The typhus patient caused us all much thought, for he was dreadfully ill, and once the delirium had passed and the fever abated, became irritable and very trying to nurse. The doctor was confident of a good recovery, and on the day before Christmas said that in a very short time we might give some solid food to the soldier, who then and there asked if he might have at once a certain Hungarian soup of which he was very fond, but which he had always been too poor to get. The doctor was almost lurid in forbidding the soup; and, noticing that the sick man continued uneasy and expectant, I asked if there was anything else he wanted particularly, and got the reply that his wife had sent him some time ago a parcel containing some good things to eat, and it didn’t seem to arrive. Claire, finding on inquiry at the post- office that no parcel had come for him, made up one of cake, fruit, etc., and pretending that it was the one he expected, I told him that though he might
not yet eat those things they would be put away for him till he was better; but with satisfaction and pride he insisted that they should be immediately divided among the other soldiers who could eat them.
In the afternoon the decoration of the Christmas tree and the preparations for the children’s treat, to be held on the next day, were proceeding amid great merriment, when a footman appeared to say that the Italian soldier had come to fetch Fraulein Sherry, for the sick soldier was dying. Unfortunately the Italian had not exaggerated, for heart failure had set in; the priest was immediately fetched, and just as the prayers were finished the soldier died. The Princess’s first thought was one of regret that in spite of doctor’s orders I had not allowed him to have the soup he liked so much, but had always been too poor to get.
“He would have died anyhow, and it was the only chance he ever had in his life of getting that soup ! ”
His wife, who had been telegraphed to in the early stages of the man’s illness, but had probably not wanted to spend the money on the long journey from the borders of Transylvania, eventually arrived full of grief for her young husband. Though he had a wife and two children the soldier had been only twenty-one years of age, for in Hungary the peasant marries young a wife and children meaning money to him,
in saving paid labour on his fields. Our Christmas was turned into gloom and all festivities were put off till New Year the school children and their relatives being but little disappointed, for a funeral, which in Hungary is regarded as being of a festive nature, offered adequate compensation for the postponement of the treat.