The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1929
Bözsi — A Modern Romance
A Modern Romance
Her name was Bozsi ("Betty"; pronounced almost like "busy" but with the s of "leisure") and she had come with her sister from as far away as Budapest to attend a Summer School at Oxford. There being no other undergraduates then in residence except a young philosopher and myself, we two were commissioned by the head of the college to show them the glories of the place.
It was a task which threatened to sweep us utterly from our bearings. What was to be done with a girl whose very presence was an intoxication, whose every word was intriguingly suggestive of Hungarian lore and folk-song, of rustic waltzing in bright national costume upon the banks of the Danube, of an idyllic life never seen indeed but somehow half-apprehended whether from literature, art, music or perhaps from pure imagination itself; with a young lady again who within five minutes had told as much about herself as an English girl would reveal in as many months; and who on the strength of a first acquaintance—in open daylight and without turning a hair—had enquired whether we were religious and whether we had any sorrows? Secretly, I rejoiced that my ally was a philosopher. Looking back now it seems a matter for congratulation that we were betrayed into nothing more serious than the necessity for making a nocturnal ascent into College after hours by means of a ladder.
That of itself was ticklish enough. It meant climbing up into the Fellows' Building, and besides the risk of waking a slumbering don or two (I'll warrant you they sleep lightly) there were other possible means of detection.
"I've never felt more like the stock 'Varsity 'hearty' in all my life," chuckled the philosopher, as he dropped into the room at my side.
So far so good, but unluckily the ladder was too heavy to be moved and had to remain where it was as incriminating evidence all night; and the idiotic concern of the workmen in the morning ("Where'd you leave it?" "'Ow'd get there?" etc.) pointed towards the bitterest of consequences. They never developed, however, beyond a few anxious enquiries from the Porter.
But I wonder. Bozsi was a regular Marie Bashkirtzeff—intense, ambitious, open-hearted; passionately in love with life—life as it appears to the eyes of youth—with its song, its colour, its romance. To hear her read her favourite poet Jochay, would have made a camel sentimental. Only nineteen years old, yet she had gone all through Europe breaking hearts right and left in her career. Once in Helsingfors, for instance, she had boarded a British Man-o'-War and had found as guide a youthful middy. The result?—one fair and promising young life blighted for ever! The wilds of Australia hold another victim, and were there not the two students page 4 in Vienna, each of whom flourished triumphantly in the face of the other a note from Bozsi which, on examination, proved to be identical with his rival's!
Bozsi related these incidents not boastingly but wistfully, with an air of gratitude for the goodness of people, and regret that friendships must inevitably end. But there was a favourite named Humphrey, with a surname—Thomalin—taken straight from the "Shepheardes Calendar"; and with him the romance proper both begins and ends.
Humphrey was a Cave-man, or rather a Man of the Rivers. Of powerful physique and with a determined look in his eyes, he had ploughed all the way by canoe from Reading, or some such incredibly distant place, in eager quest of the lady; when last we saw him he was bearing her off by water to Abingdon; while his plan of conquest included, among other things, the acquisition of a larger ship at Vienna and a piratical voyage down the Danube to the final strongholds at Budapest, whither the prize was to return.
Such methods could scarcely fail, and the sequel as far as I knew it, came in the form of a printed wedding announcement. It looked very well, though apart from the names and a conjunction meaning "that" I own I could make nothing of the language. One expression, however, in the description of the bridegroom disturbed me. It was "e Jaeger Something-or-Other, London." Jaeger?—a clothing establishment!—and my blood froze.
And now, Bozsi, tell me what does it all mean to you, or, to adopt! your own prettily unidiomatic English. What are you doing always? Are Helsingfors, the Blue Danube, the Lido at Venice, and the gardens at Oxford all things of a dim, regretted past? and are your days spent in an atmosphere of woollen socks, pullovers, five-and-elevenpennies and bargain counters? Heaven forbid! (though 'tis ever thus). A honey-bee in a coal-mine, an Eskimo at Aden, a Salamander on ice would not be more out of place than that. I'll not believe it.—A.B.C.