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LI B RAHY
By the Same.
KEATA: WHAT'S IN A NAME.
NEW AND CHEAPER EDITION.
Complete in One Volume, Crown 8vo, price 6s.
"It is long since we have read a story in which excellence of plot and excel-
lence of character-painting are so well combined. From the first page to the last
the reader is thoroughly interested in the story Such evenness of execution,
such admirable balance between the interest of the story, the interest of the
characters, and the mere interest of the local colouring itself, is very rare."
"We have said that 'Reata' is a capital novel; and so it is. The plot is
original and excellent Bright and gay and sparkling."
" It is pleasant to read a book that has evidently been a delight to the author,
full of play, as it were, showing exuberance of enjoyment of the scenes and
characters When read over again, with the key to the plot, the tale loses
nothing of its charm."
"The story is strikingly fresh and original."
" ' Reata' is one of those charming books which to read is to remember."
"A well-sustained dramatic interest marks it as a story ; and a fresh and easy
style aids the effect of this novel as a rolling panorama of scenes, which have
evidently been studied with keen observation."
" It is impossible to avoid awarding it the highest praise. Whether in descrip-
tion of Mexican tropical scenery or German watering-place society, whether in
sketching the Prussian officer, or, place aux dames, the fascinating young Creole
heiress, the author is equally at home. The book is sure to take one of the first
places in the novels of the season, and we can in all sincerity congratulate the
author on having achieved a striking success. ' Reata' is a charming novel."
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD & SONS, Edinburgh and London.
nf*&c- Ucz t^l^-^
BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE
"Die Ktinst reich zu werden, ist im Grande nichts Anderes,
als die Kunst sich des Eigenthums anderer Leute mit ilirem
guten Willen zu bemachtigen." — Wieland.
BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR
E. D. GEEAKD
AUTHOR OF 'REATA: WHAT'S IN A NAME
IN THREE VOLUMES
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
I. THE CARDS ARE DEALT,
II. A NON-PLAYER,
III. ONE OF THE KNAVES,
IV. TWO OF THE QUEENS,
V. AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE
VII. QUEEN OF HEARTS,
VIII. MARCIN'S CARDS,
IX. QUEEN OF DIAMONDS,
X. CUTTING FOR PARTNERS,
XI. SHE LOST THE TRICK,
XII. " CARTES OUVERTES,"
XIII. THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED,
XIV. KING AND QUEEN, .
BEGGAB MY NEIGHBOUR
Three boys were playing at cards ; and the game they
played was " Beggar my Neighbour."
Not, strictly speaking, " Beggar my Neighbour," for
that is an English game, and these were Polish boys ;
but on every spot of earth, whether it be in England,
Poland, the tropic or the arctic regions, there is always
some way of beggaring one's neighbour, if only one
has the will and the talent for doing so. In differ-
ent countries the process has got different names —
at cards ; the result is everywhere the same.
A large and lofty room, with tall windows, curtain-
less ; a polished floor, carpetless ; stiff red velvet
chairs, which scarcely lessen the look of emptiness ;
an enormous mirror, hanging out of the perpendicular,
VOL. I. a
2 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
which makes the room emptier, larger, more stately,
more dreary, and throws back a puny image of the
three children at their distant card-table. Far away
and dwarfish they look in their quaint costume, their
broad white collars and short green jackets. Their
voices wander up to the ceiling and waken echoes, —
three little figures swallowed up in their surroundings,
lost against their background. And not in the mirror
alone is an image of the card-players to be found. A
row of old portraits, dingy, and framed in dingy gold ;
Eoman- nosed Polish heroes, and simpering Polish
beauties, would make a spectator look from the canvas
to two at least of those boy-faces down there.
The eldest card-player — Kazimir by name — whose
age is eleven, has brown wavy hair, and eager, resolute
brown eyes, which correct the softness of his smiling
lips. He plays his cards with determination, but
scarcely with prudence ; for calmness has given way
at sight of the brilliant prize at stake, — an old bat-
tered silver watch, I think it was.
Martin, the second card-player, a year younger, is
like his brother — but as a blurred photograph is like
the original, as a face in the water is like a living face.
He does not play his cards at all, unless he be re-
minded to do it.
The youngest card-player never misses his turn, and
as the game reaches the climax he grows a little pale.
At the age of eight it is surely permissible to turn pale
because of a silver watch, even a battered watch,
which requires winding-up four times a-day. Lucyan
is not like his brothers, nor like the pictures on the
wall. He has coal-black hair and a sallow face.
There, on the red velvet sofa, sits a pale woman
with just such hair, elaborately curled; she is the
mother of the three boys, and she is watching their
So earnestly is she watching that she does not hear
the far-off door open, nor notice the entrance of a tall
man in an embroidered dressing-gown, and holding a
long Turkish pipe, who now with rapid strides ap-
proaches the group. He is a man scarcely past the
prime of life, in face the very copy of those pictures
on the wall ; but there is a worn look on his hand-
" Cards again ! " says a high and passionate voice.
" Have I not forbidden them ? " but before he has
reached the table, little Lucyan has thrown down his
last king (the kings and aces always did find their
way into Lucyan's hand, no matter how the cards
were dealt), and, clutching the battered prize, has
retired into the background. He knows well enough
that the best policy lies in keeping his treasure out of
sight, until his father's anger is spent, as it will be
spent in ten minutes, perhaps in five.
4 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Poor children ! they have had but one game,"
pleads the mother; but the passionate man retorts —
" I will not have my children shown the highroad
to gambling ! "
What an exemplary father ! what a weak indulgent
mother ! you say. So much for appearances.
Madame Bielinska is almost as wise as she is fond,
and Bogumil Bielinski is the most desperate gambler
to be found for miles around. Here is the family
history in brief.
This lofty apartment is the chief room in the resi-
dence which stands on the Bielinskis' chief estate.
There are other estates belonging to this family, and
there have been more estates belonging to it which
now belong to other families, or which have been
swallowed up by a great insatiable monster, which
in Poland they call " the Jew." When " the Jew "
has once had a taste of any one's ancestral houses
and lands, it is very difficult to check his appetite.
Every one of the ancestors on the wall has helped
towards this end. All those haughty magnates and
fierce warriors have worked their part ; the beauty in
cream-coloured brocade has contributed her mite. It
takes a long time to run through a fortune which
draws its strength from miles of rich land, tilled by
vassals, over whom the master holds the old feudal
rights; but free living, large-hearted, short-sighted
Polish hospitality, open-handed bounty, when con-
tinued steadily through half-a-dozen generations, will
do their work at last.
It needed only one thing to accelerate the downhill
speed of the Bielinski fortunes, and this need had
been supplied by the present head of the family.
Other Bielinskis had gambled and had paid the
penalty, but it had been as a recreation in the in-
tervals of respite from graver business. This one
gambled as a business; it was his one solitary pas-
sion, his darling and only vice ; it filled him mind
and soul; it was the idol, the love of his life.
Of course he lost. It is always the losing gambler
who plunges again and again into the whirlpool that
is to engulf him. But Bogumil Bielinski lost in a
quiet, gentlemanlike style. He carried his bad for-
tunes with an easy grace; he lost his money, but
he did not lose his head. He himself was beyond
curing — his wife knew that, his friends knew that, he
knew that himself ; but his children might still grow
up wiser men than their father. This was the secret
of his stern prohibition of cards. He meant to bring
up his sons according to the high moral principles in
which he firmly believed, and on which he never
acted. The hope of making them as different as pos-
sible in every way from himself, gave a zest to his
existence ; and his system was carried out rigorously
G BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
in details. While puffing the smoke luxuriously out
of his long Turkish pipe, he would hold forth at length
upon the baneful effects of tobacco; wrapped negli-
gently in his silk-embroidered dressing-gown, he would
severely reprimand the slightest slovenliness in dress.
The only instance in which his preaching coincided
with his practice was the use of a cold shower-bath in
the morning. Early rising was one of the virtues
which he most cultivated — in his sons. Therefore,
the three boys, having been shaken out of bed at six
A.M., were brought into his bedroom and sent in turn
behind a tall screen, to wince and pant under the icy
shower. In an evil day some ill-natured domestic
betrayed poor Marcin. Marcin hated cold water as
much as it was in his nature to hate anything. It
was much pleasanter to run round and round the
shower, and no one at the other side of the screen was
a bit the wiser. Then came the cruel sentence : no
screen, no possibility of escape ! The high-principled
father watched the execution of the sentence from the
depth of his feather pillows, and over the edge of his
satin coverlet. Then, the three victims dismissed, he
w$uld turn over for another doze ; and later on, when
the boys were hard at their books, he would come
down, refreshed by his own bath, to pass their studies
Bogumil's wife was held by most people to be a
fond, foolish, and bigoted woman ; too phlegmatic to
attempt any check upon her husband's reckless course.
But these people did not quite read her. She was a
woman who had so many outward signs of the weak-
minded : ready tears, hysterical symptoms, an affected
lisp, and, on occasion, fainting-fits — that few people
found out that she was not weak-minded. She had
iweak nerves, and a strong will, which she had never
as yet cared to use, and perhaps was a little indolent
about using. She had long ago discovered that her
husband was incurable, and she had long ago foreseen
what the end would be. With that end only would
come her time for action. When Bogumil should
have gambled away his last farthing, then her fortune
alone would stand between her children and beggary ;
and her fortune he should not touch. But that time
was some little way off yet ; many acres of land still
divided them from ruin. For a few more years she
might enjoy life in luxurious ease, as she loved to
enjoy it, and as she had enjoyed it ever since, as an
orphan girl, she had left her convent-school, in her
wedding-dress, hardly knowing what her future was
to be, and knowing little more about her past, nor
from whom she had got her pale Greek face, and the
depth of her oriental eyes.
She agreed in the main with her husband's system
of education ; but she did not see why the poor chil-
8 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
dren should be half frozen to death on winter mornings,
nor why they should be forbidden to play a harmless
game at cards.
So, while the mother pleads, the father scolds.
" Cards make gamblers ; take them away ! " and very
quickly they are taken away — and once out of sight,
Bielinski's passion vanishes too. Now only his real
manner becomes evident ; for he is a man intellec-
tually refined ; when in good temper has a sweetness
and fascination perfectly irresistible; but is, when
contradicted, entirely without self-control, and there-
fore extravagantly passionate.
With characteristic ease he has now dismissed the
unpleasant side of the subject from his mind, and
draws his eldest son towards him. One train of
thought wakes another. " Be anything but gamblers
when you are men," he has said ; and an eccentric
impulse moves him to make his children choose their
professions, now, on the spot. He never resists an
" Kazio, what will you be when you are a man ? Let
us see what your buttons say : tinker, tailor "
" Soldier ! " shouts Kazimir, without waiting for the
oracle to decide. Not much need of an oracle either, —
witness the tables slashed with sabre-cuts, the gaping
sword-wound which disfigures the canvas limbs of that
white charger on the wall, the broomsticks turned into
lances, — these are answers enough.
" Ha ! of course, a Polish soldier ; but we have no
army yet." Bogumil, as he says it, looks very like
that haughty warrior on the wall. " A pity, boy, —
a great pity ! Patience, it must come. But you must
learn your work from strangers ; better Austria than
Eussia. By the time you are a man we shall be a
nation again." His boys' future is in danger of being
submerged in dreams of Poland's future. He rouses
himself to turn to Marcin.
Marcin has no opinion ; and when pressed for one,
looks as if he would like to cry, if it were not too
" And Lucyan ? Will he be tinker, tailor, soldier,
sailor, rich man, poor man, apothecary, or thief ? "
But Bogumil is not thinking of Lucyan; he is looking
at Kazimir, and picturing that round boy-face under
a tatartka, and that strong young arm working the
salvation of his country.
No one hears Lucyan's answer, as he says to
" I am going to be a rich man."
THE CARDS ARE DEALT.
Whence art thou ? what canst thou be ?
Exquisite creature, fashioned so fairly ! "
A soldier, a do-nothing, and a rich man. The two
first of these prophecies have come true ; the third
shows no signs as yet of coming true.
It was in the year 1858, just about fifteen years
after that summer or winter's evening, whichever it
had been, on which the three brothers had played that
game at cards, that Kazimir Bielinski found himself,
one November afternoon, travelling homewards from
his Tyrolese garrison, in answer to a hurried summons
which had reached him.
The home to which Kazimir is hurrying is not that
large and cheerless mansion with the drearily magni-
ficent state-room and the stiff and frigid furniture.
Some years ago that last and largest of the Bielinski
estates has been sold, and the family is now living on
14 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Madame Bielinska's personal estate, a country place
of the name of Wowasulka.
Madame Bielinska's time for action has come. Until
Bogumil had gambled away his last florin, she had
been in the background. When Bogumil for the last
time rose from the card-table, and this time a ruined
man, then she stepped forward and took the reins into
her hands. From that moment her husband was de-
pendent on her for the very bread he ate.
When Bogumil had risen from the card -table a
ruined man, his blood was all burning with the ex-
citement of the last ten minutes. He did not fly into
a passion — it was never at cards that he lost his
temper, his passions were spent on smaller matters —
but the chances of those last ten minutes had been so
strange, — good fortune had been so nearly weighing
down the scale on his side, only to make it fly up
again with such cruel irony, — that Bogumil felt every
single pulse throb in the moment of revulsion. He
was blind with excitement. He had staked his last
farthing against another man's estate ; he had played
for it and won it.
" Double or quits," said his adversary. " My two
remaining estates against all you hold."
" Stop ! " said his friends, holding their hands over
his cards. " Take luck when you get it ; you are not
bound to play again."
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 15
" If he asks for his revenge I shall give it," said
Bielinski, haughtily. "I am at your service." He
bent his head to his adversary with the perfection
of old-world courtesy.
A few seconds of breathless silence, a few pieces of
pasteboard thrown down on the table, and then Bogu-
mil Bielinski rose to his feet knowing that in the
whole wide world there was not a farthing he could
call his own.
He did a very foolish thing then. His chief sensa-
tion at that moment was burning heat ; his sole long-
ing was for cold. He must have something icy, some-
thing to check the mad pace at which the blood was
racing through his veins. His shower-bath had been
his firm friend for years ; he had recourse to it again.
But his deadliest enemy could not have done him
more harm than did this once faithful ally now. An
instant stroke of paralysis deprived him of conscious-
ness at the moment, and of the use of his left arm for
From the time that he recovered he was a changed
man. The feverish interest which had bound him to
life was gone. Hitherto pleasure-seeking and sociable,
beloved even by those who blamed his faults, he be-
came all at once a hermit, a morbid recluse. He
could not abide the sight of a card ; he shunned with
horror the faces of all his old friends. No syllable of
1G BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
complaint passed his lips ; hardly could he be got to
accept the necessaries of life which he now owed to
his wife alone.
Towards Wowasulka then it was that Kazirnir was
hurrying. The summons had not been unexpected ;
for he had heard of his mother's severe illness, the
violent attack of typhus from which she had seemed
to recover, only to fall into a decline, which could end
but one way. Therefore the letter which he received
from his aunt, Eobertine Bielinska, grieved him more
than it surprised him. It puzzled him also ; for there
was a haziness about the terms of the letter which
left him in considerable doubt as to the real facts cf
" My dear Nephew, — I take up my pen to prepare
your mind for the painful changes which await you in
the bosom of your family. You have, I regret to say,
been made acquainted with the fact of your mother's
illness (although I always considered it an unnecessary
disclosure) ; but you cannot possibly form a clear con-
jecture as to the real situation in its entirety. It is so
very distressing to have these circumstances discussed
outside the family circle, and committing anything to
paper is always such a risk. In my opinion your
presence here is very undesirable, as every additional
face, voice, and step, only tends to agitate and weaken
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 17
your mother. But she foolishly persists in wishing to
see you again, and, I fear, she must be humoured,
especially in her present deplorable state, which in
many ways reminds me of that of my late sister (re-
spectively your late aunt) Eudolfine.
" I should not refer to this fact if I had not been
aware that you knew it already, and as an additional
reason for never mentioning her name to anybody.
"You will be sure, I trust, to burn this letter as
soon as you have read it, and not to let any one know
from whom it is."
The letter was wrapped in a double fold of white
paper, sealed several times, registered, and marked,
with directions that the seals were on no account to
be broken by any one but the person addressed.
Kazimir's perplexity will be understood when it is
explained that his late aunt Eudolfine suffered not
only from derangement of health, but also from a
slight derangement of mind. Had his mother's mental
powers given way ? On the outside of the envelope
Kazimir had discovered a few lines in his youngest
brother's handwriting. The purport of Lucyan's mes-
sage was strenuous advice not to let himself be dis-
turbed by anything that might have been said in his
aunt's letter; that his coming was not urgent; and that,
should there be any difficulty about getting leave of
vol. I. b
18 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
absence, he, Lucyau, would undertake to explain this
to the family.
Fortunately for aunt Kobertine's peace, she had
remained serenely unconscious of this indiscreet
communication, thus openly displayed to the light
But Kazimir had not availed himself of Lucyan's
offer. Not only was his alarm aroused, but his con-
science was pricked. It was some years now since a
sort of coolness had arisen between mother and son,
on the subject of Kazimir's profession. Madame
Bielinska, having at length realised that there were
no immediate hopes of a new Polish kingdom, dis-
covered that her eldest son, instead of learning to be
a Polish hero, was simply serving the Emperor ox
Austria, like any other officer. She had immediately
written to Kazimir, announcing that there was no
need for his continuing in the army; but, to her
absolute amazement, was answered by a flat refusal
to quit the service, coupled with a good deal of what
she put down as boyish enthusiasm regarding his
She had been too much hurt to refer to the subject
since ; and Kazimir, hearing of her danger, felt a pang
of remorse, and having with some difficulty obtained
leave of absence for the whole winter, had bidden
farewell to his comrades in November.
THE CARDS AEE DEALT. 10
" You will have to be back before your term," they
said to him at parting. " We shall be on our way to
Italy in March."
" I shall be back whenever I am wanted," said Kazi-
mir ; " don't go and cut up the Italians without me."
The last part of this long journey was the most
wearisome ; for here the railway ceased, and Kazimir
was boxed up in a huge, lumbering construction, by
name a hired carriage, but by nature an ark on four
w T heels. Never had its Hebrew possessor touched it
with a renovating hand; cushions, doors, windows,
and hinges had been left to take the chances of life,
just as they came.
Under ordinary circumstances the drive should
have lasted four hours, but the circumstances which
attended this drive of Kazimir's were not ordinary,
and the drive itself was therefore much longer.
The first hour was comparatively bearable, the
second hour he began to find irksome. Kazimir
changed his position fifty times in hopes of dodging
the rain-drops which trickled in plentifully, for it had
drizzled continually since the moment he had left the
railway. In tugging at one of the cushions, out flew
a cloud of tiny moths, for the first time disturbed in
their mouldy seclusion. Half suffocated, Kazimir had
quick recourse to the window, but the handle gave way
at the first pull. It was no use calling to the driver,
20 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
for every single part of the carriage was rattling
against the other, drowning even the monotonous
trot-trot of the gaunt long-legged screws, innocent of
the smallest attempt at grooming.
The third hour was wellnigh unendurable. They
were jolting over ruts and stones, in and out of holes
and puddles, with that large-minded disregard to
horses' legs and travellers' bones which characterises
the Polish coachman. The continued jingling of the
dirty panes was not to be borne any longer. One
more vigorous attack on the window, and now Kazi-
mir could breathe fresh air ; but the driver glanced
round in dismay, for the glass had flown into pieces,
scattered along the mud.
It was a day late in November, and the first hint of
dusk had begun to overshadow the bare brown fields,
which lay side by side in long strips, curving over the
swell of hillocks, and sinking down into the little
hollows of the undulating country. They passed by a
village — a double row of thickly thatched mud-huts,
with minute square windows. The women were at
work stacking dead leaves and straw along their house-
fronts as a shield against the coming cold. Pigs
wallowed in the mire at the door-steps, and troops of
shrieking geese, driven by children with bleached
yellow hair, flew before the big carriage as it splashed
heavily up the road.
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 21
There had been some woodcutting on a gigantic
scale somewhere in the neighbourhood, for they over-
took many peasant - carts laden with newly felled
The landscape was wintry and waste, but no snow
had yet fallen. It must fall soon, thought Kazimir,
as he leant back wearily. His heart was heavy with
the thought of what awaited him at home. He had
not seen his mother for two years ; would she be
much changed ? And his father . . . and Lucyan
. . . how cold it was ! . . . Kazimir suddenly
opened his eyes from a sound sleep to the conscious-
ness that the splashing and rattling had ceased, and
that the carriage was standing stock-still.
At home already ? He put his head out by the
broken pane. How sharp the air was ! The rain had
ceased, but it was freezing hard, and it was almost
No, this was not home ; it was some distance from
home still. This was the foot of a steep hill, and the
edge of the great forest which ran as far as Wowa-
sulka, and over the country for many miles.
What exactly was the matter did not immediately
become evident ; but that something must be the
matter was obvious from the confusion of voices on
all sides. The two gaunt horses stood patiently rub-
bing their noses against each other, abandoned by the
22 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
driver, who, as Kazimir now perceived, was exchanging
violent language with half-a-dozen peasants at some
little distance. There was a peasant-cart without
horses, and heavily laden with wood, hard by the
carriage. There was another behind and another in
front, and more further on; while one half-way up
the hill struggled slowly onwards, amidst the shouts,
and oaths, and wild gesticulations of the peasants ;
and from yet higher up, round the bend of the road,
more shouts came ringing down from the black forest
" What is the matter ? " asked Kazimir ; but he
asked it of the air alone.
It was no use staying boxed up in this ark, and in
another minute he was out of it.
The scene was unlighted, save for a solitary yellow
glimmer from the hole which served as entrance to a
sort of earth-cellar, a low hovel cut in the bank at one
side. The Jew who spent his life there, serving out
spirits to the woodcutters and drivers who passed that
way, was now moving about from group to group, a
noiseless black figure ; quietly making the most of the
occasion, and eloquently persuading the not unwilling
listeners that an unlimited consumption of wodki was
the first and foremost step towards getting out of their
present difficulty. The present difficulty was a serious
one. Upon the rain of the afternoon had succeeded a
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 23
sudden frost ; the hillside was like glass. It was a
bad hill at the best of times, steeper than an}' in that
part of the country ; but now it was all they could do
to get their carts up one by one, dragged by four, or
sometimes six horses. Of course this could not be
done peacefully. Each man would have his cart
drawn first, and there were bargainings and loud-
voiced quarrels — and the wild-looking peasants, with
their matted black elf-locks framing their toil-worn
faces, and their long sheepskin coats hanging down to
their heels, talked fast and cursed fiercely ; and stand-
ing in the light of the Jew's hut, tossed off their
wodki and fell to cursing more fiercely still.
No sooner had Kazimir realised the emergency than
he saw that out of it there was only one way, and that
lay through his purse. These two long-legged horses
could never, unaided, drag this ponderous vehicle up
that hill. It was beginning to snow now, to enhance
the situation. The very first snow-flakes of the winter
were floating down through the air. Have not the
first snow-flakes, like the first flowers of the season, a
special and individual charm about them ?
But Kazimir just now was callous to this charm.
" Which of you wants a florin ? " he called out
loud, holding up his purse on high.
There were shouts and a general movement. Some
horses appeared with magical rapidity in front of the
24 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
carriage, and then the quarrelling began again worse
than before. Those who had missed the chance swore
at those who had not, and drank more wddki to make
up for it. Then, amidst a great cracking of whips and
vociferous shouts, the lumbering carriage began slowly
to move upwards.
''He, Hajta — he, Wisba!" shouted the wild drivers,
as they ran alongside ; and the little horses strained
every nerve, and pulled on bravely, making each yard
with pain. Kazimir was expending his strength be-
hind, supporting the carriage to the best of his power.
" He, Hajta — he " the shout broke off, and the
carriage stood still so suddenly that Kazimir was
nearly thrown over.
" What is the matter now ? " he asked, emerging
from the back.
There was an obstacle in front blocking the passage-
Not a trunk-laden peasant- cart, but a carriage, less
large and less clumsy than his own conveyance. It
was at a total standstill, and surrounded by a circle of
"Fellow -sufferers," thought Kazimir, — and he ap-
proached with some curiosity, ready to offer whatever
help might be in his power.
From the inside of the carriage there was issuing
the sound of what seemed to Kazimir an unlimited
number of female voices, far more than the size of
THE CARDS ARE DEALT, 25
the vehicle could explain. There were tones of sup-
plication, of terror, of indignation, of querulous retort,
all mingled inextricably. At any rate, it was clear
that the occupants of the carriage, whoever and how-
ever numerous they might be, were sorely in need of
some masculine guidance. Kazimir pushed out his
elbows, made his way through the circle, and stood
beside the carriage-door.
" Can I be of any service ? " he asked, through the
chink of window, which was all that was opened.
The voices all ceased simultaneously, and there was
something like a start, and the very faint beginning of
a shriek, speedily suffocated. The close vicinity of an
educated voice speaking thus suddenly out of the
darkness, in sharp contrast to the unmodulated organs
of the other spectators, might well be startling.
The pause was for no more than an instant. Pol-
ish etiquette fought a quick, sharp battle, versus the
unprotected female instinct, and victory declared on
Nature's side. Perhaps, after all, it might not be posi-
tively incorrect to let their lives be saved by an un-
The voices all began to talk again. The barbarians
refused to take them up the hill ; they had had to beg
for the florin from the Jew almost on their knees ; and
they could not have guessed about the snow ; and how
could they be asked to walk in thin shoes ? and the
26 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
swearing was so dreadful. They paused aud began anew
in the next breath : would he ask them to stop their
dreadful language ; and they were quite sure they were
going to be killed in the forest, and perhaps get their
feet wet in the snow.
" If the ladies would be so very kind as to speak one
at a time," observed Kazimir, deferentially, " I think
I could be of more use."
Then at last one voice spoke alone. They were on
their way home; owing to some unfortunate chance
they had only two horses instead of four, and two horses
could not get the carriage up the hill : the peasants
would not lend their horses without money, and owing
to another unfortunate chance they had no money with
them. The Jew had lent them a florin under protest ;
and now that they were half-way up, those wretches had
stopped and refused to move a step without another
florin. They were unharnessing their horses already,
and the Jew would certainly not lend another florin.
" No need, either," said Kazimir, with great indig-
nation. This was a tolerably composed account, and
being in possession of the facts, he proceeded to action.
" Back there ! " he shouted, as he stepped away
from the carriage. " Leave your horses where they
are," to the fellow who was sullenly loosening the
" Blockheads every one of you ! Gatgan jeden
THE CAEDS AEE DEALT. 27
% drugi " (which might be translated as indicating in
a general way that the persons addressed are destined
to the gallows). An immediate transformation took
place. That voice raised in indignation vibrated
through the dark. Instantly the men around ceased
their wrangling, and fell back in attitudes of the most
servile humility. The tone of Kazimir's voice, the
gesture which accompanied it, and the glimpse of
his face which they could catch through the darkness,
told them that this was one of that class before which
they were wont to cower like frightened dogs. By
the unanimous silence which fell on the circle, they
recognised his right to rule them. Confronted by
unprotected women, they had dared to be exacting
and merciless ; at the sight of a man, willing and
able to enforce his rights, they shrank back out-
wardly, into what they were at heart, abject serfs,
the slaves of their master's will.
The spirit-selling Jew, down at the bottom of the
hill, hearing that loud impatient voice in the wood,
thought it wiser to slink back into his low mud-hovel
in the bank.
Kazimir approached the carriage again.
" In the first place, I must ask you to let down the
There was something murmured about " cold air ; "
but his demand was complied with.
28 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Now I am afraid T must ask you to get out of the
" Impossible ! "
" Our shoes are too thin."
" Our dresses are too long."
" It is snowing."
It was indeed snowing. Thickly and silently the
flakes, like great, soft, white moths in the darkness,
were hovering leisurely through the air. They clung
to Kazimir's hair, and stuck in his eyelashes blind-
ingly. They had begun to fill the broad ditch by the
side of the road, and they had put a white cover on
the carriage-roof, and a white rim on the wood-logs in
" It is the only chance of getting up the hill," said
Kaziruir, commanding his impatience.
A little more hysterical parley, and then, very
reluctantly, the door was allowed to be opened. There
was a great rustling of silks and pushing aside of
rugs, before some one, with satin-clad feet, stepped
daintily and fearfully out.
" One, two, three," Kazimir counted, and peered
into the carriage for more. Three females were
hardly enough to account for that Tower-of-Babel sort
of sound which had assailed his ears. It was rather
" Now, move on in front!" called out Kazimir to the
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 29
peasants, as be closed the carriage-door, " gatgan that
you are ! " and something followed about beating them
all within an inch of their lives, if they were not at
the top of the hill in much less than no time. It
acted like a charm. The grim-faced peasants relaxed
almost into a smile, cheered by the familiar language.
Vigorous abuse and violent threats are the surest and
safest means of earning the love and respect of Polish
peasantry. That amiable smooth-tongued address,
which your English butler expects as confidently as
he expects his daily beer, will here make you into an
object of contempt and pity.
" lie, Hajta — he, Wista ! " Whips cracked, harness
rattled, wheels creaked, and woodwork groaned ; but
they are going up fast now, cheered on by the elated
Kazimir turned back to the three figures that stood
shivering on the edge of the road.
One of them was short and stout, and unmistakably
an attendant. Two of them were tall, and as unmis-
takably ladies. All three were clothed in long, shape-
less, fur-lined cloaks ; no less disfiguring in the case of
the attendant than of the two ladies, — differing only
in the distinction that lies between silk and wool, —
blue fox and vulgar rabbit. All three travellers wore
hoods, which covered their hair and shaded their
30 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Will either of the ladies take my arm ? " asked
Kazimir, looking from one figure to the other. But
even before he had completed his offer, his arm was
seized convulsively by a hand. That hand, encased
in pale kid, was narrow and delicate ; but there was
the strength of a sudden fright in its clutch, while
the flounced silk train dropped unheeded to the
" Oh, look ! what is that in the ditch ? " gasped a
voice beside him, and the other delicately gloved
hand pointed to a long formless object in the roadside
ditch. The object was only an unwise peasant, who,
having listened too willingly to the loving voice of the
vjoclki dispenser, had rolled over into this ready-made
resting-place, and was sleeping the sleep of the just,
in happy unconsciousness that his cart was at the
bottom of the hill, and his horses helping other peo-
ple's carts to the top, while his whip has been stolen
by a sober and sharp-witted fellow-creature.
"Only a drunken man," said Kazimir, reassuringly;
and he turned to the second figure with an offer of his
second arm, trying to make the most of himself for
the occasion. The second figure seemed to be in pos-
session of a little more self-command ; for, though
visibly nervous, the offer was declined with a shade of
stiffness, which had to do service for composure of
manner. The third figure, that of the dumpy attend-
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 3i
ant, marched along in silence, rustling her garments
ostentatiously as they began slowly to mount the hill.
Kazimir was between the two tall figures. That slen-
der hand had not changed its position on his arm.
The satin-clad feet were moving charily along over the
" My poor feet ! " sighed the owner, looking down
at them compassionately; "to have to go up this hill
after dancing all last night ! "
" Those details can hardly interest this gentleman,"
said the voice at Kazimir's other side, with a little
Kazimir took an instant prejudice against the owner
of that other voice. He did not feel at all sure that
those details would not have interested him very much.
" I know I shall be ill to-morrow," murmured the
He could not see their faces ; he could only distin-
guish them by their voices. One was an ordinary
woman's voice, with just now a touch of temper in it.
Eespecting the other, Kazimir could not make up his
mind whether it tinkled through the darkness like a
crystal bell, or whether its sound was more to be com-
pared to the music of a silver flute.
The flute was silent now — chilled by a sharp repri-
mand ; or perhaps the steep hillside, growing steeper
every moment, called for all the breath she had. She
32 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
began to pant a little, and now and then glanced fear-
fully into 'the dense shadows.
The great dead forest stretched up the hill from this
point and thence for many miles. Broad trunks stood
in shadowy array, dying off into impenetrable black-
ness. The carriage had got round the turn of the
road and there were no more carts passing just then.
The cries of the peasants reached them now only in
But another sound was beginning around them.
The topmost branches of the trees shivered first ; then
the rustling sound crept downwards and shook the
bare boughs out of their lethargy. They groaned as
they yielded, and creaked as they swept upwards
again ; the wintry skeletons shuddered first, and then
they rattled their dead limbs noisily. Afar in the
forest-depths the trees were moaning ; and here close
at hand the flakes were begining to whirl wildly.
" That sound — it must be wolves ! " gasped the voice
by Kazimir's side.
She was struggling for breath against the quickly
rising wind, and with one hand she was righting to
keep the hood on her head. The wind would have
its way. The hood slipped back ; and Kazimir, look-
ing, could just see a pale face, and a pair of frightened
blue eyes gazing at him through the falling snow.
11 It is only the wind in the trees," said the other
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 33
voice, trying in vain to sound steady amidst the
choking gusts. " How can you be — so — fool — ish ? "
The fierce air carried away the end of the word, and
the speaker succumbing, abandoned her flapping train
and leant upon Kazimir's second arm.
On all sides the dead trees were tossing their dried
arms high. The white moths have gone mad ; they
ha've taken wing wildly, and fly hither and thither,
helplessly huddled in troops ; or chase each other with
lightning speed, round and round the black tree-
trunks. Everywhere the wind is undoing the snow's
work. From off the ground it catches the freshly
fallen flakes, and whirls them in powder down the
hill. Clouds and columns are rushing past: visible
for an instant, and very palpable, as they shower over
the travellers, to disappear next moment in the dark-
To Kazimir's right, there was a sound of hysterical
sobbing; and the weight on each side grew heavier.
"It needs but the attendant to finish me," he thought,
as with an effort he succeeded in throwing open his
heavy fur travelling-cloak at the neck. Light-blue
cloth and gold hussar-cording gleamed in the uncer-
tain light. It produced a curious effect ; for there
were two distinct starts, and both the hands percep-
tibly relaxed their grasp.
" An Austrian officer ! " thought both ladies with
vol. I. c
34 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
terror. An Austrian officer had dragged them up a
hill in the dark. Horrible thought!
But just then there was a slip and a shriek. The
figure to Kazimir's right staggered, and but for his arm
would have fallen. For an instant she stood clinging
to him, while the wild wind showered the snow-flakes
right over her. Again that vision of blue eyes, and
that half-seen glimpse of an oval face.
She gasped out faintly that she thought she must
die (like the far-off echo of an iEolian harp, Kazimir
found ; for the rude wind caught each word from her
lips and carried it off on its wings) ; but the second
voice faltered a scarcely more audible, though unques-
tionably chilling reply, and the iEolian harp spoke no
How harsh that second voice was ! What a want
of pity she showed to her poor delicate sister ! thought
Kazimir, as with a final effort they stood at last pant-
ing on the hill-top beside the carriage.
He knew that he had done his duty, and that all
that remained was to put his charges safely in the
carriage. Both ladies were busied with the arrange-
ment of their hoods and trains ; while the maid, with
an apoplectic flush on her face, was pulling about the
furs in the carriage.
" I hope that the ladies will not have caught cold,"
said Kazimir, earnestly. He belonged to that class of
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 35
men who believe that no women ever dress warmly
enough, and that they should be in a continual state
of changing their shoes and stockings, if they are to
keep in health.
"I trust not," replied the lady with the ordinary
voice, making him a demure curtsey. Kazimir was
not conscious of having expected much thanks for his
service, but he was conscious of feeling chilled now.
He turned towards the other. " You will be sure to
put on dry shoes," he said with greater earnestness,
looking down at the soaked black satin slippers, half
buried in the snow. What was this ? another curtsey,
quite as graceful as any curtsey ever executed on a
parquetted floor, but quite as demure as the first.
" M Me remerdments, Monsieur ! " From what a
height of icy pinnacles the silvery voice sounded
The dangers were passed, the hill was surmounted.
Etiquette now recovered that upper hand which Na-
ture for a brief space had unjustly usurped. The
hands which two minutes ago had clung to him so
convulsively, would hardly touch the tips of his fin-
gers in mounting the carriage-step. The door was
closed ; the furs were put to rights ; in another minute
they would be gone. An impulse of invincible curi-
osity seized upon Kazimir. "I hope your drive is
not a long one," he said, with his hand on the door.
36 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Thank you ; it is rather long/' replied the ordinary
woman's voice. " Will you kindly tell the coachman
to drive on ? "
" May I hope to meet the ladies again ? " said Kazi-
No answer ; only a frigid and shadowy inclination
of both heads.
" You have not got rugs enough ; perhaps my
fur " making a movement towards tearing his
big cloak off.
" Oh no, thank you ! " Even in the dark the start
could be seen, with which the two ladies recoiled be-
fore this indelicate offer.
" Can I do nothing ? " said the baffled man ; but
already they were passing away. The horses, de-
lighted at having level ground under their feet,
plunged off into the dark. His last glimpse w r as of
two figures leaning back exhausted, and the last words
he heard were from the apoplectic maid, apparently
resigning her situation. " I am not accustomed to
this, Pani Xenia ! " reached Kazimir's ears as they
He was alone in the dark and the snow ; his own
conveyance was half-way down the hill. Just now
the fury of the storm was lulled for a little. Very
furtively the falling flakes began their work again ;
whitening over each little twig, and filling each tree-
THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 37
hollow with soft powder which the next gust would
Kazimir reflected upon the expediency of thrashing
somebody, for he felt very much inclined to play clubs
just now. Should he thrash the Jew at the bottom of
the hill, who had been so chary of the loan of his
dirty paper florin? But that would entail another
ascent of the hill. Perhaps some of those wrangling
peasants, whose guilt was certainly greater ? Which
peasant ? He would need to thrash half-a-dozen at
least, in order to make sure that he had thrashed the
right one. How infamously they had behaved to
those two unfortunate ladies — to that delicate, timid
girl ! even the elder sister had been wanting in ten-
derness. Xenia ! such a harsh, uncompromising
name, exactly suitable to an unamiable elder sister !
He roused himself just in time to escape being run
over by his own lumbering conveyance. Here was
the carriage at the top of the hill, and now there was
no more time to thrash anybody.
It was only when the ark on four wheels had car-
ried him on some hundred yards that another thought
struck Kazimir. It was a pity, after all, that he had
not "one down the hill to thrash the Jew ; not so
much from a sense of the justice of the castigation ;
but because the man to be chastised might have given
him some clue to the identity of these sisters.
38 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Then, as an afterthought, came the reflection : the
man thus castigated might not be inclined to supply
information of any kind.
At any rate, it was too late now. The chance for
to-day was past: to-morrow, perhaps, might bring
" . . . . Life went a-Maying
With nature, hope, and poesy,
When I was young.
When I was young ! Ah, woeful when !
Ah, for the change 'twixt now and then ! "
When Kazimir readied home, it was too late to see
either his mother or father that night. He was put into
a large square room, heated to suffocation, and told to
take his rest in a bed covered with the finest of linen,
and the most costly of satin quilts. In the morning
he was given a minute basin of solid silver, placed
upon a wooden chair as washhand-stand ; he was, in
fact, regarded as a guest, and as such treated with
that profusion of luxuries and absence of necessaries
which is never failing in a Polish house. Kazimir
had to confess that a long estrangement from his
native soil had made him degenerate to no small ex-
tent. So far from being a narrow-minded man, he
40 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
was accustomed to take broad, in fact exceptionally
broad, views of life ; but he now became speedily
aware that so trivial a detail as the want of a looking-
glass was a nuisance, and that the absence of soap
and towels disturbed his mind considerably. He
looked round in despair ; the splendid walnut ward-
robe seemed to smile at him ironically, and to say,
" Try me ! " He could see his face almost in the
shining surface; but having tried the wardrobe, he
sank down discouraged into a chair of old tapestry
that would have delighted the heart of an antiquary.
"Why don't I ring?" he said, impatiently; but the
answer was obvious, for there was nothing wherewith
to ring. He put his head out of the door, and was
about to indulge in a resounding call, when the
thought of his mother checked him. There, at the
far end of the passage, a small figure was visible — a
little barefooted girl biting a crust of bread. A stray
beggar devouring a charitably given morsel, she would
have been taken for anywhere else ; but Kazimir was
still familiar enough with the ways of his country to
know that this must be what in England we call a
housemaid, and that she was taking her breakfast in
the orthodox fashion. A pantomime of beckoning
resulted in the ten-year-old housemaid taking to her
heels in dismay. Hope being quenched on that side,
Kazimir had recourse to the other. He knocked at
A NON-PLAYER. 41
the door which he knew to be that of his brother
Marcin, and he knocked loudly, for his spirit was
beginning to chafe.
The sound of gentle snoring broke off at Kazimir's
first knock, but there was no invitation to enter. He
knocked again, and hearing only a prolonged yawn,
entered uninvited. Marcin contemplated him with
sleepy blinking eyes from out of his pillow depths.
" May I ask what you have been doing to my door ? "
he inquired, lazily.
" I wanted to come in. I need soap, and a looking-
glass, and towels."
" I daresay ; but what did you make that noise for ? "
" I was knocking at your door. Why did you not
answer ? "
" What was I to say ? " yawned Marcin.
" Why, ' come in,' of course. Do you never knock
at people's doors ? "
" Never ! What a strange idea ! Life is a great
deal too short for that sort of thing." Marcin looked
languidly amused, then closed his eyes again.
" I want towels, and a looking-glass, and soap,"
began Kazimir again hastily, for fear of his brother
relapsing into slumber.
" I know there was some soap in the house a week
ago," said Marcin, drowsily. " You can have it if you
like, but I think it is done. Nobody has been to
42 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Lwow lately. Aunt Kobertine had it last ; go to her
" Where is her room ? "
" At the other side of my father's."
" How can I get to it, then ? "
" You can't get to it," said Marcin, sweetly.
n Do you mean to say that nobody else in the house
has got soap ? " asked Kazimir, aghast.
" Oh yes, Lucyan has got soap," murmured Marcin,
in a muffled voice ; " white rose soap, and new-mown
violet scent, and pate aux amandes du printemps.
Kazimir ? "
" Yes ? " Kazimir turned at the door.
u Don't make that noise at Lucyan's door ; what do
you call it ? Knocking the door ? "
" Am I to go in without knocking ? "
" Certainly ; when you are at Eome you must howl
with the Eomans."
" What on earth do you mean ? " asked Kazimir,
bewildered at this novel mixture of proverbs.
"Perhaps I mean the wolves," said Marcin.
" What next ? Am I never to get shaved to-day ? "
u Don't go to Lucyan at all."
" Why not ? "
"He is horse in the manger, don't you know?
Never lends anything to anybody."
A NON-PLAYER. 43
By hook or by crook Kazimir got shaved, and then
turned his attention to the view outside.
The world had undergone a wonderful transfor-
mation since yesterday, when it had lain dull and
brown, waiting for its winter cloak. The cloak had
fallen on it now, and covered its nakedness; but it
was a cloak of strangely uneven texture. All night
long the wind had fiercely lashed the innocent snow
with its merciless whips ; it had driven white mounds
up against the house ; it had piled soft dazzling
cushions on the window-sills, darkening the panes at
intervals. The trees here and there were girt with
deep white. The rose-bushes in the garden, which
were Lucyan's special pride and treasures, and which
he himself had wrapped in their winter garb of straw,
stood waist-deep in snow. Nature had been at work
with a lavish but an unequal hand. She had smothered
the garden benches in snow so deep, that their out-
line could but dimly be discerned, like overgrown
grave-mounds; and again the capricious wind had
laid bare the unsightly row of dead asters, in all their
desolation of withered leaves and bleached stalks.
Further off, where the ground, growing bare and
rocky, sloped up gradually from the garden to the
forest-edge, it was all a heavy and unbroken mass of
white. Snow and wind had suspended their work ;
but the dull white sky was brooding more changes.
44 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
"When can I see my mother?" asked Kazimir,
There was no one in the room but his youngest
brother, and at the question, Lucyan looked up from
a seedsman's catalogue he was studying ; for it must
be understood that, although Lucyan was a lawyer in
embryo, he was at heart a gardener.
" It is scarcely likely that aunt Kobertine will let
you see her to-day," he answered. " My mother is
very easily agitated."
Kazimir gazed out of the window and reflected.
The veiled hints in his aunt Kobertine' s letter, did
they really hide a real mystery ? His mother had al-
ways been remarkable for her clear judgment ; was
it possible that she had lost her reason with her
" My aunt's letter gave me a great fright," said
Kazimir, turning from the window. " Surely you do
not think that there is anything wrong with my
mother, — beyond her health, I mean ? "
Lucyan looked up inquiringly.
" I mean mentally," completed Kazimir, with an
Lucyan paused for a minute, with his eyes fixed on
his brother's, and the point of his pencil keeping the
place of Zinnia elegans in the catalogue.
" I do not exactly like to say that she is irrespon-
A NON-PLAYER. 45
sible for her actions," he answered slowly ; " but there
certainly are some subjects on which she is very excit-
able — strangely excitable."
" Have you seen my mother to-day ? " asked Kazi-
Lucyan looked up again from his catalogue without
betraying any impatience.
" Yes, of course I have seen her. I read aloud to
her every day."
" And why am I to be kept out of her room if you
are allowed in V
The question was so direct that Lucyan, before
answering, rose from his chair and took a turn in the
room. At the same time, he drew a little ivory comb
from his pocket, and pensively passed it through his
black hair, winch grew up thick and straight from his
low broad forehead. This was a trick of his, a mere
mechanical habit, into which he had fallen, no one
knew how. His comb was to him a talisman, what to
a coquettish woman is her fan, or to a bandmaster his
baton. Perhaps the mesmeric contact of the ivory
roused and assisted thought.
His face was in character the same as it had been
at eight years old ; but though Lucyan was only
twenty-four, the short coal-black beard stamped him
as a man, and by contrast made his skin more colour-
less. His eyes moved quickly, and now and then
46 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
shone as brightly as though a spark had struck them.
Kound his lips there hovered perpetually a faint, a
very faint smile, which was sometimes mirrored in the
eyes, and which was just dimly to be read through the
The faint smile was just now a shade more distinct
than usual, as he paced down the length of the room,
passing the comb through his hair.
" Why are you to be kept out of the room if I am
allowed in ? Eh, cher Kazio ; the matter is simple
enough. She is used to see me, and she is not used
to see you. Anything in the shape of a — a what shall
I say ? — a stranger "
" A stranger ! " repeated Kazimir.
" Well, que voulez - vous ? " with a shrug, which
exactly matched the smile. " You are virtually a
stranger ; and besides " — Lucyan stopped combing
his hair, and threw a glance over his brother's tall
figure — besides, I am not sure that you would know
how to move in a sick-room."
" And you know how to move in a sick-room, I
suppose?" said Kazimir, for him almost bitterly.
Lucyan inclined his head. " Yes, I can walk like
a cat when I like." He laughed ; but Kazimir did
not join him.
" Come, Kazio," said the younger brother, pocketing
his comb, and laying a delicate white hand on the
A NON-PLAYER. 47
elder one's shoulder. " You are not going to turn
sulky, are you? Just be sensible, and consider how
trying to an invalid your resounding martial step and
your cavalry movements would be."
"Why was I sent for?" asked Kazimir, not yet
Another very slight shrug of Lucyan's shoulders.
He withdrew his hand from his brother's arm, and
began a minute inspection of his carefully trimmed
" You will remember that I did not send for you."
Kazimir, thinking of the P.S. to his aunt's letter,
remembered that well.
" I told you then that your presence here would
do no good. There were none but sentimental
grounds to advance for your coming ; but if it is
any relief to your feelings, of course you are welcome
There was a slight air of concession about the
words ; the tone of the master of the house offering
the protection of his roof to a stranger. Since his
mother's illness, Lucy an had been virtually the master
of the house : Marcin was as useless as a six-year-old
child, and Bielinski was now a cipher.
"You look quite out of place in a dull country-
house like this," said Lucyan, still soothingly. " You
are a soldier all over, Kazimir."
48 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Lucyan's eyes rested again on his brother with a
glance of admiration, scarcely mixed with envy.
Nearly a head taller than his younger brother, with
brown hair waving off a high forehead ; brown eyes,
rather long in shape and fall of life ; nothing but a
short moustache shading his well-cut lips, — Kazimir
indeed looked a soldier all over. He was handsome ;
but his was not only the beauty of features, it was
also that of expression and grace. He had in his face
a little of each of the twelve ancestral portraits on the
wall. The dusky knight in armour had given him
that hawk-like sweep of eyelids ; the beauty in cream-
coloured brocade had given him that peculiar sweet-
ness of mouth which softened the otherwise hard
features ; all the men combined had given him their
nose — a high-bridged, clean-cut nose, with those proud
sensitive nostrils which belong eminently to a well-
born Polish nose. Kazimir's face was the sort of face
which has gone out of fashion ; for types of feature
go out of fashion as well as types of character. You
do not see it often nowadays, unless upon mouldering
canvas, framed in tarnished gold, and hung upon the
walls of some turreted old castle. Thus may that
grim-visaged old warrior on the white charger have
looked when first he drew the sword with which in
later years he cut down so many of his country's foes.
But though so distinct in feature, it was in expression
A NON-PLAYER. 49
a face younger than its years, perhaps almost too
young for its years. The glow of ardent life was upon
it ; but as yet it was a face without a history. That
man, you felt instinctively, had been scathed by no
passion, had looked upon no dreadful sight, had suf-
fered no violent grief. The face was too unmarked
for that, the glance too serene, the smile too boyish.
According to people's individual views of life, this
would be considered either a merit or a defect.
" Never mind, Kazio," Lucyan was saying, " you
will see my mother now and then, no doubt, if aunt
Robertine can be persuaded to let you have ' a little
peep,' as she calls it. But I hardly know how I shall
be able to entertain you in this dull place. After
your horses and soldiers, you could never stand this
life for long.
Kazimir had quite relaxed by this time ; bad
humour was a thing too foreign to his nature to
endure long. He did not even notice the but half-
concealed sneer in his brother's words and tone, which
might have implied that horses and soldiers were
capital toys with which to keep little boys amused.
The result of this conversation was to make Kazi-
mir wonder why he had been in so great a hurry to
leave his regiment. Nobody seemed to want him.
Lucyan and Marcin were the only members of the
family he had seen as yet. Even aunt Robertine
VOL. I. D
50 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
remained invisible ; and it was late in the afternoon
before his father sent for him.
Bogumil had become an old man since his son had
seen him last ; all that careless yet graceful ease,
which had been his charm, was gone. His eyes be-
trayed his utter want of interest in the world and in
life itself, — the weary eyes of a man who, having been
used to the excitement of strong stimulants, finds him-
self cut off from them, and droops into listless dejec-
tion. With his right hand he held his long Turkish
pipe, sole companion of his self-chosen solitude ; his
left arm hung powerless by his side. Thus for years
past Bogumil had passed his life, too proud to utter
a complaint, too proud to express the most trivial
want ; suffering rather his one consolation — his Turk-
ish pipe — to hang unused on the wall for days, than
so much as to mention that his tobacco-pouch was
empty. If by any chance his dinner had been for-
gotten some day, he would rather have starved than
asked for it.
" When shall you see your mother ? " repeated
Bogumil, in answer to his son's complaint. " It is no
use applying to me; I am a cipher in the house,
Kazimir ; understand that once for a^l." He smoked
on in silence for some minutes, then resumed.
" When your aunt Eobertine does give you entrance
to the sick-room, your mother's first word to you
A NON-PLAYER. 51
will be a persuasion to leave the. army. Are you
prepared for this ? "
Kazimir was quite prepared.
His father paused again — a longer pause this time
— while the white rings of tobacco-smoke curled above
" I have no right to give you any advice," he began,
after that pause ; " for I have nothing to leave you in
legacy except the remembrance of my folly. If you
care enough for my advice to ask for it, Kazimir, you
can have it ; if not, I shall never refer to the subject
" But I do ask for it, father," cried Kazimir, touched
by the proud reserve of the tone; although in his
innermost mind he registered the firm resolve only to
take that advice if it coincided with his own wish.
" Then listen. When I made you into a soldier, I
and others fully believed that Poland would in a few
years be a new kingdom, with a new king and a new
army. That dream of mine is gone — every dream of
mine is gone — ah ! no matter. If I could have fore-
seen what was coming, I should not have put you into
Kazimir started, but he held fast to his resolve.
" Now that you are in the army, my advice to you
is to stay in it, whatever "
" I will stay in it, father ! " burst in Kazimir raptur-
a OF ILL
52 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
ously, taking his father's wasted hand and kissing it
in a transport of filial gratitude. The advice against
which he had been so resolutely steeling himself a
minute ago was now enthusiastically accepted; and
his mind was pervaded by a satisfactory glow of
virtue — a pleasant feeling of having shown himself
a good and dutiful son.
In Bogumil's world-weary eyes there shone for a
moment a light at sight of this glow of gratitude. It
was like a breath of hillside air — a breeze out of his
own youth, wafted across a long, long waste of years,
out of the time when the world was not the weary
empty place it was now. It is bad to be old : old age
is an evil thing devoid of sweetness ; but old age —
ugly, misery-burdened old age — has one poetry which
belongs to it by rights, and that shines out of the eyes
of our children.
The faces of Marcin and Lucy an had never moved
this thought in Bogumil's soul in the way Kazimir's
face did now.
" Kemember that I have not tried to persuade you,
Kazimir," said his father. " My vote is powerless.
You owe duty and gratitude to your mother ; you owe
nothing to me."
It was said bitterly yet sadly ; and Kazimir's burst
of rapture melted quickly into pity, — pity at the sight
A NON-PLAYER. 53
of this change, at the recollection of his father's once
gay and gracious countenance — and pity also, more
dimly felt, that so much that was noble and great
should have fallen to wreck upon reefs with which
a more commonplace nature would not have been
ONE OF THE KNAVES.
Jedes Land hat die Juden die es verdient, "
— K. E. Franzos.
In the midst of the anxieties and impressions of this
first day, Kazimir's thoughts ran continually on his
adventure in the snow. At the moment, the two
figures had appeared distinct enough from each other ;
now, in recollection, he could not so well separate
their individualities. They had both worn pale kid
gloves. One had had a common voice and the other
an uncommon one ; one had grey eyes and the other
had blue eyes. When he thought of the grey eyes he
remained unmoved ; when he thought of the blue eyes
he thrilled with something more than curiosity. He
had questioned his brothers and father to no purpose.
In the eveninQ- as the three brothers sat in their
father's room — the one hour in the day in which
Bogumil allowed intrusion on his hermitage — they
reverted to the subject again.
ONE OF THE KNAVES. 55
" We know little of any of our neighbours," said
Bogumil, " and I know less than nothing."
" The only pair of sisters within reasonable distance
are the Zuminskas," said Lucyan ; " but one of them
is hunchbacked and the other lame."
" That will not do," said Kazimir ; for although a
hunch might conveniently have been concealed under
the monstrous cloak, lameness was not compatible
with reaching the top of that hill.
" There is that girl with the box on her ear," put in
Marcin from the sofa.
" Box on her ear ? " repeated Kazimir, in inter-
rogative bewilderment, for he was scarcely used to
Marcin's fashion of conversation. This meeting
with his brothers was almost like making acquaint-
ance with strangers. They were, in fact, more
strangers to him than his playfellows had been,
and than his comrades were now ; for since at the
age of twelve he had been placed in a military
academy at Vienna, all his visits home had been but
" Ask Lucyan to explain ; I can't," said Marcin,
" He means Mademoiselle Walenska," explained
Lucyan, with ready civility. " Her mother once at a
ball boxed the ears of a man who had forgotten to
dance an engaged mazur with the daughter."
56 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" But if she has no sister she will not do : think of
some one else, Marcin."
Marcin closed his eyes and made the heroic effort
" The only other people I know are the three
Merinskas ; won't they do ? "
" Is there a pair of blue eyes between them ? " asked
" Yes — no ; I fancy their eyes are rather fishy."
Kazimir's face fell. Marcin brightened up. " But I
remember that they once wore yellow gloves ; and —
let me see, I know something else about them — they
have got forty thousand florins each."
" Oh no," corrected Lucyan, smiling ; " you mean
that the youngest is forty years old."
" Well, I knew it was something about forty," said
Marcin, in languid triumph ; and he sat up almost
straight for a moment, with a conscious and pardon-
able feeling of pleasure in finding his memory thus
" Forty years old ! " sighed Kazimir. That voice
that had followed him into his dreams had not been
twenty. Was the clue never to be supplied ? Were
they mere birds of passage which had crossed his path,
to disappear again without a trace ? Had that meet-
ing been but an isolated fact, or was it to be the first
link of other things to come ?
ONE OF THE KNAVES. 57
Brooding over these thoughts, he fell into silence,
but presently was roused by a request to join in a new
and general subject of interest.
There was a discussion going on about horses. The
Bielinski's last carriage-horses had come to grief quite
lately; and as even a ruined family in Poland cannot
exist without one, if not two pair of horses, the Jewish
factor had come to report upon a pair in the neigh-
There scarcely passed a week in which this factor
was not to be seen at "VYowasulka ; for was he not
one of that nation who are at once the slaves and the
masters of Poland ? Drawing gain out of the indolence
of Polish character, the Jews have, little by little, got
the strings of the whole national life into their hands.
They have crept into the machinery of public life, and
have wound and wormed themselves in behind the
very veil of privacy.
They cannot be kept away or pushed back ; for you
cannot fight with their own weapons: they do not
push, they crawl. Like a network they spread over
the country : a nation of detectives, bound together by
the bond of their religion, and by that national esprit
de corps which will always make a Jew help a Jew,
hold a Jew's secrets inviolate, if necessary conceal a
Jew. They have their own secrets of success, but this
last is not the least. You cannot ignore them, reptiles
58 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
as they are ; the best you can do is to reconcile your-
self to them, and that is what every Pole does. He
treats them as the scum of the earth, uses any amount
of violent language towards them, and on occasion
kicks them down-stairs. And next time he wishes to
save himself trouble he sends for his Jew, and the Jew
comes with the same cringing smile, obsequious and
oily - tongued, as though they had parted the best
friends. Whether you want to buy a horse, engage a
cook, sell a piano or a property, or get married in a
hurry, you cannot do without a Jew ; and above all,
if you want money you cannot do without him. He
will tell you all the horses for sale for ten miles
round, and what each is worth ; he can give you the
accurate amount of the fortunes of all the young ladies
of the neighbourhood ; and the ragged wretch, slip-
shod and out at elbows, will put at your instant dis-
posal thousands of florins, which he presses on you
with loquacious and irresistible persistence.
Every family of rank has its own particular factor,
just as much as it has its own coachman; and Aitzig
Majulik was the particular factor of the Bielinski
Aitzig Majulik was a Jew unwashed and garlic-
scented. He was generally called "old Aitzig," and
had always been called so, even before he became old.
No one remembered his ever having been young. When
ONE OF THE KNAVES. 59
he was forty, he had looked like fifty ; and now that
he was sixty, he looked like fifty still. Kazimir, who
had not seen him for ten years, thought that Aitzig
must have been standing still, instead of going on with
the time. His nose had the orthodox hook, and his
face was framed in the orthodox corkscrew curls, one
at each side. He had brows so protruding as to throw
his eyes into deep shade ; and he had hands long and
thin and yellow, which might have made a fanciful
person think of claws.
His long gown had turned greenish in hue, from
extreme old age ; a tattered cord was round his waist ;
with one yellow claw he waved about his battered hat,
— which, on entering he had removed, leaving visible
a greasy black skull-cap, — with the other he gave fur-
tive pulls to his corkscrew curls. He had not stopped
talking since he entered. His hungry shining eyes
wandered round the room.
" You will never have seen anything to come near
that pair of horses, gracious Pan ! Gott und die Welt"
cried Aitzig, in his nasal mixture of Polish and Ger-
man, " but they are grand horses ! That is what you
will call them when you see them. There is some-
thing about the limbs of those horses, I tell you,
noble gentlemen "
"We shall see about that," interrupted Lucyan,-
but what is the price ? "
GO BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE.
" No money at all ; a price hardly worth mention
ing ; I blush to mention it to you," gabbled Aitzig,
with his shoulders drawn up to his ears, and his ten
ringers spread out like fans. " I will whisper the price
into your gracious ear, for fear that strangers should
overhear this wonderful bargain."
" Keep where you are, you garlic-smelling hound ! "
cried Bogumil, with a spark of his old temper, as
the factor was gliding towards his chair to impart
Instantly the Jew retreated, cringing in dog-like
humility. " I will whisper it across : seven hundred
florins ! No money at all ! You will drive out with
those horses, and you will say to your friends, ' These
are horses of a thousand florins/ and they will believe
you ; and you will remember that it was the factor
Aitzig Majulik who got you those horses."
"Hold your chattering tongue," broke in Kazi-
mir, losing patience. "What is the height of these
paragons ? "
" If you ask me what is their height, I will say it
is fifteen -one; but when you look at those horses
you will say that they are twice fifteen-one. Those
horses have got a leg — gracious Pan ! — a leg " and
Aitzig Majulik, whose rhetoric apparently could fur-
nish no epithet worthy of describing the leg which
those horses had, closed his eyes and smacked his
ONE OF THE KNAVES. 61
withered lips with an expression of exquisite ap-
" Fifteen-one is no height at all," remarked Kazimir.
" If you could see those horses lift their legs, noble
gentlemen, you would not say that fifteen-one is no
height. They lift their legs in this manner : " and
Aitzig, having recourse to illustration, began stepping
round the room, with his slippered feet drawn up
alternately to an impossible height.
" Where are these horses to be seen ? "
" It is only two hours to drive in a sledge," said the
Jew, pausing in his high-bred stepping.
" Of course no one will be mad enough to give
seven hundred florins for a pair of carriage-horses/'
said Lucyan, quietly. " If the price had been named
at four hundred, the matter might have been con-
sidered." Lucyan knew perfectly well that when the
Jew said seven hundred he meant six, or perhaps less ;
and the Jew was equally aware that Lucyan's four
hundred meant a hundred or so upwards.
" Four hundred !" Aitzig Majulik indulged in a sort
of cackling sound — a sickly attempt at a laugh. The
gracious gentlemen were pleased to be merry this
evening, they were only joking with poor old Aitzig.
Four hundred ! He could hardly recover from the
shock. Even when he had said seven hundred, it
had been against his conscience.
62 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Might his body be burnt in deepest hell-fires if the
horses were not worth one thousand florins ! One
thousand ! What was he saying ? One thousand
live hundred should be their price. Might his name
be no longer Aitzig Majulik if those horses were not
grand horses, and if they were not worth one thousand
five hundred florins ! — and so on, and so on ; the poor
wretch went on talking himself hoarse, for the sake of
the couple of florins he would get from either party,
should the bargain be concluded.
Kazimir broke in again, with questions about age
" If one of the gentlemen would drive out himself
to Pan Eogdanovics, he would see with his own
eyes ! "
" Eogdanovics," repeated Bielinski. " No, that will
not do. I cannot have any transactions with him/'
" Why, have you quarrelled with the man, father ? "
asked Kazimir. " Is he your enemy ? "
" He was my best friend once," said Bielinski, " and
that is the very reason."
Kazimir had never so realised his father's morbid
dislike to seeing a known face.
Aitzig was wringing his hands and swaying his
body at the thought of the florins escaping him.
" Wai, wai ! " he groaned piteously ; but with the per-
sistence of a bull-dog, — " they are grand horses," I say.
ONE OF THE KNAVES. 63
" May Aitzig Majulik be buried in a nameless grave if
they are not grand horses ! Aitzig is but a poor old
man who desires to serve the gracious Panowie, and
who works for his bread with his hands; he is not
one of those fortunate among the children of Abra-
ham, who are blessed with luck, such as is Naftali
"Hold your tongue," interrupted Lucyan, sternly,
— for the superior luck of Naftali Taubenkiibel was a
perpetually sore subject with Aitzig, and one on which
he was apt to become overpoweringly loquacious.
" But, father," said Kazimir — not out of regard for
the Jew's feelings, but because the prospect of inspect-
ing a pair of young horses was a congenial one — " you
need not meet your old friend. Let me drive over and
look at them."
" Y.es, let him drive over and look at them," moaned
the Jew in the background.
"Let him drive over and look at them," echoed
Marcin, worn out with the effort of listening ; " any
thing for a quiet life, I say."
Bo£umil resisted no further. Kazimir should drive
over as soon as the road was passable for a sledge. It
might be to-morrow or the next day. Aitzig Majulik,
seeing things in this promising vein, glided from the
room ; and went off to sing the praises of a faultless
cook, to an old lady, five miles distant ; to buy up old
G4 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
clothes from another, and to offer money at 120 per
cent to a young scamp of the neighbourhood. Though
he should get no supper to-night, he will be happy, as
he chews his garlic, to think that his pains of to-day
must bring him in a few greasy paper florins.
To-morrow, at early dawn, he will find some corner
in a peasant-cart on its way to Lodniki, and he will
assure Eogdanovics that no other factor but Aitzig
Majulik could have procured him such a splendid
price as five hundred and fifty florins for his two raw
" By the way, Kazimir," said Lucyan, later in the
evening, "why did you not think of asking old
Aitzig for the names of your two fair acquaintances
in the snow ? If they are not mere creations of your
fancy, he is sure to know them/'
" I did not think of it," said Kazimir, excitedly — and
he left the room in hopes of discovering Aitzig still
lingering about the premises. But Aitzig was far
away by that time ; having already concluded a satis-
factory bargain with the old lady for her old clothes,
and having received fifty kreutzers for his trouble
in procuring a cook — to say nothing of having been
kicked out of a third house by the indignant father
of the young scamp.
" He is gone," said Kazimir, coming back discour-
ONE OF THE KNAVES. 65
aged. "But," as an idea struck him, "who is that
Eogdanovics who has the horses ? "
" Has he daughters besides horses ? you mean,"
completed Lucyan, laughing in his own peculiar
manner. "Yes, I believe he has, but only one."
" Are you quite sure ? " asked Kazimir, ruefully.
" Have you ever seen her ? "
" Never, mon ami; but I am quite sure — only one."
TWO OF THE QUEENS.
" We were two daughters of one race,
She was the fairest in the face."
Two girls are talking in their room. A large apart-
ment littered with evidences of a very feminine
presence ; such things as French fashion-plates, lace
handkerchiefs, several pairs of shoes and stockings,
a fan or two, and a hat which must surely have seen
Paris in its day. The good days of that hat are past
now ; it has been tossed aside, and lies suffocated by
a heavy fur muff, weighing down its once crisp and
curling feather. Here on a chair lies a fan, with its
white ivory bones starting from its pink silk skin ;
its broken pinions, incapable of raising the faintest
breath of air now, droop helpless and dejected. The
delicate white stockings, with cunningly traced silk
clocks, are unimpeachable as to quality, but hardly so
as to conservation and colour. The shoes, which lie in
TWO OF THE QUEENS. G7
a miscellaneous heap, satin and kid, amicably blended,
have some of them left muddy marks on the floor;
and though the marks are two days old, they have not
been thought worth removing. In one corner there
lies a soiled primrose glove, turned inside out, and
abandoned by its wearer, as well as by its fellow.
The two girls who are carrying on conversation in
the midst of this picturesque disorder, look perfectly
at home and perfectly in keeping with it. One of
them is sitting before the glass, the other is reclining
on a chaise longue, wrapped in a flowing dressing-gown.
They are very like each other ; from a little distance,
and at certain moments, you might mistake them for
each other. Yet there is a difference between them,
only one difference, but a might}' one ; one of them is
plain, and the other is beautiful.
The girl on the sofa has got chestnut-brown hair,
of a peculiarly bright tint. Just now it floats down
unbound, in ruffled waves, with here and there a
thread of ruddier gold, where it catches the light. Her
face is a narrow oval, tenderly tinted, and delicate
almost to transparency, blue veins wandering on the
white temples; a little mouth, red and fresh as a
flower. The blue eyes are large and full of light —
more luminous than deep, more beseeching than com-
manding. A perishable hothouse flower she looks,
scarcely suited to this land of ice and snows. And
68 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR.
yet she is a blossom which could have sprung out of
no other but that rugged stem ; she is most distinctly
Polish. The cast of her features proclaims it, as does
also the exquisite finish, if I ma}^ say so, in every
detail of her beauty. She lies with her hands clasped
under her head, and her feet in loose slippers, appear-
ing from under the pale-coloured dressing-gown, which
falls in clinging folds all down her tall slight figure.
This dressing-gown is of a pale lavender colour, much
streaked and faded, showing the original tints only
where the seams are sprung, which they are both on
shoulders and arms ; very deficient as to buttons and
hooks, the elaborate trimming held to its place some-
times by nothing more than a weak yielding pin.
Not a becoming dress, certainly ; but it would take
much to disfigure that face and form.
The girl who sits before the glass is attired in a
loose white dressing-jacket and petticoat; both of
which have lost their first, their very first freshness.
She, like the other, has a pale face and brown hair,
and a tall figure. But the paleness here strikes not as
flower-like, but as sallow ; the hair has the shades, but
it has not the bright chestnut lights of the other's ; the
eyes are grey, not blue. What an irony of nature
to make two faces so alike, and so different ! There
is hardly any reason why this one should not be as
beautiful as the other is ; and yet no one has ever
TWO OF THE QUEENS. 69
called her as much as comely. A duller tint of the
hair, a shade less crimson in the lips, a harder line
about the chin, a mere suggestion of greater robust-
ness in the figure, have robbed the elder of that
bewitching ensemble which constitutes the beauty of
" I do not think it is worth while dressing to-day,"
says the fair wearer of the lilac dressing-gown, yawn-
ing for the third time in five minutes. " Don't you
think so, Vizia? My cough is still so bad." She
breaks off, and burying her face in a silk handker-
chief, coughs a low, subdued little cough, and then
throwing back her head on her arms again, closes
her eyes exhausted.
" Your cough is not nearly so bad as you make it
out," says Vizia, from behind the shower of hair which
she is busied in brushing out.
" I cannot help it," answers the other meekly.
" What is the pleasure of staying on a sofa all day?"
inquires the other a little impatiently.
" What is the pleasure of getting off it, I wonder ? "
with another yawn. " There is nothing to do. I have
read through all the feuilletons in the fashion papers,
three times each ; I can't play the piano in that cold
room ; I have got no letters to write, and nobody has
written to me. I should only bore myself to death
70 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR.
" There is only half the day remaining to bore your-
self in, at any rate. It has struck twelve. Don't you
want any dinner, Xenia ? "
"But I had breakfast only two hours ago," says
Xenia, pushing away the tray on the table beside
her, where cold remains of coffee and stale scraps of
bread still linger. " My appetite is quite gone, ever
since that dreadful night in the snow. I wonder who
that officer was who helped us up the hill! Don't
Vizia continued brushing her hair in silence.
" How well he spoke Polish ! But what a pity there
was nobody to introduce him to us ! It would have
been so much less awkward, wouldn't it? I hope I
did not pinch his arm too much," continued Xenia,
kicking off her slippers, and crossing her small feet,
one over the other, on the edge of the sofa. " I should
not have done so if I had known that he was an officer;
but then I was so frightened ! "
" Xenia, this is ridiculous ! " broke in the elder girl,
turning from the glass. " You have kept harping upon
your hardships and your fears as if you alone had
been the sufferer. Was / not cold? was I not wet
— yes, and frightened too, as well as you ? "
Xenia's under lip came out with a decided pout ;
her chin sank down.
" How unkind of you, Vizia ! I cannot help it ; I
TWO OF THE QUEENS. 71
am not as strong as you." The pouting red lips
quivered, and something glistened for a moment in
the corner of each blue eye. In the next instant the
quickly risen tears were stealing down the folds of
the soiled lilac flannel.
That shade of angry colour which had sprung to
Vizia's cheek melted quickly — that hard look on her
face softened on the instant. The brush was flung on
the table, whence it slipped unnoticed to the floor,
but fell on soft ground luckily, for the folds of a silk
mantle received it in their midst.
" Xenia, what a wretch I am ! " She was on her
knees beside the sofa ; with one hand pulling away
the lace handkerchief which Xenia had pressed to her
eyes, with the other stroking the shining chestnut hair
in pitiful tenderness.
" Forgive me, my own Xenia — my only, beautiful
Xenia; I cannot see you cry."
The lace handkerchief was removed by this time ;
the blue eyes smiled out through a soft veil of mois-
ture. Vizia's arms were round Xenia's neck ; the dull
brown hair and the bright brown hair hung together,
mixed for a moment.
" Do not mind what I said — forget it, Xenia," whis-
pered Vizia. " I have not an angel's temper like
yours ! "
Peace was established between smiles and tears.
72 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Xenia lay back again on her sofa, while a sob now
and then still quivered through her frame. Vizia rose
from her knees, hunted for her brush on the table, and
not finding it, took another and returned to her work
of brushing. As she met her own eyes in the glass,
some shade of bitterness came over her again.
Oh yes ! she too had been frightened and cold like
Xenia; — but she was not Xenia. She had no right
to the pity which would be given to the beautiful
Xenia. She was not, in the vulgar sense of the
word, jealous of that frail loveliness, which called
forth homage everywhere — oh no, — she worshipped
the delicate flower too deeply to admit of real envy.
Vizia had never tasted that intoxicating homage ; she
had stood by and seen the incense burned to another,
and she had been used to this from childhood. But
yet there would come moments when her heart rose
in rebellion at this injustice of nature. She would
look in the glass and scan her features, wondering
why she was not beautiful like Xenia. Had she not
the same features, the same figure almost, the same
hair ? She had missed beauty by an inch, by a line,
by a mere shade of colour, and for all her days she
was doomed to the fate of a plain woman. Yes, it
" Vizia, why are you sighing ? " asked Xenia,
TWO OF THE QUEENS. 73
" I am not sighing."
Another silence. Xenia gazed down pensively at
the little pink toe, which peeped impertinently rosy
from the point of her embroidered stocking.
"Don't you wish that some one would come and
visit us ? "
" But the roads are blocked with snow."
" They are not blocked any longer. Mariska says
it is a beautiful sledge road. Perhaps some one will
come to-day. We have so few visits here."
" We had two visits last week," corrected Vizia.
" Yes, but they were both old ladies. Don't you
think old ladies are dull?" objected Xenia, looking
down again at the coquettish pink toe, which was
slowly but surely working its way out, to the in-
creasing destruction of the embroidered stocking. " I
should like somebody more amusing."
" But what is the good of their coming, since you
are too ill to leave the sofa ? " laughed Vizia,
" I like living in a town so much better," continued
the other, not hearing. " I used to see people there
every day, and here I see nobody; and oh, Vizia,
Pawel says that he heard a wolf howl in the forest
two nights ago. Only fancy, we might have been
eaten by wolves the other night!"
74 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" I hardly think so," said Vizia, who, having slipped
into her dress, stood now with her fingers on the
door-handle. I must go now, Xenia, and give out
hasza for the servants, and I have not seen papa
" And I am to stay alone — all alone 1 "
" Listen ; what is that ? " interrupted Vizia, pausing.
There was the faint sound of a tinkle floating towards
them from the white landscape outside.
" It is a sledge coming this way," said Vizia, stand-
ing at the window, and rubbing the frozen pane with
her handkerchief. Xenia rose languidly to her elbow,
while they both listened and waited.
" Can you see it yet ? "
" No, it has not turned the corner ; yes — there it
" A peasant - sledge ? But the bells have such a
The tinkle rang out clearly now through the winter
air, louder every instant. Then it lessened, then it
burst upon their ears close at hand ; they could hear
the dull tramp of the horses.
" What is it like ? " questioned Xenia.
" It is not a peasant-sledge," said Vizia, craning her
neck as she held back the curtain. "There is only
one person in it. I think I see a bonnet."
" Another old lady ! " sighed Xenia, sinking back.
TWO OF THE QUEENS. 75
"Yes,— no, it is not a bonnet — it is a gentleman.
He is driving straight to the house."
" A visitor ! An amusing visitor ! Thank heavens ! "
cried Xenia, springing off the sofa electrified, all the
languor replaced by a childlike eagerness of tone and
mien. " I don't think I am too ill to dress. Where
are my shoes ? — where is my comb ? — where is Mariska
to do up my hair ? — where is my new silk dress ? "
" Shall I put on my new silk dress, too ? " asked
Vizia, eyeing herself doubtfully in the glass.
" Oh yes, let us both put them on ; they look bet-
ter together," said Xenia, eagerly, while hunting for
a truant garter among the miscellaneous burdens of
chairs and tables.
No, it did not matter what she put on, concluded
Vizia, turning from the glass. Silk would not make
her prettier to look at than wool.
But now it was Xenia who paused before the
" Boze ! What a fright I look ! " she exclaimed,
regarding her fair image with an expression of the
most exquisite disgust.
She did not look a fright by any means ; only her
eyes were one degree less bright, and there was a
shade more pink upon her nose than was strictly
" Vizia, how can I show myself with this cold ? "
76 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" I have a cold too."
" Yes, but " Perhaps Xenia dimly felt that
there was a difference. A plain woman with a cold
can only be a shade more plain, whereas a beauty
with a cold might just miss being a beauty ; and for
a beauty, who is nothing but a beauty, what darker
fate could there be ?
So, as Vizia, in her plain woollen dress, left the
room, Xenia sank back on her sofa, shedding a few
silent tears on her lavander dressing-gown, at the
thought of this self-imposed imprisonment, and half
wavering in her resolution, as the sound of bustling-
footsteps outside reached her ear.
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KIXG.
There came a youth from Georgia's shore,
A military casque he wore,
With splendid feathers dress'd.
And with him many tales he brought
Of pleasure and of fear.
Such tales as told to any maid,
By such a youth in the green shade,
Were perilous to hear. "
Two days after the interview with Aitzig Majulik,
Kazimir was awoke in the morning by the welcome
intelligence that the road to Lodniki was passable.
All the long hours of the night before last, the wind
had slept, while the snow had come down softly,
patching up deficient places, filling up holes, and
making the whole uneven texture even. Now the
peasant-sledges had cut their way through, the sanna
droga, the sledge -road for the winter, was moulded
into shape. A sledge-road with us means a welcome
change from the monotony of wheels, a good excuse
78 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
for some gay freak, or an easy opportunity for display.
With the Poles it means something different, — not an
amusement, but almost a necessity. It means dis-
tances cut down to half their length — business and
traffic deprived of half their trouble ; an event ex-
pected with anxiety.
Kazimir, impatient for a change after two days' im-
prisonment, was soon out of the house and in motion,
his sledge-bells tinkling with each step of the horses.
It was the last time, he hoped, that he should drive
with hired horses, for he felt sanguine as to his mis-
sion to-day. He was in high spirits altogether. The
winter sunshine, which had broken its way at last,
stared down from a pale-blue cloudless sky, pouring
light-floods over the earth.
Kazimir's road led down the centre of the garden ;
then, as the garden on either side died off without
definite limits, the road ran up the gradual but rocky
slope, and plunged into the woods beyond, — the great
deep forest, which seemed to be everywhere, and to
lead everywhere. But before turning his horses' heads
in that direction, he had a glimpse of the open country
at the other side ; a white world of fields and roads
and hills, all spotless and untouched, stretching in
snowy widespread waves to the horizon ; all giving
back the sun's light with blinding brightness; with
silver sparks struck here and there, and diamond-dust
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 79
scattered everywhere. The windows of the low house
blazed as though they were on fire.
As Kazimir drove towards the forest, he could trace
footsteps of some animal, coming from between the
trees, crossing and recrossing over the flower-beds.
Hungry foxes, no doubt, driven to dig for roots.
In the forest it was lonely, and on a dull day
would be dark ; but to-day the silver sunshine peered
through the branches, and the blue sky showed be-
tween the tree-tops. The green leaves, which in
summer so jealously curtained the entrance to the
forest sanctuaries, were lying dead and buried under
the snow ; and at either side the eye could plunge into
a vista of retreating stems. Every branch and bush
was laden with snow ; every tree-hollow was filled to
overflowing ; every tiny twig which could hold a snow-
flake, had its load. The thorny arches of wild- rose
bushes, which in summer flowered pink, now nodded
under white burdens. There were more tracks of
animals here, passing in and out between the trees,
but there was no life, except when at times a soli-
tary bird, startled by the approach of the sledge,
darted from its perch, while the recoiling twig, with a
spring upwards, shook itself free of the clinging flakes.
Neither was there any sound in the wood, but an occa-
sional fall of snow, as some overladen branch dis-
charged its burden on the white carpet below.
80 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
It was all a new experience to Kazimir. He had
been so long away from his country, that he had
grown almost to forget the delights of this gliding
magical swiftness with which they were flying along
close to the hard surface. The frost was keen; the
breath of the tramping horses curled away like smoke
into the sharp air. Kazimir, muffled up to his ears,
and buried down to his toes in fur, heartily pitied the
poor driver, whose ears from pink had became red, and
from red were fast turning purple. Leaning back in
luxurious enjoyment of the motion, he drank in intoxi-
cating draughts of the pure winter air, and feasted his
eyes on the sparkles which hung on every branch,
and which flew away in shivers from under the
The thought which had underlain all other thoughts
during these last three days, rose now to the surface
of his mind, with a sanguine hope, engendered by
the brightness of this white winter day. Surely fate
had something good in store for him — surely his cards
were all trumps to-day — surely he would recover the
clue to those two rescued sisters, whom he had seen
so dimly and so vaguely.
Tinkle, tinkle came the sound of another sledge-
bell along the road. Kazimir's spirit leapt up in
hope. It seemed so easy to hope in the midst of this
glittering splendour. Why should not that sledge con-
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 81
tain the solution to the mystery ? He leant eagerly
out. Alas ! only a rude wooden construction, with
half-a-dozen peasants, men and women, huddled to-
gether on the top of it; while the two little rough
koniki tore along madly through the snow, their
clotted manes shaking with each step, their sides
rubbed bare into streaks of shining leather by the
friction of the hard rope-harness.
Kazimir sank back disappointed, and in the same
moment experienced a chill of another description;
for a shower of snow came flying down from a branch
overhead, and treated the passing traveller to a cold
and unwelcome embrace. There were no more false
hopes either raised or crushed before they emerged
from the forest road, and found themselves close to
the term of their journey.
Lodniki would have been in many respects the
ideal of an American settler's hut. The large low
building, with some smaller buildings to the rear,
stood in a sort of bay of the great forest ; which bay
had evidently been but lately cleared — witness the
unevenness of the ground, where tree -stumps and
roots stood close together, and where trunks of forest-
trees lay at their length in the snow. The house itself
was turned with its face towards a vista of sloping
The back buildings appeared to have been planned
VOL. I. F
82 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
on a large scale; but most of them were unfinished,
and roughly roofed-in for the winter. There was a
-shadowy indication of something traced out on the
ground, hedged -in in a necessitous fashion, which
something might be destined to be in future a garden.
Everything bore the stamp of the new and the un-
finished. In an open shed some agricultural machines
stood covered with straw, peacefully sleeping their
winter sleep. Two large watch-dogs, with their hair
hanging in unkempt fringes all over them, received
the stranger noisily and savagely.
Before Kazimir could struggle out of his furs, the
host had appeared at the door, and, amidst smiles and
bows, warmly invited the visitor in. No matter that
he was a total stranger; to ask for hospitality in
Poland is to receive it.
There was so much warmth in Bogdanovics's man-
ner already, that there seemed scarcely room for more
when he learned that this stranger was hardly a
stranger, being the son of his old friend Bielinski,
with whom in old days he had gambled, and hunted,
and passed his time in so many other pleasant, if
unprofitable, ways. Was this really the little Kazimir
whom he remembered in a short green jacket and a
wide white collar, whom he had once protected against
Bogumil for some boyish offence, — it was running his
toy-sword through a picture, if he remembered right ?
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 83
Ah, well, that was long ago ; and what a pity it was
that Bogumil had made such a hermit of himself!
He, Rogdanovics, had only bought this estate, some
months ago ; but he had not ventured to intrude.
Kazimir could hardly get to the explanation of his
errand, so delighted and so talkative was the old
Of two or three long narrow buildings, half stables,
half sheds, Eogdanovics's breeding establishment con-
sisted. There is rarely a Polish Panic who does not
in a small way dabble in horse-breeding; but Rog-
danovics's experiments had been more extensive. His
mind was eminently of the sanguinely speculative
order. The horses, all huddled together, showed every
stage of youthful rawness, from long-legged foals to
tall unfinished colts. There was a general sound of
chewing, and an occasional stamp on the straw-covered
ground, — a peasant-groom was carrying about some-
thing hot and steaming in a pail.
The choking atmosphere notwithstanding, Kazimir
lingered long in each shed ; but his errand was not
destined to be accomplished to-day, for one of the
carriage-horses was away to be shod. The solitary
specimen visible was so far from coming up to Aitzig
Majulik's epithet of * grand," that Kazimir, doubt-
ful about the bargain, was glad of the excuse of
84 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" That will insure me another visit," said Kog-
danovics, as they walked towards the house. His
humour was waxing more radiant every minute. He
grew communicative as to his life, past, present, and
" Ah ! you must come and see me in summer, when
my fields will be in bloom," he said, button-holing
Kazimir on the door-step ; " it will be a pleasure to
look at them then," waving his hand towards the
vista of fields. "Every one of these tree-stumps is
going to be cleared off this year. I have heard of a
new machine, a brilliant speculation; extracts these
roots as neatly as teeth. See, there is my garden — my
future garden. To the left I shall grow asparagus and
artichokes. Artichokes have never succeeded yet in
this country, but I am ready to wager that mine will
succeed. To the right my daughter shall have her
" Have you only got one daughter ? " put in Kazimir,
with a faint glimmer of hope.
" Only one daughter. I suppose you can't give me
any advice about steam-ploughs ? I am hesitating
between two kinds ; there are pros and cons on both
" I am afraid I know nothing about steam-ploughs,"
said Kazimir, crest-fallen.
" To be sure, you are a soldier. But you shiver —
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 85
come, and I will introduce you to my daughter at
The drawing-room was a larger room than at Wowa-
sulka, and bearing evidences of greater wealth. Tables,
chairs, and sofas, were rich and solid ; and though
there were nothing but tables, chairs, and sofas, with-
out any of these accessories which in an English
room speak of occupation and habitation, still it was
unmistakably the room of a rich man. On one table
there stood a vase with a faded bouquet.
The daughter could not have been unprepared for
the summons, for she quickly appeared. She had a
plain brown dress on and a scarlet shawl wrapped
round her ; she had grey eyes and smooth brown hair.
She inclined her head stiffly, but in the same moment
she glanced at the visitor furtively and curiously.
Kazimir, meeting that glance, wondered what it meant.
There was nothing either in her height or in her figure
which forbade the possibility of her having been one
of those two distressed damsels in the snow ; but yet
Kazimir felt himself touched by none but the very
faintest feeling of recognition ; and when he heard the
name of Vizia, his interest all but collapsed.
"You have not got a sister, mademoiselle?" he
inquired, nevertheless, after they were seated at table,
and were attacking their pink beetroot-soup, the much-
famed Barscz of Poland. There was a fourth plate of
80 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
pink soup on the table, which must belong, Kazimir
thought, to some poor relative ; one of those nonde-
script hangers-on, old aunts, or penniless cousins, who,
in almost every Polish family, are allowed a corner
and a plate under the patriarchal roof.
Kazimir had been observing Vizia, and it had struck
him more forcibly that, after all, she might have been
one of those two damsels — the least interesting, of
course, if either.
" Certainly I have got no sister," answered Vizia,
raising her eyebrows perceptibly.
"Not a younger sister?" persisted Kazimir, dis-
regarding every previous assurance he had had to
" Certainly not," repeated the lady with a shade
more primness, perhaps because Kazimir had laid
such a stress on the adjective used.
" That was a fearful snowstorm the other night,"
was Kazimir's next attempt. " I hope you were not
in it?" He looked at the daughter, but the father
broke in —
" Not I ; I have better things to do than that.
My time is gold, you know. I had plenty to do in
stowing away potatoes for the winter. I have a
capital in potatoes lying in that barn "—pointing with
his fork out of the window. " Anything will grow in
land like this ; every spadeful turns up gold, I say —
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 87
ha ! ha ! A spade is all a man needs to make his
fortune with here." Eogdanovics patted his fork as
approvingly as though it had been the vaunted spade,
and dug it vigorously into the viand before him.
w But the people are fools. I am going to grow rice
next year ; it will be a grand speculation. I suppose
you cannot give me any hints about systems of sow-
ing ? How do they do it where you are stationed,
down in Tyrol ? "
" I am afraid I never noticed," confessed Kazimir.
Here the talk was interrupted by the domestic
Pawel, who serenely announced that there was only
one partridge for three people. Pawel was a brisk
young fellow, wearing yellow livery gaiters, and a
green and grey jacket, which gave to the upper half
of his person a doubtfully sporting character.
" Ah ! our larder is getting low in this weather,"
remarked the host, with undisturbed equanimity.
" We had plenty of partridges a fortnight ago. Are
you a sportsman ? Pity you were not here last week.
Got fifty head of game in two days."
" Fifty-three," corrected Pawel from the side-table.
" Well, Pawel, I suppose you know best. You were
our crack gun that day. You shot that five-antlered
" Seven - antlered," rectified Pawel, brimming over
88 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" The snow has spoiled the sport, you see," said
" And the foxes eat my hens," said Vizia,
" Just wait till the cold has given them confidence,
and I am ready to wager that we shall get rid of them
Thus conversation flowed on; but it was scarcely
more than a monologue, carried on by Eogdanovics.
It was hard to show interest in the lists of agricul-
tural machines, and in the hundred and one specula-
tive schemes upon which Eogdanovics proceeded to
expatiate. There was a fortune to be gained by doing
something to the marshy stream in the meadows ;
there were thousands of florins lying dormant in the
wool of unborn lambs ; he had some splendid system
for feeding cows upon beetroot - refuse which would
instantly double the supply of milk and butter ; and
as for the forest ! why, there were millions staring
the people in the face, if they were not too blind to
see it. But he, Eogdanovics, would show them the
way. He was not going to sit with his hands tied in
the midst of all this untold wealth, only waiting to be
gathered. And then, crowning point of all, there was
the railway ; a railway in the clouds as yet, but it
would come down to the earth some day. And thus
on and on Eogdanovics pranced and curveted on his
private hobby-horse — never pausing to reflect that
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 89
the paces of that hobby-horse might interest the
spectators less than they did the rider. He was of a
genial nature ; a well-wisher towards every one of his
fellow-creatures — except, perhaps, towards an incon-
venient neighbour, who happened to possess a more
successful mowing-machine, or a higher breed of pigs
than his own, — but yet, Eogdanovics's best wishes
were always for himself.
It was almost a relief when, after dinner, the talka-
tive host, having caught sight of some irregular pro-
ceeding in the courtyard, left the room precipitately.
Kazimir drew a long breath; it was a pleasant
change to be able to talk ; and for the last twenty
minutes he had heard his own voice only in solitary
and far isolated monosyllables.
" Do you take one or two lumps of sugar in your
coffee ? " said a voice from the table over there. Vizia
was pouring out the coffee. Kazimir left the window.
" Two, if you please."
The hand which held out the coffee-cup was a well-
shaped white hand, — Kazimir's eyes travelled up
further. She was not so very bad-looking after all.
If her complexion wanted freshness, it was at least
pure ; the grey eyes were well set ; the colour of her
plain brown hair harmonised with her plain brown
dress. She was neither pretty in face nor particularly
attractive in manner. It would require positive at-
90 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
tractions of mind to redeem her from the imputation
of being a commonplace woman ; but Kazimir did not
belong to that class of men who, on first beholding a
woman, set to work instantly to analyse and classify
her charms and her defects. Every face has, we
are told, its caricature and its ideal ; and it lay in
Kazimir's nature unconsciously to look for the ideal
rather than for the caricature.
" Your father seems to be heart and soul in his
farming," said Kazimir, as he sipped his coffee.
" He is always heart and soul in whatever he does,"
said Vizi a, almost with apology." He cannot help it."
•• Why should he help it? what can be better than
energy ? "
u But it does not do to see all couleur de rose."
" Better than seeing everything black," said Kazimir,
smiling. He himself very much preferred the rose-
colour to the black.
Yizia smiled too. The first crust of etiquette was
beginning to yield. The want of the sweet and smil-
ing element in her nature had made her stiffer and
primmer at first than even Polish etiquette demand-
ed, but it was difficult to keep stiff with Kazimir
" But there are a great many shades between rose-
coloured and black ; now papa's fields, and horses, and
lambs are always pure rose-coloured in perspective."
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 91
" I have got no fields and lambs, but my horses are
always rose-coloured too."
" Even when they are black ? "
" Even when they are black," said Kazimir, and he
laughed. His laugh was so infectious that another
shade of stiffness melted from Vizia's manner. First
she smiled, then she laughed ; and after that they felt
that their friendship had made a stride. There is
nothing which brings people so quickly together as a
little nonsense. Half an hour's sedate conversation
will not do as much as one harmless though possibly
" I hope you do not much dislike hearing about spades
and ploughs," said Vizia, putting down her coffee-cup.
" No ; although they are not the things that I
earnestly dote upon. I hope it is not rude and
selfish to say so. Are you going to tell me more
about them ? " This a little anxiously ; for this con-
versation was so pleasant, that somehow he dreaded a
revival of the plough and cattle subject.
" You had too much of them at dinner," said Vizia,
not as a question, but as an assertion. She was look-
ing at him straight, and Kazimir thought that he had
never seen so straight and unwavering a gaze, with
something of defiance, too, in its very candour. It
would be hard to dissemble under that full gaze, but
Kazimir did not think of dissembling.
92 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" I had rather more than I was prepared for, if I
may say so. I have a deep reverence for agricultural
instruments, but I do not think that I know a sickle
from a spade. The sword is the only blade for me."
" A Pole should wear none but a Polish sword,"
" Mademoiselle Yizia, we shall quarrel about this
if we go on. If you say one word against my pro-
fession, we can never be friends."
" You are enthusiastic," she said, looking up at him.
"You could be as enthusiastic about your sword as
papa about his ploughs."
" Yes, and I could talk about it by the hour."
" Then why don't you ? "
" Take care ! you don't know what you are bring-
ing down upon your own head. You have no notion
what I am when I get on that subject. Lucyan never
listens, and Marcin always goes to sleep. It would
weary you most awfully."
" I shall tell you when you begin to weary me."
" Thank you ; that is so kind," said Kazimir, grate-
fully. Her tone had been quite matter-of-fact ; but
Kazimir's heart warmed instantly at the half-implied
invitation. He did not wait for a second. He talked,
and she listened and questioned ; and after ten min-
utes of discussion and description did not look weary
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 93
"And you see that we can be friends in spite of
my hussar-cording \ " asked Kazimir, at the end of
those ten minutes. He wanted to be friends with her,
as he wanted to be friends with everybody.
" Yes ; we need not be enemies on that account,"
said Vizia, with a warm flush on her cheek. He
really did not look as if he wanted to be her enemy.
" We need not even quarrel any more."
" Have we been quarrelling ? "
" Well, I think we were nearly quarrelling about
spades and sickles."
" Yes, because I said I had no opinion of them."
" But you are wrong to despise them, even from a
soldier's point of view. In almost every national war
they have played a part."
" By national wars you mean revolutions ? "
" Yes ; and in revolutions the sickle has many times
done the work of the sword. I hope it may do so
for us still."
" I hope not," said Kazimir, excitedly, for the sub-
ject was near to his heart ; " that would be folly,
" You talk as if you were not a Pole ! "
"lama Pole, but an enlightened one."
" That means a cold one."
" That does not mean a cold one," said Kazimir,
springing from his chair and pacing the room. " Made-
94 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
moiselle Vizia, it seems we are going to quarrel again,
" Then, will you fight with us when we rise, as
surely we shall rise some day ? " asked Vizia, with
a quick turn of her head, for the subject lay near
her heart too. She looked at him as if she almost
thought that if he did fight with them, their cause
might have a chance of being crowned.
" I cannot, for I am an Austrian soldier."
" And yet you are a Polish patriot."
" That is just what they all said to me at the time.
and a hard time it was to me," said Kazimir, stopping
beside the table.
" What time ? " said Vizia, anxious to hear more.
" I will tell you, if you like. In '48, my regiment
was in Dukla ; and the second division was stationed
some miles off. You know, I daresay, that the moment
the revolution began, the Hungarian ministry called
in all Hungarian regiments. They sent the order to
us too ; to the colonel first, but he did not publish it ;
then to the major commanding the second division.
He published it, and the second division went mad
on the spot."
" And you went mad with them ? "
" Xo, I did not — perhaps because I was not a Hun-
garian; although there were Poles and Bohemians
among them who went quite as mad as any Hun-
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 95
garian. Our turn would come, they said; this was
the beginuing of universal liberty ; help them and they
would help us, &c. Some of them had doubts, but
they managed to argue and drink themselves up to
the point, except one unfortunate man with a con-
science, who shot himself, because he could not make
up his mind whether he would be behaving like a
great hero, or like a great blackguard, if he went. For
my part I never could see where the difficulty lay, nor
what there was to argue about. ' Either they meant
to break their oath of allegiance or they did not. I
did not mean to break mine, so I stayed. It never
puzzled me for a moment, but it hurt me for many
" And how many stayed altogether ? "
" How many 1 Oh, nobody else stayed of my
division. I stood behind a tree and watched them
ride off one splendid autumn morning ; they were all
singing and shouting : and when I had seen the last
sword glitter, and heard the last hoof-fall die away, I
turned back, and, Mademoiselle Vizia — I "
" I cried," he finished with half-comical pathos. " 1
was very young, remember — scarcely seventeen; the
youngest lieutenant in the regiment. Please don't
laugh at me."
Vizia was not laughing; she was not quite sure
96 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
whether she was so very far from crying herself. He
had told the story with such perfect simplicity, with
such an utter want of self-consciousness, that it was
impossible to suspect him of attempting to attitudinise
as a hero. It was, in fact, the first time he had ever
told the story at all.
"But I was right to stay, was I not?" asked
Vizia' s nationality was struggling with some other
feeling in her breast. She did not say whether he had
been right or whether he had been wrong, but entirely
on impulse she put out her hand to him, and Kazimir
" And if it had been a Polish regiment ? " she asked
with a not quite steady smile, and in a voice which
might have been made hoarse either by emotion or
by her cold ; " and a Polish revolution, which you
were called upon to help?"
" Then perhaps I should have cried a little harder,"
said Kazimir, half laughing and half moved ; and quite
as impulsively as Vizia had held out her hand, Kazimir
raised it and kissed it.
At this very moment the door opened, and Eog-
danovics put in his head.
" I am a shameful host, Bielinski ; but they are all
tearing me to pieces outside. I hope Vizia is doing
her part better. Aha! yes, I think she is, — better
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 97
than I could have hoped," with a chuckle of delight.
" You will excuse me for another five minutes ; the
new guano has just arrived."
He was gone again, before any answer could be made.
Vizia had hastily withdrawn her hand, and moved
her head distinctly upwards. The twinkle in her
father's eye had alarmed her pride. Why should she
allow herself to treat this man as an old friend, when,
after all, he was but a stranger ? This tete-a-tete was
altogether irregular ; an infringement of Polish eti-
quette. It was very disagreeable ; or at least it ought
to be very disagreeable. Vizia bit her lip with vexa-
tion, and, as a sort of tacit protest against further
intimacy, put her hand into her pocket and drew out
a pair of pale kid gloves. Kid gloves, even though
slightly soiled, were the best protection against a
" Please do not be angry with me," said Kazimir, as
he watched her proceedings with a puzzled air ; " but
you remind me a little of a lady whom I met the other
" Eeally ? " said Vizia, with forced coldness ; care-
fully drawing on her gloves. She was conscientiously
trying to freeze back into the icicle she had been at
" Yes really ; a lady who wore gloves like these, —
only I think her hair was lighter than yours."
VOL. I. G
98 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Oh, I daresay ! " How hard and unamiable her
voice sounded now !
" But you have no sister." He said it with a sort
of vague hope that there might be a sister concealed
Vizia hesitated for one moment. She had slowly
but surely come to the conclusion that this was the
same man whom they had met in the snowstorm ; she
was quite sure of it now. She saw that he was
puzzled, and she knew that one word of hers could
explain the mystery. That word — she did not feel
inclined to speak it. Some instinct, much too subtle
to bear analysis, told her to be silent. Had the beau-
tiful Xenia been well enough to appear, then the
mystery would have become clear long ago ; for who,
having once seen her, could fail to recognise her ? But
then, would they two, would she and Kazimir, have
got on so well together ? That tete-a-tete which she
was endeavouring to condemn, Vizia suddenly became
aware that she had not succeeded in condemning at
all. It was not disagreeable ; it was new, and it was
" No, of course I have no sister/' she said quickly.
It was the perfect truth, and yet it was deception ; and
indirect though it was, to her particular nature it was
unbearable. She lost for a moment the self-possession
which so rarely forsook her. Looking round for any-
AT THE COURT OF THE SPADE KING. 99
thing to change the subject, and leave this perilous
ground, her eye was caught by the faded bouquet on
" Do you care for flowers ? " she asked, with a sort
Kazimir did not care for flowers, and he said so
honestly. It was the first entirely conventional ques-
tion she had put that day, and the abruptness of tran-
sition surprised him much.
Did she care for flowers ? Yes, rather, — that is to
say, some flowers — camellias, for instance.
The few dead camellias in the middle of the bouquet
had probably suggested the idea. If there had been
turnips or cauliflowers there instead, Vizia would
certainly have seized upon them equally as a subject
Kazimir displayed a deplorable masculine ignorance
on the subject of camellias; and perhaps it was in
return for the instruction he received that he said at
" I shall try and bring you some of these flowers
you are so fond of." He was always chivalrously
inclined to further any wish, however slight, of any
lady ; but how could Vizia know this ? " I hope I
shall not have forgotten the name when I come back
again on Saturday."
"When he comes back again on Saturday," thought
100 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Vizia, after lie was gone. Somehow, for no reason
that she knew, her interest in camellias had suddenly
become real. She was really anxious to get that
flower on Saturday. Perhaps if she had been pro-
mised a cauliflower, she would have looked forward
to it with an equal longing.
" After all, a pretty face is not everything," she
said, standing before the mirror. " Some men look
deeper than that ; " and even as she said it, it
struck her that her own face had never before looked,
not so pretty, but so little plain. That smile which
sat upon it so well, replacing the frown which sat
upon it so ill, why was it so seldom there ? and what
meant the wave of warm colour in her cheek? and
what was this dim and dawning feeling of a delight,
scarcely real yet, still trembling on its insecure foun-
dations, and never before known to her ?
The primrose gloves were on her hands still; she
drew them off now slowly. For these last ten minutes
they had been nothing but a hollow mockery.
The ice cannot choose but melt when the sun shines
" La parole a ete clonnee a l'horame pour d^guiser sa pensee."
Kazimir had been three full days at home, and he had
not yet seen his mother. Even his aunt Bobertine he
had seen only distantly, disappearing down passages
and into doorways. On the fourth day, however, she
entered the room where he was sitting.
A sort of black walking pillar (such was Kazimir's
impression) glided in. This must be a woman, to
judge from the sweeping garments more than from
the face ; for a black woollen shawl covered her head,
and deeply shaded her features, ostensibly a protec-
tion from the cold draughts of the passages ; but in
some vague manner the spectator wondered what
mystery it hid. Was there some dark secret envelop-
ing her past ? — was there some black cloud which
hung over her present? — had she a beard, or had she
no nose ? — people asked themselves aghast. Even her
102 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
relatives, well as they knew her, could never quite
suppress a half-unconscious feeling of surprise when-
ever, on throwing back her shawl, she showed herself
to be an ordinary woman. She had a nose, and with
a vengeance too. Every one of the canvas noses on
the wall might have shrunk away humiliated before
this one. The hereditary bridge, in this instance,
should have been enough to endow a whole genera-
tion. The hereditary height, the hereditary shape of
eyelids, and the hereditary largeness of muscles, had
found their full expression here. She was a Bielinska
all over, as she proudly proclaimed.
Mademoiselle Eobertine had found hersel£ forced
to be instrumental in summoning Kazimir to his
mother's side ; but to make up for it now, she did her
best to keep him away. She had fenced and parried
as long as she could ; but on the fourth day of Kazi-
mir's stay she was compelled to begin lifting the veil,
inch by inch, and evidently under protest. It was
absolute pain to her to lift it at all.
There are some natures that revel in darkness, and
Mademoiselle Eobertine's was one of them. Innocent
mystery, harmless obscurity, was the air she breathed,
the food she lived on.
Madame Bielinska was not much worse than usual,
she admitted to Kazimir ; and, his aunt regretted it
much, but his mother desired to see him. He was,
in fact, to have his first little peep. After many
whispered instructions outside the door, and injunc-
tions to avoid talking, and walking, and breathing
if possible, Kazimir was beckoned noiselessly into
the room; and even then, though he advanced on
tiptoe, his aunt looked daggers at him, as his spurs
jingled faintly against the polished floor. Kazimir
was not used to sick-rooms ; the warm scented air
choked him ; the light, stealing in sparingly through
heavy green curtains, was darkness to him. He came
in contact with something which he supposed a screen,
and was terrified by a low groan in his ear. He fully
expected to hear his mother shriek next, but she did
not ; only in the big arm-chair at the far end of the
room there was a movement of some living thing.
Then Kazimir felt his arm caught by some one,
whom in the dark he barely recognised as Lucyan.
There was a whisper in his ear : " Eemember on no
account to allude to money matters ; it is that which
agitates her." His arm was relaxed, and Lucyan
glided out, moving as easily in the dark as if all had
been light and clear.
Kazimir's nerves were strong by nature, but this
mysterious ushering into the sick-chamber, combined
with all these warnings, and the vagueness attending
them, were beginning to chafe his nervous system.
" Kazio, is this you ? Why have you not come to
104 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
me before ? " It was his mother's voice, but, ah, how
changed ! The remainder of the dark space was tra-
versed in two strides, which quite upset Mademoi-
selle Eobertine's calmness, and Kazimir knelt by
his mother's side, pressing both her wasted hands to
Somehow that slight shade of coolness which had
existed between mother and son melted at once when
they were face to face. There was much more hope
in Madame Bielinska's talk than Kazimir had dared
to expect. " Yes, I may be among you in a day or
two," she said, answering her son.
There was a great clatter over there among the
empty bottles. Kazimir looked round inquiringly ; it
was only an effort of aunt Eobertine's to drown this
" Please, dear Eobertine, do not take any more
trouble with those bottles," said the invalid; "you are
fatiguing yourself, and Kazimir and I have so much to
In order to humour the patient, without taking the
int implied, Eobertine left the medicine-bottles and
began dusting the prayer-books on the prie-dieu. There
were about fifteen prayer-books there of different sizes,
so the prospect was dreary — Kazimir's patience gave
way at the third.
" Would you mind dusting the prayer-books a little
later, aunt Robertine ? I think my mother wants to
speak to me alone."
It was difficult to believe the testimony of her own
ears — well-tried organs of hearing though they were —
she was positively being asked by the son to leave him
alone with his mother.
" Yes, dear Robertine ; Kazio will take care of me
for ten minutes."
It is the last straw which breaks the camel's back.
Here was the mother asking to be left alone with the
son. Robertine was so staggered by the unexampled
audacity, that she actually laid down the red and
yellow feather brush, and only venting her feelings in
a long low groan of anguish, slowly dragged her steps
from the room. Where, oh, where could Kazimir have
picked up this intolerable habit of plain speaking, this
odious fashion of saying the thing he meant to say
in so many cut-and-dry words ? Yes, assuredly, the
military profession was the perversion of youth. She
felt powerless against a soldier's bluntness — she would
go and seek in an ally consolation, perhaps help.
"We shall not be left long alone," said Madame
Bielinska, with a faint smile ; " I must try and explain
to you all that I wish, before we are interrupted
" What is it about, mother ? "
" It is about money ! "
106 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
With Lucy aii's warning still fresh in his mind,
Kazimir was painfully anxious to avoid the subject of
money, but his mother eagerly clung to it. It cer-
tainly was true that towards that point her thoughts
seemed to be striving incessantly.
u There is great need to talk of it," she persisted,
when he demurred ; " you must understand your posi-
tion clearly, as well as that of your brothers ; and you
must make your choice with your eyes open, as to the
way you will follow. No, don't interrupt me ; for the
present you have made your choice. Ah, Kazimir,
you were too strong for me there ; but later, when I
am later, you may change your mind."
Kazimir did not say " Never," much as he should
have liked to do so.
" You have never paid much attention to money
matters, Kazio, but you must know that we have
not one quarter of what we used to have."
It was quite true that Kazimir knew very little
about the state of their fortunes. All he knew was,
that they had been great people in the days when
he had been a child, and that they were small people
now. He knew that the rooms had been large and
stately then, and the furniture of velvet ; and that
now the drawing-room had but three windows, and
the chairs were covered with green rep : that the
portraits of his ancestors had once hung upon high
walls, and that now they hung upon low ones. He
had not learnt to set much store by money, and he
could not have dreamt of making an estimate of their
probable income, even had the idea occurred to him.
Corn, brandy, and cattle, and all other chief features
of a Polish property, were meaningless to himself. He
could not have hazarded the wildest guess as to the
value of land ; a field of grain, where an expert would
have seen golden ducats waving from every full ear,
was to him a field of grain, " and it was nothing more ; "
or, if anything more, it was a place which might be
good for a canter after harvest time.
" No, mother ; I have never cared about money
matters," said Kazimir, trying to speak with resigna-
tion, for he saw long explanations impending.
" Then attend to me," said the invalid, sitting up.
" The management of Wowasulka is a troublesome
thing, as you will find when you have to take it into
your own hands."
He would rather be without it, thought Kazimir,
as unwillingly he listened to his mother's exposition.
What struck him most was, that though she evidently
had her subject much at heart, and went into it deeply
and earnestly, she did not show any signs of that
baneful agitation, against which Lucyan had so warned
him. She was as clear and calm as Kazimir had
ever remembered her ; w T ith her sad slow voice and
108 BEGGAJt MY NEIGHBOUR.
her half-affected lisp, her scent-bottle and her elabor-
ately curled hair, her little weaknesses and her great
At the end of five minutes he had gathered a general
impression of valuable soil, not fortunately situated ;
of certain advantages, of which he understood nothing,
neutralised by certain disadvantages, of which he
understood, if possible, less. As yet he had received
no general impression, he had not grasped the out-
line of their situation.
" So the wood is valuable ? " ventured Kazimir,
rather vaguely, wishing to show some interest.
" Yes, but it is 'not there that our chief strength lies.
You know the line of little spirit-shops that lie along
the highroad ? "
" Yes, hideous little huts," said Kazimir.
"Well, those hideous little huts are the very life
of Wowasulka ; by far the most valuable part of the
estate. The lease has been held by faithful old Naf-
tali Taubenkiibel for years, though we have constant
applications for it. I believe it is Aitzig Majulik's
ideal of happiness to get the Propinacya into his hands.
If you give me the account-book over there, you will
understand it better by looking at the totals of sums
taken for wddki last year. There, that little green
book under the big missal."
Kazimir groped his way towards the missal.
" Of course the value of the land is fluctuating
always ; but should it ever be advisable to sell Wowa-
sulka, I do not think that each of your portions should
realise less than "
"Lucyan, is that you?" said Kazimir, startled, as a
hand was laid on his sleeve. " How did you come in
here ? "
" By the door, of course."
" But what have you got on your feet ? I never
heard your boots creak."
" I never wear creaking boots ; they don't do for
Madame Bielinska sank back with an impatient
sigh. Lucyan's eyes followed the movement. " I knew
it, Kazio ; you have tired her with talking." He bent
over his mother and kissed her hand.
"Are you going to take him away?" she asked
"I must, for aunt Bobertine is languishing out-
side with your cup of bouillon. We must both go.
Come, Kazio ; never mind that little green book. I have
something I want particularly to show you up- stairs."
Lucyan's private sanctuary, rarely entered by any
one but himself, lay at the top of the house. It was
a small square room with a good view from its one
window. By reason of its small size, or else by rea-
son of its occupant's character, it had a look of greater
110 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
comfort about it than aiiy other room in the house.
It had curtains to the windows, and a blind which
could really pull up and down ; a piece of carpet on
the ground ; a genuine washing-table, on which stood
several mysterious flagons, together with the piece of
perfumed soap, of which Kazimir had heard before.
There were also an unbroken looking-glass, a deep-
seated, though shabby arm-chair, and a book-shelf,
where both gay and grave elements were represented ;
for beside such titles as, "The Laws of Wills and
Executors," together with more intimidating Latin
names, frowning down from dingy leather, there
were yellow paper covers, the widely known uniform
of the lightest if not most unexceptionable French
literature. The third element in the book-shelves,
perhaps the third interest in the owner's life, found
expression in some elaborately bound volumes on
horticulture, and various small pamphlets, with such
titles as, " The Florist's Guide," " Hints to the Rose-
Lover," &c. In the window there was a long green
box with some very young and sickly plants in a row ;
also some half-dozen more or less promising flower-
pots. The whole of the small space bore the impress of
having been made as habitable as circumstances would
permit : a well-feathered nest, made cosy with every
stray shred which forethought and care could collect.
"What is it that you want to show me so parti-
cularly ? " demanded Kazirnir, looking round him.
He was put out by the abrupt termination of his in-
terview down-stairs ; not that he wanted to hear any-
thing more about the money subject, but he resented
his brother's interference.
" Come here ; I want to show you my flowers : you
have not seen my window-garden yet."
" Your window-garden ! Nonsense, Lucyan ! You
know that I have no patience for flowers ! " exclaimed
Kazimir, in extreme disgust. "Is that what you
brought me here for?"
" Well, not exactly, mon cher" said Lucyan, as with
deft fingers he began tenderly picking the dead leaves
off a fine azalea plant. " But, you see, I warned you
against conversations of that sort ; and when I found
you engaged in one, you had to be got out of the room."
" And you held out that green box full of weeds as
a bribe ? " said Kazimir, still incensed.
Lucyan gave no answer, except with his shoulders,
which he slightly raised. He had no particular ob-
jection to Kazimir calling his flowers weeds, and his
window-garden a green box! He was not going to dis-
pute with him about mere names.
" I wish you would speak, instead of pulling about
that detestable bush."
"I shall be delighted, when you have done. I
thought you had more to say."
112 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Oh, nothing ; except that I don't see the use of my
Lucyan took up a miniature watering-can, and began
watering the window-garden.
" Come, Kazio," he said, with his imperturbable
good temper, "you know so very little about in-
valids that you really must rely upon other judg-
ments. Que voulez vous ? Aunt Eobertine and I are
agreed — what is that you said?" for Kazimir was
heard to mutter something not very complimentary
to aunt Eobertine.
" Never mind, go on. Aunt Eobertine and you are
agreed about something."
" We are agreed that peace and quiet are the most
imperative conditions of my mother's improvement.
I warned you expressly not to touch on agitating
" She was not in the least agitated."
" Perhaps not at the moment ; the reaction is
" I did not begin about it," said Kazimir, doggedly.
" Oh, you did not ? " with a point of interrogation.
He went on watering his plants, while Kazimir stared
at the prints on the wall.
" What an idea you have of making yourself com-
fortable ! " remarked Kazimir, after a silence. " And
what a lot of pretty women you have got on your
wall ! Why, you have nothing but women, I declare,
and they are all pretty."
" Well, I flatter myself that I am rather a con-
noisseur," said Lucyan, quietly.
" That girl there is almost as pretty as my heroine
in the snow," and Kazimir pointed to the French
print of an impossibly perfect fruit - seller. " That
print would be my favourite."
" It is my favourite," said Lucyan, looking over his
brother's shoulder, " among the blondes at least ; but I
prefer brunettes on the whole," with a laugh much too
cynical for his twenty -four years.
He resumed the watering of his plants, and pres-
ently observed, suggestively —
" I suppose she spoke about the rents, and the
brandy-making, and the cattle ? "
" Who ? my mother ? Yes, she did."
" And about the corn and the labourers ? "
" And about the woods and the potato-fields, till I
felt quite giddy."
" Ah ! no doubt. Poor Kazio ! that is not much in
your line. I thought that sort of conversation could
not interest you much."
" No, especially as half of it was Greek to me."
" Of course ; but yet you must have gained a good
deal of knowledge to-day ? "
" Not I. I am as wise as I was before. She was
VOL. I. H
114 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
going to have shown me something in a green book,
but you came in just then."
" That is well," said Lucyan, putting down the
empty watering-can with a sigh of relief.
" What is well ? "
" This azalea, my pet azalea. Come and look at it.
There are two new flowers opened this morning."
" I wish you would not try and cram your flowers
down my throat, Lucyan; but oh, to be sure, I did
promise to bring some sort of a flower to Made-
" You did, really ? What does she want it for ? "
" I don't quite know, and I have forgotten the
name. I daresay it was one of these — what do you
" That sounds rather like it. I know it was a soft
sort of a name that melted in your mouth like a
lump of sugar. You may as well give me one of those."
" Not that one ! " cried Lucyan, springing forward
to protect his favourite pot, towards which Kazimir
had put out his hand. " I will give you one when
you go there on Saturday."
" Won't you come with me on Saturday ? "
" I don't feel particularly tempted."
" Are not three stables full of young horses a
temptation ? " •
" Three stables ! I did not know he had anything
of a stud."
" Oh, hasn't he ! ever so much quantity if not
" And how does it pay him ? "
" I can't say. He seems to have plenty of money
" I did not know that," said Lucyan, meditatively.
" He has come here so lately, that I know very little
" He is a genial old chatterbox."
" Oh, T don't mean that ; but what is the house
like ? Does he seem to be farming on a large
" On an enormous scale, I think. You had really
better go with me on Saturday. You can talk to old
Eogdanovics about reaping - machines and steam-
" While you are talking to Mademoiselle Vizia
about azaleas ? No, thank you ; I think not. What
is she like, by the by ? "
" Not pretty at all, but with plenty of — what shall
I call it? — character, I think I mean. She really
has got something in her head besides ribbons and
" That is as clear as Marcin could have made it."
" At all events, I like her very much."
116 BEGGAll MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Oh yes — that could not be clearer, at any rate."
" Talking of Marcin," began Kazimir, after a minute,
" do you know, Lucyan, I do not understand him at
all. Why does he go mooning about the house in that
manner ? "
" That is only his way," said Lucyan. " Marcin is
" Perhaps," said Kazimir, doubtfully ; " but he
seems to me to be several degrees vaguer than usual.
Have you noticed the way in which he wanders about
the house with his hat on, smiling at things by the
hour ? "
"What sort of things does he smile at?"
" Very strange things. Yesterday I found him
standing in the passage with a smile of ecstatic
admiration on his face, and there was nothing to
admire anywhere within sight, except a broken pot
with a label marked ' Leeches, with care — not to be
shaken.' There was nothing marvellous in that, was
" No, nothing."
" And this morning, when I came into the drawing-
room, he was tenderly stroking a pill-box. He does
not do that sort of thing always, does he ? "
" No, not always," smiled Lucyan, looking out of
- What is it you are studying ? "
" The snow. I am afraid it is going to be an ex-
ceptionally hard winter."
" For the poor peasants, yes."
" I don't mean the poor peasants ; I mean my poor
plants. Do you see those tracks in the snow ? They
are foxes. No other beast walks in that straight line,
one foot before the other. When they get a little
bolder, they will grub up my flower-roots."
" Oh, is that all ? The country seems overrun with
foxes. Mademoiselle Vizia was complaining that they
ate her hens."
" If you were a sportsman, Kazio, you might have
rid us of some of them."
" Poor beasts ! why should they not live ? I should
certainly eat hens if I were a hungry fox."
Lucyan shook his head.
" Oh, you will never do for a farmer, Kazio, if you
do not take the part of the hens against the fox."
Long after Kazimir had left him, Lucyan went on
working at his window-garden — weeding, and watering,
and pruning, and carefully tending each plant, down
to the tiniest and sickliest of the green sprouts. The
faint smile still on his face, showed that he was fol-
lowing up some train of thought ; but not one inch of
the window-garden was neglected for that — not one
dead leaf did he omit to clip off.
Lucyan possessed that quality of great men : the
118 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
power of applying his mind, in all its force and en-
tirety, npon whatever object he had in hand, whether
great or small. It is a valuable quality, and one
which is sure to serve the owner well in all phases
QUEEN OF HEARTS.
. . . . Klar auf einmal fuhlt ich's in mir werden
Die ist es, Oder Keine sonst auf Erden."
Saturday was not nearly such a fine day as its
immediate predecessors ; neither was Kazimir in such
good spirits. The prospect of seeing the fellow to
a rather clumsy -looking bay was not positively ex-
hilarating ; the prospect of another conversation with
Vizia alone seemed to promise some enjoyment.
We are such deplorably sensitive creatures after all,
so easily cheered or distressed by the mere fact of the
sun shining or not. Life seems easy one day because
the sky is blue, and difficult the next, because it is
grey; and yet the grey day may bring us better
things than the blue one, and the gift will be the
more precious from being the less anticipated.
At first it seemed as though this second visit was
going to be but a repetition of the first. Vizia sat on
120 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
the same sofa and listened, while he sat on the same
chair and talked. It is true that Yizia wore a silk
dress to-day, and it is true also that they met almost
like old friends, and that Kazimir said as much, and
was not rebuked for it. He began to wonder how he
could have found her manner unattractive at first ;
every trace of ungracious coldness was gone. The
other day he had taken interest in her, only on ac-
count of the vague memory which connected her
somehow with that figure in the snow; to-day he
began to like her for herself. His liking increased
in proportion as those memories weakened.
When Kazimir made the remark about meeting as
old friends, Vizia did not answer, but looked past him
through the window. He was always confident that
his friendship would be accepted with the same warm
frankness with which he was used to proffer it. How
could he be conscious of the thrill which went through
Vizia's heart ? How could he guess that his manner
and tone said so much more than there was to say ?
" You must be rather in want of friends in this
lonely place," suggested Kazimir.
"Kather — not much," faltered Vizia, with hot
cheeks, for she was practising a deception which she
detested, but to which she yet clung. What madness
had moved her to pass over Xenia's existence in
silence? Xenia could not be concealed for ever.
QUEEN OF HEARTS. 121
Vizia had left her before the glass, trying to decide
between the merits of mauve and blue. Any mo-
ment might bring a step down the passage. Things
must take their chance, thought Vizia desperately;
what would have been easy to explain at first
would be difficult to explain now. A few more
minutes of this strange enjoyment, and then — and
then what ? Things need not change ; oh, surely they
would not change !
" It is beautiful here in summer," she said, talking
fast ; " when you come to see us then "
" In summer I shall be gone."
" Gone ! Of course; I forgot that you are a soldier."
Vizia laughed at her own tone of consternation.
" And I may have to do a soldier's work soon. I
think we shall fight the Italians in spring."
" Who talks of fighting ? " inquired Eogdanovics
from a distant table, where he was employed in draw-
ing some plans. " Never talk of fighting. It is
against my principles to expect any but the best
things from fate. I am ready to wager that there will
be no such thing as war."
" That would be a great disappointment to me," said
" Oh, that is the way your wishes lie ? Well, then,
I am ready to wager you will come back covered with
glory and decorations," and Eogdanovics reapplied
122 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
himself to the finishing touches of his plan, which
marked a row of future glass-houses, wherein pine-
apples and muscatel grapes were destined to grow and
thrive in a degree hitherto undreamed of, except in
Eogdanovics's sanguine brain.
" That will do, I think," he said, laying down his
pencil. " The melon-beds in front, and the vineries
behind. I had thought of building an extensive
conservatory too ; the flowers would have realised a
round sum at the Lwow market. But I am afraid I
must wait ; there does not seem to be much chance of
the railway passing through here just at present."
" Nor for another century either," said Vizia.
" That reminds me," said Kazimir, rising, " I have
brought that flower for you, Mademoiselle Vizia ; I
must have left it in the sledge."
Only just this moment had Kazimir remembered
the unfortunate azalea which Lucyan had so carefully
wrapped in silver paper. What was an azalea to him ?
He could not know that Vizia, looking for the promised
flower when he entered, had sighed with disappoint-
ment at seeing him empty-handed ; and he as little
noticed the light of pleasure which came to her face
" Don't trouble yourself to go out," she said.
" What ! Go out 1 Who wants to go out ? " echoed
Kosdanovics from his distant table.
QUEEN OF HEARTS. 123
" Only to fetch a parcel," said Kazimir.
" It is so likely I should let you fetch it for your-
self," retorted the host, striding towards the door.
" What is your parcel like ? Round ? Square ? Ob-
" Please do not move," said Kazimir, as he reached
the door before his host. " I hear some one in the
passage ; perhaps it is a servant. Ah ! "
As he opened the door the handle was at the same
moment turned at the other side. Kazimir heard a
rustle of silk, and found himself closely confronted by
a lady — a young lady — a beautiful young lady ! He
reached this conclusion with a bound.
It had taken all this time to array Xenia in that
long-trained, close-fitting silk, swelling in balloon-like
fashion all around her — for this was the time of crino-
lines — and to encase that chestnut hair in a mauve
chenille net, which did its best to conceal what it was
supposed to be adorning ; but through the lattice-work
the glossy waves shone, like sunbeams escaping from
prison bars. Such, at least, was Kazimir' s impression,
in this first bewildered moment, although the simile
would scarcely have stood investigation. Eibbons to
match the net, and fringed out in some incomprehen-
sibly feminine fashion, fluttered at her waistbands and
wrists. There was an artificial rosebud nestling at her
throat. Her silk was a slighter and a shabbier one than
124 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Vizia's, and the mixture of colours was not strictly in
accordance with a severe taste ; nevertheless, both the
silk and the ribbons, and even the artificial rosebud,
seemed imbued with a certain subtle grace which
came from the wearer alone. For the matter of that,
she might have worn a tartan shawl and a poke
bonnet without looking vu]gar.
"I have found her!" was Kazimir's inward cry.
Not for a moment did he doubt her identity. What
had been a mere passing recollection in the other, was
certitude here. Here were the very same eyes that
had looked into his through the falling snow ; that was
the shining hair which had been blown rough by the
unmannerly wind. The interest which, although keen
at first, had been gradually weakening with the lapse
of days, leapt back into full life all at once. He need
no longer grope after uncertain clues, for he had found
It all shot through his mind while he inclined him-
self profoundly, and while Xenia went through a
curtsey, quite as graceful but quite as ceremonious as
the one she had executed in the snow at the hill-top.
" Mademoiselle Xenia Rogdanovics ! "
Kazimir's first impulse was to look reproachfully
towards Vizia. " You told me you had no sister ! "
Vizia was leaning forward, with her hands clasped,
as she watched the scene by the doorway. " I have no
QUEEN OF HEARTS. 125
sister; Xenia is my cousin." Her voice had stiffened
back into her first tone of rigid ceremony, but Kazimir
scarcely noticed it.
Her cousin Xenia ! So this was Xenia ; that was
how he had made the mistake. How could he have
been so stupid ? Why had he taken for granted that
they must be sisters ?
There was now a scene of general recognition and
hand - shaking, Kazimir being acknowledged as the
saviour in the snowstorm.
" What a fearful storm it was ! " said Kazimir to
Xenia, who had sat down demurely beside her cousin,
and who had not uttered a word as yet.
" Yes, it was a little windy," she replied, with an air
of great gravity. The silvery voice was clouded, not
with an unbecoming grating hoarseness, but as though
wrapped in a soft veil.
" Very windy," echoed Vizia ; and Kazimir wondered
why he had not found out before that she talked as if
she had just swallowed a woollen comforter. This is
another point on which nature indulges in unjust
caprices. A cold may be becoming or unbecoming,
according to its symptoms ; and Kazimir now for the
first time became aware that the symptoms of Vizia's
cold were not becoming. The same cause which had
afflicted her with watery eyes and a heightened colour
of nose, had given Xenia an interesting little cough,
126 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
and but delicately touched the small fine-cut nostrils
into the semblance of a pink-tipped flower. Moreover,
Vizia's cold had been gradually getting worse, while
Xenia's had been getting better.
" I am afraid you must have suffered a great deal
from the snow ? "
" Thank you ; it was not very pleasant, was it,
Yizia ? " and Xenia looked appealingly at her cousin.
" It must have been a dreadful fatigue to you to get
up that hill ? "
" I don't think the walking was very good."
" jSTo, hardly," thought Kazimir, as he remembered
the style of his progress uphill, weighed down on each
side by clinging hands.
It was not that Xenia was forgetful of these facts,
or ungrateful to her preserver. This little prim fencing
was but the tribute paid to that tyrant Etiquette.
She w 7 as still at the pale kid-glove stage of acquaint-
anceship with him ; Yizia had had the start of her in
that respect. Affectation and primeval simplicity are
nowhere more successfully blended than in this country.
" I hope you changed your wet shoes," said Kazimir,
It was Xenia's duty to look surprised, and she ful-
filled it ; but, though the pink-tipped flower was raised
perceptibly, Kazimir could not fail to see that the eyes
were not displeased.
QUEEN OF HEAKTS. 127
" I suppose you have not attempted to go out since?"
" Oh no, I never go out in winter, except when I
must. Do I, Yizia ? "
" Then it was necessity which brought you to the
foot of that hill ? "
" Yes ; it was a ball we had been to."
" You are fond of dancing ? "
" Oh, very ! " She did not need to look at her
cousin for assistance here. The crimson lips opened
in a smile, the first smile which she had yet allowed
herself. Her whole face lighted up with pleasure, for
Xenia was only seventeen, and at seventeen dancing is
a word with magic in it.
" You surely cannot get much of it here ? "
" Not here ; but I danced at Krakow last year. I
went to — Yizia, was it three or four balls ? "
" Three," said Yizia, drily.
"Happy Krakow!" thought Kazimir, as he watched
her pretty air of childish triumph. " How dull Lod-
niki must seem to you ! "
" Yes, I think it does ; and I have never lived in
the country before. The days are so long here."
" How do you spend them?" asked Kazimir, moving
his chair a quarter of an inch nearer.
Xenia looked at her cousin, as if she would prefer
Yizia to answer for her, but Yizia held her tongue.
" I play the piano, and then I read."
128 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Music and literature ! The very pursuits he would
have chosen for her ; innocent, refined, and intellectual.
" Is it poetry or prose that you prefer ? "
"Oh, I think I— I read both!"
The field was widening. Could he not read poetry
in the blue light of her eyes ?
" Which are your favourite authors ? "
Xenia looked staggered. " Oh, I don't know, I am
" I understand. You have so many favourites that
it is difficult to choose. Do you care for Mickiervicz's
" I think rather ; but I read French usually. The
last thing I read was by Seraphine de la Kosiere."
Seraphine de la Kosiere had no place in Kazimir's
" What was the story called ? Perhaps I may
" It was called ' Les deux bagues mysterieuses, ou les
Fiancailles de Palmerie.' "
" I am afraid I have not heard of it," said Kazimir,
" Of course not," suddenly put in Vizia. ' You are
not likely to read the ' Journal des Demoiselles.' "
" But the story is very interesting," said Xenia,
" It is not finished yet. I am so anxious for the
QUEEN OF HEARTS. 129
end to come. It just broke off when Palmerie dis-
covers the will of her great-grandfather hidden inside
the sapphire ring which she has worn all her life ; so,
of course, now she has got an immense fortune, and I
want to know whether she marries Alphonse or Raoul."
" And what is there inside the second ring V
"I don't know; because you see that dreadful
Barbarin, who is really Palnierie's half-brother (al-
though she has not found that out yet), and who
has murdered all the rest of the family, has buried
the ring in a deep cave strewn with bones."
" The bones of the murdered family, perhaps ? "
suggested Kazimir ; but he was all wrong, it seemed.
"Oh no — for the cave was in a quite different
place ; somewhere in the Alps, or — Vizia, was it the
Pyrenees ? "
" The Pyrenees, probably, since it is in Spain,"
said Vizia, curtly.
" But surely either Alphonse or Raoul will find this
" I hope so ; but I am afraid they are going to
have another duel with pistols : they have had two
" I see ; and all about Palmerie ?"
" Yes, all about Palmerie."
" It must be an engrossing story ; I hope you will
let me know the end."
vol. i. I
130 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Oh yes, if you like." The demure reticence of
Xenia's manner was fast giving way to childish con-
fidence. Alphonse, Baoul, Palmerie, and her iniquit-
ous brother Barbarin, had all helped towards this end.
No wonder that Kazimir felt disposed in their favour.
This was enough on the subject of literature ; Kazimir
turned to the second branch of Xenia's pursuits.
" You said you were fond of music ; do you swear
by Mendelssohn or Beethoven ?"
" Was it they who wrote the sonata about sunshine
—or moonshine ? " asked Xenia, grasping at the most
distinct idea which Kazimir's question awoke in her
" Yes ; that is to say, one of them did — I am not
quite sure which," said Kazimir, frankly. " But per-
haps you are too true a Pole to play anything but
"What is Chopin like?"
" Well, he looks very black upon paper, but he is
very delightful to listen to ; that is all I know."
" I think I like Strauss best ; does Chopin write
" Yes, I fancy he does ; he is a great favourite.
Every one admires him, and Poles adore him ; I am
sure Mademoiselle Vizia adores him."
Vizia appeared not to have heard ; she was twirling
a ring round her finger.
QUEEN OF HEARTS. 131
"Perhaps you are not as ultra- national as your
cousin. Mademoiselle Yizia has confessed to having
felt a great prejudice against my uniform at first ! "
" Vizia, where are you going ? " asked Xenia, dis-
tressed, for her cousin had risen and was moving away.
" Please stay near me ! " said the pleading blue eyes ;
but their pleading was not answered.
" I am going to fold up papa's plans over there ; "
and she walked to the end of the room.
" I am afraid you must have felt the same prejudice
against my gold cords," Kazimir was saying.
"I don't know; why?" asked Xenia. The very
first sight of the hussar cording in the snowstorm
had certainly acted chillingly upon her. She was
taught to believe that it must act chillingly upon her ;
but she had never attempted to analyse the causes
which produced the effect.
" Well, but you are a real Pole, and have lived all
your life in Poland," persisted Kazimir, who thought
that a little political discussion, such as he had had
the other day with Vizia, might be very pleasant ; " and
I have found since my return home that my uniform
finds favour nowhere."
" Pteally ? " Xenia leant back on the sofa and
looked a little bored.
" Then you do not share the universal prejudice ? "
went on Kazimir, pressing the point.
132 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" No, I don't think so ; I find the gold cords very
"Do you? but "
"The hussar uniform looks very well in a ball-
room," broke in Xenia, with a return of animation.
" Perhaps," said Kazimir ; and then he felt silenced
for a moment, but only for a moment. " Your cousin
was quite hard upon me the other day for not up-
holding revolutions. Are you too a supporter of the
revolution ? "
Xenia leant back again with a pretty shrug of her
shoulder, and pulling a truant curl through her fin-
gers, " Oh, the revolution ? yes, I know. That was
the time when mamma's diamonds were stolen ; and
we never got them back ; was that not dreadful ? "
Her eyes looked so earnest and innocent, that Kazimir
felt it indeed to be dreadful. It was a shame to have
robbed her of the chance of wearing diamonds.
No, politics would not do : how should this youth-
ful flower-like creature know anything about fierce
strife and cruel bloodshed? He made an abrupt
transition from this ground back to the often dis-
cussed loneliness of Lodniki, which seemed to him
more cruelly lonely now that he knew it to be her
abode. The transition was successful ; to confide her
fears to a ready listener was just what suited Xenia
QUEEN OF HEARTS. 133
" Oh, you do not know how frightened I was when
I came here first, a few months ago ! It felt so strange
after Krakow, that I could not sleep when the wind
blew among the trees ; and only two days ago I got
such a fright ! *
"A robber?" said Kazimir, jumping to all sorts of
" No, but a fox ! It had come quite up to the house,
and looked in at me through the window. I never
saw such a big fox in my life before ; it had such a
white chest. I don't know, in fact, if I ever saw any
fox before. I think I must have turned quite pale ;"
and at the remembrance of how pale she had turned,
Xenia almost turned pale again.
" Frightful ! " ejaculated Kazimir, following her
changes of expression with delight.
"Don't you think it was a great chance that we
were not eaten by wolves on the day of our unlucky
drive in the snow ? "
" Unlucky ? do not call it unlucky ! " pleaded Kaz-
imir ; " it was a lucky drive for me."
Xenia dropped her eyes towards the hem of her
dress, but she failed so entirely to make her expres-
sion forbidding, that Kazimir ventured to add that
he should have liked the hill to be six times as high,
and the storm a hundred times as violent, in order to
prolong the pleasure of assisting and protecting her.
134: BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Xenia looked up half alarmed — for she was so very
young, and so entirely inexperienced, that she had
scarcely yet got accustomed to receiving compliments ;
and this one, somehow, sounded more real than any
of the few which she had chanced to hear. She looked
uneasily towards her cousin for guidance, but she was
spared the necessity of doing anything decided, for
just now Pawel had entered and placed a little parcel
on the table. Kazimir pulled the silver paper open.
" Ah, a flower, a pink azalea ; how pretty ! but you
have not treated it well ; look ! " as two or three pink
blossoms dropped on the table.
" Do you think it pretty ? "
Of course Xenia thought it pretty, lovely, adorable.
She doted upon flowers — upon azaleas in general, and
upon pink azaleas in particular ; and of course in an-
other moment this particular pink azalea was nestling
in her waist-band.
Shortly after this Kazimir's sledge came round to
the door. The talk with Xenia had been followed
by some general conversation. Kazimir had learnt
the difference between camellias and azaleas. He had
also remembered with a start, that the flower he had
brought with him in silver paper, had been destined
for Vizia and not for Xenia. This he had remem-
bered at the moment of parting, when he saw Vizia's
face, and he had immediately apologised for his for-
QUEEX OF HEARTS. 135
getfulness. " It does not matter after all, because,
you see, it was not the right flower," he had said.
" Of course not," she had answered, rather scorn-
fully, as it had struck him. He did not know that
whether it were called azalea or camellia, it would have
been the right flower for her.
Now he was gone, and the girls stood alone in the
" How do you like him, Yizia ? " asked Xenia.
" I — I don't know ; not at all ! " She was standing
at the window, with her forehead pressed hard against
the glass, watching the sledge through the frozen
" I thought he was very nice," Xenia ventured ;
then looked down and smiled, while she played with
the flower in her belt. " He did talk some nonsense,
of course. Did you hear all he said about wishing
that the hill had been higher and the storm stronger
the other night ? "
No answer ; only a sort of gasp from the window
" But you must have heard it," said Xenia, again.
" Why should 1 care what he said to you ? "
« But, Vizia "
" I wish you would stop chattering," cried Vizia,
turning almost violently from the window. At sight
of her face the timid Xenia shrank to one side.
136 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Vizia, what have I done % " she implored ; and
how sweet her voice sounded after the other's un-
gracious tone ! " You are angry about something ; is
it the azalea ? " with a bright inspiration. " It was
meant for you ; won't you have it ? " and she plucked
it from her belt and held it out to her cousin.
" Won't you have it, Vizia ? "
It was done graciously and lovingly, for Xenia
loved her cousin ; but it would seem that this proffer
of the olive-branch had been the last thing wanting
to upset Vizia's equanimity. She took the azalea
indeed which Xenia pressed into her hand, but it
was only to throw it to the ground and stamp it
under foot, crushing the life out of the two frail
blossoms which had survived their brethren.
There let them lie and die, since her dream was
dead — short-lived dream that it had been !
Meanwhile Kazimir was driving home through the
forest. It was a much colder drive than his former
one ; but to Kazimir's eyes, nevertheless, the world
was a more brilliant place than it had ever before
Xenia ! what a sweet, soft-sounding name ! How
exactly it suited her delicate beauty, her childish
openness of character ! And all the way home the
QUEEN OF HEARTS. 137
name rang in his ears ; and the russet twigs of the
bushes made him think of chestnut-brown hair ; and
the patches of blue sky overhead — much less blue
than last time, but to him brighter — shone down on
him like innocent blue eyes.
" I do remember an apothecary,—
And hereabouts he dwells." ....
— Romeo and Juliet.
" Tiif.y must be either poisoned, trapped, or shot —
that is clear," was the phrase which met Kazimir's ear
as he reached home.
" Poisoned, trapped, or shot ! In heaven's name,
Lucyan, who ? "
Lucyan was standing at the foot of the door-steps,
very carefully wrapped up ; and the expression of
fierce vindictiveness on his face made Kazimir start
almost more than the words he had said. It was a
very wide leap which his own thoughts had to take,
from the dreamy direction they had been following,
to this abrupt talk of poisoning and shooting.
" What is the matter, Lucyan ? "
Lucyan unmuffled one arm, and pointed silently
in the direction of the flower-beds; and Kazimir,
marcin's cards. 139
straining his eyes through the dusk, could see no-
thing but a little scattered straw.
" My best Niphetos rose; or is it the Paul Verdier?"
went on Lucyan, peering anxiously towards the scat-
tered straw. " I would give — yes, I would give fifty
kreutzers to know." Lucyan always was moderate in
his expenditure, even in imagination.
" Why don't you go and look then ? " asked
" And wade up to my knees in snow ! No, thank
you. I respect my boots too much for that. Perhaps
traps would be better than poison."
" But what are they, in the name of wonder ? "
" Foxes, of course ! " Lucyan pronounced the word
with an accent of concentrated hatred.
" Foxes ! Oh, is it foxes again ? " Kazimir began
to show a sudden interest. " They have been frighten-
ing her by looking in at the window. Yes, they must
be shot or trapped by all means. I will help you."
It was Lucyan's turn to stare. He looked at his
brother very keenly as he asked, " And who may she
" She ! Oh, Lucyan ! have I not told you ? It is
she herself. I have found her! I will tell you all
Lucyan had no objection to being told all about it,
but he had an objection to being told all about it in
UO BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
the cold. They went in ; and Kazimir talked, while
Luc) T an listened. Kazimir's nature was not one to
attempt any concealment, nor was he as yet aware
that there was anything to conceal. Presently some
word of his seemed to have touched Lucyan's interest.
" Would you mind repeating that again, Kazimir ? "
asked Lucy an, raising his head. " I did not quite
" About the colour of her hair ? Just a shade
lighter than "
" Not about the colour of her hair," and Lucyan put
out his hand with a deprecating gesture ; " but about
the value of the wood cut down on the estate."
" Twelve hundred," said Kazimir, " or it may have
been fifteen hundred ; I really can't remember."
" I don't see how there could be so much wood to
cut down on the Lodniki estate ; it is a small place."
" Oh, but Eogdanovics has rented another estate
besides the one he has bought. He has got Szybalin
also ; she mentioned having driven there once."
Lucyan took his ivory comb from his pocket, and
commenced slowly and gently drawing it through his
" You did not tell me that before ? "
" Didn't I ? What does it signify ? "
" It would need to be a rich man who rented
marcin's cards. 141
" Well, I have no doubt he is rich ; he looks like it,
and he told me so, in fact."
'•And if all his plans succeed, he will be richer
" So he has let his own estate, and he has bought
Lodniki and rented Szybalin," summed up Lucyan,
compressing the matter into a nutshell, for his own
satisfaction. " And he has only got one daughter ;
but what is the niece there for ? "
" She told me she had no other home ; she is an
" A poor relation," said Lucyan, mentally, but he
did not say it aloud.
Next day the horses were brought over to Wowa-
sulka, and the bargain was finally concluded ; for it was
a strange fact that, from the moment of his second
visit to Lodniki, Kazimir had been quite unable to see
any defects either in the build or the paces of those
horses. To his eyes there was a halo hovering round
them, which had never hovered round any other horses.
It was only natural that he should be anxious to"
report upon their progress to Eogdanovics, for Eogdan-
ovics had particularly asked to be told how they got
on. He was told ; once, twice, oftener still — oftener,
perhaps, than was absolutely necessary. He must
have been fully satisfied on their account, for during
142 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
the whole of December the Wowasulka sledge might
frequently have been seen wending its way towards
Lodniki. " I promised him to come, you know,"
Kazimir explained to Lucy an, who had not asked for
any explanation; and Lucyan smiled, and examined
his faultless almond-shaped nails, while he listened to
the narrative of his brother's visits, dropping a ques-
tion now and then, and quietly reading Kazimir's
hand over the edge of his cards. Kazimir talked
much at random, touching upon many subjects which
sounded trivial. He talked about dance-music and
the ' Journal des Demoiselles ' ; he talked also a great
deal about foxes — about one giant fox in particular,
which was wont to prowl round the house at Lodniki.
Kazimir was accustomed to talk as if he thirsted for
the blood of that giant fox. " The very same, I am
certain, that looked in through the window and fright-
ened Mademoiselle Xenia."
"And the same, most likely, that steals Mademoiselle
Vizia's chickens," said Lucyan.
" Perhaps ; I don't know." The other crime was by
far the blackest ; to have looked in through a window
was deeper guilt than to have carried off a chicken.
During this month Madame Bielinska's health
showed some slight improvement, and when Christmas
was past and the new year turned, she was once or
twice moved from her room to the general sitting-
marcin's CARDS. H3
room. Her sons could not help feeling more hopeful
when they saw her once again among them. The
doctor cautiously admitted that this unexpected re-
vival might or might not be the first step towards
ultimate recovery. He proposed two plans which
might further the recovery ; one was a sea journey to
Australia, the other was a farinaceous food with a
wonderful name. Madame Bielinska, whose nerves
were weak though her judgment was so strong, greatly
preferred the farinaceous food to the sea voyage. The
farinaceous food carried the day.
" The apothecary at Tarajow is sure to have it," the
doctor had said.
Tarajow was the nearest country place ; it lay about
five miles to the north, not through the forest, but
across the open country.
" We must send for it this afternoon," said Kazimir,
that same day.
They were sitting together in the drawing-room
around the invalid, who was propped up on her
" Sending for it won't be enough," said Lucyan,
" It is sure to put you all right, mother," proceeded
Kazimir ; " you are looking quite well already."
" She is looking too well," observed Eobertine,
darkly. This resurrection into life was altogether a
U4 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
sore trial to Eobertine ; there was too much openness
and publicity about it. If she could have had her
will, even the simplest of household transactions
should have been enveloped in impenetrable mystery.
She would have loved to throw an enshrouding veil
over the very food they lived on, the servants who
waited on them, and the tradesmen who supplied them.
In how far higher a degree, therefore, should mystery
reign in a sick-chamber ! The sick-chamber had been
Eobertine s field almost since she had come to the age
of reason; and from the moment when she had resigned
all matrimonial hopes, which, owing to her more than
ample share of the Bielinski nose, had never been very
great, it had been more than this, it had been her
kingdom. She recognised it as her vocation in life,
and she nursed her patients unremittingly, energeti-
cally, and uncompromisingly. The darkened space,
the scented atmosphere, the hushed steps and whis-
pering voices of the sick-room, suited her mystery-
loving nature, as subterraneous labyrinths suit the
darkness-loving mole. They satisfied her peculiarities,
and they fed them, until her special phase of eccentri-
city had grown into a distinct mania. She defended
Madame Bielinska against her sons, as if the sick
woman's life depended on isolation. Of the three, she
dreaded Kazimir most, and feared Lucyan the least ;
for although Lucyan did find his way to the sick-room
MARCHES CARDS. 145
oftener than either of the others, he did so in a manner
which won her heart and soothed her alarm. Tacitly
he had proved a sort of ally, for he helped to keep ont
These being Kobertine's sentiments, it will be easy
to guess, bnt difficult to describe, what she suffered
on seeing her carefully guarded patient exposed thus
openly to the light of the day. In fact the sight
was so painful to her that she usually preferred to
absent herself from the circle.
" Sending for it will not be enough," repeated Lucyan.
" Why should sending not be enough ? " asked
Kazimir of his brother.
" Because the apothecary at Tarajow is an ass."
" How do you know he is an ass ? " asked Marcin,
" How do you know he is not ? Marcin ! you set-
ting up for giving an opinion ! "
" Well," said Kazimir, " most asses are at least able
to read a name if it is written large enough."
" Not such a name as Neuroyoeticon. You don't
know the man ; when you write for a cooling drink
he is sure to send you a remedy for hydrophobia. I
believe we have got three of those remedies in the
house at this moment. No ; somebody would need
to drive over and speak to him about it."
" Very well," said Kazimir, " which of us shall go ? "
VOL. I. K
146 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" I will go ! "
Everybody in the room, the invalid included, turned
and stared at Marcin aghast. It was he who had
spoken. He was offering to drive over to Tarajow
and see about the medicine. Such a thing had not
occurred within anybody's memory. In the abstract,
certainly, there is nothing particularly startling in the
idea of a full-grown man of twenty-five driving five
miles in a sledge to fetch a bottle of medicine.
Marcin was a full-grown man of twenty-five ; he had
long ago reached and passed the age of reason, in
the ordinary acceptation of the word ; neither was
he exactly a fool, but for the practical sides of life
he was as helpless as if his age had been five, instead
of five-and-twenty. He had never been known to
receive a letter in his life ; and on the solitary occa-
sion when he had been known to send one off, it had
been despatched open, unstamped and unaddressed.
Marcin would have much rather gone without a coat
than have taken the trouble to order it for himself ;
he would not have known how to enter a shop, or
address the shopman, or explain what he wanted.
He could not have attempted to ask for the change
of a florin ; probably he would not know what the
change ought to be. Putting the case that he could
have gained a million by travelling to Vienna, he
would most certainly have remained quietly at Wowa-
marcin's cards. 147
sulka. The bare idea of having to take his ticket
and register his luggage, would have been quite
enough to deter him from the enterprise.
After the first universal exclamation, there was a
moment of stupefied silence. Then —
" You will never reach Tarajow ! "
" You will be lost on the way ! "
" I don't believe we shall ever see you back ! "
Madame Bielinska was so touched by the unlooked-
for mark of filial affection, that, in her weak state, the
emotion came near to overpowering her. There were
symptoms of tears in her voice.
Marcin sat passive through it all, without once
changing his position.
" Come, Marcin, this is too delightful ! " said Lucyan,
bursting into one of his long but noiseless laughs.
" I do believe you will be offering to keep my accounts
for me next. Why, we should have to hunt for you
all over the country this evening."
Marcin's temper was faultless, as a rule ; but some-
thing must have ruffled it now.
" Why are you all trying to take the spokes out of
my wheels ? " he inquired rather loftily.
" I do wish you would steer clear of proverbs,
metaphors, and all figures of speech," remarked Lu-
cyan, with a smile ; " it would be an advantage to
yourself and to others."
148 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
"They are the only sort of thing I have got a
memory for," answered the other, still on his dignity.
" They save so much trouble, and they make things
" And you really want to go ? We might try it as
an experiment ; don't you think so, Kazimir 1 "
The novelty of the idea gave to it a flavour of ori-
ginality. It was decided that Marcin should go ; and
that he should bring back the farinaceous food for his
mother as well as the traps for the foxes.
At one side of the three-cornered Place at Tarajow,
with a Katusz (town -hall) to the left and a burnt-
down house to the right, stood the apothecary's resi-
dence. The Eatusz was dirtier, both inside and out-
side, than most English cowsheds ; the burnt-down
house had been reduced to ashes eight months ago,
and had very little chance of ever rising from them.
Three worn stone steps led up to the apothecary's
shop ; and up to the lowest of these steps the stone
pavement swelled in undulating billows.
Over the scene were scattered the usual groups of
peasants in their brown sieralcs, and Jews in slim black
kaftans. In front of the apothecary's shop there
stood a sledge, and a bell tinkled now and then, as
one horse and now the other tossed his head.
Marcin having traversed the open country, passed
the wooden church on the outskirts, and bumped over
MARCIN S CARDS. HO
the billowy pavement of the place, reached his desti-
nation safely; the slip of paper which Lucyan had
given him was securely buttoned up in his pocket.
He walked up the three steps and into the shop. So
far everything was progressing splendidly.
The apothecary was mixing something in a mortar,
while a peasant, with his fur cap in his hand, stood
at a respectful distance watching the proceeding, and
breathing very hard as he did so. The apothecary
was a sort of magician to him, and those bottles and
shelves, and labelled drawers and ticketed cases, were
the secrets of his magic. The perfume which the
sheepskin coat added to the already laden atmosphere
was the reverse of refreshing, and Marcin thought
so as he entered. At the view of this new and
distinguished customer, the magician abandoned his
magic mixture and commenced a series of inquir-
ing bows across the counter. To these Marcin paid
no attention, but sank exhausted on the nearest
" Can I offer you anything ? " asked the apothecary,
who was a small, dismal, and rather dishevelled-look-
ing man, but who moved more briskly than dismal men
usually do. He waved his arm suggestively towards
his shelves, where jars, with such enticing labels as
"rhubarb," "sulphur/' and "camomile" were ranged.
Martin's eyes roamed over them, and settled down
150 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
upon a little row of soda-water syphons. "You can
give me some of that," he said.
" Some of the senna-tea ? In a moment/' and he
moved with gloomy alacrity towards it.
" No, not that stuff," said Marcin ; he had some
faint reminiscences connected with senna-tea, which
dated from his childhood and were not pleasant. " I
mean that soda over there: soda and water."
" Soda-water ? In a moment ! "
Jan Wronski, the apothecary, was by no means
quick of thought ; he was in fact remarkably slow
— perhaps because all his available faculties were
wrapped, and had for years been wrapped, round one
especial object. Some people go through life with an
ideal, a dream, a something for which their ambition
strives, but never reaches, and some people go through
life without this : Jan Wronski went through life
with a dream ; and his dream was hydrophobia — or
rather, I should say, the specific against it. From the
moment that his young wife had died from the bite of
a mad dog, mad dogs had literally become the betes
noires of his life. On this one point he was a little
crazy, although perfectly sane, stupidly sane on every
other. He bought all the works which had ever been
written on hydrophobia; he started correspondences
(which nobody carried on) in newspapers about hy-
drophobia ; he kept a register of all dogs which had
maecin's cards. 151
died of hydrophobia within ten miles round ; he made
journeys to inspect interesting cases ; he concocted
mixtures and ointments, some of which he called
preventives, and others remedies. For nearly twenty
years past he had, at intervals of three or four years,
solemnly announced that the grand specific, which
was to make hydrophobia for ever harmless, was dis-
covered ; but as yet there was only one case on record
of a bitten child being cured, and even then it was
more than doubtful whether the dog had ever been
mad. He was not particularly hopeful about his own
project, but having once got into the idea, he was not
able to get out of it. There was something very ludi-
crous and also something rather pathetic in the blind
obstinacy with which this stupid, dismal, long-haired
old apothecary groped after his Will-o'-the-wisp.
He was, as I have said, remarkably slow of thought ;
but, nevertheless, at this moment there did dawn upon
his understanding some conception of incongruity.
It struck even him as peculiar that a gentleman
should drive over in a sledge to ask for a glass of
soda-water, on a day when the icicles were hanging in
a hard clear fringe from his roof. In summer he was
used to do a brisk business with his syphons. To
come in here and drink a glass of soda-water towards
sunset was considered fashionable and correct ; and
the importance of deciding between raspberry and
152 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
lemon juice, as accompanying flavours, was quite
enough excitement for the unsophisticated beauties
of Tarajow. The trade naturally slackened with the
heat, and now had died off into a winter sleep, only
disturbed when now and then a case of high fever
came within Jan Wronski's limited jurisdiction.
When Marcin had drunk his first glass, which he
did very slowly, he asked for a second. He drank it
with his eyes roaming round the shelves and towards
the door w T hich led to the apothecary's back shop.
Then he asked for a third glass. The apothecary
looked alarmed. Was not this a case of high fever ?
or, no — rather was not this —
" Pan Bielinski did not happen to meet any dogs on
the way?" inquired the apothecary rather suddenly,
but very respectfully. The uninitiated might suppose
that this abnormal thirst shut out all idea of hydro-
phobia ; but Jan Wronski knew better. The very
newest theories inclined to the belief that excessive
water-drinkiug was one of the surest symptoms of the
" I never meet dogs," said Marcin, with unusual
decision, and he drained his third glass very slowly.
While he was draining it the back door opened, and
there came in Janina Wronska, the apothecary's only
daughter. She was carrying a tray, on which some
dried herbs were lying in heaps.
MARCINS CARDS. 153
" Do you wish for a fourth glass ? " asked the
apothecary, in perfect good faith.
" No, thank you. What are those brown things on
the tray ? "
" They are dried flowers, from which we make tea.
Do you wish to taste any of our tea ? "
" Does Panna Janina make the tea ? "
It did not strike the apothecary as strange that this
gentleman should know his daughter's name. Such
circumstances never struck him at all. He was not
an unkind father ; but yet his daughter only had
interest for him inasmuch as she might or might not
be bitten by a mad dog, and that, in the former case,
he might or might not be able to cure her. She was a
little creature, not broader than became her stature,
with coal-black hair, dishevelled like her father's,
gleaming black eyes, and a full baby-mouth, with a
perpetual pout upon it. That she was young could
be seen by the way in which she reddened on seeing
a gentleman in the shop ; and how full of life she was
became evident by the way in which she set down the
tray of herbs on the counter, sending the dried stalks
flying away on all sides.
" Of course I make the tea," said Janina, tossing
her black head, and sweeping the herbs together again
with one little plump brown hand. " I should like
to know who would do it if I did not ! "
154 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Ah, who indeed ! " Marcin seemed to have be-
come infected with the desire of proving himself help-
ful, for his hand was on the edge of the tray too.
The thin white fingers came against the plump brown
ones and lingered there. Jan Wronski was mean-
while weighing out alum and borax for another
" Are you going away ? " asked Marcin, as Janina
seized upon two stone jars and made for the door.
" Yes ; I have no time for idling. I am going to
" I have no time for idling either," said Marcin.
Janina's hands were too full to open the door ; Mar-
cin opened it for her, and shut it for her too, and
then found to his surprise that he was on the same
side of the door as she. He had made his audacious
movement so unconsciously and so coolly, that Jan
Wronski never noticed his disappearance.
" How strange ! " said Marcin, looking round him.
" What have you come here for ? " demanded Jan-
ina, depositing her jars, and turning round upon him
with a great show of indignation.
" I cannot in the least imagine."
" Hadn't you better try and find out ? " The little
snub n»se was considerably elevated.
" I like back shops."
" I don't believe you have ever been in one."
MARCINS CARDS. 155
" Then hadn't you better go out again ? "
" I like this back shop."
" But I never invited you into it."
" I think it was because it was so hot in there."
" Cold, I suppose you mean. It is much warmer in
" Much. How truly you speak ! "
" Will you go back to the front shop ? " stormed the
little vixen, stamping her foot on the ground, in order
to call his attention to the fact that she had black
velvet boots on.
" I don't think so," said Marcin, gazing down at the
black velvet feet. It was a delightfully new sensa-
tion for him to be stamped at. He sat down on the
only arm-chair in the room, and prepared to make
himself at home. His immovable limpness often
gained points which another man's energy would
Janina turned her back upon him, and began mak-
ing a great noise and bustle with jars, bottles, medicine-
spoons, and everything within reach. It was always
her way to make a noise with whatever she touched,
and it was remarkable what a variety of clattering
and rattling sounds she managed to get out of glass
and china; even harmless-looking pasteboard boxes
seemed to become noisy under her hands. She began
156 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
dividing off some powders, and folding them in papers.
Marcin looked on admiringly. It made him feel
rather giddy to see any one move about so quickly
as she did. It seemed to him, in a sort of indefinite
way, that she was a mixture of lightning, quicksilver,
gunpowder, express trains, and everything else in
the world which conveys an idea of rapidity and
Of course she was delighted that he should be there,
and, of course, she was quite resolved that he should
not get back into the front shop just yet ; but a little
show of resistance was more dignified, as well as more
exciting. She went on with her work as if resolved
to ignore his presence and existence. The room they
were in looked out on a narrow courtyard, where stood
a snow-covered summer-house, and where also hens
and geese stalked about on the frozen ground.
When Marcin had sat admiring for nearly two
minutes, he said, " Why were you not in church last
Sunday ? "
" Oh, you are here still, are you ? " remarked Janina,
over her shoulder.
" Why were you not in church ? "
" I don't go to church to see you."
" But I go to see you."
Without turning round, she shrugged her shoulders,
and burst out singing —
marcin's cards. 157
11 Ne toho jdu cerkowci Bohuse molyty,
Lys toho jdu do cerkowci, na lubka dzwyty,
Oj pzdu ja do cerkowci stanu pid obrazy,
Podzwlin se raz na popu, na lubku tzy razy. "
(I go not in the church to pray ; I go to look at my love. I stand
before the holy pictures, and look once at the priest, and three times
at my love.)
" How nice ! " said Marcin. " Songs save so many
explanations. Won't you teach me to sing ? "
Janina looked round, and the perpetual pout be-
came a decided one.
" What a question to put to a stranger ! You hardly
know me a bit."
" I have known you all my life."
" Ha, ha, ha ! " she laughed, with the abruptness of
a bomb. It was a very hearty childish laugh; but
still it was shrill, and it pierced Marcin's sensitive
ears. " Just listen to that ! You have seen me twice
exactly, I believe."
" Perhaps : you are always right."
" And perhaps you will never see me again."
"Perhaps." All this time he was staring at her
steadfastly and without intermission ; and all this
time, in the midst of her pouts and her head-tossings,
she never for a moment paused in the business of her
powder-making. Now she dropped him a curtsey
quite as unexpected as her laugh, and said, with
mock gratitude —
158 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Thank you, Pan Bielinski ! "
" How nice ! But don't call me Pan Bielinski. I
am tired of that."
" What am I to call you ? "
" I don't know."
" What do they call you at home ? "
" Then I will call you Marcin."
" How nice ! "
Janina held her tongue for a minute after this. She
had done her part, and it was clearly his turn to say
something now. But instinct told her quickly that
with this sort of man one must take the initiative ; so,
after a moment, and with a shy glance from under her
eyelashes, she asked, "And what are you going to call
me ? "
" I don't know. I can't call you Marcin also,
can I ? "
" But you might call me Janina."
" Thank you, Marcin, I mean Janina ! "
Another flash of black lightning scathed the willing
" Why don't you help me with these papers ? Don't
you see how busy I am ? "
" Help ! " repeated Marcin, with a faint smile.
" Yes, help ! Do you never help people ? "
" No, never. Life is too short for that." No one,
margin's cards. 159
since the commencement of his existence, had ever
asked Marcin to do as much as pick up a pin, and
now this audacious little creature was actually ask-
ing him to help her with papers and powders.
The experience was so new that it tickled his fancy.
He drew his chair to the table and received his
"You are to put these powders into blue paper, and
these into white. Do you understand ? "
" Not at all ! "
" Of course you cannot understand, if you look at
me instead of at the powders. There is my father
Jan Wronski, having disposed of the commoner cus-
tomers, had suddenly awoke to the fact that his dis-
tinguished customer had disappeared in some myste-
rious and inexplicable fashion. He had certainly not
gone out by the front door, for the sledge with the
shivering horses still stood before the house. He
would consult Janina ; but entering the back shop for
this purpose, he found not only Janina but also the
distinguished visitor filling powders into paper.
" Pan Bielinski came in here because he was so
cold," explained Janina, sitting ostentatiously demure,
with her eyes on the powders. She looked such a
good, dutiful, and well-behaved little girl as she
160 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Pan Bielinski's alterations from heat to cold must
have been rapid, to judge from the three glasses of soda-
water a little time ago. For a moment Jan Wronski's
suspicions concerning a possible mad dog glimmered
into life again, but died away at the sight of the dis-
tinguished customer's perfect composure of face. Pan
Bielinski was cold? Would he not sit nearer the
stove ? Would he not like a rucf over his feet, or a
cloak over his shoulders ? No ; he preferred to sit
where he was. But at least there must be some more
wood put on.
" He is qualifying himself for a medical student,"
put in Janina, unflinchingly, in order to check the flow
of her father's suggestions, " and he is very anxious to
learn how to make powders."
" So I see — so I see ; and you can teach that better
than I," said the dismal apothecary, passing his hand
over his long hair; "so I shall just go back to a very in-
teresting treatise I was reading, which throws some quite
new lights upon the treatment of hydrophobia ; " and
Jan Wronski withdrew, having gathered the impres-
sion that young Pan Bielinski was a doctor in embryo,
very earnest about his profession, and in particular
very keen about powders.
There followed a quarter of an hour, during which
Marcin certainly did not learn the system of wrapping
up powders, although he possibly may have learnt
many other things.
" You are not cold now, are you, Marcin ? " Janina
asked, with her black-poodle head on one side. She
had talked, and worked, and teased, and laughed the
whole time. Now, for the first time, she took a mo-
ment's rest; and rest consisted in leaning forward with
both her arms on the table. The table was not a very
broad one. Her bold black eyes were gleaming brimful
of life as she looked into his face. If she had not been
so young and so fresh, even Marcin might have dis-
covered that she was vulgar ; as it was, no such sug-
gestion threw its shadow over this new sort of enjoy-
ment he was experiencing.
" I am not cold now," he said, and as he said it, it
occurred to him that he had never felt so warm in his
life before. He dropped the powders on the table, and
took hold, instead, of those two little busy brown
hands which lay close by. They fluttered for a mo-
ment in his grasp, and made a pretence of escaping,
and yet the plump fingers were much tighter in their
grasp than the limp white hands. There was fire in
her black eyes — Marcin felt it blazing on him; and
then — and then, he did not at all know how it hap-
pened, — perhaps he only did it by mistake, or per-
haps it was only because the table was so narrow,
VOL. I. L
162 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
— but certainly he had leant across the table and
The next thing was startling ; for the door burst
open, and there entered Jan Wronski in a state of
" The horses are perishing with cold, Pan Bielinski,
— just perishing ! "
" What horses ? " stammered Marcin, not yet re-
covered from surprise at his own conduct, and not at
all certain whether Jan had not been witness of it.
" Your horses ; they have been standing for three
quarters of an hour. The coachman says they will
catch their death of cold."
" More haste, less speed ! " said Marcin, rather wide
of the mark. " It never does to be in a hurry."
" Quite so, Pan Bielinski, especially with powders.' 5
" I have learnt a great deal," looking at the back of
Janina's head, which was turned towards them. Per-
haps she was angry ; she had not spoken since.
" Good-bye, Panna Janina ! "
" Good-bye, Pan Bielinski ! "
No, she was not angry ; this much he had ascer-
Before he had got through the front shop, Janina
was throwing up her hands in despair over the dis-
covery that all the powders that should have been in
MARCINS CARDS. 163
blue paper were in white, and all those that should
have been in white were in blue.
" Is there anything else that I can serve you with? "
asked the apothecary, at the door.
Marcin looked round him for the last time.
" Nothing ; yes — perhaps one more glass of soda-
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS.
" The Sabbath is a bride and a queen, and in itself more than all the command-
ments of the Lord : therefore shall the Jew fitly honour the Sabbath, from
the Friday evening until the evening when the Sabbath is closed." — Talmvd
The slip of paper was still safely buttoned up in
Marcin's pocket when he reached home.
" Well, Marcin, how did you get on ? "
"Famously ; much better than I hoped."
" And where are your purchases ? "
" Purchases ? Do you mean the soda-water ? I
didn't bring any back with me."
" But, Marcin ! the slip of paper I gave you ; you
have lost it, I suppose ? "
" Oh, you mean the trap for my mother ? I found
it was getting rather late, so I "
" So I did not "
" Did not what ? "
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 165
" You see, the horses had been standing a long time,"
explained Marcin, apologetically.
" Standing where ? " broke in Kazimir, with some
indignation ; but Lucyan remarked calmly : " So you
did not go near the apothecary's after all?"
" Oh yes, very near ! "
Lucyan gave a philosophical shrug to his shoulders,
and held his tongue. The long and the short of it was,
that Marcin had been to Tarajow and back, and had
brought neither Neurojpoeticon nor traps for the foxes.
Some days after this Kazimir announced : " I am
going to drive over to-morrow."
" Where to ? Tarajow ? "
" No, Lodniki. Won't you come with me Lucyan ? "
He had put this question so frequently and so reg-
ularly that it surprised him when this time Lucyan
answered, " Very well, I will go with you to-morrow."
Accordingly Lucyan went, and made acquaintance with
the Eogdanovics household.
There has been very little said as to the prece-
dents and position of this family, and it now becomes
necessary to say more. The chief particulars, some of
which Kazimir had gathered from Eogdanovics, and
Lucyan in turn elicited from his brother, were briefly
At the time when Eogdanovics had been Bogumil
Bielinski's friend — that is, twenty years ago — he had
160 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
been comparatively a poor man, but eminently a
wandering man ; leading a sort of gentlemanly vaga-
bond life ; shifting about from one part of the country
to another ; buying small estates and selling them
again ; renting others and throwing up his lease ; or
effecting speculative exchanges and compromises.
This nomadic existence, he explained to his friends,
was but a preparation for the time when a certain
large and valuable estate in Eussian Poland should
fall to his share by inheritance. This had come to
pass only two years ago ; and now at last he would
be able to air the ambitious schemes with which his
brain was teeming. After passing a year and a half
on this estate, Rogdanovics explained to his friends
that the ground did not lend itself to his plans. No
doubt the control of Russian authorities, which makes
itself felt even in private life and private undertak-
ings, had unduly oppressed Rogdanovics's free spirit.
Letting the place rather suddenly, he appeared in
East Galicia, where he bought Lodniki, and rented
the neighbouring large farm, Szybalin, threw the Jbwo
together, and began expending his energies upon this
double farm. The large speculative plans in which he
had embarked since his appearance, six months ago,
were beginning to startle the conservative minds of
the small proprietors around. Rumours of a colossal
estate in Russian Poland were fully confirmed by the
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 167
grand footing on which, from the first, he had placed
his establishment. Beyond that, they knew very little
about him; or if any one did know anything about
him, it was the Jews ; and the Jews do not give in-
Foremost among the speculative ideas which had
induced Eogdanovics to settle on this particular spot,
had been the hope of a future railway. On the
strength of this hope he had cheerfully paid a higher
price for Lodniki, and a higher rent for Szybalin, than
would under ordinary circumstances have been asked.
Such a railway really was projected ; but most of
the proprietors around shook their heads at Eog-
danovics's folly, and declared that he might consider
himself lucky if he saw as much as half-a-dozen yards
of rails within the next ten years. In face of all de-
pressing arguments, Eogdanovics persisted in being-
cheerful about his railway. The more his neighbours
shook their heads the more he rubbed his hands,
and the more fabulous grew the sums which he was
ready to wager, that the railway would be there, en-
gines, station-masters, tunnels and all, in less than no
time. So confident was he in himself and his pro-
jects, and so firmly convinced that he had hit upon
the right thing at last, that he forswore his nomadic
existence, and sent for his daughter to join him. Vizia
had lived but little with her father ; who, regarding
168 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
her rather in the light of an encumbrance, had been
thankful to leave her at Krakow, under the wing of
Madame Torska, a widowed sister of his own. This
widowed sister had a second niece in charge ; for
Xenia, the daughter of a younger Eogdanovics brother,
had lost her home and her parents in early childhood.
The two girls had grown up together, the younger
clinging to the elder with childlike reliance ; the
elder passionately attached to the cousin, whom she
regarded more as a sister than as a cousin, and yet
more as a child than as a sister.
When, therefore, Vizia was called upon to join her
father, the cousins could not be parted; and Xenia,
half dreading the lonely country life, and half anxious
for a change, accompanied Vizia to Lodniki, where for
the present she remained.
This is about the sum total of all that was known
concerning the Eogdanovics household ; and as yet it
had been no one's interest to inquire further. Now,
however, there had come a day on which some one
was moved to ask for more information. It was not
Kazimir — he did not care to look further than blue
eyes and chestnut hair — but, strangely enough, it was
That visit he paid to Lodniki with his brother was
a long visit ; it was very near dusk when the sledge
turned from the door.
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 169
" Well, what do you think of her ? " asked Kazimir
eagerly, almost before they were out of earshot.
"What do I think of which of them?" retorted
Lucyan, as he pulled his fur collar up to his ears.
"Oh, of both, of course, I mean," said the other
with a start, and a desperate attempt at manoeuvring ;
and then, by way of being particularly deep, he added,
" Mademoiselle Vizia is very agreeable, is she not ? "
" Yes, very."
"And don't you think," began Kazimir, but his
voice was drowned in a jingle of bells, as a heavily
laden sledge came tearing towards and past them.
" There is the man I want," said Lucyan quickly,
half rising, and putting a hand on the reins which his
brother held. Among that closely packed mass of
black figures, nine or ten in all, he had recognised one,
and the recognition was at that moment particularly
agreeable to him.
" Make the horses stand a couple of minutes, Kazi-
mir," said Lucyan; " I have something to say to Aitzig
Majulik — something about flower -seeds," he added,
as he stepped out of the sledge. " He is going off to
buy horses in the Bukowina, and may be away some
The Jew-laden sledge had shot on some fifty yards,
before, in answer to Lu cyan's signal, it was able to
draw up. Lucyan, therefore, had to walk back towards
170 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
it, and in so doing, he came again within sight of the
Lodniki house. He was near enough to have counted
the window-panes, if he had been so minded, and to
distinguish quite clearly the figures of the two shaggy
watch-dogs at their post ; but the falling dusk drew a
delicate veil over the outlines of everything. Lucyan
must have had his flower-seeds very much more at
heart than he had his boots, if it was for the sake of
the former that he tramped thus through the snow.
But he did not tramp back all the way. As soon
as he had got partially out of sight of the sledge, he
stopped and beckoned to Aitzig Majulik.
The factor had already glided from his seat, and was
plunging onwards through the deep snow — his kaftan
flapping wildly, his skeleton legs making desperate
strides, his corkscrew curls streaming in the wind like
two demented snakes. When he got to the spot where
Lucyan waited, he could only stand and gasp, with the
drops running down his face, and his dirty fur cap
sitting all awry upon his head.
Lucyan waited calmly till he should have recovered
breath, and as soon as he had recovered breath, Aitzig
began panting out something about Szabas and the
sunset hour, and that he would most assuredly be
caught on the road by the first stroke of the holy day,
and therefore, still more assuredly, be damned for all
eternity. For this was Friday evening, close upon the
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 171
verge of the twenty -four hours during which all
worldly transactions are rigorously forbidden to the
children of Abraham. The nine other children of
Abraham, dangling their long legs on the sledge, were
beginning to beat their breasts at the thought of this
delay. With nine souls on his conscience, no wonder
that Aitzig trembled for his own.
" You will reach the town in time," said Lucyan,
" if you give this to the driver to help him on fast-
er;" and at sight of a paper florin, Aitzig's susceptible
conscience experienced a momentary relief, the nine
souls of his brethren became perceptibly lighter in
" What is it the gracious Pan desires ? " he gasped,
still a little short of breath.
Lucyan, perceiving that time pressed, and knowing
that even a paper florin cannot keep a conscience at
bay for ever, quickly fitted himself to circumstances.
" You know that family, of course," he said, making
a slight movement with his head towards the house.
" I know that family," assented Aitzig, on his guard
at once, and from under his deep eyebrows watching
his questioner with that mixture of suspicion and
cunning which is never absent from a Jew, even a
Jew trembling for the salvation of his soul.
" And all about them ? "
" Some things about them, noble Pan," said Aitzig,
172 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
in an abject tone, giving one pull to each of his curls ;
" some little things does poor old Aitzig know about
them. If you said to me, What is the amount of
silver forks that they keep in that house ? I can give
you the exact number written on paper ; and if you
ask me, Of what sort are the servants that they
have in that family ? I will answer you that among
the servants is a cook who is always drunk ; and if
" Silence ! " said Lucyan ; and though he did not
raise his voice to say it, the tone was enough to silence
the Jew on the spot. " I do not want to hear about
Aitzig knew perfectly that he did not want to hear
about the cook, but somehow at this moment his
conscience grew tender again : " God of Moses ! " he
moaned, just loud enough for Lucyan to hear it, and
he softly wrung his hands, — " if the Kojchoiv-huarvis
(the first star of the evening) shall shine out while I
stand talking here, then will Aitzig Majulik's soul be
damned for ever."
The strength of the one paper florin was clearly
spent, and reluctantly Lucyan drew out a second. He
was not precisely a miser, and he was too clever ever
to become a miser, and yet he had some qualities of
the miser in him ; he could not let as much as a silver
Zwanziger leave his hands without a distinct pang of
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 173
pain, as acute as though he were parting with a bit of
" Quick," said Lucy an, " since there is no time to
lose. What I want to know is this, Are these specu-
lations safe ? Are these grand schemes sound or are
they not ? Is the fortune to be built upon ? "
Aitzig drew up his shoulders in his favourite man-
ner, till they brushed the corkscrew curls, and put on
to his face an expression which might mean anything.
That is a great question which you put to poor old
Aitzig Majulik," he cried. " Who is Aitzig, that he
should answer such a question ? Has he the wisdom
of Solomon to guide him ? How should he like to say
that these grand speculations mean very much, and
how should he like to say that they mean little ? "
This was much too valuable a fund of information
to be imparted thus in a hurried talk, and for the
niggardly consideration of two paper florins.
It was clear that he was not to be got at this way.
Lucyan tried another. Looking at the house, he had
seen a figure step out by the door and stand on the
pillared verandah outside. He recognised Vizia's red
shawl at once, and with its help he was able to assure
himself that this was the plain, and not the beautiful
" Look," he said, with a bold move, laying his hand
on the Jew's arm, " it is about that young lady that
174 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
I want to know. You recognise her?" Aitzig had
turned towards the house, and stood shading his eyes
with his hand.
" About that young lady — yes," he repeated, slowly.
" What does the gracious Pan desire to know of me ? "
" The sum of her fortune ; quick now, on the
spot ! "
" God of my forefathers ! " groaned Aitzig, dropping
his hand suddenly, " let me go, noble gentleman ; you
would not have poor old Aitzig burn for ever — wai,
wai ! Do I not see the bright lights beginning to
shine out of the windows of the children of Israel ;
and are they not asking of each other, ' Where is
Aitzig Majulik, the ever faithful ? ' Gott und die
Welt ! is it not my brethren who are preparing to
leave me ? They will drive home, and they will be
saved, and poor old "
" Tell me the sum of her fortune instantly," repeated
Lucyan, not moving a muscle of his face. His hand
was upon Aitzig's arm, and through his threadbare
kaftan the Jew could feel that the grasp of that
delicate white hand was as firm, ay, and as cold too,
as the grasp of a hand of steel. In the background
the waiting Jews were chattering loudly, and swaying
their lean bodies from side to side, as they beckoned
wildly to their comrade.
" Quick," said Lucyan, again.
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 175
" Seventy — thousand — florins," whined Aitzig, trail-
ing out each word, as though it were being drawn
from his lips with iron pincers, writhing in mental
agony between the thought of his salvation and the
thought of the excellent bargain that might have been
made of this had time only permitted.
Lucyan's eyes lit up for a moment in their own
peculiar fashion. He threw another glance towards
the figure on the verandah, and it struck him that
Vizia looked a great deal handsomer in the light of
these seventy thousand florins, even though he was
scarcely near enough to distinguish her features. But
quickly he returned to caution ; even seventy thou-
sand florins might easily be swallowed up in one of
Eogdanovics's grand schemes.
" Does that mean seventy thousand florins of her
own, or of her father's ? "
"Of her own — of her own ! " breathed Aitzig, wrig-
gling vainly under Lucyan's hand. "Her mother's
money ; entirely her own. God of Abraham ! "
" And the investment ? "
" Safe as the ark of the covenant ! "
" You are not deceiving me, dog ? " and Lucyan
gave a quick sharp shake to the arm he held. " If
one word is false you shall rue it."
" As true as the Pentateuch," said the trembling
Jew, stuttering in his eagerness to be gone ; for the
176 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Szdbas dusk was falling fast, very fast now, and the
swaying Jews in the background were moving slowly
off. " Let my beard be shrivelled to cinders if I speak
not the truth ; they will be saved — Gott und die Welt,
they will be saved ! "
" Save yourself, then, Moschku ! " x and in the
moment that those white fingers unclasped, Aitzig
went off through the snow like an arrow from the
string, racing as though he were pursuing his truant
soul, reached the sledge, already in motion, threw
himself on it with the energy of despair, was dragged
up by the forgiving brethren, whose salvation he had
just been so gravely imperilling, while in a cloud of
flying snow the sledge rushed off at a tearing pace,
and disappeared like lightning through the falling
Lucyan found his brother in a state of ill-suppressed
" Eeally, Lucyan, you might have considered the
horses, instead of standing there conversing about
" It was very urgent," said Lucyan, taking his place
" Well, and is it all right now about those wretched
seeds ? "
" Yes, I think my flower-seeds will do very well ! "
1 Contemptuous nickname applied to the Jews.
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 177
They drove on some moments in silence ; but Kaz-
imir was too impatiently eager to hear his brother's
opinion of Xenia to hold his tongue for long.
" So you say that you find Mademoiselle Vizia
agreeable?" he resumed, tentatively.
Lucyan had not been saying anything of the sort ;
but, after a momentary pause, he answered readily —
" She could be very agreeable, I think, but I cannot
say that she w T as particularly gracious to me."
"What did you talk about at your end of the
room ? "
" Well, I tried her with flowers, as you said she
was fond of them ; but somehow she did not seem to
be so very fond of them after all. What used you to
talk about with her \ "
" Oh, I don't know ; all sorts of things. She was
agreeable on all subjects, I fancy."
" H — m," said Lucyan. " You have more luck
" And what do you think of Mademoiselle Xenia ? "
Kazimir ventured now.
Lucyan did not answer at once. The fur collar hid
the lower part of his face, and, besides, it was fast
" Lucyan, don't you hear me ? What do you think
of her ? "
" I think she is prettier than her cousin."
VOL. I. M
178 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Prettier than her cousin ! " repeated Kazimir,
with some scorn. He had been looking for expres-
sions of rapturous — no, not rapturous, for Lucyan
never could be rapturous, but at least undisguised
(Kazimir did not know that his brother could never
be undisguised) — admiration. He regarded Xenia
to a certain extent as his own discovery and inven-
tion ; he wanted every one to know her and admire
her; he had really been anxious that his brother
should admire her ; and, instead of this, he was
chilled by being told that she was prettier than
" Is that all the difference you find between them ?
you who pretend to call yourself a connoisseur ! "
" Oh, I find other differences," said Lucyan, quite
" What sort ? "
" Intellectual differences."
Kazimir felt inclined to fire up, he did not exactly
" I do not in the least understand what you meau,"
he began, impulsively.
" That is because you misunderstand. I am not
such a fool as to expect brains in a woman ; they are
rather a disadvantage than otherwise — the few who
have got brains don't know how to use them. They
are very well as they are, I assure you."
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 179
" That is not my way of looking at women," said
Kazimir, with some heat.
"But it is mine," replied Lucyan, imperturbed;
" and I daresay it will be yours when you are a few
years older." It did not strike either of them as the
least strange that it should be the younger brother
who said this to the elder. Kazimir at twenty-six
was a great deal younger than Lucyan at twenty-four.
" Depend upon it, Kazio, whoever asks for brains
or character in a woman must be very short of the
first ingredient himself. Mademoiselle Vizia has got
brains, I am afraid ; and it is saying a good deal that,
in spite of them, I should like her." Of course Kazi-
mir could not know that there were seventy thousand
florins in the scale, which went far towards weighing
down the portion of Vizia's brains, however large it
" And as for her cousin, I agree with you ; she has
got the best part of a woman — beauty."
The tone was quite careless, studiously careless, and
perhaps on that account it grated on Kazimir. If it
had not been too dark to see, the smile which accom-
panied the words might have grated on him yet more ;
at any rate, it would have shown him that his younger
brother's j udgment as connoisseur was in no danger of
After this the drive became rather silent. Lucyan
180 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
reflected upon his talk with the factor, and examined
the new card in his hand ; and Kazimir asked himself
repeatedly how any one could talk so coolly about
Xenia's beauty. He had experienced a slight and in-
describable chill, not the first which had touched him
since the beginning of his renewed intercourse with
Lucyan. It puzzled and displeased him, for was not
Lucyan his brother ? and is it not a universal law that
brothers love each other % Kazimir believed so at
least, and told himself that of course he liked his
brother, and that these momentary touches, which set
some chord within him jarring, could be caused only
by the long separation. Time would mend that, no
doubt. He did not speak again till they were far on
their way, and then he said suddenly : " Mademoiselle
Yizia asked me to come to their fox-hunt ; I suppose
she asked you too ? "
" She did not condescend so far to me, but her
father did, which is the same."
" Then you will be there ? "
" Yes, I think I shall. The foxes are my enemies,
a iid the traps have failed ; nothing but a lot of starved
sparrows fell in."
"Poor little wretches !" said Kazimir.
" Horrid little wretches ! * laughed Lucyan. " Are
you not rather soft-hearted for a soldier? They
were very funny to look at, I assure you. As stiff
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS. 181
as a dozen door-nails. You don't admire the picture ?
Well, to return to the point, I shall go to the fox-
hunt ; you have given me a taste for society, Kazio."
As he spoke the very first star shone out overhead,
— that terrible star, which coming a little while ago
would have condemned Aitzig Majulik's soul to ever-
lasting torments ; and whose fatal beam he had barely
escaped by traversing the four miles' distance at a rate
which landed his nine faithful brethren with rescued
souls indeed, but, alas ! with sorely bruised bodies.
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS.
" Du blickst mild und klar und gut,
Und bist's auch wohl ; doch htite dich, hiite dich !
Dort weiter draussen braust das Meer."
" If she be made of white and red,
Her faults will ne'er be known."
— Love's Labour's Lost.
In spite of the cold, or rather because of the cold, the
foxes had been having a fine time of it lately. The
frost's icy spur had made heroes of them, one and all.
Falling a prey to a certain uneasy oppression in the
depths of their wintry forest haunts, their noble breasts
sighed for the freedom of airy fields, and the palates of
their noble mouths watered for the flavour of the part-
ridges that peopled those fields. Partridges by day and
fowls by night ; what an ideal of fox-existence ! They
stormed the poultry-yards, they ransacked the duck-
ponds, and many was the plump and tender pullet
which they carried home in triumph to be devoured in
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 183
the bosom of their red-coated families. Bolder and
bolder they grew as the cold increased ; intoxicated
with the blood of fat geese, the clearness of their
judgment began to grow clouded. Looked at through
a halo of feathers, the world seemed but one vast
poultry -yard, and men but the dull-headed slaves
who fattened hens and ducks for their majesties the
foxes. Their majesties snapped their fingers, meta-
phorically speaking, at mankind. What fools men
were ! What fools were all other creatures but foxes !
The rash and foolish wolf, for instance, who allows
himself to be lured to destruction by the squeal of a
struggling sucking-pig. But Master Eeynard knows
better than that; he is not to be tempted by such
clumsy devices ; he knows to distinguish between one
of those murderer-laden sledges bristling with guns,
and a harmless travelling-sledge — such, for instance,
as this one which comes spinning across the snowy
landscape towards him. Master Eeynard was at that
moment stalking an uncommonly plump partridge; and
what between gourmanclise and arrogance, he did not
consider it worth while to move out of the way for this
travelling party, — this gentleman and his good lady,
starting perhaps on their wedding-trip. The fox had
a good lady himself at home, and he had been young
in his day too, and he had even had a wedding-trip
into a high-class poultry-yard. He remembered still
184 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR.
with emotion the first succulent guinea-fowl (ah, how
succulent it had been !) which he and she had strangled
between them. To this day he could never see a
guinea-fowl without feeling soft. Altogether the sight
of this young couple put him into a state of good-
humoured patronage; and if he had not been afraid
of leaving that partridge out of his ken, he would
have liked to turn round, wave his red tail instead of a
handkerchief, and call out bon voyage to the travellers.
Just as he had reached this pitch of sentiment, it
struck Master Eeynard that the young travellers on
their side were evincing at least an equal sympathy
for him. Straight towards him the sledge came, spin-
ning nearer and nearer over the snow. The male
occupant half rose for a moment, and bent towards
the driver. With one eye Master Eeynard saw this,
keeping the other eye on the partridge, and at the
same moment it seemed to him that the travelling rug
at the bottom of the sledge moved as if it were alive ;
and from under the edge what was that that peeped ?
A snout 1 a canine snout ? a sharp greyhound snout ?
Panic seized on Eeynard's heart ; horrid recollections
darted through his brain ; long-forgotten legends which
he had heard from his grandfather's lips, of masked
sledges, of disguises, of greyhounds concealed, of pur-
suit, destruction, death. Were men such fools, after all?
He saw no more partridge, he sighed no longer over his
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 185
wedding - trip ; he cast one glance across his ruddy
shoulder, and beheld the rug torn off and two sharp-
nosed monsters leaping to the ground. On one side
the open country, not a bush to hide him for miles
and miles ; on the other the forest, but, alas ! nearly a
mile away ; his last chance — for had he not a good
start of those sharp-nosed, slender-bodied monsters ?
He turned and fled towards the forest like wind.
" Too soon, Panie — nearly a minute too soon," said
the driver, turning to the gentleman in the sledge ;
" you should not have uncovered the dogs for another
" We shall have him yet ! " cried Kazimir, flushed
with the excitement of the sport ; and standing up he
tore the reins from the man's hands, seized the whip,
and lashed the horses into a furious pace. Over the
fields they flew, scattering the snow on all sides, tear-
ing it up under the horses' feet ; and before them the
dogs stretched, and further ahead, that red spot fled
over the white ground, drawing nearer and nearer to
the forest. The dogs held on bravely, though the
snow was deep; and the horses, taking the bit between
their teeth, raced as though they were racing for their
lives. Kazimir cracked the whip, and shouted encour-
agement to both dogs and horses. Once in the forest
the game would be lost, but they were still a good
quarter of a mile off.
186 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Kozak — that's right — he is gaining — cheer on —
another stretch — harder — harder ! " shouted Kazimir,
upright in the flying sledge. " We shall have him
yet ! They are all but ahead ; ha ! what's come to
Wanda ? She's lagging — by heavens she'll fail us ! "
" It is the snow, Panie — the snow ! it's too deep,"
cried the driver, clutching desperately to his seat ;
" too deep by half a yard. See there, it's all over ! " for
the second greyhound, dropping back suddenly, sank
up to her shoulders in the snow.
" There's Kozak still," said Kazimir, with one more
fierce cut to the horses ; but even while he was saying
it, Kozak began to flag — his hind-legs stuck, he strug-
gled free again, raced on a few paces, sank again, and
floundered along helplessly. Master Keynard could
have laughed in his red sleeve now, but the panic
had not left him, and did not leave him until he
was safe in his forest haunts ; and once there, the
first use to which he put his recovered breath, was
to vow that taste of partridge should never cross
his lips again.
" We have lost him ! " and Kazimir sank back on
" What a pity ! " said Xenia, clinging still appre-
hensively to the side of the sledge. She was used to
hard driving, but she had never been driven quite so
hard as this before. The last ten minutes had been
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 187
almost as nervous work to her as to the fox. Kazimir
felt remorseful, begged her pardon, hoped he had not
frightened her, for if that were the case, he could not
reasonably be expected to forgive himself, no, not if he
lived to be a hundred. He was ready to swear never
so much as to look at a fox again, with the same
fervour wherewith the fox had sworn never to look
at a partridge.
And so the poor disconcerted dogs were lugged up
into their places, and the party looked about, a little
crestfallen, considering what they should do next.
" I wonder where the others are ? " said Xenia.
" There is one of the sledges over there, after a fox
of their own ; we must not spoil their sport. Who is
it ? Lucyan, I declare ! "
" And Vizia ! " said Xenia, staring in the direction.
" Your cousin and my brother ! " said Kazimir, and
he smiled. " They seem to be very good friends, don't
they ? Lucyan was half inclined to shirk the sledging
Kazimir fell into a momentary meditation ; and the
subjects of his meditation were Lucyan and Vizia.
Certainly there was no accounting for some tastes.
He had not seen his brother start, for his sledge had
been the first to leave the house. The start had been
a complicated business altogether, and somewhat
stormy too. There had been five sledges in all, drawn
188 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
up before the door of Lodniki, and the first rule of the
sport was that each sledge should start independently
of the others, so as to give to the couple in each the
appearance of a harmless travelling party. But then
the difficulty of telling off these couples ! And how
Kazimir had trembled when he saw himself all but
allotted to an excellent young lady of forty summers,
with soot - coloured hair, and a dust - coloured com-
plexion. What between arguments and manoeuvres
and counter-manoeuvres, and an amiable young giant
who had tried very hard to carry off Xenia, and
the aforenamed dust-coloured lady who had tried
equally hard to carry off the young giant, and a
choleric old gentleman who insisted that the arrange-
ments were all new-fangled, and that the greyhounds
of the present day were not worthy to hold a candle
to the greyhounds of his day, and Pawel the sporting
servant's undisguised indignation at being kept out of
the fun, and Eogdanovics's hospitable efforts to please
everybody with the least trouble to himself, — what
with all this, it had taken fully an hour before the
party had got properly under way. " Rather cold
work," Lucyan had said aside to his brother ; " I
think I shall stay with the old people," and just at
that moment Kazimir had perceived that the amiable
young giant was making preparations to enter Xenia's
sledge. " I beg your pardon, that is my place,"
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 189
Kazimir had said, looking the amiable young giant
steadily in the eyes ; and the poor giant had shrunk to
half his size, withdrawn the leg which was already in
the sledge, and, with a helpless smile, resigned himself
to his dust-coloured nymph.
" Thank heavens ! " Kazimir had breathed, when
they were off. For weeks he had looked forward to
this moment ; was it likely that he should let himself
be frustrated, even by a giant ? This was one of the
rare occasions on which it is understood that Polish
chaperonage relaxes her sway ; and as Kazimir drove
away, he was struck by the same thought which had
struck Master Eeynard a little time ago — the thought
of the wedding-trip. It was a thought which set his
blood on fire, a thought which sent delicious thrills to
Up to this winter Kazimir had known no higher
interest than that of his profession. To his profession
he clung w T ith an undivided attachment, which has
gone quite as much out of fashion as the type of his
features. His profession had, to a certain extent,
formed his character. Discipline had given him much
control over a temper naturally as high and intolerant
as his father's had been ; isolation from family ties
had made him singularly independent in thought and
decision. The interests of military life had been out-
lets to his naturally ardent temperament. As yet
190 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
these interests had sufficed, and Kazimir had no idea
that they might one day fall short of sufficing. Not
that he had ever shunned society ; he had taken
pleasures as they came, and enjoyed them keenly at
the moment ; and society had received him with open
arms, and would gladly have made a pet of the hand-
some, vivacious young Pole, with his youthful old-
fashioned face, who moved and talked so easily, who
never looked bored and never affected to be blase, and
who carried about him a flavour of old-world chivalry,
quite distinct from the ordinary drawing-room varnish,
which is the only substitute to be had nowadays. But
in the midst of it all, Kazimir never looked upon
society as more than a temporary relaxation ; his pro-
fession was the business, and society the recreation, of
his life. Once or twice, as with his temperament and
at his age was inevitable, the recreation had threat-
ened to become serious. He had knelt at various
shrines, but slightly, on one knee only, as it were ; he
had been bound by chains, but nothing more than
rose-chaplets, easily cast off. His captivities had been
but short-lived ; the main interest had never failed to
assert its sv/ay over the interest of the moment. Thus
he had escaped unscathed, going on his way and re-
taining no impression, though possibly leaving some
behind ; passing unhurt through perils in which
colder men than he had fallen. Now, for the first
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 191
time since he had reached the age of manhood, he
found himself cut off suddenly from his military
sphere, and plunged into the monotony of a secluded
country place. His thoughts, finding themselves vio-
lently taken off from their usual interests, sought
eagerly for some other stimulus. Had he met Xenia
in his Tyrolese garrison, he might have bent no more
than one knee to her, as to the others ; but meeting
her at this place and at this period, he had gone
down on both his knees at once, and unhesitatingly —
and doubted not that on his knees he should remain
to the end of time.
Now, as, having lost their fox, the little party drove
slowly towards the forest, the wild delicious thrill of
joy which touched Kazimir was by no means the first,
but it was by far the most wild and the most delicious
which had touched him during these last two months.
They were alone (for a Polish driver does not rank as
a man), alone in this vast frozen forest. Hopes of
solid ice were twisted round every branch ; heavy
icicles hung overhead ; every dead leaf on the dead
trees was coated with frost. It was a dull, sullen,
and bitterly cold day — one of many days just alike.
For weeks past no snow had fallen, no wind had
blown, no sun had shone. Every morning the win-
dow-panes had been fantastically frozen ; the trees
had stood rigid with ice, stiff with hardened snow.
192 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
But Kazimir did not miss the sunshine. He saw only
that the wintry trees were of a bridal-like whiteness,
and that the frosty branches seemed to wreathe them-
selves naturally into dazzling diadems ; the weak
chirp of a half- frozen linnet hopping across their
path, seemed to him sweeter than the song of any
nightingale ; for no nightingale he had ever heard
had sung a song which he could understand : while
this poor lean bird was, quite distinctly and audi-
bly, celebrating the delight, the happiness, the sweet
intoxication of a fresh first love. It was not Kazi-
mir's way to notice small things ; but what that linnet
chirped coincided so exactly with his own opinion,
that he put his hand to his pocket in the hopes of
They had made no effort to regain the open plain ;
once in the forest, they continued their way through it
mechanically, feeling singularly cool about the foxes.
"Does this not remind you," asked Kazimir, sud-
denly, " of that ride over the Pyrenees of Palmerie
and Barbarin, about which you told me ? The wood
in which he fell on his knees before her, must have
been just like this one, I fancy."
" Pan Bielinski ! " the blue eyes looked at him in
undisguised reproach. " How could Palmerie ride with
Barbarin ? Don't you remember that he has made up
his mind to strangle her the very first time that they
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 193
are alone together? And besides, he is her half-
brother, you know."
" Oh, I beg your pardon, to be sure ; of course it
would be no fun riding with her brother, particularly
if she is to be strangled. It was the other fellow I
meant. By the by, how did the last duel go off be-
tween Albert and — and — what's his name 1 Rudolph S "
" Adolph and Eaoul," corrected Xenia, carefully.
" It was not quite as bad as I feared ; Adolph only
lost one ear, and Raoul got two ribs broken, or I think
it was three. Vizia would know, if she was here," and
Xenia gave a look around, as if in hopes that her
cousin might possibly appear from out of the frozen
forest. " I think that in the next number of the
1 Journal des Demoiselles ' the secret will be explained,
for the last words are : ' Alors l'inconnu, avec un rire
demoniaque, arracha son masque, et a la vue de ce
visage, Palmerie tomba en arriere, evanouie.' There
are three stars before ' evanouie/ It was at a masked
ball, you know."
" Have you ever been to a masked ball ? " inquired
Kazimir, regardless of Palmerie's sufferings.
" Never ; there was one last year at Krakow, but —
" You were not at it ? "
" No ; because my aunt said that the costume would
be too expensive."
VOL. I. N
194 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Kazimir wished he had not touched upon so deli-
cate a subject, but Xenia, though blushing, was not
precisely embarrassed. She went on with her naive
" You see, my aunt will give me very little money to
spend. I had to wear the same ball-room dress twice
over ; and I could not have gone to the third ball at all,
if Vizia had not given me a dress."
" You are very fond of your cousin, are you not ? "
asked Kazimir, thirsting for every word from her lips,
not caring much what she said, as long as she spoke.
" Of Vizia ? Oh, I like her more than any one else
in the world; you don't know how good she is
" More than any one else in the world," repeated
Kazimir, aloud, and a pang of jealousy stabbed his
heart. " Yes, and your aunt at Krakow ? go on, please,
tell me more."
" I like her too j only she is cross sometimes, and
she lets me have so little to spend ; she says I shan't
need money till I marry, and then I shall have
" A rich marriage," said Kazimir between his teeth,
" and I am a poor man. No matter, I shall win her."
His blood was mounting rapidly with every moment
that they sped thus along; the frosty air made him
drunk. What was that the linnet chirped just now?
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 195
" Away, away, through the forest ! never turn back.
Carry her boldly off, and she is yours." He could
scarcely take his eyes off Xenia's face; off the rounded
chin, where childish dimples were for ever peeping,
the ruffled curls pressed by the soft fur cap. She
wore a velvet kazaba'ika, and though the dark-green
colour was somewhat faded, and the velvet no longer
new, the jacket, with its border of silver-grey fur, set
off her beauty to perfection. That touch of crimson
on her cheek, of blue in her eyes, of bright chestnut-
brown on her hair, made a contrast and a harmony of
tints which was fast bewitching his senses ; and then,
the open, timid, yet fearless gaze of those blue eyes !
It was enough to make the brain of a stronger and
an older man reel. The irresistible charm of her
manner was not to be defined by any single word : it
w T as not affected, and yet not free from affectation ;
it was not pure nature, and yet it was not pure art ; if
there was vanity in it, it was the vanity of an inno-
cent child; and if there was coquetry there, it was
coquetry so unconscious and so young — coquetry
scarcely peeping from the bud, with the bloom still so
fresh upon it — that not for worlds would you have had
her without it. Even those little tricks of gesture,
that shrug and half-shy toying with a curl which was
her habit, were, in their way, not inoffensive only, but
enchanting. Her charm was not that of the wild
196 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
brier, which flings its careless branches on the air ; it
was rather that of a well-trained garden rose, putting
out its buds in regular succession, where not a twig
is allowed to grow out of the straight way, and not a
tendril is suffered to escape. As there are different
tastes in the world, it is as well that there should be
both wild briers and garden roses growing there.
" And she would not let me dance often," went on
Xenia, continuing her complaints — " she won't let me
go to the public balls ; but, do you know, I think we
shall dance a little this evening. I have had no car-
nival at all."
" I hope you will dance with me," said Kazimir,
losing his head more and more.
" The Mazur ? "
" Yes, the Mazur and the quadrille, waltzes and
polkas, anything, everything."
Xenia drew back and gave him a glance, shrinking,
inquiring, and coy, and then quickly she turned her
" Perhaps I shall go to Krakow after all," she said,
nervously ; " my aunt wants me to come for the last
week of carnival."
" Don't go," said Kazimir, impulsively.
" To Krakow ? Why not ? "
" Because I could not bear it ! " began Kazimir, and
then checked himself with a violent effort of will. He
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 197
was quite clear by this time, that this woman beside
him was the only woman he should care to have for
his wife, but he must not frighten her, perhaps spoil
his chance, by a rash confession. No ; these hungry
birds hopping along the bushes, with their tempting,
insinuating chirp, might mean it for the best, but,
alas! they were not acquainted with the usages of the
world. It might be all very well for a linnet to fly
off straight with the bird of his choice, and thus to
cheat all watchful relations, all ambitious old aunts ;
but it would scarcely do for human beings.
What would be safe to say next 1 Change the sub-
ject? But the subject was at that moment changed
in a quite unexpected manner.
The two greyhounds, crouching under the cover
neglected and forgotten, had up to this point lain
motionless ; but just as Kazimir was wondering what
next to say, there was a movement at their feet ; the
fur rug shivered violently, and one of the dogs jerked
his head up into sight.
"What is it, Kozak? — a fox?" asked Kazimir,
remembering with a start that they were supposed to
be out on a fox-hunt.
Kozak was sitting upright, his neck stretched, his
eye fixed ; and as Kazimir spoke, he began to whine
"Out at him, Kozak! where is he?" said Kazimir,
198 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
with an encouraging pat ; and he drew the covering off
the second dog. But neither Kozak nor Wanda showed
any inclination to leap off the sledge : Kazimir gave
the signal and they did not offer to obey it, did not
even seem to see it, but sat pressed against each other,
shivering and whining.
" The dogs are gone mad," said Kazimir, and he rose
in the sledge to look on ahead. There was a frozen
stream crossing the road, about a dozen yards in front
of them ; a bridge of rough planks led over this stream ;
and right in the centre of the bridge, sitting immov-
able on its haunches, was a large and shaggy grey
beast. Kazimir's first impression was that this must
be a dog belonging to one of the other sledges ; but
then it was certainly not a greyhound : it had neither
the figure nor the colour of a greyhound ; its hair
was coarse and stiff; there was a suggestion of iron
strength in the curve of the haunches, and in the bend
of the rigid neck, as with lowered head and dull eyes
it stared full and stupidly at the approaching sledge.
" The strangest dog I have ever seen," said Kazimir,
still standing. " Do you see him, Pani Xenia ? "
" Yes, I see him — but it is not a dog ; it is a fox — I
think the same fox that looked at me through the
window ; I know him by his broad white chest."
"You must be right; Kozak, Wanda, out at him,
cowards ! why don't they move ? Touch up the
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 199
horses — we shall be close to him in a minute ;" but
before he could finish his phrase, both horses, as they
reached the first plank of the bridge, swerved violently
to one side, reared half up, and refused to advance.
Kazimir, thrown forwards, just saved himself from
falling. The driver seemed all at once to have taken
leave of his senses.
" Wilk ! wilk I " he shouted, in tones of terror, lash-
ing the rearing horses frantically. "The wilk! we
must fly from the wilk I "
" A wolf ? " repeated Kazimir, incredulously.
"A wolf!" Xenia turned deadly pale, and clung
shuddering to his arm. " Oh, save me ! Let us get on ;
it will tear us to pieces ! "
" The beast shall not touch you," said Kazimir, ex-
citedly ; " see, I am between the wolf and you. Don't
be frightened, — don't cry, I implore of you ; one wolf
could not hurt us, if it tried."
They were close alongside of the brute by this time ;
but the wolf never stirred; there it sat still, in its
gorged and heavy attitude, stupidly staring with sunk
head and glaring yellow eyes. The terrified horses,
lashed on by the terrified coachman, plunged without
being able to retreat, and without daring to advance.
" Let me out ! let me out ! " cried Kazimir ; " let me
get at the wolf ! " but his left arm was prisoner, and he
could not move.
200 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Shoot, Panie ! " screamed the driver.
"No, no, don't shoot — please don't shoot," sobbed
Xenia, with her face buried on his sleeve.
" I have nothing to shoot with, — but let me out ! "
" Don't, Pannie, don't ! " cried the man.
" No, no, stay near me ! don't get out — don't go near
the wolf ! " Xenia implored ; " you will be hurt — you
will be killed!"
" I shall not be killed ; you do not know how strong
I am," said Kazimir, between his reluctance to shake
off that clinging hold, and his desire to do something
which might turn him into a sort of hero before her
eyes. "I will kill him, I promise you, — strangle him,
— strike him dead somehow; let me have a stick,
anything. Ah ! the whip ! " He snatched the whip
with his one free hand, and leaning from the sledge
as far as he could, struck out with the butt-end, but
missed his aim — reversed the whip, and lashed out
with all his strength at the wolf. He hit him this
time, and the brute, slowly rising, with his neck still
lowered, stood for a moment where he had sat. Kozak
threw up his head and gave a dismal howl, which
struck cold to the very marrow of the bones.
At the second lash, the wolf moved off heavily,
slinking towards the brushwood, with his head turned
backwards, and his lips drawn up from his teeth in a
sullen and hideous snarl.
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 201
The horses, bounding forwards, cleared the bridge,
and galloped wildly along the road.
"It is all over," said Kazimir, half regretfully.
" Pani Xenia, it is all over."
Her face was still hidden on his arm ; he could feel
how she was trembling with nervous excitement. She
looked up now and glanced fearfully around. "Are
you sure it is over? are you sure the wolf is gone?
Take me home — oh, take me home to Vizia! " she broke
out, bursting into hysterical sobs. Her face was so
pale that Kazimir thought she would faint. It was
his dangerous privilege to soothe her, to comfort her,
to support her with his arm, to promise that they
should be at home presently, and that till then she
must trust to him. There are some men who are
repelled by the extremes of feminine helplessness, and
there are some men who are attracted by it ; some
whom hysterical tears harden, and some whom they
soften. Kazimir was of the latter sort. The more a
woman seemed able to take care of herself, the less
sympathy he felt for her; and the more anxious a
woman was to lean upon him, the more ready he was
to be leant upon. He was the very stuff of which the
knights of the middle ages were made of; anything
weak, anything in want of protection appealed straight
to his honour, and to his heart. Widows and orphans
and ill-used people generally were the peculiar objects
202 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
of his sympathy. Women who were neither widowed,
orphaned, nor ill-used, appeared to a certain disad-
vantage before his eyes. If Xenia had not been an
orphan, he might not have felt so mightily drawn
towards her. Of course, as the orphan in question
happened to be transcendently beautiful, it did not
detract from the effect upon him.
He was half trembling himself as he supported her,
and gave her every care which he could think of, —
chafing her hands with snow, which he snatched in
passing— imploring her to rely on him ; * for, look," he
said, " we are almost out of the forest now."
And soon she revived, and the colour flowed back
to her cheek, and she begged him not to think her
foolish (he only thought her adorable). She was com-
posed enough to blush at the thought of how she had
clung to him a minute ago, and yet still flurried
enough to leave her hand in his for support.
" And we shall be out of the forest soon," she
whispered. " Oh, how glad I am ! The forest will
always frighten me now ; I should like to get away
from it. I should like to go to Krakow; there are no
forests there, and no wolves."
" But if some one begged you not to go to Krakow,"
answered Kazimir, in a whisper, too, " would you not
stay then ? " His pulses were throbbing so intolera-
bly hard, that he could scarcely hear his own voice.
CUTTING FOR PARTNERS. 203
He had been able to check himself a little time ago ;
but that was before the wolf — before she had clung
to him and hid her face on his arm ; he was no
more able to check himself now. He would not
now have been deaf to the insinuating chirp of
the linnets, and to the delicious temptation they
" If some one asked you to stay ? " he urged, not
hearing or not heeding the jingle of approaching
" If who asked me to stay ? " breathed Xenia, al-
" If I asked you — if I begged you as a favour — if I
told you that the thought of your going there made
" I don't want to make you miserable."
" Then make me happy ! " broke out Kazimir.
"Ha, Kazio ! is that you?" The call was close at
hand, the bells were jingling by his ear, and he had
not heard them. He started, and beheld, a few yards
from him, his brother Lucyan beside Vizia. There
was a quiet smile on Lucyan's face. " Have you been
looking for foxes in the forest, Kazio ? and did you
find any there ? "
" We have got a fox ! " shouted another voice from
another side ; and the amiable young giant appeared
abreast of the sledge.
204 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
They had reached the place of rendezvous, and that
wild delightful drive was at an end.
As soon as they got home, Xenia threw herself into
her cousin's arms, and said —
" Pity me, Vizia, I have been so frightened ! I was
nearly torn to pieces by a wolf in the forest."
SHE LOST THE TRICK.
Why was I made for love, and love denied to me ? "
" I AM ready to wager," said Kogdanovics, when the
company was sitting round a gay and well-covered
board — " I am ready to wager that we shall not be
troubled with another fox this winter ; we have done
our duty by them, I fancy."
The young giant blushed because he had brought
two foxes home, and Kazimir blushed because he had
brought home none. And yet he would not for a
good deal have changed places with that gigantic and
amiable youth ; for it was an understood thing that
each gentleman sat beside the lady whom he had
accompanied in the sledge.
" Well, we saw a wolf at least, instead of killing a
fox," said Kazimir, laughing a little guiltily.
" If it ivas a wolf," observed Lucyan, coolly.
" Ask Pani Xenia if it was not."
206 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Oh, if Pani Xenia says so ! " Lucyan inclined
his head with a sort of half- courteous, half-contemp-
tuous surrender, and with nothing more than the very
faintest flavour of a sneer mixed with the smile on his
" A wolf ! and why should it not have been a
wolf?" broke out the choleric old gentleman at the
foot of the table. "You youngsters make more fuss
about one wolf than we used to make of a whole pack
of them in our days. Why, I remember the time
when you could not take a sledge-drive through this
very forest without being chased within an inch of
your life. Ah ! they were fine times those ! "
" For the wolves, no doubt," remarked Lucyan, drily.
" I have shot more wolves than any one else in the
room," proclaimed a gentleman with a tremendous
voice, rolling his eyes round the circle, in the hopes of
challenging a denial.
" A propos of wolves, they have sent me a new
song from my music-dealers," said a musical youth
bashfully. " ' The Wolf's Lament,' it is called," and he
glanced at the company inquiringly ; but the com-
pany, knowing well that when this musical youth once
sat down at the piano, there was little hope of remov-
ing him from it, displayed' a discouraging coolness
about ' The Wolf's Lament,' and the musician relapsed
SHE LOST THE TKICK. 207
" No good old times for me," broke in the host
cheerily; progress for me, — inventions, discoveries,
steam-ploughs, electricity, railways. Ah, wait a little ;
when the railway gets here — my railway, I call it —
see if it does not whistle off the foxes and wolves
in no time ! Ah yes, gentlemen, our ground will
then double, treble, quadruple itself; we shall reach
Lwow in half a day, — yes, half a day, I tell
you ! "
The choleric old gentleman gave a stormy sigh.
" In my time we used to take four days on the road
— unless we were robbed and had a free fight by the
way. Ah, that was interest, that was excitement !
Life was worth living then ! "
" Has there been any more surveying of the coun-
try lately ? " asked the young giant, who being the
heir to a large property, had a serious interest in
"Don't know, Tiburtio — don't know, really," said
Eogdanovics ; " one never hears any news as long as
Aitzig Majulik is away buying up horses. The only
thing I have heard is that the church at Tarajow has
caught fire again, though they put it out ; seems
expressly constructed for the purpose ; burns down
every five years, I fancy."
" No man present has seen so many wooden churches
burnt down as I have," said the gentleman with the
208 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
rolling eyes defiantly ; but this assertion again passed
" News ! is any one in want of news ? " asked
another ; " there is plenty of news in the telegrams
to-day. The Government stocks are falling as hard as
they can ; depend upon it, in another month Italy
and Austria will be at each other's throats."
Kazimir, as an authority on the subject, was
stormed with questions. Yes, he said, it was true ;
the thunder-clouds were no sham thunder- clouds, but
real thunder-clouds, which meant to burst presently.
When last he had heard from his regiment, he had
been warned to prepare himself for an immediate call
at any moment.
" They cannot begin before spring. Let me see, — we
are barely at the middle of February now — they will
have to drag on till March at least ! "
" I am ready to wager — ha ! what is that ? a shot
outside ? "
The gentlemen put down their forks, the ladies
started; Xenia screamed, then hid her face in her
handkerchief. There was s -arcely the pause of a
second before Pawel re-enteied the room, looking a
little breathless, but betraying otherwise no agitation,
as, with perfect aplomb, he presented the dish next
" Was that a shot outside, Pawel ? " asked his master.
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 209
" Yes, Panie."
" Who fired it ? "
« I did, Panie."
" I hope," said Eogdanovics F a little testily, " that
you have not again been cleaning your guns during
dinner ? "
"No, Panie; I cleaned them during breakfast. I
was shooting at something now/'
" What have you shot ? — a hare ? "
" A fox, I think," said Pawel, proudly; " but I have
not had time to look."
" A fox ? That's right ; go and see ! "
Pawel went and looked, and returned a minute
later quite out of breath and quite scarlet in the face.
" If you please, Panie, it is a wolf I have shot ! "
"A wolf?" The company were on their feet in
a moment. A wolf shot between the roast and the
pudding, or rather, I should say, between the pud-
ding and the roast, — that was enough motive to leave
the roast untouched on the table, and hurry out to
prove the truth of the statement. Even the ladies
rose under the influence of excited curiosity, and
streamed towards the door. Xenia alone did not rise.
When she heard that it was a wolf that was shot,
she hid her face again, and shuddered just as she
had shuddered in the sledge.
" A glass of water, perhaps," suggested Kazimir, in
210 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
distress. " Mademoiselle Vizia" — for Vizia, at that
moment, was passing on her way to the door — " wonld
you be so infinitely kind as to push me that carafe ? I
think your cousin is a little — alarmed."
Vizia looked from Kazimir to Xenia ; a frown came
to her forehead, and an angry flush leapt to her cheek.
She pushed the carafe towards him — rather roughly, it
seemed to Kazimir.
" You are easily touched ? " she said, disdainfully.
" It is so very alarming, is it not ? especially as the
wolf is shot ! "
" Mademoiselle Vizia ! " exclaimed Kazimir, entirely
taken aback at this display of temper, and startled by
the angry quiver of her voice.
" What a blessing to have weak nerves ! How in-
teresting ! how charming ! Don't you see that it is
all " she broke off, and brushed past him; but
between her teeth he heard her mutter, " affectation ! "
Kazimir looked after her aghast. All that he
thought was, " What a pity that her temper is so
The rest of the meal was of a tumultuous sort, —
to all intents and purposes, the company dined off the
wolf. Even after they had sat down again, the gentle-
men, from time to time, felt moved to rise and have
another look at the fallen monster. It was a large
and heavily gorged beast that had died by Pawel's
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 211
gun. Stupidly prowling round the house, it had been
an easy mark; and one glance at the ugly carcass
convinced Kazimir that this was their acquaintance
of the bridge. " I knew I could not be kept out
of the sport," said Pawel a dozen times that evening,
with proudly beaming eyes. He was the hero of the
hour: his health was drunk (one young gentleman,
who was unused to a second glass of wine, drank the
wolf's health by mistake), his hand was shaken all
round ; his master presented him with a gold piece on
The conservative old gentleman admitted that the
good old days were not quite past after all ; the gentle-
man with the rolling eyes repeated his statement, to
the effect that no one present had seen as many wolves
shot as he ; and Lucyan remarked, with a smile, " Then
Pani Xenia was right after all."
When the general excitement had somewhat calmed,
the tables were cleared, and a little unpremeditated
dancing began. It was the musical young gentleman
who indirectly proved the moving spirit. Bashfully
he had produced a large roll of music ; and having
lured an unfortunate man to the piano, he commenced,
amidst burning blushes, to make himself into a general
nuisance by wailing forth " The Wolfs Lament." When
" The Wolf's Lament " had died off into a long-drawn
dismal note, and from that into silence, the man at the
212 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
piano, feeling probably the want of shaking off the
depressing effect, struck the chord of a Mazur, and
rattled his hands down the piano. It was as if he had
struck a match : the room caught fire in a moment ;
the gentlemen got to their feet, — heels clicked and
silk dresses rustled as they led their partners down
" You do not dance ? " asked Rogdanovics of Lucyan,
who stood in the doorway watching.
" Never ; that is to say, hardly ever."
" Your brother is a perfect Mazur dancer."
" The most graceful in the room," put in Eogdano
vics's hot-tempered friend ; " he has got the old stamp
about him. Graceful men are quite out of fashion now-
Lucyan bowed again.
" Ah, he takes after his father ; that was just Bogu-
nnTs manner and look," said the host. " How is your
mother, by the by, Bielinski ? "
"Thank you," said Lucyan, "much better lately,
but since yesterday hardly so well."
" Tut, tut, that's all as it should be ; never say die.
It's always a good sign when a patient does not mend
"She certainly is not mending too fast," replied
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 213
" That's right. There, the Mazur is at an end ; we
must have a KrakowiaJc now."
The Krakowiak was a much more noisy affair than
the Mazur. This is a dance which leaves much scope
for the genius and invention of the dancer. Each
gentleman in turn selects a lady, leads her down the
room to the sound of the music, and having reached
the end, distinguishes himself either by executing some
extraordinary pas, or singing some improvised verse,
drinking the lady's health, presenting her with a
flower, or otherwise paying her some ingenuous com-
pliment ; the principal point of the performance
lying in variety, and the great ambition of every
dancer being to outshine the last. Each couple for
the time being is virtually on a stage, with the eyes
of the audience upon them.
Every one danced, young and old. The choleric
gentleman selected the dust-coloured maiden, perhaps
as a relic of the olden times, and sidling nimbly down
the room, with an alternate chasse and click of his
heels, emphasised his devotion by drinking her health
in three glasses of atrociously sweet wine.
Next came Rogdanovics, exciting much wonder by
the vigour of his stamps and the length of his strides.
Upon him followed close the musical young man,
who, having reached the terminus, sang, in an agony
of shyness, a verse to the effect that night and morn-
214 BEGGA.R MY NEIGHBOUR.
ing, he would wish to stand under his lady's window
and pour out his heart in song, — a prospect which
made every one present shudder apprehensively.
The young giant's turn came then. Entering into
the spirit of increasing wildness, he performed some
astounding feats ; but it was neither to poetry nor to
wine that he had recourse. His strength lay in muscle ;
and at sight of the extraordinary activity with which,
at every fourth bar of the music, he dropped on one
knee before Xenia and shot up again, a murmur of
applause ran round the room.
The man with the rolling eyes, who prided himself
on having seen more Krakowiaks danced than any one
present, and stimulated by the applauding murmur,
made a desperate attempt at originality by flying
along with the lady's hand held high above his head
at an angle almost as picturesque as it was uncom-
Kazimir's turn had arrived. With a flush on his
face he stepped up to the still breathless Xenia, who
stood beside the big Tiburtio. It was impossible to
beat the giant on his own ground, and Kazimir did
not attempt it ; struck by a happy thought, he knelt
on one knee and laid his drawn sword at Xenia's
" Bravo ! bravo ! " shouted the much excited spec-
tators, while Xenia turned aside blushing.
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 215
There was but one more pair now. Kazimir looked
up, and to his surprise beheld his brother Lucyan
with Vizia. It startled him almost as much as if one
of the pictures on the wall had come down to join the
revels. There was no reason why a young man of
twenty-four should not dance a Krakowiak ; but some-
how Kazimir never did think of his brother as a
young man of twenty-four. After the wildness of
some of the last dancers, Lucyan's dancing produced
a sort of chill and sober reaction. He was as pale
and as cool as ever as he went down the room with a
noiseless gliding step, and reaching the end, he bowed
low and ceremoniously, and drawing a magnificent red
rose from his button-hole, presented it to Vizia.
"Who would have thought it?" said Kazimir to
himself; "who would have thought that Lucyan could
be so easily smitten ? " but " smitten " did not seem
to be exactly the word. His brother puzzled him ;
Lucyan's manner towards women was altogether
baffling. He had not the manner of a so-called
" ladies' man," nor did he appear to be at the slight-
est trouble to please. He was cool and watchful,
listening more than he talked, never contradicting
the most foolish speech, seemingly because he did not
think it worth while; and with a sneer ever mixed
with his smile. Even when with the customary
" Padam do noy" he professed to fall at a lady's feet,
216 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
there never was absent a lurking twitch in the corners
of his mouth, or a passing gleam of his eye, which
made of the words almost an insult, instead of the
high and courteous compliment which these same
words sounded in Kazimir's lips.
And yet, reflected Kazimir, though this was not his
own manner of being in love, it apparently was Lu-
cyan's. Why else should he have been in such con-
stant attendance upon Vizia, and have paid her the
most marked attentions all day long ? and Lucyan,
who prided himself on being a connoisseur of female
beauty ! No, he gave up the problem ; there was no
accounting for tastes : and feeling perplexed, and
moreover heated with the Krakowiak, Kazimir left
the room, and strolled out through the passage, to
the dark verandah outside. Vizia was a nice girl in
her way ; but then, near her cousin ! Besides, her
temper was undoubtedly bad. How sharply did her
harsh words contrast with Xenia's acknowledgment
of cousinly affection, which he had heard in the
Ah ! what a day it had been ! There was but one
dark spot on the sky, but that spot was large, gigan-
tically large ; it was the young giant Tiburtio, in fact.
For Tiburtio was a rich man, and he had all evening
perseveringly, if awkwardly, been contending against
Kazimir for Xenia's smiles. And Xenia had smiled
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 217
on him ; but then, to be sure, she had smiled just as
much on every old lady-guest in the room. Xenia
had one manner for all the world ; and that, no doubt,
was one of the secrets of her charm. She was far too
young to have acquired that double-beauty manner
which is cold to one sex and warm to the other.
Vizia's manner, which was cold to both sexes, made a
startling foil to her cousin's. There was more sweet-
ness in Xenia's frown than there was even in Vizia's
smile. Watching the two, a more cynical man than
Kazimir might have been tempted to say : " If this is
artificial, then art is charming ; if that is nature, then
nature is repelling." But this was not Kazimir's
thought; he was busy weighing his own hopes of
success, and he almost thought that his chances were
good : " A rich marriage, and I am a poor man," he
repeated ; " never mind, I shall win her."
Eeflecting thus, Kazimir stood leaning against a
pillar, with his head thrown back upon it, his arms
folded across his breast, while with an eager thirst
he drank in the bitter winter air. In front of him
stretched the white country, of a more ghostly white
under the moonlight. To the right and to the left
of him stood the deep forest ; and the moon, less chary
of its beams than the sun had been, touched the heavy
ice-ropes till they seemed to grow alive with glittering
light, and hung a diamond on every icicle. There was
218 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
a little breeze to-night, and the murmur in the tree-
tops seemed to Kazimir like the echo of long dead
nightiugales, come out of their graves expressly to
sing for him. Far, far off in the great forest, there
was the solitary howl of a hungry wolf. Everything
was silent beside.
Kazimir wondered why he should never before have
discovered the magic of moonlight silence, nor the
poetry of moonlit solitude. Moonlight, roses, nightin-
gales, he had never heeded them before, but he began
to lose himself in dreams of them to-night. Nightin-
gales, however, were scarcely enough to suggest the
exquisite inflections of that voice which had first be-
witched him. Was there a parallel on earth, a single
metaphor, worthy of her voice ? Kazimir did not think
so. Having passed in review such things as splashing
fountains, crystal bells, mountain breezes, and silver
flutes, he rejected them all as unworthy. It was quite
surprising what an unexpected store of poetical images
he possessed. They had lain dormant in his mind for
years, but now the hour had come and the woman,
and they all awoke from their sleep. He was just
weighing the merit of angel harps, as the least un-
worthy comparison, when a rustle of silk and a light
step aroused him. He looked round with a start of
hope, and saw a woman advancing. Was it possible
that she was coming? He peered through the dark
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 219
anxiously, — yes, surely — no ; she came a step nearer,
and he recognised the plain cousin.
" Mademoiselle Vizia ! " he exclaimed, perhaps
rather blankly, " is it wise of you to come out here ?
It is freezing hard ; look at the icicles ! "
Vizia did not look at the icicles, she gazed at
Kazimir steadily, and stopped only when she was
close to him. Her face was set and somewhat pale,
" Do you wish to say anything to me ? " he asked,
struck by her look.
" Yes ; I want to say something to you," answered
Vizia, in a low, quick voice. " Pan Bielinski, do you
remember my words a little time ago, when the wolf
was shot ? "
" Yes," said Kazimir, gravely, " I remember them."
" I spoke ill of my cousin ; I said she was foolish
and absurd ; I said it was affectation. Do you re-
member ? "
" I have come to retract every word I said. Xenia
is not foolish, not affected. I have come" — she
paused for a second, and flushed scarlet — " I have come
to beg your pardon."
" My pardon ! " cried Kazimir, disarmed in a mo-
ment. " You have done nothing which needs pardon ;
you were excited, and frightened, perhaps "
220 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" I was not frightened — not in the least frightened ;
it was only my bad temper. Never believe me when
I speak like that — never let your faith be shaken in
her." The extraordinary energy of her words drove
the blood np to her very hair-roots. Kazimir saw it,
and he saw also the working of her mouth, and stood
silent, staggered by her vehemence.
" Xenia is better, a hundred times better than I am ;
an angel — do you understand ? " she said with eager-
ness, almost with violence. " Do you believe me ? "
" I do believe you," replied Kazimir, fervently. He
did not think it wise to say that he had not believed
her before, and that his faith had not been shaken,
and could never be shaken, merely by angry words.
If he felt any relief now, it was on Vizia's account,
not on Xenia's ; it was a good thing, at least, that
she possessed the courage to undo the effects of her
brusquerie. He held out his hand with a frank smile.
" And now surely we are reconciled ; why is it that
we are always quarrelling? We quarrelled the very
first day we met, — about spades, and sickles, was it
not? Do you remember?"
She had put out her hand also ; but when he said,
" Do you remember ? " she drew it back suddenly,
before he had touched her fingers, and turning ab-
ruptly away, she vanished into the house.
In the doorway she almost ran against Lucyan, but
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 221
passed him without a word. Lucyan started, looked
after her, then strolled towards his brother.
" Playing Don Juan ! eh, Kazimir ? You look it to
the life, I must say. The moonlight is the very thing
for your uniform, — stage decoration." He was smil-
ing as he spoke, but the smile was a little anxious,
and the look was a little scrutinising. " Moonlight
and a fair lady — not quite as fair as the other one,
" Nonsense, Lucyan ! " said Kazimir, impatiently —
and he too entered the house.
Lucyan followed his brother with his eyes. The
anxious smile was still on his face, but it was
fading already. He shook his head and shrugged his
" No danger, I think ; just the sort of man who will
not look further than a pretty face. Confoundedly
pretty that cousin is, too ; but then — seventy thousand
florins ! Pity it is not the other way."
It was soon after this that the company broke up ;
and presently, the last guest gone, Vizia and Xenia
were alone in their bedroom.
" Was it not a charming day 1 " exclaimed Xenia, all
in a glow of delight, sitting up on the bed with her
head propped on her pillow.
"Very," said Vizia. She was plaiting up her hair
at the other end of the room.
222 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" And it was better, after all, that there should have
been no sunshine ; don't you think so ? It would only
have got into one's eyes. The drive was much pleas-
anter without it. Don't you think so, Vizia ? " asked
Xenia, unconsciously playing the part of the fox in the
fable. Any bunch of grapes, even the tiniest bunch,
that hung too high for Xenia's arm, always and at once
became sour in Xenia's eyes. She could not bear to
admit that she should have missed a drop of happi-
ness, or even a drop of pleasure, by failing to grasp
that bunch ; rather she went through life making
these little compromises with fate, and gaining through
them much ease of mind, as well as retaining much
sweetness of temper.
But this was not Vizia's manner of viewing the
grapes. The fox in the fable had always struck her
as filling the most pitiably absurd position in the
world. She preferred to proclaim boldly that the
grapes were ripe, and that they were sweet, and to
confess defiantly that she could not reach them, much
as she regretted the fact. Xenia having asked, " Don't
you think it was better without the sunshine ? " she
answered promptly, " No, I don't think it was better
without the sunshine; it would have been much
pleasanter with it."
Xenia submitted at once, sank back on her pillow,
and changed the subject.
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 223
" I wonder whether you enjoyed your drive as much
as I did mine ! " she began, somewhat shyly. " I en-
joyed mine so much, all except the wolf; and — and
— do you know, Vizia, he, Kazimir Bielinski, was so
kind when I was frightened, he did not laugh at me
at all ; he held my hand to soothe me. Is his brother
like that also ? "
" He did not hold my hand," said Vizia, pushing
aside the red rose that she had tossed on the table.
" No," laughed Xenia ; " but you did not see a wolf.
And, Vizia, he seems very anxious I should not go to
Krakow ; and, do you know, this evening, in saying
good-bye, he managed to whisper, ' Shall you go to
Krakow, or shall you stay here ? ' And I answered,
I think I shall stay here ! ' "
Xenia paused ; but her cousin, standing with her
back turned, made no comment.
" It was not saying too much, was it ? " asked
" I don't know," was the short and weary answer.
"And, of course, I shall not go to Krakow now."
Xenia gave a very soft sigh. " I wonder whether the
Wieliczka ball will be good ! "
Vizia offered no opinion.
" Are you tired, Vizia ? " her cousin ventured.
" Poor Vizia ! But we have had such a charming
224 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
day. Tell me, did — did — you get on well with Lucyan
" Pretty well."
" Oh, Vizia ! " Xenia gave an innocently mischiev-
ous laugh. " Why do you pretend not to understand
me ? Everybody noticed it. Come near me, close to
me ; you have not kissed me yet," said Xenia, turn-
ing her head on the pillow, and stretching one beauti-
ful arm towards her cousin. " Every one noticed it,
Vizia ; and Kazimir Bielinski noticed it too."
" How do you know ? " asked Vizia, slowly.
" Oh, because he said it. I think he was pleased
with it. Do come nearer me, Vizia ! "
Vizia came across the room and knelt beside the
" Just fancy," whispered Xenia, putting her arm
round her cousin's neck — "just fancy how charming
it would be — two brothers, and we are like sisters,
you know — if we were to " she broke off in alarm,
crimsoning at the boldness of her own thought ; but
" That shall never be, Xenia ; my part of it shall
never be. Nothing can force me to marry Lucyan
Bielinski ! "
" But how do you know ? How can you tell yet ?
Are you not afraid of saying that ? "
" Afraid ! What do you mean ? "
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 225
" I don't know what I mean," said Xenia, beginning
to yawn ; " but I should be afraid to say that. I am
rather afraid of Lucy an Bielinski, I think. He only
spoke to me once this evening. I had got my fan
entangled in my fringes, and he got it out for me. It
was very troublesome ; I wanted to tear it out, but he
would not let me. He went on unwinding it quite
quietly, and said, with such a queer smile, * I never
give up a thing that I have once taken into my head
" And he got out the fan ? "
" Of course he did. He is really agreeable, you
know," added Xenia, afraid of having hurt her cousin's
feelings. " You and he ought to suit so well ; you
are both grave. I am sure you like him."
" I hate him," said Vizia, calmly.
" Oh, Vizia, you are joking ! He is very different
from his brother, of course. How sleepy I am
getting ! "
Vizia seized her cousin's hand, with a sudden look
of eagerness. " Tell me this, Xenia — only this one
thing ; do you " she was gazing deep into Xenia's
eyes, but those eyes were closing slowly.
" Do I what ? " she murmured, in sleepy accents.
" Never mind ; go to sleep, my darling." The
fringe of lashes touched the cheek already. Vizia
remained on her knees gazing at her cousin in spell-
VOL. I. P
226 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
bound admiration. " No wonder ! " she thought as
she gazed — "no wonder!" One long plait of chest-
nut hair fell over the coverlet, the lips were softly
parted, the beautiful brow was unruffled. She bent
over the hand she still held and pressed one kiss upon
the round white arm. It was so fiery, that kiss, that
the blue eyes opened once more. Drowsily, like a
child half awakened, Xenia stretched out her hand
towards her cousin's face, moved over it caressingly ;
then the hand sank down, and the blue eyes shut
again. With the smile of a happy child on her face,
Xenia was asleep.
Vizia, rising, crossed the room with her bare feet,
and stood for a moment beside her bed ; then all at
once she turned and threw herself upon it, hiding her
face deep in the pillow. So still she lay thus, and so
motionless, that had it not been for the tightening
grasp with which her fingers clutched to the coverlet,
she might have been thought asleep. Presently her
frame began to work ; she trembled, and her breast
heaved ; with her face thus buried in the pillow, Vizia
was sobbing convulsively. She drew the covers up,
hoping to choke the sound of her sobs ; she swallowed
the bitter drops, and buried her face deeper, biting
her pillow between her teeth in the frantic effort of
self-control. But this energy of grief was not to be
controlled. She gasped and panted in the convulsion
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 227
of weeping, starting at the fiery heat of her own tears ;
for she was weeping with all the strength of a strong-
heart shaken to the very core. And through it all
Xenia slept on, in the sweet slumber of a happy
child tired out with a long day of pleasure.
Yes, — she loved him ; boundlessly, passionately, and
hopelessly. She loved him, and she had loved no
other man before ; she loved him, — and he loved her
cousin. With fierce pride she had battled against this
love for months, and with this same fierce pride she
confessed that she had battled in vain. As she had
been too proud to surrender then, so was she too proud
to deceive herself now. She hated everything that even
distantly flavoured of mockery or sham, she abhorred
any evasion from the stern bitterness of truth.
And her pride was not only stern but morbid ; and
in this morbid pride lay the key of her nature. She
had never forgiven fate for having made her plain, but
neither had she ever attempted to persuade herself
that she was otherwise than plain. No plain woman
had ever so vehemently and so bitterly hungered after
beauty than did this plain woman. Of course there
are plain women who shine in society by their man-
ners, by their conversation, by their intellectual charms.
If Vizia had so willed, she might have shone in that
way ; but here it was her morbid pride which inter-
fered. For fear of appearing to strive for a thing
228 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
which had been denied her, she rigorously abstained
from making herself agreeable ; for fear of appearing
to wrestle against fairer women for the attraction of
men, she flew to the other extreme and became
austere — became, in fact, far more unamiable than
nature had ever intended her to be.
For one short week, barely one week, she had
thought that what she had never dared to hope for
was going to be given her after all ; but that dream
had been short. As now, recovering from her burst
of grief, she lay on her pillow exhausted, reviewing
her situation, she knew also that it had been sweet.
To turn her back upon an enemy was to her an im-
possibility. Stripping off every particle of hope that
might obscure her sight, she looked her fate in the
face ; and though her lips were quivering, her teeth
It was strange that she should have held out so
long, to break down so suddenly ; and yet it was not
strange either. That moment in the moonlight, stand-
ing alone beside Kazimir, had been too dangerously
sweet. Had she not overtaxed her strength when she
stepped on to the moonlit verandah where he was stand-
ing alone ? Even had she never seen him before, that
tall and graceful figure, leaning with folded arms against
the pillar, might have taken her fancy by storm ; —
having loved him for months, her courage had tottered
SHE LOST THE TRICK. 229
and failed. Thinking of the hopes she had been mad
enough to foster, during that first short week of their
acquaintance — of the charm, the gaiety, and the earn-
estness of their first talk; thinking, above all, of
that moment when, half laughing and half moved,
his lips had touched her hand, — she had felt now a
stab of pain, as though a dagger, striking her heart,
had wounded it.
"Do you remember?" he had said to her a little
while ago. Did she remember ? God ! would she
ever forget ?
"And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?"
— As You Like It.
" Nicht so redlich, ware redlicher."— Lessing.
The N curojjoeticon had not done its duty. Madame
Bielinska had not become twenty years younger, she
had not been restored to muscle and cheerfulness, nor
had she grown " astonishingly nimble " — all of which
transformations had been pompously predicted in a
flowery advertisement. The relapse which took place
about this time proved to be a serious one. Day by
day the patient was sinking, slowly but surely : the
doctor could name no probable term of duration, but
neither could he hold out any hope.
Strangely enough, the weaker Madame Bielinska
grew, the more feverishly anxious did she become on
the subject of money matters and business. She made
more than one attempt to renew that discussion with
Kazimir which had been so abruptly broken off. It
" CARTES OUVERTES." 231
was almost as though she had some thought weighing
on her mind, and that she was anxious, and at the same
time a little reluctant, to impart this thought to her
eldest son. At any rate she had never succeeded
in the attempt. Either Lucyan happened to be in
the room, or aunt Eobertine arrived to enforce her
authority, and to draw a veil over the sick-chamber.
The veil was always drawn with a more savage zest
when it was Kazimir who was in the question ; for
Kazimir's nature and manner, and voice even, were of
the very sort which grated most upon his aunt's feel-
ings. His repelling openness of character, and tactless
frankness of speech, were continually jarring upon her
sight and hearing. Only yesterday he had offended
her finer sensibilities by mentioning aloud at table
the fact of his mother having dined off the wing of a
chicken. If repeated, to what endless misconstruc-
tions might it not give rise as to the state of Madame
Bielinska's health ! how might it not misrepresent
their income and their manner of living ! Made-
moiselle Eobertine had never read Pickwick, and
therefore could not know to what a dangerous use
even chops and tomato-sauce may be put in a court
of justice. Her caution was entirely intuitive. And
this proclamation of the chicken's wing was by no
means his blackest offence. It was more unpardon-
able still, when, on knocking a china vase off the table,
232 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
he had laid bare one of her pet mysteries to the light
of day. " I am sorry it is broken," Kazimir had said,
picking up the fragments ; " but, dear me ! how does
this big key come to be there ? " There was a servant
in the room at the moment, and Eobertine, with a dark
frown, seized the key, and plunged it deep into the
abyss of her capacious pocket, crushing down several
pocket-handkerchiefs on the top of it. The key of a
secret treasure ? of a mysterious cabinet ? perhaps a
bloody Bluebeard's key? Not a bit of it. It was
only the key of the press where the jam-preserves
were kept ; but it was Eobertine's rooted habit to hide
every key, however harmless, in mysterious places —
and, for greater safety, to vary the hiding-places fre-
quently. So mysterious were these places, and so
frequently were they varied, that Eobertine herself
generally lost the clue, and mourned for the vanished
keys in secret. If she had disliked Kazimir before
the adventure of the broken vase, she positively hated
him from that moment, and with all the more vigour
did she strive to exclude him from the sick-room.
Kazimir himself, seeing his mother's great weakness
and increasing irritability, made no endeavour to
obtain solitary interviews ; he could not avoid agree-
ing with Lucyan, who declared that every business
conversation must now be harmful. He was therefore
all the more surprised, when, entering the sick-room
" CAETES OUVEETES." 233
one afternoon, he found his youngest brother engaged
in just such a business conversation.
" Enough of that, mother," Lucyan was saying, as
Kazimir, not exactly noisily, but audibly, entered the
sick-room. " You are tiring yourself."
" I am not," said the invalid, with some fretfulness.
"•As I was saying, 34,000 to 35,000 florins is what I
can leave you, what you can expect : I want you and
both your brothers to understand that clearly. If
Kazimir cannot be persuaded to leave the army, then
you will have to take the management, for Marcin is
useless." A violent fit of coughing interrupted her
here, and Eobertine seized the opportunity to clear
the room of all intruders.
This was the first moment that Kazimir had ever
felt his curiosity aroused with regard to business.
Why was Lucyan allowed to talk business if he was
not? He taxed his brother point-blank with the
question. Lucyan was surprised at the attack, but
had recourse to his ivory comb, and having passed it
several times through his hair, he answered coolly :
" My dear Kazio, if you had had your ears open you
would have heard, as you entered, that, instead of en-
couraging the subject, I was begging her to drop it."
That was true, reflected Kazimir ; Lucyan certainly
had been discouraging the subject just as he appeared
on the scene. But his curiosity was not yet pacified.
234 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
He began reproaching his brother with treating him
like a child, and with keeping him in the dark. Luc-
yan's answers were both sensible and good-natnred ;
and Kazimir having, in his new-born curiosity, put
the question, " Why, for instance, do you keep those
account-books from me, as if they were state secrets ? "
began to feel a little ashamed of his fit of ill-humour.
There were grounds for his ill-humour, however. It
was now more than a fortnight since the fox-hunt, and
he had not seen Xenia again. In his mother's critical
condition he could not well leave the house for six
hours at a time, even had the state of the thawing
roads permitted it. One day, when she appeared to
have rallied, he had made the attempt; for he felt
that, after what had passed between Xenia and him, it
was necessary to come to a clear understanding ; but
his attempt had failed miserably. Stuck fast in the
melting snow, with one of Aitzig Majulik's "grand"
horses turned dead lame, he had been thankful to reach
home again on any terms ; and here, unable to move
from the house, yet excluded from the sick-room, he
led a useless and helpless existence.
His fit of bad humour was therefore excusable — at
any rate Lucyan excused it. Instead of resenting the
unvarnished question, he gave a courteous and strik-
ingly frank answer. Before giving this answer, Luc-
yan paused for a moment, drawing the comb slowly
" CARTES OUVERTES. 235
through his hair, and throwing an eagle eye over all
the bearings of the situation, like a practised general
who reviews his forces, and weighs the pros and cons
of covert or open tactics. That mental glance was
clear, shrewd, and quick; and the decision, being
fixed, was boldly acted upon.
" Why are these account-books kept from you, as if
they were state secrets ? " he repeated. " Well, Kazio,
I am delighted to hear you talk in this tone. I did
not keep them from you because they are state secrets,
but because I thought they would be bores. If you are
curious on the subject, or — anxious, why, then, you
shall not only see the account-books, but the whole
estate, inch by inch, if you like." Apparently Lucyan
had decided for the open tactics.
" Would not the account-books be less trouble ? "
suggested Kazimir, a little staggered at being taken so
literally by his word.
" Of course you shall see them ; but practice first,
theory afterwards : besides, Kazio, if you are to be a
farmer some day, you must not talk of trouble now."
" Yes, but " began the disconcerted Kazimir.
" No buts, mon cher Kazio ; nothing like acting on
an impulse," said Lucyan, who never in his life had
acted upon any impulse whatever. " I had better
take you over the ground immediately."
" Do you mean to-morrow ?" asked Kazimir, ruefully.
236 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" I mean to-day, now, at once. To be sure it is a
little muddy, and we shall have to drive about in a
paasant-cart; but a farmer must sacrifice a few pairs
of boots as price of his apprenticeship."
" Now, — at once ! " repeated Kazimir, aghast.
" Of course," said Lucyan, in his smooth, slow, al-
most languid way ; for he never spoke fast upon any
occasion. " Why, Kazio ! what has become of your
zeal 1 ? I was beginning to hope that there was the
staff of a farmer in you, after all."
Kazimir, out of pure shame, had to submit. Met
by this startling frankness, his curiosity suddenly grew
cool. The more ready Lucyan showed himself to
initiate him into all the secrets of the estate, the less
anxious did he become' for the initiation. But there
was no escape now. He found himself hurried into
an uncomfortable peasant-cart, where, seated upon
straw, they began to splash through the mud. The
day was not only damp and raw, but drizzly at inter-
vals ; and from every branch and roof half-melted
snow was dropping. Kazimir secretly wondered at
his brother's equanimity under the trying circum-
stances. Lucyan, who was generally as afraid of get-
ting his feet wet as any woman, now calmly suffered
the splashing and the drizzle, — keeping not only his
good-humour, but talking in an almost cheerful strain.
"When Kazimir faintly suggested umbrellas, as a slight
" CARTES OUVEETES." 237
alleviation of their sufferings, Lucyan suppressed the
idea at once, for umbrellas would only embarrass their
sight, and he wanted his brother to have a good
general view of the grounds.
This certainly beat any military hardships hollow,
thought Kazimir, after two hours' endurance. A march
on horseback would be a luxury after this. Lucyan
was an indefatigable mentor : every ten minutes the
cart was stopped, while Kazimir stood in the rain
and listened to minute explanations as to the value
of single potatoes, or microscopical proportions of
wheat and corn. He bore away with him a very
distinct idea as to the difficulty of hitting off the
exact moment for taking up the potatoes in autumn,
and putting in the grain in spring. It appeared to be
all but impossible not to be either too early or too
late. Then there were the pigs, for instance, and the
cows. It was ruin to a farmer should he lose a batch
of them, but then it did not seem that there was very
much to be gained if they lived. As a general rule,
he was to bear in mind, that a fruitful year was not
really preferable to a barren year ; for if in the latter
there was too little to sell, so was there too much
to sell in the former; the market was glutted, and
the prices went down.
Next there came the Projrinacyas, the most import-
ant feature of the estate, as Kazimir had heard from
238 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
his mother. These spirit-shops, of which almost every
second bouse in the village owned one, were each ten-
anted by a ministering and tattered Hebrew, who held
his lease from a larger, less tattered, and more im-
portant Hebrew. This important Hebrew, Naftali
Taubenktibel by name, held in his turn the lease di-
rect from the mistress of the place, and having proved
himself an honest and faithful servant, had long since
grown grey on the estate.
" Well, Jacob," said Lucyan, entering the first of
the dirty spirit-huts, followed by his reluctant brother ;
" how goes your business ? No better than usual ?"
" No better — Panie, no better at all," gabbled the
Jew in reply. " Ah, it is a miserable time for spirit-
sellers !" Of course Kazimir could not know that it
always is a miserable time for every Jewish spirit-
seller. " What rent does he pay % " he asked, with an
heroic effort at evincing interest, for the Propinacya
was the only thing which at all presented a distinct
idea to his mind.
"You will see all that in the account-book," said
Lucyan ; "we must go on ; " and Kazimir, thankful to
escape from the choking atmosphere, left the hut, and
found himself plunged at once into a field of slushy
" We have done enough for to-day," said Lucyan ;
" the rest can wait till to-morrow. It will be shorter
" CARTES OUVERTES. 239
to walk home across the field than to drive round
in the cart. I suppose you don't mind about your
boots ? "
Kazimir, whose spirit was broken, and whose boots
were already so full of water that they could not
well be fuller, answered that he did not mind, and
walked on dejectedly; while two paces ahead Lucyan
stepped along lightly through the mud, humming a
cheerful tune to himself :—
" Savez vous planter les choux,
A la mode, a la mode ;
Savez vous planter les clioux,
A la mode de chez nous ?"
" Has one got to do this sort of thing often ? " in-
(juired Kazimir, rather moodily, when they were half-
way across the field.
" Often ! Oh, well not so very often ; once or twice
" Isn't it rather hard work ? "
"Perhaps, when you are not used to it. But you
who are so much stronger than I am, will get to bear
the fatigues of farming wonderfully, no doubt."
" The fatigues are great, then ? "
" Not so very great j you have to get up at four, of
" But you get up at eight," objected Kazimir.
" Ah, but I have been bred up to the business ! I
240 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
could direct out of an arm-chair ; you will need to be
on the spot at first, till you have got your hand in."
" And how long would that take ? "
" Not so very long ; a few years — five, perhaps ! "
" Cheer up, Kazio," said Lucyan, amiably ; " it is
not as hard as you fancy. With strong health, untiring
energy, constant application, and judicious manage-
ment, I daresay you will — after a little experience, of
course — manage to get along not much worse than
your neighbours. Here we are at home."
"Five years of constant application and judicious
management," repeated Kazimir to himself, as he sat
in his bedroom, mournfully pouring the water out of
his high boots. "I'll be shot if I look at another
potato-field in my life ! "
He had heard so many explanations that he remem-
bered none. All he knew was that he had been
dragged half over the estate in the rain, and had
returned splashed up to his eyebrows with mud, to
find that, for the last hour and more, his dinner had
been slowly congealing on the table.
At the same time Lucyan was changing his boots
up-stairs. " I wonder," he reflected, " whether Kazi-
mir will be very keen, about those account-books to-
morrow ? "
Leaving his room in search of his cold dinner,
" CARTES OUVERTES. 241
Kazimir found himself confronted by his aunt. She
stood on the threshold, holding one hand in her
pocket, and fixing her nephew with an impressive
stare. "Anything the matter?" he inquired, care-
lessly ; for not only was he hungry, but those impress-
ive looks had long lost their effect upon him.
" Not exactly the matter," said Eobertine, slowly.
" Has anything happened then, or not ? " he asked, a
" Not precisely happened, either."
Kazimir began to feel anxious.
" My mother is not worse, is she ? "
" I will not go to the length of saying ivorse"
answered Eobertine, unable to miss so good an op-
portunity for throwing out a dark hint. " On the
whole her head seems better — on the whole, I say ;
but her feet are perhaps less well."
" It is not about my mother, then ? "
" I cannot say that it concerns your mother —
" Aunt Eobertine, you have news for me."
" In one sense — yes ! "
It was a baffling answer. " I suppose," thought
Kazimir, resignedly, " that she will dole out the infor-
mation slowly during the next few days." That was
precisely aunt Eobertine's desire; but unfortunately
the circumstances of the case demanded haste.
vol. i. Q
242 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Is the news good or bad ? " he asked, with growing
" That depends how you take it."
Kazimir's patience gave way. " Aunt Eobertine, I
must know what this means : do you intend to keep
me waiting for the explanation till next week ? "
Eobertine smiled gloomily. " Who knows where
you may be next week ! "
" Aunt Eobertine ! " she was slowly drawing a paper
from her pocket, disclosing it inch by inch. Kazimir
made a grab at the paper, caught it, — it was a telegram,
— and unfolding it, he read these words —
"Lieutenant Bielinski, instantly rejoin regiment
Orders for march expected?
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED.
Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre,
Mironton, mironton, mirontaine ;
Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre,
Qui sait quand il viendra ? "
" Xot so loud, not so loud," whispered Eobertine in
an agony, turning a bunch of keys into impromptu
castanets, in hopes of drowning her nephew's voice :
" don't you know that the apothecary's boy is in the
house ? "
" Instantly rejoin regiment," repeated Kazimir, rather
louder than before. In the first moment of surprise,
he was not quite sure whether it was a shock of joy or
of disappointment that he felt.
" Orders for march expected ! " That meant war,
action, glory perhaps, — all that he had always longed
for : on the other hand it meant a farewell, an eternal
farewell to his mother; and it meant something else,
— it meant another farewell, a very bitter and very
sweet one — a farewell to Xenia.
244 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
He was all in a tumult of excitement; nnable to
distinguish clearly what his feelings really were ;
but through the midst of the tumult one thought
stood upright. He must see her again, only once
again, before going ; he must speak one word to
her, even if to speak that one word required that
he should wade to Lodniki on foot through the
He be^an in hot haste to calculate the hours that
remained to him. The order was express, and Kazimir
was far too thorough a soldier even to contemplate the
possibility of delay. To-morrow night at latest he
must start; it was dark now — scarcely twenty-four
hours remained to him. " It must be done," thought
Kazimir, setting his teeth. " It shall be done ! "
The evening was an agitated one for the household,
for in spite of Eobertine's efforts to hush up the whole
matter, the truth had leaked out. The news was
slowly broken to the invalid. Lucyan expressed
much polite concern; and Marcin languidly remarked
that, according to his opinion, life was a great deal
too short for cutting ourself up in warfare. Bogumil
attempted to look more indifferent than he felt.
" We might have time to do the second half of
the estate to - morrow forenoon," suggested Lucyan,
" On no account," was the almost vehement reply.
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 245
" I am going to drive to Lodniki, and say good-bye
" Oh, just as you please," said Lucyan, and he left
" Father," began Kazimir, on impulse, " I will tell
you why I must drive over to Lodniki to-morrow."
" I never questioned you," said the old man, some-
what irritably ; " I never asked you to tell me any-
But Kazimir did tell him, all the same ; not in
order to ask for his consent — for, never having had
any one but himself to look to, Kazimir had acquired
the habit of asking help from no one — but merely as
a dutiful attention.
Bogumil shook his head and sighed wearily, repeat-
ing the old formula, which saddened Kazimir each
time ; he was a cipher, and his sons must not look to
him for advice. The words sounded cold and feeling-
less, but Kazimir did not fail to see that his eyes
were dim ; and, mightiest symptom that could be, his
pipe had gone out unnoticed. There had always been
a peculiar though tacit sympathy between father and
son. With all their dissimilarity, there was much
resemblance. Without his military training, Kazimir
might have been as passionate, as reckless, and as
ungoverned as his father, though never such a weak
mixture of uncalculating selfishness and improvident
246 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
generosity ; with such a training, Bogumil might have
been a stronger man.
Kazimir slept little that night ; every hour he awoke
with a feverish start, wondering whether it were not
daylight already, and time to start for Lodniki. He
heard the rain dripping on the roof, and he knew that
each one of those drops was making the roads deeper
and heavier ; each was an obstacle the more, building
a rampart between him and her.
In the morning he looked from the window: alas ! it
was raining still ; the road was a stream of turbulent
and muddy water. The whole country was flooded with
melting snow. Kazimir's courage was very resolute,
but even he felt staggered ; was it possible that he
could be back from Lodniki in time to reach the
station and catch the night train? Everybody told
him that it was not possible. At the mere mention of
driving, his brother laughed : " If you said swimming,
it would be more to the point," said Lucyan.
"Well, then, riding?" said Kazimir, desperately.
" To Lodniki I must go, whether I reach it alive or
dead!" He would listen to no arguments, and he
would be beaten by no obstacles. The least bad of
the two carriage-horses was saddled for the first time
in its life, and Kazimir galloped off through the rain,
hardly knowing that it was raining.
He was not quite unconscious of the apparent
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 247
insanity of his conduct, but he did not feel as if he
could go to the war without having said one word to
her. His mind was quite made up, and his plan was
fixed — he was going to stake everything upon one
card. He wanted only to put a question to Xenia ; he
wanted only to ask, " Do you love me ? " And should
the answer be "Yes," then he would put a second,
" Will' you wait for me?'* He did not mean to bind
her by a positive engagement, for, young as he was,
and impulsive by nature, Kazimir had learnt a few
lessons already. He knew that she was poor, and
that he was poor; he had heard of an aunt with
ambitious ideas. It did not discourage him in the
least, but it made him more careful. He had tasted
the bitter flavour of poverty already — in small sips, it
is true, but still he had tasted it ; for he had served in
a cavalry regiment among rich comrades (those were
the flowery times of the Austrian army), and he him-
self had been a poor man among them. It had cost
him much effort, and several slips, before he had learnt
that a lieutenant who owns fifty florins a-month, can-
not, even for the sake of camaraderie, keep a carriage,
and dine off game and truffles every day, without
getting inconveniently short in his cash.
This experience, though unpleasant, had served to
temper his natural imprudence. No, he would not
bind Xenia to anything but a tacit engagement : if
248 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
she loved him she would wait for him; and in the
meantime, silence ! He had told the truth to his
father, but to no one else. Towards Lucyan he had
grown reserved. It was not only that his passion, in
proportion that it deepened, grew less expansive ; but
ever since that talk between the brothers in the sledge,
and Lucyan's general remarks upon women, Kazimir
had felt a strange reluctance to recurring to the subject.
Horse and rider were soaked in mud, when, towards
eleven, they stood before the door of Lodniki. Pawel
stared hard at the strange apparition, but Kazimir was
perfectly callous to that look of astonishment. Was
everybody at home ? No, Pan Eogdanovics was not
at home; he was busy with his new machine for
digging out roots ; but the young lady was in the
The young lady — ah, which ? He did not stop to
ask, but rapidly entered the house and the drawing-
room, while Pawel, slowly following, wrung his hands
at the muddy trail on the floor.
The young lady was there ; she was bending over a
table. She turned — and it was Vizia.
" I beg your pardon," faltered Kazimir ; " I am only
here for a minute — for a moment. Do you think I
could say a word to your cousin ? "
Vizia stood staring, scarcely less staggered at the
apparition than Pawel had been.
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 249
" Pan Bielinski, what has happened ? what is the
matter ? My cousin is not here ; but please sit
down," she added instinctively, for, after all, she was
" Thank you," said Kazimir, sitting down on a red
velvet chair, while the wet began trickling from his
hair over his face, and out of his verv sleeves on to
the cushions. " I have just ten minutes to spare," and
he drew out his watch.
" But you cannot see Xenia," answered Vizia, still
" Why not ? She is not ill ? For heaven's sake
tell me the truth ! "
" She was quite well when I heard from her last."
" Heard from her ! " A cold suspicion seized upon
him. " Where was she ? " he managed to say.
" She is at Krakow. She went there last week."
" Impossible ! " In the first shock of surprise, Kazi-
mir got to his feet, and stood as immovable as if he
were meditating a rush straight to Krakow. "Are
you sure, Pani Vizia ? "
" Of course I am sure."
He stood with his hand to his forehead, trying to
collect his thoughts into a distinct shape. Never for
a moment had he contemplated this possibility. Ever
since she had whispered, " I think I shall stay here,"
he had blindly believed that she would stay. At
250 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
Krakow ! It was very natural that she should be
there, and yet it sounded to him very strange at that
Slowly and mechanically he sat down again, for it
struck him that his conduct must appear rude.
There was silence for a minute. It took fully that
minute to blunt the first keen edge of disappointment.
He would have to pass through Krakow to-morrow
night, so there was a shred of hope remaining after all.
" At Krakow ! " he repeated aloud ; " but she said,
at least I thought " he broke off, and looked at
Vizia somewhat wistfully. He had come here with
the very words he had to say trembling on his lips,
and he felt that they would not let themselves be
thrust back thus roughly. Might he not glean some
hope by questioning her cousin ? Vizia was just the
sort of sensible and intelligent woman who ought to
make a first-rate confidant. He had felt drawn to
confide in her on the very first day of their acquaint-
ance, and that recollection gave him the courage to
" Pani Vizia," he began, " do you think I should
be able to see your cousin when I pass through
Krakow ? "
* But where are you going to ? "
"Did I not tell you? To join my regiment — to
the war ! "
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 251
She made no answer, but she started and turned a
" That is why I came here to say good-bye ; but
perhaps I can see her — Mademoiselle Xenia in Kra-
kow ? Do you not think so ? "
" I daresay you can."
" I want to see her very much, if only for a mo-
ment, before I go. Will it be difficult ?"
" I really cannot say."
" But you can tell me where to find her."
" I can give you the address."
" I hope my sudden appearance will not be disagree-
able to her ? "
" I hope not."
" It is such a strange feeling, is it not, to go off this
way without knowing whether you will ever come
back a^ain ? "
" I suppose it is strange."
" At any rate," — and Kazimir smiled, — " it is a com-
fort to know that I can go this time, instead of stand-
ing behind a tree and watching the others start." He
looked at Vizia, expecting some such sign of sympathy
as she had shown on that first day, three months ago ;
but no such sign came, and suddenly it struck him
that she was changed. It had never struck him before.
During these three months he had seen her often, ex-
changed greetings, and good-byes, and passing words ;
252 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
but never another conversation. For the first time
again he found himself alone with her ; and without
hesitation, he had attempted to take up their acquaint-
ance on the same footing. He saw no reason for the
change : he was not changed towards her ; his senti-
ments were as friendly to-day as they had been then.
He could not know that they had appeared then, to
Vizia's inexperienced eyes, to be more than friendly.
But Vizia's eyes were experienced now. Having seen
him beside her cousin, she wondered at herself for
ever having mistaken that other manner for anything
but an amicable interest. Kazimir's manner was, in
one sense, his misfortune. It condemned him to go
through life as an imposture, — an innocent flirt, who
killed his victims with an excess of kindness. In this
age of polished deceits and polite falsehoods, — when
striplings languish with ennui, and beardless boys can
find nothing to smile at under the sun, — a nature fresh
and earnest like Kazimir's is a far more dangerous
nature than that of the most hardened worldling that
ever breathed. He was too busy a man to be vain,
yet few male flirts accomplished more havoc than did
this true-hearted young man, with his unlucky warmth
of tone and glances, and his unfortunate propensity for
making the best of any man or woman he met.
His friendship was almost as ardent as another
man's love ; and his love, — Vizia, in her limited ex-
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 253
perience, had never seen anything which approached
the fervour, the fire, and the entirety of his love. She
had watched him, and she had seen how his eyes had
hung on her cousin's lips — how he had thrilled at her
laughter, — how his words had wandered when unex-
pectedly she entered the room, — with what reverence
he touched her hand, or even any object which belonged
to her. Vizia had seen it all, — and only since then had
she understood the man, arid seen her mistake.
Kazimir felt the change, and wondered. She had
chilled his confidence ; and it was not till he rose to
go, that, all at once, the words broke from his lips —
" Pani Vizia, you know why I must stop at Kra-
kow ? "
Vizia was standing now, — they were both standing ;
and that hard set of her features had all at once given
way to a look of painful agitation.
" Yes," and she met his eyes ; " I know why you
" Your cousin is like a sister to you : can you give
me any hope ? "
Her lips contracted, and she frowned. " Don't ask
me," she said, hurriedly ; " how can I say ? "
" But you advise me to stop, do you not ? "
She paused one moment, and paled by another
shade : she had never recovered her colour from the
254 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Yes/' she said, with energy ; " stop at Krakow, —
by all means stop."
" Thank you, — that gives me hope ; and now, good-
bye. Will you not wish me success 1 "
" I wish you success in the war." She smiled a
rather ghastly smile.
" And at Krakow, what do you wish me there ? "
" I wish you,"— she would have said " success," but
her conscience cried within her — " Hold ! you do not
wish that in truth." " I wish you happiness," she
The terms were synonymous to Kazimir.
"Thank you," he said, and with cruel warmth he
pressed her hand. " Will you think of me sometimes ? "
She nodded, not choosing to trust her voice ; for
even had she said no more than the one word " yes,"
that one word might have been said at the cost of her
dignity. And he turned and left her. And if on the
way there he had not been aware of the rain, he was
conscious of every single drop that fell on him now.
The sky was of a dismal grey ; the road was deserted,
save for a solitary peasant who sang, as he waded
through the mud —
" Krakowiaczek jeden
Mial Koniku siedem,
Mial Koniku siedem,
Pojehal na wojnu
Zustal sie mu jeden."
THE CAUDS ARE SHUFFLED. 25
(A Krakau peasant had seven horses, had seven horses. He went to
the war and there remained only one. )
"Two o'clock," said Kazimir, as he entered the
house. " Great God ! in an hour I must be gone."
He stood still, for he heard his name pronounced.
His mother's door was ajar. He went up to it:
" Are you calling me, mother ? "
" Kazio, come here ; I am alone, come quick." He
groped his way forward. " I must speak to you be-
fore you go. Are you going now ? "
" Not for an hour yet."
" Are your things packed ? "
" Nothing is packed."
" Well, listen then. Go and finish everything, and
when you are done, the last thing before you go,
come here to me. I must see you alone; I want
to speak to you. There is something that I must
say to you before you go." She held her son's hand
and looked at him with a long and wistful gaze.
" You understand me, Kazio ? You will come to
" I shall be back in ten minutes, mother," and
Kazimir hastened to his room, tore off his dripping
coat, and began stuffing cravats and boots into his
There was a sound at the door, and he looked up
hot and flushed, with his wavy hair all falling into his
256 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
face. Lucyan was standing in the entrance, most
irritatingly cool and self-possessed. He held in his
hand a little packet of paper-covered books.
" Oh, you have not done your packing yet ; I
thought you might have time to look over these
account-books which you wanted to see. This is the
account of the Propinacyas, and these are the wood
accounts, and this "
Kazimir sprang to his feet, clutching a handful of
collars and tossing the hair out of his eyes. " In the
name of the devil, Lucyan, keep your odious books
to yourself! Do you wish to drive me mad, or do you
not ? "
" Now don't fly out at me, Kazio," laughed Lucyan.
"You said yesterday that you wanted to see them."
"And I say to-day that if you so much as mention
them again in my hearing, I'll do, I don't know what,
but something violent at any rate. Don't you see
that I am half out of my senses between all these
things ? I can't get half of them in : everything has
got twice as large as it used to be, except the port-
manteau, which has got twice as small."
" No wonder, if you stick things in in that barbaric
fashion. Good gracious ! muddy boots and collars
combined — this will never do ; " and Lucyan, pocket-
ing the account-books, began very deftly folding out
some ill-treated shirts.
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 257
" Oh, they're used to that," said Kazimir, as he
rolled his best Attila into a round hard ball.
" I suppose we shall not see you for years again,"
remarked Lucyan presently, as he bent over the port-
" H — m, yes, — perhaps, — I really don't know."
" See that you bring back plenty of laurels and
dozens of decorations : you might bring back a scar or
two ; that would do no harm ; it is just what you need."
" By way of embellishment ? "
" By way of disfigurement. Don't stare, Kazio ;
that is exactly your fault. At the present moment
you are just a shade too handsome, several shades too
young, and several shades more too cheerful."
"I look uncommonly handsome just now, don't I ? "
asked Kazimir rather grimly, as he eyed his heated,
dishevelled, and mud - spattered image in the glass.
" Positively fascinating, I declare, especially in my
"I am not joking," said Lucyan, with his quiet
smile. " There, give me those stockings. You are a
handsome boy at present, and boys are not the fashion
nowadays; now, if you could look a little weather-
beaten, or rugged, or haggard, or get a good slashing
scar across your nose — or if you could undergo some
severe mental anxiety, or shoot a man in a duel and
become a prey to remorse, or see a ghost, or lead a for-
vol. I. R
258 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
lorn-hope, or even only get your heart broken, — you
would see how that would improve you."
" I don't think I am going to have my heart
broken," said Kazimir, with a rather confident smile ;
" but I have no objection to leading a forlorn-hope, if
I am lucky enough to get the chance."
" The effect would be equally satisfactory in either
case, I have no doubt."
" Thank you ; and what improvement are you in
" I will do very well as I am, I fancy. I am not
handsome, nor have I any ardent wish to be so ;
except sometimes when I have moments of envy for
your looks, mon frere"
Lucyan was wonderfully candid and wonderfully
complimentary to-day, thought Kazimir ; the impend-
ing separation must have caused this change of
manner. He himself could not honestly say that
he had ever envied his younger brother anything —
neither his looks, nor his disposition, nor his tastes,
nor even the chance of winning Vizia. "We are
very different, of course," was all he could say.
" Of course we are, — you are a Pole and I am a
Greek: there lies the whole difference. Why, here is'
Marcin ; is he going to offer help in the packing ? "
Marcin had wandered in by the open door, and after
stumbling over one hat-box and sitting down upon
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 259
another, observed, as he contemplated the wreck, that
it is the last straw that breaks the camel's back.
Then he lifted a boot from the floor, gazed at it fix-
edly, dropped it, and wandered out again.
" He is as vague as ever," said Kazimir ; " and do
you know, Lucyan, he goes on just the same about
pill-boxes and medicine-glasses. What can it mean?
I can't imagine."
" You have very little imagination then," said
Lucyan, who was attempting to lock the portman-
teau. "Here, Kazio, you must kneel upon it, or it
won't close. Make your mind quite easy about the
pill-boxes : it is only that he sees black eyes on every
lid and pink cheeks in every medicine-bottle.
" Marcin in love ! " exclaimed Kazimir, as he knelt
on the portmanteau.
"I did not say that," answered Lucyan, with a
shrug ; " but undoubtedly he is flirting with the
apothecary's very vulgar and very pretty little daugh-
ter. It is a harmless occupation, you know, and will
do as well as anything else to keep him amused."
Though Lucyan was on his knees, with his head
bent, as he tried the key, Kazimir knew that his
brother was smiling ; and the thought of that unseen
smile once more grated upon his sensibilities. It was
again one of those moments when he discovered with
a start that he had not succeeded in getting fond of
260 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
his brother; not yet succeeded, that is to say; it
could only be a question of time. Was it his own
fault, perhaps, that the process demanded so very
" Is that key not turned yet," he asked, impatiently.
" I have barely a quarter of an hour, and my mother
is waiting for me."
" No, it is not shut yet ; press harder. There is
plenty of time ; the carriage won't be round till three."
" Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine," counted Kazi-
mir. " It will take quite six hours to reach the station
with the roads in this state. I am running myself
pretty close as it is."
" I assure you you are not — (can't you make your-
self a little heavier? this lock is as obstinate as a
mule), — your watch must be fast. Now that the
packing is done, you would even have time to throw
a look over those accounts."
"Lucyan, don't forget what I said," interrupted
Kazimir, glowering down threateningly from the top
of the portmanteau.
" Well, if you won't, it is not my fault, remember
that. But some day when you have to take the estate
into your hands "
' ( That I shall never do, rest assured ; I have quite
enough with the trial I gave it yesterday."
" But if you ever happened to marry, for instance ? "
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 261
" Ah, that has nothing to do with it," said Kazimir
with a bright flush. The idea of giving up his pro-
fession, even for the sake of Xenia, had never occurred
to him. If she loved him, she would be ready to be
a soldier's wife. "It is more likely you will settle
" Possibly," — Lucyan bent lower over the lock, — " I
might even say probably."
" Very probably," repeated Kazimir, with emphasis,
as he thought of the evening of the fox-hunt, of the
Krakowiak, and the red rose presented to Vizia.
" It does not surprise you, then ? "
" Not in the least," and Kazimir again thought
of the red rose. " I am not quite as blind as you
imagine me, Lucyan."
" Ah ! " Lucyan bent still lower. In their respec-
tive positions neither of the brothers could see the
" Well, I don't mind telling you that my wishes do
lie that way. They say, you know, that a farmer
" Especially if he is smitten," agreed Kazimir.
" Who said I was smitten ? " Lucyan hastily moved
his head upwards, and gave his brother one piercing
glance. Kazimir was quite at a loss to read that
glance ; and before he had attempted to do so, Lu-
cyan's head was down again.
262 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" Yes," he was saying, in his usual voice again, " I
am smitten, deeper than you think." The last words
were beneath his breath, and Kazimir did not hear
It touched him most strangely to be taken even
thus far into his brother's confidence. They seemed
to have changed places for the moment — the reserved
Lucyan to have grown expansive, while Kazimir, the
communicative, was listening to a confidence, instead
of imparting one. For the moment he asked himself
whether he, on his side, should not tell his brother
of his hopes and of his project. He was about
to speak, but something checked the words ; at the
thought of Lucyan's smile he shrank back with a
feeling of aversion, and locked up his hopes within
" I wish you may get what you want," was all he
said. "But, Lucyan, in heaven's name, is that key
-not turned ? Give it me ; I will have it round in a
" There, I have just got it," said Lucyan, with a
There were barely ten minutes to spare. Kazimir,
with all possible haste, finished his arrangements and
left the room.
Aunt Eobertine met him in the passage. She had
considerably softened since she knew that she was to
THE CAEDS ARE SHUFFLED. 263
be rid of him so soon. At this moment she was
" Yes," she said, " you can go in to your mother.
She is alone now ; but no noise, and no agitation."
Closing the door softly behind him, Kazimir en-
tered. He was alone with his mother at last. The
room as usual was half darkened, and in the dim
light Kazimir could barely distinguish the figure of
his mother on the sofa. She made no movement as
on tiptoe he approached. She made no movement
yet when he reached her; she neither put out her
hand nor turned her head on the pillow.
" Mother," whispered Kazimir, as he bent over
her ; but he saw that her eyes were closed, and
they did not open at his whisper. He looked nearer ;
her breath was coming soft and regularly, — she was
"She will awake in a minute," thought Kazimir,
and he sat down beside the sofa. As his eyes got
used to the darkness, he distinguished his mother's
features more clearly. Lying thus asleep, with her
face in perfect repose, she looked younger than she
had looked for years. The hair, though streaked with
silver threads, was still of a jetty black at places, and
the spotless skin by contrast appeared of a waxen
whiteness ; the fine chiselling of the straight Greek
features came out with almost startling delicacy under
264 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
the hand of wasting disease. Never had Kazimir so
vividly realised what his mother's past beauty must
have been, as at this moment when he sat gazing at
the motionless face, printing it off on his memory
as a picture which should never fade. One hand w T as
beneath the coverlet, the other hung by her side ; it
was wasted almost to the bone, and the heavy rings
were slipping on to each other. One of them had
dropped to the carpet.
It was a picture painfully beautiful ; it wrung
Kazimir's heart with the bitter feeling of fare-
well. He dropped his face into his hands unable
to look longer, and he sat thus, waiting for her to
One minute passed, another passed, and she slept
on softly. He looked up again with some uneasiness,
and drew out his watch. The time was all but up.
With his watch in his hand he sat and waited ; there
was no other sound but that gentle tick-tick. In
another moment it was drowned by the rattle of
wheels at the door. There was the bustle of luggage
being carried through the passage and down the steps.
Surely that would awake her? Kazimir rose and
leant over her again ; but she breathed on softly in
her exhausted sleep. What was he to do? Awake
her, and tear her from this healing slumber into the
THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 265
terrible reality of parting? Could she bear it in
her feeble state ? Would it be kindness or downright
murder ? He scarcely knew which. She had wanted
to say something to him ; she had wanted to speak to
him alone. Kazimir wondered what it could have
been, — perhaps, after all, only an invalid's fancy.
Surely it would be more merciful to spare her the
last dreadful embrace.
He was still standing thus uncertain, when the door
glided open, and Lucyan whispered hurriedly, " Quick,
Kazimir, quick ; your time is up."
" I am coming," said Kazimir. " Mother," he said
once more ; and then, as she did not move, he paused
for one moment, and, kneeling down on the floor, he
raised the wasted hand and kissed it. Not even the
hot tears which fell on that hand roused the invalid
from her deep slumber. He stood up and turned
resolutely away, though he could scarcely see the
door for the mist before his eyes. He knew that
for this parting there would be no more meeting here
The early dusk was falling when a dying woman
started up from her sleep, and cried out, " Where is
my son ? Oh, where is Kazimir ? There is something
I must tell him ! "
266 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
But her son was far on his way by that time, and
her weak voice could not call him back.
It was too late to give him the warning, so long,
half-shamedly withheld, and which, had it but been
uttered, might have altered many things in his life.
KING AND QUEEN.
. . . " I'll speak to her,
And she shall be my queen "
It was quite dark when Kazimir reached Krakow next
evening. The streets were full of rolling carriages,
and the houses shone with lights. " What a gay
town ! " he thought, as he stared out. He drove
straight to the address which Vizia had given him,
and rang the bell with all the fury of hot haste.
After a torturing interval, a maid-servant looked
" Are the ladies at home ? " asked Kazimir, anything
" The ladies at home ! " The swarthy servant stared
at him, as if this supposition was of the most insane.
" What ladies are at home on the last day of the car-
nival ! "
He had never reflected that this was indeed the last
268 BEGGAll MY NEIGHBOUR.
day of the carnival : he remembered it now. So they
were out ; but they might not be far.
" Where are they, then ? "
" Where else should they be but at a ball ? "
"At a ball, of course," said Kazimir, with a pang
of disappointment. " But where ? Is it near ? "
The girl laughed impertinently. The idea of not
knowing where the ladies were ! Why, where every-
body else — everybody belonging to the society, that is
to say — was to-night. Where else but at Wieliczka,
attending the splendid festivity which his Imperial
Highness had arranged in the salt-mines !
Imperial Highness — splendid festivity — salt-mines !
The words darted in by Kazimir's ears through Kazi-
mir's brain. The salt-mines were seven miles off.
For a minute his spirit sank and his courage flagged,
but in the next they rose again. He had made a rapid
calculation, and found that he could still reach Wie-
liczka and return in time for the next train. " Thank
you," he said, with a suddenness which rather aston-
ished the impertinent servant-girl ; and ten minutes
later he was on his way to Wieliczka.
It was a very close run, but it stood within the
bounds of possibility ; and in Kazimir's present state
of mind, anything short of flying seemed feasible. He
reached Wieliczka after a short eternity, and found no
difficulty in being directed to the salt-mines. The
KING AND QUEEN. 269
road which led there was crowded, and the entrance
most brilliantly lighted. " Card of invitation, please,"
said a voice beside him, in a quick mechanical tone,
which betrayed the weariness of having repeated this
question several hundred times that evening ; and
Kazimir turning, met a pair of expressionless eyes,
and saw a hand stretched out towards him. He had
never stopped to consider this emergency. Of course
he had no card of invitation, — no one had invited
him, and no one expected him ; but the thought of his
helplessness only fixed his resolve. Every obstacle
made him more determined that he should not be
The expressionless eyes were still fastened on him ;
the gloved hand was still mechanically held out.
Drawing himself up to his fullest height, and gazing
steadily at the man, Kazimir, with great distinctness,
answered, " I have no card of invitation."
The expressionless eyes began to show a little ex-
pression, — they looked surprised.
" But without a card you cannot enter. "
" I must enter," said Kazimir, with a calmness born
of his despair.
" But your dress " and the man threw a glance
down the figure of this mud-and-travel-stained hussar.
" Oh, that is all right," said Kazimir, haughtily.
" Let me pass."
270 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" But the Archduke "
" It is just the Archduke that I must see ; he knows
me well, do you hear ? " Kazimir had once, at half a
mile's distance, caught sight of his Imperial High-
ness's highly imperial back.
The man looked staggered, though he still protested.
" But my orders are strict."
" I daresay, but my business is urgent. It is on
account of the war," said Kazimir, with magnificent
vagueness. "I take the whole responsibility upon
myself; let me pass ; it will be the worse for you if
you do not."
The official, thoroughly intimidated, shrank to one
side, feeling an undefined impression that this im-
perious stranger must, from the very fact of having
no invitation, and of being splashed with mud from
head to foot, be some extremely exalted personage,
else surely he would not dare to stalk past the barrier
in this undaunted fashion. On second thoughts the
official was inclined to think that he must be some
near connection of the Imperial family, and that his
business was probably some secret mission connected
with the impending war.
There was some little delay before Kazimir found
himself safely landed in the lower regions, and caught
the sound of music, and was almost blinded with the
glitter around him. In the long passages there were
KING AND QUEEN. 271
strange figures, standing in rows — mountain spirits
they seemed to Kazimir — with the orange light burn-
ing over their forehead, and their hammers and pick-
axes by their side. He passed through a double row
of these workmen, and seemed to be walking into an
endless cavern of crystal, which divided at every turn
into smaller and various-sized caves.
The music sounded nearer every moment, and the
lights shone out more brilliantly. Kazimir, having in
great haste traversed several long passages, started
back suddenly as a louder burst of music, and a
brighter glare of light, warned him that he was near
the ball-room. In the ball-room he dared not show
himself in his present plight; for, in spite of his
unflinching replies to the official at the entrance
above, he knew well enough that his Imperial High-
ness was celebrated for possessing an eagle eye with
regard to any deficiency in military adjustment; and
the sight of a muddy hussar, making a blot upon the
brilliancy of shining salt -columns and sparkling
candelabras, could not have escaped him.
He retreated into the passages, scanning every
person anxiously, but seeing nothing but strange faces
and unknown figures. He spent a quarter of an hour
in these regions, having often to step aside into a niche
as some party of chattering and brightly dressed
women passed him. Eefreshments and flowers were
272 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
carried by ; officers without a spot of mud upon their
uniforms, and with magnificently stiffened moustaches,
clinked past ; and yet not a face came that Kazimir
knew. At the end of that quarter of an hour he began
to contemplate the possibility of failure. Might he
not wander about here for hours without getting even
a clue to Xenia? He had reached a comparatively
solitary spot now; the little chapel cut in the rock
where, once a -year, a solemn Mass is held. Two
figures knelt upon the steps, — hooded monks, with
heads bent and hands clasped in prayer. Kazimir
would have wished to shake one of them out of his
devotions, and send him as a messenger to Xenia.
But, alas ! the monks could not help him ; for, like the
steps and the altar, the ceiling and the walls, they
were of solid salt. Tor centuries their salt hands had
been clasped, and their salt heads been bent, and for
centuries more would they pray thus motionless. Had
he spent so much energy for nothing ? thought Kazi-
mir, beginning to despair. Had he carried down every
obstacle by the mere force of resolution, only to gain
this ? What ! And when he knew that she could
not be more than a few hundred yards off. No, he
would not lose courage yet ; and as if in answer to
this thought, he suddenly caught sight of a back that
appeared familiar. It was a broad black back, belong-
ing to a very large gentleman who was hurrying down
KING AND QUEEN. 273
the passage. In half-a-dozen strides Kazimir had
caught him up, and laid a hand on his shoulder. The
man turned round with a start, and Kazimir saw that
he had guessed right : it was that amiable young giant,
Tiburtio stared hard, dropping one lavender glove
in his amazement. " In the name of the marvellous,
how do you come here?" he would probably have
said, had Kazimir left him time to speak ; but Kazi-
mir did not leave him time. Dragging him aside into
the chapel, he put the abrupt question, "Is Pani
Xenia here ? "
"Pani Xenia," said the giant, staring still harder.
" What is that to you ? "
" What is that to you ? " retorted Kazimir, with a
sudden pang of jealousy, beginning to wish that he
had not met the giant in the salt-mine. "Is she
here ? "
" Yes, she is," said Tiburtio, drawing on his lavender
gloves with an attempt at supercilious triumph. " I
am going to dance the next Mazur with her."
" Oh, you are, are you ? " Kazimir bit his lip.
" Look here : I must speak to her at any price, and you
see I cannot enter the ball-room."
" I should think not," said the giant, with a smile
meant to be sarcastic.
" Well then ; will you be so kind as to take a nies-
vol. i. s
274 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
sage, privately ; I beg her to speak to me out here, for
a few minutes only."
" Oh, but I cannot do that."
" You will do it if I ask it as a favour." Kazimir
had a remarkably steady gaze : the giant had grown
small under it already on the day of the fox-hunt ; he
grew small again now.
" She could not come, you know," he faltered, " her
aunt is so strict."
" Don't ask her aunt, ask her."
" And the Mazur ? surely you don't want me to lose
" Oh, man, man ! " cried Kazimir, with a stamp on
the salt-floor, " what does a Mazur matter ? I tell you
that I must see her ; I am going off to the war. It is
only to say good-bye, — don't you understand? I
shall probably be shot in a month."
" To be sure, yes." The giant brightened up at the
idea. " Of course you may be shot."
" Of course ; and if you were going to be shot, I
would do the same by you — I really would. There, go,
like a good fellow, and I shall be eternally grateful."
The giant, fairly carried away by the impetuosity
of his rival, went off on the errand; and Kazimir
paced about in a fever of impatience.
Faintly the first note of the Mazur reached his
ears, and with that first note all sorts of horrible
KING AND QUEEN. 275
suppositions were engendered in his brain. Suppos-
ing Tiburtio had not been true to his word, — suppos-
ing Xenia had refused to come, — supposing the aunt
had interfered, — supposing — ah ! — Kazimir stood still,
rooted to the spot, at sight of the dazzling vision be-
Through the entrance of the chapel a beautiful
nymph was floating towards him; her feet seemed
scarcely to touch the ground, as, wrapped in misty
blue clouds, she advanced. Silver dewdrops sparkled
among the clouds, and crystal flowers flashed in
her hair and on her breast. The softest blush w r as
on her cheek, and the shyest smile upon her lips.
She was so beautiful that the bright walls beside her
seemed to grow dull ; so beautiful, that Kazimir,
forgetting his hurry, stood and gazed in speechless
" You want to speak to me ? " she whispered shyly,
as Kazimir remained dumb. How much sweeter was
her voice than he had ever before realised !
" Yes," he said, still half in a dream. That figure
in sea-blue and silver seemed to his excited fancy
almost too lovely to be human. She must be a Majka,
a fairy of the mountains ; a RusseUca, a nymph of the
waters ; an Undine or a Loreley, with a Loreley's bright
beauty, but not with a Loreley's cold heart.
" I hope you have not waited long for me ? "
276 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" No ; it does not seem long now."
" It was so difficult to get away, just when the
Mazur was beginning ; it is the last Mazur this carni-
val, you know. I am afraid they will miss me, but
perhaps I can get back before the end. What a pity
you can't come into the room and look at the dancing,
it is so delightful to-night ! " Her eyes were shining,
and her lips glowing with the animation of the last
waltz ; her hair, hanging in soft curls, had got loosened
by the movement, and strayed in charming disorder
down her back. She was panting and flushed with
triumph — her young head still in a whirl at the recol-
lection of the last compliment paid to her. His
Imperial Highness had deigned to express the opinion
that the girl in blue and silver was the queen of the
ball-room, and half-a-dozen voices had whispered to
her the remark in an improved form. No wonder if
the seventeen-year-old heart fluttered, and the seven-
teen-year-old blood tingled again and again. " I have
danced so much to-night ! " She looked at him won-
deringly as he still stood silent.
" How beautiful you are ! " he said at last. Xenia
" I think my dress is pretty," she said, with a smile
which was scarcely coquettish. " I copied it from the
' Journal des Demoiselles.' I was not quite sure
about the flowers, so I wrote and asked, and the
KING AND QUEEN. 277
answer was, ' Camellias bleues avec poudre crystalline.'
They give questions and answers every week, you
"It is the most beautiful thing I have seen in
" Eeally ? And oh, do you know, Pan Bielinski,"
she gazed at him with large and earnest eyes, " in the
last number of the ' Journal des Demoiselles/ the same
that had my dress, there were two more chapters of
the story ; and do you know what the end is ? The
second ring is found, and in it there is another will,
which reverses the first ; and so Palmerie has got no
choice but to take the poison she has discovered in a
hole of the wall. The number just breaks off when
she is raising the poisoned goblet to her lips. And
" Barbarin be d d ! " burst out Kazimir, all at
once recovering his full senses.
" Oh, Pan Bielinski ! " she started a step aside, " I
have never heard you swear before, — and we are in a
chapel, too ! "
" I beg your pardon a hundred times ; I beg it a
thousand and million times," said Kazimir, feeling
perhaps that he was acting ungratefully by Barbarin,
who in the months past had proved a faithful friend,
and done him many a good turn.
Of course they were in a chapel, and he had no
278 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
right to disturb the devotions of those two salt-monks
" You must really forgive me ; I have gone through
a good deal ; I have tried so hard to find you. I went
to Lodniki first, thinking you would be there. Oh,
Pani Xenia, why did you not stay there ? You said
" I meant to stay." Xenia looked at him somewhat
fearfully. " I really meant to stay, but my aunt
wrote me such an urgent letter to come for the three
last balls ; and even then I did not want to go. I asked
Vizia what I was to do, and she wouldn't tell me ; she
said I must decide for myself: and then a second
letter came "
"You would not have gone if you knew how un-
happy it made me," exclaimed Kazimir, bringing
down his hand somewhat violently on the polished
shoulder of the salt-monk. " I was so sure that you
Xenia drooped her head, and shrugged one white
shoulder, pulling forward a loose curl against her
cheek. " I would not have come out of the ball-room,
if I thought you would talk so angrily to me." Her
under lip was quivering, and Kazimir, on the instant,
called himself a brute.
tl Pardon me again, only once more; it is only I
who am to blame. You are an angel of sweetness and
KING AND QUEEN. 279
kindness, to come from that lighted ball-room, where
you are admired and worshipped, out to me here, only
because I asked you."
" Oh, but that does not matter," said Xenia, while
the pout melted quickly to a smile. " I shall be back
again before the Mazur is done. I was told that you
wanted to speak to me very much."
" Do you know why I want to speak to you now at
this moment, and in this hurry ? "
" No." She looked up, startled by the sudden change
in his tone.
" It is because I am going away."
" Are you ? Where to \ "
" I am called off to my regiment, and in a fortnight
the war may be declared."
" You are going to the war ! " the blue eyes dilated
" Yes, that is why I begged you to speak to me. I
wanted to see you to say good-bye."
" Oh, don't go, don't go ! " she cried.
" I wanted to see you, Xenia, because I cannot go
away without telling you that I love you."
Xenia shrank back in fear ; but Kazimir, with grow-
ing vehemence, went on. " You may not have guessed
it, I have not betrayed it before ; but on the first day
that I saw you, I knew that the world had been empty
for me till then. I had never guessed that there could
280 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
be such happiness as what I felt when I met your
eyes. I love you, Xenia; there is no word that can
tell you how I love you. Believe me only that you
are more to me than sunshine, light, and life itself;
believe me, Xenia, — believe me, it is you are the sun-
shine of my heart and the ideal of my life."
With one white arm thrown round a salt-column,
Xenia stood and looked back at him — shrinking,
blushing, and trembling, as for the first time in her
young life she listened to the tale of love. And
it was a wild and fiery tale she listened to; for
Kazimir had given reins to his passion, and it ran
away with him at headlong pace. It seemed that
never till now had the meaning of that one word
Love been understood, and it appeared that every-
thing which had ever been celebrated under that
name was mere weak imposture compared to this
feeling. He went on to tell her that his love was
deep as the sea and countless as the stars of night,
and to wish that he had the blood of ten thousand
men to shed for her sake. The metaphors were, to
put it mildly, imperfect; but fortunately neither of
the two people concerned was calm enough to ana-
lyse words, for she was dizzy with the delicious
agitation of the moment. She could make no attempt
to stop him ; but remembering the short measure of
his time, Kazimir, with an effort, checked himself.
KING AND QUEEN. 281
" Listen, Xenia — tell me this : Is there any other
man whom you — God, must I say it ? — whom
" No — oh no/' faltered Xenia, sinking her burning
"Thank heavens!" he muttered. "And tell me
this still : Your friends want you to make a rich
marriage ; do you want that too ? "
" Oh no ; not at all." She raised her head and looked
at him quite openly. It was impossible to doubt for
a moment the answer of those innocent blue eyes.
They were as pure and as candid as the eyes of any
child. " I never thought of that at all."
" I knew it," cried Kazimir's heart, exultantly.
" She is an angel of disinterestedness ! "
" And there is no man you care for?" he persisted,
while the figure of the wealthy Tiburtio flitted through
his mind. " No man who is richer than I am ? "
"None — none at all," she repeated.
" And," — he came a step nearer and took both her
hands, — "Xenia, I have not known you long; but I
have thought sometimes — I have dared to hope— that
you cared for me, Xenia. Was I right — is it so ? Is
it indeed so'?" He was straining both her hands be-
tween his own ; he was striving to read an answer under
the downcast lashes. Xenia was trembling from head
to foot. The passionate tremor of his voice, and the
282 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
intensity of fire in his eyes, were so new and strange
to her as to be almost alarming. It frightened her to
find herself loved in this terribly earnest fashion. Her
lips were quivering ; while the necklace of crystal
beads flashed up, and grew dull, and flashed up again,
as they rose and fell upon her panting breast.
" Is it so, Xenia — is it so indeed ? " urged Kazimir,
and he bent to catch her whisper. It was all he could
do to hear the one word " Yes."
That syllable was the key which opened the gates of
paradise upon earth ; without hesitation or reflection
he threw his arm around her and kissed her. Oh the
fire and the sweetness of that kiss ! All the world
seemed to fade around him ; nothing to be real but
this one spot on which they stood ; no one to exist
except these two, and those salt and silent witnesses
of the scene. Ah ! now would be the moment to defy
every earthly prejudice — to kneel down on the salt-
step before the salt- altar, to shake one of those hooded
figures by the arm, and to cry into his ear — " Arise, old
monk, and wed us ! " Alas ! alas that it could not be !
This very moment, when all the world seemed distant
and dim, was just the moment when they must respect
its laws. With a tremendous effort of will, Kazimir let
go the hands he held, and made an attempt — a rather
late attempt — at calmness. In the momentary silence
that ensued, the strains of the Mazur fell upon their ears.
KING AND QUEEN. 283
" Xenia, you have said Yes ; that is enough for
me ; it is more even than I dared to hope. I am
quite content to wait now, for years even, if neces-
sary ; but I hope it may be sooner. I will try and
explain what I mean. I am a poor man, as you know,
and it would be ungenerous of me if I were to take
advantage of your innocence and inexperience to bind
you to a poor man's life. Soon I shall have made
my way — this war will help me to make it — and I
shall then be in a position to claim you ; but it may
be years instead of months. I do not want to bind
you, my darling, but if you love me you will wait
for me. Is it not true ? "
"Yes," whispered the trembling girl; " I will wait.
Will it be long?"
" I have told you that it may be years. Is that
" Oh no, I don't think so."
" Are you quite sure you understand me, Xenia ? "
said Kazimir, struggling all the time to quell his
passion. "I do not ask you to give any promise ;
but when I come back some day and ask you to
marry me, you will not be frightened, will you?"
" No, I won't be frightened," said Xenia, shrinking
at the plain word " marriage ; " " we can speak of that
then, you know. Oh, I hope this is not wrong ; what
would my aunt say? I wish Vizia was here ! "
284 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR.
" I am sure I don't/' said Kazimir between his
" May I tell Vizia ? " she asked, anxiously.
" Tell your cousin, of course ; she will help you
and advise you ; she has guessed it already. Good
heavens, my time is nearly up ! "
" Must you really go to this dreadful war ? " The
ready tears started to her eyes.
" I must ; and if I should not return "
" Oh, don't speak like that ; " she clung to him for a
moment, and the tears sparkled on her lashes and fell.
" I will not say a word to distress you. There is
only time now to say good-bye."
" I am so glad I gave up the Mazur," she whispered.
" I really don't mind losing it at all."
" Oh yes," he said, with a start. He had forgotten
just then that there were such things as Mazurs in
the world. He was wondering whether he could not
pass the rest of his life in the salt-mines ; but alas !
again, this also could not be.
" It is good-bye, now — really good-bye. I do not say,
' Don't forget me ' — I know you will not ; but " — he
hastily detached a small coin from his watch-chain
— " keep this as a memory of to-night — keep it till
I come again ; and, Xenia, let me have something in
exchange — anything, a flower off your dress — it will
help me to wait."
KING AND QUEEN. 285
" Yes, but not that one," said Xenia, as he pre-
pared to pluck one of the crystal blossoms ; " here is
one that will not be missed. And must you really go ?
Oh, is there not some one coming ? "
There were steps and voices approaching in the
passage. The Mazur music had come to an end.
Kazimir caught her in his arms once more. One more
kiss, one more word, and they had parted. The beau-
tiful nymph, drying her eyes, floated back into her
crystal cave — back to the lights, the music, and the
triumphs of the evening ; and Kazimir, having stood
and watched till she had vanished, turned to go his
own way, a way that led through the dark night to
duty, hardships, and danger — who knows ? perhaps
In the deserted chapel the saline monks prayed
on with their salt -heads bent and their salt -hands
clasped just as though there were nothing in the
world but salt ; nothing as sweet as a lover's kiss,
nothing as bitter as a lover's parting !
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS.
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UNIVERSITY OP ILLINOI9-URBANA
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