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Title: Tales From Jókai

Author: Mór Jókai

Translator: R. Nisbet Bain

Release Date: September 1, 2011 [EBook #37286]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Dr. Jókai Mór

Tales from Jókai




[All Rights Reserved]

Dr. Maurus Jókai's Novels

The Green Book
Black Diamonds
Pretty Michal
The Lion of Janina
A Hungarian Nabob
Dr. Dumany's Wife
The Poor Plutocrats
The Nameless Castle
Debts of Honor
The Day of Wrath
Eyes Like the Sea
Halil the Pedlar (The White Rose)
'Midst the Wild Carpathians
The Slaves of the Padishah


For Love and Ransom.

By Esme Stuart. Author of "Harum Scarum," &c. Illustrated by Harold Piffard. 3s. 6d.

A Romance of Tennyson-Land.
Over Stony Ways.

By Emily M. Bryant. With Notes by T. F. Lockyer, B.A. Also Six Full-page Photographs of Somersby and other Bits of Tennyson-Land. 6s.

'Neath the Hoof of the Tartar; or, The Scourge of God.

By Baron Nicolas Josika—the Sir Walter Scott of Hungary. Translated by Selina Gaye. With Photogravure Portrait of Author, and Preface by R. Nisbet Bain. 6s.

Half in Jest.

By W. Clinton Ellis, Author of "Our Family Portraits." 6s.

More Tales from Tolstoi.

Translated from the Russian by R. Nisbet Bain. With Biography brought up to date, and Photogravure Portrait of Count Leo Tolstoi. 6s.

Tales from Tolstoi.
(Fourth Edition.)

Translated from the Russian by R. Nisbet Bain. With Portrait and Biography of Count Leo Tolstoi. 6s.

Tales from Gorky.
(Sixth Edition.)

Translated from the Russian of Maxim Gorky by R. Nisbet Bain. With Photogravure Portrait and Biography of Author. 6s.

Jarrold & Sons
10 & 11, Warwick Lane, E.C.

[Pg v]


Besides his romances, Jókai has, from time to time, published volumes of shorter stories which, in the opinion of many good Magyar critics, contain some of his most notable work. The present selection will enable English readers to judge of the merits of these stories for the first time. It does not profess to be the best selection which might be made. Many excellent tales could not be included within its narrow limits; others again, equally good, suit Hungarian rather than British taste. But, anyhow, it claims to be fairly representative, and to give a taste of the many widely differing qualities of the most Protean of romancers. Numbers I. and IX., for instance, are models of what historical tales should be, and could only have been written by an author gifted with the historical imagination; Numbers II. and V. are light comic sketches; Number VIII. is a ghost story which Dickens might have written; Numbers III. and IV. are narratives of a grimmer order, with touches of horror not unworthy of the author of "Pretty Michal;" Number VI. is a faithful and picturesque narrative of social life in old Poland—evidently studied with care; while in Number VII. Jókai[Pg vi] gives full rein to his wondrous imagination, and his Pegasus actually carries the reader right away to the capital of the lost island of Atlantis!

Finally, a bibliographical note. The earliest in date of these stories is Number VII., which was originally published, in 1856, under the title of "Oceánia." Next in chronological sequence come Numbers I.-IV., which are to be found in the collection "Jókai Mór Dekameronja," published in 1858. Number VIII. first appeared in the collection "A Magyar világból," 1879; Number V. is taken from "Humoristicus papirszeletek," 1880; Number IX. from "Kis Dekameron," 1890; and Number VI. is the first story in the volume entitled, "Kétszer Kettö-negy," 1893.


May, 1904.


  Preface v
  Biography of Jókai ix
I. The Celestial Slingers (1858) 1
II. The Compulsory Diversion (1858) 19
III. The Sheriff of Caschau (1858) 35
IV. The Justice of Soliman (1858) 55
V. Love and the Little Dog (1880) 71
VI. The Red Starosta (1893) 74
VII. The City of the Beast (1856) 141
VIII. The Hostile Skulls (1879) 227
IX. The Bad Old Times (1890) 244

[Pg ix]


Jókai Mór

At the general meeting of the Hungarian Academy on October 17, 1843, the secretary reported that the 100-florin prize for the best drama of the year had been awarded to Károly Obernik's Föur és pór (Squire and Boor), but that another drama, entitled Zsido fiú (The Jew Boy), had been honourably mentioned, and, indeed, in the opinion of one of the judges, Joseph Bajza, was scarcely inferior to the prize-play itself. The author of the latter piece was a youth of eighteen, Maurus Jókai, a law student at Kecskemet, whose literary essays had already begun to attract some notice in the local papers. That name is now one of the most illustrious in Hungary, and one of the best known in Europe.

Maurus Jókai was born at Rév-Komárom on February 18, 1825. His father, Joseph, a scion of the Ásva branch of the old Calvinist Jókay family, was a lawyer by profession, but a lawyer who had seen something of the world, and loved art and letters. His mother came of the noble Pulays. She was venerated by her son, and is the prototype of the downright, masterful[Pg x] housewives, with warm hearts, capable heads, and truant sons, who so frequently figure in his pages. Maurus was their third and youngest child and the pet of the whole family. He seems to have been a super-sensitive, very affectionate lad, always fonder of books than of games, but liking best of all to listen to the innumerable tales his father had to tell of the Napoleonic wars, in which he himself had borne a humble part, or of the still more marvellous exploits and legends of the old Magyar heroes. It was doubtless from his father that Maurus inherited much of his literary and artistic talents.

At a very early age little Maurus was remarkable for an extraordinarily vivid imagination, but this quality, which, at a later day, was to bring him both fame and fortune, made his childhood wretched. Naturally timid, his nervous fancy was perpetually tormenting him. He had a morbid fear of being buried alive; old, long-bearded Jews and stray dogs inspired him with dread; his first visit to a day-school, at the age of four, was a terrifying adventure, though his father went with him. Even now, however, the child's precocity was prodigious. To him study was no toil, but a passion. His masters could not teach him quickly enough.

In his twelfth year occurred the first calamity of his life. He was summoned from his studies to the death-bed of his beloved father, a catastrophe which he took so much to heart that he fell seriously ill, and for a time his own life was despaired of. He owed his recovery entirely to "my good and blessed sister Esther," as he ever afterwards called her, who nursed[Pg xi] him through his illness with a rare and skilful devotion. He recovered but slowly, and for the next five years was haunted by a black melancholy which he endeavoured to combat by the most intense application to study. At the Comorn Gymnasium, whither he was first sent, he had the good fortune to have for his tutor Francis Vály, subsequently his brother-in-law, a man of rigid puritan principles, profound learning, and many-sided accomplishments, in every way an excellent teacher, who instructed him in French, English, and Italian, and prepared him for college. Vály's influence was decidedly bracing, and his pupil rewarded his conscientious care with a lifelong gratitude. It was Vály, too, who first taught Jókai the useful virtue of early rising. Summer and winter he was obliged to be in his tutor's study at five o'clock every morning. The habit so acquired was never abandoned, and is the simplest explanation of Jókai's extraordinary productivity. By far the greater part of his three hundred volumes has been written before breakfast.

From the Gymnasium of Comorn Jókai proceeded, in 1841, to the Calvinist college at Pápá. It was here that he fell in with a number of talented young men of his own age, including that brilliant meteoric genius Alexander Petöfi, who was presently to reveal himself as one of the greatest lyric poets of the century. The young men founded a mutual improvement society, whose members met regularly to criticise each other's compositions, and Jókai was also one of the principal contributors to the college magazine. Yet curiously enough he displayed at this time so much skill as a painter, sculptor, and carver in ivory that many[Pg xii] seriously thought he would owe the future fame which every one already predicted for him rather to his brush and chisel than to his pen.

In 1843, his mother sent him to Kecskemet to study jurisprudence, and in the fine, bracing air of the Alföld, or great Hungarian plain, amidst miles of orchards and vineyards, the delicate young student recovered something like normal health. It was here, too, that he was first brought into contact with the true Magyar folk-life and folk-humour, and as he himself expressed it, "became a man and a Hungarian writer." Forty-nine years later he was to record his impressions of the place in the exquisite tale "A sarga rózsa" (The Yellow Rose), certainly one of the finest of his later works. It was at Kecskemet, too, as already mentioned, that he now wrote his first play, The Jew Boy. At the same time he won a considerable local reputation as a portrait-painter.

Yielding to the wishes of his friends, Jókai now resolved to follow his father's profession, and for three years continued to study the law with his usual assiduity at Comorn and Pest. In 1844 he obtained his articles, and won his first action. It had needed no small heroism in an ambitious youth of nineteen to submit to the drudgery of the law after such a brilliant literary début as the honourable mention of his first play by the Hungarian Academy in a prize competition (though his admirers certainly never will begrudge the time thus spent in a lawyer's office, where he picked up some of his best comical characters, mainly of the Swiveller type); but, yielding now to natural bias, Jókai made up his mind to go to the capital, and try his luck at[Pg xiii] literature. Accordingly, in 1845, the youth (he was barely twenty), undismayed by many previous terrifying examples of misery and ruin, cited in terrorem by his apprehensive kinsmen, flitted to Pest with a manuscript romance in his pocket. His friend Petöfi, who had settled there before him, and was becoming famous, received him with open arms, and introduced him to the young army of literati whom he had gathered round him at the Café Pillwax, as "a true Frenchman." In those days such a description was the highest conceivable praise. The face of every liberty-loving nation was then turned towards France, and thence the dawn of a new era was confidently anticipated. The young Magyars read nothing but French books. Lamartine's "History of the Girondists" and Tocquevelle's "Democracy" were their Bibles. Petöfi worshipped Beranger, whom he was speedily to excel, while Jókai had found his ideal in Victor Hugo. "This school might easily have become dangerous to us," says Jókai, "had not its influence, fortunately, coincided with the opening up of a new and hitherto unexplored field—the popular romance. Hitherto it had been the endeavour of Magyar writers to write in a style distinct from the language of ordinary life. Our group, on the other hand, started with the idea that it was just the very expressions, constructions, and modes of thought employed in everyday life that Hungarian writers ought to take as the fundamental principle of their writing, nay, that they should even develop ideally beautiful poetry itself from the life of the common people. . . . My own ambition," he adds, "was to explore those regions where the hoof of Pegasus had hitherto left no trace." And in this he certainly[Pg xiv] succeeded when he wrote his first considerable romance "Hétköznapok."

The novel had been successfully cultivated in Hungary long before Jókai appeared upon the scene. As early as 1794, Joseph Kármán had written "Fanni hagyományai" (Fanny's Legacies), obviously suggested by "Pamela," and still one of the best purely analytical romances in the language. A generation later, two noblemen, Baron Joseph Eötvös and Baron Michael Jósika, Jókai's elder contemporaries, respectively founded the didactic novel with a purpose and the historical romance. Eötvös, one of the most liberal and enlightened spirits of his age, fought, almost single-handed, against the abuses of feudalism in his great "A falu jegyzöje" (The Village Notary), while Jósika, an intelligent disciple of Walter Scott, enriched the national literature with a whole series of original historical romances which gave to Hungarian prose a new elevation and a distinction. But "Hétköznapok" was something quite new—so much so, indeed, that Jókai himself was doubtful about it, and determined that it should stand or fall by the verdict of the academician Ignatius Nagy, one of the most productive and ingenious writers of his day, whose influence was then at its height, and who was regarded as an oracle by literary "young Hungary." Jókai, who had never seen the great man before, approached him with considerable trepidation, which was not diminished by the very peculiar appearance of this Aristarchus. "He had," Jókai tells us, "a most embarrassing face covered with dark-red spots right up to his astonishingly lofty forehead, whose shiny baldness was half cut in two, as it[Pg xv] were, by a bright black peruke. He had also an inconceivably big red nose, at which, however, you had no time to be amazed, so instantly were you spell-bound by a couple of squinting eyes—one of which glared as fixedly at you as if it was made wholly of stone. His voice, on the other hand, was as the voice of a little child. And within this repulsive frame dwelt the noblest of souls, in this crippled body the most energetic of characters. From no other strange face did I ever get a kinder glance than I got from those stiff, fishy eyes, and that rich voice announced to me my first great piece of good luck. Upon his recommendation, the publisher Hartleben agreed to publish my first romance, and gave me 360 silver florins for it—in those days an immense fortune to me. I had no further need now to go scribbling all day long in a lawyer's office at six florins a month."

"Hétköznapok" was published, in two volumes, in 1846. The book caused a profound sensation. Its very extravagance suited the taste of an age steeped in Eugene Sueism, and Petöfi, in introducing Jókai to Professor Roye as "a writer who writes French romances in Magyar," hit off both the book and its author to a nicety. It was just the brilliant, exuberant, fanciful sort of thing that a clever youth with a boundless imagination, and no knowledge whatever of the world, would be likely to produce. Still, even the writers who pointed out its crudities and morbidities, praised its striking originality and charm of style, and though it gave but a faint indication of the real genius of the author it brought him into notice, and editors began to look kindly upon him. Thus Frankenburg, the editor[Pg xvi] of the literary review Életképek, who had just parted with his dramatic critic for being a little too unmerciful to the artistes, was induced to take on Jókai in his place. By way of honorarium, he offered the young aspirant a free seat at the theatre and ten florins a month. But Jókai's year of office came to an end the very first week. To make up for his predecessor's want of gallantry, and obeying the dictates of his youthful enthusiasm, he lauded every lady artiste to the skies. "I can honestly say," Jókai tells us, with evident enjoyment of the laugh against himself, "that I meant every word of it. It was then that I saw a ballet for the first time in my life, and it was my solemn conviction that I was bound by a debt of gratitude to say a good word for the excellent damsel who exhibited her natural charms to the public eye with such magnanimous frankness. And a pretty lecture Frankenburg read me for it, too. 'Delightful Sylphid, indeed!—a clumsy stork, I should say!' Still, that might have passed. But it was my magnifying of Lilla Szilágyi, who took the part of Smike in The Beggars of London, which did the business for me. I called her 'a lovely sapling!' and promised her a brilliant future in her dramatic career. 'Leave her alone—she has no reputation at all,' said the editor. 'Then she'll get one!' said I. 'But you'll never get to be a critic,' said he. And so, for Lilla Szilágyi's sake, I laid down my rôle of critic; and yet I was right, after all, for she really did become a great artiste. I felt this snub very much at the time, but now I bless my fate that things fell out as they did. Fancy if now my sole title to fame rested upon my reputation as a dramatic critic!—terrible thought!"

A few days afterwards a new career suddenly[Pg xvii] opened out before Jókai. Paul Királyi, the editor of the Jelenkor, invited Jókai to join his paper as a correspondent at a salary of thirty-five florins a month. Of course he jumped at it; a newspaper contributor in Hungary was then a personage of some importance. About the same time he passed his first legal examination, and became a certificated lawyer. His diploma, if not præclarus, was, at any rate, laudabilis. The oral rigorosum he passed through brilliantly, but, oddly enough, his Hungarian style was not considered satisfactory. The publication of his diploma was a sufficiently dignified excuse for a visit to his native place. He was well received in the bosom of his family; the whole clan Jókai came together for dinner at his mother's, and for supper at the house of his brother-in-law, Francis Vály. The two Calvinist ministers of the place were also invited, and one of them toasted him as "the ward of two guardians, and guardian of Two Wards," the first allusion being to their spiritual guardianship, and the second to his new drama, The Two Wards. "It was the first toast that ever made me blush," says Jókai. The next day was fixed for the meeting of the County Board, and at the end of the proceedings his diploma was promulgated. On the same day his mother gave him his father's silver-mounted sword and the cornelian signet-ring with the old family crest upon it, which the elder Jókai had been wont to wear. "Democrat as I am," says Jókai, "I frankly confess that to me there was a soul-steeling thought in the reflection that with this sword my worthy ancestors, much better men than I, had defended their nation and constitution of yore, and that this signet-ring had[Pg xviii] put the seal upon their covenanted rights for all time."

On returning to Pest, he found awaiting him a letter from Petöfi, informing him that he had just married Julia Szendrey, and begging Jókai to seek out a convenient lodging where they and he could live together. That a newly married husband should invite his faithful bachelor comrade to live with him under the same roof was, as Jókai well remarks, a fact belonging to the realm of fairy-tale. Jókai immediately hunted up a nice first-floor apartment in Tobacco Street, consisting of three rooms and their appurtenances, the first room being for the Petöfis, the second for himself, while the intermediate one was to be a common dining-room, each with a separate entrance. The young couple came in during the autumn; they kept one maid, and Jókai had an old man-servant to wait upon him. The furniture was primitive. Mrs. Petöfi, who had left the mansion of her wealthy and eminent father without either dowry or blessing—the family utterly opposing the match, and visiting the enamoured young lady with the full weight of their heavy displeasure—had not so much as a fashionable hat to put on, and sewed together a sort of head-dress of her own invention, which, when finished, she had not the courage to wear. They had nothing, and yet were perfectly happy, and so was Jókai. Their dinners were sent in from a tavern, the Golden Eagle, close at hand, and their chief amusement was to learn English and laugh at each other's blunders.

A quarrel with the naturally irritating and overbearing Petöfi put an end to this symposium, and,[Pg xix] doubtless to every one's relief, Jókai started a bachelor establishment of his own, consisting of a couple of rooms, which he furnished himself. Properly speaking, it only became a bachelor's establishment when he entered it. Previously thereto it had been occupied by a little old woman, popularly known as Mámi, who kept a well-known registry office for servants, and the consequence was that a whole mob of cooks, parlour-maids, and nursery-maids invaded Jókai's premises at all hours, under the persuasion that he could provide them with places. This constant flow of petticoats to his door not only disturbed his work terribly, but was sufficient to have brought a less studious and conscientious man into disrepute. It was at this time that Jókai became the responsible editor of the Életképek during the temporary absence of Frankenburg, and so began his political career. The Életképek was one of the most widely read journals of those days. Under Frankenburg's able editorship it had become the leading radical print, and it was no small glory for Jókai that, despite his youth, he should have been thought worthy of directing it. It numbered among its contributors some of the most brilliant names in the Hungarian Literature, from Vörösmarty to Arany. His literary colleagues assembled regularly at Jókai's lodgings to discuss current political events, and more than one idea of reform was hatched under the wing of the Életképek. It was in this occupation that the stormy, headlong month of March, 1848, found our hero. It was to tear him away from his moorings and cast him upon a veritable sea of troubles; but it was also to arouse and develop his capabilities in the school of life and action.[Pg xx]

On February 23, 1848, a revolution broke out at Paris, and in a couple of days Louis Philip was a dethroned exile. Such a facile victory of liberal principles encouraged other liberty-loving nations to follow the example of the mother of constitutions, and the Hungarians were among the first to rise. In the Diet, Louis Kossuth eloquently demanded equality before the law, a popular representative parliament, and an independent, responsible ministry; but the new wine of nineteenth-century liberalism speedily burst the old bottles of obsolete, if picturesque, constitutional forms, and the direction of the movement, which became more and more impetuous every moment, slipped from the control of the cautious diplomatists and politicians at Vienna into the hands of the enthusiastic journalists and demagogues of Budapest. Amongst these, young Jókai, from the first, took a leading part. Early in the morning of March 15, he and his friends, Petöfi, Vasváry, and Bulyovszky, met in Jókai's room, by lamplight, and his comrades entrusted him with the framing of a manifesto, based upon the famous Twelve Points, or Articles of Pest, drawn up the day before by Joseph Irinyi, embodying the wishes of the Hungarian nation. This done, they rushed out into the public squares and harangued the mob, which had assembled in thousands. But speech-making was not sufficient; they wanted to do something, and the first thing to be done was, obviously, to give practical application to the doctrine of a free press. So they determined to print forthwith the Twelve Articles, the Manifesto, and Petöfi's incendiary song, "Talpra Magyar," without the consent of the censor. What followed must be told in Jókai's own words:[Pg xxi]

"The printing-press of Landerer and Heckenast was honoured with this compulsory distinction. The printers, naturally, were not justified in printing anything without the permission of the authorities, so we turned up our sleeves and worked away at the hand-presses ourselves. The name of the typewriter who set up the first word of freedom was Potemkin! While Irinyi and other young authors were working away at the press, it was my duty to harangue the mob which thronged the whole length of Hatváni Street. I had no idea how to set about it, but it came of its own accord. My worthy and loyal contemporary, Paul Szontagh, occasionally quotes to me, even now, some of the heaven-storming phrases which he heard me utter on that occasion, e.g. '. . . No, fellow-citizens! he is no true hero who can only die for his country; he who can slay for his country, he is the true hero!' That was the sort of oratory I used to practise in those days. Meanwhile the rain was beginning to fall, and rain is the most reactionary opponent of every revolution. But my people were not to be dispersed by the rain, and all at once the whole street was filled with expanded umbrellas. I was outraged at the sight. 'What, gentlemen!' I thundered, from the corner of the street, 'if you stick up your umbrellas now against mere rain-drops, what will you stick up against the bullets which will presently begin to fall?' It was only then that I noticed that there were not only gentlemen around me, but ladies also. I exhorted the ladies to go home. Here they would get dripping wet, I said, and some other accident might befall them. 'We are no worse off here than you are,' was the reply. They were determined to wait[Pg xxii] till the printed broad-sides were ready. Not very long afterwards, Irinyi appeared at the window of the printing-office, for to get out of the door was a sheer impossibility. He held in his hands the first printed sheets from the free press. Ah, that scene, when the very first few sheets were distributed from hand to hand! . . . And now a young county official was seen forcing his way through the dense crowd right to the very door of the printing-office, and from thence he addressed me. The Vice-Lieutenant of the county, Paul Nyáry, sent word that I was to go to him at the town hall. 'Why should I go?' I cried, from my point of vantage. 'I'll be shot if I do! If the Vice-Lieutenant of the county wants to speaks to me, let him come here! We are "the mountain" now.' And Mohammed really did come to 'the mountain,' and, . . . what is more, he came to approve of what we had done hitherto, and then to go along with us to the town hall to ratify the articles of the liberal programme. . . . The town hall was crammed to suffocation. Those who were called upon to speak, stood upon the green table, and remained there afterwards, so that at last the whole magistracy of the county, and I and all my colleagues, were standing on the table. The Burgomaster announced from the balcony of the town hall that the town of Pest had adopted the Twelve Articles, and with that the avalanche carried the whole of the burgesses along with it. . . . In the evening the town was illuminated, and a free performance was given at the theatre, Bánk Bán, Katona's celebrated historical drama, being the piece selected. But the mob, which, by this time, was in a state of ecstasy, had no longer the patience to listen to[Pg xxiii] the sublime declamations of the Ban Peter. It called for 'Talpra Magyar!' (Up, up, Magyars!), the Hungarian Marseillaise. What was to be done? The brilliant court of King Andrew II., with the Queen and Bánk Bán to boot, had to form a group round Gabriel Egressy, who, in a simple attila, and with a sword by his side, stood in the middle of the stage and declaimed, with magnificent emphasis, Petöfi's inspiring poem. . . . Then the band struck up the Rákóczy march, so long prohibited in Hungary because of its supposed revolutionary tendency. This naturally increased the excitement instead of extinguishing it. . . . Then a voice from the gallery suddenly cried, 'Long live Tancsis!'—Tancsis, by the way, was a political prisoner who had been released that very morning from the citadel of Buda by the mob—and with that the whole populace suddenly roared with one voice, 'Tancsis! Tancsis!' A frightful tumult arose. Tancsis was not at hand. He lived somewhere in a distant suburb. But even had he been near, it would have been a cruel thing to have dragged on to the stage a poor, worn-out invalid, that he might merely make his bow to the public. But what was to be done? 'Well, my sons,' said Nyáry, with whom I was standing in the same box, 'you have awakened this great monster; now see if you can put him to sleep again!' All my young friends, one after the other, attempted to address the people. . . . The curtain was let down, but then the tumult grew more than ever, the gallery stamped like mad; it was a perfect pandemonium. Then an idea occurred to me. I could get on to the stage from Nyáry's box. I rushed on through the side wings. A pretty figure I cut, I must say. I was[Pg xxiv] splashed up to the knees with mud, from scouring the streets all day. I wore huge goloshes; my battered cylinder, surmounted by a gigantic red feather, was drenched with rain, so that I could easily have thrust it under my arm and made a crush hat of it. I looked around me and perceived Egressy. I told him to draw up the curtain; I would harangue the people from the stage. Rozsa Laborfalvi, who played the part of 'Queen Gertrude,' came towards me. She smiled upon me with truly majestic grace, greeted me, and pressed my hand. She was wearing the Magyar tricolour cockade—red, white, and green—on her bosom, and she took it off and pinned it on my breast. Then the curtain was raised. When the mob beheld my muddy, saturated figure, it began to shout afresh, and the uproar gradually became a call for every one to hear me. When at last I was able to speak, I delivered myself of this masterly piece of oratory: 'Brother citizens! Our friend Tancsis is not here, he is at home in the bosom of his family. Allow the poor blind man to taste the joy of seeing his family once more.' It was only then that I became conscious of the nonsense I was talking. How could a blind man see his family? If the mob began to laugh I was done for! It was the tricoloured ribbon which saved me. 'Regard this tricoloured cockade on my breast!' I cried. 'Let it be the badge of this glorious day! Let every man who is freedom's warrior wear it! It will distinguish us from the hirelings of slavery. These three colours represent the three sacred words, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! Let every one in whom Magyar blood and a free spirit burns wear them on his breast.' And so the thing was done. The tricoloured cockade[Pg xxv] preserved order. Whoever wished to pin on the tricoloured cockade had to hurry home first. Ten minutes later the theatre was empty, and the next day the tricoloured cockade was to be seen on every breast. . . . In the intoxication of my triumph I hastened after Rozsa Laborfalvi as soon as this scene was over and pressed her hand. And with that pressure our engagement began. . . . And the honeymoon was in keeping with the engagement. The roar of cannon and the clash of arms was the music that played at my wedding."

The lady whose heart and hand Jókai won under such stimulating circumstances was in every way worthy of him. Born at Miskolcz in 1817, Judith Laborfalvi-Benké, to give her her full family name, was thus eight years her husband's senior. Her father, Joseph Benké, a retired actor, and subsequently a teacher at the Roman Catholic girls' school at Miskolcz, permitted her, in her sixteenth year, to try her fortune on the stage, at Budapest. But the first attempt was a decided failure, and she returned home, apparently disillusioned. A second attempt proved much more successful. Her fine figure, handsome face, and sweet voice now made a great impression, and the experienced stage-manager, Egressy, recognizing her great capabilities, encouraged her to proceed. By 1837 she had superseded Madame Kantor, hitherto the chief heroine of the Magyar stage, and henceforth, till her retirement from the stage in 1859, was accounted one of the leading Hungarian actresses. Her best rôles were "Volumnia," "Lady Macbeth," "Adrienne Lecouvreur," "Mary Stuart" in Schiller's play of that name, and[Pg xxvi] "Queen Gertrude" in Bánk Bán. She had already reached the height of her fame when she gave her hand to young Jókai, and it was her courage and devotion which sustained him during the dark years of trial and depression upon which he was now about to enter.

But at first there was no thought of calamity. Jókai flung himself heart and soul into the revolutionary movement. He converted the literary Életképek into a political organ of the most uncompromising character, which he edited along with Petöfi; rejected the aristocratic terminal "y" of his name for the more democratic "i,"[1] and adopted for his journal the motto: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." Yet Jókai was no friend of unnecessary violence; and when his co-editor, Petöfi, during Jókai's absence for a few days on his honeymoon (he married Rozsa Laborfalvi on August 27, 1848), inserted, contrary to his solemn promise, an abusive tirade against the poet Vörösmarty, Jókai severely blamed his friend's want of straightforwardness in an editorial in Életképek. Petöfi instantly and most virulently attacked Jókai in the columns of the same paper; accused him of ingratitude, declined to be lectured, threw up his co-editorship, and broke off all intercourse with him. Some coolness had previously arisen between the two friends owing to Petöfi's taking it upon himself to disapprove of Jókai's marriage, and communicating his views on the subject to Jókai's mother, who had disapproved of it all along. Jókai naturally resented both the criticism and the[Pg xxvii] interference, and the rupture was unfortunately final, as Petöfi perished mysteriously at the Battle of Segesvár, twelve months later, before there had been any reconciliation. For now the Hungarian revolution tore every true Magyar along with it, and wonderful, incredible things were the order of the day. On September 24, 1848, Kossuth received the permission of the Hungarian Parliament to organize a rising of the population in the Alföld, or great Hungarian plain, and young Jókai was sent down thither as one of his chief agents; but, as if to illustrate that singular blend of common sense and exaltation which has always characterized the Magyar in politics, the ardent author of "Hétköznapok" was accompanied by a sort of bodyguard of soberer youths, who were to cut him short without ceremony whenever his eloquence carried him too far. It was on this occasion that Jókai enlisted the services of the famous robber-chief, Alexander Rózsa,[2] for the national cause, and obtained his pardon from the Government. On the outbreak of the Vienna Revolution at the beginning of October, Kossuth sent Jókai and Csernátonai to promise the Viennese assistance, but the movement was crushed before any such assistance could be rendered. In the beginning of December, Jókai accepted the invitation of the publishers, Landerer and Heckenast, to edit the leading Pest newspaper, Pesti Hirlap, in place of Csengery, who had become a member of the Government. He[Pg xxviii] announced, as the substance of his programme, the bringing about of "the unity and independence of the Hungarian State." After subjugating Vienna, the Austrian army advanced against Pest. On December 30 the inhabitants threw up earthworks at the foot of the Gilbert hill, working night and day without distinction of age or sex, Jókai and his wife amongst them. After the battle of Móor, January 1, 1849, when the Imperialists defeated Perczel and his Honvéds, the Jókais followed the Hungarian Government to Debreczen. Here also Jókai supported himself by journalism, and on February 22 started the Esti Lapok as the organ of the Constitutional Liberals as opposed to the Marczius Tizenötödike, the organ of the extreme Radicals. Yet Jókai himself was not infrequently carried away by his patriotism, and actually proclaimed the republic in his newspaper two days before the Diet unanimously dethroned the Hapsburgs (April 14, 1849). When the Honvéds recaptured the fortress of Buda, the Government and the Diet returned to Pest, and Jókai, as editor of both the Esti Lapok and the Pesti Hirlap, powerfully contributed to encourage the nation in its struggle for independence. In a month's time, however, the Hungarian Government, now threatened by a combination of the Russians and Austrians, were obliged to take refuge, first at Szegedin, and finally at Arad, Jókai accompanying them to both places. He has described this portion of his life in a few eloquent sentences. "Out into the desolate world we went, in the depths of a Siberian winter, with everything crackling with cold, forcing our way along through the snowy desert of the Alföld,[Pg xxix] with the retreating Honvéd army, passing the night in an inhospitable hut, where the closed door had frozen to the ground by the morning, and the roll of drums and the blare of trumpets aroused us to toil on still further. . . . My wife went everywhere with me. She quitted a comfortable home, sacrificed a fortune, a brilliant career, to endure hunger, cold, and hardship with me. And I never heard her utter one word of complaint. When I was downhearted she comforted me. And, when all my hopes were stifled, she shared her hopes with me. And she worked like the wife of a Siberian convict. She did not play the part of a peasant girl now, she was a serving woman in grim earnest."

[1] One often sees the names of Hungarian celebrities with prefixed "de's" or "von's" in English newspapers. This is quite inaccurate, the Magyar language admitting no such honorific particles.

[2] Rózsa's doings are recorded in Jókai's "Lélekidomar." An English translation of the book was rejected by an eminent Scotch publisher a few years ago as too improbable, yet the events there recorded are literally true.

After the catastrophe of Világos, when the unconquerable Görgei voluntarily surrendered the last fragments of his exhausted army to the Russians so as to baulk the Austrians of a triumph they did not deserve, Jókai was saved from captivity by the ingenious audacity of János Rákóczy, Kossuth's secretary, who hired a carriage and horses, disguised himself as a coachman, and, with the utmost nonchalance, drove right through the advancing Muscovites. Picking up his wife again at Gyula, Jókai set off for the remote little hamlet of Tardoná, a place "walled off from the rest of the world" by dense beech forests, where hundreds of thousands of pigs were every year fattened for the Servian market. Here Jókai lived at the house of his friend, the local magistrate, Béni Csányi, for nearly six months, principally occupied in landscape painting, while his indefatigable wife hastened back to Pest to resume her engagement at the National Theatre (they had for the[Pg xxx] time no other means of subsistence), and attempt to save him from proscription. From August to the middle of October Jókai knew absolutely nothing of what was going on in the world. Tardoná was a corner of the earth whither no visitor ever came, and where the inhabitants themselves went nowhither. At last his wife rejoined him, and told him that his hermit-like seclusion would soon be over. She then took from her bosom a carefully concealed tiny grey schedule, which was a great treasure in those days. It was the guarantee of his liberation—a common passport. It should be explained that when the fortress of Comorn capitulated, months after the war was over everywhere else, it was on condition that every officer of the garrison should be provided with a passport guaranteeing his life and liberty, and dispensing him from enrolment in the Austrian army. Jókai's wife had contrived to procure for him such a passport in the simplest way in the world. A friend of hers, Vincent Szathmary, wrote Jókai's name down on the list of the capitulating officers as a third lieutenant, and handed the passport bearing his name to his wife. This had been Madame Jókai's idea from the first, and was the reason why Jókai had been hidden away so carefully by her among the beech forests of Tardoná till she had safely carried out her innocent conspiracy.

Jókai's life was now safe, but extreme caution was still by no means superfluous. It was not till some time later that he ventured to return to Pest from Miskólcz under the pseudonym of János Kovács,[3] living most of the time at his wife's lodgings, or at an inn[Pg xxxi] among the hills of Buda. The military government (Hungary was then under martial law, with Czechs in all the chief posts of trust) was inclined to be indulgent to literature, but spies and traitors were about, and to his eternal shame a Magyar lawyer, Hegyesi by name, hoping to curry favour with the authorities at Vienna, informed against Jókai and thirty-four other Hungarian writers, whom he pronounced worthy of death. They were defended in a long memorial by their countryman, the advocate, János Kossalko, who demonstrated that the Hungarian literature was not the cause of the Hungarian revolution, but was only the echo of public opinion. Not till 1850 was it possible for Jókai to follow a literary career once more. His first works were written under the name of his dog "Sajo;" but in 1851 he contributed under his own name to the columns of the Magyar Emlék Lapok and the Remény, two of the new reviews, as well as to the Délibáb, founded by Count Leo Festetics. It was now that Mrs. Jókai suggested the starting of a popular illustrated weekly, to be called Vasárnapi Ujság. But the difficulty was how to find an editor for this new venture. Jókai's name was in such bad odour with the Austrian Government that he himself was out of the question, but at last a suitable editor was found in Albert Pakh, a popular humorist of great merit, who had only been prevented from participating in the revolution by a lingering illness, which had confined him to the hospital during the whole of 1848-9, so that he escaped being amongst the proscribed. But if Pakh was the editor, Jókai was the soul of the Vasárnapi Ujság, and it was his pen which quickly gave it vogue and celebrity. In particular the extremely humorous[Pg xxxii] dramatic criticisms, which he contributed to the paper every week in the form of letters under the pseudonym "Kakas Márton,"[4] were the chief delight of the reading public. Kakas Márton's obiter dicta were everywhere quoted. Kakas Márton meerschaums and Kakas Márton clays, with bowls in the shape of cock-headed men, were on sale at every shop in the capital. "O tempi passati," cries Jókai, reviewing that period nearly forty years afterwards, "what a popular character I was, to be sure! I really was in the mouth of the nation in those days."

[3] John Smith.

[4] Martin Cock.

In 1856 Jókai broke entirely new ground by starting the first Hungarian illustrated comic paper, under the title of Nagy Tükör (Great Mirror), but better known by its later title of Üstökös (The Comet), which he edited for the next fourteen years. Inestimable were the services which Üstökös rendered to Hungary. It taught the nation to laugh and live in hope of better times. It was also the training school of the first Magyar caricaturists and comic artists. Jókai himself contributed to it with his pencil as well as his pen, and some of the best comic cuts in the Üstökös were by "Kakas Márton." In course of time all the comic talent of the nation was attracted to the Üstökös, and a whole army of notable humorists supported its editor. It was in the columns of the Üstökös that Arany's famous satire, "Poloska," first appeared; it was the Üstökös which discovered and educated János Jánko, the prince of Magyar caricaturists; it was the Üstökös which refused to take the gendarmes or the censorship too seriously, and scourged with its satiric[Pg xxxiii] lash the blunders and absurdities of the Bach régime, which laboured so hard to germanize Hungary.

The Üstökös had a literary supplement to which Jókai contributed numerous novels. It was here that appeared his masterly little tale "A debreceni lunatikus" and the great romance "Rab Raby," in which the utter impossibility of reforming a high-spirited nation against its will is so dramatically demonstrated. This story is also remarkable for the best existing characterization of Kaiser Joseph II.

Journalism and caricature indeed represent but a tithe of Jókai's work during this period. The revolutionary war was no sooner over than he began to write that series of novels and tales which was to make him famous throughout Europe. Roughly speaking, these earlier novels fall into two categories: (1) battle-pieces, descriptions of the vicissitudes of the late war, recounted with all the vividness of an alert spectator, who was also a born story-teller; and (2) historical romances of the long Turkish captivity under which Hungary had groaned from the beginning of the sixteenth to nearly the end of the eighteenth century. Among the first set may be mentioned, "Forradalmi és csataképek" (Revolutionary and Battle-pieces) 1850, and "Egy bujdosó naplója" (Diary of an Outlaw) 1851; while the latter set includes, "Erdély aranykora" (The Golden Age of Transylvania) 1852, with its sequel, "Torökvilág Magyarorszagon" (The Turkish World in Hungary), 1853. These tales of the Turkish rule in Magyarland, independently of their æsthetic value, were veritable parables. Every one who read them when they first came out, knew very well whom[Pg xxxiv] he was to understand by "The Turks." Every one knew that the author had only given the griefs and grievances of the Magyars an historical setting and an oriental colouring to evade the scrutiny of the censorship. Every one knew that the author's patriotic allusions and attacks applied as much to the Austrian tyranny of the nineteenth as to the Ottoman tyranny of the seventeenth century. Through the woof of these gorgeously oriental stories could be read the transparent reminder and encouragement that the kingdom had survived a worse overthrow than the present one, and that if Magyarland rose again from her grave, it would not be the first time she had done so. Even the terrible Turkish deluge had not swept away the Hungarian nation. Light had followed upon darkness; there was hope in the future because the past had never been desperate. As historical romances, moreover, both these tales stand very high, higher even than the romances of Sienkiewicz, because they possess humour, a quality in which the great Pole is deficient. In both cases, Jókai based his narrative on the contemporary chronicles of Cserey, who lived at Prince Michael Apafy's court. He found most of his characters ready to hand, and where Cserey fails him, Jókai's own historical imagination fills up the gaps. It is true that in the obviously invented portions of these stories (e.g. the Azraele episodes), the daring fancy of the author sometimes carries him far beyond the bounds of even poetic licence. It is equally true that both stories suffer from want of unity; they are rather loosely connected series of brilliant pictures than one continuous narrative. But the dramatic force, the fascinating[Pg xxxv] style, and the inexhaustible inventiveness of the author, carry his readers breathlessly over every obstacle, and they contain some of the finest humour, and some of the most splendid descriptions of natural scenery in modern literature.

The admiration excited by these noble productions rose still higher, when, in 1853-1854, Jókai published his two great social romances, "A Magyar Nábob" (The Hungarian Nabob), and its sequel, "Kárpáthy Zoltán" (Sultan Karpathy), which, in the opinion of some Hungarian critics, indicate the high-water mark of his authorship. In my opinion the first of these novels, which paints to the life the old Hungarian aristocracy of the earlier part of the last century in the person of János Kárpáthy, is incomparably the best. The sequel, besides the inevitable objection that it is a sequel, suffers from ultra-sensibility and a moralizing tendency. The hero of "Kárpáthy Zoltán" can scarce be said to belong to real life at all, and he is plainly meant to be the model, the ideal of the rising generation. The story is also far too long. But it contains many brilliant episodes, amongst them the famous description of the terrible overflow of the Danube in the thirties, and numerous passages of almost faultless beauty. On December 11, 1858, Jókai was elected a member of the Hungarian Academy, and his name was henceforth numbered among the national classics.

But now a new career, the career of politics, was about to be thrown open to Jókai. At the beginning of 1860 it was becoming pretty evident that that monstrously artificial amalgamation, the unified absolute[Pg xxxvi] Austrian Monarchy of 1849, was weakening in every joint, and that no amount of forcible riveting could keep it together much longer. Warned by the loss of the Italian provinces, the statesmen of Vienna were now inclined to follow different political principles, and recognizing that the depressed and embittered Hungarian nation must be an important factor in any political reconstruction, they were now prepared to make certain substantial, if limited, concessions to the Magyars. The October diploma of 1860 explained his Majesty's views on the subject, and the Hungarian Estates were summoned in April, 1861, to consider the Imperial offer of a new constitution, which would have degraded Hungary into a mere province of the Austrian Empire. The Austrian statesmen imagined that the spirit of the Hungarian nation had been broken by twelve years of oppression. They were mistaken. The Magyars would have nothing to say to the proposed central Reichstag, which was to assemble at Vienna as the representative of all the lands of the Hapsburg monarchy, Hungary included. Under the masterly guidance of Francis Deák, the Hungarians insisted on the legal continuity of the Hungarian State, and would accept nothing short of full autonomy. Jókai took part in the Diet of 1861 as deputy for Siklos, and a member of the uncompromising party whose motto was: "All or nothing." On May 24 he delivered his maiden speech, and was instantly recognized as one of the best debaters in the House. He was no impassioned orator, as from his writings we might have been led to suppose he would be; but adopted from the first a quiet, conversational style, appealing generally to right feeling and common sense;[Pg xxxvii] whilst his unfailing wit and humour invariably charmed his audience, even when he took the unpopular side, which he sometimes felt bound to do, for, though a consistent Liberal he was always far above party prejudice. On the dissolution of the short-lived Diet of 1861, which was far too independent for the Austrian Government, the constitutional struggle was carried on in the public press, where Jókai was one of the foremost champions of Magyar rights. In the most dangerous times, when the sensitive central Government frequently flung journalists into prison for a single word, Jókai in the Üstökös worried the authorities with all the darts and arrows of his wit and humour, and in 1863, when he founded Hon (The Country), as the political organ of Coloman Tisza and his colleagues, he brought to bear the heavier ordnance of reason and argument. He had to go to Vienna in person to solicit permission to bring this journal out, and had first to promise that he would not attack the Government.

"I promise heartily to support the Vienna Government," answered Jókai, "if only it will endeavour to do justice to the Hungarian nation, and fulfil its legitimate wishes." The Hon had only been out a week when a catastrophe occurred which must be told in Jókai's own words: "I had founded a political paper. I was its responsible editor and publisher. My assistants were the matadors of the Liberal party. We soon had a large public. . . . One day an admirably written article was sent to me, signed by one of the most illustrious of the Hungarian magnates (Count Alexander Zichy). Without more ado I published it.[Pg xxxviii] It was a loyal, patriotic article, on purely constitutional lines, showing, in the most matter-of-fact way, the justice and the necessity of constitutional government for Hungary. Because of this article the Governor brought both the Count who wrote it, and the editor who inserted it, before a court-martial. He signified to the pair of us beforehand that he meant to make a three months' job of it. The court-martial consisted of a colonel, a major, a captain, a senior and a junior lieutenant, a sergeant, a corporal, and a private, the last four of whom were Czechs. Before this 'areopagus' I delivered a powerful defence in German, to which they naturally replied: 'March!' The tribunal condemned us to twelve months' hard labour in irons, on bread and water, with loss of nobility and a fine of eleven hundred florins. When the sentence was read out, I said to the President: 'This is very odd, the Governor promised us only three months.' To this the President replied, with a smile: 'Yes, three months for the incriminatory article, but nine more for your high-flying defence.' Our sentence was for no offence against the press laws. Oh dear no! We were condemned for inciting to a breach of the peace. Count Zichy and I had been throwing stones at the windows and breaking the gas-lamps. It was as public brawlers that we were sent to cool our heels in jail. . . . Nevertheless, the whole of my life in prison was a mere joke. . . . The Commandant himself, with whom I lodged, came every day to tell me funny stories, and then took me out for long country walks. He had my writing-table, my books, my carpentering and sculptural tools brought into my 'dungeon,' and there it was that I turned out[Pg xxxix] the bust of my wife. The Commandant, also, was passionately fond of carpentering, so we worked together at our lathes as if for a wager. I was also allowed to have with my bread and water the best that money could purchase from the inn. In the afternoon my friends from the Casino Club looked in to play cards with me. . . . Once I took my fellow prisoner and my jailor to my villa at Svabhegy, where my wife had made ready for me a splendid supper. I tapped my new wine, and we amused ourselves to such a very late hour, that when we returned to my dungeon it was as much as we could do to make them let us in again. And then my visitors! In the whole course of my life I never received so many visitors as during the month that my year's captivity lasted. . . . I was sought out by all sorts of good friends, who came from far—lords and ladies, countesses and actresses. . . . In fact, I had too much of a good thing. How could I work when my admirers were crowding at my lathe all day long? At last, with tears in my eyes, I had to beg my jailor to sentence me to solitary confinement for a couple of hours every day, and wrote on my door the hours when I was free to receive company. 'Wasn't I in prison?' I asked."

After the dissolution of the Diet, the provisional government did all in its power to cajole the opposition and make the nation accept the October diploma; but its efforts were frustrated by the tact and the tenacity of Deák, and, in 1865, his Majesty was again obliged to summon the Diet in which Jókai once more represented Siklós. Even now the Austrian statesmen were very reluctant to compose their differences with[Pg xl] Hungary on equal terms; but the disasters of the intervening Austro-Prussian war made them, at last, more compliant. After Sadowa, a composition with Hungary became absolutely necessary for the very existence of the Austrian Empire; the idea of a unified composite state was definitely abandoned; the Hungarians, following the advice of Deák, loyally co-operated in bringing about a composition[5] on equal terms with Austria, and on June 8, 1867, the crown of St. Stephen was placed upon the head of his Apostolic Majesty. Hungary had once more become independent.

[5] Curiously enough the German word Ausgleich has generally been used in England to designate this arrangement. Yet Ausgleich and its Hungarian equivalent Kiegyezés simply mean composition.

Independence was secured, but much had to be done in the way of pacification and reconstruction after all that the nation had suffered. Jókai contributed powerfully to readjust past differences and unite all the forces of the nation for the nation's good. This is the chief object of his romance "Új földesúr" (The New Landlord) published in 1863 (memorable also as the first of his works that was translated into English[6]), where the antagonisms of the old conservative Magyar squirearchy, exemplified in Adam Gárómvölgyi, and the interloping German landlords, as represented by Ankerschmidt, are finally adjusted by a happy love-match between younger members of the long-clashing families. In every respect this romance is one of Jókai's best works, and as a truthful picture of the gloomy transitional period between 1850 and 1863, is of considerable historical importance. A fine[Pg xli] symbolism, too, runs through the story. The "fair Theiss," as purely an Hungarian as the Volga is a purely Russian river, plays a leading part in the story. We see her in all her moods, and when, in time of flood, she rises in her wrath and sweeps away all the fetters laid upon her by the Austrian surveyors and engineers, the reader guesses, as he was meant to guess, that the days of such petty tyrants as the comic minor characters, Mikwesek, Maxenpfutsch, and Strajf are numbered. To the same period belong a whole dozen of Jókai's most notable stories, e.g. "Politikai divatok" (Political Fashions), dealing with the triumphs and horrors of the civil war, and containing a glowing eulogy of his heroic, self-sacrificing wife; "Az arany ember" (A Man of Gold), one of the most dramatic and stimulating novels ever penned with magnificent descriptions of Danubian scenery; "Feketegyémántok" (Black Diamonds), which caught the English fancy more, perhaps, than any of his other works; and the wondrous "A jövö század regénye" (The Romance of the Coming Century), as ingenious and suggestive as the happiest of Jules Verne's or Mr. Wells's semi-scientific romances.

[6] By Mr. Patterson in 1868.

And, at the same time, this indefatigable worker, not content with throwing off literary masterpieces at the rate of two a year, was taking a leading part in current politics. The Composition was, after all, but the starting-point of modern Hungarian politics. It now became evident that Deák's original programme was not thoroughgoing enough for the needs of an independent Hungary, and every one looked upon the leader of the opposition, Coloman Tisza, who first came[Pg xlii] into prominence as the formulator of the famous "Bihar points" in 1868, as the coming man. To this party, the Left Centre, Jókai at once attached himself, and became its chief publicist, and one of its best speakers. For nine-and-twenty years (1867-96) he was a member of the Diet; even when (as in 1872) he was defeated in one constituency he was elected in another, and at the very beginning of his political career (1869) he had the supreme satisfaction of worsting a cabinet minister, Stephen Gorove, at the polls. It was during the earlier years of the long administration (1875-90) of his friend, Coloman Tisza, that Jókai exercised a constant and considerable political influence, both as a parliamentary debater and as editor of the Government organ, Hon (The Country). His usual seat was on the second ministerial bench, just behind the premier, and whenever he rose to speak he always commanded the attention of a crowded and expectant house. More than once his eloquence extricated the Government from a tight place. Among his more notable speeches may be mentioned: "What does the Opposition want—revolution or reform?" delivered in 1869; "The Left Centre the true party of reform," spoken in 1872, and his celebrated speech on the Budget of February 26, 1880. In those days he was a most ardent politician, ready, if necessary, to fight as well as talk and write for his opinions. Thrice he has fought duels, happily bloodless, with political opponents; but it was as the editor of the Hon (incorporated in 1882 with the Ellenör, under the title of Nemzet) that he rendered his party the most essential service, and in most of the political cartoons of the day he is generally represented[Pg xliii] waving the Hon as a banner, or charging with it as a bayonet. The ultra-Conservative comic paper, Borszem Janko, was particularly fond of caricaturing this consistent and courageous champion of enlightened Liberalism, and his earnest, gentle face, with the honest eyes, ample beard and fierce moustache, is conspicuous in nearly every number from 1868 onwards. Thus in the number for August 23, 1868, the coloured frontispiece represents Jókai as a huge black-bearded, bald head, furiously editing four newspapers at the same time, a nimble quill being stuck between each of its diminutive hands and feet. His increasing baldness is an inexhaustible subject for the raillery of this exceedingly clever print, especially on the occasion of his dramatic jubilee (he is the author of numerous successful plays, which are, however, inferior to his novels) at Klausenburg, in 1871, when he is depicted in ancient Roman costume, with a Red Indian feather head-dress, beating a huge drum on a Greek triumphal car. In 1896, Jókai quitted active politics, and in the following year was made a member of the House of Magnates.

Jókai's career, on the whole, has been a singularly happy and successful one. His worst misfortune was the death of his revered wife, on November 20, 1886, when he sought oblivion and consolation in travel, and visited Italy for the second time.[7] His third visit was paid thirteen years later, when he spent his honeymoon in Sicily with his second wife, the comic actress, Bella Nagy, whom he married in September, 1899, when he was already seventy-four years old. It is strange,[Pg xliv] considering his linguistic attainments, manifold interests, and the vast range of his writings, how seldom Jókai has quitted Hungary. Apart from his brief Italian tours, a fortnight at Berlin and Prague in 1874, and a couple of days in Bosnia, in 1886, represent the whole of his foreign touring. Yet there is scarce a country in Europe which he has not made the scene of one or other of his romances. He enjoyed the sovereign triumph of his life in 1894, when the whole nation rendered homage to the nestor of Magyar Letters by celebrating his golden jubilee as a national festival, on which occasion he received the ribbon of St. Stephen from the King, the freedom of every city in Hungary, and a cheque for 100,000 florins from the Jubilee Committee on account of the profits derived from a national edition de luxe of his works in a hundred huge volumes, illustrated by all the leading Hungarian artists. Since 1894, Jókai has produced at least twenty-five fresh volumes, and their quality demonstrates that the power and brilliance of the veteran are absolutely unimpaired. There is no sign of decay or even of deterioration. "A Tengerszemü Hölgy" won the Academy's prize in 1890, as the best novel of the year, while "A Sárga Rózsa" (The Yellow Rose), written three years later, in the author's sixty-eighth year, is pronounced by so severe a critic as Zoltan Beöthy to be one of the abiding ornaments of the national literature.

[7] His first visit was in 1876, but he only stayed a fortnight.

Out of Hungary, Jókai, even now is far less known than might have been expected, though within the last six years no fewer than fifteen out of his two hundred romances have been translated into English.[Pg xlv] But this apparent neglect is readily to be accounted for. In the first place, Jókai is so national, so thoroughly Magyar, that much of his finest, most characteristic work was written entirely for Hungarians, or appeals to them alone. This especially applies to his journalistic work and to his satirico-political humoresks, which are excellent, unique even, of their kind, and yet can have but little interest for foreigners. In the second place, the fashion of modern fiction has changed since the author of "A Hungarian Nabob" began to write. Jókai is a conteur par excellence, a conteur of the old school. Most of his novels are tales, "yarns," if you like, not "documents" or "studies." He has also all the faults of the romantic school to which he indisputably belongs—excessive sensibility, fantastic exaggeration, and a penchant towards melodrama, though in his masterpieces he can be as true to life and draw character as cunningly as the best of the modern novelists. In the third place, Jókai writes in a non-Aryan language of extraordinary difficulty, whose peculiar idioms and constructions must necessarily baffle the ingenuity of the most practised translator. It is very much easier, for instance, to give an English reader a tolerably correct idea of Tolstoi's style than of Jókai's. I speak from experience. Yet the fact remains that Jókai is, at last, decidedly making way amongst us. The tale proper, the novel of incident in all its varieties, is again coming into vogue, and Jókai is one of the greatest tale-tellers of the century. Moreover, there is a healthy, bracing, optimistic tone about his romances which appeals irresistibly to normal English taste. He is never dull, dirty, perverse, or[Pg xlvi] obscure, and more fun (and that, too, of the very best sort) is to be found in any half-dozen of his works than in the whole range of modern Slavonic or Scandinavian literature.


Since the above lines were written, the great Magyar writer has passed away (May 5th), and Hungary can but show her respect to one of the greatest of her sons by standing bareheaded at his grave. To the very last his inexhaustible pen was busy. Only at the beginning of this very year he published his 202nd novel: "Where money is, there God is not;" and, still later, his name appeared for the last time in a collection of brief autobiographies of living Hungarian authors. Jókai's sketch of himself is of the briefest, but it contains two facts which cannot but interest and touch English readers. He there tells us that he taught himself the elements of English, without assistance, in order that he might read Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" in the original language, and that "Boy Dickens" (he is not the first foreigner by any means who has taken "Boy" to be Dickens' Christian name) was the object of his youthful admiration, and one of his earliest delights was the perusal of "The Pickwick Papers."


[Pg 1]



In the days when Kuczuk was the Pasha of Grosswardein, the good city of Debreczen had a very bad time of it. This whimsical Turk, whenever some little trifle had put him out of humour with the citizens of Debreczen, would threaten to ravage the town from end to end with fire and sword, cut the men to mincemeat, carry off all the women into captivity, pack up all the treasures of the town in sacks, and sow with salt the place where once it had stood.

At first the prudent and pacific magistrates of Debreczen used to soothe the heavy displeasure of the whimsical Pasha with fair-spoken entreaties, good words, and precious gifts; but one day Master Stephen Dobozy was elected governor, and being a short-necked, fiery-tempered man, it so happened that when, for some cause or other, Kuczuk Pasha again began to murmur against them, and threatened the Debreczeners that this time he really would come to them, Dobozy sent back this message: "Let him come if he likes."

[Pg 2]At this Kuczuk Pasha flew into a violent rage, immediately mounted all his troops, set off that very night, and early next morning stood before Debreczen. "Here I am!" cried he.

The city had no ramparts, no trench, no drawbridge. Its whole defence consisted of twelve rugged towers, in which the citizens were wont to keep a look-out for nomadic freebooters—mouldering brick edifices with rush roofs, which would have fallen to pieces at the first cannon-shot, provided outside with crazy wooden ladders terminating in a circumambient wooden corridor by which you could ascend into the towers, so that if the ladders were plucked away from the towers nobody would be able to get out of them again.

Each of these tower-shaped shanties guarded a gate, standing at a respectful distance therefrom, so as not to stand in the way of any possible impetuous foe who might perhaps run his foolish head against a tower and knock it down.

Nothing testifies more clearly to the true nature of these fortresses than the fact that a stork's nest was planted on the summit of each one of them, where the worthy animals, standing every evening on one leg, clappered for hours at a time, as if it was they who guarded the city.

Kuczuk had timed his arrival so well that at one and the same moment a division of his army halted at every gate, and a large round cannon, which he had taken the precaution to load, was planted opposite each of the white-brick towers. It was thus that he wished to speak with the Debreczeners.

Meanwhile there came hastening out of the town a[Pg 3] Greek named Panajoti, a native of Stambul and an old acquaintance of Kuczuk Pasha. Whenever the magistrates of the town had any particularly ticklish message to deliver to the Pasha, they always sent Panajoti, well aware that he, at any rate, would not be impaled straight away.

"Well, what have the magistrates of Debreczen to say for themselves?"

"Gracious, sir, surely this Master Stephen Dobozy is a little cracked, for no sooner did thy threats reach us than he immediately packed all the women-folk, girls, and children into waggons, and sent them off to Tokai; then he proclaimed by roll of drum that whoever had anything of value was to tear it to pieces, or cut it down and fling it into the wells, and the moment the enemy attacked the town it was to be set on fire at all four quarters, especial attention being given to every tower and church, whereupon every one was to grasp the shaft of his lance, or sit on his horse if he had one, and say by which gate he meant to depart. And they were to take care never to show their faces again in the neighbourhood of Debreczen, and thus Kuczuk Pasha would be afraid when in the presence of the sublime Sultan they asked him what had become of the great city of Debreczen, which had so faithfully paid so much and so much tribute to the Porte, made presents to all the viziers one after another, supplied the Turkish armies with meal and provender, let him boast before the Divan that he has burnt it to ashes and sown the site of it with salt in a fit of pique, simply because his pipe did not draw, and see what they'll say to him then!"

[Pg 4]That was the message which Master Stephen Dobozy sent to the Pasha, and Panajoti repeated it to him word for word.

"Accursed stiff-necked Calvinist!" exclaimed the Pasha, wrathfully, "he's quite capable of doing it, too, the rascal! But don't you be afraid that a city like Debreczen will be extirpated from the face of the earth simply because he chooses to lose his temper, for Debreczen is so necessary to this spot that if it did not exist already the Turks would have to build it. The dog knows very well that I don't want to devastate the town, else he would not speak so big to me."

Panajoti solemnly assured the Pasha that the inhabitants of Debreczen were resolved to risk the uttermost, and that the moment the Pasha blew a trumpet or aimed a gun at them, the whole place would instantly flame up and be of no further use to anybody. All their treasures had already been buried, the girls and women were safe away on the other side of the Theiss, and the men were so furious that they had all laid hold of their swords and scythes, and would be very difficult to manage, so embittered were they.

The Pasha perceived that Panajoti was right. For once the Debreczeners had got the better of him. So he withdrew the squadrons that he had marshalled before the gates, sent away his guns, and said that he would be merciful to Debreczen. They might take his word for it that he meant to hurt no one, and would henceforth deal graciously with them. Moreover, he warmly praised Master Stephen Dobozy for his courageous and determined conduct, and assured him that he should never have cause to repent his behaviour.[Pg 5] On the contrary, if ever he should be in trouble let him have recourse to him, the Pasha; he might always rely on his patronage. And if ever he should come to Grosswardein, he was to make a point of coming to see him, the Pasha; Master Dobozy might always be quite sure that he would be made to feel perfectly at home.

And with that he returned to Grosswardein, with his guns and his army in the same order in which he had come.

The Debreczeners breathed a great sigh of relief, and every one praised and exalted his Honour the Sheriff for so valiantly showing all his claws. The Turk evidently perceived that he was a man who would stand no nonsense.

Kuczuk Pasha had no sooner arrived at Grosswardein than he sent for Badrul Beg, the vizier of the Moorish cavalry, and entrusted him with a special mission.

"This evening," said he, "before dusk, take five hundred horsemen and set off in the direction of Diószeg. Inquire of every person you meet coming or going: 'Does this road lead to Nagy-Kálló?' and then let them go again. This do before nightfall, and then turn suddenly away from the Diószeg road and wade about among the marshy meadows on the left-hand side to obliterate your traces, and when you get out into the fields on the other side you will find the shepherds who look after the sheep and oxen, and take them off with you to Létá. When you perceive the towers of Létá, cut down your guides, and, cautiously approaching the place, turn off into the great forest there. In this forest you will come upon a lime-burner,[Pg 6] or a herdsman, who will lead you through the forest to where it comes to an end at Hadház. There again trample your guides beneath your feet, and remain in ambush. On the morrow, or the day after that, or perhaps in a week's time—and till then you will stick to the forest—you will perceive four or five hundred waggons going towards Tokai. These waggons will be packed full with select girls and women, and with lots of money and knickknacks, you may be sure. Seize every blessed one of them. If there are any men with them, cut the men down. What money you find with them distribute among your soldiers. The women-folk, on the other hand, bring hither to me. You understand what I say? Remember that you carry your head in your hands, so keep an eye upon it."

Badrul Beg understood the command and withdrew. The Moorish vizier was just the man to execute the charge committed to him, for he was capable of traversing the whole realm from end to end, through forest and morass, till he came to his appointed place without once dismounting, and there he would contentedly lounge about in ambush, with an empty belly for weeks together, till he had done what he was told to the very last iota.

But Kuczuk Pasha thus apostrophized the good Debreczeners: "So you would smile at me, you would laugh at me? You would rejoice over me, eh? Very well, laugh your fill now while you can, for the day is at hand when it will be your turn to weep."

On the broad highway leading to Tokai a long[Pg 7] series of waggons was approaching Hadház; it was the caravan of the Debreczen women.

Five hundred waggons toiling one after another, filled with nothing but women and children, not a single man among them—no, not so much as a man's finger to raise a whip, for the women themselves even drove the horses. Those among the fugitives whom God Himself had created of the masculine gender had their hands nicely folded away under swathing-bands, and were called—babies.

Nothing but a pack of women and girls. Imagine the good humour, the racket which accompanied them on the way! They were telling each other how his Honour the Sheriff had driven the Turks from the town, how frightened they had been, and all the rest of it; they had enough to talk about for weeks to come. Rich indeed is the fancy of souls saved from a great peril.

At the head of every waggon as coachman sat a young woman driving the horses on, and singing one of those melancholy old songs which were then usually sung from the Theiss to Moldavia, perhaps this one, which began—

"The little duck is bathing in the lake so black,
My mother in Poland gets ready the cooking-jack;"

or perhaps this—

"If they ask thee for me, say
I'm a slave far, far away,
Hands and feet in irons bound;"

which last was greatly in fashion then, God knows, and many a poor Magyar sang it from his heart.

[Pg 8]And then a whole row of waggon-women would take up the song and make the whole canopy of heaven ring with it; the poor little larks soaring up there were quite vanquished in this singing contest.

Towards evening the whole caravan halted by a green mound standing out upon the level plain. Who knows who raised it? or whether our bones or others were in it? Our bones certainly, for the whole plain around was a blank desert.

Not a village, not a town anywhere near; only a solitary hut surrounded with ricks or stacks might be seen here and there, far apart from each other; not a trace of arable land; the whole district is nothing but pasturage for flocks and herds.

From time to time the Fata Morgana exhibits her juggleries, but we are accustomed to it now, and nobody is deceived thereby. She inundates the distant landscape with an undulous sea, but nobody wishes to bathe in it. She shows us umbrageous woods, but nobody hastens to refresh himself there. She conjures up cities and palaces which nobody takes the trouble to admire. We, the sober children of men, have discovered the meaning of all these enchantments, and don't care a rap what sort of marvel this faded old fairy lays before us.

But on this particular day the Fata Morgana was in a peculiarly good humour. Very rarely does the sun burn so fiercely as it did then. The earth regularly cracked beneath it, and the beds of waterpools became dried clayey hummocks. It was just the day for the Fata Morgana's elfin extravagances. A pack of young girls, the dreamiest spectators imaginable, were[Pg 9] ascending a green hill to gaze down upon the marvels of atmospheric phenomena.

All round about surges the boundless sea full of swiftly advancing waves; from time to time figures rise out of it silhouetted against the sky. There are swimming blue islands, which grow up and swell out as the women gaze at them, green forests overspread their shores, the shadows of the trees are visible in the water; and then, suddenly, the island sinks lower, the waves of the sea rise, and clash together over its highest point. And now on the other side arise vast aërial palaces with transparent towers and hazy blue temples, and these also are tossed up and down by that elfin wag as if they were swimming upon it, and when she has tired of them she makes endless havoc of them, and towers and cities tumble together into a heap of ruins; and then the sea also disappears, and the eye sees nothing but a flock of migratory cranes coming slowly along.

The girls on the hill begin explaining the phenomenon to each other.

"Look! that building over there was just like the church at Debreczen with the two towers. And that other one that has just fallen to pieces is like the watch-tower at the gates of Grosswardein—it is just as crazy looking."

"Girls, girls!" scolded a young bride, who was suckling her plump little baby at the foot of the hill, "one ought not to joke about such things. It is not right to recognize any place in the Fata Morgana. Woe will befall the town which she shows. Have done with such profane prattling!"

[Pg 10]"Look!" suddenly cried they all, and the word died away on their lips; every one looked, with eyes petrified by wonder and terror.

What was it that had suddenly come to light in the sky?

Towards Hadház, high above the aërial road, the misty shape of a horseman was suddenly sketched out against the pallid sky—a real warrior on horseback, with a quiver on his shoulder, a peaked turban on his head, and his hand on his hip. The whole shape was magnified against the distant horizon into gigantic proportions, which made one's heart beat to look at it; the feet of the horse did not touch the ground, and below and through them one could see the sky. The whole thing looked like the bright-blue shape of an armed phantom cast upon the pale, yellow sky.

"O Lord, forsake us not!" murmured the terrified and helpless crowd at the sight of this strange apparition, which natural philosophers have seen so often and in so many places, and have since explained, though they know neither the why nor the wherefore of it.

The shapes of men far away swam forth into the sky, magnified into gigantic spirits of the mist. Every moment fresh and fresh shapes emerged from the aërial billows, all of them armed giants. Some only emerged from the surface of the delusive sea as far as the bodies of their horses; of others one could only see the heads and shoulders; some had their shadows joined on to their bodies, others showed double shadows glued together at different ends with heads, arms, and weapons turned upwards and downwards, and suddenly the whole thing slowly dissolved, and nought remained behind[Pg 11] in the sky but two broad wheel-like spokes, two bright-blue ribbons of light on a misty, yellowish background, shining upwards from the earth.

"Alas, alas! the Turks and Tartars are lying in wait for us," exclaimed the women, confused, terrified, without friend or counsellor, in the midst of the wilderness.

The mothers clasped their children to their breasts, the girls scattered about their precious kerchiefs and ornaments, that while the robbers were picking them up they themselves might have time to escape. Every one believed that the danger was at their very heels.

"Let's be off! Let's be off! By the Böszörmény road! Let us fly through the pasture lands! Hasten! hasten!"

The mob of poor desperate creatures turned aside from the road; the waggons, greatly to the damage of the horses, plunged along over the fields where there was no sign of a track. Nobody sang any more now, whether songs or hymns, but a pious soul here and there sighed in secret as she looked behind her, first into the formidable distance, and then up into the familiar sky. "Thou, O Almighty," they whispered, "Thou who in Thy heaven hath marvellously revealed to us the lying-in-wait of our evil foes, defend us, Thy poor weak servants, from our evil pursuers, who have none to trust in save Thee alone, O God of heaven!"

And, indeed, the Lord was to work yet other marvels that day.

As the flying women were still looking timorously behind them, the sportive phenomena suddenly[Pg 12] disappeared from earth and sky; on the break-up of the Fata Morgana the horizon became sharply visible again, and the birch forests of Hadház loomed forth faintly blue in the distance. Clouds with sharply defined silver linings arose in the sky from that direction as if the tempest were puffing gigantic frothy bubbles before it; gradually the horizon grew darker and darker, dark-blue clouds came crowding up one on the top of another; it was as though a deep voice in the distance were roaring: "Fly, fly!"

And the waggons went jingling and clattering along towards the confines of Szörmeny.

Badrul Beg had now been lying in ambush in the forest of Hadház for two days. He had performed everything which Kuczuk Pasha had commanded him in his own way. Every one from whom he had inquired the way he had cut down immediately after he had done him that service, so that he should not betray him. Every one of his band was forced to remain on the spot where he stood, nobody was allowed to quit the forest, and every inhabitant of the environs who happened to stray thither accidentally died before he could betray what he had seen. They were all shot down by arrows, arrows which utter no sound, and never brag of their heroic deeds as the big-mouthed guns do.

Nobody should betray them, nobody should carry tidings concerning them to the women and girls of Debreczen. And God?—Ah! He sees these women thus hastening to destruction, He looks at them through the mirror of the Fata Morgana, and hides[Pg 13] from them the crafty snare laid for them in the very nick of time. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

On the evening of the third day the sentinels stationed on the border of the forest informed Badrul Beg that far off in the puszta a long line of dust could be seen, as if hundreds and hundreds of waggons were coming along one after another.

"It is they!"

Badrul Beg mounted to the top of a hillock, that he might see for himself—perchance he was the enormous giant whose misty form had first appeared in the sky, with the quiver on his shoulder and the peaked turban on his head.

"It is they! Only let them come nearer! Nobody can warn them of their danger—nobody!"

But suddenly the approaching line of dust stops, remains stationary for some moments, and then suddenly begins to start off sideways, and, so far from slowly creeping on nearer, darts aside among the hedges with dart-like rapidity.

Badrul Beg looked furiously around him. "Which of you can have betrayed us to them?" he cried.

As if suddenly answering his question, the whole forest fell a-soughing. The tall, slim birch trees began to rustle and shiver; a frightful hurricane had arisen over the plain, howling and roaring, and enveloping the whole firmament with clouds of yellow dust.

Badrul was not used to fear the tempest—Kuczuk Pasha did not allow him to.

"Forward with your lances!" he cried to his horsemen. "Split the tempest with the points of them! After those fugitives! Out upon the open plain!"

[Pg 14]Hah! but out on the plain there it was another Master who commanded now. In the midst of the open country, midway between pursuers and pursued, came scudding along the bride of the tempest, the wild whirlwind, that slim fairy who dances so majestically right over the smooth plain with her comet-like head among the clouds, as if her scattered locks were floating there, while her legs, like spindles, were twirling in the dust. She sways to the left, curtseying with her slim body, and throwing back her defiant head ever higher and higher. Woe to all frail and perishable creatures who come in her way, for she will tear them to pieces and scatter them abroad. The roofs of houses, haystacks, prominent trees, if once they are caught in the savage sweep of her garment, she hurls up to the sky, and then dashes to the earth again with furious caprice. After her, murmuring and growling, comes her angry bridegroom—the thunderstorm—who pursues his defiant bride with a fiery whip in his hand; with his whip he will scourge her if he catches her. Ah! the love of the elemental spirits is terrible.

The whirlwind in an instant enveloped the band of Badrul Beg in such a cloud of dust that nobody knew from thenceforth whether he were going backwards or forwards. The air was darkened. One horseman could not see his next fellow for the whirling dust, in whose murkiness he could not even distinguish the lightning flashes, he could only hear the approaching thunder as it rolled along the sky, shook the earth, and silenced the savage howl of the tempest.

Badrul Beg's charger reared beneath him, the wind[Pg 15] took the turban from his head and tore the pennant from his lance.

"Ah, thou god—thou God of the Magyars!" thundered the Moor, shaking his fist at the sky. "Thou hast taken the part of Thine own people, but for all that Thou shalt not save them from me!"

At the very moment when the presumptuous wretch uttered this blasphemy, a stony substance smote his shoulder, so that his arm hung down benumbed at his side.

What was that?

Nothing but a large piece of ice, coming before the rest by way of warning. Immediately afterwards heaven discharged, as from slings, its rattling, clattering stones, jagged lumps of ice came plunging down from the sky. Some of them were like birds' eggs, others like transparent nuts, others like the heads of spiked clubs, ten little pieces all glued together, with a murderous lump in the middle of a pound's weight. The lightning flashed incessantly, sending its messages from one quarter of the heavens to the other, the ice-flogged earth in the distant plain gave forth a sound as if it were about to collapse beneath the falling sky.

"Allah Kerim! Allah Akbar!" exclaimed the freebooters, vainly flying from the pursuant hailstones, which smote them down from every side with frightful velocity. The neighing of the tortured and terrified horses made the din still more terrible, and the boldest were dismayed by the sweeping lightning flashes which plunged down among them with fiery heads, illuminating the dense body of hail which seemed to have[Pg 16] dissolved into millions of diamonds and silver bullets in its descent from above.

"There is no deliverance save with the 'Lord God!'" howled the Turks. And off they plunged whithersoever their horses took them, some in the direction of the forest they had just quitted, where the wind-shattered trees received them, others galloped on still further, and plunged into a stream which the water-spout within an hour had swollen into a raging river. Others again, flying before the hurricane, fell right within its path, were struck down and scattered about miles away. When the tempest had passed over, Badrul Beg could only find fifty horsemen. Of these about twenty lay dead on the ground, scattered far and wide, with frightful wounds on their foreheads, twisted limbs and broken legs; in some cases horse and rider had been struck dead together, others had been so buried by the ice that only their hands appeared above the frozen mass. The whole plain presented the spectacle of a desert strewn over with stones and pebbles of different sizes, but all equally white and cold.

The sons of the Ethiopian palm desert had never seen ice before.

"Lo! what wonders befall in this earth!" said Badrul Beg, in his dismay. "Who can fight against Heaven? The God of the Magyars works miracles on their behalf! Allah defend us from the wrath of this strange god!"

Nevertheless, he was not quite certain whether Kuczuk Pasha would be inclined to believe him if he were to return with a shattered host after letting the[Pg 17] women go. How could he believe from mere hearsay a marvel the like of which no true believer had ever heard? But he could have no surer witness than these iron trunks, which he had brought with him to hold the jewels of the captured women, if he filled them with the cold white stones slung by the celestial slings; when he saw those the Pasha must give credence even to a story bordering upon the marvellous.

So he nicely filled four large trunks right up to the brim with ice, and binding them on the backs of two horses, himself trotted after them. For the sake of greater security, he kept the keys of all the boxes himself, and sealed up their locks with sealing-wax.

It took him a couple of days to get back to Grosswardein, for he went a bit out of his way to collect together his scattered soldiers; and a sorry lot they were, with their broken limbs, battered heads, and black and blue bodies. All the time a burning sun shone down upon them from morn to eve, and the water was dripping from under the iron trunks, and exhaling in vapour from above them at the same time. On reaching Grosswardein, he appeared before Kuczuk Pasha with a broken arm and a downcast face, and told him the whole story, the very telling of which made him tremble.

Kuczuk Pasha's face grew very wrath at this fairy tale, and not a word of it would he believe. Then Badrul Beg had the iron trunks brought forward to corroborate him, that he might see with his own eyes the stones of the celestial slingers.

And lo! when the seals were broken and the locks were opened, there was nothing at all in the trunks. There was not a trace of the celestial stones.

[Pg 18]Badrul Beg rent his clothes.

"Merciful Allah!" he cried, "lo! the God of the Magyars has caused to disappear from the locked boxes the stones with which he stoned my warriors to death!"

"Miserable coward!" thundered Kuczuk Pasha, who did not believe a single word of it all. "I suppose the meaning of it is that those valiant amazons have given you a good drubbing?"

Whereupon they led Badrul Beg forth from his presence, and hung him up in front of the gate, and there he hung till evening. As for the Moors who were with him, they were first decimated, and then the rest had their ears cut off and were sent to Belgrade.

But the women of Debreczen at the very same time returned unharmed to the arms of their dear ones. To the very end of his life Kuczuk Pasha firmly believed that it was they who had drubbed Badrul Beg so roundly, and from henceforth he held them in the greatest respect.

This story is recorded in the archives of the noble city of Debreczen, and ye who read thereof reflect that God still exists, and that He is always able to defend His chosen from His high heaven, and now also His arm is not shortened.

[Pg 19]


I wonder, my dear fellows, if any of you know the Countess Stephen Repey, the younger one I mean, not the old lady, that little Creole princess—my little black-eyed cobold, as I call her? Mine indeed, pish! I don't mean that, of course. That is only a façon de parler. All of us, my dear fellows, as you very well know, have sighed after her enough, at some time or other, but none of you have had, like me, the luck to travel at night with her in the same coach. Well, naturally, her maid was there too. Still it was a great bit of luck all the same. But no more of such luck for me, thank you.

One day, at her castle of Kérekvár, it suddenly occurred to the Countess, quite late in the evening, that the Casino ball at Arad[8] was coming off on the morrow, and she must be there at all hazards. No sooner said than done. The horses were put to at once, and as there was nobody with her but me, she said: "I pray you, my dear Baron, be so good as to escort me to Arad."

[8] The Cheltenham of Hungary.

Well, when it came to "dear Baron," what on[Pg 20] earth could I say? "Countess! ma déesse, it is very dark; we shall only get upset and break our legs, and how can we dance with broken legs? We shall have to cross the three Körös rivers, the bridge over one of them is sure to be crazy as usual, and in we shall plump. Then at Szalenta we shall have to pass through the deuce of a wood, full of robbers, and I shall never be able to defend you single-handed against the whole lot of them. And besides, what need is there to hurry? Early to-morrow morning, after a nice cup of tea, you have only to step into your carriage, your four bay horses will fly with us to Arad, and by the evening you will be quite ready with your toilet."

That's what I said, but you know how it always is, try and persuade a woman not to do a thing, and she'll insist on doing it all the more. She didn't want to drive her horses to death, she said, and whoever heard of wanting to rest after a short journey like that. Besides, she loved so to travel by night. What with the stars and the frogs, it was so beautiful, so romantic, and much more such stuff. But bless you, that was a mere pretext. The fact was, she had suddenly got the idea into her darling little noddle, and nothing in heaven or earth could turn her from her purpose.

Enfin, I was between two stools. I had either to go with her or remain alone in the castle. Of course I chose the former alternative, especially after she gave me permission to sit opposite to her in the coach.

I enjoyed myself splendidly, I can tell you. The Countess, by degrees, absolutely loaded me with her favours. First of all she put her handbag in my lap,[Pg 21] to which she presently added a muff; next she hung a reticule upon my arm; finally she entrusted to me a couple of band-boxes, after that she fell asleep. I could have asked anything I liked of her, especially when the coach stumbled and she awoke in terror and began asking for all her belongings one after another, dozing off again when she was quite sure they were all there. Later on, the lady's-maid began to groan: "O Lord! how my head aches!"—whereupon I also pretended to fall asleep.

Suddenly we all started up in alarm, the coach had suddenly moved sideways, and then come to a dead stop as if it had fallen into a ditch.

My Countess also awoke and asked, stupidly, what was the matter.

The lackey leaped from the box and came to the carriage window.

"Your ladyship, I am afraid we have lost our way."

"Well, what of that?" said the Countess; "we can't stop here; there's a road in front of us, I suppose, and we are bound to arrive somewhere if we only follow it."

"Yes, but——"

"Yes, but—what do you mean? The road must lead somewhere, I suppose?"

"Saving your ladyship's presence, we are in the Szalenta wood."

"Well, the Szalenta wood is no trackless wilderness. We shall get to the end of it in a couple of hours."

"Yes, your ladyship, but the coachman is afraid."

"The coachman! What business has he to be[Pg 22] afraid? there's nothing about that in his contract, is there?"

"He's afraid of some mischief befalling your ladyship."

"What has the coachman to do with me, I should like to know?"

Here I thought it my duty to intervene.

"Countess, ma déesse, this is no joke. This comes, you see, of nocturnal excursions. Here we are camping out in the middle of a forest, and the robbers who abound in this forest will come and take our horses, our money, and our lives. I only wish I had a revolver."

But the little demon only laughed, and, before I could prevent it, she had opened the coach door and leaped out.

"Oh! what a splendid night. How fragrant the forest is; how the glow-worms sparkle in the grass. Have you no eyes, Baron?"

Eyes, indeed! when I couldn't see three paces before me for the darkness.

"But surely I see something shining through the trees over there," she continued.

My blood grew cold within me. We were approaching some robbers' den evidently.

The coachman answered the question from his box with the voice of a man who is already being throttled.

"That, your ladyship, is the pot-house which the country people call the 'guest-detaining csárdá.'"[9]

[9] Inn.

"Guest detaining! Bravo! The very thing for us. Let's hasten thither."

[Pg 23]I was desperate. "For God's sake, Countess, what would you do? Why, that csárdá is a notorious resort of thieves, where they would kill the whole lot of us; a regular murder-hole, whose landlord is hand in glove with all the ruffians of the district, and where numbers and numbers of people have come to an evil end."

The naughty girl only laughed at me. She told me I had read all these horrors in the story-books, and there was not a word of truth in any of them. She admitted, indeed, that if there had been another inn she would have gone to that in preference, but as this was the only one we had no choice. She then ordered the coachman to drive the horses along very gingerly, while she went before on foot to show him the way.

Every lamentation and objection was useless, we had to stumble along in the direction of that cursed csárdá, for she threatened to go alone if we were afraid to come too.

It is a fact that that naughty little fairy was afraid of nothing.

When we drew nearer to the csárdá, a merry hullabooing sort of music suddenly struck upon our ears, though all the windows were closed by shutters.

"Mon Dieu! it is absolutely full of robbers."

"You see how it is," remarked the Countess, mischievously; "we started to go to a ball, and at a ball we have arrived. No one, you see, can avoid his fate"—and thereupon, with appalling foolhardiness, she marched straight towards the door.

For a moment I really thought I should have turned tail, left her there, and made a bolt of it. But,[Pg 24] noblesse oblige. And besides, I couldn't, for Mademoiselle Cesarine, the lady's-maid, had gripped my arm so tightly that I was powerless to release myself. The poor creature was more than half dead with fright; at any rate, she was only half alive when we followed the Countess together.

Even outside the door we could hear quite distinctly the wild dance-music and the merry uproar proceeding from a parcel of men inside; but my Countess was not a bit put out by it. Boldly she opened the door and stepped into the csárdá.

It was a large, long, dirty, whitewashed room, where in my first terror I could see about fifty men dancing about. Subsequently, when I was able to count them, there turned out to be only nine of them, including the landlord, who did not dance, and three gipsies who provided the music. But it seemed to me that five stalwart ruffians were quite enough to deal with our little party.

They were all tall fellows, who could easily hit the girders of the roof with their clenched fists, and strapping fellows too, with big, broad shoulders; their five muskets were piled up together in a corner.

Well, we were in a pretty tight place, it seemed to me. The rascals when they saw us instantly left off dancing, and seemed to be amazed at our audacity. But my Countess said to them, with a charming smile—

"Forgive me, my friends, for interrupting your pastime. We have lost our way, and as we couldn't go any further in the dark, we have come here for shelter, if you will give it to us."

At these words one of the fellows, sprucer and[Pg 25] slimmer a good deal than the others, gave his spiral moustache an extra twirl, took off his vagabond's hat, clapped his heels together, and made my Countess a profound bow. He assured her she was not inconveniencing them in the least; on the contrary, they would be very glad of her society. "I am the master here," he added, "Józsi Fekete" (the famous robber, by the way), "at your ladyship's service. But who, then, is your ladyship?"

Before I could pull the Countess's mantilla to prevent her from blurting out who she was, she had already replied: "I am the Countess Repey, from Kérekvár."

"Then I am indeed fortunate," said the rascal. "I knew the old Count. He fired after me with a double musket on one occasion, though he did not hit me. Pray sit down, Countess."

A pleasant introduction, I must say.

The Countess sat down on a bench, the fellow beside her; me they didn't ask to take a seat at all.

"And where did your ladyship think of going on such a night?"

(I winked at her: "Don't tell him.")

"We were going to Arad, to the Casino ball."

("Adieu all our jewels," I thought.)

"Oh, then you have come here just at the nick of time. Your ladyship need not go a step further, for we are giving a ball here, if you do not despise our invitation. We have very good gipsy musicians—the Szalenta band, you know. They can play splendid csárdáses."

The rascal didn't stand on ceremony in the least,[Pg 26] but no sooner did they begin dashing off the csárdás, than he threw his buttoned dolman half over his shoulder, and seizing the Countess round the waist, twirled her off amidst the lot of them.

Another fellow immediately hastened up to Mademoiselle Cesarine, and ravished her away in a half-fainting condition; but she had no need to think of herself, for she was passed from one hand to another so that her feet never touched the ground.

As for my Countess, she excelled herself. She danced with as much fire and vivacity as if she were sweeping over the waxed floor of the assembly rooms at Arad. Never have I seen her so amiable, so charming, as she was at that moment. I have seen Hungarian dances at other times, and have always been struck by their quaintness, but nobody ever showed me how much there was really in them as that good-for-nothing rascal showed me then.

First of all he paced majestically round with his partner, as if this were the proudest moment of his life, gazing haughtily down upon her from over his shoulder; then he would shout down the music when at its loudest—and it was pretty loud too—and emerge from the midst of the throng after his partner, she all the time swaying modestly backwards and forwards before him, like a butterfly which touches every flower but lights on none; and, indeed, I am only speaking the truth when I say that her feet never seemed to touch the earth. The fellow, foppishly enough, would keep bending towards her as if he were about to embrace her on the spot, and then would stop short, stamping with one foot and flinging back his head haughtily, alluring[Pg 27] the enchanting little fairy hither and thither after him. Sometimes he would rush right up to her as if about to cast himself upon her bosom, and then, with a sudden twirl, would be far away from her again, and only the glances of their eyes showed that they were partners. Presently, as if in high dudgeon, he would turn away from his partner, plant himself right in front of the gipsy musicians, and prance furiously up and down before them, and after thus dancing away his anger, suddenly patter back to the Countess, and seize and whirl her round and round as if he were a hurricane and she a leaping flame.

During this spacious pastime I was constantly agonized by the thought that perhaps this mad rogue in his excitement might permit himself some unbecoming demonstration towards the Countess. The temptation you know was great. The Countess was entirely in his power, the fellow was a gallows-bird, with the noose half round his neck already; an extra misdeed or two, more or less, could do him no further harm. I was firmly resolved that if he insulted the Countess by the least familiarity, I would make a rush for the piled-up muskets, seize one of them, and shoot the villainous trifler dead. I affirm on my honour that this I was firmly resolved to do.

But there was no necessity for it. The dancers finished the three dances, the robber-chief politely conducted his partner back to her place, and respectfully kissed her hand, after thanking her heartily for her kindness; and with that he approached me, and amicably tapping me on the shoulder, inquired—

"Well, old chap, can't you dance?"

[Pg 28]Fancy calling me old chap.

"Thank you," I said, "I cannot."

"More's the pity;" and back he went to the Countess.

"I beg your ladyship's pardon," he began, "for not being sufficiently prepared for the reception of such distinguished guests, but I hope you will indulgently accept what we have to offer you; it is not much, but it is good."

So he meant to give us not only the ball, but the supper after it.

And a splendid banquet it was, I must say. A large caldron full of stewed calf's flesh was produced, put upon the long table, and we all took our places round it. Of plates and dishes there was no trace. Every one used his own claws, by which I mean to say that, with a hunk of bread in one hand, and a clasp-knife in the other, we fished up our marrow-bones from the caldron itself.

As for my Countess, she fell to as if she had been starving for three days. The robber-chief fished up for her, with his brass-studded clasp-knife, the reddest morsels of flesh (they literally swam in pepper), and piled them up on her white roll. It was something splendid, I can tell you.

Suddenly it occurred to the rascal that I was not eating.

"Fall to, old chap," said he. "Stolen goods make the fattest dishes, you know."

Nice company, eh?

"Thank you, I can't eat it; it is too much peppered," I said.

[Pg 29]"All right; so much the more for us."

The wine, naturally, was sent round in the flask; not a glass was to be seen. Józsi Fekete, as is the way with boors, first drank from the flask himself, and then, having wiped the mouth of it with his wide shirt-sleeve, presented it to the Countess. And, bless my heart, she took it, and drank out of it. An amazing woman, really!

Then the flippant rogue turned to me, and offered me a drink.

"Come, drink away, old chap," he said (why always harp upon my grey hairs), "for of course you are going to make a night of it."

"Thank you, I cannot drink. I'm a teetotaler," I said.

I was now thoroughly convinced that they were going to drink themselves mad drunk preparatory to knocking our brains out. And, indeed, they did drink a cask of wine between the five of them, yet when they rose from the table not one of them so much as staggered.

While they were treating the gipsies, the robber-chief approached me again.

"Well, old chap" (devil take him with his old chap!), "so you neither eat, nor drink, nor dance, eh? How, then, do you amuse yourself? Do you play cards?"

And with that he produced a pack from his pocket. So he wanted to find out how much money I had in my pocket, eh?

"I know no game at cards."

"Well, I'll pretty soon teach you one. It is quite easy. Look, now! I put one card here and another[Pg 30] card there. You lay upon this, and I lay upon that, and whichever of us draws a court card of the corresponding suit takes the stake."

The rascal was actually teaching me Landsknecht, and I was obliged to pretend to learn from him.

What could I do? I was obliged to sit down and play with him. I had in my pocket a lot of coppers. I thought I might as well risk them, so I put them on the table.

"What! We don't play for browns here! We are not bumpkins. Here's the bank!" and with that he flung upon the table a whole heap of silver florins and gold ducats.

I also had a few small silver coins in my purse, and, with much fear and trembling, I placed one of them on the first card. He dealt out, and I won the stake. The rascal paid up. Not for the world would I have taken up the money, I left it where it was. A second and a third time I won. Again I did not gather my stakes. The fourth, fifth, sixth time, every time, in fact, fortune smiled on me. I began to perspire. It is a frightful situation when a man plays cards with a scoundrel and wins his money continually. The seventh stake also was mine. By this time a whole army of silver coins stood before me. A cold sweat began to trickle down my temples. Why couldn't I be as lucky as this at Presburg, at the club, during the session of the Diet? Again I staked the whole lot, inwardly praying that I might lose it all. In vain, for the eighth time I won. I was a doomed man, there could be no doubt about it. The rascal smiled, and said: "Well, old chap, you cannot very well be in love with the pretty Countess, for[Pg 31] you win at cards so shamefully." The rascal even dared to chaff me. I trembled in every limb when the ninth deal began. Yes, sure enough, again it fell to my share. The robber struck the table with his fist, and laughed aloud. "Well, old chap," he cried, "if you go on winning like this I shall lose the whole county of Bihar in an hour's time," and with that he pocketed what money remained and rose from the table. I took my courage in both hands and ventured to offer him the money I had won. The fellow looked me up and down as haughtily as a Hidalgo. "What do you take me for?" said he; "pick up your winnings at once or I'll pitch you and them out of doors." Good heavens! what was I to do with all this money? money enough to be murdered for, and I had no doubt they would beat me to death for it presently. I took it all and gave it to the gipsy musicians. And only after I had done it did I reflect what a foolish thing it was to do. For how could I more clearly have betrayed the fact that I was indeed a man of unlimited means?

The silly gipsies thereupon gathered round me and insisted upon playing me an air. What was my favourite air, they asked? I got out of it by referring them to the Countess. I told them to play her favourite air, and she would accompany it with her voice.

The Countess certainly did not require much pressing. She began to sing with her delightful siren voice—

"Summer and winter, the puszta[10] is my dwelling,"

[10] The Hungarian heath.

and so sweetly, so enchantingly did she sing, that I quite forgot my surroundings and fancied I was in a[Pg 32] private box at the Budapest casino. I actually began to applaud.

The robber-chief also applauded. And now he said he would teach the Countess his favourite song. And then the madcap rascal roared out some rustic melody which certainly I had never heard before.

"Well, old chap," he said, when he had finished, "it is now your turn to sing us something."

I was in a terrible pother. I sing? I sing in that hour of mortal anguish? I, who didn't know a single note except "Home, Sweet Home."

"I can't sing at all," I said. And that wicked, frivolous woman began laughing at me frightfully, as involuntarily I fell a-humming an air from some opera. I may mention I have a horrible hoarse sort of voice, not unlike a peacock's.

"If you won't sing," she said to me in French, "we shall all be insulted, see if we don't."

What could I do? With the dart of terror in my heart, and the pressure of mortal fear in my throat, I piped forth my "Home, Sweet Home." I felt all along I was making a woeful mess of it. Up to the middle of the song the Countess behaved with great decorum; but just as I was working my way up to the most pathetic part, and brought out a most cruel flourish, she burst out laughing, and the whole band of robbers began to laugh with her, till at last I also was obliged to smile, though, oddly enough, there was no joke in it at all, as far as I could see.

Then they fell to dancing again. The Countess was indefatigable. And so it went on till broad daylight. When the sun shone through the windows she said to[Pg 33] the robber how obliged she was for the entertainment, but enough was as good as a feast, and would he, therefore, put to the horses and let us be off?

Well, now at last we shall all be knocked on the head straightway, I thought.

The robber went out, hunted up the coachman and the lackey, gave the necessary orders, and came back to say the carriage was awaiting us.

No doubt they meant to shoot us down on the road.

I got into the carriage far more alarmed than I was when I got out of it. It was a suspicious circumstance that he did not separate me from my companion. Evidently they intended to make sure of us and murder us all together.

The rascal himself took horse, galloped along by the side of our carriage, and conducted us to the turnpike-road, so as to put us on our way. Then he raised his cap, wished us a merry evening, and galloped back again.

Only when we came to Zerind did I venture to believe that I was alive. Only then did I begin to reproach the Countess for involving us in an adventure which might have ended miserably enough. Suppose, I said, these rascals had not been afraid of me? Why, then they might have practised all sorts of sottises upon her. And then to dance with vagabonds in a csárdá till dawn of day! Unpardonable!

All the way to Arad I was indulging myself with the hope that if I was very civil to the Countess she would not give me away by revealing the secret of this disreputable adventure. At six o'clock we reached Arad,[Pg 34] and as we dismounted at the door of the reception-room, she told three of my acquaintances what had befallen us. Of course every one speedily knew of our misadventure. So I was not even able to tell the story my own way.

And, again, she was the loveliest woman at the ball. And she knew it, and that was one of the chief reasons why she came. It is true she did not dance a step. She excused herself by saying she was tired to death. I can well believe it. From midnight to dawn she had danced nineteen csárdáses. Why, I, who hadn't danced at all, could hardly stand on my legs.

As for me, I hastened to the card-room. Now that fortune has embraced you, hug her tight, I thought to myself. At one table they were playing Landsknecht. "Now's your time—make a plunge," I said to myself. But I had the most cursed luck. I lost a thousand florins straight off. Fortune evidently only pursues you when she sees that you are afraid of her.

Six months later I came across a newspaper in which was an account of the summary conviction and execution, by hanging, of the famous robber-chief, Józsi.

I took the newspaper to the Countess Stephen Repey, and showed it to her.

"Fancy," she said, when she had read the case through, "and such a good dancer as he was, too."

[Pg 35]


[11] The idea of this story was subsequently expanded into the novel "Pretty Michal."

It happened the same year that, in the place of old Tobias Kesmarki, the hundred electors of the city of Caschau, to wit, forty-five Hungarians, forty Germans, and fifteen Wends, after due deliberation and by common consent, elected as Sheriff his Honour Michael Dóronczius, as being a man of understanding and blameless life, and respected by all men.

The hundred burgesses, having so done, went forth in solemn procession, headed by their Honours the Fürmenders[12] and the Conrector, to the burial-ground outside the gates, where the whole ground was thickly strewn with straw, it being Water Cross Day,[13] when it is sore cold, and the feet of men grow numb in the very council chamber.

[12] Guardians of the orphans and poor.

[13] The Feast of the Epiphany.

But it was the custom that the newly elected Sheriff should always be dug into his office in the churchyard, where humanity is least of all disturbed by official cares, nay, where, rather, the bulging tombs[Pg 36] all around bid him remember that righteousness and good deeds alone abide upon the earth, while all else turns to dust.

Wherefore, with no accompaniment of music, the Sheriff elect and the retiring Sheriff, accompanied by the town councillors, proceed to the churchyard to perform this ceremony, standing within the gate of the churchyard, there to await the masters of the City Guilds coming with their salutations.

All of them came in procession to meet the Sheriff elect, with the badges of their respective Guilds. One by one they salute the new Sheriff, but none of them give him gifts; they do but show them to him, and then take them back again, to signify that he hath first to deserve these same gifts before he receive them.

First of all the millers approach him and exhibit to him a fine white loaf of well-winnowed wheat, and say—

"We will nourish thee with fine white loaves after this sort, if thou wilt be a faithful Sheriff unto us."

Then the vintners, who in those days were a rich and goodly Guild, address him in like manner, and exhibit to him a cask of red wine.

In like manner the weavers, the furriers, and the cobblers all allured the new Sheriff with the hope of receiving of their masterpieces, to wit, beautiful white pieces of cloth, rich cambric, shaggy furs, and bravely embroidered shoes, if so be he remain faithful to their city to the end of his term.

Last of all come the carpenters, who exhibit to the new Sheriff a brand-new waggon, to which horses are harnessed, filled with smoothly planed boards.

[Pg 37]And when the master of the Guild of Carpenters stands before the Sheriff, he thus addresses him—

"Behold, now, we have piled up this brave heap of hornbeams that we may burn thee therewith if thou do betray us."

It was usual to say this on the occasion of the election of a Sheriff in the city of Caschau, and nobody was offended thereby. For in those sad times we were often forced to defend our cities with fire and steel against foes of three different nations, whilst as a fourth enemy we reckoned the numerous freebooters, who had turned Turks after once being Christians, and prowled in the environs of the city at night, to snap up any women and children who might fall in their way and sell them to the Turks. And our fifth enemy were the malefactors lurking in the town itself; and our sixth enemy was the terrible pestilence which so often visited our gates; while our seventh and most ancient adversary was the infernal Evil One himself, from whom Heaven in its mercy defend us. Thus in those days the Sheriff had to defend the city against seven divers sorts of enemies, and see to it that they were all kept well outside the gates, wherefore he had to sustain many sieges, guard the walls day and night, cudgel in fist, persecute evildoers, or threaten them with the terrible hárum palzarum,[14] fumigate or steep in lye all goods brought into the city by foreign chapmen, avert religious strife, frustrate the wiles of Satan, always endeavouring to judge righteous judgments, neither for the sake of lucre nor because of any interior impulse[Pg 38] pronouncing any sentence which might call to Heaven for vengeance or make Hell applaud.

[14] Gradually compressing the skull between three sharp stakes till it burst.

None feared lest his Honour Master Dóronczius should not prove just such a Sheriff as the town desired, for he was a man with no visible flaw, and known to be a righteous, God-fearing man, of whom nobody could say an ill word.

Wherefore, after performing the usual time-honoured ceremony in the churchyard, with great rejoicing and in solemn procession they brought back his Honour into the council chamber of the town hall, where, having set him down in a large velvet easy-chair, four aldermen, seizing the four legs of the said easy-chair, raised it aloft, to the triumphant musical accompaniment of the town trumpeters and the militia drums, while the people present shouted a threefold hurrah. Whereupon the whole town council went in solemn procession to the churches, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, and everywhere sang a Te Deum with great enthusiasm, and after listening to a sermon in Hungarian and a sermon in German, returned to the Sheriff's house to sit down to a great banquet, during which the united choirs, conducted by the precentor, sang all manner of delightful melodies, and towards evening platters of pitch were ignited on the angles of the bastions, and the howitzers also were fired off.

And the city of Caschau felt fully justified on the day of the election of its Sheriff in drinking so many barrels of wine and ditto beer with great rejoicing, because his Honour, Master Dóronczius, was quite capable of so ordering every manner of business and difficulty that nobody had the least cause for anxiety.

[Pg 39]Nevertheless, it so happened, late in the evening of the festival of St. Peter and St. Paul (next evening), that a couple of watchmen, Wurmdrucker and Kebluska by name, to whom had been assigned the patrolling of the streets, while strolling round the large building known as the Turkish lock-up house, perceived a figure enwrapped in a black cloak come hastily out of a house, which figure, on perceiving them, suddenly crouched down under the gate as if with the intent of hiding from them.

Now, as they had had strict orders to arrest and lock up for the night in the nearest ward-house every living soul, good or bad, who should be found in the streets without a lamp after the hour for closing the gates, which was proclaimed by a blast of horns from the top of the great tower—every such soul, if a gentleman, to be fined a thaler next morning, or if a poor man, then half a thaler, or if he had nothing, then to be well trounced—the two watchmen determined to seize and stop the night wanderer thus confronting them. Wurmdrucker having a lamp made of some paper-like, compressible membrane, thereupon held it in front of him that he might see the face of the unknown person, while Kebluska stretched his halberd out against him, and cried with a loud voice, "Who's there?" in Hungarian, German, and Slavonic, that he might be able to answer in one at least of the three languages of the town.

But the person so addressed replied in no language at all, but, having a long stick in his hand, knocked the paper lamp out of Wurmdrucker's hand, so that it collapsed altogether, and would have run off then and there had not Kebluska so thrust at him with his halberd[Pg 40] that the point thereof went right through his cloak, pinning to the door of the house the would-be fugitive, whom the two watchmen then seized, and tying his hands behind his back, urged him on before them to the ward-house hard by the Turkish prison, and there locked him up in the dark room, where they were wont to keep the ashes.

The imprisoned vagabond would not tell his name, and the watchmen, not having a lamp, could not see his face, but all along he begged and prayed them to let him go free; he would give them ever so much money for his freedom, he said.

At this the watchmen were even more afraid. They fancied they had got hold of some evil spy, and not for any amount of treasure would they have let him out of their hands till morning, hoping to get a still greater reward when they handed him over to the Sheriff. When he promised them a hundred ducats they felt sure that the Sheriff would reward them with two hundred, so in the morning they let out the prisoner in order to take him to the Sheriff, and lo! the prisoner was—the Sheriff himself.

So much for their two hundred ducats. The two watchmen were speechless with terror, they did not know what to say in their sudden amazement. Master Dóronczius said nothing to them, but hastened home, and the same day, under some plausible pretext or other, perchance on a trumped-up charge of brawling or blaspheming, seized and thrust both of them into the prison called after Pontius Pilate, where so long as Master Dóronczius remained Sheriff they might be quite certain they would remain.

[Pg 41]Nobody, therefore, at that time knew anything of their secret, for they might just as well have been buried alive as imprisoned in the dungeon of Pontius Pilate.

In those days there lived in the city of Caschau a rich master-butcher, whom they called Stephen Sándor, who had two houses, one in the high town and the other next door to the apothecary's, which had no common thatch, but instead of a roof a cupola made of pointed tiles, like an Egyptian pyramid. In those days the whole of the principal square was built of such houses, with pointed cupolas, the quadrangular stones with which they were built being welded together with lead and iron clasps.

This rich butcher had an only son, Joseph by name, who had also been brought up to be a master-butcher, and had just given proof of his mastery, and manfully too, for he had felled his bullock at the first stroke, and thus escaped the fine of a ducat per extra stroke imposed on bunglers.

Joseph was indeed a stout, well-set-up fellow, yielding to none of his fellows in mettle; at pike-tilting he always kept in his saddle, and never failed to carry off the Shrove Tuesday goose in triumph. Withal he was an honest, diligent youth, and a regular church-goer; and when it came to psalm singing, he out-bawled the whole congregation. Moreover, every man loved and respected him, and never could it be said that he gave half an ounce less in the pound than he ought to have done.

On the day when this Joseph achieved his master-stroke, his father said to him: "Be off, my son; it is[Pg 42] high time. Look about the town a bit, and search for a befitting consort. Look not for property or wealth, but rather for a good heart and a pure spirit. These two things every man should bring home; God will give the rest."

Then Joseph confessed to his father that he had already chosen for himself a worthy and beautiful maiden, an orphan from Eperies, Catharine by name, whose father and mother were dead, and who had put up at the house of an elder sister in the town. He would shorten the days of her orphanhood, he said.

Old Stephen Sándor also knew personally the girl, as well as her guardian elder sister; both of them were good and gentle souls; Catharine, in particular, was such a mild and modest creature that one had but to look at her to feel towards her an impulse of human tenderness.

Her only fault was her great pallor. But this trouble every foreign girl was exposed to who came to dwell at Caschau from the surrounding country or from other places, for there was something in the atmosphere of the town or its drinking water from which the fair faces of foreigners derived this pallid hue, which went by the name of the "Caschau complexion." And there was no escape from it save by quitting Caschau and going to other places, or else by taking to themselves a husband.

So the "Caschau complexion" was no great defect in Catharine's face, after all, so soon as Joseph's father had agreed that his son should take her to wife. After the marriage festivities it would vanish of its own[Pg 43] accord, and the new wife would grow as rosy as the other pretty girls of Caschau.

So Joseph immediately sent his witnesses to the house of Catharine's elder sister, and not long afterwards rings of espousal were exchanged between them, and the wedding-day was fixed for the market-day before the festival of St. Vincent.

The wedding-day arrived, and the marriage took place with full ceremonials. The bride was fetched from her sister's house, and conveyed to the House of God in a carriage drawn by four horses, with plumes and coloured kerchiefs on the horses' heads, and thence to the house of the bridegroom through all the chief streets of the town, to the accompaniment of merry music; and every young man who saw the bride sitting in the beribboned carriage smiled and said to himself, "What a Caschau complexion she has got."

On that day Catharine was paler than usual. In the church itself her sadness, her anguish, were observed generally. Once, when her bridegroom took her hand, she burst into tears, and shrank timidly away from him. Her pallor, her timidity, her weeping, were, all of them, not unbecoming to a bride, so nobody was much struck thereby at the time.

After the dancing came the ceremonial of conducting the bride and the bridegroom to the marriage bed, when the bridesman seized Catharine's hand, while two sword-girt youths went before them, two bridesmaids following after with the bridegroom, and the musicians began to play a gentle, dreamy melody, to the music of which the two torch-bearing youths and the two bridesmaids danced round the bridegroom and the[Pg 44] bride, as if thereby the better to enlace them together, till they came to the bedroom, and there also they danced round them once more, each man taking his and each girl her fellow's hands, and then all together they scampered out of the door, which they banged to behind them, leaving the young couple alone; but the music droned on outside ever more softly, ever more gently, at last scarce audibly, as if it would imitate the whispering of the happy pair inside.

But no sooner were the bride and the bridegroom alone in the bridal chamber than Catharine quickly plucked the bridal wreath from her head, tore it desperately to pieces, and then, opening the window looking on to the courtyard, leaped out of it.

The astonished bridegroom, in the first moment of his surprise, did not know what to do, but looking out after the girl, and perceiving that she was making straight for the well at the top of her speed, he quickly rushed after her, and caught the wench at the very moment when she was about to plunge down the well and kill herself outright.

Joseph pressed the lass tightly in his strong arms so that she could do herself no harm, and asked her anxiously what was the matter, and why she wanted to run away from him. At first the girl only sobbed, and begged him to let her die; but inasmuch as the bridegroom would by no means consent thereto, the girl confessed something to him which made the hairs of his head rise to heaven with horror; indeed, by the time the girl had told him everything, the bridegroom also had fainted, and lay there at her feet.

And within there, in the house of dancing, they were[Pg 45] playing the dreamy melody which imitates the lisping of happy lovers, and stately maids and stalwart lads were dancing together and singing:—

"Dance, dance, the stately dance,
Wave, wave the rosy chain,
To knit together bride and groom."

The marriage came to nought. Catharine, half dead, was carried back to her sister's house, the bridal guests scattered in dismay. Nevertheless, Joseph said not a word of what Catharine had told him to any one, but mounted his horse, took a cudgel in one hand and a lance with a streamer to it in the other, and trotted off to the Sheriff's house. There, without leaving the saddle, he rattled at the gate with the point of the lance, and cried aloud in the hearing of all the people—

"Hearken, Michael Dóronczius! Here am I, Joseph Sándor, sitting on horseback, with lance and cudgel in my hands. Mount thy horse also, if thou be a man; take thy lance and thy cudgel and come out with me in the open, there to fight together; thou knowest wherefore, but tell it to none. Let God judge betwixt us."

It was an unheard-of audacity for a simple burgess to challenge the town Sheriff himself to a tilting duel with cudgels and lances. The people listened in amazement, but still more amazed were they when Master Dóronczius not only did not prosecute the audacious youth, but told the watchmen to let him go in peace, as he must certainly be out of his wits.

But Joseph Sándor, when Dóronczius would not come out of his house to fight with him in God's name, took a bladder lantern, hung it on the point of his lance,[Pg 46] hung beside it a ragged sheep-skin jacket and a pair of hose, and throwing the lance over his shoulder, galloped through the town, exclaiming at every street corner—

"Hearken ye! old and young. Which of you hath seen this Michael Dóronczius, whom I am seeking with a lantern? Tell me, who hath seen him? What hath become of him?"

And in every crowd there is never any lack of merry roysterers ready to give mocking answers to such scornful questions.

"I have seen him. He is hiding just now in a mouse-hole, only his spur is visible."

"I have seen him. He is dressed up in his wife's clothes; he is selling bacon in the market-place among the huckster wenches."

"Never mind, Joe," cried another, "he is sitting behind the stove. He would freeze up if he came out."

"Nay, he would like to come," cried the fourth, "only his mother won't let him. She wants him to skein her thread for her."

"He'll come immediately," said a fifth, "only he's looking for his lance; the fowls are sitting on it, and he durst not drive them away for fear the cock might peck him."

"Let him alone," cried a sixth, "he's lying sick; a gnat bit him yesterday."

And thus the heckling went from street to street, being the usual mode, after the custom of those times, of shaming a backward combatant into action. And, indeed, it was surprising that Michael Dóronczius did not come forward to fight with the youth who jeered at[Pg 47] him so, nor even sent to arrest him, inasmuch as he was quite able to do both, being both a strong muscular man and, at the same time, chief magistrate of the city. But, instead of doing either the one or the other, he said that they were to let young Sándor depart in peace wherever he liked to go.

Nevertheless, later on, when the first intoxication of rage had evaporated from the head of Joseph, he bethought him that, after so much heckling on his part, it was not perhaps very advisable for him to remain in the near neighbourhood of so powerful an enemy, and accordingly one night he privily escaped from the town, and not even his father knew whither he had gone.

Meanwhile time went on, and Catharine grew paler and paler, and no medicine had power to help her. And suddenly the whole miserable mystery was revealed.

On the night before Ascension Day, just after the blowing of the two-o'clock horn, a watchman perceived a woman's shape, wrapped in a long cloak, hastening stealthily along the walls in the direction of the city trench. The watchman followed in the traces of this figure, and saw how this servant-wench—for such he judged her to be—on reaching the trenches, placed on the ground something wrapped up in a bundle, and then produced a spade and began to dig.

When she had scooped out a good deep hole, she knelt down beside the wrapped-up object, and, covering her face with her hands, began to weep bitterly. Then she suddenly left off weeping, and looked timidly round to see if any one was near.

Then the night watchman went up to her and seized[Pg 48] her hand, and bawled loudly in her ear, "What art thou doing there?"

The girl immediately fell back and fainted without answering him, but the object lying open there before him plainly told him what was being done. It was a little new-born baby, a pretty little chubby-faced child; but dead and stiff.

There was no wound upon it, but only a little pin-prick just over the region of the heart, nor was there any blood on its little white shift, save only a single drop, but that had been enough to make the innocent creature die.

At the cry of the night watchman, many people came running up, and they were horrified to recognize in the murderess and mother of the child, Catharine, the former bride of Joseph Sándor, who must certainly have run away from her bridegroom's house on the night of the marriage because she would not practise a vile deception on that worthy man.

They immediately tied the girl's hands behind her, and fastening the baby to her neck, put her in the lock-up, and there the inquiry began early the next morning.

The girl denied nothing. She had killed her child and would have buried it to conceal her shame. She made no excuses, she did not even weep or beg for mercy. The one thing they could not get out of her was: who was the child's father? On this point she remained doggedly silent, and was ready to suffer threefold torture rather than speak.

The Sheriff, Michael Dóronczius, was the presiding judge who pronounced sentence upon the criminal.[Pg 49] For her great sin against God, he said, she was to endure the punishment prescribed for such offences in the statute-book of the town, without any mitigation.

Within living memory no such crime had been committed in our town, so that not even the people themselves knew what form the execution would take, therefore an enormous multitude assembled on the appointed day at the place of execution to see what manner of death she who had murdered her child was to die.

I also was there, and I shall never forget the spectacle, but I would not go to such a sight again if they were to promise me the best part of the town of Caschau for it.

Beneath the scaffold a long trench had been dug about four feet in depth, and beside it stood the executioner's two apprentices.

In this trench Catharine was laid backwards, so that her head alone emerged above it; it was just as if she were lying comfortably in bed.

Then they bound her hands and feet tightly to stout pegs at the bottom of the trench, and the executioner placed the point of a large stake just above Catharine's heart, and held it there while the executioner's assistants filled the whole trench with earth, so that at last only the girl's head was visible above it.

And when nothing more was to be seen but her head, with its pale face, the chaplain approached her, and, kneeling down beside her, urged her for the sake of the salvation of her soul and for the remission of her sins to confess herself truly to him and tell him everything which might relieve her heart of its heavy[Pg 50] burden—for had she not two feet in the grave already.

The head visible above the earth looked sorrowfully around it in every direction twice or thrice, as if it were waiting for some one, as if it believed that at that consummate moment some one would appear to save it, and when, after all, it saw no deliverer approaching, two heavy tears dropped from its eyes and, trickling down its pale face, fell upon the earth which now reached to its very chin. Then she, who was thus buried before she was dead, whispered that she would confess everything, and not in secret, but so that the whole world should hear it.

And she began by saying that the father of the child whose young life she had so mercilessly extinguished was none other than Michael Dóronczius, the Sheriff.

It was he who had deceived the heart of the innocent girl by his devilish artifices, so that when she heard and saw him she forgot everything else. 'Twas he who, protected by the Prince of Darkness, came to Catharine's house at night, who corrupted her with devilish potions, and utterly turned her head. Once, too, he had been caught there by the watchmen, Wurmdrucker and Kebluska, whom Dóronczius, in order that they might not say anything against him, had thrown into the Pontius Pilate dungeon, where they were still languishing. For this cause Catharine had escaped by night from her bridegroom, Joseph Sándor, and after that had oftentimes implored Michael Dóronczius not to drive her to despair, but as he had made her unhappy, at least to take her to wife,[Pg 51] especially as up to that time she had always loved him greatly. But Dóronczius always made excuses; and when it was no longer possible to conceal her shame, he had counselled Catharine, with devilish insinuations, to kill and bury her child as soon as it was born. And when they had caught the girl in the deed her destroyer had assured her that, if only she would not betray him, he would save her at the very last moment. And now the very last moment had come, but Dóronczius was hugging himself at home with the thought that the only witness of his evil deed was about to be put to silence for ever. So now, therefore, his offence was revealed, and let God judge him and let God judge her also, poor sinful girl that she was.

Every one heard these words with horror, and there was not one who did not weep for the poor downtrodden girl and curse the man who had ruined her.

And then the clergyman gave her spiritual consolation, and, having commended her poor oppressed soul to the infinite mercy of God, he covered her head with a handkerchief so that she might not see the things which were to happen next.

For the headsman now drew forth the stake, which indicated the exact place of the buried girl's heart through the intervening earth, and taking a long, red-hot iron peg from a brazier of burning coals, let it down through the place where the wooden stake had been. Then one of the executioner's assistants seized a sledge-hammer with both hands and drove the red-hot iron peg home, while the other quickly covered the girl's head with a heap of earth. But even through the earth could be heard a heart-rending scream, and the whole[Pg 52] earthy tomb heaved up twice or thrice in a manner horrible to behold, till the other apprentices of the executioner had cast a great mound of earth over it and stamped it well down with their feet, after which the grave remained quiet, not a sound now came from it, and the earth ceased to move.

Thereupon the crowd, loudly cursing, set off for the house of Michael Dóronczius, whom they would no doubt have torn to pieces on the spot had not the Fürmenders taken him under their protection.

Meanwhile it became the duty of the Syndics to bring an action against him for fraud, sorcery, and murder. At first Dóronczius obstinately denied everything, but when Wurmdrucker and Kebluska, who were released from their dungeon, testified against him, and said they had seized him on the night when he had quitted Catharine's house, he began to perceive that things were going badly with him, and, by way of saving his own skin, devised an evil plan and sent a secret message to the Walloon captain encamped at Eperies, that if he would come to Caschau by night hard by the gate of the Green Springs, he might perchance find it open and so obtain possession of the whole town.

But the Almighty put to nought this vile device, inasmuch as Joseph Sándor, who had quitted the town because of the Sheriff, and entered the army of Prince John Sigismund, and there worked his way up to the rank of captain, having heard through spies of the intentions of the Walloon captain, galloped at breakneck pace all the way from Tokai to Caschau with five hundred heydukes, and arrived just as the Walloons were pressing through the gate into the town.

[Pg 53]A fierce and desperate fight thereupon ensued between the Walloons and the Hungarians. The former had brought a cannon with them, and entrenching themselves close to the Green Springs behind waggons, fired mercilessly at the town, and into the ranks of the Hungarian warriors, one ball even penetrating the principal entrance of the cathedral. Nevertheless, Joseph Sándor, still further encouraging his warriors, broke at last the ranks of the enemy, and, capturing their cannon besides, flung them out of the town with great profusion of blood. Indeed, if it had not been so dark, and the terrified inhabitants had had time, after the treachery of the Sheriff, to set things in order and succour Joseph, certainly not one of the Walloons would have escaped.

As for Michael Dóronczius, he was seized while attempting stealthily to fly, and the whole treason was brought home to him.

And it was exactly a year that day since they had elected him as Sheriff and installed him in office in the churchyard. Wherefore the carpenters, with the waggon drawn by six horses and laden with a heap of fine hornbeams, again drew up in front of the churchyard, and there they made a pile of the wood and burnt Michael Dóronczius upon it, as they told him they would beforehand.

But, by way of a memorial of the sad treachery, they walled up the gate of the Green Springs, and drew a couple of trenches in front of it, with deep moats guarding them, so that none might get in that way again.

After this event Joseph Sándor settled again in the[Pg 54] city of Caschau, and lived there for a long time till he became an old man, but he never married.

This also they said, at a later day, that one night Catharine's body was dug up from its grave beneath the gibbet and buried in a more godly place, which none wots of save he who buried it there.

Whether it were true or not, nobody could say for certain, for that which is under the earth is the secret of the dark earth known only to the Almighty, and may His gracious protection rest over our poor town and over our hundred-fold more unfortunate country!

[Pg 55]


In the days of Sultan Soliman the Magnificent there lived at Stambul a rich merchant whose name was Muhzin, who traded in jewels and precious stones. This man had a dear consort—Eminha—whom he loved better than all his precious stones, whose red lips he prized beyond the brightness of his rubies, the sparkle of whose eyes excelled the brilliance of his diamonds, and the speech of whose lips was like a silver bell. He would not have bartered those eyes and those lips for all the treasures of the world.

But, alas! those sparkling eyes, those sweet lips were but corruptible treasures. The breath of a breeze from the Morea, which brought the pestilence along with it, robbed Muhzin of his treasure, and cast a cloud over those star-bright eyes, a dumbness upon those speaking lips. What Muhzin would not have given away for all this world's goods he gave to Death for nothing, and they buried his treasure in the ungrateful Earth, which gives back nothing, not even thanks for what you give her.

Worthy Muhzin wept sore because of this loss; he[Pg 56] would neither eat nor drink, and sleep forsook him. Night after night he went on to the roof of his house, and wept and wept till dawn.

Vainly did his friends and kinsfolk try to console him. They could do nothing with him. He could not reconcile himself to the thought that those lovely eyes would never smile upon him again, that that dear mouth would never speak to him more.

One night, when Muhzin was lying back gloomily on his sleepless couch, suddenly, through the open door, a wondrous vision stood before him—a grey-haired old man, whose beard and turban shone like bright white flames.

And the vision spoke to him thus, in a gentle, consolatory voice—

"Muhzin, I have compassion on thy bitter affliction and upon thy grief. I see that thou art worthy of superhuman succour, because thou dost love after a superhuman sort. Thy wife hath not died, for she was not a mortal maid, but a peri. Eminha still lives, for she possesses the power of the peris to die whensoever she desires so to do, and awake in another realm, there to begin a new life, till she choose to die again, and so pursue her metamorphoses. Therefore gird up thy loins and set out forthwith on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and there sit down at the gate of the burial-place, hard by the well of Zemzem, and wait there. Wait there till a funeral procession comes thither, carrying a blue-painted coffin covered by a pall of yellow silk, which pall will be embroidered with blue letters and silver arabesques. Then thou shalt rush out, stop the funeral procession, uncover the face of the dead, and[Pg 57] thou shalt find Eminha. The mourners will not believe that it is thy wife; but thou must then take from thy girdle this little box, which contains a salve, and touch the eyebrows and the lips of thy dead wife with thy anointed finger-tips, and then her eyes will open and her lips will mutter, 'Muhzin!' and no one will doubt any longer that it is indeed thy wife, and thou wilt bring her back to Stambul, and she will no longer desire to leave thee. But in order that thy treasures may not be stolen during the time of thy pilgrimage, take them not with thee, lest evildoers rob thee of them by the way, but commit them to the keeping of thy faithful friend, the honourable Ali Hojia, who is learned in the law, and an interpreter of the Koran, so that thou mayest find them all safe when thou returnest."

And with these words the grey-bearded old man vanished from before the eyes of Muhzin.

The merchant awoke full of amazement. He rubbed his eyes with both hands to see whether he was not still dreaming, lit a rushlight, and his amazement increased when he found on his table the little box which the old man from the other world had brought him; it was beautifully wrought of ivory, richly set with turquoises and perforated with gold. Such a masterpiece came from no human hand.

The next day he told the matter to Ali Hojia, to whom the enigmatical old man had referred him. The lawyer shook his head over it, as if he did not like the business at all, made objections, and tried to persuade Muhzin that he had dreamed it all, or imagined it with his eyes wide open, and finally appealed to his doubts by reminding him that the body of Eminha was now[Pg 58] lying in the tomb where Muhzin had buried it—let him break open the tomb and see for himself, quoth Ali.

Muhzin hastened to perform the request of his friend, and behold—the dead body of Eminha was not in the desecrated tomb.

And now no power in the world was capable of keeping Muhzin back from following the voice of the heavenly vision. He put in his pouch whatever of ready money he had by him, and confided his whole store of gems to Ali Hojia, who was his nearest friend, and a worthy, honourable man to boot, till he himself should return from Mecca. And Ali took the charge upon him for friendship's sake.

Muhzin, after many vicissitudes, reached Mecca. On the road robbers attacked him, and robbed him of all his money, but, fortunately, the little box with the magic unguent escaped; it was concealed within his turban, and therefore they did not discover it. A beggar he entered the holy city, and lived from hand to mouth on the alms of compassionate pilgrims.

Every day he could be seen at the gate of the cemetery near the well of Zemzem, watching the funeral processions which passed before him day after day, for Mecca is a populous place.

A year had passed, and he was still waiting in vain—a coffin such as that described by the nocturnal apparition had not yet passed before him. Either the coffin was blue but the pall was not yellow, or the pall lacked the necessary blue letters, or if it had the blue letters the arabesques were not of silver, or if every requisite mark of identification was there, the corpse[Pg 59] was not the corpse of a woman, but of a man, or a manchild of twelve years.

Muhzin was slowly approaching that state of mind which we call madness, when one day he heard from the other beggars that there was going to be a splendid funeral that day—the wife of the Kadilesker, the beautiful Eminha, had died.


That name put heart into Muhzin once more. All day long he did not depart from the gate of the cemetery, and the beating of his heart almost stifled him when he heard approaching him the funeral music which always heads the funeral procession.

Muhzin had no thought for the splendour of the funeral, no thought for the dancing dervishes, nor for the wailing women-mourners, nor for the siligdars who scattered small silver coins among the mob of mendicants. All he could do was to gaze upon the bier.

Even from a distance he could see that the coffin was blue and the pall a bright yellow. When they came nearer he could even distinguish the blue letters on the pall, and when they came level with him he could see the silver embroidery of arabesques quite well.

Muhzin, wild with joy, violently pushed aside those standing in front of him, forced his way through the procession right up to the coffin, and cried—

"Stop! Stop! This is Eminha. This is my wife!"

The attendants, the great men, the Kadilesker himself—the dead woman's husband—looked with amazement upon this raving figure who had dared to disturb[Pg 60] the order of the funeral; but Muhzin regarded them not, but stripped the pall from off the face of the dead woman.

The young woman who lay there really resembled his Eminha. Death is a great artist. With one cold breath she knows how to make all human faces singularly alike.

"She is not dead!" cried Muhzin to the dumfoundered crowd. "I can make her arise, and then you will see that she will call me her husband. I have been waiting for her here a whole year. Hence, all of you! for I would kill and slay and scatter curses around me! Ye shall not bury the living!"

The people were alarmed at the sight of mad Muhzin, and still more by his savage words. Moreover, the mourning Kadilesker dearly loved his dead wife, and when Muhzin said that he would raise her up again, he also was glad, and made place for him by the coffin that he might perform this miracle.

With the fervour of devotion, Muhzin drew from his girdle the little box and opened it; a yellow-coloured ointment was inside it, speckled with little green-gold points, of whose magical efficacy Muhzin himself was quickly convinced when he dipped into it the index finger of his right hand, for it burnt him as severely as if he had plunged it into boiling oil. But this extraordinary quality of the ointment was only a greater testimony to its marvellous origin, so that Muhzin did not hesitate to thoroughly rub the eyebrows and the lips of the corpse with his anointed finger-tip.

Everybody was intently watching to see whether the breath of life would return beneath the influence[Pg 61] of the wondrous unguent, but nobody was so devout a believer in it as Muhzin himself.

But lo! instead of the eyes and lips of the dead woman opening, as was expected of them, the places which Muhzin had anointed turned black, the skin began to crackle and blister, and the face of the dead woman became quite hideous.

Horror seized upon Muhzin. This was not the effect he had anticipated. The people around him murmured aloud, the Kadilesker rushed furiously upon him, and, seizing him by the throat, cast him to the ground.

"Accursed magician!" he cried, "so shamelessly to distort the face of my dead wife, and make her, now that she is dead, just such an one as thou thyself art while still alive!"

"To the stake with him!" thundered the mob all around; they were furious with Muhzin. "To the fiery pit with him—reserved for the idol-worshippers and sorcerers—the wretch who would desecrate the bodies of the dead!"

And worthy Muhzin would have been burnt on the spot had not the Governor of Damascus happened to be there, who, perceiving that they had to do with a lunatic rather than an idolater, ordered his chiauses to seize Muhzin, tie him to a pillar, give him two hundred strokes with a camel-driver's whip, and then bring the man before him, that he might confess what mad idea it was that had induced him to deform the features of the dead wife of the Kadilesker.

Muhzin told the Governor about the marvellous apparition which had sent him thither.

[Pg 62]"My poor Muhzin," said the Governor, when he understood the whole affair, "what a confounded fool thou art to allow thyself to be imposed upon by such a lot of rubbish! Some one has been making a butt of thee. Why, that Eminha who was the wife of the Kadilesker was born and lived here from her childhood until now; how, then, could she be thy wife a year ago? Moreover, that unguent of thine is a fraud. It is no magic thing, but a corrosive poison with which they are wont to blister the bodies of the poor in the times of pestilence. Every dervish knows of it. Come to thy senses, man! Make an end of thy pilgrimage, return home to Stambul, and follow thy trade. I hope that no greater trouble awaiteth thee when thou gettest home."

Muhzin kissed the hand of the humane Pasha, who gave him some dinars to help him on his way, and turned back towards Stambul forthwith, with ragged garments, a scarred body, a broken heart, and a half-crazy mind.

Poor, and tormented by grief, he reached Stambul after many weeks, picked up by one caravan in the place where a former one had dropped him, bringing home with him a wound on the temples from the lance of a Bedouin freebooter, the impression in his thigh of four teeth of a panther, from which he had contrived to escape half alive, and a terrible emptiness in his heart, in which all hope and faith had died.

When he got back to Stambul he thought within himself that, after having escaped from so many dangers, God would, at least, visit him with no more affliction, but, content with what had already befallen him, would[Pg 63] suffer him to attend to his business in peace for the small remainder of his days.

Wherefore he at once sought out worthy Ali Hojia, his one faithful friend, to whom he had confided the keeping of his treasures.

Ali received him kindly. "Well, and so thou hast just come, Muhzin," said he; "of a truth, I had given thee up for lost. Every evening have I prayed that thou mightest return."

And then Muhzin told him how ill he had fared, and what a fool the vision had made of him, and said that henceforth, he would believe no more in visions, even if their beards were made of moonbeams.

"And that will be wise of thee, Muhzin," said Ali Hojia. "Did I not tell thee not to go? If thou hadst remained at home here thou wouldst not have been robbed and made a fool of. And now thou hast made of thyself a laughing-stock and a beggar. Yet grieve not. For a week a table shall be spread in my house for thee, and then other merciful Mussulmans will care for thee to the end of thy days."

"I thank thee for thy goodness, Ali," said Muhzin; "but I will not be a beggar. Produce my hidden treasures, and I will trade with them as before. I will live honourably."

"Then, where are these treasures of thine?" asked Ali, exceedingly amazed.

"Why, with thee, of course," replied Muhzin.

Ali Hojia shook his head. "Muhzin, my friend, thy misfortunes have robbed thee of thy wits, so that thou knowest not what thou sayest. Thou hast just told me that thou wert robbed on thy journey, and[Pg 64] now thou sayest I have treasures of thine which I have never seen. I tell thee what—go now and have a little sleep and clear thy mind somewhat. After that I will gladly see thee again."

And with that worthy Hojia very gently pushed Muhzin from his door, and shut it in his face.

The unfortunate merchant now fell into absolute despair. He himself began to doubt whether he was in his senses, or whether he had indeed turned crazy, and the hidden treasure was a dream, a phantom, like the rest.

In his despair he flew to the Grand Vizier, cast himself at his feet, and told him the whole story.

"Hast thou a witness who saw thee give thy treasures to Hojia?" inquired the Grand Vizier.

"Allah alone, none other. Truly we were such good friends, one body and one soul."

"Then keep still till I have spoken to the Sultan."

When the Grand Vizier had spoken to the Sultan about the matter, Soliman commanded him to proclaim at every corner of every street, through the public criers, that a certain merchant, Muhzin by name, recently returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca, had drowned himself at night in the Bosphorus. His dead body had been found by the fishermen; if, therefore, the dead man had any friends or relations who wished to bury him with due respect, they were to come for him, otherwise the corpse would be buried in the common cemetery reserved for the poor.

Naturally Ali Hojia was the last person to come forward to bury Muhzin; on the contrary, he did not show himself at all, but several days afterwards he[Pg 65] secretly visited the cemetery of the poor, and there discovered the flat tomb on which two rough stones had been rolled, and on one of these stones the name of Muhzin had been coarsely smeared.

But Muhzin was cast by the Sultan into the prison of the Seven Towers, so that he might not be able to show himself, even if he had a mind to. There, however, he was well treated and lacked nothing.

Soliman, moreover, got from the merchant an exact description of his deposited treasures, piece by piece, with all their distinguishing marks, and made an inventory of them. Then he commanded the Grand Vizier to make friends with Hojia under some pretext or other.

The Grand Vizier went very cautiously to work, and having frequently had occasion to observe the wisdom of the learned lawyer, promised to present him to the Sultan.

The Sultan condescended to enter into conversation with the lawyer, and expressed himself delighted at his dialectical skill. Presently he got into the habit of asking his opinion concerning various ticklish points of law in cases about which even the members of the Divan had different opinions, and always he gave great weight to the words of Ali. At last he so far extended his favour towards him as to appoint him Chief Almoner, and raise him high among the dignitaries of the Seraglio.

So much favour absolutely blinded Hojia, it was now six months since the death of Muhzin had been proclaimed, and no doubt he thought no more about it.

One day the Sultan perceived in the girdle of Hojia[Pg 66] a rosary just like one which was mentioned in the inventory of the merchant's stolen treasures. It was made of coral beads of the size of filberts, engraved all round with sacred texts, and the larger beads were encrusted with diamonds.

The Sultan admired the string of beads. "What a splendid bead-string thou hast," said he. "In the whole of my treasury I have not the like of it. The coral is extraordinarily beautiful, and the workmanship priceless."

Ali was transported with joy, and made haste to offer to the Sultan the jewel which was so fortunate as to have won the favour of the Grand Signior.

The Sultan graciously condescended to accept the present, and gave Hojia instead of it three purses of gold, far more indeed than the jewel was worth, and invited him the next day to the Dzsirid Square, where a splendid entertainment was to be held.

Hojia was even more delighted by this distinction than by the Sultan's gift; he would be able to appear on the Dzsirid in the suite of the Sultan.

The Dzsirid was the one open space in the Seraglio where the Turkish magnates diverted themselves with pike-casting, dart-throwing, and other manly sports. The Sultan himself often took part in these pastimes. The best of shooting grounds also formed part of the Dzsirid.

On this occasion the Sultan also took part in the shooting; and very badly he shot, not once did he hit the mark. Wherefore he began to grow angry, and, as is the way with marksmen under such circumstances, he blamed the mark, the bowstring, the quiver, and the[Pg 67] burning sun for his bad shooting, and at last burst forth against the ring on his finger as the cause of all his wide shooting. For it was the custom of the archer to wear on his finger a serpent-shaped spiral ring, so as to gain a firmer hold of the bow-string, and be able to make the bow twang to its full extent at the proper time.

The Sultan kept on grumbling at his ring, saying that it was badly made and caught in the bow-string every time, so that he could not let it go quickly enough, and with that he snatched it off, and cried, "Give me another ring!"

His attendants hastened to offer their own rings to the Grand Signior. The Sultan tried them all one after another.

"That won't do, that won't do! Ah! nobody makes such good archery-rings as the goldsmith Sulassan used to make, and he is dead now. But is there none here who has a ring made by Sulassan?"

At this question, Ali Hojia eagerly rushed up to the Sultan, and signified that he possessed a ring which was a production of the dead master. Would the Padishah deign to accept it from him?

Soliman did deign to accept it. This was the choicest jewel which the merchant had described to him. He accepted it from Hojia, put it on his finger, and thenceforth shot so skilfully at the mark that every one applauded him, and none more so than Ali Hojia.

After the sports in the Dzsirid, the Sultan sent for Muhzin. In his hand was the string of beads, and on his finger was the ring, and he was praying with the Koran before him.

[Pg 68]Astonishment overcame the merchant when he saw his lost jewels in the possession of Soliman. He cast himself at the Sultan's feet, and, catching hold of the hem of his garment, exclaimed: "Oh, my lord, the ring and the string of beads which thou holdest in thy hand are mine."

The Sultan asked him what was written on each one of the beads and how many stones were in the ring, and the merchant answered each question exactly, whereupon the Sultan sent him back to the Seven Towers.

On the following day he sent for Hojia.

He discoursed with him on all manner of juridical questions which had come before the Divan, and took the opinion of the learned lawyer upon them all. Amongst other cases, he suddenly put this one to him: a certain man had grossly abused the confidence of a friend, who had confided his property to his care while he was on his travels, and robbed him of everything; what did such a man deserve for such a monstrous act of treachery?

Now, it is notorious that the greatest sinners are the most rigorous judges of offences similar to their own in others, and it is even possible that it never occurred to Hojia that he himself had been guilty of a like offence. Besides, his sin was buried deeply away in the tomb of Muhzin, and nobody knew anything about it.

So the jurist replied to the Sultan that such an extraordinary offence demanded an extraordinary punishment, and the sinner deserved nothing less than pounding to death in a mortar.

"Thou hast pronounced thine own condemnation,"[Pg 69] cried the Sultan. Then he clapped his hands, and four Izoglans came running in and bound Hojia hand and foot, took from him his keys, searched his dwelling thoroughly, and found in it the whole of the treasure which had been confided to him by his friend the merchant.

The confounded Hojia, who fancied he was bathing in the sunlight of the highest favour, and never reflected that in the sunlight everything becomes transparent, in his terror confessed everything, and also said that he was the apparition who, after fastening on a beard smeared over with a phosphorescent unguent, had come to the room of the sorrowing Muhzin and practised on the unfortunate mourner the accursed trick which had well-nigh robbed him of life and reason. It was he, too, who had stolen the body of Eminha from its tomb.

The Sultan immediately summoned a meeting of the Divan, laid the case before the Viziers, and told them of the punishment which the Hojia himself had said that a crime like his deserved.

The Viziers answered that Hojia's opinion was just. The crime was indeed of a new sort, and it was right, therefore, that he should be the first to taste the proper punishment for it.

By the Sultan's command, therefore, a huge mortar was cut out of marble, a huge pounding pole with four handles thereto being at the same time made to match the mortar.

Ali Hojia, meanwhile, was attired in a purple robe, with a golden turban on his head, and a bespangled girdle round his body, and so they cast him into the mortar. Then four Bostanjis seized the pounding beetle,[Pg 70] and raising it by its four handles, rammed it with all their might into the mortar at a sign from the Aga of the Bostanjis. A frightful yell arose from the mortar, tapering off into an unspeakable, indescribable whistling shriek. The Bostanjis raised the pounding beetle a second time, and a second time they rammed it home. But now only a muffled groan responded to the impact. The third stroke was followed by a ghastly whimper, and after the fourth stroke there was no response but the crunching of bones.

And so they went pounding away with their pestle till they were tired out, and by that time all that remained in the mortar was a shapeless mash of blood and bones and silk and gold filigree.

Thus did Sultan Soliman punish the deceiver.

Eighty years ago the French traveller Tavernier saw this very mortar, so terrible a memorial of Ottoman justice, standing in the door of the Hall of the Divan.

[Pg 71]


What can there be in common between love and a little dog? Well, listen! and I'll tell you.

My dear friend Toni was head over ears in love with a pretty little girl whom I did not love at all. This was not because I prefer falling in love with ugly little girls, or because I consider it superfluous to love a girl who is already loved by another fellow, but simply because one eye of this particular girl was black and the other blue.

"Toni," I said, "look out for yourself! This double sort of eye bodes no good. With one of them she'll ogle you, and with the other some one else. The blue eye may be faithful to you, the black one may deceive."

Toni replied I was quite wrong. In his opinion these two eyes harmonized admirably; they reminded him, he said, of bright dawn and starry night. Indeed, properly speaking, he alone would be the faithless one, as he would now be loving a blue eye and a black one at the same time.

Still, I did not like the business at all, and as I felt sure that Toni would be considerably the loser by it, I was determined to save him if I could.

"It will be the worse for you if you take her," I said. "For one thing, you will not be able even to[Pg 72] call her your better half. With those contradictory eyes she will, at the very utmost, only be your better two quarters. Depend upon it, she must have been formed from the ribs of two different men. Have nothing to do with her, Toni, my boy!"

Whereupon Toni became abusive, and told me never to regard him as a friend again.

"Who are you to talk to me like that?" he cried. "You are not my father, or my mother, or my elder brother, or my married sister, or even my godfather, are you? Who are you to ride roughshod over my happiness? I don't care a rap what you say, and stand out of my way, or I'll punch your head. I mean to have her in any case now."

So, as I certainly could not say that I was his father, or even his godfather, I had to stand aside and let him go galloping headlong downhill towards the Vale of Matrimony without the brake on. If he were particularly fortunate, he might, perhaps, plump into a ditch when halfway down, and so come off cheaply with a broken arm; if, however, he were doomed to be unlucky, he would plunge to the bottom of the valley and break his neck.

Nevertheless, he was lucky, and fell off his high horse when he was only halfway down.

One evening he came to me full of a great resolution.

"Well, old chap, I'm not going to marry Nelly after all."

"She has jilted you, I suppose?"

"No. Something happened when I was with her last, that's all."

[Pg 73]"Indeed! What was it?"

"Well, we had been strolling in the garden for an hour or more, mooning and spooning, and I had also been reciting verses to her, and she had laughed at them, and it seemed to me that only the angels could laugh like that, when suddenly there came bouncing towards us a little pet puppy, a tiny beast about five weeks old, just able to patter along the ground with his little paws, who wagged his little tail and fawned upon Nelly in the most comical manner when he got up to her, at the same time sticking up one little ear high in the air, and holding the other little ear down. Why he should do so I didn't know; perhaps he had been taught it, I thought. Nelly thereupon stooped down towards the little dog, and, seizing the point of its little erected ear with two of her pretty snow-white fingers, raised it into the air. The little puppy wriggled and whined, but Nelly, smiling all the time, threatened it with the index finger of the other hand. 'Come! stop it, stop it! no whining! It's not pretty,' she said, till the poor little creature gradually grew quiet, and remained suspended in the air by its ear. Then Nelly put it on the ground again, and the little puppy, softly whimpering, tripped off again, while Nelly never ceased smiling at it. Well, after that I scarce waited to get into my overcoat and wish her good-bye. I think that's all the leave-taking she deserves, and don't suppose I shall ever meet her again. No, my friend, my ears could never stand such manœuvres."

Thus it was that the little puppy-dog saved my friend Toni from a life-long danger.

[Pg 74]



Have you ever heard of the Bialystok Dominion? There lie the huge Sylvan wildernesses of Lithuania, the native home of the Ure-ox, the ancestor of horned cattle, the king of all oxen; in every other part of Europe it has been exterminated. They are now the quarry of the Russian Tsar, and only the Romanovs and their guests possess the privilege of hunting them down.

But Bialystok is still more famous for its wondrously beautiful Palace, which worthily bears the name of "the Polish Versailles." Built in the Italian renaissance style, embellished within and without by the sculptures and the paintings, the bronzes and the mosaics of the most eminent masters, surrounded by the most lovely ornamental gardens in the world, in which the exotic trees in winter time have whole wooden houses built around them, so that pomegranate and citron trees bloom in the open air during the spring, and Bruin comes from the depths of the surrounding forests to pluck the citrons from the trees[Pg 75] and roar over his unaccustomed food—the Palace of Bialystok is one of the most wonderful places in the world.

And this famous Palace is connected with no one family name. At every fresh human generation it carries a different family name on its forehead. It has belonged successively to the Moskowskis, the Potoccy, the Branickis, and the Czernuskis. And popular tradition says that before it belonged to them it was the possession of the "Red Starosta."

But whether purchased or won by confiscation it never descended from father to son, for there was this odd thing about it, that its proprietor never had male issue, and consequently it always passed through his daughter to his son-in-law. To explain this condition of things, popular tradition tells the following story:—

In the days of the Red Starosta, the Jews had great influence in the Grodno district; indeed, it would be difficult to imagine Poland without them. Bialystok was their head-quarters, and there they had their synagogue. The Starostas allowed them to multiply and get rich, just as a highly practical agriculturist allows the bees to collect their stores throughout the summer, and when the autumn winds begin to blow does not treat them after the manner of ungrateful and unreasonable bee-keepers, who smoke out the industrious insects with sulphur, no, but in the most approved modern fashion he subtracts the honey, leaves the bees just enough to live upon, and then puts back the empty cells into the hive that the bees may fill them full again.

The bees themselves regard this method as perfectly[Pg 76] normal, for otherwise they would leave the hive and go into the forest and fill the stumps of trees with honey. But then the bears would eat them and it, so that, after all, it is very much better for the bees to have to do with the bee-keepers.

On one occasion the Red Starosta (he was just about to marry for the third time, and wanted a lot of money rather badly for the wedding feast) hit upon a new method of obtaining a voluntary contribution by attacking the Jews in their synagogue on one of their holy days. Every one of them was compelled to pay liberally. There were a good many treasures concealed in the synagogue, and these also they had to hand over. The Jews lamented and paid up; they had not even courage enough to curse.

But in the strong-box of the sanctuary there was a secret drawer, and in this secret drawer there was a single piece of silver. Now, when this secret drawer was opened by the Starosta, the Rabbi, Jitzchak Ben Menachim, quickly seized the coin and thrust it into his mouth. They could only get it out again by breaking his teeth, while a heyduke squeezed his throat tightly the whole time so that he should not swallow it.

What merit could there be in suffering so much for the sake of a single piece of silver? The whole thing was no bigger than a Mary-dollar, which is only worth 5 polturas.[15] On one side of it was a fig-tree with the inscription: "Jerusalem the Holy," in Hebrew letters, with a burning altar beneath the fig-tree with the words: "Shekel: Israel." On the obverse side was a crowned head with the inscription: "Melach Herodes."

[15] Worth about 6d.

[Pg 77]When this silver piece had been taken from the Rabbi, the whole congregation began to rend their garments and cast ashes on their heads. Then they abased themselves before the Starosta and implored him to give them back their one piece of silver. They promised to give him for it twice as much, eight times as much as he had already extorted from them, thereby betraying the secret that this piece of money was of great value to them.

"Why is this silver coin so precious to you?" inquired the Starosta.

At this question every Jew present closed his mouth so tightly that not even a sigh escaped from it.

"Very well," said the Red Starosta, "you won't tell me, eh? Then I'll find a way of making your Rabbi tell me."

So the Red Starosta flung the Rabbi into a dungeon, and for a whole week he experimented upon him with the latest and most approved instruments of torture. But Rabbi Jitzchak Ben Menachim remained steadfast. Neither fire, nor water, nor the Spanish boot could extract from him the secret of the piece of silver.

Now the Rabbi had a grown-up son, Jaikef by name. On the eighth day he could endure no longer the spectacle of his father tortured there before his eyes, so he went to the Starosta and said to him—

"Let my father go free, and I will tell you the secret of the silver coin."

And thus Jaikef told the story whose preliminaries are well known to us all.

There was once a Jew named Judas Iscariot, who sold to the Priests of Jerusalem "The Son of Man,"[Pg 78] the "King of Nazareth," above whose head on the cross was nailed the inscription "I.N.R.I." The price paid to him for this was thirty pieces of silver. But when they crucified "the Master" on Golgotha, he repented him of what he had done and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the Priests. They would not accept them. Then he flung down the money in the Temple, and went and hanged himself on a maple-tree. But the Priests resolved with the rejected money to buy a portion of land from the Potters. The Priests entrusted the business of the purchase to Kramoi-Chita Anselm, and this enterprising man beat down the price to nine and twenty pieces of silver, the thirtieth piece he kept for himself. His son Nathan inherited it from him. Solomon, the son of Nathan, inherited it in his turn, till at last, in the period of the exodus of the Jews from Palestine, it fell into the possession of Joisef Zedek, who brought it away with him. This one remaining piece of Judas-money puts power and riches into the hands of the Jews. This is their living hope, their talismanic treasure—and now Jaikef gave the secret away.

"Then it is a very good thing that I have got it," said the Red Starosta, and, as promised, he set free the Rabbi, at the same time telling him that as he now knew the secret of the piece of silver, he would not give it back to the Jews for all the treasures in the world.

The Rabbi Jitzchak Ben Menachim thereupon, first of all, cursed his own son:

"As thou couldst not close thy mouth, henceforth thou shalt open it in vain."

And the curse was accomplished. From that[Pg 79] time forth poor Jaikef was expelled from every Jewish threshold, not a single Jew would thenceforth give him meat and drink, whilst the law of the Talmud forbade him to eat food prepared by Christians. So he starved to death.

But upon the Red Starosta the Rabbi Jitzchak Ben Menachim pronounced this curse—

"A manchild shall never be borne in thy family!"

And this curse also took root and abided.

Henceforth the mortars on the terrace in front of the Palace of Bialystok never thundered forth in honour of the birth of an heir male.

Of girls there were plenty and to spare, but what's the good of a girl to an ancient Lithuanian ancestral house? Up to her twelfth year she is allowed to trot about like other little kids, and then they clap her into a convent, where she is taught gold and silver embroidery till she reaches a marriageable age, when they bring her home again. What else can she talk about except saints and angels!

How different with the male children. A boy is taught by his papa all manner of sensible things. You can take him off with you to hunt bears and wild boars and elks. He'll not learn much about the book of martyrs from his chums, perhaps, but all the more knowing will he be in the folklore of the chase, in the mythology of the ancient Lithuanian deities. He will know all about Bagán, the protector of the brute creation, who makes the cattle fruitful; about the White God, Belim, who gives rich increase to the earth; about the goddess Vastrulia, who gives luck in love; while in the day of battle and the hour of danger he[Pg 80] must call upon Father Dedka! At great banquets, too, Holyada will defend him from the disgrace of being the first to fall down drunk, while Lado will send him good dreams.

A girl would not understand this—it is part of the lore of the ancients.

And besides that, a girl does not pass the name of her father on to her children, so that if the grandson hears the name of his grandsire, he will ask—who is that?

So the curse of the Rabbi Jitzchak Ben Menachim was accomplished in the families of the Castellans of Bialystok. At every great funeral, when they carried forth the head of the family, they hung up his ancestral shield on the corner of his tomb as a sign that the family history had run out. And thus it went on through half a century, during which time the lords of the Castle never let the Judas-money out of their hands. The rich Jews of Grodno offered them a million for it, but in vain. They would not give up the talisman even for that.

The last magnate proprietor was Prince Moskowski. When his wife was in good hopes of offspring he made a vow that if she bare him a son he would give the Judas-money as a donation to the Blessed Virgin. And sure enough a son was born.

The Prince, faithful to his vow, bestowed the Judas-money upon the Monastery of Supraseli which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.

And then the Rabbi of Bialystok, the descendant of Jitzchak Ben Menachim, on the original curse thus becoming void, imposed a fresh curse on the head of[Pg 81] Prince Moskowski: "Thy son and thy son's son," said he, "shall become the lowliest serfs in the Russian Empire!"

And to a Lithuanian noble family this was an even more terrible curse than the former one.


The Starosta Prince Moskowski believed in the operation of a curse; it was the only weapon of a homeless people.

He had no other son but this one, and he himself remained a widower.

If he had had five or six sons he would have snapped his fingers at the whole thing as an old wife's story, for the curse could not have taken effect on the whole lot of them. But as he only had one, Destiny might very easily get the better of him. This one lord would inherit the vast Bialystok estates, the splendid castle and its treasures, yet what if all this would not save him and his descendants from becoming serfs in the end.

The Starosta guarded this son of his so jealously from his very cradle that he never so much as cast eyes on a peasant. He did not even know whether such a thing even existed. His servants were all chosen from the Szlachta, or gentry. A Szlachzić, even in a menial livery, is still a gentleman.

But even then the father could not rid him of his fear.

[Pg 82]He went to take counsel of the Bishop.

The Bishop told him to bring up his son for the priesthood, then he could not possibly become a serf. But this solution did not please the Starosta, although it would have been the very best way to break the force of the curse. It is true that if his only son became a bishop he could have no sons, and then of course no grandson of the Starosta could become a serf, because he would have no grandsons at all. But he wanted the branches of the Moskowski family tree to go on growing.

So he consulted yet another dignitary, the High Treasurer of Cracow. What was he to do, he asked, to stay the operation of the curse and prevent his son and his grandsons from becoming the lowliest serfs in the Russian Empire?

The High Treasurer advised him to open a deposit account in the name of his son to the amount of a million thalers at the Bank of England, where no power on earth could get at it. He would thereby provide against every eventuality. To whatever extremities his son and his grandsons might be reduced, they would never be obliged to do the labour of serfs so long as they had a million to their credit at the Bank of England.

But the Starosta did not like that expedient either. He could produce the million easily enough, but he had no confidence in the Bank of England. Not very long before there had been a conspiracy to rob the Bank of England, and it had been within a hair's breadth of succeeding. Moreover it was a fact within living memory that on the occasion of the invasion of the[Pg 83] Stuart Pretender there had been such a run on the Bank of England that it had been obliged to pay its customers over the counter in shillings and sixpences. Why, at that rate, if any one clean-shaved himself and went to the Bank to draw out the million, and they were obliged to pay him down on the nail in Polish small change, he might be able comfortably to tuck his beard within his girdle by the time he was able to get home.

Now, there happened to be a Protestant clergyman in the domains of the Starosta who dwelt in the county town, the Rev. Gottlieb Klausner by name. He was the pastor of the Lutheran community. His flock mostly consisted of handicraftsmen and mechanics who had emigrated to Lithuania from Brandenburg.

The only thing the Starosta knew about the Lutheran clergyman was that he never bothered him with inconvenient demands. He and his flock alike were quiet, inoffensive persons. They never advertised their profession of faith by anything in their outward dress and bearing; they never prayed publicly in the streets; they never rang bells, for their meeting-places had no belfries.

Nevertheless, one day the pastor visited the Starosta in his splendid princely palace.

The Starosta received the reverend gentleman cordially.

Gottlieb Klausner first of all apologized for the inconvenience he was causing, and then craved permission to acquaint his Excellency with the great errand which had emboldened him to appear before him.

[Pg 84]He was such a long time coming to the point that the Starosta fancied he was going to beg for a church-tower full of bells at the very least. Yet all that he wanted, after all, was permission to send his son abroad to complete his studies. He had brought the deed of permission with him in his pocket, written in the fairest caligraphy, it only needed the hieroglyphics of the magnate at the bottom of it and the impression of his seal.

This was very quickly done, but to-day the great man was curious and wanted to know all about it.

"What is your son's Christian name, your Reverence?"


"How old is he?"


"Just as old as my lad. Then, how old may your Reverence be."

"Forty-seven, by the favour of God."

"Just my age. Perhaps we were born on the same day."

"I came into the world on the festival of St. John Chrysostom."

"So did I. That's very right. And why, then, do you want to send your son abroad? And so far too? It is to the Sorbonne at Paris, isn't it?"

"In order that he may perfect himself in the sciences."

"And why need he perfect himself in the sciences?"

"In order that he may not become a serf."

At these words the heart of the Starosta began to beat fiercely.

[Pg 85]"Then he cannot be a serf if he becomes a scholar, eh?"

"No. At all times and everywhere a scholar is a gentleman."

"Your Reverence has no doubt heard of the curse with which a Rabbi threatened me?"

"Every one knows of it."

"And do you suppose that it can be fulfilled?"

"Everything is possible in this world."

"But, according to your reasoning, a scholar can never become a serf."

"And I maintain my contention. Great estates may be called in again by those who bestowed them; brilliant escutcheons may be torn to pieces by the hand which embellished them; but the knowledge which dwells in our heads and our hearts neither king nor emperor can take away, and if we leave knowledge to our sons as an inheritance, no power on earth can make our sons serfs. Pardon me for elevating my words into such a bold discourse."

"You elevate me at the same time, my brother in the Lord! But come! you have kindled a bright idea in my brain. I will educate my son as a scholar likewise. He has both the mind and the will for it. I have kept him from poring over books hitherto, but now let us send him abroad with your son. Let your Henry be his guardian and comrade. I shall know then that he is in good hands. And I'll pay the expenses of the pair of them. They shall live in the same room and eat off the same dish. My son and your son shall be treated exactly alike. Let them fare as youths studying abroad must fare, and let the[Pg 86] best scholar be the best gentleman. Is it agreed, brother?"

Gottlieb Klausner gratefully stretched out his hand towards the Starosta, who hastily drew back his own, fancying that the pastor was about to kiss it. He might have spared himself the trouble. A Lutheran pastor never kisses the hand of one of his own sex. The Starosta, however, immediately afterwards embraced the pastor.

"Good, my brother! We are agreed then. But I do this under one condition. I ask a service of your Henry. I'll take care that there shall be a regular postal service hither from France and Germany twice a week, and your Henry must write to you every post about himself and my son, and let us know how they are and what progress they are making."

"My son will certainly not neglect to do so."

"Bring your son hither that I may make his acquaintance."

"This very day I will bring him."

"And now, hearken, my brother. You and I are both old fellows, and hitherto each of us has celebrated his birthday alone with his son. Henceforth we shall be quite alone. Let us henceforth keep our birthday in each other's company."

But the two old men did not only keep their common birthday together, but when their two sons had departed on the common path of learning, the homely pastor went up to the Castle twice a week with the letter he had received from his son, that he might read it aloud to the Starosta. And the Starosta always compelled him to remain to dinner. And though he might have[Pg 87] a brilliant host of guests staying with him, the Rev. Gottlieb Klausner, in his simple black cassock, always sat at the Starosta's right hand. The only change took place when a priest of the Starosta's own religion happened to be his guest. Then Klausner sat at the left hand of the Starosta, but there also he was treated with great distinction. And just before the bumpers began to go round, the latest letter received from Henry was always read to the general delectation.

And Henry's letters certainly were amusing. There was no frothy effusiveness, no cheap claptrap in them as is generally the way with students' productions, and for that very reason they were all the more genuinely interesting. They were full, indeed, of the comical adventures, without which a student's life is inconceivable, and no mystery was made of the scrapes and exploits which fell to his lot, but at the same time the distinctions which the two youths gained at the Sorbonne were duly enumerated.

It occurred to none of the guests to ask the reverend gentleman why he had sent his son to the Sorbonne instead of to Heidelberg, where Lutherans generally go to college.

But once when these scholastic testimonials were passing from hand to hand among the army of guests, an inquisitive guest remarked that in young Moskowski's testimonial he was described as "eminent" in such sciences as "mathematics," "geometry," "chemistry," and "mineralogy." What need, he added, had a Moskowski to grub about amongst such things as these. He was not going to be a miner, was he? Whereupon the reverend pastor, with philosophical[Pg 88] composure and prophetic inspiration, replied: "A man never knows what sciences may be useful to him one day."

This was the vaccinatio spiritualis, the inoculation of the mind—against the infection of the serf distemper.


The two youths spent two years in the foreign University. They studied together and they caroused together. They fought for each other, and they wrote each other's dissertations. When they spent all their money they wrote verses, and whichever of them was able to borrow a livre or two, always shared it with the other. And whenever the Philistines were too much for them they bolted into the next town.

Heinrich's last letter to his father was written from Utrecht. There both of them gained their promotio. Casimir became a baccalaureat of philosophy, Heinrich a doctor of medicine.

The Rev. Mr. Klausner told the Starosta that his little Heinrich had appropriated the new science, according to which doctors were no longer to plague their unfortunate patients with bitter draughts at the rate of a pint a dose; but went about with little white pillules, the size of millet seeds, in their pockets, and wrought marvellous cures on the principle of similia similibus.

"Very well," said the Starosta, "as your son[Pg 89] Heinrich has become a doctor, I will make him my family physician, with a salary of 2000 thalers, on condition that he bleeds me in the first quarter of every month, and gives me some of his drugs. For I invented homœopathy before Herr Hahnemann, inasmuch as whenever wine gets into my head I drink still more to get it out again. That's my view of similia similibus. Tell your son what I say."

Gottlieb Klausner thereupon took up his pen and informed his son what a brilliant opening had thus come in his way at the very beginning of his career. He would be sure of a post as soon as ever he got home, with a nice salary of 2000 thalers. Moreover, he would ride in a carriage, and give his orders to the cook, for he would have to taste of every dish before it was presented to the Starosta, according to the wont of princes, lest they be poisoned in their meat or drink. How many a man would envy him such an office!

And now the two accomplished young men were summoned back to Lithuania.

All the way to the boundary hillock of the Bialystok domain they travelled in a peasant's cart; but there a noble cavalcade awaited them, with the Major Domo of the Starosta at their head.

The great gilded carriage of the Starosta, which was only used on the greatest occasions of State, was sent to meet the young men, and to it the four most reliable nags from the Starosta's stables were harnessed, which went at a slow, dignified, parade step. On the box sat a coachman in the national costume, and a couple of heydukes clung on to the straps behind.

The Major Domo ought to have pronounced a[Pg 90] solemn greeting; but he never had the opportunity, for no sooner had the two youths leaped from the cart, than a rush was made upon them by the mounted Szlachta, who took possession of them uproariously, every one who could pressing up to, embracing, and kissing them. Besides the youths, there leaped from the cart a huge mastiff, the indispensable attribute of University students, who seemed to be greatly attracted by the Major Domo, and kept taking vigorous leaps at him. The gentleman in question was wearing a bear-skin kaczagány, which the noble beast had evidently determined to tear from his shoulder by hook or by crook, and in the mean time the fine oration the poor Major Domo had prepared for the occasion escaped him altogether.

The new arrivals were really two very nice young fellows—both of them heroic-looking figures, though entirely different from each other.

Casimir was dark, with fiery-black eyes. His head was entirely covered with curly hair, he had a luxuriant forelock hanging over his forehead, and such a thick, luxuriant crop of hair that it would have blunted the edge of a descending sword. His thick eyebrows drew near to each other like bushy-headed serpents—perhaps, also, they would have seized each other had they not been separated by the powerful authoritative nose, which was the characteristic feature of the Moskowski family. Such an aquiline nose you would not have met with in the whole Sarmatian race, and it was fitly accompanied by the protuberant red mouth and the pronounced double chin, which were also hereditary peculiarities. He was his father's own son, though of a somewhat higher type.

[Pg 91]Heinrich, on the other hand, was an excellent specimen of the type of masculine beauty peculiar to the German race. His thick, leonine, dark-red hair rolled over his shoulders in luxuriant masses. His face was ruddy, his forehead white, he had a small and delicate nose, with sensitive nostrils, large bright-blue eyes, above which the thin straight eyebrows seemed to have been added by a painter's brush. His mouth was large, but his lips were finely chiselled, and a large brown mole at the corner of the lips gave a peculiar expression to the mouth.

There was no fear of mistaking one of them for the other.

And the dog, too, was a fine dog. He belonged to that race of mastiffs which in the Hungarian Corpus Juris bears the name of "sinkorán," the keeping of which is forbidden in Hungary by a special paragraph of the code.

When the fêted gentlemen had been released from the embraces of the young cavaliers, and the Major Domo from the jaws of the sinkorán, the next thing was for them to take their places in the State carriage. The noble youths carried Casimir on their shoulders to the carriage, and set him down on the back seat. Heinrich also was carried on men's shoulders to the carriage—only in his case it was not the cavaliers, but the heydukes who performed that office, and they placed him in the front seat face to face with Casimir.

"Why may I not sit by my friend's side?" asked Heinrich.

"What an odd question!" said the Major Domo. "Here you have been to half a dozen colleges, and[Pg 92] learnt so much, and yet you don't know that! A subject cannot sit down by the side of his Prince; and when they ride together in the same carriage his proper place is the front seat."

Of course, it was the regular thing.

Moreover, as the place beside Casimir on the back seat remained empty, the big mastiff leaped into the carriage, and occupied the place of honour by his master's side.

"Then is a dog allowed to sit down by a nobleman?" inquired Heinrich, indignantly.

"Certainly, for the sinkorán is also a noble animal."

And then the procession, amidst the crack of pistol-shots, proceeded towards the castle.

In the castle gate a triumphal arch awaited the new arrivals, and the notabilities of the place were grouped around the entrance, the damsels arrayed in white and the peasantry in gala costumes.

When they reached the gate of the castle, it was not Heinrich's face that was red, but his forehead, and his eyes seemed rather to be green than blue.

He saw his father among the deputation. He could easily make him out—one black cassock was very prominent amidst the dazzling-bright Polish parade costumes.

He did not wait for the carriage to stop, but leaped from it, and rushed up to the old man, embracing him again and again with great ostentation, and kissing him in the sight of every one. The clergyman did not betray the least emotion.

When the congratulatory addresses came to an end, the Major Domo shouted to Heinrich[Pg 93]

"Come, doctor! Get in!"

"I am going with my father."

"But I am going on foot," said the clergyman.

"Then, I'll go on foot with you."

They did not press him further. Every one's head was full of something else. The ladies praised the young squire. What a fine fellow he was, they said. The girls flung flowers into the carriage, which went so slowly that the foot-passengers could easily keep up with it.

Father and son trudged on together among the ranks of the pedestrians.

Presently the old man began speaking to his son in the Latin tongue, so that the people might not understand him.

"My dear son, you well remember, no doubt, that I have always looked upon lying and deception as the greatest of sins; and from your childish years upwards you have always had a great inclination thereto. You know how many hazel twigs I have worn out upon you in endeavouring to eradicate that evil tendency. But I see that even now you are not cured of it. Look, now! the moment you beheld your poor father amidst a group of gentlemen, you immediately leaped from the gilded carriage, ran up to me, embraced me, called me carissime pater, pinned yourself on to my cassock, and accompanied me on foot. You thought you would deceive me by all this hypocrisy. Yet all this ostentation of filial piety was only because you were obliged to sit in the State carriage opposite to your comrade, instead of by his side, and your pride was wounded in consequence. That was why your heart suddenly conceived such a fondness[Pg 94] for your father. Look me straight in the face, and tell me if it was not so."

"Yes, it was."

"Exactly; it was your pride that suffered. I do not count pride among the more deadly sins, although I know that Petrus Lombardus elevated this opinion into the rank of a dogma. We Protestants are content with the definition of John the Evangelist, who saith that every falsehood is a deadly sin. Yet pride is not falsehood, but the true image of every man. It is the very eye of his soul. Moreover, as a philosopher, you must know very well that whoever attaches himself to a master must make submission his business. A colonel is a big man; but when the general speaks it is for the colonel to listen; and if the general says to him, 'Go through fire,' or, 'Go through water,' he must submit and obey. If a man who has been born poor would drink and make merry, he must first renounce his pride. When you wanted to choose a career, I left you a fine choice. You had only to please yourself. You might have become a clergyman, like myself, in the usual way. True, we cook with water and do not throw away our crusts, and when we wear out our clothes we turn them, and so wear them again; but, on the other hand, the clergyman always sits in the front seat, and gives place to no son of man, unless it be the Son of God. But this haughty poverty seemingly is not to your liking. You say to yourself, 'Dat Galerius opes, dat Justinianus honores.' Well, you have got what you sought. Wealth, a life of comfort is in your hands. Galerius has given them to you. He who wants to wear a bedizened hat must be prepared to doff it right and left—to high and[Pg 95] low. I need take off my capillum to no man. Why do you oscillate like a pendulum? A man must make his own position. If you don't like subjection, turn back, go to Göttingen, go through a whole course of theology—then come here, be my curate, and then perhaps in ten years' time you may get a living somewhere. But if you want to live in splendour and comfort, go back to the carriage, and sit on the back seat face to face with your lord and master, for that is your proper place."

Heinrich, very red in the face, went back to the slowly lumbering carriage, and again took his place in it opposite his youthful comrade. And thus they went to the town together, and right into the castle.


The coming home of young Squire Casimir was celebrated with great solemnity at the palace of the Starosta. The thunder of the mortars, the roll of the drums, the blare of the trumpets, announced to the thronging crowd the moment when the parade carriage rolled over the drawbridge. In front of the gate stood a guard of honour of the assembled heydukes, under the command of the Castellan. The Starosta himself had come as far as the hall door to welcome his son.

Casimir, according to ancient custom, received his father's greeting on bended knee, and kissed his uplifted hand, whereupon the old man, thrusting his[Pg 96] powerful palm into his son's well-thatched poll, lugged him to his feet by his hair, and, slapping his face gently at the same time, said: "Come, come, you have put on a mighty fine fleece since last I saw you." But immediately afterwards he kissed him on both cheeks, and the kiss obliterated the slap.

Heinrich got neither kisses nor slaps, he simply didn't count at all.

A hundred guests were in the large hall, all of them prominent noblemen and priests, and all of them embraced the young gentleman in turn, while Heinrich they only patted on the shoulder, and while every one said: "Vitam pana!"[16] to the nobleman's son, they only greeted the son of the pastor with: "Badz zdrow!"[17]

[16] "Long live your honour!"

[17] "Good health to you!"

Immediately after the first interchange of greetings the court tailor took the two youths beneath his protection. It was his duty to give them new clothes corresponding to their rank, they had ceased to belong to the category of students. Heinrich got a brand-new black velvet jacket with puff sleeves, a starched ruff, black atlas knee-breeches, with stockings, and shoes with silver buckles—the whole get-up was completed by a sword-belt, a broad silver chain wound round the breast with a large medallion hanging to it, and a black flowered taffety mantle fastened to the shoulder and reaching to the heels. When he had taken a good all-round look at himself in the mirror, he was quite proud of his costume. He fancied that it was a great distinction.

But it was not a distinction, but only a difference.

[Pg 97]When he entered the great hall, its pomp and grandeur almost blinded him. The walls of the room were embellished by the portraits of the Lords of Bialystok. There were armorial shields everywhere, and in the corners stood the figures of men in armour. The lofty pointed windows perpetuated, in masterpieces of coloured glass, all manner of ancient Polish legends. The long table was crowded with artistic plate and drinking vessels of chased gold and silver, with confect-holders mimicing the figures of giraffes and elephants. In the midst was a large fountain, at the foot of which enamelled dolphins cast lavender-water high up in the air; and the enchanting spectacle was but enhanced by the costumes of a whole army of guests and the splendour of their weapons. Heinrich hardly recognized his dear friend Casimir. He was resplendent in such splendid raiment as the Polish magnates are only in the habit of wearing at coronations or similar ceremonies. In the midst of so much fur and velvet, Heinrich, in his simple black medical suit, felt almost like the inhabitant of another and much humbler planet. While the army of guests crowded round Casimir, so that every one might have a chance of embracing him at least once, Heinrich was simply thrust aside by an elbow or trodden on by one foot after another, and nobody even troubled to say: "Wymow mie Pán!"[18]

[18] "Your pardon, sir!"

Great was the crushing and pushing to get into the banqueting-hall, where every guest immediately sought out his proper place. This was quite an easy matter. Every guest who had ever dined at the Palace[Pg 98] of Bialystok had his own beaker on which his name was engraved. As often as he returned thither so often was his particular beaker produced from the plate-chest. As for the spoons, knives, and forks, every guest brought his own with him. Aristocratic pride laid down this rule: "From the beaker out of which I drink none else may drink; the knife, fork, and spoon which touches my mouth none else may swallow—neither may I serve others so."

Heinrich would also have very much liked to know where he was to sit.

As a poor man he naturally began to look for his seat at the lowest end of the table.

At the head of the table a large armchair, carved with armorial bearings, had been placed, this was obviously the seat of the Starosta. On each side of it stood two smaller armchairs. All the other chairs were armless. The arm of a chair is rather in the way when a man has to drain his beaker to the very dregs. At the head of the opposite end of the long table was the seat of "the little master." His beaker was a christening gift, a crystal goblet upon a golden base.

Heinrich fancied that he would find his seat by the side of his comrade's. But there he found a beaker with another name upon it.

He had to seek higher. He went searching from chair to chair for a silver beaker marked with his name. On the right-hand side of the table there was no trace of it. Perhaps it was on the left-hand side? Of course, it must be there.

Again he began from the bottom and worked his way up, but he could find no trace of his name.

[Pg 99]By this time he had got to the topmost armchair. Merely out of curiosity he glanced at the silver beaker placed beside the plate. He couldn't believe his eyes, and his heart began to beat violently, for on that beaker he read the name—Klausner. But his wonder only lasted for a moment. The Christian name was not Heinrich, but Gottlieb. This place of honour by the side of the Starosta belonged to the Lutheran clergyman, on the opposite side to him was the Catholic bishop.

Thus did they exalt the simple curer of souls, while his son, the doctor, was not even included among the guests.

Much hurt he turned to the Major Domo.

"Then am I not invited to the banquet?" he asked.

"Invited, doctorkin! What a question! Of course you are. Why, you are the most important person here. Why, the banquet couldn't begin without you."

"But where am I to sit, then?"

"I'll show you immediately. But you must first let all the other guests take their places. All their honours are now assembled. We are only waiting for his reverence, your dear father."

"But he arrived along with us."

"True for you. But their honours come in their coaches or on horseback, so that they may not make their green or yellow boots muddy on the road, while your dear father came all the way on foot, so that he has to have his shoes polished before he can come in."

This was honour indeed. First of all, however, the[Pg 100] pastor had to go and pay his respects to the Starosta, and he appeared along with him in the banqueting-chamber when the heydukes threw open the folding-doors. It was such a large door that three men could enter it abreast; and three men did enter now, the master of the house in the centre, with the bishop on his right and the pastor on his left.

At the appearance of the Starosta the trumpets blew a flourish, and every guest took his proper place at the table.

Then the bishop pronounced a long grace in Latin, every one present murmuring the Doxology after him, except the Rev. Master Klausner, who belonged to another confession, and who, after the Latin prayer was over, pronounced a blessing in his own language:—

"Der Herr segne euch und sättige euch!"[19]

[19] "The Lord bless you and satisfy you!"

Then followed the creaking of chairs drawn forward, and every one settled comfortably into his place.

Heinrich wondered what was going to happen to him.

He had not to wait long. A couple of bustling heydukes brought forward a little three-legged table, covered with a fine linen cloth, and placed it behind the armchair of the Starosta. They also placed a chair by the side of this little table, and put upon it a silver trencher, a beaker, and the usual dining apparatus. His knife, spoon, and fork were much more costly than the knives, spoons, and forks of the other guests. The Major Domo, with his ivory wand, indicated to the doctor that that was his place. The body-physician always sits behind the Starosta. It is his office to[Pg 101] exercise a dietetical and gastronomical superintendence at the magnate's table.

And that he might have a board-fellow, the big mastiff Caro now came up, and Heinrich being his best-known acquaintance, he put his head on the table—he was a big dog, so he could just reach it. He was determined that Heinrich should have a vis-à-vis, anyhow.

Heinrich tried to perform the duties of his queer office with due dignity.

Every dish was put on his table first, and he had to taste each one of them first of all.

That of itself was a great dignity, surely! Every great man ought to order his table after a similar fashion. He ought to have a house-physician standing beside him at every dish, to say: "You are free to fill your distinguished stomach with that; but this, on the other hand, you are not so much as to look at."

Monsieur Heinrich was a disciple of Hahnemann, so he began to raise difficulties as early as the soup.

"Don't touch it, your Excellency!" said he. "It is poison. As the verse says: 'Ginger and saffron, nutmegs, cloves, and pepper only thicken the blood and clog the stomach.'"

The whole company laughed heartily, but they shovelled down their soup all the same.

The next dish was wild-boar's head stuffed with celery and truffles, and flanked with cold jelly.

Against this dish Heinrich was able to intone a whole litany when the master who invented it presented him with a small slice of it on a silver platter.

[Pg 102]"The head of every beast is forbidden food," he said; "and as for the wild boar, no part of him is good, from hoof to scull. As for the truffle, it grows under ground, and brings those who eat it under ground; while celery inflames the blood, and gelatine neutralizes the gastric juices; it is no fit food for men."

At this the Starosta laughed more than ever.

"But you must take me at my word, gentlemen," insisted Heinrich. "I eat according to the principles of the immortal Hahnemann. That dish is poison to you, I say."

"It is a very slow poison. For the last fifty years I've been killing myself with it, and yet here I am," cried the Starosta.

"Yes; but it is the cause of the gout in your knees, the colic in your stomach, the spasms in your side. You may also thank it for your sleepless nights and the humming in your ears, as well as for heartburn, erysipelas, and St. Vitus's dance. I, your house-doctor, certify that you partook of this poisonous dish at your own table, and indigestion and apoplexy are only a prayer apart."

But Casimir spoilt everything by his intervention. From the other end of the table he bawled to his comrade—

"Come, come, old chap! Surely you don't want to play the part of Doctor Pedro Recio de Tiertafuera at the banquet given by Sancho Panza, in his official capacity of Governor! All these gentlemen have read 'Don Quixote,' you know."

And with these words he regularly flung his comrade out of his doctorial chair. The whole company laughed[Pg 103] heartily at him, and even the Rev. Pastor himself apostrophized his son with the facetious citation:—

"Descende Philippe, non sunt hic ollae!"

"Then why have I been put here?" inquired Heinrich, in great wrath, of the Major Domo.

"Why? Why, to taste of every dish, to see that there is no deadly poison in it which might make a man suddenly ill."

"Then the dog Caro here could perform my office equally well."

And henceforth Heinrich flung the cut-off portion of every dish presented to him to taste into the jaws of the mastiff, who snapped them up in an instant, and was highly delighted with his new duties.

Thus the doctor himself absolutely starved during the sumptuous banquet, for not a single dish was ever brought back to him, the remains being sent into a side room, where, at a table without a table-cloth, sat the lower order of guests, such as the begging friars, the clerks who acted as secretaries, and the court poets. The latter usually went by the name of "court fools" when they had more than common genius, but not every poet merited this higher title, for there were bores among them too, and these remained poets, and nothing but poets.

The favourite amongst them all was the house-fool, Lupko, who had also been invited into the gentlemen's dining-hall, and was there practising every sort of tomfoolery, letting off literary squibs, imitating feline and canine concerts, and the squeaking of stuck pigs, turning his hat into twenty different shapes, tootling in a bottle, and drumming in the hollow of his hand,[Pg 104] and drinking glasses of wine at the same time that he was imitating the scream of a peacock.

Naturally, in these things Heinrich could by no means compete with him.

All the guests treated Lupko with wine; but none of them said to the doctor, "What will you drink? Fetch wine for the doctor."

Casimir also joked familiarly with the jester—nay, he almost openly urged him to go along and try conclusions with the doctor.

Students love to heckle each other, especially if one of them has had a full skin at table.

So the fool skipped away to the doctor.

"Servus humillimus collega! For colleagues we really are. Yes, doctores ambo! The only difference is that on your head is a college cap, and on mine a cap with pointed hare's-ears. Evoe Bacche!"

And with that he clapped Heinrich on the shoulder.

At this Heinrich was very angry, but still angrier was the mastiff to see his master hit on the shoulder by a hunch-backed rascal, so he rushed at him incontinently, placed his paws on his neck, and snatched from his head the fur cap adorned with the two projecting hare's-ears.

The fool tried to recover his cap, but the dog would not give it up, so a great debate began between the dog and the fool. The doctor's little table was overthrown in the midst of the scrimmage, and finally the cap was torn in two, half of it remaining in the hands of the fool, and the other half in the jaws of the mastiff.

"Silence, you God-forsaken rascals!" cried the Starosta; "don't you hear that his reverence is trying[Pg 105] to say grace?" And with that he seized the Spanish cane which was standing beside his chair, and belaboured with it the dog's back and the jester's body at the same time, and so restored peace between them.

And now the reverend gentleman stood up in his place, and, raising his beaker unctuously aloft, pronounced a Latin grace full of graceful turns of expression, invoking blessings on the heads of the Starosta, his son, and their remotest posterity. The blessing was followed by a great clinking of glasses, and every guest drained his goblet to the very dregs.

When the din of the vivats and the blast of the trumpets had subsided, the Starosta spoke from his place at the head of the table.

"Deo Gratias, my thanks for all these pretty wishes. And look now, to show in what great respect my reverend neighbour here is held in heaven above, I may mention that his kind wish that my family might flourish in the days to come had scarce died away when an answer to his petition that instant arrived. For I have just received, from the glorious city of Vienna, a letter from my dear friend, Prince Maximilian Sonnenburg, in which he informs me that the dearest wish of his Excellency, and of his Excellency's consort, the Princess Ludmilla Rattenburg of Tannenfels and Bunteviéz, corresponds with mine, to wit, that their only daughter, the Princess Ingola Sonnenburg and Rattenburg should be betrothed to my son Casimir."

This famous piece of news was instantly greeted with a vivat which made the very rafters ring. Every guest hastened to congratulate Casimir.

[Pg 106]But he, from the other end of the table, bawled to his father—

"But is the lady beautiful?"

"I have her portrait here. They sent it with the letter."

And he drew from his side-pocket a little miniature in a jewelled frame.

Naturally every one wished to look at it.

But the Starosta would not let it go out of his hand.

"Ho, ho! Softly, softly! It is only the bridegroom who has the right to look at it."

Then he turned round, knowing that Heinrich was behind him. "Look ye, my son," said he to the doctor, "take this portrait to Casimir, but show it only to him and to none other. You may look at it, too, because you are a doctor. Do you understand physiognomies? Can you say, from looking at this portrait, whether the little Princess is phlegmatic, or choleric, or, which God forbid, of a melancholy temperament?"

Well, this was a great distinction for Heinrich. He took the portrait to Casimir, and showed the portrait to him first of all.

The bride in the portrait was of mythological loveliness. She was painted as Sappho, in a Greek chlamys, with her golden tresses flowing down her shoulders, and her arms bare to the shoulder. The portrait, painted on ivory, was a masterpiece of water-colouring.

Casimir was unable to conceal his enthusiasm at the beauty of his bride. "She is a veritable goddess!" he cried.

[Pg 107]"Worthy indeed of adorations!" cried Heinrich, with still greater emphasis.

Nobody else was allowed to look; only they two were so privileged.

But the jester burrowed his way out from beneath the table, and thrust his head between them that he might cast a glance at the portrait.

Heinrich gave him a box on the ears, and hid the picture from him.

"Would you?" said he; "this is no spectacle for fools."

Now a fool, even in those days, drew the line at a box on the ear, and did not take it kindly; on the contrary, it was apt to make him angry.

So, instead of his torn and tattered pointed cap, he drew forth his protean hat and placed it on his head, after forming it into the exact shape of the biretta worn by the Rev. Master Klausner. Then he wound round his neck a bed-curtain, making it take the guise of the reverend gentleman's well-creased cassock. And in this guise he planted himself beside the table and raised his glass.

The guests made a clatter with their glasses by way of indicating that Lupko was about to speak. At last there was silence, and the jester was able to begin.

In his voice and delivery he managed to throw an audacious imitation of the pastor. He dismissed his words through his nose with the same unctuous solemnity, and amplified the ends of his periods just as the reverend gentleman was wont to do.

"My worthy gentlemen," he began, "I also have to disemburden myself of a joyful piece of intelligence[Pg 108] which has just reached me through the dog-post from Siberia, from the illustrious capital of mighty Siberia, Irkutsk. I have got the letter written in Tungusian hieroglyphics on reindeer parchment, and this letter informs me that the mighty Prince of the Samoyeds, Pan Subagalleros, on behalf of himself and his consort, her Highness Pana Csoroszlya, has this day betrothed his only daughter, Panicza Kaczamajka, to my only son Heinrich."

The army of guests burst into a loud ho, ho! at this farcical parody, the trumpets blew a frightfully loud flourish, every one roared with laughter, and even the worthy pastor himself smiled gently at the fooling.

For, after all, it was but fooling. Perhaps Heinrich would have laughed at it likewise if he had been drinking all through the banquet with the rest of the merry company. But remember that he had remained hungry and thirsty throughout, and a sober man in a society that has well drunken is a danger to mirth.

Casimir also had guffawed at the words of the fool. It was a rough jest, no doubt, but who would take the folly of a fool seriously?

Only Heinrich remained pale and silent, and pressed his lips together till the blood came.

"Come, comrade, why so dumfoundered? Surely you are not angry?" bawled Casimir.

But Heinrich continued moody and sulky.

The grand banquet was not terminated, but interrupted by a ball. The Starosta himself gave the signal by lighting his big meerschaum pipe, whereupon the other gentlemen followed his example, and began their[Pg 109] beloved fumigation by the side of their black coffee. The musicians thereupon quitted the dining-room, and a short time elapsed, during which they also took a snack, and then the music began again over the heads of the guests, in the upper story of the palace, which could be reached from the dining-room by means of a spiral staircase.

As soon as the inspiring notes of a mazurka burst forth from above, the fiery youths spurned their chairs away, and without waiting for a special invitation, hastened up the spiral staircase into the dancing-room. Those of the elderly gentlemen whose feet were capable (after dinner) of grappling with the tortuous stairs, followed them.

On the upper floor was the dancing-room, brilliantly illuminated with wax candles, where were now assembled the flower of the belles and the pick of the stately matrons of the Lithuanian capital—a goodly company who reached the ballroom by the opposite staircase.

Heinrich, swallowing his wrath, and oblivious of the pangs of hunger, also hastened up to the dancing-room, which was now quite full of ladies.

The girls were standing, the more mature women were sitting, according to custom.

Heinrich also found the idol of his heart among the girls. Six years before she was a growing little lassie, now she was a damsel in full bloom. In those days they had dearly loved each other, and had sworn that they would belong to none else. There stood the beautiful and charming Tatiana in front of her mamma. She was wearing the Russian national costume, with an[Pg 110] apron embroidered with pearls and a coif adorned with precious stones. She was the daughter of a Russian chinovnik[20] whose father had been sent from St. Petersburg to keep the Poles in order.

[20] Official.

The beautiful girl had grown in a marvellous manner during these six years, she was the tallest among the damsels present, and her lofty Russian coif made her appear even taller than she was.

Just then a good many couples were dancing a mazurka.

Heinrich made his way up to his former ideal, and, bowing first of all before her dear mamma, with a chivalrous flourish demanded the hand of her daughter for a dance. It was six years since last he had seen her.

The stately damsel proceeded deliberately to draw off her long, embroidered gauntlet.

Heinrich was amazed. What an odd custom for a lady to draw off her glove when invited to dance!

The young lady extended her hand towards Heinrich, her smile was somewhat peculiar.

"Miss Tatiana?" stammered Heinrich.

"Well, doctor! I thought you wanted to feel my pulse!"

Heinrich was crushed. They were making game of him. He was no cavalier, but only a doctor, apparently. He rather wondered the lady did not protrude her tongue as well, to make the consultation quite complete. It only needed that.

He seemed to have lost the use of his limbs, and stood there like a stone idol. But some one speedily[Pg 111] came to his assistance by shoving him out of the way. It was Casimir. He signified that he desired a dance with the lady by simply stamping the ground with his foot, as became a cavalier, and she immediately gave herself up to him, and Casimir passed his arm around her slim waist and flew with her among the maze of dancers.

Heinrich gazed after them in stupefaction. So that was his former sweetheart, and this his former comrade! How the girl's eyes sparkled when she gazed at the face of her partner! They seemed to hold one another fast by the eyes. The mazurka has its charm, certainly. The cavalier stands in the midst with his arms folded, after dismissing his partner, who moves gracefully round him in a circle. Yet the damsel gazes continually into the eyes of her cavalier, and the magic of his eyes draws her back to him again. And then it is as though they were whispering to each other.

When the dance was over, Casimir led his partner to the credenz-table and offered her refreshments. Thither also strolled Tatiana's papa, worthy Nicholas Eskimov. The girl embraced her father, kissed him on the cheek, and whispered something in his ear. Then she flew back into the colonne on the arm of her partner. There are many figures in the mazurka, Heinrich had every opportunity of studying them to the end from a window recess.

When the dance was over, Casimir returned his partner to her mamma, and after a good deal of genuflecting and hand-kissing, took his leave of her. Heinrich at once hastened to his comrade and began to reproach him.

[Pg 112]"Why did you take my sweetheart from me?" he asked.

Casimir first of all regarded him with amazement, and then laughed in his face.

"What a foolish chap you are! Why, it was only natural that I should have the first dance with the fair Tatiana in our own house. That is the custom all the world over."

"Why is it the custom all the world over?"

"Why? It seems to me that you do not realize that during the six years when you and I have been walking up and down the earth, not only the little girl has grown something bigger, but her papa also. The chinovnik, whom six years ago you helped to copy legal documents, is nowadays Governor of Grodno. His Excellency now lives in the town, and orders about even my father, the Starosta. And I am only my father's little son. Little Tatiana has grown big while you weren't looking at her, if you want her you must grow bigger yourself. Only don't make such an ecce homo face; go, rather, and pay your respects to his Excellency, the Governor. He is a very big wig now, I can tell you!"


And now it suddenly dawned upon Heinrich why Tatiana's papa, Nicholas Eskimov, was placed next to the Bishop. Truly he was a great potentate!

[Pg 113]A far-seeing idea popped into Heinrich's brain. He went to the credenz-table, where refreshments were being distributed, and where also the Governor was delighting his eyes with the spectacle of the pretty girls dancing, and at the same time sipping a glass of iced sherbet.

He bowed deeply before him, and saluted him in Russian—

"Zdorovuyte!"[21] he said.

[21] "Your health!"

The Governor tapped the doctor on the shoulder.

"So you have come home! And got an appointment too, I hear?" said he.

"But I don't want to keep it."

"Then what do you want?" asked Eskimov, regarding the youth through his glass.

"A wider career. Here at Bialystok there is no scope for a doctor, especially if he be a homœopathist. Here, if anybody is ill he wants the doctor to drink the medicine with him in whacking tumblers, and won't accept a recipe unless it covers a whole sheet of foolscap. True there will be no end of bleedings and cataplasms, but the whole of modern medical science is absolutely thrown away upon them. There is no getting on here. The Pole lives in his traditions. I want to go to St. Petersburg. There there is a fine open career for an enterprising doctor. St. Petersburg is the new Rome. Every road leads to it. I beg your Excellency to give me letters of introduction to your acquaintances in the Tsar's capital, that beneath their protection I may go on to prosper."

"Well, I should like to pack you off myself and I'll[Pg 114] give you the letters of introduction at once. When do you want to go? To-morrow! Immediately! So much the better. But hold! my son! We never give anything gratis in our part of the world, we always like something in exchange. Apparently you are the good comrade of young Squire Casimir, eh?"

"That depends."

"But I noticed just now that when Squire Casimir finished dancing with my daughter just now you had a private chat with him. At least answer me this question: if a Pole gives his word to any one, does he keep it?"

"Well, I can tell your Excellency so much: if a Pole gives his word to a comrade, he will go through fire and water for him; if he gives his word to an enemy, he will return to his prison; if he gives his word to a tyrant, he will bear that tyrant's yoke;—but if he gives his word to a pretty girl he will forget it as soon as he turns upon his heel."

"It is not only the Poles who do the last thing. But just one more question, and accordingly as you answer it truthfully I shall know what to think of you. You heard the congratulations made to the Starosta when he announced the betrothal of his son to a Viennese Princess; you saw her portrait, for the Starosta let you have it. Tell me truly, on your honour, which is the lovelier of the two, my Tatiana or the Viennese Princess?"

"Your Excellency! Paris never had so much difficulty in pronouncing judgment when called upon to award the golden apple to one of three goddesses, as I should have to decide which of the two girls is the[Pg 115] lovelier in my eyes. But one thing I can tell you. In the background of that portrait are painted two splendid castles. Those castles, with all the appurtenances thereof, will be part of the bride's dowry. And those two castles are very fine castles."

"Good. I know everything. To-morrow, after dinner, come to me at the fortress for your letters of introduction."

After that Heinrich vanished from the dancing-room, he returned to his own room to devise artful plans for the future.

Every evil inclination was now aroused in his bosom: envy, shame, anger, and slighted love—those four monsters who never close an eye and are alert even when they are asleep.

At dawn of day he was summoned by the Starosta. The old fellow was sitting in an armchair with a mottled purple face and breathing heavily.

"What ails your Excellency?"

"I am waiting for a stroke or for a surgeon to open a vein, and the question is which will be the quicker," replied the Starosta, pleasantly.

"Well, I've come first, you see."

And then he performed the little surgical operation on the Starosta which his constitution demanded after every banquet.

"Well done, my son. You understand your business, I see. What a pity you can't remain at my court here."

"What does your Excellency mean?"

"The Governor has been talking to me. He says you want to go to St. Petersburg. You are right. But he also advised me to send my own Casimir to the Russian[Pg 116] court. There's a great career open there for such youths as he who can read and even philosophize a bit. The Muscovites love philosophy. Well, with us a little of it goes a long way. We always do what the warmth of our hearts suggests to our brains, and don't waste much time in deliberation. Well, go together. I'll send after you the salary I promised you for your official services here, and in return I will only ask you to keep watch over my son, lest any evil befall him."

Heinrich pressed the hand of his benefactor. He understood the allusion.

It was the usual pretext: to advance a person in order to remove him.

The Governor had observed that Casimir had brought the girl back to her mother by her left hand. Let the young squire go to St. Petersburg!

After dinner, Heinrich went to town, to the Governor's. He gave him the promised letters of introduction and two passports, one for himself and one for Casimir.

"So Squire Casimir goes with you? Well, my son, I lay it upon your soul to let me know everything that he does or intends to do during his stay at St. Petersburg. Do you understand me?"

"Perfectly, your Excellency."

Scarce a year had passed since the two young men had departed for St. Petersburg, when one night they returned home together to the Castle of Bialystok.

It was a dark night when they arrived, and they came to the gate of the park, which they opened with the assistance of their keys and got into the Castle[Pg 117] without the knowledge of the family. They sought the Starosta.

The old man was sitting all alone in his bedroom, in a large armchair. He was betwixt three tables, one in front of and one on each side of him. On the table in front of him was a large book printed on vellum, containing the history of Lithuania (each chapter beginning with beautiful big illuminated letters), from the days of the first pagan Grand Duke. On the other two tables were placed flasks of all shapes and sizes, and of a religious character, coming as they did from Chartreuse or Benedictine monasteries, not to mention other similar elixirs worthy of equal praise. He was astonished when he saw the two young men enter.

"Has the magic bird griffin brought you hither?" he cried.

"Yes, the bird griffin has indeed brought us hither," said Casimir to the Count. "I mean that griffin who clutches hold of the mightinesses of this world and carries them to the mountains of Kaf."

And then he told his father how a world-illuminating idea had come to birth in the capital of the great Russian empire, which aimed at nothing less than freeing all the nations of the earth from tyranny. A powerful league had arisen, with the Grand Duke Constantine at its head, for the annihilation of tyrants. The members of this league were all the nations of the Russian Empire, and the fifth of these nations was Poland. The sixth and seventh, who did not yet belong to the Russian world-empire, were the Wallachians and the Magyars; but these also were going to join on. Every member of this holy league carried by way of a symbol[Pg 118] a copper ring, whose sevenfold monogram contained the initial letters of the seven nations.

Old Moskowski welcomed the idea with great delight.

Everything was ripe for a rupture. The army had been won over to the cause of the Revolution. In the various provinces, administrative details had already been arranged, and to every one his part had been distributed. To Casimir Moskowski was assigned the insurrectionary province of Volhynia. The signal was awaited from St. Petersburg. As soon as the Revolution had broken out and gained ground there, the signal would be given to all the other chief towns, to the South Russians in Kiev, to the Tartars at Kazan, to the Crimean peoples in Bogchiserai, to the Finns in Helsingfors, to the Poles at Warsaw—the Revolution would raise its head simultaneously in all these places. And before long the concerted outbreak would spread from Bialystok to Perm, Odessa, and even to distant Tobolsk.

The Starosta was ravished at the prospect.

"But how about the Governor?" he said.

"Nicholas Eskimov will be seized in the citadel, together with the garrison."

"And then he shall sweep the courtyard of the Palace of Bialystok," cried the Starosta, "and that stuck-up little daughter of his, Tatiana, shall wash the crockery in my scullery."

"But all this must be kept secret till the signal arrives from St. Petersburg for a general rising."

There was only one thing which nettled the old Starosta. As the Holy League had included Volhynia[Pg 119] among its provinces, why did they not confide the leadership of the insurrection to the man best entitled to it; in other words, to himself, the father? Why give it to his son?

"Well, you know, you are very old, and drink a great deal."

At last the old man accommodated himself to the new order of things. After all, if his son became the chief man in Volhynia, the glory of it could not fail to rebound upon him.

From that day forth the two young men remained hidden in the Castle; none knew of their whereabouts.

They were to receive the stipulated signal from St. Petersburg by pigeon-post.

And one day the post-pigeon really did arrive at the Castle.

They found among its tail feathers a thin membrous letter, to whose cipher Heinrich possessed the key.

Heinrich took the letter and unhusked its contents. "Bad news—the very worst," he cried; "the Revolution broke out at St. Petersburg, but was instantly suppressed. All the leaders of the league have been seized. Sauve qui peut!"

"There you are," said the Starosta. "I'm old, and drink too much, eh? But if I want to do anything, nobody shall stand in my way but myself. You are young and wise; that is why you can talk so much and do nothing."

"Our sole safety is now in flight," said Heinrich. "The pigeon-post has just brought us the bad news, but as yet the Governor knows nothing about it. He will only be informed of it officially to-morrow afternoon.[Pg 120] We have the start of him by two days. We ought to take refuge at once."

"Where?" inquired the Starosta.

"Our way is plain. Austria is quite close to us. Vienna will not deliver up political refugees. There, too, is Casimir's future father-in-law, and he is a man of great political influence. We must take shelter under his wings. Only let the first fury pass away over our heads; the rest will be a matter of high diplomacy."

So the two young men resolved to fly towards the Austrian frontier. The Russian Government would know nothing of their flight thither and their stay there.

A week later the Starosta received a letter written by Heinrich, in which he was informed that the two young men had safely crossed the border and arrived in the Austrian capital, proceeding at once to the Prince's family mansion, where they had been very heartily welcomed. There was no danger. They had simply denied any participation in the revolution. The ambassadors would make all the rest easy.

Moskowski hastened to communicate this joyful intelligence to the Rev. Mr. Klausner, who, in the mean time, had again become the daily guest of the Starosta's.

Still greater satisfaction did it afford Moskowski when he read all about the St. Petersburg rising in the newspapers and those implicated therein; and at the same time he frequently met Governor Eskimov, who continued to treat him most affably, and never once inquired about his son or ever alluded to the conspiracy[Pg 121] at St. Petersburg, treating it as an affair which did not concern either of them the least bit in the world. Naturally, Moskowski himself took good care to let the matter alone.

After a very short delay a letter arrived for the Starosta from the Prince von Sonnenburg, in which he informed his dear friend that his only daughter Ingola had that very day before the altar been united by the insoluble bonds of holy matrimony to Squire Casimir, the Starosta's son. Simultaneously, Heinrich sent a letter to his father, circumstantially describing the pomp and splendour of the wedding, after which the happy pair had retired to the ancestral Castle of Sonnenburg. Thence they were to proceed to Italy for the honeymoon, and they proposed to take him, as doctor, along with them.

On hearing this joyful intelligence, old Moskowski attended a plain Mass from mere thankfulness.

Another year had elapsed, when Squire Casimir himself informed his father by letter of a joyful family event. A little son had been born to him, and both mother and child were doing excellently well. He was to be named Maximilian, after his maternal grandfather.

"There you are," cried old Moskowski in triumph to the Rev. Mr. Klausner, "a grandson with the name of Maximilian, a grandson of an Austrian prince! He never can become a boor. Was there ever a Maximilian in the world who came down to that? Never! A fig for all your Jewish prophesies!"

After that there arrived frequent letters from the bride, letters written in a fine, elegant hand, with a[Pg 122] soft flowing pen. And in these letters the highly cultured grand dame drew, without end, idyllic pictures of the bliss she shared with her Casimir.

Presently there came an agreeable communication subscribed by the Chancellor of the Imperial Court officially informing the Starosta that his son Casimir had been promoted to the rank of major in the First Imperial Uhlan regiment.

A year later a second joyful family event was announced. "A second, eh?" His name was Stanislaus. To him, at any rate, they gave a good old Polish name.

"Ah, how I should like to see them all!" sighed the old Starosta.

But his old bones did not like the idea of a long carriage journey. The City of Vienna is, alas! a terrible distance from Bialystok.

Never mind, what one cannot see face to face can be presented fairly well in a picture; and the loving daughter-in-law painted the two little descendants in the act of embracing each other, with their two little curly polls all mixed up together. The tears regularly flowed from the eyes of the old Starosta as he gazed upon this pretty picture.

"These never can become serfs; no, never!"

And fresh presents arrived.

They sent from Vienna the twofold family tree of the Moskowskis and the Sonnenburgs, blended together in a harmonious whole. It was wrought in copper-plate with masterly engravings. Not a fault could be found in it.

Then the old Starosta wrote a letter with his own hand to his children, to his son and daughter-in-law.[Pg 123] He called them "my children" expressly in this letter. He assured them he was longing for the time when he should see them all in the ancient Castle of Bialystok. The Tsar would certainly grant an amnesty to those who had been compromised in the rising of 1824, and had taken refuge abroad. He trusted the Almighty would permit him to see that time. He also thanked Heinrich for cleaving so faithfully to Casimir. He was a worthy young man, who deserved all respect.

And a worthy young man he was indeed. He wrote his father a letter every week, and every now and then he sent a little money home, although his earnings were very small.

And once more the Starosta received an official letter from Vienna, in which the Lord High Steward informed him, in the most obliging manner, that his Majesty, the Emperor and King, had advanced Casimir Moskowski to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and at the same time decorated him with the golden key of a Kammerherr.

"What, my son a lieutenant-colonel!—in the mighty Imperial army! Ah, how I should like to see him in his fur-bedizened red uniform! And I wonder where he'll hang his Kammerherr key—on his breast or in his girdle? If only I could see his face! My dear pastor, do write once more to Heinrich, and urge him to say to my son, 'Have your portrait painted for your father's sake, at full length, life size, sitting on horseback, commanding your regiment, and send it on to him. It would be the very best Christmas gift you could give him.'"

So the Rev. Gottlieb Klausner wrote to his son,[Pg 124] declaring the wish of the affectionate father, and duly got an answer from him.

But this answer greatly angered the two old gentlemen.

"Casimir will not let himself be painted; he is tormented by the suspicion that those who are painted in their youth will die young."

"Did ever any one hear such rubbish?" growled the Starosta. "My son superstitious! And a superstition, too, the like of which I never heard of! What was the good, then, of his learning philosophy, metaphysics, and chemistry? I never took my degree at Utrecht, yet even I don't believe such nonsense. That comes of settling down in Vienna, you see. He's got mumpish and stupid."

"I'll soon find a remedy for all that," said Gottlieb Klausner. "I know a famous painter at Vienna who has a peculiar talent. If once he has had a good look at any one, he can go home and paint that person's portrait to the life without the person so painted knowing anything about it. I can certainly trust him with this commission."

"Do it for me, by all means. I'll send him a thousand dollars in advance on account, and if when the picture arrives I recognize my son, I'll give the painter whatever he likes to ask for it."

A few months afterwards Klausner got his answer from the painter. The picture was already on its way, well packed up, frame and all. A four-horse waggon would bring it from Vienna to Bialystok. Let them only keep an eye on the frontier custom-house officers, lest they injured it.

[Pg 125]The bringing of the picture to the house was a veritable triumphal progress. It was packed in a gigantic case, and it required four master carpenters to open it and disentangle it from all its swathing bands and wrappings.

On the same day on which the picture arrived, the Governor intimated to the Starosta that he was inviting himself to dinner at the latter's house.

"So much the better," said the Starosta. "I should like him to be present when they bring in the picture. Don't tell him anything about it. Let it be a great surprise for him. How the chinovnik will stare when he sees Casimir in the imperial uniform! I wonder if the painter has painted his golden key?"

"He cannot paint that," said Klausner, "because these Kammerherr gentlemen wear it behind their backs."

"What, wear a mark of distinction behind! Who ever heard of such a thing?"

Mr. Eskimov arrived punctually to dinner. There were only three at table—the Starosta, the clergyman, and the Governor—and they very pleasantly drank a few glasses of Tokai together. When the pipes were produced, by way of winding up the repast, the Governor observed—

"Well, my good sir, we can now talk together about a very serious business. I didn't want to put you out in any way during the meal. I want to speak to you about your poor son."

"Oh, that won't put me out in the least; though I don't know why you should call him poor. I, for one, don't consider my son's fate at all a sorry one."

[Pg 126]"Come, now, that's very noble of you to be so content with the Tsar's exalted measures, and not consider your son's fate so terrible, especially as I may at once give you the assurance that his fate has now come to an end; the Tsar has just issued a general amnesty for the leaders of the rebellion of 1824."

Moskowski shrugged his shoulders. "My son held no leading part in that rebellion."

"Come, come, my dear Starosta, don't tell me that. I am acquainted with all the details of the process. I know exactly what part Casimir took in it. I took a lot of trouble to get the capital sentence commuted to lifelong transportation to Siberia."

"My son in Siberia?"

"Yes. The Tsar's clemency delivered him from it not so very long ago."

"My friend, that little drop of Tokai has got into your head. You shouldn't play with your glass; take bigger gulps, and cure yourself that way. My son was never in Siberia."

"Indeed! Why, I sent him there myself. I have about me my letter on the subject to the Governor of Tobolsk, which I sent to him seven years ago."

"And I have a letter of congratulation from the Lord High Steward of the Imperial Court, in which he informs me of the promotion of my son to the rank of a major of Lancers."

"Your son a major of Lancers! Why, he's a raskolnik."

"A raskolnik? They would not be likely, I think, to give a Princess of Sonnenburg in marriage to a raskolnik."

[Pg 127]"A Princess of Sonnenburg to your son! You're mad! Why, I seized him myself when he was attempting to escape across the border. He could not deny that he had taken part in the rebellion, for we found on his person full powers from the revolutionary committee. It was a good job for him that he also had about him his academic diploma, which certified that he understood chemistry and mining. Those delinquents who understand the science of mining are treated with particular favour: they do not get the knout, and are not put in chains. But, on the other hand, they are obliged to utilize their knowledge in the gold mines of the Urals."

"My son in the gold mines of the Urals! You are beside yourself, comrade."

"On the contrary, I am a good deal in advance of you. This was in the beginning of 1825."

"What was in the beginning of 1825? At that very time my son was enjoying his honeymoon in Italy. He wrote to me there, from the summit of Vesuvius—he and his consort."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the Governor. "Your son's consort wrote to you! The daughter of a Samoyede chief wrote to you from the summit of Vesuvius! Ha, ha, ha!"

"Don't enrage me, my son! Do you mean the Kamtschatka to which that mad Vulko alluded?"

"I don't know the name of your son's consort; but I do know that she is the daughter of a Samoyede chief. The Governor of Siberia has sent me regular reports about your son Casimir every year. I expressly asked him to do so. One year your son spent in the[Pg 128] gold-mines of the Urals, and then, because of his good conduct, and also out of regard to his father, he was permitted to devote himself to agriculture on the banks of the Jenisei. There he fell in with a Samoyede stock, good, honest, hospitable people. The chief's daughter fell in love with him, and they gave her to him. Casimir built himself a jurta, as they call their huts, reared reindeer, ploughed up a bit of land, and settled down there with his Siberian rose, and in the mean time two children have been born to them."

"I know—I know it right well," said the Starosta, whose long-repressed laughter now burst forth, "and he has sent his father their portraits."

"His father? Their portraits?"

"And two pretty little fair-haired chaps, too!"

"Fair-haired! Has he got fair-haired children, too?"

"One of them has been christened Maximilian, after his maternal grandfather; the other is called Stanislaus."

"I had no idea there were ancestral Maximilians and Stanislauses among the Samoyedes."

But now the Starosta began to grow really angry. He struck the table viciously with his fist.

"In the name of St. Procopius, what do you mean? We have had about enough of this Siberian joke and these Samoyede princes. You must not jest so with me. D'ye hear?"

"And I protest by St. Michael that I am not jesting at all, but that you are jesting with me; and your jesting is very much out of place, and out of season, too. D'ye hear?"

"Very well. I'll fetch this instant the letter of the[Pg 129] Lord High Steward at Vienna, and that will open your eyes a bit."

"And I'll produce letters from the Governors of Tobolsk, Irkutsk, and Jeniseisk, and that will make you prick up your ears."

The two distinguished gentlemen were on the point of coming to fisticuffs when, fortunately, the pastor, always sober-minded, intervened between them.

"Pray be calm, your honours," said Gottlieb Klausner. "Why all this barren strife? Have we not here the very portrait painted for his honour the Starosta by a famous Viennese painter—the portrait, I mean, of Squire Casimir in the uniform of a lieutenant-colonel of the Imperial and Royal Uhlans? That picture will be the best means of deciding which of you is right."

Two heydukes thereupon brought the huge picture in its bronzed frame into the room, and they leaned it up against the wall.

And as they all three gazed at the picture—and, remember, they were all of them strong-minded men—they bounced back in amazement, as if they had seen a spectre.

"Lord have mercy upon us!"

And yet it was an extremely handsome picture, too, painted in a most masterly manner—true to the life. An officer of Uhlans, a manly and picturesque figure. Tawny, lion-like locks flowed over both shoulders; his ruddy face, blue eyes, and light eyebrows went very well together. At the corner of his smiling mouth there was a little mole.

"That is my son," gasped the clergyman, and he fell senseless to the ground.

[Pg 130]


"'Tis the way of the world," Heinrich Klausner had said to himself when he had locked himself into his attic after that memorable ball. "I am nobody. I am not recognized among living beings. I am empty air; people look through me without seeing me. In society I am alone with the servants. At table I sit beside a big dog. I am the sport of the court fool. If they think of me at all it is only to laugh at me. They promise me the daughter of a Samoyede chief to wife. Pretty girls put out their tongues at me when I ask them for a dance. And why? Because my name is Heinrich Klausner, and by profession I am only a doctor. Casimir every one kisses and embraces and exalts. Casimir's health is drunk. Casimir carries the national standard. The dignity of Starosta will one day be Casimir's. Casimir opens the ball. Casimir may do anything. All the girls adore Casimir. Casimir gives his right hand to the daughter of a prince at Vienna, and his left hand is good enough for my former sweetheart. Why? Because his name is Casimir Moskowski, and he has a noble title before his name. What if we were to change places? Then who would have the daughter of the Samoyede chief to wife, the Kamskatka lady?"

It was thus that the demoniacal idea was first hatched in his breast.

First of all, he induced the Starosta to send his son[Pg 131] to St. Petersburg. In the foreign Universities they had frequently come across young democratic Russians belonging to the great league whose object it was to depose Tsar Alexander and put in his place the Grand Duke Constantine, and then to form from the provinces of Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Wallachia a confederation of constitutional states. The pillars of this project were the leading members of the Russian aristocracy.

Heinrich felt certain that if Casimir could be got to St. Petersburg he could easily be inveigled into this league. His enthusiastic spirit, responsive to every noble idea of liberty, would be unable to resist the temptation which would be all the stronger as it sprang from its most natural source, the love of the ardent and fanatical Poles for their country. Such a grand part would satisfy all his desires. He would be the Voivode of liberated Volhynia. His hands would hold the banner emblazoned with the Ureox of Grodno. His birth, his rank, his riches—everything would entitle him to the rôle of leader. It was impossible to conceive that he would refuse the offer.

When, then, the plans of the conspirators had so far matured that the day for the outbreak of the insurrection was already fixed upon, the revolutionary committee authorized Casimir to begin the rising in the Province of Volhynia, and, with this object, Casimir and Heinrich proceeded to Bialystok.

The St. Petersburg rising meanwhile was crushed as soon as it broke out. In vain they made the Russian soldiers believe that the "Constitutsyd" (the constitution) was the name of the consort of the Grand Duke Constantine—they preferred the Tsar to any such lady.

[Pg 132]Thus all those who had been sent to provoke a popular rising in the provinces were obliged to fly for their lives so long as the frontier still remained open, and it was then that Heinrich betrayed his friend to Eskimov, the Governor of Grodno.

The pursuing Cossacks overtook them on the frontier. But the Cossacks only had orders to seize Casimir, so they let the doctor go.

Casimir, however, had taken the precaution to hand over all his papers to Heinrich, not only those on account of which they might prosecute him, such as the credentials of the revolutionary committee, but also the letters of introduction from his father to the Vienna magnates, the Sonnenburg princes. Nothing whatever was found upon him.

But Heinrich sent the compromising documents to Eskimov by the first post, together with Casimir's academical certificates.

He himself continued his journey to Vienna without interruption. On arriving at the imperial metropolis he announced himself wherever Casimir's letters of introduction gained him an entry as Count Casimir Moskowski. His refined, distinguished appearance, social charm, and brilliant accomplishments made the fraud easy. The acquaintance with the Starosta and his whole environment, but especially his intimacy with Casimir, had placed him in possession of the deepest family secrets which justified the false part he was playing. His chivalrous bearing, moreover, completely won the heart of the young princess. The engagement between them contracted from afar through other hands, became a veritable love-match, and it soon won powerful[Pg 133] supporters in Court circles. He took part in all the court festivities, for he had no lack of money wherewith to maintain a splendour corresponding with his dignity. He quickly mounted the rungs of the ladder of rank. He was free-handed with his money or rather with the Starosta's. In a very short time the false Count Moskowski was one of the most fêted, one of the most envied personages at the Imperial Court.

He had nothing to fear from anyone. In the whole empire none knew anything of Heinrich Klausner. Who was he? Nothing at all! Empty air. Those who looked at him did not see him. The deception could not be unmasked. The old Starosta could not come from Bialystok to Vienna on any account. Gout and corpulence would not let him. He himself could not cross the Russian border with his consort to visit his father, for he was proscribed and an exile, and even if he could get an amnesty, a Polish refugee prefers to hate the Russian at a distance and avoid his territory.

But how about the genuine Casimir Moskowski? Well, he has very good reasons not to come to Vienna. Even if he has not already died beneath the blows of the knout, he may calculate upon lifelong imprisonment in the mines of Siberia or on the endless snowfields, and while his good comrade is making his fine charger caracole to the delight of the lovers of sport at the Imperial Court, or guiding countesses through the mazes of the minuet at Court balls, or receiving the congratulations of foreign envoys, or responding to the toasts of his noble colleagues on his name-day, and living out his days in an earthly paradise in the arms of the loveliest woman in the world and[Pg 134] choosing aristocratic names for his children—in the mean time, the nameless man from whom he has filched his family name, is known by no name at all, but simply by a number fastened to or painted on the jacket which he wears on his back—No. 13579. Why on earth should convict No. 13579 think of visiting Vienna? All that he sees before him is a huge piece of rock which he has to break up in order to get at the vein of gold within. And even if they release him from that, it will only be to conduct him still further into the depths of Siberia, to the colonies of the skin-hunters. There he will have to collect sufficient sable and ermine skins to enable him to get permission to settle down somewhere by the banks of the river where he may plough the land and wring bread from the earth by the labour of his own hands, and in winter time tan leather and carve little human figures out of walrus tusks for the Samoyedes. Perhaps also he may get a consort from the chief of one of the tribes of these nomadic tent-dwellers, a short-legged, tubby, seal-like beauty, with whom he may taste the joys of family life. Find out the name of this new princess if you can, but don't look for it in the Almanach de Gotha. Yes, the true Casimir Moskowski has been very well disposed of.

But suppose the White Tsar were one day to utter words of mercy and grant an amnesty to the rebels deported to Siberia? Well, even then, there will be no cause for anxiety. To those who receive permission to return from Siberia to Russia is always assigned a particular town in which they have to dwell, a good distance from the capital as well as from their[Pg 135] own homes. And this town they must never leave, nor are they permitted to go abroad.

Then, too, the Starosta cannot live for ever; he is bound to have a stroke some day. Heinrich felt quite secure. He need fear nobody. Yet stay; there was one man he did fear. He did not feel sure of his own dear father. It might occur to the clergyman one day to take a journey to Vienna to see his own son.

But this eventuality was also provided for. The false Moskowski had provided on purpose for it a modest little lodging in the suburbs poorly furnished, where the doctor might be able to receive his old father in an austere environment. A special costume was held in reserve for that occasion—should it ever occur.

And if, perhaps, which was more than probable, Gottlieb Klausner wished to see his distinguished patron in the Sonnenburg Castle, against that danger also Heinrich had provided an antidote. In the later letters to his father he had tried to make the old man believe that for some little time he had good cause to be angry with his dear friend, Casimir, and, in fact, things had come to such a pass between them that he had been forbidden the Prince's door. If, on the other hand, the clergyman went by himself to see the Princess, he knew very well that his consort would not receive him. He had already explained to her pretty clearly that Heinrich Klausner was the traitor whose treachery was the cause of his exile, and consequently he was quite sure that the Princess would tell her servants to show the father of the treacherous comrade the door.

Meanwhile he kept up his correspondence with the Starosta, having learnt to imitate Casimir's handwriting[Pg 136] most exactly, and in all these letters he was constantly complaining of Heinrich. So skilfully did he enwrap himself in a spider's web of lies that it was impossible to catch a clear glimpse of him through it.

There was only one thing he had never thought of—that his picture might be painted for the Starosta without his knowledge. And this was the very idea which had occurred to his father.


A great festival was being held in the Castle of Sonnenburg. It was the sixth birthday of little Prince Maximilian.

The little lad had just recovered from a severe illness; from one of those epidemics especially dangerous to children.

Heinrich during his son's illness had frequently been on the verge of betraying himself. Three doctors had been summoned to the Castle, and not one of them possessed his up-to-date knowledge. And all he could do was to listen to their disputes while they were in consultation. How he would have liked to exclaim: "You are charlatans, the whole lot of you! Poisoners! Ignoramuses! I can diagnose the case quite well; you can't."

He had to bury his knowledge out of sight. Two or three pillules administered in homœopathic doses would immediately have cured the child's weakness,[Pg 137] and he could not give them to him. He was not allowed to save his own child. He was obliged to look on while his colleagues experimented with, tortured, the child. He could not reveal to them that he was a physician. Ah, ah!—then where is your diploma? And his diploma was in the name of Heinrich Klausner.

And self love was stronger in him than paternal love. So he was silent, and looked on cold-bloodedly at the torments of his child.

And at last nature and a mother's prayers prevailed against the severity of the disease. Little Max, despite the united operations of three specialists, actually recovered. It was on his very birthday that he was permitted to leave his room.

That day was kept in the Castle as a joyful festival. The grandparents, the Prince of Sonnenburg and his wife, had come to the house. The feast had been a calm and quiet rejoicing from beginning to end. No guests outside the family had been invited.

At the end of the meal, just as the father, his face radiant with happiness, had risen with a glass of foaming champagne to propose the health of the grandparents, the Major Domo came in from the ante-chamber and whispered something in the ear of the young Princess.

For an instant, Ingola angrily contracted her brows, but the next moment a benevolent smile lit up her face.

"No. To-day I will be angry with no one. To-day I am ready to forgive my mortal foe. Let him come in."

But at the sight of the visitor, as he passed through the doorway, the champagne glass which had been raised[Pg 138] for the toast fell from Heinrich's hand, and he himself collapsed into a chair.

The visitor was Gottlieb Klausner; he had entered the banqueting-room in his simple black cassock.

He made straight for his son, and, placing his muscular hand on his shoulder, shook him out of his benumbing stupefaction.

"What do you want with Prince Casimir Moskowski?" exclaimed old Prince Sonnenburg.

The clergyman, in a dry, scornful voice, replied: "This man is not Count Casimir Moskowski, but my son, Heinrich Klausner, betrayer, impostor, thief."

Then, scarcely audible, he murmured to his son: "Rise and follow me."

Heinrich rose mechanically from the table and allowed his father to seize his hand.

Then the Princess Ingola, full of fear, shrieked: "My husband! What are you doing with my husband?"

The clergyman turned round, and with his long, lean, extended arm indicated another visitor whom he had brought with him; and who, before he made his appearance, had been leaning against the lintel of the door.

"Your husband, Princess Sonnenburg, is standing there. That is Prince Casimir Moskowski, your lawful consort."

The creature standing against the door was the exile just returned from Siberia; a creature broken down by oppression and suffering, with a mop of tangled hair and a long beard prematurely grey; his face livid and sunken, and prematurely aged by a network of wrinkles;[Pg 139] bentbacked, with hands purple, frost-bitten, and horny from hard labour. Six years in the school of Siberia had reduced the stately son of the Starosta to this. Just look at him!

At the sight of this spectre, Heinrich quickly snatched a knife from the table, but his father still more quickly wrenched it from his grasp before Heinrich could draw it across his throat.

"Oho! my son! You don't get out of it so easily. You must make an exchange. The convict's coarse sheepskin awaits you. Your name is '13579.' You can easily remember it; it is a perfectly straightforward series of odd numbers. Your predecessor bore it for six years."

And the exchange really took place. Both the Austrian and the Russian Governments agreed that this scandalous fraud must be kept a profound secret, which would have ruined two of the most illustrious families of both empires. They also compelled the party most interested in the affair, the clever impostor, to make a late reparation. Moreover, Casimir had his property returned to him on condition that he acknowledged the Princess Ingola to be his consort. The Princess was also obliged to take him for her husband in order to procure for her children the family name, and the right of succession to the property. They all went together to Bialystok, and there they lived, as well as they could, joyless, cut off from the world, with their doors closed against every one.

But Heinrich they sent to the banks of the Jenisei. They shoved him into the sheepskin which had been[Pg 140] made expressly for convict No. 13579, and gave him his predecessor's digging implements, sledge—and Samoyede consort.

And the old Starosta lived for a long time after that. He lived long enough to see the death of the children bearing the name of Moskowski, both Maximilian and Stanislaus; he lived long enough to see the family name of the Moskowskis become extinct. No other offspring came to supply their place.

But the veritable offspring of his flesh and blood, the little Samoyedes, increased and multiplied like sparrows. Their descendants now people the plains of the Jenisei, and very careful and industrious peasants they are.

[Pg 141]



Plato, the Sage of classical Greece, speaks in his writings of a strange continent which, if historians and geologists are to be believed, must have lain somewhere between the island of St. Helena and the coast of Africa. The poets and philosophers of antiquity called it Atlantis, Oceania, or the Fortunate Islands.

In those days the earth was still a divinity to whom man raised altars. In those days men had not arrived at the overpowering conviction that the whole globe was nothing more than a wretched mite of a ball, which the sun, out of regard for the equilibrium of the universe, or, perhaps for the mere fun of the thing, twirls round and round. They had no idea that you could sail completely round it; measure it; weigh it and calculate exactly how long it has lasted and how much longer it is likely to last. No! The Earth still[Pg 142] retained the nimbus of divinity; was still regarded as immeasurable, infinite, incomprehensible; and the sun, moon, and stars were popularly supposed to be his vassals.

Above the earth was heaven; below the earth was the Styx, and the dwellers on the earth lived in intimate relations with them both. No one had an inkling that the blue expanse above was only the reflection of the sun's rays refracted through the vapours of the earth, and that neither the gods, nor the blessed, could endure to live up there for the intense cold. No one knew that only the upper rind of the earth was solid, and that in the depths below the heat was so intense that the devil himself could only exist there in a molten condition.

In those days the earth was still an unappropriated domain. The poet could picture to himself bright fairy worlds beyond the continents already known, and the popular imagination was free to people the uninhabited wilds with all manner of marvels and monsters.

The wondrous thoughts of a poetic spirit betray themselves in these ideas and guesses. The spirit of invention three thousand years ago spoke of two gates which the then known world was said to have. One of these gates lay in the far north-east, between the snow and ice-clad Altai mountains, which set bounds to the wanderings of the nations. Beyond this mountain chain it was said you could hear the din of Gog and Magog, whom the mighty conqueror Alexander had thrust out of the world behind gates of bronze, and who ever since have been baring and blasting rock and mountain, and digging subterraneous ways in order[Pg 143] to escape from their prison. Woe betide the world and all that dwells therein if ever they succeed in forcing their way through the woody Imaus and appear, with their hairy faces, angular heads, unknown tongues, arms, and clothing, and deluge the world from end to end like the stroke of a great spirit paint-brush, which, after filling its canvas with mighty nations, splendid cities, and world-renowned conquerors, should suddenly wipe them off again at a single sweep in order to paint fresh subjects.

At the opposite end of the world, in the warm south-west, where the gaze of the dreamer loses itself in the endless blue mirror of ocean, the poet pictured to himself that happier world which sprang from the rapturous embrace of heaven and earth; a world where the air is balmier, where love is sweeter, where man is more valiant and woman more faithful; where the light knows no shadow, joy no grief, and the flower no fading; where everything—herbs, trees, and the hearts of men—rejoices in an eternal youth.

It is an odd phenomenon in the psychology of nations, that popular fancy should always have painted the North with the pale and sombre hues of fear and terror, whilst she looked for the fulfilment of her unattainable hopes to the equally dim and impenetrable South, and constantly sent her dreams and her sighs in that direction.

In the days when Rome, still in her first bloom, had begun to be the mistress of those regions which the geographers of antiquity called the known world, there arose another young city on the opposite sea[Pg 144]shore, almost over against that great boot which we call Italy, and which, when once it had a good strong foot inside it, was to conquer the world with such rapid strides.

The new metropolis sprang from the ground as rapidly as Rome herself. The legend still lives of its imperious foundress, who purchased from the strange king as much land for her fugitive people as could be covered with an oxhide, and now that plot of land, once meted out by a buffalo-skin cut into strips, was already the seat of a great empire, and of all the coast land round about, and might perhaps have won the dominion of the whole world besides—if Rome had not chanced to be in that very world at that very time. Two centres the world cannot have; round two axles the earth cannot revolve.

This young city was called Carthage.

Men counted 330 years from the foundation of Carthage, which time Christians call 550 B.C., when the following event took place in the city of Carthage.

The captain of a merchant vessel, who very often touched the African coasts in the way of business, had been absent from his native land so long that his funeral feast had been held; his wife had wedded a second time, and another had succeeded to his office. Suddenly, when no one ever expected to see him again, he reappeared at the entrance of the great double harbour, which shut out the sea by means of huge chains, and had not its equal in the whole world, not even in Tyre itself, the oldest of all trading cities.

The mariner's name was Hanno. The whole city knew all about him, and every one now said how[Pg 145] wonderful it was that Hanno should have come back again, after remaining away so long.

And he brought back with him treasures and curiosities such as no man had ever seen before, not even in dreams.

It was the custom at Carthage for the merchants who traversed distant lands to record the sum and substance of their experiences on marble tables, which tables were then preserved in the Temple of Kronos, which was in the heart of the city, near to the circumvallated Byrza. That the God of Time also possessed a temple there proves that, even in those early days, the fact that time is the greatest of all treasures, that time is money, was generally recognized at Carthage.

So Hanno's tables were placed on the altar of Kronos. These tables the people were not allowed to see. The inspection thereof was solely reserved for the Council of Elders, the grey Senators whose business it was to calculate how the information thus acquired could be turned to the profit of the fatherland.

The very next day after Hanno's tables had been placed on the altar, he was summoned to the dwelling of the Governor, which stood on a little island, midway between the two havens, exactly opposite the Gate of Elephants. At that time Carthage had already 260 gates and 650,000 inhabitants. A wall 180 feet high encircled the city on the land side; the cupolas of her palaces sparkled with gold; and, high above all her palaces, towered a temple whose walls were of black marble, whose columns were of alabaster with silver capitals, and from the top of whose domed roof rose a huge golden cupola, surmounted by four silver wings.

[Pg 146]The Archon led Hanno over the scarlet, asphalted bridge, and, stopping short midway in front of the huge statue of Baalti, bade him survey the streets and public places of the huge city, along which a motley tide of human beings was ebbing and flowing, while whole armies of elephants, with heavy loads and gaily painted towers on their backs, were striding along the thoroughfares.

"Look, Hanno! Dost thou not see how great the city hath grown during thy absence, and how the number of the people hath increased in like measure?"

"It hath indeed become as great again," replied the mariner.

"Wouldst thou not be sad at heart if these palaces were one day to fall to the ground, if nothing but bats and serpents were to dwell in the place of these busy crowds, so that the stranger who heard tell of Carthage must needs ask: 'But where, then, is this great city? Who is there that can tell me anything about it?'"

"God forbid."

"And if one were then to make answer to the stranger, and say: 'That city once ruled half the world, and her fall dates from the day when a certain seafarer, called Hanno, returned from a long voyage,' wouldst thou have that come to pass?"

"Astarte and all the good gods preserve me from such a thought."

"Then guard thy lips, and take heed to what thou sayest before the Council."

Soon afterwards Hanno stood in the council chamber. The elders of the city sat round about the walls, and Hierkas, the eldest of the Senators, with a[Pg 147] white beard reaching down to his girdle, held in his lap the large stone tables on which Hanno's experiences were recorded.

"Hanno," said the eldest of the elders to the seafarer, "thou hast been absent for years from thy native land; we waited for thee and thou camest not. In thy native land palaces, treasures, beautiful gardens, fruitful fields were thine; at home thou hadst a lovely wife and beloved slaves, and yet thou couldst find it in thy heart to remain away so long. Are the things true which thou hast recorded on these marble tables?"

"True every whit, and nought added thereto."

"Is it true that thou wast tossed by tempests on to a great continent in the far west, a continent larger than all the rest of the known world put together?"

"It is even so as I have said."

"Is it true that the winter there is as warm as the summer here, the grass as high as trees are with us, and the beasts as wise as men?"

"So it is in very truth."

"Is it true that there the women are fairer and fonder, and the men braver and mightier than with us; that there the very air is a healing balm, which heals the sick and makes the coward valiant, and the ill-favoured comely?"

"I have said it."

"Is it true that gold abounds there like sand, that precious stones are to be found on the mountain-tops, and pearls and purple on the seashore?"

"So have I found it."

"Thou hast said that thou didst see a plant, the roots whereof yield fruit sweeter than bread; that thou[Pg 148] didst find a reed which yields honey, bushes which furnish wool white as fallen snow, and a tree from the pierced bark whereof flows streams of wine, while vessels full of milk grow beneath its crown?"

"All this have I seen, and to prove it I have brought of them all back with me."

"Hast thou not also brought back with thee a wonder-working bird with human speech and man's understanding?"

"I have it on my ship."

"Hast thou spoken with others of these things?"

"Only on the marble tables are my secrets recorded."

"Thy sailors have not yet been in the town, then?"

"None of them have left the harbour."

"Then, Hanno, return to thy ship."

They led the mariner back to his ship. Late the same evening the vessel was escorted by four men-of-war into the open sea, where, after stripping her of boats, sails, and helm, they deluged her on all four sides with what was known long afterwards as Greek fire. In an instant the inextinguishable flames had ignited the planks, and there, on the open sea, Hanno's ship, with its owner, its crew, and the gold-dust, the bread-fruit, the sugar-canes, the cocoa-nuts, and the talking-bird which they had brought back with them, were utterly consumed. The fire burned everything down to the very water's edge.

And a proclamation went forth in the streets of Carthage, that whoever presumed to say a word about Hanno's happy land should be instantly offered up to the goddess Astarte, and if a Senator should dare to[Pg 149] betray a word of what was written on Hanno's marble tables, he should be stoned at the entrance of the harbour, and his bones strewn in the sea.

For if the men of Carthage had but learned that such a happy land existed anywhere under the sun, they would have quitted their native land in troops, the palaces would have fallen to pieces from decay, bats and serpents would have dwelt within the gates, and thus the day would have come when the stranger, on hearing the name of Carthage mentioned, would have asked: "But where, then, is the site of that great city?"


In the days when great Tyre still stood in all her glory, and her merchant vessels left not even the East Indies unexplored, there dwelt in that city a rich seaman, Bar Noemi by name.

His name tells us at once that he was a native of Palestine. He was, indeed, one of the few survivors of those Benjaminites who had been extirpated, together with their city, by the men of the other eleven tribes, to avenge the dishonour done to a single woman. And the punishment was certainly deserved—the men of Benjamin had dishonoured a woman who came to their city as a guest. It was a righteous deed to root out such men. Bar Noemi was still a mere child when he escaped from destruction; he had had no share, therefore, in the sins of his fathers, and he[Pg 150] knew besides that they had been put to the edge of the sword by the Lord's command, the strong God, Jehova the avenger, who, midst the thunders of Sinai, had written on the tables of stone with His own hand: "The face of the strange woman shall be sacred to the strange man, and whosoever trespasses against her shall die the death!"

Bar Noemi knew very well that this sentence had been rigorously executed upon the inhabitants of a whole city, yet he never renounced the faith of his fathers on that account; but clave strictly to the traditions of Holy Zion even in the midst of the city of delights, and sacrificed continually to the strong avenging God who visits indeed the sins of the fathers upon the children even to the fourth generation, but also rewards their virtues down to the thousandth generation.

Yet the gods of Tyre and Sidon were ever so much more agreeable. They suffered the altar of Love to stand in their temples. Anybody was free to offer thereon doves or goats, according as his love was chaste or unchaste. No one was taken to task for the sins of love; on the contrary, mortals were initiated into mysteries which taught them how to approach, through insensible gradations of delight, the heaven of bliss—or hopeless damnation.

Bar Noemi neither visited Astarte's temple, nor allowed himself to be initiated into her magical mysteries. He was satisfied with observing his own religious feasts and fasts with prayer and thanksgiving, and every year scoured all the boards of his house at the Passover, and raised the green booths in his garden[Pg 151] at the Feast of Tabernacles. And the inhabitants of Tyre let him do as he chose. A trading nation is wont to be tolerant in matters of religion. Besides, the religion of Israel was nothing new to the Tyrians. The two nations had often come into contact, sometimes with iron in their hands, but much more often with gold and silver. As Bar Noemi reached man's estate, he was reckoned among the richest merchants in Tyre. His fifty galleys conveyed purple stuffs, real pearls, and oriental spices from continent to continent.

He himself was the hardiest of mariners. He was frequently absent with his ship twelve months at a time. His sailors were all of them picked men of the tribe of Levi.

Bar Noemi was the first to discover how to sail from the Red Sea to Carthage without being obliged to transport one's wares on camels from one coast to the other, thus avoiding the grievous, exorbitant tolls imposed by the Egyptians upon the Phœnician merchants. None of the older mariners had found out the secret. The Cape of Good Hope was still an unknown point to the trading world, and men shrank back in terror from the hostile winds and tempests which environed it.

At Carthage, Bar Noemi had learnt to know the daughter of a merchant, one of those Punic beauties whom the Roman ladies loved so much to imitate. The fairest of complexions was made still more fair by wonderful saffron locks; the large blue eyes had long black lashes; the jet eyebrows were arched and bushy; the lips a deep purple, and the skin as soft as velvet, and as white as alabaster.

After the first Punic war, the Roman ladies, in[Pg 152] order to win back their husbands and lovers from these fascinating foreign belles, did all in their power to make their own charms correspond with the charms of the Carthaginian beauties. They coloured their locks with saffron, tied raw flesh to their skins at night, and heightened the colour of their lips with red salve. But Nature had given all these things gratis to the Carthaginian beauties. Art could not supply those long golden locks from which they manufactured bow-strings in the hour of their country's mortal agony; or those voluptuous supple limbs which bled beneath the weapons of Rome in the last evil hour of Carthage.

Byssenia, Bar Noemi's bride, was one of these beauties. Her father was satisfied with the marriage gift which Bar Noemi brought his daughter; merchants always regard it as a great point to have the question of dower settled before the conclusion of the match.

And Bar Noemi was much more than a mere rich man. He was a handsome man, and valiant and haughty to boot, a man who never humbly bowed his head, and thought it a shame to cast down his eyes before any one. He was wont to say that no one had a keener glance than the lightning, or a more terrible manner of speech than the raging sea, and these he had long ago learnt to defy.

His acquaintances and all the great men of the city assembled on his wedding-day at the house of the bride's father, while the Carthaginian damsels led the bride into the grove of Astarte, that she might bathe for the first time in the sacred spring whence she was to be led to the altar of the goddess, there to be united to the bridegroom. When, however, it came to the[Pg 153] bridegroom's turn, according to Phœnician custom, to offer to the gods of wood and stone the sacrifices which they demand from all men, Bar Noemi, to every one's astonishment, answered: "Our God is Jehovah," and refused to bring any offering to the idol.

The elders and high priests were much offended by these bold words, and conferred together in whispers as to what they should do with the audacious stranger.

First they led him into the halls of Astarte, whom the people adored in the shape of a beautiful woman in white marble. They showed him the mysteries of the ritual devoted to the Goddess of Love, the sweet, seductive secrets which confound the human soul, the sense-bereaving, voluptuous shapes which, under various names, have found worshippers in all ages down to the latest times.

Bar Noemi hastily turned away his eyes from the captivating sight, and stammered: "Jehovah is our God."

Shaking their heads, the elders and high priests proceeded further, and led Bar Noemi into the temple of the great and glistening god Dagon, resplendent with gold and silver, where the molten image of the God of Riches sits in a ship of mother-o'-pearl, laden with pearls and precious stones, and swimming in a basin of quicksilver instead of water. Then they represented to Bar Noemi that even if he would not bow before the magic of Love, he might well bend the knee before the terrible symbol of Riches, for the mighty Dagon grants wealth and dominion to them who honour him.

Bar Noemi looked contemptuously at the treasures[Pg 154] lying at his feet, and answered boldly: "Our God is Jehovah."

The elders and high priests exchanged angry glances, and led him next to the temple of the war god Remphan, which rested on copper columns. The idol itself was of dark, molten bronze; at its feet lay heaps and heaps of broken weapons and armour, the trophies of battles won by the Carthaginians, as well as the prows of those ships which had been captured in naval victories.

"Since thou wilt bow down to neither Love nor Riches, at least do obeisance to the god in whose gift is Fame, the highest gift known to a true man."

But Bar Noemi gazed boldly into the hollow eyes of the molten idol, and cried defiantly: "There is but one God—Jehovah, the Almighty."

Last of all they brought him into the subterranean temple of Baal, the god of the strong hell, who has dominion over eternal fire, and distributes pains and torments both here and in the nether world. There they showed the stranger the red-hot body of the huge, shapeless idol which demanded a human victim every day, and they forced him to stay to see the sacrifice. Then they hurled a great, strong man into the idol's jaws, and the same instant a thick smoke gushed forth from Baal's eyes and nostrils, whilst the yells of the dying victim roared forth from the cavernous stomach like the laugh of a demon of hell, gradually growing fainter and fainter, as when a wild beast has satisfied his hunger, and settles quietly down to digest his food.

"Bar Noemi," cried the elders, "the gates of death are open before thee. Speak!"

Full of unshakable faith, the young man raised his[Pg 155] eyes towards the invisible bright blue sky, the one thing pure enough to be imagined the dwelling-place of the eternal God, and spake unmoved: "Jehovah alone is God, the Ruler of earth and of the starry heavens, the Lord of life and death. All else is but dust and ashes."

The idol roared forth the death-agonies of a second victim, while the officiating priests sought to drown the sickening shrieks with the din of kettledrums and cymbals. In the midst of this hellish spectacle, Bar Noemi folded his hands across his breast and prayed in silence. He had quite made up his mind to breathe his last in the belly of the idol.

Again the elders and high priests whispered together, then, with smiling countenances, they spoke thus to Bar Noemi—

"Thou hast remained steadfast in thy faith. Cleave thereto henceforward also, and never forswear thyself. Wed thee with thy betrothed after the manner of thy nation, and take her with thee to thy distant dwelling; live as long as thy God wills it."

Bar Noemi obeyed their words, and secretly blessed Jehovah, who helps His true servants to victory, and strengthens the hearts of those who praise His Name. So he was married in the sight of all the people to the beautiful Byssenia, gave to the father of the bride the marriage gift he had brought with him in exchange for her, himself taking charge of his wife's paraphernalia, settled various outstanding matters of business, and embarking in his ship with his gallant crew, sailed out of the bay amid the cheers of the people assembled in the harbour, and the blare of the trumpets and clarions. An escort of four warships accompanied him into the[Pg 156] open sea. The decks of the splendid Carthaginian vessels were hung with painted carpets, their prows were adorned with far-projecting golden monsters, behind were the movable bridges used in battle to grapple the enemy, amidships the high tower, whence stones and other missiles were wont to be hurled.

When the ocean was reached and land was no longer visible anywhere, the Carthaginians suddenly let down their bridges upon the bridal ship and held it fast.

The elders spake yet again to Bar Noemi.

"Bar Noemi, son of a strange land, below thee is the waste of waters, above thee is the waste of sky, answer now, who is the God that can help thee in this wilderness?"

"Jehovah!" answered Bar Noemi.

"Then Jehovah stand thee by," said the elders; whereupon they stripped Bar Noemi's ship of sails, helm, and every instrument which enables the mariner to find or make his way on the ocean. Then they bade the bride return to her father at Carthage. But, clinging to her husband's breast, Byssenia said she would liefer remain in the stormy sea, and would not forsake in the hour of danger him to whom she had plighted her troth.

"Then may Jehovah help thee," answered the elders; and with that they quitted Bar Noemi's vessel, and, drawing back the bridges, left the bridal ship there in the open sea, without sails or helm, devoted to the tempest, abandoned to the waves.

[Pg 157]


On the becalmed ocean lies the forsaken ship, without sails, without helm, drawn to one side by its own weight, not a single black point of land, not a single white sail anywhere visible along the vast horizon. And in the midst of this desolation stands Bar Noemi and his doomed crew. But Bar Noemi has said that even in this desolation dwells the Lord God, who rules over the heavens and the waters.

And behold! as he prays there with outstretched arms, a dove comes flying from the west on rapid wing, and alights upon the topmast. Never had man seen such a dove before. Her feathers were of green, merging here and there into pearly grey, the wide-extended tail was gold-coloured, and sewn with stars like the tail of a peacock, and her neck was striped with glowing purple.

Bar Noemi took some rice in the palm of his hand and held it in the air, and behold! to every one's astonishment, the wonderful bird flew from the masthead on to the mariner's hand, and began to peck up the grains of rice one by one, uttering each time the soft cooing note of the wild dove, whereupon she flew back to the masthead, and remained there till evening.

"A miracle!" cried the ship's company; but Bar Noemi said: "Ye now see that Jehovah has heard me, for He has sent His messenger from heaven as a sign that He will deliver us from this present distress. Let[Pg 158] us, then, take our mantles, and whatever else can be spared from the ship, the garments of the women, the precious gold stuffs, the Phrygian velvets, and let us sew them together and make us a sail. A west wind is arising which will drive us upon some coast; there will we refit our ship and return to Tyre."

The ship's company obeyed and set to work. They made them a large sail of bright shreds and patches; they hoisted it up, not without sore labour; and scarcely had the sun sunk down and melted away in his own reflection at the extreme margin of the sky, when a light breeze arose in the east which at first but lightly curled the waves, but gradually made the whole sea heave and toss. The patched sail bulged out, the ship righted herself, stood firm amidst the waves, and began to glide along the watery mirror, and the ship's company, sinking on their knees, stammered: "Jehovah is our God."

All night long the wind blew in the same direction, and all night long Bar Noemi scrutinized the stars. The constellations with which he was so familiar, for he had diligently studied them during his long voyages, remained constant at the same height, in an unaltered arch, right above his head, a sign, he knew, that the ship was following a northerly course.

Three days and three nights the rudderless ship flew with a single sail over the surface of the ocean. On the fourth day there appeared very faintly on the distant horizon, like the forehead of some brown marine monster, the ridge of the world-supporting Atlas mountains, the rock of the unconquerable Gebel-al-Tarik, which we degenerate moderns call Gibraltar. This point was familiar to the mariners. They knew[Pg 159] that the fortunate inhabitants of the golden apple-gardens of the Hesperides would certainly welcome them with joy, though it would have been more dangerous for the seafarers to have gazed into the eyes of the maidens of the Atlas mountains than to have listened to the songs of the Sirens or to have sailed between the coral-reefs of Scylla the accursed. The joys of this outermost African haven had torn more sailors from the rowing-benches than even famine or pestilence, the twin destroying angels of antiquity.

Shouting for joy, Bar Noemi's crew clambered up to the masthead, so as to better survey from thence the promised land, which drew nearer to them every moment. Already they began to make out the shadowy coastline; already they could distinguish the fresh green of the woods against the dark-blue mountain-side, the narrow strips of cornland, and the scarlet bloom of the almond woods on the shore below. Already they perceived the sky-blue enamel of the luxuriant sesame flowers in the meadows, and the inviting smoke-wreaths arising from the hospitable huts on the shore—when, suddenly, a small black cloud arose in the south-east, which, in a moment, darkened the sun and changed the complexion of the ocean. The waves took a murky, dark-green tinge, Atlas veiled himself in dusky grey, the shores became dark blue, and seemed to draw further and further away; and, all at once, as if fallen from the skies, the whole surface of the water was covered by those white birds with black wings whose vital element is the tempest, who live by the storm, and only come forth from their nooks and crannies as harbingers of evil to the mariner, circling round the[Pg 160] ship with terrifying screams, as if only sent forth to bewail the crew.

Bar Noemi ordered the single sail to be furled, kissed first his lovely wife, and then his faithful comrades, one after the other, for whom there was no longer any hope of salvation save only in the mighty hand of the Lord, and, falling upon his knees, he began to sing the psalm: "In Thee, O Lord, do we put our trust," they all following his example.

The raging of the waves, the howling of the wind, grew ever louder, the song of the suppliants ever fainter; the awful crash of the thunder mingled with the concert of Death; the black clouds veiled the sun with an impenetrable veil, and only the lightning flashed out at intervals like a spectral torch. At every flash the black outlines of Atlas were visible like the terrible shape of a ghostly nightmare, and on the foaming crests of the lurid wave-mountains swept a tiny nutshell, a frail wooden pellet, the plaything of the storm, wherein some two hundred or so of that species of worm which calls itself Lord of the Universe were huddled together into a trembling, whining mass.

The fury of the storm kept steadily increasing, the sullen day became a yet more sullen night. Bar Noemi's crew saw the rocks of the Atlas range drawing nearer every moment, and they cursed Bar Noemi and the God to whom he prayed, without ceasing. Another instant and they will all be dashed to pieces.

Then the lightning flashes ceased, and long hours of gloom succeeded. The storm tossed the ship about in its mad frolic; the minutes passed in mortal anguish, and when, after many hours, a fresh lightning flash[Pg 161] lights up the whole horizon, the astonished mariners no longer see the Atlas mountains. They have been driven far out into the Atlantic ocean.

"Jehovah is our God alone."

The Lord has saved His faithful ones from a terrible death, yet He has cast them upon the immeasurable deep, and abandoned them to fresh dangers.

The night passed away, but the sky was still covered with wild, hurrying clouds which seemed to be fighting among themselves so that their blood flowed down in streams. And nowhere was the sun to be seen, and the horizon had vanished in drifting clouds and floating vapours—and so they fared for four days. The tempest is never weary.

The ship was already a wreck, the masts were broken to pieces, the glistening dragons on the prow, which had made such a brave show a few days before, had been swept away by the waves; everything superfluous had already been cast overboard, and yet it was as much as they could do to keep the ship from sinking.

As now the fourth day was already closing in storm and stress, the eldest of the mariners stepped up to Bar Noemi, took him aside, and said—

"Dost thou not pray to Jehovah every day, Bar Noemi?"

"Every hour and with all my might!"

"In the stern of thy ship stands the Ark of thy Covenant before which thou dost kneel constantly. What does it contain? Jehovah dwells therein, does He not?"

"It contains the Commandments of the Lord[Pg 162] engraved on stone, after the pattern of the tables of Jerusalem."

"Then thou prayest to Jehovah? It is well! But dost thou not know that at the self-same time thy crew in the hold of the ship bewail Thammus, kneeling beside the golden serpent which they have concealed there. Thus, either two Divinities, one of whom would save, the other destroy us, are striving above our heads for the mastery while we perish; or, there is but one God, even Jehovah, as thou sayest, who prolongs our days indeed out of compassion for thee—but who, in His wrath at the wickedness of these men, will not deliver us from the storm. Look now, this do! When, at night, the sound of wailing reaches thee through the deck, know that they are worshipping their idol, and either throw the Ark of the Covenant or the golden serpent into the sea, that at least one God may befriend us."

At these words Bar Noemi was very wrath, and did as the old mariner had counselled. For when at night time he heard the mysterious wailing below the deck, he went quickly down into the hold and there found his sailors on their knees, smiting their breasts and cutting their naked limbs with sharp knives, and in the midst stood a golden serpent, wound round a column, whose large eyes, made of carbuncle stones, gleamed brightly through the gloom.

Bar Noemi approached the idol and dashed his sword against its head, whereupon it broke into a thousand splinters which scattered in all directions.

"Behold now!" cried Bar Noemi, "how that magian lied who told you that this was a god, and how[Pg 163] that goldsmith lied who said it was of gold! It was only so much gilded glass. He who wrought the thing was right in supposing that if you could take it for a god, it might also pass for gold!"

The astonished mariners felt deeply ashamed at these words. The material fraud was the strongest proof in their eyes of their spiritual aberration also. They kissed the hem of Bar Noemi's mantle, and collecting the splinters of the shattered idol, flung them into the sea.


No sooner had the idol collapsed, than like a whimpering child lulled to sleep, the tempest suddenly abated. The howling of the wind died away; the lightning flashed no longer; the black masses of cloud dispersed in all directions; the agitated waves, after rocking the ship to and fro for a time, grew smoother and smoother, till at last a perfect calm reigned upon the waters.

"A miracle! a miracle!" cried the astonished crew; but as in the still night watches they raised their eyes to the cloudless sky, a fresh astonishment fell upon them. This starry heaven was not the heaven they were accustomed to. Those were other constellations. The seven stars of the Great Bear were no longer to be seen; the bright and constant polar star was no longer in its place; the mariner's guide, that double eye of heaven and all the other constellations of the Northern[Pg 164] firmament, which the sailor regards in so poetic a light, whose going and coming he knows so well and whose position tells him in what part of the world he is—all these had vanished from the sky, and in their place were other stars, still more brilliant than they, which no man was able to call to mind. One of these stars shone with so intense a radiance that it cast shadows on the deck.

Amazed and anxious, the bewildered crew looked up into the unknown heaven which thus disturbed all their calculations, and turning to Bar Noemi, inquired timidly—

"Sir! where are we?"

Bar Noemi himself, not without secret horror, examined these stars of another world, and answered with a sigh—

"We are in God's hand!"

"We are beyond the limits of the world!" cried a despairing voice; "we are gliding into Nothingness!" Another maintained that they were approaching the land of the great Rok-rok, the home of serpents and amphibians, where beasts hunt men as men hunt beasts elsewhere. A third told of the Magnet-mountain of the Indians, which drew ships to destruction from afar, and all were terrified at finding themselves in a position so queer that not even a single legend had anticipated it.

For a while the crew whispered among themselves, then the boldest of them stepped defiantly up to Bar Noemi, and said—

"Listen to our words, Bar Noemi! All thy continuous praying to Jehovah has only brought trouble upon thyself and those who are with[Pg 165] thee. Thou makest us to be tossed of tempests and suffer grievous perils; thou hast shattered the God Thammus; thou dost nought but praise and glorify Jehovah, and now we are in the midst of a strange sea. How we got hither we know not nor how we shall escape from thence; and what is the cause of all this but thou and the Ark of thy Covenant and the name of Jehovah that thou prayest to? So long as Thammus was with us, the storm howled, but since thou didst break him to pieces a calm more terrible than a storm has come upon us. Till then we at least moved along, but now we are fast bound to one spot as if with double anchors. The crew, therefore, will now abandon thee and the Ark of the Covenant to the ocean. Depart from us whithersoever thou camest. We are not angry with thee, but we fear thee. We will make thee a raft of planks; we will give it a rudder and steering gear; we will share our sail with thee, and give thee bread and water for six days. Be content, therefore, and in Jehovah's name depart, and we too will go whithersoever the good or evil humour of our devils may lead us."

Bar Noemi answered nothing. This people was hurrying to its doom. For the third time it denied its faith. The sea will surely swallow them up as the earth did Dathan and Abiram. When the sins of Sodom exhausted the patience of the Lord, He withdrew the one righteous man from the abandoned city. Even now the angels of the Lord are many.

When Byssenia, who had hitherto shared all the sufferings of the crew without a murmur, saw how they were making ready a raft for Bar Noemi, she embraced[Pg 166] her sorrowing husband, and said, in an encouraging whisper—

"Be at ease, Bar Noemi. Here is not the limit of the world. The men of Carthage possess a secret which may not be named there, and yet is handed down from father to son and thus never forgotten. Tossed by storms, the courageous Hanno wandered once upon a time into these regions. His whole course is recorded on huge stone tables which are jealously preserved in the temple of the God of Death. For whoever betrays this secret is a dead man. I learnt it from my father, who is one of the guardians of this temple, and sits in the great council of merchants. In the quarter where that dazzling star goes to rest, there is a new continent much larger and more beautiful than ours. We shall find it if we follow the course of the star. Two mighty geniuses are with us and will help us: Jehovah is with thee and Love with me!"

Bar Noemi kissed and embraced her whom God had sent as His angel to save him in his extremity, and with that he himself helped his crew to make ready the frail bark on which, with God's covenant of peace and the love of his wife, he was to be committed to the ocean.

The raft was now ready. A single upright plank formed its mast, a piece of brocaded cloth, once the mantle of the bride, was fastened thereto by way of sail. A leather skin of water, a basket of coarse wheat cakes which the Carthaginians used for bread (and these much damaged by sea-water), were all the victuals which Bar Noemi received from his crew, and[Pg 167] of all his countless treasures, he took with him but three: the Ark of the Covenant of his God; his beloved, the faithful Byssenia; and his good and trusty sword.

As Bar Noemi went on board the raft, the crew shouted after him: "Jehovah be with thee!" He gazed back sadly upon the forsaken ship from which the one righteous man had thus been driven, and as he withdrew further and further from it, and as the wilderness of water between them became greater and greater, and he still stood and gazed sorrowfully back upon his ship, lo! she suddenly began to settle down sideways, then, slowly turning round and round for some minutes, finally sank before his eyes. The breeze carried the last screams of the dying sailors to Bar Noemi's ears.

Thus he found himself quite alone in the midst of the unknown waters.

But he did not remain alone long. The flapping of wings resounded on high, and from the midst of the serene blue sky, descended that same wondrous dove which had visited his ship on Africa's coasts, and now lighted fearlessly on the top of his little mast.

She, too, had fled from the storm. Her gold glittering plumage was all rumpled and soiled, and she smoothed and composed it with her scarlet bill; then fluttering on to Bar Noemi's arm, as if he were an old acquaintance, she flew down from thence upon Byssenia's snowy shoulder with a loud cooing, and when they offered her of the wheaten cakes, she pecked at it but did not eat, and then flew away again with the gentle coo of the wild dove.

"I'll follow thee, thou heavenly messenger!" cried[Pg 168] Bar Noemi, trustfully; and unfurling his little sail to the wind, he steered the raft in the direction taken by the dove.

The heavenly guide never disappeared from view. When the raft was becalmed, she flew down upon it and rested. At night she always roosted on the summit of the mast, and in the early morning departed again, flying constantly in one and the same direction.

Three days and three nights the dove and the mariner travelled together. On the morning of the fourth day, the dove flew joyously on to Byssenia's knee, ate heartily of the wheaten cakes, and thereupon flew so rapidly away that the eye could scarcely follow her: at last she quite disappeared from the horizon.

In the fourth night the ship sailed along alone, and the beloved, the loving wife, laid her head on her husband's bosom, as if she were resting on her bridal bed at home, so calmly did she sleep amidst the waste of waters.

But Bar Noemi could not sleep. There is a feeling in the sailor's breast, the vibration of some hidden chord, one of those myriad secret forebodings which the learned may perhaps deny, but can never explain, which expresses itself in a feverish unrest whenever he is approaching the green headland of his dreams, which he cannot yet see, and yet could point out with his finger and say, "There it is!" when all around him is nought but commingling sea and sky.—"There it is! There it must be!"

The morning twilight suffuses heaven and ocean with gold and purple, and, lo! where the gilded sky touches the water, a lofty rock stands out against the[Pg 169] horizon, its bepurpled summits shimmering through the azure morning mists.

"The Lord He is God alone!" exclaims Bar Noemi, and raised thankful hands to heaven, while Byssenia sank down before the Ark of the Covenant, and covered its silver-studded corners and angles with her kisses.

A new world? No! It is an old world already hastening to the end of its history, just as the history of the known world has begun to take notice of it. Ye who have fixed the duration of the Ages, how know ye how many previous millenniums with a whole world of men, beasts, and plants have already vanished hopelessly from your ken? Those skeletons which are found in the beds of rivers, at the bottom of deep clefts; those remains of unknown animals never seen by European eyes; those relics of a primeval vegetation which amaze us in the coal layers, and the chalk strata,—speak of an older, perhaps of a better, in any case of a mightier, world than ours. And do not those gigantic ruined palaces, with their wondrous architecture which adventurous travellers have discovered in the land of the Incas, do not they point to a vanished people, the masters of power and glory who, once upon a time, filled half a world with their struggles and their joys; ruled the land and waxed great, seeming to the inhabitants of that trans-oceanic continent a race of very demigods, till their sins made them ripe for death, and the luxuriant vegetation of a savage Nature disputed the possession of the soil with the children of men? The calculations of the wise Plato about the "Fortunate Islands" may indeed have only been a poetic dream, perhaps the mere striving of an inspired[Pg 170] philosophical soul to realize its own ideals; but so much is certain: the relics which have survived the ravages of centuries, relics which no sea can wear down, which no forest can overgrow, no tempest can wash away, testify to the fact that in the far distant ages before us, beings have existed who aimed at perfection, and only perished when their pride reached its summit, and they fancied in their insane presumption that there was no longer any God above them.


As far as the eye can reach, the shore is covered with a forest, such as only the most extravagant fancy can picture to itself. Broad shadowy trees, which take root again in the soil with their branches, seem to be building huge temples, with living rows of columns, whose roof is the thick dark foliage, whose ornaments are the flowers of the ivy-like creepers which climb up the branches, and look down from their heights with a thousand wide-open blue and scarlet shining eyes. The hedges consist of tiny silvery bushes, with rosy red pointed branches, and the lofty grasses with their woolly spear-heads shoot up so high, that a tall man walking amongst them would not overtop them. Here and there above the arcades of the dark bananas, tower groups of cocoanut palms, those gigantic flowers, with their huge calices of fruit, most noble of the Creator's works, for they only raise their heads the higher for their[Pg 171] heavy burdens, and bear with modesty the crown which He has given them.

On the top of one of these palms squats a human shape, engaged in pitching down from thence the nuts, each as big as a child's head; but below, at the foot of the trees, amongst the luxuriant grasses, lies a gigantic megatherium, which in its recumbent position is scarcely distinguishable from a shapeless mass of rock. Its length is fully four and twenty feet; in shape it resembles a sloth, and its unshapely back rises like a small hillock out of the lofty grasses whilst it thrusts its huge head with the tiny eyes and the little round ears into the thicket. The whole of the huge body is cased in a brown warty skin, traversed by deep furrows, and covered round the loins by hundreds of small sea-mussels, the fruits of its evening wallowings in the sea-slime; only the beast's nostrils, ears, and the point of its short tail are sprinkled with sharp, tough bristles.

The sea-farer from Tyre had no sooner brought his beloved and the Ark of the Covenant ashore, than he fell with his face to the ground, thanked the Lord for his wondrous deliverance, and reverentially sang a song of praise.

At the sound of this song, the monster, prone in the grass, raised its unwieldy head, and opening its frightful jaws, uttered a protracted, screeching roar, which was more like a wail of distress than a note of defiance.

In his first alarm Bar Noemi grasped his sword, and his heart beat quickly as he saw this huge head, with its neck twelve feet long, stretched out towards him; but immediately afterwards he let his sword[Pg 172] glide back into its sheath, and stroking Byssenia's light locks as she clung trembling to him, calmly soothed and encouraged her. "Fear not! The teeth of this monster are blunt and black. He is a plant eater, and does not attack men. Such like monsters live also in Migraim, in the great ocean, where they are called 'Behemoth,' though they are not so monstrously big."

The man in the tree had, in the mean time, perceived the strangers, and after throwing a few more cocoanuts into the jaws of the monster below, he clambered down from the tree.

The megatherium grew calmer; its jaws sank to the ground again, and it crunched the hard nuts with its teeth as if they had been grains of corn.

The man threw a few more nuts into its jaws, which attention the monster accepted with the same stupid helplessness with which fledglings, a day or two old, allow their dam to feed them, uttering at the same time a grunt of lazy satisfaction.

And now the man approached Bar Noemi.

He was a wretched-looking object. His head and cheeks were quite hairless; his wrinkled face was of a sickly grey tinge; his limbs seemed to be wasting away; his back was crooked; his knee was bent outwards, his chest inwards. Although it was a hot summer day, he seemed to be freezing, despite the thick fur mantle in which he was closely wrapped.

Bar Noemi's astonishment increased when he was addressed by this strange shape, in that out-of-the-way corner of the world, in a corrupt but perfectly intelligible Carthaginian dialect.

[Pg 173]"Thou hast come from Carthage, eh?"

"Yes, we come from Carthage," repeated Bar Noemi, "and have suffered shipwreck. But who art thou, and how is it that thou dost address us in our own language?"

The man shivered in the warmth of the equinoctial summer, and wrapping himself closer in his woollen mantle, which was interwoven with gold and silver flowers, he came still closer. It was evidently a labour for him to speak to them from a distance, for his voice was not strong enough to do so without very great exertion.

"If you come from Carthage, you must have heard of Hanno's tables, for though it is forbidden to as much as mention them there under pain of death, they must be known to every Carthaginian, for thousands have already come from Africa's coasts to the Fortunate Islands as Hanno called this continent."

"Then we are on the Fortunate Islands?" cried Bar Noemi, who had often heard the legend from the lips of his sailors.

"This is no island, but a continent ten times as large as the continent beyond the seas. Those who dwell on one side of it do not even know the names of those who dwell on the other. The boldest travellers do not yet know the boundaries of this continent, and whatsoever direction they take they always come upon new lands, new mountains, and new peoples, a hundred-fold more numerous than those of Rome and Greece put together, as described by them who come from thence. The Fortunate Islands have no limit, they are infinity itself."

[Pg 174]"And does the land really deserve to be called fortunate?"

"Throw thyself to the ground and kiss it. This land is the Paradise where everything for which men toil and labour elsewhere, grows of its own accord. One tree bears wool whiter than the wool of sheep; in the flowers of another tree you will find sweet honey; a third gives milk and butter which is fatter than the milk of cows; and yon branches which nod their heads towards thee supply in abundance wine and bread and luscious fruits. And then, too, each one of our natural juices has its own peculiar intoxicating joy. The sleep-compelling juice of the Areka transports thee into very Paradise; drink thyself drunken with the sweet juice of the Batata, and the love of a thousand women at once will burn in thy breast; drink deeply of the burnt beans of the coffee plant, and thou wilt feel two souls within thee instead of one; whilst all the other joys of life are as nothing compared with the ecstatic vibrations which thrill through every nerve when thou dost taste of the fermented juice of the sugar-cane. Ah! stranger, here are a thousand different kinds of bliss which other lands wot not of. Shame it is that one cannot live longer. Shame that life vanishes like a dream. I myself am not far from my dotage, for thirty summers have already passed over my head!"

Bar Noemi felt very dejected. Thirty years in this place actually mean old age! And certainly this man resembled a dotard of seventy; he was a bent and broken-down old man with nothing of the dignity of age about him. His own words seemed to have deeply afflicted him, and despite the great heat, he was[Pg 175] shivering. By his side hung a round ivory vessel the gold stopper of which he unscrewed, and taking a good pull at it, handed the bottle to Bar Noemi.

But the young man would none of it. "I drink of the running stream," said he.

The native of the Fortunate Islands laughed. The liquor he had just taken instantly flew to his cheeks and forehead, bringing out large red patches which grew redder every moment. His eyes sparkled with that offensive glare which betokens madness. With an embarrassed leer he turned towards Byssenia, and regardless of her husband's presence, thus addressed her: "Pretty lady! do not stay with that moody water-drinker! Come with me, and I'll steep thee in delights. I am a beauteous, ardent youth; my lips are honey, my heart a flaming fire. Forsake this beggar, and come to me, for I am a rich man. I'll give thee a gold ring for every one of thy golden hairs, and for thy glistening eyes thou shalt have two gleaming carbuncle stones. I'll bring thee into my palace whose top is lost in the clouds, whose lofty golden cupola compels the very sun to change his course. Have no fear of this husband of thine. I am a strong, invincible hero! With a single wave of my hand I can dash him to the ground"—and for all these brave words, the wretched creature could scarce keep his feet, and his hands trembled like aspens.

Bar Noemi stepped back with a shudder, at the same time throwing his arms round his beloved, who, full of disgust, concealed her face from the repulsive figure before her.

Again the megatherium raised his head and uttered a roar. He was hungry.

[Pg 176]This roar brought the islander back to his senses. He quickly shut up his drinking-flask and tottered back to the monster, which opened wide its jaws while he was still a long way off, showed its large black fangs, and patiently awaited the great cocoanuts which the man, collecting from the earth, hurled into its jaws.

Byssenia would have fled from the uncanny sight, but Bar Noemi encouraged her to await the end of the scene. "The fellow is disgusting when drunk," said he, "but there is no cause for alarm; perhaps he will listen to reason when he is sober."

The exertion of feeding the monster gradually drove the fumes of the liquor out of the man's head. After a while, the megatherium stretched itself in the grass and went to sleep, whereupon the man, now sober, came back, showing the same pale and trembling countenance as before—in fact, his labour had so exhausted him that he was almost in a state of collapse, and in a faint voice he begged Bar Noemi to lend him his arm and help him on his way to the city where he would entertain them as his guests. Only with great repugnance did Bar Noemi take the arm of the young old man, but, at the same time, he could not forbear from asking the question: "What hideous beast is that which thou art at so much pains to feed?"

The old young man looked at him with consternation.

"Oh, stranger, guard thy lips, and speak not so, for that which thou callest a beast is a god!"

"What!" cried Bar Noemi, wrathfully, "that bellowing monster, with divided hoofs, blotched and cracked hide and loathsome body, a god!"

[Pg 177]"Yea, in very truth," answered the man, in a tone of awe and reverence. "Every city here has a living god whom all the people serve in turn—I to-day, another to-morrow. Each one of them has as many priests as there are days in the year. When our fathers came hither, centuries ago, these superhuman beings ruled the whole land and their favour could only be won by sacrifice, submission, and prayer. Since then, all the first-fruits of the land have belonged to them, the best of the bread, of the fruit, nay, even the first-born of man and beast are offered to them, for they are the Lords over this land who never die."

Bar Noemi sighed.

"Would that I were in a rudderless ship on a stormy sea rather than on this accursed rock."

Thereupon he reverentially raised the Ark of the Covenant on to his head, seized Byssenia's arm with his right hand and the hilt of his sword with his left, and when the old young man asked him what was inside the case which he carried on his shoulders with so much care, he answered—

"It contains a treasure, the like of which is not to be found in the whole empire of the Fortunate Islands. This is the only treasure in the whole land."

And as he went, his thoughts ran on. "And she whom my right hand holds is the only true woman, and the sword in my left hand is the only true weapon in the whole of the Fortunate Islands, for my heart tells me that there is not a single man beneath this sun."

And the old young man led them towards the city.

[Pg 178]


Behold the huge city which stretches out before you.

Neither ancient Rome nor modern London, nor yet the capital of the Celestial Empire, not even Babylon, far famed of old, not one of the congeries of houses of the known world, is to be compared with this city.

View it even from the top of this high hill, and you cannot take in half of it. Formerly it was bounded by two great rivers, but now these also are covered with houses, and have their course assigned to them out of sight, beneath the town.

A fantastic, extravagant architecture, all glitter and luxuriance, the creation of a wild fancy, forms a striking contrast to the simplicity of the classic and the sublimity of the Gothic style.

The gates of the city consist of strange pyramidal structures formed of gigantic layers of cubes, one above the other, the spaces between each cube being wide enough to admit the passage of two heavily laden waggons abreast. The lowermost layer consists of eleven cubes, the next layer of ten, and so on, regularly diminishing by one up to the eleventh, topmost, solitary cube towering high into the air, and surmounted by the image of the unshapely Megatherium, the tutelary deity of the city. Each of these dazzling cubic stones shows a bas relief representing a human figure with a crown on its head, and a sceptre in its hand, whilst wondrous[Pg 179] hieroglyphics below record the six-and-sixty names of the ancient rulers of the city.

The first thing which strikes the stranger as he enters the city is the intoxicating, voluptuous perfume which seems to form part of the atmosphere, the exhalation whereof, like a golden mist, extends all over the place, enveloping the towers and roofs of the loftiest palaces in a romantic chiarooscuro. 'Tis the odour of ambergris and musk, and other perfumes, now unknown, which the owners of these palaces have mingled with the mortar of their walls so that the whole town may be bathed in an eternal sea of fragrance. Every street spreads abroad its own peculiar, pleasant odour.

Viewed from afar, all these palaces seem like so many houses of cards. One row of columns rises above another, and each row is encircled by wondrous gossamer trellis-work, so that they look for all the world like aerial, unsubstantial balconies. The lowest row of columns consists of glittering, polished metal (mostly copper), the next rows of jasper or alabaster, and the uppermost of transparent, prismatically fashioned glass, the facets of which catch the morning and evening rays of the tropical sun, and scatter fantastic rainbows on every side of them.

None of the houses have external windows, as with us, so that it is impossible to peep inside them. The whole façade is covered with wonderful statuary—on whose extraordinary groups the eye would willingly linger, if fresh wonders did not every moment divert its attention at every step.

The streets are spanned by arched bridges, which[Pg 180] unite the roofs of the opposite houses, so that the city can not only be traversed lengthways by the streets, but crossways also by the roofs and bridges above—the latter, in fact, being the night, as the former is the day route. No sooner has the sinking of the star of day wrapped the streets in darkness than the bridges become animated and populous. Laughing and singing, the noisy groups crowd the bronze bridges and the gardened house-tops. Every house is now open to all, and reveals its sweet mysteries; every roof is bright with the glare of torches, and the half-naked bands, flitting to and fro, revel tumultuously on high.

If any one were to stand in the street below at such times he would hear nothing but an indescribable, terrifying hubbub, occasioned by the mysterious orgies above his head.

In many places huge cupolas spring up amongst and above the palaces, like gigantic eggs rising out of the ground. Wondrous, indeed, the imagination which could devise such structures. The whole building seems to be of a piece, yet it consists of millions of stones deftly joined together with a single large lateral opening.

In the midst of the city rises a temple of colossal proportions, the eight sides of which are covered with silver plates polished to a blinding brightness. In this gigantic mirror one sees reflected the wondrous image of the far-extending city, and the repercussion of the sunbeams therefrom fills the remotest corners of the city with a dazzling refulgence. On the summit of the temple is a huge idol of massive silver. The head is round, like a man's, and its hands and feet have each five digits; but the long, squirrel-like tail behind seems[Pg 181] to deny its human origin. Diamonds as large as eggs supply the place of eyes. This is the giant Triton, the supremest idol of that ancient continent, exalted above all the other monsters whom men adore—a millennial monster whose living original sits within the walls of that temple, and utters a roar when it is hungry, and then the whole city—the whole land—trembles before its wrath. It asks but one meal a year, but then it must have a man and a woman to bury in its maw. After that it is dumb again for another year, and sits in the midst of its temple on a golden throne with its five-fingered hand resting on its knees, and its immovable eyes blankly staring before it, just like its silver effigy on the roof up yonder.


In the broad streets a mass of men and women are surging to and fro. What festival is being held to-day in Triton's city?

The windows of the palaces are adorned with living flowers, wonderful zoophytes, which belong partly to the rapacious, locomotive world, and partly to the world that is rooted to the soil; huge green snakes, winding up the slender columns and terminating in marvellously beautiful tulip-like calices; but in the midst of each calix lurks a poisonous sting, and the leaves, as they shrink together, greedily devour the bird of paradise that has ventured into the calix while the tail of the[Pg 182] floral beast is rooted in the living earth. The balconies are adorned with deep-sea vegetation, which the perverse ingenuity of man has acclimatized to the tropical air. Between the bright ridges of the coral the interlacing suckers of the tumid polypus grope their way, presenting an eternally shifting maze of shapes and colours, whilst through the thick, branching arms of the transparent mollusc the pulsation of its vital juices is distinctly visible. The flowers of the field no longer charm the senses of men; the blunted, unreceptive soul can only be excited by the wondrous, the extraordinary, in Nature.

The main street, from the gate to the Temple of Triton, is covered by a carpet—a carpet woven entirely out of the locks of young damsels. Ebony-coloured hair forms the groundwork of the pattern, and the figures of wreaths, palaces, sacrifices, and all manner of groups are worked into it with tresses of every shade of colour from the blondest blonde to the deepest chestnut. No reigning prince of this world has ever possessed a more costly carpet. Every year the girls cut off their locks; every year the carpet grows longer and longer, and, although the city itself increases every year, the carpet keeps pace with it, and reaches from gate to gate.

Over this gossamer net-work, more precious than gold, the festal host sweeps like a flowing stream.

More than 20,000 children—boys and girls—lead the way to the gorgeous temple, singing merry songs, and as they sing they dance with quivering limbs—a dance which flushes their cheeks with a feverish glow, and fires their eyes with an ardour which has nothing childish in it. On the morn of the feast of Triton an[Pg 183] intoxicating potion was given to these children, which has robbed them of all modesty, and, writhing hideously, they dance and sing in honour of the god.

After them come 20,000 women, their bodies covered with dazzling stuffs and gorgeous plumage; women with painted cheeks, gilded eyelids and eyebrows, and with dishevelled tresses rolling down their shoulders in hundreds of ringlets entwined with gold wire. There is not a spot on their bodies which reveals God's creating hand. Human madness has covered, painted, and gilded everything. Only their sparkling eyes show that they are human; only their languishing glances tell that they are women.

The women are followed by three hundred and sixty-five old men, the priests of the god, with lofty, gold-embroidered, peaked caps, and long trailing mantles, each holding in his hand a staff covered with silver bells. These grave old men with the high caps and the long robes dance with insane gestures round a golden car resting on six wheels. Each wheel bears the image of the sun, and six pillars, surmounted by a golden drapery, form a sort of baldachin over the car.

In the midst of this lofty State chariot lies a human form, a pale ghost, a living corpse, whose eyes are as dull and turbid as slimy sea-water; the skin of whose face is earth-coloured and cleaves to the bones, whilst his whole bearing speaks of utter weariness, semi-idiocy, and disgust of life. His limbs are quite motionless; but, if you look closely, you will see that now and then his lips slightly quiver.

This shape is the Tetzkatlepoka.

[Pg 184]The chronicles of the Incas, whom the wise Spaniards, in league with the redskins, destroyed root and branch, had also something to say about the festivities of Tetzkatlepoka. Tetzkatlepoka was the name they gave to a subordinate, annually elected deity, who presided over their ghastly mysteries. The proudest and comeliest man that could be found was annually selected and brought into Triton's city. In the midst of the great market-place, the loveliest maidens of the city surrounded him with unpainted cheeks, freely flowing tresses, and elfin garments spun out of glass-thread, and thus they spoke to the elect of the people—

"This year thou art the god Tetzkatlepoka, the lord of all beauty, the demi-god of bliss, the prince of women. Every flower blooms for thee, every lip kisses thee. Wilt thou be the god Tetzkatlepoka? Wilt thou consume away, expire, and vanish in the midst of joy?"

And if the eyes of the elect god kindled at the sight of these sense-bewitching beauties; if the blood flew seething up into his temples; if he answered "Yes!" then he was anointed with balsamic spices, swathed in robes of pearly silk, and carried to the Temple of Tetzkatlepoka, and there he lived night and day in the sweet delirium of bliss and intoxication. The maidens of the city with their long flowing hair visit him one after the other, and when they quit him their locks are cut off, and from these locks the carpet, which reaches from one end of the town to the other, is made. This intoxication, this delirium of joy, lasts a whole year. And on the last day of the year he, together with the[Pg 185] last maiden, whom he himself selects, is offered to the giant Triton. The living idol consumes them both, and then a new Tetzkatlepoka is chosen.

Once in ten times, perhaps, the selected man resists the enchanting spectacle, the most irresistible of all enchantments (or is there anything more bewitching than a woman's charms?), and answers the invitation with a "No!"

Then they tear the golden garments from his body, and say to him: "Naked thou camest into this blissful world, naked shalt thou depart into a world of woe. Behold yonder those snow-covered mountains. There dwell those twin voiceless beings: Wilderness and Nothingness. Go thither, thither where neither man nor beast can thrive for horror and distress. Live there in cold, wretchedness, and solitude, and if any love thee let them follow thee." And with that, amidst the scorn and derision of the daughters of Triton's city, they cast the perverse wretch out of that gate which leads to the snowy mountains, and curse him that he may never return again. Generally, however, some one human being is found to accompany the exile; some one girl, more gentle and modest than the rest, who would fain hide with her luxuriant tresses the charms which her gossamer garments so ill-conceal, who, laying her hands on the shoulders of the vagabond, follows him out of the city of bliss into the cold and mysterious world beyond. But love alone, love pure and true, is capable of such acts of renunciation, and such examples of true love happen here only once in ten years. The derided, mud-bespattered lovers immediately vanish into the misty, cloud-wrapped regions of the icy[Pg 186] mountains, and no human eye ever gloats over their misery, for no human eye ever sees them more.

Thus the festival of Triton is celebrated every year, when the roar of the hungering monster is heard miles away, and the idiot victim of his own lusts is placed on the golden triumphal car, and led to his doom amidst music and dancing.

Such is the history of the man who sits there on the golden car.

The procession moves on. After the priests come the maidens of the city, with chapleted brows and fluttering garments, and in their midst, on a silver car, the girl devoted to the idol.

After this half-elfin, half-infernal pageant, come the men of the city.

And what men! Bent and crippled shapes with tottering knees, crooked necks, nerveless arms, quenched eyes, and soulless faces, tottering along like drunkards; a host of miserable, withered skeletons. If a manlier, statelier shape appear here and there among the decrepit mob, it is quite the exception; and the features of all, without exception, handsome or hideous, bear the brand of a curse upon them, a spasmodic twitching of the lips, that unmistakable, unconcealable trait which marks the beast, the demon, and the maniac.

The most incontrovertible token of the degeneracy of a race is when its women are very fair and its men very hideous. There ruin already lurks in the background.

And the rear is brought up by an infernal, sense-bewildering throng of monsters, for which human language has no names. Beasts with human heads, and human shapes with repulsive bestial heads; a[Pg 187] fearful blasphemy of the sacred order of divine nature; terrifying, mongrel monsters, half man, half beast; accursed witnesses of the insane degeneracy of human nature; creatures of whom all antiquity records but one example—the Minotaur.

In the Fortunate Islands these abortions form a whole tribe, and those who behold them are no longer shocked or terrified at the sight.


A single large round window in the cupola above admits the light into Triton's temple.

Amidst the statues of grim, phantasmal figures which serve as the pillars of the roof sits the wonder of the primæval world, the creature most resembling man, who existed before man was yet created, the homo diluvii.

Even as he sits he measures four-and-twenty feet in height. His feet are disproportionately small, while his enormously long elbows rest upon his knees. His whole body is covered with a bluish-green scaly skin, like that of a sea-serpent wrinkled with age. The face resembles a man's. Its skin is of a lighter colour than the rest of the body, and is drawn quite tight and smooth round the flat, scarcely projecting nose. His forehead is round and flat. Two eyeballs, seemingly perched upon fleshy stalks, stare out of the vast eye-sockets. They are of a painfully vivid scarlet, but cold[Pg 188] as stone and surrounded by glittering gold rims such as we meet with round the eyes of fishes. The mouth is lipless, and only visible when it is open, but then it stretches on both sides as far as the little round ears, which are covered with a thin film. A splendid gold crown, with an upright pointed horn at each corner, adorns his head. Round his loins winds a gold-embroidered cloth, fastened by a girdle set with diamonds, and beneath the cloth extends a long, comb-like backbone, terminating in a squirrel's tail.

Thus, year after year, the monster sits motionless on his golden chair. The only sign of life he gives is a sluggish twitching of his eyelids, and the hunger fit which comes upon him once a year, when he opens his mouth and roars till he is satisfied; immediately afterwards becoming dumb again, and remaining so for another year, with his hands resting on his knees, and his immovable, goggle eyes blankly staring at the stony marvels of his own temple, impervious to every outward influence.

The speech of men, the lowing of beasts, the loud-sounding music are just as inaudible to him as the amatory whispers of snails, or the philosophic discourses of the tiny ants are, perhaps, to us. He only understands the voices of the primæval beasts which stand on the same level of creation as himself.

The torpid monster owes all his power to his voice and his terrific shape. He would be incapable of killing even a child that dared to tell him it had no fear of him, and, nevertheless, the whole city trembles before him; feeds his vassals, the plant-eating mammoths, megatheriums, and iguanodons, with the first-[Pg 189]fruits of its fields and the monster himself with the blood of its best men and its loveliest damsels; lays at his feet the gold of its mines, the pearls of its seas and the spices of its heaths, and invokes as lord and god what is nothing but a belated, primæval monster, which has survived the centuries allotted to it by Nature and abdicated its impotent, vegetating existence in favour of another and a later world, whose generations are renewed every half century, the world of short-lived, swiftly changing, greedily enjoying man.

The ghastly feast is at an end. Tetzkatlepoka and his elect are led into Triton's temple. The heavy copper doors close behind the three hundred and sixty-five priests.

What happened within the temple no one ever knew. The roar of the monster lasted for a few minutes, and then all was still again; the doors were re-opened, and the high priest, stepping forth, informed the assembled multitude that, at the potent command of Triton, a gold-edged cloud had descended from heaven, taken up the god Tetzkatlepoka and his chosen bride, and transported them to an eternity as full of deliciousness as the last year of their earthly life had been. Let him who doubted count those who quitted the temple, and he would find there were only three hundred and sixty-five persons, or two less than the number which had entered in.

In the temple itself there was no one but the tranquil stony-eyed monster which had now closed its huge mouth and goblin eyes, like one who has eaten his fill and would fain repose.

[Pg 190]


And now for the election of a new god.

A vast amphitheatre-like space accommodates all the inhabitants of the city. There are four tiers of seats, supported by silvered copper columns, the capital of each column ending in a bird's head, from which an intoxicating liquid flows through a silver pipe into a circumambient basin below. The myriad of glistening jets, which descend in spray from a height of one hundred and twenty feet, give the whole interior space an enchanting appearance. The people, as they make their way into the galleries, hold up their heads and imbibe this intoxicating rain with abandoned good humour, while the hideous half-human, half-bestial monsters wallow in the basin below and take in the heady draught that way. Whoever cannot drink any more holds his head under the downward trickling juice till it soaks him through and through. Not unfrequently, the injurious liquid sets some of these creatures on fire by spontaneous combustion, and, roaring and bellowing, they plunge madly through the mob vomiting forth flames of fire.

A daïs in the centre is occupied by children, who have been brought hither to be taught to follow a good example and to participate in a festival which cannot even be described without a shudder.

On the top of a still higher platform, reached by[Pg 191] twelve golden steps, stand the three hundred and sixty-five priests, whilst on the lowest steps sit the musicians with long silver trumpets and glass flutes, whose sweetly tender notes go to one's very heart and intoxicate the soul. At each of the four corners of the platform burns a fragrant censer—huge basins of chased gold—which envelop the whole concourse in a stupefying cloud of fragrant vapour.

At a signal from the high priest the trellis doors of the amphitheatre fly open, and just as formerly at ancient Rome the condemned gladiators were led forth to die in the circus, so now two men are introduced, one of whom the people must choose as a god, in order that they may sacrifice to him for a whole year the most precious of their treasures, the honour of their daughters.

Two pre-eminently worthy candidates had been found. One had been discovered by the priest of the megatherium, the other by the priest of the ichthyosaurus, and the people have now to choose betwixt the twain.

Both men were carried up to the top of the platform wrapped round with thick veils. The inferior priests then withdrew; only the two high priests remained behind with their protégés.

The uproar of the people sinks into a low murmur. With rapt attention every one regards the two veiled figures who stand in the midst of the blue clouds of the four censers.

And now the priest of the ichthyosaurus advances and draws away the veil from the figure of the first man.

[Pg 192]"Behold and admire!"

A terrible shape, seven feet high at the very least, the face rather that of a wild beast than of a man; the strong, stubbly beard, the connected eyebrows, the flat nose, the broad projecting lips and the huge shapeless muscles, which run along the broad shoulders and the thick arms, indicate enormous brute strength. The whole shape is terrifying. Nevertheless, gorgeous garments make this sinister apparition a splendid one. His mantle is lined with orient pearls and embroidered with gold; the thick bristly hair is held together by a golden helmet, the crest of which sparkles with diamonds and topazes. His left hand holds a broad shield, hanging down from the rims whereof are the scalps of the enemies whom he has vanquished in battle, while his right hand rests upon a sword five feet long, the broad blade of which is covered with symbols of magic potency. This weapon weighs half a hundredweight.

No sooner was the man unveiled than a shout of joy burst from the people, a shout which died away in the bestial bellowing of the human caricatures below.

Then the priest of the megatherium approaches the second shape, and slowly removing the veil from it exclaims to the people: "Behold and adore!"

The shape of the second man is bright with neither gold nor precious stones. The stranger wears a simple white robe, which displays his stately figure as it really is, without attempting to improve it by exotic finery. The only decoration of his bare head are his luxuriant, down-flowing locks, and the sole armament of his loins[Pg 193] consists of a short sword, which requires the foe who has anything to say for himself to come to very close quarters.

And now the priest spoke to the people.

"Lo! here is a strange man from a distant land beyond the sea, who has been drawn to our shores by Triton's mighty arm. In his eyes burns a fiercer fire, in his veins flows a warmer blood than ours. Before the expression of his visage the face of every man born on our shores quails and blanches. I say no more. You have eyes to see. Make your choice."

Then the other priest cried: "Who will have this hero?"

At this invitation only a poor couple or so of wreaths fluttered down from the crowd, wreaths which certain women of vicious taste had taken from their heads and cast at the feet of the half-savage Hercules below.

But when the priest of the megatherium cried: "Who will have this stranger for a god?" there was a veritable tempest of falling wreaths. The women tore the flowers from their hair and bosoms and threw them with shouts of joy towards the stranger, so that the floor of the amphitheatre resembled a garden in a rain of flowers. "Him only!" they cried, "him only, and none other!"

The diamond-garnished, gold-embroidered hero of many fights rose in disdainful wrath with his priest, and throwing his glittering sword over his shoulder, descended the steps of the platform and sat down moodily on its lowest step.

The stranger remained alone upon the platform[Pg 194] with his priest, who twined a fragrant wreath of roses among his locks and cried joyfully—

"Hail thou god Tetzkatlepoka! hail in the name of the fair dispensers of bliss, thou elect of the people! Take thine own, thou king of all beauty, thou prince of women! Take the flowers which bloom for thee, the lips which smile at thee! Hail, thou god Tetzkatlepoka!"

The people responded with a loud shout; but, in a dark corner of the amphitheatre, sat a trembling woman, with a sorrowful countenance, holding in her hands the Ark of the Covenant of the one true God, and groaning and sighing, she cried in the bitterness of her heart—

"Oh, Bar Noemi! Bar Noemi!"

Bar Noemi did not hear the feeble sound. The music of the glass flutes, the soft harmony of the silver trumpets, mingled in his bosom with the choruses of the children into an enchanting, intoxicating harmony, which Byssenia's voice failed to penetrate. Seductive, sylph-like forms danced before him in fluttering garments. Their dishevelled tresses waved wildly in the air. Their flashing eyes shone brighter than the sun. Who would not have lost his reason at the sight of so much beauty, so much bliss?

And again the plaintive, sobbing sound was heard—

"Oh, Bar Noemi! Bar Noemi!"

And the young man seemed to feel a light shudder run through all his limbs. What was that?

Hast thou eyes? Hast thou a heart? Where are thy senses that thou shouldst hesitate a moment? If a hundred years were thine allotted span wouldst thou not give them all away for such glances, and forfeit thy[Pg 195] very soul's salvation in the next world for the possession of such an earthly paradise? Thousands and thousands of fairy forms dance round him in a bewitching, ensnaring circle, ever nearer, ever more lovely and more numerous; their breath fans his cheeks; their eyes burn into his very soul, their melodies take possession of his heart. It needs but one word from his lips, and he will sink into this sea of sweetness, die the most delicious of deaths, a death which is nought but a long, long kiss.

The music, the singing, grows more and more enchanting; the odours of the censers fill the air with a sweet intoxication; the snow-white arms already touch the shoulders of the deified man, when again, for the third time, and still more mournfully, still more appealingly resound the words—

"Oh, Bar Noemi! Bar Noemi!"

Suddenly he starts like one just awakened from sleep, a wondrously deep sleep which has benumbed all his limbs. He makes a snatch at his head, tears off the chaplet of roses, and, rending it in twain, throws it to the ground, exclaiming, with a threatening voice—

"I am no god! Jehovah is God alone!"

Instantly the music, the singing is dumb as when the strings of a lyre are cut asunder by the stroke of a sword. The enchantment is broken; the features of the seductive sylphs are distorted into the faces of Furies; the sweet harmony vanishes in a deafening uproar; curses, gibes, mocking laughter and the howling and bellowing of the men-beasts fill the vast arena.

But though the earth tremble beneath the hideous[Pg 196] hubbub, Bar Noemi's heart trembles not. He has found the name which gave him strength in the midst of the raging elements, and drawing his sword, he stands in the midst of the furious mob, like a god, or rather like a true man amongst men who have lost every spark of manhood.

And as they rush upon him, he speaks fearlessly to the people, speaks in a voice which rises above their screams and curses—

"Ye inhabitants of the City of Triton! Ye coward worshippers of idols! Ye living, painted coffins abandoned by your own souls even while still in the flesh, listen to my words! My name is Bar Noemi. My strength is the one true God, whose countenance no human eye has ever gazed upon. I'll show my courage by my good sword, which no one has ever yet despised. And I tell you, ye who make a mock of God and His noble image, man, that I despise you all, and that there is not a youth nor an old man within your walls before whom I tremble!"

Shame and wrath made white the features of all who heard him. Everywhere else, red is the colour of shame and wrath, but here, in Triton's City, it was white. For Bar Noemi had spoken the truth, in the whole of that great city, in the city of delight, not a man was to be found who dared to raise his hand against the stranger! And there he stood on the daïs, with a terrible countenance, and his naked sword in his hand, like an avenging angel who had come not to fight with men, but to chastise them.

The warrior with the long broadsword, the herculean frame, and the helmet set with diamonds, was[Pg 197] sitting all this while on the lowermost step of the daïs, and did not once turn his head towards his rival.

The priests and elders, filled with despair, rushed towards him and urged him to arise and wipe away the insult thus offered to a whole people. But the man moved not. The paralyzing, voluptuous draught he had just partaken of still held captive both soul and body. The wise pleasure-mongers of Triton's city had introduced this overpowering potion into their mysteries to their own confusion, for it unnerves a man, enfeebles his heart, divests him of his manhood, and pours into his heart a sickly craving after pleasure so that Hercules himself becomes the willing slave of the bright petticoat and the whirring spindle.

At last they brought him another drink which they were wont to give to those who went forth to battle. It was a strong, stimulating cordial, prepared from the froth of wild beasts and the fruits of poisonous trees, filling the heart with an inextinguishable thirst for blood. The fiery drops of this battle potion stung the warrior's nerves. He arose and stared around him with frenzied, bloodshot, rolling eyes. His protruding lips were covered with a yellow foam and his dusky cheeks seemed to be wrapped in burning flames.

"Who calls?" he cried, in a voice of thunder, like the roar of a ravening beast; and, expanding his bulky chest, he swung his ponderous sword, like a reed, above his head whilst his eyes flashed green fire and his trampling feet crushed the heavy stones into the hard earth.

"Kill him! the accursed, hideous stranger, the despiser of the people!" resounded from the galleries,[Pg 198] and every hand pointed at Bar Noemi as he stood on the topmost step of the platform which only a few moments before they had covered with wreaths.

With a frenzied howl, the giant swung his sword aloft and shaking his shapeless head, rushed, like a bloodthirsty lion up the steps of the daïs.

"Help, Triton!" roared the mob. Only one soft, almost expiring voice behind one of the columns of the amphitheatre sighed: "Help, Jehovah!"

Bar Noemi fell back not a single step. Motionless as a molten statue, he awaited his antagonist on the top of the platform and avoiding his furious blow, raised his own arm to strike.

The two weapons clashed together in the air. The huge broadsword of the giant split in two at the hilt, and after describing a wide circle fell into the arena, while the sword in Bar Noemi's right hand did not even take a scratch.

The whole multitude was instantly dumb with astonishment. In that land iron was unknown, every weapon was made of copper only, and the thin, bluish-shimmering unknown metal had split in two the shining red sword at the very first blow.

"Woe to Triton, woe!"

The terrified giant tried to protect himself with the broad silver shield, from which the scalps of so many conquered enemies hung down. The descending sword hissed, the uplifted shield groaned, and at the second stroke the people saw the silver buckler split into two pieces for all its potent magic symbols.

"Woe to Triton, woe!"

The stroke brought the giant to his knees. He[Pg 199] could now only shield himself with his huge strong arm; but Bar Noemi, with his left hand, grasped his wrist so that the joints cracked, and dealt him, with his right, a last tremendous blow.

The diamonds and topazes scattered sparks beneath the swift glancing steel which fell upon them like a thunderbolt, and as if struck by lightning the corpse of the savage giant rolled down the steps of the golden daïs, his glazed eyes stupidly staring at the horror-stricken multitude. The terrified mob fell with their faces to the ground while the priests rent their clothes and flung themselves at Bar Noemi's feet.

With meekly bowed head, the priest of the megatherium crawled towards him, and asked with a trembling voice—

"Thou God from a strange land who dost carry thunderbolts in thy hand, what dost thou require of us?"

"My wife, whom you have taken from me, my Ark of the Covenant wherein are the laws of Jehovah, and then I will leave the city."

At these words Byssenia, with tears of joy in her eyes, stepped forth from behind the pillar which had concealed her, and covered the hands of Bar Noemi, the strong, the irresistible Bar Noemi, with hot kisses.

"Oh, how blessed is this woman!" cried the women of Triton's city, for it had never been their blissful lot to be able to say: "I am the wife of one husband."

None dared to molest Bar Noemi with gibes and taunts as he left the city. The escort they gave him did not even venture to raise their eyes to his face.

"He is not a man," said the priests, "but the god[Pg 200] of a strange people, on whom no human hand has any power. A sinister, wrathful, and austere divinity who has no place in Triton's city. Rejoice that he has quitted you for ever!"


Triton's city had one hundred gates from which paved roads led to every corner of that vast continent; but through one of these gates passed a road which led no whither. This gate looked upon the snowy mountains, where dwelt the invisible God of Nothingness and Desolation. Thither those only were wont to withdraw who became sick and weary of the earthly felicity of the City of Delight. The very threshold of this gate was overgrown with grass, for it was very seldom opened.

Bar Noemi cast not a single glance behind him till he had reached the mountains. There, where the vegetation of the south came to an end, and the pine succeeded the palm; there, on the top of the nearest pine tree, sat the beautiful bird, the dove with golden plumage, which flitted on before Bar Noemi as he reached the mountains, just as she had done before on the ocean, guiding the fugitive through the barren wilderness of mountain and forest.

The region of spontaneously growing trees and grasses soon came to an end, and now began that inhospitable zone where the earth does not willingly open[Pg 201] her bosom, where she is a step-mother to lazy sons, hiding her benefits from all but those who labour for them. This is surely the spot whither God brought Adam out of Paradise, blessed him, and said: "Thou shalt eat thy bread in the sweat of thy countenance!" The wise men of old were in error when they called this a curse, for labour is a blessing, and the sweat-drops on the brow are the noblest jewels of him who was created after God's own image.

Rock succeeded rock. Bar Noemi and Byssenia mounted higher and higher, and the exhilaration with which they breathed the invigorating air made them feel as if they were nearer heaven already.

On the top of an elevated rocky plateau, the dove alighted on the ground in front of them, as if it would say: "Halt here." The white and blue bells, mingling with the fragrant grass, seemed to be nodding a welcome to the new arrivals; the love-song of a little yellow bird resounded from the green bushes opposite; everything around them seemed so strangely fair and new.

And now, for the first time, Bar Noemi threw a glance behind him. The abandoned city lay beneath him in a thick, yellow mist, which gave to the whole region a corpse-like hue, a mist not to be driven away by any breeze that blows. On the high roofs of the cities lying in the plain, burned sacrificial fires on gigantic altars; fires whose heavy, dark-blue smoke could not rise up to Heaven; something seemed to press it earthwards where, like a curse-laden cloud, it lodged immovably above the houses, enshrouding the cupolas of the towers and the rigid likenesses of the idols.

Far away on the distant horizon, a delusive mirage[Pg 202] performed its juggling tricks, by sketching in the sky the outlines of an inverted city. Towers and palaces stand in the dizzy height with their roofs turned upside down, and the palms stretched down their crowns from above. The next moment everything had melted away—the plain, right up to the very gates of Triton's city, swam in a vast sea, over which the overhanging palms and the inverted battlements seemed to throw down far-stretching shadows, whilst the white sails of ships flitted across the space where the city had been. In a few moments the sea also vanished; the Fata Morgana withdrew her delusive spells. The land again appeared with its woods, meadows, and cities.

Bar Noemi and Byssenia gazed with astonishment at this marvel, whose wondrous significance only they who could penetrate the secrets of the divine counsels might interpret. Involuntarily they folded their hands and prayed together from the very depths of their hearts that the Almighty would turn away His strong, avenging arm from a people who had forsaken Him, and not visit them with the furiousness of His heavy displeasure.


Beyond the mountains quite another world began.

At the foot of a group of eleven glaciers are populous villages, with cultivated fields, and happy, peaceful dwellings. Here dwell those happy ones who[Pg 203] have from time to time withdrawn from the world of bliss below, and sought the unfrequented mountains where solitude abides. Here they have built their houses, and in the lapse of years have grown into a people which passes its days in innocence and industry. The only radiance and brightness visible there is in their bright and radiant faces; they carry their treasures in their hearts, not on their garments, and to listen to the prattling of their children is their highest felicity.

These stalwart men and tender women receive the new-comers with joy, and employ their united strength in building them a hut by the side of the other huts; give them a little garden; provide them, in the meantime, with the necessaries of life, and lend them a helping hand in their first labours, and when at last their house is finished, and everything set in order; when their heart diffuses its genial warmth, and the oxen low and stamp in their stalls, Bar Noemi and Byssenia are summoned to the elders, who dwell in the midst of the highest mountain and there judge and rule the people.

The grey-headed chief of the little community dwelt in a hut like the rest of the people; his wisdom alone distinguished him from his subjects, and although he did not go about in purple, every little child knew who he was. To him Bar Noemi related all his wonderful adventures, his marvellous deliverance from the ocean on a sailless, rudderless raft, the loathsome spectacles in Triton's corrupted city, and his fight with the godless giant. He also told him of that mysterious sign in the heavens which showed him the city turned upside down.

[Pg 204]Whilst Bar Noemi was speaking, the head of the aged man sank lower and lower, and when he heard of these last scenes, he threw himself with his face to the ground and began to weep bitterly. Much disturbed, Bar Noemi inquired the cause of his grief. With tearful eyes, the old man replied: "What thou, O youth, hast just told me, convinces me that the time is at hand when the Lord will separate the righteous from the wicked, and judge this evil world; when millions will vanish from the face of the earth, and the earth herself will open her mouth and swallow them up because she can endure no longer the sins of mankind."

And the old man bitterly bewailed the doomed continent.

Bar Noemi dried the old man's tears and raised him from the ground.

"Weep not!" said he, "the Lord is not a man that His wrath should not be appeased. In the history of my people have I read that the Lord had once pronounced His judgment over a great city which He had doomed to perish. And He sent His prophet to warn the people to repent them of their sins if they would not be utterly destroyed, both they and their city. And the city repented and so turned away the chastisement of the Lord, and it was preserved. And again it came to pass that the Lord condemned eight cities to be consumed by a fiery rain from heaven, and a fiery torrent from out of the earth, which should change them into a lake of sulphur. And near to one of these cities dwelt a single righteous man, who carried God in his heart, and the Lord revealed His fearful judgment to this man. Then this righteous man threw[Pg 205] himself down before God and prayed: 'O Lord! wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked?'—And God answered and said: 'If I find five righteous men in Sodom, I will spare the city.'—Dost thou hear, my father, what God has spoken? He doth ever keep His promise, for His word standeth faster than the stars in heaven. And therefore I say to thee, choose me four men out of the people who are righteous in all their ways, men of clean lips, who have neither defrauded their neighbour nor lusted after the wife of the stranger, nor denied their God in word or deed. Them will I take with me to Triton's city, and God, for the sake of five righteous men, will not let a whole city perish."

The old man kissed Bar Noemi, and said: "Of a truth thou art that prophet of the Lord of whom our traditions speak, for it is the Lord who hath put these thoughts into thy heart. My own four sons shall go with thee. Their souls are as pure as crystal and their hearts know no fear. Five men shall save a people."

With that the old man sent for his sons, who, after bathing together with Bar Noemi in pure rain water, knelt down before the old man to receive his blessing.

Now as they were setting off, Byssenia threw her arms round the neck of her husband and asked him—

"Whither goest thou?"

Bar Noemi never lied, yet he did not wish to grieve his wife, so he answered—

"To Paradise!"

And he spoke the truth, for Triton's city was the Paradise of Bliss.

Byssenia walked beside her husband, kissed him once more, and asked again[Pg 206]

"If thou goest into Paradise, wherefore dost thou not take me with thee? Speak the truth? Whither goest thou?"

And now, too, Bar Noemi did not lie, as he answered his wife the second time—

"I go to hell!"

Triton's city was indeed a hell.

But the woman threw herself weeping on his bosom, and asked a third time—

"Oh, my husband! Oh, Bar Noemi, whither wouldst thou go?"

And stretching out his hands towards heaven, Bar Noemi answered the third time—

"I go into the presence of God!"

And, indeed, the road that lay before him led even to God's judgment-seat.

When they came to that rocky plateau from whence they could survey the whole plain, the wondrous phantom of the Fata Morgana again appeared before them—the aerial palaces, the hanging gardens, and the toppling towers which, as they dissolved away, left behind them a sea that covered mountain and valley, so that only the distant pinnacles and the heads of the idols emerged above the billowy flood.

"'Tis the finger of God!" said the old man, with reverential awe, and he blessed the five men and bade them be strong that they might wrestle with God for a continent and the people of a continent. And pressing Bar Noemi's hand to his lips, he breathed in his palm, and said: "Blessed be he whom thou blessest and cursed whom thou cursedst!"

The five men descended the mountain.

[Pg 207]But the old man led Byssenia back to his hut among his daughters, who welcomed her as a sister, and when he saw that the woman secretly bewailed her husband who had exposed himself to such dangers, he comforted her, and said—

"Fear nothing, for I know that Bar Noemi will return."


The city shimmered from afar in the evening twilight as the five men arrived at the gates. All the houses were lit up with bright torches and coloured lamps. The feast of flowers had begun and here it lasted three days. During that time all the streets and housetops were strewn with fragrant flowers, the columns were intertwined with garlands gay and festoons of wreaths hung across the market-place from one statue to the other.

But the feast of flowers is also the feast of Love. 'Tis the merry springtime, the blushing rose, the flowery mead that charm the senses most. This was well-known and recognized in Triton's city, and men rejoiced when this festival began, the festival of flowers, of roses and of the spring.

Five doleful men, with their swords slung over their shoulders and long lances in their hands, stride through the flower-strewn streets. The passers-by eye them with amazement. On this day the men of Triton's[Pg 208] city do not walk the streets alone, every one of them has a gay companion by his side. On this day, too, no weapon is borne within the walls; these be certainly strangers who do not know the custom of the land.

In the midst of the flowery market-place stands an old, hollow, olive-tree, whose branches touch the earth, and whose glistening green leaves distribute their shade over a wide circle.

The five morose strangers are greeted with friendly words by enticing voices from every doorway. Smiling lips, seductive eyes, look down upon them from the roofs, and flowers are scattered upon them from the bridges which span the streets.

Silently, with downcast eyes, the strangers make their way to the old olive-tree, where they thrust their lances into the ground; spread their mantles over the points and there make a primitive tent in which they lay them down to rest.

The more curious of the mob surround this strange tent, whispering at first among themselves, then, presuming further, they cry aloud; boldly pull aside the downward hanging curtains and provoke the strangers with rude and shameful words.

Bar Noemi rose from his couch and stepped among the crowd.

"Ye men of Triton's city," he cried, "gather together unto me in your thousands!"

The men recognized him by his tremendous voice, and, in their terror, gave place to the youth.

Bar Noemi saw the multitude swaying to and fro in the flowery market-place; there were as many heads as wreaths.

[Pg 209]"Go and fetch hither all your friends and kinsmen, that they may hear my words!"

Gradually the space around him was full to overflowing, and when all the roofs were also thronged with people, Bar Noemi raised his voice and spoke.

"Ye men of Triton's city, listen to my words! The Lord, the only true God, the Lord of heaven and earth and sea speaks thus to you. Five righteous men came to-day into your city in order to stay the judgment of the Lord which He has pronounced against you. Your years have come to an end, only a few more days remain to you, for the measure of your iniquities is full to overflowing, and no one will see another moon. Cast your sins from you, therefore, that the number of your days may be increased! Strew ashes on your locks and sand before your thresholds instead of flowers and green boughs, for I say to you that the Lord has but to beckon with His hand and not a flower, not a green leaf will thenceforward grow upon the earth!"

At these words the people burst into a roar of laughter.

"The stranger knows not what he says! Such a beauteous youth and yet so senseless; so strong and yet so cold! Oh the pity of it!"

The blithesome groups danced and sang and did homage to the flowers which grow on the green branches and—on the red lips of the women.

And lo! that same night, as Bar Noemi raised his hands to curse, there came from the west with a fearful roaring noise a large, dark cloud, a multitude of locusts, not to be expressed in numbers, condensed into a cloud, a pitch-black, evil host, hiding sun and stars and[Pg 210] annihilating grasses and flowers wherever it alighted. And then there came with rapid writhings, like an army of infantry, long, hairy, brown caterpillars, which covered the trees, crept up the houses and marched over the bridges and through the streets, in infinite numbers, fell upon every tree and shrub and devoured them all to the very roots. In one day the whole region resembled a calcined stubble-field; palms robbed of their crowns, woods with bare trees, every blade of grass consumed, annihilated. Only the old olive-tree under which Bar Noemi and his comrades had encamped, kept its strong, dark, glittering leaves.

On the third day the terrified people hastened to the tent of the strangers, and on their knees besought the youth, who had pronounced the curse, to turn away this plague from them, and not let the land be any more destroyed.

Bar Noemi felt compassion for the desolated land, and turning the palm of his hand heavenwards, he softly breathed thereon, and at the same instant a strong west wind arose, which swept the countless millions of the locusts into the sea, where they perished miserably, while a mighty frost slew the caterpillars so that not one remained alive. Trees and shrubs sprouted forth anew, and, after the first plague had been turned away, the first terror disappeared from the hearts of men.

And rankly as ever trees and flowers did the wild human passions spring up again in their breasts. The rich man sat him down again at his sumptuous table, and, puffed up with pride, the inhabitants of Triton's city refused the five men the least nourishment, and[Pg 211] commanded them to quit the city. If no one dared to drive them therefrom, they should at least be constrained to leave it by hunger.

In his rage, Bar Noemi stretched out his hand for the second time, and the words of the curse had scarce quitted his lips when, with a thunderous sound, the sluices of heaven were opened; the great blue tent of the firmament was wrapped in black; the dazzling lightning descended upon the earth, and ravaging hail, with devastating fury, shot down from the wrathful heaven and annihilated in a moment the insolent pride of the people.

This second plague made the inhabitants of the Fortunate Islands tremble, and they hastened to bring the most tender of their sacrificial offerings to the five righteous men, who would take nothing of their bounty save unground grains of wheat, for they were forbidden to taste anything prepared in the vessels, seethed in the pots, or baked in the ovens of the sinful people.

The prayers of the five men appeased the wrath of heaven, and no sooner had the Lord withdrawn His chastening hand, than the impious pride of the people returned to their hearts. The women painted their cheeks anew, gilded their eyelids, put on again their glass-spun mantles, walked defiantly through the streets, and mocked the youth who, despite their ensnaring cajoleries, would not come forth from their tent.

In the midst of the square in which their tent was pitched, stood a huge spring with a broad marble basin; there, every morning and evening, these seductive fairy shapes used to gambol and lave their snow-white bodies in the sun-warmed waters.

[Pg 212]Bar Noemi hid his face in his mantle, and stretched out his right hand towards them with a gesture of loathing, and this gesture was a curse.

In one night the order of the seasons was changed. In the midst of the most sultry summer, there arose an ice-cold wind, which raged through the land and disturbed the equilibrium of Nature. In a land where ice had never been seen before, the streams were covered with an icy coat of mail, and the terrified people saw unknown white flakes fall from heaven, which covered woods, fields, streets, and pinnacles with a white winding-sheet.

Ha! how the sounds of revelry suddenly died away. On the first day of this wonderful visitation men did not know what to think; they marvelled at the ice, the snow, the wonderful frost. But the very next day they had recovered themselves, and were scouring through the hard, frozen streets on sledges, hung with bells, to the sound of music and singing. They protected themselves against the cold with fur pelisses; they built them transparent palaces of ice, made monuments of the snow, and laughed at the wrath of heaven.

At a sign from Bar Noemi the third plague also came to an end. The sun again appeared in his strength; ice and snow melted away; the earth grew green once more.

And even this third plague did not make the people amend. They laughed already at the five youths, and Bar Noemi was challenged to do fresh wonders in order to break the dull monotony, the sluggish slowness of existence.

[Pg 213]Woe to the people whose children complain that life is dull and slow.

Bar Noemi addressed them once more, and for the last time—

"Ye dwellers in Triton's city, and ye who inhabit the plains of the Fortunate Islands, hear and spread abroad among you what I say. The Lord will send terrible plagues upon you, through my hand, that ye may repent and be converted. In the first week from now I will poison the waters; in the second, the earth; in the third, the air, so that what has hitherto been the source of life shall become the source of death; what hitherto has been the bosom of a loving mother, shall become, from to-day, a deep and open grave. Turn you back to God within three weeks from now, to Him who is merciful towards the righteous, but a terrible avenger of the wicked."

The frenzied people laughed at his words, and mockingly bade him do his worst.

The heavy curse smote first the flowing waters. The surface of the streams became coated with a thick film of small green beetles, whose disgusting odour completely poisoned them. Every beast which drank therefrom died in horrible torments; the fish floated, belly uppermost, on the surface of the water, and were cast upon the shores by the green foam. Next the water in the wells became infected. It grew salt, bitter, and nauseating; the jets of the fountains were muddied by a subtle slime, which they sucked up from the earth below, and all the springs lost their fresh coldness, a disgusting, sickly lukewarmness made them unfit for use, so that the thirsty beasts turned away[Pg 214] from them with loathing, and, looking up to heaven, moaned piteously. They had more sense than men. For the men of Triton's city laughed at the wonder. If the water was spoilt, was not the wine so much the sweeter? So every one drank wine, nothing but wine—men, women, and children. Stubborn, indeed, is the heart of man!

And now the living, nourishing earth was smitten by the curse. The earth felt the hand of the Lord, and quaked and sickened with a deadly fear. Hard, dry chinks and flaws rent the soil asunder, and as the earth's pangs increased, the hills, the rocks, and the bark of every tree were coated with livid moulds and hideous, sallow excrescences. The fruitful earth became a wretched cripple, whose horrible sufferings were visible in the trees and grasses. Instead of the sweet fruit, there grew polypi never seen before, poisonous funguses, loathsome gall-bladders. The ears of corn were burnt black, the grapes dried and withered on their stems, the honey-yielding reed was covered with wood-lice, the tubers of the bread-dispensing roots rotted underground, and gave a curse instead of a blessing. Every green thing sickened beneath the curse of God; only man felt no sorrow. Oh! hard indeed was the heart of man!

And now the curse infected the vivifying air. Thick, impenetrable vapours, black, brown, and dun, descended. The sun became invisible, the day became night. The stench of the vile, infecting mist oppressed the lungs and provoked convulsive coughing fits; it was a burden to draw the breath of life. There was no longer any staying in the streets. A fetid[Pg 215] dampness trickled down from the walls, and the thick brooding clouds, which at other times traverse the air above men's heads, now moved along the surface of the earth; crawling about the streets, and huddling together over the fields and houses in a manner horrible to behold.

"What ho, there! Bring hither the flutes, bring hither the trumpets. Let every one sing who can. If the sun will not shine, the torches shall burn all the brighter. If clouds float along the streets, the wine bowl within will be all the more comforting. If life is to be short, let us make the most of it; if death be at hand, may he find every cup of joy and pleasure already drained to the dregs."

These thoughts were rampant in every breast, and no one came to the five men beneath the olive tree to beg for God's mercy.

Sadly Bar Noemi watched the frenzy of the devoted people, till, in the bitterness of his heart, he uttered another and still more grievous curse.

"Let everything which is dear to man become his abhorrence. Let the sweet become bitter, and the bitter sweet. Let meat and drink turn to poison. May your dreams haunt you with images of terror. May you find sorrow where you seek for joy. May the plague lurk in every kiss. May ulcers deform the flushing cheek and the smiling countenance, and may loathing take the place of lust."

And when, after seven days, the clouds passed away and the dwellers in Triton's city came forth, they shrank back from one another with horror and loathing. Ulcers and scabs disfigured every face. Noses and lips[Pg 216] had vanished; the hair of the damsels had fallen out; their bodies had grown crooked. God had obliterated His own image in those whose creation He had repented of. And the sky above their heads had lost its bright blueness, and henceforth remained dull and livid, and men could gaze without winking into the pale disc of the midday sun, and count the spots thereon.

Yet even all this was not enough.

People had no longer any reason to find fault with their neighbours. As they were all equally hideous, it became a point of honour to deny the fact, so scorn grew all the more outrageous, and defiance all the more determined.

The domestic animals no longer recognized their masters. The tame beasts with their mates escaped from the city, and fled with anxious, plaintive cries to the mountains. The dogs and the little yellow birds forsook the city in swarms, and fled to the mountains, where they agreed among themselves never to utter another sound. The dogs will bark no more, the yellow birds will sing no more, lest their loathsome owners discover where they are. In their stead ravens and wolves came into the city. There these natural scavengers held a great council, at which they partitioned among themselves the inheritance of man.

Bar Noemi raised his avenging hand for the eighth time, and cried with a deeply sorrowful voice—

"Let there be death."

And he came, that cruel angel, that terrible angel, Malach Hamovez, with his two-edged sword of flame, the slayer of hosts, before whom nothing in the height[Pg 217] or in the depth can remain hidden, and began his awful work of desolation.

The small and the insignificant perished first.

In one day, every little worm and beetle vanished from off the face of the earth, just as if autumn had come and taken them away.

On the second day the serpents and other reptiles came forth from their holes to breathe their last in the plague-stricken sunshine. They lay in thousands at the gates of the city.

On the third day the fowls of the air fell down upon the earth. Stiff and stark they whizzed down from the roofs and covered the streets with their carcases. The wolves saw their companions, the ravens, stiffen out before their eyes, and they had not the courage to fall upon the carrion, but assembled in troops before the gates of the city and began to howl for fear, as if they would say: "Is there then none to help?"

On the fourth day the mammals perished; there they died at the very feet of their masters. No other thing was now to be found in the city, but man and the primeval monster.

And even this last plague did not startle them; they did not shrink back horror-stricken from the appalling solitude; every beast had already fallen a prey to death, only they and their idol still lived on.

There was still time for enjoyment; still they had days to look forward to. Still God had not pronounced His most terrible judgment upon them. "Let us wait!" said they.

And at length the angel of death began his fearful work on this race, which thus disowned their very[Pg 218] consciences. A terrible epidemic went from city to city; men died off helplessly, irremediably; a brief moment put an end to their lives; the young and healthy to-day were corpses on the morrow. Already there were more graves than houses; the living no longer sufficed to bury their dead. A wail of anguish resounded through the whole land. Lamentations went from province to province. Men writhed convulsively in the dust.

But wherefore in the dust? Must not God be sought for in heaven? Does He dwell in the dust? Oh! they could not look up. They had prayers only for their idols. They said: "These are our gods. We ourselves made them so." And none of them had the courage to say: "Descend from your altars, ye abortions of the earth, ye who are lower than the dust itself, and give place to God, who is the only Lord."

Instead of this, they rushed in their frenzied despair to the youths encamped beneath the olive-tree, and, hoarsely bellowing, threatened Bar Noemi, the author of all these evils, with poisoned arrows and instant death.

"Ye who have not bowed beneath the eighth plague, recognize the Almighty's hand in the ninth miracle!" cried the ambassador of God, stamping with his foot on the ground.

And oh, wonder! the hard earth began to tremble beneath the feet of the raging multitude. At first there was only a sound like a distant wailing wind in the depths below, but soon it seemed as if a gigantic car were thundering along underground, and shaking the palaces which rose above the surface.

[Pg 219]Merciful Heaven! Surely some angry spirit of the depths, striving to escape from his dungeon, is shaking the very foundations of the earth, grinding the mountains to pieces, and hurling the rocks into the plains. The surface of the earth resembles a billowy sea; the crowns of the loftiest palms sweep the reeling earth, and towers and bastions sink down in ruins.

Who can now sustain those golden palaces? Thousands of columns collapse on every side. The proud golden cupola topples, and crushes multitudes beneath its falling fragments; the débris of the gigantic pyramidal gates cover the ground; the remains of the arched bridges strew the ruined streets. Dust and rubbish where once was pomp and splendour.

The terrified people, hastening to the temples of their idols, were crushed by the falling rubbish; the houses of the besotted Bacchanalians bury their own secrets; the sinner perishes in the secret haunts of forbidden joys.

The people fly in terror to Triton, the chief of all their idols.

All around lay the rubbish of the eight walls of the temple; the silver effigy of the god had been cast down and lay with its face to the earth. But the living idol sat on its throne as immovable as ever, only the large, cruel eyes seemed to roll in their sockets as if wondering why the light of day had been withheld from them so long.

The people threw themselves at the feet of the monster, and, folding their hands over their heads, cried and howled: "Help us, O Triton!"

The monster himself began to feel the earth trembling[Pg 220] beneath his feet, and there, on his left side, where a sluggish pulsation was visible beneath the scaly skin, a fear, unfelt before, made his heart throb quicker and quicker, and, arising from his throne and raising aloft his frightful head, the monster stood like a tower among the people.

The idolaters shrieked with joy: "Ha! God Triton has arisen! Triton has heard our words. Triton will fight against the strange God. Now, show thy countenance, thou strange God, and tremble before Triton, whose height measures twenty cubits, and whose hand is stronger than the lightning."

The blasphemy penetrated to the tent of the five men. Then Bar Noemi arose; the youths threw their swords over their shoulders, and boldly advanced in the name of the one Almighty God to answer Triton's challenge.

The priests brought them face to face with the monster, and said—

"God Triton has arisen to protect us. He has stretched out his strong arm, and opened his mouth, whose voice puts to silence the thunder. Ye strangers, who have brought destruction upon us, cast yourselves in the dust before him, and await the pouring out of his fury, which shall destroy both you and your God!"

In Bar Noemi's breast the flames of a superhuman enthusiasm began to glow. Round about him swarmed the raging multitude; before him the uncouth and unearthly monster towered up to heaven. With a far-resounding voice he spoke to the crowd—

"Ye dwellers in the dust! Ye dust-worshippers, whom neither blessing, nor cursing, neither good nor[Pg 221] evil days, can turn from your sins. Ye loathsome worms, let the tenth plague smite you that ye may have none to pray to. Impotent monster, vile brood of hell, bow thee before the Name of Him who created thee once, and now annihilates thee, and return to thy forefathers—to the worms of the earth."

Thus speaking, he swung his sharp spear around his head with all his might, and hurled it at the monster. The spear flew hissing over the heads of the priests, and there, where the beating of the heart was visible on the left side of the monster, beneath its hard, scaly skin, the spear penetrated, and remained quivering in its heart.

Triton fell down upon his face with a frightful roar, vomiting forth streams of black blood from his gaping jaws, shaking the earth beneath the lashing of his tail, and tearing up the stones all around with his claws.

Bar Noemi and his comrades fled before the crowd had time to recover from its consternation; and when the men of Triton's city at last bethought themselves of pursuing the deicides, the ground burst asunder, so that a broad gulf lay between the pursuers and the pursued, and a stifling, infernal smoke rose up from the abyss.

The five men reached their home among the glaciers in safety. A great joy awaited Bar Noemi on the day of his return. His wife bare him a son, who equally resembled its father and its mother. And this befell to the great consolation of the dwellers among the glaciers; for it was as if Heaven had told them that the spot where an innocent babe was born, on this awful day, had nothing to fear from God's wrath.

[Pg 222]The eldest of the elders received from Bar Noemi's lips an account of the events, and of the marvels which had taken place in the plains below. Amongst the eleven glaciers, absolutely nothing of all this could be discerned. Here warm summer, bright days, pure air prevailed; the meadows were green, the brooks murmured merrily; here, from the gnat buzzing in the air to the ox lowing in the stall, everything lived and rejoiced to live, and a blessing rested on the trees and grasses.

When the eldest of the elders had heard from Bar Noemi all these evil things, he commanded that every one who dwelt near the valleys should gather together all that he had, and, taking with him his animals, migrate to the uplands and settle there. Heaven would certainly provide for them, and make the dismal snow to melt, and give place to trees and grasses for the nourishment of man and beast.

Three days and three nights did the mortally wounded Triton suffer before he could breathe forth his millennial life in the dust. For three days his fearful roaring could be heard from one mountain-top to the other like incessant thunder, and these ghastly sounds brought forth from their secret lurking-places the Earth's remaining monsters, the hole-inhabiting, subterraneous beasts whose skeletons still excite the wonder of a late posterity. The shuddering earth awoke from her slumber of centuries, and forth they all came, with their misshapen bodies, their gigantic heads, their enormous horns, and their dusky, mail-clad bodies, to terrify the world once more.

[Pg 223]"Triton is dead! The earth has no longer a god!" was the furious wail which ran through the whole land. "Only the God of the Glaciers still lives. Let us go out against him! Let us kill him also! He, too, shall live no more!"

And the rabid millions seized their weapons and marched forth to fight against God. The monsters that formed a separate people among them whetted their teeth and horns, and rushed madly in their thousands towards the glaciers; and the mammoths stormed their way through the primæval woods in order to stamp to pieces the people of the glaciers.

The roar of battle re-echoed through the wide continent. The natural order of things seemed to be suspended or abolished. Even the trees and grasses began to fight against Heaven. The leaves of the palm-trees stood out stiffly against the sky, like so many swords, and every blade of grass, every leaf of every tree turned its point upwards. The rocks, hurled one upon another, split asunder, discovering bottomless abysses, and the mountains, hitherto so still and peaceful, hurled flames and burning stones into the sky in impious anarchy. The earth burst asunder in a hundred places, and vomited forth foul, stinking morasses and loathsome, black slime into her own bosom, and the woods burst into flame, colouring the heavens blood-red.

Only the rocks of the glaciers still remained white and calm.

As now the host of the rebel millions and the ghastly shapes of the mongrel monsters stormed over the land of the God they blasphemed, vast thunderclouds[Pg 224] enveloped them on every side. The loud, rattling peals rose above the battle din of the wild host, and the vivid lightnings scattered death among them with their glowing darts, and scourged them incessantly for three days and three nights with fiery scourges.


The people dwelling in the mountains prayed and praised God in the midst of their peaceful habitations; only a faint echo of the terrible battle below reached their ears.

On the fourth day everything was silent. The clouds that had obscured the sky dispersed, and as the dwellers among the glaciers looked down from their mountains, lo! a great ocean extended before and around them—a serene and silent watery mirror, whose wide horizon was conterminous with the vast firmament—mountain, valley, continent, what had become of them? whither had they vanished?

The eleven glaciers were also separated by the waters, and had become eleven islands. The whole mass had sank insensibly some thousands of feet. The warmer atmosphere of the lower regions had begun to melt the layers of eternal snow, and a new life—a new vegetation—was developing. On the first spot left clear by the snow Bar Noemi planted a linden—under the shadow of which he erected his hut, and the larger the[Pg 225] leafy tabernacle grew the greater grew Bar Noemi's family, and God's blessing grew with it.

The group of these eleven mountains form the Canary Islands. Of all that vast continent, these mountains alone remain. Their fauna and flora, the conformation of their coasts, prove that this group of islands is merely the remnant of a submerged world.

Their later discoverers perceived with astonishment that a peculiar race of people inhabited these remotely situated islands—a race hardier and comelier than the men of other nations; a race intelligent and virtuous, which adored an invisible God, was chaste in its love, simple in its life, and content with its lot. It believed in the resurrection of the body, for it embalmed its dead, and laid them in funeral vaults. Moreover, it possessed the arts, and had an alphabet of its own, unlike that of any other people in the world.

This group of islands, moreover, possessed two other most wondrous kinds of inhabitants—a race of dogs and of yellow sparrows. Singular enough, both these species of animals remain dumb in the place of their birth, as if some vow prevented them from uttering a word; but they recover their voices if removed to other climes. The tiny canary birds—those gentle, amiable, sprightly songsters come from here. This is their proper home. With us they sing as sweetly, as meltingly as once they sang in Triton's luxurious city, and many a heart has been saddened by their songs without exactly knowing why.

The linden-tree planted by Bar Noemi still stands on the island of Ferro, whence the geographers draw the first meridian. The tree, which measures 160 feet in circumference, is already two thousand years old, and whole[Pg 226] communities repose beneath its branches. Travellers tell us that the leaves of this tree imbibe the atmospheric vapours, and then distil them upon the earth below, thus watering the waterless island night and day. Even to this day the inhabitants hold the tree holy.

Between Europe and the New World there now extends the infinity of a vast ocean, and whoever thinks about it at all must needs say to himself that a whole continent is missing there. Plato has described it; Solon has sung of it; the Arabs speak of it in their fables, and the Carthaginians forbade it to be mentioned under pain of death—what more do we want? It must have existed!

Now, however, white sails fly over it.

But often, when a calm prevails on the ocean, and the dreamy mariner is brooding over the past, wondrous phenomena reveal themselves in the heated air before his eyes. On the dun-coloured horizon appear the dim outlines of cities with towers turned upside down, whole palm-forests with their crowns reversed. Wondrous, magnificent shapes are these, of which the existing world knows nothing, and these inimitable edifices, these boldly aspiring cupolas and domes undergo the strangest metamorphoses before the eyes of the astonished seafarer, till a light breeze in an instant dissolves the whole panorama, and nothing is visible around the rocking ship but the endless, the interminable sea.

[Pg 227]


As this story is of a somewhat horrible character, I would duly impress it upon my more timid readers that, if possible, they had better leave it unread. If, however, they have invested their money in the book in which it appears, they might at least not read it just before going to bed, for I don't want the responsibility of their nightmares on my shoulders. This, at any rate, I can say: the event recorded actually happened. The fact that I have kept it a profound secret till now does honour to my powers of self-control.

When I was a young man, a budding novelist, in fact, as my printed transgressions of that period sufficiently testify, I was much addicted to subjects of a mystic, supernatural tendency; tales of mystery, gloomy prognostications, fatal accidents, had a peculiar attraction for me. I had a shorter beard, but longer hair, a smaller experience but a larger credulity than now, then it was just as well, now it would not be quite as well.

I was thus a very young man when, in the course of a holiday ramble, I arrived, quite alone, at night-time, at the mansion of one of our most enlightened[Pg 228] magnates, whom, for the sake of anonymity, I will simply call Squire Gabriel.

We had seen and heard something of each other. I was a belated traveller far from any hostelry, while he was a householder and lived by the roadside, I wanted a night's lodging, he had a castle. All these circumstances gave me a right to call upon him, and he received me right heartily, a guest, indeed, was no great rarity at his house.

Squire Gabriel was reputed to be a bit of an oddity, who dearly loved his joke. He had a library, being a well-read man; he had a room full of all sorts of stuffed birds and beasts which he had himself shot, and whose names he knew; he had an expensive picture-gallery, interesting family archives, and he was very much interested in machinery—not the sort of machinery that may be applied to useful purposes, but that which serves for pure amusement, and is meant to produce startling effects. For instance, he had standing by the door an iron man, who, whenever anybody opened the door, at once raised his musket and steadily took aim at the intruder till the door was shut, when he respectfully lowered his weapon again, to the mortal terror of timid visitors. On the hall table mysterious clarionettes played all sorts of tunes whenever any one leaned his elbows on it. There was a certain chair from which it was impossible to rise up again if once you sat down again, with so firm a grip did it hold you.

I had often heard tell of these harmless jests, and was quite prepared not to be surprised by them. But Squire Gabriel did not exhibit any of his jests to me. On the contrary, his conversation was grave, and he led[Pg 229] me into the library, introduced me to his very curious and, indeed, really valuable collection of manuscripts, and showed me his armoury, his collection of seals, to which he ingeniously attached a good many singular historical anecdotes. Indeed, I was so impressed that I begged his permission to take notes of these anecdotes.

"Certainly, do so by all means," he said, with the utmost courtesy, and, indeed, it seemed to afford him great delight to see me recording in my note-book what he had just told me of the dames and heroes of bygone days, of whom all that remained was a spur or a slipper, actually before our eyes.

What a rich source of historical information. Certainly I had no reason to regret my coming here.

Squire Gabriel had every reason to be perfectly satisfied with the interest I displayed in his historical recitals. His store, too, was absolutely inexhaustible, fresh data came pouring forth every moment.

In such diversions we spent the whole evening.

At supper-time we were joined by the squire's man of business and one of his secretaries, who withdrew after the meal, and Squire Gabriel and I remained alone again.

He ordered tea to be brought into the Gothic chamber, and with the tea beside us, we may have gone on talking for a small matter of another hour or so, or, rather, he talked, but I listened.

The Gothic Room was the largest chamber in the castle wing. It derived its name from its curious old-fashioned furniture, and from a couple of mediæval niches in the Gothic style. The spacious fireplace in the centre of it was piled up with crackling logs, and[Pg 230] close beside it were comfortable armchairs and sofas, in which we reclined at our ease and sipped our fragrant Pekoe.

The hearth was warm, the time was late, and the fatigues of travelling, I must confess, had made me so drowsy, that more than once during the cheerful conversation of my host, I caught myself in the act of resolutely inclining my head towards the cushion of the sofa.

Squire Gabriel observed my condition, and said, with a smile—

"You are very sleepy, I see."

I had no reason to be insincere, so I replied that it was the very place in which to go to sleep.

"I should not advise you to do so, however," remarked Squire Gabriel, gravely, "there is something queer about this room. I may tell you," he added, "it is not very friendly to strangers, who have even died in it now and then."

These words completely cleared slumber from my eyes.

"Ghosts visit it, perhaps?"

"It would be more correct to say they dwell in it, and they are visible day and night."

Curiosity made me quite awake now. I began to look about me.

"When I say ghosts, I would not have you imagine anything so stupid as spectres wrapped in sheets and chained with fetters. The thing that is here is a perfectly simple object which can be held in your hand. Perhaps you would like to see it?"

What a question! I was immediately on my feet.

[Pg 231]"Where's your ghost? Let me see it!"

Squire Gabriel led me to one of the niches which was covered by a green curtain, and drawing aside the curtain, pointed out to me two skulls which were covered by a round glass, and, curiously enough, were turned back to back.

I had seen something of the sort before, and was by no means inclined to recognize anything ghostly in them. They were simply fragments of a human skeleton, as little alarming as an extracted tooth, of which it never occurs to anybody to be afraid.

"These are the skulls of two brothers, the Counts Kalmanffy, to whom this property formerly belonged, and who built a wing of the castle. Their history is very tragic. They were constantly opposed to each other and wrangling about the possession of the castle, and one day, soon after a reconciliation, the elder brother suddenly invited the younger one to be his guest, and when he had well filled him with strong wine, drove a long nail into his head while he lay there in a drunken sleep. The nail is also here. A servant who was privy to the evil deed subsequently betrayed the elder brother, who was beheaded for his crime. His body they buried as usual under the place of execution, but the severed head they allowed to be buried in the family vault, where the bones of the murdered brother were also deposited. The heads of the two brothers were placed side by side in a niche, and so these mortal enemies, who could not endure each other during their life-time, were turned face to face. On one occasion, however, some one who had to do some work or other in the vault, was amazed[Pg 232] to perceive that the heads of the two brothers were now turned back to back. The fellow was not very frightened. He had had a good deal to do with human remains, and fancied some truant rats might have effected the change, so he simply put the two skulls face to face again. Next day he went down to have another look at them, and again they were turned in the opposite direction.

"And so it went on for a whole week. The fellow turned the skulls round every day, and every night they changed their positions of their own accord. The guardian of the vault got quite ill over it. He began to pine and grow melancholy mad, till at length the young chaplain took the bull by the horns, and asked him what ailed him, or if he had anything on his mind.

"The old family retainer, with some agitation, confessed the ghostly secret, on account of which he was in a fair way of becoming a ghost himself.

"The parson was an enlightened man, and was determined to convince the superstitious old fellow that he was mistaken, so he went down into the vault himself to look at this alleged marvel.

"There, then, the two skulls were, turned back to back, and the old servant solemnly swore that the evening before he had placed them cheek by jowl.

"'Impossible,' said the clergyman. 'A lifeless body has no volition. These things are nothing but two pieces of bone, without nerves, without muscles: they cannot move of their own accord.'

"And, to make his words the more impressive, he seized one of the skulls in order to lift it, and show the[Pg 233] doubter that it was merely an inert mass, incapable of movement.

"At that very instant the skull gave the clergyman's little finger such a nip that he could scarce disengage it from its teeth.

"After that the vault remained closed, and soon afterwards the old family servant died. As for the clergyman, he carried about with him till his death the mark of the bite on his little finger.

"The matter was kept secret, and so well kept indeed, that not a soul knew a word about it until I came into possession of the property. One day, while I was rummaging about in the old library, I came across the diary of the clergyman in question, in which he described the whole case, concluding his mysterious tale with the assurance that the door of the vault had been walled up in such and such a place. Since then a granary had been built up close beside it, and the locality had been completely forgotten.

"I immediately searched for the walled-up door. It was easy to discover, it had been so minutely described, broke it open and descended into it myself, and at once discovered the two hostile skulls, just as they had been placed, turned back to back.

"I confess, despite my naturally cynical disposition of mind, I had not the courage to lift up either of them; but I had the whole slab of stone on which they reposed, raised just as it was and placed in this room.

"Since then I have had many an unbelieving guest who has taken the whole thing for a joke, and has tried to convince himself of its reality with his own[Pg 234] eyes. Although I don't very much like jesting with this sort of thing, nevertheless when I really come upon a strong-minded man who is not afraid of running the risk of becoming melancholy mad for the rest of his days, I allow him to sleep in this room and persuade himself with his own eyes that the skulls which have been placed face to face in the evening, the next morning are found to be turned back to back again.

"This takes place regularly. My visitors are constrained to believe in this mysterious fact, and since the death of the clergyman already alluded to, none has dared to ridicule it."

Squire Gabriel could perceive from my eyes that I also had a great mind to be convinced of this mysterious circumstance with my own eyes. Show me the youth of two and twenty who would not be interested in such an enigma!

I begged and prayed him to allow me to sleep in this room, and turn the skulls face to face.

Squire Gabriel did not attempt to dissuade me. My curiosity gratified him, he lifted the globular glass, very cautiously turned the two death's heads face to face, and then covered them again with the glass.

Then he indicated the alcove where I should find my couch, wished me a good night, and left me alone.

The squire and his secretaries lived alone in the top-floor of the spacious castle. The servants slept in rooms on the ground floor. Between the Gothic room and their dormitories lay two or three halls of various sizes, so that I may be said to have been left alone in my wing, and was as far as possible from every human being.

[Pg 235]Despite my excited fancy I had still philosophy enough left not to let any one play pranks with me. First of all I examined the walls; there was no visible means of entrance into the room. Then I thoroughly investigated the niche; it was absolutely inaccessible. It was carved out of a single slab of hard marble, and was all of a piece. The door I bolted, and then drew the sofa before it and lay down on it. I was now immediately opposite the curtained niche.

Moreover I took an additional precaution. The silk curtain which covered the niche was hitched upon some ornamental moulding, and hung down in picturesque folds. I took out my pocket-book and made a sketch of the curtain down to the very last detail.

Now, that was a very artful idea of mine.

If any being, clothed with a jacket, were to try to get at the skulls, he was bound to disturb the curtain; but the slightest contact would disturb its folds, and destroy its resemblance to the drawing of it in my pocket-book.

Then I piled some fresh logs on the fire, placed the candelabra beside me on a little one-legged table, and flung myself on the sofa with the firm purpose not to go to sleep.

I knew that tea had the property of keeping a man awake, so I filled myself another cup. I added to it a spoonful of rum. I hardly tasted it. Yet at other times a spoonful of rum would have been quite enough to upset me. I poured in still more. Even that did not make it stronger. Then it suddenly occurred to me that there was a flask of cognac in the cupboard beside the fireplace. Squire Gabriel had pointed it out[Pg 236] to me a short time before, but then I had not required it. It was very curious I should feel the want of strong drinks just at that moment.

I got up to fetch it. I tasted it. It certainly was strong, very much so. I filled up my cup with it, and then it occurred to me that there was no wire screen in front of the fire. A spark might pop out of it any moment. I went to the fireplace straightway, and began pushing back the burning embers with the poker. A spark popped out and burnt my hand. Then I shut the iron register, and went back towards my tea-table.

A nice surprise awaited me.

On the very sofa which I had drawn up for my own use two gentlemen were sitting whom I seemed to know very well, but whose names I could not remember. One of them had short, light, curly hair, and an angry red beard; the other had black hair and a long dangling moustache, but was otherwise clean shaved, and a round bald patch was visible on the top of his head.

The first of these gentlemen, who was stripped to the shirt, wore a silken vest with gold buttons; the other was dressed in a short linen jacket, bravely embroidered at the back.

These two gentlemen were sipping at their ease the cognaced tea which I had prepared for myself. First one took a sip and then the other, the pair of them out of one cup, quite fraternally.

Amazement first, and then fear, seized me. I durst not approach them, but sat down in a dark corner, from whence I watched to see what they would do.

The two gentlemen glared oddly enough at each other, and presently they began to converse.

[Pg 237]"Good evening, Kalmanffy minor!"

"Good evening, Kalmanffy major!"

"Then you're here again, Kalmanffy minor?"

"And here I remain, Kalmanffy major!"

"This castle is too strait for the two of us."

"There would be lots of room if one of us dwelt beneath it."

"Beneath it? I suppose you mean in the cellar?"

"No, deeper still; in the family vault."

"We must settle this business once for all, Kalmanffy minor."

"Yes, and now that we are quite alone is the time, Kalmanffy major?"

"Do you prefer pistols or swords?"

"I should like both; but I fear they might betray us."

"True, firearms make a noise, and cold steel makes blood to flow; we want no such witnesses."

"A cup of poison, and drawing lots for it—that would be best."

"Not bad; but it leaves corpse-marks on the face."

"I've a better plan. Here is strong drink before us; let us drink each other down."

"And then?"

"Then, whichever of us keeps sober shall do for the other. Here is a long nail and a hammer. If it be driven well into the skull, none will be a penny the wiser."

"True, especially in your case, who have such thick hair; but I have a moon on the top of my head."

"Never fear. I'll make a good job of it."

I'm bound to confess that a cold shiver ran through[Pg 238] me as I listened to this conversation. Even if I wanted to escape there was no means of escaping, for they sat right in front of the door opposite which I had drawn the chair and the sofa.

Then they both began drinking out of the same cup, first one and then the other. They filled it up for each other from the cognac flask right up to the brim, so that the liquid flowed over the edge of the cup.

"Your health, my brother!"

"Your health!"

Each of them always said this with such a devilish smile as he watched his brother gasp and choke as he swallowed the intoxicating stuff, while his head waggled backwards and forwards, and his face turned a ghastly yellow or a flaming red, and the veins on his temples stood out in green and blue knots like strained cords.

"You are drunk, my brother!"

"Nay, 'tis you."

Meanwhile the candles burning on the table began to burn low. It seemed as if a bloody mist were enveloping their flames, which gradually assumed a dusky lilac hue. The two faces suddenly went quite pale, the two heads suddenly grew quite shaky; it was hard to say which of them would fall down first.

The flames of the candles had now passed into the darkest green, and in that green light the two faces seemed of a deadly pallor. They were no longer able to converse, but glared at each other with stony eyes, and kept offering each other the intoxicating drink.

Suddenly the candles flared up, and then went out. The two figures instantly disappeared.

[Pg 239]The moon was shining through the painted windows in all her glory; the burning logs in the fireplace cast a rosy light into the semi-darkness. I was alone in the room.

I dreamt it all, I said, and I laughed at myself, though my teeth kept on chattering. It was a dream, a dream, I kept on reassuring myself. Now I will go and lie down. I'll take off my things, I'll get into bed, I'll draw the bed-clothes over my head, and then let them go on haunting as much as they like. They may rise from their graves and roam about to their hearts' content. I shall simply take no notice.

The moon shone with a beautiful white light; the fire gave forth a nice rosy illumination. I had no need of the candles, which I could not have lit had I wanted to, for they had burnt down to the very socket. I shall be able to find the bed quite comfortably. So I undressed myself leisurely, wound up my watch, and drew aside the curtains of the alcove which contained the bed, in order to lie down on it.

Horror rooted me to the spot.

In the bed lay the two brothers side by side; two fearfully distorted corpses. One of them lay on his back, but with his face looking down, and in his bald head the head of the nail shone in the moonlight like a dark blue spot; the other brother lay beside him with his head turned towards the sky.

Horror, I say, paralyzed me. I had not strength to move a limb. I would have cried out, but I had no voice. I would have seized the bell-rope, but my hand was powerless. I would have fled, but my legs weighed me down like lead. My chest was oppressed,[Pg 240] my legs were benumbed. At last, with a most desperate effort of my will, and after frightful torments, I pronounced something or other—and immediately awoke.

Those who have suffered from nightmare will understand what a torture it is under the circumstances to utter a word.

It was morning, and the sun was shining through the tall poplars. There, too, I was lying on the sofa in front of the closed door, where I had laid down in order not to fall asleep.

The candles really had burnt down to their sockets, and the teacup was really empty. However, I was inclined to believe that I had put nothing into it the night before, and that tea, rum, and cognac had all been simply dreamt.

But—now comes the most terrible part of this ghost story.

What had been happening in the niche all this time?

The curtain was precisely as I had sketched it, not a wrinkle of a fold had been changed in it.

Therefore, nobody could have laid hands upon it.

Still completely possessed by the memory of my nightly visions, I approached the mysterious niche, and I cannot deny that my hand trembled as I drew aside the curtain.

And, behold . . . the two mortally hostile skulls were turned back to back!

A cold shudder ran twice or thrice right down my body.

This, at any rate, was no dream. I saw it. It was[Pg 241] broad daylight. Outside, the usual daily noise and racket had begun, and at that very time I saw before me the most frightful of phantoms.

Then things really do happen beneath the sun which our philosophy cannot account for?

Then it is a fact that those two lifeless skulls live and hate and turn from each other even after death?

I don't believe it, it is impossible, it is not true.

I see, I tremble at it, and yet it is not true.

It is true, and yet I don't believe it.

I then bethought me of the story of the clergyman who was said to have discovered the subterranean marvel, and dared to put his hand on the head of the spectre, and then carried about the marks of its teeth to his dying day.

I don't care.

I'll let it bite me too.

I lifted the glass from the skulls. My heart may have beaten violently, I don't deny it. I stretched out my arm. My hand came in contact with a cold jaw-bone. I raised it and turned it round.


What had happened? Had it bit me?

I should have flung it away with all my heart if it had; but at that instant I discovered that it was provided with a cunningly constructed piece of clockwork, which made it turn round if you pressed a spring. The other skull was provided with a similar contrivance.

At the breakfast-table I encountered Squire Gabriel. As usual he was very solemn, so was I.

"How did you sleep?" he inquired, with sympathetic courtesy.

[Pg 242]"Thank you, very badly. I drank lots of tea yesterday evening, and it plagued me with all manner of spectres."

"And what did the skulls do?"

"Well, they seem to have quite distinguished themselves for my special edification, for they not only turned their backs on each other, but even stood on their heads."

At these words, Squire Gabriel laughed greatly.

"So you looked inside them, eh?"

"I did."

"Now, look here! Forty persons have slept in that room; all of them have had experience of the marvel, and not one of them has looked to see if there was anything in the skulls."

"They feared, perhaps, that it would fare with them as with the adventurous clergyman."

"Were you not afraid?"

"Certainly, a little, but my curiosity was even greater than my fear. And now I very much regret I did look."


"Because I am an historical anecdote the poorer."

At this Squire Gabriel laughed more than ever.

"And I will make free to ask another question. Are the anecdotes, which I noted down in my memorandum-book yesterday, equally authentic?"

"You may boldly light your pipe with them," replied the nobleman, with a smile.

I only did not do so because I am not in the habit of eating smoke.

Only one thing Squire Gabriel begged of me. I[Pg 243] was not to mention my discovery to any one else, so that he might be able to give a salutary shock of terror to others also.

I promised that I would keep the secret for ten years.

The ten years expired last week, so the story of the two ghostly skulls can now become public property.

[Pg 244]


In those sad times when the accursed, merciless Tatar was ravaging our good country, two good Hungarian brother warriors and kinsmen, Simon and Michael Koppand, after the devastation of Tamásfalu, of which great city not a vestige remains to the present day, escaped somehow from the burning and massacring, and taking refuge among the bulrushes, lay concealed therein for many days and nights, often up to the tops of their heads in water, for the evil, bloodthirsty enemy scoured even the morasses in search of fugitives, with the firm determination of extirpating every Magyar from the face of the earth once for all.

Thus, hiding by day and skulking by night, they made their way gradually but steadily towards the west, so far as the course of the stars pointed it out to them, hoping still somewhere to find a refuge. They had no other food but the eggs of wild ducks and moorhens, and whatever they might find in the nests of the marsh-birds that they lived upon.

One day, when they had already gone a long way and thought that they had well distanced the Tatars, they ventured to emerge from the wilderness of[Pg 245] rushes, and by the beautiful light of the moon they then beheld, some distance in front of them, a tower.

That means there must be a town there, they thought, let us make for it, there we shall be in safety, so far the Tatar has not come. For every man in those days believed that then, as had been usual at other times, every robber horde, bursting into a kingdom, when once it has well loaded itself with booty, returns again as a matter of course to its own country.

All night, then, they proceeded in the direction of the tower before them. When they drew close to it they perceived for the first time that this tower had no roof; but when they got closer still they saw that all the houses of the town had been levelled with the ground, and when they entered the street they saw that none dwelt there, but wolves and savage dogs bayed at them from behind the pillars of the gates, within which every sort of human shape was lying, shapes without heads, women transfixed with darts, mothers with long, dishevelled, black tresses covering their children with their dead bodies.

The youths covered their eyes with horror at this spectacle.

But still there they must remain till the night of the following day, concealed somewhere, for dawn was now close at hand and it was not good to come out in the open in the bright sunlight.

So they went into the church that they might hide themselves there, either in the crypt or perhaps in a sacristy.

Hah, the whole church was a funeral vault. There they had cut down the pride, the flower of the nation.[Pg 246] Women, men, and children lay heaped up together among the burnt rafters, the pale moon shining through the roofless and dilapidated building illuminated them.

Inside they had to wield their swords with right good will to drive out the wolves who had come hither to perform the office of grave-diggers, and who as often as they were chased away came back and bayed at the open door.

Then said Simon, the elder of the two brethren: "Brother Michael, these evil wolves will give us no peace, and because of them we shall get no rest, and yet, for sheer weariness and want of sleep, we can go not a step further. Lie you down, therefore—your best place will be close beside the altar, for there God is not far from you, and I meanwhile keep guard the door and keep the wild beasts away from you, and when I am aweary, then you shall rise up and watch over me."

Michael sought him out, therefore, a place near the altar, and lay down beside the dead body of a warrior, it looked just as if the two of them were sleeping, or as if the two of them were dead. Simon, meanwhile, gathered together some fallen darts from the field of battle, found him a bow, and leaned against the lintel of the doorway. Whenever the hideous monsters approached, he shot an arrow among them, and every time he did so a fight arose between the wounded wolf and the others, which he thought had bitten him. This disgusting combat lasted amidst ugly snarling and snapping for about an hour, when an old wolf began to howl hideously, as if by way of signal to his fellows, who howled back again from every part of the town,[Pg 247] and then suddenly the whole lot of them made off, scattering in every direction.

Simon speedily conjectured the cause of this sudden flight, hastened back to his brother and cried—

"Awake, little brother! I hear the hoot of the horns, the Tatars are coming back."

There was no other hope of escape than for the pair of them to lie down among the dead bodies with their faces turned earthwards, thus quietly to await the new-comers.

Presently they appeared amidst the ruins of the church.

Ofttimes it happened thus. The Tatars thought to themselves: The people who have taken refuge fancy we have nothing more to seek in the devastated towns, and will come out of their holes, let us go and hunt them down. And in this way very many perished.

It was a man of that very town who led them back. An inhabitant of a Christian town had become a Tatar, joined himself to the enemies of his faith and country, and went before to show them the best places to plunder.

And this wicked, accursed man was now wearing the Tatar dress, a high-peaked fur cap, white breeches, and murdered the Tatar tongue to give them pleasure—God grant the words may stick in his throat and choke him.

The two brethren could gather from their talk that the evil renegade had led the enemy hither in order that he might show them the entrance to the crypt in which the fugitive population had concealed their treasures, and then walled up the door behind them.[Pg 248] They immediately broke it open, and with a great racket and uproar dispersed among the discovered treasures, breaking in pieces whatever was too large to be taken away whole. The renegade got for his share the cover of a pyx, which the vile wretch stuck in front of his cap by way of ornament.

"Let me once get a fair hold of you!" thought Simon the warrior to himself. He was looking on at all this with half an eye as he lay among the dead bodies.

Then the murderous Tatars piled up a fire on the altar, slaughtered a horse in the church, broiled it in hunks on huge spits, and squatted down to devour it. It was an abomination to behold them. The Tatar convert ate along with them.

Suddenly a burning ember from the crackling fire lit upon Michael the warrior's extended palm. Simon the warrior saw it well, and trembled lest his younger brother might make some movement under this burning torture, when both of them must needs perish. But warrior Michael, very nicely and quietly, closed tightly the palm of his hand, so that nobody noticed it, and stifled the burning ember so that not even its expiring fizzle was audible.

Towards dawn the Tatars began to set off again, mounted their barebacked horses and scudded further on, never observing that they had left two living men among the dead bodies.

The two warriors were careful not to leave the church till late in the evening, but went on fighting there with the beasts of the field, and, in the daytime, they found yet other adversaries in the vultures who[Pg 249] hovered all day above their heads, and all but tore their eyes out with their claws, because they stood between them and the dead bodies. They gave thanks to God when at sundown they were able to quit the horrible place and go on further.

Along the level plain they went as quickly as they could hasten, not even daring to look behind them, though there they would have seen nothing but the black clouds of smoke from the burning towns, which the wind drove over their heads. Behind them the Tatar was coming.

Towards evening they reached a lofty hill, in which dwelt a gipsy. The gipsy was doubly a foe, being both an alien and a heathen, he was, therefore, just the sort of man to give good advice to fugitives.

In those days all sorts of folks were flying from the Tatars, flying whithersoever they saw light before them, some on foot, some on horseback, some on cars, men, women, and children.

"Alas! my dear creatures," wailed the gipsy, "you come to a bad place when you come hither. You would do very much better to turn back in the direction whence the Tatar bands are coming, for they, at least if you surrender, will not cut you down, but will only make slaves of you. But, alas! in front a far greater danger awaits you, for in yonder forest dwell giants, terribly huge monsters with antlered heads and mouths so wide that they can swallow a man down whole. They seize all those who fly towards the forest and roast them on large spits. They don't hurt me because I give them wine to drink when they come hither."

Before now the refugees had heard from the warriors[Pg 250] flying from the direction of Grosswardein of these Tatar giants who had scattered a whole host by simply appearing before it. Nay, a herdsman, a worthy man of Cumanian origin, had sworn that he had seen them. They strode over the fields, he said, four ells at one stride, and one of them had sat down quite easily on the roof of a house, with his legs dangling down.

At this rumour, the poor, terrified, common folks preferred to run back into the jaws of the Tatars, rather than fall beneath the fangs of these monsters; but the two Koppands said to one another very prudently—

"Look, now, there are far fewer of these monsters, whereas the Tatars can be numbered by hundreds of thousands. The flesh of a giant is but flesh, and a sword may pierce it. Goliath also was a giant, and a shepherd's son slew him. Let us rather go against them."

And they set off towards the forest.

"Well, you will repent it," the gipsy cried after them.

As the warriors drew near to the forest, there emerged from among the trees twelve terrible forms, thrice as big as ordinary men. They had heads as large as barrels, their moustaches were like horses' tails, they covered two ells at each stride, and swords two ells in length hung heavily on their shoulders.

"Well, little brother," said Simon the warrior, grasping the hilt of his sword at the sight, "either they are going to eat us or we will eat them, choose your man and I'll choose mine."

And they drew their swords and rushed upon the giants.

[Pg 251]The monstrous shapes at first raised a great shout at them, and flourished their swords, but perceiving that they could by no means terrify the two warriors, they turned tail, and with long strides hastened back towards the forest.

They were no giants from the hand of Nature after all, but only jugglers of the Tatar khan who could stride about on long stilts, and dressed up to ape God's wonders, so as to scare back the fugitive population into the claws of its murderers. The gipsy knew this very well, for he was in league with them.

When Simon the warrior saw the giants take to flight, he encouraged his brother still more against them. But they had no need to hunt for them in the forest, for they could not move quickly enough on their stilts among the trees and shrubs, their masques and wrappings also impeded them, so that they could not make a proper use of their heavy swords, so the two brothers cut down every one of them without mercy, and stuck their painted monster heads on the tops of stakes on the borders of the forest, that the flying people might take courage at the sight when they beheld them from afar. And the name of the treacherous gipsy Simon the warrior wrote down on the hilt of his sword.

And then they again set out westward, till at length they reached the waters of the Theiss, where they found a ferry, in front of which many people were then waiting, all of whom had fled from before the Tatars. The toll was in those days collected by certain of the Patarenes or Albigenses, for in the days of King Andrew and the Palatine Dienes, all the tolls had fallen into the hands of such-like oppressed people. It[Pg 252] might be supposed that in times of such great danger, when every one was flying from fire amidst bloodshed, that the ferrymen would let the fugitives over the rivers for nothing. And of a truth Christian Magyar men would have so done, but the impious Patarenes laid heavier contributions than usual on the refugees, who fled from before the Tatars, carrying all they possessed on their persons, and these last possessions they had to give up to the godless ferrymen. The women had to give up their earrings, the men their shoe-buckles by way of ransom, to the hard-hearted wretches to ferry them over. But those who had nothing and were flying as beggars received godless usage at their hands, for they were compelled to repeat after them a Manichæan prayer, which was nothing but a frightful blasphemy against the one true God and His saints in the Tatar tongue. And very many repeated it not thinking at all in their deadly fear of the salvation of their souls. Those who feared to utter the abomination searched elsewhere for a ford across the Theiss, or, if they could swim, set about swimming, and so many perished there.

The two brethren had nought wherewith to pay the ferry-toll but the blaspheming Tatar prayer. Simon the warrior said he would rather let himself be cut in pieces by the Tatars than blaspheme the true God and the Blessed Virgin, but Michael, having more sang-froid, assured him that he would say it for them both, and made out that his brother was dumb. He, therefore, repeated the horrible blasphemy twice, once for himself and once for his elder brother, while Simon, with clenched fists, repeated silently to himself an Our[Pg 253] Father and a Hail Mary! Thus they got ferried over to the opposite shore; and when Simon the warrior reproached his brother for yielding to compulsion and repeating the blasphemous verses, Michael reassured his elder brother by telling him that after every verse he had said to himself: "Not true, not true." Yet for all that it was a grievous sin.

And warrior Simon marked the name of the Manichæan on the hilt of his sword.

But now the refugees plunged into the jaws of a fresh danger. The great battle of the Sajo[22] had just been lost. The Tatar flood filled the whole space between the Danube and the Theiss. When they emerged on the border of a forest, the two brothers saw nothing all around them, right up to the horizon, but the smoke of burning villages. They returned, therefore, into the forest, and began to fare northwards, hearing on every side of them the sound of the Tatar horns replying to each other; seeking a refuge for the night in the trunks of hollow trees, and finding no other sustenance than wild honey and beach-mast with which to satisfy the cravings of hunger.

[22] On the Muhi puszta, near the river Sajo, the Tatars defeated King Bela and the Magyars in 1241.

On the fourth day they reached a respectable house in the midst of the forest, which was defended neither by trench nor bastion, and yet was not burnt down.

The young warriors marvelled thereat; they did not know that in this house dwelt a Moor, and the Moors were all on the side of the Tatars. They brought them tidings, conducted them to the towns, and were their spies and receivers. What the Tatars stole they bought[Pg 254] of them cheaply, and peddled it in Moravia, and even further still. This was the house of one of these hucksters. A great red ox's head was painted on the door, that the Tatars might recognize that the dweller therein was one of their men.

The Moor received them with great amiability when they crossed his threshold, assured them that they might stay with him, and immediately set about making ready a meal for them, which was a great consolation to the honest, starving wanderers. While they were complaining to their honest host of the hardships they had undergone, a noble lady came panting up to the house, from whose ragged robes and unstitched sandals one could see that she had fled afar for refuge, and asked whether her beloved husband and her little boy had come thither. There were five of them hiding in the forest, she said; her husband, with their little boy, a faithful retainer, a nurse, and a little baby. All at once they had heard the barking of dogs, and her husband had said that the other three should remain behind in a cave, while he himself, with the little boy, went on in front to look about, and see whether there were any human dwelling near at hand. They had waited for him a long time, till at last the wife, terrified at the long absence of her husband, had come forth herself to seek him. Were they perchance here?

"It is possible they may have come hither, my child," said the Moor, with a shrug; "many seek refuge here nowadays. What were they like?"

The woman described her husband's appearance and his garments, and then the little boy. On the little boy's finger, she said, was a black horsehair ring,[Pg 255] with a little white cross. None could take it off, even if they killed him for it; he could be recognized by that.

The Moor replied that he had not cast eyes on them, and the poor woman, wailing and ringing her hands, went further on to seek for her husband and her little boy.

Meanwhile, a meal had been served up for the young warriors—seethed flesh in a huge caldron. The Moor also brought them wine, and, hoping they would enjoy their food, left them to themselves.

Sir Michael, who was very hungry, would have attacked the liberal repast forthwith, but Sir Simon stopped him.

"Had we not better first offer up our thanks, Michael?" said he.

So they said a grace, as it becomes God-fearing men to do, and then only did they turn to their meat.

And behold! God had mercy on them, and was gracious to them, for when Sir Michael plunged his curved eating-knife into the kettle, what think you he brought out of it on the point of his knife? A tiny bone encircled by a black horsehair ring, with a tiny white cross in the midst of the ring.

The youths leaped in terror to their feet, and, with no further thought of either meat or drink, and without taking leave of host or hostess, rushed from thence as fast as their legs could carry them, and only late in the evening arrived in front of the cave of a poor hermit, to whom they told the horrible thing that had befallen them.

"Give thanks to God, my sons," said the old ascetic,[Pg 256] "that He has delivered you from that evil place, for the dwellers therein are none other than the impious Moors, the spies of the Tatars, who give to the refugees who seek a shelter there, stupefying drugs in their drink, and, when sleep has overcome them, chop off their heads. For the heads they get a denarius a piece from the Tatars, and the flesh of the bodies they give to the refugees who come afterwards, thus most monstrously causing the Magyars to eat the bodies of their own brethren. Rejoice that you have not tasted thereof. Clear fresh water and dried roots will now be a banquet to you, and we will share them together. Remain here till morning, and then go even higher and higher towards the north; you cannot miss your way. On whichever side of the trees you find moss, in that direction the north will be. If you go a seven days' journey through valleys and hills, you will see before you the highest mountains on the borders of Hungary; there will you hear a bell, and it shall guide you. There you will find a shelter—there are the Stones of Refuge, which those who are skilled in war have provided with means of defence, so that they may receive fugitives from every quarter. There also will be a good place for you. You will find there an altar, bread, strong bastions, which the good God and your good swords will defend against a thousand enemies. Stop nowhere till you reach that place, for danger and desolation are over all the land."

The young warriors kissed the hand of the good old man for his good counsel, and early in the morning, according to his directions, went all alone through the dense forests. They went far, they went for a long[Pg 257] time, they left behind them the oak hills, they left the beech hills behind them, and now they were among the dark, solemn pines, but further and further still they had to go.

But one morning, when they had sat down to rest among the lofty mountains, the voice of a bell, coming from afar, struck upon their ears. It was the voice of a very large bell, such bells as are only to be found in such cities as Fehérvár or Nagy Várad, in the cathedrals.

Sir Michael leaped with joy at the sound.

"Here must certainly be the Rocks of Refuge," he cried.

But his brother Simon only shook his head.

"We have still further to go, my brother. The holy man said it was at least a seven days' journey from here."

"Ah! no doubt he measured the distance with his own feet, and they are old."

"But the sound of this bell comes not from the north, but much more from the west."

"No doubt we have lost the proper direction."

And Sir Michael persuaded his elder brother, Simon, not to go any further, but turn aside and discover from whence came the sound of the bell, for surely none but a Christian man would signal with a bell. No doubt they did so to prevent folks from losing their way, so that they might turn in thither and find a place of refuge from the enemy.

Simon at last agreed, and they proceeded in the direction from whence the sound of the bell came, and when they had emerged from the forest a little pebbly valley opened out before them, through which wound a[Pg 258] little brook, and over the brook a great footbridge was cast. But the bridge led up to a great rocky castle, with a large pointed tower in each of its four corners, and a fifth tower in the middle. There were bells in all five of these towers, and they were pulling them as if they were ringing in a procession.

"These be certainly the Rocks of Refuge!" cried Sir Michael, once more.

"The hermit said nothing of such towers and bastions as these," remarked his brother Simon, hesitating.

"They may have been built since last he was here," replied his brother.

And so they went on towards the castle. But it struck them as strange that there were neither peasants' huts, nor a village, nor cottagers' dwellings at the base of this strange castle, as there was wont to be elsewhere. How was that?

"No doubt they have gathered all the peasantry within the walls of the castle." Thus did the credulous Sir Michael explain it all.

The watchman on the tower, when he saw the travellers drawing near, immediately sounded his horn, whereupon they let down the drawbridge which connected the footbridge with the castle gate. Strong retainers came forth to meet the new arrivals, and when the travellers gravely told them that they had come from afar, from the midst of the devastated kingdom, and knew not whether this was a good place of refuge or not, the men laughed aloud and said: "Yes, you have indeed come to a good place, comrades, for this is the castle of Sir Fulko, a famous and well-known[Pg 259] warrior. The Tatar cannot come hither, though he fill up the whole valley. Here, too, there is no lack, for here is enough to eat and drink and to spare. Have you any treasures which you want put into a safe place?"

"Of a truth we have nothing at all but our good swords."

"Well, so much the better. You can enter into the knight's service, and can win a good wage by fighting valiantly beneath his banner."

"We want no money for our service; it suffices us if we can fight against the pagans beneath a good leader."

The lackeys laughed at the valorous way in which the youths spoke, and led them into the castle, and soon afterwards they brought them scented water in silver ewers, and made them wash and bathe themselves. Then they brought them splendid velvet and flowered damask garments embroidered with gold and crusted with diamonds. They also anointed their locks with fragrant unguents. Sir Fulko, they said, had commanded all these things to be done; he always received his guests with the like hospitality.

"But perchance we do not deserve this great honour," said Sir Simon, blushing, who was always a shamefaced man when favours were forced upon him.

"Oh, you'll have your full share of far more than this," said the servants, jocosely. "Our master has prepared a banquet for us all, and the young ladies, the daughters of Sir Fulko, Meryza and Siona, will be at the banquet also. You will sit beside them."

"But what odd names they have!" cried Sir Simon.[Pg 260] "Where were they christened to get such names as these?"

"Don't trouble your heads about that. To-morrow you will be able to say which of the twain is the most beautiful."

Sir Michael's heart was immediately interested in imagining which of the two ladies was likely to be the fairest, but his elder brother, Simon, was busy with very different thoughts.

"Is there no chapel here?" he asked. "We should like to go there first to give thanks to God for delivering us from the midst of so many dangers. It is now many weeks since we had an altar before us, only in the woods, at break of day, with the fowls of the air, have we been able to pray to God."

The lackeys again laughed at them.

"Leave all that now, good friends, you can find your way about to-morrow; a priest you can see at any time. Now come to the feast; they must have sat down to table long ago."

Sir Simon shook his head a good deal at this. He did not much like a place where they spoke of the altar so lightly; but he did not want to begin a brawl, so he allowed himself to accept the invitation, but he reminded his younger brother that after their long fast it would be as well to partake of the feast sparingly, and not drink too much wine, lest harm might come of so sudden a repast.

At the blast of a trumpet the inner folding doors of the castle were thrown open, and the youths were conducted into the banqueting-room.

The two honest young warriors felt the light of[Pg 261] their eyes darkened by the great splendour which now burst like enchantment upon them from all sides. The tables were piled with silver plate and golden beakers; chairs and benches were gorgeously carved and painted; the windows were full of coloured glass; the chairs, at the heads of the tables, were upholstered in velvet and surmounted by canopies as if they had been placed there for princes. At the back of every chair stood a heyduke in parade garments of cloth of gold, scarlet mantles, and with silver wine pitchers in their hands. Then the folding doors at the opposite end of the banqueting-room were thrown open, and through them came the guests of the lord of the castle, each richly attired gentleman conducting a beautiful damsel by the right hand. The ladies swept the floor with their heavy silk dresses, and diamonds and carbuncles sparkled on their foreheads and in their bosoms. They took their places in couples around the long, loaded tables, a man and a woman side by side. Finally, three fanfaronades announced the arrival of the master of the castle, Sir Fulko, an obese figure almost collapsing beneath the weight of the precious stones and gems he wore. He led a lady by each hand, his daughters Meryza and Siona.

The former, whom he led by the right hand, was a marvellously beautiful damsel; a tall, stately, dignified figure, who lifted her head as haughtily as one who knew that every one present was indeed her very humble servant.

The second damsel, whom Fulko led by the left hand, was small and hump-backed: she never raised her eyes nor looked around her, like one who knew[Pg 262] right well that every one despised her. It was easy enough to say which of the twain was the more beautiful.

At this spectacle Sir Michael fancied he was dreaming, so blinded were his eyes by the sheen of the precious stones, that he knew not whether he was in earth or heaven. But Sir Simon, when he beheld all the splendour before him, bethought him that at this very time King Bela[23] was drinking out of his helmet water stained with bloods from the banks of flowing streams.

[23] After losing the Battle of the Sajo, where 65,000 Magyars vainly endeavoured to arrest the march of 500,000 Mongols, Bela fled for a time into Austria.

"Knights and dames to your places!" cried Sir Fulko. "Here beside me will sit Sir Simon and Sir Michael; the latest guest always has the first place at my table. Sit down beside my daughters. This is my daughter Meryza, and that my daughter Siona."

Michael so contrived that the fair Meryza sat next to him, but Sir Simon took his place next to the meek-eyed Siona, but first of all he said grace to himself in a low voice, at which the other guests laughed greatly; the good knight was making quite a scandal, they said. Nevertheless, a voice beside him whispered softly: "Amen! Amen!" He looked in that direction and saw the humpbacked Siona, and at that moment the deformed damsel seemed lovelier to him than the stately Meryza.

The guests drank right gallantly; they required no very urgent invitation thereto, and when they had all got pretty full skins, they requested the new-comers to[Pg 263] tell them the story of all that had befallen them on their way thither.

Sir Michael, not possessing the gift of eloquence himself, beckoned to his elder brother to speak. Simon, therefore, got on his legs, and imagining he had to do with honest patriots whose hearts could be touched, he began to tell them of the mournful events he had seen. As his narrative proceeded he was carried away more and more by his emotions; the terrible scenes rising again before his eyes gave inspiration to his lips, so that at last he spoke with such feeling that the tears coursed down his own cheeks.

But by the time he had dried his tears and looked round him again, he perceived that the army of guests was neither sighing nor crying at his melancholy oration; on the contrary, they were only listening by way of diversion, like triflers listening to a singer of songs.

So scandalized was he at the sight that he broke off abruptly.

What annoyed him most of all were the eyes of the stately Meryza; they regarded him so smilingly.

When he stopped speaking the stately damsel addressed him—

"Tell us some more of those pretty tales!" said she.

But a whimpering voice beside him—it was the pale Siona's—implored him to cease for the love of God, for it made her heart bleed to hear such horrible things.

And Sir Simon listened to the words of Siona; he sighed deeply and sat down. He was sorry that he had reproached his host and the army of guests with heartlessness; he thought that it was only good manners on[Pg 264] their part, and that he had forgotten himself because he was so tired.

But now arose Sir Saksin, a gigantic figure of a man, close beside Simon, and asked him why he did not drink like the rest of them and why he had left off speaking? Why had he insulted the company by this sudden silence? Let him come out on the green, then, if he would!

Sir Simon perceived that this would mean bloodshed, so he shoved away his chair from beneath him and held himself ready for everything. This was no unusual thing in the days when there had been much drinking among many guests and the exhibition of strength was not considered a disgrace, and therefore, before a banquet, all the guests were wont to unload themselves of all their cutting and thrusting weapons, lest they might injure one another and be sorry of it when they were sober again.

Perceiving this, Sir Michael would also have leaped from his seat, but the wine he had taken had tied him to it, and besides, those about him said that in a quarrel between two men, it did not become a third person to interfere.

But Siona whispered to Simon.

"Beware of letting yourself be hugged, for Saksin has spiked armour beneath his dolman, and if he clip you tight it will mangle you."

And this secret information was of great use to Simon, for when he was wrestling with the big knight in the midst of the room, he never let himself be clipt round the body, but seized him firmly by both arms, and after thus giving his huge body a good shaking,[Pg 265] tripped him up and flung him to the ground so that his head hit the floor violently.

At this, Saksin leaped furiously to his feet, and clutching a chair, rushed upon Sir Simon; but the latter broke the impact of the chair with one hand, while with the other he gave Sir Saksin such a buffet that he saw and heard nothing more, for the blood burst suddenly from his nose, mouth, and ears. So they carried him off wrapped up in a rug.

At this the other guests laughed heartily, praised Sir Simon for his strength and skill, and pressed his hand one after another. But he noticed at the same time that they all tried to find out whether they could hurt his hand by pressing it as hard as they could. "Let them do as they like," he thought; "but I wonder what is going to happen next."

Finally, the master of the house tapped him on the shoulder. He told him too that he was a fine fellow for overthrowing so doughty a warrior with whom none hitherto had ventured to cope, and inasmuch as he had resolved that whoever was able to vanquish Sir Saksin was to be allowed to choose one of his daughters for his consort, let him make his choice straightway.

Sir Simon fancied they were making sport with him by promising him such a reward, which he had done nought to earn. But when he saw them summon the chaplain, he perceived they were in real earnest. And, besides, he was invited once more to make his choice.

But Sir Michael, his brother, was greatly amazed at all this. He was also grievously annoyed that he had not contended with Saksin, for he was no whit less[Pg 266] doughty than his brother Simon. Alas! Simon would of course choose Meryza, for if he had any eyes at all he could not fail to see at a glance which was the loveliest.

But Simon turned towards the pale Siona and said it was she who pleased him best.

Sir Fulko was greatly surprised. He did not like the choice at all. He scratched his head. He bit his lips. But the only objection he could make was that Meryza was the eldest.

"Well, if you don't want her married later than her younger sister, give her to wife to my younger brother. He is just as good a warrior as I am, and if he had fought with Saksin he would have flung him to the ground not twice but thrice."

Michael himself swore that he would indeed have done all that for Meryza, and, if necessary, he would try conclusions with every gentleman present one after the other; whereat they all laughed heartily.

Sir Fulko thereupon took him at his word, and said that, as he was so enamoured of his daughter, he might take her for his consort by all means.

Sir Michael was beside himself for joy. He could scarce stand upon his legs for joy, and challenged the whole world to wrestle with him.

But the soul of Sir Simon was steadied and cooled by the reflection: How was it that such a rich lord disposed so readily of his lady-daughters, and gave them to wife to the first comers without wooing or sueing?

Nevertheless, it was a fact, whether he believed himself to be awake or imagined himself to be asleep,[Pg 267] it had happened all the same. Sir Fulko joined their hands together; Meryza drew from her finger a diamond ring, which she placed on the finger of Sir Michael; while Siona gave a thin circlet to Sir Simon as a token of their espousals, the knights giving them in exchange from their fingers old ancestral rings of great price; whereupon the whole army of guests, suddenly converted into a bridal party, proceeded forthwith to the castle chapel, where a priestly shape united the two couples in holy matrimony according to the ritual of the Catholic Faith, decently and in order to the accompaniment of hymns and organ.

Sir Michael and the fair Meryza withdrew to their appointed bridal-chamber, but Sir Simon said to his bride: "I will remain here a little while before the altar to thank God for His wondrous benefits, inasmuch as He has delivered me out of jeopardy and guided my footsteps into the path of liberty. It was but yesterday the wolves were lying in wait for me, and now to-day I am blessed with a good consort like you. Go back to your room, and I will shortly come after you."

For about an hour Sir Simon remained there beside the altar, which was embellished with the statues of the Saints; he felt inclined to bless these holy images one after the other, but then he thought that perhaps Siona might be growing impatient at his long delay.

"Forgive me, Siona, for remaining so long in the chapel," said he, on his return; "but I had so many thanks to render to God this day."

"Indeed, you have many reasons to thank God," said Siona; "for marvellously hath He delivered you from death this day. You may thank God that[Pg 268] you sat beside me instead of by Meryza, for Saksin would assuredly have fastened a quarrel upon you in any case; and had you not taken heed and avoided his grip, you would have been a dead man now. You may also thank God that you drank not out of your own beaker, but out of mine, in which there was water; for the rim of your beaker was smeared with stupefying poison, and if your lips had touched it, you would have been drugged and died before dawn. But you may thank God a hundred times over that you did not stretch out your hand after Meryza when they allowed you to choose between us, as hundreds have done before you, who are all dead; for you most certainly would have followed them."

"But what sort of a house can this be, then?" inquired the terrified Simon.

"A house of robbers and murderers. Sir Fulko is a bandit-chief; he is not my father, but my step-father, who tormented my mother to death. Meryza, on the contrary, is his daughter, of whom they relate horrors. These guests, who walk about in cloth of gold, the companions of Fulko and his daughter, are every one of them murderers a hundred times over, and accursed. Formerly, until last year, they scoured the counties far and wide, in bands, on their predatory adventures. Sometimes Meryza herself led them, and she is more merciless even than her father in these nocturnal massacres. Since, however, Heaven in its wrath has inflicted this great blow on our country, and let loose the Tatars upon it, Fulko's bands have not gone forth plundering. They fear to fall in with stronger robbers than themselves, so they hung large[Pg 269] bells in their towers, and the far-sounding voices of the bells decoy from afar those who are seeking a refuge from the Tartars. When rich nobles or chapmen come hither they are hospitably welcomed; their treasures are taken charge of, and they themselves are disposed of the very first night. If there are handsome youths amongst them they are made sport of, as you were. Fulko offers them the choice of his daughters. The youth, intoxicated by the drugged wine, demand the hand of Meryza, and they conduct him to the altar. A robber, clothed in the vestments of some murdered priest, unites them, and he finds himself her husband. When Meryza gives the signal they ring the bell outside; an alarm of 'fire' is raised; the young husband is aroused from his slumbers, and the moment he rushes from the bedroom all trace of him is lost, and the next day there is a fresh comer, another death, another sacrifice."

"Horrible!" cried Sir Simon. "And is Michael there at this moment? Where is he, I say?"

"Speak softly! He is not there now. In the adjoining room gapes an abyss twenty fathoms wide. Every day we walk over it. The floor on which we walk turns downwards on a hinge, which is in the centre of it, and on the withdrawal of a bolt is ready to yawn open from end to end. At this moment the bolt is withdrawn. If any one were to tread upon the floor it would give way beneath him, and precipitate him below into a deep well, which leads into a long corridor, extending right away to the base of the mountain, and only admitting the light of day through a narrow opening. If by some miracle any one falls to[Pg 270] the bottom of the dry well without dashing out his brains, he is torn to pieces in the depths by two bloodhounds of Fulko, Orcus and Erebus he calls them. On the following day, Fulko and his men descend into the cave-like corridor, scare away the dogs, and divide among them the gems and ornaments of the dead men."

"And my brother? What has happened to my brother?"

Siona dried the tears from her eyes.

"Listen, and I'll tell you the designs of your enemies. A hand will begin tapping softly on the window of the bedroom, and then they will whisper that your brother wants a word with you. They are tapping at Michael's window now."

"And he?"

"Dead, without doubt. It was impossible to save him, for Meryza would come with him to the very door, and kiss him there; and then there would be a shout—and a great silence."

Words failed Sir Simon for sheer sorrow of heart.

"All you can do now is to save yourself. Here is a long rope; tie it round your body. Here is a good sword; gird it on to your belt. Take this burning torch in your left hand; don't wait till they call. Step out upon the drawbridge. I will let you down softly by this cord, and when you have got down I'll fling the cord after you. If you meet the bloodhounds cry: 'Be off, Orcus and Erebus,' and dash the torch in their eyes, and they will not hurt you. Kill them not, for then it will be known that you have escaped, and Fulko and his men will go after you and capture you. And now hasten. When you are in a place of safety, I wish you[Pg 271] a long life; and perhaps you will sometimes think that the poor orphan whom you chose for your faithful consort really was faithful to you."

Sir Simon embraced and kissed Siona with great emotion.

"I am really your husband, and will not leave you here; come along with me!"

"That would mean the destruction of us both. They would know in an hour that I had betrayed them, and before dawn we should be again in their hands. The whole neighbourhood is in league with them. In three days' time they will not be able to make out which of the bones are yours. Hasten! Tarry not!"

Sir Simon thereupon vowed to God that if he escaped from thence, and the realm ever righted itself again, he would return thither to release his bride and take vengeance on the murderers of his brother. He did everything that Siona wished. His sword in one hand, his torch in the other, the card of deliverance round his body, he cautiously stepped upon the bridge of sighs, and when it gave way beneath him, he softly descended into the terrible abyss, from whose depths a dull howling greeted him.

"God be with you!" cried the voice of Siona above his head, when he already stood at the bottom of the well. He lifted the torch and lit up everything around him. There lay his brother Michael, his beautiful head crushed to death. The two bloodhounds, which were licking up his blood, fell back before the torch into the darkness; their blood-red eyes sparkled in the distance.

[Pg 272]Sir Simon kissed the face of his dead brother, and suffered him not to lie there for the wild beasts, but threw him over his shoulder and carried him through the long corridor till he came to the forest. The two dogs followed him all the way, but dare not attack him because of the torch.

In the forest beyond he dug a grave for the dead body, piled a great heap of stones upon it, cut crosses in the bark of four trees which towered above it so that he might recognize the spot, and earnestly prayed God to allow him to rest there in peace.

The north star now led him onwards towards the Carpathians.

Two nights he travelled continuously; in the daytime he kept closely under cover. On the third day at dawn he beheld in the distance the simple cross on the hilltop, of which the hermit had told him.

It was indeed the Stone of Refuge.

The worthy and valiant Templars, the Red Brothers, as the common folks called them, had built there a place of refuge for the fugitives of the whole kingdom, and whenever a vagrant Tatar band came after them they were bravely repulsed, and could not take them by force.

And in the third year the hand of the Lord swept away from the bereaved Magyar land the hordes of Gog and Magog, and every one returned to his devastated fatherland.

The King came back and re-created a nation and a kingdom, and laid an iron hand on the traitors and malefactors who had competed with the enemy in the devastation of their country.

[Pg 273]Ambulatory tribunals were formed which, under the presidency of the Palatine, summoned the accused to appear at the bar on the borders of every county. Those charged with such grievous crimes had to submit to the judgments of God by means of the fire or water ordeal, or if they were warriors they had to contend with the royal warriors, whose faces were defended by helmets, and their bodies by coats of mail, while the accused had no other weapons than sword and targe.

Many an impious offender was caught in this way, to wit, renegades, traitors, saracens, cannibals, highwaymen, and spies. And at last it came to the turn of Sir Fulko. The royal herald fastened the accusing iron-glove on his gates also, and so great was the confidence of the robber chief that, though he might have fled, he did not fly, but appeared with all his retainers, with his captain Saksin, and his daughter Meryza, before the tribunal, only Siona remained behind in the earth.

Meryza put heart into Captain Saksin, who was a frightfully strong man and experienced in duelling, and bade him have no fear, but embrace the royal champion firmly, and to that end she had made for him a shirt of mail which was a masterpiece of sorcery, for no weapon could pierce it, and gave him a sword besides, which could pierce iron as if it were velvet.

Thus caparisoned, Sir Saksin planted himself in the lists where the royal champion stood; over against him and in the midst of the lists sat the Palatine beneath a canopy, with the Pristaldus standing below him, and the Pristaldus recited from a long list, in a loud voice,[Pg 274] the charges brought against the accused, to wit, that they had faithlessly murdered those who had sought refuge with them, and had profaned the Holy Sacrament.

The accused replied that the charges against them were lies, in the belief that those who could testify against them were all dead.

"I declare the accusation to be pure calumny, and I demand a duel with the royal champion," cried Sir Saksin, defiantly.

"Then recognize whom you fight with," said the champion, pulling off his barred helmet; "I am Simon Koppand, whom Orcus and Erebus did not devour."

On hearing that name and seeing that face, the enchanted sword fell from the hand of the big powerful man; he had no more stomach for fighting. He stretched out his hand for the fetters, and promised to confess everything.

Sir Fulko, when he heard the names of Orcus and Erebus, swiftly flung himself on his horse and galloped off; they pursued, but could not overtake him. None to this day knows what became of him.

Only Meryza remained defiant. When her father fled, and Saksin confessed everything, even she denied her crimes, and refused to tell anything. Then she was subjected to the water ordeal, and died beneath it.

Saksin they quartered; the other robbers were beheaded.

After this the King bestowed upon Simon Koppand the castle of Sir Fulko, and Simon Koppand presented the enormous treasure he found there to the Church, to the glory of God.

But Siona he really took to wife, and was married[Pg 275] to her a second time, canonically, and she lived with him long and happily as his faithful consort. And the name of Koppand continued for centuries.

And may the Lord God bless the Magyars hereafter as He hath done heretofore.


Jarrold and Sons, Ltd., The Empire Press, Norwich.




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TALES FROM GORKY. Translated from the Russian by R. Nisbet Bain. With photogravure Portrait and Biography of Maxim Gorky. 6/-.

"The man has all the notes of genuine and unmistakable literary genius. He has vision; he has the mastery of the phrase; half-a-dozen deft touches and there is your picture; in a paragraph he has infected you with the emotion he himself experienced at the moment he presents."—Daily Chronicle.



Crown 8vo Art Linen, with Photogravure Portrait of DR. JÓKAI. 6s. each.

THE GREEN BOOK; or, Freedom under the Snow. Eighth Edition.

Mr. Courtney, in the Daily Telegraph, says:—"It is truly an astounding book. In force, fire, and prodigal variety he reminds one of the elder Dumas."

THE DAY OF WRATH. Fourth Edition.

"There is no novel in which Jókai's all-round forcefulness and daring wealth of colour are more terrific."—Pall Mall Gazette.

BLACK DIAMONDS. Fifth Edition.

"Few living novelists rival Jókai in popularity. 'Black Diamonds' is one of Jókai's most popular romances."—Athenæum.

EYES LIKE THE SEA. Fourth Edition.

"A brilliant story. . . . The wealth of incident and quaint situations display the surprising fancy of the author."—Pilot.

THE LION OF JANINA. Fifth Edition.

"It is a fascinating story."—Daily Chronicle.

DR. DUMANY'S WIFE. Fourth Edition.

"A good interesting novel. The characters live and move all through the book."—St. James' Gazette.

PRETTY MICHAL. Fifth Edition.

"We admire the work of Maurus Jókai. It is vivid and there is a superabundance of incident."—Times.


"A succession of gorgeous tableaux. His canvas is crowded with striking figures of irresistible charm."—Spectator.

THE SLAVES OF THE PADISHAH; or, The Turks in Hungary. Sequel to "'Midst the Wild Carpathians."

"One of the great books of the brilliant Hungarian Novelist."—Daily News.


"A series of strong, vivid pictures of Hungarian life, executed by the hand of a great master."—Daily Chronicle.


"An enthralling romance of adventure and intrigue."—The Bookman.


"Full of exciting incidents and masterly studies of character."—Court Circular.

HALIL THE PEDLAR (The White Rose).

"The book is a brilliant picture of an almost increditable world."—St. James' Gazette.

DEBTS OF HONOR. Fourth Edition.

"A series of pictures, stirring, sorrowful, and gay, but always beautiful."—St. James' Gazette.

Jarrold & Sons, 10 & 11, Warwick Lane, London, E.C.
And of all Booksellers.

Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in the original text have been corrected. Please note that the original text was inconsistent in the spelling and hyphenation of many words, in particular, in the use of accents. Except as noted below, these variations have been retained.

The title page was moved to the front of the book, ahead of the advertising material which preceded it in the original edition.

In the Biography of Jókai, "János Kováes" was changed to "János Kovács", "A debreceni Sunatikus" was changed to "A debreceni lunatikus", and "Déak's original programme" was changed to "Deák's original programme".

In The Justice of Soliman, "who had stolen the body of Eminah" was changed to "who had stolen the body of Eminha".

In Love and the Little Dog, "without the break on" was changed to "without the brake on".

In The Red Starosta, "the descendant of Jitschak Ben Menachim" was changed to "the descendant of Jitzchak Ben Menachim".

In The City of the Beast, "stones and other missles" was changed to "stones and other missiles", "mirky, dark-green tinge" was changed to "murky, dark-green tinge", and "wot not off" was changed to "wot not of".

In The Hostile Skulls, "if had anything on his mind" was changed to "if he had anything on his mind", and "a similiar contrivance" was changed to "a similar contrivance".

In The Bad Old Times, a quotation mark was added after "you shall rise up and watch over me.", and "in which dwell a gipsy" was changed to "in which dwelt a gipsy".

In the advertisement for New and Forthcoming Books, "Tales from Jòkai" was changed to "Tales from Jókai", "cleft touches" was changed to "deft touches", a quotation mark was added after "masterly studies of character.", and one page of books was moved from after the list of "Maurus Jokai's Famous Novels" to before.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Tales From Jókai, by Mór Jókai


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