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We join Rudolf in Chapter 21 ("Last Will and Testament") arriving at the Castle, the scene of so many good times, but alas, now all the world's an empty stage where Fanny laughed and Fanny played. You thought we were done with Bobby Goldsboro, didn't you?

As they were passing through the suite of rooms, Squire John suddenly stopped Rudolf, and said—

"Look! in this room I heard her laugh for the last time. On that chair yonder she lost her shawl—it is there still. On that table is a pair of gloves, the last she ever wore. Here she used to sit when she sketched. There's the piano, still open—a fantasia lies, you see, on the music-stand. If she should come back again, eh?"

And now he opened the door of a room illuminated by candles—Rudolf shrunk back.

"Old friend, that's not a fit place to enter. Surely you have lost yourself in your own house! That is your wife's bedroom."

"I know, but I can never pass it without going in. And now I mean to have a last look at it, for to-morrow I shall have it walled up. Look, everything remains just as she left it. She did not die in this room—don't be alarmed! That door yonder leads to the garden. Look, everything is in its old place—there the lamp by which she used to read, on the table a half-written letter, which nobody has read. A hundred times have I entered the room, and not a word of that letter have I read. To me it is holy. In front of the bed are her two little embroidered slippers, so tiny that they look as if they had been made for a child. On the table is an open prayer-book, between the open leaves of which are an iris and an amaranth and a maple leaf. She greatly loved those flowers."

"Let us go away from hence, let us go away," urged Rudolf. "It pains me to hear you talk so."

"It pains you, eh?—it does me good. I have sat here for days together, and have called to mind every word she said. I see her before me everywhere, asleep, awake, smiling, sorrowful—I see her resting her pretty head on the pillows, I see her sleeping, I see her dying——"

"Oh! come, come away!"

"We will go, Rudolf. And I shall never come back again. To-morrow a smooth wall will be here in the place of the door, and iron shutters will cover all the windows. I feel that I ought not to seek her here any more. Elsewhere, elsewhere I will seek her: we will dwell together in another room. Let us go, let us go!"

And smilingly, without a tear, like one who is preparing for his bridal day, he quitted the room, casting one more look around upon it from the threshold, and a dumb kiss into the darkness, as if he were taking leave for a last time of a beloved object visible only to himself. (pp. 345-6)

There were times as a teenager that my parents wanted to wall off my room. Preferably with me still inside. But I digress.

Anyway, Rudolf's presence was required because John Kárpáthy has become convinced that he will die very soon and would like to get his will in order with Rudolf his executor. When they enter the library, the witnesses are already in place: the local notary (the local in a country where it seems like every third person has taken the notary exam, that struck me in an interesting place), the parish priest, estate agent Peter Varga, and Mike Kis. (Remember Mike Kis? Remember when I thought Mike Kis would actually figure into this story a whole lot more than he actually did? Well, here he is again...)

First, a few memorial funds to set up: 50,000 florins to maintain the garden and keep it planted with the irises and amaranths which Fanny dearly loved, 10,000 florins to maintain a conservatory in her honor by the maple tree at the Castle of Madaras (don't think that both of those didn't make Rudolf squirm inwardly), and 50,000 for a fund that deserves to be covered a bit more in depth:

"Furthermore," pursued Squire John, "I bequeath 50,000 florins to form a fund for dowering girls of good behaviour on their marriage. On every anniversary of the day on which my unforgettable wife fell asleep, all the young maids on my estate shall meet together in the church to pray to God for the souls of those that have died; then the three among these virgins whom the priest shall judge to be the most meritorious shall be presented with bridal wreaths in the presence of the congregation, and the sum of money set apart for them; and then they shall proceed to the tomb and deck it with flowers, and pray that God may make her who lies there happier in the other world than she was in this. And that is my desire." (p. 348)

We then move on to the funeral arrangements, and John declares that he wants the same service his Fanny received, from the same participants. He even has his casket at the ready and has taken to sleeping in it, just to get used to the idea. We can only assume he isn't going to be buried in the casket.

As to the disposition of his baby boy, John realizes that Abellino, as his closest living relative, would usually have first dibs on guardianship of Zoltán. He also realizes letting that happen would be an epic disasterpiece, so he chose a man in whom he recognizes as representing the type of man he'd want his son to be as an adult: Count Rudolf Szentirmay. "'She' also wished it."

And while we're thinking of our favorite black sheep...

"And now," continued the Nabob, "a word or two concerning him who was the cause of the bitterest moments of my life. I mean my nephew, who was christened Bélá, but who calls himself Abellino. I will not reckon up the sins he has committed against God, his country, and myself. God and his country forgive him, as I have forgiven him; but I should be a liar and a hypocrite before God if I said, at this hour, that I loved him. I feel as cold towards him as towards one whom I have never seen. And now he is reduced to the beggar's staff; now he has more debts than the hairs of his head. What will become of him? He cannot work—he has never earned a penny; he has never learnt anything: he is bankrupt both in body and mind. He is not likely to take his own life, for libertines do not readily become suicides. And far be the thought of such a thing from him. I desire it not. Let him live. Let him have time to turn to God! Nor do I wish him to be a beggar, to feel want, to beg his bread at other men's doors. I order, therefore, that my agent at Pest shall pay him a gold ducat down every day. I fancy that will be quite enough to keep anybody from suffering want. But this ducat he himself must come and fetch day by day, and it must be paid to nobody but himself personally. But every time he fails to come for such ducat it shall be forfeited to the lawyer, and it must in no case be attached for debt, or paid to him in advance. But every time my birthday, John Baptist's Day, comes round, he shall receive a lump sum of one hundred ducats down extra. It is my wish that he should rejoice beforehand at the coming of that day every year, and that he should thus remember me from year to year. (pp. 352-3)

Good ol' Master John, generous in his final victory, but not to the point that he won't twist the knife just a bit. Abellino'll choke on that for sure. Not that I doubt he'll collect every bit of it, too...

And that leaves the assembled: Mike Kis gets John's favorite horse and hunting dog, Rudolf will be the manager of the estate in addition to his guardianship of the estate's heir, and Peter Varga gets the Lapayi property, the servant Paul, and (oh dear) Vidra the jester. Maybe after the funeral Varga could trade Vidra for the dog. Depends on which is better housebroken, I suppose.

With that, the document is signed and sealed, and the group heads to the cradle.

"In no very long time, I shall see the happier country face to face. If you hear that I am sick, say no prayers in church for my recovery,—it would be useless; pray rather for my new life. And now let us go to my son."

"To my son!" What feeling, what pathos was in that one phrase: "To my son!"

All who were present followed him, and surrounded the child's cradle. The little thing looked gravely at all those serious manly faces, as if it also would have made one of them. The squire lifted him in his arms. The child looked at him with such big wise eyes, as if he were taking it all in; and the old man kissed his little lips again and again.

Then he was passed round among all the other old fellows, and he looked at them all so gravely, as if he knew very well that they were all of them honourable men; but when Rudolf took him in his arms the child began to kick and crow, and fight with his little hands, and make a great fuss, as children are wont to do when they are in a good humour—who knows why?—and Rudolf kissed the child's forehead.

"How glad he is," said the Nabob, "just as if he knew that from henceforth you will be his father."

A few hours later the whole company sat down to supper.

They noticed that the Squire ate and drank nothing, but he explained that, after taking the holy bread and wine, he would not sit down to ordinary food, and meant to eat nothing till the morrow.

And the old servant waiting upon them whispered to Rudolf that his master had not touched a thing since yesterday evening. (pp. 354-5)
And that is what some people would call a bad sign. Especially with only three pages left in the story.

If there was any doubt, Chapter 22 ("The Leave-Taking") yanks it away without delay.

Towards midnight a great hubbub arose in the castle, and servants began rushing up and down stairs. Rudolf, who was still half dressed, went out into the corridor, and came face to face with old Paul.

"What is the matter?" said he.

The old servant would have spoken, but his lips were sealed; he shivered convulsively, like one who would fain cry and cannot. At last he came out with it, and there were tears on his cheek and in his eyes—

"He is dead!"

"Impossible!" cried Rudolf; and he hastened to the Squire's bedroom.

There lay the Nabob with closed eyes, his hands folded across his breast, in front of him his wife's portrait that he might gaze upon it to the last. That countenance looked so venerable after death, it seemed to have been purified from all disturbing passions, only the old ancestral dignity was visible in every feature.

He had died so quietly that even the faithful old servant, who slept in the same room with him, had not been aware of it: only when, struck by the extraordinary stillness, he had gone to see if his master wanted anything, did he perceive that he was dead.

Rudolf at once sent for the doctor, although one glance at the quiet face assured him that there was no need of doctors here. (pp. 356-7)

Since everything was ready for the funeral, they got right to it, and none of Master John's old friends shirked their obligation for final respects.

A tremendous crowd followed the coffin to the grave. The most eminent men in the kingdom carried torches before it, the most distinguished ladies in the land were among the mourners that followed after it. Custom demanded that the heir, the eldest son, should accompany his father's coffin. But as the heir was only six months old, he had to be carried, and it was Lady Szentirmay who carried him in her bosom. And every one who saw it maintained that she embraced and protected the child as tenderly as if she were really its mother.

Happy child!

The good old Nabob was committed to his last resting-place by the selfsame priest who had spoken such consolatory words over the body of his wife. There was much weeping, but the one who wept the most was the priest himself, who ought to have comforted the others.

Then they lowered him down into those silent mansions where the dead have their habitation, and they laid him by the side of his departed wife as he had desired. The last hymns sounded so ghostly down in the vault there as the wailing chant ascended up through the earth, even those who wept made haste to depart from thence and get into the light of day once more. And the heavy iron door clanged thunderously on its hinges behind them.

And the Nabob? Ah, now he is happy indeed, happy for evermore! (pp. 357-8)

Not much to add to that. The ending's a little bit maudlin, but when you close with a funeral, that's kind of hard to avoid.

Next: final thoughts, gripes, and nagging questions.


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