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Full text of "Beggar my neighbor"

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LI B RAHY 

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By the Same. 



KEATA: WHAT'S IN A NAME. 

NEW AND CHEAPER EDITION. 
Complete in One Volume, Crown 8vo, price 6s. 



SPECTATOR. 

"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." 

STANDARD. 
"We have said that 'Reata' is a capital novel; and so it is. The plot is 
original and excellent Bright and gay and sparkling." 

LONDON GUARDIAN. 

" 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." 

DAILY NEWS. 

"The story is strikingly fresh and original." 

VANITY FAIR. 

" ' Reata' is one of those charming books which to read is to remember." 

DAILY TELEGRAPH. 

"A well-sustained dramatic interest marks it as a story ; and a fresh and easy 
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GRAPHIC. 

" It is impossible to avoid awarding it the highest praise. Whether in descrip- 
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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 



A NOVEL 



BY 

E. D. GEEAKD 

AUTHOR OF 'REATA: WHAT'S IN A NAME 



IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOL. I. 



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS 

EDINBURGH AND LONDON 

MDCCCLXXXII 






CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



INTRODUCTORY, 



PAGE 

1 






PART I. 

CHAP. 

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 
VI. FINESSING, 
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, . 



KING 



13 
39 

54 
66 
77 
101 
119 
138 
164 
182 
205 
230 
243 
267 



BEGGAB MY NEIGHBOUR 



INTKODUCTOKY. 

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. 



INTRODUCTORY. 3 

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 
game. 

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- 
some features. 

" 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 



INTRODUCTORY. 5 

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 
in review. 

Bogumil's wife was held by most people to be a 



INTRODUCTORY. 7 

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 
impulse. 

" 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 



INTRODUCTORY. 9 

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 
much trouble. 

" 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 
himself — 

" I am going to be a rich man." 



PAET 1 



CHAPTER I. 



THE CARDS ARE DEALT. 



Whence art thou ? what canst thou be ? 
Exquisite creature, fashioned so fairly ! " 

—Lord Lytton. 



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 
life. 

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 
the case. 

" 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 
of day. 

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 
profession. 

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 
trunks. 

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 
dark. 

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 
beyond. 

" 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 
voluble peasants. 

"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- 
known gentleman. 

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 
coarse rope-harness. 

" 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 
window entirely." 

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 
carriage." 

" 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 
the carts. 

" 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 
disappointing. 

" 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 
bystanders. 

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 
faces. 



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 
ground. 

" 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 
broken ground. 

" 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 
asperity. 

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 
other. 

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 
broken snatches. 

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- 
ness beyond. 

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 
more. 

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 
down ! 

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- 
mir, desperately. 

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 
drove off. 

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 
scatter away. 

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 
another. 



39 



CHAPTEE II. 



A NON-PLAYER. 



" . . . . 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 ! " 

— Coleridge. 



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 
room." 

" 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. 
"Kazimir?" 

" 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, 
after breakfast. 

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 
health ? 

" 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 
effort. 

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- 
mir, suddenly. 

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 
black moustache. 

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 
relenting. 

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 
nails. 

" 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 
to stay." 

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 
his head. 

" 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 
again." 

" 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 
the army." 

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 
threatened. 



54 



CHAPTER III. 



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 
flying ones. 

" Ask Lucyan to explain ; I can't," said Marcin, 
helplessly. 

" 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 
of thinking. 

" The only other people I know are the three 
Merinskas ; won't they do ? " 

" Is there a pair of blue eyes between them ? " asked 
Kazimir, hopefully. 

" 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 
unusually accurate. 

" 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- 
bourhood. 

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 
family. 

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 
the secret. 

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- 
preciation. 

" 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 
and race. 

" 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 
Taubenkiibel " 

"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 
under-bred horses. 

" 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." 



VOL. I. 



6Q 



CHAPTER IV. 



TWO OF THE QUEENS. 



" We were two daughters of one race, 
She was the fairest in the face." 

— Tennyson. 



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 
the younger. 

" 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 
all day." 



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 
you, Vizia?" 

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 
was hard. 

" Vizia, why are you sighing ? " asked Xenia, 
coaxingly. 



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. 

"Vizia?" 

" Yes." 

"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 
to-day." 

" 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 
comes." 

" A peasant - sledge ? But the bells have such a 
good sound." 

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 
mirror. 

" 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 
becoming. 

" 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. 



1 1 



CHAPTEE V. 



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. " 

—Wordsworth. 



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 
horses' hoofs. 

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 
fields. 

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 
gentleman. 

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 
postponement. 



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 
future. 

" 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 
flowers." 

" 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 
sides." 

" 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 
dinner." 

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 
the contrary. 

" 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 
stag." 

" Seven - antlered," rectified Pawel, brimming over 
with pride. 



88 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" The snow has spoiled the sport, you see," said 
Bogdanovics. 

" 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 
somehow." 

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 
Bielinski. 

" 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 
meaningless joke. 

" 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," 
said Vizia. 

" 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 
yet. 



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, 
pure 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, 
after all." 

" 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 
days." 

" 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 " 

"Well?" 

" 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 
Kazimir. 

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 
took it. 

" 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 
stranger. 

" 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 
day." 

" 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 
first. 

" 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 
somewhere. 

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 
pleasant. 

" 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 
the table. 

" Do you care for flowers ? " she asked, with a sort 
of gasp. 

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 
of conversation. 

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 
parting — 

" 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 
upon it. 



101 



CHAPTER VI. 



FINESSING. 



" La parole a ete clonnee a l'horame pour d^guiser sa pensee." 

—Voltaire. 



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, 



FINESSING. 103 

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 
his lips. 

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 
indiscreet admission. 

" 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 
talk about." 

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 



FINESSING. 105 

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 
again." 

" 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 



FINESSING. 107 

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 
strength. 

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. 



FINESSING. 109 

" 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 
sick-rooms." 

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 
fretfully. 

"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- 



FINESSING. Ill 

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 
being here." 

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 
subjects." 

" She was not in the least agitated." 

" Perhaps not at the moment ; the reaction is 
later." 

" 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 



FINESSING. 113 

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- 
moiselle Eo^danovics." 

" 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 
call them?" 

" Azaleas." 

" 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 ? " • 



FINESSING. 115 

" Three stables ! I did not know he had anything 
of a stud." 

" Oh, hasn't he ! ever so much quantity if not 
quality." 

" And how does it pay him ? " 

" I can't say. He seems to have plenty of money 
to spend." 

" I did not know that," said Lucyan, meditatively. 
" He has come here so lately, that I know very little 
about him." 

" 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 
scale?" 

" 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- 
ploughs " 

" 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 
laces." 

" 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 
always vague." 

" 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 
there?" 

" 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 
the window. 

- What is it you are studying ? " 



FINESSING. 117 

" 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 
of life. 



119 



CHAPTER VII. 

QUEEN OF HEARTS. 



. . . . Klar auf einmal fuhlt ich's in mir werden 
Die ist es, Oder Keine sonst auf Erden." 

— Schillee. 



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 
Kazimir. 

" 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 
now. 

" 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- 
long? Short?" 

" 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 
herself. 

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, 
earnestly. 

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 
not sure." 

" I understand. You have so many favourites that 
it is difficult to choose. Do you care for Mickiervicz's 
poems?" 

" 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 
memory. 

" What was the story called ? Perhaps I may 
remember it." 

" It was called ' Les deux bagues mysterieuses, ou les 
Fiancailles de Palmerie.' " 

" I am afraid I have not heard of it," said Kazimir, 
blankly. 

" 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, 
eagerly. 

" 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 
out ?" 

" I hope so ; but I am afraid they are going to 
have another duel with pistols : they have had two 
duels already." 

" 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 
mind. 

" 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 
Chopin?" 

"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 
waltzes?" 

" 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 
pretty." 

"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 
best. 



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 
horrible conclusions. 

" 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 
room. 

" 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 
pane. 

" 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 
embrasure. 

" 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 
been. 

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. 



138 



CHAPTER VIII. 



" 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 
Kazimir. 

" 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 
be?" 

" She ! Oh, Lucyan ! have I not told you ? It is 
she herself. I have found her! I will tell you all 
about it." 

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 
catch that," 

" 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 
hair. 

" You did not tell me that before ? " 

" Didn't I ? What does it signify ? " 

" It would need to be a rich man who rented 
Szybalin." 



marcin's cards. 141 

" Well, I have no doubt he is rich ; he looks like it, 
and he told me so, in fact." 
"Ah!" 
'•And if all his plans succeed, he will be richer 

yet." 

" 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 
orphan." 

" 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 
pillows. 

" Sending for it won't be enough," said Lucyan, 
somewhat incomprehensibly. 

" 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 
other people. 

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, 
unexpectedly. 

" 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 
clearer." 

" 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 
chair. 

" 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 
malady. 

" 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 
customer. 

" 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 
the back-shop." 

" 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 

"No, never." 

" 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 
here." 

" 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 
have lost. 

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 
explosiveness. 

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 ? " 

" Marcin." 

" 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 
victim. 

" 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 
instructions. 

"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 
coming." 

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 
said it. 



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 



161 

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 
kissed her. 

The next thing was startling ; for the door burst 
open, and there entered Jan Wronski in a state of 
high excitement. 

" 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- 
tained. 

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- 
water." 



164 



CHAPTER IX. 



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 
Teaching. 



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 " 

"Well?" 

" 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 
as follows. 

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- 
formation gratis. 

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 
Lucyan. 

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 
weeks." 

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 
weight. 

" 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 
you " 

" 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 
the cook." 

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 
himself. 

" 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 
cousin. 

" 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 
dusk. 

Lucyan found his brother in a state of ill-suppressed 
impatience. 

" Eeally, Lucyan, you might have considered the 
horses, instead of standing there conversing about 
flower-seeds." 

" It was very urgent," said Lucyan, taking his place 
again. 

" 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 
than I." 

" 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 
growing dark. 

" 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 
her cousin. 

" 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 
calmly. 

" What sort ? " 

" Intellectual differences." 

Kazimir felt inclined to fire up, he did not exactly 
know why. 

" 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 
might be. 

" 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 
deteriorating. 

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. 



182 



CHAPTEK X. 



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." 

— Grillparzer. 
" 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 
minute." 

" 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 
his seat. 

" 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 
this morning." 

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 
his heart. 

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 
a crumb. 

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 — 
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 
confidences. 

" 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 
to me." 

" 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 
plenty." 

" 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 
face away. 

" 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 
and tremble. 

"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 
suggested. 

" If some one asked you to stay ? " he urged, not 
hearing or not heeding the jingle of approaching 
sledge-bells. 

" If who asked me to stay ? " breathed Xenia, al- 
most inaudibly. 

" If I asked you — if I begged you as a favour — if I 
told you that the thought of your going there made 
me miserable." 

" 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." 



205 



CHAPTER XL 



SHE LOST THE TRICK. 



Why was I made for love, and love denied to me ? " 

— Coleridge. 



" 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 
face. 

" 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 
into silence. 



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 
the question. 

"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 
unchallenged. 

" 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 
in course. 

" 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 
vol. I. 



±j 



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 
bad!" 

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 spot. 

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 
the room. 

" 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." 

Lucyan bowed. 

" 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- 
adays." 

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 
too fast." 

"She certainly is not mending too fast," replied 
Lucyan. 



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- 
fortable. 

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 
feet. 

" 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 
morning ! 

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, 
he thought. 

" 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 ? " 

"Yes." 

" 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, 
though." 

" 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 
shoulders. 

" 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 
Xenia, humbly. 

" 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. 

" Rather." 

" Poor Vizia ! But we have had such a charming 



224 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

day. Tell me, did — did — you get on well with Lucyan 
Bieliuski?" 

" 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 
bed. 

" 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 
Vizia understood. 

" 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 
to do!'" 

" 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 
were set. 

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 ? 



230 



CHAPTER XII. 



CARTES OUVERTES. 



"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 
snow. 

" 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 
a-week S" 

" 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 
course." 

" 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 ! " 

Kazimir groaned. 

" 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 
little impatiently. 

" 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 — 
directly." 

" 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 
mpatience. 

" 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? 



243 



CHAPTEE XIII. 



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 
mud. 

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, 
obligingly. 

" On no account," was the almost vehement reply. 



THE CARDS ARE SHUFFLED. 245 

" I am going to drive to Lodniki, and say good-bye 
there." 

" Oh, just as you please," said Lucyan, and he left 
the room. 

" 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- 
thing." 

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 
drawing-room. 

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 
a Pole. 

" 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 
somewhat bewildered. 

" 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 
moment. 

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 
speak now. 

" 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 
little pale. 

" 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 
must stop." 

" 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 
first. 



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 
finished faintly. 

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 
me soon?" 

" 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 
portmanteau. 

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- 
manteau. 

" 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 
shirt-sleeves." 

"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 
want of?" 

" 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 
much time? 

" 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 
down here." 

" 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 
other's face. 

" Well, I don't mind telling you that my wishes do 
lie that way. They say, you know, that a farmer 
must marry." 

" 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 
them. 

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 
himself. 

" 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 
moment." 

" There, I have just got it," said Lucyan, with a 
final twist. 

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 
almost smiling. 

" 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 
asleep. 

"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 
awake. 

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 
below. 

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. 



267 



CHAPTER XIV. 



KING AND QUEEN. 



. . . " I'll speak to her, 
And she shall be my queen " 

— Mri/roN. 



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 
out leisurely. 

" Are the ladies at home ? " asked Kazimir, anything 
but leisurely. 

" 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 
conquered. 

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 



1 



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. 

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 
my Mazur?" 

" 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- 
fore him. 

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 
admiration. 

" 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 
blushed crimson. 

" 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 
know." 

"It is the most beautiful thing I have seen in 
my life." 

" 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 " 

" 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 
beside them. 

" 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 
you would." 

" 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 
would stay." 

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 
with alarm. 

" 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 
you love?" 

" No — oh no/' faltered Xenia, sinking her burning 
face. 

"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 
too long?" 

" 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 
teeth. 

" 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 
to death. 

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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