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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Dumany's Wife - Part 1 - Chapter 6. Dumany Kornel
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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 1 - Chapter 6. Dumany Kornel Post by :redeagle Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :3411

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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 1 - Chapter 6. Dumany Kornel


At dinner I was punctual, but nevertheless the two gentlemen of whom Mr. Dumany and his wife had spoken were already present and discussing the question of Mr. Dumany's munificent offer. After a hurried introduction I was soon informed of all that had been agreed on. The Secretary of State had received bonds for 1,000,000 francs, to be taken by the two Governments, the French and the Swiss, for distribution among the injured or maimed of the Rossberg catastrophe and the poor dependents of the slain. The old railroad watchman, who had been discharged by the company, and the canny shepherd, who both sold and kept his goats when he ran for the relief train, each received 10,000 francs, and a considerable sum went to the officials of the relief train as a remuneration for their services. The rest of the million francs was set aside for a memorial chapel on the site of the accident, and for the celebration of masses and a grand requiem in the church of St Germain l'Auxerrois on the following day--a ceremony which was to be repeated annually.

I have forgotten to mention that although the dinner was sumptuous, and the dishes and wines were excellent, yet it was as stately, solemn, and unsociable a meal as a funeral banquet, and Mrs. Dumany presided in deep mourning. The only jewel she wore was a large cross studded with dark-blue diamonds, only recognisable as such by the rays of blue, yellow, red, and green light which darted from them. This cross was suspended on a chain of black beads resembling a rosary, and giving to the black-robed figure the appearance of an abbess. The Spanish lace mantilla which she had thrown over her beautiful hair served as the veil, and made the resemblance perfect.

At nine o'clock the government official and the priest took their leave, and Mrs. Dumany retired, to put her babes to bed, as she said--a duty which she always fulfilled herself, saying her prayers with them, and watching them until they slept. After the lady had retired, Mr. Dumany told me that even when he and his wife dined out, or were going to the opera, my lady invariably went home at nine o'clock to put her children to bed--a duty which she never omitted; but on the evening of the catastrophe she had been compelled to stay by the company present, and this had given rise to her self-accusations. She was nowhere happy but in the company of her children, who afforded her the greatest delight and amusement. I sighed, and, yes--I think I was actually guilty of the remark that Hungarian ladies of quality were equally good and dutiful mothers.

We went over to Mr. Dumany's bedroom for a cup of tea and a cigar. It was a grand room, lofty and spacious as a church, and if I had been a Chauvinist, I should have said that the rays of light in this room composed a tricolour of the same hues as the Hungarian flag. The beautiful hanging-lamp shed a green light, the glowing coals in the grate threw a reddish tint over the surrounding objects, and the large, richly-sculptured bed-canopy was all ablaze with white electric lights, arranged like a chain of diamonds above the heavy purple velvet hangings which encircled the couch and gave it a cosy and well-shaded effect.

We had hardly finished our first cigar, when Mrs. Dumany, or, as I should call her, the countess, came in. She wore a white wrapper, covered with costly lace and leaving her beautiful arms bare below the loose lace-trimmed sleeves. She led little James into the room, and, turning to her husband, she said--"This boy obstinately refuses to sleep anywhere but with his father, just as before we sent him to the Institute."

The little fellow was simpering, and tottered drowsily to and fro. He was evidently very sleepy. Mr. Dumany took him up on his lap, unbuttoned his little boots, and pulled off the tiny socks. The mother stood there, looking on unconcerned, and presently she said, "Good-night!" and went out of the room.

The father undressed the child, and put him to bed; then he drew the curtains aside; the child knelt in bed, folded his little hands, and evidently said his prayers, for I saw his lips move; but I could not hear a word. After he had finished, his father kissed him tenderly, covered him up with the angora rug, and, letting down the curtains, returned to me.

He had hardly sat down, when the bed-curtains moved, and the cherubic little head peeped out. "Papa! Papa!" said the child.

"What is it, darling?" his father asked, going back to him.

"I want you to kiss me again," he said, with a little mischievous smile.

After the boy had had his wish, he crept below the covering, and was soon fast asleep. Mr. Dumany observed that my cigar had expired, and that I looked rather drowsy. "You are tired," he said; "let me lead you to your room."

"I have not slept for the last two nights," I replied; "but I shall not trouble you, as I can find my room easily, or else I can ask the valet. Pray stay and rest yourself."

"Well then, good-night and sleep well!"

But however sleepy I had been the moment before, these few words were enough to drive sleep from my eyes for ten nights to come, and to raise my curiosity to the highest pitch, for they were spoken in clear, well-pronounced Hungarian.

I gazed at him in utter astonishment, and he smiled. "You did not recognise me," he said, "but I knew you at once. I knew you very well, too--at one time: we have been colleagues once."

"Indeed? And how is that possible? Pray where was that?"

"In Budapest, in the Sandor Uteza Palace, the House of Commons."

"You have been a member of the Hungarian Parliament? When? And what name did you then bear?"

"The name I bear now, which is my own. Only I used to write it in Hungarian, Dumany Kornel."

"Still I don't remember. Neither your name, nor yet your face is familiar to me."

"Naturally enough. I was in Parliament for only one day; the next day they conducted me out again."

"Ah, now I know you! You were the dead man's candidate."

"Yes, you have hit it; I was the man."

Well, this was indeed a surprise. All the drowsiness had entirely gone from me, and, turning back into the room, I asked, eagerly--

"Sir, have I some claim on your generosity?"

"Oh sir! my dear friend!" he cried, extending both hands to me, "I am your most grateful and obedient servant for ever. I hand you a blank sheet, and, whatever you may be pleased to write upon it, I shall most willingly subscribe to."

"Then tell me how the right honourable Dumany Kornel, a member of the Hungarian landed gentry, and also of the medical profession, if I rightly remember, a rather fast-living bachelor, and rejected Commoner, has been metamorphosed into Cornelius Dumany, the Silver King, the South American nabob, the matador of the Bourse, husband of a beautiful countess, and father of five children, within such a short period. Tell me this, for it is the only gratification I shall accept."

"And let me tell you, dear friend, it is the highest I could give," was his reply. "In fact, you have presented me such a draft that, in spite of all my wealth, I am unable to pay it at sight. I have to ask my wife's permission first. The story you want me to tell is but one half my own, the other half belongs to my wife, and you must allow me to ask her leave;" and, bowing to me, he left the room.

I was alone. No, not alone. From behind the bed-curtains issued a heavy groaning, as if the little sleeper were troubled with bad dreams. I went to him and lifted the hangings. The glare of the light awakened him, and he cried out, "Apa!" ("Papa!")

"Papa will come presently, my little one," I said in Hungarian, and he smiled happily.

"Oh, the Hungarian uncle!" he said, "that's nice;" and, taking hold of my hand, he caressingly laid his little, soft cheek on it.

"Have you been troubled in your sleep?" I asked.

"Yes," he said; "I was dumb again, although I wanted to speak and tried very hard. A snake was coiled around my neck, and choked me. There is no snake in this room? Or is there?"

"No. Don't be afraid of anything. Try to sleep again."

"You will stay with me?"

"Yes, until your papa comes back."

"Stay always. Papa would like it. He always used to say, 'Speak to me, my boy, only to me! I have nobody but thee to speak to me in our own Hungarian;' and now he has you also. How glad he must be of it! You will stay?--promise!"

I promised him to stay a long time, and, holding fast to my hand, he fell asleep again.

When Mr. Du Many, or rather Dumany, returned to me, I was sitting before the grate, musing over what the child's innocent prattle had revealed to me--the tender, loving recollection this man had of his home and the sweet sounds of our beloved mother tongue.

He came in with an animated face. "My wife has consented," he said. "She told me that it was confession-time. To-morrow she will confess to Father Augustin, and this evening I shall make you my confessor. Now that I have made up my mind to it, I really think that, even from a practical point of view, it would be much better if the truth should be known about us, rather than those wild, fanciful stories reported by gossiping American newspapers."

With that he rang the bell for the servant, and gave his orders for the night. Tea with mandarin liqueur at once, at twelve o'clock punch and fruits, at two in the morning coffee _a la Turque_, and at five o'clock a cold woodcock and champagne, were to be served.

"I hope you will be able to stand being up all night?" he asked.

"I think so. I am chief of the campaign committee at home."

"I beg your pardon. Then I know your quality. But it will possibly interest you to learn that the bill of fare I have issued consists entirely of products of my own raising. The tea comes from my own garden in Hong Kong. The mandarin is decocted from the crop of oranges grown in my Borneo orchard. The coffee comes from my Cuban plantation, as well as the 'gizr' spirit, obtained from the coffee bean. The woodcock is from my own park; and it is only the flour for the cakes that I have to buy, for that comes from Hungary, and there I own nothing."

"How is that? If I remember rightly, you had a handsome property there."

"Have you not heard that it was sold to pay my debts?"

"And you consented to that?"

"Well, first hear my story. However, I have told you an untruth. I am yet a landed proprietor at home; I own a cabbage-garden in the rear of my former castle. That garden is the only bit of soil I kept, and in this garden fine cabbages grow. Year after year the whole crop is sliced up, put into great barrels, and converted into sauer-kraut. This they send after me, wherever I happen to be--whether at New York, Rio de Janeiro, Palermo, or Paris--and from this, after a sleepless night, my wife prepares me a delicious 'Korhely-leves'" (a broth made from the juice, and some slices of cabbage, with sour cream and fresh and smoked ham, and sausages. This broth is in Hungary frequently served after a night of dissipation; hence its name, "Korhely-leves," which means "Scamp's-broth").

"And the countess understands how to prepare the old-fashioned Hungarian delicacy?" I asked.

He laughed. "Ha-ha-ha! Why, she is as good a Hungarian as you or I. If she speaks French, she only imitates our ladies at home, who think themselves so much more refined when they speak bad French instead of good Hungarian."

This was another revelation, and upset the other half of my fictitious combination. I had imagined that my countryman had won the love of some South American magnate's daughter, and in this way had become the possessor of his innumerable millions. Mr. Dumany might have read my thoughts in my face, for he smiled and said--

"You will presently understand that I did not rob, did not cheat, and did not marry for money, and yet I did not acquire my present great wealth by my own good sense and management, either. I'll show you by what road I have reached it, as a warning to others. May no other man ever do as I did! But I do not believe that such events are ever likely to happen again. I do not believe that there can ever be born another such a pair of thick-skinned, iron-nerved human beings as the heroes of this story, or two other persons able to endure what we endured. I will venture to say that the worldly wealth I have won is not worth the price I paid for it; but I have gained another prize, whose value can never be expressed in figures."

Thereupon we sat down at the little tea-table. Mr. Dumany threw a few logs of odorous cedar wood upon the fire and began his tale. So, from this point, the present romance is not written by me, but by him.

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