Eugene Schuyler.

Selected essays; with a memoir by Evelyn Schuyler Schaeffer online

. (page 18 of 21)
Online LibraryEugene SchuylerSelected essays; with a memoir by Evelyn Schuyler Schaeffer → online text (page 18 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

zled by the bright light of the conflagration; and
was seized by the hand of a faithful servant. ' Get
up, Andria,' he cried to me, ' we have no time to
lose; the long-beards are near.' The long-beards
were the Turks — so we called them. I was always
afraid of them — they were terrible, and came often
to our town to kill and plunder, and I rose instantly.
The servant took me in his arms. I heard fearful
noises everywhere about me. My mother came
into the room very much agitated and excited, and
wished to see me. At the same moment we heard
the firing of muskets quite close to us. One of the
doors was burst open; smoke and sparks flew all
about us, and a gang of fierce-looking Turks
rushed into the room. They swung around their
heads their swords, which glittered like reddish
flame, and, shouting terribly, threatened to kill and
massacre all of us. The servant, in his fright, let
me fall to the ground; and I rolled under some fur-
niture and crept off as far as I could get. But I
could see how he fell a victim to his fidelity, in the
attempt to save me, by the cruel hands of the
Turks. I could also see — oh, horror — how they
caught my mother, how they took her by the hair
and cut her to pieces. When this was done they
left the place. This bloody scene remained deeply
engraved on my mind; so that even now, after



many years, I see these horrible details again en-
acted. I remained alive among the dead; but felt,
after a while, that I was taken up and carried into
the street. They washed my face, which was
covered with blood, put me on a cart, and off we
went in great haste, as fast as the horses could run.
We saw all round us villages in a blaze, and peo-
ple and cattle running in all directions. From
time to time we met many carts, and people laden
with their property, going along our road to the
Shumadia forest. When we reached the forest we
were warmly received, with joyful acclamations.
They took me down from the cart, and passed me
about from one to another. All were surprised
that I had survived, and covered me with kisses.
My man — the same who brought me here — took
me into his arms, carried me into a tent, and told
me to lie down and rest. He told me that his
name was Yefrem Nadustratz (one who has lost all
hope), that he was a servant of our family, and that
he had saved me out of gratitude to my father, his
master. The people called me Andria Obilitch.
They afterwards built houses and shelters, and my
servant and preserver also built a house. He was
clever in healing horses, and lived well, and I often
travelled about with him. When I was about
twelve years old, I went with him to Sokol; and as
we came back, he said : ' We will pass now on the
Belgrade road, so that you may see where your
father hved. Do you see yonder that half-ruined
tower, and the ruins of buildings?' 'Yes, I see.'



' That was where your father Lazar lived. He was
a prince of the Serbian land, and a famous and
highly esteemed lord. All of your family were
greatly respected. But they were all killed by the
Turks, who carried ofif great treasures. You are
now the only surviving member of your famous
race. I saved you when Shabatz was burned.
The Shumadia Castle alone remains in the posses-
sion of your family; but, you see, it is worth noth-
ing now. The Turks killed every living soul, and
burned down all the villages, and it will be worth
nothing during your lifetime.' "

The castle of Sokol is now a picturesque ruin —
like so many others in Serbia — which gives a great
idea of the power and wealth of its former owners.
The general effect of all of them is occidental
rather than oriental. The old nobility of Serbia,
as well as of Bulgaria and Greece, were either ex-
terminated by the Turks, or reduced to peasantry
by being stripped of their lands. In Bosnia, on the
other hand, the nobles saved their estates by turn-
ing Mohammedan. They are still fanatical Mus-
sulmans; but they speak Serbian and rarely Turk-
ish, retain their family names, and use coats of

The remaining part of the story was on the miss-
ing sheets, and has to be filled in from the family

traditions told by August Boyne to the Minister.



There was, however, a copy of the notes from the
old Bible, about the descendants of Andria Obi-
litch; by which it may be seen that one of his sons,
Frederic, was born in Brandenburg on May 7,
1744; that Frederic's son, John, was born on June
12, 1784; and that John's son August — the man in
question — was born in Chemnitz on August 5,

The accuracy of names in this document and its
general air of historic truth make it curious and in-
teresting. Mr. Miyatovitch believes it genuine,
and has published it as throwing light on the popu-
lar rising against the Turks in 1704. One might,
perhaps, account for the character of the story by
supposing it to be a romance invented by some
soldier who had served in the army of Prince
Eugene, when he besieged and took Belgrade, in
171 7. This, however, could not be the case if we
are to accept the family history as handed down
and related by Boyne.

According to the oral account Andria lived in
this way for some time longer; until Yefrem, feel-
ing himself infirm, said to the boy : " I shall die
soon, and you will be left alone to live as you can.
If it is possible, escape across the river away from
the Turks, so that your life may be preserved; and
perhaps your descendants may some time come



back, and get again the lands and property of your
family." Later on Yefrem, after swearing the boy
solemnly to secrecy, took him to the ruined castle;
made him observe carefully, and try to remember
certain signs and landmarks; and finally led him
through subterranean passages of great length into
a vaulted room, where the goods and treasures of
Andria's father were heaped up. There were, he
said, many splendidly ornamented oriental arms,
and weapons of excellent workmanship, books and
documents, deeds and diplomas, rich drinking-
cups, and many utensils of gold and silver, mosaics
and enamelled trinkets, medals and money, and
strong chests full of valuables. It was impossible
to take anything away, from fear of the Turks.
Besides this, Yefrem felt that it was a solemn trust
which he had no right to deliver up to the boy.
He allowed him, however, to take one ancient coin
in order to impress the secret on his mind.

Soon after this — it must have been about the
time that the Austrians were besieging Belgrade —
Yefrem found a means of escaping from the coun-
try with Andria; and in search of some honest
and honourable employment they made their way
through the Slavonic-speaking countries to Silesia.
Yefrem died, and Andria took service with a great
landed proprietor. Here he fell in love with a



pretty peasant-girl, who was born on the estate,
and was consequently the serf of the lord of the
manor. For that, or for some other reason, he
was not allowed to marry her; but he gave her the
old coin which he had brought from the vault and
had carefully kept. One day the lord, his master,
played cards with a German baron, and, among
other stakes, lost the girl who was Andria's sweet-
heart. Andria, in a frenzy of anger and despair,
tried to kill the baron; but, mistaking the man,
killed one of his attendants. For this he was
obliged to run away and hide himself; and, meet-
ing some recruiting sergeant, he was enlisted in the
body-guard of the King of Prussia. He was then
about twenty-two years old. One day, many years
after, when there was a festivity at court, and
Andria was on guard at the door of the ball-room,
a fine lady passed on the arm of a gentleman; and
by some accident dropped her bracelet. Andria
picked it up, and even in its setting of jewels recog-
nized the coin; then, raising his eyes as much as he
dared, he recognized the girl he had once loved.
She had married, it seems, an officer who had be-
come a great general, and she was then a fine lady.
The gentleman who was with her admired the coin,
which seemed curious and rare, and had an inscrip-
tion in an unknown language; and the King, send-



ing for the director of his numismatic collection,
asked him if such a piece existed in his cabinet.
The director replied that he had recently bought
a similar one at Venice.

It must be remarked here that Venice had in
the Middle Ages an active commerce with the
whole Balkan Peninsula, and that the Venetian
coins served as models for the old Serbian money.
About all this August Boyne knew nothing, and
when he first told the story to the Minister had
never seen any old Serbian gold coins, which are
extremely rare.

As time went on Andria prospered; the King,
who had taken a fancy to him, helped him; and he
was able to build a house with the right to convert
it into an inn. This he did when he had grown
too old to be of use in active service; and, as
he often told his guests stories about fights in Ser-
bia, to which he gave the name of boyne or voyne
(in Serbian boy or voy means a fight, and voyna
war), they came to call the house the Boyne Inn —
Gasthaus zum Boyne — and he and his descendants
adopted it as a surname. The de Lazar was evi-
dently an attempt at translating Lazarevitch, the
son of Lazar, the patronymic which Andria had
from his father — Andria Lazarevitch Obilitch —

and had nothing to do with the old King Lazar.



About the life of Andria's son and grandson I
know nothing, nor why one of them went to Sax-
ony; nor did the Minister remember that August
Boyne had told him anything in particular about
his life up to the age of thirty, when he emigrated
to America. I must return to his appearance in

As I have said, the Minister at first tried to dis-
suade Boyne from what he considered a useless and
absurd undertaking; and, when he found this of no
avail, advised him to search especially near Shabatz
and in that region; where he knew, as a historian,
that the Obilitch family had possessed lands.
Boyne spent a whole year in that part of the coun-
try, and then began to explore the districts of
Morava and Kraguyevatz. He occasionally re-
turned to Belgrade; and the Minister, who had be-
come more and more interested in him and had
been greatly impressed by his straightforwardness,
his earnestness, and his simple piety, assisted him
from time to time with food, linen, clothes, and
even money. Boyne had gradually learned a little
Serbian, and wherever he went tried to do good to
the people about him; leaving a most favourable
opinion of him on all with whom he had to do.
What particularly struck my friend the Minister
was that he generally prayed aloud, and that his



prayers were extemporised, and suited to particular
circumstances. " I was deeply touched," the Min-
ister said, " when he prayed for Serbia, the Prince,
the whole Serbian nation; and specially for the
children of this nation who frequent the schools,
upon whom he implored the Almighty's blessing.
At the time when he asked for the concession, and
permission to search for the treasure, he said that
he would spend it entirely on the construction of a
Serbian railway, and that he would not carry out
of the country a single farthing. But later he
changed his mind and said : ' It is nearly two years
that I live in this country among the Serbians; and
I see that the nation is not pious and has forgotten
God and His goodness to men : and so, if I find my
treasure, I wish with the money to build many good
schools to teach children the fear of the Lord, and
to educate them in the love of their neighbours.' "
In May, 1876, Boyne was full of hope, and said
that he had found certain signs on an old ruined
castle not far from Kragiiyevatz. He came again
to Belgrade in June during a period of great heat,
on foot and utterly destitute; and was almost im-
mediately taken ill. The Minister was absent at
the time; but a lady went to see him in the wretched
cottage where he had found a lodging, and provid-
ed him with linen and other necessaries. This



friend on a later visit found that everything had
been stolen from him in the weak state in which he
was; and therefore had him transferred to the hos-
pital. He was accompanied at this time by an ill-
looking man, whose acquaintance he had some-
where made, and whom he had engaged to help
him in his work. When the Minister returned to
Belgrade he went to see poor Boyne, and found
him dying. He expired on the morning of August
3, 1876, and was buried among the poor in the
highest spot of the cemetery of Belgrade, whence
there is a lovely view over the Danube. The body
of this unknown and friendless American, the pos-
sible descendant — and the last — of the hero King
Lazar, was followed to the grave by one mourner
only — the Serbian Prime Minister. The face of
the poor man after death took on such a Serbian
type that the Minister took the trouble of having
him photographed. His death was doubtless due
to fever brought on by overwork and exhaustion;
but the lady, with whom I have talked, felt sure
that he had been poisoned. What supported her
in this theory was that the man whom he had taken
as his assistant had disappeared; carrying with him
most of the papers, notes, and the various small
objects that belonged to him.
Seven or eight years after this I met in Athens


Mr. Arthur J. Evans, now keeper of the Ashmolean
Museum at Oxford, with his wife — a daughter of
Mr. E. A. Freeman, the historian — ^who had come
from a journey in Macedonia. At Prishtina, or
somewhere near there, Mr. Evans had bought some
fine old Serbian gold coins from a man who, al-
though he seemed to have a large quantity of them,
would only show them one by one, behaved very
mysteriously and suspiciously, and then disap-
peared. Some of these coins were unique; of
others only one or two specimens were known to
exist. I told him the story of poor August Boyne,
and he agreed with me in thinking that possibly at
least a part of the Obilitch treasure had been




That evening we were playing whist at the Gov-
ernor's house, as we had the habit of doing two or
three times a week. I had as partner my French
colleague, M. Dorat, still a young man, who had
arrived in the island as consul two or three months
before. I had not seen very much of him, for it
was the season of the year when we old fellows feel
disinclined to much movement; with the excep-
tion of an occasional outing in a boat, or on a don-
key, I had confined myself chiefly to my books and
my garden. With most of us our gardens were
great sources of amusement and delight. There
was always a pleasurable excitement when a new
package of seeds arrived from Europe — for every-
thing grew so well and fast; and many were the
tin-boxes of bulbs and plants imported in the gen-
erally vain hope that something new might possibly
be found. No one was contented with the produc-
tions of the island; we all wanted something dif-

1 This story appeared in Scribner's Magazine under the nom de plume
of John Pierson, and was the only fiction ever published by Mr.
Schuyler. *' The Minnesota Heir of a Serbian King " is a true story.


ferent. Each had his own little fad, and mine was
to reproduce, in this tropical country, an old-fash-
ioned English garden, with its hollyhocks and lark-
spurs, its columbines and daffodils, its lavender and
rosemary and sweet-scented shrubs and herbs. Do-
rat had not been there long enough, we thought,
to catch the prevjiiling taste; his garden, which
was large, and in the time of his predecessor had
been very fine, was now neglected and had gone
to waste; and if he occasionally put into it some
wild plant which he had found, it was only for his
experiments on the food and ways of Hfe of the
insects which he was always collecting and study-
ing. He had also a pronounced taste for ornithol-
ogy, and for natural history of every kind; and, in
pursuit of specimens, accompanied by an old native
whom he had somewhere picked up, made constant
excursions — often for days at a time — into the
swampy and little known interior of the island.

Just behind my chair was standing a young
English officer, named Furniss, apparently a family
connection of the Governor — at all events, a mem-
ber of his official and personal household — who had
arrived by the last steamer. He was waiting for
the end of the rubber to take a hand, and while the
cards were being dealt was asking some questions
about the methods of travelling, and announcing



his intention of making some botanical excursions.
One or two things struck me in what he said, and,
looking over my shoulder, I jestingly remarked,
" So you are going to look for Humm's Simcea."
As I turned back I intercepted such a look, seem-
ingly of hatred, from beneath the dark brows and
lashes of my partner that I almost dropped the
cards I was dealing. There was something which
made me feel thoroughly uneasy. Furniss had
started a topic to which my chance remark had
given more interest; and, after we had begun to
play, the conversation still went on behind my back.
Although my partner kept control of his game, and
made no mistakes, I could see that he was listen-
ing to every word that Furniss said, and closely
watching every movement that he made. I grew
more and more nervous, till at last I could stand
it no longer, and called out, rather abruptly, as
others thought : " My dear Furniss, if you keep on
looking at my cards and talking of botany at the
same time I shall think each trick a new and rare
species and shall lose all the points." Furniss, some-
what ofifended at my tone, walked away from the

When the rubber was over Dorat withdrew, by
rights, and I refused to play longer, which was mis-
interpreted by some of the party, as was also a



whispered remark of mine to Furniss in passing,
which was overheard by someone, that I would see
him again later. I went into the other room, to a
balcony overlooking the sea, and lighted a cigar,
while reflecting on what course I ought to pursue.
The fact is that a German botanist named Humm
had discovered in this island a plant which pos-
sessed singular curative virtues, used among the
natives, but the existence of which they carefully
concealed. Medically — as Humm had shown by
experiments — it was as important as cinchona or
condurango, or the more recently introduced coca.
Humm had brought away a sufficient amount of the
drug for it to be thoroughly tested in European
laboratories and hospitals; but the plant had never
been found again. One academy after another had
offered prizes for its discovery, which in the aggre-
gate then amounted to a large sum — a sum sufifi-
cient to encourage an enterprising man to encoun-
ter great risks in its search. It was evident from
what Furniss said that he had come out to look for
it; hoping that his connections and his official posi-
tion would enable him to conduct his explorations
more easily and more thoroughly than those who
had gone before him. Several had already visited
the island for this purpose; but they had either fallen

victims to the climate, or had given up the quest



in despair, in consequence of the difficulties put in
their way by the natives. It was equally plain to
me, from his conduct at the card-table, that Dorat
had come out for the same purpose; although he
had so far concealed his plans and his interest in
plants, in order to blind the eyes of the English.
He had the advantage of being in better relations
with the natives, because French prestige and
French influence are persistent in any place which
has once been under French rule; and the only
foreign words which the natives used were also
French. Although the English have held the isl-
and for a long time they hold it simply as con-
querors, and have never succeeded in identifying
themselves with the people.

I had not been smoking long before I was joined
by Dorat, who was evidently looking for me. With
great politeness and delicacy he offered me his ser-
vices as to a colleague in difficulties; and, when
he saw my look of astonishment, in answer to my
questions told me that everybody believed that I
was to have a duel with Furniss. English customs,
we see — especially on such points — were not yet
predominant in the island; and duels were not yet
uncommon, although they were generally innocu-
ous. I of course thanked him for his kindness, and
promised to call on him if I stood in need of a



friend; but explained that between an old, irritable
fellow like myself, and a young man like Fumiss,
there would probably be no difificulty which could
not be settled with an explanation, or, if need be,
with an apology. The talk passed on to other
things, when suddenly Dorat asked, " How did you
come to mention the Simoea Hummii? "

" Oh! " I said, " that is an old idea of mine; I
thought of looking for it when I first came; so
that I naturally suspect every fresh man of the same

" And you never did look for it? "

" No, I was always naturally indolent; I broke
my ankle a week after I arrived; that and the heat
and malaria, and the bother of travelling in the in-
terior have kept me quiet. But I have never lost
a Platonic interest in it, and if you find it I shall
congratulate you heartily."

" But why should I look for it? "

" In the first place, my dear colleague, why
should you mention it at all, if it were of no in-
terest to you? And, secondly, you must know as
well as I do that very large rewards are offered for
finding it, with which will follow a wide scientific
fame. Why shouldn't you find it? You are young
and vigorous; being French, you have influence

with the natives; you already, if I mistake not,



speak something of their language; you make fre-
quent shooting excursions into the interior; and
you can perfectly well make botanical experiments
in your neglected garden at the consulate. The
spirit of old Hume would, I am sure, be delighted
if you should carry out his beneficent intentions."

"You call him Hume; do you mean Humm?"

" Yes, the last was his German name; but when
he got naturalized in America he was so laughed
at on account of his name that he changed it to

" You knew him, then? "

" Yes, I met him first when I was quite a boy,
when I joined a scientific party to the Rocky Moun-
tains, and, as I had been a comrade of Eaton and
Brewer, was much interested in botany. We got
to be very good friends then; but I had almost for-
gotten about him until I met him again when I
was vice-consul at Tripoli. He had come there to
study assafoetida and laserpitium and other precious
plants which the ancients obtained from that region.
I was able to lodge him in my house, and we re-
newed our old acquaintance; you know he died
there, or, rather, in the interior; but he left me his
papers, and — well, come and breakfast with me to-
morrow, about twelve, and I will show you some-
thing that will interest you."



Throwing away the end of my cigar I went back
to the drawing-room, and finally found Furniss —
to whom I at once apologized for my brusque lan-
guage — and asked him, if he did not mind my limp,
to walk home with me, as I had something to tell
him. He readily consented, and as soon as we
could get away we walked down the quiet tree-lined
street until we reached my garden. Then I per-
suaded him to sit awhile with me in the veranda,
where I knew that we could not be overheard. My
faithful servant brought us out narghilehs, for this
souvenir of my life in Asia and Africa still clings
to me; the broad-leaved plants looked fantastic in
the moonlight, and we were glad to neutralise the
strong, heavy odours with the smoke of our pipes.
The outlook on the garden gradually brought us
to the subject of plants, and, after we had got
warmed up on this topic, with the help of a glass
or two of good old Madeira, I told him that I had
overheard enough of his conversation to make me
understand that he had come out expressly to find
the lost plant. He frankly admitted his purpose,
without the slightest hesitation; and gradually was

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21

Online LibraryEugene SchuylerSelected essays; with a memoir by Evelyn Schuyler Schaeffer → online text (page 18 of 21)