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Serial: Appletons' journal: a magazine of general literature.
Title: Letters of Bismark to His Wife [Volume 1, Issue 6, May 8, 1869; pp. 177-179]
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APPLETONS' JO URNAL OF POPULAR forest-all might have figured, without any change whatever, as a very effective scene in a romantic opera. Beside me sat the white-haired Archbishop of Gran, the Primate of Hungary, in his black silken robe and red surplice; on the other side I had a very amiable and elegant cavalry officer. The picture, you see, abounded in contrasts. We then rode home in the moonlight, escorted oy torch-bearers. Tell Mime. de V that her brother is a very am able man; what I knew of his two sisters caused me to expect this. I just received a tele gram from Berlin, containing only the word'No.' A momentous word! They have told to me to-day all about the assault which the insur gents made, three years ago, upon this castle, on which occasion the gallant General Hentzi and the whole garrison, after a marvellously in trepid defence, were put to the sword. The black spots on my floor are, in great part, burns; and where I am now writing to you explod ing shells were bobbing around at that time, and there was a terrible hand-to-hand fight on the smoking ruins. It was not until a few weeks since that the castle was fitted up again for the reception of the young emperor. Now, every thing up here is very quiet and comfortable; I hear only the ticking of a large clock and the distant roll of carriages below. I hope angels may be watching over you; as for me, a grenadier wth a busby on his head is performing that duty; I see six inches of his bayonet, at two arms' lengths, protruding above my windowboard. He stands on the terrace above the Danube, and is probably thinking of his'Nanni.' "SZOLNOK, June 27, 1852. "In our atlases you will find a map of Hungary, and on it the Theiss River; and, if you will follow that up to its source, beyond Szegedin, you will see a place named Szolnok. I rode, yesterday, on the cars from Pesth to Alberti-Josa, where a Prince W, who is married to a Princess of M, has his headquarters. I waited upon the princess, in order to be able to inform how she was doing. The place is situated on the edge of the Hungarian steppes, between the Danube and Theiss, which I was anxious to see. I was not al-' lowed to travel without an escort, inasmuch as gangs of mounted robbers, who are here called Betyares, infested that part of the country. After dispatching an excellent breakfast, in the shade of a lime-tree like ours at Schoenhausen, I mounted a very low country wagon, with straw sacks, and drawn by three steppe-horses. The lancers loaded their carbines, vaulted into the saddle, and we set out at the full gallop. Hildebrand and a Hungarian valet occupied the front sack, and the driver, a dusky peasant with a mustache, a broad-brimmed hat, long, glossy-black hair, and a shirt terminating above the stomach, and leaving visible six inches of his dark skin, up to the place where the trousers commence; each leg of these trousers is large enough to serve as a woman's petticoat, and they reach down to the knees, where the spurred boots commence. Fancy a very solid, grassy plain, as level as a table, on which you see, for many miles, up to the horizon, nothing but the tall, naked poles of the wells dug for the half-wild horses and oxen-thousands of brown-and-white oxen, with horns as long as our arms, and as fleet-footed as game-of shaggy, repulsive horses, guarded by mounted, half-naked herdsmen with lance-like sticks-immense herds of swine, amnong which there may always be discerned a donkey bearing the swineherd's fur-robe (bunda), and occasionally himselfthen large numbers of bustards, hares, and mole-like shrew-mice-now and then a small pond with brackish water, at which are to be seen flocks of geese, ducks, and plovers-such were the objects which darted past us, and which we darted past, during the three hours in which we performed the thirty-two miles to Ketskemet, stopping a short time at a csarda (a wayside inn). Ketskemet is a village, whose streets, when one does not see any of the inhabitants, reminded me of the small end of Schoenhausen, only it has forty-five thousand inhabitants, unpaved streets, and low houses, closed, in the Oriental style, toward the sun, with large cattle-yards. A foreign ambassador was such an unusual visitor there, and my Magyar valet alluded to me so often as'His Excellency,' that a guard of honor was immediately furnished to me; the authorities waited on me, and fresh horses were ordered to be put to my carriage. I passed the evening with the very amiable officers of the garrison, who insisted on my taking along an escort for the remainder of my trip, and told me a great many stories about highway robbers and murderers. The part of the country which I was bound for, they said, was most infested by robbers in the swamps and deserts on the bank of the Theiss, where it was wellnigh impossible for the government to exterminate them. They are splendidly mounted and armed, these Betyares, and attack travellers and farm-houses in gangs of from fifteen to twenty men, and next day they are already seventy or eighty miles away. Decent people they always treat very politely. Most of my funds I had left with Prince W I had taken with me only some linen, and, to tell you the truth, I was rather anxious to form the acquaintance of these mounted robbers in their long fur robes, with double-barrelled rifles in their hands, and pistols in their belts, whose leaders are said to wear black masks, and not unfrequently belong to the petty country nobility. A few days ago some gendarmes had fallen in a skirmish with them; but, in re turn, two of the robbers had been caught, and, after a trial by a drum head court-martial, shot. Such things never occur in our tedious country. At the time you awoke this morning, you hardly imagined that I and Hildebrand were speeding at a terrible gallop at that very moment across the steppe in Kumania, between Telegyhaza and Csony grad. Beside me sat an amiable, sunburnt officer of the lancers; our loaded pistols were lying in the hay before us, and a squad of lancers, with their cocked carbines in their hands, were galloping behind us. Three fleet-footed little horses were drawing our vehicle; they are al ways called Rosa, Csillack (Star), and Betyare (Vagabond). The driver incessantly calls them by name, and speaks to them in a beseeching tone, until he holds the handle of his whip obliquely over his head, and shouts,' Mega, mega!' (stop!), when the gallop grows more fu rious than ever. Oh, such a ride is splendid! The robbers did not make their appearance; my nice, amiable lieutenant told me they must have known already before daybreak that I was travelling with an escort; but he was quite sure that there were some of them among the dignified-looking peasants who gravely contemplated us at the stations in their long and sleeveless sheepskin cloaks, and saluted us with an unctuous'I sten adiamek!' (God be praised!). The heat was very oppressive all day, and my face is, as red as a crayfish. I performed nearly eighty miles in twelve hours, from which from two to three hours, and perhaps more, have to be deducted on account of the changing of the horses-the twelve horses which I and the escort needed having to be caught in the plain. One-third of the road, moreever, was as sandy as the downs at Stolpmiinde. At five I arrived at this place, where a motley throng of Hungarians, Slavonians, and Wallachians enlivens the streets (Szolnok is a village of about six thousand inhabitants, but a railroad and steamboat station on the Theiss), and the wildest and craziest gypsy melodies fall on my ears as I am sitting in my room. They sing through their noses, and with their mouths distended to their utmost, in sickly, plaintive strains, stories about black eyes and the gallant death of a robber, in tones reminding me of the storm-howling Lettian airs in the chimney. The women, in the main, are well-proportioned, and some of them are surpassingly beautiful; all of them have very black hair, bound in braids behind, and interwoven with red ribbons. What with their brightgreen and red handkerchiefs, or gold-embroidered caps of red velvet on their heads, very beautiful yellow shawls, a silken handkerchief around their shoulders and breasts, very short black or deep-blue petticoats, and high red-morocco boots, and, with their dark complexion, and large and flashing black eyes, a group of these women always presents a variegated spectacle which would please you, every color of their dress being as striking and bright as it could be. After my arrival at five o'clock, while waiting for my dinner, I bathed in the Theiss, saw the people dance the csarda, and regretted that I was no limner so as to be able to sketch for you the wild figures I saw here; then I dined on pctarica hahordel stuir (fish) and tick, drank some Hungarian wine, wrote to you, and now want to go to bed, if the gypsy music will allow me to sleep. Good-night. latem adiamek!" "PrsTH, June 28, 1852. "Again I see the Ofen Mountains, but this time from the Pesth side, that is to say, from below. In the plain which I have just left, the blue outlines of the Carpathian Mountains were seen only now and then, and, when the air was very clear, at a distance of from twelve to fifteen geographical miles. Toward the south and east the plain remained seemingly endless; and, in the former direction, it extends far into Turkey; in the latter into Transylvania. The heat was terrible again to-day; it has perfectly scorched the skin of my face. Now there is a warmna hurricane, sweeping so impetuously across the steppe that it causes the houses to tremble. I have bathed in the Danube, looked at the magnificent chain bridge from below, paid some visits, heard very excellent gypsy music on the promenade, and will soon go to bed. The scenery of the Puszta, where it begins to be little more cultivated, reminded me of Pomerania, especially of the country in the 178 [MAY 8,
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