Title


CHAPTER XIX.

THROUGH THE CSIK.

UNLESS you have a carriage of your own, you must use the common waggon of the country, as a better sort is not to be had on hire. At Kronstadt, however, there is a man who has a capital vehicle and good horses, though not very fast, and as he speaks German, as well as Hungarian and Roumanian, I beg to recommend "Der Kleine Hans "-for as such he is known-to future travellers.

We arrived at Marienburg towards evening, and drove at once to the manse, where, as usual, I met with a hearty reception, and found a most comfortable lodging. Standing as it did at the end of the market-town, there was an extensive view over the broad plain stretching away to Kronstadt, and the mountain barrier in the back- ground. There is the ruin here of one of the castles built by the Teutonic Knights, to whom the whole of this rich plain was given by King Andrew (1204) ; but its portal is crumbling away, and walls and towers will soon have tumbled down. Nowhere is anything done to preserve the ancient monuments of the country. In this district alone are seven such castles built by those sovereign knights, but of some hardly a trace is left. Marienburg contains 2049 inhabitants, and, beside the clergyman and " Prediger," *19_1 there are four school-teachers, and an organist.

In a land so fertile as Transylvania, a Saxon clergyman who was paid in kind received a goodly store of corn and wine, beeswax, honey, etc. His granaries and cellars were always full, and he sold so much produce that his money-chest was well furnished also ; he was able to, and did provide for the education of his sons, whom he sent to German universities, and afterwards to travel. The clergy, as one of them acknowledged to me, were "like little bishops." But this Utopian state caused the jealousy of the Catholics, who were in a very different position. In 1734, the Protestant clergy were called upon "to prove their rights ;" in 1752, they lost their tithes, three- fourths being taken and one-fourth left. Now they do not receive any from their parishioners, except in the Burzenland, where a quarter is still given, but in money, the equivalent being reckoned at the minimum price of the produce. The Government pays the salaries, and as the valuation of the livings was taken in a decidedly unfair manner, the worldly position of these clergymen is very different to what it once was; a glance at the following valuation will make this intelligible. Each clergyman was required to state how much corn, wine, etc., he received as tithe, and the estimate of the produce was then made thus :

fl kr.
Wheat, per Vienna motzen= 12 1/10 English bushels 1 16 per motzen.
Another sort (Triticum Spelta)58"
Rye 44"
Maize 32"
Wine, per eimer of 40 maas, or quarts 146"
And of this, again, one-sixth was deducted for expenses.

19_1* The " Prediger," literally " Preacher," is something like the curate with us ; only, not having had a university education, he cannot, except in rare instances, obtain a church living. He teaches in the school, and does duty for the clergyman when he is prevented from attending, and, in short, fills a post between the curate and parish-clerk.

These were not average prices, but such ones as had perhaps occurred twice in the century. Moreover the clergy were paid their arrears of tithe, and other moneys due to them, in certain Government paper, which stands now at 72 instead of 100, and which then the recipients, being in want of money, sold at 59, losing thus one-half their due. They were mulcted in every way. The tithes, though not received, are calculated as being so,*19_2 in order to levy an income-tax. A clergyman in the north of the province, with a salary of 2200 florins, showed me that his taxes amounted to--

fl
53 ground rent.
67 various.
161 being 7 per cent. on tithes.
----
281 fls., taxes of clergyman exclusively as such.

My kind host, in giving directions for the horses and coachman to be provided for, expressed a hope to me that the latter would remain with them, as it would, he said, be extremely disagreeable to him should they be stolen in the night. Full of astonishment, I asked if it were at all likely ; enclosed, too, as they would be in the courtyard of the manse. " It is impossible to say," he answered: "the horses are very good-looking, and that is something irresistibly attractive to a Wallack. I would rather your coachman stayed with them."

19_2 * I have said somewhere that Transylvania is a land of anomalies. Here is one more fact, in addition to the many that might be cited on the subject. A new house pays no tax for ten years ; but notwithstanding, the " extra tax" or "Zuschlag," the percentage 1182 per cent. upon what would be the tax, is still claimed and levied. Again, there is a law here as in England, that when property changes hands-when it is inherited, for example-the heir or other receiver pays a percentage on the value of the acquisition ; but as church property and the funds of endowed schools do not change hands, being vested for ever, a tax of this sort cannot be levied. It has been reckoned, however, that on an average, property generally changes its possessor once in so many years. That of the churches and schools therefore is subjected to a duty called "an equivalent," in order to make up for the sum which, if the property did change hands, would he levied on it.

The little publican, who shot the bear near Kronstadt, told me how a foal had been stolen from his stable. A cross-bar with a lock was fastened to it, so that, should the door itself be forced, the animal could not, as the thief intended, be led out. The bar was left in its place, but it was taken notwithstanding; the thieves had opened the door in the night, and, spreading a large horse-cloth on the ground, laid the foal upon it, and thus dragged him him out under the bar.

How prevalent cattle-stealing is throughout the whole province I perceived later, from the mode of making the gate in enclosures behind a house.*19_3 My companions led me through the garden, and thence by a door in the fence, into the fields. There was a lintel placed across, but so low, that I was forced to stoop to the earth to creep under it. On my remarking on the awkwardness of such arrangement I was told its meaning ; all were made so, in order to prevent a thief from leading away the animals attempted to be stolen. Though brought thus far, they could not be got over the fence nor speedily through the gateway; and this simple contrivance was a pretty effectual security against theft from cow-house or stable.

19_3* There are about seven hundred cases of cattle-stealing annually. As formerly in Scotland, a certain tax was levied by the border freebooter for sparing a herd, so here, on the frontier, it is customary, especially among the Saxons, to pay blackmail or " Felelat " to be exempted from loss of their cattle.

From here to Sepsi-Czent-György, the road is pretty enough, with woods and park-like glades. On the hills around the town grow great quantities of wormwood (Artenisia Absinthium), from which the favourite bitter wine is made. Small as the place is, I found a very neat restaurateur's, kept by a Szekler, where I got a good dinner.*19_4

At a house on the road I found Thackeray's ` Esmond ;' and later, at Torja again, translations of Bulwer and Thackeray were lying on the table. Elöpatak is a little village whither, in the season, strangers resort to drink the mineral (acidulous) waters which rise here. Nothing can be more simply primitive than such a watering-place; yet, on account of the great efficacy of the springs, numbers of visitors repair hither annually. In the principal ingredient, protoxide of iron, the water surpasses that of Schwalbach, Bartfeld, Spa, and Pyrmont, as it contains more than double as much as any of these. At Käszon is a bath, excellent in scrofulous cases, containing nearly as much carbonic acid as Borszek. The whole of this district (jurisdiction Kronstadt) is rich in products and in beauty. Large plains,19_5 the most fruitful of the province, are spread out at the foot of the mountains, whose varied outline and bold peaks give grandeur and diversity to the landscape. There is game in the forests, fish in the streams, and mineral wealth in the earth ; lead mixed with silver, iron, sulphur, coal, rock-crystal, tar, trachyte and basalt for millstones,19_6 fine potter's earth, limestone, -all these are to be found here more abundantly than j elsewhere. In the eastern part are endless mineral springs as pleasant and refreshing as Seltzer Water, others which are sulphureous, some are salt; then there is an intermittent spring near Kronstadt, those of mineral pitch near Soosmezö, some which incrust objects, turning them seemingly into petrifactions, etc. The only thing wanting is wine; wheat especially thrives in the Burzenland. Flax, too, and hemp and tobacco, and here and there maize ripens also.

19_4* About here the three-field system is in vogue, and the fields are manured every nine years, and in Koviiszna, some miles further on, every six years.

19_5t These plains in the broad valley of the Alt lie very high, 1350-1800 feet above the level of the sea.

19_6$ At Csiczo millstones are to be had for all Transylvania. They arc better, it is said, than those of Derbyshire.

The road to Kovászna is bounded on the left by mountains, with an occasional dip, giving a fine view of peaks beyond. The inn at this place is of the humblest, but the bed was clean, and the people did their best to serve a decent meal. How visitors to Baden-Baden and Homburg would stare at beholding Koväszna ! It is a straggling village, the cottages of which are let, in the season, to those who come here for the waters. The bath is a pool in the middle of the village, with some rickety planks round it, about seven feet high; inside, some little cabinets, like sentry-boxes, are boarded off, for the bathers to dress in. This pool, called " Pokolsár," or " Morass of Hell," is of an ashy colour, with numerous bits of charred vegetable remains on its surface, which is kept in a constant ferment and motion by the streams of carbonic acid gas that are continually rising. Now and then, at distant intervals of thirty years, the water rushes suddenly up with such force as to inundate the village. Close by is a gas-bath, equally primitive in arrangement. A pit, seven feet long, is dug in the ground; you lift a trap-door and descend a few steps, when the floor is closed around you, leaving the head above, by means of a round hole cut in the boards ; the gas streams upwards and around you out of the earth. Over the "bath" a sort of wooden booth is erected to preserve it from the weather, and this is all.*19_7 On expressing my surprise at the poverty of the arrangements here, my guide, shrugging his shoulders, replied, " This is Transylvania ! "-a sufficient excuse, as he seemed to think, for every imperfection. The visitors to Kovászna bring with them their household necessaries,-beds, kitchen utensils, etc., besides stores not to be had here. Those who come thus well provided, make a point of inviting others without such an establishment to accept their hospitality. A departure for the bath is like an emigration ; so many are the goods and chattels and provisions prepared and packed for the journey. The abundance of these mineral and gas springs in the east of Transylvania is one of the wonders of the land. The whole neighbourhood is full of them. In the bituminous slate, which characterizes the country around Kovászna, a great number of plants of an anterior world are to be found. Every spring in the village of Vajnafalva, where the gas bath is situated, is impregnated with carbonic acid, and many cellars of the houses are filled with it up to a certain height. The earth is so full of mephitic vapour, that in undertaking any excavation the greatest caution is necessary; as, by digging, numberless subterranean channels of communication are opened, through which the gas pours forth into the atmosphere. After rain, many little springs of gas become visible in the ground, which, on being collected, is found to be pure carbonic acid.

19_7 An analysis of the gas gave the following result:--
Carbonic acid 55'193
Oxygen 9'736
Nitrogen 35'071
-----
100'000

It is a curious circumstance, and significant of the geological nature of the soil, that the people, without exception, believe if a brood of chickens be covered over by their mother's wings, they all will be choked, unless something be between them and the earth of Koväszna. Indeed, at certain hours of the day, it is not safe to bathe in the " Pokolsär," on account of the vast amount of gas rising immediately above the surface of the water. If I remember rightly, the dangerous time is early in the morning, before the sun has exercised its power.

From here I drove to Kezdi Värsähely, and on towards the St. Anna Lake ; but in compliance with the wish of a Hungarian, whose acquaintance I had made on my journey, and to whom I had offered a seat in my Waggon, we stopped at the house of a country-gentleman (" eines Edelmannes ") on the wayside. " You will not only be heartily welcome," said my companion in answer to my representations, " but the whole family will be most proud to receive an Englishman under their roof. Take my word for it, they will all thank me for bringing you." And in truth the reception of this Szekler family was a most friendly one. There was no embarrassment, though a perfect stranger had thus dropped suddenly among them. That I should have stopped there on my way seemed to be considered quite natural. Except the master of the house, all spoke German well, so there was no difficulty as to conversation.

The house was neat in the interior, simple in its arrangements, but orderly and clean. A flight of steps led up to the house, along the front of which was a verandah supported by columns. You at once entered the diningroom from here. The whole consisted of a ground-floor only, having three large sitting-rooms in front. After talking with the ladies and a neighbour who had dropped in, I looked at the stables, farmyard, and garden. Every word that was said showed how deep-rooted was the dislike felt towards the Germans, and how great the dis- content with the Government. Nothing was right. The elective laws were dwelt on as an especial grievance.

COUNTRY-HOUSE OF A HUNGARIAN GENTLEMAN.
"COUNTRY-HOUSE OF A HUNGARIAN GENTLEMAN."

But the warm-hearted hospitality and even pride all in being able to entertain an English traveller, soon made me forget complaints and disaffection. We sat down to a good dinner, a large and cheerful party; and the delicious wine warmed my very heart. Suddenly the gentleman of the house, filling his glass, rose and made a long speech in Hungarian. I began to suspect from a word or two that was intelligible to me, that I was the subject of it, when presently the word " Lord," several times repeated, made me feel very awkward and uncomfortable. If it was of me he was speaking, I wished to stop him and set him right; yet I could not well interrupt him in the middle, so I thought it best to wait. At the end of the speech my companion interpreted it, and said his friend had drunk to my health, adding, it was the first time he had had the honour of entertaining an Englishman in his house, and that he was delighted that an opportunity had been afforded him to do so. He spoke of England and Englishmen in the most flattering terms, and concluded by wishing success to me, etc. etc., joining the name of England with mine.

"And so I was right," said I to myself; "I amn the 'Herr Lord' so often mentioned in the speech!" Involuntarily I thought of the " Lordl " in the farce, Staberl's 'Reisen Abenteuer,' and, annoyed as I was, I could not help laughing at the ridiculous resemblance. I resolved, however, to defer the explanation till after dinner, and to ask my acquaintance if he perhaps had been decorating me with false plumes. So, for the present, I contented myself with returning thanks in a German speech, and saying what is generally said on such occasions.

Though pressed to remain, I started after dinner, intending to reach Torja the same night, and furnished with a letter by my kind host for the notary of that village. The first favourable moment was chosen to ask about my title. " What on earth have you told your friend about me? You must not let him think I am a lord, and I beg you to make him understand that I am not." He told me, laughing, that it was true the word had been used, but it would have been employed in referring to any other English "gentleman," as well as myself; and that, in reality, he meant by it "gentleman," and nothing more. This did not much satisfy me, and I begged that he would take care nothing about a "lord" might be said to his friend at Torja.

I found that Kossuth was here in high favour. He was spoken of with enthusiasm, and with a feeling of the most perfect confidence. Later experience showed me that the nobility were to a man against him. This was very comprehensible, for as long as he was in the ascendant, their star paled in his dazzling presence ; which, with their aristocratic notions, must naturally have been very distasteful. It was he, moreover, who abolished prerogative, established equality, abrogated serfdom, and decided that a noble should be taxed like another man. They submitted to these innovations because opposition was useless, and bore them with as good a grace as they could. But to expect that they could like them or the man who was their author, is asking too much of human nature.

No one can suddenly renounce the principles in which he has been nursed ; and the opposition to our own Reform Bill, and the desperate energy with which men wrestled for their antiquated privileges, as if existence depended upon them, show how difficult it is to give up ancient notions, however absurd.

It was dark before we reached our destination. The village of Torja seemed endless; indeed, it is, as I after- wards learned, some miles in length.*19_8 We turned into a large courtyard, where stood a handsome house, built in the usual style, with steps and a verandah in front. The master was not within, but his housekeeper sent out to look for him, and before long he returned and gave "the Lord" as hearty a welcome as he had received al- ready at noon. All was offered with the warmest hospitality. What the house afforded was set before us, and the manner and the words, and the manifest pleasure which our arrival occasioned, made me feel as much at home there as though I and my host had been old acquaintances. I found invariably great heartiness among the Szeklers ; a bluff heartiness like what used to be considered the characteristic of the " genuine Englishman." Among the Szekler-probably among the Hungarians generallygood bread and wine are always to be found. Both are better than among the Saxons. A Szekler peasant lives altogether, I mean as regards food, better than a Saxon villager.

19_8 * Close by is abundance of slate, admirably fitted for roofing and other purposes ; but it is not turned to account.

At Szekler weddings a curious custom prevails. The bride entertains her friends at her house, and the bride- groom all his in his own dwelling. It is not improbable that this may date from his Hunnish ancestry, among whom, I think, I have heard of a similar custom. The Szekler soldier I was told was " excessive," which means extreme in all he did.

An English dwelling could not have been cleaner than the roomy house of our host. At Vajnafalva I had en- tered several cottages, and simple as the interiors were, neatness and order prevailed in all. But the Szekler is neat in his person; "Selbstbewusstsein," which may best be rendered by self-respect, is strong in him, and shows its influence in his carriage, his address, his household, and his personal appearance. What is so pleasing in this country is the total absence of ostentation. You do not find it anywhere, in any rank or in any nationality. This is most striking perhaps in the Hungarian nobleman, who, fallen as he is from his high estate, might be almost excused for a wish to appear-particularly before a stranger-in somewhat of the splendour which once made part of his daily life. But no such attempt is ever made. There is a dignity in the simplicity shown amid the wrecks of former pomp, which, to me, had always more nobility in it than the grandest state.




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