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MARUSHKA MAKES A JOURNEY
Marushka was so excited that she scarce knew how to contain herself. The Baroness had come to see Aszszony Semeyer and had talked long with her. Then she had called Marushka and the little girl saw that Aszszony Semeyer had been crying.
"Marushka," the Baroness said. "Will you come with me and make a journey? I want to take you in the motor to Buda-Pest."
"The High-Born Baroness is very good," said Marushka, her eyes shining. "I should like to go very much, but not if Aszszony Semeyer does not wish it."
"Good child," said Aszszony Semeyer, "I do wish it."
"Then why do you cry?"
"There are many things to make old people cry," said the peasant woman. "I am certainly not crying because the High-Born Graciousness wishes to honour you with so pleasant a journey — (that is the truth, for it is the fear that she will not come back that forces the tears from my eyes," she added to herself).
"Aszszony Semeyer will have Banda Bela," said the Baroness. Marushka opened her eyes very wide.
"Oh, no, Your Graciousness, because Banda Bela must go wherever I go. If he stays at home, then I must stay, too."
"Such a child!" exclaimed Aszszony Semeyer. "She has always been like this about Banda Bela. The two will not be separated."
"In that case we shall have to take Banda Bela also," said the Baroness, and Marushka clapped her hands with glee.
"That will be nice," she exclaimed. "I shall love to see the city and all the beautiful palaces, and I shall bring you a present, Aszszony Semeyer, but I will not go unless you wish me to."
"I do wish it, dear child, but do not forget your old aunt," for so she had taught the children to call her.
So it was decided that they should start the next week when the Baron's business would have been attended to.
Part of Marushka's journey was to be taken in the motor, and, as she had never ridden in one before, she was very much excited as they set out on a bright day in August. She wanted to sit beside Banda Bela with the driver, but the Baroness said, "No, it would not be proper for a little girl." So she had to be satisfied with sitting between the Baron and Baroness on the back seat.
Up hill and down dale they rode. The road at times was so poor that the wheels wedged in the ruts and all had to get out while the driver pushed from behind.
They ate their luncheon at a ruined castle which had once been a beautiful country place. It belonged to a friend of the Baron but had been deserted for many years. Beyond it lay a corn-coloured plain and blue hills, and on top of one of the hills gleamed the white walls of a monastery.
"Near here are some famous marble quarries," said the Baroness. "They are finer even than the ones at Carrara in Italy, which are celebrated all over the world. There is so much marble around here that it is cheaper than wood. See there! even the walls of that pig-pen are of marble. Yonder is a peasant's hut with a marble railing around the garden. Even the roads are mended with it, and the quarries in the hillsides have hardly been touched yet. Some day someone will be made very rich if they will open up this industry, and it will keep many of our people from going to America."
"Why do they go to America?" asked Marushka. "And where is America? It cannot be so nice as Magyarland."
"Well, little one, it is as nice to Americans, but when our Hungarian people go there they always come back. Sometimes the Slövaks remain, but never the Magyars. They go there and work and save. Then they send for their families, and they too work and save, and at last they all come home. There is a story told of the last war in Hungary. Two Magyar peasants had gone to America and worked in the far west. One day in a lonely cabin on the plains they found an old newspaper and read that there was war in Hungary. They put together all their money, saved and scrimped, ate little and worked hard, until they got enough to go home. They reached Hungary before the fighting was over and begged to be sent at once to the front, to have a chance to serve their country before the war was over."
"But how do people know about America?" asked Marushka.
"There are agents of the steamship companies who go from village to village trying to get the people to emigrate," said the Baroness. "They tell them that in America one finds gold rolling about in the streets and that there everyone is free and equal. Our people believe it and go there. Many of those who go are bad and discontented or lazy here at home. When they get to America and find that gold does not roll in the streets and that they must work for it if they want it, they are more discontented than ever, and the people of America think that Hungarians are lazy and good for nothing. When they come home they talk in the villages of the grand things they did in America and make the people here discontented and unhappy."
"Why don't the people ask them, if America was so nice, why did they not stay there?" asked Marushka, and the Baroness smiled.
"Those of us who have estates to take care of wish they would," she said. "The returned emigrant is one of the problems of Hungary."
"Why are there so many beggars?" asked Marushka. "I never saw one in Harom Szölöhoz."
"That is a prosperous village with a kind over-lord," said the Baroness. "But there are so many beggars in Hungary that they have formed themselves into a kind of union. In some towns there is a beggar chief who is as much a king in his way as is His Majesty the Emperor. The chief has the right to say just where each beggar may beg and on what days they may beg in certain places. The beggars never go to each other's begging places, and if anyone does, the other beggars tell the police about him and he is driven out of town.
"In some provinces the very old and sick people are sent to live with the richest householders. Of course no one would ever refuse to have them, for alms asked in the name of Christ can never be refused, and as our gracious Emperor has said, 'Sorrow and suffering have their privileges as well as rank.'"
"He must be a very good Emperor," said Marushka. "It seems to me that you are a very wonderful lady and that you know everything. It is interesting to know all about these things. When I grow up I am going to know all about Magyarland."
The journey in the train was even more exciting for the children than that in the motor, and they enjoyed very much hearing about the various places through which they passed.
When they reached Buda-Pest, Marushka was dumbfounded, for she had never imagined anything so beautiful. The train rolled into the huge station, with its immense steel shed and glass roof, upon which the sun beat like moulten fire. The children followed the Baroness through the gate and into the carriage, which rattled away so quickly that it swayed from side to side, for in Hungary people are proud of their fine horses and always drive as fast as they can.
Marushka caught glimpses of broad, well-paved streets and large, handsome buildings, as the Baroness pointed out the opera house, theatres, churches, museums, and the superb houses of parliament built upon the banks of the Danube.
"Across the river you see Buda," said the Baroness. "In old times Buda was very old-fashioned, but in the last twenty years the royal palace has been built and many other costly buildings, and soon it will be as handsome as Pest. The improvements within the last ten years are wonderful. The streets are clean and neat, no ugly signs are permitted upon the houses, no refuse on the streets, and the citizens vie with each other in trying to make that side of the river as beautiful as this. The Emperor takes great interest in the enterprise."
"You speak about the Emperor
sometimes," said Marushka. "And other times about the King. Who is
"'Across the river you see Buda,' said the Baroness"
"The same as the Emperor," replied the Baroness. "You see, Austria and Hungary have been united under one government, and the King of Hungary is Emperor of Austria. There were many wars fought before this arrangement was made, and all the different peoples of the empire agreed to live peaceably together."
"How long has Hungary had a king?" asked Marushka.
"Oh, for years and years," said the Baroness. "It was about the twelfth century when the Aranybulla1 was made, which gave to the nobles the right to rebel if the king did not live up to the constitution. See! There are the barracks and the soldiers drilling. The country boys who come up to be trained are sometimes so stupid that they don't know their right foot from the left. So the sergeant ties a wisp of hay on the right foot and a wisp of straw on the left. Instead of saying, right-left, to teach them to march, he says szelma-szalma. Isn't it droll?"
"What is that building by the river?" asked Marushka. "The one with the little turrets and the tower before which the geese are swinging?"
"That, my little goose girl, is the Agricultural Building, and should you go inside you would find specimens of every kind of food raised in Hungary. But here we are at the hotel where we shall spend the night. You must have some supper and then hurry to bed, for to-morrow is the fête day of St. Stephen, and all must be up early to see the procession."
Marushka was so sleepy the next day that she could only yawn and rub her eyes when the maid called her at five o'clock to dress for the fête.
The twentieth of August, the feast of St. Stephen, is the greatest fête of the year in Hungary.
Marushka and Banda Bela were very much excited over it, for they had often heard of the fête but had never supposed they would have the good fortune to see it.
"Come, children," the Baroness said as they hastily ate their breakfast. "We must hurry away. Hear the bells and the cannon! Every church in the city is ringing its chimes. We must be in the Palace Square by seven or we will miss some of the sights."
"I think the High-Born Baron and his Gracious Lady are the finest sights we shall see," whispered Banda Bela to Marushka, and the Baroness caught the words and smiled at him. There was a subtle sympathy between these two, the high and the lowly, the Magyar noblewoman and the Gypsy boy, a sympathy born, perhaps, of the love of music which swayed them both.
Marushka felt wonderfully fine as their carriage rolled into the Palace Square, where the procession in honour of St. Stephen was forming. It was a gorgeous sight, for all were dressed in their gayest attire, and officers, soldiers, prelates, and guard of honour from the palace made a continual line of conflicting hues.
While the procession was passing Marushka almost held her breath, then, as the golden radiance of colour flashing in the sunlight streamed past, she clapped her hands in glee, and cried:
"Oh, your Gracious High-Bornness! Isn't it splendid! How glad I am that St. Stephen is the Magyar saint and that I am a Magyar!" The child's eyes were shining, her cheeks flushed, her hair a golden coronet in the sunshine, and she looked like a beautiful little princess.
At the sound of her voice an officer in uniform, who was passing, turned and looked into the child's face, then glanced from her to the Baroness, who waved her hand in greeting. He doffed his cap and then came to the carriage.
"Good morning, Count. It is long since I have seen you in Buda-Pest. Are you not marching to-day?" the Baroness said.
"No, Madame." The officer had a kind face, but it seemed very sad to Marushka. She thought she had seen him before, but did not remember where until Banda Bela whispered that it was the officer who had given them money for Marushka's top boots at the fair.
"I was on duty at the palace this morning, but am returning home at once. My wife is not very well," he said.
"It is long since I have seen her. Will she receive me if I drive out to your home?" the Baroness asked.
"She will be glad to see you," he said, "though she sees but few since her ill health."
"I shall drive out to-day with these little folk, to whom I am showing the sights," said the Baroness.
The count's eyes fell upon Banda Bela, and he gave a quick smile.
"Why, this is the little genius who played the violin so wonderfully well down at the village fair," he said; and Banda Bela smiled, well pleased at being remembered.
"The little girl is yours?" he asked. The Baroness hesitated.
"No," she said. "She is not mine. She is the child of a friend of mine." Marushka wondered what good Aszszony Semeyer would say to hear herself spoken of as a friend of the Baroness, and, amused, she looked up at the Count with a beaming smile. He started a little and then stared at her fixedly, just as the Baroness with a hasty adieu bade the coachman drive on.
"Madame," he asked quickly, as the horses started. "Who is the friend whose child this is?" The Baroness looked back at him over her shoulder.
"That I cannot tell you now," she said. "This afternoon at your castle I will ask you to tell me!"
1 Hungarian Magna Charta.