Ugrás a tartalomhoz Lépj a menübe

Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution /2


Dawn of November 2nd.

It was long after midnight before my mother's door closed. I hung a silk handkerchief over the lamp so that its light might not be seen from outside and then I went through the letters accumulated on my writing-table. Suddenly a bell rang in the hall. The telephone... Who could call so late ? What has happened ? I ran quickly down the stairs. An unfamiliar voice spoke to me from the unknown. A terrified, strange voice :

" Save yourself ! The Russian prisoners have escaped from their camp. Three thousand of them are coming armed. They kill, rob and pillage. They are coming towards the town. They are coming this way... "

" But... " I wanted to express my thanks, but the voice ceased and was gone. It must have gone on, panting, to awaken and warn the other inhabitants of lonely houses. For an instant my imagination followed the voice as it ran breathless along the wires in the night and shouted its alarm to the sleeping, the waking, the cowardly, the brave. It comes nameless, goes nameless, waits for no thanks, flies on the torn wings of shattered, despised human fellowship.

The Russians are coming... I stood irresolute for a time in the cold passage. What should I do ? Every moment life seemed to present new problems. From the dark hall I listened for any sound from my mother's room and looked to see if a light appeared under her door. But all was in darkness. Should I call her, tell her ? What good would it be ? I walked slowly up the stairs. There was no sound from the room of my brother, who was very ill. They both sleep... It is better so. At any rate, it would be impossible for us to descend that soaked, slippery mountain path in the night. And if we could, where should we go ? Fly ? They said that when there was an earthquake. But where can one find shelter when the earth is quaking everywhere ?

When I reached my room I breathed more freely. The lamp was alight, so at least I was spared the addition of more darkness to that already in my heart.

From the covered lamp a ray like that of a thief's lantern fell on the table. I sat down in front of it and rested my head in my hands, a dull weariness behind my brow. It was some time before I overcame this lassitude, and then four words formed themselves on my lips : 4 The Russians are coming...' The past was stirred, and I remembered the day when I had first heard those words...

Hungary did not want war. When it came she faced it honourably, as she had always done for a thousand years... In their black Sunday best peasants went through the town. The heels of their high boots resounded sharply on the pavement... Young women in bright petticoats, with tears in their eyes, walked hand in hand with their sweethearts, from whom they were about to be parted; old women in shawls, with their handsome sons. Then—the Russians are coming !... That was all that was said. But those four words foretold an immense upheaval, coming from the North. The greater half of Europe, part of mysterious dark Asia, moved from their ancient abodes and with a sea of guns and rifles rushed on towards the Carpathians to devour Europe. They poured like an avalanche over the mountain passes, while Humanity held its breath. Such a battle of peoples had never been before.

Years went by. On the Russian fields and swamps, along the Volga and the Don, from the Urals to the Caucasus, on the endless plains of Asia, the nations that had risen in arms were bleeding to death. The empire of the White Czar had bled to death, and that which was left of it became Red, dyed in its own blood...

Summer had come many times since the tragic summer of 1914 when the first boys went who never came back again. Dear features now still in death, playmates of my childhood, dead friends of my youth. At the foot of Lublin, on the fields of Sanatova, in the Dukla Pass, among the Polish swamps, in Serbian land, at the Asiago, everywhere flowed blood which was akin to mine. Dead shoots of my ancestral tree ! And as you went, so did others too, from year to year, without reprieve. Then the call came to the school-rooms and to the sunny corridors where the aged basked, resting before the eternal rest, from the labours of life.

There was practically not a man nor a youth left in the villages. The black soil was tilled by women, and women gathered the harvest.

Springs were conceived in pain. Summers brought forth their harvests in tears. In the autumnal mists the withered hands of tottering old men held the plough as it followed the silver-grey long-horned oxen. A carriage might travel many miles without passing a single man at work in the fields. All were under foreign skies—or under foreign soil, while the panic-stricken towns were invaded by hordes of Galician fugitives. A new type of buyer appeared in the markets, on the Exchange. The Ghetto of Pest was thronged. Goods disappeared and prices began to soar. Misery stalked with a subdued wail through the land, while the new rich rattled their gold impudently. A part of the aristocracy and the wealth-laden Jewry danced madly in the famished towns, amidst a weeping land.

Now and then dark news came from the distant tempest of blood. Now and then flags of victory were unfurled and the church bells rang for the Te Deum. One morning the flags were of a black hue, and the church bells tolled for death : The King is dead !... Long live the King !


The old ruler closed his eyes after a long watch, and the reins of the two countries fell from his aged hands. In Vienna : an imperial funeral and imperial mourning; in Buda : a coronation shining with the lustre of ancient gold. The clouds had broken ! With his veiled, white-faced wife the young King passed like a vision through his royal town.

But it was all a dream. The King was in a hurry. In vain did his people proffer their devotion at the gate of his castle : he was incapable of grasping the moment, and departed before he had gathered this royal treasure. So the wind scattered the despised love of the nation. Something froze under the Hungarian sky, and in chilled soberness the morrow dawned.

In those times the winters were cold in Hungary. They froze one to the marrow as they had never done before. There was scarcely any fuel. Along the walls of the houses in Pest, children, girls, and old people thronged at the entrance to the coal merchants. They sat on the edge of the pavement, shivered and waited. At the horse- butchers, at the communal shops, in front of bakers', and dairymen's, long rows of sad women waited from dawn till late into the night. Quiet, patient women... waiting... Everybody was waiting—for life, for death, for news, for somebody to return. The hospitals were overcrowded, and all through the land, from one end to the other, the roads resounded with the wooden clatter of crutches.

That was the once happy Hungary ! But hope and honour were still alive. Our war was a war of self-defence. Perhaps we, of all the combatants, had nothing to gain, had no ambition to take anything from any other country.

But our corrupt politics had lost a greater struggle than a battle. Personal hatred and envy brought about the downfall of Stephen Tisza, and the helm came into inexperienced hands. The power which had steered till then ceased to be, and while men of the Great Plain, Transylvania, Upper Hungary and West Hungary were away on the distant battle-fields, in honour bound, something happened in the crowded capital of the empty country.

Traces of the silent, clandestine work of undermining became gradually perceptible. But before its threads could be clearly defined they faded away and were absorbed by daily life. In the background, as on a stage, sinister shapes passed. From the sides invisible prompters whispered, and in the foreground there appeared a figure which day by day grew more distinct. This figure kept repeating, louder and louder, the secret promptings, as though they were his very own.

That man was Count Michael Károlyi.


I shivered as I pondered these things. Then some noise outside interrupted my thoughts and I remembered the night's warning... Hours may have passed since I sat down at my writing-table. The light of my shaded lamp fell in a narrow wedge on to the sheet of paper in front of me, my head was still between my hands.

What was that ?... Again the same noise. Then suddenly with relief I realized what it was. Near my window some mortar from the tiles had rolled from the roof into the gutter, quietly, like a shiver passing over the lonely house. I listened for some time, then I buried my face again in my hands and my thoughts wandered back by the path of recent events, picking up on the way fading memories which had been thrown to oblivion.

The picture of our great past was grand and full of dignity. Details stood out. Scenes gained colour. The expression of people's faces became clearer, and now and then one could look behind the veil of things. That which was far away had become history, whereas the present was warm, throbbing, human life.

How did it happen ? And when ? At the time train after train was rolling across Hungary, long military trains, carrying the troops from the freed Russian frontier towards the Italian and French fronts. The end of the war had never seemed nearer. The hope of victory carried all hearts with it. Even the prophets of evil portent became mute, and the possibility of an honest peace appeared like a mirage on the horizon. The frontiers of Hungary will not change : that was our only condition of peace—we have never wanted anything else. And then the road will be clear for the second thousand years.

But then, all of a sudden, a shining blade seemed to pierce the air. There was a flash of light, and the light lit up a new wound. What had happened. Who had caused it ?

In the first days of January some people unknown had introduced revolutionary literature into the arsenals and munition factories. " Workers !... Brethren !... Soldier-brothers !... Not a penny, not a man for the army ! " Those who had an opportunity, of reading these pamphlets could have no doubt that they were produced by people who were opposed to Hungary's interests. What we imagined in horror had become a reality. A foe was in our midst and was attempting to achieve here what he had failed to accomplish on the other side of the front. Who are the guilty ? The nation, fighting for life, clamoured indignantly for the mask to be torn off them. And when the mask was torn off they stood there in the light, with blinking eyes, caught in the act : a pseudo-scientific organisation of the Freemasons[2], the International Freethinkers' branch of Hungarian Higher Schools, and the Circle of Galilee with its almost exclusively Jewish membership.

Others, who were equally implicated, withdrew suddenly into the obscurity of the background. As far as he was concerned, however, Michael Károlyi thought caution superfluous. He continued to remain in the foreground of the scene; and though doubtful strangers sneaked through the entrance of his palace, nobody interfered with him. Even the police left him alone, though it knew full well that when the revolutionary documents were drawn up he had been in close contact with the Galileist youths, and had even spent many hours in their office. He was observed from a neighbouring house. But invisible powers protected Michael Károlyi, and it was said that his confidential friends in official positions always informed him in time when his position was becoming dangerous.

Public opinion became nervous in those times, and waited with impatience for retribution. The headquarters of the Galilee Circle was sealed up by the police. Arrests were made. Then the names of some of the accused reached the public through the doors of the secret court—names with a striking sound. Even now I remember some of them : Helen Duczynska, Theodor Singer-Sugar, Herman Helfgott, Csillag-Stern, Kelen-Klein, Fried, Weiss, Sisa, Ignace Beller, and about three more Russian Jews, among them a prisoner of war called Solom, who possessed a multiplicator. There wasn't a single Hungarian among them. Obscure foreign hands had fumbled at our destiny ! But nobody spoke of that. And yet the very names of the arrested Galileists were an indication of future events. Alas ! the Hungarian nation has never known how to interpret the future by the warnings of the present.

The trial of the Galileists came to an end : the court martial inflicted two remarkably lenient sentences and acquitted the rest. That was all. Then there followed silence, a silence similar to the one which in the autumn of 1917 hid Károlyi's journey to Switzerland and stifled the whispers that he had betrayed there to the French the German offensive which was preparing and had hobnobbed with Syndicalists and Bolshevists. Only when the sailors of Cattaro revolted was there another commotion. Notwithstanding the secrecy of the army command, rumours got about. The batman of a high officer brought a letter sewn in the lining of his coat.

Down there in the Gulf of Cattaro the fleet had mutinied. Michael Horthy, the hero of the Novarro, suppressed the rising and saved the fleet for the Monarchy. But in the embers of the extinguished fire the army command found curious footprints. It was alleged that two telegrams of the mutineers were intercepted. One was addressed to Trotski, the other to Michael Károlyi.

And again, nothing was done ! Political consideration... Great names are involved... The King won't have it... The time is not propitious...

It was about this time that I reminded Count Stephen Tisza of a letter which I had received through Switzerland in the autumn of 1914, and which I had shown him at the time. The letter arrived approximately at the same time as Michael Károlyi, whom mobilisation had found on French soil. According to this letter the French had good reasons for sending Károlyi home. He was to be well rewarded if he did his work well... he might even become the President of the Hungarian Republic. Stephen Tisza only shook his head : " You see phantoms. It would be a pity to make a martyr of him. "

It was a long time ago. Much has become blurred since then, but I still feel the bitterness of that moment.

And all the other politicians thought as Tisza did. They did not take Michael Károlyi seriously, because they did not see those who were behind him. The attention of public opinion was absorbed by other things. Every day life became more difficult, and far away in Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations were going on. The delegates of the Russians dragged out the negotiations cunningly, and the German command, losing patience, rattled its sword at the council table. Meanwhile Bronstein-Trotski, the Foreign Commissioner of the Soviet, addressed inciting speeches over the heads of our delegates—to our soldiers, our workmen.

At home these speeches created a curious stir. As if they had been a signal the Jewish press of Hungary began to attack our German allies. The " dispersed " Circle of Galilee organised a demonstration in front of the German Consulate and broke its windows. The co-religionists of the Trotskis, Radeks and Joffes organised strikes by means of the trade union headquarters, which they had under their control. Thus did they support the interests of their Russian friends and weaken the position of our delegates.

During the strike Michael Károlyi, walking one day with his wife in the city, met one of their relations who lived in the suburbs and asked him anxiously, " Are the people rising out there ? " The negative answer depressed them. " It does not matter... The day has not yet come... But we shall not escape revolution. "

Louder and louder came the whispers out of the darkness : we had come to a phase when words could do the work. And words began to agitate : " Only a separate peace can save us from the revolution... We must leave the Germans to their fate... They are the cause of everything... The war goes on because of them... Alsace Lorraine... " Invisible lips uttered these things with persistent consistency. Unknown voices spoke to those who repeated their sayings. And far away from the fields of battle, in the country's capital, in the workshops and the barracks, quietly, secretly, the earth began to quake.

And yet the front was never stronger than at this period of the war. After the Ukrainian and Russian peace, these were perhaps the last moments which permitted us to hope for a possible peace, if only we showed unity and resolution. But in these fateful days some mischievous magic lantern flashed the picture of a weakening alliance with Germany, of internal discord and risings, towards our adversaries, and these pictures inspired them with new zeal. At home it became more and more clear that we harboured men who ate the bread of our soil under the protection of Hungarian soldiers, who drank the water of our wells and slept peacefully, whilst putting forth every possible effort to make us lose the war.

If I remember rightly it was at this time that Károlyi's political camp began to spread the rumour that he had come into touch with leaders of the Entente. Poincaré had once been the lawyer of the Károlyi family... Stories circulated. Others again knew that he had connections with Trotski and that he had organised secret military councils in the smaller towns round the capital.

" The traitor ! "

While we in my family called him a traitor, the radical press raised him to the dignity of a prophet, and the misguided masses saw in him the saviour of the country.

The freemasons, socialists, feminists and galileists stood behind him. Some female members of his own family surrounded him like disciples and repeated without discrimination everything he proclaimed. That which would have brought a trooper to the gallows was freely said by Michael Károlyi the officer. In the clubs gentlemen shook hands with him, and society thought it original and amusing that he should have called his little daughter Bolshevik Eve. The haughty Count Károlyi, who would not have offered a seat to his bailiff and who during the war—well behind the front—refused to shake hands with infantry officers who came, covered with blood and mud, from the trenches, because "ils n'étaient pas de famille, " now declaimed about democracy and equality, and made Bolshevism fashionable among his younger female relatives !

In this inner circle his influence reached such ridiculous proportions that a lady of his intimate acquaintance exclaimed in her democratic zeal : " Oh, I do love the rabble ! " His wife's relations, following his teachings, poked fun at patriotism, raved about the Internationale, and wore some travesty of a dress because it had been dubbed " Bolshevik " fashion. Of course it was " only in play, " but it was a dangerous game, for it covered those who wore Bolshevik fashions in earnest.

The young King was full of the best intentions. Perhaps he saw the danger, but he drew back when he ought to have excised the source of infection spread by Károlyi's friends. In Austria he granted an amnesty and released from prison the Czech traitors. The Austrian people, once so devoted to their Emperor, became indifferent... In Hungary he ordered judicial proceedings to be commenced against the traitors, but did not insist on their being carried out. Thus it happened that the Hungarian people, in an agony concerning the fate of their country, felt themselves forsaken and regarded their King with disappointment and bitter reproaches; while the dark forces, gathering encouragement from this eternal indecision, were emboldened to come out into the sunlight. Thus a bloodless war against Hungary was started in Hungary.

In the West the successful great German offensive shook for a time the camp of destruction. The successes of our allies were received by Károlyi with fear and trembling. His wife went into hysterics and his confidential newspaper editor, Baron Louis Hatvany, exclaimed sadly in my presence :

" No greater misfortune can befall us than a German victory. Russian Bolshevism is a thousand times preferable to German Militarism. "

It was as if the earth had opened in front of me when I heard these words. I remember my reply :

" German militarism goes armed against armed men; Russian Bolshevism goes armed against unarmed people. That may please you better. As for me, I prefer militarism. "

At this time the voice of the Hungarian Radical press was the same as that of Baron Hatvany. The same press which at the beginning of the war blackguarded our enemies shamefully, now wrote of them sentimentally. The same papers which, when the Russian invasion was threatening, cringed repulsively before the German power, now kicked the wounded giant fearlessly.

For Germany was stricken now. The offensive came to a standstill. Contradictory reports spread. And while our enemies prepared with burning patriotism for the sublime effort, underhand peace talk was heard in Hungary, and Károlyi—through his friends— acclaimed pacifism and internationalism. The Radical press was triumphant. Not content with attacking the alliance it attacked that which was Hungarian as well. Nothing was sacred. It threw mud at Tisza's clean name. It derided all that was precious to the nation. Base calumnies were spread about the Queen.

The overthrow of authority and of traditions are the necessary preliminaries to the destruction of a nation.

With such evil omens came the fifth summer of war, which brought the fifth bad harvest. In the West, the German front retreated unresistingly. In the East, the storm of the Russian Revolution was blowing over the Carpathians. Our fronts were infected with Károlyi's agitators. Those who were caught paid the penalty. Yet there were enough well-paid poisoners of wells who slipped through. Their work was easy : the West provided gold, the East the example. The infection spread...

The collapse of Germany's power, the many old sins of the Austrian higher command, the catastrophe that befell our army at the Piave, the bitterness for the disproportionate blood sacrifice of the Hungarians, the anti-Hungarian spirit of the Austrian military element, the endless squabbles of our politicians, the blindness of our impotent government—all these served those who, to Hungary's misfortune, aspired to power.

Bad news came fast. In Arad, in Nagyvárad, some detachments mutinied and refused obedience. Revolutionary papers were found in the barracks. In Budapest the working masses became threateningly restless; near the communal food-shops and other stores the waiting crowd was no longer patient and silent. I stopped often at the edge of the pavement and listened to what they said. The shabby, waiting rows of tired people struggled for hours between two wedges. In the shop the profiteers sucked their life blood; in the street paid agitators incited them cunningly, clandestinely against " the gentle-folk. " " It all depends on us how long we stand it. After all we are the majority, not they. "

The crowd approved and failed to notice that the Semitic race was only to be found at the_two ends of the queue, and that not a single representative of it could be seen as a buyer among the crowding, the poor, and the starving... This was symbolical, a condensed picture of Budapest. The sellers, the agitators, were Jews. The buyers and the misguided were the people of the capital.

A carriage passed in the middle of the road. A pale, sickly woman sat in it. The waiting row of people growled angrily towards the carriage : Cannot this one walk like everybody else ? Unpleasant words were spoken. I looked along the line. The agitators were there no more. But the seed they had sown grew suddenly ripe. The people talked excitedly to each other and shouted provocatively at those who wore a decent coat. " Why should he have that coat ? All that will have to change ! " Envy and hatred distorted the face of the street. A part of the press was already inciting openly to class-hatred.

The town was now on the eve of its suicide, and presently, like a thunderbolt, there fell into the streets the news that the Bulgarian army had laid down its arms !

I well remember that awful day. It was the twenty-sixth of September. Through the agitated, humming town I was going to the funeral of my little godson. The streets were thronged with people. As they went along they were all reading newspapers, and I noticed that they seemed to stagger as if they had been stunned by some terrific blow. Harassed faces rushed past me, and only here and there was some contrast perceptible. I did not understand it until later...

Two Jews were talking to each other :

" At last ! Beneidenswertes Volk, these Bulgarians. They will get good conditions ! Prima Bedingungen ! And that is the beginning of peace. "

They alone seemed to be happy... And the sun glittered on the roof-tops and there was something in the glowing brightness of the early autumn which reminded me of the waking life of spring, when I had walked in the same neighbourhood. When was it ? I remembered with a pang. On the morn of the victory of Gorlice did the sun shine thus, above the bright-coloured waving flags. And through my tears I saw suddenly the little dead golden-headed boy, the hope of his house : little Andrew Tormay... He came during the war, he smiled, and he was gone. His short life ended with the last world-moving act. But was it the last ? Or was it a new beginning ?


A cold shudder ran down my back. Merciful God, is it not enough ? Somewhere a cock crowed and roused me from my meditations. I took my hands from my face and rose stiff from beside my table. The room had become chilled during the long night. Between the slats of the blind something was painting with a delicate brush rapid, cold blue lines on the darkness. Dawn. I looked out for an instant into the damp, sad half-light and tried to picture the morn. But the thoughts of the night crowded upon me.

Some time must have elapsed before I noticed that I was sitting on the edge of my bed, rigid, dressed. A jumble of thoughts thronged my brain... Since the Bulgarian armistice life had been one continuous series of shocks, and I remembered events only with gaps. Big pieces were missing, then they started again... Wilson ! In those dark hours this name still soothed our harassed souls. Disastrous illusion, enticing nations into a death-trap ! Peace... peace ! howled the voice of this phantom behind the battlefields, attacking the still resisting armies in the back. Peace !... Peace ! it howled along the fronts. Then in an aside it added : " There is no peace for you till you discard your Emperor ! " Meanwhile, in our midst, the camp of Count Michael Károlyi studied cynically, as if it were a game, the guidebook of the Russian Revolution. Tisza and Andrássy became reconciled. Too late, too late...

Then came a memorable day. Parliament sat on the 17th of October and the Prime Minister announced the severance of all community with Austria, except the personal union of the Sovereign. Too late, too late... The aspiration of centuries, the hope of generations, became a puppet. The unity of the Empire, dualism, the common army, were feverishly thrown overboard from the Monarchy's drifting airship. The opposition laughed. One deputy promised a revolution for March and turning toward Tisza spoke of the gallows.

" The parody of a revolution, " answered Tisza contemptuously.

Károlyi rose to speak. The storm broke, and one of his hangers-on, Lovászy, shouted at the House : " We are friends of the Entente ! "

This was the first open avowal of the treason which had been committed for years by Károlyi's party; the horror of it ran like a shudder through the House, the city and the land, to pass on as a slavering mendicant to our enemies. Those who were honest among us hurled the treason back at the traitors, that it might brand the foreheads of those who in the hour of our agony could offer their friendship to our destroyers. How could the powers of the Entente feel anything but contempt and disdain for such an offer ! Their generals and politicians might make use of traitors, but certainly they would not demean themselves by accepting their friendship.

After this disgraceful sitting, in front of the very gate of the House of Parliament, an attempt was made on Count Stephen Tisza's life. Years before a deputy called Kovács-Strasser, and now a certain Lékai-Leiter, raised the weapon against him.

On October the 22nd Tisza spoke for the last time in the Commons and declared that we must stand by our allies. If we had to fall, let us fall together, honourably. And then his voice, which never deceived and never lied, told the unfortunate nation that : " We have lost this war ! " ... Amidst breathless silence the sinister words rang through the country and, like Death's scythe, cut down all hope.

" Tisza said so... "

There was no more. And henceforth every new event was but another mortal wound. Wilson sent a reply to the Monarchy which implored him for peace. He would have no intercourse with us, and referred us to the Czechs, the Roumanians and the Serbs. They wanted to humiliate us, and humiliate us they did. But we still had an army, and we clung to the idea : the Hungarian troops would come back from the front.

Before we could recover our breath there came another stroke. On the 23rd of October a deputy of the Károlyi party shouted into the sitting House of Commons that when the King had entered Debreczen the Austrian National Anthem had been played. Nobody asked if the news were true. The song of Austria's Emperors in the very heart of the Great Hungarian Plain ! Always, even now ? Have they not yet learned, will they never forget ?... Then Károlyi read aloud a telegram which turned out later to be a forgery : the Croatian regiment in Fiume had mutinied !—Thus the opposition possessed itself of two weapons. The reporters in the press gallery jumped up at once and loudly supported Károlyi's camp. The impossible happened : in the Hungarian Parliament the Radical newspaper men of the press gallery brought about the fall of the government ! Tisza looked angrily towards the gallery and made signs to the speaker. What had become of his authority, the imposing of which had nearly cost him his life ?

The storm passed by, and after this the ground gave way quickly under the Hungarian Parliament. Wekerle resigned. All parties negotiated a coalition.

Meanwhile the King sat in council at Gödöllő, and it was about this time that the shifty rabble which gathered in the night of the 22nd of October at Károlyi's palace and dubbed itself the National Council emerged from darkness. The storm-troops of destruction, the Galileist Circle, came again to the fore; headed by a flag which Károlyi had given them they paraded the town and penetrated into the Royal Castle. The flag-bearer, a medical student of Galician origin called Rappaport, stuck the flag out of one of the castle's windows and addressed the rabble in the court yard. He blackguarded the King and called for cheers for Károlyi and the Republic.

Nobody attached any great importance to all this, and the town remained indifferent : the incident was practically unknown beyond the streets where the Galileists' strange, noisy procession had passed. Through the gate of Károlyi's palace furtive people hurried in and out. Some said that officers and men escaped from the front were hiding in the palace, others whispered of secret meetings in the Count's rooms.

What was going on there ? Nobody troubled about it, and the newspapers wrote long articles about the Spanish " flu. " The epidemic was serious, people met their friends at funerals, but the newspapers exaggerated intentionally; they published alarming statistics and reported that the undertakers could not cope with the situation : people had to be buried by torchlight at night. The panic-stricken crowd could scarcely think of anything else. The terror of the epidemic was everywhere, and the greater terror which threatened, the brewing revolution, was hidden by it. The press, as if working to order, hypnotised the public with the ghost of the epidemic while it belittled the misfortunes of the unfortunate nation and rocked its anxiety to sleep by raising foolish, false hopes of a good peace, and gushed over Károlyi's connections with the Entente.

And so the big, unwieldy mass of citizens slid towards the precipice in its sleep.

There came an awful day. We learned that as the result of the insidious propaganda of Károlyi's agents and his press, a Hungarian division and a Viennese regiment had laid down their arms... It was through this break that the forces of the Entente had crossed the Piave. Our forces repelled them in a supreme effort. Then the English tanks came into play. These were too much for the nerves of our men, whose discipline had been slackened by several months' intrigue. They mutinied, and it was reported that in the confusion General Wurm was killed by his own men.

In Budapest the papers which appeared were blanked heavily by the exertions of the censor, but in the streets people already spoke openly of the National Council and proclaimed loudly that one could take the oath of allegiance to it at the rooms of Károlyi's party. There was an astonishing number of soldiers in the crowd. I noticed then for the first time how many sailors walked the streets. Where did these come from ?

Next day was Sunday, October the 27th. I recollect clearly that I did not leave the house. Within the last few days most of the inhabitants of the villas in our neighbourhood had moved in haste in to the town. It was quiet, and I pruned the shrubs in our garden.

It was only through the newspapers that I learned what had happened. Advised by Károlyi, the King had received at Gödöllő the day before the Radical journalist Oscar Jászi and the two organisers of his party, Zsigmond Kúnfi and Ernest Garami, both Socialist journalists. Károlyi's press was shouting victory, and having obtained all it wanted, it began to see red and started to defame the King. Poor young King ! The reception was a sad and useless concession. These men were revolutionaries and poisoners whose due was not an audience but a warrant of arrest. Even now everything could have been saved, all that was wanted was a fist that dared to strike. But the King's beautiful hands, according to Jászi's report of the audience, only toyed nervously with his rings... Their Majesties went in the evening to Vienna. They left their children in the royal castle and took Károlyi with them in the royal train.


The morning papers spoke of " Károlyi, the Prime Minister designate of Hungary. " There was to be a monster meeting in town in front of the House of Parliament. The workmen appeared in full force. Lovászy, Count Batthyány, and " comrades " Garbai and Pogány made revolutionary speeches. A group of workmen, to show their approval of these measures, carried a gallows on which a doll dressed like Tisza in red hussar breeches was suspended. In the evening the crowd went to the railway station to receive Károlyi on his return from Vienna.

Later in the day my brother Géza telephoned to me from Baden (near Vienna) ; he had just come from General Headquarters. Archduke Joseph and Michael Károlyi had come in the same train. The King had recalled the Archduke from the Italian front and sent him as homo regius to Budapest. The Archduke obeyed, though he would have preferred to return first to his troops and come back at their head to restore order in the capital. The King, however, vetoed this plan. Two unfortunate blunders. The Archduke arrived without backing, and Count Károlyi infinitely offended in his vanity. The youths of the Galilee Circle were waiting for the latter at the railway station, and he shook his long yellow hands in the air and shouted : " I will not forsake Hungary's independence. "

Meanwhile worse and worse news reached us. We reeled under it, stunned. Our inertia was folly. Everybody expected somebody else to do something, and in the dark hours of our mad misfortune Károlyi's National Council alone became bolder.

Then came the events of October 28th. A crowd which had gathered near the rooms of Károlyi's party, incited by the revolutionary speeches of two factious orators, and led by Stephen Friedrich, a manufacturer, started towards the Danube to cross over to the Royal Castle and claim from Archduke Joseph the Premiership for Károlyi. " He alone can get us a good peace !... " There was a crush at the bridge-head. The crowd used the police roughly. Shots were fired. The police replied with a volley. A few people fell dead on the pavement. That was exactly what the organisers wanted. They shrieked wildly : " These martyrs will make the revolution... "

How many days ago did all this happen ? I began to count. One, two, three, four days in all. It seemed as though it had been much longer ago. Four days !... What a gap between then and this day when Tisza lay dead and with him much of Hungary's honour !


The torture of these memories drove me into despair. An utter weariness possessed me. I fell back on my bed. I wanted to rest, but against my will impressions came crowding into my brain... October 29th... What happened on that day ? Detached images passed before me. Fields soaked with wet... A little, whitewashed cottage on the edge of a wood, a tangled little garden, with ivy creeping over the paths and covering the old trees. For years I have gathered my evergreens there for the Day of the Dead. This year the little house has a new inmate. The old people have gone and the new proprietor appeared frightened when I shook the gate for admittance. Even after he had admitted me he looked at me several times suspiciously. His name was Stern, or something of the sort. While selling the ivy he spoke nervously :

" This neighbourhood has become very insecure. Many deserters roam the woods. They spend the night in the empty villas. " Then he asked me what I wanted the ivy for. " The cemeteries will be closed this year on the Day of the Dead. They are afraid of the crowds, because of the epidemic, and then... who knows what may happen if the King is obstinate and won't make Károlyi Prime Minister. "

" I hope he never will... "

The man looked at me angrily :

" He must come, and so must the Socialists. They will save Hungary. "

" It is odd that you should expcct the salvation of the country to come from those who denounce patriotism. "

" I see things differently, " said the man. " That is just the trouble in Hungary. They always talk of the country, the nation. There is no such thing as a country and a nation. It is the same to me where I live, in Moscow, in Munich or in Belgrade.

It is all the same to me as long as I live well. That is the thing we have to drive at, and it is only through socialism that it can be attained. "

" The ultimate end being communism ? "

" Later, sometime, some day, yes, " the man answered in a low voice.

" And the Russian example ? Do you think that what is going on there is the realisation of human happiness ? "

" That is only the stage of transition. "

" Transition which may mean annihilation. "

Rain began to fall. It drifted in dense silver threads between the hills. The cottage, its inhabitant and its garden disappeared from my memory. I saw another picture. It was evening. My mother was sitting silently in the hall, lit up by the shaded lamp, and, as she was wont to do every year, she was winding the ivy wreath for my father's grave.

" It is better for him not to have lived to see this, " she said abruptly, quite unexpectedly.

I looked at her. It was as if her words had opened a gap through which I could get a glimpse of her soul. I now knew that, though she never said so, she was worried by premonitions.

Later on my brothers and sisters came. They brought news. " It is said that Archduke Joseph would be made Viceroy. The King has charged Count Hadik to form a Cabinet. Károlyi's agitators are making speeches in the streets all over the town. There are great demonstrations. The printers' compositors have gone over to the National Council. Now the compositors censor the papers themselves. Nothing is allowed to be printed without the approval of the secretariat of the Socialist party. The workmen of the arsenal have broken open the armouries. The police have joined Károlyi's National Council... Down there at the Piave everything has collapsed. There is mutiny in the fleet at Pola. In the plains of Venezia the front has gone to pieces. "

And all the while, my silent mother was making her wreath...

I remembered nothing more. The hours passed unnoticed. Where was I next day ? What did I hear ? Memory was effaced. That day was the eve of the 31st of October... Ah yes ! In the afternoon we had a visitor. Countess Rafael Zichy came from the Castle Hill though the town had ceased to be safe. Yet she came and stayed late. The lamps on the roads had not been lit and we had to light her down the misty dark hill with a lantern. I was anxious to know if she reached home safely. My mother telephoned... So much I remembered, but I have no recollection of what we talked about while she was here.

Dead tired, I closed my eyes. But the swift changing pictures passed in restless fantasy... Human figures chasing outlines... bloodmarks... and the dead, white face of Stephen Tisza...

Shuddering, I opened my eyes. The night was over and day had come. And then I remembered that the Russians had not come after all. We had escaped that danger, but the rest was still there, encircling us and holding us in captivity.

A slight noise attracted me. It came from the lamp hanging from the ceiling. A moth had got into the glass chimney and with tattered wings was struggling vainly to escape.


November 2nd.

The house stood amid a sad, grey morning. Through the fog a continuous drizzle was heard in the woods, and along the road a muddy stream gurgled in the broken gutter. The people in the electric trams going townwards were just like the morning itself : grey, wet and sad. They spoke of the mutiny in the Russian camp.

" They have been disarmed " ... " Not at all, they have spread over the country... " " They pillage in small bands, like the escaped convicts. They too broke out on the news of the revolution. They captured a train and came, all armed, towards Pest. On the way they fought a regular battle, with many dead and wounded; the rest escaped. " ... " No, they did not. They enlisted as sailors. "

There was panic and confusion in all this talk, and nobody seemed to know anything for certain.

The tram turned round the foot of the hill. At the stopping place I bought a newspaper. The papers were filthy, and the woman who sold them did not take much heed of me ; she was talking politics with a hawker who sold boot-laces and moustache wax at that spot.

" Give me the Budapesti Hirlap. "—But the paper which for the last ten years had fought, practically single-handed, against the machinations of the destructive press was not to be had. The woman thrust another paper into my hand. The tram went on and I began to read. As if announcing a glorious victory the head-lines proclaimed in immense type : " ON THE WHOLE FRONT WE HAVE LAID DOWN OUR ARMS ! IN CASE OF OCCUPATION WE HAVE ASKED FOR FRENCH OR BRITISH TROOPS. " Something stabbed and tore my heart : Gorlice, Limanova, Lovchen, Doberdo...

The newspaper continued : " Six weeks are needed for the conclusion of peace... The King has relieved the new government from its allegiance... The government has decided in principle for a Republic and has extended its programme by this condition... The Government has sworn allegiance the National Council at the Town Hall... the touching scene, which buried a past of a thousand years, passed amidst indescribable enthusiasm. "

Our arms laid down ! Foreign occupation ! The King has relieved the perjurers ! A republic in Hungary ! And one of the most important papers in Hungary writes of all this as if it were the accomplishment of long cherished hopes, as if it rejoiced that " the past of a thousand years " had been buried ! Not a word of sympathy, of consolation.

Then something suddenly dawned on me : in this paper a victorious race was exulting over the fall of a defeated nation ! And the defeated, the insulted nation was my own !... So they hated us as much as all that, they, who lived among us as if they were part of us. Why ? What have we done to them ? They were free, they were powerful, they fared better with us than in any other country. And yet they rejoiced that we should disappear in dishonour, in shame, in defeat.

I threw the newspaper away—It was an enemy.

We came to the Pest end of the bridge. The tram stopped, and I wanted to change. " The trams are not running. You can walk, " growled the inspector. The walls are covered with posters, orders, announcements, proclamations. On a big coloured poster : " Lukasich has been appointed executioner. " And under the announcement the execution of a soldier was depicted. As I walked along my eyes gleaned a sentence from another poster : " People of Hungary, soldiers, workers and citizens ! " (The order of the words was significant; but it did not appear to strike people's imagination). " Fellow-citizens ! Glory, honour and homage to the victorious people of Budapest. The people's revolution has conquered " ... and the signature : " The First Hungarian Popular Government. " Then another sentence : " The military and civil power is in the hands of the head of the Hungarian Popular Government, Michael Károlyi. " Many words, many black words. I read the last words of the Popular Government's Proclamation : " To assure the transition from the present conditions to a quiet peaceful life, we organise Soldiers' Councils and a National Guard so that ETERNAL PEACE may gain its healing, sway over us all. "

Red and white blotches of paper and alternate signatures : Heltai, Commander of the Garrison, Linder, Commander-in-Chief.

Linder ? I never heard this name during the war. And yet it seemed familiar to me. Then I remembered. I met him at a social gathering, and once at an afternoon tea. On both occasions he seemed under the influence of drink. That was the reason I noticed him, otherwise his insignificance would have wiped him out of my memory. Now I seemed to see his face. He gave me the impression of an elderly stage swashbuckler. His well-groomed hair was grey, his shoulders high, his neck thick-set, his face congested; his tiny grey eyes winked all the time, and when he laughed they disappeared entirely. Linder... Can this stage swashbuckler be the new Minister of War ?

I now noticed that more and more people hurried past me, and that all were going towards the House of Parliament. A crowd was gathering in the big, beflagged square. People dressed in black, officers in field uniform, poured from the neighbouring streets. Some mounted police arrived. Then came a military band. A military cordon was formed in the centre.

" What is happening here ? " I asked a woman who stood aimlessly among the loafers on the kerb.

" I don't know. " A young man, who might have been in her company, answered for her : " The officers of the Garrison are swearing allegiance to the National Council. "

" There are crowds of them, " said the woman, and moved her neck like a duck in a pond. The young man laughed with contempt. " There may be four hundred. " His accent seemed to proclaim him from Transylvania.

Motor cars rushed past me. Overhead, aeroplanes were circling and strewing leaflets among the crowd : " The glorious revolution ! The people have conquered ! " Leaflets on the ground, leaflets in the gutter, leaflets everywhere.

The great grey mass of the House of Parliament hid the Danube from our sight like a petrified lace curtain. On its walls the ancient coats of arms of various counties, the monuments of past Kings, appeared and disappeared in the mist like a dissolving view. At the sides of the building the square extended to the river, and the ghostly outlines of a bronze figure on horseback stood out against the background of mist-covered Buda : the statue of Andrdássy, the great Minister of Foreign Affairs. In the haze it seemed that the rider moved, as though he wanted to turn his steed and ride away to the sound of brazen horse-shoes, back along the banks of the Danube, to see if the river had changed its course— the river which had imposed upon the lands between the Black Forest and the Black Sea the alliance which he had written on paper. Had it left its bed, had it dried up, that great Danube, the ancient zone across Europe's body, that some man should be so bold as to tear up the scrap of paper which confirmed the bond ? Mist rose over the yellow waves. The poisoned town threw its image across a veil into the river and poisoned its waters. And the stream carried the poison, and perhaps by to-morrow the lands it crosses may already writhe with internal pains.

To-morrow... Everything is lost in a mist. Round the square the houses showed their many-eyed faces through a haze. Below, the rain-covered asphalt pavement shone, reflecting the people who stood upon it. In the windows of the houses, on the stone steps of the House of Parliament, between two stone lions, more people. I looked at my watch. It was eleven o'clock. Another motor car dashed up, there was some cheering in the centre of the square, and the figure of a man rose above the crowd. He stood on the steps of the House of Parliament in a dark overcoat, a bowler-hat on his head, a glaring red tie round his neck.


The Minister of War. He began to wave his hat over his head as if attempting to catch an elusive butterfly. I caught a few of his words. He spoke with a lisp and stuttered slightly. " Soldiers, I expect discipline... We have faithfully done our duty on the field of battle... We suffered and we fought... We imagined that the ideals we fought for were worth while... I, your responsible Minister of War, declare that these ideals were false ! "

I thought he would be knocked down for saying that. Four hundred officers. Just enough...

" There is a new order of things, " ... shouted Linder. The short woman next to me jerked her neck and complained : " I can't hear anything. " The slim young man, in his thin shabby overcoat, stretched his neck to listen : " He says that we have not been beaten. We have won, the sovereign people has won. We have conquered that false system... "

" I can't understand, " said the woman excitedly.

We could hear Linder's voice : " When we had beaten the Russians and there was no more question of national defence, we had to go on fighting for imperialistic, militaristic, egotistic ends... "

" Aha, " said the woman, and was bored.

The voice in the middle of the square continued to shout : " But perhaps we ought not to grumble that this war has lasted so long. We had to demolish the tyranny of a thousand years, the tradition of a thousand years, the servitude of a thousand years. "

He, too, gloats over the destruction of a thousand years. What is the matter with this town ?

Some straggling cheers resounded and a few caps were raised. Then the square became mute, for the hat of the Minister of War began to wave again in the air. His face became purple with the effort, and his voice sounded shrill. Words came, and he said :

" I never want to see a soldier again ! "

For a moment these words passed above my comprehension. Then they came back and drummed in my brain. I could not believe my ears. I must have misunderstood him. It seemed impossible that a sane person should have said such a thing. The Minister of War of the government which had broken up the front under the pretence that Hungary was in need of Hungarian troops for the defence of Hungarian frontiers ! No, it was more than ever impossible now when the Serbians were marching towards us and Wilson's message had delivered us up to the rapacity of Czech, Roumanian and Yugoslav ambitions. Only the voice of dementia or sublime criminality could speak such words. What made him say it ? But he is drunk. Is it not visible on his face ? Do not people see how he sways and grins ? His tongue has slipped, he is going to withdraw his words. No harm has been done as yet. The people have not grasped his horrible meaning, his venomous words can be snatched back from the air.

Near Linder a long sallow face began to nod. Károlyi stood on the steps. At his shoulder appeared a puffy, olive coloured face : Oscar Jászi, Károlyi's prompter. So there they are too, listening to all this, and Károlyi nods and Jászi smiles, confirming, ratifying the awful words.

But the officers of the garrison are there ! There may be about four hundred, perhaps more, all soldiers, all armed, all men. They will not stand it, they will rush at the Minister of War, catch hold of him by his red tie and string him up to the nearest lamp post like a depraved beast. My heart was hammering, and for a moment I had to turn away. It would not be a pleasant sight, and after this who will keep the army in hand ? Who will take up the arms that are to be thrown away ? He proclaims anarchy ! He does not want to see any soldiers... And within the cordon cheers are raised !

" Take the oath ! " shouted Linder. Even then I had hope. Surely something must happen. The men will suddenly regain consciousness. In 1848 the Imperial High Commissioner Lambert was stabbed to death by the crowd on the floating bridge, though what was that foreigner's guilt compared with the guilt of these Hungarians ? Surely they cannot remain quiet like this ? They are going to tear him to pieces. A hundred naked fists—why perhaps a single one could do it... Oh for that ONE, gracious God ! Within the military cordon the officers of the garrison stood in a row, stood there and took the oath. The soldiers of the King swore obedience to Michael Károlyi's National Council.


A burning sense of shame rose within me. And then, suddenly, something seemed to open my eyes, and I saw beyond men and events. Those officers in the square could not be, all of them, deserters and hired traitors. Surely there were some among them who had taken an honourable share in the tragic Hungarian glory of the war, who had suffered just as I had. They were soldiers, and as if it were a dishonour to be so, that fellow dared to tell them to their face that he did not want to see soldiers any more. And these words will run all over the town, and to-morrow they will be racing across the country and will reach the frontiers where they will lie in wait for the armed millions returning form the front.

Some vile spell, the dazzle of some occult charm, held the crowd fascinated and cowed all into a lethargy of terror. What power could it be ? Whence did it come ? What was its end ? For neither Károlyi, nor Linder, nor Oscar Jászi possessed that demoniacal influence which crushes will power and opposition, makes cowards of brave souls and drags honour in the dust. This force did not rise to-day or yesterday; it is the result of thousands of years of savage hatred and bestial will for power, a monster begotten in obscurity, which, safe from attack, has spread across the globe, waiting its opportunity, setting its snares with cunning, watching for the hour when it can strangle its victim as with a rope.

And now it will strangle us too ! Our time has come !

I shuddered in my helpless solitude amidst the crowd that blackened the square, where men suffered everything, cheered the negation of their existence, and pledged themselves to their own destruction.

The sound of trumpets rose. The military band struck up a tune. What was it ?... My heart nearly stopped beating when I realised what it was. The great revolutionary song of a strange people rose above the square, the national anthem of a nation which had been our enemy during the war, which led on the revengeful victors who were preparing to trample us beneath their feet. A hymn of rebellion, which they play in the beflagged towns on the banks of the Seine and the Marne to proclaim their victory, a tune which means glory to them, humiliation to us. If the French nation had succumbed to German arms, would they play this day Deutschland, Deutschland über alles on the Place de la Concorde ?

To what depth have you sunk, Hungarian men ? I set my teeth and pressed my suffering down into my heart. And the grandiose strains of the Marseillaise floated over my head. Their beauty I heard not. To me the notes were but the guffaws of a scornful melody that roared derision over the square. The clarions sounded brazen yells of contempt, the rolling of the drums emphasised their mockery, and the cymbals applauded—applauded our defeat... And the crowd cheered Károlyi.


The soldiers went back to the City. The interrupted traffic thronged over the shining asphalt. Carriages drove by. Small groups vanished in the distant streets. Slowly the square became empty. A few constables remained on duty in front of the House of Parliament; people waited at the stopping place of the tram. The woman with the duck's neck and the Transylvanian youth were there too. We waited.

The House of Parliament relapsed into its grave silence. The bronze figure of the horseman near the shore was invisible. Had it gone, was it still there ? I hesitated. There, on the other side, towards the bridge, near the river, the embankment was bare. There never had been a statue there. But the wraith of a giant whose blood was spilt on October 31st is slowly groping his way towards it. His chest is pierced by a bullet, his heart's blood has flowed away. He goes slowly, but he will get there—when the day comes.

The Transylvanian young man and the woman near me were both staring at the shore. I had no intention of speaking aloud yet I said :

" That is where Stephen Tisza's monument is going to stand. "

The woman was horribly frightened. " Please, don't say things like that. The people hate him frightfully. "

" But why should they hate him so ? "

" He was the cause of the war; the soldier who killed him said so. "

" His monument is going to stand there. "

" You will be knocked down if you say such things, " said the young man. " This morning a gentleman just said to his wife : " Poor Tisza ! " Nevertheless the passengers became indignant, insulted him, stopped the car and shouted till both got off. You must say nothing openly about him, except that he was a scoundrel, that he wanted the war and was the cause of all the bloodshed. One may not say anything of anybody but what the National Council says. One must say nothing of Károlyi but that he is the only person who can save Hungary. This is our liberty. "

Later in the day I had news of another misfortune which had befallen us while the drunken Minister of War was proclaiming in front of the House of Parliament that he never wanted to see a soldier again. Archduke Joseph and his son Joseph Francis have sworn fidelity to the National Council at the Town Hall. Somebody who had seen the Archdukes told me that they had gone to the ceremony in field-uniform, with all their orders on their chests. John Hock had the doors of the hall opened so that the public might follow the ceremony and then received in the name of the Council the oaths which bestowed a certain prestige and a doubtful legal standing on the power they have built up on mud.

Károlyi's press shrieked with joy. The mid-day papers published the report and obsequiously fawned on the Archdukes. Cunningly they called this brave, clean soldier the new Philippe Egalité, comparing him to the Orléans Prince who had denied his origin and pronounced death on his king... I was dumfounded. Those who had any strength of character would feel now that they had been abandoned, while the weak would have nothing to cling to and would inevitably drift toward the National Council. What was at the bottom of it all ? How did it happen that Archduke Joseph, the general idolized by the nation, the bearer of the great traditions of the great Palatines, how did he come to the disgraceful table where a disreputable priest collected oaths for the National Council ? What has forced the Archduke to join the enemies of his country and his dynasty ? Among the many dark scenes of this grim tragedy this one alone has come to light; it cannot yet be understood, and the time has not yet come to pass judgment upon it. That the Archduke went there with a stricken soul, against his innate convictions, those who know him cannot doubt.

Ever since his childhood, ever since he started life under the old trees of Alcsuth, he had always trod the paths of the nation's honour. During the war he was a father to the Hungarian soldiers. Of the many stories told about him I will repeat only one which I had from my brother. At the Italian front a wounded Hungarian soldier was asked on his deathbed if he had any wish. " I should like to see Archduke Joseph once more. " That was all he said and the Archduke came and held his hand while he died. One who was loved like that was not carried by fear or bribe to the Town Hall. It was not for his own sake but in the misconceived interest of his country that he made the sacrifice, aggrandised by its background, his family's transcendent history of a thousand years.

In front of him in a dirty office : Michael Károlyi, John Hock, Kunfi, Jászi. Behind him, on a road lost in the centuries, in silver armour with vizor raised : the haughty face of the Emperor Rudolph, Count of Hapsburg, whose cup-bearer was a Hohenzollern. And again, his handsome silver locks covered with a black velvet biretta, the chain of the Golden Fleece about his neck : Maximilian, the friend of poets, the hero of Theuerdank, the last of the knights. In a heavily embroidered bodice, the sparkling Marguerite of Austria, ruling Duchess of the Netherlands. Philippe le Bel, and the amorous Joan. In grave splendour, Charles V., on whose kingdom the sun never set, and the victor of Lepanto's gory waters, the young Don Juan of Austria. The gloomy cortege of the Spanish Philips and Carlos. The full-wigged Ferdinand and Leopold under the holy crown, and Maria Thérèse's powdered little head bowed in the grandiose tumult of Hungarian fidelity, among drawn swords and hands uplifted for the vow : " Vitam et sanguinerm pro rege nostro... " Joseph, the king in a hat[3], a narrow, meditative face at the window of the Vienna Burg, while behind him Mozart's spinet sounds delicately sweetly from the gilt white room. A touching face : Marie Antoinette, more royal on the scaffold than on the throne. Leopold of Toscana, the friend of the Hungarians. In a simple white frock-coat : the Duke of Reichstadt. In the robes of the Order of St. Stephen : the great Palatines. And at the end of the row the constitutional old King, the last grand seigneur of Europe, and Elizabeth, the wandering queen, who never was at home but when she was in Hungary.

This history of the Hapsburgs is the history of Europe itself. It is a history of imperial diadems and royal crowns, of empires, kingdoms and countries, of centuries and generations. And so to drag the Archduke Joseph into the mire was precisely what Károlyi and his accomplices desired. Let the downfall be complete, so that there shall be nothing to look back on, so that the abased nation shall not be able to expect anything from anybody. The political leader of the nation has been killed in the person of Stephen Tisza; its military leader has now been enticed into the gutter and has been covered with mud so that those who look out for a chief round whom to rally may not discern his real character. The bonds have been severed, and in the silence of our amazement we are all become solitary and forlorn.

What is left to us ? The funeral of Stephen Tisza ! The dead leader will once more gather his followers together. And then our bitterness shall find voice and strength.

It was in the afternoon that I heard that the funeral which we had wanted to attend had already taken place quietly, in other words secretly. Only a new act of Károlyi's impudence made some noise. He had sent a wreath labelled : " A human atonement to my greatest political adversary. Michael Kdrolyi. " The mourning family, however, had the wreath thrown on the garbage heap. Quietly, with secrecy, Tisza's coffin was taken from the house of the bloody deed to the railway station. Few of his friends were present, but the two women who had been faithful to the last were there. They took him to Geszt. Once more he was to cross the great plain he loved so much, to take his rest in the soil of the land that had allowed him no rest while he lived.

Evening came. A cart rolled through the silence of our rural retreat and stopped in front of our garden. We had been waiting for weeks for the long paid-for firewood, and at last it had come. The Swabian driver who had brought it stood lazily on top of the pile and threw one log after the other indifferently into the road. I asked him if he would mind bringing the wood into the courtyard. If it remained out there every piece of it would be stolen before the morrow.

" Certainly not; you ought to be jolly glad that I brought it at all, " he answered. He squeezed the money for cartage into the pocket of his breeches, whipped up his horses, and the cart rolled downward on the mountain road. I did not know what to do. I went to the farm, then enquired at the nearest houses, when I noticed two men coming up the road. They had red ribbons in their buttonholes, and rifles over their shoulders. I stopped them and asked them if they would carry the wood in for me : I would pay for it with pleasure. They looked at each other, whispered, and at last one said, as if bestowing a favour on me :

" We might, but it will be sixty crowns for the cubic yard. "

" Have you taken leave of your senses ? You know it won't take you an hour to carry the whole lot in. "

" Well, if it doesn't suit you, carry it yourself, " and they laughed sardonically. " You'll have to come to us in the end, " one of them added. Then they sat down on the edge of the ditch opposite the gate, lit their pipes and looked on maliciously to see what I would do next. I turned my back on them, picked up a log and dragged it into the yard.

The men sat and looked on. I had to go in and out a good many times, and was soon panting with the unusual exertion; my hands got wet and sore with the damp wood. Then suddenly my sister's children appeared. They got two poles and we carried the logs in on the improvised stretcher. On the road two little boys and a girl came strolling towards the farm. They stopped, looked on for a while, and then they too joined us. Now the work proceeded fast, and within an hour the wood was all stacked in the yard.

While we worked the two men sat on the edge of the ditch opposite, smoked, spat, and addressed provoking remarks at us. When I closed the gate I could not resist shouting across to them : " Good of you to have stayed here. At least you saw of what mettle we are made. We managed your job although you couldn't manage ours. "

The log-pulling tired me out—and that did me good. For fatigue softened my troubles, and when I went to bed I fell asleep at once. But I must have slept only a short time, for suddenly I dreamt that somebody was standing in front of my window and knocking. In the semi-consciousness of awakening I listened. My room was on the first floor. I jumped up. Violent shooting was going on near the house and the windows rattled in their frames. Then a long appalling howl rent the night, steps ran down the hillside, and everything lapsed into silence.

I lay awake for a long time. A curious light came through the latticework of my blinds which overlooked a piece of waste ground. I listened. There were steps in the neighbourhood. Something was happening out there. Should I go and see ?... I hesitated for some time. My limbs were heavy with fatigue. Then at last I went stealthily to the window. Soldiers were standing in front of the empty villa which stood next to ours and were supporting a hatless man who seemed to be wounded or insensible. A small shrivelled form held an electric torch in its hand and fumbled with the lock of the door. The shadow which he cast on the white wall was like that of a hunch-backed cat. The door opened and they all went in.

My first thought was " I must telephone to the police ! " Then I realized that even that impulse belonged to the past. What good would it be ? There is nobody who can maintain order. I thought of the fugitives in our woods. The country was swarming with deserters, released convicts, small bands of burglars. We shall have to get used to it—we shall have to get used to many things.

And again there was firing down in the valley. Although the danger of remaining longer in this deserted neighbourhood still worried me, I was too tired to absorb fresh troubles, and went to sleep


November 3rd.

A raven sat on a branch of the chestnut tree. It did not fly away when I opened my window, but sat there like a stuffed bird and stared with half-closed eyes into the yard. Near the black bird a few big red leaves fluttered on the bare tree, like bleeding scraps of flesh on a skeleton. And the raven sat on top of the skeleton against the rusty sky and rubbed its beak now and then against the branches as if it would scrape some carrion from it. Then again for a long time it sat motionless and stared unconcernedly at the ground beneath it. Suddenly it swayed as if it were going to fall, sprang clumsily away from the branch, and slowly took its flight into the autumnal air. Whither is it going and what is happening there ?

Alarming news comes from all parts of the country. Home-coming soldiers and inflamed mobs are pillaging everywhere. As yet the news relates to no definite locality, for there is no post, and the newspapers pass over in silence anything that might' create prejudice against the new power, yet the glare of conflagration is to be seen in all directions. Many people fled from the capital after the 31st of October, but in vain; risings awaited them in the very places where they hoped for safety.

The government took good care that this should be so. Károlyi's party, as well as the socialist and radical party, got together agitators whose duty it was to incite the lower classes. And these did not confine their attention to the returning soldiers, but lectured the peaceful country folk concerning " the results of the glorious revolution and the dangers of the counter-revolution. " They threw firebrands wherever a conflagration was likely, and blew into flames such smouldering fires of revolt as they could find.

At the tram station the newsboy openly offered for sale the papers of subscribers : no more newspapers will be delivered, and those who want one must go and fetch it, they rudely asserted. They all seem to have learnt the same lesson. The voice of the street becomes coarser day by day and in every word there is an intonation that savours of class hatred.

Crowds gathered in the town. Meetings were being held everywhere. In front of the House of Parliament a few thousand workmen and the people of the Ghetto had assembled. Speeches inciting to violence were heard on all sides. The contractor Heltai, now commander of the garrison, and a socialist agitator called Bokányi, addressed the crowd :

" Down with Kingship ! Down with the House of Lords ! We want new elections ! But the elections won't be made by Lord Lieutenants but by the People's Commissaries ! "

The People's Commissaries... Trotski and Lenin's henchmen in Hungary ! So now the rebellion which dubbed itself the national revolution dares to speak openly of these ! Everything here is being ordered after the Russian pattern. In the barracks the men of the garrison have dismissed their officers, elected representatives, and constituted Soldiers' Councils, which are developing into a new power. The head of this new power is a socialist journalist called Joseph Pogány-Schwarz. The vice-presidents are Imre Csernyák, a cashiered officer, and Teodor Sugár-Singer, a Galileist with a shady past. Pogány has declared that " the military council can have only one programme : the final abolition of the army ! " and while day by day he arms more workmen with the help of the socialist party organisation, he dissolves feverishly the old Hungarian army. Nor does the Minister of War remain inactive : he has organised Zionist guards and has armed the members of the Maccabean Club. Ladislaus Fényes, who from being a journalist has turned into the Government Commissary of National Guards, has enlisted and equipped more and more vagabonds and escaped convicts with sailors' uniforms.


A motor-car passed me, going slowly. It was a beautiful car and its window was ornamented with a label : " National property, to be protected. " Near the label, inside the car, I saw the face of Michael Károlyi. I was in no laughing mood, yet I could not help laughing at this. " National property ! " ... The nation must be in a sad plight indeed. " To be protected ! " ... Is that the only thing which is to receive protection ?

By Károlyi's side his wife was visible. Now and then there was a cheer— " The King's car, " said somebody near me. I felt suddenly sick. He goes about in the King's car and is cheered. Stephen Tisza travels in a hearse and stones are hurled at him. The face of Tisza appeared so vividly in my thoughts that it seemed to stand before me... I remembered a summer afternoon during the war. Mixing with the crowd, Tisza came towards me in a light summer suit. The descendant of a long line of horsemen he was slender and looked young; his shoulders were broad, his waist narrow, but his face was worn and as if shrunken with grief. Deep wrinkles ran to the corners of his mouth, and as I recollected him I thought of the strong, sad look in his eyes and the movements of his shoulders. Only his shoulders moved; he walked with an easy, elastic gait, as if he were strolling along a forest path, and his hands swung lightly...

The vision passed, and I was brought back to earth by some unkempt vagabonds cheering Károlyi. And the living man there in the car seemed more like a corpse than the dead man of my thoughts. His long, bloodless body was thin and bent. His narrow head, with its artificial stern expression, lolled on his shoulder as if it were too heavy for his neck to support. His watery, squinting eyes shifted blankly from side to side. His mouth was slightly open, as if his long, round chin had drawn; down his fleshy cheeks. I remembered an ivory paper-knife I had once seen, the handle of which was carved to represent an unhealthy looking head, worn smooth by much use. He reminded me of that sallow ivory head, the neck of which had been turned into a spiral, like a screw. The screw of Károlyi's neck had come loose, and his head dropped sideways. His wife was rouged in a doll-like fashion and her beautiful big eyes sparkled. Her voluptuous young mouth smiled in rapture, and she seemed to be drinking her success from the air greedily.

I looked after her. The car had long disappeared but it seemed to me as if the smile of those painted lips had left a trail of corruption over the suffering, harassed people. It spread and spread... Stephen Tisza's body is covered with blood. The frontiers of the country are bleeding. The enemy is victorious without having vanquished us. The army goes to pieces; the throne has fallen. St. Stephen's crown has lost Croatia and Slavonia. The rabble robs and pilfers. A Serbian army has crossed the frontier.

And the painted lips smile, smile...


Only a few days ago Michael Károlyi had said in jest :

" The smaller the country becomes the greater shall I be. When I was leader of the opposition, the whole of Hungary was intact; when I became Prime Minister Croatia and Slavonia had gone; there will be five counties when I am President, and one only when I shall be King. "

If only the miserable deceived millions could have heard this, they for whose benefit he proclaimed on the 31st of October with the recklessness of the gambler : " I alone can save Hungary ! " They believed him !... And yet mysterious Nature itself had warned the country to beware of him.

The deformed offspring of a consanguineous marriage, the heir to the enormous entailed possessions of the Károlyis, was born with a cleft palate and a hare-lip. He was fourteen years old when an operation was performed on him which enabled him, against the will of Divine Providence, to learn to speak—so that he might beguile his nation and his country into destruction. A silver palate was put into his mouth. The boy struggled and suffered. He wrestled with the words, and if his poor efforts were not understood by his companions he went into violent fits of temper. The only one who could have understood him, his mother, died early. His grandmother and his sister guided the poor boy through his unhappy early days. His progress in school was slow and the results of examinations deplorable. He passed his baccalaureat at the same time as my brother, yet he practically knew nothing and could not even spell. He passed all the same : " The poor, young invalid ! " That served him as a passport everywhere. Fate decreed that the misshapen youth should live, and he lived to take a cruel revenge for its cruelties.

His physical shortcomings prevented anyone from expecting much from him, so that almost everything he learned, did or said, surpassed the extremely low standard his family had set for him. His relations recognised this " ability " and admired him. And this delusion was the root of Károlyi's ever-increasing vanity. He became convinced that he was an extraordinary man and that he was predestined for wonderful things.

When he came of age he entered into possession of one of the greatest estates in Hungary. He could dispose freely of an enormous income. He had no need to keep accounts, and he kept none. He spent recklessly. He gambled, indulged in orgies. People laughed at him. Nobody took him seriously. His spendthrift life, cards, and the political role he assumed later, absorbed fabulous sums. But his fortune could still stand it. He was surrounded by sycophants. And he believed the flatteries of his cringing parasites. His megalomania at last became pathological. Without possessing the necessary aptitude, he now conceived the idea of making up for what he had neglected in his idle youth. He began to read. And when husbandry, political economy, sociology, were accumulated in an indigestible hotch-potch in his brain, he aspired to become a leader of men.

At the head of the conservatives stood Stephen Tisza, by race and tradition the very model of Hungarian conservatism; another faction of this party was headed by Count Julius Andrássy. In these camps Károlyi could never be anything but a secondary figure; leadership was beyond his reach. This fact drove him to the extreme left. Spurred by his unhealthy ambition for power he assumed the absurd position of leader of the radical democracy, a demagogue playing with national catchwords, though he was an aristocrat by tradition, had no national feeling whatever, and had constantly proclaimed himself essentially a Frenchman at heart, the spiritual descendant of his French great-grandmother. His faction was in need of a figurehead. It found one in him.

The clash between him and Tisza came when Tisza, then the President of the Commons, tired of the barren fights of eternal obstruction, and in anticipation of the future extension of the franchise, wanted to assure the decency of the proceedings in the Hungarian Parliament by a revision of the standing rules of procedure. The parties sounded the alarm. Personal feelings were much embittered. Andrássy and Károlyi found themselves in the same camp and both were mortally offended when Tisza imposed his haughty will with merciless firmness.

It was by the application of the new rules that Károlyi happened later to be expelled from the House by physical force at the hands of the parliamentary guards. On this occasion he was heard to declare, foaming with rage, that he would get even with Tisza, even though it should be at the cost of his country's ruin. His frenzy became akin to dementia as the result of the duel he fought about this time with Tisza, who managed to impress him once more with his contempt even at the moment of giving him armed satisfaction. Henceforth it was always the opposite to anything Tisza approved of that he desired, and consequently his gambler's instinct forced him to put his money always on some other card than that on which the nation, through Tisza's foresight, had risked its stakes.

By this time his entourage was composed almost exclusively of Freemasons, and his person became the centre of attraction of that suspicious gang whose aim was to incite Hungarians against Hungarians, and Christians against Christians, so that it might gain the upper hand—in proof of the adage inter duos litigantes tertius gaudet. Shortly before the war Károlyi went with some of his adherents to the United States to collect party funds. No account of those funds was ever rendered.

The outbreak of the war found him in Paris. His financial position had now become strained. The life-interest in his property, heavily mortgaged, left him no surplus. Yet he went on spending and gambling. Nobody knew whence his money came. Nor did anybody know why he alone was allowed to leave France at the outbreak of the war, while obscure individuals were mercilessly interned for its duration.

It was after his return that Károlyi began to spread the infection which, on the 31st of October 1918, like a septic sore that had long been festering, broke out in putrid suppuration.


The lamp-lighter came up the street. The glass of the lamps rattled and the little flames flared up. Over the bridge an arc of light appeared in the mist rising from the river. In the tunnel under the Castle Hill old-fashioned lamps lit up the damp walls. Two soldiers were walking in front of me, otherwise the tunnel was practically empty. Their voices resounded from the roof—they were quarrelling in a strange thieves' jargon. On the other side a well-dressed man came towards us on the pavement. The two soldiers discussed something in their incomprehensible lingo, then crossed together to the other side, saluted the stranger and, as if asking him a question, bent towards him. Obviously they were asking him the time. The gentleman drew his watch. One of the soldiers grasped him suddenly by the shoulders, the other bent over him. A loud shout rolled away under the vault, and next moment the two soldiers were running in their heavy boots with loud clatter towards the other end of the tunnel. It was quickly done and created no sensation. The whole thing was quite in keeping with our daily life nowadays.

This night vagabond soldiers again visited the empty villa and shots were fired near the garden. The dogs barked no more. Have they been shot, or have they got accustomed to it ?


November 4th.

I went through the rooms again. In front of the gate the carriage was awaiting to take us away for the winter, from among the trees to among the houses. The small light of the carriage-lamps filtered hesitatingly through the mist on to the bare branches of the shrubs. A vague anxiety took hold of me. It seemed to me that hitherto we had looked on from the shore, but that now we were going to wade into the turbulent, muddy flood. Whither will its torrent carry us; what is to be our fate ?

I went all over the house, and, one after the other, opened the doors of the cupboards and the drawers. I left everything open so that if burglars did break into the house in winter the locks might not be forced, the cupboards not smashed with hatchets. The fireplaces cooled down slowly. We had had no fires during the day in order to avoid accidents after we had gone. In one of the grates the embers still retained a little warmth, the others were as cold as the dead. I fastened the grated shutters in every room. In the semi-darkness, against the whitewashed walls, the old furniture, the old storytelling engravings, friends of my childhood, the big vase, the parrot-chandeliers, the coloured glasses in which the flowers of a hundred summers had blossomed in the rooms of my mother and my grandmother, all looked at me as if in sorrow. I looked also at my books, the old Bible on the shelf, at everything for which no room could be found in the vans and which had to be left behind.

Things too have tears... What if the empty house were pillaged ? If I were never to see again the dear things full of memories ?... Why do you leave us here ? the abandoned things seemed to ask, and I felt as if I were parting from devoted, living beings, which patiently shared our fate.

My mother called from below, waiting, ready to start, in the hall with my brother, who had come for us so that he might be there should the carriage be waylaid. As we went out of it the old house lapsed into lethargy and everything closed its eyes. The key turned, the pebbles clattered on the drive, and the carriage went slowly down the slope of the hill.

At the bridge over the Devil's Ditch my brother-in-law was waiting with his little daughter, and she got into the carriage. Reckless soldiers had overrun the hills and life was so insecure that they did not dare to keep the young girl at home. In town things may be quieter... Beyond the cemetery we came to the booth of the excisemen. We waited for a time in the mist and as no policeman, no exciseman appeared, we passed on through the open barrier. The outlines of armed soldiers and sailors peopled the ill-lit streets of Buda. The forms of a few frightened citizens who were trying to get home appeared now and then, but were soon absorbed by the night.

Beyond the bridge over the Danube the town was floating in light. Big arc-lamps were burning, as of old when a victory was reported from the battlefields. Flags floated from the houses. In the fashionable streets the crowds thronged for their evening walk, and as the carriage passed Károlyi's portrait could be seen in the shop windows among stockings and ribbons, furs and sausages.

I felt relieved when we came out of the sea of people into quieter streets. The carriage stopped at our house in Stonemason Street. Under the porch a half-turned-on gas lamp was burning, which threw a light up to the ceiling but left everything under our feet in darkness. The house seemed to have become shabby during the summer. The staircase was dull and ugly. The fires smoked and nothing was as it used to be when we came in olden times to our friendly winter home. Disorder, covered furniture, draped pictures. It was like wearing summer clothes on a frosty winter day.

" Well, we are settled for the winter now, mother dear, " I laughed, to make it seem more cheerful. My mother laughed too and we both pretended to be happy.

A clumsy little German maid rushed about among the trunks and did nothing. Our faithful farmer neighbour, who had kindly escorted the luggage, was struggling with the fires. The housekeeper boiled some water over a spirit lamp. My mother went to and fro, and wherever her hand reached order sprang up. All at once the little green room assumed a friendly appearance and tea steamed in the cups on the white covered table. Home was home again and we smiled at each other.

" The many war winters have passed, and this is going to pass too. "

" This is worse than the winters of the war, " my mother said with unusual gloom.

I looked involuntarily at the window. Out there beyond, a big town was breathing, but it was impossible to get information from its chaos. The scum had got the upper hand; was any resistance being organised ? It was impossible that things should remain like this ! One regiment coming back in order, one energetic commander, and Károlyi's band will tumble from power.

Newspapers lay on the table, and my eyes fell on a proclamation of Károlyi, which he had made in the presence of the representatives of the Budapest press : " From the 1st of November Hungary becomes a neutral state, " he declared. " This tired government... " He did not say what the Entente powers would say to this neutrality. Further on he spoke of the Minister of War... " He had immortal merits in obtaining peace. History will not fail to recognise the credit due to him; Linder has rendered to the Hungarian people services of eternal value and usefulness... "

I remembered the disgraceful scene in front of the House of Parliament, a scene cunningly contrived by those in the background... " I do not want to see any more soldiers... " I had heard since that it was for this sentence, promised beforehand, that the social democrats gave the Ministry of War to the obscure Linder. The price of his portfolio was the disruption of the army. And Károlyi spoke of history's gratitude !

On the last page of the paper I found accidentally an extract of the conditions of the armistice.

Immediate disarmament, the withdrawal of our armies from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier... When I read on my eyes faltered. Then they were filled with alarm. The last terrible condition (unknown in modern warfare) followed : Prisoners of war to be returned without any reciprocity ! This seemed incomprehensible. Our enemies want to retain as white slaves soldiers, heroes who had faced them armed in open battle. Then another pain stabbed me : We must lose the coast, Dalmatia, the dreamy blue islands, the fleet to whose flag so much glory was attached, the monitors of the Danube. We must deliver up all floating material, the commercial harbours, and ships.

The scorched, lifeless Carso, wild tracts of rock under an azure sky, great murmuring forests, and there, down below, the sea, and, like corals and shells on the shore, Fiume, Hungary's gate to the seas. It was indeed a bitter thought. Italy, with thy hundred ports, why dost thou rob us ? We have only this one ! It was a tiny fishing village, like so many others in the bay of Quarnero. We made it what it is : it sprung up from Hungarian labour, the gold from Hungarian harvests of corn and wine has flowed there to raise dams, to build quays, to work a wonder among the stones. Fiume is our only port...


And beyond, that which was not ours but which we loved dearly, the rosy bastions of the Dolomites, reaching into the clouds, the home of the Tyrolese, and Riga on the shores of Lake Garda, peaks and ravines, sacred by so much Hungarian blood. What the war could not take is peace to take from us ?

Beside myself, I walked up and down in my room till morning, haunted by despair, utter, complete despair.


November 5th.

In place of the free morning of the woods, the gloom of a narrow street looked in through my window. The wall of the opposite house drove my eyes back to my books, my furniture, my pictures. Now I saw their beauty again, and I was glad that they were there with me.

The many old books in the bookcase behind my writing-table ran up the wall like the fading gold of an ancient embroidery. Above, on the red wall, in a frame surmounted by the Pope's triple crown, in a soft haze the Madonna of Venice by Sebastiano Ricci. The portrait of Castruccio Castracani and a Dutch Old Man in a sable-bordered green mantle. The clock ticked under the Empire mirror. From the escritoire with the many little drawers, a copy of San Lorenzo the child-monk, the most beautiful piece of sculpture of the early Renaissance, looked into my room with a youthful challenge.

The fading gold of ancient frames, the stale green of old furniture. The colours toyed with each other in silence and the red curtains and walls threw a russet light over things as if a magic sunset had been caught between the window and the door.

Next to my room, in the small drawing-room, the old water-colours hung over the sofa. My ancestor, the powdered, pigtailed old gentleman, in his romantic breastplate of the Hardegger Cuirassiers, my grandfather's handsome young head, and beautiful fair women with locks on the sides of their faces. Opposite, on the piano, between the golden Old Vienna vases, stood my mother's portrait as a child, in all its delicacy. And on the mantelpiece the butterfly-shaped pendulum of the marble clock told me endless tales of the past.

I loved all these things so much, or rather I became conscious of my love for them because fear was now added to my affection. Shall we keep them ? Will they remain our own ?

In the evening I was on Red Cross duty at the railway station. The clock on St. Rocus' chapel proclaimed it half past six. The trams, crammed full, raced down the street, with people hanging on outside like bunches of grapes. It was impossible to get into one. I had to walk, and as I came to the more remote parts of the town I remembered October 31st. The pavement was thronged with criminal-looking men, suspicious vagabonds, drunken sailors, Galician Jews in their gabardines. Whence did this rabble come ? Or did it always live here among us, only we did not know it ?

The neighbourhood of the station was swarming with people. Disarmed, ragged soldiers sold cigarettes and sticky sweets; one or two asked for alms. Near the wall, on a stair covered with a waterproof, some obscene books were lying about. Dirty men sold pencils, purses, tobacco. A boy in a gabardine offered broken bits of chocolate from a tray. There was something Balkan in this noisy scene : a red cross flag floated over the murky street. People went freely in and out through the doors of the station. No tickets were required—anyhow, it would be impossible to stop the mob—the guards had gone. Russian soldiers in sheepskin caps, Roumanian and Serbian prisoners of war, like a stampeded herd, broke through the throng. These at least could go home. And my hand went to my heart.

Wounded soldiers, drinking tea and eating slices of bread, sat on the benches in the carbolic-scented, stuffy air of the former Royal waiting-room, which was lit up sparsely. It was the first time I had been on duty since the Revolution. During the many years of war so many stretchers had gone through this Red Cross room, so much suffering and moaning and knocking of crutches, that it seemed to me now as if all these turned back with reproaches and asked continually : " What good was that sea of suffering, all these deaths, if this is to be the end of the road ? "

Round the low-burning gas-stove sat some sergeants of the Army Medical Corps. Further away, in a cold corner, a few disabled officers had retired. The insignia of their rank on their collars were missing. They were pale and thin. One of them leant his elbows on his knees and buried his fece in his hands. Another's head was bowed down on his chest. Never in my life have I seen men more dejected than these : they just sat there without moving. And while I looked at them I realised with an aching heart that the horrible betrayal, " the glorious revolution " has wounded the wounded, and far, far away, in the many soldiers' graves, has killed the dead anew.

A hospital train arrived; it brought Germans. In silent line one stretcher after the other defiled through the door, and the men were laid in a gray row on the floor. Under torn, bloody, great-coats, pale patient ghosts. A hospital from the Southern front had been evacuated in haste. " The Serbians are advancing... "

The old bandages soaked with blood were dirty on the men : an awful stench of corruption spread over the place. And between the stretchers a Jewish sergeant, in brand new field-uniform, with golden pince-nez, sporting a red cockade, walked haughtily up and down. I had never seen him in the place before. " I have been delegated by the Soldiers' Council, " he remarked. And this man, whose very appearance betrayed the fact that he had never been a soldier during the war, now stood there, his legs apart, between the wounded and spoke to them with impertinent condescension.

I told the doctor that the men required new bandages, it was two weeks now since they had been put on. " There are no bandages, " said the doctor sadly and went back to his room. I did not see him again that evening. The reeking air was now and then rent by a moan, a quiet sigh. That was all. But nobody spoke. The men thanked one with a weary look for the bad decoction and the bread that tasted of sawdust.

" Our men are still fighting against the Serbians, " a fair Bavarian mumbled, when I leant down over him. It was only when the red-cockaded sergeant had retired and the other orderly had gone to smoke outside on the platform that there was some talk between the stretchers.

" How are things at home ? " the Germans asked. " We have no newspapers, we know nothing. People say that there they have made a revolution too and that they want to banish the Kaiser. "

Wounded Hungarian soldiers sat on one of the benches and talked of the Italian front :

" It was after our men had laid down their arms that the Italians began to shell us. They used heavy artillery and killed whole regiments. Whole divisions were surrounded. They report three hundred thousand prisoners and a thousand guns. All is lost. "

" Newspapers too reported that the Italians continued to fire at us for twenty-four hours after we had fired the last shot. "

" More men were killed during the armistice than in the bloodiest battle, " an officer grumbled.

He who had buried his face in his hands now looked up :

" Pacificism has begun with more bloodshed than war. If we had held the front for another two weeks what has happened to us would have happened in Italy. That was the reason they hurried so. That was why we had to capitulate without conditions. The trouble was with the reserves; they were in communication with Budapest. They received wireless messages from the National Council... "

This talk reminded me of the message Károlyi sent in the name of the government to the Higher Command : " I freely accept responsibility for everything. " He also declared that : " The popular Hungarian government desires to take all steps for peace negotiations itself. " Originally he wanted to go personally to Padua, but was prevented by the Higher Command. Yesterday the rumour got about that as he could not negotiate with the Italians who had been charged by the Entente to represent it in its dealings with the Monarchy, he had appealed to Franchet d'Esperay, the Commander-in-chief on the Balkan front. The French General had answered that before he would negotiate with him, all the troops on the Hungaro-Serbian frontier must retire fifteen kilometres into Hungarian territory and that the German troops be disarmed within a fortnight. The abandonment of Hungarian territory was required... We must oust our last friends, who still defend our frontiers which our own people have forsaken. Give up Hungarian territory... There can be only one answer to that : a refusal... But rumour says otherwise : Károlyi is going with his adherents to Belgrade, perhaps he has gone already... Incomprehensible ! Surely I have not dreamt it ? I read in a newspaper the report of the Chief of the General Staff that in consequence of the armistice all hostilities had ceased on the Italian front. What are the negotiations of Belgrade about ?

There was a great noise in front of the door. Tea was clamoured for and rough voices filled the room. Some of the talk was bitter. Most of the men coming from Austria had been robbed of everything. In Vienna Red Guards robbed the Hungarians at the railway stations. Their haversacks had been taken, some had their coats torn off their backs, their boots, rations, even their pocket-knives had been filched from them. They came home hungry and furious and clamouring.

Then I caught sight of the sergeant with the red cockade. He mixed with the men and whispered secretively with first one then another. I asked a tall soldier, with a peasant's face, if all the men were coming home. Were there no troops remaining on the frontier to defend the country ?

" To be sure we don't stop there; we are going home; we even left the guns as soon as the news reached us that we need no longer be soldiers. " He produced a crumpled copy of a radical evening paper from the pocket of his coat and waved it in his hand. " Here, in this paper too it is written that the Minister of War has said himself : ' Now we have peace.' "

So the War Minister's announcement : " I do not want to see any more soldiers " had already reached the front. The fatal words were lying in wait on every road by which Hungarian soldiers were coming home.

It was about eleven o'clock when I went off duty. As I went through the gate two men slunk to the wall. They were soldiers—officers. One of them spoke excitedly and snatched at his head. He gave me the impression that he was mad. " I brought the regiment home fully equipped and in perfect order, reported at the War Office, offered my services to the country, and they told me to disarm and go home... "

I heard no more, but that was enough. We could have no hope in those who had come as far as this. But perhaps somewhere else, far from the town, somebody will be found who can keep his men in hand, march them to the capital, and disperse Károlyi's rabble. That is the only hope left to us, there is no other.

Through the noisy thoroughfares the tram wound its way into dark side-streets. From St. Rocus' chapel I walked home. In our street the steps of a patrol resounded. I turned rapidly into the house. Behind me the shriek of a woman rent the silence of the night. As I ran up the stairs my mother stood in the ante-room waiting for me. Goodness knows how long she had been waiting, but she did not reproach me. I could see by her face that she was worried. Only when I went to bed did she say imploringly : " Another time don't stay so late. "

Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution /1

Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution /2

Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution /3

Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution /4

Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution /5

Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution /6

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Cecile Tormay: An Outlaw's Diary: Revolution – Book Format – PDF

Part Two: An Outlaw's Diary: The Commune