This is a novel of bdsm, violence, love and also bad language. You have been warned.
In writing this chapter, I came across the Hungarian Labor Camp, Recsk, that was used very near Eger from 1950-1963. This was a Stalinist prison camp that came into Hungary on the heels of WWII and the Nazis leaving Hungary. The brutality of Stalin was a continuation of Hitler. There were ‘only’ 1500 people in this camp, but many never survived. It is hardly ever talked about in Hungary, in part because of the threats by the Soviet government. However, that is slowly changing and people are holding memorials to the victims.
The De La Motte House (from “The Great Country Houses of Hungary) built around 1773, was a visual inspiration. The influence is obviously French and apparently this was not that unusual for Hungary in the 18th century. Some aristocrats, and others from the French Revolution moved to Budiapest and the Hungarian countryside. The workmen and architect came from Eger, which is only 12 kilometers from Eger. The house had many frescos (based on Roman mythology) that have been carefully restorred. It is now a place for tourists and weddings, etc.
The famous “Bull’s Blood”, a Hungarian wine, comes from this region.
A Kapitany, Chapter 26
Both of them slept late, Vadas waking with a mild hangover. He fell into his bed without thinking of Elizabeth sleeping there. He was too tired to move. The drink and smoke of last night did him in.
In the morning Elizabeth got up before Vadas. She washed in the cold water from a pitcher on a table near a window. Vadas watched her from the bed, playing possum. He liked these moments when he could observe her. It was an intimacy, different from the usual stuff.
This morning Elizabeth moved carefully from the bed half way across the room. She couldn’t pour water into the bowl because of her wrist but dabbed at her face. She removed the Velcro cast and plunged her arm into the pitcher. Vadas wondered if he should rise and pour water for her. He decided against it, mostly because he was too comfortable. He needed more sleep after last night. Watching her was a nice way to begin the day.
Elizabeth pulled her nightgown over her head. She struggled free and threw it into a chair. Naked, she moved to look out a window. The windows were deep and she had to raise herself on toes to see the morning outside. Vadas saw the marks from Alexandra’s caning and the bruises of Miklos’ usage. She was a small woman, and since Miklos raped her, she had lost weight. She became quiet, withdrawn. It began to worry Vadas. Already he could tell she wasn’t eating enough or sleeping well. He heard her turning over in the middle of the night, crying out in pain.
In all his years playing the Dom, he never did what Miklos dared. Some had begged for pain, and that he could give. But there was a tipping point. There were times the woman demanded things of him he didn’t want to do. Choking them until they fainted. Then having to revive them, and quickly. Vadas had done these things. He knew there would come a time he would slip up, something would happen. He didn’t want to chance it now. The risks and thrills weren’t worth it. Perhaps he was growing old, soft, whatever happened to men. He didn’t know. He did know Elizabeth, probably by her innocence, had turned his sexual desires a bit more wholesome. He laughed to himself. Just the usual fucking and sucking. He enjoyed the simple passion of this woman. He was over the extreme. At least, for now. He could continue to tie her up, play with her, flog her, scare her. He liked to scare her; it fed into his power. He hadn’t made her beg, but that would come. Elizabeth was a curious woman. He could work with that.
She would learn her place in the marriage. She would come to know his. She wasn’t used to Hungarian men, but give her a few years. She would learn. That was if he could get her to marry. He was aroused, his cock swelling slightly under the covers. His thoughts and the sight of a fragile- looking Elizabeth were doing the trick. She made him feel young, and God knew he was far from that. No, perhaps it wasn’t so much sex. Perhaps it was just Elizabeth. He had a woman, one to care for. Perhaps that was all he ever wanted. Since Marta died, he hadn’t known many with real intimacy. He went through the motions, but his heart wasn’t in it.
Vadas watched her put on panties and a long skirt. She couldn’t put on a bra, couldn’t reach behind her back, but pulled a loose grey sweater over her head. She bent over and brushed her long hair, braiding it into one loose braid. Vadas smiled. He remembered his mother doing her hair like that. He was very young, but it was one of the things he remembered of her.
The morning sun was not encouraging. Pale, barely breaking through the clouds. It was misting outside, a good day to stay by a low fire. They drank their coffee and Elizabeth pulled a shawl over her shoulders in the hall. She saw Vadas put a gun in his hunting vest and take a handful of ammo from a drawer.
Vadas saw her expression in the mirror over the table. She looked confused.
“Don’t worry, Elizabeth. This is just a precaution. I haven’t been up there in years. There might be raccoons or skunks in the house.” Vadas gave her a broad smile.
“Vadas, you don’t shoot a skunk in the house. Are you crazy? That smell will never go away. You will have to pull it down or you will not be able to go near it for years.”
Vadas laughed. “Ok, then no shooting skunks. What about trespassers?”
“No, you don’t shoot them, either. You order them gone and then you call the police.”
“Ah! So you know Hungarian police, now?” Vadas laughed. The police here didn’t function like those in Budapest. They were slow to respond, and when they did, they wanted bribes on the spot. Not much had changed since the previous regime. Corruption was corruption, inbred in people with some small authority.
They drove to the main road in an old, open Jeep. Vadas turned off to a private, overgrown road. It was at an incline. They climbed a rutty road at least three hundred feet. The gravel of the drive had not been raked for years, now mostly covered in leaves. Twice he had to stop and remove limbs.
Before them was a high stone mortared surround with a large wrought iron gate. There were unicorns on top of the two main pillars, missing their horns.
Vadas got out and unlocked a small gate at one side. Elizabeth went through the gate and passed trees and bushes not trimmed in years. These trees and shrubs had grown up and covered the first floor windows. Even with this neglect, the house was a beauty.
Vadas could see from her expression she was impressed. He had not come up here in years. There were too many sad memories of the short life with Marta.
Elizabeth turned to him, her eyes wide. “This is a chateau! You didn’t tell me it would be so grand.” Elizabeth turned back to the house. There was definitely some French influence in the design.
“Well, I don’t know you would call it a chateau in Hungary, but it is an old house. Come, I have the key.”
Elizabeth counted eight windows on both the first and second floors. There was a small balcony in the middle on the second floor, and double wooden doors at the entrance. Just then the sun peeked out and Elizabeth saw the buttery yellow of the building light up. All over central Europe this color, Schonbrunn, was used. It was a color enriching with age.
“Oh, Vadas, it’s beautiful!”
“Wait until you see the inside, Elizabeth. Perhaps you will have ideas what can be restored?”
He unlocked the front door and Elizabeth passed under his arm into the wide and dark hallway. Vadas turned on his flashlight and told her to stay where she was. He would open the interior shutters and the dusty drapes.
Her eyes were slow to adjust to the darkness, even with the open door behind her. When Vadas came back with his flashlight, he aimed it at the ceiling, fully twenty feet above her. There were frescos of some Roman mythology. As he cast his light around the room, she saw faded frescos on the walls.
“Oh, Vadas! You grew up in this house? What a marvelous childhood you must have had.”
“Good and bad, Elizabeth, like most. Come, we go through this door first. There are a number of reception rooms.”
With the shutters opened and the heavy drapes drawn back, Elizabeth could see the interior. First was a large rectangular room banked with windows on the long side. The floor was parquet made up of dark stars on a lighter background. Frescos on these walls, too, but much faded. Some of the walls looked like the plaster had been gouged out. Elizabeth walked over and touched a wall gently.
“During the war, my parents moved outside of Paris. This house was looted, by soldiers mostly. Some locals joined in the looting. Very few family pieces were recovered after the war, so when they came back, they made do what they could find. We never really knew who destroyed some of these frescos, but we think it was not the soldiers. The Nazis were brutal, but they didn’t usually destroy property like this. They bombed Budapest pretty flat in 1944, so maybe I’m wrong. They went after my father’s laborers from the vineyards. Many were sent to Germany to the forced labor camps. The grapes? They were untended for years before my father could work them. He survived a few years after Recsk in the Matra Hills east of here.”
“What was Recsk, Vadas?”
Vadas looked up at the ceiling as if the answer was floating there. “Recsk, Elizabeth, was a labor camp. This was during Stalin’s time. Officially it was opened in 1950, but it held prisoners after the end of the war. My father was a broken man when he was released. He had worked in a mine all those years. He was considered lucky. He came back. I was too young to take over and by then the Soviets had Hungary in their fist. I spent my early years in Paris with my mother.”
“So no one lived here since the war?”
“Oh, we lived here, came back later right after the war, but our living conditions were greatly changed. Before we had a household staff, laborers for the vines, we had forests to sell timber. After the war? We had nothing except this house tumbling down around our ears.”
These memories had pain for him. “There were times we almost starved. We broke up what furniture we had to warm a room. If it wasn’t for Zoltan’s family and a few others, we would have starved to death.” Vadas laughed. “Zoltan’s father hunted deer on our land and brought us meat. I think our woods fed the whole of Eger after the war. The deer disappeared and we ate what we could find, which wasn’t much. My mother dug up her flower garden and planted cabbage like a peasant woman.”
Vadas moved through the rooms, pointing out the elaborate fireplaces. Some of the marble was missing, and the mantels had been shored up with rough timber. Mirrors had been bashed in, and windows were boarded up, the sashes missing. It was hard to see everything, but the house needed a lot of restoration. For a chateau, it was small, but big enough.
He showed her the first floor, and then led her upstairs to the second. The staircase was a double marble construction, and had wrought iron railings. The central hall was crowned with a fresco on the barreled ceiling. There wasn’t enough light for Elizabeth to make out the theme, but it was from some mythology, probably Roman as in the lower rooms.
They walked through different bedrooms with small closets, which would have been a room for an attending servant. There were no frescos in these rooms, but they did have windows that looked out to the dark mountains. Elizabeth wondered if these were part of the chain of the Matras mountains, where the prison camp Recsk once was.
The landscape outside from the second story view was breathtaking. Elizabeth saw rolling hills, forests, a river in the distance, and what seemed to be once a garden beneath where they were standing. Perhaps this was the flower garden where Vadas’ mother planted cabbage.
Except for the cellar and kitchens, they explored as much as Elizabeth had energy for. She felt tired and asked Vadas if she could lie down somewhere for a few minutes. She hadn’t this much activity since she visited the National Museum, where she had walked for hours. Vadas led her back to the central bedroom, a room at one time of great decoration. The white marble fireplace was rococo in design, though parts of it were missing. There were particular flourishes of Hungarian taste, with what looked like gargoyles flanking each side. They didn’t look French.
Everything in the room had been covered with heavy white sheets. What seemed to be a wardrobe, or armoire, against a long wall, was shrouded with sheeting. A table and individual chairs were covered. The bed was covered, the headboard and footboard, though there was no covering for the plain mattress. It looked old and stained. Elizabeth looked up, and there in the plaster, were great streaks, water markings where the rain had come through the slate roofs. She moved to a window, one of four in the room, reaching from a low ledge almost to the high ceiling. Outside, before her, stretched a landscape of incredible beauty with those rolling hills into the distance.
Vadas watched her. He wanted to see her response to the house. She turned to him and smiled.
“It is more than I thought it would be. It is so beautiful, Vadas, I haven’t the words. But there is so much sadness in the history of this house.”
“Good, I thought you would like it. And yes, there was much sadness. Now, come lie down, I will shake out this dusty sheet. At least the mattress is dry.”
The bed looked to be carved walnut, in the style of Louis XVI. There were no blankets so Vadas smoothed the sheet over the bed. He lay down and patted the mattress. Elizabeth lay next to him, her head on his shoulder. She pulled her shawl around them. Both of them looked up at the stained ceiling. Some plaster decoration had long ago fallen and lathe was exposed in sections of the ceiling.
“What do you think of the house, even with damaged ceilings?”
“I know I can’t marry you now. If I did, you would just think I was marrying you for your house.”
“Women marry for worse reasons, Elizabeth.”
“I will marry only for love, Vadas,” Elizabeth said quietly. “Yes, I will marry you.”
Vadas put his arms around her and placed his chin on top of her head. He looked out the window at the distant mountains and felt peace. It was to be short lived.
“I will marry you, Vadas, on one condition.”
“I’m listening, Elizabeth. What is this condition?”
Elizabeth drew her breath. “That you promise you will not go after Miklos. Or Alexandra.”
Vadas sat up and reached for a cigarette in his vest.
“Do you understand what you are asking, Elizabeth? He has violated the woman he knew was going to be my wife, and in doing so he fucked me over as he did you. How would it look to the men I know, men I work with, if I just walked away? You ask too much, Elizabeth.”
She heard the frustration and anger in his voice. She knew this lay beyond anything Vadas could deem reasonable. His pride, his ego, his manhood had been defiled. She was the one physically injured, but he, in typical male fashion, was the insulted.
“I ask this, Vadas, for us. Not for me, nor for you, but for us. You wanted a new life, a fresh start, then let’s take it. What is Miklos to us if we have a different life together? He has no part in it, darling.”
Vadas puffed on his cigarette. There was no way he would stop going after Miklos. This woman asked too much. How could he face the men he called friends all these years? How could he face Zoltan? How could he walk as a man among these men? They were friends, but he was still boss. No, she didn’t understand. He was made a cuckold by Miklos, and the world would see it. This was not how men settled things. Miklos must be found and brought to ground. Alexandra, too, but she was not as important. Miklos would pay with his life. Elizabeth would be revenged and so would he.
Vadas puffed hard on his cigarette, blowing smoke like a dragon. He was visibly upset. However, she had said she would marry. That was one concession he won. This other stuff he would work around. She didn’t have to know everything. A man kept some secrets for the sake of his dignity.
Vadas watched Elizabeth asleep in his arms. He needed her to climax, to scream in passion. He needed to reclaim her with this small act. Miklos had taken so much from him. Now, with this short hour of love making, he had her back under him. It was a beginning, as Elizabeth said. A small beginning, but it helped. He looked at the woman in his arms. She was only weak physically. She surprised him. This marriage might work out. He felt she was his, and in wonder, realized he had become something of hers. It was a strange feeling but had some truth to it. Perhaps this was how love began.
Copyrighted, 2007, 2013