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Full text of "Beggar my neighbor"

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LI B RAR.Y 

OF THL 

UNIVLRSITY 

Of ILLINOIS 



Q311V, 



BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR 



"Die Kunst reich zu werden, ist im Grunde nichts Anderes, 
als die Kunst sich des Eigenthums anderer Leute mit ilirem 
guten Willen zu bemachtigen. " — Wieland. 



BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR 



A NOVEL 



BY 

E. D. GEEAED 

AUTHOR OF * REATA : WHAT'S IN A NAME ' 



IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOL. IL 



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS 

EDINBURGH AND LONDON 

MDCCCLXXXII 



All Rights reserved 



%2^ 

Cr3l\i- 



CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME, 



PART J.— (continued.) 

CHAP. 



XV. 


CLUBS AND HEARTS, 








3 


XVI. 


FOLLOWING SUIT, . 








16 


XVII. 


TRUMPED, 








30 


XVIII. 


OVERTRUMPED, 








58 


XIX. 


A "BUMPER," 








81 


XX. 


WHOSE TURN, 








100 


XXT. 


THE TRICK DISPUTED, 








123 


XXII. 


THE LOSING SUIT, . 








140 


XXIII. 


PARTNERS PARTED, 


• 






155 


XXIV. 


THE WINNING SUIT, 


• 






. 164 




PART 11. 


I. 


UNDERPLAY, 171 


11. 


OUT OF THE GAME, 








. 179 



Yl 



CONTENTS. 



III. LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS, . 

IV. LUCYAN PLAYS DIAMONDS, 
V. A SMALL CARD, 

VI. A SINGLETON, 
VIL PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN, 



198 
220 
233 

244 
269 



PART I. 

{CONTINUED.) 



BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR 



CHAPTEE XY. 



CLUBS AND HEARTS. 



Herr, dunkel war der Rede Sinn." 

—Schiller. 



" A Collier, who had more room in his house than 
he wanted for himself, proposed to a Fuller to come 
and take up his quarters with him. 

" Thank you," said the Fuller, " but I must decline 
your offer ; for I fear that as fast as I whiten my 
goods you will blacken them again." 

Marcin laid down the book from which he had been 
reading, and leant back exhausted. 

" Well ? " said Janina, looking up with a broad stare. 

" Well ? " repeated Marcin, " don't you see ? " 

" Well ? I say : what about it ? " 



4 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" But it is exactly like us ; doesn't it strike you ? " 

"I don't feel struck at all." 

" How strange ! It struck me at once when I came 
across this book, and so I brought it with me, although 
my memory is usually very good for these things, but 
this was rather long to learn by heart." 

He leant back again on the wooden bench, and 
stared up through the wooden trellis-work at the pale- 
blue sky above. There was a promise of spring in 
that sky, though it was still so early in March ; there 
was a whisper of unborn violets in the breeze, a pro- 
phecy of apple-blossoms in the sunshine. But as yet 
it was but prophecy and promise ; tantalising visions 
which awakened vague yearnings ; poetry hovering 
through the air, while prose clung to the earth. 

In the little back-yard of the apothecary's, there 
was nothing but prose and mud. The geese stalked 
about through mud, instead of over frozen ground; 
the rickety arbour in which Marcin sat opposite 
to Janina, looked as if it had been steeped in mud. 
The rosy - faced cherub who ushers in the Polish 
spring is a very muddy cherub indeed; even the 
flower - bunches which fill his chubby hands are 
mud-bespattered and dripping. 

" Ptead that again," said Janina, who was busy 
smashing up old seltzer-water bottles with a hammer. 
" I didn't understand half you said." Bound the foot 



CLUBS AND HEARTS. 5 

of the rickety arbour there was a half-finished decora- 
tive border, the exact nature of which would at first 
sight have defied conjecture. An outsider could 
scarcely of his own unaided faculties have discovered 
that these round and shining brown ornaments were 
nothing more than the turned-up bottoms of seltzer- 
water bottles, driven side by side into the ground. 
Janina's ingenuity had by no means been exhausted 
here ; evidences of her inventive genius were visible 
everywhere. Not a bottle or box discarded by the 
apothecary was allowed to sink into inaction. It was 
pain to this irrepressible creature to see anything 
about her, if it were only a pill -box, stand idle. 
Stone jars which had once stared down from the 
shelves in the front shop, but had fallen from their 
high estate through some mishap, were pressed into 
the service of the ravenous geese, who now ate their 
mashed corn out of a broken vessel marked Arseni- 
cum album, and drank their water out of another 
designated as Opium purum. It might have been 
thought, for instance, that a pair of old cracked scales, 
the balance of whose mind was no longer to be trusted 
as ^sculapian oracles, should have been allowed to 
rust away their old age in peace ; but not so Janina. 
She had found work even for this crazy old pair, who 
now dangled with a tolerably bad grace from the 
ceiling of the arbour — a periwinkle plant drooping 



G BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

from one, and a stunted fuchsia peering out of the 
other. Even the rustic dog-kennel, which stood in 
one corner of the yard (Jan Wronski always kept a 
dog, in hopes that it would one day go mad), betrayed, 
on close inspection, its medicinal origin ; being no- 
thing more or less than a pensioned medicine- chest 
turned on its side. 

Marcin read the fable again, to an accompaniment 
of vigorous crashes. Each crash was a torture to 
Marcin and a deliGjht to Janina : each time the ham- 
mer came down she laughed and he shuddered, and 
she, seeing the shudder, laughed the more and crashed 
the louder. At the end of the fable came an explosion 
of laughter. 

" Ha, ha ! that is capital ! " 

" Yes, I think it is a capital story," agreed Marcin. 

" But it is just the contrary." 

''The contrary of what?" 

" Why, of us, of course," said Janina, bringing down 
her hammer again and drinking in with absolute plea- 
sure the ear-rending crash which followed, just as a 
hardened general might enjoy the thunder of the 
cannon which is to create havoc among the enemy. 

Marcin began to explain his views. " It struck me 
as being just like us; the first part of it, at least. 
You are the Collier, and I am the Fuller." 

" Thank you for a pretty compliment 1 " 



CLUBS AND HEARTS. 7 

" I am sure a collier could not make more noise 
than you do, at any rate." 

" And do you imagine tliat I am requesting you to 
take up your quarters here ? " 

" No, I don't suppose so," he admitted, beginning to 
lose his footing ; " your answers always come smash 
upon me, just as if I was a seltzer-water bottle. That 
is not it ; I saw it quite clearly yesterday, but I can't 
remember it to-day. I assure you it applies to the 
situation, if one can only find out how. I think it is 
you who must be the Fuller, and I the Collier." 

" Very well, then, it is I who have to say : Thank 
you, but I must decline your offer." 

Marcin pulled his moustache pensively. " That 
does not seem ris^ht either. I wish I could find the 
application. Colliers and fullers are opposite ex- 
tremes, are they not ? Well, we are opposite extremes 
also, and extremes meet, — you can't deny that ? That's 
it!" 

He folded his arms, and gazed at her triumphantly, 
but she did not look in the least conquered. She 
threw down the hammer, and snatched up the book. 

" Let me have a look ; I am sure you are making a 
mess of it. There, listen to this : — 

" ' Moral : There can he little liking where there is no 
likeness ! ' Why did you not read the moral aloud ? " 

" Oh, I never attend to morals \ but is that really 



8 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

there?" asked Marcin, in some distress. "Then I 
think the story must be stupid, after all; it works 
quite the wrong way." 

" Didn't I tell you so ? " she said, with a shrug and 
a pout, flinging down the volume of ^sop's Fables, 
face downwards. 

" Well, it does not really matter," said Marcin, 
calmly possessing himself of the hand which had just 
flung down the volume ; " there is a proverb, you 
know, which says, ' Birds of a feather flock together,' 
that applies. It,is the opposite of the other, you know; 
so one of the two must be right." 

" Yes ; only that birds that are not of a feather don't 
flock together. What are you doing with my hand ? " 

"Comparing it to mine; they seem to suit very 
well." 

" They couldn't be more different ; there, let me go," 
she said, tearing herself away from him. " Ha ! look 
what you have made me do ! " as a button cracked off 
Marcin's cuff. " Now I wonder who is going to sew 
it on again for you, — that I really do." 

" Never mind," said Marcin, contentedly ; " life is a 
great deal too short to trouble one's head about shirt- 
buttons." 

" A great deal too long to go through without them. 
Now, if you had behaved more civilly, I might have 
sewed it on for you." 



CLUBS AND HEARTS. 9 

" Can you sew ? " he asked, gazing at her. 

Janina put her hand into her pocket, and drew out 
a neat little card-board box. " No, that is papa's 
powders," she said, pushing ^it aside ; " he never lets 
me go about without them, in case of my meeting a 
mad dog." A second box was produced, inscribed, 
" Camomile Tea," but which might just as well have 
been marked " Necessaire," as it held Janina's scis- 
sors, thread, and thimble. 

" How clever you are ! " said Marcin, looking on 
in 'limp admiration, as, after a preliminary prick to 
his wrist, by way of brightening him up, she began 
fastening on the button. The compliment was ac- 
knowledged by another playful prick. 

" How sharp your needle is ! " he said, wincing ; 
" sharp enough to go through a camel's eye, I should 
fancy." 

" I wish you would not say such absurd things." 

" And I wish you would not prick me." 

" You need rousing," said Janina. 

" I am sure you rouse me quite enough as it is," 
he sighed plaintively. "You ill-use me in such a 
dreadful manner ; you smash bottles close to my ear, 
you pound my nerves with that club of yours, and 
you prick my wrist ; and I am sure " — he looked 
apprehensively towards the bag of hydrophobia 
powders on the table — "I am sure you mean 



10 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

to make me swallow some of those horrible powders 
presently." 

" That's a capital idea," said Janina. " I had not 
thought of it before," 

" "Well, look here — I don't want to be ill-used any 
longer. I took a whole lot of bitter pills the other 
day, only to please you, and they gave me a most 
awful headache; and I don't want to be frightened 
any more with these salt-smelling things put under 
my nose. I hope you haven't got any about you at 
this moment. I say that I am ill-used, and I have 
enough of it. The jug goes to the well till it breaks 
the camel's back, don't you see ? " 

" Camels again," remarked Janina, biting off the 
thread. 

" Well, don't you see what I want is that you 
should become my Collier, or my Fuller, or whatever 
it is ? " 

" Leave the fable alone," she said coquettishly, dart- 
ing him a glance of fire ; " can't you explain yourself 
properly ? " 

" I don't think I can ; will you not help me ? " 

Janina pretended to be gazing at the stunted 
fuchsia overhead, which had apparently been weighed 
in the balance and been found wanting, for it brushed 
the ceiling, while the periwinkle trailed on the table. 

" Help you ? Why, you never help anybody." 



CLUBS AND IIEAETS. 11 

"Did I not help you to pound alum the other day?" 
said Marcin, reproachfully. 

" Oh, clichit you? and hadn't I a world of trouble in 
pounding it all over again ? and then, after all, it had 
to be thrown away, because you had mixed up a lot of 
soda with it. My father begins to doubt whether you 
have the making of a medical student after all." She 
darted him another glance. " ISTo, thank you ; no more 
help do I accept from you." 

" But I am not asking you to take, I want you to 
give ; it is so difficult to explain one's self. I tell you 
that I want to put an end to all this." 

" An end ! " repeated Janina slowly, looking down 
deep into half a seltzer-bottle. 

" When I say an end, of course I mean a beginning," 
elucidated Marcin. 

" A beginning of what ? " Janina's fingers w^ere ner- 
vously squeezing some of the sharp brown fragments, 
and Janina's heart was thumping almost as loud as 
that dull thud of the mortar which reached them 
through the back-door of the house. 

"Well, that is just what I want you to tell 
me." 

She hesitated a moment, and squeezed the sharp 
fragment so hard that it cut her finger. Perhaps it 
was the pain of the cut which sent that red wave to 
her face. 



12 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" How can I tell you anything, when I don't know 
what you want to be told ? " 

" I want to be told how I can see you every day, 
often, always, you know " 

He waited a minute, and then she looked up boldly, 
though she was flushed to her very eyes. 

" That can only be if you marry me. Is that what 
you mean ? " 

When she had said it, she plunged her hot face 
somewhat abruptly into the periwinkle -plant which 
hung so conveniently low, for she was a little fright- 
ened at herself. 

" Yes, that is what I mean, I suppose ; how clever 
you are ! You have such good ideas," said Marcin, 
admiringly. "Yes, that is just what I mean; they 
expect it, don't they, usually ? You see I was right, 
after all, about the Fuller and the Collier." 

" ' Thank you, but I must decline your offer,' — is not 
that what the Fuller says ? " A pair of roguish black 
eyes were flashing at him through the periwinkle 
trails. 

" But it is you wdio made the offer, you see, and I 
don't decline it. It was entirely your own idea." 

" Lucky for you that I have got ideas ; you never 
have got one of your own." 

" I have got an idea at this moment, though," said 
Marcin, " and it is a good one too. Oh, nonsense ! you 



CLUBS AND HEARTS. 13 

cannot get away, you know, and you are only frighten- 
ing the geese." 

Tlie mud-bespattered cherub just then hovering 
through the air, laughed with delight at w^hat he saw 
through the chinks of the rickety arbour-roof. A 
solitary thrush, busy trying his voice, just to see if he 
had not got hoarse during the winter, saw as much as 
the muddy cherub saw, and remembered, with a start, 
that he ought to be turning his mind to such things as 
twigs and straw-wisps, to soft hay and wool. 

" You are very fond of me, are you not ? " suggested 
Marcin, at the upshot of the last ten minutes. 

"Yes; but I should like you better if you could 
manage to make a little more noise." 

" But I think you make enough for two ; and there 
is so much noise already in the world." 

Janina shook her head. " Not half enough for my 
taste. I'll tell you what would make me quite happy. 
I should like to live in a big town, where carriages 
pass all day and all night ; where there are plenty of 
bells, and drums, and music ; and all the men in the 
house would need to have loud voices, and to wear 
good thumping, creaking boots, and all the women 
have their petticoats starched like paper." 

"Well, that is not my way at all; my motto is, 
' anything for a quiet life.' All the same, I will try 
to wear creaking boots when we are married; but. 



14 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUll. 

look here, won't it be troublesome to get married ? 
How do they manage it ? " 

" I'm sure I have never tried before," said Janina, 
with her nose in the air. 

"I know what I will do," said Marcin, after a 
minute's reflection. *' I'll ask my mother ; she has 
been married, so of course she will know all about 
it." 

The thrush, still practising his notes hard by. gave 
a sagacious nod, as much as to say : " I have tried it 
before, and I know all about it too ; it's the simplest 
thing in the world, I tell you ! " 

" Your mother," repeated Janina, and she looked at 
him curiously; " perhaps your mother will not like the 
idea at all." 

" Why not ? Because you make too much noise ? 
You would have to be quiet when she is there, of 
course. I don't know anybody else whom I could 
ask, unless you asked your father." 

" That I certainly shall not. I won't tell him a 
word until it is all settled. He is quite contented 
now with the idea that you are a medical student; 
but if he took fright, he might become difficult to 
manage. Luckily he is deep in the composition of a 
new remedy just now." 

Before the arbour was abandoned that evening, 
Marcin's handkerchief became adorned with a visjor- 



CLUBS AND HEARTS. 15 

ous knot. " That is to remind you to speak to your 
mother," said Janina, as she jerked the knot tight. 

" I suppose he ought to speak to his mother," she 
muttered to herself, for she was a girl who much pre- 
ferred getting what she wanted by fair and honest 
means. 

" Mind you are here to-morrow to tell me what she 
says." 

With these words ringing in his ears, Marcin went 
home. 



16 



CHAPTER XVI. 



FOLLOWING SUIT. 



'Rosalind. Then you must say,— I take thee, Rosalind, for wife. 
Orlando. I take thee, Rosalind, for wife." 

— As You Like It. 



It was on Thursday evening that this conversation 
had taken place. Friday and Saturday passed, 
and Marcin did not reappear. The thrush, having 
begun to collect flakes of cotton, wool, strips of 
medicine-labels, morsels of coloured twine, with here 
and there a shred of sticking-plaster, was much sur- 
prised, while proceeding to build a highly medicinal 
nest, to see no more signs of billing and cooing in the 
arbour. 

Sunday came, and no member of the Bielinski 
family drove over to the Tarajow church. On Mon- 
day Madame Bielinska appeared to be weaker than 
usual. Some medicine that had been ordered had 
not come, and Mademoiselle Eobertine looked out 
anxiously for it during the day. It was late in the 



FOLLOWING SUIT. 17 

afternoon when Marcin, lounging about the passage 
with both his hands in his pockets, was aroused by 
the sound of rapid and resolute steps on the gravel 
outside ;— click, click, click they came through the 
wet. He seemed to know that sound, and in the 
next moment he was thoroughly startled by the 
bursting open of the door. 

Janina, with a medicine-bottle in one hand, an 
umbrella in the other, a scarlet petticoat tucked up 
above her ankles, and a warlike stare upon her face, 
stood straight before him. 

Marcin gazed at her fixedly and helplessly, opposing 
to her warlike stare nothing but a pale and harassed 
countenance. 

" The medicine for your mother," she said, holding 
out the bottle. The silent house seemed to quake at 
the sound of her voice. Since Kazimir had gone away 
the week before, no such tone had been heard under 
this roof. She put the bottle into his hand. " There, 
take it, and come back to me here ; do you under- 
stand ? " She shook out her wet umbrella, and stamped 
about to get rid of the rain-drops. Marcin mechani- 
cally obeyed her, and returned to where she waited. 

"And now," she beiijan, "be so kind as to tell me 
what all this means." 

"i^ot so loud," said Marcin; "my mother is asleep." 

" Well, I cannot talk any other way — so just put on 

VOL. II. B 



18 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

your hat and let us have it out on the road ; you can 
walk back a bit with me towards Tarajow. Where is 
your hat ? There 1 " She clapped it down on his head, 
and dragged the bewildered Marcin out of the house. 

As soon as they were at a safe distance from the 
windows, Janina spoke. 

" Well, let us have your explanation now : where is 
that handkerchief with the knot upon it ? " 

" Gone to the wash," said Marcin. 

" And I suppose your memory is gone with it ; of 
course you forgot to speak to your mother ? " 

"Not I," said Marcin, with an air of offended 
dignity, "but I almost wish I had. I hate knots 
on handkerchiefs." 

Janina snorted. " And why so, may I ask ? " 

" Because they are the beginning of misery." 

" Make an effort to talk sense, if you please. You 
spoke to your mother, you say ? " 

" Unluckily I did." 

" And what did she say ? " 

" She said that I was not." 

"Was not what?" 

" That I was not to do it." 

" I understand." Janina audibly clenched her teeth. 
" She was angry, then, was she ? " 

" No, I should not call it angry," said ^farcin, re- 
ectively ; " I think I should call it furious." 



FOLLOWING SUIT. 19 

" Did she say anything else ? " 

'•' Oh, lots ; " he shuddered, as if at some terrible 
recollection. 

" Tell me what ; speak, can't you ? " she said, with a 
stamp on the wet ground. Her hand was on his arm, 
and all this time she w^as drawing him along the road 
towards Tarajow. 

" Oh, she said that I would break her heart, and my 
father's heart, and my brother's heart, and my aunt's 
heart, and, in fact, everybody's heart ; and that I would 
disgrace the family." 

" She said that ? " repeated Janina, turning very pale. 

" Yes ; and she would not see at all that it was a 
good idea, although I told her that it was your own 
idea " 

" Go on," said Janina, with bated breath. 

" She said that you were an artful, designing girl." 

'' And you listened to all this quietly ? " 

" Well, what else could I do ? especially as my 
mother fainted in the middle with agitation, and 
they thought she was dying, and sent for priests 
and doctors to finish killing her." 

Janina w^alked on a minute in complete silence, 
which was a strange and alarming symptom. 

" It would have been better," she said half to her- 
self, *' if we had got married first, and asked for her 
consent afterwards." 



20 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

*' Oh, but it is not my mother alone," said Marcin, 
" it is everybody else too, — it's Lucyan more than any- 
body ; they all cursed and abused me, and left me no 
peace. I am sure," and he gave a rueful sigh, " I 
never before knew that marriage was such a terribly 
troublesome thing, or I should not have broached the 
subject at all." 

Janina tramped on for another minute in silence. 
" And what did you say in answer to all this ? " 

" I said that I would not." 

" That you would not marry me, you mean ? " 

" Of course ; I cannot help it, you know. It is a 
pity, for it was a very good idea." 

" And you meant what you said ? " 

'' Well, yes, I suppose so." 

" And what do you intend to do now ? " 

" Nothing," said Marcin, serenely. 

She stood stock-still in the mud, wrenched her hand 
from his arm, and without warning or preparation, she 
burst into a storm of tears. It was a perfect thunder- 
plump of tears, so abruptly and heavily did it fall. At 
the sight of it Marcin stood still also, bewildered, dis- 
tressed, and terrified. 

" Look here ; I really cannot help it, you know," he 
said, plaintively. " Surely you are not going to begin 
and abuse me too; I have had such a hard time of 
it at home; you have no notion how unpleasant it 



rOLLOWIXG SUIT. 21 

is to be cursed ; and just after they had all begun 
to forgive me, and I was hoping for a quiet life 
again." 

" Get away ! don't touch me ! " screamed Janina, as 
he attempted to pull away her hands. 

" Please, don't be in a passion ; I am not going to 
give you up. Lucyan said I might go and see you as 
often as I liked, and that there was no harm in my 
amusing myself." 

" He did not say that ? " and her black eyes flashed 
fire upon him. 

" Yes, he did ; and he said that if I married you, 
you would never be allowed to come into the house, 
and that they would turn me out of it, and give me 
no money : and I could not live anywhere else but at 
home, you know ; I am so used to it." 

" You shall never see me again, if you do not marry 
me," gasped Janina, choking with sobs. 

" Oh, but you cannot mean that, you know," and he 
began pulling down one of her hands. " You always 
say such violent things ; you foam up just like one of 
those effervescing drinks, and you are as hot and sharp 
as a" 

" Mustard-plaster," suggested Janina grimly, through 
the midst of her tears. 

"Yes, that is just it; how clever you are, and how 
lovely too ! Your cheeks are quite white to-day. You 



22 BEGGAK UY NEIGHBOUR. 

have been letting concealment, like a worm in a bud, 
feed on your damask cheek ; I declare I have quoted 
it quite correctly. There, you must let me kiss you ; 
there is nobody on the road." 

" You shall not kiss me until you say that you did 
not mean all you said. Oh, Marcin, how could 
you!" 

With the same abruptness that her tears had begun, 
they also ceased. She had dried her eyes vigorously, 
but her breast was still heaving as she turned her 
face up to him. She had never looked so pretty as 
at this moment, with her baby-mouth quivering, her 
face pale with excitement, and her black eyes clouded 
with tears. Marcin kissed her first, and then began 
to explain. " What is the use of talking about that ? 
We had better drop the subject, don't you think ? '"' 

" How dare you " — she was beginning with another 
flash of passion ; but she checked herself, before she 
had said — " how dare you insult me ? " The man 
standing before her did not look in the least as if 
he meant to insult her. He only looked limp and 
helpless, and thoroughly scared. His mother had 
frightened him, and his brother had frightened him. 
That immovable limpness would be proof against 
any amount of fire and passion. He must be managed 
some other way. 

'■ I don't see why we need make such a fuss about 



FOLLOWING SUIT. 23 

it," Marcin was saying ; " life is too short for all these 
fusses. It only makes people curse you and say 
uncomfortable things; and I think, after all, that 
we were very comfortable as we were before." 

" And you imagine that we could go on just as 
before ? " 

" Of course ; why not ? All I ask for is a quiet 
life ; and if I am to have scenes every day, it would 
be exactly like living with a drawn sword round one's 
neck." 

" Your life would be very quiet if you had never 
to come to Tarajow again." 

" Oh, but that will not do at all ; you can't have 
meant what you said." 

" I did mean it," said Janina, " and I am as good 
as my word. Now, what do you intend to do ? " 

" Nothing," said Marcin ; " I only ask for a quiet 
life, and to see you as often as I like ; it is rather 
like sitting between two stools, isn't it ? or else like 
having your cake and eating it." 

Janina looked at him and sighed with discourage- 
ment. This passive obstinacy was far more baffling 
than any active obstinacy. She walked on some 
paces, with a fixed frown on her face, making snatches 
at the twigs in passing. Click, clack, went the reso- 
lute steps ; swish, swash, went the swinging petticoats 
— and now, bim, bam, bom, broke in another sound 



24 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

over the scene. It was a distant sound, floating dis- 
mally across the wet and cheerless fields : the bell of 
the Tarajow church was tolling. 

" There is one way," said Janina, slowly, " only one 
way I can think of by which you can both eat your 
cake and have it." 

Marcin looked at her admiringly. " I always said 
you were clever — I knew I was right." 

" But it is not very easy." 

" Shall I have to take much trouble ? " he asked, 
apprehensively. 

"If there is any trouble, I will take it. Listen." 
She stood still again on the road and laid her hand 
on his arm. There was no one within sight at the 
moment; if there had been, even a distant spectator 
would have been struck by the energy of her gestures 
and the rapid movements of her head. There was 
no one within sight ; but just round the bend of the 
road there was a fissure comimy alonc^, striding^ with 
long steps through the mud. 

Marcin listened with a dawning smile on his face. 

" How clever you are ! " he said again. " Do you 
think it is really worth while 1 " 

" I have told you the alternative." 

" But will it not be very hard work ? " 

" Leave that all to me, I do not mind hard work." 

" Very well ; but you must not let yourself get 



FOLLOWING SUIT. 25 

pale and look like a Avorm in a bud. And then, do 
you think it will be safe? Women cannot keep 
secrets." 

" I will swear it to you on the crucifix if you like ; 
but, Marcin, you must promise me something in ex- 
change." 

" Must I ? What sort of thing ? What an uncom- 
fortable sound that bell has ! " said Marcin ; " it makes 
me feel quite shivery." 

She raised her head sharply and listened — bim, 
bam, bom, it tolled across the fields. " That is the 
passing-bell," she said. " Somebody must be dying, 
or is dead ; I wonder who ? We have had no medi- 
cines sent for to-day." 

" It is not my mother, I hope," said Marcin, turning 
pale. 

" Nonsense ! how could it be ? We have only just 
left the house. Never mind that bell now, but listen 
to me. We may be interrupted any moment ; " and 
so in truth they were. Before the last word had been 
said between them, and while the passing-bell still 
tolled out mournfully, Janina's quick eyes had espied 
a black figure through the bushes. "A Jew," she 
whispered. " No Jew should see us together. Do not 
forget!" She was gone before Marcin had realised 
that she was going, and had vanished between the 
thick bushes. 



•26 BEGGAll MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Marcin looked about him, cast one glance at the 
approaching Jew, and turned his face languidly home- 
wards. That tolling bell awoke in him a feeling of 
vague uneasiness. He felt an indistinct curiosity to 
know who it was that was dying. Should he ask that 
Jew who was abreast of him now at the other side of 
the road ? Marcin looked at him ; the Jew made an 
abject inclination, and Marcin recognised the factor, 
who had been absent for many weeks. Aitzig Majulik 
always knew everything. He would be sure to know 
for whom that bell was ringing. Marcin was half 
inclined to put the question, because of his curiosity, 
and half reluctant, because of his native indolence. 
It was always an effort for him to address anybody, 
and just now he was exhausted with talking. In the 
end the reluctance had the upper hand, and Aitzig 
Majulik was suffered to pass on ahead in silence. 

Aitzig Majulik was walking fast, and he reached 
the Wowasulka house long before Marcin. He wiped 
his boots and entered, opened a door, and looked in. 
When he had opened several doors in succession, he 
opened the one of the room where Lucyan was sitting. 

Lucy an looked up and was surprised at the sight of 
the Jew, though he never betrayed surprise in his 
face. '•' You are back from the Bukowina, Aitzig ; 
your business has taken you long." 

" Yes, gracious Pan, I am back ; but there is no rest 



FOLLOWING SUIT. 27 

from business for poor old Aitzig. It is not as if 
Aitzig were a fortunate man like Naftali Tauben- 
kiibel," and the factor gave a jealous sigh. " All the 
horses to be stabled, and the hay to be bought ; and 
when I went off to Lodniki with the three pair of 
work-horses ordered, there was no rest for me there, 
and I was sent off at once to have the passing-bell 
rung (and only twenty kreuzers for my trouble !) 
Ah, you don't hear it ringing from here ! " 

" Has any one died at Lodniki ? " asked Lucyan, 
indifferently ; " a workman, an overseer ? " 

" The gracious Pan is pleased to appear ignorant," 
said the Jew, with a stare of astonishment. " Who is 
Aitzig Majulik, that he should know better of such 
things ? " 

" None of your whining rubbish. Who is dead, I 
ask you ? " 

" Who else should be dead but the noble gentleman 
himself, the noble Pan Eogdanovics, to be sure ? " 

" Eogdanovics dead ! " repeated Lucyan, incredu- 
lously. 

" He died this afternoon, if it so please you." 

"When?" 

" Two hours ago. Time enough to have put him 
under ground," added Aitzig, accustomed to the tele- 
graphic rapidity with which his own nation dispose 
of their dead. 'No doubt two hours, instead of shock- 



28 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUE. 

ingiy short, seemed to liim an indecently long time 
for the soulless clay to linger above ground. 

" Was it illness or accident ? " asked Lucyan. 

" Accident more than illness, gracious Pan. Pan 
Eogdanovics was as strong as the great Samson this 
morning, and this afternoon he broke a blood-vessel 
over his new machine for the tree-roots. They were 
just closing his eyes as I left the house." 

Aitzig spoke in a business tone ; and Lucyan, who 
thought that he had come here merely to impart the 
intelligence, expected to see him slink out again. But 
Aitzig stood there still, picking at his ragged sleeve, 
and shuffling about his bony feet. 

" That is all, then ? " said Lucyan, stunned in spite 
of himself by the sudden shock of the news. 

" That is all," repeated Aitzig, in a tone which con- 
vinced Lucyan that that was not all. 

" You can go, then." 

Aitzig coughed, and offered another remark. " It is 
a very melancholy piece of news that poor Aitzig has 
had to give, and the gracious Pan was well acquainted 
w^ith the family." 

"Well, what of it?" 

"The gracious Pan has visited that house often 
during the last weeks." 

" People are talking, then," said Lucyan, coolly. 
Then, as Aitzi^i coudied again, — "Don't make a 



FOLLOWING SUIT. 29 

mystery of it, Aitzig. I know what people say. 
They say that I am paying my addresses to Eog- 
danovics's daughter. Supposing they are right, what 
then?" 

" Oh, nothing then. Who is Aitzig, that he 
should " 

" If you have anything of importance to say," re- 
marked Lucyan, sternly, " shut the door, and come 
here." 

" It is of no importance to me, gracious Pan." 

" Shut the door and come here," repeated Lucyan. 
His secret thought was : " That old sinner has some- 
thing to disclose. Surely the father's death cannot 
have affected the dauQ-hter's fortune ? " 

Aitzig slank towards the door, closed it softly, and 
returned to where Lucyan sat. 



30 



CHAPTEE XVII. 



TRUMPED. 



Listen, O Cyclops, for I am well skilled 
In Bacchus, whom I gave thee of to drink." 

— Shelley. 



The bell of the Tarajow church was hard worked in 
these days. It was not more than a week after it had 
been muffled in an old fur cap, and tolled for Eogdano- 
vics, that the fur cap was put on again, and the rope 
Avas pulled for poor Madame Bielinska. It had rung 
out between whiles also, without the fur cap, but in a 
quiet, discreet fashion, as if half ashamed of the sound 
of its own tongue ; and none had troubled themselves 
to inquire the reason. The neighbourhood had quite 
enough to talk about with the two deaths that had 
occurred within one week. Eogdanovics's death was 
by far the most grateful subject for gossip : it was a 
warning example held up by all pessimists for the 
edification of all sanguinists ; it was a lesson to all 
persons with progressive ideas — a lesson v*'hich taught 



TRUMPED. 31 

them the folly of attempting to do otherwise than as 
their forefathers had done. The choleric old gentle- 
man was particularly grim. Had Kogdanovics broken 
a blood-vessel in a good, respectable, old-fashioned 
style — as he might have done in lifting a heavy sack 
of potatoes, for instance — then his death would deserve 
to be called a lamentable accident ; but as it had hap- 
pened over a new-fangled machine for pulling roots 
out of the ground (instead of setting a dozen peasants, 
with pick-axes, to the job), it could only be looked 
upon as the finger of Providence, w^ho had decreed that 
the adventurous man should go to his grave with all 
his unhatched, hatching, and half-hatched schemes in 
his brain, and without setting eyes upon even a single 
white post to mark the future railway. Popular 
opinion, on the whole, approved of the conduct of the 
orphaned daughter, who, although she gave up the 
lease of Szybalin, went on living in retirement at Lod- 
niki, in company with her cousin and her aunt, come 
from Krakow to join her. 

The second death was by no means as interesting. 
Everybody had known all winter that Madame Bie- 
linska was dying ; the only surprising point about the 
matter was that slie should have lived longer than 
her robust neighbour Ko^rdanovics. Neither was there 
anything especially interesting about the way in which 
her property was distributed : it could only interest 



32 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR, 

the heirs themselves. The way in which Madame 
Bielinska had disposed of her property was very 
simple : she had left Wowasulka in equal shares to 
her three sons. It was her formally expressed wish 
that her eldest son, Kazimir, should take the manage- 
ment of the estate, paying to his brothers their share 
of yearly profit. Failing Kazimir, the reins were to 
fall to Lucyan. Clearly it was Lucyan's duty to put 
the state of the case before his brother, transmitting 
their mother's wishes. This duty Lucyan fulfilled to 
the very letter. In the note which announced the 
death, there was no mention of business ; but scarcely 
another fortnight had elapsed when a long business 
letter reached Kazimir. He was urgently exhorted to 
abandon his military career, and come home to take 
the management of the estate, which, at this spring 
season, was particularly in want of careful administra- 
tion. He, Lucyan, did not wish to take any responsi- 
bility upon himself, as his brother was now virtually 
the head of the family. Some questions, indeed, were 
so pressing, that they required immediate attention. 
What, for instance, were Kazimir's wishes with regard 
to the new-born calves ? How many did he wish to 
have kept for breeding, and how many sold for butcher's 
meat ? What grain should be substituted for the bar- 
ley that was not promising well ? The usual Wowa- 
sulka luck had brought another disappointment : a 



TRUMPED. 33 

whole litter of pigs had failed ; Lucyan was afraid that 
this news would much vex his brother. And then 
about the lease of the Propinacyas, which would be 
run out in about two months, — what were Kazimir's 
intentions ? Did he not think that Naftali was get- 
ting a little too old for the business ? And to whom 
should the lease be given instead ? Aitzig Majulik 
had been hungering after it for years ; but was he not 
rather too low a stamp of Jew ? &c., &c., &c. 

It was just about a fortnight before the declaration 
of war that Kazimir received this letter. Of course 
Lucyan could not foresee the peculiarly irritating 
moment at which his epistle was destined to reach 
his brother's hands. Kazimir's hands, in fact, were 
just then deep grey of colour, and oily to the touch. 
Warlike preparations have their prosaic as well as 
'their poetical side, and the business of spending a 
whole forenoon in reviewing the bridles and bits of 
a detachment, scrutinising and fitting it each in turn 
to the most appropriate horse, leans undoubtedly to- 
wards the prosaic. 

Eighteen bridles and eighteen bits had passed through 
Kazimir's hands that morning, and eighteen more were 
waiting for their turn — not to speak of a looming back- 
ground of boots standing in rows, each waiting to be 
married to a corresponding pair of feet, under the vigi- 
lant eye of the lieutenant. What wonder, then, that 

VOL. II. c 



34 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

the unpromising barley fell upon rocky soil, and that 
the melancholy bereavement in the pig-sty was dis- 
missed with an expression as heartless as unfortun- 
ately it was profane? 

The answer to that delicately pink and sweetly 
scented epistle (alas ! now smudged with unsightly 
smears) was written in a white heat of hurry — in an 
interval snatched between the bridles and the boots. 
" Do exactly what you like," wrote Kazimir ; " and for 
heaven's sake settle the pigs and the barley and the 
Propinacya for yourself ! 1 have never set eyes on Naf- 
tali, and don't care whether he is old or young. As for 
giving up my career, unless you wish me to call you 
out, you won't mention it again. I know that I make 
a good soldier, and I know as certainly that I should 
make a wretched farmer." Kazimir, as he wrote this, 
thought of the first and last taste of farming he had 
had, and shuddered at the recollection. "I wonder 
you have the courage to suggest such a thing at this 
moment of all others, when we are living in daily 
and hourly expectation of orders to cross the Mincio. 
Everybody is excited and confused : the ladies of the 
regiment are shedding tears in advance. One lady in 
particular — the young wife of my captain, who is as 
well my best friend in the regiment — is in a state of 
great agitation. Having been married scarcely three 
months, she will not even hear of the word ' separa- 



TEUMPED. 35 

tion/ and declares that she will follow her husband 
to Italy at any price. The women are shocked, and 
the men laugh at her behind her back ; for my part, 
I must say that I admire her spirit. She is a golden- 
haired beauty — warm-hearted and charming." 

" A golden-haired beauty — warm-hearted and charm- 
ing," repeated Lucyan, as he folded up the letter. 

A fortnight later war was declared, and almost 
immediately the army crossed the Mincio. The cartc- 
hlancJie which Kazimir had given his brother secured 
him peace of mind for some time to come. Letters 
from Lucyan reached him from time to time on the 
march, and were read by Kazimir on horseback and 
off horseback, in the tent and by the road-side, on the 
eve and on the morrow of engagements — lost engage- 
ments usually, — for the reverses of the Austrian army 
began early. In one of these letters there was a hint 
w^hich made Kazimir think of the last conversation 
between him and his brother. It did not surprise 
him to see that Lucyau's thoughts should still be 
directed towards matrimony ; but he was a little 
surprised that he should even thus indirectly refer 
to it so soon after their mother's death. He was 
yet more astonished at another letter which reached 
him early in June. 

It was almost on the morrow of the fatal day of 
Magenta that Kazimir received this letter. It had 



36 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

been his first battle, and also his first serious dis- 
appointment in life. He had looked forward to such 
a day as to a field of certain glory, even if bought by 
many a painful moment. So resolved had he been 
to do something brilliant and heroic, that he never 
doubted his chance. Visions of the Theresien Orden 
had floated before his mind, — it needed but that to 
place him on the exalted height on which a suitor 
for Xenia's hand should stand. And when the day 
itself had come, it had brought him only a sort of 
helpless inaction, joined to a keen sense of his own 
insignificance. As for glory, he had secured nothing 
but a bullet-hole through his sleeve ; while for pain, 
he had had the terrible shock of seeing the most 
beloved of his comrades fall mortally wounded on 
the field. He was depressed, but not discouraged, 
and still held firmly to that vague and undefined 
heroic act which as yet was but a dream. This was 
only the beginning, after all ; in the months to com^, 
there would be many more fields on which his laurels 
could grow. 

In this state of mind, therefore, he was, when he 
received Lucyan's letter. It was brought to him one 
evening in the camp, where the hussars were bivou- 
acking outside the walls of a small Italian town. 
By the light of the Italian sunset Kazimir read this 
letter : — 



TRUMPED. 37 

" Cher Kazio, — How or when this will reach you, 
I do not know, but the question I have to put before 
you is so urgent and so pressing, that it cannot 
possibly stand over till the conclusion of the war. 
The long and the short of the matter is this, / 
cannot any longer undertake the management of Wo- 
wasulha. 

" However willing I am to oblige you to the fullest 
extent of my power, you must confess that every man 
has the right to think of himself in the first place. If 
you do not intend to become a farmer yourself, you 
would require to appoint a competent overseer. Such 
a choice is so delicate and critical a matter, that I 
could not undertake the responsibility. The exact 
man on whom you fix may make the whole difference 
of ruin or prosperity. Perhaps you have thought of 
some one yourself ? or if not, you must immediately 
do something of the sort. The expense, of course, is 
v<?ry great, as the salary could not be less than three 
hundred florins ; nevertheless, with your small experi- 
ence, I think this course inevitable. 

" As for the reason of this turn of affairs, it may sur- 
prise you, though I scarcely think it will, after my 
former letters. (By the by, I wonder whether more 
than one in two of my letters reach you ?) The truth 
is, I shall soon have affairs of my own to manage ; 
I am standing, in fact, on the brink of matrimony. 



38 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Naturally, I should have preferred that our time of 
mourning should be passed ; but in Mademoiselle Rog- 
danovics's present unprotected state, it would be un- 
desirable to defer the marriage later than August, or 
at most September. Much as I regret it, I fear that 
you will not be yet home by that time : this war 
apparently will be a long affair, and in all probability 
will drag into winter. You will understand, therefore, 
why you must necessarily take some decisive step. 
In the natural course of things Marcin should have 
the management, but I should as soon give it to a 
new-born babe as to him. He does not seem intend- 
ed for a world as practical and distinct as this. It 
always seems to me as if he had got into it by mis- 
take, and that, somewhere or other, his own world 
must be a world of mist and clouds, where nobody 
ever works, and where everybody always talks in 
mixed metaphors. Did I mention, by the by, in any 
of my former letters, that he electrified the household 
by proposing to marry the apothecary's daughter ? He 
was laughed out of it, of course, and his first attempt 
at matrimony will, no doubt, be his last. 

"Talking of the fair sex, what is your captain's 
golden-haired wife doing ? I really must compliment 
you on your powers of description. The picture you 
draw is so charming, that I cannot help feeling an 
interest in the original. Your usual luck in such 



TRUMPED. 39 

matters follows you everywhere ; golden -haired or 
brown-haired, to all you seem equally irresistible. If 
I were not cast in a dififerent mould myself, I should 
be almost inclined to envy you; as it is, I am satis- 
fied with the less brilliant role of a quiet and steady 
domestic man. 

" Perhaps you will find time, in the intervals be- 
tween your battles, to send me a line with a good 
wish for my marriage ; although, according to my 
opinion, good wishes cannot alter the case; there is 
but one sort of marriage which I consider a desirable 
one. My fiancee begs me to say that she hopes you 
wish her well. I have no doubt you do, for you and 
she used to be very good friends, I think. 

" Have your laurels begun to sprout yet ? I hope 
to read soon of your being decorated by the Theresien 
Orden. — Your affectionate brother, 

" LUCYAX BlELINSKI." 

This letter, coming straight upon the back of 
Magenta, seemed to aggravate the defeat immensely. 
The news of Lucyan's engagement, though scarcely 
quite unexpected, brought a shock of surprise, which, 
at any other moment, would have been still more 
startling. He must find time to write a line of con- 
gratulation, for of course he wished Yizia well with all 
his heart. To the marriage in itself he had nothing to 



40 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR. 

object ; but then, as to tbis business of overseers and 
management, what, in the name of the troublesome, 
was he to do ? How he wished that no such place as 
Wowasulka existed in the world ! 

With this fervent desire in his mind, he pushed the 
letter back into its envelope, and ordered his horse to 
be led out. He had no time to consider the question 
at this moment ; he was bound to ride into the town, 
and see what he could do for the comfort of an 
unfortunate woman. That golden-haired beauty to 
whom Lucy an had half-jestingly referred in the letter 
(Kazimir merely shrugged his shoulders as he read the 
passage), was now a widow. She had arrived in time 
to receive the last embrace of her husband, fallen at 
Magenta; and with his dying breath the captain 
had consigned his weeping and unprotected wife to 
Kazimir's care. 

In the upper room of a dirty and ruinous little inn 
he found her, pacing the floor in a frenzy of grief. 
Perhaps the very misery and poverty of her surround- 
ings fired Kazimir's eagerness to help. Eyes filled 
with tears were never raised to him in vain; and 
when those eyes were blue, their chance was all the 
better. Of course they were not to be compared to 
another pair of blue eyes, into which he had looked 
now three months ago, — but for the sake of the asso- 
ciation alone they deserved his sympathy. He was 



TRUMPED. 41 

ready to do anything for this distressed widow. He 
offered to write all her letters for her, he listened 
patiently to the sobbed-out list of relics which she 
wished to keep for ever. It was some time before he 
could prevail upon her to take a little refreshment and 
rest; and he left her with the promise of riding five 
miles next morning in order to give verbal directions 
as to the particular shape of cross for the captain's 
grave. After all, had the widow been wrinkled instead 
of blooming, and sixty instead of twenty, Kazimir would 
have ridden those five miles all the same. 

" Poor child ! poor child ! " he sighed, as with a 
heavy heart he descended the creaking stairs. So 
exhausted was he with the excitement and fatigues 
of the last days, that he stumbled over the lowest 
steps. " This will not do," he said to himself. " If I 
do not take some rest, I shall not be fit to sit in the 
saddle to-morrow." There was an open door beside 
him, and Kazimir walked into the bar-room and 
asked for a glass of wine. 

" There is wine and wine,'' said a jovial voice beside 
him. " Your request savours of vagueness. Specify 
}^ur wishes ; ask for a glass of vino santo, and if you 
do not fancy yourself a god sipping nectar, you may 
put a bullet through my head, and welcome." 

Kazimir turned at the sound of the voice, though 
he had recognised its first tone. This broad, red-faced. 



42 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

red-haired man, with the sharp twinkling eyes, twink- 
ling, as it were, with a sort of good-natured cunning, 
w^as a comrade of his ; not exactly a brother of the 
sword, being the Auditor, or military lawyer of the 
regiment. That rotundity of outline, and more than 
rosy hue of complexion, suggested, at first sight, a 
prosperous farmer, or a well-fed butcher. But the 
eyes, even though obscured at this moment by the 
fumes of the so delicious nectar, were distinctly too 
acute to belong either to the farmer or to the butcher. 
He was, in fact, that most paradoxical of all paradoxi- 
cal things — a jolly lawyer. 

" Here is your proper place," he cried to Kazimir, 
who, nothing loath, sank down on the wooden bench. 
" I have ordered another bottle of the divine fluid for 
myself. My notion is to wash away the disgrace of 
our arms ; what do you say to the idea ? good notion, 
eh ? Make the most of our time, I say ; serves those 
confounded blockheads right if we run their cellars 
dry before they get rid of us. The wine is too good 
for the nation, that is what I say " — and the Auditor, 
bringing down his hand with a thump, threw a vin- 
dictive glance towards a further table, where a group 
of swarthy Italians were drawn together discussing in 
whispers, and with looks of sullen triumph on their 
faces, the events of the last few days. 

" Ah, here is the angel of the bottle ! collect yourself 



TRUMPED. 43 

and be reverent. I have not lost much time in hitting 
it off; instinct guides me. What does it matter how 
bad the walls are, as long as they hold such a gem as 
this ? What do you say to it ? " 

"Not bad stuff," said Kazimir, absently, for his 
thoughts were very far from vino santo at that 
moment. 

" In low spirits, poor boy ! no wonder ! " The 
Auditor's jolly face grew suddenly grave and almost 
sober. " Ah, poor Baroly ! To think of all the scrapes 
I have helped him through, and to think that it is but 
four months since I drew out his papers for him, and 
sent him off to get married. He was the twenty- 
seventh man that I have married out of the regiment ; 
they marry on an average at the rate of nearly one 
and a half a-year — and they separate at the rate of 
one and a quarter in four years. Poor Baroly 1 How 
is she bearing up ? " and the Auditor jerked his fat 
red thumb toward the ceiling. 

" She is half mad, I think," said Kazimir. 

" She is my ninth widow," said the Auditor, reflec- 
tively. " Nine widows in twenty years. About half 
the number marry again. She would knock me down 
if I suggested the idea now, but in a few years, we 
shall see. I think she is the most frantic of any — it 
is by far the hardest case of the lot. So sudden, too ! 
I had not even time to draw up his will for him. 



44 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Would you not like to have your will drawn up, by 
the by?" 

" Much obliged, — no, thank j^ou." 

" Well, as for poor Baroly, he had not much to leave 
to anybody except that wretched yellow dog, which 
has been making me shiver with its whine all even- 
ing." He pointed towards a lemon-coloured setter 
stretched asleep on the boards. 

" I turned him out of the room up-stairs," said Kazi- 
mir, " because Madame Baroly could not bear to look 
at him." 

" And he slank in here and put himself under my 
protection, as the only familiar face he could see." 

"I shall have to keep the poor beast, I suppose," 
said Kazimir. 

" Here Trappisto ! " but Trappisto lay exhausted on 
the ground, his flanks slowly rising and falling, while, 
from the shiver of his yellow cheek, you could almost 
have sworn that he was sobbing in his dream. 

That forsaken dog somehow brought the loss of his 
comrade more keenly home to Kazimir. He turned 
his face to the window, but here straightway his eyes 
fell on a wounded horse which some soldiers were 
leading past to shoot outside the town. There was no 
escaping from the sadness which brooded over every- 
thing. He leant his head on his hand and sighed 
heavily. 



TRUMPED. 45 

"Now we must stop this," cried the Auditor, in 
a voice thick with emotion and wine. " Cheer up, 
man! these are the chances of war! Why, I have 
myself lost, what with battles and fevers, as many 
as " 

The Auditor's utterance had become so indistinct, 
that Kazimir could not make out whether he had 
lost fifteen, or fifty, or five hundred men. 

" Seen them all die, I tell you, and most of them 
without making their will. Sure you don't want your 
will made? Quite sure? Can't do anything else for 
you? Debts, marriage-settlements?" The Auditor 
took another gulp of vino santo. " Why are you not 
getting married, for instance ? The twenty-eighth on 
my list you would be ; there now ! " and he leant back 
with his hands in his pockets, and gazed at Kazi- 
mir unsteadily, as if challenging him to resist that 
inducement. 

" Talking of marriage, — my brother is going to be 
married," said Kazimir, all at once remembering that 
letter in his pocket. 

" Ah, your brother ? Pity he is not in the regiment ; 
out of my jurisdiction entirely. Anything wrong 
about your brother's marriage, that you look so black 
about it ? Want it stopped, perhaps ? " 

" Oh no ; the marriage is all right : it is the conse- 
quences for me that all are wrong." 



46 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" In a scrape ? " The Auditor drew himself confi- 
dentially nearer to Kazimir. " Have always been 
waiting for this ; knew that you would get into a 
scrape some day, and that I should have to get you 

out of it. You would be the no, the scrapes of the 

regiment are the only things I have given up number- 
ing ; sands of the sea, sands of the sea, — that's what 
they are ! Not in a scrape, you say ? What a pity ! " 
His face fell considerably, and rather dejectedly he 
poured out another glass of wine. 

" No, I am not in a scrape," said Kazimir ; " but I 
am in a devil of a mess all the same." 

" That sounds better ; " the Auditor smacked his 
lips. " Now, let us hear the case." 

" I do not think that I have time," said Kazimir. 
" I must be back in the camp directly, or I shall find 
all the men starved, and all the horses run away." 

" Nonsense ! there is no hurry ; both men and 
horses are so dead-beat that they will be thankful to 
lie down on the ground and sleep. Let us hear your 
case." 

Kazimir hesitated. He knew that the Auditor was 
both good-natured and shrewd ; and he knew also that, 
up to a certain point, he grew more good-natured and 
more shrewd in proportion as he grew more tipsy. 
What made him hesitate now, was the question whether 
that certain point had not already been passed. On 



TRUMPED. 47 

second thoughts he reached the conclusion that the 
Auditor's head, even muddled by wine, would he clearer 
and cooler than his own head unmuddled. He took 
out the letter and handed it over. 

It was strange to see the change which came over 
the man. The hand which he held out for the letter 
grasped it unsteadily, and could scarcely fold out the 
paper at the first effort; but the moment the spec- 
tacles were on his nose, and the paper spread before 
him, his tipsy face settled down resolutely to the busi- 
ness. Slowly he read the letter, word for word, taking 
long slow sips from his glass, but never moving his 
eyes from the lines. The low windows stood wide 
open to let in the sultry evening air ; and with the 
evening air there came in many sounds, peaceful and 
warlike, from the street : peaceful, when a child's 
careless shout reached the room, or when a church- 
bell tolled the evening angelus ; warlike, when a 
baggage-waggon lumbered past, and a mounted hussar 
— horse and rider white with summer dust — clattered 
after it over the rough pavement. But not by any 
sound in the street, or any sound in the room, did the 
Auditor allow himself to be disturbed. Until he had 
read the last word, he did not change his position. 

" Well," asked Kazimir, as he laid down the paper, 
" what am I to do about this wretched overseer busi- 
ness ? " 



48 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

The Auditor looked at Kazimir, filled up his wine- 
glass, leant back, and observed, " That strikes me as 
being a very clever letter." 

"Yes, Lucyan is the cleverest of us three," said 
Kazimir, with some pride. 

" Your brother seems in a great hurry about mar- 
rying." 

" Why should he not be in a hurry ? " asked Kazi- 
mir, all the more defiantly that the same thought had 
struck him, and already half repenting having handed 
out the letter. The actions of the family should not 
be criticised outside the family circle. Such a thing 
went straight against his notions of chivalry. 

" Any special ground for the hurry ? " inquired the 
Auditor coolly, with his head lolling back against the 
wall, his eyes on the ceiling, and his hands in his 
pockets. 

"Of course there is ; she has lost her father, and 
being an orphan, is in want of protection." 

"Why should not your brother pick out an over- 
seer for you ? Do not see the force of his arguments 
at all." 

" I cannot ask Lucyan to do more for me than he 
has already done," said Kazimir with a little heat. 
"He has been uncommonly good-natured as it is." 

" Capital thing, to have an uncommonly good- 
natured brother," observed the Auditor, still staring 



TRUMPED. 49 

upwards. '' Well, give me a night to think over it ; I 
will tell you to-morrow." He brought his gaze down 
from the ceiling, and began folding back the letter into 
the envelope. " Wait till to-morrow ; I don't feel in- 
spired to-day." 

" I wish I were rid of the whole business," exclaimed 
Kazimir. 

"Why, here is a second sheet inside; you didn't 
show me that ; marked ' private,' I suppose, eh ? " 

" I never saw any second sheet," said Kazimir. 
•' If the letter had been from aunt Eobertine, I should 
have supposed it was one of her safety sheets. Where 
is it ? " 

" Here it is, and it is not marked private either. 
Old eyes are sharper than young ones, it seems." 

Kazimir took the sheet and read it, while the 
Auditor watched his face over the edge of the wine- 
glass. The clouds on Kazimir's brow were slowly 
clearing, they were quite cleared by the end of the 
page, he dashed down the paper on the table and 
looked up triumphantly. 

" Thank heavens, the matter is clear as daylight 
now ! here is the way out of everything ; read that ! " 
Whatever reluctance he might have felt about show- 
ing the first half of the letter, there could be no 
ground for concealing this. Here was a distinct, 
above-board and brotherly proposition, which should 

VOL. II. D 



50 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

be met iu the same manner that it was tendered, 
with plain-spoken frankness. 

" Keep your head cool," said the Auditor, as he 
applied himself to the sheet; and perhaps by way of 
keeping his own head cool, he swallowed another 
half-glass of wine. This sheet formed a postscript to 
the letter itself, and bore a date of one day later. To 
all appearances it was the expression of an after- 
thought, and this after-thought bore the stamp of a 
different mood. 

" F.S. — Since I concluded my letter, my affairs have 
taken a new and distressing turn. The happiness 
which seemed to be so nearly within my grasp, appears 
now to be retreating, perhaps into an endless future. 
I learn now, that, according to the terms of the will, 
Mademoiselle Eogdanovics cannot, until the age of 
twenty-four, marry any man whose fortune is less than 
her own, or who cannot prove himself the possessor of 
an estate bearing a certain value. As I could not 
do this, even if you were to pay me out my share of 
Wowasulka (which I should have to call upon you to 
do at once), I fear that my hopes must be resigned ; 
a girl cannot be expected to wait on indefinitely 
during years, for an unfortunate man, born under an 
evil star. 

" I can see but one possibility which might save me, 
and were it not for your often- expressed aversion to 



TRUMPED. 51 

farming life, I should be reluctant even to mention 
this loophole. 

" Possessing an estate is hut a matter of form ; and if 
I could prove myself the sole proprietor of Wowasulka 
— upon paper only, of course — there could be no op- 
position to the marriage. Marcin is quite ready to 
abandon me his share upon reasonable terms. Of 
course I have no right to ask you to do the same; 
but some of your late anathemas against agriculture 
have led me to think that such an arrangement might 
suit both parties. 

" Do not answer in a hurry ; I wish you to consider 
the matter coolly, for, after all, it is you who are the 
head of the family, and have the best right to the 
estate. Pray consider that to hold out any hope 
which you could not fulfil w^ould be cruelty. It 
will be kinder to let me know my disappointment at 
once. If you remember the last talk we had together, 
you will be able better to understand my anxiety. I 
shall count the days till your reply comes : it wdll be 
heaven or hell to me." 

The. P.S. had a P.P.S., which was apparently an 
after after-thought. 

"In case, by any chance, you should consider my 
proposition, I had better mention that your share of 
the property, roughly speaking, would amount to 
about ten or eleven thousand florins. Once again. 



U> Of ILL. LIB. 



52 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR. 

I do not wish to hurry you, but the matter is very 
pressing. Your signature is but a matter of form, 
after all." 

" Well, what do you say to that ? " cried Kazimir, 
with all the triumphant delight of a player who has 
discovered a hidden trump in his hand. " Just when 
I was wondering how I was to get rid of the whole 
business : is it not a wonderful coincidence ? " 

"A wonderful coincidence," assented the Auditor, 
with emphasis. " I agree with you." 

" Then why do you stare down into your glass, in- 
stead of expressing your opinion?" asked Kazimir, 
who was himself a little staggered at the marvellous 
manner in which the second half of the letter answered 
the question suggested by the first. 

" Because I don't know your brother ; he is not in 
the regiment, you see." 

" But he is my brother, and that is enough." 

Again Kazimir felt a little sore, he did not exactly 
know why. 

" Yes, he is your brother. Is he like you ? impul- 
sive, hot-headed, scatter-brained, and all the rest of 
it?" 

" N — no, not very ; all Poles are a little scatter- 
brained, are they not?" But just at this moment 
Kazimir remembered Lucyan's words — " I am a Greek 



TRUMPED. 53 

and you are a Pole, that is the difference between 
us ; " however, he kept this to himself. 

" Seems to be very desperately in love, eh?" and the 
Auditor's fat forefinger tapped the sheet. 

" Well, I suppose so," said Kazimir, folding the 
letter into his pocket-book. Certainly there were ex- 
pressions in Lucyan's letter warmer than any he had 
ever expected to hear from his brother; but then it 
could probably be explained by considering that " still 
waters run deep," combined with the reflection that 
all is not gold that glitters; for Kazimir was just 
sleepy enough to mix his metaphors upon Marcin's 
principle, and yet he was enough wide awake to be 
conscious of a disagreeable start when he found that 
he had been putting away Lucyan's letter close along- 
side of the crystal flower which Xenia had given him. 
The contact seemed like profanation, and, with a sort 
of fearful haste, he parted them. 

" Lady very beautiful ? " inquired the Auditor, hold- 
ing up the bottle to the light, to see how many glass- 
fuls were still to be squeezed out. 

" She is nice-looking," said Kazimir, shortly. 

The Auditor having known Kazimir for ten years, 
understood from this moderation that the lady was 
plain. 

" Your brother is not like you, then ? " 



54. BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" I never said he was not ; he is not a soldier, of 
course, which makes a difference." 

" Any profession ? " 

" He studied the law." 

" Aha ! " the Auditor almost choked over a gulp of 
wine ; " wonderful thing for sharpening the wits." He 
winked at the ceiling, and lolled back again. His 
breath was thick. Nodding his flushed face, he reeled 
tipsily on the seat; but in the midst of it all, his 
blinking eye was the eye of a lawyer — of a man shrewd, 
sharp, suspicious almost, as he always became in 
face of any real or imaginary peril threatening any 
member of the regiment. 

"Ten or eleven thousand florins," he repeated. 
"The estate would then be valued at about 33,000. 
Not much for an estate in Poland. That's your idea 
of it ? " 

" I have not got any idea," said Kazimir, drowsily ; 
but in truth his impression — an impression too vague 
to be trusted — had always been that the value was 
much larger. " I once heard my mother say that 
something was worth 36,000 florins, but I don't know 
what it was." 

" Queer — scarcely tallies. What is the land like ? " 

" I don't know anything about it ; the only thing 
that was drilled into my head was, that the Pro- 
pinacyas were the most valuable part of the estate, 



TRUMPED. 55 

and that almost the entire income is derived from 
them." 

" Aha, Propinacyas ! excellent brandy they make 
sometimes ; have often heard of their great value. Is 
that all you know of the place ? " 

" Yes, that is all." 

Kazimir's fingers rapped the table impatiently ; he 
felt rather chilled from his first heat of exultation. 
" Of course I shall accept this proposal at once." 

"Of course you shall do nothing of the sort. You'll 
take time to think over it." 

" What is there to think over ? You see he says it 
is only a matter of form. I am not going to play dog 
in the manger, by keeping something for myself which 
I don't care for, and which would at once secure my 
brother's happiness. And as for the value of the 
estate, why, I suppose Lucyan can make a simple sum 
of division by three as well as anybody else." 

" Keep your head cool, that is what I say." The 
Auditor's voice had reached the hiccoughing stage, but 
his eye twinkled all the more shrewdly. "I insist 
upon giving you my advice. I am a minor Providence 
sent into the world in order to keep the brains of 
scatter-brains together ; that is ray vocation. No won- 
der you youngsters call me 'the Oracle;' it's hard 

work, and that's why I need to " he pointed to the 

empty bottle significantly. " I'll tell you what you'll 



56 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

do. Don't shrug your shoulders ; perhaps you think 
that because I'm more than half tipsy I don't know 
what I'm talking of. I tell you my brains are sharper 
than yours at this moment. You'll write a nice long 
letter to your brother, and you'll ask him, in the first 
place, to show you the matter in black and white ; and 
you'll sign no paper before you have seen the lease of 
those Propinacyas; that will tell us their value, and 
that will be the touchstone of the business; that will 
trump it, in fact." 

" A nice long letter," echoed Kazimir, ruefully. " I 
cannot do that." 

" Don't look down-hearted ; another glass of wine. 
You don't seem to get on with the santo ; have some 
nostrano then — good, strong, black stuff." 

" No, thank you, I have no taste for ink, either in 
glasses or upon paper. I cannot write that letter, I 
tell you." 

" You can't ? H — m, h — m, h — m. Let me see ; 
it looks rather interesting. You are one of the regi- 
ment, and I am the foundation-stone on which the 
regiment has been built. What should you say if I 
wrote instead of you, and put the business questions 
to your brother ? " 

" What should I say ? I should bless you till the 
end of my days. But," rather apprehensively, " you 
won't write to-night, will you ? " 



TRUMPED. 57 

The Auditor rolled with laughter. "I appreciate 
the hint : no, I shan't write to-day ; not because brain 
isn't clear enough, but because hand isn't steady 
enough." 

" And to-morrow ? The matter is pressing, mind." 
" To-morrow I shall be all square again. I declare 
that bottle is dry already ! " 



58 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



OVERTRUMPED. 



" And a "brother noble, 
Whose nature is so far from doing harms, 
That he suspects none ; on whose foolish honesty 
My practices ride easy ! — I see the business. 
Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit : 
All with me's meet, that I can fashion fit." 

—King Lear. 



An army had stormed the fortress and carried havoc 
into the very heart of the capital, destroying and 
devouring everything it touched. But the army was 
neither French, Italian, nor Austrian ; and the fort- 
ress was built not of brick, nor either of stone. 

The fact was, that Lucyan's favourite rose had been 
ailing for some days. In vain did he water his dar- 
ling, morning and evening, with his own white hands ; 
in vain did he watch her, as a mother watches her 
sick child ; the beautiful rose drooped more heavily 
every day, and hung her fair salmon-tinted head ever 
lower. She moped and sulked, and would not be 
cheered either by sunbeam or dewdrop ; she was 
blind to the charms of the hovering butterfly, and 



OVERTRUMPED. 59 

deaf to the drowsy hum of the velvet bee that buzzed 
past. Strong measures were necessary ; and Lucyan, 
who never hesitated to take strong measures, once 
having recognised their necessity, put on a pair of 
gardening gloves and examined his favourite, leaf by 
leaf. The gardening gloves were a wise precaution, 
for the sick child was irritable, as sick children often 
are, and took a sort of peevish pleasure in pricking 
and scratching its attentive nurse. 

But the nurse had sharp eyes, and soon came upon 
the root of the evil. It was this myriad of little green 
dots, infinitely smaller than a pin's head, that were 
fretting the beautiful rose to death. Smoke alone 
could help here ; and therefore it came about that on 
one of the earliest days of July, Lucyan was to be seen 
smoking a cigarette into the face of a splendid tea-rose. 
It was with infinite satisfaction that he watched the 
tiny green dots growing first grey and then black, and 
finally dropping in shrivelled patches to the ground. 
There were plenty other roses all around: deep red, 
tender pink, and dead white ; they stood behind him, 
and to the right of him and the left of him. But just 
now Lucyan's whole soul seemed wrapped in this one 
tea-rose. The case was more interesting to him, pre- 
cisely because more difficult ; to triumph over a stub- 
born enemy would be agreeable in exact proportion to 
the stubbornness of that enemy. 



60 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

There are men, the strength of whose intellect allows 
them to attend to several subjects at a time. Lncj^an 
was one of these ; and now, while operating upon the 
rose, it might have been noticed that his attention 
was at the same time fixed upon the stretch of road 
visible, as though he were expecting something to 
appear there. 

Two days ago he had received a letter, and to that 
letter he had not yet replied. He was not a man to be 
easily surprised, yet that letter had certainly taken 
him by surprise. It had thrown him considerably 
out of his calculations. He had expected to have to 
do only with Kazimir, and Kazimir he thought he 
could manage, — and now he had found himself tackled 
by a lawyer, and — as his first glance told him — an 
acute lawyer. Lucyan very keenly appreciated the 
point and weight of the leading questions put to him. 
He felt an immediate respect, and almost a sort of 
sympathy, for the man who had put them, even though 
that man had thrown him out in his calculations. 
Had he foreseen this contingency, undoubtedly his 
plans would have been laid on a different system ; but 
as he had not foreseen this contingency, and as he 
was neither morally nor physically a coward, he must 
carry out his plans as they had been laid. After the 
first chill of surprise, his spirit rose to the emergency. 
The triumph would be all the greater for the strength 



OVERTRUMPED. 61 

of the enemy. There was a sort of keen excitement 
in the question now; for it was required that he 
should stake his wits against the wits of another 
man, and that other man not a fool. Here also, as 
with the tea-rose, strong measures were necessary. 
He must substantiate his own statement, and defend 
the ground on which he had placed himself. No use 
in reflecting now that it would have been better to 
have placed himself on other ground. Above all, 
there must be no hesitation. 

It had taken him one day and two nights to mature 
the plan which now was fixed. A certain instrument 
was necessary for working out that plan ; and as Lucyan 
stood blowing out puffs of grey smoke, it was for the 
arrival of that instrument that he was looking towards 
the road. 

The road was all but deserted. One peasant-cart 
rattled past, laden with green hay ; and one peasant- 
woman trudged past, her bare feet ankle-deep in dust, 
while her high leather boots dangled over her back. 
A third object came in view, a black, long, and lean 
object. This one did not trudge past, but turning off 
the road, bent his head for a moment, and peeped fur- 
tively through the trees ; then came on sidling towards 
the bush on which that tea-rose grew. 

" The gracious Pan desires to speak to me ? " 

Lucyan jerked away the cigarette-stump, and care- 



62 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

fully drawing off his right glove, took the comb out 
of his pocket. The comb looked a little haggard and 
■worn, as upon close inspection did Lucyan himself. 
They had both been severely taxed of late, and in the 
midst of straining anxieties the one had sought com- 
fort in the other. 

" Yes, I shall speak to you presently, when I have 
done with this rose," said Lucyan. 

" Just as the gracious Pan pleases. Aitzig comes as 
he is desired, and waits as long as he is commanded ; 
even though he may be missing the chance of earning 
some honest florins, by filling his feather-sack in the 
poultry-yards of the villages." 

"It will be time," observed Lucyan, drawing off 
his second glove, " to complain of having lost your 
feathers, when you see what exchange you have 
made." 

" It is a hard life," said the Jew, cautiously ; " but 
it is not for Aitzig to complain." 

If he had looked humble before, he looked abject 
now ; but every nerve was on the strain already, and 
with strung and quivering curiosity he waited for 
what w^as to come. 

Lucyan bent over the rose-bush, here and there 
delicately shaking off some of the clinging insects. 
" We are at the beginning of July now," he remarked. 

" The beginning of July ! so we are, so w^e are." 



OVERTRUMPED. 63 

" Next week will be a busy one ; I shall have little 
time for gardening." 

" A busy one," repeated the nasal echo, " so it will 
be — what with the hay, and the sheep-shearing, and 
the cattle-selling ;" at each point he shot a glance of 
inquiry at Lucyan's face, to see if it had hit the mark, 
but Lucyan went on quietly with his rose-bush. It 
was full a minute before he observed, " The lease of 
the Propinacyas will be up on Tuesday." 

" So it will, gracious Pan — so it will," and Aitzig 
held his breath and waited for more. It was quite 
certain that he had not been sent for to hear the an- 
nouncement of a plain fact, which he knew already. 

Lucyan snipped off a yellow leaf. " On Tuesday, 
therefore, the lease will be renewed." 

" On Tuesday, yes ! " Aitzig breathed a garlic- 
scented sigh. " Naftali Taubenkilbel, fortunate among 
the children of Israel, will have his lease renewed 
on Tuesday." 

" Wait till his lease is renewed, and then call him 
fortunate." 

" It is as good as signed alread}^," said Aitzig, smil- 
ing an unsteady smile, in hopes of concealing his 
inward agitation. "!N^aftali Taubenkiibel has held the 
lease for thirty-two years. Was his beard not black 
when first he signed it, and is his beard not white 
now, and beginning to thin out ? " 



64 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Naftali Taubenklibel can be thrown over if I 
choose," answered Lucyan, slowly; and as he spoke, 
he picked, with great delicacy, a shining green beetle 
off the bush and dropped it to the ground. " The 
lease is not yet signed for the thirty-third time." 
Lucyan's heel crushed down the emerald beetle into 
the gravel of the garden-path. 

Aitzig struck an attitude of melodramatic surprise. 

" The gracious Pan speaks thus ! In what has Naf- 
tali Taubenklibel been unfortunate enough to dis- 
please his noble master?" 

" Oh, nothing that I know of," said Lucyan, care- 
lessly, giving a final grind to the wreck of the rose- 
beetle. " But I am thinking — only thinking, mind — 
of making the lease change hands." 

".And who," — Aitzig's voice was hoarse with the 
emotion of suspense, — " who is it that the gracious 
Pan is thinking of favouring with that grand lease ? " 

"There, that will do," said Lucyan, with a final 
touch to the rose-bush, "we shall see how you are 
to-morrow, ma telle Madame Graula ! " And with 
a last lingering and tender glance, he turned from 
the tea-rose to the Jew. 

" Follow me up-stairs, Aitzig, — I have a little matter 
to discuss with you." 

Like a dog at his master's heels, Aitzig followed. 
He never forgot those three or four minutes that he 



OVERTRUMPED. 65 

walked behind Lucyan. They were to him like the 
lull before the storm, like the pause before the battle ; 
this, he did not doubt, was the crisis and turning- 
point of his life. For years and years the lease of 
the Wowasulka Propinacyas had been his sweetest 
ideal, and the crown of his ambition. He had yearned 
for it and intrigued to get it, all in vain. Was it 
possible that the dream was now to be fulfilled? 
The thought made him almost giddy. But though 
giddy, this Jew was too much of a Jew not to see 
that some motive lay here concealed, and therefore 
it was that those three minutes seemed to him so 
very much like the pause before the battle. As he 
followed Lucyan — who walked along without any 
appearance of hurry, pausing every now and then 
to stoop over a flower-bed, or to pluck some unsightly 
weed from the pathway — Aitzig was inwardly invok- 
ing the assistance of all his forefathers, beginning with 
the patriarch Abraham and ending with his own fa- 
ther, who had dealt in old iron, and who now slept 
the sleep of the faithful, under an inexpensive grave- 
stone. 

When the little square room up-stairs was reached, 
Lucyan, apparently forgetful of the heat, and indiffer- 
ent to the scent of garlic, first closed and bolted the 
window, and then, sitting down, began to toy with 
his comb. 

VOL. II. E 



66 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

After Aitzig had been kept on thorns a minute or so, 
Lucyan half turned his head towards him. " Have 
you made inquiries about that set of second-hand 
harness you heard of ? " 

" I have looked at it again," stammered Aitzig. 

" Ah, very well. Kemember that a florin-fifty must 
be beaten off the price." 

" Scarcely a florin could I beat off it." 

" Fifty more, or I do not take it." Lucyan appeared 
absorbed in the view from the window, but during 
that pause he knew just as well as though he had 
had eyes at the back of his head, that Aitzig was 
standing with neck craned forward, and sunken eyes 
glistening, greedily waiting for the next words. 

" Was it about the harness that the gracious Pan 
desired to see me ? " he ventured at last. 

" No ; I have a note down here about the cattle- 
market too." 

" The gracious Pan was mentioning something about 
the Propinacya ! " Lucyan smiled under his mous- 
tache, and mentally scored one point. "Yes, to be 
sure. What was it I said ? " 

" That the gracious Pan was thinking of making the 
lease change hands " 

" Ah, yes ; and you asked who it was that T w^as 
thinking of favouring with the lease ; did you not ask 
that, Aitzig ? " 



OVERTRUMPED. 67 

" Yes, Pan." Aitzig's yellow fingers were winding 
themselves convulsively in and out of the ragged cord 
at his waist. 

" That is a simple question, and easy to answer. 
Would the answer interest you? Well" — for Aitzig 
nodded, beincj too far fijone for words — " the man to 
whom I give the lease must be ready to do any service 
I require of him." 

" I understand," said Aitzig, eagerly. 

" He must be ready," continued Lucyan, " to obey 
blindly any order that might be given him, without 
venturing to put up his opinion against my own. Do 
you understand that ? " 

" Perfectly, Pan — I understand perfectly," said Ait- 
zig, perceiving that there was some dirty work to be 
done — something that was not quite KoscJia ; '^ and 
instinctively he began turning up the cuffs of 'his 
greasy kaftan, as if to intimate that he was the man 
to do it. 

" What I should require in future I do not know," 
said Lucyan, examining his nails ; " but, at the pres- 
ent moment, there is one immediate condition attached 
to the lease." 

" Gracious Pan ! " cried Aitzig, starting forward, 

1 According to the Mosaic law, a thing is either Kosclia or not 
Koscha — that is, clean or unclean. Thus the front quarters of an 
ox are Koscha, the hind quarters not Koscha. 



68 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" you may be sure that poor old Aitzig would fulfil 
that condition, if you so desired it." 

Lucy an saw the weak point in the enemy's armour, 
and struck at it. 

" Who said I was talking of you ? " he inquired 
coolly, as, with a sharp movement, he raised his head. 
Aitzif]^ shrank back, cowering^ towards the door. Tlie 
spot beside the door was the spot naturally assigned 
to him, so as to leave as wide a space as the size of 
the room allowed between the Jew and the Christian. 
It was only in the heat of excited feeling that he ever 
overstepped his bounds. " We were talking of the 
lease, were we not? Do you know what rent ISTaf- 
tali Taubenkiibel has paid for it during these thirty- 
two years ? " 

" Four thousand florins he has paid every year." 

" Exactly so ; four thousand florins," repeated Luc- 
yan, rapping out with the comb four little taps on the 
palm of his left hand. "It is not always convenient, 
however, that the sum should be precisely known." 

Aitzig made no answer, for he was still on the 
watch and on the strain, not quite seeing daylight 
as yet. 

" I believe," said Lucyan, carelessly, " that it is 
sometimes considered, let us say agrceoMe, to give out 
the sum of such a lease a little different from what it 
really is." 



OVERTRUMPED. C9 

" It may be, noble Pan," agreed Aitzig, who tliovight 
that he saw a oiimmer of lic^ht. 

o o 

"When I say different, of course I do not mean 
higher. I have heard, for instance, of Jews who 
managed very neatly to escape about half their taxes 
in that manner. Have you heard of such Jews, too, 
Aitzig ? " At the last words Lucyan turned his head 
so suddenly, and eyed the Jew so sharply, that Aitzig 
had not time to put on the proper coat of innocence, 
which would have clothed him most becomingly at 
this moment. He could only stand and nod in reply, 
and cautiously admit that he might have heard of 
such Jews. 

" There are other cases," w^ent on Lucyan, " in 
w^hich it would be convenient to have the rent named 
at a lower price. Supposing that such a case had 
arisen, and supposing that there happened to be a Jew 
who was anxious, very anxious, to have the lease — do 
you understand me, Aitzig ? " 

" Yes, yes ; wherefore should Aitzig noff under- 
stand ? " 

" Well, supposing that Jew was told that the lease 
for four thousand florins would only be given him it 
he agrees to draw out a second lease, which affirmed 
that he paid two thousand, what do you think would 
be that Jew's course ? " 

" A false lease ! " cried Aitzig, starting backwards 



70 BEGGAH MY NEIGHBOUR. 

with two raised and outspread hands, pious horror 
painted on his face. 

" A false lease," repeated Lucyan, after him, quite 
distinctly and slowly, for he never shrank from calling 
things by their proper names. " Have I not spoken 
clearly enough ? Well, I will speak clearly now. I 
was thinking of giving the lease of the Propinacyas to 
you, on condition that you signed that false paper ; 
but as you object to the idea, we need talk no further 
about it," and Lucyan rose, walked over to the book- 
case, and drawing out the ' Hints to the Eose Lover,' 
began to turn over the pages. 

" Have I heard the gracious Pan aright ? " gasped 
the dazzled Jew. " He would give the Propinacya to 
poor old Aitzig ? Is Aitzig to be blest with a for- 
tunate old age ? " 

" On that one condition," remarked Lucyan, across 
his shoulder. " And, of course, you understand that 
the paper remains in my hands, not in yours. There 
will be*no room for false play there, Aitzig." 

" The God of Moses has been merciful to Aitzig," 
continued the Jew, lost in a sort of ecstasy. 

" Then you accept the condition ? " 

" The condition I " Aitzig started out of his dream. 
" The false lease ? How could Aitzig Majulik damn 
his soul by such a deed ? " and Aitzig screwed up his 
eyes, and drew up his shoulders, and threw up his 



OVERTRUMPED. 71 

hands, and looked the picture of outraged virtue. 
" Everything else will Aitzig do but that one thing." 

" And nothing else but that one thing will give you 
the Propinacya." 

" It is too sinful a deed to ask of a child of Abraham." 

" Very well, then, you can go now. I have some- 
thing to see about." 

He sat down at the table, and with perfect com- 
posure he opened the book he held. 

" How could my forefathers rest in peace," whined 
the factor, lingering, " if I have to do such a deed ? 
Would not my mother turn in her grave ? " 

" Very likely she would," said Lucyan, quietly. 
" Have you understood me ? Go I " 

He heard the door open and close again, and then 
he heard Aitzig go three steps down the passage. He 
smiled to himself, and went on with his book. His 
hand did not even shake as he turned the pages of 
' Hints to the Eose Lover ' (laying it open finally at 
the chapter on Eose Diseases), for his nerves were as 
lirm as steel. 

The step on which he had resolved, and which he 
was now engaged in taking, might, at first sight, ap- 
pear imprudent and even perilous, but in reality it 
was the result of cold-blooded calculation. Having 
minutely weighed the proportions of risk against those 
of gain, he had concluded that this apparently perilous 



72 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

thing was, in reality, the safest thing which he could 
do, granted that a certain object was to be gained. It 
was a bold leap which he had to take, and originally 
he had not intended to take it; but, in face of the 
Auditor's letter, he saw no other course. Delay alone 
would be suspicious ; so delay there must be none. 
The leap was not so wide as it looked ; for it was not 
only that the act he meditated was a simple and al- 
most an easy thing in such a country as Poland, and 
such a time as that ; but it w^as also that Lucyan 
knew his own strength, and every inch of the ground 
as well. He knew his brother, he knew Aitzig Maju- 
lik, he knew even the Auditor, although he had never 
seen him. He respected him for his shrewd question- 
ings; but, at the same time, he had caught sight of 
the limits of that shrewdness. With an eagle eye he 
had espied the advantages of his own position, and the 
disadvantages of the enemy ; for instance, the dis- 
advantage of distance, of ignorance, of honesty, and 
belief in honesty. 

Of his instrument he was quite certain. He had 
not felt the slightest uneasiness when Aitzig left the 
room in that burst of outraged virtue, nor would he 
have felt uneasy if Aitzig had left the house, nor even 
if he had stayed away from the house a whole day 
long. He knew that his hold upon the Jew was just 
as firm as though one end of an iron chain had been 



OVERTRUMPED. 73 

around Aitzig's neck, while the other end was in his 
own hand. The only question which caused him the 
slightest anxiety was as to how long the Jew would 
take before coming to terms. He wished, for many 
reasons, that the whole business should be hurried 
through. For one reason, he could not marry before 
this was settled, and he had resolved to marry next 
month. Besides, there were rumours of an armistice 
between the fighting armies ; and though it would 
probably not last long, yet an armistice would not 
just at present have been convenient for Lucyan. In 
the meantime, however, he was not sure whether 
Aitzig had left the house, or even the passage. His 
estimate of the Jew was not at fault; for presently 
the door glided open softly, very softly, and a lean 
figure squeezed itself in. Lucyan, without raising his 
head, turned over another page. 

" I have but returned to ask a little question of the 
gracious Pan." 

" Did I not tell you to go ? " said Lucyan, sternly. 

" It is but a question I have to ask," stuttered the 
Jew. " If such a man could be found who would 
consent to damn his soul in order to satisfy the 
gracious Pan, what would the gracious Pan be pleased 
to give him ? " 

" I have told you what; the Propinacya." 

" Gott unci die Welt ! but Naftali Taubenkubel 



74 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

lias held the Propinacya for thirty-two years, and no 
one has asked of him that he should damn his soul. 
Naftali Taubenkubel will be gathered to rest with 
his forefathers, while poor Aitzig Majulik " 

"As Aitzig Majulik has not accepted the condition, 
no doubt Aitzig Majulik will be gathered to his fore- 
fathers too." 

" True, Pan — most true." Aitzig smiled a sickly 
smile, as if the notion of being gathered to his fore- 
fathers had suddenly lost its charm. " But what Jew 
will tlie noble Pan find more ready to serve him than 
Aitzig ? " 

" Well, Aitzig," said Lucy an, carelessly, " I should 
not mind taking fifty florins off the rent of the first 
year." 

Aitzig swiftly crossed the room on tiptoe, and 
whispered into Lucyan's ear, " Five hundred." 

'* Get away, you dog 1 Fifty, or this business is not 
clenched." 

" I could not do this thing for fifty florins, and I 
could not do it for a hundred florins ; a heavy sin it 
is," and Aitzig gave a sigh in proportion to the heavi- 
ness of the sin. " Consider that, gracious Pan ; if the 
gracious Pan had said four hundred and eighty, or " — 
as Lucyan angrily raised his head — " four hundred and 
fifty." 

" I will give you sixty, but not a penny more." 



OVERTRUMPED. 75 

" Four huudred and twenty," whined the factor. 

" Sixty, or you get out of the room this instant." 

" Gracious Pan," — and Aitzig in the extreme of his 
anguish wound his hand through his beard, — " let us 
say four hundred and ten." 

" There is the door," remarked Lucy an. 

" Four hund^*ed, gracious gentleman." 

" Seventy-five, or get away." 

''Three hundred and fifty," shrieked the Jew, for 
Lucyan had risen from his chair. 

" You don't see the door ? I will show you the 
way. There ! " with a vigorous gesture, neatly ex- 
ecuted and very effective, he pushed the Jew into the 
passage and shut the door upon him, although Aitzig, 
through the narrowing chink, found time to gasp back, 
" Three hundred ! " 

Having done this, he returned to the table, where 
the ' Hints to the Eose Lover ' still lay open at the 
chapter on Rose Diseases. But this time his calmness 
was not real ; his lips were compressed, and his finely 
cut nostrils dilated and contracted quickly, as he 
passed his handkerchief across his forehead. The day 
was warm and the room was close, and his last act 
had been a rather exhausting one. His eyes indeed 
were on the book, but his whole attention w^as taken 
up with listening ; in short, feverish strokes, he passed 
the comb through his black hair till it crackled like 



76 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

burning straw, and shot sparks, as though it wished to 
join in the excitement of the business. 

There was a sound at the door, just as if a large dog 
were scratching with hard claws, and rubbing its soft 
body against it. There was breathing too, hard by the 
keyhole, wdiich might have passed for canine breath- 
ing. Lucyan raised his head and listened, taking care 
not to make the smallest noise ; the hand which held 
the comb was poised in the air motionless, and his eye 
was fixed in the strain of attention. 

" Two hundred and sixty," whispered Aitzig through 
the keyhole. 

Lucyan moved not a muscle, but maintained his 
fixed attitude. 

There w^as not thirty seconds' pause before the 
whisper hissed through the keyhole, " Two hundred 
and fifty florins." 

Lucyan remained just as he was, and there followed 
a longer pause this time. Perhaps the dead silence 
had chilled the heart of the Hebrew, for the next 
whisper showed a considerable leap downwards : 
" Gracious Pan, a hundred and eighty." 

Quite noiselessly Lucyan rose and approached the 
door, but paused for another moment there, bending his 
ear to the keyhole. 

"A hundred and fifty." 

Lucyan opened the door so suddenly that the 



OVERTRUMPED. 77 

Jew stumbled forwards. "What is that you said?" 
and seizing Aitzig by the collar, he dragged him head 
foremost into the room. 

" A hundred and fifty," whimpered the breathless 
Hebrew. 

"Bah! I should have touched you with tongs," said 
Lucyan, with an air of most delicate disgust, wiping 
his white fingers upon his cambric handkerchief. 

" The noble Pan says fine things," said Aitzig, 
chuckling as though he had been flattered by the 
choicest of compliments. " A hundred and fifty will 
be given to poor old Aitzig Majulik then ? " 

" In the name of peace, I will give you a hundred, 
and that is my last word. Is this bargain clenclied ? " 

Aitzi" wavered, and beoan to shuffle and cough, 
while Lucyan threw himself back into his comfortable 
arm-chair. He had been playing his victim like a 
trout for the last ten minutes, and now the trout was 
trembling on the line, while he drew him slowly, 
slowly towards the shore. 

" It is clenched then. I give you the Propinacya 
and a hundred, and you give me the second lease — 
the false lease. Is that clear ? " 

Somehow, at the eleventh hour the Jew took fright 
at the plain word. He stood there before his tor- 
mentor, trembling, uncertain, dazzled, and alarmed, 
gabbling out his scruples in a hoarse and halting 



78 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

voice. There was the risk, after all, which might 
prove serious ; there would be his own writing to hold 
up against him, there might be detection and prison, 
he might get into difficulties with the authorities, and 
he might also get into difficulties with his salvation. 

Lucyan, his head thrown back and his eyes half 
closed, sat and watched with a sort of contemptuous 
pity the struggle which he had provoked ; for he was 
a great man of his kind, and the other man but a 
small man of the same kind. The man who had no 
fear and no conscience looked on at the agony of the 
man who was a coward, and who had still a grain of 
conscience remaining. 

After a minute or so the spectacle grew tiresome, 
and even Lu cyan's supreme patience gave way. " Don't 
do it then," he said, bringing his hand down flat on the 
table. "Don't injure your conscience; and do you 
know what the result will be ? My brother Kazimir 
will then keep the upper hand in the estate, and my 
brother Kazimir is far too good and kind a man to turn 
out such a faithful servant as Xaftali Taubenkubel. 
On Tuesday, therefore, Naftali Taubenkubel can renew 
his lease." 

" Gracious Pan ! " said the tortured Jew, desperately, 
" why is it that you desire this thing to be done ? " 

"Have I not told you that blind obedience is the 
first necessity? Why should you try to see, then, 



OVERTRUMPED. 79 

since I choose that you should be blind ? Enough 
that it is my interest to lower the value of the Pro- 
pinacya upon paper, and enough that it is your 
interest to hold the Propinacya. Have you under- 
stood ? " 

"Yes, yes, no doubt." Aitzig was "writhing in 
helpless indecision ; his deeply sunken eyes, which 
seemed always to be lying in a sort of dark ambush, 
were fixed watchfully on Lucyan's face. But he 
might as well have tried to read through a white 
stone mask. His low and vulgar cunning was no 
match for this splendid intellect, trained by high 
education, and invulnerable at every point. 

"A hundred, then," said Lucyan, and he put his 
hand in the open drawer — "you can have fifty now 
if you like, and fifty can be taken off the lease." 
He slowly folded out the crisp bank-note. "A hun- 
dred, Aitzig ? " repeated Lucyan. 

" The gracious Pan will not betray poor old Aitzig ? " 
quavered the Jew, showing the whites of his eyes, and 
licking his withered lips as a wild beast does at the 
sight of raw meat. Lucyan, holding the bank-note 
well in sight of the factor, whose fingers were con- 
vulsively closing and unclosing themselves, thought 
that he had never seen a more hideous sight than 
the face of Aitzig at that moment. 

" Fool ! " he exclaimed, with a sort of scornful 



80 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

frankness. "Do you not see that what I can do 
to you, you can do to me? You are in my hands, 
and I am in yours. A hundred, then ? " 

" My salvation " 

" And twenty, well, since I have no time to bargain." 

By the light in those vulture eyes Lucyan saw that 
the last spark of conscience was extinguished, and the 
hard bargain clenched at last. 

In two minutes more he was alone. Going to the 
table he poured some violet scent on to his handker- 
chief to refresh himself, for he was a little tried. " It 
would not have done without those fifty florins," he 
reflected ; " nothing like the crackle of paper for a 
Jew." But he sighed regretfully all the same, for he 
loved his money as much as he loved his flowers. 
" Fresh air at last ! " and he threw open the window 
to the evening breeze. " Any one coming in would 
fancy that I had been dining off garlics in my room." 

Lucyan leant out of the window and smiled down 
confidentially at his sick tea-rose. 

It almost seemed to him that his darling was raising 
her drooping head already, and smiling a faintly con- 
valescent smile into the face of the setting sun. 



81 



CHAPTER XIX. 



BUMPER. 



Es ist unendlich sehoner, sich zehnmal lieber betrligen zu lassen, als einmal 
den Glauben an die Menschheit verlieren." — Zschokke. 



Verona was taking lier afternoon siesta. So white 
was the glare brooding over the town, that the houses 
seemed absolutely to have grown pale, as though ex- 
hausted by the heat. Every curtain was lowered, 
and every shutter barred ; not from fear of the siege, 
which the Austrians half expected, but as a rampart 
against another enemy, the fierce sun, who beat his 
fiery blade against every plank, and shot his fiery 
arrows between each narrow chiak and through every 
unguarded hole. 

Every one who had a bed was asleep upon it ; and 
everybody who had none, was asleep in a corridor or 
on a door-step. The Italians slept on principle, the 
Austrians slept from sheer fatigue. It would have been 
hard work to collect a hundred wide-awake people 

VOL. II. F 



82 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

this afternoon. Two out of the hundred were to be 
found together in a spacious, marble-paved, large- 
windowed, and colonnaded apartment, much adorned 
with faded gilding, and heavily scented with bunches 
of flowers. Tattered damask curtains of a pale-yellow 
colour hung over the windows ; while the door stood 
open to the passage, showing a glimpse of stone-paved 
courtyard, with the vivid red of pomegranate-blossoms 
clustering here and there between glistening green. 

Beside the centre window stood an old-fashioned, 
many-legged and many-drawered writing-table. There 
were papers spread on the writing-table, and there 
were also a bottle of red wine, recently uncorked, 
and a couple of glasses. 

The Auditor, in shirt-sleeves, his cuffs turned up, 
his collar turned down, and a wet towel tied round 
his head, sat at this table, alternately sipping wine 
and fanning himself with a cabbage-leaf. 

" Keep your head cool," he remarked, in answer to 
the last words that had been said. " I know that you 
are not asking for my advice, and that is just w^hy I 
insist upon giving it to you. I maintain, as a first 
step, that your head must be kept cool; there's a 
second towel, why don't you put it on?" 

"Because I am too vain and not hot enough," re- 
plied Kazimir, who stood at a little distance, leaning 
over the back of a damask chair, with his attila half 



A " BUMPER." 83 

iinbuttonecl and his hair all pushed back from his 
forehead. " I do wish you would get into your coat ; 
there is one of those girls coming again, not bringing 
me more flowers, I hope." 

" You dare to talk to me of putting on anything ? 
Be thankful that I have not taken off more. When 
you are as fat as I am, you will have given over stick- 
ling at a nuance of propriety." 

There were no more flowers coming, fortunately, 
there being now not a vacant vase in the room ; but 
there was a radiant smile, and a shower of glances, 
and an insinuating question, as to whether the Signor 
tenente did not wish for more aqua fresca ? There had 
been many such smiles and glances during the last 
forty-eight hours, ever since the handsome hussar had 
taken up his quarters here ; and considering the fre- 
quency of these occurrences (for there were two pairs 
of dark eyes and two sets of radiant smiles in the 
house) Kazimir bore this one with exemplary patience. 
Fresh water ? Yes, he should be infinitely obliged if 
the Signorina would bring him some water, only he 
was so sorry that she should have the trouble. " And 
another bottle like this one since you're about it," put 
in the Auditor, whose startlingly grotesque figure, 
Kazimir was vainly attempting to shield " un- 
corked, carina mia, you understand ? Dear me, what 
a temper ! " for the radiant smile had quickly changed 



84 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

to an angry frown, as the Signorina flounced through 
the door. It was rather hard, certainly, to be chucked 
under the chin by a fat man of fifty-six, when there 
was a remarkably well-proportioned man of twenty- 
six standing by. The Signorina Avas so put out that 
she ran the caraffe against the door-post and cracked 
it. It w^as almost as unpardonable of the middle- 
aged man to have chucked her under the chin, as it 
was of the young man not to have done it. 

" There is another head that needs to be kept cool," 
remarked the Auditor, rolling up his right shirt-sleeve 
to the elbow ; " but to return to yours, she will be back 
again in a minute, you know, or her sister will — why 
must you sign this paper here to-day ? What is the 
need of a hurry ? " 

" What is the need of a delay ? My brother wants 
to marry at once, and he cannot marry until this 
paper is signed." 

" Sign it when the war is over." 

" Yes, and keep Lucy an waiting till October, per- 
haps till November." 

" It might be worth while," suggested the Auditor, 
" to wait and hear the result of the Emperors' talk ; 
they must nearly have had it out by this time. Not 
that I build much upon it myself, but it is my prin- 
ciple never to lose a chance." 

"My principles are the same; and that is just why 



A " BUMPER." 85 

I do not want to lose this chance of sending off the 
papers. You know as well as I do, that the Emperors' 
conference is nothing but a sham, and that we are not 
half-way through the war yet. Suppose we are be- 
sieged here, what then ? Am I to trust to air-balloons 
or subterraneous passages ? 'No, no, I mean to have 
my own way. The orderly will be here in a quarter 
of an hour for the regimental despatches, and my papers 
shall go with them." Kazimir having announced 
this determination, shook back his hair and took a 
turn down the long apartment. 

The Auditor rolled up his left sleeve to match the 
right one. " I think you are the most obstinate man 
I have ever had in the regiment ; when you fold your 
arms and set your teeth there is nothing to be done 
with you. Let me see — how sleepy this air makes one 
feel ! " The Auditor yawned, and blinked his eyes 
drowsily, swallowing half a glass of wine by way of 
arousing himself. " The papers seem all right ; I 
cannot pick any hole in them, I am afraid ; — -the lease 
of the Propinacyas, signed by the name of Aitzig 
Majulik, and attested by two witnesses. This Jew 
affirms that he pays a lease of two thousand florins." 

" Well ? " said Kazimir, impatiently, for the Auditor's 
head was beginning to nod over the papers. 

" Not much of a Propinacya — no, not much ; seven, 
eight, even ten thousand florins is often paid for a 



86 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Propinacya in Poland. Are you sure that it is the 
principal point of the estate ? " 

" Oh yes, quite sure. I have answered that ques- 
tion a dozen times. What is the use of all this dis- 
cussion ? The case is as clear as daylight. If the 
Propinacyas are worth two thousand florins a-year, 
the whole estate cannot be worth more than barely 
thirty-two thousand, and my share would then be 
ten or eleven thousand. Lucyan is stretching a point 
when he offers me twelve, as he now does." 

" Keep your head cool and your feet too," said 
the Auditor, kicking off a boot. " I want you to 
do what you are doing, with your eyes open." 

"My eyes are perfectly wide open already; Lucyan 
himself opened them. Did I not tell you that he has 
pressed me repeatedly to take the estate into my own 
hands ? What better proof could you have of dis- 
interested motive ? " 

" True, true," said the Auditor, sleepily, from be- 
hind his wine-glass ; his tipsiness was of the mild and 
drowsy sort to-day. " True enough, but still " 

" No ' but's,' and no ' still's,' " retorted Kazimir ; " I 
do not want to waste another moment over it. Where 
is the paper ? " 

The paper was there on the table, spread out flat 
before the Auditor, and fluttering a little in the 
draught. A paper most carefully drawn out, in which 



A "BUMPEE." 87 

it was set forth that the undersigned gave up all his 
claims upon the estate of Wowasulka to his brother 
Lucy an Bielinski for the sum of twelve thousand 
florins. All trouble had been spared Kazimir ; there 
was nothing to do but to write his name at the foot, 
and the deed would be complete. 

" Take it coolly," said the Auditor, and he kicked 
off his second boot with so much vigour, that it 
fell at the feet of a man who was at that moment 
entering. 

"Pretty well aimed," said the lieutenant, who 
lounged in with his hands in his pockets, and a 
pomegranate - blossom between his teeth, looking 
serene and provokingly cool. "Here's a fine sight 
for a warm summer's day. Bielinski and the Oracle 
fiojhtin<^^ ! " 

" Why did you not let me do it before ? " said 
Kazimir, under his breath. " We shall have no peace 
now." 

"You could not have done it before, foolish boy. 
Do you imagine that you can sign away an estate, 
without witnesses to attest your writing?" 

"Is he going to sign away an estate?" asked the 
new-comer serenely. " Happy man ! I wish I had 
an estate to sign away." 

" Well, then, Lohonzy is a witness ; let us get it 
over; give me the pen." 



88 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Softly, softly, there is no hurry ; one witness is 
not enough — we must have a second." 

" Let us have a second, then ! " cried Kazimir, with 
a stamp of impatience. " Are you sure two are 
enough? Would it not be better to have five or 
six? There, Lohonzy, like a good fellow, go and 
fetch me somebody, anybody — quick !" and the aston- 
ished lieutenant was pushed out of the door in search 
of witnesses. 

Presently he returned, looking just as cool as ever, 
with his hands still in his pockets, and the pome- 
granate-blossom still between his teeth ; accompanied 
this time by a sheepish youth, very evidently fresh 
from the pillow, and a bald-headed captain with a 
cheerful grin and a lilac cotton handkercliief, which, 
with fearful energy, he passed and repassed across his 
perspiring brow. 

" There ! " exclaimed Lohonzy, throwing himself full 
length on a damask sofa. " I have done my duty 
nobly ; I have brought you a selection of witnesses, 
old and young, dark and fair, with hair and without 
hair — take your choice. As a first step towards the 
proceedings, I propose that we throw all the flowers 
out of the windows" — and Lohonzy clutched at the 
nearest vase, and began aiming rose and carnation 
heads at the chinks between the Venetian blinds. 
" Bielinski is a nuisance wherever he goes ; women 



A " BUMPER." 89 

always strew flowers in his path, and the consequence 
is, that his rooms smell like hothouses. You have no 
objection, I suppose ? " 

" None whatever," said Kazimir, " only don't chatter 
about it; let us get this business over." 

" I am entirely at your service," said the bald 
captain, with much unnecessary fervour; while the 
sheepish youth stood and looked at his hands 
disconsolately. 

" He is going to sign away an estate," explained 
Lohonzy, flinging a bunch of geraniums against the 
blind. "It is a very serious matter, I assure you. 
They were fighting about it when I came in; throw- 
ing their boots at each other's heads. What had the 
Oracle been doing, Bielinski? Preaching too hard?" 

" Never mind," said Kazimir, biting his lip. 

" Supposing we proceed to business," suggested the 
sleepy Auditor, gazing down at his feet, as if he very 
much regretted having no more boots to kick off. 
" Supposing we proceed to business, — if it is really to 
be done." 

" Of course it is to be done, and at once too. There 
is the orderly already," for a clatter of hoofs in the 
stone-paved courtyard broke the silence outside. 

" Not quite so fast," and the Auditor staggered to 
his feet; " I insist upon your considering your position 
once more." 



90 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

"And I decline to consider it," said Kazimir, laugh- 
ing, as he sat down before the table and dipped the 
pen in ink. 

" Listen to me first " — the Auditor took the pen from 
Kazimir's hand. Here the sheepish youth, who was 
still young enough to possess a conscience, found 
courage to ask what it was all about. 

" He is going, Esau-like, to get rid of his birthright," 
explained Lohonzy, flippantly. 

" Silence ! " said the Auditor, who, with the pen still 
in his hand, made his way towards a deep arm-chair, 
and sank heavily into it. 

" He has got hold of another pen ! " cried Lohonzy, 
who considered the whole thing — as indeed he con- 
sidered most things — in the light of a capital joke. 
Springing from his sofa, and falling upon Kazimir, he 
succeeded, with the help of the bald-headed captain, in 
disarming him. 

" Enough of this nonsense," said Kazimir, beginning 
to lose his temper ; " I don't see why this affair should 
be turned into a game of romps. Let me go, Lohonzy ; 
give me that pen directly." 

Lohonzy, in reply, cheerfully threw the pen out of 
the window aiter the roses and carnations, and then 
went and sat down on his sofa again. At the same 
moment the orderly presented himself in the door- 
way. 



A " BUMPEK." 91 

'' Wait," said Kazimir, controlling liimself with dif- 
ficulty; for he was helpless without a pen, and the 
only pen in the room was in the Auditor's hand. The 
orderly retired to the passage. 

" You want the pen ? Very well, you shall have it ; 
but not till you have listened to me." The Auditor, 
having tied a fresh towel round his head, and turned 
up his shirt- sleeves a little higher, made a last and 
tremendous effort at collecting his wits. All the eyes 
in the room were unconsciously turned towards him ; 
there was a hush of expectancy. Kazimir, leaning 
back with his arms folded, tapped the ground impa- 
tiently with his heel, and fiercely bit his moustache. 

''You shall have the pen, if you want; but it is 
my duty to make you consider once more exactly 
what you are doing. It is an abnormal proceeding. 
Mind that it should not turn out to be what at cards 
v/e call a ' bumper,' — the winner scores every point, 
the loser scores nothing; mind, I say, that you be 
not the loser. Tear up that paper, and you are per- 
fectly free, — as free as I am, as free as that youngster 
is, — bound by nothing. Write your name at the bot- 
tom of it, and you put yourself entirely in another 
man's power." 

" He is my brother," said Kazimir, simply. 

" Cain was Abel's brother," remarked the Auditor. 
" No, I have not done," as Kazimir raised his head. 



92 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Brother is a very fine word ; but we have no brothers 
in the law. It is an affair of man to man ; you resign 
your rights to a man who may or may not take advan- 
tage of your complete dependence. For remember, 
above all, that no future act of yours can cancel this 
one. However much you may wish it, however much 
you may regret it, nothing which you can do in years 
to come can undo this of to-day. Take five more 
minutes to consider it ; I would not have a harm come 

to you " the Auditor's voice grew thick, and his 

twinkling eyes grew moist. " I would cut off my right 
hand rather than tliat harm should come to you ; and 
there is not one of your comrades who would not do 
the same ; " breaking off with a suspicious huskiness, 
the Auditor gulped down a mouthful of wine. The 
youngest lieutenant gave a gasp of emotion ; the bald 
captain, waving his handkerchief, seemed anxious to 
explain that he would not only have his right hand 
cut off, if necessary, but his left hand as well, and both 
his feet into the bargain. Lohonzy himself, though 
he still chewed his pomegranate-stalk, looked consider- 
ably sobered. " I do not know your brother," resumed 
the Auditor ; " I know that, in such a case, I could 
trust my brother as I trust myself : it is for you to 
decide wdiether you can trust your brother as you 
trust yourself. If yes, sign that paper ; if not, tear 
it up." 



A " BUMPEK." 93 

There was a dead pause in the room, — no sound to 
be heard but the faint jingle of spurs, as the orderly 
slowly paced the passage outside. 

" Give me the pen," said Kazimir. 

" Bielinski, are you considering ? I have no right 
to prevent you, if you insist ; but I have a right to 
warn you that what you are doing is being done in 
the dark. For the last time : you know your brother, 
and I do not. If you have one shade of doubt, one 
atom of distrust, do not sign that paper." 

All the eyes in the room had turned from the Audi- 
tor to Kazimir. Kazimir's face was not entirely calm. 
In spite of himself, he was impressed by the warmth 
of eloquence in the old man's words ; in spite of him- 
self, he was touched by the goodwill of his comrades. 
He was struggling to hide this feeling. He raised his 
eyes, till now obstinately fixed on the table, and they 
fell straight on the grotesque figure of the Auditor. 
In the heat of his speech, the orator had raised him- 
self on his chair; his great red hands grasped the arms 
with drunken unsteadiness ; his head rolled from side 
to side in the effort of righting itself, while from the 
wet towel there dripped down unsightly streams, dis- 
figuring the surface of the rich yellow damask. But 
for the intense earnestness of expression, the figure 
would have been a repulsive one to behold. The 
sight of the orator went far towards chilling the effect 



94 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

of the oration. Was this eloquence perhaps, after all, 
but drunken rhapsody ? 

" Give me the pen," he repeated. 

The pen was handed to him, in silence this time, 
and Kazimir dipped it in ink. Somehow, at this fifty- 
ninth minute of the eleventh hour, the distinct realisa- 
tion of what he was about to do started up before his 
mind, sharp and clear. He raised his eyes for one 
second more, and met four other pairs fixed on him, 
and saw that the four men were watching him in a 
sort of impressed silence. The Auditor, with his 
hands still grasping the arms; the captain, with his 
lilac handkerchief poised in the air ; the young lieu- 
tenant, with his mouth hanging open ; even Lohonzy, 
having dropped his pomegranate flower, and sitting 
with his hands out of his pockets, and a look of 
curiosity on his face. In that second — for it was but 
a second — it flashed across him that the slightest show 
of hesitation at this moment would be an acknow- 
ledgment of that shade of doubt, that atom of dis- 
trust, of which the Auditor had spoken. And, of 
course, he had no doubt, no distrust, of his brother 
Lucyan. The very thought sent the blood to his 
temples in a rush of indignation. To the four men 
watching, there was no perceptible pause between the 
moment when he took the pen, and the moment when, 
in a quick firm hand, he wrote his name, " Kazimir 



A " BUMPER." 95 

Bielinski/' A constrained silence had fallen on them 
all. The signature was attested, and the papers put 
up and despatched, without a word being said ; and 
the orderly was scarcely well clear of the house, the 
footfall of his horse still clattering over the stone- 
paved courtyard, when the Auditor, worn out by the 
effort of his speech, and overpowered by the reaction, 
fell into a stentorious sleep. Kazirair, as he watched 
him rolling in his chair, mentally congratulated him- 
self on not having listened to the scruples of a 
drunken old man. 

He drew a deep breath, and threw himself back in 
his chair. The captain pocketed his handkerchief 
and looked at the young lieutenant, who immediately 
resumed the contemplation of his hands. Lohonzy 
rose from his sofa, picked up his pomegranate, and, 
yawningly, stretched his arms above his head. The 
Auditor snored on peacefully. Several minutes had 
passed, and no one had materially changed his posi- 
tion, when a fresh clatter broke over the pavement 
below. " The orderly coming back," was the first 
thought which suggested itself to the listeners; but 
the orderly, at any rate, was not coming back alone. 
The dead courtyard had suddenly grown alive. Voices 
rang out, questions, answers ; there were figures ap- 
pearing at every door, and heads at every window. 
If a magician had struck the pavement with his rod, 



96 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

he could not more rapidly have conjured up a chatter- 
ing, laughing, and shrieking mob from out of the 
sleepy stones. 

No ; this could not be the orderly returning. Here 
must lie some graver cause, — a sudden attack? an 
alarm of the enemy ? treachery ? bloodshed ? The 
listeners had scarcely time to ask themselves these 
questions, and the Auditor had scarcely time to break 
off his snoring and rub his eyes, before a heated, di- 
shevelled, dusty, and excited man rushed into the 
room, and shook everybody present frantically by the 
hand, shouting all the time at the top of his voice, 
"Peace! Peace! PEACE!" 

Peace at first sight appeared to be wonderfully un- 
peaceful. The room was full in a moment, noisy and 
resounding, every trace of its quiet gone. The streets 
were alive, the whole town was alive, and the bells 
were most disagreeably alive — clanging with pene- 
trating tongues. 

" Peace ! " repeated the Auditor, suddenly and vio- 
lently grown sober. 

" Peace ! " echoed the bald captain, at once pro- 
ducing his lilac handkerchief, and turning it into a 
festive flag. 

" Peace ! " re-echoed the sheepish youth, hanging 
his jaw so low, that dislocation appeared imminent. 

Everybody was embracing everybody else indis- 



A " BUMPER. 97 

criminately. There was not a vestige of calmness 
remaining anywhere. Every Italian shed tears and 
beat his breast in the ecstasy of his delight, and every 
Austrian wrung the hands stretched towards him with 
a muscular energy which quite made np for the ab- 
sence of tears. The signorinas of the house were par- 
ticularly eager to hold out the hand of friendship to 
their handsome hussar lodger, and with much volu- 
bility to express their delight that they need no 
longer be enemies. If such had been their enmity, 
a man might think, looking at the overloaded flower- 
vases, heaven preserve us from their friendship! Is it 
possible ? Can it be true ? Peace ? peace ? peace ? 
Dozens of voices repeated the mighty word with a 
sort of incredulous interrogation. The news was so 
sudden as to be almost stupefying. 

No declaration of war had ever been so completely 
startling and unlooked-for as was this announcement 
of peace. But the next quarter of an hour left no 
possibility for doubt. At every street - corner the 
telegram was being read, describing the five hours' 
interview, at the end of which two imperial hands 
had met, and the victorious emperor had said to the 
vanquished emperor, " Embrassoiis nous, mon frere ! " 
It was all as clear and as neat as possible. Austria 
was to lose most that she held in Italy, and be saved 
the trouble of repairing her defeats. Even at imperial 

VOL. II. G 



98 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

card - tables, it seems, are there " bumpers " to be 
scored, and even crowned brothers can sometimes 
settle their difficulties so that the result should be 
entirely satisfactory — on one side. 

Of all the shocks of surprises which the news dealt 
out that day, perhaps none was as violent as that 
dealt to Kazimir. Peace ! He was literally dazed 
at the bare word. Peace meant disappointment to 
him, and not hope; it meant discouragement, and 
not joy. 

Mechanically he pressed the outstretched hands of 
the signorinas, in his abstraction never noticing the 
insinuating glances which seemed to suggest that at 
such a moment a warmer salute would be quite 
permissible. 

" Peace ! " he exclaimed, turning his face ruefully 
towards his comrades. " Where are my laurels ? " 

But second thoughts are best after all, and Kazimir 
had a second thought. With most men this thought 
would have been, " I need not have been in such a 
hurry to send off the papers." But to Kazimir, a 
thing once done was really done ; it was not in his 
nature to torment himself about what was irrevocable. 
His second thought was different. No one could tell 
him where his laurels were, but a voice within him 
was crying, " You can go home to your brother's 
wedding ! " That bright flush on his cheek, that keen 



A " BUMPER. 99 

light in his eye, was it brotherly affection which had 
made them spring up, or was it — what was it that the 
voice within him cried again ? 

" Perhaps, after all, she will take me without my 
laurels." 



100 



CHAPTER XX. 

WHOSE TURN ? 

" Thou com'st in such a questionable shape." 

—Hamlet, 

" Perhaps, after all, she will take me without my 
laurels." The thought stuck in Kazimir's mind, and 
rang in his heart from that moment forth. He saw it 
written on the sky and on the earth, he heard it in 
the very shriek of the engine which in a few days 
more was bearing him homewards. Four months of 
separation and of silent waiting he had undergone, 
and it was beginning to be borne in upon his mind 
that the separation and the silence were no longer to 
be endured. He had made an heroic effort at pru- 
dence and common-sense, but he was able to hold 
himself in check no longer. Could a man marry on 
twelve thousand florins and his pay, or could he not ? 
That was the question to which the case resolved 
itself. At any rate, he would insist now upon a dis- 
tinct and open engagement. 



WHOSE TUEX ? 101 

" How surprised they will all be to see me ! " laughed 
Kazimir to himself, as on a fine July afternoon he 
found himself on the last stage of his journey. No 
one knew of his arrival ; for in such a hurry had he 
been to get through his final duties and obtain leave 
of absence, that he had not even taken time to write 
home and announce himself. The hurry was, strictly 
speaking, unnecessary, seeing that the date which had 
been fixed for Lucyan's wedding was still a fortnight 
off ; but much as Kazimir hurried, the hurry seemed 
to him yet more like lagging than like haste. 

The first thing which struck upon his ears as he 
stepped from the carriage was a sound of vigorous 
hammering — the second, a great rustling of some 
crackly stuff. The house bore upon its face an ap- 
pearance of flurry and bustle. Kazimir scanned all 
the windows, but there was not a face looking out of 
any. Had no one been roused by the carriage-wheels ? 
Lucyan's hearing was usually so acute. 

He stepped into the passage, and stepped at the 
same moment straight into an open parcel of small 
tacks, which his spurs sent flying in all directions. 
Next he stumbled over a pair of pincers, and, finally, 
saved himself from falling by catching at a wooden 
ladder hard by. 

The combined noises which these accidents pro- 
duced brought a figure to the scene. At the open 



102 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

door to the left there suddenly appeared Mademoiselle 
Eobertine. That door had been the door of Madame 
Bielinska's room ; but now, alas ! how desecrated was 
the sanctuary ! As he thought of the difference be- 
tween now and then, Kazimir felt a pang of bitter 
regret. Then the room had been gently darkened, and 
sweet with that faint scent which always hung about 
his mother ; and now the windows stood gaping wide 
open, letting in the broad glare of daylight, and letting 
out a rain of hammer-blows. The curtains had then 
been faded, and soft, and thick ; and now, in the 
midst of noisy confusion, of hammers and nails, and 
loud-voiced workmen, Kazimir caught sight of yards 
and yards of rose-sprigged chintz, surging in crackly 
billows over floor and furniture. 

The sight was evidently as painful, though for dif- 
ferent reasons, to Mademoiselle Eobertine as it was to 
him ; for she came forward quickly, closing the door 
behind her. A mole that witnesses the digging up 
by some cruel spade of its own private labyrinth 
could not have suffered more than did aunt Eobertine. 
Henceforward there would not be a single dark spot 
remaining in the house, unless she chose to take 
refuge in the damp depths of the cellar. As she stood 
confronting Kazimir now, she was blinking her eyes 
under the glare of daylight, looking very much indeed 
like a newly-dug-up mole. 



WHOSE TURN ? 103 

" So you have come back ? " she remarked, gazing 
at her nephew with not exactly a gaze of welcome. 

" Of course I have come back," said Kazimir, cheer- 
fully. '' Did I not take you by surprise ? Ha, ha 1 I 
thought I should. But tell me, aunt Robertine, what 
are all these hammers, and nails, and rosebuds about ? 
What are they doing to my mother's room ? " 

" They are doing a great deal to your poor mother's 
room," said Eobertine, gloomily. 

" So I see ; but why have they taken down the old 
curtains ? " 

" They are putting up fresh ones," said Eobertine, 
with a deeper shade of gloom. " Much too light a 
pattern," she murmured half to herself; "but young 
women are always foolish, and she insisted on a white 
ground." 

" Then the room is for the young couple ? " said Kazi- 
mir, beginning to realise. 

" It is not for me to say." Eobertine turned back- 
wards, and put her fingers on the handle of the deso- 
lated mole-hill. 

" Don't go back there, aunt Eobertine ; I want to 
hear more, and there is no hurry," 

Eobertine gave him a long fixed look, and then 
slowly and solemnly she pronounced, "There is a 
great hurry." 

" Wait a minute more." 



104 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

'' I cannot. The workmen have been in only two 
hours. The key of the room was not found till eleven 
o'clock." 

" Well, then, I will go and speak to Lucyan. Where 
is he ? Up-stairs ? I think I shall burst into his 
room and frighten him." Kazimir sprang two steps 
up the stairs, and then paused at the sound of his 
aunt's voice. 

" You cannot frighten your brother," Eobertine was 
saying. 

" I shall try, at any rate," laughed Kazimir, begin- 
ning to mount again. Eobertine allowed him to get 
half-way up before she spoke next. 

" It is no use going to your brother's room." 

" Why not ? Is he not in it ? " 

" I cannot exactly say that he is in it. I have, in 
fact, every reason to suppose that he is not in it ; and 
what is more, I have reason to suppose that he is not 
even " she hesitated. 

" Well ? " said Kazimir, impatiently, coming a step 
down. 

" Not in the house," finished Eobertine, with an effort. 

" What a bore ! Where is he then ? And where is 
Marcin ? " 

" Your two brothers are gone together." 

" Where to ? Out walking ? Out farming ? To Lod- 
niki ? " with an inspiration. 



WHOSE TURN? 105 

Eobertine would not in so many words commit her- 
self by asserting that Lncyan and Marcin were gone 
to Lodniki, but by her silence she admitted the fact. 

" Aunt Kobertine, tell me/' said Kazimir, descend- 
ing another step, " is Mademoiselle Xenia at Lodniki 
as well ? " 

Eobertine, who had turned already, faced round 
again at the question with visible surprise upon her 
face, and for once in her life startled into a direct 
reply, she answered, '' Of course she is ; where else 
should she be?" 

" Then I shall go over at once ! " cried Kazimir, 
impetuously. 

" What will you do there ? " inquired the aunt, still 
surprised. 

" I want to see Pani Xenia," said Kazimir, half 
repenting his rashness in the next moment; but in 
the next again, he remembered that the secret would, 
after all, not be a secret for long. 

Eobertine stood motionless. " Wliat good will it 
do you to see Pani Xenia to-day ? " 

" What good ? More good than all the rest of the 
world put together." 

" Oh, you think so ? And it never strikes you 
that Pani Xenia may have other visitors to attend 
to to-day?" 

Other visitors ! Kazimir's buoyant mood experi- 



106 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

eiiced the very slightest touch of a chill at that sug- 
gestion of other visitors. A large phantom rose np 
before him, hovering dimly and threatening indis- 
tinctly, and the name of the phantom was Tiburtio. 
Tiburtio was rich, successful, well connected ; no — it 
was not possible ; he could be but a phantom. Kazi- 
mir was not in the least afraid of him ; but still he 
should like to know, just for curiosity's sake, whether 
or no the phantom happened to be at Lodniki just 
now. He put the question, and received an answer 
so ambiguous as to leave the point unsolved. 

'' At any rate I shall drive over," decided Kazimir. 
" Does Lucyan drive over every day ? " 

" Not exactly every day," answered Eobertine ; " but 
of course he had to go to-day." 

" What for ? " 

" To make the final arrangements." 

There was a mysterious stress upon the word 
" final." 

" The arrangements for what ? " 

" For that which is to take place." 

" The wedding, you mean ? But that is only in a 
fortnight. Is not the date of the wedding fixed, aunt 
Eobertine?" 

" The date of the wedding is fixed, Kazimir." 

" Then why do you talk of final arrangements ? " 

Eobertine turned the door-handle slowly, while her 



WHOSE TURN ? 107 

eyes still remained on her nephew's face. " I repeat 
what I said before : they are gone over to make the 
final arrangements." 

There was nothing more to be got from aunt Eobert- 
ine ; and making his way to his father's room, Kazi- 
mir at length obtained a clear answer. In his father's 
c^aze he read the w^elcome which he had lonsjed for, 
but not yet found. The approach of the w^edding had 
not touched the solitude of the self-condemned hermit; 
his consent had not been asked, and his interest was 
not awakened. He had made no effort even to see 
the bride. 

" Drive over to-day if you will," said Bogumil, 
smiling at sight of his son's unconscious eagerness ; 
" but it is scarcely worth while, considering that you 
will have to be over there early to-morrow again." 

" Early to-morrow again ? What for ? " 

" For the wedding, Kazio, of course." 

" The wedding ! " echoed Kazimir, struck with 
astonishment. " But is not the wedding to be this day 
fortnight ? " 

" The wedding is to be to-niorrow\" 

" That is strange. What made Lucyan change his 
mind?" 

Bogumil shrugged his shoulders. " I am sure I 
never asked. He has suddenly got into a great hurry 
about it these last two weeks, ever since w^e got the 



108 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

telegrams to say that the peace at Villafranca was 
signed." 

But although Kazimir knew now that he would see 
Xenia next day, his patience was not equal to these 
twelve hours more. In less than an hour from the 
moment of his reaching home, he was in the carriage 
again, and on his way to Lodniki. 

That phantom, which aunt Eobertine's allusion to 
" other visitors " had conjured up, hovered along be- 
side the carriage, but Kazimir resolutely declined to 
consider it. To acknowledge to himself the slightest 
anxiety on that score, would be to wrong Xenia most 
unfairly. No, he did not feel anxious, only a little 
curious. He drew out of his pocket a letter which 
had reached him some days ago. It was from Marcin, 
the first letter which Marcin had ever written to him. 
He read it through again. 

" They have told me that you are quite well, and 
have escaped unwounded ; and I want to tell you how 
sorry I am about it, and that I hope you do not mind 
it much. Life is too short to notice things usually ; 
but though my eyes are not as sharp as a camel's, I 
can sometimes see through a deal board. Do you re- 
member teasing me once about pill-boxes and leeches ? 
What I say now is, people should not throw stones at 
class houses. I asked aunt Robertine to do it, as I 
had never done it before, but she wouldn't ; and I 



WHOSE TUKN? 109 

can assure you that she did not seem to like it very 
much, and even shed tears, but she told her that it 
was no use spilling milk about it. The big young 
man, by the by, sends you messages, and says that 
you have not got shot, as you promised in the salt- 
mine. He is either very glad or very sorry, I 
can't remember which. It is a pity, I think, on 
the whole ; for when the cat's away, the mice make 
hay." 

There was neither beginning nor end to the letter, 
which broke off here. Except that it was correctly 
spelled, there was no reason why it should not have 
been written by a child of six. Kazimir had laughed 
over it as a curiosity, without attempting to disen- 
tangle the hopeless web of pronouns. Now only, on 
the back of aunt Eobertine's words, did a ray of light 
seem to fall upon the lines. It was possible, just 
barely possible, that Tiburtio should in his absence 
have been harassing Xenia with his unwelcome at- 
tentions. Poor child ! how she must have longed for 
his protection ! she was so little able to protect herself. 
Her sweetness and childish confidence might so easily 
be misunderstood and turned to other account. It was 
high time that she should be freed from the trials 
attendant on a secret engagement. Let Xenia fear no 
more ; her protector is approaching fast. In a cloud 
of dust he flies alonj^. He is choked with dust and 



110 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

powdered with dust. Dust and rain alternately have 
combined to make a sort of impromptu whitewash to 
the bushes which border the forest-road. 

Everybody was out in the wood, as he was told on 
arriving. Not quite every one though ; for, looking 
round him, he perceived Marcin sauntering over the 
grass. The very first question which he put to Mar- 
cin, as soon as the brunt of greeting, the unavoidable 
embrace, and the customary salute on both cheeks, 
had been got over, was — 

" Is that giant Tiburtio here or not ? " 

" iSTo," said Marcin, staring hard. " Did you get 
my letter ? " 

" Yes, I did." 

Marcin still gazed at him rather inquiringly. " Then 
you don't mind so very much ? " 

*' Oh no ; it is all right," laughed Kazimir, " espe- 
cially if he is not here." Everything seemed to be all 
right, now that he was so near her. " And the wed- 
ding is really to be to-morrow ? " 

" Yes, it is. Lucyan was in such an awful hurry to 
have the grass growing under his feet." 

" I have come, then, not a day too soon. Which is 
the way to the wood ? " 

They walked towards the wood, while the setting 
sun blazed straight in their eyes. Overhead the 
stretch of fading blue seemed as though flecked with 



WHOSE TURN ? Ill 

crimson foam ; the branches of beeches and fir trem- 
bled against a blood-red sky. 

The brothers walked in silence along the forest- 
path, which, edged with a mossy rim, and powdered 
with the bronze of fallen pine-needles, struck straight 
into the gloom of green shade. Here the tree-roots, 
heaving up through the rich earth, crawled across the 
path, bulging and contorting themselves like twisted 
snakes ; and the stripped and capriciously gnawed 
fir-cones which strewed the ground, spoke of the 
appetites and sometimes of the whims of the squir- 
rels in the tree-tops. 

" It is rather like looking for a drop in a bucket, 
isn't it?" remarked Marcin, when they had walked 
some minutes and seen no signs of the others. 

" They cannot be far," said Kazimir. " We must 
find them." 

" Ah, there is one of the drops in the bucket ; who 
is it? Lucyan? I shall leave you to him, and go 
back. It is such fatiguing work to see people getting 
married." 

He had turned, and was sauntering back, while 
Kazimir alone went forward to meet Lucyan. Lucyan 
had not noticed him yet. With his hands behind his 
back, and his eyes on the ground, he was slowly 
approaching. Kazimir had never before seen his 
brother's face fixed with this frown of intense thought. 



112 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

So deep was his abstraction, that Kazimir had got 
within four paces of him and had not yet been per- 
ceived. " I shall give him a start after all," thought 
Kazimir, with boyish delight, and he walked on tiptoe 
over the moss. He put his hand down quickly on his 
brother's shoulder. "Lucyan!" he said in his ear. 
The shoulder under his hand seemed to give a con- 
vulsive twitch at that word. With a shiver and a 
start, Lucyan raised his head. Kazimir had given 
him a fright, a much greater fright than he at all 
imagined. With astonishment Kazimir stood witness 
of it. Never till this moment had he seen Lucyan 
in want of self-possession — never had it even occurred 
to him that his youngest brother could turn pale with 
fright, surprise, or any other emotion. And now 
Lucyan stood confronting him, pale to the very lips, 
staring at his brother with a gaze as wild as though 
Kazimir had been shot at Solferino, and come here 
straight from his Italian grave. The man who, thinking 
himself on safe ground, sees a deadly mine sprung un- 
der his feet ; the seaman who has steered a costly ship 
through troublous waves, and beholds, within very 
sight of the port, the leak which must sink him ; the 
player who has played a hazardous game with luck 
and skill to back him, and who feels his hand ar- 
rested as he is about to grasp the prize, — might stare 
with a gaze as wild as that. But why should a 



WHOSE TL'RN ? 113 

brother receive his brother with this fixed look of 
horror ? 

" What have you come for ? " faltered Lucyan, not 
yet master of himself 

" Why, for your wedding, of course," said Kazimir, 
half laughing in the attempt to shake off the strange 
impression of Lucyan's gaze. It was so unusual a 
thing to see Lucyan disconcerted, that it reacted upon 
and disconcerted Kazimir himself. " You did not 
expect me, did you ? " 

" No, I did not expect you." 

" Are you not glad to see me ? You have not given 
me your hand yet." 

" To be sure." He put out his hand with a strange 
and unusual timidity to meet his brother's grasp. 
That hand struck cold upon Kazimir's palm ; it 
seemed to shrink under the strong pressure. 

" And now," said Kazimir, " where are they all ? I 
want to congratulate your bride." 

" Where are they ? " repeated Lucyan, looking still 
somewhat scared, though the colour was slowly 
flowing back to his face. " We need not go there 
now." 

" Oh, but I need to go. Which is the way ? " 

" This way, then," said Lucyan, hurriedly, and he 
struck into a side-path, and walked rapidly along it. 

" Are you sure this is the way ? " asked Kazimir. 
VOL. II. H 



114 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUrx. 

*• Is it not wonderful, Lucyan, my arrival just on the 
eve of your wedding ? " 

" Very wonderful." Lucyan spoke slowly. 

" And I never knew anything about the date being 
changed. It is fortunate that the papers reached you 
in time. You got them all right, of course ? " 

" Yes, I got them all right.", 

•' Everything was clear, was it not ? " 

" Oh yes, everything was clear." As Lucyan's 
calmness returned, the habitual sneer bec^an to dawn 
again in his voice. " You took precious care to make 
it all clear. What put it into your head to set a 
lawyer at me ? " 

" Oh, he offered himself, and I was very glad to be 
saved the trouble. You know what a bad hand I am 
at business." 

" Well, you are satisfied, I suppose ? " 

" Oh yes, perfectly ; but there are a few points 
which I don't quite understand." 

" What points 1 " asked Lucyan, quickly. 

" The Auditor said I was to put some questions to 
you. Are you sure we are on the right path ? The 
thing that puzzles me is, that I once heard my mother 
say that, if she died, our portions w^ould realise thirty- 
four or thirty-five thousand florins." 

'* You heard her say that ? " Lucyan turned on the 
path and stood still. 



WHOSE TUEN ? 115 

" Yes, I am quite sure I heard that. What could 
she have meant exactly ? Perhaps I am making some 
great mistake." 

Lucyan, having stood motionless for a moment, 
appeared suddenly to recollect himself, and burst out 
lauohinor. 

" A great mistake ! I should rather think you are 
making a great mistake, Kazimir. But you heard 
quite right all the same. Of course our ]3ortions 
amount to thirty-four or thirty-five thousand florins. 
Our united portions do ; do you understand ? oSTot 
each separate one." 

" Oh, that is it, then ! " said Kazimir, who all the 
time was scanning the shade of the forest around 
them. " How stupid of me to make such a huge 
mistake 1 " 

" Is there anything else which the Auditor told you 
to ask me ? " 

" Nothing," laughed Kazimir, " except when I am 
to get my twelve thousand florins ? " 

Lucyan gently shrugged his shoulders, and, taking 
oif his hat, he mechanically drew forth the comb. 
" We shall see about that some day soon. You can 
hardly expect me to talk business on the eve of my 
wedding-day." 

The plea was so natural, that Kazimir's own con- 
duct struck himself as unfeeling and unbrotherly, 



116 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

verging on the sordid. Such a thing as money should 
not even be mentioned on the eve of such a day. 

" But where is everybody gone to ? " he cried. 
" Lucyan, where have you hidden Pani Vizia ? " He 
was following his brother again along the path : and 
as the track was so narrow that they could walk but 
single file, Kazimir could not guess what his brother's 
face was like. Lucyan was plucking off the leaves in 
passing; perhaps he had not heard Kazimir's words, 
for he made no answer to them. He had recovered 
his calmness now, almost entirely, and he was slowly 
bracing himself to an effort. 

" I hear voices," said Kazimir, standing still. '' I 
am sure I hear voices over there. You are taking me 
in the wrong direction, Lucyan." 

'' You are mistaken ; they are not there — they cannot 
be there." In Lucyan's voice there were some symp- 
toms of excitement. " This is the way, I tell you." 
He walked on a few paces in haste, but Kazimir no 
longer followed. He stood still listening beside the 
clump of bushes on the other side. He heard the 
faint trickling of water and the hum of the gnats in 
the air, but above it he heard the murmur of voices 
hard by. 

"AYait a moment," said Lucyan, springing to his 
brother's side. 

" I have waited long enough ; I am sure they 



WHOSE TURN ? 117 

are there. Don't you hear the voices quite dis- 
tinctly ? " 

" Stop ! for heaven's sake, Kazimir, stop ! " cried 
Lucyan, seizing his brother by the arm. " I must 
speak to you first. You seem to think " 

But just then there broke upon Kazimir's ear the 
ripple of a laugh so clear, so fresh, so light-hearted 
and free, so much more entrancing than he had ever 
remembered it. He was not to be held a moment 
longer ; he scarcely heard his brother's words, nor 
gave one glance to his face. Breaking away from 
Lucyan, he burst through the tangle of bushes, sprang 
on to the half-cleared space beyond, and then stood 
still at sight of the group before him. 

There were four people in the group. There was an 
old gentleman whom Kazimir had never seen before — 
a grave and important-looking old gentleman, with a 
double chin, and whiskers as white as his broad and 
dazzling waistcoat ; there was an elderly lady equally 
strange to Kazimir, dangling a gold-rimmed eye-glass 
by a string, and gathering up a silk train from the 
moss; there was Vizia, in a dead-black dress, without 
one sign of bridal-like ornament about her ; and there 
was Xenia, in slighter mourning, relieved by a bunch 
of brilliant roses in her belt. On a rustic table along- 
side there lay more such roses heaped on each other. 
Upon this group, as they stood together, Kazimir's 



118 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

sudden appearance tlirougli the bushes seemed to 
have produced a stupefying effect. The old gentle- 
man, tapping his waistcoat, raised his eyebrows to 
such a preposterous height that they appeared to 
vanish under his hat-brim ; the elderly lady ceased to 
dangle her eye-glass, and applied it to her eye with 
an exclamation of shrill astonishment ; Vizia turned 
pale ; and Xenia, leaning with one arm against a tree, 
flushed scarlet up to the temples. Of the four expres- 
sions on the four faces this last one was the only one 
which Kazimir saw ; and at sight of the emotion so 
plainly marked, more marked even than he had looked 
for, his spirit bounded with delight. He went straight 
towards her, seeing nobody but her, and took her hand 
warmly. " I have come back, Pani Xenia," he said. 

" My dear," began the elderly lady, in a high cracked 
voice, turning towards Vizia as she spoke, " who is 
this — this — man ? " The elderly lady would have pre- 
ferred to employ the word " gentleman," but it grated 
upon her principles — and she had a great many, and 
abnormally high principles — to use the word witli 
regard to an individual who appears crashing through 
a thicket of bushes, and, looking to neither right nor left, 
walks straight up to a young lady, takes her hand, 
presses it— presses it, I say — and remarks that he has 
come back. No; such an individual could not be 
entitled to a higher appellation than man. 



WHOSE TURN ? 119 

There was a hurried answer which Kazimir did not 
catch, but he heard the result it produced. 
- " Oh, indeed I " said the cracked voice again, par- 
tially lowered this time. " So this is the unfortunate 
young man ! Just what I expected, just what I feared." 
The gold eye-glass was up again, and, with a most 
penetrating and excruciating keenness, was travelling 
from the crown of Kazimir's head to the soles of his 
feet and up again to the crown, hanging upon every 
button as though to pierce its inward nature. 

" How distressing ! how very, very painful ! " 

Although the eye-glass failed to produce the full 
effect intended, yet it did produce some. Kazimir did 
not know wliat had been either expected or feared 
with regard to him, but the scrutiny aroused him to 
the sense of his certainly strange behaviour. He had 
made no effort to present himself to this unknown 
lady, he had not even saluted his brother's bride. 
With an effort he dropped Xenia's hand, which un- 
consciously he still held, and turned towards Xenia's 
cousin. 

" Forgive my forgetfulness," he said, earnestly. " I 
know you understand the reason. I am so glad that 
1 came in time to offer my good wishes to my future 
sister-in-law." The words all but died on his lips at 
sight of the stony stare which greeted him. Vizia 
started back before he had done speaking. 



120 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

"What is tliis?" she said, hurriedly. "There is 
some mistake." 

" Another mistake ! " echoed Kazimir, half-smiling, 
and half- vaguely alarmed. " I make nothing but 
mistakes to-day." 

The elderly lady gave a shriek, and quickly stifled 
it with a lace handkerchief. 

" May I ask this gentleman to explain his — hem — 
peculiar conduct?" demanded the whiskered man, strut- 
ting forward, straightening out his white waistcoat^ 
stroking his white whiskers, and swelling with 
importance, till his double chin became almost 
triple. 

"Am I dreaming or awake ?" said Kazimir, rubbinfr 
his eyes and shaking himself to make sure. 

'' More likely dreaming than awake ; and, young 
man," said the old gentleman severely — " young man, 
I hope you are sober." 

"He is drunk ; I knew he was," said the elderly 
lady, getting behind the old gentleman. " He is cer- 
tainly either drunk or mad." 

" If you were both awake and sober," resumed the 
speaker, " you could scarcely have been guilty of this 
strange mistake." 

" Will some one explain it, then ? " asked Kazimir, 
throwing back his head, and eyeing the old gentleman 
fully as haughtily as the old gentleman eyed him. 



WHOSE TURN ? 121 

" I am right in saying that this lady is my brother's 
bride." 

" Perversity ! " shrieked the cracked voice over the 
old gentleman's shoulder. " Perversity or insanity, 
which is it ? " 

" You are wrong, young man. It is that lady who 
is your brother's bride ! " 

" That is a lie," said Kazimir, promptly, as the old 
gentleman motioned towards Xenia. 

/•' Young man, remember where you are!" said the 
whiskered man, with cutting severity. 

" Do not irritate him, pray," said the cracked voice 
again. "It is not safe. Do you not see how wild he 
looks?" 

Kazimir had turned towards Xenia with a confident 
question on his lips, but the question was not spoken, 
for the girl stood now^ shrinking against the tree-stem, 
with her hands pressed over her drooping face. Every 
one around was gazing at him with looks of cold 
astonishment. 

Was this his welcome home ? 

" It is a lie," repeated Kazimir, a little lower. 
" Lucyan, why do you not tell them that it is a lie ? 
Where are you, Lucyan ? " 

Lucyan was there, two paces behind him, having 
watched the scene in silence. He met his brother's 
eyes full, but to the appeal he made no answer ; and 



122 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

that set look on Lucyan's face was the first real blow 
dealt to Kazimir's faith that day. 

" Lucyan, explain this on the instant ! " said Kazi- 
mir, vehemently. 

" Hush I " said Lucyan. " In God's name, hold 
your tongue ! wait till we are alone." 

" I will not wait a moment," said Kazimir, whose 
eyes were beginning to flare, and his nostrils to 
dilate. " I insist upon the answer now, this mo- 
ment — before all these people, before all the world, 
if necessary." 

" Take her away," said Lucyan aside to Vizia, see- 
ing that Kazimir was no longer to be silenced — " take 
her away, and your aunt as well, and leave me alone 
with him." 

Vizia was already drawing her cousin towards the 
path ; and the elderly lady, taking care to interpose 
the old gentleman between herself and the dangerous 
brother, was quickly following on their steps. There 
had been no consultation beyond a mutual glance ; 
but by common consent the brothers were left alone. 



123 



CHAPTER XXL 



THE TEICK DISPUTED. 



Als ich Abschied nahin, als ich Abschied nahni 

War die Welt mir voll so sehr, 

Als ich wiederkam, als ich wiederkara 

War Alles leer." 

— RiJCKERT. 



" One of us two must be mad," said Kazimir, having 
stood watching the retreating figures until the tree- 
stems blocked 'his view, and he turned back towards 
his brother. " One of us two must be mad, Lucy an ; 
the question is, which ? " 

" Why jump to such desperate conclusions?" Luc- 
yan, now that the struggle had come, looked quiet, 
though still very pale. " We are both perfectly sane ; 
let us try to be calm as well." 

" Tell me then, plainly, which of these two girls are 
you going to marry ? " 

" You have been told already plainly enough." 

" Tell me again," said Kazimir. 

" It is Xenia whom I am to marry." 



121: BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" To-morrow, you say ? " 

*' To-morrow." 

" It is Xenia whom you are to marry to-morrow." 
Kazimir repeated the words once, twice, thrice over, 
as if striving to bring together two ideas which had 
hitherto appeared so incongruous, that it had seemed 
as if they must for ever lie apart. As yet he under- 
stood without realising, and saw without believing. 
" You and Xenia." Something in the words made 
him shudder in the same way he had shuddered when 
he liad put back Lucyan's letter by mistake alongside 
of the crystal flower. " You and Xenia. Is this a 
joke, Lucyan ? " he asked, sternly. 

" It is not a joke." 

" Nor a mistake ? " 

" It is not a mistake ; how should there be a 
mistake ? " 

" And she is willing to marry you ? " 

" My dear Kazimir, this is a strange question on 
the eve of my wedding-day." 

" And she has forgotten me," said Kazimir, incredu- 
lously ; for a rock cannot be shattered by one blow, 
nor a strong faith slain by one word. " She has for- 
gotten me so soon, and all her words and mine ? " 

Lucyan's silence answered, " Yes." 

" Then," cried Kazimir, with a fearful burst of pas- 
sion, as all at once he understood and realised — " then 



THE TRICK DISPUTED. 125 

there has been treachery, Liicyan. I am betrayed, 
and you have betrayed me. Treachery ! " he cried ; 
and blind with the overwhelming pain, he threw him- 
self on his brother, and gripped him rudely by the 
arm. Had Lucyan at this moment lost his cool- 
ness or his temper — had he attempted to resist or 
retaliate — it might have come to an ugly scene 
between the brothers. Kazimir, provoked to wild- 
ness, would have been capable of any act, however 
mad. The younger brother's calmness alone checked 
this; he made no effort even to shake off Kazimir's 
hand, and he betrayed not the smallest sign of 
fear. 

" If you want to knock me down, Kazimir," he said, 
quietly, " you can do so very easily ; you are twice as 
strong as I am." 

Kazimir's grasp relaxed on the instant. 

" It will scarcely do Xenia much good if we fight 
about her," added Lucyan. 

Kazimir flung off his hand and turned away. Lucyan 
had hit the right chord. Even at this moment of his 
keenest anguish — even in the depth of the bewilder- 
ment which still blinded him — Kazimir revolted at 
the idea of making Xenia the subject of a vulgar 
brawl. 

" And now," said Lucyan, stroking out the sleeve 
which Kazimir's grasp had crushed into unsightly 



126 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

creases — "now, perhaps, you will give me your ob- 
jections to my marriage. What do you mean by 
treachery ? " 

" Your marriage ! " The plain words were not to 
be borne yet. Kazimir turned savagely on his brother. 
" How dare you say that to me — to 7ne ! You don't 
know^ God, this is madness ! " 

" Be quiet, Kazimir ; you are childish. AVhat do 
you mean by treachery ? " 

" I mean by treachery," said Kazimir between his 
teeth, "that you should have pretended an engage- 
ment to one cousin, when you were meaning to marry 
the other." 

" Pretended an engagement ! " repeated Lucyan, in 
a tone of utmost surprise. " Explain that, Kazimir. 
When did I ever pretend ? " 

" Did you not yourself announce to me your en- 
gagement to Vizia Eogdanovics ? " 

" To Vizia Eogdanovics ! Never 1 You are labour- 
ing under some strange delusion." 

" Did you not, on the day I left home, as much as 
acknowledge your intentions ? " 

" My intentions of marrying some day — yes, un- 
doubtedly." 

''Did you not, under my very eyes, pay her the 
most marked attentions last winter?" 

"Kazimir, be calm; I implore of you to be calm. 



THE TRICK DISPUTED. 127 

If you were calm, you would see that I paid no more 
attentions to Vizia than you did yourself." 

" What do you mean ? " asked Kazimir, dum- 
foundered. 

" I mean only that, if any one paid attention to 
Vizia last winter it was you." 

" Lucyan, how dare you say that ? Have you for- 
gotten the evening of the Krakowiak, and the red 
rose you gave her?" 

" And have tjou forgotten the talk in my room up- 
stairs, and the azalea which you begged from me for 
her?" 

" Oh, but that was before," began Kazimir, a little 
disconcerted. 

" I don't know what it was before," said Lucyan, 
skilfully pursuing his advantage. " And since we 
are on the subject of that evening, of course you 
w^ill have no objection to telling me what passed 
between you and Vizia on the verandah in the 
moonlight ? " 

" Oh, that — that," said Kazimir, eagerly, and then 
hesitated, as the scene flashed back over his memory 
He had no right to betray Vizia's words of that 
evening. 

" I thought so," said Lucyan, with a quiet shrug of 
his shoulders. " Don't be afraid ; I am not going to 
press the point." 



128 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

"You are entirely mistaken," burst out Kazimir, 
hotly. 

Lucyan raised his hand. " That is not the question. 
Granted that you had no serious intentions towards 
Vizia, and granted that I may have appeared to have 
paid her some slight attention, what has that to do 
with my marriage ? Has not a man the right to 
change his mind ? There never could have been any 
question of my marrying Vizia ; on the score of money 
alone such a thing would have been impossible." 

This was not the moment, nor indeed was it likely 
that Lucyan would ever find any moment convenient 
to explain to Kazimir the mistake which had been 
made on that Szabas eve six months ago ; how, 
through the fault of a red shawl, he had mistaken one 
cousin for the other, and how the supposed poor 
cousin it was who owned the 70,000 florins ; while 
the supposed rich one had since been left all but 
destitute by her enterprising father. 

" Besides," said Lucyan, with a curious glance at 
Kazimir, " I am inclined to think that / should have 
had no chance in that quarter." 

" You knew that I loved her," said Kazimir, heed- 
ing none of these allusions, and he faced straight to- 
wards his brother. 

Lucyan returned the gaze with a look of unshrink- 



THE TRICK DISPUTED. 129 

" My dear Kazimir, how could I have made so wild 
a guess ? " 

" You knew it," repeated Kazimir. 

" Did you ever tell me so 1 " 

" Not in words perhaps ; but I thought you saw it." 

" If you mean that I noticed a slight flirtation, you 
are quite right ; it was rather difiQcult, to be sure, to 
make out which of the two girls it was that you pre- 
ferred ; but I daresay it was Xenia with whom you 
imagined yourself in love at the time. I do not blame 
you in the least, mind ; a man who is as irresistible 
to the fair sex as you are, Kazimir, is quite right, if 
he flits from flower to flower, sipping the " 

" Enough of that, Lucyan ; I am in no humour for 
joking. If you never guessed the truth, why then 
should you have kept your real engagement secret 
from me ? " 

" You do not seem to have got my letters." 

" Oh yes, I got letters ; but you spoke only of 
Mademoiselle Rogdanovics ; you spoke so purposely. 
It was a plot," said Kazimir, fiercely. 

Lucyan shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose if I 
talk from now till midnight, I will not get you to 
understand that either you cannot have taken the 
trouble to read my letters, or that some of them can- 
not have reached you. I daresay that I spoke of her 
sometimes as Mademoiselle Eogdanovics, and some- 

VOL. II. I 



130 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

times by her name. Is it my fault that posts should 
go astray ? " 

Kazimir, for one moment, was silenced. Was he 
not, after all, wronging Lucy an in this at least ? 
What more natural than that posts should go astray 
in a time of war ? A vision of unreceived, candid, 
and brotherly letters, certainly did alter the case a 
little. 

'' Then you really never guessed?" repeated Kazimir, 
a little lower. 

" Ask yourself whether I could have guessed. Did 
you so much as hint at the matter on that last day 
when we talked together ? " 

Again Kazimir stood silent; he remembered very 
well that he had carefully refrained from hinting at 
the matter. 

" Had you confided your intentions to me, I should 
of course have respected them ; but how was I to 
hazard such a guess ? More especially as your letters 
were full of rhapsodies about a captain's wife with 
golden hair and a warm heart." 

" Poor Madame Baroly ! " exclaimed Kazimir. 
" What about her ? " 

"Ah, well, what about her? That is just the 
question ; it looked remarkably as if there was some- 
thing about Madame Baroly." 

Kazimir's scorn all but choked him at the moment ; 



THE THICK DISPUTED. 131 

he gave his brother a bitterly contemptuous glance, 
and turned his head away. 

" You see, therefore, that in face of your flirtation 
with the captain's pretty wife, it was rather hard to 
expect anybody to look upon anything else as serious." 

" I had no flirtation with the captain's wife." 

" Your friendship, then," conceded Lucyan. 

" My friendship was with her husband." 

" But he was shot very soon, was he not 1 and the 
pretty wife became a pretty widow." 

" I see," said Kazimir, pale with rage ; " you fright- 
ened her with that. Poor child ! And yet she might 
have trusted me after that evening ; after we said good- 
bye to each other in the salt-mine." 

"Yes, I heard about the salt-mine," said Lucyan, 
covering his sneer with a smile. " Don't be alarmed ; 
I am not narrow-minded enough to be hard upon her 
about that little escapade. Most girls have done 
something foolish in their day, — and, after all, a kiss 
is neither here nor there." 

Kazimir, to whom these words seemed like the 
blasphemous desecration of a sanctuary, stood and 
panted for breath, unable to speak. 

" I had some difficulty, though," Lucyan was saying, 
with that same faint smile, "to make her aunt see 
the thing in its true light ; she w^as so inexpressibly 
shocked ; it was really hard work to get her to under- 



132 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR. 

stand that that was just your way of going on, and 
that you meant nothing by it." 

" I meant everything by it," gasped Kazimir, trem- 
bling with passion. 

" She would insist that her niece was compromised." 

" Compromised by me ! " cried Kazimir, with a 
bitter laugh. He had believed hitherto that the 
sacrifice of his life to save the faintest breath from 
falling on Xenia's fame would have been but a small 
thins ; now, it seemed this was all a mistake. His 
own conduct was being painted for him in the blackest 
of black hues. He had compromised her! he had 
wronged her ! Had he really been such a monster ? 
he asked himself aghast. Was it he who had been 
injuring her, while it was Lucyan who was her real 
protector ? •' No, it cannot be, it shall not be ! " he 
burst out afresh ; " it is impossible, monstrous I it 
could never be ! She has been frightened, bewitched, 
poor child ! She belonged to me before she belonged 
to you ! " 

" If there was any promise," began Lucyan. 

" Promise ? No, there was no promise ; she was to 
wait for me if she loved me. She does not love me ; 
she does not love me ! " cried poor Kazimir ; and he 
flung himself, face foremost on the table, crushing the 
roses which lay there with the weight of his arms, 
and, despite of his manhood, and his twenty-six years, 



. THE TRICK DISPUTED. 133 

lie burst into bitter sobs. He was shaken to the very- 
depth of his soul; but though shaken, he was not 
stunned : that mercy was not granted him, as it is 
given to many weak men. The feeble patient faints 
under the operator's knife, and is spared the moment 
of agony. But the patient to be pitied is he who 
retains his senses, and with them the keen realisation 
of each cut. Kazimir's sensations were intensified 
rather than deadened. He saw now, and he believed. 
He wondered how he could suffer this and be still 
alive ; he wondered how he could see his brother 
standing by and not kill him. 

Lucyan leant alongside, motionless. For a bride- 
groom, on the eve of his wedding-day, it must be con- 
fessed that he was bearing a good deal, and with an 
admirable patience. He had known that there would 
be a burst of reproaches, though he had not known 
that it would come on this day ; but he quailed a little 
at the violence of this. As he watched the heaving 
of Kazimir's shoulders, it would perhaps not be fair 
to say that he did not feel for his brother; but neither 
would it be true to say that he did not feel more 
keenly for the roses than for his brother. Each flower- 
head which he saw flattened under Kazimir's arms 
gave him a distinct stab of pain. He was moved to 
spring forward and rescue the ill-used roses with 
tender hands, but he was wise enough to see that such 



134 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE., 

a course would be unsafe. It was a sacrifice; but 
Lucyan was quite able to make such a sacrifice when 
necessary. Men, in moments of frantic grief, require 
to be humoured ; and Lucyan was generous enough to 
humour his brother at this moment. It gave him no 
pleasure to see this suffering, for in every undisguised 
display of human feeling there is something which 
ruffles the delicacy of a fastidious taste ; and Lucyan's 
taste was of the most fastidious. Neither was his 
cruelty a vulgar cruelty ; it was only that having one 
plain object in life, he made his way towards it, tread- 
ing upon every obstacle in his path. That the obstacle 
to be trodden happened to be a brother was a mere 
accident of circumstance ; and no really great man 
allows himself to be deterred from his end by a mere 
accident of circumstance. As he stood now, watching 
his brother in this paroxysm of grief, he was cool 
enough to look right through the midst of the par- 
oxysm, and to see that the victory in the struggle 
would be on his own side. 

But to Kazimir there was no future and no past : 
he could not see an inch beyond the black night of 
his misery. Slowly he began to recover from his burst 
of tears. He had not cried for ten years ; his eyes had 
been wet when he left his mother for the last time ; 
but not since he had stood behind the beech-tree that 
autumn morning, and watched his comrades riding off 



THE TRICK DISPUTED. 135 

towards Hungary, had lie wept as lie was weeping 
now. Each of these long-sealed tears was drawn with 
pain. His face was haggard with the strain when at 
length he raised his head. He had believed in her so 
tirmly, and he had loved her so truly, and now he 
knew that that love which already was bearing blos- 
soms must be cut off, root and branch, to wither with- 
out fruit. He leant his head upon his hand, and drew 
a long trembling breath. 

Around the brothers the shadows were growing 
long. The setting sun was shedding the last of its 
brilliancy over the earth, like a princely prodigal who 
has spent his gold with liberal hand all day, and at 
nightfall, finding that he has much to spare, throws it 
recklessly out, lavishing it upon such worthless things 
as weeds and wayside flowers, gilding the very grass 
as he scatters his largess through the forest. There 
was scarcely a tree which did not stand belted with a 
ring of pure gold, nor a leaf which did not flaunt with 
a golden edge, or upon which golden spots were not 
dancing. The blue-winged vetches stretched to reach 
the gold, or stooped to catch it as it fell ; even the 
yellow ragwort, greedy of more brightness, were gild- 
ing themselves over again ; and the daisies, too short 
to stretch, scrambled for the fallen pieces, like the 
children in a quarrelling crowd. 

It was Lucyan who first broke silence. " Come, 



136 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

Kazio," he said ; and no one could have complained of 
the want of gentleness in his tone : ^' we are men after 
all, and not boys. I am sorry for you ; but neither I 
nor any one else can alter this. It is Fate whom you 
must accuse, and not me. Just take an impartial re- 
view of the situation. Here am I, an unpretending 
farmer, who has never been out of his country. My 
wish is to settle down quietly in life. I am thrown 
in the way of a girl of suitable fortune and birth, to 
whom I become atttached : finding my attachment 
returned, and finding, too, that she is free, is there 
anything strange or unnatural in that I should marry 
her ? " 

Kazimir, staring fixedly before him, and tearing 
rose after rose to pieces, had no answer to give. What 
Lucyan said sounded both sensible and kind. 

" And," continued the other, in a lighter tone, " con- 
sidering that the families on both sides are perfectly 
agreed, and that all arrangements are fixed for the 
quiet wedding, is it not a little hard upon the unpre- 
tending farmer, if, on the eve of the wedding, his bril- 
liant soldier-brother returns in a flush of excitement, 
and, bursting in upon the scene, comports himself like 
a maniac, and storms and talks of treachery ? — all upon 
the strength of having once stolen a kiss in a salt- 
mine ? Where is the treachery now, — eh, Kazimir ? " 

Kazimir frowned, and threw a bit of stick at a 



THE TRICK DISPUTED. 137 

blackbird, who, perched on a fir-branch, was singing 
his evening song hard by. 

" What is that for, Kazimir?" smiled Lucyan. 

"Bah ! he is singing all out of tune," said Kazimir, 
with a shiver. 

" You would have thought as I do," continued Luc- 
yan, " if the cases had been reversed, and you had been 
the successful man, and I the disappointed one. And 
is it not rather unreasonable of you, after having gone 
on playing knave of hearts all round, and amusing 
yourself with a pretty widow in Italy, to come home, 
and expect to find everything unchanged ? Qui va a 
la chasse, perd sa place, you know." 

" I have told you that I was not amusing myself 
with the pretty widow." 

''Consoling the pretty widow, then," corrected Luc- 
yan ; and his smile began to reappear. '^ Come now, 
you are beginning to see sense, are you not? Se- 
riously, Kazimir, you do not wish that we should 
all change brides at the last moment, as in a French 
vaudeville ? " 

" All I know is," replied Kazimir, sullenly, " that 
the wedding shall not take place until I hear from her 
own lips that she wishes it." 

''Do you not think," said Lucyan, after a pause, 
" that it will be better, easier for you, if you left here 
at once, before the wedding? It would be a hard 



138 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

moment ; I doubt your strength to bear it. People 
might be a little surprised, of course ; but that does 
not signify, even if they talk " 

*' Talk ! talk about her ! " cried Kazimir, starting 
from the bench ; " no, they shall have no food for their 
chatter. I shall not go ; I shall stay. Why should I 
not bear it? Other men have borne it too, and re- 
mained alive ; have they not, Lucyan ? I am a man, 
after all ; I am strong ; I shall get over it ; I shall 
live it down ! " All this time he was stamping about 
the moss, with his hands convulsively clenched, and 
his lips twitching under his efforts at calmness. 

" Ha, ha ! " he burst out, with a harsh laugh. " That 
bullet, that bullet at Magenta ! it was not for Baroly 
that it was meant ; it was for me. How much more 
convenient for every one if I had been shot ! how 
much pleasanter for her ! " 

He stood still for a moment ; then, without look- 
ing at his brother, turned, and took two rapid strides 
down the path. 

" Where are you going, Kazimir ? " asked Lucyan, 
gravely ; and in a moment he was by his brother's 
side, and had laid a hand on his arm. 

" I am going to her," said Kazimir, defiantly. " I 
insist upon seeing her ; you cannot prevent me, Lu- 
cyan : she is not your wife yet." 

" I do not wish to prevent you," was the calm 



THE TEICK DISPUTED. 139 

answer. It was Lucyan's system always to give way 
on every point except the one at stake. 

" I shall see her alone," said Kazimir. 

" Of course you shall see her alone. I can trust 
her with you, Kazimir. You are not going to persuade 
her to— do anything foolish ? " 

" I am not going to persuade her to do anytning at 
all. I am going to ask for an answer only." And 
Kazimir shook off his brother's hand, and strode away 
down the path. 

" I have made him harmless," muttered Lucyan to 
himself, as, worn out with the last half-hour, he threw 
himself upon the deserted bench. The great secret of 
success in life is to hit upon your neighbour's weak 
point, and beggar him by trading upon it. Lucyan 
had found out long ago that Kazimir's weak point was 
his honour. 

And Kazimir, meanwhile, was striding down the 
path, through the midst of the twilight shadows. The 
forest had been full of gqld when he entered it this 
evening ; and now that he turned back, the forest was 
all dark. 



140 



CHAPTEE XXII. 



THE LOSING SUIT. 



"Sie nannten mich den Bosen, 
Und Du hast Alles geglaubt." 

—Heine. 
. . . "I have given thee much, 
I gave thee what I can ne'er recall ; 
I gave my heart, I gave my peace, 
Oh heaven ! I gave thee all." 

— Coleridge. 



" Oh, why have you come back ? " sobbed Xenia, when 
she and Kazimir were face to face and alone. " Why 
have you come back to make every one unhappy ? It 
was all going right before ! " 

The question had stared him in the face so often to- 
day, that he began to put it to himself, Wliy had he 
come back ? Again it struck him most forcibly that 
that bullet at Magenta had hit the wrong mark ; the 
right mark should have been his heart. Two women 
would have been the happier for it ; one, because she 
would have kept an adored husband — the other, be- 
cause she would have lost an inconvenient lover. 
Scarcely an hour ago he had been laughing to himself 



THE LOSING SUIT. 141 

at the thought of the surprise and the pleasure which 
his sudden appearance was to bring, and now he was 
already wondering whether the news of his death 
would not have been more welcome than the news 
of his arrival. The other greetings he could afford 
to do without, but Xenia's greeting stabbed him to 
the heart. Nothing to-day had hurt him so much as 
it hurt him now to see her fear of him. He had seen 
her look as frightened only once before — on the day 
when they had seen the wolf in the forest. That day 
she had clung to him for protection, and to-day it 
seemed as though she wished to be protected against 
him. He had come into her presence bitter and hot, 
with heavy reproaches burning on his lips ; but the 
very first glance disarmed him. Her weakness broke 
his strength ; the tearful eyes, raised to him in terrified 
pleading, took the edge off his cutting words. What 
can a man do when a woman cowers before him, not 
raising a finger to defend herself as she awaits the 
blow, saying in every line of her shrinking figure, 
" Strike me, if you will ! " and doing nothing but look- 
ing frightened and defenceless and beautiful ? It would 
be like strikiug a child ; and Kazimir could not do it. 
" Do not cry," he said, speaking as gently as though 
the guilt of faithlessness had been on his side, and not 
on hers. " Your tears hurt me, Xenia ; I am not going 
to scold you. I only want to know whether you can 



142 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

explain to me how it comes to be thus " Uncon- 
sciously he was reasoning, as one reasons with a child, 
and unconsciously, too, he was suppressing every out- 
ward sign of his own suffering for fear of increasing 
hers. " I want only to know whether you have for- 
gotten what you said then, — that time in the salt- 
mine ; you said that you loved me, you know ? " 

" The salt-mine ! " She looked up with scared blue 
eyes, gazing at him in a sort of terror through her 
tears. "Please, never speak of the salt-mine again. 
I did not know it was so wrong of me, or I should not 
have done it, really." 

" Who told you it was wrong ? " 

" Oh, my aunt, and my guardian, and everybody ; 
they all scolded me so much, and they would have 
scolded me more, but Lucyan" — she broke off just 
here, and glanced nervously around her — " is that not 
Lucyan coming ? " she said quickly. 

There was no one coming, but Kazimir had received 
a fresh cut : was she so desperately in love with 
Lucyan that she could not keep her attention from 
him for five minutes ? " Lucyan begged for me," con- 
tinued Xenia, " and he said that it was not so much 

my fault as " she hesitated, afraid of hurting his 

feelings. 

" As mine," finished Kazimir, grimly. " That is what 
they said, was it not ? Well, perhaps they were right ; 



THE LOSING SUIT. 143 

perhaps it was all my fault ; perhaps it was wrong of 
me to have told you in the salt-mine that I loved you ; 
but I did tell you so, and you answered my question 
with yes. Even your aunt and your guardian could 
not unsay the words, could they ? " 

" It was a mistake," sobbed Xenia, incoherently, " it 
was all a mistake; and I was not sure; and you hurried 
me so ; and Lucyan said that girls never know their 
own minds. And then I asked Vizia ; but she was so 
hard and so unkind (she is never kind now, as she 
used to be), she said she was the last person in the 
world who could advise me, and that I must decide 
for myself: she told me that if I could doubt for 
one moment, I could not really — love you. And then 
everybody pressed me, and I could not help it— I 
really could not help it ; and then " — the quivering 
voice was choked in tears. 

" And you never thought," broke out Kazimir, with 
a swelling heart, "that during all that time I was 
living only on our last words of parting, that the 
thought of you was my whole happiness, and that the 
hope of seeing you again was the only thing which 
kept up my courage ? You never thought that I was 
thanking God on my knees every evening for having 
let me live another day which brought me nearer to 
you ? You never thought that, Xenia ? " 

" But," said Xenia, checking her tears for a moment, 



U4 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" it was not like that, you know. You did not think 
of me like that." 

" Shall I swear it to you ? " 

" Oh no, please, do not swear ; but they told me 
that" — she faltered and grew crimson. 

" What did they tell you, Xenia ? " 

" They said that you did not care for me any longer ; 
that you cared for somebody else." 

" They dared to tell you that ? " 

" A beautiful lady with golden hair," added Xenia, 
with a quick uplifting of her head, and the tiniest 
touch of feminine jealousy in the midst of her help- 
less sobs. 

Madame Baroly ! Madame Baroly again ! dressed 
up into a sort of scarecrow to frighten away this inno- 
cent child. There was something so supremely and 
grimly humorous about the idea, that Kazimir could 
almost have found it in him to laugh out loud, only 
that his mood was more akin to tears.' 

" And you were actually got to believe that ? " 

" I saw it in your letters to Lucyan ; I saw," — in the 
midst of her tears, Kazimir could but catch the words 
" golden-haired beauty," and " charming." He was on 
the point of breaking into vehement explanations, 
but he checked himself in time. It struck him j ust 
then that explanations can do good only when they 
have a chance of being understood. 



THE LOSING SUIT. U5 

" And if, Xenia," he said with forced quiet, " if you 
had known that it was all untrue, and that I had been 
faithful to you the whole time, what would you have 
done then?" 

" Oh, I don't know ; please do not ask me." This 
phase of the case was rather too deep for Xenia to 
fathom. '' What is the use of thinking of that now ? 
Hadn't we better not talk of it at all ? I am so sorry 
that you mind it so much ; but then, if you really had 
cared for me in that way, you would not have gone 
away to the war, or have stayed there so long. It was 
all a mistake, and I meant nothing at all that time, — 
nothing at all, really," she added, most earnestly. 
" It was all so long ago, you know." 

"It was all just four months and a half ago," 
thought Kazirair. Four months ! Yes — a long time 
it had been to Avait in ; but ah, what a short time 
to love in ! 

"Of course it was a very long time ago," said 
Kazimir slowly, sighing as he spoke ; " but do you 
not think that it w^ould have been kinder to me if 
you had let me know sooner that you had ceased to 
care for me ? " 

Xenia raised her eyes to him in genuine surprise. 

" But you knew that already." 

"No, I did not guess it," said Kazimir, with a 
smile which was ghastly. 

VOL. 11. K 



146 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" But then you never read my message ? " 

" Which message ? '*' he questioned with a gleam of 
hope. 

'•' I wrote it at the bottom of Lucyan's letter, because 
I thought that, after all, you might still be thinking of 
it a little," said Xenia, humbly ; " and you sent me 
good wishes in return." 

"I never got that letter," said Kazimir, after a 
pause ; perhaps this was one of the unreceived letters, 
of which Lucyan seemed to have written so many: 
" and the good wishes I sent were not meant for 
you." 

" You did not get the message ? what a pity ! But 
it does not make any difference now, you know." 

*' Difference ? Xo ; but it tells me at least that yon 
were not decei^ing me. You really thought that I 
knew everything ; is that Cjiute true, Xenia ? " 

It was quite true ; her lips said it, and her blue eyes 
said it too, as she raised them in childish frankness. 
For that small mercy Kazimir could be thankful ; she 
had not meant to deceive him. 

'•'You love my brother, then?" he asked abruptly; 
for he could not be quiet on her account, until he had 
heard that assurance from herself. 

She started at the question, just as she had started 
a minute ago, when she thought to hear Lucyan's step. 
Twisting her wet handkerchief between her fingers, 



THE LOSING SUIT. 147 

she answered hurriedly, "Of course I do; I must; 
why do you ask me?" She grew red, as she said 
it, and then the bright flush fading, left her. very 
pale. 

" And you mean to marry him to-morrow ? " He 
was not quieted yet. There was a strange nervous- 
ness about her ; perhaps but the result of this try- 
ing scene. 

" Of course I do ; " she looked at him in genuine 
surprise. "My dress came back two days ago; and 
my calling-cards are all printed." 

Kazimir turned aside with a groan of discourage- 
ment, and with a feeling of helplessness upon him. 
There was nothing more about which to argue, and he 
would have preferred to spare her more pain, by leav- 
ing her at once. But Xenia heard the groan, and it 
set her off crying again. She could not bear to wit- 
ness any suffering, and she did all her best to smooth 
this away. She wished he would not mind it so 
much, and really it was not her fault ; and it was such 
a consolation to think that even had they wanted to 
marry, her aunt and her guardian would never have 
allowed it. They wished her to make a quiet steady 
marriage, and they both said that Lucyan was just the 
right sort of man ; and that they were quite sure that 
she would be happy with him ; and that soldiers were 
never steady ; and that it was very wrong of Kazimir 



148 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

to have taken advantage of her inexperience in the 
salt-mine, — and he must promise never, never to men- 
tion the word again, for it made her quite hot to think 
of it ; and they had also said that no honourable man 
ever speaks to a girl first, but always to her guardians, 
j ust as Lucyan had done ; and Lucyan had said this, and 
Vizia had said that ; and would he please not be angry 
with her any more, for it was so unpleasant when people 
were angry ; — and so on, and so on, round and round 
in a tearful circle. It was so easy to read the history 
of that sobbed-out narrative — it all lay so clear to the 
light of day ; the little scruples, the little doubts, the 
little struggles, the little sufferings of the little heart. 
Angry with her ? Why, in heaven's name, should he 
be augry with her ? Could she have acted otherwise 
than she had done ? She had been conscious of no 
harm ; she had only been too sweet, and too gentle, 
and too yielding, and too trustful, and too good 
altogether. So willing was she to please everybody, 
that her very tears and attitude seemed to say how 
glad she would have been to marry both brothers — had 
circumstances only permitted it — and thus make 
everybody comfortable. True, she had done him the 
greatest wrong which a woman can do a man ; but 
she did not know that she had done it ; and she had 
done it so that it seemed only to have raised her 
nearer to the level of an angel. He had given her 



THE LOSING SUIT. 149 

the very flower of his love, and she had taken it with 
the smile of an innocent child ; and with the smile of 
an innocent child, too, she had cast it aside. She had 
not cruelly plucked it or played with it ; but she had 
been told to throw it aside, for that it was a bad and 
poisonous flower, not good for little children — and she 
had obeyed ; and now she was crying for fear of being 
scolded for what she had done. Could there be any 
talk of anger here ? It would be as reasonable to find 
fault with a snowdrop for not having thorns, or to 
quarrel wdth a seraph because he cannot suffer pain. 
The sternest mood must needs have been softened in 
face of these pleading eyes, and Kazimir's mood was 
not stern. When he left her at last, it was with the 
general impression that every one was to blame, ex- 
cepting her. 

Indignation burned still hot in his heart, but not 
against her. So hotly did it burn him, though, that it 
pressed him to find some outlet for it ; his heart cried 
out to be revenged on some one. The some one was 
not hard to find. As he left Xenia he stumbled 
straight on her cousin — the very victim he needed. 
Vizia, who was so much harder, and stronger, and 
better able to take care of herself, ought to have taken 
care of that poor child. 

Here there was nothing to disarm him, — no plead- 
ing eyes, no penitent tears, no shrinking, and no fear. 



150 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

With set and hardened face Vizia confronted him, 
standing every inch of her ground in sullen defiance. 
Why had she refused her advice to her cousin ? why 
had she not taken better care of that frail flower? 
why had she not prevented all this misery ? he asked 
her, amidst the torrent of his reproaches. He had 
confided his secret to her, thinking that she would 
watch over his interests ; he had always looked up to 
her as a true friend and a sensible woman, and now 
she had cheated his friendship. To the poor tortured 
woman every word was a stab ; but she had no fear of 
breaking down now. This cruelty was not nearly so 
cruel as his kindness ; nor did she fear his hard words 
half as much as his soft ones, nor flinch at sight of his 
frowns, though she trembled when she thought of his 
smiles. She was strong enough to bear his enmity, 
but she was too weak to bear his friendship. 

" Can I make wax into iron, or pools into oceans ? " 
she asked, with scornful lip, as he paused in his wild 
upbraidings. Never in his life had Kazimir spoken 
thus harshly to a woman ; but neither had he ever 
before been thus frantic with grief. Coming straight 
from the presence of that timid beauty who was his 
ideal of woman, the strength and self-reliance of Vizia 
struck him almost as it would have struck him in a 
man ; and he was as hard upon her, therefore, as he 
could have been upon a man. 



THE LOSING SUIT. 151 

" What was I to do ? " she asked, defiantly. " For 
what is it you blame me ? " 

" For not having written to tell me the truth ; for 
not having let me know that she was being robbed 
from me ; for having allowed her to be frightened by 
ridiculous stories about me — for, of course, you also 
believed that romance of the pretty widow ? " 

She met his eyes steadily, and steadily, though 
very low, she answered — 

" Ko, I did not believe it." 

" ^N'ever for a moment ? " 

" Never for a moment." 

" Strange ! but what good does that to me, since you 
did not convince her ? Oh, if you had sent me but 
one word to warn me of my danger ! " 

" Was it clear that there existed a danger ? What 
else could I think but that you had given her up ? " 

" You might have guessed that of my own will I 
would not give her up while I had life remaining." 

" And," questioned Vizia, over whose face, resolute 
as it was, there shot a spasm of pain at his last words, 
" it is true, then, that you knew nothing of this ? that 
you were in the dark till now ? " 

" Entirely in the dark. I came home in perfect 
confidence, thinking that she was waiting for me, and 
that it was you who were to be my brother's wife." 

" And you would have welcomed me as your 



152 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUK. 

brother's wife ? " said Vizia, calmly, driving the dag- 
ger-point deeper into her heart, with that savage in- 
stinct of self-torture which belonged to her nature. 

" Of course I should. I sent you good wishes in 
my letter." 

" I suspected it," she said, quickly. 

" You suspected what ? " 

" That your brother had wronged you." 

" Every one has wronged me, excepting her ; she is 
innocent." 

" Listen," said Vizia, coming a step nearer. " You 
have given up your rights to your brother, have you 
not ? You have signed them away to him blindly ? " 

" What does it matter ? " said Kazimir, impatiently. 
" Nothing can give me her back again." 

" You have signed them away blindly ? " she re- 
peated, unheeding. 

" Yes, I have signed them away blindly, as you call 
it ; what about it ? " 

" Only this, that you have done an act of folly." 

" I chose to do it," he said, moodily ; for the Audi- 
tor's words came ringing in his ears just now. 

" You have helped your brother to marry Xenia. If 
you had not signed that paper, her guardians would 
never have given her away. It is too late to warn 
you; but," — Vizia drew a hard breath, and between 



THE LOSING SUIT. 153 

her teeth she muttered, " your brother is a bad 
man." 

He started, not so much because the words had 
frightened him by their strangeness, but rather be- 
cause they seemed to him so curiously familiar. Had 
any one ever said them before? Surely it must be 
so ? Why otherwise should he seem to know them so 
well ? But precisely because of this start of recogni- 
tion, he felt more inclined to blame Vizia for beini? 
the cause of it. He was unreasonable in the excess of 
his pain ; he chose to see nothing in Vizia's strangely- 
put warning but i^he fears of a suspicious mind, tinged 
perhaps by feminine jealousy : for Lucyan had. paid 
attention to her first, and women, reasoned Kazimir, 
are always jealous of one another. He asked her 
somewhat haughtily what right she had to speak 
thus of his brother ; and for fear, perhaps, of hearing 
more against Lucyan, he left her as abruptly as he 
had accosted her. 

There was no one remaining to attack but Marcin ; 
but even poor Marcin was not spared. Why had he, 
along with the others, conspired to keep Kazimir in 
the dark ? Here the question was met by a puzzled 
stare. " But I told you all about it, Kazimir." 

" When, in heaven's name ? " 

" But in my letter, of course ; and you said you did 



154 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

not mind it. I took so much trouble to make it clear, 
for I did not want you to come here with a cat in a 
bag, although I knew they would be angry with me 
for letting the pig out of the poke." 

The giant-phantom, erroneously conjured up by the 
clearness of Marcin's letter, rose once more at the 
words. How happy would Kazimir have been now 
could he have had his giant-phantom back again ! 



155 



CHAPTER XXIir. 



PARTNERS PARTED. 



, . . . " We still have slept together, 

Rose at an instant, learned, played, ate together. " 

— As You Like It. 



Had Rogdanovics's body been unable to rest quiet iu 
its grave, and had Rogdanovics's spirit desired to re- 
visit the world, the spot which it would have selected 
to haunt should have been, without doubt, that on 
which the Bhizanelkometer lay rusting, forgotten, and 
unheeded. The Rhizanelhometer was the identical 
machine which had cost Rogdanovics his life on that 
March afternoon, when he strained a blood-vessel in 
working it. Here, therefore, should his spirit have 
hovered at nightfall, and moaned at midnight. The 
Bhizanelhometer was the murderer, and should not have 
been spared the ghost of the murdered man. 

• Lodniki showed many signs of the change come over 
it: six months ago it had borne on its face a false 
flush of riches ; and now that was faded, — there re- 



156 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

mained but the real paleuess of poverty. The place 
might be compared to an oversized canvas, where 
colour and material have fallen far short of the space 
to be covered. Empty stables, neglected pathways, 
unfinished buildings, told the story loudly enough; 
but nothing told it so vividly or so pathetically as did 
the rusting machine, in its wreck and abandonment. 
It lay just where it had stood in that March after- 
noon when it did its last work. No one had thought 
it worth while to have it removed. Beside it the oak- 
stump, which it had but half gripped, and failed to 
wrench from the earth, stood its ground still undis- 
turbed. The helpless giant lay stretched at full length; 
his huge frame rotting slowly, his iron claws red with 
rust, his unwieldy limbs falling to pieces under the 
damp of rain and dew. The flowers had conspired to 
bind him ; the red nettles had choked up his wheels ; 
the blue chicory laughingly held him prisoner in its 
arms; the white bindweeds, smothering wherever they 
creep, had twisted themselves round and round, and 
roped him tight with their cords. Even the oak-stump 
itself, like a prisoner reprieved from the gallows, had 
picked up its spirits, and shot out a few green sprouts 
into the face of the executioner, who had failed in his 
stroke. In the twilight of this July evening, it might 
have been thought from afar that the ghost had come 
at last to haunt this chosen spot ; but those figures 



PARTNERS PARTED. 157- 

were no ghosts. Vizia and Xenia were lingering 
beside the fallen giant. They were alone; for the 
visitors had left, and as yet those two were strangely 
silent. Yizia, standing with her back against an iron 
wheel, gazed straight in front of her towards the 
shadows of the forest. This barrier of coldness be- 
tween them — and it was a barrier which had sprung 
up weeks ago — was her work, and not Xenia's. Xenia 
would fain have clung to her cousin as of old ; but 
when, in her childish doubts, Xenia had come to her 
for advice, something within the elder girl had made 
her refuse any word of help. Despite the entreating 
eyes, and despite the hands falteringly held out, she 
had made her heart hard as a stone. She had turned 
away, so as not to see the eyes, and she had pushed 
back the soft fingers which would have clung to her in 
their need. 

Kazimir's words of to-day had startled her into self- 
analysis. Why had she refused her help ? Why had 
she turned her heart into a stone ? Was it, she asked 
herself with horror, — was it that she had dared uncon- 
sciously to hope for herself that which her cousin was 
throwing aside as worthless ? 

Her pride revolted at the thought of such meanness. 
And yet it must be so, she argued with merciless per- 
sistency ; for other women — nobler and better women 
— she told herself, would have said to themselves a 



158 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

hundred times devoutly, " Oh that she could be made 
worthy of him ! " while Vizia had never said it to her- 
self once. She had seen how her cousin was throwing 
aside a true diamond, and picking up a false stone in 
its stead; and she had looked on in sullen silence. 
" If she does not know the real stone when she sees it, 
why should I be the one to tell her ? " Such had been 
her question. She had been conscious of nothing but 
contempt and jealousy; so she told herself to-night. 
And this hope, this torturing serpent of hope which 
had wound itself unbidden round her heart, she would 
look it in the face to-day, and crush it dead before 
it had grown strong enough to do her harm, " I am 
plain, unamiable, and bad-tempered," she repeated to 
herself with a sort of savage zest. '' I am all this and 
more ; do I still dare to hope ? Bah ! he will love her 
with all the more hopeless love because he has been 
robbed of her : he will be truer to her than if she had 
been his wife." 

Xenia's voice broke in upon the train of these bitter 
reflections. 

" Has it not been a dreadful day ? " she asked 
timidly, just as she had asked, " Has it not been a 
charming day ? " on the evening of that on which 
Kazimir had all but confessed his love to her. Vizia, 
her face turned aside, answered that it had been 
dreadful. 



PARTNERS PARTED. 159 

" I feel quite tired with it," ventured Xenia again. 
" I was so frightened when they told me that I was to 
speak to Kazimir Bielinski ; I thought he" would be so 
angry ; and my aunt said it was not safe, and that she 
was quite sure he would kill me." 

" But he did not, I suppose," remarked Vizia, drily. 

" Oh no ; he was really so kind ; and I had quite 
forgotten how kind he could be : it is such a pity that 
he will — will think of me like that ; " and Xenia hung 
her head, and blushed the most beautiful blush as she 
played with her curl. " It is so foolish of him, is it 
not, Yizia ? " 

" Very," said Yizia, coldly, while her hand tightened 
on the rusty chain which dangled beside her, creaking 
a little as it swayed in the evening breeze. 

" He is so handsome," said Xenia, with a faint sigh 
of undefined regret. " What a pity he is a soldier ! I 

am so sorry for him ; he seemed to mind so much " 

The dimpled chin went down, and two tears of pure 
and tender pity ran over her cheek. But when she 
had cried for a minute or so, she remembered that it 
was her wedding-day to-morrow. "And it would 
never do to have red eyes on my wedding-day," she 
said, between smiles and tears ; " it would look so ill 
with the white dress, would it not, Vizia ? " 

Vizia said that of course it would ; and Xenia sat 
silent for a moment. 



160 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Did you read the answer which they seat me 
about the wedding-day in the ' Journal des Demoi- 
selles ? ' " she presently began. 

" I never read the ' Journal des Demoiselles/ said 
Vizi a, stiffly. 

" I signed myself ' Fleur d'Orange/ " volunteered 
Xenia ; " and I asked — for it is so difficult to know 
— what one's manner should be like on the wedding- 
day ; and the answer is, — ' Tachez de conserver un 
juste milieu : pas trop de reserve et pas trop de 
familiarite.' " 

Vizia made no remark. 

" I wonder," reflected Xenia aloud, while she pulled 
off a head of blue chicory, " what they mean exactly 
by ' trop de familiarite ' ? " 

But even the vastness of question as to what the 
' Journal des Demoiselles ' might call reserve, and what 
familiariU, did not seem to have aroused Vizia's in- 
terest. She leant where she stood motionless, her 
head bent, and her eyes fixed before her. Xenia's lip 
quivered" as she gazed at her cousin through the dusk ; 
she had not had a kiss nor a caress for so long. 

" Vizia," — she crept up softly to her cousin's side, — 
'' tell me why you are so changed, so unkind to me. 
Won't you kiss me now? I am going away to- 
morrow, you know." 

" I know," said Vizia, in a whisper. 



PARTNERS PARTED. 161 

A caressing hand was travelling over her cheek. 
" Tell me what has changed you so, Vizia. Oh, Vizia, 
you have been crying ! your eyes are quite wet ; you 
are crying still." 

" Hush ! I am not crying," said Vizia, more fiercely 
than softly. 

" Tell me what it is," begged Xenia. 

" I cannot." Vizia shook her head, while with one 
hand she stripped off the trails of white bindweed 
beside her. She could not tell Xenia what her secret 
was, nor explain that she was crying because she 
yearned for one drop of that cup which Xenia had 
pushed away, not caring to taste. But the tears alone 
had done her good; that stony hardness was some- 
what melted. The touch of that soft hand on her 
cheek cooled her heated spirit. Eemorse seized upon 
her at the thought of the many caresses which she had 
refused within these last days and weeks. Years ago, 
when they had both been children, Vizia had once, in 
a nursery quarrel, thrown herself upon her cousin 
and bitten her in the arm. Not half-a-dozen drops 
of blood had flowed ; but never had remorse been so 
bitter, nor had ever so complete and even violent 
atonement been made for an injury. In a frantic fit 
of penitence the culprit had insisted on presenting all 
her toys to the victim ; and neither arguments, nor 
persuasions, nor threats, had been capable of removing 

VOL. II. L 



162 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Vizia from the side of Xenia's bed, where, child as she 
was, she maintained her unnecessary watch all night, 
keeping her eyes wide open through sheer force of 
will. 

Her life since then had been more or less a repe- 
tition of that stormy incident. She was constantly 
biting Xenia's arm ; and though she had now no toys 
to give, she made up for it by giving her love, and 
caresses, and penitence, with the same vehement gen- 
erosity with which she had given her large wax doll 
and her broken tea-set. She hung perpetually be- 
tween the extremes of jealousy and love; for she pas- 
sionately wished to have her cousin's beauty and 
sweetness, and the homage which these provoked ; 
and what was this but jealousy ? But, again, she 
would willingly have sacrificed the use of one of her 
limbs to preserve to Xenia the perfection of a single 
feature ; and what could this be but boundless love ? 
Daily she sinned, and daily also she walked in sack- 
cloth and ashes for her sins. This time she had been 
a little longer in putting on the sackcloth and strew- 
ing the ashes; but all the more complete was her 
penitence now. Her embrace was so vehement that 
it hurt the gentle Xenia. It was hard to give up the 
child to whom she had been mother and sister at 
once. And she had been more than that. Since they 
had reached the age of reason, Vizia had been Xenia's 



PARTNERS PARTED. 163 

calendar and memory, her book of stock references, 
and even her conscience. All this she had been until 
the day when Xenia had asked of her deputy-con- 
science, " Am I to marry Lucyan Bielinski ? " That 
day the conscience had refused its answer ; and from 
that day it was that Xenia had begun to take another 
conscience, and another calendar, and another memory 
to help her. And it was because she mistrusted that 
other conscience, that in Vizia's heart there arose a 
pang of fear just now. Her cousin was to be taken 
from her, and he who was to take her away was the 
man of whom she had said to-day, " He is a bad 
man." No wonder if in Vizia's embrace there was 
the vehemence of terror. 



164 



CHAPTER XXIY. 



THE WINXIXG SUIT. 



" Sie wurde bleicli, der Priester sprach das "Wort, 
Ich aber stand dabei und niusste schweigen." 

— Geibel. 



If any one had told Kazirair this morning that, in less 
than twenty-four hours' time he would be standing by, 
to see Xenia married to his brother, he would most 
certainly have either knocked that person down, or 
else laughed at him as a maniac. 

And yet it was so. Pale and rigid, with tightened 
lips and gloomily-fixed eyes, numb with grief, but yet 
alive, yet able to breathe and to stand, Kazimir was 
witness of the marriage. He did not rush forward 
and tear the bride from the altar — he did not, at the 
last fatal moment, either stab or strangle his brother 
— he did not call out, " I forbid it ! " when he saw 
them kneel together on the step — he did not even 
start when the priest, in the Polish fashion, asked 
of the bride, " Have you ever given your faith to an- 



THE WINNING SUIT. 165 

other man ? " and Xenia's trembling voice answered, 
" [N^o." 

The few guests who had been bidden to this strictly 
private wedding saw only that there was a tall, silent, 
and sunburnt young man, who looked rather out of 
humour, or perhaps only tired with his journey. Two 
people only, knew that he was not tired with his 
journey, and saw what he was suffering; but neither 
of these two was the bride. 

And when it was all over and the carriage stood at 
the door, Xenia coming round to say good-bye to each 
guest, came round to him in his turn. There was a 
little flush of excitement on her cheek, and a little 
flutter in her manner; but when she came up to 
Kazimir, the bright eyes grew deprecating at once. 
" You are not angry any more ? " she asked softly ; 
but before Kazimir had found voice to answer, Lucyan 
was beside them., 

" The horses will not stand any longer," he said, as 
he drew on his gloves, — then looking at her, he added, 
" Put on your other hat, ma telle Xenia; this one hides 
your curls too much. " Laughingly he touched one 
of her chestnut curls, and Kazimir, at sight of that 
movement, bit his lip till the blood started. He would 
have liked to throw himself between them, so as to 
protect Xenia from the insolence of that admiring 
gaze, which, it seemed to him, must scorch her. In 



166 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Xenia's face the flush had died out the moment that 
Lucyan spoke. She raised her eyes to him, meekly, 
as a dog might to his master; her will, and her power 
of voluntary movement even, seemed gone from her. 
Without a word she turned submissively, and went to 
do as she had been bidden. 

" How she must love him ! " thought Kazimir ; for 
he had not yet learnt to know the difference between 
free love and that which is given by the snake to the 
snake-charmer. 

The two brothers stood silent side by side, while 
both watched Xenia from the room. Then Kazimir 
turned to Lucyan. " If you are not kind to her," he 
said, with a strange calmness, " I think, Lucyan, I shall 
kill you." 

" I shall take care, then, not to be killed," said 
Lucyan, smiling, as he drew out his gloves. " I mean 
to give her food and clothes — very pretty clothes too," 
he added with emphasis ; " and what do women want 
more than that ? " 

Kazimir turned away in silence, but Lucyan detained 
him. 

" Are we to part as enemies or as friends, Kazimir ? " 
he asked, and the half-laugh in his voice seemed to 
say that he was equally ready to part as one or as the 
other, just as his brother preferred. "We shall see 
you again soon, shall we not ? " 



THE WINNING SUIT. 167 

" Xo, you shall not see me again soon," said Kazi- 
mir. "I would rather stay away from home just now." 

''Well, then, you will shake hands, at least," and 
Luoyan, still smiling, held out his hand. 

Kazimir stood gazing down at the outstretched 
hand with a frown. It was a finely shaped hand, 
delicate and white ; and yet Kazimir stared down at 
it in a sort of horror. He put out his own, then drew|j 
it back and turned abruptly away. 

"Excuse me, Lucyan," he said, hoarsely, "but I 
think we had better not shake hands. I can forgive 
her, but I cannot forgive you." 

" Just as you like," answered Lucyan, still smiling. 
But in the next instant that half-sneering smile faded 
from his face. He looked at his brother curiously. 
" You will not shake hands ? " he said, slowly. " Well, 
perhaps you are right." 



PART II, 



171 



CHAPTER I. 



UNDERPLAY. 



Nay, I will win my wager better yet ; 
And show more sign of her obedience, 
Her new-built virtue and obedience." 

— Shakbspeare. 



It was Easter-time, and a man said to his wife — 
"Have you ordered the haba'^ for the Svneta^?" 
The wife, who was studying her complexion in the 
glass, instead of giving out raisins, and flour, and eggs 
in the store-room, as every Polish housewife is bound 
to do at Easter-time, answered with a start, " No, I 
was waiting till my cousin came ; I never can remem- 
ber the quantities." 

" I wonder when you will begin to remember the 
quantities," answered the husband ; " by the time your 
curls are grey, I suppose. How long have we been 

^ A species of cake, baked in a high and narrow shape, and 
peculiar to Easter-time in Poland. This same word also signifies 
grandinother, also old woman generally. 

- Feast-day. 



172 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

married ? Four years this summer, and I do not 
believe you know kasza from barley yet." 

" I shall go and order the tctba at once, since you 
wish it." The wife rose with flurried obedience, and 
the complexion, no longer reflected in the glass, 
deepened to crimson. 

Her husband watched her till she had reached the 
door, and then called her back. " You know, of course, 
exactly how many Ictba you are to order ? " 

The wife grew more flurried, and more anxious to 
obey. " I forgot to count ; let me see, how many are 
we ? One, two, three," she counted nervously on her 
fingers, " four, five, six. I think we had six last 
Easter." 

" We need one more than we had last Easter," 
remarked the husband. 

The wife was thrown off her balance. She did not 
understand why they should require one haha more 
than they had last Easter; and she did not dare to 
ask her husband directly. 

" Let me see : " she counted again. " One for you, 
one for me, one for your brother, one for my cousin, 
one for my aunt, and then the little one for Wandusia. 
That is six, is it not ? " she suggested, humbly. 

" Order seven," said the husband, without changing 
his position, while slowly he passed an ivory comb 
through his hair, which grew up straight and thick 



UXDEKPLAY. . 173 

from his low forehead like a crest, — a serpent's crest, 
some one had once remarked. 

In spite of her humility, and in spite of her sub- 
missiveness, this seventh haba was simple torture to 
the curiosity of the wife. A Ictba was to be baked for 
each member of the family — such was the custom — 
and the family at this moment numbered exactly 
six members. For whom then could this seventh 
haha, this mysterious and unexplained haba^ be in- 
tended? She had almost screwed up her courage to 
the point of putting the question, when her husband 
spoke again. He told her to come back as soon as 
she had done with the raisins, and almonds, and eggs, 
and flour in the store-room, as he wished her to write 
a letter. 

More surprise and more curiosity, mingled with a 
little fear this time. Her husband very seldom asked 
her to write a letter ; and when he did ask her, the 
task was performed in fear and trembling ; for not the 
smallest slip was allowed to pass uncensured ; each of 
her school-girlish mistakes had to meet the full blast 
of his withering sarcasm. 

The seventh haba, and the letter to be written, 
seemed to have some hidden link between them. For 
whom was the haha 1 and to whom was she to 
write % She speculated so hard upon these questions, 
that she poured the raisins into the ground coffee by 



174 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

mistake, and mixed up the coarse and the fine flour 
without ever noticing it. 

When she was told to whom she was to write, her 
surprise increased tenfold. 

" But — but/' she ventured in reply, " how can I do 
that ? Would it not be better if you wrote instead ? " 

"It is just because it would not be better, that I 
intend you to write," was the answer. *'He would 
not come for the sake of my letter, and he will come 
for the sake of yours. There is paper, sit down at 
once." 

" Really ? Do you mean it really ? " 

" Do I ever make jokes ? " 

" But — but, won't he think it very strange ? " 

" Let him think it what he likes." 

" And what am I to call him ? " 

" His name, of course," said the husband, impatiently. 

" And how am I to say it ? " 

" Any way you like — in your own words. Put in 
a few pretty phrases about sisterly affection, or any 
other sort of affection that you prefer. T give you 
leave to be as aifectionate as you like — and I shall 
not look at your letter ; do you understand ? " 

She understood. ' That is to say, she understood 
what she was to do ; although she did not in the least 
understand why she was to do it. 

The letter w^as written, and the seventh hala was 



UNDERPLAY. 175 

baked, and so were many other hciba all over tlie 
country. The flour which was weighed out, and 
mixed, and put in the oven during these days before 
Easter, would have been enough to sand the ground 
of a moderate-sized desert; the milk which flowed in 
every kitchen, like streams of white blood, might have 
furnished a respectable ocean ; the eggs which were 
boiled hard in pans and kettles, would handsomely 
have sufliced to stone to death half a hundred martyrs. 
The new-born lambs that were beginning to leap over 
the new-born grass, dotting the green fields with dazz- 
ling spots of white, and biting off the daisy buds, as 
they frisked their fluffy tails, found their whiteness 
and their innocence rivalled all at once by another 
host of lambs that started up about this time, and 
flourished their red-and-blue paper flags out of every 
village-grocer's window. 

But at Tarajow there was not only a grocer but a 
confectioner. A confectioner who kept pink and 
white cakes and real macaroons, and concerning whom 
there existed a tradition that he had once^ attempted 
ices and failed in the speculation. Easter was wont 
to be a busy time for him; for many of the small 
families of the place ordered their haba here to save 
trouble; but this Easter somehow the trade seemed 
slack. Many a time did the confectioner, standing 
at his window, say to himself, — "Here is a person 



176 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

coming to order his baha or placJci^ for Easter- 
day ; " but nine times out of ten the person trudged 
past, and trudged straight up the worn steps of the 
apothecary's alongside ; and ten minutes later he 
would trudge down again with a bottle of medicine 
in his hand. After fuming over a dozen such disap- 
pointments, the confectioner paid an inquisitive visit 
to his neighbour. 

" What is that medicine of which you sell so much, 
Jan Wronski ? " he asked, with a suspicion of irrita- 
bility in his voice. " It seems to have a better taste 
than my haba and placldy 

" It is an astringent," said Jan Wronski, dis- 
mally. 

The confectioner felt much the wiser. 

" And is that your last remedy for hydrophobia ? " 
he inquired loftily, his irritability turning to sarcasm. 
But Jan Wronski was invulnerable to sarcasm. And 
just then another person came in by the door with a 
bottle to be filled. 

" How is the baba ? " asked Jan, as he took the 
bottle. 

The barefooted peasant-girl gave a stupid stare. 
•' The baba is dying," she said, in a dull and emotion- 
less voice. " We have been hanging out her grave- 
clothes to air these two days. She will be dead before 

^ Flat cake, stuffed with dried fruits. 



UNDERPLAY. 177 

Easter, and the little ones are taking it too. The 
matka^ has sold her last coral to the Jew, and she 
cannot show her face on the Swieta without them. 
At the mention of the dying haba there was no sign 
of feeling, or scarcely of understanding ; but at the 
mention of the last coral, the homely face quivered 
a little. 

" What is it ? " asked the awed confectioner, drop- 
ping both sarcasm and irritability, and turning rather 
pale. " It is not the fever, is it ? " 

" Yes, it is the fever," said Jan, corking the bottle 
tight. " The fever is on us again. There, do you see 
the prohoszcz^ passing? What do you think he is 
going to do ? " 

" Bless the placki and haha for Easter - day," 
answered the confectioner, with a confectioner's 
instinct. 

" So he will," said Jan, " if they be on his way, but 
there are other haha that need more blessing just 
now ; baba that have not come out of your oven, or 
any other ; " and Jan Wronski gave a sort of dismal 
laugh at the success of his own ghastly joke, and felt 
almost cheerful at sight of the confectioner's depression. 

" The fever ! " repeated the confectioner to himself ; 
being a confectioner he was of a soft and impression- 
able nature, and he slank back home, sighing at the 

^ Mother. ^ Parish priest. 

VOL. 11. M 



178 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

thought of SO many vainly-baked haba, and of so 
many placJci in which the fruit should shrivel, wait- 
ing vainly for buyers. He would sell them half-price, 
he desperately resolved ; but why need the fever have 
come just at Easter ? 

No one knew why the fever should have come, 
except that the winter had been a mild winter ; and 
that such a winter brings its punishment in Poland. 
Just as the lambs were beginning to frisk, and just 
as the rough -coated foals began to trot along the 
roads by the side of the cart which their mothers 
drew ; and just as the blue periwinkles were setting 
to weave bridal wreaths for the peasant-girls to wear, 
the fever came into the place, borne upon the very 
wings of the spring breeze, and tainting the gold of 
the April sunshine with its vicious breath. 

It took the old people first, those who should by 
rights have died in winter, who could only have lived 
through till spring by a mere chance. It would come 
back for the young people later, no doubt. In spite of 
the sunshine, in spite of the early violets, this Easter 
will be a sad one for many ; for the sun will shine on 
fresh grave-mounds, and the violets will be bound into 
wreaths to deck them. Many an empty chair will 
speak of the kind old haha who is gone, and many a 
little one will have sickened and died before even it 
had time to finish its Easter haba. 



179 



CHAPTER 11. 

OUT OF THE GAME. 

" I pray thee, mark me,— that a brother should 
Be so perfidious." 

—The Tempest. 

On Easter-eve, towards dusk, a hussar on horseback 
was approaching Tarajow from the west. The coun- 
try on this side bore a character quite distinct from 
the richly wooded hills which lay to the east. Here, 
from the very gates of the town, there stretched a wide 
expanse, dreary in its flatness ; a country of stunted 
grass on which grew stunted willows. There was a 
deserted, starved, and melancholy look about this tract 
of land ; the very cows, driven here to graze, looked 
thin and sad ; and the very daisies and buttercups, 
called out by the April sunshine, appeared to be dwarfs 
of.their race, staring upwards at the sky witli pinched 
faces and weak eyes. 

Cutting this dreary stretch almost in two, a sluggish 
stream lazily dragged its waters along. Dull and slow 



180 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

and slimy was that stream ; green with floating duck- 
weed, black with stagnant pools. For years it had 
licked its banks with sullen tongue till the willow- 
roots hung bare, and the earth crumbled gently down- 
wards. The stream had no life, save when one of the 
thin and sad cows came to the edge to drink; or when 
a frog leaped from the bank to the water with a hop 
and a splash ; or when a swallow on a gnat-hunt 
skimmed the sleepy surface. 

There was no highroad on this tract — nothing but 
a footpath led through it ; the stream, running straight 
across the line of the path, was bridged by a rickety 
plank with a rickety handrail at one side. 

Along this path the hussar was riding this Easter- 
eve. He rode slowly, at a foot-pace, the reins hanging 
loose on the horse's neck — so loose that the beast stole 
many a bite at the willow-bushes in passing. Close 
at the horse's heels a yellow setter trotted contentedly 
along. The rider was alone with his horse and his 
dog, for the meagre cows had been driven home from 
their meagre pasture more than an hour ago. He 
looked neither to the right nor the left, at the stunted 
willows nor at the dwindling daisies ; his eyes were 
fixed before him in a sort of dreamy abstraction.. 

It did not seem as if he were in a hurry to reach 
Tarajow ; and neither was he in a hurry, although he 
was wending his way there in the mere vague hope of 



OUT OF THE GAME. 181 

finding it less dreary than the wretched village station 
in which he was quartered. An Easter-eve, when 
every one is cheerful, and comrades are starting for 
visits home, is apt to make a lonely man feel more 
lonely ; and this man was lonely, with no home where 
he could go for Easter. The very church-bells, ringing 
out their Easter peals, seemed to be telling him more 
distinctly that he was a lonely man. So deep was his 
abstraction, that he had reached the stream, and did 
not notice it until the horse stood still. 

He gathered up his reins and looked around him. 
The plank, some paces to the right, was too narrow to 
cross wdth safety. He knew that, for he had passed 
here often before, and touching his horse with the 
spur, he prepared to cross by his usual ford. The 
dusk was falling fast, but he could distinctly see that 
there was a figure on the bridge — a woman, with her 
back towards him and her head bent downwards as 
she leant over the rail, looking straight at the water. 
Apparently the woman was as deeply abstracted as 
the rider had been a minute ago, for the horse's foot- 
fall on the grass w^as not enough to rouse her. 

This ford was so rarely disturbed that the green 
water-weed had ample time to spread itself luxuriantly 
in the intervals. The spot was thick with weed just 
now, and it was with a fearful and hesitating step that 
the horse lifted its feet through the slippery slime 



182 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

which wound itself and clung about its hoofs. The 
centre of the stream was reached, and the hateful green 
stuff had risen to its knees, when the horse all at once 
gave a start and a plunge, sending a rain of green 
water over its rider's head. There had been a splash 
hard by, alongside of the bridge — a much louder splash 
than the hopping of a frog could make ; it sounded 
like the fall of a heavy stone. Whatever it was, it 
was enough to frighten a horse in the dusk ; and the 
scared animal snorted and bounded till the green water 
splashed not only over the rider, but also over the 
woman on the bridge. She turned at the noise, and 
for the first time caught sight of these figures on the 
scene. 

" I beg your pardon," said the rider, as he spurred 
his horse to the opposite bank and reached it. " I 
have frightened you, I am afraid, and splashed you as 
well. Down, Trappisto ! " as the yellow dog, stopping 
half-way in the water, threw up its head and gave vent 
to a few piercing and inimical barks. 

" That's all wrong," said the woman on the bridge ; 
" I frightened your horse." 

" It was a frog, I think, that frightened him or a 
falling stone." 

" That's all wrong again ; the stone did not fall ; it 
was thrown, and I threw it." 

"You were throwing it at a frog, I suppose," sug- 



OUT OF THE GAME. 183 

gested the rider, who could think of no other probable 
motive which could induce a young woman to stand 
on a lonely bridge at nightfall and throw stones into 
the water. 

" At a frog ? Not a bit of it ; I was throwing it in 
because I like the good thumping splash it makes. 
I always throw stones whenever I come here." 

The rider, as he drew up his horse beside the bridge, 
began to feel amused. 

"You like the sound of a splash?" 

" I like the sound of anything that makes a noise. 
I am desperately fond of noises. Aren't you ? " 

"I am afraid that I am not desperately fond of 
them," said the rider, feeling more amused. " I have 
plenty of them in my profession." 

"Ah yes, you are an officer." She looked at him 
more narrowly through the dusk ; and he, at the same 
time, looked more narrowly at her. What she saw 
was a handsome young hussar captain — for in spite of 
the dusk she could catch the three stars glimmering 
on his collar ; and what he saw was a young woman, 
short and plump, with fine black eyes, wavy black 
hair, and a brilliant, if somewhat coarse, complexion. 
She leant at the end of the bridge, with her back 
against the rail now, and she appeared quite open to 
further conversation. He had led a silent and a soli- 
tary life lately, and even this adventure was a little 



184 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

change. Moreover, there was something about this 
lonely spot which seemed to create a sympathy be- 
tween these two lonely people. Tor she seemed to be 
as lonely as he was ; why else should she have come 
out here while the Tarajow bells were ringing this 
festive peal, and the church was crowded for the ser- 
vice of the ZmartivTjcliwstanie ? -^ 

" So you find it more amusing to throw stones into 
the water than to go to church with the rest of the 
Tarajow people ? " remarked the hussar, as he reined 
in his impatient horse. The yellow dog — more green 
than yellow by this time — seeing that his master was 
bent u]3on this foolish and unnecessary halt, sat down 
on the bank in shivering resignation, and faintly 
wagged his tail, as much as to say that he was able 
to resign himself with a cheerful spirit, if duty so 
demanded it. 

" And you find it more amusing to ride about ? " said 
the young woman, who all this time was gazing at 
him a great deal more narrowly than he was gazin^i: 
at her. " Is this the way you intend to spend your 
Easter?'' 

" I have nowhere to go to at Easter," answered the 
rider, with a smile, and a sigh on the back of the smile. 

" You have a brother you might go to," said the 
young woman. 

^ Resurrection. 



OUT OF THE GAME. 185 

The rider started and flushed. " How do you know 
that ? " he asked quickly, perhaps a trifle proudly. 

"Because I know who you are," was the answer. 
" You are Kazimir Bielinski." 

" That is wonderfully well guessed. I am Kazimir 
Bielinski." 

" It is not guessed ; I recognised you." 

" Have you ever seen me before ? " 

" Never ; but I know you by a likeness ; " and to 
herself the woman added, " he is stronger and taller. 
but it is the same face." 

The hussar felt more amused than ever. " What 
else do you know about me ? " he inquired. 

" I know that you got a letter this morning." 

" There is a wrong guess ; I have not had a letter for 
a week." 

" Well, you will get it to-night then ; I forgot that 
the post takes three days for three miles." 

" How do you happen to know this ? " 

" Because I posted the letter." 

" You did ! " The rider looked sorely puzzled. 
Most gladly would he have put to the black-haired 
woman the question, " Who the dickens are you ? " 
only that it would have seemed to him rude. " I beg 
your pardon ; but is the letter from you, then ? " 

'' No ; I don't know from whom the letter is ; but 
it comes from Wowasulka." 



186 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Again the rider flushed, and bit his lip this time, 
and the young woman gazed at him very curiously 
through the dusk. 

" I don't know of any one at Wowasulka who could 
write to me," reflected the rider, — "except Marcin." 
He did not notice that he had said it aloud until the 
woman's answer startled him. 

" No, the letter is not from Marcin," she said, 
abruptly. 

Certainly she was a very strange young woman, he 
considered; and before he had recovered from this 
fresh shock of surprise, the young woman proved her- 
self to be stranger still. 

"You have been here in garrison all winter," she 
observed, picking up a large stone from the bank and 
flinging it right into the centre of a pool. 

" The regiment came to Poland last autumn," said 
Kazimir, more and more puzzled by her manner. 

" And you have kept very clear of Wowasulka, have 
you not ? " She flung a handful of gravel after the 
stone. 

Was he to take off'ence, or was he to go on being 
amused at this strange frankness ? Kazimir asked 
himself. He decided on the latter course. 

"I have not been there lately," he answered, 
evasively. She shrugged her shoulders and laughed. 

" You're not particularly fond of your brother, I 



OUT OF THE GAME. 187 

fancy ? neither am I, for the matter of that — of one of 
your brothers, that is to say, — I can't bear men who 
move so quietly. Well, I should advise you to go 
home and read your letter. I daresay there's some- 
thing about it in there." 

" And you are sure it is a real letter, — not a myth 
or a hoax ? " 

" It may be a hoax ; but I know it isn't a myth. 
They gave it me to post when I was up at the house 
yesterday with some medicine." 

" There is nobody ill there ? " asked Kazimir, quickly. 

" The little girl is ill, — cutting her teeth, I heard." 

" And you do not know from whom the letter is ? " 

"Not I; go home and see for yourself; the letter 
must be there by this time, unless the postman is lying 
drunk in a ditch, which he very often is, for two days 
at a time. That is your way, isn't it .? " and she pointed 
back across the water. "Do you often ride this path ? " 

" Yes ; it is my short cut to Tarajow." 

" Good-night, then ; perhaps I shall see you again, — 
either here or elsewhere. You were very civil to me, 
you know, about the splashing and the dog ; " and the 
young woman looked at him approvingly. " You are 
just the sort of man of whom one would not mind 
asking a favour, if one needed it." 

" Thank you," said Kazimir, laughing. " Good- 
night." And he turned his horse and rode at the ford 



188 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

again, for he had no more thought of going to Tarajow 
that evening. 

As he reached the further bank, he heard the woman's 
voice calling after him — 

" You are wondering who I am, are you not ? I am 
the apothecary's daughter. Good-night." 

The apothecary's daughter ! A far-off recollection 
grew alive in Kazimir's mind. He knew that there 
had been an apothecary's daughter, a pretty apothe- 
cary's daughter, or one at least whom Marcin had found 
pretty four years ago ; and this apothecary's daughter 
certainly was pretty, even though she had lost her 
first short-lived freshness. But Kazimir did not 
speculate further on the subject just now, for his 
thoughts were all bent on the letter which awaited 
him at home. He started home at a much brisker 
pace than that at which he had come here, and, trot- 
ting along the pathway between the willows, he could 
still hear behind him the continued splash, splash, of 
the stones in the water; for the apothecary's daughter 
had apparently resumed her occupation on the bridge. 

Kazimir's depression and loneliness had given way 
all at once to an excited curiosity. It was not far 
from four years now that he had left home last, and 
it was three years since any communication had passed 
between him and his brother. Not long after Lu cyan's 
marriage, when the brothers had parted in coolness. 



OUT OF THE GAME. 189 

there arose a serious quarrel between tliem, the 
effects of which had lasted till now. The breach 
itself had come about in the following manner. 
Month after month slipped by since the wedding, 
and Kazimir heard no word further of the twelve 
thousand florins, which was to be the price of that 
paper signed at Verona on the same day as the Villa- 
franca peace. At first this silence left him indiffer- 
ent ; but by degrees it began to surprise and alarm 
him. Attacked by the exhortations of the Auditor, 
he realised at last that those twelve thousand florins 
were the sum of his possessions. Urged on by the 
same indefatigable mentor, he wrote to Lucyan, and 
received a politely evasive assurance of payment to 
follow. The payment did not follow. Kazimir waited 
another month, and then, under the Auditor's spur, 
wrote again more urgently. After the lapse of a few 
weeks, he received one thousand florins m payment. 
Some time after that the one thousand florins were 
followed by a small riding -horse. "The season has 
been such an unfruitful one," wrote Lucyan, that 
ready money is out of the question, so I send you 
your second thousand in the shape of a horse." 

It was a very pretty little horse, with a flowing 
mane and a long tail, but it was a great deal too small 
for Kazimir to ride, and he sold it next day for five 
hundred florins — the highest price he could get — to a 



190 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

lady who was setting up a pony-carriage. This horse, 
and more particularly its stature, finally brought 
matters to a crisis. Under the good-humoured taunts 
of his comrades, and foremost of Lohonzy, who made 
a point of inquiring every day whether he expected 
any more ponies from Poland, Kazimir awoke to the 
fact that his younger brother was making a fool of 
him. His blood was up from that moment, and 
instead of a letter of thanks for the pretty horse, 
Lucyan received a somewhat violent epistle, in which 
Kazimir demanded point-blank to know what his 
brother's intentions were. " I might insist if I 
chose," he wrote, remembering that the transaction 
between them was to be, after all, but a matter of 
form, — "I might insist upon Wowasulka being sold 
and my portion being paid out, but I do not wish 
to push you to extremes." The violent epistle was 
answered by a cool one, in which, however, it ap- 
peared that the matter of form had not been a matter 
of form at all, but a matter of great reality ; that 
Wowasulka belonged in fact, as well as on paper, to 
Lucyan, and to him alone. There followed a stormy 
correspondence, in which Kazimir found himself 
foiled and baffled at every point, and the upshot of 
which was that Lucyan offered his brother five 
thousand florins in place of twelve, declaring his 
utter inability to raise more off the estate. " Tliis is 



OUT OF THE GAME. 191 

my last word," said the letter, " and all I can do for 
you. If you are not satisfied, your way is clear : go 
to law. There is the paper of our agreement to put 
up against me, so the chances are good on your side. 
In about four or five years' time you might hope for 
a decision, and perhaps you may then gain five hun- 
dred florins more than I now offer you. I daresay 
that you will be glad of this opportunity of being so 
speedily revenged upon me, and upon /ler." 

Kazimir was pale with rage when he folded up this 
letter ; and the Auditor, seeing the strange whiteness 
of his face, asked him what was wrong. Kazimir told 
him of his brother's proposal, and the Auditor chuckled 
and cheerfully rubbed his hands. " A fine case," he 
murmured — " a very pretty case indeed. Don't you 
think so ? " 

" I do not think so," said Kazimir. 

" Why, of what are you afraid ? He cannot deny 
the paper. Just leave the matter to me, and see if 
you don't get your rights." 

" I do not intend to try," said Kazimir, tearing his 
brother's letter to shreds. 

The Auditor very nearly rolled off his chair in 
surprise. "You are joking, Bielinski, are you not? 
Be so kind as to say that you are joking. Let me 
hear you say that again. What is it you do not intend 
to do ? " 



192 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

" I am not going to law," said Kazimir, doggedly. 

The Auditor stormed, remonstrated, preached and 
threatened, all in vain ; and finally left the room in 
a passion, loudly declaring that he washed his hands of 
this young scatterbrain now and for ever. And Kazi- 
mir, when the door had slammed shut and he was 
alone, threw himself on a seat, covering his face with 
his hands. Family pride was very strong in him, but 
family pride alone might not have sufficed to keep 
him to his determination. It was the last word of 
Lucyan's letter that had clenched it. The unbearable 
thought of being at enmity with her, of appearing 
perhaps to be striving for revenge on Iter. 

He understood now, and saw distinctly that his 
brother had but used him as an instrument, and that 
he was a fool for his confidence and his trust ; but 
just this thought of wounded pride made him seal his 
lips on the subject henceforth. If he had been a fool, 
he would at least bear the effects of his folly in 
silence. It is a great mistake to pitch one's standard 
of human nature too high — people disappoint you, by 
falling short of it ; whereas if you can pitch it low, 
they surprise you by surpassing it. We have no right 
to expect that all men should be honourable, and all 
women true. Kazimir was only deservedly punished 
for his folly. Never from that day forth had he 
touched upon the subject, even to the Auditor; but 



OUT OF THE GAME. 193 

neither from that day had the Auditor been the same 
to him as in the former time. 

The breach between the brothers had been complete 
thenceforward, and all communication ceased. Not 
many months after the wedding, Bogumil had suc- 
cumbed to a second stroke of paralysis : of this Kazimir 
had been informed, and he had heard as well of the birth 
of a child. Marcin, he knew, had continued to live 
at Wowasulka ; boarded, clothed, and fed by Lucyan, 
wdio never gave him any trouble about account-books 
or reckoniugs, but kindly kept all his money for him. 
Never, perhaps, had an arrangement existed which 
was so entirely satisfactory to both parties concerned. 
It was only in the past autumn that Kazimir found 
himself with his regiment transferred to Poland. He 
was within a few miles of home now ; but he made 
no attempt at renewing broken ties. He heard his 
brother mentioned frequently, and mentioned always 
with respect, and a certain sort of admiration. " Are 
you the brother of Bielinski of Wowasulka ? " he had 
frequently been asked. " A lucky man Bielinski ; 
quite at the top of the tree ; has just been chosen 
Marszalek ; immense position, immense influence ; 
enlarged his estate, improved it wonderfully ; gives 
splendid entertainments ; has a beautiful wife ; the 
first man in the country now ! " All this Kazimir 
heard, and wondered to hear. Once only in the course 

VOL. II. N 



194 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR. 

of the last winter, when galloping down a snowy road, 
had he met his brother face to face. A sledge had 
passed him close, and in the occupant, though muffled 
in fur to his ears, he had recognised Lucyan. Their 
eyes had met for a moment, but both were going fast ; 
and that look of mutual recognition had been no more 
than a flash. Once again after that, Kazimir had 
caught sight of the sledge, but at a distance. He 
could see that there was a lady in it, for he caught 
the flutter of a veil ; and this time he had turned his 
horse and ridden straight away in an opposite direc- 
tion, as though he were riding for his very life. He 
had become almost used to the thought that the breach 
was to be a lifelong breach ; and yet, at the news that 
a letter from Wowasulka lay waiting for him at home, 
curiosity and excitement came to life at once. 

By good luck the postman had not chosen this day 
for going to sleep in a ditch, so the letter really was 
waiting for him at home. It was in a writing quite 
unknown to him ; a w^eak and meaningless writing, 
it struck him in the first moment — but in the next, 
he thought differently. The writing, from weak and 
meaningless, became all at once graceful and feminine : 
for he had opened the envelope, and the name signed 
at the bottom of the page was " Xenia." He trembled 
so at that sight that the paper shook in his hands. 
Wild possibilities rose up and tortured him, for lie 



OUT OF THE GAME. 195 

could not imagine the reason of this letter. Perhaps 
she wanted his help. Lucyan had ill-used her, and 
she had fled from him. Kazimir's imagination was on 
fire in a moment, and burning so hotly, that his calm- 
ness was scarcely equal to the task of reading the 
page. Lucyan had not ill-used her, it seemed, nor 
had she fled from him. Kazimir had pitched his 
expectations a great deal too high. She began by 
calling him " My dear brother Kazimir," and she went 
on to say that he would, no doubt, be very much sur- 
prised to hear from her, but that she hoped, really 
hoped very much, that it would not be a disagreeable 
surprise. " We heard several months ago," the pretty 
smooth writing ran on, " that you had come to Poland, 
and we have been expecting every day that you would 
come and see us. It was very unkind of you to stay 
away, and I hope you will never do it again. You 
might have guessed that I wanted to see you after 
such a long time, and I have never yet shown you my 
little Wandusia. Every one says she will be just like 
me ; I wonder whether you will find it so. I am 
afraid you have quite forgotten us all, and never care 
to think of me at all. If you want to show that it is 
not true, you must come and spend the Easter-week 
with us : I know that Lucyan is very anxious for it. I 
think that I shall bake a fresh hdba for you, all by 
myself, to reward you if you come. Lucyan says," — 



196 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

but the last two words were stroked out, and a new 
line begun. 

" Of course, if you are really not able to forget the 
quarrel with Lucyan, it would be better if you did not 
come ; but it would make me very unhappy to think 
that I should be the cause. I am quite sure that you 
will never say a word about the disagreeable things 
that are past, but that you will come, as I ask you; to 
make our quiet family Easter more cheerful." 

" Angel of goodness ! " cried Kazimir, as he read ; 
" she cannot bear to see the breach between us ; she 
cannot rest without trying to turn enemies into 
friends." 

He was deeply and strangely moved by this letter. 
His own emotion filled him with wondering surprise. 
It w^as four years nearly since he had seen her last, 
and he had struggled for calmness until he thought he 
had gained it. After the first agony of such a dis- 
appointment, there follows a period of dull suffering, 
less keen but more dreary ; and on that again, there 
follows calmness, or what passes for calmness as long 
as it meets with no shock. Even a very small stone 
is enough to break the calmness of a pool of water. 
Xenia's letter might be a very small stone indeed, but 
it had ruffled the quiet of Kazimir's mind. It en- 
tangled him in doubts and questions. Should he go ? 
Should he stay? Should he grasp the olive-branch 



OUT OF THE GAMK 197 

held out to him, or should he thrust it back ? What ! 
and with the olive-branch thrust back the delicate 
hand which held it out ? Surely such a course would 
be brutal. However little he might wish for Lucyan's 
friendship, it would be wrong to deprive that angel of 
the reward of the good work which she had set herself 
to do. 

Perhaps conscience whispered faintly, " Do not go ; 
it is not safe ; " but pride cried out louder, " Everything 
is safe to a strong man. What is there to fear ? Be- 
cause you loved her four years ago, you need not love 
her now." And there were many other things which 
stood up on this second side. The dreariness of the 
long winter, the loneliness of half an hour ago, the 
brightness of the prospect offered him, the Easter-bells 
still ringing in his ears ; they all spoke for the second 
side, — and Kazimir decided to go. 



198 



CHAPTEE III. 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 



" Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes " 

—Virgil. 



When Kaziinir started for Wowasulka on Easter- 
Monday morning, his sensations were varied and con- 
tradictory. He felt a little uneasy, more curious, and 
very generous. The nearer he drew to Wowasulka, 
the more did his own conduct strike him as truly 
magnanimous. He was going freely to forgive the 
brother who had so gravely offended him, and this 
merely because a pretty little childish note had asked 
him to do so. He hoped only that the quiet family 
Easter was not going to be combined with a solemn 
family reconciliation ; he trusted that he was not go- 
ing to be formally asked for his forgiveness, which he 
greatly preferred to give tacitly. The meeting would 
be a painful one to Xenia. For her sake he wished it 
over. Would she colour as vividly as she had coloured 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 199 

that day on the eve of the wedding, when he had come 
upon the group in the forest ? What would she be 
doing when first he should see her to-day ? Perhaps 
he would not see her ; for Kazimir just now remem- 
bered the words of the apothecary's daughter, and fell 
to drawing pictures in his mind of Xenia, as a pale 
and anxious mother, keeping watch by the side of her 
sick child. 

He was on Wowasulka ground by this time, and 
curiously he looked about him. Surprise began to 
grow up in him at what he saw. Every spot that 
brought recognition brought also a feeling of strange- 
ness. There were new roads where there had been 
none before ; there were well-kept roads where there 
had been bad ones. What had been small and pinched 
looked large and well-to-do. These signs of an improved 
fortune showed more distinctly with every step towards 
the house. They culminated in Lucyan's garden ; for 
here there burst upon Kazimir's sight a large and 
brilliant conservatory, flashing back the April sun- 
shine from each of its polished panes, while the modest 
flower-beds of four years ago were replaced by elabor- 
ately planned borders, bright with purple and yellow 
crocuses ; the stony and once bare slope, which swelled 
towards the forest, was now clothed with flowering 
shrubs, well tended, and massed with a care which 
betrayed a loving and masterly eye ; while every rock, 



200 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

tall or flat, sharp or round, wore a flowing and luxuri- 
ous robe of green ivy. 

In spite of the consciousness of his magnanimity, 
there fell upon Kazimir a strange trepidation as he 
dismounted at the door. Before he had left the saddle, 
a hum of voices struck on his ear ; men's voices and 
women's voices, and laughter mingled with the clink 
of glasses and plates. The quiet family Easter did not 
appear to him as so very quiet after all. 

The dining-room door stood open, and Kazimir found 
his way in unannounced. There were over fifteen peo- 
ple in the room, most of them gentlemen in dress- 
coats : there was a long table, literally loaded with 
dishes, groaning under the weight of hams and eggs, of 
cold sucking pigs and cakes; and round this table, 
some sitting, some standing, the company were vari- 
ously grouped. Almost every gentleman was either 
raising a full liqueur-glass to his lips, or putting down 
an empty liqueur-glass on the table, or clinking his 
liqueur-glass against another liqueur-glass held towards 
him. Those who did not hold a glass, held an egg, — for 
Polish etiquette demands that, at the Easter Sviezone, 
every gentleman should drink a glass of wodki with 
the host, and crack a hard-boiled egg with the hostess. 
And this, at the present moment, every one was en- 
gaged in doing, amid much laughter and gaiety. 

Kazimir saw none of this at all, or saw it but vaguely. 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 201 

All that was distinct to him was Xenia, standing at the 
further end of the room with a red egg in her hand, 
which she laughingly held towards the gentleman 
before her. Her rich blue -silk dress trailed to the 
ground, heavy with lace and elaborate trimmings ; 
gold bracelets flashed upon her wrists, and through 
her chestnut hair a blue ribbon wound in and out, to 
flutter at her neck. 

This picture only did Kazimir see, as he paused in 
the doorway, not noticing even the hush in the hum 
of voices which greeted his appearance. But Xenia 
noticed the hush, and, turning her head, saw Kazimir. 
Instantly her raised hand was dropped, leaving the egg 
uncracked ; and with a smile breaking over her face — 
but not the vivid blush of four years ago — she came 
towards him down the room. 

" You have come, after all ; I am so glad ! How 
good of you ! Then you got my letter. Lucyan said 
you would not come ; but I knew you would." All 
this time the smile of welcome was on her face, and 
her hand was held towards him, waiting to be shaken, 
or perhaps kissed, according to Polish custom ; though 
in his first bewilderment he did not see it. She raised 
the other again, laughing, — the one which held the 
egg. " You must crack an egg with me, you know ; 
that is the first thing. We must crack an egg before 
we say another word. I have never cracked an egg 



202 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

with you ; for you went away before Easter that time, 
you know." 

The egg was cracked ; and Kazimir, still rather 
dazed, found himself, in another minute, shaking hands 
with everybody around — with his brother Lucyan 
amongst others — being introduced to strange people, 
and reintroduced to former acquaintances. 

" I do not know whether you remember my brother 
Kazimir," said Lucyan, leading him up to an elderly 
lady, whose gold-rimmed eye-glass gave him somehow 
a chill shock of recognition. That gold-rimmed eye- 
glass would always seem to be mixed up with the 
most miserable moment of his life. 

" I remember your brother Kazimir very w^ell," 
answered a cracked voice, at the sound of which a 
second chill shock touched Kazimir. " I remember 
him most remarkably well ; " and the owner of the 
cracked voice and the gold-rimmed eye-glass gave a 
visible shudder, as if at some alarming recollection. 
" I saw him at the time of " 

" He has come back," said Lucyan, emphatically ; 
as emphatically as though the words were to convey 
a warning to the elderly lady. The elderly lady ap- 
parently understood the warning. With a visible 
effort she stretched out three frail fingers towards the 
returned brother, and with a visible effort she conjured 
up an hysterical smile to her face. 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 203 

" Ah, well, SO you have returned ; it must be a 
great comfort to your excellent brother." 

" I don't know," said Kazimir, somewhat staggered. 
Ever since his entrance the conversation and the 
laughter had been hushed ; and at the moment when 
the elderly lady addressed him, a silence had fallen on 
the guests. Every liqueur-glass and every egg was 
arrested in the air ; every fan stopped its rattling, and 
every face was turned towards this side of the room, 
as though to watch some interesting scene. The 
silence, the poised liqueur -glasses, the faces turned 
this way, were alike incomprehensible to Kazimir. 
What this interesting scene was, he alone of all the 
guests was unable to imagine ; but with a vague and 
uneasy suspicion, he began to guess that he was the 
chief actor in that scene. Why was he made thus into 
tlie central point of the entertainment? Why had 
every one pressed his hand so warmly, and looked at 
him so benevolently ? He had seen tears of emotion 
in a grey-haired gentleman's eyes ; what could they 
mean? 

" A great comfort," resumed the elderly lady, amidst 
the impressive silence, — " a very great comfort to your 
excellent brother, as well as to all your relations." 

" I am sure I hope so," said Kazimir, laughing, in 
hope of throwing off this undefined solemnity which 
oppressed him ; and he looked around him for a re- 



204 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

sponse to his laughter — but no response came. He 
met the same looks as before, — as benevolent as before, 
and as kind, — but to his laughter there was no answer 
except gravity. The occasion was evidently considered 
to be far above laughter. He looked from one face to 
the other, and his own laugh died out ; he looked at 
the grey-haired gentleman last, and saw that the tears 
of emotion which he had seen shining were prepared 
to fall in a minute more. 

" Four years is a long time, — a very long time in- 
deed," the cracked voice was saying ; and the tone 
seemed to convey a sort of reproach to him for the 
length of time, — a rebuke for the scale on which it 
had pleased him to model these four years. 

" Yes ; the regiment has had plenty of changes since 
then," said Kazimir, not daring to laugh again, or even 
to smile, but trying nevertheless to talk lightly. " Italy 
first, then Vienna, then " 

The elderly lady moved up her two hands quickly, 
and shut both her eyes. " We need not talk of that'' 
she exclaimed, with a nervous shudder, as though the 
subject were too painful to be touched upon. " We are 
not pressing to know where you have been, or what 
you may have been doing, these four years. Let by- 
gones be bygones." 

"By all means," broke in Lucyan's voice at this 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 205 

juncture ; " but we must hear of Kazimir's adventures 
another time." 

The elderly lady dropped her hands, opened her 
eyes, and shook her head at the speaker, with a sort 
of tender reproof. "Don't let your generosity run 
away with you," that look and that shake of the head 
seemed to say; "it is better that he should see things 
as they are." 

Once more the cracked voice was raised : " Yes ; ah, 
well, let bygones be bygones ; many a fresh leaf is 
turned over at Easter-time. We have every — hope ; " 
she hesitated before the word " hope," as though the 
expression were almost too strong to be candidly used ; 
" every — hope for favourable changes, now that you 
have come back." The " favourable changes " were 
unmistakably the climax of the speech. Again the 
three frail fingers were stretched towards him, and 
again the hysterical smile was conjured ujd to beam 
upon him. 

But Kazimir did not take the fingers this time, for 
the truth had flashed upon him. He had wondered 
what was the part he was supposed to be playing, 
now he wondered no longer : he saw that his part was 
that of the prodigal son. The benevolence and the 
solemn hush, and even the emotional tears were fully 
explained now. They meant it well by him; for 



206 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

though he had kept away so long from the family 
roof, and though his past was too painful a subject to 
be publicly mentioned, and though he had wallowed 
in the mire of vice for four years past, they had all 
opened their arms to receive him now. They had not 
indeed put a gold ring on his finger; they had not 
offered him gold in 'that or in any other shape ; but 
they had bidden the guests, and decked their table, and 
killed the fatted calf, to take from his mouth the taste 
of the unclean husks ; for it was Easter-time, and the 
sun was shining brightly outside, and mankind was 
at peace, one with the other; and he was to be for- 
given for everything that he had not done. 

The first wild impulse which possessed him was to 
spoil the end of the parable by turning where he 
stood, and declaring into the very faces of the guests 
that he would have none of the fatted calf, for that he 
did not repent his ways. He who had come here to 
forgive, was he to stand thus meekly and be forgiven ? 

It was not to be borne ; the wild fierce words of 
denial were all but bursting from his lips, when a soft 
hand was laid on his arm, and a soft voice whispered : 

" You are tired with your ride, are you not ? And 
you have eaten nothing; will you have veal-pie or 
ham?" 

Fortunately for Kazimir's peace of mind, he had not 
perceived the sign made by the husband, and obeyed 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 207 

by the wife. In that touch on his arm, and that 
whisper beside him, he saw nothing but a spontaneous 
impulse of most charming hospitality ; it fell like oil 
upon the waters of his wrath. 

" Ham, if you please," came quite meekly from his 
lips, instead of the fierce words of denial which had 
been burning there in the same minute ; and the 
tamed prodigal allowed himself to be led to the table 
— to a further end where there were no <:ruests linfrer- 
ing — and looked on submissively while his hostess 
helped him to a great deal more ham than he could 
possibly eat. 

The worst moment for Kazimir was now over ; but 
the feeling of the prodigal left its shadow upon him. 
He was always finding himself in the best place — by 
Xenia, of course — and always getting helped to the 
best bits, — at neither of which favours it was possible 
to take offence. Everything which he ate, whether it 
was sweet, sour, or peppered, tasted to him like fatted 
calf; and every guest wore the exact expression which 
he had always imagined to have been worn by the 
friends of the prodigal's father, who were called to- 
gether to rejoice with him, because he that was lost 
had been found again. Hour after hour of the fore- 
noon passed ; the first guests left to make another 
station in their Easter-pilgrimage round the country, 
and new guests arrived, fresh from their last station. 



208 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

And each guest, whether arriving or departing, whether 
young or old, whether man or woman, seemed equally 
determined to forgive him for some vague, unexplained, 
undefined, yet grievous harm that he had done ; and 
all looked at Kazimir with the same eyes, and seemed 
only to stop short of patting him on the back, and 
saying heartily, " Cheer up ! You are to have another 
chance of regeneration ! " Even the sucking-pigs on 
the table, with the juicy lemon between their teeth, 
seemed to grin at him forgivingly each time he passed : 
the haba, decking the board like miniature hay- 
stacks, squinted and winked at him with well-mean- 
ing raisin-eyes, as much as to say, that though they 
knew all about it, they did not mean to rake up old 
wrongs ; for that it was Easter-time, and many a new 
leaf was to be turned over now. 

Fifty times did Kazimir repent having come here 
to walk blindfolded into this benevolent trap, and 
fifty times was he mollified by a word or a look of his 
hostess into repenting his repentance. If he did not 
stand up and deny it all, so he told himself, it was 
only for the sake of not annoying Xenia. It did not 
occur to him, that even were he to do so, he would not 
be believed ; that he would be regarded simply as an 
unrepentant prodigal instead of a repentant one. For 
he forgot that his brother was the rich Bielinski and 
he the poor Bielinski ; that Lucyan was the chief 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 209 

personage and Marszalek of the country, while he was 
a penniless hussar, and that therefore his brother 
would be right and he would be wrong. No reason 
as logical as this induced Kazimir to hold his tongue ; 
he was silent only from the fear of seeing a cloud rise 
to that pearly-white brow. What was irritating in the 
others was soothing in her. There was no exception 
to be made to her manner as hostess. That shrink- 
ing shyness, those childishly appealing looks which 
Kazimir had known so well, were gone now, and 
replaced by a greater assurance of mien, by a fuller 
gaze and a more conscious gait. The quick blushes of 
seventeen, and that bashful lowering of long lashes, 
were gone too. Perhaps, had Kazimir been calmer, he 
might have missed them ; but he was far from calm. 
He had come here in some curiosity, wondering 
whether he were cured or not ; and the first glance 
of her eyes gave him his answer ; tlie first touch of 
her hand told him that he was not cured — that four 
years had done nothing to heal the old wound. 

She had changed, it is true ; not palpably, nor dis- 
tinctly, nor in any way which could be put into words, 
— and yet she had changed ; but it was a change 
which only made her more beautiful. She had 
matured and developed ; what had been promise at 
seventeen, was fulfilment at twenty - one ; what had 
then- been in bud was now in flower. And who 

VOL. II. 



210 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

does not prefer the flower to the bud, even though 
the dew may be a little brushed from off the perfect 
blossom ? 

Kazimir had never seen her so beautiful, nor had 
he ever seen her beauty set off to such advantage by 
dress. The rich silk, and creamy laces, and twinkling 
gold of her ornaments, gave to the young matron a 
brilliant frame which the young girl had never had. 

How it came about that Kazimir found himself 
constantly at Xenia's side, he took no trouble to 
analyse. He saw none of the manoeuvres, and sig- 
nals, and glances by which Lucyan, from the other 
end of the room, directed his wife's movements. It 
was from Xenia that he got all the news of the family. 
Where was Marcin ? Oh, Marcin always kept out of 
the way of visitors ; he w^as in his room, no doubt, 
possibly in his bed ; he seldom took the trouble of 
dressing himself completely, for he had got so strange 
and limp and dreamy these last years. And aunt 
Kobertine ? Yes, aunt Robertine lived with them 
also ; but she always went away for a few days at 
Christmas and Easter-time, so as to avoid any family 
gathering; she found the place too cheerful at such 
times, " and she finds that I am not grave enough," 
added Xenia, simply; " she says that I am too light for 
her taste. But I shall be so glad when she comes 
back, for she takes charge of the keys and everything." 



LUCYAN" PLAYS HEARTS. 211 

"And Vizia, what had become of her? Had she 
married ? " inquired Kizimir. 

" Married ? Oh no," said Xenia, with a little laugh ; 
" Vizia says she will never marry, and I suppose she 
will not ; she is not at all pretty, you know. Everybody 
wishes so that she would not go on as she is doing." 

" Has she been doing anything very dreadful ? " 
asked Kazimir, wondering whether the prodigal son 
had found a fellow-sinner in a prodigal daughter. 

" Well, it is rather dreadful," said Xenia, seriously. 
" She insists on living quite alone at Lodniki, and 
managing the farm by herself. She says she does 
not need any protection ; but she is not so old after 
all, just twenty-six now, and everybody was so dread- 
fully shocked. We wanted her to sell the place and 
live with us, but she would not. Lucyan says that 
he cannot bear strong-minded women ; I don't think 
any men do, do they ? " 

Kazimir answered that of course no man ever did, 
and inquired, for civility's sake, how Yizia prospered 
with her farm. 

" Not very well, I think," said Xenia. " I don't under- 
stand about that sort of thing at all, but Lucyan says 
she is so obstinate, and will not take any advice, and 
my uncle left a great many debts to the Jews. Lucyan 
says that if it had not been for the railway she would 
have been forced to sell Lodniki." 



212 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Kazimir had heard the railway much spoken of this 
winter ; its speedy construction was a common topic 
of conversation now. " So the railway is really going 
to be built, is it ? What a pity your poor uncle did 
not live to see his dream fulfilled ! " 

" Yes ; and they have put up white posts in a row 
to show where they mean to build it ; but I think they 
have not quite made up their minds yet. It is meant 
to go all through the Lodniki ground ; and Vizia looks 
at the white posts every morning from the window, 
and calls them her white posts, for she says they will 
make her rich. 1 told her that I could not bear 
having the noise and the smoke so close to the house. 
I am sure it would give me a headache; but Vizia is 
so strong, she never has headaches." 

" And is she spending Easter all alone at Lodniki ? " 

Xenia looked at him in surprise. " Oh no, she is 
here in the house ; she came over as soon as she heard 
that Wandusia was ill, — did not I tell you that she 
was cutting her teeth ? Vizia is taking care of her 
now." 

" To be siire." The sick child had entirely vanished 
from Kazimir's memory, and recurred to it only at 
this moment ; and now only he noticed that the 
pictures he had drawn of the pale and anxious 
mother had been replaced by a brighter and certainly 
more beautiful reality. 



LUCY AX PLAYS HEARTS. 231 

"Lucyan won't let me sit beside Wandusia for 
long," went on Xenia, with a charming pout; "he 
says it makes me look pale. My nerves are rather 
weak, you know. I could not bear to look on when 
they lanced Wandusia's gums — I ran away out of the 
room, and stopped my ears ; but Vizia has such strong 
nerves, she stayed in the room and she held Wandusia 
the whole time, although the poor darling screamed 
fearfully. I don't understand how one can do that 
when one has any feeling. Yizia never had much 
feeling in that way. I remember long ago, when we 
were children, we once found a nest full of young 
birds on the ground, which had been blown off a high 
tree in the storm. One of them was quite dead, and 
the others were all bleeding and crushed. Vizia 
wanted to have them all killed at once — she said it 
would put them out of pain ; but I cried and begged 
so hard that I was allowed to take them home." 

" And did they get quite tame ? " asked Kazimir. 

" Well," said Xenia, candidly, " they had not time, 
you know, because I forgot to feed them, and they 
died a few days after. But I cried dreadfully about 
it," she added in apology ; and certainly those tears 
must have quite made up to the little birds for their 
untimely end. 

While Xenia conversed with her brother-in-law 
after this sisterly fashion, she had many times been 



214 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

interrupted by guests departing, whom she had to 
escort to the door, or b}^ guests arriving, whom she 
had to receive. Gradually the stacks of haba began 
to be levelled, and gradually the egg-pyramids, which 
had at first appeared unconquerable, commenced to 
dwindle and shrink; the hams were beginning to show 
their bones, while of the sucking-pigs there remained 
little more than their grin. 

Nevertheless, five o'clock in the afternoon found the 
Wowasulka dining-room still full. No house was 
more assailed by Easter visitors than this of the new- 
made Marszalek. A swarm of black-coated courtiers 
hovered perpetually round his person. His opinion 
was asked, his views were agreed to, the arrangement 
of his flower-garden was admired. What were his 
opinions of the European peace ? What did he think 
of the chances of this year's crops? What was the 
last report of the railway company ? Was the Lod- 
niki line really to carry the day, or was the Bruszow 
line still on the tapis f And then, as to this fever in 
Tarajow, were the deaths really as numerous as re- 
ported? A string of questions, as long as this and 
longer, w^as being continually put to Lucyan by older 
men and more experienced men than himself, who, 
one and all, listened to his answers with at least out- 
ward respect. 

Lucyan answered the whole string of questions with 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 215 

a patience which was most admirable. His opinion 
of the European peace was good, and of the crops 
bad. He really knew very little about the railway 
company ; but the white posts were put up at Lod- 
niki, which any one could see for himself. The fever, 
he believed, was very strong at Tarajow — there were 
funerals daily — and it was a great bore certainly, com- 
ing just at this time ; for ever so many workmen had 
fallen off in consequence, and, as a result, the spring 
work suffered. 

" I am thankful to say that I have my oats all in 
the ground," said young Tiburtio, who was among the 
guests, and who for the last two years had been a 
married man. 

" There used never to be fevers in my day," re- 
marked a certain choleric old gentleman, who had 
grown more choleric as well as older in these last 
four years. " It all comes from the degeneracy of the 
times." 

" But there used to be cholera and pest to make up 
for it," suggested Lucyan ; and the guests, having had 
a good deal of wodki by this time, laughed aloud at 
the ready answer of the Marszalek. 

Another gentleman, who rolled his eyes ferociously, 
observed that no man present had outlived more 
fevers than he had. 

But the topic was not a festive topic, and it found 



216 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

no favour; it was dropped for more congenial sub- 
jects, while host and hostess pressed their guests to 
finish up the cheerful day by a cheerful evening. The 
mangled sucking-pigs had been replaced by whole 
ones ; fresh stacks were beginning to rise down the 
length of the long table ; a musical young gentleman, 
who had recently lost his voice, was just regretting 
his inability to favour the company with a song, 
which no one had asked for, when again the sound of 
carriage-wheels swept up to the door. 

Xenia rose instinctively to receive this new guest ; 
but Lucyan, turning from the window, made her a 
sign to sit still. " It is only the doctor to see after 
Wandusia," he whispered, as he passed her. 

Every one saw the doctor leave his carriage, and 
every one heard the doctor's steps going along the 
passage, and nobody thought anything further of it. 
The empty carriage began to drive slowly a little bit 
up the road, and then down again. The guests looked 
out of the window, criticised the horses, remarked 
that they were ill- matched, and then, growing tired 
of the amusement, gave up the contemplation of the 
doctor's equipage. Ten minutes later, looking out 
again, they were surprised to see the carriage still 
standing and still empty. The doctor was staying a 
long time in the house, thought the guests, as they 
waited for the return of their host. They waited full 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 217 

ten minutes longer ; they began to feel curious first 
then perhaps faintly uneasy. The doctor's well-known 
face had been the first check upon the festive spirit of 
the day; and somehow, as minute after minute passed, 
people's eyes began to turn impatiently towards the 
door, while unconsciously conversation flagged and 
stood still. There had been steps more than once in 
the passage, hurried steps passing ; and once a further 
door had opened, and the voice of a wailing child 
reached the listening ears. Then there was a pause, 
and then, to everybody's relief, the door opened. 

"You must not go home without a glass of wod- 
ki, doctor," Lucyan w^as saying, as he ushered the 
doctor in. 

The doctor was an old man, and rather short- 
sighted. He came a step into the room, then, peer- 
ing around him, he stood still and hesitated. 

" Oh," he said, with a slight start, " you have guests, 
I see; rather unfortunate." 

" Come, that is polite to us," cried one of the 
guests. They were all well acquainted with the doc- 
tor. " Let us break an egg, doctor, I say." 

But the doctor still stood and hesitated. 

" I am scarcely justified in intruding, although they 
say that doctors carry no infection.'* 

"And teething is not infectious," added Lucyan, 
with a laugh. But this time the Marszalek's joke 



218 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

was not echoed, and Lucyan himself was scanning the 
doctor's face very intently. 

" Teething is not infectious," repeated the doctor, 
slowly, while the guests looked at each other, with the 
cold chill of apprehension which had touched their 
hearts reflected on their faces. The hostess herself, 
with pale cheeks and startled eyes, was gazing from 
her husband's face to that of the doctor, and back 
again at her husband. 

Who it was that first pronounced the dreaded word 
no one knew ; but before another minute had passed, 
the truth w^as flying round the room from mouth to 
mouth. Every one whispered the word " fever " to 
his neighbour, and, instinctively, every person who 
was sitting rose, and every person who held a glass or 
a plate put it hastily down. 

The host, looking rather pale, was ushering the 
doctor out, and returned to receive the hasty shakes of 
the hand and hurried words of condolence of his de- 
parting guests. There was no possibility of veiling the 
truth by any roundabout phrases, for the plain word 
had been spoken, and the panic-stricken guests fled 
like sheep. 

In twenty minutes more the house was deserted, 
and nothing but the wrecks of habcc and the skele- 
tons of hams remained to tell of the joyful assembly 
there had been. 



LUCYAN PLAYS HEARTS. 219 

" And you," asked Lucyan, turning from the win- 
dow towards Kazimir, when the last of the carriages 
had driven off, " of course you are going to fly ? Do 
you want your horse led round ? " 

" No," said Kazimir. " Since I am here I shall 
stay." 



220 



CHAPTEK IV. 



LUCYAN PLAYS DIAMONDS. 



"By merit raised 
To that bad eminence. " 

— Paradise Lost. 



Of course Lucyan had motives. It was not merely 
because the sun was shining brightly outside, and 
because the Easter lamb had bleated of Easter peace 
over the green meadows, and the birds were chanting 
their paschal Halleluiah overhead, that he had decked 
his table and called together the guests to rejoice with 
him over the brother who had been lost and was 
found again. He w^as not a man to do anything 
without motives ; and he had plenty of motives this 
time, general as well as particular. The truest and 
warmest hearted man that ever lived could not have 
been more anxious than w^as Lucyan at this moment 
to till up the breach of the last four years. The rea- 
sons which made this desirable were various. To con- 
sider it merely from the ornamental point of view, it 



LUCYAX PLAYS DIAMONDS. 221 

looked well to have a Imndsoine hussar brother about 
the house. His uniform and moustache, his spurs and 
his riding-cane, would all display themselves to the 
general advantage and interest of the Marszalek's 
household. And not only his spurs and his mous- 
tache, — for Lucy an did full justice to his brother's 
happy qualities of mind and manner, " Poor Kazio ! 
he is a brilliant butterfly," Lucyan would say, with a 
mixture of pity and envy. He not only admitted the 
brilliancy of the butterfly, he insisted on it, and so the 
butterfly-nature became established with all the more 
certainty. The Marszalek liked to hear people say 
that he had the finest carriage, the best roses, the 
prettiest wife in all the neighbourhood, — so why not 
also the handsomest brother ? 

But it was not merely as an ornament that Lucyan 
desired his brother's presence. Kazimir might prove 
useful as well as ornamental. An estrangement be- 
tween two brothers always has something suspicious 
about it ; and Lucyan, who in his elevated position 
felt himself and his actions illuminated to some ex- 
tent by the fierce light which beats on thrones, could 
not afford to do anything which might appear sus- 
picious. It was much safer to be on good terms with 
Kazimir, instead of on bad. As long as Kazimir's 
regiment was stationed in Tyrol or Vienna, the breach 
could do no harm, because to the eyes of the neigh- 



222 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

bourhood it remained invisible ; but from the moment 
that the hussars had been transferred to within a few 
miles of Tarajow, Lu cyan's thoughts had tended, to 
reconciliation. The breach must, of necessity, become 
visible now. A breach presupposes a quarrel ; and 
there never fail inquiring spirits who are anxious to 
know what the quarrel has been about, and on which 
side the fault lies. 

Lucyan foresaw all this, and. ruminated over it. He 
was in general given to deeper and more anxious re- 
flections now than four years ago. Four 3^ears had 
made changes in him as well as in his wife. He 
looked older, thinner, more cautious, and more watch- 
ful. His pale forehead had a line across it already, 
though he was but twenty-eight. The higher a man 
climbs, the more precarious does his footing become, 
and the more destructive must prove a fall. Lucyan 
had reached a height which, from its very elevation, 
was slippery ; he knew that he must look carefully to 
every one of his steps, especially if he wanted to reach 
the yet greater heights which were the pinnacles of 
his ambition. His ambition and his love of money 
had made him into what he was now ; both had been 
fed by success till each hungered for more, and each 
trembled at the thought of losing what it already 
held. 

When first Lucyan heard of the hussars' arrival, he 



LUCYAN PLAYS DIAMONDS. 223 

felt convinced that Kazimir would be at Wowasulka 
before a week was out. But that week passed, and 
many others, and Kazimir did not appear. Lucyan 
was thrown out of his reckonings ; he was not able 
to imagine what amusement or what interest could 
induce his brother to keep up a quarrel from which 
there was no further advantage to be gained. As the 
winter slowly passed, and Kazimir kept his distance, 
Lucyan began to confess to himself that he had, after 
all, somewhat mistaken his brother's character. Be- 
cause he knew Kazimir to be impulsive and thought- 
less, he had believed that he would be fickle in his 
resolutions, and shallow, however passionate, in his 
hate as well as in his love. Upon such obstinacy he 
had not counted. He now recognised that the first 
step would have to come from his side. Still he hesi- 
tated, — not from any feeling of pride, but from a lack 
of means. Then a bright thought, worthy of his 
genius, struck him. If Kazimir had been so obstinate 
in his enmity, might he not have been equally tena- 
cious in his love ? It was a chance, at any rate ; and 
upon that chance he had thrown out a card — he had 
played his Queen of Hearts. Eather to his own sur- 
prise, the card had taken the trick ; for almost as soon 
as Kazimir, coming into Xenia's presence, had recog- 
nised that his wound was not healed, Lucyan had 
perceived the same. He had perceived it with a 



224 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

shrug and a smile, such as men give in pity at another 
man's folly. " To be sure he has not seen her for four 
years," reasoned Lucyan, perhaps in explanation of 
the folly. But the folly itself would fit most con- 
veniently into his plans. Kazimir had lost his buoy- 
ancy and his lightness, he was a graver and a wiser 
man ; but for all that he was not yet cured of his be- 
lief in human nature, — and Lucyan rejoiced to see it. 

" So you got on well with Kazimir," he said to his 
wife on that Easter-Monday evening, after all the 
terrified guests had fled from the house, and calmness 
had in some degree been established among the no 
less terrified servants. Xenia herself had spent the 
evening in tears, and it was from the depth of a wet 
pocket-handkerchief that she answered her husband's 
question. 

" With Kazimir ? oh yes ; but do you really think, 
Lucyan, that Wandusia will die ? " 

" It is of so much use asking my opinion, is it not ? 
I wish you would stop crying, Xenia ; it will do Wan- 
dusia no good, and it will only spoil your eyes ; " and 
Lucyan looked towards his wife with evident anxiety, 
for it would not suit his plans at all if her eyes were 
spoiled. 

She dried her eyes at once, though she still shook 
with hysterical sobs. 

" I do not w4sh you to dwell on that subject," said 



LUCYAN PLAYS DIAMONDS. 225 

Lucy an. " I want to know what passed between you 
and Kazimir. There was a little flirtation, was there 
not ? " 

" Oh, Lucyan ! " She gazed at him with frightened 
eyes, quite unable to understand from his tone whe- 
ther she were going to be scolded or praised. " Oh, 
Lucyan ! " was the safest thing to say ; it covered all 
contingencies, and she said it instinctively. 

His wife's face at this moment seemed to amuse 
Lucyan beyond all measure ; he stood looking at it 
and laughing, while she trembled in fear of his next 
words. 

" Do not look so scared, Xenia," he said, still laugh- 
ing. " I wanted only to know whether you and 
Kazimir were really getting on as well together as 
from the other end of the room you seemed to be. 
Oh, you need not drop your eyes ; I know the length 
of your lashes by heart. There is no harm, you know, 
child ; is he not your brother-in-law ? " 

" Yes, of course," said Xenia, somewhat relieved. 

"Well, he does not seem to think that you have 
become much uglier in these four years, does he ? " 

" No," said Xenia, colouring, but with the suspicion 
of a smile peeping out at the corners of her mouth. 
After all, it was very pleasant to find that she had 
not lost her looks in four years, and that Kazimir 
saw it. 

VOL. n. p 



226 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" He would not mind doing you any little service, 
for instance ? " suggested Lucyan. 

" I suppose not/' said Xenia, utterly unable to follow 
her husband's drift. 

" Or to give you a thing if you asked for it, would 
he?" 

" I suppose not," repeated Xenia, more and more 
bewildered. " Am I to ask him for anything ? " 

" Not just at present ; but it may come. Have you 
ever heard of the story of the monkey who wanted the 
hot chestnuts out of the ashes, Xenia ? " 

" Yes ; at least I think so." 

Lucyan was standing beside his wife's chair. He 
took up the hand which lay on her lap, and contem- 
plated it with the eye of a satisfied critic. It was a 
hand perfect both in colour and shape ; so small, so 
narrow, so delicate, so white a hand would have been 
hard to match even in Poland, where all women have 
comparatively beautiful hands. Lucyan looked it all 
over, from the tiny wrist to the rosy nails ; and Xenia 
sat quite passive, gazing alternately at her husband 
and at her beautiful hand. Of course she knew that 
her hand was beautiful, and she supposed that her 
husband was admiring it, but she wondered why he 
was admiring it just now. Neither was it much en- 
lightenment to her when in the next moment he said, 
" It would make a pretty little cat's-paw ; " and he 



LUCYAN PLAYS DIAMONDS. 227 

stroked it gently, as if afraid of breaking so frail a 
thing. " And it is going to fetch out the hot chestnuts 
so neatly from the ashes. Are you fond of chestnuts, 
Xenia?" 

" Yes, rather ; I like them with salt," answered the 
puzzled Xenia, vaguely aware that the hot chestnuts 
were not really hot chestnuts. Lucyan laughed again, 
and she started and shrank back, as she always did at 
the sound of his laugh. 

" Then you will not mind burning your fingers a 
little to get them," said Lucyan, looking on in ex- 
quisite enjoyment at his wife's bewilderment. " I sup- 
pose a diamond bracelet would quite make up for 
burnt fingers, would it not, Xenia?" 

" A diamond bracelet ! " Xenia's eyes lit up, as 
she stared at her husband. " Are you going to give 
me a diamond bracelet, Lucyan ? " she asked, breath- 
lessly. 

" I was thinking of it," said Lucyan, still softly strok- 
ing the hand he held. " Diamonds would look well, 
would they not, upon this little cat's-paw, — upon this 
little wrist, I mean ? If you promise to do as you are 
told, and to make yourself useful, I shall write to 
Lwow about the bracelet." 

"Will there be as many diamonds as in Madame 
Murawska's ? " asked Xenia, with wide eyes. 

" There will be more," said Lucyan. 



228 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

The wide eyes flashed for joy. " What am I to do, 
Lucyan ? Can I not do it at once ? " 

" 'No, not at once ; it is not time yet. See only that 
Kazimir should not feel neglected this week. Keep 
him in good-humour; and mind, you are not to sit 
up at night in the nursery — leave that to stronger 
people." 

Xenia's tears burst out afresh. " Poor Wandusia ! 
don't you think she will get well, Lucyan ? Why will 
you not let me nurse her ? " 

" I have told you why ; because the fever is infec- 
tious, and you might catch it." 

" I want to catch it ; I want to die if she dies," 
sobbed Xenia, hysterically. 

" But you do not want to lose your complexion, I 
suppose," suggested Lucyan ; " and no woman ever 
recovers her complexion after this fever. They re- 
main sallow for life." » 

The prospect of remaining sallow for life was far 
more terrifying than the prospect of death. Xenia 
began to consider the question seriously. 

"You know it would not do if you lost your com- 
plexion," said Lucyan. 

" No, of course it would not do," admitted Xenia, 
through her tears ; but then if Vizia nurses her " 

" Vizia has no complexion to lose." 

" To be sure." Xenia reco^^nised the truth of that. 



LUCYAN PLAYS DIAMONDS. 229 

" Poor Vizia ! she really has no complexion to 
lose." 

The complexion had turned the scale ; and this for 
the present was all that Lucyan could do towards the 
furtherance of the more particular motive which had 
induced him to hold out the hand of reconciliation to 
Kazimir. This was not the time to act further upon 
that motive; everything had to give way to the un- 
welcome guest which had come upon them unawares. 
A horrid uneasiness prevailed over the household. 
Every morning they awoke, wondering whether they 
were still safe from the fever, and curious to know 
whether no one had sickened in the night. At every 
headache they thought of fever ; if their appetites 
failed them, they were certain it was the fever. They 
watched each other, and shunned each other with a 
morbid caution. Even the inquiries which the neigh- 
bours sent made them feel more like a plague-stricken 
household ; for every servant of every neighbour had 
been threatened with dismissal, should he venture 
to cross the threshold of the infected house; so the 
inquiries were shouted down from the seat of a vehicle, 
which, halting at a safe distance, made off again as soon 
as the answer was shouted back. The answers thus 
shouted back varied but slightly : " A little better — 
anxious night — fever increased — no change." 

By the Thursday of that week, little Wandusia was 



230 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR. 

at the height of the fever, while two fresh cases had 
broken out ; the cook and the garden-boy had taken it. 
As yet no other member of the family was touched. 

Kazimir did not know whether to be glad or sorry 
for having remained at Wowasulka. To have gone 
would have appeared to him like a cowardly abandon- 
ing of them all in their trouble, and yet to stay seemed 
like heightening the general confusion. The confu- 
sion was yet more heightened when, on Wednesday, 
Mademoiselle Eobertine suddenly appeared upon the 
scene, in all the splendid gloom of black garments 
and black veils, bringing with her a black hand-bag, 
and looking more unfathomable than ever as she 
stepped out of a conveyance which seemed to have 
become infected with her own blackness. From the 
Easter rejoicings she had fled, but the news of the fever 
brought her back to the spot with a gloomy alacrity. 
To her unspeakable surprise she found that she was 
not wanted : for the black garments frightened Wan- 
dusia into a lit; and, excluded from the room, Eobertine 
was forced to content herself with concocting for the 
invalid mysterious mixtures, after recipes which she 
kept under lock and key. 

As for the second elderly aunt, Madame Torska, she 
remained in the house ; but partly from fear of the 
fever, and partly from fear of the dangerous brother, 
in whose presence she never could feel quite easy, she 



LUCYAN PLAYS DIAMONDS. 231 

shut herself up strictly in her room, and there re- 
mained invisible. Lucyan likewise was generally in- 
visible, excusing himself on the plea of business ; and 
thus it came about that the two unoccupied inmates of 
the house — for Marcin seldom appeared — were thrown 
into frequent contact. Many a time did Kazimir, 
coming down the passage, hear whispered voices at the 
other end, and catch sight of a slender figure, in a pale- 
blue dressing-gown, over which streamed chestnut hair, 
standing beside the sick-room door, and holding a tear- 
ful parley through the chink. On these occasions, 
Xenia was usually bearing in her hands a glass or a 
plate with some delicacy, which, as she expressed her- 
self, she had prepared with her own fingers for her sick 
darling, — but which, as Vizia repeatedly explained, 
could not avoid being the sick darling's certain death. 
" A little slice of cake could not hurt her, — she is so 
fond of cake, poor pet ! " or, " a drop of sweet wine 
would be sure to do her good ; " thus Xenia was usually 
parleying when Kazimir came down the passage. 

" Please take her away," Vizia would then say, 
through the chink, to Kazimir; and then Kazimir 
would take her away, and she, faintly protesting, 
would allow herself to be led into another room, and 
consoled by her brother-in-law. Every day this scene 
took place, with small variations. Every evening, 
Xenia, dressed in the same blue dressing-gown, and 



232 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

with her hair hanging down her back, asked Lucyan, 
" May I sit up with Wandusia ? " And every evening 
Lucyan answered, " 'No, you may not ; " after which 
Xenia sobbed and protested; after which every one 
persuaded her that her wish was foolish ; after which, 
finally, Xenia resigned herself to go to sleep in her 
own bed, and getting up next morning, fresh and 
blooming, began again to spend her time as before, 
between standing and sighing outside the nursery- 
door, and then taking disinfectants for the fever, — 
alternately shedding tears and bathing her eyes in 
rose-water. She said prayers for her child upon a 
mother-of-pearl rosary, and wore a silver medal upon 
a blue ribbon round her neck as preservative against 
the fever. 

Matters were still at this stage, when Saturday, and 
the end of Kazimir's short leave, came. He returned 
to his station and to his work with a somewhat heavier 
heart than that with which he had left it. Three days 
passed, and he had had no news from Wowasulka. On 
Tuesday afternoon, feeling uneasy at this silence, he 
started to make inquiries. 



233 



CHAPTER V. 



A SMALL CAKD. 



Infandum, regina, jubes renovare clolorem." 

—Virgil. 



The afternoon was cloudless, the sky blindingly blue, 
the air perfumed with violets. In Lucyan's garden 
the violets were flowering in profusion. A perfect 
wave of violet -scent swept towards Kazimir as he 
drew close to the house. The gardener was busy 
gathering the flowers which grew thickly between the 
rocks and rhododendrons at the far end of the garden. 
Lucyan, whose masterful genius loved perfection in 
details, had covered every bare patch in the rockery 
with violet plants ; for the rockery was his proudest 
creation. "Have you seen my twins?" he had one 
day startled Kazimir by asking; and then, with a 
laugh at his brother's inquiring stare, he had pointed 
to a pair of tall rocks which stood side by side on the 
slope, far overtopping their scattered fellows. " My 
twins are fine specimens, are they not?" Lucyan added, 
with all the pride of a newly made father. 



234 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

It was beside Lucyan's twins that Kazimir now 
caught sight of a basket, full to overflowing with 
purple heads ; he vaguely wondered for what so many 
violets could be wanted. As he turned from the gar- 
den to the house a chill of fear touched him, — for he 
saw shuttered windows ; and in the doorway Lucyan 
was standing with a tall hat in his hand ; and as 
Kazimir got nearer, he saw that there was black crape 
round the hat. 

Wandusia had died on Sunday, the day after Kazi- 
mir left the house. In the confusion no one had 
thought of writing to him ; but he had come in time 
for the funeral, — for the priest was to be here almost 
immediately. And then a white hand was laid on 
Kazimir's arm, and a quivering voice whispered, " Shall 
I show her to you ? you have never seen her, and she 
looks so pretty." 

Kazimir following his beautiful, black-robed guide, 
found himself standing in a darkened room, where 
wax-candles where flickering around a little bed, and 
where the violet-scent made the air almost too sickly 
to be sweet. Aunt Eobertine was there, looking more 
in place than Kazimir had ever seen her look before ; 
and Vizia was there, haggard with long watching, and 
red-eyed with weeping — for Vizia had not had time 
to use rose-water. 

" Is she not lovely ? " whispered the voice beside 



A SMALL CARD. 235 

him ; and Kazimir, gazing down, started at the sight 
of that little face, pillowed on lace and framed in 
blooming violets. He had never seen it before, and 
yet it was so familiar. The short chestnut curls, the 
transparent pearly tint of skin, the long curling 
lashes, the tiny rosebud mouth, they were all as 
familiar to him as things that he knew well ; and as 
things that he knew well too, there struck upon him 
that spotless innocence of childhood, that heavenly 
purity of smile, stamped upon the two -year -old 
features, as things that he knew well — or rather 
that he had known well — not so long ago, four years 
at most. He did not seem to know them so well 
now. The little Wandusia on the bed seemed almost 
more like the Xenia of four years ago than the beauti- 
ful woman that stood beside him in this moment. 

" Is she not lovely ? " whispered Xenia beside him. 

" Take care," said Lucyan's voice sharply, — " the 
wreath, you will crush it ; " for Kazimir had bent to 
kiss the little face on the pillow. 

The blood seemed to rush from his heart to his 
head, as his lips touched the small cold cheek. With 
one leap of memory he was borne back to a night 
years ago, when he had touched a cheek as fair as 
that, but less cold ; and when he had looked into eyes 
that were veiled by just such soft lashes as these. 
He had kissed Xenia but that once in his life, and in 



236 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

this moment it seemed to him almost as though he 
were kissing her for the second time. Why was it 
that there flashed through his mind a feeling of some- 
thing that was lost; something that had been and 
was no more ; something that he must mourn for as 
past ? 

He awoke from a dream to the sound of her voice, 
and to the consciousness that Lucy an was putting to 
rights again the violet wreaths which he had dis- 
placed. AYould he come into the next room now ? 
the whisper asked ; she wanted to show him some- 
thing else. 

He went into the next room ; and in the next room 
there was a different sight to see. 

"Are they not lovely?" asked Xenia, drying her 
eyes, as she opened a morocco case. " I have never 
had a diamond bracelet yet, and they came just to-day. 
Is it not kind of Lucyan ? " 

Kazimir found it very kind of Lucyan, and very 
thoughtful ; it was only an additional proof of how 
thoroughly Lucyan understood women. He himself 
would never have guessed that diamonds were such a 
powerful means of drying tears. He ruminated upon 
the question for the next hour; he reflected upon 
it still as he followed the funeral towards Tarajow. 
Lucyan and he alone followed, for Marcin, at the last 
moment, was not to be moved from the house. Kazi- 



A SMALL CAED. 237 

mir being sent to Lurry him, found his brother seated 
in his dressing-gown, by the window, lazily watching 
the little coffin as it was lifted into the carriage. 

"Marcin! what are you thinking of?" Kazimir 
exclaimed. " We are all waiting for you." 

'' I will tell you what I was thinking of," answered 
Marcin, leaning back. " I was thinking what a com- 
fortable thing it must be to be a corpse ; it is such a 
blessing to think that one will have to take no trouble 
about one's own funeral." 

"Are you ill, Marcin?" asked Kazimir, somewhat 
startled by his brother's look. 

Marcin gazed at him with a puzzled air. " I've got 
lead in my arms and legs, and wheels in my head, but 
I am quite ^vell otherwise." 

This was all the account Marcin could give of 
himself, and the mourning-carriage had started with- 
out him. There were many mourning-carriages follow- 
ing the funeral, and many more violet - wreaths sent 
to be laid on the small coffin. At the entrance of the 
wooden church outside Tarajow, there stood a crowd 
of gaping peasants, dressed in their best, for it was the 
Kussian Easter now. A peasant-bride stood there 
with a thick round wreath of periwinkles perched on 
the crown of her head ; she had walked ten miles to be 
married, but she could not be married that day, they 
told her, for the Marszalek's child had to be buried. 



238 BEGGA.R MY NEIGHBOUR. 

There was not a stone in the entire construction of 
the church : the square enclosure in which it stood, 
the four low turrets at the four corners of the en- 
closure, the church itself with its round-roofed mina- 
ret-shaped domes, was framed entirely and solely of 
deep-brown wood. The wooden walls were cut at rare 
intervals by tiny square windows ; in consequence of 
this the church was dark ; and in consequence of the 
darkness there were, on this occasion, a profusion of 
candles lit. Not only were there candles flaming on 
the altar and round the coffin, but in order to give 
additional pomp to the ceremony, and be all the more 
sure of pleasing the Marszalek, there were candles 
distributed throughout the length and breadth of the 
congregation. A Polish peasant is never so happy as 
when he is holding a burning candle; but perhaps 
because it was Easter-week, and the greater part of 
the congregation had been refreshing themselves more 
than usual at the wddki shops, few of the candles even 
approached the perpendicular. Wax was dripped and 
hair was singed, and many a hole was burnt in many 
a peasant's best coat. 

Over the altar there hung a gloomy and terrific 
representation illustrative of eternal torments ; and 
upon this painting all the eyes of young and old hung 
with an irresistible fascination — for to the Polish 
peasant his religion is nothing, if it is not a religion 



A SMALL CARD. 239 

of terror. The Polish peasant has a broad mind, and 
requires to be treated by broad means. Such feeble 
pictures of hell as show nothing more dreadful than 
seas of melted fire or commonplace coils of snakes, 
could not hope to intimidate an untutored Polish 
mind. Something much more distinct and tangible is 
required, as the priests have found out long ago ; and 
therefore it is that the altar-piece in almost every 
peasant church shows hell as represented by innu- 
merable devils, each holding a pitchfork, while upon 
the point of each pitchfork there struggles at least 
one victim, with starting eyes and foaming mouth ; 
and as a culminating touch to the situation, every 
devil spits fire into every victim's face. Not even a 
Polish peasant can misunderstand this ; and he kneels 
cowering and staring, while the salutary reflection 
forces itself upon his mind that if he drinks too 
much woclki, or beats his wife too often, or steals 
more than is reasonable of his neighbour's Tcasza, 
thus will he be treated — devils, pitchforks, and all. 

The closely-packed peasants, the sputtering candles, 
the perfume of woclJd, and the scent of incense, com- 
bined to an unpleasant degree. It was a relief to taste 
the evening air again. The ceremony had lasted long, 
and the sun was near setting, when Kazimir, having 
taken leave of his brother, turned his face homewards. 

Whether it was little Wandusia's death that had 



240 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

depressed him, or whether the devils and their pitch- 
forks had affected him so deeply /certainly Kazimir 
rode along in a gloomy and dejected mood. He began 
to think over the week that he had passed in his 
brother's house ; he began to picture to himself again 
that figure in deep mourning that had stood beside 
him this afternoon. Eestlessly he asked himself, when 
should he see her again? To-morrow? The day after? 
How soon could he go again? There was a voice which 
said within him, — Never ; go never again ! What right 
had he to go to his brother's house since he was in 
love with his brother's wife ? For he saw now that he 
loved her more desperately and more madly than he 
had loved her four years ago. It was easy to wish 
now that he had thrust back the olive-branch held 
out ; but the olive-branch had been taken, and it had 
wounded him more deeply than the point of a war- 
like lance could have done. " But I need not go back 
there for the present," thought Kazimir, with a des- 
perate resolution. " I will stay away a month, or a 
fortnight, and perhaps I shall feel cooler then." And 
he immediately began to draw pictures in his mind of 
Xenia ; there could be no harm in dwelling on them, 
since he was not to see her for so long. Only the 
pictures had grown more confused. Was he to think 
of her as crying by the deathbed of her child, or as 
smiling over her diamond bracelet ? In both pictures 



A SMALL CARD. 241 

she looked equally beautiful, but they would not re- 
maiu distinct. And again and again a third picture, 
more confused than the others, would force itself be- 
fore his mind. It seemed to him that it was Xenia 
whom he had seen on her deathbed, with the violet- 
wreaths all around her, and that smile of heavenly 
innocence on her face, and the fancy clung to him that 
it was Xenia whom he had kissed, and that it was a 
farewell kiss that he had given. And yet it was not 
Xenia who had been laid to rest in that little cemetery 
beside the wooden church. Kazimir turned in his 
saddle and looked back towards the place he had left. 
There stood the round brown towers, and a blaze of 
crimson sunset flamed behind them. The sky was 
brilliant and dazzlingly red. He had not seen so fine 
a sunset for long, he thought, as he turned his head 
and rode on. 

He did not think of the sunset again until ten 
minutes later, when he came upon a group of peas- 
ants standing at a turn of the road. There was, 
amongst others, the peasant-bride, who had waited at 
the church door ; only now she was in tears, and her 
bridegroom was drunk, and her periwinkle-wreath lay 
fading in the ditch. 

Upon all the faces there shone a red reflection, and 
the same red light was dancing on the tree-tops. 

Kazimir, turning again, perceived that the sunset, 
VOL. n. Q 



242 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

instead of fading, had become finer than ever, which 
was contrary to the habit of sunsets. Neither had it 
the calmness of a sunset ; for the crimson blaze flick- 
ered as it rose and fell, and the brilliant flames seemed 
almost as though they were really flaming. 

" WielJci Pozar ! " the ]3easants were whispering as 
they stared ; and Kazimir, catching the words, turned 
his horse, and gazed more keenly towards the west. 
No, that was no sunset. The peasants were right ; it 
was a fire — a large fire. The Tarajow church was 
burning ; and once a Eussian church begins to burn, it 
would be as hopeful a task to try to extinguish a pile 
of burning wood. No pile of wood could, in fact, be 
so conveniently laid for conflagration as these strange 
edifices, where a spark dropped near the wooden 
walls can hardly fail to breed destruction. The tears 
of the bride were explained ; for well did she know 
that, before the church was built up again, her bride- 
groom would have converted into woclki the sum 
which was to have been their marriage portion. The 
burning of the Tarajow church had undoubtedly 
affected one destiny directly. It did not occur to 
Kazimir to-night, nor did it occur to Lucyan next 
day, nor to Marcin, nor to any one else, that it might 
indirectly affect some other destinies. 

The Tarajow church had been burnt down several 
times before, and would probably burn down several 



A SMALL CARD. 243 

times again. How should they guess that in this fire 
was forged the first link of a chain wliich was to 
weigh heavily upon more than one life? 

No prophetic instinct touched Kazimir, as he gazed 
at the fire ; no shiver of apprehension came over him 
as he rode homewards, and no visions visited him in 
the night. He was tired, and he slept soundly, and 
was awakened next morning by a message from Wo- 
wasulka. His brother Marcin had taken the fever. 



244 



CHAPTER YL 

A SINGLETON. 

" It is not good that man should be alone."— Gen. ii. 18. 

It was on a fair May morning that Vizia stood, with 
an open letter in her hand, beside a post of wood 
painted white. She was alone at Lodniki again, 
whither she had returned after Wandusia's funeral, 
and she had resumed that lonely and independent life 
which so greatly shocked all her friends. That it was 
a melancholy life to lead, was to be seen from the 
expression of habitual sadness which had settled upon 
her face, and that it had been an unprofitable life as 
well, was evident from the many signs of decayed 
fortune which were visible all around her. The 
stables had sunk in ruins ; the garden, once planned 
by Eogdanovics, had for the most part been aban- 
doned to weeds ; all, save a few, of the windows were 
barred up with shutters ; what had been in bad con- 
dition four years ago was going to wreck now ; where 



A SINGLETON. 245 

there had been signs of neglect visible then, there was 
nothing but desolation now. It would have been all 
but impossible to trace the resting-place of the " Ehiz- 
anelkometer," where it lay beside the tree-trunk, so 
thick had the nettles and the brambles grown in these 
years. It was a dismal place to live at, a dismal life 
to lead; and yet hitherto Vizia had clung to it al- 
most with fondness — had revelled in its solitude, and 
hugged its melancholy to her heart. She had found 
a bitter comfort when lying awake in winter nights, 
to listen to the wolfs howl in the forest, or the 
shriek of the night-bird, as it shot past her window, 
and to say, "I am alone and unsupported — I owe 
gratitude to no one ; and if I rise, I rise through my 
own strength — and if I fall, I fall by myself alone." 

When Vizia had first formed the resolution of 
managing Lodniki for herself, she had thought herself 
most admirably suited for the task; for in her own 
energy and perseverance she had full confidence. In 
reality she could not have been more unsuited than 
she was. Her very energy stood in her way ; it 
pushed her to extremes. She was too obstinate to 
take advice, too imprudent to weigh her chances 
coolly, and too proud to confess her failures. She 
was, in fact, everything which a woman in this posi- 
tion should not be. Not even her friends knew^ — or 
if any one had guessed, it could only be Lucyan — to 



246 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

what straits slie had brought herself by this time. 
The estate had been left by Eogdanovics in an un- 
favourable condition, and under Vizia's hands it had 
sunk to a despairing one. Every day for the last 
three years had seemed to be bringing her nearer to 
utter ruin ; every year the percentage for sums bor- 
rowed from the Jews accumulated at a pace as alarm- 
ing as it was destructive. Lodniki belonged by this 
time to the Jews almost more than to her. 

Such had been her position until within a few 
months past. Then, all at once, a merciful Providence 
seemed to have thrown in her very path the means of 
salvation. The long-talked-of and half-forgotten rail- 
way began to be talked of again. The country was 
stirred with the excitement of the prospect. Intrigues 
were set on foot, deputations were organised, petitions 
were written. And even if the petitions were never 
attentively read, and if the deputations did not really 
affect the matter one way or the other, the former 
w^ere at least good outlets for superfluous energy, and 
the latter were first-rate opportunities for taking little 
trips to Lemberg and Vienna, paying visits in national 
costume to ministers and ambassadors ; and then, hav- 
ing first spent several days in drinking to the success 
of the future railway, in expensive wines at first-rate 
hotels, to return home, bringing such precious crumbs 
of speech, fallen from ministerial or even imperial 



A SINGLETON. 247 

lips, as : " We shall have much pleasure in considering 
the question ; " or, " We can see no serious objection to 
the fulfilment of your wishes ; " or the important ver- 
dict of the minister of war, who thought that he was 
justified in saying that, so far as he could see, in the 
possible case of a long course of European war (which 
he trusted was improbable), the railway proposed 
might prove of some importance. The money spent 
upon journeys, the paper spent on petitions, and the 
eloquence spent on addresses during the six months 
that the railway-fever stood at its height, were far more 
than were expended in six years of ordinary existence. 
There was scarcely a member of Parliament left un- 
molested by entreaties ; and there was scarcely a pro- 
prietor in that part of the country who was not 
anxious to prove, and who did not to his own satisfac- 
tion prove, that only by passing through his particular 
estate could the future railway hope to be beneficial 
to national as well as international interests. 

In spite of all this spurious energy, and in spite of 
the great pleasure which high personages declared 
they would feel in considering the question, the rail- 
way ran a great chance of falling asleep again for 
another ten years ; and might very likely have done 
so, had the Poles been left to themselves. But they 
were not left to themselves. An enterprising Belgian 
Company, which had already laid some hundred 



248 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

thousand miles of rails in their day — which had 
made several dozen canals navigable, and several 
.dozen mountains more easily accessible, by its splendid 
engineering — which was in the habit of buying up a 
whole street one day, and selling it on the next — and 
which had contracts with more than half the Govern- 
ments of Europe, — suddenly took the matter into its 
hands. It had scented the chance from afar; and 
stretching out its arm half across Europe, prepared to 
strike while the iron was hot. Before the Poles had 
time to cool down from the pitch of feverish excite- 
ment to which the smooth-spoken ministers and the 
Vienna hotel-suppers had worked them, the Er^res 
Longuebourse, or rather their emissaries (for the Freres 
Longuebourse themselves were two fat, old men, too 
wheezy even to walk down their own marble staircase), 
had set foot in the land, and were casting their eyes 
about them. Nothing could have been more startling 
than the appearance of these Belgians in this sleepy 
corner of the earth. Their nonchalance, their rapidity, 
the breadth of their ideas, quite took away the breath 
of the neighbourhood. These hundred miles of rail- 
way, which had been such an awful and such a har- 
rowing question to the country, were mere child's-play, 
— a hagatelle, to be regarded more as recreation than as 
work for the Freres Longuebourse. 

Vizia had at first taken little interest in the railwav 



A SINGLETON. 249 

question. Of course it must ultimately raise the value 
of her estate, as it would raise the value of every 
estate in the neighbourhood. But the railway would 
take two, perhaps three, years to build — and Yizia 
knew well that she could not wait so long. Lodniki 
must be nominally, as well as virtually, in the hands 
of the Jews, before another year was out. It was 
only when the proposition was set forth that the line 
of railway should pass through the Lodniki ground 
itself, that Vizia suddenly saw a ray of hope. The 
exact line to be taken by the railway at this point of 
its course had hung for some time in doubt. More 
than a dozen different lines had been mooted ; but the 
dozen had now dwindled down to two, and Lodniki 
was one of the two. Not only this, but Lodniki was 
the favourite of the two. The Freres Longuebourse 
had set up a row of posts upon the ground, and they 
had set up none on the Bruszow line. From the 
moment that the posts were up — even though the con- 
tract was not signed — Vizia felt that she was saved. 
And her hopes were not unreasonable ; for the Freres 
Longuebourse were not only large in their ideas of 
railways and canals, but also broad in their notions 
of payment. A few thousand florins were neither 
here nor there to the Freres Longuebourse. 

They had opened treaty with Vizia for the railway 
ground, hinting at a sum which, in her present des- 



250 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

perate strait, quite dazzled her with its magnificence. 
As yet they had not got beyond hinting, but this 
morning post had brought her a letter from the Bel- 
gian Company, which contained a new and important 
proposition. 

It was this letter which Vizia held open in her 
hand, as she stood beside the post. She had read it 
several times over already, and now she was reading 
it over again, for she could not quite make up her 
mind whether to the proposition here contained she 
should say Yes or No. The Company offered to buy 
the estate entirely. It was an abnormal proceeding; 
but as Lodniki lay in a long and narrow strip, and the 
projected line ran the whole length of that strip, the 
Company, being enterprising, had hit upon the idea as 
good ; more especially as the wood on the estate would 
be enough to supply timber for the entire line. 

It was a good price which they offered, and, on the 
whole, Vizia leant towards " yes." There was, to be 
sure, a pang in parting from Lodniki just as it was 
about to become prosperous, and in relinquishing all 
ownership of the white posts, which had first brought 
her hope. But on the other hand it happened, strangely 
enough, that this lonely life to which she had clung so 
tenaciously till now, had suddenly become to her own 
eyes unattractive. She was not quite able to trace 
since when this change of sentiment had occurred, and 



A SINGLETON. 251 

she did not think of asking herself whether the change 
had come since a certain day, a little while ago, when 
Kazimir had expressed his opinions on this subject. 
Feminine independence had lost all its charms in her 
eyes since then. 

By what appeared to be a coincidence, the same 
morning which brought Vizia's letter brought her also 
a visit from Lucyan. He found her with the letter 
still in her hand. " I have just come over to give you 
the last news of Marcin," he said, as he sauntered 
across the grass towards Vizia. " He is up for the 
first time to-day ; looks like a ghost of himself, but the 
doctor says he will recover his strength in a week or 
two. I wonder whether he will ; he is most extra- 
ordinarily weak at present. If he does not recover, it 
certainly will not be for want of medicines ; that apo- 
thecary's girl is continually in the house with bottles, 
and boxes, and powders. Ah, you have a letter; don't 
let me disturb you." 

" There is no secret about the letter ; you can read 
it, if you like ; " and Vizia held out the paper to 
Lucyan. 

" Just as I thought," said Lucyan to himself, as he 
took the sheet ; " Aitzig is a good spy." 

He read the letter very carefully, and returned it. 
" The Belgians are a business-like nation," he remarked, 
after a silence. " And the Freres Longuebourse must 



252 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. , 

be long-lieaded men," he added, after a second silence, 
as Vizia made no answer. 

" What makes you find that out to-day ? " she asked 
nov/. 

'' This letter." 

" Eeally ? " said Vizia, coldly, folding np the letter 
again. She was very much inclined to ask Lucyan 
what he meant, only that it would appear like asking 
for his advice, and she hated to do that. 

" It accounts for their immense success," continued 
Lucyan, as though musing. " Always to see a chance 
for their interest, and never to miss it ; that is just the 
proper way." 

" Then you think it would be a good bargain for 
them ? " broke out Vizia. She bit her lip in the next 
moment, wishing she had not spoken. 

Lucyan smiled very slightly, and stroked his black 
moustache. " A good bargain for them ? There can 
scarcely be two opinions about the matter, T should 
think. They offer you about two-thirds of what the 
real value of the estate is, and they get their wood for 
nothing. Of course, you accept the offer?" he added, 
turning his eyes upon her sharply. 

" Why of course ? " inquired Vizia, contradictiously. 

"Well, because it is an offer which no woman in 
your position should refuse." 

What did he know of her position ? What right had 



A SINGLETON. 253 

he to be aware that she was on the verge of bank- 
ruptcy ? Vizia coloured scarlet with vexation. 

" It must be a great relief to you/' continued Lucyan, 
quite calmly, " to have found this convenient oppor- 
tunity of ridding yourself of Lodniki and its manage- 
ment. I always predicted that it would be so, you 
know." 

Vizia stood crumpling her letter in her hand, and 
biting her lip. She did not trust herself to answer, 
for she knew that she could not answer without speak- 
ing hotly. The footing on which she stood towards 
her cousin's husband was a strained and disagreeable 
footing. Never in all these four years had the cold- 
ness between them thawed, even by one degree. 

" The woman who would make a good farmer," 
Lucyan was saying as he stood watching Vizia out of 
his half-closed eyes, "has not been created yet. No 
woman has the nerve, the patience, or the coolness 
for the work." 

Vizia could keep silence no longer. " Eather say 
at once," she answered scornfully, " that all women 
are fools ; I know you believe it, so why not pro- 
claim it ? " 

" Because I never could think of doing anything so 
rude," said Lucyan, with an enraging smile. " Be- 
sides, you exaggerate my ideas, and do not make 
allowances for them. One is rather apt to judge 



254 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

of all women, is one not, by the pattern of one's 
wife?" 

" What have you to complain of in your wife ? " 
asked Vizia, with a flash of the old protecting feeling. 

" Oh, nothing ; she has quite brains enough for 
putting on her clothes prettily, and keeping up de- 
lightful chatter by the hour ; but I should as soon 
think of discussing a business question, such as this 
one " — and he motioned towards the letter — " with a 
two-year-old child as with Xenia. Que voulez-vous ? 
One must take women as they are. That I should be 
discussing such a question with you, should be proof 
enough that I do not consider you as belonging to the 
same — let us say category, as Xenia. To return to the 
question : you have quite made up your mind, I sup- 
pose, to say ' yes ' t othe Fr^res Longuebourse ? " 

" I have not made up my mind to say anything as 
yet," said Vizia, embittered rather than softened by 
the implied compliment to her intelligence. 

" It was just the other day, was it not," said Lucyan, 
with a sneer, " that Kazimir was advising you to get 
ridof Lodniki?" 

" Yes, he did advise me the other day," said Vizia, 
defiantly. "What of it?" 

" Oh, nothing," laughed Lucyan ; " only that it is so 
strange to hear a man of that sort setting up to give 
grave advice upon these subjects. If I were going to 



A SINGLETOX. 255 

buy a horse, or order a cask of wine, I should certainly 
ask Kazimir's advice, — but as for anything else 1 " 

" What do you mean by ' a man of that sort ' ? " she 
interrupted, choking with sudden passion. 

"I do not mean anything which need cause any 
excitement," said Lucyan, as he contemplated her 
burning cheeks. " It is nothing so very bad to say of 
a young man that he has been a little gay — 'wild,' 
some people call it." 

"They call it wrong then," cried Yizia, with a 
passionate flash in her eyes ; " every one is wrong who 
says that he has done harm. Why are you all treat- 
ing him as though he were a black sheep ? Why are 
you all so condescending and so cool ? Why do you, 
in particular, never mention his name without a shrug 
and a smile of pity ? What harm has he done ? 
Can you name it ? " 

Lucyan made no attempt at naming it : he merely 
gave another shrug and another smile, as though to 
say that against feminine arguments he had no defence. 
Vizia's lips were quivering with excitement, for the 
rage slowly gathering during these last five minutes 
had entirely broken through the barrier of her self- 
control. Lucyan saw it, and begged her to compose 
herself. The effect was to make Vizia lose the last 
remains of her composure. 

" I will not compose myself; I will speak ; and I 



256 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

will be listened to. It has been burning on my lips 
many a time to ask you how you dare treat your 
brother as you do. He is a better man than you are, 
and you know it ; he would have made a better hus- 
band to Xenia; she would have been happier with 
him, and you know that too." 

" I know nothing of the sort," said Lucyan, quietly. 
" Xenia's happiness requires to be fed upon society, 
diamond bracelets, and Paris toilets ; Kazimir would 
never have understood how to give her these, and 
I do." 

" And in spite of her diamonds and her Paris 
toilets, I pity her," said Vizia, hotly. 

'' Take care ! " Lucyan raised a warning hand. " Do 
not let any one hear you say that ; people might get 
false ideas. When a woman pities too much, it usu- 
ally means that she is jealous." 

Vizia stared, scarcely understanding his meaning ; 
it was not easy in the first moment to imagine what 
possible motive for jealousy, in this sense, she could 
be supposed to have towards Xenia. But as she 
stared, she understood. Lucyan's smile and the look 
in his eyes made it clearer than his words. It flashed 
upon her now that this man had once been called her 
suitor ; that he had aspired, or had appeared to aspire, 
to her hand. This was what he meant by jealousy. 
She was a woman, and therefore she must be jealous 



A SINGLETON. 257 

of the position which her cousin held, and which she 
might have held herself. At the thought, there rose 
in Yizia's soul such a wave of contempt and repulsion 
that it quite drowned the hot anger of a minute ago. 
She wondered at the calmness of her own voice, as, 
turning her eyes full upon Lucyan, she answered : 
" I understand you perfectly well ; be so kind as to 
understand me. I never would have married you ; I 
should as soon have become a galley-slave as have 
become your wife. I know what made you think of 
me before you thought of Xenia," — she came a step 
nearer, and her eyes dilated slowly. " You thought I 
was the rich cousin, and that she was the poor cousin ; 
you might have made a fatal mistake, — only there was 
no danger. I never would have married you ; you 
know it." 

He knew it ; he had known it long ago ; he had 
hated her for it these four long years. Lucyan never 
forgave an injury, provided that injury was a wound 
to his vanity ; and the contempt and coldness which 
had met him four years ago, had made his vanity 
smart sorely. They had been treasured up since then 
among his list of unforgiven offences. If he hated 
her for her contempt, he hated her yet more for the 
sharpness of her sight. He had known that both 
existed, but this burst of passion revealed them as 
existent in a degree which he had scarcely suspected. 

VOL. n. R 



258 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR. 

The freezino: coldness of her glauce had at least the 
power to stagger him for a moment. He stood oppo- 
site to her in silence, though the smile never faded 
from his face. Vizia slowly withdrew her eyes, and 
turned her head away. This burst of reproach had 
rubbed off a long score she felt, and she breathed the 
more freely for it. With averted face she stood, wait- 
ing for him to speak. It took him about half a 
minute to recover from the unwonted feeling of sur- 
prise, and then he spoke quite composedly, and in 
quite different words from those which Vizia had 
expected. 

" It strikes me that w^e have become more personal 
than we intended, have we not ? There is no good in 
quarrelling over it, you know; and besides, I never 
quarrel with ladies, — it is against my principles. Are 
you not perhaps a little tired, over-excited with the 
cares of management? Xo wonder you should be 
anxious to free yourself from all responsibility. I 
must be going homewards now : shall I send Kazimir 
to discuss business with you one of these days, and to 
give you advice ? " 

"I do not want anybody's advice," said Vizia, 
sullenly. 

" To 'persuade you, then, to sell the estate ; to clench 
your resolution. I should have thought that either 
advice or persuasion, coming from that quarter, would 



A SINGLETON. 259 

have been particularly agreeable. But I am taking 
up too much of your time, and I really must be going. 
No messages for Xenia ? Good morning ; " and he 
walked away again across the grass. 

Vizia, as she stood looking after him, was trembling 
from head to foot in a fever of passion. His last 
words had been purposely pointed ; and even an edge 
far less sharp would have sufficed to pierce her sensi- 
tive pride. She was not able to recall each one of her 
excited words, but she understood that she had betrayed 
herself now, — she did not know that she had betrayed 
herself long ago. Her secret lay bare before Lucyan. 
He had dared to taunt her with it ; he would dare to 
taunt her with it again. What torture to her pride ! 
She was clutching the crumpled letter convulsively in 
her hand, — she looked down at the paper now. If she 
said "yes" in reply, as Lucyan advised, — and as 
Kazimir had indirectly advised then, — Vizia's cheek 
burnt red again. She saw now in what light her 
motives would be viewed. No ; she would decide for 
herself. If she kept the estate, it would be because she 
was strong enough to sustain her own position ; if she 
sold it, it would only be because she chose to do so, 
and not by any means because she had been advised. 
Meanwhile Lucyan was smiling to himself, as he 
drove homewards. " She hates me," he muttered to 
himself, — " she always hated me ;" and as he leant back 



260 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

on the seat of his carriage, there seemed to be scrawled 
all over the blue May sky the gigantic word "Ee- 
venge." There was to his eyes a most extraordinary 
sweetness about that word just now. " You are very 
clever, Mademoiselle Vizia/' he reflected; "but not 
quite as clever as I am." 

He had told the coachman to drive straight home, 
but when half-way there he changed his mind, and 
ordered him to go round by the Tarajow road, and 
stop at the Propinacya. Arrived there, he got out 
and inquired whether Aitzig Majulik was in. 

Aitzig Majulik was in. A mumbling sound, which 
"Lucy an knew well, told him that it was so. Aitzig 
was busy with his devotions in a back-room, and had 
apparently been busy with his w6dki too. Not drink- 
ing it, — Aitzig's temptations did not lie in that direc- 
tion, — but, on the contrary, taking care that the poor 
ignorant peasants should not get too much of the 
demon down their throats ; for those bottles and jars 
filled two-thirds with spirits, and those water-cans 
alongside, irresistibly suggested a thinning process. 
The mumbling sound ceased for a moment, as Lucyan 
entered, and Aitzig, bringing down his eyes from the 
ceiling, where they had been fastened in an ecstasy of 
devotion, turned them sharply towards the door. His 
left arm was bared to the elbow, and bandaged in a 
strange fashion. He also wore a bandage round his 



A SINGLETON. 261 

head, which at first sight suggested a broken skull, or 
at least a bruised temple. But Aitzig's skull was in 
unimpaired condition, as were all his mental powers. 
The strange bandages were nothing but the tablets of 
the Ten Commandments, technically called Twillen, 
and worn in the orthodox fashion ; and the mumbling 
sound was the recital of those same Commandments 
— a part of Aitzig's daily devotions. 

" Thou shalt not kill. — The gracious Pan wishes to 
speak to me ? " for just then Lucyan entered. 

" It is only a minute," said Lucyan. " I have been 
to Lodniki and seen her. The letter had come this 
morning." 

" When Aitzig says that a thing will come, it will 
come. — Thou shalt not steal. — Has the Pani answered 
the letter yet?" 

" No. Of course if she accepts the proposition then 
my plans are smashed ; but I have been talking to her 
now, and I think she will not." Lucyan smiled again. 

"Thou shalt not bear false testimony against thy 
neighbour," mumbled Aitzig, nodding at the same 
time, with his eye upon Lucyan, to show that he was 
quite keeping pace with the discussion of the sub- 
ject in hand. 

" Are all our plans organised and working properly? " 
asked Lucyan. 

Aitzig, before answering, made rapid work of the 



262 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

two last Commandments, jumbling up his neighbour's 
ox, ass, wife, and servant, which he was not to covet, 
in somewhat unceremonious fashion. Then taking 
the bandage from his head and arm, he hung up the 
tablets on a rusty nail in the wall, beside a second 
rusty nail upon which there hung a bag, made entirely 
of cloth selvages, (Aitzig had a cousin in the cloth 
line) which bag contained the most precious of all his 
garments, his Tales or shroud, — the black and 
silver envelopment in which he went to the synagogue 
every Szahas, and in which he would some day be 
carried to his grave. 

"Then the gracious Pan has quite made up his 
mind to take this step, and not to mind the risk?" said 
Aitzig, turning from the wall and pulling down his 
threadbare sleeve over his skinny arm. 

" Yes ; I have quite made up my mind," said Lucyan, 
with a frown. " Set to work at your mole-work as fast 
as you can. We have agreed upon all the points, you 
know." 

"Very well, very well," — Aitzig passed one hand 
slowly over the other ; " it is worth while risking a little 
for a fine sum like that, is it not, noble Pan ? Hi, hi, 
hi ! " — and Aitzig laughed softly through his nose, and 
then stood looking at Lucyan from under his deep 
brows. 

Lucyan returned the gaze with outward indifference, 



A SINGLETON. 263 

but it was not the same indifference, nor so real an 
indifference, as that with which he had looked upon 
the Jew some years ago. Aitzig had been his instru- 
ment, and Aitzig knew his secrets, and within these 
four years there had slowly grown up a certain dread 
of his own instrument, and hatred of the man who was 
in his secrets. That dread and that fear had not been 
there at first, nor had it come all at once ; it had been 
the gradual growth of four years. Aitzig had been 
one of the steps by which Lucyan had climbed to his 
present position ; but it was not a step upon which it 
was pleasant to look back ; and unless that step and 
all trace of it were entirely removed, how could Luc- 
yan ever feel sure of his footing on the height ? Aitzig 
was a ragged, dirty, slipshod, threadbare Jew ; and 
yet, to a certain extent, he held the Marszalek in his 
power. A rumour, a suspicion of that unclean trans- 
action which had passed between them, would have 
shaken the ground under Lucyan's feet. To be sure, 
the same blow would strike them both ; but the Jew 
could not fall far, for he stood low already, while for 
Lucyan the fall would be from a fatal height. And 
all the more did Lucyan tremble for his position that 
he knew the envy which it excited; he had read 
jealousy under many an obsequious smile, and it was 
not difficult to imagine the cries of exultation which 
would greet his fall. Tor the Marszalek, though he 



264 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

knew he was respected, was too clever to imagine 
that he was loved. 

He might have seen all this before — and to some 
extent he had seen it— though the full realisation of 
such things can come but by degrees. He had not 
quite realised the anxieties, the unrest, the perplexi- 
ties, which would be the prize of his position. But 
even in moments when these most oppressed him, he 
never regretted the price he had paid. The risk was 
w^orth running, after all. 

Imperceptibly the footing on which he stood to- 
wards Aitzig had shifted and changed. Aitzig bent 
and wriggled and cringed, and behaved as much as 
ever like a worm under foot ; but now the worm had 
developed a sting, and sometimes that sting was stealth- 
ily advanced. The sight of it made Lucyan shudder ; 
for his nerves, which had stood him in such good stead 
while he was scaling the slippery height, began to fail 
him a little, now that the height was reached. 

It was a very strange glance which these two men 
shot at each other whenever they met. On both sides 
the glance was suspicious and fearful. The Jew knew 
that Lucyan feared him, and wished him out of the 
way, and for that reason he feared Lucyan. Thus 
the fear on each side acted and reacted back upon the 
other, so that each was steadily growing, and had been 
steadily growing these four years past. 



A SINGLETON. 266 

"Aitzig is to set about his mole -work, then," re- 
peated the Jew, still softly chuckling. "And the 
price for the mole-work is fixed, noble Pan. A fifth 
of the profit goes into poor old Aitzig's pocket ? " 
He gently stroked his threadbare pocket, in anticipa- 
tion of the happy moment. It was the same kaftan 
that he had worn four years ago, and it was the 
identical pocket into which the fifty florins had gone 
on that July evening on which Lucyan had tended 
his sick rose. No one, from Aitzig's outward appear- 
ance, or that of his household, could have guessed at 
his improved fortunes. He had not dropped one of 
his old and unsavoury occupations. He plied all the 
trades which he had plied before he got the Propin- 
acya, only that he now had the Propinacya on the 
back of them all. He had bought no fresh pearls 
for his wife's cap, no new thread plait for his wife's 
head, no slippers for himself. The solitary piece of 
extravagance in which he had indulged, was contained 
in that selvage-bag on the wall. Death is expensive 
to a Jew who lives long ; and Aitzig having lived over 
sixty years, had worn through two shrouds already. 
He had undergone a mental struggle of great severity 
before he bought his third : he had considered the 
possibility of having the second darned and cleaned, 
perhaps with a little silver embroidery added ; but in 
the end he had succumbed. The idea of being buried 



266 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

in a new and faultless Tales — a shroud wliich should 
be high above all criticism of envious tongues, — this 
idea was too tempting to be resisted. On the same day 
that the Marszalek had first hinted at a new stroke of 
business to be done, Aitzig had, on the strength of that 
hint, indulged himself in a new shroud. 

" The fifth part, Pan ? " said Aitzig again. 

" I suppose so," answered Lucyan, with a touch of 
impatience. To any other Jew it would have been the 
twentieth or the fiftieth part ; but towards Aitzig his 
position was precarious, and yet he dared employ no 
other instrument but Aitzig alone. They had fought 
a battle, of course, before they came to terms ; only 
this time there had been no kicking out of the door, 
and no dragging in again by the scruff of the neck ; 
and though Lucyan had begun by offering the twen- 
tieth part of the profit, he had been forced to close 
at the fifth. 

" And the gracious Pan will give Aitzig a piece 
of paper — just a little piece of paper — to say 
that he promises this sum 1 " suggested the Jew, 
insinuatingly. 

" Nonsense," said Lucyan. *' It will be time to talk 
of that when the work is accomplished. There is 
plenty to do first before you have earned your money. 
What have you heard about the land-surveyor ? " 

" The Belgians are going to take a native engineer — 



A SINGLETON. 267 

SO has Aitzig heard, — to survey the land once again, 
and report." 

" Which engineer will that be ? Everything de- 
pends on the man." 

" It might be old Hunski," said Aitzig, reflectively, 
" unless he has the crout worse than usual." 

" Old Hunski would never do," said Lucyan ; 
" he is a pattern of integrity. Who else is there, 
Aitzig ? " 

" There is Mulskow yet, noble Pan, but he is ob- 
stinate, and has a furious temper ; and there is Eey- 
nadski, a red-haired gentleman with whiskers ; but he 
is as sharp-nosed as a fox, and of a mistrustful nature. 
Then there is Asinski. He is not sharp-nosed; but 
I fear. Pan, that even should his will be good, he will 
make a mess of the thing, for he is stupid — Gott und 
die Welt, he is stupid ! " 

" A little stupidity would do no harm," remarked 
Lucyan. 

" I know the man," said Aitzig, witli a chuckle — " I 
know the man to suit the noble Pan ; a little stupid, 
a little heavy, a little awkward." 

"And his soft point? What is it? Will it have 
to be money again?" asked Lucyan, grudgingly. 

" Hi, hi ! " laughed Aitzig. " The noble Pan does 
not like to take money from his pocket ; but the 
noble Pan will be happy to hear that money would 



238 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

not do it safely with that man. He is of a grateful 
nature, a soft nature, that gentleman." 

" What will do it, then ? " asked Lucyan, ignoring 
the implied taunt which he dared not resent. 

Aitzig reflected deeply. " There is another way," 
he said. "Now, if the gracious Pan would tell the 
gracious Pani to put on a pretty dress on the day 
when that land-surveyor comes, and to laugh a little 
(she has a beautiful laugh, the gracious Pani), and 
make merry " 

" Ah, I see," said Lucyan, struck with the idea. 
" Very good. Is the man married or not ? " 

" Oh, is he not married ? " cackled Aitzig. 

" I understand. His wife is ugly ? " 

''Frightful!" 

" Bad-tempered ? " 

" A fury." 

" I understand," said Lucyan, again ; and he rubbed 
his hands. " I will do my part, and you do yours. 
See that no other man but this one is sent down to 
survey. You can manage it, I suppose ? " 

" Aitzig will do his best," said the Jew ; " and even 
if the wrong man starts," he added, reflectively, " the 
wrong man need not arrive. Are there not wheels in 
every carriage, and screw-nails in every wheel ? And 
for what are screw-drivers unless to take them out ? 
Hi, hi!" 



269 



CHAPTER VII. 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEX. 



The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts, 
All on a summer's day." 

— Nursery Rhyme. 



Some weeks after the conversation last recorded, Kazi- 
mir, having ridden over to Wowasulka, found Xenia 
occupied in, what she called, making rose-jam — that is 
to say, gathering roses in the garden, with the assist- 
ance of a short-legged, long-faced, and tall-hatted man, 
perfectly unknown to Kazimir. 

In spite of many and excellent resolutions to the 
contrary, this was by no means the first, or even the 
second or the third time, that Kazimir had ridden this 
way since the day of Wandusia's funeral. In fact, the 
less that is said about Kazimir's resolutions at present 
the better, as he himself had discovered — for he had 
given up making any at all. 

" Xenia is busy with the rose-jam," said Madame 
Torska, the elderly aunt, whom Kazimir encountered 



270 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

alone in the drawing-room. She looked at him rather 
nervously as she said it, and looked from him to the 
door, as if weighing her chances of escape. Madame 
Torska had never been able entirely to get over the 
impression produced by Kazimir's first appearance 
through the bushes on the eve of the wedding-day: 
she had persisted ever since in treating him as a pain- 
ful subject. Besides, she had a rooted dislike to 
young men in general — a distrust of the genus as a 
whole — which perhaps was the reason of her liking 
for Lucyan. For Lucyan was not, and never had 
been, a young man in the true sense of the word. 
He had no passion, no pride, no temper even ; he was 
young, only because he happened to have passed no 
more than twenty-eight years in the world. 

" What a pity ! " said Kazimir, when he heard of the 
rose-jam ; for the idea not unnaturally suggested the 
kitchen and steaming caldrons. Then, with forced 
politeness (for she dreaded the fury of his temper), 
Madame Torska asked him to be seated, and grew 
nervous when he took a chair, which she considered 
perilously near to her own; and she attempted to 
keep up a little frigid conversation, although she 
fixed her eye firmly on his sword, and held the paper- 
cutter concealed under the table, for fear of a sudden 
outbreak. 

" Do you not think it would be safer — better," she 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN. 271 

corrected, hastily, for fear of irritating him — " if j'ou 
were to join the others in the garden ? " 

Kazimir, being only too delighted to hear that the 
jam was being made in the garden, and not in the 
kitchen, acted very promptly upon this hint ; and 
entering the back-garden, where cabbages and beetroot 
and rose-bushes grew, found, as has been said, Xenia 
gathering roses, while a short-legged gentleman held 
the basket for her. 

The legs of the short-legged gentleman were very 
short indeed ; the length of his face and of his hat, 
taken together, must have quite come up to the height 
of his lower members. He was freckled, he was bash- 
ful, and he was more than moderately awkward ; for 
every now and then the basket slipped from his hands, 
and he made snatches after it, and failed to catch it, 
and sometimes caught at his hostess's dress by mis- 
take ; and stammered, and begged pardon, and panted, 
and finally went down on his knees on the top of the 
beetroots, and picked up the roses again, putting as 
much gravel as roses back into the basket, in the 
excess of his inconvenient zeal. Kazimir, watching 
from a little distance, did not know whether to be 
more provoked at the unknown individual's clumsi- 
ness, or entranced at the sweet patience with which 
Xenia bore it. She never lost her temper once. 

" You are not used to holding a basket," she laughed 



272 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

with mock reproval. " Do you never help your wife 
when she makes rose-jam ? " 

"She never makes rose-jam," said the unknown 
gentleman's thick voice. 

" Dear me ! " Xenia was so struck with surprise at 
the idea of the unknown gentleman's wife never making 
rose-jam, that she was obliged to stand still in what 
happened to be a particularly graceful attitude of sur- 
prise, with one arm lifted above her head, as she was 
pulling down a high rose-branch. " Dear me ! " she 
said, with exquisite pity, ''do you mean to say that 
you never get rose-jam at home ? " 

" No, nor anything as sweet," said her companion, 
moodily. 

" Perhaps you have no roses in your garden," sug- 
gested Xenia, beginning to recover from her surprise, 
and breaking off the rose which she had stretched to 
reach. 

" Plenty," said the short-legged man; " but they grow 
nothing but thorns." 

Xenia stuck the rose she had just broken off into 
her hair. " How strange ! " she exclaimed, quite inno- 
cent of any innuendo ; and at the idea of a rose-bush 
which grew nothing but thorns, she indulged in a peal 
of silvery laughter. 

The peal of laughter was so very silvery, and the 
pale-pink rose looked so well in her hair, that the 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN". 273 

unfortunate gentleman of the short legs forgot once 
more that he was holding a basket, and had to make 
snatches after it again, and again to kneel down — on 
the cabbages this time — and be reproved by charming 
shakes of the head, and punished by brilliant smiles. 

Kazimir, watching this scene and its variations, be- 
came more and more puzzled, and also more and more 
uneasy. Who could this individual be ? A gentleman 
lie certainly was not. What could be the meaning of 
his presence ? Why was Xenia making herself so very 
agreeable to him ? " It is only in the nature of her 
angelic goodness," said Kazimir to himself, uncon- 
sciously excusing her ; " she is doing what she can to 
entertain her husband's guest." But all the same, this 
excessive amiability made him feel restless. It was 
very nice and perfectly unobjectionable, of course, 
when such amiability was directed towards himself, 
for he was her brother-in-law ; but was it not possible 
that in the very excess of her sweetness she might be 
going further than was prudent with a stranger like 
this ? It was not fair upon her ; how could Lucyan 
leave her this heavy task ? Where was Lucyan ? 

Lucyan was in another part of the garden, watering 
his flowers. He could not possibly leave off the water- 
ing, he explained to Kazimir ; Xenia was quite well 
able to manage the guest for herself. Who was the 
man ? Oh, he had come over to Tarajow on business ; 

VOL. II. s 



274 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Lucyan believed he was one of those engineers who 
were overrunning the country at present ; he was very 
gauche, poor man. And then Lucyan had to make a 
rush with the rake at Trappisto, who was preparing to 
bury a stolen bone in the best flower-border. Trap- 
pisto, being baffled in his project, returned whence he 
had come, to the kitchen, where he devoted himself to 
the sugar which Kobertine was preparing for the rose- 
jam ; for Robertine was busy with the less picturesque 
part of the process. If there was one thing which 
Trappisto objected to more than another, it was fast- 
ing. Never, from the days of his earliest puppyhood, 
had he been known to refuse anything which, by any 
stretch of imagination, could be called eatable; and 
now that he was growing somewhat dim about the 
eye and somewhat white about the muzzle, his ruling 
passion showed no sign of forsaking him. Bones or 
crusts, sugar or potatoes, they all came alike, and all 
were agreeable. For the rest, he was a dog of much 
amiability, with a faint but perpetual wag of the tail, 
like the well-meaning weak-minded smile which ho- 
vers round the lips of over- benevolent people. So 
far his propensities were not to be called monastic ; 
but, to judge from his grave-digging powers, he had 
something of the trappist in him, all the same. It 
was this grave-digging which had earned him Lucyan's 
hatred ; and far down in Lucyan's heart there was 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN. 275 

registered a vow that if ever he could do that dog a 
bad turn, that dog should not escape without it. 

Leaving Lucy an to rescue his pink and scarlet 
geraniums, Kazimir went back to where Marcin was 
sitting by himself. But ^larcin could give him no 
information whatever as to who the short-legged man 
might be, nor why he was here. Life was a great deal 
too short, he explained, to ask after people's names : 
he did not care who came, as long as he was not 
asked to talk. 

Marcin's hand was hanging over the arm of the 
chair as he spoke ; and Kazimir, looking at it, was 
struck all at once with the great resemblance it bore 
to his mother's hand, as he had seen it last. There 
was that same wasted and half-transparent appearance 
which had so moved him then, and he could hear the 
rings rattling against each other, when Marcin moved 
in his chair. And yet Marcin had got over the fever, 
had been pronounced convalescent weeks ago ; all the 
doctors agreed on that point. He had always been 
limp, and lazy, and strange ; and it was not easy to 
trace the small degrees by which he was daily growing 
limper, and lazier, and more strange. 

When Kazimir had fumed for an hour in helpless 
impatience, he had the satisfaction of seeing the short- 
legged man putting down the basket, and taking out 
his watch. What he saw on his watch seemed to 



276 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

startle him a good deal, for he began with extra- 
ordinary energy to hunt for his stick and gloves 
among the cabbage - beds, during which process he 
managed to tread into the basket, and kick out its 
contents once more. 

It was so kind of him to have helped — Kazimir 
heard Xenia saying ; and really if it had not been for 
him she did not know how she could have manasjed 
that heavy basket ; and he must come back again 
some day so as to taste the rose-jam he had helped to 
make ; and then Lucyan, who had suddenly appeared 
on the spot, insisted with apparently a last impulse 
of hospitality on taking the visitor round the garden. 
Kazimir saw them walk off together, in the direction 
of the forest, and then standing still at the foot of the 
rocky slope, gaze up it and point at different parts 
with their sticks, and shrug their shoulders, and make 
other various and incomprehensible gestures. Neither 
would their conversation have been much more com- 
prehensible, had Kazimir heard it. 

" You think it can be managed, then?" said Lucyan, 
cautiously, watching his companion with a side-glance. 

" I think it might be managed, possibly ; I do not 
see any reason why it should not be managed." 

"There must be no mention of my name in the 
transactions, mind ; I cannot suffer that." 

" There need be no mention. Pan Bielinski j the 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN. 277 

Company are not likely to question my report. They 
don't care very much where the railway is started, as 
long as it is started soon." 

" Does your survey end here ? " 

"No, my survey ends at Lodniki. You know the 
lady to whom Lodniki belongs, Pan Bielinski ? Do 
you think there is any chance of her reconsidering her 
resolution, and selling the estate after all ? The Com- 
pany would have found that arrangement most con- 
venient on the whole." 

" There is no chance whatever," said Lucyan, with 
emphasis. " It is not even worth trying ; she is 
a most extraordinarily obstinate woman, and she 
imagines that she will get more money by refusing 
to sell, and pocketing the payment for the railway 
ground alone — should the railway pass that way." 

" Ah yes," repeated the other with a wink, " should 
the railway pass that way;" and the short-legged man 
gave a laugh and looked at Lucyan, and Lucy an looked 
at the short-legged man and gave a responding laugh. 

" Yes, she is a most obstinate woman," said Luc- 
yan again ; " and besides, her temper is — well, not 
exactly " 

"Ah yes, not exactly good," finished the other 
readily. " A sad thing, bad temper is, in a woman," 
he added with a melancholy shake of the head, for the 
subject was a familiar one to him. 



278 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" You would never guess that she was related to my 
wife," said Lucyan, watching his companion carefully. 
" My wife, by the by, has quite set her heart on this 
little plan of ours : she would be very much disap- 
pointed if it came to nothing." 

"She shall not be disappointed, if it lies in my 
power to prevent it," said the short-legged man with 
fervour, and then he took his leave ; and as he drove 
off in the direction of his bad-tempered wife and his 
ill-cooked supper, he thought what a pity it was that 
there was in the world so little of that rose-jam which 
he had been enjoying this afternoon; and he con- 
sidered in his mind what an agreeable day he had 
psssed, what a good dinner he had eaten, how pleas- 
ant a man his host was, and what a beautiful woman 
his hostess, and how glad he should be, could he 
be the means of obliging them in any way that was 
possible. 

Lucyan, having seen his guest off, returned to the 
house, and shut himself into his private business-room, 
for he had letters to write. About the same time 
aunt Kobertine emerged from the kitchen, and hav- 
ing with inexorable severity wheeled Marcin's chair 
back into the house — for the air was growing cool — 
disappeared again in the same direction. Kazimir, 
who was standing a little on his dignity, and who did 
not chose to look towards the rose-bushes, imagined 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN. 279 

that lie was alone in the garden, until he heard his 
name pronounced. " Kazirair ! " 

He never could hear his name coming thus from 
her lips without a thrill of mingled pain and joy; and 
he never could pronounce her name without this same 
sensation. 

The call was obeyed at once, though he looked a 
little stiffer than usual. 

" Will you not come and help me to pick the gravel 
out of the roses ? " asked Xenia. " That poor stupid 
man has put such a lot in by mistake." 

Kazimir began to soften towards the unknown in- 
dividual as soon as he heard him called stupid. " What 
is that gentlemen's name ? " he asked. 

" Oh, I don't know," said Xenia, innocently. " Luc- 
yan said that I was to make myself agreeable to him, 
and so I did." 

"Yes," thought Kazimir, "so she did." And he 
applied himself rather gloomily to the gravel. 

" Why are you so sulky to-day ? " asked Xenia, after 
a minute. "Are you in a bad humour? " 

"Not now," said Kazimir, starting as their hands 
touched for a moment in the basket. 

" But you were sulky before," persisted Xenia, 
plunging her fingers into the rose-leaves. " I saw it 
by your shoulders." 

" You were so busy," said Kazimir, still with the 



280 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

faintest shade of stiffness, "that I don't think you 
could have seen either me or my shoulders." 

" But I did ; and it is very rude of you to con- 
tradict me, — and," pouted Xenia, with a quivering 
lip, " I can't bear anybody to be angry with me 
ever." 

"I have never been angry with you in my life," 
said Kazimir, hotly : " yes, but I have once, only 
once " — he bit his lip, regretting his imprudent words, 
and afraid of having confused her. But Xenia did not 
appear confused ; she went on playing with the rose- 
leaves quite composedly. 

" Oh, you have been angry with me more than 
once," she laughed, preparing to count on her fingers. 
" The first time was because I went to Krakow for the 
end of the carnival ; don't you remember ? " 

" I r^biember quite well," said Kazimir, beginning 
to lose all sight of prudence, and incautiously putting 
his finger on the edged tool which lay so close to his 
grasp. " I have been angry with yoU; and you have 
been angry with me, — is that so ? " 

" Angry ? " repeated Xenia, doubtfully, for anger 
was a sensation which lay outside the reach of her 
power. " I don't think I was ever angry exactly ; but 
I remember that I was provoked with you once." 

"What about?" 

" About — about " — Xenia looked down, then looked 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN. 281 

lip with a laugh — '' about a pretty widow with golden 
hair." 

Kazimir's face darkened. " Do you want me to deny 
that again ? " 

" Why do you keep her dog, then ? " asked Xenia, 
with a teasing smile. 

" Poor Trappisto ! " — and Kazimir stooped to stroke 
the yellow head lifted towards him. " Nobody cares 
for you, Trappisto, but me." 

" Oh, he is dirtying my dress ! " cried Xenia ; 
" please, send him away 1 What has become of the 
pretty widow herself ? " 

" She married two years ago," said Kazimir, throw- 
ing a stone after the retreating Trappisto. It was the 
first piece of unkindness which Trappisto had ever ex- 
perienced at his master's hands ; and in the astonish- 
ment it caused him, he stopped wagging his tail, and 
stared back at Kazimir reproachfully. 

" Oh, she is married ! Then I shall allow you to 
keep her dog ; — poor dog ! Do you think he would 
like a lump of sugar? I shall give him one this 
evening." 

" Then you believe me now ? " 

" Yes ; I am not going to be angry with you any 
more, and you must not be angry either about my 
having gone to Krakow that time." 

"Oh no," said Kazimir, with a sigh. He was a 



282 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

little startled at the way in which she clung to that 
dreaded subject. 

" I really could not help going," she explained, for 
she evidently considered that having gone to Krakow 
was a far graver offence than having married his 
brother. " It was only on account of the ball in the 
salt-mine, you know ; they only give one about once 
in ten years." 

'' I suppose so," said Kazimir, with his face turned 
away. The word "salt-mine" coming from her lips 
gave him somehow a painful shock. 

" It was a very good ball," said Xenia ; " what a 
pity it was that you could not stay for it 1 " 

"A great pity," he echoed, mechanically. This 
sudden reserve seemed to displease her. 

" You must have forgotten all about that time," she 
said, with a shrug. " Why do you never speak of the 
salt-mine ^ " 

" Because you forbade me to mention it," he said, 
in a tremulous voice, not trusting himself to look at 
her yet. 

Xenia broke into a rippling laugh. 

" But that was before I married, you know. There 
is a great difference between a girl and a married 
woman, — don't you think so ? " 

" Yes, a great difference," said Kazimir. It struck 
him as so very strange that it should be she now who 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEX. 283 

was able to talk of the salt-mine with composure, 
while it was he who shrank from the mere mention of 
the word. 

They had abandoned the rose-basket by this time, 
and were sitting on one of the rustic benches which 
adorned this back-garden. 

"I have often wanted to ask you before," began 
Xenia, orowinsf a little more embarrassed — but not so 
embarrassed as to prevent the full play of her eyes, — 
and beginning to pull forward one of her loose curls, — 
" I have often wanted to ask you whether you have 
still got that blue camellia which I gave you off my 
dress; or perhaps you have thrown it away long ago V 

" The crystal flower, you mean ? '* To Kazimir it 
had been a " crystal flower" all these years ; he scarcely 
recognised it under its technical name. " Yes, I have 
it stilL" 

Xenia looked relieved. " But — don't you think that 
one ought to give those things back ? One always 
does, I think, — and 1 have a coin of yours, you know." 
She began slowly detaching a small coin from her 
watch-chain. 

Kazimir made no answer: but he drew out his 
pocket-book and opened it. This crushed, flattened, 
and shapeless mass, with nothing but blotches of gum 
remaining to show where the crystal-powder had once 
clung, — could this really be the same glistening flower 



284 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

which had dazzled Kazimir's eyes with its beauty and 
its brilliancy, that carnival - night in the salt-mine? 
He had looked at it often since ; but never, even to 
his eyes, had the blue camellia appeared so crushed, so 
flattened, and so shapeless, as it did to-day. After all, 
there was nothing to wonder at ; things must take 
their natural course. The camellia-petals were of cot- 
ton fabric of an inferior quality, and the poudre cristal- 
line, recommended by the ' Journal des Demoiselles,' 
had been a rather cheap compound — for those were 
Xenia's economical days, when, held under strict 
guardianship, she believed herself to be poorer than 
her cousin Vizia. The ball-dress had been copied in 
the cheapest of materials, and the parure of camellias 
had drifted long since into the hands of some old-clo' 
Hebrew, — all except this one flower, which, treasured in 
Kazimir's pocket-book, had survived till now. Kazi- 
mir's pocket-book had a strap round it, and the camel- 
lia was many-petalled ; therefore it was perfectly un- 
reasonable of him to expect that, after four years' time, 
the camellia should emerge from the pocket-book as 
fresh and as crisp as it had been when first it was laid 
there, — it is only true gold or true stones that can re- 
sist the rubbings of the world. And yet Kazimir was 
conscious of this unreasonable disappointment to-day. 
" Dear me ! " said Xenia, with a laugh, "■ how ill you 
have used that flower ! It is so spoilt now that you 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEX. 285 

won't mind giving it back. Look, the crystal is all 
gone ! " 

" Yes, the crystal is all gone," he said after her ; but 
it was at her that he looked, and not at the flower. 

"And the coin, — you really want it back? It 
would be better, I suppose, would it not ? " She held 
it out towards him doubtfully, then withdrew it ; held 
it out a little way again, blushed, laughed, glanced 
at him under her lashes, and shrugged her shoulders, 
with another laugh ; and in the middle of it all, Kazi- 
mir, of a sudden, understood what it meant. She was 
flirting with him, laying herself out for his admiration. 
He had been slow in seeing it, and reluctant to see it ; 
but he could be blind no longer. He was ready to kiss 
the very ground she trod on, for she had been his ideal 
of womanhood, — and now she was angling playfully 
for his compliments ; every look of her eyes made him 
thrill with delight, — and now she was darting him 
coquettish glances, and laughing as she watched their 
effect. 

The shock of pain was so great that it took from 
him for a moment all the sense of his surroundings. 
iN'ever till now had he been so conscious of the change 
in Xenia, — of the difference between the Xenia of now 
and the Xenia of four years ago. She had hardened 
without deepening, — she had lost the exquisite fresh- 
ness of mind and manner which had given the finish- 



286 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

ing-toucli to her beauty. That germ of affectation, 
that budding vanity, then only peeping out, had since 
grown strong and firm in root. Even those tiny tricks 
of manner, so entrancing in the unconscious girl — even 
the shy toying with her curl, and half-pettish shrug of 
her shoulder — had lost their charm. Her shyness had 
been rubbed off long ago ; and yet she still toyed with 
her curl, and still shrugged her shoulder, — perhaps 
from force of habit, perhaps because she had found 
out that it Vv^as becoming^. But the effect was no 
longer the same : it had hardened along with the rest. 

Some, although not all of this, Kazimir recognised. 
His idol was no longer of pure gold ; but his idol was 
still so beautiful that its beauty held him a slave. 
The woman he loved had faults — and to-day, for the 
first time, he had recognised those faults ; but his love 
was not shaken, or he thought it was not shaken. 
He could forgive her even this. The pain of the 
discovery he had made seemed only to help him to 
realise more vividly the surprising force of his own 
passion. 

Plunged in a whirl of bewildering thoughts, he 
started at the sound of Xenia's voice beside him. 

" Since we are giving back things," she began now, 
a little nervously this time, it struck Kazimir, " don't 
you think we ought to give back everything ? There 
were those letters, you know " 



PAY TWO TO MY QUEEN. 287 

" We wrote no letters," said Kazimir, in surprise. 

" No, — but you wrote some to Lucy an, and Lucy an 
wrote some to you." 

" Yes," said Kazimir, still puzzled. 

" Well, had you not better give them back ? " 

" If he wants them, of course ; but what can he 
want them for ? " 

" I don't know ; he might want them, you see ; and 
it is not only the letters, — there is also a paper which 
he sent you once — something about the Propinacyas, I 
think it was." 

" A copy of the lease," said Kazimir ; " is that what 
you mean ? " 

" Yes, that was it, I think." 

" Did Lucyan tell you to ask me for these papers ? " 

Xenia played with her watch-chain, and grew con- 
fused. " Not exactly, rather ; I was not to say any- 
thing about him. Lucyan said " she broke off, 

hastily correcting her mistake, and looked nervously 
about her. 

Kazimir sat silent, puzzled, and a little suspicious. 
He thought of the short-legged gentleman, and he 
wondered whether Lucyan had also told her to make 
herself agreeable to her brother-in-law. " She is as 
transparent as crystal," he said to himself; but in 
that same moment he remembered having once, a 
little while ago, expressed this sentiment to Vizia, and 



288 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Yizia had answered him curtly, " She is as transparent 
as shallow water." It was an unkind answer to have 
given (Vizia had been ready to bite out her tongue the 
moment after she had said it), and the remembrance of 
it troubled Kazimir just now. 

" Lucyan shall have the papers," was all he said ; 
but the vague suspicions which her strange request 
had awakened were not at rest. 



END OF THE SECOND VOLUME. 



PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS. 



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