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An Outlaw's Diary: The Commune - CHAPTER VII


April 24th.

As it was getting dark last night a man crept into the yard.

He looked round carefully : the street was empty : suddenly he ran up the back stairs.

Alarming news had been spreading over the town during the day : bands of terrorists are going about arresting people. The Cabinet is issuing open threats, becoming reckless in its fear of overthrow. Strict orders are being sent to the provincial towns. The Directorate of Balassagyarmat has been dismissed, having been accused of weakness and of favouring the gentlefolk. New men are coming forward, a young fellow scarcely twenty years old is to be the Dictator of the proud county. Another of the same type is to command the garrison. Jews have gone, but still Jews are coming. They have orders to take hostages in the county, so that should the Czechs attack these could be thrown to the fury of the mob.

Something is necessary to occupy the rabble whilst the Directorate is making its escape.

Lights in the windows disappeared earlier than usual this evening, and the steps of the patrols resounded through empty, overawed streets.

Aladár Huszár is the friend of a people who are of no importance to-day. The man who stole in by the back door brought a warning : he must escape, they are going to arrest him to-night. So Huszár left his home and went into the dark streets.

The cold penetrated everywhere, even through the walls. We were sitting in fur coats. The candle had burnt to the end, and there was no firewood in the house. Suddenly we heard the noise of rifle-butts banging furiously upon the door.

Mrs. Huszár looked at me : " Is it for him, or is it for you ? "

We put out the candle and opened the window a little. Soldiers were standing outside. " Is anything the matter ? "

" No, " came the answer ; then a face emerged from the obscurity : " We're only making preparations. " The face looked scared. " We're looking for the comrade commanders. "

" They've gone out. "

There was a good deal of swearing. Then : " The good-for-nothing scoundrels ! "

I wondered if the officers had deserted too !


April 25th.

To-day has been like a nightmare. Bayonets have been glinting in front of our windows. About noon soldiers poured through the main street. They climbed fully armed into commandeered carts, and drove furiously towards Orhalom. The Czechs have opened their attack ! At nightfall the clatter of arms was heard in the direction of the prison. Doors slammed and dogs howled in the dark : the Communists were taking their hostages...

The telepathy of common disaster enables us to guess each other's thoughts ; we say nothing, but we are thinking in common ; never has there been such sympathy among suffering humanity. On the Saturday before Easter, only a few days ago, Aladár Huszár remarked : " I am so sorry for you. It must be terrible to have to leave one's own home, not knowing whither to go and not being sure of a safe lodging for the night. " To-day I thought precisely the same thing concerning him. He has gone, with his faithful friend George Pongrácz. To-morrow they will come here to fetch him and will search the house. We shall all be questioned. And if they recognize me...

Well, so be it !


April 26th.

It is impossible to sleep these nights, and the lumbering steps of patrols passing in the icy darkness alone mark the progress of time.

Early this morning a Red soldier called and inquired after Aladár Huszár. " He's got to report at once. " Then another came and questioned the servants. Mrs. Huszár was unperturbed. They told her that if her husband did not turn up they would arrest her in his place, so she proceeded to pack a small bag, just as I had done not long before. About noon detectives came and held a consultation in the ante-room. Then they went through the house systematically, and as they proceeded I fled before them, from room to room. When I could go no further I hid under the staircase, feeling rather like an annual caught in a trap. Would they find me ? What good had my efforts been ? Again I felt the invisible hand groping around me...

They went, but others soon came. Across the road, at the corner, stood a sentry, his face turned towards the house. In the afternoon posters appeared on the walls—red paper with huge black letters : " He who receives a visitor in his house will be summoned before the Revolutionary Tribunal. Any stranger found within the town after twenty-four hours will be expelled. "

Life has fresh troubles in store for me every day. I am resigned to my fate : but ten years' hard labour are in store for those who have taken me in !

Mrs. George Pongrácz came to us, her husband has had to fly for his life. They have only recently been married. Poor girl, she is left quite alone. We tried to devise some plan to escape from this place. Mrs. Pongrácz said at last : " In a village not far from here there's a dear old lady whom I know very well ; nobody would look for you there. "

We decided on it hurriedly. Mrs. Pongrácz wrote a letter to her friend, Mrs. Michael Beniczky, at Szügy, and told her that Elisabeth Földváry, a poor relation of the Huszárs, with a weak heart (!) begged her hospitality for a few days as she was afraid of the Czech guns. Then she left, and we made hasty preparations. Mrs. Huszár hid her husband's arms and clothes and then we collected all the letters and papers in the house that might have been dangerous and made a fire of them in the nursery. Huszár's desperate counter-revolutionary writings went up in flames—letters, handbills, appeals of the Women's Federation—a sad auto da fé : months of hard work, hope and enthusiasm were committed to the flames. However, the children enjoyed it and danced round the unaccustomed blaze ; even we ourselves drew nearer and were glad of the warmth.

We were called up again during the night : a cart stopped in front of the house, and the steps of soldiers resounded. Those who will live after us will never be able to understand the terror and anxiety which were conjured up by a few steps in the night, a cart stopping in front of the house... " They are coming... ! "

Mrs. Huszár went to the door. They were soldiers—two Red officers come to commandeer night quarters. They marched in and took possession of a room upstairs, and for a time we could hear them moving about overhead.

Are the Czechs going to attack ? But the great silence of expectation continues undisturbed under the frigid sky.


April 27th.

The riverside churches were ringing their bells for Mass, and the town had turned its face in their direction. Our street was empty, except for the Red soldier on sentry duty at the corner. Mrs. Huszár went with me to the door, and when the Red sentry looked towards the town I slipped quietly out. His back was turned to me and I escaped his notice. I carried a tiny parcel under my arm, containing just a few things. How little suffices for our bare needs ! Mrs. Pongrácz followed me, and we went quickly across the main street.

I had not been in this direction since the evening when I arrived here, and my imagination had replaced the topography of the town on the banks of the Ipoly by quite a different place. It had placed an ancient town-hall with a venerable tower on the market place, where none actually existed. It had placed around it old-fashioned houses with arcades where in reality were tiny shops crowded together and an old fountain in the middle of the square.

I looked round, but reality left no impression on me and the picture of my imagination remained.

Whenever people came towards us I experienced a feeling of terror ; I raised my handkerchief and pretended to blow my nose.

" If there are many more people coming, " I said, laughing even in my distress, " I'm likely to get a sore nose. " Red soldiers were standing at the railway crossing, and they asked us where we were going.

" We are only going to Szügy, near by, to spend the day. " There came another few yards of street with suburban houses, and suddenly we found ourselves on the main road among endless open fields basking in the sunshine. There was a sharp wind blowing, but spring hovered over the woods of the neighbouring hills. The wayside flowers stood in the grass like long-waisted, wide-petticoated little peasant girls. It was like a feast-day, a Sunday of a hundred bright colours. Suddenly I felt an inexpressible desire for freedom. For weeks I had been hiding among friends, stealthily, making myself as small as possible, like one endeavouring to make his way through a thorny thicket. Now at last I had reached the open and the sun was shining on my face. I laughed with sheer joy, and the wind mimicked my mirth as it swept softly over the land.

As if the main road were a church parade, carriage followed carriage in long procession, fat young Jews in service uniform with the Soviet cap lolling within them.

Fine thoroughbreds pranced beside them, stolen horses with grooms in stolen liveries. A smart turn-out approached rapidly, the harness and trappings ornamented with the silver arms of a count. The coachmen wore a Hungarian livery. Lolling back on the cushions was a vulgar-looking man, and beside him a shapeless but smartly dressed female was making herself comfortable.

" That is the Dictator of the county and his wife," whispered Mrs. Pongrácz ; " I recognise Count Mailath's mackintosh. The dress his wife is wearing belonged to the Countess, she wore it when her husband was installed Lord Lieutenant. These people have taken possession of the castle of Gárdony and have had all the furniture they want sent from it to their own house. The ' comrade ' is said to be vastly annoyed because coats of arms and crests ' disfigure ' the cigarette-cases he acquired there. " I turned my face towards the fields ; the reflection of the sun glittered in a circle round the spokes of the wheels and dust rose in long clouds beneath them. When they had passed and the dust had settled I looked anxiously behind me. Presently peasants on foot overtook us ; it is only honest people who walk nowadays. One barefooted old peasant carried his boots dangling from his crook over his back. Poor deluded millions ! Do they still believe that everything belongs to the Proletarians ? Do they still believe it when the carriages of their former rulers throw the dust into their eyes as their new masters ride by in them ? When will the peasantry of this credulous country crush those who have dared to trick it ?

I caught sight of the spire of a church beyond the turning of the road, and shingled roofs hiding among the trees. There stood the fine old County Hall, with its double roof dating from the period of Maria Theresa a red flag floating over it. And plastered all over the walls of the cottages were the joyful posters : " Long live the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. "

We left the main road. A red handkerchief waved from a pole on top of a peasant's cottage : the Directorate had resided there. Then we crossed an abandoned cemetery, a tall crucifix standing out darkly above the high grass that covered the tombstones. But the sun was shining and the wind blew freshly. We came to a neglected old garden ; within the open gate of wrought-iron Red Guards were loafing ; happy or unhappy, whoever liked could go in and out. A large number of munition cases were stacked in the wood shed and on the terrace of the old manor-house. I looked at the inscriptions : Explosive. No. 15 ecrasite shell.

" There is enough here to blow up a town with."

Mrs. Pongrácz nodded. " In the next field there's a Red Battery. The Czechs in the vineyard are shelling it. "

Beyond, above the shingled roof of the manor house, two morose old firs rose towards heaven, their lowest branches touching the young grass. The house with its pillars reminded me of the old garden in Algyest which was my childhood's delight. But here the soldiers had trampled down the grass of the lawn, and the heavy munition waggons had cut deep ruts in the road. Near the gate where the soldiers were, crumpled paper and broken bottles were lying about. But behind the house, on the other side, the garden was practically untouched, and amidst the young awakening of Spring it was beautiful in its wild tangle of growth.

A door opened and an old lady came towards us. She had scarcely looked at me when she said : " You did well, child, to come to me. "

She had scarcely looked at me ! This was Hungary—indeed the old, hospitable Hungary which to-day is forbidden by the immigrants !... " Anyone receiving a visitor in his house will be summoned before the Revolutionary Tribunal... "

The overgrown garden peeped in through the grated window ; the trees were covered with moss, and old stone seats lined the path. Here was peace. The path was over-run with grass and my feet left no mark on it. I can stop here, even I to whom rest has been so long denied. No search will be made for me here, and I shall be able to sleep at night. There will be no knockings at my window, my dreams will not be haunted by the sound of cartwheels, the ringing of bells, the tramping of feet...


Szügy, April 28th.

The sun shone into the room ; its rays rested on the old furniture and travelled on with soundless steps. Mrs. Beniczky, who was sitting at the writing table, turned now and then towards me and spoke in a low voice, cautiously, for listening ears are everywhere. She inquired about my family, for she had known the Földvárys in other days.

My answers became more and more confused. Later on she began to talk of the Counter-revolution and mentioned my name, my real name, spoke of me, of my real self. The blood rushed to my face : she must have thought I had not heard her, for she repeated her question: " Do you know what happened to Cecile Tormay ? My daughter met her last winter. "

" They say she has escaped to Switzerland... " How ashamed of myself I felt ! I had stolen into this house under a false name, with false credentials. I had asked my hostess for shelter, though I knew it meant danger to her. I hated myself, and it was on the tip of my tongue to tell her the truth. Oh, why could she not see that I was deceiving her, she who received me with the words : " You have done well, child, to come to me. " We were three at dinner : a visitor had come from Balassagyarmat to see Mrs. Beniczky. We talked of books, and the guest, who had no more notion of my identity than our hostess, mentioned The Old House.

" What has happened to Cecile Tormay ? I am told there is a warrant out against her. " It was fortunate that I was sitting with my back to the light. Again I stuttered something about Switzerland.

As if speaking to herself, Mrs. Beniczky said : " But why did she not come here ? I would have hidden her so that nobody could have found her. " What a burden of self-reproach these words lifted from my conscience ; they told me that it was not entirely by favour of an assumed name, but to some extent for my own sake, that I was received here.


April 29th.

This morning the garden beyond the two tall firs was deliciously quiet ; the trees and shrubs seem to exclude everything that makes life vile and terrible.

Later in the day one of the maids overheard some soldiers talking near the pump. Somewhere in the neighbourhood a priest has been arrested and they are going to execute him because a red, white and green flag has been found in his possession. To the Revolutionary Tribunal with him who treasures a Hungarian flag ! The ' Cabinet ' has ordered that every flag, with the exception of red or black ones, must be given up. Poor Hungarian flag ! Between the black and yellow of the Austrian and the red of the Bolsheviks, fate has granted it scarcely an interlude in which to float freely over a free people in a free country. Henceforth the national flag is proscribed in the land of the Hungarian nation.

The soldiers went on to talk of other things. One whispered : " Have you heard that Comrade Számuelly is hanging people in Hajdúszoboszló ?... " Reality has penetrated the garden with all its hideousness. Trees and shrubs can keep it out no longer. Death to everything that is Hungarian ! In the county of the noble Hajdú, the Jewish Dictatorship, in flight before the Roumanians, is hanging people—Hungarians. From General Headquarters Comrade Böhm is driving our people to the slaughter-house. It is said that the pavements of the capital are drenched with rivers of blood. At night there are frequent splashes in the Danube between Buda and Pest. People disappear and never return. The gaols are crowded. Early risers find pools of blood on the chain bridge, with a crushed hat beside them. Who has been murdered ? Who are the murderers ? There is no answer, but the blood and the news spread.


April 30th.

The blossoming plum-trees stood like brides in the grass : whenever the breeze rose their white veils fluttered. Time was marked only by the shadow of a slender tree which swept like a giant clock-hand over the lawn and disappeared. Evening fell.

On the main road a soldier on horseback came slowly into sight. He wore the gay hussar's cap of olden times and his dolman swung on his shoulder with the paces of his horse. He looked as if he had stepped out of a picture-book of the past into a strange world of new soldiers with Soviet caps. A Hungarian hussar, a bugler ! Remote from the present as his appearance was, the sound of his bugle seemed even more to belong to the past, and the cool evening resounded with the ancient call a call composed by Haydn, a solemn call : ' To prayer. ' The music spread and the forbidden call echoed through the village.

In front of the gate the hands of the Red soldiers went instinctively to their caps. But they stopped halfway, for all prayer is forbidden. On the other side of the road the political delegate to this front, the little Jew Katz, was walking about in patent leather boots. Suddenly he recognised the tune of the bugle call, and his face became distorted with rage. He ran angrily towards the bugler. The soldiers looked down as though to avoid the Syrian eye of the Revolutionary Tribunal.

For some time after silence had been restored and the dust had settled down I stood there, waiting. Nowadajs one is always waiting. How many things have failed to come ! The ultimatum of the Entente, the French army from Marseilles, British relief troops, the opposition Government in Fiume, counter-revolutions, regiments of officers attacking from beyond the frontiers, relieving Szekler battalions... And yet it was good to hope : it helped one to live. But these are things of the past. Now it is only the Rumanians who are coming, and Számuelly is having people hanged...

The night was long and restless. I put out the candle for economy's sake and for hours lay motionless in the dark. Wherever my thoughts strayed they encountered filth and blood.

Then suddenly, out there in the spring night, a nightingale began to sing. I groped my way through the dark room and opened the window. You little artist, the only artist who may practise his art freely in this sad country to-day ! What was it I read in the newspaper this morning ? " Order... National Council for Intellectual Production... The publication of intellectual products is exclusively in the hands of the National Council... " Art is the vehicle which conveys to us the eternal mystery of the universe. Art is faith wrought into the visible. Art is an aristocracy. Art has precursors, and woe to him who attempts to limit its expanse with shackles. He kills thought, he strikes the image of God as it were in the eye.

Those who have adopted the precepts of Karl Marx speak to-day of ' party art, ' ' mass art, ' and ' co-operatives of spiritual production. ' What perversely wicked fools are these people whose leader claims to be an author and yet kills literature in Hungary ! George Lukacs-Lowinger, the hydrocephalic little Jewish philosopher, son of a millionaire banker, who became a Proletarian apostle through the influence of his Bolshevik wife. As Deputy Educational Commissary of the Soviet he had the book and music shops closed down, and after having thus stopped all literary life and effort, he invented ' the literary register ' ! He discovered that talent had to be classified, and that each class had to be shut up in a separate drawer, like the goods in a grocer's shop. He therefore decreed that writers were to be divided into three classes, and that the question as to which class a writer belonged was to be decided by a special Directorate. The authors are to receive monthly salaries according to the class to which they are allotted, and for this salary they have to write. They have no other source of income, but the fixed salary is paid to them whatever they produce, so long as it is in accordance with the interests of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Class War. Needless to say, the Communist poets all belong to the highest class.



May 1st.

Early this morning the sounds of a Gypsy band came from the village, playing the Internationale ; thus I realised that this was May Day.

Strict orders have been issued that the village is to be draped in red. A red flag must be hoisted on the town hall, and red ribbons are to float from the windows of the cottages.

The Gypsy band came up to the house and played on the terrace, and the soldiers sang. Mrs. Beniczky and I withdrew to the bottom of the garden. Everything has been commandeered by the Reds : a roast is preparing for them in the kitchen, and other dishes were in process of making. To-night there is going to be a ball. " Two balls, " said the chambermaid, " because we Proletarians refuse to dance with the peasant girls. "

Once upon a time May Day was the day of youth, the day of festive excursions for little sempstresses, students, apprentices and children. Then it became the day of manifestations, and, later, of threats. The new saviours of the world promised the millenium for this day. On a blood-soaked land the blood-maddened masses are streaming towards the final battle which is to bring them an utterly unattainable victory. Red flags unfurled in a storm of blood are floating under a sky painted red by incendiary fires.

The first of May has been selected by the Communists for the birthday of the world revolution. Lenin's messages are being scattered broadcast. Moscow has sent its propaganda gold. And the Dictators of the Proletariat are offering their slaves the scent of blood, so that this May shall be their victory.

In Budapest preparations for this festival have been going on for weeks. They hoped to celebrate it with a victory for the Red arms, but for victory they have had to substitute shams. The further the Red army has been forced to retire in the East, the louder they proclaim their Red May.

Panem et circenses ! There is no bread, the capital faints for lack of food, so let there be a circus for the people. The last rags are falling from the backs of the destitute millions, so let the town be garbed in red. Entire houses are covered with it ; bridge-heads, terraces, walls ; even the electric trams have been painted blood-red. The Revolutionary Cabinet has exchanged thirty millions' worth of cattle in Vienna for the red decorations of starving Budapest. The programme of the festivities is so long that the newspapers have no space to report the defeats on the Eastern front.

There are meetings and processions everywhere ; everybody has to join in ; everybody has to decorate his house ; otherwise... May, Spring, glorious feast of freedom, he who dares to remain indifferent to these will be summoned before a Revolutionary Tribunal.

The entire capital has turned red, and on the red back-ground gigantic white plaster statues have been set. On the drill ground a red-covered coffin, two stories high and forty-five yards long, has been erected to the memory of Martinovics, to the leader of the peasant rising, Dózsa, to Charles Liebknecht of Spartacist fame, and to Rosa Luxemburg.


The entrance of the tunnel under the castle hill in Buda is draped in red, and plaster statues of Soviet soldiers with terrifying faces and with rifles raised ready to strike are standing beside it. The naked red giant, hammer in hand, of ' The People's Voice ' is displayed at the street corner :

" Death to the bourgeois ! "

The memorial of our millenary is also covered with red. Over the statue of Arpád, the conqueror, which has been covered with planks, a plaster statue of Marx has been erected. In front of the House of Parliament, like a blood-covered giant bladder, is a red globe. Andrássy's statue has been covered by a red Greek temple, and there again, ten yards high, are the heads of Marx, Lenin, Liebknecht, Engels and Rosa Luxemburg. Plaster, plaster, red cloth (made of paper), red columns, red flag-staffs and flags, wreaths, five-pointed Soviet stars. A sickening red disguise over the deadly pallor of the Hungarian capital.

A red rag rouses a thirst for blood in a frenzied bull. What is it they want, there, on the banks of the Danube ? What is it all for ? Is it a sudden madness, or is it the accomplishment of the frightful prophecy of the Apocalypse ?

I took up my Bible. The prophecy and its realisation stood out in red letters before my eyes. But a few days later in the prophecy there comes one on a white horse, dressed in white linen. And the white one vanquishes the red.


May 2nd.

News has just reached us : the Bed army has retired before the Rumanians and has crossed the Tisza. The Serbians have occupied Hódmezővásárhely. The Czechs have occupied Miskolcz and are attacking in two sectors.

The population is helping them and there is no resistance ; the Reds are in flight. What a terrible position is ours : the invaders fill us with horror, and yet we await them eagerly : we look to assassins to save us from our hangman.

And while we bite our lips in helpless anguish our sufferings are unheeded by humanity, which is concerned only with the fact that the Soviet Republic protects foreigners. The Republic of course has decreed that its agents must behave with the greatest courtesy to foreigners, and it has established an ' Office for the protection of Aliens. ' Is there not a single foreigner who thinks of asking his own people for help for us, who did not intern them during the war and are now persecuted slaves in our own country ?

In past centuries the Rumanians and Serbs fled to us for asylum against their own tyrants, and to us also came the wandering Jew. But now they are all working together to wipe us from the face of the earth. Yet we shared with them everything we had, and they readily received our protection. It is said that only a misguided fraction of the Jews is active in the destruction of Hungary. If that be so, why do not the Jews who represent Jewry in London, in New York, and at the Paris Peace Conference disown and brand their tyrant co-religionists in Hungary ? Why do they not repudiate all community with them ? Why do they not protest against the assaults committed by men of their race ?

A storm is coming, and its breath bends the trees of the garden. The branches of the old firs rise and fall over the lawn like slime-covered oars on a turbulent lake. The leaves of the aspen are thrust apart by the wind as if it were blowing aside the hair from a face walking against the storm. The willow bends as if it were gathering flowers in the grass. The guns thunder near Őrhalom. The wind is rising, and already it is roaring like furious giant hounds barking at the setting sun.

The soldiers say that the Czechs are going to attack to-night.


#2 An Outlaw's Diary: The CommuneGuest 2020-02-07 02:09
Az adminisztrátor törölte a hozzászólást
#1 An Outlaw's Diary: The CommuneGuest 2019-02-23 23:55
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