The maid came into the salon and reported that she had been served. Officer Livia stood up. The four men also stood up; all four were in tailcoats, between the black tailcoats and white shirt breasts, the woman’s purple silk dress and golden, shower hair shone in fiery light. Servant Livia smiled at them. One of them held out his arm, Tárnok Livia reached for it, but stopped at once.

“Wow,” he said, “I have another guest.”

He went to one of the doors and shouted through it:

– Stanci!… Sta – a – anci!

The gentlemen looked at each other in surprise; Officer Livia turned around.

– Didn’t I say it in the theater? – asked. – I think when they were in my locker room…

“Ma’am,” said one of the men, “he said he would have another male guest.”-53-

Officer Livia laughed.

– I said? And yet I forgot about my poor Stancika. Sta – a – anci!…

There was a sound of footsteps behind the door.

“She’s here,” said Officer Livia.

The door opened and the gentlemen looked at the newcomer in amazement. The two remained calm, but the other two began to laugh. In the doorway stood a short, skinny, black-bearded, little ur. She was wearing a smoking white but soft shirt. Large, frightened, and painful eyes sat in the brown’s face, deep inside her forehead bones; his head was about to become bald already; his face was surrounded by a short, soft, black beard, the whole man was like a bearded, sad, startled child. As he stepped inside the door, he could see that he was limping.

“Stancika,” said Lieutenant Livia, “come on.” We’re having dinner.

Stanci nodded at him. Presenter Livia introduced him.

– I introduce the gentlemen to dr. Stand Lipót, my dearest friend and earthly providence.

He arms down.

“Stanciky,” he continued, “this is Drágffy.” -54-Count Péter, this is Baron Géza Latorcay, this is Blankenberg Muki and this is Prince Jánosházy. And now let’s go to dinner.

The company went into the dining room. At the head of the table sat Tárnok Livia, at the end of the table Stanci.

“Stancika,” Lieutenant Livia asked, “will you be all right?”

“Yes,” Stanci replied softly.

“Poor Stancika, did you have a lot to do with him?”

The gentlemen turned to the housewife with questioning glances and Lieutenant Livia smiled and explained what it was all about.

“Stancika is regulating my debts again,” he said. – It’s about every year and a half. Because it’s true that he’s always here and takes care of me, but I’m ashamed if I spend a lot and I used to lie to him then. When there are big troubles then and I am very bothered by my creditors and the first seizures come, I normally confess to him and I promise never to do it again… Poor Stancika works for days at this time… But then at least he has a receipt for a year and a half. That is, even after that I give him most of the things, but they are just ordinary affairs…

The gentlemen nodded appreciatively, very much in favor of Stanci’s diligence, and the prince, -55-who was a neighbor on one side, turned to him:

“Eh,” he asked stubbornly and in a benevolent nasal voice, “a lawyer?”

– Stand! Stanci replied softly and modestly, “if I may.”

– El… pardon, Stand ur! Said the prince.

“Yes,” Stanci replied. – Yes.

Dinner then passed without any special events; after dinner, the company smoked cigars – for Catherine Livia’s cigarettes – and they soon sat down to play cards. The hostess also took part in the game. Stanci didn’t play cards. The young Drágffy soon stopped playing as well.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m not having fun today.” My head is full of something else.

He stood up, walked over to Stanci, and sat down next to him. They looked at the playing cards, Lieutenant Livia took a look at them sometimes, and the two of them began to talk quietly.

“Doctor,” said the young Dragffy, “have you known the great woman for a long time?”

“A long time, Count,” Stanci replied.

“The great woman… is a wonderful artist, isn’t she, Doctor?”

– Yes; wonderful, count ur.-56-

They talked quietly about Tárnok Livia. The game then ended, midnight was gone and the gentlemen said goodbye.

“Stancik,” said Lieutenant Livia, “let it remain for you.” You have to sign everything, don’t you?

– Yes. It has to be signed.

The gentlemen are gone. Stanci set out to bring the writings.

“Wait a minute, Stancika,” said Officer Livia.

Stanci stopped.

– Dear people, huh? Lieutenant Livia asked.

“Yes,” Stanci replied hesitantly, “in a way, you could say they’re nice people.”

Lieutenant Livia reached out and asked lightly:

“Which do you like best, Stancik?”

“Young Dragffy,” Stanczi said firmly.

“Me too,” Officer Livia replied softly and smiling.

He stretched out, closed his eyes, and smiled into the distance. After his firm statement, Stanci was once again languid and sad-57-became. There was silence for a few seconds. Then Lieutenant Livia shook herself out of her smiling, drunken daze and said coldly and calmly:

“You can bring those writings now, Stanci.”

Stanci brought the writings, Secretary Livia signed them and Stanci then went home. In the following days, Lieutenant Livia did not visit her apartment as freely as usual. Before he went up, he always asked if he could go up. Eight days later, it turned out he was right.

– Can I get up tonight after the theater? Tarnok asked Livonia by phone.

“No, Stancik,” she said, “please don’t come today, I’m so tired… and I have to learn a role… come tomorrow, my dear Stancik, or the day after tomorrow, Stancik…

“Yes,” Stanci replied, hanging up quietly.

He didn’t go up for a week. He appeared on the evening of the seventh day without question. He knew that a week was enough time for unusual situations to become commonplace. In the apartment he found the young Drágffy, who welcomed him with great joy:-58-

“Good evening, dear doctor,” he said, “but you haven’t been there in a long time.” Livia had already complained about her neglect.

“I was a little busy,” Stanci said apologetically.

– But are you having dinner with us today?

– Yes… Yes… if I can be so lucky…

– Absolutely, dear doctor, sir.

At half past eleven, Tárnok Livia arrived home from the theater.

“Stancika,” he said, “you are disgusting.” For a week!… This friendship…

Stanci took note of the scolding. It was a fixed thing. She is discreet in this case, and for the discretion, which the woman acknowledges with great gratitude, comes the public scolding.

They talked about a lot of things during dinner. Also about Stanci’s loyalty.

“Do you know, Peter,” she said, “all that you see from him now? He would have seen it when I was very ill four years ago.” Night and night she watched here in the next room because she didn’t trust the nurses. My dear Stancik!

“And since they’ve known each other,” the young Drágffy asked.

– Oh, it’s been nine years.-59-

“And how did this friendship come about?” Did they make friends slowly?

– How? Said Tárnok Livia – I don’t even know anymore… We just met… something at a banquet… And did we make friends slowly? Stanci joined me and I was as good a friend right now as I am now. The next day he settled my debts. My dear Stancika!

Dinner was over, they talked a little more afterwards, then Tárnok Livia looked at Stanci and yawned, Stanci stood up.

– Well, I wish you a good night now… I have a lot to do tomorrow.

“Hello, Stancikam,” she said.

“Good night, dear Doctor,” said young Dragffy.

Stanci said goodbye and left.

Four months later, one night, he found the woman with small eyes. He did not ask what was wrong; he sat down and listened carefully and cautiously. The two of them had a sad dinner. After dinner, Lieutenant Livia stood up and said angrily:

– Every man is a villain.

Stanci nodded approvingly, then hurriedly began to speak. First theatrical rumors-60-he spoke and when the woman’s anger and sadness thus yielded a little, she brought forth all sorts of other curiosities. At midnight, the woman stood up.

– Thank you, Stancika; come now. You’re an expensive dog, Stanci. But every man is a villain.

The next few days passed quite calmly. The woman’s sadness slowly disappeared; in the evenings he had a cheerful conversation with Stanci. Springed; Stanci was unusually loud, restless, and cheerful, but sometimes she bored herself bitterly for no reason. It came May and on a warm May evening – the window was open and fresh flowers were on the table – it was about where the woman should go on vacation.

“I’m going to his class again this year,” she said. Last year Balázs Csillag was there, but I didn’t know him then.

– The baritone? Stanci asked.

– Yes. I met him yesterday. I’ll invite you to dinner these days.

Stanci didn’t answer. Her brown face slowly turned pale; his painful, big eyes fired like embers, but then he clouded with tears. He held himself hard for a while, but then his head closed and he couldn’t-61- all the way to suppress a popping wail cry.

Officer Livia jumped up.

“Stanci,” he said in horror, “what’s wrong with you?”

Stanci couldn’t answer. Her skinny body was shaken by sobs.

Lieutenant Livia hurried over to him and hugged him with his two round, muscular arms.

“Stanci, Stanci, what’s wrong with God?”

Stanci doesn’t have to sit up straight. The woman stood beside him resiliently, at noon, strongly; he leaned over in his seat, leaned over, to the woman’s muscular, beautiful body.

– Stancik, what’s wrong with you?

Stanci’s skinny body was shaken by sobs.

“You’re inviting someone again,” he stammered with a startling, childish cry. – You’re inviting someone again.

– But Stancikám.

He looked down at him in amazement. He let her lean on you to snuggle up, and stared in amazement, amazement at his writhing, skinny shoulder and shaking head.

“But Stancika,” he said tenderly, “I didn’t think it hurt you.” I thought… I didn’t know… I didn’t even think… Does it hurt you?-62-

Stanci stood up. His elbows dripped down his soft black beard; he extended his two arms.

– Does it hurt? He moaned with a clicking cry. – I’ve been here for nine years… And it’s always different! Always, always different!

The woman walked over to her; he had to bend down to grab his hand.

“But Stancika,” he said tenderly, “be smart.” You know that; if you are in love… But we do not love each other.

Stanci lifted his light, dismembered face, his reddened, burning eyes, and wailed,

– But I love you. Merciful god that I love you and that I suffer.

He wrapped his thin arms around the woman.

“Livia,” he stammered feverishly, “if only out of pity” if only out of pity.

The woman was two heads taller than him. He looked down at him; she felt soft, much touched. She is large, southern, strong, brilliantly blonde, and radiantly beautiful; it ‘s here, lame, bearded, brown, small, skinny, sobbing… A weeping – rut – kid. He looked down at him. Stanci’s skinny arms embraced her waist and she, overcoming her rebellious aversion, moved, generously, with a touched, feminine, motherly gesture, only out of pity, now gave herself a present.