Immortals Crowned by the French Academy, Prince Zilah, complete
by Jules Claretie
Arsene Arnaud Claretie (commonly called Jules), was born on
December 3, 1840, at Limoges, the picturesque and smiling capital of
Limousin. He has been rightly called the "Roi de la Chronique" and
the "Themistocle de la Litterature Contemporaine." In fact, he has
written, since early youth, romances, drama, history, novels, tales,
chronicles, dramatic criticism, literary criticism, military
correspondence, virtually everything! He was elected to the French
Academy in 1888.
Claretie was educated at the Lycee Bonaparte, and was destined for
a commercial career. He entered a business-house as bookkeeper, but
was at the same time contributing already to newspapers and reviews.
In 1862 we find him writing for the Diogene; under the pseudonym,
"Olivier de Jalin," he sends articles to La France; his nom-deplume in
L'Illustration is "Perdican"; he also contributes to the Figaro,
'L'Independence Belge, Opinion Nationale' (1867-1872); he signs
articles in the 'Rappel; as "Candide"; in short, his fecundity in this
field of literature is very great. He is today a most popular
journalist and writes for the 'Presse, Petit Journal, Temps', and
others. He has not succeeded as a politician. Under the second Empire
he was often in collision with the Government; in 1857 he was
sentenced to pay a fine of 1,000 francs, which was a splendid
investment; more than once lectures to be given by him were prohibited
(1865-1868); in 1871 he was an unsuccessful candidate for L'Assemblee
Nationale, both for La Haute Vienne and La Seine. Since that time he
has not taken any active part in politics. Perhaps we should also
mention that as a friend of Victor Noir he was called as a witness in
the process against Peter Bonaparte; and that as administrator of the
Comedie Francaise he directed, in 1899, an open letter to the
"President and Members of the Court Martial trying Captain Dreyfus" at
Rennes, advocating the latter's acquittal. So much about Claretie as
The number of volumes and essays written by Jules Claretie
surpasses imagination, and it is, therefore, almost impossible to give
a complete list. As a historian he has selected mostly revolutionary
subjects. The titles of some of his prominent works in this field are
'Les Derniers Montagnards (1867); Histoire de la Revolution de 1870-71
(second edition, 1875, 5 vols.); La France Envahie (1871); Le Champ de
Bataille de Sedan (1871); Paris assiege and Les Prussiens chez eux
(1872); Cinq Ans apres, L'Alsace et la Lorraine depuis l'Annexion
(1876); La Guerre Nationale 1870-1871', etc., most of them in the
hostile, anti-German vein, natural to a "Chauvinist"; 'Ruines et
Fantomes (1873). Les Femmes de la Revolution (1898)' contains a great
number of portraits, studies, and criticisms, partly belonging to
political, partly to literary, history. To the same category belong:
Moliere, sa Vie et ses OEuvres (1873); Peintres et Sculpteurs
Contemporains, and T. B. Carpeaux (1875); L'Art et les Artistes
Contemporains (1876)', and others. Quite different from the above,
and in another phase of thought, are: 'Voyages d'un Parisien (1865);
Journees de Voyage en Espagne et France (1870); Journees de Vacances
(1887)'; and others.
It is, however, as a novelist that the fame of Claretie will
endure. He has followed the footsteps of George Sand and of Balzac.
He belongs to the school of "Impressionists," and, although he has a
liking for exceptional situations, wherefrom humanity does not always
issue without serious blotches, he yet is free from pessimism. He has
no nervous disorder, no "brain fag," he is no pagan, not even a
nonbeliever, and has happily preserved his wholesomeness of thought;
he is averse to exotic ideas, extravagant depiction, and inflammatory
language. His novels and tales contain the essential qualities which
attract and retain the reader. Some of his works in chronological
order, omitting two or three novels, written when only twenty or
twenty-one years old, are: 'Pierrille, Histoire de Village (1863);
Mademoiselle Cachemire (1867); Un Assassin, also known under the title
Robert Burat (1867); Madeleine Bertin, replete with moderated
sentiment, tender passion, and exquisite scenes of social life (1868);
Les Muscadins (1874, 2 vols.); Le Train No. 17 (1877); La Maison Vide
(1878); Le Troisieme dessous (1879); La Maitresse (1880); Monsieur le
Ministre (1882); Moeurs du Jour (1883); Le Prince Zilah (1884),
crowned by the Academy four years before he was elected;
Candidat!(1887); Puyjoli (1890); L'Americaine (1892); La Frontiere
(1894); Mariage Manque (1894); Divette (1896); L'Accusateur (1897),
It is, perhaps, interesting to know that after the flight of the
Imperial family from the Tuileries, Jules Claretie was appointed to
put into order the various papers, documents, and letters left behind
in great chaos, and to publish them, if advisable.
Very numerous and brilliant have also been the incursions of Jules
Claretie into the theatrical domain, though he is a better novelist
than playwright. He was appointed director of the Comedie Francaise
in 1885. His best known dramas and comedies are: 'La Famille de Gueux,
in collaboration with Della Gattina (Ambigu, 1869); Raymond Lindey
(Menus Plaisirs, 1869, forbidden for some time by French censorship);
Les Muscadins (Theatre Historique, 1874); Un Pyre (with Adrien
Decourcelle, Gymnase, 1874); Le Regiment de Champagne (Theatre
Historique, 1877); Monsieur le Ministre, together with Dumas fils and
Busnach (Gymnase, 1883); and Prince Zilah (Gymnase, 1885).
Some of them, as will be noticed, are adapted to the stage from his
novels. In Le Regiment de Champagne, at least, he has written a
little melodramatically. But thanks to the battles, fumes of powder,
muskets, and cannons upon the stage the descendants of Jean Chauvin
accept it with frenetic applause. In most of the plays, however, he
exhibits a rather nervous talent, rich imagination, and uses very
scintillating and picturesque language, if he is inclined to do
so—and he is very often inclined. He received the "Prix Vitet" in
1879 from the Academy for Le Drapeau. Despite our unlimited
admiration for Claretie the journalist, Claretie the historian,
Claretie the dramatist, and Claretie the art- critic, we think his
novels conserve a precious and inexhaustible mine for the Faguets and
Lansons of the twentieth century, who, while frequently utilizing him
for the exemplification of the art of fiction, will salute him as "Le
Roi de la Romance."
de L'Academie Francaise.
CHAPTER I. THE BETROTHAL FETE
"Excuse me, Monsieur, but pray tell me what vessel that is over
The question was addressed to a small, dark man, who, leaning upon
the parapet of the Quai des Tuileries, was rapidly writing in a
note-book with a large combination pencil, containing a knife, a pen,
spare leads, and a paper-cutter—all the paraphernalia of a reporter
accustomed to the expeditions of itinerant journalism.
When he had filled, in his running hand, a leaf of the book, the
little man tore it hastily off, and extended it to a boy in dark blue
livery with silver buttons, bearing the initial of the newspaper,
L'Actualite; and then, still continuing to write, he replied:
"Prince Andras Zilah is giving a fete on board one of the boats
belonging to the Compagnie de la Seine."
"A fete? Why?"
"To celebrate his approaching marriage, Monsieur."
"Prince Andras! Ah!" said the first speaker, as if he knew the
name well; "Prince Andras is to be married, is he? And who does
Prince Andras Zil—"
"Zilah! He is a Hungarian, Monsieur."
The reporter appeared to be in a hurry, and, handing another leaf
to the boy, he said:
"Wait here a moment. I am going on board, and I will send you the
rest of the list of guests by a sailor. They can prepare the article
from what you have, and set it up in advance, and I will come myself
to the office this evening and make the necessary additions."
"Very well, Monsieur Jacquemin."
"And don't lose any of the leaves."
"Oh, Monsieur Jacquemin! I never lose anything!"
"They will have some difficulty, perhaps, in reading the
names—they are all queer; but I shall correct the proof myself."
"Then, Monsieur," asked the lounger again, eager to obtain all the
information he could, "those people who are going on board are almost
"Yes, Monsieur; yes, Monsieur; yes, Monsieur!" responded
jacquemin, visibly annoyed. "There are many foreigners in the city,
very many; and I prefer them, myself, to the provincials of Paris."
The other did not seem to understand; but he smiled, thanked the
reporter, and strolled away from the parapet, telling all the people
he met: "It is a fete! Prince Andras, a Hungarian, is about to be
married. Prince Andras Zilah! A fete on board a steamer! What a
Others, equally curious, leaned over the Quai des Tuileries and
watched the steamer, whose tricolor flag at the stern, and red
streamers at the mastheads, floated with gay flutterings in the fresh
morning breeze. The boat was ready to start, its decks were waxed,
its benches covered with brilliant stuffs, and great masses of azaleas
and roses gave it the appearance of a garden or conservatory. There
was something highly attractive to the loungers on the quay in the
gayly decorated steamer, sending forth long puffs of white smoke along
the bank. A band of dark- complexioned musicians, clad in red
trousers, black waistcoats heavily embroidered in sombre colors, and
round fur caps, played odd airs upon the deck; while bevies of
laughing women, almost all pretty in their light summer gowns,
alighted from coupes and barouches, descended the flight of steps
leading to the river, and crossed the plank to the boat, with little
coquettish graces and studied raising of the skirts, allowing
ravishing glimpses of pretty feet and ankles. The defile of merry,
witty Parisiennes, with their attendant cavaliers, while the orchestra
played the passionate notes of the Hungarian czardas, resembled some
vision of a painter, some embarkation for the dreamed-of Cythera,
realized by the fancy of an artist, a poet, or a great lord, here in
nineteenth century Paris, close to the bridge, across which streamed,
like a living antithesis, the realism of crowded cabs, full omnibuses,
and hurrying foot-passengers.
Prince Andras Zilah had invited his friends, this July morning, to
a breakfast in the open air, before the moving panorama of the banks
of the Seine.
Very well known in Parisian society, which he had sought eagerly
with an evident desire to be diverted, like a man who wishes to
forget, the former defender of Hungarian independence, the son of old
Prince Zilah Sandor, who was the last, in 1849, to hold erect the
tattered standard of his country, had been prodigal of his
invitations, summoning to his side his few intimate friends, the
sharers of his solitude and his privacy, and also the greater part of
those chance fugitive acquaintances which the life of Paris inevitably
gives, and which are blown away as lightly as they appeared, in a
breath of air or a whirlwind.
Count Yanski Varhely, the oldest, strongest, and most devoted
friend of all those who surrounded the Prince, knew very well why this
fanciful idea had come to Andras. At forty-four, the Prince was
bidding farewell to his bachelor life: it was no folly, and Yanski saw
with delight that the ancient race of the Zilahs, from time immemorial
servants of patriotism and the right, was not to be extinct with
Prince Andras. Hungary, whose future seemed brightening; needed the
Zilahs in the future as she had needed them in the past.
"I have only one objection to make to this marriage," said Varhely;
"it should have taken place sooner." But a man can not command his
heart to love at a given hour. When very young, Andras Zilah had
cared for scarcely anything but his country; and, far from her, in the
bitterness of exile, he had returned to the passion of his youth,
living in Paris only upon memories of his Hungary. He had allowed
year after year to roll by, without thinking of establishing a home of
his own by marriage. A little late, but with heart still warm, his
spirit young and ardent, and his body strengthened rather than worn
out by life, Prince Andras gave to a woman's keeping his whole being,
his soul with his name, the one as great as the other. He was about
to marry a girl of his own choice, whom he loved romantically; and he
wished to give a surrounding of poetic gayety to this farewell to the
past, this greeting to the future. The men of his race, in days gone
by, had always displayed a gorgeous, almost Oriental originality: the
generous eccentricities of one of Prince Andras's ancestors, the old
Magyar Zilah, were often cited; he it was who made this answer to his
stewards, when, figures in hand, they proved to him, that, if he would
farm out to some English or German company the cultivation of his
wheat, corn, and oats, he would increase his revenue by about six
hundred thousand francs a year:
"But shall I make these six hundred thousand francs from the
nourishment of our laborers, farmers, sowers, and gleaners? No,
certainly not; I would no more take that money from the poor fellows
than I would take the scattered grains from the birds of the air."
It was also this grandfather of Andras, Prince Zilah Ferency, who,
when he had lost at cards the wages of two hundred masons for an
entire year, employed these men in constructing chateaux, which he
burned down at the end of the year to give himself the enjoyment of
fireworks upon picturesque ruins.
The fortune of the Zilahs was then on a par with the almost
fabulous, incalculable wealth of the Esterhazys and Batthyanyis.
Prince Paul Esterhazy alone possessed three hundred and fifty square
leagues of territory in Hungary. The Zichys, the Karolyis and the
Szchenyis, poorer, had but two hundred at this time, when only six
hundred families were proprietors of six thousand acres of Hungarian
soil, the nobles of Great Britain possessing not more than five
thousand in England. The Prince of Lichtenstein entertained for a
week the Emperor of Austria, his staff and his army. Old Ferency
Zilah would have done as much if he had not always cherished a
profound, glowing, militant hatred of Austria: never had the family of
the magnate submitted to Germany, become the master, any more than it
had bent the knee in former times to the conquering Turk.
From his ancestors Prince Andras inherited, therefore, superb
liberality, with a fortune greatly diminished by all sorts of losses
and misfortunes —half of it confiscated by Austria in 1849, and
enormous sums expended for the national cause, Hungarian emigrants and
proscribed compatriots. Zilah nevertheless remained very rich, and was
an imposing figure in Paris, where, some years before, after long
journeyings, he had taken up his abode.
The little fete given for his friends on board the Parisian steamer
was a trifling matter to the descendant of the magnificent Magyars;
but still there was a certain charm about the affair, and it was a
pleasure for the Prince to see upon the garden-like deck the amusing,
frivolous, elegant society, which was the one he mingled with, but
which he towered above from the height of his great intelligence, his
conscience, and his convictions. It was a mixed and bizarre society,
of different nationalities; an assemblage of exotic personages, such
as are met with only in Paris in certain peculiar places where
aristocracy touches Bohemianism, and nobles mingle with
quasi-adventurers; a kaleidoscopic society, grafting its vices upon
Parisian follies, coming to inhale the aroma and absorb the poison of
Paris, adding thereto strange intoxications, and forming, in the
immense agglomeration of the old French city, a sort of peculiar
syndicate, an odd colony, which belongs to Paris, but which, however,
has nothing of Paris about it except its eccentricities, which drive
post-haste through life, fill the little journals with its great
follies, is found and found again wherever Paris overflows—at Dieppe,
Trouville, Vichy, Cauteret, upon the sands of Etretat, under the
orange-trees of Nice, or about the gaming tables of Monaco, according
to the hour, season, and fashion.
This was the sort of assemblage which, powdered, perfumed,
exquisitely dressed, invaded, with gay laughter and nervous desire to
be amused, the boat chartered by the Prince. Above, pencil in hand,
the little dark man with the keen eyes, black, pointed beard and waxed
moustache, continued to take down, as the cortege defiled before him,
the list of the invited guests: and upon the leaves fell, briskly
traced, names printed a hundred times a day in Parisian chronicles
among the reports of the races of first representations at the
theatres; names with Slav, Latin, or Saxon terminations; Italian
names, Spanish, Hungarian, American names; each of which represented
fortune, glory, power, sometimes scandal—one of those imported
scandals which break out in Paris as the trichinae of foreign goods
are hatched there.
The reporter wrote on, wrote ever, tearing off and handing to the
page attached to 'L'Actualite' the last leaves of his list, whereon
figured Yankee generals of the War of the Rebellion, Italian
princesses, American girls flirting with everything that wore
trousers; ladies who, rivals of Prince Zilah in wealth, owned whole
counties somewhere in England; great Cuban lords, compromised in the
latest insurrections and condemned to death in Spain; Peruvian
statesmen, publicists, and military chiefs at once, masters of the
tongue, the pen, and the revolver; a crowd of originals, even a
Japanese, an elegant young man, dressed in the latest fashion, with a
heavy sombrero which rested upon his straight, inky-black hair, and
which every minute or two he took off and placed under his left arm,
to salute the people of his acquaintance with low bows in the most
approved French manner.
All these odd people, astonishing a little and interesting greatly
the groups of Parisians gathered above on the sidewalks, crossed the
gangway leading to the boat, and, spreading about on the deck, gazed
at the banks and the houses, or listened to the czardas which the
Hungarian musicians were playing with a sort of savage frenzy beneath
the French tricolor united to the three colors of their own country.
The Tzigani thus saluted the embarkation of the guests; and the
clear, bright sunshine enveloped the whole boat with a golden aureole,
joyously illuminating the scene of feverish gayety and childish
CHAPTER II. THE BARONESS'S
The Prince Zilah met his guests with easy grace, on the deck in
front of the foot-bridge. He had a pleasant word for each one as they
came on board, happy and smiling at the idea of a breakfast on the
deck of a steamer, a novel amusement which made these insatiable
pleasure-seekers forget the fashionable restaurants and the
conventional receptions of every day.
"What a charming thought this was of yours, Prince, so unexpected,
so Parisian, ah, entirely Parisian!"
In almost the same words did each newcomer address the Prince, who
smiled, and repeated a phrase from Jacquemin's chronicles: "Foreigners
are more Parisian than the Parisians themselves."
A smile lent an unexpected charm to the almost severe features of
the host. His usual expression was rather sad, and a trifle haughty.
His forehead was broad and high, the forehead of a thinker and a
student rather than that of a soldier; his eyes were of a deep, clear
blue, looking directly at everything; his nose was straight and
regular, and his beard and moustache were blond, slightly gray at the
corners of the mouth and the chin. His whole appearance, suggesting,
as it did, reserved strength and controlled passion, pleased all the
more because, while commanding respect, it attracted sympathy beneath
the powerful exterior, you felt there was a tender kindliness of
There was no need for the name of Prince Andras Zilah—or, as they
say in Hungary, Zilah Andras—to have been written in characters of
blood in the history of his country, for one to divine the hero in
him: his erect figure, the carriage of his head, braving life as it
had defied the bullets of the enemy, the strange brilliance of his
gaze, the sweet inflections of his voice accustomed to command, and
the almost caressing gestures of his hand used to the sword—all
showed the good man under the brave, and, beneath the indomitable
soldier, the true gentleman.
When they had shaken the hand of their host, the guests advanced to
the bow of the boat to salute a young girl, an exquisite, pale
brunette, with great, sad eyes, and a smile of infinite charm, who was
half-extended in a low armchair beneath masses of brilliant
parti-colored flowers. A stout man, of the Russian type, with heavy
reddish moustaches streaked with gray, and an apoplectic neck, stood
by her side, buttoned up in his frock-coat as in a military uniform.
Every now and then, leaning over and brushing with his moustaches
her delicate white ear, he would ask:
"Are you happy, Marsa?"
And Marsa would answer with a smile ending in a sigh, as she
vaguely contemplated the scene before her:
"Yes, uncle, very happy."
Not far from these two was a little woman, still very pretty,
although of a certain age—the age of embonpoint—a brunette, with
very delicate features, a little sensual mouth, and pretty rosy ears
peeping forth from skilfully arranged masses of black hair. With a
plump, dimpled hand, she held before her myopic eyes a pair of
gold-mounted glasses; and she was speaking to a man of rather stern
aspect, with a Slav physiognomy, a large head, crowned with a mass of
crinkly hair as white as lamb's wool, a long, white moustache, and
shoulders as broad as an ox; a man already old, but with the robust
strength of an oak. He was dressed neither well nor ill, lacking
distinction, but without vulgarity.
"Indeed, my dear Varhely, I am enchanted with this idea of Prince
Andras. I am enjoying myself excessively already, and I intend to
enjoy myself still more. Do you know, this scheme of a breakfast on
the water is simply delightful! Don't you find it so? Oh! do be a
little jolly, Varhely!"
"Do I seem sad, then, Baroness?"
Yanski Varhely, the friend of Prince Andras, was very happy,
however, despite his rather sombre air. He glanced alternately at the
little woman who addressed him, and at Marsa, two very different types
of beauty: Andras's fiancee, slender and pale as a beautiful lily, and
the little Baroness Dinati, round and rosy as a ripe peach. And he
was decidedly pleased with this Marsa Laszlo, against whom he had
instinctively felt some prejudice when Zilah spoke to him for the
first time of marrying her. To make of a Tzigana—for Marsa was half
Tzigana— a Princess Zilah, seemed to Count Varhely a slightly bold
resolution. The brave old soldier had never understood much of the
fantastic caprices of passion, and Andras seemed to him in this, as in
all other things, just a little romantic. But, after all, the Prince
was his own master, and whatever a Zilah did was well done. So, after
reflection, Zilah's marriage became a joy to Varhely, as he had just
been declaring to the fiancee's uncle, General Vogotzine.
Baroness Dinati was therefore wrong to suspect old Yanski Varhely
of any 'arriere-pensee'. How was it possible for him not to be
enchanted, when he saw Andras absolutely beaming with happiness?
They were now about to depart, to raise the anchor and glide down
the river along the quays. Already Paul Jacquemin, casting his last
leaves to the page of L'Actualite, was quickly descending the
gangplank. Zilah scarcely noticed him, for he uttered a veritable cry
of delight as he perceived behind the reporter a young man whom he had
"Menko! My dear Michel!" he exclaimed, stretching out both hands
to the newcomer, who advanced, excessively pale. "By what happy
chance do I see you, my dear boy?"
"I heard in London that you were to give this fete. The English
newspapers had announced your marriage, and I did not wish to wait
He hesitated a little as he spoke, as if dissatisfied, troubled,
and a moment before (Zilah had not noticed it) he had made a movement
as if to go back to the quay and leave the boat.
Michel Menko, however, had not the air of a timid man. He was
tall, thin, of graceful figure, a man of the world, a military
diplomat. For some reason or other, at this moment, he exhibited a
certain uneasiness in his face, which ordinarily bore a rather
brilliant color, but which was now almost sallow. He was
instinctively seeking some one among the Prince's guests, and his
glance wandered about the deck with a sort of dull anger.
Prince Andras saw only one thing in Menko's sudden appearance; the
young man, to whom he was deeply attached, and who was the only
relative he had in the world (his maternal grandmother having been a
Countess Menko), his dear Michel, would be present at his marriage.
He had thought Menko ill in London; but the latter appeared before
him, and the day was decidedly a happy one.
"How happy you make me, my dear fellow!" he said to him in a tone
of affection which was almost paternal.
Each demonstration of friendship by the Prince seemed to increase
the young Count's embarrassment. Beneath a polished manner, the
evidence of an imperious temperament appeared in the slightest glance,
the least gesture, of this handsome fellow of twenty-seven or
twenty-eight years. Seeing him pass by, one could easily imagine him
with his fashionable clothes cast aside, and, clad in the uniform of
the Hungarian hussars, with closely shaven chin, and moustaches
brushed fiercely upward, manoeuvring his horse on the Prater with
supple grace and nerves like steel.
Menko's gray eyes, with blue reflections in them, which made one
think of the reflection of a storm in a placid lake, became sad when
calm, but were full of a threatening light when animated. The gaze of
the young man had precisely this aggressive look when he discovered,
half hidden among the flowers, Marsa seated in the bow of the boat;
then, almost instantaneously a singular expression of sorrow or
anguish succeeded, only in its turn to fade away with the rapidity of
the light of a falling star; and there was perfect calm in Menko's
attitude and expression when Prince Zilah said to him:
"Come, Michel, let me present you to my fiancee. Varhely is there
And, taking Menko's arm, he led him toward Marsa. "See," he said
to the young girl, "my happiness is complete."
She, as Michel Menko bowed low before her, coldly and almost
imperceptibly inclined her dark head, while her large eyes, under the
shadow of their heavy lashes, seemed vainly trying to meet the gray
eyes of the young man.
Andras beckoned Varhely to come to Marsa, who was white as marble,
and said softly, with a hand on the shoulder of each of the two
friends, who represented to him his whole life—Varhely, the past;
Michel Menko, his recovered youth and the future.
"If it were not for that stupid superstition which forbids one to
proclaim his happiness, I should tell you how happy I am, very happy.
Yes, the happiest of men," he added.
Meanwhile, the little Baroness Dinati, the pretty brunette, who had
just found Varhely a trifle melancholy, had turned to Paul Jacquemin,
the accredited reporter of her salon.
"That happiness, Jacquemin," she said, with a proud wave of the
hand, "is my work. Without me, those two charming savages, so well
suited to each other, Marsa and Andras Zilah, would never have met.
On what does happiness depend!"
"On an invitation card engraved by Stern," laughed Jacquemin. "But
you have said too much, Baroness. You must tell me the whole story.
Think what an article it would make: The Baroness's Matchmaking! The
romance! Quick, the romance! The romance, or death!"
"You have no idea how near you are to the truth, my dear Jacquemin:
it is indeed a romance; and, what is more, a romantic romance. A
romance which has no resemblance to—you have invented the word—those
brutalistic stories which you are so fond of."
"Which I am very fond of, Baroness, I confess, especially when they
are just a little—you know!"
"But this romance of Prince Andras is by no means just a
little—you know! It is—how shall I express it? It is epic, heroic,
romantic—what you will. I will relate it to you."
"It will sell fifty thousand copies of our paper," gayly exclaimed
Jacquemin, opening his ears, and taking notes mentally.
CHAPTER III. THE STORY OF THE ZILAHS
Andras Zilah, Transylvanian Count and Prince of the Holy Empire,
was one of those heroes who devote their whole lives to one aim, and,
when they love, love always.
Born for action, for chivalrous and incessant struggle, he had
sacrificed his first youth to battling for his country. "The
Hungarian was created on horseback," says a proverb, and Andras did
not belie the saying. In '48, at the age of fifteen, he was in the
saddle, charging the Croatian hussars, the redcloaks, the terrible
darkskinned Ottochan horsemen, uttering frightful yells, and
brandishing their big damascened guns. It seemed then to young Andras
that he was assisting at one of the combats of the Middle Ages, during
one of those revolts against the Osmanlis, of which he had heard so
much when a child.
In the old castle, with towers painted red in the ancient fashion,
where he was born and had grown up, Andras, like all the males of his
family and his country, had been imbued with memories of the old wars.
A few miles from his father's domain rose the Castle of the Isle,
which, in the middle of the sixteenth century, Zringi had defended
against the Turks, displaying lofty courage and unconquerable
audacity, and forcing Soliman the Magnificent to leave thirty thousand
soldiers beneath the walls, the Sultan himself dying before he could
subjugate the Hungarian. Often had Andras's father, casting his son
upon a horse, set out, followed by a train of cavaliers, for Mohacz,
where the Mussulmans had once overwhelmed the soldiers of young King
Louis, who died with his own family and every Hungarian who was able
to carry arms. Prince Zilah related to the little fellow, who
listened to him with burning tears of rage, the story of the days of
mourning and the terrible massacres which no Hungarian has ever
forgotten. Then he told him of the great revolts, the patriotic
uprisings, the exploits of Botzkai, Bethlen Gabor, or Rakoczy, whose
proud battle hymn made the blood surge through the veins of the little
Once at Buda, the father had taken the son to the spot, where, in
1795, fell the heads of noble Hungarians, accused of republicanism;
and he said to him, as the boy stood with uncovered head:
"This place is called the Field of Blood. Martinowitz was beheaded
here for his faith. Remember, that a man's life belongs to his duty,
and not to his happiness."
And when he returned to the great sombre halls of the castle,
whence in bygone days the Turks had driven out his ancestors, and
whence, in their turn, throwing off the yoke of the conquerors, his
ancestors had driven out the Turks, little Prince Andras found again
examples before him in the giants in semi-oriental costumes,
glittering in steel or draped in purple, who looked down upon him from
their frames; smoke-blackened paintings wherein the eagle eyes and
long moustaches of black hussars, contemporaries of Sobieski, or
magnates in furred robes, with aigrettes in their caps, and curved
sabres garnished with precious stones and enamel, attracted and held
spellbound the silent child, while through the window floated in, sung
by some shepherd, or played by wandering Tzigani, the refrain of the
old patriotic ballad 'Czaty Demeter', the origin of which is lost in
the mist of ages
Remember, oh, yes! remember our ancestors! Brave, proud Magyars,
when you left the land of the Scythians, brave ancestors, great
forefathers, you did not suspect that your sons would be slaves!
Remember, oh, yes! remember our ancestors!
Andras did remember them, and he knew by heart their history. He
knew the heroism of Prince Zilah Sandor falling in Mohacz in 1566
beside his wife Hanska who had followed him, leaving in the cradle her
son Janski, whose grandson, Zilah Janos, in 1867, at the very place
where his ancestor had been struck, sabred the Turks, crying: "Sandor
and Hanska, look down upon me; your blood avenges you!"
There was not one of those men, whose portraits followed the child
with their black eyes, who was not recorded in the history of his
country for some startling deed or noble sacrifice. All had fought
for Hungary: the greater part had died for her. There was a saying
that the deathbed of the Zilahs was a bloody battleground. When he
offered his name and his life to Maria Theresa, one of the Zilah
princes had said proudly to the Empress: "You demand of the Hungarians
gold, they bring you steel. The gold was to nourish your courtiers,
the steel will be to save your crown. Forward!" These terrible
ancestors were, besides, like all the magnates of Hungary, excessively
proud of their nobility and their patriarchal system of feudalism.
They knew how to protect their peasants, who were trained soldiers,
how to fight for them, and how to die at their head; but force seemed
to them supreme justice, and they asked nothing but their sword with
which to defend their right. Andras's father, Prince Sandor, educated
by a French tutor who had been driven from Paris by the Revolution,
was the first of all his family to form any perception of a
civilization based upon justice and law, and not upon the almighty
power of the sabre. The liberal education which he had received,
Prince Sandor transmitted to his son. The peasants, who detested the
pride of the Magyars, and the middle classes of the cities, mostly
tradesmen who envied the castles of these magnates, soon became
attracted, fascinated, and enraptured with this transformation in the
ancient family of the Zilahs. No man, not even Georgei, the
Spartanlike soldier, nor the illustrious Kossuth, was more popular in
1849, at the time of the struggle against Austria, than Prince Sandor
Zilah and his son, then a handsome boy of sixteen, but strong and well
built as a youth of twenty.
At this youthful age, Andras Zilah had been one of those magnates,
who, the 'kalpach' on the head, the national 'attila' over the
shoulder and the hand upon the hilt of the sword, had gone to Vienna
to plead before the Emperor the cause of Hungary. They were not
listened to, and one evening, the negotiations proving futile, Count
Batthyanyi said to Jellachich:
"We shall soon meet again upon the Drave!"
"No," responded the Ban of Croatia, "I will go myself to seek you
upon the Danube!"
This was war; and Prince Sandor went, with his son, to fight
bravely for the old kingdom of St. Stephen against the cannon and
soldiers of Jellachich.
All these years of blood and battle were now half forgotten by
Prince Andras; but often Yanski Varhely, his companion of those days
of hardship, the bold soldier who in former times had so often braved
the broadsword of the Bohemian cuirassiers of Auersperg's regiment,
would recall to him the past with a mournful shake of the head, and
repeat, ironically, the bitter refrain of the song of defeat:
Dance, dance, daughters of Hungary!
Tread now the measure so long delayed.
Murdered our sons by the shot or the hangman!
In this land of pleasure, oh! be not dismayed;—
Now is the time, brown daughters of Hungary,
To dance to the measure of true hearts betrayed!
And then, these melancholy words calling up the memory of disaster,
all would revive before Andras Zilah's eyes—the days of mourning and
the days of glory; the exploits of Bem; the victories of Dembiski; the
Austrian flags taken at Goedolloe; the assaults of Buda; the defence
of Comorn; Austria, dejected and defeated, imploring the aid of
Russia; Hungary, beaten by the force of numbers, yet resisting
Paskiewich as she had resisted Haynau, and appealing to Europe and the
world in the name of the eternal law of nations, which the vanquished
invoke, but which is never listened to by the countries where the lion
is tearing his prey. And again, Zilah would remember the heroic
fatherland struck down at Temesvar; the remnants of an armed people in
refuge at Arad; and Klapka still holding out in the island of Comorn
at the moment when Georgei had surrendered. Then, again, the obscure
deaths of his comrades; the agonies in the ditches and in the depths
of the woods; the last despairing cries of a conquered people
overwhelmed by numbers:
Dance, dance, daughters of Hungary!
All this bloody past, enveloped as in a crimson cloud, but glorious
with its gleams of hope and its flashes of victory, the Prince would
revive with old Varhely, in the corner of whose eye at intervals a
tear would glisten.
They both saw again the last days of Comorn, with the Danube at the
foot of the walls, and the leaves of the trees whirling in the
September wind, and dispersed like the Hungarians themselves; and the
shells falling upon the ramparts; and the last hours of the siege; and
the years of mournful sadness and exile; their companions decimated,
imprisoned, led to the gallows or the stake; the frightful silence and
ruin falling like a winding-sheet over Hungary; the houses deserted,
the fields laid waste, and the country, fertile yesterday, covered now
with those Muscovite thistles, which were unknown in Hungary before
the year of massacre, and the seeds of which the Cossack horses had
imported in their thick manes and tails.
Beloved Hungary, whose sons, disdaining the universe, used proudly
to boast: "Have we not all that man needs? Banat, which gives us
wheat; Tisza, wine; the mountain, gold and salt. Our country is
sufficient for her children!" And this country, this fruitful
country, was now covered with gibbets and corpses.
CHAPTER IV. "WHEN HUNGARY IS FREE!"
All these bitter memories Prince Andras, in spite of the years that
had passed, kept ever in his mind one sad and tragic event—the burial
of his father, Sandor Zilah, who was shot in the head by a bullet
during an encounter with the Croats early in the month of January,
Prince Sandor was able to grasp the hand of his son, and murmur in
the ear of this hero of sixteen:
"Remember! Love and defend the fatherland!"
Then, as the Austrians were close at hand, it was necessary to bury
the Prince in a trench dug in the snow, at the foot of a clump of
Some Hungarian 'honveds, bourgeois' militia, and Varhely's hussars
held at the edge of the black opening resinous torches, which the
wintry wind shook like scarlet plumes, and which stained the snow with
great red spots of light. Erect, at the head of the ditch, his
fingers grasping the hand of Yanski Varhely, young Prince Andras gazed
upon the earthy bed, where, in his hussar's uniform, lay Prince
Sandor, his long blond moustache falling over his closed mouth, his
blood-stained hands crossed upon his black embroidered vest, his right
hand still clutching the handle of his sabre, and on his forehead,
like a star, the round mark of the bit of lead that had killed him.
Above, the whitened branches of the firs looked like spectres, and
upon the upturned face of the dead soldier fell flakes of snow like
congealed tears. Under the flickering of the torch-flames, blown
about by the north wind, the hero seemed at times to move again, and a
wild desire came to Andras to leap down into the grave and snatch away
the body. He was an orphan now, his mother having died when he was an
infant, and he was alone in the world, with only the stanch friendship
of Varhely and his duty to his country to sustain him.
"I will avenge you, father," he whispered to the patriot, who could
no longer hear his words.
The hussars and honveds had advanced, ready to fire a final salvo
over the grave of the Prince, when, suddenly, gliding between the
ranks of the soldiers, appeared a band of Tzigani, who began to play
the March of Rakoczy, the Hungarian Marseillaise, the stirring melody
pealing forth in the night-air, and lending a certain mysteriously
touching element to the sad scene. A quick shudder ran through the
ranks of the soldiers, ready to become avengers.
The national hymn rang out like a song of glory over the
resting-place of the vanquished. The soul of the dead seemed to speak
in the voice of the heroic music, recalling to the harassed
contestants for liberty the great days of the revolts of the
fatherland, the old memories of the struggles against the Turks, the
furious charges of the cavaliers across the free puszta, the vast
And while, with long sweeps of his arm, the chief of the Tzigani
marked the measure, and the 'czimbalom' poured forth its heartrending
notes, it seemed to the poor fellows gathered about that the music of
the March of Rakoczy summoned a whole fantastic squadron of avengers,
horsemen with floating pelisses and herons' plumes in their hats, who,
erect in their saddles and with sabres drawn, struck, struck the
frightened enemy, and recovered, foot by foot, the conquered
territory. There was in this exalted march a sound of horses' hoofs,
the clash of arms, a shaking of the earth under the gallop of
horsemen, a flash of agraffes, a rustle of pelisses in the wind, an
heroic gayety and a chivalrous bravery, like the cry of a whole people
of cavaliers sounding the charge of deliverance.
And the young Prince, gazing down upon his dead father, remembered
how many times those mute lips had related to him the legend of the
czardas, that legend, symbolic of the history of Hungary, summing up
all the bitter pain of the conquest, when the beautiful dark girls of
Transylvania danced, their tears burning their cheeks, under the lash
of the Osmanlis. At first, cold and motionless, like statues whose
calm looks silently insulted their possessors, they stood erect
beneath the eye of the Turk; then little by little, the sting of the
master's whip falling upon their shoulders and tearing their sides and
cheeks, their bodies twisted in painful, revolted spasms; the flesh
trembled under the cord like the muscles of a horse beneath the spur;
and, in the morbid exaltation of suffering, a sort of wild delirium
took possession of them, their arms were waved in the air, their heads
with hair dishevelled were thrown backward, and the captives, uttering
a sound at once plaintive and menacing, danced, their dance, at first
slow and melancholy, becoming gradually active, nervous, and
interrupted by cries which resembled sobs. And the Hungarian czardas,
symbolizing thus the dance of these martyrs, kept still, will always
keep, the characteristic of contortions under the lash of bygone days;
and, slow and languishing at first, then soon quick and agitated,
tragically hysterical, it also is interrupted by melancholy chords,
dreary, mournful notes and plaintive accents like drops of blood from
a wound-from the mortal wound of Prince Sandor, lying there in his
The bronzed Tzigani, fantastically illumined by the red glare of
the torches, stood out against the white background like demons of
revenge; and the hymn, feverish, bold, ardent, echoed through the
snow-covered branches like a hurricane of victory. They were
wandering musicians, who, the evening before, had been discovered in a
neighboring village by some of Jellachich's Croats, and whom Prince
Sandor had unceremoniously rescued at the head of his hussars; and
they had come, with their ancient national airs, the voice of their
country, to pay their debt to the fallen hero.
When they had finished, the wintry night-wind bearing away the last
notes of their war-song, the pistols of the hussars and the guns of
the honveds discharged a salute over the grave. The earth and snow
were shovelled in upon the body of Sandor Zilah, and Prince Andras
drew away, after marking with a cross the place where his father
A few paces away, he perceived, among the Tzigani musicians, a
young girl, the only woman of the tribe, who wept with mournful
sobbings like the echoes of the deserts of the Orient.
He wondered why the girl wept so bitterly, when he, the son, could
not shed a tear.
"Because Prince Zilah Sandor was valiant among the valiant," she
replied, in answer to his question, "and he died because he would not
wear the talisman which I offered him."
Andras looked at the girl.
"Some pebbles from the lakes of Tatra, sewn up in a little leather
Andras knew what a powerful superstition is attached by the people
of Hungary to these deep lakes of Tatra, the "eyes of the sea," where,
say the old legends, the most beautiful carbuncle in the world lies
hidden, a carbuncle which would sparkle like the sun, if it could be
discovered, and which is guarded by frogs with diamond eyes and with
lumps of pure gold for feet. He felt more touched than astonished at
the superstition of the Tzigana, and at the offer which, the evening
before, Prince Sandor had refused with a smile.
"Give me what you wished to give my father," he said. "I will keep
it in memory of him."
A bright, joyous light flashed for a moment across the face of the
Tzigana. She extended to the young Prince the little bag of leather
containing several small, round pebbles like grains of maize.
"At all events," exclaimed the young. girl, "there will be one
Zilah whom the balls of the Croats will spare for the safety of
Andras slowly detached from his shoulder the silver agraffe, set
with opals, which clasped his fur pelisse, and handed it to the gypsy,
who regarded it with admiring eyes as it flashed in the red light.
"The day when my father is avenged," he said, "and our Hungary is
free, bring me this jewel, and you and yours come to the castle of the
Zilahs. I will give you a life of peace in memory of this night of
Already, at a distance, could be heard a rapid fusillade about the
outposts. The Austrians had perhaps perceived the light from the
torches, and were attempting a night attack.
"Extinguish the torches!" cried Yanski Varhely.
The resinous knots hissed as they were thrust into the snow, and
the black, sinister night of winter, with the cries of the wind in the
branches, fell upon the troop of men, ready to die as their chief had
died; and all disappeared vision, phantoms—the Tzigani silently
taking refuge in the sombre forest, while here and there could be
heard the rattle of the ramrods as the honveds loaded their guns.
This January night appeared now to Andras as an almost fantastic
dream. Since then he had erected a mausoleum of marble on the very
spot where Prince Sandor fell; and of all the moments of that
romantic, picturesque war, the agonizing moment, the wild scene of the
burial of his father, was most vivid in his memory—the picture of the
warrior stretched in the snow, his hand on the handle of his sword,
remained before his eyes, imperishable in its melancholy majesty.
CHAPTER V. "MY FATHER WAS A RUSSIAN!"
When the war was over, the Prince roamed sadly for years about
Europe— Europe, which, unmindful of the martyrs, had permitted the
massacre of the vanquished. It was many years before he could
accustom himself to the idea that he had no longer a country. He
counted always upon the future; it was impossible that fate would
forever be implacable to a nation. He often repeated this to Yanski
Varhely, who had never forsaken him—Yanski Varhely, the impoverished
old hussar, the ruined gentleman, now professor of Latin and
mathematics at Paris, and living near the Prince off the product of
his lessons and a small remnant he had managed to save from the wreck
of his property.
"Hungary will spring up again, Yanski; Hungary is immortal!"
Andras would exclaim.
"Yes, on one condition," was Varhely's response. "She must arrive
at a comprehension that if she has succumbed, it is because she has
committed faults. All defeats have their geneses. Before the enemy
we were not a unit. There were too many discussions, and not enough
action; such a state of affairs is always fatal."
The years brought happy changes to Hungary. She practically
regained her freedom; by her firmness she made the conquest of her own
autonomy by the side of Austria. Deak's spirit, in the person of
Andrassy, recovered the possession of power. But neither Andras nor
Varhely returned to their country. The Prince had become, as he
himself said with a smile, "a Magyar of Paris." He grew accustomed to
the intellectual, refined life of the French city; and this was a
consolation, at times, for the exile from his native land.
"It is not a difficult thing to become bewitched with Paris," he
would say, as if to excuse himself.
He had no longer, it is true, the magnificent landscapes of his
youth; the fields of maize, the steppes, dotted here and there with
clumps of wild roses; the Carpathian pines, with their sombre murmur;
and all the evening sounds which had been his infancy's lullaby; the
cowbells, melancholy and indistinct; the snapping of the great whips
of the czikos; the mounted shepherds, with their hussar jackets,
crossing the plains where grew the plants peculiar to the country; and
the broad horizons with the enormous arms of the windmills outlined
against the golden sunset. But Paris, with its ever-varying
seductions, its activity in art and science, its perpetual movement,
had ended by becoming a real need to him, like a new existence as
precious and as loved as the first. The soldier had become a man of
letters, jotting down for himself, not for the public, all that struck
him in his observation and his reading; mingling in all societies,
knowing them all, but esteeming only one, that of honest people; and
thus letting the years pass by, without suspecting that they were
flying, regarding himself somewhat as a man away on a visit, and
suddenly awaking one fine morning almost old, wondering how he had
lived all this time of exile which, despite many mental troubles,
seemed to him to have lasted only a few months.
"We resemble," he said to Varhely, "those emigrants who never
unpack their boxes, certain that they are soon to return home. They
wait, and some day, catching a glimpse of themselves in a glass, they
are amazed to find wrinkles and gray hairs."
No longer having a home in his own country, Prince Andras had never
dreamed of making another abroad. He hired the sumptuous hotel he
inhabited at the top of the Champs Elysees, when houses were rather
scattered there. Fashion, and the ascensional movement of Paris
toward the Arc de Triomphe, had come to seek him. His house was rich
in beautiful pictures and rare books, and he sometimes received there
his few real friends, his companions in troublous times, like Varhely.
He was generally considered a little of a recluse, although he loved
society and showed himself, during the winter, at all entertainments
where, by virtue of his fame and rank, he would naturally be expected
to be present. But he carried with him a certain melancholy and
gravity, which contrasted strongly with the frivolous trivialities and
meaningless smiles of our modern society. In the summer, he usually
passed two months at the seashore, where Varhely frequently joined
him; and upon the leafy terrace of the Prince's villa the two friends
had long and confidential chats, as they watched the sun sink into the
Andras had never thought of marrying. At first, he had a sort of
feeling that he was doomed to an early death, ever expecting a renewal
of the struggle with Austria; and he thought at that time that the
future would bring to him his father's fate—a ball in the forehead
and a ditch. Then, without knowing it, he had reached and passed his
"Now it is too late," he said, gayly. "The psychological moment is
long gone by. We shall both end old bachelors, my good Varhely, and
spend our evenings playing checkers, that mimic warfare of old men."
"Yes, that is all very well for me, who have no very famous name to
perpetuate; but the Zilahs should not end with you. I want some
sturdy little hussar whom I can teach to sit a horse, and who also
will call me his good old Yanski."
The Prince smiled, and then replied, gravely, almost sadly: "I
greatly fear that one can not love two things at once; the heart is
not elastic. I chose Hungary for my bride, and my life must be that of
In the midst of the austere and thoughtful life he led, Andras
preserved, nevertheless, a sort of youthful buoyancy. Many men of
thirty were less fresh in mind and body than he. He was one of those
beings who die, as they have lived, children: even the privations of
the hardest kind of an existence can not take away from them that
purity and childlike trust which seem to be an integral part of
themselves, and which, although they may be betrayed, deceived and
treated harshly by life, they never wholly lose; very manly and heroic
in time of need and danger, they are by nature peculiarly exposed to
treasons and deceptions which astonish but do not alter them. Since
man, in the progress of time, must either harden or break to pieces,
the hero in them is of iron; but, on the other hand, their hearts are
easily wounded by the cruel hand of some woman or the careless one of
Andras Zilah had not yet loved deeply, as it was in his nature to
love. More or less passing caprices had not dried up the spring of
real passion which was at the bottom of his heart. But he had not
sought this love; for he adored his Hungary as he would have loved a
woman, and the bitter recollection of her defeat gave him the
impression of a love that had died or been cruelly betrayed.
Yanski, on the whole, had not greatly troubled himself to
demonstrate mathematically or philosophically that a "hussar pupil"
was an absolute necessity to him. People can not be forced, against
their will, to marry; and the Prince, after all, was free, if he
chose, to let the name of Zilah die with him.
"Taking life as it is," old Varhely would growl, "perhaps it isn't
necessary to bring into the world little beings who never asked to
come here." And yet breaking off in his pessimism, and with a vision
before his eyes of another Andras, young, handsome, leading his
hussars to the charge "and yet, it is a pity, Andras, it is a pity."
The decisions of men are more often dependent upon chance than upon
their own will. Prince Andras received an invitation to dinner one
day from the little Baroness Dinati, whom he liked very much, and
whose husband, Orso Dinati, one of the defenders of Venice in the time
of Manin, had been his intimate friend. The house of the Baroness was
a very curious place; the reporter Jacquemin, who was there at all
times, testing the wines and correcting the menus, would have called
it "bizarre." The Baroness received people in all circles of society;
oddities liked her, and she did not dislike oddities. Very honest,
very spirituelle, an excellent woman at heart, she gave evening
parties, readings from unheard-of books, and performances of the works
of unappreciated musicians; and the reporters, who came to absorb her
salads and drink her punch, laughed at her in their journals before
their supper was digested.
The Prince, as we have said, was very fond of the Baroness, with an
affection which was almost fraternal. He pardoned her childishness
and her little absurdities for the sake of her great good qualities.
"My dear Prince," she said to him one day, "do you know that I would
throw myself into the fire for you?"
"I am sure of it; but there would not be any great merit in your
"And why not, please?"
"Because you would not run any risk of being burned. This must be
so, because you receive in your house a crowd of highly suspicious
people, and no one has ever suspected you yourself. You are a little
salamander, the prettiest salamander I ever met. You live in fire,
and you have neither upon your face nor your reputation the slightest
"Then you think that my guests are"——
"Charming. Only, they are of two kinds: those whom I esteem, and
who do not amuse me—often; and those who amuse me, and whom I
"I suppose you will not come any more to the Rue Murillo, then?"
"Certainly I shall—to see you."
And it really was to see her that the Prince went to the Baroness
Dinati's, where his melancholy characteristics clashed with so many
worldly follies and extravagances. The Baroness seemed to have a
peculiar faculty in choosing extraordinary guests: Peruvians, formerly
dictators, now become insurance agents, or generals transformed into
salesmen for some wine house; Cuban chiefs half shot to pieces by the
Spaniards; Cretes exiled by the Turks; great personages from
Constantinople, escaped from the Sultan's silken bowstring, and
displaying proudly their red fez in Paris, where the opera permitted
them to continue their habits of polygamy; Americans, whose gold-mines
or petroleum-wells made them billionaires for a winter, only to go to
pieces and make them paupers the following summer; politicians out of
a place; unknown authors; misunderstood poets; painters of the
future-in short, the greater part of the people who were invited by
Prince Andras to his water-party, Baroness Dinati having pleaded for
her friends and obtained for them cards of invitation. It was a sort
of ragout of real and shady celebrities, an amusing, bustling crowd,
half Bohemian, half aristocratic, entirely cosmopolitan. Prince
Andras remembered once having dined with a staff officer of
Garibaldi's army on one side of him, and the Pope's nuncio on the
On a certain evening the Baroness was very anxious that the Prince
should not refuse her latest invitation.
"I am arranging a surprise for you," she said. "I am going to have
"Whom? The Mikado? The Shah of Persia?"
"Better than the Mikado. A charming young girl who admires you
profoundly, for she knows by heart the whole history of your battles
of 1849. She has read Georgei, Klapka, and all the rest of them; and
she is so thoroughly Bohemian in heart, soul and race, that she is
universally called the Tzigana."
This simple word, resembling the clank of cymbals, brought up to
Prince Andras a whole world of recollections. 'Hussad czigany'! The
rallying cry of the wandering musicians of the puszta had some element
in it like the cherished tones of the distant bells of his fatherland.
"Ah! yes, indeed, my dear Baroness," he said; "that is a charming
surprise. I need not ask if your Tzigana is pretty; all the Tzigani
of my country are adorable, and I am sure I shall fall in love with
The Prince had no notion how prophetic his words were. The
Tzigana, whom the Baroness requested him to take in to dinner, was
Marsa, Marsa Laszlo, dressed in one of the black toilettes which she
affected, and whose clear, dark complexion, great Arabian eyes, and
heavy, wavy hair seemed to Andras's eyes to be the incarnation, in a
prouder and more refined type, of the warm, supple, nervous beauty of
the girls of his country.
He was surprised and strangely fascinated, attracted by the
incongruous mixture of extreme refinement and a sort of haughty
unconventionality he found in Marsa. A moment before, he had noticed
how silent, almost rigid she was, as she leaned back in her armchair;
but now this same face was strangely animated, illumined by some happy
emotion, and her eyes burned like coals of fire as she fixed them upon
During the whole dinner, the rest of the dining-room disappeared to
the Prince; he saw only the girl at his side; and the candles and
polished mirrors were only there to form a sparkling background for
her pale, midnight beauty.
"Do you know, Prince," said Marsa, in her rich, warm contralto
voice, whose very accents were like a caress, "do you know that, among
all those who fought for our country, you are the one admiration of my
He smiled, and mentioned more illustrious names.
"No, no," she answered; "those are not the names I care for, but
yours. I will tell you why."
And she recalled, in a voice vibrating with emotion, all that
Prince Zilah Sandor and his son had attempted, twenty years before,
for the liberty of Hungary. She told the whole story in the most
vivid manner; had her age permitted her to have been present at those
battles, she could not have related them with more spirited
"I know, perfectly, how, at the head of your hussars, you wrested
from the soldiers of Jellachich the first standard captured by the
Hungarians from the ranks of Austria. Shall I tell you the exact
date? and the day of the week? It was Thursday."
The whole history, ignored, forgotten, lost in the smoke of more
recent wars, the strange, dark-eyed girl, knew day by day, hour by
hour; and there, in that Parisian dining-room, surrounded by all that
crowd, where yesterday's 'bon mot', the latest scandal, the new
operetta, were subjects of paramount importance, Andras, voluntarily
isolated, saw again, present and living, his whole heroic past rise up
before him, as beneath the wave of a fairy's wand.
"But how do you know me so well?" he asked, fixing his clear eyes
upon Marsa Laszlo's face. "Was your father one of my soldiers?"
"My father was a Russian," responded Marsa, abruptly, her voice
suddenly becoming harsh and cutting.
"Yes, a Russian," she repeated, emphasizing the word with a sort of
dull anger. "My mother alone was a Tzigana, and my mother's beauty
was part of the spoils of those who butchered your soldiers?"
In the uproar of conversation, which became more animated with the
dessert, she could not tell him of the sorrows of her life; and yet,
he guessed there was some sad story in the life of the young girl,
and almost implored her to speak, stopping just at the limit where
sympathy might change into indiscretion.
"I beg your pardon," he said, as she was silent, with a dark shadow
overspreading her face. "I have no right to know your life simply
because you are so well acquainted with mine."
"Oh! you!" she said, with a sad smile; "your life is history;
mine is drama, melodrama even. There is a great difference."
"Pardon my presumption!"
"Oh! I will willingly tell you of my life, if the existence of a
useless being like myself can interest you; but not here in the noise
of this dinner. It would be absurd," with a change of tone, "to
mingle tears with champagne. By-and-bye! By-and-bye!"
She made an evident effort to appear gay, like the pretty women who
were there, and who, despite their prettiness, seemed to Andras
perfectly insignificant; but she did not succeed in driving away the
cloud of sadness which overshadowed her exquisite, dark face. And in
the ears of the Prince rang again the bitter accents of that voice
saying in a harsh, almost revolted tone:
"Yes, a Russian! My father was a Russian!"
CHAPTER VI. A GYPSY PRINCESS
The mystery which seemed to envelop Marsa, the flash of anger with
which she had spoken of the Russian who was her father, all attracted
the Prince toward her; and he experienced a deliciously disquieting
sentiment, as if the secret of this girl's existence were now grafted
upon his own life.
She seemed to have no wish to keep her secret from him. At their
first meeting, during the conversation which followed the dinner and
the musical exhibition given by extraordinary musicians with long,
unkempt locks, Marsa, trusting with a sort of joy to the one whom she
regarded as a hero, told Prince Andras the story of her life.
She related to him the assault made by soldiers of Paskiewich upon
the little Hungarian village, and how her grandfather, leaving his
czimbalom, had fired upon the Russians from the ranks of the honveds.
There was a combat, or rather a butchery, in the sole street of the
town, one of the last massacres of the campaign. The Russians
destroyed everything, shooting down the prisoners, and burning the
poor little houses. There were some women among the Hungarians and
Tzigani; they had loaded the guns of the wounded, comforted the dying
and avenged the dead. Many of them were killed. One of them, the
youngest and prettiest, a gypsy, was seized by the Russian officer,
and, when peace was declared soon after, carried off by him to Russia.
This was Tisza Laszlo, Marsa's mother. The officer, a great Russian
nobleman, a handsome fellow and extremely rich, really loved her with
a mad sort of love. He forced her to become his mistress; but he
tried in every way to make her pardon the brutality of his passion;
keeping her half a captive in his castle near Moscow, and yet offering
her, by way of expiation, not only his fortune but his name, the
princely title of which the Tchereteff s, his ancestors, had been so
proud, and which the daughter of wandering Tzigani refused with
mingled hatred and disgust. Princess? She, the gypsy, a Russian
princess? The title would have appeared to her like a new and still
more abhorrent stigma. He implored her, but she was obdurate. It was
a strange, tragic existence these two beings led, shut up in the
immense castle, from the windows of which Tisza could perceive the
gilded domes of Moscow, the superb city in which she would never set
her foot, preferring the palace, sad and gloomy as a cell. Alone in
the world, the sole survivor of her massacred tribe, the Russians to
her were the murderers of her people, the assassins of the free
musicians with eagle profiles she used to follow as they played the
czardas from village to village.
She never saw Prince Tchereteff, handsome, generous, charming,
loving her and trembling before her glance although he had ruthlessly
kidnapped her from her country, that she did not think of him, sword
in hand, entering the burning Hungarian village, his face reddened by
the flames, as the bayonets of his soldiers were reddened with blood.
She hated this tall young man, his drooping moustache, his military
uniform, his broad figure, his white-gloved hands: he represented to
the imprisoned Tzigana the conqueror and murderer of her people. And
yet a daughter was born to them. She had defended herself with the
cries of a tigress; and then she had longed to die, to die of hunger,
since, a close prisoner, she could not obtain possession of a weapon,
nor cast herself into the water. She had lived, nevertheless, and
then her daughter reconciled her to life. The child which was born to
her was all in all to Tizsa. Marsa was an exact reproduction, feature
by feature, of her mother, and, strange to say, daughters generally
resembling the father, had nothing of Tchereteff, nothing Russian
about her: on the contrary, she was all Tzigana—Tzigana in the clear
darkness of her skin, in her velvety eyes, and her long, waving black
hair, with its bronze reflections, which the mother loved to wind
about her thin fingers.
Her beauty, faded by long, slow sorrow, Tisza found again in her
child, a true daughter of Hungary like herself; and, as Marsa grew up,
she told her the legends, the songs, the heroism, the martyrdom, of
Hungary, picturing to the little girl the great, grassy plain, the
free puszta, peopled with a race in whose proud language the word
honor recurs again and again.
Marsa grew up in the Muscovite castle, loving nothing in the world
except her mother, and regarding with frightened eyes the blond
stranger who sometimes took her upon his knees and gazed sadly into
her face. Before this man, who was her father, she felt as if she
were in the presence of an enemy. As Tisza never went out, Marsa
rarely quitted the castle; and, when she went to Moscow, she hastened
to return to her mother. The very gayeties of that noisy city weighed
upon her heart; for she never forgot the war-tales of the Tzigana,
and, perhaps, among the passers-by was the wretch who had shot down
her grandfather, old Mihal.
The Tzigana cultivated, with a sort of passion, a love of far-off
Hungary and a hatred for the master in the impressionable mind of her
daughter. There is a Servian proverb which says, that when a
Wallachian has crossed the threshold the whole house becomes
Wallachian. Tisza did not wish the house to become Hungarian; but she
did wish that the child of her loins should be and should remain
The servants of Prince Tchereteff never spoke of their mistress
except as The Tzigana, and this was the name which Marsa wished to
bear also. It seemed to her like a title of nobility.
And the years passed without the Tzigana pardoning the Russian, and
without Marsa ever having called him father.
In the name of their child, the Prince one day solemnly asked Tisza
Laszlo to consent to become his wife, and the mother refused.
"But our daughter?" said the Prince.
"My daughter? She will bear the name of her mother, which at least
is not a Russian name."
The Prince was silenced.
As Marsa grew up, Moscow became displeasing to the Prince. He had
his daughter educated as if she were destined to be the Czarina. He
summoned to the castle a small army of instructors, professors of
music and singing; French, English, and German masters, drawing
masters, etc., etc. The young girl, with the prodigious power of
assimilation peculiar to her race, learned everything, loving
knowledge for its own sake, but, nevertheless, always deeply moved by
the history of that unknown country, which was that of her mother, and
even her own, the land of her heart and her soul-Hungary. She knew,
from her mother, about all its heroes: Klapka, Georgei, Dembiski; Bem,
the conqueror of Buda; Kossuth, the dreamer of a sort of feudal
liberty; and those chivalrous Zilah princes, father and son, the
fallen martyr and the living hero.
Prince Tchereteff, French in education and sentiment, wished to
take to France the child, who did not bear his name, but whom he
adored. France also exercised a powerful fascination over Marsa's
imagination; and she departed joyously for Paris, accompanied by the
Tzigana, her mother, who felt like a prisoner set at liberty. To quit
Russian soil was in itself some consolation, and who knew? perhaps she
might again see her dear fatherland.
Tisza, in fact, breathed more freely in Paris, repeating however,
like a mournful refrain, the proverb of her country: Away from
Hungary, life is not life. The Prince purchased, at Maisons-Lafitte,
not far from the forest of Saint-Germain, a house surrounded by an
immense garden. Here, as formerly at Moscow, Tisza and the Prince
lived together, and yet apart—the Tzigana, implacable in her
resentment, bitterly refusing all pardon to the Russian, and always
keeping alive in Marsa a hatred of all that was Muscovite; the Prince,
disconsolate, gloomy, discouraged between the woman whom he adored and
whose heart he could not win, and the girl, so wonderfully beautiful,
the living portrait of her mother, and who treated him with the cold
respect one shows to a stranger.
Not long after their arrival in Paris, a serious heart trouble
attacked Marsa's father. He summoned to his deathbed the Tzigana and
her daughter; and, in a sort of supreme confession, he openly asked
his child, before the mother, to forgive him for her birth.
"Marsa," he said, slowly, "your birth, which should make the joy of
my existence, is the remorse of my whole life. But I am dying of the
love which I can not conquer. Will you kiss me as a token that you
have pardoned me?"
For the first time, perhaps, Marsa's lips, trembling with emotion,
then touched the Prince's forehead. But, before kissing him, her eyes
had sought those of her mother, who bowed her head in assent.
"And you," murmured the dying Prince, "will you forgive me, Tisza?"
The Tzigana saw again her native village in flames, her brothers
dead, her father murdered, and this man, now lying thin and pale amid
the pillows, erect, with sabre drawn, crying: "Courage! Charge!
Then she saw herself dragged almost beneath a horse's hoofs, cast
into a wagon with wrists bound together, carried in the rear of an
army with the rest of the victor's spoils, and immured within Russian
walls. She felt again on her lips the degradation of the first kiss
of this man whose suppliant, pitiful love was hideous to her.
She made a step toward the dying man as if to force herself to
whisper, "I forgive you;" but all the resentment and suffering of her
life mounted to her heart, almost stifling her, and she paused, going
no farther, and regarding with a haggard glance the man whose eyes
implored her pardon, and who, after raising his pale face from the
pillow, let his head fall back again with one long, weary sigh.
CHAPTER VII. THE STORY OF MARSA
Prince Tchereteff left his whole fortune to Marsa Laszlo, leaving
her in the hands of his uncle Vogotzine, an old, ruined General, whose
property had been confiscated by the Czar, and who lived in Paris half
imbecile with fear, having become timid as a child since his release
from Siberia, where he had been sent on some pretext or other, no one
knew exactly the reason why.
It had been necessary to obtain the sovereign intervention of the
Czar— that Czar whose will is the sole law, a law above laws—to
permit Prince Tchereteff to give his property to a foreigner, a girl
without a name. The state would gladly have seized upon the fortune,
as the Prince had no other relative save an outlaw; but the Czar
graciously gave his permission, and Marsa inherited.
Old General Vogotzine was, in fact, the only living relative of
Prince Tchereteff. In consideration of a yearly income, the Prince
charged him to watch over Marsa, and see to her establishment in life.
Rich as she was, Marsa would have no lack of suitors; but Tisza, the
half-civilized Tzigana, was. not the one to guide and protect a young
girl in Paris. The Prince believed Vogotzine to be less old and more
acquainted with Parisian life than he really was, and it was a
consolation to the father to feel that his daughter would have a
Tisza did not long survive the Prince. She died in that Russian
house, every stone of which she hated, even to the Muscovite crucifix
over the door, which her faith, however, forbade her to have removed;
she died making her daughter swear that the last slumber which was
coming to her, gently lulling her to rest after so much suffering,
should be slept in Hungarian soil; and, after the Tzigana's death,
this young girl of twenty, alone with Vogotzine, who accompanied her
on the gloomy journey with evident displeasure, crossed France, went
to Vienna, sought in the Hungarian plain the place where one or two
miserable huts and some crumbling walls alone marked the site of the
village burned long ago by Tchereteff's soldiers; and there, in
Hungarian soil, close to the spot where the men of her tribe had been
shot down, she buried the Tzigana, whose daughter she so thoroughly
felt herself to be, that, in breathing the air of the puszta, she
seemed to find again in that beloved land something already seen, like
a vivid memory of a previous existence.
And yet, upon the grave of the martyr, Marsa prayed also for the
executioner. She remembered that the one who reposed in the cemetery
of Pere-Lachaise, beneath a tomb in the shape of a Russian dome, was
her father, as the Tzigana, interred in Hungary, was her mother; and
she asked in her prayer, that these two beings, separated in life,
should pardon each other in the unknown, obscure place of departed
So Marsa Laszlo was left alone in the world. She returned to
France, which she had become attached to, and shut herself up in the
villa of Maisons-Lafitte, letting old Vogotzine install himself there
as a sort of Mentor, more obedient than a servant, and as silent as a
statue; and this strange guardian, who had formerly fought side by
side with Schamyl, and cut down the Circassians with the sang-froid of
a butcher's boy wringing the neck of a fowl, and who now scarcely
dared to open his lips, as if the entire police force of the Czar had
its eye upon him; this old soldier, who once cared nothing for
privations, now, provided he had his chocolate in the morning, his
kummel with his coffee at breakfast, and a bottle of brandy on the
table all day—left Marsa free to think, act, come and go as she
She had accepted the Prince's legacy, but with this mental
reservation and condition, that the Hungarian colony of Paris should
receive half of it. It seemed to her that the money thus given to
succor the compatriots of her mother would be her father's atonement.
She waited, therefore, until she had attained her majority; and then
she sent this enormous sum to the Hungarian aid society, saying that
the donor requested that part of the amount should be used in
rebuilding the little village in Transylvania which had been burned
twenty years before by Russian troops. When they asked what name
should be attached to so princely a gift, Marsa replied: "That which
was my mother's and which is mine, The Tzigana." More than ever now
did she cling to that cognomen of which she was so proud.
"And," she said to Zilah, after she had finished the recital of her
story, "it is because I am thus named that I have the right to speak
to you of yourself."
Prince Andras listened with passionate attention to the beautiful
girl, thus evoking for him the past, confident and even happy to speak
and make herself known to the man whose life of heroic devotion she
knew so well.
He was not astonished at her sudden frankness, at the confidence
displayed at a first meeting; and it seemed to him that he had long
been acquainted with this Tzigana, whose very name he had been
ignorant of a few hours before. It appeared to him quite simple that
Marsa should confide in him, as he on his side would have related to
her his whole life, if she had asked it with a glance from her dark
eyes. He felt that he had reached one of the decisive moments of his
life. Marsa called up visions of his youth-his first tender dreams of
love, rudely broken by the harsh voice of war; and he felt as he used
to feel, in the days long gone by, when he sat beneath the starry
skies of a summer night and listened to the old, heart-stirring songs
of his country and the laughter of the brown maidens of Budapest.
"Prince," said Marsa Laszlo, suddenly, "do you know that I have
been seeking you for a long time, and that when the Baroness Dinati
presented you to me, she fulfilled one of my most ardent desires?"
"Me, Mademoiselle? You have been seeking me?"
"Yes, you. Tisza, of whom I spoke to you, my Tzigana mother, who
bore the name of the blessed river of our country, taught me to repeat
your name. She met you years ago, in the saddest moment of your
"Your mother?" said Andras, waiting anxiously for the young girl
"Yes, my mother."
She pointed to the buckle which clasped the belt of her dress.
"See," she said.
Andras felt a sudden pang, which yet was not altogether pain, dart
through his heart, and his eyes wandered questioningly from the buckle
to Marsa's face. Smiling, but her beautiful lips mute, Marsa seemed
to say to him: "Yes, it is the agraffe which you detached from your
soldier's pelisse and gave to an unknown Tzigana near your father's
The silver ornament, incrusted with opals, recalled sharply to
Prince Zilah that sad January night when the dead warrior had been
laid in his last resting-place. He saw again the sombre spot, the
snowy fir-trees, the black trench, and the broad, red reflections of
the torches, which, throwing a flickering light upon the dead, seemed
to reanimate the pale, cold face.
And that daughter of the wandering musicians who had, at the open
grave, played as a dirge, or, rather, as a ringing hymn of
resurrection and deliverance, the chant of the fatherland-that dark
girl to whom he had said: "Bring me this jewel, and come and live in
peace with the Zilahs" —was the mother of this beautiful, fascinating
creature, whose every word, since he had first met her a few hours
before, had exercised such a powerful effect upon him.
"So," he said, slowly, with a sad smile, "your mother's talisman
was worth more than mine. I have kept the lake pebbles she gave me,
and death has passed me by; but the opals of the agraffe did not bring
happiness to your mother. It is said that those stones are unlucky.
Are you superstitious?"
"I should not be Tisza's daughter if I did not believe a little in
all that is romantic, fantastic, improbable, impossible even.
Besides, the opals are forgiven now: for they have permitted me to
show you that you were not unknown to me, Prince; and, as you see, I
wear this dear agraffe always. It has a double value to me, since it
recalls the memory of my poor mother and the name of a hero."
She spoke these words in grave, sweet accents, which seemed more
melodious to Prince Andras than all the music of Baroness Dinati's
concert. He divined that Marsa Laszlo found as much pleasure in
speaking to him as he felt in listening. As he gazed at her, a
delicate flush spread over Marsa's pale, rather melancholy face,
tingeing even her little, shell-like ears, and making her cheeks glow
with the soft, warm color of a peach.
Just at this moment the little Baroness came hastily up to them,
and, with an assumed air of severity, began to reproach Marsa for
neglecting the unfortunate musicians, suddenly breaking off to
"Really, you are a hundred times prettier than ever this evening,
my dear Marsa. What have you been doing to yourself?"
"Oh! it is because I am very happy, I suppose," replied Marsa.
"Ah! my dear Prince," and the Baroness broke into a merry peal of
laughter, "it is you, O ever-conquering hero, who have worked this
But, as if she had been too hasty in proclaiming aloud her
happiness, the Tzigana suddenly frowned, a harsh, troubled look crept
into her dark eyes, and her cheeks became pale as marble, while her
gaze was fixed upon a tall young man who was crossing the salon and
coming toward her.
Instinctively Andras Zilah followed her look. Michel Menko was
advancing to salute Marsa Laszlo, and take with affectionate respect
the hand which Andras extended to him.
Marsa coldly returned the low bow of the young man, and took no
part in the conversation which followed. Menko remained but a few
moments, evidently embarrassed at his reception; and after his
departure, Zilah, who had noticed the Tzigana's coldness, asked her if
she knew his friend.
"Very well," she said, in a peculiar tone.
"It would be difficult to imagine so from the way in which you
received him," said Andras, laughing. "Poor Michel! Have you any
reason to be angry with him?"
"I like him very much. He is a charming boy, and his father was
one of my companions in arms. I have been almost a guardian to his
son. We are kinsmen, and when the young count entered diplomacy he
asked my advice, as he hesitated to serve Austria. I told him that,
after having fought Austria with the sword, it was our duty to absorb
it by our talents and devotion. Was I not right? Austria is to-day
subservient to Hungary, and, when Vienna acts, Vienna glances toward
Pesth to see if the Magyars are satisfied. Michel Menko has therefore
served his country well; and I don't understand why he gave up
diplomacy. He makes me uneasy: he seems to me, like all young men of
his generation, a little too undecided what object to pursue, what
duty to fulfil. He is nervous, irresolute. We were more unfortunate
but more determined; we marched straight on without that burden of
pessimism with which our successors are loaded down. I am sorry that
Michel has resigned his position: he had a fine future before him, and
he would have made a good diplomatist."
"Too good, perhaps," interrupted Marsa, dryly.
"Ah, decidedly," retorted the Prince, with a smile, "you don't like
my poor Menko."
"He is indifferent to me;" and the way in which she pronounced the
words was a terrible condemnation of Michel Menko. "But," added the
Tzigana, "he himself has told me all that you have said of him. He,
on his side, has a great affection and a deep veneration for you; and
it is not astonishing that it should be so, for men like you are
examples for men like him, and—"
She paused abruptly, as if unwilling to say more.
"And what?" asked the Prince.
"Nothing. 'Examples' is enough; I don't know what I was going to
She made a little gesture with her pretty hand as if to dismiss the
subject; and, after wondering a moment at the girl's singular
reticence after her previous frankness, Andras thought only of
enjoying her grace and charm, until the Tzigana gave him her hand and
bade him good-night, begging him to remember that she would be very
happy and proud to receive him in her own house.
"But, indeed," she added, with a laugh which displayed two rows of
pearly teeth, "it is not for me to invite you. That is a terrible
breach of the proprieties. General!"
At her call, from a group near by, advanced old General Vogotzine,
whom Zilah had not noticed since the beginning of the evening. Marsa
laid her hand on his arm, and said, distinctly, Vogotzine being a
"Prince Andras Zilah, uncle, will do us the honor of coming to see
us at Maisons-Lafitte."
"Ah! Ah! Very happy! Delighted! Very flattering of you,
Prince," stammered the General, pulling his white moustache, and
blinking his little round eyes. "Andras Zilah ! Ah ! 1848! Hard
days, those! All over now, though! All over now! Ah! Ah! We no
longer cut one another's throats! No! No! No longer cut one
He held out to Andras his big, fat hand, and repeated, as he shook
that of the Prince:
"Delighted! Enchanted! Prince Zilah! Yes! Yes!"
In another moment they were gone, and the evening seemed to Andras
like a vision, a beautiful, feverish dream.
He sent away his coupe, and returned home on foot, feeling the need
of the night air; and, as he walked up the Champs-Elysees beneath the
starry sky, he was surprised to find a new, youthful feeling at his
heart, stirring his pulses like the first, soft touch of spring.
CHAPTER VIII. "HAVE I NO RIGHT TO BE
There was a certain womanly coquetry, mingled with a profound love
of the soil where her martyred mother reposed, in the desire which
Marsa Laszlo had to be called the Tzigana, instead of by her own name.
The Tzigana! This name, as clear cut, resonant and expressive as the
czimbaloms of the Hungarian musicians, lent her an additional,
original charm. She was always spoken of thus, when she was perceived
riding her pure-blooded black mare, or driving, attached to a
victoria, a pair of bay horses of the Kisber breed. Before the horses
ran two superb Danish hounds, of a lustrous dark gray, with white
feet, eyes of a peculiar blue, rimmed with yellow, and sensitive,
pointed ears—Duna and Bundas, the Hungarian names for the Danube and
These hounds, and an enormous dog of the Himalayas, with a thick,
yellow coat and long, sharp teeth, a half-savage beast, bearing the
name of Ortog (Satan), were Marsa's companions in her walks; and their
submission to their young mistress, whom they could have knocked down
with one pat of their paws, gave the Tzigana reputation for
eccentricity; which, however, neither pleased nor displeased her, as
she was perfectly indifferent to the opinion of the public at large.
She continued to inhabit, near the forest of Saint-Germain, beyond
the fashionable avenues, the villa, ornamented with the holy Muscovite
icon, which Prince Tchereteff had purchased; and she persisted in
remaining there alone with old Vogotzine, who regarded her
respectfully with his round eyes, always moist with 'kwass' or brandy.
Flying the crowded city, eager for space and air, a true daughter
of Hungary, Marsa loved to ride through the beautiful, silent park,
down the long, almost deserted avenues, toward the bit of pale blue
horizon discernible in the distance at the end of the sombre arch
formed by the trees. Birds, startled by the horses' hoofs, rose here
and there out of the bushes, pouring forth their caroling to the clear
ether; and Marsa, spurring her thoroughbred, would dash in a mad
gallop toward a little, almost unknown grove of oaks, with thickets
full of golden furze and pink heather, where woodcutters worked, half
buried in the long grass peppered with blue cornflowers and scarlet
Or, at other times, with Duna and Bundas bounding before her,
disappearing, returning, disappearing again with yelps of joy, it was
Marsa's delight to wander alone under the great limes of the Albine
avenue—shade over her head, silence about her—and then slowly, by
way of a little alley bordered with lofty poplars trembling at every
breath of wind, to reach the borders of the forest. In ten steps she
would suddenly find herself plunged in solitude as in a bath of
verdure, shade and oblivion. The sweet silence surrounding her calmed
her, and she would walk on and on though the thick grass under the
great trees. The trunks of the giant oaks were clothed in robes of
emerald moss, and wild flowers of all descriptions raised their heads
amid the grass. There was no footstep, no sound; a bee lazily
humming, a brilliant butterfly darting across the path, something
quick and red flashing up a tree— a squirrel frightened by the Danish
hounds; that was all. And Marsa was happy with the languorous
happiness which nature gives, her forehead cooled by the fresh breeze,
her eyes rested by the deep green which hid the shoes, her whole being
refreshed by the atmosphere of peace which fell from the trees.
Then, calling her dogs, she would proceed to a little farmhouse,
and, sitting down under the mulberry trees, wait until the farmer's
wife brought her some newly baked bread and a cup of milk, warm from
the cows. Then she would remain idly there, surrounded by chickens,
ducks, and great, greedy geese, which she fed, breaking the bread
between her white fingers, while Duna and Bundas crouched at her feet,
pricking up their ears, and watching these winged denizens of the
farmyard, which Marsa forbade them to touch. Finally the Tzigana
would slowly wend her way home, enter the villa, sit down before the
piano, and play, with ineffable sweetness, like souvenirs of another
life, the free and wandering life of her mother, the Hungarian airs of
Janos Nemeth, the sad "Song of Plevna," the sparkling air of "The
Little Brown Maid of Budapest," and that bitter; melancholy romance,
"The World holds but One Fair Maiden," a mournful and despairing
melody, which she preferred to all others, because it responded, with
its tearful accents, to a particular state of her own heart.
The girl was evidently concealing some secret suffering. The
bitter memory of her early years? Perhaps. Physical pain? Possibly.
She had been ill some years before, and had been obliged to pass a
winter at Pau. But it seemed rather some mental anxiety or torture
which impelled the Tzigana to seek solitude and silence in her
The days passed thus in that villa of Maisons-Lafitte, where Tisza
died. Very often, in the evening, Marsa would shut herself up in the
solitude of that death-chamber, which remained just as her mother had
left it. Below, General Vogotzine smoked his pipe, with a bottle of
brandy for company: above, Marsa prayed.
One night she went out, and through the sombre alleys, in the
tender light of the moon, made her way to the little convent in the
Avenue Egle, where the blue sisters were established; those sisters
whom she often met in the park, with their full robes of blue cloth,
their white veils, a silver medallion and crucifix upon their breasts,
and a rosary of wooden beads suspended at their girdles. The little
house of the community was shut, the grating closed. The only sign of
life was in the lighted windows of the chapel.
Marsa paused there, leaning her heated brow against the cold bars
of iron, with a longing for death, and a terrible temptation to end
all by suicide.
"Who knows?" she murmured. "Perhaps forgetfulness, deep, profound
forgetfulness, lies within these walls." Forgetfulness! Marsa, then,
wished to forget? What secret torture gave to her beautiful face that
expression so bitter, so terrible in its agony?
She stood leaning there, gazing at the windows of the chapel.
Broken words of prayers, of muttered verses and responses, reached
her like the tinkling of far-off chimes, like the rustling of
invisible wings. The blue sisters, behind those walls, were
celebrating their vesper service.
Does prayer drive away anguish and heartrending memories?
Marsa was a Catholic, her mother having belonged to the minority of
Tzigani professing the faith of Rome; and Tisza's daughter could,
therefore, bury her youth and beauty in the convent of the blue
The hollow murmur of the verses and prayers, which paused, began
again, and then died away in the night like sighs, attracted her, and,
like the trees of the forest, gave her an impression of that peace,
that deep repose, which was the longed-for dream of her soul.
But, suddenly, the Tzigana started, removed her gaze from the light
streaming through the blue and crimson glass, and hurried away, crying
aloud in the darkness:
"No! repose is not there. And, after all, where is repose? Only
in ourselves! It can be found nowhere, if it is not in the heart!"
Then, after these hours of solitude, this longing for the cloister,
this thirsting for annihilation and oblivion, Marsa would experience a
desire for the dashing, false, and frivolous life of Paris. She would
quit Maisons, taking with her a maid, or sometimes old Vogotzine, go
to some immense hotel, like the Continental or the Grand, dine at the
table d'hote, or in the restaurant, seeking everywhere bustle and
noise, the antithesis of the life of shade and silence which she led
amid the leafy trees of her park. She would show herself everywhere,
at races, theatres, parties—as when she accepted the Baroness
Dinati's invitation; and, when she became nauseated with all the
artificiality of worldly life, she would return eagerly to her woods,
her dogs and her solitude, and, if it were winter, would shut herself
up for long months in her lonely, snow-girt house.
And was not this existence sweet and pleasant, compared with the
life led by Tisza in the castle of the suburbs of Moscow?
In this solitude, in the villa of Maisons-Lafitte, Andras Zilah was
again to see Marsa Laszlo. He came not once, but again and again. He
was, perhaps, since the death of Prince Tchereteff, the only man
General Vogotzine had seen in his niece's house, and Marsa was always
strangely happy when Andras came to see her.
"Mademoiselle is very particular when Prince Zilah is coming to
Maisons," said her maid to her.
"Because Prince Zilah is not a man like other men. He is a hero.
In my mother's country there is no name more popular than his."
"So I have heard Count Menko say to Mademoiselle."
If it were the maid's wish to remove all happiness from her
mistress's face, she had met with complete success.
At the name of Menko, Marsa's expression became dark and
threatening. Prince Andras had noticed this same change in the
Tzigana's face, when he was speaking to her at Baroness Dinati's.
The Prince had forgotten no detail of that first fascinating
interview, at which his love for the Tzigana was born. This man, who
had hardly any other desire than to end in peace a life long saddened
by defeat and exile, suddenly awoke to a happy hope of a home and
family joys. He was rich, alone in the world, and independent; and he
was, therefore, free to choose the woman to be made his princess. No
caste prejudice prevented him from giving his title to the daughter of
Tisza. The Zilahs, in trying to free their country, had freed
themselves from all littleness; and proud, but not vain, they bore but
slight resemblance to those Magyars of whom Szechenyi, the great
count, who died of despair in 1849, said: "The overweening haughtiness
of my people will be their ruin."
The last of the Zilahs did not consider his pride humiliated by
loving and wedding a Tzigana. Frankly, in accents of the deepest love
and the most sincere devotion, Andras asked Marsa Laszlo if she would
consent to become his wife. But he was terrified at the expression of
anguish which passed over the pale face of the young girl.
Marsa, Princess Zilah! Like her mother, she would have refused
from a Tchereteff this title of princess which Andras offered her,
nay, laid at her feet with passionate tenderness. But—Princess
She regarded with wild eyes the Prince, who stood before her, timid
and with trembling lips, awaiting her reply. But, as she did not
answer, he stooped over and took her hands in his.
"What is it?" he cried; for Marsa's fingers were icy.
It cost the young girl a terrible effort to prevent herself from
"But speak to me, Marsa," exclaimed Andras, "do not keep me in
He had loved her now for six months, and an iron hand seemed to
clutch the heart of this man, who had never known what it was to fear,
at the thought that perhaps Marsa did not return his love.
He had, doubtless, believed that he had perceived in her a tender
feeling toward himself which had emboldened him to ask her to be his
wife. But had be been deceived? Was it only the soldier in him that
had pleased Marsa? Was he about to suffer a terrible disappointment?
Ah, what folly to love, and to love at forty years, a young and
beautiful girl like Marsa!
Still, she made him no answer, but sat there before him like a
statue, pale to the lips, her dark eyes fixed on him in a wild,
Then, as he pressed her, with tears in his voice, to speak, she
forced her almost paralyzed tongue to utter a response which fell,
cruel as a death-sentence, upon the heart of the hero:
Andras stood motionless before her in such terrible stillness that
she longed to throw herself at his feet and cry out: "I love you! I
love you! But your wife—no, never!"
She loved him? Yes, madly-better than that, with a deep, eternal
passion, a passion solidly anchored in admiration, respect and esteem;
with an unconquerable attraction toward what represented, to her
harassed soul, honor without a blemish, perfect goodness in perfect
courage, the immolation of a life to duty, all incarnate in one man,
radiant in one illustrious name—Zilah.
And Andras himself divined something of this feeling; he felt that
Marsa, despite her enigmatical refusal, cared for him in a way that
was something more than friendship; he was certain of it. Then, why
did she command him thus with a single word to despair? "Never!" She
was not free, then? And a question, for which he immediately asked
her pardon by a gesture, escaped, like the appeal of a drowning man,
from his lips:
"Do you love some one else, Marsa?"
She uttered a cry.
"No! I swear to you—no!"
He urged her, then, to explain what was the meaning of her refusal,
of the fright she had just shown; and, in a sort of nervous hysteria
which she forced herself to control, in the midst of stifled sobs, she
told him that if she could ever consent to unite herself to anyone, it
would be to him, to him alone, to the hero of her country, to him
whose chivalrous devotion she had admired long before she knew him,
and that now— And here she stopped short, just on the brink of an
"Well, now? Now?" demanded Andras, awaiting the word which, in
her overstrung condition, Marsa had almost spoken. "Now?"
But she did not speak these words which Zilah begged for with newly
awakened hope. She longed to end this interview which was killing
her, and in broken accents asked him to excuse her, to forgive
her—but she was really ill.
"But if you are suffering, I can not, I will not leave you."
"I implore you. I need to be alone."
"At least you will permit me to come to-morrow, Marsa, and ask for
"My answer? I have given it to you."
"No! No! I do not accept that refusal. No! you did not know what
you were saying. I swear to you, Marsa, that without you life is
impossible to me; all my existence is bound up in yours. You will
reflect there was an accent in your voice which bade me hope. I will
come again to-morrow. Tomorrow, Marsa. What you have said to-day does
not count. Tomorrow, to-morrow; and remember that I adore you."
And she, shuddering at the tones of his voice, not daring to say
no, and to bid him an eternal farewell, let him depart, confident,
hopeful, despite the silence to which she obstinately, desperately
clung. Then, when Andras was gone, at the end of her strength, she
threw herself, like a mad woman, down upon the divan. Once alone, she
gave way utterly, sobbing passionately, and then, suddenly ceasing,
with wild eyes fixed upon vacancy, to mutter with dry, feverish lips:
"Yet—it is life he brings to me—happiness he offers me. Have I
no right to be happy—I? My God! To be the wife of such a man! To
love him—to devote myself to him-to make his existence one succession
of happy days! To be his slave, his thing! Shall I marry him?
Or—shall I kill myself? Kill myself!" with a horrible, agonizing
laugh. "Yes, that is the only thing for me to do. But—but—I am a
coward, now that I love him—a coward! a coward! a miserable
wretch!" And she fell headlong forward, crouching upon the floor in a
fierce despair, as if either life or reason was about to escape from
CHAPTER IX. "O LIBERTY! O LOVE!
THESE TWO I NEED!"
When Zilah came the next day he found Marsa perfectly calm. At
first he only questioned her anxiously as to her health.
"Oh! I am well," she replied, smiling a little sadly; and, turning
to the piano at which she was seated, she began to play the
exquisitely sad romance which was her favorite air.
"That is by Janos Nemeth, is it not?"asked the Prince.
"Yes, by Janos Nemeth. I am very fond of his music; it is so truly
Hungarian in its spirit."
The music fell upon the air like sighs—like the distant tones of a
bell tolling a requiem—a lament, poetic, mournful, despairing, yet
ineffably sweet and tender, ending in one deep, sustained note like
the last clod of earth falling upon a new-made grave.
"What is that called, Marsa?" said Andras.
She made no reply.
Rising, he looked at the title, printed in Hungarian; then, leaning
over the Tzigana till his breath fanned her cheek, he murmured:
"Janos Nemeth was right. The world holds but one fair maiden."
She turned very pale, rose from the piano, and giving him her hand,
"It is almost a madrigal, my dear Prince, is it not? I am going to
be frank with you. You love me, I know; and I also love you. Will
you give me a month to reflect? A whole month?"
"My entire life belongs to you now," said the Prince. "Do with it
what you will."
"Well! Then in a month I will give you your answer," she said
"But," said Andras, smiling beneath his blond moustache, "remember
that I once, took for my motto the verses of Petoefi. You know well
those beautiful verses of our country:
O Liberty! O Love!
These two I need.
My chosen meed,
To give my love for Liberty,
My life for Love.
"Well," he added, "do you know, at this moment the Andras Zilah of
'forty-eight would almost give liberty, that passion of his whole
life, for your love, Marsa, my own Marsa, who are to me the living
incarnation of my country."
Marsa was moved to the depths of her heart at hearing this man
speak such words to her. The ideal of the Tzigana, as it is of most
women, was loyalty united with strength. Had she ever, in her wildest
flights of fancy, dreamed that she should hear one of the heroes of
the war of independence, a Zilah Andras, supplicate her to bear his
Marsa knew Yanski Varhely. The Prince had brought him to see her
at Maisons-Lafitte. She was aware that Count Varhely knew the
Prince's most secret thoughts, and she was certain that Andras had
confided all his hopes and his fears to his old friend.
"What do you think would become of the Prince if I should not marry
him?" she asked him one day without warning.
"That is a point-blank question which I hardly expected," said
Yanski, gazing at her in astonishment. "Don't you wish to become a
Any hesitation even seemed to him insulting, almost sacrilegious.
"I don't say that," replied the Tzigana, "but I ask you what would
become of the Prince if, for one reason or another—"
"I can very easily inform you," interrupted Varhely. "The Prince,
as you must be aware, is one of those men who love but once during
their lives. Upon my word of honor, I believe that, if you should
refuse him, he would commit some folly, some madness,
something—fatal. Do you understand?"
"Ah!" ejaculated Marsa, with an icy chill in her veins.
"That is my opinion," continued Yanski, harshly. "He is wounded.
It remains with you to decide whether the bullet be mortal or not."
Varhely's response must have had great weight in Marsa Laszlo's
reflections, full of anguish, fever, revolt and despair as they were,
during the few weeks preceding the day upon which she had promised to
tell Prince Andras if she would consent to become his wife or not. It
was a yes, almost as curt as another refusal, which fell at last from
the lips of the Tzigana. But the Prince was not cool enough to
analyze an intonation.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "I have suffered so much during these weeks of
doubt; but this happiness makes amends for all."
"Do you know what Varhely said to me?" asked Marsa.
"Yes, I know."
"Well, since the Zilahs treat their love-affairs as they do their
duels, and risk their whole existence, so be it! I accept. Your
existence for mine! Gift for gift! I do not wish you to die!"
He did not try to understand her; but he took her burning hands
between his own, and covered them with kisses. And she, with
trembling lip, regarded, through her long eyelashes, the brave man who
now bent before her, saying: "I love you."
Then, in that moment of infinite happiness, on the threshold of the
new life which opened before her, she forgot all to think only of the
reality, of the hero whose wife she was to be. His wife! So, as in a
dream, without thinking, without resisting, abandoning herself to the
current which bore her along, not trying to take account of time or of
the future, loving, and beloved, living in a sort of charmed
somnambulism, the Tzigana watched the preparations for her marriage.
The Prince, with the impatience of a youth of twenty, had urged an
early day for their union. He announced his engagement to the
society, at once Parisian and foreign, of which he formed a part; and
this marriage of the Magyar with the Tzigana was an event in
aristocratic circles. There was an aroma of chivalrous romance about
this action of Prince Andras, who was rich enough and independent
enough to have married, if he had wished, a shepherdess, like the
kings of fairy tales.
"Isn't it perfectly charming?" exclaimed the little Baroness
Dinati, enthusiastically. "Jacquemin, my dear friend, I will give you
all the details of their first meeting. You can make a delicious
article out of it, delicious!"
The little Baroness was almost as delighted as the Prince. Ah!
what a man that Zilah was! He would give, as a wedding-gift to the
Tzigana, the most beautiful diamonds in the world, those famous Zilah
diamonds, which Prince Joseph had once placed disdainfully upon his
hussar's uniform when he charged the Prussian cuirassiers of Ziethen,
sure of escaping the sabre cuts, and not losing a single one of the
stones during the combat. It was said that Marsa, until she was his
wife, would not accept any jewels from the Prince. The opals in the
silver agraffe were all she wanted.
"You know them, don't you, Jacquemin? The famous opals of the
Tzigana? Put that all in, every word of it."
"Yes, it is chic enough." answered the reporter. "It is very
romantic, a little too much so; my readers will never believe it.
Never mind, though, I will write it all up in my best manner."
The fete on board the steamer, given by the Prince in honor of his
betrothal, had been as much talked of as a sensational first night at
the Francais, and it added decidedly to the romantic prestige of
Andras Zilah. There was not a marriageable young girl who was not a
little in love with him, and their mothers envied the luck of the
"It is astonishing how jealous the mammas are," said the Baroness,
gayly. "They will make me pay dearly for having been the matchmaker;
but I am proud of it, very proud. Zilah has good taste, that is all.
And, as for him, I should have been in love with him myself, if I had
not had my guests to attend to. Ah, society is as absorbing as a
Upon the boat, Paul Jacquemin did not leave the side of the
matchmaker. He followed her everywhere. He had still to obtain a
description of the bride's toilettes, the genealogy of General
Vogotzine, a sketch of the bridegroom's best friend, Varhely, and a
thousand other details.
"Where will the wedding take place?" he asked the Baroness.
"At Maisons-Lafitte. Oh! everything is perfect, my dear
Jacquemin, perfect! An idyl! All the arrangements are exquisite,
exquisite! I only wish that you had charge of the supper."
Jacquemin, general overseer of the Baroness's parties in the Rue
Murillo, did not confess himself inferior to any one as an epicure.
He would taste the wines, with the air of a connoisseur, holding his
glass up to the light, while the liquor caressed his palate, and
shutting his eyes as if more thoroughly to decide upon its merits.
"Pomard!" would slowly fall from his lips, or "Acceptable
Musigny!" "This Chambertin is really very fair!" "The Chateau Yquem
is not half bad!" etc., etc. And the next morning would appear in
the reports, which he wrote himself under various pseudonyms: "Our
compliments to our friend Jacquemin, if he had anything to do with the
selection of the wines, in addition to directing the rehearsals of the
Baroness's operetta, which latter work he most skilfully accomplished.
Jacquemin possesses talents of all kinds; he knows how to make the
best of all materials. As the proverb says, 'A good mill makes
Jacquemin had already cast an eye over the menu of the Prince's
fete, and declared it excellent, very correct, very pure.
The steamer was at last ready to depart, and Prince Zilah had done
the honors to all his guests. It started slowly off, the flags waving
coquettishly in the breeze, while the Tzigani musicians played with
spirit the vibrating notes of the March of Rakoczy, that triumphant
air celebrating the betrothal of Zilah, as it had long ago saluted the
burial of his father.
CHAPTER X. "IS FATE SO JUST?"
We are moving! We are off!" cried the lively little Baroness. "I
hope we shan't be shipwrecked," retorted Jacquemin; and he then
proceeded to draw a comical picture of possible adventures wherein
figured white bears, icebergs, and death by starvation. "A subject
for a novel,— 'The Shipwreck of the Betrothed.'"
As they drew away from Paris, passing the quays of Passy and the
taverns of Point-du-jour, tables on wooden horses were rapidly
erected, and covered with snowy cloths; and soon the guests of the
Prince were seated about the board, Andras between Marsa and the
Baroness, and Michel Menko some distance down on the other side of the
table. The pretty women and fashionably dressed men made the air
resound with gayety and laughter, while the awnings flapped joyously
in the wind, and the boat glided on, cutting the smooth water, in
which were reflected the long shadows of the aspens and willows on the
banks, and the white clouds floating in the clear sky. Every now and
then a cry of admiration would be uttered at some object in the
panorama moving before them, the slopes of Suresnes, the black
factories of Saint-Denis with their lofty chimneys, the red- roofed
villas of Asnieres, or the heights of Marly dotted with little white
"Ah! how pretty it is! How charming!"
"Isn't it queer that we have never known anything about all this?
It is a veritable voyage of discovery."
"Ladies and gentlemen," cried, above the other voices, Jacquemin,
whom Zilah did not know, and to whom the Baroness had made him give a
card of invitation, "we are now entering savage countries. It is
Kamtschatka, or some such place, and there must be cannibals here."
The borders of the Seine, which were entirely fresh to them, and
which recalled the pictures of the salon, were a delightful novelty to
these people, accustomed to the dusty streets of the city.
Seated between the Prince and the Japanese, and opposite Varhely
and General Vogotzine, the Baroness thoroughly enjoyed her breakfast.
Prince Andras had not spared the Tokay—that sweet, fiery wine, of
which the Hungarians say proudly: "It has the color and the price of
gold;" and the liquor disappeared beneath the moustache of the Russian
General as in a funnel. The little Baroness, as she sipped it with
pretty little airs of an epicure, chatted with the Japanese, and,
eager to increase her culinary knowledge, asked him for the receipt
for a certain dish which the little yellow fellow had made her taste
at a dinner given at his embassy.
"Send it to me, will you, Yamada? I will have my cook make it;
nothing gives me so much pleasure as to be able to offer to my guests
a new and strange dish. I will give you the receipt also, Jacquemin.
Oh! it is such an odd-tasting dish! It gives you a sensation of
having been poisoned."
"Like the guests in Lucrezia Borgia," laughed the Parisian
"Do you know Lucrezia Borgia?"
"Oh, yes; they have sung it at Yokohama. Oh! we are no longer
savages, Baroness, believe me. If you want ignorant barbarians, you
must seek the Chinese."
The little Japanese was proud of appearing so profoundly learned in
European affairs, and his gimlet eyes sought an approving glance from
Paul Jacquemin or Michel Menko; but the Hungarian was neither
listening to nor thinking of Yamada. He was entirely absorbed in the
contemplation of Marsa; and, with lips a little compressed, he fixed a
strange look upon the beautiful young girl to whom Andras was
speaking, and who, very calm, almost grave, but evidently happy,
answered the Prince with a sweet smile.
There was a sort of Oriental grace about Marsa, with her willowy
figure, flexible as a Hindoo convolvulus, and her dark Arabian eyes
fringed with their heavy lashes. Michel Menko took in all the details
of her beauty, and evidently suffered, suffered cruelly, his eyes
invincibly attracted toward her. In the midst of these other women,
attired in robes of the last or the next fashion, of all the colors of
the rainbow, Marsa, in her gown of black lace, was by far the
loveliest of them all. Michel watched her every movement; but she,
quiet, as if a trifle weary, spoke but little, and only in answer to
the Prince and Varhely, and, when her beautiful eyes met those of
Menko, she turned them away, evidently avoiding his look with as much
care as he sought hers.
The breakfast over, they rose from the table, the men lighting
cigars, and the ladies seeking the mirrors in the cabin to rearrange
their tresses disheveled by the wind.
The boat stopped at Marly until it was time for the lock to be
opened, before proceeding to Maisons-Lafitte, where Marsa was to land.
Many of the passengers, with almost childish gayety, landed, and
strolled about on the green bank.
Marsa was left alone, glad of the silence which reigned on the
steamer after the noisy chatter of a moment ago. She leaned over the
side of the boat, listening idly to the swish of the water along its
Michel Menko was evidently intending to approach her, and he had
made a few steps toward her, when he felt a hand laid upon his
shoulder. He turned, thinking it was the Prince; but it was Yanski
Varhely, who said to the young man:
"Well, my dear Count, you did right to come from London to this
fete. Not only is Zilah delighted to see you, but the fantastic
composition of the guests is very curious. Baroness Dinati has
furnished us with an 'ollapodrida' which would have pleased her
husband. There is a little of everything. Doesn't it astonish you?"
"No," said Michel. "This hybrid collection is representative of
modern society. I have met almost all these faces at Nice; they are
to be seen everywhere."
"To me," retorted Yanski, in his guttural voice, "these people are
"Phenomena? Not at all. Life of to-day is so complicated that the
most unexpected people and events find their place in it. You have
not lived, Varhely, or you have lived only for your idol, your
country, and everything amazes you. If you had, like me, wandered all
over the world, you would not be astonished at anything; although, to
tell the truth"— and the young man's voice became bitter, trenchant,
and almost threatening—" we have only to grow old to meet with
terrible surprises, very hard to bear."
As he spoke, he glanced, involuntarily perhaps, at Marsa Laszlo,
leaning on the railing just below him.
"Oh! don't speak of old age before you have passed through the
trials that Zilah and I have," responded Varhely. "At eighteen,
Andras Zilah could have said: 'I am old.' He was in mourning at one
and the same time for all his people and for our country. But you!
You have grown up, my dear fellow, in happy times. Austria,
loosening her clutch, has permitted you to love and serve our cause at
your ease. You were born rich, you married the most charming of
"That is, it is true, the sorrow of your life," continued Varhely.
"It seems to me only yesterday that you lost the poor child."
"It is over two years, however," said Michel, gravely. "Two years!
How time flies!
"She was so charming," said old Yanski, not perceiving the
expression of annoyance mingled with sadness which passed over the
young man's face. "I knew your dear wife when she was quite small, in
her father's house. He gave me an asylum at Prague, after the
capitulation signed by Georgei. Although I was an Hungarian, and he a
Bohemian, her father and I were great friends."
"Yes," said Menko, rapidly, "she often spoke of you, my dear
Varhely. They taught her to love you, too. But," evidently seeking to
turn the conversation to avoid a subject which was painful to him,
"you spoke of Georgei. Ah! our generation has never known your brave
hopes; and your grief, believe me, was better than our boredom. We
are useless encumberers of the earth. Upon my word, it seems to me
that we are unsettled, enfeebled, loving nothing and loving
everything, ready to commit all sorts of follies. I envy you those
days of battle, those magnificent deeds of 'forty-eight and
'forty-nine. To fight thus was to live!"
But even while he spoke, his thin face became more melancholy, and
his eyes again sought the direction of Prince Andras's fiancee.
After a little more desultory conversation, he strolled away from
Varhely, and gradually approached Marsa, who, her chin resting on her
hand, and her eyes lowered, seemed absorbed in contemplation of the
ceaseless flow of the water.
Greatly moved, pulling his moustache, and glancing with a sort of
uneasiness at Prince Andras, who was promenading on the bank with the
Baroness, Michel Menko paused before addressing Marsa, who had not
perceived his approach, and who was evidently far away in some
Gently, hesitatingly, and in a low voice, he at last spoke her
The Tzigana started as if moved by an electric shock, and, turning
quickly, met the supplicating eyes of the young man.
"Marsa!" repeated Michel, in a humble tone of entreaty.
"What do you wish of me?" she said. "Why do you speak to me? You
must have seen what care I have taken to avoid you."
"It is that which has wounded me to the quick. You are driving me
mad. If you only knew what I am suffering!"
He spoke almost in a whisper, and very rapidly, as if he felt that
seconds were worth centuries.
She answered him in a cutting, pitiless tone, harsher even than the
implacable look in her dark eyes. "You suffer? Is fate so just as
that? You suffer?"
Her tone and expression made Michel Menko tremble as if each
syllable of these few words was a blow in the face.
"Marsa!" he exclaimed, imploringly. "Marsa!"
"My name is Marsa Laszlo; and, in a few days, I shall be Princess
Zilah," responded the young girl, passing haughtily by him, "and I
think you will hardly force me to make you remember it."
She uttered these words so resolutely, haughtily, almost
disdainfully, and accompanied them with such a flash from her
beautiful eyes that Menko instinctively bowed his head, murmuring:
But he drove his nails into the palm of his clenched hand as he saw
her leave that part of the boat, and retire as far from him as she
could, as if his presence were an insult to her. Tears of rage
started into the young man's eyes as he watched her graceful figure
resume its former posture of dreamy absorption.
CHAPTER XI. A RIVER FETE
Close alongside of the Prince's boat, waiting also for the opening
of the lock, was one of those great barges which carry wood or
charcoal up and down the Seine.
A whole family often lives on board these big, heavy boats. The
smoke of the kitchen fire issues from a sort of wooden cabin where
several human beings breathe, eat, sleep, are born and die, sometimes
without hardly ever having set foot upon the land. Pots of geranium
or begonia give a bit of bright color to the dingy surroundings; and
the boats travel slowly along the river, impelled by enormous oars,
which throw long shadows upon the water.
It was this motionless barge that Marsa was now regarding.
The hot sun, falling upon the boat, made its brown, wet sides
sparkle like the brilliant wings of some gigantic scarabee; and, upon
the patched, scorched deck, six or seven half-naked, sunburned
children, boys and girls, played at the feet of a bundle of rags and
brown flesh, which was a woman, a young woman, but prematurely old and
wasted, who was nursing a little baby.
A little farther off, two men-one tough and strong, a man of
thirty, whom toil had made forty, the other old, wrinkled,
white-haired and with skin like leather, father and grandfather,
doubtless, of the little brats beyond—were eating bread and cheese,
and drinking, turn by turn, out of a bottle of wine, which they
swallowed in gulps. The halt was a rest to these poor people.
As Marsa watched them, she seemed to perceive in these wanderers of
the river, as in a vision, those other wanderers of the Hungarian
desert, her ancestors, the Tzigani, camped in the puszta, the
boundless plain, crouched down in the long grass beneath the shade of
the bushes, and playing their beautiful national airs. She saw the
distant fires of the bivouac of those unknown Tzigani whose daughter
she was; she seemed to breathe again the air of that country she had
seen but once, when upon a mournful pilgrimage; and, in the presence
of that poor bargeman's wife, with her skin tanned by the sun, she
thought of her dead, her cherished dead, Tisza.
Tisza! To the gipsy had doubtless been given the name of the river
on the banks of which she had been born. They called the mother
Tisza, in Hungary, as in Paris they called the daughter the Tzigana.
And Marsa was proud of her nickname; she loved these Tzigani, whose
blood flowed in her veins; sons of India, perhaps, who had descended
to the valley of the Danube, and who for centuries had lived free in
the open air, electing their chiefs, and having a king appointed by
the Palatine—a king, who commanding beggars, bore, nevertheless, the
name of Magnificent; indestructible tribes, itinerant republics,
musicians playing the old airs of their nation, despite the Turkish
sabre and the Austrian police; agents of patriotism and liberty,
guardians of the old Hungarian honor.
These poor people, passing their lives upon the river as the
Tzigani lived in the fields and hedges, seemed to Marsa like the very
spectres of her race. More than the musicians with embroidered vests
did the poor prisoners of the solitary barge recall to her the great
proscribed family of her ancestors.
She called to the children playing upon the sunbeaten deck: "Come
here, and hold up your aprons!"
They obeyed, spreading out their little tattered garments. "Catch
these!" she cried.
They could not believe their eyes. From the steamer she threw down
to them mandarins, grapes, ripe figs, yellow apricots, and great
velvety peaches; a rain of dainties which would have surprised a
gourmand: the poor little things, delighted and afraid at the same
time, wondered if the lady, who gave them such beautiful fruit, was a
The mother then rose; and, coming toward Marsa to thank her, her
sunburnt skin glowing a deeper red, the poor woman, with tears in her
tired eyes, and a wan smile upon her pale lips, touched, surprised,
happy in the pleasure of her children, murmured, faltering and
"Ah! Madame! Madame! how good you are! You are too good,
"We must share what we have!" said Marsa, with a smile. "See how
happy the children are!"
"Very happy, Madame. They are not accustomed to such things. Say
'Thank you,' to the beautiful lady. Say 'Thank you,' Jean; you are
the oldest. Say like this: 'Thank-you-Ma-dame.'"
"Thank-you-Ma-dame" faltered the boy, raising to Marsa big, timid
eyes, which did not understand why anybody should either wish him ill
or do him a kindness. And other low, sweet little voices repeated,
like a refrain: "Thank-you-Ma-dame."
The two men, in astonishment, came and stood behind the children,
and gazed silently at Marsa.
"And your baby, Madame?" said the Tzigana, looking at the sleeping
infant, that still pressed its rosy lips to the mother's breast. "How
pretty it is! Will you permit me to offer it its baptismal dress?"
"Its baptismal dress?" repeated the mother.
"Oh, Madame!" ejaculated the father, twisting his cap between his
"Or a cloak, just as you please," added Marsa.
The poor people on the barge made no reply, but looked at one
another in bewilderment.
"Is it a little girl?" asked the Tzigana.
"No, Madame, no," responded the mother. "A boy."
"Come here, jean," said Marsa to the oldest child. "Yes, come
here, my little man."
Jean came forward, glancing askance at his mother, as if to know
whether he should obey.
"Here, jean," said the young girl, "this is for your baby brother."
And into the little joined hands of the boy, Marsa let fall a
purse, through whose meshes shone yellow pieces of gold.
The people of the barge thought they were dreaming, and stood open-
mouthed in amazement, while Jean cried out:
"Mamma, see, mamma! Mamma! Mamma!"
Then the younger bargeman said to Marsa:
"Madame, no, no! we can not accept. It is too much. You are too
good. Give it back, Jean."
"It is true, Madame," faltered his wife. "It is impossible. It is
"You will cause me great pain if you refuse to accept it," said
Marsa. "Chance has brought us together for a moment, and I am
superstitious. I would like to have the little children pray that
those I love—that the one I love may be happy." And she turned her
eyes upon Prince Andras, who had returned to the deck, and was coming
The lock was now opened.
"All aboard!" shouted the captain of the steamer.
The poor woman upon the barge tried to reach the hand of Marsa to
"May you be happy, Madame, and thank you with all our hearts for
your goodness to both big and little."
The two bargemen bowed low in great emotion, and the whole bevy of
little ones blew kisses to the beautiful lady in the black dress, whom
the steamer was already bearing away.
"At least tell us your name, Madame," cried the father. "Your
name, that we may never forget you."
A lovely smile appeared on Marsa's lips, and, in almost melancholy
accents, she said:
"My name!" Then, after a pause, proudly: "The Tzigana!"
The musicians, as she spoke, suddenly struck up one of the
Hungarian airs. Then, as in a flying vision, the poor bargemen saw
the steamer move farther and farther away, a long plume of smoke
waving behind it.
Jacquemin, hearing one of those odd airs, which in Hungary start
all feet moving and keeping time to the music, exclaimed:
"A quadrille! Let us dance a quadrille! An Hungarian quadrille!"
The poor people on the barge listened to the music, gradually
growing fainter and fainter; and they would have believed that they
had been dreaming, if the purse had not been there, a fortune for
them, and the fruit which the children were eating. The mother,
without understanding, repeated that mysterious name: "The Tzigana."
And Marsa also gazed after them, her ears caressed by the czardas
of the musicians. The big barge disappeared in the distance in a
luminous haze; but the Tzigana could still vaguely perceive the little
beings perched upon the shoulders of the men, and waving, in sign of
farewell, pieces of white cloth which their mother had given them.
A happy torpor stole over Marsa; and, while the guests of the
Baroness Dinati, the Japanese Yamada, the English heiresses, the
embassy attaches, all these Parisian foreigners, led by Jacquemin, the
director of the gayety, were organizing a ballroom on the deck, and
asking the Tzigani for polkas of Fahrbach and waltzes of Strauss, the
young girl heard the voice of Andras murmur low in her ear:
"Ah! how I love you! And do you love me, Marsa?"
"I am happy," she answered, without moving, and half closing her
eyes, "and, if it were necessary for me to give my life for you, I
would give it gladly."
In the stern of the boat, Michel Menko watched, without seeing
them, perhaps, the fields, the houses of Pecq, the villas of
Saint-Germain, the long terrace below heavy masses of trees, the great
plain beside Paris with Mont Valerien rising in its midst, the two
towers of the Trocadero, whose gilded dome sparkled in the sun, and
the bluish-black cloud which hung over the city like a thick fog.
The boat advanced very slowly, as if Prince Andras had given the
order to delay as much as possible the arrival at Maisons-Lafitte,
where the whole fete would end for him, as Marsa was to land there.
Already, upon the horizon could be perceived the old mill, with its
broad, slated roof. The steeple of Sartrouville loomed up above the
red roofs of the houses and the poplars which fringe the bank of the
river. A pale blue light, like a thin mist, enveloped the distant
"The dream is over," murmured Marsa.
"A far more beautiful one will soon begin," said Andras, "and that
one will be the realization of what I have waited for all my life and
Marsa turned to the Prince with a look full of passionate
admiration and devotion, which told him how thoroughly his love was
The quadrille had ended, and a waltz was beginning. The little
Japanese, with his eternal smile, like the bronze figures of his
country, was dancing with a pre-raphaelite English girl.
"How well you dance," she said.
"If we only had some favors," replied the Japanese, showing his
teeth in a grin, "I would lead the cotillon."
The boat stopped at last at Maisons-Lafitte. The great trees of
the park formed a heavy mass, amid which the roof of the villa was
"What a pity it is all over," cried the Baroness, who was ruddy as
a cherry with the exercise of dancing. "Let us have another; but
Maisons- Lafitte is too near. We will go to Rouen the next time; or
rather, I invite you all to a day fete in Paris, a game of polo, a
lunch, a garden party, whatever you like. I will arrange the
programme with Yamada and Jacquemin."
"Willingly," responded the Japanese, with a low bow. "To
collaborate with Monsieur Jacquemin will be very amusing."
As Marsa Laszlo was leaving the boat, Michel Menko stood close to
the gangway, doubtless on purpose to speak to her; and, in the
confusion of landing, without any one hearing him, he breathed in her
ear these brief words:
"At your house this evening. I must see you."
She gave him an icy glance. Michel Menko's eyes were at once full
of tears and flames.
"I demand it!" he said, firmly.
The Tzigana made no reply; but, going to Andras Zilah, she took his
arm; while Michel, as if nothing had happened, raised his hat.
General Vogotzine, with flaming face, followed his niece,
muttering, as he wiped the perspiration unsteadily from his face:
"Fine day! Fine day! By Jove! But the sun was hot, though! Ah,
and the wines were good!"
CHAPTER XII. A DARK PAGE
As Marsa departed with Vogotzine in the carriage which had been
waiting for them on the bank, she waved her hand to Zilah with a
passionate gesture, implying an infinity of trouble, sadness, and
love. The Prince then returned to his guests, and the boat, which
Marsa watched through the window of the carriage, departed, bearing
away the dream, as she had said to Andras. During the drive home she
did not say a word. By her side the General grumbled sleepily of the
sun, which, the Tokay aiding, had affected his head. But, when Marsa
was alone in her chamber, the cry which was wrung from her breast was
a cry of sorrow, of despairing anger:
"Ah, when I think—when I think that I am envied!"
She regretted having allowed Andras to depart without having told
him on the spot, the secret of her life. She would not see him again
until the next day, and she felt as if she could never live through
the long, dull hours. She stood at the window, wrapped in thought,
gazing mechanically before her, and still hearing the voice of Michel
Menko hissing like a snake in her ear. What was it this man had said?
She did not dare to believe it. "I demand it!" He had said: "I
demand it!" Perhaps some one standing near had heard it. "I demand
Evening came. Below the window the great masses of the
chestnut-trees and the lofty crests of the poplars waved in the breeze
like forest plumes, their peaks touched by the sun setting in a sky of
tender blue, while the shadowy twilight crept over the park where,
through the branches, patches of yellow light, like golden and copper
vapors, still gave evidence of the god of day.
Marsa, her heart full of a melancholy which the twilight increased,
repeated over and over again, with shudders of rage and disgust, those
three words which Michel Menko had hurled at her like a threat: "I
demand it!" Suddenly she heard in the garden the baying of dogs, and
she saw, held in check by a domestic, Duna and Bundas, bounding
through the masses of flowers toward the gate, where a man appeared,
whom Marsa, leaning over the balcony, recognized at once.
"The wretch!" she exclaimed between her clenched teeth. It was
He must have debarked before reaching Paris, and have come to
Maisons- Lafitte in haste.
Marsa's only thought, in the first moment of anger, was to refuse
to see him. "I can not," she thought, "I will not!" Then suddenly
her mind changed. It was braver and more worthy of her to meet the
danger face to face. She rang, and said to the domestic who answered
the bell: "Show Count Menko into the little salon."
"We shall see what he will dare," muttered the Tzigana, glancing at
the mirror as if to see whether she appeared to tremble before danger
and an enemy.
The little salon into which the young Count was introduced was in
the left wing of the villa; and it was Marsa's favorite room, because
it was so quiet there. She had furnished it with rare taste, in half
Byzantine and half Hindoo fashion—a long divan running along the
wall, covered with gray silk striped with garnet; Persian rugs cast
here and there at random; paintings by Petenkofen—Hungarian farms and
battle-scenes, sentinels lost in the snow; two consoles loaded with
books, reviews, and bric-a-brac; and a round table with Egyptian
incrustations, covered with an India shawl, upon which were fine
bronzes of Lanceray, and little jewelled daggers.
This salon communicated with a much larger one, where General
Vogotzine usually took his siesta, and which Marsa abandoned to him,
preferring the little room, the windows of which, framed in ivy,
looked out upon the garden, with the forest in the distance.
Michel Menko was well acquainted with this little salon, where he
had more than once seen Marsa seated at the piano playing her favorite
airs. He remembered it all so well, and, nervously twisting his
moustache, he longed for her to make her appearance. He listened for
the frou-frou of Marsa's skirts on the other side of the lowered
portiere which hung between the two rooms; but he heard no sound.
The General had shaken hands with Michel, as he passed through the
large salon, saying, in his thick voice:
"Have you come to see Marsa? You have had enough of that
water-party, then? It was very pretty; but the sun was devilish hot.
My head is burning now; but it serves me right for not remaining
quiet at home."
Then he raised his heavy person from the armchair he had been
sitting in, and went out into the garden, saying: "I prefer to smoke
in the open air; it is stifling in here." Marsa, who saw Vogotzine
pass out, let him go, only too willing to have him at a distance
during her interview with Michel Menko; and then she boldly entered
the little salon, where the Count, who had heard her approach, was
standing erect as if expecting some attack.
Marsa closed the door behind her; and, before speaking a word, the
two faced each other, as if measuring the degree of hardihood each
possessed. The Tzigana, opening fire first, said, bravely and without
"Well, you wished to see me. Here I am! What do you want of me?"
"To ask you frankly whether it is true, Marsa, that you are about
to marry Prince Zilah."
She tried to laugh; but her laugh broke nervously off. She said,
"Oh! is it for that that you are here?"
"It was perfectly useless, then, for you to take the trouble: you
ask me a thing which you know well, which all the world knows, which
all the world must have told you, since you had the audacity to be
present at that fete to-day."
"That is true," said Michel, coldly; "but I only learned it by
chance. I wished to hear it from your own lips."
"Do I owe you any account of my conduct?" asked Marsa, with
He was silent a moment, strode across the room, laid his hat down
upon the little table, and suddenly becoming humble, not in attitude,
but in voice, said:
"Listen, Marsa: you are a hundred times right to hate me. I have
deceived you, lied to you. I have conducted myself in a manner
unworthy of you, unworthy of myself. But to atone for my fault—my
crime, if you will—I am ready to do anything you order, to be your
miserable slave, in order to obtain the pardon which I have come to
ask of you, and which I will ask on my knees, if you command me to do
The Tzigana frowned.
"I have nothing to pardon you, nothing to command you," she said
with an air more wearied than stern, humiliating, and disdainful. "I
only ask you to leave me in peace, and never appear again in my life."
"So! I see that you do not understand me," said Michel, with sudden
"No, I acknowledge it, not in the least."
"When I asked you whether you were to marry Prince Andras, didn't
you understand that I asked you also another thing: Will you marry me,
me— Michel Menko?"
"You!" cried the Tzigana.
And there was in this cry, in this "You!" ejaculated with a rapid
movement of recoil-amazement, fright, scorn, and anger.
"You!" she said again. And Michel Menko felt in this word a mass
of bitter rancor and stifled hatred which suddenly burst its bonds.
"Yes, me!" he said, braving the insult of Marsa's cry and look.
"Me, who love you, and whom you have loved!"
"Ah, don't dare to say that!" she cried, drawing close to the
little table where the daggers rested amid the objects of art. "Don't
be vile enough to speak to me of a past of which nothing remains to me
but disgust! Let not one word which recalls it to me mount to your
lips, not one, you understand, or I will kill you like the coward you
"Do so, Marsa!" he cried with wild, mad passion. "I should die by
your hand, and you would not marry that man!"
Afraid of herself, wresting her eyes from the glittering daggers,
she threw herself upon the divan, her hands clasped tightly in her
lap, and watched, with the look of a tigress, Michel, who said to her
now, in a voice which trembled with the tension of his feelings: "You
must know well, Marsa, that death is not the thing that can frighten a
man like me! What does frighten me is that, having lost you once, I
may lose you forever; to know that another will be your husband, will
love you, will receive your kisses. The very idea that that is
possible drives me insane. I feel myself capable of any deed of
madness to prevent it. Marsa! Marsa! You did love me once!"
"I love honor, truth, justice," said Marsa, sternly and implacably.
"I thought I loved you; but I never did."
"You did not love me?" he said.
This cruel recalling of the past, which was the remorse of her
life, was like touching her flesh with a red-hot iron.
"No, no, no! I did not love you! I repeat, I thought I loved you.
What did I know of life when I met you? I was suffering, ill; I
thought myself dying, and I never heard a word of pity fall from any
other lips than yours. I thought you were a man of honor. You were
only a wretch. You deceived me; you represented yourself to me as
free—and you were married. Weakly—oh, I could kill myself at the
very thought!— I listened to you! I took for love the trite phrases
you had used to dozens of other women; half by violence, half by ruse,
you became my lover. I do not know when—I do not know how. I try to
forget that horrible dream; and when, deluded by you, thinking that
what I felt for you was love, for I did think so, I imagined that I
had given myself for life to a man worthy of the deepest devotion,
ready for all sacrifices for me, as I felt myself to be for him; when
you had taken me, body and soul, I learn by what? by a trifling
conversation, by a chance, in a crowded ballroom—that, this Michel
Menko, whose name I was to bear, who was to be my husband; this Count
Menko, this man of honor, the one in whom I believed blindly, was
married! Married at Vienna, and had already given away the name on
which he traded! Oh, it is hideous!" And the Tzigana, whose whole
body was shuddering with horror, recoiled instinctively to the edge of
the divan as at the approach of some detested contact.
Michel, his face pale and convulsed, had listened to her with bowed
"All that you say is the truth, Marsa; but I will give my life, my
whole life, to expiate that lie!"
"There are infamies which are never effaced. There is no pardon
for him who has no excuse."
"No excuse? Yes, Marsa; I have one! I have one: I loved you!"
"And because you loved me, was it necessary for you to betray me,
lie to me, ruin me?"
"What could I do? I did not love the woman I had married; you
dawned on me like a beautiful vision; I wished, hoping I know not what
impossible future, to be near you, to make you love me, and I did not
dare to confess that I was not free. If I lied to you, it was because
I trembled at not being able to surround you with my devotion; it was
because I was afraid to lose your love, knowing that the adoration I
had for you would never die till my heart was cold and dead! Upon all
that is most sacred, I swear this to you! I swear it!"
He then recalled to her, while she sat rigid and motionless with an
expression of contempt and disdain upon her beautiful, proud lips,
their first meetings; that evening at Lady Brolway's, in Pau, where he
had met her for the first time; their conversation; the ineffaceable
impression produced upon him by her beauty; that winter season; the
walks they had taken together beneath the trees, which not a breath of
wind stirred; their excursions in the purple and gold valleys, with
the Pyrenees in the distance crowned with eternal snow. Did she not
remember their long talks upon the terrace, the evenings which felt
like spring, and that day when she had been nearly killed by a runaway
horse, and he had seized the animal by the bridle and saved her life?
Yes, he had loved her, loved her well; and it was because, possessing
her love, he feared, like a second Adam, to see himself driven out of
paradise, that he had hidden from Marsa the truth. If she had
questioned one of the Hungarians or Viennese, who were living at Pau,
she could doubtless have known that Count Menko, the first secretary
of the embassy of Austria-Hungary at Paris, had married the heiress of
one of the richest families of Prague; a pretty but unintelligent
girl, not understanding at all the character of her husband; detesting
Vienna and Paris, and gradually exacting from Menko that he should
live at Prague, near her family, whose ancient ideas and prejudices
and inordinate love of money displeased the young Hungarian. He was
left free to act as he pleased; his wife would willingly give up a
part of her dowry to regain her independence. It was only just, she
said insolently, that, having been mistaken as to the tastes of the
man she had married for reasons of convenience rather than of
inclination, she should pay for her stupidity. Pay! The word made
the blood mount to Menko's face. If he had not been rich, as he was,
he would have hewn stone to gain his daily bread rather than touch a
penny of her money. He shook off the yoke the obstinate daughter of
the Bohemian gentleman would have imposed upon him, and departed,
brusquely breaking a union in which both husband and wife so terribly
perceived their error.
Marsa might have known of all this if she had, for a moment,
doubted Menko's word. But how was she to suspect that the young Count
was capable of a lie or of concealing such a secret? Besides, she
knew hardly any one at Pau, as her physicians had forbidden her any
excitement; at the foot of the Pyrenees, she lived, as at Maisons-
Lafitte, an almost solitary life; and Michel Menko had been during
that winter, which he now recalled to Marsa, speaking of it as of a
lost Eden, her sole companion, the only guest of the house she
inhabited with Vogotzine in the neighborhood of the castle.
Poor Marsa, enthusiastic, inexperienced, her heart enamored with
chivalrous audacity, intrepid courage, all the many virtues which were
those of Hungary herself; Marsa, her mind imbued from her infancy with
the almost fantastic recitals of the war of independence, and later,
with her readings and reflections; Marsa, full of the stories of the
heroic past-must necessarily have been the dupe of the first being
who, coming into her life, was the personal representative of the
bravery and charm of her race. So, when she encountered one day
Michel Menko, she was invincibly attracted toward him by something
proud, brave, and chivalrous, which was characteristic of the manly
beauty of the young Hungarian. She was then twenty, very ignorant of
life, her great Oriental eyes seeing nothing of stern reality; but,
with all her gentleness, there was a species of Muscovite firmness
which was betrayed in the contour of her red lips. It was in vain
that sorrow had early made her a woman; Marsa remained ignorant of the
world, without any other guide than Vogotzine; suffering and languid,
she was fatally at the mercy of the first lie which should caress her
ear and stir her heart. From the first, therefore, she had loved
Michel; she had, as she herself said, believed that she loved him with
a love which would never end, a very ingenuous love, having neither
the silliness of a girl who has just left the convent, nor the
knowledge of a Parisienne whom the theatre and the newspapers have
instructed in all things. Michel, then, could give to this virgin and
pliable mind whatever bent he chose; and Marsa, pure as the snow and
brave as her own favorite heroes, became his without resistance, being
incapable of divining a treachery or fearing a lie. Michel Menko,
moreover, loved her madly; and he thought only of winning and keeping
the love of this incomparable maiden, exquisite in her combined
gentleness and pride. The folly of love mounted to his brain like
intoxication, and communicated itself to the poor girl who believed in
him as if he were the living faith; and, in the madness of his
passion, Michel, without being a coward, committed a cowardly action.
No: a coward he certainly was not. He was one of those nervous
natures, as prompt to hope as to despair, going to all extremes, at
times foolishly gay, and at others as grave and melancholy as Hamlet.
There were days when Menko did not value his life at a penny, and
when he asked himself seriously if suicide were not the simplest means
to reach the end; and again, at the least ray of sunshine, he became
sanguine and hopeful to excess. Of undoubted courage, he would have
faced the muzzle of a loaded cannon out of mere bravado, at the same
time wondering, with a sarcastic smile upon his lips, 'Cui bono'?
He sometimes called heroism a trick; and yet, in everyday life, he
had not much regard for tricksters. Excessively fond of movement,
activity, and excitement, he yet counted among his happiest days those
spent in long meditations and inactive dreams. He was a strange
combination of faults and good qualities, without egregious vices, but
all his virtues capable of being annihilated by passion, anger,
jealousy, or grief. With such a nature, everything was possible: the
sublimity of devotion, or a fall into the lowest infamy. He often
said, in self-analysis: "I am afraid of myself." In short, his
strength was like a house built upon sand; all, in a day, might
"If I had to choose the man I should prefer to be," he said once,
"I would be Prince Andras Zilah, because he knows neither my useless
discouragements, apropos of everything and nothing, nor my childish
delights, nor my hesitations, nor my confidence, which at times
approaches folly as my misanthropy approaches injustice; and because,
in my opinion, the supreme virtue in a man is firmness."
The Zilahs were connected by blood with the Menkos, and Prince
Andras was very fond of this young man, who promised to Hungary one of
those diplomats capable of wielding at once the pen and the sword, and
who in case of war, before drawing up a protocol, would have dictated
its terms, sabre in hand. Michel indeed stood high with his chief in
the embassy, and he was very much sought after in society. Before the
day he met Marsa, he had, to tell the truth, only experienced the most
trivial love- affairs.
He did not speak of his wife at Pau any more than he did on the
boulevards. She lived far away, in the old city of Prague, and
troubled Michel no more than if she had never existed. Perhaps he had
forgotten, really forgotten, with that faculty of forgetfulness which
belongs to the imaginative, that he was married, when he encountered
Marsa, the candid, pure-hearted girl, who did not reflect nor
calculate, but simply believed that she had met a man of honor.
So, what sudden revolt, humiliation, and hatred did the poor child
feel when she learned that the man in whom she had believed as in a
god had deceived her, lied to her! He was married. He had treated
her as the lowest of women; perhaps he had never even loved her! The
very thought made her long to kill herself, or him, or both. She,
unhappy, miserable woman, was ruined, ruined forever!
She had certainly never stopped to think where the love she had for
Michel would lead her. She thought of nothing except that Michel was
hers, and she was his, and she believed that their love would last
forever. She did not think that she had long to live, and her
existence seemed to her only a breath which any moment might cease.
Why had she not died before she knew that Menko had lied?
All deception seemed hideous to Marsa Laszlo, and this hideousness
she had discovered in the man to whom she had given herself, believing
in the eternity as well as in the loyalty of his love.
It was at a ball, at the English embassy, after her return from
Pau, that, while smiling and happy, she overheard between two
Viennese, strangers to her, this short dialogue, every word of which
was like a knife in her heart: "What a charming fellow that Menko is!"
"Yes; is his wife ugly or a humpback? or is he jealous as Othello?
She is never seen." "His wife! Is he married?" "Yes: he married a
Blavka, the daughter of Angel Blavka, of Prague. Didn't you know it?"
Marsa felt her head reel, and the sudden glance she cast at the
speakers silenced, almost terrified them. Half insane, she reached
home, she never knew how. The next day Michel Menko presented himself
at her apartments in the hotel where she was living; she ordered him
out of her presence, not allowing him to offer any excuse or
"You are married, and you are a coward!"
He threw himself at her knees, and implored her to listen to him.
"But our love, Marsa? For I love you, and you love me."
"I hate and scorn you. My love is dead. You have killed it. All
is over. Go! And let me never know that there exists a Michel Menko
in the world! Never! Never! Never!"
He felt his own cowardice and shame, and he disappeared, not daring
again to see the woman whose love haunted him, and who shut herself
away from the world more obstinately than ever. She left Paris, and
in the solitude of Maisons-Lafitte lived the life of a recluse, while
Michel tried in vain to forget the bitterness of his loss. The
Tzigana hoped that she was going to die, and bear away with her
forever the secret of her betrayal. But no; science had been
mistaken; the poor girl was destined to live. In spite of her sorrow
and anguish, her beauty blossomed in the shade, and she seemed each
day to grow more lovely, while her heart became more sad, and her
despair more poignant.
Then death, which would not take Marsa, came to another, and gave
Menko an opportunity to repair and efface all. He learned that his
wife had died suddenly at Prague, of a malady of the heart. This
death, which freed him, produced a strange effect upon him, not
unmingled with remorse. Poor woman! She had worthily borne his name,
after all. Unintelligent, cold, and wrapped up in her money, she had
never understood him; but, perhaps, if he had been more patient,
things might have gone better between them.
But no; Marsa was his one, his never-to-be-forgotten love. As soon
as he heard of his freedom, he wrote her a letter, telling her that he
was able now to dispose of his future as he would, imploring her to
pardon him, offering her not his love, since she repelled it, but his
name, which was her right—a debt of honor which he wished her to
acquit with the devotion of his life. Marsa answered simply with
these words: "I will never bear the name of a man I despise."
The wound made in her heart by Menko's lie was incurable; the
Tzigana would never forgive. He tried to see her again, confident
that, if he should be face to face with her, he could find words to
awaken the past and make it live again; but she obstinately refused to
see him, and, as she did not go into society, he never met her. Then
he cast himself, with a sort of frenzy, into the dissipation of Paris,
trying to forget, to forget at any cost: failing in this, he resigned
his position at the embassy, and went away to seek adventure, going to
fight in the Balkans against the Russians, only to return weary and
bored as he had departed, always invincibly and eternally haunted by
the image of Marsa, an image sad as a lost love, and grave as remorse.
CHAPTER XIII. "MY LETTERS OR MYSELF"
It was that past, that terrible past, which Michel Menko had dared
to come and speak of to the Tzigana. At first, she had grown crimson
with anger, as if at an insult; now, by a sudden opposite sentiment,
as she listened to him recalling those days, she felt an impression of
deadly pain as if an old wound had been reopened. Was it true that
all this had ever existed? Was it possible, even?
The man who had been her lover was speaking to her; he was speaking
to her of his love; and, if the terrible agony of memory had not
burned in her heart, she would have wondered whether this man before
her, this sort of stranger, had ever even touched her hand.
She waited, with the idle curiosity of a spectator who had no share
in the drama, for the end of Menko's odious argument: "I lied because
I loved you!"
He returned again and again, in the belief that women easily
forgive the ill-doing of which they are the cause, to that specious
plea, and Marsa asked herself, in amazement, what aberration had
possession of this man that he should even pretend to excuse his
"And is that," she said at last, "all that you have to say to me?
According to you, the thief has only to cry 'What could I do? I loved
that money, and so I stole it.' Ah," rising abruptly, "this interview
has lasted too long! Good-evening!"
She walked steadily toward the door; but Michel, hastening round
the other side of the table, barred her exit, speaking in a suppliant
tone, in which, however, there was a hidden threat:
"Marsa! Marsa, I implore you, do not marry Prince Andras! Do not
marry him if you do not wish some horrible tragedy to happen to you
"Really?" she retorted. "Do I understand that it is you who now
threaten to kill me?"
"I do not threaten; I entreat, Marsa. But you know all that there
is in me at times of madness and folly. I am almost insane: you know
it well. Have pity upon me! I love you as no woman was ever loved
before; I live only in you; and, if you should give yourself to
"Ah!" she said, interrupting him with a haughty gesture, "you speak
to me as if you had a right to dictate my actions. I have given you
my forgetfulness after giving you my love. That is enough, I think.
"I have hoped for a long time that I was forever delivered from
your presence. I commanded you to disappear. Why have you returned?"
"Because, after I saw you one evening at Baroness Dinati's (do you
remember? you spoke to the Prince for the first time that evening), I
learned, in London, of this marriage. If I have consented to live
away from you previously, it was because, although you were no longer
mine, you at least were no one else's; but I will not—pardon me, I
can not— endure the thought that your beauty, your grace, will be
another's. Think of the self-restraint I have placed upon myself!
Although living in Paris, I have not tried to see you again, Marsa,
since you drove me from your presence; it was by chance that I met you
at the Baroness's; but now—"
"It is another woman you have before you. A woman who ignores that
she has listened to your supplications, yielded to your prayers. It
is a woman who has forgotten you, who does not even know that a wretch
has abused her ignorance and her confidence, and who loves—who loves
as one loves for the first time, with a pure and holy devotion, the
man whose name she is to bear."
"That man I respect as honor itself. Had it been another, I should
already have struck him in the face. But you who accuse me of having
lied, are you going to lie to him, to him?"
Marsa became livid, and her eyes, hollow as those of a person sick
to death, flamed in the black circles which surrounded them.
"I have no answer to make to one who has no right to question me,"
she said. "But, should I have to pay with my life for the moment of
happiness I should feel in placing my hand in the hand of a hero, I
would grasp that moment!"
"Then," cried Menko, "you wish to push me to extremities! And yet
I have told you there are certain hours of feverish insanity in which
I am capable of committing a crime."
"I do not doubt it," replied the young girl, coldly. "But, in
fact, you have already done that. There is no crime lower than that
"There is one more terrible," retorted Michel Menko. "I have told
you that I loved you. I love you a hundred times more now than ever
before. Jealousy, anger, whatever sentiment you choose to call it,
makes my blood like fire in my veins! I see you again as you were. I
feel your kisses on my lips. I love you madly, passionately! Do you
understand, Marsa? Do you understand?" and he approached with
outstretched hands the Tzigana, whose frame was shaken with indignant
anger. "Do you understand? I love you still. I was your lover, and
I will, I will be so again."
"Ah, miserable coward!" cried the Tzigana, with a rapid glance
toward the daggers, before which stood Menko, preventing her from
advancing, and regarding her with eyes which burned with reckless
passion, wounded self- love, and torturing jealousy. "Yes, coward!"
she repeated, "coward, coward to dare to taunt me with an infamous
past and speak of a still more infamous future!"
"I love you!" exclaimed Menko again.
"Go!" she cried, crushing him with look and gesture. "Go! I
order you out of my presence, lackey! Go!"
All the spirit of the daughters of the puszta, the violent pride of
her Hungarian blood, flashed from her eyes; and Menko, fascinated,
gazed at her as if turned to stone, as she stood there magnificent in
her anger, superb in her contempt.
"Yes, I will go to-day," he said at last, "but tomorrow night I
shall come again, Marsa. As my dearest treasure, I have preserved the
key of that gate I opened once to meet you who were waiting for me in
the shadow of the trees. Have you forgotten that, also? You say you
have forgotten all."
And as he spoke, she saw again the long alley behind the villa,
ending in a small gate which, one evening after the return from Pau,
Michel opened, and came, as he said, to meet her waiting for him. It
was true. Yes, it was true. Menko did not lie this time! She had
waited for him there, two years before, unhappy girl that she was!
All that hideous love she had believed lay buried in Pau as in a
"Listen, Marsa," continued Menko, suddenly recovering, by a strong
effort of the will, his coolness, "I must see you once again, have one
more opportunity to plead my cause. The letters you wrote to me,
those dear letters which I have covered with my kisses and blistered
with my tears, those letters which I have kept despite your prayers
and your commands, those letters which have been my only
consolation—I will bring them to you to-morrow night. Do you
Her great eyes fixed, and her lips trembling horribly, Marsa made
"Do you understand me, Marsa?" he repeated, imploring and
threatening at once.
"Yes," she murmured at last.
She paused a moment; then a broken, feverish laugh burst from her
lips, and she continued, with stinging irony:
"Either my letters or myself! It is a bargain pure and simple!
Such a proposition has been made once before—it is historical—you
probably remember it. In that case, the woman killed herself. I
shall act otherwise, believe me!"
There was in her icy tones a threat, which gave pleasure to Michel
Menko. He vaguely divined a danger. "You mean?" he asked.
"I mean, you must never again appear before me. You must go to
London, to America; I don't care where. You must be dead to the one
you have cowardly betrayed. You must burn or keep those letters, it
little matters to me which; but you must still be honorable enough not
to use them as a weapon against me. This interview, which wearies
more than it angers me, must be the last. You must leave me to my
sorrows or my joys, without imagining that you could ever have
anything in common with a woman who despises you. You have crossed
the threshold of this house for the last time. Or, if not—Ah! if
not—I swear to you that I have energy enough and resolution enough to
defend myself alone, and alone to punish you! In your turn, you
understand me, I imagine?"
"Certainly," said Michel. "But you are too imprudent, Marsa. I am
not a man to make recoil by speaking of danger. Through the gate, or
over the wall if the gate is barricaded, I shall come to you again,
and you will have to listen to me."
The lip of the Tzigana curled disdainfully.
"I shall not even change the lock of that gate, and besides, the
large gate of the garden remains open these summer nights. You see
that you have only to come. But I warn you neither to unlock the one
nor to pass through the other. It is not I whom you will find at the
"Still, I am sure that it would be you, blarsa, if I should tell
you that to-morrow evening I shall be under the window of the pavilion
at the end of the garden, and that you must meet me there to receive
from my hand your letters, all your letters, which I shall bring you."
"Do you think so?"
"I am certain of it."
"Because you will reflect."
"I have had time to reflect. Give me another reason."
"Another reason is that you can not afford to leave such proofs in
my hands. I assure you that it would be folly to make of a man like
me, who would willingly die for you, an open and implacable enemy."
"I understand. A man like you would die willingly for a woman, but
he insults and threatens her, like the vilest of men, with a
punishment more cruel than death itself. Well! it matters little to
me. I shall not be in the pavilion where you have spoken to me of
your love, and I will have it torn down and the debris of it burned
within three days. I shall not await you. I shall never see you
again. I do not fear you. And I leave you the right of doing with
those letters what you please!"
Then, surveying him from head to foot, as if to measure the degree
of audacity to which he could attain, "Adieu!" she said.
"Au revoir!" he rejoined coldly, giving to the salutation an
emphasis full of hidden meaning.
The Tzigana stretched out her hand, and pulled a silken bellcord.
A servant appeared.
"Show this gentleman out," she said, very quietly.
CHAPTER XIV. "HAVE I THE RIGHT TO
Then the Tzigana,'s romance, in which she had put all her faith and
her belief, had ended, like a bad dream, she said to herself: "My life
What remained to her? Expiation? Forgetfulness?
She thought of the cloister and the life of prayer of those blue
sisters she saw under the trees of Maisons-Lafitte. She lived in the
solitude of her villa, remaining there during the winter in a
melancholy tete-a-tete with old Vogotzine, who was always more or less
under the effect of liquor. Then, as death would not take her, she
gradually began to go into Parisian society, slowly forgetting the
past, and the folly which she had taken for love little by little
faded mistily away. It was like a recovery from an illness, or the
disappearance of a nightmare in the dawn of morning. Now, Marsa
Laszlo, who, two years before, had longed for annihilation and death,
occasionally thought the little Baroness Dinati right when she said,
in her laughing voice: "What are you thinking of, my dear child? Is
it well for a girl of your age to bury herself voluntarily and avoid
society?" She was then twenty-four: in three or four years she had
aged mentally ten; but her beautiful oval face had remained unchanged,
with the purity of outline of a Byzantine Madonna.
Then—life has its awakenings—she met Prince Andras: all her
admirations as a girl, her worship of patriotism and heroism, flamed
forth anew; her heart, which she had thought dead, throbbed, as it had
never throbbed before, at the sound of the voice of this man, truly
loyal, strong and gentle, and who was (she knew it well, the unhappy
girl!) the being for whom she was created, the ideal of her dreams.
She loved him silently, but with a deep and eternal passion; she
loved him without saying to herself that she no longer had any right
to love. Did she even think of her past? Does one longer think of
the storm when the wind has driven off the heavy, tear-laden clouds,
and the thunder has died away in the distance? It seemed to her now
that she had never had but one name in her heart, and upon her
And then this man, this hero, her hero, asked her hand, and said to
her, "I love you."
Andras loved her! With what a terrible contraction of the heart
did she put to herself the formidable question: "Have I the right to
lie? Shall I have the courage to confess?"
She held in her grasp the most perfect happiness a woman could hope
for, the dream of her whole life; and, because a worthless scoundrel
had deceived her, because there were, in her past, hours which she
remembered only to curse, effaced hours, hours which appeared to her
now never to have existed, was she obliged to ruin her life, to break
her heart, and, herself the victim, to pay for the lie uttered by a
coward? Was it right? Was it just? Was she to be forever bound to
that past, like a corpse to its grave? What! She had no longer the
right to love? no longer the right to live?
She adored Andras; she would have given her life for him. And he
also loved her; she was the first woman who had ever touched his
heart. He had evidently felt himself isolated, with his old
chivalrous ideas, in a world devoted to the worship of low things,
tangible successes, and profitable realities. He was, so to speak, a
living anachronism in the midst of a society which had faith in
nothing except victorious brutalities, and which marched on, crushing,
beneath its iron-shod heels, the hopes and visions of the
enthusiastic. He recalled those evenings after a battle when, in the
woods reddened by the setting sun, his father and Varhely said to him:
"Let us remain to the last, and protect the retreat!" And it seemed
to him that, amid the bestialities of the moment and the vulgarities
of the century, he still protected the retreat of misunderstood
virtues and generous enthusiasms; and it pleased him to be the rear
guard of chivalry in defeat.
He shut himself up obstinately in his isolation, like Marsa in her
solitude; and he did not consider himself ridiculously absurd or
foolishly romantic, when he remembered that his countrymen, the
Hungarians, were the only people, perhaps, who, in the abasement of
all Europe before the brutality of triumph and omnipotent pessimism,
had preserved their traditions of idealism, chivalry, and faith in the
old honor; the Hungarian nationality was also the only one which had
conquered its conquerors by its virtues, its persistence in its hopes,
its courage, its contempt of all baseness, its extraordinary heroism,
and had finally imposed its law upon Austria, bearing away the old
empire as on the croup of its horse toward the vast plains of liberty.
The ideal would, therefore, have its moments of victory: an entire
people proved it in history.
"Let this world boast," said Andras, "of the delights of its
villainy, and grovel in all that is low and base. Life is not worth
living unless the air one breathes is pure and free! Man is not the
brother of swine!"
And these same ideas, this same faith, this same dreamy nature and
longing for all that is generous and brave, he suddenly found again in
the heart of Marsa. She represented to him a new and happy existence.
Yes, he thought, she would render him happy; she would understand him,
aid him, surround him with the fondest love that man could desire.
And she, also, thinking of him, felt herself capable of any
sacrifice. Who could tell? Perhaps the day would come when it would
be necessary to fight again; then she would follow him, and interpose
her breast between him and the balls. What happiness to die in saving
him! But, no, no! To live loving him, making him happy, was her duty
now; and was it necessary to renounce this delight because hated
kisses had once soiled her lips? No, she could not! And yet—and
yet, strict honor whispered to Marsa, that she should say No to the
Prince; she had no right to his love.
But, if she should reject Andras, he would die, Varhely had said
it. She would then slay two beings, Andras and herself, with a single
word. She! She did not count! But he! And yet she must speak. But
why speak? Was it really true that she had ever loved another? Who
was it? The one whom she worshipped with all her heart, with all the
fibres of her being, was Andras! Oh, to be free to love him! Marsa's
sole hope and thought were now to win, some day, forgiveness for
having said nothing by the most absolute devotion that man had ever
encountered. Thinking continually these same thoughts, always putting
off taking a decision till the morrow, fearing to break both his heart
and hers, the Tzigana let the time slip by until the day came when the
fete in celebration of her betrothal was to take place. And on that
very day Michel Menko appeared before her, not abashed, but
threatening. Her dream of happiness ended in this reality—Menko
saying: "You have been mine; you shall be mine again, or you are
Lost! And how?
With cold resolution, Marsa Laszlo asked herself this question,
terrible as a question of life or death:
"What would the Prince do, if, after I became his wife, he should
learn the truth?"
"What would he do? He would kill me," thought the Tzigana. "He
would kill me. So much the better!" It was a sort of a bargain which
she proposed to herself, and which her overwhelming love dictated.
"To be his wife, and with my life to pay for that moment of
happiness! If I should speak now, he would fly from me, I should never
see him again—and I love him. Well, I sacrifice what remains to me
of existence to be happy for one short hour!" She grew to think that
she had a right thus to give her life for her love, to belong to
Andras, to be the wife of that hero if only for a day, and to die
then, to die saying to him: "I was unworthy of you, but I loved you;
here, strike!" Or rather to say nothing, to be loved, to take opium
or digitalis, and to fall asleep with this last supremely happy
thought: "I am his wife, and he loves me!" What power in the world
could prevent her from realizing her dream? Would she resemble Michel
in lying thus? No; since she would immediately sacrifice herself
without hesitation, with joy, for the honor of her husband.
"Yes, my life against his love. I shall be his wife and die!"
She did not think that, in sacrificing her life, she would condemn
Zilah to death. Or rather, with one of those subterfuges by which we
voluntarily deceive ourselves, she thought: "He will be consoled for
my death, if he ever learns what I was." But why should he ever learn
it? She would take care to die so that it should be thought an
Marsa's resolve was taken. She had contracted a debt, and she
would pay it with her blood. Michel now mattered little to her, let
him do what he would. The young man's threat: "To-morrow night!"
returned to her mind without affecting her in the least. The
contemptuous curl of her lip seemed silently to brave Michel Menko.
In all this there was a different manifestation of her double
nature: in her love for Andras and her longing to become his wife, the
blood of the Tzigana, her mother, spoke; Prince Tchereteff, the
Russian, on the other hand, revived in her silent, cold bravado.
She lay down to rest, still feverish from the struggle, and worn
out, slept till morning, to awaken calm, languid, but almost happy.
She passed the whole of the following day in the garden, wondering
at times if the appearance of Menko and his tomorrow were not a dream,
a nightmare. Tomorrow? That was to-day.
"Yes, yes, he will come! He is quite capable of coming," she
She despised him enough to believe that he would dare, this time,
to keep his word.
Lying back in a low wicker chair, beneath a large oak, whose trunk
was wreathed with ivy, she read or thought the hours away. A Russian
belt, enamelled with gold and silver, held together her trailing white
robes of India muslin, trimmed with Valenciennes, and a narrow scarlet
ribbon encircled her throat like a line of blood. The sunlight,
filtering through the leaves, flickered upon her dress and clear, dark
cheeks, while, near by, a bush of yellow roses flung its fragrance
upon the air. The only sound in the garden was the gentle rustle of
the trees, which recalled to her the distant murmur of the sea.
Gradually she entirely forgot Michel, and thought only of the happy
moments of the previous day, of the boat floating down the Seine past
the silvery willows on the banks of the sparkling water, of the good
people on the barge calling out to her, "Be happy! be happy!" and
the little children throwing smiling kisses to her.
A gentle languor enveloped the warm, sunny garden. Old Sol poured
his golden light down upon the emerald turf, the leafy trees, the
brilliant flowerbeds and the white walls of the villa. Under the
green arch of the trees, where luminous insects, white and
flame-colored butterflies, aimlessly chased one another, Marsa half
slumbered in a sort of voluptuous oblivion, a happy calm, in that
species of nirvana which the open air of summer brings. She felt
herself far away from the entire world in that corner of verdure, and
abandoned herself to childish hopes and dreams, in profound enjoyment
of the beautiful day.
The Baroness Dinati came during the afternoon to see Marsa; she
fluttered out into the garden, dressed in a clinging gown of some
light, fluffy material, with a red umbrella over her head; and upon
her tiny feet, of all things in the world, ebony sabots, bearing her
monogram in silver upon the instep. It was a short visit, made up of
the chatter and gossip of Paris. Little Jacquemin's article upon
Prince Zilah's nautical fete had created a furore. That little
Jacquemin was a charming fellow; Marsa knew him. No! Really? What!
she didn't know Jacquemin of 'L'Actualite'? Oh! but she must invite
him to the wedding, he would write about it, he wrote about
everything; he was very well informed, was Jacquemin, on every
subject, even on the fashions.
"Look! It was he who told me that these sabots were to be worn.
The miserable things nearly mademe break my neck when I entered the
carriage; but they are something new. They attract attention.
Everybody says, What are they? And when one has pretty feet, not too
large, you know," etc., etc.
She rattled on, moistening her pretty red lips with a lemonade, and
nibbling a cake, and then hastily departed just as Prince Andras's
carriage stopped before the gate. The Baroness waved her hand to him
with a gay smile, crying out:
"I will not take even a minute of your time. You have to-day
something pleasanter to do than to occupy yourself with poor,
Marsa experienced the greatest delight in seeing Andras, and
listening to the low, tender accents of his voice; she felt herself to
be loved and protected. She gave herself up to boundless hopes—she,
who had before her, perhaps, only a few days of life. She felt
perfectly happy near Andras; and it seemed to her that to-day his
manner was tenderer, the tones of his voice more caressing, than
"I was right to believe in chimeras," he said, "since all that I
longed for at twenty years is realized to-day. Very often, dear
Marsa, when I used to feel sad and discouraged, I wondered whether my
life lay behind me. But I was longing for you, that was all. I knew
instinctively that there existed an exquisite woman, born for me, my
wife—my wife! and I waited for you."
He took her hands, and gazed upon her face with a look of infinite
"And suppose that you had not found me?" she asked.
"I should have continued to drag out a weary existence. Ask
Varhely what I have told him of my life."
Marsa felt her heart sink within her; but she forced herself to
smile. All that Varhely had said to her returned to her mind. Yes,
Zilah had staked his very existence upon her love. To drag aside the
veil from his illusion would be like tearing away the bandages from a
wound. Decidedly, the resolution she had taken was the best one—to
say nothing, but, in the black silence of suicide, which would be at
once a deliverance and a punishment, to disappear, leaving to Zilah
only a memory.
But why not die now? Ah ! why? why? To this eternal question
Marsa made reply, that, for deceiving him by becoming his wife, she
would pay with her life. A kiss, then death. In deciding to act a
lie, she condemned herself. She only sought to give to her death the
appearance of an accident, not wishing to leave to Andras the double
memory of a treachery and a crime.
She listened to the Prince as he spoke of the future, of all the
happiness of their common existence. She listened as if her
resolution to die had not been taken, and as if Zilah was promising
her, not a minute, but an eternity, of joy.
General Vogotzine and Marsa accompanied the Prince to the station,
he having come to Maisons by the railway. The Tzigana's Danish hounds
went with them, bounding about Andras, and licking his hands as he
"They already know the master," laughed Vogotzine. "I have rarely
seen such gentle animals," remarked the Prince.
"Gentle? That depends!" said Marsa.
After separating from the Prince, she returned, silent and
abstracted, with Vogotzine. She saw Andras depart with a mournful
sadness, and a sudden longing to have him stay—to protect her, to
defend her, to be there if Michel should come.
It was already growing dark when they reached home. Marsa ate but
little at dinner, and left Vogotzine alone to finish his wine.
Later, the General came, as usual, to bid his niece goodnight. He
found Marsa lying upon the divan in the little salon.
"Don't you feel well? What is the matter?"
"I feel a little tired, and I was going to bed. You don't care to
have me keep you company, do you, my dear?"
Sometimes he was affectionate to her, and sometimes he addressed
her with timid respect; but Marsa never appeared to notice the
"I prefer to remain alone," she answered.
The General shrugged his shoulders, bent over, took Marsa's
delicate hand in his, and kissed it as he would have kissed that of a
Left alone, Marsa lay there motionless for more than an hour. Then
she started suddenly, hearing the clock strike eleven, and rose at
The domestics had closed the house. She went out by a back door
which was used by the servants, the key of which was in the lock.
She crossed the garden, beneath the dark shadows of the trees, with
a slow, mechanical movement, like that of a somnambulist, and
proceeded to the kennel, where the great Danish hounds and the
colossus of the Himalayas were baying, and rattling their chains.
"Peace, Ortog! Silence, Duna!"
At the sound of her voice, the noise ceased as by enchantment.
She pushed open the door of the kennel, entered, and caressed the
heads of the dogs, as they placed their paws upon her shoulders. Then
she unfastened their chains, and in a clear, vibrating voice, said to
She saw them bound out, run over the lawn, and dash into the
bushes, appearing and disappearing like great, fantastic shadows, in
the pale moonlight. Then, slowly, and with the Muscovite indifference
which her father, Prince Tchereteff, might have displayed when
ordering a spy or a traitor to be shot, she retraced her steps to the
house, where all seemed to sleep, murmuring, with cold irony, in a
sort of impersonal affirmation, as if she were thinking not of
herself, but of another:
"Now, I hope that Prince Zilah's fiancee is well guarded!"
CHAPTER XV. "AS CLINGS THE LEAF UNTO
Michel Menko was alone in the little house he had hired in Paris,
in the Rue d'Aumale. He had ordered his coachman to have his coupe in
readiness for the evening. "Take Trilby," he said. "He is a better
horse than Jack, and we have a long distance to go; and take some
coverings for yourself, Pierre. Until this evening, I am at home to
The summer day passed very slowly for him in the suspense of
waiting. He opened and read the letters of which he had spoken to
Marsa the evening before; they always affected him like a poison, to
which he returned again and again with a morbid desire for fresh
suffering—love-letters, the exchange of vows now borne away as by a
whirlwind, but which revived in Michel's mind happy hours, the only
hours of his life in which he had really lived, perhaps. These
letters, dated from Pau, burned him like a live coal as he read them.
They still retained a subtle perfume, a fugitive aroma, which had
survived their love, and which brought Marsa vividly before his eyes.
Then, his heart bursting with jealousy and rage, he threw the package
into the drawer from which he had taken it, and mechanically picked
up a volume of De Musset, opening to some page which recalled his own
suffering. Casting this aside, he took up another book, and his eyes
fell upon the passionate verses of the soldier-poet, Petoefi,
addressed to his Etelka:
Thou lovest me not? What matters it?
My soul is linked to thine,
As clings the leaf unto the tree:
Cold winter comes; it falls; let be!
So I for thee will pine. My fate pursues me to the tomb.
Thou fliest? Even in its gloom
Thou art not free.
What follows in thy steps? Thy shade?
Ah, no! my soul in pain, sweet maid,
E'er watches thee.
"My soul is linked to thine, as clings the leaf unto the tree!"
Michel repeated the lines with a sort of defiance in his look, and
longed impatiently and nervously for the day to end.
A rapid flush of anger mounted to his face as his valet entered
with a card upon a salver, and he exclaimed, harshly:
"Did not Pierre give you my orders that I would receive no one?"
"I beg your pardon, Monsieur; but Monsieur Labanoff insisted so
"Labanoff?" repeated Michel.
"Monsieur Labanoff, who leaves Paris this evening, and desires to
see Monsieur before his departure."
The name of Labanoff recalled to Michel an old friend whom he had
met in all parts of Europe, and whom he had not seen for a long time.
He liked him exceedingly for a sort of odd pessimism of aggressive
philosophy, a species of mysticism mingled with bitterness, which
Labanoff took no pains to conceal. The young Hungarian had, perhaps,
among the men of his own age, no other friend in the world than this
Russian with odd ideas, whose enigmatical smile puzzled and interested
He looked at the clock. Labanoff's visit might make the time pass
"Admit Monsieur Labanoff!"
In a few moments Labanoff entered. He was a tall, thin young man,
with a complexion the color of wax, flashing eyes, and a little
pointed mustache. His hair, black and curly, was brushed straight up
from his forehead. He had the air of a soldier in his long, closely
It was many months since these two men had met; but they had been
long bound together by a powerful sympathy, born of quiet talks and
confidences, in which each had told the other of similar sufferings.
A long deferred secret hope troubled Labanoff as the memory of Marsa
devoured Menko; and they had many times exchanged dismal theories upon
the world, life, men, and laws. Their common bitterness united them.
And Michel received Labanoff, despite his resolution to receive no
one, because he was certain that he should find in him the same
suffering as that expressed by De Musset and Petoefi.
Labanoff, to-day, appeared to him more enigmatical and gloomy than
ever. From the lips of the Russian fell only words of almost tragical
Menko made him sit down by his side upon a divan, and he noticed
that an extraordinary fever seemed to burn in the blue eyes of his
"I learned that you had returned from London," said Labanoff; "and,
as I was leaving Paris, I wished to see you before my departure. It
is possible that we may never see each other again."
"I am going to St. Petersburg on pressing business."
"Have you finished your studies in Paris?"
"Oh! I had already received my medical diploma when I came here. I
have been living in Paris only to be more at my ease to pursue—a
project which interests me."
Menko asked the question mechanicaljy, feeling very little
curiosity to know Labanoff's secret; but the Russian's face wore a
strange, ironical smile as he answered:
"I have nothing to say on that subject, even to the man for whom I
have the most regard."
His brilliant eyes seemed to see strange visions before them. He
remained silent for a moment, and then rose with an abrupt movement.
"There," he said, "that is all I had to tell you, my dear Menko.
Now, 'au revoir', or rather, good-by; for, as I said before, I shall
probably never see you again."
"And why, pray?"
"Oh! I don't know; it is an idea of mine. And then, my beloved
Russia is such a strange country. Death comes quickly there."
He had still upon his lips that inexplicable smile, jesting and sad
Menko grasped the long, white hand extended to him.
"My dear Labanoff, it is not difficult to guess that you are going
on some dangerous errand." Smiling: "I will not do you the injustice
to believe you a nihilist."
Labanoff's blue eyes flashed.
No," he said, "no, I am not a nihilist. Annihilation is absurd;
but liberty is a fine thing!"
He stopped short, as if he feared that he had already said too
"Adieu, my dear Menko."
The Hungarian detained him with a gesture, saying, with a tremble
in his voice:
"Labanoff! You have found me when a crisis in my life is also
impending. I am about, like yourself, to commit a great folly; a
different one from yours, no doubt. However, I have no right to tell
you that you are about to commit some folly."
"No," calmly replied the Russian, very pale, but still smiling, "it
is not a folly."
"But it is a danger?" queried Menko.
Labanoff made no reply.
"I do not know either," said Michel, "how my affair will end. But,
since chance has brought us together today, face to face—"
"It was not chance, but my own firm resolution to see you again
before my departure."
"I know what your friendship for me is, and it is for that reason
that I ask you to tell me frankly where you will be in a month."
"In a month?" repeated Labanoff.
"Give me the route you are going to take? Shall you be a fixture
at St. Petersburg?"
"Not immediately," responded the Russian, slowly, his gaze riveted
upon Menko. "In a month I shall still be at Warsaw. At St.
Petersburg the month after."
"Thanks. I only ask you to let me know, in some way, where you
"Because, I should like to join you."
"It is only a fancy," said Menko, with an attempt at a laugh. "I
am bored with life—you know it; I find it a nuisance. If we did not
spur it like an old, musty horse, it would give us the same idiotic
round of days. I do not know—I do not wish to know—why you are
going to Russia, and what this final farewell of which you have just
spoken signifies; I simply guess that you are off on some adventure,
and it is possible that I may ask you to allow me to share it."
"Why?" said Labanoff, coldly. "You are not a Russian."
Menko smiled, and, placing his hands upon the thin shoulders of his
friend, he said:
"Those words reveal many things. It is well that they were not
said before an agent of police."
"Yes," responded Labanoff, firmly. "But I am not in the habit of
recklessly uttering my thoughts; I know that I am speaking now to
"And Count Menko will be delighted, my dear Labanoff, if you will
let him know where, in Poland or Russia, he must go, soon, to obtain
news of you. Fear nothing: neither there nor here will I question you.
But I shall be curious to know what has become of you, and you know
that I have enough friendship for you to be uneasy about you.
Besides, I long to be on the move; Paris, London, the world, in
short, bores me, bores me, bores me!"
"The fact is, it is stupid, egotistical and cowardly," responded
He again held out to Menko his nervous hand, burning, like his blue
eyes, with fever.
"Farewell!" he said.
"No, no, 'au revoir'!"
"'Au revoir' be it then. I will let you know what has become of
"And where you are?"
"And where I am."
"And do not be astonished if I join you some fine morning."
"Nothing ever astonishes me," said the Russian. "Nothing!"
And in that word nothing were expressed profound disgust with life
and fierce contempt of death.
Menko warmly grasped his friend's thin and emaciated hand; and, the
last farewell spoken to the fanatic departing for some tragical
adventure, the Hungarian became more sombre and troubled than before,
and Labanoff's appearance seemed like a doubtful apparition. He
returned to his longing to see the end of the most anxious day of his
At last, late in the evening, Michel entered his coupe, and was
driven away-down the Rue d'Aumale, through the Rue Pigalle and the Rue
de Douai, to the rondpoint of the Place Clichy, the two lanterns
casting their clear light into the obscurity. The coupe then took the
road to Maisons- Lafitte, crossing the plain and skirting wheat-fields
and vineyards, with the towering silhouette of Mont Valerien on the
left, and on the right, sharply defined against the sky, a long line
of hills, dotted with woods and villas, and with little villages
nestling at their base, all plunged in a mysterious shadow.
Michel, with absent eyes, gazed at all this, as Trilby rapidly
trotted on. He was thinking of what lay before him, of the folly he
was about to commit, as he had said to Labanoff. It was a folly; and
yet, who could tell? Might not Marsa have reflected? Might she not;
alarmed at his threats, be now awaiting him? Her exquisite face, like
a lily, rose before him; an overwhelming desire to annihilate time and
space took possession of him, and he longed to be standing, key in
hand, before the little gate in the garden wall.
He was well acquainted with the great park of Maisons-Lafitte, with
the white villas nestling among the trees. On one side Prince
Tchereteff's house looked out upon an almost desert tract of land, on
which a racecourse had been mapped out; and on the other extended with
the stables and servants' quarters to the forest, the wall of the
Avenue Lafitte bounding the garden. In front of the villa was a broad
lawn, ending in a low wall with carved gates, allowing, through the
branches of the oaks and chestnuts, a view of the hills of Cormeilles.
After crossing the bridge of Sartrouville, Michel ordered his
coachman to drive to the corner of the Avenue Corneille, where he
alighted in the shadow of a clump of trees.
"You will wait here, Pierre," he said, "and don't stir till I
He walked past the sleeping houses, under the mysterious alleys of
the trees, until he reached the broad avenue which, cutting the park
in two, ran from the station to the forest. The alley that he was
seeking descended between two rows of tall, thick trees, forming an
arch overhead, making it deliciously cool and shady in the daytime,
but now looking like a deep hole, black as a tunnel. Pushing his way
through the trees and bushes, and brushing aside the branches of the
acacias, the leaves of which fell in showers about him, Michel reached
an old wall, the white stones of which were overgrown with ivy.
Behind the wall the wind rustled amid the pines and oaks like the
vague murmur of a coming storm. And there, at the end of the narrow
path, half hidden by the ivy, was the little gate he was seeking. He
cautiously brushed aside the leaves and felt for the keyhole; but,
just as he was about to insert the key, which burned in his feverish
fingers, he stopped short.
Was Marsa awaiting him? Would she not call for help, drive him
forth, treat him like a thief?
Suppose the gate was barred from within? He looked at the wall,
and saw that by clinging to the ivy he could reach the top. He had
not come here to hesitate. No, a hundred times no!
Besides, Marsa was certainly there, trembling, fearful, cursing him
perhaps, but still there.
"No," he murmured aloud in the silence, "were even death behind
that gate, I would not recoil."
CHAPTER XVI. "IT IS A MAN THEY ARE
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"Great heavens! Where have you been?" he exclaimed. "You have
"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
CHAPTER XVIII. "THERE IS NO NEED OF
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
"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."
"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
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.
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
"I will leave you to finish dressing, my dear," he said, after a
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
She gently disengaged herself from his embrace, with a shivering
sigh; and, going slowly toward the door, she turned, and threw him a
"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
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,
"What is it, Marsa? What is the matter?"
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
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,
"One would think that it was this which troubled you!"
"O Prince! I swear to you!—"
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
"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!"
"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
"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
Suddenly he leaned over, seized her by the wrists, and raised her
"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
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.
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"I do not know!"
Vogotzine, who had become purple, seized the doctor's arm
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"To live hereafter an absolutely selfish life!"
"That will change you," returned the General, in amazement.
"And will console me," added Andras.
CHAPTER XXIV. A LITTLE PARISIAN
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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 MoldoWallachian (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
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 Caf‚ 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
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
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
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
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
"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."
"With whoever insults me. The name is perfectly immaterial. But
since he escapes me and she is irresponsible—and punished—I regard
as an accomplice of their infamy any man who makes allusion to it with
either tongue or pen. And, my dear Varhely, I wish to act alone.
Don't be angry; I know that in your hands my honor would be as
faithfully guarded as in my own."
"Without any doubt," said Varhely, in an odd tone, pulling his
rough moustache, "and I hope to prove it to you some day."
CHAPTER XXV. THE HOME OF "PUCK"
Prince Zilah did not observe at all the marked significance old
Yanski gave to this last speech. He shook Varhely's hand, entered a
cab, and, casting a glance at the journal in his hands, he ordered the
coachman to drive to the office of 'L'Actualite', Rue Halevy, near the
The society journal, whose aim was represented by its title, had
its quarters on the third floor in that semi-English section where
bars, excursion agencies, steamboat offices, and manufacturers of
travelling- bags give to the streets a sort of Britannic aspect. The
office of 'L'Actualite' had only recently been established there.
Prince Zilch read the number of the room upon a brass sign and went
In the outer office there were only two or three clerks at work
behind the grating. None of these had the right to reveal the names
hidden under pseudonyms; they did not even know them. Zilch
perceived, through an open door, the reporters' room, furnished with a
long table covered with pens, ink, and pads of white paper. This room
was empty; the journal was made up in the evening, and the reporters
"Is there any one who can answer me?" asked the Prince.
"Probably the secretary can," replied a clerk. "Have you a card,
Monsieur? or, if you will write your name upon a bit of paper, it
Andras did so; the clerk opened a door in the corridor and
disappeared. After a minute or two he reappeared, and said to the
"If you will follow me, Monsieur Freminwill see you."
Andras found himself in the presence of a pleasant-looking
middle-aged man, who was writing at a modest desk when the Hungarian
entered, and who bowed politely, motioning him to be seated.
As Zilch sat down upon the sofa, there appeared upon the threshold
of a door, opposite the one by which he had entered, a small, dark,
elegantly dressed young man, whom Andras vaguely remembered to have
seen somewhere, he could not tell where. The newcomer was
irreproachable in his appearance, with his clothes built in the latest
fashion, snowy linen, pale gray gloves, silver-headed cane, and a
single eyeglass, dangling from a silken cord.
He bowed to Zilch, and, going up to the secretary, he said,
"Well! since Tourillon is away, I will report the Enghien races.
I am going there now. Enghien isn't highly diverting, though. The
swells and the pretty women so rarely go there; they don't affect
Enghien any more. But duty before everything, eh, Fremin?"
"You will have to hurry," said Fremin, looking at his watch, "or
you will miss your train."
"Oh! I have a carriage below."
He clapped his confrere on the shoulder, bowed again to Zilah, and
hurried away, while Fremin, turning to the Prince, said:
"I am at your service, Monsieur," and waited for him to open the
Zilah drew from his pocket the copy of L'Actualite, and said, very
"I should like to know, Monsieur, who is meant in this article
And, folding the paper, with the passage which concerned him
uppermost, he handed it to the secretary.
Fremin glanced at the article.
"Yes, I have seen this paragraph," he said; "but I am entirely
ignorant to whom it alludes. I am not even certain that it is not a
fabrication, invented out of whole cloth."
"Ah!" said Zilah. "The author of the article would know, I
"It is highly probable," replied Fremin, with a smile.
"Will you tell me, then, the name of the person who wrote this?"
"Isn't the article signed?"
"It is signed Puck. That is not a name."
"A pseudonym is a name in literature," said Fremin. "I am of the
opinion, however, that one has always the right to demand to see a
face which is covered by a mask. But the person who makes this demand
should be personally interested. Does this story, to which you have
called my attention, concern you, Monsieur?"
"Suppose, Monsieur," answered Zilah, a little disconcerted, for he
perceived that he had to do with a courteous, well-bred man, "suppose
that the man who is mentioned, or rather insulted, here, were my best
friend. I wish to demand an explanation of the person who wrote this
article, and to know, also, if it was really a journalist who composed
"I mean that there may be people interested in having such an
article published, and I wish to know who they are."
"You are perfectly justified, Monsieur; but only one person can
tell you that—the writer of the article."
"It is for that reason, Monsieur, that I desire to know his name."
"He does not conceal it," said Fr6min. "The pseudonym is only
designed as a stimulant to curiosity; but Puck is a corporeal being."
"I am glad to hear it," said Zilah. "Now, will you be kind enough
to give me his name?"
Zilah knew the name well, having seen it at the end of a report of
his river fete; but he hardly thought Jacquemin could be so well
informed. Since he had lived in France, the Hungarian exile had not
been accustomed to regard Paris as a sort of gossiping village, where
everything is found out, talked over, and commented upon with eager
curiosity, and where every one's aim is to appear to have the best and
most correct information.
"I must ask you now, Monsieur, where Monsieur Paul Jacquemin
"Rue Rochechouart, at the corner of the Rue de la Tour d'Auvergne."
"Thank you, Monsieur," said Andras, rising, the object of his call
having been accomplished.
"One moment," said Fremin, "if you intend to go at once to Monsieur
Jacquemin's house, you will not find him at home just now."
"Because you saw him here a few minutes ago, and he is now on his
way to Enghien."
"Indeed!" said the Prince. "Very well, I will wait."
He bade farewell to Fremin, who accompanied him to the door; and,
when seated in his carriage, he read again the paragraph of Puck—that
Puck, who, in the course of the same article, referred many times to
the brilliancy of "our colleague Jacquemin," and complacently cited
the witticisms of "our clever friend Jacquemin."
Zilah remembered this Jacquemin now. It was he whom he had seen
taking notes upon the parapet of the quay, and afterward at the
wedding, where he had been brought by the Baroness Dinati. It was
Jacquemin who was such a favorite with the little Baroness; who was
one of the licensed distributors of celebrity and quasi-celebrity for
all those who live upon gossip and for gossip-great ladies who love to
see their names in print, and actresses wild over a new role; who was
one of the chroniclers of fashion, received everywhere, flattered,
caressed, petted; whom the Prince had just seen, very elegant with his
stick and eyeglass, and his careless, disdainful air; and who had
said, like a man accustomed to every magnificence, fatigued with
luxury, blase with pleasure, and caring only for what is truly pschutt
(to use the latest slang): "Pretty women so rarely go there!"
Zilah thought that, as the Baroness had a particular predilection
for Jacquemin, it was perhaps she, who, in her gay chatter, had
related the story to the reporter, and who, without knowing it
probably, assuredly without wishing it, had furnished an article for
'L'Actualite'. In all honor, Jacquemin was really the spoiled child
of the Baroness, the director of the entertainments at her house.
With a little more conceit, Jacquemin, who was by no means lacking in
that quality, however, might have believed that the pretty little
woman was in love with him. The truth is, the Baroness Dinati was
only in love with the reporter's articles, those society articles in
which he never forgot her, but paid, with a string of printed
compliments, for his champagne and truffles.
"And yet," thought Zilah, "no, upon reflection, I am certain that
the Baroness had nothing to do with this outrage. Neither with
intention nor through imprudence would she have given any of these
details to this man."
Now that the Prince knew his real name, he might have sent to
Monsieur Puck, Varhely, and another of his friends. Jacquemin would
then give an explanation; for of reparation Zilah thought little. And
yet, full of anger, and not having Menko before him, he longed to
punish some one; he wished, that, having been made to suffer so
himself, some one should expiate his pain. He would chastise this
butterfly reporter, who had dared to interfere with his affairs, and
wreak his vengeance upon him as if he were the coward who had fled.
And, besides, who knew, after all, if this Jacquemin were not the
confidant of Menko? Varhely would not have recognized in the Prince
the generous Zilah of former times, full of pity, and ready to forgive
Andras could not meet Jacquemin that day, unless he waited for him
at the office of 'L'Actualite' until the races were over, and he
therefore postponed his intended interview until the next day.
About eleven o'clock in the morning, after a sleepless night, he
sought- the Rue Rochechouart, and the house Fremin had described to
him. It was there: an old weather-beaten house, with a narrow
entrance and a corridor, in the middle of which flowed a dirty,
foul-smelling stream of water; the room of the concierge looked like a
black hole at the foot of the staircase, the balusters and walls of
which were wet with moisture and streaked with dirt; a house of poor
working-people, many stories high, and built in the time when this
quarter of Paris was almost a suburb.
Andras hesitated at first to enter, thinking that he must be
mistaken. He thought of little Jacquemin, dainty and neat as if he had
just stepped out of a bandbox, and his disdainful remarks upon the
races of Enghien, where the swells no longer went. It was not
possible that he lived here in this wretched, shabby place.
The concierge replied to the Prince, however, when he asked for
Jacquemin: "Yes, Monsieur, on the fifth floor, the door to the right;"
and Zilah mounted the dark stairs.
When he reached the fifth floor, he did not yet believe it possible
that the Jacquemin who lived there was the one he had seen the day
before, the one whom Baroness Dinati petted, "our witty colleague
He knocked, however, at the door on the right, as he had been
directed. No one came to open it; but he could hear within footsteps
and indistinct cries. He then perceived that there was a bell-rope,
and he pulled it. Immediately he heard some one approaching from
He felt a singular sensation of concentrated anger, united to a
fear that the Jacquemin he was in search of was not there.
The door opened, and a woman appeared, young, rather pale, with
pretty blond hair, somewhat disheveled, and dressed in a black skirt,
with a white dressing-sack thrown over her shoulders.
She smiled mechanically as she opened the door, and, as she saw a
strange face, she blushed crimson, and pulled her sack together
beneath her chin, fastening it with a pin.
"Monsieur Jacquemin?" said Andras, taking off his hat.
"Yes, Monsieur, he lives here," replied the young woman, a little
"Monsieur Jacquemin, the journalist?" asked Andras.
"Yes, yes, Monsieur," she answered with a proud little smile, which
Zilah was not slow to notice. She now opened the door wide, and said,
stepping aside to let the visitor pass:
"Will you take the trouble to come in, Monsieur?" She was not
accustomed to receive calls (Jacquemin always making his appointments
at the office); but, as the stranger might be some one who brought her
husband work, as she called it, she was anxious not to let him go away
before she knew what his errand was.
"Please come in, Monsieur!"
The Prince entered, and, crossing the entry in two steps, found
himself in a small dining-room opening directly out of the kitchen,
where three tiny little children were playing, the youngest, who could
not have been more than eighteen months, crawling about on the floor.
Upon the ragged oilcloth which covered the table, Zilah noticed two
pairs of men's gloves, one gray, the other yellow, and a heap of
soiled white cravats. Upon a wooden chair, by the open door of the
kitchen, was a tub full of shirts, which the young woman had doubtless
been washing when the bell rang.
The cries Zilah had heard came from the children, who were now
silent, staring at the tall gentleman, who looked at them in surprise.
The young woman was small and very pretty, but with the pallor of
fatigue and overwork; her lips were beautifully chiselled, but almost
colorless; and she was so thin that her figure had the frail
appearance of an unformed girl.
"Will you sit down, Monsieur?" she asked, timidly, advancing a
cane- bottomed chair.
Everything in these poor lodgings was of the most shabby
description. In a cracked mirror with a broken frame were stuck cards
of invitation, theatre checks, and race tickets admitting to the grand
stand. Upon a cheap little table with broken corners was a heap of
New Year's cards, bonbon boxes, and novels with soiled edges. Upon
the floor, near the children, were some remnants of toys; and the
cradle in which the baby slept at night was pushed into a corner with
a child's chair, the arms of which were gone.
Zilah was both astonished and pained. He had not expected to
encounter this wretched place, the poorly clad children, and the
woman's timid smile.
"Is Monsieur Jacquemin at home?" he asked abruptly, desiring to
leave at once if the man whom he sought was not there.
"No, Monsieur; but he will not be long away. Sit down, Monsieur,
She entreated so gently, with such an uneasy air at the threatened
departure of this man who had doubtless brought some good news for her
husband, that the Prince mechanically obeyed, thinking again that
there was evidently some mistake, and that it was not, it could not
be, here that Jacquemin lived.
"Is it really your husband, Madame, who writes under the signature
of Puck in 'L'Actualite'?" he asked. The same proud smile appeared
again upon her thin, wan face.
"Yes, Monsieur, yes, it is really he!" she replied. She was so
happy whenever any one spoke to her of her Paul. She was in the habit
of taking copies of L'Actualite to the concierge, the grocer, and the
butcher; and she was so proud to show how well Paul wrote, and what
fine connections he had—her Paul, whom she loved so much, and for
whom she sat up late at night when it was necessary to prepare his
linen for some great dinner or supper he was invited to.
"Oh! it is indeed he, Monsieur," she said again, while Zilah
watched her and listened in silence. "I don't like to have him use
pseudonyms, as he calls them. It gives me so much pleasure to see his
real name, which is mine too, printed in full. Only it seems that it
is better sometimes. Puck makes people curious, and they say, Who can
it be? He also signed himself Gavroche in the Rabelais, you know,
which did not last very long. You are perhaps a journalist also,
"No," said Zilah.
"Ah! I thought you were! But, after all, perhaps you are right.
It is a hard profession, I sometimes think. You have to be out so
late. If you only knew, Monsieur, how poor Paul is forced to work
even at night! It tires him so, and then it costs so much. I beg your
pardon for leaving those gloves like that before you. I was cleaning
them. He does not like cleaned gloves, though; he says it always
shows. Well, I am a woman, and I don't notice it. And then I take so
much care of all that. It is necessary, and everything costs so dear.
You see I—Gustave, don't slap your little sister! you naughty boy!"
And going to the children, her sweet, frank eyes becoming sad at a
quarrel between her little ones, she gently took the baby away from
the oldest child, who cried, and went into a corner to pout, regarding
his mother with the same impudent air which Zilah had perceived in the
curl of Jacquemin's lips when the reporter complained of the dearth of
"It is certainly very astonishing that he does not come home,"
continued the young wife, excusing to Zilah the absence of her Paul.
"He often breakfasts, however, in the city, at Brebant's. It seems
that it is necessary for him to do so. You see, at the restaurant he
talks and hears news. He couldn't learn all that he knows here very
well, could he? I don't know much of things that must be put in a
And she smiled a little sad smile, making even of her humility a
pedestal for the husband so deeply loved and admired.
Zilah was beginning to feel ill at ease. He had come with anger,
expecting to encounter the little fop whom he had seen, and he found
this humble and devoted woman, who spoke of her Paul as if she were
speaking of her religion, and who, knowing nothing of the life of her
husband, only loving him, sacrificed herself to him in this almost
cruel poverty (a strange contrast to the life of luxury Jacquemin led
elsewhere), with the holy trust of her unselfish love.
"Do you never accompany your husband anywhere?" asked Andras.
"I? Oh, never!" she replied, with a sort of fright. "He does not
wish it—and he is right. You see, Monsieur, when he married me, five
years ago, he was not what he is now; he was a railway clerk. I was a
working- girl; yes, I was a seamstress. Then it was all right; we
used to walk together, and we went to the theatre; he did not know any
one. It is different now. You see, if the Baroness Dinati should see
me on his arm, she would not bow to him, perhaps."
"You are mistaken, Madame," said the Hungarian, gently. "You are
the one who should be bowed to first."
She did not understand, but she felt that a compliment was
intended, and she blushed very red, not daring to say any more, and
wondering if she had not chatted too much, as Jacquemin reproached her
with doing almost every day.
"Does Monsieur Jacquemin go often to the theatre?" asked Andras,
after a moment's pause.
"Yes; he is obliged to do so."
"Sometimes. Not to the first nights, of course. One has to dress
handsomely for them. But Paul gives me tickets, oh, as many as I
want! When the plays are no longer drawing money, I go with the
neighbors. But I prefer to stay at home and see to my babies; when I
am sitting in the theatre, and they are left in charge of the
concierge, I think, Suppose anything should happen to them! And that
idea takes away all my pleasure. Still, if Paul stayed here—but he
can not; he has his writing to do in the evenings. Poor fellow, he
works so hard! Well!" with a sigh, "I don't think that he will be
back to-day. The children will eat his beefsteak, that's all; it
won't do them any harm."
As she spoke, she took some pieces of meat from an almost empty
cupboard, and placed them on the table, excusing herself for doing so
And he contemplated, with an emotion which every word of the little
woman increased, this poor, miserable apartment, where the wife lived,
taking care of her children, while the husband, Monsieur Puck or
Monsieur Gavroche, paraded at the fancy fairs or at the theatres;
figured at the races; tasted the Baroness Dinati's wines, caring only
for Johannisberg with the blue and gold seal of 1862; and gave to
Potel and Chabot, in his articles, lessons in gastronomy.
Then Madame Jacquemin, feeling instinctively that she had the
sympathy of this sad-faced man who spoke to her in such a gentle
voice, related her life to him with the easy confidence which poor
people, who never see the great world, possess. She told him, with a
tender smile, the entirely Parisian idyl of the love of the
working-girl for the little clerk who loved her so much and who
married her; and of the excursions they used to take together to
Saint-Germain, going third-class, and eating their dinner upon the
green grass under the trees, and then enjoying the funny doings of the
painted clowns, the illuminations, the music, and the dancing. Oh!
they danced and danced and danced, until she was so tired that she
slept all the way home with her head on his shoulder, dreaming of the
happy day they had had.
"That was the best time of my life, Monsieur. We were no richer
than we are now; but we were more free. He was with me more, too:
now, he certainly makes me very proud with his beautiful articles; but
I don't see him; I don't see him any more, and it makes me very sad.
Oh! if it were not for that, although we are not millionaires, I
should be very happy; yes, entirely, entirely happy."
There was, in the simple, gentle resignation of this poor girl,
sacrificed without knowing it, such devoted love for the man who, in
reality, abandoned her, that Prince Andras felt deeply moved and
touched. He thought of the one leading a life of pleasure, and the
other a life of fatigue; of this household touching on one side
poverty, and, on the other, wealth and fashion; and he divined, from
the innocent words of this young wife, the hardships of this home,
half deserted by the husband, and the nervousness and peevishness of
Jacquemin returning to this poor place after a night at the
restaurants or a ball at Baroness Dinati's. He heard the cutting
voice of the elegant little man whom his humble wife contemplated with
the eyes of a Hindoo adoring an idol; he was present, in imagination,
at those tragically sorrowful scenes which the wife bore with her
tender smile, poor woman, knowing of the life of her Paul only those
duties of luxury which she herself imagined, remaining a seamstress
still to sew the buttons on the shirts and gloves of her husband, and
absolutely ignorant of all the entertainments where, in an evening,
would sometimes be lost, at a game of cards, the whole monthly salary
of Monsieur Puck! And Zilah said to himself, that this was, perhaps,
the first time that this woman had ever been brought in contact with
anything pertaining to her husband's fashionable life— and in what
shape?—that of a man who had come to demand satisfaction for an
injury, and to say to Jacquemin: "I shall probably kill you,
And gradually, before the spectacle of this profound love, of this
humble and holy devotion of the unselfish martyr with timid, wistful
eyes, who leaned over her children, and said to them, sweetly, "Yes,
you are hungry, I know, but you shall have papa's beefsteak," while
she herself breakfasted off a little coffee and a crust of bread,
Andras Zilah felt all his anger die away; and an immense pity filled
his breast, as he saw, as in a vision of what the future might have
brought forth, a terrible scene in this poor little household: the
pale fair-haired wife, already wasted and worn with constant labor,
leaning out of the window yonder, or running to the stairs and seeing,
covered with blood, wounded, wounded to death perhaps, her Paul, whom
he, Andras, had come to provoke to a duel.
Ah! poor woman! Never would he cause her such anguish and sorrow.
Between his sword and Jacquemin's impertinent little person, were now
this sad-eyed creature, and those poor little children, who played
there, forgotten, half deserted, by their father, and who would grow
up, Heaven knows how!
"I see that Monsieur Jacquemin will not return," he said, rising
hurriedly, "and I will leave you to your breakfast, Madame."
"Oh! you don't trouble me at all, Monsieur. I beg your pardon
again for having given my children their breakfast before you."
"Farewell, Madame," said Andras, bowing with the deepest respect.
"Then, you are really going, Monsieur? Indeed, I am afraid he
won't come back. But please tell me what I shall say to him your
errand was. If it is some good news, I should be so glad, so glad, to
be the first to tell it to him. You are, perhaps, although you say
not, the editor of some paper which is about to be started. He spoke
to me, the other day, of a new paper. He would like to be a dramatic
critic. That is his dream, he says. Is it that, Monsieur?"
"No, Madame; and, to tell you the truth, there is no longer any
need for me to see your husband. But I do not regret my visit; on the
contrary— I have met a noble woman, and I offer her my deepest
Poor, unhappy girl! She was not used to such words; she blushingly
faltered her thanks, and seemed quite grieved at the departure of this
man, from whom she had expected some good luck for her husband.
"The life of Paris has its secrets!" thought Zilah, as he slowly
descended the stairs, which he had mounted in such a different frame
of mind, so short a time before.
When he reached the lower landing, he looked up, and saw the blond
head of the young woman, leaning over above, and the little hands of
the children clutching the damp railing.
Then Prince Andras Zilah took off his hat, and again bowed low.
On his way from the Rue Rochechouart to his hotel he thought of the
thin, pale face of the Parisian grisette, who would slowly pine away,
deceived and disdained by the man whose name she bore. Such a fine
name! Puck or Gavroche!
"And she would die rather than soil that name. This Jacquemin has
found this pearl of great price, and hid it away under the gutters of
Paris! And I—I have encountered—what? A miserable woman who
betrayed me! Ah! men and women are decidedly the victims of chance;
puppets destined to bruise one another!"
On entering his hotel, he found Yanski Varhely there, with an
anxious look upon his rugged old face.
And Zilah told his friend what he had seen.
"A droll city, this Paris!" he said, in conclusion. "I see that
it is necessary to go up into the garrets to know it well."
He took a sheet of paper, sat down, and wrote as follows:
MONSIEUR:—You have published an article in regard to Prince Andras
Zilah, which is an outrage. A devoted friend of the Prince had
resolved to make you pay dearly for it; but there is some one who
has disarmed him. That some one is the admirable woman who bears so
honorably the name which you have given her, and lives so bravely
the life you have doomed her to. Madame Jacquemin has redeemed the
infamy of Monsieur Puck. But when, in the future, you have to speak
of the misfortunes of others, think a little of your own existence,
and profit by the moral lesson given you by—AN UNKNOWN.
"Now," said Zilah, "be so kind, my dear Varhely, as to have this
note sent to Monsieur Puck, at the office of 'L'Actualite' and ask
your domestic to purchase some toys, whatever he likes—here is the
money— and take them to Madame Jacquemin, No. 25 Rue Rochechouart.
Three toys, because there are three children. The poor little things
will have gained so much, at all events, from this occurrence."
CHAPTER XXVI. "AM I AVENGED?"
After this episode, the Prince lived a more solitary existence than
before, and troubled himself no further about the outside world. Why
should he care, that some penny-aliner had slipped those odious lines
into a newspaper? His sorrow was not the publishing of the treachery,
it was the treachery itself; and his hourly suffering caused him to
long for death to end his torture.
"And yet I must live," he thought, "if to exist with a dagger
through one's heart is to live."
Then, to escape from the present, he plunged into the memories of
the war, as into a bath of oblivion, a strange oblivion, where he
found all his patriotic regrets of other days. He read, with
spasmodic eagerness, the books in which Georgei and Klapka, the actors
of the drama, presented their excuses, or poured forth their
complaints; and it seemed to him that his country would make him
forget his love.
In the magnificent picture-gallery, where he spent most of his
time, his eyes rested upon the battle-scenes of Matejks, the Polish
artist, and the landscapes of Munkacsy, that painter of his own
country, who took his name from the town of Munkacs, where tradition
says that the Magyars settled when they came from the Orient, ages
ago. Then a bitter longing took possession of him to breathe a
different air, to fly from Paris, and place a wide distance between
himself and Marsa; to take a trip around the world, where new scenes
might soften his grief, or, better still, some accident put an end to
his life; and, besides, chance might bring him in contact with Menko.
But, just as he was ready to depart, a sort of lassitude
overpowered him; he felt the inert sensation of a wounded man who has
not the strength to move, and he remained where he was, sadly and
bitterly wondering at times if he should not appeal to the courts,
dissolve his marriage, and demand back his name from the one who had
Appeal to the courts? The idea of doing that was repugnant to him.
What! to hear the proud and stainless name of the Zilahs resound, no
longer above the clash of sabres and the neighing of furious horses,
but within the walls of a courtroom, and in presence of a gaping crowd
of sensation seekers? No! silence was better than that; anything was
better than publicity and scandal. Divorce! He could obtain that,
since Marsa, her mind destroyed, was like one dead. And what would a
divorce give him? His freedom? He had it already. But what nothing
could give back, was his ruined faith, his shattered hopes, his
happiness lost forever.
At times he had a wild desire to see Marsa again, and vent once
more upon her his anger and contempt. When he happened to see the
name of Maisons- Lafitte, his body tingled from head to foot, as by an
electric shock. Maisons! The sunlit garden, the shaded alleys, the
glowing parterres of flowers, the old oaks, the white-walled villa,
all appeared before him, brutally distinct, like a lost, or rather
poisoned, Eden! And, besides, she, Marsa, was no longer there; and
the thought that the woman whom he had so passionately loved, with her
exquisite, flower-like face, was shut up among maniacs at Vaugirard,
caused him the acutest agony. The asylum which was Marsa's prison was
so constantly in his mind that he felt the necessity of flight, in
order not to allow his weakness to get the bettor of him, lest he
should attempt to see Marsa again.
"What a coward I am!" he thought.
One evening he announced to Varhely that he was going to the lonely
villa of Sainte-Adresse, where they had so many times together watched
the sea and talked of their country.
"I am going there to be alone, my dear Yanski," he said, "but to be
with you is to be with myself. I hope that you will accompany me."
"Most certainly," replied Varhely.
The Prince took only one domestic, wishing to live as quietly and
primitively as possible; but Varhely, really alarmed at the rapid
change in the Prince, and the terrible pallor of his face, followed
him, hoping at least to distract him and arouse him from his
morbidness by talking over with him the great days of the past, and
even, if possible, to interest him in the humble lives of the
fishermen about him.
Zilah and his friend, therefore, passed long hours upon the terrace
of the villa, watching the sun set at their feet, while the
grayish-blue sea was enveloped in a luminous mist, and the fading
light was reflected upon the red walls and white blinds of the houses,
and tinged with glowing purple the distant hills of Ingouville.
This calm, quiet spot gradually produced upon Andras the salutary
effect of a bath after a night of feverish excitement. His
reflections became less bitter, and, strange to relate, it was rough
old Yanski Varhely, who, by his tenderness and thoughtfulness, led his
friend to a more resigned frame of mind.
Very often, after nightfall, would Zilah descend with him to the
shore below. The sea lay at their feet a plain of silver, and the
moonbeams danced over the waves in broken lines of luminous atoms;
boats passed to and fro, their red lights flashing like glowworms; and
it seemed to Andras and Varhely, as they approached the sea, receding
over the wet, gleaming sands, that they were walking upon quicksilver.
As they strolled and talked together here, it seemed to Andras that
this grief was, for the moment, carried away by the fresh, salt
breeze; and these two men, in a different manner buffeted by fate,
resembled two wounded soldiers who mutually aid one another to
advance, and not to fall by the way before the combat is over. Yanski
made special efforts to rouse in Andras the old memories of his
fatherland, and to inspire in him again his love for Hungary.
"Ah! I used to have so many hopes and dreams for her future," said
Andras; "but idealists have no chance in the world of to-day; so now I
am a man who expects nothing of life except its ending. And yet I
would like to see once again that old stone castle where I grew up,
full of hopes! Hopes? Bah! pretty bubbles, that is all!"
One morning they walked along the cliffs, past the low shanties of
the fishermen, as far as Havre; and, as they were sauntering through
the streets of the city, Varhely grasped the Prince's arm, and pointed
to an announcement of a series of concerts to be given at Frascati by
a band of Hungarian gipsies.
"There," he said, "you will certainly emerge from your retreat to
hear those airs once more."
"Yes," replied Andras, after a moment's hesitation.
That evening found him at the casino; but his wound seemed to open
again, and his heart to be grasped as in an iron hand, as he listened
to the plaintive cries and moans of the Tzigani music. Had the
strings of the bows played these czardas upon his own sinews, laid
bare, he would not have trembled more violently. Every note of the
well-known airs fell upon his heart like a corrosive tear, and Marsa,
in all her dark, tawny beauty, rose before him. The Tzigani played
now the waltzes which Marsa used to play; then the slow, sorrowful
plaint of the "Song of Plevna;" and then the air of Janos Nemeth's,
the heart-breaking melody, to the Prince like the lament of his life:
'The World holds but One Fair Maiden'. And at every note he saw again
Marsa, the one love of his existence.
"Let us go!" he said suddenly to Yanski.
But, as they were about to leave the building, they almost ran into
a laughing, merry group, led by the little Baroness Dinati, who
uttered a cry of delight as she perceived Andras.
"What, you, my dear Prince! Oh, how glad I am to see you!"
And she took his arm, all the clan which accompanied her stopping
to greet Prince Zilah.
"We have come from Etretat, and we are going back there
immediately. There was a fair at Havre in the Quartier Saint-Francois,
and we have eaten up all we could lay our hands on, broken all Aunt
Sally's pipes, and purchased all the china horrors and hideous
pincushions we could find. They are all over there in the break. We
are going to raffle them at Etretat for the poor.
The Prince tried to excuse himself and move on, but the little
Baroness held him tight.
"Why don't you come to Etretat? It is charming there. We don't do
anything but eat and drink and talk scandal—Oh, yes! Yamada
sometimes gives us some music. Come here, Yamada!"
The Japanese approached, in obedience to her call, with his eternal
grin upon his queer little face.
"My dear Prince," rattled on the Baroness, "you don't know,
perhaps, that Yamada is the most Parisian of Parisians? Upon my word,
these Japanese are the Parisians of Asia! Just fancy what he has been
doing at Etretat! He has been writing a French operetta!"
"Japanese!" corrected Yamada, with an apologetic bow.
"Oh, Japanese! Parisian Japanese, then! At all events, it is very
funny, and the title is Little Moo-Moo! There is a scene on board a
flower-decked boat! Oh, it is so amusing, so original, so natural!
and a delightful song for Little Moo-Moo!"
Then, as Zilah glanced at Varhely, uneasy, and anxious to get away,
the Baroness puckered up her rosy lips and sang the stanzas of the
Why, sung by Judic or Theo, it would create a furore! All Paris
would be singing.
Oh, by the way," she cried, suddenly interrupting herself, "what
have you done to Jacquemin? Yes, my friend Jacquemin?"
"Jacquemin?" repeated Zilah; and he thought of the garret in the
Rue Rochechouart, and the gentle, fairhaired woman, who was probably
at this very moment leaning over the cribs of her little children—the
children of Monsieur Puck, society reporter of 'L'Actualite'
"Yes! Why, Jacquemin has become a savage; oh, indeed! a regular
savage! I wanted to bring him to Etretat; but no, he wouldn't come.
It seems that he is married. Jacquemin married! Isn't it funny? He
didn't seem like a married man! Poor fellow! Well, when I invited
him, he refused; and the other day, when I wanted to know the reason,
he answered me (that is why I speak to you about it), 'Ask Prince
Zilah'! So, tell me now, what have you done to poor Jacquemin?"
"Nothing," said the Prince.
"Oh, yes, you have; you have changed him! He, who used to go
everywhere and be so jolly, now hides himself in his den, and is never
seen at all. Just see how disagreeable it is! If he had come with us,
he would have written an account in 'L'Actualite' of Little Moo-Moo,
and Yamada's operetta would already be celebrated.
So," continued the Baroness, "when I return to Paris, I am going to
hunt him up. A reporter has no right to make a bear of himself!"
"Don't disturb him, if he cares for his home now," said Zilah,
gravely. "Nothing can compensate for one's own fireside, if one loves
and is loved."
At the first words of the Prince, the Baroness suddenly became
"I beg your pardon," she said, dropping his arm and holding out her
tiny hand: "please forgive me for having annoyed you. Oh, yes, I see
it! I have annoyed you. But be consoled; we are going at once, and
then, you know, that if there is a creature who loves you, respects
you, and is devoted to you, it is this little idiot of a Baroness!
"Good-night'." said Andras, bowing to the Baroness's friends,
Yamada and the other Parisian exotics.
Glad to escape, Varhely and the Prince returned home along the
seashore. Fragments of the czardas from the illuminated casino reached
their ears above the swish of the waves. Andras felt irritated and
nervous. Everything recalled to him Marsa, and she seemed to be once
more taking possession of his heart, as a vine puts forth fresh
tendrils and clings again to the oak after it has been torn away.
"She also suffers!" he said aloud, after they had walked some
distance in silence.
"Fortunately!" growled Varhely; and then, as if he wished to
efface his harshness, he added, in a voice which trembled a little:
"And for that reason she is, perhaps, not unworthy of pardon."
This cry escaped from Zilah in accents of pain which struck Varhely
like a knife.
"Pardon before punishing—the other!" exclaimed the Prince,
The other! Yanski Varhely instinctively clinched his fist,
thinking, with rage, of that package of letters which he had held in
his hands, and which he might have destroyed if he had known.
It was true: how was pardon possible while Menko lived?
No word more was spoken by either until they reached the villa;
then Prince Zilah shook Yanski's hand and retired to his chamber.
Lighting his lamp, he took out and read and reread, for the hundredth
time perhaps, certain letters—letters not addressed to him—those
letters which Varhely had handed him, and with which Michel Menko had
practically struck him the day of his marriage.
Andras had kept them, reading them over at times with an eager
desire for further suffering, drinking in this species of poison to
irritate his mental pain as he would have injected morphine to soothe
a physical one. These letters caused him a sensation analogous to that
which gives repose to opium-eaters, a cruel shock at first, sharp as
the prick of a knife, then, the pain slowly dying away, a heavy
The whole story was revived in these letters of Marsa to
Menko:—all the ignorant, credulous love of the young girl for Michel,
then her enthusiasm for love itself, rather than for the object of her
love, and then, again—for Menko had reserved nothing, but sent all
together— the bitter contempt of Marsa, deceived, for the man who had
lied to her.
There were, in these notes, a freshness of sentiment and a youthful
credulity which produced the impression of a clear morning in early
spring, all the frankness and faith of a mind ignorant of evil and
destitute of guile; then, in the later ones, the spontaneous outburst
of a heart which believes it has given itself forever, because it
thinks it has encountered incorruptible loyalty and undying devotion.
As he read them over, Andras shook with anger against the two who
had deceived him; and also, and involuntarily, he felt an indefined,
timid pity for the woman who had trusted and been deceived—a pity he
immediately drove away, as if he were afraid of himself, afraid of
"What did Varhely mean by speaking to me of pardon?" he thought.
"Am I yet avenged?"
It was this constant hope that the day would come when justice
would be meted out to Menko's treachery. The letters proved
conclusively that Menko had been Marsa's lover; but they proved, at
the same time, that Michel had taken advantage of her innocence and
ignorance, and lied outrageously in representing himself as free, when
he was already bound to another woman.
All night long Andras Zilah sat there, inflicting torture upon
himself, and taking a bitter delight in his own suffering; engraving
upon his memory every word of love written by Marsa to Michel, as if
he felt the need of fresh pain to give new strength to his hatred.
The next morning at breakfast, Varhely astonished him by announcing
that he was going away.
"No, to Vienna," replied Yanski, who looked somewhat paler than
"What an idea! What are you going to do there, Varhely?"
"Angelo Valla arrived yesterday at Havre. He sent for me to come
to his hotel this morning. I have just been there. Valla has given
me some information in regard to a matter of interest to myself, which
will require my presence at Vienna. So I am going there."
Prince Zilah was intimately acquainted with the Valla of whom
Varhely spoke; he had been one of the witnesses of his marriage.
Valla was a former minister of Manin; and, since the siege of Venice,
he had lived partly in Paris and partly in Florence. He was a man for
whom Andras Zilah had the greatest regard.
"When do you go?" asked the Prince of Varhely.
"In an hour. I wish to take the fast mail from Paris this
"Is it so very pressing, then?"
"Very pressing," replied Varhely. "There is another to whose ears
the affair may possibly come, and I wish to get the start of him."
"Farewell, then," said Andras, considerably surprised; "come back
as soon as you can."
He was astonished at the almost violent pressure of the hand which
Varhely gave him, as if he were departing for a very long journey.
"Why didn't Valla come to see me?" he asked. "He is one of the
few I am always glad to see."
"He had no time. He had to be away again at once, and he asked me
to excuse him to you."
The Prince did not make any further attempt to find out what was
the reason of his friend's sudden flight, for Varhely was already
descending the steps of the villa.
Andras then felt a profound sensation of loneliness, and he thought
again of the woman whom his imagination pictured haggard and wan in
the asylum of Vaugirard.
CHAPTER XXVII. "WHAT MATTERS IT HOW
MUCH WE SUFFER?"
Two hours after Varhely had gone, a sort of feverish attraction
drew Prince Andras to the spot where, the night before, he had
listened to the Tzigana airs.
Again, but alone this time, he drank in the accents of the music of
his country, and sought to remember the impression produced upon him
when Marsa had played this air or that one, this sad song or that
czardas. He saw her again as she stood on the deck of the steamer,
watching the children on the barge as they threw her kisses of
farewell. More troubled than ever, nervous and suffering, Zilah
returned home late in the afternoon, opened the desk where he kept
Marsa's letters, and one by one, impelled by some inexplicable
sentiment, he burned them, the flame of the candle devouring the
paper, whose subtle perfume mounted to his nostrils for the last time
like a dying sigh, while the wind carried off, through the window into
the infinite, the black dust of those fateful letters, those remnants
of dead passion and of love betrayed—and the past was swept away.
The sun was slowly descending in an atmosphere of fire, while
toward Havre a silvery mist over the hills and shore heralded the
approach of chaste Dian's reign. The reflections of the sunset tinged
with red and orange the fishing boats floating over the calm sea,
while a long fiery streak marked the water on the horizon, growing
narrower and narrower, and changing to orange and then to pale yellow
as the disk of the sun gradually disappeared, and the night came on,
enveloping the now inactive city, and the man who watched the
disappearance of the last fragments of a detested love, of the love of
another, of a love which had torn and bruised his heart. And, strange
to say, for some inexplicable reason, Prince Andras Zilah now
regretted the destruction of those odious letters. It seemed to him,
with a singular displacement of his personality, that it was something
of himself, since it was something of her, that he had destroyed. He
had hushed that voice which said to another, "I love you," but which
caused him the same thrill as if she had murmured the words for him.
They were letters received by his rival which the wind carried out,
an impalpable dust, over the sea; and he felt —such folly is the
human heart capable of—the bitter regret of a man who has destroyed a
little of his past.
The shadows crept over him at the same time that they crept over
"What matters it how much we suffer, or how much suffering we
cause," he murmured, "when, of all our loves, our hearts, ourselves,
there remains, after a short lapse of time—what? That!" And he
watched the last atom of burned paper float away in the deepening
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE STRICKEN SOUL
His loneliness now weighed heavily upon Andras. His nerves were
shaken by the memories which the czardas of the Tzigani musicians had
evoked; and it seemed to him that the place was deserted now that they
had departed, and Varhely had gone with them. In the eternal symphony
of the sea, the lapping of the waves upon the shingle at the foot of
the terrace, one note was now lacking, the resonant note of the
czimbalom yonder in the gardens of Frascati. The vibration of the
czimbalom was like a call summoning up the image of Marsa, and this
image took invincible possession of the Prince, who, with a sort of
sorrowful anger which he regarded as hatred, tried in vain to drive it
What was the use of remaining at Sainte-Adresse, when the memories
he sought to flee came to find him there, and since Marsa's presence
haunted it as if she had lived there by his side?
He quitted Havre, and returned to Paris; but the very evening of
his return, in the bustle and movement of the Champs-Elysees, the long
avenue dotted with lights, the flaming gas-jets of the caf‚ concerts,
the bursts of music, he found again, as if the Tzigana were
continually pursuing him, the same phantom; despite the noise of
people and carriages upon the asphalt, the echoes of the "Song of
Plevna," played quite near him by some Hungarian orchestra, reached
him as upon the seashore at Havre; and he hastened back to his hotel,
to shut himself up, to hear nothing, see nothing, and escape from the
fantastic, haunting pursuit of this inevitable vision.
He could not sleep; fever burned in his blood. He rose, and tried
to read; but before the printed page he saw continually Marsa Laszlo,
like the spectre of his happiness.
"How cowardly human nature is!" he exclaimed, hurling away the
book. "Is it possible that I love her still? Shall I love her
And he felt intense self-contempt at the temptation which took
possession of him to see once more Maisons-Lafitte, where he had
experienced the most terrible grief of his life. What was the use of
struggling? He had not forgotten, and he never could forget.
If he had been sincere with himself, he would have confessed that
he was impelled by his ever-living, ever-present love toward
everything which would recall Marsa to him, and that a violent, almost
superhuman effort was necessary not to yield to the temptation.
About a week after the Prince's return to Paris, his valet appeared
one day with the card of General Vogotzine. It was on Andras's lips
to refuse to see him; but, in reality, the General's visit caused him
a delight which he would not acknowledge to himself. He was about to
hear of hey. He told the valet to admit Vogotzine, hypocritically
saying to himself that it was impossible, discourteous, not to receive
The old Russian entered, timid and embarrassed, and was not much
reassured by Zilah's polite but cold greeting.
The General, who for some extraordinary reason had not had recourse
to alcohol to give him courage, took the chair offered him by the
Prince. He was a little flushed, not knowing exactly how to begin what
he had to say; and, being sober, he was terribly afraid of appearing,
like an idiot.
"This is what is the matter," he said, plunging at once in medias
res. "Doctor Fargeas, who sent me, might have come himself; but he
thought that I, being her uncle, should—"
"You have come to consult me about Marsa," said Andras,
unconsciously glad to pronounce her name.
"Yes," began the General, becoming suddenly intimidated, "of—of
Marsa. She is very ill-Marsa is. Very ill. Stupor, Fargeas says.
She does not say a word-nothing. A regular automaton! It is
terrible to see her— terrible—terrible."
He raised his round, uneasy eyes to Andras, who was striving to
appear calm, but whose lips twitched nervously.
"It is impossible to rouse her," continued Vogotzine. "The,
doctors can do nothing. There is no hope except in an—an—an
"Yes, exactly, exactly—an experiment. You see he—he wanted to
know if —(you must pardon me for what I am about to propose; it is
Doctor Fargeas's idea)—You see—if—if—she should see—(I
suppose—these are not my words)—if she should see you again at
Doctor Sims's establishment —the emotion—the—the—Well, I don't
know exactly what Doctor Fargeas does hope; but I have repeated to you
his words—I am simply, quite simply, his messenger."
"The doctor," said Andras, calmly, "would like—your niece to see
"Yes, yes; and speak to you. You see, you are the only one for
The Prince interrupted the General, who instantly became as mute as
if he were in the presence of the Czar.
"It is well. But what Doctor Fargeas asks of me will cause me
Vogotzine did not open his lips.
"See her again? He wishes to revive all my sorrow, then!"
Vogotzine waited, motionless as if on parade.
After a moment or two, Andras saying no more, the General thought
that he might speak.
"I understand. I knew very well what your answer would be. I told
the doctor so; but he replied, 'It is a question of humanity. The
Prince will not refuse.'"
Fargeas must have known Prince Zilah's character well when he used
the word humanity. The Prince would not have refused his pity to the
lowest of human beings; and so, never mind what his sufferings might
be, if his presence could do any good, he must obey the doctor.
"When does Doctor Fargeas wish me to go?"
"Whenever you choose. The doctor is just now at Vaugirard, on a
visit to his colleague, and—"
"Do not let us keep him waiting!"
Vogotzine's eyes brightened.
"Then you consent? You will go?"
He tried to utter some word of thanks, but Andras cut him short,
"I will order the carriage."
"I have a carriage," said Vogotzine, joyously. "We can go at
Zilah was silent during the drive; and Vogotzine gazed steadily out
of the window, without saying a word, as the Prince showed no desire
They stopped before a high house, evidently built in the last
century, and which was probably formerly a convent. The General
descended heavily from the coupe, rang the bell, and stood aside to
let Zilah pass before him.
The Prince's emotion was betrayed in a certain stiffness of
demeanor, and in his slow walk, as if every movement cost him an
effort. He stroked his moustache mechanically, and glanced about the
garden they were crossing, as if he expected to see Marsa at once.
Dr. Fargeas appeared very much pleased to see the Prince, and he
thanked him warmly for having come. A thin, light-haired man, with a
pensive look and superb eyes, accompanied Fargeas, and the physician
introduced him to the Prince as Dr. Sims.
Dr. Sims shared the opinion of his colleague. Having taken the
invalid away, and separated her from every thing that could recall the
past, the physicians thought, that, by suddenly confronting her with a
person so dear to her as Prince Zilah, the shock and emotion might
rouse her from her morbid state.
Fargeas explained to the Prince why he had thought it best to
transport the invalid from Maisons-Lafitte to Vaugirard, and he
thanked him for having approved of his determination.
Zilah noticed that Fargeas, in speaking of Marsa, gave her no name
or title. With his usual tact, the doctor had divined the separation;
and he did not call Marsa the Princess, but, in tones full of pity,
spoke of her as the invalid.
"She is in the garden," said Dr. Sims, when Fargeas had finished
speaking. "Will you see her now?"
"Yes," said the Prince, in a voice that trembled slightly, despite
his efforts to control it.
"We will take a look at her first; and then, if you will be so
kind, show yourself to her suddenly. It is only an experiment we are
making. If she does not recognize you, her condition is graver than I
think. If she does recognize you, well, I hope that we shall be able
to cure her. Come!"
Dr. Sims motioned the Prince to precede them.
"Shall I accompany you, gentlemen?" asked Vogotzine.
"You see, I don't like lunatics; they produce a singular effect
upon me; they don't interest me at all. But still, after all, she is
And he gave a sharp pull to his frock-coat, as he would have
tightened his belt before an assault.
They descended a short flight of steps, and found themselves in a
large garden, with trees a century old, beneath which were several men
and women walking about or sitting in chairs.
A large, new building, one story high, appeared at one end of the
garden; in this were the dormitories of Dr. Sims's patients.
"Are those people insane?" asked Zilah, pointing to the peaceful
"Yes," said Dr. Sims; "it requires a stretch of the imagination to
believe it, does it not? You can speak to them as we pass by. All
these here are harmless."
"Shall we cross the garden?"
"Our invalid is below there, in another garden, behind that house."
As he passed by, Zilah glanced curiously at these poor beings, who
bowed, or exchanged a few words with the two physicians. It seemed to
him that they had the happy look of people who had reached the desired
goal. Vogotzine, coughing nervously, kept close to the Prince and felt
very ill at ease. Andras, on the contrary, found great difficulty in
realizing that he was really among lunatics.
"See," said Dr. Sims, pointing out an old gentleman, dressed in the
style of 1840, like an old-fashioned lithograph of a beau of the time
of Gavarni, "that man has been more than thirty-five years in the
institution. He will not change the cut of his garments, and he is
very careful to have his tailor make his clothes in the same style he
dressed when he was young. He is very happy. He thinks that he is
the enchanter Merlin, and he listens to Vivian, who makes appointments
with him under the trees."
As they passed the old man, his neck imprisoned in a high stock,
his surtout cut long and very tight in the waist, and his trousers
very full about the hips and very close about the ankles, he bowed
"Good-morning, Doctor Sims! Good-morning, Doctor Fargeas!"
Then, as the director of the establishment approached to speak, he
placed a finger upon his lips:
"Hush," he said. "She is there! Don't speak, or she will go
away." And he pointed with a sort of passionate veneration to an elm
where Vivian was shut up, and whence she would shortly emerge.
"Poor devil!" murmured Vogotzine.
This was not what Zilah thought, however. He wondered if this
happy hallucination which had lasted so many years, these eternal
love-scenes with Vivian, love-scenes which never grew stale, despite
the years and the wrinkles, were not the ideal form of happiness for a
being condemned to this earth. This poetical monomaniac lived with
his dreams realized, finding, in an asylum of Vaugirard, all the
fascinations and chimeras of the Breton land of golden blossoms and
pink heather, all the intoxicating, languorous charm of the forest of
"He has within his grasp what Shakespeare was content only to dream
of. Insanity is, perhaps, simply the ideal realized:"
"Ah!" replied Dr. Fargeas, "but the real never loses its grip.
Why does this monomaniac preserve both the garments of his youth,
which prevent him from feeling his age, and the dream of his life,
which consoles him for his lost reason? Because he is rich. He can
pay the tailor who dresses him, the rent of the pavilion he inhabits
by himself, and the special servants who serve him. If he were poor,
he would suffer."
"Then," said Zilah, "the question of bread comes up everywhere,
even in insanity."
"And money is perhaps happiness, since it allows of the purchase of
"Oh!" said the Prince, "for me, happiness would be—"
And he followed with his eyes Vivian's lover, who now had his ear
glued to the trunk of the tree, and was listening to the voice which
spoke only to him.
"That man yonder," said Dr. Sims, indicating a man, still young,
who was coming toward them, "is a talented writer whose novels you
have doubtless read, and who has lost all idea of his own personality.
Once a great reader, he now holds all literature in intense disgust;
from having written so much, he has grown to have a perfect horror of
words and letters, and he never opens either a book or a newspaper.
He drinks in the fresh air, cultivates flowers, and watches the
trains pass at the foot of the garden."
"Is he happy?" asked Andras.
"Yes, he has drunk of the waters of Lethe," rejoined the Prince.
"I will not tell you his name," whispered Dr. Sims, as the man, a
thin, dark-haired, delicate-featured fellow, approached them; "but, if
you should speak to him and chance to mention his name, he would
respond 'Ah! yes, I knew him. He was a man of talent, much talent.'
There is nothing left to him of his former life."
And Zilah thought again that it was a fortunate lot to be attacked
by one of these cerebral maladies where the entire being, with its
burden of sorrows, is plunged into the deep, dark gulf of oblivion.
The novelist stopped before the two physicians.
"The mid-day train was three minutes and a half late," he said,
quietly: "I mention the fact to you, doctor, that you may have it
attended to. It is a very serious thing; for I am in the habit of
setting my watch by that train."
"I will see to it," replied Dr. Sims. "By the way, do you want any
In the same quiet tone the other responded:
"What is the use of that?"
"Or any newspapers? To know—"
"To know what?" he interrupted, speaking with extreme volubility.
"No, indeed! It is so good to know nothing, nothing, nothing! Do the
newspapers announce that there are no more wars, no more poverty,
illness, murders, envy, hatred or jealousy? No! The newspapers do
not announce that. Then, why should I read the newspapers? Good-day,
The Prince shuddered at the bitter logic of this madman, speaking
with the shrill distinctness of the insane. But Vogotzine smiled.
"Why, these idiots have rather good sense, after all," he remarked.
When they reached the end of the garden, Dr. Sims opened a gate
which separated the male from the female patients, and Andras
perceived several women walking about in the alleys, some of them
alone, and some accompanied by attendants. In the distance, separated
from the garden by a ditch and a high wall, was the railway.
Zilah caught his breath as he entered the enclosure, where
doubtless among the female forms before him was that of the one he had
loved. He turned to Dr. Sims with anxious eyes, and asked:
"Is she here?"
"She is here," replied the doctor.
The Prince hesitated to advance. He had not seen her since the day
he had felt tempted to kill her as she lay in her white robes at his
feet. He wondered if it were not better to retrace his steps and
depart hastily without seeing her.
"This way," said Fargeas. " We can see through the bushes without
being seen, can we not, Sims?"
Zilah resigned himself to his fate; and followed the physicians
without saying a word; he could hear the panting respiration of
Vogotzine trudging along behind him. All at once the Prince felt a
sensation as of a heavy hand resting upon his heart. Fargeas had
"There she is!"
He pointed, through the branches of the lilac-bushes, to two women
who were approaching with slow steps, one a light-haired woman in a
nurse's dress, and the other in black garments, as if in mourning for
her own life, Marsa herself.
Marsa! She was coming toward Zilah; in a moment, he would be able
to touch her, if he wished, through the leaves! Even Vogotzine held
Zilah eagerly questioned Marsa's face, as if to read thereon a
secret, to decipher a name—Menko's or his own. Her exquisite,
delicate features had the rigidity of marble; her dark eyes were
staring straight ahead, like two spots of light, where nothing,
nothing was reflected. Zilah shuddered again; she alarmed him.
Alarm and pity! He longed to thrust aside the bushes, and hasten
with extended arms toward the pale vision before him. It was as if
the moving spectre of his love were passing by. But, with a strong
effort of will, he remained motionless where he was.
Old Vogotzine seemed very ill at ease. Dr. Fargeas was very calm;
and, after a questioning glance at his colleague, he said distinctly
to the Prince:
"Now you must show yourself!"
The physician's order, far from displeasing Zilah, was like music
in his ears. He was beginning to doubt, if, after all, Fargeas
intended to attempt the experiment. He longed, with keen desire, to
speak to Marsa; to know if his look, his breath, like a puff of wind
over dying ashes, would not rekindle a spark of life in those dull,
What was she thinking of, if she thought at all? What memory
vacillated to and fro in that vacant brain? The memory of himself, or
of—the other? He must know, he must know!
"This way," said Dr. Sims. "We will go to the end of the alley,
and meet her face to face."
"Courage!" whispered Fargeas.
Zilah followed; and, in a few steps, they reached the end of the
alley, and stood beneath a clump of leafy trees. The Prince saw,
coming to him, with a slow but not heavy step, Marsa—no, another
Marsa, the spectre or statue of Marsa.
Fargeas made a sign to Vogotzine, and the Russian and the two
doctors concealed themselves behind the trees.
Zilah, trembling with emotion, remained alone in the middle of the
The nurse who attended Marsa, had doubtless received instructions
from Dr. Sims; for, as she perceived the Prince, she fell back two or
three paces, and allowed Marsa to go on alone.
Lost in her stupor, the Tzigana advanced, her dark hair ruffled by
the wind; and, still beautiful although so thin, she moved on, without
seeing anything, her lips closed as if sealed by death, until she was
not three feet from Zilah.
He stood waiting, his blue eyes devouring her with a look, in which
there were mingled love, pity, and anger. When the Tzigana reached
him, and nearly ran into him in her slow walk, she stopped suddenly,
like an automaton. The instinct of an obstacle before her arrested
her, and she stood still, neither recoiling nor advancing.
A few steps away, Dr. Fargeas and Dr. Sims studied her stony look,
in which there was as yet neither thought nor vision.
Still enveloped in her stupor, she stood there, her eyes riveted
upon Andras. Suddenly, as if an invisible knife had been plunged into
her heart, she started back. Her pale marble face became
transfigured, and an expression of wild terror swept across her
features; shaking with a nervous trembling, she tried to call out, and
a shrill cry, which rent the air, burst from her lips, half open, like
those of a tragic mask. Her two arms were stretched out with the hands
clasped; and, falling upon her knees, she—whose light of reason had
been extinguished, who for so many days had only murmured the sad,
singing refrain: "I do not know; I do not know!"—faltered, in a voice
broken with sobs: "Forgive! Forgive!"
Then her face became livid, and she would have fallen back
unconscious if Zilah had not stooped over and caught her in his arms.
Dr. Sims hastened forward, and, aided by the nurse, relieved him of
Poor Vogotzine was as purple as if he had had a stroke of apoplexy.
"But, gentlemen," said the Prince, his eyes burning with hot tears,
"it will be horrible if we have killed her!"
"No, no," responded Fargeas; "we have only killed her stupor. Now
leave her to us. Am I not right, my dear Sims? She can and must be
CHAPTER XXIX. "LET THE DEAD PAST
BURY ITS DEAD"
Prince Andras had heard no news of Varhely for a long time. He
only knew that the Count was in Vienna.
Yanski had told the truth when he said that he had been summoned
away by his friend, Angelo Valla.
They were very much astonished, at the Austrian ministry of foreign
affairs, to see Count Yanski Varhely, who, doubtless, had come from
Paris to ask some favor of the minister. The Austrian diplomats
smiled as they heard the name of the old soldier of '48 and '49. So,
the famous fusion of parties proclaimed in 1875 continued! Every day
some sulker of former times rallied to the standard. Here was this
Varhely, who, at one time, if he had set foot in Austria-Hungary,
would have been speedily cast into the Charles barracks, the jail of
political prisoners, now sending in his card to the minister of the
Emperor; and doubtless the minister and the old commander of hussars
would, some evening, together pledge the new star of Hungary, in a
beaker of rosy Crement!
"These are queer days we live in!" thought the Austrian diplomats.
The minister, of whom Yanski Varhely demanded an audience, his
Excellency Count Josef Ladany, had formerly commanded a legion of
Magyar students, greatly feared by the grenadiers of Paskiewisch, in
Hungary. The soldiers of Josef Ladany, after threatening to march
upon Vienna, had many times held in check the grenadiers and Cossacks
of the field- marshal. Spirited and enthusiastic, his fair hair
floating above his youthful forehead like an aureole, Ladany made war
like a patriot and a poet, reciting the verses of Petoefi about the
camp-fires, and setting out for battle as for a ball. He was
magnificent (Varhely remembered him well) at the head of his students,
and his floating, yellow moustaches had caused the heart of more than
one little Hungarian patriot to beat more quickly.
Varhely would experience real pleasure in meeting once more his old
companion in arms. He remembered one afternoon in the vineyards, when
his hussars, despite the obstacles of the vines and the irregular
ground, had extricated Ladany's legion from the attack of two
regiments of Russian infantry. Joseph Ladany was standing erect upon
one of his cannon for which the gunners had no more ammunition, and,
with drawn sabre, was rallying his companions, who were beginning to
give way before the enemy. Ah, brave Ladany! With what pleasure
would Varhely grasp his hand!
The former leader had doubtless aged terribly—he must be a man of
fifty- five or fifty-six, to-day; but Varhely was sure that Joseph
Ladany, now become minister, had preserved his generous, ardent nature
of other days.
As he crossed the antechambers and lofty halls which led to the
minister's office, Varhely still saw, in his mind's eye, Ladany, sabre
in hand, astride of the smoking cannon.
An usher introduced him into a large, severe-looking room, with a
lofty chimney-piece, above which hung a picture of the Emperor-King in
full military uniform. Varhely at first perceived only some large
armchairs, and an enormous desk covered with books; but, in a moment,
from behind the mass of volumes, a man emerged, smiling, and with
outstretched hand: the old hussar was amazed to find himself in the
presence of a species of English diplomat, bald, with long, gray
side-whiskers and shaven lip and chin, and scrupulously well dressed.
Yanski's astonishment was so evident that Josef Ladany said, still
"Well, don't you recognize me, my dear Count?" His voice was
pleasant, and his manner charming; but there was something cold and
politic in his whole appearance which absolutely stupefied Varhely.
If he had seen him pass in the street, he would never have
recognized, in this elegant personage, the young man, with yellow hair
and long moustaches, who sang war songs as he sabred the enemy.
And yet it was indeed Ladany; it was the same clear eye which had
once commanded his legion with a single look; but the eye was often
veiled now beneath a lowered eyelid, and only now and then did a
glance shoot forth which seemed to penetrate a man's most secret
thoughts. The soldier had become the diplomat.
"I had forgotten that thirty years have passed!" thought Varhely,
a little saddened.
Count Ladany made his old comrade sit down in one of the armchairs,
and questioned him smilingly as to his life, his friendships, Paris,
Prince Zilah, and led him gradually and gracefully to confide what he,
Varhely, had come to ask of the minister of the Emperor of Austria.
Varhely felt more reassured. Josef Ladany seemed to him to have
remained morally the same. The moustache had been cut off, the yellow
hair had fallen; but the heart was still young and without doubt
"You can," he said, abruptly, "render me a service, a great
service. I have never before asked anything of anybody; but I have
taken this journey expressly to see you, and to ask you, to beg you
"Go on, my dear Count. What you desire will be realized, I hope."
But his tone had already become colder, or perhaps simply more
"Well," continued Varhely, "what I have come to ask of you is; in
memory of the time when we were brothers in arms" (the minister
started slightly, and stroked his whiskers a little nervously), "the
liberty of a certain man, of a man whom you know."
"Ah! indeed!" said Count Josef.
He leaned back in his chair, crossed one leg over the other, and,
through his half-opened eyelids, examined Varhely, who looked him
boldly in the face.
The contrast between these two men was striking; the soldier with
his hair and moustache whitened in the harness, and the elegant
government official with his polished manners; two old-time companions
who had heard the whistling of the same balls.
"This is my errand," said Varhely. "I have the greatest desire
that one of our compatriots, now a prisoner in Warsaw, I think—at all
events, arrested at Warsaw a short time ago—should be set at liberty.
It is of the utmost importance to me," he added, his lips turning
almost as white as his moustache.
"Oh!" said the minister. "I fancy I know whom you mean."
"Exactly! Menko was arrested by the Russian police on his arrival
at the house of a certain Labanoff, or Ladanoff—almost my name in
Russian. This Labanoff, who had lately arrived from Paris, is
suspected of a plot against the Czar. He is not a nihilist, but
simply a malcontent; and, besides that, his brain is not altogether
right. In short, Count Menko is connected in some way, I don't know
how, with this Labanoff. He went to Poland to join him, and the
Russian police seized him. I think myself that they were quite right
in their action."
"Possibly," said Varhely; "but I do not care to discuss the right
of the Russian police to defend themselves or the Czar. What I have
come for is to ask you to use your influence with the Russian
Government to obtain Menko's release."
"Are you very much interested in Menko?"
"Very much," replied Yanski, in a tone which struck the minister as
"Then," asked Count Ladany with studied slowness, "you would
"A note from you to the Russian ambassador, demanding Menko's
release. Angelo Valla—you know him—Manin's former minister—"
"Yes, I know," said Count Josef, with his enigmatical smile.
"Valla told me of Menko's arrest. I knew that Menko had left
Paris, and I was very anxious to find where he had gone. Valla
learned, at the Italian embassy in Paris, of the affair of this
Labanoff and of the real or apparent complicity of Michel Menko; and
he told me about it. When we were talking over the means of obtaining
the release of a man held by Muscovite authority, which is not an easy
thing, I know, we thought of you, and I have come to your Excellency
as I would have gone to the chief of the Legion of Students to demand
his aid in a case of danger!"
Yanski Varhely was no diplomat; and his manner of appealing to the
memories of the past was excessively disagreeable to the minister,
who, however, allowed no signs of his annoyance to appear.
Count Ladany was perfectly well acquainted with the Warsaw affair.
As an Hungarian was mixed up in it, and an Hungarian of the rank and
standing of Count Menko, the Austro-Hungarian authorities had
immediately been advised of the whole proceeding. There were probably
no proofs of actual complicity against Menko; but, as Josef Ladany had
said, it seemed evident that he had come to Poland to join Labanoff.
An address given to Menko by Labanoff had been found, and both were
soon to depart for St. Petersburg. Labanoff had some doubtful
acquaintances in the Russian army: several officers of artillery, who
had been arrested and sent to the mines, were said to be his friends.
"The matter is a grave one," said the Count. "We can scarcely, for
one particular case, make our relations more strained with a—a
friendly nation, relations which so many others—I leave you to divine
who, my dear Varhely—strive to render difficult. And yet, I would
like to oblige you; I would, I assure you."
"If Count Menko is not set at liberty, what will happen to him?"
"Hmm—he might, although a foreigner, be forced to take a journey
"Siberia! That is a long distance off, and few return from that
journey," said Varhely, his voice becoming almost hoarse. "I would
give anything in the world if Menko were free!"
"It would have been so easy for him not to have been seized by the
"Yes; but he is. And, I repeat, I have come to you to demand his
release. Damn it! Such a demand is neither a threat nor a cases
The minister calmed the old hussar with a gesture.
"No," he replied, clicking his tongue against the roof of his
mouth; "but it is embarrassing, embarrassing! Confound Menko! He
always was a feather-brain! The idea of his leaving diplomacy to seek
adventures! He must know, however, that his case is—what shall I
say?—embarrassing, very embarrassing. I don't suppose he had any idea
of conspiring. He is a malcontent, this Menko, a malcontent! He
would have made his mark in our embassies. The devil take him! Ah!
my dear Count, it is very embarrassing, very embarrassing!"
The minister uttered these words in a calm, courteous, polished
manner, even when he said "The devil take him!" He then went on to
say, that he could not make Varhely an absolute promise; he would look
over the papers in the affair, telegraph to Warsaw and St. Petersburg,
make a rapid study of what he called again the "very embarrassing"
case of Michel Menko, and give Varhely an answer within twenty-four
"That will give you a chance to take a look at our city, my dear
Count. Vienna has changed very much. Have you seen the opera-house?
It is superb. Hans Makart is just exhibiting a new picture. Be sure
to see it, and visit his studio, too; it is well worth examining. I
have no need to tell you that I am at your service to act as your
cicerone, and show you all the sights."
"Are any of our old friends settled here?" asked Varhely.
"Yes, yes," said the minister, softly. "But they are deputies,
university professors, or councillors of the administration. All
changed! all changed!"
Then Varhely wished to know if certain among them whom he had not
forgotten had "changed," as the minister said.
"Where is Armand Bitto?"
"Dead. He died very poor."
"And Arpad Ovody, Georgei's lieutenant, who was so brave at the
assault of Buda? I thought that he was killed with that bullet
through his cheek."
"Ovody? He is at the head of the Magyar Bank, and is charged by
the ministry with the conversion of the six per cent. Hungarian loan.
He is intimately connected with the Rothschild group. He has I don't
know how many thousand florins a year, and a castle in the
neighborhood of Presburg. A great collector of pictures, and a very
"And Hieronymis Janos, who wrote such eloquent proclamations and
calls to arms? Kossuth was very fond of him."
"He is busy, with Maurice Jokai, preparing a great book upon the
Austro- Hungarian monarchy, a book patronized by the Archduke Rudolph.
He will doubtless edit the part relative to the kingdom of Saint
"Ha! ha! He will have a difficult task when he comes to the
recital of the battle at Raab against Francis Joseph in person! He
commanded at Raab himself, as you must remember well."
"Yes, he did, I remember," said the minister. Then, with a smile,
he added: "Bah! History is written, not made. Hieronymis Janos's
book will be very good, very good!"
"I don't doubt it. What about Ferency Szilogyi? Is he also
writing books under the direction of the Archduke Rudolph?"
"No! no! Ferency Szilogyi is president of the court of assizes,
and a very good magistrate he is."
"He! an hussar?"
"Oh! the world changes! His uniform sleeps in some chest,
preserved in camphor. Szilogyi has only one fault: he is too strongly
"He! a Liberal?"
"He detests the Israelites, and he allows it to be seen a little
too much. He embarrasses us sometimes. But there is one extenuating
circumstance—he has married a Jewess!"
This was said in a light, careless, humorously sceptical tone.
"On the whole," concluded the minister, "Armand Bitto, who is no
longer in this world, is perhaps the most fortunate of all."
Then, turning to Yanski with his pleasant smile, and holding out
his delicate, well-kept hand, which had once brandished the sabre, he
"My dear Varhely, you will dine with me to-morrow, will you not?
It is a great pleasure to see you again! Tomorrow I shall most
probably give you an answer to your request—a request which I am
happy, very happy, to take into consideration. I wish also to present
you to the Countess. But no allusions to the past before her! She is
a Spaniard, and she would not understand the old ideas very well.
Kossuth, Bem, and Georgei would astonish her, astonish her! I trust
to your tact, Varhely. And then it is so long ago, so very long ago,
all that. Let the dead past bury its dead! Is it understood?"
Yanski Varhely departed, a little stunned by this interview. He
had never felt so old, so out of the fashion, before. Prince Zilah
and he now seemed to him like two ancestors of the present
generation—Don Quixotes, romanticists, imbeciles. The minister was,
as Jacquemin would have said, a sly dog, who took the times as he
found them, and left spectres in peace. Well, perhaps he was right!
"Ah, well," thought the old hussar, with an odd smile, "there is
the age of moustaches and the age of whiskers, that is all. Ladany
has even found a way to become bald: he was born to be a minister!"
It little mattered to him, however, this souvenir of his youth
found with new characteristics. If Count Josef Ladany rescued Menko
from the police of the Czar, and, by setting him free, delivered him
to him, Varhely, all was well. By entering the ministry, Ladany would
thus be at least useful for something.
CHAPTER XXX. "TO SEEK FORGETFULNESS"
The negotiations with Warsaw, however, detained Yanski Varhely at
Vienna longer than he wished. Count Josef evidently went zealously to
work to obtain from the Russian Government Menko's release. He had
promised Varhely, the evening he received his old comrade at dinner,
that he would put all the machinery at work to obtain the fulfilment
of his request. "I only ask you, if I attain the desired result, that
you will do something to cool off that hotheaded Menko. A second time
he would not escape Siberia."
Varhely had made no reply; but the very idea that Michel Menko
might be free made his head swim. There was, in the Count's eagerness
to obtain Menko's liberty, something of the excitement of a hunter
tracking his prey. He awaited Michel's departure from the fortress as
if he were a rabbit in its burrow.
"If he is set at liberty, I suppose that we shall know where he
goes," he said to the minister.
"It is more than probable that the government of the Czar will
trace his journey for him. You shall be informed."
Count Ladany did not seek to know for what purpose Varhely
demanded, with such evident eagerness, this release. It was enough
for him that his old brother-in-arms desired it, and that it was
"You see how everything is for the best, Varhely," he said to him
one morning. "Perhaps you blamed me when you learned that I had
accepted a post from Austria. Well, you see, if I did not serve the
Emperor, I could not serve you!"
During his sojourn at Vienna, Varhely kept himself informed, day by
day, as to what was passing in Paris. He did not write to Prince
Zilah, wishing, above everything, to keep his errand concealed from
him; but Angelo Valla, who had remained in France, wrote or
telegraphed whatever happened to the Prince.
Marsa Laszlo was cured; she had left Dr. Sims's institution, and
returned to the villa of Maisons-Lafitte.
The poor girl came out of her terrible stupor with the distaste to
take up the thread of life which sometimes comes after a night of
forgetfulness in sleep. This stupor, which might have destroyed her,
and the fever which had shaken her, seemed to her sweet and enviable
now compared to this punishment: To live! To live and think!
And yet—yes, she wished to live to once more see Andras, whose
look, fixed upon her, had rekindled the extinct intellectual flame of
her being. She wished to live, now that her reason had returned to
her, to live to wrest from the Prince a word of pardon. It could not
be possible that her existence was to end with the malediction of this
man. It seemed to her, that, if she should ever see him face to face,
she would find words of desperate supplication which would obtain her
Certainly—she repented it bitterly every hour, now that the
punishment of thinking and feeling had been inflicted upon her—she
had acted infamously, been almost as criminal as Menko, by her silence
and deceit— her deceit! She, who hated a lie! But she longed to
make the Prince understand that the motive of her conduct was the love
which she had for him. Yes, her love alone! There was no other
reason, no other, for her unpardonable treachery. He did not think it
now, without any doubt. He must accuse her of some base calculation or
vile intrigue. But she was certain that, if she could see him again,
she would prove to him that the only cause of her conduct was her
unquenchable love for him.
"Let him only believe that, and then let him fly me forever, if he
likes! Forever! But I cannot endure to have him despise me, as he
It was this hope which now attached her to life. After her return
to Maisons-Lafitte from Vaugirard, she would have killed herself if
she had not so desired another interview where she could lay bare her
heart. Not daring to appear before Andras, not even thinking of such a
thing as seeking him, she resolved to wait some opportunity, some
chance, she knew not what. Suddenly, she thought of Yanski Varhely.
Through Varhely, she might be able to say to Andras all that she
wished her husband—her husband! the very word made her shudder with
shame—to know of the reason of her crime. She wrote to the old
Hungarian; but, as she received no response, she left Maisons-Lafitte
and went to Varhely's house. They did not know there, where the Count
was; but Monsieur Angelo Valla would forward any letters to him.
She then begged the Italian to send to Varhely a sort of long
confession, in which she asked his aid to obtain from the Prince the
The letter reached Yanski while he was at Vienna. He answered it
with a few icy words; but what did that matter to Marsa? It was not
Varhely's rancor she cared for, but Zilah's contempt. She implored
him again, in a letter in which she poured out her whole soul, to
return, to be there when she should tell the Prince all her
remorse—the remorse which was killing her, and making of her detested
beauty a spectre.
There was such sincerity in this letter, wherein a conscience
sobbed, that, little by little, in spite of his rough exterior, the
soldier, more accessible to emotion than he cared to have it appear,
was softened, and growled beneath his moustache
"So! So! She suffers. Well, that is something."
He answered Marsa that he would return when he had finished a work
he had vowed to accomplish; and, without explaining anything to the
Tzigana, he added, at the end of his letter, these words, which,
enigmatical as they were, gave a vague, inexplicable hope to Marsa
"And pray that I may return soon!"
The day after he had sent this letter to Maisons-Lafitte, Varhely
received from Ladany a message to come at once to the ministry.
On his arrival there, Count Josef handed him a despatch. The
Russian minister of foreign affairs telegraphed to his colleague at
Vienna, that his Majesty the Czar consented to the release of Count
Menko, implicated in the Labanoff affair. Labanoff would probably be
sent to Siberia the very day that Count Menko would receive a passport
and an escort to the frontier. Count Menko had chosen Italy for his
retreat, and he would start for Florence the day his Excellency
received this despatch.
"Well, my dear minister," exclaimed Varhely, "thank you a thousand
times. And, with my thanks, my farewell. I am also going to
"You will arrive there before Menko."
"I am in a hurry," replied Varhely, with a smile.
He went to the telegraph office, after leaving the ministry, and
sent a despatch to Angelo Valla, at Paris, in which he asked the
Venetian to join him in Florence. Valla had assured him that he could
rely on him for any service; and Varhely left Vienna, certain that he
should find Manin's old minister at Florence.
"After all, he has not changed so much," he said to himself,
thinking of Josef Ladany. "Without his aid, Menko would certainly
have escaped me. Ladany has taken the times as they are: Zilah and I
desire to have them as they should be. Which is right?"
Then, while the train was carrying him to Venice, he thought: Bah!
it was much better to be a dupe like himself and Zilah, and to die
preserving, like an unsurrendered flag, one's dream intact.
Yes! After all, Varhely might, at this moment, be close to death;
but, whatever might be the fate which awaited him at the end of his
journey, he found the road very long and the engine very slow.
At Venice he took a train which carried him through Lombardy into
Tuscany; and at Florence he found Angelo Valla.
The Italian already knew, in regard to Michel Menko, all that it
was necessary for him to know. Before going to London, Menko, on his
return from Pau, after the death of his wife, had retired to a small
house he owned in Pistoja; and here he had undoubtedly gone now.
It was a house built on the side of a hill, and surrounded with
olive- trees. Varhely and Valla waited at the hotel until one of
Balla's friends, who lived at Pistoja, should inform him of the
arrival of the Hungarian count. And Menko did, in fact, come there
three days after Varhely reached Florence.
"To-morrow, my dear Valla," said Yanski, "you will accompany me to
"With pleasure," responded the Italian.
Menko's house was some distance from the station, at the very end
of the little city.
The bell at the gate opening into the garden, had been removed, as
if to show that the master of the house did not wish to be disturbed.
Varhely was obliged to pound heavily upon the wooden barrier. The
servant who appeared in answer to his summons, was an Hungarian, and
he wore the national cap, edged with fur.
"My master does not receive visitors," he answered when Yanski
asked him, in Italian, if Count Menko were at home.
"Go and say to Menko Mihaly," said Varhely, this time in Hungarian,
"that Count Varhely is here as the representative of Prince Zilah!"
The domestic disappeared, but returned almost immediately and
opened the gate. Varhely and Valla crossed the garden, entered the
house, and found themselves face to face with Menko.
Varhely would scarcely have recognized him.
The former graceful, elegant young man had suddenly aged: his hair
was thin and gray upon the temples, and, instead of the carefully
trained moustache of the embassy attache, a full beard now covered his
Michel regarded the entrance of Varhely into the little salon where
he awaited him, as if he were some spectre, some vengeance which he
had expected, and which did not astonish him. He stood erect, cold
and still, as Yanski advanced toward him; while Angelo Valla remained
in the doorway, mechanically stroking his smoothly shaven chin.
"Monsieur," said Varhely, "for months I have looked forward
impatiently to this moment. Do not doubt that I have sought you."
"I did not hide myself," responded Menko.
"Indeed? Then may I ask what was your object in going to Warsaw?"
"To seek-forgetfulness," said the young man, slowly and sadly.
This simple word—so often spoken by Zilah—which had no more
effect upon the stern old Hungarian than a tear upon a coat of mail,
produced a singular impression upon Valla. It seemed to him to
express unconquerable remorse.
"What you have done can not be forgotten," said Varhely.
"No more than what I have suffered."
"You made me the accomplice of the most cowardly and infamous act a
man could commit. I have come to you to demand an explanation."
Michel lowered his eyes at these cutting words, his thin face
paling, and his lower lip trembling; but he said nothing. At last,
after a pause, he raised his eyes again to the face of the old
Hungarian, and, letting the words fall one by one, he replied:
"I am at your disposal for whatever you choose to demand, to exact.
I only desire to assure you that I had no intention of involving you
in an act which I regarded as a cruel necessity. I wished to avenge
myself. But I did not wish my vengeance to arrive too late, when what
I had assumed the right to prevent had become irreparable."
"I do not understand exactly," said Varhely.
Menko glanced at Valla as if to ask whether he could speak openly
before the Italian.
"Monsieur Angelo Valla was one of the witnesses of the marriage of
Prince Andras Zilah," said Yanski.
"I know Monsieur," said Michel, bowing to Valla.
"Ah!" he exclaimed abruptly, his whole manner changing. "There
was a man whom I respected, admired and loved. That man, without
knowing it, wrested from me the woman who had been the folly, the
dream, and the sorrow of my life. I would have done anything to
prevent that woman from bearing the name of that man."
"You sent to the Prince letters written to you by that woman, and
that, too, after the Tzigana had become Princess Zilah."
"She had let loose her dogs upon me to tear me to pieces. I was
insane with rage. I wished to destroy her hopes also. I gave those
letters to my valet with absolute orders to deliver them to the Prince
the evening before the wedding. At the same hour that I left Paris,
the letters should have been in the hands of the man who had the right
to see them, and when there was yet time for him to refuse his name to
the woman who had written them. My servant did not obey, or did not
understand. Upon my honor, this is true. He kept the letters
twenty-four hours longer than I had ordered him to do; and it was not
she whom I punished, but I struck the man for whom I would have given
"Granted that there was a fatality of this sort in your conduct,"
responded Varhely, coldly, "and that your lackey did not understand
your commands: the deed which you committed was none the less that of
a coward. You used as a weapon the letters of a woman, and of a woman
whom you had deceived by promising her your name when it was no longer
yours to give!"
"Are you here to defend Mademoiselle Marsa Laszlo?" asked Michel,
a trifle haughtily.
"I am here to defend the Princess Zilah, and to avenge Prince
Andras. I am here, above all, to demand satisfaction for your
atrocious action in having taken me as the instrument of your
"I regret it deeply and sincerely," replied Menko; "and I am at
The tone of this response admitted of no reply, and Yanski and
Valla took their departure.
Valla then obtained another second from the Hungarian embassy, and
two officers in garrison at Florence consented to serve as Menko's
friends. It was arranged that the duel should take place in a field
Valla, anxious and uneasy, said to Varhely:
"All this is right and proper, but—"
"But suppose he kills you? The right is the right, I know; but
leaden bullets are not necessarily on the side of the right, and—"
"Well," interrupted Yanski, "in case of the worst, you must charge
yourself, my dear Valla, with informing the Prince how his old friend
Yanski Varhely defended his honor—and also tell him of the place
where Count Menko may be found. I am going to attempt to avenge
Zilah. If I do not succeed, 'Teremtete'!" ripping out the Hungarian
oath, "he will avenge me, that is all! Let us go to supper."
CHAPTER XXXI. "IF MENKO WERE DEAD!"
Prince Zilah, wandering solitary in the midst of crowded Paris, was
possessed by one thought, one image impossible to drive away, one name
which murmured eternally in his ears—Marsa; Marsa, who was constantly
before his eyes, sometimes in the silvery shimmer of her bridal robes,
and sometimes with the deathly pallor of the promenader in the garden
of Vaugirard; Marsa, who had taken possession of his being, filling
his whole heart, and, despite his revolt, gradually overpowering all
other memories, all other passions! Marsa, his last love, since
nothing was before him save the years when the hair whitens, and when
life weighs heavily upon weary humanity; and not only his last love,
but his only love!
Oh! why had he loved her? Or, having loved her, why had she not
confessed to him that that coward of a Menko had deceived her! Who
knows? He might have pardoned her, perhaps, and accepted the young
girl, the widow of that passion. Widow? No, not while Menko lived.
Oh! if he were dead!
And Zilah repeated, with a fierce longing for vengeance: "If he
were dead!" That is, if there were not between them, Zilah and Marsa,
the abhorred memory of the lover!
Well! if Menko were dead?
When he feverishly asked himself this question, Zilah recalled at
the same time Marsa, crouching at his feet, and giving no other excuse
than this: "I loved you! I wished to belong to you, to be your wife!"
His wife! Yes, the beautiful Tzigana he had met at Baroness
Dinati's was now his wife! He could punish or pardon. But he had
punished, since he had inflicted upon her that living death—insanity.
And he asked himself whether he should not pardon Princess Zilah,
punished, repentant, almost dying.
He knew that she was now at Maisons, cured of her insanity, but
still ill and feeble, and that she lived there like a nun, doing good,
dispensing charity, and praying—praying for him, perhaps.
For him or for Menko?
No, for him! She was not vile enough to have lied, when she asked,
implored, besought death from Zilah who held her life or death in his
"Yes, I had the right to kill her, but—I have the right to pardon
also," thought Zilah.
Ah, if Menko were dead!
The Prince gradually wrought himself into a highly nervous
condition, missing Varhely, uneasy at his prolonged absence, and never
succeeding in driving away Marsa's haunting image. He grew to hate
his solitary home and his books.
"I shall not want any breakfast," he said one morning to his valet;
and, going out, he descended the Champs-Elysees on foot.
At the corner of the Place de la Madeleine, he entered a
restaurant, and sat down near a window, gazing mechanically at this
lively corner of Paris, at the gray facade of the church, the dusty
trees, the asphalt, the promenaders, the yellow omnibuses, the
activity of Parisian life.
All at once he was startled to hear his name pronounced and to see
before him, with his hand outstretched, as if he were asking alms, old
General Vogotzine, who said to him, timidly:
"Ah, my dear Prince, how glad I am to see you! I was breakfasting
over there, and my accursed paper must have hidden me. Ouf! If you
only knew! I am stifling!"
"Why, what is the matter?" asked Andras.
"Matter? Look at me! I must be as red as a beet!"
Poor Vogotzine had entered the restaurant for breakfast, regretting
the cool garden of Maisons-Lafitte, which, now that Marsa no longer
sat there, he had entirely to himself. After eating his usual copious
breakfast, he had imprudently asked the waiter for a Russian paper;
and, as he read, and sipped his kummel, which he found a little
insipid and almost made him regret the vodka of his native land, his
eyes fell upon a letter from Odessa, in which there was a detailed
description of the execution of three nihilists, two of them
gentlemen. It told how they were dragged, tied to the tails of
horses, to the open square, each of them bearing upon his breast a
white placard with this inscription, in black letters: "Guilty of high
treason." Then the wretched General shivered from head to foot.
Every detail of the melodramatic execution seemed burned into his
brain as with a red-hot iron. He fancied he could see the procession
and the three gibbets, painted black; beside each gibbet was an open
ditch and a black coffin covered with a dark gray pall. He saw, in
the hollow square formed by a battalion of Cossack infantry, the
executioner, Froloff, in his red shirt and his plush trousers tucked
into his boots, and, beside him, a pale, black-robed priest.
"Who the devil is such an idiot as to relate such things in the
newspapers?" he growled.
And in terror he imagined he could hear the sheriff read the
sentence, see the priest present the cross to the condemned men, and
Froloff, before putting on the black caps, degrade the gentlemen by
breaking their swords over their heads.
Then, half suffocated, Vogotzine flung the paper on the floor; and,
with eyes distended with horror, drawing the caraffe of kummel toward
him, he half emptied it, drinking glass after glass to recover his
self-control. It seemed to him that Froloff was there behind him, and
that the branches of the candelabra, stretching over his heated head,
were the arms of gibbets ready to seize him. To reassure himself, and
be certain that he was miles and miles from Russia, he was obliged to
make sure of the presence of the waiters and guests in the gay and
"The devil take the newspapers!" he muttered.
"They are cursed stupid! I will never read another! All that
stuff is absurd! Absurd! A fine aid to digestion, truly!"
And, paying his bill, he rose to go, passing his hand over his head
as if his sword had been broken upon it and left a contusion, and
glancing timidly into the mirrors, as if he feared to discover the
image of Froloff there.
It was at this moment that he discovered Prince Zilah, and rushed
up to him with the joyful cry of a child discovering a protector.
The Prince noticed that poor Vogotzine, who sat heavily down by his
side, was not entirely sober. The enormous quantity of kummel he had
absorbed, together with the terror produced by the article he had
read, had proved too much for the good man: his face was fiery, and he
constantly moistened his dry lips.
"I suppose it astonishes you to see me here?" he said, as if he
had forgotten all that had taken place. "I—I am astonished to see
myself here! But I am so bored down there at Maisons, and I rust,
rust, as little—little—ah! Stephanie said to me once at Odessa. So
I came to breathe the air of Paris. A miserable idea! Oh, if you
knew! When I think that that might happen to me!"
"What?" asked Andras, mechanically.
"What?" gasped the General, staring at him with dilated eyes.
"Why, Froloff, of course! Froloff! The sword broken over your head!
The gallows! Ach! I am not a nihilist—heaven forbid!—but I have
displeased the Czar. And to displease the Czar—Brr! Imagine the
open square-Odessa-No, no, don't let us talk of it any more!" glancing
suddenly about him, as if he feared the platoon of Cossacks were
there, in the restaurant, come to drag him away in the name of the
Emperor. "Oh! by the way, Prince," he exclaimed abruptly. "why don't
you ever come to Maisons-Lafitte?"
He must, indeed, have been drunk to address such a question to the
Zilah looked him full in the face; but Vogotzine's eyes blinked
stupidly, and his head fell partially forward on his breast.
Satisfied that he was not responsible for what he was saying, Andras
rose to leave the restaurant, and the General with difficulty stumbled
to his feet, and instinctively grasped Andras's arm, the latter making
no resistance, the mention of Maisons-Lafitte interesting him, even
from the lips of this intoxicated old idiot.
"Do you know," stuttered Vogotzine, "I, myself, should be
glad—very glad—if you would come there. I am bored-bored to death!
Closed shutters—not the least noise. The creaking of a door—the
slightest bit of light-makes her ill. The days drag—they drag—yes,
they do. No one speaks. Most of the time I dine alone. Shall I tell
you?—no—yes, I will. Marsa, yes, well! Marsa, she is good, very
good—thinks only of the poor-the poor, you know! But whatever Doctor
Fargeas may say about it, she is mad! You can't deceive me! She is
"Insane?" said Andras, striving to control his emotion.
The General, who was now staggering violently, clung desperately to
the Prince. They had reached the boulevard, and Andras, hailing a
cab, made Vogotzine get in, and instructed the coachman to drive to
"I assure you that she is insane," proceeded the General, throwing
his head back on the cushions. "Yes, insane. She does not eat
anything; she never rests. Upon my word, I don't know how she lives.
Once—her dogs— she took walks. Now, I go with them into the
park—good beasts—very gentle. Sometimes, all that she says, is:
'Listen! Isn't that Duna or Bundas barking?' Ah! if I wasn't afraid
of Froloffyes, Froloff—how soon I should return to Russia! The life
of Paris—the life of Paris wearies me. You see, I come here today, I
take up a newspaper, and I see what? Froloff! Besides, the life of
Paris—at Maisons-Lafitte—between four walls, it is absurd! Now,
acknowledge, old man, isn't it absurd? Do you know what I should like
to do? I should like to send a petition to the Czar. What did I do,
after all, I should like to know? It wasn't anything so horrible. I
stayed, against the Emperor's orders, five days too long at
Odessa—that was all—yes, you see, a little French actress who was
there, who sang operettas; oh, how she did sing operettas! Offenbach,
you know;" and the General tried to hum a bar or two of the 'Dites
lui', with ludicrous effect. "Charming! To leave her, ah! I found
that very hard. I remained five days: that wasn't much, eh, Zilah?
five days? But the devil! There was a Grand Duke—well—humph!
younger than I, of course—and—and—the Grand Duke was jealous. Oh!
there was at that time a conspiracy at Odessa! I was accused of
spending my time at the theatre, instead of watching the conspirators.
They even said I was in the conspiracy! Oh, Lord! Odessa! The
gallows! Froloff! Well, it was Stephanie Gavaud who was the cause of
it. Don't tell that to Marsa! Ah! that little Stephanie! 'J'ai vu
le vieux Bacchus sur sa roche fertile!' Tautin—no, Tautin couldn't
sing like that little Stephanie! Well," continued Vogotzine,
hiccoughing violently, "because all that happened then, I now lead
here the life of an oyster! Yes, the life of an oyster, of a turtle,
of a clam! alone with a woman sad as Mid-Lent, who doesn't speak,
doesn't sing, does nothing but weep, weep, weep! It is crushing! I
say just what I think! Crushing, then, whatever my niece may
be—cr-r-rushing! And—ah—really, my dear fellow, I should be glad
if you would come. Why did you go away? Yes, yes, that is your
affair, and I don't ask any questions. Only—only you would do well
"Why?" interrupted Andras, turning quickly to Vogotzine.
"Ah! why? Because!" said the General, trying to give to his
heavy face an expression of shrewd, dignified gravity.
"What has happened?" asked the Prince. "Is she suffering again?
"Oh, insane, I tell you! absolutely insane! mad as a March hare!
Two days ago, you see—"
"Well, what? two days ago?"
"Because, two days ago!—"
"Well, what? What is it? Speak, Vogotzine!"
"The despatch," stammered the General.
"The des—despatch from Florence."
"She has received a despatch from Florence?"
"A telegram—blue paper—she read it before me; upon my word, I
thought it was from you! She said—no; those miserable bits of paper,
it is astonishing how they alarm you. There are telegrams which have
given me a fit of indigestion, I assure you—and I haven't the heart
of a chicken!"
"Go on! Marsa? This despatch? Whom was it from? What did Marsa
"She turned white as a sheet; she began to tremble—an attack of
the nerves—and she said: 'Well, in two days I shall know, at last,
whether I am to live!' Queer, wasn't it? I don't know what she
meant! But it is certain—yes, certain, my dear fellow—that she
expects, this evening, some one who is coming—or who is not coming,
from Florence—that depends."
"Who is it? Who?" cried Andras. "Michel Menko?"
"I don't know," faltered Vogotzine in alarm, wondering whether it
were Froloff's hand that had seized him by the collar of his coat.
"It is Menko, is it not?" demanded Andras; while the terrified
General gasped out something unintelligible, his intoxication
increasing every yard the carriage advanced in the Bois.
Andras was almost beside himself with pain and suspense. What did
it mean? Who had sent that despatch? Why had it caused Marsa such
emotion? "In two days I shall know, at last, whether I am to live!"
Who could make her utter such a cry? Who, if not Michel Menko, was
so intimately connected with her life as to trouble her so, to drive
her insane, as Vogotzine said?
"It is Menko, is it not? it is Menko?" repeated Andras again.
And Vogotzine gasped:
"Perhaps! anything is possible!"
But he stopped suddenly, as if he comprehended, despite his
inebriety, that he was in danger of going too far and doing some harm.
"Come, Vogotzine, come, you have told me too much not to tell me
"That is true; yes, I have said too much! Ah! The devil! this is
not my affair!—Well, yes, Count Menko is in Florence or near
Florence— I don't know where. Marsa told me that—without meaning
to. She was excited—very excited—talked to herself. I did not ask
her anything— but—she is insane, you see, mad, mad! She first wrote
a despatch to Italy—then she tore it up like this, saying: 'No, what
is to happen, will happen!' There! I don't know anything but that. I
don't know anything!"
"Ah! she is expecting him!" cried Andras. "When?"
"I don't know!"
"You told me it was to be this evening. This evening, is it not?"
The old General felt as ill at ease as if he had been before a
military commission or in the hands of Froloff.
"Yes, this evening."
"At Maisons," responded Vogotzine, mechanically. "And all this
wearies me—wearies me. Was it for this I decided to come to Paris?
A fine idea! At least, there are no Russian days at Maisons!"
Andras made no reply.
He stopped the carriage, got out, and, saluting the General with a
brief "Thank you!" walked rapidly away, leaving Vogotzine in blank
amazement, murmuring, as he made an effort to sit up straight:
"Well, well, are you going to leave me here, old man? All alone?
This isn't right!"
And, like a forsaken child, the old General, with comic twitchings
of his eyebrows and nostrils, felt a strong desire to weep.
"Where shall I drive you, Monsieur?" asked the coachman.
"Wherever you like, my friend," responded Vogotzine, modestly, with
an appealing look at the man. "You, at least, must not leave me!"
CHAPTER XXXII. THE VALE OF VIOLETS
In the Prince's mind the whole affair seemed clear as day, and he
explained the vague anxiety with which he had been afflicted for
several days as a mysterious premonition of a new sorrow. Menko was
at Florence! Menko, for it could be no other than he, had telegraphed
to Marsa, arranging a meeting with her. That very evening he was to
be in the house of Marsa Laszlo—Marsa who bore, in spite of all, the
title and name of the Zilahs. Was it possible? After the marriage,
after this woman's vows and tears, these two beings, separated for a
time, were to be united again. And he, Andras, had almost felt pity
for her! He had listened to Varhely, an honest man; drawing a
parallel between a vanquished soldier and this fallen girl—Varhely,
the rough, implacable Varhely, who had also been the dupe of the
Tzigana, and one evening at Sainte-Adresse had even counselled the
deceived husband to pardon her.
In a state bordering on frenzy, Zilah returned to his hotel,
"He will be with her this evening!"
This was worse than all the rest. How could he punish her?
Why not? Was not Marsa Laszlo his wife? That villa of
Maisons-Lafitte, where she thought herself so safe, was his by law.
He, the husband, had a right to enter there at any hour and demand of
his wife an account of his honor.
"She wished this name of Zilah! Well! she shall know at least
what it costs and what it imposes upon her!" he hissed through his
clenched teeth. He walked nervously to and fro in the library of his
hotel, his excitement increasing at every step.
"She is Princess Zilah! She—a princess! Nothing can wrest from
her that title which she has stolen! Princess be it, then; but the
Prince has the right to deal out life or death to his wife—to his
wife and to the lover of his wife!" with a spasmodic burst of
laughter. "Her lover is to be there; Menko is to be there, and I
complain! The man whom I have sought in vain will be before me. I
shall hold him at my mercy, and I do not thank the kind fate which
gives me that joy! This evening! He will be at her house this
evening! Good! Justice shall be done!"
Every moment added to his fever. He would have given ten years of
his life if it were already evening. He waited impatiently for the
hour to come when he could go and surprise them. He even thought of
meeting Menko at the railway station on his arrival from Italy: but
what would be the use? Menko would be at Maisons; and he would kill
him before her face, in a duel if Menko would fight, or like a thief
caught in the act if he attempted to fly. That would be better. Yes,
he would kill him like a dog, if the other—but no! The Hungarian,
struck in the presence of the Tzigana, would certainly not recoil
before a pistol. Marsa should be the sole witness of the duel, and
the blood of the Prince or of Menko should spatter her face—a crimson
stain upon her pale cheek should be her punishment.
Early in the evening Andras left the hotel, after slipping into the
pocket of his overcoat a pair of loaded pistols: one of them he would
cast at Menko's feet. It was not assassination he wished, but
He took the train to Maisons, and, on his arrival there, crossed
the railway bridge, and found himself almost alone in the broad avenue
which runs through the park. As he walked on through the rapidly
darkening shadows, he began to feel a strange sensation, as if nothing
had happened, and as if he were shaking off, little by little, a
hideous nightmare. In a sort of voluntary hallucination, he imagined
that he was going, as in former days, to Marsa's house; and that she
was awaiting him in one of those white frocks which became her so
well, with her silver belt clasped with the agraffe of opals. As he
advanced, a host of memories overwhelmed him. He had walked with
Marsa under these great lindens forming an arch overhead like that of
a cathedral. He remembered conversations they had had in the evening,
when a slight mist silvered the majestic park, and the white villa
loomed vaguely before them like some phantom palace of fairyland.
With the Tzigana clinging to his arm, he had seen those fountains,
with their singing waters, that broad lawn between the two long lines
of trees, those winding paths through the shrubbery; and, in the
emotion aroused by these well-remembered places, there was a sensation
of bitter pain at the thought of the happiness that might have been
his had fate fulfilled her promises, which increased, rather than
appeased, the Prince's anger.
As his steps led him mechanically nearer and nearer to the house
where she lived, all the details of his wedding-day rose in his
memory, and he turned aside to see again the little church, the
threshold of which they had crossed together—she exquisitely lovely
in her white draperies, and he overflowing with happiness.
The square in front of the sanctuary was now deserted and the
leaves were beginning to fall from the trees. A man was lying asleep
upon the steps before the bolted door. Zilah stood gazing at the
Gothic portal, with a statue of the Virgin Mother above it, and
wondered whether it were he who had once led there a lovely girl,
about to become his wife; and the sad, closed church produced upon him
the effect of a tomb.
He dragged himself away from the contemplation of the stone
threshold, where slept the tired man—drunk perhaps, at all events
happier than the Prince—and proceeded on his way through the woods to
the abode of Marsa Laszlo.
There was, Zilah remembered well, quite near there, a sort of
narrow valley (where the Mayor of Maisons was said to have royally
entertained Louis XIV and his courtiers, as they were returning from
Marly), a lovely spot, surrounded by grassy slopes covered with
violets, a little shady, Virgilian wood, where he and Marsa had
dreamed away many happy hours. They had christened it The Vale o f
Violets. How many memories were in that sweet name, each one of which
stabbed and exasperated Zilah, rising before him like so many
He hastened his steps, repeating:
"He is there! She is waiting for him! Her lover is there!"
At the end of the road, before the villa, closed and silent like
the old church, he stopped. He had reached his destination; but what
was he about to do, he who—who up to this time had protected his name
from the poisonous breath of scandal?
He was about to kill Menko, or to be killed himself. A duel! But
what was the need of proposing a duel, when, exercising his rights as
a husband, he could punish both the man and the woman?
He did not hesitate long, however, but advanced to the gate,
"I have a right to enter my own house."
The ringing of the bell was answered by the barking of Duna,
Bundas, and Ortog, who tore furiously at their iron chains.
A man presently appeared on the other side of the gate. It was a
domestic whom Andras did not know and had never seen.
"Whom do you wish to see?" asked the man.
"The Princess Zilah!"
"Who are you?" demanded the man, his hand upon the inner bolt of
The other stood stock-still in amazement, trying to see, through
the darkness, the Prince's face.
"Do you hear me?" demanded Andras.
And, as the domestic opened the gate, as if to observe the
appearance of the visitor, the Prince gave it a nervous push, which
threw the servant backward; and, once within the garden, he came close
to him, and said:
"Look well at me, in order that you may recognize me again. I am
Zilah's clear eye and imperious manner awed the man, and he bowed
humbly, not daring to speak.
Andras turned on his heel, mounted the steps, and entered the
house; then he stopped and listened.
She was with him. Yes, a man was there, and the man was speaking,
speaking to Marsa, speaking doubtless of love.
Menko, with his twisted moustache, his pretty smile and his
delicate profile, was there, behind that door. A red streak of light
from the salon where Marsa was showed beneath the door, which the
Prince longed to burst open with his foot. With anger and bitterness
filling his heart, he felt capable of entering there, and striking
savagely, madly, at his rival.
How these two beings had played with him; the woman who had lied to
him, and the coward who had sent him those letters.
Suddenly Marsa's voice fell upon his ear, that rich, contralto
voice he knew so well, speaking in accents of love or joy.
What was he waiting for? His hot, feverish hand sought the handle
of his pistol, and, striding forward, he threw open the door of the
The light from an opal-tinted lamp fell full upon his face. He
stood erect upon the threshold, while two other faces were turned
toward him, two pale faces, Marsa's and another's.
Andras paused in amazement.
He had sought Menko; he found—Varhely!
CHAPTER XXXIII. THE DUEL
Marsa recoiled in fear at hearing this cry and the sudden
appearance of the Prince; and, trembling like a leaf, with her face
still turned toward that threshold where Andras stood, she murmured,
in a voice choked with emotion:
"Who is there? Who is it?"
Yanski Varhely, unable to believe his eyes, advanced, as if to make
"Zilah!" he exclaimed, in his turn.
He could not understand; and Zilah himself wondered whether he were
not the victim of some illusion, and where Menko could be, that Menko
whom Marsa had expected, and whom he, the husband, had come to
But the most bewildered, in her mute amazement, was Marsa, her lips
trembling, her face ashen, her eyes fixed upon the Prince, as she
leaned against the marble of the mantelpiece to prevent herself from
falling, but longing to throw herself on her knees before this man who
had suddenly appeared, and who was master of her destiny.
"You here?" said Varhely at last. "You followed me, then?"
"No," said Andras. "The one whom I expected to find here was not
"Who was it, then?"
Yanski Varhely turned toward Marsa.
She did not stir; she was looking at the Prince.
"Michel Menko is dead," responded Varhely, shortly. "It was to
announce that to the Princess Zilah that I am here."
Andras gazed alternately upon the old Hungarian, and upon Marsa,
who stood there petrified, her whole soul burning in her eyes.
"Dead?" repeated Zilah, coldly.
"I fought and killed him," returned Varhely.
Andras struggled against the emotion which seized hold of him.
Pale as death, he turned from Varhely to the Tzigana, with an
instinctive desire to know what her feelings might be.
The news of this death, repeated thus before the man whom she
regarded as the master of her existence, had, apparently, made no
impression upon her, her thoughts being no longer there, but her whole
heart being concentrated upon the being who had despised her, hated
her, fled from her, and who appeared there before her as in one of her
painful dreams in which he returned again to that very house where he
had cursed her.
"There was," continued Varhely, slowly, "a martyr who could not
raise her head, who could not live, so long as that man breathed.
First of all, I came to her to tell her that she was delivered from a
detested past. Tomorrow I should have informed a man whose honor is my
own, that the one who injured and insulted him has paid his debt."
With lips white as his moustache, Varhely spoke these words like a
judge delivering a solemn sentence.
A strange expression passed over Zilah's face. He felt as if some
horrible weight had been lifted from his heart.
Yet there was a time when he had loved this Michel Menko: and, of
the three beings present in the little salon, the man who had been
injured by him was perhaps the one who gave a pitying thought to the
dead, the old soldier remaining as impassive as an executioner, and
the Tzigana remembering only the hatred she had felt for the one who
had been her ruin.
Varhely took from the mantelpiece the despatch he had sent from
Florence, three days before, to the Princess Zilah, the one of which
Vogotzine had spoken to Andras.
He handed it to the Prince, and Andras read as follows:
"I am about to risk my life for you. Tuesday evening either I
shall be at Maisons-Lafitte, or I shall be dead. I fight tomorrow
with Count M. If you do not see me again, pray for the soul of
Count Varhely had sent this despatch before going to keep his
appointment with Michel Menko.
It had been arranged that they were to fight in a field near
Some peasant women, who were braiding straw hats, laughed as they
saw the men pass by.
One of them called out, gayly:
"Do you wish to find your sweethearts, signori? That isn't the
A little farther, Varhely and his adversary encountered a monk with
a cowl drawn over his head so that only his eyes could be seen, who,
holding out a zinc money-box, demanded 'elemosina', alms for the sick
Menko opened his pocketbook, and dropped in the box a dozen pieces
"Mille grazie, signor!"
"It is of no consequence."
They arrived on the ground, and the seconds loaded the pistols.
Michel asked permission of Yanski to say two words to him.
"Speak!" said Varhely.
The old Hungarian stood at his post with folded arms and lowered
eyes, while Michel approached him, and said:
"Count Varhely, I repeat to you that I wished to prevent this
marriage, but not to insult the Prince. I give you my word of honor
that this is true. If you survive me, will you promise to repeat this
"I thank you."
They took their positions.
Angelo Valla was to give the signal to fire.
He stood holding a white handkerchief in his outstretched hand, and
with his eyes fixed upon the two adversaries, who were placed opposite
each other, with their coats buttoned up to the chin, and their
pistols held rigidly by their side.
Varhely was as motionless as if made of granite. Menko smiled.
"One! Two!" counted Valla.
He paused as if to take breath: then—
"Three!" he exclaimed, in the tone of a man pronouncing a death-
sentence; and the handkerchief fell.
There were two reports in quick succession.
Varhely stood erect in his position; Menko's ball had cut a branch
above his head, and the green leaves fell fluttering to the ground.
Michel staggered back, his hand pressed to his left side.
His seconds hastened toward him, seized him under the arms, and
tried to raise him.
"It is useless," he said. "It was well aimed!"
And, turning to Varhely, he cried, in a voice which he strove to
"Remember your promise!"
They opened his coat. The ball had entered his breast just above
They seated him upon the grass, with his back against a tree.
He remained there, with fixed eyes, gazing, perhaps, into the
infinite, which was now close at hand.
His lips murmured inarticulate names, confused words: "Pardon—
As Yanski Varhely, with his two seconds, again passed the
straw-workers, the girls saluted them with:
"Well, where are your other friends? Have they found their
And while their laughter rang out upon the air, the gay, foolish
laughter of youth and health, over yonder they were bearing away the
dead body of Michel Menko.
Andras Zilah, with a supreme effort at self-control, listened to
his old friend relate this tale; and, while Varhely spoke, he was
It was not a lover, it was not Menko, whom Marsa expected. Between
the Tzigana and himself there was now nothing, nothing but a phantom.
The other had paid his debt with his life. The Prince's anger
disappeared as suddenly in proportion as his exasperation had been
He contemplated Marsa, thin and pale, but beautiful still. The
very fixedness of her great eyes gave her a strange and powerful
attraction; and, in the manner in which Andras regarded her, Count
Varhely, with his rough insight, saw that there were pity,
astonishment, and almost fear.
He pulled his moustache a moment in reflection, and then made a
step toward the door.
Marsa saw that he was about to leave the room; and, moving away
from the marble against which she had been leaning, with a smile
radiant with the joy of a recovered pride, she held out her hand to
Yanski, and, in a voice in which there was an accent of almost
terrible gratitude for the act of justice which had been accomplished,
she said, firmly:
"I thank you, Varhely!"
Varhely made no reply, but passed out of the room, closing the door
The husband and wife, after months of torture, anguish, and
despair, were alone, face to face with each other.
Andras's first movement was one of flight. He was afraid of
himself. Of his own anger? Perhaps. Perhaps of his own pity.
He did not look at Marsa, and in two steps he was at the door.
Then, with a start, as one drowning catches at a straw, as one
condemned to death makes a last appeal for mercy, with a feeble,
despairing cry like that of a child, a strange contrast to the almost
savage thanks given to Varhely, she exclaimed:
"Ah! I implore you, listen to me!"
"What have you to say to me?" he asked.
"Nothing—nothing but this: Forgive! ah, forgive! I have seen you
once more; forgive me, and let me disappear; but, at least, carrying
away with me a word from you which is not a condemnation."
"I might forgive," said Andras; "but I could not forget."
"I do not ask you to forget, I do not ask you that! Does one ever
forget? And yet—yes, one does forget, one does forget, I know it.
You are the only thing in all my existence, I know only you, I think
only of you. I have loved only you!"
Andras shivered, no longer able to fly, moved to the depths of his
being by the tones of this adored voice, so long unheard.
"There was no need of bloodshed to destroy that odious past,"
continued Marsa. "Ah! I have atoned for it! There is no one on earth
who has suffered as I have. I, who came across your path only to ruin
your life! Your life, my God, yours!"
She looked at him with worshipping eyes, as believers regard their
"You have not suffered so much as the one you stabbed, Marsa. He
had never had but one love in the world, and that love was you. If
you had told him of your sufferings, and confessed your secret, he
would have been capable of pardoning you. You deceived him. There
was something worse than the crime itself—the lie."
"Ah!" she cried, "if you knew how I hated that lie! Would to
heaven that some one would tear out my tongue for having deceived
There was an accent of truth in this wild outburst of the Tzigana;
and upon the lips of this daughter of the puszta, Hungarian and
Russian at once, the cry seemed the very symbol of her exceptional
"What is it you wish that I should do?" she said. "Die? yes, I
would willingly, gladly die for you, interposing my breast between you
and a bullet. Ah! I swear to you, I should be thankful to die like
one of those who bore your name. But, there is no fighting now, and I
can not shed my blood for you. I will sacrifice my life in another
manner, obscurely, in the shadows of a cloister. I shall have had
neither lover nor husband, I shall be nothing, a recluse, a prisoner.
It will be well! yes, for me, the prison, the cell, death in a life
slowly dragged out! Ah! I deserve that punishment, and I wish my
sentence to come from you; I wish you to tell me that I am free to
disappear, and that you order me to do so—but, at the same time, tell
me, oh, tell me, that you have forgiven me!"
"I!" said Andras.
In Marsa's eyes was a sort of wild excitement, a longing for
sacrifice, a thirst for martyrdom.
"Do I understand that you wish to enter a convent?" asked Andras,
"Yes, the strictest and gloomiest. And into that tomb I shall
carry, with your condemnation and farewell, the bitter regret of my
love, the weight of my remorse!"
The convent! The thought of such a fate for the woman he loved
filled Andras Zilah with horror. He imagined the terrible scene of
Marsa's separation from the world; he could hear the voice of the
officiating bishop casting the cruel words upon the living, like earth
upon the dead; he could almost see the gleam of the scissors as they
cut through her beautiful dark hair.
Kneeling before him, her eyes wet with tears, Marsa was as lovely
in her sorrow as a Mater Dolorosa. All his love surged up in his
heart, and a wild temptation assailed him to keep her beauty, and
dispute with the convent this penitent absolved by remorse.
She knelt there repentant, weeping, wringing her hands, asking
nothing but pardon—a word, a single word of pity—and the permission
to bury herself forever from the world.
"So," he said, abruptly, "the convent cell, the prison, does not
"Nothing terrifies me except your contempt."
"You would live far from Paris, far from the world, far from
"In a kennel of dogs, under the lash of a slavedriver; breaking
stones, begging my bread, if you said to me: 'Do that, it is
"Well!" cried Andras, passionately, his lips trembling, his blood
surging through his veins. "Live buried in our Hungary, forgetting,
forgotten, hidden, unknown, away from all, away from Paris, away from
the noise of the world, in a life with me, which will be a new life!
She looked at him with staring, terrified eyes, believing his words
to be some cruel jest.
"Will you?" he said again, raising her from the floor, and
straining her to his breast, his burning lips seeking the icy ones of
the Tzigana. "Answer me, Marsa. Will you?"
Like a sigh, the word fell on the air: "Yes."
CHAPTER XXXIV. A NEW LIFE
The following day, with tender ardor, he took her away to his old
Hungarian castle, with its red towers still bearing marks of the
ravages of the cannon—the castle which he never had beheld since
Austria had confiscated it, and then, after long years, restored it to
its rightful owner. He fled from Paris, seeking a pure existence, and
returned to his Hungary, to the country of his youth, the land of the
vast plains. He saw again the Danube and the golden Tisza. In the
Magyar costume, his heart beating more proudly under the national
attila, he passed before the eyes of the peasants who had known him
when a child, and had fought under his orders; and he spoke to them by
name, recognizing many of his old companions in these poor people with
cheeks tanned by the sun, and heads whitened by age.
He led Marsa, trembling and happy, to the door of the castle, where
they offered him the wine of honor, drank from the 'tschouttora', the
Hungarian drinking-vessel, the 'notis' and cakes made of maize cooked
Upon the lawns about the castle, the 'tschiko' shepherds, who had
come on horseback to greet the Prince, drank plum brandy, and drank
with their red wine the 'kadostas' and the bacon of Temesvar. They
had come from their farms, from their distant pusztas, peasant
horsemen, like soldiers, with their national caps; and they joyously
celebrated the return of Zilah Andras, the son of those Zilahs whose
glorious history they all knew. The dances began, the bright copper
heels clinked together, the blue jackets, embroidered with yellow,
red, or gold, swung in the wind, and it seemed that the land of
Hungary blossomed with flowers and rang with songs to do honor to the
coming of Prince Andras and his Princess.
Then Andras entered with Marsa the abode of his ancestors. And, in
the great halls hung with tapestry and filled with pictures which the
conquerors had respected, before those portraits of magnates superb in
their robes of red or green velvet edged with fur, curved sabres by
their sides and aigrettes upon their heads, all reproducing a common
trait of rough frankness, with their long moustaches, their armor and
their hussar uniforms—Marsa Laszlo, who knew them well, these heroes
of her country, these Zilah princes who had fallen upon the field of
battle, said to the last of them all, to Andras Zilah, before Ferency
Zilah, before Sandor, before the Princesses Zilah who had long slept
in "dull, cold marble," and who had been no prouder than she of the
great name they bore:
"Do you know the reason why, equal to these in devotion and
courage, you are superior to them all! It is because you are good, as
good as they were brave.
To their virtues, you, who forgive, add this virtue, which is your
She looked at him humbly, raising to his face her beautiful dark
eyes, as if to let him read her heart, in which was only his image and
his name. She pressed closely to his side, with an uneasy, timid
tenderness, as if she were a stranger in the presence of his great
ancestors, who seemed to demand whether the newcomer were one of the
family; and he, putting his arm about her, and pressing to his beating
heart the Tzigana, whose eyes were dim with tears, said: "No, I am not
better than these. It is not pity which is my virtue, Marsa: it is my
love. For—I love you!"
Yes, he loved her, and with all the strength of a first and only
love. He loved her so that he forgot everything, so that he did not
see that in Marsa's smile there was a look of the other side of the
great, eternal river. He loved her so that he thought only of this
woman, of her beauty, of the delight of her caresses, of his dream of
love realized in the air of the adored fatherland. He loved her so
that he left without answers the charming letters which Baroness
Dinati wrote him from Paris, so far away now, and the more serious
missives which he received from his compatriots, wishing him to
utilize for his country, now that he had returned to it, his superior
intelligence, as he had formerly utilized his courage.
"The hour is critical," wrote his old friends. "An attempt is
being made to awaken in Hungary, against the Russians, whom we like,
memories of combats and extinct hatreds, and that to the profit of a
German alliance, which is repugnant to our race. Bring the support of
your name and your valor to our cause. Enter the Diet of Hungary.
Your place is marked out for you there in the first rank, as it was
in the old days upon the battlefield."
Andras only smiled.
"If I were ambitious!" he said to Marsa. Then he added: "But I am
ambitious only for your happiness."
Marsa's happiness! It was deep, calm, and clear as a lake. It
seemed to the Tzigana that she was dreaming a dream, a beautiful
dream, a dream peaceful, sweet, and restful. She abandoned herself to
her profound happiness with the trustfulness of a child. She was all
the more happy because she had the exquisite sensation that her dream
would have no awakening. It would end in all the charm of its poetry.
She was sure that she could not survive the immense joy which
destiny had accorded her; and she did not rebel against this decree.
It seemed to her right and just. She had never desired any other
ending to her love than to die beloved, to die with Andras's kiss of
forgiveness upon her lips, with his arms about her, and to sink with a
smile into the eternal sleep. What more beautiful thing could she,
the Tzigana, have wished?
When the Prince's people saluted her by that title of "Princess"
which was hers, she trembled as if she had usurped it; she wished to
be Marsa to the Prince, Marsa, his devoted slave, who looked at him
with her great eyes full of gratitude and love. And she wished to be
only that. It seemed to her that, in the ancient home of the Zilahs,
the birthplace of soldiers, the eyrie of eagles, she was a sort of
stranger; but, at the same time, she thought, with a smile:
"What matters it? It is for so short a time."
One day Prince Zilah received from Vienna a large sealed envelope.
Minister Ladany earnestly entreated him to come to the Austrian
capital and present, in the salons of Vienna and at the imperial
court, Princess Zilah, of whose beauty the Austrian colony of Paris
Marsa asked the Prince what the letter contained.
"Nothing. An invitation to leave our solitude. We are too happy
Marsa questioned him no further; but she resolved that she would
never allow the Prince to take her to that court which claimed his
presence. In her eyes, she was always the Tzigana; and, although Menko
was dead, she would never permit Zilah to present her to people who
might have known Count Michel.
No, no, let them remain in the dear old castle, he living only for
her, she breathing only for him; and let the world go, with its
fascinations and its pleasures, its false joys and its false
friendships! Let them ask of life only what truth it possesses; an
hour of rest between two ordeals, a smile between two sobs, and—the
right to love each other. To love each other until that fatal
separation which she felt was coming, until that end which was fast
advancing; her poor, frail body being now only the diaphanous prison
of her soul. She did not complain, as she felt the hour gently
approach when, with a last kiss, a last sigh, she must say to Andras,
He, seeing her each day more pale, each day more feeble, was
alarmed; but he hoped, that, when the winter, which was very severe
there, was over, Marsa would regain her strength. He summoned to the
castle a physician from Vienna, who battled obstinately and skilfully
against the malady from which the Tzigana was suffering. Her weakness
and languor kept Marsa, during the cold months, for whole days before
the lofty, sculptured chimney-piece, in which burned enormous logs of
oak. As the flames gave a rosy tinge to her cheeks and made her
beautiful eyes sparkle, Andras said to herself, as he watched her,
that she would live, live and be happy with him.
The spring came, with the green leaflets and the white blossoms at
the ends of the branches. The buds opened and the odors of the
rejuvenated earth mounted subtly into the soft air.
At her window, regarding the young grass and the masses of tender
verdure in which clusters of pale gold or silvery white gleamed like
aigrettes, Marsa said to Andras:
"It must be lovely at Maisons, in the Vale of Violets!" but she
"We are better here, much better! And it even seems to me that I
have always, always lived here in this beautiful castle, where you
have sheltered me, like a swallow beaten by the wind."
There was, beneath the window, stretching out like a ribbon of
silver, a road, which the mica dust caused, at times, in the sunlight
to resemble a river. Marsa often looked out on this road, imagining
that she saw again the massive dam upon the Seine, or wondering
whether a band of Tzigani would not appear there with the April days.
"I should like," she said one day to Andras, "to hear again the
airs my people used to play."
She found that, with the returning spring, she was more feeble than
she had ever been. The first warmth in the air entered her veins like
a sweet intoxication. Her head felt heavy, and in her whole body she
felt a pleasant languor. She had wished to sink thus to rest, as
nature was awakening.
The doctor seemed very uneasy at this languidness, of which Marsa
"It is delicious!"
He whispered one evening to Andras:
"It is grave!"
Another sorrow was to come into the life of the Prince, who had
known so many.
A few days after, with a sort of presentiment, he wrote to Yanski
Varhely to come and spend a few months with him. He felt the need of
his old friend; and the Count hastened to obey the summons.
Varhely was astonished to see the change which so short a time had
produced in Marsa. In seven months her face, although still
beautiful, had become emaciated, and had a transparent look. The
little hand, white as snow, which she gave to Varhely, burned him; the
skin was dry and hot.
"Well, my dear Count," said Marsa, as she lay extended in a
reclining- chair, "what news of General Vogotzine?"
"The General is well. He hopes to return to Russia. The Czar has
been appealed to, and he does not say no."
"Ah! that is good news," she said. "He must be greatly bored at
Maisons; poor Vogotzine!"
"He smokes, drinks, takes the dogs out—"
The dogs! Marsa started. Those hounds would survive Menko,
herself, the love which she now tasted as the one joy of her life!
Mechanically her lips murmured, too low to be heard: "Ortog!
Then she said, aloud:
"I shall be very, glad if the poor General can return to St.
Petersburg or Odessa. One is best off at home, in one's own country.
If you only knew, Varhely, how happy I am, happy to be in Hungary.
She was very weak. The doctor made a sign to Andras to leave her
for a moment.
"Well," asked the Prince anxiously of Varhely, "how do you think
"What does the doctor say?" replied Yanski. "Does he hope to save
Zilah made no response. Varhely's question was the most terrible
Ensconced in an armchair, the Prince then laid bare his heart to
old Varhely, sitting near him. She was about to die, then! Solitude!
Was that to be the end of his life? After so many trials, it was all
to end in this: an open grave, in which his hopes were to be buried.
What remained to him now? At the age when one has no recourse
against fate, love, the one love of his life, was to be taken away
from him. Varhely had administered justice, and Zilah had
pardoned—for what? To watch together a silent tomb; yes, yes, what
remained to him now?
"What remains to you if she dies?" said old Yanski, slowly.
"There remains to you what you had at twenty years, that which never
dies. There remains to you what was the love and the passion of all
the Zilah princes who lie yonder, and who experienced the same
suffering, the same torture, the same despair, as you. There remains
to you our first love, my dear Andras, the fatherland!"
The next day some Tzigana musicians, whom the Prince had sent for,
arrived at the castle. Marsa felt invigorated when she heard the
czimbalom and the piercing notes of the czardas. She had been longing
for those harmonies and songs which lay so near her heart. She
listened, with her hand clasped in that of Andras, and through the
open window came the "March of Rakoczy," the same strains which long
ago had been played in Paris, upon the boat which bore them down the
Seine that July morning.
An heroic air, a song of triumph, a battle-cry, the gallop of
horses, a chant of victory. It was the air which had saluted their
betrothal like a fanfare. It was the chant which the Tzigani had
played that sad night when Andras's father had been laid in the earth
"I would like," said Marsa, when the music had ceased, "to go to
the little village where my mother rests. She was a Tzigana also!
Like them, like me! Can I do so, doctor?"
The doctor shook his head.
"Oh, Princess, not yet! Later, when the warm sun comes."
"Is not that the sun?" said Marsa, pointing to the April rays
entering the old feudal hall and making the bits of dust dance like
sparks of gold.
"It is the April sun, and it is sometimes dangerous for—"
The doctor paused; and, as he did not finish, Marsa said gently,
with a smile which had something more than resignation in
"For the dying?"
Andras shuddered; but Marsa's hand, which held his, did not even
Old Varhely's eyes were dim with tears.
She knew that she was about to die. She knew it, and smiled at
kindly death. It would take away all shame. Her memory would be to
Andras the sacred one of the woman he adored. She would die without
being held to keep that oath she had made not to survive her
dreamed-of happiness, the union she had desired and accepted. Yes, it
was sweet and welcome, this death, which taking her from Andras's
love, washed away all stain.
She whispered in his ear the oft-repeated avowal:
"I love you! I love you! I love you! And I die content, for I
feel that you will love me always. Think a moment! Could I live?
Would there not be a spectre between you and your Marsa?"
She threw her arms about him as he leaned over the couch upon which
she lay, and he made a gesture of denial, unable to speak, for each
word would have been a sob.
"Oh, do not deny it!" she said. "Now, no. But later, who knows?
On the other hand, you see, there will be no other phantom near you
but mine, no other image but mine. I feel that I shall be always near
you, yes, always, eternally, my beloved! Dear death! blessed death!
which renders our love infinite, yes, infinite. Ah, I love you! I
She wished to see once more, through the open window, the sunny
woods and the new blossoms. Behind those woods, a few leagues away,
was the place where Tisza was buried.
"I should like to rest by her side," said the Tzigana. "I am not
of your family, you see. A princess, I? your wife? I have been only
your sweetheart, my Andras."
Andras, whiter than the dying girl, seemed petrified by the
approach of the inevitable grief.
Now, as they went slowly down the white road, the Tzigani played
the plaintive melancholy air of Janos Nemeth, that air impregnated
with tears, that air which she used so often to play herself— "The
World holds but One Fair Maiden!"
And this time, bursting into tears, he said to her, with his heart
breaking in his breast:
"Yes, there is but thee, Marsa! but thee, my beloved, thee, thee
alone ! Do not leave me! Stay with me! Stay with me, Marsa, my only
Then, as she listened, over the lovely face of the Tzigana passed
an expression of absolute, perfect happiness, as if, in Zilah's tears,
she read all his forgiveness, all his love, all his devotion. She
raised herself, her little hands resting upon the window-sill, her
head heavy with sleep—the deep, dreamless sleep-and held up her sweet
lips to him: when she felt Andras's kiss, she whispered, so that he
barely heard it:
"Do not forget me! Never forget me, my darling!" Then her head
drooped slowly, and fell upon the Prince's shoulder, like that of a
tired child, with a calm sweet smile upon her flower-like face.
Like the salute they had once given to Prince Sandor, the Tzigani
began proudly the heroic march of free Hungary, their music sending a
fast farewell to the dead as the sun gave her its last kiss.
Then, as the hymn died slowly away in the distance, soft as a sigh,
with one last, low, heart-breaking note, Andras Zilah laid the light
form of the Tzigana upon the couch; and, winding his arms about her,
with his head pillowed upon her breast, he murmured, in a voice broken
with sobs: "I will love only, now, what you loved so much, my poor
Tzigana. I will love only the land where you lie asleep."