Mathias Sandorf/Page 16
Fourteen years had elapsed since Silas Toronthal had left Trieste to take up residence at Ragusa. Being of Dalmatian birth nothing could be more natural than that when he retired from business he should return to his native land.
The traitors had kept their secret well. The price of their treachery had been duly paid. And thereby a handsome fortune fell to the banker and his old Tripolitan correspondent.
After the execution of the prisoners in the fortress of Pisino, after the flight of Count Mathias Sandorf, who had found his death in the waves of the Adriatic, the sentence had been completed by the seizure of their possessions. Of the house and small estate belonging to Ladislas Zathmar nothing remained—not even enough to yield a living to his old servant. Of Stephen Bathory's possessions nothing remained, for he had no fortune and the lessons he gave produced his only income. But the castle of Artenak and its rich dependencies, the neighboring mines and the forests on the northerly slopes of the Carpathians were of considerable value. They were divided into two parts, one of which was sold to pay the informers and the other was placed under sequestration to be restored to the count's heiress when she had attained her eighteenth year. If the child died before then her share was to revert to the estate.
The two quarters given to the informers amounted to a little over 1,500,000 florins, and with this huge sum they could do as they pleased.
At the outset the accomplices made up their minds to separate. Sarcany did not care to remain with Toronthal, and the banker had no wish to continue his business relations with him. And so Sarcany left Trieste with Zirone, who, not having left him in adversity, was not the man to leave him in prosperity. Both disappeared, and the banker heard nothing about them for some time. Where had they gone? Probably to some large European city, where people did not bother themselves about a man's origin providing he was rich, and cared nothing how a man had gained his wealth, providing he spent it among them.
The banker breathed more freely when they left him. He thought he had no more to fear from a man who, to a certain extent, held him in his power, and who might some time or other use that power. Nevertheless, although Sarcany was rich, it was never safe to trust to prodigals of his species, and if he ran through his money what was to prevent his coming back to his old accomplice?
Six months afterward Toronthal, having cleared off his difficulties, sold his business and definitely abandoned Trieste for Ragusa. Although there was nothing to fear from the indiscretion of the governor, who was the only person that knew the part he had played in the discovery of the conspiracy, this seemed the safest course fer a man who did not wish to lose reputation, and whom an ample fortune assured an easy life wherever he went.
This resolution to leave Trieste was probably further encouraged by a peculiar circumstance—which will be mentioned later on. This circumstance was known only to himself and his wife, and had but on one occasion only brought him into connection with Namir, whom we have seen as acquainted With Sarcany.
It was at Ragusa then that the banker had settled down. He had left it very young without either friends or relatives. He had quite dropped out of recollection, and it was as a stranger that he returned to the town which he had not revisited for forty years.
To a rich man appearing under such circumstances Ragusan society gave hearty welcome. Only one thing was known about him, and that was that he had held a high position at Trieste. The banker sought and found a mansion in the most aristocratic quarter of the town. He started a large establishment, and engaged a fresh staff of servants to what he had at Trieste. He visited and was visited. As no one knew anything of his past life, was he not one of those privileged beings who in this World are called happy?
Toronthal did not suffer much from remorse. Had it not been for the fear that some day his abominable treachery would be discovered, there would apparently have been nothing to trouble his existence—except his wife, who remained a silent but living reproach to him.
For that unhappy woman, honest and straightforward as she was, knew of the hateful scheme that had sent the three patriots to their deaths. A word escaped from her husband when his affairs were in jeopardy, a hope imprudently expressed that some of Sandorf's money might help him out of his difficulties, some signatures he had had to obtain from his wife had drawn from him the confession of his share in the Trieste conspiracy.
An insurmountable aversion for the man who was bound to her was the feeling she thereupon experienced—and the feeling was all the keener from her being of Hungarian birth. But as we have said she was a woman of no moral energy. The blow fell on her, and she could not recover from it. Henceforth at Trieste and afterward at Ragusa she lived apart from her husband, as much as her position permitted. She appeared at the receptions in the house in the Stradone; it was necessary for her so do so, and her husband insisted on it; but when she had played her part as a woman of the world, she retired to her apartments. There she devoted herself entirely to the education of her daughter, on whom she had concentrated all her affection, and endeavored to forget what she knew. To forget when the man who had acted this way was living under the same roof with her!
Two years after their removal to Ragusa the state of things became still more complicated. And if the complication was an annoyance to the banker, it was a subject of further grief to his wife.
Mme. Bathory, her son, and Borik had also left Trieste to take up their quarters at Ragusa, where they had a few relatives. Stephen Bathory's widow knew nothing of Silas Toronthal; she did not even know that he and Count Sandorf had ever had business together.
But if Mme. Bathory did not know the banker, he knew her. To find himself in the same town, to meet her as he passed by, poor, working to educate her child, was anything but agreeable to him. Had Mme. Bathory come to Ragusa before he had made up his mind to live there, he would probably have chosen otherwise. But when the widow came to live at her humble house in Rue Marinella his mansion had already been bought, he had occupied it, and the position had been definitely accepted. It would not have done to change his residence for the third time.
“We get accustomed to everything,” he said to himself. And he resolved to shut his eyes to this permanent witness to his treachery.
But what was only an unpleasantness for the banker was an incessant cause of grief and remorse to Mme. Toronthal. Secretly on several occasions she had tried to send help to this widow who had no other wealth than her work; but the help was always refused, like that of other unknown friends.
Then the position became almost insupportable, owing to an occurrence, most unforeseen, almost improbable, and even terrible by the complications it might bring about.
Mme. Toronthal had concentrated all her affections on her daughter, who was two-and-a-half years old when at the end of 1867 her husband came to live at Ragusa.
Sava was now seventeen—a beautiful girl, more of the Hungarian than the Dalmatian type. With her dark abundant hair and bright glowing eyes set deep beneath a somewhat lofty forehead of “psychic form”—if we can appropriately use the term that chiromantists apply more particularly to the hand—with her well-curved mouth and sweet complexion and her graceful figure rather above the middle height, she was at least certain of never being passed by with indifference.
But that which was most striking about her was the pensive, serious mien that seemed to show she was ever in search of some long-faded remembrance of something, she knew not what, that at once allured and saddened her. On this account it was that she treated with extreme reserve all those whom she met in her father's house or out of doors.
She was supposed to be the heiress of an enormous fortune which one day would be entirely her own, and was of course much sought after. But although many eligible individuals were introduced in whom all the social proprieties were duly found, she had always refused, under her mother's advice, to give them the slightest encouragement. Toronthal himself had never alluded to the subject of her marriage. Probably the son-in-law he wanted—more for himself than Sava—had not yet come forward.
To finish this portrait of Sava Toronthal, we should note a very marked tendency to admire such acts of virtue or courage as were due to patriotism. Not that she took much interest in politics; but in the recital of all that affected her country, in the sacrifices made for it, and in recent examples by which its history had been made illustrious, she took deep interest. And these sentiments were hardly owing to the accident of her birth—for assuredly she did not inherit them from Silas Toronthal—but seemed to have arisen spontaneously in her own noble, generous heart.
What would explain the sympathetic attraction between her and Pierre? Yes! A stroke of ill-luck had intervened in the banker's game, and brought these two young people together. Sava was only twelve years old when one day somebody had said in her presence—
“There goes the son of the man who died for Hungary!” And that was never effaced from her memory.
Both grew up. Sava thought of Pierre long before he had noticed her. She saw him looking so serious, so thoughtful! But if he was poor he could at least work to be worthy of his father's name—and she did not know the whole story.
We know the rest, we know how Pierre Bathory was in his turn attracted and won by a nature which sympathized completely with his own, and how, when the girl knew not her real feelings toward him, the young man already loved her with a profound affection that she was soon to share. All that concerns Sava will have been said when we have described her position in the family.
Toward her father she had always been most reserved. Never had the banker betrayed the slightest feeling of kindness toward her, never had he greeted his daughter with a caress. This coolness between them arose from a complete want of accord on every subject. Sava had for Toronthal the respect a daughter should have for her father—nothing more. He let her do as she liked, he did not interfere with any of her tastes, he placed no limit on her works of charity which his natural ostentation willingly encouraged. In short, on his part there was indifference; on hers there was, it must be confessed, antipathy, or rather aversion.
For Mme. Toronthal Sava had quite a different feeling. The banker's wife submitted to her husband's control, although he showed her but little deference, but she was kind and good and worth a thousand times more in the honesty of her life and the care of her personal dignity. She was very fond of Sava. Beneath the young girl's shyness she had discovered her real worth, but the affection she felt for her was rather artificial and modified by a kind of admiration, of respect, and even of fear. The elevation of Sava's character, her straightforwardness, and at certain times her inflexibility, might perhaps explain this strange form of maternal love. However, the girl returned love for love, and even without the ties of relationship the two would have been deeply attached to each other.
There is therefore nothing to be astonished at in Mme. Toronthal being the first to discover what was passing in the mind and heart of Sava. Frequently had the girl spoken of Pierre Bathory and his family without noticing the sorrowful impression that the name made on her mother. And when Mme. Toronthal discovered that Sava was in love with the young man, “Heaven wills it then!” was all she murmured.
We may imagine what these words meant, but it is somewhat difficult to understand how the love of Sava for Pierre could make amends for the injury done to the Bathory family.
Mme. Toronthal having, however, satisfied herself that it was all in accordance with the designs of Providence, had brought herself to think in her pious, trustful heart that her husband would consent to this union of the families, and so without saying anything to Sava she resolved to consult him on the subject.
At the first words his wife uttered Toronthal flew into a towering rage which he made no effort to control, and she had to retreat to her apartment with the following threat ringing in her ears:
“Take care, madame! If ever you dare speak to me again on that subject I will make you repent it.”
And so what Silas Toronthal called “destiny” had not only brought the Bathory family to live in the same town, but had even brought Sava and Pierre to meet and love one another.
Why, it may be asked, so much irritation on the banker's part? Had he formed any secret designs on Sava, on her future, that were prejudiced by this complication? In the event of his treachery being one day exposed was it not his interest that the consequences should be atoned for as much as possible? What would Pierre say when he had become Sava Toronthal's husband? What could Mme. Bathory do? Assuredly it would be a horrible situation, the victim's son married to the murderer's daughter, but it would be horrible for them, not for him, Silas Toronthal!
Yes, but there was Sarcany, of whom there was no news, but whose return was always possible—a return that might lead to further engagements between the accomplices. He was not the man to forget if fortune turned against him.
Toronthal was, it need scarcely be said, not without anxiety at what was to become of his old Tripolitan agent. He had no news from him since he left Trieste, fifteen years ago. Even in Sicily where Sarcany was most likely to be heard of, all inquiries had proved in vain. But he might come back any day, and hence a constant state of terror for the banker until the adventurer was dead. And the news of his death Toronthal would have received with easily intelligible satisfaction. Perhaps then he would have looked upon the possibility of a marriage with Pierre in a somewhat different light; but at present it was not to be dreamed of.
Toronthal never alluded to the way in which he received his wife when she had spoken to him about Pierre Bathory. He offered her no explanation of his conduct. What he did was to keep a strict watch on Sava, and even to set spies to look after her: and with regard to the young engineer to behave toward him as haughtily as possible, to turn his head when he met, and to act in every way so as to crush out all hope. And he succeeded only too well in showing that every attempt on his part would be useless.
It was under these circumstances that on the evening of the 10th of June the name of Sarcany was heard across the room in the mansion in the Stradone as the door opened and that individual entered. In the morning Sarcany and Namir had taken the train at Cattaro for Ragusa. Sarcany had gone to one of the chief hotels in the town, dressed himself in the height of fashion, and without losing an hour, had hurried round to visit his old friend,
Toronthal welcomed him and gave orders that they were not to be disturbed. How did he take this visit? Was he master enough of himself to conceal his true feelings at the reappearance? Was Sarcany as imperious and insolent as formerly? Did he remind the banker of promises made and engagements entered into years before? Did they speak of the past, the present or the future? What they said we know not, for their interview was secret.
But this was its result.
Twenty-four hours afterward a rumor was afloat which might well startle society at Ragusa. Every one was talking of the marriage of Sarcany—a wealthy Tripolitan—with Sava Toronthal.
Evidently the banker had to yield to the threats of the man who could destroy him by a word. Neither his wife's prayers nor Sava's horror availed anything against the father who claimed to dispose of his daughter as best suited his convenience.
One word only as to Sarcany's interest in the marriage—an an interest he had not thought it worth while to hide from Toronthal. Sarcany was now ruined. The fortune which had been sufficient to help Toronthal out of his difficulties had hardly been enough to keep the adventurer during the fifteen years. Since his departure from Trieste Sarcany had run through Europe, living in the height of extravagance, and the hotels of Paris, London Berlin, Vienna and Rome had never had windows enough for him to throw the money through to gratify his fancies. After a career of pleasure he had taken to gambling to finish his ruin, and had visited nearly every famous gaming haunt on the Continent.
Zirone had, of course, been his constant companion and when the money had been run through they had returned together to the east of Sicily and waited till an opportunity offered to resume the connection with the banker of Trieste. Nothing could be simpler than that he could restore his fortunes by marrying Sava, the sole heiress of the rich Silas Toronthal—who could refuse him nothing.
In fact no refusal was possible, and no refusal was attempted. Perhaps after all, between the two men there was still something hidden concerning the problem they were seeking to solve which the future would reveal!
However, a very clear explanation was required from Sava by her father. What would she do?
“My honor depends on the marriage,” said Silas Toronthal, “and the marriage must take place.”
When Sava took back the reply to her mother she nearly fainted in her daughter's arms and burst into tears of despair.
Toronthal had then told the truth.
The wedding was fixed for the 6th of July.
We can imagine what a life had been led by Pierre during these three weeks. His misery was dreadful. A prey to impotent rage, sometimes he remained at home in the Rue Marinella; sometimes he escaped from the accursed town, and his mother feared he would never return.
What consolation could she offer him? While no marriage was talked of, while Pierre Bathory was repulsed by Sava's father, some hope did remain. But with Sava married came a new abyss—an abyss that could not be bridged. Dr. Antekirtt in spite of his promises had abandoned Pierre. And besides, she asked herself, how could the young lady who loved him, and whose energetic nature she knew, how could she agree to this union? What was the mystery in this house in the Stradone which brought such things about? Pierre would have done better to leave Ragusa, to accept the situation which had been offered him abroad, to go far away from Sava, if they were going to hand her over to this stranger, this Sarcany! Despair had in truth entered the house which a ray of happiness had brightened but for a few days.
Point Pescade kept constant watch, and was one of the first to discover what was going on.
As soon as he heard of the new marriage between Sava Toronthal and Sarcany he wrote to Cattaro. And as soon as he heard of the pitiable state to which the young engineer was reduced he sent off the news to the doctor.
The only reply was for him to continue the observations, and to keep Cattaro thoroughly informed of all that happened.
As the 6th of July approached Pierre's state became worse. His mother could not keep him quiet. How could they possibly make Toronthal change his plans? Was it not evident from the haste with which it had been declared and fixed that the marriage had been decided on for some time, that Sarcany and the banker were acquaintances of old date, that the “rich Tripolitan” had some peculiar influence over Sava's father?
Pierre Bathory wrote to Toronthal eight days before the date fixed for the wedding. His letter received no reply.
Then Pierre tried to speak to the banker in the street. He did not succeed in meeting him. Pierre then sought him at his house. He was not allowed to cross the threshold. Sava and her mother remained invisible There was no possibility of communicating with them.
But if Pierre could not see Sava nor her father, he very often ran against Sarcany. To the looks of hate with which he greeted him Sarcany replied with looks of disdain. Pierre then thought of insulting him, of provoking him to fight. But why should Sarcany accept a meeting which he had every inducement to refuse?
Six days went by. Pierre, in spite of the entreaties of his mother and the prayers of Borik, left the house in the Rue Marinella on the evening of the 4th of July. The old servant attempted to follow, but soon lost sight of him. Pierre hurried on at a venture as if he was mad along the most deserted streets of the town and by the side of the walls.
An hour afterward they brought him home—dying. He had been stabbed in the upper part of the left lung.
There seemed to be no doubt that in a paroxysm of despair he had committed suicide.
As soon as Point Pescade heard of the misfortune he ran to the telegraph office.
An hour later the doctor received the news at Cattaro.
It would be difficult to describe the grief of Mme. Bathory when she found herself in the presence of her son, who had perhaps but a few hours to live. But the mother's energy steeled itself against, the woman's weakness, To work, first; to weep, afterward.
A doctor was sent for. He arrived in a few minutes, he examined the wounded man, he listened to the feeble intermittent breathing, he probed the wound, he bandaged it, he did all that his art told him—but he save no hope.
Fifteen hours afterward the case was aggravated by the occurrence of considerable hemorrhage, and respiration, becoming hardly apparent, threatened soon to end.
Mme. Bathory was on her knees by the bedside, praying to God not to take away her son. The door opened.
Dr. Antekirtt walked in and approached the bed.
Mme. Bathory would have rushed toward him. He stopped her with a gesture.
Then he went to Pierre and carefully examined him without uttering a word. Then he looked at him long and fixedly. As if some strange magnetic power shot forth from his eyes to the very brain where thought was lingering for a moment before it finally left, he seemed to fill that brain with his own life, with his own will.
Suddenly Pierre half rose toward him. His eyelids lifted. He looked at the doctor. He then fell back inanimate.
Mme. Bathory threw herself on her son, gave one scream, and fainted in Borik's arms.
The doctor closed the eyes of the corpse; then he rose, left the house, whispering as he did so the old phrase from the Indian legend:
“Death destroyeth not; it only rendereth invisible.”