Prince Zilah, v3
Part 2 out of 2
"Possibly," said Varhely; "but I do not care to discuss the right of the
Russian police to defend themselves or the Czar. What I have come for is
to ask you to use your influence with the Russian Government to obtain
"Are you very much interested in Menko?"
"Very much," replied Yanski, in a tone which struck the minister as
"Then," asked Count Ladany with studied slowness, "you would like?--"
"A note from you to the Russian ambassador, demanding Menko's release.
Angelo Valla--you know him--Manin's former minister--"
"Yes, I know," said Count Josef, with his enigmatical smile.
"Valla told me of Menko's arrest. I knew that Menko had left Paris, and
I was very anxious to find where he had gone. Valla learned, at the
Italian embassy in Paris, of the affair of this Labanoff and of the real
or apparent complicity of Michel Menko; and he told me about it. When we
were talking over the means of obtaining the release of a man held by
Muscovite authority, which is not an easy thing, I know, we thought of
you, and I have come to your Excellency as I would have gone to the chief
of the Legion of Students to demand his aid in a case of danger!"
Yanski Varhely was no diplomat; and his manner of appealing to the
memories of the past was excessively disagreeable to the minister, who,
however, allowed no signs of his annoyance to appear.
Count Ladany was perfectly well acquainted with the Warsaw affair. As an
Hungarian was mixed up in it, and an Hungarian of the rank and standing
of Count Menko, the Austro-Hungarian authorities had immediately been
advised of the whole proceeding. There were probably no proofs of actual
complicity against Menko; but, as Josef Ladany had said, it seemed
evident that he had come to Poland to join Labanoff. An address given to
Menko by Labanoff had been found, and both were soon to depart for St.
Petersburg. Labanoff had some doubtful acquaintances in the Russian
army: several officers of artillery, who had been arrested and sent to
the mines, were said to be his friends.
"The matter is a grave one," said the Count. "We can scarcely, for one
particular case, make our relations more strained with a--a friendly
nation, relations which so many others--I leave you to divine who, my
dear Varhely--strive to render difficult. And yet, I would like to
oblige you; I would, I assure you."
"If Count Menko is not set at liberty, what will happen to him?" asked
"Hmm--he might, although a foreigner, be forced to take a journey to
"Siberia! That is a long distance off, and few return from that
journey," said Varhely, his voice becoming almost hoarse. "I would give
anything in the world if Menko were free!"
"It would have been so easy for him not to have been seized by the
"Yes; but he is. And, I repeat, I have come to you to demand his
release. Damn it! Such a demand is neither a threat nor a cases belli."
The minister calmed the old hussar with a gesture.
"No," he replied, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth;
"but it is embarrassing, embarrassing! Confound Menko! He always was a
feather-brain! The idea of his leaving diplomacy to seek adventures!
He must know, however, that his case is--what shall I say?--embarrassing,
very embarrassing. I don't suppose he had any idea of conspiring. He is
a malcontent, this Menko, a malcontent! He would have made his mark in
our embassies. The devil take him! Ah! my dear Count, it is very
embarrassing, very embarrassing!"
The minister uttered these words in a calm, courteous, polished manner,
even when he said "The devil take him!" He then went on to say, that he
could not make Varhely an absolute promise; he would look over the papers
in the affair, telegraph to Warsaw and St. Petersburg, make a rapid study
of what he called again the "very embarrassing" case of Michel Menko, and
give Varhely an answer within twenty-four hours.
"That will give you a chance to take a look at our city, my dear Count.
Vienna has changed very much. Have you seen the opera-house? It is
superb. Hans Makart is just exhibiting a new picture. Be sure to see
it, and visit his studio, too; it is well worth examining. I have no
need to tell you that I am at your service to act as your cicerone, and
show you all the sights."
"Are any of our old friends settled here?" asked Varhely.
"Yes, yes," said the minister, softly. "But they are deputies,
university professors, or councillors of the administration. All
changed! all changed!"
Then Varhely wished to know if certain among them whom he had not
forgotten had "changed," as the minister said.
"Where is Armand Bitto?"
"Dead. He died very poor."
"And Arpad Ovody, Georgei's lieutenant, who was so brave at the assault
of Buda? I thought that he was killed with that bullet through his
"Ovody? He is at the head of the Magyar Bank, and is charged by the
ministry with the conversion of the six per cent. Hungarian loan. He is
intimately connected with the Rothschild group. He has I don't know how
many thousand florins a year, and a castle in the neighborhood of
Presburg. A great collector of pictures, and a very amiable man!"
"And Hieronymis Janos, who wrote such eloquent proclamations and calls to
arms? Kossuth was very fond of him."
"He is busy, with Maurice Jokai, preparing a great book upon the Austro-
Hungarian monarchy, a book patronized by the Archduke Rudolph. He will
doubtless edit the part relative to the kingdom of Saint Stephen."
"Ha! ha! He will have a difficult task when he comes to the recital of
the battle at Raab against Francis Joseph in person! He commanded at
Raab himself, as you must remember well."
"Yes, he did, I remember," said the minister. Then, with a smile, he
added: "Bah! History is written, not made. Hieronymis Janos's book will
be very good, very good!"
"I don't doubt it. What about Ferency Szilogyi? Is he also writing
books under the direction of the Archduke Rudolph?"
"No! no! Ferency Szilogyi is president of the court of assizes, and a
very good magistrate he is."
"He! an hussar?"
"Oh! the world changes! His uniform sleeps in some chest, preserved in
camphor. Szilogyi has only one fault: he is too strongly anti-Semitic."
"He! a Liberal?"
"He detests the Israelites, and he allows it to be seen a little too
much. He embarrasses us sometimes. But there is one extenuating
circumstance--he has married a Jewess!"
This was said in a light, careless, humorously sceptical tone.
"On the whole," concluded the minister, "Armand Bitto, who is no longer
in this world, is perhaps the most fortunate of all."
Then, turning to Yanski with his pleasant smile, and holding out his
delicate, well-kept hand, which had once brandished the sabre, he said:
"My dear Varhely, you will dine with me to-morrow, will you not? It is a
great pleasure to see you again! Tomorrow I shall most probably give you
an answer to your request--a request which I am happy, very happy, to
take into consideration. I wish also to present you to the Countess.
But no allusions to the past before her! She is a Spaniard, and she
would not understand the old ideas very well. Kossuth, Bem, and Georgei
would astonish her, astonish her! I trust to your tact, Varhely. And
then it is so long ago, so very long ago, all that. Let the dead past
bury its dead! Is it understood?"
Yanski Varhely departed, a little stunned by this interview. He had
never felt so old, so out of the fashion, before. Prince Zilah and he
now seemed to him like two ancestors of the present generation--Don
Quixotes, romanticists, imbeciles. The minister was, as Jacquemin would
have said, a sly dog, who took the times as he found them, and left
spectres in peace. Well, perhaps he was right!
"Ah, well," thought the old hussar, with an odd smile, "there is the age
of moustaches and the age of whiskers, that is all. Ladany has even
found a way to become bald: he was born to be a minister!"
It little mattered to him, however, this souvenir of his youth found with
new characteristics. If Count Josef Ladany rescued Menko from the police
of the Czar, and, by setting him free, delivered him to him, Varhely, all
was well. By entering the ministry, Ladany would thus be at least useful
"TO SEEK FORGETFULNESS"
The negotiations with Warsaw, however, detained Yanski Varhely at Vienna
longer than he wished. Count Josef evidently went zealously to work to
obtain from the Russian Government Menko's release. He had promised
Varhely, the evening he received his old comrade at dinner, that he would
put all the machinery at work to obtain the fulfilment of his request.
"I only ask you, if I attain the desired result, that you will do
something to cool off that hotheaded Menko. A second time he would not
Varhely had made no reply; but the very idea that Michel Menko might be
free made his head swim. There was, in the Count's eagerness to obtain
Menko's liberty, something of the excitement of a hunter tracking his
prey. He awaited Michel's departure from the fortress as if he were a
rabbit in its burrow.
"If he is set at liberty, I suppose that we shall know where he goes," he
said to the minister.
"It is more than probable that the government of the Czar will trace his
journey for him. You shall be informed."
Count Ladany did not seek to know for what purpose Varhely demanded, with
such evident eagerness, this release. It was enough for him that his old
brother-in-arms desired it, and that it was possible.
"You see how everything is for the best, Varhely," he said to him one
morning. "Perhaps you blamed me when you learned that I had accepted a
post from Austria. Well, you see, if I did not serve the Emperor, I
could not serve you!"
During his sojourn at Vienna, Varhely kept himself informed, day by day,
as to what was passing in Paris. He did not write to Prince Zilah,
wishing, above everything, to keep his errand concealed from him; but
Angelo Valla, who had remained in France, wrote or telegraphed whatever
happened to the Prince.
Marsa Laszlo was cured; she had left Dr. Sims's institution, and returned
to the villa of Maisons-Lafitte.
The poor girl came out of her terrible stupor with the distaste to
take up the thread of life which sometimes comes after a night of
forgetfulness in sleep. This stupor, which might have destroyed her,
and the fever which had shaken her, seemed to her sweet and enviable
now compared to this punishment: To live! To live and think!
And yet--yes, she wished to live to once more see Andras, whose look,
fixed upon her, had rekindled the extinct intellectual flame of her
being. She wished to live, now that her reason had returned to her,
to live to wrest from the Prince a word of pardon. It could not be
possible that her existence was to end with the malediction of this man.
It seemed to her, that, if she should ever see him face to face, she
would find words of desperate supplication which would obtain her
Certainly--she repented it bitterly every hour, now that the punishment
of thinking and feeling had been inflicted upon her--she had acted
infamously, been almost as criminal as Menko, by her silence and deceit--
her deceit! She, who hated a lie! But she longed to make the Prince
understand that the motive of her conduct was the love which she had for
him. Yes, her love alone! There was no other reason, no other, for her
unpardonable treachery. He did not think it now, without any doubt.
He must accuse her of some base calculation or vile intrigue. But she
was certain that, if she could see him again, she would prove to him that
the only cause of her conduct was her unquenchable love for him.
"Let him only believe that, and then let him fly me forever, if he likes!
Forever! But I cannot endure to have him despise me, as he must!"
It was this hope which now attached her to life. After her return to
Maisons-Lafitte from Vaugirard, she would have killed herself if she had
not so desired another interview where she could lay bare her heart.
Not daring to appear before Andras, not even thinking of such a thing as
seeking him, she resolved to wait some opportunity, some chance, she knew
not what. Suddenly, she thought of Yanski Varhely. Through Varhely, she
might be able to say to Andras all that she wished her husband--her
husband! the very word made her shudder with shame--to know of the
reason of her crime. She wrote to the old Hungarian; but, as she
received no response, she left Maisons-Lafitte and went to Varhely's
house. They did not know there, where the Count was; but Monsieur Angelo
Valla would forward any letters to him.
She then begged the Italian to send to Varhely a sort of long confession,
in which she asked his aid to obtain from the Prince the desired
The letter reached Yanski while he was at Vienna. He answered it with a
few icy words; but what did that matter to Marsa? It was not Varhely's
rancor she cared for, but Zilah's contempt. She implored him again, in a
letter in which she poured out her whole soul, to return, to be there
when she should tell the Prince all her remorse--the remorse which was
killing her, and making of her detested beauty a spectre.
There was such sincerity in this letter, wherein a conscience sobbed,
that, little by little, in spite of his rough exterior, the soldier, more
accessible to emotion than he cared to have it appear, was softened, and
growled beneath his moustache
"So! So! She suffers. Well, that is something."
He answered Marsa that he would return when he had finished a work he had
vowed to accomplish; and, without explaining anything to the Tzigana, he
added, at the end of his letter, these words, which, enigmatical as they
were, gave a vague, inexplicable hope to Marsa "And pray that I may
The day after he had sent this letter to Maisons-Lafitte, Varhely
received from Ladany a message to come at once to the ministry.
On his arrival there, Count Josef handed him a despatch. The Russian
minister of foreign affairs telegraphed to his colleague at Vienna, that
his Majesty the Czar consented to the release of Count Menko, implicated
in the Labanoff affair. Labanoff would probably be sent to Siberia the
very day that Count Menko would receive a passport and an escort to the
frontier. Count Menko had chosen Italy for his retreat, and he would
start for Florence the day his Excellency received this despatch.
"Well, my dear minister," exclaimed Varhely, "thank you a thousand times.
And, with my thanks, my farewell. I am also going to Florence."
"You will arrive there before Menko."
"I am in a hurry," replied Varhely, with a smile.
He went to the telegraph office, after leaving the ministry, and sent a
despatch to Angelo Valla, at Paris, in which he asked the Venetian to
join him in Florence. Valla had assured him that he could rely on him
for any service; and Varhely left Vienna, certain that he should find
Manin's old minister at Florence.
"After all, he has not changed so much," he said to himself, thinking of
Josef Ladany. "Without his aid, Menko would certainly have escaped me.
Ladany has taken the times as they are: Zilah and I desire to have them
as they should be. Which is right?"
Then, while the train was carrying him to Venice, he thought: Bah! it was
much better to be a dupe like himself and Zilah, and to die preserving,
like an unsurrendered flag, one's dream intact.
Yes! After all, Varhely might, at this moment, be close to death; but,
whatever might be the fate which awaited him at the end of his journey,
he found the road very long and the engine very slow.
At Venice he took a train which carried him through Lombardy into
Tuscany; and at Florence he found Angelo Valla.
The Italian already knew, in regard to Michel Menko, all that it was
necessary for him to know. Before going to London, Menko, on his return
from Pau, after the death of his wife, had retired to a small house he
owned in Pistoja; and here he had undoubtedly gone now.
It was a house built on the side of a hill, and surrounded with olive-
trees. Varhely and Valla waited at the hotel until one of Balla's
friends, who lived at Pistoja, should inform him of the arrival of the
Hungarian count. And Menko did, in fact, come there three days after
Varhely reached Florence.
"To-morrow, my dear Valla," said Yanski, "you will accompany me to see
"With pleasure," responded the Italian.
Menko's house was some distance from the station, at the very end of the
The bell at the gate opening into the garden, had been removed, as if to
show that the master of the house did not wish to be disturbed. Varhely
was obliged to pound heavily upon the wooden barrier. The servant who
appeared in answer to his summons, was an Hungarian, and he wore the
national cap, edged with fur.
"My master does not receive visitors," he answered when Yanski asked him,
in Italian, if Count Menko were at home.
"Go and say to Menko Mihaly," said Varhely, this time in Hungarian, "that
Count Varhely is here as the representative of Prince Zilah!"
The domestic disappeared, but returned almost immediately and opened the
gate. Varhely and Valla crossed the garden, entered the house, and found
themselves face to face with Menko.
Varhely would scarcely have recognized him.
The former graceful, elegant young man had suddenly aged: his hair was
thin and gray upon the temples, and, instead of the carefully trained
moustache of the embassy attache, a full beard now covered his emaciated
Michel regarded the entrance of Varhely into the little salon where he
awaited him, as if he were some spectre, some vengeance which he had
expected, and which did not astonish him. He stood erect, cold and
still, as Yanski advanced toward him; while Angelo Valla remained in the
doorway, mechanically stroking his smoothly shaven chin.
"Monsieur," said Varhely, "for months I have looked forward impatiently
to this moment. Do not doubt that I have sought you."
"I did not hide myself," responded Menko.
"Indeed? Then may I ask what was your object in going to Warsaw?"
"To seek-forgetfulness," said the young man, slowly and sadly.
This simple word--so often spoken by Zilah--which had no more effect upon
the stern old Hungarian than a tear upon a coat of mail, produced a
singular impression upon Valla. It seemed to him to express
"What you have done can not be forgotten," said Varhely.
"No more than what I have suffered."
"You made me the accomplice of the most cowardly and infamous act a man
could commit. I have come to you to demand an explanation."
Michel lowered his eyes at these cutting words, his thin face paling, and
his lower lip trembling; but he said nothing. At last, after a pause, he
raised his eyes again to the face of the old Hungarian, and, letting the
words fall one by one, he replied:
"I am at your disposal for whatever you choose to demand, to exact.
I only desire to assure you that I had no intention of involving you in
an act which I regarded as a cruel necessity. I wished to avenge myself.
But I did not wish my vengeance to arrive too late, when what I had
assumed the right to prevent had become irreparable."
"I do not understand exactly," said Varhely.
Menko glanced at Valla as if to ask whether he could speak openly before
"Monsieur Angelo Valla was one of the witnesses of the marriage of Prince
Andras Zilah," said Yanski.
"I know Monsieur," said Michel, bowing to Valla.
"Ah!" he exclaimed abruptly, his whole manner changing. "There was a
man whom I respected, admired and loved. That man, without knowing it,
wrested from me the woman who had been the folly, the dream, and the
sorrow of my life. I would have done anything to prevent that woman from
bearing the name of that man."
"You sent to the Prince letters written to you by that woman, and that,
too, after the Tzigana had become Princess Zilah."
"She had let loose her dogs upon me to tear me to pieces. I was insane
with rage. I wished to destroy her hopes also. I gave those letters to
my valet with absolute orders to deliver them to the Prince the evening
before the wedding. At the same hour that I left Paris, the letters
should have been in the hands of the man who had the right to see them,
and when there was yet time for him to refuse his name to the woman who
had written them. My servant did not obey, or did not understand. Upon
my honor, this is true. He kept the letters twenty-four hours longer
than I had ordered him to do; and it was not she whom I punished, but I
struck the man for whom I would have given my life."
"Granted that there was a fatality of this sort in your conduct,"
responded Varhely, coldly, "and that your lackey did not understand your
commands: the deed which you committed was none the less that of a
coward. You used as a weapon the letters of a woman, and of a woman whom
you had deceived by promising her your name when it was no longer yours
"Are you here to defend Mademoiselle Marsa Laszlo?" asked Michel, a
"I am here to defend the Princess Zilah, and to avenge Prince Andras. I
am here, above all, to demand satisfaction for your atrocious action in
having taken me as the instrument of your villainy."
"I regret it deeply and sincerely," replied Menko; "and I am at your
The tone of this response admitted of no reply, and Yanski and Valla took
Valla then obtained another second from the Hungarian embassy, and two
officers in garrison at Florence consented to serve as Menko's friends.
It was arranged that the duel should take place in a field near Pistoja.
Valla, anxious and uneasy, said to Varhely:
"All this is right and proper, but--"
"But suppose he kills you? The right is the right, I know; but leaden
bullets are not necessarily on the side of the right, and--"
"Well," interrupted Yanski, "in case of the worst, you must charge
yourself, my dear Valla, with informing the Prince how his old friend
Yanski Varhely defended his honor--and also tell him of the place where
Count Menko may be found. I am going to attempt to avenge Zilah. If I
do not succeed, 'Teremtete'!" ripping out the Hungarian oath, "he will
avenge me, that is all! Let us go to supper."
"IF MENKO WERE DEAD!"
Prince Zilah, wandering solitary in the midst of crowded Paris, was
possessed by one thought, one image impossible to drive away, one name
which murmured eternally in his ears--Marsa; Marsa, who was constantly
before his eyes, sometimes in the silvery shimmer of her bridal robes,
and sometimes with the deathly pallor of the promenader in the garden of
Vaugirard; Marsa, who had taken possession of his being, filling his
whole heart, and, despite his revolt, gradually overpowering all other
memories, all other passions! Marsa, his last love, since nothing was
before him save the years when the hair whitens, and when life weighs
heavily upon weary humanity; and not only his last love, but his only
Oh! why had he loved her? Or, having loved her, why had she not
confessed to him that that coward of a Menko had deceived her! Who
knows? He might have pardoned her, perhaps, and accepted the young girl,
the widow of that passion. Widow? No, not while Menko lived. Oh! if he
And Zilah repeated, with a fierce longing for vengeance: "If he were
dead!" That is, if there were not between them, Zilah and Marsa, the
abhorred memory of the lover!
Well! if Menko were dead?
When he feverishly asked himself this question, Zilah recalled at the
same time Marsa, crouching at his feet, and giving no other excuse than
this: "I loved you! I wished to belong to you, to be your wife!"
His wife! Yes, the beautiful Tzigana he had met at Baroness Dinati's was
now his wife! He could punish or pardon. But he had punished, since he
had inflicted upon her that living death--insanity. And he asked himself
whether he should not pardon Princess Zilah, punished, repentant, almost
He knew that she was now at Maisons, cured of her insanity, but still ill
and feeble, and that she lived there like a nun, doing good, dispensing
charity, and praying--praying for him, perhaps.
For him or for Menko?
No, for him! She was not vile enough to have lied, when she asked,
implored, besought death from Zilah who held her life or death in his
"Yes, I had the right to kill her, but--I have the right to pardon also,"
Ah, if Menko were dead!
The Prince gradually wrought himself into a highly nervous condition,
missing Varhely, uneasy at his prolonged absence, and never succeeding in
driving away Marsa's haunting image. He grew to hate his solitary home
and his books.
"I shall not want any breakfast," he said one morning to his valet; and,
going out, he descended the Champs-Elysees on foot.
At the corner of the Place de la Madeleine, he entered a restaurant, and
sat down near a window, gazing mechanically at this lively corner of
Paris, at the gray facade of the church, the dusty trees, the asphalt,
the promenaders, the yellow omnibuses, the activity of Parisian life.
All at once he was startled to hear his name pronounced and to see before
him, with his hand outstretched, as if he were asking alms, old General
Vogotzine, who said to him, timidly:
"Ah, my dear Prince, how glad I am to see you! I was breakfasting over
there, and my accursed paper must have hidden me. Ouf! If you only
knew! I am stifling!"
"Why, what is the matter?" asked Andras.
"Matter? Look at me! I must be as red as a beet!"
Poor Vogotzine had entered the restaurant for breakfast, regretting the
cool garden of Maisons-Lafitte, which, now that Marsa no longer sat
there, he had entirely to himself. After eating his usual copious
breakfast, he had imprudently asked the waiter for a Russian paper; and,
as he read, and sipped his kummel, which he found a little insipid and
almost made him regret the vodka of his native land, his eyes fell upon a
letter from Odessa, in which there was a detailed description of the
execution of three nihilists, two of them gentlemen. It told how they
were dragged, tied to the tails of horses, to the open square, each of
them bearing upon his breast a white placard with this inscription, in
black letters: "Guilty of high treason." Then the wretched General
shivered from head to foot. Every detail of the melodramatic execution
seemed burned into his brain as with a red-hot iron. He fancied he could
see the procession and the three gibbets, painted black; beside each
gibbet was an open ditch and a black coffin covered with a dark gray
pall. He saw, in the hollow square formed by a battalion of Cossack
infantry, the executioner, Froloff, in his red shirt and his plush
trousers tucked into his boots, and, beside him, a pale, black-robed
"Who the devil is such an idiot as to relate such things in the
newspapers?" he growled.
And in terror he imagined he could hear the sheriff read the sentence,
see the priest present the cross to the condemned men, and Froloff,
before putting on the black caps, degrade the gentlemen by breaking their
swords over their heads.
Then, half suffocated, Vogotzine flung the paper on the floor; and, with
eyes distended with horror, drawing the caraffe of kummel toward him, he
half emptied it, drinking glass after glass to recover his self-control.
It seemed to him that Froloff was there behind him, and that the branches
of the candelabra, stretching over his heated head, were the arms of
gibbets ready to seize him. To reassure himself, and be certain that he
was miles and miles from Russia, he was obliged to make sure of the
presence of the waiters and guests in the gay and gilded restaurant.
"The devil take the newspapers!" he muttered.
"They are cursed stupid! I will never read another! All that stuff is
absurd! Absurd! A fine aid to digestion, truly!"
And, paying his bill, he rose to go, passing his hand over his head as if
his sword had been broken upon it and left a contusion, and glancing
timidly into the mirrors, as if he feared to discover the image of
It was at this moment that he discovered Prince Zilah, and rushed up to
him with the joyful cry of a child discovering a protector.
The Prince noticed that poor Vogotzine, who sat heavily down by his side,
was not entirely sober. The enormous quantity of kummel he had absorbed,
together with the terror produced by the article he had read, had proved
too much for the good man: his face was fiery, and he constantly
moistened his dry lips.
"I suppose it astonishes you to see me here?" he said, as if he had
forgotten all that had taken place. "I--I am astonished to see myself
here! But I am so bored down there at Maisons, and I rust, rust, as
little--little--ah! Stephanie said to me once at Odessa. So I came to
breathe the air of Paris. A miserable idea! Oh, if you knew! When I
think that that might happen to me!"
"What?" asked Andras, mechanically.
"What?" gasped the General, staring at him with dilated eyes. "Why,
Froloff, of course! Froloff! The sword broken over your head! The
gallows! Ach! I am not a nihilist--heaven forbid!--but I have
displeased the Czar. And to displease the Czar--Brr! Imagine the open
square-Odessa-No, no, don't let us talk of it any more!" glancing
suddenly about him, as if he feared the platoon of Cossacks were there,
in the restaurant, come to drag him away in the name of the Emperor.
"Oh! by the way, Prince," he exclaimed abruptly. "why don't you ever
come to Maisons-Lafitte?"
He must, indeed, have been drunk to address such a question to the
Zilah looked him full in the face; but Vogotzine's eyes blinked stupidly,
and his head fell partially forward on his breast. Satisfied that he was
not responsible for what he was saying, Andras rose to leave the
restaurant, and the General with difficulty stumbled to his feet, and
instinctively grasped Andras's arm, the latter making no resistance, the
mention of Maisons-Lafitte interesting him, even from the lips of this
intoxicated old idiot.
"Do you know," stuttered Vogotzine, "I, myself, should be glad--very
glad--if you would come there. I am bored-bored to death! Closed
shutters--not the least noise. The creaking of a door--the slightest bit
of light-makes her ill. The days drag--they drag--yes, they do. No one
speaks. Most of the time I dine alone. Shall I tell you?--no--yes, I
will. Marsa, yes, well! Marsa, she is good, very good--thinks only of
the poor-the poor, you know! But whatever Doctor Fargeas may say about
it, she is mad! You can't deceive me! She is insane!--still insane!"
"Insane?" said Andras, striving to control his emotion.
The General, who was now staggering violently, clung desperately to the
Prince. They had reached the boulevard, and Andras, hailing a cab, made
Vogotzine get in, and instructed the coachman to drive to the Bois.
"I assure you that she is insane," proceeded the General, throwing his
head back on the cushions. "Yes, insane. She does not eat anything; she
never rests. Upon my word, I don't know how she lives. Once--her dogs--
she took walks. Now, I go with them into the park--good beasts--very
gentle. Sometimes, all that she says, is: 'Listen! Isn't that Duna or
Bundas barking?' Ah! if I wasn't afraid of Froloffyes, Froloff--how soon
I should return to Russia! The life of Paris--the life of Paris wearies
me. You see, I come here today, I take up a newspaper, and I see what?
Froloff! Besides, the life of Paris--at Maisons-Lafitte--between four
walls, it is absurd! Now, acknowledge, old man, isn't it absurd? Do you
know what I should like to do? I should like to send a petition to the
Czar. What did I do, after all, I should like to know? It wasn't
anything so horrible. I stayed, against the Emperor's orders, five days
too long at Odessa--that was all--yes, you see, a little French actress
who was there, who sang operettas; oh, how she did sing operettas!
Offenbach, you know;" and the General tried to hum a bar or two of the
'Dites lui', with ludicrous effect. "Charming! To leave her, ah! I
found that very hard. I remained five days: that wasn't much, eh, Zilah?
five days? But the devil! There was a Grand Duke--well--humph! younger
than I, of course--and--and--the Grand Duke was jealous. Oh! there was
at that time a conspiracy at Odessa! I was accused of spending my time
at the theatre, instead of watching the conspirators. They even said I
was in the conspiracy! Oh, Lord! Odessa! The gallows! Froloff! Well,
it was Stephanie Gavaud who was the cause of it. Don't tell that to
Marsa! Ah! that little Stephanie! 'J'ai vu le vieux Bacchus sur sa
roche fertile!' Tautin--no, Tautin couldn't sing like that little
Stephanie! Well," continued Vogotzine, hiccoughing violently, "because
all that happened then, I now lead here the life of an oyster! Yes, the
life of an oyster, of a turtle, of a clam! alone with a woman sad as
Mid-Lent, who doesn't speak, doesn't sing, does nothing but weep, weep,
weep! It is crushing! I say just what I think! Crushing, then,
whatever my niece may be--cr-r-rushing! And--ah--really, my dear fellow,
I should be glad if you would come. Why did you go away? Yes, yes, that
is your affair, and I don't ask any questions. Only--only you would do
well to come--"
"Why?" interrupted Andras, turning quickly to Vogotzine.
"Ah! why? Because!" said the General, trying to give to his heavy face
an expression of shrewd, dignified gravity.
"What has happened?" asked the Prince. "Is she suffering again? Ill?"
"Oh, insane, I tell you! absolutely insane! mad as a March hare!
Two days ago, you see--"
"Well, what? two days ago?"
"Because, two days ago!--"
"Well, what? What is it? Speak, Vogotzine!"
"The despatch," stammered the General.
"The des--despatch from Florence."
"She has received a despatch from Florence?"
"A telegram--blue paper--she read it before me; upon my word, I thought
it was from you! She said--no; those miserable bits of paper, it is
astonishing how they alarm you. There are telegrams which have given me
a fit of indigestion, I assure you--and I haven't the heart of a
"Go on! Marsa? This despatch? Whom was it from? What did Marsa say?"
"She turned white as a sheet; she began to tremble--an attack of the
nerves--and she said: 'Well, in two days I shall know, at last, whether I
am to live!' Queer, wasn't it? I don't know what she meant! But it is
certain--yes, certain, my dear fellow--that she expects, this evening,
some one who is coming--or who is not coming, from Florence--that
"Who is it? Who?" cried Andras. "Michel Menko?"
"I don't know," faltered Vogotzine in alarm, wondering whether it were
Froloff's hand that had seized him by the collar of his coat.
"It is Menko, is it not?" demanded Andras; while the terrified General
gasped out something unintelligible, his intoxication increasing every
yard the carriage advanced in the Bois.
Andras was almost beside himself with pain and suspense. What did it
mean? Who had sent that despatch? Why had it caused Marsa such emotion?
"In two days I shall know, at last, whether I am to live!" Who could
make her utter such a cry? Who, if not Michel Menko, was so intimately
connected with her life as to trouble her so, to drive her insane, as
"It is Menko, is it not? it is Menko?" repeated Andras again.
And Vogotzine gasped:
"Perhaps! anything is possible!"
But he stopped suddenly, as if he comprehended, despite his inebriety,
that he was in danger of going too far and doing some harm.
"Come, Vogotzine, come, you have told me too much not to tell me all!"
"That is true; yes, I have said too much! Ah! The devil! this is not
my affair!--Well, yes, Count Menko is in Florence or near Florence--
I don't know where. Marsa told me that--without meaning to. She was
excited--very excited--talked to herself. I did not ask her anything--
but--she is insane, you see, mad, mad! She first wrote a despatch to
Italy--then she tore it up like this, saying: 'No, what is to happen,
will happen!' There! I don't know anything but that. I don't know
"Ah! she is expecting him!" cried Andras. "When?"
"I don't know!"
"You told me it was to be this evening. This evening, is it not?"
The old General felt as ill at ease as if he had been before a military
commission or in the hands of Froloff.
"Yes, this evening."
"At Maisons," responded Vogotzine, mechanically. "And all this wearies
me--wearies me. Was it for this I decided to come to Paris? A fine
idea! At least, there are no Russian days at Maisons!"
Andras made no reply.
He stopped the carriage, got out, and, saluting the General with a brief
"Thank you!" walked rapidly away, leaving Vogotzine in blank amazement,
murmuring, as he made an effort to sit up straight:
"Well, well, are you going to leave me here, old man? All alone? This
And, like a forsaken child, the old General, with comic twitchings of his
eyebrows and nostrils, felt a strong desire to weep.
"Where shall I drive you, Monsieur?" asked the coachman.
"Wherever you like, my friend," responded Vogotzine, modestly, with an
appealing look at the man. "You, at least, must not leave me!"
THE VALE OF VIOLETS
In the Prince's mind the whole affair seemed clear as day, and he
explained the vague anxiety with which he had been afflicted for several
days as a mysterious premonition of a new sorrow. Menko was at Florence!
Menko, for it could be no other than he, had telegraphed to Marsa,
arranging a meeting with her. That very evening he was to be in the
house of Marsa Laszlo--Marsa who bore, in spite of all, the title and
name of the Zilahs. Was it possible? After the marriage, after this
woman's vows and tears, these two beings, separated for a time, were to
be united again. And he, Andras, had almost felt pity for her! He had
listened to Varhely, an honest man; drawing a parallel between a
vanquished soldier and this fallen girl--Varhely, the rough, implacable
Varhely, who had also been the dupe of the Tzigana, and one evening at
Sainte-Adresse had even counselled the deceived husband to pardon her.
In a state bordering on frenzy, Zilah returned to his hotel, thinking:
"He will be with her this evening!"
This was worse than all the rest. How could he punish her?
Why not? Was not Marsa Laszlo his wife? That villa of Maisons-Lafitte,
where she thought herself so safe, was his by law. He, the husband, had
a right to enter there at any hour and demand of his wife an account of
"She wished this name of Zilah! Well! she shall know at least what it
costs and what it imposes upon her!" he hissed through his clenched
teeth. He walked nervously to and fro in the library of his hotel, his
excitement increasing at every step.
"She is Princess Zilah! She--a princess! Nothing can wrest from her
that title which she has stolen! Princess be it, then; but the Prince
has the right to deal out life or death to his wife--to his wife and to
the lover of his wife!" with a spasmodic burst of laughter. "Her lover
is to be there; Menko is to be there, and I complain! The man whom I
have sought in vain will be before me. I shall hold him at my mercy,
and I do not thank the kind fate which gives me that joy! This evening!
He will be at her house this evening! Good! Justice shall be done!"
Every moment added to his fever. He would have given ten years of his
life if it were already evening. He waited impatiently for the hour to
come when he could go and surprise them. He even thought of meeting
Menko at the railway station on his arrival from Italy: but what would be
the use? Menko would be at Maisons; and he would kill him before her
face, in a duel if Menko would fight, or like a thief caught in the act
if he attempted to fly. That would be better. Yes, he would kill him
like a dog, if the other--but no! The Hungarian, struck in the presence
of the Tzigana, would certainly not recoil before a pistol. Marsa should
be the sole witness of the duel, and the blood of the Prince or of Menko
should spatter her face--a crimson stain upon her pale cheek should be
Early in the evening Andras left the hotel, after slipping into the
pocket of his overcoat a pair of loaded pistols: one of them he would
cast at Menko's feet. It was not assassination he wished, but justice.
He took the train to Maisons, and, on his arrival there, crossed the
railway bridge, and found himself almost alone in the broad avenue which
runs through the park. As he walked on through the rapidly darkening
shadows, he began to feel a strange sensation, as if nothing had
happened, and as if he were shaking off, little by little, a hideous
nightmare. In a sort of voluntary hallucination, he imagined that he was
going, as in former days, to Marsa's house; and that she was awaiting him
in one of those white frocks which became her so well, with her silver
belt clasped with the agraffe of opals. As he advanced, a host of
memories overwhelmed him. He had walked with Marsa under these great
lindens forming an arch overhead like that of a cathedral. He remembered
conversations they had had in the evening, when a slight mist silvered
the majestic park, and the white villa loomed vaguely before them like
some phantom palace of fairyland. With the Tzigana clinging to his arm,
he had seen those fountains, with their singing waters, that broad lawn
between the two long lines of trees, those winding paths through the
shrubbery; and, in the emotion aroused by these well-remembered places,
there was a sensation of bitter pain at the thought of the happiness that
might have been his had fate fulfilled her promises, which increased,
rather than appeased, the Prince's anger.
As his steps led him mechanically nearer and nearer to the house where
she lived, all the details of his wedding-day rose in his memory, and he
turned aside to see again the little church, the threshold of which they
had crossed together--she exquisitely lovely in her white draperies, and
he overflowing with happiness.
The square in front of the sanctuary was now deserted and the leaves were
beginning to fall from the trees. A man was lying asleep upon the steps
before the bolted door. Zilah stood gazing at the Gothic portal, with a
statue of the Virgin Mother above it, and wondered whether it were he who
had once led there a lovely girl, about to become his wife; and the sad,
closed church produced upon him the effect of a tomb.
He dragged himself away from the contemplation of the stone threshold,
where slept the tired man--drunk perhaps, at all events happier than the
Prince--and proceeded on his way through the woods to the abode of Marsa
There was, Zilah remembered well, quite near there, a sort of narrow
valley (where the Mayor of Maisons was said to have royally entertained
Louis XIV and his courtiers, as they were returning from Marly), a lovely
spot, surrounded by grassy slopes covered with violets, a little shady,
Virgilian wood, where he and Marsa had dreamed away many happy hours.
They had christened it The Vale o f Violets. How many memories were in
that sweet name, each one of which stabbed and exasperated Zilah, rising
before him like so many spectres.
He hastened his steps, repeating:
"He is there! She is waiting for him! Her lover is there!"
At the end of the road, before the villa, closed and silent like the old
church, he stopped. He had reached his destination; but what was he
about to do, he who--who up to this time had protected his name from the
poisonous breath of scandal?
He was about to kill Menko, or to be killed himself. A duel! But what
was the need of proposing a duel, when, exercising his rights as a
husband, he could punish both the man and the woman?
He did not hesitate long, however, but advanced to the gate, saying,
"I have a right to enter my own house."
The ringing of the bell was answered by the barking of Duna, Bundas, and
Ortog, who tore furiously at their iron chains.
A man presently appeared on the other side of the gate. It was a
domestic whom Andras did not know and had never seen.
"Whom do you wish to see?" asked the man.
"The Princess Zilah!"
"Who are you?" demanded the man, his hand upon the inner bolt of the
The other stood stock-still in amazement, trying to see, through the
darkness, the Prince's face.
"Do you hear me?" demanded Andras.
And, as the domestic opened the gate, as if to observe the appearance of
the visitor, the Prince gave it a nervous push, which threw the servant
backward; and, once within the garden, he came close to him, and said:
"Look well at me, in order that you may recognize me again. I am master
Zilah's clear eye and imperious manner awed the man, and he bowed humbly,
not daring to speak.
Andras turned on his heel, mounted the steps, and entered the house; then
he stopped and listened.
She was with him. Yes, a man was there, and the man was speaking,
speaking to Marsa, speaking doubtless of love.
Menko, with his twisted moustache, his pretty smile and his delicate
profile, was there, behind that door. A red streak of light from the
salon where Marsa was showed beneath the door, which the Prince longed to
burst open with his foot. With anger and bitterness filling his heart,
he felt capable of entering there, and striking savagely, madly, at his
How these two beings had played with him; the woman who had lied to him,
and the coward who had sent him those letters.
Suddenly Marsa's voice fell upon his ear, that rich, contralto voice he
knew so well, speaking in accents of love or joy.
What was he waiting for? His hot, feverish hand sought the handle of his
pistol, and, striding forward, he threw open the door of the room.
The light from an opal-tinted lamp fell full upon his face. He stood
erect upon the threshold, while two other faces were turned toward him,
two pale faces, Marsa's and another's.
Andras paused in amazement.
He had sought Menko; he found--Varhely!
Marsa recoiled in fear at hearing this cry and the sudden appearance of
the Prince; and, trembling like a leaf, with her face still turned toward
that threshold where Andras stood, she murmured, in a voice choked with
"Who is there? Who is it?"
Yanski Varhely, unable to believe his eyes, advanced, as if to make sure.
"Zilah!" he exclaimed, in his turn.
He could not understand; and Zilah himself wondered whether he were not
the victim of some illusion, and where Menko could be, that Menko whom
Marsa had expected, and whom he, the husband, had come to chastise.
But the most bewildered, in her mute amazement, was Marsa, her lips
trembling, her face ashen, her eyes fixed upon the Prince, as she leaned
against the marble of the mantelpiece to prevent herself from falling,
but longing to throw herself on her knees before this man who had
suddenly appeared, and who was master of her destiny.
"You here?" said Varhely at last. "You followed me, then?"
"No," said Andras. "The one whom I expected to find here was not you."
"Who was it, then?"
Yanski Varhely turned toward Marsa.
She did not stir; she was looking at the Prince.
"Michel Menko is dead," responded Varhely, shortly. "It was to announce
that to the Princess Zilah that I am here."
Andras gazed alternately upon the old Hungarian, and upon Marsa, who
stood there petrified, her whole soul burning in her eyes.
"Dead?" repeated Zilah, coldly.
"I fought and killed him," returned Varhely.
Andras struggled against the emotion which seized hold of him. Pale as
death, he turned from Varhely to the Tzigana, with an instinctive desire
to know what her feelings might be.
The news of this death, repeated thus before the man whom she regarded as
the master of her existence, had, apparently, made no impression upon
her, her thoughts being no longer there, but her whole heart being
concentrated upon the being who had despised her, hated her, fled from
her, and who appeared there before her as in one of her painful dreams in
which he returned again to that very house where he had cursed her.
"There was," continued Varhely, slowly, "a martyr who could not raise her
head, who could not live, so long as that man breathed. First of all,
I came to her to tell her that she was delivered from a detested past.
Tomorrow I should have informed a man whose honor is my own, that the one
who injured and insulted him has paid his debt."
With lips white as his moustache, Varhely spoke these words like a judge
delivering a solemn sentence.
A strange expression passed over Zilah's face. He felt as if some
horrible weight had been lifted from his heart.
Yet there was a time when he had loved this Michel Menko: and, of the
three beings present in the little salon, the man who had been injured by
him was perhaps the one who gave a pitying thought to the dead, the old
soldier remaining as impassive as an executioner, and the Tzigana
remembering only the hatred she had felt for the one who had been her
Varhely took from the mantelpiece the despatch he had sent from Florence,
three days before, to the Princess Zilah, the one of which Vogotzine had
spoken to Andras.
He handed it to the Prince, and Andras read as follows:
"I am about to risk my life for you. Tuesday evening either I shall be
at Maisons-Lafitte, or I shall be dead. I fight tomorrow with Count M.
If you do not see me again, pray for the soul of Varhely."
Count Varhely had sent this despatch before going to keep his appointment
with Michel Menko.
It had been arranged that they were to fight in a field near Pistoja.
Some peasant women, who were braiding straw hats, laughed as they saw the
men pass by.
One of them called out, gayly:
"Do you wish to find your sweethearts, signori? That isn't the way!"
A little farther, Varhely and his adversary encountered a monk with a
cowl drawn over his head so that only his eyes could be seen, who,
holding out a zinc money-box, demanded 'elemosina', alms for the sick in
Menko opened his pocketbook, and dropped in the box a dozen pieces of
"Mille grazie, signor!"
"It is of no consequence."
They arrived on the ground, and the seconds loaded the pistols.
Michel asked permission of Yanski to say two words to him.
"Speak!" said Varhely.
The old Hungarian stood at his post with folded arms and lowered eyes,
while Michel approached him, and said:
"Count Varhely, I repeat to you that I wished to prevent this marriage,
but not to insult the Prince. I give you my word of honor that this is
true. If you survive me, will you promise to repeat this to him?"
"I thank you."
They took their positions.
Angelo Valla was to give the signal to fire.
He stood holding a white handkerchief in his outstretched hand, and with
his eyes fixed upon the two adversaries, who were placed opposite each
other, with their coats buttoned up to the chin, and their pistols held
rigidly by their side.
Varhely was as motionless as if made of granite. Menko smiled.
"One! Two!" counted Valla.
He paused as if to take breath: then--
"Three!" he exclaimed, in the tone of a man pronouncing a death-
sentence; and the handkerchief fell.
There were two reports in quick succession.
Varhely stood erect in his position; Menko's ball had cut a branch above
his head, and the green leaves fell fluttering to the ground.
Michel staggered back, his hand pressed to his left side.
His seconds hastened toward him, seized him under the arms, and tried to
"It is useless," he said. "It was well aimed!"
And, turning to Varhely, he cried, in a voice which he strove to render
"Remember your promise!"
They opened his coat. The ball had entered his breast just above the
They seated him upon the grass, with his back against a tree.
He remained there, with fixed eyes, gazing, perhaps, into the infinite,
which was now close at hand.
His lips murmured inarticulate names, confused words: "Pardon--
As Yanski Varhely, with his two seconds, again passed the straw-workers,
the girls saluted them with:
"Well, where are your other friends? Have they found their sweethearts?"
And while their laughter rang out upon the air, the gay, foolish laughter
of youth and health, over yonder they were bearing away the dead body of
Andras Zilah, with a supreme effort at self-control, listened to his old
friend relate this tale; and, while Varhely spoke, he was thinking:
It was not a lover, it was not Menko, whom Marsa expected. Between the
Tzigana and himself there was now nothing, nothing but a phantom. The
other had paid his debt with his life. The Prince's anger disappeared as
suddenly in proportion as his exasperation had been violent.
He contemplated Marsa, thin and pale, but beautiful still. The very
fixedness of her great eyes gave her a strange and powerful attraction;
and, in the manner in which Andras regarded her, Count Varhely, with his
rough insight, saw that there were pity, astonishment, and almost fear.
He pulled his moustache a moment in reflection, and then made a step
toward the door.
Marsa saw that he was about to leave the room; and, moving away from the
marble against which she had been leaning, with a smile radiant with the
joy of a recovered pride, she held out her hand to Yanski, and, in a
voice in which there was an accent of almost terrible gratitude for the
act of justice which had been accomplished, she said, firmly:
"I thank you, Varhely!"
Varhely made no reply, but passed out of the room, closing the door
The husband and wife, after months of torture, anguish, and despair, were
alone, face to face with each other.
Andras's first movement was one of flight. He was afraid of himself.
Of his own anger? Perhaps. Perhaps of his own pity.
He did not look at Marsa, and in two steps he was at the door.
Then, with a start, as one drowning catches at a straw, as one condemned
to death makes a last appeal for mercy, with a feeble, despairing cry
like that of a child, a strange contrast to the almost savage thanks
given to Varhely, she exclaimed:
"Ah! I implore you, listen to me!"
"What have you to say to me?" he asked.
"Nothing--nothing but this: Forgive! ah, forgive! I have seen you once
more; forgive me, and let me disappear; but, at least, carrying away with
me a word from you which is not a condemnation."
"I might forgive," said Andras; "but I could not forget."
"I do not ask you to forget, I do not ask you that! Does one ever
forget? And yet--yes, one does forget, one does forget, I know it. You
are the only thing in all my existence, I know only you, I think only of
you. I have loved only you!"
Andras shivered, no longer able to fly, moved to the depths of his being
by the tones of this adored voice, so long unheard.
"There was no need of bloodshed to destroy that odious past," continued
Marsa. "Ah! I have atoned for it! There is no one on earth who has
suffered as I have. I, who came across your path only to ruin your life!
Your life, my God, yours!"
She looked at him with worshipping eyes, as believers regard their god.
"You have not suffered so much as the one you stabbed, Marsa. He had
never had but one love in the world, and that love was you. If you had
told him of your sufferings, and confessed your secret, he would have
been capable of pardoning you. You deceived him. There was something
worse than the crime itself--the lie."
"Ah!" she cried, "if you knew how I hated that lie! Would to heaven
that some one would tear out my tongue for having deceived you!"
There was an accent of truth in this wild outburst of the Tzigana; and
upon the lips of this daughter of the puszta, Hungarian and Russian at
once, the cry seemed the very symbol of her exceptional nature.
"What is it you wish that I should do?" she said. "Die? yes, I would
willingly, gladly die for you, interposing my breast between you and a
bullet. Ah! I swear to you, I should be thankful to die like one of
those who bore your name. But, there is no fighting now, and I can not
shed my blood for you. I will sacrifice my life in another manner,
obscurely, in the shadows of a cloister. I shall have had neither lover
nor husband, I shall be nothing, a recluse, a prisoner. It will be well!
yes, for me, the prison, the cell, death in a life slowly dragged out!
Ah! I deserve that punishment, and I wish my sentence to come from you;
I wish you to tell me that I am free to disappear, and that you order me
to do so--but, at the same time, tell me, oh, tell me, that you have
"I!" said Andras.
In Marsa's eyes was a sort of wild excitement, a longing for sacrifice, a
thirst for martyrdom.
"Do I understand that you wish to enter a convent?" asked Andras,
"Yes, the strictest and gloomiest. And into that tomb I shall carry,
with your condemnation and farewell, the bitter regret of my love, the
weight of my remorse!"
The convent! The thought of such a fate for the woman he loved filled
Andras Zilah with horror. He imagined the terrible scene of Marsa's
separation from the world; he could hear the voice of the officiating
bishop casting the cruel words upon the living, like earth upon the dead;
he could almost see the gleam of the scissors as they cut through her
beautiful dark hair.
Kneeling before him, her eyes wet with tears, Marsa was as lovely in her
sorrow as a Mater Dolorosa. All his love surged up in his heart, and a
wild temptation assailed him to keep her beauty, and dispute with the
convent this penitent absolved by remorse.
She knelt there repentant, weeping, wringing her hands, asking nothing
but pardon--a word, a single word of pity--and the permission to bury
herself forever from the world.
"So," he said, abruptly, "the convent cell, the prison, does not terrify
"Nothing terrifies me except your contempt."
"You would live far from Paris, far from the world, far from everything?"
"In a kennel of dogs, under the lash of a slavedriver; breaking stones,
begging my bread, if you said to me: 'Do that, it is atonement!'"
"Well!" cried Andras, passionately, his lips trembling, his blood
surging through his veins. "Live buried in our Hungary, forgetting,
forgotten, hidden, unknown, away from all, away from Paris, away from
the noise of the world, in a life with me, which will be a new life!
She looked at him with staring, terrified eyes, believing his words to be
some cruel jest.
"Will you?" he said again, raising her from the floor, and straining her
to his breast, his burning lips seeking the icy ones of the Tzigana.
"Answer me, Marsa. Will you?"
Like a sigh, the word fell on the air: "Yes."
A NEW LIFE
The following day, with tender ardor, he took her away to his old
Hungarian castle, with its red towers still bearing marks of the ravages
of the cannon--the castle which he never had beheld since Austria had
confiscated it, and then, after long years, restored it to its rightful
owner. He fled from Paris, seeking a pure existence, and returned to his
Hungary, to the country of his youth, the land of the vast plains. He
saw again the Danube and the golden Tisza. In the Magyar costume, his
heart beating more proudly under the national attila, he passed before
the eyes of the peasants who had known him when a child, and had fought
under his orders; and he spoke to them by name, recognizing many of his
old companions in these poor people with cheeks tanned by the sun, and
heads whitened by age.
He led Marsa, trembling and happy, to the door of the castle, where they
offered him the wine of honor, drank from the 'tschouttora',
the Hungarian drinking-vessel, the 'notis' and cakes made of maize
cooked in cream.
Upon the lawns about the castle, the 'tschiko' shepherds, who had come on
horseback to greet the Prince, drank plum brandy, and drank with their
red wine the 'kadostas' and the bacon of Temesvar. They had come from
their farms, from their distant pusztas, peasant horsemen, like soldiers,
with their national caps; and they joyously celebrated the return of
Zilah Andras, the son of those Zilahs whose glorious history they all
knew. The dances began, the bright copper heels clinked together, the
blue jackets, embroidered with yellow, red, or gold, swung in the wind,
and it seemed that the land of Hungary blossomed with flowers and rang
with songs to do honor to the coming of Prince Andras and his Princess.
Then Andras entered with Marsa the abode of his ancestors. And, in the
great halls hung with tapestry and filled with pictures which the
conquerors had respected, before those portraits of magnates superb in
their robes of red or green velvet edged with fur, curved sabres by their
sides and aigrettes upon their heads, all reproducing a common trait of
rough frankness, with their long moustaches, their armor and their hussar
uniforms--Marsa Laszlo, who knew them well, these heroes of her country,
these Zilah princes who had fallen upon the field of battle, said to the
last of them all, to Andras Zilah, before Ferency Zilah, before Sandor,
before the Princesses Zilah who had long slept in "dull, cold marble,"
and who had been no prouder than she of the great name they bore:
"Do you know the reason why, equal to these in devotion and courage, you
are superior to them all! It is because you are good, as good as they
To their virtues, you, who forgive, add this virtue, which is your own:
She looked at him humbly, raising to his face her beautiful dark eyes, as
if to let him read her heart, in which was only his image and his name.
She pressed closely to his side, with an uneasy, timid tenderness, as if
she were a stranger in the presence of his great ancestors, who seemed to
demand whether the newcomer were one of the family; and he, putting his
arm about her, and pressing to his beating heart the Tzigana, whose eyes
were dim with tears, said: "No, I am not better than these. It is not
pity which is my virtue, Marsa: it is my love. For--I love you!"
Yes, he loved her, and with all the strength of a first and only love.
He loved her so that he forgot everything, so that he did not see that in
Marsa's smile there was a look of the other side of the great, eternal
river. He loved her so that he thought only of this woman, of her
beauty, of the delight of her caresses, of his dream of love realized in
the air of the adored fatherland. He loved her so that he left without
answers the charming letters which Baroness Dinati wrote him from Paris,
so far away now, and the more serious missives which he received from his
compatriots, wishing him to utilize for his country, now that he had
returned to it, his superior intelligence, as he had formerly utilized
"The hour is critical," wrote his old friends. "An attempt is being made
to awaken in Hungary, against the Russians, whom we like, memories of
combats and extinct hatreds, and that to the profit of a German alliance,
which is repugnant to our race. Bring the support of your name and your
valor to our cause. Enter the Diet of Hungary. Your place is marked out
for you there in the first rank, as it was in the old days upon the
Andras only smiled.
"If I were ambitious!" he said to Marsa. Then he added: "But I am
ambitious only for your happiness."
Marsa's happiness! It was deep, calm, and clear as a lake. It seemed to
the Tzigana that she was dreaming a dream, a beautiful dream, a dream
peaceful, sweet, and restful. She abandoned herself to her profound
happiness with the trustfulness of a child. She was all the more happy
because she had the exquisite sensation that her dream would have no
awakening. It would end in all the charm of its poetry.
She was sure that she could not survive the immense joy which destiny had
accorded her; and she did not rebel against this decree. It seemed to
her right and just. She had never desired any other ending to her love
than to die beloved, to die with Andras's kiss of forgiveness upon her
lips, with his arms about her, and to sink with a smile into the eternal
sleep. What more beautiful thing could she, the Tzigana, have wished?
When the Prince's people saluted her by that title of "Princess" which
was hers, she trembled as if she had usurped it; she wished to be Marsa
to the Prince, Marsa, his devoted slave, who looked at him with her great
eyes full of gratitude and love. And she wished to be only that. It
seemed to her that, in the ancient home of the Zilahs, the birthplace of
soldiers, the eyrie of eagles, she was a sort of stranger; but, at the
same time, she thought, with a smile:
"What matters it? It is for so short a time."
One day Prince Zilah received from Vienna a large sealed envelope.
Minister Ladany earnestly entreated him to come to the Austrian capital
and present, in the salons of Vienna and at the imperial court, Princess
Zilah, of whose beauty the Austrian colony of Paris raved.
Marsa asked the Prince what the letter contained.
"Nothing. An invitation to leave our solitude. We are too happy here."
Marsa questioned him no further; but she resolved that she would never
allow the Prince to take her to that court which claimed his presence.
In her eyes, she was always the Tzigana; and, although Menko was dead,
she would never permit Zilah to present her to people who might have
known Count Michel.
No, no, let them remain in the dear old castle, he living only for her,
she breathing only for him; and let the world go, with its fascinations
and its pleasures, its false joys and its false friendships! Let them
ask of life only what truth it possesses; an hour of rest between two
ordeals, a smile between two sobs, and--the right to love each other.
To love each other until that fatal separation which she felt was coming,
until that end which was fast advancing; her poor, frail body being now
only the diaphanous prison of her soul. She did not complain, as she
felt the hour gently approach when, with a last kiss, a last sigh, she
must say to Andras, Adieu!
He, seeing her each day more pale, each day more feeble, was alarmed;
but he hoped, that, when the winter, which was very severe there, was
over, Marsa would regain her strength. He summoned to the castle a
physician from Vienna, who battled obstinately and skilfully against the
malady from which the Tzigana was suffering. Her weakness and languor
kept Marsa, during the cold months, for whole days before the lofty,
sculptured chimney-piece, in which burned enormous logs of oak. As the
flames gave a rosy tinge to her cheeks and made her beautiful eyes
sparkle, Andras said to herself, as he watched her, that she would live,
live and be happy with him.
The spring came, with the green leaflets and the white blossoms at the
ends of the branches. The buds opened and the odors of the rejuvenated
earth mounted subtly into the soft air.
At her window, regarding the young grass and the masses of tender verdure
in which clusters of pale gold or silvery white gleamed like aigrettes,
Marsa said to Andras:
"It must be lovely at Maisons, in the Vale of Violets!" but she added,
"We are better here, much better! And it even seems to me that I have
always, always lived here in this beautiful castle, where you have
sheltered me, like a swallow beaten by the wind."
There was, beneath the window, stretching out like a ribbon of silver, a
road, which the mica dust caused, at times, in the sunlight to resemble a
river. Marsa often looked out on this road, imagining that she saw again
the massive dam upon the Seine, or wondering whether a band of Tzigani
would not appear there with the April days.
"I should like," she said one day to Andras, "to hear again the airs my
people used to play."
She found that, with the returning spring, she was more feeble than she
had ever been. The first warmth in the air entered her veins like a
sweet intoxication. Her head felt heavy, and in her whole body she felt
a pleasant languor. She had wished to sink thus to rest, as nature was
The doctor seemed very uneasy at this languidness, of which Marsa said:
"It is delicious!"
He whispered one evening to Andras:
"It is grave!"
Another sorrow was to come into the life of the Prince, who had known so
A few days after, with a sort of presentiment, he wrote to Yanski Varhely
to come and spend a few months with him. He felt the need of his old
friend; and the Count hastened to obey the summons.
Varhely was astonished to see the change which so short a time had
produced in Marsa. In seven months her face, although still beautiful,
had become emaciated, and had a transparent look. The little hand, white
as snow, which she gave to Varhely, burned him; the skin was dry and hot.
"Well, my dear Count," said Marsa, as she lay extended in a reclining-
chair, "what news of General Vogotzine?"
"The General is well. He hopes to return to Russia. The Czar has been
appealed to, and he does not say no."
"Ah! that is good news," she said. "He must be greatly bored at
Maisons; poor Vogotzine!"
"He smokes, drinks, takes the dogs out--"
The dogs! Marsa started. Those hounds would survive Menko, herself,
the love which she now tasted as the one joy of her life! Mechanically
her lips murmured, too low to be heard: "Ortog! Bundas!"
Then she said, aloud:
"I shall be very, glad if the poor General can return to St. Petersburg
or Odessa. One is best off at home, in one's own country. If you only
knew, Varhely, how happy I am, happy to be in Hungary. At home!"
She was very weak. The doctor made a sign to Andras to leave her for a
"Well," asked the Prince anxiously of Varhely, "how do you think she is?"
"What does the doctor say?" replied Yanski. "Does he hope to save her?"
Zilah made no response. Varhely's question was the most terrible of
Ensconced in an armchair, the Prince then laid bare his heart to old
Varhely, sitting near him. She was about to die, then! Solitude! Was
that to be the end of his life? After so many trials, it was all to end
in this: an open grave, in which his hopes were to be buried. What
remained to him now? At the age when one has no recourse against fate,
love, the one love of his life, was to be taken away from him. Varhely
had administered justice, and Zilah had pardoned--for what? To watch
together a silent tomb; yes, yes, what remained to him now?
"What remains to you if she dies?" said old Yanski, slowly. "There
remains to you what you had at twenty years, that which never dies.
There remains to you what was the love and the passion of all the Zilah
princes who lie yonder, and who experienced the same suffering, the same
torture, the same despair, as you. There remains to you our first love,
my dear Andras, the fatherland!"
The next day some Tzigana musicians, whom the Prince had sent for,
arrived at the castle. Marsa felt invigorated when she heard the
czimbalom and the piercing notes of the czardas. She had been longing
for those harmonies and songs which lay so near her heart. She listened,
with her hand clasped in that of Andras, and through the open window came
the "March of Rakoczy," the same strains which long ago had been played
in Paris, upon the boat which bore them down the Seine that July morning.
An heroic air, a song of triumph, a battle-cry, the gallop of horses, a
chant of victory. It was the air which had saluted their betrothal like
a fanfare. It was the chant which the Tzigani had played that sad night
when Andras's father had been laid in the earth of Attila.
"I would like," said Marsa, when the music had ceased, "to go to the
little village where my mother rests. She was a Tzigana also! Like
them, like me! Can I do so, doctor?"
The doctor shook his head.
"Oh, Princess, not yet! Later, when the warm sun comes."
"Is not that the sun?" said Marsa, pointing to the April rays entering
the old feudal hall and making the bits of dust dance like sparks of
"It is the April sun, and it is sometimes dangerous for--"
The doctor paused; and, as he did not finish, Marsa said gently, with a
smile which had something more than resignation in it--happiness:
"For the dying?"
Andras shuddered; but Marsa's hand, which held his, did not even tremble.
Old Varhely's eyes were dim with tears.
She knew that she was about to die. She knew it, and smiled at kindly
death. It would take away all shame. Her memory would be to Andras the
sacred one of the woman he adored. She would die without being held to
keep that oath she had made not to survive her dreamed-of happiness, the
union she had desired and accepted. Yes, it was sweet and welcome, this
death, which taking her from Andras's love, washed away all stain.
She whispered in his ear the oft-repeated avowal:
"I love you! I love you! I love you! And I die content, for I feel
that you will love me always. Think a moment! Could I live? Would
there not be a spectre between you and your Marsa?"
She threw her arms about him as he leaned over the couch upon which she
lay, and he made a gesture of denial, unable to speak, for each word
would have been a sob.
"Oh, do not deny it!" she said. "Now, no. But later, who knows?
On the other hand, you see, there will be no other phantom near you but
mine, no other image but mine. I feel that I shall be always near you,
yes, always, eternally, my beloved! Dear death! blessed death! which
renders our love infinite, yes, infinite. Ah, I love you! I love you!"
She wished to see once more, through the open window, the sunny woods and
the new blossoms. Behind those woods, a few leagues away, was the place
where Tisza was buried.
"I should like to rest by her side," said the Tzigana. "I am not of your
family, you see. A princess, I? your wife? I have been only your
sweetheart, my Andras."
Andras, whiter than the dying girl, seemed petrified by the approach of
the inevitable grief.
Now, as they went slowly down the white road, the Tzigani played the
plaintive melancholy air of Janos Nemeth, that air impregnated with
tears, that air which she used so often to play herself--
"The World holds but One Fair Maiden!"
And this time, bursting into tears, he said to her, with his heart
breaking in his breast:
"Yes, there is but thee, Marsa! but thee, my beloved, thee, thee alone !
Do not leave me! Stay with me! Stay with me, Marsa, my only love!"
Then, as she listened, over the lovely face of the Tzigana passed an
expression of absolute, perfect happiness, as if, in Zilah's tears, she
read all his forgiveness, all his love, all his devotion. She raised
herself, her little hands resting upon the window-sill, her head heavy
with sleep--the deep, dreamless sleep-and held up her sweet lips to him:
when she felt Andras's kiss, she whispered, so that he barely heard it:
"Do not forget me! Never forget me, my darling!" Then her head drooped
slowly, and fell upon the Prince's shoulder, like that of a tired child,
with a calm sweet smile upon her flower-like face.
Like the salute they had once given to Prince Sandor, the Tzigani began
proudly the heroic march of free Hungary, their music sending a fast
farewell to the dead as the sun gave her its last kiss.
Then, as the hymn died slowly away in the distance, soft as a sigh, with
one last, low, heart-breaking note, Andras Zilah laid the light form of
the Tzigana upon the couch; and, winding his arms about her, with his
head pillowed upon her breast, he murmured, in a voice broken with sobs:
"I will love only, now, what you loved so much, my poor Tzigana. I will
love only the land where you lie asleep."
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