Prince Zilah— Complete

Author: Jules Claretie

Chapter IX "O Liberty! O Love! These Two I Need!"

When Zilah came the next day he found Marsa perfectly calm. At first he only questioned her anxiously as to her health.

"Oh! I am well," she replied, smiling a little sadly; and, turning to the piano at which she was seated, she began to play the exquisitely sad romance which was her favorite air.

"That is by Janos Nemeth, is it not?" asked the Prince.

"Yes, by Janos Nemeth. I am very fond of his music; it is so truly Hungarian in its spirit."

The music fell upon the air like sighs—like the distant tones of a bell tolling a requiem—a lament, poetic, mournful, despairing, yet ineffably sweet and tender, ending in one deep, sustained note like the last clod of earth falling upon a new-made grave.

"What is that called, Marsa?" said Andras.

She made no reply.

Rising, he looked at the title, printed in Hungarian; then, leaning over the Tzigana till his breath fanned her cheek, he murmured:

"Janos Nemeth was right. The world holds but one fair maiden."

She turned very pale, rose from the piano, and giving him her hand, said:

"It is almost a madrigal, my dear Prince, is it not? I am going to be frank with you. You love me, I know; and I also love you. Will you give me a month to reflect? A whole month?"

"My entire life belongs to you now," said the Prince. "Do with it what you will."

"Well! Then in a month I will give you your answer," she said firmly.

"But," said Andras, smiling beneath his blond moustache, "remember that I once, took for my motto the verses of Petoefi. You know well those beautiful verses of our country:

O Liberty! O Love!
These two I need.
My chosen meed,
To give my love for Liberty,
My life for Love.

"Well," he added, "do you know, at this moment the Andras Zilah of ’forty-eight would almost give liberty, that passion of his whole life, for your love, Marsa, my own Marsa, who are to me the living incarnation of my country."

Marsa was moved to the depths of her heart at hearing this man speak such words to her. The ideal of the Tzigana, as it is of most women, was loyalty united with strength. Had she ever, in her wildest flights of fancy, dreamed that she should hear one of the heroes of the war of independence, a Zilah Andras, supplicate her to bear his name?

Marsa knew Yanski Varhely. The Prince had brought him to see her at Maisons-Lafitte. She was aware that Count Varhely knew the Prince’s most secret thoughts, and she was certain that Andras had confided all his hopes and his fears to his old friend.

"What do you think would become of the Prince if I should not marry him?" she asked him one day without warning.

"That is a point-blank question which I hardly expected," said Yanski, gazing at her in astonishment. "Don’t you wish to become a Zilah?"

Any hesitation even seemed to him insulting, almost sacrilegious.

"I don’t say that," replied the Tzigana, "but I ask you what would become of the Prince if, for one reason or another—"

"I can very easily inform you," interrupted Varhely. "The Prince, as you must be aware, is one of those men who love but once during their lives. Upon my word of honor, I believe that, if you should refuse him, he would commit some folly, some madness, something—fatal. Do you understand?"

"Ah!" ejaculated Marsa, with an icy chill in her veins.

"That is my opinion," continued Yanski, harshly. "He is wounded. It remains with you to decide whether the bullet be mortal or not."

Varhely’s response must have had great weight in Marsa Laszlo’s reflections, full of anguish, fever, revolt and despair as they were, during the few weeks preceding the day upon which she had promised to tell Prince Andras if she would consent to become his wife or not. It was a yes, almost as curt as another refusal, which fell at last from the lips of the Tzigana. But the Prince was not cool enough to analyze an intonation.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "I have suffered so much during these weeks of doubt; but this happiness makes amends for all."

"Do you know what Varhely said to me?" asked Marsa.

"Yes, I know."

"Well, since the Zilahs treat their love-affairs as they do their duels, and risk their whole existence, so be it! I accept. Your existence for mine! Gift for gift! I do not wish you to die!"

He did not try to understand her; but he took her burning hands between his own, and covered them with kisses. And she, with trembling lip, regarded, through her long eyelashes, the brave man who now bent before her, saying: "I love you."

Then, in that moment of infinite happiness, on the threshold of the new life which opened before her, she forgot all to think only of the reality, of the hero whose wife she was to be. His wife! So, as in a dream, without thinking, without resisting, abandoning herself to the current which bore her along, not trying to take account of time or of the future, loving, and beloved, living in a sort of charmed somnambulism, the Tzigana watched the preparations for her marriage.

The Prince, with the impatience of a youth of twenty, had urged an early day for their union. He announced his engagement to the society, at once Parisian and foreign, of which he formed a part; and this marriage of the Magyar with the Tzigana was an event in aristocratic circles. There was an aroma of chivalrous romance about this action of Prince Andras, who was rich enough and independent enough to have married, if he had wished, a shepherdess, like the kings of fairy tales.

"Isn’t it perfectly charming?" exclaimed the little Baroness Dinati, enthusiastically. "Jacquemin, my dear friend, I will give you all the details of their first meeting. You can make a delicious article out of it, delicious!"

The little Baroness was almost as delighted as the Prince. Ah! what a man that Zilah was! He would give, as a wedding-gift to the Tzigana, the most beautiful diamonds in the world, those famous Zilah diamonds, which Prince Joseph had once placed disdainfully upon his hussar’s uniform when he charged the Prussian cuirassiers of Ziethen, sure of escaping the sabre cuts, and not losing a single one of the stones during the combat. It was said that Marsa, until she was his wife, would not accept any jewels from the Prince. The opals in the silver agraffe were all she wanted.

"You know them, don’t you, Jacquemin? The famous opals of the Tzigana? Put that all in, every word of it."

"Yes, it is chic enough." answered the reporter. "It is very romantic, a little too much so; my readers will never believe it. Never mind, though, I will write it all up in my best manner."

The fete on board the steamer, given by the Prince in honor of his betrothal, had been as much talked of as a sensational first night at the Francais, and it added decidedly to the romantic prestige of Andras Zilah. There was not a marriageable young girl who was not a little in love with him, and their mothers envied the luck of the Tzigana.

"It is astonishing how jealous the mammas are," said the Baroness, gayly. "They will make me pay dearly for having been the matchmaker; but I am proud of it, very proud. Zilah has good taste, that is all. And, as for him, I should have been in love with him myself, if I had not had my guests to attend to. Ah, society is as absorbing as a husband!"

Upon the boat, Paul Jacquemin did not leave the side of the matchmaker. He followed her everywhere. He had still to obtain a description of the bride’s toilettes, the genealogy of General Vogotzine, a sketch of the bridegroom’s best friend, Varhely, and a thousand other details.

"Where will the wedding take place?" he asked the Baroness.

"At Maisons-Lafitte. Oh! everything is perfect, my dear Jacquemin, perfect! An idyl! All the arrangements are exquisite, exquisite! I only wish that you had charge of the supper."

Jacquemin, general overseer of the Baroness’s parties in the Rue Murillo, did not confess himself inferior to any one as an epicure. He would taste the wines, with the air of a connoisseur, holding his glass up to the light, while the liquor caressed his palate, and shutting his eyes as if more thoroughly to decide upon its merits.

"Pomard!" would slowly fall from his lips, or "Acceptable Musigny!" "This Chambertin is really very fair!" "The Chateau Yquem is not half bad!" etc., etc. And the next morning would appear in the reports, which he wrote himself under various pseudonyms: "Our compliments to our friend Jacquemin, if he had anything to do with the selection of the wines, in addition to directing the rehearsals of the Baroness’s operetta, which latter work he most skilfully accomplished. Jacquemin possesses talents of all kinds; he knows how to make the best of all materials. As the proverb says, ’A good mill makes everything flour.’"

Jacquemin had already cast an eye over the menu of the Prince’s fete, and declared it excellent, very correct, very pure.


The steamer was at last ready to depart, and Prince Zilah had done the honors to all his guests. It started slowly off, the flags waving coquettishly in the breeze, while the Tzigani musicians played with spirit the vibrating notes of the March of Rakoczy, that triumphant air celebrating the betrothal of Zilah, as it had long ago saluted the burial of his father.


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Chicago: Jules Claretie, "Chapter IX O Liberty! O Love! These Two I Need!," Prince Zilah— Complete, ed. Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896 and trans. Gardiner, Laetitia Jane in Prince Zilah—Complete Original Sources, accessed July 14, 2024,

MLA: Claretie, Jules. "Chapter IX "O Liberty! O Love! These Two I Need!"." Prince Zilah— Complete, edited by Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896, and translated by Gardiner, Laetitia Jane, in Prince Zilah—Complete, Original Sources. 14 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Claretie, J, 'Chapter IX "O Liberty! O Love! These Two I Need!"' in Prince Zilah— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in , Prince Zilah—Complete. Original Sources, retrieved 14 July 2024, from