In "Mathias Sandorf" we have certainly a most pretentious volume containing over a hundred illustrations, in which the most tragic events of this most tragic story are graphically portrayed. Indeed so numerous and effective are the illustrations that it is almost possible to follow the bent of the story without the aid of the letter-press. On this occasion the localities to which we are introduced are chieﬂy the towns and cities of Southern Europe and the islands of the Mediterranean, while the romance in which they are made to play a part, abounds in all those elements of mystery, adventure, and hair-breadth escape by which the author knows so well how to engage and maintain the interest of his reader. As is common to most of Jules Verne's works, the marvels of science are made the medium for some of the most effective incidents in the story, and we are not altogether surprised when at the conclusion of this most exciting narrative, the islet of Kencraf, with the three villains of the story, is blown into space by the accidental pressure of the foot on an electric wire.
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Jules Verne – A Biographical Primer
Mathias Sandorf, J. Verne
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Frontcover: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Angelique
Jules Verne (1828–1905), French author, was born at Nantes on the 8th of February 1828. After completing his studies at the Nantes lycée, he went to Paris to study for the bar. About 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carré, he wrote librettos for two operettas, and in 1850 his verse comedy, Les Pailles rompues, in which Alexandre Dumas fils had some share, was produced at the Gymnase. For some years his interests alternated between the theatre and the bourse, but some travellers’ stories which he wrote for the Musée des Familles seem to have revealed to him the true direction of his talent—the delineation, viz., of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details lent an air of versimilitude. Something of the kind had been done before, after kindred methods, by Cyrano de Bergerac, by Swift and Defoe, and later by Mayne Reid. But in his own particular application of plausible scientific apparatus Verne undoubtedly struck out a department for himself in the wide literary genre of voyages imaginaires. His first success was obtained with Cinq semaines en ballon, which he wrote for Hetzel’s Magazin d’Éducation in 1862, and thenceforward, for a quarter of a century, scarcely a year passed in which Hetzel did not publish one or more of his fantastic stories, illustrated generally by pictures of the most lurid and sensational description.The most successful of these romances include: Voyage au centre de la terre (1864); De la terre à la lune (1865); Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1869); Les Anglais au pôle nord (1870); and Voyage autour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872.The adaptation of this last (produced with success at the Porte St Martin theatre on the 8th of November 1874) and of another excellent tale, Michael Strogoff (at the Châtelet, 1880), both dramas being written in conjunction with Adolphe d’Ennery, proved the most acceptable of Verne’s theatrical pieces. The novels were translated into the various European languages—and some even into Japanese and Arabic—and had an enormous success in England. But after 1877, when he published Hector Servadac, a romance of existence upon a comet, the writer’s invention began to show signs of fatigue (his kingdom had been invaded in different directions and at different times times by such writers as R. M. Ballantyne, Rider Haggard and H. G. Wells), and he even committed himself, somewhat unguardedly, to very gloomy predictions as to the future of the novel. Jules Verne’s own novels, however, will certainly long continue to delight readers by reason of their sparkling style, their picturesque verve—apparently inherited directly from Dumas—their amusing and good-natured national caricatures, and the ingenuity with which the love element is either subordinated or completely excluded. M. Verne, who was always extremely popular in society, divided his time for the most part between Paris, his home at Amiens and his yacht. He was a member of the Legion of Honour, and several of his romances were crowned by the French Academy, but he was never enrolled among its members. He died at Amiens on the 24th of March 1905. His brother, Paul Verne, contributed to the Transactions of the French Alpine Club, and wrote an Ascension du Mont Blanc for his brother’s collection of Voyages extraordinaires in 1874.
Trieste, the capital of Illyria, consists of two towns of widely dissimilar aspect. One of them—Theresienstadt—is is modern and well-to-do, and squarely built along the shore of the bay from which the land it occupies has been reclaimed; the other is old, and poor, and irregular, straggling from the Corso up the slopes of the Karst, whose summit is crowned by the picturesque citadel.
The harbor is guarded by the mole of San Carlo, with the merchant shipping berthed alongside. On this mole there may at most times be seen—and very often in somewhat disquieting numbers—many a group of those houseless and homeless Bohemians whose clothes might well be destitute of pockets, considering that their owners never had, and to all appearance never will have, the wherewithal to put into them.
To-day, however—it is the 18th of May, 1867—two personages, slightly better dressed than the rest, are noticeable among the crowd. That they have ever suffered from a superabundance of florins or kieutzers is improbable, unless some lucky chance has favored them—and they certainly look as though they would stick at nothing that might induce that chance to come.
One of them calls himself Sarcany, and says he hails from Tripoli. The other is a Sicilian, Zirone by name. Together they have strolled up and down the mole at least a dozen times, and now they have halted at its furthest end, and are gazing away to the horizon, to the west of the Gulf of Trieste, as if they hoped to sight the ship which is bringing home their fortune.
“What time is it?” asked Zirone in Italian, which his comrade spoke as fluently as he did all the other tongues of the Mediterranean.
Sarcany made no reply.
“What a fool I am!” exclaimed the Sicilian. “It is the time you are hungry after you have had no breakfast!”
There is such a mixture of races in this part of Austria-Hungary that the presence of these two men, although they were obviously strangers to the place, provoked no attention. And besides, if their pockets were empty, no one had reason to think so, thanks to their long brown capes, which reached even to their boots.
Sarcany, the younger of the two, was about five-and-twenty, and of middle height, well set up, and of elegant manners and address. Sarcany, however, was not his baptismal name, and probably he had never been baptized, being of Tripolitan or Tunisian origin; but though his complexion was very dark, his regular features proclaimed him to be more of the white than the negro.
If ever physiognomy was deceptive, it was so in Sarcany’s case. It required a singularly keen observer to discover his consummate astuteness in that handsome, plausible face, with its large dark eyes, fine straight nose, and well-cut mouth shaded by the slight mustache. That almost impassible face betrayed none of the signs of contempt and hatred engendered by a constant state of revolt against society. If, as physiognomists pretend—and they are not unfrequently right—every rascal bears witness against himself in spite of all his cleverness, Sarcany could give the assertion the lie direct. To look at him no one would suspect what he was and what he had been. He provoked none of that irresistible aversion we feel toward cheats and scoundrels; and, in consequence, he was all the more dangerous.
Where had Sarcany spent his childhood? No one knew. How had he been brought up and by whom? In what corner of Tripoli had he nestled during his early years? To what protection did he owe his escape from the many chances of destruction in that terrible climate? No one could say—may be not even himself; born by chance, helped on by chance, destined to live by chance! Nevertheless, during his boyhood he had picked up a certain amount of practical instruction, thanks to his having to knock about the world, mixing with people of all kinds, trusting to expedient after expedient to secure his daily bread. It was owing to this and other circumstances that he had come to have business relations with one of the richest houses in Trieste, that of the banker, Silas Toronthal, whose name is intimately connected with the development of this history.
Sarcany’s companion, the Italian, Zirone, was a man faithless and lawless—a thorough-paced adventurer ever ready at the call of him who could pay him well, until he met with him who would pay him better, to undertake any task whatever. Of Sicilian birth and in his thirtieth year he was as capable of suggesting a villainy as of carrying it into effect. He might have told people where he had been born had he known, but he never willingly said where he lived or if he lived anywhere. It was in Sicily that the chances of Bohemian life had made him acquainted with Sarcany. And henceforth they had gone through the world, trying per fas et nefas to make a living by their wits. Zirone was a large, bearded man, brown in complexion and black of hair, taking much pains to hide the look of the scoundrel which would persist in revealing itself in spite of all his efforts. In vain he tried to conceal his real character beneath his exuberant volubility, and, being of rather a cheerful temperament, he was just as talkative about himself as his younger companion was reserved.
To-day, however, Zirone was very moderate in what he had to say. He was obviously anxious about his dinner. The night before fortune had been unkind to them at the gaming-table, and the resources of Sarcany had been exhausted. What they were to do next neither knew. They could only reckon on chance, and as that Providence of the Beggars did not seek them out on the mole of San Carlo, they decided to go in search of it along the streets of the new town.
There, up and down the squares, quays, and promenades on both sides of the harbor leading to the grand canal which runs through Trieste, there goes, comes, throngs, hastens and tears along in the fury of business a population of some seventy thousand inhabitants of Italian origin, whose mother tongue is lost in a cosmopolitan concert of all the sailors, traders, workmen, and officials, who shout and chatter in English, German, French, or Sclave. Although this new town is rich, it by no means follows that all who tread its streets are fortunate. No. Even the wealthiest could hardly compete with the foreign merchants—English, Armenian, Greeks, and Jews—who lord it at Trieste, and whose sumptuous establishments would do no discredit to the capital of Austria-Hungary. But, beyond these, how many are the poorer folks wandering from morning to night along the busy streets, bordered with lofty buildings closed like strong rooms, where lie the goods of all descriptions attracted to this free port, so happily placed at the furthest corner of the Adriatic! How many there are, breakfastless and dinnerless, loitering on the quays where the vessels of the wealthiest shipping firm of the Continent—the Austrian Lloyds—are unloading the treasures brought from every part of the world! How many outcasts there are, such as are found in London, Liverpool, Marseilles, Havre, Antwerp, and Leghorn, who elbow the opulent ship-owners, thronging around the warehouses, where admittance is forbidden them, around the Exchange, whose doors will never open for them, and everywhere around the Tergesteum, where the merchant has’planted his office and counting-house, and lives in perfect accord with the Chamber of Commerce.
It is admitted that in all the great maritime towns of the old and the new world there exists a class of unfortunates peculiar to these important centers. Whence they come we know not; whither they go we are equally ignorant. Among them the number of unclassed is considerable. Many of them are foreigners. The railroads and the steamers have thrown them in, as it were, on to a dust-heap, and there they lie crowding the thoroughfares, with the police striving in vain to clear them away.
Sarcany and Zirone, after a farewell look across the gulf to the light-house on St. Theresa Point, left the mole, passed between the Teatro Communale and the square, and reached the Piazza Grande, where they talked for a quarter of an hour in front of the fountain which is built of the stone from the neighboring Karst Hill, and stands by the statue to Charles VI.
Then they turned to the left and came back. To tell the truth, Zirone eyed the passers-by as if he had an irresistible desire to feed on them. Then they turned toward the large square of Tergesteum just as the hour struck to close the Exchange.
“There it is, empty—like we are!” said the Sicilian with a laugh, but without any wish to laugh.
But the indifferent Sarcany seemed to take not the slightest notice of his companion’s mistimed pleasantry as he indulged in a hungry yawn.
Then they crossed the triangle past the bronze statue of the Emperor Leopold I. A shrill whistle from Zirone—quite a street boy’s whistle—put to flight the flock of blue pigeons that were cooing on the portico of the old Exchange, like the gray pigeons in the square of St. Mark at Venice.
Then they reached the Corso which divides new from old Trieste. A wide street destitute of elegance, with well patronized shops destitute of taste, and more like the Regent Street of London or the Broadway of New York than the Boulevard des Italiens of Paris. In the street a great number of people, but of vehicles only a few, and these going between the Piazza Grande and the Piazza della Legna—names sufficiently indicating the town’s Italian origin.
Sarcany appeared insensible to all temptation, but Zirone as he passed the shops could not help giving an envious glance into those he had not the means to enter, And there was much there that looked inviting, particularly in the provision shops and chiefly in the “biereries,” where the beer flows more freely than in any other town in Austria-Hungary.
“There is rather more hunger and thirst about in this Corso,” said the Sicilian, whose tongue rattled against his parched lips with the click of a castanet.
Sarcany’s only reply to this observation was a shrug of his shoulders.
They then took the first turning to the left, and readied the bank of the canal near the Ponto Bosso—a swing bridge. This they crossed and went along the quays, where vessels of light draught were busy unloading. Here the shops and stalls looked much less tempting. When he reached the church of Sant Antonio, Sarcany turned sharply to the right. His companion followed him in silence. Then they went back along the Corso and crossed the old town whose narrow streets, impracticable for vehicles as soon as they begin to climb the slopes of the Karst, are so laid out as to prevent their being enfiladed by that terrible wind, the bora, which blows icily from the north-east. In this old town of Trieste, Zirone and Sarcany, the moneyless, found themselves more at home than among the richer quarters of the new.
It was, in fact, in the basement of a modest hotel not far from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore that they had lodged since their arrival in the Illyrian capital, But as the landlord, who remained unpaid, might become pressing as to his little bill, which grew larger from day to day, they sheered off from this dangerous shoal, crossed the square, and loitered for a few minutes near the Arco di Ricardo.
The study of Roman architecture did not prove very satisfying, and as nothing had turned up in the almost deserted streets, they began the ascent of the rough footpaths leading almost to the top of Karst, to the terrace of the cathedral.
“Curious idea to climb up here!” muttered Zirone, as he tightened his cape round his waist.
But he did not abandon his young companion, and away he went along the line of steps, called by courtesy roads, which lead up the slopes of the Karst. Ten minutes afterward, hungrier and thirstier than ever, they reached the terrace.
From this elevated spot there is a magnificent view extending across the Gulf of Trieste to the open sea, including the port, with its fishing boats passing and repassing, and its steamers and trading ships outward and homeward bound, and the whole of the town with its suburbs and furthest houses clustering along the hills. The view had no charm for them! They were thinking of something very different, of the many times they had come here already to ponder on their misery! Zirone would have preferred a stroll along the rich shops of the Corso. Perhaps the luck might reach them here which they were so impatiently waiting for!
At the end of the steps leading on to the terrace near the Byzantine Cathedral of Saint Just there was an inclosure, formerly a cemetery and now a museum of antiquities. There were no tombs, but odds and ends of sepulchral stones lying in disorder under the lower branches of the trees—Roman stelæ, mediæval cippi, pieces of triglyphs and metopes of different ages of the Renaissance, vitrified cubes with traces of cinders, all thrown anyhow among the grass.
The gate of the inclosure was open. Sarcany had only to push it. He entered, followed by Zirone, who contented himself with this melancholy reflection—
“If we wanted to commit suicide this is just place!”
“And if some one proposes it?” asked Sarcany, ironically.
“I should decline, my friend! Give me one happy day in ten, and I ask no more.”
“It shall be given you—and something else.”
“May all the saints of Italy hear you, and Heaven knows they are counted in hundreds.”
“Corne along,” said Sarcany.
They went along a semicircular path between a double range of urns and sat themselves down on a large Roman rose window, which had fallen flat on the ground.
At first they remained silent. This suited Sarcany, but it did not suit his companion. And, after one or two half-stifled yawns, Zirone broke out with—
“This something that we have been fools enough to wait for is a long time coming.”
Sarcany made no reply.
“What an idea,” continued Zirone, “to come and look for it among these ruins! I am afraid we are on the wrong tack, my friend. What are we likely to find in this old grave-yard? The spirits do not want it when they have left their mortal carcasses behind them. When I join them I shall not worry about a dinner that is late or a supper that never comes! Let us get away.”
Sarcany, deep in thought, with his looks lost in vacancy, never moved.
Zirone waited a few moments without saying anything. Then his habitual loquacity urged him to say:
“Sarcany,” he said, “do you know in what form I should like this something to appear? In the form of one of those cashier people from Toronthal’s with a pocket-book stuffed full of bank-notes, which he could hand over to us on behalf of the said banker with a thousand apologies for keeping us waiting so long.”
“Listen, Zirone,” answered Sarcany, knitting his brows; “for the last time I tell you that there is nothing to be hoped for from Silas Toronthal.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“Yes, all the credit I have with him is exhausted, and to my last demands he gave me a definite refusal.”
“That is bad.”
“Very bad, but it is so.”
“Good, if your credit is exhausted,” continued Zirone, “it is because you have had the credit! And to what is that due? To your having many times placed your intelligence and zeal at the service of his firm in certain matters of dellicacy. Now, during the first months of our stay in Trieste, Toronthal did not show himself too stingy in money matters. But it is impossible that there is not some way in which you have a hold over him, and by threatening him—”
“What was to be done has already been done,” replied Sarcany, with a shrug of his shoulders; “and you can not go to him for a meal! No! I have no hold over him now; but I may have and shall have, and when that day comes he shall pay me capital and compound interest for what he has refused me to-day! I fancy his business is under a cloud, and that he is mixed up in several doubtful things. Several of those failures in Germany, at Berlin and Munich, have had their effect in Trieste, and Silas Toronthal seemed rather upset when I saw him last. Let the water get troubled, and when it is troubled—”
“Quite so,” exclaimed Zirone; “but meanwhile we have only water to drink! Look here, Sarcany, I think you might try one more shot at Toronthal! You might tap his cash-box once more, and get enough out of it to pay our passage to Sicily by way of Malta.”
“And what should we do in Sicily?”
“That is my business. I know the country, and I can introduce you to a few Maltese, who are a very tough lot and with them we might do something. If there is nothing to be done here we might as well clear out and let this wretched banker pay the cost. If you know anything about him he would rather see you out of Trieste.”
Sarcany shook his head.
“You will see it can not last much longer. We have come to the end now,” added Zirone.
He rose and stamped on the ground with his foot, as if it were a step-mother unwilling to help him. At the instant he did so he caught sight of a pigeon feebly fluttering down just outside the inclosure. The pigeon’s tired wings could hardly move as slowly it sunk to the ground.
Zirone, without asking himself to which of the 177 species of pigeons now known to ornithological nomenclature the bird belonged, saw only one thing—that the species it belonged to was edible.
The bird was evidently exhausted. It had tried to settle on the cornice of the cathedral. Not being able to reach it, it had dropped on to the roof of the small niche which gave shelter to the statue of St. Just; but its feeble feet could not support it there, and it had slipped on to the capital of a ruined column. Sarcany, silent and still, hardly followed the pigeon in its flight, but Zirone never lost sight of it. The bird came from the north. A long journey had reduced it to this state of exhaustion. Evidently it was bound for some more distant spot; for it immediately started to fly again, and the trajectory curve it traced in the air compelled it to make a fresh halt on one of the lower branches of the trees in the old cemetery.
Zirone received to catch it, and quietly ran off to the tree. He soon reached the gnarled trunk, climbed up it to the fork, and there waited motionless and mute like a dog pointing at the game perched above his head.
The pigeon did not see him and made another start; but its strength again failed it, and a few paces from the tree it fell into the grass.
To jump to the ground, stretch out his hands and seize the bird was the work of an instant for the Sicilian. And quite naturally he was about to wring its neck, when he stopped, gave a shout of surprise, and ran back to Sarcany. “A carrier-pigeon!” he said.
“Well, it is a carrier that has done its carrying,” replied Sarcany.
“Perhaps so,” said Zirone, “and all the worse for those who are waiting for the message.”
“A message!” exclaimed Sarcany. “Wait, Zirone, wait! Give him a reprieve!”
And he stopped his companion, who had again caught hold of the neck. Then he took the tiny packet, opened it, and drew forth—a cryptogram.
The message contained only eighteen words, arranged in three vertical columns, and this is what it said:
THE PIGEON’S HOME
There was nothing to show whence the message came or whither it was being sent. Only these eighteen words, each composed of an equal number of letters. Could they be made into sense without the key? It was not very likely, at least unless it was by some very clever decipherer. And yet the cryptogram could not be indecipherable.
The characters told him nothing, and Sarcany, who was at first much disappointed, stood perplexed. Did the letter contain any important news, and, above all, was it of a compromising nature? Evidently these precautions had been taken to prevent its being read if it fell into other hands than those for whom it was intended. To make use of neither the post nor the telegraph, but the extraordinary means of the carrier-pigeon, showed that it must be some curious affair that it was desired to keep quite secret.
“Perhaps,” said Sarcany, “there lies in these lines a mystery that will make our fortune.”
“And then,” answered Zirone, “this pigeon will represent the luck we have been running after all morning. And I was going to strangle it! After all it is important to keep the message, and we can cook the messenger.”
“Not so fast, Zirone,” interrupted Sarcany, who again saved the bird’s life. “Perhaps the pigeon may tell us whither it was bound, providing, of course, that the person who ought to have the message, lives in Trieste.”
“And then? That will not tell you how to read the message, Sarcany.”
“Nor to know where it came from.”
“Exactly. But of two correspondents I shall know one, and that may tell me how I am to find the other. So, instead of killing this bird, we will feed it and recruit its strength and help it to reach its destination.”
“With the letter?” asked Zirone.
“With the letter—of which I am just going to make an exact copy; and that I shall keep until the time comes to use it.”
And Sarcany took a note-book from his pocket, and in pencil he made a careful fac-simile of the message. Knowing that in most cryptograms it was important not to alter in the least the form and arrangement, he took great care to keep the words in exactly the same order and position and at the same distances as in the document. Then he put the fac-simile in his pocket, the message in its case, and the case in its place under the pigeon’s wing.
Zirone looked on. He did not share the hopes of fortune founded on this incident.
“And now?” he asked.
“Now,” answered Sarcany, “do what you can for the messenger.”
The pigeon was more exhausted by hunger than fatigue. Its wings were intact, without strain or breakage, and showed that his temporary weakness was due neither to a shot from a sportsman nor a stone from a street boy. It was hungry—it was thirsty; that was all.
Zirone looked around and found on the ground a few grains of corn which the bird ate greedily. Then he quenched its thirst with a few drops of water which the last shower had left in a piece of ancient pottery. So well did he do his work that in half an hour the pigeon was refreshed and restored and quite able to resume its interrupted journey.
“If it is going far,” said Sarcany, “if its destination is beyond Trieste, it does not matter to us if it falls on the way, for we shall have lost sight of it, and it will be impossible for us to follow it. But if it is going to one of the houses in Trieste, its strength is sufficient to take it there, as it will only have to fly for a couple of minutes or so.”
“Right you are,” replied the Sicilian; “but how are we to see where it drops, even if it is in Trieste?”
“We can manage that, I think,” answered Sarcany And this is what they did.
The cathedral consists of two old Roman churches, one dedicated to the Virgin, one to St. Just, the patron saint of Trieste, and it is flanked by a very high tower which rises from the angle of the front pierced with a large rose window, beneath which is the chief door. This tower commands a view over the plateau of Karst Hill and over the whole city, which lies spread as on a map below. From this lofty stand-point they could see down on the roofs of all the houses, even on to those clustering on the earlier slopes of the hill away to the shore of the gulf, It was therefore not impossible to follow the pigeon in its flight and recognize the house on which it found refuge, provided it was not bound for some other city of the Illyrian peninsula.
The attempt might succeed. It was at least worth trying. They only had to set the bird at liberty.
Sarcany and Zirone left the old cemetery, crossed the open space by the cathedral and walked toward the tower. One of the ogival doors—the one under the dripstone beneath St. Just’s niche was open. They entered and began to ascend the stairs which led to the roof.
It took them two or three minutes to reach the top, They stood just underneath the roof, and there was no balcony. But there were two windows opening out on each side of the tower, and giving a view to each point of the double horizon of hills and sea.
Sarcany and Zirone posted themselves at the windows which looked out over Trieste toward the north-west.
The clock in the old sixteenth-century castle on the top of the Karst behind the cathedral struck four. It was still broad daylight. The air was clear and the sun shone brightly on the waters of the Adriatic, and most of the houses received the light with their fronts facing the tower. Thus far circumstances were favorable.
Sarcany took the pigeon in his hands, he stroked it, spoke to it, gave it a, last caress, and threw it free. The bird flapped its wings, but at first it dropped so quickly that it looked as though it was going to finish its career of aerial messenger by a cruel fall.
The excitable Sicilian could not restrain a cry of disappointment.
“No! It rises!” said Sarcany.
And the pigeon had found its equilibrium in the denser lower air; and then making a sudden curve it flew off toward the north-west.
Sarcany and Zirone followed it with their eyes.
In the flight of the bird there was no hesitation, it went straight to its home which it would have reached an hour before had it not been for its compulsory halt among the trees of the old grave-yard.
Sarcany and his companion watched it with the most anxious attention. They asked themselves if it was going beyond the town—and then all their scheming would come to naught.
It did nothing of the sort.
“I see it! I see it all the time!” said Zirone, whose sight was of the keenest.
“What you have to look for,” said Sarcany, “is where it stops, so as to fix the exact spot.”
A few minutes after its departure the pigeon settled on a house with one tall gable rising above the rest in the midst of a clump of trees in that part of the town near the hospital and public garden. Then it disappeared into a dormer window opening on the mansard, which was surmounted by a weather vane of wrought iron that ought to have been the work of Quentin Matsys—if Trieste had been in Flanders.
The general direction being ascertained, it would not be very difficult to find the weather vane and gable and window, and, in short, the house inhabited by the person for whom the cryptogram was intended.
Sarcany and Zirone immediately made their way down the tower and down the hill and along the roads leading to the Piazza della Legna. There they had to lay their course so as to reach the group of houses forming the eastern quarter of the city.
When they reached the junction of two main roads—the Corsa Stadion leading to the public garden, and the Acquedotto, a fine avenue of trees, leading to the large brewery of Boschetto—the adventurers were in some doubt as to the true direction. Should they take the right or the left? Instinctively they turned to the right, intending to examine one after the other every house along the avenue above which they had noted the vane among the trees.
They went along in this manner, inspecting in their turn every gable and roof along the Acquedotto, but they found nothing like the one they sought. At last they reached the end.
“There it is!” exclaimed Zirone.
And there was the weather vane, swinging slowly on its iron spindle above a dormer window, around which were several pigeons.
There was no mistake. It was the identical house to which the pigeon had flown.
The house was of modest exterior, and formed one of the block at the beginning of the Acquedotto.
Sarcany made inquiries at the neighboring shops, and learned all he wished to know.
The house for many years had belonged to, and been inhabited by, Count Ladislas Zathmar.
“Who is this Count Zathmar?” asked Zirone, to whom the name meant nothing.
“He is the Count Zathmar!” answered Sarcany.
“But perhaps if we were to ask him—”
“Later on, Zirone; there’s no hurry! Take it coolly, and now to our hotel!”
“Yes, it is dinner-time for those who have got something to dine on!” said Zirone, bitterly.
“If we do not dine to-day, it is possible that we shall dine to-morrow,” answered Sarcany.
“Who knows? Perhaps with Count Zathmar!”
They walked along quietly—why should they hurry?—and soon reached their modest hotel, still much too rich for them, seeing they could not pay their bill. What a surprise was in store for them! A letter had arrived, addressed to Sarcany.
The letter contained a note for 200 florins and these words—nothing more:
Inclosed is the last money you will get from me. It is enough to pay your passage to Sicily. Go, and let me hear no more of you.
“Capital!” exclaimed Zirone: “the banker thinks better of it just in time. Assuredly we need never despair of those financial folks!”
“That is what I say,” said Sarcany.
“And the coin will do for us to leave Trieste.”
“No! we’ll stop here!”
The Magyars settled in Hungary toward the end of the ninth century of the Christian era. They form a third of the population—more than five millions in number. Whence they came—Spain, Egypt, or Central Asia, whether they are descended from the Huns of Attila, or the Finns of the North—is a disputed question, and is of little consequence! One thing is very obvious, that they are neither Sclaves nor Germans, and have no desire to become so.
They still speak their own language—a language soft and musical, lending itself to all the charm of poetical cadence, less rich than the German, but more concise, more energetic; a language which between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries took the place of Latin in the laws and edicts, and became the national tongue.
It was on the 21st of January, 1699, that the treaty of Carlowitz gave Hungary and Transylvania to Austria. Twenty years afterward the Pragmatic sanction solemnly declared that the States of Austria-Hungary were thence-forth indivisible. In default of a son the daughter was to succeed to the crown according to the rule of primogeniture. And it was in accordance with this new statute that in 1749 Maria Theresa ascended the throne of her father, Charles VI., the last of the male line of the House of Austria.
The Hungarians had to yield to superior force; but 150 years afterward people were still to be met with among all ranks of society who refused to acknowledge either the Pragmatic sanction or the treaty of Carlowitz.
At the time this story opens there was a Magyar of high birth whose whole life might be summed up in these two sentiments—the hatred of everything German, and the hope of giving his country her ancient independence. Although still young, he had known Kossuth, and although nis birth and education kept him apart from him on important political questions, he could not fail to admire the patriot’s nobility of heart.
Count Mathias Sandorf lived in one of the counties of Transylvania in the district of Fagaras. His old castle was of feudal origin. But on one of the northern spurs of the Eastern Carpathians, which form the frontier between Transylvania and Wallachia, the castle rose amid the rugged scenery in all its savage pride—a stronghold that conspirators could defend to the last.
The neighboring mines, rich in iron and copper ore, and carefully worked, yielded a considerable income to the owner of the Castle of Artenak. The estate comprised a part of the district of Fagaras, and the population exceeded 72,000, who, all of them, townsfolk and countryfolk, took pains to show that for Count Sandorf they felt an untiring devotion and an unbounded gratitude for the constant good he had done in the country. This castle was the object of particular attention on the part of the Chancery of Hungary at Vienna, for the ideas of the master of Artenak were known in high quarters, and anxiety was felt about them, although no anxiety was betrayed about him.
Sandorf was then in his thirty-sixth year. He was rather above the middle height and of great muscular strength. A well-shaped, noble-looking head rose above his broad, powerful shoulders. Of rather dark complexion and square in feature, his face was of the pure Magyar type. The quickness of his movements, the decision of his speech, the firm, calm look of his eyes, the constant smile on his lips, that unmistakable sign of good nature, a certain playfulness of gesture and speech—all went to show an open, generous disposition. It has been said that there are many resemblances between the French and Magyar characters. Sandorf was a living proof of the truth of this observation.
One of his most striking peculiarities is worth noting. Although Count Sandorf was careless enough of what concerned only himself, and would pass lightly over any injury which affected him alone, he had never forgiven and never would forgive an offense of which his friends were the victims. He had in the highest degree the spirit of justice and hatred of perfidy, and hence possessed a sort of impersonal implacability, being by no means one of those who leave all punishment in “this world to Heaven.
Mathias Sandorf had been highly educated. Instead of confining himself to the life of leisure his fortune opened out to him, he had energetically followed his tastes and been led to the study of medicine and the physical sciences. He would have made an excellent doctor had the necessities of life forced him to look after the sick. He was content to be a chemist in high repute among the learned. The University of Pesth, the Academy of Sciences at Presburg, the Royal School of Mines at Chemnitz and the Normal School at Temesoar, had all counted him among their most assiduous pupils. His studious life had improved and intensified his natural gifts. In short, he was a man in the fullest acceptation of the term. And he was held to be so by all who knew him, and more especially by his professors in the different schools and universities, who continued their interest in him as his friends.
Formerly the castle of Artenak, then, had been all gayety, life and movement. On this rugged ridge of the Carpathians the Transylvanian hunters had held their meetings. Expeditions, many and dangerous, were organized, in which Count Sandorf sought employment for those instincts of battle which he could not gratify on the field of politics. He kept himself out of the political stream, watching closely the course of events. He seemed only to care about a life spent between his studies and the indulgences that his fortune allowed him.
In those days the Countess Rena Sandorf was still alive. She was the soul of these parties at Artenak. Fifteen months before this history begins death had struck her in the pride of her youth and beauty, and all that was left of her was a little girl, who was now two years old.
Count Sandorf felt the blow cruelly. He was inconsolable. The castle became silent and deserted. From that day, under the shadow of profound grief, its master lived as in a cloister. His whole life was centered in his child and she was confided to the charge of Rosena Lendeck, the wife of the count’s steward. This excellent woman, who was still young, was entirely devoted to the sole heiress of the Sandorfs, and ably acted toward her as a second mother.
During the first months of his widowerhood, Sandorf never left his castle of Artenak. He thought over and lived among the remembrances of the past. Then the idea of his country reduced to an inferior position in Europe seized upon him. For the Franco-Italian war of 1859 struck a terrible blow at the power of Austria. Seven years afterward, in 1866, the blow was followed by one still more terrible, that of Sadowa. It was no longer Austria bereft of her Italian possessions; it was Austria conquered on both sides and subordinated to Germany; and to Austria Hungary felt she was bound. The Hungarians—there is no reasoning about such a sentiment, for it is in their blood—were humiliated in their pride. For them the victories of Custozza and Lissa were no compensation for the defeat of Sadowa.
Count Sandorf, during the year which followed, had carefully studied the political outlook, and recognized that a separatist movement might be successful. The moment for action had then come. On the 3d of May of this year, 1867, he had embraced his little daughter, whom he had left to the tender care of Rosena Lendeck, and leaving his castle of Artenak had set out for Pesth, where he had put himself in communication with his friends and partisans, and made certain preliminary arrangements. Then a few hours later he had gone to Trieste to wait for events.
There he became the chief center of the conspiracy; thence radiated all its threads collected in Sandorfs hands. In this town the chiefs of the conspiracy could act with more safety and more freedom in bringing the patriotic work to an end.
At Trieste lived two of Sandorfs most intimate friends. Animated by the same spirit, they were resolved to follow the enterprise to its conclusion. Count Ladislas Zathmar and Professor Stephen Bathory were Magyars of good birth. Both were a dozen years older than Sandorf, but were almost without fortune. One drew his slender revenues from a small estate in the county of Lipto, belonging to a circle beyond the Danube; the other was Professor of Physical Science at Trieste, and his only income came from the fees from his lectures.
Ladislas Zathmar lived in the house discovered on the Acquedotto by Sarcany and Zirone—an unpretending place, which he had put at the disposition of Mathias Sandorf during the time he was away from Artenak—that is to say, till the end of the projected movement, whenever it might be. A Hungarian, Borik, aged about fifty-five, represented the whole staff of the house. Borik was as much devoted to his master as Lendeck was to his.
Stephen Bathory occupied a no less unpretending dwelling on the Corso Stadion, not far from Count Zathmar. Here his whole life was wrapped up in his wife and his son Peter, then eight years old.
Stephen Bathory belonged, distantly but authentically, to the line of those Magyar princes who in the sixteenth century occupied the throne of Transylvania. The family had been divided and lost in its numberless ramifications since then, and people may perhaps think it astonishing that one of its last descendants should exist as a simple professor of the Academy at Presburg. Whatever he might be, Stephen Bathory was a scientist of the first rank—one of those who live in retirement, but whose work renders them famous. “Inclusum labor illustrat,” the motto of the silk-worm, might have been his. One day his political ideas, which he took no pains to conceal rendered it necessary for him to resign, and then he came to live at Trieste as professor unattached.
It was in Zathmar’s house that the three friends had met since the arrival of Count Sandorf—although the latter estensibly occupied an apartment on the Palazzo Modello on the Piazza Grande. The police had no suspicion that the house on the Acquedotto was the center of a conspiracy which counted numbers of partisans in all the principal towns of the kingdom.
Zathmar and Bathory were Sandorfs most devoted auxiliaries. Like him, they had seen that circumstances were favorable to a movement which might restore Hungary to the place she desired in Europe. They risked their lives, they knew, but that they cared little about. The house in the Acquedotto had thus become the rendezvous of the chiefs of the conspiracy. Numbers of partisans, summoned from different points of the kingdom, came there to take their measures and receive their orders. A service of carrier-pigeons was organized, and established rapid and safe communication between Trieste and the chief towns of Hungary and Transylvania when it was necessary to send what could not well be confided to the post or telegraph. In short, every precaution had been taken, and the conspirators had not as yet raised the least breath of suspicion. Besides, as we know, the correspondence was carried on in cipher, and on such a plan that unless the secret was known absolute security was obtained.
Three days after the arrival of the carrier-pigeon whose message had been intercepted by Sarcany, on the 21st of May, about eight o’clock in the evening, Zathmar and Bathory were in the study, waiting the return of Mathias Sandorf. His private affairs had recently compelled the count to return into Transylvania and to Artenak; but he had taken the opportunity of consulting with his friends at Kiasenburg, the capital of the province, and he was to get back this very day, after sending them the dispatch of which Sarcany had taken the duplicate.
During the time Sandorf was away, other correspondence had been exchanged between Trieste and Buda, and many letters in cipher had arrived by pigeon-post. And Zathmar was even now busy in working out the real meaning of one of these cryptographic epistles by means of a “grating.”
The dispatches were devised on a very simple plan—that of the transposition of the letters. In this system every letter retained its alphabetical value—that is to say, b meant b, o meant o, etc. But the letters are successively transposed, in accordance with the openings of a grating, which, laid on the message, only allowed such letters to appear as were to be read, and hid all the others. These gratings are an old invention, but, having been greatly improved by Colonel Fleissner, they seem now to offer the best and surest means of obtaining an undecipherable cryptogram. In all the other systems of inversion, be they systems of an invariable base or a simple key in which each letter is always represented by the same letter or sign; be they systems with a variable base, or a double key, in which the alphabet varies with each letter, the security is incomplete. Experienced decipherers are capable of performing perfect prodigies in such investigations, either with the aid of the calculation of probabilities, or by merely trying and trying until they succeed. All that has to be done is to find out the letters in the order of their repetition in the cryptogram— e being that most frequently employed in English, German and French, o in Spanish, a in Russian, and e and i in Italian—and the meaning of the text is soon made clear. And there are very few cryptograms based on these methods which defy investigation.
It would appear, therefore, that the best guarantee for indecipherability is afforded by these gratings, or by ciphered dictionaries—codes, that is to say, or vocabularies in which certain words represent fully formed sentences indicated by the page number. But both these systems have one grave drawback; they require absolute secrecy on the part of those that use them, and the greatest care that the books of apparatus should never get into undesirable hands. Without the grating, or the code, the message will remain unread; but once these are obtained the mystery vanishes.
It was then by means of a grating—that is to say a piece of card cut out in certain places—that the correspondence between Sandorf and his accomplices was carried on, but as an extra precaution, in case the gratings should be lost or stolen, every dispatch after being deciphered was destroyed. There thus remained no trace of this conspiracy in which the greatest noblemen and magnates of Hungary were risking their lives in conjunction with the representatives of the middle class and the bulk of the people.
Zathmar had just burned his last dispatch when there came a quiet knock at the study door.
It was Borik introducing Count Mathias Sandorf, who had walked up from the nearest railway station.
Zathmar immediately rose to greet him.
“Your journey, Mathias?” asked he with the eagerness of a man who wished at the outset to find that all was well.
“It was a success, Zathmar,” answered Sandorf. “I have no doubt of my Transylvanian friends, and are absolutely certain of their assistance.”
“You let them have the dispatch which came from Pesth three days ago?” asked Bathory.
“Yes,” said Sandorf. “Yes. They have all been cautioned, and they are all ready. They will rise at the first signal. In two hours we shall be masters of Buda and Pesth, in half a day we shall get the chief comitats on both sides of the Theiss, and before the day is out we shall have Transylvania and the rest. And then eight millions of Hungarians will have regained their independence!”
“And the Diet?” asked Bathory.
“Our supporters form the majority,” answered Sandorf. “They will also form the new government to take the direction of affairs. All will go regularly and easily, for the comitats, as far as their administration goes, depend very little on the crown, and their chiefs nave the police with them.”
“But the Council of the Lieutenancy of the Kingdom that the palatine presides over at Buda?” continued Zathmar.
“The palatine and the council at Buda will immediately be so placed as to be unable to do anything.”
“And unable to correspond with the Hungarian Chancery at Vienna?”
“Yes, all our measures are taken for our movements to be simultaneous, and thus insure success.”
“Success!” said Bathory.
“Yes, success!” answered Count Sandorf. “In the army of our blood, of Hungarian blood, are for us! Where is the descendant of the ancient Magyars whose heart will not beat at the sight of the banner of Rudolph and Corvinus?”
And Sandorf uttered the words in a tone of the purest Patriotism,
“But,” continued he, “neglect nothing that will present suspicion! Be prudent, we can not be too strong! You have heard of nothing suspicious at Trieste?”
“No,” replied Zathmar. “Nothing is spoken of but the works at Pola, for which the greater part of the workmen have been engaged.”
In fact for fifteen years the Austrian Government, with a view of the possible loss of Venetia—a loss now realized—had been thinking of founding at Pola, at the southern extremity of the Istrian peninsula, an immense arsenal and dock-yard, so as to command all that end of the Adriatic. In spite of the protests of Trieste, whose maritime importance would thereby be lessened, the works were being pushed on with feverish ardor. Sandorf and his friends had thus some justification for their opinion that Trieste would join them in the event of a separatist movement being started in the city.
Up to the present the secret of the conspiracy in favor of Hungarian autonomy had been well kept. Nothing had occurred to cause the police to suspect that the chief conspirators were then assembled at the unpretending house in the Acquedotto.
Everything seemed to have been done to make the enterprise a success; and all that remained was to wait for the moment of action. The cipher correspondence between Trieste and the principal cities of Hungary and Transylvania had almost ceased. There were now few messages for the pigeons to carry, because the last message had been taken. As money is the soul of war, so it is of conspiracies. It is important that conspirators have ample funds when the signal of uprising is given. And on this occasion the supply would not fail them.
We are aware that, although Zathmar and Bathory could sacrifice their lives for their country, they could not sacrifice their fortunes, inasmuch as their pecuniary resources were but meager. But Count Sandorf was immensely rich, and, in addition to his life, he had brought his whole fortune to the help of the cause. For many months, through the agency of his steward, Lendeck, he had mortgaged his estates, and thereby raised a considerable sum—more than 2,000,000 of florins.
But it was necessary that this money should always be at call, and that he could draw it at any moment. And so he had deposited it in his own name in one of the banks of Trieste, whose character was above suspicion. This bank was Toronthal’s, of which Sarcany and Zirone had been talking in the cemetery on the hill.
This circumstance was fraught with the gravest consequences, as will be seen in the course of this history. Something was said about this money at Sandorf’s last interview with Zathmar and Bathory. He told them that it was his intention to call on Toronthal and give him notice that the cash might be wanted immediately.
Events had so progressed that Sandorf would soon be able to give the expected signal from Trieste—more especially as this very evening he discovered that Zathmar’s house was the object of very disquieting surveillance.
About eight o’clock, as Sandorf and Bathory went out, one to go home to the Corso Stadion and the other to his hotel, they noticed two men watching them in the shadows and following them at such a distance and in such a way as to avoid detection.
Sandorf and his companion, in order to see what this might mean, boldly marched straight on to these suspicious characters, but before they could reach them they had taken flight and disappeared round the corner of Saint Antonio’s Church, at the end of the canal.
At Trieste “society” is nearly non-existent. Between different races, as between different castes, it is seldom found. The Austrian officials assume the highest position and take precedence according to their respective ranks. Generally these men are distinguished, well educated, and well meaning; but their pay is so small for their position that they are unable to enter into competition with the trading and banking classes. These latter, as entertainments are rare among the rich, and the parties given by the officials are nearly all unambitious, have taken to display most of their wealth in outside show—in the streets by their sumptuous carriages, and at the theater by the extravagance of their dress and jewelry. Among these opulent families that of Silas Toronthal held a distinguished place.
The head of the house, whose credit extended far beyond the limits of Austro-Hungary, was then in his thirty-seventh year. With Mme. Toronthal, who was several years his junior, he occupied a mansion in the Acquedotto. He was supposed to be very rich—and he should have been. Bold and fortunate speculations on the Stock Exchange, a large business with the Austrian Lloyds and other extensive companies, and the issuing of several important loans, had, or ought to have, brought huge sums of money into his coffers. Hence his household was conducted on a scale of considerable splendor.
Nevertheless, as Sarcany had said to Zirone, there was a possibility that the affairs of Silas Toronthal were slightly embarrassed—at least for a time. Seven years before, when the funds were shaken by the Franco-Italian war, he had received a severe blow, and more recently the disastrous campaign which ended at Sadowa had sent down the prices on every exchange in Europe, more especially on those of Austria-Hungary, and chiefly those of Vienna, Pesth, and Trieste. The necessity of providing the large amounts then drawn out on the current accounts not improbably caused him serious inconvenience. But when the crisis had passed he doubtless recovered himself, and if what Sarcany had said was correct, it must have been his recent speculations only which had led him into difficulties.
During the last few months a great change had come over Toronthal. His whole look had altered without his knowledge. He was not, as formerly, master of himself. People had noticed that he no longer looked them in the face, as had been his custom, but rather eyed them askance. This had not escaped the notice of Mme. Toronthal, a confirmed invalid, without energy, and submissiveness itself, who knew very little about his business matters.
And if some disaster did menace Toronthal, it must be admitted that he would get very little sympathy. He had many customers, but few friends. The high opinion he held about his position, his native vanity, the airs he gave himself on all occasions, had not done him any good. And above all the people of Trieste looked upon him as a foreigner because he was born at Ragusa, and hence was a Dalmatian. No family ties attached him to the town to which he had come fifteen years before to lay the foundation of his fortune.
Such, then, was the position of Toronthal’s bank. Although Sarcany had his suspicions, nothing had occurred to give rise to a rumor that it was in difficulties. Its credit remained unshaken. And Count Sandorf, after realizing his investments, had deposited with it a considerable sum—on condition that it should always be available at twenty-four hours’ notice.
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