fellow. He regretted that the inkstand was
so far off.

But Teleki handed a sheet of parchment to Sárpataky, the clerk of the
council.

"Read our answer to the Pasha's letter," said he; "as for you--sir I
will not call you--listen to what is written therein. 'Beneficent Hassan
Pasha, we greatly regret that you bother yourself about things which are
already settled. We do not ask you why you came so late to the battle of
St. Gothard. Why do you ask us, then, why we are so late with the taxes?
We will answer for ourselves at the proper time and place. Till then,
Heaven bless you, and grant that misfortune overwhelm you not just when
you would ruin others.' When you have written all that down, hand it to
his Highness the Prince for signature."

The gentlemen present had fallen from one surprise into another. Michael
Teleki, who a moment before, against the inclinations of his own heart
and mind, had tried to compel the land to submit to the demand of Olaj
Beg, could in the next moment send such a message to the powerful Vizier
of Buda.

But Teleki knew very well that the storm which was passing over the
country on account of the Princess of Moldavia was sure to rebound on
the head of the Vizier of Buda. The Sultan was seeking for an object on
which to wreak his wrath because of the lost battle, and if the Pasha of
Buda did not succeed in making the Government of Transylvania the
victim, he would fall a victim himself.

As for Yffim Beg, he did not quite know whether a thunder-bolt had
plunged down close beside him, or whether he was dreaming. There he
stood like a statue, unable to utter a word, and only looked on stupidly
while the letter was being written before his very eyes, while Apafi's
pen scraped the parchment as he subscribed his signature, while they
poured the sand over it, folded it up, impressed it with an enormous
seal, and thrust it into his palm.

Only then did he emerge somewhat from his stupor.

"Do ye think I am mad enough to carry this letter back with me to Buda?"

And with these words he seized the letter at both ends, tore it in two,
and flung it beneath the table.

"Write another!" said he, "write it nicely, for my master, the mighty
Hassan Pasha, will strangle the whole lot of you."

Teleki turned coldly towards him.

"If you don't like the letter, worthy müderris, you may go back without
any letter at all."

"I am no müderris, but Yffim Beg. I would have thee know that, thou dog;
and I won't go without a letter, and I won't let you all go till ye have
written another."

And with these words he sat down on the steps of the Prince's throne and
crossed his legs, so that two were sitting on the throne at the same
time, the Beg and Apafi.

"Guards!" cried Apafi in a commanding voice, "seize this shameless
fellow, tie him on to a horse's back and drive him out of the town."

They needed not another word. One of the guards immediately rushed
forward to where Yffim Beg was still sitting on a footstool with legs
crossed, and took him under the arm, while another of them grasped him
firmly by the collar, and raising him thus in the air, kicking and
struggling, carried him out of the room in a moment. The Beg struck,
bit, and scratched, but it was all of no avail. The merciless drabants
set him on the back of a horse in the courtyard, without a saddle, tied
his feet together beneath the horse's belly, placed the bridle of the
steed in the hands of a stable-boy, while another stable-boy stood
behind with a good stout whip; and so liberally did they interpret the
commands of the chief counsellor, that they escorted the worthy
gentleman, not only out of the town, but beyond the borders of the
realm.



CHAPTER XVI.

A FIGHT FOR HIS OWN HEAD.


At Buda, while Hassan Pasha was fighting with the army of the German
Emperor, Yffim Beg was preparing the triumphal arches through which the
victors were to pass on their return, adorning them with green branches
and precious carpets, and leaving room for the standards to be captured
from the Germans and Hungarians. The bridge was also repaired and
strengthened to support the weight of the heavy gun-carriages and cannon
which Montecuculi was to have abandoned, and at the same time a large
space on the Rákás was railed in where all the slaves of all the
nations, including women and children, were to be impounded.

And after all these amiable preparations the terrible message reached
the worthy Yffim Beg from Hassan Pasha that he was to place all his
movable chattels, gold and silver, on a fugitive footing, barricade the
fortress, cut away the bridge so that the enemy might not be able to
cross it, and follow him with the whole harem, beyond the Raab, for who
could tell whether they would ever see the fortress of Buda again.

Yffim Beg was not particularly pleased with this message, but without
taking long to think about it, he put the damsels of the harem into
carriages, sent them off along the covered way adjoining the water-gate,
in order to make as little disturbance as possible, and, as soon as they
were on the other side of the bridge, ordered it to be destroyed and the
garrison of the fortress to defend themselves as best they could.

He reached the Turkish army to find the opposing hosts drawn up against
each other on different sides of the river, across which they bombarded
each other from time to time, without doing much damage.

The Pasha's pavilion was well in the rear, out of cannon-shot; he was
delighted when he saw Yffim Beg, and could not take his fill of kissing
Azrael, who was lovelier and more gracious than ever.

"Remain here," he said to his favourites, embracing the pair of them. "I
must retire now to the interior of my pavilion to pray for an hour or so
with the dervishes, for a great and grievous duty will devolve upon me
in an hour's time--two great Turkish nobles, Kucsuk Pasha and his son,
are to be condemned to death."

Azrael started as violently as if a serpent had crept into her bosom.

"How have they offended?" she asked, scarce able to conceal her
agitation.

"Against the precepts of the Prophet they engaged in battle on a day of
ill-omen; they have cast dirt on the victorious half-moon, and must wash
off the stain with their blood."

Hassan withdrew; Azrael remained alone in the tent with the Beg.

"I saw thee shudder," said Yffim, fixing his sharp eyes on the face of
Azrael.

"Death chooses the thirteenth; he leaped past me at this very moment."

"And on whom has the fatal thirteen fallen?"

"On someone who stands beside me or behind me."

"Behind thee in the tent outside is Feriz Beg."

"But thou art beside me."

"I am too young to die yet."

"And is not he also?"

"He of whom Hassan saith: 'He hath sinned!' becomes old and withered on
the spot."

"And hast thou done nothing for which thou shouldst die?"

"My beard will grow white because of my loyalty; life is long in the
shadow of Hassan."

"But how long will Hassan have a shadow?"

"Till his night cometh--but that is still far off."

"Hast thou not heard of the case of Ajas Pasha, Yffim?--of Ajas, who was
the mightiest of all the Pashas?"

"He was the Sultan's son-in-law."

"The Grand Seignior gave him his own daughter to wife, and loaded him
with every favour. One day Ajas lost a battle against the Zrinyis. It
was not a great defeat, but the Sultan was wrath and beheaded Ajas
Pasha."

"H'm! I recollect, it was a sad story."

"And dost thou remember the story of the faithful Hiassar? Ajas charged
him to bring to him before his death his favourite wife, not his whole
harem which thou hast brought to Hassan Pasha, but only his favourite
wife, that he might take leave of her; and dost thou know that for doing
this thing the Sultan had Hiassar roasted to death in a copper ox? For a
disgraced favourite possesses nothing--all he had is the Sultan's, his
treasures, his wives and his children; and whoever lays his hand upon
them is robbing the Sultan. Who knows, Yffim Beg, but what at this
moment I may not be the Sultan's slave-girl? and from slave-girl to
favourite is but a step, and thou knowest it would be but a short step
for me."

"What accursed things thou art saying."

"The wife of Ajas Beg was the Sultan's favourite at the time when
Hiassar was burnt, and a word from her would have saved him. But she
said it not, because she was wrath with him; methinks the woman loved
him once, and the slave despised her love. Give me my mandoline, Yffim,
I would sing a song."

The odalisk lay back upon the bed, while Yffim anxiously paced to and
fro like a hyena fallen into a snare. The story just related had a
striking resemblance to his own, and it would not take very much to give
it a similar termination.

Suddenly he stood before the damsel, who nonchalantly strummed the
strings of her instrument.

"What dost thou want?"

"Ask not what thou knowest."

"Thou wouldst save Feriz?"

"I will save him."

"I swear by Allah it is not to be done. Die he must, if only to tame
thee; for if he remain alive thou wilt destroy the lot of us sooner or
later."

Azrael collapsed at the feet of the Beg. Sobbing, she embraced his
knees.

"Oh, be merciful! Say but a word for him to the general. I love the
youth as thou canst see and dost very well know. Do not let him perish!"

Like all little souls, Yffim Beg became all the bolder at these
supplicating words, and seizing Azrael by the arms, roughly pulled her
to her feet, and whispered in her ear with malicious joy:

"I'll make thee a present of his head."

At these words the woman raised her head, her eyes like those of a
furious she-wolf seemed to glow with green fire, her tresses curled like
serpents round her bosom. She said not a word, but her tightly clenched
teeth kept back a whole hell of dumb fury.

At that moment the Vizier returned.

Azrael at once put on a smile. Hassan could not see what was seething in
her heart.

Yffim approached the Pasha confidentially.

"Does the Sultan know of thy disaster?"

"He has heard it since."

"It would be as well to send me with gifts to the Porte."

"Ask not that honour for thyself, Yffim; learn, rather, that whomsoever
I send to Stambul now is as good as sent to Paradise. The Sultan's wrath
is kindled, and he can only quench it with blood."

All the blood quitted Yffim's own face.

"Then thou hast thy fears, my master?"

"His rage demands blood, and the blood of a great man, too. Which of us?
That is all one, but a great man must die. If I cannot sacrifice someone
in my place I shall perish myself, but there are men of equal value to
myself from whom I can choose. There are two especially--Kucsuk and his
son. They began the battle; if they had not begun it, there would have
been no battle; and if there had been no battle, there would have been
no disaster. They are Death's sons already. The third is the Prince of
Moldavia. He was the first to fly from the fight; he had a secret
understanding with the Christians. He is a son of Death also. I can
throw in the Prince of Transylvania also, because he kept away from the
battle altogether and was late with his tribute. Had he sent it sooner,
we should have had money; and if we had had money, we should have been
able to have bought hay; and if we had had hay the soldiers would not
have hastened on the battle and so lost it. He also is a son of Death,
therefore. Go thou into Transylvania and bring him hither to me."

Azrael listened to all this with great attention. Yffim Beg regarded her
with a radiant countenance, as much as to say: "You see our heads won't
ache yet!"

The odalisk, however, trembled no longer; she pressed her lips tightly
together, and as if she was quite certain of what she was about to do,
she pressed her sweetly smiling face close to that of the Vizier, and
hanging on his arms, whispered to him:

"O Hassan, how my soul would rejoice if I could see flow the blood of
thine enemies."

Hassan sat the damsel on his knees, and his lips sported with her
twining tresses.

Yffim Beg was in such a mighty good humour at being commissioned by
Hassan to go as ambassador to the Prince of Transylvania, and so blindly
exalted by such a mark of confidence, that he fancied he could well
afford to torment Azrael a little.

"Whilst thou wert away, my master," said he, "thy damsel implored me to
grant her a favour, which I dare not do without first asking thy
permission."

Azrael regarded the smiling Beg with sparkling eyes, anxiously awaiting
what he would be bold enough to betray.

"What was it?--speak, Yffim Beg," remarked Hassan wildly.

"Thou and the other Pashas are about to condemn a youth to death--young
Feriz Beg, I mean."

"Well?" said Hassan frowning, while the odalisk whom he held embraced
trembled all over.

"Azrael would like to see the young man die."

The girl grew pale at these words; her heart for a moment ceased to
beat, and then began fiercely to throb again.

"A foolish wish," said Hassan; "but if thou desire it, be it so! Be
present at the meeting of the Pashas, stand behind the curtains by my
side, and thou shalt hear and see everything."

Azrael imprinted a long and burning kiss on Hassan's forehead with a
face full of death, and stood behind the curtain holding the folds
together with her hands.

"If thou shouldst faint," whispered Yffim Beg sarcastically, "thou shalt
have a vessel of musk from me."

Azrael laughed so loudly that Yffim fancied she must have gone mad.

"And now call the Pashas and draw the curtain of the tent," commanded
Hassan.

At the invitation of Yffim all the officers of the camp came to the
pavilion and took their seats in a circle on cushions. Last of all came
the Grand Vizier, Kiuprile, a big, stout, angry man, who, without
looking at anyone, sat down on the cushion beside Hassan and turned his
back upon him.

Then the roll of drums was heard, and Kucsuk Pasha and Feriz Beg, well
guarded, were brought in from different sides--Kucsuk on the left hand,
and Feriz on the right.

"Look!" whispered Azrael to Hassan from behind the curtain; "look how
proud they are, the son on the right, the father on the left. They seem
to be encouraging each other with their glances."

Hassan nodded his head as if thanking his favourite for assisting his
weak eyes, and as both figures came within the obscurity of the tent,
where the light was not very good at the best of times, acting on the
hint given, he turned towards the aged Kucsuk Pasha and cried:

"Thou immature youth, step back till I speak to thee."

Then, turning to young Feriz Beg, he said:

"Step forward, thou hardened old traitor! Wherefore didst thou leave the
armies of the Sublime Sultan in the lurch?"

Feriz Beg, as if a weapon against his persecutors had suddenly been put
into his hand, stepped boldly right up to Hassan Pasha, and exclaimed in
a bold voice, which rang though the tent:

"Thou art the traitor, not I; for thou darest to hold the office of
general when thou art blind and canst not distinguish two paces off
father from son, or an enemy from a friend."

Hassan sprang in terror from his carpet when he heard Kucsuk's son speak
instead of Kucsuk.

"That is not true," he stammered, changing colour.

"Not true!" replied Feriz stiffly; "then, if thine eyes be good, wilt
thou tell me what regiment is now passing thy tent with martial music?"

The tent be it understood was open towards the plain overlooking the
whole camp and the river beyond.

A military band was just then crossing the ground not far from the tent,
quite alone; no regiment was coming after it.

"Methinks, thou mutinous dog, 'tis no answer to my question to inquire
what regiment is now passing by, for it maybe that I know better than
thou why it has arrived; nor is it part of my duty to mention the
rabble by name; suffice it that I hear the trumpets and see the
banners."

The Pashas looked at each other; there was neither regiment nor banners.

"So that's it, eh?" said Kiuprile, spitting in front of him; and with
that he rose from his place, and, without looking at Hassan, took Kucsuk
and Feriz by the arm. "Come!" said he to the other generals--"you can go
now!" he cried to the guards, and the whole assembly withdrew from the
tent.

Hassan fell back on his carpet. He himself had betrayed his great
defect.

Azrael rushed from her hiding-place.

"Oh, my master!" she cried; "thou didst wrongly interpret my words, and
so made everything go wrong."

"I am lost," he stammered, and quite beside himself he plunged into the
interior of the tent to pray with the dervishes.

Yffim Beg stood there as if his soul had been filched from him; while
Azrael approached him with a smile of devilish scorn and stroked his
face down with her hand.

"Dost thou fancy thou wilt require another good word for thee?"

"I can betray thee."

"Thou couldst if thou didst but know which of the two is to live
longest--Hassan or I."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours after this scene there was a private conversation between
Hassan Pasha and Yffim Beg, from which even Azrael was excluded. The
interview over, Yffim Beg departed quickly from the camp. The general
had sent him to Transylvania to go in his name from village to village
to make a general inspection, and ask the magistrates why the common
folks did not pay the taxes at the proper time. He was thence to go to
the Prince and ask the cause of this delay in the transmission of
taxes; thus either the people or the Prince would be held responsible.
Hassan for a long time had had a scheme in his head of seizing
Transylvania by force of arms, whereby, on the one hand, he would win
the favour of the Porte, by adding a new subject state to Turkish
territory, and, on the other hand, would secure for himself a good easy
princely chair instead of a dangerously-jolting general's saddle.

At the same time Olaj Beg was worrying Apafi to seize the escaped
Princess of Moldavia and send her to Hassan Pasha, who was well aware
that the silken cord would be constantly dangling before his eyes till
he had found someone else whose neck he could jeopardise instead of his
own.

Kucsuk and his son had escaped from his talons, but he had just heard
from Olaj Beg that the Moldavian Princess was with Apafi, and in an
interesting condition, so that there was every prospect of a young
Prince being born. Here, then, in case of necessity, was a person who
could be handed over, and in case she escaped, the silken cord would
remain round Apafi's neck.

A few days after the departure of Yffim Beg, peace was hastily concluded
between the Porte and the King of the Romans. In consequence thereof
Hassan avoided a collision with the other generals, and, quitting them,
hastened back to Buda with his army. Kiuprile marched right off to
Belgrade, Kucsuk was dispatched to the fortress of Szekelyhid; only
Feriz remained at Buda, for the simple reason that he was confined to
his bed by a feverish cold in a kiosk, which was erected for him by the
express command of Kiuprile.

Just about this time Azrael had an excess of devotion, and was
constantly plagued by terrifying dreams in which she saw Hassan Pasha
walking up and down without his head, and every morning she got leave
from him to pay a visit to an old dervish to pray against the apparition
of evil spirits. Hassan was much affected by this devotion towards him
and true Mussulman fervour, and made no opposition to his favourite
damsel going every morning to the mosque to pray, and only returning
from thence late every evening; but he impressed it upon her suite to
keep a watchful eye upon the girl lest she should deceive them. They
therefore permitted pious Azrael to visit the worthy dervish so wrapped
up that only her eyes were visible, and soon afterwards saw her return
with the gracious old man. The dervish had a white beard and white
eyebrows, as if he were well frosted; his eyes were cast down, and he
wore such a frightfully big turban that not even the tips of his ears
were visible. He was also not very lavish of speech, dumbly he pointed
out to the veiled damsel the great clasped book and she knelt down
before it and began to read with edifying devotion, touching it from
time to time with her forehead; while the dervish, raising his hand,
blessed one by one the slaves standing outside the door, and, after
indicating by dumb show that he must now go to the kiosk where the sick
Feriz Beg was lying and cure him by the efficacy of his prayers, he
hobbled away.

All four slaves glued their faces to the iron lattice work of the door,
thrust their cheeks between its ornaments, and saw how the kneeling
damsel kept praying all the time before the large open book. She must
have had an unconscionable fondness for prayer, for even when the
evening grew late she had not moved from the spot till the dervish,
leaning on his crutch, came hobbling back from Feriz Beg. Then she
accompanied him into the interior of the mosque, and after a short hymn,
returned to make her way back to the fortress.

And thus it went on for ten days. The slaves of her escort now began to
think that Azrael wanted to learn the Koran by heart and grew tired of
watching her praying and bowing and genuflecting with unwearied
devotion.

Let us leave them gazing and marvelling, and seek out Feriz Beg, whom
now, as at other times, the old dervish was tending.

There sat the good old man by the bedside of the pale and handsome
youth. Nobody else was in the room. With his hand he dried the dripping
sweat from the youth's forehead, every hour he put red healing drops
into his mouth with a golden spoon, he guessed what was wanted
immediately from every sigh, from every groan of the invalid. When he
slept he fanned fresh air upon him, when he woke and stretched forth his
burning hands, he felt the throbbing pulse and comforted and soothed him
with gentle and consolatory words; and if he flung about impatiently in
the fever of delirium, he covered him up carefully, like a tender
mother, moistened his lips with fresh citron-water; and if he perceived
from his flushed face how he was suffering he would raise his head, and
press his burning temples to his bosom.

On the tenth day the youth's illness took a turn for the better. Early
in the morning, when he awoke, he had a clear consciousness of his
condition.

There by the side of his bed still sat the old man with his eyes fixed
on the youth's face.

"So thou hast been my nurse, eh?" sighed the youth gratefully, and he
extended his hand to take that of the dervish, and he respectfully
impressed upon it a long burning kiss, closing his eyes piously as he
did so.

And when he again opened his eyes, holding continually the kissed hand
between his own hands, behold! by his bedside no longer sat the old
dervish, but a young and tremulous damsel, with black tresses rolling
down her shoulders, with a blushing face and timidly smiling lips--it
was Azrael.

Feriz fancied that he was the sport of some delirious dream or
enchantment, and only when he looked about him in his bewilderment and
perceived the cast-off false beard and turban and the other lying
symbols of age, did he regain his presence of mind; and immediately the
expression of gratitude and devotion disappeared from the face of Feriz
Beg, his features took in a rigorous expression and he withdrew his hand
from the pressure of those other hands. Speak he could not, both mind
and body were too much broken for that; but he pointed to the door and
signified to the damsel in dumb show that she was to withdraw.

"Thou knowest me, for thou hatest me," stammered Azrael; "if thou didst
not know me thou wouldst not hate me, and if thou didst know me better
thou wouldst love me."

The youth shook his head.

"Then--thou--lovest--another?" said the trembling girl.

Feriz Beg nodded: yes.

Azrael rose from her place as if some venomous spider had bitten her,
her face was convulsed by a burning grief, she pressed her hands to her
bosom; then slowly her form lost all its proud rigidity, and her eyes
their savage brightness, her features softened, and collapsing before
the bed of the youth she hid her face in his pillows and murmured in a
scarce audible voice: "And therefore I love thee all the more."

Then, resuming her disguise, she calmly piled upon herself all the
tokens of old age till once more before the sick man stood the gentle
honest dervish who hobbled away on his crutches, blessing everyone he
encountered till he returned again to the mosque.

After Azrael had withdrawn, Feriz at once dismissed the dervish, who, at
the youth's command, confessed everything to him. The general's
favourite damsel, he said, had come to the mosque to pray ten days ago
and had changed garments with him in his hiding-place in order to tend
the dear invalid all day long while the dervish, enwrapped in her veil,
had prayed in the sight of the slaves.

Feriz Beg threatened the dervish with death if he did not confess
everything, and, as it became a true cavalier, richly rewarded him when
he had revealed the secret intrigue, forbidding him at the same time to
assist it any further.

       *       *       *       *       *

Several days had passed by.

Hassan Pasha spent his days in the mosque, and his nights behind the
trellised gates of his harem; he scented an evil report in every new
arrival, and avoided all intercourse with his fellows. The whole day he
was praying, the whole night he was drunk; from morning to evening he
was occupied with the priests and the Koran, and from the evening to the
morning he amused himself among his damsels, listened to their songs,
bathed in ambergris-water, drank wine mingled with poppies, and had his
body rubbed with cotton-wool that he might sleep and be in paradise.

Frequently he had bad dreams, an evil foreboding, like the pressure of a
night-hag, lay upon his heart, and when he awoke he seemed to see it all
vividly before his eyes and durst not sleep any more, but dressed
himself, sought out the room of Azrael and made the damsel sit down
beside him and amuse him with merry stories.

The odalisk held unlimited sway over the mind of Hassan, and could, at
will, tune his mind to a good or evil humour by anticipating his
thoughts. The Pasha trusted her implicitly.

It is a bad old custom with oriental potentates to go to bed fuddled and
dream all manner of nonsense, and then incontinently to demand a clear
interpretation of the nebulous stuff from their wise men--or wise women.

This happened to be the case one morning with Hassan Pasha and Azrael
who just then was watering with a silver watering-can a gorgeous gobæa,
whose luxurious offshoots clambered like a living ladder to the roof of
the greenhouse, thence casting down to the ground again tendrils as
thick as ropes.

"Last night I was dreaming of this very plant that thou dost nourish in
yon large tub," said Hassan in a voice that sounded as if he thought it
an extraordinary thing to be listening to his own words. "I dreamt that
it put forth a long and flowery shoot which grew into a tall tree, and
from the end of one of the branches of this tree hung a large yellow
fruit. Then I thought I had some important and peculiar reason for
breaking off the fruit, and I sent a big white-bearded ape up into the
tree to fetch it. The ape reached the fruit, and for a long time plucked
at it and shook it, but was unable to break it off. At last, however, he
fell down with it at my feet, the golden fruit burst in two, and a red
apple rolled out of it, and I picked them both up and was delighted.
What does that signify?"

Azrael kept plucking the yellow leaves off her dear plant and throwing
them through the window, beckoned to the Pasha to sit down beside her,
and tapping him on the shoulder, began to tick off the events on her
pretty fingers.

"The golden fruit is the Moldavian Princess, and the white ape thou
didst send for her is none other than Olaj Beg. Thy dream signifies that
the Beg is about to arrive with the Princess, who in the meantime has
borne a son, and thou wilt rejoice greatly."

Hassan was well content with this interpretation, when a eunuch entered
and brought him a sealed letter on a golden salver. It was from the
Pasha of Grosswardein.

The letter was anything but pleasant. Ali Pasha begged to inform the
Vizier that the Government of Transylvania, having delivered Mariska
Sturdza into the hands of Olaj Beg, the Beg at once set off with her,
and had got as far as Királyhágó, when some persons hidden in the forest
had suddenly rushed out upon him, massacred his suite to the last man,
and left the Princess' carriage empty on the high road. The Princess had
in all probability been helped to rejoin her husband in Poland.

The letter fell from the hand of Hassan Pasha.

"Thou hast interpreted my dream backwards," he roared, turning upon
Azrael; "everything has turned topsy-turvy. The ape descended from the
tree with the fruit, but knocked his brains out."

At that moment the door-keeper announced: "Olaj Beg has arrived with the
Moldavian Princess."

At these words Hassan Pasha, in the joy of his heart, leaped from his
cushions, and after kissing Azrael over and over again, rushed forward
to meet Olaj Beg, and meeting him in the doorway, caught him round the
neck and exclaimed, beside himself with joy:

"Then my ape has not knocked his brains out, after all!"

Olaj Beg smilingly endured the title and the embrace, but on looking
around and perceiving Azrael standing in the window he began doing
obeisance to her with the greatest respect.

"Hast thou brought her? Where is she? Thou hast not lost her, eh? Thou
hast well looked after her?" asked Hassan in one breath.

By this time Olaj Beg had bowed his head down to his very knees before
the damsel, and was saying to her in a mollified voice:

"May I hope that the beautiful Princess will not find it tiresome if we
talk of grave affairs in her presence?"

Azrael at once perceived the object of all this bowing and scraping.
Olaj Beg wished her to withdraw.

"Thou mayest speak before me, worthy Olaj Beg, though what thou art
about to say is no secret to me, for I can read the future, and my
secrets I tell to none."

And now Hassan intervened.

"Thou mayest speak freely before her, worthy Olaj Beg. Azrael is the
root of my life."

Olaj Beg made another deep and long obeisance.

He had heard enough of that name to need no further recommendation. He
made up his mind on the spot to tell Hassan, who was in the power of
this infernal woman, no more than he deserved to know.

"Then thou hast brought the Princess with thee?" insisted Hassan, whose
joy beamed upon his face in spite of himself. "Did the Transylvanian
gentlemen make much difficulty in handing her over?"

"They handed her over, but it would have been very much better if they
had not. I should have preferred it if they had risen in her behalf,
stirred up all Klausenberg against me and beaten me to death. At any
rate, I should then have died gloriously. But alas! the Magyar race is
degenerating, it has begun to be sensible. Those good old times have
gone when they used to fire a whole village for the sake of a runaway
female slave; and it was possible to seize a whole county in exchange
for one burnt village; if the Hungarian gentry continue to be as wise as
they are now the younger generation of them may strike root in our very
Empire."

"I was alarmed on thy account, for I have just received a letter from
the Pasha of Grosswardein, in which he informed me that certain persons
had attacked the Princess's escort at Királyhágó and cut them down to a
man."

"I anticipated that," replied Olaj Beg slily. "When with much shedding
of tears they handed the Princess over to me, I heard them whisper in
her ear: 'Fear nothing!' and I well understood from that that those same
gentlemen who in the council chamber, with wise precautions, resolved to
deliver up the fugitive Princess, had agreed among themselves over their
cups at dinner-time that as I left Transylvania they would lie in wait
for, fall upon me, and liberate and take away with them the Princess
whom, by the way, they did not deliver over immediately, giving out that
she was sick and suffering torments. While I was awaiting her recovery,
nobody but her ladies was allowed admittance to her, and as soon as she
was on her legs again, I made all my preparations for the journey next
day, marshalling all the carriages and baggage-wagons in the courtyard.
I myself, however, got into a sorry matted conveyance with the Princess
and her child, and set off the same night in the direction of Déva. My
suite, with the empty carriages, was to follow next morning in the
direction of Grosswardein. The masked men cut them down as arranged, but
the Princess and her son were in safe hands all the time. Olaj Beg is an
old fox, and a fox knows his way about."

Hassan Pasha rubbed his hands delightedly.

"Nevertheless," continued Olaj Beg, "imagine not, my good general, that
because this woman is now in thy hands thou wilt be able to keep her.
Sleeplessness will enter thy house as soon as thou hast admitted her
within thy doors. If it be hard to guard any woman, it will be
particularly hard to guard this one. The men and women of a whole
kingdom have sworn to set her free by force or fraud, and will use every
effort to do so. They will open thy bedroom doors with skeleton keys,
they will dig beneath thy cellars, they will strew sleeping powder in
thy evening potions, they will corrupt thy most faithful servants, and
if no other poison make any impression upon thee they will pour into thy
heart the most potent of all poisons, the tears of a supplicating woman.
I have brought the treasure, and I deliver it into thy hands. Allah
requites me for my pains by taking her from me. Thou art now her guard,
conceal her as best thou canst. Thy greatest worry will be that thou
canst not slay her, for indeed she were best hidden beneath the ground.
But thou art to see to it that she is delivered alive into the hands of
the Sultan's envoys, for shouldst thou kill her thyself be sure thou
wilt soon feel the silken cord around thine own neck. Meanwhile, peace
be with thee and to all who abide in the shadow of the Prophet!"

With these words Olaj Beg stepped into the adjoining room, and leading
in the Princess, placed her hand in the hand of Hassan; then he raised
his eyes to Heaven.

"Allah is my witness," said he, "that I have delivered her and her child
into thy hands!"

In the first moment Hassan Pasha was amazed at the woman's loveliness,
and thought with regret that it was necessary for his own safety that
she must die.

Olaj Beg, however, had yet another piece of good advice to impart, and,
with that object, drew nigh to him to whisper in his ear; but, as if his
courage failed him at the last moment, he delivered his sentiments in
the Arabic tongue.

"Thou wouldst guard this woman best if thou tookest her child from her
and locked it up separately. The mother certainly would not escape
without the child."

The Princess Ghyka did not understand these words, but she saw how the
old fox indicated her little one with a glance and with what a greedy
look Hassan regarded it; and she pressed the child all the closer to her
bosom as she saw him come a step closer. The unhappy woman trembled when
she saw Hassan smile upon the child like a hungry wolf would smile if he
encountered it on his path. She guessed from their play of feature the
terrible idea which the two men were discussing in a foreign tongue, and
in her despair cast her eyes upon Azrael, as if hoping that she would
find a response to her agony in a woman's heart.

The odalisk pretended she had not observed the look, as if those present
were not worthy of the slightest attention from her; when, however,
Hassan gratefully embraced the Beg for this fresh piece of advice,
Azrael intervened with a peculiar smile.

"Thou dost act like one who, bending beneath the weight of a burden too
heavy for him, would pass it on to his neighbour."

Hassan looked at his favourite damsel inquiringly, while Olaj Beg, who
was unaccustomed to hear women talk at all when men were holding
counsel together, looked back with offended surprise over his shoulder.

Azrael reclined lazily back upon her cushions, and swung one leg over
her knee as she conversed with the two men.

"Worthy Hassan," said she, "thou wouldst make two troubles out of one,
if thou didst separate thy captives; while thou keepest thine eye on one
of them, they will steal away the other behind thy back."

Hassan cast a troubled look upon Olaj Beg, who stroked his long white
beard and smiled.

"If thou dost permit thy damsels to ask questions, thou must needs
answer them," said he.

At these words Azrael leaped from her place and boldly approached the
two men, her flaming black eyes measured the Beg from head to foot, and
when she spoke it was with a determined, startling voice.

"Listen to me, Hassan--yes, I say, thou shouldst listen to me before all
thy friends just because I am a woman. A man can only give advice, but a
woman loves, and before a man thinks of danger a woman already sees it
coming from afar, and while a man may grow into a crafty old fox, a
woman is born crafty. Hassan knows very well that of all those who wear
a mask of friendship for him, there is but one on whom he can absolutely
rely, whose love all the treasures in India can as little destroy as
they can lull her hatred asleep, who watches over him while he sleeps,
and if she sleeps is dreaming of his destiny--that person am I."

Hassan confirmed the words of the damsel by throwing his arm round her
shoulders and drawing her towards him.

"If this woman requires a sleepless, uncorruptible guardian," continued
Azrael, "I will be that guardian. Make for us a long chain, and let one
end of it be fastened to my arm and the other to her girdle. Thus the
slave will be chained to the jailer, and, sleeping or waking, will be
unable to escape from me. I shall be a good janitor. I will not let her,
or her child, out of my hands."

The damsel accompanied these words with such an infernal smile that Olaj
Beg involuntarily edged away from her; while Hassan was enchanted by
this noble specimen of loyalty. But Mariska's face was bright and
resigned again, for she understood from the words of the odalisk,
threatening as they were, that she and her child were not to be
separated, and to all else she was indifferent.

Olaj Beg drew the folds of his caftan over his lean, dry bosom, and
after peering at the two women, remarked to Hassan:

"'Tis well thou canst trust a woman to look after a woman."

With that he backed out of the room, blessing all four corners of it as
he went, and in the gateway distributed with great condescension to
every one of the servants who had done anything for him some money
ingeniously twisted up in pieces of paper (which, by the way, were found
to contain a half-penny each when at last unfolded), and sitting in his
mat-covered carriage, gave strict orders to the coachman not to look
back till he saw the citadel of Buda.

But Hassan the same hour sent for his goldsmith, and bade him prepare
immediately a silver chain, four yards long, with golden shackles at
each end, for Azrael and Mariska. The goldsmith took the measure of the
hands of the two damsels, and brought in the evening a chain made of
beaten silver, whose shackles were fastened by masterly-constructed
padlocks, which Hassan himself fastened on the hands of the damsels,
thrusting the key which opened the padlocks into his girdle, which he
tapped a hundred times a day to discover whether it was still there or
not. Then he dismissed the pair of them into Azrael's dormitory. Mariska
endured everything--the chain, the shame, and rough words--for the
privilege of being able to embrace her child. She lay down content on
the carpets as far from Azrael as the chain would permit it, and folding
her hands above the baby's innocent head, prayed with burning devotion
to the God of mercy, and calmly went to sleep holding the child in her
arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

A little beyond midnight the child began softly wailing. At the first
sound of its crying Mariska awoke, and as she moved her hand the chain
rattled. Azrael was instantly alert.

"Hast thou had evil dreams?" inquired the odalisk of Mariska; "the
rattling of the chain aroused me."

"The weeping of my child awoke me," said Mariska softly; and drawing the
little one to her bosom, as it embraced its mother's beautiful velvet
breast with its chubby little finger, and drank from the sweetest of all
sources the draught of life, the young mother gazed upon it with
unspeakable joy, smiled, laughed, caught the child's rosy little fingers
in her mouth, and implanted resounding kisses on its rosy, chubby
cheeks. She had no thought at that moment for chain and dungeon.

Azrael felt in her heart the torments of the demons--it was that
jealousy which those who are rocked in the lap of happiness feel at the
sight of a luckless wretch who is happier than they are in spite of all
his wretchedness.

"Wherefore dost thou rejoice?" she asked, gazing upon the lady with the
eyes of a serpent.

"Because my child is with me."

"But the whole world has abandoned thee."

"It is more to me than the whole world."

"More than thy husband?"

Mariska reflected for a moment, and then, instead of replying, hugged
the child still closer to her bosom and imprinted a kiss upon its
forehead.

"Wert thou ever a mother?" she asked Azrael in her turn.

"Never," stammered the odalisk, and involuntarily her bosom heaved
beneath a sigh.

It was plain from the face of Mariska how much she pitied this poor
woman. Azrael perceived the look, and it wounded her that she should be
pitied.

"Dost thou not know that both of you must die?" she asked with a
darkened countenance.

"I am ready."

"And art thou not terrified at the thought? They will strangle thy child
with a silken cord, and hang it dead upon thy breast, and then they will
strangle thee likewise, and put you both in the grave, in the cold
earth."

"We shall see each other in a better world," said Mariska with fervent
devotion.

"Where?" inquired the astounded Azrael.

Mariska, with holy confidence, raised her little one in her arms, and,
lifting her eyes, said: "God will take us unto Himself."

"And what need hath God of you?"

"He is the Father of those who suffer, and in the other world He rewards
those who suffer grief here below."

"And who told thee this?"

Mariska, as one inspired, placed her hand upon her heart and said: "It
is written here!"

Azrael regarded the woman abashed. Truly, many mysterious words are
written in the heart, why cannot everyone read them? She also had
listened to such mystic voices, but they were words shouted in a desert,
in her savage breast there was no manner of love which could interpret
their meaning.

Mariska again put down her child on the edge of the cushion.

"Place not thy child there," cried Azrael impatiently; "it might easily
fall, place it between us!"

Mariska accepted the offer, and placed the little one between herself
and Azrael.

When the first ray of dawn penetrated the large window Mariska awoke,
and, folding her hands together above the head of the little child,
again began to pray.

Azrael looked on darkly.

"Dost thou never pray?" said Mariska, turning towards her.

"Why should women pray? Their destiny is not in their own hands. Their
fate depends upon their masters; if their masters are happy, they are
happy also; if their masters perish, they perish with them. This is
their earthly lot--and that is all. Allah never gave them a soul--what
have they to do with the life beyond this? In Paradise the Houris take
their places and the Houris remain young for ever. The breath of a woman
vanishes with the autumn mist like the fumes of a dead animal, and Allah
has no thought for them."

Mariska, with only half intelligible sorrow, looked at this woman who
wished to seem worse than she really was.

Azrael crept closer up to her.

"And dost thou really believe that there is someone who listens to what
the worms say, to what the birds twitter, and to what women pray?"

"Certainly," replied the young Christian woman; "turn to Him, and thou
wilt feel for thyself His goodness."

"How can it be so? Why should He pay any attention to me?"

"It is not enough I know to clasp thy hands and close thy eyes. Thy
petition must come straight from thy heart, and thy soul must believe
that it will gain its desire."

Azrael's face flushed red. Hastily she cast herself down on her knees on
the carpet, and pressing her folded hands to her bosom, stammered in a
scarce audible voice:

"God! grant me one moment in my life in which I can say: I am happy."

Her eyes were still closed when the door of the dormitory opened, and
Hayat, the oldest duenna of the harem, entered with an air of great
secrecy. She was now a shrivelled up bundle of old bones, but formerly
she had been the first favourite of Hassan Pasha, and now she was the
slave and secret confidante of all the favourites in turn.

Azrael leaned towards her, perceiving from the face of the duenna that
she brought some message for her; whereupon the latter advanced and,
looking around in case anyone should be lurking there, whispered some
words in Azrael's ear.

On hearing these words the odalisk leaped from her seat with a face
flushed with joy, while unspeakably tender tears trembled in her eyes.
Her hands were involuntarily pressed against her heaving bosom, and her
lips seemed to murmur some voiceless prayer.

Some great unusual joy had come upon her, some joy which she had always
longed but never dared to hope for. Scarce able to restrain herself she
turned towards her comrade, who, after listening to her, gazed
wonderingly at her and pressed her hand, exclaiming in a voice of strong
conviction: "Then it is true, our prayer has indeed been heard!"

Azrael began merrily putting on her garments, and helped Mariska also to
dress; then she sent the duenna with a message to Hassan. She must go
again to the mosque of the old dervish to pray, for she had been
dreaming of Hassan.

Soon afterwards Hassan himself came to her, took from her arm the golden
shackle which fastened the chain that bound her to Mariska, and,
ordering her palanquin to be brought up to the door, sent her away to
the old dervish; while, seizing the end of the Princess's chain, he led
her, together with her child, into his own apartments and there sat down
on his cushions, drawing his rosary from his girdle and mumbling the
first prayers of the naáma, constantly holding in his hand the end of
the Princess's chain.

The Vizier had of late been much given to prayer, for since the lost
battle not a soul had come to visit him. The envoys of the Sultan, the
country petitioners, the foreign ministers, the begging brotherhoods,
all of them had avoided his threshold as if he were dead.

The first day he was painfully affected by this manifestation, but on
the second day he commanded the door-keepers to admit none to his
presence. Thus, at any rate, he could make himself believe that if
nobody came to visit him it was by his express command.

He knew right well that a sentence of death had been written down and
that this sentence was meant for one of two persons, either the Princess
or himself, where their two shadows mingled a double darkness was cast,
and Israfil, the Angel of Death, stood over them with a drawn sword.

Hassan knew this right well, and he pressed in his hand convulsively the
silver chain to which his prisoner was attached, that prisoner whom he
regarded as the ransom for his own life.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE EXTRAVAGANCES OF LOVE


After that melancholy scene, when the ladies of Transylvania vainly drew
tears and blushes from the faces of their husbands, a ray of hope still
remained in one heart alone. It was pretty Aranka Béldi, who, when
everyone else's eyes were full of tears, could whisper words of
encouragement to her unhappy friend, and who, when everyone else
abandoned her, embraced her last of all, and said to her with firm
conviction: "Fear not, we will save you!"

The youths of Transylvania also said: "Fear not, we will save you!" but
Fate flung the dice blindly, the marked men in ambush captured only the
escort, not the captive, and had all their fine trouble for nothing.

Aranka Béldi, however, begged her father to let her go to Gernyeszeg to
visit her friend Flora Teleki, and there the two noble young damsels
agreed together to write two letters to acquaintances in Hungary. One of
them wrote to Tököly, the other to Feriz Beg, and when the letters were
ready, they read to each other what they had written. Flora's letter to
Tököly was as follows:

      "SIR,

      "The fact that _I_ write these lines to you shows the
      desperate position I am in, when I have to hide my
      blushes and apply to him whom of all men I ought to
      avoid. But it is a question of life and death. Do you
      recollect the moment when, in the castle of Rumnik,
      you saw three maids embrace each other, of whom I was
      one? We then swore friendship and good fellowship to
      each other. One of the three at the present moment
      stands at the brink of death; I mean Mariska Sturdza,
      whose misfortunes cannot be unknown to you, and this
      is not the first mode of deliverance which we have
      attempted--but the last. Your Excellency is a powerful
      and magnanimous man, who has great influence with the
      Sultan, and where one expedient fails, you can employ
      another. I have always pictured your Excellency to
      myself as a valiant and chivalrous cavalier, and from
      what I know of the respect which all honourable
      persons of my acquaintance have for your Excellency, I
      have the utmost confidence that the unfortunate
      Princess of Moldavia will not wait in vain for
      deliverance. Do what you can, and may I add to the
      esteem in which you are held the fervent blessings of
      a heart which sincerely prays for your Excellency's
      welfare.

      "FLORA TELEKI."

Flora's calculations were most just. Tököly, in those days, stood high
in the favour of the Sultan, was on terms of intimacy with all the
pashas and viziers, and very frequently a casual word from him had more
effect than other people's supplications. And Flora showed a fine
knowledge of character when she appealed to the magnanimity of the very
man who had so grievously offended her, feeling certain that just for
that very reason, although Tököly might not recognise the force of his
former obligations, he would be magnanimous enough instantly to grant a
favour to the lady who asked him for it, especially as the woman to be
liberated had been the original cause of their separation.

Aranka kissed her friend over and over again when she had read this
letter, and then she suddenly grew sad.

"Oh, _my_ letter is not nearly so pretty, I am ashamed to show it to
you."

Flora looked at her friend with gentle bashfulness as Aranka handed over
her letter, and blushed like a red rose all the time she was perusing
it.

      "NOBLE-HEARTED FERIZ!

      "When we were both children you maintained that you
      loved me (here she inserted within brackets: 'like a
      sister,' and a good thing for her that she did put
      these three words in brackets). If you still recollect
      what you said, now is the time to prove it. My dearest
      friend, Mariska Sturdza, is at Buda, a prisoner in the
      hands of Hassan Pasha. My only hope of her deliverance
      depends on you. I have heard such splendid things of
      you. If you see her, for whom I now implore you, with
      a sad face and tearful eyes, think how I should look
      if I were there, and if you give her back to me, and I
      can embrace her again, and look into her smiling eyes,
      then I will think of you, too.

      "ARANKA BÉLDI."

The girls entrusted these letters to faithful servants, sending the
first letter to Temesvár, where Tököly was then residing, and the second
to Feriz Beg, who, as we know, lay ill at Buda.

The news first reached Tököly at supper-time. On receiving the letter
and reading it through, he at once put down his glass, girded on his
sword, and telling his comrades that he was about to take a little
stroll, he mounted his horse and vanished from the town.

Feriz was lying half-delirious on his carpet. His health mended but
slowly, as is often the case with men of strong constitutions, and the
tidings of the smallest disaster which befell the Turks threw him into
such a state of excitement that a relapse was incessantly to be feared,
so that at last they would not allow any messages at all to be brought
to him, for even when they brought good news to him he always managed
to look at them from the worst side, so that news of any kind was
absolute poison to him. At last his Greek physician made it a rule to
read every letter addressed to his patient beforehand; and if it
contained the least disturbing element, he let Feriz know nothing at all
about it. What especially annoyed Feriz were any letters from women, and
these were simply sent back.

Thus Aranka's letter might very easily have had the fate of being
suppressed altogether had it not been entrusted to Master Gregory Biró,
a shrewd and famous Szekler courier, whose honourable peculiarity it was
to go wherever he was sent, and do whatsoever he was told, be the
obstacles in the way what they might. If he had been told to give
something to the Sultan of Turkey, he would have wormed his way to him
somehow--all inquiries, all threats would have been in vain; he would
have insisted on seeing and speaking to him if his head had to be cut
off the next moment.

One day, then, worthy Gregory Biró appeared before the kiosk of Feriz
Beg and asked to be admitted.

At these words a Moor popped out, and, seizing him by the collar,
conducted him to a room where a half-dressed man was standing before a
fire cooking black potions in all sorts of queer-shaped crooked glasses.
The Moor presented Gregory to the doctor as another messenger.

"What is your name?" he asked, venomously regarding him from over his
shoulder, and treating him to the most terrifying grimace he could think
of.

"Gregory Biró," replied the Szekler, nodding his head twice as was his
custom.

"Gregory, Gregory, what do you want here?"

"I want to see Feriz Beg."

"I am he; what have you brought?"

Gregory twisted his mug derisively at these words, and immediately
reflected that the business was beginning badly, for the person before
him did not in the least resemble Feriz Beg as described to him.

"I have brought a letter--from a pretty girl."

"Give it to me quickly, and be off."

Gregory twisted round his short jacket that he might get at his
knapsack; but while he was fumbling inside it he was cute enough to
extract the contents of the letter from its cover, and only handed the
empty envelope to the doctor.

"'Tis well, Gregory, now you may go," said he gently, and without so
much as opening the envelope he thrust it into the fire and held the
blazing paper under a retort which he wanted to warm.

"Is that the way they read letters here?" asked Gregory, scratching his
head, and he crept to the door; but there he stopped, and while half his
body remained outside he thrust his arm up to the elbow into the long
pocket of his _szüre_,[17] drew from thence a diamond-clasp, and holding
it between two fingers cried: "Look! I found this ring on the road not
far from here, perchance Feriz Beg has lost it."

     [Footnote 17: Sheepskin mantle.]

The doctor took the splendid jewel, and feeling convinced that only a
nobleman could have lost such a thing, he said he would show it to Feriz
Beg immediately.

"Ho! then you are not Feriz Beg after all!" cried the humorist.

The doctor burst out laughing.

"Gregory! Gregory! don't jest with me. I am the cook, and if I like you
I will let you stay to dinner."

Gregory pulled a wry face at the sight of the doctor's stews.

The doctor thereupon took in the diamond-clasp to Feriz Beg, after
bidding the Moor, whom he left behind him, not to drink anything out of
the glasses standing there, or it would make him ill.

Shortly afterwards the doctor returned in great astonishment, planted
himself in front of Gregory with frowning eyebrows and roared at him in
a voice which alarmed even the Szekler:

"Where did you get that jewel from?"

"Where did I get it from?" said Gregory, shrugging his shoulders; he was
very pleased they wanted to frighten him.

"Come, speak!--quick!"

"Not now."

"Why not?" snapped the doctor firmly.

"Not to you, if you were to break me on the wheel."

"I'll bastinado you."

"Not if you impaled me, I say."

"Gregory! If you anger me, I'll make you drink three pints of physic."

"They are here, eh!" exclaimed Gregory, approaching the hearth, skipping
among the flasks of the doctor, and seizing one of them, but he had the
sense to choose alcohol, and dragging it from its case, sipped away at
it till there was not a drop of it left.

"Leave a little in it, you dog!" yelled the doctor, snatching the flask
away from him, "don't drink it all!"

"I'll drink up the whole shop, but speak I won't unless I like."

The doctor perceived that he had met his match.

"Then will you speak before Feriz Beg?" he asked.

"I'll speak the whole truth then."

So there was nothing for it but to open Feriz Beg's door before Gregory
and shove him inside.

Feriz Beg was sitting there on a couch, a feverish flush was burning
upon his pale face; he still held the jewel in his hand, and his eyes
were fastened upon it; just such a similar clasp he had given to Aranka
Béldi when they were both children together.

"How did you come by this jewel?" inquired Feriz in a soft, mournful
voice.

"She to whom you gave it gave it to me that you might believe she sent
me to you."

At these words Feriz Beg arose with flashing eyes.

"She sent you to me! She! So she remembers me! She thinks of me
sometimes, then."

"She sent you a letter through me."

Feriz Beg stretched out a tremulous hand.

"Where is the letter?"

"I flung it into the fire," interjected the doctor.

"How dared you do that?" exclaimed Feriz angrily.

But the doctor was not afraid.

"I am your doctor, and every letter injures your health."

"Panajot! you are an impertinent fellow!" thundered Feriz, with a face
of inflamed purple; and he smote the table such a blow with his fist
that all the medicine bottles tumbled off it.

"Don't be angry, sir!" said Gregory, twisting his moustache at both
ends, while Panajot coolly swept together the fragments of the broken
bottles and boxes on the floor; "the worthy man did not burn the letter
but only the envelope. I had gumption enough not to entrust the inside
of it to him."

And with these words he drew from his pouch a letter written on all four
sides of the sheet and handed it to Feriz, who before reading it covered
with kisses the lines traced by that dear hand, while Master Panajot
looked at Gregory in amazement.

"Go along, you old fox, Gregory," said he; "next time you come, I'll
throw _you_ into the fire to boot."

But Gregory, highly delighted, feasted his eyes on the youth's face all
the time he was reading the letter.

As if his soul had changed within him, as if he had passed from the
troubles of this world to the joys of Paradise, every feature of the
youth's face became smiling and joyful. The farther he read the brighter
grew his eyes; and when he came to the last word he pressed the leaf to
his heart with an expression of the keenest rapture, and held it there
a long time, closing his eyes as if in a happy dream, as if he had shut
them to see no other object when he conjured up her image before his
mind.

Master Panajot was alarmed, fancying some mischief had happened to the
invalid, and turned upon Gregory with gnashing teeth:

"What infernal document have you brought along with you, Gregory?"

Feriz meanwhile smilingly nodded his head as if he would thank some
invisible shape, and whispered softly:

"So it shall be, so it shall be."

"I'm afraid you feel bad, my master," said the doctor.

Feriz looked up, and his face had grown quite round.

"I?--I feel very well. Take your drugs from my table, and bring me wine
and costly meats dear to the eyes and mouth. I would rejoice my soul and
my palate. Call hither musicians, and open wide my gate. Pile flowers
upon my windows, I would be drunk with the fragrance of the flowers that
the breeze brings to me."

Panajot fancied that the invalid had gone out of his mind, and yet full
of the joy of life he rose from his couch, laid aside his warm woollen
garment, put on instead a light silk robe, wound round his head a turban
of the finest linen instead of the warm shaggy shawl, and he who had
hitherto been brooding and fretting apathetically, had suddenly become
as light as a bird, paced the room with rapid steps, with proudly
erected face, from which the livid yellow of sickness had suddenly
disappeared, and his eyes sparkled like fire.

Panajot could not account for the change, and really believed that the
patient had fallen into some dangerous paroxysm and in this persuasion
bawled for all the members of the negro family. The old Egyptian
door-keeper, a young Nubian huntsman, a Chinese cook, trampling upon
each other in their haste, all rushed into the room at his cry.

Feriz Beg, with boyish mirth, stopped them all before the doctor could
say a word.

"Thou, Ali," he said to the old door-keeper, "go to the mosque and cast
this silver among the poor that they may give thanks to Allah for my
recovery. And thou, O cook! prepare a dinner for twelve persons, looking
to it that there is wine and flowers and music; and thou, my huntsman,
bring forth the fieriest steed and put upon him the most costly
wrappings; and ye others, take this worthy doctor and lock him up among
his drugs that he may not get away, and call hither all my friends and
acquaintances, and tell them we will celebrate the festival of my
recovery."

The servants with shouts of joy fulfilled the commands of Feriz. First
of all they shoved good Panajot into his drug-brewing kitchen, and then
they dispersed to do their master's bidding.

Feriz then took the hand of the Szekler who had brought the message and
shook it violently, saying to him in a loud firm voice:

"Thou must remain with me till I have accomplished thy mistress's
commands. For she has laid a command upon me which I must needs obey."

Meanwhile, the ostlers had brought forward the good charger. It was a
fiery white Arab, ten times as restless as usual because of its long
rest; not an instant were its feet still. Two men caught it by the head
and were scarce able to hold it, its pink, wide open nostrils blew forth
jets of steam, and through its smooth white mane could be seen the ruddy
hue of the full blood.

The unfortunate Panajot poked his head through the round window of his
laboratory, and from thence regarded with stupefaction his whilom
invalid bestride the back of the wild charger, that same invalid who, if
anyone knocked at his door an hour or two before, complained that his
head was bursting.

The charger pranced and caracolled and the doctor with tears in his eyes
besought the bystanders if they had any sense of feeling at all not to
let the Beg ride on such a winged griffin. They only laughed at him.
Feriz flung himself into the saddle as lightly as a grasshopper. The two
stablemen let go the reins, the steed rose up erect on his hind legs and
bucked along as a biped for several yards. Then the Beg struck the sharp
stirrups into its flank, and the steed, snorting loudly, bowed its head
over its fore-quarters and galloped off like lightning.

The doctor followed him with a lachrymose eye, every moment expecting
that Feriz would fall dead from his horse; but he sat in the saddle as
if grown to it, as he had always been wont to do. When the road
meandered off towards the fortress he turned into it and disappeared
from the astonished gaze of those who were looking after him.

A few moments later the horseman was in the courtyard of the fortress.
He demanded an interview with the general, and was told that he was
receiving nobody. He applied therefore to his favourite eunuch instead.
He arrived at the fortress with a full purse, he quitted it with an
empty one; but he now knew everything he wanted to know, viz., that
Hassan had entrusted the captive Princess to Azrael; that the two girls
were tied by the hands to one chain; that he greatly feared someone
would come and filch the Princess from him; that he got up ten times
every night to see whether anyone had stolen into the palace; and that
since Mariska had been placed in his hands he had drunk no wine and
smoked no opium, and would eat of no dish save from the hands of his
favourite damsel.

Feriz Beg knew quite enough. Again he mounted his horse and galloped
back to his kiosk, taking the neighbouring mosque on his way, on
reaching which he called from his horse to the old dervish, who
immediately appeared in answer to his summons.

"Tell her who was wont to visit me in thy stead that I want to see and
speak to her early to-morrow morning."

And with that he threw some gold ducats to the dervish and galloped off.

The dervish looked after him in astonishment, and picking up the ducats,
instantly toddled off to the fortress, prowled about the gate all night,
met Hajat at early dawn, and gave her the message for Azrael.

This was the joyful tidings which the odalisk had received in response
to her first prayer, and which had made her so happy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning she ordered her servants to admit none but the old dervish,
and to close every door as soon as he had entered.

Shortly afterwards, Azrael with her retinue of servants arrived at the
mosque, and a few moments after she had disappeared behind the trellised
railings the form of the old dervish appeared in the street, hobbling
along with his crutch till he reached the kiosk. Feriz Beg perceived him
through the window, and sent everyone from the room that he might remain
alone with him.

The dervish entered, closed the door behind him, let down the
tapestries, took off his false beard and false raiment, and there before
Feriz--tremulous, blushing, and shamefaced--stood the odalisk.

"Thou hast sent for me," she stammered softly, "and behold--here I am!"

"I would beg something of thee," said Feriz, half leaning on his elbow.

"Demand my life!" cried the odalisk impetuously, "and I will lay it at
thy feet!" and at these words she flung herself at the foot of the divan
on which the youth was sitting.

"I ask thee for nothing less than thy life. Once thou saidst that thou
didst love me. Is that true now also?"

"Is it not possible to love thee, and yet live?"

"Say then that I might love thee if I knew thee better. Good! I wish to
know thee."

The damsel regarded the youth tremblingly, waiting to hear what he would
say to her.

The youth rose and said in a solemn, lofty voice:

"In my eyes not the roses of the cheeks, or the fire of the eyes, or
bodily charms make a woman beautiful, but the beauty of the soul, for I
recognise a soul in woman, and she is no mere plaything for the pastime
of men. What enchants me is noble feeling, self-sacrifice, loyalty,
resignation. Canst thou die for him whom thou lovest?"

"It would be rapture to me."

"Canst thou die for her whom thou hatest in order to prove how thou dost
love?"

"I do not understand," said Azrael hesitating.

"Thou wilt understand immediately. There is a captive woman in Hassan's
castle who is entrusted to thy charge. This captive woman must be
liberated. Wilt _thou_ liberate her?"

At these words Azrael's heart began to throb feverishly. All the blood
vanished from her face. She looked at the youth in despair, and said
with a gasp:

"Dost _thou_ love this woman?"

"Suppose that I love her and thou dost free her all the same."

The woman collapsed at the feet of Feriz Beg, and embracing his knees,
said, sobbing loudly:

"Oh, say that thou dost not love her, say that thou dost not know her,
and I will release her--I will release her for thee at the risk of my
own life."

The reply of Feriz was unmercifully cold.

"Believe that I love her, and in that belief sacrifice thyself for her.
This night I will wait for her wherever thou desirest, and will take her
away if thou wilt fetch her. It was thy desire to know me, and I would
know thee also. Thou art free to come or go as thou choosest."

The odalisk hid her tearful face in the carpets on the floor, and
writhed convulsively to the feet of Feriz, moaning piteously.

"Oh, Feriz, thou art merciless to me."

"Thou wouldst not be the first who had sacrificed her life for love."

"But none so painfully as I."

"And art thou not proud to do so, then?"

At these words the woman raised a pale face, her large eyes had a
moonlight gleam like the eyes of a sleep-walker. She seized the hand of
Feriz in order to help herself to rise.

"Yes, I am proud to die for thee. I will show that here--within
me--there is a heart which can feel nobly--which can break for that
which it loves, for that which kills it--that pride shall be mine. I
will do it."

And then, as if she wished to clear away the gathering clouds from her
thoughts, she passed her hand across her forehead and continued in a
lower, softer voice:

"This night, when the muezzin calls the hour of midnight, be in front of
the fortress-garden on thy fleetest horse. Thou wilt not have to wait
long; there is a tiny door there which conceals a hidden staircase which
leads from the fortress to the trenches. I will come thither and bring
her with me."

Feriz involuntarily pressed the hand of the girl kneeling before him,
and felt a burning pressure in his hand, and when he looked at the young
face before him he saw the smile of a sublime rapture break forth upon
her radiantly joyful features.

Azrael parted from Feriz an altogether transformed being, another heart
was throbbing in her breast, another blood was flowing to her heart,
earth and heaven had a different colour to her eyes. She believed that
the youth would love her if she died for him, and that thought made her
happy.

But Feriz summoned Gregory Biró, and having recompensed him, sent him
back to his mistress with the message:

"Thy wish hath been accomplished."

So sure was he that Azrael would keep her word--if only she were alive
to do so.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hassan Pasha waited and waited for Azrael. If the odalisk was not with
him he felt as helpless as a child who has strayed away from its nurse.
In the days immediately following the lost battle, the shame attaching
to him and his agonized fear for his life had quite confused his mind;
and the drugs employed at that time, combined with restless nights, the
prayers of the dervishes, the joys of the harem and opium, had completed
the ruin of his nervous system. If he were left alone for an hour he
immediately fainted, and when he awoke it was in panic terror--he gazed
around him like one in the grip of a hideous nightmare. For some days he
would leave off his opium, but as is generally the case when one too
suddenly abandons one's favourite drug, the whole organism threatened to
collapse, and the renunciation of the opium did even more mischief than
its enjoyment.

When Azrael rejoined him he was asleep, the chain by which he held the
Princess had fallen from his hand and when he awoke there was a good
opportunity of persuading him that Mariska had escaped from him while he
slept.

Hassan looked long and blankly at her, it seemed as if he would need
some time wherein to rally his scattered senses sufficiently to
recognise anyone. But Azrael was able to exercise a strange magnetic
influence over him, and he would awake from the deepest sleep whenever
she approached him.

Azrael sat down beside the couch and embraced the Vizier, while Mariska,
with tender bashfulness, turned her head away from them; and Hassan,
observing it, drew Azrael's head to his lips and whispered in her ear:

"I have had evil dreams again. Hamaliel, the angel of dreams, appeared
before me, and gave me to understand that if I did not kill this woman,
he would kill me. My life is poisoned because she is here. My mind is
not in proper order. I often forget who I am. I fancy I am living at
Stambul, and looking out of the window am amazed that I do not see the
Bosphorus. This woman must die. This will cure me. I will kill her this
very day."

Mariska did not hear these words, all her attention was fixed upon the
babbling of her child; and Azrael, with an enchanting smile, flung
herself on the breast of the Vizier, embracing his waggling head and
covering his face with kisses, and the smile of her large dark eyes
illuminated his gloomy soul.

Poor Hassan! He fancies that that enchanting smile, that embrace, those
kisses are meant for him, but the shape of a handsome youth hovers
before the mind of the odalisk, and that is why she kisses Hassan so
tenderly, embraces him so ardently, and smiles so enchantingly. She
fancies 'tis her ideal whom she sees and embraces.

Ah, the extravagances of love!



CHAPTER XVIII.

SPORT WITH A BLIND MAN.


Azrael had felt afraid when Hassan said: "I must kill this woman
to-day." A fearful spectre was haunting the mind of the Vizier; he must
be freed from this spectre, and made to forget it.

So Azrael devised an odd sport for the man on the verge of imbecility.

The seven days had passed during which Hassan had forbidden that anyone
should be admitted to his presence, and it occurred to Azrael that in
the ante-chamber crowds of brilliant envoys, and couriers, and
supplicants were waiting, all eagerly desirous of an audience, many of
them with rich gifts; others came to render homage, others with joyful
tidings from the seat of war; whilst one of them had come all the way
from the Grand Vizier with a very important message from the Sultan
himself.

Hassan's stupid mind brightened somewhat at these words, a fatuously
good-natured smile lit up his face.

"Let them come in, let them appear before me," he said joyfully to the
girl; "and remain thou beside me and introduce them to me one by one;
thine shall be the glory of it."

But in reality none was awaiting an audience in the ante-room, there
were no splendid envoys there, no humble petitioners, no agas, no
messengers, none but the Vizier's own slaves.

But these Azrael dressed up one by one to look like splendid magnates,
village magistrates, and soldiers; put sealed letters, purses, and
banners in their hands, and placing Hassan in the reception-room on a
lofty divan, sat down with the Princess on stools at his feet, and
ordered the door-keepers to admit the disguised slaves one by one.

The mockery was flagrant, but was there among them all any who dared to
enlighten Hassan? Who would undertake to undeceive him when a mere nod
from Azrael might annihilate before the Vizier could realise that they
were making sport of him? It was a fleet-winged demon fooling a sluggish
mammoth with strength enough to crush her but with no wings to enable it
to get at her, and the rabble always takes the part of the mocker, not
of the mocked, especially if the former be lucky and the latter unlucky.

The loutish slaves came one by one into the room, and Hassan turned his
face towards them, remaining in that position while Azrael told him who
they were and what they wanted.

"This is Ferhad Aga," said the odalisk, pointing at a stable-man, "who,
hearing of thy martial prowess in all four corners of the world has come
hither begging thee with veiled countenance to include him among thy
armour-bearers."

Hassan most graciously extended his hand to the stable-man and granted
him his petition.

Azrael next presented to Hassan a cook from a foreign court, who,
dressed in a large round mantle of cloth of silver, might very well have
passed for a burgomaster of Debreczen, and whose shoulders bent beneath
the weight of two sacks of gold and silver from Hassan's own treasury.

"This is the magistrate of the city of Debreczen," said the odalisk,
"who hath brought thee a little gift in the name of the municipality,
with the petition that when thou dost become the Pasha of Transylvania
thou wilt not forget them."

Hassan smiled at the word money, had the sacks placed before him, thrust
his arms into them up to his very wrists with great satisfaction, had
their contents emptied at his feet, and dismissed the envoy with a
hearty pressure of the hand.

And now followed a negro, who brought some recaptured Turkish banners
from the bed of a river which did not exist, in which the Turks had
drowned the whole army of Montecuculi.

Hassan was now in such a weak state of mind that he no longer recognised
his own people in their unwonted garments, and the more extraordinary
the things reported to him the more readily he believed them.

And so Azrael kept on exhibiting to him envoys, couriers, and captains
till, at last, it came to the turn of the envoy of the Grand Vizier,
whose part the odalisk had entrusted to a clever eunuch who had been
instructed to present to Hassan a sealed firman, which Azrael was to
read because Hassan could not see the letters. It was to the effect that
Hassan was to endeavour to preserve the life of the captive Princess, as
the Grand Vizier himself intended in a few days to take her over alive.

When thus it seemed good to Azrael that the most striking scene of the
whole game should begin she exclaimed in a loud voice to the
door-keepers:

"Admit the ambassador of the Grand Vizier with the message from the
Sublime Padishah!"

The guards drew back the curtains and in came--Olaj Beg!

"Truly I must needs admit," said he turning towards the odalisk, who
stood there petrified with fear and amazement, "truly I must admit that
thou art blessed with the faculty of seeing through walls and reading
fast-closed letters, for thou hast announced me before I appeared
officially and thou hast seen the firman hidden in my bosom before I
have had time to produce it."

Azrael arose. She felt her blood throbbing in her brain for terror. At
that moment she had that keen sensation of danger when every atom of the
body--heart, brain, hands, and the smallest nerve--sees, hears, and
thinks.

"Thou hast brought the firman of the Sultan?" she inquired of Olaj Beg
with wrapt attention.

"Thou knowest also what is written in it, O enchantress!" said Olaj, in
a tone of homage, "therefore ask not."

There was something in the yellow face of Olaj Beg which made him most
formidable, most menacing at the very time when he seemed to be utterly
abject in his humility.

"What doth the Sublime Sultan command?" inquired Hassan, gazing
abstractedly in front of him.

"That thou prepare a scaffold in the courtyard of thy palace by
to-morrow morning."

"For whom?" inquired Hassan in alarm. It was curious that it was he who
trembled at this word, and not the Princess.

"That is the secret of to-morrow. Thou shalt break open and read this
firman to-morrow, in it thou wilt find who is to die to-morrow."

At these words Olaj Beg looked at the faces of all who were present, as
if he would read their innermost thoughts, but in vain. He recognised
none of those on whom his eyes fell. Although many of them seemed to be
great men he could not remember meeting any of them in the Empire of the
Grand Turk; and the face of Azrael was as cold and motionless as marble,
he could read nought from that.

But Azrael had already read the sealed firman through the eyes of Olaj
Beg.

She had read it, and it said that if by to-morrow morning the Princess
was not set free then the scaffold would be erected for her, but if she
had escaped, then it would be raised for Hassan and for whomsoever had
set her free.

"I must hasten to set her free," she thought.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE NIGHT BEFORE DEATH.


The Angel of Death had already spread his wings over the palace of
Hassan. It was already known that on the morning of the morrow someone
of those who now dwelt beneath that roof would quit the world--only the
name of the condemned mortal was not pronounced.

Till late at evening the carpenters were at work in front of the palace
gates, and every nail knocked into the fabric of the scaffold was
audible in the rooms. When the structure was ready they covered it with
red cloth, and placed upon it a three-legged chair and by the side of
the chair leaned a bright round headsman's sword. A gigantic Kurd then
mounted the scaffolding, and stamped about the floor with his big feet
to see whether it would break down beneath him. The chair was badly
placed, he observed it, put it right and shook his head while he did so.
To think that people did not understand how to set a chair! Then he
stripped his muscular arms to the shoulder, took up the sword in his
broad palm and tested the edge of it, running his fingers along the
blade as if it were some musical instrument and could not conceal his
satisfaction. Then he made some sweeping blows with it, and as if
everything was now in perfect order, he leaned it against the chair
again and descended the ladder like a man well content with himself.

The hands of Hassan Pasha trembled unusually when that evening he locked
the golden padlocks on the hands of Azrael and Mariska. A hundred times
he tapped the key hidden in his girdle to convince himself that it had
not fallen out.

Scarcely had he left the two women alone than he came back to them again
to ascertain whether he had really locked their hands together, for he
had forgotten all about it by the time he had reached the door.

Then he came back a second time, looked all round the room, tapped the
walls repeatedly, for he was afraid or had dreamt that there was another
door somewhere which led out of the room. However, he convinced himself
at last that there was not. Then he went to the window and looked out.
There was a fall of fifteen feet to the bastions, and the ditch below
was planted with sharp stakes; all round the room there was nothing
whatever which could serve as a rope. The curtains were all of down and
feathers; the dresses were of the lightest transparent material; the
shawls which formed Azrael's turban and were twisted round her body were
the finest conceivable; and the garments the odalisk actually wore were
of silk, and so light that they stuck to the skin everywhere.

Azrael saw through the mind of the Vizier.

"Why dost though look at me?" she exclaimed aloud so that he trembled
all over; "thou dost suspect me. If thou fearest this woman whom thou
hast confided to me, take and guard her thyself."

"Azrael," said Hassan meekly, "be not angry with me, at least not now."

"Thou hast never suspected me, then?"

"Have I not always loved thee? If even thou didst want my life would I
not trust it with thee?"

"Then wander not about the room so. Go and rest!"

"Rest to-night? The Messenger of Death stands before the door."

"What care I about the Messenger of Death? I know _when_ I am going to
die! And _till_ then I will not lower my eyes before Death."

"And when will Hassan die?" asked the Vizier, seizing the hand of his
favourite and watching eagerly for her answer with parted lips.

"Thou wilt survive me a day and no longer," said Azrael. There was a
tremulousness in the intonation of her voice. She felt that what she
said was true.

The tears trickled from Hassan's face, and he covered it with his hands.

Then the imbecile old man kissed the robe of the odalisk again and
again, and folding her in his ardent embrace, actually sobbed over her.
And he kept on babbling:

"Thou wilt die before me?"

"So it is written in the book of the Future," said Azrael proudly; "so
long as thou seest me alive, have no fear of Death! But the sound of the
horn of the Angel of Death which summons me away will also be a signal
for thee to make ready."

Hassan, having dried his tears, quitted Azrael's room, and on reaching
his own, sank down upon a divan, and was immediately overcome by sleep.

When he had gone, Mariska knelt down before the bed on which her little
child was softly sleeping, and drawing a little ivory cross from her
breast, began to pray.

Azrael touched her hand.

"Pray not now, thou wilt have time to pray later."

Mariska looked at her in wonder.

"I? Are not the hours of my life numbered?"

"No. Listen to my words and act accordingly. I will free thee."

The Princess was astonished, she fancied she was dreaming.

The odalisk now drew a small fine steel file from her girdle, and,
seizing the Princess's hand, began to file the chain from off it.

After the first few rubs the sharp file bit deeply into the silver
circlet, but suddenly it stopped, and, press it as hard as she would, it
would bite the chain no more.

"What is this? it won't go on. What is the chain made of? Even if it
were of steel, another steel would file it."

Azrael hastily filed right round the whole of the link which Hassan's
smith had thought good to form of silver only on the outside, thinking
that the fraud would never be discovered, and behold, the hard
impervious substance which resisted the file was nothing but--glass.

"Ah!" said Azrael, "all the better for us, the work will be quicker;"
and seizing an iron candlestick, she broke in pieces with a single blow
the whole of the glass chain which was only covered by a light varnish
of silver, only the two locked golden manacles remained in their hands.

"We shall be ready all the sooner," she whispered to Mariska, "now we
must make haste and get you off."

But Mariska still stood before her like one who knows not what is
befalling her.

"Hast thou thought how we are to escape?" she inquired of Azrael. "The
guards of Hassan Pasha stand at every door, and all the doors have been
locked by his own hand. In front of the gates of the fortress the
sentinels have been doubled. I heard what commands he gave."

"I have nought to do with doors or guards; we are going to escape
through the window."

Mariska looked at Azrael incredulously; she fancied she had gone mad.
She could see nothing in the room by which they could descend from the
window, and below stood the thickly planted sharp stakes.

"Help me to let down this gobæa ladder!" said Azrael, and quick as a
squirrel herself, she leaped on the edge of the great porcelain tub, and
thrust aside the vigorous shoots of the plant from its natural ladder
within, which grew right up to the roof and thence descended again to
its own roots.

Mariska began to see that her companion knew what she was about. She
hastened to give her assistance, lowered the pliable trunk, and,
looking round to see if anyone was watching, bent the branches towards
the window.

But still it was too short. The longest creepers only reached to the
edges of the palisade, and one could not count upon the green sprouts at
the end of the creepers. Even if the ladder which formed the flower were
attached to it, it would still not reach to the bottom of the trench.

Azrael looked around the room to see if she could find anything.
Suddenly she had hit upon it.

"Give me those scissors," she said to Mariska, and when the latter had
returned to her, the odalisk had already let down her flowing tresses.
Four long locks as black as night, reaching below her knee, the crown of
a woman's beauty which make men rejoice in her, were twining there on
the floor.

"Give me the scissors!" she said to Mariska.

"Wouldst thou cut off thy hair?" asked the Princess, holding back.

"Yes, yes, what does it matter? It is wanted for the rope, and it will
be quite strong enough."

"Rather cut off mine!" said Mariska. With noble emulation she took from
her head her small pearl haube, and loosened her own tresses, which, if
not so long and so full of colour, at least rivalled those of her
comrade in quantity.

"Good; the two together will make the rope stronger," said Azrael; and
with that the two ladies began clipping off their luxurious locks one by
one with the little scissors. One marvellously beautiful tress after
another flowed from the head of the odalisk. When the last had fallen, a
tear-drop also followed it.

Then she picked up the splendid tresses and began plaiting them together
into strong knots.

"Wouldst thou ever have thought," said Azrael, "that the locks of thy
hair would be so intermingled?"

Mariska gratefully pressed the hand of the odalisk.

"How can I ever thank you for your goodness?"

"Think not of it. Fate orders it so--and someone else," she muttered
softly.

And now the attached ladder was long enough to reach the bottom of the
palisades. Then they pitched down all the pillows and cushions of the
divans till they covered the sharp stakes, so that their points might
not hurt the fugitives. Moreover, Azrael tied the tough shoots of the
gobæa to the cross piece of the window with the wraps of her turban and
girdle.

"And now let me go first," said the odalisk, when all was ready; "if the
branches of the creeper do not break beneath me, then thou canst come
boldly after me, for thou and the child together are not heavier than I
am."

The sky was dark and obscured by clouds; no one saw a white shape
descending from one of the black windows of the fortress down the wall,
lower and lower, till at last it got to the bottom and vanished in the
depths of the ditch.

Mariska was waiting above there with a beating heart till the odalisk
had descended; a tug at the gobæa-rope informed her that Azrael was
already below, and Mariska could come after her.

A supplicating sigh to God ascended from the anxious bosom of the
Princess at that supreme moment of trial; then she fastened to her
breast with the folds of her garment the little one, who, fortunately,
was still sound asleep, and stepping from the window entrusted herself
to the yawning abyss below.

And, indeed, she had need of the most confident trust in God during this
hazardous experiment, for if the child had awoke, the Komparajis pacing
the bastions would have heard his tearful little wail at once, and it
would have been all over with the fugitives.

Nothing happened. Mariska reached the ditch in safety, together with her
child. Azrael assisted her to descend, and then they began to creep
along among the trenches on the river's bank. It was not advisable to
clamber upon the trenches, as there they might have encountered a
sentinel at any moment.

At last they came to the end of the ditch where two bastions joined
together, forming a little oblique opening, through which one could look
down on the town of Pesth.

Before the little opening stood a Komparaji leaning on his long lance.
As his back was turned towards them, he did not notice the women, while
they started back in terror when they saw him. The man stood right in
front of the opening completely barring their way, and was gaping at
Pesth, facing the steep declivity.

Azrael quickly caught Mariska's hand and whispered in her ear:

"Remain here! Sit down with the child, and see that he does not make a
noise."

And with that, quitting her companion and pressing against the wall of
the bastion, she slowly and noiselessly began creeping along behind the
back of the Komparaji.

The sentinel remained standing there, as motionless as a statue, gazing
at the Danube flying in front of him, when suddenly, like the panther
leaping upon its prey, the odalisk leaped upon the Komparaji, and before
he had time to call out, pushed him so violently that he plunged over
into the abyss.

Then quickly seizing Mariska's hand, the odalisk exclaimed:

"And now forward quickly!"

Like two spirits the forms of the women flitted across the bastions. In
Azrael's hand was the key of the castle garden; in a few moments they
reached the subterranean staircase, and when Azrael had locked the door
behind her she turned to Mariska and said:

"Now thou canst pray, for thou art saved."

       *       *       *       *       *

The report had already spread through the two towns that early at dawn
someone would be executed, and here and there people whispered that it
would be the Princess of Moldavia.

The population living outside the town were able to give full reins to
their imagination, for the gates of the fortress, by Hassan Pasha's
command, were already locked fast at six o'clock in the evening, and
after that time nobody was allowed to enter out or in except the
sentinels outside, and these only by the Szombat gate.

The later grew the hour the more numerous became the crowd assembled in
front of the gates thus unwontedly bolted and barred, consisting for the
most part of people who lived inside the town of every rank, who thus
waited patiently for the chance of reaching their houses again. Knocking
at the gates was useless, the guards had been ordered to take no notice
of such demonstrations.

The darker grew the night, the more numerous became the throng before
the gate, and the more closely they pressed together the plainer it
became to them all that they would have to sleep outside.

The largest concourse was in front of the Fejérvár gate, for that was
the chief entrance.

It was already close upon midnight, when some dozen horsemen, in the
uniforms of Spahis, arrived at the gate, forcing their way through the
throng, led, apparently, by a handsome youth (it was too dark to
distinguish very clearly), who thundered at the gate with the butt-end
of his lance.

"You may bang away at it till morning," said a cobbler of Buda, who was
lying prone, chawing bacon at his ease, "they won't let you in."

"Then why are you all here?" cried the youth in the purest Hungarian.

"Because they locked us out at six o'clock in the evening, and would not
let us in."

"Why was that?"

"They say that at dawn of day someone in the fortress is to be
executed."

"Who is it?" said the youth, visibly affected.

"Why, the Princess of Moldavia, of course."

"Oh, that cannot be in any case," exclaimed the leader of the Spahis. "I
have just come from the Sultan, and I have brought with me his firman,
in which he summons her to Stambul; not a hair of her head is to be
crumpled."

"Then it will be just as well, sir, if you try to get into the fortress,
for it may be you have come with the sermon after the festival is over,
and that letter may remain in your pocket if once they cut off her
head."

The youth seemed for a moment to be reflecting, then, turning to those
who stood around, he said:

"Through which gate do they admit the soldiers on guard?"

"Through the Szombat gate."

The youth immediately turned his horse's head, and beckoned to his
comrades to follow him.

But at the first words he had uttered, a figure enwrapped in a mantle
had emerged from a corner of the gate, and when he began to talk about
the Princess and the firman, this figure, with great adroitness, had
crept quite close to him, and when he turned round had swiftly followed
him till, having made its way through the throng, it overtook him, and,
placing its hand on the horseman's knee, said in a low voice: "Tököly!"

"Hush!" hissed the horseman, with an involuntary start, and bending his
head so that he might look into the face of his interlocutor, whereupon
his wonder was mingled with terror, and throwing himself back in his
saddle, he exclaimed: "Prince! can it be you?"

For Prince Ghyka stood before him.

"Could I be anywhere else when they want to kill my wife?" he said
mournfully.

"Do not be cast down, there will be plenty of time till to-morrow
morning. I have plenty of confidence in my good star. When I really wish
for a thing I generally get it even if the Devil stand in the opposite
camp against me, and never have I wished for anything so much as to save
Mariska."

The Prince, with tears in his eyes, pressed the hand of the youth, and
did not take it at all amiss of him that he called his wife Mariska.

"Well, of course, you have brought the firman with you, and if you come
with the suite of the Sultan----"

"Firman, my friend? I have not brought a bit of a firman with me, and
those who are with me are my good kinsfolk in Turkish costumes, worthy
Magyar chums everyone of them, who have agreed to help me through with
whatsoever I take it into my head to set about; but I have got something
about me which can make firmans and athnamés, and whatever else I may
require, whether it be the key of a dungeon, or a marshal's bâton, or a
prince's sceptre--a golden knapsack, I mean."

"And what are you going to get with that?"

"Everything. I will corrupt the sentinels so that they will let me into
the fortress; and once let me get in, and I'll either make Hassan Pasha
sell Olaj Beg, or Olaj Beg sell Hassan Pasha. If a good word be of no
avail I will use threats, and if my whole scheme falls through, Heaven
only knows what I won't do. I'll chop Hassan Pasha and his guards into a
dozen pieces, or I'll set the castle on fire, or I'll blow up the powder
magazine--in a word, I won't desist till I have brought out your
consort."

"How can I thank you for your noble enthusiasm?"

"You mustn't thank me, my friend; you must thank Flora Teleki, who is
your wife's friend, and expects this of me."

"Then you are re-engaged?"

"No, my friend. Helen is my bride. Ah, that is the only real woman in
the whole round world. I should be with her now if I were not engaged in
this business, and as soon as I have finished with it, the pair of us
will give you a wedding the like of which has never yet been seen in
Hungary."

The Prince sadly bowed his head. He means well, he thought, but there is
a very poor chance of his succeeding. The mercurial youth seems to have
no idea that within an hour he will be jeopardizing his head by engaging
in a foolhardy enterprise which runs counter to the whole policy of the
Turkish Empire. But Tököly's mind never impeded his heart. His motto
always was: "_Virtus nescia freni_."

"Then what do you intend to do?" Tököly casually asked Ghyka, just as if
he considered it the most extraordinary thing in the world to find him
there.

"I also want to save Mariska, and I have hopes of doing so," said the
Prince.

"How? Tell me! Perchance we may be able to unite our efforts."

"Scarcely, I think. My plan is simply to give myself up instead of my
wife. They would execute her for my fault; it is only right that I
should appear on the scaffold and take her place."

"A bad idea!" exclaimed Tököly, "a stupid notion. If you deliver
yourself up, they will seize you as well as your wife and do for the
pair of you. I know a dodge worth two of that. Take horse along with us,
and let us make our way into the fortress sword in hand; we shall do
much more that way than if we went hobbling in on crutches. Luck belongs
to the audacious."

"You know, Tököly, that I do not much rely on Turkish humanity; and I am
quite prepared, if I deliver myself up, for them to kill both me and
her; but at least we shall die together, and that will be some
consolation."

"It is no good talking like that," cried the young Magyar impatiently.
"Stop! A good idea occurs to me. Yes, and it will be better if you come
with us and we all act in common. We will say openly at the gate that we
bring with us the fugitive Prince of Moldavia as a captive. At the mere
rumour of such a thing they will instantly admit us, not only into the
fortress, but into the presence of Hassan likewise. The Pasha knows me
pretty well, and if I tell him that I bring you a captive, he will
believe me, or I'll break his head for him. He will be delighted to see
you. But I will not give you up. I am responsible for you, and must
mount guard over you. This will make it necessary to postpone the
execution, for we shall have to write to Stambul that the husband has
fallen into our hands, and inquire whether the wife is to be sacrificed,
and we shall have time to elope ten times over before we get a reply."

The Prince hesitated. If this desperate expedient had been a mere joke,
Tököly could not have spoken of it with greater nonchalance. The Prince
gave him his hand upon it.

"The only question now is: which is the easiest way into the fortress.
Let us draw near the first sentinel whom we find on the bridge or in the
garden and wait until they change guard."

The horsemen thereupon surrounded the Prince as if he was their captive,
and escorted him along the river's bank.

It was late. On the black surface of the Danube rocked the shapeless
Turkish vessels, their sails creaking in the blast of the strong south
wind.

It was scarce possible to see ahead at all, nevertheless the little band
of adventurers, constantly pushing forward, kept looking around to see
where the sentinels were, keeping very quiet themselves that they might
catch the watchword.

Suddenly a cry was heard, but a cry which ended abruptly, as if the
mouth from which it proceeded had been clapped to in mid-utterance.

On reaching the walls of the palace garden, however, one of them
perceived that an armed figure was standing in the little wicket gate.

"There's the sentinel!" said Tököly.

"The rascal must certainly be asleep to let us come right up to him
without challenging us," said Tököly; and he approached the armed man,
who still stood motionless in the gate, and addressed him in the Turkish
tongue:

"Hie, Timariot, or whoever you are! Are you guarding this gate?"

"You see that I am."

"Then why don't you challenge those who approach you?"

"That's none of my business."

"Then what is your business?"

"To stand here till I am relieved."

"And when will they relieve you?"

"Any time."

"Does the relief watch come by this gate?"

"Not by this gate."

"And by which gate can one get into the fortress?"

"By no gate."

"You give very short answers, my friend, but we must get at Hassan Pasha
this very night without fail."

"You must learn to fly then."

"Don't joke with me, sir! I have very important tidings for the Vizier;
you may possibly find it easier to get into the fortress than we could.
You shall receive from me a hundred ducats on the spot if you inform the
Pasha that I, Emeric Tököly, bring with me as a captive the fugitive
Prince of Moldavia, and the Vizier himself will certainly reward you for
it richly."

The Count had no sooner mentioned his name, and pointed at the captive
prince, than the Turkish sentinel quickly came forth from beneath the
archway, and Tököly and Ghyka, in astonishment, exclaimed with one
voice:

"Feriz Beg!"

"Yes, 'tis I. Keep still. You want to save Mariska, so do I."

"So it is," said Tököly. "I promised the woman I do not love that I
would do it, and I will keep my promise. You need have no secrets from
us, for we shall require your assistance."

"Your secrets are nought to me."

The Prince listened with downcast head to the conversation of the two
young men; then he intervened, took their hands, and said with deep
emotion:

"Feriz! Tököly! Once upon a time we faced each other as antagonists, and
now as self-sacrificing friends we hold each other's hands. I don't want
to be smaller than you. A scaffold has been put up in the courtyard of
the fortress of Buda, that scaffold awaits a victim, whoever it may be,
for the sword which the Sultan draws in his wrath will not remain
unsatisfied. That scaffold was prepared for my wife, you must let me
take her place. I am well aware that whoever liberates her must be
prepared to perish instead of her. Let me perish. You, Feriz, can easily
get into the fortress. Tell Hassan that the scaffold shall have the
husband instead of the wife--let him surrender the wife for the
husband."

"Leave the scaffold alone, Prince. He who deserves it most shall get to
the scaffold."

"Don't listen to the Prince!" said Tököly to Feriz; "he has lost his
head evidently, as he wants to make a present of it to Hassan. All I ask
of you is to let me into the fortress; once let me get inside, and no
harm shall be done. I was born with a caul, so good-luck goes with me."

"Good. Wait here till the muezzin proclaims midnight, which will not be
long, I fancy, as the night is already well advanced; meanwhile, keep
your eye on those horsemen below there."

The men fancied Feriz wanted to join the sentinels when the watch was
relieved, and taking him at his word, hid themselves and their horses
behind the lofty bank.

The night was now darker than ever, only here and there a lofty star
looked down upon them from among the wind-swept clouds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hassan had a restless night. Horrible dreams awoke him every instant,
and yet he never wholly awoke, one phantom constantly supplanted the
other in his agitated brain.

The raging blast broke open one of the windows and beat furiously
against the wall, so that the coloured glasses crashed down upon the
floor.

Aroused by the uproar, and gazing but half awake at the window, he saw
the long curtain slowly approaching him as if some Dzhin were inside and
had come thither to terrify him.

"Who is that?" cried Hassan in terror, laying his hand on his sword.

It was no one. It was only the wind which had stiffened out the
curtains, expanding them like a banner and blowing gustily into the
room.

Hassan seized the curtain, pulled it away from the window, fastened it
up by its golden tassels, and laid him down again. The wind returned to
torment him and again worried the curtain till it had succeeded in
unravelling the tassels, and again blew the curtain into the room.

And then the tapestries of the door and the divans began fluttering and
flapping as if someone was tugging away at their ends, and the flame of
the night-lamp on the tripod flickered right and left, casting galloping
shadows on the wall.

"What is that? Have the devils been let loose in this palace?" Hassan
asked himself in amazement.

The closed doors jarred in the blast as if someone was banging at them
from the outside, and every now and then the bang of a window-shutter
would respond to the howling of the blast.

Men have curious supernatural faculties through which their minds are
suddenly illuminated. At that moment the idea flashed through Hassan's
brain that, in the apartments of the wing beyond, a window must needs be
open, which was the cause of the unwonted current of air which fluttered
the curtains of his palace and made the doors rattle, and this window
could be none other than Azrael's, and if it were open, then the two
women must have escaped.

At this horrible idea he quickly leaped out on to the floor, seized his
sword, which was lying at his bedside, and, bursting open the door,
rushed like a madman through all the apartments to Azrael's dormitory.

At the instant of their escape Azrael had turned over the long divan and
placed it right across the room in such a way that one end of it was
jammed against the door, whilst the other end pressed against the wall,
so that when Hassan tried to open the door, he found it impossible to do
so.

Everything was now quite clear to him.

He called to nobody to open the door; he knew that they had escaped. In
the fury of despair he snatched a battle-axe from the wall and began to
break open the hard oaken door, so that the whole palace resounded with
the noise of the blows, and the guards and the domestics all came
running up together.

Having beaten in the door at last, Hassan rushed into the room, cast a
glance around, and even _his_ eyes could see that his slave had flown.

Howling with rage he rushed to the window, and when he saw the dependent
branches of the gobæa, he beat his forehead with his fists and laughed
aloud as if something had broken loose inside him.

"They have run off!" he yelled; "they have escaped, they have stolen
their lives, and they have stolen my life, too. Run after them into
every corner of the globe, pursue them, bring them back tied together,
tied together so that the blood may flow through their fingers. Oh,
Azrael, Azrael! How have I deserved this of thee?"

And with that the old man burst into tears, and perceiving the
odalisk's girdle on the window-frame, to which the plant was attached,
he took it down, kissed it hundreds of times, hid his tearful face in
it, and collapsed senseless on the floor.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Hasten, Princess, hasten!"

The odalisk pressed her companion's hand, and dragged her down along the
bushy hillside. And now they had reached the hollow forming the entrance
to the underground passage which terminated at the gates of the garden
on the banks of the Danube.

The odalisk had succeeded in filching the keys of the door of this
secret passage from Hassan. While she was trying which of the two it was
that belonged to the lock of the inner door, a cry resounded through the
stillness of the night. "Hassan!" exclaimed the two girls together. They
had recognised the voice.

"They have discovered our escape," said Azrael.

"Oh, God! do not leave me!" cried Mariska, pressing her hands together.
"My child!"

Azrael quickly opened the grating door. It took a few moments, and
during that time a commotion was audible in the town, no doubt caused by
the cry of Hassan. Cries of alarm and consternation spread from bastion
to bastion, the whole garrison was aroused, and there was a confused
murmur within the fortress.

"Let us hasten!" cried Azrael, quickly opening the door and dragging
after her the Princess into the blind-black corridor.

At that moment a cannon-shot thundered from the fortress as an
alarm-signal.

Mariska, at the sound of the shot, collapsed in terror at Azrael's feet,
and lay motionless in the corridor, still holding her child fast clasped
in her arms.

"Hah! the woman has fainted," cried the odalisk in alarm; "we shall
both perish here," she cried in her despair.

The din in the fortress grew louder every instant, from every bastion
the signal-guns thundered.

"No, no, we must not perish!" exclaimed the heroine, and with a strength
multiplied by the extremity of the danger, she caught up the moaning
woman and child in her arms, and raising them to her bosom began making
her way with them along the covered corridor.

Pitch darkness engulfed everything around them; the odalisk groped her
way along by the feel of the wet, sinuous walls, stumbling from time to
time beneath the burden of the dead weight in her arms, but at every
fresh shot she started forward again and went on without resting.

Onwards, ever onwards!--till the last gasp! till the last heart-throb!
The awakened child also began to cry.

Azrael's knees tottered, her bosom heaved beneath the double load, her
staring eyes saw nothing; and the world was as dark before her soul as
it was before her eyes.

Heavy was the load upon her shoulder; but heavier still was the thought
in her heart that this woman whom she was saving at the risk of her own
life was the darling of him whom she loved herself, yet save her she
must, for she had promised to do so.

At every step she felt her strength diminishing; with swimming head she
staggered against the wall, the steps seemed to have no end; if only she
could hold out till she reached the door with her, and then for a moment
might see Feriz Beg and hear from his lips the words: "Well done!"--then
Israfil, the Angel of Death might come with his flaming sword.

For some time she had gathered from the hollower resonance of the steps
in the darkness that she was approaching the door; rallying her
remaining strength, she tottered forward a few paces with her load, and
when the latch of the door was already in her hand, her knees gave way
beneath her, and along with the Princess and the child, she fell in a
heap on the threshold, being just able to shove the key into the lock
and turn it twice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Feriz Beg, with the Magyar nobles, plunged again beneath the shade of
the deep arch of the gate of the fortress garden and with wrapt
attention listened for the muezzin to proclaim midnight. It was then
that Azrael had said she would come.

It never occurred to him that the woman could not come, so deeply had he
looked into her heart that he felt sure she would fulfil her promise.

If only the muezzin would proclaim midnight from the mosque.

At last a cry sounded through the stillness of the night, but it was not
the voice of the muezzin from the mosque, but Hassan's yell of terror
from the fortress window and the din which immediately followed it,
proclaiming that there was danger.

Feriz's heart was troubled, but he never moved from the spot. He knew
right well what that noise meant. They had tried to help the Princess to
escape and her escape was discovered.

"What is that noise?" asked the Prince apprehensively, sticking up his
head.

Feriz did not want to alarm him.

"It is nothing," he answered. "Some one has stolen away on the bastions,
perhaps, and they are pursuing him."

Then the first cannon-shot resounded.

Feriz, for the first time in his life, was agitated at the sound of a
cannon.

"That is an alarm-signal," cried Tököly, drawing his sword.

"Keep quiet!" whispered Feriz, "perhaps they are shooting at the people
who are thronging the gates."

Nevertheless the shots were repeated from every bastion; the tumult,
the uproar increased; a tattoo was beaten, the trumpets rang out and a
whole concourse of people could be seen running along the bastions with
torches and flashing swords in their hands.

"They are pursuing someone!" cried the Prince, and unable to endure it
any longer, he leaped upon the bank.

"I know not what it is," stammered Feriz, and a cold shudder ran through
his body.

Ghyka grasped his sword, and would have rushed up the hill as if obeying
some blind instinct.

"What would you do?" whispered Feriz, grasping the hand of the Prince,
and pulling him back by force under the gate.

For a few moments they stood there in a dead silence, the tumult, the
uproar seemed to be coming nearer and nearer--if it were to overtake
them?

"Hush!" whispered Feriz, holding his ear close to the door. He seemed to
hear footsteps approaching from within and the plaintive wail of a
child.

A few moments afterwards there was a fumbling at the latch and a key was
thrust into the lock and twice turned. Feriz hastened to open the door
and the senseless forms of the two women fell at his feet.

The youth quickly dragged the Prince after him, and recognising Mariska,
who still lay in the embrace of Azrael, he placed her in her husband's
arms together with the weeping child.

"Here are your wife and child," said he, "and now hasten!"

"Mariska!" exclaimed the Prince, beside himself; and embracing the child
whom he now saw for the first time, he kissed the rosy face of the one
and the pallid face of the other again and again.

That voice, that kiss, that embrace awoke the fainting woman, and as
soon as she opened her eyes, she quickly, passionately, flung her arms
round her husband's neck while he held the child on his arm. No sound
came from her lips, all her life was in her heart.

"Quick! quick!" Feriz whispered to them. "Get into this skiff. When you
get to the other side it will be time to rejoice in each other; till
then we have cause to fear, for the whole of the Buda side of the river
is on the alert. But I'll look after them here. On the other bank my
servant is awaiting you with the swift horses; mention my name, and he
will hand them over to you. On the banks of the Raab you will find
another of my servants with fresh relays. Choose your horses, and then
to Nógrád as fast as you can. Thence it will be easy to escape into
Poland. Do not linger. Every moment is precious. Forward!"

With that he conducted the fugitives to the skiff which was ready
waiting for them, and at the bottom of which two muscular servants of
his were lying out of sight. These helped them in, Feriz undid the rope,
and at a few strokes of the oars they were already some distance from
the shore.

Then only did Feriz breathe freely, as if a huge load had fallen from
his heart.

"May they not pursue them?" inquired Tököly anxiously.

"They may," returned Feriz; "but they cannot transport the horses in
boats, as the fugitives now sit in the only boat here; the bridge, too,
has been removed and they will hardly be able to build another in time
on such a night as this."

The fugitives had now reached the middle of the Danube, when Mariska,
who had scarce been herself for joy and terror in her half-unconscious
state, suddenly bethought her of her companion who had saved her with
such incomprehensible self-sacrifice and energy, and standing up in the
skiff waved her handkerchief as if she would thereby make up for the
leave-taking which she had neglected in her joy and haste.

"What are they doing?" cried Feriz angrily, seeing that they were
attracting attention in consequence.

Fortunately the night was dark and the people rushing down from the
bastions could not see the skiff making its way across the Danube;
presently its shape even began to vanish out of sight of the young eyes
that were watching it.

Feriz looked up to the sky with a transfigured face. Two stars, close
together, looked down very brightly from amidst the fleeting clouds. Did
he not see Aranka's eyes in that twin stellar radiance?

Tököly took the hands of the young hero and pressed them hard.

"Once before we stood face to face," he said with a feeling voice, which
came from the bottom of his heart, "then I prevailed, now you prevail.
God be with you!"

Then the young Count mounted his horse, and beckoning to his comrades,
galloped off in the direction of Gellérthegy.

Feriz stood there alone on the shore with folded arms and tried to
distinguish once more the shape of the skiff already vanishing in the
darkness.

Nobody thought of the poor odalisk who had saved them.

All at once the youth felt the contact of a burning hand upon his arm.
Broken in mind and body, the odalisk dragged herself to his knees, and
seizing his hand drew it to her breast and to her lips. She could not
speak, she could only sob and weep.

Feriz looked at her compassionately.

"Thou hast done well," he said gently.

The girl embraced the youth's knees, and it was well with her that he
suffered her to do so.

"I thank thee for keeping thy word," said Feriz; "look now! that woman
was not my beloved. She has a husband who loves her."

Indescribably sweet were these words to the damsel. In them she found
the sweetest reward for her sufferings and self-sacrifice. Then it was
not love after all which made Feriz save this woman through her!

The uproar meanwhile was extending along the shore, the pursuers could
see that they were on the track of the fugitives.

"We must be off," said Feriz; "wouldst thou like to come with me?"

"Come with him!" What a thought was that for Azrael! To be able to live
under the same roof with him!

Yet she answered: "I will not come."

It occurred to her that if she were found with the dear youth he would
perish because of her. And besides, she knew that the invitation was due
not to love but to magnanimous gratitude.

"I want to go over to the island," she said in a faint voice.

"Then I'll help thee to find thy skiff," said the youth, extending his
hand to the odalisk to raise her up.

She was still kneeling on the ground before him.

She fixed upon him her large eyes swimming with tears, and whispered in
a tremulous voice:

"Feriz! Thou wert wont to reward those damsels who sacrificed themselves
for thee, who died nobly and valiantly because they loved thee. Have not
I also won that reward?"

Feriz Beg sadly lowered his head as if it afflicted him to think of the
significance of these words; then softly, gently, he bent over the
damsel, and drawing her lovely head towards him, pressed a warm, feeling
kiss on her marble forehead.

The odalisk trembled with rapture beneath the load of that more than
earthly sensation of pleasure, and leaping up and stretching her arms to
Heaven, she whispered:

"I am happy!--For the first time in my life. Now I may go--and die."

Feriz, tenderly embracing her, led the damsel to her skiff. Then she
stopped suddenly, and leaning her head against the shoulder of the
youth, murmured in his ear:

"When thou reachest thy kiosk, lie not down to sleep! Sit at thy window
and look towards the island in the direction of sunrise. The night will
be over ere long, and the dawn will come sooner than at other times.
When thou seest this portent think of me and say for me the prayer which
is used before the cold dawn, and say from thy heart: 'That woman does
penance for her sins!'"

The odalisk felt two tear-drops falling upon her cheek. They fell from
the eyes of the youth.

She could never feel happier in this world than she felt now.

A few minutes later the skiff was flying over the rocking waves.



CHAPTER XX.

THE VICTIM.


The Princess was saved, but she who had saved her was doomed.

Along the banks of the rivers, and on the summits of the bastions,
alarm-beacons had been kindled announcing the flight of the fugitives.
It was late. On the shore the swift Arab horses of the pursuers were
racing with the wind. But the wind was not idle, but blew and raged and
fought with the foaming waves of the Danube, and tossed and pitched
about every little boat that lay upon it.

There was only one skiff, however, that ventured to cross the Danube and
rise and fall with its billows, which were like the waves of the sea. A
white form stood stonily motionless in the boat, and the blast kept
twisting its soft garments round its body. The trembling boatman called
upon the name of Allah.

"Fear not, when you carry me," Azrael said to him, and her eyes hung
upon a star which shone above her head, shining through the tatters of
the scurrying clouds.

The skiff reached the shore of the Margaret island. The damsel got out,
and her last bracelet dropped from her hand into the hand of the
boatman.

"Remember me, and begone."

"Dost thou remain here?"

"No."

"Whither wilt thou go?"

Azrael answered nothing, but pointed mutely to the sky.

The boatman did not understand much about it; but, anyhow, he understood
that he could not give the damsel a lift up there, so he drew back his
canoe and departed.

Azrael remained alone on the island, quite alone; for that day everyone
had been withdrawn by command of the Vizier; the damsels, the guards,
and the eunuchs had all migrated to the fortress, the paradise was empty
and uninhabited.

Azrael strolled the whole length of the shore of the island. The mortars
were still thundering down from the fortress, the horsemen were still
shouting on the river's bank, the signal fires were blazing on the
bastions, the night was dark, the wind blew tempestuously and scattered
the leaves of the trees--but she saw neither the beacon fires, nor the
darkness; she heard neither the tumult of men nor the howling of the
blast; in her soul there was the light of heaven and an angelic harmony
with which no rumour, no shape of the outer world would intermingle.

She came to the kiosk in the centre of the island. Wandering aimlessly
she had hit upon the labyrinthine way to it unawares. The sudden view of
the summer-house startled her, and it awoke a two-fold sensation in her
heart, it appealed equally to her memory and her imagination. She
bethought her of the resolve she had made on coming to the island. She
remembered that when she parted from the youth of her heart she had
said: "When thou comest to thy kiosk, do not lie down to sleep; sit down
at thy window, and look towards the island in the direction of the dawn.
This night will be soon over, and the dawn will dawn more quickly than
at other times. When thou seest it think of me and say for me the prayer
of direction for the departing."

She reflected that the youth must now be sitting at the window, looking
towards the island, with his fine eyes weary of staring into the
darkness. She would not weary those fine eyes for long.

She hastily opened the door with her silver key and entered the hall. A
hanging lamp was burning in the room just as the servants had left it in
the morning. She drew forth a wax taper, and having lit it, proceeded to
the other rooms, which opened one out of another, and whose floors were
covered by precious oriental carpets, whose walls were inlaid with all
manner of woods brought from foreign countries, and covered with
tapestries, all splendid masterpieces of eastern art; the atmosphere of
the rooms was heavy with intoxicating perfumes.

All this was frightful, abominable to her now. As she walked over the
carpets, it was as if she were stepping on burning coals; when she
inhaled the scented atmosphere, it was as though she were breathing the
corruption of the pestilence; everything in these rooms awoke memories
of sin and disgust in her heart--costly costumes, porcelain vases,
silver bowls, all of them the playthings of loathsome moments, whose
keenest punishment was that she was obliged to remember them.

But they shall all perish. And if they all perish, if these symbols of
sin and the hundred-fold more sinful body itself become dust, then
surely the soul will remember them no more? Surely it will depart far,
far away--perchance to that distant star--and will be happy like the
others who are near to God and know nothing of sin, but are full of the
comfort of the infinite mercy of God, who has permitted them to escape
from hence?

With the burning torch in her hand she went all through the rooms,
tearing down the curtains and tapestries, and piling them all on the
divan; and when she entered the last of the rooms she saw a pale white
figure coming towards her from its dark background. The shape was as
familiar to her as if she had seen it hundreds of times, although she
knew not where; and its face was so gentle, so unearthly--a grief not of
this world suffused its handsome features and the joy of heaven flashed
from its calm, quiet eyes--its hair clung round its head in tiny curls,
as guardian-angels are painted.

The damsel gazed appalled at this apparition. She fancied Heaven had
sent her the messenger of the forgiveness of her sins; but it was her
own figure reflected from a mirror concealed in the dark
background--that gentle, downcast, sorrowful face, those pure, shining
eyes she had never seen in a mirror before; the cut-off hair increased
the delusion.

Tremblingly she sank on her knees before this apparition, and touching
the ground with her face, lay sobbing there for some time; and when she
again rose up, it appeared to her as if that apparition extended towards
her its snow-white arms full of pity, full of compassion; and when she
raised her hands to Heaven it also pointed thither, raising a face
transformed by a sublime desire. No, she could not recognise that face
as her own, never before had she seen it so beautiful.

Azrael placed her hands devoutly across her breast and beckoned to the
apparition to follow her, and raising the curtain she returned into that
room where she had already raised a funeral pyre for herself.

There, piled up together, lay cushions of cloth of gold, Indian
feather-stuffs, divans filled with swansdown, light, luxurious little
tables, harps of camphor-wood adorned with pearls, lutes with the
silvery voices of houris, a little basin filled with fine fragrant oils
composed from the aroma of a thousand oriental flowers; this she
everywhere sprinkled over the heaped-up stuff, and also saturated the
thick carpets with it, the volatile essence filled the whole atmosphere.

Then she pressed her hand upon her throbbing heart, and said: "God be
with me!"

And then she fired the heaped-up materials at all four corners, and, as
if she were ascending her bridal bed, mounted her cushions with a
smiling, triumphant face, and lay down among them, closing her eyes with
a happy smile.

In a few moments the flames burst forth at all four corners, fed freely
by the light dry stuff, and combining above her like a wave of fire,
formed a flaming canopy over her head. And she smiled happily, sweetly,
all the time. The air, filled with volatile oil, also burst into flame,
turning into a sea of burning blue; white clouds of smoke began to
gather above the pyre; the strings of the harp caught by the flames
burst asunder one by one from their burning frame, emitting tremulous,
woeful sounds as if weeping for her who was about to die. When the last
harp-string had burnt--the odalisk was dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

The night was now drawing to a close. Feriz Beg, quietly intent, was
sitting at the window of his kiosk, as he had promised the odalisk. He
had not understood her mysterious words, but he did as she asked, for he
knew instinctively that it was the last wish of one about to die.

Suddenly, as he gazed at the black waves of the Danube and the still
blacker clouds in the sky, he saw a bright column of fire ascend with
the rapidity of the wind from the midst of the opposite island, driving
before it round white clouds of smoke. A few moments later the flames of
the burning kiosk lit up the whole region. The startled inhabitants
gazed at the splendid conflagration, whose flames mounted as high as a
tower in the roaring blast. Nobody thought of saving it.

"No human life is lost, at any rate," they said quietly; "the harem and
its guards were transferred yesterday."

The wind, too, greatly helped the fire. The kiosk, built entirely of the
lightest of wood, was a heap of ashes by the morning, when Feriz,
accompanied by the müderris in his official capacity, got into a skiff
and were rowed across to the island. Not even a remnant of embers was to
be found, everything had been burnt to powder. Nothing was to be seen
but a large, black, open patch powdered with ashes. The fire had
utterly consumed the abode of sin and vice. Nothing remained but a black
spot. In the coming spring it will be a green meadow.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon of the following day we see a familiar horseman
trotting up to the gates of the fortress--if we mistake not, it is Yffim
Beg.

All the way from Klausenburg he had been cudgelling his brains to find
words sufficiently dignified to soften the expression of the insulting
message which the Estates of Transylvania had sent through him to his
gracious master. On arriving in front of Hassan's palace he dismounted
as usual, without asking any questions, and gave the reins to the
familiar eunuchs that they might lead the horse to the stables.

There was no trace of the scaffold that had been erected in front of the
gate the day before. Yffim Beg entered and passed through all the rooms
he knew so well, all the doors of which were still guarded by the
drabants of Hassan as of yore; at last he reached Hassan's usual
audience chamber, and there he found Olaj Beg sitting on a divan reading
the Alkoran.

Yffim Beg gazed around him, and after a brief inspection, not
discovering what he sought, he addressed Olaj Beg:

"I want to speak to Hassan Pasha," said he.

Olaj Beg looked at him, rose with the utmost aplomb, and approached a
table on which was a silver dish covered by a cloth. This cloth he
removed, and a severed bloody head stared at Yffim Beg with stony eyes.

"There he is--speak to him!" said Olaj Beg gently.



CHAPTER XXI.

OTHER TIMES--OTHER MEN.


Great men are the greatest of all dangers to little States. There are
men born to be great generals who die as robber-chiefs. If Michael
Teleki had sat at the head of a great kingdom, his name perchance would
have ranked with that of Richelieu, and that kingdom would have been
proud of the years during which he governed it. It was his curse that
Transylvania was too small for his genius, but it was also the curse of
Transylvania that he was greater than he ought to have been.

The Battle of St. Gothard was a painful wound to Turkish glory, and it
left behind it a constant longing for revenge, though a ten-years' peace
had actually been concluded; and presently a more favourable opportunity
than the prognostications of the Ulemas or the wisdom of the Lords of
Transylvania anticipated presented itself, an opportunity far too
favourable to be neglected.

Treaty obligations had compelled the Kaiser to take part in the War of
the Spanish Succession against Louis XIV., and the Kaiser's enemies at
once saw that the time for raising their standards against him had
arrived. The war was to begin from Transylvania, and the reward dangled
before the Prince of Transylvania for his participation in this war was
what his ancestors had often but vainly attempted to gain in the same
way--the Kingdom of Hungary.

It was, of course, a dangerous game to risk one kingdom in order to gain
another, for both might be sacrificed. There was even a party in
Transylvania itself which was indisposed to risk the little Principality
for the sake of the larger kingdom, and though the most powerful arm of
this party, Dionysius Banfy, had been cut off, it still had two powerful
heads in Paul Béldi and Nicholas Bethlen.

So one fine day at the Diet assembled at Fogaras, the Prince's guard
suddenly surrounded the quarters of Paul Béldi and Nicholas Bethlen, and
informed those gentlemen that they were State prisoners.

What had they done? What crime had they committed that they should be
arrested so unceremoniously?

Good Michael Apafi believed that they were aiming at the princely
coronet. This was a crime he was ready to believe in at a single word,
and he urged the counsellors who had ordered the arrest at once to put
the law into execution against the arrestants. But that is what these
gentlemen took very good care not to do. It was much easier to kill the
arrestants outright than to find a law which would meet their case.

In those days worthy Master Cserei was the commandant of the fortress of
Fogaras, and the castle in which the arrestants were lodged was the
property of the Princess. As soon as Anna heard of the arrest she
summoned Cserei, and showing him the signet-ring on her finger, said to
him: "Look at that ring, and whatever death-warrant reaches you, if it
bears not the impression of that seal, you will take care not to execute
the prisoners; the castle is mine, so you have to obey my orders rather
than the orders of the Prince."

The Prince and his wife then returned together to Fejérvár. On the day
after their arrival the chief men of the realm met together in council
at the Prince's palace, and it was Teleki's idea that only those should
remain to dinner who were of the same views as himself. So they all
remained at the Prince's till late in the evening, and thoroughly
enjoyed the merry jests of the court buffoon, Gregory Biró, who knew no
end of delightful tricks, and swallowed spoons and forks so dextrously
that nobody could make out what had become of them.

Apafi had not noticed how much he had drunk, for every time he had
filled his beaker from the flagon standing beside him, the flagon itself
had been replenished, so that he fancied he had drunk nothing from sheer
forgetfulness. But his face had got more inflamed and bloodshot than
usual, and suddenly perceiving that the chair next to his was empty, he
exclaimed furiously: "Who else has bolted? It is Denis Banfy who has
bolted now, I know it is. What has become of Denis Banfy, I say?"

The gentlemen were all silent; only Teleki was able to reply:

"Denis Banfy is dead."

"Dead?" inquired Apafi, "how did he die?"

"Paul Béldi formed a league against him and he was beheaded."

"Béldi?" cried Apafi, rising from his seat in blind rage, "and where is
that man?"

"He is in a dungeon at present, but it will not be long before he sits
on the throne of the Prince."

"On the scaffold, you mean!" thundered Apafi, beside himself, in a
bloodthirsty voice, "on the scaffold, not the throne. I'll show that
crafty Szekler who I am if he raises his head against me. Call hither
the protonotarius, the law must be enforced."

"The sentences are now ready, sir," said Nalaczi, drawing from his
pocket three documents of equal size; "only your signature is required."

He was also speedily provided with ink and a pen, which they thrust into
the trembling hand of the Prince, indicating to him at the same time the
place on the document where he was to sign his name. The thing was done.

"Is there any stranger among us?" asked Teleki, looking suspiciously
around.

"Only the fool, but he doesn't count."

The fool at that moment was making a sword dance on the tip of his nose,
and on the sword he had put a plate, and he kept calling on the
gentlemen to look at him--he certainly had paid no attention to what was
going on at the table.

The three letters were three several commands. The first was directed to
Cserei, telling him to put the prisoners to death at once; the second
was to the provost-marshal, Zsigmond Boer, to the effect that if Cserei
showed any signs of hesitation he was to be killed together with the
gentlemen; the third was to the garrison of the fortress, impressing
upon them in case of any hesitation on the part of the provost to make
an end of him forthwith along with the others. All three letters, sealed
with yellow wax, were handed over to Stephen Nalaczi, who, placing them
in his kalpag, pressed his kalpag down upon his head and hastened
quickly from the room. He had to pass close to the jester on his way
out, and the fool, rushing upon him, exclaimed. "O ho! you have got on
my kalpag; off with it, this is yours!" and before Nalaczi had recovered
from his surprise he found a cap and bells on his head instead of a
kalpag.

The magnate considered this jest highly indecent, and seized the jester
by the throat.

"You scoundrel, you, where have you put my kalpag? Speak, or I'll
throttle you."

"Don't throttle me, sir," said the jester apologetically, "for then you
would be the biggest fool at the court of the Prince."

"My kalpag!" cried Nalaczi furiously, "where have you put it?"

"I have swallowed it, sir."

"You worthless rascal," roared Nalaczi, throttling the jester, "would
you play your pranks with me!"

"Truly, sir, I shall not be able to bring it up again if you press my
throat like that."

"Stop, I mean to search you," said Nalaczi; and he began to tear up the
coat of the jester, whereupon the kalpag came tumbling out from between
its folds. "You clumsy charlatan," laughed Nalaczi, "well, you hid it
very well, I must say." Then he put on his kalpag again, in which were
all three letters well sealed with yellow wax, but he now hastened
outside as rapidly as possible in case the fool should spirit them away
again.

The same night he galloped to Fogaras, though it cost him his horse to
get there, summoned Cserei, and giving him the letter addressed to him
said:

"You, sir, are to execute this strict command to the very letter."

The commandant took the letter, broke the seal, and then looked at the
magnate in amazement:

"I know not, sir, whether you or I have been made a fool of--but there's
not a scrap of writing in this letter."

Nalaczi incredulously examined the letter. It was a perfect blank.
Hastily he broke open the other two letters. In these also there was
nothing but the bare paper.

The fool, while the nobleman was throttling him, had substituted blanks
for the letters sent, and sent the sentences the same evening to the
Princess, who thereby had discovered all that the Prince and his
councillors were doing.

In the morning the Princess went to Apafi with the three sentences in
her hand, and reproached him for wanting to murder his ministers.

The worthy Prince was amazed at seeing these orders signed by himself.
He knew nothing about it, and embracing his wife, thanked her for
watching over him and not allowing him to send forth such orders. As for
Nalaczi, the shame of the thing made it impossible for him to show
himself at Court, and he could only nourish a grudge against the fool.

This accident greatly upset the worthy Prince, and he immediately rushed
to release the captives. First of all, however, they had to sign deeds
in which they solemnly engaged not to seek to revenge themselves on
their accusers.

Paul Béldi was wounded to the heart, but he regarded this calamity as a
just retribution for having been the first to sign the league[18]
against Denis Banfy; it was a weapon which now recoiled upon himself.

     [Footnote 18: See "'Midst the Wild Carpathians," Book
     II., Chapter VII.]

But this private grief was the least of his misfortunes, for while Paul
Béldi and Nicholas Bethlen had been sitting in their dungeon the war
party had had a free hand, so that when the two gentlemen were released
they were astounded to learn from their partisans that only the sanction
of the Diván was now necessary for a rupture of the peace.

Béldi perceived that to remain silent any longer would be equivalent to
looking on while the State rushed to its destruction. He immediately
assembled all those who were of the same opinion as himself--Ladislaus
Csaky, John Haller, George Kapy--and consulted with them as to the
future of the realm.

Béldi opined throughout that the Prince should be spared, but he was to
be compelled to dismiss such councillors as Teleki, Székely, Mikes, and
Nalaczi, and form a new council of state. Kapy would have done more than
this. "If we want as much as that," said he, "it would be better to
declare ourselves openly; and if we draw the sword, we shall have no
need to petition, but can fight, and whoever wins let him profit by it
and become Prince."

"No!" said Béldi, "I have sworn allegiance to the Prince, and though I
love my country, and am prepared to fight for it, yet I will never break
my oath. My proposition is that we assemble in arms at the Diet which is
convened to meet at Nagy-Sink, together with the Szekler train-bands,
and if we show our strength the Prince assuredly will not hesitate to
change his counsellors, for I know him to be a good man who rather fears
than loves them."

The gentlemen present accepted Béldi's proposition.

"Then here I will leave your Excellencies," said Kapy, stiffly buttoning
his mente.[19] "I am not afraid of war, for there I see my enemy before
me, and can fight him; but I do not like these armed appeals, for they
are apt to twist a man's sword from his hand and turn it against his own
neck."

     [Footnote 19: Fur pelisse.]

And he withdrew. The other gentlemen resolved, however, that they would
all arm their retainers. At a word from Béldi the armed Szeklers of
Háromszék, Csik, and Udvarhelyszék rose at once; they were ready at an
hour's notice to rise in obedience to the command of their
generalissimo.

The news of this audacious insurrection reached Michael Teleki at
Gernyeszeg, who was beside himself with joy, well aware that Béldi was
not the sort of man who was likely to prevail in a civil war whilst the
contrary case would bring about his ruin, as he had now gone too far to
draw back again. He immediately hastened to the Prince and, arousing him
from his bed, told him that Béldi had risen against him, and so
terrified Apafi that he immediately got into his coach, and fled by
torchlight to Fogaras. Gregory Bethlen, Farkas, and the other
counsellors also took to their heels in a panic--only Teleki remained
cool. He knew the character of Béldi too well to be afraid of him.

So the spark of ambition and rage was kindled in Paul Béldi's heart, and
for some days it looked as if he would be the master of Transylvania,
for nothing could resist him with the Szekler bands at his side, and all
the regular troops were scattered among the frontier fortresses.

But Béldi thought it enough to show his weapons without letting them be
felt. Instead of a declaration of war he sent a manifesto full of
loyalty to the Prince, in which he assured his Highness that he had
taken up arms not against his Highness but in the name of the state; all
he demanded was that the counsellors of the Prince should be tried by
the laws of the realm.

Whilst this wild missive was on its way, Teleki had had time to call
together the troops from the frontier fortresses, and send orders to
those of the Szeklers who had not risen to assemble under Clement Mikes
in defence of the Prince; and while Béldi awaited an attack, he
proceeded to take the offensive against him at once.

One day Béldi was sitting in the castle of Bodola along with Ladislaus
Csáky, when news was brought them that Gregory Bethlen, with the army of
the Prince, was already before Kronstadt.

"War can no longer be avoided," sighed Csáky.

"We can avoid it if we lay down our arms," returned Béldi.

"Surely you do not think of that?" inquired Csáky in alarm.

"Why should I not? I will take no part in a civil war."

"Then we are lost."

"Rather we shall save thousands."

The same day he ordered his forces to disperse and return home.

The next day Gregory Bethlen sent Michael Vay to Bodola, who brought
with him the Prince's pardon.

Csáky ground his teeth together. It occurred to him that he had got
Denis Banfy beheaded, yet he too had received a pardon, and he inquired
of Vay in some alarm: "Can we really rely on this letter of pardon?"

Michael Vay was candid enough to reply: "Well, my dear brethren, though
you had a hundred pardons it would be as well if you courageously
resolved to quit Transylvania notwithstanding."

Csáky gave not another moment's thought to the matter, but packed up
his trunks, and while it was still daylight escaped through the Bozza
Pass.

Béldi decided to remain; shame prevented him from flying.

Nevertheless, Michael Vay told his wife and children of his danger and
they insisted, supplicating him on their knees, that he should hasten
away and save himself.

"And what about you?" asked Béldi, looking at his tearful family.

He had two handsome sons, and his daughter Aranka had grown up a lovely
damsel; she was the apple of her father's eye, his pride and his glory.

"What about you?" he asked with a troubled voice.

"You can more easily defend us at Stambul than here," said Dame Béldi;
and Béldi saw that that was a word spoken in season.

That word changed his resolve, for, indeed, by seeking a refuge at the
Porte, he would be able to help himself and his family much more, and
perhaps even give a better turn to the fortunes of his country. There,
too, many of the highest viziers were his friends who had very great
influence in affairs.

He immediately had his horse saddled, and after taking leave of his
family with the utmost confidence, he escaped through the Bozza Pass the
same night with an escort of a few chosen servants into Wallachia, where
he found many other fugitive colleagues, and with them he took refuge at
the Porte--then the highest court of appeal for Transylvania.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE DIVÁN.


The gates of the seraglio were thrown wide open, the discordant,
clanging, and ear-piercing music was put to silence by a thundering roll
of drums, and twelve mounted cavasses with great trouble and difficulty
began clearing a way for the corps of viziers among the thronging crowd,
belabouring all they met in their path with stout cudgels and rhinoceros
whips. The indolent, gaping crowd saw that it was going to be flogged,
yet didn't stir a step to get out of the reach of the whips and
bludgeons.

The members of the Diván dismounted from their horses in the courtyard
and ascended the steps, which were guarded by a double row of
Janissaries with drawn scimitars, the blue and yellow curtains of the
assembly hall of the Diván were drawn aside before them, and the
mysterious inner chamber--the hearth and home of so much power and
splendour, once upon a time--lay open before them.

It was a large octagonal chamber without any of those adornments
forbidden by the Koran; its marble pavement covered by oriental carpets,
its walls to the height of a man's stature inlaid with mother-o'-pearl.
Along the walls were placed a simple row of low sofas covered with red
velvet and without back-rests, behind them was a pillared niche
concealing a secret door where Amurath was wont to listen unperceived to
the consultations of his councillors.

Through the parted curtains passed the members of the Council of the
Diván. First of all came the Grand Vizier, a tall, dry man with rounded
projecting shoulders; his head was constantly on the move and his eyes
peered now to the right and now to the left as if he were perpetually
watching and examining something. His brown, mud-coloured face wore an
expression of perpetual discontent; every glance was full of scorn,
rage, and morbid choler; when he spoke he gnashed his black teeth
together through which he seemed to filter his voice; and his face was
never for an instant placid, at one moment he drew down his eyebrows
till his eyes were scarce visible, at the next instant he raised them so
that his whole forehead became a network of wrinkles and the whites of
his eyes were visible; the corners of his mouth twitched, his chin
waggled, his beard was thin and rarely combed, and the only time he ever
smiled was when he saw fear on the face of the person whom he was
addressing; finally, his robes hung about him so slovenly that despite
the splendid ornaments with which they were plastered he always looked
shabby and sordid.

After the Grand Vizier came Kiuprile, a full-bodied, red-faced Pasha,
with a beard sprawling down to his knees; the broad sword which hung by
his side raised the suspicion that the hand that was wont to wield it
was the hand of no weakling; his voice resembled the roar of a buffalo,
so deep, so rumbling was it that when he spoke quietly it was difficult
to understand him, while on the battle-field you could hear him above
the din of the guns.

Among the other members of the Diván there were three other men worthy
of attention.

The first was Kucsuk Pasha, a muscular, martial man; his sunburnt face
was seamed with scars, his eyes were as bright and as black as an
eagle's; his whole bearing, despite his advanced age, was valiant and
defiant; he carried his sword in his left hand; his walk, his pose, his
look were firm; he was slow to speak, and rapid in action.

Beside him stood his son, Feriz Beg, the sharer of his father's dangers
and glory, a tall, handsome youth in a red caftan and a white turban
with a heron's plume.

Last of all came the Sultan's Christian doctor, the court interpreter,
Alexander Maurocordato, a tall, athletic man, in a long, ample mantle of
many folds; his long, bright, black beard reaches almost to his girdle,
his features have the intellectual calm of the ancient Greek type, his
thick black hair flows down on both shoulders in thick locks.

The viziers took their places; the Sultan's divan remains vacant;
nearest to it sits the Grand Vizier; farther back sit the pashas, agas,
and begs.

"Most gracious sir," said Maurocordato, turning towards the Grand
Vizier, "the poor Magyar gentlemen have been waiting at thy threshold
since dawn."

The Grand Vizier gazed venomously at the interpreter, protruding his
head more than ever.

"Let them wait! It is more becoming that they should wait for us than we
for them."

And with that he beckoned to the chief of the cavasses to admit the
petitioners.

The refugees were twelve in number, and the chief cavasse, drawing aside
the curtains from the door of an adjoining room, at once admitted them.
Foremost among them was Paul Béldi, the others entered with anxious
faces and unsteady, hesitating footsteps; he alone was brave, noble, and
dignified. His gentle, large blue eyes ran over the faces of those
present, and his appearance excited general sympathy.

Only the Grand Vizier regarded him with a look of truculent
indifference--it was his usual expression, and he knew no other.

"Fear not!--open your hearts freely!" signified the Grand Vizier.

Béldi stepped forward, and bowed before the Grand Vizier. One of the
Hungarians approached still nearer to the Vizier and kissed his hand;
the others were prevented from doing the same by the intervention of
Maurocordato, who at the same time beckoned to Béldi to speak without
delay.

"Your Excellencies!" began Béldi, "our sad fate is already well-known to
you, as fugitives from our native land we come to you, as beggars we
stand before you; but not as fugitives, not as beggars do we petition
you at this moment, but as patriots. We have quitted our country not as
traitors, not as rebels, but because we would save it. The Prince is
rushing headlong into destruction, carrying the country along with him.
His chief counsellor lures him on with the promise of the crown of
Hungary in the hope that he himself will become the Palatine. Your
excellencies are aware what would be the fate of Hungary after such a
war. A number of the great men of the realm joined me in a protest
against this policy. We knew what we were risking. For some years past I
have been one of those who disapproved of an offensive war--we are the
last of them, the rest sit in a shameful dungeon, or have died a
shameful death. Once upon a time, as happy fathers of families, we dwelt
by our own firesides; now our wives and children are cast into prison,
our castles are rooted up, our escutcheons are broken; but we do not ask
of you what we have lost personally, we ask not for the possession of
our properties, we ask not for the embraces of our wives and children,
we do not even ask to see our country; we are content to die as beggars
and outcasts; we only petition for the preservation of the life of the
fatherland which has cast us forth, and which is rushing swiftly to
destruction--hasten ye to save it."

Kucsuk Pasha, who well understood Hungarian, angrily clapped his hand
upon his sword, half drew it and returned it to its sheath again. Feriz
Beg involuntarily wiped away a tear from his eyes.

"Gracious sirs," continued Béldi, "we do not wish you to be wrath with
the Prince for the tears and the blood that have been shed; we only ask
you to provide the Prince with better counsellors than those by whom he
is now surrounded, binding them by oath to satisfy the nation and the
Grand Seignior, for none will break such an oath lightly and with
impunity; and these new counsellors will constrain him to be a better
father to those who remain in the country than he was to us."

When Béldi had finished, Maurocordato came forward, took his place
between the speaker and the Grand Vizier, and began to interpret the
words of Béldi.

At the concluding words the face of the interpreter flushed brightly,
his resonant, sonorous voice filled the room, his soul, catching the
expression of his face, changed with his changing feelings. Where Béldi
calmly and resignedly had described his sufferings, the voice of the
interpreter was broken and tremulous. Where Béldi had sketched the
future in a voice of solemn conviction, Maurocordato assumed a tone of
prophetic inspiration; and finally, when in words of self-renunciation
he appealed for the salvation of his country, his oratory became as
penetrating, as bitterly ravishing, as if his speech were the original
instead of the copy. Passion in its ancient Greek style, the style of
Demosthenes, seemed to have arisen from the dead.

The listening Pashas seemed to have caught the inspiration of his
enthusiasm, and bent their heads approvingly. The Grand Vizier
contracted his eyelids, puckered up his lips, and hugging his caftan to
his breast, began to speak, at the same time gazing around abstractedly
with prickling eyes, every moment beating down the look of whomsoever he
addressed or glaring scornfully at them. His screeching voice, which he
seemed to strain through his lips, produced an unpleasant impression on
those who heard it for the first time; while his features, which seemed
to express every instant anger, rage, and scorn in an ascending scale,
accentuated by the restless pantomime of his withered, tremulous hand,
could not but make those of the Magyars who were ignorant of Turkish
imagine that the Grand Vizier was atrociously scolding them, and that
what he said was nothing but the vilest abuse from beginning to end.

Mr. Ladislaus Csaky, who was standing beside Paul Béldi, plucked his fur
mantle and whispered in his ear with a tremulous voice:

"You have ruined us. Why did you not speak more humbly? He is going to
impale the whole lot of us."

The Vizier, as usual, concluded his speech with a weary smile, drew back
his mocking lips, and exposed his black, stumpy teeth. The heart's blood
of the Magyars began to grow cold at that smile.

Then Maurocordato came forward. A gentle smile of encouragement
illumined his noble features, and he began to interpret the words of the
Grand Vizier: "Worshipful Magyars, be of good cheer. I have compassion
on your petition, your righteousness stands before us brighter than the
noonday sun, your griefs shall have the fullest remedy. Ye did well to
supplicate the garment of the Sublime Sultan; cling fast to the folds of
it, and no harm shall befall you. Now depart in peace; if we should
require you again, we will send for you."

Everyone breathed more easily. Béldi thanked the Vizier in a few simple
sentences, and they prepared to withdraw.

But Ladislaus Csaky, who was much more interested in his Sóva property
than in the future of Transylvania, and to whom Béldi's petition, which
only sought the salvation of the fatherland, and said nothing about the
restitution of confiscated estates, appeared inadequate, scarce waited
for his turn to speak, and, what is more, threw himself at the feet of
the Vizier, seized one of them, which he embraced, and began to weep
tremendously. Indeed, his words were almost unintelligible for his
weeping, and Mr. Csaky's oratory was always difficult to understand at
the best of times, so that it was no wonder that the Grand Vizier lost
his usual phlegm and now began to curse and swear in real earnest; till
the other Magyar gentlemen rushed up, tore Csaky away by force, while
Maurocordato angrily pushed them all out, and thus put an end to the
scandalous scene.

"If you kneel before a man," said Béldi, walking beside him, "at least
do not weep like a child."

Before Béldi could reach the door he felt his hand warmly pressed by
another hand. He looked in that direction, and there stood Feriz.

"Did you say that your wife was a captive?" asked the youth with an
uncertain voice.

"And my child also."

The face of Feriz flushed.

"I will release them," he said impetuously. Béldi seized his hand. "Wait
for me at the entrance."

The Hungarian refugees withdrew, everyone of them weaving for himself
fresh hopes from the assurances of the Vizier. Only Ladislaus was not
content with the result, and going to his quarters he immediately sat
down and wrote two letters, one to the general of the Kaiser, and the
other to the minister of the King of France, to both of whom he promised
everything they could desire if they would help forward his private
affairs, thinking to himself if the Sultan does not help me the Kaiser
will, and if both fail me I can fall back upon the French King; at any
rate a man ought to make himself safe all round.

       *       *       *       *       *

Scarce had the refugees quitted the Diván when an Aga entered the
audience-chamber and announced:

"The Magyar lords."

"What Magyar lords?" cried the Grand Vizier.

"Those whom the Prince has sent."

"They're in good time!" said the Vizier, "show them in;" and he at once
fell into a proper pose, reserving for them his most venomous
expression.

The curtains were parted, and the Prince's embassy appeared, bedizened
courtly folks in velvet with amiable, simpering faces. Their spokesman,
Farkas Bethlen, stood in the very place where Paul Béldi had stood an
hour before, in a velvet mantle trimmed with swan's-down, a bejewelled
girdle worthy of a hero, and a sword studded with turquoises, the
magnificence of his appointments oddly contrasting with his look of
abject humility.

"Well! what do ye want? Out with it quickly!" snapped the Grand Vizier,
with an ominous air of impatience.

Farkas Bethlen bent his head to his very knees, and then he began to
orate in the roundabout rhetoric of those days, touching upon everything
imaginable except the case in point.

"Most gracious and mighty, glorious and victorious Lords, dignified
Grand Vizier, unconquerable Pashas, mighty Begs and Agas, most potent
pillars of the State, lords of the three worlds, famous and widely-known
heroes by land and sea, my peculiarly benevolent Lords!"

All this was merely prefatory!

Kiuprile began to perspire; Kucsuk Pasha twirled his sword upon his
knee; Feriz Beg turned round and contemplated the fountains of the
Seraglio through the window.

"Make haste, do!" interrupted Maurocordato impatiently; whereupon Farkas
Bethlen, imagining that he had offended the interpreter by omitting him
from the exordium, turned towards him with a supplementary compliment:

"Great and wise interpreter, most learned and extraordinarily to be
respected court physician of the most mighty Sultan!"

Kiuprile yawned so tremendously that the girdle round his big body burst
in two.

Farkas Bethlen, however, did not let himself be put out in the least,
but continued his oration.

"Our worthy Prince, his Highness Michael Apafi, has been much distressed
to learn that those seditious rebels who have dared to raise their evil
heads, not only against the Prince but against the Sublime Porte also,
as represented in his person, in consequence of the frustration of their
plans, have fled hither to damage the Prince by their falsehoods and
insinuations. Nevertheless, although our worthy Prince is persuaded that
the wisdom of your Excellencies must needs confute their lying words,
your goodwill confound their devices, and your omnipotence chastise
their audacity, nevertheless it hath also seemed good to his Highness to
send us to your Excellencies in order that we may refute all these
complaints and accusations whereby they would falsely, treacherously and
abominably disturb the realm ..."

Maurocordato here took advantage of a pause made by the orator to take
breath after this exordium, and before he was able to proceed to the
subject-matter of his address, began straightway to interpret what he
had said so far for the benefit of the Grand Vizier, being well aware
that the Vizier would not allow anyone to speak a second time before he
had spoken himself.

The speech of the interpreter was this time dry and monotonous. All
Farkas Bethlen's homiletical energy was thrown away in Maurocordato's
drawling, indifferent reproduction.

The Grand Vizier replied with flashing eyes, his face was twice as
venomous as it had been before, and his gestures plainly indicated an
intention to show the envoys the door.

Maurocordato interpreted his reply.

"The Grand Vizier says that not those whom ye persecute but you
yourselves are the rebels who have broken the oath ye made to the
Sublime Porte, inasmuch as your ambitious projects aim at the separation
of Transylvania from its dependence on the Porte and at the conquest of
Hungary--both sure ways of destruction for yourselves. Wherefore the
Grand Vizier gives you to understand that if you cannot sit still and
live in peace with your own fellow-countrymen, he will send to you an
intermediary, who will leave naught but tears behind him."

The Hungarian gentlemen regarded each other in astonishment. Not a trace
of simpering amiability remained on the face of Farkas Bethlen, who was
furious at the failure of the speech he had so carefully learnt by
heart. He bowed still deeper than before, and sacrificing with
extraordinary self-denial the remainder of his oration, especially as he
perceived that any further parleying would not be permitted, he had
resort to more drastic expedients.

"Oh, sir! how can such accusations affect us who have always been
willing faithfully to fulfil your wishes? We pay tribute, we give gifts,
and now also our worthy Prince hath not sent us to you empty-handed,
having commanded Master Michael Teleki not to neglect to provide us with
suitable gifts, who has, moreover, sent to your Excellencies through me
two hundred purses of money,[20] as a token of his respect and homage,
beseeching your Excellencies to accept this little gift from us your
humble servants."

     [Footnote 20: Equivalent to 100,000 thalers.]

With these words the orator beckoned to one of the deputation, at whose
summons, four porters appeared carrying between them, suspended on two
poles, a large iron chest, which Farkas Bethlen opened, discharging its
contents at the feet of the Grand Vizier.

The jingling thalers fell in heaps around the Diván, and the sound of
the rolling coins filled the room. The features of the Grand Vizier
suddenly changed. Maurocordato stepped back. Bethlen's last words had
needed no interpreter; the Vizier could not keep back from his face a
hideous smile, the grin of the devil of covetousness. His eyes grew
large and round, he no longer clenched his teeth together, he was
rather like a wild beast eager to pounce upon his prey.

Farkas Bethlen humbly withdrew among his colleagues; the Vizier could
not resist the temptation, he descended from the Diván, rubbing his
hands, tapping the shoulders of the last speaker, smiling at all the
deputies, and even going so far as to extend his hand to one or two of
them, which those fortunate beings hastened to kiss, and spoke something
to them in Turkish, to which they felt bound to reply with profound
obeisances.

During this scene Maurocordato had quitted the Diván, and as in default
of an interpreter the envoys were unable to understand the words of the
Vizier, and could only bow repeatedly, Kiuprile, who had learnt
Hungarian while he was Pasha of Eger, arose and roared at them in a
voice which made the very ceiling shake:

"The Vizier bids you go to hell, ye dogs of Giaours, and if we want you
again we will send for you!" Whereupon he gave a vicious kick at a
thaler which had rolled to his feet, while the deputies, after
innumerable salutations, left the Diván.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the departure of the Prince's envoys, the Grand Vizier immediately
sent for Béldi and his comrades. When the refugees entered the Diván,
not one of them yet knew that the envoys of the Prince had been there
and brought the money which they saw piled up before them, though they
could not for the life of them understand what the Grand Vizier and
themselves had to do with all that money; and inasmuch as Maurocordato
had also departed, and the cavasses sent after him could not find him
anywhere, the Hungarians, in the absence of an interpreter, stood there
for some time in the utmost doubt, striving to explain as best they
could the signification of the peculiar signs which the Grand Vizier
kept making to them from time to time, pointing now at the heaps of
money and now at them, and expounding his sayings with all ten fingers.
Every time he glanced at the money he could not restrain his disgusting,
hyæna-like smile.

"Don't you see," whispered Csaky to Béldi, "the Grand Vizier intends all
that money for us?"

Béldi could not help smiling at this artless opinion.

At last, as the interpreter did not come, Kiuprile was constrained, very
much against the grain, to arise and interpret the wishes of the Grand
Vizier as best he could.

"Worthy sirs, this is what the Grand Vizier says to you. The Prince's
deputies have been here. They ought to have their necks broken--that's
what _I_ say. They brought with them this sum of money, and they said
all sorts of things which are not true, but the money which they brought
is true enough. Having regard to which the Grand Vizier says to you that
he recognises the justice of your cause and approves of it, but the mere
recognition of its justice will make no difference to it, for it will
remain just what it was before. But if you would make your righteous
cause progress and succeed, promise him seventy more purses than those
of the Prince's envoys, and then we will close with you. We will then
fling _them_ into the Bosphorus sewn up in sacks, but you we will bring
back into your own land and make you the lords of it."

A bitter smile crossed the lips of Paul Béldi, he sighed sorrowfully,
and looked back upon his comrades.

"You know right well, sir," said he to Kiuprile, "that we have no money,
nor do I know from whence to get as much as you require, and my
colleagues are as poor as I am. We never used the property of the State
as a means of collecting treasures for ourselves, and what little
remained to us from our ancestors has already been divided among the
servants of the Prince. We have no money wherewith to buy us justice,
and if there be no other mode of saving our country, then in God's name
dismiss us and we will throw ourselves at the feet of some foreign
Prince, and supplicate till we find one who must listen to us. God be
with you; money we have none."

"Then I have!" cried a voice close beside Béldi; and, looking in that
direction, they saw Kucsuk Pasha approach Paul Béldi and warmly press
the right hand of the downcast Hungarian gentleman. "If you want two
hundred and seventy purses I will give it; if you want as much again I
will give it; as much as you want you shall have; bargain with them, fix
your price; I am here. I will pay instead of you."

Feriz Beg rushed towards his father, and, full of emotion, hid his face
in his bosom. Béldi majestically clasped the hand of the old hero, and
was scarce able to find words to express his gratitude at this offer.

"I thank you, a thousand times I thank you, but I cannot accept it; that
would be a debt I should never be able to repay, nor my descendants
after me. Blessed are you for your good will, but you cannot help me
that way."

Kiuprile intervened impatiently.

"Be sensible, Paul Béldi, and draw not upon thee my anger; weigh well
thy words, and hearken to good counsel. To demand so much money from
thee as a private man in exile would be a great folly, but assume that
thou art a Prince, and that this amount, which it would be impossible to
drag out of one pocket, could easily be distributed over a whole kingdom
and not be felt. Do no more then than promise us the amount; it is not
necessary that thou shouldst pay us before we have made thee Prince."

Béldi shuddered, and said to Kiuprile with a quavering voice:

"I do not understand you, sir, or else I have not heard properly what
you said."

"Then understand me once for all. If it be true what thou sayest--to
wit, that the present Prince of Transylvania rules amiss, why then,
depose him from his Principality; and if it also be true what thou
sayest--to wit, that thou dost love thy country so much and seest what
ought to be done--why then, defend it thyself. I will send a message to
the frontier Pashas, and they will immediately declare war upon this
state, seize Master Michael Apafi and all his counsellors, clap them
into the fortress of Jedikula, and put thee and thy comrades in their
places. Thou art only to promise the Grand Vizier two hundred and
seventy purses, and he will engage to make thee Prince as soon as
possible, and then thou wilt be able to pay it; which, if thou dost
refuse, of a truth I tell thee, that I will clap thee into Jedikula in
the place of Michael Apafi."

The heart of Paul Béldi beat violently throughout this speech. His
emotion was visible in his face, and more than once he would have
interrupted Kiuprile if the Hungarian gentlemen had not restrained him.
When, however, Kiuprile had finished his speech. Paul Béldi took a step
forward, and proudly raising his head so that he seemed to be taller
than usual, he replied in a firm, strong voice:

"I thank you, gracious sir, for your offer, but I cannot accept it. A
sacred oath binds me to the present Prince of Transylvania, and if he
has forgotten the oath which he swore to the nation it is no answer to
say that we should also violate ours, nay, rather should we remind him
of his. I have raised my head to ask for justice, not to pile one
injustice upon another. Transylvania needs not a new Prince, but its old
liberties; and if I had only wanted to make war upon the Prince, the
country would rise at a sign from me, the whole of the Szeklers would
draw their swords for me, but it was I who made them sheath their swords
again. I do not come to the Porte for vengeance, but for judgment; not
my own fate, but the fate of my country I submit to your Excellencies. I
do not want the office of Prince. I do not want to drive out one
usurper only to bring in a hundred more. I will not set all Transylvania
in a blaze for the sake of roasting Master Michael Teleki, nor for the
sake of freeing a dozen people from a shameful dungeon will I have ten
thousand dragged into captivity. May I suffer injustice rather than all
Transylvania. Accursed should I be, and all my posterity with me, if I
were to sell my oppressed nation for a few pence and bring armies
against my native land. As to your threats--I am prepared for anything,
for prison, for death. I came to you for justice, slay me if you will."

Kiuprile, disgusted, flung himself back on his divan; he did not count
upon such opposition, he was not prepared for such strength of mind. The
other gentlemen who, from time to time, had fled to the Porte from
Transylvania had been wont to beg and pray for the very favour which
this man so nobly rejected.

The Grand Vizier, perceiving from the faces of those present the
impression made on them by Béldi's speech, turned now to the right and
now to the left for an explanation, and dismay gradually spread over his
pallid face as he began to understand. Béldi's colleagues, pale and
utterly crushed, awaited the result of his alarming reply; while
Ladislaus Csaky, unable to restrain his dismay, rushed up to Béldi,
flung himself on his neck in his despair, and implored him by heaven and
earth to accept the offer of the Grand Vizier.

If the offer had been made to him he would most certainly have accepted
it.

"Never, never," replied Béldi, as cold as marble.

The other gentlemen knelt down before him, and with clasped hands
besought him not to make himself, his children, and themselves for ever
miserable.

"Arise, I am not God!" said Béldi, turning from his tearful colleagues.

The Grand Vizier, on understanding what it was all about, leaped
furiously from his place, and tearing off his turban, hurled it in
uncontrollable rage to the ground, exclaiming with foaming mouth:
"Hither, cavasses!"

"Put that accursed dog in chains!" he screeched, pointing with bloodshot
eyes at Béldi, who quietly permitted them to load him with fetters
weighing half-a-hundredweight each, which the army of slaves always had
in readiness.

"Wouldst thou speak, puppy of a giaour?" cried the Vizier, when he was
already chained.

"What I have said I stand to," solemnly replied the patriot, raising his
chained hand to Heaven. "God is my refuge."

"To the dungeon with him!" yelled Kara Mustafa, beckoning to the
drabants to drag Béldi away.

Just as a hard stone emits sparks when it is struck, so Béldi turned
suddenly upon the Vizier and said, shaking his chains, "Thine hour will
also strike!"

Then he suffered them to lead him away to prison.

       *       *       *       *       *

Immediately afterwards, the Grand Vizier sent for the envoys of the
Prince, and commending them and those who sent them, gave each of them a
new caftan, and with the most gracious assurances sent them back to
their native land, where nevertheless Master Farkas Bethlen had never
been accounted a very great orator.

In the gates of the Seraglio the dismissed envoys encountered Master
Ladislaus Csaky. The worthy gentleman at once perceived from their
self-satisfied smiles and the new caftans they were wearing that they
had been sent away with a favourable reply; whereupon, notwithstanding
that he had already agreed with Paul Béldi to render homage to the
French and German Ministers, he did not consider it superfluous to pay
his court to Master Farkas Bethlen also, and offer to surrender himself
body and soul if the Prince would agree to pardon him and restore his
estates.

Farkas Bethlen accepted the proposal and not only promised Csaky an
amnesty, but high office to boot if he would separate from Béldi; nay,
he rewarded on the spot that gentleman who had thus very wisely fastened
the threads of his fate to four several places at the same time, so that
if one of them broke he could still hold on to the other three.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Béldi has ruined his affairs utterly," said Kucsuk Pasha to his son, as
they retired from the Diván; "I give up every idea of saving him."

"I don't," sighed Feriz. "I'll either save or perish with him."

"Let us go to Maurocordato, he may perhaps advise us."

After an hour's interview with Maurocordato, Feriz Beg, with fifty armed
Albanian horsemen, took the road towards Grosswardein.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE TURKISH DEATH.


In the gate of the Pasha of Grosswardein, amidst the gaping throng of
armed retainers there, could be seen a pale wizened Moslem idly
sprawling on the threshold, apparently regardless of everything, but
sometimes looking up, cat-like, with half-shut, dreamy eyes, and at such
times he would smile craftily to himself.

Suddenly a handsome, chivalrous youth galloped out of the gate before
whom the soldiers bowed down to the earth; this was the Pasha's
favourite horseman, Feriz Beg, who had just arrived from Stambul.

The Beg, as if he had only by accident caught sight of the sprawling
Moslem, turned towards him, tapped him on the shoulder with his lance,
and while the latter, feigning ignorance and astonishment, gazed up at
him, he drew nearer to him and said:

"What Zülfikar! dost thou not recognise me?"

The person so addressed bowed himself to the earth.

"Allah is gracious! By the soul of the Prophet, is it thou, gracious
sir?" and with that he got up and began walking by the side of the horse
of the Beg, who beckoned him to follow.

"I have lost a good deal of money and a good many horses over the
dice-box at Stambul, Zülfikar," said Feriz Beg, "so I have come into
these parts to rehabilitate my purse a little. Where dost thou go
a-robbing now, Zülfikar?"

"La illah, il Allah! God is gracious and Mohammed is His holy Prophet,"
said Zülfikar, rolling his eyes heavenwards.

"A truce to this piety, Zülfikar; ye renegades, with unendurable
shamelessness, are always glorifying the Prophet, born Turks don't
mention him half as much. What I ask thee is, where dost thou go
a-plundering now of nights?"

"I thank thee, gracious sir," answered Zülfikar, making a wooden picture
of his face, "my wife is quite well, and there is nothing amiss with me
either."

"Zülfikar, I value in thee that peculiarity of thine which enables thee
to become deaf whenever thou desirest it, but I possess a very good
remedy for that evil, and if thou wilt I will cure thee of it."

Zülfikar dodged the lance which was turned in his direction, and said
with a Pharisaical air:

"What does your honour deign to inquire of me?"

"Didst thou hear what I said to thee just now?"

"Dost thou mean: where I went robbing? I swear by the beard of the
Prophet that I go nowhither for such a purpose."

"I know very well, thou cat, that thou goest nowhither where there is
trouble, but thou dost ferret out where a fat booty lies hidden, and
thou leadest our Spahis on the track of it, wherefore they give thee
also a portion of it; so answer me at once whom thou art wont to visit
at night, as otherwise I shall open a hole in thy head."

"But, sir, betray me not; for the Spahis would tie me to a horse's tail
and the Pasha would impale me. Thou knowest that he does not allow
robbery, but if it happens he looks through his fingers."

"So far from betraying thee I would go with thee, I only know one mode
of getting hold of booty. While the others storm a village, I stand a
little distance off at the farther end of the village; whoever has
anything to save always makes for the farther end of the village, and so
falls into my hands."

The renegade began to feel in his element.

"My good sir, at night the Spahis will go to Élesd. There dwell rich
Wallachians away from the high road. They have never had blackmail
levied on them and there's lots of gold and silver there; if we get a
good haul, do not betray me."

"But may we not fall in with the soldiers of Ladislaus Székely?"

"Nay, sir," said Zülfikar, winking his eyes, "they are far from here. Do
not betray thy faithful servant."

Feriz Beg put spurs to his horse and galloped off. Zülfikar sat down in
the gate again, very sleepily blinking his eyes, and smiling
mysteriously.

Towards evening four-and-twenty Spahis crept out of the fortress and
made off in the direction of Élesd. Feriz Beg kept an eye upon them, and
when they had disappeared in the woods he aroused his Albanian horsemen
and quietly went after them.

It was past midnight when Feriz Beg and his company reached the hillside
covering Élesd. The Spahis had already plundered the place as was
evident from the distant uproar, the loud shrieks, the pealing of bells,
and a couple of flaming haystacks which the mauraders had set on fire to
assist their operations.

Feriz Beg posted his Albanian horsemen at the mouth of a narrow pass,
divided them into four bands and ordered them all to remain as quiet as
possible and wait patiently till the Spahis returned.

After some hours of plundering the distant tumult died away, and instead
of it could be heard approaching a sound of loud wrangling. Presently,
in the deep valley below, the Spahis became visible, staggering under
the stolen goods, dispersed into twos and threes and quarrelling
together over their booty.

Feriz Beg let them come into the narrow pass and when they were quite
unsuspiciously at the height of their dispute, he suddenly blew his horn
and then suddenly fell upon them from all sides with his Albanian
horsemen, surrounded and attacked the marauders, and before they had had
time to use their weapons began to cut them down. The tussle was a
short one. Not one of the Albanians fell, not one of the Spahis escaped.

Feriz dried his sword and leaving the dead Spahis on the road, galloped
back with his band to Grosswardein.

In the Pasha's gate he again encountered Zülfikar and, shaking his fist
at him, dismounted from his horse.

"Thou dog! thou hast betrayed us to Ladislaus Székely; the Spahis have
all been cut down."

Zülfikar turned yellow with fear. It is true that he usually did
something like this: when the Spahis would only promise him a small
portion of the booty, he would for a few ducats extra let the Hungarian
generals know of their coming, when one or two of them would bite the
dust and the rest return without the booty. Last night also he had told
the captain of Klausenberg of this particular adventure, but the
commandant had been unable to make any use of it, for it had been the
Prince's birthday, and he had been obliged to treat the soldiers.

Zülfikar felt a lump in his throat when he heard that all twenty-four of
the Spahis had perished, and he immediately quitted the fortress and
made his way to Klausenberg through the woods as hard as he could pelt.

Feriz Beg, however, in great wrath, paid a visit upon the Pasha.

"Your Excellency," said he, assuming a very severe countenance, "this is
the sort of allies we have. Last night I went on an excursion, taking
four-and-twenty Spahis with me, in order to purchase horses for myself
in the neighbourhood. We dealt honourably with the dealers. I entrusted
the horses to the Spahis and myself galloped on in front. In a narrow
pass the soldiers of Ladislaus Székely laid an ambush for the Spahis,
surrounded them and cut them off to a man. When I came to their
assistance there they were all lying slain and the slayers had trotted
off on my own good steeds. Most gracious sir, that is treachery, our
own allies do us a mischief. I will not put up with it, but if thou dost
not give me complete satisfaction, I will go myself to Klausenberg and
put every one of them to the sword, from Master Michael Apafi down to
Master Ladislaus Székely."

Ajas Pasha, whose special favourite Feriz Beg was, laughed loudly at
this demonstration, patted the youth's cheek, and said in a consolatory
voice:

"Nay, my dear son, do not so, nor waste the fire of thy enthusiasm upon
these infidels. I have a short method of doing these things--leave it to
me."

And thereupon he sent for an aga, and gave him a command in the
following terms:

"Sit on thy horse and go quickly to Klausenberg. There go to the
commandant, Ladislaus Székely, and speak to him thus: Ajas Pasha wishes
thee good-day, thou unbelieving giaour, and sends thee this message:
Inasmuch as thy dog-headed servants during the night last past have
treacherously fallen upon the men of Feriz Beg and cut down
four-and-twenty of them, now therefore I require of thee to search for
and send me instantly these murderers, otherwise the whole weight of my
wrath shall descend upon thine own head. Moreover, in the place of the
horses stolen from him, see that thou send to me without delay just as
many good chargers of Wallachia, and beware lest I come for them myself,
for then thou wilt have no cause to thank me."

When the aga had learnt the message by heart he withdrew, and Ajas Pasha
turned to Feriz Beg complacently:

"Trouble not thyself further," said he, "in a couple of days the
murderers will be here."

"I want the Prince to intercede for them himself," said Feriz Beg.

"And dost thou not believe then that the little finger of the Sublime
Porte is able to give thee the lives of a few giaour hirelings, when it
sends forth thousands to perish on the battle-field?"

"And I will venture to bet a hundred ducats that Master Ladislaus
Székely will reply that his soldiers were not out of the fortress at all
last night."

"I am sorry for thy hundred ducats, my dear son, but I will take thy bet
all the same; and, if I lose, I will cut just as many pieces out of the
skin of Master Ladislaus Székely."

       *       *       *       *       *

The terrified Zülfikar was almost at his last gasp by the time he
reached the courtyard of Master Ladislaus Székely, where, greatly
exhausted, he obtained an audience of the commandant, who was
resplendent in a great mantle trimmed with galloon and adorned with
rubies and emeralds. This love of display was the good old gentleman's
weak point. He had the most beautiful collection of precious stones in
all Transylvania; the nearest way to his heart was to present him with a
rare and beautiful jewel.

He was engaged in furbishing up a necklace of chrysoprases and jacinths
with a hare's foot when the renegade breathlessly rushed through the
door unable to utter a word for sheer weariness. Ladislaus Székely
fancied that Zülfikar had come for the reward of his treachery, and very
bluntly hastened to anticipate him.

"I was unable to make any use of your information, Zülfikar; it was the
Prince's name-day, and the soldiers were not at liberty to leave the
town."

"How can your honour say so," stuttered Zülfikar; "you had
four-and-twenty Spahis cut down at Élesd. What fool told your honour to
kill them? You should merely have deprived them of their booty."

Ladislaus Székely let fall his necklace in his fright and gazed at the
renegade with big round eyes.

"Don't be a fool, Zülfikar, my son! Not a soul was outside this fortress
to-day or yesterday."

"Your honour has been well taught what to say," said the renegade, with
the insolence of fury; "you put on as innocent a face over the business
as a new-born lamb."

"I swear to you I don't understand a word of your nonsense."

"Of course, of course! Capital! Excellent! But your honour would do well
to keep these falsehoods for the messengers of Ajas Pasha, who will be
with your honour immediately; try and fool them if you like, but don't
fool me."

Ladislaus Székely, well aware that every word he said was the sacred
truth, fancied that Zülfikar's assertion was only a rough joke which he
wanted to play upon him, so he cast an angry look on the renegade.

"Be off, my son Zülfikar, and cease joking; or I'll beat you about the
head with this hare's foot till I knock all the moonshine out of you."

"Your honour had best keep your hare's foot to yourself, for if I draw
my Turkish dagger I'll make you carry your own head."

"Be off, be off, my son!" cried Székely, looking around for a stick, and
perceiving a cane in the corner with a large silver knob he seized it.
"And now are you going, or I shall come to you?" he added.

Zülfikar had just caught sight, meanwhile, through the window of the aga
sent by Ajas Pasha, and fearing to encounter him, hastily skipped
through the door, which sudden flight was attributed by Master Ladislaus
Székely to his own threats of violence. He followed close upon the heels
of the fugitive, and ran almost into the very arms of the aga;
whereupon, the aga, also flying into a rage, belaboured the commandant
with his fists, reviled his father, his mother, and his remotest
ancestry, and only after that began to deliver the message of Ajas
Pasha, which he enlarged and embellished with the choicest flowers of an
angry man's rhetoric.

At these words Ladislaus Székely changed colour as often as a genuine
opal, or as a fractured polyporus fungus. It was clear to him that
someone or other had just slain a number of marauding Spahis, but he
knew very well that neither he nor his men had performed this heroic
deed, for that particular evening they had all been safe and sound at
ten o'clock, and yet he was expected to pay the piper!

"Gracious sir, unconquerable aga," he said at last, "my men the whole of
that evening were on duty beneath the windows of the Prince, and the
same evening I myself closed the city gates, so that no living thing
except a bird could get out. Therefore, I pray you ask not of me the
slayers of the Spahis, for never in my life have I killed one of them."

The aga gnashed his teeth, and stared wildly about, as if seeking for
big words worthy of the occasion.

"Darest thou say such things to me, thou wine-drinking infidel?" he
cried at last. "I know very well that thou, single-handed, hast not cut
down four-and-twenty Spahis; rather do I believe there were two thousand
of you that fell upon them, but these thou must give up to me, every
man-jack of them."

Large drops of perspiration began to ooze out upon the forehead of the
commandant, and in his embarrassment it occurred to him that deeds were
better than words, so he seized the chain covered with chrysoprases and
jacinths, which he had just been polishing, and handed them in a
deprecating manner to the Turk, knowing that such a line of defence was
most likely to obtain a hearing.

But the envoy gave the chain handed to him such a kick that the precious
stones were scattered all over the deal boards, and, trampling them
beneath his feet, he roared with a blood-red face:

"I want the murderers, not your precious stones."

The commandant thereupon seeing that the aga's embassy was really a
serious matter, took him down to the soldiers, who were drawn up in the
courtyard, in order to ask each one of them in the hearing of the
envoy: "Where were you during the night in question?" Naturally everyone
of them was able to prove an alibi, not one of them could be suspected.

The aga very nearly had an overflow of gall. He said nothing, he only
rolled his eyes; and when the last soldier had denied any share in the
death of the Turks, he leaped upon his horse, and threatening them with
his fist, growled through his gnashing teeth:

"Wait, ye also shall have your St. Demetrius' day!"[21] and with that he
galloped back to Grosswardein.

     [Footnote 21: _i.e._ you shall be stoned to death.]

On his arrival he found Feriz Beg with the Pasha, and at once told his
story, exaggerating the details to the uttermost.

"What did I tell thee?" said Feriz to the Pasha; "didn't I say they
would send back the message that they had never quitted the town. I am
sorry for your honour's hundred ducats."

At these words Ajas Pasha kicked over his chibouk and his saucer of
sherbet, and in a hoarse, scarce intelligible voice, said to the aga:

"Be off this instant to Stambul as fast as thou canst. Tell the Grand
Vizier what has happened, and say to him that if he does not give me the
amplest satisfaction, I myself will go against these unbelieving
devourers of unruminating beasts who have dared to send me such a
message, and will destroy them, together with their strongholds; or else
I will cast my sword to the ground, and tie a girdle round my loins, and
go away and join the brotherhood of Iskender! Say that, and forget it
not!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Very soon one firman after another reached the Prince from Stambul, each
one of which, with steadily rising wrath, demanded the extradition of
the assassins of the Spahis. The Prince made inquiries and searched for
them everywhere, but nobody could be found to take upon his shoulders
this uncommitted deed of heroism.

The messages from the Porte assumed a more and more furious tone every
day. In itself the death of four-and-twenty Spahis was no very serious
stumbling-block, but what more than anything lashed the Turkish generals
into a fury was the persistent refusal of the Prince to acknowledge the
offence. Yet with the best will in the world he was unable to do
anything else, for not a single person on whom suspicion might fall
could he find throughout the Principality.

       *       *       *       *       *

In those days the dungeons of Klausenburg were well filled with
condemned robbers; in the past year alone no fewer than thirty
incendiaries had been discovered who had resolved to fire all
Transylvania.

One day the noble Martin Pók, the provost-marshal of the place, appeared
before the robbers, and attracted the attention of the most
evil-disposed of these cut-throats and incendiaries by shouting at them:

"You worthless gallows-dogs, which of you would like to be set free at
any price?"

"I would! I would!" cried a whole lot of them.

"Bread is going to be dear, so we cannot waste it on the like of you, so
Master Ladislaus Székely has determined that whoever of you would like
to become Turks are to be handed over to our gracious master, Ajas
Pasha, who will make some of you Janissaries, and send the rest to the
isle of Samos; so whoever will be a Turk, let him speak."

Everyone of them wanted to be a Turk.

"Very well, you rascals, just attend to me! I must tell you what to say
when you stand before the Pasha, for if you answer foolishly you will
be bastinadoed. First of all he will ask you: 'Are you Master Ladislaus
Székely's men?' You will answer: 'Yes, we are!' Then he will ask you:
'Were you at Élesd on a certain day?' And you must admit that you were.
Finally, he will ask you if you met Feriz Beg there? You will admit
everything, and then he will instantly release you from servitude. Do
you understand?"

"Yes, yes!" roared the incendiaries; and dancing in their fetters they
followed the provost-marshal upstairs, who turned his extraordinary
small head back from time to time to smile at them, at the same time
twisting the ends of his poor thin moustache with an air of crafty
self-satisfaction.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day two letters reached Grosswardein from Stambul. One of these
letters was from Kucsuk Pasha to his son, the other was from the Sultan
to Ajas Pasha.

The letter to Feriz Beg was as follows:

      "MY SON,--Let thy heart rejoice: Kiuprile and
      Maurocordato have not been wasting their time. The
      Grand Vizier is very wrath with the Prince and his
      Court. The death of the four-and-twenty Spahis is an
      affair of even greater importance in Stambul just now
      than the capture of Candia. I fancy we shall very soon
      get what we want."

Feriz Beg understood the allusion, and went at once to the Pasha in the
best of humours.

"Listen to what the omnipotent Sultan writes," said the Pasha, producing
a parchment sealed with green wax, adorned below with the official
signature of the Sultan, the so-called Tugra, which was not unlike a
bird's-nest made of spiders'-webs.

Feriz Beg pressed the parchment to his forehead and his lips, and the
further he read into it the more his face filled with surprise and joy.

      "VALIANT AJAS PASHA MY FAITHFUL SERVANT!--I wish thee
      always all joy and honour. Inasmuch as I learn from
      thee that the faithless servants of the Prince, in
      time of peace and amity, have slain four-and-twenty
      Spahis, and that their masters not only have not
      punished this misdeed but even presumed to deceive me
      with lying reports thereof, thereby revealing their
      ill-will towards me, now therefore I charge and
      authorise thee in case the counsellors of the Prince
      do not surrender the murderers in response to my
      ultimatum, which even now is on its way to them, or in
      case they make any objection whatsoever, or even if
      they simply pass over the matter in silence; in any
      such case I charge and authorise thee instantly to
      invade Transylvania with all the armies at thy
      disposal, and by the nearest route. Kucsuk Pasha also
      will immediately be ready at hand with his bands at
      Vöröstorony, and the Tartar King hath also our command
      to lend thee assistance. This done, I will either
      drive the Prince into exile or take him prisoner, when
      I will at once strike off the chains of Master Paul
      Béldi--who, because of his stubbornness, now sits in
      irons at Jedekula--and whether he will or not, I will
      place him incontinently on the throne of the Prince,
      etc., etc."

"Dost thou believe now that we shall get the murderers?" asked Ajas
Pasha triumphantly.

"Never!" said Feriz Beg, laughing aloud and beside himself with joy.

"What dost thou say?" growled the astonished Ajas; "but suppose we go
for them ourselves?"

"Well!" said Feriz, perceiving that he had nearly betrayed himself, "in
that case--yes." But he said to himself "Not then or ever; and Paul
Béldi will be released, and Paul Béldi will become Prince, and his wife
will be Princess Consort, and Aranka will be a Princess too, and we
shall see each other again."

At that moment an aga entered the room and announced with a look of
satisfaction:

"Master Ladislaus Székely has now sent the murderers."

Feriz Beg reeled backwards. The word "impossible" hung upon his lips,
and he nearly let it escape. It _was_ impossible.

"Let them come in!" said Ajas Pasha viciously. He would have preferred
to carry out the Sultan's conditional command, seize the Principality,
and conduct the campaign personally.

Feriz Beg fancied he was dreaming when he saw the forty or fifty
selected rascals who, led by Martin Pók, drew up before Ajas Pasha; the
rogues were dressed up as soldiers but thief, criminal, was written on
the face of each one of them.

Master Martin Pók exhibited them to the Pasha and Feriz Beg, and very
wisely stood aside from them. Feriz Beg clapped his hands together in
astonishment. He knew better than anyone that these fellows had never
seen the Spahis, and he waited to hear what they would say.

Ajas Pasha sat on his sofa with a countenance as cold as marble, and at
a sign from him a file of Janissaries formed behind the backs of the
rascals, who tried to look as pleasant and smiling as possible before
the Pasha to gain his favour.

"Ye are Master Ladislaus Székely's men, eh?" inquired the Pasha of the
false heroes.

"We are--at thy service, unconquerable Pasha," they replied with one
voice, folding their hands across their breasts and bowing down to the
very ground.

The Pasha beckoned to the Janissaries to come softly up behind each one
of them.

"Ye were at Élesd at midnight on the day of St. Michael the Archangel,
eh?" he asked again.

"We were indeed--at thy service invincible Pasha!" they repeated
striking their knees with their foreheads.

Feriz Beg rent his clothes in his rage. He would have liked to have
roared at them: "Ye lie, you rascals! You were not there at all!" but he
was obliged to keep silence.

Ajas beckoned again to the Janissaries, and very nicely and quietly they
drew their swords from their sheaths, and, grasping them firmly,
concealed them behind their backs.

The Pasha put the third question to the robbers.

"Ye met Feriz Beg, eh?"

"Lie not!" cried Feriz furiously. "Look well at me! Have you ever seen
me anywhere before? Did you ever meet me at Élesd?"

The interrogated, bowing to the earth, replied with the utmost devotion:
"Yes--at your service, invincible Pasha and most valiant Beg!"

At that same instant the swords flashed in the hands of the Janissaries,
and the heads of the robbers suddenly rolled at their feet.

"Oh, ye false knaves!" cried Feriz Beg, striking his forehead with his
clenched fist.

Ajas Pasha turned coolly towards Martin Pók: "Greet thy master, and tell
him from me that another time he must be quicker, and not make me
angry.--As for thee, Feriz, my son, pay me back those hundred ducats!"



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE HOSTAGE.


One evening two horsemen dressed as Turks rode into the courtyard of the
fortress of Szamosújvár, and demanded an audience of the noble Danó
Sólymosi, the commandant. A soldier conducted to him the two Moslems,
one of whom seemed to be a man advanced in years, whose sunburnt face
was covered with scars; the other was a youth, whose face was half
hidden in the folds of a large mantle, only his dark eyes were visible.

"Good evening, captain," said the elder Turk, greeting the commandant,
who at the first moment recognised the intruder and joyfully hastened
towards him and grasped his hand.

"So God has brought Kucsuk Pasha to my humble dwelling."

"Then thou dost recognise me, worthy old man?" said Kucsuk, just
touching the hand of the worthy old Magyar.

"How could I help it, my good sir? Thou didst free my only daughter from
the hands of the filthy Tartars, thou didst deliver her from grievous
captivity, thou didst give her a place of refuge, food, and pleasant
words in a foreign land. I should not be a man if I were to forget
thee."

"Well, for all these things I have come hither to beg something of
thee."

"Command me! My life and goods are at thy service."

"Dost thou not detain here the family of Paul Béldi?"

"Yes, sir; they brought the unfortunate creatures hither."

"I must have Paul Béldi's consort out of this prison for a fortnight, at
the accomplishment of which time I will bring her back again."

The captain was thunderstruck.

"Sir," said he, "you are playing with my head."

"None will know, and in two weeks' time she will be here again."

"But if they discover it?"

"Have no fear of that. During that time I will leave in thy hands as a
hostage my own son."

The young cavalier approached, threw back his mantle, and the captain
recognised Feriz Beg. He fancied he was dreaming.

"Dost thou not suppose that I will bring back the woman for the sake of
my son?"

"Do what you think well," said the commandant. "I owe you a life, I will
now pay it back to you; follow me!"

The commandant led his visitors up a narrow corkscrew fortress into the
corner tower, which was used as a dungeon for state prisoners. The
circular windows were guarded by heavy iron bars, the heavy iron-plated
oaken doors groaned upon their hinges, indicating thereby that they were
very seldom opened.

"Why did you put them in this lonely place?" asked Kucsuk Pasha; "is
there not some other prison in the town?"

"Don't blame me, sir; my orders were to lock the lady up securely, apart
from her child, and in this tower are two adjacent chambers with a
common window, and in one of them I have put the mother and in the other
the child. I knew that they would not mind if they could speak to each
other through the window, and press each other's hands, and even kiss
each other through the bars."

"Thou art a true man, my good old fellow," said Kucsuk Pasha, patting
the commandant's shoulder; while Feriz Beg warmly pressed his hand.

"Thou wouldst put me into just such another dungeon, eh?" he asked.

"There would be no need of that, good Feriz Beg; you should dwell in my
apartments."

"But I would not have it so," said the youth, thinking with glowing
cheeks of the fair Aranka who would thus be his next-door neighbour and
fellow-prisoner.

At last the iron door of the prison was opened, the jailor remained
outside, and the two Osmanlis entered. By the side of a rude oak table
was sitting a lady in deep mourning in front of the narrow window,
reading aloud from a large Bible with silver clasps; her children at the
window of the other dungeon were listening devoutly to the Word of God.

When the men entered the woman started and looked up; the dim ray of
light coming through the narrow window made her face appear still paler
than it used to be; she looked up seriously, sadly--sorrow had lent a
gentle gravity to the face that used to be so bright and gay.

Kucsuk Pasha approached, and taking the lady's soft transparent hand in
his own, briefly introduced himself.

"I am Kucsuk Pasha, thy husband's most faithful friend in this world
after thyself."

"I thank you for your visit; my husband has often mentioned your name.
Do you perchance bring me any message from him?"

"He would have thee with him."

"Then I am free?" cried the lady, tremulous between joy and doubt.

"Rejoice not, lady; it is not in my power to give thee freedom, I only
promise thee a brief interview with Paul Béldi, just time enough for
thee to tell him how much thou hast suffered. He cannot come to thee, so
thou must come to him. With me thou canst come most quickly, for the
greatest part of the time we shall be travelling together."

"Will my children come with me?"

"They will remain here. But thou wilt see them again soon. Either thou
wilt conquer Paul Béldi with thy tears, and melt his iron will, and then
he will come back to Transylvania as Prince and every gate will be open
before him; or else he will stand fast to his determination, and then
thou wilt return to thy dungeon and he to his, and so you will both die
in the dungeons of different realms. Now take leave of thy children and
hasten. It depends upon thee whether they become princes and princesses
or slaves for ever."

"And who will defend them, who will watch over them, who will pray with
them while I am away?"

"Be not distressed. I will leave my own son here as a hostage while thou
art away. Feriz will occupy thy dungeon, he will watch over thy
children, and not let them be afraid. Hasten now and take leave of
them."

Dame Béldi rushed to the round window. Loudly sobbing, she called her
children one by one, and then embraced them all as best she could. The
cold iron bars stood between her breast and theirs. The tears of their
weeping faces could not dissolve them.

"Give this kiss to father!--And this kiss from me!--And this from me!"
lisped the children, putting their little arms round their mother's neck
through the bars.

"My child, my good Aranka!" said Dame Béldi to the girl, who being about
fifteen or sixteen was the eldest of them all; "look after thy little
brothers and sisters! And you, my good little lads, comfort Aranka. God
bless you! God defend you! One more kiss, Aranka! And one more for you,
little David?"

"Madame, time is passing, and Paul Béldi is waiting for thee to open his
prison!" intervened Kucsuk Pasha, withdrawing Dame Béldi from the
window of her children's prison, who thereupon turned her tear-stained
face towards Feriz Beg, and in a passion of grief flung herself on the
youth's neck, and said to him in a voice almost indistinguishable for
her sobbing:

"Thou noble heart! promise me that thou wilt love my children when I am
far away!"

"By Allah, I swear it!" exclaimed the youth, pressing to his bosom the
poor woman who was half-fainting for sorrow, "I swear that I will love
them for ever!"

Ah! there was one among them whom he had already loved for a long, long
time.

"Hasten, lady!" urged the Pasha; "cast this mantle over thee, and place
this turban on thy head that the guards may not recognise thee in the
distance. The way is long, the time is short."

"God be with you, God be with you!" sobbed Dame Béldi, casting with
tremulous hands hundreds of kisses towards her children, who waved their
goodbyes to her from their window and then, violently repressing her
emotion, she rushed from the dungeon.

Kucsuk Pasha pressed the hand of his son in silence, and left him in
Dame Béldi's room.

The children kept on weeping behind their window.

The youth drew nearer to them.

"Weep not," he said cheerfully, "your mother will soon come again and
bring your father with her, and then you will all rejoice together."

"Ah, but then they'll kill father!" sobbed one of the children timidly.

"So long as Feriz Beg can use his sword none shall touch Paul Béldi,"
cried the youth, with flashing eyes. "My sword and my father's will
flash around him, his enemies will be my enemies. Fear not! when I get
back my sword, I will win back his liberty with it."

"I thank you, I thank you," whispered a gentle voice overcome by
emotion.

Feriz Beg recognised the silvery voice of Aranka, and the weeping blue
eyes of the seraph face which regarded him, like Heaven after rain,
flashed upon him a burning ray of gratitude which was to haunt him in
his dreams and in his memory for ever.

Feriz felt his heart leap with a great joy. Pressing close up to the
prison bars that he might get as close to the girl as possible he said
to her with a tender voice:

"How happy I am now that we dwell together as neighbours in the same
dungeon, but oh, how much happier shall we be when no doors are closed
upon us? Let me then have a place beside thy hearth and within thy
heart!"

The fair, sad girl, with a face full of foreboding, stretched through
the bars of the dungeon a hand whiter than a lily, whiter than snow.
Feriz Beg solemnly raised it to his lips and falling on his knees, in an
outburst of sublime devotion touched his lips and his forehead with that
beloved hand.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE HUSBAND.


At the very hour when Kucsuk Pasha arrived at Stambul, Master Ladislaus
Székely, whom Master Michael Teleki had sent with rich presents to the
Porte, likewise dismounted from his carriage. It was his mission to win
the favour of the infuriated Grand Vizier and the Pashas, who had again
begun violently to urge Paul Béldi to accept the princely throne.

Master Ladislaus Székely had also brought with him Zülfikar to be his
guide and interpreter through the tortuous streets of Stambul.

As we already know, this worthy gentleman's particular hobby was the
collection of jewels, and the Prince had sent through him such a heap of
precious stones that the heart of the good gentleman when he saw them
all spread out before him died away within him at the thought that the
whole collection was ruthlessly to be broken up and distributed among a
lot of foreigners and Pashas.

"What a shame to lose them all," he thought. "And even then who knows
whether we shall be safe after all. It is like casting pearls before
swine. A much quicker way would be to get Master Paul Béldi
assassinated. That would be cutting the knot once for all, and we should
have no further danger from that quarter. Michael Teleki wouldn't kill
me for a trifle like that, I know. You, Zülfikar, my son, could you
undertake to poison someone?" he inquired, turning towards the
renegade.

"The whole town if you like."

"No, only Master Paul Béldi. It is all one to him whether he dies or
remains a prisoner for life."

"I'll do it for two hundred ducats, if you pay me half in advance."

"I'll pay you, Zülfikar, but how will you get at him?"

"That's my affair, all you have to do is to get the money ready."

Accordingly Ladislaus Székely gave the earnest-money to the renegade,
and the renegade went home and wrote a letter in the name of the
Beglerleg of the following tenour: "Be assured that our affairs are in
the best order, and we shall shortly gain our object."

He strewed over these lines a fine blue dust which was the strongest of
poisons, calculating that whoever wanted to read the letter would first
brush the dust off it, whereupon the fine dust would rise in the air,
and the person reading the letter would inhale the dust and die.

After attaching the letter to his turban, he began prowling round the
dungeon of Paul Béldi, awaiting an opportunity of worming his way into
it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Paul Béldi was sitting alone in the darkest corner of the dungeon of
Jedikula. At his feet lay his faithful bloodhound, Körtövely, with his
eyes fixed sadly on his master. Whenever his master slept the dog would
sit up, never take his eyes off him, and begin growling at the lightest
noise.

Béldi, with folded arms, was sitting on the stone bench to which he was
chained. His face had grown terribly pale and as if turned to stone. The
pale gleam of light which filtered through the narrow window and lit up
his face, found there no trace of that weary longing which the dweller
in prisons generally has for the sun's rays. The whole man, body and
soul, was hardened into steel.

Suddenly the dog lying at his feet impatiently raised its sagacious
head, and then with a whimper of joy ran towards the door; there it
stood for a time merrily barking, and then ran back to its master and
stood before him wagging its tail with one foot on his shoulder, whining
and whimpering with such lively joy that one might almost have
understood what it wanted to say.

"What's the matter? Good dog!" said Béldi, stroking the dog's head.
"What is it? Nobody's coming to see me that can make you happy."

At that moment the key turned in the door of the dungeon and a group of
men by the light of torches descended the steps and entered Béldi's
prison; whereupon Körtövely quickly left his master and burrowing his
way through the throng, began to yelp merrily over someone, and then
rushing back to his master, planted his fore-paws on his breast and
barked as if he would burst because he could not express more plainly
the joy which his wonderful canine instinct had anticipated.

Béldi, perceiving among those who visited him the Grand Vizier,
Kiuprile, and Maurocordato, ordered his dog to be quiet, and standing up
before them, saluted them with a deep bow.

"Well, thou obstinate man!" said the Grand Vizier, "how long wilt thou
torment thyself and offend the Sultan and thine own good friends? Wilt
thou ever perceive that to sit on a stone bench in a damp dungeon is a
very different thing to sitting on a princely throne?"

"The more I suffer," said Béldi, in a strangely calm voice, "the more
reason I have to rejoice that my country does not suffer instead of me."

The Grand Vizier thereupon said something in Turkish which Maurocordato
sadly interpreted: "The Grand Seignior informs thee that because of
money thou hast been cast into prison, and only money can release thee;
promise, therefore, two hundred and seventy purses, and thou shalt get
the Principality to enable thee to pay it."

"I have told you my determination," said Béldi, "and I will not depart
from it. I will not promise money to the detriment of my country. I will
not lead an army against it, and I will not break my oath. These were
and will be my words from which I can never depart."

"Never!" cried Kucsuk Pasha, pressing through the crowd. "Wilt thou not
even now?"--and with that he led a pale female figure towards Béldi.

"My wife!" exclaimed the captive, and he gripped fast his chains lest he
should collapse for joy, terror, and surprise.

The pale woman in mourning fell upon his bosom, her tears became his
fetters.

Paul Béldi burst into tears, he fell back upon his stone bench, his very
soul was shattered. He remained clinging upon his wife's neck,
speechless, unable to utter a word, and the whining dog licked now the
hand of his master and now the lady's hand.

"Let us turn aside," said Kucsuk Pasha; "let us leave them
together"--and the Turks withdrew from the dungeon, leaving Paul Béldi
alone with his wife.

"I fancied," said Dame Béldi when she was able to utter a word amidst
her choking sobs. "I fancied I was suffering instead of you, and oh! you
were suffering more than I."

"How did you come here?" asked Béldi, in a low stifled voice.

"Kucsuk Pasha left his son as a hostage in my stead."

"Worthy man! What useless sacrifices he is making for my sake. And my
children?"

"They remain in the dungeon whither also I must return, if you will not
accept the Sultan's offer."

"Have they taken away my girl Aranka also?" asked Béldi, with a heavy
heart.

"Yes, they have taken her too, and if we are released we shall have no
whither to go. They have taken everything of ours. The Bethlen property
has become the prey of Farkas Bethlen; the Haromszeki estate is now in
the hands of Clement Mikes, although it is not lawful to deprive a
Székler of his lands, even for high-treason. Our castle at Bodola has
been totally destroyed, our escutcheon has been torn to pieces, and your
name has been recorded in the journals of the Diet as a traitor."

"Oh, ye men!" roared Béldi, shaking his chains in the bitterness of his
anger; "if I were not Paul Béldi the wrath of God would descend upon
your heads. But ah!--I love my country even if worms are gnawing it. Dry
your eyes, my good wife! you see I am not weeping. What we suffer is the
visitation of God upon us. I remain a Christian and a patriot. I leave
my cause to God!"

"You will not accept the offer of the Sultan?" inquired Dame Béldi,
approaching her husband with fear and despair in her eyes.

"Never!" replied Béldi, in a low voice.

The wife, with a loud scream, flung herself at the feet of her husband,
and, seizing his knees in a convulsive embrace, begged and besought him:
"You would send me back to my dungeon? You would separate me from you
for ever? Never, never, not even in the hour of death, shall I see you
again."

"Comfort yourself with the thought that you loved me, and were worthy of
me, if you can suffer as I do and for the same reason."

"You would plunge your children into eternal captivity?"

"Tell them that their father lived honourably and died honourably, and
teach them to live and die like him."

"Think of your girl, Aranka; your favourite, your dearest child."

"Rather may she fade away than Transylvania be plunged in the flames of
war."

"Béldi! drive me not to despair!" cried the wife trembling violently. "I
am afraid, horribly afraid, of my dungeon. Twice have I had fever from
the close, damp air. There was none to care for me in my sickness; I
was calling your name continually, and you were far from me; I saw your
image, and was unable to embrace you. Oh, Béldi! I shall die without
you! The most terrible form of death--despair--will kill me!"

Béldi knelt down by the side of his wife and embraced and kissed her.
The woman fainted in his arms as the Turks entered his prison. Béldi
beckoned Kucsuk Pasha to him. A sort of leaden, death-like hue had begun
to spread over his face; he could scarce see with whom he was
conversing. He laid his swooning wife in the arms of the Pasha, and
stammered with barely intelligible words: "I thank you for your good
will. Here is my wife--take her--back to her dungeon!"

The Turks, in speechless astonishment, lifted up the fainting woman, and
left the dungeon without plaguing Béldi with any more questions.

Béldi stood stonily there as they went out, with open lips and a dull
light in his eyes. When the last Turk had gone, and he saw his wife no
longer, his head began to nod and droop down, and suddenly he fell prone
upon the floor.

Körtövely, the old hound, began sorrowfully, bitterly, to whine.

At that moment Zülfikar entered the dungeon with the poisoned letter.

He was too late. Paul Béldi had already departed from this world.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Ladislaus Székely heard of Béldi's death he gave a magnificent
banquet, and when the company was at its merriest Zülfikar came rushing
in.

"Come! out with those hundred ducats!" he whispered in the ear of Master
Ladislaus Székely.

"What do you mean?" cried Székely in a voice flushed with wine. "Paul
Béldi had a stroke; be content with what you have had already."

"Thou faithless dog of a giaour!" cried the renegade at the top of his
voice so that everyone could hear him, "is this the way thou dost
deceive me? Thou didst bargain with me for the death of Paul Béldi for
two hundred ducats, and now thou wouldst beat me down by one half. Thou
art a rogue meet for the hangman's hands. Is it thus thou dost treat an
honest man? I'll not kill a man for thee another time until thou pay me
in advance, thou faithless robber!"

The company laughed aloud at this scene, but Master Ladislaus Székely
seemed very much put out by the joke. "What are you talking about, you
crazy fellow?" said he. "Who asked you to do anything? I never saw you
in my life before!"

"What!" cried Zülfikar. "I suppose thou wilt deny next that thou didst
write this letter to Paul Béldi!" and with that he gave Ladislaus
Székely the poisoned letter. He seized it, broke the seal, brushed away
the dust, and ran his eye over it, whereupon he flung it at the feet of
Zülfikar, exclaiming: "I never wrote that."

Then he beckoned to the servants to seize Zülfikar by the collar and
pitch him into the street. But the renegade stood outside in front of
the windows and began to curse Székely before the assembled crowd for
not paying him the price of the poison.

Inside the house the guests laughed more heartily than ever, and at last
Székely himself began to look upon the matter in the light of a joke,
and laughed like the rest; but when he returned home to Transylvania he
felt a pain in his stomach, and did not know what was the matter. He
became deaf, could neither eat nor drink, and his bowels began to rot.

Nobody could cure him of his terrible malady, till at last he fell in
with a German leech, who persuaded him that he could cure him with the
dust of genuine diamonds and sapphires. Ladislaus Székely handed to the
charlatan his collection of precious stones. He abstracted the stones
from their settings, but ground up common stones instead of them in his
medical mortar, and stampeded himself with the real stones, leaving
Ladislaus Székely to die the terrible death by poison which he had
intended for Paul Béldi.

       *       *       *       *       *

Paul Béldi they buried in foreign soil; none visited his grave. Only his
faithful dog sat beside it. For eight days it neither ate nor drank. On
the ninth day it died on the deserted grave of its master.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE FADING OF FLOWERS.


And now let us see what became of Aranka and Feriz.

At last they were beneath one roof together--this roof was a little
better than the roof of a tomb, but not much, for it was the roof of a
dungeon. They could only see each other through a narrow little window,
but even this did them good. They were able to press each other's hands
through the iron bars, console each other, and talk of their coming joys
and boundless happiness. The walls of the prison were so narrow, so
damp, the narrow opening scarce admitted the light of day; but when the
youth began to talk of his native land, Damascus, rich in roses, of
palm-trees waving in the breeze, of warm sunny skies, where the
housetops were planted with flowers, and the evergreens give a shade
against the ever-burning sun, at such times the girl forgot her dungeon
and fancied she was among the rose-groves of Damascus, and when the
youth spoke of the future she forgot the rose-groves of Damascus and
fancied she was in heaven.

Days and days passed since the departure of Dame Béldi, and there were
no news of her. Every day the spirits of the girl declined, every
evening she parted more and more sadly with Feriz, and every morning he
found it more and more difficult to comfort her. And now with great
consternation the youth began to perceive that the girl was very pale,
the colour of life began to fade from her round, rosy cheeks, and there
was something new in the brightness of her eyes--it was no earthly
light there which made him tremble as he gazed upon her. The youth durst
not ask her: "What is the matter?" But the girl said to him:

"Oh, Feriz! I am dying here; I shall never see your smiling skies."

"I would rather see the sky black than thee dead."

"The sky will smile again, but I never shall. I feel something within me
which makes my heart's blood flow languidly, and at night I see my dead
kinsfolk, and walk with them in unknown regions which I never saw
before, and which appear before me so vividly that I could describe
every house and every bush by itself."

"That signifies that thou wilt visit unknown regions with me."

"Oh, Feriz, I no longer feel any pleasure in those lands of yours, nor
am I glad when I think of your palms, and as often as I see you darkness
descends upon my soul, for I feel that I am going to leave you."

"Speak not so, joy of my existence. Grieve not God with thy words, for
God is afflicted when the innocent complain."

"I am not complaining. I go from a bad into a good world, and there I
shall see you in my dreams."

"But if this bad world should become better, and you lived happily in
it?"

Aranka sadly shook her pretty, angelic head.

"That it is not necessary for this world to grow better you can see from
the fact that the good must die while the wicked live a long time. God
seeks out those that love Him, and takes them unto Himself, for He will
not let them suffer long."

Feriz shuddered. What could have put these solemn, melancholy thoughts
into the heart of this girl, this child? It was the approach of Death,
the worm-bitten fruit ripens more quickly than the rest. Slow, creeping
Death had seized upon the childish mind and made it speak like the
aged--and sad it was to listen to its words.

"Cheer up," said Feriz, with an effort, skimming with his lips the
girl's white hand which she thrust out to him through the bars. "Thy
mother will soon be here; thy father will sit on the throne of the
Prince as he deserves; thou wilt be a Princess, and I will strive and
struggle till I am high enough to sue for thee, and then I will lay my
glory and renown at thy feet, and thou shalt be my bride, my queen, my
guardian angel."

The girl shook her head sorrowfully.

"And we will walk along by the banks of the quiet streams in those
ancient lands where not craft but valour rules, where the wise are only
learned in the courses of the stars and the healing virtues of the
plants, not in the science of the rise and fall of kingdoms. There from
the window of my breeze-blown kiosk, which is built on the slopes of
Lebanon, thou wilt view the whole region round about. Above, the
shepherds kindle their fires in the blackness of the cedar forests;
below, the mountain stream runs murmuring along, and all round about us
the nightingale is singing, and what he singeth is the happiness of
love. In the far distance thou seest the mirror of the great sea, and
the white-sailed pleasure boat rocks to and fro on the transparent
becalmed billows, and the moon looks down upon the limitless mirror, and
a fair maiden sits in the pleasure-boat, and at her feet lies a youth,
and both of them are silent, only a throbbing heart is speaking, and it
speaks of the happiness of love."

A couple of tears dropped from the eyes of the girl--the future was so
seductive--and that picture, that fair country, she did not seem to be
regarding them from the earth, it seemed to her as if she was looking
down upon them from the sky and regretting that she was forced to
leave--the beautiful world.

Aranka adored her father. The man who was respected for his virtues by a
whole kingdom was the highest ideal of his child. When Feriz began to
speak of him, the girl's face brightened, and at the recital of his
heroic deeds the tears dried up in her flashing eyes; and when the youth
told her how the great patriot would return, glorious and powerful,
supported by the mightiest of monarchs, and how he would throw open the
prison doors of his children and be parted from them no more, then a
smile would gradually transfigure the girl's face, and she would feel
happy. And then she would steal apart into her own dungeon, and kneel
down before her bed, and pray ardently that she might see her father
soon, very soon.

And she was to see him before very long.

Paul Béldi's body was now six feet deep in the ground, and his soul a
star farther off in the sky--to see him one must go to him.

Paler and paler she became every day, her waking moments were scarcely
different from her dreams, and her dreams from her waking moments. The
provost-marshal now had compassion on the withered flower, and allowed
it on the sunny afternoons to walk about on the bastions and breathe the
fresh air. But neither moonlight nor fresh air could cure her now.

Frequently she would take the hand of Feriz Beg and press it to her
forehead. "See how it burns, just like fire! Oh, if only I might live
till my father comes. How he would grieve for me!"

Feriz Beg saw her wither from day to day, and still there was no sign of
liberty. The youth used frequently to walk about the courtyard half a
day at a time, like a lion in a cage, beating the walls with his
forehead at the thought that that for which he had been striving his
whole life long, and the possession whereof was the final goal of his
existence, was drawing nearer and nearer to Death every hour, and no
human power could hold it back!

The wife of the provost-marshal, a good, true woman, nursed the rapidly
declining girl. Medical science was then of very small account in
Transylvania; the sick had resort to well-known herbs and domestic
remedies based on the experience of the aged; they trusted for the most
part to our blessed mother Nature and the mercy of God.

The worthy woman did all she could, but her honest heart told her that
the arrival of Aranka's father, and the sooner the better, would do more
good than all her remedies. That would transform the invalid, and joy
would give her back her failing vital energy.

Feriz Beg had not been able to speak to Aranka for two days; the girl
had suffered greatly during the night, and Feriz was condemned to listen
to the moaning of his beloved, and to hear her in the delirium of fever
through the prison windows without being able to go to her, without
being able to wipe the sweat from her forehead, or put a glass of cold
water to her lips, or whisper to her words of comfort, and had to be
content with knowing that she was with those who carefully nursed her.

Oh, it is not to the dying that death is most bitter.

By the morning the fever left her. The rising sun was just beginning to
shine through the narrow round window and the sick girl begged to be
carried out into the open air and the warm morning sunshine. She was no
longer able to walk by herself, and they carried her out on to the
bastions in an arm-chair.

It was a beautiful autumn morning, a sort of transparent light rested
upon the whole region, giving a pale lilac blue to the sunlit scene.
Where the road wound down from the Szekler hills a light cloud of dust
was visible in the morning vapour; it seemed to be coming from the
direction of Szamosújvár.

"Ah! there is my mother coming!" whispered Aranka, with a smiling face.

The young Turk held his hand before his face and fixed his eagle eyes in
that direction; and when for a moment the breeze swept the dust off the
road, and a carriage on springs drawn by five horses appeared, he
exclaimed with a beating heart:

"Yes, that is indeed the carriage in which they took away thy mother."

Aranka was dumb with joy and surprise; she could not speak a word, she
only squeezed Feriz Beg's hands and fixed her tearful eyes upon him with
a grateful look.

The carriage seemed to be rapidly approaching. "That is how people
hasten who have something joyful to say," thought Feriz, and then he
began to fear less boundless joy might injure the life of his darling.

Soon the carriage arrived in front of the fortress and rumbled noisily
over the drawbridge. Aranka, supported by the arm of Feriz, descended
into the courtyard. They pressed onward to meet the carriage, and the
smile upon her pallid face was so melancholy.

The glass door of the carriage was opened, and who should come out but
Kucsuk Pasha.

There was nothing encouraging in his look; he said not a word either to
his son or to the girl who clung to him, but the castellan was standing
hard by, and he beckoned to him.

"In the carriage," said Kucsuk, "is the prisoner for whom I left my son
as an hostage; take her back, and look well after her, for she is very
ill."

Dame Béldi lay in the carriage unconscious, motionless.

Aranka, paler than ever and trembling all over, asked:

"Where is my father?"

Kucsuk Pasha would have spoken, but tears came instead of words and ran
down his manly face; silently he raised his hand, pointed upwards, and
said, in a scarce audible voice: "In Heaven!"

The gentle girl, like a plucked flower, collapsed at these words. Feriz
Beg caught her moaning in his arms, she raised her eyes, a long sigh
escaped her lips, then her beautiful lips drooped, her beautiful eyes
closed, and all was over.

The beloved maiden had gone to her father in Heaven.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE SWORD OF GOD.


For some time past God's marvels had been multiplied over Transylvania.
No longer were they disquieting rumours which popular agitators invented
for the disturbance of the public peace, but extraordinary natural
phenomena whose rapid sequence stirred the heart of even the coldest
sceptic.

One summer morning at dawn, after a clear night, an unusually thick
heavy mist descended upon the earth, which only dispersed in the
afternoon, spread over the whole sky in the shape of an endless black
cloud, and there remained like a heavy motionless curtain. Not a drop of
water fell from it, and at noonday in the houses it was impossible to
see anything without a candle.

Towards evening every bird became silent, the flowers closed their
calices, the leaves of the trees hung limply down. The people walking
about outside began to complain of a stifling cough, and from that time
forth the germs of every disease antagonistic to nature were seen in
every herb, in every fruit; even the water of the streams was corrupted.
The hot blood of man, the earth itself was infected by a kind of
epidemic, so that weeds never seen before sprang up and ruined the
richest crops, and the strongest oaks of the forest withered beneath the
assault of grey blight and funguses, and the good black soil of the
fruitful arable land was covered with a hideous green mould.

For three whole days the sky did not clear. On the evening of the
fourth day the stifling stillness was followed by a frightful hurricane,
which tore off the roofs of the houses, wrenched the stars and crosses
from the steeples of the churches, swept up the dust from the
high-roads, caused such a darkness that it was impossible to see, and
bursting open the willow trees, which had just begun to bloom, drove the
red pollen before it in clouds, so that when the first big rain-drops
began to fall they left behind them blood-red traces on the white walls
of the houses. "It is raining blood from Heaven!" was the terrified cry.
Not long afterwards came the cracking thunderbolts flashing and flaming
as if they would flog the earth with a thousand fiery whips, while one
perpendicular flash of lightning plumped right down into the middle of
the town, shaking the earth with its cracking concussion, so that
everyone believed the hour of judgment was at hand.

Nevertheless the storm had scattered the clouds, and by eventide the sky
had cleared, and lo! before the eyes of the gaping multitude a gigantic
comet stood in the firmament, all the more startling as nobody had been
aware of its proximity because for three days the sky had been blotted
out by clouds.

The nucleus of the comet stood just over the place where the sun had
gone down, and the blood-red light of evening was not sufficient to dim
the brightness of the lurid star; it appeared as if it had just slain
the sun and was now bathing in its blood.

The comet was so long that it seemed to stretch across two-thirds of the
firmament, and the end of it bulged out broadly like a Turkish scimitar.

"The sword of God!" whispered the people with instinctive fear.

For two weeks this phenomenon stood in the sky, rising late one day and
early the next. Sometimes it appeared with the bright sun, and in the
solar brightness it looked like a huge streak of blue enamel in the sky
and spread around it a sort of febrile pallor as if the atmosphere
itself were sick: on bright afternoons the sun could be regarded with
the naked eye.

The people were in fear and terror at this extraordinary phenomenon, and
when the blind masses are in an unconscious panic then a storm is close
at hand, then they are capable of anything to escape from their fear.

In those days the priests of every faith could give strange testimony of
the general consternation which prevailed in Transylvania. The churches
were kept open all day long, and the indefatigable curers of souls spoke
words of consolation to the assembled hosts of the faithful. Magyari,
the Prince's chaplain, preached four sermons every day in the cathedral,
which was so crowded at such times that half the people could not get in
at all but remained standing outside the doors.

One evening the church was so filled with faithful worshippers that the
very steps were covered with them, and all sorts of Klausenberg
burgesses intermingled with travelling Szeklers in a group before the
principal door, and after the hymn was finished they clapped to their
clasped psalm-books and began to talk to each other while the sermon was
going on inside.

"We live in evil times," said an old master-tanner, shaking his big cap.

"We can say a word about that too," interrupted a Szekler, who was up in
town about a law-suit, and who seized the opportunity of saying what he
knew because he had come from far.

"Then you also have seen the sword of God?" inquired a young man.

"Not only have we seen it, my little brother, but we have felt it also.
Not a single evening do we lay down to rest without reciting the prayers
for the dead and dying, and scarce a night passes but what we see the
sky a fiery red colour, either on the right hand or to the left."

"What would that be?"

"Some village or town burning to ashes. They say the whole kingdom is
full of destroying angels; one never knows whose roof will be fired over
his head next."

"God and all good spirits guard us from it."

"We hear all sorts of evil reports," said a gingerbread baker.
"Yesterday I was talking to a Wallachian woman whose husband was faring
on the Járas-water on a raft taking cheese to Yorda. He was not a day's
journey from his home when the Járas turned, began to flow upwards, and
took the Wallachian back to his house from which he had started."

A listening clergyman here explained the matter by saying that the
Aranyos, into which the Járas flows, was greatly flooded just then, and
it was its overflow which filled up the Járas; in fact it was Divine
Providence which brought the Wallachian back, for if he had been able to
go on farther, the Tartars would certainly have fallen upon him and cut
him to pieces.

"I have experienced everything in my time," said the oldest of the
burgesses, "war, plague, flood and pestilence, but there's only one
thing I am afraid of, and that is earthquake, for a man cannot even go
to church to pray against that."

At that moment the preacher in the church began to speak so loudly that
those standing outside could hear his words, and, growing suddenly
silent, they pressed nearer to the door of the church to hear what he
was saying.

The right rev. Magyari was trouncing the gentlemen present unmercifully:
"God prepares to war against you, for ye also are preparing to war
against Him. You have broken the peace ye swore to observe right and
left, and ye shall have what you want, war without and war within, so
that ye may be constrained to say: 'Enough, enough, O Lord!' and ye
shall not see the end of what you have so foolishly begun."

Magyari already knew that Teleki, at the Diet of Szamosújvár, had
announced the impending war.

Just at this very time two men of the patrician order in sable kalpags
were seen approaching, in whom the Klausenbergers at once recognised
Michael Teleki and Ladislaus Vajda, and so far as they were able they
made room for them to get into the church through the crowd; but the
Szekler did not recognise either of them, and when Ladislaus Vajda very
haughtily shoved him aside with his elbows, he turned upon him and said:

"Softly, softly, sir! This is the house of God, not the house of a great
lord. Here I am just as good a man as you are."

Those standing beside him tried to pull him aside, but it is the
peculiarity of the Szeklers that they grow more furious than ever when
people try to pacify them; and on perceiving that Ladislaus Vajda,
unable to make his way through the throng, began to look about him to
see how he best could get to his seat, the Szekler cried in front of
him:

"Cannot you let these two gentlemen get into the church? don't you see
that the lesson is meant for them?"

Teleki meanwhile had forced his way just over the threshold, and taking
off his kalpag, exposed his bald, defenceless head in the sight of all
the people, with his face turned in the direction indicated by the
boisterous Szekler.

Magyari continued his fulminating discourse from the pulpit.

"Nobody dare speak against you now, for your words are very thunderbolts
and strike down those with whom you are angry--nay, rather, men bow the
knee before you and say, 'Your Excellency! Your Excellency!' but the
judgment of the Lord shall descend upon you, the Lord will slay you, and
then men will point the finger of scorn at you and say: 'That is the
consort of the accursed one who betrayed his country!--these are the
children of that godless man!' And your descendants will blush to bear
the shameful name you have left them, for then the tongue of every man
will wag in his mouth against you, and they will cry after your
posterity: 'It was the father of those fellows who betrayed Transylvania
and plunged us into slime from which we cannot now withdraw our feet'
..."

"Come away, your Excellency!" said Ladislaus Vajda to Teleki, whom the
parson seemed to have seen, for he turned straight towards him as he
spoke.

"What are you thinking of?" Teleki whispered back; "the parson is
speaking the truth, but it doesn't matter."

"Whither would ye go, ye senseless vacillators!" continued Magyari, "who
empowered you to make the men of Transylvania fugitives, their wives
widows, and their children orphans? Verily I say to you, ye shall fare
like the camel who went to Jupiter for horns and got shorn of his ears
instead."

"It may be so," said Teleki to Vajda, "but we shall pursue our course
all the same."

The parson saw that the Minister of State was paying attention to his
discourse, so he wrinkled his forehead, and thus proceeded:

"When King Louis perished on the field of Mohács, the Turkish Emperor
had the dead body brought before him, and recognising at the same time
the corpse of an evil Hungarian politician lying there, he struck off
its head with his sword, and said: 'If thou hadst not been there, thou
dog! this honest child-king would not be lying dead here.' God grant
that a foreign nation may not so deal with you."

Teleki scratched his head, and whispered:

"It may happen to me likewise, but that makes no difference."

Shortly afterwards another hymn was sung, the two magnates put on their
kalpags and withdrew, and the emerging crowd of people flowed along all
around them, among whom the Szekler, as recently mentioned, followed
hard upon the heels of the two gentlemen with singular persistency,
lauding to the skies before everyone, in a loud voice, the sermon he had
just heard, so as to insult the two gentlemen walking in front of him as
much as possible.

"That was something like a sermon," he cried, "that is just how our
masters ought to have their heads washed--without too much soap. And
quite right too! Why saddle the realm with war at all? Why should
Transylvania put on a mustard plaster because Hungary has a pain in its
stomach? What has all this coming and going of foreigners to do with us?
Why should we poor Transylvanians suffer for the sake of the lean
foreigners among us?"

Ladislaus Vajda could put up with this no longer, and turning round,
shouted at the Szekler:

"Keep your distance, you rascal, speak like a man at any rate; don't
bark here like some mad beast when it sees a better man than itself."

At these words the Szekler thrust his neck forward, stuck his face
beneath the very nose of the gentleman who had spoken to him, looked him
straight in the face with bright eyes that pricked like pins, and said,
twisting his moustaches fiercely:

"Don't you try to fix any of your bastard names on me, sir, for if I go
home for my sword I will pretty soon make you a present of a head, and
that head shall be your own."

Ladislaus Vajda would have made some reply, but Teleki pulled him by the
arm and dragged him away.

"Nothing aggravates your Excellency," said the offended gentleman.

"Let him growl, he'll be all the better soldier if we do have war; never
quarrel with a Szekler, my friend, for he always has a greater respect
for his own head than for anyone else's."

And so the two gentlemen disappeared through the gates of the Prince's
palace.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Prince himself was present at this sermon, and it produced this much
impression that he enjoined a fast upon his whole household and then
went to bed. In the night, however, he awoke repeatedly, and had so many
tormenting visions that he woke up all his pages, and it was even
necessary at last to send for the Princess herself, and only then did he
become a little calmer when she appeared at his bedside; in fact, he
kept her with him till dawn of day, continually telling her all sorts of
sad and painful things so that the Princess's cries of horror could be
heard through the door.

In the morning, after the Princess had retired to her own apartments,
she immediately summoned to her presence Michael Teleki, who, living at
that time at the Prince's court as if it were his own home, was not very
long in making his appearance, and obeyed the command to be seated with
as much cheerful alacrity as if he had been asked to sit down at a
banquet, though well aware that a bitter cup had been prepared for him
which he must drain to the dregs.

"Sir," said the Princess, "Apafi was very ill last night."

"That was owing to the fast, he isn't used to such practices. Generally,
he has a good supper, and if he departs from his usual course of life he
is bound to sleep badly. Bad dreams plague an empty stomach just as much
as an overburdened one."

"And how about an overburdened conscience, sir? I have spent the whole
night at his bedside, only this instant have I quitted him; he would not
let me leave him, he pressed my hand continually, and he talked, soberly
and wide-awake, of things which I should have thought could only have
been talked about in the delirium of typhus. He said that that night he
had stood before the judgment-seat of God, before a great table--which
was so long that he could not see the end of it--and at this table sat
the accusing witnesses, first of all Denis Banfy, and then Béldi, Dame
Béldi and their daughter, and eldest son, who died in prison; Kepi,
too, was there, and young Kornis, and old John Bethlen, and the rest of
them; all these familiar faces were before him, and as tremblingly he
approached the throne of God they all fixed their eyes upon him and
pointed their fingers at him. Sir, it was a terrible picture."

"Does your Highness fancy that I am an interpreter of dreams?" asked
Teleki maliciously.

"Sir, this is more than a dream--it is a vision, a revelation."

"It may be so; the souls of the gentlemen enumerated are, no doubt, in
Heaven, and it is possible that countless other souls will follow them
thither."

"And will the soul that shed their blood ascend thither too?"

"Will your Highness deign to speak quite plainly--I suppose you mean me?
Of course, I am the cause of all the evils of Transylvania. Till I came
upon the scene, none but lamb-like men inhabited this state, in whose
veins flowed milk and honey instead of blood! King Sigismund, Bethlen,
Bocskai, George Rákóczy, for instance! Under them only some fifty or
sixty thousand men lost their lives in their party feuds and ambitious
struggles! Fine fellows, every one of them of course, everyone calls
them great patriots. But I, whose sword has never aimed at a self-sought
crown, I, who am animated by a great and mighty thought, a sublime idea,
I am a murderer, and responsible not only for those who have fallen in
battle, but also for those who have died quietly in their beds, if they
were not my good friends."

"There was a time, sir, when you used every effort to prevent
Transylvania from going to war."

"That was the very time when your Highness pleaded before the Prince for
war in the name of your exiled Hungarian kinsfolk. Other times, other
men."

"I knew not then that such a desire would lead to the ruin of so many
great and honourable men."

"You feared war, and yet you fanned it. He who resists a snow-storm is
swept away. Not the fate of men alone, but the fate of kingdoms also is
here in question. Apafi may console himself with the reflection that God
regards us both as far too petty instruments to lay upon our souls what
He Himself has decreed in the fullness of time, and what will and must
happen in spite of us, for the weeping and mourning which we listen to
here is also heard in Heaven. The mottoes of our escutcheons go very
well together. Apafi's is '_Fata viam inveniunt_,' mine is '_Gutta cavat
lapidem_.' Let us trust ourselves to our mottoes."

The Princess, with folded arms, gazed out of the window and remained in
a brown study for some time. And now, as though her thoughts were
wandering far away, she suddenly sighed: "Ah! this Béldi family so
unhappily ruined, and how many more must be ruined likewise!"

"Your Highness!" rejoined the Minister, without moving a muscle of his
face, "when, in time of drought, we pray for rain the whole day, does
anybody inquire what will become of the poor travellers who may be
caught in the downpour? Yet it may well happen that some of them may
take a chill and die in consequence."

"I don't grasp the metaphor."

"Well, the whole Principality is now praying for rain--a rain of blood,
I admit--and there is every sign that God will grant it. I do not mean
those signs and wonders in which the common folks believe, but those
signs of the times which rivet the attention of thinking men. Formerly
there was a large party in Transylvania which had engaged to uphold an
indolent peace, and which had so many ties, amongst the leading men both
of the Kaiser and the Sultan, that Denis Banfy could at one time boldly
tell me to my face that that Party was a hand with a hundred fingers,
which could squeeze everything it laid hold of like a sponge. And lo!
the fingers have all dropped off one by one. Denis Banfy has
perished--they say I killed him. Paul Béldi has died in prison--they say
I have poisoned him. God hath called John Bethlen also to Himself. Kapi
has died. The boldest of my enemies, Gabriel Kornis, has also died in
the flower of his youth--naturally they attribute his death to me
likewise. All those, too, who opposed war in the Diván have disappeared
one by one. Kucsuk Pasha has been shot down by a bullet at Lippa.
Kiuprile Pasha has been stifled by his own fat; and the youngest of the
Viziers, Feriz Beg, has gone mad.

"Gone mad!" cried the Princess, covering her face with her hands; "that
noble, worthy youth who loved Transylvania so well?"

"Do you not see the hand of God in all this?" asked the Minister.

"No, sir," said the Princess, rising with a face full of sadness and
approaching the Minister so as to look him straight in the face while
she spoke to him, "it is your hand that I see everywhere. Denis Banfy
perished, but it was you who had him beheaded. Béldi is dead, but it was
you who drove him to despair. It was you, too, who threw his family into
prison, and only let them out when the foul air had poured a deadly
sickness into their blood. And Feriz Beg has gone mad because he loved
Béldi's daughter, and she is dead."

"Very well, your Highness, let it be so," replied the imperturbable
Minister. "To attribute to me the direction of destiny is praise indeed.
Believe, then, that everything which happens in the council chamber of
this realm and in the heart of its members derives from me. I'll be
responsible. And if your Highness believes that that flaming comet,
which they call the Sword of God, is also in my hand--why--be it so! I
will hurl it forth, and strike the earth with it so that all its hinges
shall be out of joint."

At that very moment the palace trembled to its very foundations.

The Princess leaped to her feet, shrieking.

"Ah! what was that?" she asked, as pale as death.

"It was an earthquake, madame," replied Teleki with amazing calmness.
"There is nothing to be afraid of, the palace has very strong vaults;
but if you _are_ afraid, stand just beneath the doorway, that cannot
fall."

On recovering from her first alarm the Princess quickly regained her
presence of mind.

"God preserve us! I must hasten to the Prince. Will not you come too?"

"I'll remain here," replied Teleki coolly. "We are in the hands of God
wherever we may be, and when He calls me to Him I will account to Him
for all that I have done."

The Princess ran along the winding corridor, and, finding her husband,
took him down with her into the garden.

It was terrible to see from the outside how the vast building moved and
twisted beneath the sinuous motion of the earth; every moment one might
fear it would fall to pieces.

The Prince asked where Teleki was; the Princess said she had left him in
her apartments.

"We must go for him this instant!" cried the Prince, but amongst all the
trembling faces around him he could find none to listen to his words,
for a man who fears nothing else is a coward in the presence of an
earthquake.

Meanwhile the Minister was sitting quietly at a writing-table and
writing a letter to Kara Mustafa, who had taken the place of the dead
Kiuprile. He was a great warrior and the Sultan's right hand, who not
long before had been invited by the Cossacks to help them against the
Poles, which he did very thoroughly, first of all ravaging numerous
Polish towns, and then, turning against his confederate Cossacks, he cut
down a few hundred thousands of them and led thirty thousand more into
captivity.

To him Teleki wrote for assistance for the Hungarians.

Every bit of furniture was shaking and tottering around him, the windows
rattled noisily as if shaken by an ague, the very chair on which he sat
rocked to and fro beneath him, and the writing-table bobbed up and down
beneath his hand so that the pen ran away from the paper; but for all
that he finished his letter, and when he came to the end of it he wrote
at the bottom in firm characters:

"Si fractus illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinæ!"

Mustafa puzzled his brains considerably when he came to that part of the
letter containing the verse which had nothing to do with the text, which
the Minister, under the influence of an iron will struggling against
terror, had written there almost involuntarily.

When the menacing peril had passed, and the pages had returned to the
palace, he turned to them reproachfully with the sealed letter in his
hand.

"Where have you been? Not one of you can be found when you are wanted.
Take this letter at once, with an escort of two mounted drabants, to
Varna, for the Grand Vizier."

And then he began to walk up and down the room as if nothing had
happened.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE MAD MAN.


In the most secret chamber of the Diván were assembled the Viziers for
an important consultation. The impending war was the subject of their
grave deliberations. For as Mohammed had said, there ought to be one God
in Heaven and one Lord on earth, so many of the Faithful believed that
the time for the accomplishment of this axiom had now arrived.

Those wise men of the empire, those honourable counsellors, Kucsuk and
Kiuprile, were dead. Kara Mustafa, an arrogant, self-confidant man,
directed the mind of the Diván, and everyone followed his lead.

The Sultan himself was present, a handsome man with regular features,
but with an expression of lassitude and exhaustion. During the whole
consultation he never uttered a word nor moved a muscle of his face; he
sat there like a corpse.

One by one the ambassadors of the Foreign Powers were admitted. The
orator of Louis XIV. declared that the French King was about to attack
the Kaiser with all his forces; if the Sultan would also rise up against
him, he would be able to seize not only all Hungary but Vienna likewise.

The Sultan was silent. The Grand Vizier, answering for him, replied that
Hungary had long since belonged to the Sultan, and no doubt Vienna and
Poland would shortly share the same fate. The Sultan could only suffer
tributary kings on the earth.

The ambassador drew a somewhat wry face at these words, reflecting that
France also was on the earth; then he withdrew.

After him came the envoys of Emeric Tököly, offering the blood and the
swords of the Hungarian malcontents to the Sultan if he would help them
to win back Hungary.

This time the Sultan replied instead of Mustafa.

"The Grand Seignior greets his servants, and will be gracious to them if
they will help him to win back Hungary."

The envoys noticed that their words had ingeniously been twisted, but as
they also had their own _arrière-pensées_ in regard to the Turks, they
only looked at each other with a smile and withdrew.

Then came the Transylvanian embassy--gentle, mild-looking men, whose
orator delivered an extraordinarily florid discourse. His Highness,
Michael Apafi, they said, and all the estates of Transylvania, were
ready to draw their swords for the glory of the Grand Seignior and
invade Hungary.

Mustafa replied:

"The Grand Seignior permits you to help your comrades in Hungary."

The orator would like to have heard something different--for example,
that the crown of Hungary was reserved for Michael Apafi, the dignity of
Palatine for Teleki, etc., etc., and there he stood scratching his ear
till the Grand Vizier told him he might go.

Ha, ha! the Turkish policy was written in Turkish.

After the foreign envoys came the messengers from the various pashas and
commandants in Hungary, who brought terrible tidings of raids,
incursions, and outrages on the part of the Magyar population against
the Turks. The Grand Vizier exclaimed angrily at every fresh report,
only the Sultan was silent. Last of all came the ulemas.

On their decisions everything depended.

Very solemnly they appeared before the Diván. First of all advanced the
Chief Mufti in a long mantle reaching to his heels, and with a large
beehive-shaped hat upon his head; his white beard reached to his girdle.
After him came two imams, one of whom carried a large document in a
velvet case, whose pendant seal swung to and fro beneath its long golden
cord; the other bent beneath the weight of an enormous book--it was the
Alkoran.

The Alkoran is a very nice large book, larger than our _corpus juris_ of
former days, and in it may be found everything which everyone requires:
accusatory, condemnatory, and absolvatory texts for one and the same
thing.

The Mufti presented the Alkoran to the Sultan and all the Viziers in
turn, and each one of them kissed it with deep reverence; then he
beckoned to one of the imams to kneel down on a stool before the Diván
and remain there resting on his hands and knees, and placing the Koran
on his back, began to select expressly marked texts.

For seventy years he had thoroughly studied the sacred volume, and could
say that he had read it through seven hundred and ninety-three times.
He, therefore, knew all its secrets, and could turn at once to the leaf
on which the text he wanted to read aloud could be found.

"The Alkoran saith," he read with unctuous devotion, "'the knot which
hath been tied in the name of Allah the hand of Allah can unloose!' The
Alkoran saith moreover: 'Wherever we may be, and whatever we may be,
everywhere we are all of us in the hand of Allah.' Therefore this treaty
of peace is also in the hand of Allah, and the hand of Allah can unloose
everything. Furthermore, the Alkoran saith: 'If any among thy suffering
father's children implore help from thee, answer him not: come to me
to-morrow, for my vow forbids me to rise up to-day; or, if any ask an
alms of thee answer him not: to-day it cannot be, for my vow forbids me
to touch money; or, if anyone beg thee to slay someone, answer him not:
to-morrow I will help thee, for my vow forbids me to draw the sword
to-day; verily the observance of thy vow will be a greater sin to thee
than its violation.' Moreover, thus saith the Alkoran: 'The happiness of
the nations is the first duty of the rulers of the earth, yet the glory
of Allah comes before it.' And finally it is written: 'Whoso formeth a
league with the infidel bindeth himself to wage war upon Allah, yet
vainly do the nations of the earth bind themselves together that they
may live long, for let Allah send his breath upon them and more of them
are destroyed in one day than in ten years of warfare: kings and
beggars--it is all one.'"

At each fresh sentence the viziers and the ulemas bowed their heads to
the ground. Mustafa could not restrain a blood-thirsty smile, which
distorted his face more and more at each fresh sentence, and at the last
word, with a fanatical outburst, he threw off the mask altogether, and
with a howl of joy kissed repeatedly the hem of the Chief Mufti's
mantle.

The Mufti then unclasped the velvet case which contained the treaty of
peace, and drawing forth the parchment, which was folded fourfold, he
unfolded it with great ceremony, and placing it in the hands of the
second imam that he might hold it spread open at both ends, he exhibited
the document to the viziers.

It was a long and beautiful script. The initial letter was as big as a
painted castle and wreathed around with a pattern of birds and flowers.
The whole of the first line of it was in ultramarine letters, the other
lines much smaller on a gradually diminishing scale, and whenever the
name of Allah occurred, it was written in letters of gold. The Sultan's
name was always in red, the Kaiser's in bright green letters. At the
foot of it was the fantastic flourish which passed for the Sultan's
signature, which he would never have been able to write, but which was
always engraved on the signet ring which he wore on his finger.

"Lo! here is the treaty," said the Mufti, pointing to the document,
"from which, by the command of Allah, I will now wash off the writing."

Thereupon he drew across the document a large brush which he had
previously dipped into a large basin of water in which sundry chemicals
had been dissolved, and suddenly the writing began to fade away, the
Sultan's name written in red letters disappeared instantly from the
parchment, then the lines written in black ink visibly grew dimmer. The
Kaiser's name written in bright green letters resisted more obstinately,
but at last these also vanished utterly, and nothing more remained on
the white parchment but the name of God written in letters of gold--the
corrosive acid was powerless against that.

Deep silence prevailed in the Diván, every eye was fixed with pious
attention on the bleaching script.

Then, seizing a drawn sword, the Mufti raised it aloft and said:

"Having wiped away the writing which cast dishonour on the name of
Allah, I now cut this document in four pieces with the point of my
sword."

And speaking thus, and while the imam stretched the parchment out with
both hands, the Mufti cut it into four pieces with the sword he held in
his hand, and placing the fragments in a pan, filled it up with naptha
from a little crystal flask.

"Lo! now I burn thee before the face of Allah!"

Then he passed an ignited wax taper over the pan, whereupon the naptha
instantly burst into flame, and the fragments of the torn document were
hidden by the blue fire and the white smoke. Presently the flame turned
to red, the smoke subsided, and the parchment was burnt to ashes.

"And now I scatter thy ashes that thou mayst be dispersed to nothing,"
said the Mufti; and, taking the ashes, he flung them out of the palace
window. The burnt paper rags, like black butterflies, descended gently
through the air and were cast by the wind into the Bosphorus below.

No sooner was this accomplished than the pashas and viziers all leaped
from their seats and drew their swords, swearing with great enthusiasm
by the beard of the Prophet that they would not return their weapons to
their sheaths till the crescent should shine on the top of the tower of
the Church of St. Stephen at Vienna.

At that moment the door-curtains were thrust aside, and into the Diván
rushed--Feriz Beg.

The face of the youth was scarce recognisable, his turban was awry upon
his forehead, his eyes, full of dull melancholy, stared stonily in front
of him, his dress was untidy and dishevelled, his sword was girded to
his side, but its handle was broken. Nobody had prevented him from
rushing through the numerous halls into the Diván, and when he entered
the ulemas parted before him in holy horror. When the youth reached the
middle of the room, he stood there glancing round upon the viziers with
folded arms, just as if he were counting how many of them there were,
one by one they all stood up before him--nay, even the Sultan did so,
and awaited his words tremblingly.

Everyone in the East regards the insane with awe and reverence, and if a
crazy fakir were to stop the greatest of the Caliphs in the way and say
to him: "Dismount from thy horse, and change garments with me," he would
not dare to offer any opposition, but would fulfil his desire, for a
strange spirit is in the man and God has sent it.

How will it be then when the terrible spirit of madness descends upon
such a valiant warrior, such a distinguished soldier as Feriz Beg, who,
when only six-and-twenty, had fought a hundred triumphant battles, and
frequently put to shame the grey beards with his wisdom. And lo!
suddenly he goes mad, and stops people in the street, and speaks such
words of terror to them that they cannot sleep after it.

The youth, with quiet, gentle eyes and a sorrowful countenance passes in
review the faces of all who are present, and heartrending was the
expression of deep unutterable anguish in his voice when he spoke.

"Pardon me, high and mighty lords, for appearing among you without an
invitation--I who have now no business at all in the world anywhere. The
world in which I lived is dead, it has withdrawn to Heaven far from me;
all those who possessed my heart are now high above my head, and now, I
have no heart and no feeling: neither love, nor valour, nor the desire
of fame and glory; in my veins the blood flows backwards and forwards so
that oftentimes I rush roaring against the walls round about me and tear
carpets and pillows which have never offended me; and now again the
blood stands still within me, my arteries do not beat at all, so that I
lie stiff and staring like a dead man. I beg you all, ye high and mighty
lords, who in a brief time will go to Paradise, to take a message from
me thither."

The high lords listened horror-stricken to the calm way in which the
youth uttered these words, and they saw each other's faces growing pale.

Feriz paid no attention to their horrified expressions.

"Tell to them whom I love, and with whom my heart is, to give me back my
heart, for without it I am very poor. I perceive not the fragrance of
the rose, wine is not sweet to my lips, neither fire nor the rays of the
sun have any warmth, and the note of the bugle-horn and the neighing of
my charger find no response in me. High and mighty lords, tell this to
those who are above if I myself go not thither shortly."

There were present, besides Mustafa, Rezlán Pasha, Ajas Beg, Rifát Aga,
Kara Ogli the Kapudan Pasha, and many more who promised themselves a
long life.

The Grand Seignior had always made a particular favourite of Feriz, and
he now addressed him in a gentle, fatherly voice.

"My dear son, go back home; my viziers are preparing to subdue the
world with unconquerable armies. Go with them, in the din of battle thou
wilt find again thy heroic heart and be cured of thy sickness."

An extraordinary smile passed across the face of Feriz, he waved aside
the idea with his hand and bent his head forwards, which is a way the
Turks have of expressing decided negation.

"This war cannot be a triumphant war, for men are the cause thereof.
Allah will bring it to nought. Ye draw the sword at the invitation of
murderers, deceivers, and traitors. I have broken the hilt of my own
sword in order that I may not draw it forth. They have killed those whom
I love, how can I fight in that army which was formed for them who were
the occasion of the ruin of my beloved?"

At this thought the blood flew to the youth's face, the spirit of
madness flamed up in his eyes, he rose to his full height before the
Sultan, and he cried with a loud, audacious voice:

"Thou wilt lose the war for which thou dost now prepare, for thy viziers
are incapable, thy soldiers are cowards, thy allies are traitors, thy
wise men are fools, thy priests are hypocrites, and thou thyself art an
oath-breaker."

Then, as if he were suddenly sorry of what he had said to the Sultan, he
bent humbly over him and taking hold of the edge of his garment raised
it up and kissed it--and then, regarding him with genuine sympathy,
murmured softly:

"Poor Sultan!--so young, so young--and yet thou must die."

And thereupon, with hanging head, he turned away and prepared to go out.
None stayed him.

On reaching the door, he fumbled for his sword, and perceiving when he
touched it that the hilt was missing, he suddenly turned back again, and
exclaimed in a low whisper:

"Think not that it will rust in its sheath. The time will come when I
shall again draw it, and it will drink its fill of blood. When those
who now urge us on to war shall turn against us, when those who now
stand in line with us shall face us with hostile banners, then also will
I return, though then ye will no longer be present. But ye shall look on
from Paradise above. So it will be: ye shall look on ... Poor young
Sultan!"

Having whispered these prophetic words, the mad youth withdrew, and the
gentlemen in the Diván were so much disturbed by his words that, with
faces bent to the earth, they prayed Allah that He would turn aside from
them the evil prophesy and not suffer to be broken asunder the weapons
they had drawn for the increase of His glory.



CHAPTER XXIX.

PLEASANT SURPRISES.


All the chief generals, all the border pashas, had received the Sultan's
orders to gather their hosts together and lead them against the armies
of the King of the Romans, and besiege the places which were the pretext
of the rupture--to wit, the fortresses of Fülek, Böszörmény, and Nagy
Kallá.

At the same time the Government of Transylvania also received permission
to attack Hungary with its armies, as had already been decided at the
Diet of Szamosújvár.

Vast preparations were everywhere made. The Magyar race is very hard to
move to war, but once in a quarrel it does not waste very much time in
splitting straws.

Teleki, too, had attained at last to the dream of his life and the
object of all his endeavours, for which he had knowingly sacrificed his
own peace of mind, and the lives of so many good patriots--he was the
generalissimo of the armies of Transylvania.

The Hungarian exiles in Transylvania hailed him as their deliverer, and
he saw himself a good big step nearer to the place of Esterházy--the
place of Palatine of Hungary. And why not? Why should he not stand among
the foremost statesmen of his age?

All the way to the camp at Fülek he was the object of flattery and
congratulation; the Hungarians gathered in troops beneath his banner,
colonels and captains belauded him. As for the worthy Prince, he did
not show himself at all, but sat in his tent and read his books, and
when he felt tired he took his watch to pieces and put it together
again.

At Fülek the Transylvanian army joined the camp of Kara Mustafa.

Teleki dressed up the Prince in his best robes, and trotted with him and
his suite to the tent of the Grand Vizier with growing pride when he
heard the guards blow their trumpets at their approach, and the Grand
Vizier as a special favour admitted them straightway to his presence,
allowed them to kiss his hand, made the magnates sit down, and praised
them for their zeal and fidelity, giving each of them a new caftan; and
when they were thus nicely tricked out, he dismissed them with an escort
of an aga, a dragoman, and twelve cavasses to see the whole Turkish camp
to their hearts' content.

Teleki regarded this permission as a very good omen. Turkish generals
are wont to be very sensitive on this point, and it is a great favour on
their part when they allow foreigners to view their camps.

The dragoman took the Hungarian gentlemen everywhere. He told them which
aga was encamped on this hill and which on that, how many soldiers made
up a squadron of horse, and how many guns, and how many lances were in
every company. He pointed out to them the long pavilion made of deal
boards in which the gunpowder lay in big heaps, and gigantic cannon
balls were piled up into pyramids, and round mortars covered with pitchy
cloths, and gigantic culverines, and siege-guns, and iron howitzers lay
on wooden rollers. The accumulated war material would have sufficed for
the conquest of the world.

The gentlemen sightseers returned to their tents with the utmost
satisfaction, and, overjoyed at what he had seen, the Prince gave a
great banquet, to which all the Hungarian gentlemen in his army were
also invited. The tables were placed beneath a quickly-improvised
baldachin; and at the end of an excellent dinner the noble feasters
began to make merry, everyone at length saw his long-deferred hopes on
the point of fulfilment, and none more so than Michael Teleki.

One toast followed another, and the healths of the Prince and of Teleki
were interwoven with the healths of everyone else present, so that
worthy Apafi began to think that it would really be a very good thing if
he were King of Hungary, while Teleki held his head as high as if he
were already sitting in the seat of the Palatine.

Just when the revellers were at their merriest, a loud burst of martial
music resounded from the plain outside, and a great din was audible as
if the Turkish armies were saluting a Prince who had just arrived.

The merry gentry at once leaped from their seats and hurried to the
entrance of the tent to see the ally who was received with such
rejoicing, and a cry of amazement and consternation burst from their
lips at the spectacle which met their eyes.

Emeric Tököly had arrived at the head of a host of ten thousand Magyars
from Upper Hungary. His army consisted of splendid picked warriors on
horseback, hussars in gold-braided dolmans, wolf-skin pelisses, and
shakos with falcon feathers. Tököly himself rode at the head of his host
with princely pomp; his escort consisted of the first magnates of
Hungary, jewel-bedizened cavaliers in fur mantles trimmed with
swansdown, among whom Tököly himself was only conspicuous by his manly
beauty and princely distinction.

The face of Teleki darkened at the sight, while the faces of all who
surrounded him were suddenly illuminated by an indescribable joy, and
their enthusiasm burst forth in _eljens_ of such penetrating enthusiasm
at the sight of the young hero that Teleki felt himself near to
fainting.

Ah! it was in a very different voice that they had recently cried
"_Viva!_" to him, it was a very different sort of smile with which they
had been wont to greet _him_.

Meanwhile Tököly had reached the front of the marshalled Turkish army,
which was drawn up in two rows right up to the pavilion of the Grand
Vizier, allowing the youth and his suite to pass through between them
amidst a ceremonious abasement of their horse-tail banners. The young
general had only passed half through their ranks when the Grand Vizier
came to meet him in a state carriage drawn by six white horses.

From the hill on which Teleki stood he could see everything quite
plainly.

On reaching the carriage of the Grand Vizier, Tököly leaped quickly from
his horse, whereupon Kara Mustafa also descended from his carriage, and,
hastening to the young general, embraced him and kissed him repeatedly
on the forehead, made him take a seat in the carriage beside him, and
thus conveyed him to his tent amidst joyful acclamations.

Teleki had to look on at all this! That was very different from the
reception accorded to him and the Prince of Transylvania.

He looked around him--gladness, a radiant smile shone on every face. Oh!
those smiles were so many dagger-thrusts in his heart!

In half an hour's time Tököly emerged from the tent of the Grand Vizier.
His head was encircled by a diamond diadem which the Sultan had sent for
all the way to Belgrade, and in his hand was a princely sceptre. When he
remounted and galloped away close beside the tents of the
Transylvanians, the Hungarians in Teleki's company could restrain
themselves no longer, but rushed towards Tököly and covered his hands,
his feet, his garments, with kisses, took him from his horse on to their
shoulders, and carried him in their arms back to camp.

Teleki could endure the sight no more; he fled into his tent, and,
throwing himself on his camp-bedstead, wept like a child.

The whole edifice which he had reared so industriously, so doggedly,
amidst innumerable perils, during the arduous course of a long
life--for which he had sacrificed relations, friends, and all the great
and wise men of a kingdom, and pledged away the repose of his very
soul--had suddenly collapsed at the appearance of a mere youth, whose
only merit was the exaggerated fame of a few successful engagements! It
was the heaviest blow he had ever staggered under. Oh! Fortune is indeed
ingenious in her disappointments.

Evening came, and still Teleki had not quitted his tent. Then the Prince
went to see him. Teleki wanted to hear nothing, but the Prince told him
everything.

"Hearken, Mr. Michael Teleki! The Hungarian gentlemen have not come back
to us, but remain with Tököly. And Tököly also, it appears, doesn't want
to have much to do with us, for instead of encamping with us he has
withdrawn to the furthest end of the Turkish army, and has pitched his
tents there."

Teleki groaned beneath the pain which the distilled venom of these words
poured into his heart.

"Apparently, Mr. Michael Teleki, we have been building castles in the
air," continued Apafi with jovial frankness. "We are evidently not of
the stuff of which Kings and Palatines of Hungary are made. I cannot but
think of the cat in the fable, who pulled the chestnuts out of the fire
with the claws of others."

Teleki shivered as if with an ague.

Apafi continued in his own peculiar vein of cynicism: "Really, my dear
Mr. Michael Teleki, I should like it much better if we were sitting at
home, and Denis Banfy and Paul Béldi and the other wise gentlemen were
sitting beside me, and I were listening to what they might advise."

Teleki clenched his fists and stamped his feet, as much as to say: "I
would not allow that."

Then with a bitter smile he watched the Prince as he paced up and down
the tent, and said with a cold, metallic voice:

"One swallow does not make a summer. If ten or twelve worthless fellows
desert to Tököly, much good may it do him! The army of the real
Hungarian heroes will not follow their example, and when it can fight
beneath the banner of a Prince it will not fling itself into the arms of
a homeless adventurer."

"Then it would be as well if your Excellency spoke to them at once, for
methinks that this night the whole lot of them may turn tail."

Teleki seemed impressed by these words. He immediately ordered his
drabants to go to the captains of the army collected from Hungary who
had joined Apafi at Fülek, and invite them to a conference in his tent
at once.

The officers so summoned, with a good deal of humming and hahing, met
together in Teleki's tent, and there the Minister harangued them for two
good hours, proving to demonstration what a lot of good they might
expect from cleaving to Apafi, and what a lot of evil if they allowed
themselves to be deluded by Tököly, till the poor fellows were quite
tired out and cried: "Hurrah!" in order that he might let them go the
sooner.

But that same night they all fled to the camp of Tököly. None remained
with Apafi but his faithful Transylvanians.

But even now Teleki could not familiarise himself with the idea of
playing a subordinate part here, but staked everything on a last,
desperate cast--he went to the Grand Vizier. He announced himself, and
was admitted.

The Grand Vizier was alone in his tent with his dragoman, and when he
saw Teleki he tried to make his unpleasant face more repulsive than it
was by nature, and inquired very viciously: "Who art thou? Who sent thee
hither? What dost thou want?"

"I, sir, am the general of the Transylvanian armies, Michael Teleki; you
know me very well, only yesterday I was here with the Prince."

Just as if the two speakers did not understand each other's language,
the dragoman had to interpret their questions and answers.

"I hope," replied the Grand Vizier, "thou dost not expect me to
recognise at sight the names of all the petty princes and generals whom
I have ever cast eyes on? My master, the mighty Sultan, has so many
tributary princes in Europe, Asia, and Africa, that their numbers are
incalculable, and all of them are superior men to thee, how canst thou
expect me to recognise thee among so many?"

Teleki swallowed the insult, and seeing that the Grand Vizier was
anxious to pick a quarrel with him, he came straight to the point.

"Gracious sir, I have something very important to say to you if you will
grant me a private interview."

The Grand Vizier pretended to fly into a rage at these words.

"Art thou mad or drunk that thou wouldst have a private interview with
me, although I don't understand Hungarian and thou dost not understand
Turkish, or perchance thou wouldst like me to learn Hungarian to please
thee? Ye learn Latin, I suppose, though no living being speaks it? And
ye learn German and French and Greek, yet ye stop short at the language
of the Turks, though the Turks are your masters and protectors! For a
hundred and fifty years our armies have passed through your territories,
yet how many of you have learned Turkish? 'Tis true our soldiers have
learnt Hungarian, for thy language is as sticky as resin on a growing
tree. Therefore, if thou art fool enough to ask me for a private
interview--go home and learn Turkish first!"

Teleki bowed low, went home and learnt Turkish--that is to say, he
packed up a couple of thousand thalers in a sack--and, accompanied by
two porters to carry them, returned once more to the tent of the Grand
Vizier.

And now the Grand Vizier understood everything which the magnate wished
to say. The dragoman interpreted everything beautifully. He said the
Sultan was building a fortress on the ice when he entrusted the fate of
the Hungarians to such a flighty youth as Emeric Tököly. How could a
young man, who was such a bad manager of his own property, manage the
affairs of a whole kingdom? And so fond was he of being his own master,
that he suffered himself to be exiled from Transylvania with the loss of
all his property rather than submit to the will of his lawful Prince.
The man who had already rebelled against two rulers would certainly not
be very loyal to a third; while Apafi, on the other hand, had all his
life long been a most faithful vassal of the Sublime Porte, and, modest,
humble man as he was, would be far more useful than Tököly, whom the
Porte would always be obliged to help with men and money, whereas the
latter would always be able to help with men and money the Porte and its
meritorious viziers--_uti figura docet_.

Mustafa listened to the long oration, took the money, and replied that
he would see what could be done.

Teleki was not quite clear about the impression his words had made, but
he did not remain in uncertainty for long; for scarcely had he reached
the tent of the Prince than a defterdar with twelve cavasses came after
him, and signified that he was commanded by the Grand Vizier immediately
to seize Michael Teleki, fling him into irons, and bring him before a
council of pashas.

Michael Teleki turned pale at these words. The faithless dragoman had
told everything to Tököly, who had demanded satisfaction from the Grand
Vizier, who, without the least scruple of conscience, was now ready to
present to another the head of the very man from whom he had accepted
presents only an hour before.

The magnate now gave himself up for lost, but the Prince approached him,
and tapping him on the shoulder, said:

"If I were the man your Excellency is pleased to believe me and make
other people believe too--that is to say, a coward yielding to every
sort of compulsion--in an hour's time your Excellency would not have a
head remaining on your shoulders. But everyone shall see that they have
been deceived in me."

Then, turning towards the defterdar, he said to him in a firm,
determined voice:

"Go back to your master, and say to him that Michael Teleki is the
generalissimo of my armies and under my protection, and at the present
moment I have him in my tent. Let anyone therefore who has any complaint
against him, notify the same to me, and I will sit in judgment over him.
But let none dare to lay a hand upon him within the walls of my tent,
for I swear by the most Holy Trinity that I will break open the head of
any such person with my cudgel. I would be ready to go over to the enemy
with my whole army at once rather than permit so much as a mouse
belonging to my household to be caught within my tent by a foreign cat,
let alone the disgrace of handing over my generalissimo!"

The defterdar duly delivered the message of the enraged Prince to the
Grand Vizier. Emeric Tököly was with him at the time, and the two
gentlemen on hearing the vigorous assertion of the Prince agreed that
after all Michael Apafi was really a very worthy man, and sending back
the defterdar, instructed him to say with the utmost politeness and all
due regard for the Prince that so long as Michael Teleki remained in the
Prince's tent not a hair of his head should be crumpled; but he was to
look to it that he did not step out of the tent, for in that case the
cavasses who were looking out for him would pounce upon him at once and
treat him as never a Transylvanian generalissimo was treated before; and
now, too, he had only the Prince to thank for his life.

Teleki was annihilated. Nothing could have wounded his ambitious soul so
deeply as the consciousness that the Prince was protecting him. To
think that this man, whom the whole kingdom regarded as cowardly and
incapable, could be great when he himself had suddenly become so very
small! His nimbus of wisdom, power, and valour had vanished, and he saw
that the man whom he had only consulted for the sake of obtaining his
signature to prearranged plans was wiser and more powerful and more
valiant than he.

Peering through the folds of the tent he could see that, faithful to the
threatening message, the cavasses were prowling around the tent and
telling the loutish soldiers that if Teleki stepped out they would seize
him forthwith. The Szeklers laughed and shouted with joy thereat.

Then the magnate began to reflect whether it would not be best if he
drew his sword, and rushing out, slash away at them till he himself were
cut to pieces.

What a ridiculous ending that would be!

Towards evening Emeric Tököly paid a visit to the Prince. He approached
the old man with the respect of a child, did obeisance, and would have
kissed his hand, but Apafi would not permit it, but embraced him, kissed
him on the forehead repeatedly, and made him sit down beside him on the
bear-skin of his camp-bed.

The young leader feelingly begged the old man's pardon for all the
trouble that he had caused him and Transylvania.

"It is I who ought to beg pardon of your Excellency," said Apafi in a
submissive voice.

"Not at all, your Highness and dear Father. I know that you have always
loved me, but evil counsellors have whispered such scandalous things to
you about me that you were bound to hate me--but God requite them for it
if I cannot."

"Be magnanimous towards them, my dear son; forgive them, for my sake."

Tököly was silent. He knew that Teleki was in the tent, he saw him, but
he would not take any notice of him. At last, without even looking
towards him, he said, in the most passionate, threatening voice:

"Look, ye, Teleki, you have practised all sorts of devices against me,
but if you put your nose outside the tent of the Prince you will eat his
bread no more. You would be in my power now, and here your head would
lie, but for his Highness whom I look upon as a father."

Michael Teleki was silent, but future events were to prove that he had
heard very well what was now spoken.

After surrendering the fortress of Fülek to the Turks, the Transylvanian
gentlemen returned home with their army; and Michael Teleki, when he got
home, paid a visit to the church where lay the ashes of Denis Banfy, and
hiding his face on the tomb, he wept bitterly over the noble patriot
whom he had sacrificed to his ambitious plans.



CHAPTER XXX.

A MAN ABANDONED BY HIS GUARDIAN-ANGEL.


One blow followed hard upon another.

In the following year the Sultan assembled a formidable host against
Vienna, and the Transylvanian bands also had to go. Teleki would have
avoided the war, but his representations and pretexts fell not upon
listening ears. They asked him why he, who had hitherto urged on the
campaign, wanted to withdraw from it now that it was in full swing? If
he had liked the beginning, the end also should please him.

But the end was exceedingly bitter.

The formidable host surrounding Vienna was scattered in a single night
by the heroic sword of Sobieski, the gigantic military enterprise was
ruined.

The Transylvanian forces took no part in these operations. During the
siege of Vienna they had been left at Raab, and Teleki did not let the
opportunity pass. While the stupid Turks were fighting in the trenches,
he entered into communication with the German commander at Raab and
attached himself to the winning side.

Everything which the insane Feriz had prophesied in the Diván was
literally fulfilled.

The Turkish armies were everywhere routed. They lost the fortresses of
Grand Visegrad and Érsekújvár one after the other. The fortress of
Nograd was struck by lightning, which fired the powder-magazine and blew
up the garrison. Finally Buda was besieged and captured in the sight of
the Grand Vizier, and after a domination of one hundred and fifty years,
the half-moons were hauled down from the bastions and crosses
re-occupied their places.

And all those who were present at the Diván fulfilled, one by one, the
prophecy that they should see Paradise before long.

Rislán Pasha fell beneath the walls of Buda at the head of the
Janissaries, the Vizier of Buda was throttled by order of Kara Mustafa
after the battle was lost, Rifa Aga was drowned in the Danube among the
fugitives, Kara Ogli fell defending the ramparts of Buda, Tököly killed
Ajas Pasha at the Sultan's command; and, after the fall of Buda, Olaj
Beg brought to Kara Mustafa for his own use the silken cord and the
purple purse. It was the last purse which Kara Mustafa ever saw, for
after his decapitation his head was put inside it.

And, finally, the people of Stambul, maddened by so many losses and
reinforced by the rebellious Janissaries, rushed upon the Seraglio, cut
down the counsellors of the Sultan, and threw the Sultan himself into
the same dungeon in which he had let his own brother languish for
thirty-nine years. The brother was now set on the throne, and the
dethroned Sultan died in the dungeon.

And this also was fulfilled that those who had stirred up the Turks to
begin the war turned against them at the end of it. Transylvania
deposited its oath of homage in the hands of Caraffa, and Michael
Teleki, who became a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, opened the gates of
the towns and fortresses to German garrisons. The Prince paid the
victors thirteen thousand florins, which it took heavy wagons two weeks
to convey from Fogaras to Nagyszeben. But Michael Teleki, in addition to
his countly escutcheon, got a present of a silver table service which
cost ten thousand florins. So Transylvania became imperial territory,
and its alliance with the Porte was dissolved.

And then it was that God called to Himself the last lovable figure in
our history, the virtuous and magnanimous Anna Bornemissza.

Only after her death did Apafi feel what his wife had been to him, his
guardian-angel, his consoler in all his sorrows, the brightest part of
his life, and when that light set, everything around him was doubly
dark. Every misfortune, every trouble, now weighed doubly heavy on his
mind and heart; he had no longer any refuge against persecuting sorrow.
He fled from one town to another like a hunted wild beast which can find
no refuge from the dart which transfixes it. At last he barricaded
himself in his room, which he did not quit for six weeks; and if
visitors came to see him he complained to them like a child:

"I am starving to death. I have lost everything. It is a year since I
got a farthing from my estates or my mines or my salt-works. If the
farrier comes I cannot pay him his bill for my mantle, for I haven't got
a stiver. What will become of my son when I am gone, poor little Prince?
There's not enough to send him to school."

He began to get quite crazy, and could neither eat, drink, nor sleep.
The whole day he would stride up and down his room, and utter strange
things in a loud voice. What troubled him most was that he must die of
hunger.

At last those about him hit upon a remedy. Every day they laid purses of
money before him and said: "This sum Stephen Apor has sent from your
property, and that amount Paul Inezedi has collected from your
salt-works. Why should your Highness be anxious when there is such lots
of money?"

And the next day they presented the same purses to him over again, and
invented some fresh story. And this simple deceit somewhat pacified the
poor old man, but the old worries had so affected his mind, never very
strong at any time, that he could never recover his former spirits. He
grew duller and more stupid every day, and often when he lay down he
would sleep a couple of days at a stretch.

And at last the Almighty had mercy upon him and called him away from
this vale of tears; and he went to that land where the Turks plunder
not, and there is no warfare.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE NEWLY-DRAWN SWORD.


The German armies were now in complete possession of Transylvania, the
Turks were everywhere driven back and trampled down, the hereditary
Prince of Bavaria took Belgrade by storm and put twelve thousand
Janissaries to the edge of the sword. Thus the gate of the Turkish
Empire was broken open, and the victoriously advancing host, under the
Prince of Baden, crushed the remains of the Turkish army at Nish. Then
Bulgaria and Albania were subjugated, the sea shore was reached, and
only the Hæmus Mountains stood between the invaders and Stambul.

The deluge left nothing untouched, even little Wallachia, whose
fortunate situation, wild mountains, and villainous roads had hitherto
saved it from invasion, saw the approach of the conquering banners.

Old S---- was still the Prince, and he now gave a brilliant example of
the dexterity of Wallachian diplomacy, which at the same time
illustrates the simplicity of his character.

The armies invading Wallachia were entrusted to the care of General
Heissler, who consequently wrote to Prince S---- informing him that he
was advancing on Bucharest through the Transylvanian Alps with ten
thousand men, therefore he was to provide winter quarters and provisions
for his army, as he intended to winter there.

At exactly the same time the Tartar Khan gave the Prince to understand
that he intended to invade Moldavia in order that he might follow the
movements of the Transylvanian army close at hand.

The Prince liked the one proposition as little as the other, so he sent
the Tartar Khan's letter to General Heissler bidding him beware, as a
great force was coming against him, and he sent Heissler's letter to the
Tartar Khan advising him in a friendly sort of way not to move too far
as Heissler was now advancing in his rear.

Consequently both armies turned aside from the Principality, and
Wallachia had to support neither the Germans nor the Tartars.

This is the diplomacy of little states.

       *       *       *       *       *

Amidst the wildly romantic hills of Lebanon is a pleasant valley for
which Nature herself has a peculiar preference. Amidst the gigantic
mountains which encircle a vast hollow on every side of it, rises a
roundish mound. On level ground it would be accounted a hill, but in the
midst of such a range of snowy giants it emerges only like a tiny heap
of earth, and to this day nothing grows on it but the cedar--the finest,
darkest, most widely spreading specimens of that noble and fragrant tree
are here to be found. A foaming mountain stream gurgles down it on both
sides, a little wooden bridge connects the opposing banks, and in the
midst of the bridge a rock projecting from the water clings to the
mountain side. Far away among the blue forests shine forth the white
roofless little houses of the city of Edena, which, built against the
mountain side, peer forth like some card-built castle, and still farther
away through gaps in the hills the Syrian sea is visible.

Here in former days on the heights stood the romantic and poetical kiosk
of Feriz Beg.

The youth, with dogged persistence, continued to live for years in this
sublime solitude with the din of battle all around him. The prophecy
which he had once pronounced in the Diván was whispered abroad among
the people, ran through the army, and as every one of his sayings was
severally fulfilled, the more widely there spread in the hearts of the
soldiers the superstitious belief that till he seized his sword they
would everywhere be defeated, but when he should again appear on the
battlefield the fortune of war would turn and become favourable once
more to the Ottoman arms.

Long ago the Diván had wished to profit by this blind belief, and
countless embassies had been sent to the youthful hermit in his solitude
announcing the fall of generals, the loss of battles, the pressure of
peril.

Nothing could move Feriz. To all these tidings he replied:

"Thus it must come to pass! Doves do not spring from serpents' eggs.
Your rulers are those who took it upon them to wipe out a sacred oath
from the patient pages, who tore up and burnt and scattered to the winds
the vow that was made before God, and now ye likewise shall be wiped
from the page of history and your memory shall be laden with reproaches.
Learn ye, therefore, that it is dangerous to play with the name of
Allah, and though many of you grow so high that his head touches the
Heavens--yet he is but a man, and the earth moves beneath his feet, and
presently he shall fall and perish."

The men perceived that these words were not so bad as they seemed to be
at first sight, and after every fresh defeat, more and more of his old
acquaintances came to see him and begged and prayed him to seize his
sword once more and let himself be chosen leader of the host.

He sternly rejected every offer. No allurement was capable of making him
change his resolution.

"When the time comes for me to draw my sword," he said, "I will come
without asking. That time will come none the quicker for anyone's
beseeching, but come it will one day and not tarry."

And, indeed, the advent of that time had become a matter of necessity
for the Ottoman Empire. The banners of the German Empire were waving in
the very heart of Turkey; the Poles had recovered Podolia, the Venetians
were on the Turkish islands, and at last Transylvania also broke with
the Porte and opened her fortresses to the enemies of the Padishah.

The new Sultan collected fresh armies, military enthusiasm was
stimulated by great rewards, fresh alliances were formed, and among the
new allies the one who enjoyed the greatest confidence was Emeric
Tököly, who was proclaimed Prince of Transylvania, and orders were given
to the Tartar Khan and the Prince of Moldavia to support him with their
forces.

Tököly, always avid of fame and glory, threw himself heart and soul into
this new enterprise, but it was only when he saw the army with which he
was to conquer Transylvania that he had misgivings. His soldiers were
good for robbing and burning, they had been used to that for a long
time, but when it came to fighting there was no power on earth capable
of keeping them together. What could he make of soldiers whose sole
knowledge of the art of warfare consisted in running backwards and
forwards, whose most sensible weapon was the dart, and who, whenever
they heard a gun go off, stuffed up their ears and bolted like so many
mice? And with these ragamuffins he was expected to fight regular,
highly-disciplined troops.

Suddenly an idea occurred to him. He sat down and wrote a letter and
delivered it to a swift courier, enjoining him not to rest or tarry till
he had placed it in the proper hands.

This letter was addressed to Feriz Beg. In it Tököly informed him of the
course of events in Transylvania, and it concluded thus:

"Behold, what you prophesied has come to pass, those who began the war
along with us now continue the war against us. Remember that you held
out the promise of joining us when such a time came; fulfil your
promise."

Feriz Beg got this letter early in the morning, and the moment after he
had read it he ordered his stableman instantly to saddle his
war-charger, he chose from among his swords those which smote the
heaviest, exchanged his grey mantle for a splendid and costly costume,
gave a great banquet to all his retainers, and bade them make merry, for
in an hour's time, he would be off to the wars.

       *       *       *       *       *

The imperial army was making itself quite at home in Albania. Beautiful
scenery and beautiful women smiled upon the victors; there was money
also and to spare. And soon came the rumour that a gigantic Tartar host
was approaching the Albanian mountains, in number exceeding sixty
thousand. The imperial army was no more than nine thousand; but they
only laughed at the rumour, they had seen far larger armies fly before
them. The pick of the Turkish host, the Spahis, the Janissaries, had
cast down their arms before them in thousands; while it was the talk of
the bazaars that all that the Tartars were good for was to devastate
conquered territory. Besides, reinforcements were expected from Hungary,
where the Prince of Baden was encamped beneath Nándor-Fehérvár with a
numerous army.

The leader of the Albanian forces was the Prince of Hanover.

He was a pupil of the lately deceased Piccolomini, and though he
inherited his valour he was scarcely his equal in wisdom.

On hearing of the approach of the Tartar army he assembled his captains
and held a council of war. The enemy was assumed to be the old mob which
used to turn tail at the first cannon-shot, and could not be overtaken
because of the superior swiftness of its horses. And indeed it was the
old mob, but a new spirit now inspired it; it followed a new leader
whom the enemy had never put to flight or beaten, and that leader was
Feriz Beg.

Tököly's letter had speedily brought the young hero all the way from
Syria to Stambul to offer his sword and his genius to the new Sultan,
and the Sultan had charged him to lead the Tartar hordes against the
imperial army.

When Feriz, from the top of a hill, saw the forces of the Prince of
Hanover all wedged together in a compact mass on the plain before him
like a huge living machine only awaiting a propelling hand to set it in
motion, he quickly sent the Tartars who were with him back into the
fir-woods that they might well cover their darts with the tar and
turpentine exuding from the trees, and this done, he sent them to gallop
round the Prince's camp and take up their position well within range.

The Prince observed the movement but left them alone; oftentimes had the
Turks attempted a simple assault upon the German camp; oftentimes had
their threefold superior forces surrounded the small, well-ordered camp
and assaulted it from every side, and the Germans used always politely
to allow them to come within range of their guns and then discharge all
their artillery at once--and generally that was the end of the whole
affair.

Feriz, however, made no assault upon them, but got his Tartars to
surround them, commanding them to set their darts on fire and discharge
them into the air so that they might fall down into the German camp.
According to this plan they could fire at the enemy at a much greater
distance off than the enemy could fire upon them, for the dart, flying
in a curve could reach further than the straight-going musket balls of
those days, and wherever it fell its sharp point inflicted a wound,
whereas the bullet was often spent before it reached its mark.

Suddenly a flaming flood of darts darkened the air and the burning
resinous bolts fell from all sides into the crowded ranks of the
imperial army; the points of the darts fastened in the backs of the
horses, the burning drops fell upon the faces and garments of the
warriors, burning through the texture and inflicting grievous wounds;
the horses began to rear violently at this unexpected attack; the
gunners, cursing and swearing, began to discharge their guns anyhow at
the enemy; nobody paid any attention to the orders of the general,
discipline was quite at an end; the burning darts were destructive of
all military tactics, for there was no refuge from them, and every dart
struck its man.

Then Feriz Beg blew with the trumpets, and suddenly the imperial troops
were attacked from all sides. They were unable to repel the attack in
the regular way, but intermingled with their assailants, fought man to
man. The picked German troopers quitted themselves like men, not one of
them departed without taking another with him to the next world, but the
Turks outnumbered them, and just when the Prince's army was exhausted by
the attacks of the Tartars, Feriz brought forward his well-rested
reserves, who burned with the desire to wash out the shame of former
defeats. The Prince of Hanover fell on the battle-field with the rest of
his army. Not one escaped to tell the tale.

This was the first victory which turned the fortunes of war once more in
favour of the Turks after so many defeats.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE LAST DAY.


It was well known in Transylvania that the Porte had proclaimed Tököly
Prince and given into his hands armies wherewith he might invade the
Principality and conquer it, so General Heissler gave orders to the
counties and the Szeklers to rise up in defence of the realm, which they
accordingly did.

The Hungarian forces were commanded by Balthasar Mackási and Michael
Teleki himself; the leader of the Germans was Heissler, with Generals
Noscher and Magni, and Colonel Doria under him, all of them heroic
soldiers of fortune, who, all the way from Vienna to Wallachia, had
never seen the Turks otherwise than as corpses or fugitives.

When Tököly was approaching through Wallachia with his forces, Heissler
quickly closed all the passes, and placed three regiments at the Iron
Gates, while he himself took up a position in the Pass of Bozza, and
there pitched his camp amidst the mountains.

The encamped forces were merry and sprightly enough, there was lots to
eat and drink of all sorts, and the Szeklers were quite close to their
wives and houses, so that they did not feel a bit homesick--only Teleki
was perpetually dissatisfied. He would have liked the forces to be
marching continually from one pass to another and sentinels to be
standing on guard night and day on every footpath which led into the
kingdom.

The third week after the camp had been pitched at Bozza he suddenly
said to the general with a very anxious face:

"Sir, what if Tököly were to appear at some other gate of the kingdom
while we are lying here?"

"Every avenue is closed against him," answered Heissler.

"But suppose he got in before we came here?"

"The trouble then would not be how he got in but how he could get out
again."

But Teleki wanted to show that he also knew something of the science of
warfare, so he said with the grave face of an habitual counsellor:

"I do not think it expedient that we worthy soldiers should be crammed
up into a corner of the kingdom. In my opinion it would be much safer
if, after guarding every pass, we took up a position equi-distant
between Törcsvár and Bozza."

Now for once Teleki was right, but for that very reason Heissler was all
the more put out. It was intolerable that a lay-general should suggest
something to him which he could not gainsay.

And the worst of it was Teleki would not leave the general alone. "I am
participating in nothing here," said he, "make use of me, give me
something to do, and I will do it--occupation is what I want."

"I'll give it you at once," said Heissler, and putting his arm through
Teleki's he led him to his tent, there made him sit down beside him at a
round table, sent one of the yawning guards to summon Noscher, Magni,
Doria and the other generals, made them sit down by the side of Teleki,
sat down at the table himself, and drawing a pack of cards from his
pocket, gave it to Teleki with the words:

"Here's some occupation for you--you deal!"

"What, sir!" burst forth Teleki, quite upset by the jest, "play at cards
when the enemy stands before us?"

"How can we be better employed when the enemy is _not_ before us? Do you
know how to play at landsknecht?"

"I do not."

"Then we'll teach you."

And they did teach him, for in a couple of hours they had won from him a
couple of hundred ducats, whereupon Teleki, on the pretext that he had
no more money, retired from the game.

It was not the loss of a little money which vexed him so much as the
scant respect paid to his counsels.

The other gentlemen continued the game. Heissler suddenly by a grand
coup won all the ready-money of the other generals, so that at last
there was a great heap of thalers and ducats in front of him, and his
three-cornered hat was filled to the brim with money.

The losing party tried to console itself with jests.

"Well, well! lucky at cards, luckless in love!"

"Eh!" said Heissler, sweeping together his winnings, "I have only had
one love in my life, and that is on a battlefield, but there I have
always been lucky."

At that moment a rapid galloping was heard, and after a brief parley
with the guard outside, a dusty dragoon courier entered the tent and
whispered breathlessly in Heissler's ear:

"Tököly's advance guard is before Törcsvár, it attacked and cut down the
troops posted in the pass, only the Szeklers still hold out; if we don't
come quickly the pass will be taken."

Heissler suddenly swept the cards from the table, and snatching up his
hat so that the money in it rolled away in every direction, he clapped
it on his head, and drawing his sword exclaimed: "To horse, gentlemen!
Quick! Towards Törcsvár! We shall arrive in good time, I know!"

"Well! wasn't I right?" growled Teleki.

"Oh, there's no harm done! Blow the trumpets, we must strike our tents;
let the camp fires burn, and at the third sound of the trumpet let
everyone advance towards Törcsvár. A company and a couple of mortars
will be enough to guard the pass. All right now, Mr. Michael Teleki!"

Then he also took horse. Teleki too hastened back to his levies, and
soon the whole host was trotting on in the dark towards Törcsvár.

It was the 19th August, such a silent summer night that not a leaf was
stirring. Against the beautiful starry sky rose the majestic snowy Alps
which encircle Transylvania within their mighty chain; everything was
still, only now and then through the melancholy night resounded the din
and bustle of the warriors hurrying towards Törcsvár.

Here in the mountain-chasm a wide opening is visible which presently
contracts so much that two carriages can scarce advance along it
abreast. The road goes deep down between two rocks, and if a few hundred
resolute and determined men planted themselves in that place, they could
hold it against the largest armies.

On the other side of Moldavia, looking downwards, could be seen the
camp-fires of the hosts of Tököly, who was encamped on the farther side
of the Alps, occupying a vast extent of ground.

In front all was dark. After the first surprise caused by some hundreds
of dragoons who had penetrated into Moldavia, the Szeklers had quickly
blocked the pass by felling trees across it, retired to the mountain
summits, and received the advancing Tartars with such showers of stones
that they were compelled to desist from any further advance and turn
back again.

Great commotion was observable in the Turkish camp. The Tartars were
roasting a whole ox on a huge spit, and cut pieces off it while it was
roasting; some jovial Wallachians, a little elated by wine, began
dancing their national dances; on a hill the Hungarian hussars were
blaring their _farogatos_, whose penetrating voices frequently pierced
the most distant recess of the snowy Alps.

But just because the camp had begun making merry the outposts had been
carefully disposed. The leaders of the host were youths in age but
veterans in military experience; they were keeping watch for everyone.

They met as they were going their rounds and, without observing it,
strayed somewhat from the camp and advanced without a word along a
mountain path.

At last Feriz broke the silence by remarking gravely to Tököly:

"Is it not desperating to see a mountain before you and not be able to
fly?"

"Especially when your desires are on the other side of that mountain."

"What are your desires?" said Feriz bitterly, "in comparison with mine;
you have only a thirst for glory, I have a thirst for blood."

"But mine is a still stronger impulse," said Tököly; "I have a wife."

"Ah! I understand, and you want to see your wife? I also should like to
see her if I am not slain. And is the lady worthy of you?"

"One must have lived very far from this kingdom not to have heard of
her," said Tököly proudly. "My name has not given such glory to Helen as
her name has to me. When everyone in Hungary laid down their arms, and I
myself fled from the kingdom, she herself remained in the fortress of
Munkács and defended it as valiantly as any man could do. Helen stood
like a man upon the bastions amidst the whirring of the bullets and the
thunder of the guns, extinguished the bombs cast into the fortress with
huge moistened buffalo-skins, fired off the cannons against the
besiegers with her own hands, and cut down the soldiers who attempted to
storm the walls, spiked their guns, and burnt their tents."

At this Feriz grew enthusiastic.

"We will save this brave woman; is she still defending herself?"

"No. My chief confidant--a man whom I trusted would carry out my ideas,
a man whom I found a beggar and made a gentleman--betrayed her, and they
now hold her captive. Believe me, Feriz, if they gave her back to me I
would perchance for ever forget my dream of glory and renounce the crown
I seek, but to win her back I'll go through hell itself, and you will
see that I shall go through this mountain chain also, for though I have
not the strength to fly over it, I have the patience to crawl over it."

Feriz Beg sighed gloomily.

"Alas! I have no one for whose sake I might hasten into battle."

Early next morning Tököly came over to Feriz's quarters and told him
that he had just received tidings that Heissler had arrived during the
night, having galloped without stopping through Szent Peter to Törcsvár.
Teleki, too, was with him.

That name seemed to electrify the young Turk.

He leapt quickly from his couch, and, seizing his sword, raised it
towards Heaven and cried with a savage expression which had never been
on his face before: "I thank thee, Allah, that thou hast delivered him
into my hands!"

The two young generals then consulted together in private for about an
hour, after sending everyone out of their tent. Then they came forth and
reviewed their forces. Feriz selected his best Janissaries and Spahis,
Tököly the Hungarian hussars and the swiftest of the Tartars, and with
this little army, numbering about six thousand, they marched off without
saying whither. The vast camp meanwhile was intrusted to the care of the
Prince of Moldavia, who was charged to stand face to face night and day
over against the Transylvanian army, and not move from the spot.

Meanwhile the two young leaders, with their picked band, made their way
among the hills by the dark, sylvan mountain paths, whose wilderness no
human foot had ever yet trod. Anyone looking down upon them from the
rocks above would have called their enterprise foolhardy. Now they had
to crawl down precipitous slopes on their hands and knees; now gigantic
rocks barred their way, which enclosed them within a narrow, mountainous
gorge whence there was no exit; here and there they had to cling on to
the roots of the stout shrubs growing out of the crevices of the rocks,
or pull themselves up, man by man, and horse by horse, by means of ropes
fastened to the trunks of trees. In these regions nought dwelt but
savage birds of prey, and the startled golden eagle looked down in
wonder from his stony lair at the panting, toiling host--what did such a
multitude of men seek in that desolate wilderness?

       *       *       *       *       *

The Transylvanian gentlemen from the vantage-point of a lofty mountain
ridge watched the two opposing hosts facing each other in front of the
defiles. Now the Szeklers would burst forth from the woods on the
straying Tartars and drive them back to their tents, and now like a
disturbing swarm of wasps the Tartars and Wallachians would force the
Szeklers back to the very borders of the forest. It was great fun to
watch all this from the lofty ridge where stood Heissler, Doria, and
Teleki observing the manly sport through long telescopes.

Suddenly the sentinels brought to Heissler a Wallachian who had given
the pickets to understand that he had brought a message from the Prince
of Wallachia to the commander-in-chief.

"No doubt it is to tell you once more not to go into Wallachia again,
for the enemy has eaten it up," said Teleki, turning to Heissler, who
had got to the bottom of the Prince's former craftiness. "What is your
master's message?" he said, turning towards the Wallachian.

"He sends his respects, and bids you be on your guard against Tököly,
for he has a large army and is very crafty; but instead of opposing him
in the direction of Wallachia you would do better if you saw to it that
he did not break into Transylvania, and you ought to beware of this all
the more as only three days ago he departed from the main host along
with his chief Sirdar, with a picked army of six thousand men, which has
since vanished as completely as if the earth had swallowed it up."

"What did I say?" remarked Heissler, with a smile to Teleki. "You may go
back, my son, from whence you came," he said to the Szekler.

But Teleki shook his head at this.

"It is quite possible," said he, "that while we are halting here, Tököly
may issue forth somewhere behind our very backs."

Heissler pointed at the snow-capped mountains.

"Can anything but a bird get through those?"

"If Tököly lead the way--yes."

"Your Excellency has a great respect for that gentleman."

"Truly, Mr. General, I should advise you to summon hither the regiments
left at the iron gate, and bring up some more cannons."

Heissler did not even reply, but beckoned to him to be silent.

At that instant a wild yell suddenly struck upon the ear of the general,
and looking back towards Zernyest he saw a large column of smoke rising
heavenwards, while the outposts came galloping up towards the camp.

"What is that?"

"Tököly has got through the mountains!" was the terrifying report, "the
Tartars have burnt Toháir and plundered the camp."

"To horse, to arms, every man!" roared Heissler, and drawing his sword
leaped upon his horse. Doria, Noscher, and Magni quickly marshalled
their squadrons, Macskári quickly got together his squadrons, and
descended into the plain.

They had scarce got into battle array when they were joined by the boyar
Balacsán, the refugee Moldavian nobleman, who kept on foot two regiments
of the Hungarians and Wallachians at his own expense.

The cry of the ravaging Tartars was now audible close at hand in the
village of Toháir, which was blazing away under the very eyes of the
Transylvanian hosts. Balacsán's soldiers, eager for the fray, begged
leave of Heissler to drive them from the village, and rushing upon them
with a wild yell, quickly drove the Tartars back through the burning
streets; while Heissler, with the main body of the army, galloped
towards Zernyest with the greatest haste. He also succeeded in occupying
it before Tököly had reached it.

Here the soldiers rested after their tiring gallop. Heissler distributed
wine and brandy among them, then marshalled them, and sent to the front
the military chaplains. Two Jesuits, crucifix in hand, confessed all the
German soldiers, and the Rev. Mr. Gernyeszeg preached a pious discourse
to the Calvinists.

Meanwhile Tököly's army had advanced upon Zernyest. On one side of him
were the snowy Alps, on the other a reed-grown morass, which in the hot
days of August was quite dried up and could easily be crossed.

As soon as the Szeklers saw the Turks, with their characteristic
pigheadedness they seized their pikes and would have rushed upon them
with their usual war-cry: "Jesus! Help, Jesus! Help!"

Their leaders drove them back by beating them with their sword-blades,
and exhausted the whole vocabulary of abuse and condemnation before they
could prevent them prematurely from beginning the battle.

Teleki meanwhile summoned to his side his trusty servant, and as he was
dressed in a black habit--for they were still in mourning for the
Prince--with few jewels on it, he detached his diamond aigrette and
gold chain, and adding his signet-ring to them, gave them to the servant
that he might take them before the battle to Gernyeszeg, and give them
to his daughter, Dame Michael Vay.

The old servant would have asked why he did this, but Teleki turned away
from him and beckoned him to go away.

Then he had his favourite charger, Kálmán, brought forth, and after
stroking its neck tenderly, trotted off to the front of his forces and
addressed them in these words:

"My brave Transylvanians, now is the time to fight together valiantly
for glory and liberty in the service of his Imperial Majesty in order to
deliver our country, our wives and children, from Turkish bondage and
the tyranny of that evil ally of theirs, Tököly, for otherwise you and
your descendants have nought but eternal slavery to expect. Grieve not
for me if I, your general, fall on the field of battle. Behold, I bring
my white beard among you, and am ready to die."

While he was saying these words his adjutant, Macskári, came to him and
began to explain that the Transylvanians had been placed in the rear and
were grumbling loudly at having been so set aside.

On hearing this Teleki at once galloped up to Heissler.

"Sir," said he, "you are a bad judge of the Hungarian temperament in
warfare if you place them in the rear; the Szekler, in particular, has a
great aptitude for the assault, but don't expect help from him if you
keep him waiting in the rear till the front ranks are broken."

Generals, on the eve of a battle are, very naturally, somewhat impatient
of advice, especially if it be delivered by a civilian. Heissler
therefore snubbed the minister somewhat unmercifully, whereupon Teleki
galloped back to his men without saying another word.

Meanwhile the Turkish army had slowly begun to move; on the left wing a
regiment of Tartars stealthily entered the reeds of the morass and began
to surround the right wing of the Transylvanians; but their experienced
general, perceiving their approach from the undulatory movement of the
reed-stalks, speedily ordered Doria to advance against them with six
squadrons of dragoons, whereupon Teleki also sent thirteen regiments of
Szeklers against them under Michael Henter, and soon the two stealthily
crouching hosts could be seen in collision. The Szeklers, with a wild
yell, rushed upon the Tartars, who turned tail after the first onset,
and fled still deeper among the reeds. Doria pursued them everywhere,
the discharge of the artillery fired the reeds in several places, and
they began to burn over the heads of the combatants.

At that moment Tököly suddenly blew the trumpets and advanced into the
plain with thirty-two squadrons, who rushed upon the foe with a
sky-rending howl. There was a roll of musketry as the assailants drew
near, and nine of the thirty-two squadrons bit the dust, hundreds of
riders fell from their horses.

But the rest did not turn back as they used to do. Feriz Beg was leading
them, they saw his sword flashing in front of them, and felt sure of
victory.

At the moment of the firing a bullet had struck the youth in the breast;
but he regarded it not, he only saw Teleki before him, dressed in black.
He recognised him from afar, and galloped straight towards him.

Beneath the savage assault of the Turkish horsemen the German dragoons
gave way in a moment, their ranks were scattered; against the slim darts
of the Spahis and the light csakanyis of the hussars the straight sword
and the heavy cuirass were but a poor defence. The first line was cast
back upon the second, and when General Noscher was struck down by a dart
in the forehead, the centre also was broken.

The Szeklers simply looked on at the battle from the rear.

"What think you, comrades," they said to one another, "if they only
brought us here to look on, wouldn't it be better to look on from yonder
hill?"

And with that they shouldered their pikes, and without doing the
slightest harm to the Turks, went off in a body.

The cavalry, who still had some stomach in them, on perceiving the
flight of the infantry, also suddenly lost heart, and giving their
horses the reins, scampered off in every direction.

Heissler thus was left alone on the battle-field, and up to the last
moment strenuously endeavoured to retrieve the fortunes of the day. All
in vain. Balacsán fell before his very eyes on the left wing, and
shortly afterwards, General Magni staggered towards him scarce
recognisable, for he had a fearful slash right across his head, which
covered his face with blood, and his left arm was pierced by a dart. It
was not about himself that he was anxious, however, for he grasped
Heissler's bridle and dragged him away.

Heissler, full of desperation, fought against his own men, who carried
him from the field by force. At last he reached the top of a hillock
and, looking back, perceived one division still fighting on the
battlefield. It was the picked division of Doria who, in its pursuit of
the Tartars, had been cut off from the rest of the army, and seeing that
it was isolated had hastily formed into a square and stood against the
whole of the victorious host, fighting obstinately and refusing to
surrender. This was too much for Heissler. He tore himself loose from
his escort, and returned alone to the battlefield. A few stray horsemen
followed him, and he tried to cut his way to Doria through the
intervening hussars.

A tall and handsome cavalier intercepted him.

"Surrender, general, it is no shame to you. I am Emeric Tököly."

Heissler returned no answer but galloped straight at him, and, whirling
his sword above his head, aimed a blow at the Hungarian leader.

Tököly called to those around him to stand back. Alone he fought against
so worthy an enemy till a violent blow broke in twain the sword of the
German general, and he was obliged to surrender.

Meanwhile Doria's division was overborne by superior forces; he himself
fell beneath his horse, which was shot under him, and was taken
prisoner.

The rest fled.

Michael Teleki fled likewise, trusting in his good steed Kálmán. He
heard behind him the cries of his pursuers; there was one form in
particular that he did not wish to have behind him, and it seemed to
Teleki as if he were about to see this form.

This was the chief sirdar, Feriz Beg. Mortally wounded though he was, he
did not forget his mortal anger, and though his blood flowed in streams,
he still felt strength enough in his arm to shed the blood of his enemy.

Suddenly Michael directed his flight towards a field of wheat, when his
horse stumbled and fell with him.

Here Feriz Beg overtook the minister, and whirling around his sword,
exclaimed:

"That blow is from Denis Banfy!"

Teleki raised his sword to defend himself, but at that name his hand
shook and he received a slash across the face, whereupon his sword fell
from his hand; but he still held his hand before his streaming eyes and
only heard these words:

"This blow is for Paul Béldi! This blow is for the children of Paul
Béldi! This blow is for Transylvania!"

That last blow was the heaviest of all!

Teleki sank down on the ground a corpse.

Feriz Beg gazed upwards with a look of transport, sighed deeply, and
then drooped suddenly over his horse's neck. He was dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day when they found Teleki among the slain, and brought him to
Tököly, the young Prince cried:

"Heh! bald head! bald head! if you had never lived in Transylvania so
much blood would not have flowed here."

Thus the prophecy of Magyari was fulfilled.

Then Tököly ordered the naked, plundered corpse to be clothed in
garments of his own and sent to his widow at Görgéncy.

In exchange for the captured generals, Heissler and Doria, Tököly got
back his wife Helen. This was his greatest gain from the war.

Both of them now sleep far away from their native land in the valley of
Nicomedia.


THE END.


_Jarrold and Sons, Limited, The Empire Press, Norwich._



      Dr. Maurus Jókai's Novels

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      _The Nameless Castle_
      _Debts of Honor_
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      ='Neath the Hoof of the Tartar=, or, "The Scourge of
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Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in the
original edition have been corrected.

The advertisements were moved from the front of the book to the back. A
period was added after "Distant Lamps".

In Chapter I, "deposited it in front of the Divan" was changed to
"deposited it in front of the Diván".

In Chapter III, "Feriz Beg grew quiet furious at Tököly's cold repose"
was changed to "Feriz Beg grew quite furious at Tököly's cold repose".

In Chapter IV, a quotation mark was added after "commandants of the
fortress of Szathmár".

In Chapter V, "as to everyone of which he was able to prove" was changed
to "as to every one of which he was able to prove", "found everthing
wasted and ravaged" was changed to "found everything wasted and
ravaged", and "we are have not come here for you to pepper us" was
changed to "we have not come here for you to pepper us".

In Chapter VI, "s ized his shaggy little horse" was changed to "seized
his shaggy little horse".

In Chapter VII, "he had put the Szathmàrians" was changed to "he had put
the Szathmárians", "for the Szathmàr army" was changed to "for the
Szathmár army", "he had only required of Kàszonyi" was changed to "he
had only required of Kászonyi", and "kept them well supplied them with
drinking-water" was changed to "kept them well supplied with
drinking-water".

In Chapter VIII, a malformed ellipsis in "That damsel's name is Azrael
... Allah is mighty!" was corrected.

In Chapter IX, "they ward of with their bosoms" was changed to "they
ward off with their bosoms", and "a female Ibbis" was changed to "a
female Iblis".

In Chapter X, a quotation mark was removed before "Eh, eh! worthy Beg,
thou must needs have been drinking".

In Chapter XI, a quotation mark was added before "the camp is now
aroused".

In Chapter XII, "Ersekújvar" was changed to "Érsekújvár".

In Chapter XIII, "a dirty Turkish cavasse in sordid rags, entered the
courtyard" was changed to "a dirty Turkish cavasse in sordid rags
entered the courtyard", "without stopping from Szamosujvár" was changed
to "without stopping from Szamosújvár", and "she reached Szamosujvár in
the early morning" was changed to "she reached Szamosújvár in the early
morning".

In Chapter XIV, "the panic of Nagyened" was changed to "the panic of
Nagyenyed", and "for Béldi lives at Bodolá" was changed to "for Béldi
lives at Bodola".

In Chapter XV, "well aquainted with the mood of an eastern Despot" was
changed to "well acquainted with the mood of an eastern Despot", "for
him it to level towns to the ground" was changed to "for him to level
towns to the ground", and a malformed ellipsis in "Mercy! ... Mercy!"
was corrected.

In Chapter XVI, "the time when Haissar was burnt" was changed to "the
time when Hiassar was burnt", "I sware by Allah it is not to be done"
was changed to "I swear by Allah it is not to be done", "whispered in
her hear with malicious joy" was changed to "whispered in her ear with
malicious joy", "in all probabilty been helped" was changed to "in all
probability been helped", and "sorry matted coveyance" was changed to
"sorry matted conveyance".

In Chapter XIX, a period was added after the chapter number, "Rest
to night?" was changed to "Rest to-night?", and "plunged over into the
abss" was changed to "plunged over into the abyss".

In Chapter XX, "the muderris in his official capacity" was changed to
"the müderris in his official capacity".

In Chapter XXI, a period was changed to a question mark after "where
have you put it", and "reached Michael Teleki at Gernyizeg" was changed
to "reached Michael Teleki at Gernyeszeg".

In Chapter XXII, a period was changed to a comma after "shaking his
chains".

In Chapter XXIV, "demanded an audience of the noble Danó Sôlymosi" was
changed to "demanded an audience of the noble Danó Sólymosi".

In Chapter XXV, "You, Züfikar, my son" was changed to "You, Zülfikar, my
son", and "Körtörely, the old hound" was changed to "Körtövely, the old
hound".

In Chapter XXVII, "Thus Aranki's letter" was changed to "Thus Aranka's
letter", a missing period was added after "as if nothing had happened",
and a missing quotation mark was added after "we cannot now withdraw our
feet".

In Chapter XXX, "Ersekujvár" was changed to "Érsekújvár", and "During
the seige of Vienna" was changed to "During the siege of Vienna".

In Chapter XXXI, "always arid of fame and glory" was changed to "always
avid of fame and glory".

In Chapter XXXII, a period was added after the chapter number, and a
period was changed to a question mark after "And is the lady worthy of
you".

The original text contained numerous inconsistencies in spelling and
hyphenation, frequently reflecting inconsistent Anglicization of
Hungarian names. In some cases, when the translator's preferred form was
obvious, the spelling has been modified to reflect the dominant usage or
to conform with the original Hungarian text; in many cases, where no
single spelling was obviously preferred, inconsistent spellings have
been retained.





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