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2 3/2:?/ /5^ 30^ 





HARVARD 

COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 



\ 



A Son of the People, 



A Romance of the Hungarian Plains 



By the 

Baroness Orczy 

Author of « The Scarlet Pimperael,** etc. 




G. P. Putnam's Sons 
New York and London 
Zb€ ftnicfietbocfiet pte00 
1906 . 






Z21 :i.^. IS. ^00 



COLLEBE 



Copyright, 1906 

3Y 

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 



Ube fcnfcltettoclta: preea, l^ew Sotk 



TO MY HUSBAND 



Contents 

PART I. 

CHAPTXB. FAOB 

I.— A VnxAGE IN THB Lowlands ... 3 

IL — A Popular FavoumW 13 

in.— Pridk o]? Race 18 

IV.— The Money-lender 26 

v.— An Old Miser 39 

VI.— The Tenant o» KiS]?ALU .... 54 

VII.— Principal AND Interest .... 60 

vni.— First Arrivals 71 

IX.— BEAUn^UL ILONKA 8o 

X.— A Love Idyll ....... 91 

XI.— The Gathering Storm 100 

XII.— Lord AND Peasant 114 

xm.— Vengeance . . • . • • .125 

xrv.— Calamity 134 

XV.— Reparation 150 

V 



•A. 



vi Contents 

PART IL 

CHAPTER PAOR 

XVI.— Easter Morn 165 

XVII. — The Ruined Lord 179 

XVIII.— ROSENSTEIN, THE JEW 191 

XIX.— A Son oif THE Peopi^ 206 

XX.— The Answer • • 220 

XXI.— The Nobi^ Lady 224 

XXIL— A Dream 231 

XXIIL— How THE News was Received . . . 234 

XXrv.— The Marriage 248 

XXV.— Fata Morgana 260 

XXVI.— The Peasant's Wife 263 

XXVIL— The iRREPARABiA 270 

PART IIL 

xxvni.— Love Lies Bleeding 287 

XXIX.— Honour thy Father and thy Mother . 300 

XXX.— The Grave OF Love 315 

[. — Love Triumphant 324 

£fiix)Gue 339 



A SON OF THE PEOPLE 



PART I 



A Son of the People 



CHAPTER I 

A VILI^GB IN THB LOWLANDS 

Do you love the mountains, English reader ? the ro- 
mantic peaks of the Rhine country, the poetic heights 
of the Alps, the more gently undulating slopes of your 
own South Downs ? As for me, I must confess to an 
absorbing, a passionate fondness for the lowlands, the 
wild, mysterious plains of Hungary, that lie, deep 
down, between the Danube and the Theisz, and, when- 
ever I stand on those vast pusztas,^ it always seems to 
me that the mind must be more free, when the gaze can 
wander untrammelled to that far-distant horizon, which 
fancy can people at its own sweet will. 

See how far away that horizon seems, there, where 
earth and sky meet in a soft- toned line of purple, the 
merging of the blue sky with the ruddy, sandy soil of 
the earth. The air trembles with the intense heat, and 
as the eye tries to define what lies beyond that mysteri- 
ous vastness, lo ! there suddenly rises on the distant 
horizon a vision of towers, minarets, and steeples, white 
and cool-looking, mirrored in some fairy pond that 

> The pusztas are the vast sandy plains in the lowlands of 
Hnngary. 

3 



4 A Son of the People 

mttst lie, somewhere — there — beyond where the 
eye can reach. Fondly it rests on the mystic, elusive 
picture, thrown on the blue canvas by the fairy 
hand of the fitful Fata Morgana; entranced, fancy 
pictures those towers and minarets, peopled with be- 
ings of some other world, half earthly, half heavenly, 
who have found birth in that immeasurable distance, 
which begins where vision ends. Blinded, the eye 
closes for one moment, as a respite from the golden 
vision, and lo! when it gazes again, towers and minarets 
have disappeared, and, far away, only a few melan- 
choly weeping willows or a cluster of slender poplars 
break the even purple line of the skies. Fondly then, 
fancy dwells on its dreams, and hardly now dares to 
call real that distant, muffled sound, the gallop of a 
hundred hoofs, falling on the soft, dry earth. Perhaps 
it is a fairy sound, and that herd of wild horses, thun- 
dering past, their manes shaking, their tails lashing, 
are some fairy beasts belonging to the ghouls who 
dwell in Fata Morgana' s distant minarets. Yet the 
sound is real enough; wildly the horses gallop past, fol- 
lowed by the csikSs (herdsman) on his bare-backed 
mare, his white lawn shirt flying out like wings, as he 
passes, and cracking his lasso, as he drives his herd 
before him. For a moment all seems life upon the 
plain, for to the right and to the left the wild fowl rise 
affrighted overhead, and, on the grotmd, bright- 
coloured lizards rush nervously to and fro. Then the 
gallop dies away in the distance, the herdsman's whip 
has ceased to crack, the birds have gone to rest, and 
the mind is left wondering whether this bit of tumult- 
uous life was not another day-dream, painted, and then 
erased by fancy. 

Silence reigns again: a silence rendered absolute 



A Village in the Lowlands 5 

through the drowsiness of all animal life, in the heat 
of the noonday sun. To the right and left, limitless 
fields of watermelons turn their huge, emerald-green 
carcases towards the burning sun; beyond them, the 
golden sea of wheat, the waving plumes of maize, 
tremble and nod at every passing breeze, whilst, from 
everywhere, the sweet-scented rosemary throws a note 
of cool grey-green on the glowing colours of the soil. 
Far, very far away, a windmill stretches out its long 
wings, like a gigantic bird of prey, and right across the 
plain, the high-road, riddled with ruts, wanders north- 
wards, towards Kecskem6t. And that is all! Nothing 
more. Only sky, and earth, and vastness — immeasur- 
able vastness — all one's own: to grasp, to understand, 

to love! 

• ••...• 

Midway between the two prosperous provincial towns 
of Kecskemet and Gyongyos, on the very confines of 
the great N&dasdy plain, nestles the tiny village of 
Arokszdll&s, with its few thatched cottages, and its old 
mediaeval church, cool and grey-looking, in the glare 
of the noonday sun. Near it, the presbytery, painted 
a brilliant yellow, with vivid emerald-green shutters, 
and surrounded by a small garden, where, amidst tall 
hollyhocks and fragrant mignonette, on hot summer 
afternoons, worthy old Pater Ambrosius wanders in 
his threadbare, well-worn cassock, telling his beads in 
a drowsy voice. 

Then, there is the small csdrda (wayside inn), with 
its thatched roof all on one side, for all the world like 
a tipsy peasant's hat, where, in the cool of the even- 
ings, after the work is done, the herdsmen from the 
plain meet their friends from the village and smoke 
their pipes underneath the overhanging willow tree, 



6 A Son of the People 

to the tune of a primitive gipsy band with their sweet- 
sounding fiddles and droning bag-pipe. 

Then, if the innkeeper be not within sight, and 
his pretty young wife ready for a bit of flirtation 
and gossip, the latest eccentricities of the lord of 
Bideskiit are discussed over a draught of good red 
wine. 

What the peasantry of the county of Heves gos- 
siped about before my lord started his craze for ma- 
chinery and building, must certainly remain a puzzle; 
for since the remarkable contrivances of wood and iron, 
which reap the com and bind it into sheaves without 
help of human hand, had first been established at 
Bideskdt, they had remained the one all-absorbing 
topic of conversation. 

The Hungarian peasant of the dlfbld (lowland) is an 
easy-going, \azy, cheerful, and usually good-tempered 
individual, well content with the numerous gifts God 
grants him in this land of plenty; but, in the matter 
of my lord's agricultural innovations, tempers had be- 
gun to run high, and, in spite of the fact that Kem^ny 
Andrds, the most popular, as he was the most wealthy 
peasant farmer in the county, had refused to counte- 
nance such proceedings, nightly meetings were held at 
the inn, wherein universal condemnation was expressed 
of my lord and his misdoings. 

Vas Berczi, who had once travelled on. a railway be- 
tween Kecskem6t and Gyongyos, and had arrived 
home again safe and sound, and who in consequence, 
was looked upon as an oracle, second only to Kem6ny 
Andrds himself, had brought his rough brown fist with 
a crash upon the table; and, having expectorated on 
the ground with every sign of superstitious horror, 
had emphatically declared that it was impossible to 



A Village in the Lowlands 7 

grind com into flour without touch of miller's hand, 
unless Satan himself did the work. 

" But you don't mean to say, Berczi/* said a young 
peasant, his bronzed cheek quite pale with terror, 
" that that is what my lord is going to do inside the 
building?- 

Berczi nodded. 

" I tell you, my children, that I have it from Jank6 
himself, my lord's valet, that, inside that building, 
which may God annihilate before it is put to such 
sacrilegious use, the com of Bideskiit will all be 
ground into flour, and never hand of man touch it ! " 

There was dead silence for a few moments; even the 
gipsies ceased to play: they were staring, horror- 
struck, at the wise bearer of these extraordinary tidings. 

** Then, maybe, Jank6 also told you to what use the 
monstrous chimney would be put ? " hazarded a timid 
voice at last. 

" Jank6 must be a liar," decided the village oracle, 
sententiously, '' or else a fool. What do you think he 
said about that chimney ? " 

No one could conjecture; they all shook their heads 
sadly, filled with awe. Berczi waited, as a true orator 
should, preparing for a great effect, then he leaned for- 
ward on the rough, wooden table and signed to those 
around to come nearer. There were certain things 
which could only be mentioned in whispers. 

" Jank6 declares that the huge fire, for which that 
monstrously tall chimney has been built, is required 
in order to set a certain machine — he called it — in 
motion, which is to grind the com into flour. Jank6 is 
a liar ! " he repeated, but this time with less emphasis 
and with an anxious look around, altogether un- 
worthy of the wisest man in Arokszdll&s. But all 



8 A Son of the People 

cheeks had become very pale, and no one dared to 
formulate the thoughts, which were running riot in 
the stolid, superstitious peasant minds. 

** I don't like it at all,'* said a young herdsman at 
last, as, with a trembling hand, he raised a jug of wine 
to his lips. 

**Who but the devil can find use for a fire big 
enough to fill that tall chimney with smoke ? " 

** Evil will come, sooner or later, my children ! " 
concluded the village oracle, solemnly. 

** And, in the meanwhile,'* said a swarthy giant, 
with great, brown elbows resting on the table, '* it is a 
fact that, while the work in the fields is to be done by 
Satan and his agency, our lads are to remain idle and 
take to drink for want of honest toil ? " 
It looks uncommonly like it." 
And what is to become of us ? Who will pay us 
wage ? How are we going to live ? " 

*'How, indeed!" 

** The lord of Bidesktit has made a compact with the 
devil," thundered the giant. ** How do we know, 
that when our bodies are starved to death, he has not 
arranged to deliver up our souls to his friend Satan ? " 

Hastily the young men crossed themselves, and their 
eyes, dark and full of terror, wandered superstitiously 
round. The quiet little village street lay peaceful and 
calm in the gathering shades of evening. Behind 
them, through the open door of the inn, could be heard 
the voice of the busy hostess, singing some quaint and 
sweet ditty, as she busied herself with tidying up the 
parlour and kitchen, after the day's work. Overhead 
the cool, grey-green weeping willow softly sighed in the 
gentle summer breeze. Nothing surely to disturb the 
happy quietude of these simple peasant minds, and yet, 






A Village in the Lowlands 9 

supeistititous terror seemed to lurk in every comer, and 
the eyes of none dared wander beyond the village to- 
wards the horizon, where, on ahead, a large building 
with its tall chimney could still be seen dimly outlined 
in the west 

" I am for asking Pater Ambrosius to say a special 
Mass to keep the devil away,** suggested a young 
herdsman at last. 

** The Pater promised me he would bless plenty of 
holy water next Sunday; we shall want it in our 
homes,*' said Vas Berczi, with a feeble attempt at 
consolation. 

** There is nothing the devil hates like holy water, 
I am told,** whispered the giant. 

'' We might ask Pater Ambrosius to sprinkle the en- 
tire building with holy water,** suggested one of the 
men. 

** Would it not be better if the Pater blessed the next 
rainfall, so that it should rain holy water down that 
chimney and put out the fire the devil has lighted ? ** 

"There was no rain last St. S within* s day,** said 
Berczi, who was of a decidedly pessimistic turn of 
mind ; * * we shall get none for at least another ten days. * * 

** Time enough for the devil to settle down in the 
village, and then, not the Archbishop, not the Pope in 
Rome, himself, can drive him out again.** 

•*I say, we are all a set of cowards,** said the swarthy 
giant, suddenly jumping to his feet and pointing a 
huge, muscular fist towards the west. ** We have al- 
lowed my lord to enter into compact with the devil, we 
have stood idly by, while brick upon brick was piled 
up to construct a palace for Satan. Now, we are told 
that on the day after to-morrow, all the devils in hell 
will be at work in that mill of Lucifer, that, on the day 



lo A Son of the People 

after to-morrow, the beautiful com of Bidesktit will be 
ground into flour, through no other help but that of a 
huge fire and a monstrous chimney, and some contriv- 
ance made of iron which I could not forge on my anvil, 
though I have done some pretty tough smith's work in 
my day: and do you mean to tell me, mates, that we 
are going to stand by and look on while the bread is 
being taken out of our mouths and our souls delivered 
over to the enemy of man ? " 

** No, no ! — ^Well spoken, Sdndor the smith ! — We 
will not stand it!" was the universal chorus of ap- 
probation, whilst Berczi, who did not approve of any 
one's talk save his own, shrugged his shoulders in con- 
tempt. ** We should be cowards if we put up with it.' * 

The giant's peroration had helped to rouse the sink- 
ing spirits. There was a general cry to the gipsies to 
strike up, and the czigdny (gipsy), seeing the more 
lively temper of the company, attacked with renewed 
vigour an inspiriting Magyar tune. 

** Here, Lotti ! more wine ! quick ! " shouted one or 
two of the older men, while the others filled fresh pipes 
preparatory to listening more attentively to Sdndor the 
smith's vigorous diction. 

After a few minutes, out came the pretty hostess, 
with two or three bottles and jugs in her plump hands, 
and showing a row of snow-white teetli in a merry 
smile. 

She was wonderfully agile in avoiding the venture- 
some arms stretched out to catch her slim waist, and as 
soon as she had put jugs and bottles down, she admin- 
istered one or two vigorous corrections on the cheeks 
of the more foolhardy of her admirers. 

** What are you all making such a noise about all of 
a sudden?" she said, with a toss of her tiny dark 



A Village in the Lowlands 1 1 

head. ** I thought you were up to some mischief, you 
were so quiet just now ! ** 

** Great things are happening, I/Otti, my soul,** said 
the smith, with the importance befitting his newly- 
found popularity. ** We have important things to dis- 
cuss which are not fit for women's ears to hear.'* 

IrOtti looked at him while fun sparkled out of her 
bright, dark eyes; she shrugged her plump shoulders 
and said with a merry laugh: 

** Dear me! dear me, Sdndor ! how big we talk, now 
that Kem6ny Andrds * does not happen to be here. I 
know what you are all concocting though I pretend I 
do not hear. You know Andrds won't allow you to 
say disrespectful things about my lord, or to brew mis- 
chief against him, and so you wait till you know he is 
well out of sight, and hatch all sorts of wickedness be- 
hind his back. But, I tell you, he is not so far as you 
all think. He will catch you at your tricks never fear, 
and then — you know he has a devil of a temper all his 
own ! " 

** And I have a devil of a temper too, my pretty 
Lotti," retorted the giant laughing, ** and you are very 
venturesome to have roused the anger of Sdndor the 
smith. Do you think we are so many children, afraid 
of Andrds as of a schoolmaster ? You shall kiss me 
for that piece of impudence, Lotti; ay ! you shall kiss 
me three times, which will make your lord and master 
so jealous that he will break his new stick across your 
plump shoulders. And then, who will be frightened ? 
Eh, my pretty one?" 

And with true Hungarian light-heartedness, the 
swarthy giant, forgetting the devil and his works, the 

>In Hungarian the surname always precedes the Christian 
name. 



1 2 A Son of the People 

lord of Bideskiit and his steam-mills, proceeded with a 
merry laugh to chase the pretty woman round the 
table; while the young herdsmen, delighted with the 
scene — which was much more in accordance with their 
lazy, sunny dispositions than talks of devil or plots 
against my lord — took part, some for the smith, some 
for I/Otti, by placing an obstructive arm either in her 
way or in that of her pursuer, while the bronzed mu- 
sicians played a merry csdrdds,^ and the village echoed 
with gaiety and noise. 



> The national Hungarian dance. 



^ CHAPTER II 

A POPULAR PAVOURIT]^ 

Hot, panting, and excited, the pretty hostess ran 
round and round the table under the willow tree, 
closely pressed by Sdndor the smith, who, however, 
had previously drunk a little too much of the good 
wine for which the county of Heves is famous, to be 
steady enough on his legs for a successful pursuit. 

She had paused on one side of the table, holding 
both her hands against her heart, which was beating 
very hard, with the madcap race and the laughter. 
Sdndor the smith had paused on the opposite side, both 
antagonists eyeing one another ready for a spring; the 
young peasants were laying wagers for or against the 
combatants, and encouraging both to resume the fight, 
when suddenly — without any warning — two strong 
arms closed round pretty Lotti's waist, from behind, 
and two loud kisses were imprinted on both her dimpled 
cheeks, while a laughing voice shouted across to the 
giant: 

"You went to work the wrong way, my friend 
Sdndor. This is the way to do it, is it not, Lotti ? " 

And while she struggled, the new-comer succeeded 
in stealing one or two more kisses from the pretty 
woman, then he lifted her bodily off her feet, and car- 
ried her to her own door, and having placed her in 
safety within the parlour he shut the door, and turned 

13 



14 A Son of the People 

with a merry laugh towards the smith, who had borne 
his discomfiture with a good-humoured growl. 

" Have a bottle of wine with me, Sdndor, to com- 
pensate you for that lost kiss. Lotti, my pigeon," he 
shouted, rapping at the door, '' as soon as your little 
heart has ceased to beat quite so fast, bring out ^me 
more wine, enough to go round. And you, czigdny^ 
let us have the liveliest tune you can play, while we 
all drink to good fellowship, to pretty women, and to 
our beloved Magyar country, which may God bless 
and protect ! ** 

There was no resisting the young peasant's cheerful 
voice and contagious laugh. Very soon Lotti reap- 
peared, pouting but tidy, with half a dozen fresh bottles 
which she placed on the table, taking care to give her 
burly antagonist a wide berth. 

** Are you so very angry with Sdndor, Lotti ? " asked 
the new-comer, with a smile; ** why, he only wanted to 
kiss you, and surely you have allowed him to do that, 
before now, without so much fuss." 

She shrugged her shoulders and said with quite a 
touch of malice in her voice : 

** Ask him, Andr4s, why it was we quarrelled; why 
he wanted to kiss me, and why I would not let him; 
and see if he will tell you." 

Then she ran back to the house, but before finally 
closing the door, she turned again and added: 

'' It was because they were talking a lot of nonsense 
about my lord and the mill, and I would not let them, 
for I knew they would not have done it if you had 
been there." 

And with this parting shot the triumphant lit- 
tle person slammed the door of her parlour to, 
and very soon her high-pitched voice was heard 



A Popular Favourite 15 

singing an accompaniment to the gipsies' primitive 
instruments. 

Outside, beneath the overhanging willow tree, there 
had been silence after the young hostess's malicious 
little speech. The young herdsmen and peasants, like 
so many chidden children, had left their wine untasted 
and were staring before them, silent and shamefaced, 
while the burly giant, and even Berczi the oracle, 
smoked away at their pipes, while stealing furtive 
glances at the new-comer. 

** Well ! and what is it all about ? " asked the latter, 
looking round at the men with a good-natured smile. 

There was no reply. 

** That infernal steam-mill again, I suppose?" he 
added with a sigh. 

Again there was no reply, but presently there came a 
grunt from old Berczi: 

** Did you know that it was going to be started on 
its godless work on the day after to-morrow, Andrds ? *' 
he asked. 

Andr&s nodded. 

" And I suppose that from the day after to-morrow 
we can all lie down and starve, for there will be no 
more work for honest hands to do, when Satan turns 
on his fire and his smoke, and sows, reaps, binds, and 
grinds God's com on God's earth," added the village 
oracle. 

** And what I was saying when that little cat inter- 
rupted me," said Sdndor the smith, ** was that " 

But very quietly Andrds' s rough brown hand was 
placed on the giant's arm, and his cheery voice inter- 
rupted calmly: 

** What you were saying, Sdndor, and what all the 
others agreed with at once, because they knew it was 



1 6 A Son of the People 

quite true, was that it did not matter what the devil 
and my lord did over there at Bidesktit, for there was 
always Kem6ny Andr&s at Kisfalu, who would find 
work for all willing hands, and whose purse is long 
enough to prevent any one for leagues around to want 
for anything, let alone to starve ! " 

Again there was dead silence, while the look of shame 
deepened on the faces of all. The gipsies were playing 
a tender, appealing tune, a Hungarian folk-song that 
would soften the heart of any hearer. 

** You are a good sort, Andr&s,** said the village 
oracle, while Sdndor the smith drank a mugful of wine 
to get rid of an uncomfortable lump in his throat, 
**but *' 

** There is no * but,' my mates. We must stand by 
one another, and, believe me, that is all nonsense about 
the devil turning the machinery. I can't explain it all 
to you, but Pater Ambrosius has promised me this 
evening, that to-morrow, instead of a sermon, he will 
make it quite clear to you, what it is that will grind 
the com in my lord's new mill. Then you will under- 
stand all about it, just as I think I understand it, and, 
till then, I want you all to try and forget that accursed 
mill, or at any rate not to brood over it. It is getting 
late and I have a long ride home, but will you all 
promise me that, until to-morrow after Mass you will 
try not to think about the mill ? And this is to all of 
you and your very good healths," he added, raising 
his mug of wine. ** Have I your promise ? " 

" We promise !" 

The answer was unanimous. Evidentl}' the rich 
young peasant was popular; his words had carried 
weight. The mugs of wine were emptied, and a sigh 
of relief and satisfaction escaped the lips of all. The 



A Popular Favourite 17 

gipsies started a livelier tune, as Andrds uttered a soft 
call: 
" Csillag, my beauty, where are you? ** 
There was the sound <rf hoofs on the dry, sandy earth, 
and a lovely black mare, sleek and graceful, emerged 
from out the darkness, and coming quite dose to the 
table where the peasants were drinking, found her 
way to her master's side, and there waited quietly for 
him. She carried neither saddle, stirrup, nor bridle, 
but the peasants on the Hungarian ptisztas need no 
such accessories. Their horses seem almost a part of 
themselves, as they ride at breakneck speed across the 
sandy plains. 

In a moment, Andr&s was astride across his mare, 
and with a shout of ** Farewell ! " to his friends, a re- 
sponsive *^ Eljenf*^ (I/Ong live!) from them, he had 
galloped away into the darkness. 



a 



CHAPTER III 



PRIDB OP RACB 



Alt, was astir in the castle, in the stables, the farm- 
yard, the park and garden of Bidesktit. The innumer- 
able grooms, coachmen, cooks, and maids rushed hither 
and thither, like so many chickens let loose, busy, each 
with his or her own work, hot, panting, and excited. 
The Countess, herself, accustomed as she was to the 
boundless hospitality of a Hungarian nobleman, could 
not quite shake oflF the electrical wave of excitement 
which pervaded the whole house. The festivals in 
honour of her birthday, coupled with those for the 
opening of the new steam-mill, were in full prepara- 
tion. To-day, still, the big house was fairly free from 
guests; but to-morrow, probably, the stream of arriv- 
als would commence, and would continue throughout 
the day. 

As to the numbers of the invaders it was wholly 
problematical: it was generally known throughout the 
county that the 28th of August was Countess Irma*s 
birthday, that Bidesktit itself had some sixty guest 
chambers, and that any Hungarian noble, far or near, 
with all his family, was sure, during the few days' 
gaiety by which the occasion was annually celebrated, 
to find the warmest welcome, the most lavish hos- 
pitality, the richest and choicest of wines, in the 
time-honoured traditions of the Hungarian lowland. 

z8 



Pride of Race 19 

Therefore Bidesktity Gyuri,* and the Countess Irma, 
his wife, were at this season of the year always prepared 
to receive a number of guests; oxen, sheep, and lambs 
were indiscriminately slaughtered, also geese, ducks, 
poultry of every kind; the whitest of bread baked, the 
oldest casks of wine tapped, the finest cloths, sheets, 
and napkins aired, all ready for the probable hundred 
guests, their children, their coachmen and valets, their 
couriers, and their maids. 

In one of the old-fashioned, lofty rooms of the an- 
cestral home of Bideskdt, the lord thereof and his aris- 
tocratic wife sat discussing the final arrangements for 
the entertainment of all the expected and unexpected 
guests. Pine old oak and mahogany chairs and tables, 
turned and carved by the skilful hands of a village car- 
penter, furnished the room, whilst curtains of thick 
unbleached linen, embroidered in exquisite designs of 
many colours, hung before the small leaded windows, 
and tempered the glare of the midday sun. 

Bideskdty Gyuri, jovial and good-tempered, was 
smoking his favourite pipe, while Countess Irma was 
telling off, on her slender fingers, the row of guests she 
was expecting on the morrow: 

" The Egregyis are sure to come," she said, medita- 
tively, ** the Kantdssys, the V^cserys, the Palotays, the 
Arany, the Miskolczys, and the Bart6cz: these are all 
quite certain. You cannot reckon less than four serv- 
ants to each, and with their children and any friends 
they may bring with them, will make no less than 
seventy that we are quite sure of. Then another forty 
or fifly always come, beyond those one expects. You 
remember last year we sat down one hundred and 
seventy to dinner." 

> In Hungarian the surname precedes the Christian name. 



20 A Son of the People 

" Well, my dear," rejoined my lord, ** you give what 
orders you like, and kill whatever you wish eaten. 
Thank God there is plenty of food in Bideskdt to feed 
every friend and his family for as long as they choose 
to take a bite with us. If there is not enough room to 
give them each a separate bed, then we can lay straw 
all round the riding school, and the younger men can 
sleep there, and leave the good rooms for the ladies 
and children. Kill, my dear, by all means; let Panna 
slaughter what poultry she will, pull up what cab- 
bages and carrots she wants, there is plenty and to 
spare!" 

And Bideskdty, proud and secure in his fat lands, 
which yielded him all that could enable him to exercise 
the lavish hospitality for which his country is famous, 
leaned back in his arm-chair, and pu£fed away content- 
edly at his long cherry-wood pipe. 

'' I wish I could have got Ilonka a new silk dress for 
the occasion," said Countess Irma, a little wistfully. 

** My dear," laughed her lord, jovially, ** Ilonka will 
look bewitching in that bit of muslin I bought from 
the Jew for her for a couple of florins, and you know 
quite well that greasy bank-notes and other portraits 
of our well-beloved majesty, Francis Joseph, are very 
scarce in this land of ours. And I say thank God for 
that ! We never want for anything we cannot have. 
Why," he added with a pleasurable chuckle, *'if it 
were not for my mill and my machinery I should never 
wish to see a bank-note from year's end to year's 
end." 

"And yet you will go on spending it on that accursed 
steam-mill and those reaping machines, which the 
peasants fear and bate, and I must say I do not blame 
them for that. God never had anything to do with 



Pride of Race 21 

tbose things. They are the devil's own invention, 
Gyuri, and I cannot help dreading that some trouble 
will come of it all." 

** Why ! you talk like some of those superstitious 
peasants themselves. You women cannot understand 
the enormous boon and profit it will be to me and to 
my land, when my steam-mill is regularly at work." 

** The profit may or may not come by and by; I dare 
say I do not understand these things, but I do see 
that you cannot possibly go on spending money with 
both hands on those inventions of Satan." 

Bideskdty did not reply. He had found by long ex- 
perience that it was always best to oppose silence to his 
wife's voluble talk whenever the subject of his favourite 
and costly fad cropped up between them. 

"Gyuri," resumed Countess Irma, **it is not too 
late. Will you give up this folly, and not mar the 
jolly times we always have on my birthday, by starting 
that mill on its ungodly work ? " 

"My dear," replied her lord, driven out of his strong- 
hold of silence by this direct question, ** you are sup- 
posed to be an intelligent woman; therefore, you do 
not imagine that I have spent close upon a milUon 
florins in building a mill, and do not mean to see it at 
work now that it is finished ? " 

'* You have only gone on with the thing from a feel- 
ing of obstinacy, Gyuri; it is not too late to give in. 
There is not a soul who has not dissuaded you from 
continuing these terrible new-fangled notions, which 
have already made you hideously unpopular on your 
own estate." 

Once more her lord had entrenched himself behind 
a barrier of impenetrable silence. Dreamily he went 
on smoking his long-stemmed cherry-wood pipe, and 



22 A Son of the People 

allowed the flood of his wife*s eloquence to spend itself 
over his unresisting head. 

** Gyuri/* continued the Countess, ** I have noticed 
that you have received lately a great many visits from 
the Jews. When we were first married, never one of 
them darkened our doors. You know I hate all your 
machinery fads, so you tell me nothing of what you 
are doing with them, but no Jew would come here, un- 
less there was something to buy or sell, or money to 
lend at usury. You will indeed bring shame upon us, 
if you begin to sell your lands, your com, or your wine, 
just like any Jew tradesman. There is plenty and to 
spare, I know, you have said it yourself, but the corn 
does not grow upon a Hungarian nobleman's estate 
that he should dirty his fingers by taking money for 
it.'' 

** My dear," suggested the lord of Bideskdt mildly, 
** when I took over this property, after my father's 
death, I found over thirty thousand measures of wheat 
rotting away, without the slightest use being made of 
it." 

** Well ! " she said, ** why not? why should it not 
rot ? If there is too much of it, even to give away ? 
In my father's house in one year three thousand meas- 
ures of wheat went bad, and he would have allowed 
fifty thousand to go the same way sooner than sell it. 
Take money for it? . . . Horrible!" she added, 
with all the pride of her long line of ancestry. 

Again her husband did not reply; perhaps he thought 
of the fact that neither his wife nor any of her sisters 
would probably have had a roof over their heads at this 
moment if they had not been married; for not only 
the com, but the fields, the beasts, the farms, and 
even the ancestral home had long since passed into the 



Pride of Race 23 

hands of the Jews ; their father had not sullied his 
fingers by trafficking with his corn and timber, but had 
mortgaged his land, his house, his all, up to the hilt, 
and left his children proud as Lucifer, but without a 
groat apiece. 

The Countess Irma was still a very handsome wo- 
man, in spite of her forty-odd years. Her figure was 
shapely, her skin still fresh, her hair as black as the 
raven's wing. She had been a great beauty in her 
day, and had been the acknowledged belle of the two 
carnivals she spent at Budapesth. Her mother had 
brought her up in the firmly-rooted principle that it 
is the duty of every Hungarian aristocratic girl to be 
beautiful, and to make a good marriage, and the young 
Countess Irma, when she reached the age of eighteen, 
was quite ready to do both. The first year of her go- 
ing out she picked and chose carefully amongst her 
adorers, for she had many. High lineage and vast 
estates were an absolute sine qua non before any part- 
ner dared even to ask her to dance the cotillon. ' ' Hu- 
manity begins with the Barons, * 'was her much-repeated 
statement, which virtually choked off any aspirant to 
her hand who was not thus elevated in the human 
scale. But alas ! the first year went by, and Countess 
Irma had not found the proper parti that would suit 
her own and her mother's pride, and the following 
year it was vaguely whispered in the aristocratic club 
of Budapesth that she had not been heard to make her 
sweeping statement on the subject of humanity once 
during the carnival. 

The next carnival came and went, and Countess 
Irma, to her horror, noted that at two balls of the 
season she was obliged to have a headache before the 
cotillon, for she had not secured a partner. Things 



24 A Son of the People 

were beginning to look absolutely tragic when sud- 
denly Bideskdty Gyuri appeared upon the scene. He 
was young, good-looking, owned half the county of 
Heves, and professed to be violently in love with the 
somewhat faded beauty; true, he was not a Baron, and 
therefore a couple of years ago might have been ranked 
on a level with the Countess's lapdog and pet canary; 
but since then much water had flowed down the 
Danube and the world was becoming more radical 
throughout. Bideskdty paid his court, was duly ac- 
cepted, and the Countess Irma was heard, at the great 
Casino ball, to remark that humanity embraced every 
Hungarian noble who owned half of any county. 

They had led a very comfortable married life to- 
gether, Gyuri being always willing to give way to his 
wife in all matters; fortunately her tastes were very 
similar to his in all but one respect; like him, she 
loved the almost regal life of a Hungarian nobleman 
upon his estates, and, like him, once married, she 
cared nothing for Budapesth, where money was neces- 
sary, of which they had very little, and where she 
would perforce have to eat the meat of other people's 
oxen and calves, and vegetables grown in some alien 
garden; like him, she was absolutely indifferent as to 
the political aspect of the country; she loved it because 
it was her own country and therefore must be better 
than anybody else's, and because better com and wine 
grew there, fatter beasts were fed there, than in any 
other country in the world; but, as to the changes of 
ministry up there in Budapesth, as to parliaments, 
elections, union with Austria, or complete severance, 
neither she nor her lord cared anything about that; so 
long as her daughter Ilonka, in her turn, made a suit- 
able marriage, and her husband did not get into the 



Pride of Race 25 

Jews' hands through his unfortunate fondness for agri- 
cultural improvements, she would just as soon have 
seen Hungary in the hands of Russians, Hottentots, 
or even Germans. Serenely she would have sailed 
through life, satisfied that all was for the best in this 
best possible world, if alas ! the crumpled roseleaf had 
not troubled her, in the shape of her husband's unfor- 
tunate craze for machinery, which reeked of ' 'bourgeois- 
ism," and was altogether unworthy of a Hungarian 
nobleman, whose duty it was to eat and drink, to live 
in a lordly manner, to entertain his friends, and to leave 
all other matters to people who had no ancestors, and 
formed therefore no integral part of humanity. 



CHAPTER IV 



THE MONEY-I^ND^R 






** RoSKNSTEiN the Jew is downstairs, my lord/* 
announced Jank6, Bidesktity*s valet, respectfully open- 
ing the door; ** he says your lordship has bid him 
come this morning." 

Countess Irma made no comment; before a servant, 
even the most trusted, she never gainsaid or argued 
with the head of the house, but invariably set the ex- 
ample herself of complete respect and deference. No- 
thing could be gained now by commenting on the 
arrival of Rosenstein, whose shuffling steps she could 
already hear in the passage. 

Well! my dear,*' said Bidesktity, a little nervously, 

perhaps you had better have another interview with 
Panna, while I speak with Rosenstein, and, remember, 
you have my permission to kill everything on the farm 
you want, and to order whatever you like, so long 
as you see that there is plenty to eat, and we bring no 
shame on the hospitality of Bidesktit. Tell the Jew to 
come in," he added, turning to his valet, ** and mind he 
wipes his dirty shoes before he walks across the hall." 

The next moment the Jew, with doubled spine and 
obsequious bow, entered humbly into the room. As 
the Countess sailed majestically past him, he tried to 
stoop still lower, and to kiss the hem of her gown, but 
gathering her skirts closely round her, and without 

26 



The Money-Lender 27 

vouchsafing him the merest look, she left her husband 
alone with him. 

Rosenstein*s age could not be easily guessed at, not 
even approximately; his scanty hair, of a dull carroty 
colour, hung from beneath a faded skull-cap, in two 
locks on each side of his face. His long gaberdine, 
buttoned all the way down the front, hung loosely on 
his spare frame, and was worn almost threadbare on 
the sharp, protruding blades of his shoulders. He 
rubbed his thin, claw-like hands incessantly together, 
and his watery blue eyes were fixed on the floor, all 
the time the noble lord deigned to converse with him. 
Only from time to time, when he thought himself un- 
observed, he threw a sharp, malignant look at the 
Hungarian, then his thin lips almost disappeared be- 
tween his teeth, and there was that in his colourless 
eyes which would have taught a shrewd man to beware. 

** Have you brought me the money?" asked Bide- 
skdty, peremptorily. 

** Well, you see, my lord, it is this way: your lord- 
ship knows that I am a poor man, and cannot possibly 
find so great a sum myself, and " 

** I know the usual lie," interrupted Bidesktity, 
laughing. ** Never mind telling me about the obliging 
friend who is willing to come to the rescue, at the cost 
of exorbitant interest, for which you will have to pro- 
mise my best bit of land as security. Tell me quickly if 
you will take Zdrda as security for the two hundred 
and fifty thousand florins, and what interest you will 
want for it?" 

** Zdrda is very poor seairity, noble lord, for a quar- 
ter of a million. There is no house, and " 

** Hey ! the devil take these Jews," thundered Bide- 
skdty, "they have Uved in mud huts all their lives, 



28 A Son of the People 

their ancestors were vermin in the gutter, and now they 
want a house to live in. Z&rda will never get into 
your dirty hands, never fear; I will redeem it, and all 
my lands, as soon as my mill is at work, and my flour 
becomes famed throughout the country." 

** Your lordship speaks words of wisdom," said the 
wily Jew, throwing surreptitiously a sarcastic glance at 
Bideskdty, ** the steam-mill is a grand speculation, for 
it will lessen labour, and therefore improve the condi- 
tion of your peasantry. That is the reason why my 
friends are not averse to letting me have the money, 
which I am most desirous of lending to your lordship 
for so noble a purpose on the not very good security of 
Zdrda." 

'' Hold your confounded tongue about Zdrda; it will 
be ample honour for you in exchange for your cursed 
money, if ever your dirty foot even treads its soil. 
What about the interest? ** 

Rosenstein had bitten his lips hard while Bideskdty 
poured out this flood of abusive language. He and his 
race, patient, tenacious, thick-skinned, are used to this 
accompaniment to the ever-increasing monetary trans- 
actions they have with the extravagant, proud Hun- 
garian nobility. They take it as part of the contract, 
and charge interest accordingly. 

** Oh, my lord," he said mildly, ** I was forced to 
accept my friends* conditions as regards the interest; I 
am a poor man myself, and after I have paid them but 
little will remain for me on which to live: fortunately 
I have simple tastes, and one hundred measures of 
wheat out of the fifty thousand they will require a year 
will be quite enough for me." 

'* Fifty thousand measures of wheat ? You scoundrel! 
you " 



The Money-Lender 29 



ti 



It is not I, noble lord, I protest, it is my friends: 
they say the price of wheat will be lower than ever this 
year; that is why the hundred head of cattle, in 
addition '* 

* ' A hundred head of cattle, besides ? You low dog, 
villainous usurer " 

** Of which I shall only get one ox and one calf for 
myself, my lord ; and how is a poor man to live ? My 
friends will not let me have the money without they 
have ninety-eight head of cattle, and the wheat, not to 
speak of the five hundred head of sheep, and the eight 
hundred poultry, of which they will only allow me 
twenty-five for myself for arranging this very difficult 
matter for them." 

"You infernal scoundrel, if you do not hold your 
tongue I will call Jank6 in to give you such a beating 
as you never had in your life. Ten thousand measures 
of wheat, forty oxen, twenty calves, three hundred 
sheep, and five hundred poultry I will give you, but 
not a grain of com, or tail of lamb beyond." 

The Jew's eyes twinkled beneath their thin purple 
lids, but he kept them steadily fixed on the floor, as 
he shook his head doubtfully and said: 

** I have spoken to my friends very clearly on the 
subject, I have told your lordship their final word as 
to the interest; they will not go back on it." 

" And I tell you, man, that I will not pay such 
usury, and if you dare stand there, and demand it, I 
will have you beaten by the servants." 

" Then, I much regret, my lord," said Rosenstein, 
humbly, ** that we shall not be doing business to-day." 

" But, you cursed, dirty Jew, may the devil get into 
that wooden head of thine ! I tell you I must have 
that money at once. The wages of the Budapesth 



30 A Son of the People . 

engineers and workpeople are in arrears, and I still 
owe part of the money for the machinery, the devil 
take it!" 

*' If your lordship wishes, I will speak to my friends 
again, but I have Uttle hope that they will give in 
about the interest." 

** For God's sake, stop those lies! you know I do not 
believe in them; I will give you ten thousand measures 
of wheat " 



»9 

99 



** Fifty thousand, my lord- 

** Twenty, I say. Sixty head of cattle 

" One hundred, my lord— — " 

** Eighty; and may the devil give them the plague 
as soon as your dirty hands have touched them. Four 
hundred sheep — 



**Five hundred- 






'* I said twenty thousand measures of wheat, eighty 
head of cattle, four hundred sheep, and five hundred 
fowls; and may I join you and your lot down in hell if 
I give you anything else." 

'^ And, most noble lord, I must assure you that un- 
less my friends get fifty thousand measures of wheat, 
one hundred head of cattle, five hundred sheep, and 
eight hundred fowls, they will not advance the money." 

This was decidedly exasperating. Bideskdty was 
badly in want of the money, and the cursed Jew was 
obstinate; it looked very much as if the nobleman would 
have to give way to the usurer. A disgraceful thing, 
surely, absolutely unheard of in past generations, when 
these wretches were only too happy to lend their money 
to the noble Barons who required it. " 

** Look here, you scoundrel," decided Bideskdty at 
last, ** I have told you my final word with regard to 
that interest. Take what I ofiered and go in peace. 



The Money-Lender 31 

But if you persist in demanding your usurious percent- 
age, since I must have the money, I will pay it, but 
then I will hand you over to the lacqueys for a sound 
beating before you leave this house. Now choose 
which you will have, will you take twenty thousand 
^measures of wheat, eighty head of cattle, four hundred 
sheep, and five hundred fowl, or not ? '* 

** I will take fifty thousand measures of wheat, your 
lordship,*' repeated the Jew quietly, **one hundred 
head of cattle, five hundred sheep, and eight hundred 
fowls—" 

• ' With the beating, then ? ' ' 

The Jew paused a while, and looked up one instant 
at the aristocratic figure before him. Tall and power- 
ful, with proud-looking eyes and noble bearing, Bide- 
skdty stood as the very personification of the race 
which for centuries had buffeted, tormented, oppressed 
the Jews, denying them every human right, treating 
them worse than any dog or gipsy. Was the worm 
turning at the latter half of the nineteenth century ? 
Would the oppressed, armed with their patiently 
amassed wealth, turn on the squandering, improvident 
oppressor, secure in the gold, which very soon would 
rule even this fair Arcadia, the Hungarian lowlands ? 

Dreamily the Jew rubbed the threadbare patch across 
his shoulders, which plainly testified that he was not 
new to these encounters with irate noblemen and their 
lacqueys; then he assented quietly: 

** With the beating, most noble lord." 

Bidesktity laughed heartily. All his wrath had van- 
ished. Since he could have the treat of seeing the Jew 
well flogged, he thought he had not paid too high a 
price for his pleasure. Rosenstein unbuttoned his 
threadbare garment, and taking out two large sheets 



32 A Son of the People 

of paper from an inner pocket, spread them out upon 
the table. 

** What the devil is that? *' asked Bideskiity. 

** Will your honour be so kind as to sign? It is 
merely an acknowledgment of the debt, and a guaran- 
tee that the interest will be paid.*' 

Bideskdty had become purple with rage. 

''You confounded dog, and is not the word of a 
Hungarian nobleman enough ? What can your greasy 
bits of paper compel me to do, if my own word of 
honour does not bind me to it ? *' 

** You see, my lord," said the Jew, with the requisite 
amount of softness that tumeth away wrath, *' it is not 
for myself. My friends will require some guarantee 
from me. They are not used to dealing with honour- 
able lords like yourself.*' 

The Jew had said this with a slightly sarcastic in- 
tonation, whilst his mild blue eyes rested maliciously 
on Bidesktity, who, however, noted neither the tone 
nor the look. 

** You shall be made to eat a piece of pork for this 
confounded impudence," he said, as he ptdled savagely 
the papers towards him. 

He did not take the trouble to read over the docu- 
ments; such a proceeding, as suggesting knowledge of 
business matters, would have been wholly unworthy 
of so noble a descendant of the Bideskdtys who helped 
to place King Mdtyds on the throne. In large, some- 
what shaky schoolboy hand, he traced his name at the 
bottom of both the pages without further protest. He 
had caught sight of a well-filled, very greasy pocket- 
book, which bulged out of Rosenstein's pocket. 

" Now for the money," he said, throwing down the 
pen, '' and after that for the pleasure of seeing my men 



*'. 



The Money-Lender 33 

give you the soundest hiding you ever had in your 
life.*' 

The Jew read both documents over carefully, threw 
the sifted sand over the august signature, then delib- 
erately folded them up and placed them in his pocket. 
Bideskiity was getting impatient, jerkily he puffed 
away at his cherry-wood pipe, whilst his eyes travelled 
longingly towards the panoply of sticks and riding- 
whips which adorned his wall. Kvidently he thought 
that they would lose nothing by waiting, for he did not 
speak, till one by one Rosenstein counted out two 
hundred and fifty notes of one thousand florins each, 
which passed from his own greasy fingers into the 
noble lord's aristocratic palms. 

*' At any time," added the Jew, ** that your lordship 
will require my services, I shall be most pleased to in- 
tercede with my rich friends, who, I feel sure, will, on 
my recommendation, always oblige your lordship." 

But the lord of Bideskdt was not listening; he had 
thrust the bank-notes into his pocket, and, opening the 
door, shouted loudly for Jank6. 

** Take this cursed Jew," he said jovially, ** down to 
the kitchen, and see if he will sooner eat a bit of pork, 
or take a hiding from some of you. Stay! " he added, 
seeing that Jank6, a sturdy peasant, had already seized 
the Jew by the collar, ** I want to see the fun. Come 
along, old chap, you know you made your choice ; per- 
haps you will find that extra bit of interest well worth 
half an hour's trouble. And if they happen to kill 
you, the whole of your tribe can share between them 
the fifty thousand measures of wheat, and the rest of 
the confounded stuff. Now then, Jank6, you can try 
that new riding-whip of yours on him. Come along, 
I am in a hurry I " 



34 A Son of the People 

Rosenstein had become livid. Perhaps at heart he 
never quite believed that Bideskdty raeant to put his 
threat in execution, but now there seemed no doubt 
about it, for Jank6, with a vigorous kick directed 
against his lean shanks, had already persuaded him to 
follow his tormentor down-stairs. 

Noisy talk and boisterous laughter proceeded from 
the kitchen, where a number of cooks in white caps 
and aprons, assisted by an army of kitchen-maids and 
scullions, were busy preparing meat, bread, cakes, and 
what not for the coming festivities. Silence fell all 
round as the master entered, laughing joyously and 
followed by sturdy Jank6 pushing the thin, trembling 
figure of the Jew before him. 

** Here ! Panna ! Mariska ! Zsuzsi ! all of you. Bring 
a chair and table here, for I have brought you a guest, 
an honoured guest, whom you must treat with respect. 
You must give him the choicest piece ofiF that pig we 
killed yesterday. Ha! ha!" he chuckled, looking 
round at Rosenstein, who, helpless under Jank6's grip, 
was looking savagely round him, like a fox caught 
in a trap, and throwing deadly looks of hatred at the 
noble lord before him. The merry peasant girls had 
caught the spirit of the fun; Panna, Zsuzsi, Mariska, 
the bright-eyed village beauties, had already bustled 
round the big centre table. They had spread a dean 
white doth, brought out plate, knife, and fork, and set 
a chair before it. 

With much laughter and cries of delight, two pow- 
erful peasant lads had lifted the struggling Jew off his 
feet and seated him fordbly in the chair, while they 
wound some rope round him and secured him firmly 
to his seat. This was rare fun; Bideskdty, astride on 
a chair, was giving laughing directions to his servants. 



The Money-Lender 35 

while the girls from every part of the house came run- 
ning in, their bright-coloured petticoats swinging round 
their shapely limbs, their arms bare, their faces aglow 
with excitement, and stood in the doorways, con- 
vulsed with delight at seeing a Jew made to eat a bit 
of pork. Suddenly a great ripple of laughter greeted 
the arrival of Benko, the portly chief cook, in snow- 
white jacket, trousers, and cap, with an immense apron 
across his burly front, and carrying high up in tri- 
umph, a gigantic leg of pork, roasted to a turn, the 
crackling still spluttering, brown and delicious-looking. 

" That 's splendid," said Bideskdty, whilst the girls 
clapped their hands with delight, and Jank6 officiously 
took a large napkin and tied it under the Jew's chin. 
He could scarcely do it for Very laughter, tears were 
streaming down his cheeks, and he had to stop every 
now and then in order to hold his aching sides. 

" Now then, old fellow, I '11 warrant you have never 
had so good a feast in all your life." 

Rosenstein certainly did not look as if he enjoyed the 
fun, which made it all the more amusing. His face 
was absolutely ghastly, his eyes rolled round and 
round, more in rage than in fear. He could not move, 
for he was tightly pinioned to the chair, and each of 
his hands, which had been made to grip a knife and 
fork, was firmly held by the steel-like grasp of a young 
herdsman. But the looks which he threw at his chief 
tormentor were so full of deadly hatred that perhaps 
had the noble lord stopped to note them, he would have 
paused, awed at the infinite depths of human passion 
that lay behind those mild, colourless, watery eyes. 

In the meanwhile Benko had carved two magnificent 
slices of meat, and with much laughter, the two men 
were gradually forcing the Jew to put one piece after 



36 A Son of the People 

another into his mouth. He tried to struggle, but in 
vain; his tormentors had a very tight hold of him, and 
when he made futile efforts not to swallow the morsels 
forbidden by the laws of his race, they held his mouth 
and nose in a tight grip, so that he was forced to 
swallow, lest he should choke. 

There never had been such laughter in the kitchen 
of Bideskdt; merry peals rang right through the house, 
so that the Countess and Mademoiselle Ilonka sent to 
know what the fun was. All the servants had crowded 
in, and for a quarter of an hour all the coming festivi- 
ties were forgotten, the bread left in the oven, the huge 
roast on the spits, in the joy of seeing a Jew swallow 
two slices of pork. Rosenstein, after the first few 
struggles for liberty, had resigned himself to his fate, 
further persuaded into submission by the ominous 
cracking of the herdsmen's whips in the scullery be- 
yond. Bideskdty had laughed till he cried. Certainly 
he had ceased to regret those last measures of corn, and 
extra head of cattle and sheep, which were to pay the 
exorbitant interest on the Jew's money, since they had 
procured him the best fun he had had for many a day. 

At last it was decided that the Jew had eaten as much 
as he conveniently could; moreover, there really was 
no time for any more merriment that day, if full justice 
was to be done to the plenteous hospitality of Bidesktit. 
The noble lord gave the signal, and the Jew was re- 
leased from his bonds; trembling with rage, he tried to 
make his way out of the kitchen, through the laugh- 
ing groups of pretty maids, who, with mock gravity, 
dropped him ironical curtsies, to speed the parting 
guest. 

Bideskdty evidently thought that the Jew had paid 
sufficiently for his outrageous demands, for Rosenstein 



The Money-Lender 37 

was spared the promised beating; one or two cracks 
across his lean shanks, from the long whips of the 
young herdsmen, was all he had to endure. He did 
not stop to rub the sore places, nor did he cast another 
look at his tormentors. With all the speed his shuf- 
fling feet would allow, he hurried out of the lordly abode 
of his debtor; his lips tightly compressed, his fingers 
nervously clutched together, he crossed the hall, the 
park, and the acacia plantation. Outside the gates he 
stopped, and, like Lot's wife, he looked back. 

The ch&teau of Bideskdt, the ancestral home of the 
Bidesktitys ever since they had helped Hunyady Mdt- 
yds to the throne, was in itself not a very imposing 
building, except perhaps owing to its vastness: a 
low, regular, two-storied construction, built in a quad- 
rangle round a courtyard in the middle. The stone 
had been plastered and painted over a bright yellow, 
after the fashion of the beginning of the century, and 
a double row of green shutters ran like two bright- 
coloured belts all round the house. The garden was 
mostly laid out in quaint, conventional beds of standard 
rose trees, each surmounted with a gaily-coloured glass 
ball, that threw pretty patches of brightness against a 
background of tall, sweet-scented acacias. A wide, 
circular stone stair led from the lower to the vast upper 
hall, which occupied a large portion of the main wing, 
and VTBSpar excellence the great dining-hall, where two 
hundred guests could dine without being crowded, at 
the two huge horse-shoe tables that stood on the tiled 
floor. Half-way up the stairs, in a niche in the stone 
wall, a gigantic granite statue of Attila frowned down 
on those who passed. 

The guest-chambers formed two sides of the quad- 
rangle, and opened out under a veranda on to the 



38 A Son of the People 

courtyard, in the middle of which there was a round 
garden, bordered with dwarf acacias, and laid out with 
more beds of standard rose trees and coloured glass 
balls. The veranda ran round, supported by col- 
umns, in the capitals of which swallows had built 
their nests. The last side of the quadrangle contained 
the vast kitchen, offices, and rooms for the women 
and indoor servants ; the others — gardeners, grooms, 
herdsmen, and shepherds — slept under the blue vault 
of heaven, wrapped in their great sheepskin coats. 

For full five minutes Rosenstein the Jew stood at the 
gates, his thin hands clutching the iron fretwork, his 
colourless eyes aglow with inward passion, the very 
personification, the living statue of a deadly, revenge- 
ful hatred. For full five minutes he stood there, till he 
saw a graceful vision in white come wandering down 
the sweet-scented alley, then he once more turned to- 
wards the village and went his way. 



CHAPTER V 



AN OI^D MISBR 



Turning his back on the great gates, Rosenstein 
the Jew walked away towards the plain. 

To his right and left, as he walked, the county of 
Heves, with Bideskdt, Kisfalu, and Z&rda, stretched 
out in all its midsummer splendour; as far as the eye 
could reach, waving fields of golden wheat, the finest 
the world produces, graceful plumed heads of maize, 
and the glistening green of watermelons gladdened the 
eye with their richness and plenty. The Jew's gaze 
rested contentedly and somewhat sarcastically on all 
the rich property, and every now and then he rubbed 
his thin, shrivelled hands together. 

The roads, as is usual during the dry season, were 
lined with deep ruts and fissures, and the Jew*s feet 
became sore with hard and weary walking. But he 
seemed not to care. Thoughts, which evidently were 
exceedingly pleasant, helped to soften the hard road 
for him, and his hand wandered lovingly to the pocket, 
lately filled to overflowing with bank-notes, now com- 
paratively empty, save for the documents that bore the 
prodigal lord's signature. 

The road along which Rosenstein was walking was 
bordered on either side for some distance with tall, 
slender poplars, the silver-lined leaves of which 
trembled at every breeze; in front, far ahead, could be 

39 



40 A Son of the People 

dimly discerned the vast sandy plain, with its ruddy 
arid soil, its deep blue sky overhead, and its quaint 
tumble-down inn on the wayside. 

All was silence and peace around, save for the oc- 
casional distant sound of a herd of wild horses, gallop- 
ing madly across the plain, or overhead the strident 
cry of the stork calling to its mate; only in the heart 
of the solitary human wayfarer, in the midst of this 
vast peaceful immensity, there lurked passions, turbu- 
lent and wild, envy, hatred, and malicious triumph. 

Rosenstein seemed to feel no fatigue. He had 
walked for three hours along the dreary road, and had 
now at last caught sight of the quaint wayside inn, 
only a kilometre beyond. 

The Jew with the diffidence taught to his race by 
centuries of derision had gradually come near. His 
narrow, light-coloured eyes peered anxiously round, 
evidently in search of some one. lyoud laughter and 
mocking comments from the two sturdy young peas- 
ants who were sitting, sipping their wine, and smoking 
their long pipes lazily, greeted his arrival. 

Rosenstein ventured a few modest raps on the table, 
but as no one came in answer, he gathered up sufficient 
courage to peep in at the door. 

** Don't dare to enter my kitchen, you dirty Jew ! " 
said a shrill voice from within. 

**No! I would not for worlds, and I would not 
trouble you at all, only Kem^ny Andrds from Kisfalu 
has told me to meet him here.'* 

'* Well ! he has not come yet, and you cannot wait 
inside here ! " 

The interior of the inn looked decidedly cooler than 
the exterior, for through the thickly thatched roof and 
walls, mostly wood and mud, the fierceness of the sun 



An Old Miser 41 

could hardly enter; dose to one of the windows, the 
owner of the shrill voice sat; a buxom figure of a low- 
land peasant woman, in multi-coloured petticoats, full- 
sleeved lawn shift, and tight-fitting corselet; she was 
lazily turning her spinning-wheel with one foot, while 
her well-shaped fingers deftly spun the fine flax thread. 
The fire in the huge earthen oven had been allowed 
to die out, and on it shone the many vessels, pots, and 
pans, glistening with polish, which had served to cook 
the mid-day meal. 

With a sigh the Jew had turned away from the door 
and the inviting coolness within, and taken humbly 
his seat in the very glare of the sun, for the young 
peasants had disdainfully refused to make way for him 
at the table under the willow tree. There he sat pa- 
tiently, not daring to ask for wine or even water, for 
fear his presumption might entail his banishment from 
the precincts of the inn altogether, when he would per- 
force have had to wait on his feet until it was Kem6ny 
Andr&s's good pleasure to arrive. His ears, however, 
well-trained to catch every scrap of conversation that 
was not meant for them to hear, were sharply on the 
alert. The two young herdsmen lazily smoking their 
long pipes, and drinking deep draughts of Hungarian 
wine, were whispering excitedly together. The Jew, 
while seemingly overcome with fSatigue and the heat, 
his eyes closed, his mouth open, lost not a word of what 
they said. 

The young peasants were discussing the eternal topic 
of the lord of Bideskdt*s mysterious buildings and con- 
trivances, that were supposed to do the work they and 
their fathers before them had done with their own 
hands. 

" I have heard my master say," said the one, ** that 



42 A Son of the People 

it will grind as much com in one day as would take a 
month with six windmills at work to do; and that three 
men with it can do the work of twenty." 

** We do not hear much about it in the kitchen," re- 
plied the other, ** but my mother has learned a good bit 
from Jank6, my lord's valet; and he says that my lord 
sits up now till the middle of the night, with one can- 
dle and some huge books in front of him, and, although 
Jank6 has learned to read and to write, he could not 
make head or tail of what was in those books, the 
letters all seemed mixed up anyhow." 

** You may be sure the devil has printed them him- 
self; truly the holy Virgin can have nothing to do with 
things that in some mysterious way do the work of 
twenty men. Mark me, evil will come on your lord 
and his house, sooner or later." 

** What can come but evil, of bringing the devil into 
the village ? Jank6 told my mother that the big books 
came from a place called England." 

**I once saw a picture," said the other, mysteriously, 
** of some people, that the Pater over at Arokszdllds told 
me came from England. They looked very like what 
we do," he added thoughtfully. 

"Only they have big teeth, and red hair, like the 
Jews. England is very far from here." 

*' Yes, you have to get in a boat, and go across the 
sea to get there; I have heard my lady say that." 

" How can you cross the sea without being 
drowned?" asked the herdsman who had first 
spoken. 

" I do not know," said the other, shaking his head 
sadly at the immensity of the problem. 

" It would be better if my lord went on the sea and 
got drowned, rather than make himself one with the 



An Old Miser 43 

devil» and bring some terrible misfortune on the vil- 
lage, ay, probably on the whole county." 

•' If any evil comes on the village through these con- 
trivances of lyucifer, we shall have to fight the devil, 
somehow. We have sisters, mothers, wives; we must 
protect them from Satan." 

Their whisperings had become very low, the Jew 
tried in vain to catch any more snatches of their con- 
versation, an awed, superstitious look was on both their 
young faces; their bronzed cheeks were quite pale, and 
their bright, dark eyes peered anxiously round as if ex- 
pecting every moment to see the evil one appear from 
out the wall. Rosenstein caught them both pointing 
the first and fourth finger at him, while expectorating 
three times on the ground in his direction, a sure way 
of keeping Satan at a distance, should he have chosen 
the disguise of a Jew usurer in which to haunt the 
county of Heves. 

The sun was gradually sinking lower and lower on 
the horizon. The intense heat had somewhat subsided, 
and the two young herdsmen, having finished their 
wine, prepared to depart to rejoin their herds. 

They turned into the inn to pay their few groats for 
the drink, and kiss the buxom landlady, as is always 
customary when she happens to be young and comely, 
and her husband not within sight. 

Par out on the horizon, a tiny speck had gradually 
grown larger as it drew nearer, and Rosenstein, with a 
sigh of contentment, noted that the speck soon assumed 
the shape of a man on horseback. The two herdsmen 
as they departed down the road had also looked at the 
fast approaching speck, and pronounced it to be 
Kem^ny Andrds on his black mare; nearer and nearer 
it drew, and now Rosenstein could easily distinguish 



44 A Son of the People 

the broad figure and bronzed face of the rich peasant 
as he rode saddleless and stirrupless at breakneck 
speed, his white lawn shirt and full trousers fluttering^ 
in the breeze, as if they were the wings which helped 
the swift-footed mare on her wild career. . 

The pretty landlady came to her door to greet the 
new guest, for he always had a merry jest for her, ay! 
and often a bright bit of ribbon, or a shiny locket^ 
which he had bought from some pedlar on the way, 
and gladdened her heart and her vanity with it. 

Kem6ny Andrds had brought his mare to a stand- 
still, and she stood calm and placid, not having turned 
a hair during her mad canter, while her master dis- 
mounted, and patted her sleek neck, and whipered soft 
endearing words to her, to which she responded by 
rubbing her nose against his hand. 

The Jew did not dare approach him, until it was 
Andrds's own good pleasure to notice the humble pres- 
ence of the descendant of Israel. Truly a fine figure 
was that typical representative of a prosperous Hun- 
garian peasant. Tall, above the average of his race, 
with straight, broad shoulders, his face bronzed by the 
sun, his foot, small and arched, firmly planted on the 
soil, Kem6ny Andrds was decidedly good to look at, as 
every girl in the county of Heves had declared for the 
past ten years, since it had transpired that old Kemdny 
had proved himself to be the miser which every one 
had always suspected him to be, and had died, leav- 
ing coffers full of gold and bank-notes which made his 
handsome son nearly as rich as my lord. 

The old man — Andrds*s father — ^had been a curious 
figure among his fellow peasants on this side of the 
Tama, in his shabby bunda (huge sheepskin mantle), 
and his coarse linen, and with his sharp features. 



An Old Miser 45 

tightly compressed lips, and bushy eyebrows, so diflfer- 
ent from the merry, open countenance of a Hunga- 
rian peasant. 

It was vaguely whispered, that far back, some hun- 
dreds of years ago, the Kem6nys had had a Jewish an- 
cestress, and it was generally admitted that from that 
hereditary taint — for taint it was for any peasant to 
have even a drop of Jew blood in his veins — old Kem6ny 
had inherited his love of money, his avarice, his greed 
of gain. 

Be that as it may, his life at Kisfalu — a tumble-down 
thatched farm he rented from the lord of Bideskdt — 
was known to be of the most parsimonious kind. 
While he was young, he kept one servant to wash and 
cook for him, fed himself on pumpkin, milk, and rye 
bread, slept on the bare boards, and never set foot in 
either inn or church, where, of necessity, he would 
have had to leave some kreutzers (farthings) behind. 

Gradually, year by year, he added first a field, then 
another, then bits of vineyard to the farm, while his 
cattle, horses, pigs, and sheep multiplied exceedingly. 
But old Kem6ny never changed his mode of life. He 
now had to employ a great deal of labour in his fields 
and vineyards, and for this he paid as wages the few cop- 
pers or the measures of wheat that were customary, 
neither more nor less. He was his own overseer and 
spared himself neither morning, noon, nor night. His 
rents he paid in kind, as the lord of Bideskdt demanded, 
but on the surplus he neither fed nor clothed himself as 
all — ^peasant or noble — do in the Hungarian lowlands. 
He neither ate wheaten bread, nor drank good wine, 
he wore no fine linen, or warm woollen, garments; all 
his produce, animal and vegetable, he sold every year 
to the Jew traders, and at a high price too, for the lands 



46 A Son of the People 

round Kisfalu proved fatter and richer than some of 
Bideskdt itself. As to what he did with the money he 
amassed year after year, no one in A.rokszdllds, or the 
other villages round, ever knew. He spoke to no one, 
never stopped to gossip on Sunday afternoons, or at 
even, when the work was done. The sowers, reapers, 
grape-gatherers, and wine-pressers were never allowed 
within the actual precincts of the farm; what was due 
to them for their labour, in money or in kind, he gave 
them, but never a word that would give anybody the 
least idea of what was going on within that shrewd, 
thin head of his. As for the Jew Rosenstein, who did 
all his selling for him, and who was the only and very 
frequent visitor at the farm, it was of course quite im- 
possible to glean anything in the way of information 
from him; for even had any of the shepherds or herds- 
men SQ far bemeaned themselves as to gossip with a 
Jew, old Rosenstein would never have spoken of any 
financial transaction in which he had a hand. 

Late in life old Kem£ny gave still further food for 
gossip by marrying, without giving to any one for miles 
around previous warning of his intention of doing so. 
He had always been considered, owing to his parsi- 
monious habits and eccentricities, such a confirmed 
bachelor that the news that he had one day gone to 
the other side of the Tama and brought home a bride, 
took the village by storm. Great hopes, were at first 
entertained of hearing from the new wife all that had 
been a mystery in old Kemfeny*s life; but either that 
the inhabitants of the opposite side of the Tama were 
also a secretive and parsimonious lot, or that the wife 
was drilled to obey her husband, certain it is that 
Kem6ny Btelka proved as mysterious, as silent as her 
lord. She went to church every Sunday, true; but she 



An Old Miser 47 

never stopped outside the porch for a bit of gossip; she 
never placed a single copper in the plate, and though 
her husband rented the biggest farm in the county of 
Heves, shfs never wore anything but a cotton dress, 
and always walked to church barefoot. She was a 
pale, gentle creature, and many noticed that during 
Mass she very frequently cried. 

Two years after their marriage Andrds was bom. A 
fine boy he was from the first, and much admired by 
all the women, when his mother brought him to church 
with her. There was absolutely no preventing his be- 
ing kissed and petted, when he walked so proudly by 
her side, his little dark head erect, his bright eyes 
looking proudly round him. His mother had to stop 
now every Sunday outside the church to hear his 
praises sung by every woman in the village. 

• ' Ah, the beautiful little angel! ' * 

** A true Magyar! " 

** The handsomest boy this side of thie Tama! " 

And it was with difficulty the mother succeeded in 
parrying the indiscreet questions which inevitably fol- 
lowed this overflow of admiration for her boy. 

As for old Kemdny, it was impossible to kindle a 
spark of pride in him, by talking to him of his 
boy. 

** Another mouth to feed,** he would say dolefully. 

** Why! you niggardly old miser, you have enough 
and to sx>are, to feed a dozen sturdy lads like your little 
Andrds boy. What is the use of hoarding ? He will 
never want.** And one or two of the older peasants, 
contemporaries of his own, would try to break through 
the barrier of old Kem6ny*s impenetrable silence over 
his own affairs. 

** Plenty and to spare ? ** rejoined the old man crossly, 



48 A Son of the People 



tt 



when not a groat have I got, even to buy myself a 
pair of boots. Plenty, indeed, when every florin, every 
ear of wheat, every blade of grass has to go into my 
lord of Bideskdt's pocket in payment of rent for the 
tumble-down old farm." 

*' Then you are either a liar or a fool, old chap, for 
if it takes every bit of a field to pay the rent of that 
field, it is the work of an ass to labour it." 

And loud laughter greeted this speech of undisput- 
able logic. 

This sort of banter angered old Kem6ny exceedingly, 
and all reference to his supposed wealth drove him into 
a perfect fury. As he grew older, therefore, he gradu- 
ally discontinued every intercourse with his fellow-men, 
avoided the village altogether, and never walked down 
the main roads. The labourers all declared that dur- 
ing one entire vintage time he was never once seen to 
open his lips. He was soon positively hated by all, 
and deep was the compassion felt for the gentle wife, 
who had never known a day's pleasure, never been 
allowed to dance the csdrdds, in the great barn on Sun- 
day afternoons, or to join the wedding and christening 
parties, as they occurred in the village. 

As for Andr&s, as he grew up, life seemed indeed a 
dreary thing. His father, who never spared himself, 
knew no mercy for him. Every season of the year was 
one of incessant toil for the fast-growing lad. He be- 
came his father's overseer, his drudge, his slave ; not 
one single groat did he ever get to spend in merry- 
making with the young peasants of his own age in the 
village inn, not one with which to buy a bit of ribbon 
for the girl who had looked coquettishly at him during 
Mass on Sunday. Prom morning to night it was toil 
in the fields, the yards, or the vineyards, and many 



An Old Miser 49 

were the heavy blows that fell on his young shoulders 
from his stern father's knotted stick. 

Gradually the bright, sunny expression in his eyes 
faded, and a kind of defiance seemed to perpetually sit 
on his proud, handsome face. He was soon old enough 
to notice that his father was an object of hatred 
and derision, his mother and himself of contempt and 
compassion; he saw how much coarser was his linen, 
how much shabbier his boots than those of the shep- 
herds or herdsmen who worked for wage and slept 
under the blue vault of heaven; he saw that his mother 
walked barefoot, whilst Zsuzsi, Panna, Mariska, wore 
beautiful red boots; he saw that she never put a far- 
thing in the plate for &e good old Pater ; and all that 
galled him, and made him hate the tyrant, whose ec- 
centric miserliness deprived him of all the pleasures 
which made life bright to others as young as himself. 

"Andrds! the gipsies over from Gyongyos are going 
to play in the bam this afternoon. You will come ? " 
asked a young lad of him one Sunday morning. 

Andrds bit his lip hard. He would have loved to 
go and hear his favourite tunes played by the picked 
men of the county, and to show the pretty girls how 
well he could step the csdrdds; but gipsy music and 
pretty girls meant money, fifty kreutzers at least for 
the one, and twenty for the others for a bit of ribbon 
or a handkerchief, and Andrds, the rich &rmer of Kis- 
falu's son, had not a copper coin in his pockets. 

** I will not come," he said a little sadly. 

" The gipsies will have plenty of money from all of 
us," said another kindly; ** it will not matter if you do 
not give them anything." 

" And why should I not give them anything? " re- 
torted Andrds fiercely; ** if I wanted to hear the czigdny 



50 A Son of the People 

I could do so. But I said I would not come. It is no 
one's business to ask my reasons." 

**No one did ask you, Andrds/' said one of the 
herdsmen, shrugging his shoulders, whilst another 
laughed and turned away. 

** But I do ask you, why your hair is black and 
your moustache short. And if you do not tell me why 
your impudent tongue happens to be red, I will " 

In that country where the sun is hot and the tempers 
fierce, a quarrel often arises out of the merest banter. 
A jest roughly expressed and misunderstood, a word 
inadvertently spoken, and tumultuous passions rise 
to the surface, like the bubbles in a glass of cham- 
pagne; knives are brought out, eyes glare, lips are 
compressed, and often a severe wound, sometimes even 
a sudden and tragic death, is the outcome of a quarrel 
of five minutes between comrades of a lifetime. 

Andrds had become livid with rage, his eyes glared 
round him, as if in defiance to the whole village to dare 
make fun of him. His hand had sought and grasped 
the heavy clasp-knife inside his belt, and the other 
fell heavily on the shoulder of the daring mocker, forc- 
ing him to turn and face him whom he had ventured 
to deride. 

** Hey ! hey ! and what do I see ? My children, the 
day of the Lord will surely not be polluted by your 
quarrels. Kem^ny Andrds, put back your knife! your 
mother — ah ! she is a saint ! — will be waiting at the 
cross-road for you; shall I go and tell her that I left 
her only son with a knife in his hand, after he has 
promised half an hour ago to forgive so that he may 
be forgiven ? Come, come ; give me that knife, and do 
not look so fiercely at me. I am only a weak old man, 
and not worth quarrelling with." 



An Old Miser 51 

It was the good old priest who, having said his Mass, 
was going home for his mid-day meal, his well-worn, 
shabby old cassock held high above his lean shanks to 
protect it from the mud. Quite gently he placed his 
kindly hand on Andrds's wrist, and the young man let 
fall to the ground the knife that he held. 

Then, without a word, he turned and fled towards 
the cross-road, on the way to Kisfalu, where his 
mother stood waiting for him. 

After that episode he, like his father, ceased to go to 
church; he wished to avoid the mocking laughter and 
the kindly sympathy which alike stung and wounded 
his pride. With passionate devotion he poured all the 
pent-up flood of his intensely aiSectionate nature on the 
mother who bore her hard lot with such exemplary 
patience. Worked to death almost as he often was on 
field and farm, he never was too tired to try and lighten 
some of his mother's tasks. For her he would wash 
and cook — ay! spin and weave — for the sake of the de- 
light of seeing the loved one rest peacefully for an hour 
in her arm-chair. 

These two, mother and son, were all in all to each 
other. Their pride had shut them out from their own 
little world yonder in the village, and even out in their 
fields. Prom the head of the house, the father, the 
husband, they had neither sympathy, nor even ordinary 
kindness. His greed of money seemed to grow with 
age. A kind of monomania had seized him. He 
suspected his own wife and son, and kept his money 
and his affairs as much hidden from them as from every 
one else. They knew that he was passing rich, for 
Andrds by now was an experienced farmer and knew 
the value of those rich fields, those fine vineyards, those 
numerous herds of sheep, but the pleasures that those 



52 A Son of the People 

riches could give, the plentiful fare, the merry-making, 
dancing, czigdny music, abundant wine, were all denied 
to them. As to the authority of him who was her lord 
and master, and his father, neither wife nor son thought 
for one moment to question. In that land where civil- 
isation is still in its infancy, a kind of worship sur- 
rounds the head of the house; he is placed there by 
God himself, with divine rights over all his family; 
they neither question his decisions, however unreason- 
able they may seem, nor deny him their respect, how- 
ever thoroughly he may have forfeited it. 

And thus a few years sped on, and Andris was now 
two-and- twenty: the most hard-worked, the most ro- 
bust and practical tiller and reaper of the soil on the 
lowlands. Prom his hard training he had learned to 
work without complaint, to be content with little, to 
keep his own counsel, and to despise money; from his 
own heart he had learned one thing only, but that he 
had learned thoroughly, namely to love his mother. 
All ideas of love in another direction, the love for a be- 
ing who was not his own flesh and blood, but oh, who 
was so infinitely dearer, that was denied to him. If at 
times thoughts of a wife and family flitted through his 
mind, — for does not a hermit also dream of paradise? 
— he perforce had to chase them aWay. Old Kem6ny 
last year had said: 

'* I married when I was fifty. When Andr&s is that 
age, I shall be underground, then he can do as he 
pleases; till then I cannot allow another mouth to be 
fed under this roof." 

And in this as in all things what could Andr&s do 
but obey ? and chase far into the distance dreams of a 
brighter future? 

One memorable day, old Kem^ny, apparently still 



An Old Miser 53 

full of vigour, fell, struck as a withered oak by a sud- 
den blast. After a hard day's work in the vineyards, 
while Andrds had stolen half an hour's respite from 
wine-pressing in order to help his mother with the 
bread-baking, two sturdy lads brought the old miser 
home, on a rough stretcher, put hastily together. He 
seemed to know no one. His tongue babbled half- 
articulate sounds, his face was distorted, all awry. 
The village doctor bled him, and though floods of thick, 
dark blood flowed from his arm, it seemed in no way 
to bring him to consciousness. For two long days he 
still breathed on; Andr4s and his mother watched him 
dutifully to the last. At times they thought that 
something oppressed the brain already overclouded by 
death; at times the lifeless eyes would almost resus- 
citate, to glower anxiously round. But whatever he 
wished to say, whatever parting injunction he may 
have wished to leave to his son, Andrds never knew; 
he and his mother did not weep when they at last 
closed the eyes of their hard taskmaster, gone to his 
eternal rest. They asked the kind old priest to say a 
dozen Masses for the repose of his soul, and Andrds, 
with his own hand, knocked together the boards of 
oak which contained his father's remains. 

Old Kem6ny found his place among his kind, in the 
little churchyard of Arokszdllds: his wife had twined 
two wreaths of marguerites and cornflowers, which she 
placed on his grave; they faded the same afternoon, as 
the sun was very hot, and they were never replaced. 



CHAPTER VI 

TH« TENANT OF KISFAI^U 

Th^ village and countryside never actually learned, 
as it had hoped to do, what wealth Andrds found hid- 
den away after his father's death. And, truly, though 
old Kem^ny was eccentric in one way, his son bade fair 
to outdo him in that respect, for his conduct after his 
father's death was peculiar in the extreme. For three 
consecutive years, he and his mother continued their 
existence at the tumble-down old farmhouse of Kisfalu. 
True, Andrds would not allow his mother to do any- 
kind of work, and paid two village girls to wash and 
cook for them both; otherwise their life remained the 
same. He himself supervised all the labour, and con- 
tinued his father's dealings with Rosenstein the Jew, 
but the greater part of his time he spent with the good 
priest at Arokszdllds, who, it soon transpired, taught 
him to read and to write, and many other things that 
a peasant lad does not usually learn. Kem6ny Andrds, 
whatever his motives were, brought the same energies 
to bear upon his mental work that he had done upon 
physical toils. His father, he soon discovered, had, 
owing to his wonderful avarice and greed of gain, left 
him a very large amount of money; so large that, at 
first, Andrds and his mother, accustomed to their con- 
stantly empty pockets, hardly realised its full value, 

54 



The Tenant of Kisfalu 55 

or the benefits which it would confer upon them. 
Their slowly-thinking peasant minds hardly could un- 
derstand that all those old wine barrels which had been 
filled with gold and silver pieces by the eccentric old 
miser were all absolutely theirs, and meant so much 
comfort and luxury to them who, up to now, did not 
know what it was to sleep in a comfortable bed, or to 
eat their entire fill. Money has so very little meaning 
in that land of plenty that, just for a moment, Andr£s 
viewed his wealth with a feeling that was almost one of 
disappointment. He hardly knew himself what he had 
really expected when with his own hands he had driven 
the last nails in the boards which covered him who had 
been the arbitrary master of Kisfalu; hardly knew 
what he used to hope for when, on hot summer nights, 
after a hard day's toil, his young shoulders still sore 
from the paternal correction for some real or imaginary 
ofiience, he used to stroll out upon the vdiSt puszta and, 
his gaze lost in the far-off immensity of the horizon, 
he vaguely wondered at the meaning of the word 
" happiness." 

And those mountains of gold and silver, jingling 
and glittering, seemed so poor, so tawdry in compari- 
son with those nightly day-dreams. Presently, how- 
ever, the shrewd mind, inborn in every peasant, rose 
to the conception, still weak and far distant, of all that 
riches might mean. He remembered chance derisive 
words his father had from time to time thrown out, as 
if involuntarily, on the subject of the heavy sacrifices 
the lord of Bideskfit often made to get a handful of this 
gold with which to gratify his every whim. If it was 
not too great a sacrifice to give up bits of land one's 
ancestors had owned for hundreds of years, in order to 
handle some of these gold pieces, why then, since they 



56 A Son of the People 

had as it were dropped into his lap, he would try and 
learn, study to find out, what was the best use to be 
made of it. The lord of Bideskfit parted with his land 
to obtain gold, why should not he, Kemdny Andrds, 
the peasant, the son of the eccentric old miser of Kis- 
falu, part with the gold to gain the land ? Oh ! to ab- 
solutely call some of that loved soil his^ the soil which 
from his childhood he had learned to coax into sdelding 
to his avaricious father all the treasures it contained, 
his own; that he could share all products with his 
mother, and perhaps, who knows? in time to come 
with some one else who would call him husband, and 
some one else wee and very dear, who would learn to 
say ** Father ! " Oh! for the delight of owning every 
grain of wheat, the fleece of every sheep, every drop of 
milk from his cows, and not to have to give of the first 
and of the best to the noble lord out there at Bidesktit, 
who never came to Kisfalu, who trafficked with the 
devil, and allowed Satan to work the land that should 
have been sacred in his eyes. 

Andrds, who had in twenty years of enforced self- 
restraint learned to keep his own counsels and to whis- 
per to no one what was passing in his mind, never 
communicated his thoughts to any one. No one knew 
what treasures were found in old Kem^ny's coffers, no 
one knew if the dead man had indeed been a liar or a 
fool. The work in the field continued. Kem^ny An- 
drds's flour was as fine and white as his father's had 
been, the linen woven from his flax the softest in the 
county, his wine the most delicately flavoured; no 
wonder that the Jew traders from Gyongyos were al- 
ways seen at Kisfalu, in every season of the year, when 
there was aught to sell. As for Andrds, who never in 
his life had bought, sold, or exchanged, he veiy soon 



The Tenant of Kisfalu 57 

learned the full value of the products which the fat 
land yielded him. 

For three years he learned from the good old priest 
how to read, to write, and to reckon; with the patient 
stolidity with which he had accepted his daily hard 
tasks from his father, he fulfilled now the task his own 
shrewd mind had allotted to himself. He soon found 
out that the Jews played upon the credulity of the 
peasants, that they presented in a distorted aspect the 
value of the trifling loans they made, and the usurious 
interest they received. To fathom the actual value of 
the exchange, the money for the product, Andrds reso- 
lutely imposed the task upon himself. The peasant 
mind in Hungary is a merry one, full of love for pretty 
girls, gay dancing, poetic music, but it is obstinate and 
tenacious, and that tenacity Andrds — who knew little 
of love or pleasure — ^applied entirely to the furtherance 
of his aim. 

Little by little, he employed some of his money in im- 
proving the old farmhouse, he rendered it comfortable 
for his mother to live in, and also — ^he could not him- 
self give any reasons for doing it — he added a few 
rooms, furnished them cosily with furniture he bought 
at Gyongyos, and even papered the walls over the 
whitewash, which, when finished, caused a veritable 
procession from the two neighbouring villages to see 
this hixury which had become far famed. 

Gradually, as he felt more at home in his altered cir- 
cumstances, and saw his mother more happy and cheer- 
ful, he lost that taciturnity which his wounded pride 
had as it were built round him, and began to mix more 
freely among the peasants in the neighbouring villages. 
Soon the sunny nature inherent in every Hungarian 
reasserted itself; gradually he took up every habit 



58 A Son of the People 

which those of his age pursued. He again went to 
church with his mother, but now they both stopped at 
the porch after Mass, and Andrds ventured on looking 
at the pretty girls in their Sunday finery, and on asking 
them for a dance or two in the afternoon in the big 
bam. He did not find them unapproachable: the be- 
lief had gained ground that old Kem6ny had left 
masses of money, and that Andrds was wealthy beyond 
any Jew for miles round; ay ! some even asserted that 
he was becoming almost as rich as the lord of Bide- 
skfit himself. 

A certain romanticism hung round him, owing to 
his lonely childhood, his mysterious learning — which 
in the minds of his neighbours had assumed boundless 
proportions, — and above all owing to his manly bear- 
ing, his fine eyes, which had retained a certain defiant 
fierceness, only tempered by his now frequent and 
cheerful smile. Soon half the village beauties were in 
love with him, and many were the quarrels with jeal- 
ous swains that Andrds h&d to fight out, after the Sun- 
day afternoon dance. But now the venom had gone 
out of his disposition; the quarrels, fierce for a moment, 
always ended suddenly by Andrds' s cheerful good- 
natured giving in, and by a couple of bottles of the 
best wine the county of Heves produced, in which 
to drown any lurking feeling of jealousy against the 
handsome youth who was so liberal, and such a merry 
companion. 

But in spite of his attraction towards the fair sex, 
Andrds was still single, and still the devoted son in 
prosperity which he had been in time of trouble. He 
flirted with all, made merry love to many, but not one 
of the bevy of pretty girls, who trotted briskly to church 
on Stmday mornings, could boast of having induced 



The Tenant of Kisfalu 59 

the rich Kem^ny Andr&s to think of sharing his fabu- 
lous wealth with her. When the older women or men 
threw chaffing hints out, as to the probable future mis- 
tress of ELisfalu, Andrds would laugh and say: 

** Hey ! hey ! but the pity is I love them all, and I 
cannot bring the lot to Kisfalu; there is no room, and 
my dear mother would not approve, and — if I choose 
— ^how can I choose one among a hundred beauties — 
without being very rude to the ninety-nine others that 
Hove?'' 

If his mother gently expressed a wish to see at some 
future time her grandsons round her knee, Andr&s 
would throw his arms round her neck, and kiss her 
rough cheeks. 

** Mother,'* he would say, ** there is only one saint 
in the county of Heves; you are the saint. When an 
angel comes down from heaven I will ask her to marry 
me; but until then I will be content to love my saint." 

The mother sighed, the girls cried, and Andrds, 
at five-and-thirty, was still a dutiful son in single 
blessedness. 



CHAPTER VII 

PRINCIPAI, AND INTIBREST 

Th^ hostess had drawn a measure of her oldest wine 
and placed it on the table which was best shaded from 
the sun; she was busy with her apron, wiping off any 
particle of dust that may have remained on the table 
or bench. 

** Hey! but you grow prettier and prettier every day, 
Zsuzsi, of my soul ! " said Andrds's hearty voice dose 
to her ear, as he put an arm round her buxom waist, 
and imprinted a good sound kiss on the nape of her 
snow-white neck. " If I were your lord and master, 
which, for many reasons, I do wish I were, I would 
not know a moment's peace; he must, have a hard 
time, keeping the fellows off that slim waist of 
yours." 

And Andr&s had drawn the pretty woman on his 
knee, and was making her blush with the admiring 
glances he cast at her, while drinking deep draughts 
of her delicious wine. 

**Ah, Andrds ! you don't know! that is just the 
trouble ! " said the pretty hostess, while a tear or two 
moistened her eyes, making them appear even brighter 
than before. 

** What is the trouble, Lotti ? Tell me. Is it a new 

ribbon you want, my dove, or a new silk dress for 

Sunday? Tell me what you want, my pigeon, and 

60 



Principal and Interest 6i 

yoti shall have it; only do not cry, in Heaven's name, 
for I cannot stand it." 

'' No, no ! it is not a ribbon, or even a dress, An- 
drds," said the pretty woman, now fairly bursting into 
tears. '* What is the good of my good looks when my 
husband has ceased to love me ? ' * 

'' Ceased to love you, my rose ? Has Kdlmdn gone 
blind ? or has he gone squinting in another direction ? ' ' 

'' I don't know which it is, but I know he does not 
love me; Andras," she added, her voice shaking with 
tears, '' he has not beaten me for three weeks ! " 

Andrds gave a long whistle. 

** Whew ! that is serious ! and you? " 

'' Oh ! I gave him plenty of cause ! I danced the 
csdrdis with Horty Rezso, for two hours, till I was 
ready to faint, and actually did drop into his arms, but 
when I came home, Kdlmdn, who had been there and 
seen it all, and even saw Rezso kiss me after the 
csdrdds, went quietly to bed, and never even as much 
as boxed my ears." 

And the neglected wife burst into a deluge of tears. 

** It is very humiliating," she added between her 
sobs. ** Panna, last Sunday, could scarcely move her 
back, or lift her arm, and Lujza had quite a deep blue 
mark across her shoulders. That is real love, if you 
like; their husbands must have loved them deeply to 
be so jealous that they beat them like that. I could 
not show as much as a pinch on my arm, so I wore my 
sleeves long to hide my shame." 

"There! there! my pretty flower," said Andrds, 
consolingly, " leave off crying, and promise to dance 
every csdrdds with me next Sunday, and I will swear 
that I will squeeze that slim waist of yours so tightly 
and look so deeply into your bright eyes, that Kdlmdn 



62 A Son of the People 

will break his stick across your pretty back for jealous 
rage. Come, bring out some wine for that old scare- 
crow of a Jew over there; he looks hot and thirsty, 
and I want some talk with him, which I cannot do 
if his mouth is parched and dry. — Here, give me 
another kiss — another — and another. — Why, the 
devil take him ! if Kdlmdn saw me now, there would 
not be a white spot left on those plimip shoul- 
ders of yours, they would be black and blue, fit to 
make Panna, Lujza, and the lot of them green with 
envy." 

Laughing, quite consoled, the buxom landlady ran 
back into the cottage, and half reluctantly placed a 
large jug of wine before the Jew. 

Rosenstein had sat very patiently in his comer, the 
last rays of the setting sun falling upon his meagre 
back; he looked a comic figure, like some huge scare- 
crow outlined against the sky; quietly he had waited 
while Kemeny Andrds pursued his flirtation with the 
hostess, but his bird-like face brightened up when he 
heard the young peasant ordering a measure of wine 
for him. He was not accustomed to attentions of this 
sort from any one, except from good-natured Andrds, 
who knew from his own earlier experiences what it 
was to be very hot, very thirsty, and without a bottle 
of wine before him. 

"Now, my pretty pigeon, go in!" said Andrds, 
giving the young woman another parting kiss. " What 
I have to say to this old Jew is of no interest to those 
pink ears, which are only made to hear words of 
love." 

" You send me away ? " she said with a pout; ** you 
are going to talk secrets and affairs with that horrid 
old Rosenstein. Why must I not hear ? I can keep 



Principal and Interest 63 

secrets — You are not going to borrow money of him, 
are you?" 

** No, my soul, you may be sure of that," said An- 
drds, laughing, ** so run away. The secrets Rosenstein 
and I are going to talk about are neither worth the 
keeping, nor the gossiping." 

The pretty hostess, willy-nilly, had to go; Andr4s 
had learned throughout his life the lesson of obedience 
so completely that he had an irresistible way of teach- 
ing it to all those with whom he came in contact. 

He beckoned to Rosenstein, and the Jew, hastily 
finishing his wine, came near with that humble obse- 
quiousness and deferential smile which those of his 
race have for centuries been taught to wear. 

"Well, old scarecrow! tired of waiting, eh?" said 
Andrds, genially. ** Hey ! hey ! pretty women will 
take up such a lot of a fellow's time, and I have wasted 
so precious little of it that way in my life that I have a 
great deal of love-making to do before I have my full 
share of the best side of this world. Come and sit 
down here in the shade. — Not too near me !" he 
added, laughing, and making way for Rosenstein on 
the bench close to him. 

The Jew himself was in rare good humour; Andrds's 
merry laugh was very infectious, and Rosenstein, be- 
tween his thin lips, made a low, chuckling little noise, 
which might have passed off for a laugh. 

The young peasant pushed jugs and bottles to one 
side. Wine is heating, and when talking to a Jew the 
head must be kept very cool; a pipe only is always a 
good friend and counsellor, and Andrds, throwing back 
the wide lawn sleeves of his shirt, leaned both elbows 
on the table, and having filled his long cherry-wood 
pipe, •* I am listening," he said to the Jew. 



64 A Son of the People 

Rosenstein had taken out of his pocket one of the 
documents signed that morning — unread — by the lord 
of Bideskiit. The other reposed snugly in an inner 
pocket, and evidently was not intended for any but his 
own private perusal. 

* * The noble lord of Bideskiit wanted 250,000 florins, ' * 
he began; '^ he is starting his steam-mill on its work to- 
morrow, and has to pay heavy wages to the Budapesth 
workmen, whom he is bound to employ, since the 
men about here will not now go within a league 
of the building, for fear they should meet the 
devil." 

** Do you really mean to say," said Andrds, incredu- 
lously, '* that that cursed mill is completed, and that 
he actually means to work it? " 

** Ay, most decidedly he does, in spite of every dis- 
satisfied peasant on his estate, in spite of the fact that 
Pater Ambrosius specially said Masses for the destruc- 
tion by fires from Heaven of the building of Lucifer. 
It is, in fact, to begin work to-morrow or tiie day after. 
His com, all l3n[ng in magnificent stacks, is ready to 
be threshed by the supernatural agency, and that which 
is already threshed will be ground into finer flour than 
the Bdndt has ever known, at the word of command of 
the devil and his satellites." 

The Jew had said this with many sarcastic intona- 
tions, but Andrds, who, in spite of his learning, had 
not quite shaken off all peasant superstitions, listened 
to him with awe and incredulity. 

** I think my lord is a fool," he said at last; ''if 
there was the slightest use or good to be gained by em- 
ploying three men instead of twenty, and spending the 
wages of two hundred in doing so, I could understand 
it. But this flour will not be any finer by it, and he 



Principal and Interest 65 

will enrage every peasant on his estate He is a 
fool ! '' 

** He certainly is under the impression that he will 
become the richest man this side of the Tama, and in 
the meanwhile is busy ruining himself in trying to 
become rich. However, according to your wish, I 
handed him over the 250,000 florins on the following 
security and interest — 



c< 



Hold on, old man! I said I would not lend any 
more. I wish to buy.** 

Rosenstein shook his head. 

'* I did all I could. I offered what money my lord 
cared to ask. He will not sell.'* 

A look of very deep disappointment clouded over the 
young peasant's face, the hand which held the pipe 
closed so tightly over the slender stem that it nearly 
broke it in half. 

** He is a fool," he repeated after a slight pause. 
** The loans are not for a great number of years and, 
though the interest is low, he will never be able to re- 
pay the capital, which he is spending entirely on that 
confounded machinery and building of his. Sooner 
or later he will have to part with the land. I want it 
now, to-day. I am rich. I would pay him any money 
he wants. He is a fool." 

** The noble lord says he will not part with a foot of 
his land to a peasant or to a Jew." 

** Then, by God ! — " said AndrSs, bringing his 
heavy fist crashing down upon the table. 

The shaft which the Jew had with wondrous cun- 
ning aimed at his client had struck home. The insult 
supposed to have been hurled at the peasant by brack- 
eting him with one of the despised race made Andrds's 
cheeks livid with rage, but the old habit of self- 



66 A Son of the People 

restraint got the better of him. Before this man whom 
he employed he forced himself to remain calm, and re- 
peated very quietly: 

" He is a fool ! " 

** Look," said the Jew, eagerly, ** your position is 
better and better every year. Bideskiity Gyuri has 
now mortgaged every foot of his land to you, with the 
exception of the house and garden of Bideskiit itself, 
and a few stables round. Mark my words, the money 
you lent him to-day, on the security of Zdrda, will not 
last him six months at the present rate at which he is 
spending every florin he gets.. Six months hence he 
will want some more, and then, more and more again. 
You have plenty, you could let him have plenty, but 
he will not have a foot of land left to mortgage. Then 
you can foreclose at a small additional sacrifice; and 
the land is yours.*' 

** He will then try and get the money with which to 
meet his debts from those whom he calls his equals," 
said Andr&s, surlily. 

" They never have any ready money to spare, those 
noble lords on the lowlands; they spend every kreutzer 
they have in eating, drinking, and trying to outdo their 
neighbours in splash and gorgeousness; moreover, 
since you were willing to lend more money on the 
land than it is honestly worth, no one would care to 
take on the mortgages." 

** No more they would if the money had been lent by 
one of your tribe, and the usurious interest almost 
ruined the owner of the land. What I ask is so low. 
Any one can pay it and yet make a large profit for 
themselves." 

** I know ! I know ! " said the Jew, hastily. ** I 
have often advised you to ask more reasonable interest." 



Principal and Interest 67 

** I cannot do usury. I must place my money since 
I have got it, and I wish to buy the land, but my 
mother and I will not dirty our fingers with usury. 
What interest is my lord paying me for this last 
250,000?" 

** Five thousand measures of wheat, forty head of 
cattle, and fifty sheep,*' said Rosenstein, handing the 
document across to Andrds. Anxiously he watched 
the young man's face, while he read. 

** Yes, that is all right enough," said Andrds, folding 
the paper and putting it into his pocket. 

** I wonder now," he added, ** what profit you are 
making out of this." 

** You know best, that I make none, save what you 
are good enough to give me." 

** Well, I gave you two hundred florins to do this 
work, are you satisfied ? " 

* ' Oh, perfectly, perfectly. I am a poor man and * * 

" If ever I hear that you have cheated me in any of 
these dealings, I will break every bone in that shriv- 
elled-up old body of yours." 

" You are joking ! How could I cheat you ? even if 
I wished, which I swear by Abraham I would never 
think of doing. You have seen the document signed 
by the lord of Bideskiit; you do not imagine he would 
sign without reading ? " 

" No, I don't imagine he would be quite such a fool ! 
but I daresay he gives you a little something for your- 
self: does n't he?" 

**Well — yes — he offered me one hundred florins 
this morning, and," added the Jew with a peculiar 
hissing sound between his teeth, ** he gave me a good 
dinner." 

**Ah! well then! that is all right, old scarecrow! 



68 A Son of the People 

is n't it ? You do not often have a good dinner ; you 
are too mean to feed yourself properly. So he fed you 
well, did he ? I am glad of that. I hope you thanked 
him well." 

" There was no time to do much thanking to-day," 
said the Jew, ** but my thanks will keep. I hope in 
about two years' time to have repaid him in full, for 
the good dinner he gave me this morning. He ! he ! 
he ! " he added, rubbing his thin hands gleefully to- 
gether, " I am deeply in the debt of the most honour- 
able lord ! but Moritz Rosenstein never forgets, give 
him two years, and he will repay, he won't mind the 
interest, he ! he ! he !. he! he will pay that too — ^in 
full." 

Andrds had ceased to listen to him; he had taken out 
Bideskiity's note of hand, and read it through very 
carefully. Evidently he was fully satisfied with its 
contents, for again he folded it up, and replaced it in 
the inner pocket of his jacket. 

Dreamily he continued smoking, taking no heed of 
Rosenstein, his gaze riveted far across the plain to- 
wards that distant sunset, beyond which lay that loved 
land which, from his childhood, he had tended and 
tilled, in sorrow and with bitter tears, for the tyrant 
who now lay underground. To aa^uire that land, and 
now make it all his own, was the dream which filled 
his mind, unformed, half-educated as it was. It was 
a dream that had risen within him fi'om the moment 
he realised that wealth was within his grasp. For 
that one aim, he toiled by day and studied by night. 
No labour was too hard, no task too difficult. He 
knew the noble's hereditary contempt for the peasant, 
guessed that it would be a hard matter to force the lord 
of Bideskdt to sell his land to the despised, low-born 



Principal and Interest 69 

peasant, thus laying as it were the seeds of equality be- 
tween them, but in time he hoped he would win, al- 
ready he held heavy mortgage on that land he loved so 
well. It was almost, but not quite, his own. Rosen- 
stein promised that soon it would be his. Lovingly he 
scanned the flat horizon, tried to look beyond the sun- 
set, past the barren plain, whose soil now looked cool 
and grey, in contrast to the brilliant gold of the last 
rays of the setting sun. There lay Kisfalu with its rich 
fields, its green vineyards, the house where he was 
bom, where lived his mother, where, please God and 
his own indomitable will, his son would also be bom, 
live and die in peace, his own ground, his own land, 
his ! his ! his I 

As for Rosenstein, he was nursing pleasant dreams 
of wealth coupled with vengeance. He was content to 
sit quietly, and think over the time when the proud 
man, who had made him the jest and jeer of his serv- 
ants, would perforce be leaving his ancestral home, and 
he, the despised Jew, who had received many a caning 
within its walls, would buy it, under the hammer; for 
beneath it, it would come; nothing could save it, con- 
sidering the usurious interest Bideskiity Gyuri was 
pa3dng unbeknown to the proud young peasant, who 
had learned much, but not enough to be quite even 
with a Jew. 

** It is getting late, Andrds,'* said the pretty hostess, 
coming to the door; "you have a good three hours' 
ride before you, if you are going back to Kisfalu, 
remember." 

'^ I am going back home," said Andrds, rousing 
himself from his day-dreams. ''Come and kiss me for 
being such an attentive time-keeper. Here are ten 
florins for the wine I have drunk, and the oats Csillag 



70 A Son of the People 

has eaten, and mind 3*00 have that new bit of ribbon 
in your hair next Sunday, and won't we make Kdlmdn 
jealous over the csdrdds ? Two hours, mind ! heigho ! 
Csillag, my beauty, are you rested? and has that 
featherbrain of a woman given you a good measure of 
oats ? Here, old scarecrow, next week I shall want to 
see you about some lambs you can sell for me. I have 
two hundred beauties. I shall want a heavy price for 
them. You can come over to Kisfalu. We shall be 
busy threshing. Good-night, my pigeon; give us a 
kiss and tell Kdlmdn he is a blind fool. God be with 
you ! Come, Csillag ! '' 

And saddleless, stirrupless, without use of bit or rein, 
Andrds jumped on his lovely mare, and waving a last 
adieu to the pretty hostess, galloped away towards the 
sunset, and was soon but a mere speck upon the vast 
horizon. 

Rosenstein looked a long time after him. His pale 
eyes twinkled, his lips parted in an acid smile, his thin 
hand felt coaxingly for the second document signed by 
Bideskiity Gyuri, which contained some clauses that 
would have cost the Jew many a broken bone at the 
hands of the young man who had galloped away so 
merrily. Then he too turned his back upon the inn, 
and went his way. 



CHAPTER VIII 

FIRST ARRIVAM 

**I THINK, after all, I will wear my blue sash and 
bows, R6za, the pink will make me look so pale. Oh, 
dear ! oh, dear ! how late it is ! I have heard the 
czigdny tune up half an hour ago; I shall never get 
dressed to-day.*' 

And the little maid rushed hither and thither, bust- 
ling round her young mistress, changing the blue sash 
for the pink, then, back again to the blue, arranging 
a stray golden curl, putting a stitch here and there, 
eager, excited, and proud. Proud of such a mistress, 
the prettiest heiress in the lowlands. Bideskiity Ilonka, 
then barely seventeen, was reputed to be the beauty of 
the countryside, the fairest in that land where all 
women are fair, with the graceful, yet full figure of the 
Hungarian race, the peach-like skin, the golden hair, 
and forget-me-not eyes, that are calculated to drive any 
inflammable Magyar heart to despair. Since, accord- 
ing to the noble hostess of Bideskiit, it is the duty of 
every aristocratic Hungarian girl to be beautiful, Ilonka 
certainly fulfilled that duty to absolute perfection, and 
the Countess, her mother, had little fear but that her 
daughter would fulfil her other duty with equal per- 
fection, and make the most suitable marriage her fond 
motherly heart could desire. 

Downstairs the agitation was becoming positively 

71 



12 A Son of the People 

dectrical. The Countess herself, in the tight-fitting 
silk dress that had formed part of her trousseau, and 
had passed through many stages of promiscuous and 
antiquated attempts at modernisation, was giving her 
final look round to the gorgeously laid-out table in the 
big hall. The heavy oak buffet, which stood the whole 
length of the hall, almost broke down under the weight 
of the huge dishes of meat and fish of every description, 
that filled every available corner, whilst the two horse- 
shoe tables literally creaked beneath the enormous 
baskets of grapes and melons which threw a penetrat- 
ing scent around. 

Gigantic bottles of wine stood ready to hand, between 
each of two guests, and a couple of huge casks on tall 
trestles each side of the buffet were ready tapped, in 
case the bottles did not prove sufficient. The valets in 
their best tight-fitting Magyar frock coats, and still 
tighter breeches, with boots of the shiniest leather, 
lined the lower hall below, awaiting the arrivals. Out- 
side a band of czigdny, the czimbalom player in the 
middle, the leader well to the fore, had turned ready 
to strike up the Rdk6czy march directly the distant 
cracking of a whip would announce the first arrvial. 

The Countess Irma expected one or two of the nearer 
neighbours in time for mid-day dinner: they would 
come in their own coaches all the way from either side 
of the Tama. Bideskiit had supplied the relays for 
those of the guests who came from a considerable dis- 
tance, and already the day before carriages had gone 
off in every direction from which the main road branched 
off and visitors might be expected to arrive; whilst the 
smartest coaches harnessed with the pick of the Bide- 
sktit stables had been sent overnight to Gyongyos, to 
t)rin^ from the railway statioQ there thos^ wjio fjroiij 



First Arrivals 73 

the still more distant counties were obliged to travel by 
train. These would mostly be the younger and smarter 
people, who had been to Budapesth, or even to Vienna, 
and had become accustomed to those terrible inventions 
of Satan, akin to Bidesktity's threshing machines, the 
railway trains. All older people preferred the mode of 
travelling that had been good enough for their fathers 
and their grandfathers — the cumbersome but comfort- 
able barouche harnessed with four sure-footed Hun- 
garian horses from their own herds, who did not rush 
along at devilish speed on metal tracks, which surely 
never were forged anywhere but in Satan's own work- 
shop. 

Huzza ! Hurrah ! The distant shouts, the thunder- 
ing gallop of horses, and clinking of harness, an- 
nounced about eleven o'clock the first arrivals. ' * Tune 
up, czigdny ! " thunders Bideskuty's voice from an up- 
per window, and at a sign from the leader the czim- 
balom starts the opening bars of that most inspiriting 
Rdk6czy march. . . . Here they come! the Kan- 
t&ssys, the nearest neighbours, who only live some 
twenty leagues away, and have driven over in two 
carriages full; they are a large family, and bring sev- 
eral servants. Intensely Magyar in character is their 
turn-out, their coachmen and grooms wearing the na- 
tional costume, full white lawn trousers and sleeves that 
flutter in the wind, short, gaily-embroidered leather 
jacket, round cap, and shiny boots. With the most 
dexterous precision the driver guides his fiery team of 
five Hungarian horses, three leaders and two wheelers, 
through the wide-open gates of Bidesktit, to a perfect 
standstill before the door. Their brilliant red leather 
harness, with their quaint tassels, and shiny brass 
l^osses, glitters and jingles in th^ hot mid-day air. 



74 A Son of the People 

Three prettily dressed girls, two young men, the portly 
Count Kantdssy, and his thin, sour-looking wife, all 
step out of the big coaches, and find their way, chatter- 
ing, eager, and excited, through the hall, and up the 
stairs past the Hun warrior's frowning statue. 

** Isten hozta / " (God has brought you), many hand- 
shakes and kisses are exchanged, as Jank6 solemnly 
opens the sitting-room door where Bideskuty and his 
wife await their guests. 

**Why, Mariska, how tall you have grown! and, 
Sarolta, I would not have known you, and little Em- 
mike is growing a pretty girl after all!" says the 
hostess, as each of the young girls, with a little curtsey, 
comes up daintily to kiss her hand. 

The Countess Kantdssy's eldest daughter, and her 
own Ilonka, were of an age, and decidedly likely to be 
rival beauties; but Countess Irma noted with satisfac- 
tion that Mariska had two pimples on her forehead, 
which showed very conspicuously, though her mother 
had made her bring a curl right down on purpose to 
hide them. 

The girls stand aside, modest and blushing, while 
their parents talk; the mothers, after the first few re- 
marks on the subject of the bad roads, are already 
discussing the probable partis in view; the fathers ex- 
patiating on the perfection of the harvest this year, and 
the promise of a glorious vintage. 

**I cannot tell you, my dear," whispers Countess 
Kantdssy, volubly, ** how much Bart6cz Zsiga admires 
Mariska; he would in every way be a suitable parti for 
her, but unfortunately he is, as you know, in the dip- 
lomatic, and in France and in England he has gathered 
a notion that girls ought to do other things besides 
looking pretty. I believe those foreign girls are ter- 



First Arrivals 75 

ribly forward; some of them read novels, and go out 
by themselves. Thank goodness ! there is nothing of 
the sort about Mariska; she is as modest and innocent 
as ever I could wish." 

* * She is indeed a pretty girl ! ' ' says the hostess, with 
a decided want of conviction, ''and Bart6cz Zsiga 
would be an excellent parH for her. Of course, you 
know that we have refused him for Ilonka.'' 

** You surprise me, my dear/' replied the Countess, 
with some acidity. " I should have thought that 
Ilonka was not at all his style. Only the other day he 
was saying that he thought she was too fair. Don't 
you think so yourself? No? Ah, well ! perhaps you 
may be fortunate in finding a man who admires that 
pale complexion; I found that Mariska's pink cheeks 
were immensely admired." 

" Ilonka, so far, has never lacked admirers," rejoins 
the hostess, sweetly; ** indeed, we find it quite an occu- 
pation to refuse marriage proposals for her, she has so 
many." 

** Well, you see, dearest," retorts the Countess Kan- 
tdssy, as a parting shot, ** she is an only child, and 
men know that she will inherit the whole of £ideskiit 
and Kisfalu, and that she will have Zdrda as a dowry. 
. , . But where is the dear child ? " she adds, feel- 
ing that, perhaps, the conversation was becoming un- 
comfortable. ** Mariska, my child, I feel sure Countess 
Irma will allow you to go to Ilonka, who must have 
finished dressing ; you will be glad to see each 
other." 

"Yes, mama!" 

" Sarolta and Kmmike may go too." 

"Yes, mama!" 

And the three girls, glad to get away from the 



76 A Son of the People 

overawing presence of their elders, prepared to leave 
the room. 

" Stay, Mariska ! you may all three take o£f your 
hats and gloves, and arrange yonr hair, before you 
come down again." 

'•Yes, mama!" 

And like little birds out of their cage, the three 
girls, making an old-fashioned curtsey, fluttered out of 
the room. 

"They are charming!" says the hostess, conde- 
scendingly. 

" I think they are very well brought up," admits 
the fond mother, proudly. 

'' My good friend," here breaks in the stentorian 
voice of the portly Count Kantdssy, ** believe me, 
your craze about those absurd machines is absolutely 
without common-sense. Did not your father and my 
father, your grandfather and my grandfather, sow and 
reap the finest com in the world, and grind it into the 
whitest flour, without the help of those outlandish in- 
ventions ? What do you hope to get with them ? ex- 
cept to fall into the hands of the Jews; for those things 
cost money, which, so far, thank God, none of us have 
had any need of." 

** My dear fellow, in England — " began Bideskdty 
with a wise expression of face. 

'' Hey ! do not talk to me about that accursed coun- 
try. What do I know about it, except that it is near 
the sea, that their corn is coarser than that which we 
give to our pigs, and that they make wine out of goose- 
berries ? I ask you what can they know about com ? 
or about grapes ? Why the devil don't they produce 
them with their inventions of Satan ? " 

** Think of thQ labour and the fatigue it will save ! " 



N 

« 



\ 



First Arrivals n 

" Whose labour ? whose fatigue ? That of the lazy, 
good-for-nothing peasant. You give him more leisure 
to enrich himself, till he will own more land than we 
do, and drive us nobles out of our homes, very much 
like those cursed Jews are beginning to do. As long 
as you make the peasant work for you, and give him 
no wages and plenty of kicks, he will respect and fear 
you. Give him time to work for himself, to bepome 
rich, to own big lands, and he will begin to think that 
he is your equal, and want to kneel beside you at 
church in your pew, and think that his son can marry 
your daughter.*' 

*' There is no difficulty in keeping the peasant in his 
proper place, even the rich ones; now there is Kem6ny 
Andrds, who rents my farm at Kisfalu. That man is 
reputed to own some four or five millions of money, 
which his miserly old father is said to have left in wine 
barrels, and yet he is perfectly content to rent Kisfalu 
from me; and I am sure, whenever I meet him, he al- 
ways most politely takes his cap off to me, as his 
ground landlord.** 

*' And you mean to tell me that there is a peasant on 
your estate who owns millions of money? Some- 
body has been stuffing you up with fairy tales, my 
friend.** 

''It is no fairy tale, though the amount may be a 
trifle exaggerated; he certainly has a very great deal of 
money, and does a good trade, I am told, with his 
beasts and his wine." 

'* Well, then, I call it confoundedly impudent of a 
peasant to be so rich. I wonder he has not offered to 
buy some of your land from you ! ** 

" No, he has never done that. Some people think 
he does quiet money-lending on his own account, but 



78 A Son of the People 

that I cannot say. I have never had anything to do 
with him." 

** No, but I suppose you have a Jew or two with 
whom you deal?" suggested Count Kantdssy, with a 
loud laugh. ** Those confounded mills must have cost 
a pot of money." 

** Yes, they have," said poor Bideskuty, shaking his 
head at the remembrance of the ruinous transaction he 
concluded yesterday; ** and those confounded Jews 
charge such terrible percentage. I soon shall not have 
enough flour of my own to provide this house with 
bread. I should not mind if that miserly Kem6ny 
Andrds would buy a bit of land from me." 

** Has he never asked you to sell him Kisfalu ? " 

** Never, that I know of; that is the curious thing 
about it all. I often wish he would, because, of course, 
I cannot offer the property to him." 

" He seems to be sensible enough to know his own 
place," retorted the Count; " a peasant indeed ! own- 
ing that beautiful Kisfalu." 

** He has, in any case, plenty of money. What he 
does with it I cannot imagine. After all, the dream 
of every peasant ever since they were made free is to 
own a bit of land all his own." 

** A piece of land, his own ? " rejoins the irate Count. 
** My good Bideskiity, where in the world have yon 
picked up those new-fangled notions ? Do they come 
across from England, together with those God-forsaken 
machines? Because, if so, believe me, let the whole 
lot sink to the bottom of the sea, together with that 
beer-producing country, which may the devil take 
away. Their own indeed ! Time was, when I was a 
youngster, when let alone the land, but even their lazy, 
good-for-nothing bodies belonged to the nobles, they 



First Arrivals 79 

and their sons, ay, and their daughters too ! And now 
you talk of their owning land, their becoming rich! 
Preposterous ! " 

And the fat old Count, portly and apoplectic, turned 
away in disgust from his friend who held such ridicu- 
lous notions, in order to appeal to the lady who had 
begun life by stating that '* humanity began with the 
Barons," and from whom, therefore, he was always 
sure of warm support. " Whom do you expect to- 
day?" asked Countess Kantdssy, throwing herself 
nobly in the breach. She was not quite sure whether 
her husband's last remark was altogether good form, 
and thought a change of conversation would be 
beneficial. 

** We expect most of our guests, who come by train. 
The Egregyis, I think, are sure to drive, for you know 
Aunt Irma has never been on the railway in her life; 
they might not arrive till to-morrow, as the roads have 
been very bad all the way. But the Bart6cz, the Ma- 
ddchs, the Palotays, and two or three more, will be here 
almost directly. I believe the train comes in some 
time during the morning," she added vaguely; **it 
usually has a long wait at Palota, for the Baroness is 
never ready, and they always wait for her." 

** I do believe here they are ! " says Bideskiity with 
delight, sure now to escape another assault from his 
friend on the subject of his beloved machines. 



CHAPTER IX 

BKAUTIFUI. II<ONKA 

Thundering gallop outside, shouting, yelling, and 
laughter, proclaim the arrival of the carriages farom 
Gyongyos railway station. In a moment the huge 
house is filled as with a crowd. Groups of young g^rls 
fluttering like chickens round their mamas, portly 
papas mopping their beading foreheads — for the sun is 
grilling on this August day, — maids, valets, and cour- 
iers seeking and finding their sweethearts they had left 
last year, stealing kisses, exchanging ^^ Isten hoztas** 
(God has brought you), till the hall, the stairs, and 
passages would seem to a sober<minded Englishman a 
very pandemonium, peopled with semi-lunatics. 

The hostess has to find an amiable word for all: one 
of praise for the beauty of every girl, of admiration for 
the bearing of every young man; compliments to the 
mamas and papas on the charms of their progeny. As 
for Bideskiity, the host, he is laughingly assailed on 
all sides by inquiries after his machines and his mills: 
the laughing-stock of all these easy-going, prosperous, 
aristocratic sons of the Hungarian soil. Surely it is 
folly to talk of improving a land that produces so much 
prosperity, that yields such boundless hospitality. 

The young girls, with becoming shyness, keep close 
to their mamas' petticoats; each comes forward in the 
approved fashion to kiss the Countess Irma's hand, 

80 



N 



Beautiful Ilonka 8i 

and receive a friendly tap on the blushing cheek. 
The young men dap their heels together and make the 
most military of salutes. Most of them are still in the 
"one year's volunteer's" uniform of some cavalry 
regiment ; some show by their more serious manner 
and the foreign cut of their clothes that they are 
preparing for the diplomatic service; others in rough 
homespuns, and tight-fitting Hungarian breeches and 
shiny leather boots, intend, obviously, to serve neither 
country nor government, but to stay at home, as their 
fathers have done, and superintend the tilling of the 
land that will become their own. 

** But where is Ilonka ? " is the general question that 
comes from every side; while Kantdssy, with the privi- 
lege of an old friend, and a noted wag, declares that he 
will go and fetch her, even if she is still in her bath. 

The Countess Kantdssy has just time to protest: " In 
Heaven's name, Jeno, do be careful how you speak ! " 
and to note with satisfaction that the innocent ears of 
her daughters have been spared their father's profligate 
talk, when a merry peal of laughter is heard from the 
garden below, and old Baron Palotay, who is a near 
relative, playfully rushes to one of the windows, and 
pulls the curtains to. 

"Only for money!" he declares. "The sight is 
worth a florin a-piece." 

And indeed the picture outside was worth a heavy 
price to see. In a simple white muslin dress, her fair 
hair tied in a graceful knot at the back of her tiny 
head, her wide-brimmed hat fallen down her back, thus 
framing the daintiest face that ever smiled on mankind, 
Ilonka was plucking a few roses, her only ornaments, 
and tying them in a knot for her belt. No wonder the 
younger men crowded to the windows to watch the 

6 



J 



82 A Son of the People 

dainty apparition, no wonder the mamas looked envy- 
ingly at the fairest among the fair, no wonder the 
Countess Irma, with characteristic pride, looked tri- 
umphantly at her female guests, and musingly at the 
group of men, from which she would have no difficulty 
in selecting a most suitable /ar^'. 

Five minutes later the radiant apparition, followed 
by the three Kantdssy girls, whose by no means de- 
spicable beauty acted but as a foil to her own charms, 
came in fresh and rosy, as merry as a lark, conscious 
of her own beauty, like a very little queen, gladdening 
her courtiers with her presence. 

** An old uncle's privilege, my dear," asserted old 
Palotay, as he imprinted a kiss on the pretty girl's 
cheeks, and all the young men looked as if they wished 
their hair would suddenly turn white, and earn them 
the same coveted privilege. 

But Ilonka smiled and curtsied to all with equal 
grace, kissed the fat or lean hands of the elder ladies, 
allowed, smiling, every elderly man to kiss her pretty 
cheek. Only the sharp eyes of her mother noted the 
scarcely perceptible blush, the faint quiver of the deli- 
cate eyelid, the softly whispered ** God has brought 
you ! " when she first caught sight of Maddch Feri. 

He was a young man who still wore the one year's 
volunteer's uniform of a Hussar regiment; tall and 
slenderly built, he looked exceedingly handsome in the 
tight-fitting tunic and scarlet breeches that made a 
bright patch of colour beside Ilonka' s white gown. 
But his father had wasted his son's patrimony in over- 
lavish hospitality; the ancestral home had fallen into 
the hands of the Jews, and the Maddchs lived in a 
small house at Kecskemet, and could not afford to put 
their son into the diplomatic service. There had been 



Beautiful Ilonka 83 

some talk of his marrying the daughter of a rich Vien- 
nese merchant. But, most unaccountably, the young 
man seemed obstinate, and old Count Maddch appar- 
ently had no influence over his son, and allowed him 
to remain single when a rich marriage, which would 
have retrieved the fallen fortunes and regilt the an- 
cestral coronet, should have been contracted long ago. 
Feri was said to have a leaning for the army, which 
was not considered a very aristocratic profession for a 
descendant of the ancient family of Maddch, whose an- 
cestry was lost in the mazes of the Tartar invasion. 
No wonder, therefore, that Countess Irma frowned 
when she noted her daughter's blush, and heard the 
tone of that ^* Isten kozta^' (God be with you), so 
sweet and so heartfelt. Ilonka, however, unconscious 
of the gathering storm, stood happy and blushing now, 
laughing merrily, promising dances for this evening's 
ball, and agreeing to innumerable riding, boating, and 
fishing parties for the next few days. 

Five minutes later, the big hall clock strikes the hour 
of two, and punctual to the minute old Jank6 opens the 
doors, and announces that the Countess is served. 

All are equal in this hospitable house, there is no 
formula of etiquette or precedence; jovially the host 
and hostess show the way, and young and old, with 
much laughter and pleasant anticipation, file into the 
dining-hall. Already the gipsy band is stationed at 
one end; as the guests come in, they start the merriest 
csdrdds, and keep it up till every one has found the 
place they wanted most, next to the person near whom 
they would prefer to sit. 

At the head of the table the good-looking face of 
the host beams delighted on his guests ; whilst at the 
opposite end the Countess, enthroned like a queen, 



84 A Son of the People 

listens to the various compliments on the beauty of her 
table-decorations, the size of her fruit, the picturesque- 
ness of her garden. Perhaps she is aware that half 
the flattering speeches are but the usages of a flowery 
language, the custom of the country; she has to do the 
same when she, in her turn, visits her neighbours, al- 
though she may be convinced that all her arrangements, 
her household, and her cuisine are superior to those of 
every other mortal in the world. Still flattery is pleas- 
ant to listen to, when one is convinced that, in any 
case, it falls far beneath the reality. 

Well out of sight of her mother, Ilonka sits, blushing 
and happy. Feri has, with wonderful tactics, secured 
a seat next to her, and, with delight, the young people 
can look forward to sitting side by side for at least 
three hours; for surely all that food and drink will 
take their elders some time to consume. With a loud 
^^ J^ljen/'* (Long live!) directed with full glasses to- 
wards the host and hostess, the company have fallen to; 
and for fully five minutes, while the first hunger is ap- 
peased with a plateful of steaming soup, nought inter- 
rupts the merry music of the czigdny, save the dink of 
glasses, and of silver spoons. 

The servants go round briskly to fill and refill the 
glasses as they become rapidly empty; and after the 
first few minutes the tongues are loosened again. 

Poor Bideskiity has to endure a vigorous attack from 
every side on the eternal subject of his new mill and 
machinery. Obstinate, he holds his ground, propounds 
his theories, of which he himself is not very clear. The 
entire bevy of his older guests, all in his own rank of 
life, and most of them prosperous, rich landowners, 
prophesy the most dire disasters, which are sure to 
befall him, if he persist in his new-fangled notions 



Beautiful Ilonka 85 

brought from abroad, from the blowing up of the in- 
fernal machine by the revengeful flames of heaven to 
the revolt of the entire peasantry against these inven- 
tions of the devil. The idea of any improvement in 
the way in which many generations had carried on 
their farming was, to these Magyar nobles, nothing 
short of the ravings of a lunatic; it was an unheard-of 
precedent in the history of the Hungarian lowlands. 

But the lord of Bideskut had nursed his fad ever 
since, a young boy, his father had first tried to drive it 
out of his head; fostered by opposition, it had grown 
to a conviction. He was sanguine of success. In 
order to pander to his craze originally he had dipped 
pretty deeply in borrowed coffers; now, like the true 
gambler, he staked more and more, secure in the con- 
viction that ultimately fortune would be his, a bound- 
less fortune, built on the secure foundation of his 
highly improved produce obtained at a minimum cost 
of time and labour. 

Bideskiity had with infinite patience perused a 
number of heavy books which he had sent for from 
Budapesth, and had persuaded himself that he was 
thoroughly imbued with the progressive notions of 
Western countries. In imagination he saw himself 
the recognised authority on matters agricultural from 
the confines of Poland to the shores of the I^jtha. 
Prom the perusal of those heavy books he had gath- 
ered, with an infinitesimal and somewhat addled 
quantity of knowledge, a certain desire for something 
different to his present mode of life; he began to dream 
of riches; he who came from a race that were content 
to live from the product of the soil began to have 
vague, undefined longings for other luxuries besides 
that of fine white bread and rich old wines; the word 



86 A Son of the People 

"progress" was just beginning to have a distinct 
though still obscure meaning for him, and he was be- 
ginning to realise that the life of a Hungarian noble on 
his estate might perhaps be better filled than by watch- 
ing his com grow, or breaking wild horses into harness. 
Sometimes the original old man would crop up, as 
when he found amusement in terrorising Rosenstein, 
but, on the whole, a vague feeling of his dignity as 
a man lurked in his mind beside the empty pride of 
ancestry. 

At the farther end of the table, Ilonka had at last 
broken the happy silence. 

** They told me you were not coming," she said, 
after they each had eaten their soup. 

** But you knew better," he rejoined. 

** Well, I did not know. I heard you had been to 
Budapesth for the carnival, and I thought " 

** You could not have thought anything but that you 
are fairer than the most beautiful girl I could meet any- 
where, and that whenever I looked at a pretty face in 
Budapesth I thought all the more of you." 

** You thought of me?" she said with playful as- 
tonishment. 

**You know I did, Ilonka," said the young man 
with suppressed passion, ** you know I " 

** Hush ! hush ! " she said nervously, ** mama is 
looking, and I am sure Madame de Kantdssy can 
hear." 

He had perforce to whisper very low, so low that not 
even the flies could hear as they buzzed lazily overhead. 
But Ilonka must have heard something, something that 
made her blush, and cast her blue eyes down on her 
plate. It was very pleasant to be talking thus, to be 
nibbling slily at the forbidden fruit, whilst mama's eyes 



Beautiful Ilonka 87 

had perforce to wander everywhere, and the noise of 
talk and laughter, and that of the gay czigdny band, 
drowned the sound of the young man's whispered 
words. 

** I shall pass my officer's examination next month, 
Ilonka," said Feri, tentatively. 

««Yes?" 

** And then I shall pray for another war against the 
Prussians." 

** Why ? you might have to go and get killed." 

"Yes, I might," he said smiling, **that certainly 
would be a most complete solution of the difficulty. 
But, if I lived to do something great, enormous, which 
would draw the attention of my country on my poor 
self, then, perhaps " 

** Yes," she said, ** then— perhaps." 

They both lapsed into silence, and from Ilonka' s 
eyes a tear fell down on the bunch of roses in her belt. 

** Perhaps ! " They both knew what a vague word 
that was; they both felt that however great their love, 
however deep their sorrow, their whole fate and hap- 
piness depended on that problematical ** perhaps," the 
consent of the parents, without which no well-bom 
girl in Hungary could marry, slave as she is to their 
old-fashioned whims, their considerations of rank and 
wealth, all the glitter which is necessary to the old, and 
seems so paltry, so tawdry to the young. 

** Ilonka, you have made me very happy," said the 
young man, after a slight pause. 

" Happy ? How ? " she asked innocently. 

** By sajring * perhaps.* " 

The servants were handing round the meat, the fruit, 
tlie salads. All round them was noise, gaiety, loud 
laughter, sometimes coarse jest. These two sat, like 



88 A Son of the People 

tiny birds hidden beneath overhanging boughs, secure 
from storm and stress of weather without, content to 
steal a few glances from each other's eyes, to snatch a 
word of what lay nearest to their heart, in the intervals 
of evading the prying eyes of their elders. 

" Beautiful Ilonka is very silent over there," came in 
loud, laughing accents from the farther end of the 
table, and old Kantdssy, boisterous and good-hu- 
moured, raised an overflowing glass of wine high 
above his head. 

** I drink to the prettiest girl on the lowlands," he 
added rising. ** Beautiful Ilonka, to your bright eyes, 
to your pink cheeks, and your merry laugh, which I 
have not heard this last half-hour." 

This was an excuse for refilling the glasses, and all 
the young people got up, and walked round to where 
Ilonka was sitting, blushing to the very roots of her 
hair, and touched glasses with her, and said, ** J^ljen ! " 
(Long live!); the young girls all kissed her, the young 
men looked as if they wanted to, the old ones took 
leave without permission; and so the hubbub lasted for 
quite a long time, every one's attention being drawn to 
Ilonka, so that the one topic of conversation which in- 
terested her was perforce interrupted during that time. 

Presently, however, young Bart6cz, who was just 
out of the Oriental Academy, and was going into the 
diplomatic service, rose to make an elaborate speech in 
honour of the hostess' s birthday . Every one was deeply 
interested, and Ilonka had occasion to whisper sadly: 

'' It is not much use thinking of it; mama will never 
consent." 

** What do you think your father will say, Ilonka ? " 

She shook her pretty head wisely. 

*' Papa is too much worried with his machines and 



Beautiful Ilonka 89 

his arguments witti the peasants: h^; mil listen to any- 
thing mama says, in order to have peace at home.'* 

*' Ilonka, I wish we had lived many hundred years 
ago." 

'*Why?" 

** Because, then, I could have come on Kop^Vs back, 
in the middle of the night, and climbed the walls of 
Bideskiit with the aid of a rope and carried you away 
with me by force, in spite of mother and father and 
everybody. Money did not matter in «hose. days, nor 
family either. All were equal, and a man could marry 
whom he loved." 

" Yes, that must have been nice not to have had to 
ask mama whom one may love." 

**You cannot ask that now, Ilonka," he corrected 
seriously; ** nobody can dictate to you as to whom you 
should love." 

** What is the use of loving," she rejoined innocently, 
** if you may not marry whom you love?" 

** There is much joy to me, Ilonka, in loving you, 
even though " 

'' Hush ! hush ! I am sure mama is looking this 
way." 

The young man from the Oriental Academy had 
finished speaking; once more the ceremony had to be 
gone through of touching glasses with the hostess, and 
wishing her a happy birthday. Ilonka was obliged, 
like every one else, to go up to her mother, to kiss her 
hand, and speak a short speech of felicitations. Her 
young heart, still only half understanding the emotions 
that threatened to fill it, went out for one moment to 
the mother who held her whole fate in her hands. 
When she had wished her pretty birthday wish, instead 
of demurely kissing her mother's hand, she threw her 



go A Son of the People 

arms impetuously round her neck and asked for a lov- 
ing kiss. 

" Ilonka, my child, you will crush your dress,*' said 
the Countess Irma, reprovingly. 

And Ilonka, vaguely feeling as if she had done some- 
thing wrong, something she knew not what, went back 
to her place quite shy and tearful. 



CHAPTER X 



A I,OVK IDYI.I, 



Aftkr this, gaiety became decidedly more boister- 
ous; the men-servants were kept constantly busy, fill- 
ing and re-filling the glasses and the bottles out of the 
great casks, one of these having already run dry. The 
czigdny were not allowed, even for a moment, to stop 
the music, and, hot and panting, they kept up the 
lively csdrdds with much spirit. The good Hungarian 
wine was getting into the heads of some of the noble 
Hungarian barons there, and a quantity of wine in 
their heads invariably produces the most passionate 
fondness for the national songs of their country. 

** Here, czigdny!" said G6za V6csery, a man of vast 
property in the county of Zempl6n, of which he was 
Lord Lieutenant, "play me that favourite song of mine, 
* Kdka favfn kbit a rucza I * Play it so that you draw 
every tear from my eyes, and every florin from out my 
pockets." 

And Binecz Mark6 began with tender tones on his 
instrument to bring forth the melancholy sounds of 
that sweetest of Hungarian songs. 

While everybody talked as merrily as ever, G6za 
V6csery had drawn a chair close to the czigdny band, 
and, sitting astride upon it, with a half-empty bottle of 
wine in his hand, he gave himself over to the delights 

91 



92 A Son of the People 

of listening to his favourite tune, letting his head beat 
time to the quaint rhythm. For fully half an hour he 
sat there, forcing the czigdny to repeat the same tune 
over and over again, while, to testify to his intense en- 
joyment, tears flowed thick and fast down his cheeks, 
for truly ** Sfrva vigad a Magyar/ ** (The Hungarian 
weeps whilst he makes merry). 

He evidently had quite forgotten the end of the din- 
ner, for he took no further heed of anything round him, 
his enthusiasm seemed to grow at every repetition; 
his ''Ujraf (Encore!) waxed louder and more 
imperative. 

** Slower! *' he shrieked at times; at others ** Faster! " 
or " Louder ! *' ** Do not go to sleep, you lazy dog ! '* 
or '' What has happened to that cursed fiddle of thine? 
It has no tone ! Ah, I understand,** he added, rising 
excitedly, ''it is thirsty, it wants to drink, and this 
wine is a drink fit for angels; here, czigdny, fiddle ! 
drink ! drink ! it will revive you I drink, I say ! " 

And, not very steady on his feet, the lyord Lieutenant 
rose, and taking the fiddle out of the leader's hand, he 
laughingly poured the whole contents of the bottle he 
was holding into its body. 

Nobody took much notice of his playful antics; the 
gipsy very calmly let him amuse himself with his fiddle; 
he well knew that good compensation would follow the 
destruction of the instrument. 

** Try that now, czig&ny," said 0£za V6csery, hand- 
ing the man his fiddle back; '' I am sure it will play a 
great deal better for having drunk good Hungarian 
wine." 

Unfortunately, however, the fiddle utterly refused to 
give forth any sound under the circumstances. The 
gipsy, with absolute stolidity, made one or two at- 



A Love Idyll 93 

tempts at scraping the catgut. The sounds which he 
drew from it amused the Lord Lieutenant hugely. 

* * Try again, czigany ! " he roared. * ' Here, you don* t 
know how to do it; let me show you ! *' and he pulled 
the instrument out of the man's hand. But this time, 
either his hand was more clumsy, or the swarthy mu- 
sician turned the fiddle over on purpose, anyhow the 
inevitable catastrophe occurred, and the wine flowed 
out freely, and deluged the noble lord and the gipsy 
practically from head to foot. 

**Ho! what waste of good wine!" said V6csery, 
laughing. ''Ah, well, it is an ungrateful fiddle. 
Here, czigdny, you will want something to wipe its 
mouth dry ! " 

And he took several bank-notes out of his pocket, 
and stuffed them into the fiddle with as much delight 
as he had poured the wine into it previously; then he 
allowed the gipsy to have his instrument again. He 
had had enough fun for the present. 

Moreover every one seemed to be rising to adjourn 
to different parts of the house for smoking or for stroll- 
ing in the garden. 

Peri had tried to remain dose to Ilonka, but this was 
distinctly not proper, for all the young men were to- 
gether smoking, while all the girls, like a veritable 
bevy of gay-pltunaged, chattering birds, put their pretty 
heads together, and whispered of things which only 
have interest for those dainty bits of femininity. 

That day was perhaps the happiest one two young 
people at any rate experienced. Ilonka, throwing all 
prudence to the wind, and wilfully defying mama's 
blackest looks, gave herself over to the delights of her 
day-dreams. As a child, playing with an absolutely 
novel and fascinating toy, quite unable to understand 



94 A Son of the People 

that it is brittle, and only made for momentary pleas- 
ure, she coquetted and flirted with this pleasant emo- 
tion, which a handsome young officer's ardent words 
had kindled in her heart. 

All day she dreamed of what she so little understood: 
of a man's passion, of marriage, and blissful life with 
one whom it was paradise even to listen to, when he 
whispered so of ten, and, oh I so ardently, ** I love you, 
Ilonka ! " 

In the evening, during the long waits of the cotillon, 
during the cosy moments of supper, during the inspirit- 
ing hour of the csdrdd, Maddch Peri was close to her. 
As he sat near her he could feel the dainty muslin frock 
against his knee and, trembling, his hand would seek 
the soft fabric and stroke it tenderly, or crush it nerv- 
ously, as his passion grew stronger and stronger every 
moment, for this exquisite type of lovely g^lhood. 

And as innocently as a child she would return his 
ardent gaze, not comprehending what it was that 
brought a warm blush to her cheek and made her own 
little hand tremble and her heart palpitate. She felt as 
it were shut off from the gay world of those around 
her, walking through the figures of quadrille or cotil-^ 
Ion, not heeding other hands she touched, other eyes 
she met, or listening to other words, save those few 
she had now heard so often, and yet which seemed to 
gather an infinity of sweetness, as they were repeated 
again and again: " I love you, Ilonka ! *' 

l/ove ! What did the child know of love — of the 
strength of the torrent she, with her own dainty hand, 
had unchained ? She had known Maddch Peri all her 
life; when, a veritable queen of four years old, she had 
lorded it over, the handsome boy of some five years her 
senior, he had said, " I love you, Ilonka ! " He had 



A Love Idyll 95 

said it then, he whispered it now, and as her heart had 
responded then, it re-echoed now, childlike, sweet, and 
innocent. 

And the young man, though with more knowledge 
of the world, a^d a dim foreshadowing of the inevitable 
ending to this happy day-dream, gave himself over to 
the happihess of the moment. He could not say much 
to her, for there were too many there who might over- 
hear the words so sweetly foolish, that love in its in- 
fancy babbles to one ear alone, but he could, from 
time to time, pick up her fan or handkerchief, and in 
handing them back to her feel for one instant her tiny 
finger against his hand. He could, when no one was 
looking, and all the mamas were intent in watching 
some intricate figure of the dance, lean forward and 
look for a brief moment right into those blue eyes 
which she had a playful habit of keeping irritatingly 
cast down. 

All this and more, he could and did do, talking but 
a few most commonplace topics with her, forced to 
avoid what lay so near his heart, but gazing at her all 
the time, drinking in every line of that graceful girlish 
figure, the bit of white neck that peeped out slily from 
out the soft folds of white muslin, the tiny pink ear, 
half veiled by stray golden curls, the heavy, drooping 
lashes, that cast a glowing shadow on the soft, peach- 
like cheeks. 

Ah ! she was divinely pretty, this dainty product of 
a rich fertile land, a bit of exquisite jewellery, set in a 
framework of semi-barbaric surroundings, and hemmed 
in by an impenetrable wall of conventionality, which 
had cramped her budding character, and was threaten- 
ing to shape this perfect work of the Creator into one 
of the thoughtless, soulless dolls, that those of her kind 



96 A Son of the People 

• 

and breeding all gradually become: a pretty ornament 
to the great, hospitable castles of which they all ulti- 
mately become mistress: a respectful wife to their hus- 
bands — ^the head of the house: <x>ntent to follow the 
traditions that have existed for hundreds of years: 
dressing perhaps a little differently to what their grand- 
mothers, or great-grandmothers did, decking their 
dainty bodies with perhaps differently shaped gar- 
ments: but allowing their minds, their souls, to remain 
on the self-same level, without any attempt at cultivat- 
ing mental gifts, which they persist in looking on as 
bourgeois, and unworthy their long line of ancestry 
who had fought and made their country great without 
reading a book or writing a letter. 

** I love you, Ilonka ! *' whispered the young man at 
every interval between the figures of the cotillon. 

And Ilonka' s ears were agreeably tickled by those 
tender and passionate words that, in her youth, her in- 
nocence, her warped education, she understood so little. 
How could a young girl understand ? brought up, as 
she had been, kept away, till she was "out** from 
every society save that of her father and her mother, 
never reading a line that did not pass under the rigor- 
ous censorship of her mother's eyes, taught and shown 
nothing which might lead her to understand the depth 
of a human heart, the passions that fill a man's soul. 

Poor little girl ! what did she know of love ? save 
that it was so pleasant to hear about it from this one 
being who danced the csdrdds so divinely, and looked 
so handsome in his volunteer's uniform; she allowed 
herself and him to dream this day dream, not accus- 
tomed to look at the future, accepting the present, 
which was so fair, never guessing that such dreams 
ever ended, and that there was such a thing as a world 



A Love Idyll 97 

which was not made up of muslin frocks, of cotillons, 
and handsome volunteer officers, where harsh words 
often took the place of softly whispered * * I love you ! * * 
where reality with remorseless fingers scattered the 
poetic imaginings of young girls to the four winds, 
leaving them often sadder, sometimes hardened, al- 
ways disillusioned, for no reality, however golden, can 
come up to those visions bom in the brain of a girl of 
seventeen. 

When every one had gone to bed, after hours of 
dancing, amusement, and excitement, to dream of more 
excitements, more amusements, more dancing, Ilonka 
well knew that her mother's entrance into her room at 
that unaccustomed hour meant a very serious lecture. 
She had the whole of the day thrown prudence to the 
winds, and, in spite of mama's black looks, and whis- 
pered comments of the older ladies, had singled out 
Maddch Feri for her most special favours. 

The Countess Irma had no intention of being un- 
kind. In her inmost heart she firmly believed that 
she was devoted to her daughter, and only considered 
her happiness, when she tried to instil into her that 
love of birth and estates, in which she herself had been 
brought up. She so firmly believed that every descrip- 
tion of misery would be the result of poverty or of a 
misalliance^ that she would have considered herself a 
most unnatural and culpable mother if she did not in 
good time draw a picture of those evils before Ilonka, 
in such a way as to make her shun the attentions of a 
** detrimental,*' and repulse them if they came her 
way. 

** I came to tell you, Ilonka, that I was extremely 

displeased with you," she began drily. 

*' With me, mama?" 
7 



98 A Son of the People 

** Your conduct with that penniless Mad&ch is posi- 
tively indecent.*' 

'* Oh, mama!" 

** Every one remarked on it to-night. I assure you 
I blushed for you the whole evening." 

**Mama!" 

Poor little girl ! she was so appealing, so sorrowful ; 
she felt a little guilty certainly, but she had had such 
a very enjoyable day. Two great tears were already 
trickling down her cheeks: mama always had the 
power of making her unhappy. 

And **mama" embarked on the usual lecture: of 
how a young noble girl should behave, how she should 
never allow one young man more than another to pay- 
any attention to her unless her parents have previously 
authorised her to do so; that conduct such as Ilonka's 
to-night was unmaidenly, and that, if it was not 
mended the next day, she would have to spend the rest 
of the time that the guests were in the house, in her 
own apartments, by herself. 

''Mama" was exceedingly eloquent, and Ilonka 
very, very unhappy. When her mother finally left 
her, after half an hour's steady preaching on children's 
obedience and maidenly reserve, the poor little girl 
threw herself on the bed in a passionate flood of tears. 
Never in all her long, seventeen-year-old life had she 
been so unhappy. A most delicious bit of romance had 
come in that life, and caressed her young mind with 
poetic dreams, such as she hardly understood herself; 
stem reality, wearing ** mama's" best silk gown, had, 
with be-ringed, aristocratic fingers, chased those day- 
dreams away. Hers was a child's grief who sees its 
most cherished toy taken away from it, without under- 
standing the reason of the cruelty; but is there any- 



A I^ve Idyll 99 

thing in its way more pathetically hopeless than a 
child's grief? There seems such a total want of hope 
in it, for the child mind only understands the present, 
it cannot conceive that there may be a future, capable 
of alleviating its sorrows. 

Ilonka cried till she fell asleep, and in her sleep she 
once more dreamed such dreams that made her forget 
the realities, her stem mama, the midnight lectures, 
and once more brought, floating before her mind, visions 
of a handsome young face, with a pair of dark eyes 
which, somehow, always made her blush when they 
met her own, and to her ear the softly whispered 
words, sweeter than song of birds or chorus of angels: 
** I love you, Ilonka ! " 



CHAPTER XI 

THK GATHKRING STORM 

Onk of the busiest times on the Hungarian lowlands 
is this gathering in of the second harvest, which has to 
be done quickly before the early autumn rains set in, 
leaving plenty of margin for threshing before the vint- 
age time commences. Every year at this time the 
fields round Kisfalu teem with work. The hundreds 
of labourers, employed by the rich Kem6ny Andrds, 
have little time for gossip and rest, for the eye of the 
master is everywhere, and it is pleasure to work under 
it, since he has a cheery word, a merry jest for all, 
whi6h is encouraging when the sun on the bare back 
burns to the bone, and the muscles ache with the 
wielding of the heavy scythes. 

But, to-day, a curious look of general idleness seems 
to pervade the atmosphere, and to have settled on the 
rich peasant-farmer's fields, and he himself, riding 
from group to group, vainly tries, by encouragement 
or upbraiding, to keep his troop of mowers to the task. 
They stand about, their scythes lying idle at their feet, 
their pipes in their mouth, their gaze fixed on one par- 
ticular point of the horizon the other side of the plain, 
where a column of black smoke obscures the soft-toned 
purple line of the sky. With arms, feet, and torso 
bare, their legs encased in the loose lawn trousers of 
their national attire, they quietly allow the burning 

100 



The Gathering Storm loi 

noonday sun to frizzle their backs, and smoke, gazing 
meditatively afar, or congregate in eager, excited 
groups to whisper whenever the master's back is 
turned. 

**Hey! you lazy good-for-nothings,*' says Andrds 
from time to time, ** you need my late father's heavy 
stick on your shoulders this morning. Here, Rezso, 
take up your scythe. Miska, throw away that pipe 
directly. Come, all of you, and when I am back in 
half an hour, mind I see this field as level as the 
plain yonder, or I swear I will let some of you have a 
taste of my new knotted stick." 

Shamefacedly a group of idlers break up, thought- 
fully one or two take up their scythes and draw them 
slowly aslant the waving com. 

** It is useless, Andrds," says one of them, with sud- 
den resolution, as he once more throws his scythe 
down. ** How can we toil on God's earth with our 
two hands while the devil is at work not four leagues 
away?" 

** Hey ! " says Andrds, cheerily, ** if my lord has en- 
gaged the devil to work for him, that is no reason why 
you should allow my com to go to hell for want of 
active cutting." 

** Why, you know well, Andrds, that we will all 
work for you till our backs break, if need be, but, 
somehow, to-day, it is impossible. How do we know," 
added the peasant, surlily, ** that next year you will 
not also let us starve and employ the devil to do the 
work for you?" 

** That 's well spoken, Rezso," said another, a young 
athlete, with muscular arms and broad chest, that 
shone in the sun like dull ivory turned brown with 
age. 



I02 A Son of the People 

'* Yes, therc^ 's not much use toiling on the dear low- 
lands, now, since the devil is to do the reaping; next 
year I suppose he will do the sowing too, and we can 
all lie down and wait till starvation overtakes us." 

*' It is time the Tama came and flooded us all, before 
the devil takes possession of our souls." 

" Tut! tut! tut ! '* says Andres, impatiently, ** what 
have we, at Kisfalu, to do with the devil of Bidesktit ? 
I think my lord is a fool with his machinery, but I 
think you are all fools to trouble your heads about 
him; ay, and knaves too if you steal my day, and do 
nothing for the wage I give you." 

** It is all very well, Andrds, but you cannot employ 
every able-bodied man this side of the Tama. I wish 
you could, for then my brother would not have to work 
for the lord of Bidesklit, which he does, in fear and 
trembling, lest the devil should make a pick-a-back of 
him, every time he stoops down to mow. 

** Yes, and there are both my younger brothers, driv- 
ing those devilish contrivances, that reap and bind the 
com all by the turn of a wheel. The younger one, 
Laczi, told me," added the peasant in an awed whisper, 
'' that he distinctly saw a black man with a tail and 
long pointed ears, sitting between the horns of one of 
the oxen, that was, poor innocent thing, dragging the 
cursed machine. I tell you I^aczi nearly fell off his 
seat with fright." 

** With having had a draught too much of that wine 
your mother gave him before he started work in the 
morning," said Andr&s, trying to laugh. But his 
laughter was forced and unnatural. All Pater Am- 
brosius's teaching had not quite wiped the superstitions 
of his kind out of his head, and though he forced him- 
self not to look that way, his eyes also instinctively 



The Gathering Storm 103 

wandered across his cheery fields and beyond the 
sandy plain to that column of black smoke that he 
knew proceeded from the lord of Bidesktit's new 
building. 

He had heard from Rosenstein that all the machinery 
necessary for converting wheat into flour by the help 
of steam was fixed ready inside the mill, and that my 
lord intended to begin work this day. Of course, Pater 
Ambrosius had thoroughly explained to him the uses 
and powers of steam, but Kem6ny Andrds, in spite 
of his riches and in spite of these teachings, was still 
the peasant at heart, and he could not help shuddering 
and looking behind him anxiously every time he caught 
sight of the clouds of smoke which made an ugly blot 
on the vast horizon, that he had learned to love and 
regard as his own. He was evidently at a loss how 
to quiet his workmen's fears, since he was not very free 
from them himself. An anxious crowd had gathered 
round the master, all eager to gain some sort of comfort 
from him, for next to Pater Ambrosius, no one, not 
even my lord, was thought to possess as much learning 
as Andrds; young men and old crowded round him, 
eager, excited, glad of a chance to pour forth their 
anxiety into their master's ever-sympathising ears. 
Bach had a tale to tell him of father, brother, or son, 
who during the long hours of labour close to the mys- 
terious building (which surely was a place of worship 
dedicated to the devil) had in some guise or other felt 
the presence of the £vil One, who now walked up and 
down the main road and called in at farm and inn, 
since my lord had invited him to earth. The women 
too had given up their work of binding, and they also 
had many a tale to tell. Angrily they stamped their 
tiny brown feet on the earth and shook their fists at the 



I04 A Son of the People 

distant column of smoke, which was the first sacrifice 
ofiFered to Satan on the beautiful lowlands. In gaily- 
coloured cotton petticoats, and full embroidered lawn 
shifts, their slim waists held in by a tight-fitting corslet, 
their heads protected from the burning sun by a red or 
yellow kerchief tied in a becoming knot over the brow, 
they looked a very picturesque set of angry furies, 
enough surely to frighten the most enterprising devil 
from the neighbourhood. Andrds felt that it was use- 
less now to talk about work again. 

**Erzsi, my pretty one,'* he said merrily, "if you 
throw such burning looks across to Bidesklit, you will 
surely bring the devil straightway here; he will think 
it is a spark from his own furnace.'' 

**Hey! leave me alone, with your jests to-day, 
Andrds, my father is at work in that very mill of Satan. 
My lord offered high wages for the work, and threat- 
ened not to employ him at all this harvest time if he 
refused to do it; so he went to confession and com- 
munion this morning, and the Pater gave him a whole 
litre of holy water. Btit I tell you, my mother cried 
fit to break her heart when he started to the godless 
work, and I do not think somehow that I shall ever 
see him again. Oh! why does not the devil take my 
lord away since he is so fond of his company?" and 
pretty Krzsi shook a menacing fist at the distant doud 
of smoke. 

** My son Imre has to do some work too, right in^de 
the building," said an older woman, in a voice choked 
with sobs; **I declare if any harm comes to him, I 
wiU " 

" Hush! hush! hush! " said Andrds, ** don't let me 
hear that sort of language round Kisfalu. The lord of 
Bideskfit is your master, you must work for him as he 



The Gathering Storm 105 

commands. The devil can have no power over you if 
you do your duty.*' 

''It is not duty to serve one who is in league with 
the devil," asserted Brzsi, hotly. 

"No! that *s right! *' murmured some of the crowd. 

** I will not let I^aczi work for him again," said one 
of the men. 

* * He has no right to give over our souls to the devil, ' ' 
said another. 

'' I believe he has promised the devil so many souls 
in exchange for the work the Evil One does for him," 
suggested an old wrinkled woman, whose sons were all 
employed at Bidesklit. 

*' And we do not know which of us may be carried 
off next." 

** It is a shame." 

** The lord of Bideskdt will repent it," came in what 
now had become threatening accents. 

This handful of easy-going, somewhat lazy, always 
merry peasantry were gradually working themselves up 
to a state of hysterical excitement, caused by super- 
stitious fear; and they absolutely refused to listen to 
Andrds. He was doing his utmost to pacify the 
women, who made matters infinitely worse by sobbing 
and moaning, and calling on God to punish the mis- 
creant who had brought the enemy of mankind to this 
beloved land of peace and plenty. 

Suddenly a loud shriek from one of the women made 
all heads turn in the direction to which she was point- 
ing, with long gaunt arm stretched out, and shaking 
like poplar leaves in the wind. 

** Look! look! " she cried with trembling lips, ** the 
fires from hell! Miska! Andor! Ivan, my sons! they 
will be buried in the flames the Evil One has kindled! 



io6 A Son of the People 

Help! help! I see them perishing before my eyes! 
Curse the lord of Bidesklit! the fmy of the devil is 
upon us! " 

All looked horror-struck, trembling at the distant 
column of smoke, through which from time to time a 
shower of sparks appeared; these looked to the poor 
ignorant folk as the very fires from below, in which 
they and their families were about to be annihilated. 

The women threw their arms up in the air, yelling^ 
out curses on the head of him who had brought this 
evil in the land. Some had thrown themselves on the 
ground, and burying their faces between their knees, 
moaned and sobbed, while rocking their bodies to and 
fro, in an agony of g^ief. The men raised menacing 
fists at the distance, and cursed between their teeth, 
though no less bitterly. 

Andrds was for once in his life quite at a loss for 
pleasant words or merry laugh with which to cheer up 
his labourers, whom he loved as his friends and equals, 
into whose feelings and thoughts he always knew so 
well how to enter, since he was one of them, placed in 
nowise above them through his wealth. It almost 
broke his heart to see his sturdy lads standing defiant, 
idle, and cursing, so diflferent to the usual, merry light- 
heartedness with which they invariably worked for 
him, and which is the essence of the Hungarian char- 
acter. He had neither the learning, the eloquence, nor 
the conviction of Pater Ambrosius, which perhaps 
might have quieted these superstitious terrors, he 
had only a great fondness for his fellow-men, and this 
he exerted heartily, and with many a: ** Now then, 
Panna, my soul! don't take it to heart,'* and ** Erzsi, 
my pretty one, your father is quite safe. Come! come! 
take my word for it, no harm will come to any one* I 



The Gathering Storm 107 

do not understand the cursed things: but believe me 
the devil has nothing to do with the making of them! 
. . . Why; you all must remember the workmen 
coming from Budapesth to put up the machinery. 
They surely did not look like devils. It is all right 
. • . you will soon get used to seeing many things 
done by machinery, which you used to do with your 
hands. They are harmless enough, I know, and if the 
lord of Bidesktit does not give you all enough wage to 
last you through the winter, why I can always find 
work for those extra hands who do not want to remain 
idle. Now then, all of you, look me straight in the 
face, instead of at that black smoke which is far away. 
Will you do your duty by me, and go back to your 
work? It is the best way I assure you to keep the 
devil from your doors.*' 

There was a long silence, while Kem^ny Andrds 
stood between them, his merry brown eyes gleaming, 
forcing each head, as by the magnetic current of his 
own kind heart, to turn towards those frank eyes of his 
so full of sympathy. 

** We will try, Andrds," said one or two of the men, 
while the women began to wipe away their tears and 
to bend once more to their work. 

The groups gradually dispersed and found their way 
back to their task, whilst Andrds, with a sigh and a 
shake of the head, mounted his mare and rode off to 
some farther field, where he found the same idle groups 
of men and women, the same superstitious terror, the 
same menacing attitude. Till close upon noon he rode 
hither and thither, in spite of the fact that as the sun 
rose higher over his head he could less and less shake 
off a feeling of dark presentiment which against his 
better judgment gradually filled his mind; until at last 



io8 A Son of the People 

he found that instead of upbraiding and cheering the 
superstitious or the discontented he was listening with 
awe and in silence to the various tales of terror or of 
evil his own workpeople were never weary to relate. 
Tired, enervated, and anxious, he rode home at mid- 
day for his meal. The farmhouse of Kisfalu was now 
exceedingly homelike and comfortable. Andr&s had 
built an outhouse to which he had relegated kitchen 
and wash-house, whilst the main little building, with a 
picturesque veranda running round it covered with 
sweet-scented honeysuckle and jessamine, was kept 
entirely for living-rooms. The big sitting-room cut 
the house as it were in half, from the front door, which 
opened on to the veranda, to the two windows opposite, 
which looked out on the immeasurable puszta beyond. 
Prom it right and left opened four rooms, two at each 
side, which were the bedrooms, those on the left being 
newly built, and beautifully papered and painted. 

As Andrds entered, the room was half in darkness, 
the rays of the sun being well-tempered by cool-looking 
green shutters. Close to the window, getting the only 
ray of daylight necessary for her work, sat old Kem^ny 
Etelka at her spinning. Drowsily in the noonday 
heat her bare feet turned the wheel, while in low, soft 
tones she hummed to herself snatches of melancholy 
Hungarian songs. 

There was no beauty about the rugged face now; 
whatever charm of freshness it may have possessed in 
youth was obliterated during the long years of patient 
slavery Btelka had undergone beneath the dreary roof 
of her miserly lord. There were deep lines of humilia- 
tions and sufferings patiently endured round the droop- 
ing mouth, and the eyes looked dull and lustreless from 
many shed and unshed tears. But at the sound of her 



The Gathering Storm 109 

son's heavy tread on the veranda the old face became 
radiant with a happy smile, and seemed suddenly trans- 
figured: the eyes sparkled and the white teeth that 
peeped between the shrivelled lips gave quite a renewed 
look of youth to the melancholy face. 

'^Isten hozta ! [God has brought you] my son,** she 
said, * * you are earlier than I expected. Sdri, Katinka, * * 
she called loudly, ** bring Mfa^gulyds [stew] at once, the 
master is home.'* 

Andrds had entered very dejectedly; he threw his 
hat on one side, then having kissed his mother: 

*' I can do nothing with the fellows, mother, to-day. 
They seem unable to work; hardly is my back turned 
when all eyes stare straight across the puszta to where 
a column of black smoke reminds them of that accursed 
steam-mill. I am thankful you have closed the shut- 
ters so that I can see nothing more of that invention of 
the devil.*' 

** I am glad to hear you call it so, my son," said 
Etelka with a sigh; ** you know what I used to tell you 
about it when first Rosenstein said that my lord was 
going to grind his com with the help of fire and 
smoke." 

" Mother, dear, you are a saint, and as I am sure 
you must have been in heaven some time or other in 
your life you must have learned there that the devil 
does not trouble himself much about our concerns." 

**Ay! but my son, how can you talk like that? 
Pater Ambrosius himself says the devil walks about 
the earth trying to tempt souls to be wicked and to go 
to hell." 

" Yes, mother, but he does not get into engines and 
drive them; the steam does that. I have read about it 
in books. I do not understand the things, and I do not 



no A Son of the People 

think I want to; I am sure my flour last year fetched a 
higher price than any in the country, and if it is every 
year as fine and white as last I shall never want to 
better my farming." 

**And in the meanwhile, Andrds, it is terrible 
to think that my lord's folly drags so many of 
our dear friends at Bideskiit into the clutches of 
Satan/' 

Andrds was about to reply, when his mother placed a 
warning finger on her mouth. The two pretty peasant 
girls came in who did Btelka's household work, two 
little orphan girls who had lost their father and mother 
a few years back in the last cholera epidemic, and whom 
Btelka had brought to Kisfalu, and taught to cook, to 
wash, and to spin. They were bringing in the steam- 
ing gulyds (stew), the roasted potatoes, and baskets of 
melons and peaches for dinner, carrying the heavy 
dishes on their small heads, and supporting them with 
one graceful curved arm, while the other was placed 
akimbo on the hip. 

Andrds jumped up merrily. 

''Eh! mother dear, there is nothing like a good dish 
oi gulyds to make one forget one's troubles; here Sdri, 
my pretty one, give me a kiss and the biggest jug you 
have in your kitchen so that I may go and draw the 
wine; we shall all want plenty to drink, for it is hot 
out in the fields, I can tell you." 

While Andrds went to draw the wine in the brick 
cellar which he had built on the shady side of the 
house, Sdri and Kati spread the substantial fare; on 
the oak table, polished till it shone like a mirror, they 
had placed the savoury stew, the potatoes, and fruit. 
At the head of the table came the mistress's arm-chair 
and next to it the master' s. They themselves had their 



The Gathering Storm 1 1 1 

places at the bottom of the table. While waiting for 
her son, Btelka had distributed the gulyds in heavy 
glazed earthenware plates, and as soon as Andrds came 
back with the jug in his hand, all fell to with spoon 
and knife, while the master poured the wine out in 
mugs for everybody. 

But the meal was not as merry as usual. Both 
Btelka and Andrds were anxious and silent, and the 
two little maids dared not chatter. They felt awed 
and sad, for they had never seen the master so quiet. 
One of them dropped a few tears in her plate; she 
thought something dreadful must have happened. 

When each had finished her mug of wine and, Btelka 
having risen, the plates and dishes were removed, 
Andr&s was able to speak on the subject that was so 
near to his heart. 

** Mother, I have been thinking the last half-hour, 
while eating Hdl^ gulyds, that I am very lazy and good- 
for-nothing not to try and see whether I cannot even at 
this last moment persuade my lord to give up his ob- 
stinate ideas about that cursed mill. I cannot help 
thinking Rosenstein must have been only half-hearted 
when he told my lord for me of all the evils which I 
know will come if he will go on irritating the peasants 
with those new-fangled notions of his." 

** Rosenstein declared that my lord would not listen 
to any talk. He has set his heart on those cursed 
mills." 

She had resumed her spinning, and the drone of the 
wheel made a gentle accompaniment to their talk. 
Andr&s felt enervated, still vaguely anxious; he was 
walking up and down the long narrow room, and every 
now and then, impatiently, he pushed aside the shutters 
and gazed with a deep frown between his brows at the 



112 A Son of the People 

cloud of black smoke which still rose out there, far 
ahead. 

" I wonder if Pater Ambrosius ever spoke about it 
to my lord ? " he mused aloud. 

** The kind Pater would not dare say much, for fear 
of irritating my lord against him, and then he would 
have to leave his church of Arokszdllds where he has 
been over forty years. This would break his heart. 
No! no! *' added the old woman, ** the Pater would not 
dare speak." 

" Well, then, mother, I will dare," said Andrds reso- 
lutely. '' It is not too late, and I am sure I shall find 
the right words in my heart with which to persuade my 
lord of all the unhappiness his folly is causing, all the 
anxiety and the fright. He must be a kind man, he 
will listen to me. After all," he added, throwing his 
head back and standing very erect, " I employ as many 
hands as he does; I have lent him enough money to 
give me the right to speak to him, if I want to. I can 
buy his whole cursed mill from him and then destroy 
it if I choose, and I would do it whatever price he may 
ask for it sooner than see all the men surly and defiant, 
and hear the women cry as I did to-day. Give me 
your blessing, mother; I will ride to Bideskiit at once. 
It is not too late yet to drive the devil to the other side 
of theTarna." 

** God bless you, my son," said Etelka, but she shook 
her head. ** The lord of Bidesktit is a proud man, he 
will not listen to a peasant," she urged. 

** A peasant! who could buy every foot of land he 
owns even after he had lent him the purchase money 
twice over already," retorted Andrds proudly. ** Mother, 
do not discourage me. The lord of Bideskiit owes me 
much; he must be grateful, if he is a man, for the loan 



The Gathering Storm 113 

of my money, which he has almost got as a gift, and 
which keeps him out of the clutches of the Jews. He 
must render me service for service and sell me his fad, 
so that I may destroy it. Send word round to the fields 
that the men can go quietly back to work. To-morrow 
we will begin to pull down that mill of the devil, and 
send the machinery back to hell.'* He was quite 
happy now and his mother heard him singing all the 
way to the stables, and talk merry nonsense to his 
mare as he stroked her sleek neck, and whispered to 
her whither he meant to take her. Two minutes after 
that Btelk^, having raised the shutters, looked out on 
to the plains as her handsome son galloped past, 
swinging his hat in wild delight. She watched him 
until he and his mare were but a mere speck on the 
blue horizon, then she again shook her head, but there 
was a proud look on her face, and a tear of joy in her 
eye as she once more settled down to her spinning. 

8 



CHAPTER XII 

I^RD AND PEASANT 

AndrIs rode gaily and full of hope across the deso- 
late puszta, his mind busy in arranging the best plan 
with which to overthrow my lord's resistance, should 
he prove obstinate in the nursing of his folly. The 
peasant never for a moment supposed that the lord of 
Bideskiit would not immediately see in their right light 
all the evils which were gathering over his head, and 
all the sorrows and haunting terrors his unnecessary 
fads were causing among those who were to a great ex- 
tent dependent upon their lord for wage. He had left 
his own fields behind and to the left, and his mare gal- 
loped across the plain, throwing clouds of dust round 
her as her hoofs fell on the sandy soil. The sun shone 
glaring overhead. The heat was intense, but Andr&s 
felt neither dust nor glare of sun; his eyes were riveted 
on that distant column of smoke, which he hoped to 
smother by the strength of his will, exerted to its fullest 
extent on behalf of his fellow-workers, his servant com- 
rades. Of the lord of Bideskiit he knew nothing. 
When years ago he decided to place the vast wealth 
his father had left him at small interest with my lord, 
a certain shyness, bom of long suppression and loneli- 
ness, had induced him to employ the Jew Rosenstein as 
an intermediary; and as years went on and the trans- 
action continued, the inborn hatred of every Hungarian 

114 



Lord and Peasant 115 

peasant for all money-lending business had kept him 
away from the aristocratic borrower. He longed to 
buy Kisfalu. This was his dream. He was willing 
enough to pay double or treble its value for the hap- 
piness of owning that beloved land. But Rosenstein, 
who made a usurious profit out of trafficking with 
Andrds's money, kept lord and peasant apart; neither 
knew how willing the other would have been to con- 
clude the transaction once for all. The interest, paid 
in kind, Rosenstein collected for, and subsequently 
bought from, Kemdny. The rents of Kisfalu AndrAs 
paid entirely in money, and the noble lord, always in 
want of cash, sent his bailiff every quarter-day for 
the gold. Thus the game of hide-and-seek went on, 
in which Rosenstein was the only winner, the other 
two merely dupes. Andr&s, however, firmly believed 
that though Bidesktity had repeatedly refused to sell 
Kisfalu to a peasant, yet a feeling of gratitude must 
exist in his heart towards that same peasant who was 
willing to keep him out of the Jews* clutches by ex- 
acting but a nominal interest for his money. On that 
feeling of gratitude Andrds meant to rely when form- 
ulating his request: he was willing enough to part 
with more money if he could buy and destroy what 
caused so much sorrow in the village and on the fields. 
Bidesktit lay the other side of the wide plain, and to 
reach the big house, Andr&s had to gallop many miles 
through the lord of Bideskut's property. Here, as in 
Kisfalu, the work in the fields was idle; Andrds could 
see small groups of labourers talking excitedly and 
pointing with menacing fists towards the steam-mill 
dose by on the left. He would not stop to speak to 
them, though many hailed him with a shout. He was 
sick at heart with these terrors he could not alleviate. 



1 1 6 A Son of the People 

He kept to the main road, down the alley of poplars, 
which threw narrow, gaunt shadows across, that looked 
like long arms stretched menacingly towards the mill. 
It was still emitting volumes of smoke through its tall 
chimney, and Andrds was glad that it lay well to the 
left, away from the main road, and that he was not 
obliged to lead Csillag past the dreaded building. 

He wished to keep his spirits up, and talked gaily to 
the mare. A group of a dozen labourers barred the 
way ahead, in front. 

**Hey! friend Andrds! whither so quickly?" they 
shouted from afar. Andrds, perforce, had to slacken 
the mare's speed. 

** Let me pass," he said cheerily, ** I am on my way 
to Bideskiit." 

** Do not go there, Andrds, the devil is at work! '* 

" It is to drive the devil away that I am going." 

** You cannot do it; go back." 

And they all stood in a ring round horse and rider, 
so that Andrds perforce had to stand. 

** Do you see those stacks, Andrds ? " said one of the 
men; ** that wheat is to be threshed and ground into 
flour, all within a day, and never the hand of thresher 
or miller is to touch it." 

It was the eternal story told with blanched cheeks 
and quivering lips. Oh! for wings with which to fly 
to Bideskiit and stop this worship of devil's work be- 
fore it be too late. 

" Let me pass, Miska," said Andrds cheerily, ** we 
will stop the devil and his work." 

" How will you do it, friend ? " 

** That is my secret; let me pass." 

** You can do nothing; and if harm comes to you, 
there will be nobody to look after us in winter, now 



Lord and Peasant 117 

that my lord employs no labour and lets Satan do his 
work.** 

** Hey! leave me alone about Satan,*' said Andrds, 
impatiently. ** I^eave Csillag alone, or she will rear. 
I tell you I am going to stop the devil and his work. 
I give you my word no wheat shall be ground inside 
that mill.** 

"Your word?*' 

"Yes, my wordl There! let Csillag go! God be 
with you all.** 

The men obediently stood aside, and with a merry 
farewell he galloped oflF down the road towards the 
great gates of Bideskdt. The peasants turned awhile 
to look after him; some shook their heads, but all mur- 
mured, ** God be with you, Andrds.** 

At the gates Andrds brought the mare to a standstill. 
He had never ridden up the majestic acacia drive, and 
a certain feeling of awe, born of centuries of peasant 
submission to their lord, made him dismount and start 
to walk up towards the house. Csillag remained out- 
side, waiting patiently for her master, as safe from 
thieves* hands as she would be in her own stables. 
No one could have mounted her against her will except 
her master. She looked about for a shady spot, and 
there she retired, content to wait till he came back. 

Andrds followed the long sweet-scented alley; from 
afar he could hear the sounds of gaiety within the 
castle, loud peals of boisterous laughter, and lively 
czigdny music, shouts oi^^ Eljen! ** and the clinking of 
knives and forks against the china. The long-taught 
deference of the peasant for the noble induced him to 
avoid the main entrance and noble staircase. He 
turned towards the left side of the building from which 
proceeded laughter of no less boisterous kind, together 



ii8 A Son of the People 

with delicious scents of roast meats and fragrant 
fruit. 

Andrds pushed open the wide double doors and 
found himself in the vast kitchen, where two days be- 
fore Rosenstein the Jew had been made to break the 
laws of his religion in order to gratify the whim of a 
spendthrift lord. 

As merry as ever, but busy beyond description, 
the cooks, kitchen-maids, and scullions filled the vast 
kitchen with laughter, chatter, and animation. A un- 
iversal shout of astonishment, but of real joy, greeted 
Andrds as he entered. 

" God has brought you, Andrds! ** shouted Benk6, 
the portly cook. ** Here Zsuzsi, bring a chair, quick! 
No, not that one! the big arm-chair! Panna, wipe the 
table, quickly! Miska, bring that fine piece of lamb! 
Friend Andrds, you will surely honour it by tasting 
it!*' 

And young kitchen-maids and scullions busied them- 
selves round the unexpected guest. He was a stranger 
to these walls, but not indeed to any of their inmates. 
Every peasant in the county knew him, loved him, 
owed him gratitude for some kindness or other, whether 
he were labourer or servant, man or maid. 

" Thank ye! Thank ye, all! " said Andrds, putting 
up his hand, to parry some of the more boisterous wel- 
comes. ** I have not come to eat my lord's meat in his 
kitchen, though all of you are welcome to eat mine at 
my mother's table. To-day I have come to speak with 
my lord." 

** Ah! but I do not think you can do that," said fat 
Benk6, the cook. ** My lord has company, nearly two 
hundred barons and baronesses, counts and countesses 
are dining up there in the great hall. Hey! if you 



Lord and Peasant 119 

could only taste some of the delicious things I have 
dished up for the midday meal! " he sighed with pro- 
fessional pride. 

*' But my lord cannot stay all day at his meal, and 
what I have to say to him is of the greatest importance." 

** If you will wait,'* said Benk6, scratching his head, 
thoughtfully, ** till Jank6 comes down, he can whisper 
in my lord's ear that you would speak with him, 
and then, perhaps — . And here is Jank6," he added, 
as that worthy appeared at the door, ** Jank6, come 
here, this is Kemdny Andrds of Kisfalu. Bow to him, 
Jank6, as you would to my lord. . . . And now 
listen, Jank6, Andrds wishes to speak to my lord." 

" His lordship does not like being interrupted at 
dinner," said Jank6, thoughtfully scratching his head. 

" lyook here," says Andrds impatiently, ** you are 
all very good and kind fellows, but there is a little too 
much talking. I am in a hurry. Go up, Jank6, 
there 's a good man, and whisper in my lord's ear that 
Kemdny Andrds, from Kisfalu, wishes to speak with 
him at once." 

** He will reply," said Jank6 meekly, ** that Kemdny 
Andrds may go to the devil." 

** No! he will not say that, Jank6," said Andrds, 
quietly; " but if he does, tell him that it is a matter 
which may cost him very dearly, if he does not hear it 
in good time." 

It was a curious thing that every one always did 
exactly what Kemeny Andrds wanted. There was a 
great deal of familiarity between him and every peasant 
for leagues around. His wealth he did not in any way 
consider as having placed him above his equals, but he 
had learned to command, because his will was strong 
and self-centred, and having in his early youth learned 



1 20 A Son of the People 

implicit obedience he knew how to enforce it, now that 
he was his own master. Jank6 went off shaking his 
head dubiously. 

Silence had fallen on the inmates of the kitchen. 
Perhaps they felt that they had been a little too familiar 
with the rich farmer who came to speak with my lord. 
Panna shyly had dusted the big arm-chair, and stood 
irresolute as to whether she should draw it near the 
table. Benk6 had sent the scullions flying in every 
direction, and had respectfully placed a bottle of wine 
and a glass on the table. 

** Won't you honour us all, Andrds, by drinking 
this wine?" 

** Hey! with the greatest pleasure, Benk6, my good 
fellow! If it was your wine, I tell you I should drink 
that bottle full, and ask for more. But till I know if 
his lordship is friend or foe, I will not drink his wine. 
Panna my soul, give up dusting that chair, it is almost 
as smoothly polished as your own pretty cheeks. No! 
I will not drink the wine of Bideskiit, but I tell you 
what! I will kiss all its pretty girls.'* 

And laughing Kem^ny Andrds took each pretty 
kitchen-maid by the waist and since they did not 
struggle very hard, he soon had made each one as pink 
as a peony. This restored merriment all round. 
Kemdny Andrds was not proud! Long live Kemdny 
Andrds ! When Jank6 came back with the astonishing 
announcement that my lord would see Kemdny Andrds 
in his smoking-room, he found the latter sitting, all 
smiles, in the big arm-chair, with a dozen pretty faces 
beaming at him from every side of the kitchen. 

To reach my lord's smoking-room Jank6 had to lead 
Andrds up the great staircase and across one end of the 
main hall, where the noble lord of Bideskiit was exer- 



Lord and Peasant 121 

cising his boundless hospitality towards his aristocratic 
guests. Andrds as he hurried through behind the 
czigdny, so as to pass unperceived, caught a sudden 
fitful vision of bright-coloured dresses, pretty faces, and 
gay uniforms that reminded him of the tangled bit of 
garden where roses and lilies grew wild, and which his 
mother tended, outside the house at Kisfalu. 

Jank6 left him alone in the smoking-room, and 
Kem^ny Andrds looked round him, astonished at what 
seemed to him visions of beauty and luxury of which 
he had never dreamed. He thought of his own little 
low-roofed sitting-room, where his mother sat spinning 
all the day, so diflferent to this place, which, simple as 
it was, surpassed any ideas he may ever have had of 
gorgeousness and elegance. 

How long he stood waiting, planted there where 
Jank6 had left him, he could not have said. Dreamily 
he gazed out on to the park with its standard rose trees 
and many-coloured glass balls, which glittered in the 
sun, and his ears were agreeably tickled by the merry 
peals of laughter from the big hall; one or two high 
silvery tones struck him now and then as the prettiest 
tune he had ever heard. He looked at all this luxury, 
and wondered how a man could wilfully risk losing all 
that, for the sake of a cursed fad, how he could risk 
being forced to leave this gorgeous house, those rose- 
bushes, and the sight of those gaily-decked butterflies, 
who laughed so merrily in the great hall. Any man 
owning all these things, calling the land on which he 
stood his, was a fool to jeopardise an inch of it for the 
sake of a wicked caprice. . . . 

The opening and shutting of a door, and a very 
stiff: 

* * God has brought you, * * interrupted Andrds's medi- 



122 A Son of the People 

tations, and forced him to turn round to where stood 
the lord of Bidesktit. He saw a merry, kindly face, a 
little haughty perhaps, but still — . Andrds gazed rue- 
fully at his own peasant attire, his hard brown hands, 
his leather belt, and shirt-sleeves, and understood how 
my lord would feel that there was, in spite of money 
affairs, still a wide difference between them. 

" Well, what is it ? " asked Bidesktity Gyuri, as he 
sat down and took one of his long pipes from the rack. 
He did not ask Andrds to sit or to smoke, and while he 
filled his pipe he looked with a great deal of curiosity 
at the handsome young peasant whose riches were re- 
ported to be fabulous. Though he had often seen him 
in the village or in the fields he never had had an op- 
portunity of standing face to face with him, or of talk- 
ing to him. 

Andrds had lost any latent shyness. He had frowned 
a little when he saw that my lord sat down and left him 
to stand like one of his servants. However, he knew 
that he must be patient if he wished to be listened to at 
all, and quite quietly he drew a chair towards him, and 
also sat down. 

** What I have to say,** he began resolutely, ** will 
not take long. I know your lordship is kept very 
much in ignorance of many things that happen on 
your property.*' 

** Surely you have not come all the way firom Kisfalu 
to tell me of those things which I do not know?** 
laughed Bideskiity. 

** I beg pardon, most noble lord,** said Andrds. ** It 
would save time if your lordship would let me tell you 
my errand without interrupting me. One of the things 
your lordship does not know is, that there is at 
the present moment terrible dissatisfaction for leagues 



Lord and Peasant 123 

around in the village and on the fields. The peasantry 
are fiightened. They do not understand things very 
clearly, and nobody has been at much pains to explain 
anything to them. To-day they are in a very dejected, 
terror-stricken mood, to-morrow, who knows ? they 
might get infuriated, and it is not good to irritate a 
lowland peasant too far. He is like the puszta, smooth 
and at peace as a calm lake; but once let the winds 
from heaven stir it up, and banks of sand which were 
harmless enough rise like columns towards the sky, 
and woe betide then, if anything happen to stand in 
its way. Higher and higher the sand will rise, lashed 
by the fury of the wind, and when it can rise no more, 
it will sink crashing to the ground, burying beneath it 
all human life that has tried to stand up and oppose it 
in its wrath." 

** You talk like a book, my friend," said my lord, 
smiling, and puffing away at his pipe, *^ but you talked 
of saving time, and I do not yet know the purpose of 
your errand." 

** I have come to plead for the poor, the ignorant, on 
your lordship's estate. There are hundreds there who 
for generations have worked God's bountiful earth for 
you and your forefathers, sowing and reaping, threshing 
and grinding the fine corn and flour, which is famed 
throughout the world. They have toiled and you have 
earned; but they are content; they want to go on 
serving you, my lord; they are willing to take wage 
from you, and remain poor but free from want, almost 
slaves but happy on our beautiful lowland, on which 
God has sent a special blessing." 

" That is very good of them, I am sure, my friend, 
and I certainly have no intention of getting labourers 
to work for me from a neighbouring county. I shall 



124 A Son of the People 

not want as many hands at the mills, as I did, for, I am 
thankful to say, my steam-mill is ready, and " 

** Forgive me, my lord, if I interrupt. It is that mill 
which is causing so much trouble. Remember, we are 
not all so clever as your lordship; we do not understand 
all the means by which fire and iron can be made to do 
the work of our hands. It has raised great fears in the 
minds of the women, the men themselves, though they 
will not admit their terror, curse under their breath the 
contrivance which will take the bread out of their 
mouth for want of sufficient wage.'* 

** But, my good man, I have spent thousands on that 
mill. Surely you are not fool enough to suppose that I 
am going to give up the work of years, because a lot 
of superstitious old women have talked you all into 
some devilish nonsense.'* 

" No, not because of that,*' said Andrds, earnestly, 
** I do not think your lordship will give up all that 
work for the sake of some nonsense. But I do firmly 
believe that you will do it in order to save all the poor 
people on your estate from further sorrow and anxiety.*' 

** My worthy fellow, I have said before you talk like 
a book. But there is much nonsense written in books 
sometimes. Did you not hear me say, that my steam- 
mill, which you all will presently be grateful for on 
your knees, has.cost me a quarter of a million ? — do you 
think I am likely to throw that money away ? '* 

** No, your lordship need not do that," said Andrds, 
eagerly; ** the mill has cost a quarter of a nSiUion ? well, 
I will buy it from you if you will name what money 
you like; three, four hundred thousand florins.** 

** Oh! that 's it, is it ? " said Bidesk6ty sarcastically, 
**you take me for a bigger fool than yourself, my friend. 
You want to buy the mill, do you ? and work it at your 



Lord and Peasant 125 

own profit! Oho ! not a bad idea ! and this pretty story 
of anxious mothers, infuriated peasants, and storms on 
the puszta, was very clever no doubt. But remain as- 
sured, my friend, the mill is not for sale/' 

** Your lordship thinks it sport to laugh at a peas- 
ant," said Andrds, imperturbably, **but your honour 
is deceived: I offer to buy the mill, and when you have 
agreed to sell it I will destroy it/' 

'* Destroy the mill!'' 

" Ay! all my labourers, who now stand about idly 
letting the corn fall to earth for want of mowing, will 
only be too happy to dig their pickaxes into the hated 
building, and my quarter of a million will have been 
well spent in seeing them all cheerfully at work 
again." 

** But man, are you made of money ? " gasped Bide- 
skiity, forgetting for a moment the point at issue in his 
admiration for the wealth that was unconsciously 
flaunted before him. 

' * My father saved all his life: he was a clever worker, 
and he left me plenty," said Andrds, proudly; '* your 
lordship knows that I have enough." 

** How should I know? I hear many rumours, and 
you live in that tumble-down old farm at Kisfalu." 

** My mother loves the house, since I was born there, 
and I love it, because she dwells in it. I do not have 
a hundred guests at my table, but I would spend all 
the money I'have to see the county of Heves beaming 
with smiles." 

** Insolence! " said Bideskiity, frowning, ** are you 
tr3dng to preach to me ? " 

** Forgive me, my lord, I have no wish to be pre- 
sumptuous. See! I have brought money with me. 
Plenty of it," he added, tapping his ponderous leather 



1 26 A Son of the People 

belt; ** will your lordship name the price, and let me 
bury my pickaxe in the very top of that tall chimney ? * ' 

** I tell you, fellow, you are a fool. Ay! and a knave, 
trying to trick me to further your own ends; I tell you 
if any one is to make money out of that mill, I will. I 
will not sell it, not if you were to lay out this floor with 
your Jewish gold, which you had better use for other 
Jewish tricks. For this one I am too sharp for you.'* 

**Most noble lord! you do not understand! Oh, 
God! teach me how to explain to him. The peasants 
are enraged. They will do themselves or you some 
terrible injury. Your honour! remember for God's 
sake your own mother, your wife. The peasants think 
the devil drives the machinery, they are in terror now, 
they will be furious presently, and great, great harm 
will come of it." 

** What harm comes of it will be of your own mak- 
ing, impudent peasant!" said Bideskiity, enraged, ris- 
ing to his feet. ** Come now, I have had enough of this. 
Get out of my house, I tell you! I will not sell my 
mill. Is that enough ? " 

Andrds had become very pale; he too had risen to 
his feet, and he buried his finger-nails in his palms, to 
force himself, by sheer physical pain, not to retort with 
angry words, but for the sake of his friends and com- 
rades to try, by patient and moderate talk, to break this 
man's obstinacy. 

** My lord! in God's name listen. The poor fellows 
are all standing about in the fields, the women whose 
sons, fathers, brothers are employed on the mill are 
terrified of the evil that will come to them; they moan 
and sob fit to break a strong man's heart. If by any 
chance — such things do happen — any accident should 
occur to one of them, oh, then think! how will you 



Lord and Peasant 127 

pacify them ? Infuriated, they will look upon you as a 
murderer. They love me, they listen to me; though I 
am rich, I have remained one of them, but even I could 
not stop them from turning their wrath against you. 
Remember you have wife and child, they might come 
to harm; you never know where an ignorant man or 
woman's revenge will stop." 

**And I tell you, insolent peasant, that if harm 
comes to me or mine, that your own hands will have 
guided the blow, your lying tongue incited the deed. 
I can read through your low, miserly peasant nature, 
ready for any lie to gain your own ends " 

** Hold on, your honour,'* said Andrds, still con- 
taining himself; **Icame here in all deference, with 
patience and kindness. For the sake of my comrades 
I would bear much, but your lordship is forgetting 
your own dignity and mine. I have in all money 
transactions dealt liberally and squarely with you, 
and " 



(( 



You have paid your rents punctually, for I should 
turn you out of the farm pretty soon if you did 
not.'* 

** But that is not all.'' 

** How do you mean not all ? What not all ? ' 

** Your lordship seems ready to forget that the inso- 
lent peasant's purse has kept you out of the clutches 
of the Jews for the past five years." 

** Your purse? Are you in league with that blood- 
sucking Rosenstein then ? " 

** Your lordship surely knows that the money you 
spend so freely originally came out of my purse — the 
papers " 

** Hey! what do I care about papers! How could I 
guess that for once in a lifetime the lew's tale of some 



128 A Son of the People 

other person who lends the money happened to be true ? 
Well, what matter ? Your beastly Jewish usury does 
not give you the right to interfere with my concerns, I 
pay you your interest, don't I ? *' 

Bidesktity was beside himself with fury. His other- 
wise good-looking face was distorted with passion. 
Andrds was still apparently calm, though very pale, 
the veins on his forehead swollen like cords. He tried 
to remain patient with this raving lunatic, forcing him- 
self to think that in his hands rested the hopes of the 
poor fellows out there in the fields who were still watch- 
ing the clouds of black smoke darkening the horizon 
of their beloved plains. 

** Your honour is trying to misunderstand," he said 
quietly; ** it is not my place, I own, to interfere in your 
lordship's affairs. I do not wish to interfere. I came 
here with a fair offer, because for the past month I have 
seen the dissatisfaction, the terrors of your peasantry 
grow, as you placed brick upon brick of that unfortu- 
nate structure. I did not expect your lordship to waste 
all the money you have spent upon it, therefore I came 
with a fair offer to buy the building and machinery so 
as to have the right to destroy it. If your lordship 
suspects my honesty, I am willing to leave the money 
here, if you will give me your word of honour that the 
mill shall be pulled down." 

And Andrds drew from his belt a heavy bag which 
jingled with the sound of gold and notes, and placed it 
on the table. 

"Ay!" roared Bideskuty, losing the last lingering 
vestige of self-control, for the attack on his beloved fad 
had exasperated him beyond measure, **Ay! you want 
to lend me more of your accursed money, do you? to 
enrich yourself more and more at my expense, to ex- 



Lord and Peasant 129 

tract more and more blood from me. I looked down 
upon you as an impudent, low-bom peasant before, son 
or grandson of a liberated serf, whose female kind, a 
generation or two ago had to pay toll with their bodies 
to their lord before their husbands could claim them 
as their own. But now, Kem6ny Andrds, you, by your 
own words have shown yourself to be but a dirty Jew 
out of the gutter. I have heard that you all descend 
from some bastard born of a Jewish waif. Ay! I see 
you in your true light. There! take back your money, 
I have no need of it; it would sully my valet's hand if 
he should happen to touch it." 

And with his eyes aglow with rage, cheeks purple, 
lips quivering, the lord of Bideskdt picked up the 
heavy bag of gold, and threw it violently in Kem6ny 
Andrds's face. 

The proud peasant, who had stood Bidesktity's in- 
sults up to the last moment, with the determination not 
to yield an inch, and not to leave the house till he had 
succeeded in his mission, turned absolutely livid. The 
heavy bag had grazed his forehead, leaving an ugly 
red mark across it, from which two or three drops of 
blood began slowly to trickle. For a moment the blow 
had stunned him, but the next he had turned on 
Bideskiity as some caged lion suddenly let free, his 
cheeks were deathly pale, but his eyes literally blazed 
with pent-up rage, and his muscular arm was lifted 
high, menacing above, ready to chastise his arrogant 
lord for every insult uttered, ready to exact his life for 
the last deadly blow. 

Bidesktity came from a race that in spite — ^perhaps 
because — of its want of education, its semi-barbarous- 
ness, its love of gross material pleasures, had never 
known fear. He realised, by the look on Andr&s's face. 



130 ' A Son of the People 

that he had gone too far ; and at the same moment also 
saw how completely he, past the prime of life, was at 
the mercy of this young son of the soil, to whom the 
heaped-up insults would give superhuman strength. 
His anger cooled in an instant, his cheek turned pale, 
but he never for a moment thought of calling for help. 
Thus for one second only they stood face to face, the ar- 
rogant noble and the deeply wounded peasant, Andris's 
hand raised ready to strike what might have been a 
death-blow. Suddenly a merry laugh outside seemed 
to paralyse his arm. Still holding it aloft, he was now 
gazing bewildered, fascinated, at the door, which had 
been noisily thrown open, and at a vision all in white, 
with bows of something soft and blue, and crowned 
with an aureole of golden curls, from under which 
peeped, half-frightened, a pair of eyes like forget-me- 
nots. What was it ? A bird escaped from its cage ? or 
one of those fairies who, according to the tales his 
mother used to tell him long ago, dwelt inside the 
petals of the roses, or within the sweet-scented corolla 
of the violet ? 

But the bird sang, the fairy spoke, simple words: 
but they seemed to Andrds the sweetest music mortal 
ears had ever heard. 

**Papa, may we have a carriage, to drive down and 
see the new fishes in the lake? — Why, papa dear,*' 
added the snow-white vision, **how pale you are ! Are 
you ill?" 

Andrds's hand had dropped numb by his side. His 
entranced gaze followed the flower-like vision, as it 
passed close to him, to throw a pair of lovely arms, so 
childlike, yet so protecting, round his enemy's neck. 

Bideskdty was not a young man; the strain of the 
last few moments was heavy for him to bear, and, ex- 



Lord and Peasant 131 

hausted, dazed, he sank in a chair. Ilonka had knelt 
by his side, and, with pretty endearing ways, was 
stroking the matted hair from his forehead. Andrds 
gazed on; he could not see her face for her back was 
turned towards him, but he could see her soft white 
neck, peeping from out the folds of her gown, and 
there were one or two golden curls just above that 
made him think of some earthly paradise. She had 
not vouchsafed another look to the peasant, who, she 
vaguely guessed, had been tiresome, and had angered 
''papa." 

Mechanically he passed his hand across his forehead, 
from which two or three drops of blood still trickled 
slowly down his pale cheek; he stooped and picked up 
the bag of gold, and.fastened it inside his belt; then he 
looked once more at the golden vision, drank in every 
line of that graceful, girlish figure,as if he wished never 
to part from dreams of her again: it was a long, lin- 
gering look, so ardent, so magnetic, that Ilonka must, 
somehow, have felt it, for she turned half shyly round, 
and her tender, forget-me-not eyes met Andrds's burn- 
ing gaze. 

The next moment he had left the room, the castle, 
had crossed the shady acacia drive, and, calling to 
Csillag, he jumped upon her back, and without look- 
ing round again, had galloped away across the ptiszia. 



CHAPTER XIII 



VENGEANCE 



AndrAs would not allow himself to think, would not 
allow his mind to revert, even for one instant, to the 
last awful moments he had just gone through. The 
sun still shone fiercely, though it was beginning to 
sink low down in the west, and the wound on his fore- 
head burned at times like the newly made brand-mark 
on the convict's back, the badge of shame. He avoided 
the main roads and the fields, dreading to meet the 
comrades who must be waiting anxiously for the ful- 
filment of his promise to them, not daring to tell them 
how he had failed in his trust, how he had allowed his 
own pride and then a pair of forget-me-not eyes to 
force him to quit the battle-field, to turn his back on the 
enemy before the victory was won. 

On he spurred Csillag across the desolate plain, and 
her hoofs, as she thundered past, roused the rooks from 
their evening rest, and the drowsy little lizards from 
their sleep. As he neared Kisfalu, from every field 
shouts hailed him, but he heeded them not, and never 
stopped Csillag in her wild career till she reached her 
own stable door foaming and panting. 

With the same tender care as usual, Andr&s began 

grooming the lovely creature, wiping the foam from 

her quivering haunches, stroking her ears, and patting 

her neck. It seemed as if Csillag understood the bitter 

132. 



Vengeance 133 

thoughts which swelled her master's heart to bursting, 
and felt that a kindly feeling of sympathy would per- 
haps ease this overburdened heart. Gently she rubbed 
her sleek nose against his hand, asking for a caress, 
some fondling in return. Her great eyes looked so 
affectionately, so sorrowfully at Andr4s, that his 
wounded heart at last eased itself in a passionate out- 
burst of tears. No one saw him, there was no one 
who could ever record having seen this sturdy, power- 
ful man for once in his life under the spell of an emotion 
which completely overmastered him. That one act of 
weakness seemed to take the bitterness from out the 
wound. His head resting against the mare's sleek 
neck, he cried as he used to do at his mother's knee, 
when the stem father's blows had been more than the 
child could bear; great sobs shook his powerful frame, 
and one of his hands was placed across the mare's eyes, 
lest she should see the stigma of shame that burned 
unavenged upon his forehead. 

When a quarter of an hour later he went into the 
house to kiss his mother, there was no trace of tears 
in his eyes, not a vestige of the torrent of emotion 
which had, for a brief moment, threatened to crush this 
passionate native of the Hungarian soil. But Ktelka's 
keen eyes noted at once the look of dejection on his 
face, and she shook her head sadly, for she understood 
that her son had failed. 

** Mother," said Andrds, taking a sheet of paper from 
his breast pocket, and spreading it out on the table be- 
fore him, "will you put aside your spinning and listen 
to this a moment ? I want your advice." 

Obediently, Etelka pushed the spindle aside, and, 
folding her hands before her, prepared to listen. The 
rays of the now rapidly setting sun found their way 



134 A Son of the People 

through the small windows, throwing a halo of light 
round the old peasant woman. She was accustomed 
to being consulted by her son about all his business. 
Though she invariably approved of what he had done/ 
he was not happy until she had said that she was 
satisfied. 

*' You remember, mother, all three documents which 
I hold from my lord, about the money I have lent him, 
and about the interest ? " 

**Yes, my boy, I remember them all.'* 

**I want to xead them over to you, mother, and I 
want you to weigh again very carefully in your mind 
if there is anything unfair in the dealings.'* 

** I know there was nothing unfair in them, Andrds, 
and the interest was very low, too low, in fact, I 
thought." 

**Ah, but mother, this is important," said Andr&s 
earnestly,** it is a matter of life and death to me. You 
must listen to every word, as if you had never heard 
them before." 

** I am listening, Andrds." 

** One of these papers is now five years old, mother; 
it is dated in April, 1855. It says: * I owe you 300,000 
florins in gold; for this, until I repay you in full, I will 
pay you interest every year, one hundred head of cattle, 
of which there will be ten bulls and ninety cows, and 
five thousand measures of wheat. If in any year I fail 
to pay you this interest, and on your then demanding 
the repayment of the principal, I am unable to give it 
to you, then the farmhouse of Kisfalu and all the fields, 
vineyards, and buildings from the I^Adasdy puszta to the 
town of B61a, and from the banks of the Tama to the 
high-road opposite, shall belong to you absolutely and 
you will then have no further daim on the 300,000 



Vengeance 135 

florins you have lent me.' This is signed Bideskdty 
Gyuri, and below is Rosenstein's name as witness. 
There is the stamp on it which the government de- 
mands and for which I paid." 

Andrds paused and looked anxiously at his mother. 

** I remember," she said, *' you wanted to increase 
your herd of cows; it is reasonable, my son, quite fair: 
for each cow which you sold for money to Rosenstein 
afterwards you had from 150 to 200 florins. It is not 
only fair, my son, it is generous." 

** The second paper, mother, is for 300,000 florins, 
and it says: * I will pay you five thousand measures of 
wheat, twelve thousand measures of maize, and one 
hundred head of sheep, of which five shall be rams, 
and if I fail to pay the interest in any one year, 
and, on your demanding it, also fail to repay you the 
principal, then my fields, vineyards, and dependencies 
of Bidesktit, and all buildings save the house I live in 
and the adjoining stables, shall become yours abso- 
lutely.' This paper is dated three years later, and is 
signed like the other." 

** That is as generous as you could allow it, Andrds. 
You know the Jews would exact ten times that amount, 
and more." 

" The third paper, mother, "continued Andrds,''was 
signed two days ago: it is for 250,000 florins, for which 
my lord has promised me in writing, five thousand 
measures of wheat, and forty head of cattle, and for 
which he has given me Zdrda as security, on the same 
conditions as the others." 

'' He is a spendthrift, and improvident man," said 
the old woman, shaking her head; '' if he had borrowed 
all that money from the Jews, he would by now be a 
ruined man." 



1 36 A Son of the People 

** You do finnly believe, mother," repeated Andrds 
earnestly, ** that I am doing no deed of usury, which 
would cause you to blush for your son ? " 

" Yes, Andrds, I firmly believe that." 

'* Will you swear it, mother, on the crucifix? " 

He detached a rough wooden image of the Saviour 
of mankind firom the whitewashed wall, and with 
trembling hand held it dose to his mother's lips. 

" I swear it by our Lord Jesus Christ," she said, 
reverently kissing the dumb piece of wood. A deep 
sigh of relief escaped Andr&s's oppressed chest; he 
placed the crucifix back in its place, then drew a chair 
dose to his mother's knee. 

The old woman did not quite understand what her 
son was driving at, but her motherly heart fdt that he 
was in some trouble, and she was content to ask 
nothing, only to try and soothe her boy now, as she 
had done ever since he was a wee lad, and had come to 
her, after his stem father's bufietings, for comfort. 
Gently she stroked the hair away from his forehead. 

* * Andrds, ' ' she asked, * * where did you get this blow ?' ' 

** The lord of Bideskdt dealt it, mother ! " he said 
impetuously, "and it has remained unavenged." 

** My lord struck you, Andrds? " 

** Yes, mother, and I was coward enough not to re- 
turn the blow." 

** Tell me, Andrds, I am anxious, I do not under- 
stand." 

And Andrds tried to tell her from beginning to end 
his fruitless interview with the noble lord; he told her 
how he had explained at first, begged from that man, 
who was even then making merry with a hundred 
guests, to have some pity for the weak, the ignorant 
and unhappy. He told her of the noble lord's arro- 



Vengeance 137 

gance, his insults, his blows. It was such a relief to 
tell her all. The mother's heart, ignorant, uneducated 
as she was, understood and sympathised, knew how to 
soothe and to make him forget. He told her all, of 
how a girlish arm had placed itself protectingly round 
her father's neck, making numb his own, which had 
been raised ready to return blow for blow. But what 
he did not tell, not even to the gentle consoler, the 
fond, indulgent mother, was that, since that moment, a 
fairy vision, crowned with golden curls, always danced 
before his gaze, making fun of him, with smiling for- 
get-me-not eyes; that he had galloped across the plain 
to try and leave that vision behind, but that she fol- 
lowed him, even to this simple farmhouse, which sud- 
denly had begun to Andrds to look so bare, so poor, 
so unworthy even to hold the flitting vision of an aris- 
tocratic girl. What he did not tell was that suddenly 
his peasant clothes seemed rough and dirty, his hands 
hard and brown, his step heavy, that he would have 
longed to stretch out his arm and grasp the en- 
chanting vision, but felt how rough he was, how 
far, very far, away beneath it, and that his arms 
then dropped down numb by his side, and great tears 
of shame and envy trickled slowly down his 
cheeks. 

The mother, though dimly guessing that something 
else was weighing heavily on her son's soul besides 
the insult and the blow, yet found in her heart plenty 
of love with which to make him forget all save the 
happiness of home, the joys of sitting at his mother*s 
knee. The sun had quite sunk down, far out in the 
west; great dark shadows collected in the comers 
of the room. Sdri and Kati brought in the candles, 
and the evening meal. But it was eaten in silence ; 



1 38 A Son of the People 

mother and son felt weighted with the presentiment 
of coming evil. 

The meal was cleared away. Andrds had asked that 
the candles might be taken away; he longed to sit 
quietly in the dark, dose to his mother, her fond, 
sympathising hand resting on his burning forehead, 
so as to chase away the devils of hatred and revenge 
which ran riot in his brain. He longed for peace and 
darkness too because he wanted to indulge in the nurs- 
ing of a certain fairy vision, which in broad, prosy 
light, his own common-sense told him to chase away, 
but which in the gloom, became akin to a dream, from 
which the awaking, perhaps, would not be so bitter. 

How long mother and son sat there, in the dark, 
they hardly knew; the flight of evening hours is not 
counted on this spot of earth where clocks are rare. 

Htelka, who had no flitting visions on which to dwell, 
had closed her eyes, and her quiet breathing made a 
soothing accompaniment to Andrds' s wakeful dreams. 
Suddenly it seemed as if a curious light were discernible 
through the open casement, out beyond the desolate 
plain, on the horizon far away. Andrds had sprung 
to his feet, and gazed out, not understanding at first 
the lurid light which gradually illumined the sky. A 
hurried, anxious knock at the outer door had also 
aroused Btelka, and the two little maids had run in, 
looking very frightened. Every mind, even the sim- 
plest, had been on tension the whole day, and when 
Sdri and Kati had first noticed the curious light which 
came from neither moon nor sun, they rushed, terror- 
stricken, to their master for comfort and explanation. 

But Andrds had become very pale, and Btelka now 
was gazing out, horrified, her cheeks blanched with fear. 

"Fire!" she whispered, awe-struck, under her breath. 



Vengeance 139 

** Yes ! it is fire, mother, fire, on the Bideskdt estate. 
The maize fields lie just there,** replied Andrds, 
*'and there has been no rain for two weeks; the fields 
will burn like hay." 

** The fire seems to come from two or three different 
pK>ints. It is God's judgment on my lord," said 
Ktelka, superstitiously crossing herself. 

** Mother, I am going to see if I can be of any help; 
let Sdri and Kati run out and send any of our fellows 
they may meet, as fast as they can. Here are the keys 
of the stables; they must choose the fastest horses, and 
follow at once. And you, mother dear, while I am 
gone,*' he added, solemnly, "kneel down before your 
crucifix, and pray to God that He may stay His ven- 
geance from tiie heads of those who have planned this 
murderous deed.** 

And hastily kissing his mother, Andrds was once 
more at the stable and soon had started off to ride to- 
wards Bideskdt. 

Far out ahead, the deep, red light had spread right 
across the horizon. Through the absolute silence of 
the night, across the vast immensity of the plain, could 
be heard weird, terrified cries from afar: the frightened 
lowing of cattle, the bleating of frightened sheep, the 
cries of the juhdsz (shepherds) as they endeavoured to 
drive their herds for safety on to the bleak and arid 
plain. 

Faster and faster the red light spread, and, as An- 
drds galloped on, herds of wild horses thundered past 
him, terrified, their manes flying, their tails lashing 
out furiously. 

Already he could see the flames, spreading with ter- 
rible rapidity across the fields, where he knew the com 
lay, stacked, the most helpless prey to the fury of the 



I40 A Son of the People 

flames. The plain, usually so silent and peaceful at 
night, under the blue vault of heaven, beneath the 
glittering stars, was now alive with terror-stricken 
cries, which seemed to rise from everywhere. A slight 
summer breeze fanned the flames, and spread them 
eastwards over rich maize fields, wooden sheds, and 
even stables. Andrds galloped on, his heart full of 
dark foreboding, gazing at the fire kindled by God's 
hands, his mother had said, to punish the arrogant 
lord. 



CHAPTER XIV 



CAXAMITY 



BideskCty had had a severe shock in his interview 
with his wealthy tenant, and it took him some little 
time to resume his cordial bonhomie^ and to restore his 
animal spirits to their usual elasticity. A feeling he 
could not have explained had deterred him from relat- 
ing the particulars of the interview to his guests, and 
thus finding solace to his wrath, by listening to their 
violent abuse of the meddlesome and insolent peasant. 

Somehow Bidesktity was not altogether satisfied with 
himself. He felt just a little ashamed of his unwar- 
rantable hastiness towards this man, whom it would 
have been decidedly in his interest to conciliate, and 
win over to the side of his pet hobbies. Kemeny An- 
dres's prestige among the peasantry he knew to be 
boundless, and a little in spite of himself he was 
forced to admit that he could well understand the 
handsome young peasant's cheering influence. Surely 
he was a fool not to have made an ally of this man, 
instead of, by insults and a blow, making a bitter and 
deadly enemy of him. Never for a moment did he 
regret not having sold him the mill: he was firmly 
convinced that the peasant's motives in wishing to buy 
it were not as disinterested as he stated them to be. 
But now that he knew that the money of which he 
always was in need really came from the peasant's 

141 



142 A Son of the People 

purse, he regretted not having concluded some amic- 
able treaty, by which he might have persuaded An- 
dris not to charge such usurious interest on his capital 
as that blood-sucking intermediary of his, Rosenstein, 
demanded. By making a mortal enemy of his credi- 
tor, Bideskdty foresaw every kind of hostility to which 
he might in future be subjected, and probably the find- 
ing of the purse strings tightly closed, when next he 
would require a loan. 

Most of the afternoon Bideskdty had sat silent, and 
decidedly sulky, apart from his guests, and seeking 
consolation for his ruffled temper in the soothing 
clouds he drew from his cherry-wood pipe. As for 
Ilonka, she was much too childish to understand the 
terrible situation which her sudden entrance had inter- 
rupted. She little guessed that it was her own uncon- 
scious beauty which had averted from her father's head 
what might haveproved a death-blow, and from a man*s 
soul what would have been lifelong remorse. She had 
only caught sight of a tall, broad-shouldered figure of 
a peasant who, evidently, had much angered papa, and 
who had looked at her in a way that she could not 
quite understand, and certainly had not the power to 
analyse. But all this she had forgotten by the time 
the evening shadows had rendered the garden cool; 
like her mother's curtain lecture of the night before, 
she had thrown off every unpleasant sensation in order 
to enjoy the present as she found it. 

She and all her younger guests had devised, for the 
night's entertainment, an absolutely novel form of en- 
joyment. Topsy-turvy dom was called to assist in 
making the walls of Bidesktit ring with laughter that 
shook them to their foundations, and made stem Attila 
totter on his pedestal. Truly it was a motley throng 



Calamity 143 

which filed up the great stone staircase and through 
the vast halls of the old mansion. Pretty, laughing 
faces peeped above male attire, while bearded faces 
looked irresistibly comic from beneath feminine head- 
gear. The order was that all the girls should appear 
in men's clothes, and all the men in what articles of 
feminine attire they could manage to borrow. 

The lumber room had been ransacked, where genera- 
tions of Bidesktitys had stored away apparel which 
had become too antiquated to wear, and in great oak 
chests, dainty, high-waisted dresses of the beginning of 
last century, and rich brocades and hooped skirts of 
grandmother's days, were found in gorgeous plenty. 
Grandfather's brass-buttoned coats, with high stock 
collar and sugar-loaf hat, and g^eat-grandfather's gor- 
geously embroidered plum-silk coat, with satin knee- 
breeches, and red-heeled shoes, were there, laid in 
strong black tobacco to keep away the moth. 

And, laughingly, the madcap, juvenile throng had 
arrayed itself in these relics of past days. Ilonka had 
borrowed her father's national costume: the blue 
watered-silk "attila" (a military-shaped frock-coat) 
with jewelled clasps, the black velvet doak with sable 
collar and jewel buttons, the grey Hungarian breeches, 
the great curved sword with heavy jewelled hilt, belt, 
and sheath. She looked bewitching, with a cap set 
rakishly on one side, its long heron's feather held with 
a. jewelled dasp. There surely never had been a more 
fascinating Hungarian magnate. Against that, her 
partner, Maddch Peri, whose sentimental love for the 
pretty girl never damped his spirit of fun and merri- 
ment, looked irresistibly comic, in Countess Irma's 
national ''pdrta," a tiara-shaped head-dress of gold 
lace tied at the nape of the neck« with a large bow and 



144 A Son of the People 

long ends; the tight-fitting corselet with its jewelled 
clasps would not dose over his manly waist, and 
showed a sad breach in front, filled with the billowy 
softness of the muslin shift, beneath the puffy sleeves of 
which his brown arms appeared. The ample folds of 
his white satin skirt, and the characteristic apron 
of gold lace, hung limp to about a foot from the 
ground, displaying a pair of large feet in huzzar top- 
boots. His heavy, dark moustache added a generally 
disreputable air to his very aristocratic costume. 

Then, there was a red-cheeked, bright-eyed Kan- 
t&ssy Mariska. She had elected to appear as a lowland 
peasant, and the full white lawn shirt and ample trous- 
ers became her very well; she had placed her round 
cap with its sprig of rosemary on one side of her pretty 
head, and, burying her hand in the broad leather belt 
with huge brass ornaments and clasps, she mimicked 
the rolling gait of the peasantry with irresistible charm. 
Close to her, Bart6cz Feri as a Hungarian **menny- 
ecske" (maiden), was decidedly not graceful. His 
''pdrta" would not keep in the middle, and his row upon 
row of coloured beads looked sadly out of place round 
his hairy neck. He had a number of cotton skirts, 
one over the other, each of a different colour, in truly 
approved style, but he had not the art of swinging 
them as he walked, to display the kaleidoscope of 
colours, which the pretty Hungarian peasant girls do 
to perfection. 

There were the daintiest possible powdered gallants 
of a hundred years ago, in satin coat and breeches, with 
lace ruffles and three-cornered hats; the dainty legs in 
silk stockings looked bewitching over the tiny feet 
encased in scarlet-heeled shoes with paste buckles; but 
their ladies, in rich patterned brocades and hooped 



Calamity 145 

skirts, anything but fulfilled the preconceived ideas of 
the dainty coquettes of Louis XV. 's court. Ungainly 
shepherdesses of Watteau's day acted as a foil to the 
most charming shepherds that ever stepped out of the 
artist's canvas, and heavily bearded gipsies in petti- 
coats, to fascinating czigdny in picturesque rags. 

As for G^za Vecsery, the boisterous Lord-Lieutenant, 
he had discovered some white tarlatan skirts which 
must once have belonged to a pupil of Taglioni's in 
the days when dancing was stiU one of the fine arts; 
on his ungainly figure the pink bodice and airy flesh- 
ings and skirts looked supremely comic, and he created 
the greatest sensation when, with the action of an 
elephant dancing on the tight rope, he tripped shyly 
into the room. 

The supper was more boisterous and merry than any 
meal which had ever taken place at Bidesktit; the 
valets and maids had been pressed into following the 
topsy-turvy rule of the evening, and grey-haired Jank6 
in a scarlet corselet and pink petticoat was solemnly 
pouring out wine, whilst the other valets, each of whom 
wore the regulation Hungarian waxed moustache, all 
entered into the spirit of the fun by donning the 
gay-coloured skirts, and ribbons of national hue, 
of the maids. The latter formed a charming bevy 
of valets, with **attilas" decidedly too large for 
their slim waists, and very shapely-looking legs en- 
cased in the characteristic tight-fitting Hungarian 
breeches. 

Never was there so lively a csdrdds in the lowlands 
as the one that was danced in the great hall of Bideskdt 
that night after supper. The graceful cavaliers were 
a dainty picture to behold, stepping the csdrdds with 
their tiny booted feet, clapping their heels together in 

zo 



146 A Son of the People 

most jaunty fashion, as if they never had been encum- 
bered with petticoats in their lives; but their ladies, 
unaccustomed to the embarras^g folds of their bro- 
cade and satin skirts, managed to put an amount of 
grotesqueness in the giaoeful dance which was quite 
irresistible; and the older folk who had not joined in 
the madcap masquerade made themselves dizzy with 
laughter at the simpering manners and arch coquetry 
put on by budding ambassadors and gallant young 
huzzars. 

The czig&ny needed no incentive to alternate dreamy 
lassu (the slow movement of the dance) with the live- 
liest csdrd&s, without rest or res^nte, needed no shouts 
of ** Ujra! " (encore) and ** Htizd r4 czig&ny!" (play on 
tsigane) to put strength into their lean arms. Some- 
times they could hardly play for very laughing, 
when one of the arch coquettes, in a graceful evolution, 
became hopelessly mixed in the full satin gown, and 
came, with scanty grace, tumbling to the ground; or 
when G6za Vecsery, the acknowledged patron of every 
gipsy band in the land, executed an approved pirou- 
ette, which invariably ended in a catastrophe on the 
floor. 

No one had noticed in the midst of this boisterous 
gaiety, towards the end of the long-drawn-out csdrdds, 
that Jank6, still wearing the grotesque feminine trav- 
esty, had slipped into the room, and had whispered a 
few words in his master's ear, his face looking ghastly 
pale, nor had any of the lively, thoughtless revellers 
seen their host rise thereupon suddenly, his face al- 
most livid, and follow his valet out of the room. 

Some twenty minutes later the csdrdds came to a 
crashing end, with a wild twirling and turning like 
some Bacchanalian dance of classic times. The men 



Calamity 147 

were shouting, the girls, with flaming cheeks and eyes 
aglow, made a final effort for a boisterous finale; then, 
all hot and panting, the ladies most ungracefully 
mopping their foreheads, the cavaliers making most 
unmanly use of their fans, dispersed from the immedi- 
ate vicinity of the band, to spread themselves, a laugh- 
ing, boisterous crowd, in the cooler parts of the 
house. 

A few had strolled into the dining hall, and it was 
from their awe-struck cry that all those dressed-up, 
masquerading merry-makers had the first intimation 
of the terrible catastrophe that even at this moment 
was spreading sorrow and desolation over the head of 
their genial host. 

Through the windows of the hall the entire sky 
appeared illumined by a lurid light, which was half 
obscured by clouds of black smoke driven slanting 
towards the east; whilst through the thickly-leaved 
branches of the acacia trees could be caught glimpses 
of flames like some gigantic distant furnace. 

The air was filled with sounds of rushing and of 
shouting, horses neighed with terror, while the cries of 
the herdsmen sounded weird and terrifying as they 
cracked their whips to drive the beasts away from the 
immediate danger of the flames. The melancholy 
bleating of the lambs, rushing after one another in 
blind helplessness, following the wether's bell as he 
guided his troop of affrighted companions right into 
the very thickest of the danger, mingled with the 
curses of the shepherds and the barking of the sheep 
dogs trying to keep the terrified flock together. 

In the grounds, rushing from every stable, every out- 
house, labourers, servants and peasants, ran excitedly 
down the ac^da drive, while kitchenmaids and house- 



148 A Son of the People 

maids stocxl in awed groaps^ whispering and gazing, 
horrified, beyond. Hardly had the crowd of aristo- 
cratic merry-makers realised the terrible catastrophe 
which had oocnrred, than a hnge column of flames, not 
half a league away to the right, rose with a distant 
hissing sotmd into the air, while to the left and straight 
ahead, a burning glow seemed to turn the entire land- 
scape into one gigantic furnace. Terrified, they all 
gazed outwards, speechless, for a moment, then the 
weird whisper of* Fire! " was passed from mouth to 
mouth. 

Trembling, the gay revellers in fantastic masquerade 
cltmg to one another, and dainty court gallants and 
gaily decked-out beaux stood with blanched cheeks, 
not daring to speak loudly of the terrible catastrophe 
which, even now, had changed this abode of merry- 
making into one of sorrow and terror. Throughout 
the house there was a general stampede. The men, 
forgetting their grotesque attire, had turned towards 
the staircase, and were now hurrying across the great 
entrance hall and down the acacia alley; others had 
raided the stables, and, without pausing to find saddle 
or bridle, had jumped on the horses, and galloped 
across the yard and down the drive at breakneck speed, 
as that race of bom horsemen are alone able to do. 
And in the dismal night, illuminated from afar by 
the lurid light of the glowing furnace, this cavalcade 
seemed like the midnight ride of some grotesque 
witches on their way to the Sabbath. Some of the 
men had hastily wrenched off the cumbersome skirts 
which impeded their movements, but others, in too 
great a haste to try and undo the many unaccustomed 
fastenings, had gathered up their petticoats, and in 
their wild ride the white satin and brocade skirts, 



Calamity 149 

looked like witches' wings, which caught sharp lurid 
lights as they fluttered in the wind. Weirdly 
grotesque they looked, with dainty head-dresses fallen 
to one side, bows fluttering round their bearded faces, 
their brown arms emerging bare from out the puffed 
muslin or lace sleeves — a scene that in a fantastic 
ballet would have convulsed an audience with laughter, 
but which here added a hundred-fold more horror to 
the catastrophe which had fallen in the very midst 
of so much madcap merry-making. 

One by one the ladies, young and old, had snatched 
up shawl or wrap, and, in frightened groups of three 
and four, were finding their way across the roads to- 
wards the burning fields. Countess Irma and Ilonka, 
clinging to one another in a mutual desire for comfort, 
led the way; the pretty young girl forgetting her male 
attire, her thoughts paralysed by the disaster, of which, 
child as she was, she could not but foresee the con- 
sequences, her mother mutely upbraiding destiny for 
having ventured to fall with a heavy hand upon her 
aristocratic head. 

Out there in the fields the scene was one of awful 
weirdness and magnificence. The wheat which was 
lying in stacks ready for threshing and grinding, as 
well as that which was still uncut, the fields of maize, 
the hay and straw, all had proved but a too easy prey 
to the flames, and the fire had, in a few moments, spread 
with astonishing rapidity. When the cavalcade of gro- 
tesque mummers appeared upon the scene, aU as 
far as the eye could reach seemed to be part of a 
gigantic, seething, burning furnace, standing out in 
lurid red and gold, against the dark canopy of the sky 
above. Terrible, mysterious, magnificent, it rose like 
a living curtain of flames, hissing and lashing, de- 



1 50 A Son of the People 

stroying all things, as it spread to right and left, 
untrammelled and merciless. And, dotted here and 
there against this fiery background, the black silhou- 
ettes of men and beasts, rushing hither and thither, 
frightened, like some pigmies, face to face mth an 
awe-inspiring giant. 

The air was full of sounds of anguish and terror : 
the stampede of the beasts, as they were driven out 
of the threatened stables, towards the distant puszta^ 
which, arid and desolate, was the only safe shelter, the 
only barrier, against the fast-spreading enemy; the mel- 
ancholy lowing of the oxen, the frightened bleating of 
the sheep, the shouts and cries of the men, the wail of 
anguish of the women, and through it all, the hissing, 
roaring of the flames, as they attacked now a fresh field 
of nodding wheat, now an outljring shed, whose dry 
tinder crackled as it burnt. Relentlessly the enemy 
moved forward. There was no terrible crash, no 
sudden, loud conflagration or explosion. The ways of 
a fire on the lowlands are sure, swift, and silent. 

Anon a field of maize was in a blaze, and each plume, 
as it was seized upon by the flames, threw out a 
shower of sparks like golden dewdrops; then a stack of 
straw would flare up, smokeless in the dry air, only 
burning swiftly down to the ground, helping to spread 
the conflagration ever on and on. And the poor fright- 
ened beasts, not understanding why their sheltering 
stables were closed against them, or what was the 
meaning of this strange light, lurid and hot, rushed 
about, panting and snorting, in a terrified circle, 
always turning blindly towards that stable door which 
was closed against them. The shepherds and herds- 
men worked with a wiU. With relentless energy they 
tried to keep their herds together, hoping to get them 



Calamity 1 5 1 

well out of reach before some straying spark caught 
the dry thatch of the first group of stables. 

It certainly, at this moment, looked as if it would be 
impossible to save the farther buildings. Bideskdty, 
who, with the greatest calm, had up to this point given 
directions to every one of his outdoor and indoor serv- 
ants to see to the beasts first and foremost, began to 
notice with astonishment, and then with terror, that 
there seemed to be no one else there to lend a hand in 
at least parrying some of the worst consequences of the 
dire catastrophe. 

The conflagration must have been seen for leagues 
around, and yet, though Bideskdty had sent for assist- 
ance in every direction, neither firom Arokszdll&s nor 
from the outlying cottages on the road to Gyongy6s 
did either messenger return, or aid arrive. 

It seemed terrible, the isolation of this man, standing 
alone, gazing at the ruin which was fast closing in 
upon him. And, sombre, he paced up and down, the 
awful truth gradually breaking upon him, that the 
remorseless devastation of his year's crops, his probable 
complete ruin, was not the hand of God, falling with 
divine justice on him, as it might have done on any of 
his neighbours, but was the deliberate revengeful work 
of some incendiary miscreant. And, with deep curses, 
the lord of Bidesktit muttered the name of him whom 
he believed to be his deadly enemy, him whom, in his 
unreasoning arrogance, he had but a few hours ago so 
deeply wounded. 

Bideskdty knew nothing of human nature ; his care- 
less disposition, his very arrogance and pride of caste, 
prevented him from reading the open book of his 
neighbours ' characters and feelings, which lies before 
all who are willing to read. To him, Kem^ny Andrds, 



152 A Son of the People 

rich or poor, educated or ignorant, would always re- 
main the low-bom peasant, descendant of a race of serfs, 
once the very property of his own ancestors. To him 
low deeds, such as he now attributed to Andr&s, were 
the necessary outcome of low birth. In his mind there 
was but one nobility, and that was the one which a long 
line of ancestry alone could give. As he stood now 
isolated, having sent off his bailiffs in every direction 
to try and induce the peasantry round to give him 
some help, to at least save his beasts, his house, since 
his fields were irrevocably doomed, he worked himself 
up to a very fever of rage against all the low-bom mis- 
creants who had dared to raise their hand against 
their lord. 

Vainly his wife and daughter tried to pacify him ; he 
was like some caged wild beast, not heeding his own 
guests, who stood round him willing, eager to help, to 
be directed as to where that help was most needed. 
He would not listen save to his own tempestuous 
passion, would not speak, save to hurl curses on the 
head of his supposed enemy. And the grotesque caval- 
cade of mummers stood about in fantastic groups like 
an army eager to fight, but disorganised and leader- 
less ; while the ladies, forgetting their masculine attire, 
added to the confusion by sobs of terror, anxious ques- 
tionings, and loud, wailing prayers. 

*' My lord,'* suddenly said a voice dose to Bides- 
kdty's elbow, **we shall have to organise, and very 
quickly too, a chain of buckets from the nearest well 
to those farther stables. Any flying spark may now 
set them ablaze ; the poor beasts in that quarter are cut 
off from the plain by the fire. They must be protected 
at any cost." 

It was Kem^ny Andrds on his beautiful thoroughbred 



Calamity 153 

mare, whose quivering neck he was quietly patting as 
he spoke. 

** I would have been here sooner," he added, " only 
the way to Kisfalu is also cut off by the fire." 

Bidesk6ty, on hearing that voice, turned, as some 
long-caged wild beast, face to face at last with his prey. 
His lips moved convulsively as if to speak ; his face, 
livid with rage, looked almost fiendish in expression in 
the lurid light that illuminated it. But the peasant 
stopped the words in his mouth, by pointing quietly to 
the stables. 

*' After that, we will resume our quarrel," he said ; 
" now let those who are willing follow me." 

And the mare, encouraged by a cheering word, once 
more started at a swift gallop in the direction where 
the fire was more rapidly gaining ground. No one 
needed twice telling ; as Andrds rode away the entire 
cavalcade of grotesque figures followed with a lively 
shout. 

Astonished, frowning, Bidesktity looked after them, 
watching with a scowl that was half wrathful, wholly 
puzzled, the powerful figure on the thoroughbred as he 
galloped on, his white shirt-sleeves fluttering behind 
him, his cheery voice sounding above the cries of 
anguish of men and beasts, above the distant stampede 
of frightened herds ; and, instinctively, Bidesktity him- 
self felt that quieting influence which was Andrds' s 
own over every man who knew him. His muttered 
curses ceased, a ray of hope seemed to have filtrated 
through his heart, he managed to give an encouraging 
kiss to his wife and daughter, to listen quietly to the 
consoling words of those of his guests who were too 
old or too slow to render much assistance. 

Eagerly he watched the band of workers, headed by 



1 54 A Son of the People 

Andr^, as, outlined against the sky, he saw them 
scaling the thatched roof of the stables, and forming a 
living chain along the ladders, propped against the 
side of the buildings, and as far as the nearest well ; 
they passed buckets after buckets full of water from 
hand to hand, and deluged the dry thatch, making it 
secure against the flying sparks. Distinctly he could 
hear their excited shouts as they took each building in 
its turn, running up and down the ladders, grotesque in 
the extreme, with their pufied muslin sleeves, their 
fluttering bows of ribbon, their semi-masculine, semi- 
feminine garb. They were doing their work well, 
encouraged, led by one man whom Bideskdty, from 
the distance, seemed to see everywhere at one and the 
same time, the man whom in his heart and with many 
curses he believed to be his deadly enemy, whom he 
accused boldly of having perpetrated the dastardly 
deed. 

'' Who is that man, Gyuri,*' asked Count Elantdssy, 
who also had watched the peasant for some time, with 
the Hungarian's heartfelt admiration for a perfect rider 
on a perfect horse. 

'' That was Kem^ny Andrds, the rich farmer from 
Kisfalu/' 

''A man of will and energy, Gyuri; he and our 
young friends will save the group of stables and all the 
poor beasts, I am sure, and, moreover, give an effect- 
ual check to the flames in that direction, in any case.*' 

''Do you think anybody can save the house?*' 
asked the Countess drearily. 

Kantdssy looked sadly round. Truly the spectacle 
was heart-breaking. The fire had received an effectual 
check to the south and east by the arid plain, but 
towards the north in a westerly direction, it seemed as 



Calamity 155 

if there was nothing that could prevent the flames from 
spreading even as far as the house of Bidesktit itself. 
Already the conflagration formed a gigantic semicircle 
which appeared every moment to be closing in on the 
entire property of the unfortunate lord. 

It was obvious that a willing and really numerous 
band of workers was wanted to accomplish the most 
important salvage : that of the house and the larger 
block of stables. 

*' I cannot understand," said old Palotay, *' where 
all those beastly, good-for-nothing lazy peasants are 
sticking. It looks for all the world," he added in a 
whisper, so that Bidesktity might not hear, ** as if they 
had arranged it among themselves not to help in any 
way." 

But Bidesktity had heard. 

'< They have arranged it among themselves to ruin 
me," he said hopelessly ; '* it is no use fighting ; we can 
do nothing while we are so short-handed." 

" I will ride, if you like, across to Arokszdll&s," said 
Count Kantdssy, ** and see if I cannot bring a few idle 
hands with me." 

** It is useless," said Bidesktity, '* nobody will come. 
I have sent in every direction. It seems as if the earth 
had swallowed up every peasant for leagues around. 
They do not come." 

*' Here comes your rich peasant, riding back. Ask 
him if he cannot get help." 

** I will ask him nothing," said Bidesktity surlily ; " I 
would sooner see every stick of mine burnt to ashes." 

His two friends had no time to reply, for the next 
instant Andrds had galloped past them, shouting as he 
went : 

** We want more hands, my lord. I am going to 



156 A Son of the People 

JLrokszdllds to get them. In the meanwhile will your 
Honour order every scjrthe, sickle, and spade to be taken 
to that group of fields yonder ? We shall have to cut 
some of the maize down, or the house will be in 
danger." 

The next moment he was again out of sight. 

Bidesktity said nothing, but he turned obediently 
towards his threatened house, followed by those of his 
friends who were near him, and by his wife and 
daughter. Poor little Ilonka, she had been too fright- 
ened to do anything save ding pitiably to her mother's 
skirts, as some tiny chicken hiding beneath the wing 
of the hen. But now she ventured timidly to look up, 
in order to follow, with curious questioning gaze, the 
figure of the man whose name she had heard so often 
on this memorable day. 

'' He is a good man, mama," she said with convic- 
tion, while her blue eyes filled with tears of gratitude. 
** I was angry with him to-day because he had annoyed 
papa, but I forgive him now, for he is very good." 

** Probably he is trying to make amends, my dear," 
said the incorrigibly proud Countess; "no doubt he 
knows that your papa will pay him well for his serv- 
ices, and he is only doing his duty. Your papa is 
his lord." 

Bidesktity smiled bitterly to himself. He alone 
understood the unconscious irony of his wife's words. 



CHAPTER XV 

REPARATION 

AndrAs, in the meanwhile, had almost reached the 
village. He knew, as well as the noble lord, that this 
night's devastation was the work of man and not of 
God, and that it was the poor superstitious, frightened 
wretches, yonder in those cottages, whose hand had 
done the dastardly deed, and who now refused, surly 
and defiant, to try and check the terrible catastrophe 
they, in their criminal folly, had brought about. 

The village seemed at first strangdy deserted ; the 
little thatched cottages to the right and left of the only 
street were dark and desolate-looking ; even the inn 
appeared solitary, not a sound emerged through its 
half-opened doors. Andr&s dismounted, and led his 
horse along the road towards the presbytery ; he reck- 
oned on Pater Ambrosius to lend him the weight of his 
influence on the obstinate minds of the peasants, and 
inwardly wondered how it was that he had not met 
the kind old priest on his way to the scene of the fire, 
with cross and sacrament, to pray to God to stay His 
just and wrathful hand. 

The next moment, however, he saw the explanation 
to this, for he had reached the presbytery, which was 
literally blockaded by a crowd of men sitting and 
standing round, some smoking in surly silence, others 
discussing eagerly, all turning towards the glow which 
sti£Eiased the sky. 

157 



1 58 A Son of the People 

It was very dark, street illumination being still 
unknown in the Hungarian lowlands, and Andrds 
could do no more than just distinguish the outlines of 
these groups of malcontents, and to guess their object 
in thus congregating outside Pater Ambrosius' door ; 
for though he could not see the good old priest himself, 
he could hear his voice, apparently from some window 
of his presbytery, expostulating, preaching, admon- 
ishing, scolding, and entreating alternately to be 
allowed to go and pray for my lord, who was in such 
dire trouble,, and threatening a total suspension of ab- 
solution, and excommunication of the entire village, if 
he was not permitted to perform his priestly duty. 

Surlily they all smoked on, not listening to the 
kindly voice, which always brought spiritual comfort 
to their simple minds. Obstinately they remained deaf 
to every appeal, determined to carry on their crime, 
their folly, to its utmost dire limit. 

'* Do not speak any more words to them. Pater,'* 
suddenly said a voice in the darkness; '* they are not 
worthy that you should let your kind eyes rest upon 
their evil forms, even for a moment,*' 

Calmly Andrds stood among them, his usually so 
merry eyes looking with contempt and anger at the men 
who had all instinctively turned, as they recognised 
the voice of their friend. 

** Andrds ! " was the general cry of astonishment. 

** Stop that," he said peremptorily; ** do not dare to 
speak to me by my name. It is the name of an hon- 
est man, and can but be polluted by passing through 
the mouths of miscreants." 

There was a dead silence ; astonished, the men looked 
at one another, thinking their favourite had gone mad. 
They had never heard such words from him. 



Reparation 1 59 

*' Miscreant is an ugly word, young man," said old 
Vas Berczi, with a threatening tone in his voice, as he 
advanced towards Andr&s. 

** Ay! an ugly word, man, but not half so ugly as 
the dark, murderous deed your cowardly hands have 
accomplished to-night. Stand back, there ! " he added, 
as one or two of the peasants in the foremost ranks came 
close up to him, *' I forbid you to speak to me, to come 
within a foot of me, or to lay a finger on Csillag, for 
she surely would die of the pestilence." 

** Has he gone mad?" whispered one voice to 
another. '* What does he mean ? " suggested another. 
But ail had retreated ; none spoke to him, and one or 
two, as if in awe, looked at their brown hands, whose 
touch, he said, was pestilence and death. 

** Andrds," came Pater Ambrosius' pleading voice 
from the dark,'* you used to have influence over them ; 
speak to them, my son, persuade them, at least, since 
they are not Christians, and will not assist my lord in 
his distress, to let me go and pray for the poor man, 
who must be sadly in want of God's help." 

** I am here, Father, to take you to your church, or 
to the terrible scene from which I have just come, and 
where I shall go back at once ; as for speaking to these 
miscreants, I will not do it. Their very breath is 
offensive to me and to Csillag. You and I, Father, 
will go back to where a poor old man, with his wife 
and daughter, is watching his all fall a prey to ruin ; 
to where poor frightened beasts rush helplessly about, 
only to meet with a terrible death in the fire which 
these children of hell have kindled. The pride of our 
county of Heves, of the entire Hungarian lowland, is 
laid to dust, when dastardly hands wreak cowardly 
vengeance on innocent beasts of burden. Come, Father, 



i6o A Son of the People 

let us go; you can come back when your work of 
praying is done; as for me, if I am not fortunate enough 
to bury myself and my shame in the flames that 
devastate the land of which I was so proud, I will, 
to-morrow, collect my household goods and, like the 
czigdny tramp, wander away across the puszta^ in 
search of a spot where I can once more speak to an 
honest man. Let Pater Ambrosius pass! He is 
waiting at the door ! " 

Never had they heard such cruel words, the tones of 
which were sharp and cutting as a two-edged sickle, 
and the contempt so bitter, so absolutely humiliating, 
that even in the darkness they felt their bronzed cheeks 
burn with shame. 

What did Andrds mean? He who, in all their 
grievances, their complaints, had always stood by their 
side, ready to cheer, to explain, to alleviate. He who 
had always, with a bright smile, thrown down every 
barrier which his riches and his influence would other- 
wise have built between him and them, the humble 
labourers who worked for his liberal wage ; now he even 
refused to allow them to speak his name or to touch 
his horse ; as if their words and their touch were the 
most abasing pollution. Was what they had done^ 
then, so very awful ? Was it not just revenge ? was it 
really, as he said, so very cowardly? A crime and 
not justice? True, there were the wife and daughter of 
my lord ; they had had nothing to do with those 
cursed inventions of Satan . . . and then there were 
the poor beasts . . . the beautiful Hungarian horses 
. . . the stables of Bidesktit are famed throughout the 
lowlands . . . and a good many of the mares were with 
colt . . . then the oxen who could not run . . . and 
who were so timid and easily scared . . . 



Reparation i6i 

Silently the groups had parted to make way for Pater 
Ambrosius now as he joined Andrds and prepared to 
mount behind him. Kem6ny, in the meanwhile, 
though still retaining the contemptuous attitude he 
had adopted, and seemingly taking no further heed of 
the men, just as if they were the very dust upon the 
plain, was, nevertheless, quietly watching the effect 
his hard words had on those whom, in spite of their 
follies, he loved and sympathised with tenderly. It 
was because there had been no time to waste in per- 
suasion and argument that he had adopted what he 
firmly believed was the right mode of getting at those 
obstinate, foolish, but not absolutely evil minds. The 
fate of the lord of Bideskdt's home for one moment 
trembled in the balance, and, for the space of a minute, 
perhaps, there was hesitation ; but when Andrds had 
actually mounted Csillag, and it became absolutely 
evident that he would not speak or look at them again, 
a timid voice ventured : 

**You are not really leaving Kisfalu for ever, Andrds, 
are you?" 

** Who spoke ? " he said, looking carelessly over his 
shoulder; ** has any man ever known me to say one 
thing and mean another? Come, Father, are you 
safe ? Put your arms round my waist firmly ; Csillag 
will gallop fast." 

** No, Andrds, you are not going? " 

** What is to become of us ? " 

" You would not leave us ? " 

** You will see us starve ! " came from every side, 
and, anxious, really frightened at what would undoubt- 
edly prove a calamity to them, the men crowded round 
their favourite eagerly, not quite daring yet to touch 
the mare, since he had forbidden it, but preventing her 



zx 



1 62 A Son of the People 

from taking Andr&s away, if he was never to return. 

** We thought, Andrds, you would understand our 
troubles," said old Vas Berczi, still surly, but very 
much humbled ; '' 3'ou have gone over to the enemy 
and look down upon us poor folk, now." 

Andrds heaved a sigh of satisfaction. This was the 
beginning of capitulation; he had gained his point ; 
the rest would be easy work. 

'' I do always enter into all your troubles, my men. 
Your sorrows are my sorrows," he said more kindly, 
** but you must have known that when you chose the 
ways of crime, our paths would lie divided for ever. 
Now, good-bye ; let Csillag pass ! " 

**You will come back," they shouted, as Csillag 
reared, for her master had pressed his knees against 
her haunches. 

** Never, except to press the hands of honest men, 
again." 

*' Ours, Andrds, ours ! " they shouted again, as the 
mare started at a rapid gallop down the village street. 

Andrds turned round once more to face them. 

** Of those who will help me to stay the fire from 
reaching the house of Bidesktit." 

** Mine, Andrds, mine," came from every one now ; 
and one and all, young and old, eager, forgetting their 
grievances, their superstitions, their terrors, longing 
only for that warm, promised handshake, started run- 
ning after the mare and her double burden. 

But Andrds had halted just outside the little church, 
whose quaint square tower stood out black against the 
brilliant, awful background beyond. 

** God bless you all, my children" said Pater Am- 
brosius, as he slid to his feet, 'Vbut we must wait, and 
take our I/)rd with us ! " 



Reparation 163 

** Quick, Father, there is not a moment to lose/* said 
Andrds hurriedly ; but he, like all the rest, had rever- 
ently lifted off his cap, and Pater Ambrosius, having 
fumbled for his keys, let himself in through the heavy 
door, leaving it open so that his erring flock, after their 
wild outburst of revengeful passion, should catch sight 
of the heavenly peace within the house of God. It 
was almost entirely in gloom within, save for the fitful, 
lurid light which glimmered through the small, deep- 
set Gothic windows ; but the old priest knew his way 
well through the rough carved pews to the steps of the 
simple altar, from which, since nearly half a century, 
he had called forth God's blessing on his simple flock. 
With hasty genuflections he rapidly opened the Sanc- 
tum Sanctorum, and took out the golden crucible which 
contained the true body of his sovereign Lord. 

•*For God*s sake, quick, Father!'* said AndrAs's 
voice outside, and hastily wrapping the sacred emblem 
beneath his cassock. Pater Ambrosius once more 
mounted behind the young peasant. 

The men had stood reverently silent during this 
brief passage of God amongst them, then, as once more 
Csillag set off at a sharp gallop, they, with a shout, 
started to run after her : a troupe of some two or three 
hundred of them, the entire able-bodied population of 
the little village, eager to redeem the past, to restore to 
their beloved lowland that pride which they, by their 
deed, had hiunbled ; and when they at last reached the 
grounds of Bidesktit, hot, panting, but as full of vigour 
as ever, they formed themselves in a line, ready to obey 
his orders to whom they wished to prove that they 
were still worthy of his regard and of his sympathy. 

Bideskdty, in the meanwhile, had followed Andr&s's 
advice ; there was no doubt that from the north now 



1 64 A Son of the People 

very considerable danger threatened the old ancestral 
house. In that direction lay a very extensive field of 
maize, part of which was already ablaze and helping^ 
to spread the conflagration in serious proximity to the 
outhouses and stables. The unfortunate owner of all 
the devastated lands had collected round him the few 
willing hands that were available, and while his male 
guests in fantastic array were busy trying to rescue 
one comer of his property, he brought his few indoor 
servants and one or two of the more robust maids to 
attempt the salvage of the other. 

With scythes, sickles, and spades they endeavoured 
to lay as much of the field low as possible, but though 
the small band worked hard and with a, will, the enemy 
worked harder, drawing nearer and nearer, and after 
the first half-hour it became evident that unless 
help arrived numerous and swift, the clearing would 
not be sufficiently wide to eflFectually check the flames. 

Bidesktity paced up and down the approaches to his 
fields, scanning anxiously the horizon from which the 
help should come. He would not allow himself to 
dwell upon his thoughts and his suspicions ; he knew 
too well now that if, after this terrible night, he retained 
the roof above his head and any fragment of his 
threatened property, it would be thanks to the man 
whom that afternoon he had insulted and struck in the 
face. That the fire had been kindled by human hand, 
of that there could be no doubt ; all that was left to 
hope for now was that the rich peasant would exert his 
influence to bring the criminals to the atonement of 
their own deed before it was too late. 

The ladies had all retired to within the park gates. 
They were far too anxious to go indoors, and, in 
groups of two and three, they paced up and down the 



Reparation 165 

acacia alleys, all wondering if the promised help would 
come, and all watching their fathers, brothers, hus- 
bands, still at work on the roofs of the threatened 
stables. 

Prom afar, already Bidesktity heard the shouts of 
the peasants as they ran, headed by Csillag carrying 
her master, and Pater Ambrosius. 

Andrds brought his horse to a standstill close to 
Bidesktity, and having dismounted, he said : 

" My lord, the Pater and I have brought you three 
hundred willing pairs of hands, who, with God's help, 
will at least save your house and stables from this 
terrible fire. Now, my men,** he added, pointing to 
the maize fields, ''start clearing away that tinder at 
once. Hack, cut, mow, tear, uproot ; let me see who 
can best devastate one of the finest fields of maize in 
the county. Take what tools you can ; lose no time, 
and may God bless your work! ** 

Pater Ambrosius also dismounted. With simple 
faith he brought out the sacred vessel from under his 
cassock, and holding it high above his head, so that all 
might partake of the divine blessing, he reverently 
prayed for God*s help in this terrible emergency. 

In a few moments the fresh band of willing workers 
had dispersed within the fields, and soon, from afar, 
could be heard the sound of the sharp scythes cutting 
through the tough stems of the maize. 

Bidesktity, from where he stood, could see the row of 
backs stooping to their work, tearing and cutting, 
without rest and pause. They had pushed their 
way very near the fire : dangerously near, Bideskiity 
thought; it seemed as if they were anxious even 
to risk their lives now, to save a few acres of land 
for him, to court danger so as better to show their 



1 66 A Son of the People 

obedience and devotion. And yet, surely, the guilty 
were there too, amongst them, wrestling hard with that 
merciless fire which their criminal hand had kindled. 
Bidesktity looked with a feeling that was akin to envy 
at the sturdy peasant by his side who, with a word, 
had subdued all those recalcitrant hearts to his will. 
He would have wished to speak to him of his gratitude 
for the incalculable service rendered, but, somehow, the 
ruling passion still choked the words within his throat. 
The proud aristocrat could not bring himself, even at a 
moment like this, to own himself bounden in any way 
to the low-bom peasant at his side. 

There was no doubt that, almost imperceptibly, the 
area of the fire was being restricted. Already to the 
south and east the arid plain and the wide high-road 
had proved an insurmountable barrier to the spreading 
of the flames in those two directions, whilst to the 
north, the group of outlying stables, deluged with 
water, had proved an effectual check. Hope began to 
revive in Bideskilty's heart, as he saw the great bare 
patches in his fields of maize, against which every 
column of flame, which threatened to spread in the 
direction of the house, first flickered and then died. 
Pater Ambrosius had never ceased his prayers while 
the men worked and Bideskilty watched. The proud 
lord had allowed Andrds, without a word of protest, to 
take command in the work of rescue. 

The young peasant seemed to Bideskilty*s feverish 
eyes to be in every place at the same time — now close 
to the men to direct their work, now at the park gates 
to send reassuring messages to the ladies within. For 
five hours the struggle went on between man and the 
element, and, inch by inch, the element was made to 
yield. Everywhere now could be seen black and 



Reparation 167 

smoky patches which looked like desolate islands in a 
sea of flame^. The intense glow had subsided. Dark- 
ness, which seemed doubly dense owing to the lurid 
illumination of a few hours ago, had overspread two- 
thirds of the horizon. The vanquished foe made one 
or two attempts at regaining lost ground ; in one or two 
places the stubble of cut maize stems caught fire and 
smouldered for a while, but, after the work of cutting 
down, the stamping out of those smouldering remnants 
was quick and effectual. As the flames had subsided, 
the mummers had joined forces with the peasants, and 
soon the barrier, which forced the fire back and back, 
became closer and closer. Bideskilty never left the 
ground while there was a single spark to be seen ; un- 
ceasingly he watched, while his terrible enemy was 
being driven back and vanquished. He felt no fatigue; 
he watched as in a dream ; not seeking, in the gather- 
ing gloom, to note the fearful devastation which now 
stretched before him, where, yesterday, rich com and 
maize fields had nodded gaily in the summer breeze. 

He asked no questions as to the fate of his vineyards, 
which lay to the north, his turnip fields, his oats, which 
stretched for many leagues away, and of which he 
could not as yet know how far they had suffered from 
the fury of the flames. 

In the east beyond the plain, a faint streak of delicate 
rosy grey broke the gathering gloom. The air was 
filled with choking smoke. Ahead a group of peasants 
and mummers, rendered doubly grotesque by begrimed 
faces and hands and torn finery, were stamping out the 
last remaining sparks on his dearly-loved maize fields 
which had been the pride of the county. He thanked 
God that he could not see the wreck, that he could put 
off till the morrow the thought of the hopeless ruin of 



1 68 A Son of the People 

his rich crops, and to-night only remember that at least 
his house had been spared him, some of his beasts too, 
perhaps. 

Prom a distance he could hear those now being 
driven back to their stables. He would not ask how 
many had perished, suffocated by fire and smoke. All 
that he would hear soon enough . . . to-morrow . . . 
To-night he thought he only wanted rest. A great 
many of the peasants, he noticed, were wending their 
way once more towards Arokszdllds. The streak of 
rosy grey was getting wider, and brighter; even 
through the smoke he could see overhead a few stars, 
looking pale and shy at the approach of dawn. Pater 
Ambrosius said many kind words to him, and each 
peasant, as he passed, touched his silveg (cap) respect- 
fully before the ruined lord. 

*' Gyuri, won't you come in?*' said portly Count 
Kantdssy very gently and very kindly ; ** you must be 
worn out with fatigue and anxiety. I have just come 
from the chdteau, and have persuaded the ladies to go 
to bed,'* 

Bidesktity looked at his old friend vacantly ; he 
did not quite grasp his meaning. His mind was 
numb, as bis body was, from the strain and the fatigue 
of the night. 

** There seems no more danger for the present, but 
pickets of watchers have been placed at different points 
to give the alarm in case the fire should break out 
again.** 

Bidesktity hardly knew who had spoken. It was a 
young man, who looked exceedingly comic in a limp 
satin skirt, saturated with water, and a bodice, cut 
dScolletti in front, with lace frills and bows of ribbons. 
It made him laugh so much that he tottered and almost 



Reparation 169 

fell but for Kantdssy's arm, which supported him gently, 
just as if he had been drinking and could not stand. 
The portly old Count tried to lead his friend away. 

* * Come, Gy uri, there is no occasion for you to stay ! * ' 

But, though he was very tired, and it was surely time 
for bed, Bideskdty felt that there was something he 
ought to do before going in, but he could not recollect 
what it was. Obstinately he refused to move, and 
stared with a vacant smile at the group of his young 
guests in limp, wet rags, the remnants of the merry 
masquerading which had made him laugh so heartily 
... oh! ever so long ago. 

A servant came running from the park gates. She 
said that the Countess begged my lord would come in, 
as she and Mademoiselle Ilonka could not rest till they 
had seen him. 

Bideskiity at last prepared to go. 

**The Countess asked my lord to bring Kem^ny 
Andrds of Kisfalu in with him," added the maid, ** for 
she wished to speak a few words of thanks to him for 
his timely assistance." 

Then it was that Bideskdty recollected what it was 
he wanted to do before going home to bed. There had 
been a man who had not only toiled and slaved for 
him, helped to rescue his home from utter devastation, 
but had also induced others to give able and willing 
help, so as to render his ruin only partial instead of 
whole. That man was a low-bom peasant, descendant 
of a race of serfs, moreover a usurious money-lender, 
with Jewish ancestry ; only that very afternoon he had 
been insolent and Bideskdty had been forced to chas- 
tise him. Still, quarrels must be forgotten, as the man 
had truly made amends, and Bideskdty felt sincerely 
grateful. 



1 70 A Son of the People 

He turned to seek for Andrds among the group 
which surrounded him. The peasant was not there. 
He asked after him, and called for him by name. 

But Kem^ny Andrds was gone. 



PART II 



I 



CHAPTER XVI 

FASTER MORN 

" It is going to leave oflF ! " 

** Not to-day yet, I think ! " 

*' I tell you not a drop has fallen for the last ten 
minutes." 

" And look at that break in the clouds ! ** 

"Hey! that won't last; they will soon dose up 
again/' 

" I have felt a drop." 

" You are dreaming, I^czi ; why, I can see a bit of 
blue!" 

•'Where?" 

** Right over Kisfalu. I tell you we shall have no 
more rain to-day." 

He who had last spoken was evidently a man of 
much weight in matters connected with rain and 
sunshine, for the young men who stood round him, 
anxiously surveying the clouded horizon, ventured 
no further direct contradiction, although one voice 
tremblingly suggested : 

** You know, Berczi, last Sunday, you said the rain 
would leave off before Pater Ambrosius had said the 
•Ite Missa est,' and, when we came out of church, 
after the palms had been blessed, it was still raining ; 
and has never left off till this moment." 

173 



1 74 A Son of the People 



ti 



Hey ! but it has left off now, has n't it? '* repeat- 
ed Vas Berczi obstinately, '' or are you still getting 
wet, Laczi my boy?" he added with withering 
sarcasm. 

Truly it seemed as if the weather prophet was 
speaking words of wisdom, to-day. Undoubtedly the 
break in the clouds was getting wider, and the bit of 
sky which was visible beyond that break was unques- 
tionably of the brightest blue, whilst a very timid and 
pale ray of sun endeavoured to peep through at the 
melancholy landscape below. 

" The first bit of sun we have seen for a fortnight, 
my children,*' said old Berczi, lifting his cap with mock 
solemnity ; " hats off to the stranger ! *' 

Laughingly the group of young peasants took off 
their hats, and, clapping their heels together, made a 
solemn bow towards the sun. 

' * God has brought you ! * * they all said politely. 

** My lord Sun, you are welcome ! ** 
We hope your worship has come to stay ! " 
Hey ! *' added old Berczi with a sigh, "it is a sad 
sight your Honour has come to see ! " 

'' Was there ever so much mud on the mainroad as 
there is just now?" commented one of the peasants 
with a shake of the head. 

** No cart can get through, and yesterday my oxen 
were up to their knees in mud. I could not get them 
either to turn or to go on. I thought our last hour 
had come, for I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper, 
and thought I and the oxen would reach hell that 
way, through the mud, without a chance of confession 
or prayer." 

** I don't see how Kem^ny Andrds will contrive to 
come to church this morning." 



it 
It 



Easter Morn 175 

'' He has good horses ; he will come on Csillag's 
back, and bring Etelka behind him.'' 

** She will never miss Baster Sunday Mass, I know. 
Ktelka is very pious.*' 

'* And Andrds won't let her come alone." 

** Have you noticed, my children," said the wise 
elderly prophet, **that Andrfis has not been himself 
lately?" 

** He does seem so quiet," said I^czi, " I don't 
know when I have heard him laugh." 

** Depend on it," whispered an older peasant among 
the crowd,'' he has not yet forgiven us about that fire«" 

*' Andrds is not one to bear ill-will," asserted a 
younger man hotly ; '' he has never spoken a word 
about that fire since it happened." 

** You cannot deny," said old Berczi," that it is since 
the night of the fire that he has seemed so strange and 
silent," 

'* He is perhaps anxious about his new crops. We 
finished sowing at Kisfalu just before this cursed rain 
began." 

*' His fields are safe enough from the floods." 

'* There are only a few maize fields belonging to 
Kisfalu which lie dose to the Tama. He has not 
suffered much yet." 

" The waters are still rising." 

'' The roar was terrific last night, and I went as far 
as my lord's stables yesterday ; it seemed to me as if all 
Bideskdt lay under water." 

'' My lord is indeed unfortunate ! " 

" God punishes him, you see. We need not have 
set fire to his wheat last year. God will see Himself 
that none of it goes to be ground inside that mill of 
Satan." 



1 76 A Son of the People 

The group of peasants were standing outside the 
village church, all in their Sunday best, waiting for 
their mothers, sisters, sweethearts, who took a long 
time this morning to put on their gorgeous finery for 
Kaster mom. The sun had evidently come to stay ; it 
was shining quite brightly on the scene that since the 
last fortnight had been indeed truly desolate. The rain 
had been incessant ; since fourteen days and fourteen 
nights the patter of heavy drops, as they fell, had dis- 
turbed the peaceful immensity of the plain, and changed 
the entire landscape into a sea of mud. Par ahead 
towards the north could be heard the melancholy roar 
of the Tama, as her angry waters, swollen by the con- 
tinuous rain, dashed furiously onwards, overflowing 
their shallow banks, and submerging in their muddy 
depths the rich fields of Bideskdt, newly sown with 
the early spring seed. 

''Here come the men from Kisfalu," said Laczi, 
pointing towards the road; "they are well covered 
with mud." 

" The girls have made themselves smart, neverthe- 
less,'' said one of the younger men, looking admiringly 
towards the group of pretty girls in bright-coloured 
petticoats, who were coming up the village street. 

** Sdri and Kati have each a pair of new red boots ! " 

* * Andrds gave them, I know. He drove into Gyong- 
yos, just before the sowing, and bought his mother a 
new silk dress, and both his servants a pair of red 
boots." 

'* That man is made of money," sighed old Berczi, 
envyingly. 

** He makes good use of it, anyhow," said another; 
"during the whole of this winter he paid my mother 
her full wages for picking wheat, though her eyesight 



Easter Morn i77 

now is quite gone, and she cannot tell cornflower seed 
from the finest lowland com." 

''It is easy to do good/' said old Berczi, senten- 
tiously, *' if one has plenty." 

" Not so easy, evidently," said one of the younger 
men ; ** my lord anyhow finds it more difficult than 
Andr&s. He gave mighty little away this winter, I 
know." 

** My lord had mighty little to give away. His entire 
crops were destroyed in the fire, remember, and a 
great many of his beasts perished." 

" There would have been no fire if he had not set up 
that mill of Satan, which was to deprive us of wage, 
while the devil did the work," asserted Laczi hotly. 

The group from Kisfalu had in the meanwhile man- 
aged to wade through the muddy streets, and from the 
distance already shouted greetings to their friends at 
the church porch. There was a remarkable air of 
well-being and prosperity among the peasantry in this 
tiny lowland village ; the men looked handsome in their 
fine white lawn shirts and trousers, very full, and 
finely tucked and hemmed, their short leather jackets 
handsomely embroidered, and broad belts with great 
brass bosses that glittered in the pale sun, the huge 
** bunda " (sheepskin mantles) down their backs giving 
dignity to their not very tall figures. They were a 
sturdy lot, too ; brOad-shouldered, and well planted on 
small arched feet encased in the shiniest of leather 
boots, with high he^ls and spurs, whiqh jingled as 
they walked. As for the girls, there surely could 
not be found in any other county in Hungary such 
bright eyes, such white arms, such pretty little feet ; 
nor could in any other village be mustered such a num- 
ber of coloured petticoats round the waist of any one 

13 



178 A Son of the People 

girl. There were Sdri and Kati now, not to speak of 
scores of others, who could, this Easter mom, not 
have had less than thirty petticoats one over the other, 
which made their hips look so large and their waist so 
small that one felt an irresistible longing to put an arm 
right round it. Their tiny feet were covered in mud, 
for it was a long walk from Kisfalu, but in their hands 
they proudly carried the shiny pair of new red leather 
boots, the joy and delight of every g^rl on the lowlands. 
No girl who owns red boots would allow them to get 
bespattered in the mud ; she carries them carefully to 
church with her prayer-book and best handkerchief, 
and only puts them on outside the porch, so as to walk 
up the aisle in them, to the envy of her less fortunate 
friends who can only afford black boots. 

Prom every cottage door now they come tripping 
out, this bevy of pretty girls dressed out in Sunday 
finery, with great lawn sleeves puffed and starched, and 
bows of national colors, red, white, and green, flutter- 
ing in the wind. The graceful pdrta, tied at the nape 
of the neck with a gigantic bow, sets off to perfection 
the tiny queen-like head, with sleek hair falling in 
two heavy plaits down the back ; the shift gaily em- 
broidered in front, and the corselet laced tightly across 
the slim waist above the numberless petticoats, which 
swing gaily as the girls walk, with a peculiar rolling 
gait from the hips ; the large gold earrings, the many 
rows of beads, the bright clasps of the corselet, all 
glitter in the sunshine, no less than the bright eyes 
and the row of snow-white teeth. The older women 
are in more sombre dresses, and taller partas, with 
bright-coloured shawls to hide their shoulders, and all 
carry ponderous prayer-books with gigantic clasps of 
brass or silver. 



Easter Morn 1 79 

At the church porch greetings and blessings are 
exchanged, while the women squat down on the flag- 
stones to put on the beautiful boots over the little 
muddy feet. 

Pater Ambrosius has not come yet, and already the 
little bell is sending forth, in merry peals, invitations to 
the simple flock to rejoice and worship on this bright 
Easter mom. Some of the women have gone in, to 
get a good seat in the rough oak pew, from which they 
can catch sight of my lord and his family, in their 
great pew above ; for my lord always comes to Mass 
in the village church on Easter Sunday, and brings 
his lamb and eggs to be blessed by the reverend 
Pater. 

Outside there is ceaseless chatter. The gossip con- 
tinues while from every side the worshippers arrive. 

** Will my lord come ? '* asks one of the late arrivals. 

" He came last year, but I don't know if he will 
come to-day,'' said a young herdsman from Bideskiit ; 
"the carriage and horses were waiting when I passed 
the big house, so I am sure the Countess and the 
young lady will come." 

** The noble Ilonka is very beautiful,** suggested a 
pretty girl who was putting on her red boots. 

•* Not half so pretty in my eyes as you, Panna," 
whispered a young swain quickly in her ear. 

" Help me up, Rezso, and don't talk nonsense ; I 
am sure the noble Ilonka is just like the picture of the 
holy Virgin over the altar." 

** And you are like nothing, and nobody, Panna, for 
there is no one with eyes as bright as yours," said the 
young man as he helped the idol of his heart to her 
feet, and in the effort managed to Steal a kiss on her 
round white shoulders. 



i8o A Son of the People 

'' Reszo, you know I have forbidden yon to kiss 
me/' she said with a frown. 

** That is why I like to do it, my soul ; what fun 
would there be in kissing the girls, if they would let 
you?" 

'' I shall not dance the csdrdds with you unless you 
promise not to kiss me." 

" I won't kiss you while your mother is looking," 
he whispered, ** but what about afterwards ? " 

" Hush I " she said blushing, '* here comes my lord's 
carriage. I must run in, or I shall not get a good 
seat." 

** And here, at last, is Kemdny Andrds ! " came from 
one or two cheerful voices among the men. 

The prophecy had proved correct ; Andrds had relied 
on Csillag to bring him through the muddy roads, and 
Ktelka also came, mounted on one of the sure-footed 
horses from her son's stables. 

The young peasant was greeted with many shouts of 
** Isten hozta " (God has brought you !), and twenty 
pairs of willing hands were ready to help Ktelka off 
her saddle. While Andrds tethered Csillag and her 
companion to a tree, the carriage from Bideskdt, 
drawn by four black horses with scarlet harness and 
brass bosses, had driven up to the church x>orch. Re- 
spectfully the peasants stood aside while the Countess 
stepped out in her rustling silk gown, followed by 
Ilonka in a dainty muslin frock. 

The Countess Irma looked very pale and worn; there 
were a good many more lines in the still handsome 
face, and round the proud, disdainful mouth, than 
there had been a year ago ; she sailed past the peas- 
ants, acknowledging their respectful greetings, l^e a 
very queen amongst her vassals. Ilonka, as bright 



Easter Morn i8i 

and merry as ever, was smiling to all like a gay child. 
Kvidently care had not reached her ; what anxiety her 
mother and father had had to suffer since the terrible 
catastrophe, some eight months ago, they had done it 
without allowing her to dream that there was ought 
but sunshine in her life. 

At the door of the church Andrds stood, holding 
his mother by the hand ; they, too, stepped aside as 
the Countess crossed the porch, and Stelka suddenly 
felt that her son's hand, which held her own, trembled 
like an aspen leaf. She looked up at him and saw that 
in his eyes, which .were fixed on the two noble ladies 
before him, there was a look of such wistful tenderness, 
and yet of such hopeless longing, that her motherly 
heart ached within her for this son whose sorrow she 
scarcely understood. 

The Countess Irma had also caught sight of Andr&s, 
and had acknowledged his greeting, but when she was 
quite dose to him she stopped for an instant. It 
seemed as if she were fighting with herself some inward 
battle, the victory of which was hard to gain. Then, 
as if with sudden resolution, she turned to the young 
peasant and said : 

'* The lord of Bideskdt desired me to say that he 
would speak with you, if you will honour him by break- 
ing bread with him, after Mass to-day.*' 

Ilonka had also stopped beside her mother, and her 
great blue eyes were looking curiously at the handsome 
young peasant, who looked so imposing in his magni- 
ficent mantle, all gorgeously embroidered, with the 
rich silver clasps in his belt, and jacket, and the long 
sweeping heron's feather that adorned the cap which 
he had respectfully taken off in reply to the Countess's 
commands. 



i82 A Son of the People 

*^ I will attend upon my lord/' he said with a bow. 
The next moment the Countess and Honka had disap- 
peared inside the church. 

Pater Ambrosius was also coming, holding his 
cassock high above his lean shanks, to protect it from 
the mud. Every one filed into the little church, the 
women to the right, the men to the left. After the first 
glance of curiosity at the noble ladies, all heads were 
reverently bent down, waiting for the Pater to com- 
mence. The gentle old priest, in simple vestments, 
worn threadbare with age, had entered, carrying the 
sacred vessels, and every one knelt for the beginning 
of the Mass, and the recitation of the " Confiteor." 
The younger folk followed the Latin text in their 
prayer-books, but most of the older people, to whom 
all kinds of printing were still a mystery, quietly 
told their beads in a droning voice, which formed a 
quaint accompaniment to Pater Ambrosius' half audi- 
ble prayers. 

In respectful silence the pious, simple folk listened 
to the words prescribed by the Church, not understand- 
ing their meaning, but content that they must please 
God, since Pater Ambrosius said them, who was so 
good and so learned, and since their fathers and grand- 
fathers and many generations before them had wor- 
shipped in this church, in this self-same way. Now 
and then a loudly intoned '^ Per omnia saecula seecu- 
lorum" broke the peaceful stillness of the service, 
responded to by the schoolmaster's little droning har- 
monium, and his ** Amen," sung in a high-pitched 
tremolo. Otherwise all was reverently silent. The 
pale rays of the sun peeped in now and then, through 
the tiny windows, at the simple group of worshippers, 
and from afar could be heard the melancholy roaring 



Easter Morn 183 

of the flood, like distant, subdued thunder, incessant 
and gloomy. 

Then the little bell, rung by the acolyte, announced 
the real bodily approach of God within the village 
church. Reverently all knelt down, and humble heads 
were bent to worship the Saviour, who, at a word from 
Pater Ambrosius, left His glorious heaven to come and 
sit inside that white bit of wafer, which the reverend 
Pater held between his fingers. A silence full of re- 
ligious awe reigned, and, when the little bell had ceased 
to tingle, few heads dared as yet to look towards the 
altar where God now truly sat enthroned. 

Etelka, during the Mass, often looked across at her 
son, who knelt close to one of the stone pillars on the 
left; and she saw that, all through divine worship, his 
eyes, dark and dreamy, were fixed in one direction, 
which was not the altar ; that he held his arms tightly 
crossed over his chest, and that once during the serv- 
ice, when a pale ray of sun came creeping through 
one of the tiny windows, and rested on a head of 
golden curls, bent reverently over the prayer-book, a 
tear found its way in his eyes, and trickled slowly down 
his bronzed cheeks. Etelka noticed that he did not 
pray, that he only gazed in that one direction, with a 
look so wistful and so yearning that she also felt her 
own eyes fill with tears. 

Pater Ambrosius had intoned " Ite ! Missa est I '* 
One by one the little congregation began to file out, in 
order to assemble outside the church where, beneath 
the great overhanging acacias, a table was spread 
with a snow-white cloth, and laden with quarters of 
newly-killed lamb, eggs, butter, cheese, and fresh- 
cured ham, awaiting the blessing of the Church. 

One of the shares of the good fruits of this bountiful 



1 84 A Son of the People 

earth was for the kind Pater himself, and the few poor 
and aged whose time for work had passed. Proudly 
each thrifty housewife compared her own eggs with 
those of her neighbours, noted the whiteness of her 
cheese, the creaminess of her butter. In the centre, on 
a huge silver dish, was a young lamb, roasted whole, 
which my lord had sent to be blessed ; and all along, 
in more humble earthenware platters, and in baskets 
plaited of rush, were the coloured eggs, and smaller 
products from the more modest cottages. 

The small congregation had filed into the church- 
yard, and, in spite of mud and damp, all had knelt 
down to hear the touching prayer that would bring 
God's blessing upon the first-fruits of the earth. 
A rug had been spread in the centre for the Countess 
and Ilonka, and all round, in picturesque groups, knelt 
the pretty peasant girls and bronze-faced young men. 

Pater Ambrosius stood behind the table, with hands 
outspread and reverent eyes lifted upwards, praying for 
grace. Near him a small acolyte swung the censer, 
throwing the sweet penetrating scent of myrrh and 
incense through the air. The sun had come out in its 
full glory, and its noonday rays drew a warm steam 
from the wet earth, and made each raindrop glitter on 
the grass mounds like so many diamonds. Par away 
the distant roar of the flood made a melancholy ac- 
companiment to Pater Ambrosius' softly whispered 
prayer. 

Having spread his hands over all the things placed 
before him, the reverend Pater asked God to bless 
these, the first-fruits of the earth, and, when he had 
finished, he sprinkled each basket of eggs, each quarter 
of lamb, with holy water, and swung the censer over 
them. His kind old face was full of reverence ; in 



Easter Mom 185 

true gratitude he thanked the Creator for the plentiful 
produce of this happy land. When the last prayer 
had been said, and all had repeated ''Amen/' the 
priest addressed his flock once again : 

** My children," he said, ** now that we have thanked 
God for all the good things He gives us, and asked His 
special blessing on the first spring fruits of the earth, I 
want you to join me in a fervent prayer to our Heav- 
enly Father that He may in His mercy stay His wrath 
from our beloved county of Heves, and command the 
waters of the Tarna to return to their banks. We 
must pray to God to stay the catastrophe which brings 
such sorrow upon the lord of Bidesktit, Kisfalu, and 
Zdrda, who already has had so much grief last year, 
when a terrible fire devastated his land. I^et us all 
say from our hearts * Our Father,' and three times 
* Hail, Mary ' and then the Holy Virgin will truly 
intercede with her divine Son for the noble lord." 

The simple prayers were repeated devoutly as Pater 
Ambrosius requested, for all felt truly sorry in their 
hearts to see the beautiful land devastated by the flood ; 
and the two noble ladies looked so sad during Mass, it 
seemed hard they should suffer for follies which they 
could not help. The Countess had firowned when she 
heard Pater Ambrosius' exhortation. Her pride re- 
belled against the touching appeal made on her behalf 
by these simple folk whom she despised ; she did not 
care to own, even before her God, that calamity would 
dare to touch the aristocratic house of Bideskiit. 

As for Andrds, he joined with all his heart in the 
simple prayers ; he — alone of all those present — guessed 
more accurately the magnitude of the disaster which 
had fallen on the lord of Bidesktit by the terrible flood, 
and in simple faith he prayed that this disaster would 



1 86 A Son of the People 

touch but lightly on that dainty head, which was only 
created for merriment. 

The last ** Amen " had died away ; Pater Ambrosius 
had retired within the church to take off his vestments. 
All had risen to their feet and stood gossiping about, 
in whispers, out of respect for the two noble ladies who 
were waiting for their carriage. Etdka had drawn 
near to her son ; vaguely, she felt anxious about him, 
for the line of some hidden suffering seemed more 
accentuated on his face, and once or twice she had 
heard like an involuntary sigh, as if the burden on his 
heart was more than he could bear. The Countess had 
not condescended to speak to him again. She had 
stepped into her carriage, followed by Ilonka, and 
driven off, leaving Andrds to come on as he pleased. 
Her husband had desired to speak with the peasant ; 
that was quite sufficient honour for him, without further 
words from the noble Countess. 

*' You will not stay and eat that man's bread, my 
son?" asked Btelka, anxiously. 

" Never fear, mother," replied Andr&s, " I will see 
what he wants and be home before Sdri and Kati have 
laid our mid-day meal. You must walk Ddndar along 
the road. It is safer for you when I am not there." 

He had passed his hand over his eyes, as if wishing 
to chase away some persistent dream. Then he kissed 
his mother, and placed her in her saddle. Sdri and 
Kati, carrpng their red boots, walked each side of the 
horse, and Kem6ny Andrds stood watching the three 
women until they were out of sight. 

The people had all left the churchyard. One or two 
pretty girls looked wistfully after the rich peasant who 
was so moody to-day. Gradually the little church 
porch and then the village street had become deserted ; 



Easter Morn 187 

all had gone in to eat the meat and eggs which had 
been specially blessed by God. In the distance, Pater 
Ambrosius, his cassock well tacked up, was hurrying 
home to his presbytery ; from every half-opened cottage 
door could be heard loud peals of laughter, and, lin- 
gering in the churchyard, Andrds spied two or three 
couples exchanging kisses. Overhead he could hear 
the melancholy cry of the storks just home from 
warmer climes, and seeking for the nest they deserted 
last year ; everything spoke of merriness, of home, of 
youth and love, and Andrds, with a sigh, turned 
towards Csillag and kissed the pretty creature between 
her great, gentle eyes. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THK RUINED I<ORD 

It was with a beating heart that Andrds once again 
crossed the threshold of that house where his pride had 
received so bitter a blow. He had never entered it 
since the day when a girlish face had stayed his venge- 
ful hand, ready to return blow for blow. And now he 
wondered what the arrogant lord would have to say to 
him. That it was something of serious import was, 
of course, evident, or the Countess would never have 
stooped to address him ; Andr£s guessed that my lord 
had some request to make to him, which his pride had 
probably put ofiF from day to day for some time, till now 
it had become imperative. 

Jank6 had been waiting for Andrds at the gates ; 
another servant took charge of Csillag, while the old 
valet led the young peasant to that same room where 
the stormy interview had lately taken place. 

The lord of Bideskdt was sitting there, smoking, 
when Jank6 opened the door to let Andr&s come in ; but 
the peasant noticed that as he entered this time the 
noble lord took the pipe out of his mouth, and said, 
<* Isten hozta ! " (God has brought you !) while point- 
ing to a chair. 

Andr&s saw how very mudi altered Bideskiity was 
since last year. He seemed altogether aged, though 
his hair was no greyer nor his stature less upright, but 

1 88 



The Ruined Lord 189 

his geniality seemed gone ; there was an air of serious- 
ness, of care, round the eyes, and one or two deep lines 
were very apparent between the brows. Andrds felt 
exceedingly sorry for this man, who seemed to have 
su£fered so much for his folly. 

** It is kind of you to come," began Bideskiity a little 
nervously. 

'* I am here at your lordship's command ; with what 
can I be of service ? '* 

** You will have guessed by hearing the Tama 
roaring out there, over my fields." 

** I know that your lordship is sufifering a heavy 
loss, as already you did last year. I do not remember 
so terrible a flood since I was a boy." 

** The loss to me is greater than you think." 

** I am a farmer, my lord," said Andrds simply ; I 
know the value of every acre upon the lowland." 

Bidesktity thought that the peasant purposely evaded 
giving him an opening for what he wanted to say. 
Never in all his life had he felt so absolutely at a loss 
of how to begin ; he had never asked any one anything, 
and now he was compelled to do it of a man whom he 
despised as utterly beneath him, and yet whom, some- 
how, he could not manage to treat in the same way as 
he did Rosenstein the Jew. 

Andrds waited quietly while Bidesktity mopped his 
forehead and drew great clouds of smoke from his pipe. 

**Have you suffered much, over at Kisfalu?" he 
asked at last. 

** As your Honour knows, there are very few fields in 
that direction belonging to Kisfalu ; some of my maize 
is under water, but it won't be a serious loss." 

**You are always lucky!" said Bideskdty envy- 
ingly. 



iQO A Son of the People 

** There are other sorrows besides the loss of com,'* 
replied Andrds quietly. 

" That depends how much you lose," said Bides- 
kiity with growing vehemence ; ** if, like me, you were 
to see two successive crops entirely destroyed through 
no fault of your own, leaving you nothing, not even 
a handful of corn, to sow for the following year, what 
then ? If, like me, you saw ruin staring you in the 
face, what then ? If every league of your land is 
mortgaged to beyond its value, with interest to pay far 
beyond what it can produce, what then? If your 
very house, in which for seven hundred years every 
one of your ancestors were born and have died, is 
about to pass into strangers' hands ? Then, Kem^ny 
Andrds, are there sorrows that are harder to bear ? " 

**No, indeed, my lord," said Andrds kindly, **but 
such a terrible state of things is, thank God, not your 
own. True, your land is heavily mortgaged ; no one 
knows that better than I ; but I am not threatening to 
close upon you, dearly as I should love to call that 
part of it on which I was born my own. You talk of 
interest," he added very gently, ** but, however much 
you may have suffered in the two disasters, your land, 
thank God, still produces enough on which to feed 
yourself and your family and all your servants, and yet 
leave over a small surplus, which is but the just inter- 
est on the money you have had. As for this house, 
who threatens it ? Surely not I. I hold no mortgage 
on it, and have already refused to take it as security, 
when I lent the money upon the Bideskdt lands." 

* You use many pretty phrases," said Bideskdty 
impatiently ; ** just now you said you knew the value of 
every acre upon the lowland. Are you telling a lie, 
then, when you say that, on the few fields that do not 



The Ruined Lord 191 

lie under water, I can grow enough wheat to pay you 
the hundreds of thousands of measures which you de- 
mand, and yet have enough with which to feed myself, 
and my family, and all my servants? " 

** I am afraid your Honour is but a poor calculator ; 
the measures of wheat which you pay me annually for 
the loan of the 850,000 florins I lent you, altogether, do 
not amount to more than twenty thousand and " 

" It is you who is a poor calculator " rejoined Bides- 
kiity, ** for I pay more than ten times that amount, 
which with the thousands of beasts " 

'* My lord,'' said Andrds quietly, ** do not let us 
wander any further into these fantastic lands. I re- 
ceive from your lordship in kind as interest for my 
money what does not amount to more than three or 
four florins a year for every hundred I lent. You your- 
self signed the paper which I hold in my pocket ; what 
I asked was more than fair, it was liberal ; had I ex- 
acted the usurious interest you speak of, I could long 
ago have forced you to part with Kisfalu, to own which 
is the dream of my life. But I do not understand 
usury, and that is why I am still the * b6rld ' (tenant) 
and not the owner of the land." 

'* Not understand usury, man ? " said Bideskdty in a 
rage ; are you drunk or mad ? Am I dreaming, or are 
you telling lies? Does not that blood-sucking Jew 
bailifiF of yours exact from me every year what now 
amounts to nearly two hundred thousand measures of 
wheat, some four hundred head of my best cattle, a 
thousand sheep and lambs, my fattest geese and poul- 
try, and, in your name, give me neither rest nor 
respite ? coming down upon me a little more than a 
week after that terrible fire, exacting the few poor 
beasts that had escaped from the flames, threatening 



1 92 A Son of the People 

me with the demand for the capital, unless I parted 
with the few stacks of corn left me by the cursed incen- 
diaries, my only chance of sowing for the following 
year ; and then actually offering me that self-same com 
at an outrageous price, and offering to lend me the 
money with which to buy it, at usury worse than the 
last." 

Exhausted, the unfortunate man had sunk down in 
his chair, burying his face in his hands. Forgotten 
were his pride, his arrogance, when looking his own 
folly, his probable ruin, in the face ; it all seemed so 
hopdess, he felt like some wretched bird ensnared in a 
net, fighting against meshes which closed in on every 
side. Andrds had become deathly pale ; at first he had 
listened to the ravings of Bideskiity as he would to 
those of a lunatic. But gradually he realised in the 
man's broken accents, in his voice choked with sobs 
half of anger and half of appeal, that he was telling 
the bitter truth; he dimly felt that some terrible wrong 
had been committed, of which this foolish man had 
been the victim, a wrong committed in his name — 
Kem^ny Andrds — he who had worshipped his own 
integrity as he would a god. 

Trembling, his hand sought the papers which bore 
Bidesk^ty's signature ; his eyes scanned the writing 
anxiously, as if in a vain desire to make them yield 
part of that hideous mystery. 

** My lord," he said as quietly as possible, after a 
long pause, ** I do not think that we quite understand 
one another. That there is here some ugly mystery, 
of which Rosenstein has the key, seems to me evident ; 
shall we try to understand each other first, before we 
make him tell us his share of the riddle ? '* 

Bideskiity had succeeded in once more mastering 



The Ruined Lord 193 

himself. He saw his creditor's face, looking so kindly, 
so honestly, at him that, for once in his life, his heart 
whispered to him to put his pride in his pocket, to trust 
that man whom he a£fected to despise, and with a frank 
gesture he stretched his hand out towards him. 

Andrds placed his own in it ; then he said : 

*' Will your lordship tell me, as clearly as you can, 
what you believe to be your debt towards me? *' 

*' I could not tell you within a good many measures 
of wheat, but I know that you lent me altogether 
950,000 florins." 

" No, my lord, only 850,000 florins." 

** There were four loans altogether." 

"Only three." 

"Three hundred thousand on Kisfalu ; 300,000 on 
the lands of Bideskdt, 250,000 on Zdrda, and 100,000 
on this house, the gardens and stables, and all its ad- 
joining buildings." 

" This last loan I never made ; it was no money of 
mine. When did your Honour borrow it ? " 

** Two days after the fire, last September." 
Did Rosenstein say the money came from me ? " 
Jews, whenever they lend money, always protest 
their own poverty, and speak of a friend who is rich 
and is the real lender. When I originally borrowed 
of Rosenstein, I did not believe that story. Later 
on . . . you told me that it was your money I 
was borrowing ... I never inquired further after 
that." 

** I understand. Will your Honour continue ? " 

** I do not know exactly how much money interest I 
have agreed to pay. That dirty Jew always made me 
sign a paper ; as if the word of a Hungarian nobleman 
was not as good as any paper." 

«3 






194 A Son of the People 

*' These papers I have here/* said Andrds, '' is this 
your lordship's signature ? " 

Bideskiity glanced at the papers which Kem^ny was 
holding towards him. 

" Yes/' he said, " that is my writing." 

** Does your lordship at all remember the amount of 
the interest you agreed to pay ? ' ' 

'* Not exactly . . . but " 



<( 



Was it at all like this ? " said Andrds, beginning to 
read from the paper, ** I owe you 300,000 florins in 
gold. For this, until I repay it in full, I promise to 
pay you interest every year, one hundred head of cattle, 
of which there shall be ten bulls and ninety cows, and 

five thousand hectolitres of wheat " 

Bideskiity shook his head. 



n 



On that first loan I have paid now every year, since 
over five years, fifty thousand measures of wheat, some 
two hundred head of cattle and sheep, and I don't 
know how much poultry." 

** But why did your lordship do it, when you onfy 
agreed to pay five thousand measures of wheat, and a 
hundred head of cattle ? " 

" I tell you, man, that from the first Rosenstein de- 
manded usurious interest in the name of his friend, 
who I supposed was yourself; that he would not let me 
have the money without I signed his cursed papers, 
promising to pay his outrageous demands." 
Papers ? Were there more than one ? " 
I think I always signed two every time I received 
the money. I don't quite remember," said Bideskiity, 
with exasperating vagueness. 

" But your lordship musi have seen what you 
wrote ; you must have read what you put your name 
to." 






The Ruined Lord 195 

" May the devil get into the cursed things ! I never 
read them, I tell you." 

** Never read them ? " 

Andrds was fairly staggered. In his careful, thrifty, 
peasant mind, such negligence was nothing short of 
criminal. Clearly the Jew had had an easy game with 
this careless, shiftless spendthrift, who seemed utterly 
ignorant of the value of all he was so casually signing 
away with a flourish of his pen, without deigning even 
to glance at that to which he had put his name. It 
seemed to Andrds almost incredible, and just for a 
moment he doubted whether Bideskdty was not play- 
ing some game too deep for his peasant mind to fathom. 
But Bideskdty looked so puzzled himself, so wretched 
and hopeless, that Andrds felt truly sorry for him. 

" Then your lordship sent for me to-day " 

** To ask you if you cannot forego some of that inter- 
est,** interrupte4 Bideskdty again nervously; **I 
thought you could easily do that without losing very 
much by it" 

** Indeed, my lord, had I ever done so dishonourable 
a thing as to extort usury like that from you," said 
Andrds with a smile, " I would well have deserved 
that blow on the head eight months ago, the scar of 
which I still bear. I see clearly now that that con- 
founded Jew has used my money and my name to prac- 
tise the most villainous usury upon you, and that — 
your lordship must pardon me for saying this — ^you 
have allowed yourself to be robbed in a most careless 
manner." 

What could I do ? I wanted the money." 
Your lordship knows best what you wanted it for. 
No good has come of the money, and your lordship 
is suflFering deeply for some unfortunate follies.'* 






10 A Son of the People 

'* You have no right to speak to me like that. I 
allow no one to condemn my actions. Certainly not 
such as you " 

'' Do not let us quarrel again, noble lord/' said 
Andrds, who this time was determined not to lose his 
temper, * * but rather let us see which way it will be best 
for me to help your Honour. I can, of course, get the 
other papers out of the hands of that cursed Jew, those, 
I mean, which deal with loans I actually did make." 

*' What will you do with them ? '* asked BideskAty, 
still suspiciously. 

** Destroy them," replied Andrds simply. ** Unfor- 
tunately it is not in my power to force Rosenstein to 
give you back all that he has extorted from you. I 
can thrash him to within an inch of his life," he 
added, ** but that would do no good." 

''All that is not the worst," said Bideskdty with a 
sigh; **what is gone is gone. I^can pay neither 
interest nor principal of that last loan ; the dday you 
and Rosenstein have granted me expires this week ; I 
have not a groat in the world; my best land is under 
water, my beasts have not yet recovered from the fear- 
ful shock and terrors of that awful night in September, 
and my beautiful house of Bideskdt, where I was bom 
and had hoped to die, will fall into the hands of a 
stranger — yours — Rosenstein' s — " added the poor man 
ready again to break down. '' What difference does it 
make to me whether it is Jew or peasant that drives me 
from my home?" 

** Your lordship does not remember what you signed, 
in connection with the loan on this bouse? " 

I tell you, man, I never read what I signed ! " 
Yes, I know," said Andrds with an impatient 
sigh, " but you must have some sort of an idea as to 



It 
i< 



The Ruined Lord 197 

what money you are actually owing at this moment 
upon that one loan and the interest." 

** I know that the money I had was 100,000 florins, 
that there is some outrageous interest due on it, of 
which I have not paid one measure of wheat or one 
head of cattle ; and that with my early crops under 
water, I see absolutely no chance of ever paying, 
neither that, nor anything I owe you." 

** We will talk about your debt to me later on, when 
we have satisfied Rosenstein, and made your house 
secure from his clutches. I have not the money with 
me to-day, but I will see him to-morrow, and have a 
look at all the papers he holds. We can both only 
pray, my lord, that I shall be able to buy them at a 
reasonable figure. I am not made of money," added 
Andrds, smiling, ''as your Honour has often said; 
thank God, however, I have enough yet to let you be 
in my debt, with regard to the house, instead of in the 
Jew's, and I can assure your lordship that I will never 
be hard upon you in the matter of the interest." 

Bideskiity seemed hardly to realise the enormous 
service which the young peasant was thus quietly 
ofiering to render him. For the last few months his 
situation had appeared to him so hopeless, he had 
brooded so deeply and so darkly over his inevitable 
ruin, that the glimmer of hope which this man so un- 
ostentatiously held out to him appeared too faint to 
penetrate through the dreary veil of his misery. 

** Whatever interest you wanted," he said, dejectedly, 
" I could not pay you, while fire and water fight alter- 
nately against me." 

** I told your lordship that I would not be hard." 

" Do you wish to humiliate me by conferring favours 
upon me?" said Bideskdty, fretfully. 



igS A Son of the People 

** I have no wish to humiliate any one, being only a 
peasant myself," said Andrds with a pride which at 
least equalled Bideskiity's own, as he drew up his tall 
figure to the full height, and looked the lord of Bides- 
k^t straight in the face. '* Your lordship has asked 
me to help you. You know best if you can accept 
the only help I can suggest without losing your 
dignity.'* 

** Thinking you were my creditor, I only asked for 
time. I do not see why you should part with your 
money to help me." 

*' I am a single man, my lord," said Andrds, with 
inexpressible sadness, ''my dear mother and I have 
enough to feed ourselves and all those who ask us to 
feed them ; I have no desire to save, and we must all 
try to help one another on this beautiful lowland of 
ours, so that it remains fruitful and prosperous, such 
as God created it." 

Bideskdty had rested his elbow on the table, and 
hidden his face in his hands, so that the peasant could 
not see how deeply he felt his present position, how 
humbled he really was in his pride at being so abso- 
lutely bounden to one beneath him, to one who was 
quietly giving him the most serious lesson he had ever 
had in his life. He felt very like a chidden child, still 
obstinately shutting his eyes to the fact that nothing 
but his own folly had brought him to the verge of 
ruin, and looking on all his misfortunes as the relentless 
hand of fate. 

There was a long silence between the two men ; 
Andrds waited till Bideskiity had composed himself, 
and after a while he said : 

'' Have I your lordship's permission to see Rosen- 
stein to-morrow?" 



The Ruined Lord 199 



(< 



Yes ! . . . Yes ! " said Bideskdty, hurriedly ; *' I 
am grateful to you, friend . . . yes, very grateful, 
. . . and . . . you need not fear ... I will repay 
you all soon . . . very soon . . . you are placing your 
money on good security. . . . Next year my mill will 
be at work . . .*' 

** We can easily talk of that later on,** said Andrds, 
gently ; " if your lordship will allow me, now I will go ; 
my mother will be waiting for our Easter meal, and the 
roads are muddy towards Kisfalu.** 

*' Oh ! Ah ! Yes ! Yes ! ** added Bideskiity, nerv- 
ously, **but . . . but . . . will you not . . . break 
the bread with us? . . . with me ... I mean . . . 
for, of course, the Countess . . . ** 

Andrds had looked with some amusement at the poor 
man struggling through this evidently most uncordial 
invitation. He was far too shrewd not to guess how 
unwelcome a guest he really would be at the noble 
lord*s table, and far too proud to avail himself of 
Bideskiity* s sense of obligation towards him. He had 
risen to his feet, and in his great mantle, with his tall, 
broad stature, he seemed to tower in his pride above 
the unfortunate nobleman, with his seven centuries of 
ancestry. 

" I thank your Honour,** he said, " but, if you will 
allow me, I will join my mother at our own mid-day 
meal. My two little servants would be sad to see my 
empty chair on Easter Sunday, and I would not like to 
be the cause of the noble Countess being forced to eat 
the blessed meats apart from her lord.*' 

" Will you come to me after you have seen Rosen- 
stein to-morrow?** asked Bideskiity, evidently much 
relieved. 

" I will certainly bring you the papers at once. You 



200 A Son of the People 

will be glad to see them destroyed/' said Andrds, pre- 
paring to take his leave. 

For a moment Bideskdty hesitated. The guest who 
had come to the rescue when all seemed lost, and who 
had staved off the ruin which had been knocking at 
the door, was about to depart. Surely, the laws of 
hospitality demanded that he should be accompanied to 
the gates, that the stirrup-cup should be handed to him 
by his host before he rode away. 

Andrds readjusted his mantle over his broad shoul- 
ders, tightened his belt, took up his cap, and bowed to 
the lord of Bidesktit. Gyuri again put out his hand, 
which the peasant grasped, after an imperceptible 
moment of hesitation — then, the next instant, he was 
gone, his steps echoing on the flagstones of the hall, 
and it was old Jank6 who offered the peasant the 
stirrup-cup, which Andrds refused ; whilst from the 
room above, Bideskiity watched his creditor with a 
puzzled look on his face. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

ROSKNSTEIN THE JEW 

Nobody knew in the village exactly how Rosenstein 
the Jew lived, and no one could really boast of ever 
having entered the small cottage in which he had lived 
for over a quarter of a century. He kept neither man 
nor maid, so must have done every kind of work for 
himself, from stewing his own " gulyds'* to looking 
after his own chickens, of which he kept a few in the 
bit of garden at the back, and his cow, a beautiful 
milcher, from the Kisfalu herd, which he had bought 
from Kem6ny Andrds. Every Saturday, however, 
old R6za, Dardzs Laczi's mother, had to go and do his 
work for him ; on that day, although he could not go 
to Synagogue, since there was no such place of worship 
nearer than the one at Gyongyos, he kept his Sab- 
bath most strictly, and remained all day indoors, doing 
absolutely nothing but take his meals, which Zsuzsi 
cooked for him, and to whom he gave ten kreutzer 
(about twopence) every Saturday for her trouble. 

Kem6ny Andrds looked with some doubt through the 
half-open door into that cottage on the following after- 
noon ; it seemed so dark and close within. He knocked 
several times at the door before he heard a shuffling 
footstep across the room, and Rosenstein's husky voice 
asking who was there. 

** It is I, Kem6ny Andr&s, Rosenstein, let me in I I 
wish to speak with you." 



202 A Son of the People 

'* My poor house is too much honoured," said the 
Jew, barring the way across the threshold ; * * if you de- 
sired to speak with me, I would have gone where you 
had bidden me." 

" I^t me in, man," said Kem^ny peremptorily, 
"what I have to say to you cannot be said at a way- 
side inn, or on the road, and my time is short." 

Without waiting for the Jew's reply, Andrds pushed 
him on one side and went in. He had to stoop as he 
crossed the threshold, for the doorway was low and 
heavy rafters supported the thatched roof. At first he 
could see nothing round him, for the tiny window was 
masked by an old coat, which was nailed across it, so 
as to entirely obstruct the daylight. The heat inside 
was overpowering, for there was a huge fire in the 
great earthenware oven, on which something, that was 
strongly flavoured with garlic, was simmering gently. 

As Andrds's eyes became accustomed to the darkness, 
he noticed a table in the middle of the room, of dark 
polished wood, on which were spread several papers. 
Before it a chair had apparently been hastily pushed 
aside. Otherwise the room appeared empty ; at the 
farther end, a door led to an inner room, beyond 
which was the tiny garden, and a shed for the cow. 

Rosenstein had hurriedly endeavoured to collect the 
papers scattered on the table. 

** I^eave those alone," said Andrds, putting his hand 
over them, *' I expect those papers are the ones about 
which I have come to speak to you. But take 
that rag from off the window; I must have some 
light." 

* * The villagers are so inquisitive, your Honour, ' ' pro- 
tested Rosenstein, whose sallow cheeks had become of 
a pale ashen colour, as Andrds, sitting on the edge of 



Rosenstein the Jew 203 

the table, had picked up all the papers, and was pre- 
paring to look over them. 

" I told you to let in more light," said the peasant, 
peremptorily. The Jew obeyed. For fully five min- 
utes there was silence, during which time Andrds 
quietly read each paper through, whilst Rosenstein 
watched anxiously every varying expression of his face 
as he read. When Andrds had finished, he replaced 
the papers on the table. 

" Do you remember," he asked quietly, ** that some 
eight months ago I once told you that I would thrash 
your very life out of you, if ever I found you out trying 
to deceive me?" 

** Your Honour — " began Rosenstein, protesting. 

** I said, do you remember?" interrupted Andrds> 
still very quietly. 

There was no reply. The Jew looked frightened ; 
once or twice he passed his tongue over his lips, which 
seemed parched, and his knees shook under him visibly, 
as he dropped into the chair. 

** I have brought with me," resumed Andrds, who 
was still sitting on the edge of the table, '* the riding- 
whip with which I thrash my herdsmen if I catch any 
of them ill-using a dumb brute unnecessarily. I have 
only struck a beast once with it, and that was a pig 
which had turned savage and bitten a shepherd in the 
leg. To-day I shall use it upon you, because you 
have not only deceived me, and brought my good 
name to shame, but because you have cruelly and un- 
necessarily ill-used one who had done you no wrong, 
and brought him to the verge of ruin." 

** Your Honour — " protested Rosenstein again. 

*' I have not done yet. When I have finished with 
the thrashing I intend to give you, you will hand over 



204 A Son of the People 

to me the papers relating to the loan of 100,000 florins, 
which you made upon the house of Bideskiit (which 
is not here among these papers on the table), in ex- 
change for the sum of 105,000 florins which I shall 
hand over to you, this being at a fair rate of interest, 
upon the money you lent six months ago. As for 
these papers here, they are valueless, and when you 
have had your thrashing, we will destroy them." 

Andrds thereupon calmly took off his mantle, and 
drew from out his belt a short-handled whip of twisted 
leather. 

Rosenstein was positively livid. Though he was 
well used to sundry thrashings from hot-tempered 
noble borrowers, there was a nasty look in Andrds's 
eyes, which foretold that the present experience would 
be decidedly more unpleasant than any in the past. 
But the astute Jew was not a man to be taken una- 
wares; no doubt, when he first entered upon the 
hazardous game, which he now stood a sad chance of 
losing, he had prepared for an eventuality like the pre- 
sent one. He knew that he would not always be able 
to keep creditor and debtor apart, and that, sooner or 
later, an unpleasant encounter with his rich employer 
would be the inevitable result. 

** Your Honour,'* he said with absolute calm, whilst 
Andrds cracked his whip through the air, ** you think 
I have deceived j^ou, and perhaps to a certain extent 
I have done so, but not quite so much as you think. 
I cannot save my poor old shoulders from your riding- 
whip, seeing that you have the advantage over me in 
point of strength and age, but, surely, if I have 
deserved a beating, you would not be cowardly enough 
to thrash me, who am weak, and let him who is 
strong, and far guiltier than I, go free.'* 



Rosenstein the Jew 205 

" What is it to. me, if some one else helped you in 
doing your lying, cheating trade ? I have not had any 
dealings with other miscreants save you. But if it will 
ease your sore shoulders to see those of your accomplice 
smart — well ! if you will name him to me, I promise you 
he shall not come off second best.*' 

Rosenstein was quietly chuckling to himself, and 
looking at the young peasant from under his shaggy 
eyebrows, with a satirical smile playing upon his thin 
lips. 

** Even if that accomplice is the lord of Bidesktit, 
Kisfalu, and Zdrda?** he asked. "Look here, your 
Honour," he added as Andris, puzzled, had paused a 
moment, giving the Jew a chance to speak, " I do not, 
of course, know with what lies the noble lord over at 
Bideskiit has been stuffing you up; whatever they 
were, you have evidently believed them, and have come 
here thinking that I was the vilest thing on earth, only 
fit to be touched with the same whip with which you 
thrash your pigs. But when your Honour read books on 
law, and studied Latin with Pater Ambrosius, you must 
have learned also the good sound saying: that one 
man's tongue is good, till the other man's begins to 
wag. If your Honour desires to be just, you will hear 
me, and then decide whose shoulders are more worthy 
of your riding- whip. ' ' 

It was obvious that Andrds would listen, for he had 
folded his arms over his chest, and placed the whip on 
the table by his side. 

"As I said before," resumed Rosenstein, whose 
voice now was perfectly assured and steady, ** I do not 
know what stories your Honour has heard. I will tell 
it, such as it all really happened, the truth of which I 
swear by our forefather Abraham, by Isaac, Jacob, and 



2o6 A Son of the People 

by Moses the lawgiver. The noble lord wanted some 
money, a great deal of money ; your Honour perhaps 
has no idea how much went into that wonderful mill, 
which has never ground yet a thousand bushels of 
wheat. You were willing to lend his lordship what 
was more than a reasonable amount of money on the 
security of Kisfalu first, then of Bideskiit, and finally 
of Zdrda. I am a poor man, and no farmer, but I say 
it humbly that the money you lent was quite as much 
as the land was worth. But the most noble lord 
wanted more, a great deal more ; his mill, his machin- 
ery, his improvements swallowed up the money you 
lent, and like the ogres children are frightened with, 
when they had swallowed all, they wanted more. The 
owner of Bideskiit, Kisfalu, and Zdrda had no more 
land to offer as security ; I could not, as he wanted, 
ask your Honour to lend any more ; I had some money 
put by. Is that a sin ? . . . Your Honour's father put 
a couple of millions into a wine barrel. I sank mine 
into a Hungarian nobleman's bottomless pockets. . . . 
But, mind you, /had no security . . . only my lord's 
august name at the bottom of a piece of paper. . . . 
You understand these things . . • the worse the secu- 
rity . . . the heavier the interest ... I had no wish 
to part with my money, in order merely to gratify the 
whims of an arrogant, spendthrift lord. I had no 
cause to love him, for, whenever I refused to lend him 
all the money he wanted, he had me whipped by his 
lacqueys. . . . Once he forced me to break the laws 
of my religion, and stuffed pig's meat down my throat 
in order to make his kitchenmaids laugh. . . . No ! I 
did not love him . . . but I lent him money ... at 
interest . . . just interest . . . you must judge me 
rightly . . . and consider ... I had no security." 



« 

Rosenstein the Jew 207 

Rosenstein had told this extraordinary tissue of false- 
hoods with perfect self-possession. All his nervousness 
had gone, and as he proceeded with his narrative, he 
wore such an air of truth, and the whole circumstances 
seemed so absolutely plausible, that Andrds was fairly 
staggered. More and more puzzled, he tried to read 
the Jew's very thoughts beneath the mask of bland 
innocence he wore, and his honest mind refused to 
grasp the obvious fact that one of the two men — the 
lord or the Jew — was telling him a complete tissue of 
lies. Being simple and honest, he had a great desire 
to be just, and, in a matter of rectitude, both Jew and 
lord seemed to him to have an equal right to be 
believed. 

Rosenstein, through his very calling in life, was 
accustomed to note every change in the human face. 
The young peasant's keen frank eyes were the very 
mirror of his mind within, and the Jew soon saw that 
his narrative had had a sufficient air of truth to have, 
at any rate, severely shaken Andr&s's conviction of his 
guilt 

'* After all," he resumed after a pause, '' I do not ex- 
pect you to believe my words without proofs. Here are 
the papers relating to three loans which I made to my 
lord. They are signed *Bidesk6ty Gyuri' ; he will not 
deny his own signature ; he cannot do it. ... I do 
not know what lies he has told your Honour. A man 
who has no respect for religion can have no respect 
for truth . . . but he cannot deny his signature.'* 

'* He does not deny any signature, but he says you 
made him sign two papers, which he never read. He 
owns that he had the money, that he agreed to pay the 
usurious interest, set forth on your papers, but, al- 
though he does not deny that the signature at the 



2o8 A Son of the People 

bottom of the }>apers which I hold is his, he says he 
knows nothing of their contents.*' 

'' And does your Honour, who knows something 
about business, really believe that a man would be 
fool enough to put his name to papers without know- 
ing what they contain?" asked Rosenstein, with a 
shrug of the shoulders.. 

He had — ^perhaps unknown to himself— played his 
trump card here. There was no doubt that, to the 
peasant, the idea of Bideskdty professing not to have 
read the contents of the papers he had signed was ab- 
solutely preposterous ; although, until he had spoken to 
Rosenstein, he had never actually discredited the noble 
lord's statement, now that it was jeered at by the Jew, 
it struck him again forcibly as shiftless beyond the 
bounds of possibility. 

Once more he took up the papers that were lying on 
the table, and read them through very carefully, with 
a more and more puzzled air. They certainly bore out 
the Jew's statements to the full ; although in them 
Bideskiity acknowledged the debt, and agreed to pay 
the usurious interest charged therein, there was no 
mention of any security whatsoever. Triumphantly, 
the Jew watched his face. 

** After the fire, your Honour, when my lord required 
more money, and I began to feel that perhaps my spec- 
ulation was becoming hazardous, I exacted the house 
and grounds of Bideskiit as security for the next loan. 
I was obliged to do that in my own interests, as a 
wholesome weapon over his head. Remember, it is all 
I have as security for the vast sums of money I have 
lent ; whilst I hold that, I can enforce the payment of 
the interest on the other loans. I know the noble lord 
would not part with the house as long as he had a 



Rosenstein the Jew 209 

qaarter of wheat left which he could throw to me when 
I became pressing." 

** I was prepared to take over the loan on the house," 
said Andrds/* and brought the money with me to-day." 

* * How can your Honour suggest such a thing ? ' * said 
Rosenstein with amazement. *' If I part with that 
one security I hold, what chance have I, not only of 
ever seeing a florin of the principal, but of being able 
to enforce the payment of the interest? You hold 
Kisfalu, Bideskdt, Zdrda as security . . . what 
chance would I have ? " 

** If you seize the house of Bideskdt and drive the 
noble lord and his family away from their home, you 
have no better chance of getting the remainder of your 
principal and interest, and, according to your state- 
ment, you will then have paid 950,000 florins for 
a house, a garden, a few stables, and two or three 
fields." 

** The house is comfortable," said the Jew placidly. 
'' I can live in it, if I like. I am a poor man, with 
simple tastes ; the garden and the fields will yield me 
all I want." 

'* Why, man I the house will fall into ruin, if it is 
uninhabited. Ten years hence, unless you keep it in 
proper repair, your 950,000 florins will not fetch as 
many pence." 

"Suppose, your Honour," said the Jew with slow 
emphasis, "' that I am content to pay 950,000 florins 
for the pleasure of seeing that man a beggar, and 
without a home, the man who amused himself by see- 
ing me whipped by his herdsmen, and by forcing pig's 
meat down my throat? " 

Andr&s looked astonished, even awed, in spite of 
himaelfy by the tone of bitter, deadly hatred, which 



2IO A Son of the People 

made the words come out of the Jew*s mouth like the 
hissing of a poisonous snake. Again there was a long 
pause. Kem^ny Andrds was quite at a loss to know 
what to do. The whole thing nauseated him. So 
many lies had been told, there was so much greed, so 
much cupidity, so much hatred on one side, such 
hopeless thriftlessness on the other, that it seemed 
absolutely impossible to mediate with equal justice to 
both. There is no doubt that but for a fair, girlish 
vision, which, with provoking persistency, haunted his 
dreams, he would have left the careless, arrogant lord 
to his fate ; but, before him, his fancy conjured up a 
pathetic picture of that curly head, bent down under a 
weight of sorrow, of those forget-me-not eyes dim with 
tears, of that sweet mouth lined with care, and perhaps 
want. . . . 

Great God ! such a vision, haunting him by day and 
by night, seen in the fitful light of the moon, or mir- 
rored across the plain by the fairy Morgana, would 
drive him mad, and sap his manhood, his pride, reduce 
him to an imbecile visionary, the laughing-stock of 
the county of Heves. . . . 

'' lyook here, Rosenstein," he said at last, ** I am 
pledged to see justice done, in this unfortunate busi- 
ness. My lord 'stale is very different from yours. . . . '' 

** I have the papers,*' repeated the Jew, obstinately. 

** He denies any knowledge of them.** 

" Does he deny his signature ? * * persisted Rosenstein. 

** No, he does not ; but . . . *' 

" There is no duf, your Honour ; you must in all jus- 
tice admit that. You have seen all the papers. Here,*' 
he added, taking another from his breast-pocket, '* is 
the one relating to the last loan . . . the one on the 
house of Bideskdt. . . . He promises to pay back the 



Rosenstein the Jew 2 1 1 

principal and interest in six months ; failing which I 
have the right to seize his house. There is no argu- 
ment possible. I am within my rights ; and your 
Honour cannot say I have wronged you in any way. 
Your money is perfectly secure; what he has agreed to 
pay you he can pay or not as he pleases ; the land is 
well worth foreclosing on. ... I have nothing but 
the house . . . the house I mean to have, unless the 
noble lord fulfils his engagements to me . . . which 
by his own signature he has agreed to do. This is my 
last word. . . . Your Honour is just. . . . Read the 
papers . . . you will see that I am within my rights." 

Unfortunately, of that fact there was absolutely no 
doubt, and Kemdny Andrds felt how hopeless any 
question of temporising would be. It would only stave 
off the inevitable ruin by a few months. If the Jew 
had spoken the truth — and there certainly was every 
material proof that he had — then, obviously, it would 
be the grossest injustice to him to advance the money 
to Bidesktity ; thus taking over the mortgage of the 
house, and for ever depriving Rosenstein of any weapon 
with which he might enforce at least the part repay- 
ment of all the money he declared he had lent in the 
past, and of all the interest in the future. 

*'Look here, Rosenstein, supposing all you say is 
correct . . . now do not interrupt me, I said suppos- 
ing y as there are two of you, each with a different tale 
. . . you have admitted yourself that three of the loans 
are unsecured, but that for the pleasure of seeing a 
poor old man and his family turned out of the home 
which has belonged to their ancestors for hundreds of 
years, you are willing to lose the bulk of your principal 
and interest. . . . Now, will you tell me, what would 
induce you to forego that pleasure entirely? ... in 



212 A Son of the People 

other words, what money wotild you take for every 
scrap of paper you hold which bears the signature 
• Bidcskfity ' ? *' 

Rosenstein had been expecting this all the time. In 
order to have this question put to him, he had lied and 
sweated now for over an hour, but not a line of his 
thin countenance expressed triumph or satisfaction, as 
he said placidly : 

' ' I will own to your Honour that I have often thought 
that my lord would one day put such a question to me. 
If the thought occurred to me, just after a whipping 
from his servants, I invariably dismissed it, for I knew 
that I should refuse to take a penny less than my due." 

''But, suppose, for argument's sake, that it was I 
who put that question to you ? What then ? " 

Perhaps imperceptibly, certainly unconsciously, a 
shade — oh! it was the merest shade — of softness 
passed over Rosenstdn's hard face, and his voice was 
not so sharp and hissing, when, he replied : 

'' Your Honour is the only person in the lowlands 
who speaks to me as to a man, and not to a dog. You 
have never borrowed money of me, and given me a 
blow as part interest. Once I fainted in the heat of 
the sun : you had me taken inside your house and 
tended me, till I was able to be on my feet again : 
when every other peasant or lord in the county would 
have kicked the fainting Jew to one side. ... If 
your Honour will make me a fair and just offer for these 
papers, I will take it. But your Honour must remem- 
ber that you are throwing away your money on an 
arrogant lord, who will give contempt in return for 
kindness, insult for generosity. The lord of Bidesktit 
can be nothing to a peasant of Heves. Let your 
Honour think well before you waste your father's 



Rosenstein the Jew 213 

savings on a spendthrift magnate who looks upon you 
as the dirt beneath his feet.'' 

Rosenstein had said this very solemnly, and, while 
he spoke, the ugly look of deceit and cupidity seemed to 
have left his face. His stooping back was erect, his 
eyes looked straight before him, there was a certain 
dignity in his spare form, clad in the long threadbare 
garment ; the centuries of humiliations, of buffetings, 
seemed forgotten, and contempt as absolute, as wither- 
ing, as that of the Hungarian nobleman for the 
despised race, appeared in every line of the thin, satiri- 
cal mouth, for the spendthrift, arrogant lord who had 
trampled him under foot. 

No doubt the young peasant felt the truth of the 
Jew's words, the folly of his own hopes, which, at this 
critical juncture, were, in spite of himself, surging 
within his heart. Half absently, he collected the 
four papers, which Rosenstein was handing to him, 
and the hand which, as if in weariness, he passed over 
his eyes, trembled visibly. 

** I wish to be just with you, Rosenstein, but I have 
not much money left. If— what seems to me inevitable 
— Kisfalu and Zdrda pass into my possession, after the 
settling up of these affairs, I must keep some of it, to 
use if any calamity of flood or fire overtake me. But 
I will give you 300,000 florins for these pieces of paper, 
provided any lord gives his consent to the bargain. 

Not with a look did Rosenstein betray his triumph. 
He closed his eyes, no doubt in order to thoroughly 
enjoy the glorious vision which the young peasant was 
holding out before him. His deceit, his astuteness, 
had profited him beyond the dreams of avarice ; never 
for a moment did remorse enter his grasping soul, at 
the hideous way in which he was deceiving a just and 



214 A Son of the People 

honourable man. The Jew in Eastern Europe stands at 
war with thje rest of the population ; beaten, buffeted, 
derided, often injured, his only weapon is his money ; 
with it, he gets his revenge on peer and peasant, and 
wields it mercilessly against all, as a poor vengeance 
for all he has to endure. He bears insults, blows, 
contempt of every kind, but on the subject of money 
he is the master, for he has the superior intellect, and 
the careful thrift, the lack of which brings his oppress- 
ors, sooner or later, within his clutches. Rosenstein had 
himself owned that from Kem6ny Andrds he had never 
received anything but kindness, and the hideous 
advantage he was taking of the young peasant's sense 
of justice was not aimed at the individual ; it was 
race against race, and Andrds was paying more than a 
quarter of a million in expiation of all the Jew had 
endured at other hands than his. 

** You are hard upon a poor man," said Rosenstein 
at last. 

** It is my last word," replied Andrds decisively. 

** Will you give me time to think ? " 

** Yes, a week from to-day. I must speak with my 
lord ; he will also want time to think." 

Rosenstein noticed how dreamily he spoke, saw the 
strange, wistful look in the young man's eyes, and, 
probably, his shrewd mind guessed what was passing in 
that honest brain, for a curious smile parted his thin 
lips ; he rubbed his bony hands one against the other, 
and across his eyes there flashed that look of deadly 
hatred. 

* * Shall I wait upon your Honour this day week at the 
inn, or at Kisfalu ? " 

** Neither. I will come myself, and bring the money 
. . . if my lord consents." 



Rosenstein the Jew 215 

He took up his cap and his riding- whip, and, nod- 
ding to the Jew, found himself in the village street 
again. 

All seemed as bright and as gay as ever. Easter 
Monday had brought young men and maids without. 
The former, armed with squirts and watering-cans, were 
deluging the pretty girls as they passed, in true Easter 
Monday custom ; whilst the latter, courting the water- 
ing, proud of their dripping skirts and wet hair, made 
but mock pretence at running away from their torment- 
ors ; seeing that the girl whose clothes remain dry on 
this day can have but few adorers. 

Andrds watched the merrymakers come and go for a 
few minutes ; a year ago he would have been the first 
to snatch a kiss from every pretty girl, after having 
rendered her helpless under a deluge of water. To- 
day his heart seemed shut off from all his friends 
and companions ; it was filled with hopeless longing 
for a star as far above him as those in heaven, for a 
fairy vision as bright and as elusive as those Fata Mor- 
gana draws on the horizon, beyond the plain. 



CHAPTER XIX 



A SON OF THK P«OPI,B 



AndrAs was nervous and anxious when, having gal- 
loped all the way from Arokszillds, he saw the yellow 
walls of Bideskdt dose before him. For the first time 
in his life he was mixed up, through no fault of his 
own, in a transaction in which lying on one side or the 
other — or both — formed a prominent part. He hardly 
knew how to deal with it. If he caught some gipsy or 
herdsman telling him a lie, he found his riding- whip 
the most conclusive argument ; but what could he do, 
if the lord of Bideskdt deviated from the paths of 
truth? or if the Jew had embroidered, if not actually 
invented, the remarkable version of his transactions 
with the unfortunate nobleman? Kem6ny Andrds's 
thoughts were in a whirl. In the presence of either of 
the two parties he had felt that each was telling him 
the truth ; chiefly because he, himself, did not under- 
stand the process of lying, and perhaps thought that 
the act of telling an untruth bore some imprint on the 
face of the speaker. My lord's evident anxiety and 
trouble had distressed him ; it seemed to him an im- 
possibility to act the part of sorrow as Bideskdty had 
done ; and yet, again, there were the papers, which 
Rosenstein swore by all his patriarchs that my lord had 
signed, well knowing what they contained. 

Bideskfity had watched anxiously for the peasant 

si6 



A Son of the People 2 1 7 

through his window, and had given orders that Kem- 
6ny was to be brought to his room immediately. All 
the morning he had been unable to sit still, and Coun- 
tess Irma had in vain begged for an explanation of his 
moodiness. Bideskdty, with truly masculine exclu- 
siveness, would not allow his wife or daughter to par- 
ticipate in his troubles. The woman in Hungary is 
seldom the friend of her lord ; though he holds her in 
high esteem : high enough to share all joys and honours 
equally with him, but not high enough to allow her to 
join in his sorrows. 

There was a perceptible hesitation in Andrds*s man- 
ner when my lord, eager and excited, stretched out a 
hand towards him. The young peasant, full of the 
belief that the nobleman was playing him false, paused' 
an instant before he placed his honest hand in my 
lord's trembling one. But Bideskiity looked so care- 
worn, so haggard and anxious, that the kind-hearted 
young peasant felt again that overwhelming sympathy 
for the foolish and sorely stricken man ; more especially 
as in his softened mood there was a look in my lord's 
eyes, which were blue, that melted all Andres's anger 
as the snow upon the plains at the first kiss of the 
April sun. 

**Do you bring good news, friend?" asked 
Bideskiity. 

He could not sit ; he was pacing up and down the 
room restlessly, his anxious eyes every now and then 
searching his creditor's face. 

** The news I bring, my lord may call good or bad, 
I cannot tell," replied Andrds quietly. 

" Speak, man, cannot you see that I am in a fever? 
Speak ! am I a beggar? ..." 

*• Not so fast, my lord," said Andrds ; ** first let me 



2i8 A Son of the People 

assure you that things are not desperate, that they 
depend on yourself to be put entirely right. There is 
no cause for sorrow . . . as yet." 

** Rosenstein? . . . *' 

** Unfortunately, my lord,*' said Andrds with some 
nervousness, but trying to speak very kindly, **the 
Jew has a very different tale to tell, from the one your 
lordship has told me." 

Like a furious bull Bidesktity faced his creditor. 

** Man, do you dare to say ..." 

*'I only dare humbly," interrupted Andrds with 
absolute calm, ** to try and see justice done, and to 
help your lordship in your great difficulty. I am 
neither noble nor learned ; my education is what a 
kind and clever priest has given me, in the intervals 
of cultivating the soil, and I am not clever enough to 
read in the minds of other men. Your lordship has 
told me one thing : Rosenstein tells a different tale 
. . . unfortunately the Jew holds proofs of his asser- 
tion, and you have but your word." 

'* And do you dare stand there before me, man, and 
say that the word of a Hungarian nobleman is not better 
than a thousand proofs?" 

** I know very little about noblemen, my lord, and 
I am afraid in the law courts of Gy6ngyos the papers 
you signed will weigh heavily against the words you 
speak." 

*' I told you I never read those confounded papers," 
persisted Bideskiity obstinately. 

** It is useless going over the same ground, your 
lordship ; and I think it would be best, in your own 
interests, that you should hear Rosenstein's story, so 
that you may decide whether you will accept what I 
propose." 






A Son of the People 219 

"Why should I listen to his tissue of falsehoods? 
Why does he not come here and repeat them, so that I 
may flog his lying soul out of his cursed body ? '* 

** Because your lordship has unfortunately, and most 
recklessly, placed yourself and your good name unre- 
servedly in his hands.*' 
My good name? *' 

In a court of law, my lord, we all stand alike. 
Pater Ambrosius will tell you that before the throne 
of the Divine Judge, lord and peasant, Jew and Christ- 
ian, will have equal justice, and that the lawmakers 
and judges in our beautiful country try to be as just as 
God Himself has taught them to be. Now will your 
lordship listen ? . . . I have here in my pocket three 
separate papers, mentioning three separate loans I 
made to you on the security of Kisfalu, of Z&rda, and 
of Bideskiit (the latter without the house and grounds 
and stables) ; these loans your lordship acknowledged 
and agreed to pay a certain interest upon them. . . I 
must ask your lordship not to interrupt me ; this is a 
very serious affair, not of feelings, but of facts. Your 
lordship, in your present circumstances, is absolutely 
unable to pay the interest, which is already in arrears, 
for at least a year to come ; as for the principal, it is 
entirely out of your lordship's power now ever to repay 
that, as you will never have the chance of putting a 
single florin by, while you are obliged to satisfy Rosen- 
stein's demands. . . . Does your lordship understand 
me?" 

Moodily, Bideskdty nodded his head. 

" As far, therefore, as law and justice are con- 
cerned," resumed Andrds emphatically, ** Kisfalu, 
Zdrda, and the lands of Bideskiit become my property 
absolutely. I have paid 850,000 florins for them, 



220 A Son of the People 

which is more money than any other estate of fhe same 
size would fetch in the lowlands." 

Andr&s paused a moment, for there was a look of 
such hopeless sorrow on the ruined nobleman's &ce 
that it went straight to the honest young peasant's 
heart to have to still further plunge the knife into the 
unfortunate man's wound. 

** I would have been only too willing to wait and 
temporise till your lordship's circumstances looked a 
little more cheerful/' he resumed with infinite gentle- 
ness, ''but as matters now stand I should be doing 
you no good, and hopelessly endangering my fortune, 
which, after all, I cannot very well afford to do. Ro- 
senstein declares, and I am bound to admit that he has 
full proof of what he says, that after your lordship had 
concluded the loans with me, you borrowed at intervals 
another 950,000 florins from him, for the greater part 
of which he had no security, and therefore charged the 
usurious interest you know of." 

** I never had the money. I am ready to swear that, 
since my word is not good enough," protested Bides- 
ktity hopelessly; ** the man is an outrageous liar ! " 

** Unfortunately, your lordship signed receipts for 
the money." 

** I tell you I never read what I signed." 

** Rosenstein swears that you did. And he holds the 
receipts for the money. Does your Honour deny in any 
way that you signed the papers ? " 

** No ! I must have signed altogether seven papers ; 
I do not deny that; two when I gave Kisfalu as 
security; two when I pledged my lands of Bidesktit ; 
two with Zdrda, and one some eight months ago, 
when I mortgaged this house, grounds, and stables 
for 100,000 florins." 



A Son of the People 221 

** And I only hold three of those papers, my lord ; 
and I know nothing of this last loan." 

It seemed indeed hopeless ; Bideskiity was beginning 
to dimly realise how utterly blind and foolish he had 
been. An implacable Nemesis had overtaken him in 
the midst of all his arrogance and reckless extrava- 
gance, and he had fallen a helpless prey in the hands 
of the first unscrupulous man who had laid a trap 
for him. For some time there was silence, while the 
wretched man stared moodily before him, making vain 
endeavours to realise the utter ruin which stared him 
in the face. Andrds, full of deep sympathy, ready with 
the help he had come to bring, was seeking for words 
in which to frame his offer. 

*' It seems to me," said Bideskdty at last, '*that 
the news you brought could not very well have been 
worse." 

' Pardon me, my lord, I have told you the worst ; 
the evil as it stands ; it is high time I placed before 
you the remedy, such as I humbly propose it." 

** A remedy ? There is one, then ? " 

Hungarian nature is eminently buoyant and san- 
guine. In a moment Bidesktity raised his head, and a 
flash of hope illumined his careworn features. 

" Why in the world did you sit there, then, and 
croak like some raven of evil, man? If you have good 
news, why did you make sport of me, by watching my 
misery?" 

** To every evil there is a remedy, my lord, only we 
are not always ready to take it." 

'* Are you going to speak, instead of preaching, 
man ? " said Bideskdty, boiling over with impatience. 

'' Rosenstein, my lord, knowing that his money is in 
peril, and holding but one real sectirity, namely^ that 



222 A Son of the People 

on this house and grounds, has offered to take one third 
of the capital lent, in exchange for every scrap of 
paper your Honour has ever signed." 

** One third ? . . . Why, you said just now that I 
have signed receipts amounting to 950,000 florins . . . 
one third of that would be . , . ? " 

** 300,000 florins, in ready money, my lord," said 
Andrds. 

** Man ! I have said before : you are made of money ; 
300,000 florins may mean nothing to you. I can no 
mote find that sum than I can jump out of this window 
without breaking my neck. I have not a single foot 
of land that I can call my own, not a stack of com 
which I can sell. The remedy may sound a good one to 
you, it is the last death-blow to all my hopes.*' 

** I know perfectly well that your lordship has no 
money ; and I was not proposing that you should pay 
that 300,000 florins, but. ..." 

'*But?" 

** But that I should," said Andr&s very quietly. 

To all appearances he had never departed from his 
attitude of absolute calm ; and Bidesk6ty — quite unable 
to understand the peasant's self-contained nature — 
looked with astonishment at this man who spoke of 
vast sums of money as if they were no more to him 
than a handful of maize. 

** I do not understand," said Bidesk6ty at last, ** or 
else you do not altogether realise my position. What 
use would there be in my owing you 300,000 florins, 
any more than 950,000 to Rosenstein? I could no 
more repay the one than I can the other ; and the low- 
est possible amount of interest would, with the present 
state of the floods, be absolutely beyond my power 
to pay." 



A Son of the People 223 

** I was not proposing to lend your lordship the 
money," said Andrds in a voice so low that Bidesk6ty 
could hardly hear it, ** but ... to give it." 

Evidently his self-control was being put to a severe 
test. His lips trembled as he spoke, and his voice, 
hardly above a whisper, had a curious gasping tone. 
His breathing came hard and fast, as if the power- 
ful chest was bursting from within, and his hands 
were tightly locked together, whilst on his forehead 
great veins stood up like cords. Still, Bideskdty, un- 
conscious, did not understand. 

** Give it to me, man ? '* he said with sorrowful dig- 
nity, ** you are dreaming ! I have seen much trouble 
lately, it is true ; but I have not yet, thank God, 
stooped so low as to take alms from a stranger." 

** No ! not from a stranger, my lord ..." added 
Andrds with an eflFort, ** but . . . from one near . . . 
very near to you ..." 

*' I do not understand ! . . . What do you mean ? 
... I can accept money from no one . . . you can- 
not think such a thing possible ! . . . What do you 
mean ? " he repeated again. 

** My lord," said Andrds at last, shaking off his nerv- 
ousness, with a violent effort, and rising to his full 
height so that he stood before Bidesktity in all the 
inborn pride of a Hungarian lowland peasant, '* in my 
garden at Kisfalu there is a beautiful rose-tree which 
stands alone in fragrant loveliness. My mother never 
planted anything close to it, for both she and I felt 
that no other flower was worthy to bloom near that 
rose, so surpassingly beautiful is it. Alone it stood for 
many years, growing every summer more radiant, and 
filling the air around with its sweet overpowering 
odour ; a very queen among her humbler fragrant 



224 A Son of the People 

sisters, which, in her isolation, she seemed to disdain. 
. . . This year, my lord, at the foot of that lovely 
rose-tree there has sprung — who knows how ? — a hum- 
ble bed of moss. Was it the binls who wantonly 
carried the vulgar seed to the court of the queen of 
flowers? or did that Divine hand which cares for every 
blade of grass direct that that humble moss should be 
at the feet of the gorgeous rose ? . . . Who knows ? 
. . . but since a year, the tiny green leaves have dared 
to look very closely at the magnificence of the garden 
queen, whilst other fragrant and beautiful flowers have 
been kept respectfully away.'* 

For one moment the young peasant paused. His 
voice had become quite firm ; though still low and in- 
finitely tender, it was clear and without a tremor. The 
flowery mode of speech — the inalienable characteristic 
of the Hungarian language, when applied to deep emo- 
tion — sounded peculiarly sweet in the mouth of this 
handsome young son of the soil, and, instinctively, 
Bideskiity listened, vaguely feeling that beneath that 
proud, calm bearing lay hidden a torrent of feeling so 
overwhelming that it commanded respect. 

"At first, your Honour," resumed Andrds, ** my 
mother would have punished that moss for its presump- 
tion, and, tearing it up by its root, have flung it out, 
with other noisome weeds, on to the plain where it 
might wither, since it had dared approach so near the 
queen. But the tiny, soft bed looked so green and 
cool, and the sun above so scorching and hot, that the 
moss was allowed to stay for a while to protect the feet 
of the queen from the more parching rays. Since 
then, my lord, there it has remained, humble and pro- 
tecting, cool and green in the heat of the summer, 
warm and clinging in the winter, sheltering the roots of 



A Son of the People 227 

heart, a wistful longing which made him as a child, 
with heavy tears blurring his vision, and great aching 
sobs shaking his frame. 

Suddenly he started ; a hand — ^heavy, but not unkind 
— ^was placed upon his shoulder. He turned and saw 
an old man, bent with grief, with a look of humbled 
pride in his sorrowing eyes, which went straight to the 
honest young peasant 's heart. 

"Friend, when I first realised," said Bideskdty, 
''what your meaning was, an uncontrollable fit of anger 
seized me. You must forgive me ... I am an old 
man . . . and have not yet fully learned the lessons of 
this century. The idea that I should give my daugh- 
ter to a peasant seemed to me so preposterous that for 
the moment I forgot . . . that you hold my life prac- 
tically in your hands ... for if I and my family are 
turned out of our home, I shall never survive the 
sorrow, and God only knows what would happen then 
to my wife and to my Ilonka.'' 

Andrds would have spoken, but Bideskiity resumed 
immediately. 

** I know what you would say : that you have no 

desire to force me. Hey ! friend, that is as it may be ! 

We are all bom free agents in this world, and yet 

who can resist his destiny, struggle how he may ? The 

land which once was mine has passed out of my hands 

into yours with a few careless dashes of the pen on some 

accursed bits of paper. The next few days will, unless 

a miracle should happen — and there are not many 

miracles nowadays, — see me and my family go forth 

'"e a herd of wandering gipsies, homeless and friend- 

; and those who have fawned most on my hospital- 

vill be the first to throw stones at me for my folly. 

He midst of this hopeless ruin you come to me. 



228 A Son of the People 

and ofiPer not only to save me and mine, but by this 
same offer guarantee that my lands will, in spite of all, 
belong to my child, and ultimately to my grandchil- 
dren. What can I do? When a man has a knife at 
his throat, it is a small matter to ask him if he will 
part with his wealth." 

**My lord . . . " 

*\Nay ! do not speak ! You have had your say. 
What you now would add could not alter thing^. 
You urged your strongest plea when you spoke of 
my grandchildren; and in holding my lands, you know 
well that you hold the key to my consent. What can 
you say more? that you love my daughter? Why, 
man ! of course you love her ; she is very beautiful and 
infinitely above you. We all love God and the Virgin 
Mary. That you will be a slave to her ? I have no 
doubt of that ; you come from a race of serfs. That 
you will make her happy ? There man, I think you 
will try in vain ; my daughter Ilonka could not be 
happy in the hut of a peasant. If I and her mother 
give our consent to this strange union . . . mind you, 
1 only said * if * ... we shall be sacrificing our child 
for the sake of our grandchildren, and their children 
after them ; for the sake of the land of Bideskfit, which 
will then never pass out of the family at all, though it 
will have been tainted by passing through peasant 
hands.** 

** My lord,'* said Andrds, wearily, ** when I came 
here to speak with you of these things, I tried to think 
of you only as the father of the being who to me is 
almost divine. Would it not be best both for your own 
dignity and for mine, that you did not force or sting 
me into forgetting this? " 

** Forgive me, friend, I am hasty ! Events have 



A Son of the People 229 

crowded in upon me . . . and have deprived me of my 
power of thinking. ... I have had much trouble 
. . . you are young . . . you do not understand the 
griefs of older men. . . . Perhaps also your pride has 
never suffered a humiliation . . . like the one I suffer 
now. . . . Will you leave me to myself? ... I must 
think ... I must be alone . . . and I must speak 
with the noble Countess.'* 

Silently Andrds had taken his cap, and silently, 
automatically, he left the room. As in a dream he 
walked across the hall, and down the noble staircase. 
Bideskiity had not bidden him good-bye. He had said 
nothing definite. He had hurled a problematical * * if " 
at Andr&s in the midst of insults calmly spoken, and 
the young peasant's pride had writhed beneath the 
cold, callous, cruel words. 

Oh ! that love should make such abject fools of us, 
that for one sweet sake we should be willing to endure 
tortures such as the very demons of hell cannot devise 
for the punishment of souls at war with their Creator ! 
How strange it is that at the feet of one being on earth 
we should be willing to sacrifice our manhood and our 
self-respect, and yet that this very sacrifice, that same 
degradation, should ennoble us beyond all glorious 
deeds, and render us equal to the angels. 

How Andrds spent the remainder of that day he 
could not say. The roads were muddy, and Csillag 
could do no more than carefully pick her way in the 
mire. Yet she understood her master's sorrow, for she 
roamed with him upon the puszta till long after the 
shades of evening had wrapped the lowlands in gloom. 
Far ahead, the roar of the Tama lent an additional 
note of sorrow and desolation to the land. It was 
late when at last Kem6uy Andrds reached the quiet 



230 A Son of the People 

farmhouse where Btdka, at her spinning, was waiting 
anxiously for her son. She went to the door when she 
heard Crag's hoofs outside, and through the dark- 
ness watched Andr&s as he gently groomed his favourite 
animal and made her comfortable for the night. He 
had not seen his mother evidently, for otherwise his 
first greeting would have been for her. Ktelka*s heart 
felt inexpressibly sad when she saw how slow and 
heavy was his tread, as he walked towards the house. 
In the garden he stopped close to where stood a lovely 
rose-tree covered with tiny buds, the promise of a glor- 
ious June ; and Etelka wondered why her son touched 
each unopened blossom with his hand, and then 
stooped as if to kiss them. 



CHAPTER XX 

THH ANSWER 

Four days later the answer came. For four weary 
days had the suspense lasted, during which time 
Andres's iron constitution almost gave way under the 
strain of wearing uncertainty. No one heard his voice 
during that time. Silently he toiled like a very slave 
upon the beloved land which now, at last, was his. With 
almost savage fury he tried to tire out his strong body 
by day, for the sake of earning a few hours' heavy, 
dreamless sleep by night. Of his hopes, his fears, his 
love, he would not, dared not allow himself to think ; 
and when the early evening shadows had closed in 
upon the land, he would mount on Csillag's back and 
roam restlessly with her upon the plain. There in 
solitude, silence, and peace, his weary mind found rest, 
his aching nerves solace and comfort. The distant 
roar of the flood lulled him to forgetfulness, and, mus- 
ingly, he would watch for hours the wandering storks 
overhead, or the swallows in their flight. He had told 
everything to Ktdka. It would have been useless to 
try and deceive her ; her fond, anxious, motherly eyes 
read deeply within the loved son's soul ; long ago she 
had guessed his secret, had seen wild joy alternate 
with mad g^ef, and hope arise but to g^ve birth to 
despair. And, sileiitly, she had wept and prayed : 

prayed to God and to the Virgin Mary to avert the 

331 



232 A Son of the People 

catastrophe which threatened her Andrds's happiness. 
Her shrewd mind , rendered doubly acute by earnest love 
for her boy, showed her the hideous image of misery 
that so preposterous, so unequal a marriage would in- 
evitably bring beneath the humble peasant's home. 
The proud lady, nurtured from her cradle to look on 
every peasant with contempt, linked against her will to 
save her parents* ruin, with one of the despised race ! 
Oh ! thepity of it ! theshame ! the remorse ! Etelka fore- 
saw, with unerring judgment, the contempt with which 
the dainty girl would place her soft white hand into An- 
dres's rough brown palm, the blush of horror and anger 
with which she would respond to his strange masterful 
passion, the passion of an unlettered, half-educated son 
of the soil, bom and bred in the free life of the plain, 
with warm, breathing, living nature to teach him the 
lessons of life, and the years of petty tyranny behind 
him, during which every feeling, every emotion was 
held in constant check ; ready, now that, rich and free, 
he had reached powerful manhood, to break through 
every bond, and cry out for response from one being 
who should return ardour for ardour, passion for pas- 
sion, kiss for kiss. 

Etelka wept and prayed as she thought of that son 
eating his heart out for longing to obtain a smile from 
those aristocratic lips, and wearing out his manhood 
to smooth away the curl of contempt from the comers 
of the dainty mouth. 

Oh ! for one great cmshing blow ! the refusal of that 
careless, yet surely loving father, to sacrifice his child 
to his own folly, and of that proud mother to allow her 
daughter to stoop so low, for the sake of the gold and 
the land ! A blow which would be terrible when it 
fell : and Etelka' s heart ached, in the very midst of her 



The Answer 233 

prayers, when she thought of the sorrow, the despair 
of her boy, seeing all his fairy visions suddenly and 
irretrievably dispelled ; but, though the blow would be 
cruel, it would be sharp and sudden, and Ktelka trusted 
that the all-absorbing care for that beloved land would 
soon teach him to forget the other love, the Fata Mor- 
gana-like vision bom but to fade away. 

How infinitely better than the daily, hourly torture 
of an ill-assorted union, the wrecked life, the hourly 
shame, the mad joy of a few hours, the grief of lifelong 
days! And now the answer had come : a message 
from the noble lord of Bideskiit to Kem^ny Andrds, 
bidding him come to the castle to present his respects to 
the noble Countess and to her young ladyship: the 
peasant was bidden to pay his court to the noble lady, 
the stars were descending from heaven in order to 
walk upon the plains. 

Andrds was from home when the message came, 
brought by Jank6, who had ridden over from Bidesk6t 
burning with curiosity as to what my lord's extraordi- 
nary condescension might mean. He would have 
stayed to ask a hundred questions, for all tongues were 
wagging within the kitchen of Bideskiit, but Etelka 
seemed so sad and looked so silent that Jank6 dared 
not speak ; he felt as if, unconsciously, he had been the 
harbinger of evil tidings, and rode away wondering 
why Etelka' s eyes were full of tears when she heard of 
the unwonted honour done to her son. 

Etelka was glad that Andrds was away. He had 
ridden over to Zdrda at break of day, and the mother 
wished to have her son secure in her arms when she 
first told him the great news — the realisation of his 
maddest hopes. 

She watched at the door till Jank6 was out of sight, 



234 A Son of the People 

then gazed out across the puszta in the direction of 
Zdrda ; and when she saw a tiny speck upon the hori- 
zon, which gradually grew and took the form of a 
horse and rider, idly picking their way through the 
muddy roads, with a heavy sigh she went within. 

She waited till her son, tired out from his ride, had 
knelt down beside her spinning-wheel, and, placing 
his arms round her, had rested his hot, aching head on 
her shoulder, then she said : 

* ' Andr&s ! for good or for evil, your wishes are fulfilled. 
My lord desires your presence at the castle, that you 
may pay your respects to the lady who is to be your wife ! * * 

There was a dead silence, for Andrds neither spoke 
nor stirred. His arms were still round Btelka's shoul- 
ders, and his head upon her breast. She felt his grip 
tighten and his whole frame tremble against hers ; she 
could not see his face, and could scarcely hear him 
breathe ; but suddenly a great sob, like the breaking 
of an overburdened heart, seemed to shake him from 
head to foot, and, with a wild cry, that at last be- 
trayed all the pent-up passions, the love, the hopes 
and fears so resolutely held in check, he buried his 
head in that dear mother 's lap, and sobbed with this 
joy so great, so wild, that it was almost pain. 

Gently Ktelka soothed him, smoothed his matted 
hair, spoke quaint endearing words, such as she used 
to whisper when as a tiny lad he had sought comfort 
in her arms against his father's rough words and 
knotty stick. Gradually the paroxysm passed away ; 
but for quite a long while he remained at her knee, 
holding the dear one in his arms, his head pillowed 
against her breast ; and she, poor soul ! her eyes swim- 
ming over with tears, prayed to God not to forsake her 
beloved son in this, his greatest joy. 



CHAPTER XXI 

It was an anxious morning. Most of the night, 
neither Bideskuty nor the Countess Irma had slept ; 
each lay awake thinking of what the coming, eventful 
day would bring. 

**I wish we had told her all,'* sighed Bideskdty 
mentally, as he despatched Jank6 off on the momentous 
message, which was to bring the strange suitor to the 
noble house. 

''It is better so I " was the self-satisfied conclusion 
arrived at by the Countess Irma, as she turned over 
her daughter's ribbons and sashes to decide which 
would be most suitable to wear on the important 
occasion. 

And now it was close upon mid-day, and the lord of 
Bideskiit was nervously pacing up and down his smok- 
ing-room, unable to sit still, or even to smoke his 
favourite pipe, awaiting anxiously, and dreading the 
first interview : speculating on the probable attitude of 
his daughter, the possible scene. 

He had had a very hard task in explaining to his 
wife the cruel necessity which would force their only 
child, the last descendant of those chieftains who had 
helped to place King Mdtyds on the throne, into the 
arms of a peasant — the grandson of a serf. Countess 
Irma was a woman of the world. The horror of so 

835 



236 A Son of the People 

preposterous a misalliance struck her at first with ter- 
rible force ; but, when she found herself placed between 
the two alternatives, of facing complete penury in a 
provincial town, with one maid to cook the daily meal, 
and a tax-collector thundering weekly at the door, and 
that of seeing her daughter the wife of a man infinitely 
beneath her in the social scale, but whose wealth was 
large enough to restore to Bideskiit all its former 
splendour, she chose what she considered the lesser evil. 

The idea that any selfishness was mixed up in this 
choice would have seemed to Countess Irma utterly 
preposterous. Marriage, in her eyes, was as much a 
business contract as the buying and selling of land or 
wheat, and of far too serious a moment to be swayed 
by any question of sentiment. That the young peas- 
ant's one desire (now that he had had the temerity to 
become passing rich) was to own a noble wife, was too 
obvious a fact to be much wondered at, and the idea 
that Ilonka might have hidden ideals, unbeknown to 
her mother, was in itself an impossibility. 

Countess Irma had never heard of marriage in con- 
nection with any sentiment. Ruin had, with truly 
plebeian want of discrimination, knocked and been 
admitted within the aristocratic walls of Bidesk6t. A 
certain marriage — preposterous, monstrous, true, j'ct 
perfectly feasible — presented itself as a means of avert- 
ing a catastrophe which was a hundred-fold more 
hideous, and more monstrous ; Countess Irma thought 
— as her husband had done— of future generations, of 
duty to posterity, of a great name which for five hun- 
dred years had added lustre to the history of a warlike 
country, now threatened with extinction and ruin ; her 
duty appeared clear to her, — she felt she was making a 
sacrifice, nerved herself to the task, and unflinchingly 



The Noble Lady 237 

fulfilled it. Her daughter was asked of her. She 
gave her daughter, trusting that she could keep her 
well under her wing for at least eleven months out 
of the twelve, during which Ilonka might fancy herself 
a grass-widow, living with her parents. That the 
peasant husband would ever dare to assert his rights, 
to keep his wife under his lowly roof, never entered 
Countess Irma's head. She was convinced that her 
decision was for her daughter's and her husband's 
happiness, fully convinced that she was acting un- 
selfishly in the matter, doing what was right. Bides- 
kiity, humiliated, heart-broken, harassed by his wife's 
reproaches, had left the child's future in her mother's 
hands. 

'* I^t her have a free choice," he had begged half 
remorsefully. 

But Countess Irma called his hesitation '* sentimental 
folly." 

** Leave her to me," she said, ** and for God's sake 
do not interfere. You have proved yourself utterly 
incapable of conducting your own affairs. This one at 
least I mean to carry through." 

What passed between mother and daughter Bides- 
kdty never knew. The interview lasted over two 
hours, late one night, and when at last Countess Irma 
came to bed, she said : 

'* You can send for the peasant to-morrow. The 
sooner the marriage ceremony is gone through, the 
better." 

Bideskiity longed to ask many questions. In his 
heart he had a deep love for and pride in the lovely 
child. 

** Remember, Gyuri, I have not told Ilonka why 
this marriage is necessary. Thank God I have 



238 A Son of the People 

brought her up to obey her parents without question 
and without argument." 

** I will not have her unhappy ..." protested 
Bideskdty. 

" My dear Gyuri, what nonsense you talk. Of 
course she is not unhappy. Why should she be ? She 
knows nothing of the man ; she cannot dislike him, 
therefore how can she be unhappy. *' 

This was unanswerable logic, apparently. Bides- 
kiity sighed, but he trusted to his wife's judgment. 
He fully believed that women understood one another, 
and he had never been allowed a say in the bringing 
up of his daughter. 

And Kem^ny Andrds had been sent for. He was 
expected every moment. Bideskdty was hideously 
nervous ; anxiously he scanned his wife's face ; she sat 
rigid and erect in the middle of the room, working at 
some knitting with irritating persistency. Close by 
the window, her hands lying idly in her lap, her faoe 
turned away from her parents, sat Ilonka. Bideskdty, 
who had expected and dreaded a pathetic feminine 
scene, with tears and prayers, felt quite relieved to see 
his daughter quiet and serene. 

He certainly thought her strangely altered since last 
night. She seemed somehow to have grown more 
stately, and decidedly older. Her eyes were tearless, 
but they had a curious look in them, as if they were 
looking far, very far away, and all the pink colour had 
left her cheeks. But the Countess Irma had said that 
the child was not unhappy. She certainly had made 
no protest, and seemed quite calmly to be awaiting her 
future husband. No doubt natural, girlish coyness, 
excitement, curiosity, had made her cheeks pale, and 
given that far-off strange look to her eyes. 



The Noble Lady 239 

The sound of horses* hoofs up the acacia drive. . . . 
Bideskiity wiped the beads of perspiration from his 
forehead : his nervousness was quite painful ; even 
Countess Irma's hands trembled as she held her knit- 
ting ; soon the sound of voices, the opening and shut- 
ting of doors, a heavy, firm tread on the flagstones of 
the hall and passages, preceded by Jank6's lighter 
step. . . . Ilonka, alone, where she sat, had not 
stirred ; her hands, which lay idly in her lap, had not 
trembled, only her eyes were now fixed, large and 
glowing, on the door before her. . . . 

Then Jank6 threw it open, and, immediately behind 
him, the tall picturesque figure of the peasant suitor, 
in all the barbaric splendour of his national attire, 
stood out against the massive dark oak frame of the 
door. His great height, his broad, powerful shoulders, 
the dignity of his presence, seemed still further en- 
hanced by the great mantle of sheepskin, gorgeously 
embroidered in many coloured designs by Etelka*s 
loving hands, which hung from his shoulders to his 
feet, by his broad belt covered with massive silver 
bosses, and by the full white lawn sleeves and trousers, 
a very masterpiece of exquisite fineness and delicate 
embroidery. His face was very pale, and his eyes — 
dark, burning, magnetic — ^had travelled swiftly round 
the room, till they had caught sight of the frail figure 
by the window. . . . He seemed almost as in a 
trance; half dazed he walked into the room, and 
stooped to kiss the hand which the noble Countess had 
deigned to extend towards him. 

My lord had said ** Isten hozta I" (God has brought 
you) and now was talking in disjointed sentences of 
lands and floods, of rain and sunshine. Andrds 
scarcely heard ; he tried to answer intelligibly, forced 



240 A Son of the People 

himself not to look towards the window, where the 
Countess stood talking to his fairy vision who seemed 
so strangely white and fragile. 

Then suddenly the Countess beckoned to him ; he 
hardly had the strength to walk ; he passed his hand 
across his eyes, for his vision was getting dim. 

The graceful white form had risen. A pair of blue 
eyes, large, burning, terrified, were fixed upon him as 
he advanced. 

'* Ilonka, my child, this is Kem^ny Andrds of Kis- 
falu, who has your father's and my consent to express 
his love for you, and ask you to become his wife." 

The voice sounded as if it were far away. A roar 
like that of the flooded Tarna filled his ears ; all his 
senses seemed concentrated in one of gazing at his 
dream. 

** Give him your hand, Ilonka." 

Mechanically, obediently, a tiny white hand was 
stretched towards him, and Andrds stooped very low 
and tremblingly took it in his own. A look of infinite 
yearning and tenderness was in his eyes, a look of 
appeal infinitely touching and pathetic in the powerful, 
rugged face ; that look but begged for a look, a respon- 
sive gaze from those blue eyes which stared so 
strangely, so vacantly, as if he, in his humility, his 
love, his adoration, were far away from her. 

Tenderly he raised the tiny cold hand to his lips, and 
sought to warm it into response by one long passionate 
kiss. ... A slight tremor seemed to shake her, and 
she tried to snatch her hand away from his. He longed 
to speak to her, but great sobs choked his throat ; nerv- 
ously he held the tiny hand imprisoned in his own, 
and with longing gaze tried to look into those blue 
cfyes which stared so vacantly, so strangely afar. 



The Noble Lady 241 

Joy, ah, well, it was a great joy, a joy so infinite, so 
complete, that his heart well-nigh broke under it, and 
the pain of it seemed more than he could bear. 

My lord came up to speak to him ; the Countess also 
said a few words : both meant to be kind, no doubt, 
but their voices jarred upon Andrds's nerves, forcibly 
breaking the enchanting spell, and dragging him back 
to earth. The tiny hand had escaped ; he was forced 
to turn towards Bideskiity, who led him to the farther 
end of the room to talk of business matters. How 
long he stayed, or what he said, Andrds did not know. 
The talk of business, the formalities, the discussion of 
the marriage plans sickened and enervated him. He 
longed to take that fragile being in his arms, and on 
Csillag's back ride away with her across the puszfa. 

She had not spoken once. The whole thing seemed 
strangely unreal to Andrds ; the voices of my lord, and 
of the lady his wife, sounded in a weird confusion in 
his ears ; even his vision had grown troubled, so long 
and so earnestly had he gazed in the one direction. 
The Countess said something about the month of May, 
and the best time for the wedding ; Andrds replied to 
that, no doubt, for my lady rose soon after and said 
some very condescending words. But after that it was 
all darkness, dreary and blank, for the seat in the win- 
dow was empty. 

The lord of Bideskdt had ' become silent Andrds 
thought he might take his leave. He longed to be 
alone, to ride across the plain, to feel Csillag's hoofs 
thundering beneath him, to leave the castle behind, 
where the air seemed to have grown stifling, and where 
strange spectres of evil foreboding seemed to dance a 
hideous dance of death before him. 

Bideskiity accompanied him to the door. With his 

x6 



242 A Son of the People 

own hands he handed up to Andrds the stirrup-cup of 
rich Hungarian wine. Jank6 stood wondering at the 
gate, and nearly fell over backwards when he heard my 
lord say : ** God be with you, my son ! " adding im- 
mediately : ** Your place will be laid for you at the 
mid-day meal on Sunday." 



CHAPTER XXII 



A DRKAM 



Thb rest of the day Andrds spent upon the plain ; 
not even to bis mother could he have spoken of this in- 
tervieWy of that fragile vision, of the tiny hand on 
which, in his temerity, he had dared to imprint a kiss. 
He left Csillag to roam about at will, and, spreading his 
mantle upon the ground, he allowed his mind to dwell 
at leisure on the wonderful thing that had happened. 

The feeling of unreality still clung to it ; and dream- 
ily he gazed at his rough brown hands which had held 
another imprisoned — so tiny, and oh I so cold I Now 
that he was away from her, Andrds cursed himself for 
his clumsiness, his silence. There were so many 
things he might have said to her ! if only those great 
blue eyes had been once turned to his, if only she had 
not been so strange, so distant ! . . . and was not that 
slight tremble a shudder which went through her 
young body, when his kiss, glowing and scorching 
with his wild passion, had dared to touch her tiny 
ice-cold hand? 

He might have said to her : " T love you, Ilonka ! 
my Ilonka ! mine ! mine ! mine ! " but then, how infin- 
itely great was that love, and how desecrated it would 
seem if words tried to express it ! 

His ! His ! She really one day would be his I . . . 
One day soon . . . the Countess had spoken of one 

243 



244 A Son of the People 

day in May. . . . When the sun was hot, and the 
roses would begin to bloom . . . one day . . . she 
would come home with him . . . her white figure, tall 
and lithe, would fill the lowly farmhouse with a radi- 
ance which would be almost divine. . . . She would 
stand with the last rays of the setting sun, which 
always crept in through the tiny windows, playing 
upon her golden curls. . . . There would be silence 
in the house, for Etelka will have gone to her own 
room to pray or to spin, leaving her son and his bride 
alone. . . . His bride! . . . With the sun upon her 
golden curls . . . and Andrds would watch every hair 
of that dainty head, and, with the exquisite self-in- 
flicted torture of suspense, touch with reverent finger 
every curl, ere he dared clasp the queenly form wholly 
in his arms, drinking with insatiable eyes that loveli- 
ness fashioned by God for him, the lowly peasant, 
prouder than any king. 

Oh ! the joy of this dream I the agony of the fairy 
vision, the pain that was a happiness to bear, the joy 
that was inexpressible torture ! Alone upon the vast 
plain, away from human eyes, Andrds dared to conjure 
up this vision, and found mad delight in torturing 
himself with those Fata Morgana-like dreams of great 
blue eyes, large and wondering, growing soft and 
misty, moist and tender with responsive passion, of 
that exquisite tiny mouth, perfumed and chaste as the 
petals of a rosebud, of the soft red lips, parting with a 
smile, preparing for a kiss, of the warmth of her 
breath, the tears in her eyes, the quickly drawn breath 
through her delicate nostrils. . . . And she in his 
arms I his bride 1 his wife I Andrds closed his eyes — ^the 
vision faded away, and in its place he saw another, the 
reality of a few hours ago : tall and stately, and oh ! so 



A Dream 245 

cold ! with a far-off look in those blue eyes, large and 
tearless ; and a curious tremble — was it a shudder ? — 
which left the tiny hand colder, icier, still. 

But, no ! no I this vision should not stay ! that cold- 
ness, his ardour would melt! that absent look, his 
glowing eyes would imprison ! that shudder, his love 
would soothe. He would strew roses at her feet; 
wealth, joys, pleasures, all that could bring a smile on 
those lips, a tender look in those eyes ; and if all he had 
and could do or give her was not enough, he would 
lay his life in her tiny hands and let her crush it if 
she would. 

Long after the darkness had covered the plain with 
gloom, Andrds still lay upon the earth, wrapped in his 
mantle, his eyes following the swiftly travelling clouds, 
dwelling dreamily on each twinkling star. 

Btelka knew that she would not see him that night. 
And yet she could not go to rest. Her hands lying 
idly in her lap, she sat beside the window looking out 
anxiously towards the plain. Only when the first 
streak of gold broke the darkness of the sky did she 
hear the well-known sound of Csillag*s hoofs. Then 
she put out all the lights, content that her son was 
safe, knowing full well that he would wish to be alone. 
She listened for his tread, which was light and free ; 
she watched him in the yard as he tethered Csillag, 
and she saw that he walked erect. Then, as he crossed 
the garden, he again paused beside his favourite rose- 
tree : one small bud showed a tiny streak of pink 
between its green sepals. Btelka remembered how, 
earlier in the day, she had noticed this first sign of the 
opening bloom, — ^now, with a quick, triumphant ges- 
ture, Andrds plucked the opening blossom and carried 
it with him to his home. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

HOW THK NKWS WAS RKC^IVKD 

Thank God, news travels very slowly on the low- 
lands, at all times, but more especially when the early 
spring rains have rendered the roads well-nigh impass- 
able. Countess Irma had reckoned upon this, when 
she decided that the unfortunate marriage should be 
accomplished before the news of it could reach the ears 
of her relatives and friends only as 2i fait accompli^ 
mixed with a sauce of reasons, both romantic and 
plausible, which had induced the proud Countess to 
give her only daughter to a peasant. 

Ilonka had been tiresome : more tiresome than the 
Countess Irma could ever have supposed a daughter of 
hers to be. Not that there had been any question of 
resistance, or actual disobedience. Thank God ! girls 
in Hungarian aristocratic houses had not yet caught 
the hideous English ideas of independence. '' Honour 
thy father and thy mother " was still more than a dead 
letter to them ; but the child had argued and had 
begged ; had talked of foolish sentiment, of love for 
that penniless young Maddch, whom the Countess sin- 
cerely wished at the bottom of the Tama. 

There had been one or two very upsetting scenes, 
and Countess Irma's ears were very frequently shocked 
at her daughter's strange ideas of matrimony and love. 

I^ve, before marriage? Truly preposterous. She 

246 



How the News was Received 247 

had never been in love with Gyuri till after the wed- 
ding Mass, when it became her duty to love him ! and 
was there ever a more model couple in all the lowlands 
of Hungary ? Never had any one heard the slightest 
dispute or faintest disagreement between the Countess 
and her lord. The idea of love in a young girl's mind 
was positively indecent ! Fortunately the Countess 
was more than convinced that young Maddch was 
about to marry the daughter of Schmidt the jeweller, 
whose dowry was said to exceed three millions in solid 
gold. 

There was no crime in fashioning that conviction 
into a positive fact, since it had the desired effect of 
driving those indecent thoughts out of Ilonka's head, 
and brought about that peace of mind and submission 
to her parents' will which is the only real happiness 
for a well-bom girl. Certainly, after she had been 
told of this fact, the child became quite submissive ; 
she never even expressed horror at the idea of having 
a peasant for her future lord. Her attitude towards 
him was from the first beyond reproach. Countess 
Irma was proud of her daughter's frigid bearing to- 
wards the low-born odious creature who had dared to 
ask for her daughter's hand in exchange for his gold. 

At heart the Countess rejoiced at the humiliation 
the peasant would have to endure in the future at his 
wife's hands, and the withering contempt with which 
Ilonka would one day overwhelm him would more 
than counterbalance the bitter humiliation her mother 
was now suffering, through forcing her aristocratic lips 
to say " fiam " (my son) to a man who wore a sheep- 
skin mantle, and had hands as rough and brown as 
those of the herdsmen. The Countess's mind dwelt 
lovingly on all the snubs, the disdain, he would have to 



248 A Son of the People 

endure anon, when the marriage was actually aooom- 
plished; and these thoughts helped her to get over the 
immediate present, when twice a week she had to 
receive the odious man with some show of civility. 

The arrogance with which he bore himself was sim- 
ply unendurable: Countess Irma tried by every means 
in her power to wound or to snub him ; but her 
weapons, more often than not, seemed to turn against 
herself. He had a way of looking through and beyond 
her, with a look which placed him beyond the reach of 
her most poisonous darts. At first she had talked a 
great deal of the honour which was being done to a 
man in so lowly a station ; but once he had quietly 
remarked : 

'^ No one, noble lady, understands better than I do 
the honour of touching even the tips of Ilonka's fin- 
gers. But that honour is so great that it cannot be 
enhanced by any reference to it by other lips than 



mine." 



After that the Countess gave up the topic. She 
maintained a coldly haughty attitude, on the perpetual 
defensive lest the peasant should presume on his posi- 
tion by undue familiarity. She never allowed Ilonka 
to see hitxjiancf out of her sight, nor to exchange any 
but the merest commonplace words, well within her 
hearing. She had noticed with annoyance that Ilonka 
had taken to blushing when she heard Csillag's hoofs 
on the acacia drive, and this annoyed her immensely. 
She wished her daughter to adhere to her attitude of 
disdainful impassiveness. The low-bred peasant had 
got what he wanted. So had the Countess ; for the 
mortgage on the house had been paid up to Rosen- 
stein ; and all Gyuri 's foolish, careless, and compro- 
mising papers been handed back through Kem£ny 



How the News was Received 249 

Andrds*s hands and destroyed. It was terrible to 
think that all the lands which had been in the 
Bidesktity family for seven hundred years now be- 
longed to the descendant of those peasants who had 
been the veriest slaves to their lords. Thank God 1 it 
was but a temporary alienation into those ugly, rough 
brown hands. Very soon Ilonka would have a son, 
who should be brought up away from his vulgar kin- 
dred, fashioned by his loving grandmother into a true 
aristocrat, with every taint of common blood eradicated 
from his nature. And then, surely, after a while, 
Providence, all-just and merciful, would remove the 
rich and vulgar father from the noble son's path alto- 
gether ; the boy would drop the very name of Kem^ny 
that spoke of peasantry and of low birth, and a petition, 
which his Majesty Francis Joseph would not refuse, 
would stipulate that the noble name of Bideskiit be 
borne once more by the owner of the lands. 

Oh, yes! there were trying days to get over, but all 
would be well in time. Ilonka would no doubt go 
through some terrible struggles before she finally suc- 
ceeded in putting the presumptuous brute into his 
proper place ; therefore the Countess hurried on all the 
preparations for the wedding, sorted out the linen, 
which from Ilonka's very birth had been collected in 
anticipation of her marriage. Kem^ny Andrds evi- 
dently meant to leave upon the Countess's shoulders 
the entire onus of announcing the news to the servants, 
and thence to the village. It was strange but true 
that, so far, not one of the peasantry seemed to know 
of the gigantic honour about to be done to one of their 
kind; it almost looked as if Andrds did not care to 
speak about it, to brag of it, as people of his class 
surely would always do ; only Pater Ambrosius had 



J 



250 A Son of the People 

evidently been told, for, one Sunday, just before din- 
ner, he had taken Ilonka's hand in his and, patting it 
very gently, he had said : 

** Let us all thank God, noble lady, for the great 
happiness He has vouchsafed to g^ant you ; and pray 
to Him that you may worthily love the truly good man 
who is to become your husband." 

Countess Irma had overheard this. It was a bitter 
moment. But for his priestly dignity, she could have 
turned on the Pater for his impudent speech. ** Great 
happiness!" when her parents were breaking their 
hearts with shame and remorse ! ** Worthily love? " 
whilst her mother puzzled her brain as to the best 
means of annihilating the ^' truly good man," with 
withering contempt. 

Ilonka, fortunately, said nothing. She never did 
now. She flitted about the house like a ghost, and no 
one ever heard her talk or laugh. She carried on her 
frigidity, even towards her parents. It was very heart- 
less of the child to add to their sorrow by seeming so 
obviously unhappy; and she was looking quite plain, 
so thin and pale had she become. 

In the meanwhile, in the kitchen, the gossip had 
grown apace. That the rich farmer of Elisfalu was on 
terms of the closest intimacy with my lord was very 
soon an obvious fact to all. Twice a week, now, he 
came to the castle, and my lord had been repeatedly 
heard to call him ** my son." On Sundays he always 
rode over after Mass, and stayed to mid-day meal, just 
like Pater Ambrosius ; and when Bideskdty and the 
Pater settled down in the afternoon to their game of 
** Tarok," Andrds would walk round the garden with 
the noble Countess and the young lady. 

Much had been the gossip, many the conjectures as 



How the News was Received 251 

to this extraordinary condescension. Gradually, as 
from the kitchen the news spread to the village, vari- 
ous theories were set up : the most generally believed 
being that my lord hoped, by shaking hands with the 
rich peasant, and by treating him as an equal, to win 
him over to his own views about the steam-mill, and, 
with Andres's help and influence, to start it once more 
on a more prosperous career. At first that idea, origin- 
ally propounded by Vas Berczi, the village oracle, was 
treated with derision. Kem6ny Andrds, in spite of his 
silence and his taciturnity of the past few months, was 
still the universal favourite with both sexes, with 
young and with old ; and the idea that he could, 
through my lord's flatteries, be bribed over to the 
devil 's side, was flouted as utterly preposterous. But, 
as weeks went on, and Andrds*s visits to the castle 
were as frequent as ever, and his silence more pro- 
nounced, a certain feeling of suspicion, not altogether 
free from ill-will, gained ground in AjokszAllds. 
There was no doubt that for some time past a change, 
gradual but unmistakable, had taken place in the 
popular favourite. At one time his merry laugh could 
be heard ringing from one end of the village to the 
other; now he seldom even smiled. Once he never 
could look at a pretty girl without trying to snatch a 
kiss from her, in spite of jealous suitor or anxious 
parent ; now the village beauties looked vainly at him, 
with provoking or languishing eyes; he scarcely 
seemed to heed them beyond a kind ** Good-day ! ** and 
there was a strange look in his eyes as if they perpetu- 
ally saw something that was not there. 

He never now joined his friends on Sunday after- 
noons in the big barn to listen to czigdny music or to 
twirl the girls round in the csdrdds, in his wonted 



252 A Son of the People 

madcap way. He never now was found at the wayade 
inn, with pretty Lotti on his knee, making her husband 
wildly furious with jealousy. 

Yes I he was changed ! of that there was no doubt ! 
Very sadly changed. The constant intercourse with 
my lord and his family had accomplished what all old 
Kem^ny's money-bags had failed to do : it had made 
Andrds proud. He no longer cared for the village, its 
music, its pretty girls, its dancing. He no longer 
dropped silver florins into the czigdny's fiddles, or 
bought bright bits of ribbon for the girls. Andr&s was 
detaching himself from them. He was now the friend 
of my lord. 

Gradually a barrier seemed to arise between him and 
them, built by unseen hands ; and now, when he came 
to the village, the younger men took to lifting their 
caps to him, just as they did to my lord. Even the 
older ones took to calling him ** kend '* (your Honour), 
and the girls curtseyed as he passed. 

Andrds did not fail to notice the difference. At first 
he felt it keenly, for he dearly loved his village and his 
friends ; Etelka saw it, too. She knew the evil would 
come, creeping apace. It was that which she had 
dreaded : the gradual detachment of her son from his 
old life, his hdpless striving to live the new. Andr&s 
had at first spoken of it, with tears in his eyes, then, 
after a while, he seemed not to heed it. Certainly his 
manner changed. The sunny nature had grown 
strangely sad, and sadness gave a dignity to the 
peasant lad, to the tall, broad figure and dreamy 
eyes, which all the village folk unconsciously 
recognised, and bowed to, as something noble and 
high. Then, one day, Jank6 came riding down, 
all excitement, to the village; the news he had to 



How the News was Received 253 

tell was so great, so wonderful, he hardly knew how 
to begin. 

Andrds ! Kem^ny Andrds, the rich peasant, the 
young chap who had sung with them, danced with 
them, been brought up amongst them, was ... no ! 
Jank6 could not go on ! the words seemed to choke 
him . . . was going to marry. . . . 

*'Yes! Yes! Whom? Quick, Jank6! Long live 
AndrAs and his future wife ! Oh ! the sly dog ! so 
silent ! so taciturn ! that was it, then ? Quick, Jank6, 
who is it? ... " 

And an anxious crowd gathered round Jank6. He 
was led in triumph to the inn, where a litre of the best 
wine was placed before him, to help him tell his won- 
derful news. 

** Oh ! won't Zsuzsi cry ! and what will Panna say? 
... as for Erzsi, she will surely break her heart. 
Speak, Jank6! is it Erzsi? . . . No? . . . Margit? 
. . . No ? . . . Mariska ? . . . No ? . . . Speak, Jank6 ! 
or may you never speak again ! ** 

Never had news travelled so quickly as that which 
Jank6 came to bring. Kemfeny Andrds was going to get 
married ! That was the cause of his sorrow, of his 
silence ? Now all would be well again ! He would 
come back to them as merry as ever ! and give up 
going to the castle, and listening to my lord's blandish- 
ments ! He would have some one to court, some one 
with whom to dance ! Long live Kem^ny Andrds ! 

** Jank6, why the devil don't you speak? and why 
the devil don't you drink ? drink, man, and tell us of 
the lucky girl who will share the Kisfalu money with 
Andrds, and have the best of husbands into the 
bargain. " 

But Jank6 would not speak till all were silent again. 



254 A Son of the People 

and all crowded round him to hear the strange news. 
Outside the inn, eager, curious faces were peering 
through the window. Within a breathless silence fell 
on the excited crowd : 

** Kem^ny Andrds of Kisfalu is about towed the 
most noble lady Uonka of Bidesktit ! '' 

It was as if a thunderbolt had come down from 
heaven, and had fallen crashing in the midst of the 
village. A dead silence followed the extraordinary 
announcement, while Jank6 drank a deep measure of 
wine, for his news had made him thirsty. 

Then, as the sound of a rising storm, questions, ejac- 
ulations, surmises began to be heard right and left : 

** Impossible T' 

** Jank6, you are a liar ! " 

** The first of April is long since gone I " 

"Kem^ny Andrds?*' 

"OurAndrds?'' 

** And her young ladyship ? " 

"One of us?** 

** Married to a noble lady ? '* 

''When did it happen?" 

"How did it happen?*' 

** Is he in love with her ? ** 

" Is she in love with him ? " 

All spoke at once. All crowded round Jank6. One 
pulled his coat tails ; the other tugged at his sleeve. 
Nobody would let him drink. He must tell something 
more. He must know more of this strange history. 

" Let me go outside where you all can hear» and I 
will tell you all I know." 

" That's right, Jank6!" 

" Long live Jank6 ! " 

On to a huge, empty cask, Janko was pushed and 



How the News was Received 255 

hoisted. He was fully alive to his own importance, 
the wonders of his news. He viewed, from this height, 
the number of eager faces turned expectantly towards 
him. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, and pre- 
pared for an interesting, thrilling speech. But, just as 
he was about to begin, he spied over the sea of heads 
Pater Ambrosius coming towards him. He thought 
that his position was not dignified on the top of a 
cask ; the priest might tell my lord of the way in which 
his confidential valet announced the news to the village. 
The noble lord might be angry. Jank6 thought it 
prudent to descend. Pater Ambrosius had pushed his 
way through the crowd. 

** You all seem very excited, my children," he said ; 
•'what is it?'' 

** Kem^ny Andrds, Pater." 

** Oh ! that's it, is it? Jank6 has already brought 
the news? and you want to hear all about it. Well, 
my children, there is not much to say. You all know 
Andrds, whose heart is as strong as his gold, whose 
generosity is as great as his riches. Is there one 
among you here who has not once in the last ten years 
been in trouble, and gone to Andrds for help ? and, 
having gone, did not get all the help, and ten times 
more kindness and sympathy than he expected? " 

"Yes! Yes! Long live Kem6ny Andrds! Our 
Andrds ! Yes ! Yes ! " came from every side, while 
the gentler sex, more sentimentally inclined, lifted an 
apron to a moist eye or so. 

** Very well, then, my children, you will agree with 
me that one so good as Andrds — one who follows the 
dictates of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has taught us to 
love and succour one another — is surely worthy to wed 
with the noblest in the land. Kem6ny Andrds has 



256 A Son of the People 

wooed the beautiful young lady at Bideskdt, and her 
parents have decided to give her to him/' 

** Does she love him, Father ? " came from the sjrm- 
pathetic, tearful, feminine portion of the audience. 

** The noble lady will do her duty as a wife should, 
and love her husband," replied the old priest, guard- 
edly ; ** and now will you all go back to your work or 
to your homes ? — and when next Andr4s comes to the 
village you can wish him joy at his future marriage.** 

But it was useless to talk of work that day. Those 
who had heard the great news were longing to impart 
it to others who were away at work on Andrds's land, 
or that of my lord ; whilst others thought they would 
like to wander out upon the plain and meet the young 
herdsmen at the inn, and see how they would take the 
news. 

The wise old folk longed for a gossip ; the news was 
great. Every aspect must be discussed. It was all 
very well for the young ones to be so excited ; there 
was surely no cause for rejoicing. Andrds had made 
friends with my lord ; he had been won over to the 
enemy's camp. He had turned his back for ever on his 
friends. His pride had known no bounds. He had 
used his riches to raise himself above all his equals. 
Naturally now he would remain among those who 
had thought fit to welcome the peasant lad as one of 
themselves because of his great wealth and his lands. 
Andrds would have a son who, if his mother had been 
a peasant girl, should have continued his father's tra- 
ditions of hard work on the fields, merrymaking in 
the inns, love of dancing and of music, but who now 
would be reared away from the village, with his heart 
and mind turned against those who had been his 
father's friends and companions. Pride is an evil 



• ••it 



How the News was Received 257 

thing. Andrds was evidently not beyond it. All the 
empty-headed young things would soon recognise 
that in future they would have to put up with Andrds's 
condescension and patronage, which was not worth a 
particle of Andrds's friendship and gaiety. 

He would come to church in a carriage, wearing a 
frock coat, and discarding the sheepskin mantle ; he 
would help my lady, his wife, out of her coach ; he 
would nod kindly to the young men, who would stand 
gaping round, with their caps in their hands, and 
chuck the girls under the chin, who would blush and 
curtsey. He would surely have to be called ** honoured 
sir," and would set aside so many measures of wheat, 
which Pater Ambrosius would be told to distribute 
among the needy. He would not come to cheer the 
sick and the old in their cottages, with his lively talk 
and his silver florins, but would send alms through 
Pater Ambrosius' hands. 

"But we will not take it, will we?'* added Vas 
Berczi, bringing his fist crashing down upon the table. 
** We will show Andrds that we care nothing about his 
money, since he is too proud to end his days among 
us, and to find his wife among our daughters." 

The feeling of the older part of the population was 
decidedly antagonistic to the late popular favourite. 
The whole thing had struck them as too utterly pre- 
posterous and wonderful ; they did not understand it, 
and they resented this sudden upsetting of all their 
ideas on the unattainability of the noble folk. It almost 
seemed as if somebody had had the temerity to bring 
down the Saints from Heaven, and taken them for a 
walk down the village street. The lord of Bideskdt 
and his family were not much loved, for they were too 
proud to have found their way to popularity, but, at the 

'7 



258 A Son of the People 

same time they were the owners of the land, until very 
recently the very owners of the peasants' bodies them- 
selves, the lords of the country ; they dispensed the 
laws ; they were in a sphere above, as far removed from 
the village folk as the Saints in their niches in the old 
church. The temerity of one of their kind daring to 
be at one with them seemed akin to a sacrilege. These 
older folk wisely shook their heads, and predicted 
disaster ; such an upheaval of all their social notions 
would be sure to carry some calamity in its train, and 
Andrds would live to see sorrow and humiliation follow 
his pride and temerity. 

Outside, the young people did not look far ahead ; 
they wondered when the wedding was to be, and 
whether Andrds would ask them all to a huge supper 
at Kisfalu. They saw in the marriage nothing but the 
gaieties and festivities of the wedding ceremony, ac- 
cording to ancient traditions, with plenty of wine and 
dancing, and the best czigdny music in the county. 
They half thought of the noble young lady as wearing 
thirty or forty petticoats, and a pair of brilliant red 
leather boots, to walk to church with on Sundays, 
such, in fact, as had never been seen for miles around. 
The younger ones did not think or talk of temerity and 
sacrilege, of rising to higher social spheres. To them 
it was poetry, romance, the willing descent of a great 
lady to their own humble but merry circle ; the desire 
of a noble young lady to dance the csdrdds merrily 
with them in the big bam, to enjoy herself, to trip 
barefoot across the muddy roads, to forsake grandeur 
for gaiety. 

They were ready to receive her with open arms, since 
she wished to come amongst them ; to give her such a 
welcome in the village on her wedding-day as would 



How the News was Received 259 

make the vast plain resound with their shouts. As for 
Andrds, he would have, before his marriage, to make 
ever}' girl dance till she could not stand, and to make 
every suitor jealous and everj' father furious. After 
that, he would, in the natural course of events, become 
the jealous husband himself, and the noble wife of the 
rich farmer would make close acquaintanceship with a 
certain knotted stick upon her white shoulders. 

Ah ! good days were coming ! Plenty of merry- 
making, plenty of wine and music. Never had Andrds 
been so popular among the younger folk, though many 
tears were shed by pretty eyes at this sudden expira- 
tion of secretly treasured hopes. 

The old ones croaked and shook their heads ; the 
young ones gossiped, laughed, and cried. There was 
sorrow at the castle, silence at the farm of Kisfalu, and 
on a solitary plain a lonely horse and rider roamed 
about beneath the stars, and a great and good heart 
was wearing itself out with longing. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE MARRIAGE 

" Introiso ad altare Dei ! * ' 

Pater Ambrosius has handed over his biretta to the 
tiny brown-faced ministrant, and is now bending with 
reverent head before the high altar, and reciting the 
opening prayers of the Mass. 

Inside the church, the air is heavy with the scent of 
flowers : roses, roses everywhere, red, white, pink, 
yellow, in many tones of fragrant loveliness, tied in 
great posies at the feet of the Virgin's statue, or on the 
big iron candlesticks, whilst a carpet of many-coloured 
petals is strewn all down the nave. Half faded, these 
throw an intoxicating, faint perfume in the air, which 
mingles with the more penetrating fumes of the incense, 
as the little ministrants swing their simple censers to 
and fro. The tiny village church, with its rough stone 
pillars, its highly-coloured quaint images, its faded 
altar hangings, is turned into a very bower of sweet- 
scented blooms. Outside, the day is warm — one of 
those early May days when the earth gives forth its 
first promises of coming vintage and harvest, when the 
air is filled with many cries of innumerable bird throats, 
when the stork calls loudly to its mate, the swallow is 
busy in perfecting his nest, the sparrow and the finch 
twitter in gladness at the warmth, the radiance of the 

sun. It comes peeping in at the tiny leaded windows 

260 



The Marriage 261 

of the church, and alights gaily on the holiday attire 
of the eager, curious throng of worshippers ; on the 
bevy of pretty girls on the left, in the smartest of gay- 
coloured petticoats and embroidered corselets, with 
black hair smoothly held back underneath the gorgeous 
head-dress, with eyes no less bright than the glittering 
beads which encircle their pretty round necks, hang 
down on plump bosoms, and glisten in tiny ears. It 
smiles at the crowd of handsome young men, in all the 
barbaric splendour of their holiday attire, with great 
bunches of spring flowers fastened to their heavy 
mantles, their round hats held respectfully in their 
hands, and adorned with streaming ribbons of national 
tri-colour. 

The Latin text of the Mass is all obscure to them ; 
the prayer-books are only for show, since few of them 
can read ; moreover, none could pray to-day, for there 
is such an extraordinary thing to be seen. All eyes 
are turned to where, by the communion rail, on a pair 
of well-worn crimson cushions, there kneel a man and 
a woman. He, tall, erect, his dark head towering 
above all others, his great mantle worked in gold and 
silver threads, falling from his broad shoulders, like 
the regal mantle of some barbaric chieftain ; she, slen- 
der, fragile, in clinging, white muslin, with a long, 
transparent veil, disguising the chaste young form, 
and through which a few glints of golden curls can 
occasionally be seen. Side by side they kneel, envel- 
oped in the penetrating smoke of the incense, with roses 
all round them — at their feet, in half-&ded masses, 
on the chancel rail and steps, in great heavy bunches, 
thrown everywhere by hands unaccustomed to fashion 
decoration, but in grotesque picturesqueness of untidi- 
ness and plenty — side by side, to receive the blessing of 



262 A Son of the People 

God and the Church on this union decreed on them by 
the high Fate which shapes our destinies. The girl, 
with tiny ice-cold hands clutching nervously at the 
ivory-bound prayer-book, trying to follow the obscure 
meaning of the Latin text, her blue eyes fixed stead« 
fastly down on the pages, with not a tear falling from 
beneath the heavy lids ; the man, upright and proud, 
with strong arms crossed tightly across his broad chest, 
forcing his eyes to rest on the sacred vessels, the altar 
before him, and not to dwell on that girlish fig^^re by 
his side, whose every movement sends the flames of 
heaven coursing through his veins. The long folds of 
her veil disguise her before him, but, beneath it, he 
can guess the golden curls, the delicate outline of nose 
and chin, the slender, graceful curves of the throat, 
and his arms tighten across his breast, till the strong 
sinews crack, as if to still the exultant beating of the 
heart, and force the mind to reverence and prayer. 

Pater Ambrosius, bending still lower, has begun 
to recite the ** Confiteor'' ; his lean hand strikes his 
breast : 

**Mea culpa / mea culpa ! mea mcLxima culpa ! " 

Immediately behind them my lord kneels, with fig- 
ure slightly bent, as if under some terrible weight too 
heavy for man to bear ; he looks aristocratic and still 
young, among all these heavily-built sons of the soil, 
in his tight-fitting frock-coat, buttoned close up to the 
neck. At the ** Confiteor '* a great sigh, which sounds 
almost like a sob, breaks through his tightly com- 
pressed lips. 

^^Indulgentiam, absoluHonem et remissionem peccaio- 
rum nostrorum^ tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors 
Deusr' 

His hands are convulsively clasped. He, too, prays 



The Marriage 263 

to God for pardon for all transgressions, all obsti- 
nacies, pride, and vain-glory, all the follies which have 
thrust his dainty, high-bom child into the arms of a 
peasant. 

The noble Countess, in antiquated silk which stands 
in rigid folds round her, has recited the ** Confiteor" 
under her breath, out of her prayer-book, merely as a 
concession, for she stands in no need of absolution, or 
of remission. She has accomplished her duty, sacri- 
ficed her very pride, her own child, her most treasured 
traditions, for the sake of her husband's honour and 
the future of her race. 

Then the worthy old priest mounts the altar steps ; 
his new vestments, covered with lace and embroideries 
(a present from Andrds for the great occasion), impede 
his movements. He stumbles and almost falls, causing 
a titter among the giddy young folk at the back, while 
old ones shake their heads and make the sig^ of the 
Cross, for the omen forebodes nothing good. The 
tension of suspense, of excitement, is so acute that 
the most trivial occurrence calls forth nervous merri- 
ment, or flood of tears. 

In the meanwhile the Pater is reading the beginning 
of the Introit — 

^^ Deus Israel conjugal vos . . . ** 

Andrds listens reverently. Yesterday the kind old 
priest had patiently gone through every word of the 
wedding Mass with him, so that he might understand 
what God enjoined him to do, and what he would 
swear to fulfil. 

" May the God of Israel unite you ! *' 

Yesterday, when he had read these words, they had 
seemed to him as words spoken by angels, when open- 
ing the gates of paradise. 



264 A Son of the People 

The band of gipsy players, inseparable from any 
Hungarian function, grave or gay, has been stationed 
at the further end of the church. They know little of 
hymn or psalm tune ; their music consists of dreamy 
Hungarian songs, which they play with soft, sighing 
sounds, and which fill the tiny, roughly-built church 
as with an appealing whisper. 

Andr&s closes his eyes. He has promised the Pater 
to keep his thoughts in check, to turn them wholly 
upon the sacred function, upon God's blessings 
worthily to be received. 

The mellow tones of the czimbalom, the sighing 
accents of the fiddles, fill the air ; the half-audible mut- 
terings of Pater Ambrosius as he reads the Gospel, 
recites the Creed and Offertory prayers, all seem Uke 
sounds in dreamland, far removed from reality. 

And still, as in a dream, through the thickening 
clouds of incense, Andrds watches the priest as he 
pronounces the sacred, words of the consecration. The 
tiny bell tingles and all heads are reverentiy bent : 
from Ilonka's eyes a few tears are slowly falling upon 
her prayer-book. Before him, there floats a vision of 
the home at Kisfalu, rendered radiant with the pres- 
ence of his young wife, flitting fairy-like through the 
low-raftered rooms, and . . . then ... of the patter 
of feet, tinier even than hers, skipping merrily about 
the house, and of fresh, shrill voices, shouting " father " 
when he comes home. An infinite peace is in his heart ; 
forgotten are the torrents of passion which had well- 
nigh overwhelmed him in these last weary weeks ; he 
only thinks of her as he does of the Madonna, serene, 
pure, the fountain of happiness — ^she sitting on a 
throne aloft, dispensing joys to the homestead : he 
worshipping, devoted, at her feet. 



The Marriage 265 

But now Pater Ambrosius is descending the altar 
steps ; my lord has also left his seat, and is standing 
erect and very pale, dose to the communion rails, 
while one of the ministrants holds a small plate in his 
hands on which two gold circlets glisten. 

A sound, which is like a long sigh, seems to come 
from the hundred throats in the church, a sigh of in- 
tense, eager expectancy. Andrds and Ilonka are 
standing before the priest, about to finally become man 
and wife. Neither of them hears what the priest says. 
Both feel as in a dream. Behind, all necks are craned 
to catch a glimpse of the two figures, one so tall and 
broad, the other so fragile ; one or two less reverent 
feet are standing up on the pews, while a nervous 
whisper and titter, a frou-frou of starched skirts, a 
jingle of beads and bangles, breaks the solemn silence 
of the church. 

Binecz Mark6 and his band are playing a dreamy 
song, a quaint, half-sad melody; they whisper on their 
instruments ; the music sounds like one long sigh, 
hardly audible, as if coming from some distant doud- 
land, and wafted in on the smoke of the incense. 

Pater Ambrosius has taken the tiny, cold, white 
hand, and the other, strong, brown, and rough, and 
placed one within the other. Andrds hardly dares to 
breathe. Surdy this cannot be reality. Pater Ambro- 
sius holds both the hands clasped together, but through 
it all Andrds feels a flutter, like the wings of a tiny 
bird, just stolen from its nest. As her hand touches 
his, her white face has become whiter still, and for one 
swift moment her blue eyes have sought his own, with 
a terror-stricken, appealing look, that makes Andr&s's 
heart well-nigh break with pity. Did she not under- 
stand, then, that he loved her— as saints had loved thdr 



266 A Son of the People 

God — and that he would tend and cherish her» and 
keep every sorrow from her path ? Did they not tell 
her how he had begged for leave to lie at her feet» to 
keep stormy weather and arid sun from her ways, and 
then be content to see her smile ? Why did she then 
look so appealingly at him ? It seemed almost as if she 
were frightened I Frightened? Great and mighty 
Lord ! when her hand rested in his ! and God Himself 
was entrusting her to his care, to shield and to protect ! 

Pater Ambrosius now places the golden circlets, one in 
the hand of each. Then he whispers to Andr&s to slip 
the one he holds on the finger of one of those white 
hands. The Pater says something, which Andrds 
repeats after him. There is a great deal about loving 
and cherishing, sickness and death, evil and good : 
Andrds repeats it all, as in a dream ; only vaguely does 
he understand that he is taking an oath before God 
and before men. What need has he of oaths, when his 
very heart-strings are bound up in the fulfilment of 
his own happiness ? 

Then she begins to speak. She also repeats what 
Pater Ambrosius says before her. Her voice — oh ! it 
was the sweetest music — sounds hardly above a whis- 
per . . . hardly above the dying murmur of the 
czimbalom as it faintly echoes through the sacred 
edifice. She also swears, as with icy hands she holds 
the ring on his finger, to love, to honour, and to obey. 

Firmly, triumphantly, sounds the ** Yes ! ** spoken 
by Andrds in reply, when God through the mouth of 
his priest, the law as represented by the Church, asks 
if he will have this woman for wife. His answer 
is like the triumphant echo, the expression of all his 
pent-up passion, of his longing, his deep, his infinite 
love. Firmly she, too, answers ** Yes ! *' ; her voice 



The Marriage 267 

does not tremble, but once again two great tears detach 
themselves from her eyes, and fall, like glistening 
dew-drops, down her cheek. 



A g^eat sigh of satisfaction broke from the crowd of 
worshippers. The irrevocable deed had been. done. 
Kem^ny Andrds, the peasant lad whom, as a tiny boy, 
many a homely mouth had kissed, who older in years 
had been bu£feted and beaten by a tyrannical father, 
had toiled on farm and field as any labourer, who 
was one of themselves, like them, bom and bred on 
the good Hungarian lowlands, was now and for ever the 
rightful lord and master of a noble high-bom lady, the 
daughter of him who owned the land, the descendant 
of those who had owned the very peasants as their 
goods and chattels, to sell and barter at will, to mal- 
treat, or even to kill. How wonderful it was ! Like 
some grand dream, dreamt by all alike — the lights, 
the roses, the beautiful new vestments ; the lord of 
Bidesktit standing there, giving his daughter away to 
the peasant lad ; the beautiful lady, all in white, look- 
ing like a saint, stepped down from one of the images ; 
and amidst them all the powerful figure, the handsome 
dark head, bronzed by years of hard toil on the land, 
beneath the arid sun, the hard, rugged hands ever 
opened wide to pour kindnesses, money, gifts, to all 
who needed it, and who never asked in vain. It was 
a glorious day, a great event ! so great and glorious 
that not one eye remained dry, not one throat unchoked 
with sobs; so great and glorious that the czigdny 
poured forth on the heavy, scented air their most sad, 
most appealing melodies ! So great and glorious that 
the chief actors therein, that powerful man and that 



268 A Son of the People 

fragile girl, were both bowing with bursting hearts and 
tearful eyes before the all-kind, merciful throne of God ! 

The rest of the Mass was listened to in silence. 
Dreamy quiet rested upon all. The simple words of 
the lyord's Prayer, though spoken in Latin, were 
known and felt by the humblest, the most unlettered 
in the flock. Andrds had knelt down on the faded 
cushion. He had buried his face in his hands ; before 
his closed eyes there was a haunting vision of that ter- 
rified look which had implored him for pity. That 
vision seemed to rend his heart-strings. He held his 
teeth firmly set together, lest heart-breaking sobs 
should escape his throat. She was kneeling so list- 
lessly, so icily beside him now. Reverently each took 
the white wafer, which Pater Ambrosius had placed in 
their mouth. In simple faith the young peasant 
accepted the great mystery which the Catholic Church 
commands her children to believe. He did not under- 
stand, but did not question ; scarcely a faint doubt 
crossed his fevered mind. The faded flowers seemed 
to make him drowsy ; Binecz Mark6*s plaintive music 
lulled him to dreamy insensibility. 

Then Pater Ambrosius raised his hands aloft : 

^^May the God of Abraham^ the God of Israel^ the 
God of facob be with you ; may He pour forth upon you 
the continual dew of His blessings so that ye may see the 
children of your children even unto the third and 
fourth generation^ arid that ye may be possessed at 
the last with eternal life, through the grace of our 
Lard fesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with God 
the Father and the Holy Ghosty world without end, 
Amenl^^ 

And he added, making the sign of the Cross towards 
the assistants : 



The Marriage 269 

^^Benedicai vos omnipotentes Deus Pater ^ et Films ^ et 
SpirUus Sandus,** 

The last *' Amen " died away ; the last Gospel had 
been read; Pater Ambrosius was wiping the sacred 
vessels. 

Among the worshippers, the long, religiously kept 
silence was at last threatening to break. Excited 
whispers were heard among the young folk, as well as 
a general noise of closing the clasps of prayer-books, 
short, nervous coughing, and an occasional titter. 
Respectfully, all remained in their seats, but craned 
their necks to catch sight of the bride and bridegroom, 
and of the noble people. Eager questions were asked, 
excited comments made. Pater Ambrosius came 
down to the communion rail ; with fatherly freedom 
he had taken the bride's pale young face between his 
wrinkled hands, and looking straight into her innocent 
eyes was whispering something to her : a last admoni- 
tion, a quiet prayer. Then he turned towards Andrds 
and took his hand in both his own, and all heard him 
say : ** God bless you, my son, you have well deserved 
your happiness ! ** After that, he put on his biretta, 
and was gone. 

The noble Countess had gathered up her shawl and 
prayer-book, and had drawn near to Ilonka. Every 
one strained their necks to watch the critical moment. 
In true time-honoured Hungarian tradition Andrds, 
with a hand which visibly trembled, lifted the veil from 
his young bride's face, and, stooping down towards 
her, his face as pale as death, he imprinted the first 
kiss on the pure forehead of his newly-made wife. 

She seemed whiter than the white roses in her hair. 
Her eyes closed. She seemed ready to swoon. He had 
had the first kiss as every bridegroom on the lowlands : 



270 A Son of the People 

and yet, how hungrily he watched as her father and 
mother, each in turn, took her in their arms, and the 
noble Countess wiped copious tears from her maternal 
eyes. It seemed as if he could not allow any one to 
approach her now. 

The comments flowed freely. Feminine hearts 
ached at the sad, white look of the bride. But then, 
all brides are coy and frightened on their wedding- 
day : it is their great charm ; and Andrds would soon 
bring a blush to those cheeks, and briUiancy to those 
eyes. 

How handsome they both looked as they walked 
down the nave ; her hand hardly touching his arm as 
he led her towards the door. Softly murmured ** God 
bless you both I'' accompanied them to the porch. 
Then, behind my lord and his lady, the crowd closed 
in to see the departure. 

For one moment Andrds paused, as the brilliance of 
the May-day sun half dazzled his eyes. Down the road, 
my lord's carriage, with its Hungarian livery, in its 
scarlet leather harness, its five milk-white horses that 
had brought the bride to the church were eagerly, im- 
patiently pawing the ground. The crowd, like the 
overflowing waters of the Tama, had pressed its way 
out of the church, now much too small to contain all 
the people. All rushed eagerly forward, looking round 
for the rich peasant's carriage, which was sure to be 
gorgeous beyond description, since it would convey the 
noble bride to her new farmhouse home, with glittering 
harness, and with its shiny brass bosses and silver 
hasps, that would shame that of the lord of Bideskiit ; 
moreover, no stables could rival the horses from Kis- 
falu. The Countess, too, was looking inquiringly 
down the road, and anxiously at Andrds, for no car- 



The Marriage 271 

riage but hers was in sight. What was Andrds waiting 
for with his young wife on his arm ? 

Suddenly, there was a loud start, a quick pawing of 
the air and the road, a whirl and a shout, and before 
the village folk's delighted gaze, and the noble Coun- 
tess's cry of horror, Kem6ny Andrds, with one quick 
gesture, had picked his young bride up in his arms, 
bad jumped on Csillag's back, and, before the specta- 
tors had time to realise what had happened, or the 
Countess to recover from the shock, the mare, with her 
double burden, was fat away, throwing up a cloud of 
loose earth with her hoofs, galloping away towards the 
plain, her mane flying in the wind. 

A gigantic cry of *' l/ong live I " that shook the 
very foundations of the tiny village church, sent its 
echoes after the fast-disappearing horse and rider ; such 
a cry as relieved the tension of the intense excitement 
of the last two hours, and was the fitting, barbaric, 
primitive, intensely human comment on this novel 
home-going of a Hungarian bride. 



CHAPTER XXV 

FATA MORGANA 

Oh ! the delights of that wild ride across the roads, 
amid the fields of the beautiful Hungarian lowlands, 
with Csillag feeling, as it were, the same magnetic 
current which filled her master's veins, and flying 
along, swift and sure, like the very clouds driven by 
the wind. 

Oh ! how he had looked forward to this ride, with 
her frightened arms clinging perforce to him, for she 
would have to hold on tight when Csillag flew like the 
wind. 

How pale she looked ! Her eyes were closed : per- 
haps she had fainted away. He had been forced to be 
brusque and rough, to mount Csillag and fly away 
with her, and give no one time to stop him, and this, 
no doubt, had frightened her. 

On Csillag flew, the village was far behind ! the 
shouts of ** Eljen ! '* had died away ; the plain, in all 
its immensity, in all its loneliness, lay before him, and 
Csillag who, like her master, loved its untrammelled 
freedom, loved the vast expanse of ea|:th and sky, 
bounded onwards, as if God's angels had lent her their 
wings. 

On ! On ! She lay so still and so pale in his arms ; 

scarcely a breath escaped the partially closed mouth ; 

her long white veil lay round her like a shroud, and 

272 



Fata Morgana 273 

her tiny head rested upon his breast. Of such a mo- 
ment he had dreamt long nights through, upon the 
plain, had half broken his heart with mad desire long- 
ing for this. And now he gazed upon her for the first 
time all alone. No eyes to watch his emotion ; her 
loveliness lying passive in his arms. Oh I the joy of 
seeing her thus, senseless, helpless, against his breast ; 
fondly his eyes dwelt on every soft curl which escaped 
from beneath the veil, on the closed transparent lids, 
where tiny purple veins spoke of sorrow and of tears, 
on the small white nose, with its dainty tip and delicate 
nostrils, and, above all, on that scarlet mouth, with 
lips half parted, through which Andrds's ardent gaze 
sought the tiny white teeth and the tip of her rosy 
tongue. 

Oh ! it was joy unspeakable, joy beyond compare — 
save to most exquisite torture — to drink in every line 
of that fragile beauty, of which he was now the owner, 
and which, for very love, for great desire, he would not, 
dare not touch. 

On, Csillag ! On ! 

She had not stirred ; her very breath seemed to have 
stopped. She lay as dead in his arms. All around, 
earth and sky were still. The noonday sun poured 
down its radiance on the vast immensity of the plains. 
The heat made the air tremble with its waves. All 
signs of human life were far, very far away. The tiny 
wayside inn lay behind, the cry of the herdsmen was 
heard no more ; only overhead the storks were calling 
to one another, and down from beneath the great 
leaves of the melons, bright-coloured lizards darted to 
and fro, frightened by Csillag' s mad gallop. A fra- 
grance of opening blossoms, of ripening fruit, was in the 
air. To the right a herd of wild horses cantered 
18 



274 A Son of the People 

swiftly past. Andrds looked up for a moment, gazed 
round at the solitary, silent plain which he loved so 
well, and his eyes rested with delight on the blue sky, 
the ruddy soil, the distant outline of the long-armed 
well, against the purple mist beyond. 

And lo ! as he gazed on the hot, dry, trembling air, 
far away, upon the infinite golden distance, with rapid 
touches, the fitful fairy Fata Morgana drew her elusive 
pictures. To Andrds's excited brain, it seemed like 
the gold and white city of paradise glistening in the 
radiance of the sun ; with cool, rippling streams, mar- 
ble towers, and green pastures, glorious and solitary, 
calling to him to enter, with that snow-white burden 
in his arms there, to lay him down, and her, beside 
the cool streams, his burning head resting against that 
soft green grass. 

I/)ng and earnestly he gazed, while it seemed to him 
as if Csillag flew thither with outstretched angels* 
wings. Nearer and nearei the enchanting picture 
drew, half-veiled in a thin mist, which was made of 
tears. 

Then he bent his head down, and his ardent lips 
sought the tiny half -opened mouth : and the sotd of 
the young, rough, half-barbaric peasant passed from 
him to her inanimate form, in one long, burning kiss. 

Par out, on the horizon, the fitful fairy had swiftly 
erased the golden image of that paradise city ; over- 
head the storks had ceased their cry ; the little lizards 
had gone to rest. 

Peaceful, immense, solitary, the puszta lay — and 
Csillag galloped on. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THE PEASANT'S WIFE 

'* There ! there ! there ! let her be, my boy. She 
will be all right with me. You leave her here. The 
sheets are warm and ^ft, and scented with lavender. 
You go down to the cellar and get me a measure of 
that vinegar I put into casks last November. Put it 
outside the door, and bring me from the attic some 
cloves, and thyme, and perhaps a little burrage. Now 
go ! I tell you she is only faint, with that madcap ride 
of yours. You should have done as other folks do, 
and brought her home in a cart, with steady oxen to 
pull her along!" 

It was long after mid-day when Andrds came home 
on Csillag's back, carrying a white burden in his arms. 
Btelka had been waiting to welcome the bride home, 
and had cooked such a meal as was fit to place before 
the king himself, for she wanted Sdri and Kati to have 
the treat of putting on their best clothes and seeing 
their master being wed to the noble young lady. She 
could not help feeling anxious, for she knew of her 
son's intention of bringing his bride home in his arms, 
flying on Csillag's back, and feared lest the noble 
young lady, unaccustomed to such summary proceed- 
ings, should become faint and ill. She had made the 
tiny farmhouse look like a perfect garden of loveliness. 
Her roses, fortunately, were in full bloom, and she had 

275 



276 A Son of the People 

been able to place great bunches of them in every roc»i, 
more especially in the one which, newly papered and 
ornamented with daintily embroidered curtains, had 
been destined for the younq^ wife. 

Ah ! there, at last, the distant and well-known sound 
of Csillag's hoofe on the soft earth outside. Excitedly 
Btelka hurried out to the porch, ready to welcome her 
new daughter home with a loving kiss. One look in 
her son's face told her that something was amiss. 
Gently, with the pretty trick her master had taught 
her, Csillag had dropped on her knees, and Andrfis, 
looking almost as white as the bhrden he was carrying, 
dismounted and went within. 

He laid her down on the bed, Ktdka helping him to 
pillow the golden head softly on the cushions. She 
looked so white and inanimate. No wonder Andrds 
was frightened. But Ktelka understood that excite- 
ment alone had caused a dead faint, and soon reassured 
her son. She tried to remain cheerful, while she was 
in the room, but when he had gone, she shook her 
head sadly. Never had she seen any one so pale and 
wan looking, and this strange home-coming foreboded 
nothing good to her mind. 

Andrds had brought the vinegar, and Ktelka, having 
placed it on the stove to warm, and throwing some 
aromatic herbs into it, began bathing Ilonka's temples 
with it. She took o£f the poor child's shoes and stock- 
ings, and rubbed her cold feet between her own rough 
hands. At last a faint tremulous sigh escaped the 
purple lips. The golden head moved restlessly on the 
pillow, and soon a pair of frightened blue eyes looked 
up at the wrinkled, kind face above them. 

Terrified, puzzled, they roamed round, trying— just 
home from the land of dreams, — ^to take in the imme- 



The Peasant's Wife ^n 

diate reality : the quaint, tiny room, with its low- 
raftered ceiling, from which hung bunches of dry 
sweet-scented herbs. The great stove of glazed earth- 
enware, brilliant and green, with the hot vessel of 
aromatic vinegar steaming upon it. The posies of 
white roses in great rough pots, and the quaint figure 
of the kind old woman with the large dark eyes, which 
reminded Ilonka of something she had hoped for ever 
to forget. 

But the face looked good and sympathetic, and 
Ilonka just now had sore need of comfort* Her heart 
felt numb and bruised, and the old, dark eyes had two 
great tears in them that spoke of love and pity. All 
had been so strange, so bewildering. Ilonka had lived 
in such an atmosphere of stem duty and proud bearing 
for the last few weeks that the simple peasant clothes, 
the kind, wrinkled face, the rough brown hands, the 
sympathetic tears went straight to that bruised young 
heart, and she put out both her arms in an appeal for 
comfort and for love. 

The old peasant woman's heart, which had already 
gone out to the fragile, girlish figure on the bed, quite 
melted at this sweet appeal. Her arms closed round 
the delicate young girl, the golden head rested on the 
old motherly breast, and on it there fell such a shower 
of kisses and such words of love and sympathy as 
Ilonka had never heard from her own mother's lips. 

** Now, my sweet one, you feel better, do you not? 
Lie still for a while, and rest ; you are tired and ex- 
cited. See, I will draw the curtains across these win- 
dows, and shut out the sun, which will be setting 
presently, and you will perhaps get a good long sleep. 
I will be at my spinning in the room next to this. If 
you want anything, you must just tap the wall with 



278 A Son of the People 

your hand. I shall hear. I have aired all your beau- 
tiful linen, and hung your dresses up in that wardrobe, 
so when you are rested you can slip off your white 
frock, and put on some of your nice new things which 
my lady your mother sent down with the cart yester- 
day. There ! is that pillow just right, under your 
head? • . . Good-night, my sweet one. • • . Sleep 
well! ... " 

She gave Ilonka a last kiss, drew the curtains across 
the windows so that the rays of the sun only came in 
softened and subdued ; then she slipped quietly out of 
the room. 

Ilonka was alone. At first she was only conscious 
of an exquisite sense of bodily well-being. The sheets 
were so fine, and smelt so sweetly of lavender and 
rosemary, the air was delidously fragrant with the 
scent of roses and lilies of the valley. She closed her 
e3res ; her body lay rigid in an exqtiisite feeling of rest. 
How tired she was of all the turmoil and excitement of 
the past few days, of the maids bustling round, sorting 
the new linen and the various dresses, of the white 
gown which had to be tried on several times, and 
which always gave her a pain in her heart whenever 
she felt its dinging folds round her. But above all, 
she was infinitely weary of all the talk about wealth 
and lands, duties and posterity. Her cheeks had been 
in one perpetual flame, hearing herself spoken of but 
as the mother of unborn children, who were to be rich 
and own all the land and all the money. 

She had fought for liberty in an earnest, gentle way, 
had tried to appeal to her parents' love for her, thdr 
pride in her, their contempt for the husband they had 
chosen for her. She cared nothing for great riches, or 
for broad leagues of land ; she was happy at Bideskiit, 



The Peasant's Wife 279 

and would soon get over the shame of being an old 
maid. She could not understand why her father 
always looked so sad when her future was talked 
about. If he did not like his daughter's marriage with 
the rich peasant, why did he allow it ? Surely he had 
lands, fields, money enough of his own. What did he 
want with a peasant's wealth, be it ever so great ? 
Ilonka could not understand. Her mother, who was 
so proud, seemed to look on the mSsalliance with con- 
tent, while scorning the idea of a penniless husband, 
even if he had a long line of ancestry. The child had 
soon told her long-cherished secret, had candidly ad- 
mitted the thrills of delight which one voice among 
all others had called forth in her young heart. She 
was an only child, had been much loved and petted. It 
seemed terrible she should have to live in a peasant's 
cottage, learn to spin and dig in the garden, become 
no better than one of the maids, and cut off from all 
her friends. 

Then one day they told her that he did not care ; 
that he, being poor, was about to wed a rich manu- 
facturer's daughter, who was willing to exchange her 
bags of gold for a Countess's coronet. After that 
Ilonka was passive. She did not mind what they 
decided for her. Since he had lied to her, had talked 
of love, which he said would last till death, and had 
ended in a year, if he was false and dishonourable, she 
did not care what happened to her. If she could not 
be happy, she might as well do what her mother and 
father wished, and give her hand to the peasant, who 
was not more sordid than he^ in wishing to have a noble 
lady as his wife. 

Ilonka, with closed eyes, lying there passively on 
the rosemary-scented bed, recalled her first meeting 



28o A Son of the People 

with the tall, picturesque man : with him who had 
been described to her as the rich and vulgar peasant in 
search of noble blood, to which to ally his own com* 
«mon nature. She recalled his strange personality, his 
deep, musical voice, his eyes which rested so strangely 
upon her, the kiss which he always imprinted on her 
hand, and which used to bring a hot flush to her cheek, 
and a feeling that was half faint, half horrible. 

She tried to recall every moment of that solemn hour 
in church, the vows she spoke, the prayers she 
repeated, kneeling beside that strange man, whom, in 
spite of his origin, she could not despise, for he was so 
tall, and so quiet in his ways, and had ^uch a curious 
masterful look in his eyes. 

A shudder went through her now as it did then, 
when she felt the gold circlet of metal being slipped on 
her finger, the badge of her slavery to this man, who, 
her mother said, was infinitely beneath her. 

And she had sworn to honour, to love, and to obey. 
Oh ! she would do the latter to the utmost of her 
capacity, do his every bidding, work as any serf had 
worked in days gone by, when bitter blows were all 
the wage for a heavy day's toil ; and she would bear 
his arrogance, his masterfulness, be a willing and 
cheerful slave to him. Fulfil this oath — then perhaps 
God would remit the other, for she had sworn that 
which she could not fulfil : she had sworn that she 
would love. Then a last picture floated before her 
mind, a picture the reality of which in itself seemed 
as a dream : a picture of many faces floating round her, 
and in front the tiny village, with its thatched cottages, 
under the glare of a glorious May-day sun : the air hot 
and heavy with the fragrance of early opening blos- 
soms, and filled with sounds of bees and birds, ndgh- 



The Peasant's Wife 281 

ing of colts, and bleating of lambs. Then, suddenly, 
she had felt herself lifted off her feet, and fl3dng 
through the air as if on cloud wings. She dimly 
remembered a long shout, which died away in the dis- 
tance as she flew, then something strong and tight 
seemed to hold her faster, closer ; the acacia trees, the 
cottages, the throng of moving faces, appeared a thing 
of the infinite past, and she remembered no more. 

Oh, why had consciousness come back to her ! Why 
had she ever wakened ? She had been in infinite peace ; 
why had not that peace lasted on and on, till the doud 
wings had carried her to those regions where rest is 
eternal? 



CHAPTER XXVII 

THE IRRBPARABLK 

The sun was sinking low down in the west, and its 
golden rays stole in by the little windows of the living 
room and adorned each object in it with a narrow edge 
of gold, like a halo. 

Btelka had laid aside her spinning. The mid-day 
meal had been left untasted, and she had thought out 
some dainty dishes to prepare for supper, with her own 
hands, since S&ri and Kati were too full of the wedding 
and all they had seen to be trusted with the cooking 
of the first meal the young wife would take in her 
new home. 

She had seemingly not yet stirred. Btelka had 
peeped into the room, and seen her lying peacefully, 
with a faint colour in her cheeks, regular breathing 
coming through her half-opened mouth. Reassured, 
she had left Andrds to watch in the parlour, and had 
hurried to her kitchen. 

Dreamily he sat beside the open window gazing out 
across the plain towards the setting sun. . . . Thus 
his mind had always pictured this day of all days : 
The house still and solitary. He alone with her ; she 
with him. They two together, for ever henceforth, as 
one ; loving and loved ; sharing sorrows and joys ; all 
in all to each other. He remembered his lonely child- 
hood, his early years, when, tired with hard, slavish 

a8a 



The Irreparable 283 

toil, his youDg shoulders braised and aching £rom 
unjust and heavy blows from his father's stick, he used 
to wander out on the lonely plain, lonelier even than 
he, and alone betwixt earth and sky, alone with the 
moon and stars, he had asked beautiful, loving Nature 
to tell him some of her secrets : to teach him why the 
stork called always for its mate, why the swallow toiled 
to build a nest, why even the Uttle lizards had their 
homes beneath the great leaves of the melons, and why 
he, in spite of all the great love he bore his mother, felt 
lonely and homeless. Now he knew. He understood 
Nature's great all-pervading lesson, of a dual existence 
which is as one, a lesson which neither father nor 
mother could teach him, but which he had learnt when 
first he saw the fairy vision that had become his dream, 
and first heard the voice which had been angel's music 
in his ear. Like the stork, he, too, called for his 
mate ; like the swallow, he longed for a home wherein 
to love her, to cherish her, of which she would be 
queen. 

A faint noise behind him made him turn his head. 
It was she, all in white, dimly outlined in the gather- 
ing gloom. She had laid aside her veil, but was still 
in her wedding dress. 

"Ilonka!" 

Evidently she had not expected to find him here, for 
she started, stopped short, and her hand sought the 
support of the table near her as if she were afraid to fall. 

'' Ilonka ! " he said again, and came close to where 
she stood. 

She drew back a step or two. 

** I thought ... I ... I did not know you were 
here." 

** My mother was here till just now," he said very 



284 A Son of the People 

gently; "seeing that you were fast asleep, she has 
gone to the kitchen and left me here to watch if you 
stirred." 

He tried to take her hand and to draw her to him, 
but she snatched it away and said hurriedly : 

** Where is the kitchen ? I will go and find her." 

** The kitchen is in an outhouse, sweet, over there in 
the garden. The house is solitary and still, and we 
are alone, you and I.'* 

Again he tried to take her hand, but she evaded him, 
and turned nervously to the door. 

" Oh ! I can find my way ; she will want me, I know. 
She . . . " 

But swiftly Andrds had placed himself in her way, 
and with a sudden, passionate movement, his arms 
closed round her. 

** She does not need your help, sweet," he whispered 
earnestly, ** and you cannot go . . . see ! you are a 
prisoner in my arms. . . . Oh ! do not struggle ... for 
I hold you tight. How pale you look and how 
scared ! 

. . . Are you frightened ? . , . Not now, surely, when 
you are in my arms ! . . . I can protect you, sweet, 
from every sorrow and every ill. . . . Bend down and 
let your tiny ear touch my mouth ... for I want to 
whisper something into it . . . something, Ilonka, 
which has so filled my heart for many weary months 
that it has well-nigh broken it, for striving to be told. 
. . . Ilonka . . • my own . . . my sweet wife . . . 
I love you." 

His voice sounded hoarse and strange. His arms 
held her as in a vice. He was drawing' her closer, 
faster to him, till his face was near to her own. Ilonka 
fought to free herself. She was surprised and tern- 



The Irreparable 285 

fied. She did not understand. Never had she heard 
a voice so strange, nor met a look which frightened 
her so. Her mother should have warned, told her she 
would have to listen,would have to allow this odious 
peasant to put his arms round her, as he no doubt did 
to the village girls at the inn. She felt humiliated, 
horrified, her sharp nails were dug into his hands in a 
frantic effort to force him to let her go. 

'* I forbid you ... I forbid you 1 . . ." was all that 
she could gasp, for her throat was choked with terror. 
But he seemed not to heed. He repeated, in a curious 
way, **Ilonka . . . I love you! ..." as if the words 
almost choked him. And those words, in his mouth, 
sent a thrill of revolt through her ; they were the self- 
same words which, in those happy times, a gentle voice 
had murmured with respectful tenderness in her ear, 
and had caused her then such divine happiness. 

** I forbid you ! " she repeated mechanically. 

His grasp relaxed slightly, and she could see that he 
smiled. 

** Forbid me, sweet ! what will you forbid ? Do you 
then not wish to hear me tell you of the great love I 
bear you ? . . . Remember, that for all these weeks 
I hardly dared approach you. Some one was always 
there, who seemed to chase away all words of love from 
my mouth. . . . For weeks now, I have hardly dared 
to look at you. It wotdd be cruel to forbid me to speak 
• . . now . . . that, at last, we are alone . . . now 
. . . that you are . . . my wife ! *' 

With a swift and sudden movement, she had suc- 
ceeded in freeing herself from his grasp. Erect and 
defiant, she stood before him, all the arrogance, the 
pride of the aristocrat in revolt against the daring of 
this presumptuous peasant. He looked so tall and so 



286 A Son of the People 

powerful in all his bearing ; in his look there was such 
an air of indomitable will, of almost tyrannical master- 
fulness, that Ilonka unconsciously remembered the 
oath she swore, to honour and to obey ; and also the 
silent compact with her heart, to give full obedience, 
since she could g^ve no love. 

" Yes ! Yes, I know,'* she said slowly, with a cer- 
tain defiant humility. ''I understand, and will try 
not to forget. I am your wife ; and this morning, at 
the altar, I swore an oath that I would obey you. My 
mother and father commanded and I did as they 
desired. I swore that I would obey, and I will keep 
that oath, never fear ! I will be a dutiful wife. I will 
work for you as no peasant woman could ever work. 
I will spin, and I will dig; walk to church with you, 
and distribute to the labourers their measures of wine 
and com. You must teach me my duties ; command 
me, and I will obey. • . . You need have no fear. 
. . . I know . . . I am your wife ! " 

Andrds was gazing at her, half bewildered. He did 
not quite understand what she said. She looked very 
beautiful, save for the strange look in her eyes. He 
could not read what that look meant. It certainly had 
nothing of terror in it ; and her voice, too, was dear 
and distinct, and each word she said seemed to strike 
at his heart, making it throb with pain. The shades 
of evening were closing in. He could not see her very 
distinctly. Her slim form looked quite ghost-Uke in 
the gathering gloom. 

She had paused a moment, while he murmured 
'' Ilonka ! '' as if in a tender appeal. He would have 
spoken and tried to draw near to her again, but with 
an imperious gesture she put up her hand. 

** Do not speak,*' she said haughtily. ** Just now I 



The Irreparable 287 

could not stop you. You held me tightly. I tried 
to protest. But you had your say. It is my turn now. 
You said there were many things you wished to tell 
me. Things which, when you said them, made my 
cheeks bum with shame. I did not know — I am an 
ignorant girl— and my mother did not tell me — that 
it was part of this hideous bargain that you should 
speak to me of love, and that I should have to listen 
to words which, in your mouth, must be a sacrilege ! " 

•*Ilonka!'' 

One great and n)iighty cry, heart-rending in its 
intensity. The cry of the wounded beast, struck unto 
death, and sending forth in the air its last piteous 
appeal. 

Was she in her senses ? Did she know what she was 
saying ? Was it consciously that she had struck this 
terrible blow, so deadly that, for a moment, he almost 
staggered beneath it ? He looked at the outline of her 
young figure, dimly discernible in the darkness. So 
slender, white, and fragile did it look, that, in the 
midst of his great pain, an infinite pity for her seized 
him. No! No! she could not understand. She was 
ill and excited. Her brain was in a fever. Terror, in 
the midst of the strange surroundings, the lonely farm- 
house, the small low room, had blinded her. He had 
been hot-headed and impetuous. Poor, tender little 
thing, what could she know of a man's passion ? how 
could she understand the overmastering intensity of a 
rough peasant's love? He was rough ! All Pater Am- 
brosius' education had not quite eradicated the hot, 
impatient temperament of the son of the soil ; and she, 
refined, aristocratic, hitherto surrounded by the calm 
devotion of her parents, the deference of her servants, 
the respectful courtship of high-born suitors, had been 



288 A Son of the People 

frightened by it all. No wonder she shrank from his 
sudden, brutal, clumsy ways. 

•* Ilonka/' he began very gently, forcing his voice 
not to tremble, so as to reassure her, ** many things 
have frightened you to-day. . . . You are still weak 
and ill, and I do not think that you are able to realise 
the cruelty of your last words to me. . . . Let me 
take you to your room now. , . . My mother said 
that you would require a great deal of rest . . . and 
perhaps I was rough and clumsy with you . . . just 
now. ... I am but a peasant, as you know • . . 
but I can be gentle. . . . And, oh ! I would sooner 
cut off my right hand than offend or frighten you in 
anyway. . . . Will you forgive me ? See ... it is 
this great love that overwhelms me • . . that almost 
obscures my brain . . . and, perhaps ... I lose con- 
trol of my arms, when they close round you . • . and 
of my voice, when I speak to you. ... I am quite 
calm now, my sweet ; will you let me take your hand ? ' * 

** Is it necessary ? " she asked. 

** Necessary, Ilonka ? do you not wish to place your 
hand in mine ? Will you not try to give me one gentle 
word ? . . . I do not ask for very much , • . I will 
wait . . • oh I with infinite patience, for a word of 
love from you. . . . You are exquisitely beautiful. 
My love for you sprung in my heart the day on which 
I first beheld your loveliness. I am a common peasant 
... it will take time, I know, to win your love for 
me. . . . But I will win it, with such infinite gentle- 
ness that your heart will open to the poor peasant 
who so humbly worships you. But until then, my 
sweet, I will not complain. ... I will be content if 
you will place your tiny hand in mine . . • just for 
one moment, of your own accord ..." 



The Irreparable 289 

He held out his hand towards her. 

**Yoa will not do this, Ilonka? Have I then 
offended you so deeply that you have devised this 
terrible punishment for me ? If so, believe me, dear, 
the punishment has been enough ; for the fault I com- 
mitted was in the intensity of my love, and that love you 
have wounded so deeply that it now lies bruised and 
sore at your feet. . . . You will not stretch out your 
hand towards me? . . . You will not say that you 
forgive . . . even if I . . . pray for that forgiveness 
on my knees ...?'* 

He had knelt down at her feet ; and in the darkness 
his burning lips had sought and found the small, ice- 
cold hand. She snatched it away as if she had been 
stung, with a sudden cry of horror and loathing. 

In a moment Andrds was on his feet again. That sud- 
den gesture, that cry of horror, were not the outcome 
of girlish coyness, or childish fear. There was some- 
thing more, hidden within the heart of the woman 
before him, something that was not calm and icy as 
her words, and as her look ; and in the gloom he tried 
to see more of her face than its bare outline. But it 
was too dark ; her head was entirely in shadow, and 
he could not read what was passing within. With 
sudden, fierce masterfulness, he seized both her wrists. 

" You do not hate me, Ilonka ? " 

There was dead silence in the room. The moon had 
just crept round over the lonely farmhouse, and her 
slanting rays found their way through the low case- 
ment windows. Outside, the leaves of the poplar trees 
trembled in the evening breeze, giving forth a melan- 
choly sound like a long-drawn-out sigh. She was 
silent : and suddenly he remembered how it was thus 
that he had always pictured the evening of this 

«9 



290 A Son of the People 

glorious day — the house solitary and still ; his mother 
gone to her room, leaving him alone with her. He 
remembered how he had pictured her : coy, frightened 
at first, then listening to his love, her blue eyes get- 
ting gradually moist with pity and responsive passion, 
her lips parting in a happy smile. Oh, the bitter irony 
of it all 1 the cruelty of this awakening from the long, 
beautiful dream ! 

** Ilonka, will you answer me ? " he pleaded. 

She did not try to free her wrists, but drew herself to 
her full height, and stepped quite dose to him, letting 
each word sound distinctly in his ear : 

"Hate you, Kem6ny Andrds?" she began slowly 
and earnestly ; *' hatred is a big word, as great a one 
as love ; I am a very young girl, and have seen 
nothing of the world beyond the walls of my father's 
castle of Bideskiit, and therefore perhaps I know 
nothing of either. But this I do know : that in order 
to hate, one must be able to love. And I could never 
love you. You, with your great wealth, your fields, 
your lands, and your gold, had little else in the world 
to desire. But in your ambitious heart there remained 
one arrogant thought : you were not content to see 
one of your own kind, low-bom and sordid as yourself, 
sharing with you that wealth which all peasants hold 
so dear. Since 3'our money could not place you above 
your station, you longed at least that at the head of 
your table there should be seated one whom your 
labourers would call * my lady,' and that in one castle, 
at least, in the lowlands, you should be welcomed 
almost as an equal. With what machinations, what 
treachery, what usury, you ensnared my weak father, 
I shall probably never know. I do not care to 
ask. I may be young, but I am not blind, and 



The Irreparable 291 

one thing was clear to me from the very first day 
on which you entered my father's house, as some 
triumphant conqueror, and stooped to kiss my hand 
— it was clear to me from the moment when you, the 
grandson of a serf, first sat at my mother's table — and 
that is, that you have bought me with your gold, 
Kem6ny Andrds. You paid so many bank-notes, 
such measures of wheat or wine in order to call me 
your wife, to brag of me before your companions at the 
iun, to boast of me to the village girls, with whom you 
used to flirt and dance, to see me keep your house in 
order, to give me your commands, to beat me, as the 
peasants do their wives. I — a noble girl — your wife ! 
Well, you have bought me ! you have paid for me, as 
you do for your cattle and your sheep upon the puszta. 
The bargain is concluded. The daughter of those 
who once held your kindred in bondage is your 
slave. Be content, Kem^ny Andrds ! Command her 
to obey, if you will, but do not ask her if she hate 
you ! " 

Gradually she had spoken more and more quickly ; 
each word, every insult which she uttered, seemed to 
strike him in the face, as once her father's blow had 
done, which still remained unavenged. She was quite 
calm and self-possessed now, and, though her voice 
was hardly above a whisper, it was clear and without 
a tremor. 

He had allowed her to speak without making the 
slightest effort to stop her. Perhaps he had not 
the strength to do so. His blood coursed through his 
veins like fire, his temples throbbed as if they would 
break ; and yet he listened, as if longing to endure this 
torture to the full, as if he longed to know what an 
infinity of hatred there lurked in that young girl's 



292 A Son of the People 

* 

heart, and what amount of pain his own bruised heart 
could bear. 

What a fool he had been to think of her as a child, 
coy and frightened with the newness of the life before 
her ! What a fool to offer her silent adoration, pity, 
or patience. He could not see her, but he could feel 
her, quivering with all the pent-up passions of woman- 
hood, with bitter hatred, and with deadly revenge. 
He could feel the frail arms writhing in his clutch, 
and, on his cheek, her breath warm and panting, hiss- 
ing out words of insult and of contempt called from the 
bitterness of an injured woman's — not a girl's — ^heart. 
Oh ! if there was so much hatred, so much passion 
within her, she still was a woman exquisitely beauti- 
ful, and adorable beyond all other women ; if her pas- 
sions were strong, he would conquer them ; if she 
hated him now, he would turn that hatred into love. 
Since she had, with cold and callous words, with insult 
and defiance, bruised and trampled on that great love 
he bore her, if she would not bend to his deep affec- 
tion, accept and cherish his reverence, he would break 
her to his will, and there would be pleasure still — 
pleasure bom of hell, perhaps, but as great as the 
tortures he endured — to make her suffer as he had 
suffered. 

Forgotten were Pater Ambrosius* teachings, his 
striving after higher things, the lessons of love and 
compassion, the refinement born of a great heart and 
the accomplishment of noble deeds. She had said it 
truly : he was a peasant, bom of serfs; years of educa- 
tion had kept his passions in check, but they were all 
there, subject to the influence of this one woman, 
whom he had worshipped with all the strength of his 
self-contained nature. She had insulted him, derided 



The Irreparable 293 

him, returning loathing for his love; that love lay 
maimed and bruised by her hatred and his desire. 

He would have beaten her as the herdsmen out on 
the plains beat their wives, if they disobey, or make 
them jealous, for very love, because that love is uncon- 
trolled. He could see the outline of her white shoul- 
ders in the moonlight, and all that once had been low 
in the peasant's nature, which the kind Pater's teach- 
ings, his own kindly heart, had held in check, rose 
again, masterful, passionate, to the fore. 

** Ilonka," he said, while swiftly his trembling arms 
once more closed round her, ** God knows I have 
worshipped you as only good Catholics worship their 
Lord, that I have honoured every piece of land, every 
blade of grass, which your foot has ever trodden. This 
you do not choose to believe. In exchange for all that 
love, which I was ready to pour forth humbly at your 
feet, you have given me cruelty beyond compare, 
insults more terrible than blows. You have, with 
your own hands, dispelled the fairy vision I had of a 
sweet and lovely girl, frail and tender, who would 
nestle in my arms, and allow me to keep all sorrows 
and ills from her path, in exchange for one sweet smile 
of love. The fairy vision has flitted away, but instead 
of this you have shown me the living reality : an ex- 
quisitely beautiful woman, full of passions, of deadly 
hatred, which speaks of some love which, if born, will 
be well worth the conquering. That reality I cannot 
worship ; it is too far removed from the pictures of the 
Saints or of the Virgin, but perhaps it comes nearer to 
my own self, my own nature, low, sordid, vulgar — a 
peasant, you know, the grandson of a serf. That real- 
ity, my beautiful wife, is my own ; your obedience 
I can compel ; you are in my arms, and, though 



294 A Son of the People 

my love is changed, it is as great, as ardent as 
before." 

But, as he lost his self-control, so she gradually 
regained hers. She did not struggle. She stood up, 
listless and passive in his arms, only turning her head 
away, so that she might not see him. 

** My obedience is yours. I have said it. You need 
have no fear. It will be as absolute as is my contempt. ' ' 

** And as your love, when I have conquered it,*' he 
said proudly. 

If she was afraid, she did not show it. She paused 
a moment before she wielded her last, her deadliest 
weapon. 

** My love,*' she said slowly, *' that, Kem6ny Andrds, 
even if you were different from what you are, could 
never become yours, for I have given it to another." 

Was it a sob ? Was it a cry ? So heart-rending a 
sound was it that the very wing seemed to pause as 
if to listen, in pity. 

** Woman," he whispered hoarsely, * * may God have 
mercy on your soul, for you have gone too far." 

His torture had turned to madness ; before his eyes 
the gloom had suddenly changed to a dark red mist, 
which was like blood. The wounded beast was at last 
at bay. With savage fury he threw the white figure 
down on the floor at his feet, while his hand found the 
heavy clasp-knife from his belt ; and in the moonlight 
there glittered, cold and blue, the polished steel, which 
he held high over his head. 

" Andr&s ! in the name of the Virgin Mary ! what 
dost thou with that knife ? " 

A flood of light came streaming in through the door. 
Ktelka had heard the fearful cry, even in the kitchen, 
and she stood there, with a lamp in her hand, with 



The Irreparable 295 

blanched face, gazing at the terrible scene before her. 

For one moment — an eternity — there was silence. 
Then Andrds slowly dropped his arm : the knife fell 
with a dull, metallic sound on the floor. He stood, 
with head bent, looking down at the figure at his feet. 
With superhuman efibrt he was endeavouring to collect 
his scattered senses. She had not stirred, but half lay, 
half knelt before him, her head erect, and her eyes, 
cold and blue as the metal, meeting his own in a 
defiant gaze. 

** Uonka," said Andrds at last very slowly, his voice 
shaken and hoarse, '* for the last hour my reason has 
been flying from me, bit by bit : the last shred flew 
away just now. The darkness, the moonlight — I 
know not — helped to scatter it away. But my mother's 
voice has suddenly brought it back, and I stand here 
shamed before you — worse still, shamed before myself. 
Put down the lamp, mother dear," he said, turning to 
Ktdka, *' and help this lady to a chair. She is ill and 
I have frightened her. But when she is alone with 
you she will recover. I, myself, have much business 
to see to in Zarda, and Csillag is ready to carry me 
there to-night. I do not know when I shall return, but 
in the meanwhile this lady will stay with you as your 
guest, until she wishes to return to her home. I know 
you have prepared a good supper, and I hope you will 
eat it in peace, for you know Csillag is sure-footed, 
and I shall be in Zdrda before the night birds begin to 
croak." 

He picked up his heavy mantle which was l3dng on 
the floor, and fastened it round his shoulders. Ilonka 
had sunk into a chair, and her eyes followed the tall, 
picturesque figure of her husband, as with absolute 
calm he stood a moment to give his mother several 



2gS A Son of the People 

directions as to the woik to-moiTOW tn the fields. 
Then he came close to where ^e sat. 

" Before my mother, I would like to say to yoo, 
Honka, that whenever you wish it you are &ee to 
return to yoni parents, who have so well taught you 
the lessons of truth, of honour, and obedience. And, as 
from my childhood she has known all my thoughts, 
heard my every prayer, it is my desire that she should 
hear this my oath. As I swore this morning before 
the altar, so do I swear now, by a most solemn oath, 
both as a Christian, upon the crucifix, and as a man, 
upon that which I held dearer, more sacred than all, 
my love for a girlish vision, young and pure as the 
angels, vanished ftom me for ever. Upon the memory 
of that dead love I swear to you, that never while you 
live will I offend your ears by speaking to you of that 
love ; never will I, by word or deed, remind you that 
the low-bom son of serfs is your l<xd and husband. 
You may command the shelter of my roof or seek 
again that of your parents, as you will. Yoo are as 
free as you were before the presumptuous peasant 
dared to ask that you should place your hand in his." 

Before the last echo of his quivering voice had died 
away, before Ilonka had found the strength to took up at 
the tall figure, so noble, so dignified in its pathos, he had 
gone, and the hoofs of CsiUag were heard gallo[»ng 
away towards the pustta. 

Then Ilon ka buried her head in her hands, and 
sobbed^BUier heart would break. ~~ 




PART III 



997 



i 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

" Lkt me lead Ddndar part of the way for you, 
Pater, and perhaps you will not mind walking as far 
as the crossroad with me ? '* 

** Mind? I shall enjoy it, my son. I have never 
seen a brighter morning. And . . • but for Ddndar, 
you know ... I should have had to walk all the way 
to Arokszdllds." 

" It was very foolish of you, Pater, not to have told 
me three months ago that K6p6 was dead. You could 
have had D&ndar at once, and then perhaps you would 
not have been all this while without coming to see me." 

Andrds had slipped the horse's bridle over his arm, 
and the two men, leaving the little thatched cottage 
behind, began to walk down the main-road. 

It was one of those bright, cold, frosty mornings in 
December, when a brilliant sun shines down merrily 
on the crisp sheet of snow which lies evenly over the 
vast plain. Hardly an eminence or a stump to break 
the monotony of this shroud, that glistens in the win- 
try sun like myriads of tiny diamonds. The village of 
Zdrda (hardly a village, since it had no church), with 
its few straggling cottages which looked as if thatched 
with snow, seemed lonely and desolate. There is 
nothing to be done in the fields, and the Hungarian 

peasant in the winter likes to wrap himself up in his 

299 



300 A Son of the People 

mantle and stare dreamily into the fire of his great 
oven, smoking pipe after pipe, in silence and drowsi- 
ness. Andrds and the Pater were soon in the open road. 
The old priest's nose was quite red with the nipping 
frost, though he was wrapped up to the ears in a huge 
great-coat of black sheepskin, from .beneath which 
emerged his thin legs encased in great leather top-boots 
to protect them from the snow. Andrds walked on 
silently by his side for a while. He seemed not to feel 
the intense cold, for his great mantle hung down his 
back, and his arms came out bare from his full, thin 
lawn sleeves. 

The terrible tragedy which he had gone through had 
left very little mark upon him outwardly ; his tall fig- 
ure was just as upright, his step as firm, his head as 
erect. Only the face seemed to have grown older. 
The mouth drooped more, there were two deep lines 
between the brows, and as the sun shone brilliantly on 
the dark hair, there were some very obvious streaks of 
grey among the black. 

'* I daresay you have found this small cottage at 
Zdrda very lonely at times, my son," said the Pater 
tentatively. 

"Yes," replied Andrds somewhat wistfully, "I 
think I have had about enough of it. . . • I miss my 
mother, you see . . • she and I were always together 
on winter evenings. . . . Yes ! . . . I shall be glad 
to get home ! " 

** That 's right, my son; you have done my old heart 
good by that speech. . . . Heigho I I shall have a 
merry ride home, thinking of the jo3rful news I am 
taking to Ktelka, . . . and our boys and girls, too, 
at Arokszdllds. They will give you such a welcome I** 

Andrds shook his head with a smile. 



Love Lies Bleeding 301 

** No, Father, they will not do that. You know bet- 
ter than to mean what you say. They have too much 
respect for me, now, to give me a real hearty welcome." 

*' Andrds, that was an unkind speech. Your name 
in A.roksz&ll&s has become dear to every household. 
They would be very devils indeed of ingratitude, if 
they forgot all that you have done for them, during the 
terrible epidemic.** 

" Thank God, that is well over now," said Andrds, 
ignoring the first part of the priest's speech, ** all round 
here, at least, we have not had a single case for six 
weeks." 

** Of course we never sufiered quite as badly over at 
Arokszdll&s as you did here in Z&rda. Actually the 
last fatal case we had was old Rosenstein — the Jew. 
He was very distressed, poor fellow, that he did not 
see you before he died. I was with him to the last, 
and it was quite painful to see the intense straining ex- 
pression in his face, listening for some sound that 
would not come." 

'* It was a great disappointment to me, too. Pater, 
for now we shall never know what it was that lay so 
heavily on the poor man's conscience. It surely could 
not have been his numerous deeds of usury on our 
poor peasant lads, for I do believe the Jews, in the low- 
lands at least, do not regard the demanding of ei^orbi- 
tant interest as a sin." 

** No, I am sure it was not that," said Pater 
Ambrosius musingly ; ** it was your name that was 
constantly on his lips, and as he lay dying, he pressed 
my hand in entreaty, and murmured, ' Do you think he 
will forgive ? ' Ah ! my son, it is sad indeed for those 
who, not being Catholics, have not the supreme 
consolation of the Holy Sacrament of Confession, 



302 A Son of the People 

which brings the only true comfort to the departing 
soul.'' 

** Beyond that he told me many a lie in his lifetime, I 
am not aware that I had anything to forgive the man.'* 

** When he ultimately pressed the paper into my 
hand which proved to be his will and testament, he 
still repeated, * This will atone. . . . This will atone. 
• . . Itishis!"' 

** After all," added Andr&s, ** the funny old scare- 
crow had no one to whom he could leave his shekels ; 
that is perbaps the only reason why he made me the 
heir to his hoarded-up wealth. God knows I did not 
want it. I am very sorry indeed I did not see Rosen- 
stein at the last, if my shaking his hand could have 
eased his mind of its imaginary burden. I arrived just 
half an hour after his eyes were closed. The roads 
were in a shocking condition ; even Csillag could not 
get through in time ; and, you know, there was a great 
deal to do over here.** 

*' Yes, I know ! there is not one mouth this side of 
the Tarna that does not speak in gratitude of your un- 
swerving kindness and devotion. At Arokszdllds, the 
two doctors you got down from Budapesth did absolute 
wonders ; and Btelka was a perfect angel to the women. 
. • . She . . . and another. . . . *' 

The Pater paused half shyly. Andr&s was gazing 
out before him across the desolate, snow-covered 
landscape. 

** She is a good woman, Andrds,** added the Pater, 
at first with timidity, then gradually more emphatic- 
ally ; " she may have her faults, her pride may amount 
to a sin, but she is an angel of pity to those who are 
sick and in trouble." 

'' Tell me more about the village folk/* interrupted 






Love Lies Bleeding 303 

Andres quietly ; *' remember, I have seen and heard 
nothing of them since the day on which I arrived too 
late to see poor old Rosenstein/' 

Well ! " said the Pater, with a disappointed sigh, 

after that day the cholera certainly seemed to have 
spent itself, and God at last had mercy upon us. But 
the little churchyard is very full, Andrds, and ... on 
Sundays I see many vacant places in the church." 

** The young ones will soon grow up. Pater," said 
Andr&s, with some of his wonted cheeriness. '* Why, 
Sdndor the smith's boys must be growing lads, and 
F6nyes Margit had twins this summer ; all those mites 
whom last I saw in swaddling clothes must be begin- 
ning to toddle. Why ! I have a veritable army of god- 
children in the villages this side of the Tama." 

'* Yes, there are a good many wise mothers, Andrds, 
in those villages " said the Pater, with a smile ; " it is 
no wonder that Aroksz&llds is getting jealous of 
Zdrda." 

''They need not be," said Andrds, while a deep 
shadow seemed to fall over his face ; '* it has not been 
an abode of joy." 

** It has been the home of truly Christian devotion 
and generosity, my son, all the greater since no one 
seems to know yet its full extent. But the epidemic 
is over ; you have provided for every misery till God 
once more brings merry harvesting round ; you need a 
rest, my son, and will be happier at home." 

** Happier?" 
. Evidently the word was involuntary and had escaped 
him unawares, for he closed his lips tightly, as if to 
check any further sounds, while the lines on his face 
became harder, more accentuated. The priest was 
wanting to say something more. He looked up 



304 A Son of the People 

once or twice at his young friend, took out his snuff- 
box, and toyed with it nervously. There had been 
such intense hopelessness, such a depth of sorrow 
in that one bitter word, that his kindly nature shrank 
from further touching a wound which was still so sore 
and bleeding. 

*' Your mother must have missed you a great deal, 
Andrds," he said at last. 

** Yes ... I know ..." replied the peasant, ** we 
are apt to be selfish in our griefs. The house was 
distasteful to me. . . . Without thinking of the dear 
soul, I fled from it. Then, when the distress and 
cholera became so terrible here, I was forced to stay, 
for they wanted me. ... I think it was selfish . . • 
for she must have been very lonely. . . . But I am 
going back soon. . . • Perhaps to-morrow." 

*'Ktelka has, of course, spent many lonely days, 
Andrds, . . . but during the terrible time of the chol- 
era she was not absolutely alone. ..." 

Timidly the priest looked up at the young face, on 
which sorrow had written such deep lines. Pater Am- 
brosius knew next to nothing of the terrible tragedy 
that had caused the bridegroom of one day to flee 
from his home, which had brought those streaks of 
grey in the dark hair, and had given to the kindly eyes 
that look of hopeless misery. 

** She was with your mother, Andrds, so that Etelka 
might not be lonely." 

* * I know. Pater ; God will no doubt reward her for 
that." 

'' She has been the good angel of the village, An- 
drds. Next to you, there is no one who did more to 
comfort and cheer the sick, to help the orphan, and 
console the widow," 



it 
tl 
ti 
ti 



Love Lies Bleeding 305 

" Yes, Father/* repeated Andrds, "there is a heav- 
enly reward for all that charity.*' 

All the people bless her, and pray for her." 
We all have need of prayer, you see, Pater." 
They all pray ... for her happiness." 
God, I think, will soon grant it," said Atidrds 
quietly. 

Pater Ambrosius looked scrutinisingly at him. He 
did not quite understand what Andrds meant, but it 
suddenly struck him how very deeply the lines of suf- 
fering were graven on the young face, and he wondered 
how long it would be before that iron constitution 
succumbed altogether beneath this weight of over- 
whelming sorrow. 

It was uphill work to pursue the subject. The old 
priest, who possessed his young friend's confidence, did 
not care to seem to pry into the one secret the proud 
peasant had thought fit to keep from him. 

The village gossip, fortunately, had not reached An- 
drds' ears. He must have guessed, of course, that 
they gossiped. He knew life in his own village far too 
well to suppose that they would keep respectful silence 
over the extraordinary events of that great day in 
May. But Andrds had never troubled himself about 
the gossip, and then, after a while, the dreaded cholera 
came, with grim hand, stopping the mouths of all to 
every talk save that of anguish. 

Silently the two men walked on side by side, 
crunching the crisp snow beneath their feet. They 
had left the straggling village of Zdrda behind; only a 
few lonely cottages now broke the monotony of the 
low-lying land before them. All was desolate and 
still ; the snow lying like a glistening pall over the few 
trees, the thatched roofs of the huts, and the short 



ao 



3o6 A Son of the People 

stubble of the maize fields. Overhead a flight of ravens 
sent a melancholy croaking through the air, and far, 
beyond, the tiny steeple of the village church threw 
the only note of colour — a brilliant red — upon the dull 
canvas, whilst to the left, through the stripped branches 
of the acacia trees, there glimmered the yellow and the 
green of the walls of Bideskdt. 

'* Andrds," said Pater Ambrosius, suddenly chang- 
ing the subject of talk, *' there is something else which 
lies very near to my heart, and which, coward as I 
am, I hardly like to speak to you about . . • " 

'' I did not know, Father, that I was so formidable 
as all that ; I seem to have made a lovely muddle of 
my life." added Andrds bitterly, ** since even you have 
ceased to look upon me as a friend." 

'*God forbid, Andrds, that you should so misunder- 
stand my meaning. It was stupid of me to talk as I 
did, and I am, moreover, an ungrateful wretch not to 
have told you at once what it is that lies so near my 
heart," 

'* It is not too late, Pater ; we are far from the cross- 
roads yet." 

** It is about the school, Andrds," 

The peasant frowned. 

" I know that you do not altogether approve of the 
idea," continued the Pater hurriedly, **but God has 
entrusted me with a sacred mission on this earth, and 
I must not be coward enough to shirk it. You and I 
have often discussed the grand idea of a school for onr 
little ones in the village. You were as enthusiastic 
about it as I was ; you have, I know, happy recollec- 
tions of the three years you spent under my teaching, 
and you told me more than once that the happiest day 
of your life would be when every soul in the county 



Love Lies Bleeding 307 

of Heves knew how to read and write ; and now ..." 
** Now I have changed,'' said Andrds, with a certain 
amount of roughness, ''and whenever you have 
broached the subject before me, I have refused to dis- 
cuss it with you. Yes ! I have changed a great deal 
since the days when, after the terrible fire of Bideskdt, 
you first propounded your great scheme to me, and did 
me the infinite honour to ask me to help you in carry- 
ing it through. Since then, Father, I have had such 
bitter, such terrible longing after a state of brutish 
ignorance, with no aspirations save after daily bread, 
no ideals save those of plenty of wine, good czigdny 
music, and buxom village maids, a longing after the 
happiness bom of content with these aspirations and 
ideals, the happiness of the beasts upon the fields, and 
I have no longer had a craving to snatch that same hap- 
piness from my fellow-men in the villages of the low- 
lands. There is so little they would receive in 
compensation." 

** Andrds," said the priest very gently, ** you have 
suffered a great deal, and, like all those who have a 
terrible malady, you look about you blindly for its 
cause, so blindly that, as one who plays at blind man's 
buff, you go tumbling very far short of the mark. 
Education gave you high aspirations ; on their wings 
you went wandering into the kingdom of ideals, and 
suddenly, when you thought to grasp them — ^your hand 
had, as it were, almost touched them — something 
snapped, and you were precipitated back to earth, very 
sore and bruised. You blame the aspirations that bore 
you upward, the ideals which you tried to grasp, and 
do not see that perhaps, after all, they were over- 
weighted with a burden of human passions that 
dragged them back to earth." 



3o8 A Son of the People 

*' Nay, Father, I have not ventured to blame my 
ideals. Perhaps, as you say, they were just beyond 
my reach. When I was a young boy, they consisted 
of seeing the ears of com on my father's fields fuller 
and more golden than those of any other man ; later 
on, I dreamed of a quiet homestead, with my mother 
sitting placidly in her big armchair, while I gave her 
every comfort she could want, and perhaps, in my old 
age — when she was gone — ^with a good-looking wife, 
whose baking and weaving should be famed through- 
out the land ; of those ideals. Father, most of our village 
lads have dreamed. They are dreams such as are fitting 
for the descendants of serfs. Ideals such as those are 
not difficult to attain, and even if the peasant mind 
soars too far towards these regions, humble though 
they be, well I the altitude has not been a high one. 
The fall is gentle and leaves but easily healed wounds 
in its trace. Contentment, a certain quiet philosophy, 
helps to make old age pleasant. But I, with the arro- 
gance bom of newly-found riches, began to dream of 
other things. Tentatively, I stretched out my coarse, 
brown hands after other things than spade or scythe. 
You led my tottering footsteps into a new region of 
learning and culture. A delightful feeling of well- 
being crept over me. I began to think that this 
entrancing realm was really my home, that I had for 
ever left behind the sordid ignorance of the peasant, 
his gross pleasures, his vulgar, common nature, and 
that henceforth I could wander on, at will, for ever 
unmolested, higher and higher, through many man- 
sions, to a region of entrancing ideals, which my 
delighted vision suddenly saw beyond the doudland in 
which I dwelt. Then, astride on my dreams, I set 
forth to seek that ideal among the stars. I had reached 



Love Lies Bleeding 309 

it, the clouds had parted, and I saw such a vision of 
paradise as has been given to no mortal man to see. 
But, as I stretched forth my hand to grasp it, suddenly 
there rose before me the grim and inexorable fury 

* Prejudice,* guarding the entrance to my paradise. 
With scornful finger, the monster pointed at my rough 
hands, my heavy gait, my sheepskin mantle, my linen 
shirt ; then, with loud, mocking laughter, plucked at 
my heart-strings, and, wrenching them out of my 
breast, hurled me back from the giddy heights down to 
earth and hell. Ah, Father, it was a terrible fall ! You 
see I had dared to gaze at the stars ! Nay ! I do not 
blame them. They cannot help their own unattainable 
loveliness, and the fury that guards them has placed 
a solid bandage over their eyes. It is my own folly 
which I blame, my own arrogance, my passions, if you 
will; but also I blame the invisible Hand that first 
pulled away from before me the blissful veil of igno- 
rance, and showed me glimpses of that paradise, which 
must for ever, to one of my caste, remain unattainable. 
You see. Father, I fell from a fearful altitude. I am 
bruised and wounded unto death ; but in the midst of 
my weakness I still have strength enough to whisper : 

* Strive not, ye fools ! in ignorant content lies the only 
true happiness.' *' 

His voice had broken down in a sob. The priest 
did not reply. His experience of human nature, such 
as he had usually found it, in the simple folk who 
came to tell him their sorrows and their wrongs, was 
at a loss how to deal with the complexities of this 
strange and passionate creature who had all the sensi- 
tiveness of the cultured man coupled with the unrea- 
soning headsttongness of the rough Magyar peasant. 
His kindly nature felt deeply for this great sorrow, at 



310 A Son of the People 

which he only guessed vaguely, but which he could 
not understand, and his hand stole timidly up, as if 
consolingly, to Andrds's shoulder. 

They had reached the crossroads, and the young 
peasant had stopped before saying '' Good-bye." He 
had spoken with a good deal of vehemence, and his 
face looked paler and more careworn than ever. He 
pulled himself together, however, on feeling the kindly 
pressure on his shoulder. Gently he took the old 
priest's hand in both his own and pressed it warmly. 

Pater Ambrosius looked long and sympathetically 
into the dark eyes that had such sombre, hopeless 
yearning in them. 

** Don't you think, Andr&s,** he said very kindly, 
" that it would do you good if you were to tell me your 
trouble?" 

Quickly Andr&s's grasp relaxed ; he dropped his old 
friend's hand, and the frown appeared, deep and dark, 
upon his forehead. 

** I have none to tell," he said indiflFerently. 

Pater Ambrosius sighed. He looked disappointed 
and hurt, and busied himself with his horse, preparing 
to mount. 

** Won't you say good-bye. Pater? " asked Andrds. 

The priest took the hand which the young peasant 
held out to him, but looked reproachfully at him the 
while. 

'^Andrds, you have ceased to care for your old 
friend." 

"That was a wicked speech. Pater," said Andrds 
earnestly, " you will have to write to the Bishop for 
special absolution for so monstrous a falsehood. . « . 
There ! there ! . . . you must forgive me ... I am 
an ungrateful wretch . . . and . . . Pater . . . you 



Love Lies Bleeding 311 

shall have what money you want for the schools . . • 
Let them start building the moment the frost breaks up. 
. . , You settle it all . . . it is your idea . . . you 
carry it out as you think best. . . . Good-bye ! Tell 
my mother I will be back to-morrow," 

** God bless you, Andrds ! I '* 

" Hush ! I think perhaps He may do that later on. 
... At present He is not thinking of me I ... 
Good-bye ! " 

The old priest had hoisted himself up on his horse. 
He seemed loth to go. Once or twice he looked back 
as Ddndar started off at a slow majestic trot. The tall 
figure of the peasant stood for a long time looking 
after him at the crossroads ; Pater Ambrosius could see 
him well, outlined against the brilliant sky. The kind 
priest fumbled for his large handkerchief and blew his 
nose very violently. He had felt an uncomfortable 
lump in his throat. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

HONOUR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER 

Once more the walls of Bideskdt rang out with 
excitement and laughter. Once more the great kitch- 
ens were filled with busy maids and scullions; oxen 
were roasted whole on gigantic spits ; sheep and lambs 
were slaughtered ; there was rushing hither and thither 
up and down the great staircase and along the stone- 
paved walls. It was the Countess's birthday to-mor- 
row, and at last, after two years, Bideskdt would see 
gaiety, hear czigdny music once more. 

The Countess Irma felt more agitated and nervous 
than she would, in the ordinary course of events, have 
thought it good form to be. So many terrible things 
had happened since the last time, when a bevy of 
guests had filled Bideskdt with that atmosphere of aris- 
tocratic gaiety which she loved so well ; she knew that 
the time had at last come when she would have to face 
the covert sneers and satirical sympathy, the astonished 
questions of her friends over the preposterous marriage 
of the loveliest heiress in the county. As she gave 
her orders in the kitchen and stables, saw to the deco- 
ration of the tables, the tapping of the wine casks, the 
airing of the guest chambers, she hardly realised that 
there had been any great change in her life since 
when, two years ago, after that terrible and mysterious 

fire, the guests all left hurriedly, leaving sorrow and 

3xa 



Honour thy Father and Mother 313 

desolation behind. Only when she met Ilonka on the 
stairs, and when during meal-time was aggravated by 
the strange silent ways of the merry girl of two years 
ago, and felt the unaccountable sensation of not being 
able to order her own daughter about, or find fault with 
her curious, independent ways, then only did she 
unpleasantly remember the many events that had been 
crowded in upon her thick and fast in the past two 
years. 

That Ilonka would very soon leave her vulgar hus- 
band's home had always been a part of her scheme, 
without which, perhaps, she never would have given 
her consent to the terrible marriage; but she had 
always, at the same time, reckoned that her child 
would come back to her very much as she had been 
before the awful peasant suitor had o'ershadowed her 
life ; that, in fact, Ilonka, as a grass widow, would 
be perhaps a little more fascinating to the men, a little 
more free and loud in her manner, but in other ways 
would be very much the same, and that she would join 
in merrily with her mother in a mutual effort to (Wve 
all ideas of the peasant husband well out of the pre- 
cincts of Bideskdt. 

When, the day after the wedding, Ilonka returned 
to her former home, the very shadow of her original 
self, the mother's heart felt at first a pang of remorse 
and sorrow. Full of genuine sympathy, she tried to 
fold the poor ill-used child on her fond motherly breast, 
and prepared to hear with horror and with tears the 
confidences of the deeply-wounded, aristocratic girl, 
thrown into the arms of the common brute who was 
her husband. 

Instead of this, her daughter, evidently weak and ill 
from all she had gone through, refused to speak a 



314 A Son of the People 

word to her mother on the subject of her brief stay 
beneath her husband's roof. Silently she had allowed 
both father and mother to kiss her ; silently she had 
resumed her accustomed place at meals, and silently 
taken possession, after one night's absence, of her girl's 
room, and continued her scarcely interrupted ways. 

Ilonka was strangely changed, her mother thought. 
She seemed to have forgotten how to smile, spoke very 
little, and brought strange, curious notions back with 
her from her short stay in the peasant's cottage. Her 
mother had no authority over her. Countess Irma felt, 
herself, how ridiculous it would be to attempt to dic- 
tate to a daughter who, after all, was a married woman 
and had the right to do as she pleased. Certainly it 
was very irritating that Ilonka insisted on going so 
often to see the old peasant woman at Kisfalu whom 
she persisted in calling ** mother." A strange friend- 
ship appeared to have sprung up between the young 
grass widow and her mother-in-law. The Countess 
Irma could not understand it ; but she had it, on the 
most reliable authority, that Kemeny Andrds had lived 
alone at Zdrda ever since his wedding-day; she was 
therefore, to a certain extent, satisfied that her 
daughter did not so far demean herself as to keep up 
any relationship with the presumptuous peasant who 
had dared to call himself her husband. 

As for that odious Kemeny Audrds, the Countess 
did not trouble her head much about him. The day 
after his marriage he had sent over to Bideskdt a pon- 
derous paper, which turned out to be a deed of gift to 
Ilonka of the whole of the Bideskdt property. That 
was as it should be ; of course, he could not expect his 
aristocratic wife to be dependent on him or on her par- 
ents. Countess Irma thought it all for the best. The 



Honour thy Father and Mother 3^5 

child had never known that Bideskdt had passed out 
of her parents' hands. She need never know it now. 
She never asked questions ; seemed altogether not to 
trouble herself as to whence her maintenance came, or 
who was responsible for her food and clothing. She 
supposed her father to be still the wealthy nobleman 
she had always heard him described, who was well 
able to look after his only daughter, if she did not 
choose to live with her husband ; her parents treated 
her most generously. She had everything she wanted ; 
even during that terrible cholera time, Bideskdty gave 
her all the money, the wheat, the wine she asked for, 
for the poor in the village. The Countess Irma put up 
her hands in holy horror when Ilonka announced her 
intention of staying at Kisfalu until the epidemic was 
over. Ilonka had said *' I am going,'' in a tone that 
brooked of no gainsaying. Moreover, what could pre- 
vent her ? She was a married woman. She was no 
longer under her mother's tutelage. 

She stayed away for four months ; Countess Irma 
could not imagine what the child could be about. 
Kem6ny Andrds was at Zdrda, where the cholera 
was at its worst ; the noble lady at Bideskdt fondly 
hoped that the epidemic would do its full duty, as far 
as the odious man was concerned. 

The cholera in the village and consequent fear of 
infection was sufficient excuse for ceasing to see Pater 
Ambrosius. The priest had developed a most unpleas- 
ant habit of talking for ever of Andrds, and all the 
money which he spent in order to alleviate the horrors 
of the epidemic. Ilonka was away, so she did not 
hear this perpetual chorus of praise, but she seemed to 
have caught some of her vulgar husband's fondness for 
the wretched peasants in the dirty hovels of Arokszdllds. 



3i6 A Son of the People 

At last, in the winter, Ilonka came home again. 
She seemed brighter and pleasanter than when she left, 
though she never would tell her mother how she had 
spent the last few months. The Countess Irma began 
to look forward to the spring and summer. Last year 
she had had no guests at the house at all for her 
birthday. The cholera was just at its worst in the 
county. But this year she knew many would come, 
and half-forgotten traditions would be revived. Curi- 
osity would bring many guests to Bideskiit. Countess 
Kantdssy would be tiresome. Mariska had just mar- 
ried Bart6cz Zsiga, who had a brilliant appointment at 
the embassy in lyondon, while Bideskdty Ilonka, the 
far-famed beauty of the county, had married one of her 
father's peasantry. However, that annoyance would 
have to be got over. The hospitality of Bideskdt this 
year, the wines, the meat, the fruit, would surpass 
anything the neighbours could ever do. 

There always was plenty of money now, and this 
year the harvest had been splendid, and had well com- 
pensated for the terrible floods last year. 

Kem6ny Andrds certainly seemed to understand the 
management of the estate. This was only natural. 
All peasants understood the growing of wheat and tur- 
nips. He managed everything ; Gyuri merely enjoyed 
the produce and the revenues, and of that there was 
now ** plenty and to spare.** 

" It seems quite like old times,** said the Countess 
Irma to her husband, who sat smoking in his study. 
** Do you remember, Gyuri, two years ago you and I 
sat just like this, discussing the arrangements for 
my birthday party ? Who would have guessed all the 
events that have crowded in upon us since that day ? *' 

Bideskdty Gyuri was suffering from the gout; he 



Honour thy Father and Mother 3 ^ 7 

could not put his foot to the ground, which made him 
cross and irritable. He grunted savagely, as he smoked 
his pipe. 

" I daresay, now, you see how right I was," added 
the Countess, ** to warn you against those inventions of 
Satan. Everybody warned you, Gyuri. You must 
see how wrong you were.*' 

Bideskdty said nothing. He was armed with infi- 
nite patience. Moreover, he had heard reproaches and 
recriminations so often that they had no longer any 
eflFect upon his temper. He drew great clouds of smoke 
out of his long pipe, giving occasional grunts of pain, 
and adding two or three strong words under his breath. 
When his wife was silent he said quietly : 

'^ I am sure all your menus are not settled yet. And 
you said half an hour ago that you were going to cut 
the verbenas for your table decorations.** 

** That means that you want me to go. Do you 
expect any one ? * ' 

'•Yes. I do.** 

*'Whoisit?'* 

" Some one on business." 

" Business, Gyuri ? *' she asked suspiciously. ** Not 
some Jew money-lender, surely ? ** 

** No ! No ! What in Heaven's name has it got to 
do with you whom I am going to see ? ** 

" I do not understand the word * businees. ' That son - 
in-law of yours sees to all the business, usually. You say 
it is not a Jew money-lender — surely it is not ...?** 

** Well, yes, it is. I have a right to see whom I 
please in my own house, I presume? *' 

'* You do not mean to say that man is coming here?" 

"And why not?** 

** With Ilonka in the house ? *' 



r 



318 A Son of the People 






Well! he is not going to eat her, I suppose ?•' 
Gyuri, you must think of her feelings. She cannot 
meet that man here." 

** Stuflfand nonsense ! He is her husband, is he not? 
You are not going to imagine that they will for ever 
live apart, like this ? And if they do, all I can say is 
that Ilonka must have aggravated him beyond meas- 
ure, just as you aggravate me. He had no gout, so he 
ran away." 

** Gyuri, I do believe that vulgar peasant has 
bewitched you, as he has bewitched that stupid old 
priest. Talk about aggravation I I endure a perfect 
martyrdom from hearing his praises sung by all. A 
horrid brute I call him, after the way in which he has 
behaved to your daughter. She is far too kind and too 
considerate to tell you all she has endured at his hands ; 
but she would not have left him so soon unless he had 
been a more vulgar beast than even I took him for." 

** You women have no sense of honour ! " thundered 
Bideskdty ; '* you talk of that man as a brute and a 
beast, and you are content to take every generous gift 
from his hands. He rescued this very house we live in 
from the clutches of that blood-sucking Rosenstein ; 
he handed over to Ilonka the entire property, which, 
from beginning to end, must have cost him hundreds 
of thousands. Quietly he manages everything for us, 
in order that she may live in luxury, and that neither 
her pride nor ours should suffer. And you talk of his 
shameful conduct to our daughter ? What do you say 
to her conduct then ? " 

** Gyuri, remember that the poor child does not 
know that Bideskdt ever passed out of your hands. She 
knows nothing of any money transactions that passed 
between you and that man." 



Honour thy Father and Mother 3^9 

'' Well, it was not my fault that these abominable 
secrets were concocted. Ilonka was old enough to be 
told all. The man did not stand a fair chance. You 
did your best to place him in an odious light before 
the child's eyes, and then threw her in his arms, leav- 
ing him to fight his own battles. It was not fair." 

** Gyuri, you are taking leave of your senses ! To 
tell Honka what passed between Kem6ny Andr&s and 
yourself would have shown you in a very humiliating 
light before your own child. How could you have 
expected her, after that, to honour her father and her 
mother? You would have destroyed all the respect 
she ever had for us.** 

" I do not know that it would not have been better, 
Irma, that she respected us a little less, and her hus- 
band a little more. I tell you I positively groan under 
the load of gratitude she and all of us owe to that 
man.** 

** Gyuri, these are more of those progressive notions 
which you get out of the foreign books you read, 
notions which have already caused your ruin.** 

** Do not harp on that string, Irma, or *' 

** Hush 1 it is no use losing your temper, Gyuri; 
what is done cannot be undone. We must tr}'^ to make 
her as happy as we can, and get her to forget the past. 
She is very young ; he is close on middle age, I be- 
lieve. There is every chance that she will be a widow, 
perhaps, before she is thirty. Then she will be very 
rich ; she can make what marriage she pleases, and she 
will be the first one to be thankful to us for the way 
we arranged her life for her. In the meanwhile I must 
try to keep her out of this part of the house. To-day 
I ** 

The door had been gently opened, and Ilonka came 



320 A Son of the People 

in with a pretty smile, which gave her a look of her 
former self. Her mother darted a suspicious look at 
her, but the girl appeared unconcerned, and merrier 
than she had seemed for many months. 

** Well, I must go and see to my flower decorations," 
said the Countess with indifierence. *' Ilonka, I think 
you can help me. You might get me a large basketful 
of those pretty verbenas from the back of the green- 
house. I do not want the maids to cut them, as they 
pull the plants up by their roots. I can do with quite 
a great many, Panna will give you a basket ; when 
you have filled it, you might join me in the bakehouse, 
where I shall be arranging them." 

** I will follow you at once, mama. But," she added 
with a coquettish little smile, ** may I not stay and 
talk to papa for a little while ? " 

** Only a few moments then ; I am waiting for the 
verbenas, and your papa is expecting one of his bailifiFs 
on business." 

*' Five minutes, mama, and I am with you." 

The Countess Irma was reluctant to go. She never 
liked to leave her husband alone with Ilonka. However, 
she threw a warning look at Bidesktity, and went out. 

Ilonka waited till her mother's footsteps were heard 
no longer down the passage ; then she turned to her 
father, and said quietly: 

** Papa, will you tell me what is the * load of grati- 
tude ' I and all of us owe to my husband ? " 
Ilonka, you have been listening ! " 
Without meaning to, I assure you. I was coming 
into the room ; that phrase caught my ear, as I was 
about to open the door. I confess I tried to hear more, 
but could not catch what mama said. You will tell 
me, won't you?" 






Honour thy Father and Mother 321 

** I . • • I . . . only spoke in a general way," said 
Bidesktity nervously. ** You cannot have heard 
properly/* 

** Now, papa," she said coaxingly, " I want you to 
try and remember, please, that I am no longer quite 
such a child as I was. Two years are a long time," 
she added wistfully, ** and I have had a great deal to 
go through, since then. I . . . am married . . . and 
a great deal older ... I think I have a right to know 
in what way we owe a debt of gratitude to the man 
whose name I bear." 

**You must get your mother to tell you all you 
want to know, Ilonka," said Bidesktity. 

** You know quite well, papa, that she will tell me 
nothing. It is no use fighting against it, dear ; I shall 
not go out of this room until I have been told what I 
want to know." 

*• There is nothing to tell." 

** What debt of gratitude do I owe my husband ? " 

**You misunderstood me," persisted Bideskiity, 
obstinately. 

** Papa, I have asked you, with a child's respect. 
Do not force me to demand what I have the right to 
know." 

** Ilonka, you are perverse. What good can you get 
out of knowing things which only concern your mother 
and myself?" 

*• What money did Kem^ny Andr&s give you for 
allowing me to marry him ? " 

*' Ilonka, you have taken leave of your senses," said 
Bidesktity, furiously. 

" No ! I have not. You will not tell me the truth, 
and I jump at conclusions. If you refuse to tell me 
everything, it will be impossible for me to remain 

91 



322 A Son of the People 

under your roof another hour, and ..." she added, 
with a catch in her throat, '*as, of course, my husband 
would not have me, I shall have to go away . . . 
elsewhere." 

' ' Ilonka, listen I You women are most unreasonable. 
You say you are not a child. You must know that a 
fire one year and a flood the next are enough to ruin 
any proprietor. Coupled with that, a blood-sucking 
usurer cheated and swindled me, till all my land passed 
into alien hands. Your husband had lent me a great 
deal of money on the security of my lands. He charged 
me a fair interest. That brute Rosenstein, whom, I 
hear, the devil has at last fetched away, made me sign 
a paper agreeing to pay usurious interest. I paid it 
year after year, not knowing that it went into the 
Jew's pockets, and that Kem6ny never saw a penny 
of it. The fire and the flood completed the usurer's 
work. I was a ruined man. Then, there were some 
papers which I had signed without reading them — 
acknowledgments of money which I had never received 
— that brute Rosenstein threatened me with the Lord 
knows what. It appears that he had right on his side, 
since I had signed those accursed papers. Kem6ny 
Andrds came to me. He stopped the Jew' s mouth with 
gold, bought back all those papers for me, paid the 
mortgage on this house, from which Rosenstein was 
threatening to turn us all out. The land was his 
anyway. You, I, your mother, were beggars, Uke the 
gipsies without a home. He told me he loved you. 
He wanted to marry you. The land, he said, would 
thus be secured to you and your children. What could 
I do? . . . The knife was at my throat. • . . I 
consented." 

Ilonka did not speak. She was very pale and her 



Honour thy Father and Mother 323 

eyes were fixed, staring at her father in hopeless 
bewilderment. 

**He paid the mortgage on this house. He took 
over the property and managed it, as only he knows 
how to manage an estate. It all was his, but no one 
ever knew it. He consulted me in everything, and 
acted as if he were merely my bailiflf. At times I quite 
forget that I am not really the owner of the land, and 
give him my orders, which he always carries out. He 
once told me that he was only your administrator. . . . 
He has more heart, that man," added Bidesktity, 
bringing his fist heavily down on the table, **than any 
one I have ever known ; he " 

** Please, papa," interrupted Ilonka, **tell me only 
the facts. Do not overwhelm me with shame more 
than you need." 

** You never told your mother why you left your hus- 
band. He has told me nothing. The day after your 
marriage he sent me a paper. I read it through very 
carefully. It is a document by which he makes over 
to you the property of Bidesktit, absolutely, reserving 
himself the right to look after the management of the 
estate. He did not quite trust me, you see," added 
Bidesktity with a smile ; ** he does not consider me a 
good manager. But he is a splendid one himself, 
Ilonka," he exclaimed enthusiastically; ** you see 
yourself in what princely style this house is being kept 
up, and there is always plenty of money, in good hard 
cash, besides ; plenty of com to sell, and the beasts 
fatten and prosper like anything: I never had so many 
colts and calves to sell, such quantities of com and 
maize. That man knows the value of every foot of 
land. He looks after everything. And I sit at home, 
approve of all he does, pocket the money when he has 



324 A Son of the People 

done a good sale for me . . . that is to say, for you, 
Ilonka, for it is all yours. . . . And you have never 
wanted anything, have you, that you did not get? " 

** Then, the money which I had to give to the poor, 
at cholera time, came not from you, but from him ? " 
asked Ilonka quietly. 

** No ! . . • not exactly from him, my child ; the 
property is yours/* 

** He gave it to me." 

" Well, is he not your husband ? " 

** Yes!" said Ilonka vehemently, while her voice 
shook with tears. ** Yes, he is my husband. He paid 
dearly enough for the pleasure of calling the penni- 
less daughter of the lord of Bidesktit his wife. Oh, 
the shame of the whole thing ! " she added passion- 
ately ; ** how could you ? how could you ? " 

" I don't know why you talk of shame— except that 
you and he seemed to have had a disagreement, and 
there is no shame in that. Your mother and I have 
had plenty in our day, though she was never head- 
strong enough to run away from me ; and a disagree- 
ment is soon put right." 

** Soon put right? Oh, papa ! you don't know ! you 
don't know !" 

There were great sobs in her throat now ; she buried 
her face in her hands, while she repeated : 

*^ Oh ! the shame of it ! The shame ! How could 
you?" 

'^ I do not see that there is an occasion for making a 
scene," said Bidesktity a little irritably. * * I don't know 
what is the matter with you women ; you always con- 
trive to be aggravating, whatever you do. You 
wanted to know ; you forced me to tell you, much 
against my will, things which your mother had decided 



Honour thy Father and Mother 325 

were far better for you not to know. I must say, I 
see no occasion for tears/' 

'* No, papa,*' said Ilonka, hastily mopping her eyes, 
and coming dose up to her father, ** as you say * . . I 
wanted to know . . . and you have told me. ... I 
am very . . . very grateful to you for this.'* 

**You won't tell your mother?" he suggested 
anxiously. 

'* No," she said, smiling through her tears, at his 
nervous expression of face, ** I will not speak on the 
subject before her. There is no reason to do that. I 
will join her now . . . and cut the verbenas." 

She stooped down to kiss her father. 

•* And, Ilonka ... I think you might try to settle 
up your differences with your husband. He is such a 
good fellow. Your mother says it is no concern of 
mine, but . . . Andrds ... is coming here, presently 
. . . and " 

**I must join my mother," interrupted Ilonka 
quietly ; " she must be waiting for the verbenas." 

And before Bideskdty could say another word, she 
had slipped quickly out of the room. 

Good old Gyuri did not understand his daughter. 
It seemed to him as if a great deal of fuss was made 
about nothing. The peasant had turned out to be a 
very decent sort of fellow, and Bidesktity had a cer- 
tain uncomfortable feeling that Andrds had not been 
granted fair play ; moreover, it was very annoying that 
there were no prospects of those grandchildren for the 
sake of whom the preposterous marriage was to a cer- 
tain extent bearable. He still had notions of winning 
Andrds over to his own idea of his machinery and 
steam-mill. The latter stood desolate and solitary: 
inntunerable spiders had woven their webs among 



326 A Son of the People 

the massive wheels and pulleys which had weU-nigh 
caused the ruin of a Hungarian nobleman. The obsti- 
nate peasant would hear nothing of it, and Bidesk^ty 
had not the courage to start it again on its career with- 
out the approval and influence of his wealthy son-in-law. 
He was glad that he had unburdened his heart to his 
daughter about those money affairs. He hated every- 
thing to do with money, and he had a vague feeling 
that there was something low and shabby being done 
by himself to somebody. He would not acknowledge 
to himself that he had a strong liking for "that con- 
founded peasant/' who was such a splendid manager ; 
that he loved riding over his fields with him, and had 
the true Hungarian's admiration for so perfect a rider 
as Kem6ny undoubtedly was. Moreover, Andris 
always had pleasant news to tell him, about some 
lucky stroke of business ; and now, when the lord of 
Bideskut met any of his peasantry, he was always 
greeted with quite a merry cheer, especially when he 
had his son-in-law with him. As for his threshing 
machines, there was no doubt that they had been quite 
popular during this last harvest time. 

Ah, well ! the worid was getting topsy-turvy ! 
Thank goodness ! Bideskdty was getting old, and 
would not see the day when peasants would own every 
bit of land, and nobles would live in small houses in 
the provincial towns. For the present, his son-in-law 
always called him ** my lord " ; but he called Andr^ 
" my son," and was always glad when he had the 
proispect of seeing him during tiie day. 

Even now, his face quite beamed as he heard a 
heavy step on the flagstones of the hall ; he tried to 
raise himself in his chair, but his foot was very painfuL 
The door was thrown open ; the well-known tall figure 



Honour thy Father and Mother 327 

appeared in the oak framework; but Bidesktity, 
unobservant as he was, could not help noticing how 
ghastly white and strange was the peasant's face, how 
wild the look in his eyes, and, shaking his head, he 
held up a warning finger. 

God has brought you, my son," he said cheerily, 
but where in the world do you come from ? and what 
wine have you got into your head ? You look as if, at 
last, you had come face to face with Satan 1 '* 






CHAPTER XXX 

THE GRAVE OF LOVE 

Ilonka came away from the interview with her 
father in a state which was half one of bewilderment, 
and half .one of acute suffering. 

That pride which is the inalienable characteristic — 
virtue or vice— of those Magyars who have held the 
lands of Hungary in uninterrupted succession of gen- 
erations, while the empires of Europe fell and rose 
again, that pride that rules their every action, which 
has prevented their accepting modem progress, and 
built a barrier round them which nineteenth-century 
civilisation could never pierce, that pride in Sonka 
had received a deadly wound. The descendant of a 
line of noble warriors who helped to build up a king- 
dom had been shamed by the chivalry and generosity 
of a peasant. 

For the first time in her life, Ilonka broke the spirit 
of the commandment which bade her honour her 
father and her mother. She resented bitterly the part 
she had, in her ignorance, been made to play. She 
felt her conduct to have been odious beyond what 
words could say. In ignorance of the real state of the 
case, she had been thrown into the amis of one of 
those men whom, all her life, she had been taught to 
despise ; and, wilfully, she had been kept in ignorance 
of the fact that this man, among all men, was notde 
and generous and proud above all. 

338 



The Grave of Love 329 

Yes, proud, with the pride of noble deeds, with the 
pride that disdained even to reply to insults so 
absolutely unmerited. 

Oh, how he must have despised her ! He, the peas- 
ant, the descendant of serfs, with what contempt he 
must have looked upon her, the penniless aristocrat, 
the noble beggar, who turned on the hand that fed her 
and hers. 

Oh, it was horrible ! — a burning shame brought the 
tears into her eyes. She tortured herself with the 
recollection of all the taunts, the insults, she had, in 
her blind ingratitude, hurled at this man, who had 
loaded her and her family with gifts, and in return 
asked for such a very little love. 

The silence which she took to mean shame and 
remorse was one of unutterable scorn for her. He 
disdained to explain to her how little he had merited 
those taunts of cupidity and arrogance. Ilonka remem- 
bered that he bore everything silently, until . . . until 
. . . oh, that was a cruel blow she dealt I she wondered 
now what demon had suggested it. He had done so 
much to win her, and she calmly told him that she 
loved another. Then only did he say to her that she 
had gone too far ; then only did the rough peasant's 
wrath threaten to avenge the bitter insults, and silence 
for ever the ungrateful tongue. 

Oh, why had Btelka then intervened ? Why was 
not her life allowed to pay the penalty of her odious 
conduct ? one blow would then have ended the bitter 
conflict between a man's passion and a woman's pride. 
Then . . . oh, then . • . the terrible duty would not 
have been before her which now her very pride com- 
pelled her to perform. 

A peasant could not outdo an aristocrat in chivalry. 



33^ A Son of the People 

She had wounded him and his pride ; she would make 
amends. He had made every sacrifice to gain her love ; 
she would try and give it Humbled before him, she 
would ask his forgiveness. She would return to that 
home from which her cruelty and injustice had driven 
him that fatal night. She had done a great wrong, 
but the reparation would be equally great. Love she 
could not give him. Oh, no ! she had loved once . . . 
long ago ... in her early youth, a man who was 
refined, aristocratic ... so respectful, when he whis- 
pered gently, ** Ilonka, I love you, " without even 
daring to touch her hand. Oh, no ! she could never 
love this man, whose voice was rough, and whose eyes 
seemed to look into her very soul ; whose strange, wild 
words made her shudder with an indefinable feeling 
which must be horror. Ilonka remembered his last 
farewell to her, when his voice had ceased to tremble, 
and he swore to her that never again would he speak 
of his dead love to her. 

Dead love ? could love be dead ? Hers for the hand- 
some young hussar was surely still alive in her heart. 
It seemed so cruel to talk of love as dead. No wonder 
that, when he swore his strange oath, a terrible pain 
had seized her heart, and had remained there ever since. 
It was a curious pain, which she could not understand, 
but which, at times, became unbearable, whenever the 
sighing of the wind through the poplar trees brought a 
faint echo of the rugged voice to her ear. Then at 
night, when the moon shone cold upon the plains, she 
felt sometimes as if her heart would break. And she 
always wondered why. 

Oh, no I no ! no ! a thousand times no I She, Ilonka 
of Bideskiit, the daughter of those who had owned this 
beautiful land while ages came and went — ^no! she 



The Grave of Love 33 ^ 

could never love the peasant. But she could be grateful ; 
she could make amends for her wrongs, and repay by her 
submission, her obedience — if need be, her deference — 
the deep debt her family had contracted in her name. 

She had strolled out into the garden. The mid-day 
sun was hot and scorching. Dreamily she wandered 
down the acacia drive, where the ground was cool and 
fragrant, covered with a carpet of sweet-scented petals. 
She looked out through the open gates, and there, far 
away across the plain, she saw a tiny speck upon the 
horizon. Her heart beat fast. She was angry with her- 
self, at her own cowardice ; she had nothing to fear. 
The humiliation would be great, but the greater it was, 
the more contented would be her pride, for then the 
greater would be the atonement. 

Andrds dismounted at the gate, leaving Csillag to 
wander at her sweet will, while he walked up the drive 
to the castle. Ilonka heard him saying farewell to his 
horse, and telling her he would not be long, just as if 
the mare was a human creature and his dearest friend. 
Then she stepped forward. 

Andr&s did not start. He looked at her so quietly, 
almost as if he had expected to see her there. Ilonka 
saw, at once, how very much older he seemed than on 
the day when he had first kissed her hand. And as he 
lifted his cap, she saw how grey his hair had turned at 
the temples. Silently he would have passed, but she 
said timidly : 

** My father is Waiting to see you ; but I came out 
here, as there is something I wished to say to you. 
. . . Will you hear it?" 

He stopped, with his cap in his hand, looking down 
at her, with a half-vacant look in his eyes, as if his 
thoughts were very far away. 



332 A Son of the People 






If it is necessary," he said, **I will listen." 
I, accidentally . . . to-day ... for the first time 
. . • heard something which should never have been 
kept from me. ... I ... I did not understand . . . 
when I married . . . the terrible position in which 
my poor father was placed . . . and from which 
your . . . your . . . generosity rescued him. . . . 
I '* 

'* Noble lady," he said very quietly, ** I must ask 
you not to distress yourself, or waste your valuable 
time, in speaking of things that are long past and for- 
gotten. What business dealings I had with my lord I 
can assure you that he has acknowledged in the way 
he thought fit." 

'' Yes ! but that is not all," she continued more ve- 
hemently, while her cheeks gradually began to glow, 
" I myself had a great part — one unknown to me — ^in 
these dealings. My ignorance blindly led me into 
what must have seemed to you the basest ingratitude, 
when . . . when ... on that night ... I spoke to 
you as I did. . . . Believe me ... I did not know 
... all you had done. . • . Oh, I see it now 1 how 
contemptible I must have appeared . . . the shame of 
it is more than I can bear . . . and now I could not 
rest . • . till I had told you . • . how infinitely sorry 
I am. • • • 

She looked exquisitely beautiful as she spoke, with 
the flush upon her cheeks, her eyes glowing with ex- 
citement and tears, looking up at him with the gentlest 
look Ae had ever received from her. 

'* I assure you again, noble lady," he said with an 
effort, *' that you distress yourself unnecessarily. The 
simple services which I had the good fortune to render 
to your father were such as any man would render 



The Grave of Love 333 

another, if he saw him struggling against a somewhat 
undeserved fate." 

•* You are trying to shame me worse/* she said, ** by 
depreciating your generosity. It is cruel of you ! I 
have come to you, full of gratitude . . . tardy, perhaps 
. . . but, nevertheless, truly felt. I had been deceived 
by my parents, who no doubt thought they acted for 
the best, but who have caused me to wound you deeply, 
whom I should have honoured for your kindness and 
chivalry. . . . Hearing that you were coming to 
the castle to day, I stole out that I might tell you 
how ..." 

He put up his hand with the quick commanding 
gesture so habitual to him. 

** Pardon me, noble lady, for interrupting you. 
There is absolutely no occasion that you should say 
the words which, I feel sure, in a calmer moment you 
will bitterly regret The events of the night to which 
you refer have faded from my memory. If, as you 
say, you have some consideration for the few services 
I rendered your family, might I appeal to it in request- 
ing you to allow this interview to cease, since it must 
be equally painful to us both ? " 

He bowed very low, and had turned to go before 
Ilonka could make the slightest attempt to stop him. 

She stood in the drive, beneath the acacia trees, 
watching his tall figure moving quickly towards the 
castle. He did not turn once to look behind him, 
although he must have heard the sob which involun- 
tarily broke through her throat. She watched him till 
he had disappeared within the castle ; then, unreason- 
ingly, blindly, she fled through the gates, down the 
alley of poplar trees, towards the plain where, at least, 
she could be alone with her shame and her humiliation. 



334 A Son of the People 

Oh, what a fool she had been ! Acting on blind, 
mad impulse, she had humbled her pride before that 
man, o£Fered him her gratitude, her friendship, and he 
would have none of it. With absolute scx)m he refused 
to listen to her explanations and to her sorrow ; he 
despised her too much even to touch her hand. Fool, 
fool that she was I 

What did she think? what had she hoped? She 
knew his love was dead ; he had s^id so that fatal 
night. She with her own hand had killed it, and in 
its place scornful indifference sat, against which she 
had just bruised her pride. Oh, he knew how to take 
his revenge ! he had returned insult for insult, taunt 
for taunt ; his cool contempt had struck her in the face, 
as once her cruel words must have struck him. She 
hated him now ten times worse than before, now that 
he took a pleasure in humiliating her, and in making 
her suffer, now that she was powerless to wound him, 
since he did not care. Yes ! of course she hated him, 
and that was the reason that the pain in her heart 
seemed more unbearable than it had ever been. She 
hated him for that indomitable pride, a pride akin to 
her own; he, a peasant, dare to be proud — a slave bom 
but to be kicked and despised ! The untamed Magyar 
blood in her veins boiled with indignation. Her mind 
tried to conjure up a picture of that man suddenly 
thrown into bondage, as his ancestors had been, and 
made to obey humiliating orders, with a rough fore- 
man at his back, who would strike him in the face 
with a whip if he dared disobey. She gloated on 
that vision, the abasement of him who had dared to 
look down at her from some high altitude of inches 
or of pride, gloated over it till the tears refused to be 
kept back any longer by wrath, and she threw herself 



The Grave of Love 335 

down, passionately, on the hot, dry soil, and, burying 
her face in her hands, she sobbed her heart out with 
shame and with longing. 

It was late in the afternoon when she at last roused 
herself from this passionate weeping. A feeling of 
utter hopelessness, of the deepest shame, made her long 
to fly at once from Bideskdt. But she was inexperi- 
enced ; she did not know to whom to turn for help in 
this terrible emergency. Of course Bidesktit must be 
returned to him as soon as possible. Thank God ! she 
yet had the power to return scorn for scorn, and throw 
back at the feet of the arrogant peasant the rich gifts 
with which he thought to shame her. Then . . . 
when that was done, she would go where he could find 
no trace of her. She would be as dead to him as that 
vaunted love which did not live a day. 

She hoped that she could make him suffer once 
again. She knew she had wounded him once, but 
this, he said, he had forgotten. She would try to find 
the weapon again with which she had struck him that 
night, and which, in striking, had wrung from him 
the cry : ** Woman, you have gone too far ! " She had 
allowed that weapon to become rusty from want of 
usage ; it was lying by, somewhere, half-forgotten, but 
she would find it to-morrow, when the walls of Bidesktit 
rung out with gaiety and laughter, and she, as the 
young matron, the grass widow of the mysterious 
peasant, would be courted, respected, as he now scorned 
to do. The echo of her merriment, her laughter 
would reach his ears, the leaves of the poplar trees 
would repeat the soft words others would whisper 
on moonlight evenings; then, perhaps, though love 
lay buried, it would rise again from the dead, to suffer 
bitter agony once more. 



336 A Son of the People 

She wandered homewards, where she found the 
house in a whirl of excitement for the coming festivities. 
Her mother had been anxious about her, and looked 
suspiciously at her eyes, still swollen with tears. But 
Ilonka threw herself, with almost feverish energy, into 
the plans for picnics, parties, and music ; she displayed 
a keen interest in the list of probable arrivals, and 
delighted her mother with her eagerness over the new 
frock she would wear on the morrow. 

Bideskiity was in the highest spirits. Andr&s had 
brought him good news and a handful of money. He 
hoped his daughter would have the good sense to hold 
her tongue before her mother. Ilonka certainly seemed 
so eager, so merry, so excited, that the lord of Bides- 
kilt quite modified his views as to all women being 
aggravating. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

WV^ TRIUMPHANT 

NkvkR had Bideskiit been so full : even the riding- 
school was converted into a huge dormitory. It was 
the grandest time the old walls had ever witnessed. 
Morning, noon, and night there was no interruption to 
the laughter, the czigdny music, the dancing, and 
merry-making. Last year, the terrible cholera epi- 
demic had kept every one away from the county of 
Heves, but now all that trouble was over. The har- 
vest had been plentiful, the hospitality at Bideskiit 
would be sure to be regal, and every one was burning 
to see the beautiful heiress, whose mysterious marriage 
to a rich peasant had consumed every one with curios- 
ity. The mothers with marriageable sons wanted 
to know if papal dispensation had not already been 
obtained, and the rich maid, wife, or widow, free once 
more to contract more congenial ties ; the men, young 
and old, were ready to flirt with her, now that she had 
been freed from her mother's apron strings. It was 
generally supposed that the peasant husband would be 
kept in the background, and well known that Ilonka 
had gone to live with her parents the very day after 
her wedding. 

Countess Irma had feared unpleasant questions. In 
the lowlands of Hungary, where all families are more 
or less closely related to one another, indiscretion 

337 



338 A Son of the People 

counts for no crime, and Bideskiity and his wife were 
well armed against boisterous chaff or covert satire. 

The Countess Kant&ssy, who had married two of her 
daughters to most eligible partis, was inclined to 
be sadly sympathetic over Ilonka's extraordinary 
mhailiance. 

** My dear," she said, ** what terrible grief for you ! 
How could you ever give your consent to the horrible 
match?" 

'' Ilonka was fretting herself to death/' said the 
mother, with tears in her eyes ; '* she fancied herself in 
love with the brute, and would neither eat nor sleep till 
she had her way about marrying him. We thought, 
after all, that it was better to see her nominally the 
wife of a peasant than lying in her cofBn." 

" I call it unpardonable weakness," asserted an old 
lady, who was a relation, and, therefore, had a right 
to express strong views ; '' young girls do not die so 
easily. You should have taken her to Budapesth ; she 
would have forgotten such nonsensical follies." 

'* Gyuri was always so weak, where Ilonka was con- 
cemed," said Countess Irma, with a sigh. 

'* But where in Heaven's name can it end ? Are you 
trying to get papal dispensation ? " 

** Yes, of course, we shall try to get the marriage 
broken off. At present the poor child is very happy 
with us . . . and he is very rich. . . . We never 
mention his name before her, and ..." 

** She certainly does not look heart-broken at this 
moment," said Countess Kantdssy, looking across the 
room at Ilonka, who, radiant with youth and beauty, 
almost boisterous in her gaiety, laughed and chatted, 
sorrounded by a group of men who were, evidently, 
busy helping the young grass widow to forget that 



Love Triumphant 339 

there existed a mystical husband somewhere in the 
background. 

** That young Maddch is as much in love with our 
Ilonka as ever, I see," said the old aunt. 

** After all, my dear," suggested one of the ladies 
placidly, ** here you have the best possible solution out 
of the difficulty. Young Maddch is the best revolver 
shot in the army. Invite your son-in-law here to see 
Peri making love to Ilonka. . . . Let him provoke 
his rival to a duel. . . . Maddch can kill the peasant 
first . . . and step into his shoes afterwards." 

**A nobleman cannot fight a peasant," said the 
Countess dreamily. 

** My dear, there are always exceptional circum- 
stances." 

** I had never thought of that. Certainly his money 
would all become Ilonka' s after he died." 

** Is he, then, so very rich ? " 

** Fabulously, I believe. We never really troubled 
ourselves as to how much he actually has." 

'* Of course, Maddch has not a silver florin of his 
own, but that would not matter, if Ilonka is so rich. 
Think about it, my dear. We will all be very kind to 
the peasant. Take my advice, and invite him to the 
castle, or make some arrangements that he shall see 
Feri devouring the lovely grass widow with his eyes. 
Those peasants are terribly jealous." 

It was after dinner, and the ladies were sipping coffee 
underneath the verandah. The czigdny were playing 
slow, dreamy Hungarian songs outside in the garden. 
It was the hottest time of the day, and the scorching 
atmosphere would allow, even to the young people, 
nothing more active than wandering in the shady parts 
of the garden. Ilonka had been among the merriest 



340 A Son of the People 

all day yesterday. She had danced the csdrdds half the 
night through, and allowed Peri to make violent love 
to her. She hardly realised whither she was drifting, 
and forced her mind to wander back to the girlish 
days of two years ago, forgetting the strange and dark 
shadow which had since then lain across her path. 
A bitter feeing of revenge and hatred made her heart 
ache, and she made sacrifice to her pride by forcing 
herself to flirt, dance, and make merry, in spite of that 
numbing pain. She half hoped, as she allowed the 
young man to lead her apart from every one else, 
down the shady acacia drive, that he would come and 
see her there, in the arms of another man, whom she had 
loved — as she told him — for two years. She wondered 
what he would do then ; if he would suffer as she had 
suffered the last time she had stood in the acacia drive. 

She and Peri had reached the great gates ; she looked 
out upon the alley of poplars, and beyond it, far away 
upon the plains, beyond which lay the tiny farmhouse 
where, with her own hands, she had crucified lyove, and 
struck him so bitter a blow with her cruel tongue that 
he had died, since he could no Ignger bear the pain. 

Wearily she passed her hand over her eyes. The 
sighing of the poplar trees in the hot noonday air, the 
distant melancholy cry of the storks, brought back 
memories of that night in May, and made her heart 
ache with sorrow and with longing. Peri's voice, as 
he spoke to her, wearied her. She longed to fly down 
the sandy road, towards the plains, where the gallop of 
the wild horses, the flight of the birds overhead, the 
very sand and rough soil all spoke to her of him. 

**Ilonka!" 

She started, as the tender, pleading accents of the 
young man by her side reminded her that he was 



Love Triumphant 341 

there, that she loved him, of course, and that she 
meant to forget, in that boy and girl love of long ago, 
the rough storm of passion which had swept over her 
and left her broken and bruised. 

** You must go back," she said, with a nervous little 
laugh ; I believe every one has gone indoors, and we are 
alone in the garden. What will mama say? The 
ladies will be so shocked." 

** Ilonka ! " he said, vehemently, ** are you trying to 
drive me mad? Is this some cruel game you have 
devised to torture me ? All day you ..." 

" Well ? " she said, coquettishly, ** all day, I what ? " 

He came very close to her, and tried to take her 
hand, though she started back a little. 

** All day, Ilonka," he whispered, ** with every word, 
with every sigh, you led me to hope that the word 
which, two years ago, made me so happy, which dwelt 
in my memory and made my life a paradise, that word 
you would repeat." 

** I do not understand." 

"It was two years ago. ... Do you remember? 
... a hot summer day like this. . . . We were very 
young, you and I . . . you were a lovely child, and I, 
then, already worshipped you. . . . Do you remem- 
ber? . . . You said * perhaps ' ! " 

Oh, yes ! she remembered . . . remembered the 
delightful thrill she had felt, when the softly whispered 
ardent words had first reached her ears . . . when first 
she realised that there was one being in the world who 
seemed more perfect than all. . . . And now ... of 
course, . . . she loved him as dearly as ever . . . she 
felt the same responsive happiness on hearing his voice 
whisper again the fond words she had longed for so 
long. ... Oh ! why did the sighing of those poplar 



342 A Son of the People 

leaves bring back the echo of that other voice, trem- 
bling with passion, masterful, yet so exquisitely tender, 
which she had silenced for ever? 

** Ilonka, you do not answer." 

She looked at his eager young face, earnest and 
pleading, at his slight, graceful, aristocratic figure, his 
fine, white hands, and a strange mist came across her 
eyes, for she remembered that tall, picturesque figure 
which, in this same acada-scented alley, had looked 
down with such scorn upon her. Impatiently, she 
brushed the mist away. 

"Ilonka,*' he pleaded, ** God knows that I loved 
you, for you were an exquisitely lovely child. If He 
had given you to me, then I would have worshipped 
and cherished you as the most priceless treasure on 
earth. But some devils stepped between you and me, 
and after living for two years on thoughts of that ' per- 
haps,* Fate tried to change that word into * never.' I 
suffered so, Ilonka, I could not have lived had I not 
seen you again. You are ten thousand times more 
beautiful than you were . . . and I . • . God help me 
. . . love you ten thousand times more ! " 

Half dreamily, she listened to him ; through the 
open windows of the house, the faint sounds of wild 
Hungarian melodies were wafted on the sweet-scented 
air. 

** I said * perhaps '," she said ; ** it was you, and not 
Fate, who said * never * ! " 

"I, Ilonka?" 

** Yes, you ! they told me you cared for another, that 
you were married, and ..." 

** And you believed them ? Did you not remember, 
then, that I loved you ? ' ' 

** lyove soon dies." 



Love Triumphant 343 

** lyove such as mine never dies, Ilonka ! " he said 
earnestly. 

I/)ve never dies ? . . . After two years of absence, of 
weary waiting, he loved her still ? And she ? . . . oh ! 
of course, she loved him. She had meant to forget, in 
his arms, the scorn, the contempt, of that other man 
. . . and yet she felt irritated. The young earnest 
face, the pleading voice, grated on her nerves. She 
had always . . . ever since that night in May . • . 
pictured love like this . . . soft, respectful, and plead- 
ing . . . and she wondered why there remained such 
a chill at her heart. 

** Ilonka, won't you speak? *' 

Wrapped in her thoughts, she had forgotten him ; 
forgotten that he was pleading for that very love she 
had been so ready to give. 

•'What must I say?" 

** Tell me that that sweet word * perhaps,* which 
you spoke as a child, you will repeat, now that you are 
a woman. That the evil fate which stepped between 
us is but as a hideous dream, which our love can soon 
dispel. See Ilonka ! the earth is vast, there are other 
beautiful lands besides our own lovely plains : there 
we can go, you and I, and take our love with us, se- 
curely hidden from the eyes of the world ... we can, 
like the birds that, in winter, fly away from the 
plains, build our nest beneath some other skies • . . 
Oh, Ilonka ... if you will say * perhaps,' . • . 
if you will grant me leave to make you forget 
the past ... I will show you such glimpses of 
heaven as human beings have never yet dreamed 
of." 

He was covering her hand with kisses, kneeling 
before her in the lonely acacia alley ; she turned her 



344 A Son of the People- 

head away from him towards the poplar trees which 
were sighing so strangely in the wind. 

** Fate has said * never ' ! ** she said. 

'* But we can yet say * perhaps/ ** he pleaded. 
** Ilonka, you were a child. You did not know what 
you were doing. They forced your will, and dragged 
you to the foot of the altar, where they made you 
swear an oath ..." 

*' Which, now, you would have me break ! " 

" You swore it against your will, Ilonka." 

** Yet I swore it at the altar, before God and before 
man. You say you love me, and you would make me 
base." 

*' Base only in the eyes of an unjust world. Love 
makes laws for itself, apart from mankind. I can pro- 
tect you, Ilonka. What matters it what the world 
says, since I love you, and if you say — ' perhaps * ! *' 

It all seemed so unreal — ^this thing which she had 
longed for, which she had pictured to herself as the 
happiest moment of her life, when her early love would 
rise triumphant above the dark shadows which had 
overclouded her life. It seemed like a strange dream, 
this same acacia alley, the fragrance of the same flow* 
ers, and from afar the dying echoes of Magyar love- 
songs played by the gipsy band. 

Beneath these same trees, he had turned in contempt 
from her and her gratitude, and she, forlorn and lonely, 
had tried to blow on the ashes of another love, only to 
find that each dying ember, as it flickered, left her 
more cold and more alone. 

" I love you, Ilonka ! " 

Oh, why did not his voice thrill her? Why did 
his pleading jar upon her ear like something oat of 
tune ? A wicked desire seized her to wound him. too; 



<( 
(< 



Love Triumphant 345 

to make him suffer as he suffered, to goad him into 
mad, unreasoning passion, which would perhaps revive 
the handful of burnt ashes on which she tried to blow. 
Feri," she said sadly, ** I cannot say * perhaps.' '* 
Why, Ilonka?" 

Because, that love you spoke of, the childlike ad- 
miration for the first man who thrills a* girl's heart, 
was not strong enough to battle against Fate. It has 
sickened during these two years, and, now that I 
thought to see it revive, I find that it is dead." 

" Ilonka, you mistake," he pleaded eagerly ; ** you 
are good and sweet, and believe that an oath binds you 
to another man, and that it is a sin now to listen to my 
love. But, remember ... he swore an oath, too . . . 
he swore to love and honour you . . . but he has 
broken his vow ... he has left you ... he cares 
nothing for you ..." 

" Stop ! " she said ; ** you have no right to say this. 
And I have no right to listen." 

*' You have every right to hear," he pleaded ; ** your 
own pride must have told you that he, the peasant^ 
only cared for an aristocratic wife, that he was too 
gross to appreciate the priceless treasure an all too 
kind Fate had placed in his arms. He should have 
guarded and cherished it, as I will guard and cherish 
you. But, like a blind and ignorant lout, he threw 
the precious gold away, and is no doubt now forgetting, 
among the base pleasures of his class, the heavenly 
happiness which lay for a moment so near his grasp." 

She tried to stop him, but he would not hear. He 
saw the strange look of agony in her eyes, but he did 
not understand. His arms tried to close round her. 
He would have drawn her to him. 

^' Ilonka I as he has forgotten you, so you must try 



346 A Son of the People 

to forget him. No power in heaven or hdl could bind 
you to an oath which you made against your will. 
That man is not worthy that you should harbour one 
thought of duty towards him. Your duty is to your- 
self, who are bom to taste of happiness, to me who 
have loved you so long, and who still worship at your 
feet." 

He had drawn her to him. With the look of a con- 
queror he looked down into her eyes. His face was 
close to hers ; she could feel his warm breath upon her 
cheek. The leaves of the poplar trees beyond the gates 
sent forth a long, melancholy sigh. 

A terrible pity for him seized her : pity for his weak- 
ness, pity for his love. Gently she pushed him away 
from her. 

** Feri," she said very quietly, " I seem to have sinned 
very deeply against you ; if, as you say, by look or 
word, I led you to think that my love for you was not 
truly dead, then I am indeed sorry, and, in the name 
of that past love, I must ask you to forgive me." 

** I have nothing to forgive, Ilonka. ... I . . . " 

** Do not interrupt me," she said, ** I have one thing 
more to say. It is an appeal to your chivalry. You 
must promise me . . . that you will forget . . . that 
I ever listened to words such as you had no right to 
speak to me ... " 

'* I care not for right or wrong, Ilonka ; I know that 
I love you ! " 

**You must care," she almost pleaded. "We all 
have to give up some hopes in life. . . • You must 
give up all hopes of me ..." 

** I cannot, Ilonka ; my love for you is my very life." 

** It is better," she said earnestly, " to give up life 
than to do what is base." 



(( 



Love Triumphant 347 

" But I will not give you up, Ilonka,'' he retorted 
savagely, '* for I know that you are unhappy and alone, 
that I love you, and that he scorns you, who ..." 

** Yes ! " she interrupted quietly, ** you need not say 
it I know that he scorns me. But, nevertheless, in 
spite of that, I shall keep the oath I made at the altar." 
I will kill him, Ilonka; and then you will be free ! ** 
Yes," she said dreamily, **then, perhaps, I will 
be free." 

** Till then, give me a word of hope, Ilonka." 

* * A word of hope ? Listen, Feri. In my heart there 
is an infinite love, and an infinite hatred : when I know 
which of these two is the stronger, I will speak of love 
to you." 

Love for me? " he pleaded. 
I cannot say, I do not know/' 
Hatred for the peasant, the low-born serf, whom 
Fate has made your lord ? " 

" Perhaps ... I cannot say. . . . But now go. 
. . • Leave me here a little while. . . . Go — go ! 
I am tired . . . the heat has made me dizzy. . . . 
I will come back . • . but ... in Heaven's name, 
go!" 

She was trembling as if with fear, and her hand, 
which he tenderly raised to his lips, was icy cold. His 
heart ached for her; but he obeyed her and turned 
to go. 

When he had disappeared down the acacia alley, she 
also turned and went out at the gates. The road lay 
parched and arid before her, the hot mid-day air trem- 
bled. The vast immensity of the plain lay silent and 
drowsy before her. 

Swiftly she walked down the hard, dry road, riddled 
by great deep ruts. She felt neither the heat nor the 






348 A Son of the People 

hardnessof the road. On she walked, she knew not 
whither. Away from that acacia-scented alley, away 
from that house, those trees, which would not let her 

forget 

When she reached the edge of the plain, she left the 
main-road and wandered on upon the soft sand. Par 
away, from the tumble-down chimney of the little 
wayside inn, there rose a thin column of smoke. The 
sky was dense and blue, and on ahead, the line of the 
horizon, hot and ruddy, was lost in a purple mist. 
From time to time the wild cry of the herdsmen, driv- 
ing their herds before them, broke the absolute stillness 
around, or a flight of cranes, with dismal croaking, 
would rise, affrighted, at her approach. 

On she wandered, hoping, perhaps, that far ahead, 
where sky and earth met, behind that purple veil, there 
would lie forgetfulness, for which her heart nearly 
broke with longing. 

Then, as she wandered on, suddenly that veil was 
lifted, and behind it there arose the glorious picture 
of fairyland — golden towers and castles, delicious silver 
streams, trembling as if shaken by fairy breath. 

Never had she seen it in such splendour ; never had 
she so longed that the elusive fairy might lend her 
wings with which she might wander down the silent, 
solitary streets of that mysterious golden city. 

No ! Not solitary, for, see ! from out one of its 
golden turreted castles a horse and rider seem to have 
emerged, and to be coming towards her. Ilonka 
looked, and her very heart seemed to stand still. 
Where could she hide, on this vast arid plain, where 
the orphan's hair alone, or the rosemary, broke the 
evenness of the sand. . . . 

She could not move . . . her feet seemed rooted to 



Love Triumphant 349 

the ground. The rider had not seen her yet, for the 
August sun was in his eyes, and he held his head 
down, as if under some heavy load. 

Then he dismounted, and, patting the horse gently 
on the neck, he let it roam about at its own will, whilst 
he himself came straight towards her. 

Suddenly he saw her, standing there before him, 
white and fragile underneath her broad-brimmed hat, 
the hot mid-day sun forming a golden aureole round 
her dainty figure. 

Helplessly he, too, looked round him, as if he would 
have fled. But the plain is vast, and Csillag far away ! 

He gazed at her, with that strange, far-off look of 
his, as if he were gazing not at her, but at a dream, 
while his lips involuntarily parted to breathe her 
name: 

**Ilonka!*' 

But she put up one tiny hand. 

•* No ! No ! " she said, " not now ... not till the 
fairy has gone, and taken her lovely picture away. . . . 
I could not bear cruel words . . . just now ! *' 

She was gazing out towards the brilliant, trembling 
Fata Morgana afar. And he looked at her, for he did 
not understand. 

"Seel" she said dreamily, ** there lies, perhaps, 
the land I seek. . . . They tell me I was born for 
love and happiness. ... I have vainly sought both. 
. . . Once they lay within my grasp . . . with pride 
and arrogance I pushed them both away. . . . Since 
then I have wandered alone upon the plain seeking 
for that which I have lost. . . . Perhaps out there in the 
fairy palace I shall find the grave of love, and then, 
the Fairy Morgana, who guards it, will have pity om 
my weariness, and let me lie down in it to rest." 



350 A Son of the People 

The air was so still that, from afar, the sound of the 
tiny bell from the village church sounded silvery and 
clear, and from the wayside inn there came the echo of 
merry laughter. 

He did not understand her strange, wild words, but 
only thought how beautiful she looked, with her eyes 
veiled in tears, and he held his arms tightly crossed 
over his chest, lest the longing prove too great to dasp 
her in his arms. 

The heat overhead was intense. Her eyes, now, 
had a wild, scared look ; she passed her hand once or 
twice over her forehead, then looked helplessly at him. 

" This is a dream, I know . . . presently I shall 
wake ...,** she said, "but ... in the meanwhile 
we are alone . . . you and I. . . . Do not look so 
strangely at me . . , it ts sl dream, and we shall soon 
wake up ! . . . But, while it lasts . . . take me in 
your arms once again . . . and . . . perhaps . . . 
God will be merciful, and the awakening will be only 
in heaven. ..." 

She had become deathly pale. She staggered for a 
moment, and almost fell. The next his arms were 
round her, he had called to her, ** Ilonka ! " But she 
put up one tiny hand against his mouth. 

** Nay, sweet ! my sweet ! '* she whispered, do not" 
speak. . . . Do you remember . . . 3'ou swore a 
cruel oath that love was dead. . . . Oh, how I have 
suflfered since then ! . . . you do not know. . . . 
Your heart would have ached to see my pain. . . . 
You must not sp^ak ... for you might break that 
oath. • . . But . . . stoop down . . . you are so tall 
. . . and I want to whisper. . . • My husband! 






Ilonka 1 " 



Love Triumphant 35 1 

« 

Ay, she had said it truly ! it was a dream ! so en- 
trancing, so beautiful, that even the Fairy Morgana' s 
fitful visions seemed pale and dull beside it. He could 
not speak, for happiness was too great. His arms 
closed round her. She raised her sweet face up to his, 
and in her blue, forget-me-not eyes he read at last 
that love had risen triumphant from the grave. 

''Ilonka . . . my love . . . my wife! "he mur- 
mured in the midst of half-choked sobs, as his trem- 
bling lips sought her sweet mouth in one long, 
passionate kiss. How long they stayed there, alone 
betwixt earth and sky, neither knew nor cared. He 
had fallen on his knees before her, and the strong, 
rough man, his head buried in the soft, clinging folds 
of her gown, was sobbing as a weak child, for very 
happiness. 

Then, when he was calmer, she had to tell him all ! 
Oh, how sweet it was to hear her speak of her love ! 
She could not say when it was bom ; it had always 
been there, she said ; her cruelty was but an outcome 
of that very love which her pride had tried to trample 
down. 

When the sun sank down towards the west, and Fata 
Morgana vanished behind her purple veil, they wan- 
dered home towards the farmhouse beyond the puszta ! 



EPIi:<OGUK 

Ah I that loveliest of all the days in the year ! that 
merriest of all the festivals in June ! the feast of our 
I^rd Himself, when, glad with the beauty, the bril- 
liancy of the Hungarian sky, He leaves His dwelling, 
within the village church, and spends twenty-four 
hours beneath His own blue vault, safe and snug in a 
sweet-scented bower of roses, built for Him by rough 
yet reverent hands, outside in the tiny churchyard. 

Roses and jessamine, honeysuckle and rosemary, in 
gorgeous plenty, form a fragrant altar for this brief 
dwelling of Our Lord, right in the very midst of His 
children upon the lowlands, and there He sits, in a 
sweet nest of white roses, surrounded by the bevy of 
gaily-decked worshippers, the merry peasants of the 
tiny village assembled at His feet to-day, not only to 
worship, but also to see the most gladsome sight it has 
ever been the good fortune of Arokszdll&s to witness. 

Pater Ambrosius, having read the open-air Mass, 
and having safely housed his Divine Master among the 
flowers, is filling a large vessel with holy water. A 
merry smile plays round the comers of his kindly old 
mouth. There is eager expectancy on the faces of all, 
when, hark! a tiny cry proceeds from the vestry beyond. 
This is answered by a vociferous shout of *' Long 
live ! '* as the door of the church opens, and there 
appears, beneath the porch, my lord Bideskiity Gyuri, 
in all the gorgeousness of his national attire, canying 

352 



Epilogue 353 

in his arms, somewhat nervously, a tiny bundle, all 
encased in lace and fine linen. Behind him, Kem6ny 
Andrds's kindly face, beaming with happiness and 
pride, smiles radiantly at the crowd of peasants who 
have shouted themselves hoarse with ** Eljen our An- 
drds ! Eljen our Ilonka ! '* Close to him the noble 
Countess, impassive, slightly contemptuous, tries not 
to look towards the tiny bundle, which, in spite of 
herself, she constantly does, with an anxious^ maternal 
eye. 

Which of the two men is the prouder to-day — the 
papa, or the godpapa ? The latter, though decidedly 
nervous with the unwonted burden in his arms, looks 
triumphantly on, as Pater Ambrosius, in the Name of 
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, 
pours a deluge of holy water on the lace bundle, 
which contains the heir to Bidesktit, Kisfalu, and 
Zdrda. Gyuri, Andrds, and a host of other names 
does the little bundle get, and, finally, a good kiss 
from the kind Pater, whose throat is so choked that 
he cannot say anything, but grasps Andrds* s hand and 
that of my lord, and finally takes out his handkerchief 
and blows his nose vigorously. 

Then, when the ceremony is over, and the heir to all 
the wealth and all the lands is richer by the promise of 
the heavenly heritage, there is more cheering, more 
shouting. Every one talks at once, every one wants 
to see the son of Andrds, their own Andrds, and of the 
gentle lady who has been their good angel through sad 
times, and who has brought the happy laugh to An- 
drds' s throat once more, and caused his cheering voice 
to be heard again from one end of the village to the 
other. Presently, there is a loud jingle of bells, a 
sound of wheels, and the gorgeous turn-out, with its 
33 



354 A Son of the People 

bright-red leather harness and silver bosses, and 
drawn by five milk-white thoroughbreds, draws up 
before the church porch, to convey the heir of Bidesktit, 
Kisfalu, and Zdrda back to his farmhouse home. 

Andrds, proudly carrying the precious burden, tries 
to thank them all for their welcome. He is longing to 
be home again, in the small, lonely house by the plain, 
where the proud descendant of a hundred chieftains 
awaits her peasant lord with a smile of infinite love. 

And when he comes home, and places the tiny 
bundle close to her ; when he kneels beside her and 
folds her tenderly in his arms ; when, through a mist 
of happy tears, his eyes tell her, more clearly than 
words, "I love you, Ilonka !** then there is before 
her such a golden vision — which is a reality — that 
before it the Fairy Morgana's pictures appear but pale 
and cold. 



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By Baroness Orczy 

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Lady Caroline Lamb figures prominently in 
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