Title


[53]

VORSPANN
VORSPANN

CHAPTER III.

VALLEY OF THE WAAG.

Valley of the Waag.—Hungarian Travelling Waggons.—Freystadtl.—Country Houses.—Erdüdy Horses.—Vorspann : its origin — advantages and disadvantages. — Haiduk. -- The River Waag.—Pillory.—Pistjan.-Numbering the Houses and Kaiser Joseph. — Csejta. — Murders of Elizabeth Bathori.— Betzko: its origin.—The Fate of Stibor.—Trentsin.—Stephan: his virtues and vices.—St. Stephen's day.—Peasant Costumes.

BEFORE We enter upon any of those interesting but weighty questions which Presburg and the Diet naturally suggest, I invite the reader to accompany me in another country excursion, in order that we may become better acquainted with the face and form of this noble land, and thereby prepare our- [54] HUNGARIAN TRAVELLING WAGGONS. selves to take a more lively interest in its politics and institutions. We were strongly recommended to visit the Valley of the Waag, as being one of the most picturesque and romantic parts of Hungary. And, if the reader has half the passion I have for following up the course of a river,—now sunning himself on its banks, now reposing in the shade of its hanging woods,—if he can lend a credulous ear to the legends of its old castles, and please himself with the quaint and simple customs of its secluded denizens,—then let him accept the invitation, for he will find much that is to his taste in the Valley of the Waag.

For some miles before it falls into the Danube at Komorn, the Waag winds slowly over a rich plain, presenting no object more interesting than a continued corn-field, extending almost as far as the eve can reach. Omitting, therefore, this part of its course, we shall transport ourselves direct from Presburg to Freystadtl, where the beauties of the valley and our tour commence.

We may remark, however, in passing, the kind of travelling equipage common to the middle and lower classes in Hungary, of which we met a great number on our road. It is a low four-wheeled waggon, exceedingly light, sometimes furnished with a seat hung on leathern springs, at others stuffed only with a heap of straw, on which the master sits with an air of considerable dignity, and always smoking. The hinder part of the waggon is commonly filled [55] FREYSTADTL. with hay for provender on the journey. The number of these waggons with two, or four horses, which one meets in a day's drive is really astonishing. Every peasant seems to possess one.

Freystadtl presented an imposing appearance as we approached it. After passing a stately wooden bridge over the Waag, we entered a long avenue of poplars, with pleasure-grounds, laid out in the old-fashioned park style, on either side ; while above us stood the Chateau of the Erdödys, with its woods and gardens extending a considerable distance in every direction. Though itself a square barrack-looking building, roofed with bright red tiles, and far from ornamental, Freystadtl possesses an advantage exceedingly rare in Hungarian country houses—its situation is most beautiful. Placed on an open platform, crowning a hill high above the Waag, and backed by still higher mountains, sheltered from the cold, yet commanding a view up and down the valley of rare beauty, it has all the advantages one could desire. I notice this circumstance the more from its excessive rarity in Hungary. It is wonderful, in some instances, with what perversity a poor low site has been chosen, from which nothing can be seen, and where neither health, comfort, beauty, nor any other cause can be assigned for the selection, while perhaps, only a few hundred yards off, nature has formed the most lovely position imaginable,—the very spot which an architect of taste would search a whole country for.

[56] COUNTRY HOUSES.

And then the sort of country houses they commonly build ! long, one-storied, high-roofed places, only one room deep,—as uncomfortable and inconvenient as possible. As for the luxuries of halls and passages, they are rarely to be met with ; a long suite of apartments communicating by folding doors, with a very large entrance room,—which serves as dining-room and ball-room when required,—form the general plan of the building. On one side is, perhaps, a drawing-room ; beyond that, the lady's room, dressing-room, children's room, &c. On the opposite side to the drawing-room are the gentleman's apartments ; among which is always a smoking-room : and, beyond these, the strangers' rooms, of which there are often a great number. As there are no passages, one is either obliged to pass through other rooms, in going from one part of the house to another, or to cross the court exposed to all the inclemencies of weather. The kitchen is almost always separate from the house, to avoid the smell of cooking; a great refinement, though inimical to hot dishes. What becomes of the servants I never could make out satisfactorily; the grooms, I know, always sleep in the stable, for an Hungarian does not believe that his horses would live through the night if the groom were not there to take care of them. Fire-places are rare, except, perhaps, in the billiard- or smoking-room ; the whole house being heated by stoves, or, in new houses, by warm air. The high rooms and folding doors of the Hungarians [57] FREYSTADTL. certainly give a handsome air to an interior, and, in large houses, are indispensable to beauty; but, for comfort, I do prefer our little snug parlours, well closed and well carpeted.

I do not know why I should have been led to speak of Hungarian houses just now, because these general remarks are by no means applicable to Freystadtl, which is a well-arranged house, two stories high, and furnished with passages in abundance, —in fact, a very comfortable residence for a very grand seigneur.

The wonders of the house are the fine library, the collection of engravings, and the chapel, with its miracle-working altar-piece. This altar-piece is a fine specimen of the wood-carving of the old German school, and contains a considerable number of figures painted in imitation of nature ; among others, is one of the Virgin as large as life, ornamented with pearls and brilliants in profusion. The altar-piece was a present to a Count Erdödy from Mathias Corvinus, and is in great repute among the superstitious Sclavacks. The whole chapel is hung round with silver offerings in the forms of legs, arms, and eyes, in gratitude for cures performed on similar parts of the bodies of those who have solicited Our Lady of Freystadtl's good offices.

To me, however, the stables were more interesting than books, pictures, saints, and all: thirty black horses, of the size and form which we may imagine our knights of old to have mounted, were [58] THE ERDODY HORSES. something to wonder at. This breed has been maintained — one may almost say created — by several generations of Erdödys. It is of Neapolitan origin, and still possesses the faults of that race,—the hollow back, low croup, and large head ; but instead of the pony size, common in Naples, these horses range from eighteen to twenty hands in height. We drove out with a pair of them, one of which was eighteen and a half, and the other nineteen hands high, in a low and very heavy carriage ; but they trotted with it over the roughest places, through the deepest mud, up hill and down, as though it were merely sport to them. For use, these horses are of little value ; but they are in demand for royalty, and are employed as procession steeds. The present Countess Erdödy, a widow, is obliged to keep up the stud by the will of her husband. We spent a day very agreeably in seeing the establishment of Freystadtl. The theatre, riding-school, gardens, orangeries, dairies, &c., enabled us to form a pretty good conjecture how some of the rich Hungarian magnates of the old school get rid of their vast fortunes.

I must not omit to notice a sign of the times which the little town of Freystadtl presents. The inhabitants are all Sclavacks, but the names of the one or two streets it boasts of are conspicuously painted up in Hungarian, by order of the Diet, as we were told in hopes of thus Magyarising the Sclavacks.

[59] VORSPANN.

We had ordered the horses to be ready for starting early the next morning, but we were doomed to wait much longer than we had expected. This waiting for horses is so important a feature in Hungarian travelling, and will occur so frequently in the course of these volumes, that I may as well at once explain the causes thereof.

We were now travelling with what is called Vorspann. It has long been one of the Hungarian, peasant's duties to furnish horses to the government officers, civil as well as military, when travelling on duty through Hungary, at a certain rate fixed by law. A stage of about ten English miles, with four horses, is paid for at the rate of five kreutzers, c. m.12 (two pence English) a horse, which amounts to just eight pence for four horses the ten miles. An order or " assignation," signed by the Vice Ispan, or some other authorized officer, gives the right to demand relays of these peasants' horses at certain indicated places, and, on showing it, it becomes the duty of the village officers to see that the demand is attended to.

So convenient an arrangement, in a country where in many parts no regular post is established, was very often extended to others besides those for whom it was originally intended. In fact, almost

12Sixty kreutzers, c. in. (Conventions Munze) make one florin, c. m. or silver florin, which is worth two shillings English. The florin, w. w. (Wiener Wahrung) or paper, or se/win, florin, is worth only about ten pence English, and the kreutzer schein bears the same proportion.
[60] VORSPANN. all the travelling in Hungary was effected with peasants' horses, and it soon became one of the greatest grievances of the peasantry. To check this abuse, the counties increased the charge to non-officíaI persons, from eight pence, to two shillings per post; and, in seasons when corn is clear, it is raised even beyond that amount. The payment, however, is still small ; and it is therefore commonly made up by a handsome trinkgeld, often as much as the original sum itself. A shilling a horse for ten miles is still not dear. Except in harvest time, the Vorspann has ceased to be an oppression ; and in winter, when the peasant has little for his team to do, it is eagerly sought after, and a good supply of horses is consequently always at the traveller's command. In summer, on the contrary, it generally happens that an hour or two at least elapses between the changes ; and very often the horses are brought up from work a distance of five or six miles, when they must be fed and rested before they can be used.

Although four horses may sound rather grand to the English reader, I must warn him against the idea that there is any superfluity in it ; for, with a light carriage even, it is quite as much as they can do to get over five miles within the hour on good roads. Whether from early starvation or from peculiarity of race, the horses of the Hungarian peasants are among the smallest, and lightest, of any in Europe. They seem to have little life, poor things! [61] HUNGARIAN HORSES. or little courage to show it, for a kick or a prance is an excess unheard of. H___ says he has seen them lean against each other, to keep upon their legs. The harness is on a par with the horses: except a strap across the breast, it is entirely composed of thin cord, which generally breaks and requires tying three or four times between every station. Collars are unknown, and the reins are reduced to a single piece of string tied round the necks of the leaders. The whip, however, has a power of virtue in it ! In length, strength, and sharpness, it is, beyond comparison, the prince of whips ; and, to listen to its awful crack or the hollow thwack with which it falls on the drum-like sides of the horses, one can understand how it raises a gallop out of the veriest Rozinantes that ever crept.

If tiresome to the impatient, however, Vorspann is not without its conveniences, especially to lazy, sketching, geologizing travellers like ourselves. If the peasant makes us wait for him, he never objects to waiting for us in return. He will remain quietly for a whole morning, if we oversleep ourselves, without more grumbling than a feed of corn, and a glass of slivovitz—Hungarian whisky—will satisfy; and should we wish to sketch a ruin or hammer a rock, his horses doze away for an hour or so without the slightest objection.

To those afflicted with delicate noses, the proximity into which that organ is brought with the not overclean peasant, as he is seated on the box, [62] THE HAIDUK. is not very agreeable. In addition to other filth, his long flowing hair is generally covered with hog's lard, which, although it produces the most beautiful heads of hair I ever saw, yields such odours under the influence of a hot sun as are even yet painful to think of.

It not unfrequently happens that the Vorspann money is taken by the Haiduk before starting; for the peasant is generally behíndhand with his taxes, and, except in this way, it is difficult to get bard cash from him.

It would not be right to conclude a notice of the Vorspann without mentioning the Haiduk ; at least

HAIDUK
HAIDUK

in my mind they are so closely associated that I cannot conscientiously separate them. The Haiduk is a town officer, answering pretty much to our con [63] LEOPOLDSTADT. stable, but instead of a simple civil dress he wears a very smart hussar uniform, and when in full dress has a sabre by his side and a long feather in his schako. But his usual ensign of office is a stout hazel stick, of which most of the peasants under his influence know the weight and force. Like other petty officials, these Haiduks have all the humble subservience to superiors, all the insolence and cruelty to inferiors, which characterise the race everywhere else.

We had been fortunate enough to obtain an assignation for the whole of Hungary, and thought that all further trouble about horses was off our shoulders. At Freystadtl, however, we were undeceived. The servant presented the assignation to the Haiduk, who called his assistant, and after some colloquy, informed us that he would send off immediately, and he doubted not, that, in two or three hours, horses would be forthcoming.

At last the horses came, and we started on our journey up the valley. The fortress of Leopoldstadt, which is intended to command something or other, which those who pretend to know say it does not command, was passed without stopping, and, continuing our route through a forest of wild pear-trees, we followed the Waag on to Pistjan.

This Waag is a strange inconstant wandering stream,—as its name Vaqus implies,—fantastically changing its bed at every instant, and resisting man's best efforts to restrain its lawless course. [64] THE RIVER WAAG. Rarely a year passes that some village does not see a large portion of its finest land washed away, and a bed of sand and stones left in its stead ; and occasionally, as in 1813, the whole valley is overflowed, numbers of the people carried away and lost, the crops destroyed, and the smiling valley left a mere desert. It is only with the greatest hazard that anything can be built or cultivated on its banks. It is said to be more subject to sudden floods of late years than formerly, and the superstitious peasant finds abundant reasons for it peculiar to himself: others attribute it to the cutting down the woods, and the increased cultivation in the higher valleys, which causes the water to run off more suddenly than formerly, and thus to inundate the country below. A commission of engineers have examined and reported on the means of preventing future dangers, but no effectual method has yet been discovered.

The depth of water is in many places not more than one foot and a half, so that this river is of little use for navigation, although valuable for the transport of the wood, of which we shall say more hereafter. Taking its rise in the valleys of the Krivain, it becomes first navigable for small floats at Hradek, from which place to Komorn, where it falls into the Danube, is a distance of about one hundred and eighty English miles.

It was in the centre of some village, the name of which I have now forgotten, but which we passed [65] PILLORY. during this morning's drive, that we spied a picturesque pillar, which H___ at once transferred to his sketch-hook. It is a common ornament to the chief street of the villages, in this part of Hungary. The handcuffs, heavy legchains, and ring for the neck, to which is suspended a massive iron ball, may all probably have been employed for the punishment of offenders in former days, but their rusty state is a sufficient proof that they are now exhibited rather in terrorem than applied in actual use.

PILLORY
PILLORY

Pistjan is a collection of small houses, with a large hotel, a large coffee-house, and large baths—excrescences, as it were, rather than the natural growth of the simple valley of the Waag. The waters are derived from springs which rise near the river, and are so hot as to require cooling before they can be used. Some of the springs are situated in the bed of the river itself, and are sufficiently warm to prevent its freezing at this place. The water contains a variety of salts,13 and is in very high

13The temperature of the water is from 44° to 49° of Reaumur. In 26.50 grains of the salt deposited on cooling, are found 10.00 of sulphate of soda, 3.00 sulphate of magnesia, 7.00 sulphate of lime, 1.54 muriate of soda, 2.20 carbonate of lime, 2.00 carbonate of magnesia, 0.50 silex. It is particularly recommended in cases of gout, chronic ulcer, and certain other chronic affections.
[66] PISTJAN. repute. Here, as well as in many other bathing places, we are told that bathing in society is the established mode. The peasants follow the example of their betters, but in a ruder fashion, for they dispense with all covering on these occasions. The poor despised Jews are not allowed to bathe with the other inhabitants; but they are more decent i-- their arrangements, and separate the sexes.

Every little cottage in Pistjan is distinguished by a sign over the door. Some of them are droll enough, but not more so than the reason our Cicerone assigned for their presence, "That is because Hungary is a free country," said he, "and won't allow the Emperor to number the houses ; so the visitors, instead of saying, ' I live at No. 10, or No. 20,' say ` 1 live at the Blue Hussar, or the Golden Duck.' Oh! that would have been a terrible thing if Kaiser Joseph had numbered the houses as in Austria." It was not till some time after, that I received an explanation of this constitutional privilege. Joseph, it appeared, as the groundwork of his reforms, required the destruction of the municipal constitution of the Hungarian counties, and their re-organization on an entirely new principle ; for while they remained self-governed, he found it impossible to carry out his police and taxation systems. The numbering of [67] CSEJTA. the houses14 was one step towards this end ; and the people, with a people's instinct, seized on the outward sign of subjection presented to their eyes, and resisted it without being aware of its own innocence or the dangers it concealed.

About two hours from Pistjan (that is, by the road our peasant coachman took us, across the ploughed fields) lies the castle of Csejta, a place so celebrated in the history of the horrible, that we willingly deviated a few miles from our tract to visit it. I know not why, but one always feels less incredulous of the marvellous when one has visited the scene of action and made oneself at home in the whereabouts of dark deeds — as though stone walls had not only the ears so often attributed to them, but tongues also to testify to the things they had witnessed. The history of Csejta, however, requires no such aid to prove its credibility ; legal documents exist to attest its truth.15

The ruins of a once strong castle still remain on the summit of a hill which can be ascended only on one side ; for, like many old Hungarian castles,

14I have seen it hinted somewhere, that the more ignorant were made to believe that the red streaks on the houses were to mark those families who should be sent to some foreign country, while foreigners were to be brought to Hungary in their stead.
15For fear I should be suspected for a moment of appropriating what does not belong to me, I must again acknowledge how much I am indebted to Meduyánsky for the history, authentic as well as legendary, of the valley of the Waag.
[68] ELIZABETH BATHORI'S Csejta is built on a limestone rock, firming an abrupt precipice on three sides. About the year 1610, this castle was the residence of Elizabeth Bathori, sister to the King of Poland, and wife of a rich and powerful magnate. Like most ladies of her clay, she was surrounded by a troop of young persons, generally the daughters of poor but noble parents, who lived in honourable servitude, in return for which their education was cared for, and their dowry secured. Elizabeth was of a severe and cruel disposition, and her handmaidens led no joyous life. Slight faults are said to have been punished by most merciless tortures. One day, as the lady of Csejta was adorning at her mirror those charms which that faithful monitor told her were fast waning, she gave way to her ungovernable temper, excited, perhaps, by the mirror's unwelcome hint, and struck her uuoflendiug maid with such force in the face as to draw blood. As she washed from her hand the stain, she fancied that the part which the blood had touched grew whiter, softer, and as it were, more young. Imbued with the dreams of the age, she believed that accident had revealed to her what so many philosophers had wasted years to discover,—that in a maiden's blood she possessed the elixir nitre, the source of never failing youth and beauty ! Remorseless by nature, and now urged on by that worst of woman's weaknesses, vanity, no sooner did the thought flash across her brain than her resolution was taken ; the life of her luckless handmaiden seemed as [69] BLOOD BATH. nought compared with the rich boon her murder promised to secure.

Elizabeth, however, was wary as she was cruel. At the foot of the rock on which Csejta stands, was a small cottage inhabited by two old women, and between the cellar of this cottage and the castle was a subterranean passage, known only to one or two persons, and never used but in times of danger. With the aid of these crones and her steward, the poor girl was led through the secret passage to the cottage, where the horrid deed was accomplished, and the body of the murderess washed in virgin's blood ! Not satisfied with the first essay, at different intervals, by the aid of these accomplices and the secret passage, no less than three hundred maidens were sacrificed at the shrine of vanity and superstition. Several years had been occupied in this pitiless slaughter, and no suspicion of the truth was excited, though the greatest amazement pervaded the country at the disappearance of so many persons.

At last, however, Elizabeth called into play against her, two passions stronger even than vanity or cunning--love and revenge became interested in the discovery of the mystery. Among the victims of Csejta was a beautiful maiden who was beloved by and betrothed to a young man of the neighbourhood. In despair at the loss of his mistress, he followed her traces with such perseverance, that, in spite of the hitherto successful [70] CSEJTA. caution of the murderess, lie penetrated the bloody secrets of the castle, and burning for revenge, flew to Presburg, boldly accused Elizabeth Báthori of murder before the Palatine, in open court, and demanded judgment against her.

So grave an accusation, so openly preferred against an individual of such high rank, demanded the most serious attention, and George Thurzo, the then Palatine, undertook to investigate the affair in person. Proceeding immediately to Csejta, before the murderess or her accomplices had any idea of the accusation, he discovered the still warm body of a young girl whom they had been destroying as the Palatine approached, , and had not had time to dispose of before he apprehended them. The rank of Elizabeth mitigated her punishment to imprisonment for life, but her assistants were burned at the stake.

With this tale fresh in our minds we ascended the long hill, gained the castle, and wandered over its deserted ruins. The shades of evening were just spreading over the valley, the bare grey walls stood up against the red sky, the solemn stillness of evening reigned over the scene, and as two ravens which had made their nest on the castle's highest towers came towards it., winging their heavy flight, and wheeling once round, each cawing a hoarse welcome to the other, alighted on their favourite turret, I could have fancied them the spirits of the two crones condemned to haunt the scene of their [71] CSEJTA. former crimes, while their infernal mistress was cursed by some more wretched doom.

CASTLE OF CSEJTA
CASTLE OF CSEJTA

The castle, though once strong, particularly towards the village, is now fast falling to decay. It is loosely built of unhewn stone, held together by mortar, and crumbles away with every shower and blast.

As we returned to the village we visited the cellar in which the horrid butcheries took place, now bearing no marks but of the simple peasant's toil. It was sleep night before we reached our quarters at Neustadtl, a small and poor town on the Waag.

The next day we had a beautiful drive along the valley i-- which we now continued. About half way between Neustadtl and Trentsin, we passed the village and castle of Betzko. Situated on the summit [72] ORIGIN OF of a rock which rises perpendicularly from the valley, Betzko presents a mass of picturesque ruins which have few equals. Placed so near the frontiers of Poland and Bohemia, it was a point of great importance in the wars, which almost constantly raged either between the government or the individual nobles of the neighbouring countries.

Like almost every castle in this valley,—for the Waag is the favourite region of legendary lore,— Betzko has its tale of mystery and wonder. It is said to owe its name and origin to a fool. Stibor, a Polish knight of great bravery, who had (lone good service in the cause of Hungary, received from King Sigismund large gifts of lands and castles, among which was included a great part of the valley of the Waag. In one of those intervals of peace which left the knight of the middle ages without his wonted occupation and excitement, Stibor was one day trying to while away the tedium of his hours in the company of his household, when Betzko, his favourite jester, succeeded so happily in his sallies of wit, that his delighted master offered him a wish. " Build a castle on that great rock before us, and give it to me." "'Truly a fool's wish, to ask an impossibility," said those who stood round, in mockery of the jester's ambition.

"Who says it is impossible ?" cried the knight "what Stibor wills, Stibor does; ere the year be told a castle shall be there, and Betzko shall be its name."

[73] BETZCO.

From every side workmen now crowded up the steep ascent ; and one after another the rugged crags bore walls and towers. Still more aid was needed, and according to the rude law that might is right, all travellers who passed the valley were stopped by Stibor's order, and their horses and servants made to afford a week's labour to the building. The year elapsed and Stibor kept his word, for the bare rock was crowned with as proud a castle as any in the land. It has ever since borne the name of the jester, who in lieu of the castle received a good estate from his wealthy master.

BETZKO
BETZKO

From the steep precipice which overlooks the valley, the same Stibor is said to have met his death. Enraged that a favourite hound had been injured by an old servant, he ordered the grey [74] TRENTSIN. headed nun] to be thrown from the rock, where he was (lashed to pieces as he muttered a curse on the crud tyrant. Not long after, when Stibor had been feasting a great company of knights, and had retired to the beautiful gardens he had constructed with so much cost on the top of the rock, to sleep off the effects of intoxication on the cool grass, an adder bit him in the eve. Blinded and mad with pain, the wretched Stibor flew along the ramparts, heedless, ignorant of the danger he incurred, till at the very spot where his servant had been thrown down, he fell over, and striking on the rock yet red with his victim's blood, met the death his cruelty had so well merited.

Beyond this the valley became wider and less interesting till we approached Trentsin, where the mountains assume a bolder character, and that glorious castle is seen towering above the little town. As we passed the bridge and gained the outer walls, — for Trentsin was once fortified, — we observed a mark on the corner-stone recording the extraordinary height to which the Waag had once risen, at least twenty feet above its ordinary elevation.

The entrance to Trentsin promises little, but its narrow double gates with "barbican and tower" once passed, and a wide long street opened before us composed of good houses with colonnades and parapets, which reminded me of Italy.

As Stephan was carefully preparing our beds while we were at supper, an extra glass of wine, [75] STEPHAN. which the old fellow had tasted in order, as he said, to see if it was fit for his master's palate, so far worked upon him as to loosen his tongue, and he broke out into some comparisons between the comforts we were enjoying, and the hardships he had endured in the long campaigns against the French, in which he had served as a hussar, and for which, as he said with a low grumble, " the Emperor has paid me with a bit of ribbon and an iron cross ! " " A bad world for us poor peasants," he continued : " in war we do the fighting and others get the honour and reward ; in peace, we labour and others reap,—and after all, these counts and barons are not much better than we are. Most of their ancestors have got rich by robbery or treachery Count betrayed and sold the friends he fought with ; Baron did not get his large estates by his honesty,—and it is my belief that all the great people that go to Vienna now-a-days and look so proud, would sell their fatherland for a diamond cross, or a golden key to hang upon their coats." But let me introduce Stephan to the reader in person. A short and strongly built though meagre frame, supporting the very sharpest, hardest, and most weather-beaten face, is a description of his outward man. His character was fully as angular as his features ; he could not bear the sight of a woman, at least if she had any pretensions to youth or comeliness, and I have rarely heard him say a civil word to any one but a child,—and their [76] STEPHAN'S innocence softened even Stephan's heart. He was not naturally cruel : I remember his telling how in a night sortie, when they once took the French unawares, he poked a young lad of about sixteen with his sword, and told him to get away and hide himself: "I could not kill a man asleep who had (lone nothing against me." But ill-treatment or disappointment seemed to have soured him and rendered him suspicious of every one.

Such an obstinate fellow as old Stephan I never saw in any land; he would listen with the utmost patience to my directions, and then without caring for a word I had said, coolly follow his own devices ; and if perchance I remonstrated, he would as coolly assure me that he was an old man, had travelled much, and knew what was best. For personal service few men could be more uncouth ; S used to compare his assistance to that of the friendly bear who scratched his master's eye out, in knocking a fly from his nose. As a valet, Stephan knew his deficiency, and till he had learned that 1 did not require him to aid in putting on my clothes, and that I did require much water for lavation he was obedient, but that once learnt, and the laws of the Medes and Persians were not more fixed than Stephan in his routine. In all other matters he thought himself decidedly a better judge than his master.

An Hungarian servant in travelling has a very difficult task to perform. It is his dirty to watch [77] VIRTUES AND VICES. the road, t,o direct the peasants where to drive, and at every moment to jump from the box and hold the carriage up on one side, or to hang on the steps on the other to prevent its overbalancing. In all this Stephan was excellent, and it was quite useless my objecting to take a particular road as too dangerous, or declaring that I would alight at any place for fear of an overthrow : "Only do you sit still—drive on coachman. I never had a carriage under my care overturned yet, and your grace (an Hungarian servant never addresses his master by a lower title) need not fear that I shall begin with yours."

One evening, before arriving at the village where we had determined to pass the night, we had lost the road in coming over the corn-fields, and found ourselves on the wrong side of the river. and some miles from a bridge. Stephan got down to reconnoitre, and without informing me of the danger locked the wheels, hung on by the steps, and told the peasant to drive forward ; but even lie was frightened, when the carriage rushed down the steep and nearly perpendicular banks into the shallow bed of the river. For my part I could see nothing but the horses' tails, and I fully expected to roll over them; nor can I tell yet by what miracle we escaped.

I believe Stephan looked upon us as a packet of goods of which he had taken charge and was bound to deliver safe, but of whose will he thought as little [78] STEPHAN. as of that of any other packet. With Vorspanu he was most useful, for he never had his ferret eyes off the driver, whom he alternately abused, encouraged, and directed, with the most persevering industry. None could surpass him in flogging horses, making beds, and foraging for a dinner. I remember he looked very reproachfully at me one day when I refused to let him shoot some geese that had strayed from a neighbouring farm-yard :—" It would not be the first time I have done it, and shared it with my commanding officer, and who knows if your grace may get anything so good at the next place." At night he wrapped himself in his old cloak,—I never could persuade hint to wear his new great coat except on very fine (lays,— and slept under the carriage on the ground, partly for its security, and partly, as he said, " because he felt it cooler and more comfortable out of doors than in those hot beds." Thanks to his early life, spent in the Banat, and his later travels, he could speak Magyar, Selavackish, Ratzisli (a kind of Sclavish), Walachian, German, and a little Italian. Like many other old soldiers, Stephan was what in the Austrian army is called a " quartalsaufer," that is, a man who every now and then will get most humoderately drunk, remaining during the intervals very sober and steady. I received some hint of his devotion to the jolly god before I engaged him, but he protested so strongly against the insinuation, and desired me so cordially to throw Him [79] FETE OF ST. STEPHEN. out of the window if ever such an event should happen, that I was fain to believe him. Alas ! poor Stephan, I fear it was thy besetting sin.

Grinning a grim smile as he saw us rather struck by his reflections on the various fortunes of the rich and poor, and perceiving that he had caught our attention, Stephan turned the conversation to a subject of more immediate interest, and told us that we 'must positively remain at Trentsin for the morrow ; it was the fate of St. Stephen, the patron saint of Hungary, and the peasants would come in from all the country round ; there would be a great procession to the church, and every one as gay as possible. Warning the old fellow to keep himself sober in the early part of the day,—I never like to interfere with any one's scruples of conscience, and as I once had an Irishman in my service I know how conscientiously a man may get drunk on his patron saint's day, — I agreed to stay and leave Stephan to have as glorious a night as he chose.

The next morning the firing of the guns and the ringing of the bells warned us that the festival had commenced, and roused us up just in time to see the long procession of priests and choristers chanting their hymns, preceded by those emblems of ecclesiastical pomp, the floating banner, the robed attendants, and the rich ornaments of gold and silver which the Church of Rome so well knows how to employ, entering the large church, followed by a train of town's people and peasants, of whom [80] COSTUMES OF THE PEASANTS. three-fourths at least were women. During the whole morning, groups of peasants, in an endless variety of costume nearly filled the little town. We were surprised to hear that almost every village in this mountainous country has its peculiar costume, and should by chance a girl of one village marry and live in another, she still keeps the dress of her native place. The most striking costumes among the women, were those chiefly composed of white linen, with white worsted boots on the feet : I call these latter articles of dress, boots, rather than stockings ; for having persuaded one of them to take them off, we found them soled with leather, and so thick that they stood upright like leather boots. Occasionally the white skirt is relieved by a red or blue bodice. They all wear a little white cap at the back of the head, but the unmarried girls are distinguished from the matrons by a small red roll which just peeps out below the white of their caps.

Stephan persuaded two very modest and goodtempered girls to come and stand to us for a sketch. They were evidently quite as much satisfied with the attention their appearance excited as the vainest of their sex in Paris or London.

The men have less variety in their costume. It usually consists of thick, white cloth pantaloons, often embroidered with black worsted lace ; short woollen boots of the same colour, and ornamented in the same manner, slit at the sides and [81] COSTUMES OF THE PEASANTS. slouching; with a (lark short coat or cloak with sleeves, but worn, at least in summer, like the Spanish cloak, and embroidered with red or light green lace.

As we are now fairly in the land of the Mclavacks, and are likely to continue among them some time longer, it may be as well to let the reader more fully into the light as to who and what these Sclavacks are before we proceed any further.

TRENTSIN
TRENTSIN

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18




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