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Debts of Honor
by Maurus Jokai
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"Do so, I beseech you," said Lorand, soliciting his brother with humorously clasped hands.

"I shall do so."

"Well be quick: get your hat, and let us go."

Desiderius with determined steps went in search of his hat.

Czipra laughed after him. She saw how ridiculous it would be. He was going to calumniate the bridegroom before the bride. With what words she herself did not know: but she gathered from the gentlemen's talk that Gyali had been driven from the company the night before for some flagrant dishonor. Since two days she too had detested that fellow.

Lorand meanwhile gazed after his brother with eyes flashing with a desire for vengeance.

Topandy grasped Lorand's hand.

"If I believed in cherubim, I should say: a persecuting angel had taken up his abode in you, to whisper that idea to you. Do you know, Desiderius is the very double of what your father was when he came home from the academy: the same face, figure, depth of voice, the same lightning fire in his eyes, and that same murderous frown, and you are now going to take that boy before Sarvoelgyi that he may relate an awful story of a man who wished to murder a good friend in the most devilish manner, just as he did!"

"Hush! Desi of that knows not a word."

"So much the better. A living being, who does not suspect that to the man whom he is visiting, he is the most horrible phantom from the other world! The murdered father, risen up in the son!—It will make me acknowledge one of the ideas I have hitherto denied—the existence of hell."

Desiderius returned.

"Look at us, my dear Czipra," said Lorand to the girl, who was always fluttering around him: "are we handsome enough? Will the eyes of the beautiful rest upon us?"

"Go," answered Czipra, pushing Lorand in playful anger, "as if you didn't know yourselves! Rather take care you don't get lost there. Such handsome fellows are readily snapped up."

"No, Czipra, we shall return to you," said Lorand, pressing Czipra so tenderly to him, that Desiderius considered as superfluous any further questions as to why Lorand had brought him there. He approved his brother's choice: the girl was beautiful, natural, good-humored and, so it seemed, in love with him. What more could be required?—"Don't be afraid, Czipra; nobody's beautiful blue eyes shall detain us there."

"I was not afraid for your sakes of beautiful eyes," replied Czipra, "but of Mistress Boris's pies:—such pies cannot be got here."

Thereat all three laughed—finally Desiderius too, though he did not know what kind of mythological monster such a sadly bewitched cake might be, which came from Mistress Boris's hand.

Topandy embraced the two young fellows. He was sorry he could not accompany them, but begged Lorand notwithstanding to remain as long as he liked.

Czipra followed them to the door. Lorand there grasped her hand, and tenderly kissed it. The girl did not know whether to be ashamed or delighted.

Thrice did Lorand turn round, before they reached Sarvoelgyi's home, to wave his hand to Czipra.

Desiderius did not require any further enlightenment on that point. He thought he understood all quite well.

* * * * *

Mistress Boris meanwhile had a fine job at her house.

"He was a fool who conceived the idea of ordering a banquet for an indefinite time:—not to know whether he, for whom one must wait, will come at one, at two, at three,—in the evening, or after midnight."

Twenty times she ran out to the door to see whether he was coming already or not. Every sound of carriage wheels, every dog-bark enticed her out into the road, from whence she returned each time more furious, pouring forth invectives over the spoiling of all her dishes.

"Perhaps that gypsy girl again! Devil take the gypsy girl! She is quite capable of giving this guest a breakfast there first, and then letting him go. It would be madness surely, seeing that the town gentleman is the fiance of the young lady here: but the gypsy girl too has cursed bright eyes. Besides she is very cunning, capable of bewitching any man. The damned gypsy girl,—her spells make her cakes always rise beautifully, while mine wither away in the boiling fat—although they are made of the same flour, and the same yeast."

It would not have been good for any one of the domestics to show herself within sight of Mistress Borcsa[73] at that moment.

[Footnote 73: Boris.]

"Well, my master has again burdened me with a guest who thinks the clock strikes midday in the evening. It was a pity he did not invite him for yesterday, in that case he might have turned up to-day. Why, I ought to begin cooking everything afresh.

"I may say, he is a fine bridegroom for a young lady, who lets people wait for him. If I were the bridegroom of such a beautiful young lady, I should come to dinner half a day earlier, not half a day later. There will be nice scenes, if he has his cooking ever done at home. But of course at Vienna that is not the case, everybody lives on restaurant fare. There one may dine at six in the afternoon. At any rate, what midday diners leave is served up again for the benefit of later comers:—thanks, very much."

Finally the last bark which Mistress Boris did not deign even to notice from the kitchen, heralded the approach of manly footsteps in the verandah: and when in answer to the bell Mistress Boris rushed to the door, to her great astonishment she beheld, not the gentleman from Vienna, but the one from across the way, with a strange young gentleman.

"May I speak with the master?" inquired Lorand of the fiery Amazon.

"Of course. He is within. Haven't you brought the gentleman from Vienna?"

"He will only come after dinner," said Lorand, who dared to jest even with Mistress Boris.

Then they went in, leaving Mistress Boris behind, the prey of doubt.

"Was it real or in jest? What do they want here? Why did they not bring him whom they took away? Will they remain here long?"

The whole party had gathered in the grand salon.

They too thought that the steps they heard brought the one they were expecting—and very impatiently too.

Gyali had informed them he would take a carriage and return, as soon as he could escape from the revelry at Szolnok. Melanie and her mother were dressed in silk: on Melanie's wavy curls could be seen the traces of a mother's careful hand: and Madame Balnokhazy herself made a very impressive picture, while Sarvoelgyi had put on his very best.

They must have prepared for a very great festival here to-day!

But when the door opened before the three figures that courteously hastened to greet the new-comer, and the two brothers stepped in, all three smiling faces turned to expressions of alarm.

"You still dare to approach me?"—that was Melanie's alarm.

"You are not dead yet?" inquired Madame Balnokhazy's look of Lorand.

"You have risen again?" was the question to be read in Sarvoelgyi's fixed stare that settled on Desiderius' face.

"My brother, Desiderius,"—said Lorand in a tone of unembarrassed confidence, introducing his brother. "He heard from me of the ladies being here, so perhaps Mr. Sarvoelgyi will pardon us, if, in accordance with my brother's request, we steal a few moments' visit."

"With pleasure: please sit down. I am very glad to see you," said Sarvoelgyi, in a husky tone, as if some invisible hand were choking his throat.

"Desiderius has grown a big boy, has he not?" said Lorand, taking a seat between Madame Balnokhazy and Melanie, while Desiderius sat opposite Sarvoelgyi, who could not take his eyes off the lad.

"Big and handsome," affirmed Madame Balnokhazy. "How small he was when he danced with Melanie!"

"And how jealous he was of certain persons!"

At these words three people hinted to Lorand not to continue, Madame Balnokhazy, Melanie and Desiderius. How indiscreet these country people are!

Desiderius found his task especially difficult, after such a beginning.

But Lorand was really in a good humor. The sight of his darling of yesterday, dressed in such magnificence to celebrate the day on which her poor wretched cast-off lover was to blow his brains out, roused such a joy in his heart that it was impossible not to show it in his words. So he continued:

"Yes, believe me: the lively scamp was actually jealous of me. He almost killed me—yet we are very true to our memories."

Desiderius could not comprehend what madness had come over his brother, that he wished to bring him and Melanie together into such a false position. Perhaps it would be good to start the matter at once and interrupt the conversation.

On Madame Balnokhazy's face could be read a certain contemptuous scorn, when she looked at Lorand, as if she would say: "Well, after all, prose has conquered the poetry of honor, a man may live after the day of his death, if he has only the phlegm necessary thereto. Flight is shameful but useful,—yet you are as good as killed for all that."

This scorn would soon be wiped away from that beautiful face.

"Mesdames," said Desiderius in cold tranquillity. "Beyond paying my respects, I have another reason which made it my duty to come here. I must explain why your solicitor has not returned to-day, and why he will not return for some time."

"Great Heavens! No misfortune has befallen him?" cried Madame Balnokhazy in nervous trepidation.

"On that point you may be quite reassured, Madame: he is hale and healthy; only a slight change in his plans has taken place: he is just now flying west instead of east."

"What can be the reason?"

"I am the cause, which drove him away, I must confess."

"You?" said Madame Balnokhazy, astonished.

"If you will allow me, and have the patience for it, I will go very far back in history to account for this peculiar climax."

Lorand remarked that Melanie was not much interested to hear what they were saying of Gyali. She was indifferent to him: why, they were already affianced.

So he began to say pretty things to her: went into raptures about her beautiful curls, her blooming complexion, and various other things which it costs nothing to praise.

As long as he had been her lover, he had never told her how beautiful she was. She might have understood his meaning. Those whom we flatter we no longer love.

Desiderius continued the story he had begun.

"Just ten years have passed since they began to prosecute the young men of the Parliament in Pressburg on account of the publication of the Parliamentary journal. There was only one thing they could not find out, viz:—who it was that originally produced the first edition to be copied: at last one of his most intimate friends betrayed the young man in question."

"That is ancient history already, my dear boy," said Madame Balnokhazy in a tone of indifference.

"Yet its consequences have an influence even to this day; and I beg you kindly to listen to my story to the end, and then pass a verdict on it. You must know your men."

(What an innocent child Desiderius was! Why, he did not seem even to suspect that the man of whom he spoke was the designated son-in-law of Madame Balnokhazy.)

"The one, who was betrayed by his friend, was my brother Lorand, and the one who betrayed his friend, was Gyali."

"That is not at all certain," said Madame. "In such cases appearances and passion often prove deceptive mirrors. It is possible that someone else betrayed Mr. Aronffy, perhaps some fickle woman, to whom he babbled of all his secrets and who handed it on to her ambitious husband as a means of supporting his own merits."

"I know positively that my assertion is correct," answered Desiderius, "for a magnanimous lady, who guarded my brother with her fairy power, hearing of this betrayal from her influential husband, informed Lorand thereof in a letter written by her own hand."

Madame Balnokhazy bit her lips. The undeserved compliment smote her to the heart. She was the magnanimous fairy, of whom Desiderius spoke, and that fickle woman of whom she had spoken herself. The barrister was a master of repartee.

Melanie, fortunately, did not hear this, for Lorand just then entertained her with a wonderful story: how that, curiously enough, when the young lady had been at Topandy's, the hyacinths had been covered with lovely clusters of fairy bells, and how, one week later, their place had been taken by ugly clusters of berries. How could flowers change so suddenly?

"Very well," said Madame Balnokhazy, "let us admit that when Gyali and Aronffy were students together, the one played the traitor on the other. What happened then?"

"I only learned last night what really happened. That evening I was on a visit to Lorand, and found Gyali there. They appeared to be joking. They playfully disputed as to who, at the farewell dance, was to be the partner of that very honorable lady, who may often be seen in your company. The two students disputed in my presence as to who was to dance with the 'aunt.'"

"Of course, as a piece of unusual good fortune."

"Naturally. As neither wished to give the other preference, they finally decided to entrust the verdict to lot; on the table was a small piece of paper, the only writing material to be found in Lorand's room after a careful rummaging, as all the rest had just been burned. This piece of lilac-colored paper was torn in two, and both wrote one name: these two pieces they put in a hat and called upon me to draw out one. I did so and read out Lorand's name."

"Do you intend to relate how your brother enjoyed himself at that dance?"

Melanie had not heard anything.

"I have no intention of saying a single word more about that day—and I shall at once leap over ten years. But I must hasten to explain that the drawing had nothing to do with dancing with the 'aunt' but was the lottery of an 'American duel' caused by a conflict between Gyali and Lorand."

Desiderius did not remark how the coppery spots on Sarvoelgyi's face swelled at the words "American duel," and then how they lost their color again.

"One moment, my dear boy," interrupted Madame Balnokhazy. "Before you continue: allow me to ask one question: is it customary to speak in society of duels that have not yet taken place?"

"Certainly, if one of the principals has by his cowardly conduct made the duel impossible."

"Cowardly conduct?" said Madame Balnokhazy, darting a piercing side glance at Lorand. "That applies to you."

But Lorand was just relating to Melanie how the day-before-yesterday, when the beautiful moonlight shone upon the piano, which had remained open as the young lady had left it, soft fairy voices began suddenly to rise from it. Though that was surely no spirit playing on the keys, but Czipra's tame white weasel that, hunting night moths, ran along them.

"Yes," said Desiderius in answer to the lady. "One of the principals who accepted the condition gave evidence of such conduct on that occasion as must shut him out from all honorable company. Gyali wrote in forged writing on that ticket the name of Lorand instead of his own."

Madame Balnokhazy incredulously pursed her lips.

"How can you prove that?"

"I did not cast into the fire, as Gyali bade me, the two tickets, but in their stead the dance programme I had brought with me, the two tickets I put away and have kept until to-day, suspecting that perhaps there might be some rather important reason for this calculating slyness."

"Pardon me; but a very serious charge is being raised against an absent person, who cannot defend himself, and to defend whom is therefore the duty of the next and nearest person, even at the price of great indulgence. Have you any proof, any authentic evidence, that either one of the tickets you have kept is forged?"

Madame Balnokhazy had gone to great extremes in doubting the faithfulness and truth-telling of a man,—but rather too far. She had to deal with a barrister.

"The similarity admits of no doubt, Madame. Since these two slips are nothing but two halves that fit together, of that same letter in which Lorand's good-hearted fairy informed him of Gyali's treachery; on the opposite side of the slips is still to be seen the handwriting of that deeply honored lady: the date and watermark are still on them."

Madame's bosom heaved with anger. This youth of twenty-three had annihilated her just as calmly, as he would have burnt that piece of paper of which they were speaking.

Desiderius quietly produced his pocket-book and rummaged for the fatal slips of paper.

"Never mind. I believe it," panted Madame Balnokhazy, whose face in that moment was like a furious Medusa head. "I believe what you say. I have no doubts about it:" therewith she rose from her seat and turned to the window.

Desiderius too rose from his chair, seeing the sitting was interrupted, but could not resist the temptation of pouring out the overflowing bitterness of his heart before somebody; and, as Madame was displeased and Melanie was chatting with Lorand of trifles, he was obliged to address his words directly to his only hearer, to Sarvoelgyi, who remained still sitting, like one enchanted, while his gaze rested ever upon Desiderius' face. This face, drunken with rage and terror, could not tear itself from the object of its fears.

"And this fellow has allowed his dearest friend to go through life for ten years haunted with the thought of death, has allowed him to hide himself in strangers' houses, avoiding his mother's embraces. It did not occur to him once to say 'Live on; don't persecute yourself; we were children, we have played together. I merely played a joke on you.'..."

Sarvoelgyi turned livid with a deathly pallor.

"Sir, you are a Christian, who believes in God, and in those who are saints: tell me, is there any torture of hell that could be punishment enough for so ruining a youth?"

Sarvoelgyi tremblingly strove to raise himself on his quivering hand. He thought his last hour had come.

"There is none!" answered Desiderius to himself. "This fellow kept his hatred till the last day, and when the final anniversary came, he actually sought out his victim to remind him of his awful obligation. Oh, sir, perhaps you do not know what a terrible fatality there is in this respect in our family? So died grandfather, so it was that our dearly loved father left us; so good, so noble-hearted, but who in a bitter moment, amidst the happiness of his family turned his hand against his own life. At night we stealthily took him out to burial. Without prayer, without blessing, we put him down into the crypt, where he filled the seventh place; and that night my grandmother, raving, cursed him who should occupy the eighth place in the row of blood-victims."

Sarvoelgyi's face became convulsed like that of a galvanized corpse. Desiderius thought deep sympathy had so affected the righteous man and continued all the more passionately:

"That fellow, who knew it well, and who was acquainted with our family's unfortunate ill-luck, in cold blood led his friend to the eighth coffin, to the cursed coffin—with the words 'Lie down there in it!'"

Sarvoelgyi's lips trembled as if he would cry "pity: say nothing more!"

"He went with him down to the gate of death, opened the dark door before him, and asked him banteringly 'is the pistol loaded?' and when Lorand took his place amid the revellers: bade him fulfil his obligation—the perjured hound called him to his obligation!"

Sarvoelgyi, all pale, rose at this awful scene:—for all the world as if Loerincz Aronffy himself had come to relate the history of his own death to his murderer.

"Then I seized Lorand's arm with my one hand, and with the other held before the wretch's eyes the evidence of his cursed falseness. His evil conscience bade him fly. I reached him, seized his throat...."

Sarvoelgyi in abject terror sank back in his chair, while Madame Balnokhazy, rushing from the window, passionately cried "and killed him?"

Desiderius, gazing haughtily at her, answered calmly: "No, I merely cast him out from the society of honorable men."

To Lorand it was a savage pleasure to look at those three faces, as Desiderius spoke. The dumb passion which inflamed Madame Balnokhazy's face, the convulsive terror on the features of the fatal adversary, strove with each other to fill his heart with a great delight.

And Melanie? What had she felt during this narration, which made such an ugly figure of the man to whom fate allotted her?

Lorand's eyes were intent upon her face too.

The young girl was not so transfixed by the subject of the tale as by the speaker. Desiderius in the heat of passion, was twice as handsome as he was otherwise. His every feature was lighted with noble passion. Who knows—perhaps the beautiful girl was thinking it would be no very pleasant future to be the bride of Gyali after such a scandal! Perhaps there returned to her memory some fragments of those fair days at Pressburg, when she and Desiderius had sighed so often side by side. That boy had been very much in love with his beautiful cousin. He was more handsome and more spirited than his brother. Perhaps her thoughts were such. Who knows?

At any rate, it is certain that when Desiderius answered Madame's question with such calm contempt—"I cast him out, I did not kill him,"—on Melanie's face could be remarked a certain radiance, though not caused by delight that her fiance's life had been spared.

Lorand remarked it, and hastened to spoil the smile.

"Certainly you would have killed him, Desi, had not your good angel, your dear Fanny, luckily for you, intervened, and grasped your arm, saying 'this hand is mine. You must not defile it.'"

The smile disappeared from Melanie's face.

"And now," said Desiderius, addressing his remarks directly to Sarvoelgyi; "be my judge, sir. What had a man, who with such sly deception, with such cold mercilessness, desired to kill, to destroy, to induce a heart in which the same blood flows as in mine—to commit a crime against the living God, what, I ask, had such a man deserved from me? Have I not a right to drive that man from every place, where he dares to appear in the light of the sun, until I compel him to walk abroad at night when men do not see him, among strangers who do not know him;—to destroy him morally with just as little mercy as he displayed towards Lorand?—Would that be a crime?"

"Great Heavens! Something has happened to Mr. Sarvoelgyi," cried Madame Balnokhazy suddenly.

And indeed Sarvoelgyi was very pale, his limbs were almost powerless, but he did not faint. He put his hands behind him, lest they should remark how they trembled, and strove to smile.

"Sir," he said in a hesitating voice, which often refused to serve him: "although I have nothing to say against it, yet you have told your story at an unfortunate time and in an ill-chosen place:—this young lady is Mr. Gyali's fiancee and to-day we had prepared for the wedding."

"I am heartily glad that I prevented it," said Desiderius, without being in the least disturbed at this discovery. "I think I am doing my relations a good service by staying them at the point where they would have fallen over a precipice."

"You are a master-hand at that," said Madame Balnokhazy with scornful bitterness. She remembered how he had done her a service by a similar intervention—just ten years ago. "Well, as you have succeeded so perfectly in rescuing us from the precipice, perhaps we may hope for the honor of your presence at the friendly conclusion of this spoiled matrimonial banquet?"

Madame Balnokhazy's wandering life had whetted her cynicism.

It was a direct hint for them to go.

"We are very much obliged for the kind invitation," replied Lorand courteously, paying her back in the same coin of sweetness, "but they are expecting us at home."

"Hearts too, which one may not trifle with," continued Desiderius.

"Then, of course, we should not think of stealing you away," continued Madame Balnokhazy, touched to the quick. "Kindly greet, in our names, dear Czipra and dear Fanny. We are very fond indeed of the good girls, and wish you much good fortune with them. The arms of Aronffy, too, find an explanation therein: the half-moon will in one case mean a horse-shoe, in the other a bread-roll. Adieu, dear Lorand! Adieu, dear Desi!"

Then arm-in-arm they departed and hurried home to Topandy's house.

Madame's last outburst had thrown Desiderius into an entirely good humor. That was the first thing about which he began to converse with Topandy. Madame Balnokhazy had congratulated the Aronffy arms on the possession of a "horse-shoe" and a "roll," a gypsy girl and a baker's daughter!

But Lorand did not laugh at it:—what a fathomless deep hatred that woman must treasure in her heart against him, that she could break out so! And was she not right that woman who had desired the young man to embrace her, and thus embracing her to rush on to the precipice, into shame and death, and damnation, if he could love really:—had she no right to scorn, him who had fled before the romantic crimes of passion and had allowed her to fall alone?

At dinner Desiderius related to Topandy what he had said at Sarvoelgyi's. His face beamed like that of some young student who was glorying in his first duel.

But he could not understand the effect his narration had caused. Topandy's face became suddenly more determined, more serious; he gazed often at Lorand.

Once Desiderius too looked up at his brother, who was wiping his tear-stained eyes with his handkerchief.

"You are weeping?" inquired Desiderius.

"What are you thinking of? I was only wiping my brow. Continue your story."

When they rose from table Topandy called Lorand aside.

"This young fellow knows nothing of what I related to you?"

"Absolutely nothing."

"So he has not the slightest suspicion that in that moment he plunged the knife into the heart of his father's murderer?"

"No. Nor shall he ever know it. A double mission has been entrusted to us, to be happy and to wreak vengeance. Neither of us can undertake both at once. He has started to be happy, his heart is full of sweetness, he is innocent, unsuspicious, enthusiastic: let him be happy: God forbid his days should be poisoned by such agonizing thoughts as will not let me rest!—I am enough myself for revenge, embittered as I am from head to foot. The secret is known only to us, to grandmother and the Pharisee himself. We shall complete the reckoning without the aid of happy men."



CHAPTER XXIII

THE DAY OF GLADNESS

"Let us go back at once to your darling," said Lorand next morning to his brother. "My affair is already concluded."

Desiderius did not ask "how concluded?" but thought it easy to account for this speech. It could easily be concluded between Topandy and Lorand, as the former was the girl's adopted father: Lorand had only to disclose to him everything about which it had been his melancholy duty to keep silence until the day of the catastrophe, which he was awaiting, had arrived.

Nor could Desiderius suspect that the word "concluded" referred to the visit they had paid together to Sarvoelgyi. How could he have imagined that Melanie, who had been introduced to him as Gyali's fiancee, had one week before filled Lorand's whole soul with a holy light.

And that light had indeed been extinguished forever.

Even if they had not succeeded in murdering Lorand they had made a dead man of him, such a dead man as walks, throws himself into the affairs of the world, enjoys himself and laughs—who only knows himself the day of his death.

Desiderius ventured to ask "When?"

He always thought of Czipra.

Lorand answered lightly:

"When we return."

"Whence?"

"From your wedding."

"Why, you said yours must precede mine."

"You are again playing the advocate!" retorted Lorand. "I referred not to the execution, but to the arrangements. My banns have been called before yours; that was my desire. Now it is your business to carry your affair through before I do mine. Your affair of the heart can easily be concluded in three days."

"An excellent explanation! And your marriage requires longer preparations?"

"Much longer."

"What obstacle can Czipra present?"

"An obstacle which you know very well: Czipra is still—a heathen. Now the first requisite here for marriage is the birth-certificate. You know well that Topandy has hitherto brought the poor girl up in an uncivilized manner. I cannot present her to mother in this state. She must learn to know the principles of religion, and just so much of the alphabet as is necessary for a country lady—and you must realize that several weeks are necessary for that. That is what we must wait for."

Desiderius had to acknowledge that Lorand's excuse was well-grounded.

And perhaps Lorand was not jesting? Perhaps he thought the poor girl loved him with her whole soul, and would be happy to possess these fragments of a broken heart. Yet he had not told her anything. Czipra had seen him in desperation over that letter: as far as the faithful, loving girl was concerned, it would have been merely an insult, if the idol of her heart had offered her his hand the next moment, out of mere offended pride; and, while she offered him impassioned love, given her merely cold revenge in return.

This feeling of revenge must soften. Every impulse guided to the old state of things.

Meantime the marriage of Desiderius would be a good influence. He was marrying Fanny. The young couple would, during their honeymoon, visit Lankadomb: true love was an education in itself: and then—even cemeteries grow verdant in spring.

The two young men reached Szolnok punctually at noon.

And thence they returned home.

Home, sweet home! At home in a beloved mother's house. A man visits many gay places where people enjoy themselves: finds himself at times in glorious palaces; builds himself a nest, and rears a house of his own:—but even then some sweet enchantment overcomes his heart when he steps over the threshold of that quiet dwelling where a loving mother's guardian hand has protected every souvenir of his childhood,—so that he finds everything as he left it long ago, and sees and feels that, while he has lived through the changing events of a period in his life, that loving heart has still clung to that last moment, and that the intervening time has been but as the eternal remembrance of one hour spent within those walls.

There are his childhood's toys piled up; he would love to sit down once more among them, and play with them: there are the books that delighted his childhood's days; he would love to read them anew, and learn again what he had long forgotten, what was in those days such great knowledge.

Lorand spent a happy week at home, in the course of which Mrs. Fromm took Fanny back to Pressburg.

As Desiderius had asked for Fanny's hand, it was only proper that he should take his bride away from her parents' house.

One week later the whole Aronffy family started to fetch the bride; only Desiderius' mother remained at home.

In the little house in Prince's Avenue the same old faces all awaited them, only they were ten years older. Old Marton hastened, as erstwhile, to open the carriage door; only his moving crest was as white as that of a cockatoo. Father Fromm, too, was waiting at the door, but could no longer run to meet his guests, for his left arm and leg were paralyzed: he leaned upon a long bony young man, who had spent much pains in trying to twist into a moustache by the aid of cunning unguents the few hairs on his upper lip, that would not under any circumstances consent to grow. It was easy to recognize Henrik in the young fellow who would have loved so much to smile, only that cursed waxed moustache would not allow his mouth to open very far.

"Welcome, welcome," sounded from all sides. Father Fromm opened his arms to receive the grandmother: Henrik leaped on to Desiderius' neck, while old Marton slouched up to Lorand, and, nudging him with his elbows, said with a humorous smile, "Well, no harm came of it, you see."

"No, old fellow. And I have to thank this good stick for it," said Lorand, producing from under his coat Marton's walking stick, for which he had had made a beautiful silver handle in place of the previous dog's-foot.

The old fellow was beside himself with delight that they thought so much of his relics.

"Is it true," he asked, "that you fought two highwaymen with this stick? Master Desiderius wrote to say so."

"No, only one."

"And you knocked him down?"

"It was impossible for he ran away. Now I have done my walking, and give back the stick with thanks."

But it was not the silver handle that delighted Marton so. He took the returned stick into the shop, like some trophy, and related to the assistants, how Master Lorand had, with that alone, knocked down three highwaymen. He would not have surrendered that stick for a whole Mecklenburg full of every kind of cane.

Old Grandmother Fromm, too, was still alive and counted it a great triumph that she had just finished the hundredth pair of stockings for Fanny's trousseau.

And last, but not least, Fanny, even more beautiful, even more amiable!—as if she had not seen Desiderius and his grandmother for an eternity!

"Well, you will be our daughter!"

And they all loved Desiderius so.

"What a handsome man he has grown," complimented Grandmother Fromm.

"What a good fellow!"—remarked Mother Fromm.

"What a clever fellow! How learned!" was Father Fromm's encomium.

"And what a muscular rascal!" said Henrik, overcome with astonishment that another boy too had grown as large as he. "Do you remember how one evening you threw me on to the bed? How angry I was with you then!"

"Do you remember how the first evening you put away the cake for Henrik?" said grandmamma. "How you blushed then!"

"Do you remember," interrupted Father Fromm, "the first time you addressed me in German? How I laughed at you then!"

"Well, and do you remember me?" said Fanny playfully, putting her hand on her fiance's arm.

"When first you kissed me here," retorted Desiderius, looking into her beaming eyes.

"How you feared me then!"

"Well, and do you remember," said the young fellow in a voice void of feeling, "when I stood resting against the doorpost, and you came to drag my secret out of me. How I loved you then!"

Lorand stepped up to them, and laying his hands on their shoulders, said with a sigh:

"Forgive me for standing so long in your path!"

At that everyone's eyes filled with tears, everyone knew why.

Father Fromm, deeply moved, exclaimed:

"How happy I am,—my God!" and then as if he considered his happiness too great, he turned to Henrik, "if only you were otherwise! but look, my dear boy: nothing has come of him! fuit negligens. If he too had learned, he would already be an 'archivarius!' That is what I wanted to make of him. What a fine title! An 'archivarius!' But what has become of him? An 'asinus!' Quantus asinus! I ought to have made a baker of him. He did not wish to be other, the fool: the 'perversus homo.' Now he is nothing but a 'pistor.'"

At this grievous charge poor Henrik would have longed to sink into the earth for very shame, a longing which would have met with opposition, not only from the ground-floor inhabitants, but also from the assistants working in the underground cellars.

Lorand took Henrik's part.

"Never mind, Henrik. At any rate in both families there is a good-for-nothing who can do nothing except produce bread: I am the peasant, you the baker: I thresh the wheat, you bake bread of it: let the high and mighty feast on their pride."

Then the common good-humor of the high and mighty put a good tone on the conversation. Father Fromm actually made peace though slowly with fate, and agreed that it was just as well Henrik could continue his father's business. He might find some respite in the fact that at least his second child would become a "lady."

Desiderius had a joy in store for him in that he was to meet his erstwhile Rector,[74] who was to give away the bride. The old fellow had still the same military mien, the same harsh voice, and was still as sincerely fond of Desiderius and the two families as ever.

[Footnote 74: The director of the school when he was educated at Pressburg.]

Lorand was to be Desiderius' best man.

In this official position he was obliged to stand on the bridegroom's left, while the latter swore before the altar, to provide for the bride's happiness "till death us do part," receiving in trust a faithful hand which even in death would not loosen its hold on his. He was the first to praise the bride for repeating after the minister so courageously and clearly those words, at which the voices of girls are wont to tremble. He was the first to raise his glass to the happy couple's health: he opened the ball with the bride: and one day later, it was he who took her back on his arm to his mother's home, saying:

"Dear sister-in-law, step into the house from which your calm face has driven all signs of mourning: embrace her who awaits you—the good mother who has to-day for the first time exchanged her black gown for that blue one in which we knew her in days of happiness. Never has bride brought a richer dowry to a bridegroom's home, than you have to ours. God bless you for it."

And even Lorand did not know how much that hand which pressed his so gently had done for him.

It is the fate of such deeds to succeed and remain obscure.

"Let the children spend their happy honeymoon in the country," was the opinion of the elder lady. "They must grow accustomed to being their own masters, too."

But the idea met with the most strenuous opposition from Desiderius' mother and Fanny. The mother's prayers were so beautiful, the bride so irresistible, that the other two, the grandmother and Lorand, finally allowed themselves to be persuaded, and agreed that the mother should stay with Desiderius.

"But we two must leave," whispered grandmother to Lorand.

She had already noticed that Lorand's face was not fit to be present in that peaceful life.

His gaiety was only for others: a grandmother's eyes could not be deceived.

While the others were engaged with their own happiness, the old lady took Lorand's hand and, without a word of "whither," they went down together to the garden, to the stream flowing beside the garden: to the melancholy house built on the bank of the stream.

Ten years had passed and the creeper had again crawled over the crypt door: the green leaves covered the motto. The two juniper trees had bowed their green branches together over the cupola.

They stayed there, her head leaning on his bosom.

How much they must have said to one another, tacitly, without a single word! How they must have understood each other's unspoken thoughts!

Deep silence reigned around: but within, inside the closed, rusted, creeper-covered door, it seemed as if someone beckoned with invisible finger, saying to the elder boy, "one great debt is not yet paid."

One hour later they returned to the house, where they were welcomed by boisterous voices of noisy gladness—master and servant were all merry and rejoicing.

"I must hasten on my way," said Lorand to his mother.

"Whither?"

"Back to Lankadomb."

"You will bring me a new joy."

"Yes, a new joy for you, mother,—and for you, too," he said pressing his grandmother's hand.

She understood what that handclasp meant.

The murderer lived still.—The account was not yet balanced! Lorand kissed his happy relations. The old lady accompanied him to the carriage, where she kissed his forehead.

"Go."

And in that kiss there was the weight of a blessing that urged him to his difficult duty.

"Go—and wreak vengeance."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE MAD JEST

Let us leave the happy ones to rejoice.

Let us follow that other youth, in whom all that sweet strength for action, which might have brought a mutually-loving heart into the ecstasy of happiness, had changed into a bitter passion, capable of driving a mutually-hating soul to destruction.

It was evening when he reached Lankadomb.

Topandy was already very impatient. Czipra informed him she would not give Lorand even time to rest himself, but took him at once with her to the laboratory, where they had been wont to be together, to study alone the mysteries of mankind and nature.

The old fellow seemed to be in an extraordinarily good humor, which in his case was generally a sign of excitement.

"Well, my dear boy," he said, "I have succeeded in getting myself tangled up in a mess. I will explain it to you. I have always desired to make the acquaintance of the county prison by reason of some meritorious stupidity; so finally I have committed something which will aid my purpose."

"Indeed?"

"Yes, indeed:—for two years at least. Ha ha! I have perpetrated such a mad jest that I am myself entirely contented. Of course they will imprison me, but that does not matter."

"What have you done now, uncle?"

"Just listen, it is a long story. First I must begin by saying that Melanie is already married."

"So much the better."

"I only hope it is for her—for me it is. But it is the turning-point of my fate too: so just listen to the end, to all the little trifling incidents of the tale—as Mistress Boris related them to Czipra, and Czipra to me. They all belong to the complete picture."

"I am all ears," said Lorand, sitting down, and determining to show a very indifferent face when they related before him the tale of Melanie's marriage.

"Well, after you left here, they knowing nothing of your departure, Madame Balnokhazy said to her daughter: 'Just for mere obstinacy's sake you must marry Gyali: let these men see how much we care for their fables!'—therewith she wrote a letter herself to Gyali to come back immediately to Lankadomb, and show himself: they were awaiting him with open arms. He must not be afraid of the brothers Aronffy. He must look into their faces as behooved a man of dignity. To provide against any possible insults, he must protect himself with a couple of pocket-pistols: such things he must always carry in his pocket, to display beneath the nose of anyone who attempted to frighten him with his gigantic stature!—Gyali shortly appeared in the village again, and very ostentatiously drove up and down before my window, driving the horses himself with the ladies sitting behind, as if he hoped to take the greatest revenge upon me in this way. I merely said: 'If you are satisfied with him, it is nothing to me.' It seems that in the world of to-day the ladies like the man, upon whom others have spat, whom others have insulted and kicked out!—they know all—well, I had no wish to quarrel with their taste.

"I determined just for that reason not to do anything mad. I would be clever. I would look down upon the world's madness with contemplative philosophy, and merely carry out the clever jest of annulling my previous will in which I had made Melanie my heiress, and which had been stored away in the county archive room, making another which I shall keep here at home, in which not a single mention is made of my niece.

"The wedding was solemnized with great pomp.

"Sarvoelgyi did not complain of the expense incurred. He thought to revenge himself on me. He collected all the friends he could from the vicinity: I too received a lithographed invitation. Look at that!"

Topandy took the vellum from his pocket-book and handed it to Lorand.

DEAR MR. TOPANDY:

It will give me great pleasure if you and your nephew Lorand Aronffy will accept our invitation to the wedding of my daughter Melanie and Joseph Gyali, at Mr. Sarvoelgyi's house.

EMILIA BALNOKHAZY.

"Keep half for yourself."

"Thanks: I don't want even the whole."

"Well, it just happened to be Sunday. Sarvoelgyi chose that day, because it would cost so much less to array the village folk in holiday garb. He had the bells rung, so did the Vicar: every window and door was full of curious on-lookers. I too took my seat on the verandah to see the sight.

"The long line of carriages started. First the bridegroom with Sarvoelgyi, after them the bride, dressed in a white lawn robe, and wearing, if I am not mistaken, many theatrical jewels."

Lorand interrupted impatiently:

"You evidently think, uncle, that I shall write all this for some fashion-paper, as you are telling me in such detail about the costumes."

"I have learned it from English novel-writers: if a man wants to convince his hearers that something is true history and no fable, he must describe externals in detail, that they may see what an eye-witness he was.—Well, I shall leave out all description of the horses' trappings.

"As the long convoy proceeded up the street, a carriage drawn by four horses clattered up from the opposite end, a county court official beside the coachman, behind, two gentlemen, one lean, the other thickset.

"When this equipage met the wedding procession, the lean gentleman stopped his carriage and called out to Sarvoelgyi's coachman to bring his coach to a standstill.

"The lean man leaped down from his carriage, the stout man after him, the official following them, and stepped up to the bridegroom.

"'Are you Joseph Gyali?' inquired the lean man, without any prefix.

"'I am,' he said, looking at the dust-covered man with angry hauteur, not comprehending by what right anyone could dare to stop him at such a time and to address him so curtly.

"But the lean man seized the door of the carriage and said to the bridegroom:

"'Well, sir, have you any soul?'

"Our dear friend could not comprehend what new form of greeting it was, to ask a man on the road whether he had a soul.

"But the lean man seemed to wish to know that at any cost.

"'Sir, have you any soul?'

"'What?'

"Have you any soul, that you can lead an innocent maiden to the altar, in the position in which you are?'

"'Who are you? And how dare you to address me?'

"'I am Miklos Daruszegi, county court magistrate, and have come to arrest you, in consequence of a proclamation of the High Court of Justice in Vienna, which has sent us instructions to arrest you wherever you may be found on the charge of several forgeries and deceits, in flagrante, and not to accept bail!'

"'But, sir—!'

"'There is no chance for resistance. You knew already in Vienna to what charge you were liable, and you came directly to Hungary in the hope that if you could ally yourself with some propertied lady, your honorable person might be defended, thus practising fresh deceit against others. And now again I ask you, whether you have the soul to wish, on the prison's threshold, to drag an innocent maiden with you?'"

"Poor Melanie!"—whispered Lorand.

"Poor Melanie naturally fainted, and the poor P. C.'s widow was beside herself with rage: poor Sarvoelgyi wept like a child: all the guests fled back to the house, and the bridegroom was compelled to descend from the bridal coach, and take his place in the magistrate's muddy chaise, still wearing his costume covered with decorations: they supplied him with a rug, it is true, to cover himself with, but the heron-plumed hat remained on his head for the public wonder.

"I truly sympathised with the poor creatures! Still it seems I have survived that pain too.—If only it had not happened in the street! Before the eyes of so many men! If I at least had not seen it! If only I might give a romantic version of the catastrophe. But such a prosaic ending! A bridegroom arrested for the forgery of documents at the church door!—His tragedy is surely over!"

"But according to that, Melanie did not become his wife?" said Lorand. "Melanie has not been married at all."

Topandy shook his head.

"You are an impatient audience, nephew. Still I shall not hurry the performance. You must wait till I send a glass of absinthe down my throat, for my stomach turns at the very thought of what I am about to relate."

And he was not joking: he looked among the many chemicals for the bottle bearing the label "absynthium," and drank a small glass of it. Then he poured one out for Lorand.

"You must drink too."

"I could not drink it, uncle," said Lorand, full of other thoughts.

"But drink this glass, I tell you: until you do I shall not continue. What I am going to say is strong poison, and this is the antidote."

So Lorand drank, that he might hear what happened.

"Well, my dear boy. You must dispense with the idea that Melanie is not a wife: Melanie two days ago married—Sarvoelgyi!"

"Oh, that is only a jest!" exclaimed Lorand incredulously.

"Of course it is a jest: only a very mad one. Who could take such things seriously? Sarvoelgyi was jesting when he said to Madame Balnokhazy: 'Madame, there is a scandal—your daughter is neither a miss nor a Mrs. She is burdened both by loss and contempt. You cannot appear any more before the world after such a scandal. I have a good idea: we are trying to agree now about a property; let us shake hands, and the bargain's made, the property and the price of purchase remain in the same hands.'—Madame Balnokhazy too was jesting when she said to her daughter: 'My dear Melanie, we have fallen up to our necks in the mire, we cannot be very particular about the hand that is to drag us out. Lorand will never come back again, Gyali has deceived us; but only tit for tat,—for we deceived him with that tale of the regained property in which only one man believes,—honorable Sarvoelgyi. If you accept his offer, you will be a lady of position, if not, you can come with me as a wandering actress. We can take our revenge upon them, for they hate Sarvoelgyi too. And after all Sarvoelgyi is a very pleasant fellow.'—And surely Melanie was jesting when two days later she said to the priest before the altar that in the whole world there was only one man whom she could deem worthy of her love, and he was Sarvoelgyi.—I believe it was all a jest—but so it happened."

Lorand covered his face with his hands.

"A jest indeed, a fine jest fit to stir one's blood," Topandy angrily burst out. "That girl, whom I so loved, whom I treated as my child, who was to me an image of what they call womanly purity, throws herself away upon my most detested enemy, a loathsome corpse, whose body, soul, and spirit had already decayed. Why if she had returned broken-hearted to me, and said, 'I have erred,' I should have still received her with open arms: she should not thus have prostituted the feeling which I held for her.

"Oh, my friend, there is nothing more repulsive in this round world, than a woman who can make herself thus loathed."

Lorand's silence gave assent to this sentence.

"And now follows the madness I committed.

"I said: if you jest, let me jest too. My house was at that moment full of gay companions, who were helping me to curse. But what is the value of curses? A mad idea occurred to me. I said: 'If you are holding a marriage feast yonder, I shall hold one here.' You remember there was an old mangled-eared ass, used by the shepherd to carry the hides of slaughtered oxen, called by my servants, out of ridicule, Sarvoelgyi. Then there was a beautiful thoroughbred colt, which Melanie chose betimes to bear her name. I dressed the ass and foal up as bridegroom and bride, one of the drunken revellers dressed as a 'monk' and at the same time that Sarvoelgyi and Melanie went to their wedding, here, in my courtyard, I parodied the holy ceremony in the persons of those two animals."

Lorand was horror stricken.

"It was a mad idea: I acknowledge it," continued Topandy. "To ridicule religious ceremonies! That will cost me two years at least in the county prison: I shall not defend myself—I have deserved it. I shall put up with it. I knew it when I carried out this raving jest—I knew what the outcome would be. But if they had promised me all the good things that lie between the guardian of the Northern Dog-star and the emerald wings of the vine-dresser beetle, or if they had threatened me with all that exists down to the middle of the earth, down to hell, I should have done it, when once I had thought it out. I wanted a hellish revenge, and there it was. How hellish it was you may imagine from the fact that the jovial fellows at once sobered, disappeared from the house; and since then one or two have written to beg me not to betray their presence here on that occasion. I am only pleased you were not here then."

"And I am sorry I was not. Had I been, it would not have happened."

"Don't say that, my dear boy. Don't think too well of yourself. You don't know what you would have felt, had you seen pass before you in a carriage her whom we had idolized with him whom we detest so. It destroyed my reason. And even now I feel a terrible void in my soul. That girl occupied such a large place therein. I feel it is still more painful for me that I perpetrated such a trivial jest in her name, in her memory.—Still, it has happened and we cannot recall it. We have begun the campaign of hatred, and don't know ourselves where it will end. Now let us speak of other things. During my imprisonment you will take over the farm and remain here."

"Yes."

"But you have still another difficult matter to get through first."

"I know."

"Oh dear no. Why do you always wish to discover my thoughts? You cannot know of what I am thinking."

"Czipra...."

"That is not quite it. Though it did occur to me to ask how could I leave a young man and a young girl here all alone. Yet in that matter I have my own logic: the young man either has a heart or none at all. If he has a heart, he will either keep his distance from the girl, or, if he has loved her, he will not ask who her father and mother were or what her dowry is. He will estimate her at her own value for her own self—a faithful woman. If he has no heart, the girl must see to having more: she must defend herself. If neither has a heart,—well a daily occurrence will occur once more. Who has ever grieved over it? I have nothing to say in the matter. He who knows himself to be an animal, nothing more, is right: he who considers himself a higher being, a man, a noble man, is right too: and he who wishes to be an angel, is only vain. Whether you make the girl your mistress or your wife, is the affair of you two: it all depends which category of the physical world you desire to belong to. The one says, 'I, a male ass, wish to graze with you, a female-ass, on thistles;' or, 'I, a man, wish to be your god, woman, to care for you.' It is, as I say, a matter of taste and ideas. I entrust it to you. But I have matter for serious anxiety here. Have you not remarked that here, round Lankadomb, an enormous number of robberies take place?"

"Perhaps not more than elsewhere: only we do not know about the misfortunes of others."

"Oh, dear, no; our neighborhood is in reality the home of a far-reaching robber-band, whose dealings I have long followed with great attention. These marshes here around us afford excellent shelter to those who like to avoid the world."

"That is so everywhere. Fugitive servants, marauding shepherds, bandits, who visit country houses to ask a drink of wine, bacon and bread,—I have met them often enough: I gave them from my purse as much as I pleased, and they went on their way peacefully."

"Here we have to deal with quite a different lot. Czipra might know more about it, if she chose to speak. That tent-dwelling army, out of whose midst I took her to myself, is lurking around us, and is more malicious than report says. They conceal their deeds splendidly, they are very cunning and careful. They are not confined to human society, they can winter among the reeds, and so are more difficult to get at than the mounted highwaymen, who hasten to enjoy the goods they have purloined in the inns. They have never dared to attack me at home, for they know I am ready to receive them. Still, they have often indirectly laid me under obligation. They have often robbed Czipra, when she went anywhere alone. You were yourself a witness to one such event. I suspect that the robber-chief who strove with Czipra in the inn was Czipra's own father."

"Heavens! I wonder if that can be so."

"Czipra always closed their mouths with a couple of hundred florins, and then they remained quiet. Perhaps she threatened them in case they annoyed me. It may be that up to the present they have not molested us in order to please her. But it may be, too, that they have another reason for making Lankadomb their centre of operations. Do you remember that on the pistol you wrenched from that robber were engraved the arms of Sarvoelgyi?"

"What are you hinting at, uncle?"

"I think Sarvoelgyi is the chieftain of the whole highwayman-band."

"What brought you to that idea?"

"The fact that he is such a pious man. Still, let us not go into that now. The gist of the matter is, that I would like to relieve our district of this suspicious guest, before I begin my long visit."

"How?"

"We must burn up that old hay-rick, of which I have said so many times that it has inhabitants summer and winter."

"Do you think that will drive them from our neighborhood?"

"I am quite sure of it. This class is cowardly. They will soon turn out of any place where war is declared against them: they only dare to brawl as long as they find people are afraid of them: wolf-like they tear to pieces only those they find defenceless: but one wisp of burning straw will annihilate them. We must set the rick on fire."

"We could have done so already; but it is difficult to reach it, on account of the old peat-quarries."

"Which our dangerous neighbors have covered with wolf traps, so that one cannot approach the rick within rifle-shot."

"I often wished to go there, but you would not allow me."

"It would have been an unreasonable audacity. Those who dwell there could shoot down, from secure hiding-places, any who approached it, before the latter could do them any harm. I have a simpler plan: we two shall take our seats in the punt, row down the dyke, and when we come against the rick, we shall set it on fire with explosive bullets. The rick is mine, no longer rented: all whom it may concern must seek lodging elsewhere."

Lorand said it was a good plan: whatever Topandy desired he would agree to. He might declare war against the bandits, for all he cared.

That evening, guided by moonlight, they poled their way to the centre of the marsh: Lorand himself directed the shots, and was lucky enough to lodge his first shell in the side of the rick. Soon the dry mass of hay was flaming like a burning pyramid in the midst of the morass. The two besiegers had reached home long before the blazing rick had time to light up the district far. As they watched, all at once the flame scattered, exploding millions of sparks up to heaven, and the fragments of the burning rick were strewed on the water's surface by the wind. Surely hidden gunpowder had caused that explosion.

At that moment no one was at home in this barbarous dwelling. Not a single voice was heard during the burning, save the howling of the terrified wolves round about.



CHAPTER XXV

WHILE THE MUSIC SOUNDS

At Lankadomb the order of things had changed.

After the famous scandal, Topandy's dwelling was very quiet—no guest crossed its threshold: while at Sarvoelgyi's house there was an entertainment every evening, sounds of music until dawn of day.

They wished to show that they were in a gay mood.

Sarvoelgyi began to win fame among the gypsies. These wandering musicians began to reckon his house among one of their happy asylums, so that even the bands of neighboring towns came to frequent it, one handing on the news of it to the other.

The young wife loved amusement, and her husband was glad if he could humor her—perhaps he had other thoughts, too?

Sarvoelgyi himself did not allow his course of life to be disturbed: after ten o'clock he regularly left the company, going first to devotions and these having been attended to, to sleep.

His spouse remained under the care of her mother—in very good hands.

And, after all, Sarvoelgyi was no intolerable husband: he did not persecute his young wife with signs of tenderness or jealousy.

In reality he acted as one who merely wished, under the guise of marriage to save a victim, to free an innocent, caluminated, unfortunate girl in the most humane way from desperation.

It was a good deed,—friendship, nothing more.

Sarvoelgyi's bedroom was separated from the rest of the dwelling house by a kind of corridor, bricked in, where the musicians were usually placed, for the obvious reason that the sun-burnt artists are passionately fond of chewing tobacco.

This mistaken arrangement was the cause of two evils: firstly, the master of the house, lying on his bed, could hear all night long the beautiful waltzes and mazurkas to which his wife was dancing; secondly, being obliged to pass through the gypsies on his way from the ball-room to his bedroom, he came in for so many expressions of gratitude on their part that his quiet retirement gave rise to a most striking uproar, disagreeable alike to himself, to his wife, and his guests.

He called the brown worthies to order often enough: "Don't express your gratitude, don't kiss my hand. I am not going away anywhere:" but they would not allow themselves to be cheated of their opportunity for grateful speeches.

One night in particular an old, one-eyed czimbalom-player, whose sole remaining eye was bound up—he had only joined the band that day—would not permit himself to be over-awed: he seized the master's hand, kissed every finger of it in turn, then every nail: "God recompense you for what you intend to give, multiply your family like the sparrows in the fields: may your life be like honey...."

"All right, foolish daddy," interrupted Sarvoelgyi. "A truce to your blessings. Get you gone. Mistress Borcsa will give you a glass of wine as a reward."

But the gypsy would not yield: he hobbled after the master into his bedroom, opening the door vigorously, and thrusting in his shaggy head.

"But if God call from the world of shadows..."

"Go to hell: enough of your gratitude."

But the czimbalom-player merely closed the door from the inside and followed his righteous benefactor.

"Golden-winged angels in a wagon of diamonds...."

"Get out this moment!" cried Sarvoelgyi, hastily looking for a stick to drive the flatterer out of his room.

But at that moment the gypsy sprang upon him like a panther, grasping his throat with one hand and placing a pointed knife against his chest with the other.

"Oh!"—panted the astonished Sarvoelgyi. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"Who am I?" murmured the fiend in reply, looking like the panther when it has set its teeth in its victim's neck. "I am Kandur,[75] the mad Kandur. Have you ever seen a mad Kandur? That is what I am. Don't you know me now?"

[Footnote 75: Tom-cat.]

"What do you want?"

"What do I want? Your bones and your skin: your black blood. You highwayman! You robber!"

So saying, he tore the bandage from his eye: there was nothing amiss with that eye.

"Do you know me now, herdsman?"

It would have been in vain to scream. Outside the most uproarious music could be heard: no one would have heard the cry for help. Besides the assailed had another reason for holding his peace.

"Well, what do you want with me? What have I done to you? Why do you attack me?"

"What have you done?" said the gypsy, gnashing his teeth so that Sarvoelgyi shivered—this gnashing of human teeth is a terrible sound. "What have you done? You ask that? Have you not robbed me? Eh?"

"I robbed you? Don't lose your senses. Let go of my throat. You see, I am in your hands anyhow. Talk sense. What has happened to you?"

"What has happened to me? Oh yes—act as if you had not seen that beautiful illumination the day before yesterday evening—that's right—when the rick was burned down, and then the gunpowder dispersed the fire, so that nothing but a black pit remained for mad Kandur."

"I saw it."

"That was your work," cried the fiend, raising high the flashing knife.

"Now, Kandur, have some sense. Why should I have set it on fire?"

"Because no one else could have known that my money was stored away there. Who else would have dreamed I had money, but you? You who always changed my bank-note into silver and gold, giving me one silver florin for a small bank-note, and one gold piece for a large one. How do I know what was the value of each?—You knew I collected money. You knew how I collected, and why—for I told you. My daughter is in a certain gentleman's house; they are making a fool of her there. They are bringing her up like a duchess, until they have plucked her blossoms,—and then they will throw her away like a wash-rag. I wished to buy her off! I had already a pot of silver and a milk-pail of gold. I wanted to take her away with me to Turkey, to Tartary, where heathens dwell; and she would be a real duchess, a gypsy duchess! I shall murder, rob, and break into houses until I have a pot full of silver, and a pail full of gold. The gypsy girl will want it as her dowry. I shall not leave her for you, you white-faced porcelain tribe! I shall take her away to some place where they will not say 'Away gypsy! off gypsy! Kiss my hand, eat carrion, gypsy, gypsy!'—Give me my money."

"Kandur."

"Don't gape, or tire your mouth. Give me a pot of silver, and a pail of gold."

"All right, Kandur, you shall get your money—a pot of silver and a pail of gold. But now let me have my say. It was not I who took your money, not I who set the rick on fire."

"Who then?"

"Why those people yonder."

"Topandy, and the young gentleman?"

"Certainly. The day before yesterday evening I saw them in a punt on the moat, starting for the morass, and I saw them when they returned again—the rick was then already burning. Each of them had a gun: but I did not hear a single shot, so they were not after game."

"The devil and all his hell-hounds destroy them!"

"Why, Kandur, your daughter was mad after that young gentleman—she certainly confessed to him that her father was collecting treasures: so the young gentleman took off daughter and money too—he will shortly return the empty pot."

"Then I shall kill him."

"What did you say, Kandur?"

"I shall kill him, even if he has a hundred souls. Long ago I promised him, when first we met. But now I wish to drink of his blood. Did you see whether the old mastiff too was there at the robbing?"

"Topandy? A plague upon my eyes, if I did not see him. There were two of them, they took no one with them, not even a dog: they rowed along here beside the gardens. I looked long after them, and waited till they should return. May every saint be merciless to me, if I don't speak the truth!"

"Then I shall murder both."

"But be careful: they go armed."

"What?—If I wish I can have a whole host. If I wish I can ravish the whole village in broad daylight. You do not yet know who Kandur is."

"I know well who you are, Kandur," said Sarvoelgyi, carefully studying the robber's browned face. "Why we are old acquaintances. It is not you who are responsible for the deeds you have done, but society. Humankind rose up against you, you merely defended yourself as best you could. That is why I always took your part, Kandur."

"No nonsense for me now," interrupted the robber hastily. "I don't mind what I am. I am a highwayman. I like the name."

"You had no ignoble pretext for robbing,—but the saving of your daughter from the whirlpool of crime. The aim was a laudable one, Kandur: besides you were particular as to whom you fleeced."

"Don't try to save me—you'll have enough to do to save yourself soon in hell, before the devil's tribunal—you may lie his two eyes out, if you want. I have been a highwayman, have killed and robbed—even clergymen. I want to kill now, too."

"I shall pray for your soul."

"The devil! Man, do you think I care? Prayer is just about as potent with you as with me. Better give a pile of money to enable me to collect a band. My men must have money."

"All right, Kandur: don't be angry, Kandur:—you know I'm awfully fond of you. I have not persecuted you like others. I have always spoken gently to you and have always sheltered you from your persecutors. No one ever dared to look for you in my house."

"No more babbling—just give over the money."

"Very well, Kandur. Hold your cap."

Sarvoelgyi stepped up to a very strong iron safe, and unfastening the locks one by one, raised its heavy door—placing the candle on a chair beside him.

The robber's eyes gleamed. Sufficient silver to fill many pots was piled up there.

"Which will you have? silver or bank-notes?"

"Silver," whispered the robber.

"Then hold your cap."

Kandur held his lamb-skin cap in his two hands like a pouch, and placed his knife between his teeth.

Sarvoelgyi dived deeply into the silver pile with his hand, and when he drew it back, he held before the robber's nose a double-barrelled pistol, ready cocked.

It was a fine precaution—a pistol beautifully covered up by a heap of coins.

The robber staggered back, and forgot to withdraw the knife from his mouth. And so he stood before Sarvoelgyi, a knife between his teeth, his eyes wide opened, and his two hands stretched before him in self-defence.

"You see," said Sarvoelgyi calmly, "I might shoot you now, did I wish. You are entirely in my power. But see, I spoke the truth to you.—Hold your cap and take the money."

He put the pistol down beside him and took out a goodly pile of dollars.

"A plague upon your jesting eyes!" hissed the robber through the knife. "Why do you frighten a fellow? The darts of Heaven destroy you!"

He was still trembling, so frightened had he been.

The loaded weapon in another's hand had driven away all his courage.

The robber could only be audacious, not courageous.

"Hold your cap."

Sarvoelgyi shovelled the heap of silver coins into the robber's cap.

"Now perhaps you can believe it is not fear that makes me confide in you?"

"A plague upon you. How you alarmed me!"

"Well, now collect your wits and listen to me."

The robber stuffed the money into his pockets and listened with contracted eyebrows.

"You may see it was not I who stole your money; for, had I done so, I should just now have planted two bullets in your carcass, one in your heart, the other in your skull. And I should have got one hundred gold pieces by it, that being the price on your head."

The robber smiled bashfully, like one who is flattered. He took it as a compliment that the county had put a price of one hundred gold pieces on his head.

"You may be quite sure that it was not I, but those folks yonder, who took away your money."

"The highwaymen!"

"You are right—highwaymen:—worse even than that. Atheists! The earth will be purified if they are wiped out. He who kills them is doing as just an action as the man that shoots a wolf or a hawk."

"True, true;" Kandur nodded assent.

"This rogue who stole away your daughter laid a snare for another innocent creature. He must have two, one for his right hand, the other for his left. And when the persecuted innocent girl escaped from the deceiver to my house and became my wife, those folks yonder swore deadly revenge against me. Because I rescued an innocent soul from the cave of crime, they thrice wished to slay me. Once they poured poison into my drinking-well. Fortunately the horses drank of the water first and all fell sick from it. Then they drove mad dogs out in the streets, when I was walking there, to tear me to pieces. They sent me letters, which, had I opened them, would have gone off in my hands and blown me to pieces. These malicious fellows wish to kill me."

"I understand."

"That young stripling thinks that if he succeeds he can carry off my wife too, so as to have her for his mistress one day, Czipra, your daughter, the next."

"You make my anger boil within me!"

"They acknowledge neither God nor law. They do as they please. When did you last see your daughter?"

"Two weeks ago."

"Did you not see how worn she is? That cursed fellow has enchanted her and is spoiling her."

"I'll spoil his head!"

"What will you do with him?"

Kandur showed, with the knife in his hand, what he would do—bury that in his heart and twist it round therein.

"How will you get at him? He has always a gun in the daytime: he acts as if he were going a-shooting. At night the castle is strongly locked, and they are always on the lookout for an attack,—they too are audacious fellows."

"Just leave it to me. Don't have any fears. What Kandur undertakes is well executed. Crick, crick: that's how I shall break both the fellows' necks."

"You are a clever rascal. You showed that in your way of getting at me! You may do the same there, by dressing your men as fiddlers and clarinet-players."

"Oh ho! Don't think of it. Kandur doesn't play the same joke twice. I shall find the man I want."

"I've still something to say. It would be good if you could have them under control before they die."

"I know—make them confess where they have put my money which they stole?"

"Don't begin with that. Supposing they will not confess?"

"Have no fears on that score. I know how to drive screws under finger-nails, to strap up heads, so that a man would even confess to treasures hidden in his father's coffin."

"Listen to me. Do what I say. Don't try long to trace your stolen money: it's not much—a couple of thousand florins. If you don't find it, I shall give you as much—as much as you can carry in your knapsack. You can, however, find something else there."

"What?"

"A letter, sealed with five black seals."

"A letter? with five black seals?"

"And to prevent them making a fool of you, and blinding you with some other letter which you cannot read, note the arms on the respective seals. On the first is a fish-tailed mermaid, holding a half-moon in her hand—those are the Aronffy arms:—on the second a stork, three ears of corn in its talons—those are the High Sheriff's arms: on the third a semi-circle, from which a unicorn is proceeding,—those are the Nyarady arms; the fourth is a crown in a hand holding a sword—those are the lawyer's arms. The fifth, which must be in the middle, bears Topandy's arms,—a crowned snake."

The robber reckoned after him on his fingers:

"Mermaid with half moon—stork with ears of corn—a half circle with unicorn—crown with sword-hand—snake with crown. I shall not forget. And what do you want the letter for?"

"That too I shall explain to you, that you may see into the innermost depths of my thoughts and may judge how seriously I long to see the completion of that which I have entrusted to you. That letter is Topandy's latest will. While my wife was living with him, Topandy, believing she would wed his nephew, left his fortune to his niece and her future husband, and handed it in to the county court to be guarded. But when his niece became my wife, he wrote a new will, and had all those, whose arms I have mentioned, sign it; then he sealed it but did not send it to the court like the former one; he kept it here to make the jest all the greater, thinking we stand by the former will. Then, the latter will comes to light, making void the former—and excluding my wife from all."

"Aha! I see now what a clever fellow you are!"

"Well, could that five-sealed letter come into my hands, and old Topandy die by chance, without being able to write another will—well, you know what that little paper might be worth in my hands?"

"Of course. Castle, property, everything. All that would fall to you—the old will would give it you. I understand: I see—now I know what a wise fellow you are!"

"Do you believe now that if you come to me with that letter...."

The robber bent nearer confidingly, and whispered in his ear:

"And with the news that your neighbors died suddenly and could not write another."

"Then you need have no fear as to how much money you will get in place of what they stole. You may go off with your daughter to Tartary, where no one will prosecute you."

"Excellent—couldn't be better. Leave the rest to me. Two days later Kandur will have no need to indulge in such work."

Then he began to count on his fingers, as if he were reckoning to himself.

"Well, in the first place, I get money—in the second, I have my revenge—in the third, I take away Czipra,—in the fourth, I shall have my fill of human blood,—in the fifth, I get money again.—It shall be done."

The two shook hands on the bargain. The robber left by the same door through which he had entered; Sarvoelgyi went to bed, like one who has done his business well; and in the corridor the gypsies still played the newest waltz, which Melanie and Madame Balnokhazy were enjoying with flushed faces amidst the gay assembly.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE ENCHANTMENT OF LOVE

How many secrets there are under the sun, awaiting discovery!

Books have been written about the superstitions of nations long since passed away: men of science have collected the enchantments of people from all quarters of the globe: yet of one thing they have not spoken yet: of that unending myth, which lives unceasingly and is born again in woman's heart and in the heated atmosphere of love.

Sweet are the enchantments of love!

"If I drink unseen from thy glass, and thou dost drain it after me:—thou drinkest love therefrom, and shalt pine for me, darling, as I have pined for thee.

"If at night I awake in dreams of thee and turn my pillow under my head: thou too wilt have as sweet dreams of me, as I of thee, my darling.

"If I bind my ring to a lock of thy hair thou hast given me, and cast the same into a glass, as often as it beats against the side of the glass, so many years wilt thou love me, darling.

"If I can sew a lock of my hair into the edge of thy linen garment, thy heart will pine for me, as often as thou puttest the same on, my darling.

"If, in thinking of thee, I pricked my finger, thou wert then faithless to me, darling.

"If the door opens of itself, thou wert then thinking of me, and thy sigh opened the door, my darling.

"If a star shoots in the sky, and I suddenly utter thy name as it shoots, thou must then at once think of me, darling.

"If my ear tingles, I hear news of thee: if my cheeks burn, thou art speaking of me, my darling.

"If my scissors fall down and remain upright, I shall see thee soon, darling.

"If the candle runs down upon me, then thou dost love another, my darling.

"If my ring turns upon my finger, then thou wilt be the cause of my death, darling."

In every object, in every thought lives the mythology of love, like the old-world deities with which poets personified grass, wood, stream, ocean and sky.

The petals of the flowers speak of it, ask whether he loves or not: the birds of song on the house-tops: everything converses of love: and what maiden is there who does not believe what they say?

Poor maidens!

If they but knew how little men deserved that the world of prose should receive its polytheism of love from them!

Poor Czipra!

What a slave she was to her master!

Her slavery was greater than that of the Creole maiden whose every limb grows tired in the service of her master:—every thought of hers served her lord.

From morn till even, nothing but hope, envy, tender flattery, trembling anxiety, the ecstasy of delight, the bitterness of resignation, the burning ravings of passion, and cold despair, striving unceasingly with each other, interchanging, gaining new sustenance from every word, every look of the youth she worshipped.

And then from twilight till dawn ever the same struggle, even in dreams.

"If I were thy dog, you would not treat me so."

That is what she once said to Lorand.

And why? Perhaps because he passed her without so much as shaking hands with her.

And at another time:

"Were I in Heaven, I could not be happier."

Perhaps a fleeting embrace had made her happy again.

How little is enough to bring happiness or sorrow to poor maidens.

One day an old gypsy woman came by chance into the courtyard.

In the country it is not the custom to drive away these poor vagrants: they receive corn, and scraps of meat: they must live, too.

Then they tell fortunes. Who would not wish to have his fortune so cheaply.

And the gypsy woman's deceitful eye very soon finds out whose fortune to tell, and how to tell it.

But Czipra was not glad to see her.

She was annoyed at the idea that the woman might recognize her by her red-brown complexion, and her burning black eyes, and might betray her origin before the servants. She tried to escape notice.

But the gypsy woman did remark the beautiful girl and addressed her as "my lady."

"I kiss your dear little feet, my lady."

"My lady? Don't you see I am a servant, and cook in the kitchen: my sleeves are tucked up and I wear an apron."

"But surely not. A serving maid does not hold her head so upright and cannot show her anger so. If your ladyship frowns on me I feel like hiding in the corner, just to escape from the anger in your eyes."

"Well if you know so much, you must also know that I am married, fool!"

The gypsy woman slyly winked.

"I am no fool: my eyes are not bad. I know the wild dove from the tame. You are no married woman, young lady: you are still a maiden. I have looked into the eyes of many girls and women: I know which is which. A girl's eye lurks beneath the eyelids, as if she were looking always out of an ambuscade, as if she were always afraid somebody would notice her. A woman's eye always flashes as if she were looking for somebody. When a girl says in jest 'I am a married woman,' she blushes: if she were a woman, she would smile. You are certainly still unmarried, young lady."

Czipra was annoyed at having opened a conversation with her. She felt that her face was really burning. She hastened to the open fire-place, driving the servant away that she might put her burning face down to the flaming fire.

The gypsy woman became more obtrusive, seeing she had put the girl to confusion. She sidled up to her.

"I see more, beautiful young lady. The girl that blushes quickly has much sorrow and many desires. Your ladyship has joy and sorrow too."

"Oh, away with you!" exclaimed Czipra hastily.

It is not so easy to get rid of a gypsy woman, once she has firmly planted her foot.

"Yet I know a very good remedy for that."

"I have already told you to be off."

"Which will make the bridegroom as tame as a lamb that always runs after its mistress."

"I don't want your remedies."

"It is no potion I am talking of, merely an enchantment."

"Throw her out!" Czipra commanded the servants.

"You won't throw me out, girls: rather listen to what I say. Which of you would like to know what you must do to enchant the young fellows so that even if every particle of them were full of falsity, they could not deceive you in their affection. Well, Susie: I see you're laughing at it. And you, Kati? Why, I saw your Joseph speaking to the bailiff's daughter at the fence: this spell would do him no harm."

All the grinning serving-maids, instead of rescuing Czipra from the woman, only assisted the latter in her siege. They surrounded her and even cut off Czipra's way, waiting curiously for what the gypsy would say.

"It is a harmless remedy, and costs nothing."

The gypsy woman drew nearer to Czipra.

"When at midnight the nightingale sings below your window, take notice on what branch it sat. Go out bare-footed, break down that branch, set it in a flower-pot, put it in your window, sprinkle it with water from your mouth: before the branch droops, your lover will return, and will never leave you again."

The girls laughed loudly at the gypsy woman's enchantment.

The woman held her hand out before Czipra in cringing supplication.

"Dear, beautiful young lady, scorn not to reward me with something for the blessing of God."

Czipra's pocket was always full of all kinds of small coins, of all values, according to the custom of those days—when one man had to be paid in coppers, another in silver. Czipra filled her hand and began to search among the mass for the smallest copper, a kreutzer,[76] as the correct alms for a beggar.

[Footnote 76: One-half of a penny.]

"Golden lady," the gypsy woman thanked her. "I have just such a girl at home for sale, not so beautiful as you, but just as tall. She too has a bridegroom, who will take her off as soon as he can."

Czipra now began to choose from the silver coins.

"But he cannot take her, for we have not money enough to pay the priest."

Czipra picked out the largest of the silver coins and gave it to the gypsy woman.

The latter blessed her for it. "May God reward you with a handsome bridegroom, true in love till death!"

Then she shuffled on her way from the house.

Czipra reflectingly hummed to herself the refrain:

"A gypsy woman was my mother."

And Czipra meditated.

How prettily thought speaks! If only the tongue could utter all the dumb soul speaks to itself!

"Why art thou what thou art?

"Whether another's or mine, if only I had never seen thee!

"Either love me in return, or do not ask me to love thee at all.

"Be either cold or warm, but not lukewarm.

"If in passing me, thou didst neither look at me, nor turn away, that would be good too: if sitting beside me thou shouldst draw me to thee, thou wouldst make me happy:—thou comest, smilest into mine eyes, graspest my hand, speakest tenderly to me, and then passest by.

"A hundred times I think that, if thou dost not address me, I shall address thee: if thou dost not ask me, I shall look into thine eyes, and shall ask thee:

"'Dost thou love me?'

"If thou lovest, love truly.

"Why, I do not ask thee to bring down the moon from the heavens to me: merely, to pluck the rose from the branch.

"If thou pluckest it, thou canst tear it, and scatter its leaves upon the earth, thou must not wear it in thy hat, and answer with blushes, if they ask thee who gave it thee. Thou canst destroy it and tear it. A gypsy girl gave it.

"If thou lovest, why dost thou not love truly? If thou dost not love me, why dost thou follow me?

"If thou knewest thou didst not love me, why didst thou decoy me into thy net?

"He has cast a spell upon me: yet I would be of the race of witches.

"I know nothing. I am no wizard, my eye has no power.

"If I address him once, I kill him and myself.

"Or perhaps only myself.

"And shall I not speak?"

The poor girl's heart was full of reverie, but her eyes, her mouth, and her hand were busy with domestic work: she did not sit to gaze at the stars, to mourn over her instrument: she looked to her work, and they said "she is an enthusiastic housekeeper."

"Good day, Czipra."

She had even observed that Lorand was approaching her from behind, when she was whipping out cream in the corridor, and he greeted her very tenderly.

She expected him at least to stop as long as at other times to ask what she was cooking; and she would have answered with another question:

"Tell me now, what do you like?"

But he did not even stop: he had come upon her quite by chance, and as he could not avoid her, uttered a mere "good day:" then passed by. He was looking for Topandy.

Topandy was waiting for him in his room and was busy reading a letter he had just opened.

"Well, my boy," he said, handing Lorand the letter, "That is the overture of the opera."

Lorand took the letter, which began: "I offer my respects to Mr. ——"

"This is a summons?"

"You may see from the greeting. The High Sheriff informs me that to-morrow morning he will be here to hold the legal inquiry: you must give orders to the servants for to-morrow."

"Sir, you still continue to take it as a joke."

"And a curious joke too. How well I shall sweep the streets! Ha, ha!"

"Ah!"

"In chains too. I always mocked my swine-herd, who for a year and a half wore out the county court's chains. Ever since he walks with a shambling step, as if one leg was always trying to avoid knocking the other with the chain. Now we can both laugh at each other."

"It would be good to engage a lawyer."

"It will certainly be better to send a sucking pig to the gaoler. Against such pricks, my boy, there is no kicking. This is like a cold bath: if a man enters slowly, bit by bit, his teeth chatter: if he springs in at once, it is even pleasant. Let us talk of more serious matters."

"I just came because I wish to speak to my uncle about a very serious matter."

"Well, out with it."

"I intend to marry Czipra."

Topandy looked long into the young fellow's face, and then said coldly,

"Why will you marry her?"

"Because she is an honest, good girl."

Topandy shook his head.

"That is not sufficient reason for marrying her."

"And is faithful to me. I owe her many debts of gratitude. When I was ill, no sister could have nursed me more tenderly: if I was sad, her sorrow exceeded my own."

"That is not sufficient reason, either."

"And because I am raised above the prejudices of the world."

"Aha! magnanimity! Liberal ostentation? That is not sufficient reason either for taking Czipra to wife. The neighboring Count took his housekeeper to wife, just in order that people might speak of him: you have not even the merit of originality. Still not sufficient reason for marrying her."

"I shall take her to wife, because I love her...."

Topandy immediately softened: his usual strain of sarcastic scorn gave way to a gentler impulse.

"That's another thing. That is the only reason that can justify your marriage with her. How long have you loved her?"

"I cannot count the days. I was always pleased to see her: I always knew I loved her like a good sister. The other I worshipped as an angel: and as soon as she ceased to be an angel for me, as a mere woman I felt none of the former fire towards her: nothing remained, not even smoke nor ashes. But this girl, whose every foible I know, whose beauty was enhanced by no reverie, whom I only saw as she really is,—I love her now, as a faithful woman, who repays love in true coin: and I shall marry her—not out of gratitude, but because she has filled my heart."

"If that is all you want, you will find that. What shall you do first?"

"I shall first write to my mother, and tell her I have found this rough diamond whom she must accept as her daughter: then I shall take Czipra to her, and she shall stay there until she is baptized and I take her away again."

"I am very thankful that you will take all the burden of this ceremony off my shoulders. What must be done by priests, do without my seeing it. When shall you tell Czipra?"

"As soon as mother's answer comes back."

"And if your mother opposes the marriage?"

"I shall answer for that."

"Still it is possible. She may have other aims for you. What should you do then?"

"Then?" said Lorand reflectively: after a long pause he added: "Poor mother has had so much sorrow on my account."

"I know that."

"She has pardoned me all."

"She loves you better than her other son."

"And I love her better than I loved my father."

"That is a hard saying."

"But if she said 'You must give up forever either this girl or me,' I would answer her, and my heart would break, 'Mother, tear me from your heart, but I shall go with my wife.'"

Topandy offered his hand to Lorand.

"That was well said."

"But I have no anxiety about it. Mountebank pride never found a place in our family: we have sought for happiness, not for vain connections, and Czipra belongs to those girls whom women love even better than men. I have a good friend at home, my brother, and my dear sister-in-law will use her influence in my favor."

"And you have an advocate elsewhere, in one who, despite all his godlessness, has a man's feelings, and will say: 'The girl has no name; here is mine, let her take that.'"

Topandy did not try to prevent Lorand from kissing his hand.

* * * * *

Poor Czipra! Why did she not hear this?



CHAPTER XXVII

WHEN THE NIGHTINGALE SINGS

The night following upon this day was a sleepless one for Czipra.

Every door of the castle was already closed: it was Lorand's custom to look for himself and see that the bolts were firmly fastened. Then he would knock at Czipra's door and bid her good-night; Czipra reciprocated the good wish, and Lorand turned into his room. The last creaking door was silent.

"Good night! Good night! But who gives the good night?"

Every day Czipra felt more strongly what an interminable void can exist in a heart which lacks—God.

If it sorrows, to whom shall it complain?—if it has aspirations to whom can it pray? if terrors threaten it, to whom shall it appeal for help and courage? if in despair, from whom shall it ask hope?

When the heavy beating of her heart prevents a poor girl from closing her eyes, she tosses sleeplessly where she lies, agonised with unknown suspicions, and there is no one before her mind, from whom she can ask, "Lord, is this a presentiment of my approaching death, or my approaching health? What annoys, what terrifies, what allures, what fills my heart with a sweet thrill? Oh, Lord, be with me."

The poor neglected girl only felt this, but could not express it.

She knelt on her bed, clasped her hands on her breast, raised her face, and collected every thought of her heart—how ought one to pray? What may be that word, which should bring God nearer? What sayings, what enchantments could bring the Great Being, the all-powerful, down from the heavens? What philosophy was that, which all men concealed from one another and only spoke of to each other in secret, in the form of letters, which opened to erring humanity the road leading to the home of an invisible being? How did it begin? How end? What an awful heart-agony, not to know how to pray,—just to kneel so with a heart full of crying aspirations, and dumb lips! How weak the voice of a sobbing sigh, how terribly far the starry heavens—who could hear there?

Yet there is One who hears!

And there is One who notes the unexpressed prayer of the silent suppliant, One who hears the unuttered words.

Poor girl! She did not imagine that this feeling, this exaltation, was prayer—not the words, not the sermon, not addresses, not the amens. He who sees into hearts—reads from hearts, does not estimate the elegance of words.

In the same hour that the suffering girl knelt thus dumbly before the Lord of all happiness, that man whom she had worshipped in her heart so long, whom she must worship forever, was sitting just as sleeplessly beside his writing-table, separated from her only by two walls, and was thinking and writing about her, and often wiped his eyes that filled betimes with tears.

He was writing to his mother about his engagement.

About the poor gypsy girl.

* * * * *

In the dim light of the beautiful starry night twelve horsemen were following in each others' tracks among the reeds of the morass.

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