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Prince Zilah, complete by Jules Claretie

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"IT IS A MAN THEY ARE DEVOURING!"

Michel Menko was right. The beautiful Tzigana was awaiting him.

She stood at her window, like a spectre in her white dress, her hands
clutching the sill, and her eyes striving to pierce the darkness which
enveloped everything, and opened beneath her like a black gulf. With
heart oppressed with fear, she started at the least sound.

All she could see below in the garden were the branches defined against
the sky; a single star shining through the leaves of a poplar, like a
diamond in a woman's tresses; and under the window the black stretch of
the lawn crossed by a band of a lighter shade, which was the sand of the
path. The only sound to be heard was the faint tinkle of the water
falling into the fountain.

Her glance, shifting as her thoughts, wandered vaguely over the trees,
the open spaces which seemed like masses of heavy clouds, and the sky set
with constellations. She listened with distended ears, and a shudder
shook her whole body as she heard suddenly the distant barking of a dog.

The dog perceived some one. Was it Menko?

No: the sound, a howling rather than a barking, came from a long
distance, from Sartrouville, beyond the Seine.

"It is not Duna or Bundas," she murmured, "nor Ortog. What folly to
remain here at the window! Menko will not come. Heaven grant that he
does not come!"

And she sighed a happy sigh as if relieved of a terrible weight.

Suddenly, with a quick movement, she started violently back, as if some
frightful apparition had risen up before her.

Hoarse bayings, quite different from the distant barking of a moment
before, rent the air, and were repeated more and more violently below
there in the darkness. This time it was indeed the great Danish hounds
and the shaggy colossus of the Himalayas, which were precipitating
themselves upon some prey.

"Great God! He is there, then! He is there!" whispered Marsa, paralyzed
with horror.

There was something gruesome in the cries of the dogs, By the continued
repetition of the savage noises, sharp, irritated, frightful snarls and
yelps, Marsa divined some horrible struggle in the darkness, of a man
against the beasts. Then all her terror seemed to mount to her lips in a
cry of pity, which was instantly repressed. She steadied herself against
the window, striving, with all her strength, to reason herself into
calmness.

"It was his own wish," she thought.

Did she not know, then, what she was doing when, wishing to place a
living guard between herself and danger, she had descended to the kennel
and unloosed the ferocious animals, which, recognizing her voice, had
bounded about her and licked her hands with many manifestations of joy?
She had ascended again to her chamber and extinguished the light, around
which fluttered the moths, beating the opal shade with their downy wings;
and, in the darkness, drinking in the nightair at the open window, she
had waited, saying to herself that Michel Menko would not come; but, if
he did come, it was the will of fate that he should fall a victim to the
devoted dogs which guarded her.

Why should she pity him?

She hated him, this Michel. He had threatened her, and she had defended
herself, that was all. Ortog's teeth were made for thieves and
intruders. No pity! No, no--no pity for such a coward, since he had
dared--

But yet, as the ferocious bayings of the dogs below became redoubled in
their fury, she imagined, in terror, a crunching of bones and a tearing
of flesh; and, as her imagination conjured up before her Michel fighting,
in hideous agony, against the bites of the dogs, she shuddered; she was
afraid, and again a stifled cry burst forth from her lips. A sort of
insanity took possession of her. She tried to cry out for mercy as if
the animals could hear her; she sought the door of her chamber, groping
along the wall with her hands outspread before her, in order to descend
the staircase and rush out into the garden; but her limbs gave way
beneath her, and she sank an inert mass upon the carpet in an agony of
fear and horror.

"My God! My God! It is a man they are devouring;" and her voice died
away in a smothered call for help.

Then she suddenly raised her head, as if moved by an electric shock.

There was no more noise! Nothing! The black night had all at once
returned to its great, mysterious silence. Marsa experienced a sensation
of seeing a pall stretched over a dead body. And in the darkness there
seemed to float large spots of blood.

"Ah! the unhappy man!" she faltered.

Then, again, the voices of the dogs broke forth, rapid, angry, still
frightfully threatening. The animals appeared now to be running, and
their bayings became more and more distant.

What had happened?

One would have said that they were dragging away their prey, tearing it
with hideous crimson fangs.

CHAPTER XVII

MARSA'S GUARDIANS.

Was Michel Menko indeed dead? We left him just as he was turning the key
in the little gate in the wall. He walked in boldly, and followed a path
leading to an open space where was the pavilion he had spoken of to
Marsa. He looked to see whether the windows of the pavilion were
lighted, or whether there were a line of light under the door. No: the
delicate tracery of the pagoda-like structure showed dimly against the
sky; but there was no sign of life. Perhaps, however, Marsa was there in
the darkness.

He would glide under the window and call. Then, hearing him and
frightened at so much audacity, she would descend.

He advanced a few steps toward the pavilion; but, all at once, in the
part of the garden which seemed lightest, upon the broad gravel walk,
he perceived odd, creeping shadows, which the moon, emerging from a
cloud, showed to be dogs, enormous dogs, with their ears erect, which,
with abound and a low, deep growl, made a dash toward him with outspread
limbs--a dash terrible as the leap of a tiger.

A quick thought illumined Michel's brain like a flash of electricity:
"Ah! this is Marsa's answer!" He had just time to mutter, with raging
irony:

"I was right, she was waiting for me!"

Then, before the onslaught of the dogs, he recoiled, clasping his hands
upon his breast and boldly thrusting out his elbows to ward off their
ferocious attacks. With a sudden tightening of the muscles he repulsed
the Danish hounds, which rolled over writhing on the ground, and then,
with formidable baying, returned more furiously still to the charge.

Michel Menko had no weapon.

With a knife he could have defended himself, and slit the bellies of the
maddened animals; but he had nothing! Was he to be forced, then, to fly,
pursued like a fox or a deer?

Suppose the servants, roused by the noise of the dogs, should come in
their turn, and seize him as a thief? At all events, that would be
comparative safety; at least, they would rescue him from these monsters.
But no: nothing stirred in the silent, impassive house.

The hounds, erect upon their hind legs, rushed again at Michel, who,
overturning them with blows from his feet, and striking them violently in
the jaws, now staggered back, Ortog having leaped at his throat. By a
rapid movement of recoil, the young man managed to avoid being strangled;
but the terrible teeth of the dog, tearing his coat and shirt into
shreds, buried themselves deep in the flesh of his shoulder.

The steel-like muscles and sinewy strength of the Hungarian now stood him
in good stead. He must either free himself, or perish there in the
hideous carnage of a quarry. He seized with both hands, in a viselike
grip, Ortog's enormous neck, and, at the same time, with a desperate
jerk, shook free his shoulder, leaving strips of his flesh between the
jaws of the animal, whose hot, reeking breath struck him full in the
face. With wild, staring eyes, and summoning up, in an instinct of
despair, all his strength and courage, he buried his fingers in Ortog's
neck, and drove his nails through the skin of the colossus, which struck
and beat with his paws against the young man's breast. The dog's tongue
hung out of his mouth, under the suffocating pressure of the hands of the
human being struggling for his life. As he fought thus against Ortog,
the Hungarian gradually retreated, the two hounds leaping about him, now
driven off by kicks (Duna's jaw was broken), and now, with roars of rage
and fiery eyes, again attacking their human prey.

One of them, Bundas, his teeth buried in Michel's left thigh, shook him,
trying to throw him to the ground. A slip, and all would be over; if he
should fall upon the gravel, the man would be torn to pieces and crunched
like a deer caught by the hounds.

A terrible pain nearly made Michel faint--Bundas had let go his hold,
stripping off a long tongue of flesh; but, in a moment, it had the same
effect upon him as that of the knife of a surgeon opening a vein, and the
weakness passed away. The unfortunate man still clutched, as in a death-
grip, Ortog's shaggy neck, and he perceived that the struggles of the dog
were no longer of the same terrible violence; the eyes of the ferocious
brute were rolled back in his head until they looked like two large balls
of gleaming ivory. Michel threw the heavy mass furiously from him, and
the dog, suffocated, almost dead, fell upon the ground with a dull, heavy
sound.

Menko had now to deal only with the Danish hounds, which were rendered
more furious than ever by the smell of blood. One of them, displaying
his broken teeth in a hideous, snarling grin, hesitated a little to renew
the onslaught, ready, as he was, to spring at his enemy's throat at the
first false step; but the other, Bundas, with open mouth, still sprang at
Michel, who repelled, with his left arm, the attacks of the bloody jaws.
Suddenly a hollow cry burst from his lips like a death-rattle, forced
from him as the dog buried his fangs in his forearm, until they nearly
met. It seemed to him that the end had now come.

Each second took away more and more of his strength. The tremendous
tension of muscles and nerves, which had been necessary in the battle
with Ortog, and the blood he had lost, his whole left side being gashed
as with cuts from a knife, weakened him. He calculated, that, unless he
could reach the little gate before the other dog should make up his mind
to leap upon him, he was lost, irredeemably lost.

Bundas did not let go his hold, but twisting himself around Michel's
body, he clung with his teeth to the young man's lacerated arm; the
other, Duna, bayed horribly, ready to spring at any moment.

Michel gathered together all the strength that remained to him, and ran
rapidly backward, carrying with him the furious beast, which was crushing
the very bones of his arm.

He reached the end of the walk, and the gate was there before him.
Groping in the darkness with his free hand, he found the key, turned it,
and the gate flew open. Fate evidently did not wish him to perish.

Then, in the same way as he had shaken off Ortog, whom he could now hear
growling and stumbling over the gravel a little way off, Michel freed his
arm from Bundas, forcing his fingers and nails into the animal's ears;
and the moment he had thrown the brute to the ground, he dashed through
the gate, and slammed it to behind him, just as the two dogs together
were preparing to leap again upon him.

Then, leaning against the gate, and steadying himself, so as not to fall,
he stood there weak and faint, while the dogs, on the other side of the
wooden partition which now separated him from death--and what a death!
erect upon their hind legs, like rampant, heraldic animals, tried to
break through, cracking, in their gory jaws, long strips of wood torn
from the barrier which kept them from their human prey.

Michel never knew how long he remained there, listening to the hideous
growling of his bloodthirsty enemies. At last the thought came to him
that he must go; but how was he to drag himself to the place where Pierre
was waiting for him? It was so far! so far! He would faint twenty
times before reaching there. Was he about to fail now after all he had
gone through?

His left leg was frightfully painful; but he thought he could manage to
walk with it. His left shoulder and arm, however, at the least movement,
caused him atrocious agony, as if the bones had been crushed by the wheel
of some machine. He sought for his handkerchief, and enveloped his
bleeding arm in it, tying the ends of it with his teeth. Then he
tottered to a woodpile near by, and, taking one of the long sticks, he
managed with its aid to drag himself along the alley, while through the
branches the moon looked calmly down upon him.

He was worn out, and his head seemed swimming in a vast void, when he
reached the end of the alley, and saw, a short way off down the avenue,
the arch of the old bridge near which the coupe had stopped. One effort
more, a few steps, and he was there! He was afraid now of falling
unconscious, and remaining there in a dying condition, without his
coachman even suspecting that he was so near him.

"Courage!" he murmured. "On! On!"

Two clear red lights appeared-the lanterns of the coup. "Pierre!" cried
Michel in the darkness, "Pierre!" But he felt that his feeble voice
would not reach the coachman, who was doubtless asleep on his box. Once
more he gathered together his strength, called again, and advanced a
little, saying to himself that a step or two more perhaps meant safety.
Then, all at once, he fell prostrate upon his side, unable to proceed
farther; and his voice, weaker and weaker, gradually failed him.

Fortunately, the coachman had heard him cry, and realized that something
had happened. He jumped from his box, ran to his master, lifted him up,
and carried him to the carriage. As the light of the lamps fell on the
torn and bloody garments of the Count, whose pallid and haggard face was
that of a dead man, Pierre uttered a cry of fright.

"Great heavens! Where have you been?" he exclaimed. "You have been
attacked?"

"The coup--place me in the coup."

"But there are doctors here. I will go--"

"No--do nothing. Make no noise. Take me to Paris--I do not wish any one
to know--To Paris--at once," and he lost consciousness.

Pierre, with some brandy he luckily had with him, bathed his master's
temples, and forced a few drops between his lips; and, when the Count had
recovered, he whipped up his horse and galloped to Paris, growling, with
a shrug of the shoulders:

"There must have been a woman in this. Curse the women! They make all
the trouble in the world."

It was daybreak when the coup reached Paris.

Pierre heard, as they passed the barrier, a laborer say to his mate

"That's a fine turnout. I wish I was in the place of the one who is
riding inside!"

"So do I!" returned the other.

And Pierre thought, philosophically: "Poor fools! If they only knew!"

CHAPTER XVIII

"THERE IS NO NEED OF ACCUSING ANYONE."

At the first streak of daylight, Marsa descended, trembling, to the
garden, and approached the little gate, wondering what horror would meet
her eyes.

Rose-colored clouds, like delicate, silky flakes of wool, floated across
the blue sky; the paling crescent of the moon, resembling a bent thread
of silver wire, seemed about to fade mistily away; and, toward the east,
in the splendor of the rising sun, the branches of the trees stood out
against a background of burnished gold as in a Byzantine painting. The
dewy calm and freshness of the early morning enveloped everything as in a
bath of purity and youth.

But Marsa shuddered as she thought that perhaps this beautiful day was
dawning upon a dead body. She stopped abruptly as she saw the gardener,
with very pale face, come running toward her.

"Ah, Mademoiselle, something terrible has happened! Last night the dogs
barked and barked; but they bark so often at the moon and the shadows,
that no one got up to see what was the matter."

"Well--well?" gasped Marsa, her hand involuntarily seeking her heart.

"Well, there was a thief here last night, or several of them, for poor
Ortog is half strangled; but the rascals did not get away scot free.
The one who came through the little path to the pavilion was badly
bitten; his tracks can be followed in blood for a long distance a very
long distance."

"Then," asked Marsa, quickly, "he escaped? He is not dead?"

"No, certainly not. He got away."

"Ah! Thank heaven for that!" cried the Tzigana, her mind relieved of a
heavy weight.

"Mademoiselle is too good," said the gardener. "When a man enters, like
that, another person's place, he exposes himself to be chased like a
rabbit, or to be made mincemeat of for the dogs. He must have had big
muscles to choke Ortog, the poor beast!--not to mention that Duna's teeth
are broken. But the scoundrel got his share, too; for he left big
splashes of blood upon the gravel."

"Blood!"

"The most curious thing is that the little gate, to which there is no
key, is unlocked. They came in and went out there. If that idiot of a
Saboureau, whom General Vogotzine discharged--and rightly too,
Mademoiselle--were not dead, I should say that he was at the bottom
of all this."

"There is no need of accusing anyone," said Marsa, turning away.

The gardener returned to the neighborhood of the pavilion, and, examining
the red stains upon the ground, he said: "All the same, this did not
happen by itself. I am going to inform the police!"

CHAPTER XIX

"A BEAUTIFUL DREAM"

It was the eve of the marriage-day of Prince Andras Zilah and
Mademoiselle Marsa Laszlo, and Marsa sat alone in her chamber, where
the white robes she was to wear next day were spread out on the bed;
alone for the last time--to-morrow she would be another's.

The fiery Tzigana, who felt in her heart, implacable as it was to evil
and falsehood, all capabilities of devotion and truth, was condemned to
lie, or to lose the love of Prince Andras, which was her very life.
There was no other alternative. No, no: since she had met this man,
superior to all others, since he loved her and she loved him, she would
take an hour of his life and pay for that hour with her own. She had no
doubt but that an avowal would forever ruin her in Andras's eyes. No,
again and forever no: it was much better to take the love which fate
offered her in exchange for her life.

And, as she threw herself back in her chair with an expression of
unchangeable determination in her dark, gazelle-like eyes, there suddenly
came into her mind the memory of a day long ago, when, driving along the
road from Maisons-Lafitte to Saint-Germain, she had met some wandering
gipsies, two men and a woman, with copper-colored skins and black eyes,
in which burned, like a live coal, the passionate melancholy of the race.
The woman, a sort of long spear in her hand, was driving some little
shaggy ponies, like those which range about the plains of Hungary.
Bound like parcels upon the backs of these ponies were four or five
little children, clothed in rags, and covered with the dust of the road.
The woman, tall, dark and faded, a sort of turban upon her head, held out
her hand toward Marsa's carriage with a graceful gesture and a broad
smile--the supplicating smile of those who beg. A muscular young fellow,
his crisp hair covered with a red fez, her brother--the woman was old, or
perhaps she was less so than she seemed, for poverty brings wrinkles--
walked by her side behind the sturdy little ponies. Farther along,
another man waited for them at a corner of the road near a laundry,
the employees of which regarded him with alarm, because, at the end of a
rope, the gipsy held a small gray bear. As she passed by them, Marsa
involuntarily exclaimed, in the language of her mother "Be szomoru!"
(How sad it is!) The man, at her words, raised his head, and a flash of
joy passed over his face, which showed, or Marsa thought so (who knows?
perhaps she was mistaken), a love for his forsaken country. Well, now,
she did not know why, the remembrance of these poor beings returned to
her, and she said to herself that her ancestors, humble and insignificant
as these unfortunates in the dust and dirt of the highway, would have
been astonished and incredulous if any one had told them that some day a
girl born of their blood would wed a Zilah, one of the chiefs of that
Hungary whose obscure and unknown minstrels they were! Ah! what an
impossible dream it seemed, and yet it was realized now.

At all events, a man's death did not lie between her and Zilah. Michel
Menko, after lying at death's door, was cured of his wounds. She knew
this from Baroness Dinati, who attributed Michel's illness to a sword
wound secretly received for some woman. This was the rumor in Paris.
The young Count had, in fact, closed his doors to every one; and no one
but his physician had been admitted. What woman could it be? The little
Baroness could not imagine.

Marsa thought again, with a shudder, of the night when the dogs howled;
but, to tell the truth, she had no remorse. She had simply defended
herself! The inquiry begun by the police had ended in no definite
result. At Maisons-Lafitte, people thought that the Russian house had
been attacked by some thieves who had been in the habit of entering
unoccupied houses and rifling them of their contents. They had even
arrested an old vagabond, and accused him of the attempted robbery at
General Vogotzine's; but the old man had answered: "I do not even know
the house." But was not this Menko a hundred times more culpable than a
thief? It was more and worse than money or silver that he had dared to
come for: it was to impose his love upon a woman whose heart he had well-
nigh broken. Against such an attack all weapons were allowable, even
Ortog's teeth. The dogs of the Tzigana had known how to defend her; and
it was what she had expected from her comrades.

Had Michel Menko died, Marsa would have said, with the fatalism of the
Orient: "It was his own will!" She was grateful, however, to fate, for
having punished the wretch by letting him live. Then she thought no more
of him except to execrate him for having poisoned her happiness, and
condemned her either to a silence as culpable as a lie, or to an avowal
as cruel as a suicide.

The night passed and the day came at last, when it was necessary for
Marsa to become the wife of Prince Andras, or to confess to him her
guilt. She wished that she had told him all, now that she had not the
courage to do so. She had accustomed herself to the idea that a woman is
not necessarily condemned to love no more because she has encountered a
coward who has abused her love. She was in an atmosphere of illusion and
chimera; what was passing about her did not even seem to exist. Her
maids dressed her, and placed upon her dark hair the bridal veil: she
half closed her eyes and murmured:

"It is a beautiful dream."

A dream, and yet a reality, consoling as a ray of light after a hideous
nightmare. Those things which were false, impossible, a lie,
a phantasmagoria born of a fever, were Michel Menko, the past years,
the kisses of long ago, the threats of yesterday, the bayings of the
infuriated dogs at that shadow which did not exist.

General Vogotzine, in a handsome uniform, half suffocated in his high
vest, and with a row of crosses upon his breast--the military cross of
St. George, with its red and black ribbon; the cross of St. Anne, with
its red ribbon; all possible crosses--was the first to knock at his
niece's door, his sabre trailing upon the floor.

"Who is it?" said Marsa.

"I, Vogotzine."

And, permission being given him, he entered the room.

The old soldier walked about his niece, pulling his moustache, as if he
were conducting an inspection. He found Marsa charming. Pale as her
white robe, with Tizsa's opal agraffe at her side, ready to clasp the
bouquet of flowers held by one of her maids, she had never been so
exquisitely beautiful; and Vogotzine, who was rather a poor hand at
turning a compliment, compared her to a marble statue.

"How gallant you are this morning, General," she said, her heart bursting
with emotion.

She waved away, with a brusque gesture, the orange-flowers which her maid
was about to attach to her corsage.

"No," she said. "Not that! Roses."

"But, Mademoiselle "

"Roses," repeated Marsa. "And for my hair white rosebuds also."

At this, the old General risked another speech.

"Do you think orange-blossoms are too vulgar, Marsa? By Jove! They
don't grow in the ditches, though!"

And he laughed loudly at what he considered wit. But a frowning glance
from the Tzigana cut short his hilarity; and, with a mechanical movement,
he drew himself up in a military manner, as if the Czar were passing by.

"I will leave you to finish dressing, my dear," he said, after a moment.

He already felt stifled in the uniform, which he was no longer accustomed
to wear, and he went out in the garden to breathe freer. While waiting
there for Zilah, he ordered some cherry cordial, muttering, as he drank
it:

"It is beautiful August weather. They will have a fine day; but I shall
suffocate!"

The avenue was already filled with people. The marriage had been much
discussed, both in the fashionable colony which inhabited the park and in
the village forming the democratic part of the place; even from
Sartrouville and Mesnil, people had come to see the Tzigana pass in her
bridal robes.

"What is all that noise?" demanded Vogotzine of the liveried footman.

"That noise, General? The inhabitants of Maisons who have come to see
the wedding procession."

"Really? Ah! really? Well, they haven't bad taste. They will see a
pretty woman and a handsome uniform." And the General swelled out his
breast as he used to do in the great parades of the time of Nicholas, and
the reviews in the camp of Tsarskoe-Selo.

Outside the garden, behind the chestnut-trees which hid the avenue, there
was a sudden sound of the rolling of wheels, and the gay cracking of
whips.

"Ah!" cried the General, "It is Zilah!"

And, rapidly swallowing a last glass of the cordial, he wiped his
moustache, and advanced to meet Prince Andras, who was descending from
his carriage.

Accompanying the Prince were Yanski Varhely, and an Italian friend of
Zilah's, Angelo Valla, a former minister of the Republic of Venice, in
the time of Manin. Andras Zilah, proud and happy, appeared to have
hardly passed his thirtieth year; a ray of youth animated his clear eyes.
He leaped lightly out upon the gravel, which cracked joyously beneath his
feet; and, as he advanced through the aromatic garden, to the villa where
Marsa awaited him, he said to himself that no man in the world was
happier than he.

Vogotzine met him, and, after shaking his hand, asked him why on earth he
had not put on his national Magyar costume, which the Hungarians wore
with such graceful carelessness.

"Look at me, my dear Prince! I am in full battle array!"

Andras was in haste to see Marsa. He smiled politely at the General's
remark, and asked him where his niece was.

"She is putting on her uniform," replied Vogotzine, with a loud laugh
which made his sabre rattle.

Most of the invited guests were to go directly to the church of Maisons.
Only the intimate friends came first to the house, Baroness Dinati,
first of all, accompanied by Paul Jacquemin, who took his eternal notes,
complimenting both Andras and the General, the latter especially eager to
detain as many as possible to the lunch after the ceremony. Vogotzine,
doubtless, wished to show himself in all the eclat of his majestic
appetite.

Very pretty, in her Louis Seize gown of pink brocade, and a Rembrandt hat
with a long white feather (Jacquemin, who remained below, had already
written down the description in his note-book), the little Baroness
entered Marsa's room like a whirlwind, embracing the young girl, and
going into ecstasy over her beauty.

"Ah! how charming you are, my dear child! You are the ideal of a bride!
You ought to be painted as you are! And what good taste to wear roses,
and not orange-flowers, which are so common, and only good for shopgirls.
Turn around! You are simply exquisite."

Marsa, paler than her garments, looked at herself in the glass, happy in
the knowledge of her beauty, since she was about to be his, and yet
contemplating the tall, white figure as if it were not her own image.

She had often felt this impression of a twofold being, in those dreams
where one seems to be viewing the life of another, or to be the
disinterested spectator of one's own existence.

It seemed to her that it was not she who was to be married, or that
suddenly the awakening would come.

"The Prince is below," said the Baroness Dinati.

"Ah!" said Marsa.

She started with a sort of involuntary terror, as this very name of
Prince was at once that of a husband and that of a judge. But when,
superb in the white draperies, which surrounded her like a cloud of
purity, her long train trailing behind her, she descended the stairs,
her little feet peeping in and out like two white doves, and appeared at
the door of the little salon where Andras was waiting, she felt herself
enveloped in an atmosphere of love. The Prince advanced to meet her, his
face luminous with happiness; and, taking the young girl's hands, he
kissed the long lashes which rested upon her cheek, saying, as he
contemplated the white vision of beauty before him:

"How lovely you are, my Marsa! And how I love you!"

The Prince spoke these words in a tone, and with a look, which touched
the deepest depths of Marsa's heart.

Then they exchanged those words, full of emotion, which, in their eternal
triteness, are like music in the ears of those who love. Every one had
withdrawn to the garden, to leave them alone in this last, furtive, happy
minute, which is never found again, and which, on the threshold of the
unknown, possesses a joy, sad as a last farewell, yet full of hope as the
rising of the sun.

He told her how ardently he loved her, and how grateful he was to her for
having consented, in her youth and beauty, to become the wife of a quasi-
exile, who still kept, despite his efforts, something of the melancholy
of the past.

And she, with an outburst of gratitude, devotion, and love, in which all
the passion of her nature and her race vibrated, said, in a voice which
trembled with unshed tears:

"Do not say that I give you my life. It is you who make of a girl of the
steppes a proud and honored wife, who asks herself why all this happiness
has come to her." Then, nestling close to Andras, and resting her dark
head upon his shoulder, she continued: "We have a proverb, you remember,
which says, Life is a tempest. I have repeated it very often with bitter
sadness. But now, that wicked proverb is effaced by the refrain of our
old song, Life is a chalet of pearls."

And the Tzigana, lost in the dream which was now a tangible reality,
saying nothing, but gazing with her beautiful eyes, now moist, into the
face of Andras, remained encircled in his arms, while he smiled and
whispered, again and again, "I love you!"

All the rest of the world had ceased to exist for these two beings,
absorbed in each other.

CHAPTER XX

THE BRIDAL DAY

The little Baroness ran into the room, laughing, and telling them how
late it was; and Andras and Marsa, awakened to reality, followed her to
the hall, where Varhely, Vogotzine, Angelo Valla, Paul Jacquemin and
other guests were assembled as a sort of guard of honor to the bride and
groom.

Andras and the Baroness, with Varhely, immediately entered the Prince's
carriage; Vogotzine taking his place in the coupe with Marsa. Then there
was a gay crackling of the gravel, a flash of wheels in the sunlight, a
rapid, joyous departure. Clustered beneath the trees in the ordinarily
quiet avenues of Maisons, the crowd watched the cortege; and old
Vogotzine good-humoredly displayed his epaulettes and crosses for the
admiration of the people who love uniforms.

As she descended from the carriage, Marsa cast a superstitious glance at
the facade of the church, a humble facade, with a Gothic porch and cheap
stained-glass windows, some of which were broken; and above a plaster
tower covered with ivy and surmounted with a roughly carved cross. She
entered the church almost trembling, thinking again how strange was this
fate which united, before a village altar, a Tzigana and a Magyar. She
walked up the aisle, seeing nothing, but hearing about her murmurs of
admiration, and knelt down beside Andras, upon a velvet cushion, near
which burned a tall candle, in a white candlestick.

The little church, dimly lighted save where the priest stood, was hushed
to silence, and Marsa felt penetrated with deep emotion. She had really
drunk of the cup of oblivion; she was another woman, or rather a young
girl, with all a young girl's purity and ignorance of evil. It seemed to
her that the hated past was a bad dream; one of those unhealthy
hallucinations which fly away at the dawn of day.

She saw, in the luminous enclosure of the altar, the priest in his white
stole, and the choir boys in their snowy surplices. The waxen candles
looked like stars against the white hangings of the chancel; and above
the altar, a sweet-faced Madonna looked down with sad eyes upon the man
and woman kneeling before her. Through the parti-colored windows,
crossed with broad bands of red, the branches of the lindens swayed in
the wind, and the fluttering tendrils of the ivy cast strange, flickering
shadows of blue, violet, and almost sinister scarlet upon the guests
seated in the nave.

Outside, in the square in front of the church, the crowd waited the end
of the ceremony. Shopgirls from the Rue de l'Eglise, and laundresses
from the Rue de Paris, curiously contemplated the equipages, with their
stamping horses, and the coachmen, erect upon their boxes, motionless,
and looking neither to the right nor the left. Through the open door of
the church, at the end of the old oak arches, could be seen Marsa's
white, kneeling figure, and beside her Prince Zilah, whose blond head, as
he stood gazing down upon his bride, towered above the rest of the party.

The music of the organ, now tremulous and low, now strong and deep,
caused a profound silence to fall upon the square; but, as the last note
died away, there was a great scrambling for places to see the procession
come out.

Above the mass of heads, the leaves of the old lindens rustled with a
murmur which recalled that of the sea; and now and then a blossom of a
yellowish white would flutter down, which the girls disputed, holding up
their hands and saying:

"The one who catches it will have a husband before the year is out!"

A poor old blind man, cowering upon the steps of the sanctuary, was
murmuring a monotonous prayer, like the plaint of a night bird.

Yanski Varhely regarded the scene with curiosity, as he waited for the
end of the ceremony. Somewhat oppressed by the heavy atmosphere of the
little church, and being a Huguenot besides, the old soldier had come out
into the open air, and bared his head to the fresh breeze under the
lindens.

His rugged figure had at first a little awed the crowd; but they soon
began to rattle on again like a brook over the stones.

Varhely cast, from time to time, a glance into the interior of the
church. Baroness Dinati was now taking up the collection for the poor,
holding the long pole of the alms-box in her little, dimpled hands, and
bowing with a pretty smile as the coins rattled into the receptacle.

Varhely, after a casual examination of the ruins of an old castle which
formed one side of the square, was about to return to the church, when a
domestic in livery pushed his way through the crowd, and raising himself
upon his toes, peered into the church as if seeking some one. After a
moment the man approached Yanski, and, taking off his hat, asked,
respectfully:

"Is it to Monsieur Varhely that I have the honor to speak?"

"Yes," replied Yanski, a little surprised.

"I have a package for Prince Andras Zilah: would Monsieur have the
kindness to take charge of it, and give it to the Prince? I beg
Monsieur's pardon; but it is very important, and I am obliged to go
away at once. I should have brought it to Maisons yesterday."

As he spoke, the servant drew from an inside pocket a little package
carefully wrapped, and sealed with red sealing-wax.

"Monsieur will excuse me," he said again, "but it is very important."

"What is it?" asked Varhely, rather brusquely. "Who sent it?"

"Count Michel Menko."

Varhely knew very well (as also did Andras), that Michel had been
seriously ill; otherwise, he would have been astonished at the young
man's absence from the wedding of the Prince.

He thought Michel had probably sent a wedding present, and he took the
little package, twisting it mechanically in his hands. As he did so, he
gave a slight start of surprise; it seemed as if the package contained
letters.

He looked at the superscription. The name of Prince Andras Zilah was
traced in clear, firm handwriting, and, in the left-hand corner, Michel
Menko had written, in Hungarian characters: "Very important! With the
expression of my excuses and my sorrow." And below, the signature "Menko
Mihaly."

The domestic was still standing there, hat in hand. "Monsieur will be
good enough to pardon me," he said; "but, in the midst of this crowd, I
could not perhaps reach his Excellency, and the Count's commands were so
imperative that--"

"Very well," interrupted Varhely. "I will myself give this to the Prince
immediately."

The domestic bowed, uttered his thanks, and left Varhely vaguely uneasy
at this mysterious package which had been brought there, and which Menko
had addressed to the Prince.

With the expression of his excuses and his sorrow! Michel doubtless
meant that he was sorry not to be able to join Andras's friends--he who
was one of the most intimate of them, and whom the Prince called "my
child." Yes, it was evidently that. But why this sealed package? and
what did it contain? Yanski turned it over and over between his fingers,
which itched to break the wrapper, and find out what was within.

He wondered if there were really any necessity to give it to the Prince.
But why should he not? What folly to think that any disagreeable news
could come from Michel Menko! The young man, unable to come himself to
Maisons, had sent his congratulations to the Prince, and Zilah would be
glad to receive them from his friend. That was all. There was no
possible trouble in all this, but only one pleasure the more to Andras.

And Varhely could not help smiling at the nervous feeling a letter
received under odd circumstances or an unexpected despatch sometimes
causes. The envelope alone, of some letters, sends a magnetic thrill
through one and makes one tremble. The rough soldier was not accustomed
to such weaknesses, and he blamed himself as being childish, for having
felt that instinctive fear which was now dissipated.

He shrugged his shoulders, and turned toward the church.

From the interior came the sound of the organ, mingled with the murmur of
the guests as they rose, ready to depart. The wedding march from the
Midsummer Night's Dream pealed forth majestically as the newly-married
pair walked slowly down the aisle. Marsa smiled happily at this music of
Mendelssohn, which she had played so often, and which was now singing for
her the chant of happy love. She saw the sunshine streaming through the
open doorway, and, dazzled by this light from without, her eyes fixed
upon the luminous portal, she no longer perceived the dim shadows of the
church.

Murmurs of admiration greeted her as she appeared upon the threshold,
beaming with happiness. The crowd, which made way for her, gazed upon
her with fascinated eyes. The door of Andras's carriage was open; Marsa
entered it, and Andras, with a smile of deep, profound content, seated
himself beside her, whispering tenderly in the Tzigana's ear as the
carriage drove off:

"Ah! how I love you! my beloved, my adored Marsa! How I love you, and
how happy I am!"

CHAPTER XXI

"THE TZIGANA IS THE MOST LOVED OF ALL!"

The chimes rang forth a merry peal, and Mendelssohn's music still
thundered its triumphal accents, as the marriage guests left the church.

"It is a beautiful wedding, really a great success! The bride, the
decorations, the good peasants and the pretty girls--everything is simply
perfect. If I ever marry again," laughed the Baroness, "I shall be
married in the country."

"You have only to name the day, Baroness," said old Vogotzine, inspired
to a little gallantry.

And Jacquemin, with a smile, exclaimed, in Russian:

"What a charming speech, General, and so original! I will make a note of
it."

The carriages rolled away toward Marsa's house through the broad avenues,
turning rapidly around the fountains of the park, whose jets of water
laughed as they fell and threw showers of spray over the masses of
flowers. Before the church, the children disputed for the money and
bonbons Prince Andras had ordered to be distributed. In Marsa's large
drawing-rooms, where glass and silver sparkled upon the snowy cloth,
servants in livery awaited the return of the wedding-party. In a moment
there was an assault, General Vogotzine leading the column. All
appetites were excited by the drive in the fresh air, and the guests did
honor to the pates, salads, and cold chicken, accompanied by Leoville,
which Jacquemin tasted and pronounced drinkable.

The little Baroness was ubiquitous, laughing, chattering, enjoying
herself to her heart's content, and telling every one that she was to
leave that very evening for Trouviile, with trunks, and trunks, and
trunks--a host of them! But then, it was race-week, you know!

With her eyeglasses perched upon her little nose, she stopped before a
statuette, a picture, no matter what, exclaiming, merrily:

"Oh, how pretty that is! How pretty it is! It is a Tanagra! How queer
those Tanagras are. They prove that love existed in antiquity, don't
they, Varhely? Oh! I forgot; what do you know about love?"

At last, with a glass of champagne in her hand, she paused before a
portrait of Marsa, a strange, powerful picture, the work of an artist
who knew how to put soul into his painting.

"Ah! this is superb! Who painted it, Marsa?"

"Zichy," replied Marsa.

"Ah, yes, Zichy! I am no longer astonished. By the way, there is
another Hungarian artist who paints very well. I have heard of him.
He is an old man; I don't exactly remember his name, something like
Barabas."

"Nicolas de Baratras," said Varhely.

"Yes, that's it. It seems he is a master. But your Zichy pleases me
infinitely. He has caught your eyes and expression wonderfully; it is
exactly like you, Princess. I should like to have my portrait painted by
him. His first name is Michel, is it not?"

She examined the signature, peering through her eyeglass, close to the
canvas.

"Yes, I knew it was. Michel Zichy!"

This name of "Michel!" suddenly pronounced, sped like an arrow through
Marsa's heart. She closed her eyes as if to shut out some hateful
vision, and abruptly quitted the Baroness, who proceeded to analyze
Zichy's portrait as she did the pictures in the salon on varnishing day.
Marsa went toward other friends, answering their flatteries with smiles,
and forcing herself to talk and forget.

Andras, in the midst of the crowd where Vogotzine's loud laugh alternated
with the little cries of the Baroness, felt a complex sentiment: he
wished his friends to enjoy themselves and yet he longed to be alone with
Marsa, and to take her away. They were to go first to his hotel in
Paris; and then to some obscure corner, probably to the villa of Sainte-
Adresse, until September, when they were going to Venice, and from there
to Rome for the winter.

It seemed to the Prince that all these people were taking away from him a
part of his life. Marsa belonged to them, as she went from one to
another, replying to the compliments which desperately resembled one
another, from those of Angelo Valla, which were spoken in Italian,
to those of little Yamada, the Parisianized Japanese. Andras now longed
for the solitude of the preceding days; and Baroness Dinati, shaking her
finger at him, said: "My dear Prince, you are longing to see us go,
I know you are. Oh! don't say you are not! I am sure of it, and I can
understand it. We had no lunch at my marriage. The Baron simply carried
me off at the door of the church. Carried me off! How romantic that
sounds! It suggests an elopement with a coach and four! Have no fear,
though; leave it to me, I will disperse your guests!"

She flew away before Zilah could answer; and, murmuring a word in the
ears of her friends, tapping with her little hand upon the shoulders of
the obstinate, she gradually cleared the rooms, and the sound of the
departing carriages was soon heard, as they rolled down the avenue.

Andras and Marsa were left almost alone; Varhely still remaining, and the
little Baroness, who ran up, all rosy and out of breath, to the Prince,
and said, gayly, in her laughing voice:

"Well! What do you say to that? all vanished like smoke, even
Jacquemin, who has gone back by train. The game of descampativos,
which Marie Antoinette loved to play at Trianon, must have been a little
like this. Aren't you going to thank me? Ah! you ingrate!"

She ran and embraced Marsa, pressing her cherry lips to the Tzigana's
pale face, and then rapidly disappeared in a mock flight, with a gay
little laugh and a tremendous rustle of petticoats.

Of all his friends, Varhely was the one of whom Andras was fondest;
but they had not been able to exchange a single word since the morning.
Yanski had been right to remain till the last: it was his hand which the
Prince wished to press before his departure, as if Varhely had been his
relative, and the sole surviving one.

"Now," he said to him, "you have no longer only a brother, my dear
Varhely; you have also a sister who loves and respects you as I love
and respect you myself."

Yanski's stern face worked convulsively with an emotion he tried to
conceal beneath an apparent roughness.

"You are right to love me a little," he said, brusquely, "because I am
very fond of you--of both of you," nodding his head toward Marsa.
"But no respect, please. That makes me out too old."

The Tzigana, taking Vogotzine's arm, led him gently toward the door,
a little alarmed at the purple hue of the General's cheeks and forehead.
"Come, take a little fresh air," she said to the old soldier, who
regarded her with round, expressionless eyes.

As they disappeared in the garden, Varhely drew from his pocket the
little package given to him by Menko's valet.

"Here is something from another friend! It was brought to me at the door
of the church."

"Ah! I thought that Menko would send me some word of congratulation,"
said Andras, after he had read upon the envelope the young Count's
signature. "Thanks, my dear Varhely."

"Now," said Yanski, "may happiness attend you, Andras! I hope that you
will let me hear from you soon."

Zilah took the hand which Varhely extended, and clasped it warmly in both
his own.

Upon the steps Varhely found Marsa, who, in her turn, shook his hand.

"Au revoir, Count."

"Au revoir, Princess."

She smiled at Andras, who accompanied Varhely, and who held in his hand
the package with the seals unbroken.

"Princess!" she said. "That is a title by which every one has been
calling me for the last hour; but it gives me the greatest pleasure to
hear it spoken by you, my dear Varhely. But, Princess or not, I shall
always be for you the Tzigana, who will play for you, whenever you wish
it, the airs of her country--of our country--!"

There was, in the manner in which she spoke these simple words, a gentle
grace which evoked in the mind of the old patriot memories of the past
and the fatherland.

"The Tzigana is the most charming of all! The Tzigana is the most loved
of all!" he said, in Hungarian, repeating a refrain of a Magyar song.

With a quick, almost military gesture, he saluted Andras and Marsa as
they stood at the top of the steps, the sun casting upon them dancing
reflections through the leaves of the trees.

The Prince and Princess responded with a wave of the hand; and General
Vogotzine, who was seated under the shade of a chestnut-tree, with his
coat unbuttoned and his collar open, tried in vain to rise to his feet
and salute the departure of the last guest.

CHAPTER XXII

A DREAM SHATTERED

They were alone at last; free to exchange those eternal vows which they
had just taken before the altar and sealed with a long, silent pressure
when their hands were united; alone with their love, the devoted love
they had read so long in each other's eyes, and which had burned, in the
church, beneath Marsa's lowered lids, when the Prince had placed upon her
finger the nuptial ring.

This moment of happiness and solitude after all the noise and excitement
was indeed a blessed one!

Andras had placed upon the piano of the salon Michel Menko's package,
and, seated upon the divan, he held both Marsa's hands in his, as she
stood before him.

"My best wishes, Princess!" he said. "Princess! Princess Zilah! That
name never sounded so sweet in my ears before! My wife! My dear and
cherished wife!" As she listened to the music of the voice she loved,
Marsa said to herself, that sweet indeed was life, which, after so many
trials, still had in reserve for her such joys. And so deep was her
happiness, that she wished everything could end now in a beautiful dream
which should have no awakening,.

"We will depart for Paris whenever you like," said the Prince.

"Yes," she exclaimed, sinking to his feet, and throwing her arms about
his neck as he bent over her, "let us leave this house; take me away,
take me away, and let a new life begin for me, the life I have longed for
with you and your love!"

There was something like terror in her words, and in the way she clung to
this man who was her hero. When she said "Let us leave this house," she
thought, with a shudder, of all her cruel suffering, of all that she
hated and which had weighed upon her like a nightmare. She thirsted for
a different air, where no phantom of the past could pursue her, where she
should feel free, where her life should belong entirely to him.

"I will go and take off this gown," she murmured, rising, "and we will
run away like two eloping lovers."

"Take off that gown? Why? It would be such a pity! You are so lovely
as you are!"

"Well," said Marsa, glancing down upon him with an almost mutinous smile,
which lent a peculiar charm to her beauty, "I will not change this white
gown, then; a mantle thrown over it will do. And you will take your wife
in her bridal dress to Paris, my Prince, my hero--my husband!"

He rose, threw his arms about her, and, holding her close to his heart,
pressed one long, silent kiss upon the exquisite lips of his beautiful
Tzigana.

She gently disengaged herself from his embrace, with a shivering sigh;
and, going slowly toward the door, she turned, and threw him a kiss,
saying:

"I will come back soon, my Andras!"

And, although wishing to go for her mantle, nevertheless she still stood
there, with her eyes fixed upon the Prince and her mouth sweetly
tremulous with a passion of feeling, as if she could not tear herself
away.

The piano upon which Andras had cast the package given him by Varhely was
there between them; and the Prince advanced a step or two, leaning his
hand upon the ebony cover. As Marsa approached for a last embrace before
disappearing on her errand, her glance fell mechanically upon the small
package sealed with red wax; and, as she read, in the handwriting she
knew so well, the address of the Prince and the signature of Michel
Menko, she raised her eyes violently to the face of Prince Zilah, as if
to see if this were not a trap; if, in placing this envelope within her
view, he were not trying to prove her. There was in her look fright,
sudden, instinctive fright, a fright which turned her very lips to ashes;
and she recoiled, her eyes returning fascinated to the package, while
Andras, surprised at the unexpected expression of the Tzigana's convulsed
features, exclaimed, in alarm:

"What is it, Marsa? What is the matter?"

"I--I"

She tried to smile.

"Nothing--I do not know! I--"

She made a desperate effort to look him in the face; but she could not
remove her eyes from that sealed package bearing the name Menko.

Ah! that Michel! She had forgotten him! Miserable wretch! He returned,
he threatened her, he was about to avenge himself: she was sure of it!

That paper contained something horrible. What could Michel Menko have to
say to Prince Andras, writing him at such an hour, except to tell him
that the wretched woman he had married was branded with infamy?

She shuddered from head to foot, steadying herself against the piano, her
lips trembling nervously.

"I assure you, Marsa--" began the Prince, taking her hands. "Your hands
are cold. Are you ill?"

His eyes followed the direction of Marsa's, which were still riveted upon
the piano with a dumb look of unutterable agony.

He instantly seized the sealed package, and, holding it up, exclaimed:

"One would think that it was this which troubled you!"

"O Prince! I swear to you!--"

"Prince?"

He repeated in amazement this title which she suddenly gave him; she,
who called him Andras, as he called her Marsa. Prince? He also, in his
turn, felt a singular sensation of fright, wondering what that package
contained, and if Marsa's fate and his own were not connected with some
unknown thing within it.

"Let us see," he said, abruptly breaking the seals, "what this is."

Rapidly, and as if impelled, despite herself, Marsa caught the wrist of
her husband in her icy hand, and, terrified, supplicating, she cried, in
a wild, broker voice:

"No, no, I implore you! No! Do not read it! Do not read it!"

He contemplated her coldly, and, forcing himself to be calm, asked:

"What does this parcel of Michel Menko's contain?"

"I do not know," gasped Marsa. "But do not read it! In the name of the
Virgin" (the sacred adjuration of the Hungarians occurring to her mind,
in the midst of her agony), "do not read it!"

"But you must be aware, Princess," returned Andras, "that you are taking
the very means to force me to read it."

She shivered and moaned, there was such a change in the way Andras
pronounced this word, which he had spoken a moment before in tones so
loving and caressing--Princess.

Now the word threatened her.

"Listen! I am about to tell you: I wished--Ah! My God! My God!
Unhappy woman that I am! Do not read, do not read!"

Andras, who had turned very pale, gently removed her grasp from the
package, and said, very slowly and gravely, but with a tenderness in
which hope still appeared:

"Come, Marsa, let us see; what do you wish me to think? Why do you wish
me not to read these letters? for letters they doubtless are. What have
letters sent me by Count Menko to do with you? You do not wish me to
read them?"

He paused a moment, and then, while Marsa's eyes implored him with the
mute prayer of a person condemned to death by the executioner, he
repeated:

"You do not wish me to read them? Well, so be it; I will not read them,
but upon one condition: you must swear to me, understand, swear to me,
that your name is not traced in these letters, and that Michel Menko has
nothing in common with the Princess Zilah."

She listened, she heard him; but Andras wondered whether she understood,
she stood so still and motionless, as if stupefied by the shock of a
moral tempest.

"There is, I am certain," he continued in the same calm, slow voice,
"there is within this envelope some lie, some plot. I will not even know
what it is. I will not ask you a single question, and I will throw these
letters, unread, into the fire; but swear to me, that, whatever this
Menko, or any other, may write to me, whatever any one may say, is an
infamy and a calumny. Swear that, Marsa."

"Swear it, swear again? Swear always, then? Oath upon oath? Ah! it is
too much!" she cried, her torpor suddenly breaking into an explosion of
sobs and cries. "No! not another lie, not one! Monsieur, I am a wretch,
a miserable woman! Strike me! Lash me, as I lash my dogs! I have
deceived you! Despise me! Hate me! I am unworthy even of pity! The
man whose letters you hold revenges himself, and stabs me, has been--my
lover!"

"Michel!"

"The most cowardly, the vilest being in the world! If he hated me, he
might have killed me; he might have torn off my veil just now, and struck
me across the lips. But to do this, to do this! To attack you, you,
you! Ah! miserable dog; fit only to be stoned to death! Judas! Liar
and coward! Would to heaven I had planted a knife in his heart!"

"Ah! My God!" murmured the Prince, as if stabbed himself.

At this cry of bitter agony from Andras Zilah, Marsa's imprecations
ceased; and she threw herself madly at his feet; while he stood erect and
pale--her judge.

She lay there, a mass of white satin and lace, her loosened hair falling
upon the carpet, where the pale bridal flowers withered beneath her
husband's heel; and Zilah, motionless, his glance wandering from the
prostrate woman to the package of letters which burned his fingers,
seemed ready to strike, with these proofs of her infamy, the distracted
Tzigana, a wolf to threaten, a slave to supplicate.

Suddenly he leaned over, seized her by the wrists, and raised her almost
roughly.

"Do you know," he said, in low, quivering tones, "that the lowest of
women is less culpable than you? Ten times, a hundred times, less
culpable! Do you know that I have the right to kill you?"

"Ah! that, yes! Do it! do it! do it!" she cried, with the smile of a
mad woman.

He pushed her slowly from him.

"Why have you committed this infamy? It was not for my fortune; you are
rich."

Marsa moaned, humiliated to the dust by this cold contempt. She would
have preferred brutal anger; anything, to this.

"Ah! your fortune!" she said, finding a last excuse for herself out of
the depth of her humiliation, which had now become eternal; "it was not
that, nor your name, nor your title that I wished: it was your love!"

The heart of the Prince seemed wrung in a vise as this word fell from
those lips, once adored, nay, still adored, soiled as they were.

"My love!"

"Yes, your love, your love alone! I would have confessed all, been your
mistress, your slave, your thing, if I--I had not feared to lose you, to
see myself abased in the eyes of you, whom I adored! I was afraid,
afraid of seeing you fly from me--yes, that was my crime! It is
infamous, ah! I know it; but I thought only of keeping you, you alone;
you, my admiration, my hero, my life, my god! I deserve to be punished;
yes, yes, I deserve it--But those letters--those letters which you would
have cast into the fire if I had not revealed the secret of my life--you
told me so yourself--I might have sworn what you asked, and you would
have believed me--I might have done so; but no, it would have been too
vile, too cowardly! Ah! kill me! That is what I deserve, that is what--"

"Where are you going?" she cried, interrupting herself, her eyes dilated
with fear, as she saw that Zilah, without answering, was moving toward
the door.

She forgot that she no longer had the right to question; she only felt,
that, once gone, she would never see him again. Ah! a thousand times a
blow with a knife rather than that! Was this the way the day, which
began so brightly, was to end?

"Where are you going?"

"What does that matter to you?"

"True! I beg your pardon. At least--at least, Monsieur, one word, I
implore. What are your commands? What do you wish me to do? There must
be laws to punish those who have done what I have done! Shall I accuse
myself, give myself up to justice? Ah! speak to me! speak to me!"

"Live with Michel Menko, if he is still alive after I have met him!"
responded Andras, in hard, metallic tones, waving back the unhappy woman
who threw herself on her knees, her arms outstretched toward him.

The door closed behind him. For a moment she gazed after him with
haggard eyes: and then, dragging herself, her bridal robes trailing
behind her, to the door, she tried to call after him, to detain the man
whom she adored, and who was flying from her; but her voice failed her,
and, with one wild, inarticulate cry, she fell forward on her face, with
a horrible realization of the immense void which filled the house, this
morning gay and joyous, now silent as a tomb.

And while the Prince, in the carriage which bore him away, read the
letters in which Marsa spoke of her love for another, and that other the
man whom he called "my child;" while he paused in this agonizing reading
to ask himself if it were true, if such a sudden annihilation of his
happiness were possible, if so many misfortunes could happen in such a
few hours; while he watched the houses and trees revolve slowly by him,
and feared that he was going mad--Marsa's servants ate the remnants of
the lunch, and drank what was left of the champagne to the health of the
Prince and Princess Zilah.

CHAPTER XXIII

"THE WORLD HOLDS BUT ONE FAIR MAIDEN"

Paris, whose everyday gossip has usually the keenness and eagerness of
the tattle of small villages, preserves at times, upon certain serious
subjects, a silence which might be believed to be generous. Whether it
is from ignorance or from respect, at all events it has little to say.
There are vague suspicions of the truth, surmises are made, but nothing
is affirmed; and this sort of abdication of public malignity is the most
complete homage that can be rendered either to character or talent.

The circle of foreigners in Paris, that contrasted society which circled
and chattered in the salon of the Baroness Dinati, could not, of
necessity, be ignorant that the Princess Zilah, since the wedding which
had attracted to Maisons-Lafitte a large part of the fashionable world,
had not left her house, while Prince Andras had returned to Paris alone.

There were low-spoken rumors of all sorts. It was said that Marsa had
been attacked by an hereditary nervous malady; and in proof of this were
cited the visits made at Maisons-Lafitte by Dr. Fargeas, the famous
physician of Salpetriere, who had been summoned in consultation with Dr.
Villandry. These two men, both celebrated in their profession, had been
called in by Vogotzine, upon the advice of Yanski Varhely, who was more
Parisian and better informed than the General.

Vogotzine was dreadfully uneasy, and his brain seemed ready to burst with
the responsibility thrust upon him. Since the terrible day of the
marriage--Vogotzine shrugged his shoulders in anger and amazement when
he uttered this word marriage--Marsa had not recovered from a sort of
frightened stupor; and the General, terrified at his niece's condition,
was really afraid of going insane himself.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" he said, "all this is deplorably sad."

After the terrible overthrow of all her hopes, Marsa was seized with a
fever, and she lay upon her bed in a frightful delirium, which entirely
took away the little sense poor old Vogotzine had left. Understanding
nothing of the reason of Zilah's disappearance, the General listened in
childish alarm to Marsa, wildly imploring mercy and pity of some
invisible person. The unhappy old man would have faced a battalion of
honveds or a charge of bashi-bazouks rather than remain there in the
solitary house, with the delirious girl whose sobs and despairing appeals
made the tears stream down the face of this soldier, whose brain was now
weakened by drink, but who had once contemplated with a dry eye, whole
ditches full of corpses, which some priest, dressed in mourning, blessed
in one mass.

Vogotzine hastened to Paris, and questioned Andras; but the Prince
answered him in a way that permitted of no further conversation upon the
subject.

"My personal affairs concern myself alone."

The General had not energy enough to demand an explanation; and he bowed,
saying that it was certainly not his business to interfere; but he
noticed that Zilah turned very pale when he told him that it would be a
miracle if Marsa recovered from the fever.

"It is pitiful!" he said.

Zilah cast a strange look at him, severe and yet terrified.

Vogotzine said no more; but he went at once to Dr. Fargeas, and asked him
to come as soon as possible to Maisons-Lafitte.

The doctor's coupe in a few hours stopped before the gate through which
so short a time ago the gay marriage cortege had passed, and Vogotzine
ushered him into the little salon from which Marsa had once driven Menko.

Then the General sent for Mademoiselle--or, rather, Madame, as he
corrected himself with a shrug of his shoulders. But suddenly he became
very serious as he saw upon the threshold Marsa, whose fever had
temporarily left her, and who could now manage to drag herself along,
pale and wan, leaning upon the arm of her maid.

Dr. Fargeas cast a keen glance at the girl, whose eyes, burning with
inward fire, alone seemed to be living.

"Madame," said the doctor, quietly, when the General had made a sign to
his niece to listen to the stranger, "General Vogotzine has told me that
you were suffering. I am a physician. Will you do me the honor and the
kindness to answer my questions?"

"Yes," said the General, "do, my dear Marsa, to please me."

She stood erect, not a muscle of her face moving; and, without replying,
she looked steadily into the doctor's eyes. In her turn, she was
studying him. It was like a defiance before a duel.

Then she said suddenly, turning to Vogotzine:

"Why have you brought a physician? I am not ill."

Her voice was clear, but low and sad, and it was an evident effort for
her to speak.

"No, you are not ill, my dear child; but I don't know--I don't
understand--you make me a little uneasy, a very little. You know if I,
your old uncle, worried you even a little, you would not feel just right
about it, would you now?"

With which rather incoherent speech, he tried to force a smile; but
Marsa, taking no notice of him, turned slowly to the doctor, who had not
removed his eyes from her face.

"Well," she said, dryly, "what do you want? What do you wish to ask me?
What shall I tell you? Who requested you to come here?"

Vogotzine made a sign to the maid to leave the room.

"I told you, I have come at the General's request," said Fargeas, with a
wave of his hand toward Vogotzine.

Marsa only replied: "Ah!" But it seemed to the doctor that there was a
world of disappointment and despair expressed in this one ejaculation.

Then she suddenly became rigid, and lapsed into one of those stupors
which had succeeded the days of delirium, and had frightened Vogotzine so
much.

"There! There! Look at her!" exclaimed the old man.

Fargeas, without listening to the General, approached Marsa, and placed
her in a chair near the window. He looked in her eyes, and placed his
hand upon her burning forehead; but Marsa made no movement.

"Are you in pain?" he asked, gently.

The young girl, who a moment before had asked questions and still seemed
interested a little in life, stirred uneasily, and murmured, in an odd,
singing voice:

"I do not know!"

"Did you sleep last night?"

"I do not know!"

"How old are you?" asked Fargeas, to test her mental condition.

"I do not know!"

The physician's eyes sought those of the General. Vogotzine, his face
crimson, stood by the chair, his little, round eyes blinking with emotion
at each of these mournful, musical responses.

"What is your name?" asked the doctor, slowly.

She raised her dark, sad eyes, and seemed to be seeking what to reply;
then, wearily letting her head fall backward, she answered, as before:

"I do not know!"

Vogotzine, who had become purple, seized the doctor's arm convulsively.

"She no longer knows even her own name!"

"It will be only temporary, I hope," said the doctor. "But in her
present state, she needs the closest care and attention."

"I have never seen her like this before, never since--since the first
day," exclaimed the General, in alarm and excitement. "She tried to kill
herself then; but afterward she seemed more reasonable, as you saw just
now. When she asked you who sent you, I thought Ah! at last she is
interested in something. But now it is worse than ever. Oh! this is
lively for me, devilish lively!"

Fargeas took between his thumb and finger the delicate skin of the
Tzigana, and pinched her on the neck, below the ear. Marsa did not stir.

"There is no feeling here," said the doctor; "I could prick it with a pin
without causing any sensation of pain." Then, again placing his hand
upon Marsa's forehead, he tried to rouse some memory in the dormant
brain:

"Come, Madame, some one is waiting for you. Your uncle--your uncle
wishes you to play for him upon the piano! Your uncle! The piano!"

"The World holds but One Fair Maiden!" hummed Vogotzine, trying to give,
in his husky voice, the melody of the song the Tzigana was so fond of.

Mechanically, Marsa repeated, as if spelling the word: "The piano!
piano!" and then, in peculiar, melodious accents, she again uttered her
mournful: "I do not know!"

This time old Vogotzine felt as if he were strangling; and the doctor,
full of pity, gazed sadly down at the exquisitely beautiful girl, with
her haggard, dark eyes, and her waxen skin, sitting there like a marble
statue of despair.

"Give her some bouillon," said Fargeas. "She will probably refuse it in
her present condition; but try. She can be cured," he added; "but she
must be taken away from her present surroundings. Solitude is necessary,
not this here, but--"

"But?" asked Vogotzine, as the doctor paused.

"But, perhaps, that of an asylum. Poor woman!" turning again to Marsa,
who had not stirred. "How beautiful she is!"

The doctor, greatly touched, despite his professional indifference, left
the villa, the General accompanying him to the gate. It was decided that
he should return the next day with Villandry and arrange for the
transportation of the invalid to Dr. Sims's establishment at Vaugirard.
In a new place her stupor might disappear, and her mind be roused from
its torpor; but a constant surveillance was necessary. Some pretext must
be found to induce Marsa to enter a carriage; but once at Vaugirard, the
doctor gave the General his word that she should be watched and taken
care of with the utmost devotion.

Vogotzine felt the blood throb in his temples as he listened to the
doctor's decision. The establishment at Vaugirard! His niece, the
daughter of Prince Tchereteff, and the wife of Prince Zilah, in an insane
asylum!

But he himself had not the right to dispose of Marsa's liberty; the
consent of the Prince was necessary. It was in vain for Andras to refuse
to have his life disturbed; it was absolutely necessary to find out from
him what should be done with Marsa, who was his wife and Princess Zilah.

The General also felt that he was incapable of understanding anything,
ignorant as he was of the reasons of the rupture, of Zilah's anger
against the Tzigana, and of the young girl's terrible stupor; and, as he
drank his cherry cordial or his brandy, wondered if he too were insane,
as he repeated, like his niece:

"I do not know! I do not know!"

He felt obliged, however, to go and tell the Prince of the opinion of the
illustrious physician of Salpetriere.

Then he asked Zilah:

"What is your decision?"

"General," replied Andras, "whatever you choose to do is right. But,
once for all, remember that I wish henceforth to live alone, entirely
alone, and speak to me neither of the future nor of the past, which is
cruel, nor of the present, which is hopeless. I have determined---"

"What?"

"To live hereafter an absolutely selfish life!"

"That will change you," returned the General, in amazement.

"And will console me," added Andras.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Life is a tempest
Nervous natures, as prompt to hope as to despair
No answer to make to one who has no right to question me
Nothing ever astonishes me
Poverty brings wrinkles

PRINCE ZILAH

By JULES CLARETIE

BOOK 3.

CHAPTER XXIV

A LITTLE PARISIAN ROMANCE

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

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

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

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

"Yesterday! Where has he gone?"

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

Hesitating a little, the servant added:

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

"Why?" asked Andras.

The valet replied with a humble but very sincere air:

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

"Well?" said Andras.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yesterday?" repeated Andras.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Varhely had only one idea.

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

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

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

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

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

"I am going out."

"Have you read that paper?"

"The marked part of it, yes."

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

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

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

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

As he spoke, he moved toward the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Varhely again.

"To the office of this journal."

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

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

"Then I will accompany you."

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

"A duel?"

"Exactly."

"With Monsieur--Puck?"

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

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