I hate love dramas. I hate ribbing sighs, horrible gnashing of teeth, fierce panting, bubbling grunts, horrible twitches, great gestures – everything, our writhing, revenge, killing, suicide. I hate love tragedies.
If I were a writer with royal certainty and boundless power, I would re-write all the love cases of world literature, dramas and melodramas, tragedies and ballads, from Othello to the great Galeotto and Dante to Burger. I would show the other side of the tragedy; a parody, yes, I would write a parody of them, people would shudder with laughter and love drama would die in shame.
That way I can only hate loud and loud love cases. And to love Miklós Konc, my friend, the doctor of the countryside, the wise, good doctor.
Miklós Konc was my land and classmate. We went to eighth high school when one day Nicholas told me he was going to get married. I laughed.
“You donkey,” I told him with all the wisdom of an eighteen-year-old man, “marrying is stupid.” Taking burdens on yourself, tying yourself up, supporting children… It is foolish to sacrifice our freedom.
Nicholas defended the marriage; he, of course, could not convince me, but suspicion arose in me.
– You! You may have already singled out your future wife.
– Who is?
He didn’t want to say. He kept it a secret. After a long interrogation, he finally said, referring to the fraternal friendship of the two of us and trusting in my friendly secrecy:
– Cologne Annuska.
Annuska Kölner was also our land: the daughter of our teacher, the neighbor of the Miklós. The neighborhood brought them together, they talked a lot, on summer nights they walked together in front of the house under the acacia trees; – they are engaged. Annuska Kölner was fifteen years old at the time.
Miklós and I went to university, -83-I became a lawyer, he is a doctor. The college years took us a little apart because I was amused and he studied; but we only moved away in space, our friendship remained unchanged. In matters of love, it was then that I reached the years of haughty cynicism, the wisdom that saw a beast in every woman, and somehow I felt that Nicholas also had to smile at his “engagement”. At the end of the second year, however, at the age of twenty, we were traveling home the next day. I called Miklós for a night wander.
– I can not go! – He told.
– You know I’m a groom.
I stared. I stared best at not being embarrassed when he says that. That he is not ashamed of his sensitivity, his loyalty, that he is not ashamed to be serious and clean. However, Miklós did not disturb himself by any old wisdom of my twenty years, but calmly and simply rejected him.
It was then that he slowly began to impress me with his calmness, his loyalty, his consistent, pure, beautiful love. I became interested in Annuska Kölner. He was seventeen at the time. Beautiful, serious, brunette, girl. Miklós spent every afternoon with him. And Annuska about everything -84-he knew what Nicholas had read, what he had seen, what he had learned. Annuska was proficient in histology and pathology.
It was then that I completely gave up my skepticism and quiet mockery and, maintaining all my cynical and maiden-looking principles, set up a corner of my soul for the respect for Annuska, the admiration for Nicholas, and the love for both of them. Slowly, as the boundless wisdom of the twentieth year was killed out of me by time, I made a whole cult out of respect for Annuska and Nicholas. I considered them the most beautiful, the coolest, the couple of people who deserve the happiness the most.
They were too. They are smart, kind, good, waist, hardworking. Annuska worked, read and studied at home. And Miklós performed miracles at the university. That’s how two more years passed. Annuska was nineteen years old, Miklós was twenty-two.
Then Annuska’s father died. They were left alone with their mother and had to live on some begging pension. Annuska was ready to work. She hadn’t learned anything about why she’d received a certificate, so she wanted to sew. By this time, however, he had three suitors. The young teacher who came to replace his father wanted to take him;-85-asked a hand of a merchant who was a widow and was looking for a mother for her two children; and a tenant named Michael Kulin, a wealthy man, a bachelor in his fifties, who had seen him drive away from their house once, wanted to take it.
Annuska rejected them. Her mother and her kinship, poor, hungry people, fell on her and tormented her from morning to night and from evening to morning with encouragement, accusation, reproach. Annuska endured the siege, though it was thrown into her eyes every day that she had to eat dry bread at home because of it. His mother and kinship then threw themselves at Miklós. That Miklós is fooling him, that he lives his world up there, that it does not make sense to marry him, that he has already courted the servant judge in the summer anyway… Annuska stood the siege.
However, the news about Nicholas became more and more dirty and worried, so that four months later, in March, Annuska finally wrote a desperate letter to Nicholas: for God’s sake, come home.
Miklós showed me the letter. I was genuinely scared.
– What are you doing? I asked him.-86-
“I don’t know yet,” he said.
It was pale and very serious.
– What do you think? – he asked me.
– My God… I don’t know.
He listened for a long time, then said goodbye to me.
“Nicholas, don’t do anything stupid,” I told him.
He replied softly and emphatically:
– Don’t be afraid – I’m not doing any nonsense.
He returned to him from home by the third day. He didn’t say what happened, and I didn’t want to hurt him by questioning. A week later, I read in the newspaper that Annuska was engaged to Mihály Kulin. I could have wept at the angry bitterness.
Miklós came to me that night.
– Are you reading? – asked.
“I’ll tell you,” he said softly, “what happened.”
He sat down and told me.
“When I got home, I found Annuska in a terrible state… The beasts were very tormented. His eyes were inflamed from the incessant cry. She greeted her sobbing and said that if she could not escape otherwise, she would die…-87-I took his hand, sat him down, reassured me, and quietly and cleverly, as we used to talk to each other, we discussed what to do. First, I found that not to die. Only death is not! Not together, not separately. Life is too great a value and we owe each other a beautiful and happy life… So not to die. But then what? I can’t marry now… I’m not even an adult, my dad wouldn’t agree… To run away?… He would run away with me, come with me without a priest and without a registry. Poverty would not be a problem, from the few forints I get from home, we would live in a month-long room. Or I would leave university and look for, say, a degree. But maybe I’ll die in a year? Maybe I’ll leave him here, before I was my wife by law? And if he’s going to be so big with himself?… And how do I get him into something so dangerous and so unclean? That’s what we put down. But then what? Wait for me? Hunger would not be a problem, but it does not endure the torment of his mother and relatives. We thought for a long time, examined it with love, calmly, and anxiously, and found that it was wisest for her to get married.-88-
– Did you find that out? I shouted in surprise. – Is that what you advised him for?
I stared at him. I finally thought I understood.
“I see,” I said.
“You don’t understand,” Miklós replied, “from now on, I won’t go anywhere for three years.” We won’t even meet. I don’t go home for the summer holidays either, lest I accidentally meet him.
– I do not understand it.
“We agreed that because this condition is an intolerable condition and because something has to happen, she should get married. In three years, I will go for her and bring her from her husband.
– You bring the…
“Yes, when I get a job, I’ll bring it from your husband.” Therefore, together we chose from among his petitioners which one to marry. We chose Kulin, not only because he is a rich man, but because he loves Annuska very much and is likely to be tender to him; and especially because he is an old man, fifty years old, and Annuska’s fidelity to me will not be tempted for a minute.-89-
I stared at this explanation so I couldn’t say a word. Nicholas then left.
Their business has been busy for a long time. Slowly, however, I agreed that they had deceived themselves. They won’t stay away from each other for three years, but they will meet a lot. And if they stay away for three years, they will forget each other.
However, Miklós did not come home with me the following summer. I also saw Annuska a few times then. She was like she was a girl. – But it won’t take long. – However, Miklós did not come home the following summer and Annuska remained girly: a gentle, serious, beautiful brunette girl. And it stayed that way for the third summer as well.
This third summer, however, at the end of September, Miklós came home one day. He became a district doctor in Gemer County. Came to me. He was in a car.
“Come out with me,” he said, “to Kulin’s homestead.”
I got in the car and we drove out to the Kulin homestead. Miklós had already stopped the car on the road.
“We’re not guests,” he said.-90-
We went up to the house on foot. We found Annuska on the porch.
“I came, Annuska,” Miklós said.
“Yes, Miklós,” Annuska said.
That’s when Mihály Kulin came. He welcomed us kindly. He planted. And why did we come? Miklós said very briefly.
“Three years ago, we agreed with Annuska that I would come for her in three years.” I just came for it and take it with me.
Mihály Kulin wanted to get angry.
“For me,” Miklós said calmly, “it would have been very pleasant if this could have happened with your consent.” If you could see that this is how it should be. But it will happen anyway without your consent.
Mihály Kulin was angry, Miklós said a few more reassuring words to him, then he said to Annuska:
– Get dressed, Annuska
Annuska hung a linen cloak, a cheap dust cloak from the porch hanger, put a two six-value straw hat on her head, and came with us in the dust cloak and the straw hat. We drove home in three minutes.
I know this thing has a lot of branches and bogs. It could have happened differently. But that’s how it happened. And because that’s what happened and because that’s the happiest marriage in the world, that’s how the most beautiful family in the world has become, I rightly hate uproar and twitching, everything, our revenge, killing, suicide, everything, our love tragedy.