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An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution - Chapter X


November 21st.

To-day the newspapers are full of the complaints of Károlyi's government. The government has sent protesting telegrams to the Allies, the Czechs, the Roumanians. It appeals to the armistice concluded with the Allied armies, to the Wilsonian principles, to world-saving pacifism. It clamours for justice, help, food, and coal. And Károlyi threatens that " if the Allies do not want to see the formation of ' green ' forces—he does not mention the ' red ' because he has already formed those—" if the Allies do not wish that this part of Europe should be given up to plunder, incendiarism and robbery, it is the eleventh hour... "

But the Allies are well aware that Károlyi's rule has already achieved all this, and they don't trouble to answer. On the other hand Kramarz, with whom Károlyi had conspired against the interests of his country during the war answers in the name of the Czechs, haughtily, derisively : " The Allies have decided that the territories inhabited by the Slovaks shall form part of the Czecho-Slovak Republic, and not of the Hungarian state. Consequently Hungary cannot conclude an armistice for the Slovak parts, as these have already been incorporated into Czechoslovakia. " That is his answer, and the King of Roumania's answer is an appeal to his army : " Soldiers. The long expected hour has come. The Allies have crossed the Danube and it is time that we should rise to arms... Our brethren in Bukovina and Transylvania call us to the last battle. Victory is ours. Forward ! God is with us. "

The armistice of Belgrade makes all our enemies see red. Károlyi's government has opened the door to the Serbians, and the rest of them are breaking it in for themselves; they come aflame with hatred, and come incessantly.

I feel like death, and giddy with rage, when I read Károlyi's speeches. " Confidence is due to the government, " says he—and he defends the Socialists : " Let nobody presume to say that they are unpatriotic, that the fate of their country is not dear to their hearts... " and the radicals : " In Arad, Minister Jászi has fought to the last gasp for the integrity of Hungarian territory... " In short, he defends everybody who does not defend the country.

Among the parties which support the government differences become more manifest every day. They have practically formed two distinct sections, on one side the guilty, misguided Hungarians, on the other, the Socialists and Radicals, the foreign race. The latter are the stronger because they are better organised, and know what they want. Michael Károlyi is entirely under their influence, caught in the meshes of a net that is being drawn rapidly towards the extremist side.

Unity in politics only exists as long as it is a question of attaining power. The power, once attained, itself serves to divide the victors—swollen with pride and insolence. That is the moment to smash them.

" It would be premature, " Count Dessewffy told me, when I met him to-day in the street. I had only a short talk with him, for he was due at a meeting. They are forming an agrarian party, and hope to organise the peasant proprietors of the-country.

" I have just remembered, " he added with a laugh; " only think of it. Károlyi means to send you on a political errand to Italy... "

" Does he always choose with such discernment ? " I replied, and I could not help laughing myself. " Let him get me a passport and I will use my Italian connections—on two conditions. "

" What are they ? "

" Firstly, that I travel at my own expense, so that I needn't accept a penny from them; secondly, that I do not go in the interest of their republic and their government, but exclusively in the interest of my country. But that, I fear, won't suit them. "

As I walked on I reflected on what I had heard. Dessewffy had information of the country's mood, and he had said :

" The peasantry and the provincial towns do not take to the idea of this disguised communist republic, suggested by Pest. There are considerable parts of the country which are restrained with difficulty from openly espousing the cause of monarchy. "

" Don't hold them down, let them raise their voice and sweep the board of this scum ! " I had cried. But Dessewffy only repeated : " It would be premature. Let this crowd die off first. "

I ran into a ladder standing across the footpath; a man was sitting on top of it, scraping the wall diligently. Dirt has effaced the last traces of such inscriptions as " By appointment to the Imperial and Royal Court, " which October 31st had torn down in its fury. Now new work is being done on the shop-signs, and those that bear names like Hapsburg, Berlin, Hohenzollern, Hindenburg, and Vienna, are taken down. The cafés are in a tearing hurry to alter the names they bore before the war, and the Judaized town sycophantically re-christens itself, plastering its places of amusement with labels such as : Paris Salon, French Café, English Park and American Bar.

I feel the utmost contempt for them, and I'm sure that the foreign invaders, whom fate will bring here, will feel the same towards them. A people which denies, or tolerates that others should deny in its name, its past, tramples on its own honour. For days the government has been announcing the arrival of French troops. The town is being prepared for their reception, and we have to sit down quietly under this hideous farce and suffer it.

One of Károlyi's papers writes to-day : " The first French soldiers will probably arrive to-morrow in Budapest, and the youngest republic greets with love the champions of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. Instead of stiff, haughty German swashbucklers, charming, good-humoured French officers; instead of the clumsy German soldiers with their heavy boots, our streets will be filled with the petted poilus... Beside the Hungarian inscriptions we ought to put up French inscriptions everywhere on our public institutions... tradespeople should put on their shops : ' Ici on parle français. ' German translations on the bills of fare should be omitted... "

A government which prints such shame in its newspapers, a press which can find a single compositor to set it, a public which will stand it, must surely have reached the lowest depths of humiliation.

Flags of the national colours float festively overhead. And the government calls in the French troops of occupation, and offers their commander the most beautiful spot in the country, the royal castle, as a residence, because, it says : " They are not enemies, but gladly welcomed guests... "

Every drop of blood in me is boiling with shame and helpless rage, and my mind goes back to a long past page of memory—1871. An early morning in Paris. In close formation, headed by its flags, the victorious German army enters Paris. Along its route the windows are closed, flags of mourning float from the houses, and the still-burning street-lamps are shrouded in crepe; the people, conscious of its dignity even in the moment of its humiliation, observes a gloomy silence in the streets. No order has been given, no instructions have been issued, yet, men, women and children, all turn their heads aside, and the eyes of the victors fail to meet the tear-dimmed eyes, burning with hate, of the vanquished..


November 22nd.

The sky has descended to the very roofs. Snow falls continually and deepens in the streets. But the Office of Public Health appeals in vain for workmen at twenty crowns a day to remove the snow from the streets. They roar with laughter as they read it, and go on to draw their unemployment dole, while still the snow falls and falls, obstructing the doors of houses, lying knee-deep in the quiet side-streets.

Near the principal railway station it is like wading in a dusty, white, ploughed field, and even in the covered interior of the station one walks on soft ground, for there dirt and decaying garbage accumulate in heaps. Nobody does any cleaning nowadays. There is the unemployment dole !

To-day even the refreshment room is invaded by an insufferable stench, and there are vermin creeping on the walls. The bread given to the wounded is uneatable, and the tea is just slop-water. There is no fire in the stove, and the cold is biting; even during the war the place was never so miserable as it is now. There are fewer wounded, and the place is filled with able-bodied soldiers passing through the town. They come from distant battle-fields, ragged and dirty, and often they only get here to learn that there is no home for them to go to. Nowhere ! Serbians, Roumanians and Czechs have occupied the ancient homes of Hungarian peasants.

A Transylvanian Hussar sat on a bench and cursed loudly, sobbing now and then like a child. An old peasant from the Banat, a wounded old soldier, knelt there with tears pouring from his eyes. He was a descendant of those Saxons who had settled in Hungary six hundred years ago, and he exclaimed in his archaic German : " The Serbians have come to us ! Oh, our poor country, poor country ! " and the sergeant of the medical corps in his red-cockaded cap swore loudly at him.

Then a woman came through the door, dragging two little children by the hand. She asked for bread, they had been three days without food. " I shall go to Károlyi, " she cried, " he shall see that justice is done ! My husband is an official in the Banat. The Serbians have arrested him. They beat him till he fainted and then locked him up. There are many like that. Those who do not swear allegiance to them are cudgelled and locked up. All the Hungarian administration has disappeared... The police have been disarmed too. Then they requisition and don't pay. There are no newspapers—they are confiscated. They call us ' dogs of Hungarians ' and say that our land is now in Serbia. There is no post—all the letters addressed to Hungarians are opened, and if they contain money it is taken. "

A soldier came close up and listened with open mouth.

" Do you come from the Banat ? " the woman asked. " Then don't you go home ! The Serbians are enlisting our men and taking them to forced labour. Nobody comes back from that. "

The man looked at her for a while vacantly, then muttered helplessly : " But surely, now there is peace... "

Night began to fall. The big chandelier hung unlighted from the ceiling of the dirty hall, save for an isolated side-branch here and there, which scattered an ugly patchy glare in the twilight. On a bench a blind soldier lay on his back; he smiled continually in a queer way, as if the smile were frozen on his face, and his cap was tilted over his sightless eyes.

" You hail from the Great Plain ? " I asked him.

" I come from Szalonta... " he grumbled sleepily.

And I imagined the poor young fellow, in the stifling summer heat of the Plain, stretched at the foot of a stack for his mid-day rest, shading his eyes from the glaring rays of the sun with his little round hat. But now no sunshine will ever hurt his eyes again, and the soil of a thousand Hungarian harvests is being torn from us. Poor fellow ! Does he know that he has sacrificed his young eyes for nought ?

A man of the Army Medical Corps came in and told us that some wounded had arrived in the shed. My sister Vera and I took tea and bread. As I went along I overheard a conversation among some soldiers near the wall. Said one : " I put my knife into him with a will; the point came out at his back. The other one escaped. " " I did one in too, " said a deeper voice. I thought I must be dreaming. I stopped, but could not make out what else was said, as they began to talk in thieves' jargon. " I'll report them... " I thought—but I only thought that for a moment, for I saw the sergeant with the red ribbon on his arm, and the pince-nez on his nose, going up to them and shaking hands... No, one can't report anyone nowadays. As I went on, the talk became louder behind me. They mentioned a name, but it meant nothing to me; at that moment it was a mere sound, and it was not till much later that I remembered that I had heard it before—Béla Kún. He had been a communist agitator in Russia, who, with several others, had been sent to Hungary by Trotski to work in his interest. It is said that they brought money with them, a lot of money, and it is rumoured that they had something to do with the events of October. More followed them, and though the government knows all about them, still it allows them to cross the border. Trotski, Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, and then this lot—Nets are spread broadcast and tunnels burrowed under-ground. The suburbs of Budapest are haunted by ugly, red-eyed monsters. To-day they still hide in the dark, slink along the walls with drawn-in claws. But to-morrow—who knows


November 23rd.

The dark wall at the station and the voices I heard there followed me into the night, lingered in my thoughts, and were still there in the morning when I woke.

In the evening I mentioned the incident to my mother, and she too had heard of the man called Béla Kún. His real name was Berele Kohn, the son of a Galician Jew who came over the frontier with a pack on his back. He himself had risen to be a journalist and the secretary of the Socialist party in Kolozsvár, from which job he went to the Workman's Benevolent Society. There he stole. The war saved him from prosecution. He was called up, and sent to the Russian front, where he soon managed to surrender. Through his international racial connections he got to Moscow, where he fell in with Trotski, and from then onward carried on his propaganda among prisoners. He became the leader in Russia of the Jewish Communists from Hungary, edited a Hungarian paper called " The Social Revolution, " and finally joined a Bolshevist directorate in one of the smaller towns and played his part in the atrocities committed there.


" I heard, " my mother said, " that he came back with a lot of Russian money. Károlyi's government does not interfere with him in any way. "

" Of course; Károlyi is said to be in communication with Trotski through Diener-Dénes and Landler, " I replied.

Károlyi went to Switzerland in the autumn of 1917 with Diener-Dénes and Jászi, who introduced him to Henri Guilbeaux, an extreme syndicalist and defeatist editor, who used his newspaper to work for the same moral dissolution which was carried to power in Russia by Lenin and Trotski. It is said that it was this Guilbeaux who converted Károlyi to the ideas which Béla Kún has now come to represent among us. Later came the congratulatory wire of the Soviet's Workers' and Soldiers' Council, the destructive work of the Radical and Socialist ministers, the confirmation of Pogány's Soldiers' Council and of his system of confidential shop-stewards and the unrestricted freedom of communist agitators... These are signs of his guilt, and they are a dark augury for the future.

This is a new milestone which fills us with apprehension, another one of those measures which are meant to undermine the existing Social order.

The great French Revolution was fatally influenced from the day that the people and the rabble of Paris stormed the Arsenal and plundered it. In Budapest no force is required. The Police Commissioner himself has instructed the police and the people's guards to confiscate all arms and ammunition from those who possess no permit—and nowadays permits are only given to workmen and the mob.

That is another breach in the power of resistance of the middle classes and in the sanctity of the home. Henceforth the people's guards have the right to search for arms. The citizens are helpless, and I hear that everywhere people are giving up their shotguns and revolvers.

We are a pack of spell-bound sleep-walkers. The wizard glares at us with his big, oriental eyes and pronounces his spell, which varies according to the times : Democracy, Socialism. Yesterday the magic word was Liberalism, to-morrow it may be Communism


November 24th.

Nights are sleepless nowadays, yet I cannot work. As if every word of beauty had been engulfed by the mire through which I wade in day time, I cannot form a single idea. In the dreary desert of my brain nothing wanders but horrors : the morning brings them, and they are not banished by the end of the day.

I wrote some letters last night, and this morning I sent out for stamps. The maid put them on the writing table before me.

What is this ?—Printed across the portrait of the King, of the Queen, across the picture of the house of Parliament, there is the black surcharge : " Republic. " Printed over the beautiful little head of the Queen, " Republic " : the word runs across St. Stephen's crown on the King's head !

A thought that has tortured me many times since the 16th of November once again wrings my heart : The crown, our crown...

It is not a jewel, it is not an ornament, it is not pomp, it is Hungary itself. Kingdoms have come and gone, but there was no people in this world to whom its crown meant so much as our crown : meant to us. The Hungarian crown is every Hungarian soul, every clod of its soil, every Hungarian harvest. With it is torn from the country's head not kingship alone, but all that we have been, all that we may ever be. From century to century the ancient symbol wrought in gold has been preserved in an iron-bound chest up there in the religious gloom of the castle of Buda; within the last thousand years it has only appeared in the light of day fifty-three times, borne on the heads of fifty-three Kings—over the Hungarian land. And once more, when a thousand years had passed, on the day of the Millenium... Exposed to the public view, it lay on the altar of the Coronation Church. The people came, I saw them with my own eyes—gray-haired peasants, workmen, lords—and bent the knee in front of it as if before a holy thing. And I saw it on the head of King Charles on a December day, under the ancient walls of regal Buda, amidst the unfurled banners of sixty-three counties, amidst deafening cheers, amidst the sound of our great, clear, national anthem.

Traitors and sans-patries have torn St. Stephen's crown from its place with sacrilegious hands. That crown was not only a King's head-dress. Like a golden hoop it welded together the giant range of the Carpathians, Transylvania, the blue gulf of Adria, Croatia and Slavonia—the whole realm of the Great Plain, the country which formed the most perfect geographical unit in Europe. And now that the golden hoop holds it together no longer, that which has been united since the beginning of time falls to pieces and to ruins.

I was gripped by a maddening fear and began to tremble with apprehension for the crown, as if it were something more living than life itself. I felt that we only existed as long as it existed, that its destruction would make our destruction inevitable. What do they plot, these present despots of ours, who hate everything that connects us with our past ? It is not Károlyi who will stop them : as far as he is concerned they can do what they like with the crown.


A few days ago Count Ambrózy, the Keeper of the Crown Jewels, went to Michael Károlyi's house and asked for admittance. Károlyi was lunching with Count Pejacsevich when the butler announced that the Keeper of the Crown Jewels was waiting.

" Let him wait, " said Károlyi. " I am lunching, " and continued his meal undisturbed. After a time he was told again that Count Ambrózy wanted to see him urgently, as he had to leave town. Károlyi, to whom Kéri, Jászi and Pogány are admitted at all hours, sent a message to the first grandee of Hungary, to wait. He lit his cigar and sipped his coffee. About half an hour later the Keeper of the Crown Jewels sent another message.

" If he cannot wait, let him go, " said Károlyi. Count Pejacsevich implored him. At last he gave in. " All right, I'll settle with him in two minutes. "

He went out, cigar in mouth, and two minutes later was back again. " Settled, " he said laughing. " Ambrózy came to ask me what should be done with the crown. I told him : take it to a bank, or put it into your pocket, I don't care... "

And I seemed to see again the mystic dusk of the Coronation Church, its pillars and arches, and there in front of the altar, set on purple velvet, the pale gold of the Crown... I see the gray head of an aged peasant whose sharp Turanian features seem as if cut out with a chisel from the gloom of the church;the head bows, and his horny hand makes the sign of the cross on his breast.


November 25th.

My mother brought a porcelain figure into the room to-day. " It is broken, " she said, and put the Sévres shepherd and his tiny broken hand on the table. Its beauty filled me for a moment with extraordinary rapture : doubtless it appeared so lovely to me because nowadays everything we see is so very ugly and depressing.

" Of course I know it's going to stay here with you for the winter, " my mother said with a slight reproach in her voice, reminding me of the many small commissions I forgot from time to time.

" I'll take it at once... " I said.

" There is no need for that; there is plenty of time if you are otherwise engaged. "

At that moment I felt I had no other task in the whole world but her little porcelain figure. I said goodbye and went.

It was getting dark. Here and there the sparsely subdued glimmer of the gas-lamps made a pretence of lighting the streets; dust-bins full of garbage stood in front of the houses, but nobody could be found to cart them away. The air was saturated with an acid, unwholesome smell, which fostered the epidemic that had raged in the town for weeks, creeping in through filthy entrances, climbing the dirty stairs, and, in the chill of fireless houses, laying its hand on the heart of the inhabitants.

When I reached the little street I wanted it was practically in darkness. Only the shop windows cast square patches of yellow light on the footpath. I entered a little shop in one of whose mean windows some old china was displayed. The shelves, the tables, every available space was filled with broken china, and the repairer sat among the débris, with his hat on his head and in his winter coat, looking for all the world like a picture by a Dutch master. He had noble features, and his white beard covered his chest, and on his first finger he wore an old ring with a coat of arms... One day when I had gone there he had told me that he came of a county family. He had owned land, and a nice house with a pillared court, under the shade of old trees; he used to drive a four-in-hand and to collect china as a hobby. Somehow the land, the house, the horses disappeared ; so did his collection, and the only thing that was left to him was the art of repairing broken porcelain by which he now eked out a sort of living.

When I had finished my business with him I did not go straight home. One street after another seemed to call to me, and I walked on thinking sadly of that old Hungarian's fate. Shop after shop I passed, all with Jewish names—marine stores, crockery-shops, tallow-chandlers, small bazaars. A few years ago their owners had lived in Galicia, and all of a sudden they had appeared in the streets of Pest selling boot-laces. They had never shouldered a hod, never carried bricks, never followed the plough, but made money without hard work, by buying and selling; now they had their shop, the cradle of millions. They start their careers in the narrow streets in which our own folk end theirs.

Somehow I had wandered into the crowded quarters of Budapest's ghetto. These streets had been fixed by nobody as the abode of the invading Jews. The times have passed long ago when a Jew was not allowed to stay a night either in Buda or in Pest, and when he could own neither house nor shop. In fifty years they have conquered the town, and yet they have formed for themselves a little ghetto of their very own. They have invaded whole streets, occupying tenement-houses, in which they can live amongst themselves. The newly built streets and houses soon became filthy, and the entrances vomited the same odour which I have smelt in the ghettoes of Amsterdam, Home and Venice.

As I looked up I felt as if I were in a foreign town whose houses were silently conspiring in the dark above the lighted shops. I had never noticed it before, but there seemed to be here a secret, antagonistic life which had nothing in common with ours, from which we were excluded. The mask was dropped and the character of the streets became visible. The sense of security of this foreign race had increased to such an extent that it forgot to hide itself. It had been dissembling for a good while, though, and we had lived here, and had heard and seen nothing. We did not trouble about the course of events, and while they clasped hands fanatically, from the gin shops at the village end, from tenement-houses, editorial offices, shops, banks and palaces, over five continents, we forsaken Hungarians could not hold together even in our own little country.

Some of us begin to see clearly to-day, though what is happening now happened yesterday too—then in secretive darkness, now in open daylight. The immigrants have effaced the features of our race from the land, have dug out our souls from our national affairs and substituted their faces, their soul. This evil work has been going on for a long time.

The people who came from foreign lands were foreign to us only, but not to the people of the ghetto. They whispered things we did not hear, went to the ghetto of some other town, whispered again, and again went on and on. Trotski had been in Budapest—he had lived here years ago. Others came too, people whose co-religionists alone knew what they were after. We only saw worms that cringed, we never listened to what they said to each other.

I felt as if the whole quarter were speaking, as if every house, every street in it were quoting from the ancient book of its inhabitants : " A people which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear and hear not. "

My wandering eyes were suddenly arrested by the sight of three men. One had the features of a negro, the second a heavy, fat face, and the third was quite small, with red eyelids and white eyelashes. Their heads were close together. When I stopped in front of a shop window and pretended to look at its contents they stopped talking, and I saw by the reflection in the window that they looked at me, nodded at one another and moved on. Two others, clad in gabardines, came towards me. They wore fur caps and gesticulated violently with dirty hands raised to the level of their shoulders. One was speaking; the other listened with his eyes fixed on the ground and with dirty fingers caught hold of the lock dangling from the side of his head and drew it out straight to his chin. He stood like that for a time, reflectively,and occasionally mumbled a word. Then, noticing that I was looking at him, he stopped in the middle of a word and let his lock go; it curled up to his ear like a spring. Then they too went on.

King Street swarmed around me. Unkempt, fat women stood in the doorways, silk dresses rustled on the pathway, and the smell of filth mingled with that of cheap scent. Children shrieked. From the entrances of restaurants with Hebrew names the reek of garlic spread into the street. The doors of small shops opened and closed continually, and the articles suspended on them swung about; chains and watches rattled against the panes, stockings and ribbons fluttered to and fro, and the medley of badly lit windows displayed old clothes, confectionery, plucked geese, jewellery, boots. A woman passed, pushing along a perambulator laden with soap. On the street corner a bandy-legged little monster in a gabardine sold figs and blinked with his dull eyes at the passers-by. A red-bearded man stopped near him. They spoke fast and their lips moved as if they had gulped down some burning hot mouthfuls of something. As I approached them the red-bearded one turned abruptly round and slipped into a goldsmith's shop. I looked after him... A quaint old watch was hanging in the shop-window. I wondered what they wanted for it.

The chains hanging from the entrance door tinkled as I went in. A shaded lamp hung from the smoky ceiling low above the glazed counter, in which rings and ear-rings were displayed on velvet cushions. Several people were standing in a corner, but as soon as they saw me they retired to the back of the shop. Only a fat flabby girl remained, and as she asked me what I wanted she fingered her untidy black hair, and scratched herself. Meanwhile she watched the door, and when it opened bent quickly over the counter and pointed with her grimy thumb over her shoulder. A well-dressed man in a fur coat, and with a typical face, passed behind me and joined the others. Then a sailor came in and he too was called in to join the group. Many voices whispered mysteriously in the room at the back of the shop. I listened attentively, straining my ears to hear something, one sentence, of all this talk which was not meant for us and was only mentioned among themselves—but I could not understand a word...

" I am afraid it won't do, " I said to the girl, and hurried out of the shop in disgust.

I walked fast, almost running through the crowd, as if I were escaping the meshes of a conspiracy which floated in the air but which one could not grasp, because as soon as one touched it it fell to pieces like slime.

The whole quarter was on the look-out for some prey. Its streets were haunted by some premeditated crime. In its houses a greedy monster, which has never shut its eyes for a thousand years, kept vigil.

Away from here, into the fresh air ! I was haunted by the thought of the room in the little shop, the whispering Jews, Russian money on the table; of the sergeant with his golden pince-nez, who had mentioned the name of Béla Kún to the soldiers; of the faces of Jászi, Kunfi and Louis Hatvany; of the bandylegged monster at the street corner, the man with the red beard and the flabby girl... They are all after the same thing and are helping each other all they can, while we have lost the power of wanting anything at all...

That night I wrote an appeal to the women of Hungary. Women ! sleep not, or your children will have no place to lay their heads..


November 26th.

In the afternoon I walked towards the boulevards.

Countess Louis Batthyány had telephoned that she wanted to see me. I made my way through a dense crowd, for the town is overrun by the constant influx of refugees and of thousands of home-coming soldiers. On the boulevards people thronged; there hardly seemed to be enough room for them. The human tide overflowed into the by-streets, pushed, pressed, swarmed and accumulated in front of the windows of newspaper offices like a knotted muscle. In the office window of an evening newspaper were some photographs, and under one of them was an inscription, " The members of the Soldiers' Council. " There were too many people for me to get near, so that I could only see it at a distance as I passed—the faces, exhibited in glory, of those who were guilty of the rebellion of October, and who may one day be called to account.

" What do you think of that ? " a voice asked among the loiterers. " The Minister for War has had Heltai arrested for embezzlement, robbery and murder. " " What ? the ex-commander of the town ? " " That's him... and now his sailors are coming in armoured cars with machine-guns to rescue him. There's going to be trouble. " The news spread at once. " Have you heard it ? " " It is not true ? " " But it is ! " There was a panic. And the people in the streets carried it on with them : " The sailors are coming ! They have left Pressburg, they have left the Czechs... "

Crowded electric trams passed, so crammed with people that the pressure inside nearly broke the cars' sides; outside people were hanging on everywhere. I saw some soldiers coming along, when suddenly one of them tumbled forward, tripped over his own foot and fell, face downward, on the pavement. Nobody troubled about him and even his companions went on indifferently. With a remnant of war-time charity I stooped over him, thinking that perhaps he had an artificial leg, or was suffering from an epileptic fit. When I took hold of his arm to help him to get up again, however, I found that he was drunk and vomiting. As I started back I heard his companions roar with laughter.

The crowd carried me on, but the incident was like a thorn thrust into one's heart. Soldiers, Hungarian soldiers ! There had been a time when my eyes filled with tears at the sight of them. How proud I had felt of them, how I had respected them, I had loved them as being the personified courage of my race. What are they now... ?

When I arrived at my friend's house I found the talk turning on Michael Károlyi, to whom several of those present were related. I asked them if they knew the conditions of the armistice concluded with Diaz, that they had safeguarded the frontiers of the country, which the Belgrade treaty had sacrificed ? The news was so mad, so impossible, that doubt showed in every eye.

" I know it for certain, " I said; " a member of the armistice commission, Lieut .-Colonel Julier, told my brother so. "

Anger succeeded consternation on every face.

" Get me the text, " Count Julius Batthyány shouted, " and I will have the two documents posted up, side by side, and within twenty-four hours the whole government will collapse. "

His beautiful mother looked at him doubtfully :

" Do you imagine that there is so much liberty left in this town ? The posters would be torn to shreds before they could be stuck on the walls. "

" They promised us the freedom of the press and of opinions, and we get nothing but lies. "

" Let us organise against them. That is the only way to defeat their lies, " said Countess Batthyány, " it was with that intent that I asked you to come. "

" You are thinking of the women ? "

" Yes... "

" I have thought of them too, " I said. " There are several of us who think the same. We must find some common-place programme to hide our real purpose : women alone can rebuild the lost faith. "

" Work out the programme and take the leadership of the movement. "

" I don't want to be anything but a common soldier, " I answered; " I am only an author and know nothing of these things. "

" For all that you will have to do it. Your lead will be followed. I want to work too. "

I shook my head. I was ready to do anything, but did not feel the vocation for leadership.

" We will try too, " said Count Batthyány. " Somehow we must succeed in getting rid of this crowd. "

" We will talk it all over, " said his mother.

So she is with us too, I pondered when leaving. She, the aunt of both Count Michael and Countess Károlyi ! How many of us felt the same thing ! It seemed to be floating in the air, and waiting for someone among us to put it into words.

The street had changed while I had been in the house. No lamps were burning, the trams were not running, and the snow was falling heavily. Had a strike broken out suddenly ? Was the supply of coal exhausted ? Or was it because of Heltai's sailors ?

The little side-streets gaped dismally in the dark. A ramshackle cab trotted through the snow.

" How much to Stonemason Street ? " I asked.

" Sixty crowns, " the driver answered from his seat.

" Not so long ago it would have been two crowns... "

He drove on, cursing me, and I went on, ploughing my way through the snow. There was an uncanny silence about the place. Out in the country the silence of the woods and meadows is that of rest, while here in town silence seems to be the preliminary of some hidden attack. That was what it felt like now. Against my will I was looking behind me all the time, and I hurried as fast as I could across the entrances of the alleys.

The bright, clean streets, policemen, protection, security of the past—where have they all gone ?

Civilisation was only a scaffolding which was covered with paper posters so that we should not see that there was no building behind it, and it has collapsed at a single blow. It is a wreck, and wolves prowl over the abandoned ground. The town has slipped suddenly back to the times when nobody who started on an errand at night knew if he would ever see home again.

At the next corner a cab turned out into the boulevard and I felt a little safer. But I did not enjoy the sight of the cab for very long. Two soldiers emerged from a doorway and ran after it, shouting loudly. The driver made signs that he had passengers, but stopped out of fear that they might shoot him. The soldiers didn't trouble to discuss the matter, but simply opened the door of the cab, kicked the passenger out of it, and took his place. The cab, as if driving into a white veil, disappeared rapidly in the falling snow. The street became lonely and quiet. Only the snow glittered, and even as the flakes drifted into my face I decided that after all in these days it was wiser to walk...

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