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Prince Zilah, v3 by Jules Claretie

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This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]

PRINCE ZILAH

By JULES CLARETIE

BOOK 3.

CHAPTER XXIV

A LITTLE PARISIAN ROMANCE

The very evening of the day when the package of letters had killed in
Andras all happiness and all faith, the Hungarian prince presented
himself in the Rue d'Aumale, to seek Michel Menko.

Menko! That boy whom he had loved almost as a brother, that man for whom
he had hoped a glorious future, Michel, Michel Menko, had betrayed him,
and struck him with the perfidy of a coward. Yes, at the door of the
church, when it was too late, or rather, at a time when the blow would be
surer and the wound more deadly--then Menko had said to him: "My dear
Prince, the woman whom you love, the woman whom you have married, has
been my mistress. Here, read, see how she loved me!"

Had Michel been before him, Andras would have seized the young man by the
throat, and strangled him on the spot; but, when he reached the Rue
d'Aumale, he did not find Menko.

"The Count left town yesterday," said the servant, in answer to his
question.

"Yesterday! Where has he gone?"

"The Count must have taken the steamer to-day at Havre for New York.
The Count did not tell us exactly where he was going, however, but to
America, somewhere. We only know, the coachman Pierre, and myself, that
the Count will not return again to Paris. We are still in his service,
however, and are to await his orders."

Hesitating a little, the servant added:

"Have I not the honor to speak to Prince Zilah?"

"Why?" asked Andras.

The valet replied with a humble but very sincere air:

"Because, if Monseigneur should hear from the Count, and there is any
question of the package which I took to Maisons-Lafitte this morning for
Monseigneur--"

"Well?" said Andras.

"Monseigneur would greatly oblige me if he would not let the Count know
that I did not fulfil his orders last evening."

"Last evening? What do you mean? Explain yourself!" said the Prince,
sternly.

"When he left yesterday, the Count expressly ordered me to take the
package to Monseigneur that very evening. I beg Monseigneur's pardon;
but I had an invitation to a wedding, and I did not carry out the Count's
instructions until this morning. But, as Monseigneur was not at home,
I took the train to Maisons-Lafitte. I hope that I did not arrive too
late. The Count was very particular about it, and I should be very sorry
if my negligence has done any harm."

Andras listened, gazing intently upon the face of the servant, who was a
little discountenanced by this silent inquisition.

"So Count Menko wished the package to be delivered to me yesterday?"

"I beg Monseigneur not to tell the Count that he was not obeyed."

"Yesterday?" repeated Andras.

"Yes, yesterday, Monseigneur. The Count departed, thinking it would be
done; and, indeed, he had a right to think so. I am very careful,
Monseigneur, very careful; and if Monseigneur should some day have need
of a--"

The Prince stopped the valet with a gesture. It was repugnant to Andras
to have this man mixed up in a secret of his life; and such a secret!
But the domestic was evidently ignorant what a commission Menko had
confided to him: in his eyes, the package, containing such letters, was
like any other package. Andras was persuaded of this by the attitude of
the man, humiliated at having failed in his duty.

A word more exchanged with the valet, and Andras would have felt
humiliated himself. But he had gained from the conversation the idea
that Menko had not wished to insult him in his happiness, but to reveal
all to him before the ceremony had yet been celebrated. It was as
atrocious, but not so cowardly. Menko had wished to attack Marsa, rather
than Andras; this was visible in the express commands given to his valet.
And upon what a trifle had it depended, whether the name of Zilah should
be borne by this woman! Upon what? Upon a servant's feast! Life is
full of strange chances. The hands of that low-born valet had held for
hours his happiness and his honor--his honor, Andras Zilah's--the honor
of all his race!

The Prince returned to his hotel, which he had left that morning thinking
that he would soon bring there the woman he then adored, but whom he now
despised and hated. Oh! he would know where Menko had gone; him he could
punish; as for Marsa, she was now dead to him.

But where, in the whirlpool of the New World, would this Michel Menko
disappear? and how could he find him?

The days passed; and Zilah had acquired almost the certainty that Menko
had not embarked at Havre. Perhaps he had not quitted Europe. He might,
some day or another, in spite of what the valet had said, reappear in
Paris; and then--

Meanwhile, the Prince led the life of a man wounded to the heart; seeking
solitude, and shutting himself in his hotel, in the Rue Balzac, like a
wolf in his den; receiving no one but Varhely, and sometimes treating
even old Yanski coldly; then, suddenly emerging from his retirement,
and trying to take up his life again; appearing at the meetings of the
Hungarian aid society, of which he was president; showing himself at the
races, at the theatre, or even at Baroness Dinati's; longing to break the
dull monotony of his now ruined life; and, with a sort of bravado,
looking society and opinion full in the face, as if to surprise a smile
or a sneer at his expense, and punish it.

He had, however, no right to complain of the sentiment which was felt
for him, for every one respected and admired him. At first, it is true,
society, and in particular that society of Parisian foreigners in which
Prince Andras mingled, had tried to find out why he had broken so
suddenly with the woman he had certainly married for love. Public
curiosity, aroused and excited, had sought to divine the secret of the
romance. "If it does not get into the newspapers," they said, "it will
be fortunate." And society was even astonished that the journals had not
already discovered the key to this Parisian mystery.

But society, after all as fickle as it is curious (one of its little
vices chasing away the other), turned suddenly to another subject; forgot
the rupture of Marsa and Andras, and saw in Zilah only a superior being,
whose lofty soul forced respect from the frivolous set accustomed to
laugh at everything.

A lofty soul, yes, but a soul in torment. Varhely alone, among them all,
knew anything of the suffering which Andras endured. He was no longer
the same man. His handsome face, with its kindly eyes and grave smile,
was now constantly overshadowed. He spoke less, and thought more.
On the subject of his sadness and his grief, Andras never uttered a word
to any one, not even to his old friend; and Yanski, silent from the day
when he had been an unconscious messenger of ill, had not once made any
allusion to the past.

Although he knew nothing, Varhely had, nevertheless, guessed everything,
and at once. The blow was too direct and too cruelly simple for the old
Hungarian not to have immediately exclaimed, with rage:

"Those were love-letters, and I gave them to him! Idiot that I was! I
held those letters in my hand; I might have destroyed them, or crammed
them one by one down Menko's throat! But who could have suspected such
an infamy? Menko! A man of honor! Ah, yes; what does honor amount to
when there is a woman in question? Imbecile! And it is irreparable now,
irreparable!"

Varhely also was anxious to know where Menko had gone. They did not know
at the Austro-Hungarian embassy. It was a complete disappearance,
perhaps a suicide. If the old Hungarian had met the young man, he would
at least have gotten rid of part of his bile. But the angry thought that
he, Varhely, had been associated in a vile revenge which had touched
Andras, was, for the old soldier, a constant cause for ill-humor with
himself, and a thing which, in a measure, poisoned his life.

Varhely had long been a misanthrope himself; but he tried to struggle
against his own temperament when he saw Andras wrapping himself up in
bitterness and gloomy thoughts.

Little by little, Zilah allowed himself to sink into that state where not
only everything becomes indifferent to us, but where we long for another
suffering, further pain, that we may utter more bitter cries, more
irritated complaints against fate. It seems then that everything is dark
about us, and our endless night is traversed by morbid visions, and
peopled with phantoms. The sick man--for the one who suffers such
torture is sick--would willingly seek a new sorrow, like those wounded
men who, seized with frenzy, open their wounds themselves, and irritate
them with the point of a knife. Then, misanthropy and disgust of life
assume a phase in which pain is not without a certain charm. There is a
species of voluptuousness in this appetite for suffering, and the
sufferer becomes, as it were, enamored of his own agony.

With Zilah, this sad state was due to a sort of insurrection of his
loyalty against the many infamies to be met with in this world, which he
had believed to be only too full of virtues.

He now considered himself an idiot, a fool, for having all his life
adored chimeras, and followed, as children do passing music, the fanfares
of poetic chivalry. Yes, faith, enthusiasm, love, were so many cheats,
so many lies. All beings who, like himself, were worshippers of the
ideal, all dreamers of better things, all lovers of love, were inevitably
doomed to deception, treason, and the stupid ironies of fate. And, full
of anger against himself, his pessimism of to-day sneering at his
confidence of yesterday, he abandoned himself with delight to his
bitterness, and he took keen joy in repeating to himself that the secret
of happiness in this life was to believe in nothing except treachery, and
to defend oneself against men as against wolves.

Very rarely, his real frank, true nature would come to the fore, and he
would say:

"After all, are the cowardice of one man, and the lie of one woman, to be
considered the crime of entire humanity?"

Why should he curse, he would think, other beings than Marsa and Menko?
He had no right to hate any one else; he had no enemy that he knew of,
and he was honored in Paris, his new country.

No enemy? No, not one. And yet, one morning, with his letters, his
valet brought him a journal addressed to "Prince Zilah," and, on
unfolding it, Andras's attention was attracted to two paragraphs in the
column headed "Echoes of Paris," which were marked with a red-lead
pencil.

It was a number of 'L'Actualite', sent through the post by an unknown
hand, and the red marks were evidently intended to point out to the
Prince something of interest to himself.

Andras received few journals. A sudden desire seized him, as if he had a
presentiment of what it contained, to cast this one into the fire without
reading it. For a moment he held it in his fingers ready to throw it
into the grate. Then a few words read by accident invincibly prevented
him.

He read, at first with poignant sorrow, and then with a dull rage, the
two paragraphs, one of which followed the other in the paper.

"A sad piece of news has come to our ears," ran the first paragraph, "a
piece of news which has afflicted all the foreign colony of Paris, and
especially the Hungarians. The lovely and charming Princess Z., whose
beauty was recently crowned with a glorious coronet, has been taken,
after a consultation of the princes of science (there are princes in all
grades), to the establishment of Dr. Sims, at Vaugirard, the rival of the
celebrated asylum of Dr. Luys, at Ivry. Together with the numerous
friends of Prince A. Z., we hope that the sudden malady of the Princess
Z. will be of short duration."

So Marsa was now the patient, almost the prisoner, of Dr. Sims! The
orders of Dr. Fargeas had been executed. She was in an insane asylum,
and Andras, despite himself, felt filled with pity as he thought of it.

But the red mark surrounded both this first "Echo of Paris," and the one
which followed it; and Zilah, impelled now by eager curiosity, proceeded
with his reading.

But he uttered a cry of rage when he saw, printed at full length, given
over to common curiosity, to the eagerness of the public for scandal, and
to the malignity of blockheads, a direct allusion to his marriage--worse
than that, the very history of his marriage placed in an outrageous
manner next to the paragraph in which his name was almost openly written.
The editor of the society journal passed directly from the information in
regard to the illness of Princess Z. to an allegorical tale in which
Andras saw the secret of his life and the wounds of his heart laid bare.

A LITTLE PARISIAN ROMANCE
Like most of the Parisian romances of to-day, the little romance in
question is an exotic one. Paris belongs to foreigners. When the
Parisians, whose names appear in the chronicles of fashion, are not
Americans, Russians, Roumanians, Portuguese, English, Chinese, or
Hungarians, they do not count; they are no longer Parisians. The
Parisians of the day are Parisians of the Prater, of the Newski
Perspective or of Fifth Avenue; they are no longer pureblooded
Parisians. Within ten years from now the boulevards will be
situated in Chicago, and one will go to pass his evenings at the
Eden Theatre of Pekin. So, this is the latest Parisian romance:
Once upon a time there was in Paris a great lord, a Moldavian, or a
Wallachian, or a Moldo-Wallachian (in a word, a Parisian--a Parisian
of the Danube, if you like), who fell in love with a young Greek,
or Turk, or Armenian (also of Paris), as dark-browed as the night,
as beautiful as the day. The great lord was of a certain age, that
is, an uncertain age. The beautiful Athenian or Georgian, or
Circassian, was young. The great lord was generally considered to
be imprudent. But what is to be done when one loves? Marry or
don't marry, says Rabelais or Moliere. Perhaps they both said it.
Well, at all events, the great lord married. It appears, if well-
informed people are to be believed, that the great Wallachian lord
and the beautiful Georgian did not pass two hours after their
marriage beneath the same roof. The very day of their wedding,
quietly, and without scandal, they separated, and the reason of this
rupture has for a long time puzzled Parisian high-life. It was
remarked, however, that the separation of the newly-married pair was
coincident with the disappearance of a very fashionable attache who,
some years ago, was often seen riding in the Bois, and who was then
considered to be the most graceful waltzer of the Viennese, or
Muscovite, or Castilian colony of Paris. We might, if we were
indiscreet, construct a whole drama with these three people for our
dramatis personae,; but we wish to prove that reporters (different
in this from women) sometimes know how to keep a secret. For those
ladies who are, perhaps, still interested in the silky moustaches of
the fugitive ex-diplomat, we can add, however, that he was seen at
Brussels a short time ago. He passed through there like a shooting
star. Some one who saw him noticed that he was rather pale, and
that he seemed to be still suffering from the wounds received not
long ago. As for the beautiful Georgian, they say she is in despair
at the departure of her husband, the great Wallachian lord, who, in
spite of his ill-luck, is really a Prince Charming.

Andras Zilah turned rapidly to the signature of this article. The
"Echoes of Paris" were signed Puck. Puck? Who was this Puck? How could
an unknown, an anonymous writer, a retailer of scandals, be possessed of
his secret? For Andras believed that his suffering was a secret; he had
never had an idea that any one could expose it to the curiosity of the
crowd, as this editor of L'Actualite had done. He felt an increased rage
against the invisible Michel Menko, who had disappeared after his infamy;
and it seemed to him that this Puck, this unknown journalist, was an
accomplice or a friend of Michel Menko, and that, behind the pseudonym of
the writer, he perceived the handsome face, twisted moustache and haughty
smile of the young Count.

"After all," he said to himself, "we shall soon find out. Monsieur Puck
must be less difficult to unearth than Michel Menko."

He rang for his valet, and was about to go out, when Yanski Varhely was
announced.

The old Hungarian looked troubled, and his brows were contracted in a
frown. He could not repress a movement of anger when he perceived, upon
the Prince's table, the marked number of L'Actualite.

Varhely, when he had an afternoon to get rid of, usually went to the
Palais-Royal. He had lived for twenty years not far from there, in a
little apartment near Saint-Roch. Drinking in the fresh air, under the
striped awning of the Cafe de la Rotunde, he read the journals, one after
the other, or watched the sparrows fly about and peck up the grains in
the sand. Children ran here and there, playing at ball; and, above the
noise of the promenaders, arose the music of the brass band.

It was chiefly the political news he sought for in the French or foreign
journals. He ran through them all with his nose in the sheets, which he
held straight out by the wooden file, like a flag. With a rapid glance,
he fell straight upon the Hungarian names which interested him--Deak
sometimes, sometimes Andrassy; and from a German paper he passed to an
English, Spanish, or Italian one, making, as he said, a tour of Europe,
acquainted as he was with almost all European languages.

An hour before he appeared at the Prince's house, he was seated in the
shade of the trees, scanning 'L'Actualite', when he suddenly uttered an
oath of anger (an Hungarian 'teremtete!') as he came across the two
paragraphs alluding to Prince Andras.

Varhely read the lines over twice, to convince himself that he was not
mistaken, and that it was Prince Zilah who was designated with the
skilfully veiled innuendo of an expert journalist. There was no chance
for doubt; the indistinct nationality of the great lord spoken of thinly
veiled the Magyar characteristics of Andras, and the paragraph which
preceded the "Little Parisian Romance" was very skilfully arranged to let
the public guess the name of the hero of the adventure, while giving to
the anecdote related the piquancy of the anonymous, that velvet mask of
scandal-mongers.

Then Varhely had only one idea.

"Andras must not know of this article. He scarcely ever reads the
journals; but some one may have sent this paper to him."

And the old misanthrope hurried to the Prince's hotel, thinking this:
that there always exist people ready to forward paragraphs of this kind.

When he perceived 'L'Actualite' upon the Prince's table, he saw that his
surmise was only too correct, and he was furious with himself for
arriving too late.

"Where are you going?" he asked Andras, who was putting on his gloves.

The Prince took up the marked paper, folded it slowly, and replied:

"I am going out."

"Have you read that paper?"

"The marked part of it, yes."

"You know that that sheet is never read, it has no circulation whatever,
it lives from its advertisements. There is no use in taking any notice
of it."

"If there were question only of myself, I should not take any notice of
it. But they have mixed up in this scandal the name of the woman to whom
I have given my name. I wish to know who did it, and why he did it."

"Oh! for nothing, for fun! Because this Monsieur--how does he sign
himself?--Puck had nothing else to write about."

"It is certainly absurd," remarked Zilah, "to imagine that a man can live
in the ideal. At every step the reality splashes you with mud."

As he spoke, he moved toward the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Varhely again.

"To the office of this journal."

"Do not commit such an imprudence. The article, which has made no stir
as yet, will be read and talked of by all Paris if you take any notice of
it, and it will be immediately commented upon by the correspondents of
the Austrian and Hungarian journals."

"That matters little to me!" said the Prince, resolutely. "Those people
will only do what their trade obliges them to. But, before everything,
I am resolved to do my duty. That is my part in this matter."

"Then I will accompany you."

"No," replied Andras, "I ask you not to do that; but it is probable that
to-morrow I shall request you to serve as my second."

"A duel?"

"Exactly."

"With Monsieur--Puck?"

"With whoever insults me. The name is perfectly immaterial. But since
he escapes me and she is irresponsible--and punished--I regard as an
accomplice of their infamy any man who makes allusion to it with either
tongue or pen. And, my dear Varhely, I wish to act alone. Don't be
angry; I know that in your hands my honor would be as faithfully guarded
as in my own."

"Without any doubt," said Varhely, in an odd tone, pulling his rough
moustache, "and I hope to prove it to you some day."

CHAPTER XXV

THE HOME OF "PUCK"

Prince Zilah did not observe at all the marked significance old Yanski
gave to this last speech. He shook Varhely's hand, entered a cab, and,
casting a glance at the journal in his hands, he ordered the coachman to
drive to the office of 'L'Actualite', Rue Halevy, near the Opera.

The society journal, whose aim was represented by its title, had its
quarters on the third floor in that semi-English section where bars,
excursion agencies, steamboat offices, and manufacturers of travelling-
bags give to the streets a sort of Britannic aspect. The office of
'L'Actualite' had only recently been established there. Prince Zilch
read the number of the room upon a brass sign and went up.

In the outer office there were only two or three clerks at work behind
the grating. None of these had the right to reveal the names hidden
under pseudonyms; they did not even know them. Zilch perceived, through
an open door, the reporters' room, furnished with a long table covered
with pens, ink, and pads of white paper. This room was empty; the
journal was made up in the evening, and the reporters were absent.

"Is there any one who can answer me?" asked the Prince.

"Probably the secretary can," replied a clerk. "Have you a card,
Monsieur? or, if you will write your name upon a bit of paper, it will
do."

Andras did so; the clerk opened a door in the corridor and disappeared.
After a minute or two he reappeared, and said to the Prince:

"If you will follow me, Monsieur Freminwill see you."

Andras found himself in the presence of a pleasant-looking middle-aged
man, who was writing at a modest desk when the Hungarian entered, and who
bowed politely, motioning him to be seated.

As Zilch sat down upon the sofa, there appeared upon the threshold of a
door, opposite the one by which he had entered, a small, dark, elegantly
dressed young man, whom Andras vaguely remembered to have seen somewhere,
he could not tell where. The newcomer was irreproachable in his
appearance, with his clothes built in the latest fashion, snowy linen,
pale gray gloves, silver-headed cane, and a single eyeglass, dangling
from a silken cord.

He bowed to Zilch, and, going up to the secretary, he said, rapidly:

"Well! since Tourillon is away, I will report the Enghien races. I am
going there now. Enghien isn't highly diverting, though. The swells and
the pretty women so rarely go there; they don't affect Enghien any more.
But duty before everything, eh, Fremin?"

"You will have to hurry," said Fremin, looking at his watch, "or you will
miss your train."

"Oh! I have a carriage below."

He clapped his confrere on the shoulder, bowed again to Zilah, and
hurried away, while Fremin, turning to the Prince, said:

"I am at your service, Monsieur," and waited for him to open the
conversation.

Zilah drew from his pocket the copy of L'Actualite, and said, very
quietly:

"I should like to know, Monsieur, who is meant in this article here."

And, folding the paper, with the passage which concerned him uppermost,
he handed it to the secretary.

Fremin glanced at the article.

"Yes, I have seen this paragraph," he said; "but I am entirely ignorant
to whom it alludes. I am not even certain that it is not a fabrication,
invented out of whole cloth."

"Ah!" said Zilah. "The author of the article would know, I suppose?"

"It is highly probable," replied Fremin, with a smile.

"Will you tell me, then, the name of the person who wrote this?"

"Isn't the article signed?"

"It is signed Puck. That is not a name."

"A pseudonym is a name in literature," said Fremin. "I am of the
opinion, however, that one has always the right to demand to see a face
which is covered by a mask. But the person who makes this demand should
be personally interested. Does this story, to which you have called my
attention, concern you, Monsieur?"

"Suppose, Monsieur," answered Zilah, a little disconcerted, for he
perceived that he had to do with a courteous, well-bred man, "suppose
that the man who is mentioned, or rather insulted, here, were my best
friend. I wish to demand an explanation of the person who wrote this
article, and to know, also, if it was really a journalist who composed
those lines."

"You mean?--"

"I mean that there may be people interested in having such an article
published, and I wish to know who they are."

"You are perfectly justified, Monsieur; but only one person can tell you
that--the writer of the article."

"It is for that reason, Monsieur, that I desire to know his name."

"He does not conceal it," said Fremin. "The pseudonym is only designed
as a stimulant to curiosity; but Puck is a corporeal being."

"I am glad to hear it," said Zilah. "Now, will you be kind enough to
give me his name?"

"Paul Jacquemin."

Zilah knew the name well, having seen it at the end of a report of his
river fete; but he hardly thought Jacquemin could be so well informed.
Since he had lived in France, the Hungarian exile had not been accustomed
to regard Paris as a sort of gossiping village, where everything is found
out, talked over, and commented upon with eager curiosity, and where
every one's aim is to appear to have the best and most correct
information.

"I must ask you now, Monsieur, where Monsieur Paul Jacquemin lives?"

"Rue Rochechouart, at the corner of the Rue de la Tour d'Auvergne."

"Thank you, Monsieur," said Andras, rising, the object of his call having
been accomplished.

"One moment," said Fremin, "if you intend to go at once to Monsieur
Jacquemin's house, you will not find him at home just now."

"Why not?"

"Because you saw him here a few minutes ago, and he is now on his way to
Enghien."

"Indeed!" said the Prince. "Very well, I will wait."

He bade farewell to Fremin, who accompanied him to the door; and, when
seated in his carriage, he read again the paragraph of Puck--that Puck,
who, in the course of the same article, referred many times to the
brilliancy of "our colleague Jacquemin," and complacently cited the
witticisms of "our clever friend Jacquemin."

Zilah remembered this Jacquemin now. It was he whom he had seen taking
notes upon the parapet of the quay, and afterward at the wedding, where
he had been brought by the Baroness Dinati. It was Jacquemin who was
such a favorite with the little Baroness; who was one of the licensed
distributors of celebrity and quasi-celebrity for all those who live upon
gossip and for gossip-great ladies who love to see their names in print,
and actresses wild over a new role; who was one of the chroniclers of
fashion, received everywhere, flattered, caressed, petted; whom the
Prince had just seen, very elegant with his stick and eyeglass, and his
careless, disdainful air; and who had said, like a man accustomed to
every magnificence, fatigued with luxury, blase with pleasure, and caring
only for what is truly pschutt (to use the latest slang): "Pretty women
so rarely go there!"

Zilah thought that, as the Baroness had a particular predilection for
Jacquemin, it was perhaps she, who, in her gay chatter, had related the
story to the reporter, and who, without knowing it probably, assuredly
without wishing it, had furnished an article for 'L'Actualite'. In all
honor, Jacquemin was really the spoiled child of the Baroness, the
director of the entertainments at her house. With a little more conceit,
Jacquemin, who was by no means lacking in that quality, however, might
have believed that the pretty little woman was in love with him. The
truth is, the Baroness Dinati was only in love with the reporter's
articles, those society articles in which he never forgot her, but paid,
with a string of printed compliments, for his champagne and truffles.

"And yet," thought Zilah, "no, upon reflection, I am certain that the
Baroness had nothing to do with this outrage. Neither with intention nor
through imprudence would she have given any of these details to this
man."

Now that the Prince knew his real name, he might have sent to Monsieur
Puck, Varhely, and another of his friends. Jacquemin would then give an
explanation; for of reparation Zilah thought little. And yet, full of
anger, and not having Menko before him, he longed to punish some one;
he wished, that, having been made to suffer so himself, some one should
expiate his pain. He would chastise this butterfly reporter, who had
dared to interfere with his affairs, and wreak his vengeance upon him as
if he were the coward who had fled. And, besides, who knew, after all,
if this Jacquemin were not the confidant of Menko? Varhely would not
have recognized in the Prince the generous Zilah of former times, full of
pity, and ready to forgive an injury.

Andras could not meet Jacquemin that day, unless he waited for him at the
office of 'L'Actualite' until the races were over, and he therefore
postponed his intended interview until the next day.

About eleven o'clock in the morning, after a sleepless night, he sought-
the Rue Rochechouart, and the house Fremin had described to him. It was
there: an old weather-beaten house, with a narrow entrance and a
corridor, in the middle of which flowed a dirty, foul-smelling stream of
water; the room of the concierge looked like a black hole at the foot of
the staircase, the balusters and walls of which were wet with moisture
and streaked with dirt; a house of poor working-people, many stories
high, and built in the time when this quarter of Paris was almost a
suburb.

Andras hesitated at first to enter, thinking that he must be mistaken.
He thought of little Jacquemin, dainty and neat as if he had just stepped
out of a bandbox, and his disdainful remarks upon the races of Enghien,
where the swells no longer went. It was not possible that he lived here
in this wretched, shabby place.

The concierge replied to the Prince, however, when he asked for
Jacquemin: "Yes, Monsieur, on the fifth floor, the door to the right;"
and Zilah mounted the dark stairs.

When he reached the fifth floor, he did not yet believe it possible that
the Jacquemin who lived there was the one he had seen the day before, the
one whom Baroness Dinati petted, "our witty colleague Jacquemin."

He knocked, however, at the door on the right, as he had been directed.
No one came to open it; but he could hear within footsteps and indistinct
cries. He then perceived that there was a bell-rope, and he pulled it.
Immediately he heard some one approaching from within.

He felt a singular sensation of concentrated anger, united to a fear that
the Jacquemin he was in search of was not there.

The door opened, and a woman appeared, young, rather pale, with pretty
blond hair, somewhat disheveled, and dressed in a black skirt, with a
white dressing-sack thrown over her shoulders.

She smiled mechanically as she opened the door, and, as she saw a strange
face, she blushed crimson, and pulled her sack together beneath her chin,
fastening it with a pin.

"Monsieur Jacquemin?" said Andras, taking off his hat.

"Yes, Monsieur, he lives here," replied the young woman, a little
astonished.

"Monsieur Jacquemin, the journalist?" asked Andras.

"Yes, yes, Monsieur," she answered with a proud little smile, which Zilah
was not slow to notice. She now opened the door wide, and said, stepping
aside to let the visitor pass:

"Will you take the trouble to come in, Monsieur?" She was not accustomed
to receive calls (Jacquemin always making his appointments at the
office); but, as the stranger might be some one who brought her husband
work, as she called it, she was anxious not to let him go away before she
knew what his errand was.

"Please come in, Monsieur!"

The Prince entered, and, crossing the entry in two steps, found himself
in a small dining-room opening directly out of the kitchen, where three
tiny little children were playing, the youngest, who could not have been
more than eighteen months, crawling about on the floor. Upon the ragged
oilcloth which covered the table, Zilah noticed two pairs of men's
gloves, one gray, the other yellow, and a heap of soiled white cravats.
Upon a wooden chair, by the open door of the kitchen, was a tub full of
shirts, which the young woman had doubtless been washing when the bell
rang.

The cries Zilah had heard came from the children, who were now silent,
staring at the tall gentleman, who looked at them in surprise.

The young woman was small and very pretty, but with the pallor of fatigue
and overwork; her lips were beautifully chiselled, but almost colorless;
and she was so thin that her figure had the frail appearance of an
unformed girl.

"Will you sit down, Monsieur?" she asked, timidly, advancing a cane-
bottomed chair.

Everything in these poor lodgings was of the most shabby description.
In a cracked mirror with a broken frame were stuck cards of invitation,
theatre checks, and race tickets admitting to the grand stand. Upon a
cheap little table with broken corners was a heap of New Year's cards,
bonbon boxes, and novels with soiled edges. Upon the floor, near the
children, were some remnants of toys; and the cradle in which the baby
slept at night was pushed into a corner with a child's chair, the arms of
which were gone.

Zilah was both astonished and pained. He had not expected to encounter
this wretched place, the poorly clad children, and the woman's timid
smile.

"Is Monsieur Jacquemin at home?" he asked abruptly, desiring to leave at
once if the man whom he sought was not there.

"No, Monsieur; but he will not be long away. Sit down, Monsieur,
please!"

She entreated so gently, with such an uneasy air at the threatened
departure of this man who had doubtless brought some good news for her
husband, that the Prince mechanically obeyed, thinking again that there
was evidently some mistake, and that it was not, it could not be, here
that Jacquemin lived.

"Is it really your husband, Madame, who writes under the signature of
Puck in 'L'Actualite'?" he asked. The same proud smile appeared again
upon her thin, wan face.

"Yes, Monsieur, yes, it is really he!" she replied. She was so happy
whenever any one spoke to her of her Paul. She was in the habit of
taking copies of L'Actualite to the concierge, the grocer, and the
butcher; and she was so proud to show how well Paul wrote, and what fine
connections he had--her Paul, whom she loved so much, and for whom she
sat up late at night when it was necessary to prepare his linen for some
great dinner or supper he was invited to.

"Oh! it is indeed he, Monsieur," she said again, while Zilah watched her
and listened in silence. "I don't like to have him use pseudonyms, as he
calls them. It gives me so much pleasure to see his real name, which is
mine too, printed in full. Only it seems that it is better sometimes.
Puck makes people curious, and they say, Who can it be? He also signed
himself Gavroche in the Rabelais, you know, which did not last very long.
You are perhaps a journalist also, Monsieur?"

"No," said Zilah.

"Ah! I thought you were! But, after all, perhaps you are right. It is a
hard profession, I sometimes think. You have to be out so late. If you
only knew, Monsieur, how poor Paul is forced to work even at night!
It tires him so, and then it costs so much. I beg your pardon for
leaving those gloves like that before you. I was cleaning them. He does
not like cleaned gloves, though; he says it always shows. Well, I am a
woman, and I don't notice it. And then I take so much care of all that.
It is necessary, and everything costs so dear. You see I--Gustave, don't
slap your little sister! you naughty boy!"

And going to the children, her sweet, frank eyes becoming sad at a
quarrel between her little ones, she gently took the baby away from the
oldest child, who cried, and went into a corner to pout, regarding his
mother with the same impudent air which Zilah had perceived in the curl
of Jacquemin's lips when the reporter complained of the dearth of pretty
women.

"It is certainly very astonishing that he does not come home," continued
the young wife, excusing to Zilah the absence of her Paul. "He often
breakfasts, however, in the city, at Brebant's. It seems that it is
necessary for him to do so. You see, at the restaurant he talks and
hears news. He couldn't learn all that he knows here very well, could
he? I don't know much of things that must be put in a newspaper."

And she smiled a little sad smile, making even of her humility a pedestal
for the husband so deeply loved and admired.

Zilah was beginning to feel ill at ease. He had come with anger,
expecting to encounter the little fop whom he had seen, and he found this
humble and devoted woman, who spoke of her Paul as if she were speaking
of her religion, and who, knowing nothing of the life of her husband,
only loving him, sacrificed herself to him in this almost cruel poverty
(a strange contrast to the life of luxury Jacquemin led elsewhere), with
the holy trust of her unselfish love.

"Do you never accompany your husband anywhere?" asked Andras.

"I? Oh, never!" she replied, with a sort of fright. "He does not wish
it--and he is right. You see, Monsieur, when he married me, five years
ago, he was not what he is now; he was a railway clerk. I was a working-
girl; yes, I was a seamstress. Then it was all right; we used to walk
together, and we went to the theatre; he did not know any one. It is
different now. You see, if the Baroness Dinati should see me on his arm,
she would not bow to him, perhaps."

"You are mistaken, Madame," said the Hungarian, gently. "You are the one
who should be bowed to first."

She did not understand, but she felt that a compliment was intended, and
she blushed very red, not daring to say any more, and wondering if she
had not chatted too much, as Jacquemin reproached her with doing almost
every day.

"Does Monsieur Jacquemin go often to the theatre?" asked Andras, after a
moment's pause.

"Yes; he is obliged to do so."

"And you?"

"Sometimes. Not to the first nights, of course. One has to dress
handsomely for them. But Paul gives me tickets, oh, as many as I want!
When the plays are no longer drawing money, I go with the neighbors.
But I prefer to stay at home and see to my babies; when I am sitting in
the theatre, and they are left in charge of the concierge, I think,
Suppose anything should happen to them! And that idea takes away all my
pleasure. Still, if Paul stayed here--but he can not; he has his writing
to do in the evenings. Poor fellow, he works so hard! Well!" with a
sigh, "I don't think that he will be back to-day. The children will eat
his beefsteak, that's all; it won't do them any harm."

As she spoke, she took some pieces of meat from an almost empty cupboard,
and placed them on the table, excusing herself for doing so before Zilah.

And he contemplated, with an emotion which every word of the little woman
increased, this poor, miserable apartment, where the wife lived, taking
care of her children, while the husband, Monsieur Puck or Monsieur
Gavroche, paraded at the fancy fairs or at the theatres; figured at the
races; tasted the Baroness Dinati's wines, caring only for Johannisberg
with the blue and gold seal of 1862; and gave to Potel and Chabot, in his
articles, lessons in gastronomy.

Then Madame Jacquemin, feeling instinctively that she had the sympathy of
this sad-faced man who spoke to her in such a gentle voice, related her
life to him with the easy confidence which poor people, who never see the
great world, possess. She told him, with a tender smile, the entirely
Parisian idyl of the love of the working-girl for the little clerk who
loved her so much and who married her; and of the excursions they used to
take together to Saint-Germain, going third-class, and eating their
dinner upon the green grass under the trees, and then enjoying the funny
doings of the painted clowns, the illuminations, the music, and the
dancing. Oh! they danced and danced and danced, until she was so tired
that she slept all the way home with her head on his shoulder, dreaming
of the happy day they had had.

"That was the best time of my life, Monsieur. We were no richer than we
are now; but we were more free. He was with me more, too: now, he
certainly makes me very proud with his beautiful articles; but I don't
see him; I don't see him any more, and it makes me very sad. Oh! if it
were not for that, although we are not millionaires, I should be very
happy; yes, entirely, entirely happy."

There was, in the simple, gentle resignation of this poor girl,
sacrificed without knowing it, such devoted love for the man who, in
reality, abandoned her, that Prince Andras felt deeply moved and touched.
He thought of the one leading a life of pleasure, and the other a life of
fatigue; of this household touching on one side poverty, and, on the
other, wealth and fashion; and he divined, from the innocent words of
this young wife, the hardships of this home, half deserted by the
husband, and the nervousness and peevishness of Jacquemin returning to
this poor place after a night at the restaurants or a ball at Baroness
Dinati's. He heard the cutting voice of the elegant little man whom his
humble wife contemplated with the eyes of a Hindoo adoring an idol; he
was present, in imagination, at those tragically sorrowful scenes which
the wife bore with her tender smile, poor woman, knowing of the life of
her Paul only those duties of luxury which she herself imagined,
remaining a seamstress still to sew the buttons on the shirts and gloves
of her husband, and absolutely ignorant of all the entertainments where,
in an evening, would sometimes be lost, at a game of cards, the whole
monthly salary of Monsieur Puck! And Zilah said to himself, that this
was, perhaps, the first time that this woman had ever been brought in
contact with anything pertaining to her husband's fashionable life--
and in what shape?--that of a man who had come to demand satisfaction for
an injury, and to say to Jacquemin: "I shall probably kill you,
Monsieur!"

And gradually, before the spectacle of this profound love, of this humble
and holy devotion of the unselfish martyr with timid, wistful eyes, who
leaned over her children, and said to them, sweetly, "Yes, you are
hungry, I know, but you shall have papa's beefsteak," while she herself
breakfasted off a little coffee and a crust of bread, Andras Zilah felt
all his anger die away; and an immense pity filled his breast, as he saw,
as in a vision of what the future might have brought forth, a terrible
scene in this poor little household: the pale fair-haired wife, already
wasted and worn with constant labor, leaning out of the window yonder,
or running to the stairs and seeing, covered with blood, wounded, wounded
to death perhaps, her Paul, whom he, Andras, had come to provoke to a
duel.

Ah! poor woman! Never would he cause her such anguish and sorrow.
Between his sword and Jacquemin's impertinent little person, were now
this sad-eyed creature, and those poor little children, who played there,
forgotten, half deserted, by their father, and who would grow up, Heaven
knows how!

"I see that Monsieur Jacquemin will not return," he said, rising
hurriedly, "and I will leave you to your breakfast, Madame."

"Oh! you don't trouble me at all, Monsieur. I beg your pardon again for
having given my children their breakfast before you."

"Farewell, Madame," said Andras, bowing with the deepest respect.

"Then, you are really going, Monsieur? Indeed, I am afraid he won't come
back. But please tell me what I shall say to him your errand was. If it
is some good news, I should be so glad, so glad, to be the first to tell
it to him. You are, perhaps, although you say not, the editor of some
paper which is about to be started. He spoke to me, the other day, of a
new paper. He would like to be a dramatic critic. That is his dream, he
says. Is it that, Monsieur?"

"No, Madame; and, to tell you the truth, there is no longer any need for
me to see your husband. But I do not regret my visit; on the contrary--
I have met a noble woman, and I offer her my deepest respect."

Poor, unhappy girl! She was not used to such words; she blushingly
faltered her thanks, and seemed quite grieved at the departure of this
man, from whom she had expected some good luck for her husband.

"The life of Paris has its secrets!" thought Zilah, as he slowly
descended the stairs, which he had mounted in such a different frame of
mind, so short a time before.

When he reached the lower landing, he looked up, and saw the blond head
of the young woman, leaning over above, and the little hands of the
children clutching the damp railing.

Then Prince Andras Zilah took off his hat, and again bowed low.

On his way from the Rue Rochechouart to his hotel he thought of the thin,
pale face of the Parisian grisette, who would slowly pine away, deceived
and disdained by the man whose name she bore. Such a fine name! Puck or
Gavroche!

"And she would die rather than soil that name. This Jacquemin has found
this pearl of great price, and hid it away under the gutters of Paris!
And I--I have encountered--what? A miserable woman who betrayed me!
Ah! men and women are decidedly the victims of chance; puppets destined
to bruise one another!"

On entering his hotel, he found Yanski Varhely there, with an anxious
look upon his rugged old face.

"Well?"

"Well-nothing!"

And Zilah told his friend what he had seen.

"A droll city, this Paris!" he said, in conclusion. "I see that it is
necessary to go up into the garrets to know it well."

He took a sheet of paper, sat down, and wrote as follows:

MONSIEUR:--You have published an article in regard to Prince Andras
Zilah, which is an outrage. A devoted friend of the Prince had
resolved to make you pay dearly for it; but there is some one who
has disarmed him. That some one is the admirable woman who bears so
honorably the name which you have given her, and lives so bravely
the life you have doomed her to. Madame Jacquemin has redeemed the
infamy of Monsieur Puck. But when, in the future, you have to speak
of the misfortunes of others, think a little of your own existence,
and profit by the moral lesson given you by--AN UNKNOWN.

"Now," said Zilah, "be so kind, my dear Varhely, as to have this note
sent to Monsieur Puck, at the office of 'L'Actualite' and ask your
domestic to purchase some toys, whatever he likes--here is the money--
and take them to Madame Jacquemin, No. 25 Rue Rochechouart. Three toys,
because there are three children. The poor little things will have
gained so much, at all events, from this occurrence."

CHAPTER XXVI

"AM I AVENGED?"

After this episode, the Prince lived a more solitary existence than
before, and troubled himself no further about the outside world. Why
should he care, that some penny-aliner had slipped those odious lines
into a newspaper? His sorrow was not the publishing of the treachery,
it was the treachery itself; and his hourly suffering caused him to long
for death to end his torture.

"And yet I must live," he thought, "if to exist with a dagger through
one's heart is to live."

Then, to escape from the present, he plunged into the memories of the
war, as into a bath of oblivion, a strange oblivion, where he found all
his patriotic regrets of other days. He read, with spasmodic eagerness,
the books in which Georgei and Klapka, the actors of the drama, presented
their excuses, or poured forth their complaints; and it seemed to him
that his country would make him forget his love.

In the magnificent picture-gallery, where he spent most of his time, his
eyes rested upon the battle-scenes of Matejks, the Polish artist, and the
landscapes of Munkacsy, that painter of his own country, who took his
name from the town of Munkacs, where tradition says that the Magyars
settled when they came from the Orient, ages ago. Then a bitter longing
took possession of him to breathe a different air, to fly from Paris, and
place a wide distance between himself and Marsa; to take a trip around
the world, where new scenes might soften his grief, or, better still,
some accident put an end to his life; and, besides, chance might bring
him in contact with Menko.

But, just as he was ready to depart, a sort of lassitude overpowered him;
he felt the inert sensation of a wounded man who has not the strength to
move, and he remained where he was, sadly and bitterly wondering at times
if he should not appeal to the courts, dissolve his marriage, and demand
back his name from the one who had stolen it.

Appeal to the courts? The idea of doing that was repugnant to him.
What! to hear the proud and stainless name of the Zilahs resound,
no longer above the clash of sabres and the neighing of furious horses,
but within the walls of a courtroom, and in presence of a gaping crowd
of sensation seekers? No! silence was better than that; anything was
better than publicity and scandal. Divorce! He could obtain that, since
Marsa, her mind destroyed, was like one dead. And what would a divorce
give him? His freedom? He had it already. But what nothing could give
back, was his ruined faith, his shattered hopes, his happiness lost
forever.

At times he had a wild desire to see Marsa again, and vent once more upon
her his anger and contempt. When he happened to see the name of Maisons-
Lafitte, his body tingled from head to foot, as by an electric shock.
Maisons! The sunlit garden, the shaded alleys, the glowing parterres of
flowers, the old oaks, the white-walled villa, all appeared before him,
brutally distinct, like a lost, or rather poisoned, Eden! And, besides,
she, Marsa, was no longer there; and the thought that the woman whom he
had so passionately loved, with her exquisite, flower-like face, was shut
up among maniacs at Vaugirard, caused him the acutest agony. The asylum
which was Marsa's prison was so constantly in his mind that he felt the
necessity of flight, in order not to allow his weakness to get the bettor
of him, lest he should attempt to see Marsa again.

"What a coward I am!" he thought.

One evening he announced to Varhely that he was going to the lonely villa
of Sainte-Adresse, where they had so many times together watched the sea
and talked of their country.

"I am going there to be alone, my dear Yanski," he said, "but to be with
you is to be with myself. I hope that you will accompany me."

"Most certainly," replied Varhely.

The Prince took only one domestic, wishing to live as quietly and
primitively as possible; but Varhely, really alarmed at the rapid change
in the Prince, and the terrible pallor of his face, followed him, hoping
at least to distract him and arouse him from his morbidness by talking
over with him the great days of the past, and even, if possible, to
interest him in the humble lives of the fishermen about him.

Zilah and his friend, therefore, passed long hours upon the terrace of
the villa, watching the sun set at their feet, while the grayish-blue sea
was enveloped in a luminous mist, and the fading light was reflected upon
the red walls and white blinds of the houses, and tinged with glowing
purple the distant hills of Ingouville.

This calm, quiet spot gradually produced upon Andras the salutary effect
of a bath after a night of feverish excitement. His reflections became
less bitter, and, strange to relate, it was rough old Yanski Varhely,
who, by his tenderness and thoughtfulness, led his friend to a more
resigned frame of mind.

Very often, after nightfall, would Zilah descend with him to the shore
below. The sea lay at their feet a plain of silver, and the moonbeams
danced over the waves in broken lines of luminous atoms; boats passed to
and fro, their red lights flashing like glowworms; and it seemed to
Andras and Varhely, as they approached the sea, receding over the wet,
gleaming sands, that they were walking upon quicksilver.

As they strolled and talked together here, it seemed to Andras that this
grief was, for the moment, carried away by the fresh, salt breeze; and
these two men, in a different manner buffeted by fate, resembled two
wounded soldiers who mutually aid one another to advance, and not to fall
by the way before the combat is over. Yanski made special efforts to
rouse in Andras the old memories of his fatherland, and to inspire in him
again his love for Hungary.

"Ah! I used to have so many hopes and dreams for her future," said
Andras; "but idealists have no chance in the world of to-day; so now I am
a man who expects nothing of life except its ending. And yet I would
like to see once again that old stone castle where I grew up, full of
hopes! Hopes? Bah! pretty bubbles, that is all!"

One morning they walked along the cliffs, past the low shanties of the
fishermen, as far as Havre; and, as they were sauntering through the
streets of the city, Varhely grasped the Prince's arm, and pointed to an
announcement of a series of concerts to be given at Frascati by a band of
Hungarian gipsies.

"There," he said, "you will certainly emerge from your retreat to hear
those airs once more."

"Yes," replied Andras, after a moment's hesitation.

That evening found him at the casino; but his wound seemed to open again,
and his heart to be grasped as in an iron hand, as he listened to the
plaintive cries and moans of the Tzigani music. Had the strings of the
bows played these czardas upon his own sinews, laid bare, he would not
have trembled more violently. Every note of the well-known airs fell
upon his heart like a corrosive tear, and Marsa, in all her dark, tawny
beauty, rose before him. The Tzigani played now the waltzes which Marsa
used to play; then the slow, sorrowful plaint of the "Song of Plevna;"
and then the air of Janos Nemeth's, the heart-breaking melody, to the
Prince like the lament of his life: 'The World holds but One Fair
Maiden'. And at every note he saw again Marsa, the one love of his
existence.

"Let us go!" he said suddenly to Yanski.

But, as they were about to leave the building, they almost ran into a
laughing, merry group, led by the little Baroness Dinati, who uttered a
cry of delight as she perceived Andras.

"What, you, my dear Prince! Oh, how glad I am to see you!"

And she took his arm, all the clan which accompanied her stopping to
greet Prince Zilah.

"We have come from Etretat, and we are going back there immediately.
There was a fair at Havre in the Quartier Saint-Francois, and we have
eaten up all we could lay our hands on, broken all Aunt Sally's pipes,
and purchased all the china horrors and hideous pincushions we could
find. They are all over there in the break. We are going to raffle them
at Etretat for the poor."

The Prince tried to excuse himself and move on, but the little Baroness
held him tight.

"Why don't you come to Etretat? It is charming there. We don't do
anything but eat and drink and talk scandal--Oh, yes! Yamada sometimes
gives us some music. Come here, Yamada!"

The Japanese approached, in obedience to her call, with his eternal grin
upon his queer little face.

"My dear Prince," rattled on the Baroness, "you don't know, perhaps, that
Yamada is the most Parisian of Parisians? Upon my word, these Japanese
are the Parisians of Asia! Just fancy what he has been doing at Etretat!
He has been writing a French operetta!"

"Japanese!" corrected Yamada, with an apologetic bow.

"Oh, Japanese! Parisian Japanese, then! At all events, it is very
funny, and the title is Little Moo-Moo! There is a scene on board a
flower-decked boat! Oh, it is so amusing, so original, so natural!
and a delightful song for Little Moo-Moo!"

Then, as Zilah glanced at Varhely, uneasy, and anxious to get away, the
Baroness puckered up her rosy lips and sang the stanzas of the Japanese
maestro.

Why, sung by Judic or Theo, it would create a furore! All Paris would be
singing.

"Oh, by the way," she cried, suddenly interrupting herself, "what have you
done to Jacquemin? Yes, my friend Jacquemin?"

"Jacquemin?" repeated Zilah; and he thought of the garret in the Rue
Rochechouart, and the gentle, fairhaired woman, who was probably at this
very moment leaning over the cribs of her little children--the children
of Monsieur Puck, society reporter of 'L'Actualite'

"Yes! Why, Jacquemin has become a savage; oh, indeed! a regular savage!
I wanted to bring him to Etretat; but no, he wouldn't come. It seems
that he is married. Jacquemin married! Isn't it funny? He didn't seem
like a married man! Poor fellow! Well, when I invited him, he refused;
and the other day, when I wanted to know the reason, he answered me (that
is why I speak to you about it), 'Ask Prince Zilah'! So, tell me now,
what have you done to poor Jacquemin?"

"Nothing," said the Prince.

"Oh, yes, you have; you have changed him! He, who used to go everywhere
and be so jolly, now hides himself in his den, and is never seen at all.
Just see how disagreeable it is! If he had come with us, he would have
written an account in 'L'Actualite' of Little Moo-Moo, and Yamada's
operetta would already be celebrated."

"So," continued the Baroness, "when I return to Paris, I am going to hunt
him up. A reporter has no right to make a bear of himself!"

"Don't disturb him, if he cares for his home now," said Zilah, gravely.
"Nothing can compensate for one's own fireside, if one loves and is
loved."

At the first words of the Prince, the Baroness suddenly became serious.

"I beg your pardon," she said, dropping his arm and holding out her tiny
hand: "please forgive me for having annoyed you. Oh, yes, I see it!
I have annoyed you. But be consoled; we are going at once, and then,
you know, that if there is a creature who loves you, respects you,
and is devoted to you, it is this little idiot of a Baroness!
Goodnight!"

"Good-night'." said Andras, bowing to the Baroness's friends, Yamada and
the other Parisian exotics.

Glad to escape, Varhely and the Prince returned home along the seashore.
Fragments of the czardas from the illuminated casino reached their ears
above the swish of the waves. Andras felt irritated and nervous.
Everything recalled to him Marsa, and she seemed to be once more taking
possession of his heart, as a vine puts forth fresh tendrils and clings
again to the oak after it has been torn away.

"She also suffers!" he said aloud, after they had walked some distance
in silence.

"Fortunately!" growled Varhely; and then, as if he wished to efface his
harshness, he added, in a voice which trembled a little: "And for that
reason she is, perhaps, not unworthy of pardon."

"Pardon!"

This cry escaped from Zilah in accents of pain which struck Varhely like
a knife.

"Pardon before punishing--the other!" exclaimed the Prince, angrily.

The other! Yanski Varhely instinctively clinched his fist, thinking,
with rage, of that package of letters which he had held in his hands,
and which he might have destroyed if he had known.

It was true: how was pardon possible while Menko lived?

No word more was spoken by either until they reached the villa; then
Prince Zilah shook Yanski's hand and retired to his chamber. Lighting
his lamp, he took out and read and reread, for the hundredth time
perhaps, certain letters--letters not addressed to him--those letters
which Varhely had handed him, and with which Michel Menko had practically
struck him the day of his marriage.

Andras had kept them, reading them over at times with an eager desire for
further suffering, drinking in this species of poison to irritate his
mental pain as he would have injected morphine to soothe a physical one.
These letters caused him a sensation analogous to that which gives repose
to opium-eaters, a cruel shock at first, sharp as the prick of a knife,
then, the pain slowly dying away, a heavy stupor.

The whole story was revived in these letters of Marsa to Menko:--all the
ignorant, credulous love of the young girl for Michel, then her
enthusiasm for love itself, rather than for the object of her love,
and then, again--for Menko had reserved nothing, but sent all together--
the bitter contempt of Marsa, deceived, for the man who had lied to her.

There were, in these notes, a freshness of sentiment and a youthful
credulity which produced the impression of a clear morning in early
spring, all the frankness and faith of a mind ignorant of evil and
destitute of guile; then, in the later ones, the spontaneous outburst of
a heart which believes it has given itself forever, because it thinks it
has encountered incorruptible loyalty and undying devotion.

As he read them over, Andras shook with anger against the two who had
deceived him; and also, and involuntarily, he felt an indefined, timid
pity for the woman who had trusted and been deceived--a pity he
immediately drove away, as if he were afraid of himself, afraid of
forgiving.

"What did Varhely mean by speaking to me of pardon?" he thought. "Am I
yet avenged?"

It was this constant hope that the day would come when justice would be
meted out to Menko's treachery. The letters proved conclusively that
Menko had been Marsa's lover; but they proved, at the same time, that
Michel had taken advantage of her innocence and ignorance, and lied
outrageously in representing himself as free, when he was already bound
to another woman.

All night long Andras Zilah sat there, inflicting torture upon himself,
and taking a bitter delight in his own suffering; engraving upon his
memory every word of love written by Marsa to Michel, as if he felt the
need of fresh pain to give new strength to his hatred.

The next morning at breakfast, Varhely astonished him by announcing that
he was going away.

"To Paris?"

"No, to Vienna," replied Yanski, who looked somewhat paler than usual.

"What an idea! What are you going to do there, Varhely?"

"Angelo Valla arrived yesterday at Havre. He sent for me to come to his
hotel this morning. I have just been there. Valla has given me some
information in regard to a matter of interest to myself, which will
require my presence at Vienna. So I am going there."

Prince Zilah was intimately acquainted with the Valla of whom Varhely
spoke; he had been one of the witnesses of his marriage. Valla was a
former minister of Manin; and, since the siege of Venice, he had lived
partly in Paris and partly in Florence. He was a man for whom Andras
Zilah had the greatest regard.

"When do you go?" asked the Prince of Varhely.

"In an hour. I wish to take the fast mail from Paris this evening."

"Is it so very pressing, then?"

"Very pressing," replied Varhely. "There is another to whose ears the
affair may possibly come, and I wish to get the start of him."

"Farewell, then," said Andras, considerably surprised; "come back as soon
as you can."

He was astonished at the almost violent pressure of the hand which
Varhely gave him, as if he were departing for a very long journey.

"Why didn't Valla come to see me?" he asked. "He is one of the few I am
always glad to see."

"He had no time. He had to be away again at once, and he asked me to
excuse him to you."

The Prince did not make any further attempt to find out what was the
reason of his friend's sudden flight, for Varhely was already descending
the steps of the villa.

Andras then felt a profound sensation of loneliness, and he thought again
of the woman whom his imagination pictured haggard and wan in the asylum
of Vaugirard.

CHAPTER XXVII

"WHAT MATTERS IT HOW MUCH WE SUFFER?"

Two hours after Varhely had gone, a sort of feverish attraction drew
Prince Andras to the spot where, the night before, he had listened to the
Tzigana airs.

Again, but alone this time, he drank in the accents of the music of his
country, and sought to remember the impression produced upon him when
Marsa had played this air or that one, this sad song or that czardas.
He saw her again as she stood on the deck of the steamer, watching the
children on the barge as they threw her kisses of farewell. More
troubled than ever, nervous and suffering, Zilah returned home late in
the afternoon, opened the desk where he kept Marsa's letters, and one by
one, impelled by some inexplicable sentiment, he burned them, the flame
of the candle devouring the paper, whose subtle perfume mounted to his
nostrils for the last time like a dying sigh, while the wind carried off,
through the window into the infinite, the black dust of those fateful
letters, those remnants of dead passion and of love betrayed--and the
past was swept away.

The sun was slowly descending in an atmosphere of fire, while toward
Havre a silvery mist over the hills and shore heralded the approach of
chaste Dian's reign. The reflections of the sunset tinged with red and
orange the fishing boats floating over the calm sea, while a long fiery
streak marked the water on the horizon, growing narrower and narrower,
and changing to orange and then to pale yellow as the disk of the sun
gradually disappeared, and the night came on, enveloping the now inactive
city, and the man who watched the disappearance of the last fragments of
a detested love, of the love of another, of a love which had torn and
bruised his heart. And, strange to say, for some inexplicable reason,
Prince Andras Zilah now regretted the destruction of those odious
letters. It seemed to him, with a singular displacement of his
personality, that it was something of himself, since it was something of
her, that he had destroyed. He had hushed that voice which said to
another, "I love you," but which caused him the same thrill as if she had
murmured the words for him. They were letters received by his rival
which the wind carried out, an impalpable dust, over the sea; and he felt
--such folly is the human heart capable of--the bitter regret of a man
who has destroyed a little of his past.

The shadows crept over him at the same time that they crept over the sea.

"What matters it how much we suffer, or how much suffering we cause," he
murmured, "when, of all our loves, our hearts, ourselves, there remains,
after a short lapse of time--what? That!" And he watched the last atom
of burned paper float away in the deepening twilight.

CHAPTER XXVIII

THE STRICKEN SOUL

His loneliness now weighed heavily upon Andras. His nerves were shaken
by the memories which the czardas of the Tzigani musicians had evoked;
and it seemed to him that the place was deserted now that they had
departed, and Varhely had gone with them. In the eternal symphony of the
sea, the lapping of the waves upon the shingle at the foot of the
terrace, one note was now lacking, the resonant note of the czimbalom
yonder in the gardens of Frascati. The vibration of the czimbalom was
like a call summoning up the image of Marsa, and this image took
invincible possession of the Prince, who, with a sort of sorrowful anger
which he regarded as hatred, tried in vain to drive it away.

What was the use of remaining at Sainte-Adresse, when the memories he
sought to flee came to find him there, and since Marsa's presence haunted
it as if she had lived there by his side?

He quitted Havre, and returned to Paris; but the very evening of his
return, in the bustle and movement of the Champs-Elysees, the long avenue
dotted with lights, the flaming gas-jets of the cafe concerts, the bursts
of music, he found again, as if the Tzigana were continually pursuing
him, the same phantom; despite the noise of people and carriages upon the
asphalt, the echoes of the "Song of Plevna," played quite near him by
some Hungarian orchestra, reached him as upon the seashore at Havre; and
he hastened back to his hotel, to shut himself up, to hear nothing, see
nothing, and escape from the fantastic, haunting pursuit of this
inevitable vision.

He could not sleep; fever burned in his blood. He rose, and tried to
read; but before the printed page he saw continually Marsa Laszlo, like
the spectre of his happiness.

"How cowardly human nature is!" he exclaimed, hurling away the book.
"Is it possible that I love her still? Shall I love her forever?"

And he felt intense self-contempt at the temptation which took possession
of him to see once more Maisons-Lafitte, where he had experienced the
most terrible grief of his life. What was the use of struggling? He had
not forgotten, and he never could forget.

If he had been sincere with himself, he would have confessed that he was
impelled by his ever-living, ever-present love toward everything which
would recall Marsa to him, and that a violent, almost superhuman effort
was necessary not to yield to the temptation.

About a week after the Prince's return to Paris, his valet appeared one
day with the card of General Vogotzine. It was on Andras's lips to
refuse to see him; but, in reality, the General's visit caused him a
delight which he would not acknowledge to himself. He was about to hear
of hey. He told the valet to admit Vogotzine, hypocritically saying to
himself that it was impossible, discourteous, not to receive him.

The old Russian entered, timid and embarrassed, and was not much
reassured by Zilah's polite but cold greeting.

The General, who for some extraordinary reason had not had recourse to
alcohol to give him courage, took the chair offered him by the Prince.
He was a little flushed, not knowing exactly how to begin what he had to
say; and, being sober, he was terribly afraid of appearing, like an
idiot.

"This is what is the matter," he said, plunging at once in medias res.
"Doctor Fargeas, who sent me, might have come himself; but he thought
that I, being her uncle, should--"

"You have come to consult me about Marsa," said Andras, unconsciously
glad to pronounce her name.

"Yes," began the General, becoming suddenly intimidated, "of--of Marsa.
She is very ill-Marsa is. Very ill. Stupor, Fargeas says. She does not
say a word-nothing. A regular automaton! It is terrible to see her--
terrible--terrible."

He raised his round, uneasy eyes to Andras, who was striving to appear
calm, but whose lips twitched nervously.

"It is impossible to rouse her," continued Vogotzine. "The, doctors can
do nothing. There is no hope except in an--an--an experiment."

"An experiment?"

"Yes, exactly, exactly--an experiment. You see he--he wanted to know if
--(you must pardon me for what I am about to propose; it is Doctor
Fargeas's idea)--You see--if--if--she should see--(I suppose--these are
not my words)--if she should see you again at Doctor Sims's establishment
--the emotion--the--the--Well, I don't know exactly what Doctor Fargeas
does hope; but I have repeated to you his words--I am simply, quite
simply, his messenger."

"The doctor," said Andras, calmly, "would like--your niece to see me
again?"

"Yes, yes; and speak to you. You see, you are the only one for whom--"

The Prince interrupted the General, who instantly became as mute as if he
were in the presence of the Czar.

"It is well. But what Doctor Fargeas asks of me will cause me intense
suffering."

Vogotzine did not open his lips.

"See her again? He wishes to revive all my sorrow, then!"

Vogotzine waited, motionless as if on parade.

After a moment or two, Andras saying no more, the General thought that he
might speak.

"I understand. I knew very well what your answer would be. I told the
doctor so; but he replied, 'It is a question of humanity. The Prince
will not refuse.'"

Fargeas must have known Prince Zilah's character well when he used the
word humanity. The Prince would not have refused his pity to the lowest
of human beings; and so, never mind what his sufferings might be, if his
presence could do any good, he must obey the doctor.

"When does Doctor Fargeas wish me to go?"

"Whenever you choose. The doctor is just now at Vaugirard, on a visit to
his colleague, and--"

"Do not let us keep him waiting!"

Vogotzine's eyes brightened.

"Then you consent? You will go?"

He tried to utter some word of thanks, but Andras cut him short, saying:

"I will order the carriage."

"I have a carriage," said Vogotzine, joyously. "We can go at once."

Zilah was silent during the drive; and Vogotzine gazed steadily out of
the window, without saying a word, as the Prince showed no desire to
converse.

They stopped before a high house, evidently built in the last century,
and which was probably formerly a convent. The General descended heavily
from the coupe, rang the bell, and stood aside to let Zilah pass before
him.

The Prince's emotion was betrayed in a certain stiffness of demeanor, and
in his slow walk, as if every movement cost him an effort. He stroked
his moustache mechanically, and glanced about the garden they were
crossing, as if he expected to see Marsa at once.

Dr. Fargeas appeared very much pleased to see the Prince, and he thanked
him warmly for having come. A thin, light-haired man, with a pensive
look and superb eyes, accompanied Fargeas, and the physician introduced
him to the Prince as Dr. Sims.

Dr. Sims shared the opinion of his colleague. Having taken the invalid
away, and separated her from every thing that could recall the past, the
physicians thought, that, by suddenly confronting her with a person so
dear to her as Prince Zilah, the shock and emotion might rouse her from
her morbid state.

Fargeas explained to the Prince why he had thought it best to transport
the invalid from Maisons-Lafitte to Vaugirard, and he thanked him for
having approved of his determination.

Zilah noticed that Fargeas, in speaking of Marsa, gave her no name or
title. With his usual tact, the doctor had divined the separation; and
he did not call Marsa the Princess, but, in tones full of pity, spoke of
her as the invalid.

"She is in the garden," said Dr. Sims, when Fargeas had finished
speaking. "Will you see her now?"

"Yes," said the Prince, in a voice that trembled slightly, despite his
efforts to control it.

"We will take a look at her first; and then, if you will be so kind, show
yourself to her suddenly. It is only an experiment we are making. If
she does not recognize you, her condition is graver than I think. If she
does recognize you, well, I hope that we shall be able to cure her.
Come!"

Dr. Sims motioned the Prince to precede them.

"Shall I accompany you, gentlemen?" asked Vogotzine.

"Certainly, General!"

"You see, I don't like lunatics; they produce a singular effect upon me;
they don't interest me at all. But still, after all, she is my niece!"

And he gave a sharp pull to his frock-coat, as he would have tightened
his belt before an assault.

They descended a short flight of steps, and found themselves in a large
garden, with trees a century old, beneath which were several men and
women walking about or sitting in chairs.

A large, new building, one story high, appeared at one end of the garden;
in this were the dormitories of Dr. Sims's patients.

"Are those people insane?" asked Zilah, pointing to the peaceful groups.

"Yes," said Dr. Sims; "it requires a stretch of the imagination to
believe it, does it not? You can speak to them as we pass by. All these
here are harmless."

"Shall we cross the garden?"

"Our invalid is below there, in another garden, behind that house."

As he passed by, Zilah glanced curiously at these poor beings, who bowed,
or exchanged a few words with the two physicians. It seemed to him that
they had the happy look of people who had reached the desired goal.
Vogotzine, coughing nervously, kept close to the Prince and felt very ill
at ease. Andras, on the contrary, found great difficulty in realizing
that he was really among lunatics.

"See," said Dr. Sims, pointing out an old gentleman, dressed in the style
of 1840, like an old-fashioned lithograph of a beau of the time of
Gavarni, "that man has been more than thirty-five years in the
institution. He will not change the cut of his garments, and he is very
careful to have his tailor make his clothes in the same style he dressed
when he was young. He is very happy. He thinks that he is the enchanter
Merlin, and he listens to Vivian, who makes appointments with him under
the trees."

As they passed the old man, his neck imprisoned in a high stock, his
surtout cut long and very tight in the waist, and his trousers very full
about the hips and very close about the ankles, he bowed politely.

"Good-morning, Doctor Sims! Good-morning, Doctor Fargeas!"

Then, as the director of the establishment approached to speak, he placed
a finger upon his lips:

"Hush," he said. "She is there! Don't speak, or she will go away." And
he pointed with a sort of passionate veneration to an elm where Vivian
was shut up, and whence she would shortly emerge.

"Poor devil!" murmured Vogotzine.

This was not what Zilah thought, however. He wondered if this happy
hallucination which had lasted so many years, these eternal love-scenes
with Vivian, love-scenes which never grew stale, despite the years and
the wrinkles, were not the ideal form of happiness for a being condemned
to this earth. This poetical monomaniac lived with his dreams realized,
finding, in an asylum of Vaugirard, all the fascinations and chimeras of
the Breton land of golden blossoms and pink heather, all the
intoxicating, languorous charm of the forest of Broceliande.

"He has within his grasp what Shakespeare was content only to dream of.
Insanity is, perhaps, simply the ideal realized:"

"Ah!" replied Dr. Fargeas, "but the real never loses its grip. Why does
this monomaniac preserve both the garments of his youth, which prevent
him from feeling his age, and the dream of his life, which consoles him
for his lost reason? Because he is rich. He can pay the tailor who
dresses him, the rent of the pavilion he inhabits by himself, and the
special servants who serve him. If he were poor, he would suffer."

"Then," said Zilah, "the question of bread comes up everywhere, even in
insanity."

"And money is perhaps happiness, since it allows of the purchase of
happiness."

"Oh!" said the Prince, "for me, happiness would be--"

"What?"

"Forgetfulness."

And he followed with his eyes Vivian's lover, who now had his ear glued
to the trunk of the tree, and was listening to the voice which spoke only
to him.

"That man yonder," said Dr. Sims, indicating a man, still young, who was
coming toward them, "is a talented writer whose novels you have doubtless
read, and who has lost all idea of his own personality. Once a great
reader, he now holds all literature in intense disgust; from having
written so much, he has grown to have a perfect horror of words and
letters, and he never opens either a book or a newspaper. He drinks in
the fresh air, cultivates flowers, and watches the trains pass at the
foot of the garden."

"Is he happy?" asked Andras.

"Very happy."

"Yes, he has drunk of the waters of Lethe," rejoined the Prince.

"I will not tell you his name," whispered Dr. Sims, as the man, a thin,
dark-haired, delicate-featured fellow, approached them; "but, if you
should speak to him and chance to mention his name, he would respond
'Ah! yes, I knew him. He was a man of talent, much talent.' There
is nothing left to him of his former life."

And Zilah thought again that it was a fortunate lot to be attacked by one
of these cerebral maladies where the entire being, with its burden of
sorrows, is plunged into the deep, dark gulf of oblivion.

The novelist stopped before the two physicians.

"The mid-day train was three minutes and a half late," he said, quietly:
"I mention the fact to you, doctor, that you may have it attended to.
It is a very serious thing; for I am in the habit of setting my watch
by that train."

"I will see to it," replied Dr. Sims. "By the way, do you want any
books?"

In the same quiet tone the other responded:

"What for?"

"To read."

"What is the use of that?"

"Or any newspapers? To know--"

"To know what?" he interrupted, speaking with extreme volubility.
"No, indeed! It is so good to know nothing, nothing, nothing! Do the
newspapers announce that there are no more wars, no more poverty,
illness, murders, envy, hatred or jealousy? No! The newspapers do not
announce that. Then, why should I read the newspapers? Good-day,
gentlemen."

The Prince shuddered at the bitter logic of this madman, speaking with
the shrill distinctness of the insane. But Vogotzine smiled.

"Why, these idiots have rather good sense, after all," he remarked.

When they reached the end of the garden, Dr. Sims opened a gate which
separated the male from the female patients, and Andras perceived several
women walking about in the alleys, some of them alone, and some
accompanied by attendants. In the distance, separated from the garden by
a ditch and a high wall, was the railway.

Zilah caught his breath as he entered the enclosure, where doubtless
among the female forms before him was that of the one he had loved. He
turned to Dr. Sims with anxious eyes, and asked:

"Is she here?"

"She is here," replied the doctor.

The Prince hesitated to advance. He had not seen her since the day he
had felt tempted to kill her as she lay in her white robes at his feet.
He wondered if it were not better to retrace his steps and depart hastily
without seeing her.

"This way," said Fargeas. "We can see through the bushes without being
seen, can we not, Sims?"

"Yes, doctor."

Zilah resigned himself to his fate; and followed the physicians without
saying a word; he could hear the panting respiration of Vogotzine
trudging along behind him. All at once the Prince felt a sensation as of
a heavy hand resting upon his heart. Fargeas had exclaimed:

"There she is!"

He pointed, through the branches of the lilac-bushes, to two women who
were approaching with slow steps, one a light-haired woman in a nurse's
dress, and the other in black garments, as if in mourning for her own
life, Marsa herself.

Marsa! She was coming toward Zilah; in a moment, he would be able to
touch her, if he wished, through the leaves! Even Vogotzine held his
breath.

Zilah eagerly questioned Marsa's face, as if to read thereon a secret,
to decipher a name--Menko's or his own. Her exquisite, delicate features
had the rigidity of marble; her dark eyes were staring straight ahead,
like two spots of light, where nothing, nothing was reflected. Zilah
shuddered again; she alarmed him.

Alarm and pity! He longed to thrust aside the bushes, and hasten with
extended arms toward the pale vision before him. It was as if the moving
spectre of his love were passing by. But, with a strong effort of will,
he remained motionless where he was.

Old Vogotzine seemed very ill at ease. Dr. Fargeas was very calm; and,
after a questioning glance at his colleague, he said distinctly to the
Prince:

"Now you must show yourself!"

The physician's order, far from displeasing Zilah, was like music in his
ears. He was beginning to doubt, if, after all, Fargeas intended to
attempt the experiment. He longed, with keen desire, to speak to Marsa;
to know if his look, his breath, like a puff of wind over dying ashes,
would not rekindle a spark of life in those dull, glassy eyes.

What was she thinking of, if she thought at all? What memory vacillated
to and fro in that vacant brain? The memory of himself, or of--the
other? He must know, he must know!

"This way," said Dr. Sims. "We will go to the end of the alley, and meet
her face to face."

"Courage!" whispered Fargeas.

Zilah followed; and, in a few steps, they reached the end of the alley,
and stood beneath a clump of leafy trees. The Prince saw, coming to him,
with a slow but not heavy step, Marsa--no, another Marsa, the spectre or
statue of Marsa.

Fargeas made a sign to Vogotzine, and the Russian and the two doctors
concealed themselves behind the trees.

Zilah, trembling with emotion, remained alone in the middle of the walk.

The nurse who attended Marsa, had doubtless received instructions from
Dr. Sims; for, as she perceived the Prince, she fell back two or three
paces, and allowed Marsa to go on alone.

Lost in her stupor, the Tzigana advanced, her dark hair ruffled by the
wind; and, still beautiful although so thin, she moved on, without seeing
anything, her lips closed as if sealed by death, until she was not three
feet from Zilah.

He stood waiting, his blue eyes devouring her with a look, in which there
were mingled love, pity, and anger. When the Tzigana reached him, and
nearly ran into him in her slow walk, she stopped suddenly, like an
automaton. The instinct of an obstacle before her arrested her, and she
stood still, neither recoiling nor advancing.

A few steps away, Dr. Fargeas and Dr. Sims studied her stony look, in
which there was as yet neither thought nor vision.

Still enveloped in her stupor, she stood there, her eyes riveted upon
Andras. Suddenly, as if an invisible knife had been plunged into her
heart, she started back. Her pale marble face became transfigured, and
an expression of wild terror swept across her features; shaking with a
nervous trembling, she tried to call out, and a shrill cry, which rent
the air, burst from her lips, half open, like those of a tragic mask.
Her two arms were stretched out with the hands clasped; and, falling upon
her knees, she--whose light of reason had been extinguished, who for so
many days had only murmured the sad, singing refrain: "I do not know; I
do not know!"--faltered, in a voice broken with sobs: "Forgive!
Forgive!"

Then her face became livid, and she would have fallen back unconscious if
Zilah had not stooped over and caught her in his arms.

Dr. Sims hastened forward, and, aided by the nurse, relieved him of his
burden.

Poor Vogotzine was as purple as if he had had a stroke of apoplexy.

"But, gentlemen," said the Prince, his eyes burning with hot tears, "it
will be horrible if we have killed her!"

"No, no," responded Fargeas; "we have only killed her stupor. Now leave
her to us. Am I not right, my dear Sims? She can and must be cured!"

CHAPTER XXIX

"LET THE DEAD PAST BURY ITS DEAD"

Prince Andras had heard no news of Varhely for a long time. He only knew
that the Count was in Vienna.

Yanski had told the truth when he said that he had been summoned away by
his friend, Angelo Valla.

They were very much astonished, at the Austrian ministry of foreign
affairs, to see Count Yanski Varhely, who, doubtless, had come from Paris
to ask some favor of the minister. The Austrian diplomats smiled as they
heard the name of the old soldier of '48 and '49. So, the famous fusion
of parties proclaimed in 1875 continued! Every day some sulker of former
times rallied to the standard. Here was this Varhely, who, at one time,
if he had set foot in Austria-Hungary, would have been speedily cast into
the Charles barracks, the jail of political prisoners, now sending in his
card to the minister of the Emperor; and doubtless the minister and the
old commander of hussars would, some evening, together pledge the new
star of Hungary, in a beaker of rosy Crement!

"These are queer days we live in!" thought the Austrian diplomats.

The minister, of whom Yanski Varhely demanded an audience, his Excellency
Count Josef Ladany, had formerly commanded a legion of Magyar students,
greatly feared by the grenadiers of Paskiewisch, in Hungary. The
soldiers of Josef Ladany, after threatening to march upon Vienna, had
many times held in check the grenadiers and Cossacks of the field-
marshal. Spirited and enthusiastic, his fair hair floating above his
youthful forehead like an aureole, Ladany made war like a patriot and a
poet, reciting the verses of Petoefi about the camp-fires, and setting
out for battle as for a ball. He was magnificent (Varhely remembered him
well) at the head of his students, and his floating, yellow moustaches
had caused the heart of more than one little Hungarian patriot to beat
more quickly.

Varhely would experience real pleasure in meeting once more his old
companion in arms. He remembered one afternoon in the vineyards, when
his hussars, despite the obstacles of the vines and the irregular ground,
had extricated Ladany's legion from the attack of two regiments of
Russian infantry. Joseph Ladany was standing erect upon one of his
cannon for which the gunners had no more ammunition, and, with drawn
sabre, was rallying his companions, who were beginning to give way before
the enemy. Ah, brave Ladany! With what pleasure would Varhely grasp his
hand!

The former leader had doubtless aged terribly--he must be a man of fifty-
five or fifty-six, to-day; but Varhely was sure that Joseph Ladany, now
become minister, had preserved his generous, ardent nature of other days.

As he crossed the antechambers and lofty halls which led to the
minister's office, Varhely still saw, in his mind's eye, Ladany, sabre in
hand, astride of the smoking cannon.

An usher introduced him into a large, severe-looking room, with a lofty
chimney-piece, above which hung a picture of the Emperor-King in full
military uniform. Varhely at first perceived only some large armchairs,
and an enormous desk covered with books; but, in a moment, from behind
the mass of volumes, a man emerged, smiling, and with outstretched hand:
the old hussar was amazed to find himself in the presence of a species of
English diplomat, bald, with long, gray side-whiskers and shaven lip and
chin, and scrupulously well dressed.

Yanski's astonishment was so evident that Josef Ladany said, still
smiling:

"Well, don't you recognize me, my dear Count?" His voice was pleasant,
and his manner charming; but there was something cold and politic in his
whole appearance which absolutely stupefied Varhely. If he had seen him
pass in the street, he would never have recognized, in this elegant
personage, the young man, with yellow hair and long moustaches, who sang
war songs as he sabred the enemy.

And yet it was indeed Ladany; it was the same clear eye which had once
commanded his legion with a single look; but the eye was often veiled now
beneath a lowered eyelid, and only now and then did a glance shoot forth
which seemed to penetrate a man's most secret thoughts. The soldier had
become the diplomat.

"I had forgotten that thirty years have passed!" thought Varhely, a
little saddened.

Count Ladany made his old comrade sit down in one of the armchairs, and
questioned him smilingly as to his life, his friendships, Paris, Prince
Zilah, and led him gradually and gracefully to confide what he, Varhely,
had come to ask of the minister of the Emperor of Austria.

Varhely felt more reassured. Josef Ladany seemed to him to have remained
morally the same. The moustache had been cut off, the yellow hair had
fallen; but the heart was still young and without doubt Hungarian.

"You can," he said, abruptly, "render me a service, a great service.
I have never before asked anything of anybody; but I have taken this
journey expressly to see you, and to ask you, to beg you rather, to--"

"Go on, my dear Count. What you desire will be realized, I hope."

But his tone had already become colder, or perhaps simply more official.

"Well," continued Varhely, "what I have come to ask of you is; in memory
of the time when we were brothers in arms" (the minister started
slightly, and stroked his whiskers a little nervously), "the liberty of a
certain man, of a man whom you know."

"Ah! indeed!" said Count Josef.

He leaned back in his chair, crossed one leg over the other, and, through
his half-opened eyelids, examined Varhely, who looked him boldly in the
face.

The contrast between these two men was striking; the soldier with his
hair and moustache whitened in the harness, and the elegant government
official with his polished manners; two old-time companions who had heard
the whistling of the same balls.

"This is my errand," said Varhely. "I have the greatest desire that one
of our compatriots, now a prisoner in Warsaw, I think--at all events,
arrested at Warsaw a short time ago--should be set at liberty. It is of
the utmost importance to me," he added, his lips turning almost as white
as his moustache.

"Oh!" said the minister. "I fancy I know whom you mean."

"Count Menko."

"Exactly! Menko was arrested by the Russian police on his arrival at the
house of a certain Labanoff, or Ladanoff--almost my name in Russian.
This Labanoff, who had lately arrived from Paris, is suspected of a plot
against the Czar. He is not a nihilist, but simply a malcontent; and,
besides that, his brain is not altogether right. In short, Count Menko
is connected in some way, I don't know how, with this Labanoff. He went
to Poland to join him, and the Russian police seized him. I think myself
that they were quite right in their action."

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