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Well damn, with Abellino laying low, there's nobody to react to. For the next few chapters, we'll obviously have to settle for character moments.

When we left Fanny, she was giddy about finally shaking her would-be despoiler off her trail, presumably forever. With Chapter 10 ("Poor Lady!"), the truth of the new Madame Kárpáthy's situation sinks in: people won't automatically accept the young bride of a crazy old loon, especially a woman that's the youngest in a line of whores. Go figure. Anyway, the crux of the situation is that Fanny was lonely, so when Mr. Varga, the steward, arrived with a list of guests for the housewarming party, she asked him for a bit of fatherly advice.

"My dear Mr. Varga, pardon me if I trouble you with a question."

Mr. Varga hastened to assure her that he was her most humble servant, and only awaited her commands.

"But this question is very, very important."

Mr. Varga assured her that he was ready for anything in the world; even if her ladyship should require him to leap through the window, he was prepared to do so.

"I am going to ask you a question, to which I require a perfectly sincere answer. You must be perfectly frank towards me. Fancy yourself for the moment my dear father, about to give to me, your daughter, good counsel on the eve of my entering into the world."

She said these words with so much feeling, and in a voice that seemed to come so directly from the bottom of her heart, that Mr. Varga, for the life of him, could not help drawing from the inside pocket of his dolman a checkered cotton pocket-handkerchief, with which he dried his eyes.

"What is it your ladyship deigns to command?" he inquired, in a voice that sounded as if every syllable he uttered were shod with as tight jackboots as the ones he was himself wearing.

"I want you to be so good as to go through all the names written on this list, one by one, and tell me quite frankly, quite openly, what your opinion is of each one of them, what their dispositions are, how the world regards them, which of them are likely to love one, and which are likely to give one the cold shoulder."

In all his life Mr. Varga had never had to face so rigorous an ordeal.

If Lady Kárpáthy had charged him to call out five or six of the persons who were down on the list, or take a message to each one of them individually and to go on foot, or to work out the genealogy of every one of them in the shortest conceivable space of time, he would have considered all such commissions as mere trifles compared with what was required of him now. What! he, the humblest of retainers in his own estimation, who regarded with such boundless respect every member of the higher circles that he would have considered himself the most miserable of men had he failed, in addressing them, to give them every tittle of their proper titles and designations—he, forsooth, was now to sit in judgment on these great gentlemen and ladies who did him too much honour in allowing him to address them at all?

In his despair Mr. Varga scoured the floor with his heel, and his forehead with the checkered handkerchief. (pp. 245-6)

Giving into her tender entreaties--he had a daughter like her once--he goes down the list to eliminate the unsuitable candidates...and finds to his growing alarm that he has eliminated nearly all the names. The last one, however, is the easy winner.

"Look, my lady!" said he, extending the list towards her. "This admirable lady is certainly one of those in whom your ladyship can repose your confidence without running the risk of being deceived."

Fanny read the name indicated—"Flora Eszéky Szentirmay."

"What is this lady like?" she inquired of the old man.

"Verily, I should have need of very great eloquence to describe her to you worthily. She is rich in all the virtues one looks for in a woman. Gentleness and prudence go hand in hand with her. The oppressed and downtrodden find in her a secret protector; for she does her good deeds in secret, and forbids grateful tongues to talk about her. Not only is it the hungry, the naked, the sick, and the wretched among whom she distributes bread, garments, medicine, and kind words, who know what a good heart she has; not only is it those under legal sentence, for whom she pleads compassionately in high places: her benevolence goes much further than all that; for she takes the part of those who are spiritually poor and wretched, those whom the world condemns, poor betrayed girls who have tripped into endless misery, poor women bending beneath the crosses of a hard domestic life; and they all find in her a friend, a defender who can get to the bottom of their hearts. Pardon me for presuming so far. I know right well that there are many other exalted personages who also do a great deal of good to the poor; but they seem only to take thought for the bodily wants of the destitute, whereas this lady cares for their spiritual needs as well, and thus it comes about that she frequently finds poor sufferers in need of her assistance, not only in hovels, but in palaces. This lady brings a blessing into every house she enters, and scatters happiness and contentment all round about her. Indeed, I only know of one other lady who is worthy to stand beside her, and nothing would give me greater joy than to see them both at one with each other." (pp. 249-50)

Damn, buddy, what do you really think of her?

With that type of build-up, and the assurance that she's also a married woman of the same age (very happy homelife with the Count), Fanny is all atwitter with anticipation. So of course she's going to coincidentally show up right at that moment. And she has an escort!

How the young lady's heart did beat as footsteps drew nearer and nearer to the door and she heard Kárpáthy cheerfully conversing with some one! And now the door opened, and in there came—not that face, not that figure which Fanny had imagined, but a tall, dry lady of uncertain age, with a false complexion, false teeth, and false eyes, dressed according to the latest fashion. A monstrous hat covered with whole bouquets of flowers, quite shut out the prospect of everything that was behind her back.

Her mantle was thrown back over her shoulders, which gave a martial, amazonic cast to her figure, and this impression was intensified by the low cut of her dress, which allowed one to catch a good glimpse of her scraggy shoulders and projecting breast-bone, an alarming spectacle. She had hands, moreover, of correspondingly extraordinary leanness, embellished, why I cannot tell, by monstrously big swanskin muffs, and as she was unable to move her arms without saying something at the same time, and as she could never speak without laughing, and as whenever she laughed she displayed not only the whole of her upper row of teeth (the best procurable at Dr. Legrieux's, No. 11, Rue Vivienne, Paris), but the whole of her gums as well, she continually kept the attention of whatever company she happened to be in riveted with a horrible fascination on her elbows, her gums, and her breast-bone.

She had come with her niece as a sort of guard of honour, and Flora had sent her on in front while she lingered behind to rally Squire John a little. (pp. 251-2)

And so we meet Dame Marion Szentirmay, who wastes no time in making Fanny feel like the gunk between the jester's toes. Fortunately, for those of us who lost their snob-to-commoner dictionary during their last jaunt on the continent (or at Myrtle Beach), Dr. Jokai included subtitles for the Dame's part of the conversation.

"I must ask your pardon, my dear neighbour," began Dame Marion, in an artificial sort of style, belonging to none of the recognized categories of rhetoric, and which continually suggested the suspicion that the speaker was rolling something about in her mouth which she was too lazy to spit out—"I must ask your pardon, chère voisine—we live, you know, close to the Kárpáthy estate in these parts" (i.e. It belongs neither to you nor to your husband, but to the Kárpáthy family)—"for making so bold as to interrupt you in your occupations" (i.e. I should like to know what you can find to occupy yourself with, forsooth!), "for although, of course, we ought to have waited for Squire John Kárpáthy to have introduced us, in the first instance, to the wife so worthy of his love, which is the regular course" (i.e. Perhaps you don't know that: how could you?), "nevertheless, as we happened to be passing this way" (i.e. Don't imagine we came here on purpose!), "and I have a long-standing legal suit with Squire John Kárpáthy" (i.e. So, you see, you have to thank me and our suit, for our visit; not Countess Rudolf's kindness, as you may perhaps suppose)—"and a pretty old suit it is by this time! for I was young, a mere child, in fact, when it began, ha, ha!—By the way," she continued, flying off at a tangent, "they advised us to put an end to the suit by arranging a match between me and Kárpáthy. I was young then, as I have said—a mere child, ha, ha!—but I would not entertain the idea, ha, ha! I made a mistake, no doubt; for how rich should I not have been now, a good partie, eh!" (i.e. Squire John was already an old man when I was your age; but I did not sell myself for his wealth, as you have done!) "Well, you are a lucky fellow, Kárpáthy, you, at any rate, have nothing to complain of. A wife so worthy of your love as yours is, is a treasure you really do not deserve" (i.e. Don't give yourself airs, you little fool! Don't fancy people praise you for your beauty as if it were a merit! You ought to be ashamed that it is only your beauty that has made a lady of you!).

Here Dame Marion lost for a moment the thread of her discourse, which gave Flora an opportunity of bending over Fanny and whispering in her ear, in a gentle, confidential voice—

"I have long wished to meet you, and have been on the point of coming over every day."

Fanny gratefully pressed her hand. (pp. 253-4)

Master John escorts Dame Marion into the library to go over some fresh details on a never-ending lawsuit between their families, which has been passed down like a pocket watch from generation to generation. And with that impediment out of the way, Fanny (as the best of academics would put it) loses her shit.

"Oh!" sobbed Fanny, "I know that you are the ministering angel of the whole country-side. As soon as I had arrived here, I heard them talking of you, and from what they said I could well picture to myself what you were. You must have already guessed that in me you would find a poor creature, who was also in need of your charity; but the greatness of that benefit only I could know, only I could feel. Say not that it is not so! Permit me to remain in that happy belief! Permit me to go on loving you as I loved you from the first moment I beheld you. Oh, let me hold fast to the thought: here is a blessed being who thinks of me, pities me, and has made me happy!"

"Oh, Fanny!" exclaimed Flora, in a gentle, tremulous voice. She really did pity the woman.

"Oh yes, yes! call me that!" cried Fanny, full of rapture, as she impetuously pressed Flora's hand to her heart. She had never released it for an instant, as if she feared that the moment she let it go the blissful vision would vanish.

By way of guarantee, Flora pressed her beautiful lips to Fanny's forehead, and gently bade her, from henceforth, call her Flora and nothing else. There was to be no more strangeness between them. They were now to be friends, firm friends. (p. 256)

Oh, holy cow. If I was that loquacious when I was edging towards my breakdowns, I'd let it happen more often. Flora decides to stay the week to help plan the housewarming party for the And in the rising list of Things I'm Taking The Wrong Way, we close the chapter with this charming passage (my emphasis, as if you couldn't tell by now):

No sooner had the old wet blanket disappeared than the two young women, in the exuberance of their high spirits, took possession of Squire John, and, singing and dancing, marched him up the stone staircase again into the castle. Squire John himself was in the best of humours; his face beamed, he laughed aloud, and he thought to himself what a fine thing it would have been if both these young women were his daughters and called him father.

The ancient rooms resounded with the hubbub and innocent frolics of these two merry young dames. It had been a long long time since those walls had rung with such a sound as that. (p. 259)
Yes sir, Fanny would've made a fine daughter, but Master John had to settle for marrying her. Since I was an art major in school instead of literature, I automatically flashed to that Frank Zappa song..."If she were my daughter, I'd..." "What would you do, daddy?" And then something about chocolate syrup. Without ice cream. Or bowls. That's just Frank for ya. But now that I've utterly ruined that happy interlude, let's move on to...

...Chapter 11 ("The Female Friend"), where...well, nothing much happens. The main development of note is that Flora, as advertised, really is the key that opens all doors.
Lady Szentirmay gained her object. Her week's residence at Kárpáthy Castle had completely changed Fanny's position in the eyes of the great world. Even the most prejudiced became more favourably disposed towards the woman whom Lady Szentirmay freely admitted to her friendship. The proudest dowagers, who hitherto considered that they would be showing infinite condescension if they appeared at a festival where a ci-devant shopkeeper's daughter would play the part of mistress of the house, now began to think that their condescension might bear a little paring down. Rigorously virtuous ladies, who had doubted within themselves whether it were befitting to bring their youthful daughters to thread the labyrinths full of Eleusianian mysteries at Kárpáthy Castle, now ordered their dresses from the dressmakers without the slightest apprehension. The appearance of Lady Szentirmay was the surest guarantee of virtue and propriety. The mere fact that Fanny had gained Flora's friendship made her own domestics regard her with quite different eyes, and even Squire John himself began to understand what sort of a wife he had won; and so the nimbus of gentility began to shine around her. (p. 260)
The rest of the chapter is nothing more than the two young ladies running through Mr. Varga's list, with Flora, who knows everybody, touching on the good-to-know points of each. Since that's the bulk of the chapter, each description being a nice miniature portrait, I'll just pick a few to stand for the lot.

"Let us proceed. Count Karvay Louis, a true man of the world à la Talleyrand. He observes every one, and is very particular that every one should observe him. He only puts a question to you in order to discover how far you are unable to answer him—it is a positive trap, the consequences of which you cannot possibly foresee. Then he has a trick of sulking for a whole year without saying why; the merest trifle, a letter to him misdirected, is sufficient to upset him till his dying day. If any one comes to see you when he is with you, and this somebody should be lower in rank than himself, and you should sin against the rules of etiquette by rising from your seat instead of merely bowing—Louis will lose his temper, and say that you have insulted him. And yet he will never give any one a hint as to what is likely to offend him and what not."

"Well, let us write under his name, 'a prickly gentleman.'"

"And now comes Count Sárosdy, the főispán. He is a worthy, good-natured man, but a frightful aristocrat. It delights him to do good to the peasants and the poor, but don't ask him to make the acquaintance of his fellow-men. No tenantry in the whole of Hungary is better off than his, but he will not have a non-noble person in his service even as a clerk. You will find he will be a little stiff towards you at first, but fortunately he has a good heart, and there are always keys wherewith to open a good heart. It will be no easy matter to win him over to more liberal sentiments, but if we both combine against him, victory will be assured.

"And now we come to the young originals."

"Oh," said Fanny, "I shall understand that class better than you do! I know more about them already than I like." (p. 264)
You tell 'em, sister. And now, the women. I'm choosing just the one, but boy, is she a keeper.
"First of all comes the wife of the aristocratic főispán. She is a cockered, discontented dame, who has swooned as many times as other women have sighed. You might stand upon burning embers more comfortably than before her; for you may be sure that she will not approve of anything you may say, do, or even think. If any one crosses his legs in her presence, she faints; if a cat strays into the room, she will have convulsions; if a knife is put across a fork, she will not sit down to table; if there are roses outside in the garden, she will perceive the smell through double window-panes, and faint, so that no flowers can be kept in the room where she may happen to be. You must not let anybody in a blue dress sit down at the same table as herself, for that colour is horrible to her, and she has convulsions the moment she sees it. Finally, you will do well to talk of nothing at all in her presence, for the slightest thing is likely to upset her nerves." (p. 265)
Hoo-boy. What do you think plaid would do to her? She'd probably spontaneously combust. Anyway, skipping to the end...
"And is there any one really worth mentioning among so many?" she asked.

"Yes; Dame Marion."


"She is just as you saw her; she is always like that. And it is no affectation, but her natural character."

"Then what is her real character?"

"Well, she is—like the rest of them—a treacherous scandalmonger, with an ill word for every one, who takes a delight in picking out people's most secret faults; but you need not fear her, for she loves you sincerely, and will never betray, disparage, or injure you behind your back. Have you not found that out already?"

Fanny, half-laughing half-weeping, hid her head in her friend's bosom, and embraced her tightly; and then they kissed each other, and laughed at the facility with which they also had fallen into the scandalizing ways of the world. (p. 267)
Awww, ain't dat tweet. It's not just tweet, it's tweety tweet. Excuse me, I suddenly feel the need to test my blood sugar...

NEXT: A party! Fox hunting! Hell, I'd go...


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