Part 1 out of 5
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.]
By JULES CLARETIE
With a Preface by Compte d'Haussonville of the French Academy
Arsene Arnaud Claretie (commonly called Jules), was born on December 3,
1840, at Limoges, the picturesque and smiling capital of Limousin. He
has been rightly called the "Roi de la Chronique" and the "Themistocle de
la Litterature Contemporaine." In fact, he has written, since early
youth, romances, drama, history, novels, tales, chronicles, dramatic
criticism, literary criticism, military correspondence, virtually
everything! He was elected to the French Academy in 1888.
Claretie was educated at the Lycee Bonaparte, and was destined for a
commercial career. He entered a business-house as bookkeeper, but was at
the same time contributing already to newspapers and reviews. In 1862 we
find him writing for the Diogene; under the pseudonym, "Olivier de
Jalin," he sends articles to La France; his nom-deplume in L'Illustration
is "Perdican"; he also contributes to the Figaro, 'L'Independence Belge,
Opinion Nationale' (1867-1872); he signs articles in the 'Rappel; as
"Candide"; in short, his fecundity in this field of literature is very
great. He is today a most popular journalist and writes for the 'Presse,
Petit Journal, Temps', and others. He has not succeeded as a politician.
Under the second Empire he was often in collision with the Government; in
1857 he was sentenced to pay a fine of 1,000 francs, which was a splendid
investment; more than once lectures to be given by him were prohibited
(1865-1868); in 1871 he was an unsuccessful candidate for L'Assemblee
Nationale, both for La Haute Vienne and La Seine. Since that time he has
not taken any active part in politics. Perhaps we should also mention
that as a friend of Victor Noir he was called as a witness in the process
against Peter Bonaparte; and that as administrator of the Comedie
Francaise he directed, in 1899, an open letter to the "President and
Members of the Court Martial trying Captain Dreyfus" at Rennes,
advocating the latter's acquittal. So much about Claretie as a
The number of volumes and essays written by Jules Claretie surpasses
imagination, and it is, therefore, almost impossible to give a complete
list. As a historian he has selected mostly revolutionary subjects. The
titles of some of his prominent works in this field are 'Les Derniers
Montagnards (1867); Histoire de la Revolution de 1870-71 (second edition,
1875, 5 vols.); La France Envahie (1871); Le Champ de Bataille de Sedan
(1871); Paris assiege and Les Prussiens chez eux (1872); Cinq Ans apres,
L'Alsace et la Lorraine depuis l'Annexion (1876); La Guerre Nationale
1870-1871', etc., most of them in the hostile, anti-German vein, natural
to a "Chauvinist"; 'Ruines et Fantomes (1873). Les Femmes de la
Revolution (1898)' contains a great number of portraits, studies, and
criticisms, partly belonging to political, partly to literary, history.
To the same category belong: Moliere, sa Vie et ses OEuvres (1873);
Peintres et Sculpteurs Contemporains, and T. B. Carpeaux (1875); L'Art et
les Artistes Contemporains (1876)', and others. Quite different from the
above, and in another phase of thought, are: 'Voyages d'un Parisien
(1865); Journees de Voyage en Espagne et France (1870); Journees de
Vacances (1887)'; and others.
It is, however, as a novelist that the fame of Claretie will endure. He
has followed the footsteps of George Sand and of Balzac. He belongs to
the school of "Impressionists," and, although he has a liking for
exceptional situations, wherefrom humanity does not always issue without
serious blotches, he yet is free from pessimism. He has no nervous
disorder, no "brain fag," he is no pagan, not even a nonbeliever, and has
happily preserved his wholesomeness of thought; he is averse to exotic
ideas, extravagant depiction, and inflammatory language. His novels and
tales contain the essential qualities which attract and retain the
reader. Some of his works in chronological order, omitting two or three
novels, written when only twenty or twenty-one years old, are:
'Pierrille, Histoire de Village (1863); Mademoiselle Cachemire (1867);
Un Assassin, also known under the title Robert Burat (1867); Madeleine
Bertin, replete with moderated sentiment, tender passion, and exquisite
scenes of social life (1868); Les Muscadins (1874, 2 vols.); Le Train No.
17 (1877); La Maison Vide (1878); Le Troisieme dessous (1879); La
Maitresse (1880); Monsieur le Ministre (1882); Moeurs du Jour (1883); Le
Prince Zilah (1884), crowned by the Academy four years before he was
elected; Candidat!(1887); Puyjoli (1890); L'Americaine (1892); La
Frontiere (1894); Mariage Manque (1894); Divette (1896); L'Accusateur
(1897), and others.
It is, perhaps, interesting to know that after the flight of the Imperial
family from the Tuileries, Jules Claretie was appointed to put into order
the various papers, documents, and letters left behind in great chaos,
and to publish them, if advisable.
Very numerous and brilliant have also been the incursions of Jules
Claretie into the theatrical domain, though he is a better novelist than
playwright. He was appointed director of the Comedie Francaise in 1885.
His best known dramas and comedies are: 'La Famille de Gueux, in
collaboration with Della Gattina (Ambigu, 1869); Raymond Lindey (Menus
Plaisirs, 1869, forbidden for some time by French censorship); Les
Muscadins (Theatre Historique, 1874); Un Pyre (with Adrien Decourcelle,
Gymnase, 1874); Le Regiment de Champagne (Theatre Historique, 1877);
Monsieur le Ministre, together with Dumas fils and Busnach (Gymnase,
1883); and Prince Zilah (Gymnase, 1885).
Some of them, as will be noticed, are adapted to the stage from his
novels. In Le Regiment de Champagne, at least, he has written a little
melodramatically. But thanks to the battles, fumes of powder, muskets,
and cannons upon the stage the descendants of Jean Chauvin accept it with
frenetic applause. In most of the plays, however, he exhibits a rather
nervous talent, rich imagination, and uses very scintillating and
picturesque language, if he is inclined to do so--and he is very often
inclined. He received the "Prix Vitet" in 1879 from the Academy for Le
Drapeau. Despite our unlimited admiration for Claretie the journalist,
Claretie the historian, Claretie the dramatist, and Claretie the art-
critic, we think his novels conserve a precious and inexhaustible mine
for the Faguets and Lansons of the twentieth century, who, while
frequently utilizing him for the exemplification of the art of fiction,
will salute him as "Le Roi de la Romance."
de L'Academie Francaise.
THE BETROTHAL FETE
"Excuse me, Monsieur, but pray tell me what vessel that is over there."
The question was addressed to a small, dark man, who, leaning upon the
parapet of the Quai des Tuileries, was rapidly writing in a note-book
with a large combination pencil, containing a knife, a pen, spare leads,
and a paper-cutter--all the paraphernalia of a reporter accustomed to the
expeditions of itinerant journalism.
When he had filled, in his running hand, a leaf of the book, the little
man tore it hastily off, and extended it to a boy in dark blue livery
with silver buttons, bearing the initial of the newspaper, L'Actualite;
and then, still continuing to write, he replied:
"Prince Andras Zilah is giving a fete on board one of the boats belonging
to the Compagnie de la Seine."
"A fete? Why?"
"To celebrate his approaching marriage, Monsieur."
"Prince Andras! Ah!" said the first speaker, as if he knew the name
well; "Prince Andras is to be married, is he? And who does Prince Andras
"Zilah! He is a Hungarian, Monsieur."
The reporter appeared to be in a hurry, and, handing another leaf to the
boy, he said:
"Wait here a moment. I am going on board, and I will send you the rest
of the list of guests by a sailor. They can prepare the article from
what you have, and set it up in advance, and I will come myself to the
office this evening and make the necessary additions."
"Very well, Monsieur Jacquemin."
"And don't lose any of the leaves."
"Oh, Monsieur Jacquemin! I never lose anything!"
"They will have some difficulty, perhaps, in reading the names--they are
all queer; but I shall correct the proof myself."
"Then, Monsieur," asked the lounger again, eager to obtain all the
information he could, "those people who are going on board are almost all
"Yes, Monsieur; yes, Monsieur; yes, Monsieur!" responded jacquemin,
visibly annoyed. "There are many foreigners in the city, very many; and
I prefer them, myself, to the provincials of Paris."
The other did not seem to understand; but he smiled, thanked the
reporter, and strolled away from the parapet, telling all the people he
met: "It is a fete! Prince Andras, a Hungarian, is about to be married.
Prince Andras Zilah! A fete on board a steamer! What a droll idea!"
Others, equally curious, leaned over the Quai des Tuileries and watched
the steamer, whose tricolor flag at the stern, and red streamers at the
mastheads, floated with gay flutterings in the fresh morning breeze. The
boat was ready to start, its decks were waxed, its benches covered with
brilliant stuffs, and great masses of azaleas and roses gave it the
appearance of a garden or conservatory. There was something highly
attractive to the loungers on the quay in the gayly decorated steamer,
sending forth long puffs of white smoke along the bank. A band of dark-
complexioned musicians, clad in red trousers, black waistcoats heavily
embroidered in sombre colors, and round fur caps, played odd airs upon
the deck; while bevies of laughing women, almost all pretty in their
light summer gowns, alighted from coupes and barouches, descended the
flight of steps leading to the river, and crossed the plank to the boat,
with little coquettish graces and studied raising of the skirts, allowing
ravishing glimpses of pretty feet and ankles. The defile of merry, witty
Parisiennes, with their attendant cavaliers, while the orchestra played
the passionate notes of the Hungarian czardas, resembled some vision of a
painter, some embarkation for the dreamed-of Cythera, realized by the
fancy of an artist, a poet, or a great lord, here in nineteenth century
Paris, close to the bridge, across which streamed, like a living
antithesis, the realism of crowded cabs, full omnibuses, and hurrying
Prince Andras Zilah had invited his friends, this July morning, to a
breakfast in the open air, before the moving panorama of the banks of the
Very well known in Parisian society, which he had sought eagerly with an
evident desire to be diverted, like a man who wishes to forget, the
former defender of Hungarian independence, the son of old Prince Zilah
Sandor, who was the last, in 1849, to hold erect the tattered standard of
his country, had been prodigal of his invitations, summoning to his side
his few intimate friends, the sharers of his solitude and his privacy,
and also the greater part of those chance fugitive acquaintances which
the life of Paris inevitably gives, and which are blown away as lightly
as they appeared, in a breath of air or a whirlwind.
Count Yanski Varhely, the oldest, strongest, and most devoted friend of
all those who surrounded the Prince, knew very well why this fanciful
idea had come to Andras. At forty-four, the Prince was bidding farewell
to his bachelor life: it was no folly, and Yanski saw with delight that
the ancient race of the Zilahs, from time immemorial servants of
patriotism and the right, was not to be extinct with Prince Andras.
Hungary, whose future seemed brightening; needed the Zilahs in the future
as she had needed them in the past.
"I have only one objection to make to this marriage," said Varhely; "it
should have taken place sooner." But a man can not command his heart to
love at a given hour. When very young, Andras Zilah had cared for
scarcely anything but his country; and, far from her, in the bitterness
of exile, he had returned to the passion of his youth, living in Paris
only upon memories of his Hungary. He had allowed year after year to
roll by, without thinking of establishing a home of his own by marriage.
A little late, but with heart still warm, his spirit young and ardent,
and his body strengthened rather than worn out by life, Prince Andras
gave to a woman's keeping his whole being, his soul with his name, the
one as great as the other. He was about to marry a girl of his own
choice, whom he loved romantically; and he wished to give a surrounding
of poetic gayety to this farewell to the past, this greeting to the
future. The men of his race, in days gone by, had always displayed a
gorgeous, almost Oriental originality: the generous eccentricities of one
of Prince Andras's ancestors, the old Magyar Zilah, were often cited; he
it was who made this answer to his stewards, when, figures in hand, they
proved to him, that, if he would farm out to some English or German
company the cultivation of his wheat, corn, and oats, he would increase
his revenue by about six hundred thousand francs a year:
"But shall I make these six hundred thousand francs from the nourishment
of our laborers, farmers, sowers, and gleaners? No, certainly not; I
would no more take that money from the poor fellows than I would take the
scattered grains from the birds of the air."
It was also this grandfather of Andras, Prince Zilah Ferency, who, when
he had lost at cards the wages of two hundred masons for an entire year,
employed these men in constructing chateaux, which he burned down at the
end of the year to give himself the enjoyment of fireworks upon
The fortune of the Zilahs was then on a par with the almost fabulous,
incalculable wealth of the Esterhazys and Batthyanyis. Prince Paul
Esterhazy alone possessed three hundred and fifty square leagues of
territory in Hungary. The Zichys, the Karolyis and the Szchenyis,
poorer, had but two hundred at this time, when only six hundred families
were proprietors of six thousand acres of Hungarian soil, the nobles of
Great Britain possessing not more than five thousand in England. The
Prince of Lichtenstein entertained for a week the Emperor of Austria, his
staff and his army. Old Ferency Zilah would have done as much if he had
not always cherished a profound, glowing, militant hatred of Austria:
never had the family of the magnate submitted to Germany, become the
master, any more than it had bent the knee in former times to the
From his ancestors Prince Andras inherited, therefore, superb liberality,
with a fortune greatly diminished by all sorts of losses and misfortunes
--half of it confiscated by Austria in 1849, and enormous sums expended
for the national cause, Hungarian emigrants and proscribed compatriots.
Zilah nevertheless remained very rich, and was an imposing figure in
Paris, where, some years before, after long journeyings, he had taken up
The little fete given for his friends on board the Parisian steamer was a
trifling matter to the descendant of the magnificent Magyars; but still
there was a certain charm about the affair, and it was a pleasure for the
Prince to see upon the garden-like deck the amusing, frivolous, elegant
society, which was the one he mingled with, but which he towered above
from the height of his great intelligence, his conscience, and his
convictions. It was a mixed and bizarre society, of different
nationalities; an assemblage of exotic personages, such as are met with
only in Paris in certain peculiar places where aristocracy touches
Bohemianism, and nobles mingle with quasi-adventurers; a kaleidoscopic
society, grafting its vices upon Parisian follies, coming to inhale the
aroma and absorb the poison of Paris, adding thereto strange
intoxications, and forming, in the immense agglomeration of the old
French city, a sort of peculiar syndicate, an odd colony, which belongs
to Paris, but which, however, has nothing of Paris about it except its
eccentricities, which drive post-haste through life, fill the little
journals with its great follies, is found and found again wherever Paris
overflows--at Dieppe, Trouville, Vichy, Cauteret, upon the sands of
Etretat, under the orange-trees of Nice, or about the gaming tables of
Monaco, according to the hour, season, and fashion.
This was the sort of assemblage which, powdered, perfumed, exquisitely
dressed, invaded, with gay laughter and nervous desire to be amused, the
boat chartered by the Prince. Above, pencil in hand, the little dark man
with the keen eyes, black, pointed beard and waxed moustache, continued
to take down, as the cortege defiled before him, the list of the invited
guests: and upon the leaves fell, briskly traced, names printed a hundred
times a day in Parisian chronicles among the reports of the races of
first representations at the theatres; names with Slav, Latin, or Saxon
terminations; Italian names, Spanish, Hungarian, American names; each of
which represented fortune, glory, power, sometimes scandal--one of those
imported scandals which break out in Paris as the trichinae of foreign
goods are hatched there.
The reporter wrote on, wrote ever, tearing off and handing to the page
attached to 'L'Actualite' the last leaves of his list, whereon figured
Yankee generals of the War of the Rebellion, Italian princesses, American
girls flirting with everything that wore trousers; ladies who, rivals of
Prince Zilah in wealth, owned whole counties somewhere in England; great
Cuban lords, compromised in the latest insurrections and condemned to
death in Spain; Peruvian statesmen, publicists, and military chiefs at
once, masters of the tongue, the pen, and the revolver; a crowd of
originals, even a Japanese, an elegant young man, dressed in the latest
fashion, with a heavy sombrero which rested upon his straight, inky-black
hair, and which every minute or two he took off and placed under his left
arm, to salute the people of his acquaintance with low bows in the most
approved French manner.
All these odd people, astonishing a little and interesting greatly the
groups of Parisians gathered above on the sidewalks, crossed the gangway
leading to the boat, and, spreading about on the deck, gazed at the banks
and the houses, or listened to the czardas which the Hungarian musicians
were playing with a sort of savage frenzy beneath the French tricolor
united to the three colors of their own country.
The Tzigani thus saluted the embarkation of the guests; and the clear,
bright sunshine enveloped the whole boat with a golden aureole, joyously
illuminating the scene of feverish gayety and childish laughter.
THE BARONESS'S MATCHMAKING
The Prince Zilah met his guests with easy grace, on the deck in front of
the foot-bridge. He had a pleasant word for each one as they came on
board, happy and smiling at the idea of a breakfast on the deck of a
steamer, a novel amusement which made these insatiable pleasure-seekers
forget the fashionable restaurants and the conventional receptions of
"What a charming thought this was of yours, Prince, so unexpected, so
Parisian, ah, entirely Parisian!"
In almost the same words did each newcomer address the Prince, who
smiled, and repeated a phrase from Jacquemin's chronicles: "Foreigners
are more Parisian than the Parisians themselves."
A smile lent an unexpected charm to the almost severe features of the
host. His usual expression was rather sad, and a trifle haughty. His
forehead was broad and high, the forehead of a thinker and a student
rather than that of a soldier; his eyes were of a deep, clear blue,
looking directly at everything; his nose was straight and regular, and
his beard and moustache were blond, slightly gray at the corners of the
mouth and the chin. His whole appearance, suggesting, as it did, reserved
strength and controlled passion, pleased all the more because, while
commanding respect, it attracted sympathy beneath the powerful exterior,
you felt there was a tender kindliness of heart.
There was no need for the name of Prince Andras Zilah--or, as they say in
Hungary, Zilah Andras--to have been written in characters of blood in the
history of his country, for one to divine the hero in him: his erect
figure, the carriage of his head, braving life as it had defied the
bullets of the enemy, the strange brilliance of his gaze, the sweet
inflections of his voice accustomed to command, and the almost caressing
gestures of his hand used to the sword--all showed the good man under the
brave, and, beneath the indomitable soldier, the true gentleman.
When they had shaken the hand of their host, the guests advanced to the
bow of the boat to salute a young girl, an exquisite, pale brunette, with
great, sad eyes, and a smile of infinite charm, who was half-extended in
a low armchair beneath masses of brilliant parti-colored flowers. A
stout man, of the Russian type, with heavy reddish moustaches streaked
with gray, and an apoplectic neck, stood by her side, buttoned up in his
frock-coat as in a military uniform.
Every now and then, leaning over and brushing with his moustaches her
delicate white ear, he would ask:
"Are you happy, Marsa?"
And Marsa would answer with a smile ending in a sigh, as she vaguely
contemplated the scene before her:
"Yes, uncle, very happy."
Not far from these two was a little woman, still very pretty, although of
a certain age--the age of embonpoint--a brunette, with very delicate
features, a little sensual mouth, and pretty rosy ears peeping forth from
skilfully arranged masses of black hair. With a plump, dimpled hand, she
held before her myopic eyes a pair of gold-mounted glasses; and she was
speaking to a man of rather stern aspect, with a Slav physiognomy, a
large head, crowned with a mass of crinkly hair as white as lamb's wool,
a long, white moustache, and shoulders as broad as an ox; a man already
old, but with the robust strength of an oak. He was dressed neither well
nor ill, lacking distinction, but without vulgarity.
"Indeed, my dear Varhely, I am enchanted with this idea of Prince Andras.
I am enjoying myself excessively already, and I intend to enjoy myself
still more. Do you know, this scheme of a breakfast on the water is
simply delightful! Don't you find it so? Oh! do be a little jolly,
"Do I seem sad, then, Baroness?"
Yanski Varhely, the friend of Prince Andras, was very happy, however,
despite his rather sombre air. He glanced alternately at the little
woman who addressed him, and at Marsa, two very different types of
beauty: Andras's fiancee, slender and pale as a beautiful lily, and the
little Baroness Dinati, round and rosy as a ripe peach. And he was
decidedly pleased with this Marsa Laszlo, against whom he had
instinctively felt some prejudice when Zilah spoke to him for the first
time of marrying her. To make of a Tzigana--for Marsa was half Tzigana--
a Princess Zilah, seemed to Count Varhely a slightly bold resolution.
The brave old soldier had never understood much of the fantastic caprices
of passion, and Andras seemed to him in this, as in all other things,
just a little romantic. But, after all, the Prince was his own master,
and whatever a Zilah did was well done. So, after reflection, Zilah's
marriage became a joy to Varhely, as he had just been declaring to the
fiancee's uncle, General Vogotzine.
Baroness Dinati was therefore wrong to suspect old Yanski Varhely of any
'arriere-pensee'. How was it possible for him not to be enchanted, when
he saw Andras absolutely beaming with happiness?
They were now about to depart, to raise the anchor and glide down the
river along the quays. Already Paul Jacquemin, casting his last leaves
to the page of L'Actualite, was quickly descending the gangplank. Zilah
scarcely noticed him, for he uttered a veritable cry of delight as he
perceived behind the reporter a young man whom he had not expected.
"Menko! My dear Michel!" he exclaimed, stretching out both hands to the
newcomer, who advanced, excessively pale. "By what happy chance do I see
you, my dear boy?"
"I heard in London that you were to give this fete. The English
newspapers had announced your marriage, and I did not wish to wait
He hesitated a little as he spoke, as if dissatisfied, troubled, and a
moment before (Zilah had not noticed it) he had made a movement as if to
go back to the quay and leave the boat.
Michel Menko, however, had not the air of a timid man. He was tall,
thin, of graceful figure, a man of the world, a military diplomat. For
some reason or other, at this moment, he exhibited a certain uneasiness
in his face, which ordinarily bore a rather brilliant color, but which
was now almost sallow. He was instinctively seeking some one among the
Prince's guests, and his glance wandered about the deck with a sort of
Prince Andras saw only one thing in Menko's sudden appearance; the young
man, to whom he was deeply attached, and who was the only relative he had
in the world (his maternal grandmother having been a Countess Menko), his
dear Michel, would be present at his marriage. He had thought Menko ill
in London; but the latter appeared before him, and the day was decidedly
a happy one.
"How happy you make me, my dear fellow!" he said to him in a tone of
affection which was almost paternal.
Each demonstration of friendship by the Prince seemed to increase the
young Count's embarrassment. Beneath a polished manner, the evidence of
an imperious temperament appeared in the slightest glance, the least
gesture, of this handsome fellow of twenty-seven or twenty-eight years.
Seeing him pass by, one could easily imagine him with his fashionable
clothes cast aside, and, clad in the uniform of the Hungarian hussars,
with closely shaven chin, and moustaches brushed fiercely upward,
manoeuvring his horse on the Prater with supple grace and nerves like
Menko's gray eyes, with blue reflections in them, which made one think of
the reflection of a storm in a placid lake, became sad when calm, but
were full of a threatening light when animated. The gaze of the young
man had precisely this aggressive look when he discovered, half hidden
among the flowers, Marsa seated in the bow of the boat; then, almost
instantaneously a singular expression of sorrow or anguish succeeded,
only in its turn to fade away with the rapidity of the light of a falling
star; and there was perfect calm in Menko's attitude and expression when
Prince Zilah said to him:
"Come, Michel, let me present you to my fiancee. Varhely is there also."
And, taking Menko's arm, he led him toward Marsa. "See," he said to the
young girl, "my happiness is complete."
She, as Michel Menko bowed low before her, coldly and almost
imperceptibly inclined her dark head, while her large eyes, under the
shadow of their heavy lashes, seemed vainly trying to meet the gray eyes
of the young man.
Andras beckoned Varhely to come to Marsa, who was white as marble, and
said softly, with a hand on the shoulder of each of the two friends, who
represented to him his whole life--Varhely, the past; Michel Menko, his
recovered youth and the future.
"If it were not for that stupid superstition which forbids one to
proclaim his happiness, I should tell you how happy I am, very happy.
Yes, the happiest of men," he added.
Meanwhile, the little Baroness Dinati, the pretty brunette, who had just
found Varhely a trifle melancholy, had turned to Paul Jacquemin, the
accredited reporter of her salon.
"That happiness, Jacquemin," she said, with a proud wave of the hand, "is
my work. Without me, those two charming savages, so well suited to each
other, Marsa and Andras Zilah, would never have met. On what does
"On an invitation card engraved by Stern," laughed Jacquemin. "But you
have said too much, Baroness. You must tell me the whole story. Think
what an article it would make: The Baroness's Matchmaking! The romance!
Quick, the romance! The romance, or death!"
"You have no idea how near you are to the truth, my dear Jacquemin: it is
indeed a romance; and, what is more, a romantic romance. A romance which
has no resemblance to--you have invented the word--those brutalistic
stories which you are so fond of."
"Which I am very fond of, Baroness, I confess, especially when they are
just a little--you know!"
"But this romance of Prince Andras is by no means just a little--you
know! It is--how shall I express it? It is epic, heroic, romantic--what
you will. I will relate it to you."
"It will sell fifty thousand copies of our paper," gayly exclaimed
Jacquemin, opening his ears, and taking notes mentally.
THE STORY OF THE ZILAHS
Andras Zilah, Transylvanian Count and Prince of the Holy Empire, was one
of those heroes who devote their whole lives to one aim, and, when they
love, love always.
Born for action, for chivalrous and incessant struggle, he had sacrificed
his first youth to battling for his country. "The Hungarian was created
on horseback," says a proverb, and Andras did not belie the saying. In
'48, at the age of fifteen, he was in the saddle, charging the Croatian
hussars, the redcloaks, the terrible darkskinned Ottochan horsemen,
uttering frightful yells, and brandishing their big damascened guns.
It seemed then to young Andras that he was assisting at one of the
combats of the Middle Ages, during one of those revolts against the
Osmanlis, of which he had heard so much when a child.
In the old castle, with towers painted red in the ancient fashion, where
he was born and had grown up, Andras, like all the males of his family
and his country, had been imbued with memories of the old wars. A few
miles from his father's domain rose the Castle of the Isle, which, in the
middle of the sixteenth century, Zringi had defended against the Turks,
displaying lofty courage and unconquerable audacity, and forcing Soliman
the Magnificent to leave thirty thousand soldiers beneath the walls, the
Sultan himself dying before he could subjugate the Hungarian. Often had
Andras's father, casting his son upon a horse, set out, followed by a
train of cavaliers, for Mohacz, where the Mussulmans had once overwhelmed
the soldiers of young King Louis, who died with his own family and every
Hungarian who was able to carry arms. Prince Zilah related to the little
fellow, who listened to him with burning tears of rage, the story of the
days of mourning and the terrible massacres which no Hungarian has ever
forgotten. Then he told him of the great revolts, the patriotic
uprisings, the exploits of Botzkai, Bethlen Gabor, or Rakoczy, whose
proud battle hymn made the blood surge through the veins of the little
Once at Buda, the father had taken the son to the spot, where, in 1795,
fell the heads of noble Hungarians, accused of republicanism; and he said
to him, as the boy stood with uncovered head:
"This place is called the Field of Blood. Martinowitz was beheaded here
for his faith. Remember, that a man's life belongs to his duty, and not
to his happiness."
And when he returned to the great sombre halls of the castle, whence in
bygone days the Turks had driven out his ancestors, and whence, in their
turn, throwing off the yoke of the conquerors, his ancestors had driven
out the Turks, little Prince Andras found again examples before him in
the giants in semi-oriental costumes, glittering in steel or draped in
purple, who looked down upon him from their frames; smoke-blackened
paintings wherein the eagle eyes and long moustaches of black hussars,
contemporaries of Sobieski, or magnates in furred robes, with aigrettes
in their caps, and curved sabres garnished with precious stones and
enamel, attracted and held spellbound the silent child, while through the
window floated in, sung by some shepherd, or played by wandering Tzigani,
the refrain of the old patriotic ballad 'Czaty Demeter', the origin of
which is lost in the mist of ages
Remember, oh, yes! remember our ancestors! Brave, proud Magyars,
when you left the land of the Scythians, brave ancestors, great
forefathers, you did not suspect that your sons would be slaves!
Remember, oh, yes! remember our ancestors!
Andras did remember them, and he knew by heart their history. He knew
the heroism of Prince Zilah Sandor falling in Mohacz in 1566 beside his
wife Hanska who had followed him, leaving in the cradle her son Janski,
whose grandson, Zilah Janos, in 1867, at the very place where his
ancestor had been struck, sabred the Turks, crying: "Sandor and Hanska,
look down upon me; your blood avenges you!"
There was not one of those men, whose portraits followed the child with
their black eyes, who was not recorded in the history of his country for
some startling deed or noble sacrifice. All had fought for Hungary: the
greater part had died for her. There was a saying that the deathbed of
the Zilahs was a bloody battleground. When he offered his name and his
life to Maria Theresa, one of the Zilah princes had said proudly to the
Empress: "You demand of the Hungarians gold, they bring you steel. The
gold was to nourish your courtiers, the steel will be to save your crown.
Forward!" These terrible ancestors were, besides, like all the magnates
of Hungary, excessively proud of their nobility and their patriarchal
system of feudalism. They knew how to protect their peasants, who were
trained soldiers, how to fight for them, and how to die at their head;
but force seemed to them supreme justice, and they asked nothing but
their sword with which to defend their right. Andras's father, Prince
Sandor, educated by a French tutor who had been driven from Paris by the
Revolution, was the first of all his family to form any perception of a
civilization based upon justice and law, and not upon the almighty power
of the sabre. The liberal education which he had received, Prince Sandor
transmitted to his son. The peasants, who detested the pride of the
Magyars, and the middle classes of the cities, mostly tradesmen who
envied the castles of these magnates, soon became attracted, fascinated,
and enraptured with this transformation in the ancient family of the
Zilahs. No man, not even Georgei, the Spartanlike soldier, nor the
illustrious Kossuth, was more popular in 1849, at the time of the
struggle against Austria, than Prince Sandor Zilah and his son, then a
handsome boy of sixteen, but strong and well built as a youth of twenty.
At this youthful age, Andras Zilah had been one of those magnates, who,
the 'kalpach' on the head, the national 'attila' over the shoulder and
the hand upon the hilt of the sword, had gone to Vienna to plead before
the Emperor the cause of Hungary. They were not listened to, and one
evening, the negotiations proving futile, Count Batthyanyi said to
"We shall soon meet again upon the Drave!"
"No," responded the Ban of Croatia, "I will go myself to seek you upon
This was war; and Prince Sandor went, with his son, to fight bravely for
the old kingdom of St. Stephen against the cannon and soldiers of
All these years of blood and battle were now half forgotten by Prince
Andras; but often Yanski Varhely, his companion of those days of
hardship, the bold soldier who in former times had so often braved the
broadsword of the Bohemian cuirassiers of Auersperg's regiment, would
recall to him the past with a mournful shake of the head, and repeat,
ironically, the bitter refrain of the song of defeat:
Dance, dance, daughters of Hungary!
Tread now the measure so long delayed.
Murdered our sons by the shot or the hangman!
In this land of pleasure, oh! be not dismayed;--
Now is the time, brown daughters of Hungary,
To dance to the measure of true hearts betrayed!
And then, these melancholy words calling up the memory of disaster, all
would revive before Andras Zilah's eyes--the days of mourning and the
days of glory; the exploits of Bem; the victories of Dembiski; the
Austrian flags taken at Goedolloe; the assaults of Buda; the defence of
Comorn; Austria, dejected and defeated, imploring the aid of Russia;
Hungary, beaten by the force of numbers, yet resisting Paskiewich as she
had resisted Haynau, and appealing to Europe and the world in the name of
the eternal law of nations, which the vanquished invoke, but which is
never listened to by the countries where the lion is tearing his prey.
And again, Zilah would remember the heroic fatherland struck down at
Temesvar; the remnants of an armed people in refuge at Arad; and Klapka
still holding out in the island of Comorn at the moment when Georgei had
surrendered. Then, again, the obscure deaths of his comrades; the
agonies in the ditches and in the depths of the woods; the last
despairing cries of a conquered people overwhelmed by numbers:
Dance, dance, daughters of Hungary!
All this bloody past, enveloped as in a crimson cloud, but glorious with
its gleams of hope and its flashes of victory, the Prince would revive
with old Varhely, in the corner of whose eye at intervals a tear would
They both saw again the last days of Comorn, with the Danube at the foot
of the walls, and the leaves of the trees whirling in the September wind,
and dispersed like the Hungarians themselves; and the shells falling upon
the ramparts; and the last hours of the siege; and the years of mournful
sadness and exile; their companions decimated, imprisoned, led to the
gallows or the stake; the frightful silence and ruin falling like a
winding-sheet over Hungary; the houses deserted, the fields laid waste,
and the country, fertile yesterday, covered now with those Muscovite
thistles, which were unknown in Hungary before the year of massacre, and
the seeds of which the Cossack horses had imported in their thick manes
Beloved Hungary, whose sons, disdaining the universe, used proudly to
boast: "Have we not all that man needs? Banat, which gives us wheat;
Tisza, wine; the mountain, gold and salt. Our country is sufficient for
her children!" And this country, this fruitful country, was now covered
with gibbets and corpses.
"WHEN HUNGARY IS FREE!"
All these bitter memories Prince Andras, in spite of the years that had
passed, kept ever in his mind one sad and tragic event--the burial of his
father, Sandor Zilah, who was shot in the head by a bullet during an
encounter with the Croats early in the month of January, 1849.
Prince Sandor was able to grasp the hand of his son, and murmur in the
ear of this hero of sixteen:
"Remember! Love and defend the fatherland!"
Then, as the Austrians were close at hand, it was necessary to bury the
Prince in a trench dug in the snow, at the foot of a clump of fir-trees.
Some Hungarian 'honveds, bourgeois' militia, and Varhely's hussars held
at the edge of the black opening resinous torches, which the wintry wind
shook like scarlet plumes, and which stained the snow with great red
spots of light. Erect, at the head of the ditch, his fingers grasping
the hand of Yanski Varhely, young Prince Andras gazed upon the earthy
bed, where, in his hussar's uniform, lay Prince Sandor, his long blond
moustache falling over his closed mouth, his blood-stained hands crossed
upon his black embroidered vest, his right hand still clutching the
handle of his sabre, and on his forehead, like a star, the round mark of
the bit of lead that had killed him.
Above, the whitened branches of the firs looked like spectres, and upon
the upturned face of the dead soldier fell flakes of snow like congealed
tears. Under the flickering of the torch-flames, blown about by the
north wind, the hero seemed at times to move again, and a wild desire
came to Andras to leap down into the grave and snatch away the body. He
was an orphan now, his mother having died when he was an infant, and he
was alone in the world, with only the stanch friendship of Varhely and
his duty to his country to sustain him.
"I will avenge you, father," he whispered to the patriot, who could no
longer hear his words.
The hussars and honveds had advanced, ready to fire a final salvo over
the grave of the Prince, when, suddenly, gliding between the ranks of the
soldiers, appeared a band of Tzigani, who began to play the March of
Rakoczy, the Hungarian Marseillaise, the stirring melody pealing forth in
the night-air, and lending a certain mysteriously touching element to the
sad scene. A quick shudder ran through the ranks of the soldiers, ready
to become avengers.
The national hymn rang out like a song of glory over the resting-place of
the vanquished. The soul of the dead seemed to speak in the voice of the
heroic music, recalling to the harassed contestants for liberty the great
days of the revolts of the fatherland, the old memories of the struggles
against the Turks, the furious charges of the cavaliers across the free
puszta, the vast Hungarian plain.
And while, with long sweeps of his arm, the chief of the Tzigani marked
the measure, and the 'czimbalom' poured forth its heartrending notes,
it seemed to the poor fellows gathered about that the music of the March
of Rakoczy summoned a whole fantastic squadron of avengers, horsemen with
floating pelisses and herons' plumes in their hats, who, erect in their
saddles and with sabres drawn, struck, struck the frightened enemy, and
recovered, foot by foot, the conquered territory. There was in this
exalted march a sound of horses' hoofs, the clash of arms, a shaking of
the earth under the gallop of horsemen, a flash of agraffes, a rustle of
pelisses in the wind, an heroic gayety and a chivalrous bravery, like the
cry of a whole people of cavaliers sounding the charge of deliverance.
And the young Prince, gazing down upon his dead father, remembered how
many times those mute lips had related to him the legend of the czardas,
that legend, symbolic of the history of Hungary, summing up all the
bitter pain of the conquest, when the beautiful dark girls of
Transylvania danced, their tears burning their cheeks, under the lash of
the Osmanlis. At first, cold and motionless, like statues whose calm
looks silently insulted their possessors, they stood erect beneath the
eye of the Turk; then little by little, the sting of the master's whip
falling upon their shoulders and tearing their sides and cheeks, their
bodies twisted in painful, revolted spasms; the flesh trembled under the
cord like the muscles of a horse beneath the spur; and, in the morbid
exaltation of suffering, a sort of wild delirium took possession of them,
their arms were waved in the air, their heads with hair dishevelled were
thrown backward, and the captives, uttering a sound at once plaintive and
menacing, danced, their dance, at first slow and melancholy, becoming
gradually active, nervous, and interrupted by cries which resembled sobs.
And the Hungarian czardas, symbolizing thus the dance of these martyrs,
kept still, will always keep, the characteristic of contortions under the
lash of bygone days; and, slow and languishing at first, then soon quick
and agitated, tragically hysterical, it also is interrupted by melancholy
chords, dreary, mournful notes and plaintive accents like drops of blood
from a wound-from the mortal wound of Prince Sandor, lying there in his
The bronzed Tzigani, fantastically illumined by the red glare of the
torches, stood out against the white background like demons of revenge;
and the hymn, feverish, bold, ardent, echoed through the snow-covered
branches like a hurricane of victory. They were wandering musicians,
who, the evening before, had been discovered in a neighboring village by
some of Jellachich's Croats, and whom Prince Sandor had unceremoniously
rescued at the head of his hussars; and they had come, with their ancient
national airs, the voice of their country, to pay their debt to the
When they had finished, the wintry night-wind bearing away the last notes
of their war-song, the pistols of the hussars and the guns of the honveds
discharged a salute over the grave. The earth and snow were shovelled in
upon the body of Sandor Zilah, and Prince Andras drew away, after marking
with a cross the place where his father reposed.
A few paces away, he perceived, among the Tzigani musicians, a young
girl, the only woman of the tribe, who wept with mournful sobbings like
the echoes of the deserts of the Orient.
He wondered why the girl wept so bitterly, when he, the son, could not
shed a tear.
"Because Prince Zilah Sandor was valiant among the valiant," she replied,
in answer to his question, "and he died because he would not wear the
talisman which I offered him."
Andras looked at the girl.
"Some pebbles from the lakes of Tatra, sewn up in a little leather bag."
Andras knew what a powerful superstition is attached by the people of
Hungary to these deep lakes of Tatra, the "eyes of the sea," where, say
the old legends, the most beautiful carbuncle in the world lies hidden,
a carbuncle which would sparkle like the sun, if it could be discovered,
and which is guarded by frogs with diamond eyes and with lumps of pure
gold for feet. He felt more touched than astonished at the superstition
of the Tzigana, and at the offer which, the evening before, Prince Sandor
had refused with a smile.
"Give me what you wished to give my father," he said. "I will keep it in
memory of him."
A bright, joyous light flashed for a moment across the face of the
Tzigana. She extended to the young Prince the little bag of leather
containing several small, round pebbles like grains of maize.
"At all events," exclaimed the young. girl, "there will be one Zilah
whom the balls of the Croats will spare for the safety of Hungary."
Andras slowly detached from his shoulder the silver agraffe, set with
opals, which clasped his fur pelisse, and handed it to the gypsy, who
regarded it with admiring eyes as it flashed in the red light.
"The day when my father is avenged," he said, "and our Hungary is free,
bring me this jewel, and you and yours come to the castle of the Zilahs.
I will give you a life of peace in memory of this night of mourning."
Already, at a distance, could be heard a rapid fusillade about the
outposts. The Austrians had perhaps perceived the light from the
torches, and were attempting a night attack.
"Extinguish the torches!" cried Yanski Varhely.
The resinous knots hissed as they were thrust into the snow, and the
black, sinister night of winter, with the cries of the wind in the
branches, fell upon the troop of men, ready to die as their chief had
died; and all disappeared vision, phantoms--the Tzigani silently taking
refuge in the sombre forest, while here and there could be heard the
rattle of the ramrods as the honveds loaded their guns.
This January night appeared now to Andras as an almost fantastic dream.
Since then he had erected a mausoleum of marble on the very spot where
Prince Sandor fell; and of all the moments of that romantic, picturesque
war, the agonizing moment, the wild scene of the burial of his father,
was most vivid in his memory--the picture of the warrior stretched in the
snow, his hand on the handle of his sword, remained before his eyes,
imperishable in its melancholy majesty.
"MY FATHER WAS A RUSSIAN!"
When the war was over, the Prince roamed sadly for years about Europe--
Europe, which, unmindful of the martyrs, had permitted the massacre of
the vanquished. It was many years before he could accustom himself to
the idea that he had no longer a country. He counted always upon the
future; it was impossible that fate would forever be implacable to a
nation. He often repeated this to Yanski Varhely, who had never forsaken
him--Yanski Varhely, the impoverished old hussar, the ruined gentleman,
now professor of Latin and mathematics at Paris, and living near the
Prince off the product of his lessons and a small remnant he had managed
to save from the wreck of his property.
"Hungary will spring up again, Yanski; Hungary is immortal!" Andras
"Yes, on one condition," was Varhely's response. "She must arrive at a
comprehension that if she has succumbed, it is because she has committed
faults. All defeats have their geneses. Before the enemy we were not a
unit. There were too many discussions, and not enough action; such a
state of affairs is always fatal."
The years brought happy changes to Hungary. She practically regained her
freedom; by her firmness she made the conquest of her own autonomy by the
side of Austria. Deak's spirit, in the person of Andrassy, recovered the
possession of power. But neither Andras nor Varhely returned to their
country. The Prince had become, as he himself said with a smile, "a
Magyar of Paris." He grew accustomed to the intellectual, refined life
of the French city; and this was a consolation, at times, for the exile
from his native land.
"It is not a difficult thing to become bewitched with Paris," he would
say, as if to excuse himself.
He had no longer, it is true, the magnificent landscapes of his youth;
the fields of maize, the steppes, dotted here and there with clumps of
wild roses; the Carpathian pines, with their sombre murmur; and all the
evening sounds which had been his infancy's lullaby; the cowbells,
melancholy and indistinct; the snapping of the great whips of the czikos;
the mounted shepherds, with their hussar jackets, crossing the plains
where grew the plants peculiar to the country; and the broad horizons
with the enormous arms of the windmills outlined against the golden
sunset. But Paris, with its ever-varying seductions, its activity in art
and science, its perpetual movement, had ended by becoming a real need to
him, like a new existence as precious and as loved as the first. The
soldier had become a man of letters, jotting down for himself, not for
the public, all that struck him in his observation and his reading;
mingling in all societies, knowing them all, but esteeming only one, that
of honest people; and thus letting the years pass by, without suspecting
that they were flying, regarding himself somewhat as a man away on a
visit, and suddenly awaking one fine morning almost old, wondering how he
had lived all this time of exile which, despite many mental troubles,
seemed to him to have lasted only a few months.
"We resemble," he said to Varhely, "those emigrants who never unpack
their boxes, certain that they are soon to return home. They wait, and
some day, catching a glimpse of themselves in a glass, they are amazed to
find wrinkles and gray hairs."
No longer having a home in his own country, Prince Andras had never
dreamed of making another abroad. He hired the sumptuous hotel he
inhabited at the top of the Champs Elysees, when houses were rather
scattered there. Fashion, and the ascensional movement of Paris toward
the Arc de Triomphe, had come to seek him. His house was rich in
beautiful pictures and rare books, and he sometimes received there his
few real friends, his companions in troublous times, like Varhely. He
was generally considered a little of a recluse, although he loved society
and showed himself, during the winter, at all entertainments where, by
virtue of his fame and rank, he would naturally be expected to be
present. But he carried with him a certain melancholy and gravity, which
contrasted strongly with the frivolous trivialities and meaningless
smiles of our modern society. In the summer, he usually passed two
months at the seashore, where Varhely frequently joined him; and upon the
leafy terrace of the Prince's villa the two friends had long and
confidential chats, as they watched the sun sink into the sea.
Andras had never thought of marrying. At first, he had a sort of feeling
that he was doomed to an early death, ever expecting a renewal of the
struggle with Austria; and he thought at that time that the future would
bring to him his father's fate--a ball in the forehead and a ditch.
Then, without knowing it, he had reached and passed his fortieth year.
"Now it is too late," he said, gayly. "The psychological moment is long
gone by. We shall both end old bachelors, my good Varhely, and spend our
evenings playing checkers, that mimic warfare of old men."
"Yes, that is all very well for me, who have no very famous name to
perpetuate; but the Zilahs should not end with you. I want some sturdy
little hussar whom I can teach to sit a horse, and who also will call me
his good old Yanski."
The Prince smiled, and then replied, gravely, almost sadly: "I greatly
fear that one can not love two things at once; the heart is not elastic.
I chose Hungary for my bride, and my life must be that of a widower."
In the midst of the austere and thoughtful life he led, Andras preserved,
nevertheless, a sort of youthful buoyancy. Many men of thirty were less
fresh in mind and body than he. He was one of those beings who die, as
they have lived, children: even the privations of the hardest kind of an
existence can not take away from them that purity and childlike trust
which seem to be an integral part of themselves, and which, although they
may be betrayed, deceived and treated harshly by life, they never wholly
lose; very manly and heroic in time of need and danger, they are by
nature peculiarly exposed to treasons and deceptions which astonish but
do not alter them. Since man, in the progress of time, must either
harden or break to pieces, the hero in them is of iron; but, on the other
hand, their hearts are easily wounded by the cruel hand of some woman or
the careless one of a child.
Andras Zilah had not yet loved deeply, as it was in his nature to love.
More or less passing caprices had not dried up the spring of real passion
which was at the bottom of his heart. But he had not sought this love;
for he adored his Hungary as he would have loved a woman, and the bitter
recollection of her defeat gave him the impression of a love that had
died or been cruelly betrayed.
Yanski, on the whole, had not greatly troubled himself to demonstrate
mathematically or philosophically that a "hussar pupil" was an absolute
necessity to him. People can not be forced, against their will, to
marry; and the Prince, after all, was free, if he chose, to let the name
of Zilah die with him.
"Taking life as it is," old Varhely would growl, "perhaps it isn't
necessary to bring into the world little beings who never asked to come
here." And yet breaking off in his pessimism, and with a vision before
his eyes of another Andras, young, handsome, leading his hussars to the
charge "and yet, it is a pity, Andras, it is a pity."
The decisions of men are more often dependent upon chance than upon their
own will. Prince Andras received an invitation to dinner one day from
the little Baroness Dinati, whom he liked very much, and whose husband,
Orso Dinati, one of the defenders of Venice in the time of Manin, had
been his intimate friend. The house of the Baroness was a very curious
place; the reporter Jacquemin, who was there at all times, testing the
wines and correcting the menus, would have called it "bizarre." The
Baroness received people in all circles of society; oddities liked her,
and she did not dislike oddities. Very honest, very spirituelle, an
excellent woman at heart, she gave evening parties, readings from
unheard-of books, and performances of the works of unappreciated
musicians; and the reporters, who came to absorb her salads and drink her
punch, laughed at her in their journals before their supper was digested.
The Prince, as we have said, was very fond of the Baroness, with an
affection which was almost fraternal. He pardoned her childishness and
her little absurdities for the sake of her great good qualities. "My
dear Prince," she said to him one day, "do you know that I would throw
myself into the fire for you?"
"I am sure of it; but there would not be any great merit in your doing
"And why not, please?"
"Because you would not run any risk of being burned. This must be so,
because you receive in your house a crowd of highly suspicious people,
and no one has ever suspected you yourself. You are a little salamander,
the prettiest salamander I ever met. You live in fire, and you have
neither upon your face nor your reputation the slightest little scorch."
"Then you think that my guests are"----
"Charming. Only, they are of two kinds: those whom I esteem, and who do
not amuse me--often; and those who amuse me, and whom I esteem--never."
"I suppose you will not come any more to the Rue Murillo, then?"
"Certainly I shall--to see you."
And it really was to see her that the Prince went to the Baroness
Dinati's, where his melancholy characteristics clashed with so many
worldly follies and extravagances. The Baroness seemed to have a
peculiar faculty in choosing extraordinary guests: Peruvians, formerly
dictators, now become insurance agents, or generals transformed into
salesmen for some wine house; Cuban chiefs half shot to pieces by the
Spaniards; Cretes exiled by the Turks; great personages from
Constantinople, escaped from the Sultan's silken bowstring, and
displaying proudly their red fez in Paris, where the opera permitted them
to continue their habits of polygamy; Americans, whose gold-mines or
petroleum-wells made them billionaires for a winter, only to go to pieces
and make them paupers the following summer; politicians out of a place;
unknown authors; misunderstood poets; painters of the future-in short,
the greater part of the people who were invited by Prince Andras to his
water-party, Baroness Dinati having pleaded for her friends and obtained
for them cards of invitation. It was a sort of ragout of real and shady
celebrities, an amusing, bustling crowd, half Bohemian, half
aristocratic, entirely cosmopolitan. Prince Andras remembered once
having dined with a staff officer of Garibaldi's army on one side of him,
and the Pope's nuncio on the other.
On a certain evening the Baroness was very anxious that the Prince should
not refuse her latest invitation.
"I am arranging a surprise for you," she said. "I am going to have to
"Whom? The Mikado? The Shah of Persia?"
"Better than the Mikado. A charming young girl who admires you
profoundly, for she knows by heart the whole history of your battles of
1849. She has read Georgei, Klapka, and all the rest of them; and she is
so thoroughly Bohemian in heart, soul and race, that she is universally
called the Tzigana."
This simple word, resembling the clank of cymbals, brought up to Prince
Andras a whole world of recollections. 'Hussad czigany'! The rallying
cry of the wandering musicians of the puszta had some element in it like
the cherished tones of the distant bells of his fatherland.
"Ah! yes, indeed, my dear Baroness," he said; "that is a charming
surprise. I need not ask if your Tzigana is pretty; all the Tzigani of
my country are adorable, and I am sure I shall fall in love with her."
The Prince had no notion how prophetic his words were. The Tzigana, whom
the Baroness requested him to take in to dinner, was Marsa, Marsa Laszlo,
dressed in one of the black toilettes which she affected, and whose
clear, dark complexion, great Arabian eyes, and heavy, wavy hair seemed
to Andras's eyes to be the incarnation, in a prouder and more refined
type, of the warm, supple, nervous beauty of the girls of his country.
He was surprised and strangely fascinated, attracted by the incongruous
mixture of extreme refinement and a sort of haughty unconventionality he
found in Marsa. A moment before, he had noticed how silent, almost rigid
she was, as she leaned back in her armchair; but now this same face was
strangely animated, illumined by some happy emotion, and her eyes burned
like coals of fire as she fixed them upon Andras.
During the whole dinner, the rest of the dining-room disappeared to the
Prince; he saw only the girl at his side; and the candles and polished
mirrors were only there to form a sparkling background for her pale,
"Do you know, Prince," said Marsa, in her rich, warm contralto voice,
whose very accents were like a caress, "do you know that, among all those
who fought for our country, you are the one admiration of my life?"
He smiled, and mentioned more illustrious names.
"No, no," she answered; "those are not the names I care for, but yours.
I will tell you why."
And she recalled, in a voice vibrating with emotion, all that Prince
Zilah Sandor and his son had attempted, twenty years before, for the
liberty of Hungary. She told the whole story in the most vivid manner;
had her age permitted her to have been present at those battles, she
could not have related them with more spirited enthusiasm.
"I know, perfectly, how, at the head of your hussars, you wrested from
the soldiers of Jellachich the first standard captured by the Hungarians
from the ranks of Austria. Shall I tell you the exact date? and the day
of the week? It was Thursday."
The whole history, ignored, forgotten, lost in the smoke of more recent
wars, the strange, dark-eyed girl, knew day by day, hour by hour; and
there, in that Parisian dining-room, surrounded by all that crowd, where
yesterday's 'bon mot', the latest scandal, the new operetta, were
subjects of paramount importance, Andras, voluntarily isolated, saw
again, present and living, his whole heroic past rise up before him, as
beneath the wave of a fairy's wand.
"But how do you know me so well?" he asked, fixing his clear eyes upon
Marsa Laszlo's face. "Was your father one of my soldiers?"
"My father was a Russian," responded Marsa, abruptly, her voice suddenly
becoming harsh and cutting.
"Yes, a Russian," she repeated, emphasizing the word with a sort of dull
anger. "My mother alone was a Tzigana, and my mother's beauty was part
of the spoils of those who butchered your soldiers?"
In the uproar of conversation, which became more animated with the
dessert, she could not tell him of the sorrows of her life; and yet,
he guessed there was some sad story in the life of the young girl,
and almost implored her to speak, stopping just at the limit where
sympathy might change into indiscretion.
"I beg your pardon," he said, as she was silent, with a dark shadow
overspreading her face. "I have no right to know your life simply
because you are so well acquainted with mine."
"Oh! you!" she said, with a sad smile; "your life is history; mine is
drama, melodrama even. There is a great difference."
"Pardon my presumption!"
"Oh! I will willingly tell you of my life, if the existence of a useless
being like myself can interest you; but not here in the noise of this
dinner. It would be absurd," with a change of tone, "to mingle tears
with champagne. By-and-bye! By-and-bye!"
She made an evident effort to appear gay, like the pretty women who were
there, and who, despite their prettiness, seemed to Andras perfectly
insignificant; but she did not succeed in driving away the cloud of
sadness which overshadowed her exquisite, dark face. And in the ears of
the Prince rang again the bitter accents of that voice saying in a harsh,
almost revolted tone:
"Yes, a Russian! My father was a Russian!"
A GYPSY PRINCESS
The mystery which seemed to envelop Marsa, the flash of anger with which
she had spoken of the Russian who was her father, all attracted the
Prince toward her; and he experienced a deliciously disquieting
sentiment, as if the secret of this girl's existence were now grafted
upon his own life.
She seemed to have no wish to keep her secret from him. At their first
meeting, during the conversation which followed the dinner and the
musical exhibition given by extraordinary musicians with long, unkempt
locks, Marsa, trusting with a sort of joy to the one whom she regarded as
a hero, told Prince Andras the story of her life.
She related to him the assault made by soldiers of Paskiewich upon the
little Hungarian village, and how her grandfather, leaving his czimbalom,
had fired upon the Russians from the ranks of the honveds. There was a
combat, or rather a butchery, in the sole street of the town, one of the
last massacres of the campaign. The Russians destroyed everything,
shooting down the prisoners, and burning the poor little houses. There
were some women among the Hungarians and Tzigani; they had loaded the
guns of the wounded, comforted the dying and avenged the dead. Many of
them were killed. One of them, the youngest and prettiest, a gypsy, was
seized by the Russian officer, and, when peace was declared soon after,
carried off by him to Russia. This was Tisza Laszlo, Marsa's mother.
The officer, a great Russian nobleman, a handsome fellow and extremely
rich, really loved her with a mad sort of love. He forced her to become
his mistress; but he tried in every way to make her pardon the brutality
of his passion; keeping her half a captive in his castle near Moscow,
and yet offering her, by way of expiation, not only his fortune but his
name, the princely title of which the Tchereteff s, his ancestors, had
been so proud, and which the daughter of wandering Tzigani refused with
mingled hatred and disgust. Princess? She, the gypsy, a Russian
princess? The title would have appeared to her like a new and still more
abhorrent stigma. He implored her, but she was obdurate. It was a
strange, tragic existence these two beings led, shut up in the immense
castle, from the windows of which Tisza could perceive the gilded domes
of Moscow, the superb city in which she would never set her foot,
preferring the palace, sad and gloomy as a cell. Alone in the world,
the sole survivor of her massacred tribe, the Russians to her were the
murderers of her people, the assassins of the free musicians with eagle
profiles she used to follow as they played the czardas from village to
She never saw Prince Tchereteff, handsome, generous, charming, loving her
and trembling before her glance although he had ruthlessly kidnapped her
from her country, that she did not think of him, sword in hand, entering
the burning Hungarian village, his face reddened by the flames, as the
bayonets of his soldiers were reddened with blood. She hated this tall
young man, his drooping moustache, his military uniform, his broad
figure, his white-gloved hands: he represented to the imprisoned Tzigana
the conqueror and murderer of her people. And yet a daughter was born to
them. She had defended herself with the cries of a tigress; and then she
had longed to die, to die of hunger, since, a close prisoner, she could
not obtain possession of a weapon, nor cast herself into the water. She
had lived, nevertheless, and then her daughter reconciled her to life.
The child which was born to her was all in all to Tizsa. Marsa was an
exact reproduction, feature by feature, of her mother, and, strange to
say, daughters generally resembling the father, had nothing of
Tchereteff, nothing Russian about her: on the contrary, she was all
Tzigana--Tzigana in the clear darkness of her skin, in her velvety eyes,
and her long, waving black hair, with its bronze reflections, which the
mother loved to wind about her thin fingers.
Her beauty, faded by long, slow sorrow, Tisza found again in her child,
a true daughter of Hungary like herself; and, as Marsa grew up, she told
her the legends, the songs, the heroism, the martyrdom, of Hungary,
picturing to the little girl the great, grassy plain, the free puszta,
peopled with a race in whose proud language the word honor recurs again
Marsa grew up in the Muscovite castle, loving nothing in the world except
her mother, and regarding with frightened eyes the blond stranger who
sometimes took her upon his knees and gazed sadly into her face. Before
this man, who was her father, she felt as if she were in the presence of
an enemy. As Tisza never went out, Marsa rarely quitted the castle; and,
when she went to Moscow, she hastened to return to her mother. The very
gayeties of that noisy city weighed upon her heart; for she never forgot
the war-tales of the Tzigana, and, perhaps, among the passers-by was the
wretch who had shot down her grandfather, old Mihal.
The Tzigana cultivated, with a sort of passion, a love of far-off Hungary
and a hatred for the master in the impressionable mind of her daughter.
There is a Servian proverb which says, that when a Wallachian has crossed
the threshold the whole house becomes Wallachian. Tisza did not wish the
house to become Hungarian; but she did wish that the child of her loins
should be and should remain Hungarian.
The servants of Prince Tchereteff never spoke of their mistress except as
The Tzigana, and this was the name which Marsa wished to bear also. It
seemed to her like a title of nobility.
And the years passed without the Tzigana pardoning the Russian, and
without Marsa ever having called him father.
In the name of their child, the Prince one day solemnly asked Tisza
Laszlo to consent to become his wife, and the mother refused.
"But our daughter?" said the Prince.
"My daughter? She will bear the name of her mother, which at least is
not a Russian name."
The Prince was silenced.
As Marsa grew up, Moscow became displeasing to the Prince. He had his
daughter educated as if she were destined to be the Czarina. He summoned
to the castle a small army of instructors, professors of music and
singing; French, English, and German masters, drawing masters, etc., etc.
The young girl, with the prodigious power of assimilation peculiar to her
race, learned everything, loving knowledge for its own sake, but,
nevertheless, always deeply moved by the history of that unknown country,
which was that of her mother, and even her own, the land of her heart and
her soul-Hungary. She knew, from her mother, about all its heroes:
Klapka, Georgei, Dembiski; Bem, the conqueror of Buda; Kossuth, the
dreamer of a sort of feudal liberty; and those chivalrous Zilah princes,
father and son, the fallen martyr and the living hero.
Prince Tchereteff, French in education and sentiment, wished to take to
France the child, who did not bear his name, but whom he adored. France
also exercised a powerful fascination over Marsa's imagination; and she
departed joyously for Paris, accompanied by the Tzigana, her mother, who
felt like a prisoner set at liberty. To quit Russian soil was in itself
some consolation, and who knew? perhaps she might again see her dear
Tisza, in fact, breathed more freely in Paris, repeating however, like a
mournful refrain, the proverb of her country: Away from Hungary, life is
not life. The Prince purchased, at Maisons-Lafitte, not far from the
forest of Saint-Germain, a house surrounded by an immense garden. Here,
as formerly at Moscow, Tisza and the Prince lived together, and yet
apart--the Tzigana, implacable in her resentment, bitterly refusing all
pardon to the Russian, and always keeping alive in Marsa a hatred of all
that was Muscovite; the Prince, disconsolate, gloomy, discouraged between
the woman whom he adored and whose heart he could not win, and the girl,
so wonderfully beautiful, the living portrait of her mother, and who
treated him with the cold respect one shows to a stranger.
Not long after their arrival in Paris, a serious heart trouble attacked
Marsa's father. He summoned to his deathbed the Tzigana and her
daughter; and, in a sort of supreme confession, he openly asked his
child, before the mother, to forgive him for her birth.
"Marsa," he said, slowly, "your birth, which should make the joy of my
existence, is the remorse of my whole life. But I am dying of the love
which I can not conquer. Will you kiss me as a token that you have
For the first time, perhaps, Marsa's lips, trembling with emotion, then
touched the Prince's forehead. But, before kissing him, her eyes had
sought those of her mother, who bowed her head in assent.
"And you," murmured the dying Prince, "will you forgive me, Tisza?"
The Tzigana saw again her native village in flames, her brothers dead,
her father murdered, and this man, now lying thin and pale amid the
pillows, erect, with sabre drawn, crying: "Courage! Charge! Forward!"
Then she saw herself dragged almost beneath a horse's hoofs, cast into a
wagon with wrists bound together, carried in the rear of an army with the
rest of the victor's spoils, and immured within Russian walls. She felt
again on her lips the degradation of the first kiss of this man whose
suppliant, pitiful love was hideous to her.
She made a step toward the dying man as if to force herself to whisper,
"I forgive you;" but all the resentment and suffering of her life mounted
to her heart, almost stifling her, and she paused, going no farther, and
regarding with a haggard glance the man whose eyes implored her pardon,
and who, after raising his pale face from the pillow, let his head fall
back again with one long, weary sigh.
THE STORY OF MARSA
Prince Tchereteff left his whole fortune to Marsa Laszlo, leaving her in
the hands of his uncle Vogotzine, an old, ruined General, whose property
had been confiscated by the Czar, and who lived in Paris half imbecile
with fear, having become timid as a child since his release from Siberia,
where he had been sent on some pretext or other, no one knew exactly the
It had been necessary to obtain the sovereign intervention of the Czar--
that Czar whose will is the sole law, a law above laws--to permit Prince
Tchereteff to give his property to a foreigner, a girl without a name.
The state would gladly have seized upon the fortune, as the Prince had no
other relative save an outlaw; but the Czar graciously gave his
permission, and Marsa inherited.
Old General Vogotzine was, in fact, the only living relative of Prince
Tchereteff. In consideration of a yearly income, the Prince charged him
to watch over Marsa, and see to her establishment in life. Rich as she
was, Marsa would have no lack of suitors; but Tisza, the half-civilized
Tzigana, was. not the one to guide and protect a young girl in Paris.
The Prince believed Vogotzine to be less old and more acquainted with
Parisian life than he really was, and it was a consolation to the father
to feel that his daughter would have a guardian.
Tisza did not long survive the Prince. She died in that Russian house,
every stone of which she hated, even to the Muscovite crucifix over the
door, which her faith, however, forbade her to have removed; she died
making her daughter swear that the last slumber which was coming to her,
gently lulling her to rest after so much suffering, should be slept in
Hungarian soil; and, after the Tzigana's death, this young girl of
twenty, alone with Vogotzine, who accompanied her on the gloomy journey
with evident displeasure, crossed France, went to Vienna, sought in the
Hungarian plain the place where one or two miserable huts and some
crumbling walls alone marked the site of the village burned long ago by
Tchereteff's soldiers; and there, in Hungarian soil, close to the spot
where the men of her tribe had been shot down, she buried the Tzigana,
whose daughter she so thoroughly felt herself to be, that, in breathing
the air of the puszta, she seemed to find again in that beloved land
something already seen, like a vivid memory of a previous existence.
And yet, upon the grave of the martyr, Marsa prayed also for the
executioner. She remembered that the one who reposed in the cemetery of
Pere-Lachaise, beneath a tomb in the shape of a Russian dome, was her
father, as the Tzigana, interred in Hungary, was her mother; and she
asked in her prayer, that these two beings, separated in life, should
pardon each other in the unknown, obscure place of departed souls.
So Marsa Laszlo was left alone in the world. She returned to France,
which she had become attached to, and shut herself up in the villa of
Maisons-Lafitte, letting old Vogotzine install himself there as a sort of
Mentor, more obedient than a servant, and as silent as a statue; and this
strange guardian, who had formerly fought side by side with Schamyl, and
cut down the Circassians with the sang-froid of a butcher's boy wringing
the neck of a fowl, and who now scarcely dared to open his lips, as if
the entire police force of the Czar had its eye upon him; this old
soldier, who once cared nothing for privations, now, provided he had his
chocolate in the morning, his kummel with his coffee at breakfast, and a
bottle of brandy on the table all day--left Marsa free to think, act,
come and go as she pleased.
She had accepted the Prince's legacy, but with this mental reservation
and condition, that the Hungarian colony of Paris should receive half of
it. It seemed to her that the money thus given to succor the compatriots
of her mother would be her father's atonement. She waited, therefore,
until she had attained her majority; and then she sent this enormous sum
to the Hungarian aid society, saying that the donor requested that part
of the amount should be used in rebuilding the little village in
Transylvania which had been burned twenty years before by Russian troops.
When they asked what name should be attached to so princely a gift, Marsa
replied: "That which was my mother's and which is mine, The Tzigana."
More than ever now did she cling to that cognomen of which she was so
"And," she said to Zilah, after she had finished the recital of her
story, "it is because I am thus named that I have the right to speak to
you of yourself."
Prince Andras listened with passionate attention to the beautiful girl,
thus evoking for him the past, confident and even happy to speak and make
herself known to the man whose life of heroic devotion she knew so well.
He was not astonished at her sudden frankness, at the confidence
displayed at a first meeting; and it seemed to him that he had long been
acquainted with this Tzigana, whose very name he had been ignorant of a
few hours before. It appeared to him quite simple that Marsa should
confide in him, as he on his side would have related to her his whole
life, if she had asked it with a glance from her dark eyes. He felt that
he had reached one of the decisive moments of his life. Marsa called up
visions of his youth-his first tender dreams of love, rudely broken by
the harsh voice of war; and he felt as he used to feel, in the days long
gone by, when he sat beneath the starry skies of a summer night and
listened to the old, heart-stirring songs of his country and the laughter
of the brown maidens of Budapest.
"Prince," said Marsa Laszlo, suddenly, "do you know that I have been
seeking you for a long time, and that when the Baroness Dinati presented
you to me, she fulfilled one of my most ardent desires?"
"Me, Mademoiselle? You have been seeking me?"
"Yes, you. Tisza, of whom I spoke to you, my Tzigana mother, who bore
the name of the blessed river of our country, taught me to repeat your
name. She met you years ago, in the saddest moment of your life."
"Your mother?" said Andras, waiting anxiously for the young girl to
"Yes, my mother."
She pointed to the buckle which clasped the belt of her dress.
"See," she said.
Andras felt a sudden pang, which yet was not altogether pain, dart
through his heart, and his eyes wandered questioningly from the buckle to
Marsa's face. Smiling, but her beautiful lips mute, Marsa seemed to say
to him: "Yes, it is the agraffe which you detached from your soldier's
pelisse and gave to an unknown Tzigana near your father's grave."
The silver ornament, incrusted with opals, recalled sharply to Prince
Zilah that sad January night when the dead warrior had been laid in his
last resting-place. He saw again the sombre spot, the snowy fir-trees,
the black trench, and the broad, red reflections of the torches, which,
throwing a flickering light upon the dead, seemed to reanimate the pale,
And that daughter of the wandering musicians who had, at the open grave,
played as a dirge, or, rather, as a ringing hymn of resurrection and
deliverance, the chant of the fatherland-that dark girl to whom he had
said: "Bring me this jewel, and come and live in peace with the Zilahs"
--was the mother of this beautiful, fascinating creature, whose every
word, since he had first met her a few hours before, had exercised such a
powerful effect upon him.
"So," he said, slowly, with a sad smile, "your mother's talisman was
worth more than mine. I have kept the lake pebbles she gave me, and
death has passed me by; but the opals of the agraffe did not bring
happiness to your mother. It is said that those stones are unlucky.
Are you superstitious?"
"I should not be Tisza's daughter if I did not believe a little in all
that is romantic, fantastic, improbable, impossible even. Besides, the
opals are forgiven now: for they have permitted me to show you that you
were not unknown to me, Prince; and, as you see, I wear this dear agraffe
always. It has a double value to me, since it recalls the memory of my
poor mother and the name of a hero."
She spoke these words in grave, sweet accents, which seemed more
melodious to Prince Andras than all the music of Baroness Dinati's
concert. He divined that Marsa Laszlo found as much pleasure in speaking
to him as he felt in listening. As he gazed at her, a delicate flush
spread over Marsa's pale, rather melancholy face, tingeing even her
little, shell-like ears, and making her cheeks glow with the soft, warm
color of a peach.
Just at this moment the little Baroness came hastily up to them, and,
with an assumed air of severity, began to reproach Marsa for neglecting
the unfortunate musicians, suddenly breaking off to exclaim:
"Really, you are a hundred times prettier than ever this evening, my dear
Marsa. What have you been doing to yourself?"
"Oh! it is because I am very happy, I suppose," replied Marsa.
"Ah! my dear Prince," and the Baroness broke into a merry peal of
laughter, "it is you, O ever-conquering hero, who have worked this
But, as if she had been too hasty in proclaiming aloud her happiness, the
Tzigana suddenly frowned, a harsh, troubled look crept into her dark
eyes, and her cheeks became pale as marble, while her gaze was fixed upon
a tall young man who was crossing the salon and coming toward her.
Instinctively Andras Zilah followed her look. Michel Menko was advancing
to salute Marsa Laszlo, and take with affectionate respect the hand which
Andras extended to him.
Marsa coldly returned the low bow of the young man, and took no part in
the conversation which followed. Menko remained but a few moments,
evidently embarrassed at his reception; and after his departure, Zilah,
who had noticed the Tzigana's coldness, asked her if she knew his friend.
"Very well," she said, in a peculiar tone.
"It would be difficult to imagine so from the way in which you received
him," said Andras, laughing. "Poor Michel! Have you any reason to be
angry with him?"
"I like him very much. He is a charming boy, and his father was one of
my companions in arms. I have been almost a guardian to his son. We are
kinsmen, and when the young count entered diplomacy he asked my advice,
as he hesitated to serve Austria. I told him that, after having fought
Austria with the sword, it was our duty to absorb it by our talents and
devotion. Was I not right? Austria is to-day subservient to Hungary,
and, when Vienna acts, Vienna glances toward Pesth to see if the Magyars
are satisfied. Michel Menko has therefore served his country well; and I
don't understand why he gave up diplomacy. He makes me uneasy: he seems
to me, like all young men of his generation, a little too undecided what
object to pursue, what duty to fulfil. He is nervous, irresolute. We
were more unfortunate but more determined; we marched straight on without
that burden of pessimism with which our successors are loaded down. I am
sorry that Michel has resigned his position: he had a fine future before
him, and he would have made a good diplomatist."
"Too good, perhaps," interrupted Marsa, dryly.
"Ah, decidedly," retorted the Prince, with a smile, "you don't like my
"He is indifferent to me;" and the way in which she pronounced the words
was a terrible condemnation of Michel Menko. "But," added the Tzigana,
"he himself has told me all that you have said of him. He, on his side,
has a great affection and a deep veneration for you; and it is not
astonishing that it should be so, for men like you are examples for men
like him, and--"
She paused abruptly, as if unwilling to say more.
"And what?" asked the Prince.
"Nothing. 'Examples' is enough; I don't know what I was going to say."
She made a little gesture with her pretty hand as if to dismiss the
subject; and, after wondering a moment at the girl's singular reticence
after her previous frankness, Andras thought only of enjoying her grace
and charm, until the Tzigana gave him her hand and bade him good-night,
begging him to remember that she would be very happy and proud to receive
him in her own house.
"But, indeed," she added, with a laugh which displayed two rows of pearly
teeth, "it is not for me to invite you. That is a terrible breach of the
At her call, from a group near by, advanced old General Vogotzine, whom
Zilah had not noticed since the beginning of the evening. Marsa laid her
hand on his arm, and said, distinctly, Vogotzine being a little deaf:
"Prince Andras Zilah, uncle, will do us the honor of coming to see us at
"Ah! Ah! Very happy! Delighted! Very flattering of you, Prince,"
stammered the General, pulling his white moustache, and blinking his
little round eyes. "Andras Zilah! Ah! 1848! Hard days, those! All
over now, though! All over now! Ah! Ah! We no longer cut one
another's throats! No! No! No longer cut one another's throats!"
He held out to Andras his big, fat hand, and repeated, as he shook that
of the Prince:
"Delighted! Enchanted! Prince Zilah! Yes! Yes!"
In another moment they were gone, and the evening seemed to Andras like a
vision, a beautiful, feverish dream.
He sent away his coupe, and returned home on foot, feeling the need of
the night air; and, as he walked up the Champs-Elysees beneath the starry
sky, he was surprised to find a new, youthful feeling at his heart,
stirring his pulses like the first, soft touch of spring.
"HAVE I NO RIGHT TO BE HAPPY"
There was a certain womanly coquetry, mingled with a profound love of the
soil where her martyred mother reposed, in the desire which Marsa Laszlo
had to be called the Tzigana, instead of by her own name. The Tzigana!
This name, as clear cut, resonant and expressive as the czimbaloms of the
Hungarian musicians, lent her an additional, original charm. She was
always spoken of thus, when she was perceived riding her pure-blooded
black mare, or driving, attached to a victoria, a pair of bay horses of
the Kisber breed. Before the horses ran two superb Danish hounds, of a
lustrous dark gray, with white feet, eyes of a peculiar blue, rimmed with
yellow, and sensitive, pointed ears--Duna and Bundas, the Hungarian names
for the Danube and the Velu.
These hounds, and an enormous dog of the Himalayas, with a thick, yellow
coat and long, sharp teeth, a half-savage beast, bearing the name of
Ortog (Satan), were Marsa's companions in her walks; and their submission
to their young mistress, whom they could have knocked down with one pat
of their paws, gave the Tzigana reputation for eccentricity; which,
however, neither pleased nor displeased her, as she was perfectly
indifferent to the opinion of the public at large.
She continued to inhabit, near the forest of Saint-Germain, beyond the
fashionable avenues, the villa, ornamented with the holy Muscovite icon,
which Prince Tchereteff had purchased; and she persisted in remaining
there alone with old Vogotzine, who regarded her respectfully with his
round eyes, always moist with 'kwass' or brandy.
Flying the crowded city, eager for space and air, a true daughter of
Hungary, Marsa loved to ride through the beautiful, silent park, down the
long, almost deserted avenues, toward the bit of pale blue horizon
discernible in the distance at the end of the sombre arch formed by the
trees. Birds, startled by the horses' hoofs, rose here and there out of
the bushes, pouring forth their caroling to the clear ether; and Marsa,
spurring her thoroughbred, would dash in a mad gallop toward a little,
almost unknown grove of oaks, with thickets full of golden furze and pink
heather, where woodcutters worked, half buried in the long grass peppered
with blue cornflowers and scarlet poppies.
Or, at other times, with Duna and Bundas bounding before her,
disappearing, returning, disappearing again with yelps of joy, it was
Marsa's delight to wander alone under the great limes of the Albine
avenue--shade over her head, silence about her--and then slowly, by way
of a little alley bordered with lofty poplars trembling at every breath
of wind, to reach the borders of the forest. In ten steps she would
suddenly find herself plunged in solitude as in a bath of verdure, shade
and oblivion. The sweet silence surrounding her calmed her, and she
would walk on and on though the thick grass under the great trees. The
trunks of the giant oaks were clothed in robes of emerald moss, and wild
flowers of all descriptions raised their heads amid the grass. There was
no footstep, no sound; a bee lazily humming, a brilliant butterfly
darting across the path, something quick and red flashing up a tree--
a squirrel frightened by the Danish hounds; that was all. And Marsa was
happy with the languorous happiness which nature gives, her forehead
cooled by the fresh breeze, her eyes rested by the deep green which hid
the shoes, her whole being refreshed by the atmosphere of peace which
fell from the trees.
Then, calling her dogs, she would proceed to a little farmhouse, and,
sitting down under the mulberry trees, wait until the farmer's wife
brought her some newly baked bread and a cup of milk, warm from the cows.
Then she would remain idly there, surrounded by chickens, ducks, and
great, greedy geese, which she fed, breaking the bread between her white
fingers, while Duna and Bundas crouched at her feet, pricking up their
ears, and watching these winged denizens of the farmyard, which Marsa
forbade them to touch. Finally the Tzigana would slowly wend her way
home, enter the villa, sit down before the piano, and play, with
ineffable sweetness, like souvenirs of another life, the free and
wandering life of her mother, the Hungarian airs of Janos Nemeth, the sad
"Song of Plevna," the sparkling air of "The Little Brown Maid of
Budapest," and that bitter; melancholy romance, "The World holds but One
Fair Maiden," a mournful and despairing melody, which she preferred to
all others, because it responded, with its tearful accents, to a
particular state of her own heart.
The girl was evidently concealing some secret suffering. The bitter
memory of her early years? Perhaps. Physical pain? Possibly. She had
been ill some years before, and had been obliged to pass a winter at Pau.
But it seemed rather some mental anxiety or torture which impelled the
Tzigana to seek solitude and silence in her voluntary retreat.
The days passed thus in that villa of Maisons-Lafitte, where Tisza died.
Very often, in the evening, Marsa would shut herself up in the solitude
of that death-chamber, which remained just as her mother had left it.
Below, General Vogotzine smoked his pipe, with a bottle of brandy for
company: above, Marsa prayed.
One night she went out, and through the sombre alleys, in the tender
light of the moon, made her way to the little convent in the Avenue Egle,
where the blue sisters were established; those sisters whom she often met
in the park, with their full robes of blue cloth, their white veils, a
silver medallion and crucifix upon their breasts, and a rosary of wooden
beads suspended at their girdles. The little house of the community was
shut, the grating closed. The only sign of life was in the lighted
windows of the chapel.
Marsa paused there, leaning her heated brow against the cold bars of
iron, with a longing for death, and a terrible temptation to end all by
"Who knows?" she murmured. "Perhaps forgetfulness, deep, profound
forgetfulness, lies within these walls." Forgetfulness! Marsa, then,
wished to forget? What secret torture gave to her beautiful face that
expression so bitter, so terrible in its agony?
She stood leaning there, gazing at the windows of the chapel. Broken
words of prayers, of muttered verses and responses, reached her like the
tinkling of far-off chimes, like the rustling of invisible wings. The
blue sisters, behind those walls, were celebrating their vesper service.
Does prayer drive away anguish and heartrending memories?
Marsa was a Catholic, her mother having belonged to the minority of
Tzigani professing the faith of Rome; and Tisza's daughter could,
therefore, bury her youth and beauty in the convent of the blue sisters.
The hollow murmur of the verses and prayers, which paused, began again,
and then died away in the night like sighs, attracted her, and, like the
trees of the forest, gave her an impression of that peace, that deep
repose, which was the longed-for dream of her soul.
But, suddenly, the Tzigana started, removed her gaze from the light
streaming through the blue and crimson glass, and hurried away, crying
aloud in the darkness:
"No! repose is not there. And, after all, where is repose? Only in
ourselves! It can be found nowhere, if it is not in the heart!"
Then, after these hours of solitude, this longing for the cloister, this
thirsting for annihilation and oblivion, Marsa would experience a desire
for the dashing, false, and frivolous life of Paris. She would quit
Maisons, taking with her a maid, or sometimes old Vogotzine, go to some
immense hotel, like the Continental or the Grand, dine at the table
d'hote, or in the restaurant, seeking everywhere bustle and noise, the
antithesis of the life of shade and silence which she led amid the leafy
trees of her park. She would show herself everywhere, at races,
theatres, parties--as when she accepted the Baroness Dinati's invitation;
and, when she became nauseated with all the artificiality of worldly
life, she would return eagerly to her woods, her dogs and her solitude,
and, if it were winter, would shut herself up for long months in her
lonely, snow-girt house.
And was not this existence sweet and pleasant, compared with the life led
by Tisza in the castle of the suburbs of Moscow?
In this solitude, in the villa of Maisons-Lafitte, Andras Zilah was again
to see Marsa Laszlo. He came not once, but again and again. He was,
perhaps, since the death of Prince Tchereteff, the only man General
Vogotzine had seen in his niece's house, and Marsa was always strangely
happy when Andras came to see her.
"Mademoiselle is very particular when Prince Zilah is coming to Maisons,"
said her maid to her.
"Because Prince Zilah is not a man like other men. He is a hero. In my
mother's country there is no name more popular than his."
"So I have heard Count Menko say to Mademoiselle."
If it were the maid's wish to remove all happiness from her mistress's
face, she had met with complete success.
At the name of Menko, Marsa's expression became dark and threatening.
Prince Andras had noticed this same change in the Tzigana's face, when he
was speaking to her at Baroness Dinati's.
The Prince had forgotten no detail of that first fascinating interview,
at which his love for the Tzigana was born. This man, who had hardly any
other desire than to end in peace a life long saddened by defeat and
exile, suddenly awoke to a happy hope of a home and family joys. He was
rich, alone in the world, and independent; and he was, therefore, free to
choose the woman to be made his princess. No caste prejudice prevented
him from giving his title to the daughter of Tisza. The Zilahs, in
trying to free their country, had freed themselves from all littleness;
and proud, but not vain, they bore but slight resemblance to those
Magyars of whom Szechenyi, the great count, who died of despair in 1849,
said: "The overweening haughtiness of my people will be their ruin."
The last of the Zilahs did not consider his pride humiliated by loving
and wedding a Tzigana. Frankly, in accents of the deepest love and the
most sincere devotion, Andras asked Marsa Laszlo if she would consent to
become his wife. But he was terrified at the expression of anguish which
passed over the pale face of the young girl.
Marsa, Princess Zilah! Like her mother, she would have refused from a
Tchereteff this title of princess which Andras offered her, nay, laid at
her feet with passionate tenderness. But--Princess Zilah!
She regarded with wild eyes the Prince, who stood before her, timid and
with trembling lips, awaiting her reply. But, as she did not answer, he
stooped over and took her hands in his.
"What is it?" he cried; for Marsa's fingers were icy.
It cost the young girl a terrible effort to prevent herself from losing
"But speak to me, Marsa," exclaimed Andras, "do not keep me in suspense."
He had loved her now for six months, and an iron hand seemed to clutch
the heart of this man, who had never known what it was to fear, at the
thought that perhaps Marsa did not return his love.
He had, doubtless, believed that he had perceived in her a tender feeling
toward himself which had emboldened him to ask her to be his wife. But
had be been deceived? Was it only the soldier in him that had pleased
Marsa? Was he about to suffer a terrible disappointment? Ah, what folly
to love, and to love at forty years, a young and beautiful girl like
Still, she made him no answer, but sat there before him like a statue,
pale to the lips, her dark eyes fixed on him in a wild, horrified stare.
Then, as he pressed her, with tears in his voice, to speak, she forced
her almost paralyzed tongue to utter a response which fell, cruel as a
death-sentence, upon the heart of the hero:
Andras stood motionless before her in such terrible stillness that she
longed to throw herself at his feet and cry out: "I love you! I love
you! But your wife--no, never!"
She loved him? Yes, madly-better than that, with a deep, eternal
passion, a passion solidly anchored in admiration, respect and esteem;
with an unconquerable attraction toward what represented, to her harassed
soul, honor without a blemish, perfect goodness in perfect courage, the
immolation of a life to duty, all incarnate in one man, radiant in one
And Andras himself divined something of this feeling; he felt that Marsa,
despite her enigmatical refusal, cared for him in a way that was
something more than friendship; he was certain of it. Then, why did she
command him thus with a single word to despair? "Never!" She was not
free, then? And a question, for which he immediately asked her pardon by
a gesture, escaped, like the appeal of a drowning man, from his lips:
"Do you love some one else, Marsa?"
She uttered a cry.
"No! I swear to you--no!"
He urged her, then, to explain what was the meaning of her refusal, of
the fright she had just shown; and, in a sort of nervous hysteria which
she forced herself to control, in the midst of stifled sobs, she told him
that if she could ever consent to unite herself to anyone, it would be to
him, to him alone, to the hero of her country, to him whose chivalrous
devotion she had admired long before she knew him, and that now-- And
here she stopped short, just on the brink of an avowal.
"Well, now? Now?" demanded Andras, awaiting the word which, in her
overstrung condition, Marsa had almost spoken. "Now?"
But she did not speak these words which Zilah begged for with newly
awakened hope. She longed to end this interview which was killing her,
and in broken accents asked him to excuse her, to forgive her--but she
was really ill.
"But if you are suffering, I can not, I will not leave you."
"I implore you. I need to be alone."
"At least you will permit me to come to-morrow, Marsa, and ask for your
"My answer? I have given it to you."
"No! No! I do not accept that refusal. No! you did not know what you
were saying. I swear to you, Marsa, that without you life is impossible
to me; all my existence is bound up in yours. You will reflect there was
an accent in your voice which bade me hope. I will come again to-morrow.
Tomorrow, Marsa. What you have said to-day does not count. Tomorrow,
to-morrow; and remember that I adore you."
And she, shuddering at the tones of his voice, not daring to say no, and
to bid him an eternal farewell, let him depart, confident, hopeful,
despite the silence to which she obstinately, desperately clung. Then,
when Andras was gone, at the end of her strength, she threw herself, like
a mad woman, down upon the divan. Once alone, she gave way utterly,
sobbing passionately, and then, suddenly ceasing, with wild eyes fixed
upon vacancy, to mutter with dry, feverish lips:
"Yet--it is life he brings to me--happiness he offers me. Have I no
right to be happy--I? My God! To be the wife of such a man! To love
him--to devote myself to him-to make his existence one succession of
happy days! To be his slave, his thing! Shall I marry him? Or--shall
I kill myself? Kill myself!" with a horrible, agonizing laugh. "Yes,
that is the only thing for me to do. But--but--I am a coward, now that
I love him--a coward! a coward! a miserable wretch!" And she fell
headlong forward, crouching upon the floor in a fierce despair, as if
either life or reason was about to escape from her forever.
"O LIBERTY! O LOVE! THESE TWO I NEED!"
When Zilah came the next day he found Marsa perfectly calm. At first he
only questioned her anxiously as to her health.
"Oh! I am well," she replied, smiling a little sadly; and, turning to
the piano at which she was seated, she began to play the exquisitely sad
romance which was her favorite air.
"That is by Janos Nemeth, is it not?" asked the Prince.
"Yes, by Janos Nemeth. I am very fond of his music; it is so truly
Hungarian in its spirit."
The music fell upon the air like sighs--like the distant tones of a bell
tolling a requiem--a lament, poetic, mournful, despairing, yet ineffably
sweet and tender, ending in one deep, sustained note like the last clod
of earth falling upon a new-made grave.
"What is that called, Marsa?" said Andras.
She made no reply.
Rising, he looked at the title, printed in Hungarian; then, leaning over
the Tzigana till his breath fanned her cheek, he murmured:
"Janos Nemeth was right. The world holds but one fair maiden."
She turned very pale, rose from the piano, and giving him her hand, said:
"It is almost a madrigal, my dear Prince, is it not? I am going to be
frank with you. You love me, I know; and I also love you. Will you give
me a month to reflect? A whole month?"
"My entire life belongs to you now," said the Prince. "Do with it what