The contact with the air, the world, dazzled him as if he had been a novice passenger on a ship. He knew naught – whether he was sick or well; whether his frame would master the novelty, or if he was at peril with that new diet of his. Therefore, Ada had quickly gained her supremacy anew and would rub it in his face in various ways. With the first matutinal opportunity she had stormed into his room, boisterous, the blue household books in her hands – those books as tortuous as leeches in Maxentsiu's view – and announced in a merciless tone:"There've been massive expenses on your ailment! You'd do us all a great favor if you were in better health!"A pleasant wish, of course, but also a benign threat. How could that be! Instead of the fear of the other day – he thought – that Prince Maxentsiu would leave her, divorce her by an outrageous lawsuit that would strip her of her title and cover her in shame; instead of a due constant fear that an ill Maxentsiu could die – an unerringly horrifying tragedy! – in the stead of all that, she would have the nerve to announce him, her spouse, the noble and weakened, that she'd deprive him of all due care! A forsaken Maxentsiu... A penniless man…! Wretched woman! He was terrified by the future prospect – one he carried with him at that very time – of having his bed, his pharmacy, the acetic smell of the disinfected room, as well as any aught required to render dear old Maxentsiu, the ill'un, healthy, healthy unto eternity… taken away! Extracted from his morbid habits, from the companionship of phials and other contraptions, Maxentsiu pictured himself as idle, futile, and empty. And morally, that litany of petty persecutions, of insidious and perilous thoughts, that savory existence of an evil man, a tyrant, that cruel magnificence of a puny intellect, had succumbed to the first command of that woman – as soap bubbles would within half an hour's bathing lifespan. The English raglan had shaped a new state of things. The tailor had, upon Whip's warranty, given the coat against a trifling deposit and Lica had decided to sport it upon the first shriveller. It became the rogue beautifully, and he had been complimented by subordinates, to whom he responded with a wink and a well-meaning gesture of formal self-pocketing. As he was rolling a smoke given out as a porte-bonheur handsel by Mr. Whip, though it was strictly banned from the stable area, he found himself ambushed by Ada from the rear. From the large gates, Ada had eyed a "well-framed" stranger and, nagged by a horse owner's obsession, had feared a sort of clandestine visit from a spy unto racing. She had neared, silent and ripe for an argument. Barely had she caught up with him when she recognized her very own Highness's man, Lica, caught in the act of smoking, albeit very hilariously so. A kind to violence surged up in her body, that she had not experienced recently. Conflicting imagery always transposed her into a state next to rage. When Lica, dumbfounded, faced her, he thrust the cigar smoke into the very inflamed eyes of Her Princely Highness. A perpetrator caught by the mistress, he stood aggravated, on the verge of cantankerousness. Ada had curtly suggested a stable inspection and started it off at Lica's side, escorted at a due distance by a reverently cautious Mr. Whip, who reckoned that Lica would draw the short straw in that instance.Ada ogled the young gent in disapproval; the man was loosely enjoying his cigar at the risk of setting fire to a few million's worth of installation; this was a man who revisited his mundane wardrobe before obliging in his amorous duties. With her raciest haughtiness ever, she discarded his cigar weakly lodged anon in the corner of his mouth. She played deaf to what Lica thereupon uttered without a restraint. A brazen word, that Ada had heard full well and that trickled knowingly along her cherry lips. One, as well as the other would have gladly cuffed each other's ears.'Such a bastard!' Ada mused complimentarily.She would constantly mistake him then for an unfamiliar, funny bloke – compliments of the raglan – and always blow his cover in equal spite:"Living in grand style albeit not 'delivering'."At the stables, the horses were being filed one by one. Whip kept himself at arm's length. With each box, Ada halted in a resolve to find some fault, whichever, and did so, even in the face of evidence, just to spite the other. With the tip of the whip still sheaved in her palm – for she had driven a dog cart – she would lash on many a croup or a mane, vilely addressing Lica. Upon noticing that the inspection did not concern him in the least, Whip eluded himself, filled with evil forebodings. In spite of his unpaid for raglan, Lica sensed his rage seethe – these were fits that would seize this flimsy Romeo at times. The motifs for contention sought by Ada were increasingly absurd and provoking. Lica could barely contain himself, rabid and resolute:"I'll let her have her say, and then I walk out the door and never look back again, never."An odd elation overcame him at the thought of his former freedom – soon to be regained. Then: the last runner. He was shining! The very horse that Lica would use throughout the gent's race. Ada gave a shrill, hysterical laughter:"That's a horse fit for a regiment, not a race…"Barely had she spoken when she shrieked with all her heart. In a brutal, unpremeditated move, Lica had applied the horsewhip on her hands. A white stripe left by the leather strap was clearly discernible on the reddened arm."I was going away, anyway!" Lica briefly thought. But why was the woman silent?Biting into her blushed lips, Ada could barely contain her tears for the blistering pain. The stripe, turned purple, was seething, and the hand was seized by a tetanic shiver."Something… To stop the blisters…" Ada moaned, as if she were a whipped hound.Lica remembered the miniature aid kit in the room beside the stables that served as an office. With his upper teeth deeply buried into his lip, he did not utter one word, wouldn't have had any clue what to tell her anyhow, then grabbed her very aching arm, in an attempt to take her whence. Ada opened her mouth to release a cry, but refrained. Kicking the door open, Lica entered the office dragging Ada behind. He threw the raglan onto a chair and stared awkwardly at that cabinet filled with jars and tiny bottles. Ada closed in and pointed at a Vaseline jar. Clumsily, Lica delved his fingers into the grease and ran them past the hairy, scurvy arm. The woman stood there in compliance… Then, inadvertently, she bit him on the mouth…Lica, with his lean and sinewy hands, grabbed her till her scrawny arms and phalange cracked… The bitch was biting!... Then he felt the wooden table margin cutting into his loins… he thrust her against the wall... Ada heard the scraping of her blouse against the whitewashed wall, then the pricking plaster ate though her clothes and her flesh with every ball of clod…"The gypsy…" Lica thought. "Gypsy…" he tasted the word with his peevish snout, that of a whelp's… On the planks… Gypsy!"Then it dawned upon him that the stable door had been left ajar… The fear that a horse would run came clearly to him. Hesitating, wayward, angry, infatuated, the Troubadour had vented his fury…"No mirror here," Ada hissed as if she were a tamed snake.In the small room there were to be found: a wooden chair, the armoire, a what-not of accounting books and hanging bridles. Minimal! Down-to-earth things that could not get in the way of Lica!Whip had positioned himself outside, at a distance, neither short, not too long – a strategist; gravely, he pondered that unclean things were bound to come about behind those doors!A fact which stayed an open issue. Although Proust was the definite model, Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu
(1876-1955) follows the life course of her characters like Balzac, from one novel to another of the Hallipa cycle – a Vanity Fair within a Human Comedy, where snobbish upstarts with worldly aspirations pose as sophisticated intellectuals, and Ada Razu, a sexy amazon of low extraction, wife to the consumptive Prince Maxentsiu, becomes the lover of a mediocre playboy, Lica "Troubadour".
by Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu (1876-1955)