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An Outlaw's Diary: The Commune - CHAPTER V


April 15th-16th.

My last day in Berczel. It seems to me as if a mischievous hand had passed over the pleasant picture and had effaced it. Here and there a tinge remained. This morning the sun was shining on the lawn in front of my window and in its golden rays the dog scampered eagerly. Afternoon wore quickly on, and the sun shone no longer. The ears of corn rustled together in the gilt clock on the wall. How many grains are there still in store for me ?

Young George Kállay went for Baron Jeszenezky, whose advice was certain to be worth having. When he was told what had happened he grasped the situation at once. He wrote me a letter of recommendation to the dismissed magistrate of Aszód and took charge of my papers.

" I shall put them up the chimney. They may not find them there." Beyond the garden on the crest of the hillocks the train from Aszód was passing along like a tiny, smoking toy.

This train had been haunting me the whole day. Now it was gone. For this one day I need not fear the arrival of the bloodhounds. And if they should come to-morrow they will find the place empty.

" A carriage from the station should be here by now," said Lenke. So they had been thinking of the same thing. The horn of a motor car resounded on the main road. Mrs. Kállay looked up from her embroidery : " I had a bad dream last night. I dreamt that a big motor stopped in front of the house and that detectives stepped out of it. " The car had passed the garden gate, but the shock it had given us remained. Now I could think of one thing only ; the slow passage of time and the wish that it would pass faster. If only I were gone from here and knew that the people who had befriended me were no longer incurring danger on my behalf ! I made a miserable attempt to say something to that effect : " Thank you, and please forgive me. " Henriette Apor gave me her box of matches : there were only a few left in it, yet it was a precious gift, for there had been no matches in the house for a long time.

I never thought a human being could be so alone in the world. Now everybody must be for himself only. I had premonitions of death, and thought of those I had seen, whose deaths I had witnessed. I began to understand their feelings at the approaching struggle in which none could render them aid. It had been of no use to hold their hands, to adjust their pillows, to sit up with them. And now there was nobody even to hold my hand, to sit up with me.

The rain began to fall in scattered drops, as though a sad spirit had wept upon the window panes. On that fateful night of March it had rained thus when I left my home and the streets resounded with the shout : " Long live the Dictatorship of the Proletariat ! " These had been the words that brought calamity upon us. Here with the rain the feeling of outlawry and isolation seized me, and I faced a dark vindictive world. I shut my eyes, wishing I could escape from myself.

I may have slumbered restlessly, tossing about, for a few minutes ; then I jumped up as if I had been shaken and began to dress with needless speed by the light of the candle. It was dark outside when the door of my room opened quietly. Elisabeth Kállay was standing there. She came to bid me farewell, and the action steadied me. We shook hands : " God bless you ! "

When the big gate of the castle opened before me, the piercing cold cut me like a knife, and I shrank back. Night stood in front of me like a damp black wall, through which I must pass. For an instant I felt as if someone were dogging my footsteps. The gate slammed with a bang behind me and made me feel as if all gates had closed on me and as if I were excluded from everything ; a homeless, countryless, beggarly wanderer on earth.

I penetrated deeper and deeper into the damp blackness, making my way through the garden towards the stables where the carriage was waiting for me... The wheels splashed in the mud, rain poured, my shoulders and my skirt round my knees were soaked. Dawn was breaking when we reached the main road.

From the way-side station a dark, cold little train carried me through the frosty morning. I may have fallen asleep for awhile, but I remember the last violent jerk : Aszód ! It was just the same : putrid filth covered the platform. There, on the side of a waggon, was the inscription written in human excrement : " Death to the bourgeois ! " The station was if possible even dirtier than before. Notwithstanding the early hour, a sad and sleepy deputation with red flags was waiting there. One of them said at the exit that there was going to be a recruiting meeting, a comrade from Budapest was going to make a speech, his special train was already signalled. This made me hurry. The parcel of food given me before I started was pulled from under my arm, but it did not matter. My valise was already in the cloak-room and I hurried off towards the town. A red flag was floating on the Reformatory like a piece of raw flesh. There were flags everywhere, and strange big posters covered the walls. The lines on them appeared to represent mad knots of tangled intestines. When I looked more closely, my eyes made out the outlines of horrible soldiers, pregnant giant women, skulls, blood-stained workmen, bare to the waist, glaring at me. " Join the Red army ! " " Alcohol is dead ! " " To arms, Proletarians ! "


I was so tired that everything frightened me. The bare trees on the sidewalk stood in a row as if waiting for victims to be hanged on them. The dais which stood covered with red under the grey sky in the middle of the market place looked like a scaffold and the houses seemed to watch it wickedly, disdainfully. The streets were covered with mud : the repulsive mess spread all over the place and the houses alone seemed to keep it within its bed. If one of them had been removed, it seemed that the mud would have overflowed the whole country.

People lived in these surroundings, dragged themselves resignedly along in the black mire, surrounded by the monstrous posters. Nobody rebelled, they just let themselves sink and drown. This resignation stretched beyond the town, and the whole country surrendered to its fate.

A Jew dressed like a townsman except for his cap passed in a carriage, stopped, and beckoned. Two men of the working class ran up to him. He pointed towards the market and gave orders. The men listened respectfully. Then the man in the cap looked at me, and as his gaze fell on me I felt the blood rush to my head, for he turned back as if he knew me. It seemed to me that I too recognised this weak face, these thick, soft lips, these shapeless ears. Perhaps it has bowed before me over the counter of some Budapest bank, this puffy face which now looked slimy and dark as if it had been shaped out of the mud. But it passed from my sight.

A number of Red soldiers were loafing in front of a low house. They wore flat caps ornamented with red ribbons, and red-bordered blouses after the Russian pattern. This group impressed me strangely and filled me with anxiety : they were not Hungarian soldiers, they were enemies. They were the armed servants of a foreign power, the sole relics of our disbanded army ! The Red army ! Hungarian national guards, Hungarian hussars, were you disbanded to become like these ? This was the first time I had seen the Red guards of the Soviet.

Behind the soldiers the walls were posted with orders and regulations. A door was wide open and machine guns could be seen pointing from the disordered yard within. A few steps further a woman was standing on the pavement talking through an open window. She kept glancing anxiously behind her and I heard her sigh. Nowadays only those who look round in fear and sigh can be trusted, so I went up to her.

" Can you tell me where M. Sárkány, the magistrate, lives ? " " That door there." The woman looked frightened and went away quickly. I entered a small house.

" No, Comrade Sárkány is not in, he has left town."

The earth seemed to give way under me. What was I to do ? Could they let me in, I asked. I had come from far and was tired. But it was no good. Then I said I had a message, and at this I was allowed to enter. It was still early in the day. I had a long time to wait. Then Mme. Sárkány came in. While she read Baron Jeszenszky's letter, she became more and more excited.

" Then... I see... That is the reason... the Reds have been looking this morning for a lady and a gentleman. "

I thought of Charles Kiss. Was it possible they were looking for us ? "

You cannot stay here, " said Mme. Sárkány. " The house is watched. Bokányi has come from Budapest and is going to give an address in the market place. There are journalists with him. They are going to be quartered here and they are sure to recognise you. " She turned very pale. No, you cannot stay here. The best thing you can do is to take the next train and travel on to Hatvan."

The instinct of self-preservation rebelled in me so that I was astonished at the heat with which I replied : " That would be to run straight into the prison gate. Why does everybody send me nearer Budapest, when the train is the most likely place where I could be recognised ? "

" Here you are not in safety for a minute. "

" If I could get a carriage... " Then a sudden idea came to me. " I could go to Iklad, to Countess Ráday... "

Mme. Sárkány nodded and left the room at once. How long she was away I could not tell, I only know that she came back once more and told me to get ready as there would be a carriage for me presently. I was very cold, and asked for a cup of tea. Then I hesitated before making my next request. Could I have a few matches ? In great haste she gave me some. " Be quick... Be quick ! " The door was torn open and an old lady stood on the threshold. Her face was grey and she clasped her head between her hands.

" It is too late. The Reds have taken the carriage ! "

I went out all the same. Three soldiers stood near a cart and I pressed money into the hand of one of them. He looked at it stealthily so that the others should not see. I implored them to let me have the cart. I did not want to go far, not half an hour, and I would send it back... While they were debating the matter I suddenly jumped into the cart and the driver whipped up his horses. " To the station, for my luggage ! "

The soldiers shouted insults after us but the noise of the wheels drowned their words. The cart was covered with liquid manure. There was a hole in one of the bottom boards and through it I could watch the road running past. I shuddered ; once more I had to cross this awful town.

At the station I snatched my valise. " Be quick ! Drive on ! " Then suddenly I caught sight of the mud-faced man with the cap. The coachman looked back at me and seemed to understand my trouble ; he gave the horses their heads and the rickety little cart flew over the sea of mud. The puffy face looked after me, but we turned off into a side street and the low houses and closed shops were quickly left behind. Astonished faces peeped out of the windows : I must have looked rather quaint in my town dress on a manure cart ! Motor-cars passed from the opposite direction, probably carrying agitators from Budapest. Nowadays one only sees Jews in motor-cars. Instinctively I covered my face with my handkerchief. The road passed under the walls of a fine old castle : its outlines appeared for an instant against the grey sky from among the trees of the park. It was the only spot of beauty in the sea of mud.

" The one who lived there committed suicide," the driver said, pointing with his whip towards the castle. The board put across the cart which served me as a seat was jumping to and fro. I caught hold of the edges of the cart and leant forward.

" Who lived there ? "

" It used to be a boarding school. Little ladies were taught in it. "

I asked for more details.

" Well, you see," he said, weighing his words, " when the new order of things came, a comrade was sent down here. He was no older than fifteen and he was a Jew, the beggar was. He used to declaim to the school children in the market place... "

I asked him to go on.

" I am ashamed to speak of these things," the man grumbled, " but, with your leave, that son of a bitch used to explain aloud there in the market-place how children were produced. He also said that one need not obey one's parents. He also said that it did not matter if girls went wrong, it was only the priests who pretended that it was a sin. No more need to worry about bastards, the State would look after them. " He pushed his hat back on his head and expectorated violently. " Damn his eyes ! No more God, no more honour ! Here in the boarding school he said the same thing as in the market-place. He encouraged the little misses to make love freely with the boys. He had pictures to show them how it was done. The headmistress just wept and wrung her hands. At last she did for herself. "

The cart rattled. Something seemed to shake within me too. I looked down and saw the road through the hole in the bottom : the earth receded rapidly under the cart. When I looked up at last the town was no longer in sight, I had left the execution ground.

Rain now began to fall anew, but I did not heed it, for a fresh breeze was blowing over the fields, and those whom I met, peasants on carts or on foot, were different from those in town. A village came in view, a house, a garden full of flowers. The cart entered the yard of Iklad, and a girl came running towards me from the corridor : "

They are not at home ! Since they have been taken to Aszód they have not been allowed to come home."

I was very cold and very tired : " Might I stay here a little till the train for Balassagyarmat comes ? " " Please don't ! " exclaimed the frightened girl. " We are expecting the Communists every minute. They are coming to requisition things. " " Of course, it does not matter... " And I thought of the heavy clang with which the gate of Berczel had closed behind me. All gates were closed as this one now.

" Let us go," I said to the coachman.

By this time the girl had recovered her senses. " You might go to the house of the railway guard, and wait for the train there. Uncle Nagy, the guard, is a kind man, he'll let you. " And she added something about bringing me some dinner when the Communists were gone.

Under centenarian trees, on the other side of the road, the guard's house was hidden beside the roadway. A fowl-house, a little stack of wood, a garden with quaint little flower-beds... A tall elderly man, dressed in the blouse of the railway guards, came towards me. He touched his cap and asked me what I wanted. The office was closed, the train would not arrive till five... So he was going to send me away too... I felt again how tired I was, wet to the bone, and ravenously hungry. I spoke slowly, so as to gain time and to be able to stayer a little longer under a roof, out of the rain, and also to nurse my hopes a little. But the man did not send me away. He shrugged his shoulders :

" Of course you are welcome to stay here if you like. But you won't find it over comfortable. "

I laughed from sheer joy, laughed aloud. I could stay, and it was my host who apologised ! Tears came to my eyes : comfort ? He did not realise what royal comfort he offered me. A corner where I would withdraw out of sight, a nook whence I should not be driven, a seat which is not drenched with rain and on which I might rest.

His wife came in too, a kindly little woman, aged before her time. She invited me into the room and wiped a chair with her apron, then began splitting wood in the kitchen. When the fire had burnt up she opened the door so as to let in the warmth.

Warmth ! As it slowly thawed me it also thawed my heart. At first my mind remained inactive, I was just happy. Then I began slowly to take notice of the things around me. Under the low roof, above the piled-up bed, a text was hanging in a gaudy frame. I read it over and over again during my long wait, and yet I cannot remember it. Oleographs and family portraits hung on the walls, the women sitting in stiff poses, the men with long, waxed moustaches. A fretwork basket stood on the chest of drawers. Everything shone in a reddish, warm light. A red piece of cloth served as a curtain over the window. And as I sat on my hard chair the guard's hut seemed slowly to become strangely familiar to me, as did the room with its cheap ornaments, as if I had been there before. But then the house stood in another landscape, far away, on the Carso, amidst bleak rock, on a wild mountain. Then I was young, and writing my first novel : Stonecrop. That other house, to which I had given the youth of my creative power, stood between two tunnels. And it dawned upon me that perhaps there was no such thing as hazard, that even little guards' houses return to you the love you have once bestowed upon them.

Something caught my eye, I had not noticed it before a calendar hung on the whitewashed wall and I read in the dim, reddish light : April 16, 1919. That recalled me to reality. Carriages passed on the road coming from the direction of Aszód stolen carriages, and in them sat suspicious-looking people, Jews in fur coats, and they all drove into the courtyard of the castle. I watched them from behind the red curtains. They entered the house noisily : was it not all theirs ? And the windows of the castle stared in rigid astonishment out into the garden, as if they wondered what was happening behind them.

Hours passed by. In the castle yard the Communists were packing up, taking whatever they fancied. I sat quietly in my room and looked out through the window. Sometimes a noise made me draw back, then I returned to my post of observation. It may have been about noon when a hand-driven trolley car arrived from Aszód. Voices issued commands in the small office and steps were heard all over the house. I held my breath in alarm. At last they went, and silence ensued. Dinner was ready in the kitchen : there was a smell of boiled potatoes. I was very hungry and the good woman offered me some, but there were so few on the little earthenware dish. " No, thank you, it is too early. "

Later on the girl sent a message from the castle that the Communists had eaten or carried away everything eatable from the kitchen and the larder. She could send me no food, but would I write my name down so that she might inform the Countess when she came home ? I remembered the alias Elisabeth Kállay had selected for me to hide my identity when I came to Balassagyarmat : ' Elisabeth Földváry '... I repeated it to myself several times. It seemed funny that henceforth this should be the name by which I should be known. The guard's wife tore the date from the calendar and told me I could write it down on that, but I did not do so, and she took no notice. She came and went, working in the house like an ant, tidied up her kitchen, then took the red curtain from the window and began to wash the window panes.

The rain had stopped and a cold wind whistled and howled, driving the clouds before it. In the house the signal bells hummed all the while. The guard came in, rolling a grimy little signal flag in his hands, and spoke to his wife about the Communists. If this went on much longer they would carry off everything from the castle. He spoke to me too, and told me that when the people from Aszód had arrested Count Ráday he had been compelled to wash the Jews' cars in the street. " But he gave it them ! He turned up the sleeves of his shirt and ordered the scoundrels to watch him, saying ' now you shall learn how to do this job properly ! ' The guard laughed to himself : the story pleased him immensely : " But then the men of Iklad got out their scythes, and the next two villages joined them. They were going to fetch the Count and the Countess with six horses, because each village in- sisted on supplying at least two horses for his carriage... "

Suddenly the guard went out. I saw his cap in front of the window and he held the signal flag in his hand. With a great clatter a clumsy goods train passed over the rails. Soldiers with red ribbons were escorting it and shouted at him as they passed. A chalked inscription ornamented the black waggons : ' Long live Béla Kún ! Long live the Red army ! '

" The vagabonds, they are conveying arms ! And as for the Directory of Aszód, they are a lot of cruel Jew boys. The people live in terror of them. Even at night the inhabitants have no rest. During the war the Czech deserters were kept in cotton wool at the aeroplane factory. Now they are the greatest Communist heroes. They steal more than all the others together. " Then he scowled. " But things will be different soon ! It is no good giving us a lot of their worthless bank-notes. They won't take us in. We railwaymen will have something to say in the matter ! "

The telephone rang in the office : Aszód on the line, my train was signalled. My lassitude vanished suddenly, but as I stepped out of the little house I felt as if a veil had been torn from my face, and the exposure seemed physically painful.

Slowly, hissing and panting, the train approached. People were sitting on top of the waggons, people hung from the steps, and even the buffers had their riders. I tried to get up but was pushed back. I ran along the train but not a door would open, for inside the people were pressed against them. I ran on and on, saying to myself ' anywhere, anyhow will do. ' I struggled with another door-handle. The train started. What on earth shall I do if I lose it ? The guard came to my rescue at last, but boxes and trunks blocked the door. Someone pushed me forward, someone else pulled. My bag hit me in the back. And then I could move no more and the train carried me away.


I had got into an old condemned carriage and an icy wind blew unhindered through its unglazed windows. People were crowding against one another on the narrow floor women, soldiers, an officer, a dirty fat man. Wedged between them, I stood on one leg, the only foothold I could secure, indeed I was practically suspended by the pressure of their fetid bodies. But as things were I thought myself lucky. I had to take my ticket on the train, and when the conductor forced his way to our compartment he asked me for my trade-union permit. So now they were going to make me get off again, I thought. I pretended to look for it in my bag, but the officer who was crushed up against me spoke to the conductor and shewed him some paper : " make the ticket out for two. " The conductor did so and the officer pocketed tickets for himself and for me. I paid him the fare, he too was going to Balassagyarmat.

Suddenly I found myself standing on both feet, and thus I noticed that the crowd had diminished. At every small station someone got off and there were no new passengers. Now one could look through the window into the corridor of the carriage preceding ours. A young man in a fur coat sat there smoking ; he wore a soft hat and his face was flushed with the cold. For a time I looked at him indifferently ; then suddenly I began to feel uneasy. I didn't want to see him, yet I felt my eyes attracted by him. My apprehensions steadily increased : I was angry with myself, it was all imagination ! But if this man should be searching for me ?...

We reached the station which serves Berczel : I had left it twelve hours earlier, in the morning. How tired I had become since then ! The door of the next carriage opened suddenly and the man in the fur coat jumped on to the platform and strode towards the stationmaster's office. He was searching for me ! I was as convinced of it as if somebody had told me. He was going to Berczel and he would not find me there ! I felt incredibly happy. He had but to turn his head... Good-night, comrade ! Good luck ! All sorts of mocking words came to my mind and I felt like making faces at him.

Passengers elbowed their way past me and several got out. The door remained open and the cold streaming in brought me to my senses. I turned my back to the door and looked at the path wending its way across the green squares of fields and meadows. Suddenly I felt as if something had struck me on the chest : the man in the short fur coat was standing in the door looking at me ! He was resting his chin in his hand and held his head a little on one side as if he were trying to remember something. Every drop of blood left my face. Without thinking, instinctively, in self-defence, I turned to the opposite window. But I could not see the landscape, everything was blurred before my eyes.

How long did it last ? I only know that I felt as if something had vanished behind me. The minutes seemed to gather into masses and fall into hollow space. I felt I was falling with them. Good God, how long is this to last ? Let him clutch me by the shoulders, if he likes, let him arrest me, but let something happen, let the suspense come to an end ! Then I began to take heart : after all, what does it matter now ? At least let the scoundrels see that I am not afraid. I pulled myself up, as high as I could, and forced a smile to my lips.

The train started and the shock banged the door to. Was it possible ? For an instant I felt the reckless delight of salvation sweep through me : I breathed freely : I scolded and cheered myself mentally. Poor fool, how could you have such delusions ! Then the whole carriage reeled before my eyes : the man in the short fur coat was sitting on a box next to me ! He was sitting there with his knees drawn up like a mischievous imp.

In spite of myself my jaw began to tremble : I was afraid with a fear I had never known before, and notwithstanding the cold the sweat rolled down my face. But still I managed to keep myself erect and presently forced myself once more to smile. All sorts of possibilities coursed madly through my head. If I were arrested nobody would know of my fate, and the one-eyed monster into whose hands I was to be delivered could dispose of me without difficulty. My mother did not know that I was travelling, the Kállays whom I had left, the Huszárs to whom I was going, would each be ignorant that I was not safely with the other. One could invoke the Entente Mission on behalf of prisoners at Budapest, but if I were trapped now, nobody would seek me until too late...

The man was still sitting on the box. He rolled a cigarette, blew out the smoke and now and then looked up at me. I shall never forget his eyes. Some travellers got into the train at the next station and the corridor again became crowded. Two men who wore red buttons in their coat lapels waxed enthusiastic over the revolution : " That we should have lived to see it ! " One could guess that they were speaking from fear. The man on the box nodded. How contemptible were these people who were Hungarians and had sold themselves to the foreigners ; the whole thing was degrading and dirty ; my pride revolted at it. To be arrested by this scum ; miserably, without an attempt to escape ; to wait for fate like one paralysed, unable to move ! My passivity suddenly weighed on me like a great shame. I grasped my bag and forced my way through the crowd into the next compartment. There too the passengers stood jammed between the seats. Next to me was wedged a man whose face I remembered vaguely. He had a thin, fair moustache and wandering eyes, and kept making notes in a book, tearing out the pages and going on writing. However, I soon gave up watching him, for I noticed that the man in the short fur coat who was sitting in the corridor got up every now and then and looked into the compartment as if he were watching me. I waited for an opportune moment, and when he sat down on his box and was out of sight of me, I snatched up my bag and went further along the train. I had no plan, I only wanted to go on, get away, do something. It might succeed. I might escape at the next station. I might jump off the train.

As I was moving away from the fair-haired scribbling man, he suddenly pushed something between the handle of my bag and my hand. Then I remembered how curiously he had looked at me and had then written in his book and torn the page out. I thought I felt a scrap of paper in my palm, but I went on quickly from carriage to carriage, each more crowded than the other, between human bodies, boxes, trunks, baskets. I was pushed about, handled roughly, and sworn at. Whenever anybody looked at me I felt as if my face were being skinned. Why did they all look at me so familiarly as if they had seen me before ? Why had I not got a face like everybody else ? I pushed on. Suddenly I could go no further, I had come to the end of the train, to the last carriage. There was an empty place near a broken window ; all the sparks of the engine were blown into it by the wind, so nobody wanted it. I withdrew into that corner and covered my face with a handkerchief ; it protected me and hid me. Nobody paid any attention to me so I opened the little paper in my hand. A sentence was written on it in irregular halting lines. I remember every word :

" A warrant against you, with your portrait, is circulating here. Escape. If caught they will do for you. "

Was it death, or was it just fear I felt then ? I carefully tore the paper into little bits and threw them out of the window. Everything was in a haze ; there were people in the compartment, I could hear voices, but everything seemed remote... I was alone with myself. About an hour may have passed, perhaps more : I liked to think that time was flying, I liked my little corner, although the wind blew through it and cut my face like a knife. My limbs ached on the hard seat and I was ravenously hungry : since last night I had had nothing but a cup of tea. Suddenly everything became dark, and soot-laden smoke filled the compartment. Before I grasped what it was the chance had passed. A tunnel... If I had thought of it earlier I might have... Nonsense, I should have broken my neck.

The train stopped : we were on the open track. There was a deep ditch along the embankment I might get off here. The passengers crowded to the windows and someone shouted from outside : " It's not likely that the train will be allowed to enter Balassagyarmat. The Czechs are shelling the station. " I made myself as small as possible in my corner. It was nonsense, all nonsense... Then there was another station. Red soldiers everywhere. I saw the man in the short fur coat again ; he was running about the station, then stopped and stared towards the place where we had pulled up in the open. He shook his head and seemed to be swearing. Was he looking for me ? At all events he jumped back into the train.

Night was now falling and we had to wait a long time in the station, for the engine-driver had gone to an inn for his supper. A passenger said that they had sent for him but that he had replied : " Let them get up steam themselves. "

It was night before we started again, and rain began to fall. Slowly light began to stream towards us through the clammy darkness, and people in the compartment got ready to get out. A voice said " Balassagyarmat. " I stood near the door, opened it suddenly, threw out my bag and jumped. The other doors opened a good deal later, when I was already running through the exit towards the town. Nobody asked me for my ticket, or took any notice of me. I reached a paling, overshadowed by a huge walnut tree, leant against it, and waited till everybody had passed, people and carriages. For an instant I caught sight of the man in the short fur coat going towards the town. Then the lights of the station went out, and I was alone in the dark at the foot of the tree.

It was over ! And yet the terror remained. I still felt that strange will searching for me in the dark, saw the hand industriously groping for me, missing me over and over again. It had not yet found me, but perhaps later on... Instinctively I ducked in my hiding-place. The hand missed me. It had missed me till now, but every time it seemed to get nearer its goal. The watching motor car in front of the doorless house in Stonemason Street ; the Red soldiers in Aszód ; the man with the dark puffy face and the one in the short fur coat... Every time the hand had been nearer. One lucky movement and it would have got me. It had been so yesterday, it might be so to-morrow, but at any rate it had missed me to-day and I was still free.

I looked round and my eyes became accustomed to the dark. Where was I to go ? A broad street overshadowed by trees led from the station to the town. Should I follow that ? I retained a confused memory of the instructions Elisabeth Kállay had given me. Soldiers came towards me, then a few people, at last a little boy. I resolved to confide in the latter. " Will you help me to carry my bag ? "

The boy caught hold of it but it was too heavy for him, so we carried it together. After all, that had not been my object. What I really wanted was to find the house of Aladár Huszár. The boy was not quite sure of it, but he led bravely on through the rain. We left gardens and small villas behind us and came in sight of a church by dripping trees and a soaking sandy road. A woman was standing in one of the doorways : She put us right : " The end of the town, the last house but one. " New anxieties now took hold of me : up till the present I had only worried about finding my way, and now that I had found it, it occurred to me that they might have left the town. Aladár Huszár had the reputation of being a counter-revolutionary and was suspected by the new power. His wife was the president of the county branch of the Federation of Hungarian Women, and she had been attacked by the local Socialist-Communist papers.

The boy passed through an iron gate and we went up a few steps till we came to a door with glass panes. I was very nervous. I was going to ask for shelter from people who themselves were threatened. I felt painfully ashamed of myself.

" There is the bell ! " the boy said. Yet I still hesitated.

Only those who have stood on a stranger's threshold, doubting the quality of their welcome, can appreciate my feelings.

The boy deposited the bag, asked for his money and ran away.

The ringing of the bell broke the silence of the house, and the sudden sound frightened me. I imagined the uneasiness caused to those within. In these times even a knock in broad daylight is enough to cause alarm.

Rapid stops approached from the further end of the long corridor and a frightened maid asked me what I wanted. " Will you say that Elisabeth Földváry has arrived ? " Doors opened ; there was a ray of light, and in its beam a fine setter ran barking towards me, followed by Aladár Huszár. I had only once seen him before, but I recognised him at onoe ; his fair head and his broad shoulders showed up clearly against the lamp light. For an instant he looked at me searchingly : " Elisabeth Földváry ?... "

By now we were alone, and I whispered my real name to him. He jerked his head in surprise. " We were told yesterday that you had escaped to Switzerland. "

" Help me to get across the Ipoly ! "

" There's no hurry, we will discuss it ; now come inside quickly. " He picked up my bag and we went into the house as if we were old friends. We crossed the small hall and entered a room in which the light was reflected from the glass doors of high bookcases, and comfortable furniture stood on oriental carpets. I was met by a remarkably beautiful young woman. Her forehead was like marble and her eyebrows met over her big blue eyes shaded by dark eyelashes. Her face was cold and her features seemed nearly rigid. I felt anxious : What was she going to say ? She seemed neither astonished nor nervous, though she had lately been told I had escaped abroad, and she behaved as if it had been the most natural thing in the world for a stranger wanted by the police to drop in on them in the middle of the night. She gave her orders quietly, calmly :

We will make up a bed here in the library ; we have no other room. Red officers are quartered on the first floor. They wanted to plant Communists in our two spare rooms, so we put our old coachman there. "

I leant wearily against a book-case : the room was going round. Then they gave me hot food, and I could detect in the sympathetic expression of Huszár that hunger, sleepless nights, cold and suffering had left their marks upon my face. My dress was hanging on me and my hands trembled. The children, two little girls and a boy, came in. They were told I was a relation of theirs. In a few minutes I watched them being put to bed.

Outside, the rain was falling and the world was full of Red soldiers, detectives, hatred, misery, dirt, fear, humiliation. In here the little children were praying in their long white nightgowns and over their bed a tiny red, white, and green flag was dangling like an emblem of faith. The electric lights went out : it was eleven o'clock. The house became quiet. We stayed up for a time round a single candle. Words were unnecessary between us. We all felt equally the terrible misfortune of our country : the sufferings of each of us were due to the same cause.

" Many good friends have fled this way," said Aladár Huszár.

" Will you help me over, too ? "

He shook his head. " The river is in flood and the bridges are guarded. It cannot be managed yet. You must stay here ; it is only a question of days. Colonial troops have been seen near by and my men tell me that there are some at one of the bridges. To-day we heard that British troops had arrived. They say there are thirty thousand of them. The French are in Arad. They may come here this very night. Wait for the downfall of the Soviet. "

I was tired, dead tired, but in spite of my exhaustion his words refreshed me as though they heralded the coming of dawn. It seemed strange not to be sent away. They did not want me to go. I should be allowed to rest a little. I felt extreme gratitude but could find no words in which to express it.


#2 An Outlaw's Diary: The CommuneGuest 2020-02-07 02:09
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#1 An Outlaw's Diary: The CommuneGuest 2019-02-23 23:55
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