Page images
PDF
EPUB

was

66

was severe.

groom went to visit his bride. He bridegroom's side, seated herself at

a tall slender man, with the the piano, and played with feverish bloom of youth still upon his face; but energy the well-known song, his high forehead was already bald ;

“Noch ist Polen nicht verloren!” "Sun and moon together," as the Hungarian proverb says.

her eyes flashing through tears. Her The bride was a fair and delicate lover approached her, removed her lady, with abundant black locks, a hand, which trembled with emotion, pale nervous countenance, and blue from the keys of the instrument, and eyes of that unusual lustre which one kissed it. finds only in Polish blue eyes. At “ Poor Poland ! Well may thy sight of her lover, her alabaster cheek daughters weep over thy fate ; but was overspread with the roses of alas ! in vain. I was lately in Pesth. love's spring-time, and her eyes beam- Passing along a street where a large ed like the rising sun.

house was building, I noticed amongst The bridegroom would fain have the labourers a woman, carrying appeared cheerful; but it is hard to stones to and fro upon her head, for deceive the gaze of love, which reads the use of the masons. Twicethe beloved one's trouble in each fold thrice-I passed before her. The of the brow, in each absent glance of sweat streamed from her face; her the eye. Tenderly she approached limbs could scarcely support her. She him, smoothed his forehead's wrinkles was no longer young, and the toil with her band, and imprinted a kiss

This woman once posin their place. But again they re- sessed a palace in Warsaw-far, far turned.

more magnificent than the house she " What ails thee, dearest? How was then helping to build. Its poris this? Sad on the eve of our wed- tals were surmounted by a prince's ding.day?"

coronet; and many are the joyous "1? Nothing ails me. But I am hours I have spent beneath its hospiannoyed at an incident-a casualty- table roof.

When, at the which I cannot postpone. The court- sound of the noonday bell, she seated martial has condemned a man to herself at her wretched meal, I acdeath. I have just now signed the costed her. For a long time she sentence. The man is to be shot to- would not recognise me; then she morrow: just on our bridal-day! I turned away her head and wept. The would it were otherwise !"

other women only laughed at her. I " The man is doubtless a criminal ?" offered her money ; she thanked me,

“ According to military law. He and took very little. She, once the has been debauching soldiers from mistress of millions, besought me to their duty-exciting them to desert send the remainder to her little and return home to fight the Serbs. daughter, whom she had left a depenDeath is the penalty of his crime." dant on a rich family in a distant

" And you have signed the sen- town. I promised to seek out her tence? Are you not a Magyar ? daughter. When I had last seen her Love you not your native land ?" she was a lovely child, six years of

* I'am a soldier before everything. age. Eight years had elapsed, bringI respect the laws."

ing her to the verge of womanhood. * İmpossible! You, who love so I reached the house. In answer to well, cannot be devoid of that most my inquiries, a girl appeared- not ennobling kind of love-patriotism." that fair and delicate being whose

* I can love, but I cannot dream. sweet countenance still dwelt in my Of the maxims and principles of re- memory, but a rude creature, with volationists, I understand not a word; hard coarse features and wild eyes. bat thus much I know, revolutions She did not recognise me, often Derer end well. Much blood, little though she had seen me. I spoke to bocour, eternal remorse."

her in Polish ; she understood not a * Say not eternal remorse, but word. I asked after her mother; she teral hope. Hope that a time must stared vacantly in my face

.. Comme, which will compensate all suf- Truly, the fate of Poland is a terrible irrings and sacrifices."

example of what a nation may expect The fair enthusiast quitted her from its neighbours when it engages

women.

a wild beast, but Thou vouchsafest to Many died, and no one could say me to be once more a man!"

what had killed them.

The rough He turned to his companions. “To uneducated soldiers were pining away horse!” he cried ; "let the troop in home-sickness, like flowers transassemble."

planted to a foreign and ungenial soil. They sprang to their horses, and An experiment was tried. Some soon upon all sides the signal-whistle of the sick men received leave to go was heard. In ten minutes, a hun- home. The next day—they were dred and eighty men, well mounted and well and hearty. armed, mustered round the fire.

It became known that some one “ Friends and comrades," cried was at work secretly innoculating the Sandor, " that which we have so long soldiers with this strange malady ; desired has come to pass. We are no but it was impossible to detect the longer robbers—our country pardons person. us. It is granted us to atone our The soldiers !-oh, not one of them crimes by an honourable death. Is would betray him ; and all snares there one amongst you who does not were laid in vain. With the officers repent his past life, and rejoice to be he never meddled. The private solallowed to end it in honour ?"

diers were bis men. With them he “Not one!" was the unanimous felt himself secure from treachery: shout.

And the seed he scattered abroad “Will you follow me to the battle ?” produced an abundant harvest. “Everywhere! To death! "

The dejection of the troops became "Swear it."

daily more striking. The soldiers The vow was brief.

“We joyfully

grew wild and intractable. No lonswear to shed our blood for our father- ger, when riding their horses to water, land!"

did they sing, as had been their wont, “Add," said George to Rosa, “and joyous ditties in praise of wine and to give no quarter ! "

Their songs were now sad and strange-sounding; mournfulwords

to yet more dismal tunes. They sang The soldier is dying of home-sick- of their country, of their dear native

land, and of strife and bloodshed, in On a sudden an epidemic broke out dirge-like strains; and the burden of amongst the Hungarian troops sta- every couplet was Eljen Magyar !" tioned in foreign lands.

Like the last accents of a dying man A mysterious man wandered from were the tones they uttered, sinking place to place, visiting the wine-houses deeper and deeper, and ending in frequented by the hussars, and joining piteous long-protracted cadences. in their conversation. The words he Still are such songs to be heard in spoke, repeated from mouth to mouth, Hungary's forests, and around her vilspread far and wide amongst the lages, in the silent night-time. Now, light-hearted soldiers, whose light- more than ever, do they sound like heartedness then suddenly left them. funeral dirges, and their long sad The stranger told them of things notes like wailings from the grave. which had happened in their native land; and, when he departed, he left

In a small Gallician town was behind him printed verses and pro- quartered a division of hussars--splenclamations. These the privates took did fellows, for whom the heart of to their serjeants to have read to many a Polish maiden beat quicker them. When they heard them read than its wont. The most beautiful they wept and cursed, and learned by woman in all the neighbourhood loved heart both verse and prose, from the the best blade amongst the hussarsfirst word to the last, and repeated the Captain. them from morning till night.

Countess Anna K-nsky, the lovely Then many took to their beds, and Polish widow, had been for six months neither ate nor drank; and when the betrothed to the bold hussar officer, doctors asked what ailed them, they and the wedding-day was near at pointed to their hearts, and said, hand. A single night intervened. On i Ilome! home !-let us go home !" the eve of the happy day, the bride

NOSTALGIA.

ness.

was

was severe.

66

Its por

groom went to visit his bride. He bridegroom's side, seated herself at

a tall slender man, with the the piano, and played with feverish bloom of youth still upon his face; but energy the well-known song, his high forehead was already bald ;

“Noch ist Polen nicht verloren!” “ Sun and moon together," as the Hungarian proverb says.

her eyes flashing through tears. Her The bride was a fair and delicate lover approached her, removed her lady, with abundant black locks, a hand, which trembled with emotion, pale nervous countenance, and blue from the keys of the instrument, and eyes of that unusual lustre which one kissed it. finds only in Polish blue eyes.

At

" Poor Poland! Well may thy sight of her lover, her alabaster cheek daughters weep over thy fate; but was overspread ' with the roses of alas! in vain. I was lately in Pesth. love's spring-time, and her eyes beam- Passing along a street where a large ed like the rising sun.

house was building, I noticed amongst The bridegroom would fain have the labourers a woman, carrying appeared cheerful ; but it is hard to stones to and fro upon her head, for deceive the gaze of love, which reads the use of the masons. Twicethe beloved one's trouble in each fold thrice-I passed before her. The of the brow, in each absent glance of sweat streamed from her face; her the eye. Tenderly she approached limbs could scarcely support her. She him, smoothed his forehead's wrinkles was no longer young, and the toil with her band, and imprinted a kiss

This woman once posin their place. But again they re- sessed a palace in Warsaw-far, far turned.

more magnificent than the house she " What ails thee, dearest? How was then helping to build. is this? Sad on the eve of our wed- tals were surmounted by a prince's ding-day?"

coronet; and many are the joyous "I? Nothing ails me.

But I am hours I have spent beneath its hospiannoyed at an incident-a casualty- table roof.

When, at the which I cannot postpone. The court- sound of the noonday bell, she seated martial has condemned a man to herself at her wretched meal, I acdeath. I have just now signed the costed her. For a long time she sentence. The man is to be shot to- would not recognise me; then she morrow : just on our bridal-day! I turned away her bead and wept. The would it were otherwise !"

other women only laughed at her. I “The man is doubtless a criminal ?" offered her money; she thanked me,

According to military law. He and took very little. She, once the has been debauching soldiers from mistress of millions, besought me to their duty-exciting them to desert send the remainder to her little and return home to fight the Serbs. daughter, whom she had left a depenDeath is the penalty of his crime." dant on a rich family in a distant

And you have signed the sen- town. I promised to seek out her tence? Are you not a Magyar? daughter. When I had last seen her Love you not your native land ?" she was a lovely child, six years of

“I'am a soldier before everything. age. Eight years had elapsed, bring, I respect the laws."

ing her to the verge of womanhood. "Impossible! You, who love so I reached the house. In answer to well, cannot be devoid of that most my inquiries, a girl appeared-not

, ennobling kind of love-patriotism." that fair and delicate being whose

“ I can love, but I cannot dream. sweet countenance still dwelt in my Of the maxims and principles of re- memory, but a rude creature, with volationists, I understand not a word; hard coarse features and wild eyes. but thus much I know, revolutions She did not recognise me, often never end well. Much blood, little though she had seen me. I spoke to honour, eternal remorse."

her in Polish ; she understood not a “ Say not eternal remorse, but word. I asked after her mother; she eternal hope. Hope that a time must stared vacantly in my face. come, which will compensate all suf- Truly, the fate of Poland is a terrible ferings and sacrifices."

example of what a nation may expect The fair enthusiast quitted her from its neighbours when it engages

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in a struggle with one more powerful him with a wand, and thrice implored than itself; and woe to the Magyar mercy for the condemned man. The if he does not profit by the warning!" third time the officer broke the wand

“Ah! it is no Magyar who can in two, threw it at the criminal's feet, talk thus !"

and said in solemn tones, “ God is “Anna! thy first husband fell in merciful !” battle on the morrow of thy wedding At these words the doomed man day. Wouldst thou lose thy second raised his head; his attitude grew more bridegroom on its eve ?"

erect, his features glowed. He gazed "I? With contrition I avow my around him in the faces of the assemculpable weakness ; I love you more bled soldiers, then upwards at the than my country, more than liberty: purple clouds, and spoke in enthuUntil to-day, no man ever heard siastic tones. these words from a Polish woman. " Thank thee, O God !" he said ; I wish you to sacrifice yourself? Did " and thanks also to you, comrades, you seek to do so, I should surely for my death. Life has long been a hold you back-which no Polish wife burthen to me; death is welcome. I ever yet did to her husband. All I have lost everything—wife and child, crave of you is to leave that man his house and home; my country alone life, whose patriotism was stronger remained to me, and her I could not than your own. On our bridal eve, free. I rejoice to die. Yon, comI ask you for a man's life as a wedding rades, bless God, that yonder, beyond gift.

the mountains, you have a mother, a " And a soldier's honour !"

beloved bride, à faithful wife, an in" Punish him otherwise."

fant child, waiting your return. “There is but one alternative. The Yonder beyond the mountains you man has instigated mutiny and deser- have your homes, your cottages, your sertion; the law has doomed him to families. Pray to God that at your death. I must execute the sentence, last hour you may welcome death as or fly with him to Hungary. And joyfully as I, who have nothing left thence, I well know, I should never upon earth.” He paused, and sank return. In a case like this, the judge upon his knees, az if power had depunishes, or is an accomplice of the parted from his limbs. criminal. In one hand I have the The soldiers stood motionless as sword of justice, in the other the ban- statues. The adjutant waved the ner of insurrection. Choose! which paper in his hand. Gloomily the six shall I raise ?"

hussars raised their carbines.

Once more the adjutant raised the The sky was scarcely reddened by folded paper, when behold! a young the dawn when the prisoner was led non-commissioned officer dashed out forth to execution. Silently, without of the ranks, snatched the fatal docuother sound than that of their horses' ment from his hand, tore it, and hoofs, marched the square of hussars. threw the fragments at the feet of the In the centre, on an open cart, was firing-party. the chaplain, a crucifix in his hand; Two hundred sabres flashed from and beside him, in a white shirt, bare- their scabbards, and, amidst a cloud headed and with fettered hands, the of dust, two hundred chargers scoured culprit, George of St Thomas. across the plain.

The sun rose as they reached the appointed place. The plumes of the The wedding guests were waiting. hussars and the grey locks of the con- The bridegroom was there in full unidemned man fluttered in the morning form, glittering with gold, and the breeze. They took him from the beauteous bride in her graceful robe cart: six hussars dismounted and un- of white lace. Yet a moment, and slung their carbines; the remainder she would be his wedded wife. formed up. The adjutant unfolded a The moment was very long. paper and read, in a stern and merci. The bridegroom awaited his adless voice, the sentence of death passed jutant's return from the execution. upon George of St Thomas. Accord. Until then, he would not approach the ing to customary form, a soldier altar. stepped up to the adjutant, presented What if, at the very instant the

solemn Yes ! passed his lips, there their rapid coursers, forward towards reached his ears the rattle of the the blue mountains-ever forward. life-destroying volley, which he, the Through forest wildernesses, over thrice happy lover, had commanded ? pathless heaths, up hill and down

What if, whilst God's servant im- ever forwards to the distant monnplored Heaven's blessing on theirunion, tains. the angry spirit of the criminal, in- Right and left steepled cities apvoking vengeance on his judge's head, peared and vanished; the vesper bells appeared at the footstool of the Al- greeted them as they passed ; loudly mighty?

neighing, their horses swept along, Still no adjutant came.

swift and ever swifter. The bridegroom was uneasy. Yet Amongst them rode the grayuneasier grew the bride.

headed man, guiding them by un"Perhaps," she whispered, "it were trodden paths, over swamp and moor, better to postpone the ceremony." through silent groves of pine, forwards

“Or," he replied, "to hasten it.” to the mountains.

A foreboding of evil oppressed them In the evening twilight they reach both.

thie banks of a stream. Here and And still the adjutant came not. there on the distant hills glimmer the Two, three hours elapsed beyond the shepherds' fires; beyond those hills appointed time. Noon approached ; lies the Magyar’s home, and in their each minute seemed an eternity. valleys this stream takes its rise.

At last hoofs clattered in the court. Here, for the first time, they disHasty steps and jingling spurs were mount, to water their horses in the heard upon the stairs. All

eyes were

wave whose source is in their native fixed upon the door. . . . It opened, land. the adjutant appeared, pale, dusty, Whilst the horses sup the cool exhausted, the sweat streaming over stream, their riders strike up that gay his face.

and genial song, whose every note “Remain without !" cried the brings memories of home, bridegroom. “ You bring a message

“ Hei! auch ich bin dort geboren, of death-enter not here!"

Wo der Stern dort strahlt." No message of death do I bring," Who ever rode so merrily to death? replied the officer hoarsely, “but a But the vedettes make sudden sign hundred times worse. The condemned that some one comes. man has taken the hussars away with In the distance a horseman is seen; bim, all, towards the Hungarian his steed vies in swiftness with the frontier A couple of leagues off wind, his long plume and laced pelisse they released me to make my report !" stream behind, the gold upon his

"My horse !" shouted the bride- schako glitters in the red sun-rays. groom, hurrying madly to the door. · “ The Captain !" is murmured But he paused at sight of his bride, around. paler than ever and with terror in her The hussars mount, draw their glance.

sabres, form line, and when their “ WAIT BUT A MOMENT, dearest captain appears in their front, they love !" he said, clasped her to his offer him the customary salute. breast, kissed her, and threw himself Breathless with fury and speed, at on his horze.

first he cannot speak. Motionless The animal reared beneath him and in front of the line, bis sabre quivering wonld not leave the court. The rider in his hand, he is at a loss for words struck the spurs sharply into its flanks. to express his indignation. Before Once more he looked back. There he can find them, four hussars quit she stood, the beloved one, in her the ranks; the youngest—the same bridal dress upon the balcony, and who tore up the sentence-raises his waved her kerchief. “You will soon hand to his schako, and addresses his be back," she said.

chief. She never saw him again.

" Welcome, Captain! You come

at the right moment to accompany us Forward raced the hussars upon to Hungary. Short time is there for

*“ Ha ! I too was yonder born, where brightly beams the star."

« PreviousContinue »