- Esteemed friends, dear colleagues, brothers! We find ourselves today solemnly arrayed to celebrate a splendid age and at the same time a splendid victory achieved by our very own beloved Minister, Minister, Minister -- three times Minister! -- (applause, the speaker continues undeterred), once Prime-Minister and, without doubt, future Prime-Minister (applause in crescendo), our dear (the applause drowns out the name).
Permit me, permit me. Before reaching this respectable age, even should it seem impossible, nevertheless our beloved Minister was also at one time young (amused clamor in the audience). Yes, such a thing is possible, we could even go as far as to say it's necessary, absolutely necessary. He was young, yes, but that does not mean he was a simpleton. Such would be impossible, outright impossible.
Numerous youths begin their careers as simpletons. Among them a few reach that ripe age where experience opens their eyes and -- felicitous nation -- become eminent statesmen. The fact that only some, a few, a minuscle minority of the simpletons returned with each new Parliament ever become statesmen does not, of course, preclude a majority of eminent statesmen from having begun their careers as simpletons. We could go as far as saying that such is inevitable, absolutely inevitable. Among the vanishingly sparse exceptions to this general rule we can count our good friend, and -- to dissipate any possible doubt among our younger colleagues, who do not know him as I know him, blessed by luck to call myself his childhood comrade -- I will recount a story from his youth, from the rosy times of his Lordship's early years.
His Lordship was seventeen, and studying Laws at a German University like any other. I was fifteen and just about to finish highschool in the same town. Through his Lordship's good offices -- to whom my father in the full knowledge of his capacity and righteous judgement recommended me -- we held together in rent sent regularly by my father three rooms au premier in the house of Mme Ana Pacht, retired thespian whose only daughter, Miss Maria, a sixteen year young lady had that very season made her debut on the stage, enjoying immediately the applause of the section of the public enamoured with sixteen year olds.
He called her "Micuța"i, notwithstanding she was German, or perhaps exactly because she was German. On one hand, as a man, he doubtless loved her. It was impossible for any human being, let alone an eminent young student at a University like any other, torn from the midst of his family but in a new circle of friends, to not love Miss Maria, this being of a tenderness, of a giglinessii, of a blondyness... enfin, this creature bequeathed by Celestial misericordy with some of the moral and especially respiratoryiii qualities most absolutely admirable. I will not here paint the whole picture, I've no doubt that if you don't read the French novels then your noble consorts or skilled personal assistants (if not -- Providence protect us! -- both) are certainly up to date with their lectures and could if need be draw a quick summary for your benefit.
So we were saying, he loved her on one hand but, on the other hand, as a Romanian, he did not like German things and even German girlsiv and so calling the pretty girl "Micuța" through this very fact he Romanized her and so loved her somewhat on the other hand as well. You see, gentlemen, what it is to say true patriotism! A subject of the Crooked Crown (said Stephanskrone in German) once declaredv he would rather eat soap dressed in the tricolor flag of his country than butter packaged in plain white paper. Well, I can assure you our honored colleague would rather consume tuna (even should it be German) but absolutely of a fine quality and exceedingly fresh if he thinks it recently unveiled by the folds of our tricolor flag in preference of any kind of lace and horbotevi That's something!
Truthfully, she was beautiful! She was as beautiful as a Romanian! She had a pair of eyes... the size or color I can't recall. She had a mane... to equal her eyes. She had a little curl of a mouth... but hence many years have passed, and during many years I've forgotten many kinds of little curly mouths. I've nevertheless not forgotten that Micuța seemed very beautiful, unimaginably beautiful, beautiful definitively!
The rental agreement sounded thus : "It will be paid to Mme Ana Pacht forty florins a month for three rooms and five course lunchesvii for two people each day, including pastry, and idem dinner."
The day after our arrival in the house of the esteemed lady Pacht, our beloved friend entered her apartments, separated from our rooms by a long, narrow and dark corridor ; and after a deep reverence said smiling
- How are you, milady ?
- I am well. Yourself ?
- No less.
- I am pleased.
- Is the miss not home ?
- She's at rehearsals.
- I pray you, madam, what time do you sit at table ?
- At two after noon, without exception.
- And do you eat ?
- That goes without saying!
- What I meant to ask was whether you eat the same as you send me ?
- Do you enjoy good appetite ?
- What a question!
- Oh, how blessed you are to enjoy good appetite.
- Does your Lordship suffer perhaps from an ailment of the stomach ?
- Oh, no ; but I lack appetite.
- Perhaps the victuals are not to your liking ?
- Not at all ; on the contrary... but there's something in the way, madam. I am not used to eating alone ; in society all viands taste better, the appetite seems more insistent... I should like therefore...
- To sit with us at table ?
- If it should not put you out...
- We can start this very day. Were you last night at the Theatre ?
- How did you find my Maria as Gertrudeviii ?
- I did not like her.
- Why not ?
- The miss plays much too fiercely.
- And this you dislike ?
- Yes. An artist must be always cold, without exception frigid as positive law, cold as the sword of justice, cold as the pandectaeix, cold as...
- And will he then be natural ?
- To my eye.
- What is this to mean, to your eye ?
- My nature being naturally cold, coldness therefore is natural to my eye.
Madam Pacht was well over forty ; but nevertheless, as an ancient "jeune" actress she counted herself without doubt and without much error perfectly capable of playing anytime a youthful role. So, to verify if milord's sophism is sincerely held she placed her hand on his shoulder and, blinking at him, said in the sweetest of tones :
- Do you not kid, friend ? Are you cold ?
Our friend -- even then the skilled diplomat he's shown himself recently with the complicated matter last -- lowered his eyes, and bowed in all seriousness.
- Goodbye, madam.
- Are you going ?
- You shall excuse me ; you're too fiery.
- Me ?
- You aren't natural.
Rejoining me in our receiving room he lit a cigarette and we sat down to discuss the juristical principles of Bentham, the first ever to have discovered man can do whatever it is he pleases. Suddenly the door squeaked and then opened. I turned my head and there I saw... a nose. A nose in the door crack, an antedeluvian nose, which is to say a nose which so exceeds the proportions of the common nose as the mastodon overwhelms a meagre elephant. I was en route to panic ; but at the same time heard from under the canopy of such a nose a voice, or rather a familiar howl, which allowed me to immediately guess the owner of the colossal feature.
- Here you dwell, Apothecary ?
- Come in, come in, Firkin, came the answer and Baron Rosen was already standing by us.
The Baron Rosen, another juristical student and colleague of his Lordship was a rich, short, thick, white, nosy young man known broadly in the collegiate society as the Firkin. Who didn't have nicknames in those days! His Lordship, for instance, was known as the Apothecary among his colleagues, though I confess to ignorance on the reasons : either because he loved perfumes and salves, or because he often found himself in need of various pharmaceuticals, as one who even during childhood stood apart by the weakness of his constitution -- which lo turns out to have been so greatly mended by a wide brow and a mind capable of undoing the most tangled knots in the wiring of a small but healthy republic, because this is my gents the meanderning of progress. We no longer live today in those times when brute force, those times when the thick arm and the hammy fist, those times when fatally the narrow brow pushed the carriage of State and pulled to their just desserts the matters of days and centuries. Today the wide and enlightened brow makes all, irrespective of how squeamish the body, how phtysic the chest, how English the tergumx carrying it through the world, and more in that vein! In the end it could also have come from his Lordship's courtship of Mme Benedeck, a well-endowed widower of an apothecary, from whom he had received and to the day kept thirty-seven flagoons, small and large, colored and plain, and even diverse.
Rosen stood before us in a very heroic pose, his left on his hip, his right extended above my head, left foot behind and right foot ahead ; nose up and mouth open. Then the conversation carried as follows :
- I! I! Hold on already. I'm out of vowels and soon will find myself forced to move into the supply of consonants. What got into you ?
- How dare you, Apothecary, move into the house of Anette ?
- I fear you've fallen for Madamme Ana ?!
- I challenge you to a duel!
- Either that or quadrille. I despise solos and trios.
- Leave merriment aside! spoke the baron, taking a seat. Are you pursuing mademoiselle Marie ?
- Quelle idée!
- You're not ?
- How could you expect I'd like a child, something undeveloped, unripe, unformed, immature, incomplete, unfinished, impractical, unpragmatical... ça fait pitié!
- Why then have you moved into Anette's house ?
- I had to move somehwere, brother.
- Why didn't you remain in Klumpen's house ?
- I take it you've not heard anything ?
- Heard what ?
- O! A lengthy story! Find then that Klumpen found a very aesthetic taste on the death of his wife, who was a model of ugliness : les extrémités se touchent. He had a single servant, but pretty as a Mohamedan cadina, and not only servant but rather too serviable altogether. It would appear however that his Frosa also has a taste no less aesthetical ; so Klumpen, whom only you can overwhelm in terms of sheer good looks, was not in the slightest to her liking. Moving in his house -- I'm lucky with grisettesxi -- veni, vidi, vici : not too make too short a story of it, from the very first day I took as my own, jus servitutis quae in faciendo consistitxii upon Frosa. For three months going Klumpen knew nothing of this co-ownership, and I was starting to even hope I will soon enjoy jus prescriptionisxiii when suddenly... and so following. As you can see, Firkin, my move was not wilful.
- You have balmed my heart, Apothecary!
- I did my apothecarial duty, notwithstanding that in no University is there read Firkin pharmacopoea. I will add the plain statement of my being so very far from loving the dolly of your affections that I find myself ready to speak to her in your favour, to hyperbolize your merits, hyperbolic by nature from profile only ; ah... by the way, when did her graces first afflict you ?
- Last night, at the Theatre.
- The Theatre... Hm! You know you should bring her some manner of gift ?
- Parbleu! But I don't know her yet. Introduce us!
- Later. You're not pretty (c'est peu dire!xiv) and consequently to be well received by a young woman you must foreshadow yourself without being seen, you have to make her admire your great qualities and especially generosity, to appear to her as a sublime ideal beset by an ugly reality. At first you should make her an anonymous gift, leaving me to unveil in her ear, as if a secret, the name of the gallant adorer, adding from my own store lengthy commentary upon your illustrious merits.
- A glorious idea! Come, Apothecary, that I may embrace you!
- Gladly ; but use your arms in preference of your other appendages.
The two good friends embraced, leaving me behind to meditate, mouth agape, upon the exceeding political and especially diplomatic ability of my senior friend, given as it was that young Frosa enjoyed, along with the numerous qualities described (which perhaps could only have been summoned by an enamoured mind, on the basis of literary excursion, overlaying the livresque without practical difficulty upon a support entirely too banal to raise any sort of problem to any particular painting) also the doubtless quality of a pair of eyes which, if not necessarily bovinexv then certainly batrachian, perfectly capable of surveying the outside independently of one another, as well as of a short excursion outside their housing if needed -- and sometimes even when not strictly needed. Rosen, far from having guessed on the lips of his Lordship the honeyed embrace of Judas, left, or rather, flew the room, on the understanding that he would send without delay the gift discussed.
After his disappearance, I checked my watch : a quarter to two.
- Sir Ghita! Mme Ana is inviting you to table.
- Ah! I've not even heard you come in, Cati! Is the young lady back from rehearsal ?
- Did they speak any of me ?
- Mme Ana said you don't seem altoghether... I mean...
- Sane ?
- What did the miss answer ?
- That such may not be said of poets.
- And what did the madame answer ?
- That learned men are always insane.
- What did the miss answer ?
- She kept her peace.
- And what did the madame answer ?
- She kept her peace.
At the table we found Madamme Ana and Miss Micuța seated with napkins on their knees.
- I have heard, Sir, that you'd be possessed of a very cold nature, opened the miss.
- Is my nature not to your liking ?
- Not in the slightest.
- Then you're not a woman.
- Permit me to not understand you, Sir Philosopher.
- Your great-grandmother, Eve, liked the snake, the coldest of all beings. In any case, should my nature not meet your liking, I will console myself with your mother's preference in its place. You should have seen the sweet eyes this morning...
Madamme Ana might've pinched his knee.
- Why do you pinch me, madam ?
His question was spoken with perfect naivite. The miss kept quiet, but her eyes, going from me to my respectable friend and from there to her mother and then back leaked in all directions a tragicomedic curiosity.
- You say some things today... started Madamme Ana.
- Yes, well! Let us talk of something else. The turkey's wonderful!
- It's rabbit, sir, not turkey, protested the miss.
- It's evident you've never studied philosophy.
- How so ?
- Taste is subjective. Taste is within us, and, consequently, your rabbit is a turkey to me, as my subject currently experiences a most wonderful turkey taste.
Madamme Ana, though somewhat flustered, couldn't contain her laughter.
- You've an unparalleled talent for contradiction, kind sir.
- Contradiction is impossible in nature, milady. You've not read Hegel!
Cati entered :
- There's a servant of the Baron arrived.
- May I be excused, ladies ? I am forced to miss out on your society ; let's leave for tomorrow our philosophical discussions.
He had hardly closed the door when Madame Pacht snorted
- What an idiot!
"Things are going well. Luck helps the idiots!" said later our beloved Minister, a high political summation that at the time seemed to me -- owing to the naivite of my tender years -- somewhat off kilter, alike the strange conversation of my superior. Nevertheless, the years that snowed upon us hence like upon the whole world, except upon the world without leaving much trace whereas upon us leaving very visible snow drifts, made it plain to me how wrong I was, and how correct and judicious his Lordship's intuition, even at that age when some suppose young men are not yet of majority. The plain truth, gentlemen, is that simpletons might never attain majority at any age, whereas a statesman of the caliber of our beloved Minister, we can say is born with it! (applause).
The Baron, a model of bonhommie, sent, as promised, a splendid present : a feminine nécessairexvi made of eben decorated in gold leaf emaille.
His Lordship sat immediately and sent back the following :
Tomorrow at the time of penal law I will report on the results.
The Apothecary, manu propria.
P.S. - Send right away your sled : I'd like to take some air. I know you will sit after eating, then sleep... your sled will be free, and so following I await it.
To that day the Baron had granted no one the favour asked in that letter. Half an hour later a sled was by the door. Ah, what a pleasure, a sled ride through town. I followed giggling and jumping -- the first time in my life I had opportunity to so enjoy the pleasant town.
- To the Blinde-Kuh barrier! he ordered the groom. Then aside, to me : that's where I first entered the town, coming to study at the University the theory of justice so as to never apply it in life, even by accident. During the first two years of my studies -- continued my benefactor -- I moved seven times from house to house. I shall now, at the Baron's expense, visit my six previous residences, remembering en passant the story of my dwelling in each of them.
We went by a house with two rows of windows, the ground floor being split between five furrieries.
- Up there, the two windows at the end. Three months without four days. The rest was taken up by the landlady, a beautiful woman, but forty, widow of a rich merchant. I loved her for two months ; and I swore hence never to love either a woman of forty, or generally a furrier.
- Why not ? I dared to attempt quenching my naivite. My companion looked me straight in the eye, without saying more than
- Right! To alley M.! and then aside : Here's a house I will never forget. I lived upstairs ; Henriette, French fashionista downstairs. A consumptive creature, but so charming she made me believe tuberculosis the affliction of angels. One night she sent her servant over, asking me to not make noise, as she's ill. So begun our acquaintance. Oh, gods! What voluptuous spring, forever fresh and ever more fascinating. She died, or rather, went out, six weeks later, in my arms. Henriette was the only woman I can claim to have loved to death.
- Ha! Here's the happy abode of the titular consigliere. The realisation of Fourier's falansters. In the guesthouse lived two students and a clerk, and we all enjoyed, without quarrel or jealousy, without intrigue or much competition, the indefatigable matron, whose husband was her fourth and last!
- That's enough perambulation! Back!
Upon our return, I for one very much shaken, we found an epistle from the Baron :
I meditated deeply on the manner in which you might most adequately guide my fairy to the name of her adorer. It could be that my idea isn't bad. If it could conceivably come to your liking, here's the substance. You could put in the nécessaire this here included mark of my kind, which readily might arouse her curiosity, at which juncture you could explain that, by your knowledge of heraldry, it could only belong to the barons Rosen.
Yours to death, R.
This letter I keep to this very day as a model of originality and style, especially style : something rather in the vein of Mr. Rosetti!xvii
- Now there's no doubt Firkin loves Micuța ; a healthy mind would never have abused coulds quite to the degree. The nécessaire and the sled, which I didn't even expect of him, come to confirm this, spoke the young statesman, pensively. Then he looked upon R's mark, imprinted on a bit of perfumed pink paper. The escutcheon held nothing besides a seven pointed star, a rather ordinary figure in Swiss heraldry.
His mark, as his name, as his nature, display an ember. He engraved it upon the hard wax above the baron's shield, which (the shield, not the Baron) hid, burned ; and enclosed the pinkish end in the nécessaire.
- This idea might've not occured to me without the Firkin's letter, observed the eminent. True love is inventive! Now I must see to it that the Baron believes Micuța received his gift, and loves him (the gift, the Baron, whatever) incognito, and that he's even heard this from she herself... Such mistification isn't exactly difficult ; let's employ some grisette, which tomorrow, at the bal masqué... ah God, what inspiraiton! Rosen keeps a whore...
And immediately, with no further rumination, with the sure step and lack of hesitation that have always supported his career, he wrote the following Polish letter :
Moja Kochana Pani!
I've authentic proof of your loved one's unfaithfulness. Permit me to immediately come and present the matter, and above that supply a means to make sure by your very own person. Awaiting the answer that interests, I believe, you more than me, I remain your faithful Anonymous.
The intrigue was thickening marvelously, as if by Dumasian flour. The poor polacca will play the role of Hamlet's mother! Inaudible, Cati had entered.
- You rang ?
- Shall I bring dinner ?
- No dear. But you're just in time, I was about to send for you. Here's a thing Catincaxviii ; you must take it to the miss and give it in her own hand. Tell her it was handed you in the corridor, in the dark, by a man you couldn't see and who ran, only saying "To mademoiselle Marie for tonight's performance". Keep the secret a while, he added, handing her a five florin note.
Cati left with the nécessaire and, of course, the note. Then the esteemed turned to me :
- You, dumbass, quick to Lorch lane ; seek house #86, ask for Mme Victoria Przikszewska, give in her hand, you hear me, in her hand this letter, await her answer. What did I tell you ?
- That I'm a dumbass.
- That much is true. And further ?
- To go to Lorch lane.
- Wonderful. Further!
- Should I go further ?
- You should say further
- Seek house #68.
- 86, pepperhead!
- 86, venerable.
- And do what else ?
- Ask for Mme Chiftoria Șicșicșicska.
- Victoria Przikszewska, jackass.
- Chiftoria Șicșicșicska, ministeriabile.xix
- Ask merely for a Polish widow lady ; I'll hope there's not going to be two of them under that same tiny roof.
- Polish widow, #86.
- The house, not the widow, #86, you understand me ?
- And bring answer.
- Don't say who sent you in any case.
- Is that it ?
Madam Victoria Przikszewska or -- as my tongue unfamiliar with the manner of Polish names christened her -- Chiftoria Șicșicșicska was the widow of an Austrian captain killed in action in Hungary, and consequently received from that grateful government a pension so tiny that, to avoid death through inanition for the economy needs of the State finances, she found herself forced to practice the trade of the beauty that is lazy and thereby necessarily on occasion also nude. For in truth and without prejudgement, what more proper manifestation of laziness, true, deep, structural laziness can there be if not the omission of clothing ? In what other line is the shop owner, the customer, the buyer going to say not "Do!" not "Go!" not "Bring!" but merely "Stand!" and "Sit!" This and no more, to sit ? Seems bearable. You must admit, dear convives, that upon honest examination of alternatives, any person, be it even feminine, can't possibly deny the evidence : sitting on it's by itself the easiest.
In this manner, going, like a yawn, from man to man, Victoria ran upon the Firkin one day, and the Firkin on the same exact day ran into Victoria. "Ah!" said the sly Pole, looking straight into the eyes attached to the slick pole in her hand through the intermediation of the ugliest face of all the students at the University, and richest besides. "In vain had I sought until now the man to understand me!" "Oh!" made answer the bovine Baron, melting in the fire of the most refined coquetteries, "Oh! In vain have I until today sought a woman that'd love me!" "I'm not wealthy!" "I'm not pretty!" "You've sweet feelings which are enough to command the womanly leak!" "You've an angelic countenance that's enough to enflame man's negotiable paperwork!" Victoria fainted and Firkin set to waking her through a blast of kisses, strategically supported of course by the artillery of his redoubtable nose. The end of the melodrama was that the Baron, to cure the Pole of her poverty, took her upon his own account at two thousand florins per anum, an equipage and occasional gifts ; and the Pole, reciprocally, to remedy the Baron's deformities, provided him by order that which le beau sexe should, by natural law and nomenclature, only offer handsome men, or at the very least pleasant. But let us not judge harshly, every merchandise has its price, and if it doesn't have it yet sooner or later it's going to find it nevertheless.
Rosen numerously invited his closer friends -- among whom our esteemed was the first actor, acting in both meanings of the term -- to tea, at Victoria's. The Pole sang and played the piano ; one or another of the guests supported her on his violin or flute ; two or three friends and coworkers of the host, together with their unfortunates, proceeded to polka or vals ; a few students or officers sat down to play cards, and the evening passed unfelt, to the satisfaction of all those present. I do not know whether, surrounded by such varied society, and sharpened by the Baron's jealousy (as he was the most easily convinced man in the world) -- I don't know, I say, if Victoria ever slipped on the narrow road of conjugal faith and, remembering her past, perhaps had other, secondary lovers, by casuality or freely. The juridical presumption requires to presuppose her the ideal of womanly faith. I asked the eminent man whether he himself ever courted her, and he answered (with the honesty that then as today is so characteristic of him) that he never did, but neither for the Baron's sake nor because the pretty Pole wasn't to his taste, instead simply for laziness : Victoria lived too far. Be this as it may, I know for a fact that he once wrote in her album, by her sweet request, an impromptu sonnet which said that the happiest happiness is being happily happy.
I returned with the apostolic horsesxx in a gallop, after having run through the thick snow while chewing the above thoughts into a yarn. I was bringing back from Victoria a note, consisting of the word "Czekam", which means "I'm waiting" in Polish, as the well meaning translated for my benefit.
- Bring a carriage!
In the interim the eminent statesman had proceeded to erase very finely the word "Apothecary" from the Baron's letter, being his universitarian name rather universally known at the time. Here's then proven another great ability that brought upon him, and upon our party, and -- I think it can be without any shame stated -- to the Motherland herself such glorious services even in the recent matter, an ability which wasn't attached to his eminence either in school, nor during apprenticeship, nor by marriage, nor later, but instead he had had entire and from the very beginning inside himself, holy inheritance of the superior spirit. How rarely does it happen that the Parces, so stingy in their generosity, and further so inclined to gift if not outright poisoned apples then at the very least bitter inside to match their outer beauty, how rarely does it happen they throw gold with both hands and all Pluto's shiny baubles upon the same lucky creature ? Well, rarely as it may occur, when it does take place the result is a geyser, or what do I say geyser, outright a volcano, a man who raises proudly from the earth to the very skies like an enchanted beanstalk, a man on whose dress skirts you're well advised to hold on with both hands, and teeth and if possible the joined toes of a foot, lest you drop off. And so, dear youths, you who start today your public careers, always remember : both hands, teeth and if at all possible the joined toes of one foot.
He had on his table a mask. He masked himself, put in his pocket the Baron's letter corrected as explained -- here, the deepest sign of political competency : the correcting of reality towards the better fit with an ideal principle -- threw his fur over his shoulder and... there he stood before the intrigued Pole, in a well-dressed salon, tête-à-tête.
- My Lady, who I am you'll know later. For now, let's not waste time in idle talk. Do you know this hand ? and he showed her the letter.
- Oh, God! It's Rosen's.
- Read then.
- Sir, who are you ? Tell me who you are ? Man or demon ?
- I am too moral for being a devil ; I find the human condition convenable for now. But at issue is not so much my personality as the Baron's infidelity. Tomorrow or the day after, my Lady, you'll be abandoned. You'll lose those thousands of florins, and find yourself what you were before, in that space between captainship and baronhood... I, as it happens, find myself in the position of being able to ruin the Baron's intrigues and strengthen your position ; but you must obey me thoroughly and without limit. Do you concede ? Tomorrow's the carnival. You must be there. The Baron will come, at my urging, to meet his new lover, whom I will keep indoors. I will know his costume tomorrow, and show it to you. What you're to say I'll tell you then also. When you arrive, approach me and say "czekam" so I can recognize you. You're blonde as your usurper, and the same height... the masquarade will work splendidly! Be there at nine precisely ; you'll see me walking around hand on my chest like Napoleon, and without costume, as I am now.
- Listen, mask. If you should succeed in chaining Rosen, then...
- Then ?
- How do I seem, am I beautiful ?
- Let us suppose it is so, to avoid economico-political disputations on the relative value of two thousand florins...
On my part I dreamt the whole night, all manner of nonsensical phantasmagories of the most curious kind, as it happens in general after a day full of agitation. I seemed to be Mme Przikszewska's sister ; Micuța had turned into a man, which in truth happened to her now and again on the stage ; our great friend was courting me, which is to say my feminine version ; Micuța understandably, as a young man courted Victoria. I don't recall all the vicissitudes of the drama, all I know is that it ended in two marriages rather in the manner of dreams : Micuța married Przikszewska and I the honorable.
At 9 o'clock there he was, headed for the University. The class was on penal law. The teacher -- a young man with pince-nez, with the nose way high in the air for fear of perhaps losing his glasses, which -- the raising of the nose -- came very easily to him on account of the lightness of the whole skull -- the teacher discussed the important matter de adulteriis, and explained, as if reading the book, the theory of Feuerbach, the famous German criminalist, as to how violation of the female is physically impossible. Towards the end, he smiled and offered with an air of profundity :
- I for one, gentlemen, come to Feuerbach's notion only in what regards those men who are physically incapable.
- Herr Professor, may I request a forbearance ? Forbearance I mean in the juridical sensexxi, our friend said standing.
- Especially that, Sir.
- Roman law, as regards adultery, speaks only of jure patris vel maritixxii... and therefore is it permissible to take a girl, which is to say unmarried woman, who, at the same time, has only a mother who is a widow ?
- The matter is very serious, answered herr professor, pushing down the glasses that apparently were preparing to jump off his nose. The matter is very serious. In our next meeting I will debate it exegetically on the basis of positive texts and philosophical.
The bell rung, and the professor left the hall whispering "the matter is very serious, very serious..." Conceivably he himself had a Mlle Micuța stashed away somewhere.
- Now then Apothecary, did you manage aught ? whispered the Baron Rosen approaching him.
- More than could have been hoped for : she's to meet you tonight at the bal masqué.
- Est-ce possible?
- I told her you're beauteous as a Parthian, fiery as an Arab, love her as a Turkxxiii, no more nor less ; I made you an Oriental wonder. So as not to risk your giving me the lie inadvertently, you must be masked ; and I must know your costume aforehand to warn her.
- I will be draped in butterfly.
- Admirable! Come after nine, she'll be waiting for you. There I will clarify things more easily.
- Did she like the present ?
- She was charmed.
- Will you sit with me at table ?
- Excuse me ; I've many pressing matters to attend to... have you forgotten my love for Klumpen's Frosa ?
- Fi donc! a servant...
- De gustibus non est disputandum. I like wild flowers, you aromatic cultivars ; your nose can readily digest their heavy aroma, I fear even a cold. Adieu!
- Au revoir, mon cher! Au revoir!
Let anyone dare deny luck is the causa causans of all good fortune! Barely a few steps from the University columnade, about to enter Milchbrei utcaxxiv suddenly he noticed Micuța coming out of a shop, followed by Cati holding a bundle in one hand and a pair of shoes in the other. The young lady walked quickly, eyes straight ahead, leaving behind in the thin snow the marks of a fabulous little foot while hiding her nose in the muffxxv -- just like a little songbird hiding her little head under her little wing. As you can see, Winter has a poetry of its own, diminutive as Alecsandrixxvi which should be sought in thin snow and muff.
- I am glad to have met you, miss. I am certain you yourself would have no better than a discussion en téte-à-téte, so you may put before me the two questions you've turned on all sides and dreamed exclusively all night through.
- You know my thoughts and dreams, Sir ? she inquired with a trembling voice which proved that the eminent strategist's words, based in part on positive fact and in part on pisicologicalxxvii indication struck her right in the heart.xxviii
- Which is to say I've guessed, haven't I, said his Lordship with a smile.
- I've not said such... managed Micuța, averting her gaze. But the air of confidence with which you approached me could with all justification surprise me.
- Don't hypocrise in vain, miss. I'm a sort of a genius, it's nigh on impossible for anyone to hide anything from me. You've thought and dreamt all night long on the eben nécessaire which you received last night, and on your mother's supposed courtship of me, while you were out rehearsing. You must confess to the truth.
- You scare me, sir! How could you penetrate into my mind ? How did you find of the nécessaire ? Whence this change in your manner ? Yesterday I could have sworn you're...
- Poet, as says Mme Ana. Yesterday I couldn't distinguish rabbit and turkey, today I read the depths of hearts ; yesterday I was proclaiming my frozen nature in a well warm room, today I speak forth lava stepping on fresh ice... Shall I resolve this riddle for you ?
- For any price.
- Tonight at bal masqué ask and you shall find, around ten hours. Yesterday you feared I was dimwitted, today you fear I might be a genius. In a few hours you will see me neither one nor the other, but something middling altogether. So, I bid you farewell, in the awaiting of the third change of face.
Micuța extended her hand, palpitating with the cold or the emotion, who knows ; he squeezed her warmly and took off, so as to not come home together. The elegant, galant and above all discreet gentleman recounted for my benefit this adventure in all its detail later, as he often recounted for my benefit various occurences and happenstances, during childhood and later. As you can see, the inclination to educate, the holy calling of awakening those around, less fortunate than himself, burned in his chest from a very young age. Is it then surprising that the many voices of envy, incapable of understanding the man of genius, pen deplorable filth in the opposition newspaper purporting that such an eminent man shouldn't be entitled to a professorship as one possessed of neither the science nor the interest required as he's only seen in the University halls once or twice a year ? But such is the structure of the world, a cow passing by will equally dung atop the most delicate flowers or the bare ground, and exactly in the same manner the envy of the inferior will strike without distinction -- lacking they the eyes and mind to distinguish -- the worthy and the wholly bare.
The military tactics he was applying upon Micuța relied on an ancient philosophical observation, which I didn't know, but it was explained to me in theory therewith, then strengthening in my mind during the course of my life through numerous examples. Men, except for poets, and even in that case the most effete of them, when they love a woman love her merely as a woman, and often less : as an animal vulgo cow, which is to say for her utiliarian function, eminently physiological. This is not without good cause : women are some more capable, others less capable, and generally speaking very much incapable of serving where a head's in demand, exactly like men. Whereas when it comes to service where tail's in demand, the vast majority are perfectly able to serve admirably and peel it pleasantly. Therefore, if you had a tool which almost always serves well as hammer and rarely can be used as rifle, would you use it to hammer in nails like one sensible, or instead attempt to take it hunting, at the risk of discovering face to face with a bear that your rifle's at best a hammer ?
Women, on the contrary, generally love an ideal, a something above human nature, an angel or a devil like that Jeanne d'Arc of the middle ages, but never a man like all men. The blackest villainy will rather attract womanly affection than the mediocre honesty of he neither-so-nor-otherwise. This is why thieves, rapists and serial killers, howsoever famous for their evil deeds, never lacked lovers of the most profound dedication, whereas a municipal counsellor or a police prefect commonly isn't loved even by their lawful spouses. Do you perhaps aim, reader, to be loved by the sex, or, how Mr. Ciparxxix calls it, the sepsus elegans ? Always be too : too left, too right, too center, too ahead, too behind, always and everywhere in excess -- when it comes to goodness, to badness, to ideas, to deeds, to words, to inflammation, to phlegmatism, in omnibus rebus et aliis quibusdam!
Faithful to this system, his Lordship was excessively quiet at table, the flow of his conversation recalling through its monotony and delicacy a French tragedy in verse. As for example :
- Will you go tonight to the ball ?
- Will you be masked ?
- The sauce's oversalted, isn't it ?
- Maybe you prefer gherkins ?
- The morning was very cold.
- Do you habitually sleep after dinner ?
From the table to the University, from the University to the saloon, from the saloon back home : these are the activities that filled the time of our hero to eight hours in the afternoon. I was awaiting breathlessly the moment of battle, from which I hoped he'd come crowned... actually not at allxxx crowned, as he doesn't like them, today as he didn't like them then. He rather hoped, as the Frenchman said, avoir le dessus : a simple dessousxxxi satisfied him more than a thousand marriages! And speaking frankly, who sensible wouldn't be so satisfied ?
The place of battle was the planned bal masqué, held commonly in the three rooms of the club ; the enemies of his eminence, of different nations, were numerous : the Baron, Przikszewska, Micuța. His stratagem consisted, as it has for all great hetmans, starting with Cocles, of combating them at different times with divers arms, as opportunity may dictate ; or even better, as per Machiavelli's politics, to have it so they'll darn each other into fine wool, which he could simply roll up and sell at no serious inconvenience to himself.
Exactly at nine he was standing before the door of the first room. He had a domino on his face and wore the pantaloons of yesterday's visit, his hands folded on his Napoleonic chest in Napoleonic manner. Soon his august ear drank in the agreed upon signal, "czekam".
- I was waiting for you, darling.
- Is the Baron here ?
- He's due to arrive any moment, in the drapery of a butterfly.
- Is the harlot not coming ?
- Worry not. The Baron's harlot is Maria Pacht, actress and, wonderously enough, maiden. Do you know her ?
- Don't ask ; who doesn't know that kind of creature ?!
- Keep your cool. The Baron sent her yesterday a costly nécessaire in eben encrusted with gold. So far he only knows her by sight and from a distance ; he has no OTPxxxii from her. Try to play her role well. Tell him you received his gift, thank him, promise him, chicane him, intrigue him, do what you will, it is your art. Just...
- Just ?
- You will ruin everything should you ask him of my name ; that's all he needs to gather you're playing a foreign role.
- And so I will never know your name ?
- Have you forgotten your promise last night ? When I will come calling for your cunt you'll know my name.
- Do you love me then ?
- I don't.
- Then you will never come call for performance on that promise.
- I don't love you, but I do like your ass ; and from liking to loving is just one single lurch, especially if regularily repeated. But stand aside, see our butterfly how he seeks for me ?
Victoria walked away.
- Dear domino! Wouldn't you by chance be an Apothecary ?
- Exactly that, I'm the apothecary of your beloved house of Anica.
- Is she here ?
- Who ? Madamme Ana ?!
- To hell with her. The demoiselle. Marie.
- Now I see you're a butterfly of my acquaintancexxxiii by which I mean a Firkin metamorphosed into butterfly, an "avatar" as our Sanskrit teacher would say.
- Well done. Now introduce me, Apothecary, to my angel.
- I must first warn you, before anything, of a matter of the gravest importance.
- Tell me.
- Do you recall my story with Klumpen's Frosa ?
- Will you spare me for the love of Christ! Is this to be repeated three hundred times each day without respite ? I can never encounter you without reminder of that misfortunate servant girl.
- What can I do, dear Firkin! I love her. But let's come back to our concern. As I was moving into Mme Ana's house, I feared lest she hear of my scandal with Klumpen. You understand that with a maiden under the roof she'd never have suffered a tenant... So, in our contract I changed my personality so mother and daughter know me under the name and profession wholly imaginary. To them I'm Teopomp Perpetuevicixxxiv Do try, as far as possible, to not destroy my domestic arrangements.
- I promise.
- Better yet, don't even mention me.
- That works.
- I have your word ?
- You have my word.
And then arm in arm they advanced upon that time worn fortress of Przikszewska.
- Beauty behind a mask, here before you is your generous adourer, the famous butterfly enamoured of the flower of your charms and thirsting with desire to extend upon you his splendid wings.
- Domino speaks the purest truth, oh idol of my heart.
- Give me then your arm, enchanting butterfly, and forget for one night your Oriental origin in favour of speech in the European manner.
- I leave you to enjoy the pleasures of dialogue ; less poetic masks await me.
That said, he rushed into the other room, where I awaited faithfully.
- Leave that fur with the wardrobe, take my overcoat, and on your face this domino mask. Walk around through the rooms, but speak not a single word to anyone even should they deafen you with questions. Is that understood ?
He returned to the ball, as a wholly new character, leaving me to play, for better or worse but devoutly and thereby silently which is to say most philosophically, his old role. He passed into the distant room, taking care to not be noticed by the Firkin, who was whispering who knows what into the ear of his false Micuța.
- Poète! vous cherchez des sujets? asked him a mask.xxxv
- J'en trouve un bien mauvais devant moi.
He went around the room.
- The apothecary Benedeck is dying of your neglect, a different mask whispered quickly.
- Let her read Moliere : saignare, purgare, clysterisare!
He returned to the second room
- Shall I recount your life from the cradle to this very night ? inquired a Circassian.
- You will be forgiven for the distant past ; tell me merely what I've been up to since yesterday until now. Why are you quiet then ? Very well, you no longer have the floor, I leave you to make right with public opinion.
Nearing the first door he saw two fresh masks coming in. One, slightly taller and ampler, wore a long, dark atlazxxxvi dress and wore a sort of crown fashioned of gilded teeth ; the other, shorter and lighter, was decked in a light green dress fitted with velvet and a crown of artificial flowers. A few words they exchanged readily had me guess their identity, as the lighter green said to the dark
- Leave me to intrigue your poet a little.
- As you wish ; but you will be bored to tears within a few minutes, came the response as Mme Ana turned and left.
Soon thereafter the illustrious grabbed the young mask's arm.
- You came to demand your satisfaction, Maria ?
- You recognized me ?
He then squeezed her hand, which trembling as a fish in the net to employ a novel expression for the age old situation. They sat in a corner of the room, behind a large column's benevolent shade. Micuța kept quiet.
When a woman suddenly goes quiet before an amorous conversation, when, happy and careless she suddenly bows her eyes or pretends to futz with whatever accoutrements... that's a good sign! She's either in love already, or else senses the dawn of love. Raised in the school of Latin poets, watered by the deep erotic sources of Ovid, Petronius, Propertius etcetera our beloved friend knew even from a child, like a prayer, the amorous meteorology and, seeing the girl's distress, thought to himself "I have her!"
Micuța's hand was still in his. He looked around and noticing nothing in vicinity but the backside of a couple of gray masks, through a quick movement -- a movement whose quickness can only be compared to the activity of Italian stilettos -- imprinted on the child's fingers a burning kiss, like all those that begin a relation and -- woe! -- are impossible later on, men being in this matter exactly like demagogues in politics : interested in the conquest foremost and possession very last.
Micuța quickly withdrew her hand and stood up :
- I see, Sir, you're unworthy of my faith. Adieu!
The honorable waited naught else to put in motion his plan, artistically conceived prior.
- Adieu! I told you without the use of words, in one single kiss, what you must know : I love you! Adieu! Adieu, Maria!
Saying this, he stood with dignity and lost himself in the bustle of masks rendered ever more numerous by the approaching midnight. Then he turned and saw Micuța re-taking her seat pensively in the shadow of the solitary column. Just then Firkin and Przikszewska passed by.
- Tocome tufor toi tohave tosometuthing tato tosay tato tayou said he to the Baron in the student argot vulgo piglatin, which was constructed by the simple rule that all syllables be split up and afore each should be added either to, ta or tu ; to wit before e and i to, before other wovels ta and otherwise tu. Only eighteen pursersxxxvii
among the whole universitarian clergy spoke perfectly and with dizzying speed this tongue, at that time by them also called totatutics. Our honorable friend and the Firkin were recognized doctors by the others ; except that the Firkin remembers nothing of it today, whereas you've all seen what exquisite custom our commensal friend purchases in Parliament by this exotic tongue's virtues to this day ?
- How could I leave Maria alone ?! retorted the Baron.
- You must do me this service for ten minutes.
- But, my dear...
- Just let me whisper aught in her ear.
And going on Victoria's side, he whispered in Polish
- Domino "czekam" awaits you in the second room, by the third window.
- This is to say you know my secret, sir ?
- It would seem thus. Leave Rosen's arm.
Victoria felt any opposition to his Lordship would be dangerous, and so squeezing Firkin's hand she said :
- Until we meet again, my cherub ; until the next ball.
- What ? Until such lengthy respite we won't meet again, my angel ?
- I do not know ; I am not my own thing.
As she made away Rosen turned around :
- Fiend! How could you not take pity on my fire, on my torment, on my...
- Favor for favor, beloved Firkin. It's your turn to give a proof of friendship. Do you see that light green mask behind the column ?
- I do, but what do I care...
- You don't, of course, for she... she isn't Micuța! But I deeply care, because I feel the first pangs of love for her and I must prove this love, so far disregarded, by something heroic, something that steals and yokes the hearts of women. Go to her, approach her scandalously ; I will come and provoke you to duel ; you'll give me your card and I will give you mine... It's understood without saying to be an imaginary duel! The effect's required and naught more.
- You shall be satisfied!
The Baron went straight for Micuța while the hero himself hid behind the column, hearing all but not being visible from the poor birdy's vantage.
- I know you, masquette, said Rosen, sitting next to Micuța. How many florins you squeezed off me with talented lips and hips... I should like to restretch our acquaintance.
Poor Baron knew not whom he's talking to. Hearing him, I could barely contain my laughter.
- You're mistaken, Sir, answered Micuța in a contemptuous tone, ready to stand.
- Eh, leave pretense to the side, dollie. And these other wrappings, offered the Baron grabbing her waist.
At this moment a proud and noble man appeared, as if passing by accident and without looking at the participants in the little scene.
- Sir! clamored a distraught Micuța. You know me and therefore owe a duty to defend me.
- To death, Miss! Who are you, Sir ? added the noble gallanthomme, putting a hand on the Baron's shoulder while measuring him from head to toe. Who are you ? Answer!
- As you can see, I'm a mask among the masks, and I cordially invite you, friend, to mind your own business before my well tried patience runs thin!
- I swear I won't permit you move one step, you hear, before declaring your identity.
- Will this declaration have some kind of consequence ? I must know this before wasting further breath, kind Sir.
The Baron extended his card with a grand gesture, the future minister, prime minister, again minister and again and again minister (applause in the hall), leaving his shoulder, responded with his own.
- Tomorrow at eight hours we shall meet, Baron Rosen.
- At your pleasure, Sir.
He was again face to face with Micuța ; but, thanks to his wise politics the circumstances had changed definitively and to what a degree! Now the beauty looked upon the distinguished gallanthomme as if upon a Medieval knight, ready to sacrifice his days coming after the day of tomorrow for a single, slight movement of her wrist. "Who knows -- she thought in her own mind -- whether I'll ever see him again! Who can guess whether tomorrow the sword or bullet of the adversary might not lay him out flat forever on the field of battle ; and I, I alone am responsible..." See what high politics are, among dames and electorate alike -- as it's known the electorate's female -- see how it works and see who truly masters it, and for good reason! (Stormy applause).
- Vai! said warmly Micuța, you must not fight, I do not want it. I don't permit it!
As you can see, in one short minute the matter moved from sir to you and especially vai! From this to "oh!" and "again!" is not so very much road, but one single step, on occasion even half a step, especially should the miss be seated at the time of the transformation.
- What do I hear, Maria ? Am I not deceived ? You'd care whether I live or die ? You love me ?
- Promise me you will not fight.
- It is impossible! Honor above all! Were I worthy of your love if you saw me trembling and hiding before an armed enemy that I myself provoked ?
- What if he kills you ?
- Then I'll die gladly, taking with me to the grave the solace of your love!
- Oh, Heavens!
- This meeting, oh! may be our last ; Maria, therefore, I've a request...
- What shall I do! I don't know what to say!
- Should the Baron kill me, send to my father, whose address you'll find among my paper, this ring bearing the sign of our kin, which in our family goes from father to son for generation after generation. In the top drawer you will find ten thousand florins in bank notes and the donation bill in your name...
Do not imagine, gentlemen, that truly the drawers of his excellency had ever seen ten thousand florins together in those days. The concessions of the tramway, of the salt and later especially of the tobacco monopolyxxxviii and tax farming not being yet conquered, there could scarcely be talk of capital. Nevertheless, the day before a death that wasn't to occur, the most basic political expediency required giving the most flowering impression of the financial situation of the putative victim. In expectation of the notes promised in nonexistence, the noble almost medieval knight regaled on the spot his ring to Micuța ; which was another political move, seeing how on it the loved one could plainly see, but with her eyes and without his having told her breaching certiori his natural modesty, who exactly was the secret admirer of the famous nécessairexxxix of the golden crusts. Micuța was crying under her mask.
- Take me now back to Mother ; and...
Here her voice broke like a string from which the artist attempts to pull some sounds sublime beyond the power of the instrument.
- And ? You said "and", my soul ? You didn't finish...
- And should death spare you...
- I will sacrifice you the remainder of life.
- Will you not go back on your word ?
- Neither in this world nor the next!
After such pompous swearwork they set to seeking the lost Mme Pacht, whom they found at length intriguing a State councillor with hair white and mostly absent like a saint's. Here they shook hands unlike before, and took their leave, not before I could hear Micuței say to Mme Ana:
- Let's go home! I've a headache...
- Bravo! I congratulated without hesitation my older and more skilled friend. This is what it means to do a job of it! Ulysses in the Odyssey wasn't any smarter in producing and arranging his stratagems!
But this only later, outside, awaiting the carriage, for on the spot I found myself tightly hemmed into a corner by the deceived Victoria, who, taking me by my clothes for our dear friend kept retelling in Russian, French, Polish and German her conversation with Rosen and vainly sought further advice from my silent lips. For I, obeying orders in the strictest manner, would make not the slightest sound in response. This habit, which I've laboured to keep without exception to this day is, perhaps, the greatest crutch one such as myself -- and perhaps not entirely alone -- can ever rely on. Someone blessed with enough ability so as to recognize the superior qualities in the chosen by the Fates as our hero here present, but who carries neither the sweet delusion of recognizing the same in himself, nor the blindness of gazing upon a pack of braying asses and dreaming of angels playing harps and flutes, nor finally the hypocrisy of pretending not to notice.
- Ah, here you are, sir! As one who knows my secret, tell me, for Trompi's sake, what happened to your friend ? Imagine I've been for two hours employing all my elocution to obtain in exchange naught, not even a single sound.
- That's my friend's policy, dear mask. He will speak at the opportune moment, and until then you'll not manage to squeeze a single peep out of him, for he's a great diplomat!
The truth is that -- and here, the very person named can confirm -- I've received from the very mouth of the great man this epithet then, unripe and unskilled youth of merely fifteen years, labouring to finish highschool. Were I any riper now than then, at the border of two centuries -- let's admit it plainly -- so different from one another as for it to be permitted to be plainly said that they're two and not just one, if the illustrious vir had changed or had not changed meanwhile his good estimation which so much honored me (applause and amusement) I know not. I know however for a certainty that I will carry with me, to the day of my death, the warm memory of this -- for me -- sublime, uplifting moment.
The great man bent to my ear and said curtly : Take the fur and wait outside. I left at a canter.
- Strange thing! Unbelievable, even! said Victoria, seeing my celerity. By the manner he spoke yesterday and tonight, I could've never imagined him the agent of another ; yet I see you, yet a child -- permit me this frankness -- appear to command him!
- He's my Mephistopheles, honey! Did you read Goethe's Faustus ? Adieu!
And he disappeared in my wake. Here our roads diverged. I, barely standing from sleepiness, went home. The illustrious man started down another road :
- Do you know where Negus the doctor lives ? asked he the cab driver.
- How not, messr. A moment ago I took there another lord, to play cards.
- Quickly then!
Negus the doctor, a youth of twenty-something, thin, tall, of dark complexion, Roman nosed, with great eyes and even greater eyebrows, with a rather well drawn brow, enjoyed one of those figures which appeal and seem beautiful on first sight, especially for he ignorant of physiognomism, but repell the informed eye through something vaguely egotistical, shameful, mean ; a certain something written in the lines of the face, the crook of the nose, the bow of the lips, impossible to be analysed plainly. The misfortune of women is their incapacity to go beyond appearance. Judging merely by the surface, they cried "Monsieur Négus est charmant!" and in a few months monsieur Negus had become the favourite doctor of the dames.
The occurence was perhaps not unrelated to the habit the doctor had taken, which was to insist that all his patients strip altogether as completely and thoroughly as possible for all examinations, and in any case the lower part without exception. The modern scientific method as well as the blessed exemplars of the classical antiquity, he'd explain, permit only the most immediate rapport of the patient with his doctor, thus allowing for the most correct diagnosis and the most rapid prognosis favorable to any suffering. Once thus prepared, the good doctor applied regularly to all his patients without exception a certain relaxing massage he had acquired for himself during some documentary visits at Palais de l'Egalite and other similar venues. How relaxing the relaxation massage actually was is not entirely clear, the poor women straining something fierce, as if struck by epilepsy, but the fact remains Monsieur Negus never lacked patients.
He was just about finishing Medicine when our man joined Law. They met at the Baron Rosen's, where all the Universitary parasites had their own faculty... that of eating, being they too sensitive to eat by themselves and especially pay in the same manner. Ever since that day, Negus, who didn't take long to recognize in our beloved colleague a nature entirely incapable of taking moral philosophy seriously, became his closest friend, even if never invited for dinner, for the budget, even if not yet strangled by the tiresome insistence of the Guaranteeing Powers to control receipts nevertheless still didn't allow extraordinary expenditure. At some point afterwards, Negus unveiled to our esteemed friend a secret everyone knew, which led him in short to discovering another, known by no-one.
Negus had a maitresse he didn't know how to be rid of. "I promised" said our doctor "that I'll marry her the day after I achieve my diploma... I promised before witnesses... You understand it'd be an unforgivable stupidity on my part to close my future in such a manner... she's a seamstress... how shall we proceed ?" "To be able to advise you competently, I must see her, to penetrate her character..." "I'd be even happier if you could manage to be liked..." "And then even caught, is it ? Let's to her then!"
Sophie was an adorable child of barely 16 springs ; delicate, melancholy and sentimental. She loved Negus madly. At first he wanted to court her, but seeing his work crumble in vain he decided, with a somewhat worn generosity, to be merely her friend, at least for a while. After a while, Sophie fell ill. Coming just then, by happenstance, our good hero sat in a nearby room, head bowed on hand, to spare himself the wails of the child and the cries of the mother. Negus came in, wrote a recipe and sent the old woman to the pharmacist. "Take, dear Sophie, one teaspoon every half hour, strictly ; I will be off but return tonight. I'm in a hurry."
Saying these, Negus kissed Sophie and left, without dreaming of the presence of his friend, so uninclined to indulge in moral philosophy. Once the mother returned he left in turn, promising to see them as soon as possible. After a day he passed by again, to see Sophie. She had died! On the windowsill, the bottle, with the recipe underneath. Pure chance made him check the label. Negus' crime appeared entire before the eyes of the wise statesman. He recalled the doctor's words, "I don't know how to be rid of her". Without a word, he jumped out and ran over to Negus. "I know everything, Negus! Everything!" "What kind of everything ?" "Sophie is dead!" "Fatality! Did you love her ?" "Take, dear Sophie, one teaspoon..." here Negus jumped off his chair as if scalded in hot water, and grabbed his arm. "Who told you these words ?" "And I know still more words."
Running as quickly as possible from Sophie to Negus, his Lordship later confessed, he found himself under the sway of an inner voice screaming for the revenge of the innocent lamb. He was naught more than a tool of sentiment. Thought had no part, however small, in his behaviour until the moment he was face to face with Negus and confronted the sad dilemma : either accusing him before Justice, demanding the autopsy of the deceased ; or else of burying the knowledge of the crime in his bosom, becoming a party to it through his silence. Admitting that laws would punish Negus, were such a course going to bring life back to Sophie ? As the doctor's accuser, in this case, rather than gaining the public opinion wouldn't he himself be suspicious for the unfashionable familiarity with a couple of seamstresses ? And then would the judge not ask, "Why didn't you check the recipe on the spot, upon hearing his words ? Why did such a notion only occur to you after the girl's death ?"... He took a few seconds to see the true reality of the unfortunate position the naivite of youth had placed him in. "Personal benefit above all!" he said to himself in conclusion, and not accidentally this noble slogan survived through the ages to us, becoming even -- for good cause! -- the slogan of our glorious party. Here it is, explained in few words but to anyone's clear comprehension.
The life of human society flowing from the combination and intertwining of individual interest -- went the ethics lesson of his serenissime excellency -- the duty of man is to mind his own shirt ; the duty of Providence is to make sure the keepers of their own shirts need each other. Each with his job, and let each do his job well. I, for myself, will fulfill my duty ; let Providence fulfill its duty as best it can manage. Behold the wise manner in which true doctrine works, be it moral, political, philosophical as well as medical! How well all would go if everyone, small or great, superior or inferior, merely minded modestly the part drawn to them by the compass and tracer of the Great Architect. At least those above the great tide of the multitudes, be they bishops or government Ministers, police chiefs or asylum caretakers understand this much. Only the inferior peonry, in its great swarming from one thing to another and from nothing at all to over there can't ever seem to manage to grok this little thing, and wastes its days as it embitters the pleasant existence of its superiors by the insistent stupidity of trying to go across natural teleology.
Now you understand how, burying in his breast the mystery of the small bottle, became Negus a debtor of gratitude to the noble man, and not just Negus many years ago but on the contrary, many honest and respectable men more recently. A creditor is, if not loved -- which would go against nature -- is at the very least feared and obeyed, which is in all respects preferable.
Entering the saloon, he saw everywhere nothing but tables. Faroxl, Piquetxli, Whist ruled despotically this society, ready to make friends and follow each other exactly like the boyars in Parliament. Seeking a more protected seat, he saw in a corner of the room a fellow best characterised by the observation that his whole life he was nothing else and nothing besides a journalist. Nobody ever found where and from what parents he was bornxlii or where and what he studied, or what Mr. Cristopopescuxliii knew or didn't know. When he wrote his first article in a periodical like all the others, some read the first linesxliv then briefly checked the name and exclaimed no more than "What a loser!"
Cristopopescu continued writing, people continued not reading what he wrote. Still he ended up over time with a reputation for journalism! He had come to where his signature was as requisite for a newspaper as the title or the name of the printing establishment! He ended up respected even by those, especially by those who had never read him! Or do you think such is not possible ?
Arrived at such an enviable situation, spiritual as well as moral, Cristopopescu took the habit of wearing exceedingly short pants while exceedingly long hairs grew directly from his bald head, both so as to signal extreme liberalism ; he also took the habit of never answering any questions and question everything, in the manner of great men ; and decided to found his own paper, composed regularly of :
1. The revue of internal political affairs, whose meaning readily reduced to "if you won't follow me, you'll perish".
2. Editorial work, to wordily say "you will perish, if you won't follow me".
3. The revue of external political affairs, where one could find, on the basis of the most authentic telegraphs and the more credible foreign published material that, for instance, Garibaldi died.
4. Correspondence, which is to say lies signed by their authors, which in any case proves great moral courage.
5. Exhortations to send money for the benefit of, for instance, the bedouins, who are without means to construct an Opera house in the middle of Africa ; but truthfully to the exclusive benefit of the editor.
6. Various occurences.
Thinking his duel with Rosen well fitting for that last category in Mr. Cristopopescu's paper, his Lordship approached him with the air of deep admiration that is without discussion due a great literate, great patriote, great etceterate and above all philantrope!
- I am glad to meet you, Mr. Cristopopescu! Perhaps we won't meet again...
- Why is that ?
- Tomorrow morning I am to fight in a duel.
- Whom ?
- The Finnish Baron Rosen, my University colleague.
- I don't know him.
- A daring youth, who once permitted himself to claim in public that you...
- What ?
- O! The matter is not worth reporting...
- On the contrary, on the contrary! He claimed, you say, that I...
- I will then repeat the Baron's words verbatim : "Mr. Cristopopescu has managed to appear that which he is not".
The journalist pretended not to hear the words and continued his interrogatory :
- What weapon have you chosen ?
- The carbine.
- Strange! And how many steps ?
- What is the reason for the duel ?
- The Baron dared steal from me my girlfriend's slipper.
- Who is your girlfriend ?
- An albino young lady, with eyes red as the roses and hair whiter than the lily!
- May I announce this event in tomorrow's edition ?
- If this should please you.
- I shall presume in my article that you have prevailed upon this Baron Rosen ; were the matter to come to the alternate solution I will rectify in the next day's sheet.
- Then rather presume the Baron killed me.
- If such should please you.
Cristopopescu asked for a piece of paper, wrote a few lines and asked they be sent immediately to the printing house...
And so it was that from the next day this true citizen, this Pater familias -- not for ten or twenty student girls whom he did not marry (out of sheer humility!) over the years but whom he nevertheless taught (in all generosity!) and in the most intimate manner and therefore adequate for the education (of young women especially) so many priceless wisdoms -- we could say indeed Pater patriae! -- and we, his best and closest friends, let us augur him to live long enough to not marry the rest that so far escaped unrelaxed (galloping applause and especially stormy) -- this great man with a great character no longer existed for the German public generally as well as for everyone capable of reading German! Fortunately this occurence had no means of reaching the Motherland, which as is well known does not read, preferring to take the thing in mouth instead.
After all the guests left, one by one, after the servants gathered the green tables and the lamps and set the chairs around the walls in the gathering darkness, after there were only left they two, Negus together with his Lordship, the latter told the former of his intrigue with Micuța, the point of his false duel with Firkin and demanded he should have right there on the spot... an amputation!
- Amputation ?! Have you taken leave of your sense, Apothecary ? You're not even scratched!...
- Are you to say, doctor, that my wound is imaginary ? No harm. Bestow upon me an equally imaginary amputation. Imagine for instance that you see a hole the size of a nut in my forehead, and proceed regularily as the art of surgery provides. And right now, without delay, it's six in the morn and by eight and the half at the latest you must take me to my lodgings in your carriage, pale and unmoving like Gustav-Adolfxlv after Lutzen. Begin, parbleu!xlvi Micuța awaits me as at a time past the deceased Sophie awaited you...
Sophie's name produced the strongest of effects. From dark, Negus became spleen-hued. Without a word of protest, he went to the nearby room, brought plaster, waxed cloth, bandages... in a few minutes the future shepherd of his country saw himself beturbaned like the finest of Turkish beys ; as he studied himself contentedly from all the angles he spoke, like the young Mr. Maiorescu during his first public appearance, "The world is but illusion!" There were two amputees, one in the mirror, one in front of the mirror, and neither in the slightest wounded!
- There's something still amiss, Negus! I'm too sangvine, too red in the cheek for someone so wounded. Have you no bilaisealyxlvii ?
The good doctor brought forth a bottle of dusts and fixed his cheek, making him into a mummy right from the times of Ramses ; the honorable was an unhealthy yellow as if he had at the most three seconds left of this life.
Now was not the time for sleep : the sun was raising high. After a breakfast of liquid chocolate, Negus ordered the horses to harness. Just then a courier brought the Wahrheit newspaper (which translates from German as "Truth"), the sheet of the famous Cristopopescu (at least at some point), where one could read among other similar matter :
A deplorable event took place just as we're penning these lines. Two foreign students, the Finnish Baron Rosen and the future prime-minister of Moldo-Valachia had an argument over the slipper of an albino young lady. The matter came to a provocation to duel, which took place today with the dawn, at ten feet, by the carbine. The Romanian fell, dead. We deplore this catastrophe, all the more as the unfortunate Moldo-Valachian was a close friend and a great admirer of our political ideas.
Barely having the time to yell out "Bravo!", seeing himself murdered with such sang froid by the brave journalist, and there was another bit of news : a dragoon came in with two letters, one entirely normal by size or color, the other small and in a most remarkable rosy paper, closed by an elegant heart-shaped seal. The doctor opened the first and read :
My wife is un peu mal since a few days ago ; she's got a terrible migraine. Find then somehow a free hour to see her. Yours friend and servantxlviii,
- Say I will be there at half past nine, spoke Negus to the dragoon, who left immediately in spite of his obvious desire to closer study the cadaverous face and its remarkable headwrap.
- Listen daddy-o, -- Negus followed to our esteemed colleague -- I'll read the other one to you as well, no problem, but please keep the secret.
- Of course! As all love secrets are kept among friends.
Negus sniffed the letter, saying "mille fleurs!" and then read :
I see how my sacrifices are rewarded. Here's a week since you've come. I await you or else... I will despise you!
Your faithful so far,
Post-scriptum. You know my husband is due in court at 9. I kiss you a thousand times, my dear!
- The letters of the district attorney and his Fani come just in time, spoke Negus after a moment's reflection. Your false duel and imaginary wound are bound to cause a sensation in the town ; so therefore to avoid legal trouble, I'll warn Mappsch that the whole thing's a joke, a bet, a plaything... Have you considered all this, lunatic?!
- I had not when, brother! And I see now I was about to permit myself be carried into a major blunder, in spite of my studying Law.
- You, Max and Johann will come with me ; after we reach the gentleman's abode you will take him out of the coupe and drag him upstairs on your arms, as if he were on death's door. Is that understood ? Negus said to his valet, who listened with mouth agape as if he had before him a Popish preacher predicating Latin. Get going! added Negus and we were off.
Sitting in the carriage, the noble medieval knight improvised in the manner of all improvisations the following song to illustrate his plans on Micuța :
The devil, partying in the world,
Had made himself a terrible name :
All ran, ran, ran
Whenever they heard it!
Finally, of desperate loneliness
The devil made itself be sick,
And laying down alongside the bed
He gave his own skin to the priest!
People, with great joy
Hurried from all the parts,
And burying him with great ceremony
Sent him far away to Heaven
Ever since, with false measures
He walks the earth without concern
And working in his manner
He yells "Not like I'm Hitler!"
There we were at Mme Pacht's gate.
Until now there was no need to describe the aedifice of our respectable host and the personalities of the other tenants, which is why it wasn't done, as is these days the common wisdom of governance be it political or corporate : for as long as any doing can be avoided, through whatever means, let it be so avoided ; and when it can't be further avoided let it be done quickly and summarily. So then : the building had a ground floor, a first floor and an attic. On the first floor lived us two and across the hall the host with her offspring. On the ground floor there was a grocer's widow (after her third), from whom all the students in the area bought on credit sardines and all manner of dry fish ; they never paid, but returned it to her au naturel later, and tender. On the other side, a Frenchman perfume maker and his wife, in total six girls of which two maidens (taking after the mother) and three boys of which three simpletons (taking after the father), all gradually aged from four months to nineteen years. In the attic above us two fashionistasxlix and across the hall above Mme Pacht three students from the veterinary school.
When Negus' coupe stopped at the gang, the Frenchman, Mr. Jules, opened the door, pushed out his head from which emanated the scents of untold hundreds of essences, pushed down his blue pillhat and spoke with a Talleyrandesque air Ça doit être que'que chose!". At the same time not the tiniest of hands began wiping the sweat off one of the small attic windows, and then I saw projected as by the magic lamp the figure of one of the two modistes, Fraulein Gretchen, the one with infantryman shoulders. The other, hairy as an infantryman, composed her inseparable half, and just as you can if need be construct a turkey out of two hens and an end of string, so could the Kaiser have had in his hour of need an extra infantryman ; one composed, it's true, out of two halves otherwise separate in civil life.
Negus' Max opened the coupe door.
- Easier! yelled the doctor. Do you not see the state of the wounded, brute ? Mon cher monsieur Jules! adause el, prêtez-nous votre secours! O, mon Dieu! Quel malheur!
- Que vois-je! Un futur premier ministre roumain blessé!
At this moment, both modistes, all three veterinarians, the mistress of the sardines, the ten inheritors of a perfume shop along their nannies and their mother, Cati and myself, we were all gathered outside! Imagine you if you will, esteemed convives, that at the time I yet knew nothing of the nature of events, as they were recounted to me afterwards. You can therefore imagine the agitation which roughly gripped me! The veterinarians however proceeded to methodically explain to the modistes the difference between a wounded man and a shot dog, while the gaellic hennery assaulted poor Negus to find le pour-quoi of the wound.
Cati ran like a doe upstairs and returned with Mme Pacht and Micuța. The poor miss had barely the time to see her cavalier defender at the ball : she fainted on the doorstep, falling limp on the stairwell and thereby immediately splitting the gaping tribe : the fashionistas, the grocer woman and the French girls stayed by the noble Tartuffe, while the veterinarians and French males jumped to help Micuța. Sexual attraction being a physical law, like Newtonian attraction, and even physical-er still!
Max lifted the noble casualty by the arms, Johan by the legs, Negus supported his head, oh, his priceless head. Fraulein Gretchen held his right hand, regarding him with untold care, full of a sensibility entirely German ; Fraulein Annchen, the younger of the two, her plait waving amoebically, held his left, squeezing it convulsively for too much sympathy. The French misses kept their silence shyly, the rest tweeted excitedly. The grocer snored. Thus appeared the triumphal procession of the victorious crusader at his emergence from the coupe. Without doubt there are among you, dear gentlemen, those who aspire to the perfection of the brush. Here is for you the beautifully heroic, classic, epic subject.
Micuța, Cati and Madam Pacht had already disappeared together with the male portion of the tribe. His eyes almost completely closed, the shield of love was elevated to our rooms and laid in his sheets, so very foreign to him. Negus then asked everybody to leave and pulled the latch, leaving us safely inside. Crazy with joy, the hero jumped from the bed. I dropped weakly on a chair, completely overwhelmed.
- I'm in your debt, Negus, to my grave! he said, kissing his mouth with delight. Ha, ha, ha! I was to die of laughter... rather than my wounds! Now I'll undress and sleep. On your way out, stop by Madamme Pacht and ask her, ask her insistently, to watch over me in your absence.
- Leave it to me!
- Maybe you might have the occasion to whisper a couple of words in Micuța's ear. Say that her presence would lighten my sufferance... that you know the cause of the duel...
- And so following!
The brave defender of everything that is good, noble and beautiful was already in his bed among the pillows when Negus said his goodbyes, wished him success and left. I approached on my tiptoes.
- My Lord!
- My Lord!
- My Lord!
- My Lord!
- It's... you... ask... for... Ca-ti... Oh!
I flew, returning within the minute with Madam Pacht's servant.
- What misfortune befell you Sir! began Cati, wiping the tears that were flowing freely as if she too had eaten a pound of horseradish. Who could have believed! If you knew how much the young mistress suffers! She told me everything last night! She didn't sleep a wink the whole night... today, seeing you wounded, she fainted, it's as if she were hexed, she's too weak to stand... The doctor, the one that brought you in, is ordering her some medicine...
He nearly jumped out of bed again, hearing of Negus' medicine. Barely containing himself, he followed in a tempo more fitting to the dying:
- Dear.. bring... the... recipe... so... I... see... it... without... anyone... knowing... If... only... she... came... tonight.
Doe-footed Cati did not delay in bringing the recipe. Being his Lordship too sick to hold it in his hand, I read it sotto voce in his ear :
Rp. Ambrae levant
Scrup. j. ß
Drachm. j. ß
M.f. atque divide in XII partes aequales.
D. u. La un ceas un praf.
18 7 XII Dr. Negus.
Then, gentlemen, because I realize that lo -- the hours are advanced -- I will summarize (applause) : Micuța fell into the snare that was set out for her the day of the imaginary duel with Baron Rosen. Negus' recipe consisting of opium and rabies roaches did wonders in this vein. The next day, the noble patient stood healthy from his deathbed, but did not leave the house for a couple of days, keeping thus common decency and... the turban on his head. These two days were for him a true Mohamedan paradise, even if reduced to a single houri, which even if unskilled at first, proved herself a most dedicated student, as well as very intelligent, managing wonderous progress by the hour. Already towards the dawn of the second day she doubtless could swallow without chewing or as much as a tear even a snake, be it as thick as your arm. From the third day, however, Micuța started reminding him of the "necessity of marriage".
- You forgot, my love, that I am not of the legal age; let us wait a year, or... two.
- Promise me before my mother! I ask of nothing else, my beloved!
- Promise ?... Very well!... Tomorrow we shall speak with Madamme Ana.
After lunch, the victor untied his head and ran to Baron Rosen.
- What's new, Apothecary? The whole town is abuzz of our duel and your wound. Saw you Maria today ?
- You are fabulously fortunate, Firkin!
- Speak quickly!
- Wait for her in my room, around eleven tonight.
- Meet her ?!
- I told you once.
- Are you not trifling ?
- On my honor ; still...
- Still ?
- Do not for any reason light a candle.
- Could I be that ugly ?
- You can rest easy that I, for one, will not attempt to flatter you in this matter.
- Be it as you say ; I agree. There's nothing for me to do!
- There's more.
- There is ?
- Do not speak to Micuța.
- I can't understand what you mean!
- At the ball all voices are covered and seem alike ; there, under a mask, you had an easier time... but I must tell you frankly that you've the least musical voice, and I fear the mademoiselle may be frightened! She is somewhat inhabituated to fainting.
- And afterwards forever in this manner ?
- Just in the beginning, daddy-o, until you rut your way...
- I will conform to this as well ; but what if she will start talking of her own... ?
- Carry on without making any answer!
- A most original love!
- And for that, the more romantic!
- Where are you to sleep ? I, for one, warn you that I will keep my station until the morning.
- À la bonne heure! I will make my nest wherever the town and good fortune may permit.
The Baron, perfumed like a tradesman's apprentice, came into our apartment, as the sun set, where he found me waiting faithfully, meanwhile informed of the whole adventure. During this time, the Great himself was playing billiards, chatting and laughing, like a madman loose, courting three harp players at the "Châteaux aux fleurs" coffeehouse.
At eleven exactly, Micuța came out of her room on tiptoes, crossed with great care to our side, opened daintily a door and... there she was in the Baron's arms. At that same moment, the galant gentilhomme was coming out of "Châteaux aux fleurs" singing :
Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre,
mironton, mironton, mirontaine,
Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre,
Ne sait quand reviendra.
Il reviendra-z-à Pâques,
mironton, mironton, mirontaine,
Il reviendra-z-à Pâques,
ou à la Trinité.
and heading home!
After he climbed the stairs, our hero had before him two doors : the one on the right led to our rooms, the one on the left to the rooms of Madam Pacht. He stopped a moment, appearing to think the matter through, then knocked three times on the door of the retired actress who, for a whole hour now, had been resting on the breast of Morpheus.
- Who's there? came from inside a startled voice.
His Excellency opened the door plainly, looked upon Madam Ana, unconcernedly as she sat up in her bed. She recognized him by the faint light of the candela before the icon of Saint Sigfried, the one with the story of the snake.l
- What could it be, the matter, Sir ? A tragedy!
- Merely a melodrama, Madamme.
With these words, the elegant patriot showed her with a wide sweep and a slight smile the soubrette's empty bed.
- Where's Maria ? Oh Lord!
- Your daughter finds herself in my room, in mysterious congress with Baron Rosen.
Madam Pacht jumped out of bed, forgetting entirely her nightwear, as in the insufferable heat that had struck at that time it turned out the distinguished warm actress spent her nights nude, even if by herself. The good statesman & diplomat held her tightly.
- One further step and you will ruin the poor little girl, who is without doubt right now very far advanced on the way of her fortune, or more properly speaking, her fortune is very far advanced inside her.
- You have a point! I will gather all the tenants, go in with witnesses...
- You understood me splendidly ; there is another matter. Before being the Baron's, Maria was mine. I can assure you I have trained her to perform without hesitation services that a purveyor even well-heeled would hesitate to ask of a common streetgirl and I pride myself in reporting to you that your daughter shows, for all these gymnastics, a talent in appearance boundless and without doubt, natural.
The venerable matron and retired actress blushed thoroughly, to the blonde root of her hair and the rosy root of her nipples, respectively. The noble gentleman continued unphased :
- If you are preoccupied on the side of moral philosophy I can tell you that at the very moment she thinks herself, in the dark, to be at my side! I sold her to the Baron. I sold her, my Lady, like one would sell a slightly used faeton, still good for traction even if something out of fashion. The nécessaire was a gift from the Baron which I presented as if in my own name ; yesterday's duel was a fabrication ; to make a long story short, I used thousands of tricks to reach my goal. You can't blame the girl for falling for them. Rather, it would be more proper to admit her a merit : she is healthy. Nevertheless, men have their weaknesses, and consequently, the Baron must never know any of this. Endeavor to not permit Maria to expose me. Otherwise, she's fucked.
Madamme Ana slammed the door against the wall, intending to leave, but our friend restrained her by squeezing a certain delicate part of her anatomy.
- One moment, Madamme. As you can see, your presence has rekindled a certain interest. Should you please to take loving charge of the noble mission of your sex, I have no doubt that you will feel the warming of your soul stemming from that satisfaction eminently philosophical and certainly moral of having repaid by your modest capacity the favor I have done you, by coming all the way up here.
Madam Ana glared at him for a moment, hesitated for another moment and then kneeled before this master born and not appointed over the mangrovesli! After a few moments in which she did something I had never seen done before, my generous protector said in a voice maybe slightly cracked :
- Continue with my young friend. I will in the meanwhile gather the rest of the tenants.
He flew on the stairwell leading to the attic ; from here he descended to the ground floor, and in two minutes he reappeared together with two fashionistas, three veterinarians, one grocer and one Monsieur Jules with his entire kin! We, one step withdrawn into Madamme Ana's apartment, had long finished the indicated maneuover, and this is how, my dear fellows, I am not ashamed to admit it, I joined the count of men : under the protection of this illustrious man, that is today honoring us with his presence! It is then understood and so I won't shy from admitting, that Madam Pacht's dressing took the larger part of the two minutes. Ah youth, this rush without wisdom.
Once the gathering constituted, my honorable young friend disappeared : he returned unmolested to "Châteaux aux fleurs", to finish a game of cheglelii, singing this time round :
Te souviens-tu, disait un capitaine
Au vétéran qui mendiait son pain,
Te souviens-tu qu'autrefois dans la plaine,
Tu détournas un sabre de mon sein ?
Sous les drapeaux d'une mère chérie,
Tous deux jadis nous avons combattu ;
Je m'en souviens, car je te dois la vie :
Mais, toi, soldat, dis-moi, t'en souviens-tu ?".
When the horde of Madam Pacht's tenants arrived holding numerous candles before the Baron and Micuța, the two were, after a moment's rest, just recommencing their joint efforts to conquer that fortress which is so often conquered and yet forever unconquered it remains. The young lady, her face towards the door, and her back towards her nosy supporter, straddling him and supporting herself on her knees, rode in a great gallop like a true amazon but possessed of both playful breasts, as opposed to those famous archers.
Confronting the colorful charge she immediately passed out, by the common habit. The Firkin balloted himself within the covers, stood straight on his two legs like the statue of Dante, not without certain effort, and began :
- I protest...
I know to arbitrary detail what thenceforth transpired, but I will not bore you, other than by giving the result, which was the duty incumbent upon the Baron Rosen to take Micuța as his lawful wedded wife.
Around two after midnight our friend, tired as a post horse and silent as a fish, retook possession of his apartment, ordered fumigation -- why I do not know -- in all the corners of the bedroom, and then went to sleep, no doubt planning the manner in which he would henceforth speak with the Baron, with Micuța, with Victoria, etc.
Never in the Firkin's wildest dreams did it occur to him to doubt the good faith of his friend ; the interest of both Madam Ana and Micuța was of course to not disabuse him of his confidence. A week later, the Baron said his goodbyes to University and universitarian life, and married the young actress. We both went to church, I as a mere attendant, the noble Hidalgo as a best man no less, as it is proper for he who gave either husband or wife tied up in the hand of the other, or as the case here, both to each ; and of course he didn't miss the opportunity to be the first to congratulateliii the young couple.
Here the story could end, and should it not end, it would unavoidably have to unfurl in all its biographical endlessness, following the greatest statesman our principalities have produced, an enterprise which our time is not equal to nor -- I fear -- our means. I will thus limit myself to giving a single later example, to make the painting complete : Saturn with one of his satellites, pars pro toto.
Micuța's wedding was a calamity for the Firkin's old mistress. The great man coming to need her services at a certain point in a certain very complicated matter, and being, as we without exception know him to be, a generous and good-hearted soul, he visited the recent Baronness while her husband was absent.
- Ah, knave! You've not forgotten me ?
- I never forget my friends, for which reason I come to you with a request.
- I shall refuse no matter what it is.
- We shall see, Cucuțo, if you can afford it. Before taking you, the Baron kept a whore...
- And you dare recount to me such scandalous abominations ?
- No "scandalous" and no "abomination", my dear Baronness : we know each other closely. So, the poor whore, la povera ragazza, is now left because of you without bread, and dying of hunger. It is a shame! I ask of you, to do everything so that the Baron will give her for the safeguarding of her future six thousand florins!
- And how do you imagine I would prevail upon him to favor a...
- I ask you once and for all : will you or won't you ? Yes or no ?
- No : a thousand times no!
- Very well. This very day, I will uncover to the Firkin the truth of our intrigue ; we will fight, you will perhaps be left a widow... I, for one, care too little for this life!
And the brave young man stood to leave.
- Hold there! One minute more! How savage you are!
- Will you perform ?
- Yes... I will.
- Good. But now there is more.
- What more is there ?
- Now there is for you to do what your mother did, my dear Madamme Rosen, on that fateful night when you began with such unparalleled talent, your conjugal bliss. She's told you, hasn't she ?
And with this the Baronness stood from her chair and, taking one step, kneeled before the noble gentleman.
- Not like this.
- But ?
PS. This work may seem to you original, which wouldn't be necessarily false. We could, if it came to it say that it is original in its originality, to avoid observing that you are original in your inculture. Otherwise its original and muchly diluted variant was published under the ill-chosen title "Micuța" and under the signature of Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu in foilleton, numbers 9-19, in "Lumina din Moldova", 1862.———
- Literally, "the little one", in Romanian. [↩]
- English does not work. The original said "de o gingasie, de o gingirlie". The first is a common enough epithet, used to describe the specific qualities Victorians sought in women, which is to say an ineffectual weakness. The second is not an epithet but an adjective*, and doesn't work in the grammatical structure employed (which goes "of a noun, of a
) yet this dissonance is stylistical rather than ungrammatical. The word used itself is the Romanian rendition of the Turkish cicli (cute, good). In Romanian it is exclusively used to describe coffee with caimac (ie, foam). The implicit extension here, delicate as anything Proust ever managed, was that the teen's saucy enough, and perhaps dissonant but if so certainly in a pleasant manner.
* No, epithets can NOT be adjectives. They're always nouns. You're welcome. [↩]
- Soul has lost its connection to breath in English, but not so in Romanian. Consequently Romanian can be elegant where English is gross perforce. [↩]
- 1848 is near, the birth of a national movement, the wholly unsubstantiated pretension to "patriotism" is the fashion du jour among the upper class, etcetera etcetera. [↩]
- Caragiale reference, Meteahna (1909). [↩]
- Polish word for lace. [↩]
- Yes, well. Mitteleuropa. [↩]
- Hamlet, no less. Queen mother, at sixteen. You see ? [↩]
- Collection of opinions on matters of law, originally produced by Justinian. [↩]
- Yes, the islander orcs were principally known at the time for their rickets-addled backs. [↩]
- This word denoted at the time the equivalent of today's college girls, which is to say girls entirely without revenue or education, but abundantly blessed (happily) with a wide reaching inclination to supplant by power of imagination both these unfair defects. A nineteen year old shop clerk can be a respectable salesgirl, but a miss of unknown age and above all a princess, who accidentally ended up in the shop behind the counter, and, since she's there, will gladly and without complaint (for the time being and no longer than that) officiate the job given that she's such a noble soul she can not possibly notice the everyday squalor of daily existence (especially in what regards her own station), is necessarily a grisette.
The original Romanian term is "piarista", owing to the propensity of these mortedifame to attempt "Public Relations" schooling as the ideal intersection of having to do the least possible work while enjoying the maximal possible sexual exposure to rich men. For similarily situated girls in Latin America "criminology" serves as a ready equivalent, and remember that there's no practical difference between students and vagabonds. [↩]
- The right to fuck (someone) anytime and anywhere by virtue of having stuck your cock down their throat at some point in the past, an ancient juissy-dick Roman concept. (Sorry, the justice/ejaculation parallel works a lot better in Romanian). Review for details the excellent Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875. [↩]
- The ancient tradition of writing the name of the owner upon the hide of the object owned. [↩]
- A well crafted little jewel. C'est peu dire means "to say the least", se peut dire means "it could be said", and the two are homophones in English. I mean Italian. [↩]
- Review your Homer. [↩]
- A little box to hold condoms, various pills and those thickish pencils with buttons on the bottom. [↩]
- Most likely Constantin Alexandru Rosetti, a minor Romanian poetaster and politruk of the socialist persuasion. [↩]
- Romanian admits diminutives of diminutives. [↩]
- He who is passible of being a government Minister. Obviously. [↩]
- The apostolic horses are one's own two feet. [↩]
- In Romanian the same term can be used to discuss both religious untying, such as for instance the permission to eat after Lent is "dezlegare", as well as a scholarly untying, such as a clarification. [↩]
- That the rights of woman exist only as subsidiary rights of the property right of her owner, entitling him to enjoy his property as he prefers. Consequently a woman naked of owner, as a field free of proprietor, simply awaits its fulfillment, at the disposition of anyone interested and the first to come across. [↩]
- Which I expect denotes love in the narrower opening of that term. [↩]
- English doesn't have nearly enough words for a shitty ghetto street. [↩]
- Russian style furry sleeve for girl's hands. Porny huh. [↩]
- The meanwhile forgotten patron saint of all the spurious diminutival mommyblogger-interest items. No proper way to put this mockery in English unfortunately. [↩]
- Romanian permits this pornmanteau uniting psychology, which is to say the knowledge of Psyche, and pisi, which directly means kitten but very transparently denotes a well disciplined, youngish whore in personal possession of the speaker. Examples : culoarea aleasa de pisi, pisi ada bluza, pisi, stai o tura ? etcetera.
This would perhaps also be the place to mention that the present indicative of the verb usually employed to denote urination is homomorphical under my notation (technically it'd take the special s, but who can be bothered with orc glyphs). [↩]
- The residence of intellect in women of the time, at least according to the period philosophers. [↩]
- Timofei Timofeevici Ciparius. [↩]
- The word denotes two things in Romanian : glory or marriage. [↩]
- Rather untranslatable French wordplay, something in the vein of "he'd be satisfied coming up ahead" / "he'd be satisfied with possession of the other party's underwear". [↩]
- Yes, that is the word for what's discussed, a mark or other means of starting a ~reliable~ private conversation. [↩]
- You might have imagined, by the naivite of untried youth, that a simple inclination to levity was behind the apparently frivolous second question of the illustrious statesman. Should you re-read you might notice that in fact and insensibly the identity of the other party to the handshake is being verified, a movement the more skillfull as the greater's the insensibility. Vulgar, common, stupid men of poor education and mean extraction miss with the legerity of idiocy such small signs in the surrounding context, belabouring their whole lives under the conviction that everything is accessible, comprehensible and familiar to them. In truth without this property of stupidity hunting would flow less gainly, and therefore the quarry of those who only matter in the world wouldn't be nearly as abundant, easy, and always available for the choice. [↩]
- Teopomps are -- other than they who fuck Teo, a delicious if insatiable lady of barely nineteen -- mythological creatures in charge of the otherworld postal service. Perpetuevici would be the Russian son of Eternity. [↩]
- As the habit of carnivals is welcome not merely for married ladies, family matrons and other respectable women seeking themselves a nailing, but also for the esteemed practitioners of the profession, who finally can approach their clients without fear of fuzzy intervention. It's a great pity that such refined traditions have been lost to the night of memory, but given the great and general impotence of contemporary males I can't quite find it a surprise. [↩]
- Half-satin. [↩]
- The original note is untranslatable altogether, so it shall be preserved here undigested :
Astazi dintre studenti se numara virginii, dat fiind ca ei sunt mai putin numerosi. Inainte vreme se numarau bursii, carevasazica cei invatati cu a-i da bursucului tainul, dat fiind ca ei erau mai putin numerosi, ba iata ca-n acea vreme fericita erau de-a dreptul o duzina si jumatate intr-o Universitate-ntreaga. Iata mersul progresului si cum lateste libertatea, egalitatea si fraternitatea smecleu-n lume. Pe de alta parte pentru adevaratii merituosi, pentru acei oameni de geniu care s-ar fi numarat printre optsprezece atunci si se innumara printre optsprezece milioane astazi evolutia nu poate fi decit trista : o societate fara moral si fara printipuri carevasazica nici bai n-are.
It's something to do with badgers and cunts and literary references. [↩]
- Huge period scandals, all these. At the time there not being an overactive USG agency involved in overthrowing local elites with a view to replace them with their own despicable spawn, the term "corruption" wasn't in wide usage. [↩]
- Nothing less necessary than a rigid wooden box in which to keep condoms, which are pliable, and pills, which are small and moreover solitary in a box will jingle, not to mention those pencils about as thick as a cigar. Admire therefore the ancient skill of publicity agents, so very capable to use the most fitting word -- not fitting in the sense of fitting reality, but rather fitting in the sense of fitting the sweetest dreams of the buyer. This, my dears, is the material substance of any success in our line of work, as in their line of work, as in Mme Șicșicșicska's line of work, of those countless chic, chic, chic ladies etcetera. [↩]
- You might know it as stos, a stupid Monte Bank game. [↩]
- French game, two player trick taking thing. Obscure for two centuries at least. [↩]
- It may not be directly evident to you, but this is very degrading in the mental universe of the original writing. Outright dehumanizing, actually, the proposal (correct as it may happen to be) is that this ideal American is actually a fungus. [↩]
- Also known as Cristoioanoiu in some circles. [↩]
- Something about the miracle of the chicken that laid a live somon fume or about the righteousness -- according to moral doctrine -- of the beating some weaklings received at the hands of some stronger men, or else about the bringing of some girls of even lighter mores than their own heads back to the natural position : the mores not much higher than the waist of someone standing by and the skull lower still than the morals. [↩]
- Swedish king, laid flat sometime after the second Prague defenestration. [↩]
- The habit of swearing on their own testicles, so loved by the Latins, was lost by our brothers in Romance. For easily explained reasons, they prefer to swear on bluish hues. [↩]
- Originally, the name of that trick consisting of demanding from a shop clerk the change for a bill shown, but not handed him. [↩]
- The Habsburg manner was for everyone to proclaim themselves the other's humble servant all the time, to such intensity that the manner of common salutation in the Habsburg part of Romania to this day is "servus", which is literally the Latin for servant. [↩]
- Unsurprisingly enough, the 1800 girl too poor to be rich, too stupid to be skilled and too shy to be useful did the exact same etsy they do now. The word back then was "modiste". [↩]
- The easily lost double entendre is of course that zmei is how you say bastard in Russian. [↩]
- The original word ambiguously denotes semen as the substance and humanity as the tribes. [↩]
- Obscure version of billiards. [↩]
- In the original it is unclear whether the word denotes good wishes or early orgasms. [↩]