– Irma! Pálfi shouted. – Look here. We are not going to Lyon, we are going to Paris.
The young woman leaned over the letter curiously, and Paul cheered, explaining to him:
– The director writes. He writes himself. You’ll see what kind of person this is. He writes that they have a good engineer enough for them; the factory does not need me so much, but he needs me all the more. I will be secretary and deputy director. He writes that he wanted to tell me this a long time ago, just waiting for the occasion. Now that you are starting a household and getting married so unexpectedly and that I am definitely taking a beautiful woman out of beautiful Hungary, you are not postponing it now.
– And we’re going to live in Paris? She asked happily.
– Yes. Even in what a palace. The deputy principal must live there, he has an official apartment. And my salary will once again be as much as it used to be. And… what-31-it will be a sensation in the factory. Everyone thought they were bringing a deputy director from outside. What a man this is! What a man this is!
– What’s their name?
– Georges Croisset. He has always loved me very much.
– No. Fifty-five years old. But then you will see how young and how delightfully kind she is. A French marquis who manages factories and mines and conducts the stock market.
– Are you familiar?
– Yes. He has a beautiful wife and a small son. You will see how kind they will be to you.
The young woman looked at herself thoughtfully, then sighed and said happily:
– Even! Couple!… God, how happy I am…
Paul read the letter once more with a happy smile, then laughed and said:
– Are you asking if I accept? I’ll go and answer him right away.
“By the time the letter gets there, we’ll be there.”
– No. The letter arrives two days early. We’re just leaving tomorrow and interrupting the road in Munich for a day.
Paul wrote the letter and they left the next day. The woman’s father escorted them out of the acacia Zadányi-32-station and waved for a long time after the vicinal train that took them. She leaned out of the car window, then looked with teary eyes at the fat bushlands through which the small train sighed. They were alone.
– Irma! Pálfi said softly and tenderly.
“I’m not crying,” she said. – Look, I’m not crying. But still csak I only spent my whole life here in Zsadány so far. Nineteen years. And now… Dad was left alone at home… and who knows?…
“What: who knows,” Paul replied cheerfully. “You will be happy and we will live happily and in a year you will come home to him and bring your first grandson home.”
The young woman leaned back, closed her eyes, there were still tears under her lashes, but a large, warm, gentle, and dreamy smile echoed across her face. She reached for her husband’s hand with closed eyes, grabbed it and squeezed it. She sat there for a long time, smiling, holding her husband’s hand in her soft warm hands, dreaming into the future with eyes closed; then he half-opened his eyes and said softly and enthusiastically:
“If she becomes a girl, we’ll be baptized Judith.”
Paul nodded with a smile and kissed his hand.-33-
“If you become a boy,” she said, “to Peter.” About Dad.
Paul laughed and nodded. She looked at herself, smiling, daydreaming, listening for a long time, then speaking very softly again.
– I want you to be the first girl. Judit. Then… then I want a girl again. No, it’s not true, then I want a boy. Peter. Then… then boy again. Géza. Just like you. Then… again a little girl. The smallest. Magda.
She looked at her husband.
“I want at least four children,” he said, ashamed. – Aren’t you going to overwhelm them?
Paul listened to the woman with a stifled breath and now he slid down in front of him, knelt in front of him, embraced his waist and folded his head into his lap.
– You dear! You dear! You’re blessed! He said touched and intoxicated.
Embracing, they sat happily and silently and the train ran forward with them through fat, black fertile lands.
They arrived in Paris on the third day. The woman was cheerful, looked at everything with laughing, happy big eyes, and Pálfi was excited, -34-he guided enthusiastically. A few days later they paid a visit to the headmistress, and the headmaster Croisset, smiling the next day, told Paul in the office:
– We’re delighted with your wife. We all. What a wonderful creation. Now it is twice my pleasure, my dear friend, to invite you here. My wife and I really want to have a good time in our company…
Paul happily told this to his wife at home, and the young woman blushed in joy and, in response, recounted from the director and his wife the enthusiastic praise he had given immediately after their visit.
– How nice. How elegant. How beautiful they are both: the man and the woman. It’s unbelievable that the woman is walking around forty. Incredible.
“Old man,” Pálfi explained, “this woman had only one child.” And she had never had any trouble in her life other than to be beautiful.
The woman listened; then he was a little saddened.
“Géza,” he said acceptingly later, “I’m very poor in this environment.” It is also missing from our most beautiful clothes -35-something… that we can barely make up for… But they also spend more on clothes. If you want us to be with them often, then… then we have to spend a little more on my clothes than we found out. I’m afraid that anyway… I find it a little ridiculous…
“But honey,” said Paul, “it’s natural.” We need to spend more, but we can also spend more, because my income here is once again the same as it would have been in Lyon. Natural… just don’t save… I want you to be beautiful…
The woman then began to happily plan on the new clothes she wanted to make. In the weeks that followed, they were busy furnishing their apartment, and in the weeks that followed, the wealthy Parisians lived in Paris. The principals obviously loved them very much; they were summoned to their lodge, taken away in their car, they were inexhaustible in kindness to the young woman They were also a little proud of her; if they were taken somewhere, or if they were presented to a company, it was as if the rapture about the beauty and kindness of the woman spoke to them a little.
In the middle of winter, Pálfi came home reluctantly with one -36-evening. The woman had to ask her for a long time before she finally told me what was wrong.
“The director,” he said, “has been remarkably cold for me for four days.” It has changed perfectly. It was as if they had been replaced. He discusses formal things with me, but also in such a voice!… And besides, not a word. And today he asked me if I would replace my current position with the management of our northern factory. I couldn’t speak in surprise before. This is obviously dysgravation. The salary is no less, but the factory is in a wretched little town. I couldn’t even say it first, then I said no. “Think about it, please,” he said and left. This is obvious dysgravation. It’s kind of exile. But why? What could be the reason for this? I have no idea what the reason might be?
She tried to guess in amazement, but Paul interrupted him.
“Please leave,” he said. “I’ll ask him openly tomorrow.” This is ridiculous. This is an impossibility. It is not a tsarist court to send people into exile here without explanation. And I can’t be treated like that.
Paul went to Croisset the next day.
“Director,” he told him, “I was thinking of your kind offer.” Before, however-37- I would answer it, allow me to respectfully ask you something.
“Here,” the headmaster said carelessly and coldly.
– Let me ask you: what was the reason for you to change your behavior towards me, your kindness and kindness to me?
– Please, I do not…
“I’m sorry, I have to break that sentence in half.” My question is not accountability, I have no official right to it, of course, it is only your kindness before that that gives you a right; and my important reason for the question is whether I make your offer dependent on whether I accept your offer, reject it, or generally leave the company.
“Ah,” Croisset said, “that’s out of the question.” I assure you that I am still the best, the greatest opinion about your office work and craftsmanship.
– What else?
– On the other hand, about my out-of-office presence? Not about my craftsmanship? That’s exactly what this is about. That’s what I need to know. I don’t think it’s arrogance,-38- if I say that two months ago he even had a good opinion about these…
– With the best opinion.
“Then, frankly, this change is completely incomprehensible to me.”
– Let me leave this, please. Why cinematic explanation?…
– That’s what I need. Since I save myself from any mistakes… at least from any mistakes that would lie to my multam…
– Please. Forget it.
Paul asked, was capacious, begged, then wanted to leave without bucs; Croisset then stood up.
“Wait,” he said.
– Yes. Here you go.
“Well, I still appreciate you, unchanged.” But I don’t want your company.
– OK. Why?
The headmaster walked nervously up and down the room, then turned to Paul.
“The great woman, your wife, do you have any good hopes? Do you have a happy family event in no time?”
“Yes,” Paul said, staring.-39-
The headmaster stopped in front of him, his delicate face flushed, his beautiful brown eyes twinkling and he said angrily, contemptuously, almost gritting his teeth.
– And you’re not ashamed of yourself?
– Here? Pálfi asked in astonishment.
– You are not ashamed of yourself… Such a beautiful creature! Such a young lady… How old is your wife?
– Nineteen years old.
– Nineteen years old! And now her beauty must perish, she must be ruined, she must be shapeless, cumbersome, ugly, never as springy, steely, and beautiful as ever before… Her youth must be burdened with the most horrible burden that life can give. This whole radiant beauty has to disappear because you om I know, you urgently want a bride… Don’t you feel ashamed to look at this increasingly disgusting wonderful creation? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Couldn’t wait a while? My sweet God… for only a few years, five or six, let this young woman have enjoyed the youth, the beauty, the love she had just come to know. Then, God for him, let it be when he should already be… But to give poor a few years! It is now -40-woman. He was just starting to live. And you ruin it in a rut, barbaric, selfish and vile way, stifle it, pollute it, deprive it even of the opportunity to enjoy your life, deprive it of it for the future, because since it will be rut, your face will also be sad, your stature will surely be a in five years, ten will grow old… Hate! Hate!
He spoke anxiously, loudly, and his face distorted with contempt and disgust. Paul listened in astonishment.
“But sir,” he said in astonishment and stuttering, “I don’t suddenly know what to say to you.” Maybe I should say first of all – if we talk about this thing – that she also had the greatest desire val so that she is from the majestic female type that was born mother…
“Please don’t say that,” the headmaster replied irritably, “it doesn’t save you in any way.” On the contrary. All the more should you have been smart, to enlighten five, to save him from a mistake, from the terrible and disgusting consequences of a superstition.
Paul had a wrinkle on his forehead and his face slowly flushed. The headmaster noticed.
“Ah,” he said, “yes, I have no right to have a say.” Natural.-41-I wouldn’t have said all this if you hadn’t forced it. What I am entitled to, that is,…
“So that I don’t find your company as pleasant to me anymore as it used to be.” Understand: I still appreciate you. But, I’m sorry, I can’t look at you without annoyance and irritability. I want in vain, I can’t. I can’t help it. It’s like someone broke Venus in Milo… Ah, you did more, you did worse, you ruined not a dead but a living thumb.
Pauline’s eyes began to sparkle. The headmaster noticed.
“Let’s not continue this conversation,” he said. – I knew he was going to be pretty. Obviously, we do not understand each other.
“No,” Paul replied with stifled anger, “we can’t understand each other.” A world separates us from each other.
– That’s right. And I think you’re doing the smartest thing if you accept my offer. Go to Issy-les-Mines, the quiet little town… there… words, there you can live a quiet family life.
“That’s right,” said Paul. – I accept. OK.-42-
– OK. Good bye.
– Good bye.
Paul went home to his wife and told him the conversation and told him the result. He laughed angrily.
“They want to keep you nice here,” he said. For everyone. For the whole world. They cannot understand how much their subtle depravity is below your sacred heroism, the beautiful fertility that holds the child as the greatest and most sacred thing. That’s why they’re ruined.
The young woman laughed at him.
“Oh no,” he said, “I’m not a Parisian woman.” It’s so easy to stay beautiful when a man has a child like his wife fel I don’t mind if I don’t even stay beautiful. Only you love me. I don’t care about anything else.
He looked at himself thoughtfully and with a slowly falling face. Then she looked up at her husband with teary eyes.
“But will you love me if I’m not beautiful?” He asked softly and in a trembling voice.
“Oh dear,” Pálfi said halfway, “how can you ask that?” For me now-43- you are the only one, whether you are beautiful or not: the mother of my child, the mother of my children.
She lowered her head, thought, then began to cry quietly.
“But I don’t want you,” he said, lamenting, “to be faithful to me.” I want to love… I want to… stay beautiful…
Paul hugged him, comforted her, the woman slowly calmed down and asked about Issy-les-Mines. Paul told him that Issy-les-Mines is a small mining town to the north, quiet, deserted, but the director’s apartment is beautiful; has a large, gorgeous garden, the director there is the biggest ur…
They were done in a week preparing for the move. The woman was quiet, thoughtful, sometimes a little sad. On the last day, they went to say goodbye to the principal. The kissing was fair, kind, but not a drop warm. Mrs. Croisset, the beautiful forty-year-old woman, looked in amazement and a little aversion at the nineteen-year-old woman, whose gait began to become difficult…
They sat on the train the next morning. It was a rut, cold and dirty winter morning.
“At six o’clock in the afternoon,” said Paul, “we are in Issy-les-Mines.”-44-
The train rumbled between dirty suburban houses. The young woman looked out the window and looked back at Paris, the real Paris.
– Even! She said softly and with trembling lips. – Paris!… Paris!…
Paul took his hand.
– Are you very sorry? He asked softly and tenderly. – We will not be able to compensate you… me and the one who comes?…
“Yes,” she said, “yes, you know.” He took a deep breath and immediately afterwards a sob came out of his lips.
“I’m sorry,” he said sobbing. – I just need you. But it was so beautiful ez it was so beautiful this couple of months…
He couldn’t suppress his cry. The train galloped north, already left the suburban houses and he wept bitterly. Listening and with a darkened gaze, Paul watched and understood that the woman was mourning her beauty, mourning the homage that had gone out to her beauty, mourning the gaze, she understood that Paris had left her anger in her heart, that she would be nowhere really home and that she was beautiful her fertility was not only a blessed blessing for her anymore, but a heavy burden, a heavy sacrifice, a great plague inflicted on her by the relentlessness of fate.