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Debts of Honor
by Maurus Jokai
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"You will always sit there," said the lady, putting down the coffee-pot and pointing to the place which had been laid on her left. "At breakfast, at dinner, at supper."

This had a different sound from what the gentleman of the house had said. Rather different from garlic and black bread.

"This will be your room here on the right," continued the lady. "The butler's name is George; he will be your servant. And John is the coachman, who will stand at your orders."

Lorand's wonder only increased. He wished to make some remark, but he did not know himself what he wanted to say. Topandy, however, burst into a Homeric laugh, in which he quite lost himself.

"Why, brother, didn't you tell me you had already arranged matters with the lady? You would have saved me so much trouble. If matters stand so, sleep on my sofa, and drink from my glass!"

Lorand wished to play the proud beggar. He raised his head defiantly.

"I shall sleep in the hay, and shall drink from——"

"I advise you to do as I tell you," said the lady, making both men wince with the flash of her gaze.

"Surely, brother," continued Topandy, "I can give you no better counsel than that. Well, let us sit down, and drink 'Brotherhood' with a glass of cognac."

Lorand thought it wise to give way before the commanding gaze of the lady, and to accept the proffered place, while the latter laughed outright in sudden good-humor. She was so lovable, so natural, so pleasant, when she laughed like that, Topandy could not forbear from kissing her hands.

The lady laughingly, and with jesting prudery, extended the other hand toward Lorand.

"Well, the other too! Don't be bashful!"

Lorand kissed the other hand.

Upon this, she clapped her hands over her head, and burst into laughter.

"See, see! I have brought you a letter from town," said the lady, drawing out her purse. "It's a good thing the thief left me this, or your letter would have been lost as well."

"Thief?" asked Topandy earnestly. "What thief?"

"Why, at the 'Skull-smasher' inn, where we stopped to water our horses, a thief attacked us, and then wanted to empty our pockets. I threw him my money and my bracelet, but he wanted to tear this ring from my finger, too. That I would not give up. Then he caught hold of my hand, and to prevent my screaming, thrust the butt-end of his pistol into my mouth—the fool!"

The lady related all this with such an air of indifference that Topandy could not make out whether she was joking or not.

"What fable is this?"

"Fable indeed!" was the exclamation that greeted him on two sides, on the one from her ladyship, on the other from the neat little maid, the latter crying out how much she had been frightened; that she was still all of a tremble; the former turned back her sleeve and held out her arm to Topandy.

"See how my arm got scratched by the grasp of the robber! and look here, how bruised my mouth is from the pistol," said she, parting her rosy lips, behind which two rows of pearly teeth glistened. "It's a good thing he didn't knock out my teeth."

"Well, that would have been a pity. But how did you get away from him," asked Topandy, in an anxious tone.

"Well, I don't know whether you would ever have seen me again, if this young man had not dashed to our assistance; for he sprang forward and snatched the pistol from the hand of the robber,—who immediately took to his heels and ran away."

Topandy again shook his head, and said it was hard to believe.

"No doubt he still has the pistol in his pocket."

"Give it to me."

"But don't fool with it; it might go off and hurt somebody."

Lorand handed the pistol in question to Topandy. The barrel was of bronze, highly chased in silver.

"Curious!" exclaimed Topandy, examining the ornamentation. "This pistol bears the Sarvoelgyi arms."

Without another word he put the weapon in his pocket, and shook hands with Lorand across the table.

"My boy, you are a fine fellow. I honor you for so bravely defending my people. Now I have the more reason in agreeing to your living henceforward under the same roof with me; unless you fear it may, through fault of mine, fall in upon you. What was the robber like?" he said, turning again to the women.

"We could not see him, because he put out the candle and ran away."

Lorand was struck by the fact that the woman did not seem inclined to recall the robber's features, which she must, however have been able to see by the help of the spirit-lamp; he noticed, too, that she did not utter a word about the robber's being a gypsy.

"I don't know what he was like," she repeated, with a meaning look at Lorand. "Neither of us could see, for it was dark. For the same reason our deliverer could not shoot at him, because it was difficult to aim in the dark. If he had missed him, the robber might have murdered us all."

"A fine adventure," muttered Topandy. "I shall not allow you to travel alone at night another time. I shall go armed myself. I shall not put up with the existence of that den in the marsh any longer or it will always be occupied by such as mean to harm us. As soon as the Tisza overflows, I shall set fire to the reeds about the place, when the stack will catch fire, too."

During this conversation the woman had produced the letter.

"There it is," she cried, handing it to Topandy.

"A lady's handwriting!" exclaimed Topandy, glancing at the direction.

"What, you can tell by the letters whether it is the writing of a man or a woman?" queried the beautiful lady, throwing a curious glance at the writing.

Lorand looked at it, too, and it seemed to him as if he had seen the writing before, but he could not remember where.

It was a strange hand; the characters did not resemble the writing of any of his lady acquaintances, and yet he must have seen it somewhere.

You may cast about and reflect long, Lorand, before you discover whose writing it is. You never thought of her who wrote this letter. You never even noticed her existence! It is the writing of Fanny, of the jolly little exchange-girl. It was Desi who once showed you that handwriting for a moment, when your mother sent her love in Fanny's letter. Now the unknown hand had written to Topandy to the effect that a young man would appear before him, bespattered and ragged. He was not to ask whence he came, or whither he went; but he was to look well at the noble face, and he would know from it that the youth was not obliged to avoid persecution of the world for some base crime.

Topandy gazed long at the youthful face before him. Could this be the one she meant?

The story of the Parliamentary society of the young men was well known to him.

He asked no questions.

* * * * *

After the first day Lorand felt himself quite at home in Topandy's home.

Topandy treated him as a duke would treat his only son, whom he was training to be his heir; Lorand's conduct toward Topandy was that of a poor man's son, learning to make himself useful in his father's home. Each found many extraordinary traits in the other, and each would have loved to probe to the depths of the other's peculiarities.

Lorand remarked in his uncle a deep, unfathomable feeling underlying his seeming godlessness. Topandy, on his side, suspected that some dark shadow had prematurely crossed the serenity of the young man's mind. Each tried to pierce the depths of the other's soul—but in vain.

Her ladyship had on the first day confided her life secret to Lorand. When he endeavored to pay her the compliment of kissing her hand after supper, she withdrew her hand and refused to accept this mark of respect.

"My dear boy, don't kiss my hand, or 'my ladyship' me any more. I am but a poor gypsy girl. My parents, were simple camp-folk; my name is Czipra. I am a domestic servant here, whom the master has dressed up, out of caprice, in silks and laces, and he makes the servants call me 'madame,' on which account they subsequently mock me,—of course, only behind my back, for if they did it to my face I should strike them; but don't you laugh at me behind my back. I am an orphan gypsy girl, and my master picked me up out of the gutter. He is very kind to me, and I would die for him, if fate so willed. That's how matters stand, do you understand?"

The gypsy girl glanced with dimmed eyes at Topandy, who smilingly listened to her frank confession, as though he approved of it. Then, as if she had gained her master's consent, she turned again to Lorand:

"So call me simply 'Czipra.'"

"All right, Czipra, my sister," said Lorand, holding out his hand.

"Well now, that is nice of you to add that;" upon which she pressed Lorand's hand, and left the men to themselves.

Topandy turned the conversation, and spoke no more to Lorand of Czipra. He first of all wished to find out what impression the discovery would make upon the young man.

The following days enlightened him.

Lorand, from that day, far from showing more familiarity, manifested greater deference towards the reputed lady of the house. Since she had confessed her true position to him, moreover he treated her as one who knew well that the smallest slight would doubly hurt one who was not in a position to complain. He was kind and attentive to the woman, who, beneath the appearance of happiness, was wretched, though innocent. To the uninitiated, she was the lady of the house; to the better informed, she was the favorite of her master, and that was nought but a maiden in the disguise of wife, and Lorand was able to read the riddle aright.

If Topandy watched him, he in his turn observed Topandy; he saw that Topandy did not watch, nor was jealous of the girl. He consented to her traveling alone, confided the greater part of his fortune to her, overwhelmed her with presents, but beyond this did not trouble about her. Still he showed a certain affection which did not arise from mere habit. He would not brook the least harm to her from anybody, making the whole household fear her as much as the master, and if by chance they hesitated as to their duty to one or the other, it was always Czipra who had a prior claim on their services.

Topandy at once perceived that Lorand did not run after a fair face, nor after the face of any woman, who was not difficult to conquer, because she was not guarded, and who might be easily got rid of, being but a gypsy girl. His heart was either fully occupied by one object only, or it was an infinite void which nothing could fill. Topandy led a boisterous life, when he fell in with his chums, but when alone he was quite another man. To fathom nature's mysteries was a passion with him. In a corner of the basement of the castle there was a chemical laboratory, where he passed his time with making physical experiments; he labored with instruments, he probed the secrets of the stars, and of the earth; at such times he only cared to have Lorand at his side; in him he found a being capable of sharing his scientific researches, though he did not share in his doubts.

"All is matter!" such had for centuries been the motto of the naturalist, and therefore the naturalist had ever found a kindred spirit in the agnostic.

Often did Czipra come upon the two men at their quiet pursuits and watch them for hours together; and though she did not understand what in this higher science went beyond her comprehension, yet she could take pleasure in observing Cartesius' diving imps; she dared to sit upon the insulators, and her joy was boundless when Lorand at such a time, approaching her with his finger, called forth electric sparks from her dress or hands. She found enjoyment, too, in peering through the great telescopes at the heavenly wonders. Lorand was always ready to answer her questions; but the poor girl was far from understanding all. Yet how rapturous the thought of knowing all! Once when Lorand was explaining to her the properties of the sun-spectrum, the girl sighed and, suddenly bending down to Lorand, whispered blushingly:

"Teach me to read."

Lorand looked at her in amazement. Topandy, looking over his shoulder, asked her:

"Tell me, what would be the use of teaching you to read?"

The girl clasped her hands to her bosom:

"I should like to learn to pray."

"What? To pray? And what would you pray for? Is there anything that you cannot do without?"

"There is."

"What can it be?"

"That is what I should like to know by praying."

"And you do not know yourself what it is?"

"I cannot express what it is."

"And do you know anybody who could give it you?"

The girl pointed to the sky.

Topandy shrugged his shoulders at her.

"Bah! you goose, reading is not for girls. Women are best off when they know nothing."

Then he laughed in her face.

Czipra ran weeping out of the laboratory.

Lorand pitied the poor creature, who, dressed in silks and finery, did not know her letters, and who was incapable of raising her voice to God. He was in a mood, through long solitude, for pitying others; under a strange name, known to nobody, separated from the world, he was able to forget the lofty dreams to which a smooth career had pointed, and which fate, at his first steps, had mocked. He had given up the idea that the world should acknowledge this title: "a great patriot, who is the holder of a high office." He who does not desire this should keep to the ploughshare. Ambition should only have well-regulated roads, and success should only begin with a lower office in the state. But he whose hobby it is to murmur, will find a fine career in field labor; and he who wishes to bury himself, will find himself supplied, in life, with a beautiful, romantic, flowery wheat-covered cemetery by the fields, from the centre of which the happy dead creatures of life cheerfully mock at those who weary themselves and create a disturbance—with the idea that they are doing something, whereas their end is the same as that of the rest of mankind.

Lorand was even beginning to grow indifferent to the awful obligation that lay before him at the end of the appointed time. It was still afar off. Before then a man might die peacefully and quietly; perhaps that other who guarded the secret might pass away ere then. And perhaps the years at the plough would harden the skin of a man's soul, as it did of his face and hands, so that he would come to ridicule a wager, which in his youthful over-enthusiasm he would have fulfilled; a wager the refusal to accept which would merely win the commendation of everybody. And if any one could say the reverse, how could he find him to say it to his face? As regards his family at home, he was fairly at his ease. He often received letters from Dezsoe (Desiderius), under another address; they were all well at home, and treated the fate of the expelled son with good grace. He also learned that Madame Balnokhazy had not returned to her husband, but had gone abroad with that actor with whom she had previously been acquainted. This also he had wiped out from his memory. His whole mind was a perfect blank in which there was room for other people's misfortunes.

It was impossible not to remark how Czipra became attached to him in her simplicity. She had a feeling which she had never felt before, a feeling of shame, if some impudent jest was made at her expense by one of Topandy's guests, in the presence of Lorand.

Once, when Topandy and Lorand were amusing themselves at greater length with optical experiments in the lonely scientific apartment, Lorand took the liberty of introducing the subject.

"Is it true that that girl has grown up without any knowledge whatever?"

"Surely; she knows neither God nor alphabet."

"Why don't you allow the poor child to learn to know them?"

"What, her alphabet? Because in my eyes it is quite superfluous. A mad idea once occurred to me of picking some naked gypsy child out of the streets, with the intention of making a happy being therefrom. What is happiness in the world? Ease and ignorance. Had I a child of my own, I should do the same with it. The secret of life is to have a good appetite, sound sleep, and a good heart. If I reflect what bitternesses have been my lot my whole life, I find the cause of each one was what I have learned. Many a night did I lie awake in agonized distraction, while my servants were snoring in peace. I desired to see before me a person as happy as it was my ideal to be; a person free from those distressing tortures, which the civilized world has discovered for the persecution of man by man. Well, I have begun by telling you why I did not teach Czipra her alphabet."

"And God?"

Topandy took his eyes off the telescope, with which he had just been gazing at the starry sky.

"I don't know Him myself."

Lorand turned from him with a distressed air. Topandy remarked it.

"My dear boy, my dear twenty-year-old child, probably you know more than I do; if you know Him, I beg you to teach me."

Lorand shrugged his shoulders, then began to discuss scientific subjects.

"Does Dollond's telescope show stars in the Milky Way?"

"Yes, a million twinkling stars o'erspread the Milky Way, each several star a sun."

"Does it dissipate the mist in the head of the Northern Hound?"

"The mist remains as it was before—a round cloudy mass with a ring of mist around it."

"Perhaps Gregory's telescope, just arrived from Vienna, magnifies better?"

"Bring it here. Since its arrival there has been no clear weather, to enable us to make experiments with it."

Topandy gazed at the heavens through the new telescope with great interest.

"Ah," he remarked in a tone of surprise. "This is a splendid instrument; the star-mist thins, some tiny stars appear out of the ring."

"And the mass itself?"

"That remains mist. Not even this telescope can disperse its atoms."

"Well, shall we not experiment with Chevalier's microscope now?"

"That is a good idea; get it ready."

"What shall we put under it? A rhinchites?"

"That will do."

Lorand lit the spirit-lamp, which threw light on the subject under the magnifying glass; then he first looked into it himself, to find the correct focus. Enraptured, he cried out:

"Look here! That fabled armor of Homer's Iliad is not to be compared with this little insect's wing-shields. They are nothing but emerald and enamelled gold."

"Indeed it is so."

"And now listen to me: between the two wings of this little insect there is a tiny parasite or worm, which in its turn has two eyes, a life, and life-blood flowing in its veins, and in this worm's stomach other worms are living, impenetrable to the eye of this microscope."

"I understand," said the atheist, glancing into Lorand's eyes. "You are explaining to me that the immensity of the world of creation reaching to awful eternity is only equalled by the immensity of the descent to the shapeless nonentity; and that is your God!"

The sublime calm of Lorand's face indicated that that was his idea.

"My dear boy," said Topandy, placing his two hands on Lorand's shoulder, "with that idea I have long been acquainted. I, too, fall down before immensity, and recognize that we represent but one class in the upward direction towards the stars, and one degree in the descent to the moth and rust that corrupt; and perhaps that worm, that I killed in order to take rapt pleasure in its wings, thought itself the middle of eternity round which the world is whirling like Plato's featherless two-footed animals; and when at the door of death it uttered its last cry, it probably thought that this cry for vengeance would be noted by some one, as when at Warsaw four thousand martyrs sang with their last breath, 'All is not yet lost.'"

"That is not my faith, sir. The history of the ephemeral insect is the history of a day,—that of a man means a whole life; the history of nations means centuries, that of the world eternity; and in eternity justice comes to each one in irremediable and unalterable succession."

"I grant that, my boy; and I allow, too, that the comets are certainly claimants to the world whose suits have been deferred to this long justice, who one day will all recover their inheritances, from which some tyrant sun has driven them out; but you must also acknowledge, my child, that for us, the thoughtful worms, or stars, if you like, which can express their thoughts in spirited curses, providence has no care. For everything, everything there is a providence: be it so, I believe it. But for the living kind there is none, unless we take into account the rare occasions when a plague visits mankind, because it is too closely spread over the earth and requires thinning."

"Sir, many misfortunes have I suffered on earth, very many, and such as fate distributes indiscriminately; but it has never destroyed—my faith."

"No misfortune has ever attacked me. It is not suffering that has made me sceptical. My life has always been to my taste. Should some one divide up his property in reward for prayer, I should not benefit one crumb from it.—It is hypocrites who have forcibly driven me this way. Perhaps, were I not surrounded by such, I should keep silence about my unbelief, I should not scandalize others with it, I should not seek to persecute the world's hypocrites with what they call blasphemy. Believe me, my boy, of a million men, all but one regard Providence as a rich creditor, from whom they may always borrow—but when it is a question of paying the interest, then only that one remembers it."

"And that one is enough to hallow the ideal!"

"That one?—but you will not be that one!"

Lorand, astonished, asked:

"Why not?"

"Because, if you remain long in my vicinity, you must without fail turn into such a universal disbeliever as I am."

Lorand smiled to himself.

"My child," said Topandy, "you will not catch the infection from me, who am always sneering and causing scandals, but from that other who prays to the sound of bells."

"You mean Sarvoelgyi?"

"Whom else could I mean? You will meet this man every day. And in the end you will say just as I do—'If one must go to heaven in this wise, I had rather remain here?'"

"Well, and what is this Sarvoelgyi?"

"A hypocrite, who lies to all the saints in turn, and would deceive the eyes of the archangels if they did not look after themselves."

"You have a very low opinion of the man."

"A low opinion? That is the only good thing in my heart, that I despise the fellow."

"Simply because he is pious? In the world of to-day, however, it is a kind of courage to dare to show one's piety outwardly before a world of scepticism and indifference. I should like to defend him against you."

"Would you? Very well. Let us start at once. Draw up a chair and listen to me. I shall be the devil's advocate. I shall tell you a story concerning this fellow; I was merely a simple witness to the whole. The man never did me any harm. I tell you once again that I have no complaint to make either against mankind or against any beings that may exist above or below. Sit beside me, my boy."

Lorand first of all stirred up the fire in the fire-place, and put out the spirit lamp of the microscope, so that the room was lighted only by the red glare of the log-fire and the moon, which was now rising above the horizon and shed her pale radiance through the window.

"In my younger days I had a very dear friend, a relation, with whom I had always gone to school and such fast comrades were we that even in the class-room we sat always side by side. My comrade was unapproachably first in the class, and I came next; sometime between us like a dividing wall came this fellow Sarvoelgyi, who was even then a great flatterer and sneak, and in this way sometimes drove me out of my place—and young schoolboys think a great deal of their own particular places. Of course I was even then so godless that they could not make sufficient complaints against me. Later, during the French war, as the schools suffered much, we were both sent together to Heidelberg. The devil brought Sarvoelgyi after us. His parents were parvenues. What our parents did they were always bound to imitate. They might have sent their boy to Jena, Berlin, or Nineveh; but he must come just where we were."

"You have never mentioned your friend's name," said Lorand, who had listened in anguish to the commencement of the story.

"Indeed?—Why there's really no need for the name. He was a friend of mine. As far as the story is concerned it doesn't matter what they called him. Still that you may not think I am relating a fable, I may as well tell you his name. It was Loerincz Aronffy."

A cold numbness seized Lorand when he heard his father's name. Then his heart began suddenly to beat at a furious pace. He felt he was standing before the crypt door, whose secret he had so often striven to fathom.

"I never knew a fairer figure, a nobler nature, a warmer heart than he had," continued Topandy. "I admired and loved him, not merely as my relation, but as the ideal of the young men of the day. The common knowledge of all kinds of little secrets, such as only young people understand among themselves, united us more closely in that bond of friendship which is usually deferred until later days. At that time there broke out all over Europe those liberal political views, which had such a fascinating influence generally on young men. Here too there was an awakening of what is called national feeling; great philosophers even turned against one another with quite modern opposition in public as well as in private life. All this made more intimate the relations which had till then been mere childish habit.

"We were two years at the academy; those two years were passed amidst enough noise and pleasure. Had we money, we spent it together; had we none, we starved together. For one another we went empty-handed, for one another, we fought, and were put in prison. Then we met Sarvoelgyi very seldom; the academy is a great forest and men are not forced together as on the benches of a grammar-school.

"Just at the very climax of the French war, the idea struck us to edit a written newspaper among ourselves."

(Lorand began to listen with still greater interest.)

"We travestied with humorous score in our paper all that the 'Augsburger' delivered with great pathos: those who read laughed at it.

"However, there came an end to our amusement, when one fine day we received the 'consilium abeundi.'

"I was certainly not very much annoyed. So much transcendental science, so much knowledge of the world had been driven into me already, that I longed to go home to the company of the village sexton, who, still believed that anecdotes and fables were the highest science.

"Only two days were allowed us at Heidelberg to collect our belongings and say adieu to our so-called 'treasures.' During these two days I only saw Aronffy twice: once on the morning of the first day, when he came to me in a state of great excitement, and said, 'I have the scoundrel by the ear who betrayed us!—If I don't return, follow in my tracks and avenge me.' I asked him why he did not choose me for his second, but he replied: 'Because you also are interested and must follow me.' And then on the evening of the second day he came home again, quite dispirited and out of sorts! I spoke to him; he would scarcely answer; and when I finally insisted: 'perhaps you killed someone?' he answered determinedly, 'Yes.'"

"And who was that man?" inquired Lorand, taken aback.

"Don't interrupt me. You shall know soon," Topandy muttered.

"From that day Aronffy was completely changed. The good-humored, spirited young fellow became suddenly a quiet, serious, sedate man, who would never join us in any amusement. He avoided the world, and I remarked that in the world he did his best to avoid me.

"I thought I knew why that was. I thought I knew the secret of his earnestness. He had murdered a man whom he had challenged to a duel. That weighed upon his mind. He could not be cold-blooded enough to drive even such a bagatelle from his head. Other people count it a 'bravour,' or at most suffer from the persecutions of others—not of themselves. He would soon forget it, I thought, as he grew older.

"Yet my dear friend remained year by year a serious-minded man, and when later on I met him, his society was for me so unenjoyable that I never found any pleasure in frequenting it.

"Still, as soon as he returned home, he got married. Even before our trip to Heidelberg he had become engaged to a very pleasant, pretty, and quiet young girl. They were in love with each other. Still Aronffy remained always gloomy. In the first year of his marriage a son was born to him. Later another. They say both the sons were handsome, clever boys. Yet that never brightened him. Immediately after the honeymoon he went to the war, and behaved there like one who thinks the sooner he is cut off the better. Later, all the news I received of him confirmed my idea that Aronffy was suffering from an incurable mental disease.—Does a man, the candle of whose life we have snuffed out deserve that?"

"What was the name of the man he murdered?" demanded Lorand with renewed disquietude.

"As I have told you, you shall know soon: the story will not run away from me! only listen further.

"One day—it might have been twelve years since the day we shook off the dust of the Heidelberg school from our boots—I received a parcel from Heidelberg, from the Local Council, which informed me that a certain Dr. Stoppelfeld had left me this packet in his will.

"Stoppelfeld? I racked my brains to discover who it might be that from beyond the border had left me something in his testament. Finally it occurred to me that a long light-haired medical student, who was famous in his days among the drinking clubs, had attended the same lectures as we had. If I was not deceived, we had drunk together and fought a duel.

"I undid the packet, and found within it a letter addressed to me.

"I have that letter still, but I know every word by heart so often have I read it. Its contents were as follows:

"'MY DEAR COMRADE:

"'You may remember that, on the day before your departure from Heidelberg, one of our young colleagues, Loerincz Aronffy, looked among his acquaintances for seconds in some affair of honor. As it happened I was the first he addressed. I naturally accepted the invitation, and asked his reason and business. As you too know them—he told me so—I shall not write them here. He informed me, too, why he did not choose you as his second, and at the same time bound me to promise, if he should fall in the duel, to tell you that you might follow the matter up. I accepted, and went with him to the challenged. I explained that in such a case a duel was customary, and in fact necessary; if he wished to avoid it, he would be forced to leave the academy. The challenged did not refuse the challenge, but said that as he was of weak constitution, shortsighted and without practice with any kind of weapons, he chose the American duel of drawing lots!'"

... Topandy glanced by chance at Lorand's face, and thought that the change of color he saw on his countenance was the reflection of the flickering flame in the fire-place.

"The letter continued:

"'At our academy at that time there was a great rage for that stupid kind of duel, where two men draw lots and the one whose name comes out, must blow his brains out after a fixed time. Asses! At that time I had already enough common sense, when summoned to act as second in such cases, to try to persuade the principals to fix a longer period, calculating quite rightly that within ten or twelve years the bitterest enemies would become reconciled, and might even become good friends: the successful principal might be magnanimous, and give his opponent his life, or the unsuccessful adversary might forget in his well-being, such a ridiculous obligation.

"'In this case I arranged a period of sixteen years between the parties. I knew my men: sixteen years were necessary for the education of the traitorous schoolfox[58] into a man of honor, or for his proud, upright young adversary to reach the necessary pitch of sang froid that would make a settlement of their difference feasible.

[Footnote 58: i. e., Schoolfox, a term of contempt.]

"'Aronffy objected at first: "At once or never!" but he had finally to accept the decision of the seconds: and we drew lots.

"'Aronffy's name came out.'"

... Lorand was staring at the narrator with fixed eyes, and had no feeling for the world outside, as he listened in rapt awe to this story of the past.

"'The name that was drawn out we gave to the successful party, who had the right to send this card, after sixteen years were passed, to his adversary, in order if the latter deferred the fulfilment of his obligation, to remind him thereof.

"'Then we parted company, you went home and I thought we should forget the matter as many others have done.

"'But I was deceived. To this, the hour of my death, it has always remained in my memory, has always agonized and persecuted me. I inquired of my acquaintances in Hungary about the two adversaries, and all I learned only increased my anguish. Aronffy was a proud and earnest man. It is surely stupidity for a man to kill himself, when he is happy and faring well: yet a proud man would far rather the worms gnawed his body than his soul, and could not endure the idea of giving up to a man, whom yesterday he had the right to despise, of his own accord, that right of contempt. He can die, but he cannot be disgraced. He is a fool for his pains: but it is consistent.'"

Lorand was shuddering all over.

"'I am in my death-struggles,' continued Stoppelfeld's letter: 'I know the day, the hour in which I shall end all; but that thought does not calm me so much, seeing that I cannot go myself and seek that man, who holds Aronffy in his hands, to tell him: "Sir, twelve years have passed. Your opponent has suffered twelve years already because of a terrible obligation: for him every pleasure of life has been embittered, before him the future eternity has been overclouded; be contented with that sacrifice, and do not ask for the greatest too. Give back one man to his family, to his country, and to God—" But I cannot go. I must sit here motionless and count the beats of my pulse, and reckon how many remain till the last.

"'And that is why I came to you: you know both, and were a good friend to one: go, speak, and act. Perhaps I am a ridiculous fool: I am afraid of my own shadow; but it agonizes and horrifies me; it will not let me die. Take this inheritance from me. Let me rest peacefully in my ashes. So may God bless you! The man who has Aronffy's word, as far as I know, is a very gracious man, it will be easy for you to persuade him—his name is Sarvoelgyi.'"

... At these words Topandy rose from his seat and went to the window, opening both sides of it: so heavy was the air within the room. The cold light of the moon shone on Lorand's brow.

Topandy, standing then at the window, continued the thrilling story he had commenced. He could not sit still to relate it. Nor did he speak as if his words were for Lorand alone, but as if he wished the dumb trees to hear it too, and the wondering moon, and the shivering stars and the shooting meteors that they might gainsay if possible the earthy worm who was speaking.

"I at once hurried across to the fellow. I was now going with tender, conciliatory countenance to a man whose threshold I had never crossed, whom I had never greeted when we met. I first offered him my hand that there might be peace between us. I began to appraise his graciousness, his virtues. I begged him to pardon the annoyances I had previously caused him; whatever atonement he might demand from me I would be glad to fulfill.

"The fellow received me with gracious obeisance, and grasped my hand. He said, upon his soul, he could not recall any annoyance he had ever suffered from me. On the contrary he calculated how much good I had done him in my life, beginning from his school-boy years:—I merely replied that I certainly could not remember it.

"I hastened to come straight to the point. I told him that I had been brought to his home by an affair the settlement of which I owed to a good old friend, and asked him to read the letter that I had received that day.

"Sarvoelgyi read the letter to the end. I watched his face all the time he was reading it. He did not cease for a moment that stereotyped smile of tenderness which gives me the shivers whenever I see it in my recollections.

"When he was through with the letter, he quietly folded it and gave it back.

"'Have you not discovered,' he said to me with pious face, 'that the man who wrote that letter is—mad?'

"'Mad?' I asked, aghast.

"'Without doubt,' answered Sarvoelgyi; 'he himself writes that he has a disease of the nerves, sees visions, and is afraid of his shadow. The whole story is—a fable. I never had any conflict with our friend Aronffy, which would have given occasion for an American or even a Chinese duel. From beginning to end it is—a poem.'

"I knew it was no poem: Aronffy had had a duel, but I had never known with whom. I had never asked him about it any more after he had, to my question, 'perhaps you have murdered someone?' answered, 'Yes.' Plainly he had meant himself. I tried to penetrate more deeply into that man's heart.

"'Sir, neighbor, friend,—be a man! be the Christian you wish to be thought: consider that this fellow-man of ours has a dearly-loved family. If you have that card which the seconds gave you twelve years ago, don't agonize or terrify him any more; write to him that "the account is settled," and give over to him that horrible deed of contract. I shall honor you till my death for it. I know that in any case you will do it one day before it is too late. You will not take advantage of that horrible power which blind fate has delivered into your hand, by sending him his card empty to remind him that the time is up. You would pardon him then too. But do so now. This man's life during its period of summer, has been clouded by this torturing obligation, which has hung continuously above his happiness; let the autumn sunbeams shine upon his head. Give, give him a hand of reconciliation now, at once!'

"Sarvoelgyi insisted that he had never had any kind of 'cartell': how could I imagine that he would have the heart to maintain his revenge for years? His past and present life repudiated any such charge. He had never had any quarrel with Aronffy, and, had there been one, he would long ago have been reconciled to him.

"I did not yet let the fellow out of my hands. I told him to think what he was doing. Aronffy had once told me that, should he perish in this affair, I was to continue the matter. I too knew a kind of duel, which surpassed even the American, because it destroyed a man by pin-pricks. So take care you don't receive for your eternal adversary the neighboring heathen in exchange for the pious, quiet and distant Aronffy.

"Sarvoelgyi swore he knew nothing of the affair. He called God and all the saints to witness that he had not the very remotest share in Aronffy's danger.

"'Well, and why is Aronffy so low-spirited?'

"'—As if you should not know that,' said the Pharisee, making a face of surprise: 'not know anything about it?

"'Well I will whisper it to you in confidence. Aronffy has not been happy in his family life. You know, of course, that when he came home he married, and immediately joined the rebel army. With a corps of volunteers he fought till the end of the war, and returned again to his family. But he has still that worm in his soul.'"

It was well that the fire had already died out:—well that a dark cloud rolled up before the moon:—well that the narrator could not see the face of his listener, when he said that:

"And I was fool enough to believe him. I credited the calumny with which the good fame of the angelically pure wife of an honorable man had been defiled. Yes, I allowed myself to be deceived in this underhand way! I allowed myself to rest calm in the belief that there is many a sad man on the earth, whose wife is beautiful.

"Still, once I met by chance Aronffy's mother, and produced before her the letter which had been accredited a fable. Her ladyship was very grateful, but begged me not to say a word about it to Aronffy.

"I believe that from that day she paid great attention to her son's behavior.

"Four years I had managed to keep myself at a respectful distance from Sarvoelgyi's person.

"But there came a day in the year, marked with red in my calendar, the anniversary of our departure from Heidelberg.

"Three days after that sixteenth anniversary I received a letter, which informed me that Aronffy had on that red-letter day killed himself in his family circle."

The narrator here held silence, and, hanging down his hands, gazed out into the brilliant night; profound silence reigned in the room, only the large "grandfather's clock" ticked the past and future.

"I don't know what I should have done, had I met the hypocrite then: but just at that time he was away on a journey: he left behind a letter for me, in which he wrote that he, too, was sorry our unfortunate friend—our friend indeed!—had met with such a sad end: certainly family circumstances had brought him to it. He pitied his weakness of mind, and promised to pray for his soul!

"How pious.

"He killed a man in cold blood, after having tortured him for sixteen years! Sent him the sentence of death in a letter! Forced the gracious, quiet, honorable man and father to cut short his life with his own hand!

"With a cold, smiling countenance he took advantage of the fiendish power which fate and the too sensitive feeling of honor of a lofty soul had given into his hand; and then shrugged his shoulders, clasped his hands, turned his eyes to heaven, and said 'there is no room for the suicide with God.'

"Who is he, who gives a true man into the hands of the deceiver, that he may choke with his right hand his breath, with his left his soul.

"Well, philosopher, come; defend this pious man against me! Tell me what you have learned."

But the philosopher did not say what he had learned. Half dead and wholly insensible he lay back in his chair while the moon shone upon his upturned face with its full brilliance.



CHAPTER XIV

TWO GIRLS

Eight years had passed.

The young man who buried himself on the plains had become a man, his face had lengthened, his beard grown round it; few of his old acquaintances would have recognized him. Even he himself had long ago become accustomed to his assumed name.

In Topandy's house the old order of things continued: Czipra did the honors, presiding at the head of the table: Lorand managed the farm, living in the house, sitting at the table, speaking to the comrades who came and went "per tu";[59] with them he drank and amused himself.

[Footnote 59: A sign of intimacy—addressing a person as "thou."]

Drank and amused himself!

What else should a young man do, who has no aim in life?

With Czipra, tete-a-tete, he spoke also "per tu;" before others he miladyed her.

Once at supper Topandy said to Czipra and Lorand:

"Children, in a few days another child will come to the house. The devil has carried off a very dear relation of mine with whom I was on such excellent terms that we never spoke to one another. I should not, logically, believe there is a devil in the world, should I? But for the short period during which he had carried that fellow away, I am willing to acquiesce in his existence. To-day I have received a lamentable letter from his daughter, written in a beautiful tone of sorrow; the poor child writes that immediately after her father's death the house was swooped down upon by those Sadducees who trample all piety under foot, the so-called creditors. They have seized everything and put it under seals; even her own piano; they have even put up at auction the pictures she drew with her own hand; and have actually sold the 'Gedenkbuch,'[60] in which so many clever and famous men had written so much absurdity: the tobacconist bought it for ten florins for the sake of its title-page. The poor girl has hitherto been educated by the nuns, to whom three quarters' payment is due, and her position is such that she has no roof except her parasol beneath which she may take shelter. She has a mother in name, but her company she cannot frequent, for certain reasons; she has tried her other relations and acquaintances in turn, but they have all well-founded reasons for not undertaking to burden their families in this manner; she cannot go into service, not having been educated to it. Well, it occurred to her that she had, somewhere in the far regions of Asia, a half-mad relation—that is your humble servant: it would be a good plan to find him out at once, and take up her abode with him as a princess. I entirely indorse my niece's argument: and have already sent her the money necessary for the journey, have paid the fees due, and have enabled her to appear among us in the style befitting her rank."

[Footnote 60: An album in which one writes something "as a souvenir."]

Topandy laughed loudly at his own production.

It was only himself that laughed: the others did not share in it.

"Well, there will be one more young lady in the house: a refined, graceful, sentimental woman-in-white, before whom people must take great care what they say, and who will probably correct the behavior of all of us."

Czipra pushed her chair back angrily from the table.

"Oh, don't be afraid. She will not correct you. You may be sure of that. You have absolute authority in the house, as you know already: what you command or order is accomplished, and against your will not even a cat comes to our table. You remain what you were: mistress of life and death in the house. When you wish it, there is washing in the house, and everybody is obliged to render an account even of his last shirt; what you do not like in the place, you may throw out of the window, and you can buy what you wish. The new young lady will not take away from you a single one of those keys which hang on that silver chain dangling from your red girdle; and if only she does not entice away our young friend, she will be unable to set up any opposition against you. And even in that event I shall defend you."

Czipra shrugged her shoulders defiantly.

"Let her do as she pleases."

"And we two shall do as we please, shall we not?"

"You," said Czipra, looking sharply at Topandy with her black eyes. "You will soon be doing what that young lady likes. I foresee it all. As soon as she puts her foot in, everybody will do as she does. When she smiles, everybody will smile at her in return. If she speaks German, the whole house will use that language; if she walks on her tip-toes, the whole house will walk so; if her head aches, everybody in the house will speak in whispers; not as when poor Czipra had a burning fever and nine men came to her bed to sing a funeral song, and offered her brandy."

Topandy laughed still more loudly at these invectives: the poor gypsy girl fixed her two burning eyes on Lorand's face and kept them there till they turned into two orbs swimming in water. Then she sprang up, threw down her chair and fled from the room.

Topandy calmly picked up the overthrown chair and put it in its place, then he went after Czipra and a minute later brought her back on his arm into the dining-room, with an exceedingly humorous expression, and a courtesy worthy of a Spanish grandee, which the poor foolish gypsy girl did not understand in the least.

So readily did she lose her temper, and so readily did she recover it again. She sat down again in her place, and jested and laughed,—always and continuously at the expense of the finely-educated new-comer.

Lorand was curious to know the name of the new member of the family.

"The daughter of one Balnokhazy, P. C." said Topandy, "Melanie, if I remember well."

Lorand was perplexed. A face from the past! How strange that he should meet her there?

Still it was so long since they had seen each other, that she would probably not recognize him.

Melanie was to arrive to-morrow evening. Early in the morning Czipra visited Lorand in his own room.

She found the young man before his looking-glass.

"Oho!" she said laughing, "you are holding counsel with your glass to see whether you are handsome enough? Handsome indeed you are: how often must I say so? Believe me for once."

But Lorand was not taking counsel with his glass on that point: he was trying to see if he had changed enough.

"Come now," said Czipra with a certain indifference. "I will make you pretty myself: you must be even more handsome, so that young lady's eyes may not be riveted upon me. Sit down, I will arrange your hair."

Lorand had glorious chestnut-brown curls, smooth as silk. Madame Balnokhazy had once fallen madly in love with those locks and Czipra was wont to arrange them every morning with her own hands: it was one of her privileges, and she understood it so well.

Lorand was philosopher enough to allow others to do him a service, and permitted Czipra's fine fingers the privilege of playing among his locks.

"Don't be afraid: you will be handsome to-day!" said Czipra, in naive reproach to the young fellow.

Lorand jestingly put his arm round her waist.

"It will be all of no avail, my dear Czipra, because we have to thrash corn to-day, and my hair will all be full of dust. Rather, if you wish to do me a favor, cut off my hair."

Czipra was ready for that, too. She was Lorand's "friseur" and Topandy's "coiffeur." She found it quite natural.

"Well, and how do you wish your hair? Short? Shall I leave the curls in front?"

"Give me the scissors: I will soon show you," said Lorand, and, taking them from Czipra's hand, he gathered together the locks upon his forehead with one hand and with the other cropped them quite short, throwing what he had cut to the ground.—"So with the rest."

Czipra drew back in horror at this ruthless deed, feeling as pained as if those scissors had been thrust into her own body. Those beautiful silken curls on the ground! And now the rest must of course be cut just as short.

Lorand sat down before her in a chair, from which he could look into the glass, and motioned to her to commence. Czipra could scarcely force herself to do so. So to destroy the beauty of that fair head, over which she had so often stealthily posed in a reverie! To crop close that thick growth of hair, which, when her fingers had played among its electric curls, had made her always feel as if her own soul were wrapt together with it. And she was to close-crop it like the head of some convict!

Yet there was a kind of satisfaction in the thought that another would not so readily take notice of him. She would make him so ugly that he would not quickly win the heart of the new-comer. Away with that Samsonian strength, down to the last solitary hair! This thought lent a merciless power to her scissors.

And when Lorand's head was closely shaven, he was indeed curious to see. It looked so very funny that he laughed at himself when he turned to the glass.

The girl too laughed with him. She could not prevent herself from laughing to his face; then she turned away from him, leaned out of the window, and burst into another fit of laughter.

Really it would have been difficult to distinguish whether she was laughing or crying.

"Thank you, Czipra, my dear," said Lorand, putting his arm round the girl's waist. "Don't wait with dinner for me to-day, for I shall be outside on the threshing-floor."

Thereupon he left the room.

Czipra, left to herself, before anyone could have entered, kneeled down on the floor, and swept up from the floor with her hands the curls she had cut off. Every one: not a single hair must remain for another. Then she hid the whole lovely cluster in her bosom. Perhaps she would never take them out again....

With that instinct, which nature has given to women only, Czipra felt that the new-comer would be her antagonist, her rival in everything, that the outcome would be a struggle for life and death between them.

The whole day long she worried herself with ideas about the new adversary's appearance. Perhaps she was some doll used to proud and noble attitudinising: let her come! It would be fine to take her pride down. An easy task, to crush an oppressed mind. She would steal away from the house, or fall into sickness by dint of much annoyance, and grow old before her time.

Or perhaps she was some spoiled, sensitive, fragile chit, who came here to weep over her past, who would find some hidden reproach in every word, and would feel her position more and more unendurable day by day. Such a creature, too, would droop her head in shame—so that every morning her pillow would be bedewed with tears. For she need not reckon on pity! Or perhaps she would be just the opposite: a light-hearted, gay, sprightly bird, who would find herself at home in every position. If only to-day were cheerful, she would not weep for yesterday, or be anxious for the morrow. Care would be taken to clip the wings of her good humor: a far greater triumph would it be to make a weeping face of a smiling one.

Or perhaps a languid, idle, good-for-nothing domestic delicacy, who liked only to make toilettes, to sit for hours together before the mirror, and in the evening read novels by lamp-light. What a jest it would be to mock her, to make her stare at country work, to spoil her precious hands in the skin-roughening house-keeping work, and to laugh at her clumsiness.

Be she what she might, she might be quite sure of finding an adversary who would accept no cry for mercy.

Oh, it was wise to beware of Czipra! Czipra had two hearts, one good, the other bad: with the one she loved, with the other she hated, and the stronger she loved with the one, the stronger she hated with the other. She could be a very good, quiet, blessed creature, whose faults must be discovered and seen through a magnifying-glass: but if that other heart were once awakened, the old one would never be found again.

Every drop of Czipra's blood wished that every drop of "that other's" blood should change to tears.

This is how they awaited Melanie at Lankadomb.

Evening had not yet drawn in, when the carriage, which had been sent for Melanie to Tiszafuered station, arrived.

The traveler did not wait till some one came to receive her; she stepped out of the carriage unaided and found the verandah alone. Topandy met her in the doorway. They embraced, and he led her into the lobby.

Czipra was waiting for her there.

The gypsy girl was wearing a pure white dress, white apron, and no jewels at all. She had done her best to be simple, that she might surprise that town girl. Of course, she might have been robed in silk and lace, for she had enough and to spare.

Yet she ought to have known that the new-comer could not be stylishly dressed, for she was in mourning.

Melanie had on the most simple black dress, without any decoration, only round her neck and wrists were crochet lace trimmings.

She was just as simple as Czipra. Her beautiful pale face, with its still childish features, her calm quiet look,—all beamed sympathy around her.

"My daughter, Czipra," said Topandy, introducing them.

Melanie, with that graciousness which is the mark of all ladies, offered her hand to the girl, and greeted her gently.

"Good evening, Czipra."

Czipra bitterly inquired:

"A foolish name, is it not?"

"On the contrary, the name of a goddess, Czipra."

"What goddess? Pagan?"—the idea did not please Czipra: she knit her eyebrows and nodded in disapproval.

"A holy woman of the Bible was called by this name, Zipporah,[61] the wife of Moses."

[Footnote 61: This play upon names is really only feasible in Magyar, where Zipporah-Czippora.]

"Of the Bible?" The gypsy girl caught at the word, and looked with flashing eyes at Topandy, as who would say "Do you hear that?"—Only then did she take Melanie's hand, but after that she did not release her hold of it any more.

"We must know much more of that holy woman of the Bible! Come with me. I will show you your room."

Czipra remarked that they had kissed each other. Topandy shrugged his shoulders, laughed, and let them go alone.

The newly arrived girl did not display the least embarrassment in her dealing with Czipra: on the contrary, she behaved as if they had been friends from childhood.

She at once addressed Czipra in the greatest confidence, when the latter had taken her to the room set apart for her use.

"You will have much trouble with me, my dear Czipra, at first, for I am very clumsy. I know now that I have learned nothing, with which I can do good to myself or others. I am so helpless. But you will be all the cleverer, I know: I shall soon learn from you. Oh, you will often find fault with me, when I make mistakes; but when one girl reproaches another it does not matter. You will teach me housekeeping, will you not?"

"You would like to learn?"

"Of course. One cannot remain for ever a burden to one's relations; only in case I learn can I be of use, if some poor man takes me as his wife; if not I must take service with some stranger, and must know these things anyhow."

There was much bitterness in these words; but the orphan of the ruined gentleman said them with such calm, such peace of mind, that every string of Czipra's heart was relaxed as when a damp mist affects the strings of a harp.

Meanwhile they had brought Melanie's travelling-trunk: there was only one, and no bonnet-boxes—almost incredible!

"Very well,—so begin at once to put your own things in order. Here are the wardrobes for your robes and linen. Keep them all neat. The young lady, whose stockings the chamber-maid has to look for, some in one room, some in another, will never make a good housekeeper."

Melanie drew her only trunk beside her and opened it: she took out her upper-dresses.

There were only four, one of calico, one of batiste, then one ordinary, and one for special occasions.

"They have become a little crumpled in packing. Please have them bring me an iron; I must iron them before I hang them up."

"Do you wish to iron them yourself?"

"Naturally. There are not many of them: those I must make respectable—the servant can heat the iron. Oh, they must last a long time."

"Why haven't you brought more with you?"

Melanie's face for a moment flushed a full rose—then she answered this indiscreet inquiry calmly:

"Simply, my dear Czipra, because the rest were seized by our creditors, who claimed them as a debt."

"Couldn't you have anticipated them?"

Melanie clasped her hands on her breast, and said with the astonishment of moral aversion:

"How? By doing so I should have swindled them."

Czipra recollected herself.

"True; you are right."

Czipra helped Melanie to put her things in the cupboards. With a woman's critical eye, she examined everything. She found the linen not fine enough, though the work on it pleased her well. That was Melanie's own handiwork. As regards books, there was only one in the trunk, a prayer-book. Czipra opened it and looked into it. There were steel plates in it. The portrait of a beautiful woman, seven stars round her head, raising her tear-stained eyes to Heaven: and the picture of a kneeling youth, round the fair bowed head of whom the light of Heaven was pouring. Long did she gaze at the pictures. Who could those figures be?

There were no jewels at all among the new-comer's treasures.

Czipra remarked that Melanie's ear-rings were missing.

"You have left your earrings behind too?" she asked, hiding any want of tenderness in the question by delivering it in a whisper.

"Our solicitor told me," said Melanie, with downcast eyes, "that those earrings also were paid for by creditors' money:—and he was right. I gave them to him."

"But the holes in your ears will grow together; I shall give you some of mine."

Therewith she ran to her room, and in a few moments returned with a pair of earrings.

Melanie did not attempt to hide her delight at the gift.

"Why, my own had just such sapphires, only the stones were not so large."

And she kissed Czipra, and allowed her to place the earrings in her ears.

With the earrings came a brooch. Czipra pinned it in Melanie's collar, and her eyes rested on the pretty collar itself: she tried it, looked at it closely and could not discover "how it was made."

"Don't you know that work? it is crochet, quite a new kind of fancy-work, but very easy. Come, I will show you right away."

Thereupon she took out two crochet needles and a reel of cotton from her work-case, and began to explain the work to Czipra: then she gave it to her to try. Her first attempt was very successful. Czipra had learned something from the new-comer, and remarked that she would learn much more from her.

Czipra spent an hour with Melanie and an hour later came to the conclusion that she was only now beginning—to be a girl.

At supper they appeared with their arms round each other's necks.

The first evening was one of unbounded delight to Czipra.

This girl did not represent any one of those hateful pictures she had conjured up in the witches' kettle of her imagination. She was no rival; she was not a great lady, she was a companion, a child of seventeen years, with whom she could prattle away the time, and before whom she must not choose her words so nicely, seeing that she was not so sensitive to insult. And it seemed that Melanie liked the idea of there being a girl in the house, whose presence threw a gleam of pleasure on the solitude.

Czipra might also be content with Melanie's conduct towards Lorand. Her eyes never rested on the young man's face, although they did not avoid his gaze. She treated him indifferently, and the whole day only exchanged words with him when she thanked him for filling her glass with water.

And indeed Lorand had reduced his external advantages to such a severe simplicity by wearing his hair closely cropped, and his every movement was marked by that languid, lazy stooping attitude which is usually the special peculiarity of those who busy themselves with agricultural work, that Melanie's eyes had no reason to be fixed specially upon him.

Oh, the eyes of a young girl of seventeen summers cannot discover manly beauty under such a dust-stained, neglected exterior.

Lorand felt relieved that Melanie did not recognize him. Not a single trace of surprise showed itself on her face, not a single searching glance betrayed the fact that she thought of the original of a well-known countenance when she saw this man who had met her by chance far away from home. Lorand's face, his gait, his voice, all were strange to her. The face had grown older, the gait was that of a farmer, the old beautiful voice had deepened into a perfect baritone.

Nor did they meet often, except at dinner, supper and breakfast. Melanie passed the rest of the day without a break, by Czipra's side.

Czipra was six years her senior, and she made a good protectress; that continuous woman's chattering, of which Topandy had said, that, if one hour passed without its being heard, he should think he had come to the land of the dead:—a man grew to like that after awhile. And side by side with the quick-handed, quick-tongued maiden, whose every limb was full of electric springiness, was that charming clumsiness of the neophyte,—such a contrast! How they laughed together when Melanie came to announce that she had forgotten to put yeast in the cake, both her hands covered with sticky leaven, for all the world as if she were wearing winter gloves; or when, at Cizpra's command, she tried to take a little yellow downy chicken from the cold courtyard to a warm room, keeping up the while a lively duel with the jealous brood-hen, till finally Melanie was obliged to run.

How much two girls can laugh together over a thousand such humorous nothings!

And how they could chatter over a thousand still more humorous nothings, when of an evening, by moonlight, they opened the window looking out on the garden, and lying on the worked window-cushions, talked till midnight, of all the things in which no one else was interested?

Melanie could tell many new things to Czipra which the latter delighted to hear.

There was one thing which they had touched on once or twice jestingly, and which Czipra would have particularly loved to extract from her.

Melanie, now and again forgetting herself, would sigh deeply.

"Did that sigh speak to someone afar off?"

Or when at dinner she left the daintiest titbit on her plate.

"Did some one think just now of some one far away, who is perhaps famishing?"

"Oh, that 'some one' is not famishing"—whispered Melanie in answer.

So there was "somebody" after all.

That made Czipra glad.

That evening during the conversation she introduced the subject.

"Who is that 'some one?'"

"He is a very excellent youth: and is on close terms with many foreign princes. In a short time he won himself great fame. Everyone exalts him. He came often to our house during papa's life-time, and they intended me to be his bride even in my early days."

"Handsome?" inquired Czipra. That was the chief thing to know.

Melanie answered this question merely with her eyes. But Czipra might have been content with the answer. He was at any rate as handsome a man in Melanie's eyes as Lorand was in hers.

"Shall you be his wife?"

At this question Melanie held up her fine left hand before Czipra, raising the fourth finger higher than the rest. On it was a ring.

Czipra drew the ring off her finger and looked closely at it. She saw letters inside it. If she only knew those!

"Is this his name?"

"His initials."

"He is called?"

"Joseph Gyali."

Czipra put the ring on again. She was very contented with this discovery. The ring of an old love, who was a handsome man, excellent, and celebrated, was there on her finger. Peace was hallowed. Now she believed thoroughly in Melanie, she believed that the indifference Melanie showed towards Lorand was no mere pretence. The field was already occupied by another.

But if she was quite at rest as regards Melanie, she could be less assured as to the peaceful intentions of Lorand's eyes.

How those eyes feasted themselves every day on Melanie's countenance!

Of course, who could be indignant if men's eyes were attracted by the "beautiful?" It has ever been their privilege.

But it is the marvellous gift of woman's eyes to be able to tell the distinction between look and look. Through the prism of jealousy the eye-beam is refracted to its primary colors; and this wonderful optical analysis says: this is the twinkle of curiosity, that the coquettish ogle, this the fire of love, that the dark-blue of abstraction.

Czipra had not studied optics, but this optical analysis she understood very well.

She did not seem to be paying attention; it seemed as if she did not notice, as if her eyes were not at work; yet she saw and knew everything.

Lorand's eyes feasted upon the beautiful maiden's figure.

Every time he saw her, they dwelt upon her: as the bee feasts upon the invisible honey of the flower, and slowly a suspicion dawned upon Czipra. Every glance was a home-returning bee who brings home the honey of love to a humming heart.

Besides, Czipra might have known it from the fact that Lorand, ever since Melanie came to the house, had been more reserved towards her. He had found his presence everywhere more needful, that he might be so much less at home.

Czipra could not bear the agony long.

Once finding Lorand alone, she turned to him in wanton sarcasm.

"It is certain, my friend Balint," (that was Lorand's alias) "that we are casting glances at that young girl in vain, for she has a fiance already."

"Indeed?" said Lorand, caressing the girl's round chin, for all the world as if he was touching some delicate flower-bud.

"Why all this tenderness at once? If I were to look so much at a girl, I would long ago have taken care to see if she had a ring on her finger:—it is generally an engagement ring."

"Well, and do I look very much at that girl?" enquired Lorand in a jesting tone.

"As often as I look at you."

That was reproach and confession all in one. Czipra tried to dispose of the possible effect of this gentle speech at once, by laughing immediately.

"My friend Balint! That young lady's fiance is a very great man. The favorite of foreign princes, rides in a carriage, and is called 'My Lord.' He is a very handsome man, too: though not so handsome as you. A fine, pretty cavalier."

"I congratulate her!" said Lorand, smiling.

"Of course it is true; Melanie herself told me.—She told me his name, too—Joseph Gyali."

"Ha, ha, ha!"

Lorand, smilingly and good-humoredly pinching Czipra's cheek, went on his way. He smiled, but with the poisonous arrow sticking in his heart!

Oh, Czipra did herself a bad turn when she mentioned that name before Lorand!



CHAPTER XV

IF HE LOVES, THEN LET HIM LOVE!

Lorand's whole being revolted at what Czipra had told him. That girl was the bride of that fatal adversary! of that man for whose sake he was to die! And that man would laugh when they stealthily transferred him, the victim too sensible of honor, to the crypt, when he would dance with his newly won bride till morning dawned, and delight in the smile of that face, which could not even weep for the lost one.

That thought led to eternal damnation. No, no: not to damnation: further than that, there and back again, back to that unspeakable circle, where feelings of honor remain in the background, and moral insensibility rules the day. That thought was able to drive out of Lorand's heart the conviction, that when an honorable man has given his life or his honor into the hands of an adversary, of the two only the latter can be chosen.

From that hour he pursued quite a different path of life.

Now the work in the fields might go on without his supervision: there was no longer such need of his presence. He had far more time for staying at home.

Nor did he keep himself any farther away from the girls: he went after them and sought them; he was spirited in conversation, choice in his dress, and that he might display his shrewdness, he courted both girls at the same time, the one out of courtesy, the other for love.

Topandy watched them smilingly. He did not mind whatever turn the affair took. He was as fond of Czipra as he was of Melanie, and fonder of the boy than either. Of the three there would be only one pair; he would give his blessing to whichever two should come together. It was a lottery! Heaven forbid that a strange hand should draw lots for one.

But Czipra was already quite clear about everything, It was not for her sake that Lorand stayed at home.

She herself was forced to acknowledge the important part which Melanie played in the house, with her thoughtful, refined, modest behavior; she was so sensible, so clever in everything. In the most delicate situation she could so well maintain a woman's dignity, while side by side she displayed a maiden's innocence. When his comrades were at the table, Topandy strove always by ambiguous jokes, delivered in his cynical, good humor, to bring a blush to the cheeks of the girls, who were obliged to do the honors at table; on such occasions Czipra noisily called him to order, while Melanie cleverly and spiritedly avoided the arrow-point of the jest, without opposing to it any foolish prudery, or cold insensibility;—and how this action made her queen of every heart!

Without doubt she was the monarch of the house: the dearest, most beautiful, and cleverest;—hers was every triumph.

And on such occasions Czipra was desperate.

"Yet all in vain! For, however clever, and beautiful, and enchanting that other, I am still the real one. I feel and know it:—but I cannot prove it! If we could only tear out our hearts and compare them;—but that is impossible."

Czipra was forced to see that everybody sported with her, while they behaved seriously with that other.

And that completely poisoned her soul.

Without any mental refinement, supplied with only so much of the treasure of moral reserve, as nature and instinct had grafted into her heart, with only a dreamy suspicion about the lofty ideas of religion and virtue, this girl was capable of murdering her whom they loved better than herself.

Murder, but not as the fabled queen murdered the fairy Hofeherke,[62] because the gnomes whispered untiringly in her ear "Thou art beautiful, fair queen: but Hofeherke is still more beautiful." Czipra wished to murder her but not so that she might die and then live again.

[Footnote 62: Little Snow-white, the step-daughter of the queen, who commanded her huntsman to bring her the eyes and liver of Hofeherke, thinking she would thus become the most beautiful of all, but he brought her those of a wild beast. The queen thought her rival was dead, but her magic mirror told her she was living still beyond hill and sea.]

She was a gypsy girl, a heathen, and in love. Inherited tendencies, savage breeding, and passion had brought her to a state where she could have such ideas.

It was a hellish idea, the counsel of a restless devil who had stolen into a defenceless woman's heart.

Once it occurred to her to turn the rooms in the castle upside down; she found fault with the servants, drove them from their ordinary lodgings, dispersed them in other directions, chased the gentlemen from their rooms, under the pretext that the wall-papers were already very much torn: then had the papers torn off and the walls re-plastered. She turned everything so upside down that Topandy ran away to town, until the rooms should be again reduced to order.

The castle had four fronts, and therefore there were two corridors crossing through at right angles: the chief door of the one opened on the courtyard, that of the other led into the garden. The rooms opened right and left from the latter corridor.

During this great disorder Czipra moved Lorand into one of the vis-a-vis rooms. The opposite room she arranged as Melanie's temporary chamber. Of course it would not last long; the next day but one, order would be restored, and everyone could go back to his usual place.

And then it was that wicked thoughts arose in her heart: "if he loves, then let him love!"

At supper only three were sitting at table. Lorand was more abstracted than usual, and scarcely spoke a word to them: if Czipra addressed him, there was such embarrassment in his reply, that it was impossible not to remark it.

But Czipra was in a particularly jesting mood to-day.

"My friend Balint, you are sleepy. Yet you had better take care of us at night, lest someone steal us."

"Lock your door well, my dear Czipra, if you are afraid."

"How can I lock my door," said Czipra smiling light-heartedly, "when those cursed servants have so ruined the lock of every door at this side of the house that they would fly open at one push."

"Very well, I shall take care of you."

Therewith Lorand wished them good night, took his candle and went out.

Czipra hurried Melanie too to depart.

"Let us go to bed in good time, as we must be early afoot to-morrow."

This evening the customary conversation at the window did not take place.

The two girls shook hands and wished each other good night. Melanie departed to her room. Czipra was sleeping in the room next to hers.

When Melanie had shut the door behind her, Czipra blew out the candle in her own room, and remained in darkness. With her clothes on she threw herself on her bed, and then, resting her head on her elbow, listened.

Suddenly she thought the opposite room door gently opened.

The beating of her heart almost pierced through her bosom.

"If he loves, then let him love."

Then she rose from her bed, and, holding her breath, slipped to the door and looked through the keyhole into Melanie's room.[63]

[Footnote 63: This was of course through the door that communicated between the rooms of Melanie and Czipra.]

The candle was still burning there.

But from her position she could not see Melanie. From the rustling of garments she suspected that Melanie was taking off her dress. Now with quiet steps she approached the table, on which the candle was burning. She had a white dressing-gown on, her hair half let down, in her hand that little black book, in which Czipra had so often admired those "Glory" pictures without daring to ask what they were.

Melanie reached the table, and laying the little prayer-book on the shelf of her mirror, kneeled down, and, clasping her two hands together, rested against the corner of the table and prayed.

In that moment her whole figure was one halo of glory.

She was beautiful as a praying seraph, like one of those white phantoms who rise with their airy figures to Heaven, palm-branches of glory in their hands.

Czipra was annihilated.

She saw now that there was some superhuman phenomenon, before which every passion bowed the knee, every purpose froze to crystals;—the figure of a praying maiden! He who stole a look at that sight lost every sinful emotion from his heart.

Czipra beat her breast in dumb agony. "She can fly, while I can only crawl on the ground."

When the girl had finished her prayer she opened the book to find those two glory-bright pictures, which she kissed several times in happy rapture:—as the sufferer kisses his benefactor's hands, the orphan his father's and mother's portraits, the miserable defenceless man the face of God, who defends in the form of a column of cloud him who bows his head under its shadow.

Czipra tore her hair in her despair and beat her brow upon the floor, writhing like a worm.

At the noise she made Melanie darted up and hastened to the door to see what was the matter with Czipra.

As soon as she noticed Melanie's approach, Czipra slunk away from her place and before Melanie could open the door and enter, dashed through the other door into the corridor.

Here another shock awaited her.

In the corner of the corridor she found Lorand sitting beside a table. On the table a lamp was burning; before Lorand lay a book, beside him, resting against his chair, a "tomahawk."[64]

[Footnote 64: The Magyar weapon is the so-called "fokos," which is much smaller than a tomahawk, but is set on a long handle like a walking stick, and only to be used with the hand in dealing blows, not for throwing purposes.]

"What are you doing here?" inquired Czipra, starting back.

"I am keeping guard over you," answered Lorand. "As you said your doors cannot be locked, I shall stay here till morning lest some one break in upon you."

Czipra slunk back to her room. She met Melanie, who, candle in hand, hastened towards her, and asked what was the matter.

"Nothing, nothing. I heard a noise outside. It frightened me."

No need of simulation, for she trembled in every limb.

"You afraid?" said Melanie, surprised. "See, I am not afraid. It will be good for me to come to you and sleep with you to-night."

"Yes, it will," assented Czipra. "You can sleep on my bed."

"And you?"

"I?" Czipra inquired with a determined glance. "Oh, just here!"

And therewith she threw herself on the floor before the bed.

Melanie, alarmed, drew near to her, seized her arm, and tried to raise her. She asked her: "Czipra, what is the matter with you? Tell me what has happened?"—Czipra did not answer, did not move, did not open her eyes.

Melanie seeing she could not reanimate her, rose in despair, and, clasping her hands, panted:

"Great Heavens! what has happened?"—Then Czipra suddenly started up and began to laugh.

"Ha ha! Now I just managed to frighten you."

Therewith rolling uncontrolledly on the floor, she laughed continuously like one who has succeeded in playing a good joke on her companion.

"How startled I was!" panted Melanie, pressing her hands to her heaving breast.

"Sleep in my bed," Czipra said. "I shall sleep here on the floor. You know I am accustomed to sleep on the ground, covered with rugs.

"'My mother was a gypsy maid She taught me to sleep on the ground, In winter to walk with feet unbound; In a ragged tent my home was made.'"

She sang Melanie this bizarre song twice in her peculiar melancholy strain, and then suddenly threw around her the rug which lay on the bed, put one arm under her head, and remained quite motionless; she would not reply any longer to a single word of Melanie's.

The next day Topandy returned from town; scarce had he taken off his traveling-cloak, when Czipra burst in upon him.

She seized his hand violently, and gazing wildly into his eyes, said:

"Sir, I cannot live longer under such conditions. I shall kill myself. Teach me to pray."

Topandy looked at her in astonishment and shrugged his shoulders sarcastically.

"Whatever possessed you to break in so upon me? Do you think I come from some pilgrimage to Bodajk,[65] all my pockets full of saints' fiddles, of beads, and of gingerbread-saints? Or am I a Levite? Am I a 'monk' that you look to me for prayer?"

[Footnote 65: A place visited by pilgrims, like Lourdes, etc., it is in Fehermegye (white county).]

"Teach me to pray. I have long enough besought you to do so, and I can wait no longer."

"Go and don't worry me. I don't know myself where to find what you want."

"It is not true. You know how to read. You have been taught everything. You only deny knowledge of God, because you are ashamed before Him; but I long to see His face! Oh, teach me to pray!"

"I know nothing, my dear, except the soldier's prayer."[66]

[Footnote 66: i. e., Blasphemy.]

"Very well. I shall learn that."

"I can recite it to you."

"Well, tell it to me."

Czipra acted as she had seen Melanie do: she kneeled down before the table: clasping her hands devotedly and resting against the edge of the table.

Topandy turned his head curiously: she was taking the matter seriously.

Then he stood before her, put his two hands behind him, and began to recite to her the soldier's prayer.

"Adjon Isten harom 'B'-et, Harom 'F'-et, harom 'P'-et. Bort, buzat, bekesseget, Fat, fuevet, feleseget, Pipat, puskat, patrontast, Es egy butykos palinkat! Iketum, piketum, holt! berdo! vivat!"[67]

[Footnote 67: "God grant three 'B-s,' three 'F-s,' and three 'P-s.' Wine, wheat, peace, wood, grass, wife, pipe, rifle, cartridge-case, and a little cask of brandy.... Hurrah! hurrar!" It is quite impossible to render the verse into English in any manner that would reproduce the original, so I have given the original Magyar with a literal translation.]

The poor little creature muttered the first sentences with such pitiable devotion after that godless mouth:—but, when the thing began to take a definitely jesting turn, she suddenly leaped up from her knees in a rage, and before Topandy could defend himself, dealt him such a healthy box on the ears that it made them sing; then she darted out and banged the door after her.

Topandy became like a pillar of salt in his astonishment. He knew that Czipra had a quick hand, but that she would ever dare to raise that tiny hand against her master and benefactor, because of a mere trifling jest, he was quite incapable of understanding.

She must be in some great trouble.

Though he never said a word, nor did Czipra, about the blow he had received, and though when next they met they were the same towards one another as they had ever been, Topandy ventured to make a jest at table about this humorous scene, saying to Lorand:

"Balint, ask Czipra to repeat that prayer which she has learned from me: but first seize her two hands."

"Oho!" threatened Czipra, her face burning red. "Just play some more of your jokes upon me. Your lives are in my hands: one day I shall put belladonna in the food, and poison us all together."

Topandy smilingly drew her towards him, smoothing her head; Czipra sensitively pressed her master's hand to her lips, and covered it with kisses;—then put him aside and went out into the kitchen,—to break plates, and tear the servants' hair.



CHAPTER XVI

THAT RING

The tenth year came: it was already on the wane. And Lorand began to be indifferent to the prescribed fatal hour.

He was in love.

This one thought drove all others from his mind. Weariness of life, atheism, misanthropy,—all disappeared from his path like will-o'-the-wisps before the rays of the sun.

And Melanie liked the young fellow in return.

She had no strong passions, and was a prudent girl, yet she confessed to herself that this young man pleased her. His features were noble, his manner gentle, his position secure enough to enable him to keep a wife.

Many a time did she walk with Lorand under the shade of the beautiful sycamores, while Czipra sat alone beside her "czimbalom" and thrashed out the old souvenirs of the plain,—alone.

Lorand found it no difficult task to remark that Melanie gladly frequented the spots he chose, and listened cheerfully to the little confessions of a sympathetic heart. Yet he was himself always reserved.—And that ring was always there on her finger. If only that magic band might drop down from there! Two years had already passed since her father's death had thrown her into mourning; she had long since taken off black dresses; nor could she complain against "the bread of orphanhood." For Topandy supplied her with all that a woman holds dear, just as if she had been his own child.

One afternoon Lorand found courage enough to take hold of Melanie's hand. They were standing on a bridge that spanned the brook which was winding through the park, and, leaning upon its railing, were gazing at the flowers floating on the water—or perhaps at each other's reflection in the watery mirror.

Lorand grasped Melanie's hand and asked:

"Why are you always so sad? Whither do those everlasting sighs fly?"

Melanie looked into the youth's face with her large, bright eyes, and knew from his every feature that heart had dictated that question to heart.

"You see, I have enough reason for being sad in that no one has ever asked me that question; and that had someone asked me I could never have answered it."

"Perhaps the question is forbidden?"

"I have allowed him, whom I allowed to remark that I have a grief, also to ask me the reason of it. You see, I have a mother, and yet I have none."

The girl here turned half aside.

Lorand understood her well:—but that was just the subject about which he desired to know more; why, his own fate was bound up with it.

"What do you mean, Melanie?"

"If I tell you that, you will discover that I can have no secret any more in this world from you."

Lorand said not a word, but put his two hands together with a look of entreaty.

"About ten years have passed since mother left home one evening, never to return again. Public talk connected her departure with the disappearance of a young man, who lived with us, and who, on account of some political crime, was obliged to fly the same evening."

"His name?" inquired Lorand.

"Lorand Aronffy, a distant relation of ours. He was considered very handsome."

"And since then you have heard no news of your mother?"

"Never a word. I believe she is somewhere in Germany under a false name, as an actress, and is seeking the world, in order to hide herself from the world."

"And what became of the young man? She is no longer with him?"

"As far as I know he went away to the East Indies, and from thence wrote to his brother Desiderius, leaving him his whole fortune—since that time he has never written any news of himself. Probably he is dead."

Lorand breathed freely again. Nothing was known of him. People thought he had gone to India.

"In a few weeks will come again the anniversary of that unfortunate day on which I lost my mother, my mother who is still living: and that day always approaches me veiled: feelings of sorrow, shame, and loneliness involuntarily oppress my spirit. You now know my most awful secret, and you will not condemn me for it?"

Lorand gently drew her delicate little hand towards his lips, and kissed its rosy finger-tips, while all the time he fixed his eyes entreatingly on that ring which was on one of her fingers.

Melanie understood the inquiry which had been so warmly expressed in that eloquent look.

"You ask me, do you not, whether I have not some even more awful secret?"

Lorand tacitly answered in the affirmative.

Melanie drew the ring off her finger and held it up in her hand.

"It is true—but it is for me no longer a living secret. I am already dead to the person to whom this secret once bound me. When he asked my hand, I was still rich, my father was a man of powerful influence. Now I am poor, an orphan and alone. Such rings are usually forgotten."

At that moment the ring fell out of her hand and missing the bridge dropped into the water, disappearing among the leaves of the water-lilies.

"Shall I get it out?" inquired Lorand.

Melanie gazed at him, as if in reverie, and said:

"Leave it there...."

Lorand, beside himself with happiness, pressed to his lips the beautiful hand left in his possession, and showered hot kisses, first on the hand, then on its owner. From the blossoming trees flowers fluttered down upon their heads, and they returned with wreathed brows like bride and bridegroom.

Lorand spoke that day with Topandy, asking him whether a long time would be required to build the steward's house, which had so long been planned.

"Oho!" said Topandy, smiling, "I understand. It may so happen that the steward will marry, and then he must have a separate lodging where he may take his wife. It will be ready in three weeks."

Lorand was quite happy.

He saw his love reciprocated, and his life freed from its dark horror.

Melanie had not merely convinced him that in him she recognized Lorand Aronffy no more, but also calmed him by the assurance that everyone believed the Lorand Aronffy of yore to be long dead and done for: no one cared about him any longer; his brother had taken his property, with the one reservation that he always sent him secretly a due portion of the income. Besides that one person, no one knew anything. And he would be silent for ever, when he knew that upon his further silence depended his brother's life.

Love had stolen the steely strength of Lorand's mind away.

He had become quite reconciled to the idea that to keep an engagement, which bound anyone to violate the laws of God, of man, and of nature, was mere folly.

Who could accuse him to his face if he did not keep it? Who could recognize him again? In this position, with this face, under this name,—was he not born again? Was that not a quite different man whose life he was now leading? Had he not already ended that life which he had played away then?

He would be a fool who carried his feeling of honor to such extremes in relations with dishonorable men; and, finally, if there were the man who would say "it is a crime," was there no God to say "it was virtue?"

He found a strong fortress for this self-defence in the walls of their family vault, in the interior of which his grandmother had uttered such an awful curse against the last inhabitant. Why, that implied an obligation upon him too. And this obligation was also strong. Two opposing obligations neutralize each other. It was his duty rather to fulfil that which he owed to a parent, than that which he owed to his murderer.

These are all fine sophisms. Lorand sought in them the means of escape.

And then in those beautiful eyes. Could he, on whom those two stars smiled, die? Could he wish for annihilation, at the very gate of Heaven?

And he found no small joy in the thought that he was to take that Heaven away from the opponent, who would love to bury him down in the cold earth.

Lorand began to yield himself to his fate. He desired to live. He began to suspect that there was some happiness in the world. Calm, secret happiness, only known to those two beings who have given it to each other by mutual exchange.

We often see this phenomenon in life. A handsome cavalier, who was the lion of society, disappears from the perfumed drawing-room world, and years after can scarcely be recognized in the country farmer, with his rough appearance and shabby coat. A happy family life has wrought this change in him. It is not possible that this same happy feeling which could produce that out of the brilliant, buttoned dress-coat, could let down the young man's pride of character, and give him in its stead an easy-going, wide and water-proof work-a-day blouse, could give him towards the world indifference and want of interest? Let his opponent cry from end to end of the country with mocking guffaws that Lorand Aronffy is no cavalier, no gentleman; the smile of his wife will be compensation for his lost pride.

Now the only thing he required was the eternal silence of the one man, who was permitted to know of his whereabouts, his brother.

Should he make everything known to him?—give entirely into his hands the duel he had accepted, his marriage and the power that held sway over his life, that he might keep off the threatening terror which had hitherto kept him far from brother and parents?

It was a matter that must be well considered and reflected upon.

Lorand became very meditative some days later.

Once after dinner Czipra grasped his hand and said playfully:

"You are thinking very deeply about something. You are pale. Come, I will tell you your fortune."

"My fortune?"

"Of course: I shall read the cards for you: you know

"'A gypsy woman was my mother, Taught me to read the cards of fortune, In that surpassing many wishes.'"

"Very well, my dear Czipra: then tell me my fortune."

Czipra was delighted to be able to see Lorand once more alone in her strange room. She made him sit down on the velvet camp-stool, took her place on the tiger-skin and drew her cards from her pocket. For two years she had always had them by her. They were her sole counsellors, friends, science, faith, worship—the sooth-saying cards.

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