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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Dumany's Wife - Part 1 - Chapter 13. The Valkyrs
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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 1 - Chapter 13. The Valkyrs Post by :redeagle Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :3135

Click below to download : Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 1 - Chapter 13. The Valkyrs (Format : PDF)

Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 1 - Chapter 13. The Valkyrs

PART I CHAPTER XIII. THE VALKYRS

It was about ten or twelve days after my discomfiture, and a beautiful afternoon. I was standing in my front garden, attired, as I usually had been of late, in coarse breeches, muddy top-boots, a not very clean linen blouse, and a broad, rough straw hat on my head. My face was rough and adorned with bristles. I do not think that anybody coming upon me unawares would have taken me for anything but a Slav garden labourer.

Presently I heard the gallop of horses, and, looking through the new and very handsome iron trellis in front of the building, I saw three Amazons riding up to the house. I did not know them, and supposed them to be strangers in the country, approaching in order to admire the curious old building. They wore long black riding-habits, all three alike, with blue veils tied around their high beavers and entirely concealing their faces. One of them was a real Zenobia figure: tall of stature, regal in gait, a magnificent creature! The second was tall and slender, and slow and stately in movement. The third was a tiny little figure, but full of nervous vitality and energy. Opposite to the verandah of my house they checked their horses, and looked through the trellis at me as if they expected me to run out, and give them the desired information. The tall, slender lady rode nearer to the gate and looked haughtily in, while the little girl-rider cried out:

"_Tu y serais_!" Then she beckoned the groom, who was waiting behind them, to come nearer and hand her a little wooden case with a round glass set in at the front--a little photograph-apparatus.

"Well," thought I, "these are amateur photographers, and Dumany Castle has apparently pleased their eye, and they want to immortalise it in the pages of their albums--an interesting object!"

I was standing near the fence, by the side of a flowering rose-bush. I held a spade in my hand, and was just in the act of putting it to its proper use when the lady directed her camera toward me. I thought it was rather a clever performance for a person on horseback.

"_Ne remuez pas, mon cher_!" cried the lady, as I lifted the spade. Of course the Slav gardener, whom I resembled, was bound to understand her French prattle. So there I stood, with uplifted spade in hand, until the lady had finished her picture, and then she released me with a "_Merci, mon garcon_!" and I, hardly able to keep my composure, answered in Slav, "_Dobri nocz, mladi panyicska_," which means "Good night, miss!"

The ladies broke out into a merry laugh, returned the apparatus to the groom, and rode off, laughing because the slender lady had been included in the picture. I laughed also as I looked after them, and I said to myself, "Now I shall not utterly die, '_non omnis moriar_.' The Valkyrs have come to pick up the fallen hero and carry him into their Walhalla, which in all probability is bound in morocco leather with silver clasps."

The same evening I had another surprise. My friend Siegfried drove up to my house, sprang from his barouche, and, seeing me, he ran up and embraced me tenderly.

"So you know me still?" asked I.

"Know you? It would be no wonder if I had not recognised you as you look now! Do you know that with a week's growth of beard and moustache a man looks like a gorilla?"

"Well then, I look like the progenitor of mankind, if Darwin is to be believed."

"I say, it's high time I came! otherwise you would cease to be a Christian, and become one of those detestable naturalists." With that Siegfried ordered his coachman to walk the horses about, feed them, water them, and prepare for the drive home after supper. So I had to give orders for a supper, and remember that I was not yet my Uncle Diogenes, but his nephew and a gentleman, and this friend of mine a veritable Count, who expected me to give him a good supper. "After supper you must come with me," said Siegfried, decidedly.

"I! Where?"

"To Vernoecze, to visit me! Have you not got my letter?"

"I received a letter. I have it in my blouse-pocket yet, but--"

"You have not opened it, nor looked at it yet?"

"No. I thought that if anybody wrote to me now, he either wanted to insult me or call me to some kind of a reckoning. I thought there was time for both."

"Oh, you stupid fellow! Where is that letter? I want you to read it at once!"

I took out the letter, opened it, and read:--

"DEAR NELL,--Our party decided at yesterday's meeting to support your name at all odds against the ensuing new election, and carry you through at any cost. My aunt wants to inform you of some very serious matter, so she begs you to pay her a visit on Wednesday next.--Yours, as ever,


"SIGID."

The previous day had been Wednesday, and the letter had been in my pocket for the last four days. I confess that I felt a glow after reading these lines. Something like joy, like exultation, filled me, that after all I was not dead and buried there in that house, not an utter laughing-stock, and that my name was not hooted by friend and enemy alike. I still had noble friends. They remembered me, acted for me, endeavoured to avenge me, and rehabilitate me. It was an intense feeling of relief, of pride, of happiness; but I tried to hide my sensations and play the Cincinnatus a little longer. When Siegfried said, "We expected you all day yesterday; but as you did not come I concluded to come over and look after you," I replied, "I had not read the letter; but if I had, it would hardly have been otherwise. I cannot go from home at present."

"Why! what is the matter with you? You are not going to play Uncle Diogenes, are you? Simple civility might have induced you to come over to Vernoecze. You are due there for ever so long."

"You are very kind; but, you see, the Vice-Governor does not send his sentinels to guard the iron chest with the money, and so I have to guard it myself; and then, you see, I am busy budding my 'Marshal Niel' and 'Sultan of Morocco' roses--it is their season."

Siegfried broke into a merry laugh. "The dear boy is actually trying to live after the pattern of that exemplary old uncle of his. Now, don't make a fool of yourself, old fellow, and don't make believe that you like baked potatoes and curds. I tell you I want a good supper, and after that I'll take you with me. You can take your rose-scions with you. My gardener will be thankful for them. We have a lot of water-shoots in our garden."

We had a good supper, and after the first glass of wine I felt the gloom vanish from me entirely. Siegfried had brought me good news. The new election was to take place in twenty days. Our party was firm as a rock, and the enemy was disheartened and short of money, as the Maticza Society, which had given up all hope of driving me away from the estate, would not furnish them with more funds. Now they had reunited to a last desperate method, and their candidate was about to unfold the anti-Semitic flag, in this way driving all intelligent, Liberal voters--or those at least who assumed the name, and all the Jews with their money, influence, and keenness--straight into our arms, so that our success was undoubted. In order to silence all accusations of bribery, of feasting the voters, and so forth, Countess Diodora, Siegfried's aunt, was ready to keep open house in Vernoecze for our political friends, and so there would be no need of engaging any public restaurants or wine-shops. Siegfried told me that Countess Diodora was a very active champion of our party, and very influential, too. Besides, she was very much interested in me personally.

"I am sure I am very grateful to her ladyship, and shall take the liberty of telling her so, to-morrow," I said--"the more grateful, as I really do not know how I could have merited such an interest."

He smiled. "Merit is not everything," he said. "But Aunt Diodora is a little vexed at your want of politeness. You should have come and paid your homage long ago. Her ladyship really threatened the other day that some day she would come over with the two little ones and fetch you, if not personally, at least in effigy. They have photographic apparatus, and are very clever amateur photographers."

I could not suppress an exclamation, and then I related the little adventure of the afternoon. He laughed. "Oh, no question as to their identity! Sure enough, it was my aunt and the girls! That queenly Amazon is my aunt, Countess Diodora. You are surprised? I see, you supposed that an aunt must necessarily be some aged, corpulent lady, fond of her game of 'patience,' and secretly indulging in a sip. My aunt is but one year my senior, and I am barely thirty. My aunt is a classical beauty, highly intellectual, and very talented; quite a female phenomenon. That tall, slender girl is Countess Flamma, a miracle of beauty and virtue; and that tiny creature was the little Kobold, Puck, or whatever else you may call her, Cousin Cenni. She is the most skilful photographer of the three, and it was she who told you not to move, and took you with spade in hand. That's the best joke I ever heard! How vexed Countess Cenni will feel on discovering the mistake! She is a little vixen, and full of mischief. If any of the young dandies tries to court her, she bids him go bear-hunting with her and show his valour. My woods are full of bears. I have shot three, but there are a lot of them alive still, and they do a deal of damage. So, if Cenni invites you, which no doubt she will, you need not be afraid of want of game."

I was dazzled, flattered, and surprised. What a difference between these ladies of the high aristocracy and the daughters of our country gentry! As if they really belonged to a different world, lived on a different planet. One of them assuming the lead in politics, another bear-hunting and photographing. The third, that tall, slender, somewhat haughty, but modest girl, who had approached to admire my roses, pleased me best; and then, too, their names--"Diodora! Cenni! Flamma!" The first domineering, imposing; the second with a touch of the Bohemian or the gipsy; the third bewitching, enticing, a flame! Oh, what a moth I should make!

I did not show much further resistance, but was willing enough to go with Siegfried. I did not even take the trouble of locking the turret-chamber, in which the precious iron chest stood, with my own hands, but ordered my valet to perform that duty and take care of the key. I went out into the garden, and cut all the blooming "Sultan of Morocco" roses and carefully wrapped them up with wet moss; and all the way I held them in my hand for fear of injuring them.

So the Valkyrs were indeed taking away the fallen hero to Walhalla, their own abode.

"Where is Walhalla, and what is it like? Does anybody know? If only somebody might return and tell us!"

"Well, I have been there, and I have returned, and I will tell you."

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