A Romance of Transylvania
Retold from the Hungarian of Dr. Maurus Jokai Author of "Black Diamonds," "Pretty Michal," "The Baron's Sons," etc.
By Percy Favor Bicknell Translator of "The Baron's Sons"
Boston L. C. Page & Company 1901
Copyright, 1901 BY L. C. PAGE & COMPANY (INCORPORATED)
All rights reserved
Colonial Press Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds &. Co. Boston, Mass., U. S. A.
TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE vii
I. FELLOW-TRAVELLERS 1
II. A LIFE'S HAPPINESS AT STAKE 13
III. AN INTRUDER EXPELLED 19
IV. A BIT OF STRATEGY 24
V. HOLY WEEK IN ROME 34
VI. THE CONSECRATED PALM-LEAF 52
VII. AN AUDIENCE WITH THE POPE 60
VIII. AN UNWELCOME VISITOR 65
IX. THE ANONYMOUS LETTER 79
X. THE FOURTEENTH PARAGRAPH 90
XI. THE DECISION 103
XII. A GHOSTLY VISITANT 109
XIII. A SUDDEN FLIGHT 127
XIV. WALLACHIAN HOSPITALITY 137
XV. BALYIKA CAVE 158
XVI. A DESPERATE HAZARD 179
XVII. IN PORLIK GROTTO 188
XVIII. TOROCZKO 198
XIX. A MIDNIGHT COUNCIL 213
XX. MIRTH AND MOURNING 231
XXI. THE SPY 245
XXII. THE HAND OF FATE 256
XXIII. OLD SCORES 266
XXIV. A CRUEL PARTING 292
XXV. SECRETS OF THE COMMISSARIAT 302
XXVI. SOLFERINO 307
XXVII. AN HOUR OF TRIAL 314
XXVIII. A DAY OF RECKONING 318
A few words of introduction to this striking story of life in Szeklerland may not be out of place.
The events narrated are supposed to take place half a century ago, in the stirring days of '48, when the spirit of resistance to arbitrary rule swept over Europe, and nowhere called forth deeds of higher heroism than in Hungary. To understand the hostility between the Magyars and Szeklers on the one hand, and the Wallachians on the other,—a state of feud on which the plot of the story largely hinges,—let it be remembered that the non-Hungarian elements of the kingdom were exceedingly jealous of their Hungarian neighbours, and apprehensive lest the new liberal constitution of 1848 should chiefly benefit those whom they thus chose to regard as enemies. Therefore, secretly encouraged by the government at Vienna, they took up arms against the Hungarians. The Croatians and Serbs, under the lead of Ban Jellachich and other imperial officers, joined in the revolt. The most frightful atrocities were committed by the insurgents. Hundreds of families were butchered in cold blood, and whole villages sacked and burned. These acts of massacre and rapine were especially numerous on the eastern borders of Transylvania, among the so-called Szeklers, or "Frontiersmen," in whose country the scene of the present narrative is chiefly laid.
The Szeklers, who also call themselves Attilans, claim descent from a portion of that vast invading horde of Attila the Hun, which fell back in defeat from the battle of Chalons, in the year 451, and has occupied the eastern portion of Transylvania ever since. The Magyars are of the same or a nearly kindred race, and speak the same language; but their ancestry is traced back to a later band of invaders who forced their way in from the East early in the tenth century. The Wallachians, or "Strangers," form another considerable group in the population of Hungary. "Rumans" they prefer to call themselves, and they claim descent from the ancient Dacians, and from the conquering army led against the latter by Trajan. Besides these, Germans, Croatians, Serbs, Ruthenians, Slovaks, and other races, contribute in varying proportions to the heterogeneous population of the country.
The Hungarian title of the book is "Egy az Isten,"—"One is the Lord,"—the watchword of the Unitarians of Transylvania. The want of an adequate English equivalent of this motto has led to the adoption of another title. In this, as in all the author's romances, love, war, and adventure furnish the plot and incident and vital interest of the narrative.
As early as 1568, three years after the introduction of Unitarianism into Poland, John Sigismund Szapolyai, the liberal and enlightened voivode of Transylvania, issued a decree, granting his people religious toleration in the broadest sense. The establishment of the Unitarian Church in Hungary, on an equal footing with the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, and the Calvinist, dates from that time. Through many trials and persecutions, through periods of alternate prosperity and adversity, it has bravely maintained its existence up to the present day, and now numbers nearly sixty-eight thousand members. Though a comparatively small body, the Unitarians of Hungary "hold together well," as our author says, and exert an influence in education and in all that makes for the higher life, quite out of proportion to their numbers.
As in so many of Dr. Jokai's novels that have appeared in English, it has been found necessary to abridge the present work in translation. Not until we have endowed publishing houses which can afford to disregard the question of sales, shall we see this author's books issued in all their pitiless prolixity, in any country or language but his own. It is to be noted, in conclusion, that the excessive wealth of incident with which the following story abounds is characteristic of the author's style. Broken threads and occasional inconsistencies are found in all his works, and if they are met with here, it is not because of, but in spite of, the abridgment which the book has undergone.
Our story opens in an Italian railway station, in the spring of 1848. From a train that had just arrived, the passengers were hastening to secure their places in another that stood waiting for them. A guard had succeeded in crowding a party of two ladies and a gentleman into one of these itinerant prison-cells, which already contained seven occupants, before the newcomers perceived that they were being imposed upon. A vigorous protest followed. The elder of the two ladies, seizing the guard by the arm, addressed him in an angry tone, first in German, then in French.
With the calm indifference of an automaton, the uniformed official pointed to a placard against the wall. Per dieci persone was the inscription it bore. Ten persons, it seemed, were expected to find places here.
"But we have first-class tickets," protested the lady, producing a bit of yellow pasteboard in proof of her assertion.
The guard glanced at it with as little interest as he would have bestowed on a scarab from the tomb of the Pharaohs. Shrugging his shoulders, he merely indicated, with a wave of his hand, places where the three passengers might, perhaps, find seats,—one in this corner, a second yonder, and, if its owner would kindly transfer a greasy bundle to his lap, a third over there.
This arrangement, however, was not at all to the liking of either the ladies or their escort. The latter was altogether disinclined to accept a seat between two fat cattle-dealers, being of no meagre dimensions himself.
"We'll see about this!" he exclaimed, and left the compartment in quest of the station-master.
That dignitary was promenading the platform in military uniform, his hands behind his back. The complainant began to explain the situation to him and to demand that consideration to which his first-class ticket entitled him. But the illustrissimo merely opened his eyes and surveyed the gentleman in silence, much as a cuttlefish might have done if similarly addressed.
"Partenza-a-a!" shouted the guards, in warning.
The indignant gentleman hurried back to his compartment, only to find that, in his absence, three additional passengers had been squeezed into the crowded quarters, so that he himself now raised the total to thirteen,—a decidedly unlucky number. The ladies were in despair, and their attendant had begun to express his mind vigorously in his native Hungarian, when he felt himself touched on the elbow from behind, and heard a voice accosting him, in the same tongue.
"My fellow-countryman, don't heat yourself. Not eloquence, but backsheesh, is needed here. While you were wasting your breath I had a guard open for me a reserved first-class compartment. It cost me but a trifle, and if you and your ladies choose to share it with me, it is at your service."
"Thank you," was the reply, "but we shall not have time to change; we had only two minutes here in all."
"Never fear," rejoined the stranger, reassuringly. "The due minute is a mere form with which to frighten the inexperienced. The train won't start for half an hour yet."
The two ladies were no less grateful to their deliverer than was Andromeda of old to the gallant Perseus. They gladly accepted the comfortable seats offered them, while their escort took a third, leaving the fourth for their benefactor, who lingered outside to finish his cigar. At the second ringing of the bell, he gave his half-smoked Havana to a passing porter, mounted the running-board of the moving train, and entered his compartment.
Seating himself, the young man removed his travelling-cap and revealed a broad, arched forehead, surmounted by a luxuriant growth of hair. Thick eyebrows, bright blue eyes, and a Greek nose were the striking characteristics of his face, which seemed to combine the peculiarities of so many types and races, that an observer would have been at a loss to classify it.
The other gentleman of the party was of genuine Hungarian stock, stout in figure and ruddy of countenance, with a pointed moustache, which he constantly twirled. The younger of the two ladies was veiled, so that only the graceful outlines of a face, evidently classic in its modelling, were revealed to the eye. But the elder had thrown back her veil, exposing to full view an honest, round face, blond hair, lively eyes, and lips that manifestly found it irksome to maintain that silence which good breeding imposes in the presence of a stranger.
The ladies' escort was a very uneasy travelling companion. First he complained that he could not sit with his back toward the engine, as he was sure to be car-sick. The young stranger accordingly changed places with him. Then he found fault with his new seat, because it was exposed to a draught which blew the cinders into his eyes. Thereupon the young man promptly volunteered to close the window for him; but this only made matters worse, for fresh air was indispensable. At this, the blond lady gave up her place to the gentleman, and he, at last, appeared satisfied. Not so, however, the lady herself; she was now seated opposite the stranger, to whom she and her companions were so greatly indebted, and the feeling of indebtedness is always somewhat irksome.
Women on a journey are inclined to regard a stranger's approach with some suspicion, and to be ever on the alert against adventurers. A vague mistrust of this sort concerning the young stranger may have been aroused by the mere fact that, Hungarian though his language indicated him to be, he and the ladies' escort indulged in no interchange of courtesies so natural among fellow-countrymen meeting by chance in a foreign land. Nevertheless the blond lady strove to assume an air that, on her part, should signify an entire absence of interest in all things relating to her vis-a-vis. Even when the sun shone in her face and annoyed her, she seemed determined to adjust the window-shade without any help from the stranger, until he courteously prevailed on her to accept his aid.
"Oh, what helpless creatures we women are!" she exclaimed as she sank back into her seat.
"You have yourselves to blame for it," was the other's rejoinder.
If he had simply offered some vapid compliment, protesting, for example, that women were by no means helpless creatures, but, on the contrary, the rulers of the stronger sex, and so of the world,—then she would have merely smiled sarcastically and relapsed into silence; but there was something like a challenge in his unexpected retort.
"Par exemple?" she rejoined, with an involuntary show of interest.
"For example," he continued, "a lady voluntarily surrenders the comfortable seat assigned to her, and exchanges with a man who occupies an uncomfortable one."
The lady coloured slightly. "A free initiative," said she, "is seldom possible with a woman. She is ever subject to a stronger will."
"Yet she need not be," was the reply; "with the fascination which she exerts over men she is in reality the stronger."
"Ah, yes; but suppose that fascination is employed over a man by women that have no right thus to use their power?"
"Then the legitimate possessor of that right is still at fault. If fascination is the bond by which the man can be held, why does she not make use of it herself? A face of statuesque beauty that knows not how to smile has often been the cause of untold unhappiness."
At these words the younger of the two ladies threw back her veil, perhaps to gain a better view of the speaker, and thus revealed just such a face as the young man had referred to,—a face with large blue eyes and silent lips.
"Would you, then," the elder lady continued the discussion with some warmth, "have a wife employ the wiles of a coquette toward her own husband, in order to retain his love?"
"I see no reason why she should not if circumstances demand it."
"Very good. But you must admit that a wife is something more than a sweetheart; maternal duties and cares also enter into her life, and when, by reason of her exalted mission as a mother, anxieties and fears will, in spite of her, depict themselves on her face, what then becomes of your pretty theory?"
The attack was becoming too warm for the young stranger, and he hastened to capitulate with a good grace. "In that case, madam," he admitted, "the husband is bound to show his wife nothing but the purest devotion and affection. The Roman lictors were, by the consul's orders, required to lower their fasces before a Roman matron; she was undisputed mistress in her sphere. The man who refuses to render the humblest of homage to the mother of his children deserves to have a millstone hung about his neck and to be cast into the sea."
The blond lady seemed softened by this unconditional surrender. "Are you on your way to Rome, may I ask?" she presently inquired, her question being apparently suggested by the other's reference to ancient Roman customs.
"Yes, that is my destination," he replied.
"You go to witness the splendid ceremonies of Holy Week, I infer."
"No; they do not interest me."
"What!" exclaimed the lady; "the sublimest of our Church observances, that which symbolises the very divinity of our Saviour, does not interest you?"
"No; because I do not believe in his divinity," was the calm reply.
The lady raised her eyebrows in involuntary token of surprise at this most unexpected answer. She suddenly felt a strong desire to fathom the mysterious stranger. "I believe the Vatican is seeking an unusually large loan just now," she remarked, half-interrogatively.
The stranger could not suppress a smile. He read the other's surmise that he might be of Hebrew birth and faith. "It is not the papal loan, madam," he returned, "that takes me to Rome; it is a divorce case."
"A divorce case?" The blond lady could not disguise her interest at these words, while even the statuesque beauty at the other end of the compartment turned her face fully upon the speaker, and her lips parted slightly, like the petals of an opening rosebud.
"Yes," resumed the young man, "a separation from one who has denied and rejected me for the sake of another; one whom I must for ever shun in the future, and yet cannot cease to love; one whose loss can never be made good to me. I am going to Rome because it is a dead city and belongs equally to all and to none."
The train halted at a station, and the young man alighted. After a few words to the guard he disappeared from sight.
"Do you know that gentleman?" asked the blond lady of her escort.
"Very well," was the reply.
"And yet you two hardly exchanged a word."
"Because we were neither of us so disposed."
"Are you enemies?"
"Not enemies, and yet in a certain sense opponents."
"Is he a Jew or an atheist?"
"Neither; he is a Unitarian."
"And what is a Unitarian, pray tell me?"
"The Unitarians form one of the recognised religious sects of Hungary," explained the man. "They are Christians who believe in the unity of God."
"It is strange I never heard of them before," said the lady.
"They live chiefly in Transylvania," added the other; "but the great body of them, taken the world over, are found in England and America, where they possess considerable influence. Their numbers are not large, but they hold together well; and, though they are not increasing rapidly, they are not losing ground."
The younger lady lowered her veil again and crossed herself beneath its folds; but her companion turned and looked out of the window with a curious desire to scrutinise the wicked heretic more closely. Both the ladies, as the reader will have conjectured, were strictly orthodox in their faith.
The train soon started again, after the customary ringing and whistling and the guards' repeated warning of "partenza!" But the young heretic seemed to put as little faith in bells and whistles and verbal warnings as in the dogma of the Trinity; for he failed to appear as the train moved away from the station. The ladies who owed so much to his kindness could not deny a certain feeling of relief at being freed from the company of one who cherished such heterodox religious convictions.
"You say you are well acquainted with the young man?" the blond lady resumed.
"Yes, I know him well enough," was the answer. "His name is Manasseh Adorjan, he is of good old Szekler descent, and he has seven brothers and a twin sister. They all live at home in their ancestral castle. Some of the brothers have married, but all live together peacefully under one roof and form one household. Manasseh seems to have been recognised by the family as the gifted one,—his brothers are nothing more than honest and intelligent Szeklers,—and for his education and advancement in the world all worked in unison. When he was only twenty years old this young genius became a candidate for the council. In Transylvania it is the custom to make the higher government appointments from all four of the recognised religious sects,—Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran, and Unitarian. From that time dates our mutual hostility."
"Then you are enemies, after all."
"In politics, yes. However, I must not bore you ladies with political questions. Suffice it to say, then, in regard to Manasseh Adorjan, that a sudden change of government policy, and the defeat of his party, gave the young man a fall from his proud eminence and led him to turn his back, for a time at least, on his native land; for he scorned to seek the preferment that was so easily within his reach by renouncing his principles and joining the opposite party."
"Now I understand," interposed the blond lady, "what he meant by his 'divorce case,' and his parting with one who had denied and rejected him, but whom he could never cease to love. Those were his words, and they referred to his country."
"Yes, probably," assented the other; "for the young man is unmarried."
At the next station the subject of this conversation suddenly reappeared.
"Ah, we thought you were lost," exclaimed the elder of the two ladies, with a not unfriendly smile.
"Oh, no, not lost," returned Manasseh; "what belongs nowhere and to no one cannot be lost. I merely took a seat on the imperial. Come, friend Gabriel,"—turning to the ladies' escort,—"will you not join me there? The view is really fine, and we can smoke also."
The one thus familiarly addressed, and whose name was Gabriel Zimandy, accepted the invitation after a moment's demur. The ladies were left to themselves.
A LIFE'S HAPPINESS AT STAKE.
"A splendid country this!" exclaimed Gabriel Zimandy, when he had lighted his meerschaum and found himself at leisure to survey the landscape. "Too bad the Austrians have their grip on it!"
"Look here," interposed Manasseh, "suppose we steer clear of politics. Do you agree?"
"Did I say anything about politics?" retorted Gabriel. "I merely alluded to the beautiful view. Well, then, we'll talk about beautiful women if you prefer. You little know what a tender spot you touched upon with the ladies. I refer to the brunette—not to the blond, with whom you were talking."
"Ah, is the other a brunette? I did not get a good look at her."
"But she got a good look at you, while you were discussing the duties of women toward their husbands, the subject of divorce, and Heaven knows what else besides."
"And did I awaken any unpleasant reminiscences?" asked the young man.
"Not in the bosom of your fair antagonist,—she is already a widow,—but in that of her companion, who sat silent and listened to all you said. She is on her way to Rome to petition the Pope to annul her marriage."
"Is that so!" exclaimed Manasseh, in surprise. "I should have said she was just out of a convent where she had been placed to be educated."
"What eyes you have! Even without looking at her you have guessed her age to a month, I'll warrant! She is my client, the unfortunate Princess Cagliari, nee Countess Blanka Zboroy. You know the family: their estates are entailed, so that all but the eldest son have to shift for themselves as best they can. The younger sons go into the army or the Church, and the daughters are wedded to rich husbands, or else they take the veil. But it so happened that once upon a time a rich bishop belonging to this family made a will directing that his property be allowed to accumulate until it became large enough to provide a snug fortune of a million florins for each of his relatives; and this end was recently realised. But by the terms of the will, the heirs are allowed only the usufruct of this legacy, and, furthermore, even that is to be forfeited under certain circumstances, as for example, if allegiance be refused to the reigning dynasty, or if the legatee renounce the Roman Catholic faith, or, in the case of a woman, lead an unchaste life. Any part of the estate thus forfeited goes to the remaining legatees in an equal division, and so you can imagine what a sharp watch the several beneficiaries under this will keep over one another. A million is no bagatelle; the game is worth the candle. But to come back to our starting-point, Countess Blanka was joined in marriage with Prince Cagliari as soon as she left the convent. You must know the prince, at least by reputation; he plays no small part in the political world."
"I have met him several times," replied Manasseh.
"At court balls in Vienna, doubtless," said the advocate; "for, old as Cagliari is, he still turns night into day and burns the candle at both ends. When he married Countess Blanka he was very intimate with the Marchioness Caldariva, formerly known to lovers of the ballet as 'the beautiful Cyrene.' She practised the terpsichorean art with such success that one day she danced into favour with an Italian marquis who honoured her with the gift of his name and rank, after which he shot himself. The marchioness now owns a splendid palace in Vienna, a present from Prince Cagliari, who, they say, forgot to deliver up the key to her when he married Countess Blanka. It is even whispered that the marchioness herself tied the bridegroom's cravat for him on his wedding-day. Well, however that may be, the prince took the young lady to wife, much as a rich man buys a horse of rare breed, or a costly statue, or any other high-priced curiosity. But the poor bride could not endure her husband's presence. She was only a child, and, up to the day of her marriage, had no conception of the real meaning of matrimony. The prince has never enjoyed a moment's happiness with his young wife. His very first attempt to offer her a husband's caresses caused her to turn deadly pale and go into convulsions; and this occurred as often as the two were left alone. The prince complained of his hard lot, and sought medical advice. It was reported that the young wife was subject to epileptic attacks. A man of any delicacy would have accepted the situation and held his peace; but the prince took counsel of his factotum, a certain Benjamin Vajdar——"
An involuntary movement, and a half-suppressed exclamation on Manasseh's part, made the speaker turn to him inquiringly; then, as the other said nothing, he resumed:
"This factotum is the evil genius of the family, and the two together make a pair hard to match. The prince has obstinacy, sensuality, arrogance, and vindictiveness; and his tool has brains, cunning, and inventiveness, for the effective exercise of the other's evil tendencies. Cagliari finally went back to the beautiful Cyrene for consolation; but she was bent on proving her power over him, and at her bidding he heaped all sorts of indignities upon his innocent and helpless wife. At last, to crown all, he instituted divorce proceedings against her. This was the price he paid to regain the fair Cyrene's favour, but I am convinced that Benjamin Vajdar is at the bottom of it all. The prince bases his suit for a separation on his wife's alleged epileptic attacks and consequent unfitness for the wedded state. Of course that is all nonsense. I am not an epileptic, nor wont to bite or scratch people; but I can't approach this Cagliari without experiencing a sort of foaming at the mouth and a twitching of the muscles, as if I must pitch into the man, tooth and nail. My view of the case is that my client finds her husband's attentions so abhorrent that she even swoons when he offers to kiss her; and so I am going to apply for a total dissolution of the marriage, for if the other side win their case the papal edict will forbid a second marriage on the wife's part. And just imagine a young girl like her, in the first bloom of youth, scarcely twenty years old, compelled to renounce all hope of wedded happiness. We are now on our way to Rome to see whether my fair client's personal appeal may not avail somewhat with her judges. They cannot but take pity on her if their hearts are human. Prince Cagliari has of late lost favour at the Vatican, and all the conditions are in our favour; but there is one man whom I fear,—that cool and crafty Vajdar. I fell in with him in Venice, and asked him whither he was going. 'To Milan,' said he, but I knew he lied. He, too, is bound for Rome, and he will be there ahead of us, or at least overtake us. If we could only reach Rome first, I am confident we should win the game. But I fear he may be on this very train. Why, how warm you look! The perspiration stands in drops on your forehead. Does my pipe annoy you? No? Well, as I was saying, I suspect the fellow is on this train with us, and if he falls into my hands I'll wring his miserable neck! He thinks he's going to ruin the young life of my client and bury her alive, does he? We'll see about that."
"He shall not do it!" exclaimed the other, with emphasis.
"Good for you, my friend! And if you can propose some scheme for balking him, I'll take my hat off to you. Tell me, now, how can the princess make sure of outwitting her foes, and so escape the horrible fate of being buried alive?"
"She can turn Protestant, and then the Church of Rome will have no claim whatever on her."
"Very good, but how about the million florins left her as a good Catholic by the bishop?"
Manasseh Adorjan crumbled his cigar in his fingers. "If the princess has a woman's heart in her bosom," he declared, "she will throw her million away in return for the love of a true man."
AN INTRUDER EXPELLED.
Meanwhile the train had reached another station, a junction where a halt was made for refreshments, pending the arrival of a connecting train. The advocate was hungry, and accordingly made his way to the dining-room, being first warned by his companion to use despatch, as otherwise, on returning to the ladies, he might find his compartment filled.
"And what will you do meantime?" asked Gabriel.
"I have my sketch-book with me," replied Manasseh, "and I am going to draw the view from my perch up here."
"Ah, I did not know you were an artist."
"Yes, I am an artist, and nothing more."
Upon the arrival of the connecting train and the ensuing scramble for seats, the ladies of our little party felt some anxiety lest their privacy should be rudely broken in upon by unwelcome strangers. Princess Cagliari bent forward and looked down the platform, but immediately drew back again. Too late, however; she had been seen; and a moment afterward a young man, of sleek and comely appearance, immaculately dressed, and carrying in one hand a small cane whose peculiar head betrayed the fact that it concealed a rapier, sprang lightly on the foot-board and entered the compartment.
"Ah, what an unexpected pleasure, Princess!" he exclaimed by way of greeting, lifting his hat and appropriating the corner seat opposite her.
"Pardon me," said Blanka, "but that seat is engaged. The gentleman who is with us—"
"Why, then, didn't he leave something—coat, or umbrella, or hand-bag—in proof of his claim to the seat?" interrupted the intruder. "The seat is now mine by railway usage, and I cannot deny myself the pleasure of sitting opposite you, my dear princess."
Blanka controlled her indignation as best she could, but her companion felt called upon to come to her aid with an energetic remonstrance.
"Mr. Vajdar," said she, severely, "you should know what is expected of a gentleman in his conduct toward a lady. You are well aware that the princess cannot endure your presence, nor are you ignorant of the reason."
The handsome young man drew a gilt pasteboard box from his side pocket, removed the cover, and offered the contents to the last speaker. "Madam Dormandy, you are fond of sweets. Permit me to solicit your acceptance of these caramels. They are freshly made, and are really excellent."
But Madam Dormandy turned her back disdainfully on the peace-offering and looked anxiously out of the window. "Where can Mr. Zimandy be all this time?" she murmured, impatiently.
"How long will you continue to dog my steps?" asked the princess, addressing the intruder in a voice that trembled with passion.
"Only to the grave," was the smiling reply; "there we shall separate—you to enter the gates of paradise, where I despair of gaining admission."
"But what reason have you for wishing my ruin?"
"Because you yourself will have it so. Have I ever made any secret of my designs or of my motives?"
"Are you determined to make me leave this compartment?"
"You would gain nothing by so doing," was Vajdar's cool retort. "I could not possibly forego the pleasure of your company, in whatever way you might choose to continue your journey."
"What is your purpose in all this?" demanded Blanka.
"To make you either as happy as a man can make a woman, or as wretched as only the devil himself can render a human being."
"I defy you to do either."
"Futile defiance! The game is in my hands, and I can make you as one buried alive."
"God will never allow such an iniquity!" cried the princess.
"Ah, my dear madam, you forget that we are on our way to Rome, where there are churches by the score, but no God."
Blanka shuddered in spite of herself, and drew her shawl more closely about her, while her foe crossed one leg over the other and smiled self-complacently.
The warning cry "partenza!" sounded along the platform, and the ladies' escort came running in alarm from the dining-room and sought his compartment.
"Have I your seat, sir?" coolly inquired Benjamin Vajdar of the man who had so lately promised to wring his neck.
"Oh, no, certainly not," mumbled the doughty advocate, in considerable surprise and confusion, as he caught his breath and meekly looked around for a vacant place.
A lightning-flash from the blond beauty's eyes and a mocking smile from the dandy rewarded this courteous forbearance. But the mocking smile changed the next instant to a sudden expression of disquiet, if not of actual fear. Manasseh Adorjan stood in the doorway, and Blanka noted a swift interchange of glances between the young men, like the flashing of two drawn swords.
"That place is already engaged, sir," said Manasseh, quietly.
Benjamin Vajdar's face flushed quickly, and then as suddenly paled. In his eyes one could have read rage, hate, and fear, and his right hand clutched the head of his cane convulsively, as if about to draw the weapon therein concealed. But Manasseh still stood regarding him fixedly, and the intruder yielded without a word. Taking up his satchel, he left the compartment. The whole scene had occupied but a moment. What was it that gave one of these men such power over the other, like that of a lion-tamer over his charge?
Manasseh himself took the vacated seat, without offering it to the advocate, and sat looking out of the window as long as Vajdar was in sight. At length the train started, and as it soon entered on a stretch of monotonous, waste territory, Blanka yielded to the drowsy lullaby of the smoothly rolling wheels, and fell asleep. Once or twice she half opened her eyes and was vaguely conscious that the young stranger opposite her was drawing something in the sketch-book that lay open on his knee. She pushed her veil still farther back from face and brow, hardly aware what she was doing, and again fell asleep.
A BIT OF STRATEGY.
A sharp whistle from the locomotive awakened the sleepers.
"Where are we now?" asked Blanka.
"Near Bologna," answered the artist, who alone had remained awake; "and there I have to leave the train, which continues on, via Imola, to Ancona."
"You leave the train? But I thought you, too, were going to Rome," said the princess, in surprise.
"So I am," was the reply, "but by another route. My luggage will go through to Ancona, and thence by diligence to Rome, while I push on over the Apennines to Pistoja and Florence. It is a harder road, but its splendid views amply repay one for an occasional climb on foot by the vetturino's side; and then, too, I shall reach Rome one day ahead of you, who go by way of Ancona."
Blanka listened with interest. "Couldn't we take that route also?" she asked. "What do you say to it, Maria? We could quietly leave the train at Bologna and let our trunks go on to Rome without us."
"But are the mountain passes safe?" queried Madam Dormandy, turning to Manasseh. "Is there no danger of highwaymen?"
"Bad men are to be feared everywhere," replied the young man; "but as for highway robbers, they are much more to be apprehended by those travelling with valises and trunks than by the tourist that simply carries a satchel slung over his shoulder, as I intend to do. In my student days I used to tramp over these mountains in every direction, and the brigands never molested me. Whenever I fell in with a band I used to group the men together and sketch them. Artists have nothing to fear from gentlemen of the road."
"And besides, we are two able-bodied men, and I always carry a brace of pistols—don't you?" spoke up the advocate, his professional zeal kindling at the prospect of stealing a march on the enemy.
"I carry no weapons of any kind," calmly replied the artist.
"Oh, I fear no harm from bad men," exclaimed the princess; "there is but one bad man whom we need to dread."
The others easily guessed to whom she referred; but Gabriel Zimandy was bent on making her meaning still plainer.
"He'd better not follow us into the mountains!" he cried, "for if the young rogue falls into my hands he'll wish he'd never been born. Lucky for him he took our friend's gentle hint; had he kept his seat a moment longer there would have been serious trouble."
"Ha, ha!" laughed Madam Dormandy; "how surprised he will be when he fails to find us at Ancona and is obliged to journey on by diligence with our baggage, but without us!"
"We shall be hurrying on ahead of him over these grand old mountains," added the princess, with enthusiasm, her cheeks glowing in pleased anticipation. "And we have to thank you, Mr. Adorjan, for the suggestion." With an impulsive movement she extended her hand to the young artist, who scarcely ventured to touch her finger-tips in return.
"Very well, then," said he, "we will try the mountain road; and let us take no luggage but what we can carry in our hands. When we come to a beautiful waterfall we will sketch it, and when we chance upon a fine view we will celebrate its beauties in song."
"Yes, and people will take us for strolling minstrels," interposed the princess; "and we must drop our real names and titles. Mr. Zimandy shall be the impresario, and Madam Dormandy the prima-donna; they can pass for husband and wife. We two can be brother and sister. What is your sister's name?"
"Lend me her name for a little while, will you? You don't object?"
Manasseh turned strangely sober. "It would be only for your sake that I should object," he replied. "The bearer of that name is a very unfortunate girl."
So they agreed to leave the train at Bologna and take the mountain pass. It only remained to hoodwink Benjamin Vajdar, and Manasseh Adorjan promised to effect this. He alighted before the train had fairly stopped, having first directed the others to go into the waiting-room. "That young man will not stir from his seat, nor will he even look out of the window," added Manasseh, with as much confidence as if he had acquired a talisman which enabled him to control the other's actions.
As the train rolled out of the station the artist rejoined his party, with the welcome assurance that their enemy was now out of their way.
"Is there a mysterious relation of some sort between you two?" asked Blanka.
"Yes—one of fear: I tremble every time I see the man."
"Yes; I am afraid I shall kill him some day."
With that, and as if regretting that he had said so much, he hurried away to engage a carriage to take them to Vergato. During his absence the advocate explained to his client that the Unitarians have an especial horror of bloodshed. He declared that some of them shrank from taking even an animal's life and abstained entirely from the use of meat.
Blanka shook her head incredulously. She could not conceive of a gentleman's being forbidden by his scruples to use arms when the occasion demanded. How else, she asked, could he defend his honour, his loved ones, the women entrusted to his charge?
When the four were seated in their carriage, the gentlemen facing the ladies, Blanka led the conversation back to the point at which Manasseh had dropped it.
"You said you feared you should kill that young man some day," she began. "Does your religion forbid you to kill a man—under any circumstances?"
"With a single exception," he replied; "but that exception is out of the question in this instance."
Blanka wondered what the single exception could be, but refrained from asking. "Are you well acquainted with Mr. Vajdar?" she inquired presently.
"We have known each other from childhood," was the reply. "Whatever I possessed was shared with him. His father was my father's steward; and when the steward proved false to his trust and gambled away a large sum of money committed to his care, and then shot himself, my father adopted the little orphan, and always treated him exactly as he did his own children. He grew up to be a bright and promising young man, and never failed to win a stranger's favour and confidence. But woe to those that thus confided in him! My poor sister, my dear, good little Anna, trusted him, and all was ready for their wedding when he disappeared, deserting her at the very altar."
Even the shades of approaching nightfall could not hide the expression of pain on the speaker's face.
"When did this occur?" asked Blanka, gently.
"Last year—in February."
"The date of my marriage, and of my first seeing that man," was Blanka's silent comment. She pondered the possible connection between the two circumstances. Benjamin Vajdar had left his affianced bride soon after seeing Princess Cagliari; he had then entered Cagliari's service as private secretary, and, a little later, divorce proceedings had been begun by the prince against his young wife.
"Was it Mr. Vajdar's troubled conscience that made him leave us the moment you appeared?" she asked, after a pause.
"No," said Manasseh; "he has no conscience. When he has an object in view, all means are legitimate with him. He knows neither consideration for others nor shame for his own misdeeds."
"And yet he certainly played the coward before you."
"Because he knows that I possess certain information, certain documentary evidence, by which, if I chose, I could hurl him down in confusion and disgrace from any height, however lofty, which he might succeed in attaining."
"And you refrain from using this evidence against him?"
"To use it would be revenge," replied the young man, calmly.
"Is revenge forbidden where you live?"
"Has your sister never found a balm for her wounded affections?"
"Never. My people are of the kind that loves but once."
"Pray tell me where it is that your people have their home," urged the princess. "Is it on an island in the moon?"
"Indeed, princess, it is not unlike those glimpses of the moon that we get through a large telescope when we examine, for instance, the rocky island known to astronomers as 'Plutarch,' or that named 'Copernicus.' Everything where I live would seem to you to savour of another planet. On the maps the place is put down as 'Toroczko.' It is in a mountain gorge, entered by a narrow path along the riverside and through a cleft in the rocks. The northern side of this narrow ravine, being in some measure exposed to the southern sun, is clothed with woods; the southern is a great wall of bare rock rising in terraces, or giant steps, that might well suggest the dreariness and desolation of a landscape in the moon. This barren expanse of naked rock is called the Szekler Stone, and was formerly surmounted by the castle of a Hungarian vice-voivode. Its ruins are still to be seen there. The lower slopes of this mountainside are cultivated now, and the ploughshare is gradually forcing one terrace after another to yield sustenance to the farmer. Thus it is that by these cultivated terraces the centuries of the town's history can be numbered. For there is a village there, deep down in the rocky ravine, as if on the floor of a volcano's crater, and in that village live the happiest people in all the world. Do not think me unduly prejudiced by the fact that I am one of them. No, I am not prejudiced. Strangers also find no terms of praise too high for those happy and industrious people. Noted English and German travellers have visited my native valley and afterward written books about it, as other travellers have about Japan or Circassia. Indeed, those two countries have something in common with my own. My people have developed and perfected industries peculiar to themselves, as have the Japanese, and they also are proud of their handsome women, as are the Circassians—except that the girls of Toroczko are not for sale, nor, for that matter, are they to be had by foreigners, even for love. Their charms bloom only for their own countrymen, and by them they are jealously guarded. They never work in the fields, and so their fair faces are never tanned or freckled. The young maidens keep their rooms, and spin, weave, and embroider for their own adornment. When Sunday comes and they all go to church, they fill six benches and form a veritable 'book of beauties,' of various types, both blond and brunette, which, however, one cannot so easily distinguish, owing to the richly worked kerchiefs under which their hair is hidden. Their entire costume is snow-white, even to the fine sheepskin bodice worn by each."
"Ah, your young women think of nothing but dress, I fear," remarked Blanka.
"By no means," protested Manasseh; "on the contrary, their childhood and youth are largely devoted to education. The people of our little valley maintain a high school for boys and a seminary for girls, as well as a charity school for the poor."
"Then your people must be rich."
"No, not rich. There are no lords or ladies among them, and they have suffered more from the ravages of war than any other community in Hungary."
"But how," asked Blanka, "can they afford to dress their young women in silks and laces, and give both boys and girls an education? They must have some fairy talisman for conjuring wealth out of the rocks on which their houses stand."
"And so they have. Their talisman is industry, and out of their rocky soil they conjure riches in the shape of iron,—the best that can be found in all Transylvania. The same men that fill the church every Sunday, in holiday attire, dig and delve under ground the remaining six days of the week. Another secret of their modest wealth is their abstinence from strong drink. There is not a single grog-shop in Toroczko. But I fear I am wearying you."
Blanka begged him to continue, and took occasion to ask him why he did not go back to the beautiful valley which he seemed to love so warmly.
"Because," was the answer, "my people are now enjoying a period of happiness in which I have no part. If misfortune should ever overtake them, I should go back and strive to lighten it, or at least I would bear it with them."
HOLY WEEK IN ROME.
It was evening when the travellers reached Rome. They had accomplished the journey in the time promised by Manasseh, and now the query was raised, could their enemy, by any possibility, have outstripped them?
Upon the coachman's inquiring to what hotel he should take his passengers, Gabriel Zimandy drew out his memorandum-book and read the name of a house recommended to him by his landlord at Vienna. European innkeepers, be it observed, join together in a sort of fraternity for mutual aid in a business way, passing their guests along from city to city and from hand to hand, sometimes even providing them with letters of introduction.
The cards of the hotel in question bore the important announcement, "German is spoken here;" and this was an advantage not to be despised.
"You will come with us, won't you?" said the advocate, turning with a courteous bow to Manasseh.
"Where German is spoken? No, I thank you. If I announce myself as a Hungarian, they will kiss my hand and then charge the kiss on the bill; if I say I am a German, I shall get a drubbing and be charged for that, too. I prefer to hunt up a modest little inn where, when I register from Transylvania, the good people will think it is somewhere in America, perhaps in the neighbourhood of Pennsylvania. The Yankees, you know, are highly respected in Italy."
"I regret exceedingly—" began the advocate. "Among so many strangers it would have been very pleasant to have——"
"At least one enemy within call," interrupted the young man, with a smile. "Well, you see, I am likely to be in Rome some time; so I shall look up a quiet room for myself near the Colosseum, where the sun shines and I can carry out certain plans of my own."
The carriage turned into a brilliantly lighted street and passed a stately palace before which a richly sculptured fountain was sending its streams of sparkling water into the air.
"The Palazzo Cagliari," remarked Manasseh, but without any significant emphasis.
A natural impulse of curiosity moved Blanka to turn and look at the ancestral mansion of her husband's family. A moment later Manasseh signalled the driver to stop, and alighted from the carriage after shaking hands with his fellow travellers. Gabriel Zimandy said they should be sure to meet again soon; Madam Dormandy hoped they might all go sightseeing together in a few days; but Blanka said nothing as she bowed her farewell.
Reaching their hotel, our three travellers were greeted by the landlord with unmistakable tokens of surprise.
"And have your excellencies met with no mishap on the way?" he took early occasion to inquire.
"Certainly not. Why?"
"Your coming was announced in advance by our Vienna agent, and accordingly we reserved rooms for you. But at the same time another guest was also announced, a gentleman of high station from Hungary; and this afternoon word came that this gentleman and all his party had been captured by bandits in the ravine at the foot of Monte Rosso, and carried off into the mountains, where they will have to stay until their ransom is forthcoming. We feared your excellencies were of the party."
"No," said Gabriel; "we came by way of Orvieto."
"Lucky for you!" exclaimed the landlord.
"What is the name of the gentleman you refer to?" asked the princess, in a tone that betrayed the keenness of her interest.
"It's a queer name," answered the landlord, "and I can't remember it. But I'll find it for you in my letters of advice and send it up to your room."
Blanka had hardly laid aside her wraps when a waiter knocked at her door and presented a card on a silver salver. "Conte Benjamino de Vajdar" was the name she read in the landlord's handwriting.
* * * * *
On the following morning, Blanka sent for the hotel-keeper and desired him to procure for herself and her two companions admission tickets to all the sacred ceremonies of the coming week. The worthy man fairly gasped at the coolness of this request. Tickets to the Sistine Chapel, to the Tenebrae, to the Benediction, and to the Glorification—and for three persons? Why, money couldn't buy them at that late hour, he declared. Admission tickets to paradise would be more easily obtainable. At the very utmost, places might still be procured on some balcony overlooking the Piazza di San Pietro, but only at extremely high prices. Yet the view from such a position would be a fine one; and mine host, without waiting to listen to any objections, hastened away to secure tickets, if they were still to be had.
The princess made her lament to Gabriel Zimandy over her poor success in obtaining what she so ardently desired, and that gentleman sought to console her with the assurance that it was highly venturesome for ladies to trust themselves in the crowd that always attended the church ceremonies of Holy Week, and that she could read all about them much more comfortably in the newspapers. Blanka, however, took so much to heart the disappointment of her pious wishes, and came so near the point of tear-letting, that the advocate felt obliged to sally forth in person to see what he could do to console her. In less than an hour he was back again, breathless and exultant. He ran up-stairs with the agility of a much younger and less corpulent man, and hastened to the princess's room, regardless of the fact that she was at the moment under her hair-dresser's hands.
"Victory!" he cried, panting for breath. "The impossible is achieved, and here are tickets for all three of us—to everything—to the Tenebrae, the washing of feet, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, the relics, the Benediction—"
"But how did you get them?" interrupted the ladies, overcome with curiosity. Madam Dormandy had come hurrying out of her room at the first sound of his voice, and she and the princess now proceeded to pelt their victorious envoy with a volley of questions.
"Well, you see," replied the lawyer, gradually recovering his breath, "it is a curious story. As I was tearing across the Corso, intent on my errand, I felt some one catch me by the coat-tail and heard a voice call to me in Hungarian, 'Haste makes waste!' I wheeled about, and there stood our Arian friend."
"Yes. He asked me if we had our affairs all in order, and I told him, by no means. I complained to him of our ill luck in securing tickets to the sacred ceremonies, and that it seemed impossible to get even anywhere near the Vatican. 'Well,' said he, with that confoundedly serious expression of his that you don't know whether to take as a sign of jest or earnest, 'let me see if I can't make it possible for you.' 'But,' said I, 'you don't imagine that you, a fallen statesman and an Arian heretic, can gain what is denied to Spanish princesses of the strictest orthodoxy?' 'You shall soon see,' he answered, and proceeded to lead me through one crooked street after another, until we found ourselves in front of a palace, at whose door a military watch was posted. He handed his card to the doorkeeper, and presently we were ushered into an anteroom, where Adorjan left me while he himself went with a man who seemed to be a private secretary, or something of the sort, into the next room. It wasn't long before he came out again and put three cards into my hand. 'There they are,' said he. 'Why, you are a regular magician!' I couldn't but exclaim. 'Oh, no,' he replied, 'I am no Cagliostro; the explanation is simple enough. This is the French embassy, and Monsieur Rossi is an old friend of mine. I have visited his family often. So when I asked him for tickets to all the ceremonies of Holy Week for two Hungarian ladies and their escort, he gave them to me at once. But now you must look sharp, for cards enough have been given out to fill the Sistine Chapel six times over, and there will be a scramble to get in.'"
The princess was as pleased as a child. Her dearest wish was gratified; but, singularly enough, she owed this gratification to the very man whom she felt the necessity of avoiding and forgetting. It was, however, to the mysterious charm of the approaching ceremonies that she looked for an effective means of diverting her thoughts from forbidden channels. Yet the fact remained that he himself had opened the way for her to this earnestly desired distraction, and to Blanka it seemed as if his influence over her was only increased and strengthened by his absence.
"What return, pray, did you make for all this kindness?" she asked.
"A very ungracious one, I fear," replied Gabriel. "After receiving these tickets, which are worth many times their weight in gold, I told our benefactor that I feared they would profit us little, unless he procured one for himself, also, and acted as our guide."
"You asked him to escort us?" exclaimed the princess, consternation in her tone.
"I know it was a strange request," admitted the advocate, "to ask a heretic to witness the Passion, and the Resurrection, and the Glorification. It is like burning incense before his Satanic Majesty. Naturally enough, he refused at first point-blank, alleging that he had no right to thrust himself as attendant on two ladies without their invitation. 'Well, then,' said I, 'don't go as the ladies' escort, but just show me, your fellow countryman, the way about, else I shall certainly get lost, and find myself in the Catacombs instead of the Vatican.' Finally, I forced him to yield, and so he is to accompany us."
In the afternoon of the same day Manasseh Adorjan called on the princess, and brought her a piece of good news of the utmost importance. Her trunks, and those of her friends, had arrived safely and promptly, and were at the custom-house. She had concluded that they had fallen into the bandits' hands, but it seemed that it was not the diligence, after all, that the robbers had waylaid; it was a post-carriage engaged by one of the travellers in the hope of reaching Rome a few hours earlier than the public conveyance. This one traveller only had been carried off into the mountains by the bandits, who had despatched a letter from their captive to Rome, addressed to Prince Cagliari, and presumably relating to the ransom. But as the prince was at present in Vienna, and postal communication between the two cities was at that time slow and uncertain, the ransom stood a good chance of being considerably delayed. This was a hint to the princess to make the most of the interim, and plead her cause at the Vatican, before her enemy could put in an appearance and damage her case. Manasseh, however, betrayed no sign of possessing any knowledge of the pending divorce suit, but continued to bear himself with the courteous reserve of a new acquaintance. Two things he sought thenceforth to avoid,—paying court to the beautiful young princess, and speaking lightly of things held sacred by her.
Complying with the expressed wish of the two ladies, in the evening he made with them the round of the principal churches, which now all wore gala attire. He took his seat on the box by the coachman's side, and pointed out, in passing, the buildings and scenes of special interest. In one of the churches he showed the ladies facsimiles of the four nails used in the Crucifixion; of the originals, one, he explained, was preserved in St. Peter's, and another had been used to make the circle of the Iron Crown. He even bought as a souvenir one of these facsimiles, which a Cistercian monk was offering for sale. He obtained also consecrated palm-branches with gilded leaves, and bribed the custodian of the three sacred orange-trees planted by the Apostles to give his party each a tiny leaflet. He schooled his face to betray no incredulity when the keepers of the various holy relics recited their virtues, and related the miracles wrought by them. And when Blanka knelt in prayer before a statue of the Madonna, he withdrew respectfully to a distance. It was an earnest petition she offered before the blessed Virgin, a prayer for rescue from her enemies, and for strength to resist every temptation. And she knew not that her rescuer and her tempter were one and the same person, and that he stood there behind her at that very moment.
Of a highly impressionable temperament, and fresh from her convent life, the princess was so moved by the sacred emblems about her, and by their holy associations, that she could not conceive of any one's viewing these objects with less of awe and reverence than herself. And when her conductor recounted the legend of the sacred lance in the chapel of St. Veronica,—how the Roman lictor Longinus had pierced the Saviour's side with this lance, and been himself struck blind the same instant, but had immediately recovered his sight when he rubbed his eyes with the hand on which four drops of the Redeemer's blood had fallen,—Blanka could not but ask herself whether another such miracle might not be wrought, and another blind man be restored to sight. She dreamed of this miracle that night, and made a vow to the Virgin that in case of her deliverance from her present difficulties, she would show her gratitude by presenting the Madonna with a jewel more precious than any that adorned her crown: she would offer this young man himself, who now refused to worship at her shrine. The princess felt herself rich enough to buy this jewel for her offering. Her heart held inexhaustible treasures, of which no man as yet could claim any share. She ceased to fear him against whom she had hitherto felt obliged to be on her guard; so much strength had she gained from the sacred relics that she now thought herself strong enough to make conquests of her own.
In the morning Manasseh came early to escort the ladies and Gabriel Zimandy to the Sistine Chapel. Upon gaining the Piazza di San Pietro they found a vast throng already assembled, through which the young man was forced to pilot his charges. Blanka was compelled to cling fast to his arm, while Madam Dormandy took the advocate's, and so they made the best of their way forward. As if by instinct, Manasseh knew where a courteous request would open a path before them, where to resort to more energetic measures, and where a couple of lire would prove most effectual. At length he was successful in gaining the very best position in the chapel, and here, unfolding a camp-stool which he had brought with him under his overcoat, he offered Blanka a seat, whence she could view the ceremonies in comfort, and without annoyance from the pushing and crowding multitude.
Alas, poor Blanka! She only learned later from her father confessor what a sin she had committed in thus yielding to the weakness of the flesh, instead of standing through all the weary hours of that morning. A good Christian should not think of bodily comfort while his Saviour hangs bleeding on the cross. But she did not know this at the time, and therefore her escort's kind attention was most grateful to her.
The Tenebrae is one of the most impressive of all the ceremonies of Holy Week in Rome. The Sistine Chapel is draped entirely in black, and only the soft rays of thirteen wax candles serve to lessen the darkness, out of whose depths, as out of the blackness of the tomb, sounds the antiphony of mourning and lamentation. The human forms moving to and fro before the cross are hardly distinguishable, but have the appearance of vague shadows. Then the candles are, one by one, extinguished, until only a single taper is left burning on the altar—that is Jesus. And in this darkness, symbolic of grief and mourning, an invisible choir sings the Miserere, Allegri's world-renowned composition, whose mystic notes bring so vividly before us that last scene on Golgotha,—the agony of the dying Saviour, the taunts of the lictors, the wailing of the holy women, the shrieks of the dead whose graves are opened, and who cry aloud for mercy, and finally the rending of the Temple curtain, and the chorus of angels in heaven. All this affects even the most hardened of skeptics with a power that cannot be withstood. For the time being the imagination is mistress of the reason.
As the crowd poured out of the chapel after the ceremony was over, Blanka shot a glance of scrutiny from beneath her veil at the young man by her side. His face wore its wonted look of seriousness, the utter opposite of careless indifference, but at the same time wholly unlike the devout rapture of a believer. In fact, his expression betrayed but too clearly that his thoughts were little occupied with what he had just witnessed.
"Have you heard the Miserere many times before?" asked Blanka.
"Twice only,—once in the Sistine Chapel, and again in St. Stephen's at Vienna."
"But I thought its production was forbidden elsewhere than in Rome," said the princess.
"Formerly that was the case," replied Manasseh, "the publication of Allegri's work being strictly prohibited; but after Mozart had heard it once and written it down from memory, its reproduction could not be prevented. So I had a chance to hear it in Vienna, where, however, it was but ill received, some of the audience even being moved to laughter."
"For what reason, pray?"
"Oh, not from any frivolity or irreverence, but because the music, which sounds so grandly impressive here in the Sistine Chapel, strikes one as a mere confusion of discordant notes amid other surroundings."
On the following day came the washing of the Apostles' feet. Chosen priests from thirteen nations of the earth gathered in the Pauline Chapel to receive this humble service at the hands of the Pope himself. The thirteenth of these chosen ones represented the angel that is said to have appeared with the appointed twelve in St. Gregory's time. Then followed the Last Supper, at which also the holy father ministered to the Apostles in person.
The next day was Saturday, and Gabriel Zimandy declared himself surfeited with holy ceremonies. Madam Dormandy agreed with him and began to complain of a fearful headache. Then the two united in maintaining that the princess looked utterly worn out and in need of rest. But Manasseh, who, by appointment, just then came upon the scene to offer his escort for the day, laughed them all three to shame.
"That is always the way," said he; "people tire themselves out so before Saturday that on that day five-sixths of the crowd stay at home to save up their strength for Easter, and thus miss one of the most impressive spectacles of the week,—the adoration of the true cross."
Poor Gabriel was now given no rest: he was forced to accompany the others once more to the Sistine Chapel, though he declared himself already quite stiff and sore with so much standing.
The chapel was at its best; the black hangings had been removed, the light from the windows was softened, candles burned on the altar, and, as Manasseh had predicted, so many of the sightseers had stayed at home that ample room was left for those who were present. The general multitude could find little pleasure in the ceremony of the day,—the worship of a piece of wood about three yards in length, and unadorned with gold or silver. The Pope and the cardinals, gowned with no pretence to magnificence or pomp, knelt before the relic as it lay on the altar. It was but a fragment of the original cross, broken in the strife that attended its rescue. This piece is said to have been saved and carried off by an emperor, making his way barefoot from Jerusalem to Alexandria, where another emperor concealed the precious relic in a statue, and finally the Templars bore it in triumph through pagan hordes from Constantinople to Rome. And now, when the head of the Church, the pastor of a flock of two hundred million human beings, the keeper of the keys of heaven, approaches this bit of wood, he strips himself of his splendid robes, removes the crown from his head, the shoes from his feet, and goes, simply clad and barefoot, with humble mien, to kneel and kiss the sacred emblem. The cardinals follow his example, and meanwhile the choir sings Palestrina's famous composition, the "Mass of Pope Marcellinus," a wonderful piece that must have been first sung to the composer by the angels themselves.
When the last notes of the music had died away, the bells of St. Peter's began to ring, the hangings before the windows were drawn aside, and Michael Angelo's marvellous frescoes were fully revealed to the admiring gaze of all present. The swords and halberds of the guards were once more raised erect, and the choir, the prelates, and the pilgrims joined in a common "Hallelujah!"
"Hallelujah!" cried Gabriel Zimandy also, rejoicing that the ceremony was finally ended. "Never before in all my life have I been so completely tired out."
On his return to the hotel, he stoutly protested against attending any more Church functions, and argued at length the inadvisability of the ladies exposing themselves to the heat and fatigue of the Easter service. Finally, and most important of all, he added that he had been granted an audience with the Pope and must prepare his address, which was to be in Latin.
"We are infinitely indebted to you, friend Manasseh," he concluded, "for all your kindness; but you see for yourself how the case stands with me."
"Yes, yes, I understand," replied the young man. "The audience is fixed for day after to-morrow, and of course you wish to prepare for it. Let me suggest, too, that you pay the French ambassador, to whose house I took you the other day, the courtesy of a call; he knows a little Latin, although, to be sure, it can't equal your own."
This suggestion, casual though it was meant to appear, made it evident to the advocate that he owed the early granting of his request to the powerful influence of the French minister. And Manasseh, on his part, was not slow to perceive that the advocate's chief concern was lest his fair client, at this critical time, should be seen in public in the company of a strange young man. It might hurt her case irremediably.
With a full understanding of the situation, Manasseh took leave of the princess, who indeed was looking very down-hearted at the prospect of missing what she had so ardently desired. But she was schooled to the denial of her own pleasure, and so quietly shook hands with her caller—then went to the window to watch his retreating form.
THE CONSECRATED PALM-LEAF.
Early the next morning the cannon began to boom from the Castle of St. Angelo. Gabriel Zimandy sprang out of bed and dressed himself quickly. His first care was to tap at Madam Dormandy's door and inquire for her health. The patient answered in a pitiful voice that the guns were fairly splitting her poor head, and that she did not expect to live the day through. This reply seemed to be quite to the advocate's liking: of the lady's succumbing to her ailment he had not the slightest fear, while he now felt assured that it would be impossible for his client to go out that day. What conception had he, heartless man, of the longing that filled the young woman's soul for the papal blessing, to which she ascribed such miraculous power, but which to him was nothing more than a Latin phrase?
Soon the bells began to ring from all the church-towers of the city, and a stream of people in gala attire poured toward St. Peter's. Poor Blanka sat at her window with eyes fixed on a certain corner, around which she had the day before seen Manasseh Adorjan's form disappear. The clocks struck twelve, thirteen, fourteen—by Italian reckoning of time; the crowds began to thin, and at last every one seemed to have betaken himself to St. Peter's. An open carriage halted in the now deserted street in front of the hotel, and Blanka recognised in its occupant the very person whose image had been so persistently before her mind's eye.
"Pardon me, princess, for intruding," began Manasseh in greeting, as he entered the young lady's presence; "but yesterday I saw that you were disappointed at not being able to attend the Easter service at St. Peter's. I have found means to remove that disappointment, I hope."
The princess felt her pulse quicken with eager delight, while at the same time she shrank back in nameless apprehension of what the young man might be going to propose.
"I fear it is too late," she replied, quietly. "I am not even dressed for the occasion."
"You have time enough," returned the other, reassuringly. "The French minister's wife has kindly offered to take you with her. Seats for the ladies of the embassy have been reserved and can be easily reached by a special entrance. They are very near the loggia where the papal blessing will be pronounced. In an hour Madame Rossi will be here; that will give you time to get ready."
"And are you going with us?"
"No, that will be impossible, as the reserved seats are for ladies only; but I will escort Madame Rossi and her daughter to your door, and you will, I am sure, find them very pleasant company. For myself, I shall hunt up some sort of a perch where I can get a view of the day's festivities."
So saying, the young man hurried away.
Against this plan Gabriel Zimandy could raise no objections. Indeed, he saw the policy of making friends with the French embassy, and as long as Manasseh was not to accompany the party his professional schemes were in no wise endangered.
When Manasseh returned with the French ladies he sought the lawyer. "Come, my friend," he urged, "if your legs have nothing to say against it, if your religious belief permits, and if you have studied your Latin speech enough for one day, I will find you a good shady spot where you can witness what no mortal eye has seen in all these eighteen Christian centuries, and is little likely to see again in eighteen centuries to come."
"What may that be?"
"A Pope of the Romish Church, pronouncing his blessing from the loggia of St. Peter's on the Roman army, preparatory to its marching forth to fight for freedom. Durando's troops are now marshalled in St. Peter's Square, awaiting the papal blessing on the swords drawn for liberty and country. It has, I know, been your dream to witness a sight like that, and now I come to invite you to its realisation."
"Well, well, that is something worth while," admitted the advocate. "The whole Roman army, and Durando himself! Surely, I can't afford to miss it." The invitation had driven quite out of his head all the objections so strenuously urged the day before.
The ladies had no difficulty in reaching the places reserved for them; for the gentlemen, however, it was not so easy to find even standing-room. But at length Manasseh guided his companion to one end of the scaffolding which supported the ladies' platform, and there found for him a V-shaped seat in the angle of two beams, while he himself stood on a projecting timber which afforded him room for one foot, and clung to the woodwork of the platform with both hands. The discomfort of his position was lightened for him by the fact that, only a few feet above, he could see Blanka's face as she sat with eyes directed toward the loggia where the Pope was soon to appear.
It was a grand spectacle. The whole army—infantry, cavalry, artillery—was drawn up in the immense piazza, each regiment carrying two flags—the banner of the Church, on which were depicted the keys of heaven, and the red, white, and green flag of Italian freedom. The background to this scene was furnished by the cathedral itself, a vast throng of spectators crowded the foreground, and the whole united to produce an effect of pomp and grandeur that fairly beggars description.
The clocks struck eighteen—midday. The great bell sounded in the western turret of the cathedral, and the booming of cannon was once more heard from the Castle of St. Angelo. The service within the cathedral was at an end, the leather curtains that hung before the great bronze doors parted, and out poured the procession of pilgrims, until the whole wide expanse of the portico was filled. Mysterious music fell on the ear from somewhere above: a military band stationed aloft in the cupola had struck up a psalm of praise, and it seemed to the listeners to come from heaven itself. Silver trumpets—so the faithful believe—are used in rendering this piece.
All faces were now turned toward the loggia, a sort of projecting balcony high up on the front of the cathedral. A sound like the murmur of the sea rose from the multitude: each spectator was shifting his position, and seeking a clearer view. Then the loggia became suddenly filled with moving forms,—cardinals in their splendid robes, knights in mediaeval armour, pages in costly livery. The crown-bearers advanced with two triple tiaras, one the gift of Napoleon I., the other presented by the queen of Spain, and both sparkling with diamonds. A third crown,—the oldest of all, originally simple in form, then a double diadem, and finally a threefold tiara,—encircled the head of the Pope himself, who, seated on a golden throne, was borne forward to the stone breastwork, on which two crowns had been placed by their bearers. The pontiff rose from his seat and the sun shone full upon his venerable form. He wore a white robe embroidered with gold, and his appearance was radiant with light. The benignant smile that illumined his countenance outshone all the diamonds in his triple crown.
How happy was Princess Blanka at that moment! and hers were the fairest gems in all that costly array,—two tears that glistened in her large dark eyes as she gazed intently on the scene before her.
The two youngest cardinals took their stand on either side of the Pope, each holding a palm-leaf in his hand. Then, over the awed and silent throng before him, in a voice still strong, sonorous, and vibrant with feeling, the aged pontiff pronounced his blessing in words at once simple, sincere, and gracious.
Blanka and Manasseh exchanged glances, and the young man felt a tear-drop fall upon his cheek. From that moment an indissoluble bond united the two.
When the benediction was over, a stentorian voice from the multitude cried, "Evviva Pio Nono!" The shout was caught up by all the vast throng, and sent heavenward in a united cry of ever-swelling volume. Not merely Pius IX., but St. Peter himself seemed to stand before the jubilant multitude, opening heaven's gates with one key, and the portals of an earthly paradise of freedom with another. The two cardinals cast their palm-leaves down to the people, and as they fell, fluttering uncertainly, now this way, now that, all eyes followed them to see who should be the happy ones to secure the precious emblems of benediction and absolution. One leaf, after hovering in the air a moment, sank in ever narrowing circles until it lodged on the flag of a volunteer regiment, whereupon a mighty cheer burst from thousands of throats. The other, borne hither and thither by shifting breezes, was finally wafted toward the raised platform where sat the ladies of the French embassy. A hundred hands reached eagerly for it as it sank lower and lower; but one arm, extending higher than the others, secured the prize. It was Manasseh who from his elevated position, intercepted the coveted token as it fell, and he immediately turned and presented it to Princess Cagliari, amid a storm of applause from the onlookers.
The princess was a beautiful woman, but at the moment of receiving this symbol of forgiveness and blessing, her face gained such a look of radiant happiness as can only be imagined on the countenance of an angel in his flight to heaven; and to her that precious leaf meant heaven indeed. But when she turned to thank the giver he had disappeared.
"That was really grand," admitted Gabriel Zimandy, as his friend piloted him through the surging throng to the nearest cab. "To think of the Pope's giving his blessing to an army mustered in the cause of liberty! Such a sight was never seen before."
"No," returned Manasseh; "and you must make haste to push your client's cause while he is in his present good humour, which may not last."
"But, surely, you don't mean that his Holiness is in any way trifling with the people, do you?" asked the advocate.
"I am fully convinced," replied the other, "that Pio Nono is a gentle, good-hearted, upright man, and a gracious pontiff; but I also believe that, at the very first engagement, the Austrians will give the pious Durando a most unmerciful whipping. What direction the wind will take in Rome after that, no mortal can tell. You will do well, however, to make the most of your time while that palm-leaf is still green."
AN AUDIENCE WITH THE POPE.
On the following day came the audience with his Holiness, Pius the Ninth.
The Very Reverend Dean Szerenyi was first sent by the master of ceremonies to instruct the lawyer and his client in the details of their approaching interview. This envoy even took pains to indicate in what sort of toilet ladies were expected to appear. The gown must come up high about the neck and might be of any colour desired, or of black silk if the wearer was in mourning. Jewelry was not forbidden. A lackey in red livery would usher the strangers into the audience-chamber. Their petition must be carried in the hand. In the throne-room—where ladies were permitted to gaze to their hearts' content on the splendid display of Japanese porcelain—the major-domo would marshal the company in a double file, and there they would wait until his Holiness appeared.
"But look here," interposed Zimandy, with a troubled look, "does the Pope know I am a Calvinist?"
"He never asks about the religious belief of those who seek an audience with him. On all alike he bestows his blessing, assuming that all who court his favour have an equal need of his benediction."
"Are there very many asking an audience at this time?"
"Only eight hundred."
"E-e-e! Eight hundred! How am I ever going to get a chance to deliver my Latin speech that I have been working on all night?"
"You will not be called upon for it at all. It is not customary in a general audience with the Pope to make set speeches. His Holiness addresses whom he chooses, and they answer him. All petitions are taken in charge by the secretary."
"Then it is lucky I put into mine everything that I intended to say. Well, give my respects to his Holiness, and tell him I was the one who made the motion in the Pest Radical Club to have his portrait hung on the wall in a gilt frame; and if he is a smoker, I should be happy to send him some superfine—"
But the dean had urgent matters to attend to, and begged to take his leave without further delay.
Our travellers, with the eager promptness characteristic of Hungarians on such occasions, were the first to be ushered into the antechamber at the Vatican. Consequently they had an opportunity to hear the names of all the other petitioners announced by the footman as they came in by ones and twos and in little parties. They seemed to be all foreign prelates, princes, ambassadors, and other high dignitaries; and, in drawing them up in line, the major-domo gave them all precedence over our party, much to the latter's humiliation and disgust. It is not pleasant to stand waiting for a whole hour, only to find at its end that one is no farther forward than at first.
But when the antechamber was nearly full, a uniformed official entered by a side door and made his way to the very foot of the line where the Hungarians were standing.
"Serenissima principessa de Cagliari! Nobilis domina vidua de Dormand! Egregius dominus de Zimand!"
This ceremonious apostrophe was followed by a wave of the hand, which indicated that the persons addressed were to follow the speaker, and that they were granted the special favour of a private hearing before his Holiness. Through the long hall, past lines of waiting men and women, they made their way; and as they went, inquiring looks and suppressed whispers followed them. The princess was recognised by many as the fortunate recipient of the consecrated palm-leaf on the day before, and they whispered one to another, "Ah, la beata!"
This sudden turn of affairs drove Gabriel Zimandy's Latin speech completely out of his head, so that he could not have given even the first word. As he hastened forward in all his court toggery, as he called it, he could have sworn that there were at least fifty swords dangling between his legs and doing their best to trip him up. After passing through a seemingly endless succession of splendid halls and stately corridors, the party was ushered into an apartment opening on the magnificent gardens of the Vatican. Here it was that Pio Nono was wont to receive the ladies whom he favoured with a private audience.
The princess and her companions stood before the august head of the Church, the sovereign who acknowledges no earthly boundaries to his dominions. Blanka felt a deep joy in her heart as she looked on that benignant countenance, her eyes filled with tears, and she sank on her knees. The Pope bent and graciously raised her to her feet. He laid his hand on her head, and spoke to her words of comfort which she enshrined in the inmost sanctuary of her heart.
When the audience was over and our friends had retired, Gabriel Zimandy could not have given any coherent account of what had passed, nor, indeed, was he in the least certain whether he had unburdened himself of his Latin speech, or stuck fast at the beatissime pater. Madam Dormandy, however, was sure to enlighten him as soon as they regained their hotel. He knew at least that the written petition which he had carried in his hand was no longer on his person; hence he must have accomplished his main object.
Madam Dormandy alone seemed to have kept her wits about her through it all. She was able to tell how the Pope, while Zimandy was stammering some sort of gibberish,—Hebrew or Greek, for aught she knew,—had taken his snuff-box from a pocket behind, and smilingly helped himself to a pinch of snuff. Further, the snuff-box had looked like a common tortoise-shell affair with an enamelled cover; and after he had taken his pinch, he had put his hand into the pocket of his gold-embroidered silk gown and drawn out a coarse cotton handkerchief such as the Franciscans use.
But these little details had entirely escaped the princess and her lawyer.
AN UNWELCOME VISITOR.
One day, when Blanka announced her intention of visiting the Colosseum for the purpose of sketching it, Gabriel Zimandy declared that he could not be one of the party, and the two ladies must get along without his escort. He said he was going to the Lateran, in his client's interest, and added that he had just received unwelcome news from Manasseh.