|Stephen Sisa : The Spirit of Hungary|
Hungarian Power under the Anjou Kings
Róbert Károly, a King with the Midas Touch
With the death of Endre III in 1301, the House of the Árpáds died out. As his Palatine lamented, "He was the last golden branch of St. István's family tree. After his death his countrymen wondered with sorrowing hearts how they could find another ruler of the first king's blood."
While the Árpáds' "golden branches" may have died out, there were still some "silver branches" left on that family tree: the descendants of the female line of the Árpáds. The Magyars, who were anxious to fill the vacancy on the throne, had three such princes to choose from.
One was Charles Robert (Róbert Károly), son of Charles Martel of Anjou, the late King of Naples. Another was Wenceslas, son of Wenceslas II, King of Bohemia; and the third was Otto, the Duke of Bavaria. Each of these candidates eagerly sought the Hungarian throne, the latter two supported by various Magyar oligarchs whose power had grown out of bounds during the past decades.
The most active aspirant was Charles Robert (Caroberto in Italian) whose candidacy was promoted by the pope - so much so that Caroberto was actually crowned in haste at Esztergom by the Primate, but not with Saint lstván's Crown. The mightiest oligarch. Máté Csák, considered this coronation null and void, and favored the son of Wenceslas of Bohemia. However the young prince proved to be a drunkard and was recalled to Prague by his father. On the march back to Prague, Wenceslas and his troops sacked Esztergom and, worse, spirited the Holy Crown away as well.
With the second candidate thus eliminated, the kingmaker Máté Csák chose Otto, Duke of Bavaria. His selection did not sit well with the powerful Voivode of Transylvania. When, as a means of winning his support, King Otto paid him a visit to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage, the Voivode simply seized him. As a result, Otto found himself not in the hoped-for nuptial bed, but languishing in a much cooler place: in the Voivode's prison where he was to spend several years. Upon his release, Otto decided he had enough of Hungary and returned to Bavaria.
After such tragicomic intermezzos, Charles Robert remained without rivals, and in 1308, was duly elected king over Máté Csák's protest. Csák was irreconcilable, and until his death he remained a renegade "little Caesar" within his own, huge domain whose center was the famous fortress of Trencsén.
"Silver Branch" of Pure Gold
If the seven year period of internal strife and rivalries represented seven lean years for the nation, a long era of feasting was ushered in with the coronation of Róbert Károly. This seemingly silver branch of the Árpád House, in contrast to the other two which had fizzled, turned out to be pure gold - a King with the Midas touch for the Magyars.
Róbert Károly of Naples was a scion of the House of Anjou. His mother was the sister of László IV, his grandfather was King Béla IV, who re-built Hungary after the Tartar invasion. During his reign, the country entered an era of strengthened French influence, which had already been quite noticeable during the period of the Árpáds.
The beginning years of his rule were marked by major campaigns to wrest power away from the dozen or so "little Caesars" who had virtually divided the land among themselves. Róbert Károly, after eliminating them one by one, did not claim for himself all the crownlands recovered from the oligarchs.
Instead, he divided these lands among new landowners loyal to the crown - but not without a hitch. These landlords were obliged to keep militias of their own, known as bandéria, who went into war under their own banners. The king and queen had their own troops, and the nobility of lesser means had to join the royal forces individually (without bandéria). This way, a new military system of vastly increased efficiency was established, and it persisted for centuries afterward.
With the country's defense reorganized, Róbert Károly turned his attention to the economy and finances. It was in this realm that the new king's Midas touch manifested itself in many ways. Through a newly established system of customs, duties, direct taxes and monopolies, he managed to increase the state's income tremendously. Salt was taxed, cities were taxed, imported goods were taxed and even the churches were obliged to pay taxes on special occasions, such as the inauguration of a new bishop, the celebration of the New Year and so on.
He struck gold, literally, by promoting the mining of precious metals hidden in abundance beneath the land conquered by the Árpáds. In fact, during Róbert Károly's reign Hungary became the chief gold producer in Europe, supplying one-third of the gold of the then-known world! The individual production of other European states barely equalled one-fifth that of Hungary. In fact, Hungary's annual gold production was unparalleled until the discovery of America.
To keep a tight rein on all this gold, he established ten chambers of exchange, and nowhere else were precious metals permitted to be sold. Anyone who had gold or silver in his possession was obliged, under a heavy penalty to take it to a chamber of exchange. For the gold or silver delivered, one received certified bullions of the same metal, which then could be exchanged for real money. Needless to say, every such transaction resulted in a considerable profit for the Royal Chamber of Exchange. Since Robert Károly knew well that gold and silver were more valuable as coins than as bullions, he started minting heavy silver coins and gold forints, creating competition for the golden florins minted in Florence, Italy.
Hungarian gold forints became coveted throughout Europe, increasing not only the wealth of the Hungarian Kingdom, but its prestige as well.
Affair at Visegrád
Róbert Károly also promoted Hungary's commercial interests through diplomacy in a grand style. In 1335, he invited Casimir, the King of Poland, and Johannes, the King of Bohemia to Visegrád for a royal get-together. The kings were greeted by a magnificent display of the splendor of the Hungarian Royal Court. The guests and their entourages were regaled with entertainment after entertainment and feast after feast. All told, the visitors numbered in the thousands. The Polish party consumed 1,500 pieces of bread a day, outdone by the Czechs, who consumed 2,500 pieces. Countless bottles of fine Hungarian and French wine washed down the sumptuous meals. Tournaments and hunting parties brought variety to the programs prepared for the monarchs, who stayed in Hungary for weeks. The cost of this grand Hungarian hospitality was tremendous: 40,000 gold forints, including a discreet "bribe" for the Bohemian king.
But Róbert Károly knew what he was doing. It was a huge public relations party with the following dividends: the Bohemian king renounced his claim to the Polish throne, should it become vacant, clearing the way for a Hungarian takeover later.
More importantly, the three kings agreed that, in the future, their western commerce would flow through Bohemia, bypassing Austria. This agreement considerably reduced the price of goods from Flanders and the German cities, and soon revitalized commerce between Hungary and Poland. Thus, Vienna lost its profitable role as middleman for the three countries. Hungary, in turn, came into direct contact with a number of foreign centers of commerce.
Still another dividend of the Visegrád meeting was an agreement to form a Hungarian-Polish-Bohemian diplomatic front in matters relating to the future of East Central Europe.
* * *
The prestige of militarily strong and wealthy Hungary skyrocketed during the reign of Róbert Károly, and European powers vied with one another to make an alliance with her. The childless King Casimir whom Róbert Károly repeatedly aided in his fight against the pagan Lithuanians and Tartars, offered to make Róbert's elder son, Lajos, heir to the Polish throne.
The King of Naples also sought ties with Hungary, and gave his daughter Johanna in marriage to the King's younger son Endre, whom he also made his heir. His gesture seemed beneficial at the time, but Endre and Hungary were to pay dearly for this matrimony, as we shall see in the following pages.
When Róbert Károly died in 1342, after ruling for thirty-four years, he left for his son Lajos (Louis), a consolidated and powerful country.
Lajos (Louis) is the only king in Hungarian history upon whom the adjective "The Great" (Nagy) was bestowed by posterity. This does not imply that he was the greatest king of all (King Mátyás would certainly get the majority vote on this account), but rather that during Lajos' reign, the King of Hungary ruled over a veritable empire.
But Lajos qualifies as a great king on other accounts as well. He was an admirer of King Saint László and emulated him as a Christian ruler. After his coronation, he promptly undertook a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint László at Nagyvárad, and there made a vow to model his conduct on that of his idol.
It was a role difficult to fulfill. In physical appearance, he was a far cry from his model: while Saint László was a giant of a man, Lajos was uneven-shouldered and lacking the physical attributes of the ideal knight. But in Christian piety, humanity and courage he was, among the kings of Hungary, the most worthy of being Saint László's successor.
'There was no other known to be as kind and noble, moral and lofty-spirited, friendly and straightforward as he," noted a contemporary writer.
A Peaceful King at War
Although he was a peaceful man by nature, circumstances compelled him to fight many wars. His longest war was fought against Venice to recapture Dalmatia, the possession of which meant an outlet to the sea for Hungary. Since the reign of Kálmán the Booklover, Dalmatia had been the object of seesawing warfare between the two powers until 1381, when Venice finally surrendered to Lajos and pledged to pay Hungary an annual tribute.
His campaigns in the Balkans were aimed not so much at conquest and subjugation as at drawing the Serbs, Bosnians, Wallachians and Bulgarians into the fold of the Roman Catholic faith and at forming a united front against the looming Turkish menace. It was relatively easy to subdue them by arms, but to convert them was a different matter. Despite Lajos' efforts, the peoples of the Balkans remained faithful to the Eastern Orthodox Church and their attitude toward Hungary remained ambiguous. They regarded powerful Hungary as a potential menace to their national identity. For this reason, Hungary could never regard the Serbs and Wallachians as reliable allies in her subsequent wars against the Turks. However Lajos defeated the Turks when Hungarian and Turkish troops clashed for the first time in history at Nicapoli in 1366. The Hungarian Chapel in the Cathedral at Aachen was built to commemorate this victory.
In the North Lajos assisted his ally, King Casimir, in his wars against the pagan Lithuanians and Tartars, and against Bohemia. After Casimir's death in 1370, the Poles elected Lajos King of Poland in compliance with the agreement made in Visegrád during his father's reign. Being the ruler of Poland, however, was not an unqualified pleasure. The Poles hated to pay taxes and loved to quarrel among themselves and with the Court, especially with the domineering dowager Queen Elizabeth.
Louis had named Elizabeth Regent of Poland to conveniently eliminate her from his Court. Still, Queen Elizabeth had some justification for taking part in the affairs and quarrels of Poland: she had been a Polish princess before marrying Róbert Károly. Elizabeth's regency turned out to be a failure, her background notwithstanding. In 1375, the Poles killed 160 of her Hungarian soldiers and the dowager Queen escaped to Hungary lest she, too, be killed by her compatriots.
As an excellent commander and a gallant fighter Lajos resembled his exemplar, Saint László. He shared the privations and hardships of camp life with his soldiers. Although few legends were woven around his name, one incident casts light on his courage. When one of his soldiers who had been ordered to explore a ford was carried away by the current, the King plunged into the torrent without hesitation and saved the man from drowning.
When fatigued or exhausted from fighting, Lajos would retire into solitude and seek recreation in pious contemplation and religious exercises.
Italian Intermezzo and Intrigue
Religious motives permeated Lajos' action in peace and in most of his wars, with the singular exception of his campaign against the Neapolitan Kingdom.
The trouble in Italy started with the marriage of his younger brother Endre to Princess Johanna of
Naples, whose father had promised to make the Hungarian prince his heir. This royal match soon turned into a king-size mismatch. The matchmaker King Róbert Károly, had underestimated Italian resistance to a foreigner on the Neapolitan throne. So did his wife, the domineering Queen Elizabeth, who dipped deeply into the state's treasury to promote their son's candidacy. To no avail. The opposition to Endre's candidacy included - of all people - his own wife. Johanna, who had persuaded her father to make her the successor to the throne. Endre, to whom she had been married for several years, was forced to be satisfied with a minor duchy. He was, in fact, treated so harshly that he began to fear for his life.
Learning of Endre's predicament, King Lajos sent Queen Elizabeth to intervene on her son's behalf. She undertook a long and costly journey to Italy, accompanied by a large entourage that included the Palatine, several bishops and other dignitaries to impress the Neapolitans. Johanna and her Court received Queen Elizabeth amidst great pomp, and feigned kindness and good will so successfully that she managed to pacify her powerful and angry mother-in-law. The Queen returned to Hungary reassured, but not before she had persuaded the Pope, by means of a donation of 40,000 gold forints, to side with her son. The Pontiff obediently decreed that Endre was to be crowned King of Naples.
This news hit Endre's enemies hard. Afraid that Endre, once crowned, would wreak vengeance on them, they decided to take preventive action. When the Royal Court was hunting in the vicinity of Aversa, Endre's enemies plotted to be present in the hunting party. After the royal couple retired to a castle for the night, the conspirators sneaked in under cover of darkness. In the small hours of the morning, Endre was induced by a pretext to leave his chamber As there was a superstitious belief that the ring Endre wore would protect him from iron and poison, they strangled him and flung his corpse into the castle garden.
The murder did not go as smoothly as expected, however, because Endre put up a desperate fight and shouted for help. The one person who could have stopped the attack with a word, stood at a window, silently watching Endre's agony: his wife Johanna, one of the conspirators herself. Johanna later attempted to exonerate herself by alleging to have been under the influence of a spell which made her powerless to prevent the crime.
The news of Prince Endre's murder created great consternation throughout Europe and especially in Hungary. Since the Pope had failed to bring the guilty to justice, King Lajos declared war on Naples and personally led his troops into Italy. When Johanna escaped to France, Naples surrendered. However, after the Hungarian army withdrew leaving several garrisons behind - Johanna returned and incited the population against Lajos and Hungary. As a result, the strongholds were retaken.
A second campaign convinced Lajos that victories in Italy would have only ephemeral value, unless he was willing to keep strong forces there on a permanent basis. He did not do so for more than one reason. One single reason, however, was powerful enough to hasten his return from Italy in 1348 - an outbreak of the Black Plague, which was to devastate Europe more efficiently than any invasion could have done.
The Black Plague Strikes
The Black Plague was one of the greatest pestilences in recorded history. It struck the Mediterranean countries first, since it was brought to Genoa by ship from the Crimea in 1347. In Italy, la mortifera pestilenza of 1348 emptied the city of Florence and overturned the authority of all law, while in Parma Patriarch lamented its losses with these words:
When will posterity believe that there was a time when without combustion of heaven or earth, without war or other visible calamity, not just this country hut almost the whole earth was left uninhabited... Empty houses, deserted cities, unkempt fields, the ground crowded with corpses, everywhere a vast and dreadful silence...
From Italy the plague was soon carried across the Alps and throughout Europe. At its worst the Black Death raged for three years and lingered in the soil of Europe until 1400. In some places it killed half the population, though in general its toll was one third.
Hungary was not immune. The plague first broke out in Transylvania and then in Transdanubia, killing one third of the population. Lajos' wife fell victim to it and even the king became gravely ill, but recovered. Under such circumstances, Lajos' second Italian campaign in 1450, which incurred enormous costs for Hungary, was a halfhearted affair and when the Papal See promised that justice would be done, he withdrew his troops. Actually, the two Neapolitan campaigns had been undertaken more in the interests of the royal family than in the interest of the nation, with the dowager Queen Elizabeth agitating most vehemently of all for punishing the Italians.
During these campaigns Lajos distinguished himself as a regal knight and warrior.
Some to Fight, Some to Toil
Nagy Lajos (Louis the Great) was more successful at home, where his domestic achievements rivalled, if not surpassed,
his military successes in significance. In those times, the peasants throughout Europe were serfs. In Hungary, the serfs were not obliged to serve in the army since the defense of the country lay in the nobility's hands. The one class had to fight, the other toiled. A tax was imposed on the farms of the serfs, who had to pay one-ninth of their income to support the expenses of defense. The nobles were exempt from taxation.
In 1351, Lajos codified the military obligations of the nobility in the so-called Law of Entail (siség). In the past the nobility mustered soldiers according to the size of their holdings. With the passage of time, however, many of these estates had been sold or split up, causing diminishing returns and a reduction of military obligations. This was harmful to the country's military strength.
The Law of Entail held that ancestral estates could neither be divided or given away, but must forever remain the property of the same families. Should a family die out, the entailed land reverted to the Crown. This highly important law, which ensured the integrity of ancestral property, remained in force until 1848 and was to a great extent instrumental in keeping Hungary in Hungarian hands.
Cultural Dividends from the "Italian Connection"
Lajos' campaigns in Italy, frustrating as they had been, produced big dividends in the development of Western civilization in Hungary. While his father had modelled Hungary's monetary system on that of Italy (Florence), Lajos emulated Italy's cultural achievements. During his campaigns in the sunny land, Nagy Lajos came under the spell of the Italian version of European civilization. He saw that virtually every Italian town boasted magnificent buildings adorned with exquisite works of art by painters and sculptors, with artists, poets and scientists enjoying great prestige in Italian society.
In his cultural endeavors, Lajos encouraged the building of towns with grants and privileges, promoted the development of handicrafts and trade and initiated the construction of roads. In 1367, he founded the first Hungarian university in Pécs, and he built beautiful castles for his Court in Buda, Visegrád and Diósgyr. The magnificent Gothic church in Kassa, Upper Hungary, was also built on his initiative.
Lajos was also a great patron of historians and the beautifully illustrated chronicle by Marc Káldi, written in Latin, was produced in his Court. The most famous epic hero of Hungarian literature, Miklós Toldi, accompanied the king to Italy as captain of his army. His legendary exploits were to become the subject of the most popular Hungarian epic, written by János Arany in the 19th century.
Under the reign of Nagy Lajos, law and order prevailed, while booming international trade and improving conditions accelerated Hungary's development as a great power of the era. According to estimates based on contemporary documents, there were more than 21,000 villages, over 500 towns (mezvárosok) and 49 cities in the country at the end of the 14th century - home to some 3,000,000 people despite the huge mid-century losses caused by the Black Plague. These figures do not include the statistical data of the neighboring countries and principalities that were under Hungarian rule at the time.
Peace for Hungary in a Turbulent Europe
A contemporary historian, János Küküllei, writing about "The Calm and Peace of King Lajos' Days," says that Lajos, a true Christian, was neither autocratic nor passionate in his rule. He was custos justitiae, the guardian of justice: "He left the liberties and customs of his country and subject peoples intact, governing them within their own laws and heroically defending them against their enemies."
John de Cardailhac, patriarch of Alexandria and envoy of the Vatican, wrote: "1 call God as my witness that I have never seen a monarch more majestic and more powerful... or one who desires peace and calm as much as he."
Although he waged campaigns outside Hungary,
Lajos did keep peace within Hungary itself. In an era when Spain was harassed by the Arabs, France targeted by the British, Germany tormented by the rivalries of its princes, Italy the scene of bloody conflicts among its city-states, Poland and Russia the objects of Lithuanian and Tartar attacks, and Byzantium and the Balkan states subject to Turkish raids and expansion, Hungary flourished as an island of peace.
Unfortunately, like most of Hungary's great kings (Saint István, Saint László and Matthias) Lajos died without a male heir.
In death as in life, Lajos expressed his wish to lie eternally by his idol's side. Accordingly, he was laid to rest in Nagyvárad beside the tomb of Saint László.
He could not have found a more eloquent and worthy resting place.
THE SACK OF CANOSSA
A short story by
When King Nagy Lajos of glorious memory descended upon Italy, like an Avenging Angel of the Day of Judgement, to strike terror into the hearts of the guilty, he had in his following an officer named Sylvester Danos who had again and again so distinguished himself in battle that he had been rewarded by the command of a whole brigade.
While Lajos himself was in Naples, his second in command, Voivode Apor, sent Danos to Canossa with instructions to keep a tight hand on the inhabitants and a watchful eye on their doings, being careful, among other things, not to get himself treacherously killed by one of them.
Captain Danos dared to vouch for it that nothing untoward would happen. Although his sword hand was of iron, it had a human touch, and there was nothing that he could not settle satisfactorily. He kept his troops in order, and saw to it that not a single one of his soldiers hurt or damaged any of the inhabitants. As a result, he was so beloved in the conquered city that he might have scoured the streets by himself all night without anyone doing him an injury.
Danos had an only son. not yet eighteen, called Sylvester like himself. His own father and grandfather had also borne the name of Sylvester - it is probable that the first Danos to turn Christian, back in the days of King Saint István, had received it in baptism - and Captain Danos saw no reason why it should not be handed down from father to son for many generations to come. To make quite sure he had brought his only son to Italy with him, lest he should somehow come to grief if left at home by himself. Better for him to be under his father's eye and there acquire gentle and knightly manners in the best of all possible schools, that of war.
But it so happened that one morning, while Sylvester Danos the Elder was in supreme command of the city of Canossa, young Sylvester was found lying in the street with a dagger in his heart, dead and cold.
Who had murdered him, and how, and why? No one could produce any answers to these questions. Besides, what good would the answers have done? The youth was dead and nothing could bring him to life again.
The King. down in Naples, heard of the affair, and flew into so great a rage against the town in which so treacherous deed had been done, that he commanded Danos, both as a salve for his grief and as punishment for the perfidy committed, to give free rein to his troops to plunder Canossa for three hours on end. Let the whole population suffer he said, if they did not find and deliver up the assassin.
Sylvester Danos took cognizance of the order and communicated it to the city authorities, whom it filled with tenor unspeakable. Already they saw, in imagination, themselves stripped of their clothes and their daughters dishonored. For what else could they expect if their city was to be abandoned to the tender mercies of these Asiatic hordes, who had proved themselves so irresistible in battle? They begged and implored Captain Danos to spare them, offering him immense sums to buy him off. But all their supplications were unavailing. The King had commanded and his command must be carried out.
A little later a lady begged for admittance to the Commandant. Dressed in the black robes that betoken mourning. she stood before him, beautiful as an angel: but she was a hundred times more beautiful when she threw herself at his feet and implored him in tears to spare the city and to punish her and her alone, for it was she who bore the blame for his son's death.
"I am Countess Taormese," she said, "the unhappy daughter of an ill starred Sicilian family. Your son saw me as I was driven along the Corso and followed my carriage up to the gates of the palace. I motioned him to go away, lest my husband, who is jealous like all Italians, should see him. But the youth would not obey me. Half the night I heard the jingle of his spurs under my window, but I swear by the Blessed Virgin that I never once looked out. A few minutes before midnight I heard a long cry. It must have been then that he was killed. I am the cause of his death, I know. Perhaps, who knows, a single coquettish glance from me may have lured him on. Perhaps I was not careful enough to veil my face, vain woman that I am, pleased to think that he found me fair. There is no doubt that I. and I alone, am his murderer. I beg and implore you to punish me and let the city go free."
The Countess was fair and she could beg most eloquently, both with her lips and her eyes. Captain Danos was not made of marble, - he was only thirty-eight years old - and could recognize feminine beauty as readily as his son. Nevertheless he answered the lady that there could be no question of mercy. The matter unfortunately, had passed out of his hands. It was his own affair to mourn for his son, killed at so tender an age; but it was the King's to avenge the death of one of his soldiers, treacherously assassinated in a conquered city. He could only beg the lady to return to her home and to await as quietly as she could what the morrow would bring.
The Countess took her departure; but an hour later there appeared before the Captain a grim-looking man.
"I have come," he said, "to tell you that it was I who killed your son. I am Count Taormese. A little while ago my wife came to you to offer herself as a sacrifice in place of the city. I have no mind to be outdone by a woman. Here I am. Kill me and spare Canossa the terrible punishment hanging over it."
Sylvester Danos was reminded very forcibly of his only son as he saw that son's murderer stand before him. And he answered:
"Listen, Count Taormese. For what you did to my son you shall answer to me personally tomorrow. But no single man's death can stave off the punishment ordained for Canossa by the King. Return to your home and wait for me there."
The whole of Canossa wept and lamented that night. The city gates had been locked and no one was allowed to leave the town. Women and maidens were in the depths of despair; rich men busied themselves dividing their possessions, burying half and laying the rest out on convenient tables, so that the soldiers should not have long to search and should do as little damage to their houses as possible.
At six in the morning Sylvester Danos gathered his troops in the market place and marshalled them in military formation. At this moment there arrived another delegation from the terrified authorities, headed by all the priests in the city, but the Commander refused to receive it.
When the troops were drawn up line behind line he rode up to them and addressed them thus:
"Hungarian men! The King has resolved to punish the town of Canossa because in its streets one of his soldiers was treacherously assassinated. He has therefore decreed that the town shall be given over to plunder by the Hungarian troops for the space of three hours. Accordingly I give you permission to go forth and seize whatever your eyes covet and your heart desires, from the priest's golden cross to the virgin's kiss. This you may do "in the King's name" and none shall say you nay. But in my own name I tell you that it is not the part of an honest man to avail himself of such a permission. Now do what you think fit."
Not one trooper made so much as a movement to leave the ranks.
The church clock boomed out seven strokes, then eight, then nine; and in all that time not one pin was taken from any house in Canossa nor a virgin affronted by so much as a word.
The troopers sat their horses stolidly until the last stroke of the clock. When the three hours were over, the streets of Canossa filled with madly cheering crowds who flung flowers at the Hungarian soldiers and dragged them by force into the houses which a little while before they had been so terrified of seeing them enter. It was then that Captain Danos went unaccompanied. to Count Taormese's palace.
"Here I am. Count." he said. "Now that the King's business with the town has been settled, the time has come for a reckoning between you and me.
There and then. in the armoury of the Taormese Palace, they settled their account. The Italian's guard was as feeble as was to be expected from one who was at odds with his conscience. Sylvester Danos with one sweep of his sword cut his head clean off, so that it rolled along the floor to his very feet, as though to kiss them and thus obtain pardon for the crime committed.
After that Sylvester wiped his sword, pushed it back into its scabbard, and went to seek the Countess, whom but a few minutes before he had made a widow.
"Fair lady," he said, with frank directness, "I am sorry for what has happened, but what's done can't be undone. I have lost my son, you have lost your husband. But there is. to my thinking, a way in which the matter may yet be remedied. If you will take me you shall have a husband in me. And I hope that before long you will give me another son. Thus shall we both be consoled.
The lady does not seem to have been as staggered by this proposition as she might have been. Captain Danos, as we mentioned before, was still in the prime of life, and his reputation was such as no woman could despise.
The question whether she consoled him in the manner he had foreseen may, we think, be answered in the affirmative, for the family of Danos is flourishing to this day. Whether the name of Sylvester is still prevalent in it we cannot tell.
|Stephen Sisa : The Spirit of Hungary|