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Title: Our Little Czecho-Slovak Cousin
Author: Winlow, Clara Vostrovsky
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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OUR LITTLE CZECHO-SLOVAK COUSIN


      *      *      *      *      *      *

THE

Little Cousin Series

(TRADE MARK)

    Each volume illustrated with six or more full page plates in
    tint. Cloth, 12mo, with decorative cover
    per volume, 90 cents


LIST OF TITLES

    By COL. F. A. POSTNIKOV, ISAAC TAYLOR HEADLAND,
    EDWARD C. BUTLER, AND OTHERS


    Our Little African Cousin
    Our Little Alaskan Cousin
    Our Little Arabian Cousin
    Our Little Argentine Cousin
    Our Little Armenian Cousin
    Our Little Australian Cousin
    Our Little Austrian Cousin
    Our Little Belgian Cousin
    Our Little Bohemian Cousin
    Our Little Boer Cousin
    Our Little Brazilian Cousin
    Our Little Bulgarian Cousin
    Our Little Canadian Cousin of the Maritime Provinces
    Our Little Chinese Cousin
    Our Little Cossack Cousin
    Our Little Cuban Cousin
    Our Little Czecho-Slovac Cousin
    Our Little Danish Cousin
    Our Little Dutch Cousin
    Our Little Egyptian Cousin
    Our Little English Cousin
    Our Little Eskimo Cousin
    Our Little Finnish Cousin
    Our Little French Cousin
    Our Little German Cousin
    Our Little Grecian Cousin
    Our Little Hawaiian Cousin
    Our Little Hindu Cousin
    Our Little Hungarian Cousin
    Our Little Indian Cousin
    Our Little Irish Cousin
    Our Little Italian Cousin
    Our Little Japanese Cousin
    Our Little Jewish Cousin
    Our Little Korean Cousin
    Our Little Malayan (Brown) Cousin
    Our Little Mexican Cousin
    Our Little Norwegian Cousin
    Our Little Panama Cousin
    Our Little Persian Cousin
    Our Little Philippine Cousin
    Our Little Polish Cousin
    Our Little Porto Rican Cousin
    Our Little Portuguese Cousin
    Our Little Quebec Cousin
    Our Little Roumanian Cousin
    Our Little Russian Cousin
    Our Little Scotch Cousin
    Our Little Servian Cousin
    Our Little Siamese Cousin
    Our Little Spanish Cousin
    Our Little Swedish Cousin
    Our Little Swiss Cousin
    Our Little Turkish Cousin

    THE PAGE COMPANY
    53 Beacon Street         Boston, Mass.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: "THE NEXT DAY, RUZENA DROVE THE GEESE TO PASTURE"

(_See page 41_)]



OUR LITTLE CZECHO-SLOVAK COUSIN

by

CLARA VOSTROVSKY WINLOW

Author of
"Our Little Roumanian Cousin," "Our Little Bohemian
Cousin," "Our Little Bulgarian Cousin,"
"Our Little Servian Cousin," "Our
Little Finnish Cousin"

Illustrated by Charles E. Meister



[Illustration]

Boston
The Page Company
MDCCCCXX

Copyright, 1920
By the Page Company

All rights reserved

First Impression, March, 1920

The Colonial Press
C. H. Simonds Co., Boston, U. S. A.



PREFACE


THE gallant exploits of the Czecho-Slovak army in Siberia won the
attention and sympathy of the world to and for their hopes and
sacrifices in the cause of freedom. Fighting the Germanic Powers was
not a new thing to them. Bohemia, the chief of the Czecho-Slovak
states, has always been the battlefield between Slav and Teuton.
All that of which Bohemia is proud to-day was won inch by inch
through incessant struggle, through bringing to bear every force
of civilization possible, on the German rulers. Bohemia's leaders
emphasized the need of education; and so effectually, that Bohemia,
to-day, ranks as one of the most literate states of Europe. They
emphasized idealism, that not by brute force but by being better fit
should they eventually win. They kept alive their faith in a renewal
of Bohemia's wonderful, romantic history, that the people might not
sink into despair from dwelling on what their proud spirits held to
be the degradation of their position. They urged the development of
economic strength, and Bohemia to-day is self-sustaining. Through
ceaseless battling for their rights, through pride in their great
accomplishment in the face of great obstruction, the Czechs held
their heads as high as the inhabitants of independent lands. It is an
interesting fact that every poet, every musician, every artist felt it
his duty to devote his art to his native land.

And here it might be well to state that the Czech of Bohemia, although
often called Bohemian, has absolutely nothing in common with the
Bohemian meaning gypsy. This term was once applied to some gypsies in
France, through a misapprehension that they came from Bohemia. It clung
even after the error was corrected. These particular gypsies really
came from Hungary, which however does not mean that Hungarians or
Magyars and gypsies are one and the same. The gypsies, like the Jews,
do not belong to any one country.

Besides Bohemia, the Czecho-Slovak states comprise Moravia, a rich
farming country, the birthplace of the great educator, John Amos
Comenius; a part of Silesia, famous for its mines; and Slovakia, also
rich in mineral wealth which is largely undeveloped. Of these, Slovakia
suffered perhaps the most under the scorn, oppression, and exploitation
of the Magyar oligarchy. Taxes in all the states were high. Bohemia,
especially, because of its wealth, not only paid for itself, but helped
support unproductive Austrian German lands. The language in all of
these states is so closely allied that the citizen of one can easily
understand the citizens of any of the others.

It is thought by some that Czecho-Slovakia will be a small country.
This is not exactly true, for it will rank eighth in size among all the
European states.

One thing that the Czecho-Slovaks have particularly shown during the
War, and which argues well for their future, is their capacity for
self-government. Not only did they show splendid organization in their
efforts to secure recognition, but when the time came to proclaim the
Republic, it was found that their machinery was in perfect working
order; and, although great reforms have been inaugurated, so far things
have progressed with a smoothness not to be found in any of the other
newly-formed states.

                                                       C. V. W.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                    PAGE
  PREFACE                                       v
  I LAND OF PERSECUTION                         1
  II MUSHROOM GATHERING                         9
  III A SLOVAK FOLK TALE                       17
  IV THE VOICE OF THE WOOD                     30
  V SUMMER                                     34
  VI VILLAGE INCIDENTS                         40
  VII AN ADVENTURE                             50
  VIII A VISIT TO "MATTHEW'S LAND"             60
  IX JOZEF GOES TO SCHOOL                      66
  X SCHOOL DAYS IN BOHEMIA                     74
  XI WAR                                       85
  XII UNCLE JOZEF'S STORY                      97
  XIII UNCLE JOZEF'S STORY CONTINUED          104
  XIV THE CZECHO-SLOVAK REPUBLIC              114



List of Illustrations

                                                               PAGE
  "THE NEXT DAY, RUZENA DROVE THE GEESE TO PASTURE"
          (_See page 41_)                             _Frontispiece_
  "'WILL A TIME NEVER COME WHEN WE SHALL BE FREE?'"               5
  "THE GIRLS HUDDLED TOGETHER, TOO MUCH FRIGHTENED TO MOVE"      57
  "HE USED TO WANDER ... TO THE FORTIFICATIONS"                  74
  "THE VILLAGERS NEVER TIRED OF HEARING IT"                      92
  "HE ... DROPPED HIS TREASURE AT RUZENA'S BEDSIDE"              96



Our Little Czecho-Slovak Cousin



CHAPTER I

LAND OF PERSECUTION


THERE was mourning in the little village high up in the Tatras, as the
Carpathian Mountains are called by the Slovaks. Nine men and women
lay dead and four lay wounded behind carefully closed doors of the
little homes. Scarcely a person except Magyar gendarmes was to be seen
on the one main street. Now and then the curious, frightened face of
a child peeped out from behind the shaded windows, and again quickly
disappeared.

The day before, Magyar officers and priests had come to consecrate
the little square church that had just been erected. It had cost
the villagers many sacrifices, but they were proud of it. They had
come dressed in their best and full of gayety to the services, never
dreaming but that their beloved Slovak pastor would be allowed to
assist. When they found, however, that he had been ignored, they
pressed closely around those in charge and begged that he be allowed to
take part, that they might feel that the church was actually their own.

Did they beg too hard? Was it because they were loyal to a leader who
loved and sympathized with his own people? Was that why Magyar guns
suddenly boomed, and why the ground lay covered with blood?

The news of the happening spread even to the little village in the
more fertile plains, where Jozef lived. The twelve-year-old boy heard
it discussed the very next day as he accompanied the haymakers to the
fields. In order to hear, he found it necessary to keep close to the
men and women, for they spoke only in half whispers, fearing spies sent
out by the Notary, chief officer of the Commune, who seemed to count
it among his duties to keep tab on their very thoughts. They knew that
they could do nothing, and it gave them a cowed, dejected air. Never
had a haying been so dismal.

The killing, dangerous as the topic was, drew the men to the tavern at
night. They sat at the plain deal tables in small groups and drank and
smoked their long pipes. Now and then one had something to say. Perhaps
it concerned the fate of some woman who had resisted the officers
during the mad effort at Slovak denationalization in 1892, when
forcible transportation of children to purely Magyar districts had been
undertaken. Or it may have dealt with the imprisonment of some editor
who had had the courage to denounce some new injustice or atrocity.

[Illustration: "'WILL A TIME NEVER COME WHEN WE SHALL BE FREE?'"]

A tall athletic-looking man with a broad smooth-shaven face, and hair
worn rather long, seemed to be listened to with greatest attention.
He was plainly from some other district, for his attire was different
from that of his companions. It consisted of felt trousers, the seams
piped with red, a linen shirt and a sheepskin waistcoat with the wool
inside, heavily embroidered on the leather side. His shoes were of soft
leather, laced with rawhide thongs across the ankle, and he wore a low,
black hat decorated with a red ribbon band.

"I was living in Turciansky Sv. Martin, our one national center, when
the effort was made to establish a cellulose factory there," he was
saying. "It was one of the many efforts on the part of Slovaks to
be more prosperous and progressive. Like other citizens, I invested
considerable money in it. The building was erected and the machinery
installed and we were awaiting our license from the government, when
word came that it could not be given to the present management. We were
dumbfounded, although we understood. We were not to be allowed to run
our own factory because we did not help oppress our fellow citizens;
because we were loyal to our Slovak traditions and to our Slovak land.

"We did not give in without making an effort to secure justice. But,
after several months, we knew that we were defeated. During all this
time we had not been allowed to do any work in the factory. One thing,
finally, the authorities permitted, and that was to run the costly
machinery once a week, so that it should not grow rusty. Of course we
had to sell, and at a heavy loss to people eagerly awaiting to develop
what we had started."

The peasants near nodded their appreciation of the conditions. One more
excitable than his fellows jumped up.

"Will a time never come when we shall be free? Will a time never come
when the world recognizes the crime of using force to make people false
to their own traditions?" he exclaimed. "To outsiders the Magyars boast
of their liberal constitution, of the freedom granted to other nations
in the kingdom. We who have no opportunities, who are not allowed
a single higher school of our own, nor even a single Magyar Higher
School where our language is taught, know what a lie this is. And what
advantage is the Magyar language to our children outside of Hungary?
Go even to Vienna or anywhere else in the monarchy, and try to make
yourself understood with it! You'll see! And we were here before the
Magyars; we helped them to know the glorious religion of Jesus Christ;
we fought and bled as well as they for our native land." Here his voice
changed curiously and a sort of exaltation lit up his face as he said
softly: "We must have faith." Then he began to repeat some lines taken
from the great Slovak poet Kollar's "Slavy Dcera" (The Daughter of
Slava).

    "Stop! It is holy ground on which you tread.
    Son of the Tatra, raise your head toward heaven,
    Or rather guide your steps towards that oak tree,
    Which yet defies destructive Time.
    But worse than Time is man who has placed his iron scepter on
        thy neck, O Slava.
    Worse than wild War, more fearful than Thunder, than Fire,
    Is the man who, blinded by hate, rages against his own race."

Then again:

    "He who is worthy of liberty, respects the liberty of all.
    He who forges irons to enslave others, is himself a slave.
    Be it that he fetters the language or the hands of others,
    It is the same, he proves himself unable to respect the rights
        of others."

And once more:

    "Slavia, Slavia! Thou name of sweet sound but of bitter memory;
        hundred times divided and destroyed, but yet more honored
        than ever.
    "Much hast thou suffered, but ever hast thou survived the evil
        deeds of thy enemies, the evil ingratitude also of thy sons.
    "While others have built on soft ground, thou hast established
        thy throne on the ruins of many centuries."

Here in a rich bass voice he broke forth into the Slovak national song:
"Nad Tatrou sa bliska":

    Above Tatra the lightnings flash,
        The thunder wildly roars;
    But fear not, brothers,
        The skies will clear,
    And the Slovak's time will come.

At the conclusion, a peculiar silence brooded in the room. Suddenly,
little anxious twitchings might have been noticed. The singer turned.
In the doorway stood the Notary with a wicked, sneering smile on his
supercilious face.



CHAPTER II

MUSHROOM GATHERING


JOZEF'S home was one of the high-roofed houses whose gable ends
faced the broad, whitish main street. It was made of unburnt bricks,
plastered outside, with hand-made shingles on the roof. Each window was
outlined in pale green and the entrance porch was quite ornamental,
having a pretty conventional design, also in green, painted around the
door. This, as well as the lines around the window, was the work of
Jozef's mother, who enjoyed a certain reputation in the village because
she had once been asked to paint some borders around the walls of the
rooms of a girls' school in the city of Brno, the capital of Moravia.

Behind the house were the stalls for the cattle and pigs, and, back
of all, a small vegetable garden, edged with sweet smelling herbs and
brightly colored flowers. This garden ended in an alley way by a brook,
surrounded by green meadows in which geese usually pastured.

In the center of the main street was the Church, a small whitewashed
building with a square tower. Next to it were a cross and a statue of
the village saint.

Through the middle of the street were rows of underground cellars, one
belonging to each family, in which it was possible to keep food and
milk ice cold. Vehicles made their way on each side of these cellars.

Around the village were meadows dotted with red poppies and blue
corn flowers. Some distance further were fields of potatoes, a few
vineyards, and a large, privately owned wood.

It was Helena, Jozef's cousin, who planned the day in the wood for a
mushroom hunt, and secured the necessary permission from the forester
in charge. She invited Jozef, his ten-year-old sister Ruzena, and two
of Ruzena's girl friends to go with her.

"Goody!" the little girls shouted, and ran for the permission which was
readily granted on the one condition that they do not spend all the
time in play but really bring home mushrooms, which are highly valued
as food.

First each little girl took her herd of geese to the meadow by the
brook, and left her flock in charge of an old woman who had nothing
else to do but tend geese. Then they met Jozef, who had finished his
chores of feeding the cattle and pigs, and Helena, who was older and
helped her mother at home. All were dressed in old but bright colored
clothes, and all were barefoot and bareheaded, the girls' corn-colored
hair hanging in long braids down their backs. All carried baskets in
which now lay a little lunch. When they started, Jozef did not walk
beside the others, but ran on ahead or lagged behind. He was afraid,
since this was a girls' party, that some of his boy friends might call
him a "sissy." He wouldn't have been left out, however, for the world.

It was still early in the morning, but there was already a heavy warmth
in the air, so that the coolness they found underneath the tall trees
when they reached them, was very welcome. The road had been dusty,
but here the moss and grass were still wet with dew and gave forth a
fragrant, pungent odor.

The owner did not live in the wood, the only buildings in it being the
picturesque log cabin of the forester or caretaker, and a beautiful
hunting lodge.

Soon the fun began.

"Hurrah!" shouted Jozef, discovering two mushrooms, or champignons,
showing a brown and a red head above the moss.

Such a scampering as there was among the trees until every basket was
filled to overflowing.

Here Etelka, the youngest of the party, found one that she thought the
prize of all. It was red with white raised spots.

"Come here!" she cried. "I have found a new kind. Shall I taste it?"

Helena took two rapid leaps toward her.

"Drop it! Drop it!" she exclaimed. "That's a poison muchomurka. Never,
never taste anything of which you are not certain if you don't wish to
die."

"I thought it prettier than the red ones you found," said Etelka,
somewhat abashed.

"It is entirely different," and then Helena showed her how it differed
and again impressed on all to confine themselves to those they knew.

Then the baskets were put down in a circle and the children played
hide-and-seek among brown trunked firs with long gray mosses festooned
from branch to branch, knotted larch trees, and pines dripping with
balsam. At last, tired, they sank down on some netted roots and ate
their lunch of thick slices of rye bread spread with goose fat.

"I found some sweet-root here once," Jozef volunteered when they had
eaten every morsel.

"Where?" the girls asked eagerly.

Jozef had very vague notions as to where.

"Let's agree," suggested Helena, "each to give a nice mushroom to the
one who finds some sweet-root first."

All were willing, and with shouting, laughter and song the search
began. Several times Jozef was quite certain that the prize was his,
but it was little Etelka who actually found some underneath some
blackberry leaves.

"I'm going exploring," Jozef now announced, somewhat nettled that a
girl should have been the discoverer. Leaving the pathways, he made
his way down a long incline. Not wishing to have the party separated,
Helena led the others as best she could after him.

It was a merry chase Jozef gave them, now to the right, now to the
left, then back in a crazy circle. So intent were they in making their
way through some underbrush that they were unprepared when, at a sudden
turn, they found themselves on the brink of the river that they knew
flowed through an edge of the wood.

Out of breath, they seated themselves in a row on the bank and watched
the waters glide past. Then they threw in twigs, which they called
boats, and grew quite excited when some of these became entangled in
water washed grasses.

"Oh, Helena," at last Etelka begged, as she nibbled at her portion of
the sweet-root, "please tell us a story."

"A really truly Slovak fairy story," seconded Ruzena.

"Have it exciting," demanded Jozef.

"And true," put in quiet, blue-eyed Marouska.

Helena laughed. "Very well," she said, "it'll be truly Slovak, and
exciting, and as true as any fairy tale can be."



CHAPTER III

A SLOVAK FOLK TALE


THERE was once an old king who, knowing that his end was nearing,
called his son to him and begged him to take a wife.

"I would fain see you settled before I die," he said.

The son knew not what to do, for of all the maidens in his father's
court there was none that had especial charm for him. He was thinking
this over in the castle garden when an old woman suddenly stood before
him. Wherever she came from, she was certainly there.

"Pluck the three lemons on the glass mountain and you will gain a
wife such as next to none possesses," she said. As she appeared, so
she disappeared. Her words, however, sank into the youth's heart, and
leaving good-by for his father, he set out at once to find the glass
mountain and the magic lemons.

Far over wooded hill and dale he journeyed but saw nothing even
resembling a glass mountain. At last, tired out, he threw himself under
a tree. As he did so, some ravens, croaking loudly, flew out of its top
branches.

"Ah," thought the Prince, "these may direct me to where at least
refreshment and rest may be obtained." And starting again, he followed
in the direction that they had flown.

After three days and three nights he saw a castle before him, and full
of rejoicing, approached it. It was entirely of lead and in the door
stood Jezibaba leaning on a leaden staff.

"Haste from here, good youth," she said, "for nothing grows here, and
when my son comes home he will devour you."

"Nay, old woman," said the Prince, "that must not be, for I come with
respect for his power and knowledge, to seek his advice as to how I am
to reach the glass mountain on which grows a wonderful lemon tree."

"Then I will help you," said Jezibaba, and hid the Prince behind a big
broom. As she did so the castle shook, and peeping, the young man saw
an awful being come up brandishing a leaden club.

"Yo, ho!" growled the ogre. "I smell human flesh on which to feast."

"Nay, my son," cajoled Jezibaba, "a youth is here, in truth, but only
because he values your advice."

"In that case," responded the giant, "let him appear and I shall not
hurt him."

The Prince came out, trembling, for he reached only to the giant's
knees; but being brave of heart he courteously asked his question.

"Ah, ah!" returned the giant, looking around as if searching for him.
"I don't know where it is, but if you go to my brother in the silver
castle, he may direct you. Here, mother, give him some dumplings to
last him on his journey."

The Prince bit into a dumpling placed before him and two of his teeth
cracked, for the giant's food was of pure lead.

"I shall eat them later," he said, and placing three of them in his
pockets, he thanked his hosts and bade them good-by.

Again over hill and dale he traveled, until wearied he sank as before
under a thickly branched tree. From the top of this tree twelve ravens
flew, and, remembering his former good fortune, he followed in the
direction of their flight.

For three days and three nights he had journeyed when he saw before him
a castle whose walls glistened in the sun. It was of the finest silver
and at the gateway stood Jezibaba, leaning on a silver staff. He
greeted her, saying, "I come from the leaden castle and bear a message
for the owner here."

"In that case you are welcome, but that harm may not come to you before
my son knows, let me hide you."

Soon after an ogre, more terrible than the first, appeared brandishing
a silver club. And as he appeared the castle and ground were shaken.

"Yo-ho!" said the giant, "I smell human flesh for my meal to-day."

"Not so," spoke Jezibaba. "A youth is here, in truth, but not to be
harmed. He bears a message to you from your brother of the leaden
castle."

So the Prince was invited to come out of his hiding-place, which he did
trembling, he seemed so insignificant beside the ogre. He showed the
leaden dumplings in token that he spoke the truth and the ogre's face
grew quite mild.

"I can't tell you where the glass mountain is," he answered to the
query, "but my brother of the Golden Castle will surely know. Take him
my greeting. Before you go, sit down with us to our dinner."

But the dinner consisted of silver dumplings, and excusing himself, the
Prince placed three in his pocket and went on his way.

Over wooded hill, through valleys he journeyed, until weariness
overcame him and he sank down under a tree. Twelve ravens flew from
its top as he did so. The sight of them revived his strength and he
followed in the direction they had taken.

After three days and three nights, before him shone a castle of gold so
bright as to rival the sun's rays. Here Jezibaba, leaning on a golden
staff, received him, and here he saw her son the ogre.

"If my brother of the silver castle has not harmed you, neither shall
I harm you. What do you wish of me? Ah, the glass mountain! I know
it well. Travel straight to the north and you will come to it. On
its top you'll find the lemon tree with fruit so fragrant that it
scents the air for miles around. If this fruit is meant for you, it'll
drop into your hands of its own accord. If you need food or drink on
your homeward trip, cut open a lemon and all of your needs will be
satisfied. Now come and eat with us before you leave."

But the meal was all of dumplings of gold and, when the Prince saw
them, he urged his haste and would only accept some for his journey.

He traveled straight to the north, and, after three days and three
nights, he came to a barren spot in the center of which stood a hill
of glass and on it a tree with lemons whose fragrance reached him long
before he was near.

He tried to climb the slippery surface, but with every step he slid
back a step.

Possibly were he lighter, he thought, he might finally succeed. So
taking out a leaden dumpling he threw it away. To his delight, it stuck
in the glass, making a step. He threw out another higher up and then
the third, up to which he climbed. The silver dumplings followed, and
then the gold, and, with their aid, he reached the mountain's top.

Sinking down on his knees under the lemon tree, he held out his hands
and the lemons dropped into them one by one. As the last fell, the tree
and glass mountain vanished, and how it happened he could not say, but
he found himself well started toward home.

He had still a long distance to go, and hunger and thirst overcame him.
Remembering the gold ogre's words, he took a lemon from his pocket and
cut it open.

As he did so, a maiden so beautiful his eyes were dazzled, leaped out
and making a courtesy inquired:

"Have you food for me? Have you drink for me? Have you fine dresses for
me to wear?"

"Alas," answered the Prince sadly, "I have none of these."

The maiden courtesied again and instantly vanished.

"Ah, I know now what manner of fruit this is!" thought the Prince.

He could not bring the maiden back, so he sipped the lemon and found
it satisfied his hunger and thirst marvelously. He was able to walk a
long way now, which was good, for he saw neither food nor drink that
day. But toward evening of the next day his throat felt so dry and his
stomach so empty that he reluctantly cut open the second lemon.

A maiden more dazzlingly beautiful than the first jumped out of it,
and, making a courtesy, inquired as the first had done:

"Have you food for me? Have you drink for me? Have you fine clothes
for me to wear?"

"Alas," the youth sadly answered, "I have none of these."

The maiden courtesied and vanished as completely as the other had done.

He satisfied his hunger and thirst, but resolved that come what might,
even though he had to crawl home for weakness, he would not cut the
third lemon until he reached there.

Nor did he, for his strength lasted him until next day when he saw
the walls of his city before him. Already outside he was recognized;
the news spread, and the aged king sent out an escort to meet him and
conduct him into his presence.

When the two had embraced, the Prince told his wondrous story. A
banquet was prepared for the following day, to which many guests were
invited. Costly raiment, too, was made, and brought into the palace
walls.

When the guests had assembled conscious that some surprise was in store
for them, the Prince cut the third and last lemon. A maiden of beauty
so great that it surpassed the dazzling beauty of both of the others,
leaped lightly out of it and, courtesying to the Prince, inquired:
"Have you food for me? Have you drink for me? Have you fine clothing
for me to wear?"

"I have all of these," said the Prince happily, presenting her with the
costly gowns.

She put on the most elegant of these, and, so much did it still further
enhance her beauty, that the Prince could not take his eyes from her as
he led her into the Banquet Hall.

"Will you marry me?" he whispered. And when she smilingly nodded
consent, he announced the betrothal amid congratulations and cheering.
Shortly after the wedding feast followed.

The young people were very happy until the old king died and the
Prince, having taken his place, had to lead an army to War. Before they
parted, that harm might not come to his Queen, a platform for her was
erected high in the air. No one could get on it unless the Queen let
down a silken cord.

Now, an ambitious gypsy maid begged the Queen so hard to let her come
up to comb and braid her hair, that the Queen consented. The gypsy
talked and flattered as she combed, until the Queen fell asleep, and
then the girl killed her by plunging a sharp pin into her head.

As the pin sank in, a snow-white dove flew out. Nothing remained of the
Queen except her beautiful clothes, which the gypsy donned and sat down
on the throne.

When the King returned, he thought his wife terribly changed and would
have nothing to do with her. He mourned incessantly for what she once
had been.

One day, as he walked sorrowing in the garden, a snow-white dove lit
on his hand. He stroked its pretty feathers and as he did so, felt a
pin head on the top of its head.

"What is this!" he exclaimed, and drew it forth.

No sooner had he done so, than his wife of old stood before him just as
he had first seen her in her wondrous charm and beauty. She told him
all that had occurred. The wicked gypsy was put to death and nothing
further ever came to mar the happiness of the heaven married pair.



CHAPTER IV

THE VOICE OF THE WOOD


IT was getting dusky in the woods when the little party started
reluctantly for home. The birds were already chattering their good
nights before preparing for sleep and a belated squirrel or two looked
inquisitively down at them.

Now and then one of the children found berries that tempted even Helena
to linger.

"I did not know there were so many yet," she remarked. "I must ask
father to beg the forester to let me come soon again for them alone. Of
course I shall take you all."

As the trees grew a little more scattered, Ruzena, who had been walking
lost in thought, now raised her head.

"Old Susanna," she said, "told me once that the trees talk, but I don't
believe it."

"It's not the trees," said Jozef quickly, "but the spirit of the woods
who answers when you call to him."

Putting his hand to his mouth, he shouted: "O-ho! O-ho!" And from
somewhere came the answer "O-ho! O-ho!"

All the children looked back.

"Let me try," said Helena, smiling. Then she shouted: "_Dobrou noc!_
_Dobrou noc!_ Good night! Good night!"

"_Dobrou noc!_ Good night!" came back as before.

"It's a mocking spirit," said Marouska, walking as close to Helena as
she could.

"It's only the Echo Spirit," returned Helena, laughing.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" was returned from the woods so clearly that Marouska
seized Helena by the hand.

They had reached the edge of the forest. It was still day outside and
Marouska soon forgot that she had almost been really afraid.

She remembered it, however, the next day when a heavy summer shower
came with lightning and thunder.

"I wonder what the spirit does when it rains," she said to herself.

She thought of the birds and squirrels that she had seen. Would the
storm hurt them? She asked her father when he came home after it was
all over. He smiled and said:

"I have to see Zerzan, the forester, about something. You can go with
me to see if any birds are left."

How beautiful the wood looked when they reached it! Every leaf
sparkled, while the birds sang far more than on the day before,
Marouska thought.

"You see," said her father, "that all nature sometimes likes a bath."

"And the spirit of the wood, did he also like it?" inquired Marouska
with some timidity. Then she told her father about the voice that had
answered their call.

"That's the Echo," said her father, and whether it was because he could
not explain it, or whether it was because the forester just then met
them, he made no further explanations. Thus it came about that Marouska
kept her bewildered first impressions for many a day after.



CHAPTER V

SUMMER


"WE'RE off! Good-by!" cheerily called out four sturdy, red-cheeked
girls, early one morning. They were walking in pairs, with bundles in
their hands and their shoes slung over their backs. They belonged to
some of the poor families of the village, and intended tramping it
to the richer plains to work on two of the farms there, where their
help would be very welcome and well paid. Each had taken food for the
journey; rye bread, bacon, and a cheese called _brindza_, made from
sheeps' milk by Slovaks in the mountains.

Everybody waved to the girls or had a pleasant word for them as they
passed by. When the last house had been reached, their voices rang out
sweetly in song.

    In vain is not thy toil,
    In vain is not thy faith;
    The Lord God in the Heavens
    Gathers all of labor's sweat.

And again:

    Songs, songs, whence come ye?
    Descended from the heavens
    Or grown in the woods?

    Not down from the heavens
    Nor grown in the woods,
    But born in the hearts
    Of maidens and youths.

Then the more melancholy strain:

    My lips are singing,
    My eyes are smiling,
    But tears stream from my heart.

Ruzena half envied them as she listened. Everybody at her house, except
her baby brother and herself, had left for the hay-field to help with
the mowing. She had not yet taken the geese to pasture, and as she
started off, brother tried to toddle after her.

"Come, you may go with me to-day," she said good-naturedly, lifting him
up in her strong arms and carrying him to the alleyway. But it is not
easy herding geese that try to stray and carrying a heavy baby at the
same time. Although the distance was not great, Ruzena found that it
was more than she could do.

"I must leave you here," she said, panting, and put baby down by the
roadside. "Now be good and play and sister will hurry back."

Juraj was always good, and although he looked a little wistful, made
no complaint. Perhaps he was used to being left in that fashion. He
had nothing on his little body except a short shirt; but on his head,
according to custom, he had a most elaborately embroidered cap or
rather hood. He sat patiently still for a while; then a big black
beetle made him struggle to his feet. He reached forward to get it,
turned a summersault, and by the time he had straightened himself up,
the beetle had disappeared in the grass.

Juraj looked around for it and then catching sight of the brook near
by, half walked, half crawled to it. There were all sorts of things to
interest him here, and, without a moment's hesitation, he walked right
into the middle and sat down with something of a thump on the stony
bottom. Even then he did not cry, but tried to reach the funny little
water insects that scurried so fast everywhere about him.

"Juraj, Juraj, why, you're all wet!" exclaimed Ruzena, snatching him
up when she returned. Then Juraj for the first time cried, just a
plaintive little cry that seemed to ask why he must give up so innocent
a pleasure.

He was tight asleep in his own little cradle, that had served two
generations of children, when Ruzena heated some food that her mother
had prepared, put it into a pail, filled a jug with fresh water, and
started with these for the hay-field.

Some of the mowers were still being followed by barefoot women and
girls in bright-colored skirts, who tossed the hay over their heads and
shoulders. Others were already sitting and lunching in the shade of the
lumbrous wagons. Large cream-colored oxen, with very long horns, stood
unyoked near by.

Ruzena's mother returned home with her daughter, for neighbors had come
over to help, and although she had baked all the day before, she felt
anxious lest something should be lacking on the supper table.

It was just getting dusk when the sound of singing, not boisterous,
but low and sweet, came from the road and announced the hay-makers.
With their heads crowned with grain, they walked beside or stood in
the clumsy wagons drawn by sleepy-looking oxen with poppies and corn
flowers wound around their horns.

How good the things did taste after the hard work! Ruzena helped her
mother wait on the guests, and as a treat, was allowed to go with them
to the tavern where they danced their own national dances until the
church bell rang out midnight.



CHAPTER VI

VILLAGE INCIDENTS


"R-R-R-RUB-RUB-RUB!" went the little drum beaten by the bailiff as he
stalked through the village. Every one hurried to door or window to
learn what the news might be. It would not have created much stir in a
city, but it did create quite a stir in the double row of houses.

"Beran's cow, in your very next village," announced the bailiff,
"stepped into a hole and broke her leg at noon to-day, so that she had
to be killed. If you want fresh meat, here's your chance."

When the bailiff had gone from end to end of the street and back
again shouting the news, he was surrounded by people anxious to know
the particulars: just where the accident had occurred; how the cow
happened to step into the hole; who first found it out; who killed her;
and many other things.

Almost every one wanted some of the meat, and several of the men set
out that very evening to secure a share.

The next day Ruzena drove the geese to pasture in the hay stubble
where they were always taken that no grain might be wasted, when the
hay was already in the barn waiting to be threshed. When she returned,
she found that a wandering tinker with mousetraps, rolls of wire and
mending material slung over his back, was making his yearly visit.

The tinker's native place, like that of many another Slovak tinker,
was Kysuca, near the Silesian border. It was not from there, however,
that he had just come, but from Nytra, a place of twelve thousand
inhabitants, once the capital of the great Moravian Kingdom under
Svatopluk, of which Slovakia was an important part. There was scarcely
a door at which he did not stop, not merely to do some tinkering but to
deliver messages from distant friends or relatives, or to relate what
was going on in the greater world. He had been as far as Bohemia in his
year's travels, and had much to say of that prosperous and progressive
country. His opinions, though sometimes crude, were listened to with
respect.

"When I first started making my rounds twenty years ago," he said, "I
used to stop for a day or two with my wife's cousin in Praha (Prague).
Then the Germans had succeeded in getting all the business into their
hands; but now the Czechs have got it all back again. The banks,
too, are almost all Czech. There is hardly a German sign to be seen
anywhere. Every street has its own Czech name; but how the Czechs had
to fight for this, and how sore the Germans are over it! The Czech
believes in fighting for the right, he believes in educating his
children, he is willing to make any sacrifice that will make Bohemia
his own again. We're a different people; we are too ignorant to know
how to go about things, and when we do know we're so mild we don't do
it."

"Much good fighting would do us!" remarked Stefan the blacksmith. The
other men laughed. "Come and show us how," they said.

"I don't mean fist fighting," the tinker returned half angrily. "I mean
fighting with brains. Why can't we--"

"That's all right," interrupted a young man, his face all aflame, as
he stepped into the ring. "But what chance have we to develop our
brains when we haven't a single Higher School where the Slovak language
is taught? When every opportunity is cut off from one if he somehow
manages to educate himself, unless he turns traitor to his mother
tongue and swears that he is a Magyar? Don't I know? Didn't I hope to
work myself up into a position where I could serve my nation? And you
know my record. Imprisonment and imprisonment and imprisonment. The
Czechs are helping themselves, but no progress will come for us until
the world at large will awaken to its duty of preventing tyranny and
exploitation."

"True!" muttered many of the men; and then slipped away one by one as
some one pointed out the Notary approaching in the distance.

An old woman now engrossed the tinker's attention. She was quite a
character in the village and some of the people would have agreed that
she was the chief character. No one called her by her name. She was
"Aunty" to everybody for miles around. In sickness and death, in birth
and rejoicings, her advice was sought, even sometimes before that of
the village priest. She generally carried a basket of herbs on her arm,
for she was always hunting for some or ready to distribute some to
others. She knew their virtues as no one else did.

Ruzena chose that moment to bring out an earthen pot to be wired. She
hoped the tinker would be so busy talking to "Aunty" that he would
forget to indulge in his favorite pastime of teasing.

But no sooner did she come up than he looked at her seriously to ask:
"Have you caught any birds this year by sprinkling something on their
tails?" And when Ruzena smilingly shook her head and said shyly,
"None," he wanted to know where a dog goes when he follows his nose.

When at last he handed back her pot so skillfully mended that it was,
as he claimed, as good as new, he said more seriously than before:

"His lordship in the next village has commanded me to bring him a
new kind of strap, and I think that one of your braids of hair will
be just the thing for it. Stand still just a moment while I find my
shears."

But instead of standing Ruzena was running home, half afraid that the
funny tinker might really cut off the hair. And as she ran she heard
him sing the first part of a folk song that he had just learned from
some peasants in the neighboring brother land of Moravia:

    "M--m, m--m, two mosquitoes married to-day;
     M--m, m--m, not a drop of wine have they."

"Does the tinker go all over the world?" Ruzena asked her mother,
humming the tune that her quick ear had caught.

"M-mm, yes," her mother answered rather absent-mindedly. She was busy
preparing the supper which the tinker was to eat with them.

"He does his wiring well," she said as she put down the pot he had
fixed. "He's somewhat rattle-brained, I think sometimes, but he learns
a lot more going around than if he stayed here. He hasn't come from any
distant country to us. Only from Nytra. You might ask him about that
place. If we don't get him started on something else he will bring up
the Czechs again and what they're doing and what we're not. Since we
can't do anything, it's no use repeating all that."

Ruzena remembered when all were seated at the table, and asked the
tinker if he would tell them something about Nytra.

"I learned in school," she concluded proudly, "that it was the capital
of the great Moravian Kingdom."

The tinker looked pleased. "Yes, under Svatopluk," he said. "Then we
had nothing of which to be ashamed. But do you know anything about that
Svatopluk?"

Ruzena shook her head.

"Never mind," said the tinker kindly. "There's some grown people in
this village that don't know any more. Do you know?" and he turned to
Jozef.

Jozef hurried to swallow the food in his mouth.

"I know the kingdom all went to smash after he died," he shouted more
loudly than he intended.

His father and mother exchanged pleased looks.

"Do you know why?" asked the tinker. "You don't? Well, I'll tell you as
I heard a priest tell it to some boys.

"When Svatopluk knew he must die, he called his three sons to him. He
selected the eldest to rule after him. The two younger to whom he left
large estates, he bade be loyal to their brother.

"At his orders, a servant brought in three stout twigs fastened tightly
together. 'Break this,' he said, handing the twigs to his oldest son.
But the Prince found it impossible. Then he handed it to the second son
and then to the third, but the twigs remained unbroken.

"'Cut the cord,' he ordered the servant.

"This was done and Svatopluk handed a twig apiece to each of the
princes.

"'Now break it,' he commanded. This each one easily did.

"'Here you see,' he said, 'that when three stick closely together
nothing can injure them, but when they fall apart it is easy to
destroy them entirely. So will it be with you. Remain united, working
in harmony and forgiving one another, and your enemies will find it
impossible to overcome you. But live divided, and you will not only
fight among yourselves but your neighbors will master each of you.'

"Alas, what he foretold would come with dissensions, did come. Foolish,
selfish ambition destroyed the foundations of this mighty kingdom which
included Moravia, Slovakia, Poland, Silesia, northern Bohemia, and a
large part of northern Germany."



CHAPTER VII

AN ADVENTURE


IT was Saturday and Ruzena had just returned to the village from some
distance outside of it. She brought back some of the red sand that was
prized highly for sprinkling over the hard earthen floors of the house.
She spread it carefully and then went into the kitchen to help her
mother with the baking for the morrow.

Sunday was a blessed day in more ways than one for the villagers. No
matter how hard the work of the week had been, the Sabbath afforded
relaxation. Everybody who could went to church, and exceedingly
attractive did they look when they trooped out in twos and threes after
the service. The women especially looked like a bevy of bright flowers
in their gay attire.

There is no one national costume in Slovakia. It varies from district
to district. Here the women wore a snowy chemise with short puffed
sleeves ending in a wide ruffle. Above this ruffle was a pretty band of
hand embroidery in orange-colored silk. Over this chemise was a bodice.
The heavily starched skirt was full of tiny carefully arranged pleats
with another skirt of transparent flowery material, also pleated, worn
over, each pleat in this upper skirt being fitted into that of the
skirt beneath.

The men were quite as picturesque in high boots, and close-fitting
trousers of black cloth embroidered in black and yellow. Over the
shirt, a short sleeveless waistcoat was worn, fastened with one button.
The two rooster feathers at the back of the men's hats gave them
something of a dashing air.

The young men and boys always took their seats near the door. The
older men sat at the right of the aisle, the older women at the left.
The finery of the young married women and of the girls did not allow
them to be seated. The former stood in the aisle, the latter in rows
near the altar. When they knelt down their skirts stood out so far on
every side that no one could come near.

In the afternoon the young people paired for a dance at the pavilion in
the tavern grounds; the children wandered off for play, while the older
folks visited at one another's houses or met in the tavern to talk over
the little happenings of the week.

Wherever Ruzena was, Etelka and Marouska were also apt to be. On this
particular Sunday the three had an adventure that gave them all, but
especially Etelka, who was the most imaginative, quite a little thrill.

It was all because Jozef and one of his friends, Janik, had insisted
on following the little girls about, twitching their long hair and
playing all sorts of tricks on them. When something called the boys
away for awhile, Ruzena exclaimed:

"I wish we could hide from them!"

"I'll tell you a good place," suggested Etelka; "let's go into our
storeroom. Father put a lantern down there and we can light it and wait
until the boys give us up."

Marouska and Ruzena thought this just the thing, and away the three
hurried to the underground cellars. Every one was busy with his own
affairs, so no attention was paid to them, and they climbed down the
ladder into the dugout belonging to Etelka's parents, without being
seen. Etelka lit the lantern and then propped up the door slightly as
she had seen her mother do. The girls stood waiting and listening.

At last they heard boys' voices. "It's Jozef and Janik," whispered
Ruzena. Whether it was or not, the voices grew fainter and soon could
not be heard.

"They've passed, but if we go out they'll find us," said Marouska in
her quiet, sad little voice.

Her two friends agreed. "But," asked Ruzena, "what can we do here?"

Etelka's eyes sparkled. A bold plan had occurred to her.

"Let's explore the secret passages," she exclaimed.

"Let's!" echoed her companions delightedly yet fearfully.

"We won't go far," continued Etelka, knowing that such explorations
were considered dangerous and forbidden. "Just a little ways."

"Just a little ways!" Ruzena and Marouska again echoed breathlessly.

These so-called secret passages were very old and no one seemed to know
for certain why they had been built. The story generally accepted
was that they belonged to the time immediately following the Hussite
Wars, when many Czechs were forced to emigrate to Slovakia. While they
were allowed to come, meetings to study the Bible had to be held in
secret. These passages, connected with several of the cellars, made
such meetings possible. Although the Slovaks in the village were now
Catholics, they had not forgotten stories of martyrdom and courage
handed down from those times. They told how a pastor had traveled from
village to village hidden in a load of hay; of how a Bible was once
saved by being thrown down into a well, and many other tales.

Taking the lantern, Etelka led the way into a little opening. It
did not go far, for the earth had fallen down from the side walls,
partially blocking it.

The girls looked at one another.

"I know what we can do," suggested Ruzena. "I saw an old board in
the cellar. We can dig some of the earth away with that," and she ran
to get it. She also brought back a big wooden ladle, and with these
unusual implements, Marouska and Ruzena dug, while Etelka held the
lantern, until the obstruction could be passed. There was comparative
freedom after that for quite a distance. At one point the passage
divided into three parts. The girls chose to go into the broadest, but
scarcely had they gone twenty steps when the light in the lantern went
suddenly out.

[Illustration: "THE GIRLS HUDDLED TOGETHER, TOO MUCH FRIGHTENED TO
MOVE"]

"Oh, dear, now we're in for it," burst from Ruzena, as she felt
Marouska catch tight hold of her sleeve.

"Let's keep hold of one another and go back," suggested Etelka, her
voice trembling slightly.

It was not easy, for they had to feel their way along the wall. They
became conscious, too, that the air was bad. Once quite a bit of
earth fell down before them, but, fortunately, not enough to hurt or
stop them. It seemed to them that they had been walking very, very
long, when Ruzena broke the silence that had fallen, by volunteering:

"We must have come to where the passage divides."

"Yes, and I wonder--" Etelka did not finish, for Marouska clutched her
wildly by the arm.

"Oh, look back," she whispered fearfully.

The girls turned. Coming behind them but from another direction were
two red lights evidently carried by some person or persons.

The girls huddled together, too much frightened to move.

Suddenly Ruzena gave a funny, relieved, nervous laugh. "Why, if it
isn't Jozef and Janik!" she exclaimed aloud and then ran forward and
threw her arms about the astonished boys.

"Oh, you dears, how did you know that we were lost?"

Jozef and Janik were surprised. They had had no idea that the girls
were in the cellar. They had gone into Janik's storeroom for some raw
sour-kraut, and Janik had related how his big brother had ventured
quite a distance into one of the passage-ways the week before. "Let's
go, too," had suggested Jozef. Both boys had run home for some
lanterns, never dreaming that they should meet the girls.

"Huh," grunted Jozef, after Ruzena's embrace, not yet comprehending.
And when the boys did comprehend, well--it was rather nice to be
treated like heroes! They listened to the girls, but although they
glanced sideways now and then at each other, offered no explanations.

Then Jozef and Janik quarreled and while waiting to make up, Jozef had
an inspiration.

"The girls won't try this again," he communed with himself, "and
sometime I'll give Janik a scare by going through our passage to his.
Perhaps I'd better store a little food in it, for I might ask some of
the other boys to come in with me, and it'd be nicer to have some food
and play we're those old Hussites."

So, little by little, Jozef smuggled in food of all kinds; some
sugar, more wheat than several boys could eat, sunflower and pumpkin
seeds,--the latter considered a particular delicacy,--a small bag of
raisins and nuts, a handful of dried mixed fruit in a preserve jar, and
various other things.



CHAPTER VIII

A VISIT TO "MATTHEW'S LAND"


OTHER things occurred so unexpectedly and rapidly that boylike, Jozef
forgot all about his store of hidden food. Late in the Fall, most of
the children under twelve were back in school.

Their home chores now had to be done on Wednesdays, which, instead
of Saturdays, were their holidays, or before or after school hours.
Ruzena's favorite studies were embroidery, drawing and painting, for,
like most of the peasants, she had inherited a decided art instinct.
Even her mother, who had never had any lessons, had painted without
patterns pretty borders around the guest and living rooms; while her
father, also untaught, had made and carved the two pretty chairs in the
latter, and also the long shelf on which stood a fine array of village
pottery. Besides the work at school, Ruzena also had crocheting,
knitting, and embroidery at home. It was mostly for herself, for her
mother had her follow the local custom of beginning in childhood to
work on her trousseau.

There were other holidays from school work besides the Sundays and
Wednesdays, such as Dusickovy Vecer, which comes in November, the
Slovak Memorial Day.

It was frosty and cold on this particular memorial day; there were even
some icicles hanging from trees and bushes. A few flowers, from indoor
window gardens, and hundreds of candles, had been placed and lit on
the rude graves. In their dim light, figures could be seen kneeling
and praying. Here the light fell on an old man with a patient, gentle
face, and there on a young girl, her red skirts adding color to the
scene. Children were about, too, most of them in fur coats, and none
of them quiet for long. In the middle of the cemetery a group of men
and women were gathered around a cross, while some one prayed. It was
an impressive occasion, and as the villagers strolled homeward there
was no loud singing nor even talking.

After Dusickovy Vecer, Jozef and Ruzena were taken by Jozef's godfather
to a little village far up in the beautiful Tatras, where life was much
more primitive and much harder than in their own little rude village,
the Magyar Government showing no concern whatever in the people's
welfare.

On the way to this village, they crossed a part of what the people
around call "Matthew's Land," because over it once ruled one of the
great figures of their history, Matthew Csak, Lord of the Vah and
Tatras, as he called himself.

There are many castles in the mountains, but the most interesting was
that actually inhabited by Matthew in the early part of the fourteenth
century.

Matthew's career was brief but remarkable. He was a Palatine, holding
the highest office in the power of the King to bestow. He ruled over
what is now the greater part of Slovakia, possessing enormous wealth,
of which thirty fortified castles were a small part. In these castles
he held court on a scale that rivaled that of the King himself.

When the male line of the Arpad Kings of Hungary became extinct, it was
largely through his influence that a Czech King, Vaclav II, was called
to the throne. Unfortunately, instead of coming himself, Vaclav sent
his son, then a lad of thirteen.

To this the Pope, who had much to say in politics in those days,
objected, and the King of Anjou, taking advantage of being preferred,
seized the throne.

Powerful nobles rose up in arms against him, but the one he feared most
was Matthew. He tried his best to gain his favor, but in vain. Then
the Pope excommunicated Matthew, who retaliated by burning a bishop's
stronghold. From everywhere nobles, zemans, and peasants flocked to his
standards.

The Anjou King now made peace with all the other nobles, and resolved
to direct his efforts to crushing the chief rebel. Near the little
River Torysa, the armies of the two met. The King's was enormous, and
although the Slovaks under Matthew fought bravely, they were so greatly
outnumbered that they were defeated.

Although Matthew was defeated, he was not reduced in rank. He retired
for a time to one of his castles, and then gradually assumed his old
powers, which he exercised to the day of his death.

"Had Matthew succeeded in this rebellion," Jozef's godfather concluded
in telling the story, "he might have laid the foundations of a
successful Slovak state, for the Slovaks at that time still had in mind
the part they had played in the big Moravian Kingdom of Svatopluk."



CHAPTER IX

JOZEF GOES TO SCHOOL


A WONDERFUL opportunity now came for Jozef. He was only twelve and had
just completed the course in the primary school.

"Jozef is bright. He is above the average in his studies," the teacher
told his parents. "He ought to continue school work."

"I'd let him go on if we had schools of our own, but I won't have him
go to a Magyar school to forget his language and learn to despise his
own kin like Shlachta's boy," his father declared with emphasis.

"Better have him ignorant than false to his birthright," his mother
agreed.

The teacher nodded. He understood.

"If you could only send him to Bohemia," he suggested.

"If," repeated the father grimly.

"What is this about Bohemia?" asked Jozef's godfather, who had just
come up. He was a tall, thin, muscular man, whose hair hung down his
back in two tiny braids. He was known for his liberal and somewhat
"heretical" opinions. "I am going there after the holidays. Do you want
to send some message?"

The teacher explained to him how things stood. "If we don't educate
our children," he pleaded, "the Magyars will take greater and greater
advantage of our ignorance."

Jozef's godfather stood a few moments in thought. Then he nodded
good-by and left. The teacher was not put out. He was glad that he was
going to think it over.

The next morning the godfather was over at Jozef's house bright and
early.

"I've decided," he said, "that the teacher is right. In Bohemia, Jozef
will learn more about his own country than we can ever teach him here
and he'll learn to fight. I'll take him with me and somehow we'll find
means to pay for his schooling there."

So, one day, Jozef found himself whirled away on a train over the
fertile farm lands of Moravia, in parts of which there are many Slovak
villages, through Nivnitz, where the great Moravian educator, John
Amos Comenius was born, through towns and hamlets until they came to
Brno, Moravia's capital. They changed trains here, and Jozef had time
to see the Spielberg, crowned by a citadel long used as a Government
prison, with its horrible torture cells, which throw some light on the
conception of humanity of the Hapsburg Monarchy.

And then away again but not to Praha, Bohemia's capital. Instead,
Jozef's godfather was bound for Tabor, one of the most interesting
towns of Bohemia, having been founded by one of the great religious
reform parties at the outbreak of the Hussite Wars. This was the town
of Jan Zizka, the redoubtable military hero of the times.

Jozef was full of questions regarding this patriot and military
genius--the greatest one of his age. He learned that he is regarded by
many as the inventor of modern tactics, that he organized peasants and
mechanics so wonderfully that they beat back and drove into despair
the best trained arm-clad knights of Europe; that he never lost a
battle; and that he probably was the composer of a splendid hymn, "All
Ye Warriors of God," which seemed to inspire his men with wonderful
power as they sang it marching to battle. At the battle of Domazlice
(Taus), which took place after Zizka's death, 130,000 crusaders entered
Bohemia, proclaiming that they would not let a single heretic live.
They proceeded with plunder and slaughter until they reached Domazlice,
where they pitched their camp. Some days after, the report spread
among them that the Hussites, now under the command of Zizka's splendid
successor, Prokop the Great, were on their way and that a battle was
imminent.

While the Hussites were still four miles distant, the crusaders heard
the rattle of their famous wagons and the mighty tones of the hymn sung
by the whole Hussite army. It made such a terrible impression that
the fanatical soldiers fled before the song, even the curses of the
Cardinal failing to stop them.

Not knowing the passages of the gray Bohemian mountain forest they were
overtaken by the Hussite vanguards; many thousands were killed and many
more taken prisoners. Their camp with all the ammunition and provisions
fell into the hands of their captors. Thus a song proved more mighty
than the sword.

    "Fear not those, the Lord hath said,
    Who would your body harm.
    For love of your fellowmen,
    He hath ordered you to die,
    Hence take courage manfully."

This great victory for a time put an end to all efforts to make Bohemia
betray her conscience.

Before Jozef's godfather left for home, he told the boy another and
beautiful story about Prokop.

"Not only did Prokop repulse the enemy when they invaded Bohemia, but
he himself made incursions into neighboring lands. Once he led his army
to the walls of Naumburg, in German Saxony. The inhabitants were seized
with great terror for all counted on the town being entirely destroyed.

"In the midst of the dismay, some one advised the townspeople to send
the children of the town to the enemy's camp. 'It is possible,' he
said, 'that they may soften the leader's heart.'

"The people took the advice and the next day four hundred and fifty
children, gowned in white, assembled before the Town Hall. Two hundred
armed citizens accompanied them to the gate.

"When the children reached Prokop's camp, they fell down on their knees
before him and begged him to spare the town.

"Prokop was deeply affected. He detained the children until evening,
treating them to all the peas and cherries that they could eat. When it
began to grow dark he sent them home. 'Tell your parents,' he said to
them, 'that I will spare the town. But see that when you reach the gate
you shout: "Victory to the Hussites!"'

"The next day the Hussites left the vicinity without having harmed a
single living thing.

"In memory of the event, the people of Naumburg hold an annual festival
in which the children march to the spot where once stood the Hussite
camp. Here they are treated to peas and cherries. The occasion is
called the Hussite Cherry Festival."



CHAPTER X

SCHOOL DAYS IN BOHEMIA


AFTER arrangements had been made for Jozef to live with some distant
relatives, his godfather bade him good-by.

[Illustration: "HE USED TO WANDER ... TO THE FORTIFICATIONS"]

"Learn all you can, the better to help your native land," he said to
him in parting.

It was not long before Jozef felt quite at home. The boys at first
teased him about his dialect, but it was such good-natured teasing that
he did not mind it. Once when the teacher overheard them, he said:

"Do not care. Your language may not be as literary as ours, but it is
softer and more musical, and hence much more pleasing."

Jozef became very fond of the city. With a "heretic" friend, he used
to wander over the curiously arranged, toothed old streets, to the
fortifications that still stand, or to the river that surrounds the
city on three sides. Or they would stand and stare and discuss the
statues of Jan Hus, the religious martyr, of his marvelously eloquent
friend, Jerome of Prague, of Jan Zizka, and of Prokop the Great. These
and many historic relics were in the odd, triple-gabled Town Hall,
finished in 1521, in the big market square.

The statue of Zizka had an especial fascination for them. They could
see him walking right there in the Square, surrounded by armed
warriors, looking just as here represented, with expressive bent head,
long mustache, and heavy fur coat over his shirt of mail. In one hand
he held a sword, in the other, that terrible weapon that they knew was
once called by the fanciful name of the morning star.

Besides the Town Hall there were other interesting irregularly built
buildings, with peculiar ornamentation, in the Square. Before one of
them still stood one of the stone tables on which the Taborites took
communion in the open air.

How very different Bohemia seemed to him from Slovakia! Here every
one was proud of his nationality, which despite heavy taxes and many
other oppressions, the people had retained through the efforts of great
unselfish leaders who ceaselessly battled for their rights. He forgot
the humility that he used to feel when meeting a contemptuous Magyar.
Soon he held his head as high as the Czech boys did when they came
face to face with Germans who through wrong training, in their wicked
conceit, looked upon every nationality not their own, as far below
them. In Tabor this was not at all hard with all the voiceless eloquent
teachers around that reminded of past greatness and resistance to
injustice.

Jozef soon felt one of the family in the excellent home in which he
boarded. Nothing pleased the good-hearted house mother more than his
usually hearty appetite, and she seldom failed to applaud it by some
quaint folk saying, as "A hearty eater is a hearty worker." She had no
patience with fussiness about selection of food, and if she saw any
would exclaim: "He who is fussy about his food, may learn to think any
cheese would be good."

In the first days of his stay, Jozef accompanied her once to a
market day in the Square. The farmers seemed to him to have brought
a little of every kind of food that one could wish for. There was
sweet home-churned butter, cottage and other cheese, eggs, poultry,
vegetables, fruit, honey, mushrooms, poppy seed for cakes, and grain of
all kinds.

In school Jozef was now in what was called the Lower Gymnasium. He
had to be in the school building, which was not far from his boarding
place, at a quarter to eight in the morning. Sundays and Thursdays
were holidays. The school exercises began by all the pupils repeating
the Lord's Prayer and Ave Maria. After that the time was devoted to
the regular studies. The classes were named by Latin numerals, prima,
secunda, etc. to octava.

At ten o'clock came a short recess, in which the children of the Lower
Gymnasium played ball; those of the upper thought it below their
dignity to do so. Sometimes instead, the pupils indulged in a little
lunch by buying buttered bread, cheese, or fruit from the janitor.

Whenever a Professor entered the room or left it, all the children
stood up as a sign of respect.

Jozef soon came to share the devotion of the children to the teacher,
a man of delicate health but great spiritual vision, who constantly
called the attention of the pupils to the idealism found in Bohemian
(Czech) history. Through him the pupils learned, too, that Austria
was largely parasite, living on Czech wealth; that the Czechs paid
sixty-two per cent of all the taxes in Austria to support passive
non-Slav lands; that eighty-three per cent of Austrian coal was mined
in Bohemia; that sixty per cent of the iron was found there; that
ninety per cent of beet sugar factories were located there; that
textile and other industries were important. They also learned that the
renowned Bohemian glass employs over fifty thousand workers; that there
are excellent highways, extending to ten thousand miles, and several
important railroad lines; that one-third of all the gold and silver
mined in Hungary is mined in neglected Slovakia. Jozef was particularly
impressed by the fact that despite all the discrimination of the
Government against the Czech schools, the Czechs were by far the most
literate people of the monarchy.

History came to be Jozef's favorite study. He devoted much time
particularly to the glorious reign of Charles I, known also as Emperor
Charles IV, who probably did more for Bohemia than any other monarch.

One of the teacher's favorites was King George (Jiri) of Podebrad,
sometimes called the "Heretic King of Bohemia." Jozef did not
appreciate his full significance and was more interested in the stories
told of his jester, whose name was Palecek.

Palecek was no ordinary jester. He was an educated man of noble birth,
who by playing the fool could often tell truths other courtiers dared
not utter. Because he addressed every one, even the King with his
permission, as "Brother," he himself came to be known as "Brother
Palecek." One thing Brother Palecek felt as a particular duty was to
keep the King in lively humor, for the cares of state were very heavy
at the time.

Once the King gave a large dinner. At his table sat the Queen, princes
and princesses, and the highest nobles of the realm. The younger
nobles and others who served the King sat at a table apart. When
Brother Palecek arrived, he was not very well pleased at being placed
at this lower table. Soon he had another grievance; big fish were being
passed to the King and those around him, while only little fish with
many bones, came to the table at which he sat.

Gaining the attention of those about him, he took up one of the fish
and held it to his ear and asked it: "Little fish, do you know anything
about my brother?" and then placed it down again.

Then he took a second fish and asked: "Little fish, do you know
anything about my brother?" Again he laid it down and took up a third.

The young people about him burst into laughter, so funny did Palecek
look while doing this. The King asked what was amusing them.

"If it please Your Majesty," one of them answered, "Brother Palecek is
conversing with the fish."

"Brother Palecek," said the King, "what are you doing?"

"Brother King," replied Palecek, "I'll tell you. I had a brother
fisherman who was drowned in the river. So I am asking these little
fish if they know anything about him."

"And what do they tell you?" asked the King.

"They tell me," returned Palecek, "that they're still too young and
small to know anything about it, but that I'd better ask those bigger,
older fish that are on your table."

The King laughed and ordered the largest fish of all to be placed on
a dish and given to Palecek. These the jester accepted gracefully and
shared, amid general good cheer, with all at his table.

There were various boys' associations, which Jozef was soon invited to
attend or was asked to join. One was a boys' orchestra. In this land of
music, it was very natural that all who formed a part of it should have
been enthusiasts. As an encouragement to its members, the orchestra
received free tickets to all the purely national concerts given in
the city. Thus Jozef came to know better the works of the great Czech
composers, Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, and Zdenko Fibich. He thus
also had an opportunity to hear Jan Kubelik, the renowned violinist,
and Emmy Destinn, the prima donna.

Now and then the school children were taken to a national art exhibit.
One of Vaclav Brozik, whose "Columbus at the Court of Queen Isabella"
is known to all American children, and one of Alfons Mucha, known also
in America for his poster work, but renowned in his own country in
other lines as well, were followed by one of Joza Uprka, the Moravian
Slovak, whose paintings of his beloved country folks, with their riot
of color, and his passionate portrayal of the action and joy of life,
made Jozef for a time quite homesick for the simpler, more picturesque
life of his mother's home.



CHAPTER XI

WAR


THE world rang with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke, Francis
Ferdinand, and his wife, at Sarajevo, in a province of Austria-Hungary,
but quite outside the Czech and Slovak lands. It was a terrible deed
with which no law-loving people were in sympathy. But when Austria,
backed by Germany, seized the killing as a pretext for declaring war on
little Serbia, both Czechs and Slovaks felt the grave injustice, and
despite all efforts made by the Government, very few of them could be
induced to make any demonstration in favor of the action. When Germany
mobilized, there was no doubt in the minds of any but that the War was
simply one against all the Slavs, who opposed German possession of
Middle Europe and German and Magyar ideas of superiority and power.

It was a hard time through which all the Slavic people of
Austria-Hungary had to pass. It was hardest on those who, like the
Czechs and Slovaks, were forced to fight on a side that they detested,
against their own interests. In the face of the terrorist methods
employed, their resistance and sacrifices are remarkable.

The Government feared them. No sooner was war declared than Czech and
Slovak troops were sent from their home lands into the Austro-Hungarian
province farthest from them, Transylvania, and foreign soldiers took
their places. German soldiers are said to have patrolled Bohemia's
borders.

It was during the first days that Prof. T. G. Masaryk, on the advice of
his colleagues who understood how the War menaced the Czech and Slovak
lands, was fortunate enough to escape from the country with one of his
daughters. From then on until Czecho-Slovakia was recognized, he worked
incessantly for Czecho-Slovak independence.

When Austria declared war, it did what no other country taking part
in the War did: it declared war without first gaining the consent of
Parliament. It was a high-handed act which the Czechs, in particular,
resented. Great gloom prevailed. In sympathy with the principles of the
Allies, knowing intimately the world menace of Germany as few outsiders
knew it, the leaders were seeking means of protest when one after
another was thrown into prison. Newspaper and magazine editors followed
in quick succession. But the people, like the Hussites of old, stood
firm in their faith and determination to sacrifice all for the right
and to quietly resist in every way that promised to be effectual.

Jozef saw the soldiers march off from Tabor with a look of peculiar
resolve in their eyes, and heard mothers and fathers whisper with their
good-bys:

"You know your duty to your native land." When later he heard of
patriotic soldiers shot because refusing to go forward; of Czech and
Slovak soldiers branded as traitors because they deserted to the Allies
and, reforming in their ranks, fought their real enemies, the Germans
of Germany, the Germans of Austria, and the Magyars of Hungary, he
understood better what a big and splendid thing this duty was.

For a while, work in the school continued, but everything seemed
different. Patriotic songs with their beautiful melodies were no
longer allowed to be sung; the old school books with their brilliant,
romantic, yet true recitals of Bohemia's wonderful, heroic past, were
replaced entirely by newly written books full of praise of the Hapsburg
rulers and of Germany. Jozef and the other pupils rejoiced in one
thing: they still had the same teacher. But this rejoicing did not
continue long. One day they found the school doors closed and learned
that the teacher had been taken to prison accused of disloyalty because
he had allowed a ten-year-old pupil to walk home humming the national
air, "Kde domov muj" (Where is my home?).

            "Where is my home,
             Where is my home?
    Waters through its meads are streaming,
    Mounts with rustling woods are teeming,
    Vales are bright with flow'rets rare,
    Oh, Earth's Eden, thou art fair!
      Thou art my home, my fatherland,
      Thou art my home, my fatherland!"

News of still more imprisonments and executions followed daily. The
older daughter of Prof. Masaryk was imprisoned, mainly as a punishment
to her father, who was working so hard against the Central Powers
abroad. Machar, one of the greatest poets of Bohemia, shared the same
fate because of a poem published in the United States, without the
poet's consent--a poem passed many years before by the Austrian censor!

Strange rumors spread. Once Jozef and his particular friend, Jaroslav,
walked out of the city in the direction of Blanik, a mountain around
which are clustered many traditions. They were overtaken and offered a
ride by a very old man.

"Who are you and where are you going?" he asked.

"We're students in the Lower Gymnasium," Jaroslav answered. "We're only
out for a walk, for there is no school. We're going toward Blanik, but
don't expect to get so far."

"Better not," said the old man sternly. "Who knows but the old tale may
be true that the Taborites never died but are hidden, as is said, in
a cave there. They were to reappear at the time of Bohemia's greatest
peril, you know. This may be it. There're lights in that mountain, I
tell you; don't breathe a word of it; but also don't go there."

Here he let the boys alight, and they walked on speculating on the
tradition and as to just what the man meant by his last words.

"Do you think that some of the Czechs go there to discuss things?"
asked Jozef. Jaroslav did not know what to think. Both boys wondered
and wondered whether some great help might not come to Bohemia from the
mountain.

School did not reopen, and food became very scarce. It seemed best
that Jozef be sent back to his home in Slovakia in any makeshift way
possible. This was done, and after a week's hard and varied travel, he
reached home, almost starved. In Slovakia he found the same persecution
of all suspected of lack of sympathy with the plans and purposes of the
Central Powers.

Four of his relatives had been taken to fight; of these two cousins
had been killed, and one was reported to have been shot with an entire
company that refused to advance against the Serbians. No one knew where
the fourth relative, an uncle after whom Jozef had been named, was to
be found, until Austria-Hungary was broken up and he returned home
wounded. He had a story full of exciting incidents to tell and the
villagers never tired of hearing it.

[Illustration: "THE VILLAGERS NEVER TIRED OF HEARING IT"]

One day a load of miserable looking prisoners passed in cars through
the village. It was terrible to see them as they lay listlessly against
each other. It was plain that it had been long since they had had
anything to eat or drink.

The villagers were forbidden to give them food or to satisfy their
thirst, but the kind-hearted Slovak maidens found a way to help
nevertheless. How the idea spread not many of the girls knew, but there
was a sudden interchange of knitting material. It must have contained
a message, for the girls, far thinner than they had been before the
War, met before the Church and proceeded past the cars in a body, as if
to view the horrible sight. But most of them raised their eyes only for
a moment. It was when each threw some crusts of bread soaked in wine in
to the famishing prisoners--bread that each had denied herself from her
own scanty allowance.

The prettiest girl of all blocked the way as long as she could to a
Magyar officer, while the prisoners, weak as they were, fell like
beasts on the unexpected treat.

"We want to see bad men. We show them we think them bad," the girl said
to the officer in broken Hungarian, smiling sweetly.

He smiled in return and, nodding his approval of the sentiment, let the
girls stay long enough for all evidences of what they had done, except
the brighter looks of the prisoners, to have vanished.

Even harder to bear than the thought of what their loved ones might be
suffering in battle, was to see the younger children sicken because of
lack of proper food. Ruzena was one of these. She became so ill that
the family were seriously alarmed. She refused to eat the coarse food
which was the village's daily ration and piteously begged for something
different. There was nothing else to offer.

"Do go to Janik's," the mother one day bade Jozef, quite in despair,
"and see if they haven't some little bit of a thing they could let us
have to tempt her."

Janik's mother was full of sympathy but vainly searched her cupboards.
At last she sent Janik with Jozef to see if there might not be some
winter vegetable rolled in some corner of the cellar.

The boys searched but found nothing. As they were leaving there
suddenly flashed upon Jozef a recollection of how he had hidden a
private store some distance in the secret passages. Hastily leaving
Janik without any explanation, he ran excitedly to his mother.

"Give me the key to our cellar quick, quick, mother!" he panted.

His mother stared. "What has happened?"

But Jozef grasped the key without answering and ran. Trembling, he lit
the lantern and made his way into the passage opening, to find that the
earth had fallen, barring the way.

Running out again, he leaped into the courtyard, and seized a shovel,
not glancing at his mother, although conscious that she stood close to
the window gazing out, her face full of alarm.

Again he went into the cellar. Little by little the hardened earth was
shoveled away under his feeble grasp, until he was able to crawl into
the opening. The air smelled close and moldy. "One--two--three--" Jozef
counted the ten steps which he remembered having taken and looked
around. No food was to be seen. He searched for the shelves--but they
also had vanished.

[Illustration: "HE DROPPED HIS TREASURE AT RUZENA'S BEDSIDE"]

Dumbfounded and sadly disappointed, he retraced his steps.

But instead of getting back to the opening, he unexpectedly found
himself in another passage, and there, oh, joy! his food!

Loading his arms, he staggered out. Without locking the cellar door, he
made his way dizzily across the street.

"Thanks be to the blessed Virgin!" exclaimed his mother in the midst
of her amazement as he sank on his knees and dropped his treasure at
Ruzena's bedside.



CHAPTER XII

UNCLE JOZEF'S STORY


I WAS drafted in July, 1915, and sent with others to a Hungarian
training camp. We were not there long before we heard that we were to
go to the front. On the day of departure, Anka, to whom I am engaged,
came to the station with my mother. There were, of course, many other
women, all with flowers in their arms and all with eyes red from
weeping. For they did not want us to go to fight those who had done
us no harm. My father, who had always been a great patriot, could not
come, but he sent me these words which he had painstakingly copied from
our greatest poet:

"It is shameful when in misery to moan over our fate; he who by his
deeds appeases the wrath of Heaven, acts better. Not from a tearful
eye but from a diligent hand fresh hope will blossom. Thus even evil
may yet be changed to good."

Later this fell into the hands of a German, but he did not understand
it. I did.

It was hard to part. My mother, in the midst of her uncontrollable
sobs, whispered:

"Jozef, when the time comes, you know what you must do."

It was hard to part. At the end, Anka gave me some red and white
ribbon, the Czech and Slovak colors, which I tied around my rifle. It
did not remain there long, for when the Magyar captain in charge of our
battalion saw it, he swore savagely, and taking his saber, cut it off
and stamped it under his heels. Not satisfied, he deliberately hit me a
blow from which I suffered for many days. At the same time he muttered:
"Take care what you are about, you Slovak dog!"

My companions were as indignant as myself at the insult to our colors
to which we have every right. "If a time comes when we can revenge
ourselves, we'll not forget," we promised one another.

By this time we had all heard, somehow, of Czechs and Slovaks who
refused to fight against the Allies, declaring that they had not voted
for the War, and ought not to be compelled to fight; and of many
Czech and Slovak desertions. Just before we left, there was fiendish
rejoicing among the Austrian Germans and Magyars, because a Czech
regiment, intending to desert to the Russians, had been trapped, and
all the officers and every tenth private shot. The story did not
frighten us or make us less determined to surrender if opportunity
offered. Better to be shot, we told ourselves, than to serve those who
in victory would treat our people still worse than they had already
done.

We got to the front at Rovno and all that day were kept working without
a morsel to eat. We had just finished entrenching ourselves, when
Russian shrapnel blew over us.

Towards morning, I heard shouting. Soon after I saw a bearded Russian
with a long bayonet, standing over me. I tried to tell him I was a
friend, but he had no time to listen, for Austrian machine gun shot
began to come from the rear, and, with others, I was taken to a wood
not far away.

It was already full of prisoners. As soon as we came, the Austrian and
Magyar prisoners pitched into us, claiming that what had happened was
the fault of those "Czech and Slovak cowards." Even here, the Germans
and Austrians blustered and tried to order us about.

We were very hungry, but nothing was given us to eat until we reached
Rovno. Here we received a little, several of us sharing one bowl.
After that we were marched to Kiev, a distance between two hundred and
three hundred miles. We still had very little to eat, for Magyars and
Austrian Germans had not yet got over their notion of being superior
people and so entitled to more than we. When we complained, they even
beat us. One poor fellow who had grabbed a loaf of bread from a Magyar
who had two, was found next morning with his throat cut.

Our prison camp was at Darnica, near the city. It was just a big field
with some trees, surrounded by barb wire. I remained here about two
weeks when, because workmen were needed and because of Czecho-Slovak
efforts in Petrograd, we were allowed to volunteer for work on farms or
in ammunition factories.

I chose the latter and came to Kiev. I had not been in the city long,
before I heard that Czech and Slovak prisoners were being organized to
join a so-called Hussite legion which was made up of Czech and Slovak
residents of Russia, who had already rendered valuable assistance to
the Russians as scouts. The Russian authorities had been opposed to the
plan at first, not caring to encourage revolutionaries, even though not
Russian revolutionaries. However, in the end, a grudging consent was
given. I wished to join, but was not permitted to leave my work.

Then the Revolution came, and, as the prisoners were freed, the Czechs
and Slovaks flocked to their own colors, and I with them. If I live
forever I shall never forget how I felt when I found myself among my
own people, our red and white flag waving over us, and heard the band
play our "Kde domov muj."

When we had to swear our oath of loyalty to Francis Joseph before
leaving Austria-Hungary, all Czech and Slovak soldiers mumbled the
words. When we swore the oath of obedience to Prof. Masaryk, "the
little father," as we called him, who had come to Russia, we shouted
it so joyously and loudly that the people from around came to see what
all the noise was about.



CHAPTER XIII

UNCLE JOZEF'S STORY CONTINUED


I WAS so happy now. Every morning I awakened with a smile on my lips
and a song in my heart. For were we not going to free our dear, our
native land, of the usurper? We again sang our native songs, which
we had not been allowed to sing in the land of our birth; sang them
so often that we came to be known as "The Singing Czecho-Slovaks."
Whatever state we came from, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, or Slovakia, we
were quite united now, and had only one word for each other and that
word was "Brother."

And in the spirit in which we sang, we also fought. No longer did the
Germans and Magyars call us cowards. They now called us "red and white
devils," because of the colors on our hats. At the famous charge at
Zborov, there was almost a religious exaltation as we marched to the
field singing the glorious hymn of the Hussites: "All Ye Warriors of
God." Here we captured sixty-two officers, and three thousand one
hundred and fifty soldiers, fifteen guns and many machine guns, turning
most of the latter against the enemy.

But our bravery did little good, the Russians were deserting the army
so fast.

In 1917, I was slightly wounded. This prevented my taking part in the
terrible battle at Tarnapol, in Galicia, where our men were entirely
abandoned by the Russian troops. It was a wonderful charge they made,
the men rushing in where danger was thickest and resisting to the last,
and the officers blowing out their brains rather than surrender.

When the Germans invaded Bessarabia, before preparing to resist them,
we bound ourselves by a most sacred oath:

"In the name of our national honor, in the name of all that is most
dear to us as men and as Czecho-Slovaks, with full realization of this
step, we swear to fight alongside of our allies to the last drop of
our blood, against all of our enemies, until we have obtained complete
liberation of our Czecho-Slovak nation, until the Czech and Slovak
lands are reunited into a free and independent Czecho-Slovak state,
until our nation is absolutely mistress of her destinies.

"We solemnly promise, whatever may be the danger and whatever may be
the circumstances, without fear and hesitation, never to abandon the
sacred goal of our fight.

"As faithful and honorable soldiers, heirs of our noble history,
cherishing the heroic deeds of our immortal chiefs and martyrs, Jan
Hus and Jan Zizka of Trocnov, we promise to remain worthy of them,
never to flee from battle, to shirk no danger, to obey the orders of
our officers, to venerate our flags and standards, never and under no
circumstances beg for our lives from our enemy and never to surrender
with weapons in our hands, to love our companions as brothers and to
give them aid in danger, to have no fear of death, to sacrifice all,
even our lives, for the freedom of our fatherland.

"So freely, without pressure of any sort, we pledge ourselves to act,
and so shall we act. Such is the duty imposed upon us by honor and
fidelity toward our people and our country."

After the Bolsheviks gained complete control of the government, the
Czecho-Slovak army numbered sixty thousand. We waited hoping that
things would change for the better, until the disgusting Peace of
Brest-Litovsk, in February, 1918. Then we could not but see that our
only chance of continuing the fight for freedom was to get to France.
Through Professor Masaryk, free passage to Vladivostok was granted us
by the Bolsheviks.

It was no little thing that we undertook to do. It would have been a
big enough enterprise, even under the most favorable conditions. There
was a journey of over five thousand miles across Eastern Russia and
Asia, and then across the Pacific, across Canada or the United States,
and finally across the Atlantic. In other words, we were willing to
undertake a trip around the world in order to fight for freedom. In
the Russian part, we had to procure our trains and provisions, and
negotiate with practically independent Soviets in every district.

Since concentration at stations was prohibited, we started for the
Pacific in small detachments. Everywhere we were urged to join the Red
Guard with promises of high pay and good living. But although we had
little to eat, we refused the bribe. We were in demand, for afterwards,
Gen. Kornilov, and Kaledines, the Cossack hetman, each tried to gain
our help. Again we refused, unwilling to interfere in Russian internal
affairs.

When we reached Penza, we had a disagreeable surprise. Being the last
to leave the front, we were well armed and had many cannon, machine
guns and other equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars, that
would otherwise have fallen into the hands of the Germans. These we
were asked to surrender on orders from headquarters, retaining only a
few rifles and a few hand grenades to each train. So anxious were we to
leave Russia without a fight, that we obeyed the order.

Later we heard that about this same time in Irkutsk, a train division
of our men was surrounded by three thousand of the Red Guard, mainly
former German and Magyar prisoners, and under German officers, all well
armed and with many machine guns. Our men had only one gun to every ten
men, but when the German officer gave the command to shoot, the Czechs
rushed barehanded at them, captured their guns, and in half an hour had
control of the station.

Even then the Moscow authorities were begged by Masaryk, and by the
French, British, and American consuls that our troops be allowed to
proceed in peace. Instead, Trotsky ordered every Czecho-Slovak soldier
caught with arms to be shot at sight.

At Vertunovka we had a long wait. We employed it in decorating the
box cars in which we traveled, in ways to remind us of the old brave
days of Jan Hus and Jan Zizka, when the Czechs of Bohemia held all
of astonished Europe at bay for almost a quarter of a century. As we
worked, we each resolved to prove ourselves worthy of these ancestors.

Some of the boys added inscriptions to the decorations, such as, "Long
live Little Father Masaryk and the Allies," and put Czech and Slovak
flags about so that our cars really looked very nice, each platoon
striving to have theirs the best.

As we made our way, by fair means when we could, by force when
necessary, we found Magyar and Germans in control everywhere. Our very
own first conflict came when a Magyar in a train of prisoners hit
one of our men with a piece of iron, injuring him very seriously. We
thought him killed and rushed to the train and demanded the surrender
of the murderer. This led to more trouble. We had few arms, but took up
rocks and followed the train into the city, singing as we marched. The
Soviet buildings were deserted when we reached them, and evidently in a
hurry, for we found some rifles which we seized with thanksgiving.

After this delay we resolved to pay no more attention to delays
ordered by the Bolsheviki, but to push on as quickly as possible to
Vladivostok. Fighting now began in earnest. Everywhere success was
with us. Our spirit would allow of no defeat. When we were menaced,
we took the enemy by surprise; we had set out to get to France and
we intended getting to France, no matter what difficulties we had to
meet and conquer. We seized trains; we took city after city. While the
Bolshevik propaganda failed to appeal to us, it was not it so much we
fought as the objection of its supporters to, and lack of comprehension
of our love of country. We knew that the Magyars and the Germans who
were with the Russian Bolsheviks, fought us not so much because of our
lack of sympathy with the doctrines they professed, as because of our
nationality.

In the meantime, our forces constantly grew by means of new recruits.
Our fame grew also as we advanced. Sometimes the mere rumor that the
Czecho-Slovaks were coming, caused the enemy to flee. And all through
Siberia, we were welcomed by the real inhabitants as deliverers. By
the end of two weeks, three thousand miles of railroad were in our
hands.

Then, when finally we reached Vladivostok, on the Pacific, we found
that we were not to go to France after all, that the Allies thought we
had a more important work to do where we were, especially in keeping
the railroad, and hence the wealth of Siberian grain and mineral, from
reaching the Central Powers. This was also fighting for liberty, and,
without a murmur, we accepted our new duty.



CHAPTER XIV

THE CZECHO-SLOVAK REPUBLIC


IT was October, and Jozef's godfather had gone again to Bohemia,
this time as a delegate representing the Slovak National Council.
The Czecho-Slovak National Alliance and its army had been recognized
formally some time before as an ally by the great powers and greater
events were scheduled to follow.

When he reached beautiful "hundred-towered" Praha, the capital, he
found the streets and coffee houses jammed with people. Every face had
an expectant look in which anxiety and confidence were blended. Toward
the end of the month their expectations were realized. The National
Council took over the government of the Czecho-Slovak countries,
Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Slovakia, all of them formerly
belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

It was a bloodless revolution, for the Austrian Government realized the
hopelessness of its position.

All the great sufferings through which they had passed--the hunger, the
fear, the grief--were forgotten by the people in the great joy of their
liberation. Old men embraced each other; old women wept in each other's
arms with happiness that they had lived to see the day. People from
all the states, with their slight variations of dialect, were there;
Czechs, Moravians, Czecho-Silesians, and Slovaks. The ties of close
kinship were felt as never before.

Crowds stood on the big St. Vaclav Square listening to the Proclamation
of Independence from the steps of the splendid National Museum. When
the reading came to an end, the people, with one voice, sang the
ancient Czech choral to St. Vaclav, Bohemia's patron saint.

Almost every hour a new report came: now that the Emperor's Governor
had fled; now that the Magyar soldiers, who had been stationed in the
city, cared for nothing except to be allowed to return to Hungary; now
that the commanders of the local garrison had put themselves at the
disposal of the Czecho-Slovak government.

Similar scenes took place in the historical Old Town Square, around
the splendid monument of John Hus, that three years before had had to
be unveiled by stealth. Men, women, and children felt that the noble
past of which Czechs have always been so proud, was come again. Pride
swelled their hearts, too, that all that they were gaining had come to
them through efforts and sacrifices of their own, so great that the
world had been forced to recognize and admire.

On the following day the Slovak delegates were received officially,
thus uniting the two branches of the Czecho-Slovak nation.

The first act of the new state was to declare a republican form of
Government with Thomas Garigue Masaryk as President.

President Masaryk was to take up his official residence in the immense
royal palace so long deserted. Carpenters and others were busy
modernizing it.

This palace had lived through unusual vicissitudes of fortune. Already
in the tenth century, a stone fortified palace stood there, but it was
not until the reign of Bohemia's beloved King Charles I that it assumed
something of its present form, being modeled by him after the Louvre
of Paris. It was enlarged by King Vladislav, the principal hall being
named after him. In Rudolph's time other Halls were added.

After the defeat of the White Mountain, when Bohemia lost her
independence, it no longer served as a royal residence, and was
practically deserted. In 1757, it was bombarded, to be rebuilt and
enlarged by Empress Maria Theresa.

And now the greatest change of all: it was to be the home of the
President of a thoroughly democratic state.

Many days following were festal days. People flocked to the churches,
particularly to the Cathedral of St. Vitus, which is one of the great
works of King Charles.

While the young people looked forward to the future, the old recalled
the past.

"Ah, how King Charles in his heavenly home will rejoice," one bent old
woman, supported on crutches, murmured.

"And saintly Vaclav, too," scarcely breathed another so emaciated that
she looked like a moving shadow. "He'll be proud now that Bohemia is
called after him the Realm of St. Vaclav. Ah, I must see once more
those precious relics we have kept of him."

With difficulty she made her way to the Cathedral where St. Vaclav's
helmet, sword, and coat of mail have been religiously preserved.

Jozef's godfather sent him several picture postcards reminding him of
Jozef's hero, King Charles. One represented the historic stone bridge,
which Charles had had built with such care that he did not live to see
it finished. On this card he wrote:

"All the statues on the bridge have a dazed expression. I wonder what
they think of the change."

Another card was of the old walls of Praha, working on which through
the King's care saved a thousand men from starving in a time of famine.

"I walked past these fortifications early one morning," was the
message, "and hundreds of birds were among the ruins, all singing the
news of our glorious resurrection."

The third card showed Karluv Tyn, built by Charles for the protection
of the crown jewels and the charters of Bohemia. This beautiful
castle stands not far from Praha, on a rock of jasper a thousand feet
above the River Mze. To it the King-Emperor sometimes retired for the
meditative devotion which he found so helpful. On this card the message
was the longest:

"Charles did more than build beautiful castles and splendid cathedrals.
He welcomed men of learning and made higher education possible even
for the poor by founding the University of Praha, the first university
in all of Central Europe. He freed the land of robbers; he secured
justice to the peasants by making it possible for them to appeal to the
King from the decision of their own feudal lords. His name has come
down to us revered and beloved, because of the many evidences of his
unselfish, constant thought for the people's welfare."

By a strange coincidence, on the very day that the last postcard came
to Jozef in Slovakia, another reached him from his friend, Jaroslav.
It was dated from the famous watering place, Carlsbad, in northern
Bohemia, where Jaroslav had accompanied his father, who had some
business there.

"The Germans here, who have largely control of things," it stated, "are
angry at the turn affairs have taken. They clamor about the rights
of the minority, they who never considered the rights of the Slavic
majority. But I think they are calming down, for they see that they're
going to get justice. The Czechs are not revengeful. If we treated
them as they treated us--whew!" He said no more of the Germans, but
humorously described some of the patients he had seen; some very fat,
some very thin, all expecting cure from digestive disturbances.

A few days before he left, Jozef's godfather took one more walk across
the sixteen-arched statue decorated Charles Bridge (Karluv most),
through the picturesque Little Side, with its quaint old-time palaces
of nobles, up a steep and winding street to the Hradcany, as the group
of buildings around the royal palace together with it, is called.

From these heights, Praha is seen in all its wondrous beauty lying on
both sides of the River Vltava (Moldau). It seems an endless succession
of parks, gardens, queer roofs that are the delight of every artist
that sees them, and innumerable towers and steeples. Across the river
he could see the rocky Vysehrad, the seat of the early rulers. It
was there that Libusa, the reputed founder of Praha, made her famous
prophecy: "Lo, before me I see a city whose glory reaches to the
skies!"

He mused at the great richness not only in Bohemia's real historic past
but in her legendary lore; how everything about the city has its story.
On the hills towards which he was turned, Vlasta, the leader of an
Amazon band, made her stand in the early days against Prince Premysl;
near him was the tower of Daliborka, where a noble was once imprisoned
and said to have found solace in a violin. Since then ghostly music is
said to haunt the place. Of the alchemists who lived near by in the
Street of Gold, a street of the tiniest, most brightly-hued houses
imaginable, he recalled the strange tales told. In the very courts of
the palace, legends mingled with history.

A peculiar feeling that he had never experienced before came over him.
To live in Praha, he felt, was not the prosaic, everyday life he had
always known; it was living a brightly colored romance too disturbing
for him to get used to now. His own dear Slovakia, with its quiet,
simple life, was better for him.

The next day the new President arrived from abroad, and was installed
in office. That was the greatest day of all in Praha. The feeling of
the multitude was expressed by one old man who said, "I shall weep no
more for my dead, since they helped make the fairy tale come true that
brutal force no longer rules, that a proud, deserving nation is freed
at last from a bondage to which so long the world was indifferent."


THE END



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       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Page vi, "gyspies" changed to "gypsies" (The gypsies, like the)





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